American Labor Party

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
American Labor Party
Founded1936; 88 years ago (1936)
Dissolved1956; 68 years ago (1956)
Split fromSocialist Party
HeadquartersNew York City, NY, U.S.
IdeologySocial democracy
Political positionCenter-left to left-wing
Colors  Red

The American Labor Party (ALP) was a political party in the United States established in 1936 that was active almost exclusively in the state of New York. The organization was founded by labor leaders and former members of the Socialist Party of America who had established themselves as the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). The party was intended to parallel the role of the British Labour Party, serving as an umbrella organization to unite New York social democrats of the SDF with trade unionists who would otherwise support candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Before and after its demise, many ALP members joined the Liberal Party of New York (LPNY) and the Progressive Party.



Women surrounded by posters in English and Yiddish supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert H. Lehman, and the American Labor Party teach other women how to vote, 1936.

The Socialist Party of America suffered an internal struggle between the right-wing Old Guard and left-wing. In May 1936, the Old Guard broke from the party and formed the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), taking The Forward with them. The SDF formed the People's Party in New York.[1]

In his 1944 memoir, Waldman wrote:

Back from Detroit, I was immediately confronted with a problem which involved millions of dollars of property controlled by subsidiaries of the Socialist Party. In New York alone there were such institutions as the Jewish Daily Forward, the leading Jewish newspaper in the world with a circulation running into hundreds of thousands and with reserve funds amounting to millions. There was The New Leader, a weekly newspaper published in English; there was the Rand School of Social Science, which, together with Camp Tamiment, had enormous property value, not to speak of their importance as propaganda and educational instruments. Control of the Forward alone also meant probable control of fraternal and labor organizations such as the Workmen's Circle, with its millions of dollars in property and tens of thousands of members throughout the United States....
After Detroit it was obvious that the militant Socialists controlled the Socialist Party. I saw that all they had to do in order to gain control of the valuable property in New York was to revoke the New York State charter and expel all state organizations controlled by the Social Democrats or the Old Guard. Since there was always a minority of militant Socialists in each of these corporate institutions, these properties involving millions of dollars in property value and cash reserves would quickly fall into the hands of the militants....
All during 1935 and the early part of 1936 my office was converted into a meeting place for the various committees and members of the organizations threatened by the militants. Constitutions and bylaws were modified in such a way as to prevent control falling into the hands of Norman Thomas' super-revolutionists. -- Louis Waldman, Labor Lawyer. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1944; pp. 272-273.</ref>

On April 1, 1936, Sidney Hillman, John L. Lewis, and other officials of the unions of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations established Labor's Non-Partisan League (LNPL), an organization akin to the modern political action committee, designed to channel money and manpower to the campaigns of Roosevelt and others standing strongly for the declared interests of organized labor.[2]

Max Zaritsky, a union president, suggested forming a political party from the Labor’s Non-Partisan League of the Congress of Industrial Organizations to David Dubinsky and Sidney Hillman. Zaritsky, Hillman, Dubinsky, Luigi Antonini and Isidore Nagler of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Louis Hollander of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Baruch Charney Vladeck and Alexander Kahn of The Forward, and Louis Waldman of the SDF met at the Brevoort Hotel to discuss the plan. The party's name, American Labor Party, was suggested by Nagler. The SDF agreed to join the initiative.[3]

Vladeck was the first chair of the party. James Farley, chair of the New York State Democratic Committee, and Edward J. Flynn did not support the party, but Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Democrats to aid the ALP collect enough signatures for party status.[4] During the summer of 1936, the New York state organization of LNPL was transformed into an independent political party in an effort to bolster Roosevelt's electoral chances in the state by gaining him a place on a second candidate ballot line.[5] 274,924 voted for Roosevelt using the ALP's ballot line in the 1936 presidential election, with 238,845 coming from New York City. The largest amount of support came from Jewish areas.[6]

Rise and internal struggles[edit]

The American Labor Party elected five men to the New York State Assembly in 1937, shown here.
Seated (L-R): Frank Monaco, Nathaniel M. Minkoff.
Standing: Gerard J. Muccigrosso (leaning on desk), Salvatore T. DeMatteo, Benjamin Brenner, Saul Minkoff, Jr., clerk, and Samuel Puner, official American Labor Party lobbyist.

The organization was largely funded by the needle trade unions of the state. The ALP found itself $50,000 in debt at the end of the 1936 campaign, but substantial contributions from labor groups erased the red ink. The ILGWU itself contributed nearly $142,000 to the 1936 campaign,[7] a relatively huge sum for a third party campaign, given that only $26,000 from all sources had been raised and spent by Norman Thomas' Socialist campaign in the previous presidential election.[8] Over 200 unions were affiliated with the ALP by 1937.[9] Party decision-making in the first year was handled by ILGWU executive secretary Fred Umhey, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union's Jacob Potofsky, and Alex Rose of the Milliners'.[7]

The party supported Fiorello La Guardia during the 1937 New York City mayoral election and he received 482,790, 21.6% of the popular vote, on their ballot line. They were the second-largest party in the city and largest in some districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn.[9]

Members of the Communist Party USA started joining the party and Israel Amter, chair of the Communist Party, called for the "building of the American Labor Party".[10] Although its constitution specifically barred Communists from the organization, there was no enforcement for this provision and large numbers flocked to registration as ALP members from the Communist-led United Electrical Workers, Transport Workers, and State, County, and Municipal Workers.[7] Norman Thomas and the Socialists attempted to enter the party in 1937, but faced opposition. Algernon Lee opposed their entrance due to Thomas' pacifism.[11]

Communists in the ALP opposed reelecting Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election and the party's leadership started an attempt to remove them from the party. The party condemned the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Fights broke out at the party's convention on September 14, 1940, where Roosevelt was given the nomination despite an attempted resolution condemning Roosevelt.[12]

Vito Marcantonio was a supporter of the Soviet Union.[13]

Labor activists Victor Alter and Henryk Ehrlich were executed by the Soviets. Anti-communists in the ALP condemned their deaths while communists defended the Soviet Union. This debate was one of the major issues in the party's county committee elections in 1943, and the left-wing gained control over the Bronx affiliate.[14]

Hillman, a member of the left-wing, threatened to have the ACWA become involved in the 1944 state committee elections if the party's leadership voted against a proposal to increase union control over the party. The right-wing rejected it. Adolf A. Berle and Eleanor Roosevelt supported the party's right-wing while Franklin Roosevelt wanted to avoid conflict between the factions. La Guardia proposed a compromise in which the state executive committee would be divided between the factions and no communist would be on the election slate. Hillman accepted the proposal, but Dubinsky rejected it. The left-wing won 620 of the 750 committee seats.[15]

The Liberal Party of New York was formed in opposition to the ALP by Paul Blanshard, August Claessens, Harry W. Laidler, and others.[16]


Pinback button issued by the American Labor Party.

The ALP endorsed Henry A. Wallace's position on the Soviet Union after he was dismissed from President Harry S. Truman's cabient.[17]

The passage of the Wilson Pakula prevented candidates from the ALP from being able to run for the nominations of other parties without the approval of the party's committee. The party lost two state legislators in the 1948 election, but Marcantonio was able to win reelection solely on the American Labor ballot line.[18]

In 1941, American Laborite Joseph V. O'Leary was appointed New York State Comptroller by Governor Herbert H. Lehman both to recognize the ALP's previous and to maintain the party's future support. In 1944 the Congress of Industrial Organization's Greater New York Industrial Union Council, a federation of unions in New York City, formally linked itself to the ALP. The GNYIUC Executive Board "adopted a resolution directing GNYIUC Community Councils, which had been organizing around community issues in neighborhoods throughout the city, to merge into the local ALP clubs," and the "GNYIUC diverted some of its PAC monies directly to the ALP."[19] With this move, the CIO's largest labor federation, consisting of approximately 200 locals and 600,000 members, was formally connected to the ALP. Over the ensuing years, the council would call for local unions to ‘‘Build the American Labor Party, the strongest voice for labor in city and state affairs,’’ and would direct Political Action Stewards in workplaces across the city to ‘‘recruit shop members for active participation in the community activities of the American Labor Party.’’ This support would be instrumental in building the political capacity of the ALP and would ultimately lead to conflicts with the national CIO during the 1948 presidential election.[20]

In 1947, several ALP leaders defected. On October 9, 1947, Charles Rubinstein, president of the United Civic Associations of the Bronx, member of the ALP's State executive committee, and former ALP candidate for the City Council left the ALP for no other party, due to "misguided Communist sympathizers" within the ALP. On the same day, George Salvatore, vice chairman of the ALP's Bronx executive committee and former ALP candidate for District Attorney and Supreme Court Justice, left the ALP for the Democratic Party, citing "we are tending to become apologists for Russia's point of view."[21] The next day, October 10, 1947, Eugene Huber resigned as executive secretary of the ALP's Bayside area to join the Liberal Party of New York State because, Huber said, he had found "affixed a stranglehold by the Communist party upon the ALP which has in consequence become a mere envelope for Communist policies and candidates."[22]

In 1948, rather than support Truman, the ALP backed Progressive Party candidate Wallace. Former Republican Vito Marcantonio won a seat again to the United States House of Representatives, representing East Harlem for the ALP, as he had done in 1938, 1940, 1942, 1944, and 1946 (but lost in 1950). Marcantonio had been the target of the New York Wilson Pakula Act in 1947 aimed at restricting candidates from one party running in another party's primary election (electoral fusion). Leo Isacson was elected in early 1948 to fill a vacancy in a Bronx district but lost in the general election in November. The Communist Party USA openly endorsed the Progressive Party; some ALP candidates that year were known or alleged communists, e.g., Lee Pressman. Candidates included (winners bolded):

  • United States House of Representatives: Marjorie Viemeister (1st District), Richard T. Mayes (2nd District) Herbert A. Shingler (3rd District), Thomas J. McCabe (4th District), Morris Pottish (5th District), Irma Lindheim (6th District), Joseph L. Pfeifer (Democrat + ALP) (8th District), Murray Rosof (9th District), Ada B. Jackson (10th District), Frank Serri (11th District), Vincent J. Longhi (12th District), James Griesi (13th District), Lee Pressman (14th District), Emanuel Celler (Democrat + ALP) (15th District), Frank Cremonesi (16th District), Alvin Udell (17th District), Vito Marcantonio (18th District), Arthur G. Klein Democrat + ALP) (19th District), Annette T. Rubinstein (20th District), Paul O'Dwyer (Democrat ALP) (21st District), Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Democrat + ALP) (22nd District), Leon Straus (23rd District), Leo Isacson (24th District), Albert E. Kahn (25th District), Nicholas Carnes (26th District), Francis X. Nulty (27th District), Pasquale Barile (28th District), Harold M. Chown (29th District), Robert R. Decormier (Democrat + ALP) (30th District), Andrew Peterson (31st District), Margaret L. Wheeler (32nd District), Rockwell Kent (33rd District), Raymond K. Bull (34th District), Max Meyers (35th District), Sidney H. Greenberg (36th District), John Muschock (37th District), Harold Slingerland (39th District), Helen M. Lopez (41st District), Emmanuel Fried (42nd District), George W. Provost (43rd District), Robert Williams (44th District), and Lewis King (45th District).[23]
  • New York State Senate: Francis W. Frazier (1st District),[24] Doris Koppelman (2nd District)[25] John S. Fells (3rd District)[26] Gabriel Kopperl (4th District)[25] Donald H. Smith (5th District)[27] Paul Melone (6th District)[28] John Profeta (7th District)[29] Leroy P. Peterson (8th District)[30] Kenneth Sherbell (10th District)[31] Robert Lund (13th District)[32] Helen I. Phillips (15th District)[33] James Malloy (23rd District)[34] Sol Salz (25th District)[35] Charles Hendley (28th District)[36] S. Fels Hecht (31st District)[37] Sidney H. Greenberg (36th District)[38] Max Meyers (35th District)[39] George La Fortune (36th District)[40] Willard Ryker (42nd District)[41] George W. Provost (43rd District)[29] William Murphy (44th District)[42] and Harry Bailey (51st District).[43]
  • New York State Supreme Court: Hyman N. Glickstein (1st District),[24] Joseph J. Porte (2nd District),[44] Paul L. Ross (1st District),[45] Charles Rothenberg (2nd District),[46] Robert V. Santangelo (1st District),[47] Max Torchin (2nd District)[48] and Abraham Wittman (8th District).[49]


The party lost its ballot access after John T. McManus, their 1954 gubernatorial candidate, received less than 50,000 votes. Marcantonio criticized communists for being the reason behind the party's poor performance. He claimed that the party's poor performance was due to their poor performance in the 1953 New York City mayoral election. He claimed that communists sabotaged the mayoral campaign by implying that they approved voting for the Liberal candidate.[50]

Marcantonio lost reelection in the 1950 election. He resigned as chair and left the party in November 1953, due to disputes with Communist leaders who he claimed were no longer interested in third-party politics. The party dissolved in 1956.[51][52]





See also[edit]

  • Liberal Party of New York
  • Progressive Party (United States, 1948)
  • References[edit]

    1. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 23-24.
    2. ^ Robert D. Parmet, The Master of Seventh Avenue: David Dubinsky and the American Labor Movement. New York: New York University Press, 2005; pg. 129.
    3. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 24-25.
    4. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 25.
    5. ^ Parmet, The Master of Seventh Avenue, pg. 130.
    6. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 27-28.
    7. ^ a b c Parmet, The Master of Seventh Avenue, pg. 156.
    8. ^ Bernard Johnpoll, Pacifist's Progress: Norman Thomas and the Decline of American Socialism. Chicago: Quadrangle, 1970; pg. 95.
    9. ^ a b Soyer 2021, p. 28.
    10. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 29.
    11. ^ Johnpoll 1986, p. 245.
    12. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 29-31.
    13. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 31.
    14. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 32-33.
    15. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 33-34.
    16. ^ Johnpoll 1986, p. 70.
    17. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 54-55.
    18. ^ Mazmanian, Daniel (1974). Third Parties in Presidential Elections. Brookings Institution.
    19. ^ Eimer, Stuart (2007). "The CIO and Third Party Politics in New York: The Rise and Fall of the CIO-ALP". Political Power and Social Theory. 18: 146.
    20. ^ Eimer, Stuart (2007). "The CIO and Third Party Politics in New York". Political Power and Social Theory. 18: 147.
    21. ^ "2 Bronx Leaders Quit Labor Party; Rubinstein and Salvatore, Irked by Rising Dominance of Communists, Step Out". New York Times. 10 October 1947. p. 26. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
    22. ^ "Quits the ALP in Queens; Bayside Executive Sees Communists Making Big Inroads". New York Times. 11 October 1947. p. 30. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
    23. ^ "New York: U.S. Representatives, 1940s". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    24. ^ a b "Glenna to Glotzer". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    25. ^ a b "Kolter to Kopydlowski". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    26. ^ "Fellrath to Femille". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    27. ^ "Smith 2". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    28. ^ "Mellette to Memorial". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    29. ^ a b "Procum to Pryde". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    30. ^ "Peterson". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    31. ^ "Shepperd to Sherlock". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    32. ^ "Lund to Luster". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    33. ^ "Phillips". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    34. ^ "Mallott to Malone". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    35. ^ "Salmons to Salzman". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    36. ^ "Heathcote to Hedrich". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    37. ^ "Heathcote to Hedrich". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    38. ^ "Greenaway to Greenhut". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    39. ^ "Meyera to Michaux". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    40. ^ "Laddey to Lair". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    41. ^ "Riggsbee to Riletta". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    42. ^ "Murphy, U to Z". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    43. ^ "Bailey, G to I". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    44. ^ "Pope-onwukwe to Porteous". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    45. ^ "Ross". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    46. ^ "Rothacker to Rowden". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    47. ^ "Sang to Sargeant". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    48. ^ "Tooley to Tostofson". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    49. ^ "Witherspoon to Woleske". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
    50. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 143.
    51. ^ Johnpoll 1986, p. 263.
    52. ^ Soyer 2021, p. 143-144.

    Works cited[edit]

    Further reading[edit]



    • Eimer, Stuart, "The CIO and Third Party Politics in New York: The Rise and Fall of the CIO-ALP, " Political Power and Social Theory," Volume 18, (2007) 133-171 online
    • Hardman, J.B.S., "The Late-Lamented American Labor Party." Labor and Nation, January–February 1948.
    • Waltzer, Kenneth, "The Party and the Polling Place: American Communism and an American Labor Party in the 1930s," Radical History Review, no. 23 (1980).
    • Wolfe, Allan, "The Withering Away of the American Labor Party," Rutgers University Library Journal, 31 (1968).


    • Bakunin, Jack, The Role of the Socialists in the Formation of the American Labor Party. Master's thesis. College of the City of New York, 1965.
    • Carter, Robert Frederick, Pressure From the Left: The American Labor Party, 1936–1954. PhD dissertation. Syracuse University, 1965.
    • Licht, Walter, An Analysis of a Political Experiment: The American Labor Party (1936–1940), Senior Thesis. Harvard University, 1967.
    • Sarasohn, Stephen Beisman, The Struggle for Control of the American Labor Party 1936–1948. Master's thesis. Columbia University, 1948.
    • Stern, Sheila Irene, The American Labor Party, 1936–1944. Master's thesis. University of Chicago, 1964.
    • Stewart, William James, A Political History of the American Labor Party, 1936–1944. Master's thesis. American University, 1959.
    • Waltzer, Kenneth, The American Labor Party: Third Party Politics in New Deal-Cold War New York, 1936–1954. PhD dissertation. Harvard University, 1977.

    External links[edit]