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James Burnham

Browder Defends Imperialism

(February 1938)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 6, 5 February 1938, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

When Marxists state that Stalinism now functions in the world labor movement as a counter-revolutionary force, as the chief obstacle in the struggle for workers’ power and for socialism, there are still, of course, many who do not believe them. There are, for example, honest members and sympathizers of the Communist Party itself who think that this altogether sober and scientific analysis of the Marxists is the slander and ravings of “mad dogs.” Such persons are compelled by their own conscience to think in this manner.

They differ in their whole moral makeup from the cynical, depraved and shameless bureaucrats who actually run the Communist Parties of the world. In their own hearts, they sincerely want socialism ; and they believe that the only road toward socialism lies through support of the Communist Party, which they mistakenly look upon as the heir to – instead of the most bitter enemy of – the October Revolution. If they understood the true role of Stalinism, they would abandon it overnight. That is why we must dissect every concrete manifestation of Stalinism, in order to remove the false outer skin and lay bare the internal decay.

War Question Is Decisive

It will need no argument to prove that today “the war question is the decisive question. Since it is the decisive question, the answers given to it provide the surest touchstone to the character of every political movement. To anyone who doubts what the Stalinist answer is and means, the New Republic of February 2 offers an easy and spectacular way of clearing up those doubts. In this issue of the New Republic there is published a debate between Earl Browder and Charles A. Beard on the general subject of Collective Security. I plan, on another occasion, to analyze Browder’s arguments in this debate, as well as those of Dr. Beard, and in particular to discuss this whole conception of “collective security.” I wish, in the present article, to consider merely the point of view from which Browder writes.

Naturally enough, Stalinists pretend to their own followers that they write from the point of view of the international proletariat. Even a brief survey of Browder’s article in the New Republic can demonstrate beyond any doubt that he is reasoning and writing from the point of view of the defense of U.S. Imperialism.

Browder Speaks for Roosevelt Policy

In no line does Browder even suggest that his policy is a working class policy, or an independent policy of any kind. He himself speaks openly for Roosevelt’s policy. The cover of the magazine correctly reads: “Earl Browder – for the President’s Policy.” “Clearly, then,” Browder writes, “in our country the task is to organize effective support, behind the President’s policy, of the 27,000,000 who voted for him in 1936.” Replying to Bruce Bliven’s objection that his policy is peculiarly “Russian,” Browder says: “We will not quarrel with Mr. Bliven as to how the policy could be best ‘framed in American terms’; we are willing to leave that to the President ...”

The President, according to Marxism, is the chief political executive of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, in this country. Browder, by his own words, accepts the war policy of the chief executive of the bourgeoisie, accepts it one hundred per cent, and is willing to leave its fuller formulation altogether to that chief executive.

Would Suppress Labor’s Struggle Against Capital

In Browder’s article, the class struggle – according to Marxism the motive force of history, from an understanding of which all Marxian analysis of all social and political problems proceeds – is mentioned only once. There is no word of the class struggle in the discussion either of the causes of, of the cure for, war. On the one occasion where the class struggle appears, it is cited as one of the major weaknesses of the United States as against Japan; and, it therefore follows, as a factor which must be overcome if an “effective peace policy” is to be achieved.

Browder’s argument thus advocates the suppression of the class struggle, as a necessary part of the means for achieving what he calls an effective peace policy. This does not appear so odd when we understand that in reality Browder wants to achieve not a peace but a war policy for the United States: suppression of the class struggle is, in fact, necessary for an effective war policy on the part of a capitalist nation.

“But America, rich and full of potential booty, is still considered by the world to be in a pacifist funk, is torn by a constitutional crisis and sharp class struggles, and contains powerful forces that would welcome Japanese aggression for their own fascist ends.”

Filled with Frank Jingoism

Browder’s article is filled with the frankest jingo appeals to the interests of U.S. Imperialism.

“A continuance of isolation policies by the United States will surely convince the arrogant militarists of Tokyo that now is the time for them to take over the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam and Alaska, as guarantees against the future, when the United States might dare. From that it would not be a large step to recall how much more successful are Japanese than Americans in cultivating the beautiful and rich lands of California.”

This is the crux of Browder’s argument.

He continues it by stating that the United States is in more danger from Japan than is the Soviet Union. “A continuance of the same line (pursued up to now by Japan) leads her not to Vladivostock, Habarovsk and Chita, but rather to Manila, Honolulu and Nome.” That is to say, Browder’s central argument in favor of his own war position is that his policy alone can protect and defend – what? The working class? The struggle for socialism? Not in the least. His policy, he says in his own words, alone can defend the possessions of U.S. imperialism.

There is nothing more revealing in this article than Browder’s use of “our” and “we.” In every instance these words stand for the United States as a nation – that is, for the imperialist state. For Marx, the workers had no fatherland until they conquered one for themselves. Browder is less lonely. “Our country” appears twenty times. “If we continue to desert them to their fate, as Mr. Bliven advocates, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when we have to take up the full military burden under more unfavorable conditions.” Browder speaks these days with the full rounded phrases of a statesman. But not, he is careful to make clear, of a statesman of the working ciass. “We,” says Browder, we and the other representatives of the imperialist United States, will be ready to assume “the full military burden” even “under more unfavorable conditions.”

Roosevelt Will Save Humanity

The most startling and naked of all the sentences in this remarkable article is, however, the following: “Only the courageous implementing of the policy laid down by President Roosevelt in Chicago can save our country, and all the capitalist world, from unparalleled reaction and catastrophe.” Criticism itself becomes tongue-tied when faced with such a remark.

Whom is the working class called upon by Browder to save? He answers: “Our country, and all the capitalist world.” And what must this capitalist world be saved from? He answers: “From catastrophe.” But what is catastrophe for the capitalist world? Catastrophe for the capitalist world is, and is only the socialist revolution. Browder’s entire article is summed up in this clarion call: join with me to save capitalism from the socialist revolution.

(This article is the first in a series of four on the New Republic debate between Earl Browder and Charles A. Beard. The remaining three will discuss the origin and meaning of “collective security”; Dr. Beard’s “isolationist” reply to Browder’s advocacy of collective security; and the Marxist answer to collective security. – ED.)

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