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Albert Goldman

CP Tells FDR How to Frame SWP

Stalinists Recommend Moscow Trial Method

(23 August 1943)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34, 23 August 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Large headlines in hundreds of newspapers all over the country announced the indictment in Minnesota of leading members of the Socialist Workers Party and of the leaders of Motor Transport and Allied Workers Local 544-CIO for “seditious conspiracy” and for the violation of the Smith Act making it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence.

In one newspaper, the Daily Worker, there appeared a short note tucked away in an inconspicuous place to the effect that the government had obtained an indictment in Minneapolis against certain people who had something to do with the labor movement.

A week or so after the indictment there appeared a news item in the Minneapolis press to the effect that the leader of the Minneapolis Stalinists condemned the indictment, although criticizing the Trotskyist leaders. That was quite a step forward, and it appeared to some of us that the Minneapolis Stalinists were bound to receive a sharp reprimand from the Stalinist national office. The Stalinists in Minneapolis had given in somewhat to the well-nigh universal protest against the indictment in the ranks of progressive labor and liberals throughout the whole nation.

Stalinists Forced to Take a Position

We do not know how many conferences and discussions were held in the Kremlin headquarters on 13th St. in New York as to the policy that should be followed towards the attack of the government on the Trotskyists. After all, to keep silent about a matter that was agitating the minds of every thinking worker and of every progressive could not but arouse amazement even in the ranks of the Stalinists and might lead some rank-and-filers to give the kind of half-hearted support to the defendants that was given by the Minneapolis Stalinists. It was necessary to say something on the whole question. In the Daily Worker of August 16 – a month and a day after the indictment – Mr. Milton Howard was afforded the opportunity; to make public the line formulated by the Stalinist heads.

To answer any article written in the Daily Worker about Trotskyist activities or policies is exceedingly difficult, if not altogether impossible. For in reality there is never any basis for an argument. A basis for argument can exist only where the idea of an opponent is presented honestly and arguments against that idea are advanced.

But that is never done in the Daily Worker in any article written about the Socialist Workers Party.

Two general lines are followed in every one of such articles. Our ideas are completely falsified and hidden motives ascribed to us. An answer to such an article must confine itself therefore to pointing out what was really said and to scoff at the hidden motives ascribed to us.

The Method of Attack

For instance, an article appears in our press advocating defense of the Soviet Union through the independent action of the workers, and not by joining hands with the American government for the purpose of sending aid to the Soviet Union. The Daily Worker thereupon writes an editorial denouncing us for being against aid to the Soviet Union and ascribing the hidden motive to us of a desire to destroy the Soviet Union. There can be no basis for any argument where falsifications and slanders constitute the only attack on us. Howard’s article, however, in addition to the usual falsifications and slanders, sets down a certain policy which it is possible to analyze.

The article starts with the proposition that the Trotskyists are enemies of the people, tools of the most reactionary forces, conspirators and wreckers using the words “socialism” and “communism” to conceal our real purpose which is to aid the enemies of labor.

What Howard Won’t Explain

If that is so, Mr. Howard, how does it happen that the Minneapolis bosses have been fighting the Trotskyists tooth and nail ever since the Trotskyists helped make a union town out of Minneapolis? You say the “Trotskyists have penetrated workers’ organizations in order to wreck them”? But it is on record that the Trotskyists of Minneapolis have built powerful unions and that they were instrumental in organizing hundreds of thousands of workers all over the Northwest. Do you mean to say, Mr. Howard, that the Trotskyists are playing a game to amuse themselves by first building unions, then penetrating them for the purpose of destroying them? A few idiots in your party may believe that kind of dribble!

Will you kindly write an article explaining why Tobin, like the bosses of Minneapolis, is so anxious to smash the Trotskyists and the unions led by them? Perhaps you and your party are of the opinion that the Minneapolis bosses and Tobin also consider us enemies of the people and are determined to get rid of us because they, like you, are friends of the people? It would be very instructive to get your view on this point.

Or is it your thesis that the Minneapolis bosses and Tobin are also enemies of the people and that this fight between them on the one hand and the Trotskyists on the other is only a sham battle staged for the purpose of deceiving all of the people all of the time?

Resurrecting the Moscow Trials

Naturally Howard brings forward, as final and conclusive proof that the Trotskyists are enemies of the people, the findings in the Moscow trials. Now the judge in those trials did find us guilty of being enemies of the people, but that is hardly conclusive. As a matter of fact, by this time, no one – not even the Stalinists – take those trials seriously. Of course they mention them every time they write an article about the Trotskyists, but somehow or other there is a hollow sound about it. Certainly, outside of the Stalinist ranks, the Moscow trials are accepted as frame-ups even by those who have never read the report of the Dewey Commission. Life has proved them so utterly baseless that it is impossible to take them seriously.

Here is a group which has allegedly been uncovered as enemies of the people continuing their work as if no trials had ever been held. Can one imagine a spy in the service of the bosses being uncovered and continuing his profession as if nothing had happened? Such a creature immediately gives up his profession or attempts to transfer his activities to places where he is not known. But the Trotskyists continue. openly with their work and not even the rank-and-file Stalinists dare raise the cry that spies are in the midst of the workers.

Stalinists Want Indictment Changed

In Howard’s article there are a few words of condemnation of the indictment against the Trotskyists. In the face of the universal condemnation of the government for obtaining the indictment, the Stalinists could not afford to come out openly in support of the government.

But it must be clearly understood that they do not criticize the indictment as such; they, only criticize the government for indicting the Trotskyists as revolutionists. The Stalinist leaders want the government to obtain an indictment against the Trotskyists, but without the mention of their revolutionary activities. What the Stalinist leaders ask and demand is that the government change its indictment. Instead of accusing the Trotskyists of being revolutionists, the Stalinists demand that the government indict the Trotskyists as fifth columnists and also involve the Trotskyists with Nazis, Bundists, Christian Fronters, etc.

Stalinists Want a Moscow Trial

In simple language, this means that the Stalinists want the government to stage a Moscow trial in Minnesota. In the Moscow trials the Trotskyists were not charged with being what they actually are, loyal and devoted revolutionary Marxists, but with being saboteurs and enemies of the people. The trials were thus nothing but judicial frame-ups. The Trotskyists were also accused of being tied up with actual fascists in alleged plots to kill Stalin. That is exactly what the Stalinists want done in Minnesota. A frame-up and a false amalgam linking fascists with the Trotskyists.

The position of the Stalinist leaders makes it impossible for them to be as truthful as the Roosevelt government or even the Hitler government. Open reactionaries know what we are; they do not try to fool themselves or anybody else that we are anything but revolutionists It is for this that we are persecuted. It is for being revolutionists that our comrades in Germany have suffered so much at the hands of Hitler. It is for being revolutionists that we have been indicted. Naturally the element of frame-up is present even where the charge in the indictment is based primarily on the fact that we are revolutionists. But the Stalinist leaders want the indictment to be a complete frame-up while the reactionaries simply add frame-ups to the basic charge in the indictment.

CIO, All Liberals Support Defendants

The most progressive labor organization in the country has undertaken the defense of the sixteen 544 men who are defendants in the case. The CIO has furnished bail; resolutions have been passed by CIO locals protesting the indictments. The American Civil Liberties Union has given all-out aid to the defendants. The liberal weeklies, the Nation and the New Republic, have condemned the indictments as a violation of the rights of free speech and free press and as a perversion of the criminal cede for the purpose of helping Tobin keep his control over the Minneapolis truck drivers. Every liberal, every progressive, every intelligent worker knows exactly what the real reasons for the indictment are. They know the Trotskyists are the most active elements in the organization of the workers in the Northwest.

Our Record Is Clear

Can the Stalinist leaders convince anybody outside of their own ranks that the Trotskyists are fifth columnists and wreckers? Our record is too clear for such a frame-up to succeed. The government understands that; the bosses understand that; Tobin and his gangsters understand that. All of them openly accuse us of wanting to change this system. They of course want to frame us by attributing acts to us which we have never committed. But they try us on our Declaration of Principles and do not claim that our Declaration of Principles is only camouflage to fool the workers. They know better. We are in deadly earnest about our principles while the Stalinists have long ago sold theirs down the river.

If any worker does not yet know what we really stand for, let him follow the trial of the 29 and he will realize that we are indicted because we constitute the only real danger to the rule of the capitalists, their government and their labor tools. All the falsifications of the Stalinists cannot destroy that basic fact.

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