From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.4, July-August 1952, pp.99-100.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
We wrote in this column in the March-April Fourth International that the pre-convention maneuvering in both parties presaged a one-sided contest for the presidency: a candidate versus a dummy candidate. Events have proved that our prediction, lacking in boldness, did not go far enough. Both candidates, politically speaking, have turned out to be ciphers.
Not since the days of Calvin Coolidge has there been such a hanky-panky on the political hustings with the rivals bowing and courtesying and even going to the length of slapping one another on the wrist. With the conventions out of the way, the issues dividing Eisenhower from Stevenson grow ever more obscure. Arthur Krock, the sage of the N.Y. Times, was being less than brilliant when he had to recognize that the candidates were having a hard time in finding targets to shoot at. The Republican Eisenhower wants a radical “change” in the administration (why else would he be running?). More conservative, the Democrat Stevenson would only change some “faces.”
So far as foreign policy, civil rights, the high cost of living, the Taft-Hartley Law, the witchhunt) etc. are concerned, they seem to make less impression on the carrdidates than the latest invasion of “flying saucers.” The political climate of the country, with a major election approaching, is about as agitated as the Dead Sea.
The top-brass of Big Business must be purring with satisfaction. The pieces were moved with clock-like precision. The arrangements are perfect. Isolationism was effectively interred under a shower of Wall Street gold at the Republican Party convention, thus removing the haunting fear that a demagogue looking for votes would stir up discontent over Korea, the European arms program i.e., with the danger of war. An added dividend in the liquidation of “Mr. Republican” Robert Taft was the lulling of labor’s alertness to a threatened offensive of Big Business. On ihe Democratic side, the labor-liberal-Negro coalition, which astounded the country by giving Truman his whistle-stop victory in 1948, was shelved without any major commotion. Labor was taken for granted – and ignored. The South was placated with the second place on the ticket instead of being driven out of the party as in 1948 in order to swing the Negro vote into the Democratic column. And the liberals were treated like ... liberals always are: they were given a few phrases in the platform and sent packing. Thus was the Fair Deal buncombe and the 20-year old campaign radicalism of the Democratic Party thrown out the window.
By putting Taft and the Old Guard on ice on the one side, and by disposing of Truman and his labor lieutenants on the other, the Republicans and Democratic parties slipped back toward the grey identity for which they were noted in the long epoch preceding Roosevelt. What could be more ideal for the warmaker! The home front is securely stable, almost unruffled. The people are being led into the counter-revolutionary Armageddon without a murmur of protest, without, it would seem, their being conscious of the terrible calamity that is fast approaching.
Only part of this development can be attributed to the manipulations and wire-pullings of Big Business and its henchmen at the conventions of the old parties. Far more is to be explained by the objective facts of USA 1952. Finance-capital could conduct its political operations as if in a charmed circle because the masses stand outside the political arena. More, the power of the organized working class as a social factor has been primarily expressed as a force of inertia resisting encroachments on past gains. For years, the trade union movement has had no bold aims of vital reforms that would limit the power of the monopolies and create greater security for the masses. It has sought merely to pick up a few crumbs from the war-boom prosperity.
This was the essence of the Truman-labor coalition. It reached its peak in 1943 when the mobilization of labor, threatening to break out of the Democratic Party into independent labor politics, forced Truman to the left. His left-swing saved the two-party system. But it also shocked the monopolies into the understanding that a major offensive against the unions would mean a real showdown between the classes. The Taft-Hartley Law remained on the statute books. But, instead of it being the first step in a grand anti-labor strategy – as was originally designed – it became merely a device to limit the gains of the unions and to put obstacles in the way of their further expansion. Taft-Hartleyism in its new form soon became an integral feature of the Truman-labor coalition. For Truman, the new law was an ideal means for government intervention in strikes on the side of capital but without smashing the unions. The labor bureaucrats quickly adapted themselves to the new pattern, somewhat inconvenienced by its restrictive provisions. but quietly pleased with the weapons the law placed in their hands against a rebellious rank and file and against wild-cat strikes.
Given the apparent postponement of monopoly-capital’s offensive against labor until the outbreak of the war itself, it is obvious that the new system of class collaboration can also be regulated without major convulsions by a Republican administration. The special reason for existence of the Democratic-labor coalition – (combined with the effects of the war economy, which we discussed in the March-April FI) – began to disappear. The Democratic Party could nominate twocandidates, both committed to a retention of the Taft-Hartley Law, without fear of a defection of its labor support.
Once labor’s support was considered definitely in the bag, the Democratic Party moved full speed to the right. The picture was the exact opposite from 1948. Then, under threat of a labor bolt, Truman was forced into a break with the Dixiecrats and into making the most lavish promises to the Negro people to insure the decisive electoral votes of the Northern states. Without this goal today, unity has been completely re-established with the Southern Democrats and the Negro people are openly flouted by the nomination of the Southern racist Sparkman for Vice-President.
What are the prospects then for the outcome of the 1952 elections? It would obviously be foolhardy at this early date and amidst a bipartisan campaign to make a definite prediction. We wrote in our earlier treatment of the question that the Big Interests were seeking a Democratic dummy to oppose Eisenhower. To our surprise, the one candidate we considered lacking in those qualifications has come to play precisely that role. Unless radically changed midstream, Stevenson’s present innocuous campaign is not calculated to obtain the outpouring of the labor and Negro vote which insured the Democratic victory in 1948.
But on the other hand, the defeat of Taft proved no unmixed blessing to the sections of the ruling class behind Eisenhower. It robbed the Republican campaign of its flamboyant demagogic appeal to the middle class, of playing on its grievances over the Korean war, rising prices, high taxes, etc. Eisenhower, as we wrote in March, “has no program but ‘national unity’ – and will have no other ...” Determined to be all things to all men, to keep his role as the future military Bonaparte carefully concealed, he is the “Wintergreen-for-President” par excellence, full of beautiful smiles and vapid generalities, encouraging everyone, offending no one. But whether this studied attempt to avoid stirring the. troubled waters will have the soothing effect of keeping enough workers away from the polls and of bringing enough middle class votes to them to insure a Republican victory in November – that remains to be seen.
For the significant circles of the ruling class, although favoring Eisenhower, the outcome of the elections is of far less importance than if a radical demagogue playing for the labor and Negro vote were the Democratic candidate. It is not that they could not count on him to execute their counter-revolutionary war plans to the full as Truman has done. It is rather that the commitments of a candidate tied to a labor alliance can cause embarrassment to their plans for regimentation and attacks on the standard of living (e.g. Truman’s equivocal attitude when the union representatives walked out of the Wage Stabilization Board, and later on his seizure of the steel mills). Nothing of this sort is expected from Stevenson, who has been the recipient of rather generous praise from important Republican newspapers.
Yet, the politically stagnant atmosphere of the campaign notwithstanding, the 1952 elections foreshadow a major turn in American politics. The world of the Roosevelt-Truman New Deal-Fair Deal has passed into limbo. And with it goes the loosening and the inevitable rupture of labor’s alliance with the Democratic Party which has kept the workers the serfs of capitalist politics when their economic strength should have made them the mightiest power in the United States.
In or out of office, the Democratic Party can no longer provide the shield – flimsy as it was against the coming onslaught of the Big Business-Big Brass combination to force the workers to carry the biggest burden of its planned counter-revolutionary war. The deliberate spurning of the aspirations of the Negro people is only the first sign of the nature of things to come.
Between the present mockery of a political campaign and the great resurgence of American labor there lies, it is true, an ordeal of countless sacrifices and terrible suffering for the masses of the working people. This, regardless of our desires or hopes as individuals, is part of the trend set into motion by a decadent capitalist system seeking to preserve itself from a world in the full tide of revolution. But the workings of this process also have their own logic which will favor the rise of the great class Labor Party of the American workers. The American workers will confront the financial oligarchy in a struggle for mastery even while these desperate rulers are engaged in the insane attempt to impose their will on the rest of the world.
It is with this confidence that the Socialist Workers party enters the 1952 elections. Its candidates, Farrell Dobbs and Myra Tanner Weiss, breaking through the fictions and myths of the temporary war-boom prosperity, defying the repressions of the encroaching police state, represent the coming day of American labor.
Last updated on: 26 March 2009