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Irving Howe

Labor Action Replies to St. Louis Paper’s Slander

(March 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 13, 30 March 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following letter has been sent by the managing editor of Labor Action to the editor of the St. Louis Star-Times. It is reprinted here for the interest of our readers:

March 21, 1942

Editor, St. Louis Star-Times
St. Louis, Missouri

Dear Sir:

My attention has been called to an article in your issue, dated March 10, in which Labor Action – a weekly labor journal in whose name I write this letter – is both incorrectly connected with a certain organization and an extremely serious and vicious implication is made about its character. In order to clear this matter up, I wish to make the following points:

1) Labor Action is not, as your article asserted, the “official organ of the Socialist (or ‘Social’) Workers Party,” nor has it ever in any way been connected with that organization. Until recently, Labor Action was the official organ of the Workers Party, and though no longer such, is still regarded as a partisan of the Workers Party’s principles. A simple check by your writer of these facts would have prevented this error.

2) A slanderous and vicious implication is created about Labor Action by your writer by using one of the oldest tricks in journalism. He writes a paragraph about “Japanese agents ... promoting pro-Japanese Pacific Movement among Negroes of this area.” He then follows immediately with a description of the alleged activities of the Socialist (or “Social”) Workers Party in New Madrid County and of Labor Action. Thus, by “cleverly” making two utterly unrelated assertions, one immediately after the other, he creates the obvious implication that the alleged activities of the Socialist Workers Party and/or Labor Action are in some way connected with the “pro-Japanese Pacific Movement”

I do not have any way of knowing if the Pacific Movement is active in New Madrid County, but I do know that it is a vile and libelous slander to connect in any way a labor newspaper, such as Labor Action (which has always been opposed to Japanese imperialism – even when many people were selling, or sanctioning the sale of, scrap steel to Japan, which is today landing in the bodies of American boys) or a labor organization such as the Socialist Workers Party, with this Pacific Movement. It is true that Labor Action printed an exposé of the Sikeston lynching and it is possible that copies of that issue were read in Sikeston itself. But what connection has that with “pro-Japanese activity?”

Certainly, the Star-Times does not believe that anyone opposing a lynching or advocating better working conditions for sharecroppers is thereby “pro-Japanese.”

What makes this matter particularly sinister is the fact that Mr. Carl Pretschold, the author of the article in question, is fully acquainted with all of these matters, and could not possibly be ignorant of the above-mentioned facts.

I insist on immediate publication in full of this letter in order to clear up the slanderous impression created by Pretschold’s article.


Sincerely yours,
Irving Howe
Managing Editor, Labor Action

P.S. – I am enclosing for your information a copy of the March 23 issue of Labor Action containing an article which gives the point of view of Max Shachtman, national secretary of the Workers Party, on this matter.

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