Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party

The CPUSA’s Liberal-Labor Approach to the Critique of Browder

First Published:The Workers’ Advocate Vol. 14, No. 6, May 1, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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An important question in the assessment of the post-war policy of the international communist movement is the struggle against Browderite revisionism.

Earl Browder was the principal leader of the Communist Party of the USA from the 1930’s through 1945. Beginning in the mid-1930’s Browder was instrumental in step by step eliminating the revolutionary and independent character of the CPUSA and hitching it to the tail of the capitalists. Browder’s revisionism reached its zenith in 1944 when he liquidated the CP entirely. Within a year, however, Browder was criticized, the CP was reconstituted, and in February 1946 Browder was expelled.

Today it is commonly accepted that Browderism was the forerunner of Khrushchovite revisionism. Comrades are familiar with a few of the criticisms leveled against Browder in the 1944-45 period such as: his embellishment of the U.S. as a young, vigorous capitalism free of the classic features of capitalism such as economic crisis; his support for U.S. imperialist expansionism; his renunciation of the class struggle in favor of collaboration between labor and capital; his liquidation of the communist party; and so forth. It is also known that our Party has stressed that the CPUSA failed to thoroughly repudiate Browderism and for that reason fell easy prey to Khrushchovite revisionism.

But in light of the Central Committee’s discoveries about the wrong policies that were followed in the international communist movement after World War II, it is necessary to look once again at the struggle against Browderism to ascertain from precisely what standpoint Browder was criticized and exactly what policy was advocated against the Browderite theses.

For this purpose the Central Committee has reproduced a pamphlet entitled Marxism-Leninism Vs. Revisionism, published by the CPUSA in February 1946. This pamphlet contains the major documents of criticism of Browder by leaders of the CPUSA and by Jacques Duclos, then one of the Secretaries of the Communist Party of France. Study of this pamphlet reveals that the criticism of Browder did not stem from sound Marxist-Leninist foundations. Rather, Browder was denounced only for his most outlandish rightist assertions, while his basic liberal-labor approach was left untouched; indeed, it was promoted. This report can only touch on a few of the most outstanding features of the criticism which show the extreme weakness of the struggle against Browderism of that time.

The Revolutionary Perspective Is Lost Sight Of

To begin with it is necessary to emphasize what is not said in the documents. Nowhere in any of the documents, including the Duclos letter, is there the slightest mention of the necessity to organize the working class for revolution. Talk of revolutionary organization, revolutionary struggle, or the revolutionary movement has been completely banished. One can find statements about social progress, socialist reorganization of society, social evolution, even the elimination of exploitation of man by man. But nowhere will you find the word revolution, nor will you find the presentation of a revolutionary perspective.

Now let us deal with Foster’s criticism. 2 At the end of the report we will return to the Duclos criticism and we will see that it is basically the same. It is important to note that Browder is criticized by Foster in a few places for giving up the class struggle. But the conception of the class struggle presented in these documents is completely distorted and hemmed in. It means, at most, the struggle against only the biggest of the monopolies and then only to force them to abide by the Rooseveltian coalition and to pressure them into doing good things (ending fascism, achieving durable peace, reconstructing the U.S. economy, raising wages, etc.). But this will be gone into further later in this report. What should be emphasized here is that Foster actually agrees with Browder’s condemnation of the policy of “class against class.“ On page 78 we find Foster criticizing ”’Left’ sectarian voices in our Party’’ for “generally adopt(ing) a class-against-class policy.” This renunciation of the class struggle is further evidence of the non-revolutionary perspective to the criticism of Browderism.

It should be noted here, in passing, that Foster did not want the criticism of Browder to go too far, as is indicated by the above criticism of “’Left’ sectarian voices in the party.” Foster argued that the Party’s line was basically correct as late as May, 1942 when Browder got out of jail in Atlanta. (See page 42) Further, although the repudiation of Browderism had hardly started, at the convention to reconstitute the Party Foster began to emphasize the struggle against “a sharp growth of ’Left’ sectarianism...of which there are already manifestations” and to warn against “the mistake of over-correction.” (p. 70) Thus Foster tried to narrow down the struggle against Browderism and quickly turn the struggle against the left.

The Fundamental Criticism of Browder

The fundamental criticism of Browder is that he believed that the domestic and international war-time alliances could be maintained after the war without struggle, whereas Foster held that struggle was essential to maintaining these alliances.

Browder advances his “new course” of class collaboration under the signboard of carrying out the Teheran conference decisions of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Britain. Foster agrees that the Teheran decisions must form the basis for the CPUSA policy, but he argues that the decisions can only be carried out through struggle. On page ten Foster gives his description of the Teheran objectives:

“Among the major objectives established by the Teheran decisions are (a) the development of all-out coalition warfare for complete victory over the enemy; (b) an orientation toward an eventual democratic world organization of peoples to maintain international peace and order; (c) an implied unfoldment of an elementary economic program with which to meet the terrific problems of postwar reconstruction.” (Foster, Letter to the National Committee, January 20,1944)

On page 12, Foster presents his chief criticism of Browder:

“All of which means that the bulk of monopoly capital cannot be relied upon either to cooperate loyally, or to lead in a progressive application of the Teheran decisions. It will yield in this direction only under democratic mass pressure. Instead, our reliance must be upon the great democratic people, the real backbone of national unity, now organized in the main in and around the Rooseveltian camp. The basic flaw in Comrade Browder’s report was that he failed to make clear this elementary situation, but instead tended to create illusions to the effect that these antagonistic forces, the bulk of big capital and the democratic sections of the nation, now locked together in one of the sharpest class battles in American history [this is Foster’s astonishing description of the 1944 elections – ed.], can and should work harmoniously together both now and during the postwar period.” (Ibid., emphasis added)

This same theme runs throughout the writing of Foster and the other leaders of the CPUSA. Here, the report will give only two other quotes from later Foster statements on the same theme.

“In fact, his book, Teheran: Our Path in War and Peace, is an attempt to prove that the epoch of imperialism has passed and that we are now in a period of inevitable friendly collaboration between the capitalist and socialist sectors of the world; a collaboration, which Browder would not base upon the strength of the USSR, the colonial countries, the new war-born democracies, and the labor movement of the world (as it must be if it is to exist), but upon the good will of the great capitalists, particularly the Americans, whose ’enlightenment,’ ’high moral sense’ and ’true class interests’ will dictate to them this collaborationist course.” (Foster, Report to the National Committee of the Communist Political Association, June 18-20, 1945, pp. 41-42, emphasis added)

“Browder believes that under the leadership of his ’enlightened’ American monopolists, the imperialist ruling classes in this and other capitalist countries will peacefully and spontaneously compose their differences with each other, with the USSR, with the liberated countries of Europe, and with the colonial and semi-colonial countries, without mass struggle.” (Foster, Report to the Special Convention of the CPA, July 26-28, 1945 which reconstituted the CPUSA, p. 66, emphasis added)

Everyone Is for “National Unity”

The domestic side of maintaining the wartime alliances is the program of “national unity.” This includes all of the slogans of the time, the defense of the “national interest,” “patriotism,” ”championing the nation,” etc., even though everyone admits that the U.S. has become the number one imperialist power in the world. Foster agrees with Browder on the necessity for the program of “national unity,” but claims to disagree that the biggest monopolies should be included in it. On page eight Foster gives his idea of “national unity”:

“The enforcement of the Teheran decisions, both in their national and international aspects, demands the broadest possible national unity, and in this national unity there must be workers, farmers, professionals, small businessmen and all of the capitalist elements who will loyally support the program. But to assume that such capitalists, even if we include the Willkie [although he was Republican candidate for president in the 1944 elections, he was a liberal – ed.] supporters, constitute the decisive sections of finance capital, or can be extended to include them, is to harbor a dangerous illusion.” (Foster, Letter to National Committee of the CPUSA, January 1944)

And on page 10 Foster declares:

“In this respect American monopoly capital has indeed given anything but a patriotic lead thus far or a convincing promise for the future. The patriotic lead, on the contrary, has come and will continue to come from the national unity elements grouped mainly around the Roosevelt forces. So far as the bulk of finance capital is concerned.... A real victory policy, as laid down at Teheran, can be achieved only in opposition to these elements, certainly not in easy collaboration with them, and above all, not under their leadership.” (Ibid., emphasis added)

This is Foster’s criticism, Browder wants national unity of everyone while Foster claims to not want to include the “bulk of finance capital.”

The Hoax of Opposition to the Monopolies

But Foster’s call for “national unity” without the monopolies is predicated on the ridiculous hoax that Roosevelt is not also a representative of finance capital. Foster argues at length that the Roosevelt government is not only not based on the monopolies, but is at odds with them. In a striking passage dealing with the upcoming 1944 elections, Foster argues:

“Nevertheless, monopoly capital has found an obstacle in the Roosevelt Administration. This Administration is, in fact, if not formally, a coalition among the workers, middle class elements, and the more liberal sections of the bourgeoisie (with the special situation in the Democratic South). The big monopolists, after the first few emergency months of 1933, have in overwhelming majority come to hate the Roosevelt administration bitterly. They especially attack the domestic angles of his policies. What backing Roosevelt had from finance capital at the start has mostly leaked away from him....

“The substance of the present election struggle, therefore, is an attempt of monopoly capital to break up the Roosevelt liberal-labor combination.” (Ibid., p. 13)

And Foster concludes, “We must go all-out for a continuation of the Roosevelt policies, as the only way to support effectively the Teheran decisions, both in their national and international implications. We must tell the people precisely who the enemy is that they are fighting – organized big capital – and mobilize our every resource to help make their fight succeed.” (Ibid., p. 14)

Foster has built up a whole case that Browder is against the class struggle because he promoted the National Association of Manufacturers and said he would shake the hand of J.P. Morgan. But then Foster creates the outrageous illusion that the Roosevelt government is not the instrument of monopoly capital, but instead a fighter against it. Foster’s entire criticism boils down to this – Browder is not good because he supports the Republican Party monopoly capitalists while Foster only supports the Democratic Party monopoly capitalists.

The Duclos Article

But what was the international criticism of Browder? The famous Duclos article gives some idea of the nature of the criticism. 3

The Duclos article quotes a lot from Browder, but explains very little. While giving a large number of quotes, most of which Duclos is presumably against, it makes virtually no comment until a brief summation at the end. The article also describes Foster’s actions, and although showing some irritation that Foster did not oppose the liquidation of the Party, it seems to support Foster. But again, there are no definite comments so one cannot be sure precisely what is supported and what is not.

Nevertheless, from the little that Duclos himself actually says one can see that his chief criticism of Browder is basically along the same lines as Foster’s.

Like Foster, Duclos criticizes Browder for wanting to ally with the monopoly capitalists without any struggle. On page 26 Duclos states:

“The fact that capitalism has learned to live in peace and in alliance with socialism is far from meaning that American monopoly capitalism has become progressive and that it can henceforth be unreservedly included in national unity in the struggle for the realization of the Teheran conference decisions.” (emphasis added)

Like Foster, Duclos argues for national unity, but without the monopoly capitalists. On page 34 we find:

“We too, in France, are resolute partisans of national unity, and we show that in our daily activity, but our anxiety for unity does not make us lose sight for a single moment of the necessity of arraying ourselves against the men of the trusts.”

And like Foster, Duclos defines monopoly capital only as those who are not in the Rooseveltian coalition and portrays the Roosevelt government as being against the trusts. To do this Duclos favorably quotes Henry Wallace, who was in the Roosevelt Cabinet in the 1930’s, was Roosevelt’s vice- president from 1940-44, and who was Roosevelt’s Secretary of Commerce at the time the letter was written. Duclos declares on page 34:

“In the United States the omnipotent trusts have been the object of violent criticism. It is known, for instance, that the former vice-president of the United States, Henry Wallace, has denounced their evil doings and their anti-national policy.”

And again on page 35 we find:

“The former Vice-President of the U.S., Henry Wallace, present Secretary of Commerce, said rightly that one cannot fight fascism abroad and tolerate at home the activity of powerful groups which intend to make peace ’with a simple breathing spell between the death of an old tyranny and the birth of anew.’”

Thus the Duclos criticism of Browder is no better than that of Foster and the other leaders of the CPUSA. The criticism boils down to, in Duclos’ words:

“It is clear that American Communists were right in supporting the candidacy of President Roosevelt in the last elections, but it was not at all necessary for this to dissolve the Communist Party.” (pp. 34-35)