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George Breitman

C.P. Cites Lenin Against
Earl Browder – and Itself

(19 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 3, 19 January 1948, p.–4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. And the Stalinists would be better off if they did not quote Lenin. Such quotations invariably boomerang against them. This is illustrated in their current polemics against Earl Browder.

Two years ago, after 23 years of loyal service to the Kremlin, Browder was ousted from the leadership of the American Communist Party as a Wall Street agent, to use the mildest term of his former fellow bureaucrats.

Browder’s expulsion was not due to any difference in principle with the Stalinists. It resulted from differences in achieving an end sought by all of them – how to continue, or to resume, the wartime honeymoon between U.S. imperialism and the Kremlin. Browder thought the best way to do this was by continuing the policy followed during the war – to give loyal support to U.S. imperialism.

The Stalinists decided, after some vacillation, that the way to do it was by exerting pressure on Washington through such moves as the formation of the Cominform, the strikes in France and Italy, the establishment of the so-called "free" Greek government, the organization of a third party in the U.S. Browder was too committed to the previous policy; so when Stalin changed the line, he was booted out.

Now, according to four articles in the Daily Worker (Dec. 30–Jan. 2) written by CP National Educational Director Jack Stachel, Browder is circulating among key members of the CP advance copies of a pamphlet to justify his policy.

Stachel says that, according to Browder, “because the U.S. joined in the war against the Axis on the side of the Soviet Union, this proves that American imperialism played a ‘progressive’ role. He then says that if American imperialism does not today play a ‘progressive’ role, this is so because Truman does not possess the ‘intelligence’ of Roosevelt.”

“Progressive in Past”

“According to Browder’s idealistic conception, imperialism can be either reactionary or progressive ... Browder quotes Lenin’s attack on Kautsky’s definition of imperialism as a policy, a policy preferred by finance capital, to justify his position. But actually, Browder accepts Kautsky’s definition. If imperialism can pursue either a ‘progressive’ or reactionary course determined by its ‘intelligence,’ then what is this if not a ’policy preferred by finance capital?’

“Lenin shows in opposition to Kautsky that imperialism is a stage in the development of capitalism and not just a policy of finance capital. But it is not just a neutral economic category into which can be poured in either a reactionary or ‘progressive’ policy as Browder believes. It is a stage of capitalism which also has its political counterpart.”

And to prove this, Stachel quotes from Lenin’s article, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism:

“The political superstructure over the new economics, over monopoly capitalism (imperialism is monopoly capitalism) – is a change from democracy to reaction. To free competition corresponds democracy. To monopoly corresponds political reaction.”

Lenin’s basic teachings thus blow to shreds Browder’s theory about a “progressive” imperialism and show it to be the most arrant revision and rejection of Marxism. But Lenin’s teachings are equally devastating for the official CP policy.

Both Then and Now

For if imperialism is a stage in the development of capitalism, and if imperialism invariably takes the political expression of reaction – then it follows that U.S. capitalism, which entered the stage of imperialism more than 30 years ago, played a necessarily reactionary role in World War II, no matter whom it was allied with.

That is what the Trotskyists said before, during and after the war. But the Stalinists – all the Stalinists, Foster and Stachel as well as Browder – vigorously denied this, urging the workers to even break strikes in the interests of supporting U.S. imperialism.

Stachel now seems to criticize Browder for repeating the line they all espoused during the war, but nowhere has the CP withdrawn its characterization of the “progressive” role of U.S. imperialism in that war. And to this day the Stalinists howl about the need to “return to the policies of FDR” – which, according to Leninism, could be nothing but reactionary.

Furthermore, if imperialism is not a policy preferred by the capitalists, but a stage in the development of the capitalist system, then those who administer the capitalist government in Washington necessarily follow an imperialist policy, no matter who they are. Expressed a little differently, it means that whoever administers the government – be it Roosevelt, Truman, Wallace or any other adherent of capitalism – follows an imperialist, that is, reactionary line so long as the government is a capitalist government.

Thus, Lenin’s teachings on the nature of imperialism expose not only the wartime line of the CP, but also its current, fake “leftist” line.

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