Marxists’ Internet Archive: ETOL Home Page: Trotskyist Writers Section: Farrel Dobbs

Farrell Dobbs

Answer to Ben Davis’ Slander Against SWP

(16 February 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 8, 21 February 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

FROM THE FEDERAL COURTROOM, NEW YORK, Feb. 16 – Smother the truth under a blanket of lies and drive off seekers of the truth with stink bombs of slander – that is the Stalinist method.

Benjamin J. Davis, one of the 11 Stalinists now on trial, uses the lie-and-slander technique in the Feb. 13 Worker to confuse and disorient the Negro people. Davis spits venom at Henry Lee Moon, public relations director of the NAACP, for his remarks about the trial of the Stalinists in the Feb. 5 N.Y. Age. Moon branded the Smith Act “violative of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression” and upheld the Stalinists’ contention that their civil liberties are invaded by the thought-control prosecution. “Civil liberties would be utterly without meaning,” he said, “were they extended only to those who agree with us.”

Davis brushes these statements aside as “lip-service,” calling Moon’s article “little more than an eulogy of the Trotzkyists.” Let us examine the “eulogy.”

A Truthful Report

“Ironically,” Moon said, “the Communists, who now seek public support on the grounds that all dissident elements are threatened by the Smith Act, lifted not a single finger to aid the Trotskyites whose leaders were tried and convicted under the same act [in 1941].” The Stalinists, he added, “also sought to prevent believers in civil liberties from coming to the defense of the accused anti-Stalin Communists.”

Moon’s alleged “eulogy” of the Trotskyists turns out to be merely a truthful report that the Stalinists sabotaged the fight to defend civil rights in the first prosecution under the Smith Act. By Stalinist standards, however, the truth is forbidden, especially where Trotskyists are concerned Davis therefore tries to smother the truth.

He repeats the big lie of the discredited Moscow Trials that “Trotskyism is not a political trend or political party,” that it is “gangsterism, disruption, wrecking, assassination and murder.” That lie was invented by Stalin as a gruesome alibi for the brutal assassination of Leon Trotsky and the atrocious lynching of the rest of Lenin’s Central Committee.

Davis piles on a second big lie that the Trotskyists “were caught betraying the country to Hitler.” That crude lie was concocted by the Stalinists as a pretext for their sabotage of the campaign in defense of the Trotskyists who were imprisoned solely because of their Marxist ideas.

Moon, who is not a Trotskyist, and can best be described as a New Deal Democrat, stated the civil libertarian view that freedom of ideas should extend to all, including fascists and the Ku Klux Klan. Here Davis finds raw material from which to fabricate further monstrous lies.

He maliciously insinuates that Moon defended the “civil rights” of the hated Klan to terrorize and murder Negro people. And he lumps together “Trotskyist wreckers,” fascists and the Klan. His sinister aim is to create the false impression that Moon favors freedom of ideas for the Trotskyists only because he holds that fascists and the Klan should have freedom of ideas.

Davis cuts two more lies from the whole cloth when he accuses Moon of upbraiding the Negro people for “not rallying to the support of these agents of fascism,” the Trotskyists.

Moon didn’t say a word about the attitude of the Negro people toward the 18 Trotskyist defendants in the first thought-control prosecution. The facts are, however, that a big section of the Negro people did lend their support to the defense of the Trotskyists.

What Moon exposed was the Stalinist sabotage of the fight to defend civil rights when the Trotskyists were convicted and imprisoned under the Smith Act That is why Davis attempts by vicious lies and slanders to incite the Negro people against Moon.

“Why,” Davis demands, “does the national office of the NAACP maintain Trotskyist and pro-Trotskyist gnats on its staff, while firing such heroic giants as Dr. DuBois, an historic leader of the Negro people?” Dr. DuBois, by the way, is at present collaborating with the Stalinists.

The Role of DuBois

Davis is caught suppressing an important fact to create the misleading impression that the “giant,” DuBois, gave no support to the Trotskyist defense. He seeks thereby to bolster his slanderous attack on the “gnat,” Moon, who has exposed a Stalinist act of treachery. Here is the fact Davis suppressed:


Writing about this filthy business is like digging in stinking garbage with your bare hands. But it is necessary to expose every Stalinist lie and slander, and to fight against every Stalinist frameup, so the Negro people and the whole working class will recognize the Stalinists for what they are – vicious and dangerous misleaders who deserve nothing but contempt.

It is equally necessary to oppose the thought-control prosecution of the Stalinists, because their conviction would be used by the capitalist government for new thought-control attacks on broader sections of the population.

For that reason, the Trotskyists, in accordance with correct Marxist-Leninist principles, have offered the Stalinists a united front to fight for repeal of the Smith Act, and in defense of its latest victims. With their typical disregard for correct principles, the Stalinists have rejected that offer.

Judge’s Action

Meanwhile, Judge Medina has arbitrarily halted presentation by the Stalinist of further evidence in support of their charge that federal jury panels are packed with representatives of the rich, before whom no worker or Negro can get a fair trial. He has instructed the government to proceed with its answer to the defense charges.

The last witness for the defense was Doxey A. Wilkerson, director of the Stalinist Jefferson School, who submitted many tables, charts and maps to show systematic rigging of federal jury panels.

In cross-examining Wilkerson, the chief prosecutor, John McGohey, demanded to know if he is a member of the Communist Party. The courtroom was thrown into an uproar, with all five defense lawyers on their feet objecting.

After heated debate of the constitutional issues involved in McGohey’s question, the judge ordered Wilkerson to answer. At the request, of defense counsel, the judge instructed Wilkerson as to his constitutional rights. He could either answer the question, the judge said, or refuse to answer if he feared self-incrimination,

Wilkerson started to say, “As a Negro American ...” But the judge cut him off sharp, ordering a yes or no answer or the invoking of his constitutional right to refuse to answer. Wilkerson then asked and received permission to telephone his own lawyer for advice.

When he returned to the witness stand he stated that he is a member of the Communist Party.

McGohey then went after Wilkerson as though he was preparing to demand that he be included in the thought-control indictment under which the 11 Stalinist defendants are now on trial.

The prosecutor demanded to know when Wilkerson joined the Communist Party, if he is a member of the CP national committee, and if he was a delegate to the Stalinist convention in 1944.

Wilkerson invoked his constitutional right to refuse to answer any of these questions on the ground that he believed the prosecutor was trying to incriminate him.

F. Dobbs Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 8 March 2024