nostalgia for McCarthyism?

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Mon Nov 29 13:51:50 MST 1999

I have a mixed response to this. The imprisonment of Japanese-Americans was very wrong
and indefensible. However,....

>>> Russell Grinker <grinker at> 11/29/99 05:46AM >>>
Yoshie wrote:
>The CP during the Popular Front days came closest to having a lasting
>impact on inflecting Americanism a wee bit leftward, or at least making
>American culture more inclusively liberal & populist, though at the cost of
>being unable to defend Japanese-Americans.  But the CPers failed
>nonetheless, and when the political winds changed, their Americanness got
>called into question anyhow, and their fellow Americans were too cowed to
>stand up.  Isn't communism always "foreign," so to speak, from the point of
>view of the ruling ideas?  Agitators are always "outsiders" during Red
>Scares.  Besides, not going along with imperialism is always un-American,
>regardless of the self-definitions of anti-imperialists.  I might even go
>so far as to say, risking a cruelly flippant hindsight, that the CP got
>hoisted by its own petard, by raising the ideological stock of patriotism
>and Americanism during the war time.

You're right here.

To take it further, this patriotic lapse wasn't just an American phenomenon.
In line with Comintern diktat, all the communist parties took on a
nationalist colouration.  So for example the PCF leader Duclos proposed the
establishment of a 'Front of Frenchmen' to oppose fascism and for unity 'in
respect for laws and in the defence of the Republican order'.


Charles: ...It is not exactly clear that anti-fascist front was incorrect. You haven't
demonstrated it. That is not support of your "own" capitalists in an imperialist war.

It seems a frequent oversight that the United Front worked in defeating fascism

A CP slogan was " Socialism is 20th Century Americanism".  Anyway, the CP has been
criticized even more heavily in the opposite way of this thread: for failing to sink
deep enough roots in American culture.

 This was too
much even for the Socialists who repudiated it.  The PCI took nationalism to
its most absurd extremes when in 1936 it published a manifesto entitled 'for
the salvation of Italy and the reconciliation of the Italian people'.  This
was a response to the Soviet bureaucracy's desire for a mutual assistance
pact with fascist Italy.  This document, signed by Togliatti and other PCI
leaders, offered the fascists national reconciliation and declared:

'We Communists are adopting the fascist programme of 1919, a programme of
peace, freedom and defence of the workers' interests.  Blackshirts and
veterans of Africa, we call on you to unite in fighting for this
programme...We proclaim that we are ready to fight beside you, fascists of
the old guard and fascist youth, to carry out the fascist programme of


Charles: I don't know the historical specifics here, but historical hindsight could be
throwing you off. In 1919, the Fascists were not known for what we know them for now.
Mussolini had been a leader of the Socialist Party. The demogogy of  the Fascists was
not known in 1919 when they had just been formed.


Compared with this lot  who tried to counterpose the apparently more radical
1919 fascist programme to its less radical 1936 expressions, even the
American bunch don't look too bad.

On Yoshie's points about not defending Japanese Americans, the growing
nationalism of all the CPs also meant that defence of national minorities
and support for national self-determination were quickly discarded.
Immediately after the signing of the Franco-Soviet pact in May 1935, the PCF
ceased its support for the Arab nationalists of North Africa.  Similarly,
the national movements in the colonial empires of Britain and the
Netherlands were labelled a diversion by the communist parties.


Charles: But not at all permanently disgarded. The battle against fascism was what one
calls a world class emergency. On this the Comintern and Soviets have been proven
correct. It is easy to criticize their line now with the hindsight that fascism was
defeated. In 1935 this was not at all clear who would win. In fact, the Nazis almost
won. Not only that, it was very much in the main the Soviets who defeated the
fascists. The German western front was tiny compared to the eastern front. In other
words, the Soviets saved the goddamned world. So, it is not at all clear that their
strategy going back to 1935 was incorrect.


I believe that there is a consistent tendency to underestimate the
importance of nationalism as the key corrosive factor in the demise of the
old communist movement and an over-estimation of the impact of bureaucratic
styles of organisation.  The real issue was that, while quite radical, much
of the support base of the communist parties remained quite backward and
nationalistic.  With the pop front tactic, a nationalist green light from
the Comintern allowed such tendencies to run rampant. The tradition never
recovered from this.  By the late '30s even the German CP was merrily
denying that there were any Jews in its leadership.


Charles: Again you are overlooking an enormous historical fact: The United Front
strategy defeated the most barbaric regime in the history of humanity. You sort of
take that for granted without giving the Soviets, Comintern, etc. credit for it.

One nationalism you don't even mention is in the Soviet Union. For them it was the
Great Patriotic War, still is. Wouldn't have been won without rallying round the flag.
If they hadn't , this maillist and many of its members probably wouldn't even exist

You are applying proletarian internationalism dogmatically.


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