The Notebook of an Agitator

Good-Bye, Tom Mooney!

(14 March 1942)

Published: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 11, 14 March 1942, p. 6.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive/Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors, translators, proofreaders etc. above.

Poor Tom Mooney is dead, the long crucifixion is ended and the martyr is taken down from the cross and laid away in his grave. “The case is closed,” said the New York Times, in an editorial that was brief and neat and snug and smug. They are through with Tom Mooney and they are glad of it. Ah, yes, indeed, the case is closed, and well it is, for it had dragged out an unseemly time, the thread of the story had been lost and the grandeur of the long drama was bogged down in a soggy and pathetic anti-climax.

The Mooney case is closed! The case which mirrored American Justice as it really is; the case that broke from the grip of the frame-up gang and shot like a bolt of lightning from San Francisco to Red Petrograd in 1917, and then flashed around the world; the case that moved the hearts of millions; the Mooney case, with all its noble heroism, its unutterable tragedy and its shabby epilogue, is ended now. They buried Tom the other day in San Francisco where, if you stand on a high hill on a clear afternoon, you can see the sun go down to the sea in blazing glory behind San Quentin across the bay.

The Funeral Was a Frame-up, Too

Even Tom Mooney’s funeral was a frame-up and a tragedy. The dead body of the man who was buried alive because of his opposition to the first world war was held up as a sacrificial offering to the second. The “united” labor fakers officiated, and the services were patriotically dedicated to “unity for democracy.” There was an ironic twist to this dedication which could riot have been noticed by the dull-witted authors. God knows Tom Mooney’s share of democracy was nothing to brag about. The services were concluded, reports the Times, with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner – a tribute, so to speak, to the flag which floated so proudly for 22 years over the prison which confined the rebel who was put there in the first place because he sang another song.

Mooney, in his pamphlet, Tom Mooney Betrayed by Labor Leaders, referred to himself and Billings as “symbols of American class justice via the frame-up.” And he was 100% correct. “Organized capital framed us,” he said, and he accused “all major labor leaders with a few notable exceptions” of conspiring with his persecutors to keep him in jail. They imprisoned Mooney – as they imprisoned Debs and Haywood and hundreds of others – in order to clear the road of militant labor opposition to the first world war, and they kept him in prison for revenge and for a warning to others.

They are scheming to do the same thing over again, to other militants, in view of the present war, but there was no hint of this, to say nothing of a protest against it, at Mooney’s funeral That funeral service was a sacrilegious defamation of the cause for which Mooney fought and suffered; and a treacherous and hypocritical pretense that everything is rosy now. It was a field day for repudiation of the class struggle, and dedication to “unity” of the labor fakers with the oppressors and exploiters of labor.

Everything Was Nice and Tame

Naturally, the tone and spirit of the old, long, militant fight of the workers for Mooney’s freedom was absent from this macabre ceremony. An unruly “red mob,” demonstrating before the American Embassy in Petrograd in 1917, saved Tom Mooney’s life. The “labor leaders” deserted and betrayed him, but the “Reds” remained his friends. They kept his cause alive and wrote his name on banners carried on every fighting picket line.

The funeral was a repudiation of all this rowdy stuff. “Unity” was the watchword there, says the dispatch of the New York Times, “instead of the vitriolic tirades which had marked many Mooney meetings in the past.” Everything was nice and tame and circumspect. Russian Bolsheviks shouting, “Muni! Muni!” before the American Embassy, and American militants denouncing “class justice” in turbulent demonstrations, would have been as much out of place on the platform at Mooney’s funeral as the unkempt fishermen apostles of Christ at a Christian church service on Fifth Ave.

The Times beams complacently over the happy conclusion of the unpleasant business of the Mooney case. Trouble of this kind belongs to the past. Nobody was to blame. “In twenty-six years much water has gone over the dam. Labor and the employer are closer to understanding each other.” The Mooney case was just one of those things.

It was all a misunderstanding, it seems; perhaps a tragic misunderstanding. Anyway, it was a bit tragic for Mooney, you will have to admit, if you remember back. Twenty-two years are quite a stretch. In fact, when you take them out of a man’s life you don’t leave him much. And that is the saddest, the most heart-rending part of the case of Tom Mooney. When they finally got around to pardoning him three years ago it soon became apparent that they hadn’t left him anything of his old self.

Wasn’t His Old-Self Any More

The fine strong body of the young iron molder which they locked up in 1916 was shot to pieces when they finally turned him loose in 1939. All but six months of his three years of freedom were spent, flat on his back, in a hospital bed. Also, his mind, under all the batterings and shocks and disappointments it had suffered, had lost its razor edge and its fine sense of discrimination.

In his confusion he mixed himself up with the Stalinists. From such an association no man, not even Tom Mooney, could emerge wholly clean, for it is written that “he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith.” He played ball with the Stalinists and they used him for their purposes. Thus, the magnificent book of Tom Mooney’s life closed with a dirty and ugly chapter.

Let us try to ferget that, and remember the lion-hearted fighter in his prime; remember him as he so often, and so proudly and so truly described himself, as “a symbol of militant labor.” That he was, in fact, throughout the endless years of his martyrdom.

* * *

Good bye, Tom. Rest easy. You are entitled to it. In due time everything will be made right. Those who crucified you still sit in the seats of power, more arrogant than ever. They are gaily organizing another slaughter for profit and pelf, and their dirty labor agents at your own funeral mocked the cause for which you suffered. But the day of reckoning will come. The young generation Of revolutionary militants, inspired by the memory of Tom Mooney – the rebel Tom Mooney, the real Tom Mooney – who turned away from this ghoulish spectacle with a bitter curse, will avenge your long martyrdom, nobly borne. And they will avenge your funeral, too. They will yet dig up your bones and bury them over again properly, with a ceremony – and a song – they deserve.

Last updated on 20 August 2021