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Ben Hall

Truman’s Fair Deal: Payment Deferred

The ”New New Deal” and the Labor Leaders

(February 1949)

From The New International, Vol. XV No. 2, February 1949, pp. 35–41.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dictator Hitler promised delivery of a new Volkswagen. Millions of American workers already own automobiles. In keeping with the more prosperous standard of living in the United States, democrat Truman promises a whole new New Deal.

The United States is still a capitalist democracy while Germany was a totalitarian dictatorship; but the promise of the democrat, like the promise of the dictator, depends for its fulfillment upon winning uncontested mastery of the world – and this in turn depends upon the outcome of a new world war. But preparations for this war, to say nothing of the war itself, make their own demands – demands which run counter to another New Deal.

The next period of American politics could therefore be summarized under the following head: “A new New Deal guaranteed but somewhat deferred. Small down payments may be available from time to time as conditions permit.” The labor leadership has accepted the promissory note of the newly elected administration and like honest, understanding creditors are determined to help the debtor achieve that situation in life which will permit speedy payment; hope seems to lie only in the adjustment of the economy of the whole world to the needs of capitalism in the United States.

The labor officialdom will soon be playing a new role in which they have hardly had time to become proficient: labor diplomats selling good will for American imperialism among the workers of the world.

The so-called bipartisan foreign policy unites the Democratic and Republican Parties. What domestic policy is best suited to the needs of this mutually agreed-upon foreign policy? The answer to this question divides them. The Republican policy, despite its evasive character in the ’48 campaign, can be summarized: Abandon New Dealism; it is impossible to behave both like a world emperor and a reformer.

Haggling over minor items in the imperialist expense account, the Republicans often seem like dimwitted misers; but these pinch-penny candidates for the post of administering the United States government-over-governments show that they understand how heavy the price of the tasks ahead and how strict the need for conserving resources and checking bank balances to preserve stability at home. Senator Taft demanded that the man from Missouri show him how to continue ERP and military preparations and yet at the same time increase drastically the social services, housing, etc.; raise wages and the standard of living of the people; and in addition to all that, clamp the lid on inflation. No reply.

The Republicans came to the Senate hearings on ERP outfitted with powerful reading glasses to scrutinize the small print in the reports of the Democratic officials. Can a nickel be shaved off here, a dime there?

“Even assuming the reasonable success of whatever program we adopt,” said Senator Hickenlooper of Iowa, “for a long period [nothing] will in any way relieve us from the very substantial burden of military strength ... if we spend billions of dollars in this period of time, the next few months or the next two or three years, for goods and materials that come out of the tight American economy, my view is that it is bound to increase the inflationary pressures on this economy here ... it is well to canvass the cost of this thing ... with our eyes open ... what we are getting into ...” and more and more of the same.

The Price We Pay

In one of his rare references to current problems not limited to artistic platitudes, Governor Dewey spoke of inflation:

“The first cause is the terrific cost of the war in money and goods ... The second cause ... is our peace-waging program which we have adopted to help free nations get back on their feet and to strengthen our own national defense.”

Paying high prices is a patriotic duty according to Stassen, who said:

“Clearly the primary causes of high prices are the world-wide shortage of goods in the wake of war, coupled with the unsound policies of the Administration after the war and the further urgent necessity of sending quantities of American goods abroad to help the peoples of other nations to regain their feet. Every time an American family or an American housewife pays a high price for food, she is paying a part of the price for America’s assistance to millions of people abroad. This is a price that we should be proud to pay.”


Abandonment of a policy of extensive reforms and acceptance of the inevitability – even the desirability – of inflation (desirable because inevitable under “free enterprise”; the bourgeois formula is: high prices equals high profits equals high production equals lower prices) means the abandonment of that labor policy which is associated with reforms.

The labor policy of the old New Deal bought off the labor leadership with a series of reform-ransoms; the loyalty of the union movement to the administration was guaranteed; the stability of the labor officialdom reinforced, But a policy of withdrawal of reforms would so undermine the stability of the labor leadership that with the best will in the world it could not control its ranks. A conservative leadership might in all sincerity promise to continue conservative policies; but who can promise that they will be able to keep their promises and who can guarantee that the guarantors will remain leaders?

The Republican party would cancel the policy of controlling the union movement primarily through the union leadership; it would establish direct state control of the union and its officialdom. The Taft-Hartley Law with its anti-Communist affidavits was the clearest expression of the new line. It controlled the unions and their officers. From affidavits applicable to members of the Communist Party to general “loyalty” affidavits applicable to all genuine union militants is a short step.

Truman and the Democratic Party

The 1948 elections settled only one thing: dreams are to be tested against reality. Truman promises to harmonize the clashing needs of capitalist world policy and liberal reformism. He was trapped into making this promise despite himself.

Nominated with Roosevelt in 1944 as a concession to the more conservative elements of his party, Truman, the president, tried his best to carry out a rightwing policy. But the more success crowned these efforts, the less did it smile on his chances of re-election. He reacted to the outraged cries of the capitalist class in the first two strike waves that plagued his administration. He unearthed statutes to justify injunctions and fines against the United Mine Workers. He dusted off moldy law books to discover the right to draft all railroad strikers; and to the almost unanimous applause of its members, dramatically interrupted his address to Congress to announce his success in breaking the rail stoppage. He could not quite decide whether to sign or to veto the Taft-Hartley Law, and when he finally acted he put himself on record for a more “reasonable” law restricting labor. Under pressure from the meat packers, he abolished meat price control and soon found himself signing away price control completely.

All was in order except one thing: the Democratic Party and the president-by-act-of-God were totally superfluous for such a policy. The Republican Party could serve just as well and had the advantage of prior copyright. While the continuation of this policy did not necessarily mean that Truman would have to re-enter the haberdashery business, it did mean that he would have to move out of the White House.

The labor leadership became more and more uneasy. Murray denounced Truman in extreme terms. Whitney of the Railway Trainmen pledged himself solemnly to raise millions to ensure Truman’s defeat in 1948. Rumors, suggestions, threats that the official labor movement would embark upon some new political path were heard. Even – lord forbid – maybe a labor party! Wallace walked out to form his third party threatening to wean away millions of Democratic voters by a very radical platform of renewed New Dealism. Inside the Democratic Party the stop- Truman movement began.

Strategy and Its Result

The CIO officials and their intellectual camp followers of the Americans for Democratic Action spearheaded the drive to nominate some other Democrat in ’48. Eisenhower, Douglas ... better the unknown evil than the known. Mayor O’Dwyer of New York City joined the anti-Truman bandwagon. This archetypical product of the Northern political machine whose political power has more and more come to depend upon votes of the organized workers had previously proclaimed a “Taft-Hartley Veto Day” in his own home town to hold the votes of unionists for his local party.

Things looked bad for Truman. But the trend was reversed by his shift to the left made necessary by a most realistic and vulgar estimation of his chances of holding power through any other course. Predictions about the speedy disintegration of the Democratic Party and the rapid emergence of some new political formation proved to be premature and based upon a failure to estimate the full effects of the turn in Democratic Party policy.

The most significant aspect of Truman’s election and the victory of his party was not the fact that the victory took place but the switch in policies which made it possible. The turn began toward the end of 1947 with Truman’s report to Congress in which he outlined in vague terms a program for a continued New Deal. He continued with the enunciation of a civil-rights program with drove the Dixiecrats out of the party and conducted his election campaign with vigorous attacks on “Wall Street” and denunciations of the Taft-Hartley Law as its instrument.

The new strategy was not adopted simply as a desperate measure to make an election victory possible but also to ensure the retention of party strength in the event of defeat, looking toward a possible comeback. A defeated Democratic Party was to emerge from the election as the party of the New Deal, carrying on opposition to the Republican administration as the true representative of the “people” and as a fighter for liberal principles. Now, however, the would-be New Dealers must assume responsibility for the execution of their fine promises, since they command control of all departments of government.

Plucking the Fruits of Imperialism

Can imperialism today be reconciled with a policy of liberalism and reform at home?

The sweeping victory of the Democratic Party in the elections made possible by Truman’s swing to the left tests this proposition again. Prosperity and stability in the U.S., upon which a new New Deal would depend, is not a simple domestic affair but a problem of the complicated connections of the United States with world economy. In the minds of the liberal Democrats, imperialism, far from contradicting their liberalism, is inseparably associated with it. Let us see how this works out.

Early 1946: President Truman transmits a report to Congress on foreign loans and the Bretton Woods agreement, a report which is signed by James M. Byrnes, Marriner S. Eccles and – none other than Henry A. Wallace, who at this time held a common view with them. These days of bright optimism have vanished, days when the thoroughgoing nature of the rift with Russia was still unclear. Nevertheless, this report still floodlights the liberal capitalist mentality. And here are its main aspects:

(1) America must have large foreign markets.

“During the war many of our important industries, particularly in the field of capital goods, were built up to capacities far in excess of any foreseeable peacetime domestic demands. With the elimination of war demands, much of this American productive, capacity may be unused.”

The foreign-loan program of the United States “is directed toward the creation of an international economic environment permitting a large volume of trade among all nations. This program is predicated on the view that a productive and peaceful world must be free from warring economic blocs and from barriers which obstruct the free flow of international trade and productive capital. Only by the re-establishment of high levels of production and trade the world over can the United States be assured in future years of a sustained level of exports appropriate to the maintenance of high levels of domestic production and employment.”

(2) But the nations of the world do not have the price – they must have dollars to purchase American goods. The United States has an enormous favorable balance of trade with the rest of the world. (In 1947, for example, the U.S. exported fifteen billion dollars’ worth of good and imported only six billion.)

The report tells us that dollars must be supplied to the world by loans and by the investment of capital abroad by the American capitalist class.

“In a world of peace, prosperity and a liberal trade policy, there may well be a revival and continuation of American private investment on a large scale including reinvestment of the profits of industry ... Such an increase of investment is a natural and wholesome development for a wealthy community.”

(3) These loans, however, will have to be repaid, with interest of course.

(Drastic steps soon had to be taken to meet the threat of Russian expansion. The Marshall Plan, devised later, involves grants, not loans, to European nations to help seal them off from Russian influence. As a weapon of the “cold” war with Russia, the Marshall Plan differs from the scheme devised in this report which presents a long-term conception based upon the exploitation of a normal, peaceful world; that is, one in which the United States has no serious rival. Grants made under the Marshall Plan make no formal provisions for payment of interest either in money or in any other way. As Paul Hoffman, Economic Cooperation Administrator, has said: “The power of the purse is more effective if it is not formalized.”)

We will keep investing and lending. These loans and investments will earn profits which must be paid by the nation blessed with the indebtedness. So long as the total of new loans and investments exceeds the amount which the foreign nations will have to pay to us in the form of (a) payments of interest and principal on the old debts, plus (b) dividends paid on the capital invested by our bourgeoisie abroad, plus (c) payments to cover their excess imports from the United States – so long as this is the case, the affair will run smoothly for the U.S. We will enjoy prosperity. They will enjoy loans and investments and the right to pay for the same.

Day of Reckoning

(4) But the day of reckoning will come. At some point in this scheme the nations of the world will have to pay us such enormous amounts to cover the principal and interest on loans and profits of American- owned industry that new investments will fail to keep pace. “Receipts on foreign investment will exceed new investment,” predicts the report. “Net repayment” will begin.

(5) Happy thought: the United States will then be able to live off the rest of the world.

When net repayment begins, whether this be a few years or many decades from now, it will involve an excess of imports of goods and services ... over our total exports of goods and services. The growth of our population and the depletion of our natural resources and the increase in our standard of living will increase the need for imported products and these developments together with the maintenance of a high and stable level of employment will facilitate this adjustment ... The receipt of payments on our foreign loans in the form of goods and services is entirely consistent with increased exports from this country and rising production at home and will contribute to a rising living standard in the United States in the same way that a private individual’s earnings on his investments make possible an increase in his own living standards.


This is the “One World” of imperialism. American capitalism is to buy up the world to provide for its old age. Such is the “liberal” perspective for world development and the inseparable connection which it establishes between foreign policy and reform politics.

Leaving aside the question of whether this perspective is possible under any circumstances, we must write across the report in heavy lines: “Net payment, deferred,” Unfortunately for this Utopian landlord’s dream of world rent collections, other dreamers dreamed dreams.

The pacific execution of this plan depended upon an agreement with Russia, which by “agreement” was to take its place as a lesser partner assigned to a slow and steady reduction by the might of the American dollar. If we could buy out the rest of the world, why not Russia? The Russian ruling class, however, saw no reason to shape the world to the needs of the American bourgeoisie when it could just as well be subordinated to the needs of the Moscow bureaucracy. The Stalinists took control of half of Europe, wrested its industry out of the American world and attached it to Russian economy. Showing no sign of altering its policy, Russia was transformed from a “glorious ally,” fighting in its own peculiar way for the freedom of the earth, into a horrible dictatorship bringing tyranny and its own trade agreements to whole countries.

The fruit of imperialism doesn’t fall into our lap. When we shake the tree we dislodge a wild bear. And so, instead of enjoying the fruit we must arm ourselves and hire assistants to kill the bear. Thus ended Experiment No. 1 in post-war New Dealism.

For Imperialism – at a Lower Price

The Republican spokesmen understand in their own way that in the long run imperialism is incompatible with a liberal policy. Henry A. Wallace understands it in a somewhat different way. Instead of a turn in domestic policy he proposes a turn in foreign policy, or more accurately, a return to the illusions that accompanied the first flush of victory in war.

One of the authors of the plan for a painless conquest of the world by purchase, Wallace turned abruptly away from his co-signers when it became increasingly clear that this path led toward war. To participate comfortably in an easy exploitation of the world – that is one thing. To fight a war and to prepare for it – that is something else again.

The Wallace movement, apart from its Stalinist aspects, represented a peace movement of the petty bourgeoisie to enjoy the benefits of international conquest but unwilling to bear its expense. In the absence of any leadership from the labor movement, it was the Stalinists who capitalized on the prevailing peace sentiment.

The keynote of the Wallace campaign was: war and war preparations would make a New Deal impossible.

“... in a great arsenal of two world wars,” he said in Bridgeport, “I speak for peace ... We cannot raise living standards and armies too. We cannot build homes and barracks too ... The two old parties are, after all, the same. Given a foreign policy directed against the common man all over the world, they must combine on a bipartisan domestic policy directed against the common man in the U.S.A.”

Instead of the single-handed domination of the world by the United States, he proposed a condominium with Russia, to avoid war.

The costs of war and imperialism are borne not by the working class alone but by all the poorer and even the not-so-poor sections of the population. During the last war, thousands of small enterprises were swamped by the needs of war production. Whole sections of the middle class, white collar workers and professionals were even less able than the organized working class to defend themselves against inflation.

A sympathetic audience heard Wallace ask:

“How can Democrats or Republicans or the labor misleaders who support them check inflation when they won’t cut the arms expenditures which cause inflation?”

Reform and war are irreconcilable ... From the standpoint not of the lower but of the highest sections of the bourgeoisie, Republican policy rests on the same ground.

Labor Leadership

The Wallaceites and the Republicans, each in their own way, comprehend the basic tendency of American imperialism. The labor officialdom, however, is bound to the Democratic administration by the common hope of reconciling the imperialist line of the United States with a continuation of liberal policies.

The leaders of the CIO hailed General Eisenhower as one of the pretenders to the throne of King Franklin. They thereby concretized the connection in their minds between the might of American arms and continued New Dealism. At the CIO convention, Supreme Court Justice Douglas stressed the importance of the international role of the American labor movement in a speech which so impressed the delegates that they decided to distribute thousands of copies of his remarks.

He said: The American workers have an international task to perform. The European labor movement, struggling to free itself from Stalinist domination, needs the assistance of its American section. But so far, only submission to American domination and dictation has been offered as a substitute for Stalinism. Not being American labor leaders, the European workers do not glow with enthusiasm. But let the most powerful section of the world working class, the American working class, which is itself striking Stalinism down, speak out openly and aggressively in defense of the democratic rights of the peoples of the world and Stalinism will have received a terrible, even mortal, blow. But that means to speak out without evasion or diplomacy against all oppression and dictatorship, that which originates from the United States as well as that which originates from Russia.

But, sadly, what Douglas has in mind, of course, is not this but the inestimable value of the labor leadership as walking delegates for American imperialism among the skeptical European workers. And, just as sadly, he is justified in his expectations. When John L. Lewis denounced the shooting of French miners by the American-financed government we listened in vain for some sympathetic echo from the labor officialdom. Walter Reuther speaks voluminously on almost every subject of current events, on plans for prosperity, on raising wages without increasing prices; but he is an “architect of the future” whose plans leave him little time to concern himself with the rights of peoples dominated by our government, peoples whose fate will affect that future.


Faithful advocates of the bipartisan foreign policy, our own labor leadership parrots, with a certain delay, the phrases emanating from Washington. When the administration anticipated a long period of collaboration with Russia, the Murrays maintained a close alliance with Stalinism at home and abroad. As American diplomats exchanged friendly greetings with the Stalinist delegates at world conferences, the representatives of the CIO tipped their hats to the dictatorially appointed Russian “union” delegates at the World Federation of Trade Unions. The warm fraternity chilled when Moscow frowned on Washington. Our labor leaders awoke to their differences with Stalinism; and so the big offensive in the unions against it and the pending demise of the WFTU.

As Wallace-Truman dreamed of ensuring American, prosperity by the peaceable financial conquest of the world, the CIO smiled in its slumber. One of its pamphlets issued to popularize the above-mentioned Bretton Woods agreement quotes Murray: “In addition to a domestic program for full production in the U.S. there must be a vigorous long-term program of international commerce,” he said. The pamphlet continued : “Our hope for 5,000,000 jobs through foreign trade lies in the industrialization of nations and continents such as China, Africa, Latin America, India and a big expansion of industry in the Soviet Union.” And to avoid any misunderstanding:

“This money (loans) is invested, not spent. Countries that secure aid from both the Bank and the Fund will repay the loans. The fact that loans will be made only for productive purposes is the guarantee of that ... [some people] fear that Bretton Woods will wipe out private banking. This is not so, since banks will continue to make loans supervised by the Bank for Reconstruction and Development.”

Soon the breezes will blow a spate of “labor” speeches on the glories of internationalism. The internationalism of the American workers, however, can consist of one kind or another: that is, the American workers can hitch their fate to the progress of American imperialism abroad or they can attach themselves to the workers and oppressed peoples of the world. These are two different kinds of “internationalism.” The first is laborite imperialism; the second is genuine working-class internationalism.

In Japan, strikes broken and government workers denied the right to organize; in France, American bullets for miners; in Germany, hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrate in the Western zones for wages to meet the costs of inflation. From our own labor statesmen, the newly naturalized “citizens of the world,” we hear only the mealy-mouthed diplomatic formulations of the recent CIO convention.

Case of Greece

In the true American internationalist spirit is the wretched Clinton Golden, chief labor advisor of the American Mission for Aid to Greece 1947–8, trained for this noble mission as an official of Citizen Murray’s Steel Workers union. A few choice excerpts from his report, printed in the Labor Information Bulletin of the Department of Labor, illustrate how our world travelers become the weasel apologists for semi-fascist regimes – American supported.

They, [the Communists] had control tor a time of the Greek Confederation of Labor but the courts had unseated the Communist executive, because of election irregularities and appointed other persons as provisional appointees. Under their laws [everything strictly “legal” you see], the courts named twenty-one persons, seven each from the three major political groups: Liberals, Populists, and the left-wing Communist group. Six of the seven left-wingers decided they wouldn’t serve and challenged the action of the courts as being of a fascist character. This enabled them to confuse the labor unionists of the country.

So you see, the trouble with the above “legal” action was not that it was fascist in character but that it helped the Communists “confuse” the workers by calling it fascist!

The Communists had tried to convey the impression and I think they were fairly, successful [Stalinist propaganda – how artful!] that in Greece there was no freedom, no civil rights, no free speech or assembly. They had claimed the government was fascist and the American Mission was primarily concerned with maintaining that kind of government ...

An emergency session of the Greek Parliament convened because of reports of a possible Communist coup passed a law prohibiting strikes and lockouts with a death penalty. But after we had been there awhile and when the Greek government received protests from the AFL and the CIO against the anti-strike law they cooled off on that issue. Strikes have been called since and no one has been arrested or shot, and I am informed that the law will be repealed soon.

How can one call this government “fascist”? It promises not to execute strikers, when pressed. True the law is still on the books, says Golden, but “soon ...” About six months after his optimistic report on the progress of a liberalism which promises under duress not to shoot strikers, it required the intervention of a UN subcommittee to compel the Greek government to abandon preparations for the execution of ten Greek maritime unionists.

Just Not Interested

Accepting the same analysis of the world role of U.S. capitalism as the bourgeoisie, our labor leaders, especially those of the CIO, have been content to leave questions of “foreign policy” in the safe hands of the official diplomats. When the administration for its own reasons was denouncing the crushing of the opposition by Stalinism in the countries of the Russian sphere of influence, they were only moderately interested.

Walter Reuther engaged in a two-year bitter factional fight with Stalinists during which every conceivable issue that served the struggle was raked to the fore by both sides. One of the largest single nationality groupings in the UAW are the Polish workers, intensely concerned with the murderous actions of the Stalinist gangsters in Poland. Reuther overlooked this question. The top leadership of the CIO has just concluded a fight against the CP concentrated on the issues of the Marshall Plan and support of Wallace, both closely related of course to international policy. We saw disciplinary measures invoked, abrupt commands issued, but we heard no political exposure of the reactionary work of Stalinism everywhere in the world against the working class.

What accounts for this indifference? Simple devotion to American foreign policy would seem to demand a different attitude. We must conclude, however simple the answer, that the “world citizens” of the CIO were just not interested. And now, if they are to busy themselves with international affairs at the invitation of a government which is sorely in need of apologists throughout the world, we must be excused for our lack of enthusiasm.

The new international role of the American labor leaders is closely associated with the whole question of the new New Deal. American capitalism can provide itself permanently with effective labor ambassadors abroad only if it can afford payment at home for services rendered. The alliance between the Democratic Party and the labor movement, which just managed to survive the strains of the last three years, is an unstable treaty resting upon momentary, vanishing factors. What made the left turn of President Truman possible?

New Dealism and war preparations, as the Republicans and Wallaceites contend, tend to be mutually exclusive. But the capitalist state acquires an adequate political line in a complicated fashion under a bourgeois democracy where all classes, above all the

working class, maintain their rights, their organizations and their ability to carry on a coordinated struggle in their own behalf. Not the best policy but the best possible policy prevails. In the intricate struggle between parties and factions, corresponding to conflicts between classes and social groupings, momentary and opportunist interests play a big part. (One virtue of fascism from the point of view of the capitalist class is that it is relieved of many of these tedious problems and can reach decisions more abruptly and more drastically.)

A minimum of social conflict at home is indispensable to meet the conflicts abroad. Elections, the testing ground of political platforms and policy, show what policies can receive the maximum popular support and therefore how far the regime may go at any moment without coming into violent clash with its own working class. Those policies which receive a minimum of popular endorsement can be held in abeyance for new times and new tests. The 1948 elections slowed down the tendencies toward the right but did not and could not eliminate them.

Not Another New Deal

The United States today affords a short period of extended life for the antics of watered-down liberalism-in-words. War production is hardly begun and its inflationary effects hardly felt. The full impact of the Marshall Plan is not yet felt; the United States has not yet thrown its own resources fully into the effort. While not powerful enough to buy off the working class of the whole world, industrial United States is rich enough to provide its ruling class with rising profits and still, for the moment, tolerate meager concessions to its own working class.

The most authentic representatives of big capital have been willing to forgo a showdown battle with organized labor; in the strike movement of 1948 we saw General Motors, Ford and Chrysler after a brief moment of hesitation reach amicable wage settlements which set a “pattern” of peaceful agreements for the decisive sections of industry.

To continue this pattern, acceptable (or at least tolerable) to the capitalist class, it is possible to modify the most extreme provisions of the Taft-Hartley Law. This temporary objective situation made the Truman turn not only a policy which could assure a Democratic victory in the elections but one which was within the limits of what was immediately acceptable, even if not most desirable, to industry. Possible and acceptable – but not for very long.

Truman represents not another New Deal but a temporary dabbling in liberal trivialities, especially in words. The irreducible need of the new administration is to prepare for war. It has therefore no intention of freeing the union movement from government controls. It intends to replace the hated T-H Law with a more “reasonable” measure of control which will insulate the economy from the electric shock or mass strikes. In this one instance, the whole new New Deal is exposed. The government does not have full confidence in the union movement and its leadership because it has no confidence in its own ability to pacify them with reforms.

There is a certain justification for this lack of confidence. The Democratic Party, the labor leadership, and the rank and file of the unions all approach the putative new New Deal in a different fashion. Capitalist politicians may modify their attitude toward reforms, offering or withdrawing them as suits the basic needs of the system and class whose wealth oils their political machines and personal careers. Election defeats are no tragedy. When the great liberal, New Deal Senator Brown of Michigan, was defeated by the Republican Ferguson, he soon found employment as head of the Detroit Edison Company. A brief synopsis of his biography is the biography of all liberal democrats: he was liberal – but not too liberal.

“Reasonable” Labor Control

For the labor officialdom, this is a life-and-death question: almost (if the word does not seem out of place in this connection) a matter of “principle.” Periods of reform mean stability for the leadership; periods of reaction undermine this stability. Fresh in the mind of every porkchopper is the nightmare experience of World War II. The conservative leadership summarized its loyalty to the war in the no-strike pledge just as today it hopes to pledge its loyalty to the Marshall Plan by accepting “reasonable” measures of labor control.

But while the war made it difficult to make gains for the workers it did not prevent the capitalist class from striking blows at the unions. Rank-and-file movements developed within the unions against the leadership under the slogan “Rescind the No-Strike Pledge.” In at least three important CIO unions, the leadership faced serious opposition: John Green in the Shipbuilders Union saw his regime threatened; Sherwin Dalrymple in the Rubber Workers Union saved his administration only by resigning in favor of L.S. Buckmaster, who in turn held on to the presidency at the last convention of his union by a few votes; R.J. Thomas and George Addes in the Auto Workers Union were utterly and finally defeated by Walter Reuther, who knew how to take advantage of the discontent that had accumulated during the war years.

The end of the war brought relief to the sorely pressed leadership, but it had hardly exhaled a collective sigh of relaxation following the celebration over the election of Roosevelt for a fourth term than the. rightward swing of the new Truman administration and the Republican victory of 1946 shocked them into new moods of anxiety. The 1948 elections permit them another short respite to chase rainbows. At last they can begin to usher in the brave new world which they have spoken of for so many years and prayed for so often in vain. Are the new hopes any more likely of fulfillment than the old?


During World War II, various maps and atlases were sold with the promises by the publishers that, upon conclusion of the war and the peace settlements that would follow, new and more up-to-date editions would be forthcoming gratis or at some nominal fee. As the trusting purchaser of one of these atlases, I still await redemption of this promise some years after the hostilities have ended. But one can bear no grudge: with the best will in the world the publishers cannot achieve the impossible. If the simple promise to deliver a new map of the world cannot be redeemed, how much faith can one put in the pledges of the statesmen and politicians to deliver not a map but the new world itself – a liberal, progressive world – at least for the American people?

The difficulty is that while the New Deal is to come as the promised fruit of victory in warfare, the preparations for war and, of course, the war itself yield only the fruits of reaction. That is why we can have no confidence in the Truman regime. The labor holder of the promissory note of the new administration will be faced not with a future of slow and steady payment but of more and increasingly insistent demands for more credit.

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