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Carlos Hudson

The Case of Mr. Dillinger

(May 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 20, 19 May 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Our hero shoots another federal man, the federal men kill another brace of innocent bystanders, the mad search goes on – with the result that the newspapers gratefully coin a few more hundred thousands of dollars through their extras and special editions with which they have flooded the streets during the past few months: the Dillinger Period.

Now it is opportune for us to take a look at Dillinger, to examine and interpret this one-man crime wave from the Bolshevik point of view.

The bourgeoisie can condemn him, and do, a hundred times a day in their press. And for a very good reason. Mr. Dillinger frightens them; furthermore, they live in mortal terror lest he be apt to steal from them that money which they have in turn squeezed from the hides of the workers. The frantic appeals on the editorial page, urging the whole nation to rise up wrathfully and destroy Mr. Dillinger, are really amusing. He is labeled as Public Enemy Number One, the greatest menace society has known. Help us capture this fiend, you workers, for he may kidnap you or hold you up!

What tripe this is! The workers know full well who the real public enemies are. Compared with a Mellon, a Ford, Rockefeller, Hearst, the lone Dillinger ranks scarcely above the pick-pockets in our modern calendar of saints and sinners. But Dillinger has, up ’til now at least, been working the boulevards and the Gold Coasts rather than the avenues and the slums. The dainty occupants are bawling out their moral indignation. Yes, Dillinger is expropriating the expropriators. But is not this exactly what we hope to do? Let us look a bit further into the matter.

A High Class Bandit

As far as can be ascertained, Dillinger is no run-of-the-mill gangster. That is, Dillinger is not on the same level as the Capones and Maddens, obvious agents of the capitalist class, working hand in glove with the detective agencies, the A.F. of L. unions, the larger industrialists, newspapers, judges, chiefs of police, bankers, states attorneys, etc. No, we can assume that Dillinger preys directly on the capitalists, that he has never directly exploited the workers by the breaking of a strike, the bombing of a dry cleaning establishment, the railroading of a militant labor leader, or by performing any one of too myriad little tasks by which the ordinary gangsters serve their masters. Dillinger is an enemy of the bourgeoisie.

Should we not, then, take him to our bosoms: “The enemy of our enemy is our friend.” This, as a matter of fact, is the actual view that is held by an astounding number of workers and members of the petty bourgeoisie. Everywhere, one hears the weirdest opinions of Dillinger. He is called a Robin Hood, a friend of the oppressed.

And nothing could be further from the truth, of course, than envisaging Dillinger as a saviour, a friend of the workers. True, he expropriates the expropriators. But to whose purpose? The working class, or Mr. Dililnger’s own selfish purposes, and those of his henchmen? Dillinger robs the possessing class, but only in order to become a member of that class himself. No worker is a whit better off because Dililnger has tapped the golden stream to the extent of one million.

Flower of Capitalism

To understand the rural community from which Dillinger comes, plus the get-rich-quick philosophy which impregnated America until 1929, is to begin to understand Dillinger; a somewhat unique flower of capitalism, one that could attain growth only in the deadly competition which is everywhere rife in the United States.

In any case, the Dillingers of this age should have no significance for the workers. It is very like the press to devote tens of millions of words to Dillinger, and ignore events involving tens of thousands of people, events such as the various strikes now occurring which are of immeasurably more importance to humanity than are the exploits of a paranoic bandit.

Let the parasites fight off their parasites – it does not lift the heel from our necks.

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