Gus Hall

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Wed Oct 18 11:56:40 MDT 2000

>>> rfidler at 10/18/00 10:10AM >>


Thanks for your analysis. I follow your argument based on Browder's revelation.

 I'm not sure the Comintern and Stalin were not correct about the '36 election
strategy, nor that Browder's modification of it was incorrect. In part , the strategy
might have been correct because of the war with fascism Dimitrov and others saw (
accurately) coming. In other words, I don't agree that the Popular Front strategy was
wrong (!). I definitely do not buy the typical criticisms of the Soviet Union's rapid
back and forth policy vis -a-vis Nazi Germany. I definitely agree with the SU's
decision to ally with the US during the WWII.  But those are not the only issues
impacting  the CPUSA's policies related to its inability to grow ( and it may get into
an area which this list has designated for only limited discussion), so I don't know
whether it would be better to focus on other elements in the CPUSA record of practice.
Perhaps a direct evidence that the CPUSA election strategy was not the key element in
its not growing is that certain Trotskyist parties followed the policy that your
comment suggests as best, I believe, and yet they didn't grow either.

I believe your implication is that the CPUSA policy in elections was the same in 68
through 84 had the same deceptive motivation as Browder describes for '36. But that is
not proven. The concrete situation had changed drastically from '36. There was no
Comintern or Stalin , etc. I don't know how the question would be investigated without
revelations such as the one you quoted from Browder. The fact that Browder's
liquidationism had been rejected and the late 50's internal conflict resulted in
'right' elements like Gates leaving seems indirect evidence contradicting your claim.

Another reasoning that occurs to me is this. Your version of the CPUSA leaders seems
to imply that they really were for capitalism, and thereby decided to play a role of
fake communists, taking up the communist space so that no real communists could do
that. That they were covert (conscious ?) agents of the bourgeoisie. That seem
implausible to me. Why would someone want to spend their whole lives doing that ? What
seems more plausible to me is that they were sincerely trying to carry out the
extremely difficult task of avoiding sectarianism and opportunism, in the context of
bourgeois repression; and sincere defenders of the Soviet Union, as the first
socialist country. and they made mistakes in this effort.

What was Trotsky's position on the '36 American election ?

Comments interjected:

But by that date, joining one of the official "Communist" parties in the belief
that it was fostering the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism, required a
strong dose of naiveté or wilful blindness as to the real record of class
collaborationism practiced by the parties under Moscow's tutelage.


CB: Or Dubois might have thought the situation was more as I describe above.


revolutionaries of the late 1950s and early 1960s (e.g. Cuba's 26th of July
Movement, the Algerian FLN (Ben Bella) and their supporters internationally)
were already organizing independently of the CPs for the most part (and were
actively opposed by the CPs in most cases). I think you have to make a
distinction between the subjective (revolutionary) motivations some individuals
may have had in joining the Stalinized CPs and the actual role those parties
played in the class struggle both internationally and in their respective


CB: I disagree with your claim regarding what revolutionaries of the late '60's and
early 60's were doing.  For example, even though the Cuban CP opposed Fidel Castro and
the Cuban revolutionaries' , the latter became the Stalinist CP allied with "Moscow".
This issue turns on who were the "true" revolutionaries of the time, which I guess I
don't want to get too much into now, but Dubois had plenty of evidence that
revolutionaries were allied with and helped much by CP's and the SU in Viet Nam,
Korea, South Africa, Ghana.


I was going to address Charles' question about the apparent contradiction he, as
a former "not now nor have I ever been..." felt between Lou's factual reference
to the CPUSA's longstanding support of capitalist politicians, and the CP's
fielding of its own candidates in elections


    <<<Earl Browder, "The American Communist Party in the Thirties," in _As We
Saw the Thirties_, edited by Rita James Simon, University of Illinois Press,
obdurate, and advanced my final argument that if we really wished to assure
Roosevelt's re-election we would not endorse him because that would cause him to
be labeled 'the Communist candidate' by the newspapers, most of which opposed
him. This would lose him many times as many votes from the 'Right' as it would
bring him from the 'Left,' for a net loss that might mean his defeat if the vote
were close. On the other hand we could put up our own candidate but conduct such
a campaign that would assure Roosevelt all votes under our influence except the
diehard opponents of all 'capitalist' candidates who without a Communist
candidate would switch to Norman Thomas or even the Socialist Labor party.
Thereupon the discussion was suspended, while the issue was being re-evaluated
by the Russian politburo-which we learned later meant Stalin. The final
conclusion of the Comintern was 'to leave the matter to the decision of the
American comrades,' where I had no difficulty in carrying the decision my way.
Thus I became the logical Communist presidential candidate and made my ambiguous
campaign in favor of 'my rival,' Roosevelt. The more the newspapers puzzled over
this tactic, the more effective it became." pp. 233-234, 2nd printing, 1969.>>>

Charles' confusion illustrates how effectively this policy, as Browder puts it,
misled honest "diehard opponents of all 'capitalist' candidates..." who
mistakenly thought the CP was projecting an independent anticapitalist line.


CB: As I say, I am not persuaded that that approach was not a good one in 1936. As to
the '68 and following elections, the CP didn't have the following it had had in '36,
and it was not nearly going to win. But even with that, if you are trying to help the
Democrats, why run at all ? I suppose you are saying that Trotskyist candidates were
really trying to win, and the CP was not, but that difference is really hard to
discern, especially given that the clear reality is that neither is going to win.
This was a factor in '36 too. What do you do if you know you are not going to win, and
the main issue is fascism is about to wage war on the SU ?

But not all anticapitalist workers thought this. Many who had experienced the
CP's line in the Thirties and Forties were turned off the CP precisely because
of its twists and turns in support of Stalin's foreign policy, which were the
main factor in the party's support of the no-strike pledge during the War and
its opposition to the movement for an independent labor party in the postwar
period. The hostility the CP generated among many class-conscious or just plain
militant workers was a major factor in its isolation during the Cold War
witch-hunt, and enormously complicated the task of those in the workers movement
who defended the CP's democratic rights (such as the Trotskyist SWP, even though
the CP had been vociferous supporters of the sedition prosecution and jailing of
SWP leaders during the War).


CB: If the Trotskyist organizations had the opposite approach of the CP in these
areas, how  come they didn't grow more than the CP ?

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