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An Article on the Recent Moves for a “New Party”

We Need a Labor Party,
Not a “Third” Party

(3 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 22, 3 June 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Several groups in the labor movement have recently declared themselves in favor of the formation, in the unspecified future, of what some of them call a “third party” and others a new “people’s party.” The Workers Party has been consistently campaigning for the formation of a new party by the organized labor movement; but the Workers Party calls not for a third party but for a LABOR PARTY. This difference in terms expresses not a slight variation in language but a serious conflict over opposing social and political principles.

It is necessary to stress this fact because top CIO officials like Sidney Hillman have repeated their long-standing opposition to setting up of ANY new party. Offhand, it might seem that the advocates of a “third” party propose a drastic change in the current political line of the CIO. But that is not true; for they remain faithful to the philosophy which underlies the old line.

In his statement of policy to the executive board of the United Auto Workers Union, Walter Reuther said:

“Labor should join hands with farmers, professionals, small business and other functional groups to work toward the eventual formation of a broad new progressive party’ which will truly represent the needs of our nation and its people.”

The Addes (Stalinist) faction, despite its bitter fight against Reuther for control of the union, agrees with him on this point. Its platform states:

“That we work toward the eventual formation of a broad Third Party based on the thinking and interests of millions of the labor, farmer, professional and other progressive people of our nation.”

The National Educational Committee for the Formation of a New Party set up on April 6–7 at a national conference in Chicago attended by a group of liberals and labor leaders, announced that it is organized “for the purpose of carrying on an educational campaign for a people’s party and for the principles on which such a party should be based.” At a meeting of its national committee in Detroit on May 4, a representative of Walter Reuther was present as an observer. Others who attended were August Scholle, head of the Michigan CIO Council and director of the PAC in Michigan, and Matthew Hammond, head of the Michigan Commonwealth Federation.

Continue Support of Boss Candidates

While these moves were being made public last month, the Political Action Committee of the CIO, represented by its national chairman, Sidney Hillman, was meeting in conference with two organizations composed of professional and middle class elements – the National Citizens PAC and the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions. This conference was presided over by former Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. Ickes stressed two facts: (1) The union of the three groups did not aim at the formation of a third party and (2) its purpose was to oppose the “coalition of reactionary Democrats and Republicans” by supporting so-called friends of the people among the Democrats and Republicans. This is a clear endorsement of the standard CIO policy of supporting “liberals” from the two old parties in the primaries and in the regular elections.

Thus, one group favors a new party and the other opposes it. However, these contrary ideas are really separated by a very thin line of demarcation; for both sides are in complete agreement on what should be done NOW. The advocates of the new party are against the formation of any such party NOW. Their plans relate to some unspecified date in the future; they do not explain when and under what conditions they hope to form their party.

The differences between the two groups in question can be summarized as follows: (1) Both agree on the same political principle; (2) Both agree on what to do now; (3) But the new-partyites are dabbling with the idea of supporting the same old capitalist politicians outside of the framework of the two old parties. They are not for a political divorce between labor and capital; they merely want the married couple to move into a new home if the old one gets too dirty.

Why the Talk About a New Party?

Why is there so much talk about a new party? Because it is becoming increasingly clear that the two old parties are owned by the big monopolists and bankers. Labor needs its own party, a party based upon the organized labor movement, a party which fights for a. program which will fulfill the needs of the working people. But capitalist politicians, whether or not they remain inside the Democratic and Republican Parties, cannot and will not fight for such a program.

Against the capitalist politicians, for independent labor political action! That is the slogan of today and it means: “For a LABOR Party.” The 1944 elections proved how misleading any other policy is.

In 1944, the top leaders of the CIO rejoiced at the re-election of the Democratic administration and celebrated labor’s great “victory” at the polls, a victory which put the control of Congress into the hands of iso-called friends of labor. A few months passed and – what disappointment reigned! The big question asked in the CIO was: “Who really won the elections?”

The answer was simple: THE CAPITALIST CLASS. Its victory was demonstrated by the decisions of Congress and the actions of the Truman administration. In the midst of the big strike wave, for example, the administration proposal for “fact- finding boards” was denounced by Philip Murray as an anti-labor, pro-capitalist scheme. The capitalist “liberals” have fooled labor many times but it is time for the workers to begin to learn. Yet the proponents of the “third” party idea continue to retain faith in these liberals. The formation of a third party with the same old capitalist politicians would only be a new means of deceiving the people who are becoming aware of the true nature of the old parties.

What Does Reuther Want to Wait For?

Walter Reuther, who is probably destined to become a leading spokesman for the “third party” idea, says: “Such a movement (the new party) cannot succeed if it is launched prematurely and on a narrow basis.” Addes and his followers repeat the same idea in almost the same words. They all agree: a new party is “premature.”

But, we ask, what makes a new party “premature”? Whom must we wait for? Must we wait upon the exploited working class, the poverty-stricken sharecroppers and farm laborers, the disinherited one-third of a nation, the oppressed and Jim-Crowed Negroes – in sum: must we wait upon that section of the American people which toils and sweats to earn its living? Such an idea is preposterous.

If, ten minutes from now, the organized labor movement proclaimed that it was about to form a Labor Party, millions upon millions of workers and their families would rally behind the new party with the same hope and enthusiasm that greeted the formation of the crusading CIO some ten years ago. No, the leadership is not waiting for the membership; the membership is waiting for the leadership.

These warnings – “not prematurely” and “not narrow” – give us the clues that we need to understand the nature of the “new third party.” It is to be a party in which the workers wait upon the capitalist liberals. Just as we are asked to be patient and forebearing while the liberals decide when, how, why and where to form a new party; so, in the new party, labor would be expected to follow at the coat-tails of these politicians, to alter its demands and to delay its actions in accordance with their desires. Such a party would not be a Labor Party but its opposite, a party in which capitalist liberals hold the reins while labor strains in the harness. Such a party would be a third CAPITALIST party.

The formation of a “third” or “people’s” party would mean a policy of compromise and collaboration with representatives of the capitalist class. The third capitalist party would therefore be not an instrument for advancing the cause of the worker but a machine to further depress and minimize his demands.

Either labor sacrifices its own program and continues to collaborate with the capitalist liberals in a new “third” party, or labor brushes these politicians aside, fights militantly for a program that will satisfy the needs of the people, and forms an independent LABOR PARTY, based upon the organized labor movement.

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