Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1939

Early American Marxism

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“To All Active Supporters of Democracy and Peace.” [Aug. 14, 1939] An open letter signed by “400 leading Americans” published on the eve of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact stating that “The Fascists and their allies are well aware that democracy will win if its supporters are united” and that efforts were being made to sow suspicion “between to Soviet Union and other nations interested in maintaining peace.” Domestic “reactionaries” were similarly attempting to “split the democratic front” by “turning anti-fascist feeling against the Soviet Union” by encouraging “the fantastic falsehood that the USSR and the totalitarian states are basically alike,” according to the document. A list of achievements of the USSR aimed “to make it clear that Soviet and Fascist policies are diametrically opposed” was provided.



“The Meaning of the Non-Aggression Pact.” [Sept. 1939] On August 23, 1939, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany suddenly signed a 10 year treaty of mutual non-aggression, promising to refrain from violence against one another and to refuse to aid any third party engaged in an attack of the other. A secret provision of the treaty provided for the territorial division of Poland by Germany and the USSR. This unsigned editorial in the September 1939 issue of Soviet Russia Today was a first attempt by the American Communist Party to acclimate the readers of this mass, “non-party” publication to the new political situation. Stalin is quoted extensively in making the argument that the pact was necessary by the unwillingness of the “dominant powers” of Britain and France to “go beyond words and declarations” and uniting with the USSR to stop Nazi aggression. Included is the text of the public portion of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact.



“Exchange of Cables between J.B. Matthews, Chief Investigator of the House Special Committee on Unamerican Activities in Washington, DC and Leon Trotsky in Mexico City, October 12, 1939.” On October 12, 1939, the chief investigator of the Dies Committee in Washington, DC extended an invitation to Leon Trotsky to give testimony before HUAC in Austin, Texas, “a city designed with a view to your personal convenience.” Trotsky's visa and security were to be handled by the committee. Matthews stated that “The committee desires to have a complete record on the history of Stalinism and invites you to answer questions which can be submitted to you in advance if you so desire. Your name has been mentioned frequently by such witnesses as Browder and Foster. This committee will accord you opportunity to answer their charges.” Trotsky accepted the invitation that same day “as a political duty” in a collect cable to Matthews. He sought similar travel permission for his wife, said to be intimately familiar with his papers; a list of questions so that he might collect documents for his reply; and “exact quotations from depositions of Foster and Browder concerning me personally.”



“Defend the Civil Rights of Communists,”by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn [Dec. 1939] CPUSA leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn makes an appeal for the defense of the Communist Party against a new offensive by the government during the first days of the second great European war. “Hungry for huge war profits, the barons of Wall Street are speeding to involve the American people in the imperialist war raging in Europe. The blackout of civil liberties is part of Wall Street’s war drive. Capitalist reaction is intent upon depriving the Communists of their civil rights as the preparation for an attack on the economic standards and civil rights of the trade unions, of the working class, of all who oppose American involvement in the imperialist war. Immediate and powerful defense of the civil rights of the Communists is, therefore, of the utmost urgency for the entire labor movement and all who stand for progress and peace.”Blithely ignoring the recently-abandoned anti-fascist line of the Popular Front period, Flynn declares: “It is neither new, strange, nor accidental that the Communist Party, the only party of socialism in the United States, should be the object of the most vicious attacks by the reactionary bourgeoisie and its apologists. Born in the anti-war struggles of the American people against the first imperialist World War, the Communist Party today is the main organizer of mass resistance against America’s involvement in the second imperialist war.”Flynn calls upon “all members of the Communist Party, all workers, friends, sympathizers and others who believe in democratic rights and civil liberties” to contribute $100 to a “People’s Bail Fund”to win the freedom of victims of state persecution.


“Lenin and Stalin as Mass Leaders,” by William Z. Foster [Dec. 1939] This literary genuflection by The Great Foster was part of a special 60th Birthday issue in honor of The Great Stalin in the theoretical monthly of the CPUSA. Foster waxes lengthily and passionately on the “unmatched ability” of the “masters of Marxian theory, Lenin and Stalin.” Lenin was “bold, resourceful and flexible in his political strategy,” writes Foster, while Stalin, “’the best pupil of Lenin,’ also displays a high genius of political strategy.” Foster notes that “a strategic move of great importance was Stalin’s bold purge of spies and wreckers from Soviet life, which gave fascism its biggest defeat, upsetting Chamberlain’s and Hitler’s plan of a united attack on the Soviet Union.” Foster also hails “Leninism-Stalinism" (observe rare use of this term) as “the theoretical basis of the international policy of the people’s front.” Foster hails the “veritable miracles of mass activation and struggle" achieved by the superhuman duo. “Wiseacres” ridiculed especially the plan to collectivize Soviet agriculture, Foster notes, “but the Communist Party, headed by Stalin, was undeterred by this pessimism, by the sabotage of Trotskyites and other wreckers" and it “proceeded to a tremendous mobilization and activization of the whole Soviet people.” Foster declares that the CPUSA could successfully teach the masses that “this is an imperialist war, in mobilizing them to struggle for peace and to keep America out of the war,” to organize them to defend their civil rights and enlighten them in the principles of socialism “only if it learns and practices the profound lessons that Lenin and Stalin have to teach us in Marxian theory, political strategy, mass organization, and mass activization."


“Extract of the Testimony of Jay Lovestone, Secretary of the Independent Labor League of America, Before the House Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities, December 2, 1939.” Extended extract of former Secretary of the Communist Party Jay Lovestone’s testimony before the “Dies Committee” of the US House of Representatives. While Lovestone’s appearance was not voluntary, once he appeared he testified expansively as a friendly witness of the committee. Lovestone’s testimony took nearly four hours and over 90 pages of the printed transcript (including appended documents), here distilled to 32 edited pages of committee interrogation and response. Lovestone’s main analytical idea is that (1) the function of Communist International evolved from a bona fide revolutionary organization intent on establishing an international socialist society in a crumbling world to a “puppet organization” with policies which were merely the mechanical reflection of Russian foreign policy; and (2) there took place a parallel evolution of the nature of Comintern decision-making process, from democratic participation of equals to a top-down rule by administrative fiat. In the beginning, Lovestone testifies, the Russian members of ECCI led “through prestige, through achievement, through the fact that they had conquered one-sixth of the world for socialism,” He declares that the Russians “were living a dream we had, and naturally we looked up to them. Besides, they treated us as equals, with equal respect...” Gradually a culture of “kowtowing to the potentates” emerged and worked itself into a formal system which Lovestone likens to “the story of Caligula” and the “Roman consul system.” Lovestone asserts that this shift began to take place not with the rise of Stalin to supreme authority, but before—with Lenin’s departure from politics and the rise of Zinoviev. With regard to his own time at the helm of the Communist Party, Lovestone reveals that average Comintern funding of the American movement in 1926-1928 averaged “no more than about $20 to 25,000 a year” with periodic additional funding for special projects and an independent channel of funding to the Profintern. He alleges that Profintern funding was used by the Foster faction to fund its factional war against the Lovestone faction. He also asserts that his late predecessor as Executive Secretary, C.E. Ruthenberg, was vigorously hostile at an earlier date than he to Moscow’s meddling in the American party’s political affairs. Lovestone asserts that the forced shift to the ultra-Left policies of dual unionism and the primacy of the fight against “social fascism” prompted the 1929 split. Lovestone advises the Congressmen that “you cannot fight Stalinism in this country, or elsewhere, by repression, by outlawing legislation,” which only strengthens the movement repressed by extending to them the mantle of martyrdom, but that rather that the battle must be fought by publicity on the nature of “Stalinism” and the action of the labor movement to cleanse itself. On the other hand, Lovestone acknowledges the right of nations to defend themselves against intervention in internal affairs via espionage or external control of unions by foreign governments.