Is it time for a new Popular Front and how would it be different?

This short article asks the genuine question is it time for a new popular front formation to defend democracy and fight fascism, however, in the current concrete environment by necessity it would need to be different from 90 years ago, and so, how?

The popular front concept was a communist strategy in the 1930’s and became Comintern policy in 1935 following the election of Georgi Dimitrov as General Secretary and significantly the USSR’s mutual defence treaty with France signed in 1934 to defend against the threat of Nazi Germany and fascism more generally. The popular front approach basically said that while capitalism was still the ultimate enemy it recognised that capitalism came in varying forms and that fascism was the vilest most barbaric and reactionary form of its rule and should be most necessarily opposed even through alliances with bourgeois democracy and social democratic parties. This played out internationally but also locally in countries through Communist Parties working together with social democratic parties, unions, republican parties and other anti-fascist forces. The immediate focus was not the overthrow of capitalism but the defence of democratic rights and defeat of fascism. It was a tactical response to the demands of a very concrete and deadly situation.

As Dimitrov put it:

But when the scattered proletarian detachments, at the initiative of the Communists, join hands for the struggle against the common enemy, when the working class, marching as a unit, begins to act together with the peasantry, the lower middle classes and all democratic elements … a force arises which can offer determined resistance to fascism, prevent it from coming to power in countries of bourgeois democracy and overthrow its barbarous rule where it is already established … While the split in the ranks of the working class, the absence of unity between them and the other strata of the working people, pave the way to power for fascism, the unity of the proletarian ranks and the formation of the People’s Front ensure victory for democracy over fascism, defend peace against fascist incendiaries of war, and in the long run pave the way for the victory of labor over capital. – G Dimitrov

Today the threat of fascism is very real once again. Workers are divided and far-right, ultra nationalist, racist, fascist and conspiratorial ideas are spreading even more division and confusion within our class. Technology has significantly enhanced both the spread of lies and misinformation but also increased the very real precariousness of decent jobs. Capital is significantly more mobile and the power of labour significantly harder to effectively organise and mobilise. Our lives (houses, pensions, jobs, incomes) are much more financialised and subject to events we have little or no control over. Unions are weaker than before and left political parties more fragmented and losing ground in our class. Money from billionaires, and some States, is being pumped into right-wing groups and media. The climate breakdown, and ecological crisis more generally, is happening and there is a serious existential risk to the human species. Immigration from south to north will increase as a result over the coming years. Genocide of the Palestinian people is right in front of our eyes every single day and the left is incapable of stopping it. The US is desperately fighting to maintain global hegemony and a uni-polar world flagrantly ignoring international law, the UN and ICJ when it suits it but imposing them on others when its convenient. The US continues to encircle and threaten China and appears to be on a war path only this time if a world war broke out there are 12,500 nuclear war heads divided between 9 countries of which Russia and the US have most and China in third. Mutually assured destruction would be an almost certainty. 

Considering these factors and new situation, different from 90 years ago, there is an argument to say that this time a Popular Front needs to be more explicitly eco-socialist and anti-capitalist because of the existential risks faced. So, this front would seek to pull together left-wing and environmental groups under one programme here in Ireland to maximise our ability to win the hearts and minds of our class, and of those people most concerned and affected by environmental destruction and war. Individual groups are currently losing this battle and time does not afford us the luxury of a fight to merely defend democratic rights.

Should the Communist Party seek to achieve such a front here in Ireland?