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George Breitman

Wallace Veto Power Shows Basic
Weakness of 3rd Party Movement

(12 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 2, 12 January 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Both in the labor movement and in top capitalist circles there is a great deal of speculation over the question: Will Wallace stick to his third party candidacy for president, or will he throw in the towel after the Republican and Democratic conventions in June?

In a press conference on the same day that he announced his candidacy, Wallace said he would withdraw “should either of the major parties become definitely a peace party before the election.” Under this formula, Wallace leaves the door wide open. As Arthur Krock points out in the Jan. 4 N.Y. Times:

“Since he reserves to himself the right to conclude whether or not the Republicans or the Democrats have become the ‘peace party,’ he can base withdrawal on conviction or expediency, and expedient decisions occur frequently in his public record. A few words in either party platform, or any differences on foreign policy between the Republican candidate for President and Mr. Truman, can easily serve him as a bridge after the major national conventions are held ...

“He could then, reverting to a very recent position, announce that his immediate purpose had been served and that an independent candidacy this year could not further advance it.”

Krock, who is an opponent of Wallace, expresses the belief that Wallace probably “will not finish the race.” This opinion is apparently shared by some of Wallace’s followers.

At the Albany meeting of the New York State CIO Executive Board on Jan. 5, which voted against the, endorsement of Wallace, the Times reports:

“On both sides [of the dispute over Wallace] considerable skepticism was expressed about whether Mr. Wallace would actually run. Several left-wingers [Wallace supporters] said his primary aim was to. increase the ‘bargaining power’ of those opposed to the policies of the Truman Administration and the Republican Party.”

Not having inside information about Wallace’s intentions, we cannot predict with any certainty what his course will be. From what we know of Wallace, we would say that he is not sure himself.

But what is most significant about this question right now is the light it throws on the irresponsible and undemocratic nature of the Wallace movement. Wallace says yes, and there is a third party campaign. Wallace says no, and the whole third party campaign blows up. The rank and file have nothing to say, one way or another. Wallace’s one-man veto power, creating the possibility of a betrayal of his followers’ aspirations, is one of the most objectionable features of his movement.

This illumines the deep-going differences between a Labor Party and the movement Wallace is attempting to build. A Labor Party, based on the unions, would be responsible to duly elected bodies representing its membership. The members could participate in shaping policies, selecting officers and naming candidates.

The Wallace movement, in contrast, is being constructed on the fuehrer principle. Wallace loftily invites his supporters to send him suggestions and proposals – but they have no voice in making decisions.

The workers, who have fought so militantly to establish democratic processes and rank and file control in the modern mass production unions, will want at least as much democracy in the party they propose to build. That is why they will reject all one-man leader organizations and build on the tested foundations of democracy and control from the ranks.

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