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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(9 August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 32, 9 August 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Why Have We Now Been Indicted?

Capitalist democracy works in a mysterious way its wonders to perform.

Take the case of the Minnesota indictment charging some of our party members and some trade union leaders and activists with conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence. What people were responsible for the indictment, and why were they obtained? To answer these questions means to get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes workings of our democratic process.

We shall leave out of consideration the question of the violation of the rights of free press and free speech guaranteed to the inhabitants of this country by the Constitution of the United States. These rights are directly involved in the Minnesota indictment because it was obtained under Federal and not under State laws. The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States contain all the guarantees for free press, free assembly etc. And these amendments are a restriction on the Federal Government and not on the various State legislatures.

The prosecution may claim, however, that the question of the constitutionality of the statute under which we are indicted is not a question for the Attorney General’s office to decide. The Department of Justice is here to enforce the laws and let the Courts pass on the questions of this constitutionality. But any attempt to pass the buck in this fashion can hardly succeed in this case. The “seditious conspiracy” act, which is the basis of the first count in the indictment, is as old as the Civil War. Our party in its present form was organized more than three years ago, the Trotskyist movement more than twelve years ago. Why did not the Department invested with the great duty of enforcing the sacred statutes take action before? What was the reason for the long delay? There is a rumor that the FBI is a very efficient organization so that it could hardly be that the long delay is to be explained by the inefficiency of that governmental agency.

Even if we exclude the first count and limit ourselves to the second count of the indictment, based on the Smith Act which makes it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the government, the reputation of the Department of Justice for efficiency would hardly stand up. For the Smith Act was passed more than a year ago and it should not take long even for FBI agents to read the Declaration of Principles which our party adopted in January 1938 and suspended in 1940.

Daniel J. Tobin Set the Wheels Going

The wherefore of the indictment at this time would indeed be a puzzling problem were one to base himself on the idea that the government functions in a democratic manner observing and enforcing all the laws equally and impartially. However, put Daniel J. Tobin, President of the International Teamsters, upon the scene and the democratic process by which the indictment was obtained becomes exceedingly clear. Now Tobin is only one citizen. Like every other citizen he has only one vote on election day. If he suffers injury at the hands of some person or persons he has the right openly to file charges and present his evidence before the prosecutor in the first instance and before the court and jury in the second instance.

That Tobin has suffered injury at the hands of the leaders of Local 544-CIO is beyond any question of a doubt. They disregarded his desires; they flaunted his decisions; they disobeyed his commands. Instead of graciously giving up the posts to which they were elected and permitting Tobin to rule over the truck drivers as he wished and more particularly to pocket the per-capita from over five thousand union men, the 544 leaders decided to defend their democratic rights and the democratic rights of all the union men. It must be admitted that Tobin suffered grievous injury and if that were the charge in the indictment I must confess that the prisoners at the bar would be compelled to plead guilty.

But this is exactly where capitalist democracy steps in and makes it unnecessary for Tobin to come to court with his just grievances in an open and frank manner. Since Tobin understands (if he does not, his lawyers do) that the kind of injury which he suffered cannot be taken cognizance of by the majesty of the law, he must find some other way to utilize the law to punish his enemies and to get justice for himself.

So Tobin, who is eager to help fight for democracy in far-off Germany, runs to his friend Roosevelt, the leader of the fight for democracy in far-off Germany. The chief thereupon gives his orders to the Department of Justice and, unlike the leaders of 544 who believe in disobeying Tobin’s orders, the Department of Justice, also fighting for democracy for Hitler’s subjects, obeys Roosevelt’s orders and the result is – the indictment.

The Hypocrisy of Capitalist Democracy

Tobin’s name is not on the indictment: Roosevelt’s name is not n the indictment. Only the names of the prosecutors, who obey orders and thus differ from the leaders of Local 544, appear on the indictment. So we have a private citizen by the name of Daniel J. Tobin, who votes only once on election day, going to Roosevelt, who enforces all laws impartially, as should be the case in a land where democracy reigns supreme, and the result is an indictment against twenty-nine people who are not personal friends of Roosevelt and who cannot influence him in any way.

Thus does capitalist democracy work. The constitutions, the laws guarantee equality and justice. They reveal nothing of the democratic process as it actually functions behind the scenes. They reveal nothing of the secret conferences which the leaders of Congress have with the leaders of industry. Laws are passed ostensibly after a full discussion and by the members of the legislatures. Indictments are obtained ostensibly after an impartial analysis of all the evidence, Capitalist democracy covers itself up with sanctimonious formalities.

But it is better than fascism. Yes, we are compelled to admit that much. But it is not better than workers’ democracy and above all, under conditidns of capitalist decay, it cannot and will not last. They who do not fight for the establishment of workers’ democracy are only helping place a fascist noose around their necks.

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