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Earl Browder : biography

May 20, 1891 - June 27, 1971

Earl Russell Browder (1891–1973) was from Wichita, Kansas. He was an American political activist, functionary and leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Browder is best remembered as the General Secretary of the CPUSA during the 1930s and first half of the 1940s.

During World War I Browder served time in federal prison as a conscientious objector to conscription and the war. Upon his release Browder became an active member of the American Communist movement, soon working as an organizer on behalf of the Communist International and its Red International of Labor Unions in China and the Pacific region.

Following the removal of Jay Lovestone as head of the CPUSA in 1929 and a short interregnum during which the party was headed by former Lovestone factional associate Max Bedacht, Browder was made General Secretary of the CPUSA. For years thereafter Browder was the most recognizable public figure associated with American Communism, authoring dozens of pamphlets and books, making numerous public speeches before sometimes vast audiences, and running for President of the United States in 1936 and 1940.

Browder also took part in clandestine activities on behalf of Soviet intelligence in America during his period of party leadership, placing those who sought to convey sensitive information to the party into contact with Jacob Golos, one of the Soviets' primary handlers of such material.

In the wake of public outrage over the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact, Browder was indicted for passport fraud. He was convicted of two counts early in 1940 and sentenced to four years in prison, remaining free for a time on appeal. In the spring of 1942 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the sentence and Browder began what proved to be an 14 month stint in Federal prison. Browder was subsequently released in 1943 as a gesture towards wartime unity.

Browder was a staunch adherent of close cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II and foresaw continued cooperation between these two military powers in the postwar years. Coming to see the role of American Communists to be that of an organized pressure group within a broad governing coalition, in 1944 he directed the transformation of the CPUSA into a "Communist Political Association." However, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Cold War and internal red scare quickly sprouted up. Browder was expelled from the re-established Communist Party in 1946, due largely to a refusal to modify these views to accord with changing political realities and their associated ideological demands.

Browder lived out the rest of his life in relative obscurity at his home in Yonkers, New York, attempting with little success to influence American government policy and public opinion as the author of numerous books and pamphlets.


Early years

Earl Browder was born in Wichita, Kansas on May 20, 1891, the eighth child of an American-born father sympathetic to populism.Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism, pg. 308 He joined the Socialist Party of America in Wichita in 1907 at the age of 16 and remained in that organization until the party split of 1912, when many of the group's syndicalistically oriented members exited the organization in response to the addition of an anti-sabotage clause to the party constitution and the recall of National Executive Committeeman William "Big Bill" Haywood. Historian Theodore Draper notes that Browder "was influenced by an offshoot of the syndicalist movement which believed in working in the AF of L (American Federation of Labor)." This ideological orientation brought the young Browder into contact with William Z. Foster, founder of an organization called the Syndicalist League of North America which was based upon similar policies and James P. Cannon, an IWW adherent from Kansas.

Browder moved to Kansas City and was employed as an office worker, entering the AF of L union of his trade, the Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accountants union. In 1916 he took a job as manager of the Johnson County Cooperative Association in Olathe, Kansas.

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