Three Letters on Opportunism

First Published: Spark Vol. II, No. 3, March 1948
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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SPARK is printing three letters against opportunism to help dispel the myth, perpetrated rather successfully by the CPUSA leadership, that the rank and file never fought the liquidation of the Party. The letters indicate that the leadership was deaf to the many protests of the rank and file. The fact that the writer was finally rewarded with expulsion, that his Party Club was expelled, that all who protest are expelled sooner or later, proves that not only did our rotten leadership liquidate the Party (and never really re-establish it), but have ever since been “liquidating” those who oppose the destruction of the CPUSA.

The letters were written at three important points in the degeneration of the CP. The first, written to Foster while on furlough in N.Y.C. in February 1944 (three months before the Convention which liquidated the Party) appealed to him to fight Browder’s proposals – the infamous “Teheran” report at the Jan. 1944 plenary session of the National Committee. This was an appeal to a comrade one still had a right to respect. The exposure of the “Teheran” proposals as opportunism, revisionism and tailism was foreign to the leadership until the Duclos letter forced them to take notice. The second letter, written upon discharge from the army to the Secretariat, insisted that the reform which followed the Duclos letter (November 1945) sounded good but wasn’t real. This was the short period of a pretty good paper program forced by the impact of the Duclos letter and the temper of the returning vets. The third letter, written to and damning the National Committee, was written after the CPUSA leadership had demonstrated its complete bankruptcy, during the Railroad Strike –Truman Bill crisis, after the National Committee hatchet had prevented the many attempts of returning vets to re-establish the YCL. This was written in the light of the excellent activity of the P.R. Club which the N.C. tried to hamstring but couldn’t. This letter was followed by months of trials, softsoap, intimidation and finally the expulsion of the P.R. Club.


February, 1944

Dear Comrade Foster:

A short while ago, I read of the proposed, changes in the CP. have thought very carefully about them. Carefully, because the future of America hangs on those proposals. I have been on furlough, and I’ve spent a good deal of time reading, studying and talking to comrades. Before I leave, I should like to seriously question some of the proposal.

First, I want to write generally about a few trends in our Party; then I’d like to deal with them specifically.

Despite much talk of dynamic Marxism, I think there exist Revisionism, Opportunism, Tailism, and even a shoddy Pragmatism in some of the reports. We have a new habit of pledging to the bourgeoisie those things which we should pledge to ourselves and then attain through aggressive action. There is an odor of retreat. I know periods of retreat are necessary This, however, is not one. All that we’ve ever fought for and taught is now being proven in a strong clear light. “When we take the defensive and fear our own potentialities, we become impotent. We consistently missed all opportunities to effect the 2nd Front because we lacked an aggressive, critical, active policy. We’ve already blood on our hands for that. We’ve indulged in a dangerous type of post-war planning based on prenatal premises. The war still has many surprises for us. We’ve neglected the main necessity –speed, a quick victory. We have left all leadership to the bourgeoisie, and we indulge in spontaneity.

To be more specific, now, the most important problem was omitted from the proposals – the problem of winning the war rapidly and economically. To win the war rapidly means many things –it means saving people avoiding the mistakes of Darlanism and Bagdogliotis. It means cheating Hitler of his final love –dragging the world with him as he dies.

Browder says we must stabilize and help reconstruct Capitalism. That is one thing we do not have to press the bourgeoisie to do; they are quite concerned about it and eager to do it. We should be more on guard to defend our gains and our freedom. There are still Psychic victories; we can win this war and lose our democracy.

Talk of lasting peace should be based on the strength of the Soviet Union and on our own vigilance. It should be insured by a far-seeing vanguard party. If there are many varieties in the defense, in depth, against domestic Fascism, we are the guarantee and the last line. If we slip, nothing can stop Fascism in the U.S.

We have never placed “immediate Socialism” next on the agenda, end we were still a political party. Why then, should a current reaffirmation of that cause a modulation to an association? Lenin said it was impossible not to admit that “no progress is possible without marching towards Socialism.” And if people were ever “ill-prepared“ for Socialism, they are less so now. This is the most pregnant time of our lives in the midst of all this death; and if out of this we cannot grasp the“ gains that have evolved, then it is a peculiar type of tragedy.

Must we make Capitalism work? I think it’s a little more accurately a struggle to make our lives a little more tolerable by continually forcing gains from the Bourgeoisie. Browder said we cannot choose both Teheran and Socialism. Of course not. But we can move towards Socialism constantly by always working correctly to preserve the policy of Teheran. The two are interrelated.

Comrade Foster, must we beware of curbing monopoly capitalism because that constitutes a transition to Socialism? Since when do we call trust busting Utopian? Monopoly controls our lives today. Must we avoid curbing and trying to control that for fear of a step towards Socialism? Doesn’t this smack of the deals that grow from Opportunism? And do we look to the bourgeoisie for suggestions–for leadership? Is that an independent role? I think we are flopping into tailism with a muddy splash. Do we even oppose government intervention in the control of the indecencies of big business?

Somehow, this change lacks the preparation and democratic character of other times. We no longer refer our Comrades to excellent sources – “What Is to Be Done”, “History of the CPSU”, “A Catastrophe Is Threatening Us“, and the “Iskra“ period. Instead, we say, beware of orthodox doctrinaire, dogmatic Marxism. I believe in Marxism; but Marxism not Revisionism.

The change from Party has been inadequately explained, and I think it is wrong. This is one time when the CP has to be a Party. 0ther parties have advanced to organic unity and changed names, but we have merely retrogressed to a more immature form.

I completely disagree about the lack of a third Party tradition in the U.S. Our whole history is one of powerful third Parties.

I can’t think that “blood is paid in advance.” Jefferson’s tree is never watered in advance. And if the gardener be asleep, despite the stream of blood the tree of liberty dies. And to speak of the three ruling classes of England, the U.S. and the Soviet Union!

I think there are many faults with the present discussion. The most salient fact is that the highest body of the Party and the D.W. allow Minor’s tirades to continue. His column makes a game of Marxism; it discourages frank discussion, it labels many honest Comrades with useless names which will bury this democratic discussion. He doesn’t answer questions.

Always, I remember, how well changes were prepared, and how we paved the path of our transition with the wealth of our science.

Also, Comrade Foster I can remember when the D.W. was a good paper.

I think the correct program is clear.

(l) Win the war – quickly, with our Party exerting an aggressive role-and a critical vanguard role, forcing the-best policies.

(2) Reelect Roosevelt.
(3) Work for a lasting peace– but base our work on a realization of the strength of the S.U. and always retaining our independent role.

One last thought which is my first thought. If these proposals go through without serious changes, I am afraid that we will have left the U.S. open to Fascism. But I have listened to encouraging discussion among the Party membership, and I feel that if only the true sentiments of the membership could get to the leadership, a lot could be remedied soon.

As for the only expression of the leadership’s contact with the membership– Minor’s column in the D.W. –that is dangerous. I would throw his pseudo-philosophical, snotty remarks back at him except that I remember that to Minor, Marxism is a game, but not to me. To me right now, it’s a science of survival.

* * *


December, 1945

Dear Comrades of the Secretariat:

Once before, on furlough towards the end of Feb. ’44, I wrote Comrade Foster a worried letter. Fortunately, Browderism is on the way out now, but I’m still worried. Then I warned against the impending disease of Browderism, and indicated that the rank and file of our top-heavy Party were instinctively opposed to Browder. I was disgusted with our leadership –justifiably. There are still great faults with our leadership. If we’re gradually returning to life there is still the quality of the mummy-about us. Regarding that quality and the pickling involved I’d like to make three points – and bluntly.

But first, I’d like to say simply but pointedly that I have no disagreements with our excellent Party policy. I hope you can read this as an honest attempt at constructive criticism.

A reading of the 4-page S.W. supplement on the N.C. meeting clearly shows that all our problems revolve about (a) the Chinese Civil War, (b) labor’s struggle for wage increases, and (c) the recruiting of 20,000 new members.

I think – and this is my first point – that a fourth must be added, re-education in Marxism. Without this we’re crippled and always will be. Since my discharge, a couple of months ago, I’ve heard only lip-service to Marxist education. Sometimes not even that. It’s certainly missing from the supplement. We are still an ideologically-anemic Party, and without a little more real Marxist blood per member, we’ll never really do justice to the terrific problems facing us. I can’t honestly point this criticism at the majority of our membership, for the ordinary member often shows a brilliant awareness that is soon smothered by the implied threat of a label, moistened and ready for pasting. Rather I’m thinking of the leadership of our party which can be intelligent in one sense and dully isolated from the membership in another sense. I’m sure they all have Marxist bloodbanks –volumes of them in their homes-and offices –and yet they’re anemic. And their anemia infects us. This anemia makes for the passivity you talk about.

It was methodical sabotage of our inner education that could push our Party into such quicksands. 0nly dogged resurrection of that education can pull us out. (We’re not quite out yet.) On most occasions there’s one glib reference to our return to Marxism-Leninism and Socialism, and the speaker or writer thinks he has acquitted himself of all duties on that score. Let’s really get to concrete measures and checkups.

2nd point. Why are we playing games with Browder. By what tortuous channel did someone arrive at the conclusion that he isn’t liable to the same duties and responsibilities of all members. I say (after reading the supplement) kick him out. How can you warn against Browderism and countenance its creator on the sulky sidelines. Also, you should be criticized for actually teasing the membership with tidbits about the Darcy and Donchin cases. I would certainly like to know the facts.

(From the N.C.’s answer to this letter:

“The Comrade takes exception to the inadequate information on Darcy and Don, and raises why Browder has not been kicked out. Since then we have run the statements on Darcy and Don, as well as the section of Gene’s report politically characterizing Browder’s position since our Convention, which we feel should satisfy him.“ my underlining.)

Third point. Despite the return to Marxism and some, good criticism I think there is still one point in suspension. It involves the principle of fighting for the integrity of the Party or giving in to the first bureaucrat who hisses “factionalist” at you. Foster should have fought Browder and by not sufficiently criticizing himself on that point he’s given logical birth to a false attitude. What should be our attitude m any future case? A faulty understanding of democratic centralism and factionalism can always paralyze us as Foster was, when we should be actively opposing any vulgarization of Marxism. Only vigilance guarantees a good wholesome Party. What happens when our vigilance detects a powerful but dangerous force? Maybe this again ties in with the basic understanding of our Party democracy as in the cases of Browder, Darcy and Don. Our leaders have to learn to face all problems with the principled understanding of the basic loyalties of our membership to ideas and not to mere individuals.

For a long time I’ve watched the finest people in our Party indulge unconsciously in a vulgar variety of “Marxist” game. The rules of the game are: trite, pompous speeches; sloppy distribution of personal labels; the tricks of speaking against bureaucracy while subtly promoting it; and loud advertisements of inner Party democracy while members are subtly inhibited. If our membership really gets the right to criticise, they’ll criticise these games out of existence. These evils, too, help to explain the current passivity.

I’m sure that what I’ve written in this letter is scattered through many good but inhibited heads in the Party.



June, 1946

Dear Comrades:

This letter attempts to indicate the guilt of the National Committee for the main sores of the CPUSA. It does so with the realization of impending criticism from our brother parties.[1] The bones of the CP rattle most gruesomely in the area of (1) the Truman Bill Episode, (2) our youth policy and (3) the problem of reconvening the Communist International. In each case, our membership is alert – our leadership deaf and inert. (So differentiate between a “promised“ and an actual democracy, it will be a necessary evil to quote often in the first part of this letter.)

As an overture to a discussion of these points, let’s inhale a little of the foul air our leadership thinks in by reviewing the pauper’s funeral our N.C. has given Comrade Duclos and the principle of self-criticism. When Duclos’ torpedo sank Browder’s “Ye Newe Marxism”, our leadership, swimming for the sturdier ship “Marxism“ and eyeing the control tower immodestly, could be heard gurglings “We were about to set the fuse ourselves.” There is no truth in this claim. In an honest, self-critical speech that more N.C. members should have emulated, Gil Green said:

“Nor can I honestly say that the recent events in Europe and at San Francisco had already prepared me for the Duclos bombshell…

“Therefore on my part, I must give full credit to Comrade Duclos who, by tossing his ideological bombshell, knocked the political ground from under me and from under the whole leadership. The question can be asked: Why didn’t Comrade Foster’s repeated arguments against the Teheran policy have the same affect? Well, it’s quite true that I had blindly closed my eyes to his warnings, although I must say – and this is not meant to detract from the fact that Comrade Foster alone in the leadership conducted a struggle against opportunism – that even Comrade Foster did not grasp the full magnitude of our opportunist and revisionist errors.

“...And even though Comrade Foster, peering through the windshield, kept repeating that the terrain was different and the road strange, he didn’t impress us much with his anxiety...

“But when Comrade Duclos hurtled himself in front of our path, we just had to pull the emergency brake, stop, and listen. And when he said, ’You’re supposed to be going West, aren’t you – how come the sun is setting on your backs?’ – we knew that he had us dead to right and that we had blundered badly.“ (CPA Discussion Bulletin #2, July 3, 1945)

On the other hand the one begrudging mention of Duclos in the N.C.’s statement of June 20, 1945 reads:

“Likewise we can appreciate the basic correctness of the sound fraternal, Marxist opinions expressed in the recent article of Jacques Duclos, one of the foremost leaders of the C.P. of France.”

Do the words “basic correctness” imply that Duclos was wrong on less “basic“ points? Certainly, the real contribution of Duclos was brazenly ignored. Was Duclos’ mistake the statement that nothing justifies the dissolution? To date, Foster, who at least did not vote for it, has not satisfactorily answered Duclos on this point.

“At the time of my sending my letter to the N.C. things had proceeded so far that I considered the reorganization of the Party into the CPA as virtually an accomplished fact.“ (Notes added by Foster to the reprint of this letter in the July ’45 issue of Political Affairs.)

Do Communist leaders get dispensations for not fighting “accomplished facts“ which betray the Party and the working class? Duclos does not understand that un-Communist excuse. Foster did not have the courage of his convictions. Many comrades were “awake“ and ready to help Foster preserve the Party. One expression of this is a letter I sent Foster while on furlough. Aside from the many people involved directly in this letter I could mention numerous “important“ Party members who expressed their support for Foster.“ But Foster never gave them the chance to fight. Some fought anyway. A most vivid and honest cry of horror came from a soldier in the Italian campaign who sent the following simple and complete V-mail: “Fools or traitors.”

That turned out to be –not temper –but a worthy Marxist forecast.

Some Comrades cried all night, decided to quit, but didn’t. Some slipped away quietly. Perhaps the hypocrisy of the N.C. enraged some like Darcy to break discipline. But in the record it will read that Darcy’s mistake was not one millionth as dangerous to the whole world as the mistake of the whole N.C. The N.C. has too carefully tried to cover its folly. In “The Present Situation and the Next Tasks“, our N.C. said:

“While the change from CP to CPA did not result in a decline in membership (the 1945 enrollment figures of the CPA showed a more than 25% increase as compared with the 1944 enrollment figures of the CP) it is nonetheless true that the growth of the Communist movement among the industrial workers was undoubtedly retarded.”

This juggling does not hold against Duclos’ statement that:

“At the time of dissolution, the CPUSA, according to Browder’s declaration had 80,000 members without counting the 10,000 Party members in the Army. According to the Congress decisions, all members of the CP are members of the CPA and must register before July 4, 1944. As the Daily Worker announced, up to July 16, 1944 hardly 45,000 persons had gotten themselves registered.”

Aside from all this, many of us have met the fake recruiting casualties. Wouldn’t it be more honest for the N.C. to grant Duclos his point?

Let’s recall some of the wonderful criticism on the occasion of the last D-J-Day (Duclos Judgment Day). Little of it has gone into effect. In reading this letter, the N.C. should put it into effect. It might prevent that witch-hunting in the CP which is about to become obsolete. It is the name-calling technique by which a Browder could bulldoze the whole N.C. (More about this in the letter to the Secretariat at the end of this letter.) The following excerpts are from PA July 1945. Morris Childs:

“Our self-criticism must not be perfunctory – it must be deep and concrete. It must not be a temporary self-chastisement that soon wears, off and is forgotten – it must be practiced constantly… There is a need for a thorough scraping off of the bureaucratic crust. Collective leadership and connection with the membership will go a long way toward correcting this evil.”

Roy Hudson:

“However, when I raise serious objections, and they are ignored or when there is no effort or when there is an inadequate effort to explain and convince, or when my motives are challenged – then I will continue to protest, although perhaps in the future, I will find a better way of doing it than abstaining from voting.”

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn:

“I cannot understand why I am never afraid to go out and talk to a group of miners or steel workers or workers anywhere in the country and why I was afraid of our own National Board and the N.C. There’s some kind of atmosphere we created. It is bad and let’s get rid of it, and let’s say the sky is the limit to speak our minds when we hear an honest question or difference of opinion.”

Samuel Donchin:

“The sources of our errors are not only of an objective nature, but also of a subjective character. Among the basic subjective factors one must enumerate: (a) lack of collective thinking, (b) bureaucratic practices...The individuals of the National Board and the individuals of the N.C. have also been guilty of contributing to a stifling atmosphere and to bureaucratic practices.”

V. J. Jerome:

“Because our membership was deprived of the Party-democratic basis for exercising its responsibility, the responsibility in this situation falls all the more heavily on the leadership...

“For in the symbol of our unification we tended to pool, not only our confidence, but increasingly also our independence of judgment and evaluation, our basic democratic duties, and rights as Communists to test and retest, collectively and each for himself, the policies and decisions we discipline ourselves to carry through...

“...the undemocratic atmosphere which pervaded our entire organization from the branches to the highest committees, conduced to holding back and even repressing individual initiative in thought and action.”

These words are forgotten. The evil attacked continue. The cover-up finally attempts to bury Duclos with:

“there began to be a questioning of basic propositions in his (Browder’s) outlook and wider degree of opposition to certain of his policies. It was in this situation that our Party received a theoretical shot in the arm in the form of the Duclos article, which gave to the party the benefit of our French Comrades’ thinking on certain questions of Marxist policy in the U.S. having world significance. This invaluable assistance from our French Comrades helped to bring into action and basically re-orient the main forces of our Party.” (’The Path of a Renegade’ by Robert Thompson.)

This is a dishonesty. This is a clear indication of how little our leaders have learned from others or from their own dishonest, pretty speeches. Our leadership has continued the old tricks. The membership is called “passive”, mistakes are passed off as “vestiges of Browderism”, other mistakes ’quietly’ corrected with more confusion resulting, and-mistakes simply justified. This time, when several Ducloses “tell us the score” more harshly, our bureaucracy will “take-off” from their desks with an induced ideological jet-propulsion. What our brother parties will tell the N.C. is what the N.C. has already been told by members of the U.S. Party. Is it that our N.C. prefers a distant flavor? – or simply that even now N.C. members have not the guts to THINK.

* * *

It was surely Browder’s ghost at the helm when our N.C. decided it would be incorrect to call the Truman Bill fascist. Leading progressives called the Bill Fascist, and the D.W. quoted them. But the D.W. editorials carefully left that word out. It can be no mere accident that from Sun. May 26 to today Sun. June 2, the word Fascist has not been applied to the Truman Bill. On May 26th, an editorial read:

“The historic parallel with the course which aggressive reaction took in Europe is striking. It is exactly with such heavy blows that the reaction which culminates in fascism began its march.”

Even this indirect allusion disappeared from subsequent issues. Our caution in this case is ill-advised because fascism must be called fascism by the CP. And I’m sure that the D.W. agreed with the people it quoted that this was fascism. Why are we so impotent? “Vestiges of Browderism?” Even liberal, calm P.M. was disturbed into anger –into mention of fascism and a third party.

Our editorials should have done three things: (1) called the Truman Bill fascist, (2) advised a general strike (remember Rochester) (3) called for immediate planning of third party conferences. But, more than mere editorializing, we could implement a third party thru our Comrades in unions and mass organizations. However, we are too busy with a favorite word these days – “premature”. One would hardly think that our present N.C. thinks man can change anything. This I cannot do because it is an “accomplished fact”; this I cannot do because it is “premature”. Lenin would call us Messrs. Apology & Co. How do we get to a third party period if not by starting down to earth work towards it now. If we start in earnest now – even at this late date– we can have a full-fledged third party by the time of the National elections. So far in U.S. history, our Party’s major contribution to the third party– so to speak –is the word “premature.” In the worst way, we believe in spontaneity today. In the worst way, our N.C. must finally start reading a little Lenin on Party problems. If Fascism were ever to come here, I’m sure all the N.C. members would be willing to die valiantly, fighting it.[2] But to fight to prevent that possibility with a little Leninist “audacity” is beyond them.

Under the heading of “premature”, let’s include two other buried facts. The first is the second front bungle. Ingersoll says Churchill did it. The D.W. heartily agrees. We don’t even add that Ingersoll covers up for this country’s guilt. ’Worst-of-all, we don’t realize the C.P.’s guilt. While all logic demanded a second front, and while the S.U. begged for it, the C.P. stalled and stalled and finally spoke so politely. That was a bit of betrayal involving not “abstract policy” but blood. We agreed with our corny generals that it was premature, and that it was their business. For every day that we stalled, Russia had to fight the war alone. We were so busy proving that we were political virgins, untouched by any foreign bit of Communist good sense. Internationally, we’ve earned the reputation not of being virgin – having just left the illicit bed of Wall Street – but simply of being both promiscuous and impotent. In wars between classes, this combination is quite common and logical.

Perhaps someone might say that a letter of this tone destroys our reputation. I hope so. That’s on the agenda now– to destroy the disreputable reputation that we have in the whole world, and substitute a new one.

Second, is the little matter of Browder’s imprisonment and the conduct of Minor and the whole leadership. When some of us wondered why the Party was not carrying on a militant fight to get Browder out, we were told it was premature. Also, “things were about to pop, and Browder would be out in two weeks.” At the end of these two weeks we were told that Browder would be out in the next two weeks. All this sounded very strange– as if we were depending on the good nature of the Capitalists. It turned out that we were. Minor let the deal slip one night at a meeting when he said that Browder had asked him to dispel any rumors of a “fixed“ release, and that of course the party had to fight for his release. After that we fought a little to make it look good. Finally, the show of a real fight was put on (petitions and “the works”)– an anticlimax after Minor’s and Browder’s “previous” arrangements. What was the exact deal? What promises did Browder give to the representatives of the U.S. govt.? How carefully did Minor put them into operation in the party. usurping all power as he went, and preparing the stage for Browder. Has Minor answered the N.C. about this, or hasn’t even that much been done? There are many slightly over-ripe facts in this orchard that might define still another traitor carrying out Browder’s good work. And there’s no ceiling price on hypocrisy and careerism. In leaving this distasteful point, let’s include for the record:

“In fact, I felt, and I’m going to speak plainly, that he (Minor) used ’Comrade Browder’s approval’ as a constant bludgeon against the rest of us in every difference of opinion, not only in the early phase of the discussion when he resisted the criticism of the board, but at all times. In the experiences I had during my secretaryship of the Committee in Defense of Earl Browder, this was true. Up to Xmas time we were hamstrung and prevented from carrying on a mass campaign (and Foster will remember that I sent for him about this when I was sick and just out of the hospital.) Comrade Minor always spoke in the most official and authoritative and final manner as to what Comrade Browder wanted in relation to the situation and against mass activity and publicity.” (E. G. Flynn in P.A. July 1945)

* * *

The greatest confusion exists on the Youth problem. A “Memorandum on Youth Work and Policy”, adopted by the National Board Nov. 29, 1945 repeats several times that the AYD is an organization of “advanced anti-fascist youth.” I think that’s the correct attitude but the same memorandum contradicts it. It lays the basis for what is going on today – a sloppy transformation of AYD clubs into ersatz YCL’s. Marxist study groups within the AYD are encouraged. Even the sale-of the D.W. in AYD meetings is suggested. The N.C. is figuring it out the “easy way”. We can’t correct the error of the YCL liquidation by taking over a quick substitute. And we don’t fight redbaiting by adding hooks to Woltman’s redbait. Max Weiss in his report to the N.C, said that our CP. Youth Clubs “were formed to fulfill certain specific needs: First, the inability of the AYD at the present time to satisfy the party membership working in the AYD for Marxist education, an inability which was a heritage in the AYD of the ravages of revisionism in the Party.” In a D.W. article entitled “Building the Party Among the Youth”, Bernie Friedlander said, “In spite of Frederick Woltman’s ravings in the World Telegram that the AYD is a Communist front and controlled organization, the truth is that only several hundred out of several thousand AYDers in NY. are Communists,” and then added, “As yet, Woltman is a liar...” As yet? Is that a new form of irresponsible humor?

Many Communists in the AYD are very miserable. Whenever a Communist’s position is untenable, he is miserable. The only thing he can do is find the fault. In this case the fault is wrong policy. With wrong policy all we can do is give people a “Browder snow job.” One form of the “snow job” is “Minoring’“ a question out of existence (the intimidation technique made famous by one Robert Minor in CPA days.) At the Party state youth conference, a little while back, Comrades who were too afraid to speak because of the atmosphere, told me what they thought. Many wanted a return of the YCL as the only instrument which would build the AYD. A few actually broke the censorship and said so. As I entered the stage to speak for a YCL, I was asked what I would speak on. When I answered YCL, I was told not to. I repeated YCL and again was told not to. This was a meeting where free discussion of YCL was encouraged. A discussion of our wrong attitude on the AVC never broke through. In fact, the vet problem was omitted to avoid the problem of the AVC. Although Comrades did not pose the YCL versus the AYD, the myth that we did was instituted to give our leadership an easier problem to tackle. Certainly Gates, Friedlander, and Wofsy had a criminal attitude, showing their approvals and disapprovals of each word uttered. It looked like a “sky caucus” with the rest of us acting out the gag called “Thorez, honestly, Party mannequins make the leadership job easier.” The other night, Thorez visited a local member (in a vision; and asked him what the local, mannequin enrollment was, compared with the thinking ’membership. The Comrade answered: “Comrade Thorez, the comparison goes this way: mostly we have puppets and mannequins (in our leadership’s mind). The puppets move when the strings are pulled; the mannequins don’t even move then. There is a third classification in our leadership’s mind: disrupters. Disrupters are simply comrades who are neither puppets nor mannequins.“ The punch line is that Thorez ran out to a phone booth and called Duclos. The 64 dollar question is what did he tell Duclos? Oh, yes that reminds me of another vision when Duclos appeared before the N.C. But the N.C. doesn’t believe in visions –only in D-J-Days.

The trick of referring to the French unity movement was given as proof that we don’t need a YCL. The important fact that that movement was built on a strong YCL was omitted.

The proper method would be to broaden the AYD by ceasing our mechanical Marxistification, and to reconstitute the YCL oh the basis of the C.P. Youth Club, which is neither fish nor fowl. The Youth Club is a blind alley affair. Admittedly, it is temporary. It was started as a stopgap for the YCL urge among the returning vets and others. When the time comes to “kill it” our leadership thinks that the membership will filter into other Party clubs, but the tragedy is that too much of it will be lost in the unplanned shuffle.

Once, after years of groping, we found the Leninist solution to the YCL problem– an independent organization with the emphasis on education. Our YCLs improved after that, only to suffer too much experimentation and finally Browderism. YCL leaders were always looking for quick, easy methods. They thought that a mere trick of efficiency – or a new magazine cover could cover a million faults.

Recently, such queer advice comes to us out of our confused policy. When our Youth Club put out a good leaflet on the fake milk shortage, our County Youth Director asked, “But is milk a youth problem?” Perhaps to implement its policies, the N.C. should issue a directive entitled “Which Road for America –Youth Milk or Adult Milk?” A short time ago we were asked to drop a Worker route we had started. Why? The question is so fantastic that it becomes artistry: “How do we know whether we will meet youth or old people when we canvass? After all, we’re a Youth Club.” I had to regain sanity by hurrying to the County and getting the “right” to continue that route. By now we get contacts, subs, money and understanding out of that route. The mechanical ideas mentioned are not “wild flowers”, they’re definitely cultivated in unreal hothouses. We have been asked repeatedly not to meet every week. But we find it hard to do even a minimum even meeting every week and holding enlarged execs. And while we have awful faults, we have a few good attitudes. People ask to sit in at our execs. Too much in the Party holds people down. At, our last meeting, a Negro comrade was asked to canvass Sunday. He said he couldn’t after 10 A.M. He was asked whether he could take about twenty papers for his house somehow. He said, sure; then added, “You see, all the people know I’m a Communist. I and my friend plan to recruit the whole house to the C.P.” Is this Comrade “premature” or are we a little stale? The sad part is: if the Party momentum around him can accelerate, he ’CAN recruit the whole house; if the momentum of this Comrade doesn’t affect us and quickly, chances are he can’t carry out his fresh plan. It really shouldn’t be that he can think better because he’s been in only a couple of months.

In general, while the Party is not in fact generating initiative, and original methods, it is certainly encouraging the begetting of myriad schemes which have nothing to do with the science of the Party. It would be valuable to reexamine a wonderful example of the correct method fur finding the correct technique of work in keeping with our basic science, I mean the integration of theory and organizational problems shown in the way the Party conducted the “Browder Brigades” before the war. Then we studied “What Is To Be Done?” to help sell the Worker.

Our mechanical thinking has carried over into the vet problem. Our policy was correct in concentrating on the major vet organizations, but in practice the mistake was made of ignoring the importance of AVC. Of non-party youth, the most aggressive progressives have joined the AVC. The AVC was basically an attempt by McGinty to run the “reform candidate”. Luce, the Herald Tribune, and the Social Democrats all got together to control and capitalize on the progressive vets of World War Two. The AVC is supposed to be part of the Republican revival. This was all the more reason for our serious consideration of AVC. Again, free discussion and an ear close to the membership would have avoided a mistake. That the attitude towards AVC was wrong has been admitted, but “quietly”, behind closed doors. It is good for the membership to know when it has been right even if the leadership was wrong. Comrade Goff told me one day, after the first AVC convention, that we were correcting our wrong attitude towards AVC work; a few nights later, in the Bronx, at a vets meeting he slurred over this point. As usual, with the AVC, we pursued the policy of watch and wait. We still do.

* * *

On the question of the C.I., one can’t even say we’re watching. If the U.S.A. is the bulwark of reaction in the world today, certainly, the CPUSA is the weakest link in the lineup of world CP’s. Although the C.I. was disbanded for logical, practical considerations, we made an uncalled for fetish of isolation. The existence of the C.I. never meant that we were not independent; its disbanding did not mean that it would never reconvene or that we had no rights to contacts with brother parties. Today, there’s an urgent need for reconvening the C.I, because in the new frantic lineup of the world only a unified international leadership of the working class can prevent an international gangup on the S.U. – and thereby the whole world. During the war there were certain broader alignments; today the old story continues. Other C.P.s have hinted and hollered at us. We are angelic babes who sleep soundly. The Greek party has called. The Prague meeting was a preview. We are a main obstacle in the way. What prevents us from first meeting with the Cuban and Mexican parties; then with all North and South American parties; then with the European parties which are ready now. It might be that the C.I. can’t be reconvened at this time because there is the possibility that the leaders of the CPUSA would boycott it to avoid domestic pressure. But the CPUSA should never trade correct policy for the right to print rather inconsequential speeches in the Daily Worker.

This time let’s not ignore hints. It isn’t generally known that “War and the Working Class” hinted to us about our forgetfulness of the class struggle long before Browder finished the job. Worse –does our membership know that Comrade Landy began to censor which parts of the D.W. could be transmitted to the S.U. We used double-bookkeeping on the Soviet Union. (The CP.S.U. knows this.)

* * *

There must be a secret to the continual immaturity of the CPUSA. It’s bureaucracy. After the Duclos event, Comrades went to the State Convention, determined to elect, new leaders. They were bamboozled out of it. They were warned of anti-leadership thinking in such a way as to make a farce of voting. Foster was terrified at the thought of so many old-berutted leaders losing their desks, and leaving him (who had the rare right to stay) in strange new company.

We need new leaders – people who learn from history and from the membership. We need clearer thinking and talking. We need a program that attacks Fascism at every step – and calls a spade a spade.

We need A STATE CONVENTION – if necessary via ARTICLE 6, Sec. 2 of our constitution. There are many vets who never had a chance to vote or help overhaul the top of the Party. We even need a few little decencies like “Foundations of Leninism” at 10 cents instead of 30 cents. If leadership is so rare and expensive, than we’d better keep literature inexpensive, no matter what else we have to retrench on. We need collective leadership– the kind that allows us to vote before and not after the “accomplished fact.”

* * *

There is obviously one more point. What kind of attitude wrote this letter? Am I a factionalist, anti-leadership crank, big-talker-never-doer, leftist, Trotskyite, cynic, deviationist of all sorts? I am none of these. I work as hard as I can in the Party. I appreciate the leadership that CP’s in almost all places have as much as I am disgusted by our present leadership. I have as much faith in the rank and file as I have little in the N.C. now in office. I believe that in certain periods it’s of the utmost importance to follow Stalin’s idea of the organization of Mass criticism from below. I believe there must always be the personal test of Party policy. Therefore, I’ve spoken of what actually hinders me in my day to day work.

* * *

Lastly, this letter is more than a gripe. It’s a letter of intention. My intention is to expose the gangrene to light– and correct it. I know enough people in the C.P. who have the guts to correct it now. It’s written now before the impending criticism, in hope that at least a few of the members of the N.C. will decide VOLUNTARILY to bring back to life the Duclos criticism.


[1] This criticism could not come and won’t come until we in the U.S. achieve the national nucleus of a real Communist movement.

[2] By now, the N.C. has proven that nothing good can be said of them – not even this.