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T. Stamm

Elephant, Donkey and Socialists
Compete for Election Honors

(October 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 41, 8 October 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As the election campaign wears on toward its climax on election day the antics of the elephant, the cavortings of the donkey, and the flarings of the torch more clearly reveal the true nature of the three parties of capitalism as they swing into the final phase of their strategy. The “issues” they pounded so heavily in the earlier stages of the campaign have gone by the board as they scramble madly for votes.

Only a few months ago the Republican band-wagon was assuring the country that if the engineer was not measuring up to the publicity ballyhoo it was not his fault. He was the victim of circumstances over which no man or party could prevail. But a series of dramatic incidents in which the Communists did not play the least role brought out clearly the reactionary character of the administration and its shining light. The Hunger March of last December, the shootings of workers demonstrating for relief in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, etc., focused attention on the vicious resistance of the capitalist class and its servant-engineer to the demands of the unemployed for relief. The nation-wide hunting down and deportation of foreign-born militants; the passage of the Dies Bill; the nation-wide terrorism against the bonus marchers culminating in the armed eviction of the bonuseers from Washington, make up a record of reaction too clear to be explained away as the result of circumstances. The Republican boosters are now prating that Hoover’s policies saved the country. That is the only shred of demagogy left them.

This blind alley into which life has forced the Wall Street elephant has given the Democrats a great opportunity. With windy demagogy they are parading themselves as progressives. They are appealing to the “liberal element of the community”. That is the line of Roosevelt’s speeches in Iowa, Wisconsin and Detroit.

The Donkey Brays

How well the donkey is braying this tune will, of course, be decided on Election Day. But this strategy is already paying dividends. The New York Times of October 3 reports A.F. Whitney, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, as saying: “I am supporting Governor Roosevelt because I believe his liberal views pertaining to the welfare of the masses will result in general prosperity.”

But it is not alone the petty bourgeois strata of the working class, the labor aristocracy, which are singing Roosevelt’s liberalism. Senators and congressmen, staunch and not-so-staunch supporters of the Republican machine in “normal” times, are coming out for Roosevelt. They are alarmed at the Leftward drift of the masses, awakening to class consciousness from the illusion nurtured by Hoover and company. A section of their political base, the petty bourgeoisie, is also moving to the Left under pressure of the crisis. These windbags must move along with them or be left behind. And, finally, they see the handwriting on the wall: Hoover and the Republican party are going to get a beating. These new prophets of liberalism have a keen eye for their political futures. They will lose nothing, they calculate, by climbing aboard the band-wagon now.

The indicated success of the Democrats in corralling the “liberal” vote has alarmed the socialist party. They have been making a bid for this vote themselves. In their campaign book just issued, they make it plain, according to the New York Times, that they do not advance any revolutionary objectives. They limit themselves to reforms within the limits of capitalism. Their New York state election program reeks with the same reformism. Mr. Fuess of the Republican party hails the socialist party as respectable. In the rush for votes the socialist party leans, not on the working class it claims to represent but whose interests it betrays, but strains itself to the right, to allure the petty bourgeoisie with its respectability.

Socialists and Liberals

To offset the threatened Democratic sweep of the “progressive” and ‘’liberal” vote the socialist party had undertaken a mobilization of the more “radical” liberals. Together with them it has organized the Committee of 100,000 to support the Thomas-Maurer Ticket. The chairman of this melange of philosophers, bishops, editors, and economists, is Paul Douglas, professor of economy in the University of Chicago. Among the vice-chairmen are John Dewey, chairman of the League for Independent Political Action; Morris Cohen, professor of philosophy in City College, New York; Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of the Nation; and His Grace, Bishop Francis J. McConnell. There are others. They are of the same stripe.

The organization of the Committee from the point of view of the socialist party is easy to understand. But what is the meaning of this combination from, the point of view of the committee? It does not stand for socialism or the social democracy. It has issued no statement endorsing the socialist party platform. It is not an auxiliary of the socialist party. It is not subject to it politically or ideologically.

On the contrary it is opposed to socialism. Sitting in Norman Thomas’ office on September 23, Paul Douglas issued a statement to the press, in which the New York Times reported him as “frankly conceding his doubts of the ultimate victory of socialism in the United States.” The committee is for a “third party” but it does not see it in the socialist party: “A large vote for Thomas and Maurer will consolidate sentiment for a new party ——”.

What is the game this band of confused intellectuals is playing? It wants to cajole a few reforms from the Hoovers. Said Douglas in the same statement: “A large vote for Thomas and Maurer ... will throw such a scare into the old parties that no matter which one wins they will make some concessions.” That is the extent of their progressiveness and liberalism!

But these people are also alarmed at the indicated success of the Democrats in capturing the “progressive” and “liberal” vote. They figure that if Roosevelt wins the election as a progressive, they themselves will have no leg to stand on as progressives. But if Hoover gets in this will be a repudiation of Roosevelt’s “liberalism” and will have them alone in the field as the “progressive” opposition That is the meaning of Douglas’ statements that: “I think that we can get more out of the election of Hoover with a big vote for Thomas, than out of the election of Roosevelt with a small vote for Thomas”; and: “We won’t get a Liberal-Conservative line-up till we smash the Democratic party.”

Because of their confusion, of their lack of a clear political program on a class basis, these people are brought to a pass in which they are forced to desire and to lend objective support to the reaction they ostensibly set out to fight.

To be sure we hold no brief for the donkey, any more than we do for the elephant or the socialist party. All three are the handmaidens of capitalism. Each party plays its role in the class struggle. The reactionary nature of the Hoover-Republican line is now clearly established for large sections of the masses and the petty bourgeoisie. The equally reactionary role of the Democratic remains to be established on a national scale. The treacherous nature of the socialist party leadership must also be established.

From every street corner, in every Communist organ the story of this unprincipled combination of the socialist party with the “Left” petty bourgeois intelligentsia must be told and retold.

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