Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(30 May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 37, 30 May 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

What was first considered a funny story circulated by a town wit has finally been confirmed in oroad daylight as the sobering truth: Heywood Broun has joined the Catholic Church. To the reader who may think that this is a dull joke and retort, “Hasn’t he been a Stalinist all along?” we reply, it isn’t a joke at all. Heywood Broun renounced the devil and all his works and all his pomps, and after an appropriate preliminary period during which he was indoctrinated by Monsignor Sheen, he has finally been accepted into the arms of the Church of Rome.

At first blush, the latest conversion of Heywood Broun may appear to be just a bit unexpected. A little reflection will reveal, however, that the sudden jump from dilettante radicalism to Roman Catholicism is not entirely in conflict with the natural order of things.

Parroted Stalinist Line

For the last few years, Broun has consistently parroted every slogan, idea and war-cry of the Stalinists. Nothing was too outrageous, nothing too fantastic in the activities of the Communist Party, either here or in the Soviet Union, for Broun to swallow. His weekly column in the New Republic became a veritable repository of Stalinist agitation on any and all subjects. The Stalinists in the trade unions were a boon to labor. The Stalinists in the Soviet Union were as innocent and benevolent as one of Broun’s present saints. It goes without saying that the “Trotskyists” were like mud under his feet. They weren’t radical enough for him; or else they were too damned radical; or else they were simply agents of Hitler and Franco.

The man who made such a stirring defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, who denounced the frame-up in Massachusetts in such bitter terms twelve years ago, sank, under the pressure of his Stalinist friends, to revolting depths in his at once frivolous and vicious attacks upon the victims of Stalin’s Moscow frame-ups.

Now he is himself the unwitting victim of the Stalinists. At least, that hypothesis about his apparently sudden conversion is as sound as any we have heard.

Something He Ate No Doubt

We do not know how religiously Broun now reads Scriptures, but it is generally known that he read the Daily Worker and other Stalinist literature with an appetite that baffled dieticians.

One of the ideas that he must have absorbed from this literature, especially in recent times, was that of the “outstretched hand to the Catholics.” By this the Stalinists did not mean the hand of comradeship and common struggle to the Catholic proletariat and peasantry throughout the world – a common struggle also against the reactionary Catholic hierarchy which collaborates so amicably, and as in the case of Spain, so aggressively, with fascist barbarism. No, the Stalinists offered, as they continue to do, an “outstretched hand” primarily to the Catholic hierarchy itself.

There was the famous, history-making open letter of I. Amter to the late Pope Pius XI, pointing out all the advantages the Vatican would obtain from an alliance with the Kremlin in Moscow and Browder in the United States. Unfortunately, no answer was ever received by Amter from Pius XI, and as for his successor, he apparently never got around to it because of his activities in helping Franco win the civil war against the infidel Reds.

Then there was the famous Message to Garcia of Twentieth Century Americanism – brought to the United States by Robert Minor. It was the answer of the Pope to the propaganda of the “outstretched hand” given through Cardinal Verdier of France. In effect, it merely said that if any of the erring souls in the Stalinist movement are ready to give up their pagan ways and seek the consolation of the Church, the Vatican is not averse to smoothing the road for the converted sinners. This rather stereotyped formula was hailed by Minor and other high-priests of the Stalinist church with such frenzied enthusiasm, that it could not but have made a profound impression on the highly impressionable Mr. Broun.

Again, the Daily Worker would print such suggestive items as the information that such renowned pillars of the Communist party as Max Bedacht was an altar boy in his youth – a fact, if it is one, which Bedacht must have tried to keep quiet for years and which was joyously rediscovered by the Stalinists a short time ago.

Stretched a Little Too Far

Now Broun must already have assimilated what he considered the outstanding contribution of communist tactics – boring from within. All he did was to combine this tactic with the propaganda of the “outstretched hand.” Or else, being a man who rarely does things by halves, he must have stretched his hand out so far that he lost his equilibrium and landed right into the arms of the Church.

We are not sure that he will have more success in winning the College of Cardinals, to saying nothing of His Holiness Himself, to the Popular Front, by working from within, than Browder and Co. have had by groveling from without. Privately we are inclined to be skeptical about the prospect.

But then, we are not convinced that Broun will make too many efforts in that direction. He is a man who goes the whole hog, and never stops at his first drink, so to speak. His motley political record shows it. A Stalinist, he tried to outdo his associates. A Catholic, he will probably soon be more Papist than the Pope. The Daily Worker which used to reprint his picture and his wise sayings with clock-work regularity, may soon be pleading with him to stop his violent denunciations of Marxist infidels and join it in a common Holy War for Democracy. A man like Broun, or any other Stalinist, is, after all, capable of the most amazing transformations.

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