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Carl Davis

Third in Series on Dissension in U.S. Stalinism

Why McKenney-Minton Quit CP

(23 December 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 51, 23 December 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Of all the persons recently expelled from the CP, the most prominent were Ruth McKenney, author of My Sister Eileen, and Bruce Minton, magazine writer. They were expelled in a typical Stalinist totalitarian style.

The Norwalk, Conn., CP branch of which they were members asked them to report on the July 1946 National Committee meeting which selected Eugene Dennis as national secretary. Upon the presentation of their critical report they were forthwith expelled from the party.

The McKenney-Minton report is an exhibit of the Stalinist mind; it reveals the minds, morals, and political ignorance of people who have been saturated with Stalinism. In our previous articles, for example, we quoted the NCP Report (New Committee for Publications) call for a “Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalinist Party in ‘the United States,” in which they add:

“We wish to undermine confidence in the leadership of the CPUSA because this leadership is politically rotten. We wish to ‘shake’ the ‘unity’ of CPUSA, because facts have already fully demonstrated – for all who wish to see – that this ‘unity’ is based on support of capitalism and refusal to fight capitalism.” (Emphasis in the original)

Mckenney-Minton Endorse Duclos

The theory of all the expelled people is that the American Stalinist Party has departed from the “revolutionary principles” of the “defunct” Communist International and the teachings of Joseph Stalin. This, in their minds, is the difference between the CP in this country and the Stalinists parties in Europe, especially the French and Italian. The McKenney-Minton statement follows this pattern. Harking back to the Duclos article which prepared the ouster of Browder and signified that he had outlived his usefulness in the post-war period of Anglo-American-Russian relations, the statement says:

“A year and three months ago, when Ruth and I first read the statement by Comrade Jacques Duclos on the American Communist movement, we felt bitter shame. It was not enough to say that the leaders of the American party had betrayed our trust; it was not enough to recognize the special responsibility of those comrades whom we. With other members of the Communist Party, had chosen to organize and direct the fight for and of the American working class. As Ruth and I read the Duclos document, we knew that we had also been guilty. Long before Comrade Duclos spoke out, we had come to hate and despise the Browder policy of liquidation and treachery. But I had voted for the original Browder proposal to destroy the party when this proposal was first made by the National Committee; a few months later I was forced to understand the facts of this opportunism. Comrade McKenney did not vote to wreck the Communist Party; from the beginning she was opposed to the Browder betrayal. But neither of us spoke out. We thought discipline required us to be silent. When we read the Duclos statement, we knew we had been wrong – terribly wrong.”

Almost everything that is wrong with Stalinism is contained in this statement and we shall analyze it in detail. But first we want to summarize the rest of the McKenney-Minton statement. The gist of the document is that the ousting of Browder and his replacement by Foster’s leadership and the appointment of Eugene Dennis as national secretary has not really changed the line of the nartv; that the policies of the new leadership is fundamentally the same as Browder’s examples:

  1. The document charges the party with a false struggle “to maintain world peace,” when as a matter of fact “there is a war in China.” The American party is charged with feeling “no sorrow for our brothers in China.” McKenney and Minton hold U.S. imperialism responsible for the war in China, denounce the party for opportunism on this question and demand a struggle against American imperialism. They say nothing about Russian imperialism and Stalinist interests in helping to instigate the Chinese war but adopt a position reminiscent of the early days when Russia and the Communist International advocated and pursued a revolutionary socialist policy. Twenty years of Stalinist degeneration has not been without its effects on McKenney and Minton.
  2. The document charges the party with lacking theoretical leadership because it failed to analyze the nature of imperialism, war as an integral part of capitalism, and monopoly capitalism as the instigator of war. This theoretical poverty of the party, says the statement, is responsible for its present opportunism.
  3. Dennis is taken to task for continuing a policy which purportedly originated with Browder: support of the Democratic Party in parliamentary activity on the ground that it embodies the “progressive policies of Roosevelt.” They say: “Throughout his report, Dennis talks about ‘pro-Roosevelt forces,’ about ‘the pro-Roosevelt committees and activities within the Democratic Party.’ So did Browder. What does Dennis mean by these labels? He never tells us. Does he mean the same forces that Browder discovered?

The fundamental reason why Dennis does not “differentiate,” is because there is no real “differentiation” unless the more militant and threat ening tone adopted by the CP in response to the new Russian foreign policy can be called a differentiation, and not what it really is: a Russian effort to blackmail U.S. imperialism into making concessions to it at the UN.

The statement quotes extensively from the stupid report of Dennis to prove that he actually carries out a line similar to Browder’s.

They Look to Stalin for Aid

4. In properly designating the CP policy as opportunist, the statement calls on Stalin for assistance and quotes from the “master” that “opportunism in our midst is like an ulcer in a healthy organism, and must not be tolerated.” Evidence of the opportunism of the party is revealed in its lack of hatred for capitalism, its refusal to advocate the struggle for socialism. McKenney and Minton say:

“In this crucial moment in history, the Communist Party has no defined, clear position on independent political action ... in this crucial moment of history, the Communist party approaches immediate tasks with petty-bourgeois confusion, with reformist premises ... In this crucial moment of history, the leadership of the American Communist Party does not expose sufficiently the dangerous role of the liberal bourgeoisie ... communists cannot accept, as the present leadership does, a position tailing behind bourgeois allies, or merging with them, or abandoning an independent class conscious, revolutionary position ... In this crucial moment of history, the reports of the National Committee express no angry hatred for the capitalist system. The leadership does not emphasize the great truth that workers must learn: Only socialism can make the people free.”

The statement then criticizes the selection of Dennis as secretary of the party, saying that this choice was hasty and made solely on Foster’s initiative because he was, in Foster’s words, “least affected by Browder’s revisionism.” In proving that Dennis was completely immersed in Browder’s revisionism, McKenney and Minton say that the choice of Dennis was light-minded in view of the experiences the CP has had with secretaries who have betrayed the party, naming in succession, Jay Lovestone, Ben Gitlow and Earl Browder. But what they fail to see is that the greatest . betrayer of all was the biggest secretary of them all and the man who placed the “secretary of the party” on the throne of all organizations: Stalin!

We have now dealt with the several viewpoints of the groups of people expelled from the CP. Whatever differences they may have with each other, they agree on the need for revising the whole course of the communist movement in this country. But what they understand by a revolutionary socialist position is diluted with Stalinism.

(To be concluded next week)

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