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Mr. Seabury “Exposes” Tammany-Walker

(June 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 23 (Whole No. 119), 4 June 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The city of New York, the metropolis of the world, is engaged in one of its very regular scandals in which muckraking, corruption, righteous indignation and outright cynicism are all mixed up in a bottle labelled – Tammany. After many months, in which time “the lion of reform”, Sam Seabury, has been occupied in cleaning up the shady places in the city government, and unearthing the “tin boxes” where the custodians of city affairs deposit their somewhat doubtful earnings, last week, the dapper night club mayor of beer parade fame was put on the witness stand to answer for some peculiar items on his bank account.

Nobody was very much startled by Seabury’s revelations concerning the bribes and “gifts” received by Walker in the course of his glamorous tenure of office. The population of New York seems to have grown apathetic to the doings and undoings of Tammany. The prevailing sentiment can be summed up in the following words: “If Jimmy is smart enough to get the boodle, more power to him. If I were in his place, I’d do the same”. Nevertheless, with all the recent talk about balancing the budget, efficient government, city planning, etc., it is interesting to recount some of the adventures of James J. Walker.

We all remember the regal style in which Walker cruised the Atlantic, comfortably ensconced in the imperial suite of the S.S. Berengaria. For trips to Europe other sources of income than the meagre $40,000 per annum, which is the Mayor’s salary, are required. But the resourceful Jimmy had no trouble in finding these. It appears that the Equitable Coach Company wanted a franchise to run buses on the streets of New York. Jimmy wanted a trip to Europe – two and two makes four. On August 9, 1927, Walker signed the bill for the franchise. On August 10, he left for Europe with a $10,000 letter of credit made out in his name and backed up with the cash supplied by J. Allen Smith, political contact man for the Equitable. The hustle and bustle of New York, as can be seen, allows no time for procrastination.

The exploits of our good mayor, however, do not end with his European voyage. It appears that a certain Mr. Sisto, a taxi cab financier, presented Walker With a small “gift” of $26,535 worth of bonds. Why? Because his interests were seeking the stricter municipal control to insure a monopoly for the Parmelee Taxi Cab Corp.? Oh, no! We must not contradict a man’s word sealed with the solemn oath of the law. Mr. Sisto, by his own frank admission, handed out this money for no other reason than his “deep admiration” for the mayor! But the mayor has more than one admirer in the city of New York.

Samuel Ungerleider, a well known stock broker, testified before the Hofstadter Committee that he purchased 1,000 shares of stock from Walker’s agent, Sherwood, who has mysteriously disappeared, for $51,960 when the market price of the stock at the time was $29,000. We presume that this $30,000 donation was given out of similar considerations of esteem to those that prompted Mr. Sisto. Only, in the absence of his attorney, M. Ungerleider said, he could make no statements on the subject. However, we are led to believe, through knowledge of his connections, that Ungerleider was just a little concerned over the fate of the securities of the Parmelee Taxi Cab Corporation.

A veritable furor of genuine indignation was stirred up over Walker receiving money he never worked for. Paul Block, newspaper publisher and “salesman” of tiles to the city subway contractors, started a joint brokerage account with the mayor, from which Jimmy received $246,692, between February 1927 and August 1929. And the mayor never invested a cent in this venture. Why that’s real exploitation! Just think of the poor hard-working Mr. Block who had to clip all the coupons by himself, the mayor not contributing a stitch of his own “labor” and then receiving over $200,000.

What a farce these bootblacks of the capitalist class, reformers and corruptions alike, make of the tragic lot of the working class under capitalism. Investment of money is considered hard honest labor, but profits and dividends where no investment is made, is branded as ill-begotten lucre.

We have no reason to and we are not undertaking the defense of Jimmy Walker. We will leave that to the apologists of Capitalism, of which he is a typical product. The point is, however, that to us it is irrelevant as to how the master class divides its profits derived from the blood and bones of the toiling masses. Does it make a particle of difference to the working class whether Mr. Block and his ilk squander their profits for their purposes or divide it among their political henchmen and state servants. It does, however, demonstrate the very close connection the master class has with the leading government officials, vindicating over again the contention of Karl Marx, that the “state is nothing short of the executive committee of the ruling class.”

With the dent the economic crisis has made in the standard of living of the working class, with wage cuts and starvation rampant in the country, with the experience of the strike against coolie conditions in Kentucky still fresh in our minds, it is quite instructive to read of the doings of the capitalist class and their officers. The working class, which has been told by these same capitalist hirelings to “learn to live on less”, to accept wage cuts as a “patriotic duty”, to forget about unemployment insurance because the budget has to be “balanced”, should take note of this outright and flagrant hypocrisy that the master class practices, without the slightest fear of “exposure”.

The liberals, the preachers, and the socialist party are out in full force, raising the hue and cry of “driving the rascals out” and changing the present administration “for clean, honest and efficient government”. The workers can have nothing to do with this kind of tripe. First, because corruption is inherent in the capitalist system and will not be eliminated until the whole decadent mechanism of this system, in all its ramifications is abolished. In return for their services of keeping the working class in check, the political lackies sometimes extort a greater part of the booty than their masters have set aside for them. The politicians are astounded that their shady deals should be probed in a system where everything is to a greater or lesser degree of the same character. And Assemblyman Steingut correctly speaks up “that such an inquisition is more worthy of Russia than of the U.S.” Only in the workers’ republic they deal more directly with grafters and waste much less time!

Does “good government” improve the lot of the workers, assuming that it is possible? Does it hinder wage cuts or alleviate unemployment? Milwaukee, heralded as a shining example of efficiency in government by the liberals and reformers of the S.P. type is a striking proof to the contrary. No. Aside from saving money for the bosses (in which the workers can have no interest) it is a camouflage issue, raised to distract the attention of the workers from the vital, burning problems of their everyday existence.

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