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Fourth International, October 1946


Review of the Month

Significance of the SWP Election Campaigns


From Fourth International, October 1946, Vol.7 No.10, pp.291-292.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


Trotskyists Run in Six States

The entrance of the Socialist Workers party into this year’s election arena in six states is a most significant development in the American labor movement. It marks the growing strength of revolutionary socialism in the United States, and constitutes a milestone in the history of American Trotskyism. The Socialist Workers Party has undertaken election campaigns in the following states for the posts indicated:

Successful in Petition Campaign

Since the Socialist Workers Party has not yet succeeded in gaining a permanent place on the ballot, it was necessary in each of these States except Washington to file nominating petitions supported by the legally-required number of signatures of qualified voters. The capitalist political machines have set up arbitrary and harsh legal requirements that in practice virtually bar small parties from the ballot. At this writing, however, it appears that the Socialist Workers Party will succeed in getting on the ballot in all the states except Ohio. (In California, the SWP is conducting a write-in campaign.)

In Ohio, the announcement that the Socialist Workers Party intended to take part in the election created something of a sensation among the bosses of both the Democratic and Republican machines. The word “Trotskyism” became an issue in the preliminary bouts of the old-line political bosses of the Toledo area. But these political bosses were determined to discourage the appearance of a third set of candidates on the ballot.

Walker and Wylie, the two candidates of the SWP, filed their petitions in strict accordance with the Ohio election laws. They had far more than the number of supporting signature legally required. But the Lucas County Board of Elections ruled against the Socialist Workers Party. The reason – the petitions had been filed in two batches instead of one! The flimsiness of this technicality can be judged from the fact that this is the first time this rule has ever been invoked. For the 17 years that the rule has been in existence, Republicans and Democrats have regularly filed petitions in more than one batch. A petition protesting the discriminatory ruling has already been signed by the leading trade union, Negro and civic figures of Toledo.

The campaign in the key state of New York has revealed the growing strength of the Socialist Workers Party in this State. A minimum of 12,000 signatures is required in the Empire State. Of this number, a minimum of 50 signatures must come from each county in the state. Since many of these 62 counties are sparsely populated and have a record of political conservatism and backwardness, it is not easy for a working class party to meet the requirements, even though it may have considerable strength in the metropolitan centers. On top of this, the total time allowed is only a bare five weeks. However, the members of the Socialist Workers Party who circulated the petitions reported a very warm reception in all the upstate counties. They finished the campaign well in advance of the deadline with a total of 23,727 signatures.

This record is all the more noteworthy, as the Communist Party (Stalinists), who have been running election campaigns in the State for two decades, were able to submit no more than 20,000 signatures. As for Norman Thomas’s Socialist Party – that hollow shell of a once powerful electoral machine – their petitions, according to their own claims, bore no more than 15,000 signatures.

Relation To Labor Party

The election campaigns of the Socialist Workers Party are important not only because they are the most ambitious electoral undertakings of the Trotskyist movement in America, but also because of their relation to the whole nascent labor party movement in this country. The truth of the matter is that the United States has been ripe for the formation of a labor party for the past ten years. Ever since the great sit-down strikes and the emergence of the CIO as a mass movement, the working class has been ready to throw its support behind a labor party.

But it is a further fact that despite the existence of this sentiment, no national labor party has yet been formed. John L. Lewis, with the help of the Stalinists, was successful in 1936 in channelizing this movement into the Roosevelt camp through the instrumentality of a fake independent political organization, Labor’s Non-Partisan League. And more recently, Sidney Hillman, in alliance with the Stalinists, accomplished the same thing again, by almost identical methods through the CIO-PAC.

But the world has not been standing still in these last ten years, and neither has the American working class. First, the war produced a considerable politicalization in America; one can even say, a significant radicalization. Furthermore, Roosevelt, the astute strategist of American capitalism, the man who had the big prestige with the workingman, is dead. The Democratic Party, the instrument through which the trade union bureaucracy forged the capitalist-labor alliance on the political field, is torn by internal conflicts. Its antipathetic class groups are pulling in opposite directions and may soon rend the party asunder. In addition, capitalist politicians and capitalist politics are generally growing more and more discredited in the eyes of the masses.

Under these circumstances, the delay in organizing a labor party – a party which the times literally cry out for – signifies that the trade union bureaucrats are so tied up and wound up in the machinery of the capitalist state, that they cannot free themselves from its toils, that they stand in deadly terror of having to strike out on an independent path. If a new party is formed, in the near future, it will obviously be only because circumstances have forced the bureaucrats to go along with such a movement – and not because of their independent initiative.

But the longer the launching of a labor party is delayed, the more complicated and unsolvable (within capitalism) become the problems of the working masses, the more uncontrollable and sweeping will be the forces of political revolt when they finally burst through the artificial barriers that have been erected by the Murrays, Hillmans and Stalinists.

We have never been among those who always believed that the American working class was predestined to pass through the labor party stage, before it would be ready to support a genuinely revolutionary movement. It was only about nine years ago, when we saw how the awakening American working class movement had built up unions numbering into the millions, and had by-passed the radical parties, which still remained woefully small, that we came to the conclusion that the creation of a labor party would represent a big step forward in the political education and advancement of American labor.

Labor Party Program Still Applicable

This programmatic position adopted by the SWP almost nine years ago remains fully applicable today. But as we stated before, many things have changed in the interim: The working class is more advanced politically; capitalist politics is more discredited; and the party of revolutionary socialism is more influential, is stronger in numbers, and is growing.

The revolutionary tendency is therefore in a stronger position in relation to the labor party movement than it was in 1937-38. Thus the elections campaigns of the SWP take on added meaning and importance. First, they are a powerful blow struck in the cause of independent labor political action, the rapid formation of a mass labor party. In addition, they signalize that the voice of revolutionary socialism is beginning to speak with new vigor and clarity on the American scene; that it is calling, in its own name, for the allegiance of the American masses; that regardless of the exact mechanics of labor political developments in the days ahead, American Trotskyism is going to be a potent force in the political arena – and in organizing the masses for the socialist emancipation.

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