Max Shachtman

A Turn-Coat on
the Witness-Stand

Earl Browder Testifies Before the McNaboe Committee

(July 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 28 , 9 July 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Browder: Defender of the Soviet Union

Reporting the testimony of Earl Browder, secretary of the American Stalinists, before the McNaboe legislative committee, the New York Post of June 30, 1938, gave the following exchange between the witness and the committee chairman:

If it came to a war between the United States and Russia who would you bear arms for?” McNaboe asked.

I refuse to admit the possibility of such a war,” said Browder. But McNaboe pressed for an answer and Browder finally replied: “Under all conceivable conditions indicated at the present time, I would bear arms for the United States.”

Why did the Daily Worker of July I, 1938, reporting this exchange, deliberately suppress the last sentence of Browder’s reply, which declared that he, would fight for American imperialism in a war against the Soviet Union?

There are few things as revolting as the sight of a turncoat slithering on his belly before the enemy he was once devoted to fighting against.

Of that breed, there are few in history to match the admixture of consummateness in renegacy, cynical effrontery, hypocrisy and servility that marked the testimony of Earl Browder, Stalin’s viceroy for the United States, before the red-baiting legislative committee in New York headed by Senator John J. McNaboe.

Disavows Principles

With studied perfection, Browder repudiated not only what he himself stood for only the other day, but disavowed every single principle that was cemented into the foundation of the international communist movement some twenty years ago.

The brand-new pretensions to “democracy,” “Americanism,” and patriotism, which were so touchingly emphasized by Browder, were, however, so obviously fraudulent, so patently the product of instructions from the Kremlin’s totalitarian bosses as part of their diplomatic masquerade, that the New York Post is undoubtedly right in saying that “even Senator McNaboe” – who is scarcely distinguished either for perspicacity or knowledge of the radical movement – “saw through it.”

It is this deliberate fraudulence, this all-too-obvious hypocrisy and double-dealing that distinguishes the Stalinist leaders from virtually all other renegades in the history of the labor movement.

Under Moscow Orders

When the social-patriots of the Second International before the last World War pledged themselves to bear arms for the “fatherland,” they really meant it; and when the war broke out they redeemed their pledge in full.

When the Stalinists say – as Browder said to McNaboe – that their love for “American democracy” burns with so pure and powerful a flame that they will support U.S. capitalism in the coming war, even if it is fighting against the Soviet Union, the true and “native” upholders of American imperialism know they are talking with tongue in cheek and under orders from the self-same Moscow gang they pledge themselves to fight if war is declared.

The McNaboes are perfectly well aware of the hypocrisy in the pledge made by Browder, even though it is quite true that, fraudulent or not, the very agitation and education carried on by the Stalinist chieftains will result in many (if not most) of their present supporters actually turning anti-Soviet and pro-imperialist at the crucial moment.

An American Precedent

If we leave aside for a moment this last – and by no means unimportant point, the only precedent in modern American labor history for Browder’s belly-crawling – a precedent which did not, however, reach anything like the depths of depravity touched by Browder – is the famous case of the five New York socialist assemblymen ousted by reaction from the Albany legislature in January 1920: Waldman, Claessens, Solomon, DeWitt and Orr.

What a storm of sulphur and brimstone was poured on their heads by the contemporary communist press for the manner in which the five social-democrats sought to regain their legislative seats! How scornfully and indignantly did the special declaration of the Communist International in 1920 reject the appeal of the American Socialist Party for affiliation, and excoriate the official Brief for the Socialist Assemblymen because, among other things, “it apologizes for the presence of foreigners in the party by calling them ‘potential voters’ and hastens to explain that a new rule requires all party members immediately to become citizens.”

What would the Communist International of that time say about its American section of today, whose recent convention also adopted “a new rule (that) requires all party members immediately to become citizens!”

What the C.I. Said

The turn-coats in Albany prevailed on their party to eliminate the constitutional provision calling upon members elected to public office to vote against any and all military appropriations, about which the Communist International said at that time “we do not know a single socialist party in the world which has equalled the action of the American party.” But even in dropping this provision, the Hillquitites of 1920 never went so far as to guarantee explicitly their support of American imperialism in any war it might wage. They weren’t for sale so cheap.

But Browder is. In reply to McNaboe’s question, “Would you sell Liberty Bonds tomorrow if war broke out?” – that is, war against Mexico or Japan or the Philippines or the Soviet Union; in short, any war of American imperialism – Browder promptly swore allegiance: “I would. But I would not sell them during the last war.” And the Daily Worker (July 1, 1938) has the utter shamelessness to print the answer in bold-face type! Browder may now take his place ahead of Samuel DeWitt who, to emphasize the depths of his patriotism, retorted to Tammany’s Marty McCue in 1920: “I sold Liberty Bonds and I sold more Liberty Bonds than there were glasses of beer sold over the bar of your saloon.” Ahead of DeWitt, we say, because the outraged socialist-patriot was only describing what he did in a past war, while Browder is already pledging himself for the next one!

Qualified Support

When Hillquit said in 1920 that “the socialists of the United States would have no hesitancy whatever in joining forces with the rest of their countrymen to repel the Bolsheviki who would try to invade our country and fovce a form a government upon our people which our people are not ready for and do not desire” – then, however outraged revolutionists were at this vicious declaration, he was at least qualifying his support of a hypothetical war with political considerations of an abstractly democratic nature. When Browder, in his obscene zeal to curry favor with the American bourgeoisie, says flatly that he will sell Liberty Bonds to help finance the next war, he does not even include in his statement the qualifications or reservations which the most ordinary bourgeois democrat would make, as, for example, “if it is not a predatory war,” or “if it is not a war to protect Standard Oil in Mexico,” or “provided it is a war for democracy, or justice, or to end all war,” etc., etc.

No, come what may, regardless of the war that will finally break out, Browder has already stated, in his reply to McNaboe, that he will “fight for the United States.” Or more likely, as did the social-patriots in the last war, he will “fight” on the “home-front” by urging others to occupy the trenches and the graves.

Hillquit Never Knew

When Hillquit said in 1920, amid a chorus of protest in his own party, to say nothing of the clamor of the communists outside of it, that “we adopt the existing form of government based upon the Constitution of the United States as the form upon which to build the future society,” he surely had no idea that eighteen years later, the boss of the “communist” party would make assertions on the same subject that would make the late Nestor of the Socialist party sound like an uncontrollable barricade-fighter.

Hillquit at least did not deny his socialist objective; even more, he declared that socialism was on the order of the day. Browder, however, is anxious to impress the legislative committee men with the fact that they need not have the slightest fear of communism being fought for in their lifetime. Knowing the bankruptcy of their own social order, the McNaboes everywhere rightly dread the prospect of a speedily rising movement for the triumph of workers’ rule in this country. It is, therefore, no mere idle curiosity that impels them to feel the ground by asking Browder when he expects America to adopt communism. And it is not philosophic resignation, but well-thought-out purposefulness and determination to do all in his power to make his prediction come truer that animates Browder in replying: “America will probably be one of the last to adopt it.”

And meanwhile? Fascism – there is the enemy; democracy – there is the cure! And how preserve democracy? As is well known, the Stalinists propose to preserve it by getting behind Roosevelt. In this connection, Browder makes a most revealing, even it not entirely accurate, statement to McNaboe.

Browder and Roosevelt

“Eighty-five per cent of the press is opposed to Roosevelt. They are very short-sighted capitalists who do not understand that he is the greatest protector of capitalism.”

From this follow, or should logically follow, two conclusions: One, that the Stalinist support of Roosevelt is exactly equivalent to affording decadent American capitalism its greatest protection – and as is known, there is only one social force it needs protection from. Two, that the Stalinists should devote their agitational efforts not to the working class, but to the capitalist class, represented by “eighty-five per cent of the press,” with the aim of persuading the Liberty Leaguers and their associates to drop their misguided fight against the much misunderstood Roosevelt on the grounds that they fail to understand that the president is their “greatest protector.”

Defender of Capitalism

Not alone Roosevelt, however, but also Browder. For if the former is the Lord High Protector of American capitalism, the latter is his not unworthy coadjutor. It is true that, in his report to the eighth convention of the Communist Party in Cleveland in April 1934, Browder, in answer to the question: “What are the ideas, the misconceptions, with which the social-fascists confuse and disarm the workers?” – declared: “In Germany, this idea was, concretely, alliance with Hindenburg against Hitler; in Austria, with Dolfuss against the Nazis; in the United States, with Roosevelt ‘against Wall Street’.” It is also true that he added in the same speech “that Roosevelt, leading the present ruling class, finance capital, stands for degradation, hunger, misery, oppression, fascism, war.” But that was before the Stalinist turn at the Seventh World Congress of the Comintern from which – may God forbid! – Browder takes no orders, or would “throw them in a waste basket” if they were sent. Now Browder is for Democracy, for Roosevelt, for the “greatest protector of capitalism.” And in the statement entered into the McNaboe committee’s records, he made it clear that he is ready to implement his newly-found faith.

The Communist party is opposed to the revolutionary overthrow of American capitalism and its government. The Communist party is opposed to inciting strikes, to stirring up “industrial disorders.” The Communist party upholds the democratic institutions of America. The Communist party is opposed to gaining control of the unions.

Wants to Be a Cop But —

There ARE people in the very bosom of the Republic who are guilty of all these dastardly crimes. There ARE seditious and subversive elements in our midst. And if the McNaboe committee is to emulate Our Great President as the “greatest protector of capitalism,” if it really wants to put down sedition, mutiny and all other forms of mayhem against law and order – it will find in Browder a man eager and ready to draw up the indictment for the grand jury and put the finger on the criminals.

“I have no desire to hide the fact that there are some people who call themselves communist, who yet proclaim the opposite of all these policies of the Communist party which I have described. These are the groups known as Trotskyites and Lovestoneites.” (Daily Worker, June 30, 1938)

We have no doubt that the ambitious informer is ready to provide the necessary names and addresses, to accompany the cops with search and seizure warrants, and to take the stand as a witness for the prosecution. If need be, he is ready to act as jailer and executioner, for Browder can easily furnish letters of mark, references and testimonials from his teachers in Moscow, Madrid and Barcelona.

As to Browder’s moving declamations in favor of Democrcay and Peace; his word-of-honor assurances that he takes no orders from Moscow, and in general, his bland exposition of the platonic relationship between the American Stalinists and their Kremlin string-pullers – we need hardly make extended comment. Only the sheerest dub takes Browder’s statements seriously; the bourgeois press, which Browder hopes most to impress, simply laughs itself into hysterics. Nor is that surprising. The Governor-General of the American Stalinist party is scarcely the man biologically adapted to wearing the mask of “sincerity.” As far back as the 1925 convention of the American communists, the late William J. White, a forthright proletarian revolutionist, characterized Browder, in the course of a polemical speech, as “the Uriah Heep of the party.” It is hard to think of a more fitting description of the character of this Stalinist reproduction of Charles Dickens’ symbol of hypocrisy and malevolence.

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