Joseph Hansen

Why Connolly Didn’t Get More Votes for A.L.P.

(March 1941)

Source:From The Militant, Vol. V No. 12, 22 March 1941, p. 5.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2015 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2015; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

A number of the workers whom we persuaded to vote for Eugene Connolly, American Labor Party candidate in the 17th Congressional district special election, have asked us why Connolly didn’t get more votes.

He received 3,985 votes as compared with the 5,945 votes received by the ALP candidate in the same district in the last Congressional election. Connolly’s vote, in terms of percentage, was higher than the ALP vote in the last election – in other words, the total votes cast were much fewer than last time – but that cannot really be taken as consolation for the bald fact that the ALP got nearly two thousand fewer votes this time.

This decline cannot be explained away as due to a split in the labor vote. Connolly was the only labor candidate in the field. When his candidacy was announced, the Trotskyists withdrew their candidate, Arthur Burch, and urged labor to unite behind Connolly.

The decline cannot be explained away as due to lack of backing on the part of official labor organizations. Powerful trade unions are affiliated with the ALP. The Communist Party supported Connolly. The voters in the district were canvassed by the ALP and by the Trotskyists. A number of mass rallies were held in the district.

Nor can the decline in the vote be explained away as due to the character of the district, the “silk stocking” area, the relatively smaller percentage of workers in comparison with other districts in New York. There is a Negro section in the district, the Transport Workers have their headquarters here, and some of the working class sections which finger into the richer areas are the hom of numbers of New York’s most militant workers.

The decline can be explained only as measuring the bankruptcy of pacifism. Connolly campaigned merely on the basis of negative opposition to the lend lease bill. He did not offer a real alternative to the war plans of the Sixty Families.

When election day came, Connolly remained with nothing but a vacuum as a platform, for the lend lease bill had already been passed by Congress and Roosevelt was that day affixing the signature that would make it law.

The workers could not help feeling that Connolly’s program had ended in zero. What was the use of voting against a bill already made into law?

An independent labor party with a militant military program – that is the only answer to the drive of the ruling class toward war. If Connolly had campaigned for military training for the workers at government expense but under the control of the trade unions, the story in the 17th Congressional district would undoubtedly have been far different from what it actually was. The election returns in the 17th Congressional district show that it is time to bury pacifism once and for all.

The participation of the Trotskyists in this campaign was criticized by everyone except the workers in the 17th Congressional district. Their reaction as sampled by canvassers of our party was very favorable. Among the Stalinists, the reaction was varied. One of the sub-leader’s characterized our support of Connolly as a “more subtle form of sabotage.” Connolly himself claimed he didn’t know the Trotskyists. The rank and filers of the CP were uniformly favorably impressed. Some wondered how we could “become progressive.” Others wondered if the Trotskyists had not been “painted worse” than they actually are. The increased receptivity of rank and file Stalinists to distribution of The Militant since the campaign began is highly significant.

Norman Thomas and his circle of pious souls held up their hands in holy horror at our “morals.” The Social Democrats sneered cynically as they pounded the drum for war-monger Alfange, the Democratic candidate. Shachtman, who heads one of the groups in the disintegrating Workers Party, threw a cabbage from his garden of theory in our direction. Shachtman felt that support of the ALP constituted a “united front” of “opportunist” character. He did not make clear whether he supported Alfange or Baldwin or simply stood aside during the election like Norman Thomas, preserving what political virginity still remains in his party.

The bourgeois press was likewise scandalized at our urging labor to support Connolly and, cooked up sensationalist articles on our “forgetting” the assassination of Trotsky.

Our campaign for Connolly, however, succeeded in spreading farther the understanding; that his pacifist program is utterly bankrupt. Our campaign gave a concrete demonstration as to how the workers must unite behind labor candidates in opposition to the bosses. Our campaign was a step toward the building of an independent labor party with a militant program offering a real alternative to the war drive of the Sixty Families.


Last updated on: 3 October 2015