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Farrell Dobbs

Wall Street Sets Up Clamor to Speed CP Trial

(2 February 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 6, 7 February 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

FROM THE FEDERAL COURTROOM, NEW YORK, Feb. 2 – The government has been caught red-handed in its rigging of the jury panels for the thought-control indictment and trial of the 11 Stalinists.

Big Business doesn’t like the way the trial has boomeranged. The capitalist press and radio are clamoring for an end to this monkey business about investigating the jury system. They want a jury picked from the rigged panel.

John F.X. McGohey, the government prosecutor, is using all legal tricks in the book to defend the hand-picking of jury panels. He contends that so long as there is not total exclusion of a class of people, a disproportion between classes is entirely legal.

Defense counsel have shown that “disproportion” really means in practice only token representation, which is even more vicious than outright exclusion, because it is an underhanded attempt to conceal an actual policy of exclusion.

Last week Chief Judge John C. Knox of this judicial district said in a public speech, “Unless restrained by an authority I cannot resist, jurors in my district will continue to be handpicked.”

Presiding Judge Harold R. Medina has accused the d'efense of delaying tactics and of attempting to take over the administration of justice. He halted examination of the trial jury panel with only six of the 525 members heard.

Damning Evidence

Doxey A. Wilkerson, director of of the Stalinist-controlled Jefferson School in this city, is now on the witness stand presenting a mass of facts concerning present practices in selecting juries. Books of all sizes, shapes and colors, together with many maps and charts have been introduced in evidence. Lists totaling 7,737 jurors are under analysis.

Wilkerson has inserted red pins on a series of maps to indicate the place of residence of each juror on present and past jury panels back to 1940. Ironically ehough, these maps have occupied the empty seats the government has so far been prevented from filling with jurors from the rigged panel.

The pattern of the pins on the maps is a dead give-away of the jury-packing scheme. Dense ribs of red appear along Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Central Park West where penthouses of the wealthy are concentrated. Large clusters of pins stand out at Gracie Square, Sutton Place and similar points where the well-to-do gather in tight little island’s.

Another cluster appears in full bloom at the Parkchester high-rent housing development in the Bronx. Your eye is next caught by a thin scattering of pins in the university and college communities.

Then you become aware of the barren areas where a red pin indicating the residence of a juror stands alone like a railroad water tank on a Dakota prairie. These lands of exile from jury service include the three Harlems (Negro, Puerto Rican and Italian) and working class districts like the Lower East Side, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea.

Wilkerson also produced a chart showing that workers who toil with their hands outnumber business executives 6 to 1 in the population as a whole, but on the stacked jury panels the business executives outnumber the manual workers 9 to 1.

“Our Peers”

To date 21 of the 23 grand jurors who indicted the Stalinists have been questioned on the witness stand. There was not a single Negro among them. They turned out to be corporation directors and stockholders, bankers, brokers, wholesalers, an editor and the wife of a police sergeant.

They have served on an average of four grand juries apiece. Big Business drew four royal flushes in a row, as somebody said in the courtroom. The last few jurors to testify were extremely hostile and smart alecky. They must have been briefed by the Wall Street lawyers and given an old-fashioned college pep-talk to go in there and fight for dear old Big Business.

The capitalist press is seeking to bury these damning facts about jury-rigging under a barrage of hysterical red-baiting. Take events last Friday, for example.

Court opened Friday with the morning papers screaming about the House Un-American Committee’s charge that the primary aim of the Stalinists is “espionage” and trumpeting news of the arrest in this city of Sam Carr, a Canadian Stalinist, who is held for deportation to Canada to face “spy” charges.

Later in the day Judge Medina announced he had received hostile letters, some marked with red pencil. He added that accusations by defense counsel that he is prejudiced’ might be creating a wrong impression about the administration of justice in the trial. Here was plenty of fodder for the next editions of the papers, and the evidence about the packed juries was more or less lost in the shuffle.

In the press room a newspaper photographer asked, “How come the high-and-mighty FBI was so cooperative on the Sam Carr deal?” His buddy replieed, “If the guy’s a red, the sky’s the limit.”

Meantime the Stalinists have published a pamphlet on the trial – Ideas Behind Bars, by Len Goldsmith – put out in the name of the Civil Rights Congress. In it you will find a Stalinist conspiracy to suppress facts important to their own defense and the usual quota of outright lies.

Goldsmith correctly states that the day any man goes to jail for advocating opinions not in conformity with those of the majority, on that day democratic government in this country has been overthrown. Then he says, “That this day will never come to America is the goal of the Civil Rights Congress.” The latter statement is a brazen lie.

Eighteen Trotskyists were imprisoned during the war under the same thought-control law now used against the Stalinists. The Stalinists supported the government’s attack on the Trotskyists and tried by every foul means to sabotage the struggle against that frameup.

Again speaking correctly, Goldsmith says not just the Stalinist defendants but rather 140 million people whose rights are imperilled will sit in the prisoners’ dock. But he fails to add that among the same millions, who also sat in the prisoners’ dock with the 18 Trotskyists, were the rank and file of the Communist Party.

The Stalinist leaders betrayed their own rank and file in that fight and helped the government establish a precedent for the present thought-control attack on the Communist Party.

Goldsmith refers to people opposed to the thought-control attack on the Stalinists who say: Let the trial proceed and depend upon the Supreme Court to knock out the Smith Act. His only answer is that every democratic tradition is destroped when men must face trial for their ideas.

That is true. But he deliberately fails to mention a big and stubborn fact showing the real attitude of the Supreme Court toward thought-control in this country.

The 18 Trotskyists appealed three times to the Supreme Court and were three times refused a hearing, while 18 men and women served prison terms because the political party in power disliked their ideas, the nine life-termers on the Supreme Court sat in silence. The Stalinists applauded them for it.

Writing, on this question in the Jan. 29 Nation, Robert Bendiner says that although the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the Trotskyists, “it does not follow that the course the court took in war time would be the one adopted now.” I don’t know whether Bendiner is a Social Democrat or an ADA liberal. It makes little difference because both think very much alike – muddle-headed and with Micawber-like faith in capitalist “democracy.”

History has proven again and again that reliance on the Supreme Court to protect civil rights is a trap. The fight against thought-control prosecutions must begin right now, on all fronts, and continue until the infamous Smith Act is repealed.

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