George Clarke Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

George Clarke

The Wallace Party Is Launched

(2 August 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 31, 2 August 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Christening themselves the Progressive Party, the Wallace-ites made their debut last week in Philadelphia as the third capitalist party on the national political arena.

The name is symbolic. The new party is truly representative of the tradition and role played by other parties bearing the same name in the history of American politics. The party of Theodore Roosevelt and the party of LaFollette, both called “Progressive,” came before the American people with radical-sounding programs, bold, defiant proclamations against the “powers-that-be” and freely-given promises.

Both parties served as safety-valves for the widespread discontent among farmers, the lower middle class of the cities and sections of the workers.

The radical demands embodied in the Wallace program, the defiant speeches of the party’s spokesmen, the high proportion of youth and Negroes at the Convention – all reflect the existing mass discontent. They reflect disillusionment with the outcome of the war, bitterness with inflationary prices and the lack of housing, anger at the continuation and worsening of the Jim Crow system, and above all hostility to the war plans of the bipartisan coalition.

Many Promises

The program is generous and appealing in its promises on all these questions, more radical than any party of its size has ever been before. Yet never once does the program come to grips fundamentally with these questions, never once does it dig down to the capitalist profit system – the root cause of all these evils. Yet it is precisely this failure that explains the shabby record of the Wallaces and Tugwells while in office and makes future betrayals inevitable.

To Henry Wallace, “the best defender of the capitalist system,” in his own words, the nation fell from grace when Roosevelt died. This was the theme of his acceptance speech and it was to Roosevelt’s policies that he dedicated himself and his party. Yet it was Roosevelt – with Wallace’s help – who deliberately dragged the people into the last war. It was Roosevelt’s war economy which favored the monopoly interests, created new billionaires and saddled the people with a huge debt, the outstanding cause of inflation today. It was Roosevelt – with Wallace’s help – who perpetuated the Jim Crow army.

Only m one place has the program of the party moved somewhat to the “left” – as a result of the demagogy of Truman. The Progressive Party now proposes to nationalize some of the largest banks, the railroads, public utilities and industries dependent on government subsidy as a means to stop inflation. The outcome of such nationalization is at best questionable since the giant trusts, steel, oil, automobile, chemical, mining and packing are not to be touched – on the insistence of Wallace himself – and those proposed for government ownership will not come under the control of the workers. In time of depression, the owners of the industries designated by the Progressive Party Convention may very well favor nationalization as a means of continuing their profits.

Opposition to militarization and to a Third World War – this was the theme of the convention and the platform of the Progressive Party. Yet this is the greatest of all delusions sown by Wallace and company. By pointing to Harry Truman and his cabinet – and not to the capitalist profit system whom they represent – as the cause of the threatening war, the Wallace Party disarms its followers and prepares for capitulation at the outbreak of war, a promise already made by Wallace himself. By proposing to solve the war danger by trusting to a refurbished United Nations and to the skill of Wallace in negotiating with Stalin for a peaceful division of spoils, the movement for peace is led down a blind alley.

The struggle against Jim Crow was placed in the forefront of the convention. The keynote speech was delivered by a Negro publisher. This is unprecedented in American capitalist politics and reflects Wallace’s drive for support among the Negro people. More significant than the fanfare, was the silence with which Wallace’s record on this question while in office was glossed over. The delegates still needed experience to discover that capitalist politicians seldom match words with deeds.

Few Trade Unionists

Most revealing of the true nature of the party was the small number of trade unionists at the convention. The credential committee report showed that out of 3,240 delegates 529, or only one-sixth were members of trade unions. The specific weight of this number is actually much lower, since many of the 529 represented no one but themselves.

The lack of trade union representation enabled the Wallace-Stalinist combination to run the convention in an arbitrary manner. Dissident proposals and amendments got short shrift from Lee Pressman, the Stalinist Secretary of the Platform Committee and by Marcantonio, the Stalinist fellow-traveller chairman of the Rules Committee.

Firm control of the national committee was placed in the hands of the leadership which is empowered to appoint 40 members on the national committee besides those elected by State delegations at conventions.

Except for Wallace’s statement that “Communist Party support” represented a “liability” and his hope for the affiliation of the anti-Communist ADA, no rift appeared in the coalition. The Stalinists were too powerful a factor at the convention for Wallace to risk a conflict with them. They were the main organizers; the trade union delegations and leaders came largely from CP controlled unions; the largest delegations, such as the New York ALP, the California IPP, the Illinois Progressive Party, the fraternal and language organizations were Stalinist dominated.

The Stalinists made use of their commanding position to kill any criticism of the Stalin regime and its foreign policies, going to the ludicrous extreme of reversing the platform committee on the question of Macedonia, so as to support the Cominform against Tito. In the same way, they quashed an amendment which would have explicitly committed the convention to support a struggle for the restoration of the civil rights of the 18 Minneapolis victims of the Smith Act.

George Clarke Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 11 October 2022