Henry Wallace: A Divided Mind

A native of Colorado who entered Amherst with the Class of 1918, GARDNER JACKSON started what he calls his checkered career, after getting out of the Army in the First World War, as a bond salesman. Then came newspaper work in Denver, Boston, and Washington and his passionate defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. Mr. Jackson was Assistant Consumers' Counsel for the AAA (1933-1935); Washington representative for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (1935-1936); legislative representative for John L. Lewis (1936-1940); special assistant to the Secretary and the Under Secretary of Agriculture (1941-1942); co-organizer of Food for Freedom, Inc. (1943-1944); assistant to the president and board of the National Farmers Union (1945-1947).
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The techniques of his mass meetings at Madison Square Garden and elsewhere are designed to play on people's emotions and cloud their judgment—the single spotlight in the darkened auditorium focused on the lone speaker (the holy leader) surrounded by a battery of microphones on a platform in the center of the vast assemblage rising tier on tier on all sides of it; the organized chants through a loud-speaker system proclaiming the urgency of the need and the self-sacrificing courage of the savior eager to lead humanity to salvation; the spotlight ceremony of lighting the path of the savior when he threads his way among the multitude to and from the platform amid the exulting cheers of his followers. These techniques are a far cry from the old torchlight parades and other traditional methods employed by Theodore Roosevelt in his 1912 Bull Moose effort to reach the White House and by Senior Bob La Follette in his 1924 campaign. They are borrowed from the Sportpalast in Berlin and the Red Square in Moscow and a modern technology applied to make the individual sink his identity in the herd.

Wallace's speeches, furnished to him primarily by Lew Frank, Jr., a Peace Mobilizer till Hitler moved against Russia; the taut-larynxed manner in which Wallace utters them in his new incarnation as Messiah; and the increasing anxiety of hordes of his listeners combine to make his audience completely overlook Wallace's reckless distortion and frequent errors.

A typical example was his accusation of Laurence A. Steinhardt, U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia of having instigated a rightist plot against the Benes-Masaryk regime which, Wallace asserted was one of the chief factors causing the Communist coup and Masaryk's death there. Faced with Steinhardt's denial and citation of the fact that he was absent from Czechoslovakia at the time, Wallace refused to retract his palpably false charge and retreated into the weak contention that Steinhardt's earlier expression of hope that Czechoslovakia would reconsider and participate in the Marshall Plan (the ERP) was a deliberate incitation of the rightist revolt against Benes and Masaryk.

Illuminating the anguish-beclouded state of mind of Wallace's followers is the Gallup poll of April, which showed that 47 per cent of those who professed an intention at that time to vote for Wallace were still supporting the ERP though he had long since denounced it as a scheme of Wall Street.

Wallace has been taking in large sums of money on his speaking trips. The New York Post on June 4 carried a report from a correspondent who had covered Wallace's Western trip, estimating that in collections and admissions to his meetings Wallace had brought into his campaign coffers about $390,000. This was a 25-day trip starting with a Madison Square Garden meeting where he collected $100,000. In addition to these sources of funds Wallace's campaign has had large contributions ranging from $1000 to $5000 from wealthy individuals typified by Mrs. Elinor Gimble. Howard Norton in the Baltimore Sun of May 12 reported a contribution of $10,000 to the campaign from the Greek-American Committee for Wallace; a pledge of $25,000 from the Armenian-American Committee; and one of $10,000 from Local 65 of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union CIO. I estimate that between $3,000,000 and $4,000,000 will be spent in the Wallace crusade.

No newspaper reporter dealing with the Wallace campaign whom I was able to find in checking the facts for this article gainsays the validity of a considerable portion of Wallace's attack upon the Truman administration's foreign policy is Wallace's only significant appeal for support. Many of these reporters agree with him on his opposition to Universal Military Training. Many of them agree with him on his opposition to reimposition of Selective Service. A sizable proportion of them sympathize with his opposition so-called Truman Doctrine in Greece. And not one of them dissents from his shouting to high heaven about the Truman administration's sidestepping the United Nations. But not one of them is for him. They conversationally blast the rough stuff pulled on Baldwin and some of the other Wallace contingent at Evansville, Indiana, the denial of hotel rooms to Wallace and his group because of the Negro singer, Paul Robeson, at Indianapolis, dismissal of Wallace supporters at Evansville College and elsewhere, and all similarly stupid conduct of superpatriots.

But by the same token, they condemn the provocative exaggeration of Wallace's attacks, his avoidance of direct answers to their questions, and the framed-up stunts by people running his campaign. A little-known example of the latter was the meeting for him of Johns Hopkins University students. The PCA had rented Levering Hall on the campus for a noon meeting for Wallace. That morning posters appeared on trees on the campus proclaiming that the university authorities had withdrawn use of Levering Hall and that the meeting would accordingly be held in an adjoining street. A sound truck blared the same announcement as it cruised along the streets around the campus. The announcement was untrue but it created the type of martyrdom atmosphere Wallace and his promoters desire. In his speech Wallace said he expected to be denied facilities in the West but had not expected it in the East. He thus personally furthered the untruth.

Newspapermen naturally resent Wallace's charge, repeated over and over, that the newspapers print nothing but slander concerning him and his campaign. Almost daily he slurs the conscientious attempts of a majority of them to report the facts accurately and interpret them with sober reflection. Some of those with whom I talked think Wallace has become so habituated to belaboring devils that he now believes they actually exist.

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Over one aspect of his present manifestations there is sharp difference of opinion among reporters assigned to his campaign. That is his insistent assertion that he knows only one or two Communists in this country and doesn't know how to identify the American brand of non-card-displaying Communists in general. Some say this is palpably a pose on his part. They point out that he got a thorough education in the functioning of the Communist mind during his trip to Europe in the fall of 1947. They contend that he simply wants to keep his eyes closed to the nature of the people in large part manning the machinery of his New Party.

Others believe he is so enveloped in what they think now amounts almost to a paranoic fog that he really doesn't recognize Communists or Party-liners when he encounters them. Reporters entertaining this opinion credit him with an unstudied reaction when he said, some weeks after the appointment had been made, that he didn't know former CIO General Counsel Lee Pressman had been selected as secretary of the New Party platform committee. His astonishment on that occasion was, according to this view, merely another piece of evidence proving Wallace has put himself so completely in the hands of others that he doesn't know from day to day what his party decisions and maneuvers are.

As this is written (June), estimates of the vote Wallace is likely to get range from three to ten million. James A. Farley sets the figure at five million. Wallace himself, in confidential discussions with his associates, expresses his hope to get at least four million—thus to equal Senior Bob La Follette's 1924 total. In these discussions he bluntly proclaims his wish that the Republicans take over the White House.

He expects and intends to make his greatest inroads in the Democratic fold. He was really not "playing make-believe" when he said in March that Senator Robert A. Taft was his favorite candidate. He convinced himself that the Democratic Party is in literal fact under Truman a "war party." He really believes that the President is surrounded by advisers and cabinet members who are collaborating with certain industrialists and financiers in a cold-blooded program of war materiel production for the sake of maintaining the lush profit level of the war years. He has come to the astounding conclusion that when the Republicans, take over the White House they will be less eager to maintain lush profit levels and will consequently not be a "war party." The implication of his stand is that the Republicans will be able speedily to ease strain between the Soviet Union and the United States and achieve peace. He hopes for a large Wallace vote partly to help ensure a Republican victory and partly to give him and his following leverage with the victors.

Wallace's following includes no significant organization support other than the PCA, the Communist and the Communist-led CIO unions. The Townsendites, for whose votes he has made a special play, failed at a recent convention in Washington, D.C. to adopt a resolution endorsing him. The bulk of his following is composed of tens of thousands of men and women whose consciences have been outraged by the postwar materialistic fixation in the United States. He is a symbol for these multitudes whose fears for their sons and daughters are deep and justified in a bitterly divided atomic (and bacterial warfare) world.

True, conditions are rotten-ripe for his use—with the tragic bungling of the Palestine problem and the appalling fiasco of the Soviet-United States exchange of notes in May as his made-to-order examples—and Wallace is trading on them in words and methods calculated to exacerbate the very conditions he professes to want to remedy. Many of these independent voters are so distressed at the performance of the Truman administration, especially in foreign policy, that they are even willing to swallow maneuvers of the New Party which are quite likely to displace liberal members of Congress with reactionary conservatives.

Wallace is apt to get his largest vote among the women, among church people—particularly in rural towns, "the river Baptists," as old-time politicians call them—and among college and university students. He himself thinks he will draw most heavily in the highly industrialized areas, but there are signs he is overoptimistic about this. The polls—typified by that of the Boston Globe for Massachusetts—show that Wallace's probable vote has slumped from the 11 per cent he was credited with after he announced his candidacy.

Whether or not the slump is recovered, it is certain he will receive enough of a vote to serve as a portent that Wallace has introduced—into this country for the first time the European type of politics. He is not sanguine about a continuation of his New Party after the election. Despite the way in which his Communist-disciplined audiences have regularly emptied their pockets for him and the way in which his wealthy backers have drawn large checks for the cause, he sees little prospect of money after November to keep the New Party going. Moreover, he is sufficiently versed in the realities of political parties to recognize that patronage is essential to hold them together. What is more likely is the development of a genuine third party movement out of the political wreckage Wallace is doing so much to create—a movement broadly based in the labor unions and not just in the Communist-led unions; a movement such as is envisioned in a resolution adopted at its spring meeting by the board of the United Automobile Workers under the guidance of Walter Reuther.

So, as many of the former associates and friends of Wallace sadly watch him immolate himself in the present crusade, they at least have the consolation of knowing that he is unwittingly preparing the ground for a political growth more in keeping with the bill-of-rights concept of democracy than the one he is so bitterly trying to nourish.

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