Goldman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Final Argument

Albert Goldman

Final Argument to the Jury

From the Court Record: His Explanation
of the Issues in the Trial

(27 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 51, 20 December 1941, pp. 3–5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Thursday, November 27, 1941

THE COURT: You may proceed, Mr. Goldman.

MR. GOLDMAN: May it please your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

I think that the prediction made in my opening statement, that this would be a case remarkable in many respects, has been confirmed.

In this courtroom there were presented before a jury ideas – social, political and economic – that have never, to my knowledge, been presented in any Federal Court prior to this case.

Never before, in the history of a Federal Court, has a jury been confronted with the necessity of listening to the social, political and economic ideas and ideals of defendants, formulated in hundreds of articles and pamphlets, for the purpose of determining whether or not the defendants are guilty as charged in an indictment.

To a certain extent the jury in this case is confronted with the most arduous task of deciding whether ideas propounded by men living in the past and accepted by the defendants are correct or not. I say to a certain extent because obviously neither the government nor the defense formally demands that you decide whether these ideas are correct of not, but you cannot possibly escape from this necessity, and it is this factor which makes the case unique.

A Trial of Heretics

Often, as I sat through this trial, listening to Mr. Anderson reading excerpts, and especially yesterday as I heard Mr. Anderson deliver his argument, my thoughts drifted far afield. What are we on trial for? I asked myself. Some men wrote books many years ago, and we are on trial because those men had ideas and wrote about those ideas. We are on trial because a man by the name of Marx spent most of his lifetime in the library of the British Museum, digging into statistics, statistics concerned with economics and with politics. We are on trial because this man, after reading the mass of statistics, wrote several books in which, taking those statistics as the basis, and analyzing them, formulated general laws – laws that he thought, and laws that we think, operate in the social system.

We are on trial because a man by the name of Engels and a man by the name of Lenin and a man by the name of Trotsky wrote books, books that have been published and read by tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people in this country, and certainly throughout the world.

As I thought about this matter, my mind wandered back into the Middle Ages, and I saw before me inquisitors, prosecutors – their names not Mr. Anderson, I suppose, but Mr. Anderson could very well have been there – with a heretic standing before them, and these inquisitors were stern and merciless. Lifting up a finger of accusation, the prosecutor said, “He does not believe our doctrine. He does not believe what we have taught for many generations. I accuse him of heresy.” And the examination of the heretic began, and perhaps he recanted, as was the case with the great scientist Galileo, for many feared the punishment of slow torture and painful death.

I do not say, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that this case is exactly like the cases brought before the inquisition in the Middle Ages. After all, we face only 16 years of imprisonment, while the heretic in the Middle Ages faced torture and death; but essentially the situations are the same. The defendants here are charged with being guilty of heresy. They are guilty because they do not accept the ideas that prevail in society at the present time – Mr. Anderson’s ideas. They are guilty because they advocate new ideas which – to use Mr. Anderson’s phrase – are capable even of corrupting a saint, should a saint happen to read the literature published by the defendants.

My mind went even farther back, into the days of Greece, when an ugly little man, full of wisdom in his head and of gentleness in his heart – Socrates – was accused of corrupting the youth by his ideas and was compelled to take a cup of hemlock.

A Warning on the Dangers of Prejudice

I think that in essence this trial follows the tradition of the trials of heretics throughout the ages, the trials of people who advocate new ideas, and it is because of this factor, ladies and gentlemen, that I ask you to be doubly and triply careful. When the Court examined you prior to accepting you as jurors, you stated, and I believe with absolute sincerity, that you could and would give us an impartial trial. I have perfect faith that your intentions were and are of the best, ladies and gentlemen, but prejudice is not something that can be put on and taken off at will.

We are here dealing with ideas that are capable of arousing tremendous passion, as you witnessed yesterday when Mr. Anderson spoke; capable also of arousing tremendous zeal in their favor, ideas that actually did arouse millions of men to rise against what they deemed to be injustice; ideas which millions of men thought to be capable of liberating mankind from the ills that confront it. Yes, these ideas can grouse not only zeal and fanaticism, but also tremendous hatred, and they do arouse hatred, because to some people, such as Mr. Anderson, they appear to threaten the very foundations of everything that they hold sacred. I remember that Mr. Anderson, in his opening statement, said that the defendants were conspiring to destroy “organized society”. Obviously, what Mr. Anderson designates as organized society, the defendants deem to be completely unorganized, completely chaotic, capable only of destruction and death.

In the indictment the defendants are charged with conspiring to accumulate and, in fact, the indictment charges that the defendants did accumulate, weapons and explosives. No evidence whatever of course, was brought to prove that charge in the indictment, unless one considers that the ideas which the defendants have are dynamite. Tyrants of all ages feared the explosive nature of ideas, because ideas are capable of shattering the crust that surrounds the mind of man and of presenting the possibility of a new road, a new life, a new social existence. Ideas, therefore, constitute an explosive far more powerful than TNT, and it is the only explosive that we deal with, the only explosive that the Government is capable of proving that we have accumulated.

And I say, ladies and gentlemen, that a human being, no matter how conscientious he may be, no matter how hard he may try to be impartial, must guard himself against prejudices, because prejudices most frequently lie deep in the subconscious mind of a person, and their existence is unknown, even to the person himself.

All of us are obviously born without any prejudices whatever. Have you ever seen a child of one or two or three years of age who knew anything about racial or religious hatreds? I have never seen one, and I know you have never seen one. But as the child becomes an adult, as he absorbs the poisons that exist in modern society, he becomes prejudiced. Every important judgment that a human being makes is determined by the ideas and by the prejudices that he has acquired in his early youth – in school, in church, at home.

The human being cannot get away from his environment. He is chained to it by chains that are not breakable, and most frequently he is chained to the prejudices created by the environment. In a case like this, it is therefore essential to ask yourselves at every step, “Am I permitting my judgment to be colored by my dislike of the ideas of the defendants?” There perhaps is no human being on earth who can get rid of his prejudices completely, but once he is conscious of the fact that he has prejudices, then he can be on guard against them, and being on guard against them, he is more likely, When confronted by new and strange and therefore hateful ideas, to arrive at a fair decision.

I Must Discuss Our Ideas

It is, of course, impossible for me to give an exhaustive explanation of all the ideas involved in this trial. Thousands of books have been written about them. Perhaps I should have brought some 500 of them into Court and asked the judge to permit me to read and discuss all of these books; and at the end of a year or two, the jurors could feel themselves more able to decide whether the ideas involved in the

case are correct or not. And then, if the jurors did not think that they are correct, they could send the defendants to jail. Of course it is impossible to take that much time. But try as I might, I cannot avoid at least discussing some of our ideas.

I am not here to try to convince you of the correctness of our ideas. I am not here to try to show you that those ideas are the only ideas that will solve the problems of mankind. I believe so. My friends, the other defendants, believe so. I am here, however, primarily to explain those ideas sufficiently well so that the issue in this case will become clear to you.

We are charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence. We are also charged with conspiracy to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. In order to show you that there is no basis whatever for these two charges, I cannot avoid discussing certain fundamental concepts of ours, concepts brought in by the evidence for the prosecution.

I know that some of you, many of you, have businesses to attend to, and every day is an additional burden. I feel, however, that I have a certain moral right to speak at length because I did not take such a long time to present the case for the defendants; but still I know that it is very difficult for men and women, away from home for four and a half weeks, deprived of their liberty to a certain extent, to sit and listen to an exposition of ideas.

Mind you, there are 23 defendants in this case. In an ordinary criminal case, an hour’s final argument for the defendant, threatened with deprivation of his liberty for many years, would certainly not be too much. Don’t be scared, ladies and gentlemen, I am not multiplying one hour by 23 defendants. I do not intend to take so much time.

Over 150 exhibits, possibly, have been introduced by the prosecution. I have a right, and perhaps I have the duty, to take every exhibit and comment on it. I shall not do so, not only because it would lake too long a time, but because, as I shall explain later, the exhibits will not be of any great aid to the jury in determining its verdict.

Above all, it is the importance of the case that justifies lengthy argument. Everyone knows that it is an important case. No matter what your verdict will be, it will go down in history. This will go down in history as one of the greatest trials, not only in the Federal Court of this country, but in the courts of any country.

The Issues in This Case Are Crystal Clear

I think that by this time the issues of the case are clear. In the first count of the indictment, the charge is that the defendants conspired to overthrow the government by force, and to oppose its authority by force. I do not remember any evidence that was introduced on that second clause. So that, as to the first count, the jury should concentrate its attention on the question of whether or not we conspired to overthrow the government by force.

The second count has five sections to it. There is a section charging us with conspiring to create insubordination in the armed forces. There is. a section charging us with conspiring to distribute written and printed matter that urges insubordination. There is a section charging us with conspiracy to advocate, advise and teach the duty, necessity, desirability and propriety of overthrowing and destroying the government of the United States by force and violence. There is a fourth section charging us with conspiracy to publish and distribute literature advocating the overthrow of the government of the United States by force and violence. And there is a fifth section charging us with conspiracy to organize societies and groups to advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States by force and violence.

But I think all of us will agree, including counsel for the prosecution, that we can confine our attention to three major charges: in the first count, the charge of conspiring to overthrow, and in the second count the charges of conspiring to advocate the overthrow and to create insubordination in the armed forces.

Immediately upon reading the indictment, the question arises: What is the difference between conspiring to overthrow the government by force and violence and conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence; or what is the difference between those two, and conspiracy to create insubordination?

Let me try, in a few words, to give you my idea of the difference.

It is possible to conspire to advocate to overthrow the government by force and violence without conspiring to overthrow the government by force and violence.

Let me give you an example: One of the persons conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government may say: “When shall we accomplish our conspiracy?” And someone may answer him, “That is something for the future. In the first place we must advocate, and when we get ready, we’ll actually start thinking about overthrowing. That may be in five or ten or fifteen years. For the present we have the task only of advocating.” It is, of course, possible to conspire to do both – to advocate and to overthrow – but you can see that it is possible to separate the two.

Conspiring to create insubordination in the armed forces is obviously different from the other two conspiracies. We can assume certain persons disliking the general staff of the army and wanting to create insubordination in order to get rid of that general staff. These persons might not at all be interested in overthrowing the government by force and violence.

I think, then, that the difference between the first count and the second count is clear.

Is Our Party a Conspiracy?

At all stages in your deliberations you must ask yourselves the following questions: What charges have the government made against the defendants? What evidence has the government promised in the opening statement of Mr. Anderson to prove those charges? What evidence has it actually produced?

In the first place, it is necessary for you to consider whether or not the defendants are actually guilty of any conspiracy. As Mr. Anderson told you yesterday, if you find that there was no conspiracy, then there is nothing further for you to do. You vote “not guilty”, and you are through.

As the prosecution produced its witnesses and introduced its exhibits, two theories appeared to be in the minds of the prosecutors: one, that the Socialist Workers Party is in itself a conspiracy; and two, that the conspiracy was something outside of the party, and the party was only a means for the accomplishment of the conspiracy. According to Mr. Anderson’s opening statement, the very purpose of the party, the very plan of the party, the very program of the party and the very activities of the party constituted a violation of the statutes. It would seem, therefore, that the Socialist Workers Party is in itself a conspiracy. That seems to me to be a monstrous proposition. I presume that there are Democrats now in power who think that the Republican party is a conspiracy to take power away from the Democrats. To say that the Socialist Workers Party is in and of itself a conspiracy would mean the beginning of the process of destroying every opposition to those who are in office.

On the other hand, there is the possibility that the government has the theory that the defendants conspired independently of the Socialist Workers Party, that they came to some understanding, in some way or other, independently of the party, to create a party for the purpose of advocating to overthrow, or of overthrowing by force and violence, the Government of the United States. Is there any credible evidence of such a conspiracy?

It will be necessary for you to choose which theory of the prosecution to proceed on.

A Conspiratorial Atmosphere

Now obviously the term “conspiracy” is altogether inapplicable to this case. I am now thinking of the term, not in the technical, legal sense, but in its generally accepted meaning. A conspiracy is considered to be something secretive, hatched in the darkness of night, with the conspirators fearful lest it should become public. Mr. Anderson tried hard to create that conspiratorial atmosphere in this case. He introduced a floor plan of the party’s headquarters. How could it possibly help you to arrive at a conclusion as to whether or not we conspired to overthrow the government by force and violence? But in the mind of Mr. Anderson a conspiracy demands a floor plan, maybe some secret chambers, perhaps some secret buttons. How could if be a conspiracy without a floor plan, without a Sherlock Holmes coming in to study the floor plan?

. The prosecution produced evidence that the meetings of the party were held on Thursday nights, and that a membership card was demanded for admission. I presume some of you may belong to organizations that meet on Thursday nights and where only members are allowed to attend. There must be at least 10,000 organizations that permit only members to attend their meetings. Had Mr. Anderson requested it, we would have told him without any hesitation that our membership meetings took place on Thursday nights and that only members were allowed. But had Mr. Anderson done that, it would have destroyed the conspiratorial atmosphere that he has tried to create.

In furtherance of Mr. Anderson’s contention that there was a conspiracy, he introduced evidence that our members were known by numbers. It came out during the evidence, however, that the numbers were not given to the members, but were marked on each card. I don’t know how many organizations have membership cards with numbers, but there must be plenty of them. But Mr. Anderson wanted to make a conspiracy out of this case, and so he had to transfer the numbers from the cards to the members.

We Protect Party Members

Now then, we come to the final evidence of a real conspiracy! The members were told to destroy the cards. Doesn’t that show, asks Mr. Anderson seriously, that these people are conspirators? We admit that the members were told to destroy their cards. This occurred in the Minneapolis branch and did not occur in any other branch throughout the country. The leaders of the Minneapolis branch rightly wanted to protect the rank and file from the kind of persecution that the defendants in this case are subjected to. I admit that Vincent Dunne and Oscar Coover and other leaders of the branch thought seriously of the problem about how to protect the rank and file members – not themselves, because they did not conceal their membership. Vincent Dunne testified and told you that he was a member.

There was no attempt by any of the leaders of the party to conceal their membership in the party. Their names were on the editorial staff, or they were openly advertised as speakers for the party. There was, however, a serious attempt to protect the rank and file from being victimized. Does not this case prove that this was correct? We would have been derelict in our duty had we not attempted to prevent victimization of the rank and file members of the party.

The government, by instituting this prosecution, has more than justified this precautionary measure taken by the leaders of the Minneapolis branch. Let the government say that membership in the party is not illegal; let it not indict people who are innocent; and the membership cards will then not be destroyed. But so long as there is the slightest chance that a member of ours will be victimized, so long shall I and other responsible members of the party attempt to protect the rank and file of our party.

Did James P. Cannon or Vincent Dunne or Farrell Dobbs or Grace Carlson deny their membership in the party? They want everybody to know that they are members of the party, because they want everybody to accept the principles of the party, but they want also to protect the rank and file members of the party.

In his opening statement, Mr. Anderson claimed that there was no provision in the party’s constitution for the withdrawal of a member. My, how terrible this sounds! Once a member, always a member, and one dare not withdraw from membership. But from the testimony of the government’s own witnesses you could see that people joined the party and left the party on a purely voluntary basis. Why all this rigamarole about no provision for withdrawal of membership? Because Mr. Anderson wants to create the atmosphere of a conspiracy – a conspiracy that never existed and never will exist.

Don’t Call Us Conspirators!

Every prosecution witness, and Mr. Anderson himself, showed you that instead of being conspirators, we are men and women anxious to proclaim our ideas from the housetops, men and women devoted to our ideas, and extremely interested in getting other people to come to our meetings and to discuss at those meetings. What kind of a conspiracy is it when we publish a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine, when we ask people to come to our meetings, to listen to us and to join our party? Our conspiracy is indeed peculiar; it is a conspiracy that attempts to get the vast majority of the people of the United States to become members of it. We want to convince the majority of the people that they should become as guilty as we are. Open headquarters, open mass meetings, open distribution of literature! Is this characteristic of a conspiracy?

Political propagandists, yes, but don’t dare to call us conspirators. Tell the truth, Mr. Anderson, and say that you want us in jail because our ideas are distasteful to you. Tell the truth and say that you want to still our voices, close our headquarters, prevent us from distributing our literature. Don’t call us criminal conspirators!

Did we attempt to conceal the organization of the party at the Founding Conference in December 1937? We would gladly have seen the news of it published in every paper. We published five or ten thousand copies of the party’s Declaration of Principles. Alas, that we could not publish five million. We got out a weekly paper, a monthly magazine; we issued innumerable pamphlets and participated in political campaigns. You may call it a conspiracy in legal phraseology, but please remember that it is a conspiracy only in that sense.

You may be convinced that we are guilty of a conspiracy in that technical, legal sense, and it is therefore necessary for me to go on and deal with the object of this alleged conspiracy. You can find that there is a conspiracy, and yet you can easily conclude that we are not guilty if you see that the object of the conspiracy is nothing that is illegal.

Documents versus Verbal Testimony

Here we must stop a moment to consider the types of evidence introduced by the prosecution. One type is documentary evidence, consisting of articles, excerpts from articles, pamphlets, excerpts from pamphlets, resolutions and excerpts from resolutions: you can read them, study them, analyze them.

Then there is the second type, consisting of statements alleged to have been made by the defendants and testified to by witnesses for the prosecution.

You must keep the distinction between these two types of evidence clearly before you, because it is an exceedingly important distinction, and a great deal depends upon it.

One generalization that almost all people will agree to is that memory is a very treacherous thing. It is the almost universal experience of all lawyers and of all judges that you can hardly ever get ten people who see the same event to testify to exactly the same thing. It is almost a universal rule that, if all ten witnesses tell the same story, they have undoubtedly been coached. If ten witnesses, testifying about a certain speech alleged to have been made a year or two before the testimony, repeat certain statements of the speech in the same way, then it is almost a sure sign that they are falsifying.

It would be horrible to think that a jury would actually find defendants guilty on the basis of evidence of certain statements alleged by witnesses to have been made by the defendants a year or two or three before the trial.

Ladies’ and gentlemen, do you need any more proof of that than the fact that the attorneys for the government and the attorneys for the defense disagreed as to what was said an hour after a certain statement was made by a witness? Several times we squabbled about what a witness was supposed to have said the day before. Did I mean to say, when I disagreed with Mr. Anderson, that he was a liar, or did Mr. Anderson mean to say that I was a liar? Not at all. One of us simply did not remember what was said. We always had to go to the record.

But when Mr. Anderson states that he bases his case primarily on the testimony of witnesses who testified to hearing some of the defendants make certain statements a year or two or three years ago, then, I am justified in concluding that Mr. Anderson is not dealing fairly with the defendants. Consider the tremendous and terrible possibilities of such a situation. An enemy of yours goes to Mr. Anderson and says: I heard him say he wants to overthrow the government by force and violence. And Mr. Anderson thereupon hauls you before a jury. All that you can say is that you did not make the statement, and the jury may or may not believe you. Can you not see the terrible possibilities in such a case?

I shall show you later that the testimony of the government witnesses is absolutely worthless. It is not only worthless, but most of it consists of downright perjury. But leave that out of consideration. I repeat: even if you were convinced that the government’s witnesses meant to be honest, you should not pay any attention to their testimony of verbal statements alleged to have been made years ago.

THE COURT: We will have our morning recess at this time.

* * *

THE COURT: You may proceed, Mr. Goldman.

MR. GOLDMAN: So that, as between documentary evidence and statements alleged to have been made by the defendants and testified to by the government witnesses, it is my opinion that fairness and justice demand that you should exclude the verbal statements.

Which Documents Are Important?

Which of the documents that have been introduced should you consider most important?

Counsel for prosecution will undoubtedly say all documents are important and of equal weight but, ladies and gentlemen, here you must take your experiences of life into consideration and base your judgment on those experiences. A mass of about 150 exhibits have been introduced. Articles written by the defendants, pamphlets written by the defendants, articles and pamphlets written by people who are not among the defendants and whom you do not know have been admitted under the rules of evidence as construed by

the Court. Then there is the Declaration of Principles and there are many official resolutions – all are in evidence.

You have excerpts from pamphlets that were written three or four years ago by persons whom you do not know, have never seen and who are not in the ranks of the defendants. You have articles written in the Socialist Appeal and in The Militant, in the New International and the Fourth International, written by people who are not among the defendants.

The question immediately presents itself: Should you give equal weight to all these documents? Should you, for instance, give as much weight to an official declaration of the party as to an article written by someone who is not among the defendants? It would be absurd not to make a distinction between an official resolution of the party, representing the thought of the most responsible party leaders, and a casual article written by someone whom you do not know and who obviously is not a leader of the party. If he were, he would be here amongst the defendants. Four of us were bought here from New York to cover up the fact that this case is essentially a prosecution against the leadership of Local 544-CIO – to cover up the real motives of the prosecution.

Then there are other documents in evidence – such as resolutions of the Fourth International. Mr. Cannon testified that we accept them insofar as they are applicable to this country and you should take that testimony into consideration.

It is clear that we didn’t keep a staff of lawyers scrutinizing carefully every article that was published in our press with the idea of keeping out anything and everything that might conceivably be used by some federal prosecutor.

Young men, new in the movement, may have formulated certain ideas in a careless manner and not in exact agreement with our Declaration of Principles and the prosecution wants to hold the defendants responsible for that, wants to put the defendants in jail because some party members whom you do not know wrote something that might be given a certain interpretation hostile to us. Of course all these articles are in evidence and from a strictly legal viewpoint you must consider them. But I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, is my request that you should give greater weight to documentary evidence which can be considered as official documents, than to articles written by unknown people, anything but fair and just?

I say therefore that as far as the documents introduced in evidence are concerned you should give greatest weight of all to the Declaration of Principles and the official resolutions of the party. Next in importance come articles written by responsible leaders of the party.

Prosecution Emphasizes Certain Pamphlets

The prosecution has used and will use certain pamphlets for the purpose of trying to get you to bring in a verdict of guilty. Especially is the prosecution interested in having you concentrate your attention on the pamphlet Are We for War by Draper and the mimeographed pamphlet, What Is Trotskyism by Weber. But I want to point out to you that they were not official declarations of the party. The Draper pamphlet was not even published by the party. The pamphlet What Is Trotskyism was mimeographed – not printed – and it is obvious that this pamphlet was not for popular distribution.

I would be justified in asking you to judge me only by my own writings and not to condemn the other defendants on the basis of my writings. If there is any rule of law which has been emphasized in Anglo-Saxon tradition, it is that a person must be held responsible for his own acts and not for the acts of others.

It is true that in a conspiracy case the rules of evidence are relaxed and testimony is permitted which is not permitted in other cases but even in a conspiracy case, as fair-minded individuals, you should try to uphold that tradition of Anglo-Saxon law.

I am willing to be judged by my own writings and by the official declarations of the party and by the writings of other responsible leaders, insofar as I agree with them. I do not think that others should be judged by my writings. I am not stating that as a legal proposition applicable in a conspiracy case; I am stating it as a proposition of fairness and justice and not always does the law coincide with fairness and justice. I can see Mr. Anderson trembling at that statement but no one with any experience in the law courts can deny that it is the truth.

It would be the greatest travesty of justice if you were to convict people here in Minneapolis on the basis of articles written by persons who are not even defendants and who obviously do not play a leading role in the party.

We didn’t sit day in and day out and try to figure out what Mr. Anderson and Mr. Schweinhaut were going to pick up from pamphlets, from The Militant or the Fourth International and present as evidence before the jury. We permitted many people to express their own ideas in their own ways. And everyone who knows anything about editing a paper understands that in the rush of getting copy and sending it to the printer certain expressions are always overlooked.

Take into consideration all of the documents but in all fairness to the defendants, give first place to the official documents – to the Declaration of Principles and official resolutions – and second place to the articles and pamphlets written by the responsible leaders.

The attorneys for the government have read excerpts – an excerpt here and an excerpt there. I could have read excerpts also. How far would it have aided you in coming to your decision? What I shall try to do and in my opinion what you should try to do, is to get as complete a picture

as possible of our full program, not an excerpt here or an excerpts there. I shall attempt to give you, by taking the Declaration of Principles, Cannon’s speeches and my articles and pamphlets and the article of Farrell Dobbs on trade unionism, an analysis of our program. That is all I can do and all I shall try to do. I cannot stop to discuss every excerpt. If an excerpt is read to you by the prosecution, all I can say is: take it into consideration but remember that it is part of a program. You cannot judge us by an excerpt. You must judge us by the whole program.

I shall skip over lightly and briefly those items in the program which are not very material and immediately proceed to the heart of the questions that have been raised by the prosecution.

We Aspire to Bring Socialism

In the first place it is necessary to get an idea as to the fundamental object of the conspiracy charged against the defendants. What is the aim of this great conspiracy? If there is any conspiracy at all, its fundamental object is to get a majority of the people of this country to establish socialism. That is the sum and substance of the conspiracy. If you are interested in finding out the general outlines of what we consider to be a socialist society, you can do so by reading our Declaration of Principles and my pamphlet What Is Socialism.

The fundamental feature of a socialist society will be that all the means of production – the railroads, the mines, the factories – will be owned by the people and the goods that will be produced will be produced for use. Under the present system, which we call capitalist, the means of production are owned by private persons or corporations and although some owners may be very good and charitable gentlemen, they operate their industries not because people need the goods that they produce but because they want to make a profit.

Under socialism the people will decide how many pairs of shoes, how many garments, how many hats, how much coal, how many houses will be needed to satisfy the needs of the people and these things will be produced. The productive wealth of society – not goods for consumption such as a coat, or a shirt, or a radio or an automobile – but the productive wealth of society – machinery, factories, mines – will be owned in common by the people and goods will be produced for the use of the people.

There will be no classes under socialism – that is, there will be no class that owns the wealth and no class that is exploited. Today a worker only has his labor power and he sells that to someone who owns machinery and he gets a wage in return and the man who owns the machinery makes a profit out of the labor power. This is what socialists term exploitation of labor.

Individuals under socialism will, of course, have different capacities. But no one will be permitted to own any productive wealth and thus exploit labor.

What Socialism Can Do for Humanity

In the final stage of socialism, which some theoreticians designate as communism, the productive forces of society will be so greatly developed and the education of the people will be such as to enable society to follow the principle: From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.

If anyone of you raises the objection that human nature makes that impossible, I simply ask you to go to that section of my pamphlet What Is Socialism which deals with the problem of human nature. Under socialism people will be educated not to think of profit but of service to society. Great scientists even now do not work in their laboratories because they expect to make millions of dollars; they work because they are interested in science.

It will of course be necessary to educate the new generation and it may take time, but given new social conditions it is absolutely certain that it can be done. Given a society that produces enough to satisfy the needs of all human beings, the struggle between human beings for the means of life will be abolished. If 12 people have 5,000 apples between them and in addition know that they can get as many apples as they can possibly eat, there will be no quarrel amongst them for apples. A society that will produce enough to satisfy the reasonable needs of people will do away with all the brutal struggles characterizing present day society.

To establish a new social order it will be necessary in the first place to create a new government which we call by the name of Workers’ and Farmers’ Government. You can see that I am only touching on essentials. I haven’t the time to do any more. What will be the duty of that government? To take over the means of production now owned by capitalists and begin operating them for the benefit of the people; and also to begin the education of a new generation to transform the human being from what he is under capitalism into what he should be under socialism.

The Workers’ and Farmers’ Government

That Workers’ and Farmers’ Government is technically called a dictatorship of the proletariat. When that phrase is uttered by Mr. Anderson or Mr. Schweinhaut it sounds terrible. The defendants are in favor of dictatorship! Of course it is nothing but a technical term indicating simply that the government representing the workers and farmers will take the productive wealth away from those who own it today, from the Sixty Families and their satellites. To that extent it will be a dictatorship. A dictatorship of the vast majority against the very small minority.

Will this “dictatorship of the proletariat” be a democracy or a dictatorship in the usually accepted term? Read page 8 of Exhibit 1 – our Declaration of Principles, and you can see that the term “dictatorship” as commonly used is not applicable to the dictatorship of the proletariat. That section reads as follows:

“While the workers’ state will necessarily reserve to itself the indispensable right to take all requisite measures to deal with violence and armed attacks against the revolutionary regime, it will at the same time assure adequate civil rights to opposition individuals, groups, and political parties and will guarantee the opportunity for the expression of opposition through the allotment of press, radio and assembly facilities in accordance with the real strength among the people of the opposition groups or parties.”

That goes far beyond the democracy that exists at present. A Workers’ and Farmers’ Government will not only permit free speech and free press, and free assembly in the abstract but will see to it that a minority will have the means to exercise that freedom. Democracy to a certain extent exists under the present regime. But consider the essence of the question: A few workers have the constitutional right to publish a paper but they lack the funds with which to publish a paper. Their right is an abstract one. On the other hand one individual publishes a chain of papers because he has the money, and his right is a real one.

The rights under capitalist society granted by the government representing capitalist interests are, by and large, abstract rights. A famous French writer, Anatole France, expressed this idea as follows: “Under capitalism rich and poor are equal. They both have the right to starve in the streets.” The difference is that only the poor man exercises that right to starve.

When the term dictatorship of the proletariat is mentioned, you must not think of it as a dictatorship of Hitler or Stalin. Trotsky began a struggle against Stalin because of the very fact that Stalin transformed the dictatorship of the proletariat into a personal or a clique dictatorship. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat there will be far, far greater democracy than has ever existed on the face of the earth.

Our Aim Is to Establish a Socialist Society

We come now to the heart of the question, the question of whether or not we are guilty of conspiring to overthrow the government by force and violence. As the evidence shows, the main object of our so-called conspiracy is to establish a socialist society. How do we intend to do that? That is the main question at issue.

As I shall attempt to show you, all other questions – such as our attitude on war, on trade unionism, our military policy – are subsidiary. The question of guilt or innocence must be determined on the main issue and not on the subsidiary issues. But it is impossible to decide the main issue without considering certain fundamental concepts of socialism.

In the first place, let us get clear what is meant by the term government. Let us not be awed by an abstraction. Men and women elected or appointed to office and having prerogatives constitute this thing we call government. These men and women are not any more gifted than you or I. They have certain authority. Sometimes they abuse that authority – very frequently they do so. Place a man in a position of power and the chances are that he will take advantage of his position and exercise his authority at any and all opportunities. Some people in authority remain courteous; others are corrupted by it.

Do We Advocate Violence?

The phrase, destruction or overthrow of the government, raises in most minds a terrible picture of the use of weapons and violence. But you can see that to abolish or destroy or overthrow a government can mean and usually does mean, replacing certain individuals, organized in a certain way, basing themselves on certain concepts, replacing them with other individuals, organized in a different way. and basing themselves on different concepts.

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends the people have a right to alter or abolish it and institute a new government in a form most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

The writers of the Declaration of Independence who formulated the horrible idea that the people have a right to abolish a form of government are not amongst the defendants. The words “overthrow, abolish, destroy” do not necessarily connote violence. They simply mean that the people using those words want to change the government so that it will be based on entirely new principles.

We use the term “capitalist government” – a terrible phrase to some people – does it mean that all those who are elected to congress or to any executive or judicial office are themselves financiers and capitalists? No, it simply means that the government which we call capitalist bases itself upon the rights of private property in the means of production and does everything in its power to protect those rights. Essentially a capitalist government is a government which has as its main function the protection of the existing property relationships.

There are different types of capitalist governments – some conservative, some liberal. As you, know, Roosevelt and some people in his government have been called communists. That, of course, is absurd but it proves that if one does not like a person or does not agree with his policies, it is a good idea to call him communist. Though some people call the Roosevelt administration communist, we designate it by the term capitalist. It is a capitalist government by virtue of the fact that private property in the means of production exists and the government protects the rights of private property in the means of production.

You must remember that what we are interested in primarily, as is shown by the evidence, is not to change the government, but the social system upon which the government is based. We call the present social system capitalist because men are permitted to own productive wealth and to hire and exploit wage labor.

We want a socialist society where all the productive wealth is owned in common and there is no exploitation. What type of government do we want? That is a question of secondary importance. If, for instance, socialism could be introduced under the present form of government – with the two Houses of Congress, the Executive; the Judiciary – we would, not hesitate to do so.

Our Form of Government

In our Declaration of Principles you will find proposals for occupational representation. Instead of having representatives from certain territories, we think it is best for the workers and farmers to elect their representatives directly from factories and from the farms. We believe in the principle of occupational representation because we think that anyone elected by his fellow-workers or fellow-physicians or fellow-scientists, is far more likely to represent the real interests of his group. There will be no representation of lawyers under socialism because lawyers are a plague that will no longer exist in a socialist society.

Under a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government there will be one House of Congress instead of two. Our present form of government operates on the principle of checks and balances. The Senate checks the House of Representatives, the President checks both Houses of Congress and then the Judiciary has a check on both the executive and the legislative branches. This, in our opinion, is far from democratic and was instituted primarily to prevent the masses of people from exercising their will in the matter of legislation.

Originally the senators were elected, not by a direct vote of the people but by the legislators of the different states, thus enabling the wealthier citizens to get into the Senate of the United States. Later on, by an amendment to the Constitution, the senators had to be elected by the people. We, on the other hand, want a complete revolution, in the form of government. We want a government organized in such a way that it can best serve the interests of the producers. I know that the term “revolution” sends shivers down the back of Mr. Anderson and he hopes that the same shivers will run down the backs of the jurors. But remember that the term “revolution” does not necessarily imply violence.

I think the Court will define that term, for you – a definition as is found in Webster’s dictionary. It simply means a radical change and social revolution means a radical change in society. Do we not speak of a revolution in science, a revolution in transportation? We even speak of a revolution in women’s dresses.

We want a social revolution; that is undeniable. By that we mean that our aim is to transfer the economic and political power from the class we call capitalists to the workers and farmers. When that happens, a social revolution will have occurred.

The French revolution, as Mr. Cannon correctly testified, was a social revolution because the merchant and capitalist dass displaced the feudal class. The power to rule society was transferred from the landowning feudal nobility to the merchants and industrialists.

There may be political revolutions that are not social revolutions. The revolutions that occur frequently in Latin America are political revolutions because they do not change the social system.

A social revolution may or may not be accompanied by violence. No one knows exactly how it will occur in the future.

What Is the Marxist Conception of Social Laws?

Marxists are of the opinion that society operates on the basis of certain laws. It is important for you to understand that basic idea. I do not ask you to agree with our concept of society, but I do ask you to understand what our concept is. For if you realize that we believe that certain laws operate in society, independent of our will and of your will and of Mr. Anderson’s will, you will see that it would be impossible for us to conspire to overthrow the government by force and violence. The responsibility for a revolution lies not upon us but upon the very nature of the social system in which we live.

Some of you might have heard or seen in print the phrase, ‘“economic determinism”. It is not the theory of socialism, but it does give you an idea that socialists consider the economic factor the determining factor in the development of society.

The primary concern of human beings has always been to feed, clothe and shelter themselves. As human beings lived together, certain necessities drove them to invent certain machines and with the invention of these machines production could increase and with the increase in production changes occurred in the economic and social system.

Struggles arose between groups and the victors made slaves out of the vanquished. A system of slavery arose and the forces of production continued to develop.

More machines were invented; the forces of production increased; society developed further and ever further and class struggles arose; slaves revolted against masters; the social system based on slavery could no longer function effectively and that social system was displaced by a new system.

Pre-Capitalist Class Struggles

What is known as feudalism came into existence. He who owned the land had the right to exploit the man who worked on the land and this man who worked on the land was called a serf. In comparison with the chattel slave, he was a free man but nevertheless he could not leave the land.

But society continued to develop; the discovery of America gave a tremendous impetus to the development of industry; new markets came into being; new machinery was invented; the forces of production grew and with it a new and powerful class came into being – the merchant class of the middle ages – and it is this merchant class that constituted the beginning of the modern capitalist class. We call that class the “bourgeoisie” and this class began a struggle against the feudal nobility and finally conquered and became the dominant class in society.

Thus you see that, in our opinion, a class struggle has existed since time immemorial. The chattel slaves struggled against the masters, the plebeians struggled against the patricians, the serf against the feudal nobility; and today we have

the fundamental struggle between the capitalists who own the: wealth and the wage workers who create the wealth. And is this struggle a result of man’s will or desire? No, it is a struggle that is due fundamentally to the development of economic forces. A social system is born, develops, decays and is displaced by a new social system – all this by virtue of laws that operate independently of the will of human beings.

A new social system gives birth to new ideas, to new moral concepts. Under the feudal system in the Middle Ages, for instance, the church prohibited the lending of money on interest. To lend money on interest was considered usury. But with the development of the merchant class and the capitalist system, the lending of money became an absolute necessity and obviously people would not lend money unless they could make a profit out of it. The rule of the church against usury was abolished and interest up to a certain point was sanctified.

Man’s ideas, man’s morals, man’s philosophies are determined fundamentally by the economic structure of society and not vice versa. The history of man is determined not by his will nor by his consciousness nor by what he thinks is right or wrong but by inexorable economic forces operating on the basis of certain laws.

This idea was first introduced by Karl Marx, and the defendants, considering themselves Marxists, accept that idea and accepting that idea you can see that the factors which they consider primary in the creating of a social revolution are economic factors. All that we can possibly do is to indicate that the economic forces of society are moving in a certain direction and that the masses of the people must also move in that direction.

Society cannot be changed by the mere desire of a small group to change it. It must, in the first instance, be ripe for a change and in the second instance the masses of men must understand the necessity for a change.

We have now reached that point in the development of society where mankind must take control of social forces and determine the operation of those social forces. Up to now, man has been subjected to social forces that he did not understand and could not cope with. What man must do now is to become master of his own destiny. If man does not do so, then fascism, barbarism, the destruction of all liberties and of all culture will inevitably follow.

The Class Struggle in Society Today

I mentioned before the existence of the class struggle in society. Look at our social system and you can see for yourselves how this struggle operates. The tenant farmer struggles against the landlord, the sharecropper against the southern plantation owner, the worker against his employer, farmers and workers together against Wall Street. Why is our society subjected to these struggles? Because each social group wants a larger share of the income that society produces.

Of all the struggles existing in modern society, the one between the industrial wage worker and those who own the industries is the bitterest and most virulent. It is the fundamental struggle of our epoch.

That is not our responsibility, ladies and gentlemen. In comparison to the number of wage workers, our party constitutes a small group; the class struggle goes on without us.

Unfortunately we have not as yet achieved an influence which can permit us to play a decisive role in that struggle. Mr. Anderson is anxious to prevent us from achieving that influence and that is why he asks you for a verdict of guilty. But I can assure Mr. Anderson that the class struggle will go on even if we should be in jail. The coal miners are on strike now. We have nothing to do with it. We had something to do with Local 544 in Minneapolis and that is why we are defendants in this court room. But the struggle between the teamsters and the Minneapolis employers is only a tiny section of the class struggle that goes on constantly throughout the United States. That struggle goes on whether Mr. Anderson and Mr. Schweinhaut like it or don’t like it.

The struggle between the worker on the one hand, anxious to get a higher wage, and the employer on the other hand, anxious to make more profit, is a struggle that will go on regardless of the desire or the intention of any man. There are some employers who are willing to give higher wages but they are prevented by the law of competition under capitalism. By and large the employers are anxious to make more and more profits and, because of that, the class struggle must necessarily continue.

THE COURT: We will have our noon recess at this time.

* * *

THE COURT: You may proceed, Mr. Goldman.

When Men Can Be Good

MR. GOLDMAN: Throughout history there have been men who dreamed of changing society. They saw the poverty, the oppression, the persecution and hatred that prevailed in the world and concluded that the only way by which these evils could be abolished was to have men accept the right kind of beliefs. The prophets of old, Christ, the philosophers of the Middle Ages thought they could change society by teaching men to be good. If only people actually practiced the Commandments!

Then came Karl Marx who presented the startling proposition that to change man, you must change the social system. It is impossible to have a society where love between men and men prevails, unless you have a society where the struggle for economic existence is done away with. Under the present social system, mean, petty and violent struggles prevail in all classes. Way up on top there are struggles for colonies and spheres of influence; then there are struggles in the form of bitter competition between business men; there are struggles between the small business men and the chain stores; there are struggles between workers. Everywhere in society struggle prevails.

There are some people who claim that the human being is essentially bad and no attempt to change his nature can succeed. But when one considers that in spite of the meanness and violence that prevails in society, there are millions of decent human beings, one must come to the conclusion that the human being is essentially good.

Marx concluded that before man can develop to a point where the relationship between one human being and another will be on a decent basis, society will have to be altered. Under the present social system all moral codes and all ethical concepts are accepted, by and large, only in words. People believe in religion, believe in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man and yet they are ready to kill one another by the millions.

Marx formulated the following proposition: That the ideas, the philosophies, the religions and the morals of a certain epoch are determined fundamentally by the prevailing social system; change the social system and the ethical codes and philosophies will also change.

Capitalism in Decline Throughout the World

There are certain diseases in youth which are latent and not until old age sets in does the individual become aware of their existence. The human body has powers of resistance which decrease with old age. Germs which have no ill effect in early age become very dangerous in later stages in life.

Thus it is with the capitalist system. During its youth the contradictions existing within it were easily overcome. In this country, for instance, there were vast stretches of land available for agriculture and settlement; factories could be and were built; railroads were developed. But as the land was occupied and more and more factories were built, it became more difficult for the capitalist system to function. The economic crises which were easily overcome in the early stages of the capitalist system, of this country became more serious until in 1929 a crisis came that shook the very foundations of the country.

Throughout the world the capitalist system is in a stage of decline. Old age has set in and the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system have become acute. Unemployment, fascism, catastrophic wars – these are the diseases that afflict capitalist society in its days of decline. Are the defendants responsible for that? Not in the least!

This country is capable of producing tremendous quantities of goods to satisfy beyond all imagination, the needs of the people. But the industries cannot function for peace, for life – they function only for death. They are now creating planes and bombs and submarines and dreadnaughts but the industries were shut down which people needed for clothing and food and shelter.

And in this period of capitalist decline people are dissatisfied and fascism appears on the scene and takes advantage of their dissatisfaction. The fascists, claiming to create a new order, are actually throwing the world back toward barbarism. Everything that man has produced that is worthwhile is destroyed by this monster. The existence of this monster, however, is not to be attributed to Hitler or Mussolini – to the ill will of one or two or a dozen men – it is to be attributed to the decline of the capitalist system. Capitalism has reached a point where mankind must take control of the productive forces and begin producing goods for the use of the people – and this means socialism – or else it will be hurled into the abyss of fascism and destruction. This is our belief and this is what we teach.

But how will this change from capitalism to socialism come about? Here we come to the heart of the case.

Do we advocate the idea that people should take up arms and destroy the government and thereby bring a change in the social system? By the destruction of the government is necessarily meant, according to Mr. Anderson, the destruction of the people who represent the government and the army and the navy.

Socialism Requires a Majority

From the very beginning of the socialist movement there have been struggles around the question as to the best method of changing the social order. Marx fought vehemently against the anarchists, who declared that no government at all is necessary and that every form of government is hostile to the masses.

Then there was a controversy between Marx and a Frenchman by the name of Blanqui, who insisted that a social revolution required only a courageous, armed small group. Marx declared that the liberation of the people is the task of the people themselves and not the task of a few agitators, no matter how determined and courageous. The majority of the people must understand what is necessary and must be willing to struggle to achieve their liberation.

In the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and his collaborator Engels, the fundamental ideas of socialism were first formulated. That book was introduced into evidence by the government against the defendants. In that book there is found the following statement:

“All previous historical movements were movements of minorities or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority.”

Marx therefore accepted two fundamental principles: one, the necessity of convincing the majority of the people of the ideas of socialism, and two, the necessity of establishing a government that will begin building the socialist society.

* * *

Next week’s Militant will carry another section of Albert Goldman’s final summary to the jury. Be sure to follow this stirring appeal by the counsel for defense, who is himself one of those tried and convicted.

Goldman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 15 February 2020