Paul Mattick

Upton Sinclair on the road to fascism?


Published: in International Council Correspondence Vol. 1, no.2, November 1934, pp 24-26.
Source: Antonie Pannekoek Archives
Transcribed: by Graham Dyer

Two years ago, in relation to Sinclair and the Eisenstein movie, Thunder Over Mexico, the critics already tried to point out that his ideology was of a fascist character. With his attitude towards the cutting up of the movie, he had lost his prestige as a socialist and was considered on the road to the class enemy. A good business man, however, is not necessarily also a fascist, and the noise about Sinclair’s perversion soon died out.

He ran for governor several times on the Socialist ticket, and now he enters the Democratic Party with his Epic Platform (End Poverty In California) trying to gain as a bourgeois candidate what he had failed to reach as a Socialist. From our point of view, this makes no difference, but for the Socialists it is outright betrayal, and they look now upon their former friend as a traitor, who is hurting the cause of socialism.

Sinclair brought the Democratic Party, as he himself boasts, about 300,000 members in a short time. He received about 400,000 votes and soon started a newspaper which in a few weeks attained a circulation of 175,000. He also sold about 200,000 copies of his platform. A very successful man, and we understand, the envy of all labor-fakers without a doubt.

The C.P. consider him the Orange Hitler of California. In one of the latest issues of New Masses (which had to take up the matter as Sinclair is a literary figure) he is classed as a full-fledged fascist, and should be treated as such. The “pure” fellows of the New Masses are, however, a bit misinformed. During August in Moscow, at the Congress of Russian Revolutionary Writers, one of the many under organizations of the C.I., a resolution was adopted and sent to Sinclair which says in part: “accept our most hearty and brotherly greetings, because you have always done and you are still doing with heroism your duty as a friend of the working class”. We also find Theodore Dreiser, who adheres to the Third International, works directly for Sinclair's campaign fund. Dreiser also got a nice telegram from Moscow. At the time these telegrams were sent, it was positively known, and the Moscow Congress was aware, that Sinclair was already a member of the Democratic Party for more than half a year and intended to run for governor.

This does not make the slightest difference to the Third International as Sinclair at least entered a party which completed the recognition of Russia by the United States, and which seems to be favorable to help in defending the “fatherland of the workers”, in case the bargaining between Russia and Japan should collapse, and if a war becomes necessary to settle the differences between these two nations. In this event, it becomes the duty of American workers to volunteer in the American Army to help “defend the Soviet Union”. Sinclair is doing heroically, a little early perhaps, what may eventually be the duty of the whole American working class. But this is not the only reason the Third International likes Sinclair. They know that it is possible for Sinclair to fight in the Democratic Party for the status quo of capitalism just as well, if not better, than in their own freakish organization, the C.P., which the Third International is slowly liquidating. Telegrams and warm, brotherly greetings for Sinclair; for the workers in the C.P. the empty phrases against Sinclair in order to use them for reactionary purposes indirectly; a purpose which Sinclair directly serves.

But Sinclair is just a freak. He never had any scientific understanding of capitalism or Socialism. He merely wrote sentimental stories to soften the hearts of millionaires; to make a nice world out of a capitalist world. Meanwhile, he made a good living. Occasionally he entertained the world by exhibiting his immeasurable stupidity, falling for all kinds of medical and social fakers. He never missed a chance to put himself in the spot light; too many years near Hollywood probably accounts for this.

Sinclair wants to bluff the voters of California and the workers also, that he, single-handed, can transform the capitalist system into a socialist one. All that is necessary are a few new taxation laws. “Sock the rich” by taxes and give to the poor. By means of taxation force the proprietors of land and idle factories to turn them over to the unemployed who will engage on a grand scale self-help-movement, a movement which has been repeatedly proven a failure. By this means, too, he promises the farmer and middle-class a lighter tax burden, as the unemployed will provide for themselves. Many of his reformist ideas, old-age pensions, etc., cannot be successfully carried out inside the framework of capitalism, and if some of them are, they will deepen the crisis rather than help to overcome it.

The most important parts of the Epic program have been dropped, however. In order to insure himself the support of the Democratic Party, and in order not to hurt Roosevelt, he has thrown overboard his platform even before he is elected. The state-farms, factories run by the state, old age pension, etc., he dropped; nothing remains but empty phrases. He is willingly and knowingly betraying his voters in order to satisfy his film-star ideology; he cannot sleep well without being mentioned at least once daily in the papers.

He claims that he and Roosevelt agree on everything, and that the “New Deal” has advanced to the position of 'Epic'. This is true. Epic has lost its main points and the New Deal is bankrupt. They are both bankrupt before they start working. Where there is nothing, there can be no disagreement; so the Democratic Party adopts Sinclair as its own.

Daily Sinclair becomes more patriotic. He now expresses what he always felt. It was formerly more outstanding to play at being a socialist, now there is more fame by showing fascist tendencies. There is no likelihood that he will become a California Hitler, as he is seeking advertisement - not power. He fills the space between the real acts in this historical drama, and when the social forces begin to move, he will probably be disposed of in short order by the real Fascists or pushed aside by a revolutionary Proletariat. The future will not be determined by freaks of his size, but will be determined by the social struggle for power.


Last updated on: 6.13.2018