Art by Yousef Amairi

Art by Yousef Amairi
the struggle continues

March 14, 2015

Et tu, Brute? US Imperialist Wars, Building popular fronts in the belly of the Beast by Andrew Taylor 14 03 15

1. Lessons of the People's Front era and Cold War in the USA: Fred Carlisle's essay: 'William Z. Foster': Background Context

Earl Russell Browder (1891 – 1973) was an American political activist, functionary and leader of the Communist Party USA. He led the American party during the 1930s and first half of the 1940s. The latter 2/3rds of the period was the era of the broad "People's Front" against fascism  and FDR's New Deal. As the 1930s progressed and the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt admin became rooted in structures, the Browder-led CPUSA moved from a position of opposition to critical support. It was a period of great activity in the Party building unity with ties in Labor and with the Democratic Party at city, district and state levels.

Browder's chief ideological rival in the Communist Party leadership in this interval was William Z. Foster. Foster had maintained a militant ideological position against capitalism and for the independent political work of the Marxist-Leninist party in the struggle for socialism throughout his life in the party, albeit with more or less open candor..

After the Conference of the wartime Grand Alliance in Tehran at the close of 1943 the Communist Party USA at Browder's initiative with the Political Buro of the party changed The Communist Party USA into the "Communist Political Association" in keeping with the Browder over-estimation of the harmonization of the global powers interests and the recession of class-struggle as a consequence of the defeat of Fascism.

The question of whether or not the form and line of the Communist Political Association of the U.S.A.  represented a departure from Marxism, first arose as a result of the publication in the New York Worker of May 27, 1945, of the now famous article 'On the dissolution of the Communist Party of the United States' by Jacques Duclos, one of the main leaders of the Communist Party of France. It was claimed that in his Teheran thesis Browder had excised the class struggle,  eliminated the Leninist concept of imperialism and had bought into Class collaboration holus bolus. In the party shakeup that followed William Z. Foster now became Party  leader. Two years later, after being criticised by leaders in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the socialist camp, Browder was expelled from the reconstituted Communist Party of the United States.

2. The Anti-Revisionist Protest against Browderism (excerpt):

*"In unfolding his Teheran perspective, Browder said, “Capitalism and socialism have begun to find the way to peaceful coexistence and collaboration in the same world.”[4] Though the Teheran agreement of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin was essentially a military one, Browder exalted it into a plan for a postwar utopia in which contradictions would fade away between imperialist and socialist countries and between imperialist and colonial countries. “It is the most stupid mistake to suppose that any American interest, even that of American monopoly capitalism, is incompatible with the necessary people’s revolution in Europe,” he declared.[5] With a few quick strokes of his pen, Browder went on to liberate the colonial and semi-colonial countries as follows: (1) “America, with by far the strongest capitalist economy in the world, must have enormous postwar markets for its products,” (2) “Colonial or semi-colonial regimes provide narrow and restricted markets, while independent, self-governing nations provide expanding markets” and (3) the U.S. must have a policy “directed, therefore, toward abolishing the colonial system and its replacement by a system of free, self-governing, unified nations.” While allowing that some old-fashioned fuddy-duddy capitalists might balk at these changes, Browder was convinced that a sufficient number of big capitalists, especially here in the U.S., would welcome them, thus assuring peaceful transitions to socialism in Europe and colonial liberation in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Whereas Lenin described imperialism as parasitic, decadent and moribund, Browder, who shunned the word “imperialism,” said that American capitalism “retains some of the characteristics of a young capitalism,” that it would play a “progressive role” and be a force for peace for a long time."

[4] Foster, History of the CP of the US., p. 422.

[5] Browder, Teheran, International Pub., 1944, p. 44.

*excerpted from Fred Carlisle's essay: 'William Z. Foster' in Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 1 (1964)

3. Concluding Reflection

The Cuban and the Venezuelan were, together with the Colombian, the Cp's which most openly and fully accepted the ideas of  Browder, quoting him by name in party speeches and publications and, after his political 'retirement' via the above-named article by Duclos, were those which made their self-criticism by explaining their deviations as a consequence of Browder's influence over them. As Emile Schepers wrote in a 2010 article: "In the case of Cuba the [Communist Party's Name] was changed to People's Socialist Party; in that of Mexico there was an effort to dissolve the Communist Party, which was resisted. This was all based on the idea that the Democratic Party would move the United States, and thus the world, in the direction of socialism. But the both major US political parties moved sharply to the right after World War II, and the Latin American parties who had followed our lead... in these things had to reorganize themselves completely to deal with new imperialist assaults in the region."

To what extent the verdict of Fred Carlisle represents a fair representation of Browder's fully developed American Exceptionalism after Tehran is not going to be settled in this brief exercise. Undoubtedly the early and middle period Browder policy of the Popular Front prior to his revisionism after Tehran led the American Party into growth, fruitful and dynamic coalition building, penetration and expansion of Unionism, and helped guide the direction of progressive American policy under FDR.

But as John Gates pointed out in his book, The Story of an American Communist (1959): "Browder had developed several bold ideas which were stimulated by the unprecedented situation, and now he proceeded to put them into effect. At a national convention in 1944, the Communist Party of the United States dissolved and reformed itself into the Communist Political Association." Ring Lardner, another party member, explained: "The change seemed only to bring the nomenclature in line with reality. Our political activities, by then, were virtually identical to those of our liberal friends."

Browder's naively utopian post-Tehran political commitment to a cross-class global alignment did not match up with the  aggressive re-assertion  of  US war-mongering Reaction following WW 2 during the early days of The Cold War. The article by Duclos was an important factor in the replacement of Browder by chair Eugene Dennis and the re-establishment of the CPUSA. Browder had powerfully led during the war years when the US, Soviet Union and UK were united in combatting the common enemy of Fascism. But with the death of FDR and accession of Truman there arose a malignant interpretation of the expansion of socialism in areas of east and central Europe liberated by the Soviets. American foreign policy had a new (old) enemy in Communism and the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seemed to be the ominous signal to the Soviet troops winning in Manchuria that the USSR was next in America's sights.

Today is not 1945, nevertheless in 2015 we remain in the centre of an aggressive US foreign policy targetting The Russian Federation by NATO expansion, Trade sanctions, isolation, and press demonisation within an overall policy of Containment. Does anyone believe the US is threatened by Venezuela as announced this past week by the Obama administration? Meanwhile military and political leaders and pundits in the US are forecasting a generational war in The Middle East against ISIS. Will the future hold an escalated proxy war or worse in confrontation with Russia in Ukraine?

Whatever Obama's next move is toward Venezuela or Pakistan or Syria or Russia or the drone program, it is clear we are still in the centre of an epoch of aggressive US imperialism. The parallel to 1945-7 is not exact but close enough to allow us to consider again how the contradiction between the past and present CPUSA-endorsed people's fronts in alliances with the Democratic Party, Labor, Black Americans, etc have been stymied, blunted and even confounded by the persistence of the malevolent structure of US imperialism and militarism. War and the US ruling-class's addiction to the blandishments of the 'war-party' within both American legislative parties has destroyed progressive domestic-policy presidencies more than once, and destroyed the invaded and occupied nations. War and the threat of new wars haunts American communist great beginnings and progressive people's coalitions like a doleful spectre.

Suggested Readings

*Carlisle article:
_Marxism in the USA: Remapping the History of the American Left._ Paul Buhle, London: Verso, 1987.
_The Story of An American Communist_. John Gates, Thomas Nelson and Sons, New York: 1958.
_The Politics of War: The World and US Foreign Policy, 1943-1945_ by Gabriel Kolko, Random House, 1968.
'William Z. Foster' by Fred Carlisle published in Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 1 (1964)
_The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left: If I Had A Hammer, by Maurice Isserman, Basic Books, New York, 1987.  
'The 'New' Imperialism',  by Zoltan Zigedy, Marxism-Leninism Today. February 17, 2015.
'The New Political Reality: Analysis and Perspective', Excerpted from the main political report to the Central Committee CPUSA, December 1980.
'U.S. escalates tensions with Venezuela' by Emile Schepers in peoplesworld March 12 2015.

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