From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34 (Whole No. 130), 20 August 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
With the rising tide of Fascism in Germany and the enormous crime being concocted in the Stalinist kitchens the Left Opposition has been struggling to discharge the great tasks imposed on it by the historic situation. The League has opened a national campaign of mass meetings in an attempt with the forces at its disposal to reach the masses of workers who are instinctively watching the development of the German situation with the greatest interest. We have printed and are distributing thirty-two thousand leaflets stating our position on the German situation.
In New York City we have increased the number of our street meetings in addition to our other activities. Recently we have broken into new territory where we have shown the face of the Left Opposition for the first time and delivered our message. In Yorkville which has a large German population we have held a number of successful meetings. The last one was attended by between three and four hundred workers. They listened attentively to the speakers’ analysis of the German situation, the unspeakable, despicably treacherous role of the degenerate social democracy, the fatal policy of the central committee of the German C.P., the cowardly and treacherous silence of the Stalinized Comintern, and what must be done if the workers are not to be deluged in a frightful blood bath.
They found nothing “counter-revolutionary” in what we said, asked a number of questions which revealed their intense interest in the German situation and their slowly growing grasp of the nature and role of the International Left. So systematic were they that when late-comers, party members on their way home from other meetings, tried to disrupt our meeting by heckling they warned the misguided party members to keep quiet and listen.
More recently we broke new territory in a section of Brooklyn, the outskirts of Brownsville. We spoke to an interested audience of about a hundred workers who appeared to be impressed by our position on the German situation, asked many questions and bought our literature.
Not all of our meetings have been as successful as the two just reported. Last Saturday, August 18, our meeting at Avenue A and Seventh Street was broken up by an organized gang of party members and members of the local Unemployed Council which is situated a few doors away. From the account which follows it can be seen that they were whipped into a lynching spirit by the party bureaucrats in retaliation for the powerful blows we have dealt them at the Anti-War Conference and in connection with the German situation. Not since the battles in the Labor Temple in the early days of the Opposition and the tours of comrade Cannon and Shachtman has an Opposition meeting been broken up with such premeditated and organized violence.
The meeting was one organized by us in our regular schedule of speaking activities. Comrades Milton, Carmody, Glee and Wynne attempted to open the meeting with comrade Milton on the speaker’s stand distributing our leaflet on the German situation. In a few minutes a crowd of more than one hundred workers gathered around the stand to listen to the speaker. Across the street a party bureaucrat mustered his misguided gang. Suddenly they rushed across to the stand, snatched our literature, hurled comrade Milton from the stand and overthrew it.
To the credit of some party members it must be said that they protested verbally against such gangsteristic tactics, and a few even attempted to assist our comrades physically. One Y.C.L.er said in the heat of his indignation that he was going to resign from the Y.C.L.
Our comrades retired to another corner with the platform to await help for which one comrade was sent. When all the comrades that could be mustered on short notice had assembled, a short meeting among themselves was held to organize the defense of the meeting. Our comrades then returned to the corner from which they had been driven, in a second attempt to hold the meeting.
They set up the platform unmolested amid an ominous silence. By this time the crowd has grown to more than five hundred workers. Our speaker mounted the platform while our comrades formed a ring around it. With the usual words of address, “comrades and fellow workers”, a tremendous boo arose from the Stalinists who surrounded the platform and the ring of our comrades around it.
For almost an hour this continued. Every time the speaker opened his mouth a tremendous boo arose. With the boos was growing a mingled chorus of threats and dirty epithets. Gradually the Stalinists who outnumbered us many times were working up the small stock of courage to the point at which they could attack the revolutionary representatives of Leninism.
Finally a Stalinist more frenzied than the rest rushed the platform only to be thrown back by the defense squad. The chorus of jeers and threats rose higher and the number of workers grew to almost a thousand. They looked on in amazement and confusion. It was obvious that they could see no reason why we should not speak.
A second time the Stalinist rushed and a second time he was repulsed. The Stalinist chorus rose still higher. No word the speaker uttered could be heard even by himself.
A third time the Stalinists rushed through a gap in our defense and before their assault the platform gave way. Like a pack of wolves waiting for their prey to be brought down the Stalinists closed in on us. Comrade Gordon was thrown face down to the ground by two Stalinists. A maniacal Stalinist female scratched comrade Beardslee’s face. Other comrades and some of our sympathizers received blows, marks of honor in the struggle for the ideas of revolutionary internationalism.
We defended ourselves as best we could. More than one Stalinist will remember us ruefully.
Some workers from the crowd rushed in to stop the fight and the Stalinists, disappointed in not rousing the workers to the same lynching mania, desisted.
With the announcement to the assembled workers and Stalinists that the Left Opposition would not be prevented from delivering its message to the working class by the Stalinists or by anyone we marched off in a body singing the Internationale.
What the thousand or more workers who were attracted to the scene witnessed, was a battle between two factions of the Communists initiated by the Stalinists. Instead of seeing the Communists everywhere in the front rank of the fight for free speech for every faction of the working class movement they saw the Stalinists break up a meeting of the Left Opposition before it had begun.
The League will return to this corner to explain to the workers the significance of what they saw last Saturday. And in so far as we are able we will redeem the prestige of Communism squandered so heedlessly by the Stalinist masters of the party. And we will explain to the workers what our position is on the German situation and why the Stalinists attempt to beat us up for speaking the truth about Hitler and about Stalin. We invite all party members and all workers who are interested In free speech for workers to attend our meetings and help us defend them against all attempts to break up our meetings.
Last updated: 31.12.2013