Progressive Party (United States, 1948)
The United States Progressive Party of 1948 was a left-wing political party that ran former Vice President Henry A. Wallace
Henry A. Wallace
Henry Agard Wallace was the 33rd Vice President of the United States , the Secretary of Agriculture , and the Secretary of Commerce . In the 1948 presidential election, Wallace was the nominee of the Progressive Party.-Early life:Henry A...

 of Iowa
Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

 for president and U.S. Senator Glen H. Taylor
Glen H. Taylor
Glen Hearst Taylor was an American politician, businessman and United States Senator from Idaho. He was the vice presidential candidate on the Progressive Party ticket in the 1948 election. Taylor was otherwise a member of the Idaho Democratic Party...

 of Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

 for vice president in 1948.


This incarnation of the Progressive Party (known in some states as the Independent Progressive Party) was formed with an eye toward electing Wallace as president. No connection can be found with the 1912 Progressive Party of Theodore Roosevelt
Progressive Party (United States, 1912)
The Progressive Party of 1912 was an American political party. It was formed after a split in the Republican Party between President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt....

 or the 1924 Progressive Party
Progressive Party (United States, 1924)
The Progressive Party of 1924 was a new party created as a vehicle for Robert M. La Follette, Sr. to run for president in the 1924 election. It did not run candidates for other offices, and it disappeared after the election except in Wisconsin. Its name resembles the 1912 Progressive Party, which...

 of Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
Robert Marion "Fighting Bob" La Follette, Sr. , was an American Republican politician. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the Governor of Wisconsin, and was also a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin...

 The Wallace/Taylor ticket was also supported by several other small parties, such as the American Labor Party
American Labor Party
The American Labor Party was a political party in the United States established in 1936 which was active almost exclusively in the state of New York. The organization was founded by labor leaders and former members of the Socialist Party who had established themselves as the Social Democratic...

 (ALP) of New York. Wallace's platform advocated an end to segregation, full voting rights for blacks, and universal government health insurance. His campaign was unusual for his time in that it included African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 candidates campaigning alongside white candidates in the American South, and during the campaign he refused to appear before segregated audiences or eat or stay in segregated establishments.


The Communist Party USA
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

 did not field a presidential candidate, and instead endorsed Wallace for President; given that the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 was beginning to gain momentum and with it the Red Scare and anti-Communist sentiment, this endorsement was to hinder Wallace far more than it would help him. Wallace had served Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 as Secretary of Agriculture
United States Secretary of Agriculture
The United States Secretary of Agriculture is the head of the United States Department of Agriculture. The current secretary is Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on 20 January 2009. The position carries similar responsibilities to those of agriculture ministers in other...

, Vice President, and Secretary of Commerce
United States Secretary of Commerce
The United States Secretary of Commerce is the head of the United States Department of Commerce concerned with business and industry; the Department states its mission to be "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce"...

. He was fired by President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 because he denounced Truman's foreign policy regarding the Cold War. When Wallace refused to expel Communists working in the party during the 1948 election, his campaign was severely criticized by both the rigidly anti-Communist Truman and Dewey camps.

Running as peace candidates in the nascent Cold War era, the Wallace-Taylor ticket garnered no electoral votes and only 2.4 percent of the popular vote. Nearly half of these votes were obtained in New York state, where Wallace ran on the ALP ballot line.

On September 11, 1948, for instance, the national committee of the Progressive Party passed a resolution which observed:

The totally unjustified decisions of the Illinois Electoral Board to rule the Progressive Party off the ballot is a clear violation of the most basic democratic concepts.

The decisions rob millions of the free citizens of Illinois of their right to vote for the Party and candidate of their choice. They force the war policies of the old parties down the throats of freedom and peace-loving Americans.

Free Americans cannot--and will not--tolerate stolen elections.

This reflects a growing move by states to limit ballot access by any candidate other than the Republican or Democratic party candidates.


Unlike the Democratic Party and Republican Party in 1948, the anti-war Progressive Party opposed military conscription after World War II. As the Progressive Party's national committee stated in another September 11, 1948 resolution:

The peace-time draft is the cornerstone of the bi-partisan war plans. We re-affirm our position as the only major political party which opposes the draft and actually campaigns for its repeal.

In 1948, the anti-war Progressive Party apparently supported the establishment of the state of Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and its recognition by the U.S. government, as a means of reducing British imperialist influence in the Middle East. Another September 11, 1948, national committee resolution urged:
"The United States should warn the British that they must stop arming the Arabs with ERP(Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

) funds without which they could not continue their war-provoking activities in the Middle East."

The Party at State Level

In Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, the anti-war Progressive Party was active in 1948 and also faced discrimination in this state. On May 31, 1948, for instance, the Democratic Mayor of Boston, James Curley
James Michael Curley
James Michael Curley was an American politician famous for his four terms as mayor of Boston, Massachusetts. He also served twice in the United States House of Representatives and one term as 53rd Governor of Massachusetts.-Early life:Curley's father, Michael Curley, left Oughterard, County...

, undemocratically denied the use of the bandstand on the Boston Common to the Progressive Party of Massachusetts. The following month, however, one of the African-American leaders of the Progressive Party, Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Paul Leroy Robeson was an American concert singer , recording artist, actor, athlete, scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the twentieth century...

, was allowed to speak in the Crystal Ballroom in Boston's Hotel Bradford on June 29, 1948.

In Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, in 1948, Virginia Foster Durr
Virginia Foster Durr Foster Durr was an American and a white civil rights activist and lobbyist...

 ran for the U.S. Senate seat on the Progressive ticket.

Pop Culture Connections

Ironically, one of the Kingston Trio's most popular folk songs in the 1950s, "The MTA Song", was written by supporters of the Progressive Party of Massachusetts' 1949 Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 mayoralty candidate, Walter A. O'Brien
Walter A. O'Brien
Walter A. O'Brien, Jr. was a Progressive Party politician from Boston, Massachusetts, United States in the 1940s.In 1949 O'Brien ran for mayor of Boston...

. After Boston's publicly-funded MTA purchased the privately owned Boston Elevated Railway's subway and trolley system for $30 per share more than each share was worth, the MTA imposed a fare increase on the citizens of Boston. Progressive Party mayoral candidate O'Brien then led unusually large protests against the MTA fare increase before the 1949 Texas elections. But although his campaign's anti-fare increase song was subsequently turned into a 1950s hit record, O'Brien failed to win the 1949 mayoral election in Boston. When the Kingston Trio decided to record "The MTA Song", it was apparently agreed to change the first name of the O'Brien referred to in the song from "Walter" to "George", because it was feared that a hit record which referred to "Walter O'Brien" would make it even more difficult than it already was for the former Progressive Party candidate to find a New England employer who was willing to hire him during the McCarthy Era
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by...


Communist Influence

Historians have disputed the degree to which Communists shaped the party. Most agree that Wallace himself was not a Communist, but they also agree that he paid very little attention to internal party affairs. Historians Schapsmeier and Schapsmeier argue (1970 p 181)

Progressive party stood for one thing and Wallace another. Actually the party organization was controlled from the outset by those representing the radical left and not liberalism per se. This made it extremely easy for Communists and fellow travelers to infiltrate into important positions within the party machinery. Once this happened, party stands began to resemble a party line. Campaign literature, speech materials, and campaign slogans sounded strangely like echoes of what Moscow wanted to hear. As if wearing moral blinkers, Wallace increasingly became an imperceptive ideologue. Words were uttered by Wallace that did not sound like him, and his performance took on a strange Jekyll and Hyde quality—one moment he was a peace protagonist and the next a propaganda parrot for the Kremlin.

One historian (further to the left than the Schapsmeiers) explores the internal dynamic (Schmidt 258–9):
  • At one pole were the extreme leftists, three closely related groups—admitted Communists, past and present; the party-liners and fellow travelers who failed to differ noticeably with the Communists as to either policy or principle; and finally those non-Communists who, in … 1944–50 failed to take issue with the Communists on policy, but whose underlying principles seemingly differed….
  • In the middle were grouped an apparently large majority of Progressive Party followers—the moderates. Exemplified by both national candidates, these individuals were willing to accept Communist support, because they felt that it was inconsistent, in the light of their ideals, to oppose Redbaiting by others, yet attempt to read Communists out of the new party.
  • At the right were arrayed those who, feeling that Communist support should have been disavowed in no uncertain terms, yet were unwilling to adopt the ADA
    Americans for Democratic Action
    Americans for Democratic Action is an American political organization advocating progressive policies. ADA works for social and economic justice through lobbying, grassroots organizing, research and supporting progressive candidates.-History:...

     tactic of violent attack on the Communists. This group would have approved making the Progressives “non-Communist” rather than “antiCommunist”, excluding but not assailing the Reds. Most persons sharing this view had, like Max Lerner
    Max Lerner
    Maxwell "Max" Alan Lerner was an American journalist and educator known for his controversial syndicated column....

    , completely avoided the party, but others like Rexford Guy Tugwell joined and stayed, if reluctantly, through the campaign….
  • In the period following 1948, party members were hounded by the House Unamerican Activities Committee, from job to job. Members found themselves fired from even the lowest of day labor
    Day labor
    Day labor is work done where the worker is hired and paid one day at a time, with no promise that more work will be available in the future. It is a form of contingent work.-Types:Day laborers find work through three common routes....

     jobs by FBI agents and others. Although historians point out that groups tended to leave the party in the order of their views from right to left, with most of the rightists departing during or shortly after the campaign, accompanied by many of the moderates. And the moderate defection, so marked following election day, 1948, becoming a nearly complete walkout in the summer of 1950, with the policy rift over Korea and Wallace's departure. Consequently, by the close of 1951 the few remaining portions of the Wallace Progressive Party were composed almost exclusively of the earlier extreme left group. These were the ones who had favored a “narrow” organization; after the Wallace break, they finally achieved this goal, with the departure of almost everyone else, this does not take into account the huge pressure to conform and stop the activism by HUAC and FBI. The fact that the member of congress defeated by Joe McCarthy was Robert La Follette Jr, as an irony not lost on these activists.


In 1952, the party ran Charlotta Bass
Charlotta Bass
Charlotta Amanda Spears Bass was an American educator, newspaper publisher-editor, and civil rights activist. Bass was probably the first African-American woman to own and operate a newspaper in the United States; she published the California Eagle from 1912 until 1951...

 for Vice President, making her the first African-American woman to run for national office; their presidential candidate was lawyer Vincent Hallinan
Vincent Hallinan
Vincent Hallinan was an American lawyer and a candidate for President of the United States for the Progressive Party in the 1952 election.-Early life and education:...

. This campaign attracted little media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 attention and few votes; it was not even on the ballot in many states. Wallace had, at this point, made a concerted effort to distance himself from Communism, even writing a book entitled Why I Was Wrong. The Progressive Party disbanded in 1955, as the Cold War dominated the political spectrum in the United States, and any party which had not taken an anti-Communist position was deemed to be unviable.

This Progressive Party is the only one with no provable connection to the original Progressive Party (1912-1932); however, members of the 1948 Progressive Party have joined the later state Progressive Parties, thus linking the 1948 group to the Vermont Progressive Party
Vermont Progressive Party
The Vermont Progressive Party is an American political party. It was founded in 1999 and is active only in the U.S. state of Vermont. In terms of the dominant two parties in the United States, it enjoys support from "traditional liberal" Democrats and working class Republicans. The party is...

, the Wisconsin Prodanes
Progressive Dane
Progressive Dane is an independent, progressive political party in Dane County, Wisconsin founded in the fall of 1992.Focusing exclusively on local elections, Progressive Dane endorses candidates and lobbies for issues decided on by its membership...

, and the Progressive Party of Washington.

See also

  • Progressive Party (United States, 1912)
    Progressive Party (United States, 1912)
    The Progressive Party of 1912 was an American political party. It was formed after a split in the Republican Party between President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt....

  • Progressive Party (United States, 1924)
    Progressive Party (United States, 1924)
    The Progressive Party of 1924 was a new party created as a vehicle for Robert M. La Follette, Sr. to run for president in the 1924 election. It did not run candidates for other offices, and it disappeared after the election except in Wisconsin. Its name resembles the 1912 Progressive Party, which...

  • Jencks v. United States
    Jencks v. United States
    Jencks v. United States, 353 U.S. 657 , is a U.S. Supreme Court case.The petitioner, Clinton Jencks appealed, by certiorari, his conviction in a Federal District Court of violating 18 U.S.C...

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