[Marxism] Ralph Nader, What Will this Chronically Disillusioned, Delusional Democrat do in 2012?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 31 18:40:43 MDT 2011

On 7/31/11 8:25 PM, Pinchy Way wrote:

> Mark, you seem to love the Henry Wallace campaign of 1948, but many
> on marxism list came out of a political tendency that rejected Henry
> Wallace as not being any real  break from the Democratic Party.
> This tendency called for people not to bother voting for Henry
> Wallace, in fact.

Ironically it was the turn of the US ruling class against the New Deal 
consensus that precipitated a third party initiative in 1948, the 
Progressive Party campaign of Henry Wallace. In many ways Wallace 
symbolized the most progressive aspects of the New Deal. As Secretary of 
Agriculture, he and colleague Harold Ickes played the role of liberal 
conscience in the FDR cabinet. He took the principles of the New Deal at 
face value and decided to launch the Progressive Party in the face of 
what he considered their betrayal at the hands of Harry Truman.

The Wallace campaign has served as a whipping boy for dogmatic Marxist 
electoral theorizing, much of which I took seriously when I was in the 
Trotskyist movement. It was supposed to prove what a dead end middle 
class electoral politics was, in contrast to the insurmountable power 
and logic of a Labor Party. Unfortunately, the Labor Party existed only 
in the realm of propaganda while the Wallace campaign, with all its 
flaws, existed in the realm of reality.

While most people are aware of Wallace's resistance to the Cold War and 
to some of the more egregious anti-union policies of the Democrats and 
Republicans, it is important to stress the degree to which his campaign 
embraced the nascent civil rights movement.

Early in the campaign Wallace went on a tour of the south. True to his 
party's principles, he announced in advance that he would neither 
address segregated audiences nor stay in segregated hotels. This was 
virtually an unprecedented measure to be taken at the time by a major 
politician. Wallace paid for it dearly. In a generally hostile study of 
Henry Wallace, the authors begrudgingly pay their respects to the 
courage and militancy of the candidate:

"The southern tour had begun peacefully enough in Virginia, despite the 
existence in that state of a law banning racially mixed public 
assemblies. In Norfolk, Suffolk, and Richmond, Wallace spoke to 
unsegregated and largely receptive audiences. But when the party went on 
into supposedly more liberal North Carolina, where there was no law 
against unsegregated meetings, the violence started. A near riot 
preceded his first address, and a supporter, James D. Harris of 
Charlotte, was stabbed twice in the arm and six times in the back. The 
next day there was no bloodshed, but Wallace was subjected to a barrage 
of eggs and fruit, and the crowd of about five hundred got so completely 
out of control that he had to abandon his speech. At Hickory, North 
Carolina, the barrage of eggs and tomatoes and the shouting were so 
furious that Wallace was prevented from speaking, but he tried to 
deliver a parting thrust over the public address system: 'As Jesus 
Christ told his disciples, when you enter a town that will not hear you 
willingly, then shake the dust of that town from your feet and go 
elsewhere.' If they closed their minds against his message, he would, 
like Jesus Christ, abandon them to their iniquity."  (Henry A. Wallace: 
His Search for a New World Order, Graham White and John Maze)

Wallace was trounced badly as a result of Truman's demagogic appeal to 
some bread-and-butter issues supported by the trade union bureaucracy, 
which was also working overtime to purge CP'ers out of the trade unions. 
Furthermore, since the CP had done nothing to defend trade union 
prerogatives during WWII, even to the extent of supporting speedup, many 
rank and filers considered them to be enemies of the labor movement. On 
top of this, the 1948 CP coup in Czechoslovakia against the social 
democratic government of Edward Benes alienated many liberals and even 
some leftists. Despite efforts by Wallace to keep Stalin at arm's 
length, the rightwing in the United States was able to exploit 
resentment over the situation in Czechoslovakia and paint Wallace as a 
"Communist dupe".

When the votes were counted, Wallace only received 2.37 percent of the 
total. This disaster set the tone for a general offensive against the 
left in the US, focusing particularly on the CP. In no time at all, the 
witch-hunt was unleashed, mobs attacked the Paul Robeson concert in 
Peekskill, and the Korean War broke out. There is very little doubt that 
the Wallace campaign and the forces gathered around it were the sole 
force capable at that time of putting a roadblock in the way of this 
quasi-fascist movement. If the labor movement had not been put on the 
defensive, if the civil rights movement had been able to move ahead 
under the general framework of Progressive Party campaigns, perhaps the 
dismal 1950s would have not been inevitable. This is not socialist 
revolution, but it is the real class struggle nonetheless. Seeing the 
relationship between the two processes requires some dialectical insight.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/american_left/Nader2000.htm

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