Stanley Plastrik Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Henry Judd

Henry Wallace – Champion of “Liberal” Imperialism

(30 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 39, 30 September 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The firing of Henry Wallace by President Truman has not, and will not, bring an end to the case of Mr. Wallace. The issues stirred up are basic and the consequences may be immense for the future of American history. The floundering tactics of the Little Man in the White House have settled nothing. It is our business to ask, and clearly answer, the question – what does Henry R. Wallace represent, what does he want, how do we differ from him?

Wallace is 100 per cent correct in his posing of the essential issue – war or peace: “... an atomic war which will undoubtedly be directed primarily against civilian populations and may well mean the end of modern civilization.” In these words Wallace stated his case in his now famous July 23 letter to President Truman.

This letter of Wallace is by itself a damning indictment of the Truman administration and its preparation for another World War. Every word of accusation published heretofore in Labor Action blasting American imperialism and its plans for world conquest are confirmed by Wallace. And who is Wallace? A former vice-president who came within an inch of being president; a leading figure and spokesman in the Democratic Party, the nation’s ruling political party; an exmember of the administration’s cabinet. Listen to his description of the plans his Party has in store for us:

“For the next fiscal year and for the year immediately ahead by far the largest category of federal spending is the national defense ... These items total $28,000,000,000, or about 80 per cent of the total recommended expenditures.”

“... $13,000,000,000 for the War and Navy Departments, the Bikini tests of the atomic bomb and continued production of bombs, the plan to arm Latin America with our weapons, production of R-29s and planned production of B-36s and the effort to secure air bases spread over half the globe from which the other half of the globe can be bombed. I cannot but feel that these actions must make it look to the rest of the world, as if we were only paying lip service to peace at the conference table.”

In the light of such revelations by a leading government official, is it any wonder that the press of America demanded the head, blood and innards of Wallace? But Wallace has not finished his indictment. Pointing out that the “atomic race (which) is on in deadly earnest,” “will inevitably result in a neurotic, fear-ridden, itching-trigger psychology in all the peoples of the world,” Wallace concludes his description of Truman’s deliberate preparations for war by claiming that, in Washington,

“There is a school of military thinking which recognizes these facts ... This school of thought therefore advocates a ‘preventive war,’ an attack on Russia now before Russia has atomic bombs.”

Wallace does not state that Truman belongs to this school. But he clearly implies that Truman’s differences with this school are merely a matter of tactics. And there we have as clear-cut an indictment of the Washington government as any revolutionary paper could ever publish!

Wallace Is Aware of Public Fears

As one of the last representatives of Roosevelt “New Dealism,” as a leader of the Democratic Party’s increasingly feeble left-wing section, Wallace’s ear is far more sharply attuned to popular sentiment and opinion than that of the President. The murmurs of the vast American middle-class, the small farmers and merchants, and the CIO and AFL workers reach Wallace, while Truman straddles and surrenders to the more powerful sections of big business. Wallace knows, in this sense, what is going on. He knows, in his own words, that there is a “growing feeling among the American people that another war is coming ...” It is just because Wallace has given voice to these vague, uneasy fears that he is of such importance, not as Wallace the individual. In its shrill attacks upon him, the monopolist press of the country has only displayed its intense desire to smash, in advance, any effort to explain to the American people upon what path we are now treading, even if this explanation is only partial and covered up, as in the case of Wallace. Wallace also speaks for many industrialists who fear the consequences of an early drift into war. The very violence with which Byrnes has been defended should be enough to prove the basic validity of the Wallace accusations. But having, made his accusations, where does Mr. Wallace stand?

“I believe,” writes Wallace, “that for the United States and Russia to live together in peace is the most important single problem facing the world today.” Let us grant, for the moment, the truth of this statement. Although we would not describe the “most important single problem” in exactly these terms, such a statement is sufficiently based on truth for our purposes. Russia and America are today the two dominant world powers. A war between them would obviously be disastrous for the world, as well as for themselves. Therefore, the issue of peace is vital enough. But how to get it, how to assure it, how to guarantee it? Here is what Wallace, so keenly conscious of the drift toward World War III, proposes:

  1. A free hand to Russia, “to develop a security zone,” in Eastern and Middle Europe; in exchange for our free hand to develop “military power and air bases” in Greenland, Okinawa and many other places.
  2. A satisfactory “deal” with Russia on the issue of atomic bombs and, atomic energy, with the abolition of the Baruch-Truman demand that Russia abandon its “veto” powers on atomic control issues.
  3. The ending of the present alliance with Britain, directed against Russian expansion; the abandonment of Truman’s efforts to halt this “security” expansion, and the liquidation of all efforts by America to encircle Russian territory.
  4. A clear division of the world into separate poaching preserves; one delineated for Russia, the other for America. “... we have no more business in the political affairs of Eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, Western Europe and the United States.”
  5. A policy of doing business with Russia, based on substantial commerce and trade, bolstered up by long-term loans to Stalin. This is the cement with which Wallace, as a business man, would firmly hold together his Russian-American world alliance, or MODUS VIVENDI.

The above is the heart of what Wallace proposes. He is against the Truman foreign policy since it is a war policy; this is his foreign policy on the basis of which he can conceivably become a Presidential candidate, appealing to the widespread anti-war sentiment of the American people.

Two Imperialist Policies

That Labor Action is against the Truman policy – a policy of overt imperialism and war preparation – every reader knows. We are just as categorically opposed to the Wallace policy. Our opposition is based upon many factors, including (1) its meaning and consequences, by and of itself; (2) its false illusions and dangerous implications to the development of the American labor and political scene and (3) our belief as to its absolute inability to halt the war that approaches between America and Russia. Therefore, as much as we appreciate the confirmation by Wallace as to our analysis of Truman and his government, we cannot but state that the program of Wallace is, in its own way, every bit as reactionary, imperialist and wrong. Labor Action must return to this theme again and again – it will become one of the major issues in American political development. Let us here indicate, only briefly, our basic opposition to Wallace and his tendency.

The term “appeasement” is used, by the Truman-Byrnes supporters, to describe the Wallace plan. This largely meaningless term would imply that Wallace deliberately and willingly wants to turn everything over to Russia and Stalin, to prevent war. The terms of the Wallace plan quoted above show how ridiculous this is – the division isn’t between “appeasers” and “resistors,” it is between those of the American capitalist, imperialist class who differ as to HOW to accomplish their ends. Byrnes proposes one way; Wallace another – his plans are those of the more cautious-minded, slower and less grasping section of the ruling class; those not so distantly removed from the people in the monopolist-Big Business stratosphere of Truman. The Wallace tactics and strategy are merely, in this respect, different methods of achieving results – domination of Latin America, domination of Western Europe and joint world administration by Russia and the United States. Wallace, let us never forget, is an outspoken advocate of capitalism, expansionism and division of world markets. His BRAND, not his content, is different.

Furthermore, Wallace represents a great danger for the American working class in that he may attempt to forestall the creation of America’s great need – an independent working class, Labor Party. Keen to such a growing trend, and sharp enough to know how such a development would challenge the very capitalism that he advocates, Wallace may well attempt to turn this development aside, in an alliance with the Stalinist Party, into a pro-capitalist, liberal Third Party movement, with himself as Presidential candidate. Such a party would campaign on reviving FDR’s program and policy (remember how that led us into World War II?); again, a program of “liberal” capitalism.

Finally, there is the whole question as to whether carrying out of the Wallace program would prevent war. In our opinion, it would not. At best, it would temporarily delay the inevitable disaster. Inevitable, we say, because the present social and economic system of America and Russia must inevitably clash, to determine final mastery. Inevitable, because both systems are expanding exploiting systems that rub and tear and ruffle against one another in every part of the world.

Stalin’s Russia is driven by economic forces to constantly expand, to seek new territories for looting and robbing, new peoples to enslave and force into its slave-labor camps. It is an IMPERIALIST power. The same holds true, even though in different ways and guises, for American capitalism, Truman’s America. Our economy is also an expanding one, seeking new markets for its products, new areas for investment, new sources of raw materials, etc. America is an IMPERIALIST power. In other words, BOTH social systems are imperialist in nature, despite their many and profound differences. And expanding imperialism, as we know, leads to war. The world is just so big; it is not big enough for Stalin’s expanding Russia, and expanding capitalist America, be it of the Truman or Wallace variety.

This, in short, is the basis for our rejection of Wallace and his program, despite the significance of this split in capitalist America.

Stanley Plastrik Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 3 April 2019