Anti-Communism: a mask for reaction and repression by: NORMAN MARKOWITZ
Anti-Communism and anti-radicalism in the U.S. have always followed the patterns long established by color racism. This is true for “conservatives” particularly, but also for large numbers of others in the Cold War era across the political spectrum.
These include “cold war liberal” politicians, labor leaders, and intellectuals after WWII who, like some Populist Party leaders after the racist terror and disenfranchisement of the 1890s, joined their conservative political enemies in the Democratic Party by using color racism to advance them, separating themselves from conservatives by advocating some reforms for poor whites
Parallels between anti-Communism and racism
Similar to racist ideological portrayals of people of color, anti-Communist ideology portrays Communists as “invisible” within the “national community” and “demonized” outside of it. Communists are simultaneously portrayed as enemies within and enemies without, as people of color were. But people of color in general were quite visible, and those who weren’t, who sought to pass, were subject in the U.S. to the “one drop of blood” standard.
With people’s political beliefs, though, it is not a question of color or accent or clothing. So for conservatives, who portray themselves as guardians of the “national community,” the “one drop of blood” thesis became a constant search for statements, expressions that would be indicative of “Communist” leanings.
Peoples organizational affiliations could then be connected to those statements, making guilt by association into a state policy. “Lists” of both individuals and organizations could be both created and expanded, as they were by both private and government authorities and agencies, state and local “Red Squads,” the House Un-American Activities Committee of the House and the “Subversive Activities Control Board” of the federal government. These lists were then used to carry out “investigations” of and to institute formal and informal penalties against individuals and groups which refused to comply with the investigator’s dictates. Most of this of course was standard police state practice, the forms of repression that the struggle for civil rights and civil liberties, for political democracy, had sought to overcome through the world. Here though, such repression was defined as necessary to “defend freedom and democracy.”
In the South under segregation, which functioned as an “informal racist dictatorship”, and in the U.S. nationally, those “white people” who spoke out against institutional racism and/or racist terrorism were routinely condemned in vile and obscene terms. In the South such people faced reprisals if they did not remain silent.
Color was also involved in a strange way in U.S. anti-Communist ideology. Those who defended the rights of Communists aka “reds” were usually called “pinkos” in the tabloid press and the slur “commie” was used the way various ethnic slurs were used. Coercing all Americans but especially those in the arts, sciences and professions, “opinion makers,” to remain silent in the face of the Korean War, CIA interventions in many nations, an expanding military budget that was seen as the generator of “economic growth,” was one central purpose of anti-Communist ideology and policy.
Compelling trade unions and mass organizations to engage in their own anti-Communist self censorship, was another. In that sense it copied color racism whose purpose was to prevent the unity of first slaves and impoverished non slaveholding whites. and then white and black labor. Both served and continue to serve as masks for reaction and repression.
Anti-Communism internationally and in the U.S.
Anti-Communism in terms of ideology, policy, and institutional expression has existed in all capitalist and precapitalist/aka feudal societies from the beginnings of the socialist movement in the nineteenth century to the globalization of socialism with the Russian revolution and the creation of the Comintern, but WWII saw the development of a world revolutionary situation, a fact that capitalist ideology throughout the world has successfully denied in recent years.
After 1945,a new condition developed rapidly which saw the Chinese Revolution, the collapse of colonialism through Asia and Africa the greatly increased mass support for Communist and left parties in liberated Europe, threatening capitalism as a world system as never before. Both mobilizing and sanitizing discredited ant-Communist individuals and groups through all of Europe, erasing their connections with the Nazi occupation became standard practice in the U.S/NAT0 bloc.
In France for example, a country with a history of large socialist and after WWI Communist parties, the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre noted that “mainstream” French media in the 1950s sought to make the mass Communist party both invisible in daily life and an ongoing menace in society, to create a “ring of fire” between Communists and their fellow citizens. But the experience of European peoples during WWII, the leading role of Communists especially in the anti-fascist national liberation movements made this difficult in most countries which were not Axis allies (and the Axis allied countries which were occupied by the Soviet Union). Also, the association of rabid anti-Communism with the Nazis and their various fascist collaborators discredited the crudest expressions of this sort of anti-Communism, which millions saw as the anti-Communism of Hitler, which had resulted in the horrors of the war
Many early postwar European commentators associated with this kind of red-baiting with the U.S. politician Joseph McCarthy, seeing him as a potential American Hitler. Although the mass arrests, torture and murder practiced by European fascists and Japanese imperialists against Communists and the anti-fascist left were not used in the U.S., which did not become an open fascist dictatorship, the concepts of a “national community” that had to be ideologically protected and purified was certainly present. And the widespread blacklisting and FBI political harassment of Communists and those who refused to sign the oaths and “name names” and the deliberately degrading ritual of confessions and “naming names” were similar to both European fascism before and during the war and the various postwar dictatorships of the right supported by the U.S/NAT0 bloc.
In the U.S., though, the policy following the tradition of color racism was to “segregate” rather than exterminate Communists and the left, to maintain formal democratic rights for everyone except Communists and those who the authorities would label as various kinds of allies of Communists. This enabled the U.S. government to proclaim the U.S. to be a democracy, just as the Southern states, which retained formal political rights for whites while denying them to Blacks, contended that they were practicing democratic politics and the rule of law.
Why did these reactionary forces triumph in the U.S.? The postwar American situation, was very different than most of the rest of the world. In the U.S. WWII strengthened monopoly capitalism, enabling it to break apart the center left coalition of the New Deal era, and launch a global “cold war” to defeat revolutionary socialist and anti-imperialist movements around the world. The U.S. was now the political/military leader of global imperialism, creating the NAT0 bloc and other regional military alliance systems, fighting two major wars in Korea and Vietnam, and engaging in many neo colonial wars in various parts of the world. Previously it had been one among the major imperialist powers, without a significant colonial empire and, under the New Deal government of the 1930s and 1940s, associated with policies that were far less militarist and reactionary on the world scene than the other major imperialist powers.
In the U.S., the political consequences of this new situation transformed anti-Communism into something like a political religion, immune to all rational discourse. Ironically this occurred here at the very time that the racist ideology which served as its model suffered major reversals globally in large part due to the victory over fascism, made possible in large part by the American-Soviet alliance, and to the rising resistance to the old colonial empires whose restoration rapidly became impossible. In the U.S. the victory over fascism globally would have its most important influence in the achievements of the postwar Civil Rights Movement.
Different “brands” of U.S. anti-Communism
This coerced anti-Communist “consensus” oriented the entire political spectrum to the right. However, it went far beyond the traditional right, long associated with groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Legion, the “conservative coalition” of rightwing Republicans and Southern Democrats. It came to include both the entire center and a self proclaimed “democratic” ( read anti-Communist) left.
Postwar liberals of the cold war variety, such as Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey, moved to the right on foreign policy in both principle and practice and on domestic policy in practice. For them, ideological and institutional anti-Communism meant building up the military alliances and interventions abroad in the name of preventing WWIII and extending the domestic purges and blacklists at home. These positions were essentially no different from their “conservative” political rivals, except that these “cold war liberals” advocated a variety of domestic reforms as the “best way to fight Communism.” This made them into something like the Social Imperialists” that Lenin wrote about so eloquently. Of course, they would never read Lenin. Perhaps C. Wright Mills understood the journalists and academics who served as the propagandists of cold war liberalism best when he called them “NAT0 intellectuals.”
For left liberals, those who acknowledged the possibilities that Cold War escalations could produce a nuclear war and that the policies of domestic repression could only strengthen the right it was a little different-something like the Clinton administration’s policy toward homosexuals, that is “don’t ask; don’t tell” when it came to the civil liberties and civil rights of CPUSA members and of those who refused to condemn the CPUSA or the Soviet Union or “Red China”. In these circles, blacklists and purges were criticized often as “making us as bad as the Communists.” Liberals caught in the purges and political dragnets and former Communists harassed for refusing to become informers were portrayed as victims, but CPUSA members who resisted the purges and blacklists and bore by far the brunt of the persecutions were completely ignored by these left liberals, which compromised their positions and limited their effectiveness.
Ongoing debates over the history of the Communist Movement
The 1950s saw the rise of a crude kind of official anti-Communist scholarship, which I call “HUAC school” scholarship. This “examined” the CPUSA’s involvement in the labor movement, in the struggles against racism and anti-Semitism, and in the struggle against fascism abroad on the basis of a fixed idea similar to that of the WWII fascist Axis (minus of course the anti-Semitism and racism). The idea was that the CPUSA and all Communist parties everywhere were conspiratorial groups seeking to undermine all nations under the direction of the Soviet Union, loyal only to the Soviet Union, and to “the world Communist conspiracy.” This “HUAC School” lives on in the work of historians such as Harvey Klehr and John Haynes as a kind of hot stove league of espionage stories. In a more extreme and sometimes comical way, the “HUAC School” survives in the activities of two aging former “red diaper babies” and ex-new left radicals, David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh. They recycle the anti-Communist ideology of the high cold war period and apply it to contemporary politics and foreign policy.
Practitioners of this “school” continue to read primary and secondary sources the way HUAC read the writings of Lenin and Stalin and Prussian police spies the writings of Marx. They search for any phrase or word to “prove” the existence of conspiracies in the service of a diabolical Soviet state. It was in the name of this ideology that CPUSA leaders were imprisoned in the Smith Act Political Trials (1949) for “conspiring to teach or advocate the overthrow of the government” and a wide variety of publications were removed from libraries in the U.S. and other countries, all in the name of “freedom,” albeit a “freedom” based on censorship and repression.
In its cruelest moment, Judge Irving Kaufman dogmatically presented this ideology when he pronounced the death sentence on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1951, accusing them of condemning millions, including possibly their own children to death because of their love of and subservience to the Soviet Union and Communism. Arguing that there was no “secret” of the atomic bomb for anyone to steal and that the Rosenbergs loved both the American people and the best of U.S. mass culture was as unacceptable in the U.S. of 1951 as arguing that there was no such thing as an Aryan race or denying the existence of a “Jewish Bolshevik” conspiracy in the Germany of 1941.
However, there has developed in recent decades another body of scholarship in labor history and in the history of various social movements in the period between WWI and WWII which has moved sharply away from the crude assertions of “HUAC school” scholarship. Using both new and old primary sources, this work portrays CPUSA activists and their allies as playing a central and positive role in the gains and victories won by the working class and peoples movements in this period. Much of this is the result of the positive effects of the civil rights and allied movements of the 1960s in legitimizing mass protest politics again in the U.S. It has also resulted from the growth of primary sources, oral history collections and a mountain of material, which has greatly discredited both past and contemporary practitioners of the “HUAC” school, even though their “research” activities continue to be well funded by rightwing foundations and major universities, including Stanford, Yale, and Emory in the South.
Anti-Communism in the “Post Soviet” period
Since the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, though, there is a disturbing new development. That is the acceptance of some traditional anti-Marxist and anti-Communist formulations among some groups in many Communist parties seeking to orient those parties to what were previously considered social democratic positions. Many of these concepts follow in the footsteps of the Gorbachev leadership of the CPSU, whose policies were certainly the immediate cause of the abolition of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the re-establishment of capitalism in all of the European nations liberated by the Soviet Union at the end of WWII, and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.
Left “anti-Communism” by those who call themselves Communists is of course an old story. Trotskyist groups who continue to call themselves “anti-Stalinist” 61 years after the death of Stalin are the best examples of this old sectarian “anti-Communism”. This sectarian ” anti-Communism,” to cite an old Comintern joke, was very much like a radish, red on the outside, white on the inside. It’s practitioners, while they all denounced “Stalinism,” came to call themselves in the U.S. “Cannonites,” Schachtmanites,” or Lovestoneites,” and engaged in the ruthless factional and sectarian infighting that had been the bane of the left and which Communist parties were in principle, supposedly through the process of democratic centralism, to eliminate.
This is different, however, from the “anti-Communism” within contemporary Communist parties. This “anti-Communism” seeks to apply from the right concepts drawn from the Gorbachev leadership of the former CPSU of the former Soviet Union. This has led to calls for a “modernizing” or revision of Marxism-Leninism very similar to the calls for a revision of Marxism led by Edward Bernstein and others from the right in the early 20thcentury, from which the term “revisionism” in the socialist movement comes.
Gorbachev’s “New Thinking”
The starting point of “new thinking”(a term used by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s) was hardly new. Under Gorbachev, “new thinking” meant to import and accept the concept of “Stalinism” and blame the Stalin leadership’s policies for the “stagnation” crisis that the Soviet Union faced, calling for economic restructuring (Perestroika) and openness (Glasnost) to renew socialism. All of these principles, restructuring, openness, new thinking, positive in themselves, though were rapidly connected to policies that proved to be their opposite, old social democratic and liberal thinking, economic fragmentation, and political division.
What of “Stalinism” imported as a core concept by the Gorbachev leadership and resurfacing today sixty one years after Stalin’s death. Were the policies of the Stalin leadership consistent enough to amount to an “ism”?
From 1924 to his death in 1953, Joseph Stalin was certainly the most important and influential figure in the world Communist movement and one of the major figures in world history in that period. His policies though were that of a politician often shifting ground, allying himself with CPSU centrists against Leon Trotsky’s left position, then with the most prominent CPSU rightist, Nikolai Bukharin, against both the older center and left Bolsheviks in continuing the mixed economy New Economic Policy.
In part Stalin’s success rested certainly on that fact that he was the architect of the “apparat” or machine. And like all comparable politicians regardless of party or social system everywhere he stacked the machine with those he considered loyal to his leadership. But it also rested on his overall commitment to constructing socialism in the Soviet Union rather than counting on revolutions in other more “advanced” countries such as Germany (Trotsky’s left position) or seeking to build alliances with groups of capitalists who were middle men in trade and in the financing of local agriculture (Bukharin’s NEP position). His commitment to building socialism “in one country” appealed to the great majority of CPSU activists in the conditions of the 1920s and ’30s. His concept also of the Soviet Union as a family of peoples, living in equality and friendship in a socialist society which, because of the size and diversity of the Soviet Union, would be a model for the construction of socialism globally, was also very appealing to both Soviet Communists and Communists through the world.
In no way am I suggesting that the distortions and abuses of the Stalin leadership be ignored or denied. The leadership continued and used internal party purges to consolidate its power, and developed a huge anti-Marxist personality cult around Stalin as an individual to advance the industrialization/collectivization. The industrialization/collectivization was the most rapid and in quantity terms successful in history-but it also produced major resistance from Kulaks and various ethnic nationalists, to which the Stalin leadership responded with massive military/police repression, which in turn led to famine in regions of European Russia and Ukraine, the spread of disease which follows famine, and huge loss of life.
Faced with such conditions, would Lenin have taken a step backward, regrouped, and attempted to build popular support in the countryside to isolate and defeat the Kulaks? Would such a policy have succeeded in avoiding the use military force which led to many peasants being caught between the contending forces, labeled “Kulaks” and “counter-revolutionaries”?
What we know is that the Comintern, responding to pressures from various Communist parties, including the CPUSA and the CPF (which faced in 1934 a direct threat of fascists seizing power) advanced the broad united front/peoples front policy. The Comintern at its Seventh Congress(1935) called upon member parties to build ant-fascist center left alliances through the world. This policy was to be instrumental in the political defeat of fascism in many countries before WWII and in the organization of anti-fascist resistance movements and partisan armies in Axis occupied countries during WWII.
Abroad the Stalin leadership of the CPSU and the Comintern after 1935 supported the global people’s front strategy, the Soviet Union was providing aid to the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War and calling for a policy of anti-fascist, anti-militarist collective security in the League of Nations. At home the Stalin leadership, in the midst of the Second Five Year Plan, faced the growing threat of fascism in Germany. Following the assassination of Sergei Kirov, a close ally of Stalin in Leningrad (1934), the regime embarked on a policy of political trials of the old revolutionary leadership which spun out of control into police directed mass purges in and outside of the CPSU through the country.
This unleashed what many see as a kind of mass hysteria, where individuals with longstanding grievances against other individuals denounced them, leading to a tidal wave of denunciations and condemnations which the leadership’s policies brought about and which it failed to control. This, given Soviet law which had no reasonable doubt or probable cause protections, led to mass arrests and imprisonment in Siberian labor camps, and to a much lesser extent, summary executions for subversion and treason in sabotaging Soviet economic development.
But those who smugly proclaim that the Stalin leadership and the Soviet state ruled by fear and terror conveniently forget about the tens of millions of illiterate workers and peasants–men and women–who gained education and skills that transformed their lives and freed them from the wretched existence and early death that had been the norm for their classes under the old regime.
Those who look at the Soviet revolution in traditional anti-Communist terms are rather like those who look at the French revolution in terms of the Jacobin terror, forgetting the advances of the masses of marginalized peasants with the destruction of the old aristocracy, or for that matter those who look at the American revolution from the perspective of the Empire Loyalists or Tories, condemning the confiscation of Tory property and the “terroristic policies” which led many empire loyalists to flee to Canada, forgetting entirely about the advances in rights and law that the U.S. constitution represented for the great majority of people and also such positive effects as the abolition of slavery and some feudal vestiges that the British had imported in the Northern colonies during and after the revolution.
These purges were publicized first by Nazi and European fascist propaganda agencies, and spread also by reactionary press syndicates like the Hearst Press in the U.S. Followers of Leon Trotsky, who had sought to join and gain control of existing Socialist parties before they were expelled from those parties and formed both their own parties and International, (1938) spread stories of these purges in order to discredit “Stalinist” Communist parties as enemies of labor and the people.
In the U.S. Sidney Hook, a philosopher who in 1932 had supported the CPUSA presidential ticket and later turned on the CPUSA leadership, organized first the American Committee to Investigate the Moscow Trials. Along with using the Soviet purges as major evidence that Communists as supporters of the Soviet Union were defenders of tyranny, Hook’s American Committee for Cultural freedom helped to spread in left circles the concept of “totalitarianism” (which I will develop later) a theory used then and subsequently to equate the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany and fascist movements and parties with Communist movements and parties. After WWII, the new Central Intelligence Committee funded the establishment of “cultural freedom committees” through the world and a World Congress for Cultural Freedom to organize and advance anti-Communist ideological battles in the arts and sciences and also use these committees for intelligence gathering.
The U.S. commercial “mainstream” press, overwhelmingly anti-New Deal at the time, featured headlines branding Franklin Roosevelt’s unsuccessful attempt to defeat anti-New Deal Southern and machine Democrats in the 1938 primaries as “the Purge”. Rightwing cartoonists often conflated New Deal policies like Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Rural Electrication Administration (REA) with the Soviet Five Year Plans, administered by both Roosevelt and Stalin.
What can one say about the contradictions of this period? A once very famous quote from Joseph Stalin in 1931 to industrial managers in the midst of the first five year plan captures the contradictions of the period as few other statements can. It raises rather major questions which remain unanswered today. I present it below because it gives insight into both the Soviet situation and Stalin’s strengths and weaknesses as the Communist movement’s most important political leader.
“Such is the law of the exploiters–to beat the backward and the weak. It is the jungle law of capitalism. You are backward, you are weak–therefore you are wrong; hence, you can be beaten and enslaved. You are mighty–therefore you are right; hence, we must be wary of you. That is why we must no longer lag behind.
In the past we had no fatherland, nor could we have one. But now that we have overthrown capitalism and power is in our hands, in the hands of the people, we have a fatherland, and we will defend its independence. Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten and to lose its independence? If you do not want this you must put an end to its backwardness in the shortest possible time and develop genuine Bolshevik tempo in building up its socialist system of economy. There is no other way. That is why Lenin said on the eve of the October Revolution: ‘Either perish, or overtake and outstrip the advanced capitalist countries.’
We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed.”
Ten years and four months later in June 1941 an estimated five million German and Axis troops invaded the Soviet Union, in what was the greatest invasion in history.
Could the industrialization have been achieved without the collectivization of agriculture, which also forged an industrial proletariat? Would the New Economic Policy with its Kulaks and middlemen capitalists have been able to mobilize the peoples of the Soviet Union, or would they have even tried? Can one imagine Mikhail Gorbachev and his associates, who appeased Reagan and Thatcher, actively opposing Hitler and the Japanese imperialists?
One can certainly imagine those who came to power with the dismemberment of the Soviet Union doing business with Hitler, becoming first appeasers and then collaborators, establishing a Vichy style government over a rump Russia in a dismembered Soviet Union. That the Soviets fought back and eventually defeated the largest and most brutal invasion in human history, and in the process literally saved humanity from a world where genocide of the Nazi variety would be the norm, is explained away by anti-Communists as either the result of bad weather conditions and/or German military mistakes, as if war were a kind of sports event and they were commenting on it from the press box. The postwar role of the U.S. in using nuclear blackmail and then establishing a global anti-Soviet encirclement policy also is conveniently forgotten by assorted anti-Communist writers
In summary, the anti-Communist ideologues never conceded anything in terms of the battle over ideas and policy, regardless of changing conditions and new information. The Gorbachev leadership of the CPSU, in the name of “new thinking” and “openness” conceded everything.
One important expression today of this Gorbachev era internal anti-Communism (or regression to pre-Soviet Social Democracy among some Communists) can be seen in the abandonment of Lenin’s theory of imperialism and the failure to seriously look at U.S./NAT0 bloc countries actions throughout the world. The global aims of the major imperialist countries in the Near East, in Africa and Latin America, and in the former Republics of the Soviet Union, are curiously absent in the analyses of these circles. Also missing in too many cases is any serious attempt to analyze China’s role in the world today as the second largest global economy (by some standards the first) or to develop fraternal relations between Communist parties on internationalist principles. Those who advance these views today in Communist parties once more concede everything while the enemies of socialism, labor, and all peoples movements concede nothing.
Freeing ourselves from anti-Communist ideology
Cynics with some justification have long said that history is essentially the story of winners as seen by the spokesmen for winners. Karl Marx saw the dominant ideology of any time and place in history as the ideology of the ruling class of that time and place, although all ruling classes always seek to present their ideology/world view as both universal and timeless.
But Marx not only saw ideology as class based but changing through class struggle as reflected in the dialectical interactions of ideas, theories, frameworks for understanding what is happening, an understanding advanced by both the growth of knowledge and the development of more advanced social scientific frameworks to process knowledge..
As activists of all non reactionary viewpoints sought to free themselves in capitalist countries from the anti-Communist, anti-Soviet dogmas imposed on them in the name of “freedom” in the cold war era, many found actions of the Soviet Union, the Comintern, and Communist movements and parties could not be reduced to crude conspiracy theories. Also, students of international politics, sociology and economics, found the concept of an all encompassing “totalitarian state” and the even broader assertion of “totalitarianism” (a way of life opposed to “freedom,” “pluralism,” etc.) of no real value in understanding states and societies. Neither the fascist states and movements who had developed the concept as a positive explanation of what they represented, nor the Soviet Union and all other socialist countries and revolutionary socialist movements, who found the concept applied to them in the cold war period, fit the model of an all powerful state, transcending private corporations, public bureaucracies, religious institutions, rival groups within the ruling parties and state apparatus.
The “totalitarian” concept was first given wide expression outside of fascist countries in the 1930s. Liberals defined fascist movements and parties as representative of a “new right” using mass politics to advance the aims of the old right which proclaimed its right to rule by its hereditary titles and clerical endorsement. Social Democrats saw fascist movements and parties as a conservative response to both urban industrial development and to the gains made by labor movements and socialist parties. Communists saw fascist movements seeking to establish an open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary sectors of the capitalist class in the service of finance capital, or, in an application of Lenin’s theory of imperialism, the establishment of fully militarized states and societies to pursue imperialist wars, Conservatives used the totalitarian concept (which was first put forward in fascist Italy as a positive explanation of the Mussolini regime and then in Nazi Germany as a positive explanation of fascist dictatorship) to reject all central governments across the political spectrum as equally “evil” or to contend that “totalitarian” fascism was a lesser evil than “totalitarian communism.”
Beginning in the 1970s so-called U.S. “neo conservatives” (“neo cons”) revived these views, to challenge the hardly progressive policies of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to develop a “détente” with the Soviet Union. Then, after Reagan’s election and their rise to leading positions in the government, they sought to distinguish between “authoritarian regimes” like those of Pinochet in Chile who were worthy of U.S. support and “totalitarian regimes” like that of Castro in Cuba which must be fought to the death. Those who accepted and advanced the core concepts of “Stalinism” and “totalitarianism” on the left in effect became witting or unwitting participants in the dismantling of left parties and organizations.
Concluding remarks: The fascist dangers and the need for new Peoples Fronts today
Today, when there is widespread mass opposition throughout Europe toward conservative austerity governments (whether those governments are led by conservatives or center left parties like the French Socialist Party), open fascist parties with long histories of anti- Semitism are making gains through attacks on Muslims and undocumented workers as their answers to the economic crisis. At the same time, the “soft parties” of the left (“green parties”, youth and personal freedom parties,) which grew in many European countries with multi-party systems, often accepting the “totalitarian theory” as a cover for their own political ineffectuality, are finding themselves in bed with austerity minded governments, discrediting themselves with many of their former constituents.
As European Social Democrats and Greens rely on U.S. style lesser of two evils politics, crying wolf about the danger from the far right (which is real enough) they court political disaster, as do those in the U.S. who support uncritically Democrats, as against coming forward with solutions to the ongoing economic crisis and its social ramifications-solutions that can energize and mobilize masses of people to decisively defeat the French National Fronters, the U.S. “tea party” Republicans, and their counterparts everywhere. As in the past, successful united and peoples front politics are about winning political victories through strikes, elections and mass actions, making it clear to the groups of capitalists like the Koch Brothers in the U.S. who support the far right that those who light fascist matches will get burned.
As we confront anti-Communist ideology today, we can begin by saying to all that we are Communists in a developed country with huge technological and human resources, unlike the Soviet Union or China for that matter, which had neither advanced technological or human resources and were furthermore devastated by war. Our situation is fundamentally different and far more positive then any nation which has sought to establish socialism. And we must not be afraid to use the “S” word, socialism, in all peoples movements in which we participate.
Organizing these resources to provide a secure and fruitful life for all people and establish a healthy and sustainable environment is our task. Educating, organizing, and coordinating the peoples efforts is our way of action. These policies have nothing to do with the abuses of the Soviet and other revolutionary leaderships, real or imagined. What they do mean is that we reject policies of austerity, privatization, regressive taxation in principle and, more importantly, will repeal them in practice since we see socialism and democracy as inseparable and ultimately see in socialism the path to a higher form of democracy.
Our conception of “Bill of Rights Socialism” is in itself a repudiation of anti-Communist ideology in all of its forms. And unlike others on the left who criticize us for their own failings, we have both had the courage of our convictions and the capacity to learn from our errors and change tactics to advance our principles.
This year is the eightieth anniversary of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, which inaugurated the Communist movement’s global policy of building united and peoples fronts against fascism.
Today, a new version of a global united and people’s front is necessary to resist rather than collaborate with transnational monopoly capital and its conservative, reactionary and fascist political protectors and defenders. The forces are there for the development of such united and peoples front formations nationally and internationally. And Communists can, if they reject internal anti-Communism of the Gorbachev variety, play the leading role in developing such formations, as only Communists committed to Marxist-Leninist principles have done so in the past.