Convention Discussion: Reconsider the popular front

BY:Lowell B. Denny, III| March 18, 2019
I’ll try to be uncharacteristically brief if the better scholars in the Party will acknowledge with me that this is a very complex topic on which dissertations can be written.
It’s becoming clear to me that while the Popular Front saw its successes and gains – and these have been enumerated by respected stalwarts in the Party, equally engaged comrades at the time were very suspicious and outright resistant to its implementation.
The dissenting voices number a breadth of our Party – men and women, Black and white,and maybe even lesbian and gay [but this is hard to say since the Party purged them, a backward move I do not reference off topic but very much related to this discussion point].
If I had to distill the drawbacks of the Popular Front from the dissenting side, it would be thus:
We traded Marxist-Leninism in for cheap left populism and sought to recast the Party as part of the heritage of a settler-colonial state.
We defaulted to the misogyny of the “traditional roles” for women, which maybe not a grotesque as the hard right, made women the empty vessels to be filled with patriarchal, masculinist ideas in order to attain “equality” [vs. liberation on their own right].
We sought coalition with mainstream organizations and championed their reformist goals as our own.
I draw these conclusions from a few sources who were engaged and put their bodies and minds to the mission of this Party. I’d argue further that the remnants of their work – which was the Party’s work – is what draws many people to join the Communist Party. Once they get here, these new members find a Party not engaged in the real, rhetorical, ideological, and on-the-ground struggles but mimicking the line of the social democrat, the capitalist reformist, the local Democratic Party cluster which encourages the ambitious to “work their way up,” when in actuality only the reformist-minded metastasize into the large Democratic Party structure.
The Communist Party must be better than that. We must be different than that. But the Popular Front has put on on a different trajectory since 1935, and most especially since the 1950’s.
It is my contention that the Popular Front, again, for all its good (i.e., the CIO), laid the groundwork for some reactionary tendencies in the Party. Our abandonment of Black self-determination, our failure there to even use this thesis for First Nations [Native Americans], occupied Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and the Marianas, and those subject populations who have also been robbed of self-determination, our opposition to waging labor strikes during WWII.
I further argue the accommodation-minded, “broad” coalition-think nurtured by the Popular Front allowed the Party to look the other way at the internment of Japanese during World War I, even those Japanese comrades within our Party, and to the eventual expulsion en mass of all lesbian and gay comrades, like Harry Hay and Chuck Rowland.
To put it crudely, the Party did this to have a place at the popular table at a high school.
Hay is an important figure to note here, not just a tremendous personal hero of mine. He joined the Party before the Popular Front, was inspired by Stalin’s writings to craft the beginnings of the gay liberation idea. While he and Rowland began this within the Party, the Mattachine Society was founded after their expulsion. I argue that Hay represents a lot of unresolved discomfort for this Party due to the groundwork of the Popular Front: his open sexuality, his militancy, and his own linking gay liberation with some things he read from Stalin. These are topics the Party has become so reformist and social democrat to countenance. Hay lived his whole life exemplifying the idea he encountered in this Party, not only in gay liberation but also for First Nations. Hay rejected the call for “equality” as gross accommodation to capitalism, heteronormativity, and patriarchy.
I have cringed to hear some Party leadership call people like Hay “left militants,” when in actuality the Party has become the delinquent.
So what we are lacking is exploring new ways to fight and to escalate the class war, engaging and perfecting Marxist-Leninism, and we are instead seeking new ways to form “broadest” coalitions with any group that seems to have a seat at the table without questioning how these groups have positioned themselves to get those seats. We need to analyze the costs, reassess, and determine if these are worth the values of a communist party. I say these accommodations are worthless, but this is my editorial.
Whatever the Party collectively decides, this should be seriously talked about and an assessment made, not dismissed out of hand as an “attack” on the Party. Please know that the words are written by someone whose heart is filled with inspiration at the the people and goals that ranked in this 100 year-old Party.



    Lowell B. Denny, III, has a degree in political science from Washington University. His political education began with his membership in Queer Nation-San Francisco, spending two months of work and study in Cuba in the early 1990s, then three months hitchhiking around Mexico where he got to spend a day in jail, and now living in Hawaii where the sovereignty movement is strong. He has worked in publishing, retail, as a school teacher and restaurant waiter. He is a member of AFGE Local 1234.

Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer