Letter: ISOs Campaign for Nader
5 May 2001
To the Editor:
In introducing James P. Cannons remarks on Henry Wallaces 1948 Progressive Party presidential campaign (1917 No. 23), you quite accurately state: Wallaces campaign posed many of the same political issues for leftists as Ralph Naders recent presidential bid. The arguments used by the ISO [International Socialist Organization] and other supposedly Marxist groups to justify voting for an openly capitalist third-party candidate echo those used a half century earlier by the Stalinists. I know, because in 1948, as a member of the Communist Party in California, I spent about 18 hours a day campaigning for Wallaces slate in the run-up to the election.
The CPs support to Wallace represented an apparent left turn from the previous election  when they simply voted for FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] and the Democrats. In fact, it was a continuation of the policy of choosing among capitalist lesser evils. The CPs overt support to the Democrats dated from the abandonment of the sectarian Third Period policy during FDRs first term. Leading party cadres from that period told me that during the 1930s, three members of the Communist Party were elected to the California state legislature as Democrats. It was not public knowledge, although widely suspected.
The Stalinists in those days were far more sophisticated than the Trotskyists who are tailing the Greens today. Even at the height of the popular front, the CP maintained a pretense of political class independence, and ran its own candidate, Earl Browder, for president. The ISOs attempt to act as the best builders of Nader and the Greens is only a cruder version of the same tactic.
In his autobiography, Steve Nelson, the CP cadre who had been political commissar of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain, explained how nominal independence was combined with actual subordination to the Democrats:
I bought this line fifty-odd years ago. But James P. Cannon and the Trotskyists knew better. Probably the greatest crime of American Stalinism was undermining what had previously been a bedrock principle of the radical workers movement that, in the words of the 1905 preamble to the constitution of the Wobblies [Industrial Workers of the World]: The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. The ISO and all the others who claim to stand in the Trotskyist tradition, while advocating votes to capitalist candidates at election time, are, in reality, standing in the class-collaborationist tradition of Browders Communist Party.
Published: 1917 No.24 (Feb 2002)