letter by Jacques Duclos, published previously in a Communist magazine in France. This letter was to change the
whole course of the Communist movement in this country.
The letter, which appeared in the World-Telegram in
May, 1945, ridiculed the Browder line of unity, his Teheran policy, and charged the American Communists with
having betrayed the principles of Marx and Lenin. It
branded Browder as a crass "revisionist" of Marxism-
Leninism, and called for his removal from office. Immediate confusion ancl hysteria permeated the Party.
A palace revolution was taking place at Twelfth Street,
with William Z. Foster leading the forces of Marxist fundamentalism. The large corps of job-holders in the Party,
frightened, confessed in private and in public meetings
that they had been remiss in their duty; there were demonstrations of public self-flagellation that stirred in me
feelings of disgust and pity.
It was clear that we were now to believe again that
imperialism was the last stage of capitalism, that it would
inevitably lead to war and the Communist revolution,
and that the United States was the worst offender. Again
we were to despise our own country as an exploiter of the
This was certainly a turn-about-face, a complete repudiation of a policy which [previously] had not only the
unanimous support of Communist leadership in the United
States, but the open support of the Soviet Union. We had
even been told that the Teheran policy had been prepared
with the assistance of Ambassador Oumansky, the accredited representative from the USSR to the United States.
Today it is obvious that after Stalin had gained diplomatic concessions at Yalta, and after the Bretton Woods
and Dumbarton Oaks conferences had placed concealed
American Communists in positions of power, world communism did not want the patriotic efforts of Earl Browder
and his band of open Communists who longed for participation in American affairs. Only later did I learn that
Foster's belated opposition to the Teheran line the year
before had been suggested through private channels from
abroad, as preparation for the upheaval of 1945. Browder
was caught off guard and unprepared.
The National Committee met for three days; meetings
began early, lasted late; excoriated Browder. I was named
to serve on a temporary committee of thirteen to interview
members, estimate the extent of their revisionist errors, and
recommend to tbe National Convention those who should
be dropped and those who should be retained.
IyIy work on that committee I shall never forget. The
procedure was fascinating, fantastic - thc nearest thing
to purge trials I have ever seen.
One by one thc leaders appeared before this committee.
We waited for them to speak. Men showed remorse for
having offended or betrayed the working class. They tried
desperately to prove that they themselves were of that
working class, had no bourgeois background, were unspoiled by bourgeois education. They talked of Browder
as if he were a bourgeois Satan who had lured them into
error. Now they grieved over their mistakes and unctuously
pledged that they would study Marx-Lenin-Stalin carefully, and never betray tbe working class again.
It was weird to see tall, raw-boned Roy Hudson (from
the Central Committee, ancl Browder's labor specialist)
pick and choose his words with pathetic care, to hear him
plead, as if it were a boast, that all he had was a third-
grade education and that he came from a poverty-strickiPThe d(
background. It was weird to hear Robert Thompson.
prominent Communist leader, talk about his proletarian
father and mother.
As I listened to this insistence on poverty and lack » Do Party
formal education as the qualifications for admission to th*
Party, I turned to Alexander Trachtenberg, one of tin
"I don't think I belong here," I said. "My father becafl
a successful businessman and we owned a house and'
went to college."
Trachtenberg, himself a well-educated man, caught tb-
irony. He stroked his walrus mustache and said reassuring
ly: "Don't worry about that. Remember Stalin studied '.
be a priest and Lenin came from a well-to-do family an*1
studied to be a lawyer. You must be a proletarian "'
identify yourself with the proletariat. That's all."
As the comrades continued to come in before the eflfl
ining committee the thought came to me that there V*
not one real worker among them. Foster, though he affedj
ed the khaki shirt of a workman, hadn't done a stroke
work in a long time. He had been sitting in little room'
and planning revolutions and conniving for power «*
twenty-five years. Thompson and Gil Green had graduate
from school right into the Young Communist Leagu*
Thompson bad gone to Spain as a commissar of the Lincol"
Brigade and when he returned he worked for the Faff'
and Gil became a functionary at an early age.
That was the pattern of these American rcvolutionari**
and I felt as I looked at them that they really could kno"
little about the ordinary worker.
At the end of June the Emergency Convention met. Tl*
debate and argument that went on I can compare only'^
conversation in a nightmare. Confusion ancl universal s"!
picion reigned. Close friends became enemies. l-,,,.j
cliques sprang up everywhere. Browder appeared bri('"1
at the convention to address it. He was most conciliate
saying he approved the establishing of a new line.
promised to cooperate. When he finished, there was sc»
tered applause in which I joined. I was sitting at a tab*,
with Israel Amter, a Party leader, and I caught bis be**'!
black eyes fixed on me. Months later he brought me up °
charges of having applauded Browder.
The convention voted to dissolve the Communist P<"' |
cal Association and to re-establish the Communist Pa-^j
It voted to rededicate itself to its revolutionary task '
establishing a Soviet America. It voted to intensify ,-'"rX'5J
Leninist education. It voted to oust Browder as leader-
voted to return to the use of the word "comrade." V* I
me, I became allergic to that word. I had seen too m***1'
uncomradely acts. ,
When Browder left for Moscow with a Soviet vis'
hoped a change would come on his return. So I held .' i
Strange as it seems, the last illusion to die in me was' .
illusion about the Soviet Union. I did not know then "'',}
the new line was made in Moscow. Faith in the SoV
Union was deeply etched.
I ran into conflict after conflict with Thompson. He *i
Moscow-trained, morose, and unstable. He surrouflj
himself with strong-arm men and moved in swiftly
destroy anyone who thwarted him.
As 1945 dragged into spring, 1946, it was clear »*J
William Z. Foster ancl Eugene Dennis had been ordff-t
to take over the Party but did not know what to do wit-1
Facts Forum News, September, 1™