[Marxism] Re: Earl Browder and the Popular Front

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Sun Oct 2 18:45:27 MDT 2005

Here are some results of the “no-strike pledge”

(1) It alienated the CP from workers who could see the bosses make  
tremendous profits while their exploitation continued.

The CP used the no-strike pledge not only to support the war, but as a  
tactic to bureaucratically gain control of certain unions. After the  
war was over and the workers began the huge strike wave of 1946 and  
1947, they did this in part as a fight against union leaders that had  
frozen their wages while the bosses made super-profits. When the  
witch-hunt came, the CP had lost many of its potential allies. They  
were attacked for being revolutionists, unpatriotic, and against the  
material interest of the workers.

(2) It did not stop strikes at all. In fact, John L. Lewis of the  
United Mine Workers led strikes and won concessions from the bosses and  
government, making him the most popular labor leaders in the country.  
And he was not alone. My social-democratic parents, who were pro-war,  
thought that Lewis was not unpatriotic at all and that he stood for the  
interests of working people.

Besides, it was in the interests of capitalism to keep the plants open.  
Their profits would be huge in any case. Even if you accept the  
argument that the Soviet Union needed an ally that could produce goods  
without the fear of labor unrest, there was no reason to believe that  
labor militancy would slow down production. Theoretically, the contrary  
argument may be even stronger.

(3) It strengthened the idea that workers had to sacrifice for a “war  
for democracy.” Yet this was still a generation close enough to WWI,  
which had also been a “war for democracy.” Although the CP was small  
party by international communism standards, along with the social  
democratic followers of Roosevelt, its influence has heavily reinforced  
the notion that the period of the “Popular Front” was an era when the  
U.S. government and the Democratic Party in particular stood for the  
interests of working people.

This ideology has been dominant for at least two generations. Only  
recently, with new and deeper studies on Roosevelt’s personal role in  
Japanese internment [1], * the enforcement of Jim Crow by the  
Democratic Party [2], and the motives behind dropping the Atomic Bomb  
[3], has this ideological construct begun to crack.

Brian Shannon

  [1] Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment  
of Japanese Americans,   
[2] Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold  
History of Racial Inequality in America,  
[3] Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the  
Surrender of Japan,  

* For Eleanor Roosevelt's defense of internment, see:  

More information about the Marxism mailing list