Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The New Worker on sale in London

The New Worker is available in London at:

  •  Housemans Peace Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road N1
  •  West London Trade Union Club, 33-35 High Street Acton W3
  •  Battersea Food & Wine, 109-111 Falcon Road, SW11 


UK subscription rates

6 weeks....... £6.00
3 months..... £20.00
6 months..... £30.00
Annual.........£50.00

Send your cheque or postal order with your order to:

NW Subs
PO Box 73
London SW11 2PQ


Or order online

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Miner’s Life



Ray Davies with his book at Bedwas Library launch
By Andy Brooks

  Ray Davies needs little introduction to New Worker readers. Seldom does a week go by without a letter from the veteran Labour councillor and peace campaigner or a report about the Côr Cochion Caerdydd (Cardiff Reds Choir) that Ray has  played a major part for many years.

But older readers will also remember his tremendous efforts in the anti-poll tax campaign and the epic miners’ strike from the New Worker reports from the late Denis Martin, the NCP comrade who worked closely with Ray on the Rhymney Valley Miners Support Group during the 12 month strike that tragically ended in defeat in 1985.
            Ray was persuaded by fellow members of the support group to write this memoir about how the rock-solid miners and the local community closed ranks around the pickets to raise the money and food that sustained the strike through the bitter years of the Thatcher era.
            Ray had first-hand experience of life in the pits as a boy miner before the coal companies were nationalised in 1947. The back-breaking work, appalling conditions and miserable wages that were the norm in those days are graphically described in the opening chapter which also paints a picture of life in a Welsh mining village in the 1940s.
            Ray, a union activist and a member of the Young Communist League from the start, was soon plunged into struggle and this continued throughout his life as a militant member of the Labour Party after he left the pits to become a steel worker.
            When Arthur Scargill and the NUM threw down the gauntlet to the Thatcher government that was determined to smash the miners’ union and destroy the mining industry Ray was at the fore-front joining the pickets and fighting to build solidarity with the miners who were fighting for the entire working class in their battle to stop the closures.
            The role of the communist movement within the South Wales Miners Federation that later became the South Wales Area of the NUM is covered in the narrative as well as the struggles within the Welsh Labour Party and the labour movement as a whole during the big strike. But the author mainly focuses on his personal experiences on the picket line, in clashes with the police and in the day-to-day problems of building a support group to give the reader a priceless window into the world of militant struggle that was 1980s Britain.
            Though this is a short book it nevertheless makes an important contribution to the labour history of south Wales. Peppered with illustrations and contemporary photos A Miners Life  is a fitting tribute to all the miners and all who stood by them during those hard months of struggle and at £6.00 a copy well within the means of the average reader.
            All profits from its sale will go to CISWO, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, to help ex-miners and their families affected by injury or illness and it can be obtained by sending £6, plus £1.50 postage and packing, to:

Ray Davies
172 Pandy Rd
Bedwas
Caerphilly
CF83 8EP
           
Alternatively copies are available from the Bedwas, St Cenydd, Abertridwr, Machen, Caerphilly Visitor Centre and the Winding House New Tredegar libraries. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Comintern and Africa




Review

By Andy Brooks

Pan-Africanism and Communism; The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939: Hakim Adi, Africa World Press 2013,pbk, illus, 446 pp, £28.99

THE COMMUNIST International was established in Moscow in 1919 to build the international communist movement following the revolutionary upsurge that swept the globe following the Russian Revolution in 1917. For the next 20 odd years the Comintern exerted immense influence over the communist parties in Europe, Asia and the Americas that were, in theory, branches of a world party.
 The role of the Third International, as it was called until it was dissolved in 1943, has been subject of a number of scholarly books from bourgeois and progressive academicians over the years. But the role of the communist movement in Africa during this period has been sadly neglected.
One problem was the lack of access to original documents but this has been remedied by Dr Hakim Adi who traces the efforts of the Comintern during the inter-war period as well as the work of the of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW), established by the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern) in 1928 and its activities in Africa, the United States, the Caribbean and Europe.
Dr Adi says that the aim of the book is to promote discussion and combat some of the disinformation that surrounds the Communist movement and its connection with Africa and Africans during the period. He looks at the role of controversial figures like George Padmore, the pan-African writer who broke with the communist movement in 1934, and the part played by communists in the metropolitan heartlands of the British and French empires.
            The author draws on archives in the United States and Russia, including the newly-available sources from the Comintern Archives in Moscow to shed new light on the Soviet Union’s response to what was then called the “Negro Question” in this work that charts the embryonic efforts to build revolutionary movements in Africa and America.
            The clandestine efforts to distribute the Comintern’s Negro Worker journal, often through cadres in the Merchant Navy, are chronicled in this book as well as the movement’s problem in dealing with backward ideas that still had a resonance within the metropolitan parties of the colonial empires – like the British Daily Worker, that was criticised for using the word “nigger” in 1930.
This is a book is a compilation of ten years of meticulous research primarily aimed at students and academics and this is reflected in its price. This massive tome is essentially a work of reference that chronicles the work of the black pioneers of the working class movement through their correspondence and publications that will doubtless remain a source of reference to future scholars for many years to come. Every academic library should have a copy.  






Friday, November 08, 2013

The Invalidation of the Worker: Disability in Capitalist Society




By Adrian Chan-Wyles

THE TERM “invalid” has been used for decades to describe a human being who is subject to a psychological or physical disability.  The term “invalid” means quite clearly that the subject being described is in a state of existence that is free of value.  The in-valid state is one stripped of consensual value.  Society as a whole withdraws acknowledgement of “value” from a human being who happens to be subject to a unique or unusual psychological or physical limitation.  What is it that has no value?
In this respect the “value-less” aspect of the disabled state is one that re-enforces the interpretation of a lack of productability in the work place.  Regardless of the quality of life of the disabled person, or the effort made to come to terms with the state of everyday life, the disabled person in a capitalist society is reduced to a theoretical measurement of the possible productive force, or available, exploitative output in the work place.  Any such base assumption can only ever be “theoretical” in nature, as it is not a statement in fact, but rather a profound, debilitating prejudice disguised as objective, economic science.  Invalidity as a concept has no bearing in the outside world of commerce, and is merely a dismissive concept created by the capitalist system to invalidate an entire section of the working-class.
  In reality the capitalist system is judging the so-called “disabled” person unworthy of the usual exploitative forces associated with free market economics.  The disabled person does not warrant the status of “exploitable” worker, as if a certain line can not be reached or crossed.  To extract the necessarily assumed exploitable worth (value) from the disabled person requires a financial and labour intensive input that the bourgeois employer is unwilling to meet – even in theory.  This theoretical pre-cost of employing a disabled worker is considered to be so high that profitability for the employer is judged to be greatly reduced as a consequence.  This is a system-wide assumption in a capitalist society and condemns millions of human beings to an existence outside of the usual work-force environment.
  The starting line for the physically fit worker is deemed to be unreachable for the disabled person.  The disabled person is judged solely upon a dysfunctioning, or missing limb or organ.  The human body of a disabled person is judged as if it is a factory with missing machine parts, and as a consequence, is broken and non-productive to the capitalist system.  The totality of the state of human existence is ignored completely.
  That a person with a disability may well have perfectly functioning body and mind outside of the disabled aspect is never considered.  A disabled person is judged by “what is not there”, rather than on what is there.  It makes no difference whatsoever – to the capitalist – what kind of disability is under discussion, or the type of personality of the person concerned.  The judgement is one of a systemic dysfunctionality and as a consequence, a complete redundancy.  A human consciousness, born into the working-class is negated to a state of “incompleteness”, and economic non-existence.  The disabled person can neither work their way out of poverty, or, indeed into poverty.  Theirs is a neutral position that denies the possibility of validity, and the (accumulative) positive attributes society associates with such a state.
 More than this, however, this state of “lacking” has another aspect implicitly associated with it.  It is not a new difference, but is another way of viewing the “invalid” state.  The bourgeois establishment, not only content with stripping away the self-evident and positive state of what it is to a “worker”, also further denigrates the individual by allotting the judgement of “invalid”, as if it were the invention of those subjected to it.  The bourgeois, capitalist system creates a dysfunctional category deprived of all human dignity and means of self-betterment through work – and then blames the disempowered victim himself, for the limitations (he experiences on a daily basis), which are enforced from the outside.  As if the fictitious state of the “invalid”, (that is “those existing without value”), is an invention of the so-called “invalid” or disabled people themselves.
 The disabled are blamed in two distinct ways by the bourgeois state, namely in that they are declared “inferior” to those with no obvious psychological or physical disability, and blamed for attracting such a categorisation, as if they have some how collectively requested the bourgeois system to impose this demeaning interpretation upon them, when the truth of the matter is that disabled people are the victims of those who have access to social power, because they, as a collective, have little or no access to the same social power.
 Deprived of the validity to participate as a worker in society as a whole, the bourgeois system ensures that this state is maintained by excluding the disabled from suitable employment, and therefore wealth and influence in society.  The disabled, as a class deemed “invalid”, are thereby condemned to a state of permanent psychological and physical impoverishment.  Everything is stripped from them before they are born, as they enter a world that rejects them as an equal and valid human being, from the first moment of existence.
  This is effectively a state of servitude, but unlike the life of a slave, no work is intended or allowed.  Disability is servitude without objective or end. Whereas the state of conventional slavery can theoretically come to an end, the state of what it is to be judged an “invalid” is permanent, with no apparent redeeming qualities.  This implies that any psychological and physical limitation, such as those experienced by the disabled, can not be reformed, abolished or transformed through any political process.
 The state of invalidity may use differing expressions, but the underlying reality always stays the same.  The surface structure of the expression may change from time to time, but the underlying reality is always constant and unchanging.  Profitability is reduced by disability, and human nature, as a consequence, is reduced to a mere statistic.  This reduction can not be rescued – even mathematically.  The disabled person is reduced to a state of being “sub-human”.
 This should be read with a clear mind.  The bourgeois thinkers allow this to happen because commercial profitability is far more important to them than the personal dignity of their fellow human beings.  Sub-humanity, as an accepted category, allows the disabled workers to fall victim to the horrorific practices of the biological determinists.  This has been seen in history during 20th century Europe, which saw laws that rounded up the disabled out of mainstream society, and into holding camps where they were treated with barbarism and malice in the extreme, culminating in mass sterilisation and extermination campaigns.  Bourgeois logic allowed for the development of certain philosophies that advocated the removal of those who possess no apparent value in the capitalist system.
  These happenings, with the defeat of Nazi Germany, came to be seen as extremism with no place in the civilised western world, and yet, even after this holocaust of those with no value, (the “invalids”), the equilibrium of the demeaning of those who suffer a disability was quickly re-established, with no change whatsoever in its structure.  The state of invalidity attracts no positive emotional responses.  All emotion is negative, and designed to maintain the status quo of disempowerment.
The disabled are not to be “freed”, actively encouraged, or given equality of any kind, but rather pitied, and sentimentalised.  There can be no inspiration for those in the disabled position.  This is how the situation exists.  Although the oppression is like a heavy rock on the dignity of the disabled person, and that the bourgeois system attempts to continuously replicate the demeaning position, it is, nevertheless, not a true state of nature, but rather a contrived state of human making, and like any human-made state, it can and will change, when awareness of its structure is thoroughly understood by those subject to it. 
In the past, the disabled were excluded from education, but this has changed rapidly in recent times.  The shackles of bourgeois tyranny can be thrown off for ever, through the development of understanding.
  Two men, of equal age, size and strength, with no apparent psychological and physical disability have, for sake of argument two very different skills.  Worker “A” is a lumberjack, whilst worker “B” is a computer technician.  Worker “A” cannot use a computer, but this inability is not deemed a “disability”.  Worker “B” cannot cut wood, but this is not considered a “disability”.  Both men possess certain skills, and lack other skills.  Their lack of skill does not reduce them to the state of “‘invalid”.
 Worker “‘C” has one-hand and is a lumberjack.  Worker “D” has one-foot and is a computer technician.  Worker “C” has a disability, and yet can perform a job that a man with two-hands usually performs.  He does this by adapting his ability to the task at hand.  Worker “‘D” has a disability, but this does not affect the use of his mind when manipulating the computer keyboard – again, he merely adjusts his ability toward the task at hand.  Workers “A” and “B” lack certain skills, but are not considered “invalid” to the capitalist system.  Workers “C” and “D”, although disabled, have definite and obvious abilities – they even exhibit a greater adaptability than their fellow able-bodied workers, but nevertheless, they are defined by what is lacking in their body (or mind), and their positive capabilities are completely ignored. 
The label of “invalidity” is as unjust as it is immoral.  It has no basis in fact, and is the bourgeois expression of immense ignorance, developed through greed and avarice.  Disabled workers, although subject to the immense pressures of social constraints, should, where possible, educate themselves beyond the bourgeois cul-de-sac of illogicality that defines their life situation.  The educated mind transcends the narrow confines of ignorance and paves the way for the development of true freedom.  Of course the obstacles can still be daunting.  The bourgeois employer will judge the applicant according to disability, rather than in relation to ability.  In this way, and through this method, it is often the case that those human beings with disabilities are kept firmly out of the job market.  But the first crucial stage of emancipation is that of intellectual (and spiritual) independence from the requirement to rely upon the exploitative system.
 This is not an easy task, and there will always be set-backs, but by freeing the mind, the body will soon follow.  At any rate, the physical conditions for change should be worked toward and developed, so that the optimum time for transition is not wasted.  Education is the worker’s duty – regardless of ability or disability.  People who are multiply handicapped should be placed in a position whereby communal caring allots them dignity and self-determination.  One thing is certain: the old ways of viewing the world must transform and give way to clearer and far reaching thinking.  The invalidation of the worker must cease, as it gives expression to the worst kind of enslavement.  This must happen within the mind of the disabled worker, and the minds of his fellow workers, simultaneously.  Only then can humanity progress as a whole toward a better future.                                                 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Revolutionary tactics in the bourgeois dictatorship Part two




 By Neil Harris

APART from the “official” Comintern tactics, there were two other techniques of working: “entryism” and the “front” and although both became associated with communism’s enemies, both began life with the Comintern.
After the breach between Trotsky and Stalin, the underground Trotskyite factions found it increasingly difficult to operate inside communist parties and eventually left to create independent parties. When these failed to gain any following, “entryism” (The French Turn) into the parties of social democracy was used as a technique to try to connect with the working class. On occasions Trotskyite parties would split in two with one wing working as an open party while the other operated as a secret faction inside social democracy, as in Britain.
Entryism was always going to fail, either because the Trotskyites were forced to hide so deeply inside social democracy that their revolutionary politics were suffocated, or because over time they just turned out to be closet reformists themselves. Their problem was that wherever entryism became a long-term tactic, it exposed both Trotsky’s origins as a Menshevik as well as his followers’ inherent Menshevism. It fostered the illusion that a secret revolutionary faction could win power through bourgeois elections by using social democracy as a Trojan horse. The real attraction of entryism was always the seductive appeal of reformism: the time for establishing an independent revolutionary party never came.
In any event, if ever they got close to power, the intelligence agencies simply exposed their activities and this gave the social democratic leadership the opportunity to expel them – as with the “Workers Revolutionary Party” or “Militant” in the British Labour Party.
It may surprise New Worker readers to learn that entryism was not a tactic invented by Trotsky, it was already in use by the Comintern in the 1930s. In Britain for example, the Young Communist League (YCL) put cadres into The Labour League of Youth to win the League over to the Third International. When that failed there was a pre-planned mass defection of members to the YCL. These included the writer Ted Willis and Jack Gaster, who later became a prominent communist lawyer. This influx boosted the YCL briefly but at that time it was militant and growing rapidly anyway. It is unclear what long term benefit the tactic produced and it was never used by the CPGB again.
In countries like Germany and Italy, where Fascism had seized power, Comintern policy was for underground communists to enter fascist organisations designed to control the working class, in order to subvert them and to provide much needed cover for comrades whose lives were constantly at risk.
The final tactic was the use of independent non-party organisations as a means of mobilising non-communist political activists to a single issue cause the party supported. During the 1920s and 1930s, the “front” was very successful in mobilising people to progressive causes like famine relief in the young Soviet Union, Republican Spain, or anti-fascism. In Britain, drawing from that international experience, the CPGB set up numerous autonomous organisations, of which the National Council for Civil Liberties (which became “Liberty”), Tribune newspaper and the Left Book Club are just a few of the more famous examples. Plainly Britain was a better place for the work that these organisations did, but it is unclear what long term benefit such use of cadres’ energy brought either the party or the class. 
Ironically the “Front” was to be enthusiastically adopted by enemies of progress like the US State Department, who still funnel money into separate organisations under their control, which in turn are used to finance another layer of apparently “independent” non-governmental organisations which just happen to support US foreign policy. The difference is that while communists never hid their involvement in the organisations they supported, for the State Department it was always about subterfuge.
        While critics like to pretend that the International’s tactics failed, that is not the case. Certainly applying the same thesis throughout the world simultaneously exposed weaknesses, while the democratic structure of the organisation slowed its ability to change course in a dynamic, rapidly changing era. However, throughout the life of the Third International communism was a growing force. It was the parliamentary era of the 1950s onwards that saw the decline and eventual liquidation of European communist parties.
The parties of the International were ideologically stronger, bigger and more influential after 1924 during the united front policy than they were in 1919 in the midst of the revolutions, when they were led by Lenin.
The “third period” policy was also a positive development; when it ended in 1935 the communist parties, although numerically smaller in some cases, were ideologically and organisationally stronger than in 1924 – these were now truly Bolshevik parties.
Likewise they rapidly grew in numbers and influence in the years of the popular front; in 1939 they were larger and stronger than they had been at any time before. Even in those countries where fascism took power, communism had an underground presence and an influence that extended far beyond its membership.
By the end of the war many European communist parties had been through illegality, armed action and even the “dual power” that Lenin described in the Russian revolution. But all that experience was to be wasted after the war. From the “[‘British Road to Socialism]” to the Italian “Salerno Turn”, most European parties adopted the parliamentary road and soon fell from the position of ideological and organisational strength they had had in 1939.
It’s no coincidence that this decline began not long after the dissolution of the Comintern, when most communist parties had adopted forms of left social democracy. That strategy was always doomed to fail; the working class simply decided that if they were going to vote for social democracy they might as well vote for the real thing. It was the “socialist” parties of the second international that prospered, while the “parliamentary” communist parties dwindled.
The argument of the reformist communists in private, and increasingly in public, was that they were being held back by the “undemocratic” image of the Soviet Union. The Eurocommunists felt that no one would accept their democratic credentials while they retained a connection with the Soviets. Actually what they really feared was that anyone would confuse them with being a revolutionary party.  Ironically when the Soviets collapsed it wasn’t long before the euro communist parties followed them into oblivion.
The most important lesson from all this is one that should have been learnt long ago – communists can never compete with reformism, the reformists are much better qualified to make opportunistic compromises with the class enemy. Working people can see this and choose reformist parties because in normal times they want reformist solutions. They turn to revolutionary parties when there is a revolutionary situation; as Lenin said: “when they cannot go on living in the old way”. This is why the size of a communist party is not important, only the strength of its ideology and its militancy.
Revolutionaries should stick to what they are meant to be doing – fighting the class struggle, making revolution. And of course Lenin never imagined that being in a bourgeois parliament could bring about socialism – he only supported the tactic as a means of propaganda, a platform from which to address the working class. Of all the successful revolutionaries: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Kim Il Sung and Fidel – none of them were ever candidates in bourgeois elections. For Lenin it was always the politics of the “deed” that mattered.
If the only strategy is revolution, what are the tactics?
The mistake made by those who cannot escape from the past is that they cannot benefit from the experiences of that past. To associate tactics only with those whose names have become attached to them is to lose the chance to use techniques that work. To adopt one tactic and stick with only that until the bitter end is to adopt the attitude of a first world war general repeatedly sending his troops to their deaths, even if it is being done in the name of Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky.
While Lenin’s revolutionary policy during the “first period” of workers’ revolutions following the First World War was a failure, there were two reasons for this: the communist parties were still too small and isolated to succeed but more importantly the revolutionary situation had passed before those parties were ready to take advantage of it. Because revolutionary situations are an objective condition the policy could never have succeeded, even with Lenin’s leadership. It is only with hindsight that we can see this now, therefore we should salute the courage of those who sought to make revolution at that time.
Crucially for communists, in 1919 Lenin set out 21 requirements for admission to the Comintern which were designed to exclude reformists and still do so very effectively whenever they are applied.
Where two conditions apply there are also times when Lenin’s “revolutionary period” policy or the later “third period” thesis are the right policies for communists to take in relation to social democracy.
Those conditions are that firstly there is an imminent revolutionary situation and secondly that the leadership of social democracy is trying to portray itself as [the] champion of socialism to maintain its leadership of the class. In the past social democracy put policies before the working class that promised “socialism” without the need for revolution, such as: subsidised social housing, nationalisation of unprofitable industries, progressive taxation to reduce inequality, free healthcare, education and social welfare.
These policies weren’t their choice; they were forced into adopting them by the strength of working class consciousness at home and by their fear of the Soviet Union abroad – the working class under arms. There was never any intention of threatening the real basis of capitalism – the private ownership of the means of production. These were empty promises forced onto them because they were competing with communists for the same radicalised working class. In such situations the communist party’s task is to ruthlessly expose the opportunism of social democracy’s leaders, their treachery and their class collaboration, in order to win the workers over to the communist party and revolution.
Today the situation is very different. By the 1950s, social democracy had given up pretending to be either revolutionary or Marxist, it no longer needed to do so to win workers votes. By the 1980s it had stopped pretending to stand for socialism. Today, social democratic leaders are even trying to distance themselves from any association with the working class at all.
In these changed circumstances there is no danger of working people being misled into believing that there is anything revolutionary about social democracy and it would be a strange and very ignorant worker who ever imagined that Labour had any connection with socialism. There is more danger from those who seek to create a new workers’ party – to the left of labour. This project would just be a more left-wing version of the same reformist social democracy, in the form of an illusion that has yet to be discredited.
But times can quickly change and a working class that is defeated and demoralised will one day be radicalised again. It is the nature of unprincipled opportunism that social democratic ideologues would then start courting those radicalised workers with revolutionary sounding phrases. Whether those ideologues come from right or left social democracy, it is at such a time that communist policy towards social democracy must become one of merciless opposition, to destroy it as a rival and a diversion. In such a “third period” it is to third period policies we need to turn.
However today, when defeated and demoralised workers divide their votes between social democracy and liberalism it is because their aspirations are limited to winning small benefits – mere crumbs from the capitalists’ table. At these times the leadership of social democracy is an irrelevance and our tactic can only be that of the united front from below, by-passing the leadership altogether to create an alliance between revolutionary and social democratic workers. These social democratic workers are not our enemies; no revolution could succeed without the working class making it happen. Right now when the majority of workers are reformists, we need to find ways of working with them without either losing our revolutionary principles or hiding them. The real enemy within the labour movement is always the leadership of social democracy.
If there is a policy that is full of danger for European communists then it is the “popular front”, the belief that there can be some progressive alliance with social democracy in a bourgeois parliament.
 After the Second World War the entry of communist parties into coalition governments allowed European bourgeois states to survive the immediate post-war crisis. When that threat had passed the national bourgeoisie quickly made an alliance with American imperialism and the social democrats fell over themselves to join in. Their communist allies became an overnight embarrassment.
The result was that under the popular front all the concessions were made by the revolutionaries while all the advantages went to social democracy. And yet in the 1930s, the “Devils Decade”, a united working class was needed to defeat fascism. The sacrifices made were undoubtedly correct, Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal showed how long-lived a ruthless dictatorship can be. The problems with the popular front did not lie in the principle of forging alliances to defeat fascism; it lay in a series of errors:
Firstly, the popular front in parliament became a permanent fixture rather than a short-term emergency measure. Once agreed, it could never be ended without creating the split in the working class that the bourgeoisie were working for. The communist party’s desire to keep the class united meant the party was trapped – only the social democrats were free to break the alliance.
Secondly, the only reason to have such an alliance should be to defeat fascism, no other reason could justify the compromise. But after the war communist parties entered into alliances simply because they were on offer. The effect was to prop up a weakened capitalist state and a defeated bourgeoisie until the crisis was over and outside help arrived.
Thirdly, once there was a parliamentary alliance with social democracy, it demonstrated to the workers that there was little real difference between the right wing of social democracy and the left wing, which now just happened to be in the form of an external communist party rather than a left wing inside social democracy as it had been before 1919.
Fourth, the popular front transferred the battleground from the streets and workplaces (the battlegrounds of choice for workers) to parliament – the form which the bourgeois dictatorship takes in the modern era.
Fifth, while the popular front was apparently at its most successful (when it was in government) it made the communist party reliant on the bourgeois state to take action against fascism on its behalf. This would only happen if it suited the bourgeoisie to do so. If the workers got too strong, the army and police, unaffected by the popular front, would simply take control themselves or allow the fascists to take power instead. The popular front may have been in government but it didn’t hold state power.
Sixth, this was the opposite of “dual power”, as Lenin understood it. That was the defining moment in a revolutionary situation when the formal state held by the bourgeoisie no longer had the ability to rule alone; the workers, armed and organised were gaining authority and control separate to the bourgeois state. That situation, for example, began to appear in our General Strike, when road hauliers had to apply to the workers Councils of Action for permission to move fuel and foodstuffs. It was clearly the situation in Northern Italy in 1944 before Togliatti returned and disarmed the partisans.
For all these reasons we would not chose the parliamentary popular front as the means to fight fascism and fascism is the only emergency that could ever justify such an alliance. This is one reason why our position has always been that communists have no place in bourgeois parliaments and we oppose standing candidates in bourgeois elections.
When fascism is a threat again, and it is always available to the bourgeoisie as an option, there certainly needs to be a working class alliance – ideally between reformist social democrats inside parliament and fighting militant communists on the outside. That is the only form of “popular front” that would work and leave the party unaffected by the reformism and opportunism fostered by Parliament and government. The reality is that the possibility of any such alliance between militant, revolutionary communists and the leadership of social democracy is zero and always will be.  
The united front from below, in the form of an alliance between revolutionary and reformist rank and file workers, remains the only viable policy until a revolutionary situation develops. The failure of this policy has always been in the way it was misused.
For Trotskyites it was only ever a cynical means to try to expose the leadership of social democracy.  They would propose an alliance as an ultimatum – follow our lead or be discredited in the eyes of the workers. Unfortunately for them, the social democratic workers always chose to follow their social democratic leaders.
On the other hand, the “parliamentary” communists only ever proposed the united front as a way of achieving a popular front in disguise – they actually always worked for an alliance with the leadership of social democracy because they were social democrats themselves.
For us what is important is finding an honest and open way of working with social democratic workers while remaining revolutionaries clearly separating our party from reformism. What we can offer is a fighting unity in the class struggle where it matters: in the workplaces, unions, on the streets and in the estates.
The simplest example would be our work in the unions, normally used by left groups as a battleground not for ideas and action but as a platform for election to the lucrative full-time posts that so often are the extent of their ambition. At one swoop the frontline of the class struggle is converted to a mere electoral struggle (administered by the liberals of the Electoral Reform Society) for the well-paid jobs, pensions and plush offices of a reformist trades union movement. 
A fighting militant democratic union of active members is far more valuable than any inactive, undemocratic union even if it is led by well paid “left-wing” full-time officers.
Social democrat workers need to see that the party is always to be found where the battle is at its hardest, committed to a fighting working class unity in the class struggle while at the same time being a beacon pointing to the revolutionary seizure of state power rather than election to bourgeois parliaments.