Statement by the National Board of the Communist Party on the Recent Expulsions of Vern Smith, Ruth McKenney, Bruce Minton and William F. Dunne


Issued: September 29, 1946
First Published: Political Affairs, Vol. XXV, No. 11, November 1946, pps. 1011-15.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba and D. Walters
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THE EMERGENCY CONVENTION of July, 1945, repudiated and condemned Browder revisionism, reconstituted the Communist Party and restored it to the path of Marxism-Leninism. It called upon the entire Party to continue and deepen the struggle against revisionism and at the same time warned against the danger of “left”-sectarianism.

The expulsion from the Communist Party at the beginning of 1946 of Earl Browder, William Browder and A. Heller for their revisionist, factional struggle against the line of the Party, marked an important step forward in the continuing fight for a correct Marxist-Leninist policy.

The expulsion during the past weeks of Vern Smith, Bruce Minton, Ruth McKenney and William F. Dunne is a further development of the struggle on two fronts to consolidate the Party on the basis of Marxist-Leninist policies around the leadership of our National Committee headed by Comrades Foster and Dennis.

Smith, Minton, McKenney and Dunne, and their few scattered followers, have in one form or another carried on opposition to the line of the Party ever since the Emergency Convention. These anti-Party elements have adopted a common line of struggle against the Party, a line which can be characterized as semi-Trotskyism and unprincipled Leftist adventurism. In their disruptive activities, they have tried to utilize the Party’s rejection of Browder revisionism by posing as the only true opponents of Browder-ism and by slandering our Party and its leadership with the false charge that the Party is “still revisionist” in its policy and practice.

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This motley crew of anti-Party oppositionists has pursued factional methods within the Party, some having ties with the open renegade cliques grouped around Sam Darcy, Lyle Dowling and Charles Keith, who propagate anti-Marxian views and have crystallized an active anti-Party group.

The decisions of the July, 1946, meeting of the National Committee, which declared war on Right opportunism and “Left”-sectarianism, have cut the ground from under the feet of these anti-Party elements in our midst and have brought into the light of day their disruptive factional activities. They were able to carry on this anti-Party activity within the Party for so long only because, despite repeated warnings against the danger of Right opportunism and “Left“-sectarianism by the Emergency Party Convention and subsequent meetings of the National Committee, sections of our Party underestimated the danger of “Left”-sectarianism and were slow in developing the struggle against this danger simultaneously with the fight against Browderism. They were able to carry on their sinister activity for so long because among a section of our membership there existed an erroneous view that “Left”-sectarianism was not as serious a danger as Browderism. Therefore, “Left”-sectarianism was not sufficiently and consistently combatted.

Such toleration of “Left”-sectarianism by a section of our membership is due primarily to a lack of understanding of the Party’s policies, of Marxism-Leninism and of the history of our Party and the world Communist movement. The overwhelming majority of such comrades are devoted working-class comrades, loyal to the Party policy and leadership. To the extent that they are still confused by and suffer from remnants of “Left”-sectarianism, they must be won fully to an understanding and support of Party policies through patient explanation and increased mass activity, and must not be lumped with the anti-Party opposition.

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The anti-Party elements also took advantage of unclarity of sections of our membership concerning Communist principles of organization and democratic centralism. Distorting the right and duty of every Party member to healthy, constructive discussion and criticism, as provided for by our Party constitution which is based on the principle of democratic centralism, they advanced the petty-bourgeois, anarchistic slogan of “freedom of criticism” to facilitate their propagation of views hostile to the Party.

The July meeting of the National Committee further registered the decisive defeat of Browderism and called for the continued fight against Browderism and any conciliation with it, whether open or concealed. It also registered the fact that in the year since the Emergency Convention the Party has united and consolidated its ranks, engaged in mass activities, and has won thousands of new members, especially from the basic industries and the Negro people. These successes, while not blinding us to many serious weaknesses and obstacles that still hinder our growth and activity, have shattered the hopes of the anti-Party cliques to utilize our difficulties and shortcomings for their nefarious purposes.

It is not accidental that these isolated and discredited factionalists have raised the flag of opposition to the Party at this time. It coincides with the intensified attacks against our Party and its leadership by the ruling class and its apologists ranging from open fascists and reactionaries to anti-Communist, anti-Soviet Social-Democrats, Trotskyites and frightened liberals.

These attacks have been growing in fury with the development of monopoly capitalism’s drive toward world domination and “putting labor in its place.” They include open threats against our Party by official spokesmen of the Truman Administration, Congress, the GOP, the Legion and V.F.W. ? the Catholic hierarchy, etc. They aim to behead the labor and people’s movement by seeking to weaken and destroy the most consistent and courageous fighter for labor and the people–the Communist Party. They aim to disrupt and split the C.I.O., to prevent trade union unity, and eventually to destroy the trade union movement. They aim to prevent the further development of a broad peace movement and a people’s anti-monopoly, anti-fascist coalition.

It would be odd if reaction did not seek to combine its attacks against our Party from without, with attempts at organized disruption from within. In view of the decisive defeat suffered by Browder revisionism in the Party, it is not surprising that certain anti-Party disrupters should, attempt to drape themselves in a “Left” cloak. This is the true light in which the anti-Party opposition of Dunne, Smith, McKenney, and Minton stands exposed.

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To carry out the decisions of the Emergency Convention and the July meeting of the National Committee, to meet our responsibilities to the labor and people’s movement–in the struggles around the vital domestic and world issues, and for the realization of Socialism–the Party must conduct a relentless and persistent struggle against both Right opportunism and “Left”-sectarianism; it must conduct the struggle simultaneously on two fronts to safeguard the purity of its Marxist-Leninist principles. This implies the necessity of directing our main fire against the specific danger which may constitute the main danger in a given situation. But we must never lose sight of the fact that both dangers must be fought, since both hamper the fulfillment of the Party’s vanguard role.

Both Browder revisionism and “Left”-sectarianism challenge the basic strategy and tactical line which our Party worked out at the Emergency Convention and which, as further elaborated at successive Plenums, was embodied in the July 23 statement of the National Board, summarizing the main decision of the July Plenum:

“To defeat the drive of reaction, there must be launched a resolute political struggle t0 create a new and broad anti-monopoly, anti-fascist coalition led by the working-class movement, for the resurrection of President Roosevelt’s social domestic program and his foreign policy of friendly collaboration with the Soviet Union.

Though marked by definite social limitations, of course, the Roosevelt policy of liberal social and labor legislation and for fulfilling the Yalta-Potsdam agreements with the U.S.S.R. has elements on which a successful antifascist, anti-war coalition can be established in the United States.

This is the general goal for which the working class and its Communist vanguard must struggle in order to halt the march to fascist-like reaction and atomic war.

In order to carry forward this policy, the statement calls attention to the necessity for developing a tremendous increase in the independent political and economic activities of the working class and organized labor movement and “the most skillful, determined and flexible application of the united front and the democratic front in cooperation with every group ready to defend democratic liberties, the nation’s living standards and a program of peace.”

The National Board statement, in emphasizing the necessity of the fight on two fronts, essential to carry out this program, says further:

“All Leftist moods and tactics, which can only help the reactionary aim of splitting this alliance, as a preliminary to smashing the entire labor-progressive movement, and ending democratic rights in the U.S., must be forcefully combated and overcome.

All Right-opportunist tendencies and practices, all slowness in mobilizing the people for struggle, all Browderite remnants of reliance on this or that capitalist group for leadership, all Browderite pro-capitalist propaganda concerning the “progressive” intentions of Wall Street imperialism, must be vigilantly rooted out of the Party’s ranks.”

Browder revisionism would lead to victory for reaction by advocating reliance on the non-existent “progressive” role of American monopoly capital. It would doom the Party to passivity and liquidate its leading role and its very existence–a liquidation which Browder temporarily brought about. “Left”-sectarianism would accomplish the same objective by isolating the Party from the working class and the working class from all its allies.

While Browderism openly surrenders our socialist objective, the “Left”-sectarians would make the victory of Socialism impossible in the name of “Socialism.” Our Party, guided by Marxist-Leninist principles, works for labor’s unity and alliance with all anti-monopoly, anti-fascist forces, while in the course of this struggle educating the working class to socialist consciousness for the realization of its historic socialist tasks.

* * *

This struggle on two fronts demands that our Party raise the ideological level of the entire membership along the lines undertaken since the Party convention, in the course of the speedy execution of the decisions of the July meeting, of the National Committee. This ideological struggle involves the systematic training of the Party cadres on all levels, the theoretical training of the entire membership for the mastery of Marxism-Leninism as a guide to action.

The Party can learn much by a study of its own history, the struggle against the Rightist revisionism of Lovestone, on the one hand, and against the Cannon-Trotskyite gang, on the other. We must also bring to the Party membership the experiences of the struggles, past and present, of our brother Parties, above all, the history of the Bolshevik Party of the U.S.S.R. In this struggle for the unity of the Party, its independent role, against all deviations from Marxist-Leninist policies, the Party must give greater attention to bringing a full understanding to the membership of the Party’s organizational principles. Every member of the Party must truly grasp the essence of democratic centralism in order to be guided by this fundamental principle of Communist Party organization and activity.

The expulsion of these anti-Party elements parading in “Left” clothing–a step taken by the lower organizations of the Party–will have the full support of our membership which, having routed Browderism, will be relentless in the struggle against attackers of our Party from the other direction. It is a step which will make the Party more alert, not only against “Left“ deviations, also against Right opportunism and all remnants of Browder revisionism. It is a victory because it cleanses the Party of alien elements who would disrupt its unity and weaken its authority among the workers and in the camp of progress as a whole. Their elimination from our ranks is a victory for the Party, for the working class, for the building of the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist coalition, for the forces of Socialism in our land.