Philip Coben

Books You Should Know

Next – A Labor Party!

(27 December 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 52, 27 December 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Next – A Labor Party!
by Jack Ranger
Workers Party Publications, 64 pp., 25 cents.

Jack Ranger’s booklet Next – A Labor Party! ought to be received with open arms – and with orders for bundles – by every trade-union militant who has been talking to his shop-mates about the necessity for really independent political action by the labor, movement. It does the job for him.

Comrade Ranger, whose Labor Action column Tapping the Wall Street Wire is familiar to our readers, succeeds in doing two difficult things: his pamphlet is simple and down-to-earth without being MERELY agitational; and it is educational and meaty without getting lost in either history or economics. Every page makes its point, backed up with facts and experience.

The first three chapters (out of fifteen) sketch in the social background. What do we want out of life? – Ranger asks. A decent standard of living, security, peace and order at home, including racial understanding and democracy. And we’re not getting these things. Why? The pamphlet explains. Something has happened to the “American system,” that is, the capitalist system – the same thing that has happened to the system all over the world: the growth of monopoly and big business, which rules politics as well as industry, for its own profit. The famous two-party system is the two-headed monopoly of big business in government. Ranger explains in a nutshell how this bipartisan monopoly arose and what it has meant.

Labor Party History

The idea of a labor party is not a new one. In fact, the first one was set up in the United States 120 years ago. There has been a constant succession since then of attempts at some kind of third-party action. It is important to know this because it proves that the best elements in American life have never been satisfied with the setup. But on the other hand, it is also important to understand why none of them lasted up to now. The pamphlet explains why none of these parties could have been expected to take root, and why this is also the reason that TODAY a labor party can and will take root and flourish.

Why is the labor movement of the United States so far behind the working class of most other countries in its political development? What is wrong with the old Gompers-AFL theory of “rewarding friends and punishing enemies” by pressure politics? There is a difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties, but how important is that difference to LABOR? What are the five social groups which especially fear and fight a labor-party development? The pamphlet gives the answer.

What’s a labor party anyway, and how does it differ from the old parties, including Wallace’s latest-born one? Why is it that the present leadership of the trade union movement doesn’t see the need for labor-party action if its necessity is so clear? (The booklet gives a pungent explanation of that fine old term, “the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class.”)

Answering Arguments

One of the highlights of the booklet is the chapter entitled New Answers to Well-Worn Arguments, in which six of the stand-bys are taken apart. It’s worth the price of admission alone. But Next – A Labor Party! is not directed only to those who want to go on playing tag with the Demorepublicans. The last six chapters also are a “must” for those workers who are “for a third party, but ...”

First of all there are the Wallaceites, and within the restricted space of a few pages, the pamphlet summarizes the case against the Wallace-Stalinist abortion of the third-party movement. But much more widespread in fact is the feeling that labor should not try to set up a different kind of political instrument, should not try to organize themselves politically as a class.

Writes Ranger:

“There will be thousands of clever liberals eager to tell us: ‘Look as much like the Republican and Democratic Parties as possible. Wave the flag. Sing a-men. Then the masses will follow you.’

“No, then the masses will NOT follow the labor party. Why? Because the two old banker-controlled parties can always wave the flag more furiously and convincingly than we can, can shout twice as pay-triotically over twice as many radio stations and in twice as many newspapers. Because it is just exactly this old blarney that the masses are sick to death of.”

That’s only the beginning of the discussion of How Labor Can Win the Support of the Majority of the People.

We’ve touched on only about two-thirds of this fine booklet. The physical getup – separate cover and all – makes it an extremely striking job, and the price was set at two bits in spite of the fact that this probably won’t cover overall costs, what with printing rates today. But wherever this pamphlet gets into the hands of progressives in the unions, it’s going to show returns – in stimulating and educating the drive for a labor party from here on out.

Last updated on 8 October 2018