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David Coolidge

Why the PAC Policy Led to Defeat

Labor Has No Party of Its Own!

(18 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 46, 18 November 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The capitalist and also the labor press are saying that the Democratic Party suffered a defeat on November 5. It was a “landslide,” it is said, for the Republican Party. “The New Deal is dead.” “Free enterprise may now really be free.” “No more ‘regimentation.’”

“Had Enough?” asked the New York Daily News the day before the election. “Don’t lay that pistol down” the same paper continued. Hearst’s Mirror said that the victory of the Republicans is “like feeling clean again after a long time in the muck.”

What did the labor leadership have to say? Jack Kroll, head of the CIO-PAC, stormed through the capitalist press the morning after with the earth-shaking battle cry: “We have only begun to fight.” The “Continuations Committee of the Conference of Progressives,” announced that “the progressive forces of America remain strong. We have our great and growing trade union and farmer organizations ... the fight will go on.”

This conference was presided over by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., former Secretary of the Treasury, the man who made the proposal that Germany be stripped of all her industrial equipment and be turned into an agricultural nation controlled by the United Nations. And how will the fight go on, according to Mongenthau? Through an independent political party of “our great and growing trade union and farmer organizations?” Perish the thought. Mr. Morgenthau was clear about this. He emphasized that this group would stay inside,the existing parties and that a third party was not even discussed. Present and helping Morgenthau make this fighting decision were Addes of the UAW, Emspak of the UERMWA, Pollack of the TWU, and Kroll, fresh from his “we have just begun to fight” interview with the capitalist press. Aside from Morgenthau, other outstanding trade unionists and farmers present and taking a leading part, were Senator Pepper, Chester Bowles and Harold Ickes.

It Is Reassuring ...

The Republican Herald Tribune welcomed the festive and militant; spirit in the ranks of the “progressives.” This soundly Republican organ is run by men of “good will,” who know the value of a “loyal opposition.” In an editorial it said:

“It is reassuring that the Conference of Progressives has decided to continue its political activity despite the discouraging response to its efforts in the recent campaign ... Serving as watchdog, critic and vehicle of protest, the organized progressives can exert a salutary influence on the two major parties ... Without putting forward candidates of their own, they can nevertheless influence the selection of candidates and the modification of policies to an extent ...”

If Murray, Kroll, Addes and Reuther, for example, had blood in their veins and not water, this Herald Tribune piece would be to them like salt rubbed into an open wound. For what is this capitalist Republican paper saying? It is saying that the only role which labor can or should play in politics is to push the two capitalist parties around a little; influence them and insist on a modification of their policies.

The Herald Tribune is pleased that Morgenthau, Ickes and Wallace are in this “progressive” movement. The owners of this capitalist paper know what these men are. It is only the labor leaders who don’t know. The owners of the Herald Tribune know that Wallace, Ickes, Pepper, Bowles and Morgenthau are supporters of capitalism. They are all Republicans and Democrats. It knows that nothing untoward ban possibly happen to capitalism so long as this group is giving political leadership to “our great and growing trade union and farmer organizations.” These men are all Republicans and Democrats but they are also has-beens. Today they are discarded and are a bunch of professional politicians in search of a party. They seek a come-back in the manner of demagogues who have been rejected: they go to the “people.” And when the masses rally around the cymbals and big bass drums of the “progressives,” these gentlemen are then in position for the ever recurring betrayal. The masses are corralled bag and baggage for the Republican and Democratic parties.

Was Labor Defeated?

What is labor thinking today of all this? What do the workers feel about the recent elections? What is in their minds as they think over Kroll’s bombastic prediction: “we progressives are going to win on November 5. The philosophy Franklin D. Roosevelt gave us is a living philosophy today. There are millions of people ready to take up his challenge.”

The fact is that labor suffered a defeat on November 5. Was it a defeat merely because the capitalist Republican Party won and the capitalist Democratic Party was defeated? Not at all. It was a defeat because labor had no political instrument at its disposal to take care of its interests. There was no independent working class party. Labor was left to choose between the Republican and the Democratic parties. It was left stranded with the choice we have had for 86 years.

While all of them had felt “the hurt on their own bodies” they had no place to go save to Dewey or Truman. Stupid labor leaders and dried out liberals attempted to make it appear that this was a contest between Hoover and Roosevelt. But everybody knows at least that Roosevelt is dead and that Hoover is doddering along after him. And even if Roosevelt had been alive, what difference would that have made? Who killed the “New Deal” which Murray, Wallace and Kroll yearn for so plaintively and fatuously?

November 5 was a defeat for labor and the little people because the working class\had no program of its own for the elections and no program for the masses of the people. Millions of workers and others could see no reason to vote for a dead Roosevelt and forget the living Truman sitting in he White House. These workers were not impressed by the pro-Democratic Party propaganda of the CIO and its PAC. They had been through four years of war under the Democratic Party and hundreds of meatless days after the war under a government headed by this same party. They had seen this same party’s Congress pass anti-labor legislation and yield to the pressure not of the little people but of the monopoly capitalists.

The workers and the common people certainly were not impressed by the propaganda of the Stalinists that the Republicans were the fascist or near fascist forces in the country. It was just too much to expect the masses of the people to accept the charge of the Stalinists that Lehman, Guffey, Mead, Kelly, Hague and other Democrats were progressive Americans, while Dewey, Vandenberg, Lodge and other Republicans were incipient fascists. It would of course be foolish to believe that the workers who vote Republican did so primarily in response to the charge of the Republican demagogues, that the Democratic Party was “communist.”

Without any program of its own, without any organization of its own, without a goal of its own, labor did precisely what it has been doing for decades: a large section of it voted for the party which had not been in office for 14 years.

This has happened again and again, particularly in connection with control of the House of Representatives. The pendulum has swung from Republicans to Democrats and back again. In this election just passed the decision of workers and other toilers to vote Republican is not a conscious swing to the right. It was a swing from the Democrats to the Republicans; from one of the two capitalist parties to the other. Since they were dissatisfied with the Democrats, what would they be expected to do?

With the middle class things were different. They did swing to the right, and consciously. These groups had been harangued about strikes, “communists” and low farm prices and the high cost of or the absence of farm equipment because of the slow-down of labor and the high wages paid to labor. But here too it would be wise for the labor bureaucracy to stop and think a little. The middle class was and is embattled. It too has been hit by high prices and low income. This group also had no place to go except to the Republicans or Democrats. It chose the Republicans. Had labor taken the lead with a party and a program fit for the times and for the little people, millions of the middle class would have supported that program and that party.

The trade union leadership, it appears, cannot grasp these simple and elementary facts. Here is the CIO with its PAC. Two years ago the PAC demonstrated what labor can do when it is organized. Labor has power and strength. In 1944 this power and strength were used to elect the Democratic Party. Labor had no program. Labor’s money, time and energy were consumed in support of the Democrats. This year the PAC sought to repeat or better its 1944 performance. It went down to miserable defeat and now the PAC is severely battered. Murray is playing with a new political bauble: “The Conference of Progressives.” No labor party! No independent working class polities! Stick to Roosevelt! Deliver up labor to Wallace, Ickes and Morgenthau; to the Democratic and Republican Party candidate, to the capitalist employers and their government.

Labor suffered a defeat in the recent national elections. We must not keep on in this way. We must banish the Morgenthaus, Ickeses and Wallaces to the scrap heap where they belong. If the trade union bureaucrats desire to follow them, that is their business. Labor must have a political party, a working class political program and the determination to make that party and that program dominant. And all of this before the 1948 elections come.

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