Max Shachtman

Hooliganism Spreads to Brooklyn

An Open Letter
to the District Committee
of the Communist Party

(December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 56, 23 December 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

December 16, 1933

District Executive Committee
Communist Party, U.S.A.
New York, N.Y.


Last Thursday evening, a meeting was scheduled in the Brownsville section under our auspices at the Hoffman Mansion on the Subject Does Russian Recognition Mean the End of the Third International? The speakers announced to address the audience included our city organizer, Max Shachtman, and a member of the Brownsville Section Committee of your party, comrade Al Dasch.

Before the meeting actually began, a crowd of some forty to fifty members of the Communist Party and Young Communist League sought to break into the meeting without paying the admission fee and with the obvious purpose of disrupting the orderly conduct of the meeting. In spite of this, and because the subject of the meeting was of such deep concern to the revolutionary movement that we felt it only proper to have present as many comrades supporting your standpoint as possible, we finally proposed to a representative of the party section committee: we will allow twenty League and Party members to enter the hall free of charge if they will pledge themselves to observe the customary procedure and order of a worker’s gathering. To this proposal, the party representatives finally agreed. Twenty were admitted into the hall in the manner described above and they took their places quietly.

But immediately upon the opening of the meeting by the chairman, the party representatives – one after another – began a series of violent interruptions calculated to keep the hall in a turmoil and to prevent the meeting from proceeding. Neither the chairman nor anyone else of our comrades was able to utter a full sentence without being heckled and interrupted by the constant interjections of your members. Despite the fact that – as at all such meetings (whether called by you by us, or by any other, labor organization) – arrangements had already been made by us, your members presented the outrageous demand that the “workers present elect the chairman”; then that “one of our speakers should speak first and the other last”; etc., etc. These absurd proposals were of course rejected by us A proposal was however overwhelmingly adopted by those present to the effect that anyone deliberately interrupting from the floor when the chairman had already granted it to someone else, would be removed from the hall. The audience, composed entirely of workers, was indignant at the manifest attempt on the part of your comrades (who were obviously acting under orders from superior committees) to disrupt the meeting and prevent it From getting under way.

Tumult Brings Police

Worst of all is the fact that this tumult – especially unnecessary and condemnable in view of our announcement that the party representatives would be given adequate opportunity to speak in the discussion – frightened the hall proprietor to call the police. We sought to have them leave, but they refused. The effect, in a word, was that your comrades brought the police who, under the pretext of “maintaining order”, were intervening in workers’ disputes with the club.

The upshot of this disgraceful procedure was that the police finally assaulted the entire crowd with drawn clubs and brought the meeting to an end. In view of the growing movement towards Fascist conduct upon the part of the bourgeoisie, the conduct of your comrades is all the more reprehensible. Instead of making it possible to discuss workers’ disputes unitedly, that is, on the basis of workers democracy, you introduce hooligan methods into the labor movement which alienate workers and facilitate the black work of Fascism.

We therefore call upon you to take proper and deserved action against the ringleaders of the group which caused the riot and brought about the disruption of the movement. Their names are Gilbert, Ross, Rubel and Morris. More particularly, we call upon you to take action against those committees which are responsible for the mobilization of the Party and Y.C.L. comrades who were sent down to disrupt our meeting, for it is the superior instances which are more at fault than the comrades who are really the victims of their instructions.

We wish, further, to notify you that this Wednesday evening, December 20th, we intend to hold a mass meeting in Brownsville on the same subject, and with the same speakers. We intend to take all the steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of the scandal of last week, which was not, as you are well aware, the first time such attempts have been made by you to disperse our gatherings. At our coming meeting, there will be representatives of various labor organizations whom we are calling upon to attend in order to render their judgment upon the responsibility borne by you or anyone else on any occurrences that may take place.

In conclusion, we feel obliged to declare that a failure on your part to reply to this communication cannot be considered by us as anything but a tacit affirmation of your intention to condone, which means to approve and repeat, the conduct of your members. In that case, we desire to inform you that we will be duty-bound to take up this question in another manner until it is satisfactorily settled, that is, we shall energetically bring this issue before every working class organization within the reach of our members and friends, before every united front movement against fascism and, terror and persecution. There we shall have to demand of your representatives a public accounting for your conduct and your tactics given in the presence of workers, of whose attitude towards such methods we feel entirely confident. You must surely be aware that you, as well as every other organization, which is called upon to express its opinion on this question, will be held responsible by the working class for any position it may take.


Fraternally yours
City Committee
Communist League of America (Opp.)
Max Shachtman

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