Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Civil War in Athens, Tenn.

(10 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 32, 10 August 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Capitalist politicians and mealy-mouthed liberate who encouraged:the bloodiest sacrifices in the imperialist “war for democracy” were screeching “Mob rule!” last week at the real war for democracy that raged on election day in Athens, Tennessee.

A couple of thousand World War II veterans, many of whom had shed their blood overseas for Wall Street’s brand of “democracy,” decided to take their guns in hand and defend their democratic rights here at home. They did such a bang-up job that they drove the whole rotten Boss Crump-Cantrell machine right out of town and out of McMinn County.

The veterans had organized a GI Non-Partisan League which is seeking a progressive change from the graft-ridden, dictatorial rule of the old-line Democratic Party machine that has dominated Tennessee with terror and corruption for many years. The vets campaigned for a slate of independent Democrats and Republicans.

On election day, the incumbent boss machine set more than 300 gun-toting “special deputies” loose on the town. These armed thugs began to beat up ex-GI poll watchers, drive them at gun-point from polling places, and threw a number of the veterans into jail on trumped-up charges.

When two of the veterans were tossed through a glass door of a polling place and returned covered with blood to their campaign headquarters, their buddies decided then and there to defend themselves against this terrorism in the only way possible – arms in hand.

They sent the word out, and in short order a couple of thousand veterans from all oyer the county mobilized in Athens. They didn’t come empty-handed either. And when they found out that the sheriff’s men had stolen ballot boxes and were hiding them in the jail house under a guard of 75 pistol-packing hoodlums wearing bright new badges, the veterans proceeded to pour enough lead and dynamite into the jail to make the “deputies” cry “Uncle!”

An honest count of the ballots showed that the veterans’ candidates had won overwhelmingly.

Double-talk liberals, who claim they “deplore” the, attempt to terrorize and rob the Athens veterans of their elementary political rights, nevertheless also “deplore” as “mob rule” the efforts of the veterans to defend themselves.

“Mob rule” is a term generally used by ruling minorities when those who represent the will of the majority fight in a militant and organized fashion. When a ruling minority seeks to frustrate the majority’s will by fraud and violence, it is called “constituted law and order,”

When a thousand state troopers, with the support of a lynch mob, last February machine-gunned the Negro community of Columbia, Tenn., ransacked homes, clubbed women and children, and murdered two jailed Negroes – that was “law and order.” When veterans in Athens, Tenn., resisted similar “law and order” – that is called “mob rule.”

The liberals would have had the Athens veterans merely “deplore” the terror against their comrades and the stealing of the election. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power on the bones of the German and Italian workers because the liberals and labor leaders permitted the masses to fight only with windy “deplores.”

If the veterans were misled by employers’ propaganda into acting as strikebreakers and antilabor vigilantes, the bosses would hail them as “patriots.” But since the veterans fight, on the picket lines and militantly defend their political rights – that, you see, is “mob rule.”

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 19 June 2021