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Albert Gates

Calif. IPP Boosts Wallace,
Blocks Way to Labor Party

(3 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 18, 3 May 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Several noteworthy things are happening in Southern California. The population growth of the Los Angeles area is astounding; the city itself is expanding at a rate probably never experienced by any other city in the country. Industrialization of the area occurs at the same time and is one of the reasons for the present influx, but it undoubtedly takes second place to the climate and the manner of life it produces. This growth of population and industrialization will have a profound effect on the already exotic politics of California. And currently, the political situation in the state commands first attention.

California will go Republican; the “popularity” of the dull Warren administration is not the important reason for this prospect. Nor will it be due to the split-up of the Democratic Party and the sharp internal struggles that continue within it. The decisive reason is the Independent Progressive Party of California (read: Stalinist Party) whose candidate is Henry Wallace.

Why Stalinist Party? Because the IPP was conceived, organized and developed by the Communist Party of California for the purpose of splitting the Democratic Party, creating a pressure for a Wallace candidacy or some other such personality in thee vent Wallace had decided not to run, and carry out Stalinist political and foreign policy through the election campaign.

Some will recall that during the war years the Stalinists sought to penetrate the Democratic Party, but no place did it succeed so well as in Southern California. Stalinists and their followers actually reached high office in the Democratic Party organization, and the County Central Committee in Los Angeles contained more than one Stalinist fellow traveler. The struggle in the Democratic Party over Wallace began quite early in Los Angeles. At the same time, the CP went out and organized the Independent Progressive Party.

How IPP Was Born

In August of 1947, the CP organized a conference made up of the unions it dominated as well as non-union bodies and the innocents it could round up with its trade union front. It was not a difficult venture since the Stalinists controlled the State Council of the CIO and many local councils, the most important being Los Angeles and San Francisco. The officials and spokesmen of the newly organized IPP were either Stalinists or their supporters and followers.

Being uncertain of the future of the Democratic Party and the nature of the next presidential election, the Stalinist leaders of the IPP did not seek recognition of the party in the state by registering the minimum 27,000 voters required on a state basis, but rather by a mass petition. This would not bind the IPP as a party, which would have been the case had it registered 27,000 voters as IPPers. The freedom of action obtained by this method was obvious: if no candidate like a Wallace was available, the party could seek some other way of expressing Stalinist policy in the 1948 presidential campaign.

With the Stalinist Party as the organized base of the movement, the petition campaign was highly successful and the IPP qualified as a political party in California. Naturally,the name of Henry Wallace gave the party the zest it needed, for in a state which produced Sinclair’s epic movement, the Ham and Eggers, the Townsend Plan, and a dozen other quack movements, this should not be surprising. There is no need for misunderstanding: the Wallace support here is not basically a quack movement. With the powerful support of the CP and the unions under its control, its character is already established. The issues which Wallace has raised find a consistent echo among large layers of the population. (See previous articles in Labor Action.) But even the slightest knowledge of California politics and movements indicate that the messianism and mysticism of a Wallace is bound to find a responsive echo in the state, particularly, its southern portion.

Nature Clear from Start

The interesting thing about the IPP is that there was nothing mystical about it. Its organizers were known-known in the union movement as Stalinists or fellow-travelers, known outside the union movement as the same kind of people. The program of the party was likewise known: either it would become a third party if the proper candidate was found, or it would act as a blackmail on the Democratic Party and even on some sections of the Republican Party in low-er rank elections. Under no circumstances would it become a labor party; on the contrary, it would fight bitterly against one.

Its program declared that “the purpose of the new party is to guarantee that progressive voters will have someone to vote for. Under the two major parties’ practices rank and file voters are rarely consulted about party candidates. With the new party the rank and file voters will be the people who select candidates.” It was going to be the Roosevelt Party.

About the only group in California that seemed not to understand the nature of the IPP was the Socialist Workers Party. Everything it said about the party has turned out to be wrong. The completely Stalinist character of the movement was lost on these acute observers who judged the movement not on the fact that it was rejected by all non-Stalinist unions and movements, but by the few innocents pulled into it, including themselves. The SWP set itself the task of transforming the IPP into a labor party, a goal which they firmly believed was, given a break here and there, a real, a living possibility. They hoped to take the movement out of the hands of the Stalinists by calling upon voters to go and register as IPPers despite IPP policy, thus forcing the hands of the organizers and compelling it, by this coup, to become a party. There was something naive and machiavellian about the SWP policy, and not a little of the braggart involved.

Such a policy could have value if the movement had a genuine all-embracing labor base, conceived and organized by the union bureaucracy as a means of heading off a labor party. But given the character of the IPP, revolutionary socialists could have but one attitude toward it: exposing it as a Stalinist creature, warning the workers against it, and opposing its formation as an obstacle to the development of genuine independent political action of the workers. It seemed that only a handful of SWP members in this area understood the meaning of the IPP but their opposition was too weak to overcome the opportunism of their local leadership which was sustained by the national leadership.

Cleavage in CIO

In any case, the IPP is now on the ballot with Wallace as its candidate. This factor has resulted in a sharp cleavage in the CIO. As a result of a bureaucratic decision of the last CIO convention which makes it mandatory for all CIO councils, state or local, to carry out CIO policy, a decision carried out with Stalinist support, no council can legally pursue any policy other than that worked out by the Executive Board. In the present case, where the CIO executive has come out against a Third Party and the candidacy of Henry Wallace, all Stalinist dominated councils are in conflict with the CIO.

This situation has produced a virtual split in the CIO in California. The state and local councils are divided. Bridges has been removed as Northern. California CIO Director. Murray has written critical letters to all Stalinist dominated councils demanding that they get behind the CIO election policy and rejecting Stalinist demands for disciplinary actions against the “right-wing splitters.”

The PAC’s are also split. Stalinist-dominated PACs collect money to carry out their election policy; the“regular” PACs are collecting money to carry out CIO “wait and see” election policy, or what passes for an election policy in Murray’s mind.

Wretched Policy

The split will have a profound effect on the future of the CIO in California. For the first time in years, Stalinist domination of the CIO is seriously threatened. It is a pity that it has to come over such a wretched issue, since breaking the deathlike grip of the Stalinists in the CIO cannot but be for the good of the labor movement here as elsewhere. No, the issue is not wretched; the policy of Murray and the CIO bureaucracy is wretched. For never was the time better for the actual organization of an independent labor party. Yet the CIO leadership remains paralyzed; playing the game of reactionary boss politics it does not know what to do.

The capitalist-minded Murray, without a candidate in the Republican or Democratic parties, is lost. As a result we have his obscene pressure to get Eisenhower to run and thus pull him out of a hole. The scene is no better when we look to the AFL, and especially in California, where, for example, the Los Angeles AFL council just passed a resolution demanding that the government keep its hands off tidewater oil – a resolution that could have been written in the offices of the big oil monopolies.

The opportunity for a widespread agitation for a labor party is present. The split in the CIO offers, such an opportunity. Pity then, that in this situation, the best that SWP policy could develop was “critical support” to the Stalinist resolutions on the theory that somehow or other, directly or indirectly, the Stalinist resolution pointed a way to independent political action for the workers.

Yet, it is obvious that the ferment in the ranks of the workers runs deep and strong.

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