Friday, December 2, 2016

The Popular Front: A FALSE ISSUE (1937)

Editorial from the February 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Three small organisations which yap at the heels of the Labour Party, the I.L.P., the Socialist League and the Communist Party have got together in a Left Wing United Front. They propose, in their manifesto, to fight for “unity within the framework of the Labour Party and the trade unions" and “a campaign to revitalize the activity and transform the policy of the Labour Movement." Their professed object is Socialism and opposition to Fascism and War. Their method is based upon the doctrine that, in order “to advance in the fight for Socialism, we must mobilise for immediate objectives, clear in their appeal and vital in the battle against reaction and Fascism." Their immediate objectives are a very modest list of reforms and wage advances, including the 40-hour week, non-contributory pensions of £1 at 60, nationalisation of the mines, paid holidays for all workers.

In the past 40 years there have been many similar efforts for unity, at least a dozen such movements could be listed. They have all been alike in their belief that unity and action for Socialism can be based upon a programme of non-Socialist “immediate objectives." They have all failed, buried alive under the double blanket of trade union officialdom and the non-Socialist outlook of the working class. This one will go the same way, and its passing should occasion no regret, for those who promote it are not doing something which will help to bring about Socialism.

They pretend that the difference between them and the Labour Party leadership is that between Socialists and reformists, but their every action shows that this is not the case. Does the Labour Party fight merely for reforms ?—so do they. Does each of the Labour M.P.s owe his seat in Parliament to his success in obtaining the votes of non-Socialists who support those reforms?—so do all the Left Wingers, Maxton, Gallacher, Cripps and the rest. Are the Labour leaders believers in the possibility of controlling capitalism as against abolishing it?—so are their rivals for office. Both groups reject the only practical policy for dealing with the problem of a non-Socialist working class, which is to preach Socialism instead of preaching immediate objectives and the reform of capitalism. In default of adopting the only sound Socialist policy, the choice before both groups narrows down to the problem of capturing the votes of a non-Socialist electorate. Whether the most hopeful method is a Lib.-Lab. alliance, a Popular Front, or a Lab.-I.L.P.-Communist Party alliance is a question of no concern to us. We judge all such methods of administering capitalism by their inevitable consequence, which is that the workers are led to believe that their miseries are no longer due to capitalism but to Socialism. For capitalism to be administered by people calling themselves Socialists, in the name of Socialism, is a crime against the Socialist movement. When Socalists take over the machinery of Government it must be for the purpose of achieving Socialism, not, as The Times (January 5th, 1937) truthfully says of Blum's Popular Front Government in France, for the purpose of reforming capitalism. Blum “ has held to his declared intention not to translate into action the doctrines of his own Socialist Party, but loyally to carry out the agreed programme of the Popular Front, for which the country had given an impressive majority."

The Labour Party in Great Britain wants to administer capitalism on the lines of its own reform programme. The new Left Wing United Front wants to follow Blum's example of a coalition because it sees there a better chance of an electoral victory. As Socialists are against the administration of capitalism in the name of Socialism, Socialists are against the Labour Party and the United Front.

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