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George Clarke

Labor Needs Its Own Party,
Not a Third Capitalist Party

(15 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 24, 15 June 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Labor statesmen” and their Stalinist camp followers are very angry today – and they have every right to be. They expended millions of dollars from union treasuries and workers’ pocketbooks to elect “friends of labor” – and now the “friends of labor” headed by the President himself have turned up openly in the camp of the enemies of labor. But anger and cursing won’t protect the unions or win an election. The workers want to know: What is to be done now?

The master-minds say that Truman will never again receive the votes of labor. Whitney has pledged part of the treasury of the Trainmen’s Union to defeat him. But who will replace Truman? From what party will the new ‘’friends of labor” be elected? These questions reduce all the brave shouting to an inaudible whisper.

These gentlemen – the most vociferous among them being the Stalinists – reluctantly admit now, that as between the Democratic and Republican parties the workers are choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. Yet they are opposed to an independent labor party, based on the trade unions. Such a party, they say, would isolate the workers from the rest of the population and therefore insure defeat at the polls. Hence what is needed, they conclude, is a “Third Party” to be headed by the “Progressives” from both capitalist parties, by men like Henry Wallace, Ickes, Morgenthau, Pepper, LaGuardia and others.

Don’t Want It Now

The strangest thing about the self-appointed leaders of the “Third Party” is that not one of them favors its creation now. Wallace, Morgenthau, the newspaper PM – pride and joy of the millionaire Marshall Field – are all against it today. The Stalinist Daily Worker says talk of its immediate creation is “a plot of Trotskyists and reactionaries.” All of them are lecturing the workers that there is still a good apple in the rotten barrel, that labor must remain loyal to the Democratic Party.

All of them are hanging on to the Democratic Party for dear life: this despite the fact that the Democratic Party – like the Republican Party – is just another way of saying huge profits, high prices, lagging wages and anti labor-laws: another way of saying Wall Street. But in their own way, Wallace and Co. are right. They see no fundamental difference in program between the so-called “left-wing” of the Democratic Party and that of a Third Party.

The criticisms of the millionaire Morgenthau are a good example. He condemns Truman for betraying Roosevelt’s, program and as a result failing to curb inflation and to stop strikes. What is this but a choice of one anti-labor program over another? Every housewife knows that skyrocketing prices began during the war under Roosevelt. Every worker knows that Roosevelt froze wages by the device of the “Little Steel” formula. Every profiteer knows that the “Big Steal” began under Roosevelt.

Morgenthau is bitter against Truman because he disbanded the War Labor Board and therefore could not prevent strikes. But the workers were bitter against Roosevelt because he created the War Labor Board which denied wage demands, buried grievances and throttled strikes. The difference between Morgenthau and Truman is one of how best to hamstring the labor movement. Truman wants to do it openly by means of Congressional action. Morgenthau wants to pull the wool over the workers eyes, and then do the same thing as Truman by presidential decree and presidential boards.

How Labor Wins Support

In essence these are the differences between the “Third Party” and the Democratic Party, and the so-called “progressives” can see no reason for the present why these differences cannot be reconciled within the framework of the Democratic Party.

But can labor go it alone? Doesn’t it need the support of the poor farmer, the shopkeeper, the insurance salesman and the bank clerk? True enough – no sane person could deny the need. How is this support to be won?

First: by recognizing the real community of interest that exists between the workers and the lower middle class. Both classes are oppressed by the same tax burden they have to carry to pay the cost of capitalist wars. Both classes suffer at the hands of the monopolies: factory workers receive low wages, the poor farmer pays exorbitant prices for machinery. Sixty families revel in a golden paradise that is made possible by the blood, sweat and tears of the worker, farmer and small businessman. Middle class and working class have one enemy: monopoly capitalism. They must unite around one program whose aim will be to drive out of power the government of bankers and industrialists and to establish a government of workers and farmers.

Second: This program requires the power of organization. And this power exists today in the trade unions which stand in the front lines of the struggle against monopoly capital. The farmer and the small businessmen are in the nature of things isolated one from the other and not easily organized. They can only be politically effective by supporting the political party of the working class – the Labor Party. It would be the height of folly to disorganize and disfranchise 14,000,000 workers in a “Third Party” when it is possible to give organization and strength to the middle class through a Labor Party.

The support of the middle class will never be obtained by labor surrendering its independence and its program in a “Third Party” dominated by Wallace, Ickes and Co. These gentlemen do not represent the middle class, they are impostors whose roles is to deceive workers and farmers alike in the interest of Big Business. They denounce labor’s struggles because, they allege, the middle class will be offended. By thus artificially dividing the workers from their natural allies, they only weaken and, if successful, eventually defeat, the common front of both classes against the common enemy – Big Business.

Not a “Third Party”

In a “Third Party” the middle class would be pampered and flattered. But it will be just words, words and more words. Without a real struggle against the monopolies – led by the workers – inflation and black market will ruin the merchant, concentration will drive the small businessman to the wall, debts will plague the poor farmer. And the worst of it all will be that the cowardice and betrayals of the. “Third Party” will turn the wrath of the middle class not against Big Business, but against the workers where the fascist demagogues will direct it.

All attempts to create a separate middle class party in the past have proved abortive, with the party ending its life in one of the two major parties. The Populist movement, at the turn of the century, was finally interred in the Democratic Party. The Wisconsin Progressive Party, once a national party, which polled 5,000,000 votes in 1924 for President, surrendered the ghost to the Republican Party three months ago. There is no independent road for the middle class. If it does not follow the labor movement, it will be driven into the arms of Big Business.

There is only one reason why the siren tunes of the “Third Party” lack in volume today. The movement for an independent labor party is not yet powerful enough to constitute a threat to the “friends of labor” and the labor leaders who are still running the old skin game of two-party capitalist politics.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.. The “Third Party” is not the labor party wrapped in a more attractive package. It is the old capitalist party with its face lifted and its name changed. Don’t be fooled by substitutes. The real fight is the fight for the independent political party of labor based on the trade unions and supported by the poor farmers and the small businessmen.

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