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Farrell Dobbs

Don’t Play with Rattlesnakes

(31 August 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 35, 31 August 1946, p. 8.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Farrell Dobbs is Socialist Workers Party candidate for Governor of New York

The American Labor Party lost the election in the 17th Congressional District of New York by supporting one of the capitalist candidates in the Republican primaries.

First the ALP nominated Rep Joseph Clark Baldwin as its own candidate. Then the ALP endorsed Baldwin to run in the Republican primaries against Frederick Coudert.

The Stalinist strategists who determine ALP policy did not do this through ignorance of Baldwin’s views. They knew from the beginning precisely where he stood. Thus Marcantonio, A.L.P. chairman, admitted July 9 that Baldwin “is by no means a laborite or a liberal, but definitely an honest and patriotic conservative.” To underline how well they understood that Baldwin is against labor and for the profiteers, they acknowledged he had long been “a sincere defender of free enterprise.”

Just to make everything double sure, Baldwin gave the Stalinists fair warning like any honest, conservative rattlesnake, emphasizing July 10 that he “was a Republican who believed the only hope for national liberalism lay in the Republican Party.”

Nevertheless, the Stalinist strategists put their label, “Labor-Backed Candidate,” on this Wall Street political reptile. They maintained he was a lesser evil, more “progressive” than the other capitalist candidate, Coudert. The Stalinist rank and file dutifully rang doorbells to get out the labor vote for Baldwin.

But the workers saw no reason for participating in a primary, of Herbert Hoover’s party. By a 5 to 1 vote the Republican machine nailed Baldwin’s hide to the wall.

Baldwin’s ALP nomination was still good of course.

Baldwin’s loyalties, however, belong to Wall Street. With all the viciousness of a rattlesnake that has been stepped on, he struck at the Stalinist strategists who had made a “coalition” with him.

“Under the law,” said this Republican “progressive,” “there is no way for my name to be taken off the American Labor Party ballot, but I will not, in fact, be a candidate. I urge my many friends ... not to vote for me, but to cast their votes as they think best for the candidates who, in their opinion, will best represent their views.”

Paralyzed by this load of political poison, the Daily Worker was only able to gasp seven short despairing words: “One liberal, Rep. Baldwin has been eliminated.”

The political moral of this experience is clear. If you don’t want to get bitten, don’t try to make a “coalition” with a “progressive” rattlesnake.

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