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Albert Gates

Review of The First Round Points to Need of

Labor Party for Fight to Finish!

(February 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 9, 26 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Political Action Committee, more popularly known as the PAC, organized by the CIO at its sixth constitutional convention in November 1943, is a new phenomenon in American political life. It took the country by storm when it appeared in the 1944 presidential campaign as a well-knit, firmly organized labor battalion in behalf of President Roosevelt.

The labor-baiters seized the opportunity for a nation-wide anti-union campaign, on the theory that any political activity by the workers is bad. The political activity of the PAC was bad, in our opinion, but for reasons altogether different than those expressed by Dies, Hearst, McCormick and the whole host of reactionaries. As a result of the reactionary pressure, the PAC was twice investigated in Washington (then exonerated by the FBI) and generally condemned by the big business, anti-Roosevelt press.

But as a result of enormous energy, organization and expenditures, the PAC succeeded in rallying millions of votes in behalf of a capitalist candidate for President and hundreds of national and state politicians, as well as local machine hacks and ward-heelers of the two old parties. These very activities helped to make many workers in this country politically conscious, although in a capitalist direction.

What the Book Portrays

So vast was the activity of the PAC that a book has just been published describing its formation and activities. This book, The First Round, by Joseph Gaer, a member of the PAC staff, is not the kind of history of a movement that we frequently meet. It is not an all-embracing analysis of the origins of the movement, its political and organizational development, in an effort to place it in the history of American labor. It is, rather, an advertisement for the PAC, popularly written, and containing for the most part a series of pamphlets issued during the campaigning days of the PAC.

In any case, the book is lively, simply written, containing considerable punch precisely because it reprints the extremely well-written pamphlets which the PAC issued during the period of its active campaign: By so doing, the book reveals exactly what was wrong with the PAC from the point of view of the long-term interests of the American worker and his union movement.

American labor has shown over a period of years, great ingenuity in developing methods of struggle (the sit-down strikes, industrial unionism) that would strengthen it in the fight against big business, which has at its disposal the government, the police, the yellow press, the radio, the movies and even the church. On the economic field it is capable of rising to great heights in the struggle against rapacious bosses representing the big monopolistic firms and other giant corporations.

Political Awakening

Politically, the American worker has not kept pace. Whereas he knew well what to do in an economic struggle and what to do around a conference table with a boss, when he went out to vote he usually voted for this same boss or some politician hand-picked by him. And while the American worker would never think of selecting the boss or his agent to represent his (the worker’s) viewpoint or demands in a labor dispute, he would and does vote for him on the political field.

In recent years, however, the American worker has been growing up politically. Slowly but surely he is beginning to understand that, just as it is necessary for him to be organized economically in his trade unions, he must be organized politically through his own party, with his own candidates and with a program for labor.

These rumblings for independent political action grow louder and louder. This is what scares the two big capitalist parties, the Republican and Democratic. This is what scares the politically backward labor leaders, who are tied hand and foot by the capitalist politicians. They work with might and main to prevent the workers from organizing politically.

It is true, as Mr. Gaer writes in The First Round, that “labor has always been in politics.” He cites the example of Gompers. Gompers, however, never tied himself to one capitalist political party, as did the PAC. No, under the AFL watchword, “Reward your friends and punish your enemies,” he had his feet in the mire of both capitalist parties.

Gompers, however, had this much in common with the Greens, Murrays and Hillmans of this day: he too fought against independent labor politics when that means that labor should organize its own party with its own candidates and its own labor program in the interests of all the people.

“PAC started out with a program. It had a plan. It carried out its activities in an orderly fashion. It established a national organization which, in turn, cooperated with CIO international unions and their administrative units in the states and in the cities. These joined hands with other labor organizations, with farm organizations, and with many civic, religious and professional groups.”

All of this is unquestionably true. It is also true that the material issued by the PAC was well written, graphic, pointed, punchy and intelligent. But ... the well-organized propaganda which unquestionably had a great deal to do in causing the fear of the reactionaries and the attacks which followed, was contradictory.

Propagandist for FDR

The PAC has become the strongest single propagandist for capitalist politics in the ranks of labor. To fortify its campaign for Roosevelt, it naturally had to campaign against genuine, independent political action by labor through its own party, and played no small role in preventing the organization of such a party during 1944.

The First Round contains figures of PAC funds and expenditures. We are, of course, uninterested in the attacks of a Dies Committee on the matter of funds. We do not think that the fund, from the point of view of capitalist politics, is very great, because we know that capitalist parties and politicians spend ten and twenty times the amount of money labor spends in elections. Our objections to the funds raised and spent by the CIO’s political arm arise from our consciousness that this money, coming from the blood and sweat and tears of the workers, was used for anti-working class results.

Some “Achievements”

PAC raised a total of $1,371,978.90 from unions, individuals and the National Citizens PAC! It spent the total sum of $1,047,955.11!

Forming a major part of its activities was the enormous amount of literature issued:




16 pamphlets


  8 leaflets


14 misc. leaflets


21 posters


  3 24-sheet posters
   and billboards


10 flier st’m’ts


  5 misc. items


  6 badges




  3 letters


And the net result? In the short period since Roosevelt has been in office, he reorganized the millionaires club at the State Department by changing the personnel, but not the club itself. It is still a millionaires’ club.

Roosevelt is behind the determination of Stabilization Director Vinson to keep wages down, to keep them frozen, to keep unchanged the Little Steel formula, which the whole labor movement is fighting.

Finally, Roosevelt is the author of the demand for a National Service Art to enslave American labor for private profit!

This is what we mean when we say that the PAC was organized for the wrong purpose and carried out bad policies for the American worker, policies which already have had harmful results. Roosevelt’s fight for a slave labor bill alone is the answer to the PAC’s claims. The PAC to date has not spoken as an organization against the National Service Act. And that still isn’t all. Almost all the senatorial and congressional candidates endorsed and supported by the PAC voted for the May-Bailey limited National Service Act! Neither Murray nor Hillman can gainsay these facts!

For a Second Round

But the book, The First Round, is an excellent proof of what labor could really do in the field of politics. It demonstrates beyond a doubt that if labor expended this energy, money and organization building a great labor party of its own with a militant labor program, nothing could stop it.

If all the work which went into the pamphlets, leaflets, advertising material, the meetings and the speeches were directed to real independent political action, toward the formation of an independent Labor Party, nothing could stop it – nobody could stop it.

Labor would then truly be on the political march, – not for capitalist politicians and capitalist parties – but in its own interests.

Such a development in this country would truly mark the “Second Round.” And the “Second Round” is what labor really needs to make lasting political and economic progress.

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