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Susan Green

Labor Leaders Still Ride Capitalist
Political Merry-Go-Round

Progressive Conference
a Blind Alley for Labor

(25 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 47, 25 November 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The conference of progressives that met in Chicago in September had its aftermaths. First, there was a follow-up meeting in New York City during October. Then, last week, the same group gathered in Washington. Finally, plans were announced for a conference in January to develop a “progressive program” and to fashion “the most effective liberal coalition in the history of our country.”

The instigators of this movement are leaders of the CIO, CIO-PAC, the National Citizens PAC, the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts and Sciences, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, the National Farmers Union, and the NAACP, with the blessing of the die-hard New Dealers Ickes, Bowles, Pepper, Wallace.

Reporting the Chicago conference for Labor Action, in its issue of October 28, Albert Goldman characterized the outcome of that meeting, on the basis of its composition and its politics, as “a program of middle-class progressives who have come under Stalinist influence.” These progressives, both the Stalinists and the anti-Stalinists, proclaim their adherence to Roosevelt’s New Deal. The CIO News reported the New York City meeting referred to above, as held “to further the unification of Roosevelt followers throughout the country.” And the pre-election issue of the CIO News gave a spread to FDR’s so-called Economic Bill of Rights, stating that the program of Roosevelt “is also the program of the CIO.”

Assisting Stalinism

Why the Stalinists should be “champions” of Roosevelt is not hard to guess. As always, guided by the foreign-policy needs of the Kremlin, the Stalinists profess great devotion for the so-called Economic Bill of Rights while hoping that the rise of Roosevelt progressives to power will re-establish the Rooseveltian policy of appeasing Russia which has been replaced by the “get-tough” trend of Truman-Byrnes.

But why should the labor movement, Negro organizations, farmers’ unions, in short, the masses of our people, hitch their political wagon to the fallen star of New Dealism – a star, by the way, which was meant to guide capitalism out of a deep crisis rather than guide the working people to security, peace and plenty!

The star fell long ago and it was officially recognized even by its own creator. While FDR was spouting about the Economic Bill of Rights out of the side of his mouth, he performed the funeral service over the New Deal out of the other side.

This happened at the end of 1943, and not out of a clear sky. Why was the creator of the New Deal forced to abandon it? To understand this is to see also the futility of the Roosevelt progressives of 1946 vintage.

Roosevelt’s wartime policy, as far as the New Deal for the people was concerned, was a progressively increasing capitulation to reaction. He kicked out New Dealers from government posts – beginning with Henderson from OPA and ending with the elimination of Wallace from the presidential ticket – to make way for the creation of the war economy by big business itself. Without them he could realize his war policy. His “hold the line” policy boiled down to allowing fabulous blood profits out of the war but disallowing wage increases to meet the skyrocketing cost of living. Yielding to the needs of the capitalist class, he became the staunchest advocate of a national service law that would have struck a solar-plexus blow at labor’s freedom.

New Deal Had to End

It is not contended here that Roosevelt did not believe in his New Deal. Roosevelt in his lifetime, like Wallace today, believed that capitalism must provide the people with at least a minimum of their needs to prevent popular discontent from rising to revolutionary proportions. The point is, however, that no matter what a politician states to be his beliefs, as long as the preservation of capitalism is his dominating aim, he is the tool of the system and of the ruling class. Roosevelt’s procession of capitulations well illustrate this basic point.

Roosevelt’s secretary, Mr. Early, in explaining to newspaper reporters the president’s abandonment of the New Deal at the end of 1943, used two small sentences:. “The term New Deal was born in 1932. It is now 1943.” The significance of these sentences cannot be overestimated.

In 1932 the capitalist class was still critically sick from the attack of sharp crisis in 1929. In 1932 the capitalist class was ready to do anything to pull itself out of an economic abyss. The capitalists were willing even to follow the prescription of Dr. New Deal. However, as the years progressed toward, war and war orders restored robustness to the profit-makers, their attitude kept changing and FDR’s policies reflected the changes.

By 1944, the American capitalist class could afford to demand the end of New Dealism. It was bloated with war profits. It liked the feeling. It was winning a world war through the sweat and blood of the people. It came out of the war richer and apparently more powerful than ever before.

New Stage Is Reached

Now in 1946 the so-called progressive leaders of common people call for the resuscitation of the New Deal, for the rallying of all New Dealers, for a crusade of Roosevelt followers. But it is not 1932, nor even 1943, but 1946. Today American capitalism has both “opportunities” and “responsibilities” as the writers in the Sunday supplements tell us. It has the opportunity, as the only thriving economy in the world to grab unprecedented trade and other world-wide advantages – if only labor will be good. It has the “responsibility” to impose permanent militarism on the American people, in order to police the world and to prepare for World War III – and the people must be made to take it. Besides opportunities and “responsibilities,” the American capitalist class has in its pockets fabulous war profits which stir, in its heart a , consuming lust for even greater profits – and the workers must be prevented from getting a bigger share of the national product for themselves. These are no liberal objectives and they call for no liberal policies to fulfill. Putting it mildly, this is American capitalism 1946.

“But that’s just it,” say the Roosevelt progressives, 1946 vintage, “and that’s exactly what we will fight – however, we will not fight so hard as to endanger private enterprise, the profit system, capitalism.” Thereby they become tools of capitalism, fighting only with paper swords.

When the Roosevelt progressives meet in Washington in January, history will be calling on Philip Murray, Jack Kroll, A.F. Whitney, Jim Patton, Walter White, to get off the capitalist, merry-go-round. Will they do it? Will they say they have had enough of “progressive” capitalist politics and politicians? Will they break with Ickes, Bowles, Pepper, Wallace? Will they say that the reaction looming black on the horizon of American capitalism, can be fought only on a class basis? Will Philip Murray and Jack Kroll propose that the CIO-PAC become the formulation for an independent labor party, to rally all the exploited, the segregated, the oppressed, the discontented? Will they proclaim themselves no longer the political tools of the capitalist class? We shall see.

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