John Marshall

Comrade Candide and Comrade Browder ...
A Tragi-Comedy

Being the Story of an Honest Worker Who Fell into a Coma
in the Twilight of the “Third Period”

(November 1935)

Source: New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 45, 2 November 1935, pp. 3 & 6. (“John Marshall” was a pseudonym used by George Novack.)
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2018. This work is completely free to copy and distribute.

THE story is told of an honest worker, who was a fraternal delegate to the 8th Convention of the Communist Party in April 1934. For want of a better name, we shall call the comrade Candide. The high point of that convention, all must recall, was a programmatic speech by Earl Browder, which lasted six hours; its conclusion was, according to the Daily Worker, rapturously greeted by a prolonged ovation from the assembled delegates.

At the very moment, Browder finished his report, Candide suddenly lapsed into utter unconsciousness. After several weeks at the hospital, the doctors diagnosed his case as sleeping sickness, and there he lay in a coma for over a year, kept alive by artificial feeding.

During that time tremendous Changes came over the policies of the Comintern. The Soviet Union entered the League of Nations; Stalin-Laval concluded the Franco-Soviet pact, warning French communists not to actively oppose French imperialist military preparations. The “social-fascist” leaders of the Second International became brothers-in-arms. The C.P. discarded the “united front from below” and formed united fronts from above, forswearing in advance any criticism of their allies. The Social-Democratic policy of “the lesser evil” was. taken up by the C.P. through the medium of the Popular Front. The dual Red trade unions to replace the reformist trade unions, which had been declared parts of the capitalist state-apparatus and even semi-fascist and company union in character, were dismantled twice as fast as they had been created. The Seventh Congress of the Comintern gave official blessing to support of bourgeois democracy, both in peace and war.

Oblivious to all these mighty events, our hero slumbered on, until, on May Day of this year, he was unexpectedly aroused from his coma by the stirring strains of the Internationale from a workers’ parade. His revolutionary spirit reawakened, Candide’s body quickly followed, and he was soon on the road to recovery.

While convalescing, Candide began to read the Communist press with great eagerness, to review the progress made by the movement during his long sleep. He could hardly believe his eyes. Slogans in the Daily Worker: “For a Labor Party – Invoke Sanctions Against Fascist Italy – Support the League – Blockade the Suez Canal – United Front – Popular Front – Hurrah for John L. Lewis, etc., etc.” He asked himself: had illness affected his mind? Or was all this a monstrous deception perpetrated upon the revolutionary workers? Had the enemies of the C.P., the social-fascists or the Trotskyites, captured the Stalinist press? He plied the comrades who visited him with question after question without satisfaction. They kept assuring him that all this was the new official line. He could not believe them: they were merely trying to humor and soothe an invalid.

Browder’s magnificent speech at the Eighth Convention still echoed in his ears; its compelling analysis of the world situation and its clear directives for the forthcoming period were still fresh in his memory. Candide could not rest until he had seen his beloved leader to find out from his lips the truth of the matter.

Chapter II

ONE day last week, restored to health, comrade Candide made his way to the ninth floor where Browder holds court. We have received a transcript of their conversation from our private agents, from which we extract the following:

Candide: “Comrade Browder, for four years I have been a loyal member of the party, the International Workers Order, the International Labor Defense, the Trade Union Unity League, the Friends of the Soviet Union, the League Against War and Fascism, the United Front Supporters, the A.F. of L. Rank and File Committee for Unemployment Insurance, the Anti-Nazi Federation, Friends of the Workers School, Film and Photo League, the Freiheit Mandolin Orchestra, the Pierre Degeyter Society, the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union, the Workers International Relief, and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. For the past year and a half through no fault of my own, I’ve been out of touch with party affairs. I’ve so many things to ask you about, I hardly know where to begin. But tell me, comrade, is it true that the Central Committee addressed a letter to the leaders of the Socialist Party here, asking for a united front?”

Browder: “Yes, we sent the first letter on June 25 last year, and we’ve been sending them at regular intervals ever since.”

Candide: “But only two months before your letter at the Cleveland Convention I heard you say: ‘Unity behind these gentlemen, Norman Thomas and the S.P. leaders, means surrender to the capitalist attacks. That is not the kind of unity the workers need. We need a united front of the workers against the capitalists, and all their agents. But that means that unity must be built up, not with these leaders but against them. That means not a united front from the top, but a united front from below.’ (p. 56) To verify my recollections, I bought a copy of your speech the other day, and, sure enough, those were your very words.”

Browder: “The world situation has changed since then, comrade, and we must adapt our tactics accordingly.”

Candide: “But has the situation so radically changed in this country, or has the essential character of all these social-fascist, leaders changed?”

Browder: “Dimitrov, the new leader of the Comintern, declared at the recent Congress: ‘We must unite all democratic forces in the non-fascist countries in order to defend the remnants of bourgeois democracy.’”

Candide: “How can we unite with social-fascists, those cunning agents of fascism in the ranks of the working class, to fight fascism? Isn’t the slogan of ‘the defense of democracy’ a social-fascist slogan, and a reliance on the democratic state in the struggle against fascism, the fatal policy of ‘the lesser evil’ that handed Germany over to Hitler? How well I remember your condemnation of these craven Socialists and the reformist trade union bureaucracy who hold back the .workers from revolutionary struggle which alone can defeat and destroy fascism, and under the slogan of defense of democracy, and choosing the lesser evil, lead the workers to submit and support the intermediate steps to the introduction of fascism. That is why we call these leaders social fascists, and their theories social-fascist, (p. 15) Aren’t we falling into a social-fascist trap when we limit our struggle against fascism to the defense of democracy? That’s not revolutionary struggle, it seems to me, but an imitation of the lesser evil policy. Don’t you remember saying that ‘the social-fascists try to confuse and disarm the workers ... by means of counterposing ‘democracy against dictatorship,’ by trying to hide the fact that the capitalist ‘democracy’ is only a form of capitalist dictatorship; that this slogan is used to hide the fact that capitalist democracy is not the enemy but the mother of fascism; that it is not the destroyer, but the creator of fascism? It uses the truth that fascism destroys democracy, to propagate the falsehood that democracy will also destroy fascism ... thus delivering the working class over to fascism bound and helpless.” (p. 16)

Browder: “The Communist Party under the leadership of our beloved Stalin is a realistic party of Bolsheviks. We have a monolithic party, but we have flexible policies. We do not let outworn policies hamper our adaptation to new conditions. Discard the policies without delay, without discussion, if necessary, but our party goes forward from one triumph to another, despite temporary setbacks. Have you read the latest statistics from the Soviet Union? Have you even heard how the Popular Front in France has stopped the advance of fascism there? Isn’t that already vindication enough for our change in tactic?”

Candide: “I’m glad you brought up the united front in France. One of the conditions for the united front agreement there reads that both parties shall abstain from criticism of each other. But at Cleveland you said: ‘In all united front activities, the Communists. must always grant the right to all other groups, and reserve the right for themselves, of mutual criticism.’ (p. 72.) Why did the French Communist Party give up the right of criticism, and even agree to abandon all factional work in the trade unions?”

Browder: “It was necessary in order to attain unity and maintain it.”

Candide: “But you went on to say: ‘The Communists can never agree to be silent, to refrain from criticism, on any breaking of agreements for struggle, or any betrayal or desertion of the fight. Any such agreements would not be contributions to unity, but rather to disunity.’” (p. 72)

Browder: “Our Socialist comrades are fighting side by side with us and the Radical Socialists, against the fascists. There have been no betrayals, no desertions of the fight.”

Candide: “But at Brest and Toulon, the sailors, who protested against the Laval-Herriot decree-laws, were killed and wounded. What did the Socialist leaders, what did we do about that? Could we stand silent when workers are shot down by French gendarmes, while Herriot sits at the same time in the Laval cabinet and the Popular Front?”

Browder: “You don’t understand the cunning of the fascists, comrade. Those riots were the work of police provocateurs, of fascist agents, possibly of White Guard, Menshevik, counter-revolutionary Trotskyites. Blum and Cachin, the leaders of the united front, agreed on that. No, we have the most harmonious relations within the Popular Front, and, as for the united workers’ front, that has been going so well that we are even now negotiating to form a single party.”

Candide: “Unite in the same party with social-fascists? On what basis? A revolutionary program of struggle, the program of Marx and Lenin?”

Browder: “The time is not ripe for that. We will unite today on a program of struggle against war and fascism. We must overcome the sectarian tendencies in the party. That’s why it’s necessary, for example, to build a Labor Party here.”

Candide: “But, comrade, how can you win the workers to a revolutionary program in this epoch, which Lenin called ‘the epoch of wars and revolutions,’ by uniting with reformists on a reformist program? Isn’t it the worst form of right opportunism to hide the face of the party in that manner? You, yourself, said at the last convention that ‘we must again emphasize ... that ... under no circumstances ... (can we allow) ... the abandonment of the independent role of the Communist Party. To push the Communist Party into the background, to allow it to be forgotten, is fatal to the success,of a particular campaign, as well as endangering our future development. The tendency to bring forward workers’ tickets in large industrial cities is generally wrong; it is a tendency to succumb to Farmer-Laborism.’ (pp. 69–70) How can we withdraw our party candidates in favor of a joint labor or people’s tickets, as we are doing today?

Browder: “Don’t you read the Daily Worker, which explains all these things?”

Candide: “Every day, comrade, and sometimes three and four times a day. Now I think I understand the reasons for all these things, and then again I’m not sure. There are so many innovations in the Daily. For example, there’s the appeal to the patriotic traditions of the American people. At Cleveland, you quoted from the ‘new fascist program for the S.P.,’ presented by Joseph Sharts, which read: ‘These great traditions cluster around the Stars and Stripes and make it worthy to be fought for, regardless of. the capitalist connections in recent years. Not by the pacifist but by the patriotic approach lies our path to power and freedom.’ And then you said: ‘It would be difficult to improve on Mr. Sharts by quoting directly from Hitler.’ (p. 78) How can we imitate the fascists by such appeals to patriotism?”

Browder: “That is the American approach to the problem of Bolshevizing the masses.”

Candide: “The American approach! Why, that was the slogan of Budenz, one of those left social-fascists whom you called ‘the most dangerous enemies of the workers’ struggles today.’” (p. 76)

Browder: “Not so loud, comrade. Budenz is in the next room.”

Candide: “There are lots of other things in the Daily Worker I don’t understand. The editorials call upon the Roosevelt government and the League of Nations to invoke sanctions against Fascist Italy. You taught us that the Roosevelt administration is ‘the beginning of the introduction of fascism ... The New Deal was in political essence and direction the same as Hitler’s program.’ (pp. 20–21) How can we, a working class party, call upon one semi-fascist government to stop another Fascist state from conducting an imperialist war? Aren’t we playing the game of the imperialists, instead of pursuing an independent working class policy?”

Browder: “We are utilizing the contradictions between the imperialist powers, just as the Soviet Union is doing in the League of Nations.”

Candide: “I can understand why the Soviet state must try to utilize these contradictions in diplomatic maneuvers with the imperialist powers, but how can the Communist parties ask the cooperation of their own ruling class to fight another? How does such class-collaboration look to the Italian workers?”

Browder: “Would you have us isolate ourselves from the organized workers by opposing sanctions, which is the only way to avert war and oppose Fascism? Why, only the counter-revolutionary Trotskyites are against sanctions. We’ve won over all the trade unions, almost all the Socialist parties to our policy.”

Candide: “That’s just the point. You said that both the A.F. of L. and the company unions were governmental agencies of the capitalist class, just as the Fascists and social-fascists were the twin political agencies of the capitalist class, (pp. 28–29–30) If the A.F. of L. is a semi-fascist agency of the Roosevelt regime, more dangerous than the company unions, then it naturally follows that its leaders would sanction the imperialist policy of the American government.”

Browder: “You’re living in the past, comrade. A new progressive movement has sprung up in the A.F. of L. headed by such people as John L. Lewis, Francis Gorman and Sidney Hillman, and that’s why we’re advising all our members to join it.”

Candide: “Lewis heading a progressive movement? Why you coupled him with Green in 1934. And you’re liquidating all the T.U.U.L. unions? Why I remember how my heart beat with pride as I listened to you describe the amazing progress made by the revolutionary trade unions of the T.U.U.L., ‘by developing the whole mass movement of resistance to the NRA and the whole capitalist offensive, in the development of the strike movements,’ (p. 36) while the Trotskyites and Musteites sold out the workers in Minneapolis and Toledo. I remember that slogan you gave us: ‘to unite the independent unions with the revolutionary unions info a single Independent Federation of Labor.’” (p. 38)

At this point Candide broke into hysteria and fell to the floor in a dead faint. We are informed that he has remained unconscious and delirious ever since. In that unfortunate condition, we must regretfully leave him.

Chapter III

PLAUSIBLE as it seems, we cannot, of course, vouch for complete authenticity of the above story. We can, however, guarantee the authenticity of the quotations from Browder. They will be found in the Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to the 8th Convention, delivered by Earl Browder, published by the Worker’s Library of New York, 1934. We recommend it for entertainment and meditation these sombre days.

Candide, the honest Stalinist worker, was completely bewildered by the contradictory lines of the Communist Party, and could find no explanation for them. Bewildered and confused by his leaders, who tell him one thing today and its opposite tomorrow, he relapsed into unconsciousness. Politically conscious workers, however, will want to know why the Communist Party has followed such completely contradictory policies in the past period.

To us, the reasons for the somersaults of the Stalinists are clear. It would be pointless to look for them in Browder’s psychology or American conditions. These have nothing to do with the case. Browder, the leader of the C.P.U.S.A., is a political master-mind in only one sense: he reflects what goes on in the mind of his master, Stalin, who in turn translates into political terms the needs of the Soviet bureaucracy. We must, therefore, look abroad to the Soviet Union and the international scene to understand what has ailed the Comintern in the past thirteen years, years of great opportunities and tremendous defeats for the revolutionary working class.

As we view the history of the Third International, it has passed through four phases.

1. The heroic period from the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917 to the death of Lenin in 1924. In these years the Third International was built; its revolutionary program formulated in the first four Congresses; the task of winning over the working class of the world to revolutionary struggle under the banner of Marx and Lenin begun. However, the destruction of the flower of the Russian proletariat in the civil wars, then the economic collapse which necessitated the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1921 produced a widespread passivity, in the exhausted Russian working class. Reflecting this passivity, the Soviet bureaucracy, whose control was centralized in Stalin’s hands, developed and strengthened its grip upon the Communist party and the state apparatus during this period – and turned its face away from the international revolution. The post-war tidal wave of revolution led by the Third International was broken by the retreat of the Communist leaders in Germany in the face of a revolutionary situation in October 1923 (this was under Stalin’s orders), which was preceded by the defeat of the Bulgarian insurrection in 1923 and followed by the crushing of the Reval uprising in Esthonia. The breaking of the revolutionary wave in Germany and elsewhere paved the way for the reorganization and strengthening of European capitalism with the aid of American capital.

2. The second period. The revolutionary ebb and the temporary stabilization of European capitalism gave further impetus to pessimism and passivity regarding the prospects of world revolution in the Soviet bureaucracy, which had usurped control of the Russian Communist Party and the Comintern. Turning their backs upon the international scene, the leader of the bureaucracy, Stalin, developed the theory of “socialism in one country” as a justification for their conservative and narrowly nationalistic viewpoint. According to this theory, a classless socialist society can be built up in one single country alone, the Soviet Union, even if the proletariat in the more advanced countries fail to conquer power. From this theory dates the beginning of the degeneration of the parties of revolution in their respective countries to auxiliary arms of the conservative foreign policy of the Soviet bureaucracy. From this fatal theory flows all the blunders, defeats, and catastrophes which the working class has suffered since 1923.

During this second period right-opportunistic policies were substituted all along the line for revolutionary policies. Within the Soviet Union, the bureaucracy leaned upon the Nepman and the Kulak for support in its struggle against the Bolshevik-Leninists; and opposed planned economy, industrialization, and collectivization demanded by the Left Opposition in favor of a course of concessions to Nepmen and Kulaks. In the sphere of foreign policy the Stalinists relied upon the reformist trade union bureaucracy of England through the Anglo-Russian Committee to lead the struggle against imperialist war and for the defense of the Soviet Union; upon Chiang Kai-shek and the Kou-Min-Tang in the Chinese, revolution; and upon various unreliable peasant leaders throughout the world. The Communist parties were subordinated to these alliances with alien class elements. The balance-sheet included the betrayal of the English General Strike and the impotence of the British Communist Party; the tragic betrayal of the Chinese revolution; the weakening of the Communist parties and the revolutionary movement throughout the world. The essence of this course was to preserve the status quo, while socialism was being built in the Soviet Union.

3. The Third Period

When this policy culminated in “the bloodless Kulak uprising of 1928,” the Stalinists suddenly veered around and transformed all their policies into their opposites. Instead of opposition to planned economy came the first and second Five Year plans with their mad gallop toward industrialization, regardless of costs and consequences, together with the campaign for complete collectivization and liquidation of the kulak. These domestic policies were complemented by the social-fascist, dual red trade union, united front from below policies. It was in this so-called “third period” that Candide received his political education, or rather, miseducation. So different in its form from the second period, the third period continued the same objective: preservation of the status quo – even if the cost involved was to sacrifice the German revolution to maintain the status quo.

4. The Fourth Period

The adventurous, ultra-leftist line of the third period was abruptly terminated by Hitler’s conquest of power as a direct consequence of the fatal policies pursued by the Communist Party of Germany. Panic-stricken at the spectacle of the Fascist monster they had helped create, the Stalinists have thrown away all the theoretical baggage of the third period in the wild flight to the right, which is still under way. This is a return to the fundamental course of the Stalinist bureaucracy, the right opportunist course of 1923–1928, on a wider scale and with more profound consequences. Again, its objective is: the status quo.

Today the Stalinists are again seeking protection in the arms of the social democratic leaders and the reformist trade union bureaucracy, as well as imperialist nations such as France. The sole task of the Stalinists outside the Soviet Union is to preserve the status quo by means of the Soviet diplomacy of Litvinov or the subsidiary means of the Communist parties. The last remnants of revolutionary working class policy has been abandoned in favor of popular fronts. The united fronts between the Socialist and Communist parties are united fronts of inaction, instead of struggle. The recent Seventh Congress of the Comintern set its seal of approval upon, this course. The task of the Third International, which was organized by Lenin and Trotsky to conquer the world for socialism, has been reduced to the pitiful task of “defending the remnants of bourgeois democracy.” Since the Stalin-Laval pact, the French Communist Party calls upon the French working class to support its own capitalist government in case of war against Fascist Germany, thus pitting one section of the working class against another, and betraying them both. This is a repetition on a grander scale of the social-patriotic betrayal of the Second International in 1914–1918.

Since 1923 the opportunist leadership of the Comintern had brought nothing but defeat after defeat upon the working class. Although the leaders of the various parties of the Third International still drape themselves, in the banner of Lenin, they have violated every revolutionary principle he stood for. The Third International Is no longer a revolutionary organization, no longer a progressive force in the labor movement.

The proletarian revolutionists of the world are gathering today under the new banner of the Fourth International. The struggle for the Fourth International is the struggle for the ideas of Marx and Lenin ; for the overthrow of capitalism; for a workers’ world. Rally to the support of the Workers Party, which has unfurled the banner of the Fourth International in the United States!


Last updated on: 6 February 2018