Written: January, 22 1944
Source: Marxism-Leninism vs. Revisionism Published by New Century Publishers, 832 Broadway, N.Y. 3, N.Y. February, 1946
Transcription/Markup: 2020 by Philip Mooney
Public Domain: Marxist Internet Archive 2020. This work is completely free.
To the Members of the National Committee, C.P.U.S.A.,
In Comrade Browder’s report to the recent meeting of the National Committee, which was adopted as our Party’s policy, there are, in my opinion, a number of serious errors which must be corrected. After listening to Comrade Browder’s report, of which I had previously seen only some parts, I placed my name on the speakers’ list to reply to the proposals that he had made. However, several Polburo members urged that I should not make the speech, arguing that it would cause confusion in the party and that further Polburo discussions would clarify the situation. So I refrained from voicing my objections at the time, proposing instead to take them up in the Polburo. As I consider Comrade Browder’s errors to be of an important nature, I feel myself duty bound to express my opinions to the National Committee.
In his report Comrade Browder, in attempting to apply the Teheran decisions to the United States, drew a perspective of a smoothly working national unity, including the decisive sections of American finance capital, not only during the war but also in the postwar; a unity which (with him quoting approvingly from Victory—And After), would lead to “a rapid healing of the terrible wounds of the war” and would extend on indefinitely, in an all-class peaceful collaboration, for a “long term of years.” In this picture, American imperialism virtually disappears, there remains hardly a trace of the class struggle, and Socialism plays practically no role what-ever.
In his Bridgeport speech, Comrade Browder said that “Old formulas and old prejudices are going to be of no use whatever to us as guides to find our way in the new world.” But this must not cause us to lose sight of some of the most basic principles of Marxism-Leninism.
It seems to me that Comrade Browder’s rather rosy outlook for capitalism is based upon two errors. The first of these is an underestimation of the deepening of the crisis of world capitalism caused by the war. When questioned directly in Polburo discussion, Comrade Browder agreed that capitalism has been seriously weakened by the war, but his report would tend to give the opposite implication. The impression is left that capitalism has somehow been rejuvenated and is now entering into a new period of expansion and growth. Characteristically, he says that there is general agreement that there is “no valid reason why the same (American—W.Z.F.) economy, including agriculture, should not produce at approximately the same level (as during the war—W.Z.F.), and that no plan is worth considering that proceeds from any other basis.” Contrary to this picture of a flourishing, easily recovering capitalism, I would say, the reality is a badly weakened world capitalist system, whose weakness will also be felt in postwar United States. The problems of reconstruction, in this country and especially in devastated Europe, will be gigantic, and, in the long run, insoluble under capitalism. This is not to say, however, that there may not be a temporary postwar economic boom in some countries and possibly also an increase in the productive forces. It does assert, however, that the gravity of the postwar reconstruction will not admit of any such easy solution as Comrade Browder seems to imply.
The second basic error in Comrade Browder’s report is the idea that the main body of American finance capital is now or can be incorporated into the national unity necessary to carry out the decisions of the Teheran Conference in a democratic and progressive spirit. It is true that Comrade Browder sometimes makes modest estimates of the extent of the sections of monopoly capital that he hopes will go along in the democratic camp in fulfilling the decisions of Teheran in their international and national implications. He says, for example, that “Such an approach is correct even if it should turn out that we find no allies there.” But obviously he is making policy calling for new relations between two whole classes, the working class and the capitalist class. That he is calculating upon the bulk of finance capital being won for the proposals he outlined is clear from many indications, including the great stress he lays upon the symbol of Browder shaking hands with Morgan and by the fact that he forsees no serious opposition by big capital in “the long term of years” of peaceful collaboration which he sees ahead.
This great optimism as to the progressive stand of big business in backing the war and in working out the reconstruction problems is quite unfounded. The enforcement of the Teheran decisions, both in their national and international aspects, demands the broadest possible national unity, and in this national unity there must be workers, farmers, professionals, small businessmen and all of the capitalist elements who will loyally support the program. But to assume that such capitalists, even if we should include the Willkie supporters, constitute the decisive sections of finance capital, or can be extended to include them, is to harbor a dangerous illusion. The fact is, as I shall develop at length later, the great body of American finance capital is following a line contrary to a democratic and progressive interpretation of Teheran, and in all probability will continue to do so.
The only way a national unity could be made with the main forces of American finance capital, and this is most emphatically true of the postwar period, would be upon a basis incompatible with a democratic realization of Teheran. Such a national unity would be necessarily one under the hegemony of big capital, and in the long run it would fail in realizing the line laid down at the Teheran Conference. The plain fact, and we must never lose sight of it, is that American big capital cannot be depended upon to cooperate with the workers and other classes in carrying out the decisions of Teheran, much less lead the nation in doing so.
The error of Comrade Browder is precisely the false assumption that they can be so depended upon. He thinks (Bridgeport speech) that the big capitalists fall within the scope of “the intelligent people of the world, the united moral forces of Britain, America and the Soviet Union,” who are fighting for a new and better world. Contradicting his own correct statement in his report that the working people are the main base of the Teheran supporters, he makes various proposals that appear to go in the direction of expecting a progressive lead from the monopolists. This is indicated, for example, by his praise, of the postwar program of the National Association of Manufacturers, and by his looking hopefully to the big capitalists to bring forward plans for doubling the workers’ wages in the postwar period. It is also shown by his agreement with the N.A.M. that in the question of foreign trade “the government should go no further in this direction than the export-capitalists themselves demand,” which would put the monopolists in full control of this vital matter. He says further that he would put no more curbs on the monopolists than they themselves see the need for, which would indeed be an ideal situation for the monopolists.
Comrade Browder’s misconception as to the progressive role of monopoly capital in the postwar period is further indicated by his playing down the initiative of the workers in formulating proposed governmental economic policies and his looking for programs rather to the big employers, “who must find the solution in order to keep their plants in operation.” There are also his flat acceptance of the two-party system, his indefiniteness as to what forces constitute reaction in the United States, his understress on the national election struggle, and his curt dismissal of the whole question of Socialism. Characteristic of Comrade Browder’s new conception of the progressive character, if not the actual leading role of monopoly capital, is the way he states the method of arriving at a national economic program, putting the capitalists first and the workers second. He says such a program must “rouse a minimum of opposition, from at least the two most decisive groups: first, the business men, industrial and finance capitalists and their managers, who have effective direction of the nation’s economy; and second, the working class, organized labor and the farmers.” This is putting the cart before the horse.
The danger in this whole point of view is that, in our eagerness to secure support for Teheran, we may walk into the trap of trying to cooperate with the enemies of Teheran, or even of falling under their influence. Trailing after the big bourgeoisie is the historic error of Social-Democracy, and we must be vigilantly on guard against it. Our task, instead of pursuing illusory plans of creating a national unity to include the body of monopoly capital, is, therefore, to understand that in order to realize the plans and hopes of Teheran, we have to rally the great popular masses of the peoples and to resist the forces of big capital now, during the war, and that, also, we will have to curb their power drastically in the postwar period. This policy is a fundamental condition for success of Teheran and all it means to the world. When Roosevelt and Wallace single out the monopolists for attack, as they often do, they are sounding not only a popular, but also a correct note.
Among the major objectives established by the Teheran decisions arc (a) the development of all-out coalition warfare for complete victory over the enemy; (b) an orientation toward an eventual democratic world organization of peoples to maintain international peace and order; (c) an im plied unfoldment of an elementary economic program with which to meet the terrific problems of postwar reconstruction. In carrying out these objectives, ample experience and plain realism teach us that American finance capital is a very reluctant cooperator, indeed, with the bulk of the American people, not to speak of its being their progressive leader.
Take first the matter of an all-out military policy. In this respect American monopoly capital has indeed given anything but a patriotic lead thus far or a convincing promise for the future. The patriotic lead, on the contrary, has come, and will continue to come from the national unity elements grouped mainly around the Roosevelt forces. So far as the bulk of finance capital is concerned, starting out with a pre-war record of appeasement, it has, all through the war, followed a course of rank profiteering and often outright sabotage of both the domestic and foreign phases of the nation’s war program, especially the former. While these elements obviously do not want the United States to lose the war, they are certainly very poor defenders of the policy of unconditional surrender. In the main, their idea of a satisfactory outcome of the war would be some sort of a negotiated peace with German reactionary forces, and generally to achieve a situation that would put a wet blanket on all democratic developments in Europe. All this still remains a serious obstacle to full victory. A real victory policy, as laid down at Teheran, can be achieved only in opposition to these elements, certainly not in easy collaboration with them, and above all, not under their leadership.
As to the creation of a world organization to maintain the postwar peace, as outlined at the Moscow and Teheran meetings, American finance capitalists, in the main, are equally unreliable. All through the war they have been saturated with anti-British and anti-Soviet tendencies. They were literally shoved into their dubious endorsement of Teheran by heavy mass pressure. They probably would accept some sort of an after-war world organization to maintain peace, but certainly not one as contemplated by the signers of the Teheran and Moscow pacts. At best it would be a kind of a touch-and-go proposition calculated not to interfere with the active imperialist maneuverings they have in mind. So far, the real pressure and leadership in the United States for a democratic world organization of states has come, not from the main forces of finance capital, but from the broad masses of the people, and there is no reason to suppose that this situation will alter in the foreseeable future.
Regarding the development of a co-operative world economic program of reconstruction .after the war, as Teheran obviously foresees, American finance capital again would indeed be a shaky reed to lean upon. While the great capitalists of this country would probably accept some elementary program to encourage world trade and also would provide a niggardly program of emergency relief, their guiding principle would be to grab off whatever they could of the world market. That is about all the significance they would attach to epoch-making Teheran. It is idle to think that they would come forward with a broad economic plan based upon the true interest of our nation and the world. The United States is not Czechoslovakia or Greece. It is not even Great Britain. Despite its war injuries, which are much more serious than appears at first glance, it will nevertheless emerge from this war by far the most powerful capitalist nation in the world. And its great industrial rulers will not be inclined to make such concessions to the peoples’ interests as is now being done by the capitalists of some occupied countries, who are even accepting Communists in the Cabinets. American finance capital has not been seriously chastened by die war. It does not consider this war as a world defeat for monopoly capital (which it doubtless is) after which its job will be to assume a responsible attitude toward the world capitalist system and to work out a progressive domestic program with democratic forces. It is strong, greedy and aggressive. When American capitalism looks out upon the postwar world it will see mostly that its great capitalist rivals have been badly disabled by the war, and its imperialistic appetite will be whetted. Germany, Japan, Italy, France and many other capitalist countries will be prostrate by the war’s end, and Great Britain also will be much weakened. While American big capitalism acutely fears Socialism, it nevertheless considers that the U.S.S.R., facing a gigantic problem of internal reconstruction, will not be an insuperable obstacle to its plans of imperialistic expansion. Altogether, it seems principally an alluring opportunity to conquer markets and strategic positions, and we may trust the Wall Street moguls not to overlook this chance. The Teheran Conference by no means liquidated American imperialism. A postwar Roosevelt Administration would continue to be, at it is now, an imperialist government, but one with a certain amount of liberal checks upon it. An election victory of the Republican Party, the chosen party of monopoly capital, would mean, however, imperialism of a far more aggressive type. Comrade Browder goes too far when he says that world capitalism and world Socialism have learned to live peacefully together and (in his Bridgeport speech) that “Britain and the United States have closed the books finally and forever upon their old expectation that the Soviet Union as a Socialist country is going to disappear some day.” The fruition of such an attitude on the part of these capitalist countries is dependent upon the extent to which democratic support is built up for Teheran and its perspective.
In my article in the New Masses, December 14, 1943, I gave a brief summary picture of about what we could expect from American finance capital in the postwar period, given the strong control that a Republican victory would bring it. It would endanger the whole setup and program of Teheran:
A Republican Administration would encourage reaction all over the world. Rampant American imperialism again in the saddle would weaken the foundations of the United Nations and sow seeds for a World War III. Such an Administration would not insist upon unconditional surrender, it would not extinguish fascism in Europe or establish democracy; it would not collaborate loyally with the U.S.S.R. or Great Britain; it would degenerate our Good Neighbor policy in Latin America. . . . Nor could Willkie as President, even if he wanted to, substantially alter this basically reactionary course of the Republican Party.
The important sections of the capitalists who support Wendell Willkie incline somewhat more to a liberal application internationally of the Teheran policies, although Willkie’s stand on Poland was not very promising. Their basic kinship with the bulk of finance capital and their willingness to follow its main international and domestic policies, however, are indicated by their common, all-out hatred of Roosevelt and by the practical certainty that they will, in the event that Willkie does not get the Republican nomination, support any other Republican candidate, unless possibly it should be some outright fascist or isolationist, such as Colonel McCormick. The weakness in our own attitude toward the Willkie forces has been to stress too much their more superficial liberal tendencies and not enough the more basic fact that they are part of the camp of reaction and that they constantly tend to lure the workers away from the Roosevelt progressive line into the trap of the Republican Party. The Willkieites will accept the reactionary line of the Hoovers, Tafts and Deweys, rather than join with the masses of the people to fight these reactionaries.
All of which means that the bulk of monopoly capital cannot be relied upon either to cooperate loyally, or to lead in a progressive application of the Teheran decisions. It will yield in this direction only under democratic mass pressure. Instead, our reliance must be upon the great democratic people, the real backbone of national unity, now organized in the main in and around the Roosevelt camp. The basic flaw in Comrade Browder’s report was that he failed to make clear this elementary situation, but instead tended to create illusions to the effect that these antagonistic forces, the bulk of big capital and the democratic sections of the nation, now locked together in one of the sharpest class battles in American history, can and should work harmoniously together both now and during the postwar period.
Following logically his argumentation to the effect that the decisive sections of monopoly capital are, or can be drawn, not only in “the democratic-progressive camp” for the realization of the Teheran decisions, but may also be the leaders of that camp, Comrade Browder gave little emphasis indeed to the bitter Presidential election struggle now developing. For, certainly, if the decisive sections of American monopoly capital are behind the Teheran decisions loyally, and indeed may lead the national unity, there would be little to worry about regarding the outcome of the elections. It would make little difference which side won. Comrade Browder did not sound any note of alarm about the elections. He did not warn the American people militantly of the grave danger that would be involved in a Republican victory. Instead, in his National Committee report, he handled the two major parties almost in a tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum manner, and in his Madison Square Garden speech, where he presented the Party line to the public, he devoted only twelve lines to the vital subject of the elections. Logically following out his general position, he seemed rather to be more interested in bridging the gap between the two warring parties in the name of an all-inclusive national unity, than in stirring into victory action the great democratic forces of the country, the only ones who can be relied upon to make the hope of Teheran real.
Let us consider the elections a little more in detail. Briefly, the situation is this: during the eleven years of the Roosevelt Administration, monopoly capital has, of course, remained dominant; its profits have gone right on, and it has also very greatly increased its concentration and strength, particularly during the war period. Nevertheless, monopoly capital has found an obstacle in the Roosevelt Administration. This Administration is, in fact, if not formally, a coalition among the workers, middle class elements, and the more liberal sections of the bourgeoisie (with the special situation in the Democratic South). The big monopolists, after the first few emergency months of 1933, have in overwhelming majority come to hate the Roosevelt Administration bitterly. They especially attack the domestic angles of his policies. What backing Roosevelt had from finance capital at the start has mostly leaked away from him. This is because of certain restrictions his Administration has placed upon big capital’s drive for unlimited power. The monopolists hate the Roosevelt Government because it is not an instrument that will do their bidding fully and immediately; they hate it because of the social legislation it has written on the books and also for what it threatens to adopt during a fourth term; they hate it because it has facilitated the organization of ten million workers into trade unions, which weakened their great open shop fortress in the basic industries; they hate it because they think there is altogether too great a democratic content in its war and foreign policies.
The substance of the present election struggle, therefore, is an attempt of monopoly capital to break up the Roosevelt liberal-labor combination. It is an effort of the big financial tycoons to get rid of the governmental and trade union hindrances that have irked them so much under the New Deal, so they can branch out into the active imperialistic regime they have in mind. They are fighting Roosevelt viciously, trying to defeat him in his own party with their Farleys and Southern poll-taxers, and, if they fail in this, to beat him with a Republican candidate if he is nominated for a fourth term. The big capitalists are fighting Roosevelt with striking unity Even though they are having trouble to decide upon a candidate of their own, they arc nevertheless united in opposing Roosevelt. The fact that 90 per cent of the daily press and all the leading employers’ associations and conservative farmers’ organizations are definitely opposed to Roosevelt, tells graphically where finance capital is standing in this crucial election struggle. Its victory would be understood all over the world as a victory for reaction. The fascists and every other enemy of Teheran in the United States and abroad would hail it as their triumph.
In this most crucial election since 1864 our duty as a Communist Party is plain. We must go all-out for a continuation of the Roosevelt policies, as the only way to support effectively the Teheran decisions, both in their national and international implications. We must tell the people precisely who the enemy is that they are fighting—organized big capital—and mobilize our every resource to help make their fight succeed. We must awaken them to the grave danger of a reactionary victory, pointing out die heavy mobilization of the capitalist elements, the systematic propaganda-poisoning of the armed forces against labor, and the serious inroads that have been made into Roosevelt’s labor and working farmer support.
The mobilization of labor’s forces politically and combining them with all other democratic, win-the-war forces supporting Teheran for an election victory over reaction, whose main fort is the Republican Party, should have been the all-pervading business of our National Committee. But it most emphatically was not. Instead, with Comrade Browder’s new conceptions of national unity, there was a tendency for us to bridge the gap in the elections. This would, indeed, be a serious mistake for us to make, to try to convince the American people in the heat of this great and significant struggle, that there is a possibility for progressive unity with the very forces that they are fighting against and must defeat in this election, the monopolists.
Let us not make the serious error of slipping in between these fighting forces in the name of an all-inclusive but illusory national unity with big capital. We must understand clearly and definitely that the basic forces of a progressive national unity are those grouped, in the main, around Roosevelt’s banners and we must fight to help them extend and solidify their ranks. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the recent hotly-contested elections for the Auto Workers’ conventions when we, in the name of trade union unity, took a neutral position and the dangerous Social-Democrat, Walter Reuther, almost won control of the convention out of the hands of the win-the-war forces. The influence of our Party in the national elections can be very great, especially in solidifying the, at present, confused ranks of labor, and it must not be frittered away in any middle, half-middle, or above-the-battle position.
What kind of a postwar perspective may we look forward to in this country? In my judgment, it will be quite different from the long period of peaceful class collaboration and social advance, in which the monopolists are progressively collaborating, that Comrade Browder seems to envisage. The gravity of the world’s postwar construction problems, which our country also will feel, and the sharp contradictions in class interests involved, will not permit such a harmonious progress.
It is true that at the present time many big capitalist leaders and organizations are talking glibly in generalizations about the fine economic conditions they will create after the war. But bearing in mind the glowing promises, all unfulfilled, that were made toward the conclusion of World War I, we can safely discount much of their rosy prophecies and look sharply at their real policies. After all, these men of big promises have a great prize at stake, the full control of the United States Government, and if they can fool the people with tricky demagogy it will be a well-paying investment.
Actually, the great capitalists in this country are orientating in the main upon a long-time postwar industrial boom, based upon reconstruction work and the spontaneous development of new industries, as well as the capture of new international markets. Although in case of a crisis these elements would be quick to appeal to the state for aid, they are quite generally pooh-poohing and opposing any attempts to prepare in advance a Federal Governmental program to keep the industries operating and the masses employed. To them this is still all pretty much “boondoggling” and interference with the mystical operation of “free enterprise.” That their true perspective is almost complete reliance upon privately owned industry along the accustomed paths of the past, is evidenced by the fact that they have not introduced a single postwar economic measure into Congress or popularized it before the country. Every progressive proposal made so far, from the general slogan of the Four Freedoms, to the economic reconstruction program of the National Resources Planning Board, the Wagner-Murray social insurance bill, and the legislation to rehabilitate members of the armed forces, and now the President’s recently announced 34,000 mile highway plan and his new Bill of Rights, have all originated in the camp of the Administration forces and are opposed by the main forces of monopoly capital.
And so it will continue to be. In the domestic, as in the international sphere, the progressive lead will not come from monopoly capital. The far-reaching economic programs, involving government intervention in industry on an unprecedented scale that will be necessary to guard our country from an economic collapse worse than that of 1929, will originate in a truly progressive camp, consisting of the masses of workers, farmers, middle classes and liberal sections of capitalists. And they will be brought to realization, not in easy agreement with the monopolists, as Comrade Browder would appear to believe, but in active pressure against them.
Let us consider, therefore, what is likely to confront us as a result of the elections? First, if President Roosevelt should be elected again and should try vigorously to put into effect a progressive program, including the international decisions of Teheran and the economic and political aims he enunciated in his recent “Report to the Nation,” concretely, his new Bill of Rights, then he will certainly collide heavily with the powerful forces of the bulk of American finance capital. Their present bitter opposition to all such measures would not suddenly melt away in sweetness and collaboration. Inasmuch as we now fall far short of national unity even under the severe pressure of war, may we expect more unity when this unifying pressure is released? The American big bourgeoisie show no signs of interpreting the Teheran Agreement in the sense that henceforth they must voluntarily adopt progressive programs in the United States. They still respond only to pressure of one kind or another, exerted nationally or internationally. The progressive democratic forces of national unity under a postwar Roosevelt Administration should, and no doubt would, seek to widen as far as possible the area of agreement around their necessary economic programs and also generally to work on an orderly development of our national progress, but this desire will not save them from coming into serious collisions with the forces of finance capital.
On the other hand, should a Dewey, Taft or Bricker, or even the liberal-speaking Mr. Willkie be elected, then we could expect definite attempts of the new Administration to give monopoly capital a much freer hand at the expense of the people. If successful, this could only result in strengthening reaction and imperilling our economic future. At best, the domestic economic program of such an Administration would be one based on boom expectation and upon extending government aid to the workers only in the most niggardly measure and under heavy pressure. American finance capital would soon demonstrate that it had learned very little of a progressive economic nature through the war and the period of the New Deal. The big capitalists, if they did not make an open attack upon the unions, would probably try to paralyze organized labor by ensnaring it into a program of intensified class collaboration, designed in their own interests and not in those of labor and the nation. The capitalists have not forgotten the way they did this so disastrously to the labor movement and the people after World War I. With the added consideration that big business today, bitterly remembering the liberal-labor coalition that has backed the government for the past dozen years, would adopt any means to prevent a repetition of this hated experience. It could therefore be expected, what with the growing fascist spirit in its ranks and the tricks it has learned from Hitler, that the monopolists would adopt, if necessary, the most drastic means to clip the strength of labor and to prevent the return to power of any popular, progressive government.
At our National' Committee meeting there were delegates who interpreted Comrade Browder’s report, not illogically, as implying a no-strike policy for the trade unions in the post-war period. One, who went uncorrected, said: “We have the perspective of continued cooperation, a no-strike policy and no class clashes for a long time after the war.” This is nonsense, of course. It would disarm the trade unions in the face of their enemies. The Teheran Conference did not abolish the class struggle in the United States. The workers would indeed be foolish if they were to orientate upon any such illusory perspective. The cue to the trade unions, in facing the post-war period, is to unify their ranks, nationally and internationally, to organize the millions of still unorganized workers, to develop their united political action movement so that they may be a real force in the democratic coalition, to establish the broadest possible alliance with all other democratic groups and classes, to defeat reaction in the coming national elections, to prepare constructive economic proposals for the postwar period and work diligently for them, and generally to strengthen their ranks and be in readiness to defend their organizations and their living standards from any and all attacks by their powerful and inveterate enemy, monopoly capital. It would be disastrous if our Party were in any way to weaken labor’s alertness to these necessities.
Comrade Browder was correct in saying that we should not take issue with the reactionaries’ slogan of “free enterprise” in the sense that in the Presidential election the issue is for privately-owned industry or against it. But he is incorrect when he says, “The issue of ‘free enterprise’ is thus not in any way, shape or form the issue of the coming struggle for control of United States policy in the Congressional and Presidential elections.” On the contrary, “free enterprise” is the main slogan of the monopolists and behind it stands the whole conception of their program. It cannot be dismissed by saying that “If anyone wishes to describe the existing system of capitalism in the United States as ‘free enterprise,’ that’s all right with us.”
In stressing their main slogan of “free enterprise” the monopolists are of course trying to make plausible their unfounded allegation of Socialism against the Roosevelt Administration. But they are also seeking to do much more than this. Within the purview of this slogan is comprised their whole determination to regain unrestricted control of the government, to weaken the power of organized labor, and generally to free the hands of monopoly.
The economic essence of this slogan is a main dependence upon a long-term industrial boom to solve our national economic problems, with improvised government work programs and aid for the workers and farmers considered merely as emergency programs. Thus, Senator Taft says in the Saturday Evening Post, December 11: “Substantially full employment must be restored and maintained through free enterprise, with only such assistance from government as is proved to be absolutely necessary.” That is to say, only after the economic crisis bursts upon us we may look for fragmentary, skinflint programs of government work and relief. The “free enterprise” slogan represents a concrete program just as definitely as did that of the “New Deal.” Hence, to accept or ignore this slogan means to imply, in the popular mind, to accept or ignore the program behind it.
It is obvious, therefore, that we cannot simply brush aside big business’ main slogan of “free enterprise” as being merely demagogic and let it go at that. On the contrary, while thoroughly exposing the demagoguery of the slogan, we must also expose its reactionary economic and political content. This can only be done on the basis of bringing forward the program of the progressive forces. In doing this, the question of social insurance and government stimulation of industry cannot be put forth merely as emergency stop-gap measures to apply in times of crises. They must be presented as essential steps if we are to cushion ourselves against plunging headlong into overwhelming economic crises; if we are to make even an approach to the full production and jobs for all that everybody is now talking about so glibly. The counter-program of the progressive, win-the-war, win-the-peace forces to the reactionary “free enterprise,” or unrestrained monopoly program of the reactionaries, does not now contain demands for the nationalization of banks, railroads, or other industries, and it will not in the immediate postwar situation. But the grave difficulties that will confront capitalism all over the world after this war, not excluding American capitalism, will surely eventually raise the need and popularity of such demands.
On the question of the two-party system, it is my opinion that Comrade Browder also dismisses that matter too easily, by speaking of “the stone wall of the two-party system.” He subscribes to “the general national opinion that this ‘two-party system’ provides adequate channels for the basic preservation of democratic rights,” and thus leaves the impression that the Communists no longer look beyond the present two-party line-up, even in the most eventual sense.
In such a presentation, it seems to me, there is contained an underestimation of the political initiative of the democratic masses of the people and an overestimation of their acceptance of the bourgeois leadership of the two main parties. While the situation is very much not ripe for a new political party line-up in the United States, nevertheless this can by no means be excluded permanently. I prefer, instead, the formulation of Philip Murray in the current issue of the American Magazine, where he states that the political situation at this time in the United States does not justify the formation of a third party.
In presenting such a basic change in line to our Party as he did, it seems to me that Comrade Browder should have made a more complete statement regarding our Party attitude to the question of Socialism. While it is correct to say, as Comrade Browder does, that Socialism is not the issue in the war, nor will it be the issue in the immediate postwar period in the United States, and that, therefore, to raise the issue now could only result in narrowing down the national unity necessary to win the war and to carry out generally the decisions of Teheran, nevertheless, merely to take this negative attitude toward Socialism is not enough. We must also develop our positive position.
We have to bear in mind that although Socialism will not be the political issue in the United States in the early postwar period, it will nevertheless be a question of great and growing mass interest and influence. This is true for a couple of major reasons, aside from the possibility that some countries of Europe may adopt Socialism at the close of the war: first, the Soviet Union in this war has given a world-shaking demonstration of the power and success of Socialism. The democratic peoples of the world, who have been saved by the Red Army from Hitler tyranny, are looking upon this great demonstration with amazement, gratitude and a lively curiosity. For the first time they are beginning to see through the wall of prejudice that was so carefully built up against the U.S.S.R. over so many years. They are extremely interested, and in a more and more objective sense, to learn further about the great, new, socialist world power. The present new crop of books friendly to the U.S.S.R. is an early sign of the new mass interest in the Soviet Union and its Socialism. With the development of the postwar reconstruction period, we can expect the U.S.S.R. to perform as great “miracles” as it is now doing in a military way, hence this mass interest is bound to increase. The second basic reason for a great postwar mass interest in Socialism is that with the world capitalist system badly injured, there will be definite tendencies for the peoples in all countries to learn from the Soviet regime and to adapt to their own problems such features as they can from the obviously successful and flourishing Socialist Soviet Union. The whole question of the advance to Socialism will be in for a fresh discussion in the new world conditions.
In view of all this, obviously the Communist Party, as the party of Socialism, cannot take merely a negative attitude toward Socialism. We must teach the workers the significance of the socialist developments of our time and their relation to the United States. While we point out that Socialism is not now the issue in our country, we must also show that it is nevertheless the only final solution for our nation’s troubles. If we do not do this, then the Social-Democrats will be left a free hand to pose as the party of Socialism, with consequent detriment to our Party and to the whole struggle of the win-the-war, win-the-peace forces.
Obviously, the questions raised by Comrade Browder in his report are of far-reaching significance and represent a radical departure from our past conceptions of national unity. They deserve the most profound consideration in the pre-convention discussion that is now beginning. In these days of world-shaking war and with postwar problems of enormous size and complexity looming before us, our Party must be doubly careful in the development of its political line. I for one am convinced that if we give this close attention to Comrade Browder’s report, adopted by the National Committee, we will find it necessary to alter it in the general sense of the several points raised in this letter.
Comradely yours, William Z. Foster.
The above letter to the National Committee was rejected at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau, held on February 8, 1944, with about 40 leading Party members in attendance and voting. Comrade Browder put as the main issue of the meeting, not a re-survey of the political policies, in the light of my letter, but the preservation of the unity of the Party. After a day’s discussion, all present voted against my letter, except Darcy and myself.
As a result of this serious rebuff and in view of Comrade Browder’s expressed determination to stamp out all open opposition, an attitude on his part which was strengthened by the heavy vote of the enlarged Political Bureau against my letter, I concluded that it would be folly for me to try to take the question to the Party membership at that time. For to do so would have weakened our general work in support of the war; ruined our current big recruiting drive, interfered seriously with the development of our vital national election campaign, and perhaps resulted in splitting our Party.
So I decided to confine my opposition to the ranks of the National Committee, a course which I followed during the next year and a half by means of innumerable criticisms, policy proposals, articles, etc., all going in the direction of eliminating Comrade Browder’s opportunistic errors. I was convinced that the course of political events and the Communist training of our leadership would eventually cause our Party to return to a sound line of policy.
It will be noted that my letter to the National Committee does not discuss the matter of dissolution, or reorganization, of the Communist Party into the Communist Political Association.
When Comrade Browder proposed this liquidatory step several members of the National Board raised objections to it, and, of course, I opposed and voted against it. Nevertheless Comrade Browder was able to push it through in spite of this opposition. At the time of my sending the letter to the National Committee, things had proceeded so far that I considered the reorganization of the Party into the C.P.A. as virtually an accomplished fact. It had already been publicly announced and endorsed at the January meeting of the National Committee, and, in fact, the Party was already in the preliminary stages of reorganization. Consequently, I felt that further agitation of the matter was hopeless for the time being and could only cause useless strife and confusion in our ranks. So I left the whole question out of my letter to the National Committee. The immediate task, as I saw it, was for me to help to keep the C.P.A., in fact, if not in name, the Communist Party.