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Tom Mooney Must Be Freed!

(May 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 20 (Whole No. 116), 14 May 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Free Tom Mooney! Free Tom Mooney! shouted tens of thousands of workers in New York’s May Day parade. Free Tom Mooney! – with a spirit the rain could not dampen. One knew that all over the United States hundreds of thousands of his fellow, workers were shouting the same demand with the same spirit. It was the voice of the class conscious vanguard, the future troops of the revolution, demanding the freedom of the living symbol of their struggle against capitalism. One had only to hear the measured beat, the deep tone of their shouting to realize how profoundly stirred they were by the monumental hypocrisy and brazen impudence of that watch-dog of capitalism, his excellency, the governor of California, he, who “convinced” himself of Mooney’s guilt and refused to free him.

Free Tom Mooney! It was the response of the American working class to the impassioned cry of Mooney himself against this latest insulting verdict of capitalist class justice. Mooney’s letter of April 23 to Rolph says clearly that his place is in the ranks of this vanguard, in the front rank of the war against capitalism. Tom Mooney – has today grown to be a mighty oak, admittedly too dangerous to be at liberty during this desperate economic crisis, because he symbolizes the onward march of the revolutionary workers toward a better civilization – “You have continued in the role of your predecessors in making of me a symbol of the cause of labor. I accept the high honor you have conferred upon me with the greatest of humility. This service I will ungrudgingly render to my class, with the greatest of devotion, loyalty and fidelity. I give – gladly and willingly – my very life to the cause of the toilers all over the world, regardless of race, color, creed or nationality. I will never cease this holy struggle until every last instrument used in this dastardly frame-up is completely liquidated and a classless society will replace what now passes for civilization.” This is revolutionary talk.

Under the circumstances, for what better mandate to organize the movement to free Mooney could Communists ask? Mooney is ours even in his thinking. Will we take his mandate and mobilize the masses behind the vanguard? This depends now upon the leadership of the Communist Party.

The responsibility is theirs. The rank and file has already demonstrated its determination to fight. What is necessary now is to begin without delay a serious approach to the whole working class with the idea of setting them in motion for the freedom of Mooney. They must be approached in the first instance through their organizations.

We do not care how reactionary the leaders of the reformist organizations are, the cause of Mooney is dear to their rank and file. And our mandate gives us the right to be heard. If for the nonce the shouters of names, the Stalinists, will restrain their vocabulary of epithets and denunciation, will substitute for slander and abuse the simple proposal of a united front of working class organization on the sole issue of freeing Mooney, the Communists can and will succeed in winning the support of the workers. Of the possibilities which this would open up for the fight for relief and for Communist influence, we need not speak here.

The Stalinists insist nowadays upon being assured in advance of the leadership of any movement they enter. For example this is what they proposed to the Marine Workers’ Defense Committee. Failing this they make every attempt to smash the movement. They smashed the Mooney conferences in Staunton and Belleville, Illinois, last winter because they could not slander their way into the leadership. In Minneapolis and St. Louis – the same story.

Mooney has almost guaranteed that the Communists shall lead the movement for his freedom. What are the Stalinists waiting for? Do they want personal appointments written on the stationery of the Comintern and witnessed by a notary? What holds them back? What limits them to demonstrations of the vanguard and street runs?

They have reached an impasse. The masses, it is now clear even to them, are not their property and do not obey their beck and call. They must now go to the masses in their organizations and work with them as equals. For this they have every requisite in the objective situation and every help from Mooney. But for this they must throw overboard their fake united front from below and their ideological weapons of slander and abuse.

This turn is not easily made. There are the “counter-revolutionary” Trotskyites who have been agitating for this turn right along. They will lose face when the party rank and file sees that the “counter-revolutionists” were correct after all. Bureaucratic prestige is no small matter. It is not to be lightly thrown away.

The party rank and file can resolve this dilemma It can raise its voice through discussion and resolution. It can and must say that it demands the immediate calling of genuine united front conferences of all working class organizations on the sole issue of fighting for Mooney’s freedom.

For its part, the Left Opposition will continue to hammer home this theme. And when the conferences are convened, as in time they must, we will enter them to fight with the party rank and file for the freedom of Mooney, for the unity of the Communist vanguard and the advance of Communism.

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