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George Clarke

Wallace Throws Another Boomerang

(17 January 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 3, 17 January 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The outstanding mark of a capitalist liberal is his attitude towards his campaign promises after election. None of his promises to the people is ever fulfilled by more than half, most of them by less than half and some of them not at all. In gambling, this procedure is known as welching. Fifty percent welching is not held in much higher esteem than reneging 100 percent. You’re either a welcher or you’re not. In politics, however, there are different standards. A conservative is expected to go back on his promises entirely. But Truman, who welches from 50 percent upward on his campaign pledges, receives great acclaim as a “liberal.”

Now it comes with ill-grace for Henry Wallace, who played at this game of welching liberalism for 13 years as a Roosevelt cabinet member, to bitterly accuse Truman of a “fatal retreat from his pre-election cormnitments.” Does Roosevelt’s record – or Wallace’s – stand up any better than Truman’s as far as the fulfillment of campaign promises is concerned? Roosevelt would thunder against the “economic royalists” but each administration saw the “money changers” more firmly ensconced in the temple than the previous one. In Roosevelt’s own words, “one third of the nation was ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-housed” after years of campaign promises to improve the living conditions of the people.

Yet during the recent campaign, Wallace held up Roosevelt as his model and inspiration. When Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Truman, the Brass Hats and the Wall Street Kings came in the door while liberalism went out the window – that was the main burden of Wallace’s campaign oratory. Now in all fairness to Truman, it cannot honestly be said that he has welched more than Roosevelt. If anything, Truman is asking for more than his predecessor ever did – which is still not very much as far as the needs of the people are concerned.

Perhaps it will be said in Wallace’s defense that the man has learned from the past and has now turned over a new leaf. What does he now propose that is different from Truman? He says in essence that social reforms must remain meager so long as the lion’s share of the budget is assigned to military purposes and for foreign commitments in connection with the prosecution of the “cold war” with the Soviet Union. Now that is all right, as far as it goes. But what is Wallace’s solution?

His statement on Truman’s budget message makes three demands: 1. Arrange a meeting between Stalin and Truman on neutral territory. 2. Stop the cold war. 3. Channel military production into constructive non-military use.

Let us suppose that Wallace’s first two propositions were accepted. In view of the catastrophe suffered by the Marshall-Truman Doctrine in China and to a lesser extent in Greece, a deal is by no means inconceivable.

Would such an agreement, if consummated, result in the abandonment of the military and foreign aid expenditures ? Only utter ignorance of the world aims of American imperialism and its fundamental social antagonism to the USSR could lead to such a conclusion. Even if Washington could temporarily settle its differences with the Kremlin on Germany, Austria, Greece and other disputed questions, it would not thereby cease in its attempts to build a Western bulwark against the Soviet Union, nor dismantle its military bases throughout the world nor discontinue stockpiling atom bombs and other armaments.

There are powerful internal compulsions for American capitalism to continue its huge military expenditures, cold war or not. David Lawrence writes in U.S. News & World Report that the $15 billions annual armament expenditures “have given America a false sense of prosperity.” An end to these expenditures, he says, creates “the possibility that the props might abruptly be pulled from the entire economic structure of the United States, bringing on an upheaval of incalculable force and intensity.”

Wallace does not even give a second thought to this real possibility. He cannot, in truth, do so and maintain his fallacious and demagogic theory of “progressive capitalism.” Capitalism can no longer keep the wheels of industry running for any extended period of time on any other basis than a war economy. Nor will the modest expenditures for social reforms proposed by Truman – or even twice that amount – prevent a depression.

This was the lesson of the New Deal, Roosevelt’s “progressive capitalism.” After four or five years of priming the pump with what Wallace calls “constructive non-military” expenditures, production was still dragging at low levels and there were still up to 11,000,000 unemployed. Roosevelt gave up the New Deal as a bad job and switched to a war economy program. The boom did not begin until 1941 when billions of dollars in war orders began pouring into the factories. Wallaco was a member of Roosevelt’s cabinet during all these years. Judging from the record and from his 1948 campaign statements, he was in thorough agreement with Roosevelt’s policies. What are his present statements worth in view of his past record and the present economic and political reality?

Wallace’s program solves nothing. There can be no solution to the contradictions of the American economy without expropriating the big monopolies and trusts. And this money power, which will go along with a few of Truman’s paltry reforms in lush times will fight to the death against these reforms when the profits disappear and depression conditions appear.

Can Wallace be ignorant of these elementary facts of life? Or is he up to his old game of pulling the wool over people’s eyes? We surmise it is both.

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