Joseph Hansen

Why Browder Embarked on
His “Mission to Moscow”

(1 June 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. X No. 22, 1 June 1946, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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Why did Earl Browder go to Moscow? What is the purpose of his consultations with leading Kremlin officials? The capitalist press has been filled with speculation about his junket. The rank and file of the Communist (Stalinist) Party likewise are wondering what is behind Browder’s trip.

Foster in an obvious attempt to dampen this speculation and to ease the profound crisis in the ranks of the Stalinists has offered his explanation of the trip. To believe Foster there was no mystery whatever about Browder’s excursion. As Browder left the United States, Foster labelled him “Wall Street’s Ambassador-At-Large.” The State Department, according to the May 14 New Masses, granted Browder a passport “ as an acolyte of big business, serving its reactionary ends.”

Stalinists Disturbed

Precisely how Browder’s visit to Moscow could accomplish anything for America’s ruling 60 families was a riddle the Stalinist hacks scrupulously avoided probing into. It is true they claimed Browder’s airplane flight had “opened the sluice-gates for new anti-Soviet insinuations,” particularly that the “American Communist ‘line’” is a “product of manipulations by Soviet leaders.”

But no one takes these complaints seriously. It has never been a secret that the line followed by Browder, Foster and the rest, is determined in the Kremlin. Moreover, the “sluicegates” of “insinuations” could have been kept locked simply by the refusal of the Kremlin to grant Browder a visa.

After the reports of Browder’s interviews with outstanding officials of the Kremlin, the May 24 Daily Worker introduced a variation in its explanation. Now it appeared that Browder went to Moscow to establish “business relations with several Soviet publishing houses.” Why Browder could not have arranged these “business relations” through Stalin’s official representatives in the United States, the Daily Worker leaves completely unexplained.

For the rank and file members of the Communist (Stalinist) Party, Browder’s trip raises some exceedingly disturbing questions. Foster’s followers cannot help wondering: Will Earl Browder, denounced as the renegade who forced the party to collaborate with Wall Street during the war, now be rehabilitated and restored to leadership? Will the party once again revert to open, shameless support of Wall Street?

And Browder’s followers, who believe their leader was unjustly made a scapegoat for a line that originated with Stalin himself cannot help asking themselves: Even if Browder is again made our leader, how did it happen that he was ousted and expelled? How did it happen that all the top leadership unanimously attacked him as a renegade after just as unanimously supporting his line during the war? How do these monstrous shifts in line and flip-flops m leadership occur?

Key to Mystery

The key to the mystery of Browder’s trip lies in the mechanics of the Kremlin’s foreign policy.

In the days of Lenin and Trotsky, the workers’ state pursued a foreign policy of inspiring and aiding socialist revolutions in other countries. The principal channel of this policy was the Communist International. Although an autonomous organization, the ideas and methods of Lenin and Trotsky shaped its activities in other lands. The Bolsheviks of those heroic times considered the development of the socialist revolution in other countries and the defense of the Soviet Union as indivisible – two sides of the same task. Thus the official diplomatic service of the USSR served as an adjunct in furthering the revolutionary policies of the Communist International.

Under Stalin all this was changed. The relative roles of the two channels of foreign policy were reversed. The official diplomatic service superseded in importance the role of the Communist International. The various sections of this worldwide organization became no more than border patrols for the Kremlin. The policy of inspiring and aiding socialist revolutions in other lands was abandoned.

This process reached its culmination during the Second World War when, on May 22, 1943, Stalin dissolved the Communist International as part of his diplomatic appeasement of Anglo-American imperialism. Since that time the former sections of the Communist International have continued to function as instruments of Kremlin foreign policy but without the formality or pretense of being integral parts of a revolutionary international party of the working class.

As for the official diplomatic service it has degenerated to a level indistinguishable in its methods from the foulest secret diplomacy of rotting imperialism.

Predicted by Trotskyists

Stalin’s foreign policy during the years has undergone remarkable shifts and turns. It is sufficient to cite the support of German imperialism during the Stalin-Hitler pact and the support of Anglo-American imperialism after Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. To superficial observers these twists and reversals have come with stunning abruptness. But to the Trotskyists none of these turns have come as surprises. In fact the Trotskyists were able to predict them well in advance, including Stalin’s pact with Hitler.

Invariably a major turn in the Kremlin’s foreign policy has been preceded by certain preparatory steps. These preparatory steps serve as trial balloons and likewise tip off Stalin’s seasoned agents to get ready for a new zig zag. Stalin prefers to make these shifts in piece-meal fashion in order to reduce the shock to the rank and file.

Thus during the Stalin-Hitler pact superficial observers thought a lasting marriage had been consummated. They were perhaps taken in by the diplomacy of Stalin’s major channel of foreign policy, which in the famous words of Molotov, considered fascism a “matter of taste.” Yet even during the hey-day of the pact, Stalin was preparing for a shift.

Down in Mexico, along the secondary channel of the Communist International, a perceptible cooling off toward German imperialism was observable. A few derogatory caricatures of Hitler were permitted in the Stalinist press, a few articles deviating from the line followed by the other sections. It is true that the actual shift away from Hitler came much sooner than Stalin had counted upon; but this was because he lost the initiative to Hitler and was taken by surprise.

Again during the balmiest days of the Big Three love feast, when official Kremlin policy was still giving the world Teheran and toasting Anglo-American imperialism, one of the sections of the Stalinist international ran up a warning signal. This was the famous article by Jacques Duclos, criticizing the policy followed by Earl Browder. Since the policy faithfully followed by Browder throughout the war had been the official policy of the Kremlin, Duclos’ article could mean only one thing, preparation for a shift in the Kremlin’s foreign policy. And such it proved.

Studied Calculation

Now consider Browder’s trip to Moscow. If ever a Stalinist political move bore the earmarks of studied calculation this one does. It is not easy to get into the Soviet Union. In fact even such a minor agent of Wall Street imperialism as a humble reporter of the N.Y. Times must wait as much as six months or longer before the Kremlin foreign office grants him a visa. How much more cautious could we expect the Kremlin foreign office to be in the case of a “deserter from Communism,” a “renegade and traitor” who “continuously scorned and violated all Party principles, discipline and decisions,” a “social imperialist” “branded” and expelled as “an enemy of the party and working class.” Yet this perfidious enemy of the working class whose name has become synonymous with the policy of collaboration with Wall Street was granted instant entry into the Soviet Union!

But this was not all. On arriving at Moscow he was quartered in a luxurious suite in the Moscow Hotel “where official delegations from abroad normally stay.” And still more significant, upon the return of Foreign Minister Molotov from his conference in Paris with Byrnes, Browder was ostentatiously granted an interview.

To make unmistakable the significance of Browder’s presence in Moscow, Lozovsky, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, likewise saw Browder. The choice of the two topmost officials in Foreign Affairs as the ones to talk with Browder is of course deliberate. Even Browder’s words in the context of these interviews underline what is involved for everything he says is not only uttered in accordance with the Kremlin’s wishes, but the dispatches are carefully censored and approved by the Soviet Information Bureau which is likewise headed by Lozovsky.

“I am very much pleased,” said Browder on May 23, “with the attitude toward me. I have been received like an old, known and trusted friend of the Soviet Union.” This dispatch, after censorship by the Kremlin, continued with the comment that Browder was “in a conspicuously amiable mood.”

The political implications of Browder’s visit to Moscow are thus already clear.

Throughout the war the rank and file Stalinists smarted under the necessity of acting as finks and strikebreakers, of putting the finger on militants who sought to better the wages and working conditions of the working class. They burned with shame over the dirty task of supporting Wall Street’s imperialist war aims.

Suspicion Justified

These honest rank and file Stalinists greeted the discarding of Browder and the turn to the left with relief. To them it seemed to indicate a turn toward genuine militancy, a turn toward revolutionary Marxism. Small wonder they are worried over Browder’s mission to Moscow. They cannot help asking themselves, has Stalin taken this means to indicate that Wall Street is not to take the “left” turn too seriously? To indicate that if certain conditions are met the Kremlin is prepared in return to make a shift in foreign policy toward the line exemplified by Earl Browder?

And these rank and file Stalinists are thoroughly justified in their suspicion. There can be no other reason for the Kremlin taking Browder off the shelf and beginning to refurbish his badly tarnished reputation.


Last updated on: 22 December 2018