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Goldman: In Defense of Socialism

Albert Goldman

In Defense of Socialism

(Part 1)

Thursday, November 27, 1941
Morning Session


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.

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 in trial for, I asked myself. Certain men wrote books many years go, and we are on trial because these men had ideas and wrote about them. 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, he 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 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 were 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 ended by the heretic’s recanting, 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 further 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.

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 a garment that can be put on and taken off at will.

Danger of Prejudice

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 arouse 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 held 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.

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 these books; and at the end of a year or two, the jurors could feel themselves more able to pass on the merits of the ideas which we accept.

But I am not here to try to convince you of the justice 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 issues in this case will become clear to you.

The Indictment

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 take too long a time, but because, as I shall explain later, the exhibits will not be of any great aid to the jury in arriving at 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

Permit me first to explain the indictment. In the first count, 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 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 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.

On the other hand, two or more persons can conspire to overthrow the government without conspiring to advocate the overthrow. That is hardly probable but quite possible.

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.

The difference between the first count and the second count should be kept clearly in mind for it is possible for you to find the defendants guilty of one and not of the other.

Is Our Party a Conspiracy?

At all stages in your deliberations you must ask yourselves the following questions: What charges has 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 constitute 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.

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 it 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.

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 of protecting 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 his 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 procedure 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 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 rigmarole 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.

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 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 conspiracy in legal phraseology, but please remember that it is a conspiracy only in that sense.

You may, however, be convinced that we are guilty of a conspiracy in a technical, in a 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. The point that I want to make is that 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.

(Morning Recess)

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?

The next question is: Which of the documents that have been introduced should be considered 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 has 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. Only four of us were brought 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.

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 alone 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 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 choose 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 it is impossible to check everything that is written.

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 1 shall try to give you and in my opinion what you should try to get is as complete a picture as possible of our full program, not an excerpt here or an excerpt 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.

The Socialist Society

In the first place it is necessary to get an idea of 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 is that all the means of production – the railroads, the mines, the factories – are owned by the people and the goods that are produced, are 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 are needed to satisfy the needs of the people and proceed to manufacture them. 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 are no classes under socialism – that is, there is no class that owns the wealth and no class that is exploited. Today a worker has only 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. That 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.

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 any one 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 a 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 for the means of life will be abolished. If 12 people have 5,000 apples among them and in addition know that they can get as many more apples as they can possibly eat, there can be no quarrel amongst them for apples. A society that produces enough to satisfy the reasonable needs of people will do away with all the brutal struggles characterizing present-day society.

The Workers’ and Farmers’ Government

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 will be under socialism.

The 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 over 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 free Democracy to a certain extent exists under the present regime. consider the essence of the question: If workers have the constitutional right to publish a paper but lack the funds with which to do so, then their right is an abstract one. On the other hand, the right of an individual who has sufficient money to publish a chain of papers 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 Attitude Toward Governments

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.

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 government – 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 a 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 have no objection.

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.

Marxist Conception of Society

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 class 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 and no one knows exactly how it will occur in the future.

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 increased 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.

What is known as feudalism came into existence. He who owned 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.

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 arose – the merchant class of the Middle Ages – and it is this merchant class that constituted the beginning of 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 at 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 permitted.

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 a 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.

Look at our social system and you can see for yourselves how the class struggle operates. The tenant farmer struggles against the landlord, the sharecropper against the southern plantation owner, the worker against the 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 courtroom. 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.


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Last updated: 20.7.2006