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Goldman: In Defense of Socialism

Albert Goldman

In Defense of Socialism

(Part 2)

Thursday, November 27, 1941
Afternoon Session


When Men Can Be Good

The Court: You may proceed, Mr. Goldman.

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 human beings 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 prevail 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 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.

Decline of Capitalist System

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, or 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, under the present economic system, cannot function for peace, for life – they function only for death. The industries that were more than 50 per cent idle in peacetime, when men needed food, clothing and shelter, are now running full blast, producing planes, bombs and dreadnoughts.

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 of fascism. The existence of this monster, however, is not to be attributed to Hitler or Mussolini – to ill-will the 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 navy.

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 to accept the ideas of socialism, and two, the necessity of establishing a government that will begin building the socialist society.

We Aim to Get a Majority

Mr. Anderson read an article of mine which I introduced into evidence just before closing the case for the defense. It was published in The Militant of March 29, 1941.

In order to prove that we did not believe in convincing a majority of the people, Mr. Anderson showed that sometimes I used the term “majority” without mentioning the people and at other times I used the term “majority of the working class.”

What do I mean when I use the phrase “the majority of the working class”? Read the section that I have already cited from the Communist Manifesto. Read in my pamphlet, What Is Socialism, that section where I state specifically that there are probably no more than three million people who can be considered capitalists in the United States. Read that section in my pamphlet which says that the working class in an industrially developed country like the United States constitutes a majority of the people. And then read that section where I say that the workers, even though they are in a majority, must have the help of the middle classes, especially of the farmers, in order to achieve victory, and you will see that I cannot mean what Mr. Anderson says I mean, that is, a majority of only one class, a minority of the people.

The industrial wage workers are the ones to take the lead in the struggle against the capitalist system. In the first place, they come more directly in conflict with the owners of industry – in the big steel mills, auto plants, mines, etc. In the second place, the industrial wage workers are used to working together – cooperation is the key word under socialism and the industrial wage workers in their factories learn to work cooperatively. They understand that it is necessary under conditions of modern industry to work cooperatively in order to build an automobile or a complicated machine.

The farmer, on the other hand, working on his own land, tends to be individualistic. It is necessary for the workers to get the support of the farmers. In my pamphlet I state that in a socialist society the farmers will finally come to realize the advisability of cooperative farming. The point that I want to emphasize is that whenever we use the expression “the majority” or “the majority of the people” or “the majority of the working class” we mean one and the same thing – the same thing that I read to you from the Communist Manifesto:

“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.”

I am certain that, if the government in this case were simply interested in bringing into court possible violators of a law, it would have moved for a dismissal of the case immediately upon learning that the Socialist Workers Party aims to get a majority of the people to accept its ideas. If counsel for the government did not know our position before, they should by now have wired Washington for permission to dismiss the case because the phrase majority of people settles all questions as far as our guilt of advocating the violent overthrow of the government is concerned.

I presume, ladies and gentlemen, that you do not think the defendants are insane. You may not agree with us; you may think that we are utopians, but I believe you consider us sane people. Only insane people, however, would be capable of actually preferring and desiring violence. If there is an individual who says that he wants a violent overthrow of the government, a violent transformation from the capitalist system to the socialist system, he belongs in the insane asylum.

And if, as is shown by our writings, we want a majority of the people to accept our ideas, why should we advocate a violent change from capitalism to socialism? What does advocate mean? To incite, to urge. We would then be convicted of saying: Even though we get a majority of the people behind us, we still want to overthrow the government by violence. The fact that we want a majority of the people to accept our ideas proves beyond all doubt that we want a peaceful transformation.

I want to repeat this fundamental proposition because it is all-important. If we want a majority of the people, as we do, to accept our ideas, then we must be in favor of a peaceful “destruction” of the government. Does peaceful destruction sound paradoxical? Not if you understand it correctly in the sense that it means the removal of certain persons ruling on the basis of certain principles, and replacing them by other persons obligating themselves to rule upon different principles. When government counsel failed to stress the fact that the Socialist Workers Party desires to have a majority of the people on its side, it could only he explained on the hypothesis that Washington in this case was out for a conviction regardless of the evidence.

The only interpretation that honest people can accept of the idea of violence as contained in our program is the following: We predict that even after a majority of the people is won over to the ideas of socialism and tries to establish socialism peacefully, the minority, organized by the capitalists, will resist with violence. Especially is that true now, because of the rise of fascism.

The Prosecution Distorts Our Ideas

One factor that you must take into consideration and always be on your guard against, is the possibility of distortion by excerpts. A person writes an article, ,a party formulates a program based on fundamental theories. Along comes a prosecutor and snatches an excerpt here and a sentence there. The possibility of distortion is very great.

“Think not that I am come to bring peace on earth. I come not to bring peace, but the sword. And the son shall be set against the father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law.”

Is not the one who wrote these two verses an advocate of violence and hatred? If Mr. Anderson did not know that the Prince of Peace uttered these words, he probably would seek to indict the author.

Every piece of great literature can be distorted. The Bible can be made into an obscene book simply by taking out certain excerpts. This is the method which the jury must guard against. Excerpts can be found from the writings of Karl Marx, from our program, from Trotsky, from Lenin, which would indicate that we want and we advocate a violent revolution, but that would be false, that would be a distortion, because taking the program as a whole, it is clear that we want to gain a majority of the people to our ideas, and from that it follows that we want to gain power peacefully.

Will there be struggle at the time the majority decides to establish socialism? I told you before that in this society struggle is an unalterable law. At times the struggle is on a political plane, at times it is on an economic plane. Workers join together, create a union, try to get a raise in wages or an improvement in conditions, and struggle follows.

And sometimes that struggle is accompanied by violence. That is true not only of a strike of truck drivers in Minneapolis. Read the history of the labor struggles in the United States, of great strikes in Colorado, in southern Illinois, in Ohio and elsewhere, and you will convince yourselves that violence is not something that occurs in strikes led by Trotskyists. In 1877, at a time when socialists were never heard of outside, perhaps, of New York City, there were great railroad strikes, and violence resulted. What caused the violence? The agitation of some people? No. The bitter struggle between exploited workers and greedy employers.

Unfortunately, we are compelled to say that in all probability the social revolution will be accompanied by violence. Do we therefore advocate violence? No. We want a peaceful transformation.

There have been civil wars in history. History does not know of a single case where a ruling group, controlling economic and political power, has peacefully surrendered that power to a majority. Perhaps we have entered a period when the ruling class will realize that it is useless to struggle and will surrender its power without violence. We hope so; we hope that the ruling class in this country, when confronted by a majority determined to establish a new social order, will see the advisability of giving in peacefully. But we do not want to create that illusion; and that is what we mean in our Declaration of Principles when we say it is an illusion that socialism can be introduced through parliamentary means. It simply means we believe that after we gain a majority of the people to our ideas, the ruling group will not surrender peacefully.

Our Rights Were Won by Struggle

Theoretically, the existence of political democracy offers a chance to achieve socialism in a peaceful manner. But even the democratic rights that we have now have not been gained without struggle.

Do you think that everyone had a right to vote in the early stages of the republic? No, there were property qualifications attached to the right to vote. A struggle began to abolish these qualifications. Mass agitations, mass demonstrations were utilized in that struggle. People were jailed in that struggle, but finally they won the passage of laws granting the right of suffrage to every person without any property qualifications. But go down into the South and you will find that the Negroes still do not have the right to vote.

Take the principle of compulsory free education. Do you think that was gained without tremendous agitation that lasted for years and decades? Read the history of our country and you will see differently. Nothing, nothing of value that mankind possesses has been achieved without sacrifice, without struggle.

The prosecutors point to our literature which speaks about mass demonstrations and mass agitation. We do not deny that we believe in the effectiveness of mass demonstrations. The prosecutors must have forgotten that in the history of this country many things have been won by mass demonstrations.

We are now in a period when the people should have real democracy, economic and political, and a struggle will be necessary in order to achieve that. It will be waged on the political field; it will be waged in strikes against employers; it will be waged in debates, mass demonstrations, in the courtrooms, and people will be jailed.

We Shall Try to Avoid Violence

On the basis of their analysis of history and social conditions, Marxists predict the future. Will we be right? No one knows. I hope, and I am certain that every one of my co-defendants does, that our prediction with reference to violence accompanying the social revolution will not be fulfilled.

We want to take over the means of production peacefully, but we predict that the minority will use violence to prevent the majority from achieving a peaceful transformation, and it is necessary to be ready for the violence of that minority.

We are not able to predict with great exactness. A social scientist cannot predict with the exactitude of a physical scientist. What we can say now, however, is that as the ideas of socialism gain ground, as more and more people become convinced that socialism is the only possible solution, the fascists will also gain strength. In Germany the fascists were financed by the big industrialists. The capitalists in this country will do the same. They will finance the fascists to destroy the labor movement. The only real possibility of avoiding violence is for the working masses and the farmers to organize so strongly that the minority of capitalists will not attempt the use of violence.

The fact that we support the formation of a labor party is an indication that we shall try our best to exhaust all possibilities for peaceful change. To Mr. Anderson our support of a labor party evidence of a plot. To him it means that we would like to see a labor party so that the dupes in that party will participate in elections while we, behind the scenes, plot to overthrow the government by violence. What utter nonsense!

Mr. Cannon said on the witness stand that, as serious political people, expecting the masses to accept our ideas, we cannot conceal those ideas. We cannot say or do one thing and expect that the masses will be able to read our minds and follow us in doing something else. According to Mr. Anderson, we organized a union defense guard in order to overthrow the government by force and violence. But he never proved, because he never could prove, that we ever told that to the members of the union defense guard. Presumably, then, we would call together the union defense guard one fine morning and reveal the startling secret to them that they are expected to overthrow the government by force and violence. Is it not absurd to think that we expect people to follow us in an attempt to overthrow the government when we have never told them that such was their duty?

Our task is to inform the masses of our ideas. We cannot possibly be conspirators, because we want to educate the majority of the people to accept our ideas. There is a section in our Declaration of Principles which says specifically that our task is to convince the masses that our ideas and our solution to the problems of mankind are correct and that it is impossible to use force against the masses. We can use only the power of persuasion and no other power.

Through a labor party we attempt to educate the masses to act independently on the political field and also to exhaust all possibilities of a peaceful change. We do not claim that the creation of a labor party will assure a peaceful change. We are against creating illusions because even if a labor party is created, the probability of the capitalists’ organizing a minority to prevent a peaceful change remains the same. And we are not afraid to tell the masses exactly that, and it is not against the law to say so. It is against the law to incite and urge people to overthrow the government by force and violence, but it is not against the law to predict that violence will be used by the minority to thwart the will of the majority. And this is the crux of the question, ladies and gentlemen.

On the basis of the evidence you can find only that, basing ourselves on an analysis of history, on an analysis of the social forces operating in present society, we declare that the probability is overwhelming that the social revolution will be accompanied by violence – the violence of the minority determined to guard its rights, its powers, its privileges.

I think – I am certain – the Court will instruct you that if, in considering all of the evidence in the case, you conclude the evidence may just as well be consistent with the innocence of the defendants as with the guilt of the defendants, you are under an obligation to accept the hypothesis of innocence. That is the law.

Let us assume that after listening to all of the evidence and all he arguments in this case, and after reading all of the exhibits, you say to yourselves that the evidence can be interpreted in two ways: one, that the defendants advocated the violent overthrow of the government, and the other that the defendants predict there will be violence. Then you must accept the latter hypothesis and find us not guilty.

Minority Responsible for Violence

Mr. Cannon pointed out under cross-examination by Mr. Schweinhaut some historical examples where the majority won the power peacefully, but where the ruling minority initiated violence and began a counter-revolution. One example is our own Civil War where, after Lincoln was elected by the people, the southern slaveholders began the revolt. The slaveholders refused to give up their privilege of owning chattel slaves and fought to extend slavery. Violence began, but it came from the South, from the minority, and it was not until the majority of the people residing in the North assembled all their forces that they were able to put down the slaveholders’ revolt.

Who was responsible for the violence? A minority of slaveholders determined to hold on to their property rights against the majority of the people.

I presume there were many people who, prior to the Civil War, predicted that violence would accompany the abolition of slavery. Were they responsible, then, for the Civil War? Is the Civil War of a clear example of a peaceful accession to power and the use of violence by a minority to overthrow the majority?

In Spain we have another example. The Loyalist government had the support of the vast majority of the people and came to power because of the support of the people. The fascists thereupon organized their minority, and with the aid of Germany and Italy, began a violent counter-revolution and succeeded in defeating the majority.

On the basis of these historic examples and many others, on the basis of the present-day struggles in industry, where the employers do not hesitate to use violence to prevent workers from organizing unions to improve their working conditions, we predict that the social revolution, which will have as its aim to take away the wealth and the power and the privileges of a small minority, will be resisted by that minority to the death.

The more we emphasize that possibility, the more the people understand that possibility and prepare for it, the less will be the violence. But if violence does come, will we be responsible? Is the weather-man responsible for predicting a hurricane? Is the physician responsible when he predicts death for the patient? Is the astronomer responsible when he predicts the coming of an eclipse? Are we, predicting a great social storm at the time of the social revolution, responsible for the violence that may ensue?

A great deal has been made by the prosecution of the fact that in our writings appears the statement that we intend to take advantage of a revolutionary situation. What is that revolutionary situation? The only government witness who attempted to explain it, Bartlett, went way beyond his depth. He may be a shrewd union business agent, but he is hardly capable of explaining the theoretical problems connected with socialism.

The prerequisites for a revolutionary situation have been summed up by Marxists to be the following: First and foremost is the decline of the social system when the forces of production can no longer function effectively; second, the inability of the ruling class to solve the problems it is confronted with; third, great suffering of the masses; fourth, the desire and determination of the masses to change the social system; fifth and final, existence of a party trained to understand the operation of social forces, able to predict the direction in which society moves, and determined not to permit a minority to thwart the will of the majority.

Mr. Cannon correctly explained to you that these conditions do not as yet exist in the United States. Much has been said here by the prosecution to the effect that the defendants believe that the war will create a revolutionary situation. Perhaps it will, ladies and gentlemen, but are we responsible for the war? And if the war does create a revolutionary situation, can we be held responsible for the revolutionary situation? Perhaps the prosecution – and by the prosecution I do not mean Mr. Schweinhaut or Mr. Anderson, but Washington – should busy itself with passing a law preventing the war from creating a revolutionary situation. Or might I suggest that in order to prevent the possibility of a revolutionary situation, the present administration refrain from going to war.

The Court: We will take our afternoon recess now.

(Afternoon Recess)

Advocacy of Violence – Or Prediction

The Court: You may proceed.

Mr. Goldman: The distinction between prediction and advocacy should by this time be perfectly clear. But that does not seem to be the case as far as government counsel are concerned. They introduced into evidence my pamphlet What Is Socialism and read an excerpt from it beginning with page 33. This is the pamphlet that I handed out to you at the beginning of the trial and if you have read it, you probably saw that it was written in very simple language because it consists of a series of lectures delivered to workers. It is under such conditions that the clearest exposition of our thought is necessary because when one speaks to workers he is compelled to reduce his ideas into the simplest terms. On page 33 I asked the following question: “What methods will the workers be compelled to use in order to destroy the political power of the capitalists and to establish their own power?” And I went on to say:

“In countries, such as Germany and Italy, where the fascists have destroyed every right that the workers ever had, it is perfectly clear that the workers will be compelled to use violence in order to get rid of their fascist oppressors. But how about the United States, England or France?” – the pamphlet was written in 1938 before the Vichy government took control – “In these countries the workers have the right to vote. Why is it not possible for them to elect a majority of socialists in Congress or in Parliament and establish socialism by law?”

“A peaceful change,” I wrote, “is an ideal most desirable. Everyone, especially the revolutionary socialists, will subscribe to that idea” – I say a peaceful change, I do not say a violent one.

“The question, however, is not whether it is desirable but whether it is possible. On the statute books of most of the states there are ‘criminal syndicalism’ laws” – and the Smith Law, upon which the second count of this indictment is based, is a criminal syndicalism law – “providing long prison sentences for anyone who advocates the overthrow of the government by violence. Such laws will be as effective as laws against the occurrence of earthquakes. For revolutions cannot be prevented by any law. Like convulsions in nature, they are the result of the evolution of forces beyond the power of man to stop.”

Then here comes the significant section, the section that should settle all doubts concerning the question –

“On the basis of history and of theory, we are justified in predicting that the capitalist class will not surrender power to the working class without a violent struggle. History knows no example of the peaceful surrender of an exploiting minority to an oppressed majority. The actual conduct of the capitalist class at the present time, the violence which it uses against the workers when they strike for an improvement in their conditions, confirm the historical lesson, and justify the prediction that they, who will lose their wealth and power, will utilize all forms of violence against the overwhelming majority.”

What possible interpretation can anyone who is free of prejudice place upon that paragraph other than that I predict, but I do not advocate the use of violence. I concluded:

“The form of government in the United States practically guarantees the ruling class its domination against the will of the majority of the people. To introduce socialism by law would require an amendment to the Constitution and for that, a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and a majority in three-fourths of the state legislatures are required. Thirteen small and backward states could prevent any amendment to the Constitution. Revolutionary socialists all favor a peaceful transformation of the present order to the socialist order” – we favor it, we want it, we desire it, then how, I ask, can we advocate the contrary – “but he is insane who thinks that millions of workers will consent to starve because a minority of exploiters will threaten to, and will actually use violence against them.”

I continue reading:

“If there is any one thing that will prevent the capitalists from using violence, it will be the strong organizations of the working class. The greater the strength of the working class organizations, the less violence will there be.”

If, after reading this section of my pamphlet and after reading my column published in The Militant of March 29, 1941, the prosecution still insists on pressing this case, it must be that Washington wants a conviction regardless of the evidence. Possibly the prosecution missed this section of my pamphlet and missed the column which I wrote, but they know about them now and have known about them for several weeks; and for the prosecution to continue this case can mean nothing else but a determination to get a conviction regardless of the evidence.

If you consider what motives have led the defendants into the socialist movement you can realize how absurd it is to accuse them of advocating violence. You have seen enough of the defendants and heard enough about their theories to convince you, I am certain, that it was not for personal gain that the defendants have become socialists. We are in a small minority and can therefore expect for a long time to come to meet only with hatred and scoffing, with persecution and prosecution. You can realize that we are in the socialist movement because we are devoted to its ideas and ideals.

If there is any one thing that impelled us to join the socialist movement, it is a hatred of the violence that exists in society – not only the physical violence but spiritual and moral violence – the violence which condemns children to starvation or semi-starvation because of the poverty of the parents, the violence which condemns children to go to work long before they have received an adequate education. Everywhere in society there is violence of one sort or another, culminating in the dreadful violence which sacrifices millions of human beings upon the altar of war. It is this violence which we hate that drives us into a movement which has as its ideal the creation of a world free from violence, where human beings will cooperate in the production of goods to satisfy their needs, where peace and security will prevail.

We are, of course, not pacifists. We do not believe with Gandhi that it is wrong for three hundred million people in India to use violence to drive out the British oppressors who claim to be fighting a war for democracy. As much as we hate the violence that exists in society, we see no alternative to the necessity of destroying the violence of the minority with the violence of the majority. But to accuse us of wanting and advocating violence is to accuse us of something that is revolting to our very nature.

Perhaps it would be fitting to close this section of my argument by quoting some people who are not in the ranks of the defendants and who can hardly be accused of being against the government.

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

None other than Abraham Lincoln said this, in his first inaugural address.

“I hold a little revolution now and then as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

The man who uttered this sentiment is not on trial. It was Thomas Jefferson.

Our Position on the War

It would stand to reason that, once having settled the central question of the case, whether or not we advocate or predict violence, there should not be much more to say. But you will excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, if I continue the argument on matters that in my opinion are subsidiary but which the prosecution has emphasized over and over again. There is always the danger that Mr. Anderson will claim that something is undenied and uncontradicted and perhaps it will be said, if I refrain from discussing other matters in the case, that I was afraid to do so.

The government follows a simple principle. It first assumes that the defendants are guilty of conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence and then it introduces evidence of our position and policies on various questions in order to prove that all of our activities are based on one motive and that is to further the conspiracy. If the defendants oppose the war, that shows that they are guilty of the central conspiracy; if they are active in the trade unions, that proves the same thing, and thus with all the activities of the defendants.

There are many people in this country who oppose our entry into the war, but since they are not members of the Socialist Workers Party they have the right to do so, but we who are members of the Socialist Workers Party have no such right.

The government of course did not have to introduce any evidence with reference to our opposition to the war; we would gladly have stipulated that we are guilty of that. As a matter of fact, the government could have shortened the case by at least two weeks if it had come to us and asked us to admit the facts on a great many questions which it laboriously attempted to prove. We could have stipulated that we oppose the war, that we visited Leon Trotsky and that we sent men to guard him, that we advocate the creation of workers’ defense guards, etc. These things are found in our writings. Ninety per cent of what the government tried to prove, we would have stipulated to and we could then have gone to the heart of the question as to whether or not we conspired to advocate the overthrow of the government by force. But since the government took all this trouble to prove things that we admit, it is necessary for me to explain those policies and analyze them.

The government accuses us of two things with reference to the war: one, that we oppose it, and two, that we intend to take advantage of a revolutionary situation which we expect the war to create.

While it is true that we hold wars to be inevitable under the capitalist system, it is also true that we would like to avoid them. War is the greatest destructive force in modern society. If this war should last for years, it may well be that all the resources of society will be exhausted and not even a social revolution could solve the problems of mankind. With the exhaustion of all the material and spiritual forces of society, the possibility of creating a new social system is very slim. We would then have to wait until the material and spiritual resources of mankind are resuscitated.

It is our duty to prevent war if possible and to shorten the war if war is declared in spite of our efforts. We shall try to convince the masses that in order to live and in order to permit their children and their children’s children to live, they are under an obligation to end the war and create a socialist order.

There is at present no law making it a crime to oppose the war. But I am safe in saying that our opposition to the war is one of the most important, if not the most important, factors in explaining this prosecution. The rules of evidence do not permit us, as I indicated before, to go into the motives for the prosecution; but I would say that the address of Mr. Anderson yesterday and the emphasis which the prosecution has placed throughout the course of the trial on the party’s position with reference to the war and with reference to our policy on military training, justifies the conclusion that to a large extent it is our opposition to the war that explains this prosecution.

To justify the introduction of our position on the war into evidence, the government contends that our opposition to the entry of the United States into the war, and our statement that we will continue to oppose the war even after the United States declares war, are evidence that we are conspiring to overthrow the government by force and violence. A far-fetched and an unreasonable contention! There are pacifists, conscientious objectors and others opposed to the war who are not interested in establishing socialism or overthrowing the government. There are socialists of a type that support the war. Only we revolutionary socialists who oppose the war are prosecuted.

As I indicated, there is no law preventing us from opposing the war. Nor is there a law which prohibits people from saying that they will continue to oppose the war even after war is declared. Of course when war is declared, the Espionage Act will come into effect, making certain statements about the war unlawful, but thus far war has not been declared and I am certain that no one could be convicted simply for a statement that he intends to oppose the war even after it is declared.

We Oppose Imperialist Wars

Our reasons for our opposition to the war have been sufficiently clarified by the testimony of the defense and I need not go into detail. We consider the war on the part of England, of Germany, of France, of Italy, of Japan and of the United States as imperialist in character. We do not hesitate to admit that. We have written and said it thousands of times.

What do we mean by characterizing the war on the part of these countries as imperialist? ‘We mean that the ruling classes which are responsible for the war and which lead the masses into the war are fighting to protect or to acquire markets, colonies, sources of raw material and spheres of influence. Germany wants the colonies that England has, England came upon the scene first, grabbed off most of the rich colonies in the world, and now Germany is trying to get some of these colonies away from England. The United States has not very many colonies in the strict sense of the word, but it has billions of dollars invested in Latin America and in other parts of the world and it wants markets in China, in the Far East.

One of the government witnesses, Mr. Harris I believe, was a member of the Marine Corps and he testified that he was stationed in China some time ago and Mr. Anderson praised him to the sky for serving his country in China. We do not conceal our belief that the marines in China are not there to protect the interests of the people of the United States but the interests of the Standard Oil Company and other big companies who have investments in China. The capitalists of this country are not interested in the development of China; they are interested in China because it furnishes them a market for the sale of their goods and a field for the investment of their capital.

The same thing is true with reference to Latin America. Roosevelt, representing the interests of the American capitalists, is not interested in the welfare of the people of Latin America. The claim that the present administration is interested in fighting for democracy can be disproved by the fact that when Franco was fighting the Loyalist government in Spain, the present administration declared its neutrality. It was not interested in defending democracy so long as there was no threat to the economic interests of the American capitalist class.

When we state that this is an imperialist war, it follows that we cannot possibly support the administration in its war efforts. You may not agree with us – some of you undoubtedly think that we are wrong – but I hope that in considering the evidence in this case, your opinion as to the correctness or incorrectness of our attitude on the war will not sway in the least your decision.

Mr. Cannon explained in his testimony for the defense that opposition to the war means non-support in a political sense. If any member of our party were a member of Congress, he would not vote for a declaration of war, nor would he vote for the war budget. No matter how much we may antagonize any jury, we must say that because it is the truth.

Certain expressions found in some of the literature introduced by the government have been emphasized by the prosecution, especially the expression, “Turn imperialist war into civil war.” This expression is not found in our Declaration of Principles. I never used it either in my pamphlet or in any of the columns I wrote for The Militant. But it has been used, and by great socialists, and at times it has been repeated by some of our members. If you should take this expression into consideration, you must take it in connection with our general program which says that we must win over a majority of the people. The expression is correctly interpreted as follows: If, in the midst of the war or at the end of the war, a majority of the people, tired and weary and driven by the agony and suffering to which they will be subjected by the war, accept our ideas and decide to take power, then if the minority resists, the result will be that the imperialist war will be turned into a civil war. That is the only correct way to interpret that expression in the light of our Declaration of Principles which says that we must win a majority of the people over to our ideas.

We say now and we shall continue to say it as long as we are permitted, that war is a result of the conflict between imperialist nations.

The exhibits introduced by the government show that long before the war began we predicted that it would come. Were we then responsible for it when we predicted its coming? Who is responsible for the war? In the last analysis, not even Hitler, who fired the first shot, is responsible. As far as we are concerned, the responsibility for this war is primarily upon the system that creates the imperialist rivalries. On the basis of the present system, Leagues of Nations, Kellogg Peace Pacts and all the good intentions in the world cannot preserve peace.

Most of you are old enough to remember the statements that were made during the last war, that it was a war for democracy and it was a war to end wars. And the results of the last war are visible to everyone – fascism and now another war. Who was right? Socialists like Lenin who said that without socialist revolutions all over the world there will be more imperialist wars, or the people who proclaimed that the First World War was the last war? We can predict with absolute certainty the same thing that Lenin predicted in the First World War: if socialism does not come, more wars will follow.

Fascism Must Be Destroyed – How?

The vast majority of the people of this country are terribly afraid of Hitler and justifiably so. I don’t think the isolationists are correct when they say that we do not have to fear an invasion of this country by Hitler. It is not a question of invasion; it is a question of imperialist rivalries and Hitler is no doubt the greatest potential enemy of the ruling group in this country and above all he is the greatest potential enemy of the American masses. The destruction of Hitler – and I am using Hitler as a symbol of fascism – is a task which should be undertaken by everyone who values freedom and culture. No nation is sure of liberty so long as fascism exists anywhere in the world.

But the question is: What method should be used in exterminating the fascist danger? We contend that this war is not a war against Hitlerism. The British ruling class is not hostile to fascism. It can be taken as an elementary proposition that the British ruling class is not interested in preserving democracy.

The people of Great Britain and the people of this country are interested in democracy and want to fight for it, but in our opinion to fight under the leadership of the Churchill government or under the leadership of any other capitalist government is to fight not for democracy but for the financiers and industrialists.

Even assuming that Hitler should be defeated, fascism will not be destroyed because fascism is not a product of Hitler but it is a product of a decaying capitalist system. Dislocation of economy is bound to follow this war; millions of men will be thrown out of work, misery and suffering will be their lot and in such a situation fascism is bound to flourish. It is in such a situation that the fascist demagogues of Germany succeeded in gaining power. The German people, crushed and humiliated by the Versailles peace, not given a chance to work and live, were thrown into the arms of Hitler. Should capitalism continue to exist after this war, fascism is inevitable unless the masses of people take their fate into their own hands and create a socialist order.

Should war last a long time, the possibility of a peace between the rival imperialist nations is very great. The British ruling class and the American ruling class can easily come to terms with Hitler if they cannot defeat him, but not so the working masses; they must fight Hitler to the very death – especially the socialists who know the fate that awaits them if Hitler is victorious.

The prosecution’s statement that in a war between the United States and Germany the defendants will prefer a victory of Germany is made either because of complete ignorance of our position or because of a malicious intention to falsify our position. Mr. Anderson said that in his opening statement. At that time, he did not perhaps know our position with reference to this question. Let no one dare, however, to stand up before you now after the exhibits have been introduced and say that we want a Hitler victory.

Our Program to Defeat Fascism

We say that to defeat Hitlerism it is necessary for the masses to assume leadership in that struggle.

What is the fundamental reason for Hitler’s victories? Is it simply because he has been preparing for a longer time? How could he win his victories if a large section of the German people did not support him? To say that the German people, a great and cultured people, willingly accept the violent regime of Hitler is to insult the Germans. They are, however, given no alternative; it is either supporting Hitler or suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of the British imperialists and they fear that more than they fear a Hitler victory.

Hitler can come to the German people and say truthfully: The British ruling class has a monopoly on the wealth of this world; we ought to have our share of it. When he attacks Churchill and the British ruling class, he is speaking the truth – at least 90 per cent of the time; when he talks about his own intentions, he speaks nothing but lies. The same is true of Churchill who tells the truth only when he is attacking Hitler.

The situation would be entirely changed if in England the workers would establish their own socialist government and if in the United States a workers’ and farmers’ government would displace the present capitalist government.

Socialist governments in England and the United States would proclaim to the German people: “We have nothing against you; all we want is that you join us in creating a cooperative commonwealth throughout the whole world. We have no ambitions against your territory and we shall not do anything to deprive you of your liberty; revolt against Hitler and establish your own socialist government.” Hitler could not last one week after such an appeal. He would be destroyed by his own people.

This is our solution to the problem of Hitlerism. Unfortunately we are as yet too small a group really to influence the thought of the masses. It is not we who will create difficulties for the ruling class in this country; it is the war that will create those difficulties. Let us assume a war which will last five or even more years; the cost of living will be going up; over 50 per cent of our productive efforts will go for war purposes; the people in this country will be suffering as well as the people in England and in Germany and in Italy; and we hope that the day will come when all the peoples of the various countries will fraternize and put an end to the conflict which is now being fought to guard the interests of the ruling cliques.

It is nonsense to think that a small party like ours can, by its agitation, create dissatisfaction. ‘What creates dissatisfaction is the war and we are not responsible for that.

The class struggle goes on during the war whether we agitate for it or not. We have very little influence in the labor movement but the struggle goes on right now. With the cost of living going up, the workers are bound to strike for higher wages and he is indeed foolish who thinks that, when we are behind bars, strikes will cease. Neither will a revolutionary situation be prevented by putting us behind bars. It would be necessary to put the whole working class behind bars in order to assure the capitalists the kind of peace that they want. Hitler thinks that by his methods of force he can bring to an end the class struggle and this trial is an indication that the same methods will be used in this country. The specter of fascism haunts this trial – a mass trial that is characteristic of trials in Italy and in Germany.

I do not mean to say that fascism is here; we still have a chance to argue before a jury, but the very fact that a large number of people can be dragged into court because of their ideas and writings is an indication that the monster of fascism is coming ever closer to us.

“Revolutionary defeatism” is another expression that the prosecution points to as something terrible to contemplate. I expressly defined that phrase in the column that I referred to before, published in The Militant of March 29, 1941. It simply means that we continue to advocate the class struggle during the war. By that is meant that if the workers have any grievances, they should demand the settlement of those grievances and if no settlement is made, they should go on strike. Will that interfere with the military effort? The responsibility is not that of the workers but of the employers who refuse to settle the grievances.

What Political Opposition Means

In that same article I state that we want to carry on our agitation and gain a majority even during the war. But so long as we have no majority, there is nothing for us to do except to submit to the majority. “To submit to the majority,” ladies and gentlemen, that phrase is found several times in my column. Do the prosecutors expect us to change our ideas because there is a war? Do they want us to stop thinking? Yes, we want to convince workers and soldiers that our ideas are correct and until we convince the majority, we are willing to submit to the decisions of the majority. For any government to demand anything more than that means practically introducing fascism.

In that article I expressly state that our party opposes sabotage, opposes any individual or group action which would obstruct the conduct of the war. If the prosecutors were fair and had the power to dismiss this case, they would do so without hesitation the moment their attention was brought to this column. He who would contend, after reading that article, that we are in favor of a victory of Hitler or that we would practice sabotage, does not want to read correctly.

Of course, under Mr. Anderson’s theory, to teach socialism constitutes, in and of itself, sabotage. He stated that, but he does not claim that we would try to sabotage the army by doing something to the rifles or to the planes or cannons so that they could not be used properly. The prosecutors simply claim that, if the soldiers listen to our theories, they will not fight for the government. In other words, socialism is sabotage to the prosecutors regardless of the fact that we say over and over again that so long as we are not in a majority, we can do nothing but what we are told to do.

The Court: We will adjourn now.


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Last updated: 20.7.2006