United Electrical Workers Union Endorses Nader…and Backed Henry Wallace in 1948

by Charles Walker

Two hundred delegates to the 65th Convention of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) on August 30 voted to back Ralph Nader, presidential candidate of the Green Party. The UE was a key founder in 1996 of the Labor Party, which is not endorsing any candidates in this year’s elections.

UE spokesman Peter Gilmore, according to the Associated Press, said that his union “usually declines to endorse presidential candidates, and has endorsed only four in its history — Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, George McGovern and Michael Dukakis. A Nader endorsement would be its first departure from backing Democrats, Gilmore said.”

Actually, the UE web page reports that in 1948 the union’s officers didn’t support the CIO’s endorsement of Harry Truman. Instead, the UE general executive board “unanimously voted to grant the national officers permission to serve in the [Henry] Wallace campaign. UE Genl. Pres. Albert J. Fitzgerald accepted co-chairmanship of the National Wallace for President Committee and chairmanship of the campaign’s labor committee.”

Subsequently, the UE (which then claimed 600,000 members, in contrast to its current membership of about 35,000) was one of eleven unions purged from the CIO because of alleged Communist influence in the union.

What Was the Henry Wallace Campaign?

It’s interesting to note that in 1948 revolutionary socialists opposed the Henry Wallace candidacy of the Progressive Party. Instead they ran a slate headed by Farrell Dobbs, a Minneapolis Teamsters strike leader. Socialist spokesman James P. Cannon explained that “Wallace’s policy can be just as much a preparation for war as the Truman-Marshall program.…It is a matter of opinion [from the ruling class viewpoint] as to which is the most effective way of preparing war against the Soviet Union — whether by an outward effort to reach agreement by concessions in order to prepare better and put the onus of responsibility on the Soviet Union before the fight starts, or by the rough and tumble ‘get tough’ policy of Truman and Marshall. At any rate it is a tactical difference within the camp of the bourgeoisie.”

Cannon urged workers to reject the “theory that one kind of capitalist tactics in the expansion of American imperialism is preferable to another, and that workers should support one against another.”

In 1950 Cannon’s conclusion was confirmed when Truman intervened in the Korean civil war, with Wallace’s backing.

As in 1948, some leftists and unionists today confuse liberal third parties, such as the Green Party and the New Party, with an independent workers party. An independent workers party, by definition, would not support candidates of the bosses’ parties. From early on, in contrast, Nader has said that he believes his candidacy might help the Democrats regain a Congressional majority, which seemingly he favors. On August 27, Nader explicitly threw his support to a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Washington state, Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn. Two days later, Senn and other Democratic Party candidates, linking arms, joined Hillary Clinton on the stage at a Demo banquet.

Those leftists and unionists in 2000 who support Nader as a way forward to workers independent action would do well to study the dismal fate of the 1948 Progressive Party, most of whose members rejoined the Democratic Party despite its support of Jim Crow, anti-union laws, and the Cold War. 

August 30, 2000