Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Background to Error

First Published: The New Masses, Vol. 56, No. 6, August 7, 1945.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It is difficult to comprehend how it was possible for a Marxist of Browder’s caliber to evolve his newest theory of social evolution, based solely on the Teheran accord, which is “a document of a diplomatic character,” as Duclos says, and I would add–of a military character only. And that has not only been transformed into a “political platform,” as Duclos further points out, but has been converted into a new Bible, replacing the basic teachings of Marx and Lenin, which true Communists had followed for generations, and which was for them the foundation of all political platforms, regardless of the temporary changes the course of history has brought about into the social structure of our society.

Ever since that historic conference at Teheran . . . there was hardly a single line written by Browder and many of his followers, including NEW MASSES, in which Teheran was not mentioned a few times. The degree of versatility reached in the interpretation of Teheran was amazing. And the folly of it all was clear to many a rank-and-file worker from the very beginning. Why, then, did our leaders have to learn the hard way? And only after first causing so much confusion and chaos.

The fact is that Teheran was only a milestone for Browder, because it was long before that period that he had taken the direction which finally led him to adopt the gospel of Teheran. In his book Victory and After appeared, as far as I know, the first theoretical groundwork, the first signs, pointing toward the complete revision of Marxism, culminating in the dissolution of the Communist Party, and the establishment of the CPA. And in my opinion it is net the dissolution of the Party that had caused the dismay, the confusion and the bewilderment in the minds of those who follow with interest the Marxian political direction. This change from one form of organization to another, even if it were not only a change of names . .. wasn’t the most disheartening fact in this whole affair; rather it was the dissolution of the very basis of Marxism that has thrown into a chaos the entire conception of the social, economic and political structure of capitalist society, based upon those teachings, causing irreparable damage. . . .

I reiterate that Browder’s was a complete abandonment of Marxian social science. And what makes it worse is the fact that he will not retreat from his position even now, after his was the only dissenting voice of the CPA National Board against the resolution, and especially after his “intelligent” capitalism has shown its full and ugly face on the morrow of V-E Day, and long before that in all its many forms and varied circumstances . . .

The present uproar over the “revisionism” and the new change of direction must be considered in the light of the previous, as some cynics call them, “seasonal,” changes of political orientation and direction, which have occurred within the last five or six years; most of them changes from one opposite extreme to another, which did not add to a clear conception of basic principles, which never change. . . .

First it was, as far as I can remember, “Fascism or Democracy.” We had shelved for a time (but we never again took up) the struggle for socialism. Yes, one can readily agree with Browder that the American workingclass is not yet ready for socialism. Then came the period of “imperialist war,” during which we turned out to be the staunchest and most ardent isolationists, which, I do maintain most emphatically, was the most shameful of all blunders. Particularly damaging to our cause was the talking done during the “pact” period, which is ever so often being thrown into our faces, making it hard for us to wash it off. How, I ask, as I have been asking all along, could it have been “not our war” when the fight was against fascism? And then, virtually and literally overnight (between the twenty second and the twenty-third of June, 1941) the “imperialist war” was transformed into a “people’s war. . . ”

And the last, so far, of the “seasonal changes” was the crowning one of them all. Suddenly there was no more difference of interests between the capitalist class and the workingclass. . . . How could anyone so completely have forgotten the very ABC of Marxism? Moreover, committing all these fallacies in the name of Marxism itself.

How then is it to be expected that the masses may loyally follow such a maze of tactical bungling and the juggling of principles? Or is it taken for granted that the people will accept everything blindly, being unable to remember any of the things that were said the day before; the slogans that were proclaimed, and the books written?

The argument is often put forward that it was Lenin who taught us to adapt or change our tactics according to the requirements of a given situation. But only the tactics and not the principles are subject to change, as the NEW MASSES points out in the “evaluation of its course.”

Browder states in his Victory and After that “we Communists have been long habituated to planning the unprecedented,” to which one can only say, that all the hair-pin twists and turns performed under his leadership during the last half-dozen years were really “unprecedented” in all the history of the socialist movement. There is not even hope that he will learn from the mistakes he made, since he does not admit them. . ..

It is gratifying to witness the courageous self-criticism of the NEW MASSES, as well as the free discussion in its pages. I should like to see the time when it will be possible to point out the mistakes while the mistakes are being made, as so many of us saw it at its very inception but had observed a critical and friendly silence under self-imposed moral discipline.

Los Angeles.