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David Coolidge

The Foster-Browder Debate and the “New Turn” in the CPA

(18 June 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 25, 18 June 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The new eruption now making its way through the top of the Communist Political Association (Communist Party) over the Duclos “disclosures” has come before the public in a “programmatic” statement contained in a resolution by the National Board. All of the board except Browder voted for the resolution. The majority includes such political contortionists as William Z. Foster, Robert Minor and Roy Hudson.

Public “discussion” on the questions under dispute is being carried on in the Daily Worker and the Sunday Worker. So far the leading protagonists of the two points of view are Browder and Foster. It seems, from surface indications, that Foster is the leader of the “opposition” while Browder remains the sole defender of the wartime line of the American Stalinists. Both have expressed their points of view in writing. Both groups are resorting to “self-criticism.”

The Foster group accuses Browder of “errors” and “revisionism.” Foster says that Browder has taken the position that “capitalism is now progressive ... Comrade Browder’s theories violated many basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. They were a complete departure from Lenin’s analysis of the present imperialist stage of capitalism.”

What were some of the “errors” and “revisionist ideas” of Browder? Support of the Second Imperialist World War? No, that was not an error. That was not a “complete departure from Lenin’s analysis of the present imperialist stage of capitalism,” according to the Foster group.

Did Browder’s “revisionism” reside in the fact that, he advocated the support of Roosevelt? No, because “our general wartime policy of supporting the Roosevelt Administration was correct.”

Then what was the “error”? According to the new streamlined Marxism-Leninism of the Foster group it was “under Browder’s influence, of failing to criticize many errors and shortcomings of the Roosevelt government.” And what was one of these “errors” of the Roosevelt Administration? Nothing less than “our recent defense of the appointment of Stettinius, a reactionary, as Secretary of State.” Roosevelt, you see, should have appointed a “progressive” as Secretary of State, say Mayor Hague of Jersey city (who was supported by the CP) or Dan Tobin of the Teamsters Union, who last year was taken to the bosom of the. Stalinists, Foster, Minor, Hudson and the others.

Was one of Browder’s “errors” the fact that he did not call upon labor to break with the Republican and Democratic Parties and with the Roosevelt Administration? Was Browder, according to Foster, a revisionist because he failed to call upon labor to resort to independent political action under its own banner and form an independent Labor Party? No, this was not Browder’s error. He erred in that he did not “demand that organized labor be admitted into the Roosevelt government on a coalition basis”; Browder did not demand that labor “be given adequate representation in the Roosevelt cabinet.”

The Foster group saw this coalition work so beautifully in the War Labor Board, in which labor had representation. They conclude that the Roosevelt cabinet was the next place to try this noble experiment.

Was Browder a “revisionist” because he did not call for the expropriation of the “Sixty Families,” the conscription of the war industries, the nationalization of the banks, the big industrial monopolies and transportation systems? These were the demands put forward by the “Trotskyist” Workers Party during the Second Imperialist World War. But this failure was not Browder’s “error,” according to the Foster faction in Stalin’s American party.


Browder’s “revision of Marxism-Leninsm” was that he failed to “attack the trusts as such.” He was very cool to demands inside the leadership that the party should stand firm for the regulation of the big monopolies; not to “give the monopolists a free hand” and not “to leave the people at their mercy.”

Browder was only for those “regulations of monopoly practices” to which “the monopolists themselves should agree.” Foster could not agree to this. He stood firmly on the foundations of “Marxism-Leninism,” the securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal. Power Commission and the Interstate Commerce Commission. The Foster group stands solidly with the trust-busters of all the ages. None of the Browder kind of “revisionism” for them. They have their own kind.

The Foster New Order “Marxism-Leninism” discovered that Browder showed a “desire not to offend the big capitalists.” “Frankness compels the admission,” says Foster, “that Roosevelt, wallace, Murray and others did a better job at exposing the reactionary content of this big business slogan than Comrade Browder did.” This is the “content” of the Foster-Minor-Hudson line. Roosevelt was more “progressive” than Browder. Roosevelt exposed the reactionaries of big business. Roosevelt was for capitalism and the war and so was Browder (and Foster), but Roosevelt was there progressive in his defense of the war and capitalism. Roosevelt was for incentive pay and so was Browder (and Foster), but Roosevelt was progressive while Browder was in error. Roosevelt demanded a no-strike pledge and so did Browder (and Foster), but Browder was wrong and Roosevelt right.

Foster writes that Browder made an “attempt to exorcise imperialism out of existence.” This is the “Marxist-Leninist” Foster of the present factional dispute in the Stalinist ranks. But Foster wrote a pamphlet in 1942 entitled: Labor and the War. In this pamphlet, Foster wrote:

“This is a just war; one which the peoples of the world must support with every ounce of their strength. It is a fundamentally different type of war than that of 1914-18, when the struggle was between two rival groups of imperialist power.” (Emphasis mine.—D.C.)

And Foster talks about Browder’s attempt to “exorcise imperialism.”

This is not an imperialist war, said Foster in January 1942, it is a “great war for national liberation.”


What was Browder saying about the war and imperialism in this same year of 1942? In July 1942, Browder said in a. speech, “Victory Must Be Won”: “With full faith in the justness of the United Nations cause, as a people’s war of national liberation; with full faith that our own true national interests coincide with those of other peoples,” etc., etc.

Browder and Foster were saying the identical things in the very same words. And Minor, who now agrees with Foster, was the chairman of the meeting at which Browder made this speech. Minor said in part:

“... It is fitting to present a great American who clearly foresaw the crisis in which our beloved country is now fighting for its life ... we welcome back to his place of active leadership a true leader of the great American people, a great American patriot.”

Also it should be remarked that up to the time of the “new turn” Minor was one of the staunchest defenders of the war as a “sacred war” and wrote theoretical articles explaining and defending “Browder’s line.”

To be sure, Foster did not always think and write as he did in 1942. He held a different view in 1941. In that year he wrote in his pamphlet Socialism that “The Roosevelt Administration, despite its peace promises, has steadily pushed the United states deeper into the war.” He called the lend-lease bill the “war-dictatorship bill.” (This is the precise description of the bill used in a streamer headline by the Chicago Tribune.) Foster in 1941 goes on to say that the purpose of the bill “is to set up a military dictatorship in this country and to plunge us fully into the war.” Furthermore, “American imperialism—the great capitalist interests and the Roosevelt government, supported by renegade liberals, pro-war Social-Democrats and reactionary trade union leaders—has no less mercenary objective than Britain and Germany in this war.”

Was Foster in disagreement with Browder in 1941? He was not. Foster’s pamphlet quoted above was written in March 1941. But in January 1941, Browder wrote a pamphlet entitled The Way Out of the Imperialist War. In this pamphlet Browder said: “President Roosevelt has submitted to Congress what is called a ‘defense budget.’ ... It is for defense only in a very special sense that it is a ‘defense’ of the ambitions of Wall street, of the Sixty Families.”

In this pamphlet Browder called Roosevelt a demagogue and added that “... America is in the imperialist war for imperialist aims despite all the chatter and prattle about ‘liberty’ and ‘democracy.’” “Monopoly capital” was the “real ‘fifth column.’” And in this pamphlet Browder talks about “Roosevelt’s war dictatorship” just as Foster was to repeat two months later in Socialism.

(Another article on this subject will appear next week)

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