From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 14, 10 March 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
In the Daily Worker, Friday, Mar. 3 – nearly two weeks after the anti-Nazi counter-demonstration of February 20 – V.J. Jerome lengthily answers, in Questions from the People, why “the Communist party did not see fit to take any measures to stop the Monday night Nazi Bund meeting or at least call for picket lines around it.”
The widespread indignation within its own ranks and followers against its cowardly refusal to meet the Nazi challenge has thus finally forced the Stalinist leadership to a public justification of its opposition to the anti-Nazi demonstration.
Jerome’s answer is an important document, one which every anti-fascist should read, for it reveals that the Stalinist boycott of the anti-Nazi fight of February 20 was not an isolated incident, not a blunder, but was an integral part of a basic policy opposed to militant methods of fighting against fascism. Under the pressure of the questioners, the Communist party, in Jerome’s article, was compelled to state more openly than ever before its opposition to class-struggle methods of smashing fascism.
The Communist party’s Popular Front policy – re-christened the “Democratic Front” here because of the fiascos of the Popular Front in France and Spain – involves the rejection of anti-Nazi struggles such as that of Feb. 20. Jerome states this plainly enough:
“For what would have been the result of an attempt to ‘stop the meeting’ after the progressive LaGuardia Administration had granted permission for it to be held? One could certainly have differed with the LaGuardia Administration for granting permission, not merely on the question of free speech, but on whether the interests of democracy could best be served by one course or another. But certainly the Communists could not undertake to forcibly prevent such a meeting once the City Administration had allowed it.
“In the given circumstances, such a course would have played directly into the hands of the Nazi conspirators themselves; it would have incited a direct collision not only with the Bund, but with the city administration and the police who were present to enforce the decision of the city administration ...
“And if it is said that there should have been strong picket lines around the Garden not to close down the meeting but only as a protest gesture. A simple realistic view of the facts make it obvious that such peaceful picketing would be an immediate target for the combined provocations of the Trotskyites and their companions in arms, the Bundists. The net result would be the same danger as before, feeding the Nazi objective of collisions between the Bund and the vanguard of the democratic forces.” (Daily Worker, Mar. 3, p. 6)
Every anti-fascist, we repeat, should study this statement of the Communist party, for it reveals that the Communist party is preparing to repeat here the debacles of Spain and France, is preparing to carry out to the end here the suicidal policy of the Social Democracy in Germany. For here is what Jerome’s article means:
1. No action could be taken by the Communist party against the Nazi meeting once the “progressive LaGuardia Administration had granted permission for it to be held.” (Jerome’s reference to “forcibly” preventing the meeting is of course a dishonest subterfuge; the issue involved was that of a counter-demonstration, of mass picketing of the meeting.) The Communist party will undertake nothing of which its bourgeois allies disapprove: this is the meaning of Popular Frontism.
The bourgeois “progressives” In Spain were against the factory committees, against dividing the land among the peasantry, against giving freedom to Morocco, against rousing the proletariat to international solidarity, against the use of revolutionary methods in the anti-fascist struggle – and in the name of unity with these “progressives” within the Popular Front, the Stalinists agreed to this policy which led to Franco’s victories. The “anti-fascist” capitalists, loyal first of all to their property, were against dynamiting of munitions and other factories, preferring upon retreat to leave them intact to Franco – and the Stalinists agreed.
The “anti-fascist” capitalists in France wanted an end to the June 1936 strikes, wanted an end to the struggles for independence in the colonies, wanted the workers to be docile and obedient, wanted an end to the forty-hour week – and the Stalinists agreed.
The “anti-fascist” LaGuardia administration demanded an end to the building maintenance strike and to the taxi strike – to mention no others – and the Stalinists told the workers they had to submit, because “you can’t fight the progressive LaGuardia administration.” The “anti-fascist” city administration says it wants no demonstration against the Nazis – and the Stalinists agree.
Just this is the meaning of the “Democratic front”: that in it there is no democracy whatsoever. In it the “progressive” capitalists, of the stripe of LaGuardia, have a veto power, no matter what the vast majority of the workers say. In spite of the appeals of the city administration, of the Jewish press, of the Stalinists, of the labor lieutenants of capitalism generally, the tremendous turnout of the workers on Feb. 20 is proof that, had the workers been consulted democratically, they would have overwhelmingly declared for the anti-Nazi demonstration. But at the heart of the “Democratic front” is the anti-democratic principle that, in the name of unity, all the millions of workers are outvoted or vetoed by the handful of “progressive” capitalists.
2. The “progressive” capitalists are always opposed to militant methods of fighting against fascism. This is proven by their conduct in Italy, Germany, Spain, France.
Nor is this due in any way to personal cowardice. It is due to something much more fundamental, namely the loyalty of the capitalists to the capitalist system. And the capitalist system, whether in the form of monarchy, democracy, fascism or military dictatorship, rests primarily not on the free consent of the working class but on the ability of the capitalist class to keep the workers down. All sections of the capitalist class, no matter how democratic, are therefore hostile to the working class developing militant methods of winning working class demands.
That is why, for instance, such great heroes of the Communist party as LaGuardia, Roosevelt, Attorney General Murphy, etc., are irreconcilably opposed to sit-down strikes. So, too, they are opposed to mass struggle against fascism, because in mass struggle the workers learn to stand together without depending on any “progressive” friends; in counter-demonstrations like that of Feb. 20, the workers learn, not only how to fight fascists, but how to fight the capitalist class too. Precisely for this reason, the LaGuardias want no such demonstrations – and by the logic of the “Democratic front” their veto of such demonstrations is unquestioningly accepted by the Communist party leaders.
Last updated on 28 November 2014