Those who have studied the devious twists and turns of the communists in their drive for revolution and power despite unpopularity will know about the so-called popular front governments of both the pre World War Two period and the post World War Two takeovers in Central and Eastern Europe.
The pre World War Two idea for Popular Front governments had two main objectives. The first was to make a change from the Internationalist revolutionary position of Lenin and the second to try to create a united left-wing opposition to fascism.
The Soviet Bolsheviks had a deep belief that their revolution would burst out all over Europe; the Communist Manifesto stated that ‘the working class has no country’; and so they were deeply disappointed when revolution did not break out everywhere. They were also disappointed when the socialist movement split into revolutionary and reformist wings. The establishment by the revolutionary communists of the Communist International (Comintern) was the result of that split and had the aim to work for an international Soviet Republic. Various other blows to this misguided objective also took place such as the defeat of the Red Army by the Poles, and the defeat of the Spartacus League in Germany, and the failure of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Comintern at first directed its fire on the non-communist socialist parties which it condemned as ‘social-fascist’, but with the advent of Mussolini (a former socialist) in the 1920s and then Hitler this put the Comintern on the defensive as the fascist totalitarian system with its strong socialist and statist formula was a deadly rival. Not least because many policies were similar to socialist ones with a dominant position of the state.We should never forget that the full name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers Party.
The death of Lenin in 1924 also aided the shift by Stalin to a more defensive international policy and advocacy of ‘socialism in one country’.
This led to so-called ‘rectification’ of the leadership of the various communist parties many of whom had been internationalist, which meant removal of most of the old leaders by disgrace, death, exile or expulsion. The new leaders were under the control of Moscow through the Comintern and the secret police, the NKVD. (I suggest readers read about Tito’s part in this nasty business – Titova skrivnostna leta v Moskvi by Silvin Eiletz).
As well as the cleansing of the old communist leadership and their replacement by Comintern and NKVD trusted people, the new policy included the use of front organisations to advance it through these fellow-travellers bodies, often with secret funding and sponsored public relations visits to the Soviet Union. Interestingly one of the Comintern front organisations (Rassemblement Mondial Etudiants) was the International Student Movement based in Paris where the British communist spy James Klugmann, possibly through NKVD assistance, met Tito whom he later helped in WWII as a spy within the UK Special Operations Executive.
So the focus now for the Comintern was opposition to the rise of fascism, and the so-called defence of rights and freedom, never mind that the suppression of both was probably worse in the Soviet Union than even in the Germany and Italy of the1930s. This led to the policy of supporting popular front movements which was first signalled in Pravda in 1934 and was adopted as a Comintern policy in 1935. This was just as the Spanish Civil war was brewing up, and which started in the summer of 1936, and as is well known resulted in a fascist victory, with the help of the Italian and Germany military. Thus another defeat for revolutionary communism that had hoped for a Spanish Soviet Republic. Documents have since 1990 been unearthed in Russia that show there was a plan by the communists to liquidate their left allies if victory had been obtained.
The Popular Front policy suited and fitted with the communist idea and objective of being the vanguard of the revolution and ending up in the leading position, dominating and deciding eventually all decisions. (Later to be seen in the way the communist took control of resistance in Slovenia after 1941 even though they had been allied to the Nazis after the Germany-Soviet Union non-aggression pact).
Popular front policy allowed the communists to take on the symbols of patriotism and defenders of national rights. It also allowed them to make alliances and deals even with non socialist parties. This flexible tactical policy in no way deflected them from seeking a final revolution and leading role and then dictatorship of the proletariat, meaning of course dictatorship by the party and its leader.
The biggest success of this policy perhaps was the formation of the Popular Front government in France in 1934 when, just after the Pravda ‘signal’, Leon Blum’s socialists made a pact with the communists for united action and this popular front was later joined by the Radical Party. A defensive alliance with the Soviet Union was signed by France in 1935 and the Popular Front won the 1936 French election with a large majority. Of course the Soviet Union had only been using the Popular Front policy for its own long-term revolutionary policy and reneged on the defence pact with France when it signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler’s Germany in 1939. A possible result of the collapse of the defensive alliance with the Soviet Union was that it most probably also weakened fatally French resolve in WWII resulting in the collapse of the French Army against Germany in 1940.
The cynical tactics of the communists was repeated when Germany invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the Yugoslav communists were still supporting Stalin’s pact with Hitler. However when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union two and a half months later they changed their tune and grabbed the reins to be the leaders of national resistance, of course as part of the long-term plan for revolution.
The same tactic was used after World War Two when the Red Army occupied Central and Eastern Europe. The first moves were to placate the allies and fool them, in particular the gullible Roosevelt, into thinking that genuine free elections were taking place and to establish popular front governments. These governments were in line with the longer term plan of a takeover and were led by communists who eventually pushed out the other non-revolutionary socialists. The most startling example of the use of the popular front policy was the coup d’état of the communists against the united front government of the Czech leader Benes. Less surprising of course was the Tito/Subasic government when similar tactics were used.
Should we therefore be surprised that the hard left Marxists, and former and present communists may still cynically use the tactic of the ‘Popular Front’? Should we therefore be surprised that former communists have disappeared into other parties? This is what happened in the UK with secret communists in the Labour Party.
The various moves that Putin’s Russia is making everywhere makes one wonder if the same tactic is again being employed. Examples are domination of the commemoration ceremony to the disaster victims of the Vrsic avalanche, when a good proportion of the victims were non Russians such as Ukrainians, over-pricing of gas to Poland and under-pricing to Germany, multiple invitations to Erjavec to Moscow, pressure on the Baltic States, overtures to Orban, friendship to Syriza, and so on.
Then we locally in Slovenia have to wonder about the current new ‘Slovene government. Can it be called a popular front government? Has the SD party really given up the communist revolution? Simple matters arise such as why does it not make a complete renunciation of the crimes and abuse of its communist origins. Did it think it was right to inherit property from the communist party some of which was taken from private owners? Why does Slovenia not adhere to the declaration of Europe to give full and proper history lessons exposing the horrors and failures of communism in the schools and universities? Is the SAB party socialist? Does SMC support business and freedom or state domination and control?
Is Levica the tail that is wagging the dog? Are they pursing a popular front tactic, whilst at the same time being against NATO and the EU? Are they supporting a tax and spend policy like Venezuela which will result in disaster? Will any reform of labour laws and modernisation of social security systems be blocked?
Have Popular Front Trojan Horses been resurrected ?