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Albert Goldman

Shadow of Stalinism Covers
First Meeting of Progressives

(28 October 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 43, 28 October 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A combination of New Dealers (“liberals” under various degrees of Stalinist influence and some anti-Stalinists), labor bureaucrats and outright Stalinists met at a conference in Chicago on September 28–29 to consider and discuss their not too hopeful situation. Very rapidly the New Dealers are being deprived of their position and influence in the Democratic party. With the elimination of Wallace from the cabinet there is not a single prominent figure left in the Truman administration who is an authentic New Dealer. The Southern reactionaries and the corrupt political machines of the large cities have decided that they can get along without sharing offices with figures like Wallace, Ickes and their Stalinist supporters.

Since the conference was sponsored by the CIO Political Action Committee, the National Citizens Political Action Committee and the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions the Stalinist influence was predominant. Nevertheless the Stalinists had to give the lead to the non-Stalinist big-shot Democratic and labor bureaucrats. Ickes, Senator Pepper and Philip Murray could not be dragooned into following a complete Stalinist line and the Stalinists therefore had to adapt their line to the Democratic bigshot politicians and labor leaders.

Although the Stalinists have been pressing for a third party, the line at the conference was adapted to meet with the approval of men like Wallace and Pepper who are definitely opposed to a third party. A third party is too much of a risk for the politicians who still expect to hold office as representatives of the Democratic Party. The conference unanimously decided to concentrate on the election of “progressives,” both Democrats and Republicans.

Due mainly to Stalinist influence the door for the formation of a third party was left open. A continuation committee was appointed to meet after the election and to call another conference of “progressives” in January. Should the Stalinists decide to go ahead with the formation of a third party they will undoubtedly lose men like Pepper if not men like Wallace. The Senator from Florida may follow the Stalinist line when it does not conflict with his political career but he knows that to be a successful politician for the time being, he must be a Democrat and an advocate of white supremacy.


Domestic Program

For its domestic program the conference presented a document which roundly condemned the 79th Congress for “letting the people down.” The program is for price and for rent control, for subsidies for housing (completely inadequate), for the Wagner-Murray-Dingell health bill and for all other measures that have been introduced by Truman, under the general title of Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights, but either rejected or pigeon-holed by Congress.

It is significant that the Truman administration was omitted from the section that criticized the 79th Congress. Neither the Democratic politicians nor the CIO non-Stalinist bureaucrats are ready to break with the Administration.

The program for the domestic scene bases itself on the acceptance of the principle of free enterprise. In that, Wallace, Ickes and Morgenthau set the tone. The monopolies were condemned; small business was promised relief as well as the worker and farmer but the capitalist system as such was not mentioned. Not one word about nationalization of any industry appears in the platform. It is a program of middle-class progressives who have come under Stalinist influence.

Two Foreign Policies

The resolution on foreign policy is a compromise between those who, like Ickes, defend the interests of American imperialism against Stalinist encroachment and the Stalinists who are now supporting Wallace in his policy of appeasement. Due to the open break between Russia and American imperialism some of the liberals are balking at accepting Stalinist leadership. The liberals and the labor bureaucrats who generally keep quiet when criticism of the Stalinists is in order, have recently gotten up courage to criticize. We can predict with confidence that the more serious the tension between American and Stalinist imperialism becomes the more scared will the liberals become of Stalinist influence. The anti-Stalinist groupings that have appeared in the CIO are largely due to the deterioration in the relationship between American and Stalinist imperialism.

Ickes and Murray openly attacked the Stalinists. Murray limited himself to an extemporaneous remark to the effect that the attempt of the Communists to mix in labor politics is not welcome. The attack of Ickes was prepared and much more elaborate – mainly on the foreign policy of the Kremlin. As a result the foreign policy platform, in addition to calling for unity of the Big Three and for the cessation of military aid to any faction in China, also condemned imperialism by all nations. We can rest assured that this was difficult for the Stalinists to swallow but they accepted it since they are in a position to claim that there is no such thing as Russian imperialism.

On the question of the atomic bomb the conference supported Wallace as against Baruch. Ickes was not present at the time the resolution was accepted but he has since come out with an attack on those responsible for the drawing of the resolution. It is becoming clear that Ickes is drawing further away from the Stalinists as the tension between Moscow and Washington grows.

The Real Failure

There is no doubt that the conference had representation from those sections of the American people that must unite in the struggle against the monopolies that rule this country. Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of the Colored People was there; also James Patton of the Farmers Union. The backbone of the conference was the PAC of the CIO.

If progressive labor were to take the lead and unite around it the poor farmers, the Negroes and the lower middle class, a conference would go far indeed if labor were determined to launch a party of its own, to assume the leadership of such a party and not permit ambitious middle class politicians to determine the policies of the party. Such a conference would go far indeed if instead of clinging to the program of Roosevelt it would clearly see the necessity for a program leading to the taking of power by labor with the purpose of nationalising the most important industries under workers’ control.

But the conference that was held had the fatal weakness of being dominated by the Stalinists who are interested only in defending the Kremlin tyrants. And in addition there were the middle-class politicians who cling to their free enterprise and, in the last analysis, to American imperialism. From such a conference nothing good for the labor movement can emanate.

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