13
Jan
19

Working class independence and Popular Fronts

Ian Donovan of Socialist Fight has responded to my short critique of his 1998 document Trotskyism, the United Front and the Popular Front: Against Class Collaboration and Sterile Sectarianism with another lengthy document on the Socialist Fight web site – Critical Support, Popular Fronts and Bourgeois Workers Parties.

I post this reply to Ian’s piece not so much because he, and his current group Socialist Fight, are of any particular importance but his justifications for voting for candidates standing on the class-collaborationist programme of a Popular Front are quite popular among much of the centrist swamp that self-describe as “Trotskyist”. As such, our discussion could be of more general interest to a wider audience.

Working class rebellion against Popular Fronts and the fight for revolutionary consciousness

Ian seems to believe it was effectively impossible for any of the most class conscious Chilean workers to have rejected the Popular Front programme of class collaboration they confronted in the early 1970s:

“The most conscious elements of the working class no doubt considered that a bloc with the liberals was not ideal, but nevertheless not of major significance if the workers could use them as a stepping stone to put their parties in power to achieve the gains that they sought.”
Ian’s Critical Support, Popular Fronts and Bourgeois Workers Parties

Even if I assume he is correct in his “no doubt” assertion about the political perspective of the most class conscious Chilean workers at the time, all he has established is that these workers did not yet have a revolutionary consciousness. The question facing revolutionary Marxists was how to expose the leadership of the SP & CP and win those workers, or at least as many of the most class conscious as possible, to supporting revolutionary politics.

Ian recognises that “A working class rebellion against the popular front in this situation was entirely possible.” However, he rules out the possibility of making electoral support conditional on breaking with the Popular Front and taking power alone in the name of the working class because that is – “Virtually impossible! That is not how class consciousness works and develops”. I am therefore left wondering what Ian makes of the Bolsheviks’ use of the “Down with the ten capitalist ministers” slogan in 1917, the importance of which Trotsky describes as follows:

“The enormous role of the Bolshevik slogan “Down with the ten capitalist ministers” is well known, in 1917, at the time of the coalition between the conciliators and the bourgeois liberals. The masses still trusted the socialist conciliators but the most trustful masses always have an instinctive distrust for the bourgeoisie, for the exploiters and for the capitalists. On this was built the Bolshevik tactic during that specific period. We didn’t say “Down with the socialist ministers,” we didn’t even advance the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government” as a fighting slogan of the moment, but instead we hammered on one and the same point: “Down with the ten capitalist ministers.” This slogan played an enormous role, because it gave the masses the opportunity to learn from their own experience that the capitalist ministers were closer and dearer to the conciliators than the working masses.

“Slogans of that type are the best fitted for the present stage of the Spanish revolution. The proletarian vanguard is fully interested in pushing the Spanish socialists to take over the whole power. For that purpose, it is necessary to split the coalition. The next task is the fight for the expulsion of the bourgeois ministers from the coalition. The achievement of this task in full or in part is conceivable only in connection with important political events, under pressure of new mass movements, and so on. Thus, in Russia, under the constant pressure of the masses, first Guchkov, Miliukov, then Prince Lvov, were ousted from the coalition government, which was then headed by Kerensky; the number of ‘socialists’ in the government rose, and so on. After the arrival of Lenin, the Bolshevik party did not solidarize itself for one moment with Kerensky and the conciliators, but it helped the masses to push the bourgeoisie out of power and to test the government of the conciliators in practice. That was an indispensable stage on the road of the Bolshevik movement to power.”
Problems of the Spanish Revolution (AG: my emphasis)
(
https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/spain/spain06.htm)

I would strongly argue that giving critical electoral support is exactly an example of the type of solidarising that the Bolsheviks did not do for even “one moment” with the workers components of the Provisional Government popular front. I therefore have to challenge Ian’s assertion that Trotsky perceived the voting patterns of the French working class in 1936 to be inherently rebellious against the Popular Front government. In fact, Trotsky was responding to what reformist workers tried to do within the context of parliamentary politics and the absence of a revolutionary alternative:

“The voter, therefore, has expressed his will – so far as he generally can in the straitjacket of parliamentarianism – not in favour of the People’s Front policy but against it.”
“The Decisive Stage” from Whither France (AG – my emphasis)
(
https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03b.htm)

That is quite different from Trotsky’s view of the real rebellion of the working class that revolutionary Marxists should be trying to promote and lead. If you read Trotsky’s material on the situation in France at the time you will see that it is primarily concerned with extra-parliamentary activity and building militant proletarian organisations that pointed in the direction of Soviets. The issue of voting in parliamentary elections was completely secondary to this:

“Committees of Action will be built only by those who understand, to the end, the necessity of freeing the masses from the treacherous leadership of the social-patriots. Yet Pivert clutches at Zyromsky, who clutches at Blum, who in turn, together with Thorez, clutches at Herriot, who clutches at Laval. Pivert enters into the system of the People’s Front (not for nothing did he vote for the shameful resolution of Blum at the last National Council meeting!) and the People’s Front enters as a wing into the Bonapartist régime of Laval. The downfall of the Bonapartist régime is inevitable. Should the leadership of the People’s Front (Herriot-Blum-Cachin-Thorez-Zyromsky-Pivert) succeed in remaining on its feet in the course of the entire approaching and decisive period, then the Bonapartist régime will inevitably give way to Fascism. The condition for the victory of the proletariat is the liquidation of the present leadership. The slogan of “unity” becomes under these conditions not only a stupidity but a crime. No unity with the agents of French imperialism and of the League of Nations. To their perfidious leadership it is necessary to counterpose revolutionary Committees of Action. It is possible to build these committees only by mercilessly exposing the anti-revolutionary policies of the so-called “revolutionary left” with Marceau Pivert at the head. There is of course no room in our ranks for illusions and doubts on this score.”
“Committees Of Action – Not People’s Front” from Whither France
(https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03.htm)

“Suppressed” contradictions and the fight to change political consciousness

Ian makes a great deal of what he believes must be meant by the term “suppressed” – a term the Spartacists used to describe what happens to the “profound contradiction between their proletarian base and formal ideology and the class-collaborationist aims and personal appetites of their leaderships” within reformist workers parties when they participate in a Popular Front. He recognises that the contradiction outlined by the Spartacists does exist but it is just not all that is involved:

“The problem with this is it is one-sided. The counterposition of the reformist parties to the parties of the bourgeoisie is not just one of ideas. It is also a material counterposition. The working class party is seen as not simply an ideological force, but a material one, the embodiment of the social power of the working class in capitalist society as a force whose mass membership and support acts as a counterweight to untrammelled bourgeois force trampling the working class into the ground. This is the problem that the above does not really deal with.”
Ian’s Critical Support, Popular Fronts and Bourgeois Workers Parties

The key here is Ian’s use of the phrase “Is seen as…”. This is the core of the political problem revolutionaries face: how to change what reformist workers parties are “seen as” by the militant vanguard of our class.

Revolutionaries aim to break reliance on seeing parliament as the motor engine for social change and replace that with an understanding of the centrality of class struggle based on our own proletarian organisations separate from, and in conflict with, the organs of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. The question is HOW to engage with that false consciousness and change it. Ian’s position amounts to adapting to that consciousness and necessarily downplaying the centrality of working class independence by voting for the most virulent advocates of class collaboration in the workers movement.

It is true that calling for ‘no vote’ to the workers component of a Popular Front will likely be seen in the way Ian describes, unless of course the organisation making such a call holds a widely acknowledged leadership role in the extra-parliamentary struggle and there is something approaching a situation of dual power. The number of workers who will be directly convinced by a small revolutionary organisation making this call when those revolutionaries don’t represent any significant extra-parliamentary social strength will indeed likely be small. But is this a reason to stop telling the working class the truth?

I can therefore concede that Ian’s position would likely make any group applying it seem more immediately acceptable to most workers with their existing reformist consciousness. But at what cost, when the core Marxist political principle of working class independence is completely lost? This question appears not to enter Ian’s deliberations at all.

Electoral tactics and the principle of working class independence

Trotsky’s outline of the situation in France in 1936 offers useful lessons:

“Should the leadership of the People’s Front (Herriot-Blum-Cachin-Thorez-Zyromsky-Pivert) succeed in remaining on its feet in the course of the entire approaching and decisive period, then the Bonapartist régime will inevitably give way to Fascism.”
“Committees Of Action – Not People’s Front” from Whither France

This contains the contradiction which stands at the very heart of Ian’s position: how to call for a vote to 5 of those 6 leaders of the Popular Front (Herriot being the leader of the bourgeois Radicals with the others representing the different shades in the SFIO & CP) who are standing as open advocates of the platform of the Popular Front while at the same time telling the truth about the deadly danger posed by the Popular Front and ALL its leaders?

Ian would rather avoid dealing with this very real issue. For instance, in the 2005 election the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB – who publish Weekly Worker) called for only giving critical support to “working class anti-war candidates” (meaning in this case the SWP and fellow-travellers) of the RESPECT popular frontist coalition. It was no accident that the idea of working class political independence was largely absent from the CPGB’s critical support material and where it was mentioned it was only presented in an abstract, aspirational sense. Marxists recognise electoral critical support is a form of political support. So how can revolutionaries come up with tactics which do not involve giving any political support to the programme of popular frontist class collaboration? In my discussion with Ian (and the many other similar conversations I have had with other denizens of the British labourite centrist swamp) the real difference is over how much importance is given to open political struggle for the idea of working class independence.

I don’t see any way, either in theory or practice how it is possible to give critical political support to candidates standing on the class collaborationist platform of a popular front while at the same time highlighting the importance of working class political independence and the dangers posed by this class collaboration. Perhaps this idea of open political struggle for this core principle of Marxism means a lot less to Ian than it does to me. He instead replaces it with a reliance on an objective process he imagines will magically reveal the importance of working class independence. This is of course one of the big differences in general between Bolshevik-Leninist Trotskyism and the centrist swamp:

“To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s program on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives – these are the rules of the Fourth International.”
The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International – The Transitional Program
(
https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/tp-text2.htm)

Trotsky says nothing about GBL electoral support to workers parties in the French Popular Front

In his latest piece Ian introduces the example of the Groupe Bolchevik-Léniniste (GBL) applying the tactic of giving critical support to just the workers component of the Popular Front in the 1936 French elections. Ian points to Trotsky not making any commentary about this as evidence that Trotsky must therefore have supported the tactic. In a private Facebook message Ian provided me with his reference for this new information about the GBL’s voting tactics in the 1936 French election. It was a comment by Jan Norden (now the central leader of the Internationalist Group and then a member of the Spartacists and the editor of Workers Vanguard) in the article “No ‘critical support’ to Popular Frontism” in Spartacist No. 27/28 Winter 1979:

“Now I want to say something about a little historical research I’ve been doing, and that is the question of the popular front in the 1930s. The French GBL (Groupe Bolchevik-Leniniste) had the position of supporting the social democrats or Stalinists in those districts where it didn’t run its own candidates in the 1936 elections.

“So what was the situation in 1936? First of all, nobody paid any attention to this question at all. In the internal bulletin of the French GBL there is one sentence on its policy in the election – and two pages of discussion in a later bulletin – compared to more than a hundred pages on the split with the Molinier group. Nor was the GBL policy mentioned in any of the post – June 1936 issues of Lutte Ouvriere. It was not a big issue. I’m not even sure Trotsky knew what the GBL policy was; he might have, but it’s not clear. I  was looking through the [Trotsky] archives [at Harvard University], and Trotsky writes big notes over everything putting triple exclamation points every time Vereecken opens his mouth. But here there’s no marks at all on his copy [of the GBL internal bulletin referring to electoral policy].
(https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/spartacist-us/1972-1980/0027-0028_Winter_1979-80.pdf)

Norden’s conjecture that the reason Trotsky did not comment on this issue, either positively or negatively, was because he might not have known about it, has the advantage of simplicity. The fact that Trotsky had left France in June 1935 and was living in Norway at the time of the 1936 election also lends some credence to this idea. But it is clearly not decisive either way. Interestingly, the editors of the book The Crisis of the French Section (a collection of Trotsky’s material dealing with the splits and fusions of the French Trotskyists in 1935/36) note they had been “unable to locate any letters by Trotsky about the crisis of the French section between March 4 and the article he wrote on June 7” (p137) – this coinciding fairly directly with the period when the 1936 election was occurring. Looking at Writings of Leon Trotsky 1935-36 we see that Trotsky was still politically active – just not focussing on the French situation. He writes on the persecution of the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union; critiques positions taken by Stalin; writes a major article on the new Constitution of the Soviet Union; and gives advice to the US, British, Belgium and Dutch comrades. Perhaps this resulted in Trotsky taking his eye off the French ball during the period of the 1936 elections which he considered to be an irrelevant diversion from the real class struggle.

It is also important to understand this action of the GBL in its political context. This election happened just after the period when Trotsky had been struggling to reverse the “French Turn” against a general unwillingness across all the factions to leave the SFIO and varying degrees of political accommodation to the left of the SFIO as represented by Pivert and his group. In fact it is not so much that Trotsky fully convinced the GBL of the need to end the entry but rather the expulsions and bureaucratic internal manoeuverings made it impossible for them to remain. Trotsky was also trying to push the French comrades towards emphasising the building of revolutionary Committees of Action – which he viewed as much more important than elections which are at best a subsidiary issue. Indeed, for Trotsky the whole parliamentary arena was something of a diversion away from the growing class struggle in the factories and on the streets:

“There is no way out on the parliamentary road. Blum will not invent any gunpowder, because he is scared of gunpowder. The further machinations of the People’s Front can only prolong the death agony of parliamentarianism and give de la Rocque time to prepare a new and more serious blow if the revolutionists do not forestall him.”
“The Decisive Stage” from Whither France

Or as Trotsky puts it in March 1936 just before the election campaign would have begun:

“The coming parliamentary elections, no matter what their outcome, will not in themselves bring any serious changes into the situation…”
“France at the Turning Point” from Whither France
(https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03a.htm)

An example from Spain

To bolster his argument Ian refers back to his original 1998 document where he quotes Trotsky’s call for revolutionaries to join the Spanish Socialist Party while it was in the Popular Front – something I had not dealt with in my initial short piece. However, he has never seen the need to deal with the response to this point that was made at the time by a comrade in the Marxist Bulletin group. So I will remind him:

“The other classic example of a popular front government is Spain. Ian quotes from the ‘Down with Zamora-Maura’ text but seems to fail to understand the significance of the following passage:

‘The proletarian vanguard is fully interested in pushing the Spanish Socialists to take power into their own hands. For that to happen, it is necessary to split the coalition (my emphasis). The achievement of this task is conceivable only in connection with important political events, under pressure of new mass movements, and so on.’

“The task is to split the coalition, i.e. the popular front. A similar passage can be found in his letter to the Dutch section dealing with the POUM. It is worth noting that Trotsky does not discuss the question of the popular front in terms of electoral tactics very much. On both France and Spain he stresses the need for the independent activity of the masses against the bourgeoisie and its lackeys in the popular front government. He was obviously convinced that you cannot get rid of the popular front at the ballot box.

“But was he in favour in [sic] voting for the reformist parties participating in the popular front? Again Ian cannot provide us with a clear quote confirming his interpretation of Trotsky. He said in 1931 that the revolutionaries would help the masses (not the Socialist candidates) to force their Socialist leaders to take power into their own hands. This is all. It does not necessarily mean electoral support. Lenin’s call in 1917 on the SR’s and Mensheviks to take power did not imply any support at all, it was meant as a tool in order to expose them in front of the masses, to expose them as cowards and ideological slaves of the bourgeoisie.

“But back to Spain. Again I would like to use a passage quoted by Ian himself:

‘1. To condemn and denounce mercilessly before the masses the policy of all the leaders participating in the Popular Front.’

“I do not think that this would square with voting for those parties that intend to establish a coalition with the bourgeoisie in the first place. Why vote them into the popular front government when you do not want them to be in it?

“Ian might reply that Trotsky went further than that by advocating to ‘join the Socialist Party and the United Youth’. However, it is important to see how Trotsky continued ‘in order to work there as a faction in the spirit of Bolshevism’. Working in the spirit of Bolshevism means absolute opposition to the government and a perspective of splitting the working class base away from its misleaders.”
The Popular Front: A well-covered trap in Marxist Bulletin No. 8
(http://bolshevik.org/mb/8popfront.htm)

So not only is Ian incorrectly generalising and extending this historical instance of entry to include electoral support (not something that Trotsky ever advocated), but he takes it out of context and misses the essential ‘spirit of Bolshevism’ behind Trotsky’s motivation to advocate temporarily joining the Socialist Party whilst it was technically part of the popular front. The SP was in revolutionary flux, with its left wing and layers of militant workers inside and outside the party, pushing for independent action from the popular front government itself. Entry was in the context of the need for an imminent and urgent split away from the bourgeois and reformist forces.

Driving electoral wedges to sabotage the Popular Front?

Ian argues:

“Critical support in elections is one valid tactic, to drive a wedge between the coalition and try to sabotage the bloc with the smaller bourgeois parties and force the reformists to take responsibility for their own policies. But how can tiny micro-sects refusing to call for votes for the reformists against the bourgeois parties (including against their hoped-for coalition partners) do that?”

How exactly would Ian expect this tactic to work in real life? He just makes the assertion without any attempt to explain how that process could be expected to occur. I am therefore forced to speculate on what that process might look like. Perhaps it is based on an idea that through this critical support, the vote and consequent number of parliamentarians, for the workers component becomes larger and the opposite occurs for the bourgeois component – thus lessening their political influence. This seems to be the “logic” as far as I can tell.

As an aside I would invert Ian’s comment about how a “tiny micro-sect” could hope to successfully apply the BT’s approach and ask how the minuscule number of extra workers voting for the workers component of a Popular Front as a result of Ian’s own “tiny micro-sect” calling for critical support will likewise affect anything. Unlike Ian, I don’t make this point about organisational size a serious part of my critique. Of course the political positions taken by tiny groups like SF or the BT usually don’t make any significant difference to any aspect of the class struggle, let alone national elections. But what we are talking about here are general guidelines which if enacted by organisations with significant social weight could make a real difference in outcomes. And even for “tiny micro-sects” the taking of these positions can be useful in making an impact on the consciousness of the small layer of individuals they are able to reach (and especially so if this can take place alongside any small examples of exemplary leadership they are able to provide in the militant class struggle that usually accompanies Popular Fronts).

The problem is that Ian’s defence of critical support as a way to “drive a wedge” to “sabotage the bloc” misses the essence of the political problem that is the Popular Front. The leaders of the reformist workers’ parties are doing everything they can to prevent revolutionary anti-capitalist politics spreading among the working class. As we were to see in Spain they even effectively invent a bourgeois partner (“the shadow of the bourgeoisie” as Trotsky put it) to help them achieve this. They are not being held back from fully fighting for the interests of the working class by the size and social weight of their bourgeois partners in the Popular Front – they are held back by their own fear of, and opposition to, the working class taking power. As Léon Blum (the “socialist” Prime Minister of the French Popular Front government) put it:

Il n’y a pas de majorité prolétarienne, il y a une majorité de Front populaire. Il s’ensuit que nous agissons à l’intérieur du régime social actuel.
(Léon Blum, « Discours », 31 juin 1936, cité par Danielle Tartakowsky, Le Front populaire, 1996, Gallimard, p. 71)

Which Google translates as:

There is no proletarian majority, there is a majority of the Popular Front. It follows that we act within the current social system.
(Leon Blum, “Speech”, June 31, 1936, quoted by Danielle Tartakowsky, The Popular Front, 1996, Gallimard, 71)
(https://groupemarxiste.info/2016/07/15/1936-1938-la-coalition-de-front-populaire-empeche-la-classe-ouvriere-de-prendre-le-pouvoir-en-france/)

Or perhaps Ian is hoping that by decreasing the vote for the bourgeois component this will somehow put pressure on them to withdraw from the bloc. Once again, I think this misses what it going on with a Popular Front – this time from the side of the bourgeois component, which in the first place, is usually a tiny rump. I fail to see why a change from 90% vs 10% to 95% vs 5%, or even right down to a “shadow”, in the balance of parliamentary deputies is going to in-and-of-itself make the bourgeois component leave the Popular Front. The only thing that might really make it consider leaving would be a concern that the workers component was not capable of holding up its side of the bargain by keeping a lid on expressions of militant working class struggle. And that has nothing to do with the results of the parliamentary elections and everything to do with building revolutionary proto-Soviet organisations to prosecute militant class struggle – as runs through the heart of all Trotsky’s material on France in this period.

Militant class struggle vs. voting in parliamentary elections

Popular Fronts tend to occur in, and are in fact usually a direct response to, situations of heightened militant working class struggle. The call on the reformist workers parties to break from the Popular Front as a pre-condition for electoral support is just an auxiliary  part of explaining to the working class base of those parties the reality of the contradiction between their day-to-day involvement in the extra-parliamentary class struggle and the explicit denial of our separate and conflicting class interests in the bourgeoisie’s Popular Front programme, which in turn limits the militancy of our class struggle.

Calls on the reformist workers party to break with the Popular Front, such as “Down with the ten capitalist ministers”, are necessarily linked to calls on them to support the workers in their day-to-day struggles against the capitalists. We demand the reformist leaders stop using the existence of the Popular Front, the need to consider “national unity” and so on, as an excuse for not supporting the building of revolutionary Committees of Action, for not supporting building for a General Strike. We make these calls on the reformist mis-leaders not because we believe that they will respond positively (even if the very rare individual may come over from reform to revolution) but to expose their claims to stand for the interests of the working class and thereby win over their militant working class base to support of revolutionary politics – to the fight for working class power.

I will leave the last words to Trotsky writing in March 1936 – a month before the French election. Readers can decide for themselves what electoral advice they think would have been consistent with his approach:

“But, we are told, not without indignation, the People’s Front is not a cartel at all, but a mass movement. There is, of course, no lack of pompous definitions, but they do not change the nature of things. The job of the cartel always consisted in putting a brake upon the mass movement, directing it into the channels of class collaboration. This is precisely the job of the People’s Front as well. The difference between them – and not an unimportant one – is that the traditional cartel was applied during the comparatively peaceful and stable epochs of the parliamentary régime. Now, however, when the masses are impatient and explosive, a more imposing brake is needed, with the participation of the “Communists”. Joint meetings, parade processions, oaths, mixing the banners of the Commune and of Versailles, noise, bedlam, demagogy – all these serve a single aim: to curb and demoralize the mass movement.

“While justifying himself in the Chamber before the rights, Sarraut declared that his innocent concessions to the People’s Front were nothing else than the safety valve of the régime. Such frankness may have seemed imprudent. But it was rewarded by violent applause from the benches of the extreme left. There was no reason, therefore, for Sarraut to be bashful. In any case, he succeeded, perhaps not quite consciously, in providing a classic definition of the People’s Front: a safety valve for the mass movement. M. Sarraut is in every way fortunate with his aphorisms!”

“Unbelievable as it may seem, some cynics attempt to justify the policy of the People’s Front by quoting Lenin, who if you please, proved that there is no getting along without “compromises” and, in particular, without making agreements with other parties. It has become an established rule among the leaders of the present Comintern to make mock of Lenin: they trample underfoot all the teachings of the builder of the Bolshevik Party, and then they take a trip to Moscow to kneel before his mausoleum.

“Lenin began his activities in tsarist Russia, where not only the proletariat, the peasantry and the intelligentsia but also wide circles of the bourgeoisie stood in opposition to the old régime. If the policy of the People’s Front has any justification at all, one should imagine that it could be justified first of all in a country that has yet to achieve its bourgeois revolution. The Messrs. Falsifiers, however, would not do badly at all if they were to point out at what stage and under what conditions the Bolshevik Party ever built even a semblance of the People’s Front in Russia? Let them strain their imagination and rummage among the historical documents!

“The Bolsheviks did conclude practical agreements with the revolutionary petty-bourgeois organizations, for example, for joint illegal transport of revolutionary literature; sometimes to repulse the Black-Hundred gangs. During elections to the state Duma they did, under certain conditions, enter into electoral blocs with the Mensheviks or the Socialist Revolutionaries, on the second ballot. That is all. No common “programs”, no common and permanent institutions, no renunciation of the criticism of temporary allies. Such episodic agreements and compromises, confined strictly to practical aims – and Lenin never spoke of any other kind – have absolutely nothing in common with the People’s Front which represents a conglomeration of heterogeneous organizations, a long term alliance between different classes, that are bound for an entire period – and what a period! – by a common program and a common policy of parades, declamations and of throwing up smokescreens. The People’s Front will fall to pieces at the first serious test, and deep fissures will open up in all of its component sections. The policy of the People’s Front is the policy of betrayal.”

“The coming parliamentary elections, no matter what their outcome, will not in themselves bring any serious changes into the situation: the voters, in the final analysis, are confronted with the choice between an arbiter of the type of Laval and an arbiter of the type, Herriot-Daladier. But inasmuch as Herriot has peacefully collaborated with Laval, and Daladier has supported them both, the difference between them is entirely insignificant, if measured by the scale of the tasks set by history.

“To pretend that Herriot-Daladier are capable of proclaiming war against the “200 families” who rule France is to dupe the people shamelessly. The 200 families do not hang suspended in mid-air but are the crown of the system of finance capital. To cope with the 200 families it is necessary to overthrow the economic and political régime, in the maintenance of which Herriot and Daladier are just as much interested as Flandin and de la Rocque. The issue here is not a struggle of the “nation” against a handful of magnates as l’Humanité pictures it, but the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. It is a question of the class struggle which can be resolved only by revolution. The strike-breaking conspiracy of the People’s Front has become the chief obstacle on this road.”
France at the Turning Point (March 26, 1936) in Whither France
(https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03a.htm)

 

 

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