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Fourth International, March-April 1948


World in Review

A Momentous Decision: First SWP Presidential Campaign


From Fourth International, Vol.9 No.2, March-April 1948, pp.38-40.
Transcription & mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


ON FEBRUARY 21-23 THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE of the Socialist Workers Party held plenary sessions in order to discuss and decide party policy in the light of the new and critical international and domestic events. The Plenum discussion, in which NC members from all parts of the country fully participated, centered around the political needs of American labor and the party’s tasks in this connection.

The key decision of the Plenum was to run SWP candidates on a national ticket in the 1948 elections, with Farrell Dobbs and Grace Carlson as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively. These nominations will be presented for ratification to the SWP National Convention scheduled for early July.

To understand the vital importance of this decision it should be placed within the broad framework of the class struggle as it is taking place today in the United States.

THE CURRENT DOMESTIC SITUATION IS characterized by a glaring discrepancy. On the one hand, labor plays in the life of this country a colossal social role because of the specific weight and vast power of its trade union organi/alions. On the other, there is labor’s almost total lack of independent political strength and organization. Without exaggeration it can be said that this is the greatest single contradiction in American society.

This contradiction cannot remain unresolved indefinitely. It underlies the developing political crisis of the American working class. A decade ago, when the CIO was born, a latent political crisis resulted. This latent political crisis, aggravated by World War II and by the .post-war developments, is now beginning to erupt into the open.

On the surface, the political relationship of forces at home appears unchanged. American labor seems to be as deeply mired in passivity and stagnation as has been the case in the past. But this is only a superficial appearance of things The reality is quite different. Tremendous political ferment permeates ever broader layers of workers. Today, there are three programs contending for supremacy in the ranks of American labor.

THE FIRST IS THE PROGRAM ON PERPETUATING the political status quo, whereby the workers remain in political bondage to capitalism. This is the program of the official union leaders who are frantically trying to keep labor shackled to the existing two-party system. Today this is far more difficult to accomplish than at any time since, the rise of the CIO.

The post-war discontent of the workers with the bipartisan administration has grown by leaps and bounds. Under the impact of the crisis of world capitalism, the two-parly set-up shows unmistakable signs of crumbling. This is reflected on the one side by the growing unpopularity of Truman, and, on the other, by the emergence of the Wallace movement.

Heeling the ground slipping from under their feet, the trade union leaders are now hoping for some miracle that will save the Democratic Party. They do not know how they will able to deliver the labor vote if Truman is designated as the Democratic presidential Candidate. The lop leaders hesitate to come out openly for Truman as they used to do for Roosevelt. A group of “dissidents” tied up with the anti-Wallace capitalist liberals and with Hie Social Democratic Federation are already beginning to raise their voices in a clamor against Truman and in favor of some other candidate (preferably Eisenhower!).

Meanwhile Murray and Reuther keep stalling. They both announce demagogically that they are in favor of a labor party – but not in 1948! By dangling this promise of a labor party in some unforeseeable future before the workers, they hope to lure them once again into supporting the presidential ticket of the Democratic Party. This subterfuge, so successful in hoodwinking the workers in the past, will become more and more untenable as the political atmosphere kindles to white heat at home and abroad.

In the meantime, this official trade union leadership forms the chief obstacle in the way of independent labor action.

THE SECOND PROGRAM IS THAT OF THE Stalinist-supported Wallace movement. The character of this movement becomes crystal clear when it is viewed not only from the standpoint of the political crisis of American labor but also from the standpoint of the political crisis of American bourgeois parliamentarianism, which is unfolding side by side with the former. The Wallace movement seeks to fill in the political vacuum created on the one side by the disintegration of the Democratic Party and thereby of the capitalist two-party system, and on the other side, by the absence of the labor party.

In point of origin and in its program the Wallace movement is a capitalist party. As the majority resolution presented to the Plenum correctly states:

The Wallace party does not emerge as a political expression, however inadequate and perverted, of the unions. It arises out of the failure of the union bureaucrats to open up a new political path for the workers. It cannot be regarded as an aid to independent political labor organization but as a spurious “progressive” substitute for a Labor Party. (The full text of this important resolution was published in The Militant, March 1.)

The Plenum also considered a contrary view to the effect that, the Wallace movement might represent a step in the direction of the labor party and was for this reason entitled to critical support. After a thorough discussion, the National Committee adopted the majority resolution, rejecting any form of support to Wallace, by a vote of 22 to 1, with 4 abstentions. By this action the Plenum threw its full support behind the third program for American labor, namely, independent political action on a class basis.

There is a far deeper surge among the workers in favor of this program than has yet been able to find an organized expression. This sentiment has been thus far suppressed by a combination of the cowardice and treachery of the official union leadership, on the one side, and, by the Wallace-Stalinist sponsored adventure of the “third-party movement,” on the other. What does this signify when the trade union bureaucrats are no longer able to come out openly lor Truman and find themselves compelled to talk about the future need of a labor party and when the Wallace-Stalinist combination is seeking to divert the workers into capitalist politics through” a “People’s Front” channel? These are unmistakable, even it negative, confirmations of the real ground swell in the ranks in favor of independent political action.

13lit the fact remains that, despite the gropings of the masses and the growing sentiment to strike out on a new political path, there will be no national labor ticket in the 1948 elections, as the Socialist Workers Party and many militants in the unions have so persistently advocated.

It is in the context of these circumstances that the decision of the Plenum to launch a presidential campaign acquires its full significance.

It constitutes, first of all, a declaration of class independence on the political field as against all other tendencies in the labor movement who seek to nullify and betray the political aspirations of the American workers either by diverting them into new capitalist formations (like the Wallace movement) or who seek to keep labor yoked to the traditional two-party capitalist machinery (like the official union leadership).

THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY raises aloft the banner of Socialism – the demand for the revolutionary reconstruction of society. The raising of this banner on a national scale at this juncture is of incalculable importance. For the political crisis of American labor, which unfolds within the framework of the crisis of American and world capitalism, must become- aggravated in the extreme by the developing war crisis.

No other party except the Socialist Workers Party is able to offer American labor and the people as a whole a truly realistic alternative to Wall Street’s war drive against the Soviet Union, against the masses at home, in Europe and in the colonial world.

It is precisely the emergence of the Wallace-Stalinist movement, with its fake program for peace through another deal between Washington and Moscow that renders all the more imperative the launching of the Presidential campaign by the SWP. As the resolution adopted by the February Plenum correctly points out:

Perhaps the most pressing reason that has arisen since the August 1947 Plenum for a party presidential campaign has been the emergence of the third party Wallace ticket. Precisely because the Wallace candidacy will have great attractiveness for radicalized workers, the party must have a positive alternative in the form of its own ticket. The SWP campaign will provide the means for clarifying our conceptions of the Labor Party and opposing Wallace from the Left.

This was a momentous decision to take for a party of such limited size and resources as the SWP. The American bourgeoisie which boasts of its “democracy” and which poses as the defender of “free elections” everywhere makes it extremely difficult, and in some cases virtually impossible, for minority parties to get on the ballot. Each of the 48 states has its own special regulations and restrictions which not only require great efforts and resources for compliance but which may also be arbitrarily used to deny minority parties their elementary rights. Despite these obstacles the February Plenum decided to mobilize the entire party for its first national presidential campaign.

The task of tasks for the revolutionary leadership today is to intervene in the most vigorous manner to speed the solution of the long-maturing crisis of American labor. The February Plenum decision clears the way for the Socialist Workers Party to present its full program of revolutionary class action to the American people, and in this way to open up new perspectives for the American working class in its fight against Wall Street’s rule.

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