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Gordon Haskell

Can Wallace Turn Water Into Wine?

(January 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 2, 12 January 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Henry Wallace ended his speech on the radio announcing his candidacy for President on a third party ticket by referring to the small but determined army with which Gideon defeated the foes of Israel, and compared his followers to this army.

It is a well known fact that Wallace is given to reading his Bible, and hence it can be assumed that he exercised some care in selecting this comparison. Now it so happens that Gideon was one of the chief heroes of my childhood. So, out of curiosity, I dipped into the Book of Judges to re-read the story of Gideon and see if it could cast any light on Mr. Wallace’s notions about the campaign on which he has embarked.

The first thing which struck me was that Gideon was not nearly as determined a man as I had remembered him to be. Before he could gather the courage to start on his military venture, he demanded that Jehovah perform at least three distinct and most spectacular miracles for him. After these had been performed, so that he was absolutely sure that Jehovah was on his side, he began to choose his men.

Gideon then took his men down to the river, and observed the different ways in which they drank the water. Those who knelt down to drink were sent home as unfit for combat, while “everyone that lappeth the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth,” was selected for the army of three hundred which made up his shock troops.

“He Who Lappeth”

Now, I don’t quite know what relation lapping water like a dog may have to military virtues. But when we regard the shock troops of the Wallace army, as presently constituted, we may come to the conclusion that only those who lap up the last drop in the Stalinist party bucket are fit for front-line duty.

It must be admitted that Gideon’s army accomplished an almost incredible feat of arms, from a military point of view. The Bible reports that these three hundred men either killed or caused to be killed a hundred and twenty thousand of their enemies. Yet this was accomplished, not by a bold attack, but rather by a military ruse.

Gideon equipped his little force with trumpets, empty pitchers and torches. In three evenly divided parties they surrounded the sleeping camp of the Malachites and the hosts of the East. At a given signal “the three companies blew the trumpets and brake the pitchers and held the torches in their left hands and their trumpets in their right hands wherewith to blow. And they cried ‘the sword of Jehovah and of Gideon.’ And they stood every man in his place around the camp; and all the host ran; and they shouted and put them to flight. And they blew the three hundred trumpets, and Jehovah set every man’s sword against his fellow, and against all the host; and the host fled.”

It is a little difficult to see how the hosts of monopoly capitalism are to be routed by such methods, or similar ones applied to our political scene. The only force in this world capable of putting them to flight is the organized might of the working class, allied with all the people. But this might can be organized only by a program which openly assaults all the vested interests of our rotten society, and Mr. Wallace is and has been notorious for his lack of any such program, nay, for his willingness, in all his past political history, to accept half-way and quarter-way measures where only the full measure would do.

In any event, Gideon came to something of a sticky end. He had the modesty to refuse the crown of rulership offered him by his enthusiastic supporters right after the victory. Instead, however, he requested that they give him the earrings they had cut off the ears of their fallen enemies. These amounted to 1700 shekels of gold and Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah; and all Israel played the harlot after it there and it became a snare unto Gideon and to his home.”

Mr. Wallace has not, so far, shown Gideon’s modesty. The crown has been offered, and he has reached out for it. Now the question is: should the miracle happen, that is, should Wallace be elected, is there anything in his past record or in his present program which can lead us to believe that he will cast the idol of gold out of America?

Water Into Wine?

Those who ask us to believe that Wallace will bring about any significant change in our society want us to believe that the miracle of changing water into wine will take place before our eyes. They want us to believe that a Secretary of Agriculture who served the capitalists, and a Vice-President who served the capitalists, and a Secretary of Commerce who served, the capitalists will be transformed into a President who will serve the workers.

No. It will take more than the broken pitchers of the Stalinist party and the tin horns of liberalism to change the system. What is needed is an aroused working class, organized in a powerful party of labor with a program, not of reform, but of a sweeping new American revolution to do the job.

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