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Socialist Appeal, February 1937, Volume 3 No. 2, Page 24-26
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Draft Resolution on Revolutionary Class Struggle vs. the People’s Front

1. THE ITALIAN invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, the French General Strike of June, 1936, the present Civil War in Spain, the events in China, the unparalleled armament programs of all the great powers, make clear that a new stage in the general decline of capitalism has begun. This stage is a new period of wars and revolutions, on an international scale.

2. In the intensified crisis of this period, the sole solution which can serve the interests of the proletariat and of the great masses of the people generally is the conquest of political power by the working class, and the utilization of this power for the achievement of socialism.

3. Power can be won by the working class only thru the methods of independent class struggle, in uncompromising opposition at every phase of the developing crisis to the bourgeoisie and to the bourgeois state in whatever form.

4. Likewise, the bulk of the non-proletarian masses can be won to the side of the working class and of socialism only if the working class itself shows decisive leadership by pursuing the methods of independent, revolutionary class struggle.

5. Within the labor movement, the greatest obstacle to independent class struggle is the methods and ideology of class-collaboration. At the present time this ideology is advanced primarily under the slogans of the People’s Front.

6. The slogans of the People’s Front were advanced first by the Communist International and its sections, receiving theoretical expression at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International during the summer of 1935. They have rapidly been accepted and propagated by the reformist parties, and by many liberal parties as well, throughout the world. These slogans, though new in form, are old in content: representing merely the classic policies and methods of class collaboration, and of its crucial expression – coalition government, as applied to the present international situation.

7. The People’s Front, like all forms of class collaboration, is the renunciation of the independent class struggle of the workers. Thru the People’s Front, the working class abandons its own program – for power and for socialism, and accepts the program of the “democratic” bourgeoisie: i.e., accepts the program of the defense of the status quo. Indeed as Blum himself has openly expressed it, the People’s Front proposes to “rehabilitate” capitalism.

8. The People’s Front has nothing in common with the United Front. The United Front, a chief means of proletarian struggle, involves only agreement on specific actions, and excludes any question of the sacrifice of program or principle or any other form of the abandonment of political independence on the part of the working class and its revolutionary party. The revolutionary party in the United Front, maintains intact its program for independent revolutionary class struggle, for worker’s power and for socialism. As a primary tactic for involving the broadest masses in progressive struggle, revolutionary Marxism proposes, in contradistinction to the People’s Front, the United Front of action.

9. The policy of the People’s Front cannot offer any adequate defense against Fascism since Fascism follows in every country as an inevitable stage, in the decline of capitalism, unless capitalism itself is overthrown. Consequently any policy short of the revolutionary policy for the overthrow of the entire capitalist order, not merely is powerless against Fascism, but in fact makes certain the victory of Fascism.

10. The People’s Front is unable to mobilize the bulk of the middle classes under the leadership of the working class – without which the victory of the workers is impossible. Indeed, since in the People’s Front the working class abandons its own independent program and independent leadership, the policy of the People’s Front leaves the middle classes easy prey to the bold demagogy of the Fascists, and thus permits Fascism to provide itself with a mass base that is essential to its rise to power.

11. In the day-by-day struggles of the trade unions, the class-collaborationist policy of the People’s Front hinders and blocks the militant struggle for immediate demands, and the sharpening of class consciousness thru this struggle, in favor of bureaucratic and “legal” methods, and especially tends to rely more and more upon the institutions of the bourgeois state-government arbitrators, labor administrators, boards of review, and courts.

12. Coalition governments, an integral part of the policy of the People’s Front, can under no circumstances serve the interests of the working class. A People’s Front government like any kind of a coalition government, is a form of the bourgeois state. The state is the chief executive of the ruling class. By entering into a capitalist government, under any conditions whatever, the working-class parties become the political administrators for the bourgeoisie, for capitalism. As such, their acts necessarily prevent, and in the crucial moments actively suppress, the revolutionary struggle for workers’ power and for socialism, which can be prosecuted only by uncompromising struggle against every form of the capitalist state.

13. The lessons of history and experience demonstrate no less conclusively than theory the utter bankruptcy and anti-revolutionary character of the policies of class collaboration, and coalition government, whether called by the name of People’s Front or any other. Throughout the history of the labor movement, these policies have resulted only in defeat and disaster for the working class. It was they that led to the capitulation to the imperialist war in 1914; it was they that led to the defeat of the two post-war revolutions in Germany, during which social-democratic administration of the capitalist state was carried to its logical conclusion in the execution of the revolutionary leaders. The policy of the Communist International in China identical with the present day Popular-Frontism, by subordinating the revolutionary workers and peasants to Chiang Kai Shek and the Kuo-Min-Tang, led in 1927 to the defeat of the Chinese revolution, and the mass executions of the revolutionary Chinese workers. The class-collaborationism of the German Social-Democracy shares with the leftist sectarianism of the German Communist party political responsibility for the victory of Hitler in 1933.

14. The crucial historical example of a People’s Front government was the provisional government of Kerensky in Russia in 1917, in which parties representing workers and peasants participated, with the exception of the revolutionary party – the Bolshevik party. The Russian Revolution succeeded, and could have succeeded, only in independence of and in the last analysis, in direct conflict with the Provisional Government, since the Provisional Government, like any coalition government, administered the interests of the bourgeoisie, and could not serve the interests of the proletariat. The workers of Russia took power in November thru the overthrow of the Provisional Government.

People’s Front in France

15. Class collaboration and coalitionism, newly dressed up in the slogans of the People’s Front, have already received their decisive historical tests. In France, the People’s Front has tied the workers thru the Socialist and Communist parties to the Radical Socialist party; and thru the Radical Socialist party to French imperialism. France is today in the midst of a developing revolutionary crisis. The policy of the People’s Front has prevented the French workers from consolidating their independent class strength, from creating their own armed militia, from forming their own class committees and councils, from preparing their own ranks for the seizure of power. The policy of the People’s Front has enabled the Fascists to continue virtually unhampered their preparations in gathering arms and likewise in extending their ideas into the middle classes. It has diverted the energies of the workers from the road of revolutionary class struggle into reliance upon the bourgeois state. Blum by accepting leadership of the coalition People’s Front government became thereby the chief executive for French imperialism. The iron logic of his position, supported by both the Socialist and Communist parties, brings more and more clearly to light the role of the People’s Front government. The government sends its police and troops against striking French workers; it suppresses issues of revolutionary journals; it passes laws establishing compulsory arbitration of labor disputes; it boycotts aid and volunteers for the Spanish workers; it puts down by force uprisings of the Syrian masses, and tortures revolutionists in French Indo-China; it maintains as governor in French Morocco one of the most notorious of French reactionaries; it assumes redoubled leadership in the armament program of French capitalism; it prepares on every front to wage international war in the interests of French imperialism. The general hesitation and weakness of the French People’s Front Government is in instructive contrast to the vigor with which it acted in January when it felt that French Morocco – perhaps the most significant of the colonies of French imperialism – was threatened.

16. The events in France show with pitiless clarity the real meaning of the People’s Front in the present crisis. The People’s Front, far from being in any sense a positive form of proletarian struggle, is in actuality a means of preparation for the coming, imperialist war. The People’s Front lays the basis within the bourgeois-democratic nations for the “national front,” for national unity; that is, for unity of all classes under the bourgeois government for the support of the imperialist war. This has been made absolutely apparent in France by the call of Thorez, the leader of the Communist party of France, for a “French Front” to replace the People’s Front; and by the open chauvinism of both the Socialist and Communist parties, with their calls for the “unity of the French nation” against the “encroachments” of Germany. It is this fact, indeed, which explains why the slogans of the People’s Front were first put forward by the Communist International. The Soviet foreign office, which controls in all respects the policy of the Communist International, searching for allies in the coming war, offers the bourgeois-democratic powers a guarantee against revolution, thru the anti-revolutionary policy of the People’s Front, if these powers will consent to a military alliance with the Soviet Union, or to neutrality in the coming war.

Popular Front in Spain

17. In Spain the policy of the People’s Front has been as disastrous as in France. Thru the People’s Front electoral pact signed in 1935, the Spanish workers were turned aside from revolutionary struggle. The People’s Front government which took power in Feb. 1936, was in the face of the profound social crisis, unable to take any serious steps in the interests of the workers. On the contrary, though supported by all existing parties of the workers, it found itself soon forced to send police against peasants who had taken over the land, and against striking workers, to censor the working-class journals, and to forestall all attempts to arm the workers and peasants. Meanwhile the reaction prepared its forces, gathered arms, and worked out its strategy unhampered by the government. When the reaction struck, in July, the first attempt of the government was – to reach a compromise. Only the threats of the masses on the streets prevented the government from capitulating and compelled the arming of the people. The magnificent resistance of the workers and peasants has been at all stages hindered, even from a military point of view, but above all politically, by the People’s Front government. The Spanish crisis can be solved in the interests of the masses only if they take power thru their own independent committees and councils, establishing their own revolutionary path toward socialism. The People’s Front government is a bourgeois government. The acceptance of the premiership by Caballero, the entrance into the Government of the Socialists, Communists and Anarchists, has shunted aside the building of independent working class strength, and restricts the struggle to the vain, and from the point of view of the working class in any case, useless task of defending “democratic” capitalism against Fascist capitalism. Equally in Catalonia, where the revolutionary situation was far more advanced than in the rest of Spain, the participation of the working class parties in the People’s Front government – that is to say – in a bourgeois government – has restrained and blocked the revolutionary advance of the working class, and makes impossible defense against the counter-revolution. Even the POUM, though correctly defining the struggle in Spain as “Capitalism vs. Socialism,” against the slogan of “Democracy vs. Fascism” advanced by Caballero and the Communists, violated its words in practice by participation in the Catalonian People’s Front government, and thereby contributed to the blocking of the Spanish revolution. Chief responsibility for the fatal People’s Front policy in Spain must be assigned to the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union; first, because of the political line of the Communist Party in Spain in championing the People’s Front, for which policy the Communists have succeeded in winning Caballero and the majority of the Socialists; and second, because the whole weight of the Soviet Government has been thrown back of this policy – that is, has been brought to bear to prevent the development of the Spanish revolution, going to such lengths as to demand the ousting of the POUM from the Catalonian Government and its actual suppression as the price of continued material aid from the Soviet Union. As in France, so in Spain. The Spanish workers can avoid defeat, can achieve victory, only by breaking in its entirety with the policy of the People’s Front, only by taking the road of independent revolutionary class struggle for power and for socialism.

18. The United States is not in a stage of developing revolutionary crisis, as France, nor in the midst of a Civil War, as Spain. Nevertheless, the class collaborationist policy of the People’s Front is no less disastrous to the advance of the workers in this country than in France or Spain or any other nation. This policy of the People’s Front here as elsewhere, is a renunciation of the class struggle, a proposal for retreat and capitulation, ensuring the victory of Fascism and preparing support of the coming war. As put forward under the guidance of the C.P., the policy of the People’s Front has led to indirect support of Roosevelt at the last election, to evasion and collaborationism and hampering of militant class action on the trade union and unemployed fields; to propagandizing for the idea of a classless Populist “Farmer-Labor party,” which would prove one more chain binding the workers to capitalism; to efforts to liquidate any independent revolutionary youth movement into an amorphous classless youth organization; to pacifist and social-patriotic Leagues and Congresses preparing a mass base for support of the U. S. government in the coming war. Here as everywhere, the advance of the working class can be achieved only by a resolute break with the policy, methods, slogans and activities of the People’s Front; and a relentless prosecution of the independent class struggle against the class enemy and the bourgeois state.

19. In the face of the international crisis, in this new period of wars and revolutions, during which in all probability the fate of all mankind hangs in the balance, the Socialist party of the U. S. declares its unalterable opposition to all forms of class collaborationism and coalition government, and thus to the policy and methods, the theory and practise of the People’s Front. As the major tactic for building the revolutionary unity of the workers, as well as drawing the non-proletarian masses to the side of the worker’s struggle, it opposes to the People’s Front the United Front of Action. It reaffirms its declaration that the world now faces the single alternative of Capitalism or Socialism, rejecting all together the conception that the historical issue is between Democracy and Fascism. It declares that the victory of Socialism will be achieved only by the independent revolutionary class struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois state, only by the abolition of the capitalist state and the entire capitalist order, by the building of a worker’s state, and thru worker’s power the construction of a world socialist society.

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