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John F. Petrone

Political Savvy – Who’s Got It?

(23 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 8, 23 February 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Credit for the scurviest hack job of the week goes to Allan L. Swim, editor of the CIO News, for an article on Henry Wallace in that paper’s Feb. 16 issue, Hank May Have Meant Well But – He Caused Trouble.

Swim is one of those bureaucrats who can hardly conceal their low opinion of the union members’ intelligence. Discussing Wallace’s record in three high government jobs, he says:

“In none of these posts did he distinguish himself as a champion of the things for which labor was fighting ... he didn’t roll up his sleeves and get into the fray when the chips were down and the going was tough. CIO officials who called on him for aid learned to regard him as a ‘preaching liberal’ – not as a ‘practicing liberal’.”

Now, that happens to be the truth. But it will certainly come as news to those CIO members whose estimate of Wallace was formed on the basis of what they read about him in the CIO News in the past, arid of what they were told in a thousand speeches by Philip Murray and all the little Murrays.

Do Swim and Murray think that the members of the CIO have forgotten what happened at the Democratic Party convention in 1944, when Murray, Hillman and the other PAC leaders almost busted a gut pleading for the renomination of that “preaching liberal” – Henry Wallace? Do they think the workers are going to follow the CIO leadership’s political counsel today when they see what shameless lies they were told yesterday?

Continuing his attack on Wallace, Swim then makes another very damaging admission:

“It should have been obvious to anybody with political savvy that a successful third party would have to stem from the labor movement. There simply is no other group in the country large enough to smash the two-party tradition.”

That is a completely valid criticism of Wallace and the Stalinists who, instead of trying to build a party based on the unions, are trying to build one that may have the support of union members but will remain under their own control. But doesn’t this criticism apply to the labor leaders too.

For years they have been telling the workers that the unions are “too weak” to form their own Labor Party. Now, just in passing, they blandly admit that labor is “large enough” to smash the two-party swindle. Thanks to the labor leaders, it wasn’t done and the two-party system gave birth to such children as the Taft-Hartley Act.

And today, when that system is hatching even worse anti-labor monsters, these labor bureaucrats, instead of hiding their heads in shame, have the gall, to chatter about “political savvy” and to give lectures about not splitting the so-called “progressive” vote (which, in line with their directives, wasn’t split in 1946 and produced the most reactionary Congress in American history).

If a policy cowardly and stupid as that can be palmed off as political savvy, then I’ll take Mortimer Snerd in preference to 95% of the self-styled labor statesmen any day in the week. Mortimer may not be very bright, but at least his backbone isn’t made of jelly and his tongue is used for other purposes than licking the boots of his enemies.

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