“How do we stop Bush?” is the burning question of the day for the working class and democratically minded people, fighting against vicious attacks on our unions, living standards, democratic liberties and even our very lives. This challenge was brought into sharper focus with Bush’s racist betrayal of poor and working-class African Americans during and after Hurricane Katrina.
It is a question that links today with yesterday. The lessons of the battle against fascism 70 years ago provide powerful tools for our struggle against reaction today.
The meaning of fascism was clarified at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, held in Moscow in 1935. A delegation from the Communist Party USA participated in this historic meeting.
The Bulgarian antifascist fighter Georgi Dimitrov, who headed the Communist International, swept aside the misguided view that “fascism is the revolt of the middle class.” He exposed fascism as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”
“Fascism,” said Dimitrov at the congress, “is a most ferocious attack by capital on the toiling masses; fascism is unbridled chauvinism and annexationist war; fascism is rabid reaction and counter-revolution; fascism is the most vicious enemy of the working class and of all toilers.”
He further said, “The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie — bourgeois democracy — by another form — open terrorist dictatorship.”
Dimitrov’s definition makes it clear that bourgeois democracy has not been replaced by “open terrorist dictatorship” in the U.S. today. George Bush is the front man for the most reactionary sections of transnational monopoly capitalists, a.k.a. the “ultra-right,” but he is not Adolph Hitler and his policies are not “fascist.” It does not help our struggle to overstate the fascist danger, and fascism is not inevitable.
On the other hand, as Dimitrov points out, we must struggle against “reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie” that may “facilitate the victory of fascism” in the future.
Drawing on the struggles of antifascist, antiwar movements involving trade unions, religious denominations, and community and youth organizations across the world, the Seventh Congress of the Communist International adopted Dimitrov’s proposals to fight fascism. The result was the “united front” or “people’s front” against fascism.
The “united front” involved organizing workers, the unemployed, farmers, intellectuals, the racially and nationally oppressed, women, youth and all other democratic sections of the population against fascism. Dimitrov said, “The Communist International puts no conditions for unity of action except one” — that it be directed against fascism.
The Communist Party USA delegates, including such Black activists as Ben Careathers, Claude Lightfoot and Al Murphy of the Sharecroppers Union, as well as trade union veterans like William Z. Foster and Jim West of the Young Communist League, left Moscow to apply the “people’s front against fascism” here at home.
They had been advised by Dimitrov to fight “self-satisfied sectarianism” which separates the party from the broad movements. That followed from the “Communist Manifesto,” where Marx and Engels wrote that Communists fight for immediate demands in alliance with groups, classes and parties which may not accept the long-range goal of socialism. Dimitrov also warned against “right opportunism,” i.e., forgetting who you are and giving up your principles, giving in unnecessarily to the ruling class.
From 1935 to the end of World War II, the Communist Party and the Young Communist League fought tooth and nail for the “united front” in the United States. Their fight made history.
Communists organized approximately 3,000 U.S. volunteers to fight Franco fascist terror in Spain. Singer Paul Robeson and other cultural figures associated with the Communist Party roused the nation to defeat Hitler abroad and racism at home. Fifteen thousand Communist Party members, men and women, entered the U.S. armed services to crush the Nazis in World War II. Communist Party and Young Communist League members were awarded 1,019 Battle Stars, 44 Purple Hearts, 21 Bronze Stars, six Silver Stars, 107 Air Medals, nine Distinguished Flying Crosses, 44 Presidential Unit Citations, two Legions of Merit and one Distinguished Service Cross.
The American people should thank the Communists for their heroic role in the “people’s front against fascism.” On the other hand, the U.S. government and Wall Street monopolists owe Communists an apology for the anticommunist terror they unleashed following World War II. Communist leader Foster wrote at the time that the persecution of Communists was “a dangerous lesson which American reactionaries learned from Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and other fascist dictators.”
“How do we stop Bush?” finds its answer in the lessons of the defeat of fascism. George Bush is not Hitler and we still have a bourgeois democracy. Yet the tactics of an all-people’s front can defeat the ultra-right, most reactionary sections of transnational capitalists that Bush and his administration represent. Looking back to the history of the united front should inspire us in this struggle, and as we look forward to another world that is necessary — socialism.
Michael Wood is a working-class activist and PWW reader in Minnesota.