J.R. Johnson

The Aftermath of the Elections —

What Should Be the Future of PAC?

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 47, 20 November 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

What is to be the future of the Political Action Committee?

That is the question which is agitating all politically alert persons today. The question, Hillman says, will be decided at the CIO Executive Board this Thursday. But meanwhile, the excitements and the hostility which the PAC has evoked continue. We need not be afraid. Organized labor should note that even when it organizes itself within the Democratic Party, it creates the political sensation of a very important election year. It should soberly reflect on what it could do if it came out boldly in its own name as an independent Labor Party.

Organized labor, however, has certain enemies masquerading as its friends. One of them is the newspaper PM which is now very quietly and cautiously trying to discredit the activities and achievements of the PAC during the last election. PM’s city editor carried out a poll as to what was the specific contribution of the PAC to the victory of the Democratic Party. The general tenor of the replies is as follows:

From Boston:

“PAC gets all the credit for registration. In actual votes, it was not particularly effective.”

From Buffalo:

“PAC deserves lots of credit for the way it got out the vote. Beyond that, I wouldn’t give PAC too great credit as far as results are concerned.”

We hope that no worker who supported the Political Action Committee is going to be deceived by these back-handed blows.

The Republican Party on a national as well as on a local scale made the Political Action Committee the main burden of its attack. It accused the Political Action Committee of dominating the Democratic convention. It campaigned on the slogan that every decision of the Democratic National Committee had to be “cleared with Sidney.” And Sidney was the leader of the Political Action Committee. The Republican Party claimed that the victory of Roosevelt would throw the government of the country into the hands of foreigners, labor, Communists, etc. The leaders were Earl Browder and no less a person than Sidney. In other words, the Political Action Committee, representing the CIO was at the very center of the election.

It is stated, that many hundreds of thousands of Democrats did not vote the Democratic ticket because they were opposed to the new status of labor within what they rightly consider to be their capitalist Democratic Party. In other words, an important part of the election centered around whether the country as a whole was satisfied with the emergence of labor as an organized political force even though within the strait jacket of Roosevelt’s Democratic Party.

The Political Action Committee and all its supporters were compelled, therefore, to make the case for the PAC. They made it. They not only got out the vote in general. They got out the labor vote and had to carry on a campaign both in terms of labor interests and the general interests in order to rally their own supporters and to neutralize the efforts of their opponents to discredit them.

Now, as cool as Punch, PM (and we can be sure there will be many others) turns up to say that PAC really didn’t do very much. All it did was to act like some sort of super-telegraph boys or postmen and get people out to vote who would in all probability have stayed at home. That is what labor always receives for doing, the work of the capitalists.

PM is not satisfied with that. The newspaper goes further and in the same issue it asks various liberals and progressives what they consider to be the future of liberalism in this country. They begin with Vice-President Wallace and they run through a long list which ends with Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr (he is a professor of applied Christianity at Union Theological Seminary). The list includes, Harold Ickes, David Dubinsky and C.B. Baldwin, assistant chairman of the Political Action Committee. It is noteworthy that all these gentlemen, except one, agree that there should be no third party but that all progressives should continue to organize themselves to “make the Democratic Party liberal.” This phrase is the special contribution of Vice-President Wallace.

Did we say all? No. We made a mistake. Harold L. Icke’s thinks that there should be a third party after the pattern f the American Liberal Party or the American Labor Party in New York. This party, however, should confine itself to voting for President Roosevelt as the Liberal Party did last Tuesday. In other words, Ickes, that bold thinker, does not object to a third party just so long as it votes for his party.

Now all these gentlemen know as well as anybody else that the sole possibility today for any effective third party lies with organized labor. The course of the election and the activities of PAC have proved that. But it is noteworthy that not one of these liberals as much as mentioned the Political Action Committee in all their prognostications as to the future of liberals and progressives. The solitary exception is C. B. Baldwin, assistant chairman of the PAC, who states emphatically that the CIO is on record against the establishment of a third party.

Another voice alone spoke out for a third political party. It was the voice of A. Philip Randolph. We have often, had occasion to express the most uncompromising hostility to the perpetually compromising politics of Philip Randolph. He will probably be distinguished in American history as the man who did not march to Washington. But in this case Randolph made a pronouncement which, in our view, epitomizes the lessons of the election.

He says that the recent elections point to “the necessity for the organization and development in the United States of America of a third political party which is not dedicated to any man but to a well-defined set of principles.”

The Canadian Commonwealth Federation is an independent Labor Party.

And to make assurance doubly sure, Randolph, adds:

“A third party should have as its cardinal principle production for use and not profit.”

Then come these final words:

“Labor and liberals should not kid themselves into believing that it is possible to deal effectively with a post-war program of economic security and freedom within the framework, of free enterprise, which is espoused by both Republican and Democratic Parties.”

There speaks the true voice of labor. That is precisely what the Political Action Committee can set itself to do – cut loose from both Democratic and Republican Party politics. And we can say in advance that this is precisely what PM, the Post, the Stalinists and Ickes and Roosevelt and all those who fattened upon the activities of the Political Action Committee will do their damnedest to prevent it from doing. We shall return to this subject.

Last updated on 17 February 2016