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A Labor Party

Jack Ranger

Chapters from a New Pamphlet

A Labor Party –
A “Must” for American Workers

Chapter 7
What Will a Labor Party Look Like?

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 36, 6 September 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THERE will be no mistaking the labor party when it arises. Whether it comes into being first on a local or regional scale or as a full-blown national organization, it will have certain characteristics.

First of all, it will be organized by and based upon considerable sections of the trade-union movement. It will be led by, financed by and fought for by union men and women. It will be controlled by union labor. Its political program will reflect labor’s needs. Its candidates will for the most part be union men and women.

Its national committee will be composed, in the majority, of delegates from the unions. (In addition it may have, as the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota had, precinct and ward clubs.)

With the capitalist-minded labor leaders still in political control of the union movement, it was not possible for the ranks of labor to throw off these parasites in time to run a national labor party ticket in the 1948 election. That is our No. 1 task for 1952.

But we can start, today, to clean up our own locals, to organize in opposition to those who would weaken us by keeping us tied to the corrupt and corrupting capitalist parties. We can insist that our union leaders, if they are members of the capitalist parties, either break their alliance with such parties or face a contest for union leadership. We can organize in the cities to run city and state labor party candidates in 1950.

As each local labor-party movement gains strength, it owes it to its own future to invest a part of its money and energies in educational work to further the movement in its own state and adjacent states, to help other union localities to get on the right road. And the most far-sighted labor party leaders must keep constantly in mind the goal of a national labor party and must energetically seek to build a movement aimed at this goal.


Chapter 8
Why Old Union Leaders Oppose a Labor Party

WHY don’t people like Green and Murray and Tobin and Lewis and Dubinsky and Whitney support the campaign for a labor party? Certainly, they cannot contend that the two old parties have given anything to labor in recent years – except the Taft-Hartley Law, return to the labor injunction, higher taxes, the end of price control, heavy court fines and increasing militarization and regimentation.

The main reason that the conservative labor leaders oppose a labor party is because they think like capitalists, they believe in capitalism and its politics. They are rich men, receiving $12,000, $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 a year, plus all sorts of perquisites. They no longer live the same lives as do their union members. They have been out of the mines and factories and locomotive cabs for many years. They hobnob with the rich, dine with them, travel with them, drink with them, and absorb the ideas and politics and social views of the rich, to whom an independent labor party is abhorrent.

Not only are such union officials opposed to an independent labor party, they are for and often a part of the boss parties.

A poll of 410 AFL and CIO leaders was taken in May 1947 on the question:

“As far as national politics are concerned, would you during the next two or three years prefer to work for labor’s viewpoint within one or both of the major parties, or would you prefer to set up a new labor party entirely separate from either of them?”

The second course was favored by 12 per cent of the AFL leaders and 23 per cent of the CIO leaders. This is encouraging and shows that the labor party already has a good nucleus of support among the union leadership. It can be assumed that in the union ranks the proportion in favor of a labor party now is very much higher.

A slightly higher percentage of the union officials polled was in favor of a labor party “within the next ten years” – that is, “never, unless we are forced to move.”

Answers to the poll showed that two-thirds of these AFL and CIO leaders were members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Within the the AFL, 10 per cent of the leadership belonged to the Republican, 49 per cent to the Democratic, 5 per cent to “other parties,” 24 per cent to no party, and 4 per cent did not answer. In the CIO, 7 per cent were Republicans, 65 per cent were Democrats, 8 per cent “other,” 17 per cent no party, and 2 per cent did not answer. Thus, 59 per cent of the AFL officials and 72 per cent of the CIO officials were affiliated with the political company unions of the employers.

This is a key fact about the present-day union officialdom, and unless you understand this, you won’t understand why we haven’t a labor party already, or what must be done before we can have our own party.

The chances are that you do not even know that the top official of your union is, in all likelihood, a member in good standing, and a peculiarly important member, of a boss political party. That he caucuses regularly with other members of his party – with bankers and manufacturers and editors and police chiefs and mayors and governors and aldermen, all in the interests of preserving the party which safeguards the profits of the bosses.

Why do union officials affiliate with the boss parties? Because they think like the bosses on political questions. Because the boss parties often help protect the union leaders in their union posts. Sometimes, to get a cut of the political graft.

The hidden political connections of the union leaders don’t often come to the surface. It takes a crisis to bring out such hidden connections. Such a minor crisis was the announcement of Henry Wallace that he intended to run for president on a third-party ticket. How the union bureaucrats scurried then to repudiate Wallace and to reveal that they were and are members of the Democratic Party, that they are loyal to the party of Hague and Flynn and Kelly and Crump and Farley and Arvey and a thousand other political bosses!

The reason these labor lieutenants of capitalism opposed Wallace was not because they were for a genuine labor party and Wallace was for a third capitalist party. They opposed Wallace because they were for the old Democratic Party, and Wallace’s candidacy appeared to threaten the fortunes of that party.

How can we get a labor party if our unions are headed by leaders belonging to, or looking for guidance from, the old parties?

In the first place, there are at least 20 per cent of the union officialdom already won over to the idea of the labor party. (Another 20 per cent is neutral, not tied up with the capitalist parties.) This is a formidable group lying directly at hand, to help launch the fight.

Progressive unionists, both in the ranks and in the leadership, should begin immediately to form a labor-party caucus in their union locals; to draw in sympathetic representatives from other unions. As soon as the movement has a base among the unions, try to draw in representatives of other organizations in the locality that might naturally be disposed to a labor party – consumers’ cooperatives, the Farmers’ Union, parents’ groups, tenant leagues, Negro organizations, etc.

Analyze the local political situation. Draw up a program that really meets the needs of the people in the locality – their housing needs, health needs, school needs, wage needs, union needs, transportation needs, the needs of the veterans, Negroes, youth, aged. Determine which offices the labor party should seek. Launch the political campaign.

We’ll probably lose the first time out, even the second time out, but we’ll gain invaluable experience and we will have started the educational work which in time will bring the labor party to victory. Time and the tide of events are working for a labor party and against the old bankrupt parties.

(To be continued)

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