W. Münzenberg

Question of a United Front

(January 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 11, 30 January 1923, p. 89.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The efforts of the Communist International, towards the creation of a united front of defense against the world-offensive of Capital, showed that a united proletarian front can only be realized by a fight against the principal strongholds of the Social Democratic parties and trade unions, and only through a widespread Communist propaganda. This lesson, learned from previous experience in fighting for a united front, should be recognized as indisputable by every comrade. Another question is the question of how to proceed with the agitation for a united front among the great mass of people. Mistaken as the Friesland group was, when it withdrew from the 3rd International, in believing that unity could only be brought about through negotiation with the head organizations, it is an equally great error to believe that the united front can only be achieved through propaganda among the great politically indifferent and unorganized masses. Since the collapse of the Berlin conference last year and of the peace comedy at the Hague, negotiations between the Communist International with the principal bodies of the Second International and the Amsterdam Trade Union International, or of the executive of any Communist Party with the Social Democratic parties of the same country have become much more difficult and, at present, are practically impossible. But there is still another question, whether we should routine ourselves to the proletarian and politically active elements in the Social Democratic Party and the social democratic unions, in this propaganda for a united front. It is true that circumstances may arise in the various countries, where a particular sharpening of the political situation, might make it possible for the Communist Party to assume control, and to unite in the struggle the great mass of workers who are not members of the party. But our propaganda for bringing about a united front is not concerned with the exceptional action which springs forth impulsively, forced by historical events. Rather it attempts to discover, through organization and propaganda a means to overcome the apathy of the despairing masses of workers in Central Europe, to prepare them at least ideologically, and, if possible, to organize them for common action. But to accomplish this, the propaganda must be concerned, not so much with the broad sections of the politically indifferent. It must be extremely dexterous in spreading its agitation among the politically active groups of the social democratic parties and the unions under their influence. For, unless these groups are won over to the tactics of a united proletarian front, the Communist International and its parties will find it difficult, for some time, to lead the masses into the struggle, and above all to retain control in case of a simple struggle (Ludwigshafen). The winning over of such groups to the tactics of a united front is undoubtedly possible but it demands propaganda and action of a considerably greater elasticity, a considerably greater adaptation to circumstances and a greater skill than the simple Communist propaganda among unorganized workers. The politically active groups (party functionaries and shop-committee men) in the social democratic parties and the trade unions are bound by a hundred ties, to their party and unions, through the tradition of many years membership, through the power of habit, through personal bonds and friendships. It would be very difficult io completely alienate the politically active elements of the old parties and unions from their organizations and to bring them into the Communist Party. But it is possible to win over to a real conception of the Communist International and its problems, that element which stands in no dependent relations as an employee of the party or the union, but which actually works in the workship factories and mines.

The agitation within each group must deal, in the first place, with the economic and political questions of the particular country, with the increased cost of living. Fascism, etc. We need mention here only one of the international questions which should serve as points for propaganda, namely, the question of the attitude of the world-proletariat to Soviet Russia. Immediately after the victory of the Communist Party in Russia in the autumn of 1917, and even more so in 1918 and 1919, a storm of enthusiasm swept the ranks of the proletariat the world over. Even the non-Communist sections, the still numerous Centre parties yielded to the pressure of the enthusiastic workers and declared themselves solidly with Soviet Russia. A certain reaction among the masses appeared when, in the course of Russia’s history, she found it necessary to undertake a retreat in the economic field, which the social democratic press utilized in a shameless way in its propaganda against Soviet Russia. But it is important to recall that when in 1921 the terrible famine so greatly endangered Soviet Russia, and one was actually compelled to reckon with the precarious position of the Soviet government, the old love and spirit of solidarity of the foreign working masses found expression again in the international relief work for the starving in Russia the workers from European countries, from Japan, China, Brazil, Egypt; in short everywhere where a machine throbs or a proletarian labors at the forge shouldered their share in this relief. The workers of all organizations and parlies combined in this unified action. The feeling that the fate of the worker is bound up with the fate of Soviet Russia permeated the great mass of the workers in the course of the famine campaign. We are firmly convinced that today, even more than in the last few years, the question of Soviet Russia and its significance for the international working class has gained the interest of the great mass of the proletariat, and this can and must be used as the starting point for winning over the politically active groups in non-Communist organizations.

In 1921, when the international solidarity of the workers for Russia reached its apex, Soviet Russia was in a worse position and the international proletariat in a better position than is the case today. To the same extent that Soviet Russia has established and strengthened herself, has raised and improved the economic condition of her workers and peasants, the political and economic position of the workers in Europe and America has grown steadily worse, the economic position of the workers in certain Russian cities and provinces, as Moscow and Petrograd is already better than that of various groups of workers in Central Europe. In addition there is the increasing danger to the Socialist and Communist movements from the rapidly spreading and internationally united Fascisti.

The fate of the workers of Europe and of America is more bound up with Soviet Russia today than ever.

This fact is so apparent that every worker including the social democrats, must realize its truth. One can understand that it would be almost impossible for an old member of theSocial Democracy to break the ties of tradition, habit and association, and become a member of the Communist Party. But he most certainly ran be won over to fight in his own party for a friendly policy towards Russia. Practical experience in the international Workers’ Relief during the last campaign proves the truth of this. In Belgium, the menders of the Social Democratic parties and groups declared themselves ready to work with the Communists in carrying through the relief campaign for the Russian children. In England, O’Grady represents the trade unions on the Loan Committee. In Sweden representatives of the unions and of the Social Democratic Cooperative Societies sit with the Communists on the Loan Committee. A similar committee is being formed in Denmark. Social Democratic Cooperative Societies in Czecho-Slovakia and Sweden have placed long-term credits at the disposal of he Workers' Relief. All these examples of a united proletariat have nude their appearance in the past months with the sharpening of the opposition (Hague Conference) between the Communist International and the other Internationals. And this proves beyond doubt how strong a desire to help in the reconstruction of Russia exists in the great mass of workers not yet Communist.

Last updated on 1 May 2020