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T. Stamm

The Mooney United Front –
The Negotiations Must Be Conducted Publicly

(April 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 23, 15 April 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The third session of the Congress Organization Committee of the New York United Front Free Tom Mooney Conference revealed that the party has taken another step deeper into the opportunism swamp. The party was the dominating political current in the conference. It is in control of the Congress Organization Committee. If the party seriously means to build a united front movement and bring pressure to bear on the summits of the S.P. and the A.F. of L. through their ranks the organs of the united front are the instruments they must use.

The conference represented thousands of workers. The Congress Organization Committee has the right and the duty to speak in their name. What it has to say has a certain force and can constitute a pressure on the S.P. and the A.F. of L. bureaucrats and misleaders to remove the barriers they have erected across the road to the united front of the Mooney movement.

But the procedure must be open and take place before the eyes of the entire working class. When this is done the workers of both parties and in neither will see who stands in the way of unity and why. This is the way to teach the workers that the Communists are the spokesmen for the unity of the class.

This is not the procedure the party is following. It ignores the organs of the united front. Instead it has entered into a Negotiations Committee outside of the united front and its organs with Muste of the C.P.L.A. and Palmer of the Federated Press to draw the S.P. and A.F. of L. into the movement and the Chicago Congress behind the backs of its own membership and the working class. Hathaway’s article in the Daily Worker of April 8 makes it appear that the negotiations are taking place openly before the eyes of the working class. This is false.

The party has two men (names unknown) on this Negotiations Committee. What they do there except to commit the party to these behind-the-scenes maneuvers is not clear. Palmer does not report it.

According to his reports Palmer seems to be doing all the work of back-door bargaining. Last Saturday he reported the following: the second session of the Organization Committee voted to issue an open letter to the S.P. and the A.F. of L. inviting them to enter the Mooney movement and participate in the Chicago Congress. The letter was not issued because Louis B. Scott, Mooney’s personal representative, thought it inadvisable to issue such a letter at the present time in view of the stage which the negotiations have reached, instead Scott sent a personal letter to Julius Gerber! Palmer objected to Hathaway’s article in the Daily Worker of April 8 which sharply criticized the S.P. for its sabotage of the movement and its slanders against the Communist party and the Chicago Congress. He implied that it might have a disastrous effect on the negotiations.

Palmer reported that Clarence Senior had told him that the S.P. was conferring in Chicago with the A.C.W., the I.L.G.W.U. and the Chicago Federation of Labor over the question of participating in the Chicago Congress. Senior said that they had come to this understanding with the Chicago Federation of Labor: Fitzpatrick agreed that if Frank P. Walsh would state publicly that the participation of the Chicago Federation of Labor would help the Mooney movement they might come in. On this basis the S.P. would also consider the question.

Palmer got to Walsh. Walsh said that he had nothing to do with the propaganda end of the Mooney movement. He also said that he would not ask the Chicago Federation of Labor to participate in the Chicago Congress with Communists because of the latters’ attacks in the past on Nockels and Fitzpatrick.

So Palmer chased around to Nockels. Nockels said that the Chicago Federation would not go into the Congress if there was one Communist there.

Nothing daunted Palmer reported back to Clarence Senior. Senior said that the S.P. was anxious to have the Chicago Federation of Labor, the A.C.W. and the I.L.G.W.U. participate but if they refused the S.P. would vote on the question of participation nevertheless.

Earlier in the week Senior had wired Palmer the conditions on which the S.P. would consider the question of participation. These were two in number (1) the management Committee for the National Chicago Congress must be composed entirely of Chicagoans. This, said Palmer, was to insure control for the S.P., (2) the Mooney movement must drop all talk of a general strike.

To these ultimatist conditions the Negotiations Committee replied suggesting that a majority of the Management Committee should be composed of Chicagoans. How this would avoid giving the S.P. control Palmer did not make clear. To the demand for the dropping of the general strike slogan the Negotiations Committee, with two Stalinists on it, replied that no one, including Mooney, wanted Mooney’s name associated with adventurous stunts; the slogan was held in reserve, so to speak, in case Mooney got a raw deal at his forthcoming trial and was sentenced to be hanged, and his innocence was apparent to all – and so on ad nauseam; then we could consider a general strike!

All of this, Palmer told us, he reported to Hathaway! And all of this is reported to the Congress Organization Committee in the control of the Stalinists which votes to accept these reports! Only the Left Opposition raises its voice in criticism. Against our sharp warnings that this road leads to the swamp, plays into the hands of the enemies of the Mooney movement and discredits Communism in the eyes of the workers the Stalinists make a united front with Muste and Palmer in the Committee to reject our criticism and proposals.

At this session, at the conclusion of Palmer’s report, the Left Opposition moved that the Congress Organization Committee publish a summary of the negotiations up to date. Palmer ruled that the motion was out of order for lack of a second. He was about to proceed to the next item on the agenda when the miracle happened. Five delegates got up, one after another, and spoke for the motion. And it carried!

We attribute this stroke of good fortune to two causes. Palmer’s report was too raw for Communists to swallow. And the front line Stalinist bureaucrats were not present to put the seal of authority and discipline on this opportunist brew. Nessin, Winter, Ballam, Moore must be mightily pleased with the results of the Negotiations Committee and content to let it replace the organs of the united front in broadening the Mooney movement. They did not attend the meeting of the Congress Organization Committee!

The speakers’ committees of which Nessin is the chairman reported through one of its members that, among the speakers for the Mooney mass meeting which is being arranged for April 27, will be, if the committee’s invitation is accepted, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.

Wise needs no introduction to our readers. His attitude toward the Soviet Union and the working class movement is well known. It is sometimes necessary to suffer such people in united fronts – when they are the representatives of organizations participating in the united front. But that is not the case with Wise. He represents no one in this united front. Why does the party invite him to speak? This is not the way to build a united movement. But it is the Stalinist opportunist substitute for it. These adventurers think they will use Wise to fool the masses into believing that Hathaway and Wise on the platform are symbols of a united movement!

Strenuous objection was made to Wise by Linn of the I.W.O. and the Left Opposition. The motion of the Left Opposition to reject him was defeated. A motion to refer the matter back to the speakers’ committee carried.

That is how the movement for Mooney’s release stands now. The S.P. continues its cynical sabotage of the movement with impunity. And the Stalinists pursue their course deeper into the swamp. There were some people who greeted the party’s turn from the ultra Leftism of the united front from below with the hope that the Stalinists were steering a correct course. They showed little understanding of the nature of bureaucratic centrism. The Stalinists are incapable of pursuing a correct policy consistently. They move either to the extreme of ultra-Leftism or to the opposite extreme of Right opportunism. This is the direction in which they are pushing the party today.

That Muste and Palmer would engineer such dickers with the S.P. as this is to be expected. That is their political milieu. But that the Communist party should become a partner to such a shameful business is the special contribution to the repertoire of opportunism of Stalinism – a species of social reformism within the Communist movement. For people who turned over the leadership of the Chinese revolution to Chiang Kai-Shek, of the English General Strike to Purcell and Cook, of the fight against war to Holland and Barbusse it is a little matter to turn over to a Frank Palmer and a Muste the initiative in and the choice of method of building a united front movement to get Mooney out of jail! Against them and all they stand for the Left Opposition carries on and will continue to wage an irreconcilable struggle.

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