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Lydia Beidel

An Open Letter to Browder: On Hooliganism

Hooliganism in Chicago

(November 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 50, 4 November 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To the Central Committee
Communist Party of the U.S.A
Earl Browder, Secretary

Dear Sir:

Last Sunday afternoon, October 22, I attended a meeting of the Left Opposition in their own headquarters, called under their own auspices, at which comrade Arne Swabeck was scheduled to speak on Germany. Before the meeting could start, a horde of some 250 “Communists” – members of Section 5, District 8 – invaded the hall under the leadership of their Section Organizer, Jack Spiegel, and of a member of the District Committee, David Poindexter. On their own admission, they had come fresh from mobilization caucuses for the express purpose of breaking up the meeting. They precipitated a riot in which literature and furniture were destroyed, workers were beaten up and trampled upon, and such a commotion developed that the police came into the hall from the street.

I have been in the revolutionary movement all my life and have participated in many demonstrations, some of them bloody and brutal, but I have never felt that I was facing so vicious and irresponsible and .anti-social a mob as the one which came last Sunday under the banner of the Communist party.

I wonder if you as a leader of the Communist Party realize all that such a thing means? A party which conducts itself in the manner of the most degraded section of the very lumpen-proletariat – plus from the decayed and degenerate body of a rotting social system – can neither win healthy elements to its ranks nor lead the revolution when the moment arrives; on the contrary, it must become a feeder of Fascist forces. A party which cannot raise the intellectual and moral level of the proletariat but on the contrary trains line elements down to the depth of gangsters has no right to use the name Communist.

Is it too much for you and your party to learn that a meeting of workers, come together to hear anyone at all, must not under any circumstances be physically attacked and broken up? Or is the answer that you can only hope to impress the American proletariat this way since you have so signally failed to impress them ideologically?

Several months ago, I severed my connection with the Communist party (after twelve years of membership) over occurrences in Germany. At that time I stated that the excuse offered by the C.I. that the German party was not rooted in the factories needed further explanation because a party can only be a really functioning Communist party when its composition is mainly of the working proletariat. Maybe last Sunday’s event throws some light on the question. If the leadership of the German party trained its members not to win other workers by ideological conviction but by destroying the meetings they organized and hoped to conduct, then a revolutionist knows why the Communist party of Germany was not “rooted in the masses.”


Lydia Beidel

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