Earl Russell Browder
(b. Wichita, Kansas, 20 May 1891; d. Princeton, New Jersey, 27 June 1973)
US; Communist Party presidential candidate 1936, 1940 The son of an impoverished farmer, Browder was largely forced to finish his formal schooling early to help support the family. He took a law degree by correspondence but mainly earned his living as an accountant.
Browder began his lifelong involvement in radical politics in 1907 when he joined the Socialist Party. From then until 1921, when he became committed to Communism, Browder was involved with a range of left-wing and labour organizations including the Syndicalist League of America and the Co-operative League of America. Browder's opposition to American entry into the First World War earned him a sixteen-month prison sentence, which took effect in 1919. Franklin Roosevelt granted Browder a pardon on taking office in 1933.
When Browder left prison he again joined the Socialist Party, editing its Kansas-based newspaper The Workers World, which took a pro-Communist line. An American Communist Party had been founded while Browder was in prison and in January 1921 Browder, who had moved to New York to work as a bookkeeper, became actively involved in its recruitment activities. He helped recruit trade unionists for the first Congress of the International of Labour Unions and travelled to Moscow where he met Lenin.
From 1926 to 1929 Browder was in China as General Secretary of the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat and in 1930 he became the Secretary of the deeply divided and faction-ridden Communist Party. Browder was a prolific publicist and imposed a degree of organizational unity on the party. The party line was decided in Moscow. After initial scepticism about the New Deal, the Communist Party adopted a popular front strategy and supported Roosevelt as well as urging co-operation with sympathetic left and liberal groups. In 1936 Browder was the Communist Party candidate for President and secured 80,869 votes.
Communist membership was buoyant until the Nazi-Soviet Pact destroyed its credibility. Browder himself was arrested in 1940 for the unlawful use of a passport and while in prison he again ran for President but his vote (40,251) was much down on the 1936 figure.
In 1946 Browder was ousted from the Communist Party leadership and expelled from it for having supported Roosevelt's wartime policies which constituted ‘ideological deviance’. He spent the remaining years of his life in relative seclusion.