29. The Communists in the War (1941-1945)
|Women leaders of the Party, like Mother Bloor|
(photo taken in 1937), stepped up to National
leadership of the Party while male Party members
were fighting in World War Two.
When Hitler, on June 22, 1941, attacked the Soviet Union, however, the Party realized that all possibility of limiting the war had vanished and that now there was a world people's war. The Party therefore shifted its political position to one of military participation in what had now become a full-fledged people's anti-fascist war. In its statement of June 22nd, condemning the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R., the Party called for "full support and co-operation with the Soviet Union in its struggle against Hitlerism."1 Six days later the National Committee elaborated its position to "Defend America by giving full aid to the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and all nations who fight against Hitler," and "For full and unlimited collaboration of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union to bring about the military defeat of Hitler."2
The Party called upon the workers at home to be especially alert to defend their living standards, to protect the rights of the Negro people, to fight against anti-Semitism, and to establish national and international trade union unity. It especially warned against the danger of a new Munich, aimed at transforming the war into a struggle of the capitalist world against the Soviet Union. For the reactionaries felt that at last, in the struggle between Germany and Russia, they had the "right war." Another Munich sell-out was the aim of Hess's fantastic flight to England at this time, even as it was that of Hoover in his N.B.C. radio broadcast of June 29, 1941, when he declared that there would be "no possibility of bringing the war to conclusion except by a compromise peace" with Hitler against the U.S.S.R. Calling for an organized fight against reaction abroad and at home, the Communist Party conducted an active struggle during the next six critical months in the midst of a rising war spirit among the American people.
The Japanese attack upon the United States forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, radically changed the sentiment of the American people. Their hopes of staying out of the war, which had persisted even after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, now disappeared overnight. The American masses girded themselves for war.
The Communist Party, on the day of the attack, denounced the attack on Pearl Harbor as "the culminating outrage of Axis aggression aimed at the domination of the entire world. The fate of every nation and every people has been thrown into the arena for determination by military means." The Party declared, "The Communist Party pledges its loyalty, its devoted labor and the last drop of its blood in support of our country in this greatest of all crises that ever threatened its existence." The Party called for "Everything for National Unity!" "Everything for victory over world-wide fascist slavery!"3
During the ensuing years of hard-fought war the Communists loyally lived up to these patriotic pledges. No organization in the country made a better record in the people's war than did the Communist Party and the Young Communist League. They gave 15,000 of their men and women members to the armed services. On the battle fronts the fighters conducted themselves with characteristic Communist courage and devotion. Many became officers and many others were decorated for personal bravery, notable among these being Robert Thompson, Alexander Suer, and Herman Boettcher, all of whom received the Distinguished Service Cross.4 Suer and Boettcher, both captains, were killed in action. There were many others, too, who never returned, among the numerous Communist casualties being Hank Forbes, district secretary in Pittsburgh.
On the home front the Communists were in the forefront of all work calculated to strengthen the national war effort. They were outstanding fighters for a strong anti-fascist war policy by the government; they stood second to nobody in rallying the workers for all-out production; they were militant participants in all phases of civilian defense work; and they carried on a ceaseless battle against all "isolationists" and other reactionary compromisers and saboteurs of the war effort.
Through the war the women comrades in the Party especially distinguished themselves; during the absence of so many men leaders at the front, they came forward and took over a very large share of leadership in the Party. Four women were members of the National Committee —Mother Bloor, Anita Whitney, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Alice Burke. Five were members on the editorial staff of the Daily Worker. Hundreds of women comrades fulfilled leading functions in state, county, and branch organizations all over the country. Similarly the left and progressive unions drew heavily upon their women members to fill leading posts during the war.
THE BATTLE FOR PRODUCTION
The most important contribution of the United States toward winning the war was in the field of producing war munitions. Production in general went up almost 100 percent over pre-war times.5 This production included 297,000 military planes, 86,388 tanks, 16,438 armored cars, 2,434,535 trucks, 123,707 tractors, 2,700,000 machine guns, 17, 400,000 rifles, 315,000 pieces of field artillery, 71,060 naval vessels, 45 million tons of merchant shipping, etc.6 This tremendous output was achieved by lengthening the work-day, speeding up the workers, and expanding American industrial capacity to the extent of $25 billion in new plants. To accomplish all this a veritable battle for production was organized.
The Communist Party, recognizing the immense importance of production in winning the war, threw its whole force into this phase of the struggle. With its characteristic vigor, it activated all its members in the unions, in its press, and elsewhere to speed the wheels of industry. None served with better results in this general sphere than did the Communists.
The workers, who had displayed little or no interest in increasing munitions production during the imperialist World War I, made big efforts to turn out the maximum output during the anti-fascist World War II. Nearly all the trade unions shared in this effort, with the C.I.O. in the lead, under the heavy influence of the left. Among the more important means used to increase production were the union-management production committees, of which by 1945 there were 5,000 in leading industrial plants. Another vital production factor was labor's no-strike pledge. It was adopted by both C.I.O. and A.F. of L. at their 1941 conventions. This action cut the number of strikers in 1942 to one-third of what it had been in 1941. Organized labor in the main lived up to this pledge, and during die war there were no authorized strikes. John L. Lewis managed, however, to conduct several big mine strikes, and the
Walter Reuther faction in the United Auto Workers, while publicly proclaiming support for the no-strike pledge, surreptitiously promoted many local walkouts in the plants. As for the Communist Party and the left-led unions, they insistently enforced the pledge—even too rigidly where shop grievance stoppages were concerned. They also actively supported the plant production committees.
During the war years, although prices were supposedly frozen, there was a steady rise in the cost of living. The employers, as always, put their profits before the national interest and wrung out of the lush war production all possible financial benefits for themselves. They reaped even greater profits than they did in World War I, and monopoly domination of the country was enormously strengthened during the war. At the outset of the war the capitalists conducted their notorious "sit-down strike of capital" until they secured from the government such profit rates as they demanded.7 Besides, seeing that the workers had their wages frozen and that the unions had pledged themselves not to strike, the employers maneuvered on all government levels to keep wage rates down. This necessitated an energetic fight by the unions to have wages at least keep pace with soaring prices. In this broad fight to maintain living standards, the Communists were naturally in the front line.
Late in 1942, however, Earl Browder introduced into the Party a proposition that threatened to compromise the Party's struggle to protect the workers' living standards. This was his so-called "incentive wage." Browder proposed, in substance, that henceforth wages should be tied to production. That is, the workers would be paid in accordance with their output. It was correct that the workers, in the war against fascism, should turn out maximum production; it was correct also that, because of their greater productivity, they should get higher wages; but Browder applied all this wrongly in both theory and practice. He drew fantastic pictures of the beneficial results to be achieved by his payment-by-results system, declaring that "we could have a general increase in productivity that would give us in the course of six months or a year twice as much war production as we have today. For the workers that would mean, under this principle, at least twice as much wages."8 Browder's plan, supposedly able to reap such great advances for the workers, placed no stress, however, upon the improvement of existing hourly, daily, and weekly wage rates, which he considered an obsolete system. This was an error. The scheme, which had been adopted by the Party after considerable opposition, was not widely advocated in the unions.
THE FIGHT FOR THE SECOND FRONT
The struggle to induce, or rather to compel, the United States and British governments to open up the western front in France, occupied the center of attention of the Communist Party during the 1941-44 period. The Red Army was bearing the whole burden of the war against the main fascist fortress, Nazi Germany, and its two big "allies" in the West were calmly standing aside allowing it to do so, under the obviously false pretext that they as yet lacked sufficient forces to carry through a successful invasion of France. It was imperatively in the interest of the whole allied forces, including the United States, that the second front be opened as soon as possible. The Communist Party utilized all of its strength and influence in a prolonged and persistent agitational struggle to bring about the long and deliberately delayed attack upon Hitler from the West. The Party stood out in the whole country, for its clarity and militancy on this decisive question.
The American people, in general, were full of admiration for the Red Army's magnificent struggle and undoubtedly favored the opening of the second front at the very earliest opportunity, even though they realized what the cost would be to them in casualties. But they were constantly deluged by the flood of propaganda from the let-Germany-and-Russia-fight-it-out reactionaries, in the government and outside, to the effect that we were "not yet ready." The A.F. of L. top leaders—Soviet-haters and reactionaries—also displayed no haste about the second front, and they were willing to leave the matter to the anti-Soviet military experts to decide. Large numbers of their international, state, city, and local affiliates, however, joined in the popular demand for the early invasion of France. The C.I.O., with its then characteristic left orientation, took a forthright position for the second front. Thus, at its 1943 convention it declared that "coalition warfare of the United Nations is the key to our victory," and that "the issue before the United Nations is the decisive, full-scale invasion of Europe."
As remarked earlier, it was only when the Anglo-American reactionaries could no longer delay the opening of the western front without imperiling their imperialist interests, that they finally agreed with the Russians upon the long-delayed date for the beginning of the invasion. This was done at the famous conference of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at Teheran, Iran, in December 1943.
Browder made two grossly opportunist errors on the general question of the second front. When Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, in view of the fact that Great Britain and the United States had agreed to help the U.S.S.R., Browder hopped to the conclusion that henceforth they would be trustworthy allies. "They have crossed the Rubicon," he sent word from the Atlanta jail to the National Committee. "Munich-ism is now at an end. We have nothing further to fear on that score." This belief, that there had been a solid merger of the war effort simply because the U.S.S.R. and the western powers were in the war together on the same side, contained the embryo of Browder's later Teheran revisionism. The Party rejected Browder's opportunist estimate of the type of the war alliance, and the correctness of its action was evidenced by the fact that almost immediately afterward the Party had to begin the two-and-a-half-year struggle against the reluctant British and American governments to have the second front established. Browder's second error on the western front question came at the very conclusion of that historic struggle, after he had been released from jail. It was based on an enormous overestimation of the significance of the Teheran agreement to open the second front. It was a great irony that the Party should conclude its otherwise splendid struggle for the second front by making in this connection, upon Browder's initiative, by far the most serious political mistake in its career. This error will be discussed in full in the next chapter.
THE FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES COMMISSION
During the war the employers put a halt to Roosevelt's social security program on the basis of economy, although they themselves were making two to three times as much profit as they had immediately before the war. One of the major casualties in this respect was the Wagner-Dingell Bill for compulsory health insurance. In the same vein, Congress passed the notorious Smith-Connally Act in 1943, which outlawed strikes in defense plants and restricted the political activities of trade unions. Nevertheless, the workers in the democratic spirit of the people's war, did manage to secure some concessions, following the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938), and buttressed the 40-hour week. Also in 1944 Roosevelt enunciated the Economic Bill of Rights.9 But the most important advance was the setting up of the Fair Employment Practices Commission, devised to break down some of the discrimination against Negro workers in industry.
On June 25, 1941, the president, in his Executive Order 8802, declared that it shall be the "policy of the United States that there shall be 414 no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." On July 18th Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee to enforce this directive.
Previously the president, although assuming a friendly attitude toward the Negro people, had done practically nothing to mitigate the outrageous discrimination practiced against them. With his heavy support in the South, he had never made a real attack upon Jim Crow there. Also throughout the war the 920,000 Negro men and women in the armed forces suffered the indignities of segregation, when Roosevelt by a word could have abolished it. Nor did the president actively support the anti-poll tax. and anti-lynching bills, so valorously championed for years by Vito Marcantonio, House member from the 18th Congressional District of New York City, and which almost became law. If the F.E.P.C. was set up it was due primarily to the need for workers in the war emergency, to the pressure of the mass of Negro trade unionists, to the fighting spirit of the Negro people, and to the growing unity in struggle between Negro and white progressives. The Communist Party, by its never-ending fight for and with the Negro people, also deserved no little of the credit for the measure.10
The F.E.P.C, while relieving somewhat the conditions of Negro workers during the war and establishing in principle their rights in industry, never became federal law. Roosevelt did not support the Marcantonio bill, H.R. 173a, designed to put teeth into his Executive Order. When the reactionary Truman became president he managed to slough off the F.E.P.C. altogether, under cover of his usual cloud of demagogy, as we shall see later. The A.F. of L. and Railroad Brotherhoods, with the aim of preserving their Jim Crow restrictions, also opposed the F.E.P.C. practices and legislation as "an infringement upon the trade unions' right to regulate their own internal affairs."
THE DISSOLUTION OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL
On June 10, 1943, the Communist International was dissolved by the unanimous action of all its affiliated parties. On May 15th a motion to this effect had been submitted to the various parties.11 Thus came to a conclusion the great world organization of Communists founded by Lenin in March 1919.
This serious action was taken as a war measure, as a means to further strengthen the unity of the peoples fighting against fascist aggression. Stalin, in an interview with Harold King, Reuters correspondent, stated that "The dissolution of the Communist International . . . facilitates the organization of the common onslaught of all freedom-loving nations against the common enemy—Hitlerism. It exposes the lie of the Hitlerites to the effect that 'Moscow' allegedly intends to intervene in the life of other nations and to 'Bolshevize' them." Stalin also showed concretely that the action would aid in organizing the progressive forces in the various countries, and would also help to "unite all the freedom-loving peoples into a single international camp for the fight against the menace of world domination by Hitlerism."12
The dissolution of the Comintern was a heavy sacrifice by the Communists for the common cause of victory. From the days of its foundation the C.I. was the indomitable leader of the world forces for freedom, national independence, and socialism. It was an invaluable body, where working class leaders of all countries could discuss the situation facing the workers everywhere, thus helping in the formation of programs for advancing the welfare of the working people of each country, based on their real needs and their real situation. It was also the means of educating, in the fire of actual struggle, tens of thousands of militant Communist fighters, many of whom are now the leaders of the governments of their respective countries. The Communist International represented the world Socialist movement at a vastly higher level than was the case with either the First or Second International.
The Communist Party of the United States, as we have seen in the course of this history, owes a great debt to the Comintern for its own Marxist-Leninist development. In meeting the difficult post-war problems it has seriously felt the loss of its one-time direct contact with the world's best Marxists through that organization.
OPPORTUNIST CONCEPTION OF NATIONAL UNITY
Above we have dealt in passing with some of Browder's developing deviations. But these were only the beginning of a veritable system of distorting Marxism-Leninism. While Browder was in prison, the Communist Party correctly called for national unity of the anti-Hitler forces to prosecute the war. But Browder later proceeded to give this sound policy a highly opportunistic orientation. He interpreted national unity as "uniting the entire nation, including the biggest capitalists, for a complete and all-out drive for victory."13 This all-inclusive conception of national unity attempted to ignore the basic fact that the "biggest capitalists," following a course dictated by their own imperialist interests, had nothing politically in common with the masses of the American people, who were fighting to destroy Hitlerism. Instead of uniting with such reactionaries in order to have a sound war policy, it was necessary for the great masses of the people to organize and fight against them.
Browder's conception of national unity, which was essentially of a Social-Democratic character, also subordinated the political role of the working class to bourgeois dictation. During the war situation organized labor, with a membership which advanced from 11 million to 14 million in the war years, should have united its forces politically, however loosely. Inasmuch as labor was fully supporting the war, it should also have demanded that its relation to the Roosevelt government be placed on a coalition basis. There ought to have been several labor members in a joint cabinet, instead of none at all. But Roosevelt naturally was opposed to such a project, and so, too, were the top leaders of organized labor, who wanted to do nothing that could even remotely threaten their beloved two (bourgeois) party system.
In the Communist Party demands were raised that organized labor fight for a coalition status and for members in the Roosevelt Cabinet, but Browder defeated this proposition. He tailed right along with Roosevelt, Lewis, Murray, and Green, taking the two-party system for granted and discarding for good the perspective for a third, or labor party. Said he, "We have rejected as impractical for the war period any general readjustment or regrouping of the party structure in our national political life."14 The result of labor's refusal to demand its rights was that the workers were denied the greatly enhanced political power which they could have gained through a coalition status. Browder's idea was not that labor should "co-operate" with Roosevelt in the war, but that it must simply "support" him. The workers went through the war with insignificant, third-line representation in the many national war committees and agencies. One of Roosevelt's most marked efforts was to prevent independent working class political action, and during the war period, with Browder's blessing, he carried out this labor-crippling line very effectively.
To appease the widespread demand for more worker leadership in the war, Roosevelt finally set up the Combined Labor Victory Committee, consisting of three representatives each from the C.I.O. and A.F. of L. and one from the Railroad Brotherhoods. This Committee, which occasionally met with the president, had no real power of decision. Browder, in chorus with the labor bureaucrats, hailed this makeshift formation as adequate labor representation and a big accomplishment for organized labor.
Browder's false conception of national unity deeply cut down the leading political role of the Communist Party. It would have been of great advantage to our Party, as well as to the labor movement in general, had the Communists more clearly exposed the imperialist policy of big capital during the war, in contrast to the democratic line of the workers, and also had the Party made a real fight for effective political recognition of the workers in the conduct of the war. Browder's opportunism denied the Party both of these vital war-time issues.
BROWDER'S PLAN FOR ORGANIZED CAPITALISM
Many right-wing Social-Democrats and pseudo-Communists—Bernstein, Kautsky, Bukharin, and others—following the lead of "progressive" bourgeois economists, have from time to time developed theories of "organized capitalism"; that is, of a capitalist system which, overcoming its inner contradictions and inescapable chaos, would carry on production in a planned and systematic way, nationally and internationally. Browder tried his hand at this opportunist game, as a wartime policy, in 1942. He got the idea from Congressman Tolan who, in a report to Congress, proposed that "every phase" of the national economy must be "planned, must be guided, must be brought under administration control." This was a futile bourgeois attempt to parody the planned, Socialist production of the U.S.S.R. Browder called his own scheme of organized capitalism a "centralized war economy." There was opposition in the Party to Browder's scheme, but not enough to prevent its being at least formally adopted.
According to Browder, "Maximum war production requires a central administration which will plan, direct, guide, and control the entire economy of the nation."15 The whole economic machine would be operated by the government, with labor (also according to Browder's policies) occupying only third-line advisory posts. How far-reaching Browder considered his project is evidenced by a few further quotations from his book Victory—And After. "In a centralized war economy, prices lose their former significance as a registration of market relationships and become a convenience of bookkeeping and accounting" . , . "profits lose their former significance as a source of unlimited personal consumption" and . . . "although private ownership remains intact, private capital loses its significance as the pre-condition to production" . . . "wages tend to lose their significance as a market relationship" . . . and "there is no necessity for the government to 'take over' the plants except to the degree that Congress had already provided for in the federal statute authorizing plant seizures when such steps are made necessary, by resistance to public policy by the present individual owners."16 Browder saw the virtual disappearance of the wages system altogether under his "organized capitalism." He says, "Wages expressed in money no longer represent a standard of life; wages must now, therefore, be expressed in a guaranteed supply of the workers' needs as a producer."17
As Lenin and Stalin have repeatedly pointed out, capitalism cannot carry on planned production either in war or in peace. This conclusion applies not only to Bukharin's brand of organized capitalism, but also to Browder's "centralized war economy" and the Truman "managed economy" scheme. The capitalist system's domination by monopoly capital, its violent competition between hundreds of thousands of capitalist firms producing blindly for the market, its bitter struggle between the ruling and exploited classes over the question of wages, etc., its ruthless fight among the imperialist powers over the markets of the world, its sharp collision of the capitalist world against the socialist world—all make the world capitalist system hopelessly chaotic and un-organizable.
Lenin, in his famous Introduction in 1915 to Bukharin's book, Imperialism and World Economy, had the following to say on this general question: "There is no doubt that the development is going in the direction of a single world trust that will swallow up all enterprises and all states without exception. But the development in this direction is proceeding under such stress, with such a tempo, with such contradictions, conflicts and convulsions—not only economic, but also political, national, etc., etc.—that before a single world trust will be reached, before the respective national finance capitalists will have formed a world union of 'ultra-imperialism,' imperialism will inevitably explode, capitalism will turn into its opposite."
In the given war circumstances, Browder's "organized capitalism" dreams served to sow illusions among the workers about the ability of capitalism to carry on planned production, and they also tended to cut down the political initiative of the proletariat and to subordinate it to the leadership of the bourgeoisie. In an immediate sense Browder's Utopian scheme weakened the fight for President Roosevelt's more practical seven-point program (taxes, price controls, materials allocation, profits limitations, etc.), which was designed to establish some faint traces of order in the inevitable jungle of capitalist productive and distributive relationships.
BROWDER'S OPPORTUNISM AND THE CHINESE REVOLUTION
Wall Street imperialism has a long record of aggression and exploitation in China.18 The Communist Party, usually under the slogan of "Hands Off China," almost from its inception fought against this imperialist penetration of China and gave the Chinese Revolution such help as it could. In particular, it vigorously opposed the Roosevelt policy of shipping scrap iron and other war munitions to Japan during the thirties when that country was invading and overrunning China. In appreciation of this support, in 1937, Mao' Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, and Chu Teh, the chief Chinese Communist leaders, sent separate letters of thanks to the Communist Party of the United States.19
During World War II, however, as part of his developing revisionism, Browder departed fundamentally from the Party's correct line toward the Chinese Revolution. His opportunism became marked after his interview with Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles in October 1942. Browder had previously made a statement criticizing sharply the anti-Communist policy of the Roosevelt Administration in China. Welles summoned Browder to Washington for this and gave him a statement, denying Browder's allegations and asserting that the United States aimed at unifying the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists in China. This "unity" policy amounted to no more than a wartime effort to turn all Chinese guns against the Japanese, but Browder interpreted it as a genuine, long-term desire to establish a democratic Chinese national unity. He swallowed Welles's proposition whole, apologized publicly for his previous statement attacking the State Department's China policy, 20 and thenceforth became a supporter of the reactionary line of American imperialism in China.
Thus, typically, in a speech on March 13, 1945, Browder stated that "The United States finds the Yenan [Communist] policies closer to our understanding of the two nations than are the policies of Chungking [Chiang Kai-shek]"; that "The economic policies of the Communist-led area are much more closely related to the American 'free enterprise' methods than are those of Chungking"; and that "The Chinese Communists trust America."21 He climaxed his endorsement of Wall Street policy in China by declaring at the Party's emergency convention, in July 1945, that "Official American policy, whatever temporary vacillations may appear, is pressing toward the unity and democratization of China."22 Browder even tried to create the false impression that the State Department was backing the Communists against Chiang.
How completely wrong Browder was in his sizing up of the Chinese situation is demonstrated by present State Department policy in China, with its seizure of Taiwan (Formosa), attempted conquest of Korea, proposed A-bombing of Chinese cities, economic boycott against China, armed support of Chiang Kai-shek against People's China, and blocking of the seating of the Chinese People's Republic in the United Nations. This is the logical fruition of the traditional aggressive policy of American imperialism toward China. As Marxist-Leninists, the Chinese Communists followed a totally different line from Browder's, a line of anti-imperialist struggle which was foreseen 25 years ago by the great Marxist, Stalin, and it brought them to complete victory.
THE PARTY AND THE MASSES
The combination of lefts and progressives, which had built the C.I.O. and made it the leading section of the trade union movement on questions of the war, the organization of the unorganized, the Negro people, the women, the youth, and so on, continued right on through the war years. This was due chiefly to a general agreement on the aims and tasks of the war, and also partly to Philip Murray's acute need for Communist help in his struggles against John L. Lewis and the Green clique in the A.F. of L. The effectiveness of the left-center bloc during this period was lessened greatly, however, by the various Browder mistakes which we have indicated—especially by his tailing after Murray on such questions as those of organized capitalism and of no working class independent political action.
The several broad united front movements of left and progressive elements that had played such a prominent role in the immediate prewar years, mostly either died out or became skeletonized with the development of the war. This was basically because the new situation changed the issues confronting these organizations and rendered them largely obsolete. Quarrels between right and left over such questions as the Soviet-German pact, the Finnish War, and the "phony" war generally, hastened their disintegration. The American League for Peace and Democracy was dissolved in 1940, and the American Peace Mobilization in 1941. The American Youth Congress died out in 1942, and the League of American Writers dissolved in 1941. The Workers Alliance, with unemployment no longer an issue, also perished as the war began. The National Negro Congress, Southern Negro Youth Congress, and Southern Conference for Human Welfare went on into the post-war period, but in skeleton form. The American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, with a continuing vital task, lived on. So did the united front defense organizations, in the shape of the Civil Rights Congress.
During the war period the Party membership grew only slowly. At the beginning of 1944 it reached its maximum of some 80,000 members, including the 15,000 whose membership had been discontinued while they were in the armed services. This was only 5,000 more than the Party reported at its 1938 convention. Large numbers of workers joined the Party; the recruiting campaign of early 1944, for example, brought in 24,000 new members, about 30 percent of whom were Negroes; but the membership turnover was very heavy. At that time 33,000 members had been in the Party less than one year.23 About 14 percent of the Party members in 1944 were Negroes, 46 percent industrial workers, 46 percent women, and 25 percent professional and white collar workers.
The Party's growing strength among the masses was evidenced in the New York municipal elections of 1943, when Peter V. Cacchione (first elected in 1941) was re-elected to the City Council as a Communist by the biggest first-choice vote of any candidate in the city. Of historical importance was the election, at the same time, of the first Negro Communist to public office, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr. Both Cacchione and Davis made excellent records in the City Council.
Opportunities for Party building were exceptionally good during the war, and the Party should have come into the post-war period with at least 150,000 solidly organized members. If it failed to do so, it was principally due to the opportunist Browder policies, which, by blunting the Party's initiative and distorting its program, made the Party far less attractive to the workers. In the Party there was considerable opposition to Browder's errors, his twisted use of American democratic traditions, his compromising Latin American policy, his "incentive wage" theory, his opportunist concept of national unity, and his theory of a centralized war economy. But this opposition was neither clear nor strong enough as yet to expose thoroughly and to defeat the revisionist system that Browder was rapidly building up. This was to come later.
1 The Communist, July 1941.
2 The Communist, Aug. 1941.
3 The Communist, Dec. 1941.
4 Among the 414 delegates at a national encampment of Communist veterans in Washington, D. C, held in May 1947, there were holders of the following decorations: 1,019 Battle Stars, 44 Purple Hearts, 21 Bronze Stars, 6 Silver Stars, 107 Air Medals, 9 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 44 Presidential Unit Citations, 2 Legion of Merit, and 1 Distinguished Service Cross.
5 Labor Research Association, Labor Fact Book 7, p. 9, N. Y., 1945.
6 Todd and Curti, America's History, p. 776.
7 The supposedly high wartime wages were a fiction. In 1944, the average weekly wage of all workers in manufacturing industries was $47.45, whereas the generally recognized Heller Cost-o£-Living Budget then called for a weekly wage of ?S4.oo.
8 Earl Browder, Wage Policy in War Production, p. 8, N. Y., 1943.
9 Labor Research Association, Labor Fact Book 7, p. 22.
10 Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., in The Communist, Aug. 1942.
11 The Communist, July 1943.
12 The Communist, Nov. 1943.
13 Browder, Victory—and After, p. 118.
14 Browder, Victory—and After, p. 140.
15 Browder, Victory—and After, p. 228.
16 Browder, Victory-and After, pp. 245-49.
17 Browder, Victory-and After, p. 238.
18 Frederick V. Field in Political Affairs, Jan. 1946.
19 Text in Earl Browder, The People's Front, pp. 316-18, N. Y„ 1938.
20 See Earl Browder, Policy of Victory', pp. 20-22, N. Y., 1943.
21 Earl Browder, Why America Is Interested in the Chinese Communists, N. Y., 1945.
22 Daily Worker, July 28, 1945.
23 John Williamson in Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the Communist Political Association, May 20-22, p. 51, N. Y., 1944.