Browderism is the political philosophy and positions of Earl Browder, the CPUSA leader from 1930 to 1945. The tenets of Browderism hold that what is known as revolutionary Marxism-Leninism is parallel to and consistent with the indigenous political culture of the founders of the United States, and that thus “Communism is 20th century Americanism.” In other words, true or real Americanism is Communism.[i]
In its late phase during World War II, when the US and Soviet Union joined forces to defeat the Axis powers of Germany and Japan, Browder encouraged collaboration between capital and labor, and enjoined labor not to use the strike option in disputes with bosses. He also called for a peaceful and gradual transformation of the capitalist system in the US into a socialist system.
Eventually, he proposed that there was no need for a separate Communist party within the US and insisted that Communist individuals must and should work in broad coalition with any and all who struggle for peace, justice, democracy and socialism, regardless of stated ideology or class position.
To this end, he dissolved the CPUSA in 1944, and in its place oversaw the formation of the Communist Political Association of the USA.
The next year, the Communist Party, USA re-established itself and removed Browder, not only as party head, but as a member of the party itself. Browderism was declared a deviation from revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and condemned by both the domestic and the international Communist movement.[ii]
It was this researcher’s conclusion that it was these series of events – the creation, development and eventual abandonment of Browderism by the CPUSA – that attracted and then repelled Father Divine from active cooperation with the political Communist cause.[iii]
A careful analysis of Father Divine’s critique of Communism in the late 1940s and 1950s clearly demonstrates that he was just as critical of the successor form of Communism – that is, Stalinism – as any other Communist or leftist opponent, including Trotskyites and Social Democratic Marxists. The difference was that Divine was critical from a pro-Browderist position.
Replacing the words Communist/Communism with the Browderist notion than a true Communist American is a true American, the Peace Mission slogan and teaching that “Americanism, Democracy, Brotherhood, Christianity and true Judaism are synonymous“ can be seen in its true, pro-Browerderist relief.
Furthermore, the practice of both the CPUSA and the Peace Mission’s practice of printing much of its literature with red and blue ink on White paper so as to approximate the colors of the American flag can be seen in light of both organizations historical affinity to and with Browderist Communism.
At the beginning of the Cold War, when Jim Jones was a young adult, Browderism was newly discredited. Yet in his autobiographical musings recorded 25 years later in Jonestown, Jones stated that in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when he was looking for ways to express his Marxism – i.e., anti-capitalist and inter-racialist ideas – he turned, not to the traditional, orthodox Marxist route of organized labor but to infiltrate the church.[iv] This notion was consistent with the philosophy of Browder that the Communist must and should work in broad coalition with any and all who struggle for peace, justice, democracy and socialism, regardless of stated ideology or class position; and with the tactics of Browderism to define true Americanism to actually mean communism, and with the practice of the communalist and inter-racialist Peace Mission of Father Divine.
[i] For a further discussion of the 1930s CPUSA slogan “Communism is 20th century Americanism,” see “Communism Is Twentieth-Century Americanism was the most successful and popular slogan the CPUSA ever devised.”
[ii] Browderism was the dominant US communist line at a time when the CPUSA’s membership, finances and influence in the USA was at its height. Never before or since Browder has the CPUSA been as strong.
This necessitates a firm understanding of Browderism when researching and understanding the Communism that both Father Divine and the young Jim Jones interacted with, and that they were influenced by, and that they sought to influence.
[iii] This is not to suggest that Father Divine was a Browderist. It is, however, important to understand that both Father Divine embrace of Communism in the 1930s and his rejection of it after 1945 was in actuality a consistent adherence to his own unique utopian system of thought and social/political practice which often – but not always – mirrored Browderism.
[iv] The quote from Jim Jones – “How can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, ‘infiltrate the church’” – from tape Q 134 in which where he begins a sermon on “Why I became my own brand of Marxist.” This sermon is important in understanding what the term Marxism subjectively meant to Jim Jones and the social, political and historical context and associations in which he used it.
For Jim Jones, Marxism meant opposition to the unjust racial, sexual and class hierarchies of the US. Even though he notes in this sermon that he had met an “old time” Communist in his youth, he contrasted that Marxism with his and he made it clear to his followers that he was not following anyone else’s version but rather that it was his version of it that he was proclaiming.
This emphasis on his own interpretation was much like how his mentor, Father Divine, talked about his version of Christianity as opposed to the versions of mainstream Christians. Thus Jim Jones was no more a classical Marxist than Father Divine was a classical Christian; and both men were much closer to each other than either was to either classical Marxism or Christianity as those labels are either understood or applied to phenomenon in the actual world.