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The Militant, 14 March 1942

Workers Will Honor Tom Mooney
as a Great Labor Martyr

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 11, 14 March 1942, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Tom Mooney, one of American labor’s greatest martyrs, died on March 6 in San Francisco from the effects of 22 years of prison hell at San Quentin Penitentiary, where American capiialism had sent him on framed-up charges of participating in the 1916 San Francisco Preparedness Day Parade bombing.

As a result of more than two decades of world-wide working-class struggle to win his release, Mooney was permitted to enjoy three years of freedom before his death. He was released on Jan. 7, 1939 by a pardon from Governor Olson of California. But. his body was broken by his long prison torture, and most of his last free years were spent on a hospital bed.

The frame-up and persecution of Tom Mooney was the direct outgrowth of the pro-war anti-labor drive of the West. Coast employers prior to America’s entry into the last war and was the opening gun of a brutal offensive against organized labor which spread throughout, the country.

During the years of his imprisonment, Mooney came to symbolize to the class-conscious workers of America and the world not just, an isolated instance of a miscarriage of justice, but a living embodiment of the cruelty and injustice of American capitalism.

How Mooney Was Freed

Mooney’s innocence had been clearly established from the moment of his arrest. Every piece of “evidence” used to convict him was proved to be framed and manfactured. Those who testified against him were perjurers, as they themselves later confessed.

President Wilson was forced to commute his original sentence of death to life imprisonment in 1918 as a result both of world working class protest – including demonstrations of the revolutionary Russian workers – and the flimsy character of the case against him.

The American labor movement tried every legal means to obtain his freedom. But though even a U.S. Supreme Court decision, while denying jurisdiction in the case, admitted the shady character of Mooney’s prosecution, the powerful American capitalist class, through its courts and legal devices, continued to keep the prison doors closed and held his fate up as a grim threat to the working class. Had Tom Mooney been some capitalist swindler, the courts would have found a thousand legal loop-holes to effect his release.

He was finally granted his freedom not from good-will, but because of the growing power of the American labor movement and the recognition by certain capitalist politicians that Mooney in jail would be a greater rallying figure for militant labor that Mooney out of jail. Moreover, Governor Olson, who used the promise of Mooney’s pardon as a campaign pledge, shrewdly made political capital out of the overwhelming sentiment for Mooney’s freedom.

Mooney conducted himself before his capitalist persecutors with exemplary courage and fortitude. Not for a moment in the years of his imprisonment did he renounce his loyalty to the working class. He continued to defy his oppressors, refusing to accept his freedom on a parole which might have been interpreted as an admission of his own guilt and as an acquittal of guilt for his persecutors.

Succumbed to Stalinists

It must be stated as a sad fact however, that during the three years of his freedom Mooney failed to serve the working class as he had in the past. He succumbed to the reactionary virus of Stalinism, and permitted his deserved prestige among the workers to be exploited by this greatest scourge of the world labor movement. Under the guidance of the Stalinists, he ended up by calling for unity, with those same reactionary capitalist forces which had framed him. broken his body and condemned him to 22 years of living hell.

Nevertheless, the American workers, considering his long years of martyrdom and loyal devotion to labor, will honor Mooney, the symbol of capitalist injustice, and forgive Mooney, the sick individual who in his declining days became a tool of Stalinism.

With characteristic hypocrisy the capitalist press which for years supported the conviction of Mooney, now freely admits his innocence. A New York Times editorial, March 7, smugly concedes that “he was kept long years in prison not because many people believed him guilty, but because he had become a political issue.”

The Times’ Slurs

Now, the ruling class would like the American workers to forget the Mooney case. The Times seeks to denigrate the memory of Tom Mooney by attacking his personality – “He had no great or engaging qualities. He just happened to be innocent” – and proclaims: “Tom Mooney: Case Dismissed.”

But the working class will not dismiss the Mooney case. It will remember how Tom Mooney for 22 years demonstrated that greatest and most engaging of qualities – uncompromising loyalty to labor and unyielding defiance to the exploiters of labor. The working class will engrave the name Tom Mooney imperishably in its memory, along with the Haymarket martyrs, Sacco and Vanzetti, and all the long list of those whose suffering has epitomized the innate viciousness of capitalism.

No, the Mooney ease is not closed so far as the working class is concerned. That case will not be dismissed until the capitalist system itself, which continues to breed its Mooney cases, has been dismissed forever by the final judgment of the proletariat.

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