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Susan Green

Deportation Orders Threat to Liberties

(23 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 8, 23 February 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On February 16, outside his home in New York City, Ferdinand C. Smith, national secretary of the National Maritime Union, was arrested on a deportation warrant and escorted to Ellis Island by agents of both the Immigration and Naturalization Service and of the FBI. There he will await a hearing on charges of being illegally in the United States and of being a member of an organization advocating the overthrow of the United States government, namely, the Communist Party.

While waiting for his hearing, Smith may have the company of John Williamson, labor secretary of the Communist Party, consigned to Ellis Island six days previously, also on deportation charges. The Department of Justice has made it known that the arrests of Stalinists thus far are only the prelude to what is known as the department’s plan to “clean” out the Communists in the labor movement.”

This purpose of the FBI is the product of the hostile relations between the United States and Russia. It is called “a national security measure” – in preparation for World War III. The United States government is not going to have agents of the prospective enemy in key positions in important unions. The Department of Justice intends to show in the case of Williamson that he is a native of Scotland and, though he has posed as an American citizen, never became one. (Williamson claims he was born in San Francisco.) Thus, since he is an alien and a member of the Communist Party, which the department contends stands for the overthrow of the United Stales government, Williamson is banned from this country.

Then – and Now

The case of Ferdinand C. Smith is even more technical. While Smith is a native of Jamaica, British West of the United States, the charges against him are merely that he returned to this country in 1945, after a visit to Mexico, without a visa. This makes him an alien illegally in this country, and of course he is also a member, of the Communist Party.

It is reported that the government has known about Smith’s alien status at least since 1944. But then the Communist Party line was different and Smith was touring nine states in behalf of the fourth term campaign of the late Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the Stalin-Hitler pact, we remember, Roosevelt was the “imperialist warmonger.” In 1944, however, FDR had become the great democrat fighting with the democracy-loving Stalin against Hitler. In 1948 the line has turned back on itself and Roosevelt’s presidential successor is the “imperialist warmonger.”

In the halcyon days of the Stalin-Roosevelt “friendship,” Ferdinand C. Smith – the alien advocating the overthrow of the United States government – was given a testimonial dinner at which Democratic Party leaders praised him for lining up the Negro people behind Roosevelt. The capitalist government and politicians are as unprincipled in following their own interests as are the Stalinists in following the party line.

A Despicable Measure

The despicable anti-working class role that the Stalinists in the unions are playing as agents of the Russian bureaucratic dictatorship should not blind the workers to the ominous game the government has started. The workers themselves must by their own union methods clean the treacherous Stalinists out of key positions in the unions because they are dangerous to the unions.

The fight in the National Maritime Union, where President Curran headed the anti-Stalinist forces against National Secretary Smith, heading the Stalinist crew, is a legitimate union struggle to cleanse the union. However, when the government, under cover of a “national security unions those whom it selects for this purpose, it is time to raise load protest. This constitutes a threat to labor’s right of self-determination within its unions.

Labor wants no deportations. Deportations are as despicable a device as any employed by the rulers of society. It will settle its own score with the enemies within its ranks. Neither will outlawing the Communist Party serve labor’s interests. That will simply set a precedent for outlawing a minority party whose program IS based on labor’s interests – though the CP line is not. Any “outlawing” that is to be done, labor can do by withholding its votes and its support. No deportations and no outlawing!

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