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A. Roland

The New Leader, the Dies Committee
and Civil Liberties

(11 April 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 15, 11 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Attitude to Dies’ Witch Hunts

The New Leader takes the Dies Committee to task for “erring” in denouncing certain employees of the EWB in Washington as communists. The spokesman for social democracy takes up the refolds of the men involved and shows how wrong Martin Dies was in picking on them.

The matter that interests us is not so much the attempt of the New Leader to keep the record straight, but rather its attitude to the whole issue of witch-hunting by the Dies Committee. Thus the column written by Robert Trevor called Inside and Out remarks: “Very strange it is that while perfectly guiltless people are catching the tar-and-feathers, well known Communist liners hold office in other government agencies. For example, the Donovan office, Coordinator of Information, has been harboring Dan S. Gillmor. You will remember him as the barefoot boy who allegedly sank his fortune in Friday, the anti-British, anti-war, and 100% Stalinist weekly.”

The general news article on the Dies “blunder” makes the statement that “Undoubtedly one of the dangers in a democracy comes from public servants who hew to a party line; their loyalty to their country is transcended by the fanatical adherents to the partei.”

The New Leader shows its loyalty impartially by denouncing all “totalitarians” to the government. One week it points to fascists who have found their way into the army, navy or government work of one kind or another. The next, week it puts the finger on Stalinists who have done the same thing. Doesn’t this prove that these democrats are real honest brokers?

In a principled sense there is no difference between these social democrats and the very Stalinists they denounce. The Stalinists also feel quite free to demand that the government act against various elements whom they lump into one amalgam as “Fifth Columnists”, not excluding the social democrats of the left.

What Dies Committee Represents

Both these groups play into the hands of capitalist reaction. The Dies Committee is a useful instrument to the extreme right wing of the bourgeoisie, that wing which seeks to stifle every striving, every movement of labor tending towards its emancipation. The Dies Committee knows precisely what it wants in this regard. Its “errors” are purposeful errors. It calls everything communist which takes a liberal attitude towards the working class, just as Hitler calls everything that is anti-fascist Jewish. What Dies calls patriotism and loyalty to country is loyalty to the party of extreme capitalist reaction. When the New Leader calls on the Dies Committee to take action against the Stalinists, it is calling on the capitalists who placed Dies in Congress to take this action.

But these capitalists are quite ready to take action not only against Stalinists, but also against all labor unions, radicals, the labor press, working class organizations of all kinds. That is why main questions should come first, the bigger problems ahead of the lesser ones. To grant to a section of the government, the capitalist government, the right to fire someone not for some act but for his or her political opinions, is to strike a blow at civil liberties. Blows of this type – all history proves it over and over again – strike inevitably at the working class. Thus when we denounce the Dies Committee, it is not because that Committee picks on the wrong people, but because its witch-hunts are meant fundamentally to strike at and weaken the workers and their movement. Our denunciation of the Dies Committee is therefore for the purpose of guarding the rights of workers. This is the only principle involved and it determines our attitude toward the activities of the reactionary Congressional Committee.

No Real Class Point of View

It is quite well known that we hold no brief for the Stalinists. It is equally well known that we are enemies to the death of the Fascists. If we do not wax enthusiastic when the capitalist government aims its wartime blows even at the despicable Fascists, it is because we have seen so often in the past how such blows to the right precede far greater blows to the left, at the working class movement, particularly at its most militant wing.

The New Leader is totally unable to draw proper distinctions as to its conduct – even while showing up the similar conduct of the Stalinists – because it has no real class point of view. It attempts to draw a line not between capitalists and workers, but between liberal capitalists and reactionary capitalists. It identifies itself with liberal capitalism, with the New Deal. That is why it feels no contradiction at all in taking the liberal capitalist attitude towards democracy and civil liberties. As a defender’ of bourgeois democracy it feels perfectly free to denounce individuals to the government who might be a menace to capitalist democracy. It does not matter much which camp the menace comes from.

But this is emphatically not the road to working class democracy and emancipation from wage slavery. Those who wish to travel that road must not permit the capitalist class or any of its organs to decide what opinions it is permissible or impermissible for a worker to hold. The matter of opinions can be fought out within the ranks of the workers. That is the wisdom taught by all the great teachers of Marxism. It is a wisdom that cost the movement too much for it to be forgotten

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