Dimitrov, Stalin and the 1936 Presidential Elections in the United States

Samuel Darcy

Introduction

Samuel Darcy was a leading member of the Communist Party (USA) from the 1920s to the mid-1940s. He was actively involved in building the strike of West Coast longshore workers and the subsequent San Francisco general strike in 1934, when he headed the CPUSA’s California District and was correspondent for its paper, the Daily Worker. He later was in charge of the CPUSA’s work in Eastern Pennsylvania. He travelled to the Soviet Union twice, first in 1928 when he was a youth delegate to the 6th Congress of the Comintern, and again in 1935 as a delegate to the famous 7th Congress of the Comintern, which proclaimed the united front against fascism. Darcy died in the late 1990s, at more than 90 years of age. 

Darcy is chiefly remembered as one of the two members of the National Committee of the CPUSA who opposed the motion by Earl Browder, then General Secretary of the CPUSA, to dissolve the Party in 1944. The other opponent of the motion was its national chair, William Foster. While Foster heeded Browder’s warning not to take the struggle over the liquidation of the Party to the membership, Darcy did not, and was therefore expelled by Browder. After criticism in the international communist movement of the CPUSA’s dissolution the following year, the Party was reorganized with Foster in the leadership and Browder was subsequently expelled. However, Darcy was never readmitted to the Party. 

During the first years after World War II, Darcy was in contact with other early anti-revisionist fighters, including William Dunne. Darcy did not long take up the work of building a new genuine communist party in the USA, though he remained a progressive to the end of his life. His main political work seems to have involved writing of his experiences in the CPUSA, providing valuable insight into the positions and personalities of leading members of the CPUSA, the Comintern and other parties. The excerpt below is from the Samuel A. Darcy papers, Box 3, Folder 33 in the Tamiment Library, located in New York University and is reprinted with thanks for the permission of Tamiment.

There are several important political points in these excerpts. The first is the position of Browder in regard to Roosevelt. Browder’s right opportunism and liquidationism during World War II is well known. But his ‘left’ opportunism, in particular the fact that he was the leading force in the CPUSA during the mid-1930s who attacked Roosevelt and the New Deal as ‘fascist,’ is very little known. 

Another valuable lesson is the distortion of Darcy’s speech at the 7th Comintern Congress that he describes here. It is a fascinating example of the type of intrigue carried out by hidden counter-revolutionary elements within the Soviet Union, in league with the Nazis as well as reactionary forces in the U.S., such as the Hearst press. 

Of course, the most important issue raised here is the application of the united front against fascism, particularly in the United States. This question is rapidly coming to the fore today, as U.S. imperialism prepares to engage in ‘endless war’ in an effort to maintain its status as the only superpower in the world, while at the same time restricting if not eliminating the democratic rights of working people at home. Dimitrov in his speech at the 1935 Comintern Congress suggested that working people in the U.S. form a Workers’ and Farmers’ Party as a suitable form of the united front against fascism. However, under Darcy’s influence, with the agreement of both Foster and Browder, as well as of Dimitrov and other leading members of the Comintern, and apparently also of Stalin, the CPUSA called for support to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential elections. It is important to note that this support was carried out at that time together with strong, public criticism of many of Roosevelt’s policies. 

In the U.S. today, the overwhelming majority of the members of Congress from the Democratic Party have gone along with Bush’s policy of ‘endless war.’ The Congressional vote authorizing Bush to declare war was passed with only one opposing vote, that of Democratic Representative Barbara Lee, an African-American woman from Oakland, California. It was necessary for genuine revolutionaries in the U.S. to call for support for her re-election, as well as for support for Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and Earl Hilliard of Alabama, two other African-American members of Congress who took some positions against the war and were defeated in their re-election bids in the Democratic Party primary elections in 2002 by massive financial and other support from reactionary forces outside their districts. 

The united front against fascism may involve giving certain tactical support to representatives of other classes, including members of the bourgeoisie. It is a form of temporary alliance of representatives of different classes for specific objectives, e.g. to prevent or delay a particular war of aggression, or to preserve certain democratic rights. It is not a merger of opposing programmes, and certainly not a liquidation of the class stand of the proletariat. The CPUSA during the period of the united front against fascism before and during the Second World War made many right opportunist errors, from liquidating its factory nuclei to dropping support for the right to self-determination of the African-American nation in the Black Belt South, and finally to the dissolution of the CPUSA into a Communist Political Association. As we move forward into a new period of war and reaction, we will have to learn how to build a united front while avoiding or minimizing such errors.

George Gruenthal
New York City, USA

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