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George Clarke

The Vote for Trotskyism

(13 December 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 50, 13 December 1948, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Official returns from nine states give a total of 12,771 votes for Farrell Dobbs, Presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, and Grace Carlson, Vice-Presidential candidate in the 1948 election. Returns from two states, Connecticut and Washington, are still missing. The SWP was on the ballot in 11 states. No write-in votes from other states have yet been received.

The vote according to states was distributed as follows:

Votes for other candidates of the Socialist Workers Party in the various states were as follows:

No returns have yet been received for the SWP Gubernatorial candidates in Washington and Connecticut.

* * *

Adding Washington and Connecticut returns to the total listed above, the vote for Dobbs and Carlson in the 1948 election will add up to over 13,000. This figure represents only a partial measure of the electoral strength of the SWP because discriminatory election law kept the party off the. ballot in Ohio, Illinois, California and Massachusetts where the party is active and influential. Small in relation to the total vote and to the number received by the major parties, this figure represents a significant achievement in view of the complex circumstances surrounding the recent election.

As has been repeated many times, the outcome of the last Presidential contest was decided by a mobilization of workers a few weeks before election day to elect the “lesser evil.” Truman’s victory was achieved by cutting deeply, into the Wallace total, who received a drastically smaller vote, than was previously granted him. To the bulk of working, class voters, the issue was posed on a razor’s edge: Republican reaction or “lesser evil” Truman.

And the question was decided by the election of Truman without a popular majority in the country as a whole and by narrow margins in many states.

The number of protest votes available for minority parties using the Socialist label was therefore much smaller than in previous elections. To this fact should be added the low total vote although the total electorate has increased by many millions since 1944. The SWP was competing for votes in an election where the line-ups were sharply drawn with a minimum number of independent voters participating. As will be seen from the figures, the SWP did not receive any sizable number of protest votes except in New Jersey where it was favored in a few counties by its place on the ballot. Even the vote for Norman Thomas, which usually derives largely from this category, although larger than his total in 1944, was still far below the expectations of the SP leaders. The Socialist Labor Party vote was lower than in 1944.

The character of the Dobbs-Carlson vote is illustrated by another comparison. In every instance. the local SWP candidates received a larger vote than the national ticket as in New Jersey and Minnesota where the U.S. Senatorial candidates ran a few thousand ahead of Dobbs and Carlson and in Michigan where they exceeded the presidential ticket by a few hundred votes. In view of the closeness of the election, even those who were prepared to vote their beliefs for a lesser office, were reluctant to vote for minority candidate in the decisive contest.

In view of all these factors, it is correct to interpret the bulk of the Dobbs-Carlson vote as a vote for revolutionary socialism, for Trotskyism. This was the basis on which the campaign was conducted from beginning to end, the main theme of all the campaign literature published by the party, all the radio and tour speeches of the candidates, and the nature of most of the writeups in the capitalist press.

We pulled no punches in our propaganda and eschewed the comforts and rewards of respectability so eagerly coveted by Norman Thomas. We made no attempt to conceal the conviction and imprisonment of our banner-bearers for opposition to the war but on the contrary proudly acknowledged and advertised this fact. We openly fought the listing of our party as “subversive,” our Presidential candidate leading the fight, denying the charge of violence and conspiracy but frankly affirming the revolutionary socialist, character of the party. Under these conditions, it would be difficult for the majority of Dobbs-Carlson voters to misunderstand the meaning of their votes.

In the atmosphere of reactionary hysteria which prevailed in the months before the election, the votes for Dobbs and Carlson constituted an action far more significant than a marking of paper ballots. These votes were a demonstration of the pioneer band which will not be cowed or intimidated by all the power of American imperialism. They registered a notice of allegiance with the extreme left wing of American politics and a demonstration of faith and conviction in the socialist future of the United States and the world.

Our chief aim of our first Presidential campaign was to smash our way out of obscurity and to bring the Socialist Workers Party and its program before the eyes and ears of the workers of the entire nation. In the size and magnitude of this nationwide audience we measured the achievement of this aim, successful beyond our fondest hopes, and clearly indicated before the balloting began. We started a process of thinking and questioning among large numbers groping for answers to the grave problems posed by the world crisis of capitalism. That thinking will become crystallized into positive convictions and thence into action as the crisis deepens and the truth of the Trotskyist doctrine is confirmed by life and experience.

Those who answered our first nationwide call at the polls are no Wallacite “Gideon’s band” to be disintegrated in the first skirmish with the enemy. They are the first division of the socialist army whose numbers will grow and whose victory is assured because they march in step with history with the banner of truth at the head of the column.

We salute you – voters for Dobbs and Carlson! You are the soldiers of socialism and freedom. The future belongs to you!

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