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H. Benson

Why Not Now?

(10 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 19, 10 May 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – Some tightrope walker, juggling his pencil in the current issue of Ammunition (UAW educational magazine) attempts to“explain” the 1948 political policy of the United Automobile Workers Union.

In question and answer form we are told just why we should not support the Wallace movement. We receive an IOU handout on the promise that after the presidential elections this fall the UAW will help organize a genuine third “majority” party based largely on the union movement. But sad to say we are told this cannot be done now; for now is not the time. (The epitaph of the leaders of the American labor movement will read: “Now was not the time.”) No, there is too much “educational” work to be done and besides, the state election laws would make it impossible to get on the ballot in time for the ’48elections.

“Naturally, We Don’t Know ...”

After many questions and many explanations we finally reach the $64 item (quotes are from Ammunition):

“Question: But whom do I vote for for President?”

“Panel (Answer): If you don’t know, naturally we don’t know ...”

That’s clear enough. The UAW leaders just don’t know. For years, the CIO leaders, including those of the UAW, have commanded great prestige among millions of workers; they have pounded away at the necessity for political action; they have denounced all proposals to establish labor’s own party; they have stubbornly insisted that the only “practical” political policy was to support so-called liberals in the two capitalist parties. And now, after years of experience with this policy, at a time when the union movement is under attack from every department of government, they can only offer this advice: “naturally, we don’t know.”

Ammunition continues with its brilliant political advice:

“Actually, if we start working immediately on a political program that deals with housing, Taft-Hartley, prices, taxes, and monopolies we may yet find a candidate and a program we can support in November.”

How does this abracadabra make sense? Only in one way. If by some miracle or by some hypnosis whose workings is as yet unknown the CIO leadership could perform the impossible and arouse the enthusiasm of its membership for the current bankrupt political program ... and if as a result the CIO could put on huge political demonstrations in some form or other ... then it is doubtless true that some phony “liberal” in the Democratic party who now prefers to remain discreetly silent might utter a few ineffectual mutterings which could be interpreted by the desperate CIO officials as “progressive” and “New Dealism.” Then we could all jump on his bandwagon and try to postpone the whole annoying business for a few more years.

Time Is Now, Not Later

But if such pressure would accomplish such results, what could the immediate formation of a labor party bring? CIO members would respond by the millions as they did in the days of the formation of the CIO itself. That is guaranteed. And, seeing the determination and resoluteness of the workers, it is also certain that the politicians of all parties would try to woo the workers away from this movement by all sorts of concessions and compromises. And the more we spurned their crumbs the more they would try to offer in order to stave off the growth in influence of our party.

It is true that these concessions would not last forever, for when our party grew in strength, as it inevitably would, the capitalist politicians would fight us with the same reactionary methods that they use today against our unions.

But the immediate formation of a Labor Party, now ... today would mean a big step forward and an immediate improvement in the conditions of the whole working class, regardless of the outcome of the current elections. NOW is the time for the formation of a Labor Party.

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