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A.J. Muste

Across the Country
with Cannon and Muste

(16 February 1935)

From the New Militant, Vol. I No. 10, 16 February 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The tour is over! Comrade Muste reports herein on the final meetings and his impression of the whole tour. Comrade Cannon, during the tour, was called to California and is now in Sacramento.

DAVENPORT and MUSCATINE, Ia. – It, is when one meets a small branch such as the one at Davenport that, one sees most clearly, perhaps, how thorough training in revolutionary theory can hold a group together in the face of the greatest obstacles and discouragement. If other branches made a showing in proportion to their membership in mass meetings, Chicago and Minneapolis would get out a thousand and New York five thousand.

At the Davenport meeting we had our first open encounter with sin American Legion anti-Bolshevik propagandist, a gentleman who sought to pin “the destruction of the home” and “bloody revolution” on us and who did not consider it pertinent when we pointed out that capitalism had robbed the workers of their homes, had murdered millions in the World War, in White Guard and Fascist pogroms, etc.

At Muscatine the workers in an unemployed union seemed not a bit shocked when told that under the new Roosevelt bill project workers would get only eleven dollars per week. After the meeting I learned they were getting only five or six dollars and figured that eleven would represent a hundred percent increase in the wage standard. To this has the proud American working class been reduced!

* * *

Crowded Hours in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The standard, not to say classic, Stalinist mimeographed leaflet distributed at our public meeting gives “the new line” of the C.P. on us, at least, for that day: the workers are warned to beware of “ultra-revolutionary parties” such as the W.P.

A conference with workers who want to discuss the details of the W.P. program, one with a group of progressive trade unionists, two meetings with middle class sympathizers, a business meeting of the branch, and a public mass meeting are crowded into 36 hours here.

Workers in St. Louis want to be organized, but the Federal Auto locals and others have lost membership. There is no one to give direction. A young officer in one of the new locals tells his experiences:

“An A.F. of L. representative was sent in to our Local. He made a speech. I thought it was a good one. Then I got home and my wife asked me what he had told us to do. I thought and thought, and then I woke up and realized he hadn’t told us a thing to do.”

St. Louis Branch W.P. has added some members and has some good prospects on the list.

* * *

ILLINOIS MINE FIELDS. – Shacks, dirt, poverty. Here one realizes again that Columbia has indeed fallen low. In one mining town P.M.A. members on strike over two years still believe in the Pearcy-Keck-Picek machine in the P.M.A. which supplies them with about fifty cents worth of relief a month, and regard Allard, Pat Ansbury and Jack Battuello as union-wreckers! But that will not last much longer. All the indications here confirm the reports which have been received in the National Office recently to the effect that the prestige of the militants in the P.M.A. is rising rapidly.

Meetings in Gillespie, Pana, Bullpitt which takes in Tovey and Kincaid also, and Springfield. The Gillespie meeting was held in the S.P. hall. Here for the first time on the trip the C.P. turned out in force. They should have spared their pains, for their record in the Illinois mine fields has thoroughly discredited them. In both Gillespie and Springfield the most serious and active workers turned out to our meeting, asked numerous questions and urged the Workers Party to send an organizer to Illinois. That call must be heeded.

* * *

“Best Political Meeting Yet”

COLUMBUS, Ohio. – The best political meeting yet held in Columbus from the standpoint both of numbers and of the level of questions and discussion. Dick Harrington was on hand. For months he posed as a non-partisan in the unemployed organizations and came to the N.U.L. convention at Columbus last summer supposedly as the representative of numerous unemployed bodies in several states of the Pacific Northwest. He has found it possible to leave the unemployed in that great area to their fate these many months and to busy himself in a vain effort to disrupt Unemployed Leagues in Ohio and turn them into Councils. He was given the floor and indicated that he was going to demolish “Trotskyism”. After one sentence he was off on a typical demagogic appeal for “united front in the struggle for bread” which netted him exactly nothing except applause from half a dozen “stooges” he has brought with him. And even these all gathered after the meeting around Sam Pollock of Toledo who happened to be present and listened for nearly an hour to his exposition of what a “united front” is and is not!

The mass meeting was followed by a three hour meeting of the Branch devoted to a serious discussion of how a revolutionary party functions in mass organizations.

An Old American Custom

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Here the revolutionary party holds its meeting in the Court of Common Pleas of Kanawha County! This is because the Unemployed Leagues have established the custom of holding workers’ mass meetings in public buildings. This was done on two grounds. First, the workers have a right to the use of buildings built and maintained by taxation; second, this differentiates the Leagues clearly from Ku Klux Klan and similar outfits which operate secretly and enables the Leagues to undermine their influence as organizations which do not operate in the open and consequently cannot lie for the interest of the masses. Despite winter weather and almost impassable roads party and mass work goes forward.

* * *

Pittsburgh – the Last Stop

PlTTSBURGH, Pa. – Last stop. Several hundred attended our mass meeting in Carnegie North Side Library. Rumors before the meeting that the police would break it up proved unfounded, though a few hung around the doors. A wave of repression and terrorism is sweeping Allegheny County, reflecting the nervousness of the authorities over the unrest among the unemployed, in the steel mills, etc. When committees protest to the mayor, a Single Taxer, he fretfully answers: “There isn’t anything I can do about it. Why, the police stopped one of my meetings once in North Side Park.”

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