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Earl Russell BrowderEarl Russell Browder

Communist candidate for President in 1936 and 1940

Earl Russell Browder was born in Wichita, Kansas, on May 20, 1891. He dropped out of school after the third grade, and joined the Socialist Party at the age of 15. He worked as a cash boy for a dry goods store for a time, then entered business college. While at college Browder often spoke up for students who believed they were being discriminated against by their teachers; he also led fights for student rights expression. After college he became a bookkeeper, first for a drug store and then a bank. Although he was considered a hard worker by his superiors and co-workers, his Socialist leanings eventually became too much for his employers and he was fired. He moved to Olathe and became the manager of the Johnson County Cooperative Association there in 1916.

While living in Olathe, Browder became active in the local Socialist Party. In 1919, he helped found The Workers World, a local Socialist paper, and became its first editor. An opponent of U.S. involvement in World War I, Browder was convicted of conspiracy against the draft laws and imprisoned for 16 months in 1919 and 1920.

During the 1920's, Browder helped organize the Communist Party in the United States, and served as its General Secretary from 1930 until 1944. In 1936, the Party nominated Browder for President of the United States, with James W. Ford as his running mate. Running on a platform that focused on the shortcomings of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the two garnered 80,159 popular votes. The two ran again in 1940, this time focusing on keeping the United States out of World War II. Popular sentiment at the time was just the opposite, however, and the Communist Party only managed to garner 46,251 popular votes.

In 1940, Browder was arrested and charged with falsifying his passport in order to visit the Soviet Union. Convicted of a felony, he lost his rights as an American citizen and was sentenced to four years in prison; the sentence was commuted in 1942. The fact that he could no longer run for President lessened Browder's power within the Communist Party, and in 1944 he was replaced as Party Chairman by William Z. Foster. Accused of having deviated from Communist orthodoxy in support of Capitalism, he was completely expelled from the party in 1946. An attempt to reinstate him to party favor in 1956 failed.

Browder again found himself facing federal charges in 1951, when he was charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee investigating Communists in government (the McCarthy Commission). This time, however, he was acquitted.

Among Browder's many books are: Communism in the United States (1935), War or Peace with Russia? (1947), In Defense of Communism (1949), and Marx and America (1958).

Earl Russell Browder died in Princeton, New Jersey, on June 27, 1973.


World War I
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President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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This page was last updated on January 21, 2015.

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