Earl Browder's grandson praises Putin
- The following article, attributed to Susan B. Glasser of the Washington Post,
appeared on page A23 of the Sunday, February 29, 2004 edition of the Arizona
Republic. William Browder is obviously a very well-off member of the
imperialist grand bourgeoisie, but his grandfather, Earl Browder, was
general-secretary of the Communist Party USA from 1930 to 1944, an
organisation that was often accused of being a front group for Soviet
interests, if not actually controlled by the USSR. When I was involved
with CPUSA and the Young Communist League USA in the late 1980s, we were
taught about Browder's betrayal of the Party. Under his leadership,
membership in the CPUSA grew to about two millions, largely due to
discontent with economic conditions during the Great Depression, but also
because Marxist-Leninist ideology was watered-down with liberalism to make
it more acceptable to American workers. During the Second World War,
Browder took this further, declaring the temporary alliance with the American
government to side with the USSR during the war to be a permanent state of
affairs and promoting a doctrine of "American exceptionalism", stating that
American capitalism was an exception and that class struggle was no longer
necessary in the USA. In 1944, Browder dissolved the Communist Party USA.
Gus Hall, William Foster, and a few others quickly reformed the party but
had only a tiny fraction of the former membership They never recovered
much membership and were soon imprisoned in Leavenworth on charges of
"conspiracy to teach the violent overthrow of the United States government."
There have been factions of the imperialist bourgeoisie that even during
the Stalin administration were enthusiastic about investing in the Soviet
Union. As Lenin said, "The capitalists will sell us the rope with which
we will hang them." I am, however, uneasy about Browder's praise of Putin,
for, as Engles said, when those who have been criticizing you suddenly start
to praise you, think what stupid error you may have made.
INVESTORS BACKING PUTIN
Russia President Called Real Ally of West Capitalism
Moscow--To his fierce and increasingly worried critics, President Vladimir
Putin is a grave threat to post-Soviet democracy, a would-be authoritarian
intent on building "capitalism with a Stalinist face," as one reformist leader
But investor William Browder sees it differently. Never mind the arguments
about a creeping coup by Putin's KGB colleagues, the war in Chechnya, the
state takeover of television or even the jailing of Russia's richest man.
To Browder, Putin is a true reformer, "the one ally" of Western capitalists
who have come to Russia to create a new market economy but have found
themselves adrift "in a sea of corrupt bullies."
"What's the worst-case scenario?" asked Browder, who has bet $1.3 billion
in the investment fund he runs on the success of the Putin presidency. "That
I misjudged and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I just don't think
the objective here is Stalinism."
This pointed debate about where Putin is taking the country is reaching a new
pitch as Russia prepares to reward him with a second term in an election
March 14 in which none of his opponents has registered more than single
digits in the polls. In another twist, Putin on Tuesday fired his Cabinet,
including the prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov.
No one has been making the case for Putin more ardently than Browder and
others in the small but influential class of Western investors, investment
analysts and stockbrokers based in Moscow. They have become the most
consistent rosy-eyed optimists about the KGB spy-turned-president, and they
are making money hand over fist in Russia's booming market.
So taken with Putin are they that one of these Western brokers termed the
president "Saint Vladimir" in a recent report, while others find ways to
tout the latest investment case for Russia no matter what the news. Even
the arrest of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in October created only
temporary jitters. By last week, the stock market had recovered the 20-plus
percent it had lost and surged to an all-time high, making it the best-
performing market in the world since Putin came to power in late 1999.
"I'm one of the Putin apologists," said Eric Kraus, chief strategist of the
Sovlink investment firm in Moscow who coined the "Saint Vladimir" phrase.
"No bones about it," he added in an interview.
Sounding the alarm about Putin have been independent political analysts and
academics, newspaper editorial writers and the dwindling ranks of Russian
liberals who found themselves voted entirely out of the Russian Parliament
But investment types like Browder, the grandson of an American Communist
leader whose Hermitage Capital Management is the largest foreign investment
fund in Rusia, have started fighting back.
Their challenge has come in the form of e-mails circulated to thousands of
subscribers, daily investment reports, interviews with Western media and
prominently placed op-eds in other publications, including Browder's recent
paean in the Moscow Times, "Making the Case for Putin." Foreign investment,
though still modest, has followed--$29.7 billion last year, a 50 percent leap
over 2002--as Russia's oil-fueled economy grew for the fifth year in a row.
For many longtime Russia hands, the increasingly pointed debate hearkens to
the Cold War feuds that split Kremlinologists into camps that remain to this
"Once again, people's views on Russia are really polarized and nerves are
frayed in ways we haven't seen publicly since Putin came to power," said
Andrew Kuchins, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, whose analysts have
been critical of Putin's authoritarian drift. "There's that sort of energy
and emotion to the debate about Russia that I haven't seen in a long time."
Kuchins called Browder the "chief cheerleader" for the Russian president and
questioned the reliability of opinions being offered by pro-Putin business
leaders who are getting rich from the bullish Russian market.
"Putin dazzled them. ... I hope they're right, but there's just too much
evidence that suggests the contrary," Kuchins said. "If you believe
consolidation of a real democracy in Russia is a good thing, it's just hard
not to be concerned about what's going on."
Browder always disagreed with those who feared Putin, but that difference of
opinion has widened into a seemingly unbreachable gulf in recent months as
the Russian government launched an all-out legal assault on Khodorkovsky
and his oil company, Yukos.
"Those persons who are Jew first and American second should not even ask for
citizenship in our nation."
--Madalyn Murray-O'Hair, 1982