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International Socialist Review, Summer 1958


A Milestone


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.3, Summer 1958, p.66.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


After a year of Los Angeles smog, we have moved back to the oily soot that continually sifts into the caves of the Manhattan cliff dwellers. Whatever the differences between the two cities, we have become firmly convinced that both could stand a good socialist house cleaning.

In New York, as many of our readers already know, such a move is on foot, the first target being Albany. Along with other rooters for socialist unity, we thoroughly enjoyed the three-day gathering in June at the Great Northern Hotel where the Democratic-Republican bipartisan gang were given notice of battle in the coming election.

Unity against the political machines of Big Business was the keynote at the conference. This was sounded the first evening, June 13, by Vincent Hallinan, the Presidential candidate of the Progressive party in 1952, who flew in from San Francisco. Hallinan’s speech was a vigorous indictment of the Democratic and Republican parties and a rousing appeal for revival of the Debs tradition of opposing the two parties of private profit and public plunder.

Of special interest was Hallinan’s appeal for unity behind such a program among all those who consider themselves socialists. Citing his experience as Campaign Manager for Dr. Holland Roberts in that educator’s recent effort in the California primaries, he warned that some of the leaders of the Communist party could be expected to go so far in opposing the announced aims of the United Independent-Socialist Conference as to try to sink the enterprise.

The warning created quite a stir inasmuch as top leaders of the Communist party were present as well as what was probably a maximum number of functioning Communist party members in the New York area.

Although the Communist party leaders had refused to participate in organizing the Conference, showing up only occasionally as observers at the preliminary meetings, and although they had attacked the entire project in the col-ums of the Worker, a CP spokesman called Hallinan’s warning “vicious,” “a smear,” and “hitting below the belt.”

The Presiding Committee, headed by John T. McManus of the National Guardian, disclaimed responsibility for Hallinan’s remarks on this subject, and Murry Weiss, speaking for the Socialist Workers party, pleaded with the Communist party representatives to remain in the Conference, participate in the discussion and join in the effort to reach agreement on a platform and slate.

However, the top CP representatives chose to ignore these guarantees of full protection of their democratic rights and walked out the next morning utilizing Hallinan’s criticism as their pretext. Among the delegates we talked with it was the general opinion that the CP leaders intended to walk out any way as soon as they saw they were in a minority and that if they hadn’t used this pretext to split the Conference they would have found a different one.

A highly encouraging development, however, was the decision of most of the members of the Communist party to stay and participate in the work. They made excellent contributions to the lively and fruitful discussion that continued Saturday and Sunday. Together with former members of the American Labor party, adherents of the Socialist Workers party, independents of many shadings, and the Young Socialist Alliance, they voted for the draft of the socialist election platform submitted by the Platform Committee; and, putting their loyalty to the spirit of socialist unity above narrower considerations, they voted in principle after a day’s debate for the full slate of candidates which had been opposed by the CP leadership.

Of the many heartening things about the Conference, one of the main was the demonstration of the capacity of socialists and independents, holding such variegated and even opposing views on important issues, to subordinate their differences for the sake of a socialist electoral campaign. Even more important, in our opinion, was the demonstration of the capacity of the gathering to give free expression to the differing views of the delegates and to listen with attention and interest to what they had to say.

The size of the Conference was impressive. John T. McManus, chairing the final session, announced that the registration from all over the state was more than 700 and that of these more than 500 had attended. Reports since then indicate that participation would have been even greater had hopes been higher in the radical public for a successful outcome.

The Conference was highly representative, the only currents missing being the Socialist Labor Party, which makes it a principle to reject joint action, and the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation which, like the top leadership of the Communist party, favors working for Democratic candidates who have been endorsed by union officials.

Because of its representative character, the Conference was regarded by the majority of the American radical movement, from what we have observed, as a kind of pilot operation whose outcome could set a pattern for the whole country. We hope that this will prove to be an accurate estimate and that the Conference will finally be recorded in the history books as a decisive turning point in the development of the socialist movement in the United States.

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Last updated on: 29 April 2009