[Marxism] Popular Front

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Sun Oct 9 08:29:47 MDT 2005

On Sat, 8 Oct 2005 13:08:29 -0400 "Mark Lause" <MLause at cinci.rr.com>
> Actually, Charles introduced Lincoln and the Republicans, as an 
> example
> of a great historic "front" of some sort that provided a precedent 
> for
> the popular front of the 1930s....
> Louis is right on one level about the limits of historical 
> continuity,
> though, insofar as the structural issues remain the same, the 
> pattern is
> predisposed to reemerge.  

The GOP of the 1850s and 1860s represented the
emergence of the industrial capitalists of the North
as a new political force in US politics at the national
level in opposition to the Southern slavocracy which
had dominated US politics ever since independence.
As such, the rise of the GOP was very much a progressive
event, and the capitalists who were dominant in the
GOP found that they had to enter into alliances with
genuinely progressive strata including the
emigre socialists from Europe who had
come to the US following the defeat of the
1848 revolutions.  The Lincoln Administration
besides presiding over the defeat of the Southern
slavocracy, itself a very progressive step forward,
was also responsible for the passage of a number
of progressive pieces of legislation including the
Homestead Act, Federal support for landgrant
colleges, a sympathetic stance towards labor
unions etc.  It made sense for the socialists
of the time, including not only the emigre socialists
in the US but also the IWMA abroad, under Karl
Marx, to lend their support to the Lincoln Administration.
There wasn't, after all, such a great leap from the Henry Clay  Whigism
that Lincoln started out with to the kind of almost Bernsteinian
social democracy, that he was perhaps moving
towards at the time of his assassination.

Charles raises the question of whether this socialist
support for Lincoln and the Republicans provides
us with a model for socialist support of the Democrats
in our day.  That takes us to the next example of 
the radical left supporting a bourgeois political party,
namely the backing that the CPUSA gave in the
1930s to FDR's Democrats and his New Deal.  The move
was understandable in terms of the politics of
the times.  The New Deal, itself, certainly represented
a progressive step forward in public policy over
what had prevailed previously.  Also, there was
fear among many leftists that if the New Deal
failed, the US ruling class would have turned to fascism
as a solution to the economic and political crisis
brought by the Great Depression.  And these leftists
felt, no doubt correctly, that they lacked the political
strength to successfully resist a turn to fascism. At least with
FDR's New Deal, the Federal government was
giving at least passive and sometimes active
support to the organization
of workers, whereas a  turn to fascism would have
resulted in the crushing of workers' organizations.
Hence, it made some sense at the time for
leftists to back the Democrats even though
the DP was at the time also the party of segregation
and even still the party of the KKK.

Charles like the CPUSA, the DSA, and many other
social democrats and communists, thinks that the
New Deal experience still provides radicals with
a model for successful cooperation with the
Democratic Party.  However, that seems doubtful
in light of the changes in US politics over the
past seventy years, including changes in the
DP itself.  For one thing, organized labor itself
has gone into a steep decline since the 1950s
with one result being that the DP, always a capitalist
party,  has become more and more overtly
dependent on coporate backing. The economic
policies that were followed by the Clinton Administration, for
instance, were little different from what one would have
expected from a moderate Republican president.
Even back when the Democrats were still very much in the
saddle politically, they never gave more than
lip service to the repeal of the Taft-Hartley
Act which has long constituted a major
impediment to the organization of workers.
In more recent times, we saw the Clinton Administration,
reject the appeals of organized labor to reject NAFTA
and GATT.  Clinton, being confident that 
labor had nowhere else to go politically,
felt free to go ahead without having to pay
any sort of a significant political price. While
Clinton during his second term ran into significant
political trouble (like being impeached) that
had nothing to do with the fact that he had
been pissing on organized labor and other
traditional Democratic constituencies.
In fact labor and the other DP consitutencies
rallied on Clinton's behalf but its hard
to see what they got back in return. The
fact is that progressives seem to have
little leverage over the DP, as witness
the support that Hilary Clinton and other
leading Democrats continue to give
to the Iraq War.  These Democrats calculate
that progressives have no where else to
turn, therefore like Bill Clinton they
feel free to piss on progressives while
attempting to garner support from the center
and the right.  The type of cooperation that
people Charles call upon progressives to
give to the DP merely confirms top Democrats
in their view that progressives have no where
else to go, so they can safely ignore their
concerns without sufferening a political
penalty. The call for contemporary progressives
and radicals to continue supporting the
DP, is ironically reinforcing that party's
drift to the right.  This is quite a different
situation from what prevailed in the 1930s
when FDR needed support from the radical

> My point is simple, on one level.
> If you want the "legacy" of the Democratic Party's illustrious past, 
> you
> shouldn't cherry pick the pretty rhetoric.  If you want to embrace 
> the
> Democratic past have to take Jackson's slave shackles and FDR's
> segregation, too.  You can't cherry pick the niceties and then 
> protest
> that we're discussing historical matters.  Btw, the same holds true 
> for
> the CP.
> If you want to pick and choose what you want like in the Democratic 
> past
> and ignore the rest in order to rationalize voting 
> Democratic...well,
> you might as well be a member of the Christian Right voting 
> Republican.
> It's the same method.
> Insofar as there is real continuity in all this, the two-party 
> structure
> has made the Democratic Party the graveyard of insurgent movements.  
> And
> this process started as soon as it got underway...and it hasn't 
> stopped.
> I don't see much reason to rationalize the course of the Great 
> American
> Serial Killer of third parties or its accomplices who helped 
> immobilize
> and hold down the designated victims.  
> Solidarity!
> Mark L.
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