First Published: Guardian, October 11, 1969.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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One of the most disastrous consequences of the political line of the SDS Weatherman faction has been their refusal to join in and build a united front against U.S. imperialism’s aggression in Vietnam.
Disastrous for several reasons–the most basic being failure to understand the tactics and responsibilities of socialist internationalism.
The Vietnamese liberation struggle is the spearhead of the world wide struggle of the oppressed nations against imperialism, the principal contradiction in the world at this time. While this may sound like a pat phrase for some, it implies a special responsibility for all revolutionaries, particularly those in the U.S.
That responsibility is two-fold: first, to organize the broadest possible movement, uniting all those who can be united for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Vietnam; second, within that united front, to fight for the leading role of anti-imperialist working-class organizations, particularly black and brown organizations.
The first task is important, not only to add the strength of numbers to the antiwar forces, but to isolate the principle enemy–the handful of monopoly capitalists. Nixon must be denied the “united front” he recently requested for prolonging the war.
The second task is important for the immediate reason that the best leadership and political perspective for ending the war will come from the ranks of those with the greatest stake in doing so.
But there is also a longer-range reason. Ho Chi Minh once said that colonialism was like a two-headed leech, with one head sucking the blood of the people in the colony and the other head sucking the blood of the workers of the metropolitan country. In order to finally destroy colonialism, he added, both heads had to be cut off.
The peace movement in this country is not only part of the anti-imperialist struggle, but is also closely related to the making of a socialist revolution–cutting off the other head. These movements–actually these tasks–should not be counterposed to each other in the “left” sectarian fashion of the Weathermen.
For instance, in organizing their actions in Chicago, the Weathermen have not formed alliances with anyone, let alone any black or brown working-class groups. They have placed the demand for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Vietnam in opposition to supporting the NLF around their dubious demand of “bring the war home.” By making the basis of unity the immediate beginning of civil war, the faction guaranteed its own isolation, as well as doing a serious disservice to the antiwar struggle.
They have also placed the goal of “increasing the militancy of the white movement” above and in opposition to unity with black and brown working-class groups. This is doubly dubious, first because “militancy” in isolation from the people has little value and, second, anything billed as a “white action” as opposed to a united action of black, brown and white plays into the hands of white supremacy.
The Weathermen have heard most of these arguments and have raised two mistaken objections. First, they say that the idea of a united front implies a two-stage revolution in this country requiring a multi-class anti-monopoly state prior to a working-class socialist state.
But the two-stage theory only applies to the oppressed nations. True, in the advanced capitalist countries, the revisionists put forth the united front as a strategy for sharing power with the bourgeoisie, rather than as a tactic for uniting the working class and its allies against imperialism.
The Weathermen also object to the united front tactic on the grounds that it means “watering down our politics.” But this is not the case. No one is arguing to leave his or her own politics behind or subordinate within a united front. On the contrary, the tactic of the united front is used to push a radical political perspective even harder.
To use Mao’s terminology, revolutionaries should follow a line of “uniting with and struggling against” different political tendencies within the united front. Along these lines, both Mao and Lin Piao (whom Weathermen are fond of referring to) point out two errors to be avoided on this question.
The first is that of “all unity and no struggle,” or right opportunism, which the Weatherman always point out. The second is that of “all struggle and no unity,” or “left” opportunism, which the Weathermen have fallen prey to. Actually, both of these amount to the same thing in practice–leaving the leadership of the mass movement in the hands of conservative forces. This is the real tragedy of the Weatherman line–which controls the SDS national office–at this time, the most crucial period for the antiwar movement.