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Susan Green

ADA Convention Exhibits Futility

Leaders Offer Nothing Better Than Another Ride
on Merry-Go-Round of Capitalist Politics

(8 March 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 10, 8 March 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The first national convention of Americans for Democratic Action, held in Philadelphia, February 21 and 22, was a public exhibition of top labor leaders desperately clutching the skirts of New Dealers, with the letter hanging on for dear life to the apron strings of the Democratic Party.

Present were nearly 600 delegates from forty states, representing some 25,000 dues-paying members of ADA. Besides the noted anti-Wallace liberals such as Mrs. Roosevelt, Paul Porter, Leon Henderson, Wilson Wyatt, Adolph Berle and others, there was an imposing array of national and local labor leaders from nearly all the non-Stalinist unions, AFL, CIO and independent. AFL President Green, Reuther of Auto, Dubinsky of ILGWU, Whitney of the Trainmen, Wolchok of Retail and Wholesale Workers, Emil Rieve, Allen Haywood, James Carey, Green of UMSWA and many more labor leaders were at the convention in Philadelphia.

Nothing new came out of the convention to better the political position of the workers. The clearly expressed. anti-Wallace stand was not exactly new. Before the delegates convened it was well known throughout the nation that this was to be a convention of anti-Wallace and anti-Stalinist liberals and labor leaders.

The convention and its speakers correctly condemned the Stalinist coloration of the Wallace movement. In the statement of policy adopted, the organizers of the Wallace movement are upbraided for “proclaiming devotion to civil rights at home” and for being “the first to condone judicial lynching, slave labor and the police state abroad. The rest of the anti-Wallace position af ADA is, however, absolutely incorrect from the point of view of working class interests. ADA is opposed to the Wallace party because it will “split the liberal vote.” This is simply another way of proclaiming adherence to the two-party system. “The liberal vote” is supposed to go to “the liberals of both parties” – both capitalist, on the other hand, the interests of the people urgently demand the coupling of opposition to Stalin-Wallace with advocacy of an independent Labor Party free from Republican, Democratic and Stalinist ties.

That the powerful labor contingent at the convention did not come out for a real party of labor marked the measure of their weakness, inadequacy and pathetic political dependence on the New Deal remnant. Constant exhortations to “organized labor to defeat the reactionary forces in Congress and in state legislatures” – quoting from William Green’s convention speech – are nothing more than the old, bewhiskered, ineffective policy of “rewarding our friends and punishing our enemies.” Again, the statement of policy adopted by the conventions states, among other things: “ADA considers it essential that the Democratic Party recognize that liberal achievement is essential to its continuance as a significant force, just as liberal and independent votes are essential to its re-election.” This is easily recognizable as the old system of bartering with the capitalist parties; “What election promises will you give us for our votes?” To date this kind of political trading has simply dissipated the inherent political strength of the masses.

Walter Reuther, who voiced no opposition to this discredited policy, himself implied its futility. Here are some graphic phrases from his speech, as reported in the press: It will take “more punch in liberalism’s good right arm” to end “the double threat of the commissar and the storm trooper” ... “the outlook is bleak” ... “the middle, which is our proper ground, is being blasted out ... in the bitter crossfire of totalitarian extremes.”

Does Reuther think labor is helpless between the capitalist reactionaries and the Stalinist tyranny, and the middle ground of “liberal capitalism” even though it is “being blasted out”? It is not true that there is no other alternative but to remain to be blasted out. Actually a single step would take the labor movement, and with it the mass of discontented people, onto firm new ground. The step is into an independent Labor Party, aiming at workers’ government to end capitalist domination, and at the democratic socialist reorganization of society – the exact opposite of Stalinist statism.

Will Back Truman

No such step was taken by the labor leaders at Philadelphia. Instead, one may predict, the “Lib-Labs” of ADA are going to support the Democratic Party, in spite of playing hard to get. The convention closed without endorsing Truman, and in fact his supporters at the convention got a cool reception. The delegates adopted the statement: “It is the sense of this convention that ADA should take no action with respect to a Presidential choice until both major parties have held their nominating conventions, and that the organization’s position then be established on the basis of the respective nominees, the vice-presidential nominees, their records and their party platforms.”

This may well be a bid for a vice-presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket to suit ADA’s taste. Also, actually, ADA is not so far from endorsing Truman, its support of a candidate, it has been stated, depends on his stand on the Marshall Plan, on civil rights, on anti-inflation measures and on Palestine partition. At least Mr. Truman’s recommendations and speech-making record can be said to meet the first three points. IF something is also patched up for Palestine, supposedly Mr. Truman will meet the minimum requirements set by ADA for its support. Indicative of the way the wind is blowing is that the CIO News has already started the Truman build-up.

It will take forceful and unrelenting pushing from the rank and file of organized labor and the masses nearest to it to move their politically weak-kneed leaders off the middle ground onto firm new ground – or out of their positions of leadership.

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