Hal Draper

Henry Wallace’s RECORD
on Labor and Jim Crow
Much Unlike His Promises

(10 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 19, 10 May 1948, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Since he threw his hat into the presidential race, Wallace has been yelling loudly that he is a “friend of labor” and a “friend of the Negro people.” Without any hope of being elected, of course, but aiming to snare as many protest votes as possible, Wallace (and his running mate Taylor) have gone all-out for labor and civil liberties. It makes for good talk and campaign publicity – and a few votes.

Far be it from us to object to pro-labor and anti-Jim-Crow talk even from the mouth of vote-seeking politicians. They may never do anything about it, but at least their duped supporters may get mad when they find out they’ve been taken for a ride.

We merely advise sincere supporters of Wallace to ask themselves a question. There is a story told about the 1944 Democratic convention which illustrates the point, even if it was probably made to order for the purpose.

This was the convention where the CIO, among others, was working up a sweat booming Wallace for the vice-presidential nomination. In the midst of the hurrying and scurrying (according to the tale), CIO President Phil Murray slowed down for a minute and a thought struck him for the first time. He turned to one of his aids and said:

“By the way, what did this guy do for us?’’

Well – what?

Maybe Murray never did ask this question. He would have had to slow down an awful lot to make the story credible.

But we’re asking it. And a nationful of workers – listening to Wallace tell them that HE’S for what THEY’RE FOR, by Gideon – are asking it.

For four years as vice-president, and for eight years as a member of the cabinet, Wallace was a power in the government administration. He wasn’t prospecting for votes then – he had the power to DO things. ABOUT LABOR AND JIM-CROWISM, FOR EXAMPLE.

What did this guy DO?

About Sharecroppers ...

As Secretary of Agriculture, Wallace’s main’ dealings were with one union, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, now named the Farm Labor Union.

This union, the main one that Wallace had anything to do with, thinks as much of Wallace’s pro-labor speeches now as it does of Taft’s “appeal to labor” in the Ohio primaries. Its paper, the, Farm Labor News, recently printed an article on what this guy DID.

In 1935 the Southern sharecroppers recalled a Roosevelt speech about the “forgotten man” and got the idea he meant them. Their union raised funds from sharecroppers’ nickels to send a delegation to Washington to ask the forgotten man’s secretary of agriculture to enforce Section 7 of the AAA. This section said that landlords should keep the tenants on their land and allow them to use a portion of the government-rented acres for raising food for their families and livestock.

“The union had evidence that the landlords did not intend to carry out that part of the government contract nor divide any share of the government subsidy payments,” the Farm Labor News reports.


(The same Pressman, who then vowed to “get Wallace,” recently resigned as CIO counsel in order to boost the Third Party candidate. Toeing the Kremlin line as usual, Pressman doesn’t let Wallace’s RECORD bother him as long as his SPEECHES are satisfactory to Russia’s stooges here. If this be slander, let Pressman say a few well-chosen words about “what this guy DID” as Secretary of Agriculture – and why Pressman was fired!)

About Labor ...

But that was in 1935. A lot of words have flowed under the lip since then. What did Wallace think ought to be, done about labor JUST BEFORE he started fishing for votes?

In the December 30, 1946 issue of the New Republic, Wallace wrote an article Where We Stand on Labor. Keep the Taft-Hartley Law and the crackdown on the, miners in mind while you read this:

“Because of the public temper, it seems to me the part of wisdom for labor and industry to do everything possible to avoid serious strikes in1947,” he piously advised, and he continued:

“If there is to be legislation, I would suggest first, a carefully worked-out program for fact finding;second, a mechanism for voluntary arbitration; and third, a labor court operation under the supervision of the President’s Economic Advisory Council and dealing only with those disputes in key industries which it is felt were of supreme interest tot he general welfare.
“If a strike takes place in one of the little handful of industries which are essential to the continued life of the nation, the industry should betaken over and operated by the government until a settlement can be reached ...
“If experience proves, by repeated strikes in such an industry, that the welfare of the whole country is dam-aged to an unendurable degree by continued private ownership and operation, I feel we must consider public ownership and operation. In such a case the workers in that industry would, like other federal employees, GIVE UP THE RIGHT TO THE ULTIMATE RESORT TO’ THE WEAPON OF FORCE, IN THE FORM OFA STRIKE.”

Why is Wallace getting so het up about the Taft-Hartley Law (vote fishing apart)? What’s wrong with a little injunction to halt strikes for 80 days, when it’s all right for the government to “take over” the industry on paper and forbid a strike indefinitely until a “settlement” is reached under circumstances where the union is deprived of any power?

And here also we can see why Wallace refuses so “principledly” to utter a peep about the Russian slavery. He proposes for America that nationalization must mean NO RIGHT TO STRIKE. In Russia, all the industries are “nationalized” – owned by the totalitarian state – and ALL the workers have no right to strike. Logical, isn’t it?

This is the man who runs as a“friend of labor” – now that he is an “out.”

But Wallace is a “friend of minority peoples” too. He is against Jim Crow now. He makes speeches.

What did this guy DO when he had more than the power to shoot off his mouth?

The official organ of the Nationa lAssociation for Advancement of Colored People, The Crisis, said in an editorial this past February:

“Under his secretaryship the Department of Commerce was more than ordinarily ridden with humiliating separation of workers because of color and limitation of promotion for the same reason. While in the latter months of 1947, just before the announcement of his candidacy, Mr. Wallace was railing against segregation and refusing to speak to separated audiences, for five or six years prior to that time he had dodged speaking before conventions of the NAACP ... While turning aside NAACP invitations, Mr. Wallace found time to speak several times at Tuskegee, an institution where white and colored guest speakers are sent to separate guest houses.”

During his regime as Commerce Secretary, the National Airport restaurant was under his jurisdiction. It was thoroughly Jim Crow. Wallace took personal responsibility for this state of affairs. He advanced two reasons why it had to be Jim Crow: (1) The airport was just over the line in Virginia; (2) the restaurant was a concession and the policies were not established by the Commerce Department.

Both reasons were hypocritical fakes. This isn’t strong language, but only a fact. Proof?

The War Department’s Pentagon Building also held cafeterias run on a concession basis and was also located in Virginia. Stimson – who did not even pose as a liberal – ordered a no-discrimination policy in them. Wallace discovered he was against segregation when he no longer had the power to do anything about it.

Can anyone point to anything “this guy DID” against Jim-Crowism during over a decade of high office in Washington?

While Wallace was vice-president,the great campaign was going on to save Odell Waller, Negro sharecropper, from being railroaded to death in Virginia. The vice-president of the United States (now currently declaiming against segregation) never raised his voice. Maybe nobody asked him? A delegation of outstanding Negro and white leaders called on him to enlist his aid, to prevent a heinous crime.

After promising to meet them in his office, Wallace ducked for three hours. As the delegation was leaving, they caught sight of Wallace emerging from his office (bad timing). Embarrassed – this is what makes him a“liberal” – Wallace tacked in the other direction. Pursuing him, Mary McLeod Bethune, the well-known fighter for Negro rights, called out: “Mr. Wallace, this is a great tragedy, we must talk to you.” Wallace, fleeing from the scene, spoke over his shoulder: “There’s nothing I can do,” and disappeared.

“Nothing I can do” – as vice-president of the United States of America! What does he think he can do now – as vote catcher?

Wallace now denies this episode. Good! let us say that all the outstanding men and women in the delegation are liars. But he does not deny that the delegation called on him. THE FACT IS THAT WALLACE DID NOTHING – did not even express a pious opinion – NOT ONLY FOR ODELL WALLER BUT FOR THE CAUSE OF RACIAL DEMOCRACY ANYWHERE ...

Until he became the Stalinist choice as candidate for president.

What’s His Movement?

Well, so he is a candidate for president, but he talks right, doesn’t he, huh? That’s more than the reactionaries do, isn’t it, huh? Maybe Wallace hasn’t been all there all of the time, but he’s a good guy now, isn’t he? And besides it’s the movement he represents that’s important, not the man ...


The Third Party that Wallace talks about doesn’t even exist as a party. There is no party, there is no organization, there is nothing to be supported except – Wallace and his promised good deeds. The “movement” consists of two parts: the Stalinist apparatus running the Wallace campaign; and the people who are being sucked into voting for Wallace by that apparatus.

There is no doubt that the latter half represents a “movement” among the people. It consists of people who DO want something different from the bipartisan reaction now going on, who DO want a party that represents the interests of the little people, the working men, the victims of exploitation and bigotry and profiteering.


And only if labor organizes its might on the political field can there arise a real alternative to Democratic and Republican reaction – a real party of working-class struggle for peace, abundance and democracy.

Last updated on 1 March 2018