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Albert Gates

Union Leaders Help Kelly Get Close Victory

Chicago Mayoralty Poll Shows Trend from New Deal

(April 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 23, 11 April 1939, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

CHICAGO. – In a record vote totalling 1,478,637 ballots, Mayor Kelly was re-elected over his Republican opponent, Dwight Green, by a small plurality of 183,000 votes. A great outpouring of independent votes and the support of Courtney votes gave the Republican candidate an amazing total of 637,107 ballots. So close was this vote that it appears clear that had a state election been held, the Republicans would have swept such an election and placed a Republican governor into office.

The enormous Republican vote is explainable in a general way as a reaction to the incumbent office holders. Despite the efforts of Chicago’s labor organizations and the Communist Party to depict the struggle between the two candidates as a struggle between progress and reaction, the New Deal and old guard Hooverism, it is clear that no such sharp distinction was accepted by the mass of voters. Insofar as such, a distinction was accepted, it was limited to the ranks of organized labor.

New Deal Losing Favor

There is no doubt that Roosevelt’s popularity is waning. At least, this seems to be the case in Illinois, and to a considerable extent in Chicago. The New Deal is having a hard time convincing the people that it has actually brought about a permanent improvement in the condition of the broad masses.

It is true, that Green received his great vote primarily in the Gold Coast wards, the districts inhabited by the small home owner, the white collar worker and small business man. But it would be false to assume that in his more than 600,000 vote no workers or unemployed votes could be counted. It would be just as false to conclude that all of Kelly’s 800,000 votes were workers’ votes. And that is so even granting that a majority of the workers cast their ballots for the Mayor.

It must be borne in mind too, that Kelly was publicly acclaimed and supported by wide sections of the financial and business interests, the department store magnates, reactionaries, as well as by the trade unions and the liberals.

Labor Support Helps

One element swung the election in Kelly’s favor. We refer to the active and militant support rendered to him by the A.F. of L, the C.I.O., Labor’s Non-Partisan League, the liberals and the Communist Party. While the latter is no great shakes as a vote getter, the fact is that the trade union movement in this city does control or manipulate almost a quarter of a million votes. Therein lies the margin of victory (or possible defeat) for the local Democratic machine, If Kelly can thank anyone for his victory, he can thank organized labor.

The crying need of the workers is an independent political party of the workers. Had there been such a party, it could no doubt have gained a number of aldermanic seats, especially in those wards which are predominantly worker and where the machine candidates were elected solely on labor support.

We know, of course, that the labor skates and the Stalinists will at once reply that an independent labor party would have led to the defeat of Kelly. That would have merit only if the re-elected mayor was a workers’ candidate, or that it would matter a great deal to the masses whether Green or Kelly took office.

Essentially, however, there is no great choice between the one experienced political hack and the republican new-comer. Fundamentally they are both capitalist candidates notwithstanding that Kelly came out against W.P.A. and relief cuts and Green said nothing; that Green came out for the Dies committee and Kelly said nothing; that Green came out in favor of lower taxes and Kelly said little; that Kelly defended his “economy” regime and Green claimed he could economize still more, or, that Kelly stood on his record as a “good” mayor, and Green had no record.

One must remember that the Civil Liberties Union stated there was little to choose between the two candidates in their attitude toward the matter of civil liberties, trade union rights, picketing and so forth.

In the parliamentary field, in Chicago, as well as in the nation, the great task still remains: to break the masses away from the two major capitalist parties. Independent political action of the workers suffered a blow in this election through the action of the labor organizations, the Stalinists and the liberals. It is necessary to sharply reverse this situation before the workers can progress on the political field.

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