‘Local 8 of I.W.W. on the Firing Line’ from The Messenger. Vol. 4 No. 2. February, 1922.

‘Local 8 of I.W.W. on the Firing Line’ from The Messenger. Vol. 4 No. 2. February, 1922.

THE Administration’s policy toward the I. W. W. has been everything but frank, just and fair. On the contrary it has been mean, petty and cowardly. Believing that public sentiment was not as aroused and as insistent for the release of the members of the Industrial Workers of the World as it was for other prisoners charged with the violation of war-time laws it announced a different policy in dealing with the I.W.W. cases.

It was well established by the action of the Courts of Appeals of the seventh and eighth districts in the Chicago and Wichita cases, that the I.W.W.’s were found innocent of acts of sabotage or other industrial crimes. Their legal status now is the same as that of Debs before his release. In other words they are held in prison for expressing opinions in opposition to war.

Ben Fletcher.

As was pointed out in the foreword of the brief of attorney Otto Christensen, “many of the offenses that the I.W.W.’s were convicted of in the lower courts having been nullified by the action of the Court of Appeals, the legal basis for holding them in prison likewise has been changed.” “Since,” according to the Civil Liberties Union, the reversal of the industrial courts on which three-fourths of the evidence was introduced, these cases are in every essential analogous to the case of Mr. Debs.”

In view of the foregoing facts, it is apparent that the difference in policy in handling the cases of the Industrial Unionists, arises out of prejudice and class hatred.

It appears that the Administration acts not out of consideration for justice and right, established by facts and reason; but only out of fear of a general upsurge of an outraged public against blind, unreasoning intolerant, autocratic, Kaiser-like methods.

Recognizing this fact, Local 8 of the Marine Transport Workers of Philadelphia, has, in accordance with its general policy of enlightened, militant, revolutionary action, proceeded to arrange an intensive campaign of education and agitation in the interest of the 118 class-war and political prisoners still languishing in prison.

Only by ceaseless, relentless, systematic propaganda by labor, and such other agencies as the American Civil Liberties Union will President Harding and Attorney General Daugherty be forced to declare a general amnesty for the release of all class-war and political prisoners. Every American citizen black and white, Jew and Gentile; every worker and lover of liberty should write or telegraph his congressman and senator, the President and Attorney General to let the I.W. W.’s and political prisoners go. These politicians will listen to you now more than at any other time, because they are worried, ill-at-ease and uncertain about their political fortunes in the coming congressional and senatorial elections. They have their right ears to the ground trying to sense which way the wind is blowing. They have no interest in economic, political and social justice; they think of the “pork barrel,” patronage, “slush-funds,” election. They are essentially creatures of expediency and cheap opportunism ready and willing to do a political somersault in order to keep their mouths in the job-troughs.

This fall will witness the struggle for re-election of the present incumbents in Congress and about one-third of the present members of the Senate. These political parasites are trembling in mortal dread of defeat. Hence, like the rabbit in the bushes they jump ready to flee with and without reason. Thus the workers can capitalize this political state of mind by bombarding both houses with letters and telegrams in the interest of general amnesty. Of course don’t accept any promises. They must put up or shut up. They have no principles except those that benefit the profiteers, consequently, they will promise you anything and give nothing.

Walter T. Nef.

But if we start a back-fire of education and agitation now, while the “ins” want to remain in and the “outs” want to get in, we will get an immediate and respectful hearing, and very likely achieve our desired end-opening the jails upon the battle-scarred champions of economic and political liberty. Besides, the United Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers’ Association and Wall Street, the real masters of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the President and the Attorney General, always alert to allay unrest, seeing that the workers of hand and brain are determined and unafraid, will order their political lackeys to let our people go.

After all, we won’t get general amnesty for class-war and political prisoners until we want it. In very truth we haven’t wanted it. President Harding and Wall Street knew that we didn’t want it. For if we had really desired to free the I.W.W.’s and other war prisoners for political offenses, the jails would have long since opened and they would have walked forth to breath the air of freedom; to join the militant host of workers struggling, sacrificing, bleeding, yea, dying for working-class emancipation.

Well might Local 8, an organization composed of two-third Negroes and one-third whites, lead the host for a general amnesty. Three of her most tried, tested and able leaders- Neff, Fletcher and Doree were the victims of the war hysteria. These Fellow Workers have been the pillars of the I.W.W. organization.

Edward F. Doree.

In these times of storm and stress, the workers are in great need of honest, able, and fearless leadership. While it is true that leaders will always rise up to fill the places of those who have fallen in or been removed from the immediate struggle, yet it is a fact which we can not ignore that those men who have gone through the fires of persecutions, thereby acquiring an invaluable fund of experience, can not be very readily replaced.

Hence, let us work and fight until we free all prisoners, class-war and political. Let us turn the searchlight of publicity upon the Administration’s crime against free speech, free press, and free assemblage. Let us make the whole nation resound for political and class-war amnesty.

On with the fight

The Editors.

The Messenger was founded and published in New York City by A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen in 1917 after they both joined the Socialist Party of America. The Messenger opposed World War I, conscription and supported the Bolshevik Revolution, though it remained loyal to the Socialist Party when the left split in 1919. It sought to promote a labor-orientated Black leadership, “New Crowd Negroes,” as explicitly opposed to the positions of both WEB DuBois and Booker T Washington at the time. Both Owen and Randolph were arrested under the Espionage Act in an attempt to disrupt The Messenger. Eventually, The Messenger became less political and more trade union focused. After the departure of and Owen, the focus again shifted to arts and culture. The Messenger ceased publishing in 1928. Its early issues contain invaluable articles on the early Black left.

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