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The Saturday Review - Nov. 1, 1958

Classic Capitalism

"Marx and America," by Earl Browder (Duell. Sloan & Pearce. 146 pp. $3), is an attempt to explain why Communism has triumphed abroad, but not in the States. "The Naked God," by SR's reviewer, Howard Fast, was an analysis of the Communist Party.

By Howard Fast

EARL BROWDER is a remarkable man. In this time, when a stubborn consideration of facts is regarded as old-fashioned and often improper, he continues to revere the fact as the most important essential in the art of thinking. And in a land where almost any discussion of Communism and the Communist Party invokes passion and rage, he talks of both with intelligence and without anger and without passion.
Broadly, the problem is the world today, although the direct treatment of that subject is limited to a single chapter of this short but incisive book. Two giants stare at each other with fear, distrust, and often with senseless hatred; one is a Communist giant, the other a capitalist giant. Behind each of these giants is a record of singular historical development, which, according to Mr. Browder, can explain the triumph of "Communism" in one land, of capitalism in another.
Such explanation is the subject of Mr. Browder's book, "Marx and America." Originally a series of lectures, they have been expanded and annotated. As they now appear, in this small book of 146 pages, they constitute one of the important political economic essays of this decade.
The question of the peaceful co-existence of the Soviet Union and the United States has long intrigued Mr. Browder. His stipulation that these two powers could and must live and grow without war, was at the root of his long struggle with William Z. Foster, and of the eventual expulsion of Mr. Browder from the Communist Party. Whatever the window-dressing of verbiage and dogma, the Communist Party line during the fourteen years since Earl Browder's expulsion has revolved around the inevitability of war - a dangerous mental illness of the extreme Left that paralleled, often with exactitude, the similar insanity of the extreme Right. And behind this "dogma of inevitability,'' there lay a mendacious and dogmatic corruption of Marxism.
When Earl Browder attempted to expose and fight this revision of Marxism he was sneeringly categorized as an "American exceptionalist." Now Mr. Browder has written a calm and thoughtful analysis of the American development in terms of Marxism - and in so doing he has laid some of the basis for a better understanding of the Soviet revision of Marxism.
He has not written an abstruse book, but one very much to the point, in terms of all mankind; and it would be pleasant if not wholly realistic to hope that at least some small part of mankind will study it and profit by it. Taking as his central theme the proposition advanced and then qualified somewhat by Karl Marx that capitalist society must produce a constant and absolute impoverishment of the working class, thereby leaving it no future hope but that offered by revolution, he goes on to analyze, investigate and refute this doctrine.
In itself. that might be regarded as an interesting but unimportant exercise: people here and in many European countries know that the condition of the working man has improved, not worsened. But when Marxist theory has been distorted into religious dogma - which dogma is recited by Communist parties the world over, and woven into the foreign policy of Communist nations - the question of practical experience must be investigated and theoretically explained. If capitalism is something other - at least in America - than what Karl Marx understood it to be, then the role of capitalism in relation to Communism and Socialism must be re-examined by those who call themselves Marxists.
In support of this, Mr. Browder advances a group of interesting propositions - and brings together a good deal of fact and information to support these propositions. He asserts that American capitalism is the closest thing to a classic capitalism that the world has known; that in such a capitalism the workers will fight for and win a constant betterment of their standard of living and that out of this struggle and the advances it brings the workers both capitalist and worker profit enormously and constantly. He takes issue with Lenin's theory of imperialism, as the last stage of capitalism, declaring that Lenin has stood the facts upon their respective heads. Not only does Browder deny any necessity for imperialism on the part of modern capitalism, but he asserts - and offers some telling proof - that one of the major impediments to the development of capitalism is imperialism.
Thus Browder comes to the point of his writing: that in the oppression of one nation by another it is not the oppressed but the oppressor who pays the greatest price.