[Marxism] Re: Browder

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Oct 4 19:07:10 MDT 2005

Paddy wrote:
" Talk of any alternative policies at the time could only be regarded
> as effectively help to the fascists - and it really is naive to
> suggest that alternative policies were anything less than treasonable 
> to working-class interests."

Well, frankly, this is nonsense as it was then.

It is worth noting that Trotsky believed the Soviet Union would have to
be aligned with one side or the other in the war, and since he held that
Germany was the main immediate threat to the Soviet Union, that the most
likely ally -- if the Soviet Union was strong enough to gain this -- was
the Western imperialist democracies. 

An alliance did carry the clear implication that the victory of the side
one is allied with is the lesser evil in the war, at least while the
alliance lasts.

It is a fact that the view that the democratic imperialists represented
a lesser evil is nearly universal in the human race today, to the extent
that people know about it and have opinions.  This is partly because the
winners write history, but also because of the consequences of the war
in terms of the Chinese revolution, Vietnamese revolution, and so on.
One important exception is the Middle East, where the nationalists (not
just the much-maligned Grand Mufti of Jerusalem but others who later
held power such as Nasser) tended to be pro-German, to the extent that
Germany indicated an interest in countering Britain, France, and
therefore Zionism. (In my opinion, even in Argentina, pro-German
sentiments were on the right fringes among nationalists -- even in
Argentina-- and hardly anyone seriously considered an openly pro-German

It is worth nothing that not even the formulations in  James P. Cannon's
"Socialism on Trial" testimony contradict this, for which they were
widely attacked by ultralefts. Cannon explicitly states that we do not
favor the defeat of America by the fascist regime in Germany as the
lesser evil. As Alan Wald points out in The New York Intellectuals,
simple repetition of the Leninist formulations in the war with
Nazi-ruled Germany and Italy, and the militarist monarchy in Japan would
have been politically suicidal and only the most isolated sects adopted
it, although the Shachtmanites -- not hyper-isolated like the Oehlerites
-- also adopted this.

Revolutionary defeatism -- or Leninism, if you prefer -- meant something
different in World War I than in World War II because conditions were

Underlying this was the devastating defeats that the working class had
taken -- including the partial but deepening defeat of the Russian
revolution.  Historic defeats of the working class in Germany, Italy,
France, coupled with the low level of the working class movement, even
on the rise, in the United States.  The working class in the imperialist
countries felt totally on the defensive. The defeat of France and the
establishment of Vichy hardly struck the workers or the world under
these circumstances as a hot revolutionary opportunity.

But the most complicated factor was that the war was not simply an
imperialist war. There was the Soviet Union, a workers state in retreat
(or whatever name for this transitional revolutionary phenomenon makes
you comfortable). And, unlike in World War I, the colonial revolution
was becoming an organized state factor in world politics, the primary
expression being the Chinese struggle against Japanese occupation.

It is significant that the sects that claimed to hold to the old
Leninist formulations, including the Shachtmanites as well, tended to
argue that in order to be consistent and absolute and unconditional and
no-holds-barred defeatists -- one had to also recognize the Soviet Union
as not only capitalist but imperialist, and to equally oppose both sides
in the China-Japan struggle as simply a secondary aspect of the
imperialist war. After all, both the Soviet Union and the Chinese
government (and the Mao opposition) were politically allied with the
democratic imperialists against the even more desperate and hard-pressed
imperialists of Germany and Japan), which mean that they both favored
the victory of their alliance (the whole alliance) as the lesser evil,
to put it mildly in terms of how they actually presented it.

"Browderism" (which really was basically the stance of the Stalinist
regime and the Communist International (which was dissolved in 1943
pursuant to it) during World War II even though he got carried away in
developing it as a policy for the postwar period and sticking with it as
signs multiplied of the turn toward Cold War - at least -- by Washington
against Moscow) objected to was not fundamentally the alliances, but the
policy of subordinating the working class to the bourgeoisie.  Not
ending the class struggle for the duration.  We can argue forever about
whether this utopia, if possible, would have been desirable. But it is
not possible.  The class struggle does not end in war, or at any other
time, unless contending classes have ceased to exist.

One point where I disagree with Matk Lause.  The power of the Stalinist
Comintern administration cannot be underestimated in the adoption of the
policy of supporting the Democratic Party.  This was not at all the
instinctive reaction of most member even to the Dmitrov speech and the
Seventh Congress.  Many thought that the Labor Party would express the
Popular Front most adequately.  Their instinct was not to rally to
Roosevelt.  Would they have stood up on their own on their own over
time.  Noone familiar with the problems of American politics can make
that prediction confidently.  But they did not have the chance.
Relentless pressure from the Comintern (meaning the government of the
first workers state meaning the Stalinists) pressured them into line
where they remain basically to this day. 

(The Progressive Party was basically an adventure, creating a party that
was actually supposed to represent a wing of the ruling class --
symbolized but not expected to be reduced to Wallace -- that  was
disappearing, and whose defeat was symbolized in some ways by the Alger
Hiss trial. I agree that the Progressive Party became, as a consequence
of the disssolution of ruling class opposition to the Cold War, a petty
bourgeois, not a bourgeois party, and I think the SWP should have
recognized it as such.  But it was politically far below the  populists
as a representation of petty-bourgeois discontent.  And I think that the
SWP decision to enter national electoral politics in 1948 had broader
considerations than opposition to the Progressive Party, and overall was
not a mistake from the standpoint of building the socialist movement.  A
lot of us are a result of that decision, in my opinion.

Not ending the class struggle, but changing sides -- defending the
bourgeoisie against the workers in the name of defense of the Soviet
Union. This meant changing the US, for instance, class relationship of
forces in favor of the bourgeoisie.  It meant enforcing a no-strike
pledge.  It meant enforcing the bourgeois wage freeze.  It meant
fighting the miners strike tooth and nail.

The issue is not whether revolution was  possible in the United States
in World War II.  Of course, if this had been possible, no better aid to
the Soviet Union or no greater blow to Nazi Germany or militarist Japan
could be imagined.  But the alliance between the US and the Soviet Union
was based in part on a certain class relationship of forces between the
imperialists and the working class worldwide.  When they fought strikes,
supported speedup in general, the Communist Party was helping to prepare
the Cold War.

I am working steadily now at an industrial job, which is good for my
political morale but bad for my prolificity or whatever.  So I am going
to end now, with my thinking incomplete, and see how others respond or
comment in other ways.  I will probably respond  -- no doubt belatedly
-- to further discussion.
Fred (in case you forgot)


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