Earl Russell Browder (May 20, 1891 – June 27, 1973) was an American political activist and leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Browder is best remembered as the General Secretary of the CPUSA during the 1930s and first half of the 1940s.
During World War I, Browder served time in federal prison as a conscientious objector to conscription and the war. Upon his release, Browder became an active member of the American Communist movement, soon working as an organizer on behalf of the Communist International and its Red International of Labor Unions in China and the Pacific region.
In 1930, following the removal of a rival political faction from leadership, Browder was made General Secretary of the CPUSA. For the next 15 years thereafter Browder was the most recognizable public figure associated with American Communism, authoring dozens of pamphlets and books, making numerous public speeches before sometimes vast audiences, and twice running for President of the United States. Browder also took part in activities on behalf of Soviet intelligence in America during his period of party leadership, placing those who sought to convey sensitive information to the party into contact with Soviet intelligence.
In the wake of public outrage over the 1939 Nazi–Soviet pact, Browder was indicted for passport fraud. He was convicted of two counts early in 1940 and sentenced to four years in prison, remaining free for a time on appeal. In the spring of 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the sentence and Browder began what proved to be a 14-month stint in federal prison. Browder was subsequently released in 1943 as a gesture towards wartime unity.
Browder was a staunch adherent of close cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II and envisioned continued cooperation between these two military powers in the postwar years. Coming to see the role of American Communists to be that of an organized pressure group within a broad governing coalition, in 1944 he directed the transformation of the CPUSA into a “Communist Political Association.” However, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Cold War and internal red scare quickly sprouted up. Browder was expelled from the re-established Communist Party early in 1946, due largely to a refusal to modify these views to accord with changing political realities and their associated ideological demands.
Browder lived out the rest of his life in relative obscurity at his home in Yonkers, New York and later in Princeton, New Jersey, where he died. He wrote numerous books and pamphlets on political issues. His three sons were all gifted mathematicians and had academic careers.