A popular front is a broad
coalition The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal. The word coalition connotes a co ...
of different political groupings, usually made up of leftists and centrists. They are very broad and sometimes include centrist radical or liberal forces as well as social-democratic and
groups. Popular fronts are larger in scope than united fronts. In addition to the general definition, the term "popular front" also has a specific meaning in the history of 1930s
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest ...
and the
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., federal di ...
and in the history of Communist Parties. During this time, the '' front populaire'' referred to the alliance of political parties in France that was aimed at resisting fascism. The term "national front" is similar in name but describes a different form of ruling, using ostensibly-noncommunist parties that were in fact controlled by and subservient to the Communist Party as part of a "coalition", which was used in Central and
Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the region of the European continent between Western Europe and Asia. There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, ethnic, cultural, and s ...
during the
Cold War The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from ...
, although it can also refer to National Front parties that are, or claim to be, a coalition of
right-wing Right-wing politics embraces the view that certain social orders and Social stratification, hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition.T. A ...
Nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of people),Anthony D. Smith, Smith, Anthony. ''Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History''. Polity (publisher), Polity, ...
forces instead, although in practice these are often much smaller. Not all coalitions who use the term "popular front" meet the definition for "popular fronts", and not all popular fronts use the term "popular front" in their name. The same applies to "united fronts".

Comintern policy: 1934–1939


Until early 1933, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was regarded as the world's most successful communist party in terms of membership and electoral results. As a result, the Communist International, or Comintern, expected national Communist Parties to base their political style on the German example. That approach, known as the "class against class" strategy, or the ultra-left "Third Period", expected that the economic crisis and the trauma of war would increasingly radicalise public opinion and that if the communists remained aloof from mainstream democratic politics, they would benefit from the populist mood and be swept to power. As such, non-communist socialist parties were denounced as "social fascist". After a series of financial crises in Occupation of the Ruhr, 1926, Wall Street Crash of 1929, 1929 an
public opinion in Europe was certainly radicalising but not to the benefit of left-wing anticapitalist parties. In the weeks that followed Hitler's rise to power in February 1933, the German Communist Party and the Comintern clung rigidly to their view that the Nazi triumph would be brief and that it would be a case of "after Hitler our turn". However, as the brutality of the Nazi government became clear and there was no sign of its collapse, communists began to sense that there was a need for a radical alteration of their stance, especially as Hitler had made it clear that he regarded the Soviet Union as an enemy state. In several countries over the previous years, a sense had grown within elements of the Communist Parties that the German model of "class against class" was not the most appropriate way to succeed in their national political contexts and that it was necessary to build some alliance to prevent the greater threat of autocratic nationalist governments. However, figures such as Barbé and Célor in France and Bullejos and Adama in Spain, who advocated greater flexibility by co-operating loyally with social-democratic parties and possibly even left-wing capitalist parties, were removed from positions of power. Predecessors to the Popular Front had existed, such as in the (later-renamed) World Committee Against War and Fascism, World Committee Against War and Imperialism, but they sought not to co-operate with other parties as equals but instead to draw potential sympathisers into the orbit of the communist movement, which caused them to be denounced by the leaders of other left-wing associations. It was thus not until 1934 when Georgi Dimitrov, who had humiliated the Nazis with his defence against charges of involvement in the Reichstag Fire became the general secretary of the Comintern, and its officials became more receptive to the approach. Official acceptance of the new policy was first signalled in a ''Pravda'' article of May 1934, which commented favourably on socialist-communist collaboration.1914-1946: Third Camp Internationalists in France during World War II, libcom.org
/ref> The reorientation was formalised at the Comintern's Seventh Congress in July 1935 and reached its apotheosis with the proclamation of a new policy: "The People's Front Against Fascism and War". Communist Parties were now instructed to form broad alliances with all antifascist parties with the aim of securing social advance at home as well as a military alliance with the Soviet Union to isolate the fascist dictatorships. The "popular fronts" thus formed proved to be successful politically in forming governments in France, Spain and China but not elsewhere.


In France, the collapse of a leftist government coalition Cartel des Gauches, of social-democrats and left-liberal republicans, followed by the 6 February 1934 crisis, far-right riots, which brought to power an Gaston Doumergue, autocratic right-wing government, changed the equation. To resist a slippery slope of encroachment towards authoritarianism, socialists were now more inclined to operate in the street and communists to co-operate with other antifascists in Parliament. In June 1934, Léon Blum's socialist French Section of the Workers' International signed a pact of united action with the French Communist Party. By October, the Communist Party had begun to suggest that the republican parties that had not sided with the nationalist government might also be included, and it accepted the offer the next July after the French government Pierre Laval, tilted even further to the right. In May 1935, France and the Soviet Union signed a defensive alliance, and in August 1935, the 7th World Congress of the Comintern officially endorsed the Popular Front strategy. In the elections of May 1936, the Popular Front won a majority of parliamentary seats (378 deputies against 220), and Blum formed a government. In Italy, the Comintern advised an alliance between the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party, but the latter rejected the idea.

Great Britain

There were attempts in Great Britain to found a popular front, against the UK National Government, National Government's appeasement of Nazi Germany, between the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, the Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party, the Independent Labour Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain, Communist Party and even rebellious elements of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party under Winston Churchill, but they failed mainly because of opposition from within the Labour Party, which was seething with anger over communist efforts to take over union locals. In addition, the incompatibility of liberal and socialist approaches also caused many Liberals to be hostile.

United States

The Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) had been quite hostile to the New Deal until 1935, but it suddenly reversed positions and tried to form a popular front with the New Dealers. It sought a joint Socialist-Communist ticket with Norman Thomas's Socialist Party of America in the 1936 United States presidential election, 1936 presidential election, but the Socialists rejected the overture. The communists also then offered support to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The Popular Front saw the Communist Party taking a very patriotic and populist line, later called Browderism. The Popular Front has been summarized by historian Kermit McKenzie as: McKenzie asserted that to be a mere tactical expedient, with the broad goals of communists for the overthrow of capitalism through revolution remaining unchanged. Cultural historian Michael Denning has challenged the Communist Party-centric view of the US popular front, saying that the Fellow_traveller#Pre-World_War_II_U.S., "fellow travelers" in the US actually composed the majority of the movement. In his view, Communist party membership was only one (optional) element of leftist US culture at the time.

End of popular fronts

The period suddenly came to an end with the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in August 1939. Comintern parties turned from a policy of antifascism to one of advocating peace with Germany. Many party members quit the party in disgust at the agreement between Hitler and Stalin, but many communists in France and other countries refused to enlist in their countries' forces until June 1941 since until then, Stalin was not at war with Hitler.

Critics and defenders of policy

Leon Trotsky and his far-left supporters roundly criticised the strategy. Trotsky believed that only united fronts could ultimately be progressive and that popular fronts were useless because they included bourgeois forces such as liberals. Trotsky also argued that in popular fronts, working-class demands are reduced to their bare minimum, and the ability of the working class to put forward its own independent set of politics is compromised. That view is now common to most Trotskyist groups. Left communism, Left communist groups also oppose popular fronts, but they came to oppose united fronts as well. In a book written in 1977, the eurocommunist leader Santiago Carrillo offered a positive assessment of the Popular Front. He argued that in Spain, despite the excesses attributable to the passions of civil war, the period of coalition government in Republican areas "contained in embryo the conception of an advance to socialism with democracy, with a multi-party system, parliament, and liberty for the opposition". Carrillo, however criticised the Communist International for not taking the Popular Front strategy far enough, especially since French communists were restricted to supporting Blum's government from without, rather than becoming full coalition partners.

Soviet bloc

After World War II, most Central and Eastern European countries were ruled by coalitions between several different political parties that voluntarily chose to work together. By the time that the countries in what became the Soviet bloc had developed into Marxist-Leninist states, the non-Communist parties had pushed out their more radical members and was now ruled by fellow travelers. As a result, the front had turned communist. For example, East Germany was ruled by a "National Front" of all antifascist parties and movements within Parliament (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, Liberal Party, Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany, Farmers' Party, Free German Youth, Youth Movement, Free German Trade Union Federation, Trade Union Federation etc.). At legislative elections, voters were presented with a single list of candidates from all parties. The People's Republic of China's United Front (China), United Front is perhaps the best known example of a communist-run popular front in modern times. It is nominally a coalition of the Communist Party of China and eight minor parties. Though all parties had origins in independent parties prior to the Chinese Civil War, noncommunists eventually splintered out to join the Nationalists, and the parties remaining in Mainland China allied with either Communist Party sympathizers or, in some cases, actual members.

Soviet republics

In the republics of the Soviet Union, between around 1988 and 1992 (when the USSR had dissolved, and the republics were all independent), the term "Popular Front" had quite a different meaning. It referred to movements led by members of the liberal-minded intelligentsia (usually themselves members of the local Communist Party), in some republics small and peripheral but in others broad-based and influential. Officially, their aim was to defend ''perestroika'' against reactionary elements within the state bureaucracy, but over time, they began to question the legitimacy of their republics' membership of the Soviet Union. It was their initially cautious tone that gave them considerable freedom to organise and to gain access to the mass media. In the Baltic states, Baltic republics, they soon became the dominant political force and gradually gained the initiative from the more radical dissident organisations established earlier by moving their republics towards greater autonomy and then independence. They also became the main challengers to the Communist Parties' hegemony in Belarusian Popular Front, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan. A Popular Front was established in Georgia but remained marginal, compared to the dominant dissident-led groups, since the April 9 tragedy had radicalised society and so it was unable to play the compromise role of similar movements. In the other republics, such organisations existed but never posed a meaningful threat to the incumbent party and economic elites.

List of popular fronts

Popular fronts in non-communist countries

The Popular Front (France), French ''Front populaire'' and the Popular Front (Spain), Spanish ''Frente Popular'' popular fronts of the 1930s are the most notable ones. * Popular Front (UK); an unofficial electoral alliance from 1936–39 between the Communist Party of Great Britain, supporters of the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, the Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party and the Independent Labour Party and anti-appeasers in the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party. * Front populaire left-wing anti-fascist coalition in France in the 1930s, was led by Léon Blum's French Section of the Workers' International but also included French Communist Party, communists and Radical Party (France), social democrats. * Frente popular, an electoral coalition formed in Spain in 1936 before the Spanish Civil War, which led by the Republican Left (Spain), Republican Left but also included Communist Party of Spain, communists, Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, socialists and regional nationalists. * Popular Front (Chile) ''Frente popular'', an electoral and political left-wing coalition in Chile from 1937 to February 1941. * Popular Democratic Front (Italy) ''Fronte Democratico Popolare'', a coalition of Italian Communist Party, communists and Italian Socialist Party, socialists for the 1948 Italian general election, 1948 Italian parliamentary election. * Palestine Liberation Organization, formed in 1964 to organise numerous left-wing and Palestinian nationalist groups opposed to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and led by Fatah. * Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf, an organisation formed in 1968 that brought together Arab nationalism, Arab nationalists and Marxism, Marxist revolutionaries, split into Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman, Oman and Popular Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, Bahrain factions. * Popular Unity (Chile), Unidad Popular, a coalition of left wing, Socialist Party of Chile, socialist and Communist Party of Chile, communist political parties in Chile that stood behind the successful candidacy of Salvador Allende for the 1970 Chilean presidential election. * National Progressive Front (Syria), a political alliance formed in 1972 that unites parties supporting the ruling Syrian government, led by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Syria Region, Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. * National Progressive Front (Iraq), a political alliance formed in 1974 that united Ba'athist Iraq, pro-government parties led by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region, Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. * Ivorian Popular Front ''Front Populaire Ivoirien'', founded in exile in 1982 by history professor Laurent Gbagbo during the one-party rule of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. * Tripartite Alliance, a political alliance formed between the African National Congress, South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions in 1985. * Popular Front (Burkina Faso), a political alliance that was formed in 1987 by President Blaise Compaoré and organised pro-government leftist parties. * Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, led by the Workers' Party of Korea (originated from the United Democratic National Front of 1946 to 1949), was originally founded in 1948 when North Korea was a Marxist-Leninist state. Since 1992, all Marxist references were deprecated in favor of ''Juche''. * United Progressive Alliance, a coalition of leftist and centre-left parties in India formed in 2004 and led by the Indian National Congress. * Broad Front (Uruguay), a coalition of centre-left and left-wing parties that started to rule Uruguay in 2005. * Broad Front (Peru), a coalition of left-wing parties founded in 2013. * Grand Alliance (Bangladesh), a leftist political alliance that includes the left-wing Awami League, the socialist Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and the communist Workers Party of Bangladesh, Workers Party. * With the Strength of the People, an electoral coalition formed by Brazil's Worker's Party (Brazil), Worker's Party and including Democratic Labour Party (Brazil), social democrats, Communist Party of Brazil, communists, Brazilian Socialist Party, socialists and other groups. * Popular Front (Tunisia) ''Front populaire pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution'', formed in Tunis in October 2012 as part of the Arab Spring. * Great Patriotic Pole, an electoral coalition formed in 2012 to unite various left-wing parties in support of Hugo Chávez and led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Popular fronts in post-Soviet countries

These are non-socialist parties unless indicated otherwise: * The following were part of glasnost and perestroika during the 1980s: Tsygankov, Andrei P. ''Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity'', p. 46. Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, . These were established after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991: * All-Russia People's Front ''Общероссийский народный фронт'', created in 2011 by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to provide United Russia with "new ideas, new suggestions and new faces" and intended to be a coalition between the ruling party and numerous non-United Russia nongovernmental organizations.

List of national fronts

In current communist countries

* People's Republic of China, the United Front (China), United Front and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, led by the Communist Party of China * Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Vietnamese Fatherland Front led by the Communist Party of Vietnam (succeeded the North Vietnamese Fatherland Front of 1955 to 1977) * Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Lao Front for National Construction, led by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party

In former communist countries

* People's Socialist Republic of Albania the Democratic Front (Albania), Democratic Front, led by the Albanian Party of Labour, which succeeded the National Liberation Movement (Albania), National Liberation Front of 1942 to 1945 * Democratic Republic of Afghanistan the National Front (Afghanistan), National Front, led by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan * People's Republic of Bulgaria the Fatherland Front (Bulgaria), Fatherland Front, led by the Bulgarian Communist Party * People's Republic of the Congo the Défense Civile and then the United Democratic Forces (Republic of the Congo), United Democratic Forces, led by the Congolese Party of Labour * Czechoslovak Socialist Republic the National Front (Czechoslovakia), National Front, led by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia * Democratic People's Republic of Korea - the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, led by the Workers' Party of Korea (succeeded the United Democratic National Front of 1946 to 1949), continued to exist until 1992. * German Democratic Republic the Democratic Bloc (East Germany), Democratic Bloc and then the National Front (East Germany), National Front, led by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany * People's Revolutionary Government (Grenada) the People's Alliance, led by the New Jewel Movement * People's Republic of Hungary the led by the Hungarian Communist Party, replaced in 1949 by the Hungarian Independence People's Front, led by the Hungarian Working People's Party, and replaced by the Patriotic People's Front in 1954, which, after 1956, was led by the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party) * Democratic Kampuchea the National United Front of Kampuchea, led by the Communist Party of Kampuchea and replaced by the Patriotic and Democratic Front of the Great National Union of Kampuchea. * People's Republic of Poland the Democratic Bloc (Poland), Democratic Bloc led by the Polish United Workers' Party, replaced by the Front of National Unity in 1952 and then by the Patriotic Movement for National Rebirth in 1983 * People's Democratic Republic of Yemen the National Liberation Front (South Yemen), National Liberation Front and National Democratic Front (Yemen), National Democratic Front, led by the Yemeni Socialist Party * Socialist Republic of Romania the National Democratic Front, renamed People's Democratic Front (Romania), People's Democratic Front led by the Romanian Communist Party and replaced in 1968 by the Socialist Unity Front, later renamed the Front of Socialist Unity and Democracy, Socialist Democracy and Unity Front * Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, SFR Yugoslavia the National Front of Yugoslavia, led by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Communist Party of Yugoslavia and replaced by the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia in 1945

See also

* National Front * Third Period * United front


Further reading

* Graham, Helen, and Paul Preston, eds. ''The Popular Front in Europe'' (1989). * Haslam, Jonathan. "The Comintern and the Origins of the Popular Front 1934–1935." ''Historical Journal'' 22#3 (1979): 673-691. * Horn, Gerd-Rainer. ''European Socialists Respond to Fascism: Ideology, Activism and Contingency in the 1930s.'' (Oxford University Press, 1997). * Mates, Lewis.
"The United Front and the Popular Front in the North-east of England, 1936-1939."
PhD dissertation, 2002. * Priestland, David. ''The Red Flag: A History of Communism'' (2010) pp 182–233. * Vials, Christopher. ''Haunted by Hitler: Liberals, the Left, and the Fight against Fascism in the United States.'' (U of Massachusetts Press, 2014). {{Authority control Comintern Communist terminology Political terminology History of socialism Popular fronts,