[Marxism] McKinney, Glick, Browder

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Wed Jun 18 03:12:24 MDT 2008

On Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 6:18 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:

> . . .
> To begin with, it is very striking that Glick has nothing to say
> about the 1930s when the objective possibility for a 3rd party based
> on the working class was greater than at any time since Eugene V.
> Debs. We know why such a party was not launched. The CPUSA, which
> enjoyed hegemony, attacked every initiative to build one using the
> same class-collaborationist arguments as Carl Davidson and Ted Glick.
> It was necessary to back FDR because he was not as bad as--you fill
> in the blanks.
> Although historian Harvey Klehr has endeavored to portray the CPUSA
> as a dangerous subversive organization, his own research militates
> against his thesis. In "The Secret World of American Communism," he
> discusses an NKVD report on communications between Earl Browder, the
> head of the CPUSA, and Franklin Roosevelt. FDR congratulates Browder
> and the CPUSA for conducting its political line skillfully and
> helping US military efforts. Roosevelt is "particularly pleased" with
> the battle of New Jersey Communists against a left-wing Labor Party
> formation there. He was happy that the CPUSA had been able to unite
> various factions of the Democratic Party against the left-wing
> electoral opposition and render it ineffectual.
> This is exactly the role that Glick is playing today, our latter-day
> but inferior version of Earl Browder.

On Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 7:39 PM, Fred Feldman <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>

> . . .
> In 1936, Browder ran in support of Roosevelt primarily to win workers who
> were used to voting for communist and socialist candidates to the habit of
> voting capitalist and to prevent the Republicans from making Communist
> support to Republicans an issue.
  . . .

On Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 8:02 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
    . . .

> ...To repeat, the only
> point I was making was that Walter keeps harping on the need to
> "defeat McCain" in the way that the CPUSA used to go on about Landon.
> In fact, the Browder campaign--like McKinney's was a break from the 2
> party system even if only on a propagandistic basis.
  . . .

I think these references to the Communist Party's participation in the 1936
U.S. presidential election are a bit muddled and may be confusing to anyone
not already familiar with this history.   The Communist Party's intention -
as ordered from Moscow - was to support the 'progressive-' or
'anti-monopolist-wing' of the capitalist class - that is to support Democrat

CPUSA leader Earl Browder had to argue tenaciously against Stalin's
instruction to directly support Roosevelt in order to get Stalin's approval
to carry out a more sophisticated tactic - run a CP campaign (Earl Browder
for president) which focussed on the call to defeat Republican candidate Alf
Landon.  This way most people the CP could influence would vote for FDR
without FDR being tarnished by explicit CP support.  Also the CP would not
risk losing some of its followers to competing socialist organizations.

Here is what Earl Browder said about the 1936 campaign in a talk titled "The
American Communist Party in the Thirties" which he gave at the University of
Illinois during the 1965-66 school year:

"Some months thereafter I headed a delegation to Moscow to consult with the
Comintern about the elections.  Upon arriving we were informed by Georgi
Dimitrov, the Bulgarian who had become General Secretary at the Seventh
World Congress and the hero of the Reichstag Fire Trial in Nazi Germany,
that the Comintern leaders were all firmly of the opinion that the American
Communist party should endorse Roosevelt's candidacy and put up no candidate
of their own.  My permanent (but usually secret) opposition in America,
William Z. Foster (supported by Sam Darcy) immediately agreed with the
proposal.  I flatly opposed it, and proposed a thorough discussion before
decision, the rest of the delegation withholding their opinion.  After two
weeks of discussion I remained 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 Polburo - which we learned later meant by 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."

The transcript of Browder's talk was published in the collection _As We Saw
the Thirties_ edited by Rita James Simon and published by the University of
Illinois Press in 1967.  The quote above is from pages 233-34.

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