Harold Draper

C.P. Repudiates Revolutionary Aims

Prefers to Strengthen Existing Social Order

(January 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 1, 1 January 1938, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The outstanding result of the hearings was the openness of the C.P. repudiation, not only of a revolutionary position on war and a host of other questions, but on the elementary question of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism versus the peaceful introduction of Socialism through the ballot. This repudiation itself is certainly not new, but the frankness in stating it is.

The chief witnesses for the CP were Phil Frankfeld and Earl Browder. Right off, both objected to the investigation on the ground that the legislative order really didn’t apply to them. They weren’t “subversive.”

“Strengthen Present Economic Democracy”

“The CP,” said Frankfeld, “does not believe that this order – investigating Communist, Nazi and other subversive propaganda within the state – applies to it. We do not wish to overthrow the Government from its foundations, nor to overthrow existing society by force. In fact we seek to strengthen the present economic democracy on a firmer, more equitable foundation ...” (Globe, Sept. 30)

Pressed further, Frankfeld shouted: “I never said I believed in the overthrow of the government by force or otherwise ...” (Ibid.)

The senators kept coming back to this time and again, wringing literally dozens of more and more unequivocal statements from the two C.P. leaders. The Herald, October 1, reports:

“Stoutly denying Communists are plotting to overthrow the government by violence, he (Browder) insisted the revolution, which is inevitable in his opinion, will reach its climax with the communists taking over control of the government through the process of elections.”

For “Peaceful” Changes

“Frankfeld said the agitation of his party is a peaceful agitation and does not seek the overthrow of the government.” (Post, Oct. 1)

The Confession (pamphlet issued by C.P.) states: “We Communists believe in accomplishing great social changes peacefully and through democratic processes.” (Page 24)

Although the Stalinists made no qualifications to these statements, the senators suspected mental reservations. “Rep. Julian asked Frankfeld if he did not believe some form of force and violence is unavoidable.’ ‘No, sir,’ was the reply.” (Globe, Oct. 5)

Just to make sure, the senators stuck before him a quotation from Browder’s old writings that “history does not show a single instance where governmental power has been transferred by peaceful means.” Nothing daunted, Frankfeld replied, “We hope that all historical precedents will be broken.” (Herald, Oct. 5)

Skeletons from C.P. Closet

As further evidence of their reading, the senators pulled out another skeleton in the C.P. closet, and rattled it before Frankfeld:

“Specifically he denied a passage from a pamphlet by William Z. Foster, American leader, which gave a vivid but imaginary description of the overthrow of the Government, culminating in the arrest of the President and his cabinet. The passage, Frankfeld said, was written years ago during the infancy of the party. It would not come from the pen of Foster now, the party having reached either adolescence or maturity. Communists, he said, have toned down a bit.” (Globe, Sept. 30.)

Which puts it mildly.

Browder too said that Foster had changed his mind since letting his third-period imagination run riot; it was “outmoded doctrine, written in the heated infancy of the party,” that is, including the time when the movement was led by that enfant terrible, Lenin.

Only Allegiance to American Flag

Browder, in addition, swore by Washington and Jefferson, “that he owed his allegiance only to the American flag.” (Post, Oct. 1)

While Browder said that he expected to achieve socialism through the process of elections, it seemed that this did not necessitate even the election of Communists. “Frankfeld went so far as to say the party only ran its own candidates when it was unable to support a liberal candidate of some other party (Globe, Sept. 30)

One of the legislators was an internationalist. “Rep. Philip Sherman of Somerville asked Browder if Communists advocate world revolution. ‘No’, replied the witness.” (Post, Oct. 1)

What if the C.P. and its activities were illegalized by the government? Would they resort to illegal methods? The Commission wanted to know.

A Party Fit for Red-Baiters

The Confession had stated that “We have never believed in working as a conspirative organization and never will accept the position of conspirators.’’ In effect the Commission asked, “What, never?” and at the hearings Frankfeld answered ...

“He said the Communists would not hesitate to employ ‘semi-legal’ methods to continue its activities in the event the state government should disregard the constitutional guarantees which now permit the Communist party to function openly and legally. Subsequently he asked that the record be extended to include his denial that the party would employ ‘illegal’ methods.” (Herald, Oct. 5)

No wonder Frankfeld said to the Commission, after testifying: “Perhaps some of you would like to join the party after hearing the discussion.” (Globe, Sept. 30)

(This is the second of a series of articles by comrade Draper on the Massachusetts Investigation. Another article will appear in a subsequent issue.)

Last updated on 11 September 2015