1930s & Stalinism

GBandLM Graham at SPAMunacode.demon.co.uk
Mon Aug 9 08:46:46 MDT 1999

The class collaboration described by Louis P. cuts both ways.  He rightly

>>>>>>While Stalin is regarded in polite bourgeois society as the
antithesis of
capitalism, the plain fact is that the Popular Front turn was all about
class-collaboration. When CP's in the 30s and 40s functioned as the
left-wing of New Deal type parties, they were breaking with class politics.
This policy was not introduced by Khrushchev. It was Stalin's innovation
and enunciated by Dmitrov at a Comintern in the mid-1930s.
        Class collaborationism helped to wreck the working class movement all over
the world. In the US, it was put forward as a way of defeating Hitler. But
politically it had the effect of convincing vast sections of the working
class that the Democrats were some kind of workers party. In 1942, Earl
Browder announced that "This is a fight between a slave world and a free
world. Just as the United States could not remain half slave and half free
in 1862, so in 1942 the world must make its decision for a complete victory
one way or the other."
        A free world? Tell that to all the countries fighting for their
independence from Great Britain. In point of fact, the CP's often charged
them with abetting fascism. In the USA, a March on Washington led by A.
Philip Randolph was attacked in the pages of the Daily Worker because it
objectively supported Hitler.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

It's also worth thinking through how this impacts upon the ruling class.
CP-influenced disasters and 'new histories of American Communism' aside,
the inter-war period generated acute embarrassment and hit hard at its
political legitimacy. In an early manifestation of the 'generation gap', a
swathe of youthful intellectuals, often from top universities and the
families of the elite, went left.  This acquired an institutional form in
organisations like the 'League of Professional Groups for Foster and Ford',
whose open letter endorsing the CP's 1932 slate in the Presidential
elections reads like a role call of the post-war US intelligentsia.  We
know now that these attachments were pretty shallow, although Stalinism
played a part in pushing such figures to the right, but think of its impact
on the ruling elite more broadly, as they watched their best and brightest
go over to the other side.

Think also of having to choke back class preferences as co-operation with
the Soviet Union - seen as an isle of prosperity amid the slump - becomes
the key to winning the war. Imagine trumpeting the virtues of the free
market, only to need the state to step in in the form of the New Deal.
Imagine espousing nativism in the 1920s only to watch the 'new immigrants'
become the electoral cornerstone of FDR's administration.  Imagine having
to rely on erstwhile 1930s left-wing intellectuals - Sidney Hook, James
Burnham etc. - to make the case for post-war America.  In the case of the
1942 March on Washington, think of the implications of having the CPUSA
have to step in on the side of white supremacy (despite the local actions
of rank & file Communists which often contradicted this.)

This is not to attribute any progressive qualities to the New Deal - I'll
go with much of Paul Mattick's analysis here.

Popular Front politics ultimately worked against working class
independence, yet it paradoxically undermined the confidence of the ruling
classes.  It became less easy to argue directly for the merits of
capitalism; the emphasis instead was on the 'mixed economy', a lesser evil
to communism and so forth.  In short, the Popular Front helped the ruling
class to win the practical battle for class hegemony, but it gave sharp
expression to their being knocked way off course in the battle for ideas.

Graham Barnfield

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