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Albert Gates

Browder’s Two Roosevelts

(August 1938)


From New International, Vol.4 No.8, August 1938, pp.233-235.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE CURRENT LINE OF THE Communist Party of the United States is misrepresented as a continuation of traditional Marxist-Leninist policies. This fraud does not require a great deal of effort to expose. The entire program of Stalinism marks a back-sliding from the theory and practises of Marx and Lenin. We present some evidence of this fact in the attitude of the American CP toward Roosevelt in two distinct periods: at the end of the miscarriage known as the Third Period, and in the post-Seventh Congress years. In the former stage, Stalinism was an aberration of an ultra-left character. At the present time it represents the most extreme variety of opportunism, that is, social-patriotism and class collaboration.

It is not difficult to recall the mixed reactions to the election of Roosevelt and the subsequent endeavors on the part of his administration to institute the Industrial Recovery Act. He was hailed simultaneously as savior and menace. Both charges, depending upon your class point of view, were and are correct.

The attitude of the Communist party was absorbing, to say the least. The CP had entered the elections with an independent presidential candidate, who campaigned on a vigorous party platform under the general slogans of “Class Against Class”, and “The Revolutionary Way Out of the Crisis”. Receiving an extremely small vote, the Stalinists were bursting with pride because it was a “communist” vote based upon sharply delineated class issues emphasizing the socialist society as the immediate issue of the day.

Upon the election of Roosevelt, the CP at once sought the mobilization of united actions against the new administration on the ground that

“Roosevelt’s policies, as is already evident, are policies in the interests of the bankers and big industrialists and against the interests of the toiling masses. The dictatorial powers already taken by Roosevelt—already a step toward fascisization — are being used against the toilers. The militarization of labor, the economy program at the expense of the masses ... increased military and naval expenditures in preparation for a new war which the masses will be called upon to be the cannon fodder—this is the anti-working class program of Roosevelt[1] (Statement of the Central Committee, Daily Worker, March 30, 1933).

In the wake of this statement of policy by the Central Committee, a veritable barrage of anti-Roosevelt articles was unloosed in the Daily Worker and other party organs. All the leading party writers and specialists in translating CC resolutions were hauled into action.

First in line came a number of articles by a party hack, Harry Cannes. In a series entitled, The Keystone of Roosevelt’s New Deal and How It Hits the Worker’s Living Standards, Cannes argued that the entire program was a gigantic swindle of the working class in the interests of safeguarding the existence of decaying capitalism. On June 24, 1933, he wrote:

“Just as world capitalism drives to a new world war under the greatest flurry of peace banners ever assembled, so Roosevelt leads the present and prospective attack on the standard of living of the entire American toiling population, under the most powerful demagogic apparatus ever assembled by American capitalism. The machine that Roosevelt is building up for his attack is similar to that of a similar species of organizer of the ‘new age’, Woodrow Wilson.”

If it was easy to see through the openly reactionary attack of a Hoover, Cannes quite correctly illustrates that

“... it was not so easy, however, to blast through the more subtle manoeuvres of the sharper class contradictions behind the Roosevelt attack, an attack which must be more virulent against the workers, and which at the same time must be larded with defter lying phrases about the new deal ...”

Earl Browder comes upon the scene, to speak his piece as the leader of the party. In his article, The Roosevelt New Deal and Fascism (Daily Worker, July 8, 1933), Browder wrote:

“The ‘New Deal’ is a policy of slashing the living standards at home and fighting for markets abroad for the single purpose of maintaining the profits of finance capital. It is a policy of brutal oppression and preparations for imperialist war.”

Further on, in treating specifically the question of fascism, he declared:

“It is true that elements of fascism long existing in America are coming to maturity more rapidly ... First, it must be understood that fascism grows naturally out of bourgeois democracy under the conditions of capitalist decline. It is only another form of the same class rule, the dictatorship of finance capital ... The development of Roosevelt’s program is a striking illustration of the fact that there is no Chinese wall between democracy and fascism ... Roosevelt operates with all the arts of ‘democratic’ rule, with an emphasized liberal and social demagogic cover ... Yet behind this smokescreen, Roosevelt is carrying out more thoroughly and brutally even than Hoover, the capitalist attack against the living standards of the masses at home and the sharpest national chauvinism in foreign relations.”

By and large, the general historical character of the Roosevelt regime is aptly put, but the Third Period Browder continues. “It is clear that fascism already finds much of its work done in America and more of this is being done by Roosevelt.” In the extent that he may not be fully understood, and for the purpose of emphasis, Browder goes on. Denouncing the Industrial Recovery Act as “an American version of Mussolini’s ‘corporative state’”, he said, “It is one of the steps toward the militarization of labor. It is a forerunner of American fascism.”

Hot upon the heels of Browder came another eminent Stalinist scribbler, Jack Stachel, to declare in the Daily Worker of July 3. 1933, that

“... every act of the Roosevelt administration since its coming into office has been against the masses. The Roosevelt government no less than the Hoover government is a Wall Street government.”

William Z. Foster contributed his bit of wisdom to this campaign of enlightenment. In a series of articles entiled Who Is Roosevelt? (Daily Worker, August 29, 1933), he proceeded to inform all and sundry that

“... the policy of Mr. Roosevelt’s party is identical in all essentials [no less!] with that of the Republican Party ... Mr. Roosevelt is ... a lightning rod for capitalism to protect it from danger.”

Under a sub-head Roosevelt—Imperialist, Foster reiterates what all the others had written, namely:

“The election of Mr. Roosevelt would mean the continuation if not the intensification of the militant imperialism of the US in China, Latin America, Europe,—all over the world. His election would mean an intensification of the war dangerthe greatest of all problems menacing the workers of the world.”

And finally, again Browder. In his article of September 9, 1933, the secretary of the CP wrote:

“Like the Fascist Hitler, he [Roosevelt] must use radical phrases to cover up the capitalist policy which he puts over even more ruthlessly than did Hoover.”

One could go on endlessly and quote similar gems from scores of other Stalinist writers, propagandists and agitators. Is there any doubt, however, bearing in mind its confusion on the subject of fascism, where the CP stood shortly after the election of Roosevelt?

The Stalinist line on Roosevelt was created in the first stage of the world offensive of fascism and reaction. Hitler was already in power. Fascism was on the rise in all European countries. In this respect, nothing fundamentally was altered in 1936, 1937 and 1938 to warrant (even for the sake of the argument) a new approach toward Roosevelt in the form of support to him. Certainly, there has been no basic change in the direction of his administration. A mellowing of attitude toward Roosevelt came, however, with the recognition of the Soviet Union by the United States. The Communist International was subsequently to embark on the course of “defending democratic capitalism from the fascist aggressors”. Collective security replaced the revolutionary aim long dormant in the Comintern. The immediate program in Europe has become the maintenance of the status quo among nations thereby barring any revolutionary action by the European proletariat. This hindrance to revolutionary action was fortified by the Franco-Soviet pact and the theory and practise of People’s Frontism. The slogan of “Class against Class” was relegated to the limbo of history by the leaders of the Communist International.

The May 1938 convention of the American CP officially ordained the social, patriotic and class collaborationist program. (See: The Stalinist Convention, by Max Shachtman, The New International, July 1938.) The Stalinists are now content to play the role of a loyal opposition to Roosevelt. The demands of the party in relation to domestic problems are extremely modest ones because “socialism is not a problem of today”. As a result, its program, hardly one whit different from that of the New Deal, shapes up as follows: Extension of the WPA with a monthly minimum wage of $60.00 (as against the prevailing $55.00 wage); unemployment insurance, minimum unemployment benefits of $15.00 a week; old age pensions of at least $60.00 monthly for all over 60; free hospitals and health services, abolition of child labor and complete equality for Negroes.

There are no half-way measures for the Stalinists. All the teachings of the founders of scientific socialism are cast aside in the interest of establishing a “democratic front”. Capitalist society is no longer divided by classes, but into “reactionaries and progressives”. The present crisis, according to Browder, is not due to the inherent contradictions of capitalist economy, but to a sit-down strike of “reactionary” capitalists. He emphasizes that point in his article, The Current Crisis: Its Cause and Cure. Therein he also declares that to reject the Roosevelt program is to “proclaim that to continue capitalism means to condemn millions of men, women and children to death by slow starvation”.

On May 2, 1938, the Midwest Daily Record, official organ of the CP in the Middle West, calls

“... for an extension of the postcard campaign in support of Roosevelt’s Recovery proposal ... The Midwest Daily Record also points to the need of unity of all the progressives in the congressional elections of 1938—to the end that Wall Street may be defeated, to the end that recovery in the full sense may be achieved.”

In the New Masses of May 3, 1938, an appeal for the Daily Worker in lyric style informs us that

“A new spirit is sweeping across the nation ... surging through the cities and farms ... a spirit of hope ... awakened by the President’s recovery program”.

If Browder charged Roosevelt with representing incipient fascism in the United States, it remained for him also to absolve the President and his administration of that charge in the same preposterous manner in which it was made. In his Questions and Answers, prepared to clarify confused minds on the eve of the 10th National Convention of the CP, he raises hopes against fascism and war because “right here in the United States, although the majority of the people haven’t faced the issue of socialism, they have faced the issue of fascism [!] and they got the administration in Washington that’s handcuffing fascism”. As the reader will note, no date is given marking this transformation of the Roosevelt regime.

The main task of the CP today, according to Hathaway, editor of the Daily Worker, in his report to the plenary session of the CC and the National Party Builders Congress held in New York, February 18, 1938, “is that of mobilizing the broadest mass of the American people to defeat the forces of reaction in the election campaign”. He denounced the Republican “progressives” because

“... they were as vigorous in their denunciation of the policies of Roosevelt and the New Deal as were Landon and Hoover. Their ‘progressive’ phrases were only trimmings to conceal their attacks on Roosevelt’s progressive policies ...” (Emphasis in the original—AG).

Thus the Stalinists find themselves engaged in parliamentary activity on the side of the Roosevelt Democrats helping to select candidates in the primaries according to the designation “reactionary” or “progressive”, decided beforehand in the headquarters of the CP. The electoral support of bourgeois parties and candidates is “justified” on the grounds of the necessity of creating the aforementioned “democratic front” in the United States. So Hathaway reports:

“From this it should be clear to all of us that our job, the job of the whole progressive movement and therefore also of our party is to mobilize our forces to bend every effort, through every channel, to make full use of our strength and influence ... It means that now the party, from top to bottom, must be geared up for our participation in this campaign [the Fall elections] —.” (Emphasis in the original—AG)

This mildness in the sphere of domestic relations is in sharp contrast to the vigorous pro-war position and support to the outstanding militarist President in the history of the nation. The slogan, “Communism is Twentieth-Century Americanism”, paves the way for a new patriotic frenzy injudiciously fostered by the new revisionists at the helm of the party.

“The general line of policy guaranteeing our own peace and the world’s peace has already been proposed by President Roosevelt,” said Browder on May 11, 1938, in his Baltimore speech announcing his newly-discovered community of interests between “communists” and catholics.

“Such a policy is in the best traditions of our country. The people of America must rally to its support and demand its energetic application in life.”

The solution to the problem of war, he continues,

“... is the minimum program ... contained in the courageous and clear-spoken address of President Roosevelt in Chicago on October 5th. That is a program of concerted action by all lovers of peace to quarantine the war-makers ... President Roosevelt points out the only possible road to avert universal catastrophe of the capitalist world.”

In his debate with Frederick J. Libby, Browder denounced those who “place in the criminal’s dock the government of the United States and President Roosevelt alongside of the Nazi regime and Hitler”.

Apparently intoxicated with his own brilliance, Browder continued,

“What America needs today, what the world needs is a foreign policy based upon ... Thomas Jefferson [this in the period of the imperialist decay of capitalism]. The general line of such a policy has been proposed by President Roosevelt ... The whole country must be rallied to support it ...”

As if to mock Marx and Lenin, this great advocate of morality in relations between nation and individuals affirms:

“We declare that the time has come when the continuation of civilization itself, in America as everywhere, depend upon world organization to enforce a minimum moral standard among nations ... These first primitive conditions for a world organization of peace have been established in the Kellogg Pact ... Our neutrality advocates have cynically abandoned moral standards ... We appeal for the strengthening of moral standards.”

Not a word about the class struggle. No mention of socialism, the proletariat, the workers’ power. Nothing remains here but revolting petty bourgeois and pacifist platitudes that have ever been responsible for confusing and misleading the masses and, finally, betraying them to the bourgeoisie.

It is only logical that the next step, following such social patriotic doctrine, should be the advocacy of imperialist policy. The Sino-Japanese war offered the Stalinists precisely that opportunity. The New Masses has been extremely concerned over the Far Eastern situation and on more than one occasion admonished Wall Street to hasten to that war area in order to insure the territory for exploitation by the American financial oligarchy. Browder, as befits his role of leader of American Stalinism, is very concrete. In the Daily Worker of April 28, 1938, he wrote:

“The only prospect for profitable investment of American capital is China. But if the United States really wanted to put our 13,000,000 unemployed back to work, to put unemployed capital to work, the United States government [!] should invest about $5,000,000,000 in building up Chinese industry. We should by agreement with the Chinese government produce machines here, thus putting our unemployed back to work and at the same time building up their industry, which will enable the Chinese to ward off the fascist invasion.”

Profit is no object, you see!

And finally, the great difficulty, according to Harold Brown, in The Communist of March 1938 is that

“... the labor movement, by not having as yet taken a clear stand in support of Roosevelt’s peace policy, is still holding back the whole peace movement ...”

And we had always believed it was capitalism that prevented peace, and that peace movements divorced from the proletarian struggle against capitalism were good for nothing except surrender to the imperialists! But we live and learn.

It is not merely a change of line that is involved herein. The support now given to Roosevelt and his administration represents a complete revision of the revolutionary doctrines of Marxism on the struggle for power, the nature of the bourgeois state, the role of classes in bourgeois society, the character of capitalist economy. It marks the utter degeneration of Stalinism. Stalinism no longer even pretends to a revolutionary policy, to a struggle for socialism. It openly avows and defends its apostasy against all critics. Obsequiousness characterizes its attitude toward Roosevelt, the New Deal, capitalist society. The party and its sympathizing organizations strive with might and main to become “respectable” citizens, to be accepted in liberal bourgeois circles and to be regarded as true-blue Americans. Roosevelt is constantly referred to in terms of endearment: The President said in his great speech ... In his significant Georgian address ... FDR was dressed in ... The first couple of the land was present! And so on ad nauseam!

Organized Stalinism represents everything that is retrogressive and reactionary in the labor movement. The advancement of the interests of the working class, i.e., its emancipation from the pernicious exploitation of capitalism, from starvation, misery and war, is only possible by the overthrow of bourgeois society. But the first step in the realization of this aim is the annihilation of that corroding influence: Stalinism.

 

Footnote

1. Unless otherwise indicated, all italics are mine.—AG

 
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