Raya Dunayevskaya 1955

New Turn To The “Popular Front”

From: News & Letters, August 19, 1955. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s unsigned column, “Two Worlds: Notes From a Diary”;
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

Like a road marker, Russian Communist boss Khruschev has been tracing a turning point in world history. The facade is impressive enough. I do not mean to say it is just an empty shell. No one like Khruschev is to be dismissed out of hand. He is the man who coached General Zhukov to tell his “soldier friend,” President Eisenhower, the “inner secrets” of Russia’s highest political body, the Political Bureau, of which Zhukov is not even a member.

Naturally, Eisenhower is not letting himself be diverted into any direction he doesn’t wish to follow. He has allowed himself to be impressed with “the new concept of leadership” which has replaced Stalin’s dictatorship, because he is compelled to play the part of “we're-brothers-under-the-skin-where-peace-is concerned.”

The political differences between the leaders of the two powers aiming for world conquest-America and Russia-is that the Russians are masters not only of governmental shows, but also of what is known as the “Popular Front"-a non-governmental get-together of assorted characters who cut across both the working class and the middle class.

I have been leafing through my diary for instances of this specifically Russian concoction which Stalin invented back in the 1920’s when he moved to “building socialism in a single country.”

The more familiar name for “Popular Front” is “collective security.” This has an official, governmental flavor and does not disclose the Communist Party tentacles so readily.

Let no one think that this problem does not exist in the 1950’s because we “now know all about it” thanks to the ex-Communists who recently turned informers.

It is not a question of changing allegiance from the American flag to the Russian flag, though there may be than on the part of some. For every convicted or alleged “conspirator” there was an honorable intellectual who flirted with the Communist “idea” and who is presently as opposed to Russian Communism as is possible for intellectuals without roots in the working class.

That’s just it. There is no total opposition except from the workers who alone can change things from the roots up because they must! It is on their backs that all exploitation takes place.

It wasn’t out of malice, nor out of stupidity, that American intellectuals were sucked into the Communist-led Popular Front during the 1930’s. They were sucked in because they were driven by despair over the economic chaos and saw no other way out.

The 1929 Crash and the American Mind

With the 1929 crash, production had come nearly to a standstill. Millions of workers were thrown into the streets. Now that everyone saw that production is primary, the class lines became, not weaker, but stronger. The New Deal is proof enough that the capitalist class too had suffered a serious split. Every serious tension between the working class and the capitalist class produces a rift in the camp of the ruling class itself. But that is not irreparable.

To run production in capitalist society, the rulers sit upon the direct producers. When there is a crisis, these bureaucrats do not get off the workers’ backs. They sit the harder. The New Deal did not tamper with that relationship at the point of production. Neither did the intellectual planners who came out of Harvard and Columbia, Yale and Princeton, the College of the City of New York and the University of Chicago.

Just as there are only two fundamental classes in society-the working class and the capitalist class-so there are only two fundamental ways of thinking. The 1929 crash, which shook the world to its foundations, cut sharply across the American mind, splitting it into two opposing parts:

1) The Brain Trust, or intellectual planners, small and large. Those who invented the New Deal to save capitalism and those who wanted to use the New Deal to move headlong to total planning according to the Russian model, were not so totally different from each other that they did not find cohabitation pleasant. Both had one word for all the ills in the world. It was: Plan.

2) On the other hand, the rank and file workers tried to reorganize production on entirely new foundations by demanding that those who labor should control production. They too had but one word to describe how to do it. It was: SIT DOWN. The very spontaneity of the action overflowed into the organization of the CIO.

The American Intellectual Adrift

While the workers were creating organizations of their own, characteristically American and specifically working class, the American intellectual was rudderless, drifting into the Communist-created Popular Front.

The Russian Communists had a field day, penetrating everywhere from the Newspaper Guild to the State Department, from the labor bureaucracy in Detroit to filmdom in Hollywood. The American intellectual was not an unwilling victim. He zealously tried to influence the American worker. If he failed it was not his fault. The American intellectual has one trait in common with all intellectuals: he looks down upon the native working class as “backward.” But while the Communist Party of the United States took over the American intellectual bodily, emotionally and financially, it remained without serious roots among the American working class.

The Totality of the Crisis

The world crisis is creating another field day for the Communist bureaucrats in this country. The other day a production worker pointed out to me that the labor bureaucracy is so cocky about its “knowledge” of Communism, that already they have been caught off guard by the action of the Communists in defending the status quo and stopping some of the actions of the workers against Reuther. Politics makes strange bedfellows.

The one sane element in all this, is the solid common sense of the American worker. He is showing a total indifference to the shouting out of Geneva [1] through the press and over the air. Rather he is showing a total concern for the fundamental issue of what happens day in and day out at the point of production.

1. Britain, France, Russia, and the U.S. held a summit meeting in Geneva in July of 1955. Both Eisenhower and Khruschev attended. [Transcriber]