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Goldman: In Defense of Socialism

Albert Goldman

In Defense of Socialism

(Part 3)

Friday, November 28, 1941
Morning Session


The Court: You may proceed.

Mr. Goldman: Once more I beg your indulgence for taking so much of your time. Last night I went through my notes and I cut out enough to shorten my argument by about four hours. If, in your deliberations, someone asks why did not Goldman touch upon this matter and that matter, then the answer is that I had to refrain from discussing many questions because of lack of time.

Yesterday, in discussing the question of whether or not we advocate or predict violence, I forgot to mention the fact that in the majority of instances where violence is mentioned in the exhibits, it refers to defense against the fascists. This is an important point which I ask you to consider in your deliberations.

Our Military Policy

The indictment charges us with conspiring to create insurrection and disobedience in the armed forces of the United States. It is important to discuss our so-called military policy. The government depends upon that policy, I think, in its attempt to convince you that we are guilty of that section of the indictment.

When the question of compulsory military service was first taken up in Congress and a discussion upon it began in the country, our party felt it necessary to take a position on that question.

As you know, there are people in this country who are pacifists and conscientious objectors who, under no circumstances, would fight in the armed forces or even allow themselves to be drafted for military service. There are many socialists who take a similar stand.

We, on the other hand, considered the situation from its fundamental aspect, namely, that in this epoch when fascism has come upon the scene with its horrible violence, it is futile not to recognize the fact that all important questions will be settled by military means. Not only futile, but extremely dangerous! Of all groups in society, we are most vehemently opposed to war but so long as war exists in the world and so long as there are fascists ready to use violence against the working class, every worker has the duty of training to defend himself. Young people will have to go to war whether they like it or not and since that is the case, we are in favor of having our youth trained in the arts of war. Modern warfare requires great technical skill and he is foolish who does not understand that it is necessary to acquire that skill.

We cannot tell the young generation to oppose military training when we know that it will be dragged into war. And it is on the basis of this fundamental proposition that we say to the young men: Do not resist compulsory military training; go into the army and do your best to get the training necessary to defend yourselves against the enemy from without and – we also added – against the enemy from within. In a world where fascism and violence and war dominate the scene, it is necessary for you to accept military training in order to defend yourselves.

Naturally, we would like our members, wherever they are, in the factory or in a union or in the army, to propagate our ideas, but we understand that the army is not a place where one can speak as freely as outside of the army. We don’t like it but we are realistic enough to understand that in the army it is necessary to be cautious. Just as a trade unionist in an open shop must be careful in propagating his ideas for trade unionism, so must a soldier in the army be careful in propagating ideas frowned upon by the generals. In the army, of course, it is far more dangerous to propagate socialism than it is to propagate trade unionism in an open shop. The greatest open shop institution in this country is the United States Army.

Conditions in our army are not so bad now as they were fifty or a hundred years ago. There was a time when it was impossible for a human being who was not brutalized to remain in the army. That has been changed and not without a struggle.

At present we advocate the idea that soldiers in the army should be on terms of equality with the officers. We consider the private soldiers equal in every way, except from the point of view of technical training, to the officers and we insist that they be treated in the same way as officers are treated. We advocate legislation compelling the officers to treat privates with respect and to change the rules which permit officers in charge of a military tribunal to inflict inhuman punishment for some minor infraction of the Military Code.

The government has introduced evidence that we urge the soldiers to kick about their food. I do not know whether there have been complaints about food in the army. If the food is not good, then the soldiers, including members of our party who are drafted, should kick about the food. If the prosecution is interested in preventing such complaints about the food, then let it see to it that the soldiers are provided with good food. Are we in a situation where soldiers must eat rotten food without complaining? That seems to be the theory of the prosecution.

Here I want to point out to you the absurdity of the accusation levelled against us to the effect that we send our members into the army in order to kick about food and create insubordination. Do you think we could win any influence in that way, and after all, that is our main aim – to win people over to our ideas, and thus gain influence. How do you think Vincent Dunne and Farrell Dobbs and Miles Dunne and Carl Skoglund and all the other leaders of Local 544 succeeded in gaining influence over the truck drivers? Simply by kicking?

And certainly not by proclaiming themselves to be Trotskyists. You can readily assume that the 6,000 truck drivers do not follow their leadership because it is composed of Socialist Workers Party members. The vast majority of the truck drivers is composed of Republicans, Democrats and Farmer-Laborites. But these people also voted for Farrell Dobbs and Vincent and Miles Dunne as their union leaders. Why? Because they saw in them men who have served their interests. The truck drivers may not even like the fact that those defendants who are leaders of Local 544 are socialists; but still they vote for them because they see in the defendants men who guard the interests of the workers. Our party members in Local 5-11 did not win influence among the truck drivers because they taught socialism, but because they improved the conditions under which the truck drivers worked.

The same thing holds with reference to any of our members who may be in the army. They cannot gain influence by teaching the abstract doctrine of socialism, but by taking care of the soldiers’ interests. It is true that we take advantage of every opportunity to teach the ideas of socialism. But we feel the socialist ideas will take root, not at present, when the vast majority of the people is satisfied with its conditions, but in the future when the masses will be driven to accept new ideas because of their suffering and privations. Human beings are very slow to change their ideas. The human mind is surrounded by a crust of all the ideas it has absorbed from childhood, and not until events destroy that crust is it ready to accept new ideas. It is because we want to get the confidence of the workers and the soldiers that we defend their immediate interests, and do not merely teach them the abstract doctrine of socialism.

We have put forth the idea of military training under trade union control. As Mr. Cannon testified, a training camp was operated in Plattsburg, New York, for the purpose of training business men and professional men as officers, and the government furnished the necessary funds. Why not have training camps where trade unions could train their men both as soldiers and as officers?

In our opinion the great majority of generals and higher officers in the army are hostile to the laboring class. The higher officers are raised and trained in an environment which makes them hostile to the workers. They are not interested in democracy or in fighting for democracy. Have not the events in France confirmed our opinion in that respect? The American and British generals are not any different from the French generals. Who surrendered to Germany? Not the rank and file, but Petain and Weygand and the other generals in command of the French army. Who permitted the Germans to enter Norway? Not the rank and file soldiers, but the fascists in the upper ranks. We say plainly that we do not trust the generals and higher officers to fight for democracy.

Because of that we propose that the trade unions train their own officers – officers in whom the workers can have confidence and whom they can control. And you must remember, when you consider this point, that the trade unions are not under the control of the Socialist Workers Party, but under the control of men who are, from our viewpoint, very conservative, and even reactionary. Still, rather than have officers trained at West Point, we prefer to have them trained under trade union control because the trade unions are organizations of workers. Furthermore, you must remember that our program of military training under trade union control is a legislative program. We want Congress to pass legislation making such training possible by appropriating funds for that purpose.

Of course, as with all other activities and policies of the Socialist Workers Party, our idea of military training under trade union control is evidence, as far as the prosecution is concerned, of a conspiracy to overthrow the government by force. No matter what we do, it is taken by the government as evidence of this conspiracy. If we opposed military training, that would constitute evidence of a conspiracy; when we are for military training, that is brought in as evidence of a conspiracy!

Why We Want Workers’ Defense Guards

Another policy of ours which the government introduced as evidence of a conspiracy is our proposal of establishing workers’ defense guards. We have no hesitation to admit that we would like to see the workers create such defense guards. I shall even admit – and let the government make the most of it – that if workers’ defense guards should be created, they would defend the revolution of the majority against the violence of the minority. We shall do our utmost to create workers’ defense guards so that when the majority of the people take power, it will be able to put down any revolt by the minority.

The charge that is levelled against us, you must remember, is that we are conspiring to overthrow and to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. The government must first prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and it cannot prove it by introducing evidence that we advise the establishment of workers’ defense guards or a union defense guard. If the jury agrees with me that we do not advocate the use of violence, but predict that the minority will use violence against the majority, then everything else is immaterial. It is perfectly proper for us to propose to workers the idea of creating defense guards to protect them against fascist violence, and mind you, we are not advocating a policy of creating defense guards of our own members. We want the workers to build these defense guards.

Unfortunately, they have not as yet followed our proposals. The fascist danger is not so evident to the workers as it is to us, and they have not acted in accordance with our proposals. This is a fine example of the idea that it is not agitation that can bring certain things into existence. If conditions are not ripe for it, then we can talk from now until doomsday and the workers will not follow our advice. There is not a single workers’ defense guard in the United States today.

Mr. Schweinhaut (Prosecutor): That statement, that there is not a single defense guard in the United States today, is not brought out by the evidence. The contrary has been established. As a matter of fact, in March of this year the Union Defense Guard was in existence in Minneapolis.

Mr. Goldman: I still contend on the basis of the evidence that there does not exist a single defense guard in the United States at the present time.

The Court: Well, the jury will remember what the evidence was on that particular question.

544 Defense Guard

I shall now deal with the question of the Union Defense Guard of Local 544. What relationship did the existence of this Union Defense Guard of the Minneapolis truck drivers have to our proposal for a workers’ defense guard? The idea of a workers’ defense guard, as has been explained to you, is not something new. It has not only been propagated by us, but we have actually, on certain occasions, created a defense guard to defend our meetings against Stalinist and fascist hoodlums. As a matter of fact, there have been defense guards ever since the socialist movement began, because there have always been elements who wanted to use violence against socialists.

And when a situation arose in Minneapolis which demanded the formation of some kind of defense organization to defend the right of union men to hold their meetings undisturbed and to protect the halls and property of the union, our members, trained in the idea of having defense guards, naturally thought of creating such a guard to protect the interests of Local 544.

Members of our party are superior to the average worker, if they are superior at all, because they have a certain theory as to the basis of their activities, and this theory enables them to predict and act upon their predictions. The average worker lives from day to day – he works, earns his living, is thrown out of his job, goes on relief, has children and tries to feed them. He is unable as yet to generalize the reasons for his difficulties. A member of the Socialist Workers Party thinks in general terms about the situation of the workers in society. He is trained to understand that his life is bound up with the life of his class.

As I said, we have a theory of society, and on the basis of that theory we are able to predict that certain people will act in a certain way. We know, for instance, that the fascists will at one time or another make an attempt to destroy the unions. When our members saw in the Minneapolis newspapers in 1938 reports that the Silver Shirts were organizing, they also understood that the Silver Shirts were not organizing to benefit the trade unions, but to destroy them. Our members immediately considered what to do to defend the union hall, the union property and the union meetings against the attacks of the Silver Shirts. Whereas the average worker does not think of the future, our members do.

Yesterday, in his argument, Mr. Anderson made a very peculiar remark. “What business,” he asked, “is it of theirs to bring the history of the Russian revolution into the United States?” I am sorry that Mr. Anderson is puzzled by that, but our party members are taught to study everything that happens in the world. What happens in Russia, in England, in Africa, is our business. We do not believe that the United States can be separated from the rest of the world. It is part of the world, and whatever happens in any section of the world affects us. We studied what the fascists did in Germany and in Italy, and because we studied the activities of the fascists there, we know what the activities of the American fascists will be here. And we teach the workers not to wait until the fascists succeed here, as they succeeded in Germany and Italy. We teach workers to organize their workers’ defense guards and prevent the fascists from doing here what they did in other countries.

Why did Local 544 and not any other union in Minneapolis organize a union defense guard? Everyone knows that Local 544 is the most important union in Minneapolis. It was considered the arch-enemy of the reactionary employers and of the fascists, and everyone with any common sense understood that when fascists were organizing in Minneapolis, they would attack 544 first of all. Our members understood that and that is why Local 544 took the initiative and organized the Union Defense Guard. But it must be remembered that they invited the members of other unions to participate in this defense guard.

The Undisputed Fact About the Guard

The government witnesses practically proved everything we wanted to prove to the jury on the question of the Union Defense Guard. The evidence on that question was the greatest dud that the government produced. I am only amazed that the prosecutors still insist on injecting the question of the Union Defense Guard into this case. Were they really fair-minded, they would openly state to the jury that the Union Defense Guard is not to be considered by the jury as evidence against the defendants. Their failure to do so is another indication to me that the prosecutors are unable to act independently in this case, and must follow orders of people higher up.

By the testimony of the government witnesses it has been proved that the Union Defense Guard was organized at the time the Silver Shirts became active in Minneapolis late in the summer of 1938. Our evidence that the Minneapolis newspapers carried news items describing the activities of the Silver Shirts has not and cannot be denied. All the government witnesses, with the exception of one, testified that at the Union Defense Guard meetings Vincent Dunne and other defendants explained the necessity of organizing the Guard against the possible attacks of the Silver Shirts.

The only one who testified that Vincent Dunne told 150 members of the Union Defense Guard that the purpose of the organization was to overthrow the government was Elmer Buckingham. If you remember that witness, you remember that he was slouching and constantly looking at the floor. He testified that he did not remember anything about the Silver Shirts, but that he remembered Vincent Dunne, in the presence of about 150 men, state that the purpose of the Defense Guard was to overthrow the government of the United States.

All I ask is that the jurors ask themselves one question: Is it credible that Vincent Dunne, an intelligent individual, if he actually organized the Union Defense Guard to overthrow the government, would state his purpose at an open meeting in the presence of 150 men? When one takes that factor into consideration and in addition remembers that no other government witness heard Vincent Dunne say anything of the kind, then it becomes clear how much credence can be placed in the testimony of Buckingham.

It is not denied by us that the Union Defense Guard had target practice. One government witness testified that target practice was decided upon as a form of entertainment. I do not even deny that there is a possibility that the members of the Guard wanted target practice with the idea in mind of training the members to shoot so that they could defend themselves against any armed attack. They had a perfect right to have target practice even if the intention was to learn how to shoot so that they could defend themselves against any armed attack.

Was the Guard Necessary?

Mr. Anderson asks why the leaders of Local 544 did not ask the government authorities for protection. Why was it necessary to organize the Guard? In the first place, even if a person notifies the authorities and asks for protection against a possible attack, he is not thereby prevented from preparing to defend himself. Local 544 could have notified the authorities and then proceeded to organize a union defense guard. There was no attempt to conceal the fact that a union defense guard was organized. The organization met openly. Many people in Minneapolis knew about the existence of the Guard. The Northwest Organizer, official organ of all the Minneapolis Teamsters unions, was full of news about it. And there can be no question but that the police knew about it.

Indeed the leaders of Local 544 did not have very great confidence in the authorities and did not rely upon them very greatly for protection against the Silver Shirts. It is evident to everyone that neither the city, nor the state, nor the federal government was favorably inclined to Local 544. Under such conditions the leaders of Local 544 would have been derelict in their duty had they not taken steps to organize a guard to protect the members and their union.

That the Guard was organized, not for the purpose of overthrowing the government but to defend the union against the Silver Shirts, is proved conclusively by the fact that it was organized when first the Silver Shirts came to Minneapolis, and that it ceased to exist as a functioning organization in the spring of 1939 when the Silver Shirts no longer held meetings in Minneapolis. After 1939 the Union Defense Guard was called together only for the purpose of policing picnics or Christmas parties. Only the prosecuting attorneys can draw from that fact the conclusion that the Union Defense Guard still exists as a functioning guard organization.

Undoubtedly the members of our party in Local 544 took the initiative in organizing the Union Defense Guard. They prepared for any eventuality; and the fact that the Silver Shirts did not attack does not prove Mr. Anderson’s point that the Union Defense Guard was not organized to defend the union against the Silver Shirts, but simply proves that “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.” As a result of the readiness of the members of Local 544 to defend themselves, the Silver Shirts did not dare launch any attack.

The Union Defense Guard, the one issue which the government announced with great fanfare before the trial as indicating that there was a real conspiracy to overthrow the government by force, has been completely shattered, and by the government’s own witnesses. That the government has not honestly and frankly admitted its mistake is an indication, as I said before, that in this case the government wants a conviction regardless of the evidence.

Lessons of Russian Revolution

The prosecution was very anxious to prove two things about the Russian revolution – one, that we consider it a great event and were consequently interested in it and, two, that we studied it in order to imitate here the tactics that were used by the Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky.

I simply want to emphasize the one fact that should by this time be clear, even to the prosecution. The Russian revolution was not the result of a conspiracy organized by a minority. It was the work of the immense majority of the workers and peasants supporting the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin and Trotsky.

Conclusive evidence of the fact that the vast majority of the people of Russia supported the Bolshevik Party is the successful struggle of the Red Army, organized by Leon Trotsky, against a powerful combination of forces consisting of Russian White Guards, the Czecho-Slovak army, Japanese, English and even American soldiers. Had the Bolshevik Party not been supported by 95 per cent of the Russian people, it could never have withstood such a powerful attack.

The second lesson to be drawn from the Russian revolution, as far as this case is concerned, is that it was a minority of capitalists and landlords who began the civil war in order to prevent the majority from trying to establish the foundations of a new social order.

For us, the Russian revolution is all-important because for the first time in history the masses of people actually took the productive wealth away from the capitalists and landlords. The foundations of socialism were created by the Russian revolution. Unfortunately, historic conditions, which I am unable to discuss because they are not germane to the case, permitted a bureaucratic clique under the leadership of Stalin to usurp power and to crush every form of democracy in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Anderson advises the defendants to go to Russia if we are so interested in that country. It should be known, even to Mr. Anderson, that Trotskyists have no chance at all to live in the Soviet Union; thousands of them have been executed. The best army and naval officers have been executed and this is why the Russian soldiers, in spite of the most heroic resistance, have sustained defeats at the hands of the Nazi army.

Mr. Schweinhaut: Is that evidence?

Mr. Goldman: No, that is not part of the evidence in this case. It may be disregarded by the jury. It is in evidence, however, that the Trotskyists in the Soviet Union struggled for democratic rights in that country just as we struggle for democratic rights here. Mr. Anderson should know that most of the defendants were born in this country and he above all should know that this country was built by so-called foreigners, by the Irish, the Swedes, the Russians, the Hungarians, the Italians, by the foreign workers who slaved in the mines, who built the railroads, who created the most powerful country in the world, now in the hands of the Sixty Families and their satellites. He should know that the Swedes and Norwegians were the ones who settled in Minnesota and helped build up this state. It is indeed a shame that people who were born here or who were raised here and who worked here should be told to get out of this country by the prosecution.

The defendants, of course, as I indicated yesterday, are internationalists. We make no distinctions between races and nationalities. Wherever we are, there we fight to the best of our abilities for liberty and democracy.

“History repeats itself” is a phrase that is frequently heard. But that is true to only a very limited extent. History actually never repeats itself. We do not know what the conditions will be under which the masses of this country decide to establish a socialist regime. We do know that they can never be exactly the same as existed in Russia in November 1917. Russia was largely an agricultural country with 80 per cent of the people illiterate, without any tradition of democracy. The farmers in the United States are not the same as the peasants of Russia. We have a right to hope that the higher standards of education in this country and the democratic traditions of the people will prevent the great tragedy that occurred in the Soviet Union subsequent to the revolution – I refer to the usurpation of power by the Stalinist clique that has crushed every form of democracy.

What did the prosecution succeed in doing by introducing our articles dealing with the Russian revolution? Has it succeeded in proving a conspiracy on our part to overthrow the government by force and violence? It has succeeded only in proving that we, like the Bolsheviks in Russia, aim to win a majority of the people of this country to our ideas. If that is a “conspiracy,” it will be a conspiracy of the vast majority of the people to change the present social order and to organize a government that will best protect their economic, political and social interests.

And should the minority attempt to use violence to thwart the will of the majority, then I hope that the masses will organize their workers’ defense guard, just as the Russian workers organized their Red Army and just as the workers of 544 organized their Defense Guard to put down the violence of a minority.

It may be of some interest to note that this indictment was written subsequent to June 22, 1941, the date when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Since then there has been a very close and friendly relationship between the present administration and Stalin’s government. It so happens that the former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, Mr. Davies, wrote an article recently in a popular magazine wherein he claims that the Trotskyists were fascists and that Stalin did well to have them executed. It is indeed peculiar that whereas Stalin accused the Trotskyists of being fascists, we here are accused of being revolutionists. Different governments have different ways of framing the Trotskyists.

Marx, Lenin and Trotsky

I did not know whether to laugh or to weep when Mr. Anderson, in his opening address, accused us of being Marxists. I was tempted to laugh because throughout this country in every institution of learning there are people teaching history, sociology, and even the physical sciences who consider themselves Marxists.

There are many people who claim to be Marxists. We may not agree that they are but at least they claim to be. And for Mr. Anderson to get up in a court of law in the United States and accuse people of being Marxists as if that were a crime is, to say the least, somewhat absurd.

But that accusation also had a very serious connotation. For it is in Germany and Italy that Marxism is considered a crime and where Marxists are exterminated.

I wonder if counsel for the government understood the full significance of their introduction into evidence of the Communist Manifesto. Their purpose in introducing the Communist Manifesto was, of course, to get the jury to convict the defendants. But that means practically banning a book which is being sold in every good bookstore in the United States, which is on the library shelves of every decent library, and which is studied in every university. For if we can be convicted for circulating the Communist Manifesto then, in effect, a ban is placed upon it. Hitler started the practice of burning books distasteful to him; and among the first books that he ordered burned were the books of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, including the Communist Manifesto. I do not mean, Mr. Schweinhaut actually wants the Communist Manifesto burned but, in effect, by introducing the book into evidence, he condemns it and warns the world not to read or circulate it.

We, of course, must plead guilty to the charge of being Marxists. We are Marxists because we believe that the economic structure of society is the determining factor in social development and that man is a product of his social environment. We are Marxists because we believe that the productive forces of society have reached a stage where it is possible to produce everything necessary to satisfy the reasonable needs of the people; because we believe that capitalist society has reached a point when the people must either progress with socialism or perish through fascist barbarism. In essence this is now the meaning of Marxism and to this charge we plead guilty.

Lenin as well as Marx was dragged into the case by the prosecution. And again we must admit that we consider Lenin as one of the great men of all times. His greatness lies in the fact that he was willing to stand alone with a few people supporting him in his opposition to the First World War when the vast majority of the socialists betrayed their principles and supported their own imperialist governments. Lenin in Switzerland and Trotsky in Vienna, in Paris and New York (he was expelled from Vienna and Paris during the war) both raised their voices against the First World War which they designated as imperialistic. Lenin predicted that the war would result in a revolutionary situation in Russia. His prediction came true and when that revolutionary situation actually came into existence, Lenin and Trotsky took advantage of it and led the masses in the revolution that destroyed capitalism in Russia.

The arch conspirator in this case, according to the government, is Leon Trotsky.

How absurd is the idea of designating Leon Trotsky as a conspirator! He has written three thick volumes on the history of the Russian revolution; he has written innumerable books and pamphlets explaining his ideas about society and current events. Critics have recognized his history of the Russian revolution as the greatest history penned by any man at any time. He is the type of man who, in addition to being a great theoretician and writer, could and did also organize and lead a great army.

We guarded his life because he meant so much to the movement that the defendants represent. Five or six secretaries gave their lives to guard him. We spent thousands of dollars in an effort to shield him from an attempt on his life that we were certain would some day be made by the Kremlin dictator. We do not deny that he was the one who guided our movement in its general aspects. Many of us visited him in Mexico many times. We asked for his advice and he gave it to us, not on minor questions such as the organization of a union defense guard in Local 544, but on major questions of world importance. He discussed with us the role that the United States is playing and will play in world affairs. His analysis of events and his predictions on the basis of that analysis will always remain as evidence of his remarkable intellect. To call him a conspirator is an insult to human intelligence.

Yes, We Are Internationalists

The prosecution charges us with being internationalists and, of course, we must plead guilty to that charge. For us internationalism is the very heart of socialism. We conceive of the world as an economic unit. No nation, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can separate itself from the rest of the world. We are not isolationists. We do not believe that it is possible to isolate this country from the rest of the world.

As I indicated to you before, socialism is a world system under which all nations and all peoples will cooperate to produce enough goods to satisfy the reasonable needs of every human being. Every country will produce that which it is best fitted to produce. If a country can produce good machinery then let it not busy itself with producing agricultural products. Let some other country best fitted for the production of agricultural products produce those products and exchange its products for the machines produced by another country. Peace will come to a world cooperating in this way, which will be made possible only by socialism, which will do away with imperialist cliques fighting for colonies and markets.

We reject the idea that one nation or one people is superior to any other nation or any other people. To us all human beings are equal. The prejudices that exist are a product of the social system and not inherent in human nature. The brotherhood of man will be made possible and real under a socialist society which will do away with economic conflicts.

Our party belonged to the Fourth International. But when the Voorhis Act was enacted making it illegal for any organization in this country to belong to an international organization, we obeyed the law and severed our connection with the Fourth International. We did not like the law; we were opposed to it, but as a minority there was nothing for us to do except to obey it and try to have it repealed.

The Party and the Trade Unions

I come now to the question which I consider third in importance. First is the question of whether or not we advocate the violent overthrow of the government; second in importance is the question of our attitude on the war; and third is the question of our activities in the trade unions. When we consider that question we come to the point that actually explains the reason for this prosecution.

(Morning Recess)

Mr. Goldman: More time, ladies and gentlemen, was spent on the trade union question in this case than on any other single question, including the central issue of the case as to whether or not there is a conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence. And I am not surprised at that. I expected it because the trade union question has far more to do with this case than the question of the overthrow by force and violence of the government of the United States.

Consider the chief witnesses for the government – who they are, what they are doing now, what role they played in Local 544 before the indictment – and the conclusion is inescapable that this trial is essentially a contest between two factions in the union, with the government being part of one faction. I dare anyone to attempt to disprove that statement. Of course counsel for the government cannot admit that and they must try their best to disprove it. They must repeat over and over again: This case involves only the question of whether or not the defendants violated certain sections of the law. But all in vain! No matter what the government says, it cannot escape from the facts.

Therefore, I hope that you forgive me if I deal with the question of trade unionism, as it is involved in this case, quite extensively.

What did the government try to prove by introducing the question of trade unionism? It tried to prove that the Socialist Workers Party aims to gain control of the unions and to utilize that control for the purpose of getting the masses organized into unions to take up arms against the government. That in essence is the government’s position.

Let us, then, analyze the evidence to see whether the government has succeeded in proving its contention. Mr. Anderson, in his opening statement, made it clear that the evidence would prove that the Socialist Workers Party conspired to dictate to the unions and to utilize the unions as instruments for the purpose of furthering the central aim of the party, to wit: to overthrow the government by force and violence. No other purpose was attributed by the prosecution to the Socialist Workers Party as far as the trade union question is concerned.

And then the parade of government witnesses began and on the basis of the testimony of those witnesses it could be deduced that the aim of the Socialist Workers Party in working within the unions was altogether different from that which Mr. Anderson indicated it was. Dictate to the unions! How could the Socialist Workers Party dictate to the unions of this country? Even on the basis of the testimony of the government’s own witnesses, as elicited from them through cross-examination, it became clear that the Socialist Workers Party never could and never did try to dictate to the unions. And when you take into consideration the evidence of the defendants, then you can see that all that the Socialist Workers Party aimed at was to have its members work in the unions, do the best they could for the workers and the unions and thus gain influence with the workers.

To work in the interest of the unions and thereby get the confidence of the workers and be elected to offices in the union, is a right which I shall defend day in and day out. Every person living in the United States, every group in this country, has a right to do exactly that. And as for us, we intend to exercise that right. It is unquestionably true, ladies and gentlemen, that the Socialist Workers Party would like to have great influence in the trade union movement so that it could persuade the workers to follow socialist ideas. Unfortunate for us and much to be regretted by us, is the fact that our influence in the trade union movement is very limited.

Every political party desires to get control of the unions. The question is for what purpose and in what manner? Can it be denied that the Democratic Party would like to get and retain control of the trade union movement? Can that be denied of the Republican Party or any other party? Of course not. Every political party attempts in various ways to get support in the trade union movement and as far as the Republican and Democratic Parties are concerned, they succeed in getting control of that movement through tying themselves up with the bureaucrats who lead that movement.

Our Faith in the Workers

The trade union movement is the most powerful institution in this country. Why? Because it includes in its ranks vast numbers of industrial workers and railroad workers and is thus able to continue or to stop production and by stopping production, to throw the country into a terrific turmoil. If the trade union movement had leadership with social vision, it could easily solve the problems of this country but unfortunately the leadership is in the hands of narrow and bigoted men.

Our party supports the trade union movement against the employing class, even though certain sections of the unions are led by the type of men whom we designate as reactionary. We have so much faith in the essential correctness of the trade union movement – so much faith that the workers ultimately will throw the racketeers and bureaucrats off their backs – that we support the trade union organizations. As was said several times by government witnesses who did not understand the significance of their testimony, we are always in favor of the workers as a class, against the employers as a class. To us, the workers who create the wealth of society are always right against the employers who get the benefit of that work. That is why we support the workers against the employers even though the workers at times are led by people in whom we have no confidence whatever. It has been sufficiently brought out in the evidence that we do not have any confidence in Tobin, yet we would unhesitatingly support the Teamsters International, under the leadership of Tobin, against the employers.

The trade union movement at the present time, led by men like Tobin, who are interested only in their personal welfare, irritates many people. It irritates the small business men, the farmers and even many workers with the senseless jurisdictional struggles and clique fights constantly going on. As I said before, the leadership of the trade union movement lacks social vision and the task that we have set ourselves is to try to educate the members of the unions so that they will insist on having as their leaders men who understand the problems of society and who understand the power and the responsibility of the trade union movement in solving those problems.

Do we then attempt to control the trade union movement? If by that is meant that we send our members into the trade unions with instructions to work in the interest of the members of the trade unions and to gain the confidence of every worker and to be elected to office, then we must admit that we try to control it. But only in that sense and in no other sense. The history of Local 544 conclusively proves our contention that our work in the trade union movement is of that nature.

We are interested in bringing immediate benefits to the workers. Does it appear to be contradictory that socialists work to bring immediate benefits to the workers and at the same time look forward to a revolutionary situation when the masses will be dissatisfied with the dreadful conditions confronting them? Why is it that we try to improve the conditions of the workers? Remember that our object is to win the confidence of the masses and to do so we must work for an immediate improvement in their conditions. We must show them that their poverty and suffering are not brought about by anything they do, but by the existence of the capitalist system, by the greed of the capitalist class. We must show the workers that what we are interested in is improving their conditions.

But we also tell them that no matter how much we try to improve their immediate conditions, the social system under which they live makes it impossible in the long run to achieve any real improvement. Whether the workers like it or not, they will ultimately find themselves in a situation under the present social order when there will be no solution except to change that social order.

Our Record in Local 544

Under the strict rules of evidence it was impossible for us to prove how much the defendants have done to improve the conditions under which the workers labor. But enough has been permitted into evidence to show beyond the peradventure of a doubt that the activities of the Dunne brothers, of Farrell Dobbs, of Cart Skoglund and of every other defendant who is a member of Local 544, aided the truck drivers in getting improved conditions. Can there be the slightest doubt of that? Who built Local 544? The defendants played by far the most important role in organizing the truck drivers. The evidence is overwhelming that in their activities the defendants were motivated by the fundamental aim of improving the conditions of the truck drivers and other workers and, what is more, they did succeed in improving the conditions of the workers in Minneapolis. You do not have to take our testimony for that, but the testimony of the witnesses for the government.

The defendants won the confidence of the truck drivers because we represented their interests. The truck drivers, who know nothing about socialism and surely nothing about Trotskyism, know the Dunnes, know Dobbs, know Skoglund and all the other defendants as people who are absolutely honest and sincere in their work. They know them personally and they understood that the defendants were working for the interests of the truck drivers.

Witness after witness for the government testified that they had been in opposition to the defendants, that they ran candidates against them in the elections of Local 544, but no one dared even to suggest that the defendants were not rightfully elected. The overwhelming testimony on the part of the government witnesses was to the effect that the defendants controlled Local 544 not by force, not by compulsion, but by virtue of winning the confidence of the men and of being elected to office in the most constitutional and democratic manner, with the rights of free speech and free criticism allowed to all opponents.

The membership of the truck drivers rose from 200 in 1934 to 6.500. Why do you think the truck drivers flocked into the union? Was it because the defendants were socialists or Trotskyists, or was it because the vast majority of them understood that they gained something practical by being in the union?

There were, of course, people like the government witnesses, who were not satisfied with Local 544 and its leadership. As I told you, modern society is constituted on the principle of “dog eat dog.” There are many who try to benefit themselves at the expense of others and that is true of some people in the trade union movement. There is, in fact, no escaping from that principle anywhere under the present social system.

Two government witnesses came from Omaha. They turned out to be honest witnesses. These witnesses – Tommy Smith and Malcolm Love – testified that they joined the party not because they understood the principles of the party but because they knew Dobbs and they knew the Dunnes and, said Tommy Smith, because the leaders of Local 544 were “labor-minded”; they were “the only ones who helped other unions organize the unorganized.” Dobbs went from one city to another helping his fellow workers and Tommy Smith said:

“I joined not because I knew anything about socialism but I knew the leaders of Local 544; I knew how honest they are and I figured that what is good for them is good for me.”

Even the hostile government witnesses had to admit that the Socialist Workers Party members were always willing to help the unions. Stultz from Omaha was a hostile witness but, not being as shrewd as Bartlett, he admitted the truth. He testified that defendant Alfred Russell wrote letters for Local 554 in Omaha, that Russell helped negotiate with employers and that Russell and other members of the party edited a union paper to present the case of the workers to the public.

Party Members Help Workers

The workers in the union could not write and could not edit a paper because they did not have the benefits of a formal education. It is not their fault. It is the fault of a system that condemns youngsters to go to work at the age of 13 and 14; it is the fault of a system that prevents youngsters from attending high school and college. The employers had no difficulty in finding people who could write for them – they had money to hire such people – but the workers didn’t have any money and so they had to depend upon members of the Socialist Workers Party, members who were willing to work for little or nothing in order to serve the interests of the workers. We admit that our members in helping workers always have in mind to convince the workers that the ideas of socialism are correct, but it is untrue that they go into the unions only with that purpose. They constantly have the welfare of the workers at heart.

Mr. Anderson naively asked the following question: “What business had the Socialist Workers Party to organize the Federal Workers Section? Should not the government be trusted with taking care of relief clients?” And by the government, I presume, Mr. Anderson means the people who have charge of WPA and the relief set-up. No, Mr. Anderson, it is obvious that the 2,000 members of the Federal Workers Section did not have sufficient confidence in the government officials. Out of these 2,000 members, there were probably no more than half a dozen or so members of the Socialist Workers Party. The fact that 2,000 men and women considered it necessary to become members of the Federal Workers Section proves conclusively that they thought the organization to be of great benefit to them. These men and women recognized that to protect their interests, it is necessary to organize and exert pressure upon government officials who otherwise would neglect their duties.

It has been the universal experience of all people that the government gives aid only to those people who are organized. The farmers organize, and if they don’t – they should. The same is true of the small business men. The workers organize and the unemployed have a right and a duty to organize.

The Defendants and Union Democracy

How did the members of our party who were in the leadership of Local 54 exercise control of the union? What is the policy of the Socialist Workers Party with reference to the method of controlling unions? You will find that policy explained in the Declaration of Principles and in the pamphlet on trade unionism written by Farrell Dobbs. Complete inner democracy in the trade unions is stressed both in the Declaration and in Dobbs’ pamphlet.

Unfortunately there is very little democracy in the trade union movement. There is practically none where men like Tobin rule. But wherever the Socialist Workers Party members are elected to office, they see to it that the members of the union have full democratic rights.

We have a firm and undying conviction, ladies and gentlemen, that without the understanding cooperation of the masses of the people, there can be no progress; there can be no real progress if people do blindly what they are told to do, no matter how good the intentions of the leaders may be. There can be no real progress under the rule of dictators no matter how benevolent they may be. There can be progress only if the masses understand what they are doing, understand their rights and exercise those rights – only if the masses take control of their own fate and destiny – and this can be done only through education and the democratic process.

Some of you, when questioned by the Judge before being accepted as jurors, said that you had heard and read something about the Soviet Union and thought that it was a communistic or socialistic state. By this time I think you understand that, as socialism is conceived by the defendants, its existence is impossible without freedom, without liberty, without democracy. There can be no socialism without freedom of the press, freedom of discussion, without the voluntary cooperation of the masses.

By the testimony of the government’s witnesses it was shown that in Local 544, under the leadership of some of the defendants, there was complete democracy, complete honesty and the local was completely free of gangsterism and racketeerism except insofar as some of the government witnesses tried to get away with certain racketeering practices.

Oh yes, we were in favor of strikes. Mr. Anderson, in his opening statement, evidently with the intention of startling the jury, accused the defendants of never being satisfied, of constantly agitating for higher wages and more strikes, never wanting to arbitrate or to negotiate. But what has the evidence shown? The defendants, of course, have called strikes; but only after receiving authority from the members of the union, only after all attempts to negotiate with the employers had ended in failure. As far as Local 544 is concerned, the evidence shows that since 1936 there has not been a single major strike – the truck drivers were organized and the employers understood that they had to negotiate with Local 544.

Mr. Anderson also promised to show you that the defendants never believed in arbitration. But Mr. Dobbs, while he was on the witness stand, explained to you that while we prefer direct negotiations between unions and employers and while, as a general rule, we do not think arbitration is the best method of settling disputes, still we accept arbitration under certain circumstances. There is no question of principle involved.

When Mr. Dobbs said that he does not believe that there are impartial arbitrators, he explained that in a society divided into classes the fundamental issues dividing those classes cannot be arbitrated. There is no possibility of finding an impartial arbitrator on these fundamental issues. But that does not mean that we would exclude arbitration under all circumstances. The fact is that both in Local 541 and in the 11-state Over-the-Road Area Committee, when Mr. Farrell Dobbs was secretary, there were many cases of arbitration.

The evidence proves conclusively that the defendants practiced real trade union democracy to such an extent that the vast majority of the truck drivers followed the defendants and would now prefer them if they had a chance to indicate their preference by a democratic election.

Listing the Government Witnesses

In contrast to the trade union policy of the defendants, I shall now show you what was the trade union policy of the government witnesses. As indicated before, this case is nothing but a struggle between two factions in the union with the government siding with the faction consisting largely of the witnesses against the defendants. I will read you the names of the chief government witnesses and on the basis of their own testimony I think you must agree with me that they constitute the opposition to the leadership of the defendants in Local 544:

Those are the main witnesses. Then we come to witnesses of secondary rank: What is their relationship to the power that controls 544-AFL? They are:

The following witnesses testified that they were formerly on the Tobin Receiver’s payroll:

The following government witnesses are the members of the Committee of 99, organized on behalf of Tobin to oppose the leadership of the defendants in 544:

Mr. Schweinhaut (Prosecutor): Bove was not a member of the Committee of 99.

Mr. Meyer (Defense Counsel): Look on page 1182 of the record, Mr. Schweinhaut.

Mr. Schweinhaut: I stand corrected.

Mr. Goldman: I continue the list:

All one has to do to become convinced that this trial is nothing but a continuation of the factional struggle in 544, is to read the names of the witnesses.

James Bartlett, Chief Witness

We must proceed now to analyze the testimony of some of the witnesses for the prosecution but I shall confine myself primarily, ladies and gentlemen, to only one witness. I confine myself largely to the witness who, in the words of Mr. Anderson, “continuously rose in stature during the trial until he reached way beyond the limit of the ceiling.” Maybe I didn’t understand Mr. Anderson correctly. Maybe he was only sarcastic.

There obviously are times in a man’s life when he changes his opinions on important questions. I would be the last man in the world to attack anyone who, after spending a certain number of years in the socialist movement, finally reaches the conclusion that the movement is based on a wrong philosophy.

If James Bartlett were that type of man, I would, of course, regret his leaving the movement. But I would not attack him. If he were that type of man, he would never testify against us. He could not possibly be an honest man and testify as he did.

From his testimony Bartlett can be designated as a careerist – a man only interested in carving out a career for himself. He goes from one party to another, always with the idea in the back of his mind of assuring for himself a comfortable living.

Why does he claim he left the Socialist Workers Party? Because he found out that we were advocating force and violence. On the face of it, that is unbelievable.

Bartlett is a smart man – he is not an intelligent man – but he is a smart fellow, there is no question about it. Under certain circumstances he would make a good business agent – better perhaps than most business agents. He can read. He testified that he wrote articles for the Daily Worker. He admitted that he read the Communist Manifesto before he joined the Communist Party. He admitted that he read State and Revolution by Lenin before he joined the Communist Party. When I asked him whether he knew that these two books advocated an armed overthrow of the government, he answered in the affirmative; that is, he knew that before he joined the Communist Party. He also admitted that he read a great deal of literature after he joined the Communist Party. He said he joined the Communist Party in 1932 and left it in the middle of 1933; and during this year and a half he read the literature of the party, he made speeches and wrote articles for the Daily Worker.

And then he states that he left the Communist Party because he found out that it advocated the violent overthrow of the government. So, after reading the Communist Manifesto and State and Revolution, the two documents which, in his opinion, advocated the violent overthrow of the government, it took him another year and a half to find out that the Communist Party advocated that doctrine!

Then in 1936 he comes to Mr. Vincent Dunne, and according to Bartlett’s testimony, Mr. Dunne asks him to join the Socialist Workers Party. At that point I very quietly asked him: “Did Mr. Dunne tell you or give you to understand that the Trotskyists claimed to be the real Marxists as against the Stalinists?” Bartlett’s answer was yes. Consider Mr. Bartlett’s testimony! He says he left the Communist Party because he found out that it advocated the violent overthrow of the government. He comes to our party and knows, before joining our party, that we claim to be the real Marxists and he also testified that he read books by Marx and Lenin which, in his opinion, advocated the overthrow of the government by force and violence. It must follow, then, from Bartlett’s testimony that he should have known before he joined our party that we also advocated the violent overthrow of the government. But according to his testimony, it took him three years to find that out. He found that out early in 1940 when he left our party. He joined our party in 1936 or 1937; so it took Mr. Bartlett all these years to find that out.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, the dumb government witnesses who followed Bartlett – Novack, Harris and others whose names I don’t remember – testified that at every party meeting they attended there was a discussion in which the violent overthrow of the government was advocated. Violet Williams testified that she attended many meetings, heard many lectures, did not remember the subject of the lectures or the contents of the lectures, but she remembered in general that we advocated the violent overthrow of the government. So we have people like Novack and Harris and Violet Williams – not very smart – and they find out that we advocate the violent overthrow of the government after attending two or three meetings.

Bartlett – the smart fellow who read the Communist Manifesto and State and Revolution before he joined the Communist Party in 1932, who, while in the Communist Party read all of the Communist Party literature and spoke for that party and wrote in the Daily Worker, who read many pamphlets while he was in our party – took three years before he found out that we advocate the violent overthrow of the government.

Mr. Anderson, for you to stand up now and say that you believe every word that Bartlett testified to would convict you of something more than sarcasm.

Let us go on. When, on cross-examination, I introduced certain statements made by Mr. Bartlett, I think that Mr. Schweinhaut and Mr. Anderson were overjoyed. It seemed that I had made a terrible blunder. I introduced the statement that Bartlett made when he joined the Socialist Workers Party; also the statement that he made when he campaigned in his own union against an opposition; and also the letter that he had written to the Star-Journal. The gentlemen of the prosecution did not catch the significance of those statements that I introduced. I did not care what Bartlett said about himself in those statements. But what I was interested in was one assertion that he didn’t make in any of these statements.

Bartlett claims, ladies and gentlemen, that he left the Communist Party because it advocated force and violence. Now, wouldn’t it be natural to expect that if that were the truth, he would say so in the statement giving the reasons why he left the Communist Party? The only reason that he mentions now for his leaving the Communist Party, he never mentioned in the statement in which he explained why he left the Communist Party. Is there any sense in that?

When Bartlett issued the statement against some of our members who were running in opposition to him in the warehouse union elections, he had already left the Socialist Workers Party. And according to his testimony here he left the party because he found out that it advocated force and violence. Where, in the statement he wrote in 1940, is there any assertion of that kind? It isn’t in that statement!

In the early part of this year Bartlett wrote a letter to the Star-Journal, a letter that I introduced in evidence. In it he claims that he left the Communist Party in the summer of 1934. But on the witness stand he testified that he left in 1933. It is obvious that he was lying on the witness stand, lying because he wanted to justify his further statement that during the 1934 strike he told Dunne he was out of the Communist Party. A liar, no matter how clever or how intelligent, finds it impossible to remember all the lies that he utters.

Why did he not, in the letter that he wrote to the Star-Journal, give as his reason for leaving the Socialist Workers Party that it advocated the violent overthrow of the government? There is not a single mention of that. He never mentioned his alleged real reason for leaving the party in any of the statements that he made before this trial. In the parade of perjury represented by the government witnesses, Bartlett “rose to the ceiling” and way above it.

Mr. Anderson did not know that yesterday or the day before yesterday he, himself, convicted Bartlett of perjury. I shall show you how. Mr. Anderson was examining Mr. Dobbs. He had in his hand either the ABC of Marxism or What Is Trotskyism and he gleefully asked Mr. Dobbs: “Well, this was written in 1941, wasn’t it?” Mr. Dobbs answered: “That is right.”

When did Bartlett last visit the party headquarters? I asked him: “Was it March, was it February, was it April?” And finally he said that “It could not have been later than April 1940.”

Then I had to maneuver carefully – because Bartlett is a smart fellow – to get him to admit that he bought What Is Trotskyism and the ABC of Marxism in the party headquarters. He stated definitely that he bought them in the headquarters.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, if the last time that Bartlett was at the headquarters was in April 1940 and if the pamphlets – as is proved by their internal context – were written after Trotsky’s death, were published in February or March 1941, how could Bartlett get those two books in the headquarters? Try to solve that riddle, Mr. Anderson.

Is there any question but that Bartlett is a perjurer? Would any witness for the defense guilty of such perjury be permitted to be free at the present time? There would be an indictment out against him, but Bartlett is a government witness and the government wants to prove its case regardless of the evidence and Bartlett, the greatest perjurer and the greatest liar that ever sat in the federal court, is permitted to go free.


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Last updated: 20.7.2006