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Albert Gates

Editor’s Comments

(13 December 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 50, 13 December 1943, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Meaning of the Two-Party System

For some time now, we have called the attention of the labor movement to the need for independent political action by labor through its own political organization, a Labor Party. Developments in recent years have demonstrated that this is a prime need of the American workers. There are thousands and thousands of workers in the country who are more than sick of the rooking that labor has been receiving at the hands of the political parties of big business and its servants.

If you really want to know how important an independent Labor Party is, you have only to note who opposes such a political policy and such a party. The Republicans are against it; the Democrats are against it. Willkie is opposed to a Labor Party, and so is Roosevelt. Big business would fight it tooth and nail; its press screams out against independent labor politics every day.

But these are outright capitalists, or their supporters. But in the labor movement the officialdoms also speak and act against such political action by the workers.

Behind the labor officialdom stand the arch-enemies of the working class, the Stalinists. They are the most conscious and therefore the cleverest opponents of genuine independent political action by labor and are especially vigorous in their fight against any kind of organizational steps that would lead to the formation of a Labor Party.

One of the oldest arguments used against a Labor Party is that it would upset the two-party system in this country. But you might ask: What is so all-fired holy about the two-party system? Certainly experience shows that the two-party system, especially when it is represented by the Republican and Democratic Parties, as it has been for so many years, is really a choice between tweedledum and tweedledee.

Tradition – Good or Bad?

The two-party system is a bad tradition for labor. It means choosing between two capitalist, anti-labor political parties, that is, parties of big business.

When the capitalists and their servants defend the two-party system it is because they fear a party of labor and do everything in their power to prevent its formation. In their success lies their political strength.

When the labor movement accepts the two-party system it is merely aiding the parties of big business and weakening the political and economic position of the workers.

In the light of the above, it is easy to see how harmful the CIO political policy is today. I do not speak about the AFL now because that organization with its old and foggy leadership is reactionary, politically speaking. It continues to adhere to a policy of “reward your friends, and punish your enemies.” This has meant support of either Republican or Democratic candidates and has usually meant no support to any third progressive or labor party.

But the CIO gave promise of progressive labor political action in its early years. More recently, local unions and officials have spoken out openly in favor of a Labor Party and genuine independent political action by the trade union movement.

Hillman and the CIO Political Action Committee

The CIO officialdom, however, has become very active politically – but also in a reactionary way. They too oppose genuine political labor action and the formation of an independent Labor Party.

Instead of pursuing such a progressive course, the CIO executive board set up a “Political Action Committee.” There are obviously two reasons which led to the formation of this committee:

  1. to mobilize support for Roosevelt and his party of big business and poll-tax Southerners;
  2. to head off any movement for a Labor Party, which would defeat the first purpose.

And who was placed at the head of this committee? None other than Sidney Hillman, the social worker-union leader, who, as the Maryland Labor Herald says, “is losing caste among the members of the union he heads because he thinks fifty cents an hour should be top pay for members of his union who work in cotton goods.”

Hillman is not carrying on independent political action. He is playing boss politics. He is acting as a henchman of the Democratic Party national machine. This is revealed not only by the policy which his committee pursues, but most alarmingly by the assistants he has chosen.

As his first assistant, Hillman has chosen C.B. Baldwin, former administrator in the Farm Security Administration, a Roosevelt appointee, and not a member of the labor movement in any way.

As director of CIO political activities in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, Hillman named Raymond C. McKeough, former Democratic member of the House and long-time politician associated with the Kelly-Nash-Horner machine in Illinois.

Hillman’s “Labor” Assistants

Isn’t it as plain as day that the politics of the CIO under Hillman and the executive board is essentially the same as that of the AFL officialdom? The only difference is that the AFL has not yet decided which boss party it will support, while the CIO Political Action Committee is unmistakably pro-Democratic Party.

What has this to do with independent political action by labor? What has it to do with an independent Labor Party? Exactly nothing!

The only thing that can be gained from such policies is another defeat for labor. It is more than high-time to call a halt to this kind of political action.

It is necessary now more, than ever for the ranks of the trade union movement, and the union movement as a whole, to embark on a determined course which would lead to the formation of a Labor Party to fight for the economic and political interests of the whole working class.

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