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Graduate Defense: Kent Kiser

March 8 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: Before And Beyond The Comintern: The American Popular Front

Program: Master of Arts in History

Advisor: Dr. Shaun S. Nichols, History

Committee Members: Dr. Raymond Krohn, History (Co-Chair) and Dr. Nick Miller, History


This project explores the concept of the Popular Front in the United States as a cross-class coalition, mass-party movement that attempted to attract the urban working and middle classes as well as small farmers. In contrast to the academic perception that the Popular Front’s birth and growth in the United States from 1935 to 1938 was an abrupt turn in Communist policy ordered from above, this thesis argues that the beginning and changes to the Popular Front had substantial American roots. Tracing the Popular Front concept of a mass Farmer-Labor Party back into the nineteenth century, this thesis challenges a dominant narrative that American Communists lacked a home-grown tradition for the Popular Front. In contrast with New-Left academic approaches, which place less emphasis on Stalin-era leadership, this work examines this crucial aspect and claims that this leadership exerted its political influence in the United States by supporting the ideas of certain sections of the American Communist Party which happened to complement Soviet and Comintern priorities. Using existing political energy, an energy that did not solely come from Moscow, the Comintern in 1935 adopted policy regarding the Popular Front in the United States that reaffirmed already held positions of American Communists. The Popular Front in the United States, its birth and its direction, was by no means a foreign invention. With foreign and native motivations, the road to the Popular Front, and its adoption and changes, appears less sudden and less dramatic and instead full of local motivations which complemented foreign policies.