From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 10, 5 March 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.
Sidney Hillman, leader of the Political Action Committee, has addressed the American public on the future of the PAC. His analysis appeared in Liberty in the issue of February 24, which no doubt will be read by millions of people. A substantial part of the article is taken up with the question of a third political party. It is with this that we propose to deal here.
It is to be noted first of all that Hillman nowhere talks about a Labor Party. That is an idea he strives to keep from the minds of the workers and the great masses of the people. Why? Because it is too dangerous. For Hillman and his bureaucrats that is dynamite. Nevertheless, this question of the organization of labor into a political party of its own continues to intrude itself even upon the public meditations of the coy and timid Sidney Hillman.
On page 17 of Liberty, he raises the question himself.
“Mr. Murray also answered as early as November 1943 ... the question that is being asked frequently today.”
Murray’s statement at the time, according to Hillman, was as follows:
“If is definitely not the policy of CIO to organize a third party but rather to abstain from and discourage any move in that direction.”
Hillman tells us why. He says that there were technical problems in placing such a party on the ballot in 1944 which were almost insurmountable. Let us accept that for the moment. But are they insurmountable for 1945? Are they going to continue to be insurmountable for 1948? Is the organization of a third party to remain forever impossible in the United States because of the “insurmountable” technical problems of placing such a party on the ballot?
Is the whole development of society to be deflected, postponed or rejected because of insurmountable technical problems in placing such a party on the ballot? Come, come, Sidney. You should be able to do better than that. That, my friend, will not fool the workers.
The second reason is the one that is always given. Such a party would serve only to divide labor and the progressive forces, resulting in the election of political enemies.
The argument is entirely false. In Germany, France and Great Britain parties similar to a Labor Party (in Britain, a Labor Party) have held governmental power in their hands. The failure of these parties was due not to the fact that they were “third” parties or Labor Parties, but to false programs and divisions within the labor movement.
In Canada, the Canadian Commonwealth Federation has broken with the capitalist parties and today is a political force infinitely more powerful than Political Action in this country. It has this power precisely because it rests itself boldly on the labor movement. No, Sidney, that won’t do. You have to get a new argument.
We go down a little further. And here we are again:
“In its former resolution endorsing the continuation of the Political Action Committee, the CIO convention reaffirmed the decision
“‘to abstain from and discourage any move in the direction of a third party.’”
You would think that this is enough about any third party in one little article in Liberty. But no. Sidney just can’t leave the subject. He tells us that the executive committee of the National Citizens Political Actjon Committee, also made a statement on the third party. And he quotes it:
“We reject any and all proposals to organize a third party. A third party would only act as a divisive force, splitting the progressive ranks at the very moment when close unity is our greatest need.”
Meanwhile Hillman has made it clear that the CIO is not going to ally itself with either of the two existing parties. At this stage in the article, however, the ridiculousness of the position forces itself home even to him. So he is compelled to ask the question which the reader is already asking. Says Hillman:
“The reader may well ask: ‘If you are not going to form a third party and if you reject all alliances with the existing major parties, what are you going to do?’”
Glory, glory, hallelujah! We have now reached the stage where Hillman has stopped telling us what he is not going to do and is going to tell us what he is going to do. And what is it that he WILL do? He proposes to continue and intensify the work of political education through pamphlets, radio, articles in the press; to collaborate with progressive organizations and to keep the organization informed on the political proposals which will be presented during the years to come. PAC and the National Citizens JPAC, will also maintain national unity and help to get out the vote, etc.
Now isn’t this disgraceful? Here we have the whole country interested in the future development of labor’s political organization. PAC has had a dramatic success in its impact upon the American public. In Great Britain it has awakened tremendous interest, and when Hillman and B.J. Thomas go to Britain, the British politicians inquire eagerly what is their next step. What are they going to do with all this political influence that they have gained?
The country is now waiting a lead, a direct, powerful, confident lead on the tremendous issues which face it. Hillman’s article shows that a substantial section of the people of the U.S. are looking toward the Political Action Committee as the basis of a new political organization. Some may be for it. Some may be against it. The point is that the question is posed. His whole article shows that. And he and Murray at the head of the CIO, the most powerful mass organization in the country and one which in alliance with the AFL would be politically irresistible, these two instead of fighting for unity and putting forward a program of their own, can only bleat:
“We are not going to form a third party. We think a third party would be wrong. Above all, we are not going to form a third party. We shall keep the people informed. We shall use the organization to get out the vote. We shall support people who look forward instead of backward. But above all, dear friends, sleep in peace. You can depend upon us. There will be no third party.”
Readers of Labor Action are familiar with the arguments and the necessity for a political party of labor. We do not propose to go into them in this particular article. We merely wish to point out that this very article by Hillman, the necessity of his repeating with such insistence that the leaders of the PAC do not contemplate any third party is itself a sign of the times. Properly interpreted, it means that such is the pressure of the class struggle, such are the violent conflicts within the Democratic Party to which PAC is in reality attached. Whatever Hillman may say, the leaders of this organization are now in the situation of defending themselves against the social movement which is crying for a third party.
They may say what they please. The very energy with which they have to defend themselves shows the inevitability and perhaps the nearness of what they are so terrified of – the independent organization of the masses, the only way in which their demands can be satisfied.
Last updated on 19 April 2016