From The Militant, Vol. V No. 3 (Whole No. 99), 16 January 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The apathy which prevails in the Illinois coal fields has been lifted to some extent by the campaign under way to demand the release of Tom Mooney. For this issue, the miners are evincing a readiness to struggle. Conferences have been organized in Staunton and Belleville. Plans are being laid and pushed for conferences in other mining centers.
These conferences are largely the result of the efforts of local militants cooperating with the St. Louis branch of the Communist League of America (Opposition). The line of these conferences is based upon Mooney’s August 20 appeal and the Opposition’s endorsement of this appeal (Militant, 9-5-1931). It stresses the united front as the key to the problem of uniting the workers in a struggle to force Mooney’s release and the release of all class war prisoners.
The Opposition delegates fight resolutely in these conferences for this policy. All attempts to exclude the I.L.D., the C.P., and the party organizations are resisted by our delegates. On the other hand, our delegates, while supporting the party’s resolutions and themselves introducing resolutions against the Illinois criminal syndicalism law, are equally resolute in fighting the attempts of the Stalinists to divert the conferences along the lines of a fight against criminal syndicalism in general.
What has been the party’s policy in these conferences? Caught unawares by their organization, the Stalinists limited their participation to long-winded speeches and general attacks upon all non-Communists and especially against the “counter-revolutionary” Trotskyists. But this policy acted as boomerang. Their slander discredited only themselves and by contrast with the policy, sincerity and activity of our delegates, increased the prestige of the Opposition in the eyes of the miners. It goes without saying that we use the advantage which accrues to us to redeem from discreditment the ideas of Communism.
After several months of their futile policy, the Stalinists realized that more “decisive” measures were required to wreck the campaign and to undo what had already been accomplished. On Sunday, December 27, they descended on the second session of the Staunton conference en masse. They packed the conference with delegates mobilized from Springfield, East St. Louis, and even Chicago. On one pretext after another they interrupted the proceedings with irrelevant speeches and slander. The A.F. of L. delegates voted with their feet. Delegate after delegate left. The result is best expressed, perhaps in a letter from one of the local militants who has participated in all the struggles of the Illinois miners since before the war.
“It was either we control or we smash ... I don’t believe that more than one local remained in the meeting. I too left in disgust.” Why this militant and thousands more are not in the ranks of the Communist movement, and more specifically in the party, is all too clear.
The plan for protest meetings, which the conference’s Executive Committee worked out, was killed. The conference in Staunton is now a shed. The miners have turned their backs on it. Whether it can be revived is a question. The Opposition must and will attempt it. There is no other road except to condemn Mooney to lifelong imprisonment. The Opposition will continue to fight for a united front, with the I.L.D., the party and all Left wing organizations included. What will be the policy of the party? Will the party rank and file continue to tolerate this policy of slander and wreckage?
Last updated: 22.3.2013