[Marxism] Communist Party Campaign of 1949

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Tue Jan 24 09:07:08 MST 2006

On Jan 24, 2006, at 9:50 AM, David McDonald wrote:

> what a tease you are Brian. who won and by how much? Later careers  
> of Mr.
> Davis & Brown?

Instead of going for a slice of the electoral pie for 4 or 5  
candidates from Manhattan, Davis had to go 1 to 1 against a single  
candidate. Under PR he might have gotten 20% of the vote, if 5 were  
elected, or 25% if 4 were elected (the number chosen depended on the  
number who actually voted) and thereby have won as the legitimate  
representative of 20 or 25 percent of the electorate.

When you run 1 to 1 in separate districts, the vote of the minority  
is wasted. Under the most extreme cases, and there have been some  
very close to this in Canada and elsewhere, the winning party could  
win by 51% in every jurisdiction and sweep the election with 100% of  
those elected. The other 49% would get no representation at all. For  
example, Massachusetts has from 35 to 40 percent Republicans; it has  
no Republican representatives in Congress. The reverse is true for  
Kansas—they only have Republicans.

See below for what happened to Benjamin Davis, plus lots on the  
Earl Brown was no slouch either.


NYTimes Editorial of Nov 9, 1949


Whatever the over-all results of the repeal of Proportional  
Representation voted in 1947, and we hope they are also good,* the  
change in method of electing our City Council has put the Communist  
Benjamin J. Davis Jr. out of office. A coalition of Democrats,  
Republicans and Liberals defeated Mr. Davis, and its representative  
was Earl Brown, Negro reporter on Life Magazine. The "bullet"‡ voting  
of PR was an ideal weapon of the Communists in putting Mr. Davis into  
office and keeping him there. He went to the Council through a vote  
of 44,334 in the general election of 1943, and was returned to office  
in 1945 with a final count of 63,498, which was second only to the  
vote of Stanley Isaacs. Republican, among the Manhattan candidates.

NYTimes, Nov 10, 1949

Mr. Brown, who defeated Davis by 41,068 in the Twenty-first Senate  
District, received 15,313 votes on the Republican line, 38,779 on the  
Democratic line and 8,938 on the Liberal line for a total of 63,030.  
Davis received 20,772 on the American Labor party line and 1,190 on  
the Communist line for a total of 21,962.
. . .
The City Council, short of two members of the American Labor part,  
one Communist [Cacchione, already sick, had a heart attack 2 weeks  
after PR was defeated in 1947; the Democrats refused to follow the  
law and accept a replacement selected by his party so the post went  
unfilled until this election.], four Republicans and three Liberals  
by Tuesday's election will retain its present leadership. [I'm  
beating a dead horse here, but notice that PR also allowed the ALP,  
the Liberal Party and the Republicans to get elected.]
. . .
With the change in the method of electing Council members by State  
Senate districts instead of by proportional representation, the  
Council now reverts to nearly the one-party membership of the old  
Board of Alderman

NYTimes, Aug 24, 1964

Benjamin J. Davis, 60, Is Dead
Secretary of Communist Party

. . .
Went to Prison in 1951

Mr. Davis remained free on bail until July, 1951, when the Supreme  
Court upheld the convictions. He [seved] a five-year sentence at the  
Federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Released after three years and  
four months, he was jailed for another two months in Pittsburgh on  
contempt charges.


* In its campaign to get rid of PR, the Times insisted that there  
would never be a return to Tammany (Davis was the Tammany candidate;  
DeSapio. mentioned in the previous article. was a long-time leader  
into the 1960s). Yet the result of the 1949 election was 24 Democrats  
and only 1 Republican. That's why The Times editorial has to admit  
that it only has "hope" that the over-all results are "good."

‡ So-called "bullet" voting was, again and again, asserted by the  
NYTimes as one of the sinister means by which Davis and Cacchione  
were elected under PR. In fact, bullet voting is irrelevant to PR  
although it plays a role in other voting methods. The additional  
preferences of both those elected and those eliminated are counted on  
subsequent rounds. So bullet voting or the failure to designate  
additional choices has nothing to do with the votes for Davis and  

The NYTimes charged ignorance on the part of Black voters, but it was  
the Times itself that played on ignorance of this fact in its  
campaign to get rid of PR in 1947. Here's a letter to the Times on  
Nov 16, 1949. During its long campaign to get rid of PR in order to  
get rid of the Communists on the Council, the Times never printed a  
single letter challenging its "bullet" voting charge, even though  
there was a very active PR group in the city with prominent leaders:

"One of the advantages of PR (proportional representation) is that it  
makes impossible bullet voting. Under PR each voter may help to elect  
only one Councilman and the voter cannot concentrate his voting power  
or make his vote into a bullet for one candidate. Using PR, voters,  
instead of making several choices, might vote for only one candidate,  
but if they do so it is of no extra advantage to the candidate. It  
simply means that if this candidate is not elected their ballot  
cannot be used to aid another candidate. . . . —Robert Auerbach"

More information about the Marxism mailing list