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Untold History: The Coup Against Wallace and What Might Have Been

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Real News Network has run an occasional series based on an interview with Peter Kuznick on what he calls “untold history,” which are important junctures in American history that are airbrushed out of the mainstream narrative. Here, Paul Jay and Kuznick continue their discussion of Roosevelt’s wildly popular vice president Henry Wallace and how he was shoved aside in favor of Harry Truman (see here for the previous segment in this series).


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47 comments

  1. Timothy Y. Fong

    There’s an interesting discussion of Wallace in Caroll Quigley’s book, Tragedy and Triumph. Quigley discusses his theory that the New Republic’s support for Wallace was a sort of false flag operation to split the Communist Party from the left. Quigley writes “Wallace’s campaign to defeat Truman destroyed completely the remaining vestiges of the Popular Front movement of the 1930′s, drove the Communists out of the unions and all progressive political groups, and drove the Communist unions out of the labor movement of the country. This ended Communism as a significant political force in the United States, and the end was reached by December 1948, long before McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover or HUAC did their work.”

    Mike Straight, publisher of the New Republic sponsored Wallace and brought the Communists aboard, and then “jumped off the train,” splitting the Communists and the left away from the rest of the Democrats. According to Quigley:
    “While he was still working for Wallace as President and allowing the Communists into the project, he was simultaneously doing two other things: working openly, and desperately, to prevent the new third party from campaigning on any level other than the presidential, by blocking everywhere he could Communist efforts to run third-party candidates for state or congressional offices in competition with the Democrats; much less publicly, he worked with his anti-Communist friends in labor, veteran, and liberal groups to prevent endorsement of the Wallace candidacy.

    As a consequence, the Communists were destroyed and eventually driven out of such organizations, notably from the CIO-PAC (the great political alignment of labor and progressive groups).”

    1. Jim S

      Out of curiosity, do you happen to have a hard copy of the book? I’d posted–a little over a year ago now–a pdf copy highlighting some significant (and also some insignificant) changes found in the crappy scanned version floating around the net that make it into even more of a libertarian bible than it was already.

      1. rob

        I have a copy of that book from ’74.Tradgedy and hope
        I don’t see why it would be a libertarian bible?If anything,the explicit inclusion of WHO the people are that make decisions,and WHO they are connected to,REALLY shows how disasterous it is likely to be to “leave gov’t officials to themselves”.It kinda pounds the myth that any of the levers people learn about in political science,that are treated as if they are in a vacuum,are anything but.
        Out of curiosity,Why is this book a “libertarian” thing?
        Another book of his”the anglo-american establishment”,is also interesting.

        1. Jim S

          Yeah, I misspoke. Much less “libertarian” and much more “extreme right-wing”, ie. people who are looking for an international Commie conspiracy pulling the strings to orchestrate the NWO. As you can see, this is only possible by a highly selective reading of Quigley, but it seems that this wasn’t enough as the copy floating around the net (Internet Archive, scribd) has been doctored to support this viewpoint. I’ve been comparing the doctored copy to a scanned copy of the ’74, but I’d be interested if someone with a physical copy could verify some of the edits.

          And I wonder what role this doctored copy has been playing, because if you look around you find plenty of blog posts citing it as proof of a conspiracy, giving the impression that it’s being passed around like some sort of secret knowledge.

          1. rob

            The extreme right wing…..the irony of ironies.
            what you are probably referring to is his coverage of the british group and their american counterparts who created the council on foreign relations(which was created as a “circle of helpers”) in this country,and all the other “foreign relations” houses in most every corner of the globe.At one point or another.
            But,while he detailed a group of people. A working network. An idea….
            He didn’t say “conspiracy”and certainly didn’t see a soviet/communist danger.And this is a guy who taught russian history at the us naval war college for decades.An expert in russian politics.From what I understand, he was one who saw the cold war as a pretext.A real time ploy of the defense establishment, to create the boogeyman.And build it up.So it would be a more formidible foe.Which would require greater expenditures for defense.
            The book is fascinating.
            I would recommend everyone buy it.read it.It wasn’t suppressed in 66 for nothing.
            Then we have the irony, of the “radical right” ,a part being the “john birch society”,One founding member being the son of the first Koch who with his superior “cracking”technique,was run out of america, only to found the families fortune and future company of koch industries, by building stalins oil refining and pipeline infrastructure,in the 30′s.And now the grandfather( a stalin “partner/client”
            the son, founder of anti-establishment john birch society claiming communist conspiracy to take over america.
            to today where we have the koch bros funding the tea party,heritage foundation,cato institute,mercatus center,americans for prosperity,club for growth,american enterprise instituteDLC,democratic leadership/legislative? council,etc….co-opting thje entire political process.on both sides..
            Wow, that commie machine….did take over.kinda sorta.

          2. LeonovaBalletRusse

            Jim this is why the Reich wants “book” ONLY in digital format. A hard-bound book cannot be tampered with and “morphed for cause” like what you describe. That is why the ALL-DIGITAL GHETTO for “book” content is the same as BOOK BURNING, and the Global Reich behind book burning is the same DNA from Era to Era. Adulteration of persons and books by the Reich is a feature, not a bug.

  2. Andrew Watts

    In retrospect, it’s amazing that the New Deal coalition held together as long as it did. The American Communists were on the right side of history when it came to such radical ideas as racial and gender equality. Which didn’t necessarily square with the conservative elements of the party at the time. It’s a testament to the political acumen of FDR that a political coalition filled with primarily black Communists and white Dixiecrats could last for as long as it did.

    I don’t know how much of an influence Wallace would’ve ultimately had if he were president. I am immediately suspicious of any claims that he would radically alter the course of American politics though. The cult of personality that surrounds the American presidency is but one of many secular myths that is more propaganda then reality. No more unique or relevant then the divine right of monarchs was.

    1. alex

      “The American Communists were on the right side of history when it came to such radical ideas as racial and gender equality.”

      So? The Nazis were on the right side of history when it came to universal health care and anti-smoking campaigns.

      There were also many non-communists that were on the right side of history when it came to racial and gender equality.

      “… political coalition filled with primarily black Communists and white Dixiecrats …”

      Black communists? Sounds like what J. Edgar worried about w/ MLK. There were a lot more black non-communists than black communists supporting FDR and the New Deal.

      “I don’t know how much of an influence Wallace would’ve ultimately had if he were president.”

      There I agree with you. As it is the Republicans recaptured the House in 1946.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Alex,

        Yes, there were plenty of non-communists who supported equality. The American Communist Party was really the only party that allowed blacks to openly participate in it’s proceedings. They were not second class citizens. There were some that even took leading roles in the organization. That’s what set them apart and which they deserve credit for.

        This also partly explains why the American labor movement quickly severed it’s ties with left-wing organizations. It also explains why the communists drew so much black support at the time.

    2. Nathanael

      FDR saved capitalism from itself.

      Apparently he was one of a kind. This time, capitalism is unlikely to survive.

      1. bh2

        Actually, it would be refreshing if it could re-emerge after having been long suppressed by crony anti-capitalist forces in finance, government, and industry.

        Capital arises from savings, not from debt. Likewise capitalism.

    3. LeonovaBalletRusse

      So, Communists and Socialists were the victim of a Soft Porn Operation Glado; the Hard-Core Porn version of Operation Gladio was a killer program in Italy.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Edit: “OPERATION G L A D I O” by any name in both cases: they’re psycopaths, and they are still at it.

    1. Tom

      Hannibal says
      I demand you vote against and oppose ANY infringements of the Second Amendment. Do not dishonor but instead affirm and uphold your Oath of Office…
      “to defend and protect the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and
      DOMESTIC”.

      Not sure how this is related. Also, ya might want to use that same thought regarding the oligarchs infesting the public domain and the financial service industries theft of wealth during this financial crisis.

      Please – name the enemies, foreign and domestic, that you intimate are advancing. Or are you charging at windmills?

    2. vibram sole print on your face

      Don’t worry, they’ll never take away your religious fetich objects, their favorite thing in the world is when you wave your little popgun at 60 militarized SWAT goons in tanks, it’s like you’re the little rubber duck that floats by at the fair.

    3. Paul Tioxon

      One of the biggest of the big lies of gun and ammo manufacturers, is that the government wants to take away all of your guns, because they want to strictly limit access to military weaponry, that should never have been released into the civilian market in the first place . The government has been promoting and licensing patents for the civilian market of a variation on many rifles, especially the M16/M4 by allowing the commercialization via the AR15 model. The US Military develops many weapons and support components for these weapons at the various government arsenals still operated by the US Government. The government, in order to control the proliferation of military weaponry, patents its designs, but then, licenses the patents to the private sector. The Army, the Marines and other forces, works in direct conjunction with Colt and other manufacturers, testing their products for them and working jointly to modify and improve their operation and manufacture. How can the biggest source in the advancement of military assault rifles, the US Arsenals, granting the private sector the right to manufacture and profit from publicly funded research and development, at the same time plot to confiscate all of the guns and wipe their asses with the US Constitution and the 2nd amendment in particular?

      The US Army R&D is a major enabler of commercialized and widely available AR-15s, as part of its regular requests for proposals for licensing. See following link for high capacity magazine open call for widespread proliferation of gun magazines. They don’t even have to let the manufacturers be allowed to continue selling to the public by denying the licenses to make the weapons in the first place. Military contracts also can specify the limits on the private sector as part of the military contracting process, banning civilian commercialization. This is under the control of the President, as the commander in chief. The US Government does not owe private manufactures a right to commercialize anything for civilian use, they just happen to have been doing it for decades, in the case of the M16 civilian variants.

      The reason why the AR-15 is constantly referred to as military assault rifle, is because it is a military assault rifle, commercialized via government granting of the right to provide a civilian version. The same gun, has been adopted as the military rifle of most NATO countries. It was designed for the US Military and widely adopted during the Viet Nam war and continued to be researched and developed by the US military at that time in the Frankford Aresenal in Philadelphia PA and other US Arsenals throughout the country. Its entire inception and development has been for and from the military for combat use, never as a widely available civilian gun. One of its key features is that as a rifling long gun, it fired a tumbling projectile that creating massive wounds instead of nice neat round holes going in and out the body. This key feature produced a terribly wounded enemy, who would draw the attention of his buddies and take more people out of the fight who were rushing to remove the badly wounded but still alive fellow soldier.

      http://techlinkcenter.org/summaries/magazine-feed-lips-gauge

      1. Jim S

        Paul, you are somewhat misinformed.

        Projectile tumbling is a feature the type of bullet used, not a feature of barrel rifling. In the case of NATO 5.56mm ammunition, the tumbling is caused by the steel jacket encasing the lead bullet striking flesh. An un-jacketed lead bullet will most likely go through-and-through, as you say. And NATO 7.62 FMJ doesn’t tumble in the same manner, so 5.56 tumbles because of it’s lower mass combined with the jacket. Pretty much every rifle since the Civil War is rifled (hence the name “rifle”), and bullet tumbling is not a characteristic of a particular weapon. In the same way, a hollow-point bullet’s effects are caused by the ammunition, not by the pistol.

        With regards to “assault rifles”, the semi-automatic weapons available to civilians do not qualify as such. An assault weapon is–by definition–an automatic weapon, such as the German WW2 StG44 or the famous WW1-era Tommy Gun, also known as a trench broom or a Chicago typewriter. The modern M16/M4 is not really an assault weapon as it is not capable of fully automatic fire, although the trigger assembly can be modified (illegally) to make it so. I don’t know if a civilian AR15 can be modified in the same way, but certainly an automatic trigger mechanism can be fabricated.

        It’s interesting that we don’t have more crime with true assault weapons. Remember the L.A. shootout a few years back with the criminals using AK-47s? Imagine that in a crowded theater. I daresay the death toll would have been much higher.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          Bullets are weapons. Sorry, but I don’t buy your school master demeanor and sense of propriety. The gun is useless without the bullet, the bullet useless without the gun, together they are a weapon, a military weapon, for a moving infantry formation otherwise known as an assault. You must be used to people bowing before and you and asking permission to think. You don’t argue well and your fussy ballistics lesson is typical misdirection of making the issue a smaller and smaller sub-heading to raise doubt about the obvious. Stick to grade school show and tells and don’t bother me with the trivial and the irrelevant. The rifle shoots wounding, tumbling rounds, to take out the amount of return fire, diverted to medical evacuation. I have relatives who worked at the Frankford Arsenal in Philly, my family, we know bullets and weapon systems, they designed and patented some of them for the government.

          1. bh2

            If you insist on adopting incorrect terminology to describe a thing, then I suppose you’d just as readily agree a swan is a duck.

            The purpose of distinct words is to distinguish. To discrimate, if you like. Inability to discriminate results in an inability to reason. An inability to reason leads to poor decisions. Or politics, which amounts to the same thing.

          2. Jim S

            Sense of propriety? Should I have started straight away with the name-calling, then? Maybe it would have made you feel better–hell, maybe it would’ve made me feel better–but what’s the point, really? Who was it that said the death of civility is the death of society? And in the end, if I want other people to behave civilly, maybe I’d damned well better start by behaving civilly myself. You can take that as a hint.

            As for the rest of it… So an assault weapon is something carried by infantrymen moving in assault formation, huh? You know what else infantrymen moving in assault formation carry? Socks. And after two weeks in the field, it might not be wrong to categorize an infantryman’s socks as assault weapons. Hell, they might be more lethal than the rifles they carry. Some of those young men can’t shoot straight, and they don’t like to bathe.

          3. enouf

            Wow, way to admit when you’re wrong Paul – what a shame – now i’m sure i can ignore any more comments you post here. Man up ffs!

            and Jim S;
            It is my understanding that the AR15 is as you say sem-automatic only, but it is capable of being illegally modified to fire as its M16/M4 counterpart does via *default* — which is “Burst Mode” (i.e., able to spray only a few bullets at a time, on a single trigger squeeze).

            Love

          4. Jim S

            enouf, I’ve never looked at an AR15 closely, but there’s no way it can have a burst mode and be on the civilian market, can it? You’re probably right about it being modifiable, but it can’t be as easy.

            With regards to Paul, I think he’s misinformed and I don’t appreciate his comments about me, but we’re all reading this blog, and that makes me think we have more in common than we have differences. So I hope you’ll reconsider your statement about ignoring him.

            (and rob may add this to the “irony of ironies”, but…)
            Peace.

    4. Kyle

      I oppose the infringement of the Second Amendment by those gun nuts who ignore the opening phrase about a “well regulated militia”.

    5. Yves Smith Post author

      Folks, in the future, DO NOT RESPOND to trolls who try using this site to advertise pet causes that do not relate to the post. That message was spam, except for advertising weight loss or time shares, it was pushing a political agenda completely unrelated to the thread.

      Spam gets deleted. Because all you folks took his bait, I can’t delete it without messing up the thread below. If you hadn’t responded, I could have expunged it safely. So I mutilated his comment instead pour decourager les autres.

  3. rkka

    Hannibal-

    From what have seen of those who purchase semiautomatic rifles with large-capacity magazines, I can only conclude that they would make enthusiastic Brownshirts.

    The idea that gun-nuts are somhow a bulwark against tyranny is ludicrous on its face.

  4. alex

    Still no mention that Wallace himself came to believe that he’d been horribly naive about the USSR. There are many things I admire about Wallace’s domestic politics, but he would have been a horrible president in foreign affairs.

    Nor was Truman any reactionary in domestic politics. He integrated the armed forces (over the strenuous objections of many top officers and other nay sayers), supported labor, and tried to get universal health care enacted. However, the president can only do so much wihtout congress. There was a strong conservative (anti-New Deal) backlash after the war. Examples: the Republicans regained the House in 1946 and Taft-Hartley was passed over Truman’s veto.

    1. Lune

      Agreed. While no one can say what might have been if Wallace was elected, let’s not minimize the policies of Truman. Domestically Wallace *may* have been better, but who knows (for a great example of pre-election rhetoric not matching up with post-election results, see our current President). And a pragmatist like Truman may indeed have been able to do *better* than an idealist like Wallace in holding together the New Deal coalition and compromising to get whatever advances he could.

      And this is only on the domestic side. IMHO, Truman was much much better on foreign policy. Ending WWII, the Marshall Plan, the Cold War, even firing MacArthur when he was perilously close to repudiating civilian control of the military, were all Truman’s actions. There’s no indication Wallace (or anyone) could have done better.

    2. LifelongLib

      Yes, and you can talk about Wallace’s merits without putting down Truman as a hack. The anti-Truman part of the interviews left me scratching my head.

      1. Mark P.

        It’s the extremely sordid connection with the Pendergast machine back in Kansas City that’s so prejudicial against Truman.

        But Alex is right: Truman did okay in office, compared to with what he was faced with and where he began. Just terminating that maniac MacArthur — who wanted to use nukes in Korea and sprinkle cobalt dust along the 49th parallel — was a good job.

        1. LifelongLib

          A story I heard is that Truman was initially picked for his populist appeal. A (Pendergast?) political operative who’d met him in France described Truman as the only Army officer he’d seen whose men didn’t seem to want to shoot.

    3. Nathanael

      The success of the New Deal is hard even to imagine today. Eisenhower supported it lock, stock, and barrel, right up to and including the 92% tax rates for the (period equivalent of) billionaires.

      Things fell apart around the time the majority of the US accepted the Civil Rights movement and LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of ’64. As LBJ said, he had “lost the South for a generation”. What he didn’t realize, was that the racist whites were now open to being preyed on by an economic elitist movement.

      This movement was able to get a majority and control the airwaves, and it proceeded to tear the country apart, particularly under Reagan and Bush II. I don’t know how we will put the country back together, but step one is for the old racists to *die off*. Then we have to educate everyone who’s been indoctrinated in economic-elitist bullshit for the last 40 years….

      1. LifelongLib

        The alienation of working-class whites from the Democratic Party came somewhat later, with the titanic battles over school busing and the entry of substantial numbers of women and minorities into the workforce just as the post-WW 2 economic boom was coming to an end. Neither party in the 70s or later did much to reverse the decline in job opportunities. Many working-class whites (especially males) switched their support to the party that pandered to their prejudices. Sadly the economic policies of today’s Democrats won’t do much to bring them back.

        Jobs, jobs, jobs (and health care, livable social security benefits, free education through college/trade schools….dreaming…)

      2. from Mexico

        @ Nathanael

        I think a longer historical perspective is needed.

        As Lawrence Goodwyn points out in The Populist Moment, the lords of capital have used race to divide the productive segments of society, whether they be labor or small farmers, since day one of the republic. Party alignmnet of racists and non-racists may have switched over time, but the division was always there. The ovwerwheming success of this effort — the fact that racial and ethnic loyalties could so easily be made to trump self-interest — is yet one more indication that not all humans are the rational egoists that classical and neoclassical economic theory claims they are.

        During WWII, however, Hitler really did pose a threat to the life of the nation, and there was greater national solidarity. The cooperation of blacks and Hispanics, as well as labor, was solicited by the ruling elite to defend the nation against the external threat, and it was gladly given. After the threat had passed, however, the old tensions between capital and labor and whites and non-whites began to reemerge.

        After WWII, it would have been extremely difficult to get non-whites to go back to being treated the way they were before WWII. Their effort during WWII, the role they played in defending the nation, was just too great. It was also difficult to get labor back to second class status. In this, however, the intransigence of non-whites was quite a godsend to the lords of capital. Once again, just as had been the pattern for the first 175 years of the republic, the irrational prejudices of workers would be incited so as to trump the workers’ own self-interest. And it worked.

        1. alex

          “After WWII, it would have been extremely difficult to get non-whites to go back to being treated the way they were before WWII. Their effort during WWII, the role they played in defending the nation, was just too great.”

          But in WWII non-whites (or at least blacks) didn’t play a role much different than in WWI. In WWI, blacks were recruited to work in northern factories (which became part of the great northward migration) and they worked in important, if less “glamorous”, military roles (e.g. logistics).

          The only difference in WWII is that there were a few high profile non-white combat units, like the Tuskegee airmen, the 92nd infactry division and the 761st tank battalion. I don’t know how much of an impact that had on the consciousness of the country as a whole, though I would think black people would have been particularly aware of it.

          Did that play much of a role in Truman’s decision to integrate the military? I don’t know. But perhaps the fighting of the Korean war by an integrated military struck the public consciousness. It’s interesting that both Brown v. Board of Ed. (1954) and the Rosa Parks incident (1955) happened shortly after the end of the Korean war in 1953.

  5. NotTimothyGeithner

    Truman had become a household name as an investigator of war profiteering. Some of this story is being told from conservative framing of Truman as a minor character because they wanted to bash him as just a backbencher. He wasn’t some schlub. Yes, he didn’t have the legerdemain work which the GOP hit him on, but he was routinely putting bad people away providing oversight and generally just going along with the House which is the Senate’s job.

    I would like to put up better links but it took forever to find this:

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdrs-secretary-of-war-stifles-trumans-inquiry-into-suspicious-defense-plant

    I think the Wilson Quarterly had an article a few years ago about this. Truman was quite close to exposing the Manhattan Project, and the VP nod was about taking a bloodhound of the scent. High level Administration officials resigned to appease Truman over money going to sights in Tennessee and New Mexico where there weren’t bases. We have heard the story Truman didn’t know about the bomb, but it might be more accurate to say he didn’t have a clue about what was really happening and almost exposed the secret which might have been a big deal except the janitor at Los Alamos was a Soviet physicist/spy.

    1. alex

      “Truman was quite close to exposing the Manhattan Project, and the VP nod was about taking a bloodhound of the scent.”

      From the account you linked to, that doesn’t quiet make sense. It sounds like Truman was satisfied with the explanation that it was a top secret project and not war profiteering.

  6. rur

    Years ago I was drinking in bar in Roslyn WA and I heard a guy say he voted for Wallace. I said that was great–I never met anyone who voted for Henry Wallace.

    “Henry Wallace? I voted for George Wallace — he’d have machine-gunned all those niggers and hippies….”

    Then someone offered him $10 to knock me off the barstool…

    1. LifelongLib

      My dad (now 86) DID cast his first presidential vote for Henry Wallace, back in 1948.

      As for George Wallace, he was a complicated character. A black lawyer once said that Wallace was the only judge who was courteous to him in court. Wallace was actually endorsed by the NAACP in his first run for Alabama governor, but after his defeat started using racist rhetoric because he believed it was the only way to get elected. Late in his life, after civil rights were established, he asked forgiveness from African-Americans for what he had done (to get elected again? who knows?).

  7. bmeisen

    Bring on the next installment!!! The Red Army took Berlin, not Patton. Beam it into every VfW bar please.

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