Earl Browder: The Failure of American Communism

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University of Alabama Press, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 332 pages
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Earl Browder was the preeminent Communist party leader in the United States in the 20th century. A Kansas native and veteran of numerous radical movements, Browder was peculiarly fitted by circumstance and temperament to head "the cause" during its heyday, the critical years of the Great Depression and World War II. In this new biography James Ryan shows Browder as a man of many contradictions. He was shy but sought publicity. He prided himself on being a Stalinist, yet viewed himself as a loyal American. He moved up within the structure of the organization (the CPUSA or CP) by anticipating changes in the party line, but believed he could assert his individuality without recrimination. In writing this book, James Ryan investigated recently opened annals in the Soviet Archives. These records included a collection of American Communist party files covering the period of 1919 to 1944, which were secretly shipped to Moscow and until 1992 only rumored to have existed. Ryan also consulted the Browder Papers at Syracuse University and U.S. government documents, particularly FBI files. Ryan's comprehensive biography sheds new light on both the life of Earl Browder and the workings of the Communist party in the United States during its peak of popularity. His research suggests that Browder's life represents a middle ground between two competing interpretations of the party. The traditional view, developed in the 1950s, has stressed the Soviet-dominated mind-set of CP leaders. By contrast, the revisionist school, dominant among academic historians between 1975 and 1995, has emphasized home-grown roots and domestic concerns. Ryan shows convincingly that Browder blended elements of both, thuscalling for a new view of American Communism during this period.

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