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The Debacle of Wallace’s Third Capitalist Party

(15 November 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 46, 15 November 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The unexpectedly small vote for Henry Wallace has dealt a devastating blow to the pretensions; of his new Progressive Party. It had entered the 1948 election campaign with the avowed.: aim of emerging as a major party, at the very least holding the balance of power between the Democrats and Republicans. It fell far short of its goal.

Wallace, in one elated mood, went so far as to foresee for himself the possibility of a 20-million vote. “Over 10 million” was the more cautious estimate of the Wallaceites. The pollsters, with what they thought was extreme conservatism, gave Wallace in advance from 2½ million to 4 million votes. He received less than 1,200,000 votes, more than half of them in New York state.

Even the Nov. 4 Daily Worker, Stalinist mouthpiece, confesses: “The vote for Wallace, it must be admitted, fell below not only the unrealistic quotas assigned to him by certain forces, but even below what his most sober supporters, including this paper, had suspected.”

Popular Figure

In the past, Wallace had been a very popular figure among the workers, and was hailed in most labor circles as Roosevelt’s “Crown Prince.” He is certainly more impressive as a personality than the colorless Truman. And the results of the election, insofar as they show a smashing repudiation of the 80th Congress and all its works, demonstrate that the American working people are moving leftward and are receptive to progressive ideas. The debacle of the Wallace party cannot be attributed, therefore, to lack of a popular leader or a reactionary trend in the masses.

The fatal weakness of the Wallace movement was its attempt to by-pass the official labor movement, If this election proved anything at all, it proved that no new mass progressive political party in this country can get to first base without the solid support of organized labor.

Wallace and his backers tried to build a party by circumventing the unions. The workers, in their overwhelming number, refused the bait. Although millions of them are ready to break with the two-party monopoly of the Democrats and Republicans, they want to build a new party through their own organizations, the unions. They are loyal to their unions and seek an answer to their problems, in the political as well as the economic field, through their own class organizations.

Wallace and his lieutenants thought they could brush aside the official organizations of the workers and win the workers simply through social demagogy. But the major capitalist parties are no less adept at demagogy than Wallace – and they have far more facilities and resources for disseminating this demagogy.

Indeed, in its post-mortem on The Meaning of Truman’s Election, the Daily Worker complains that “Truman won the election by a hypocritical copying of the speeches of Franklin Roosevelt and by imitating as much as he dared the charges of the Progressive Party and Henrv Wallace.” He even “stole” Wallace’s “peace” program, laments the Daily Worker for “Truman won support when he announced – even though he did not carry out – the Vinson peace mission to Moscow.”

This is also saying that Truman is a more effective demagogue than Wallace – which is doubtful. Truman had one thing especially that Wallace lacked – the support of the unions.

Now that their adventure has ended so discreditably, the Stalinists are attempting to shift the blame to others in the Wallace coalition. Thus, the Daily Worker discovers “that the pro-Wallace labor forces did not sufficiently combat the ‘lesser evil’ illusion” and that this “undoubtedly had its influence in their ranks and weakened their practical work.”

CP Hypocrisy

This is a prime sample of the unbounded Stalinist hypocrisy. No one has propagated the fallacious and pernicious theory of the “lesser evil” more vigorously than the Stalinists. Since 1935 in this country they have preached the choice of the “good” capitalist politician as the “lesser evil” to the “bad” capitalist politician.

The Stalinists were among the most loyal and uncritical supporters of Roosevelt. And they continue to peddle the doctrine of the “lesser evil” to this day – that is the very essence of their support of Wallace.

For what is Wallace but a capitalist politician seeking to build a third liberal capitalist party? And what have the Stalinists been preaching throughout this election campaign but support of the “progressive” capitalist politician Wallace as a “lesser evil” to the “reactionary” Truman?

At this writing, the leaders of the Wallace party are meeting in Chicago to consider their “next step.” But in whatever direction they turn, the future of the Wallace movement is dubious, indeed.

Bleak Future

Without a labor base, with nothing but a program of social demagogy that Truman has already “stolen,” the Wallace movement rests on foundations of sand. The first momentum and enthusiasm of the Wallace movement have been cut short by a demoralizing set-back at the polls. Now its internal conflicts, muffled before the elections, will come to the fore. The uneasy coalition between its ex-Democratic liberals and the Stalinist wing is not likely to survive intact during the hard and bleak existence ahead.

The Wallace debacle is likewise the debacle of the Stalinist attempt to, build a significant Peoples Front movement in the United States.

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