J. T. Murphy

Why I Am for a People’s Front

Source: A.E.U. Monthly Journal, November 1936
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


I HAVE not the slightest doubt about the urgency or the need for a People’s Front in Britain. So convinced am I of the urgent need for it that I unhesitatingly say that the fate, not only of this country, but that of the whole world, depends upon its formation and its victory in the course of the next few years.

Because I hold this conviction, I am devoting all the energy I possess to the purpose of uniting the common people of Britain against Fascist aggression abroad and Fascist encroachments on our liberties at home. I cannot view the Hitler regime of Germany, or the Mussolini regime of Italy with the complacency of Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Baldwin. Hitler’s and Mussolini’s plans of conquest have not been, and are not, hidden under a bushel. Having set the pace in war preparations, they cannot retreat. Retreat means economic crash. Only the overwhelming concentration of the forces of democracy to prevent the unleashing of the Fascist war forces can prevail to maintain peace and the possibility of progressive social and political development.

To concentrate the progressive forces so that the so-called “National Government” can be replaced by a people’s government is as imperative as the mobilisation of international democracy through the League of Nations. The foreign policy of the Government has brought the British people into contempt. Foreign democracies cannot understand why the people of this country tolerate a Government which has violated its own international commitments, retreated before every foreign aggression, and has been branded by Mr. Lloyd George and millions besides him as “a Government of cowards.”

The Government does not openly proclaim itself sympathetic to Fascist philosophy, but its encroachments on the rights of the people are clear indications of the transformation steadily taking place in the mentality of the Government and those near to it. Already the Government has armed itself against the people with a Sedition Act on a par with the reactionary measures of the Government of the 18th century, when it was scared out or its wits by the French Revolution. It has taken out of the hands of the people’s representatives the control of public relief and established the Fascist totalitarian principle of government in the structure of the Unemployment Assistance Board. The abominable family means test is another measure of a similar character and implication. The drift towards Fascism is unmistakable.

The political opposition, however, is divided against itself in party formations based upon differences which have more significance in relation to the future of society than to the immediate period before us. Instead of a concentration upon the immediately practical measures upon which they could agree, fears, prejudices, personal interests, institutional conservation, block the road to the unity of progressive democracy. It is an amazing fact that despite the agreement of Liberals, Labour, Communists, and many Tories on the need for a strong League of Nations united on the basis of the Covenant of the League, and the need for international democratic unity in defence of peace against Fascist aggression, these forces do not make a common front against that which menaces peace and democracy. It is equally amazing that the sable forces proclaim their alarm concerning the social conditions of the great masses of the population and the threats to democracy upon which their hope of progress depends, and spend more time in proclaiming their differences and expressing their fears than in an effort to secure unity on the things most urgent.

I am a Socialist. I want Socialism to come as quickly as possible. I believe that the world will never have permanent peace until its economy is transformed and founded on Socialist principles. But Socialism cannot be established in any country until the majority of the people are ready to establish it.

However much anyone may urge that the economic conditions of Britain cry aloud for their reorganisation on a Socialist foundation, the outstanding fact remains that the great majority of the people are not ready to take the necessary steps to secure the change. The people of this country, including the Socialists, are more radical than Socialist. The vast majority want peace and security, democracy and liberty and social well-being, and think these things can be secured without any profound change un the foundations of society. Socialism is still in its propaganda stage in this country. We have not arrived at the moment when the peoples are convinced that fundamental changes are necessary. To attempt to force upon an unconvinced people fundamental changes which they are not convinced to be necessary is a disastrous policy. The Labour Party itself repudiates such a policy.

What then prevents the unity or action upon questions agreed upon other than party conservation, prejudices, and rival theories concerning the future of society? Nothing.

The longer this state of affairs continues, the more certain is the threatened disaster to democracy and all the social and cultural gains that have been won in the struggle for increasing self-government of the people by the people of Britain. Unity of democracy in the face of the common enemy—Fascism and its war policy—is the overwhelming need of our time.

Theories ran only win their way into acceptance by the people as the result of experience. Party prejudices and loyalties will never be overcome by watering down party programmes. Parties and people must be free to propagate their beliefs, but in the face of danger democrats must unite to defend the means for the free assimilation of their theories.

The expediency proposed for the Labour Party to propound an election programme for one Government period will cause neither Liberals nor Communists nor Tory democrats to leave their parties, nor necessarily vote Labour. The division of democratic forces will remain. The reactionaries will remain in power, and the way will be paved for the repetition in British history of the debacle of democracy in Germany.

All the trimming and shuffling amongst the forces of democracy must stop, democratic leaders of whatever denomination must have faith in democracy, and recognise that the justification of their policy lies in their capacity to lead the great majority of the people according to the immediate requirements of each period of their history. In this period it is the task of the real Socialist and democratic leaders to marshall the sum total of the social forces available against the dominant reactionary power in order that democracy can defeat it and advance to its next stage of social evolution.

This is why I am for the formation of the people’s front in Britain.