Andrew Rothstein

Brooding on Browder

Source: Marxism Today, June 1985
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

What is there to be said of Hobsbawm’s suggestion (MT April) that Earl Browder in 1944, when promoting the dissolution of the Communist Party of the USA, could not have done so ‘without the approval, or indeed the instruction, of Moscow’—and that any idea to the contrary ‘is absurd’?

The Communist International had been dissolved the previous year, precisely because its leadership judged its sections to be so mature that they were able to take their own decisions, in the light of their respective circumstances. Browder had no need to ask ‘approval’, much less ‘instruction’, from anyone in Moscow. What Hobsbawm’s choice of words implies, without saying so, is merely the old anti-Communist lie that any Communist party is ‘directed from Moscow’.

Not only is there not the slightest evidence that Browder was acting out of ‘too much loyalty’ to Moscow but, on the contrary, the ‘old and experienced comrades’ whose judgement Hobsbawm invokes will remember the general consternation and sense of outrage in all the older parties at the decision. While the Second World War was continuing, and so far as Britain was concerned, until the general election of July 1945, comment in this country was neither practicable nor desirable.

But by the April issue of the French Communist Party’s theoretical organ, Jacques Duclos had alredy strongly condemned Browder’s proposal, giving full publicity to the attack on it by William Z Foster, and to subsequent discussion. Moreover Duclos recorded that ‘the communist parties of most countries have not approved Browder’s position’, and made quite plain that he was sure the French Communist Party would not do so either. Were they, too, acting on ‘instructions from Moscow’?

In fact, Duclos’ article met with worldwide approval among communists (except for a few in Latin America). It was reprinted in the August 1945 Labour Monthly. It is Eric Hobsbawm’s suggestion that is ‘absurd’. And it will not divert attention from the close similarity of Browder’s revisions of Marxism to those commonly advanced in Marxism Today.

Andrew Rothstein, London