23. Roosevelt and Wall Street (1933-1936)
|The Foster/Ford Presidential ticket of 1932.|
James Ford was the first African-American in
United States history to run on a Presidential ticket.
This big business opposition to Roosevelt started to develop within a year after he took office. Economic conditions had begun to improve, chiefly through the normal tendency of capitalism eventually to work its way temporarily out of its cyclical crisis and a little as a result of the government subsidies to industry and agriculture under the New Deal. By January 1, 1934, industrial production stood at 73.1, as against 58.5 in March 1933, and 116.7 m October 1929. In 1932, 1,435 big corporations suffered a deficit of $97 million, but in 1933 the same concerns reaped profits of $661 million. Prices rose sharply and unemployment decreased somewhat from the unprecedented figure of 17 million a year before. The Democrats, with redoubled energy, sang "Happy Days Are Here Again"; big business, feeling that "prosperity" was about at hand and relieved of its fears of collapse and revolution, believed that it could dispense with even Roosevelt's niggardly relief to the unemployed, his equivocal concession to the workers of the right to organize, and his skimpy subsidies to the farmers.
It was a "false dawn," however, so far as the economic situation was concerned, for industry had by no means escaped from the slump. Stalin, at the Seventeenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (in January 1934), gave a clear picture of what was happening in the major capitalist countries. He summed up his analysis with the statement: "Evidently what we are witnessing is a transition from the lowest point of the industrial crisis to a depression—not an ordinary depression, but a depression of a special kind which does not lead to a new upward trend and industrial boom, but which, on the other hand, does not force industry back to the lowest point of decline."1 Stalin's profound Marxist analysis was proved brilliantly correct during the ensuing years. World capitalism, and particularly capitalism in the United States, could not and did not overcome its "depression of a special kind," but continued with under-average production and huge unemployment, meanwhile plunging into the economic crisis of 1937, until the outbreak of World War II in the fall of 1939 put the wheels of industry once more into full operation. It took a huge blood transfusion from slaughtered millions to revive even temporarily the hopelessly sick capitalist system.
WALL STREET'S ATTACK UPON THE NEW DEAL
The big capitalists of Wall Street, alarmed at the workers' militant strikes and organizing campaigns of the first years of the New Deal, demanded that the government take drastic action to curb the rebellious workers. Nor did their demands go unheeded. Troops were used freely by governors in many states against strikers; 88 workers and farmers were killed in 1933-34, with the murderers going unpunished; 18,000 strikers and demonstrators were arrested in 1935; scores of drastic injunctions were directed against striking unions; lynchings mounted in the South; and the K.K.K., vigilantes, and other terroristic organizations ran riot. Nor did the supposedly pro-labor federal government stir a finger to halt this mounting wave of employer-provoked violence.
But the great mass movements of the period which we have described in the two previous chapters—the big strikes, organizing drives, unemployment demonstrations, Negro and youth organizations, and the confused "panacea" movements—were not to be halted by this violence. The workers and other toilers were in a fighting mood, with prices soaring and wages lagging, with up to 13 million jobless, with a total of 24 million dependent upon government aid (the average family receiving only $19 monthly in relief), and with the employers once again piling up huge profits. The workers were insisting militantly that the promise of a "new deal" for them should be realized.
The basic "crime" that big business held against Roosevelt was that his policies were leading to the unionization of the basic industries. This fact underlay every charge of "red" and "Socialist" that they made against him. The tycoons of Wall Street regarded with the gravest alarm the militant movements of the workers during 1933-34 in which the Communist Party played such a vital part. These movements, they realized, signified that their main industrial fortress—the "open shop" in the trustified industries, the pride and hope of every reactionary-was crumbling into collapse. The workers were finally breaking through this barrier which, with its network of company unionism, spy systems, gunman control, and violent anti-unionism, had long balked every forward move of the trade unions. This was a political defeat of major proportions for big business, and the latter blamed Roosevelt for the disaster.
THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE
After incubating for several months, the American Liberty League was formally incorporated on August 15, 1934. Its chief sponsors were the du Ponts, and on its list of supporters were many of the largest capitalist concerns in the United States. These included representatives of the Morgans, Rockefellers, Mellons, and numerous other leading Wall Street corporations, such as United States Steel, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Reading Railroad, Bankers Trust, Montgomery Ward, General Foods, Armour &: Co., Guaranty Trust, United States Rubber, American Telephone & Telegraph, International Harvester, and a host of similar firms. The organizer of this big capitalist political outfit was John J. Raskob, a du Pont "angel" of the Democratic Party. Its chief front man was Alfred E. Smith, Democratic candidate for president in 1928. Smith, a boy from New York's slums who had "made good," was counted on to give a democratic flavor to the reactionary enterprise. In addition to its general anti-Roosevelt agitation, the Liberty League directed heavy blows against Roosevelt's control of the Democratic Party, the president's chief political stronghold. The Communist Party, from the outset, exposed and fought this vicious organization. 2
The Liberty League quickly attracted to itself all the outstanding fascist demagogues of the country. Hearst backed it and gave it endless publicity; Huey Long and Father Coughlin also lent it their considerable support. The two latter had originally given Roosevelt their backing, when they believed that his program was leading toward fascism; but they quickly became his enemies when they perceived the progressive mass movements that were developing under his regime. The Liberty League worked hand in glove with the Republican Party, and their combined forces violently combated Roosevelt, opposed the advance of the trade unions, and gave open or covert support to anti-Semitism, Negro discrimination and every other reactionary and fascist-like political current. They demanded a return to Hooverism, so despised by the masses.
ROOSEVELT FIGHTS BACK
This developing attack of big capital put Roosevelt between two fires. On the one hand, there was the pressure of the great mass movements of the people, resolved upon winning drastic economic and political reforms; and on the other hand, there was the increasingly violent opposition of big business, which wanted to put a quick end to every democratic reform. Roosevelt himself was a liberal who had taken office as the representative of what was virtually a national front including most of big business. He vacillated under these two heavy pressures, striving to reconcile the irreconcilable. But he was finally compelled to take a more definite stand against the section of finance capital which wanted to force the country along the Hitler road toward fascism, and to support of that section of the capitalists which favored a policy of mild reform and minimum concessions to the working class. Roosevelt still steered a middle course, but now, as he called it, "a little to the left of center."
Lenin long ago pointed out that the bourgeoisie, in its need to hold the workers in subjection, uses alternately, as the situation demands, two general methods of control: "They are, firstly, the method of force, the method which rejects all concessions to the labor movement, the method of supporting all the old and obsolete institutions, the method of irreconcilably rejecting reforms. . . . The second method is the method of 'liberalism' which takes steps toward the development of political rights, toward reforms, concessions and so forth." 3 Under the growing pressure of the masses, Roosevelt took this second course. His section of the bourgeoisie believed that a policy of limited reforms was both possible and indispensable. It was on the basis of these reforms, particularly facilitating the growth of trade unionism, that the strong "Roosevelt tradition" was built up among the workers. Under the given conditions, the other way—stark repression—would have been the road toward fascism, leading to eventual defeat of the capitalists at the hands of the awakening workers.
The first major political clash between the Roosevelt forces and the Liberty League-Republican Party combination came in the mid-term fall elections of 1934. It was a hot battle, and Roosevelt emerged from it victorious, substantially strengthening his hold upon Congress and in many states. But this victory was by no means a decisive one. Undeterred by their defeat at the hands of the people, the anti-New Deal forces of big business called upon their faithful ally, the Supreme Court, to help them. This body promptly responded, declaring unconstitutional, early in 1935, the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Railroad Retirement Act, the Frazier-Lemke Act (which gave partial relief on farm mortgages), and the Agricultural Adjustment Act. These were all key New Deal laws. At the outset of the New Deal, big businessmen had pinned their hopes upon N.I.R.A., as we have seen, depending upon it to give them solid control of the industries and to build up a system of fascist-like company unions; but it backfired and they had the Supreme Court get rid of it, dealing Roosevelt a sharp blow.
Roosevelt, heavily pressed by the workers, retaliated against this attack from the Supreme Court by having the Democratic Congress adopt several new laws in 1935. Chief of these were, as enacted in April, the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.); in July, the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act; and in August, the Social Security Act. The Guffey Coal Act was also passed.
The W.P.A. was the work relief project, however skinflint the relief rates and wages. The Wagner Act, more clearly than Section 7 (a) of the N.I.R.A., granted the workers the right to organize and set up certain restraints against employer interference with the workers using this right. At once it became a great bogey to the capitalists and a major issue in their "Hate Roosevelt" campaign. The Wagner Act legally abolished the employers' spy and gunman system. Under Section 7 (a) of the N.I.R.A., company unionism had made the biggest strides in its career. The La-Follette Commission, authorized by the Senate on June 6, 1936, exposed the fact that in their union-wrecking schemes the employers spent $80 million per year for their espionage-terrorist system. There were 230 agencies (Burns, Pinkerton, Sherman, etc.) engaged in this nefarious work. It was estimated that the employers had 100,000 spies, with at least one in each of the 48,000 local unions of the labor movement. 4 The Social Security Act established small federal benefits for the aged and unemployed. The Guffey Act, in certain features, favored the United Mine Workers. All of these laws were literally written by the workers themselves by their great industrial and political struggles of the period. The president also set out, in the midst of wild opposition, to alter the composition of the Supreme Court accordingly. This brought down upon his head violent charges that he was packing the high court. Roosevelt confined himself to the foregoing relatively modest reforms, most of which were already in effect in various European countries. He carefully opposed any and all measures that could directly weaken the capitalist system or that might worsen the basic position of the monopolists—such as democratic nationalization of the banks and railroads, a capital levy to procure government relief, a stated limitation upon capitalist profits, or the establishment of a farmer-labor party. Roosevelt, in his New Deal program, remained at all times the champion and defender of capitalism, which meant, of course, monopoly capitalism. Under his presidency big business made much of the most rapid and substantial economic progress in its entire history.
The Communist Party actively supported Roosevelt in his fight against the most reactionary sections of big business. Its general line, while combating bourgeois-democratic illusions among the workers about Roosevelt and his New Deal, was to support his reform measures and to get from them the maximum possible benefit for the working class. It was a policy of support with active criticism.
THE ELECTIONS OF 1936
The Presidential elections of 1936 were among the hardest-fought in the life of this country. Never were class lines more sharply drawn, and never was the partisan strife more bitter. The biggest and most fascist-minded reactionaries of Wall Street were resolved to get rid of Roosevelt at any price and to put into the White House a more pliable figure, one who would further their ultra-reactionary policies. The men they chose for their standard bearers were Alfred M. Landon, governor of Kansas, and Colonel Frank Knox, owner of the Chicago Daily News. Landon, known as the "Kansas Coolidge," was an ultra-reactionary, and the substance of his program was to undo all the work of the New Deal and to return to the policies of Herbert Hoover. As for Roosevelt himself, he promised, if re-elected, a continuation and development of the New Deal program. He demanded the defeat of the Wall Street "economic royalists."
The election was fought out against a background of mounting political struggle, not only on the domestic, but also on the international scene. The Hitler-Mussolini-Hirohito axis by now had its drive for world conquest under way. The Japanese were overrunning North China, the Italians had invaded Ethiopia, Hitler was blazing ahead in Germany, and the Germans and Italians had provoked the Spanish Civil War. World fascism was on the march, and it was in this spirit that the most reactionary sections of Wall Street finance capital fought Roosevelt. Their first attempt to shove the country toward fascism under the National Industrial Recovery Act had failed, but perhaps they would have better success in 1936. Many undoubtedly calculated that a defeat of the Roosevelt forces in the election would clear the way for the beginnings of fascism in the United States.
The big reactionaries rallied their forces to defeat Roosevelt and to elect the Landon ticket. The National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and other big combinations of capital used all their strength. The Republican Party spent money like water, and so did the American Liberty League and other Wall Street groups. The press was lined up at least 85 percent for Landon, who was the special darling of William Randolph Hearst.
A cunning election device of the Republicans was the setting up of the so-called Union Party. The agents of big business who did this job were the fascists Father Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith. Coughlin and Smith were assisted by Dr. Townsend, of old age pension fame. These elements chose as their presidential candidate Congressman William Lemke, an old time Non-Partisan Leaguer. The purpose of the Union Party maneuver was to play upon the third party sentiment among the workers and also upon the radicalism of the masses in the confused "panacea" movements, and thus to win these elements away from the Roosevelt camp.
The election struggle had not progressed far, however, before it became clear that big capital, lined up strongly against Roosevelt, was meeting determined resistance among the masses of workers and farmers. Especially significant was the pro-Roosevelt attitude of the Negroes in the North, who possessed votes. Ever since the Civil War the Negro people, in the main, had supported the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln and Negro emancipation. But great masses among them broke with this strong tradition in 1936. It was mainly a rank-and-file revolt, the old-line Negro politicians trying to keep the Negro masses in the Landon column. The Defender and other prominent Negro journals followed this course. But the Negro masses nevertheless voted for Roosevelt: four to one in Harlem, two to one in Brooklyn, with similar majorities in Chicago, Detroit, and other strong northern Negro centers. James W. Ford said of the election, "The Roosevelt landslide saw twenty-five Negroes elected to the state legislatures and one to the Congress of the United States. The majority were Democrats. In several instances Negro Republicans were succeeded by Negro Democrats. No Negro legislative candidate running on the Democratic ticket was defeated." 6 This break of the Negro masses from Republican tutelage was of historic importance. Never since then have they gone back to their old-time allegiance. Instead, with a strongly marked political progressivism, they occupy a highly strategic political position in several key northern states, especially New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
LABOR IN THE ELECTIONS
Organized labor went heavily for Roosevelt. This was particularly the case with the newly-established C.I.O. Whereas William Green and his A.F. of L. cronies still maintained the form of the old Gompers policy of rewarding labor's friends and punishing its enemies, John L. Lewis and Sidney Hillman, the leaders of the C.I.O., came out strongly for Roosevelt. In April 1936, they induced George L. Berry, president of the International Pressmen's Union (A.F. of L.) to work with them in setting up Labor's Non-Partisan League, of which Berry became the first president. The League, a step forward from the old Gompers policy, not only followed the practice of working within the Democratic Party (and also the Republican Party), but it likewise co-operated with such independent farmer and labor parties as existed at the time. Organized before the C.I.O.'s final suspension by the A.F. of L. convention in November, 1936, and before the League was condemned as "dual" to the A.F. of L., the League quickly won a wide support in official A.F. of L. ranks. It assembled 35,000 national and local union leaders as active workers in its cause. It was a power in the elections, carrying on agitational and organizational work upon a far broader scale than anything yet seen in the American labor movement.
The situation presented a splendid opportunity to launch a farmer-labor party, a more favorable moment even than during the LaFollette campaign of 1924. The workers were on the march politically, even as they were advancing in the industrial field. They gave every indication that they would have supported an independent party movement under the leadership of organized labor. Their militant spirit was indicated by the foundation and rapid growth during this period of the American Labor Party of New York, the Washington Commonwealth Federation, a similar federation in Oregon, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, the Progressive Party of Wisconsin, the Epic movement in California, and various other such organizations in a number of states. Communists played a very important part in all these state movements.
The strength of the workers' political movement was further indicated by the fact that at the second national convention of Labor's Non-Partisan League (held in Washington, March 1937), there were present 600 delegates, representing 3,500,000 workers in the A.F. of L., C.I.O., and Railroad Brotherhoods. But the top union leaders, true to form, did not rise to the situation. Despite the broad demand of the rank and file and the energetic agitation of the Communists, they refused to establish an independent party of the toiling masses, even though this would have strengthened, not weakened, the mass support for Roosevelt. So this golden opportunity to launch the working class on the path of independent political action was lost.
The position of the Communist Party in the 1936 elections, in line with its general attitude toward the New Deal, was one of objective, but not official support for Roosevelt. At its ninth convention (in New York, June 24-28, 1936), the Party took the stand that the central issue of the campaign was "democracy versus fascism," and it pointed out that the major forces of reaction and fascism were ganged up behind Landon. It called for "the concentration of all forces of the working class and its allies in the fight against the Republican-Liberty League-Hearst combination and for the defeat of its plans in the elections of 1936." The Party directed its main fire against Landon. As for Roosevelt, while the Party realized that he had made certain concessions to the toilers, it correctly asserted that he had made bigger "concessions to Hearst, to Wall Street, to the reactionaries." 7 It declared that Roosevelt's "middle course" was "not a barrier to reaction and fascism," 8 and that the Party could not therefore give him a full endorsement. Consequently, the Party put up its own national ticket, Earl Browder and James W. Ford. It was on the ballot in 34 states. The type of campaign which the Party carried on, however, calling for the defeat of Landon at all costs, militated against the Party polling its own full potential vote in the elections—hence its ticket received only 80,181 votes.
The Socialist Party, which at that time was displaying some activity, particularly in the unemployed field, and was passing through its phony "left" orientation mentioned in a previous chapter, took an ultra-left stand in the elections. Norman Thomas, in an absurd burst of radicalism for this opportunistic mountebank, stated that the issue in the elections was socialism versus capitalism and that the only immediate demand of the Socialists was for socialism. The S.P. declared that it was of no interest to the workers whether Landon or Roosevelt were elected, and it condemned the Communist Party for giving even conditional support to Roosevelt.
The elections were fought with extreme vigor and bitterness. Roosevelt was attacked as a near-Communist, and every device was used by the reactionaries to delude or scare the masses into voting the Republican ticket. But these efforts were quite in vain, the wild redbaiting failing of its purpose. Roosevelt's victory was of spectacular proportions. He carried every state in the Union, except Maine and Vermont. His popular vote was 27,750,000, over 11 million votes more than Landon's total— the largest election plurality in American political history. Both houses of Congress went solidly Democratic, and the Rooseveltites controlled the governorships of all the states except seven. The fascist tool Lemke, on the Union Party slate, polled only 891,858 votes, carrying not a single state. The Socialist Party, which for many years had polled a large "protest vote," got only 187,343 votes in 1936, or less than one-fourth of its vote in 1932. 9 The attempt of the Wall Street reactionaries to push the country in the direction of fascism had failed, wrecked upon the rocks of the democratic will of the American people.
THE POLITICAL LINE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
During the early New Deal years here under consideration, from the beginning of 1933 to the end of 1936, the general policy of the Communist Party was sound, although a number of weaknesses and some outright mistakes developed in its application. The basic correctness of the Communist political line was reflected in a wide increase in the Party's mass influence and in a steady growth in the number of its members throughout this period.
The Party was essentially correct in its attitude toward Roosevelt, its sharp opposition to the strong fascist influences in the early phases of the New Deal, and its later limited and critical support of Roosevelt and a number of his reforms. As early as 1936, however, Browder was slackening in necessary criticism of Roosevelt, an opportunism that was later to have disastrous consequences.
The Party was correct in the major stress which it laid upon stimulating the struggles of the masses for their immediate demands, more and more on a united front basis—for wages, unemployment relief, Negro rights, the youth, and trade union organization. It was quite right, too, in warning the masses that they would secure consideration for their demands only to the extent that they fought for them. This militant stand of the Party against all trimmers and compromisers was a major factor in the workers winning such concessions as they did during these years. Although the Party still tended to put somewhat too much stress upon the "revolutionary way out of the crisis," this did not prevent it from making an aggressive and successful fight for the everyday demands of the toiling masses.
In particular, the Communist Party was a highly constructive force in the persistent and intelligent fight it made to strengthen the trade union movement. Of course, the Party, as the vanguard party of the working class, was intensely interested in every trade union question; however, it did not itself intervene in the life of the trade unions. The Communists worked energetically to have the unions adopt progressive policies; nevertheless, in the highest sense of discipline and solidarity, they faithfully carried out the union's decisions, even when they might not fully agree with them. Communists were in the forefront of every organizing campaign, strike, and other union activity. They were also militant champions of labor unity. And they tirelessly worked to prevent the A. F. of L. and C.I.O. from splitting, and also to reunite the two organizations after the split had become a reality.
In its endless fight for labor unity, the Party made a united front proposal, in March 1933, to the A.F. of L. and S.P. to work together jointly on the basis of a common program of struggle.10 This proposal was in line with the realities of the American political situation and also with the fight that the Communists everywhere, in the face of the growing fascist menace, were making for world labor unity. The top leadership of both the A.F. of L. and S.P., however, were unresponsive to the C.P.'s unity proposals, but many of the lower organizations were not. During these years hundreds of A.F. of L. local unions and many local branches of the S.P., against the will of their main leaders, participated in such progressive united front organizations as the National Negro Congress, the American Youth Congress, the American League Against War and Fascism, the Workers Alliance, the League of American Writers, and the Councils for the Foreign-Born. In the 1936 campaign the C.P., following its correct united front policy, also proposed a joint election slate with the S.P. (which had grown considerably since 1933 and was then showing "left" tendencies), but this proposal was ignored by the Thomas leaders. In January 1936, the Y.C.L. proposed ineffectually to the Y.P.S.L. to form a united youth organization.
The Party correctly took a firm stand for the firmer political crystallization of the loose democratic mass coalition that was backing Roosevelt. It particularly stressed the necessity for establishing a definite people's front, in its American form of the farmer-labor party. In all the state parties and political federations of the period the Communists were active and effective workers, and in Labor's Non-Partisan League, the Communists and other lefts were also the most dynamic elements. The Party was quite aware of the historic opportunity which the early New Deal years presented for the working class to break with the poisonous capitalistic two-party system and to embark upon a course of independent political action.
In this general matter, however, the Party narrowly escaped making a serious blunder. After the C.I.O., the A.F. of L., and the various existing state labor and farmer parties had clearly indicated, early in 1936,11 that they were not going to launch an independent party for the presidential elections of that fall, Earl Browder, general secretary of the C.P., nevertheless insisted in our Party that it put a labor party ticket in the field. If this had been done, it would have meant another Federated Farmer Labor Party (1923), but upon a still narrower basis. Browder sought to justify this impractical, right-sectarian proposition, which would have disastrously isolated our Party, on the absurd grounds that such a party would draw votes from Landon's column rather than from Roosevelt's. Only after he was defeated did Browder withdraw his proposal and accept the policy of a qualified endorsement of Roosevelt, which the Party successfully followed in the 1936 elections.
The Party, too, was essentially correct in its sharp opposition to Roosevelt in the initial three years or so of his regime. Fascism was a burning menace throughout the capitalist world and there were many pronounced fascist trends in the Roosevelt program, especially in the N.I.R.A. However, when Roosevelt, under the pressure of the big mass struggles and the attacks of the extreme right, began to take a more definite stand against militant reaction, then the Party changed its attitude toward him. At the ninth convention of the Communist Party, in June 1936, it was decided, in substance, to give Roosevelt indirect support by directing the Party's main fire against Landon. This correct policy, however, as later events were to show, was eventually to be distorted by Browder into an impermissible subordination of the Communist Party to the bourgeois Roosevelt program in general.
BROWDER AND AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC TRADITIONS
The most serious theoretical error made by the Communist Party during the early Roosevelt period was its erroneous handling of the question of the American national democratic traditions. The matter of national traditions, long neglected by many Communist parties, became of imperative importance with the rise of world fascism and the attempt of the fascists to rewrite their peoples' history to suit their own reactionary purposes. The Communist Party, leader of the powerful People's Front movement in France, in accordance with the facts in France and on the basis of principles established long before by Lenin and Stalin, greatly stressed the question from 1933 on. It demonstrated effectively to the masses that the Marxist-Leninists, in fighting against fascism and war and for socialism, were not only acting as the immediate leaders of the nation, but at the same time were carrying forward the revolutionary and democratic traditions of the French people. This correct policy blasted the fascists' historical pretensions and greatly strengthened the whole fight of the People's Front. Georgi Dimitrov, at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, emphasized the importance of this task, pointing out that "The fascists are rummaging through the entire history of every nation so as to be able to pose as the heirs and continuers of all that was exalted and heroic in its past."12
Earl Browder, distorting the sound example of the French Communists, undertook after 1934 to analyze the relationship of American communism to American democratic and revolutionary traditions. In doing this he fell into the grossest opportunistic errors. Browder's central mistake in this general respect was his failure to distinguish between bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy. He ignored the basic facts that bourgeois democracy is the rule of the bourgeoisie and proletarian democracy the rule of the working class, and also that between the two lies the establishment of socialism. In applying his opportunist theories to American history, Browder did not differentiate fundamentally between the narrow, restricted type of democracy conceived by the bourgeoisie and the broad popular democracy fought for by the proletariat. 13 He obscured the reality that the bourgeoisie systematically limits, thwarts, and distorts the democratic institutions under capitalism in its own class interest, and that the working class historically lights to expand the bourgeois democracy. The workers, as Lenin points out, develop bourgeois democracy to the utmost, and then make the leap to Socialist democracy. The fight for socialism is a struggle, by democratic means, for the highest form of democracy, which is completely unachievable under capitalism.
Browder, with his un-Marxist, undifferentiated concept of "American democracy," stood for bourgeois democracy in itself, and he was already, at this early date, putting forward the perspective of its constant, evolutionary growth. This implied the abandonment of socialism and the indefinite continuation of the capitalist system. Browder summed up his opportunist conceptions of American revolutionary and democratic traditions in the slogan, "Communism Is Twentieth Century Americanism," which he introduced at the eighth convention of the Party in Cleveland in 1934. As H. Jennings points out, the meaning of this slogan was that "what passes for the American tradition, with all its vague classless connotations and its illusion of an abstract and timeless democracy standing above class antagonisms, is acceptable as a definition of Communism."14 Browder's slogan was criticized, and he later made a public restatement of it, supposedly self-critical. 15 He continued to advocate the slogan; but it soon fell into disuse.
After 1934 Browder's writings were saturated with his "all-class" conceptions of "American democracy." He developed his idea that Marxism-Leninism was only a sort of expanded, unbroken continuation of bourgeois democracy. At the tenth convention of the Party, held in New York, beginning on May 27, 1938, Browder stated that "A full and complete application of Jefferson's principles, the consistent application of democratic ideas to the conditions of today, will lead naturally and inevitably to the full program of the Communist Party, to the socialist reorganization of the United States, to the common ownership and operation of our economy for the benefit of all." 16 In accordance with this revisionist conception, Browder was instrumental in having the convention write into the Preamble of the C.P. Constitution his false notion of the gradual evolution of Jeffersonianism into Marxism-Leninism. The Preamble, as amended, read that the C.P. simply "carried forward the traditions of Washington, Jefferson, Paine, Jackson, and Lincoln under the changed conditions of today." This was a complete denial of the class content of bourgeois democracy.
Browder's opportunist conception of bourgeois democracy not only eliminated the fight for socialism, but also ignored the democratic role of the working class in American history. Washington, Jefferson, Paine, Jackson, and Lincoln, it is true, fought for certain restricted democratic freedoms, needful to the ruling classes of a country emerging from a bourgeois agrarianism and slave economy into industrial capitalism, including limited rights of free speech, assembly, worship, trial by jury, and the like. These democratic freedoms the working class also struggled to establish, defend, and expand; but it fought, too, for its own specific democratic demands-higher wages, shorter hours, popular education, Negro people's rights, the right to organize and strike, social insurance, protection of women and children in industry, etc., to all of which, historically, the ruling class has been opposed. These working class demands, fundamentally different in substance from the limited democracy of all American bourgeois leaders, past and present, are the roots, within the framework of capitalism, of what will eventually mature under socialism as proletarian democracy.
The working class has played a most vital part in establishing such democracy as there is in the United States. And now the workers and their democratic allies, here as in all other capitalist lands, have become the sole protectors and developers of democracy. Without the workers' democratic fight, the fascist-minded monopoly capitalists would soon destroy every democratic institution in this country. Browder undertook to ignore or deny all these realities. Despite the gross opportunism of Browder's formulations, they nevertheless remained in the Preamble of the Party Constitution until the emergency convention of July 1945, when the present sound Marxist-Leninist clauses were substituted.
Browder's identification of proletarian democracy with bourgeois democracy signified his acceptance historically of the capitalist class as the democratic leader of the American people. It was a specific repudiation of the role of the working class, especially when headed by the Communist Party, as the leader of the nation. Uncorrected, this false idea was to cause Browder, several years later, also to accept the leadership of American imperialism in the realm of practical politics. This he did in January 1944, in his notorious Teheran thesis, which extolled "progressive capitalism." At its conventions of 1934, 1936, and 1938 the Party was not yet keen enough in its Marxist-Leninist clarity to grasp the significance of Browder's developing opportunistic interpretations of American democratic history, and thereby to kill this particularly venomous political snake in the egg. For this political shortcoming the Party was to pay dearly in subsequent years.
1 Joseph Stalin, Selected Writings, p. 303, N. Y., 1942.
2 Grace Hutchins, The Truth About the Liberty League, N. Y., 1936.
3 Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. 11, p. 741.
4 Labor Research Association, Labor Fact Book 4, p. 108, N. Y., 1938.
5 James W. Ford in The Communist, Jan. 1937.
6 Communist Party Election Platform, 1936.
7 Resolution, Ninth Convention, C.P.U.S.A., Apr. 1936.
8 The S.P. split and its membership fell to but 6,194 dues-payers in 1937, as against 16,656 in 1936.
9 Alexander Bittelman, Introduction to The Advance of the United Front, N. Y., 1934.
10 Chicago Conference, in May 1936, at which all the farmer-labor party forces, including the Communist Party, were present.
11 Dimitrov, The United Front, p. 77.
12 See Betty Gannett in Political Affairs, Apr. 1951.
13 H. Jennings in Political Affairs, Aug. 1945.
14 The Communist, Dec. 1938.
15 Report to the Tenth National Convention of the C.P.U.S.A., p. 93, N. Y., 1938.