Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(20 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 43, 20 June 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Some Additional Comments on Earl Browder’s Report

Elsewhere in this issue is reported the purge that has been going on quietly in the Communist party for some time and is now openly proclaimed in Earl Browder’s report to the party National Committee early in May.

There is one part of Browder’s report, however, which is so sensationally important and at the same time so deliberately obscured by its author, that it deserves and requires elaboration. Speaking of “spies” who “are always ‘more revolutionary’ than the Party leadership,” Browder adds:

“A historical example was the government police agent, Morrow, who was sent to the Bridgeman Convention of the Communist Party in 1922, and cast the deciding vote between the two equal factions that deadlocked the convention. Those two factions, as we learned later, were the work of more clever and subtle wrecking agents, who came to blossom later as the Trotskyites and Lovestone-ites, who were not cleaned out of the Party until 1928–1929. Since that time, this type of agent has had a more difficult job, but they abound in the trade unions and work among the newer, less-experienced organizations of the Party.”


We know that some of them (“spies”) have been or are members of state committees or work in state office technical staffs; some are found in section leading committees. This knowledge is the result of intensive investigation by the National Committee, without engaging the whole Party membership or even the leading cadres in a spy hunt.”

Who Will Be the Victims?

Those familiar with the gradual but inexorable manner in which Stalin, starting with obscure figures, ended up with men like Zinoviev, Bukharin and Rakovsky, will not fail to recognize the stereotyped pattern disclosed by the quoted paragraphs. Those familiar with the history of the Communist Party in the United States will not fail to recognize, in Browder’s anonymous references, the names of the victims slated for the American purge.

The first victims of the Stalin murder-bund following the death of S.M. Kirov were, it will be recalled, obscure and for the most part unnamed young communists in Leningrad. Zinoviev and Kamenev merely bore the “moral responsibility” for Kirov’s assassination. Only later were they charged with directly plotting and organizing the killing of the Leningrad party boss. And still later, Zinoviev, Rakovsky, Bukharin and Trotsky had the origins of their crimes located at the very dawn of the revolution, which, considering the names of the men involved in these charges, “proved” that the Bolshevik Revolution was organized and led by a gang of German and British spies.

Following the same procedure, Browder now presents the “Trotskyists and Lovestoneites” who have been counter-revolutionists and spies since they were expelled in 1928–1929, as having been spies and “more clever and subtle wrecking agents” as far back as 1922. And since it must have required some time before the convention to organize their “wrecking” they must have been at it for two or three years before 1922, that is, at the very birth of the Communist Party in the United States.

But more important, for the moment, is the self-evident fact that not all the leaders of the “two equal factions that deadlocked the convention” are expelled and triply-accursed Trotskyists and Lovestoneites. Many of them, and not the least important of those days in 1922 at Bridgeman, continue – “clever and subtle wrecking agents” that they are! – to occupy commanding posts in the Communist Party leadership today. And it is they – and not Cannon or Lovestone – whom Browder has in mind when he utters these ominous sentences.

A Few of the Men Involved

Who are the men involved in this “historical example”? Here are a few of the leaders of the two 1922 factions which, “as we learned later” (When? From whom? Who confessed?) “were the work of more clever and subtle wrecking agents.”

There was William Weinstone, first New York and more recently Detroit party commissar; William Z. Foster, still chairman (as we go to press) of the Communist party; William F. Dunne, about whom so very little is heard nowadays; Max Bedacht, boss of the International Workers Order; the two New York state party sachems, Israel Amter (a violent opponent of the Comintern decision in favor of a legal party in 1922 – looks bad for him!) and Charles Krumbein; Herbert Benjamin (is he referred to in Browder’s remark about “their main fields of work are in mass organizations of a progressive character”?); Alexander Bittelman, one of the fiercest factionalists of them all, and without doubt a British spy from that day to this; Alfred Wagenknecht, removed only the other day as St. Louis organizer of the C.P. (already! Remember Yagoda!); and last but far from least, BROWDER HIMSELF!

Now, if the two factions of 1922 were the “work of more clever and subtle wrecking agents,” are we going to be so gullible as to believe that Browder, who led one of the factions, was only an innocent victim of the wreckers? To be sure, he will protest that he was guiltless and didn’t know the foul ends he was being used for; so also, when their time comes, will Foster and Bittelman and Minor and Amter and God knows who else. But who will believe them? Didn’t they all protest their innocence at first in Moscow – only to “confess the truth” in the end?

Fortunately for Foster and/or any of Browder’s other intended victims, the “General Secretary” in this country does not have at his disposal all of Stalin’s means for extorting confessions which Krivitsky describes in such horrifying detail in the current Saturday Evening Post. Browder has no armed bands of G.P.U. assassins, no private prisons, no concentration camps, no Siberia, no cemeteries for the recalcitrants. He only has a powerful machine for lying and the power of expulsion from the party.

But these two weapons he intends to use to the full. Foster, Weinstone, Dunne, Wagenknecht, Amter and Co. cannot possibly have any illusions on that score. Haven’t they already used them against others?

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