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Albert Glotzer

National Mooney Meet Lays Basis for Broad Fight

First Genuine National United Front
Gathering of American Workers
in Recent Times Marks Progress

Three Tendencies in Communist Movement Clearly Revealed
in Clash on Policy and Resolutions;
Left Opposition Defends Marxist Position

(May 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 26, 13 May 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Chicago, Ill. – One thousand and forty-eight delegates, representative of all sections of the labor and working class political movements, met in response to the call issued by the Tom Mooney Molders Defense Committee, at the Free Tom Mooney Congress in Masonic Auditorium in Chicago on April 30, May 1 and 2. The congress marked the first attempt, belated though it was, to organize a nation-wide united front movement in behalf of Tom Mooney. As the first working class gathering of such a character it was accomplished with some success. But more than this is the fact that it indicated the potentialities for mobilising the masses of workers in struggle, through the wide, bold and constant utilization of the united front tactic.

The efforts to organize the congress met with resistance on the part of the leaderships of the American Federation of Labor, the socialist party and the independent unions under the influence of the Socialists. In spite of the sabotage of the reformists the congress nevertheless did make considerable progress in comparison with the past period. The incomplete report of the credentials Committee revealed the following representation:

Representation at the Congress




Local and Central Bodies of the A.F. of L.



Independent Unions



T.U.U L.



Communist Party






Proletarian Party



Socialist Party






Communist League of America (Left Opp.)



Communist Party (Opp.)



Labor Party



Local and National Defense Org. (I.L.D., G.D.C., etc.)



Fraternal Organizations



Unemployed Organizations



Women’s Organizations (YCL, YPSL, SYC’s)



Veterans Organizations



Farmers Organizations



Negro Organizations



Shop Committees






It is to be observed that this is the first time in the history of the American labor movement that a united front gathering on a national scale has ever been held. This fact was generally recognized and accepted in the congress. And it is in consideration of the fact that the congress marked the beginning and not the culmination of the movement that considerable hope must be expressed for the future of this movement, if the tactic applied (in spite of serious errors committed) is extended on even a broader scale.

The congress was opened at three o’clock on the afternoon of April 30th, by John Werlick, chairman of the Chicago Committee. He introduced Louis Scott, the personal representative of Tom Mooney and organizer of the Congress, to make the first report on the pre-congress preparations. Scott reviewed the unsuccessful efforts made to enlist the services of the socialist party and the American Federation of Labor to take part in the movement; the early support received from the ACW, ILGWU, and the W.C., and their later withdrawal because of the participation of the Communists.

He was followed by A J. Muste, representing the Conference of Progressive Labor Action, who reported on behalf of the Arrangements Committee. Muste proposed the election of a presiding committee to be in charge of the congress work. Among those proposed and elected to the Committee were: J.B. Mathews of the socialist party; Roger Baldwin for the Civil Liberties Union; John Werlick, B. Kllisberg, Alex Frazer of the P. M. A.; Wm. Leader of the Hosiery Union of Philadelphia; Chas. Bloom of the Molders Union of St. Louis; Selina Burrell, Women’s Auxiliary of the P.M.A.; J. Farley, George Smirkin of the YPSL; Moore, NAACP; Ralph Chaplin, I.W.W.; Al Renner of the Proletarian Party; Louis Scott, Wm. Patterson, Secretary of the ILD, A.J. Muste; Jack Johnstone, C.A. Hathaway, Robert Minor, I. Amter and R.M. Lovett. Chas. Bloom, H. Newton and George Smirkin were elected secretaries of the Congress.

The chairman of the first session was Alex Frazer. Benjamin Ellisberg reported for the California delegates on the work of the Mooney committee in that section of the country. He was then followed by Robert Minor who made a report on the Mooney case, its history and present status. The report, as a review of the whole case, was done well. It lacked, however, a concrete characterization of the present stage of the struggle and a report of what should be done. The discussion that followed the report also assumed a more or less agitational character without correctness.

Cannon Takes the Floor

It was only when comrade Cannon got the floor, that a different note was sounded. In the short period of five minutes allotted to the discussion, he stressed above all the question of policy and program of activity. Presenting the position of the Left Opp., Comrade Cannon declared: The Opposition does not consider the present congress as the culmination of the movement to free Tom Mooney, but rather as the beginning of the struggle, the basis upon which to broaden the entire movement. He proposed to begin a new series of local and district united front conferences mobilizing ever-broader sections of the working class, drawing in new forces into the united front, and preparing for a national and international Mooney Day. All this work, Cannon stated, must lead to the organization of another national congress with a goal of at least 10,000 delegates. “The policy for all this work,” said Cannon, “which shall govern the activity of the leading committee on a national scale and all the local organizations is the policy of the united front of workers’ organizations.” He closed with the declaration that the Left Opposition would present motions on program and policy and along this line to the resolution committee. It was only following the speech of comrade Cannon that efforts were made by other speakers to touch upon the subject of policy and program.

With the first session drawing to a close, Muste in reporting for the presiding committee made the preposterous proposal to conclude the congress on the afternoon of the second day in order to bring the congress to a fitting climax with the Mooney Mass Meeting scheduled for six o’clock in the evening, at the Chicago Stadium. This proposal took the congress by surprise. The congress had no sooner settled down when this proposal for adjournment was made. Herbert Zam, the delegate of the Communist Party (Opposition) rose immediately on the floor to object to the proposal of the presiding committee. He was followed by a representative of the Proletarian party. An obvious confusion existed among all delegates, who found it difficult to understand the nature of this proposal. In speaking of this proposal, comrade Glotzer stated for the Left Opposition, that the most important task of the congress, policy and program was still to be reported upon and discussed, he pointed out that until then the congress had merely reviewed the Mooney case; but it had not even elected a resolutions committee (scheduled for the next day) nor begun the decisive work for which the congress was called Considerations of a financial character or the desire to bring the congress to a fitting climax could never outweigh the importance of the deliberations of the congress itself. Throughout the hall delegates rose in objection to the proposal of the committee. A motion was made to table the proposal until the following day. In observation of the mood of the delegates, the presiding committee accepted this substitute.

Election of Resolutions Committee

The second day of the congress opened with Wm. Leader in the chair. Discussion continued on the report of comrade Minor, while awaiting the proposal of the presiding committee for the Resolutions Committee. This committee was the most important of the congress. It had to take up the question of policy and program and report back to the congress floor. The committee was composed of delegates the Proletarian party, A.F. of L. locals, the socialist party, the YPSL, the YCL, the TUUL, the Communist party, other Mooney local conferences, and the Left Opposition (comrade Cannon). The selection of comrade Cannon was more the result of pressure by certain delegations, rather than by the presiding committee in which the party had the majority. The proposal to add Zam to this committee, to represent the Right Opposition was defeated by the overwhelming Party vote. At the conclusion of this point, the resolutions committee went into session and the discussion of Minor’s report continued.

Before the closing of the second day of the congress, it was decided to continue the congress on the third day as originally scheduled. The proposal was made the night before for adjournment, stood out even more ridiculous, on the second day, when it became clear that even after the second day, the congress had not yet concerned itself with the question of policy and program, or with a report of the resolutions committee.

In behalf of the presiding Committee, Bill Gebert proposed to adjourn the congress in time to permit the delegates to attend the May Day demonstrations held by both the socialist party and the May Day United Front Committee (Left wing.) This proposal was unanimously accepted by the congress. All delegates were to be present at the Mooney Mass meeting in the evening.

The Third Day of the Congress

The congress reconvened on May 2nd, at the Masonic Auditorium, with Joe Weber, of the TUUL, acting as chairman. The resolutions committee which could not conclude its work remained in session while the congress continued the original discussion on the report of Minor. During this discussion comrade Albert Goldman, the Chicago Attorney for the International Labor Defense took the floor. He made two criticisms of the congress which were by and large correct. Goldman stated that in calling this congress the policy of the Molders Committee should, have been directed to the organization of a joint arrangements committee representative of the socialist party, the A.F. of L., the Communist party, the TUUL, etc. Such a committee should have then called the conference into existence. While this policy was finally adopted, Goldman declared that it was adopted somewhat too late to be of real effectiveness.

His second criticism was on the manner in which the congress was conducted; referring to the abnormally long discussion of a purely agitational character and the failure of the congress to spend the major part of its time on the question of policy and program.

Scott rose to answer Goldman, but his reply did not meet the criticisms made. During the course of his answer Scott made clear to the delegates that he was not a member of the Communist Party nor the International Labor Defense. Among the following speakers were Gebert and Zam. In the course of his speech Gebert again raised the question of the united front from below. In this he only re-echoed the remarks of Amter, who had stressed sharply this same policy before. Zam declared his opposition to linking the general struggle for workers’ rights, or the Scottsboro case, with the fight for the release of Tom Mooney. Speaking in the name of the Communist party (Opposition) he informed the congress that it was their position that the congress and its policy confine itself exclusively with the issue of Tom Mooney, without raising the other questions of workers’ rights.

The Reports of the Resolutions Committee

Discussion on the report of Minor closed with the arrival of the resolutions committee, which remained in session during the first part of the last day of the congress. C.A. Hathaway reported for the resolutions committee. On a number of minor resolutions there was agreement, but in discussions of the main resolution different points of view were presented. He said that resolutions presented by the Lovestone-ites and the Left Opposition were tabled. Differences existed on the main resolution over one particular point upon which there will be a minority report by comrade Cannon. The I.W.W. presented separate resolutions favoring a boycott of California products and the calling of a general strike in the event that Mooney is not freed or continues to remain in prison. The resolutions committee while not opposing these resolutions in principle proposed their non-adoption by the congress, because of their inapplicability at the present stage of development of the workers’ movement in this country.

Returning to the resolution, Hathaway declared that a sharp difference existed between the majority of the Resolution which says in effect: that during the existence of the united front, there shall be no attacks by the participating organizations upon each other, so long as each loyally carried out the decisions of the congress. Hathaway attempted to convey the idea that this does not mean to liquidate the independence of the organizations involved, or abolish the freedom of criticism – though in reality it is precisely a weapon which the misleaders of labor are looking for. This was a concession to the leaders of the A.F. of L. and the socialist party to get them into the united front, Hathaway said. It was designed to prevent them from saying that they could not participate in the united front because they refused to be attacked by the Communists. It is to show the workers that everything possible is done to pave the way for the participation of their organizations.

In making the minority report, comrade Cannon called attention to the fact that the resolution of the Opposition was not tabled, but all of its points were incorporated in the main resolution reported on by Hathaway. When this was done it was not necessary to fight for the separate adoption of the proposals of the Left Opposition. “We are interested in the adoption of a correct policy,” comrade Cannon said, “and if you will table all our proposals as you have this one, we shall not object.”

Speaking for the Left Opposition, Cannon declared that aside from one clause, he supported the resolution which was in general correct. The amendment made by Cannon read as follows: “Each organization entering the united front obligates itself to discipline in action but retains its full independence and its right to criticism.” This clause would permit of no misunderstandings by anyone participating in the united front. It is the only correct basis upon which the united front can be organized. To do otherwise is to tie the hands of the revolutionary elements, which could react favorably only to the reformists.

Toward the close of his minority report, comrade Cannon read from the Daily Worker of April 30, the declaration of the Communist International, revising again its position on the united front and calling for the resumption of the tactic of the “united front from below.” As a parting question Cannon asked whether this meant that the Party would now change its position again and revert to its old policy. This change of line by the C.I. caught the Party unawares and in replying to a similar question put by comrade Gerry Allard, Hathaway replied that, this did not mean a revision of the line, but applied only to the May Day demonstrations.

The conference adjourned to move to the People’s Auditorium for the final session of the congress. Discussion followed upon reconvening. Roger Baldwin before leaving the congress made a statement in complete support of the majority of the resolutions committee. A similar declaration was made by Sol Lurks, recently expelled from the YPSL, because of his struggle in support of the Mooney Congress and the united front. Larks is one of the leaders of the Left wing in the YPSL and the socialist party. He supported the position of the majority on the non-aggression clause because in his opinion it would make possible further proposals for united front action to the socialists. Williamson speaking for the Party, made a vicious attack upon Goldman, Zam and Cannon. Coming when it did, the speech mocked the whole effort of the party to force through the non-aggression pact.

Glotzer Replies to the Critics of the Minority Report

Comrade Glotzer was given the floor in defense of the minority report. He declared that the main tactic of this congress should be the extension of the united front policy. The correct utilization of the united front tactic would make possible the increase of pressure upon the reformists. Only by such pressure will it be possible to force the leaders of the A.F. of L. and tho socialist party into united front action. To expect this in any other way, for example, by a non-aggression pact, was a mere illusion. Paul Mattick, representative for United Workers Party, spoke again against the non-aggression pact and called for rank and file control of the united front. He declared himself against the resolutions on boycott and united front. He was followed by Hansen, a member of the IWW, representing the Kentucky Miners, who spoke in favor of the resolutions on boycott and general strike.

A motion was introduced to close the discussion. In view of the fact that many speakers had not yet had the opportunity to present their positions on the floor, protests came from all parts of the hall. Zam particularly protested this action. He pointed out that he made an amendment to the resolution; that the amendment had not been presented to tho congress and that no one had had an opportunity to speak for it on the floor. A period of bedlam seized hold of the conference. During the confusion the motion carried and Hathaway proceeded to sum up his report and the discussion. During his summary speech, Zam again demanded to be given the floor to present his amendment and defend his position. At this point, Hathaway made the motion to give Zam five minutes to present his motion and to speak in defense of it. The motion carried.

The essence of the amendment by Zam, was designed to confine the Congress to the one issue of Tom Mooney and to leave the general question of the struggle for workers’ rights out of the main resolution. In continuing his summary Hathaway attempted to cover the struggle of the Left Opposition for correct policy by asserting that the Left Opposition was only interested in presenting its political program at the congress. This remark made little or no impression – it was an attempt to declare the position of the party against the Left Opposition.

Voting on the Resolutions

An endeavor was made to vote on the main resolution first thus making it unnecessary to vote on the various amendments proposed. Such a motion was carried. Here, comrade Cannon took tho floor to object to the procedure and proposed voting first of all upon the various amendments and then in the main resolution. In making his statement comrade Cannon declared that the delegation of the Left Opposition in voting for its own amendment (see above) would at the same time vote for the general resolution, excluding that section containing the non-aggression clause. This proposal was carried and the voting proceeded on the different amendments.

The amendment proposed by the Left Opposition received 63 votes. This was the largest minority vote in the congress. It showed too, that next to the party, the Left Opposition was the strongest political factor in the congress. The boycott resolution of the I.W.W. received 27 votes, and their general strike resolution 57 votes. The amendment proposed by Zam got 51 votes. Thus, the overwhelming majority of delegates voted in favor of the general resolution.

The final report of the congress was the election of a permanent committee. The Presiding Committee proposed a committee of 43. The name of the committee was adopted as the: National Mooney Council of Action. Additional nominations were made to this Committee. Among those nominated was Zam. When the motion was made to elect the original 43, comrade Cannon in the name of the Left Opposition proposed voting individually on the additional nominations, because the the Left Opposition was in favor of a representative of the Communist Party (Opposition) since they represented a definite current in the working class movement, had their own press and organization. In addition, it was made clear that neither the party nor the Left Opposition could represent their point of view.

This proposal was defeated and the project of the presiding committee carried by an overwhelming vote. The motion that of the permanent committee, those residing in New York City, shall compose the working committee, and that New York should be the central headquarters also carried. In addition, the presiding committee proposed that the secretary of the committee should be C.A. Hathaway. The last proposal carried without any objections. Among those on the National Mooney Council of Action are: A. Rentier, Proletarian party; George Smirkin, YPSL; J.P. Cannon, Communist League of America (Left Opposition); Van Gilder, socialist party; R.M. Lovett, LID; Selena Burrell, Women’s Auxiliary of the P.M.A.; Pat Ansboury, Progressive Miners of America; L. Scott, Moulders Defense Committee, Chas. Bloom, A.F. of L.; Emil Arnold, A.F. of L.; M. Olay, Anarchist; Robert Minor, C.P.; Wm. Patterson, I.L.D.; C.A. Hathaway, C.P.; A.J. Muste, CPLA; I. Amter, Unemployed Councils; J.B. Mathews, Socialist Party; Joe Weber, TUUL; and Alec Frazer of the Progressive Miners of America.

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