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Albert Parker

Wallace Candidate Sweeps Election

Isacson Victory Shows Disgust with Old Parties

(23 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 8, 23 February 1948, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEW YORK, Feb. 18 – Clouds of gloom settled over Democratic Party national headquarters and the White House last night as their candidate for Congress from the 24th District in the Bronx went down to crushing defeat by the Wallace-endorsed candidate of the American Labor Party. This first electoral test for the Wallace movement strengthened the likelihood that Truman’s goose is cooked unless he is able to work out some deal with Wallace.

The political wise-acres had marked down a victory for the Democrats as a sure thing in this district that has been controlled by Boss Flynn for decades. They even went in for speculation that anything less than 30% for the ALP candidate, Leo Isacson, would represent a moral setback for Wallace.

But Isacson got 56% of the 40,000 votes cast yesterday, against 31% for the Democrats, 9% for the Liberal Party, and 4% for the Republicans, The results in the previous election, in 1946, were 44% for the Democrats, 27% for the ALP, 19% for the Republicans and 10% for the Liberals.

Thus the ALP rolled up more votes than the other three parties combined, surprising even its own leaders: And while the results have given the Democratic machine the jitters, the Republicans are far from happy over them. For by dropping from 19% to 4% of the votes, the GOP has been reduced to the status of “fourth party” in this district.

Of course, the Bronx election results, while providing a test of sentiment, cannot be accepted as a completely accurate reflection of the national political picture. There happened to be a number of exceptional local factors in this case, most of them favorable to the Wallace movement.

Exceptional Conditions

For one thing, the vote was only about half the size of the one cast in 1946, and the proportion of Wallace votes would probably go down in a regular election. Another exceptional factor was “the heavy proportion of Jewish voters in this district, something like 50%. and this had an important effect because most Jewish voters are today highly incensed at the transparently two-faced role of the Truman administration on the Palestine issue. Furthermore, this district was the second biggest stronghold of the ALP in the state.

It has also been noted that New York City is the major stronghold of the Communist Party, which is the chief representative of the Wallace movement in the trade unions. The CP forces were able by concentrating their city-wide strength in this district to achieve an effect that would be impossible in a regular election.

All in all, however, the election results are definite proof that dissatisfaction with the two-party system is spreading; that Wallace’s break with the Democrats has enhanced his popularity; and that his candidacy can cut heavily into the normally Democratic and Republican vote.

Desperate Situation

The Democrats are now in a desperate situation; and sentiment is sure to grow among them for a deal to regain Wallace’s support. Such a deal entails enormous difficulties, however.

One of the Bronx campaign’s high points was Mayor O’Dwyer’s public appeal on Feb. 12 to “liberals like Henry Wallace” to reconsider the “serious blunder” of leaving the Democratic fold and “return and carry on their fight within the Democratic Party, side by side with us.”

It was notable in Wallace’s reply three days later that he did not explicitly reject this appeal, even though he continued his attacks on the Democratic Party. An estimate of future trends must take into account Wallace’s refusal to definitely commit himself against a return to the Democratic machine, because the future of the movement he leads depends largely on what he decides to do about this.

Drew Pearson reported on Feb. 13: “Henry Wallace has told friends that he would yank his third party out of the running if the Democrats nominate Eisenhower, Douglas, Judge Thurman Arnold or any other Roosevelt Democrat.”

Whatever happens in this respect – and the undemocratic nature of the Wallace movement deprives its members of the right to make the final decision – the ALP landslide in the Bronx has given a black eye not only to the two old parties but also to the Trumanite union bureaucrats who have been vying with each other in denunciations of Wallace.

In New York State they went so far as to split the ALP over this issue. But their attempts to prop up the crumbling two-party system appear to be backfiring on them, rather than on Wallace. If the Bronx election is any indication, the bureaucrats’ repudiation of Wallace, may be transformed into a political repudiation of them by the union members.

Danger to Unions

The union leaders are treading on thin ice and may very well be sucked down into the icy waters of defeat along with Truman. That would be poetic justice, but unfortunately it also represents a terrible danger for the union movement as a whole.

That is why the union members must not permit their leaders to carry through the criminal policy of spending millions of the workers’ hard-earned dollars in ‘campaigning for Truman. That is why they must do everything in their power to force the holding of a national United Labor Conference, representing AFL, CtO, Railroad and Independent unions, to work out a new political policy for the working class and to launch an independent Labor Party.

The Bronx elections results are proof that the situation is ripe for a Labor Party. If a party supported by only a part of the unions can beat the two old parties, no limits at all can be placed on the prospects of a national Labor Party based on the whole union movement!

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