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Goldman: In Defense of Socialism

Albert Goldman

In Defense of Socialism

(Part 4)

Friday, November 28, 1941
Afternoon Session


Perjury of Government Witnesses

The Court: You may proceed.

Mr. Goldman: Ladies and gentlemen, by this time you know enough about our theory to understand that it is difficult for me to speak with bitterness against any individual. By and large we hold that social conditions are responsible for the character of an individual and it is almost impossible for me as a Marxist to be bitter towards a government witness regardless of the depths of perjury which he reaches. That does not, of course, prevent me from pointing out the false testimony which the government witnesses gave.

Most of the important government witnesses – whose names I enumerated and who are directly or indirectly connected with the Tobin administration of Local 544-AFL – are helpless people who were motivated by a desire to get jobs in the local and they could do so only if the defendants were pushed out of their positions.

Those of the government witnesses who were former members of our party could testify to nothing about our program, with the exception, of course, that they testified that we advocated the armed overthrow of the government. I mentioned before that these people never remembered the subject or contents of a single pamphlet or party discussion, but always remembered that the defendants advocated the violent overthrow of the government. Mr. Eugene Williams, for instance, on direct examination remembered that Farrell Dobbs spoke at the first meeting he attended and naturally he also remembered that Farrell Dobbs advocated the armed overthrow of the government. On cross-examination he forgot that it was Farrell Dobbs and said that it was Felix Morrow, but still he remembered that, no matter who it was, the speaker advocated the armed overthrow of the government. And that’s all he remembered.

Another significant point. A great many of the witnesses claimed that Vincent Ray Dunne who, as the outstanding leader of Local 544-CIO, is more or less of a chief devil in this picture, discussed with them the question of what our party wanted to do after the passing of the Selective Service Act. They testified that they had conversations with Dunne about this matter long after they were out of the party, even after they had fought in the union against our party members.

It looked peculiar, did it not, that Dunne who, you will all agree, is a highly intelligent person, should talk to people who were no longer members of the party and who were enemies of the party, about such delicate questions as inciting insurrection in the army. I think the jury must have seen the absurdity of that testimony.

Another piece of testimony that shows how much perjury the government witnesses really committed was their story that the executive board of the union paid Emil Hansen’s weekly salary at the time he was acting as a guard for Leon Trotsky. This evidence, of course, could not possibly help the jury arrive at a decision as to whether or not the Socialist Workers Party conspired to overthrow the government by force and violence, but I presume the prosecution used it for some effect on the jury. But somebody had forgotten to coach Miss Hanifan, the bookkeeper of Local 544-AFL, and when I asked her: “Did you issue checks for Mr. Hansen when he was in Mexico?” she answered, “No.” This admission came from a government witness and now I suppose the government will be forced to contend that Mr. Hansen was paid out of the cash box.

In and by itself a minor point like this is not worth much but when you take all the little and big falsehoods testified to by the government witnesses, you have before you a case based on witnesses whose testimony indicated one thing, and one thing only – they were not afraid of a possible prosecution for perjury.

Yesterday I argued that even if you considered the witnesses for the government as absolutely honest, you should disregard their testimony concerning statements allegedly made by the defendants two or three years ago because you have far more reliable, documentary evidence on which to base your decision. But you are not confronted with honest witnesses. On the contrary, you are confronted by witnesses who are now officially connected with Local 544-AFL – some of them paid organizers, most of them having taken the positions of the men who are now in the prisoners’ dock – who were opposed to and fought the leadership of the defendants in 544 and whose testimony is shot through with falsehoods and perjury. There is nothing else for you to do but to give no credence whatever to this testimony.

Mr. Anderson made much of the fact that most of the testimony of these witnesses stood uncontradicted and undenied. This is a common trick used by lawyers. If a witness for one side makes 500 statements and the witness for the other side denies only 450 of them, then the other 50 undenied, prove the case. Suppose I had put all the defendants on the stand and all the defendants had denied all the statements which the government witnesses claimed they had made; wherein would that be of any help to you?

In this case, ladies and gentlemen, we are confronted with this situation: Either our program and our documents advocate the armed overthrow of the government by force and violence, in which case we are guilty; or else they do not advocate such a doctrine, in which case we are not guilty. The individual oral statements alleged to have been made by defendants a year or two or three years ago should play no role. I do not try cases simply by denying statements attributed to defendants. I prefer to get to the very heart of the issue.

The charge in this case is conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence. Was there or was there not such a conspiracy? The government has introduced more than 150 exhibits consisting of articles, pamphlets and official declarations. Let the jurors determine their decision by those and not by isolated statements alleged to have been uttered by some of the defendants two or three years ago.

Real Motives of Witnesses

The government witnesses organized a Committee of 99 to fight socialism in Local 544. That is what they claim. Someone once said: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” and if ever this phrase applied, it applies to the government witnesses. These perjurers wrapped themselves in the American flag, not because they cared a tinker’s damn about patriotism, but because in this way they think they can succeed in gaining a victory over the defendants. Their real motive was not to fight socialism but to get a few more dollars and get positions to which they could not be elected.

With great difficulty I succeeded in presenting the true motives of the government witnesses. It was the situation in the Minneapolis Brewery that gave the jury a clue as to their real motives. I do not intend to examine the evidence on that point in detail. You remember what the situation was there, the struggle between the executive board of the local composed largely of the defendants on the one hand, and government witnesses Holstein, Eugene Williams, Al Williams and Buckingham, on the other hand. You realized from the testimony of the government witnesses themselves that these people were participating in a racket. The government witness, Blixt, who worked in the market, was in a similar racket. When I asked him whether, contrary to the orders of the executive board, he stopped farmers’ trucks from coming into the market, he tried to excuse himself by saying that he stopped only the “wildcat” operators.

It was a great racket for these witnesses until the executive board of Local 544 stepped in and compelled them to give up this racket of charging small distributors, who wanted a load from the Minneapolis Brewery, a minimum of four hours’ pay regardless of the time that it actually took to load the truck – whether it was 15 minutes or 20 minutes. You noticed that it was after the executive board compelled these witnesses to give up the racket that the Committee of 99 was organized to oppose the leadership of the union.

And this Committee of 99 could not convince the membership of 544, so the Committee invited the FBI to participate in its meetings. The FBI, in fact, became part of the Committee of 99. This testimony comes from the government’s own witness and is uncontradicted.

Do not misunderstand me, ladies and gentlemen. I do not claim that the Committee of 99 was powerful enough to initiate and set into motion this prosecution – not Bartlett, not Tommy Williams, not these witnesses, oh no, men higher up, men who appointed a Receiver to take the defendants out of their jobs – these are the people who had the power to initiate and set into motion

Mr. Schweinhaut: That is absolutely not true, if your Honor please.

The Court: I don’t think that is appropriate argument, Mr. Goldman; I don’t think it is appropriate argument in the face of the state of this record, and I don’t think you should pursue it.

Mr. Goldman: The Committee of 99 could not convince the members of Local 544 through argument. Is that in the record? Witness after witness testified that they had a chance to run opposition candidates. That is in the record. Members of the Committee of 99 testified here one after another to this effect.

The Defendants Built the Union

“Under whose leadership was Local 544 organized?” I asked some of the government witnesses. They had to admit that the union was built by the Dunnes, Dobbs, Carl Skoglund, Harry DeBoer and everyone else who is a defendant and connected with Local 544. From a membership of 200, the defendants raised the local to 6,000. Do you think any of the government witnesses was capable of creating this powerful union that exerted tremendous influence throughout the northwest area? Who built the Over-the-Road Committee? Farrell Dobbs. And these government witnesses, members of the Committee of 99, some of them unfortunate half-wits, are now in the offices that the defendants had prior to Tobin’s appointment of the Receiver.

“Were you elected to office?” I asked Sidney Brennan, who testified that he is now Secretary-Treasurer of 544-AFL. “No,” he answered.

“Who appointed you?” “Neal,” was the answer.

“You mean the Receiver for Tobin?” “Yes,” was the answer.

Some of the government witnesses were at one time members of the Socialist Workers Party. What made these people join the party?

In commenting on the testimony of defendants Rainbolt and Orgon, Mr. Anderson said that had these defendants testified that they joined the party in order to get jobs, then he would have more consideration for them. Mr. Anderson doesn’t see the significance of his remarks. He seems to think that the government witnesses who testified that they joined the party to get jobs have thereby cleansed themselves of any possible sin they committed by joining the party, while Mr. Rainbolt and Mr. Orgon are still criminals. The conclusion is: If people join the party because of idealistic reasons, because they are convinced that the party represents a cause worth fighting and dying for, then they belong in jail; but if they join the party in order to get a job, they should be released.

The defendants Rainbolt and Orgon did not know all the principles of the party when they joined. They joined because they knew the Dunnes; they knew Farrell Dobbs and Carl Skoglund and knew how honest these men were. Had there been, by the way, the slightest question of the honesty of the defendants in the leadership of 544, it would have surely been brought out in the evidence. No one dares impute any dishonest motives to any of the defendants.

Mr. Schweinhaut: Now, just a moment. I wish your Honor would instruct the jury that we could not have proved in evidence here that these men were dishonest except by criminal records, if any.

The Court: That is true. The jury will so heed that statement. Until a man proves his own character in evidence, it can’t be impeached or criticized by the government.

Mr. Goldman: It is in evidence that the union executive board did not permit racketeering. It is in evidence that all these government witnesses who testified that they joined the party in order to get jobs in the union, didn’t get jobs; that all the government witnesses who testified that they joined the party to hold their jobs, didn’t hold their jobs. The government witnesses finally succeeded in getting jobs in the union, only when the defendants, who built the union by their blood and their sacrifices in the course of many strike struggles, were pushed out and are now threatened with deprivation of their liberties. Take the testimony of all the members of the Committee of 99 and everything that I say will be borne out.

The government witnesses told the truth when they testified that they joined the Socialist Workers Party in order to get jobs. They probably thought that the Socialist Workers Party was like the Republican or Democratic Parties. They saw the defendants in charge of a union and they thought they could get jobs by joining the party of which the defendants were members. Quickly, however, they were disillusioned. They didn’t get any jobs because men like the defendants don’t put people into jobs in a union unless these people are capable.

Real Motives of Prosecution

The Committee of 99 covered up its real motives in the fight against the leadership of 544 by claiming to fight socialism. The prosecution likewise conceals its real motives.

Since January 1938 when the party was organized, we have been issuing a weekly paper, a monthly magazine and many pamphlets. I am sure that the all-powerful Federal Bureau of Investigation must have been aware of these facts known to many thousands of people. It was not, however, until July 15, 1941 that the Federal Government indicted the conspirators.

On June 9, 1941 the members of 544 decided to disaffiliate from the AFL and join the CIO. A little over a month after that, the indictment in this case was voted. The nearness of the two dates is a mere coincidence, the government claims, but it is certainly a very peculiar coincidence.

And why, pray, was the prosecution started in Minneapolis? The party headquarters is in New York. But the indictment was voted in Minneapolis and the government brought four of us from New York in order to cover up its real motives.

Was this case started in Minneapolis because a union defense guard was organized in Minneapolis? The fact is that in New York the party organized a workers’ defense guard which actually fought with the fascists and Bundists on the streets. The conclusion is inevitable: the indictment was brought in Minneapolis where the activities of the leadership of Local 544 incurred the enmity of powerful persons with influence in Washington, especially the enmity of one person whose name I am not permitted to mention.

Grace Carlson was a candidate for senator in the fall of 1940. She spoke on the same platform with candidates from other parties. She spoke over the radio. Everyone heard her and not a single complaint was registered. Could it be presumed that the FBI and the whole government were asleep? No, that is not the explanation. The indictment came after the decision of Local 544 to secede from the AFL Teamsters International.

Mr. Schweinhaut: Are you willing to have me tell you why it was brought up, Mr. Goldman? [1]

Mr. Goldman: Sure, try to explain it. You cannot convince reasonable people, who know that for three and a half years the party carried on its activities openly and with its headquarters in New York, that there is any other explanation for bringing the prosecution in Minneapolis and at this time, except as a result of the fight in Local 544.

How the Courts Function

One piece of evidence I must mention because it was introduced by the government only for the purpose of prejudicing the jury. It was my article on the federal courts. Perhaps the government will contend that because I do not think the courts have as their purpose the protection of working-class interests, I am therefore to be considered as one who would want to overthrow the government by force and violence.

I said in that article that under the present system the courts could not possibly give as fair a trial to a poor man as to a wealthy man. I didn’t blame the situation on the individual judge; I placed the blame upon the system. A judge may be as fair as any human being can possibly be and yet when he fines a wealthy man $200 and a poor man $200, there can in reality be no equality between the two fines. It is not a question of the intention of a judge but of the operation of a system. I think that in the article introduced in evidence I gave an example of a case where certain oil companies indicted under the Anti-Trust Laws were fined $5,000 and certain workers participating in a strike fined $500. It was not difficult for an oil company to pay $5,000 but imagine how difficult it was for a worker to raise $500. The injustice lies in the social system which the courts mirror.

We proclaim that men are born equal but can it be said that the child born in a wealthy family, with all advantages assured him, is equal to the child born in poverty, deprived of the possibility of getting proper food and a decent education?

The Rank-and-File Defendants

I do not intend to consider in detail the evidence against the individual defendants. You already know that I have not conducted the case on the basis that some defendants may be more guilty than others. Still, as a lawyer not only for myself but for all the defendants, I wish to point out that the evidence against some of the defendants could not possibly justify a verdict of guilty, even if you should consider that the party is guilty of conspiring to overthrow or to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. The government is obligated to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that each one of the defendants not only joined the so-called conspiracy but knew the nature and object of the conspiracy. As far as I am concerned, as far as Jim Cannon and Farrell Dobbs and others who rightly can be considered leaders of the party are concerned, we stand on the proposition that there could not possibly have been any conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence or to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. We stand on the proposition that our program, if rightly interpreted and correctly construed, does not and cannot mean that we are guilty of this kind of a conspiracy.

But who knows? Perhaps all that I say about our program will not avail us and I must therefore try to save from the clutches of the government those people who cannot be considered leaders of the party, who joined, not because they read the literature of our party, but because from bitter experience they learned the truth of our fundamental principles, namely that in this world there is a class that produces the wealth of society and a class that gets all the benefit of that wealth. These members are not acquainted with all the theories of Marx but they are, as we call them, class-conscious. The government has not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that every defendant knew and understood the nature of our program or the nature of the so-called conspiracy.

The fact that the government witnesses testified about certain defendants – that they said this or that about armed revolution – does not prove that those defendants knew the program. You must consider all the evidence from this angle: Did the government prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendants were members of the conspiracy and knew the object and nature of the conspiracy?

The second count in the indictment is based on a statute which was passed June 28, 1940. Did the government succeed in proving that all of the defendants were members of the conspiracy subsequent to that date?

This, of course, is a minor matter, but after all, if you believe the preposterous contention of the government that we advocated the overthrow of the government by force and violence, then you must make the government prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that all the defendants were members of the party subsequent to June 28, 1940. And the government must also prove that all the defendants had knowledge of the nature and object of the conspiracy. The government undoubtedly proved that the leaders knew what the party stood for, but in a legal sense they did not prove that all the defendants knew and understood the principles of the party.

Government Denies Rights to SWP Members

If you accept the theory of the government with reference to the activities of the defendants, then you have this peculiar situation, that a person who becomes a member of the Socialist Workers Party has no right to do anything at all which every other citizen has a right to do.

A person living in the United States has a right to join a union and to participate in the activities of the union. A member of the Socialist Workers Party cannot join a union and participate in its activities because if he does, it will be used against him as evidence that he was a member of a conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Other people have a right to oppose the country’s entry into the war now raging in Europe, but if a member of the Socialist Workers Party opposes the war, he is immediately subject to the charge of conspiring to overthrow the government by force and violence.

The government has introduced evidence covering a great many activities of the defendants. What follows from this? A member of the Socialist Workers Party cannot be active in a trade union; he cannot oppose the war; he cannot propose the creation of a workers’ defense guard to defend unions against fascist bands; he cannot possibly go hunting because he would have to purchase a rifle and that would be evidence of conspiracy.

Reporters, journalists, politicians, authors could go to Mexico for the purpose of seeing Trotsky, but not a member of the Socialist Workers Party because his visit to Trotsky would be introduced into evidence against him.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party cannot advise people to read Marx or Engels or Lenin. Professors at the universities can do so but not members of the Socialist Workers Party. A member of the Socialist Workers Party cannot go to a New Year’s affair, organized by the Socialist Workers Party. Everyone else can attend such affairs but not members of the Socialist Workers Party, for that constitutes evidence against members.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party went to Mexico and attended a bull fight, and it is introduced here as evidence against him. Perhaps because he may have learned the art of handling a sword and that would be evidence of a conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party has therefore only one right and that is to sit in jail and I presume even in jail he could be charged with a conspiracy to destroy the jail and the government. When Mr. Anderson, in his argument, made a statement that the Socialist Workers Party could do nothing that is right, he practically said what I am contending at present: that a member of our party has no rights except to be in jail.

Concrete Proof of Our Prediction

I must for a moment, ladies and gentlemen, go back to the question of whether we advocate the violent overthrow of the government, or simply predict that the social revolution will be accompanied by violence exercised by the minority. I want to give you an example taken from the evidence, proving that our prediction will undoubtedly be fulfilled and also proving that they who want to put us in jail because of our ideas are the very ones who use violence.

You heard Sidney Brennan testify that he is Secretary-Treasurer of Local 544. He admitted that he was not elected to that office, that he was appointed by Neal, Tobin’s Receiver. He admitted that the defendants were elected to office in Local 544 in the elections of January of this year. There was a fair election, a secret ballot and no one contested that election.

Who, ladies and gentlemen, practiced democracy in 544? Who used the ballot in order to get power in 544? The defendants.

Who are now in office in 544, ladies and gentlemen? The defendants who were elected? No, Sid Brennan, Bartlett and the other witnesses who could never get elected to office but who were appointed by Tobin’s Receiver.

Who practiced violence, ladies and gentlemen? Tobin’s goon squads. Who took defendants Roy Orgon and Jake Cooper off their jobs and beat up Jake Cooper? The minority who couldn’t and didn’t get elected to office in 544 organized their forces and exercised violence against the defendants who were elected to office and against the rank and file who elected the defendants to office.

And we make the same prediction with reference to the change of the social order. The defendants will get a majority to accept their ideas and the minority, determined to retain their power and their privileges, will be the ones to use violence.

In the case of Local 544 there was no possibility of answering violence with violence. Against the state government, against the federal government, against the goon squads, the defendants were helpless. We had to submit, but if there is anything that proves our contention that violence will come from a minority, it is this very example of what occurred in Local 544.

Why didn’t the government give the truck drivers of 514 a little democracy? Why didn’t the government suppress the violence of the minority? Why didn’t the government see to it that the truck drivers obtained the right of having the union of their choice? Hypocrisy and nothing else characterizes the case for the government! Frame-up and nothing else! The government is part of the Committee of 99 and belongs to the faction led by one whom I am not permitted to mention.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart and the essence of this case.

The Court: I think, Mr. Goldman, that we will have a short recess.

(Afternoon Recess)

We Fight for a New World

Mr. Goldman: Ladies and gentlemen, you see before you defendants who are here in this courtroom because they are dissatisfied. Dissatisfied not with their personal fortunes, but with the social system, with the evils that exist under the present social order.

I presume that by and large the defendants could, if they wanted to, solve their own problems in a very satisfactory manner. And perhaps we ought to be in jail because, instead, we have spent our lives defending what we think to be ideas that can solve the problems of mankind. As for myself, who knows, maybe I could be a district attorney, perhaps even a judge. Perhaps Jim Cannon would be far better off personally if he thought and acted the way most people think and act. But all of us represent that type of person who does not think very much about his personal fortunes but thinks of mankind, of society in general.

The agony, the death of millions of human beings in senseless wars are not abstractions to us. We feel them keenly and we react to them and we try to create a world where destruction and war and poverty and disease will not be the lot of man.

We have studied and our studies have led us to certain conclusions and we have banded together to propagate those conclusions. We proclaim to the world that it is possible to build a new social order guaranteeing every human being a decent livelihood and a chance to develop his individuality, free from economic worries, free from the dangers of war. We say that we have reached an epoch where mankind must go forward to socialism or else back to barbarism.

With great effort and amidst tremendous suffering, man has traveled throughout the centuries in the direction of a better world. Men have laid down their lives by the millions so that future generations might cross over their bodies to achieve a world of greater freedom and more happiness. And throughout all history there have been men and women a little ahead of the procession telling the masses to proceed in a certain direction and to struggle for a larger share of the things that they create. And these men who have led the procession have had to pay for it – the prophets, Christ, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky – these are the men who fought for a new world and against them have always been arrayed the powers that be, the priests and Pharisees.

When Pilate said, “I found no fault in this man,” the priests became more furious and said, “He stirreth up the people throughout all Judea.”

“He stirreth up the people” – almost the exact words that Mr. Anderson used against us when he said we stir up the people. And we cannot deny that we tried to stir up the people. We try to bring them a message of hope that a new world is possible and can easily be created if only they take their fight into their own hands, a new world where war and destruction will be unknown. But as I have indicated to you, all our stirrings, all our messages, will be in vain unless we are correct in our general analysis, unless we are correct in our theory that the social system has reached a point of decline where no road other than the road to socialism will lead mankind into a peaceful world. All our pamphlets, all our papers, all our speeches will be for naught unless we are correct in our fundamental theory, and if we are correct in our fundamental theory, all the efforts of the prosecution to silence our voice will not avail.

The prosecutors, and those that give them orders, do not understand that to thwart our agitation it is only necessary for them to solve the problems of mankind. Do they think that by silencing the voices of a few agitators they can satisfy the people who will suffer the agonies of war and of the hunger that will come with economic dislocation after the war?

Mr. Anderson, in his opening speech, referred to the attempts of the defendants to destroy organized society. Imagine calling a society “organized” that permits millions of human beings to be slaughtered, that permits poverty in the midst of plenty, that permits the spiritual and physical violence that exists throughout the universe! Chaos and destruction and death are not characteristics of an “organized” society.

The strength of our ideas lies in the very fact that we are living in a thoroughly unorganized society. The strength of our ideas lies in the fact that our general predictions, based upon the laws operating in society, must inevitably come true. At the beginning of the First World War we said that it would not solve any of the problems confronting the peoples. Who can deny that we were right? And now we say to the people of this country, “This war which your leaders claim is a war for democracy against fascism will not solve any of your problems because if the capitalist system is permitted to endure, the inevitable result will be fascism and more wars.”

We base our activities upon a theory that has withstood the test of time and events. In the midst of a catastrophic war that will necessarily envelop the whole world, in the midst of the roar of cannons and the shrieking of shells, amidst the sobs and the wailing of mothers, amidst tears and blood, we still have hopes that the people will come to accept the ideas of socialism. The darkness that surrounds us can be dissipated only by the sun of socialism.

What Your Verdict Will Mean

No matter what your verdict is, it will be a historic one. Should it be guilty, then it will be an aid to reaction. It will, to that extent, aid the powers that are interested in preventing a change in the social order. It will not bring to a stop the struggle that is going on in society because, as I have indicated to you many times before, that struggle is a result of social conditions and not of our agitation.

A verdict of not guilty will mean that to that extent you are unwilling to lend your aid to the forces of reaction, that you are determined to live up to the Bill of Rights guaranteeing every minority in this country the right to free speech and free press.

We do not ask you to agree with our ideas. We have not asked you to do so once throughout this trial. We ask you only to understand these ideas and therefore to understand that we are not guilty of the charges leveled against us by the government. By a verdict of not guilty you will not only guard the constitutional rights of all minorities but you will help transform this chaotic world in a peaceful way.

The more democracy we have, the greater the chances are for a peaceful transformation. Do away with democracy, and violence will surely accompany the social revolution. What more can I ask of you than by your verdict to guard the Bill of Rights and thus help prevent the plague which is threatening to destroy civilization, the plague of fascism.

Permit me to say once more and in conclusion: Our ideas, a product of existing conditions, are indestructible. They will ultimately conquer the minds and the hearts of the masses who will struggle for their realization because there is no road to peace and plenty other than the road of socialism.



1. Assistant Attorney-General Schweinhaut, who followed Goldman in the final argument, never tried to explain it.

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