Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line


From the Second CPML Congress: Building Black United Fronts


First Published: The Call, Vol. 10, No. 5, July 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Call Note: The long-awaited second Congress of the CPML was held in late May. The following working paper on work within Black united fronts was adopted.

A more in-depth report on the results of the Second Congress will be in the next issue after the new Central Committee is able to meet and hammer out a summation.

* * *

The emergence of the National Black United Front (NBUF) and the Independent National Black Political Party at mass conventions in 1980 was no accident.

With the Wall Street establishment in crisis, the leadership of the Black establishment is in disarray, united Black fronts of grassroots organizations have seized the political initiative and led the Black masses in resistance to the attacks.

In the wake of these realignments, even some important Black activists are confused about the character of the new Black united front formations. They fail to see the connection between their local organizing and these new national efforts.

In my opinion, there are both “Left” and Right errors in political judgement that could rob us of significant political and organizational gains. In this article I want to address “Left” errors.

I’ve talked to activists who think, condescendingly, that the Black United Front is just a phase our people are going through. Others are bold enough to say our united fronts are a diversion from the real revolutionary motion. Some friends even misquote odd passages from Marxism to justify these mistaken notions.

Contrary to much of the so-called communist literature in the ’70s, the united front is crucial throughout the whole pre-revolutionary period. We must not downplay the importance of the united fronts today. Even the old Comintern program of 1928, before Dimitroff, says that united fronts are a “most important basic part of the tactics” through the “entire pre-revolutionary period.”

Our situation is even more pressing. Yet badly digested “Marxist” notions want to rob the Black liberation struggle of this valuable weapon.

Another serious problem we’ve run into for some time now involves Principles of Unity (POU). Many of us are familiar with the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC) of the ’70s, and the problems we had with this. POUs have become requirements for membership in groups. Fortunately, the stated objectives of these united front groups are not the only basis for our unity. There are objective conditions driving us together. It would be disastrous to confuse POUs in united fronts with our overall political principles. This would make the POUs too “revolutionary,” a sectarian closed door.

We want to mobilize the broadest possible Black united fronts. The minimum basis for unity must not be abstract political truisms! J. Peters explains it this way; “The communists do not make any conditions for the united front except that the unity shall be one of struggle for the particular demands agreed upon. The united front is, therefore, first and foremost, the coming together of working class forces for action for demands upon which the forces have agreed.” Of course, our national united fronts must be even broader than Peters was talking about; it goes across class lines and it strives for national liberation.

We must draw more masses into these Black united fronts by building them upon the actual demands being formed in the struggle. These are the basis for unity of action. Then we will have ten times more people involved and they will begin to learn real political lessons.

We relate our general political aims, the struggle against imperialism, concretely to the specific demands, and we do our political education work both inside and independently of the united fronts. But how can we afford to confuse these two different things? POUs and political education are two different things.

In our own history, the National Negro Congress of the 1930s had an excellent grasp of how to mobilize Black working people around a concrete national program. Earlier, the militant League of Struggle for Negro Rights, led by Langston Hughes and Harry Haywood, made the tragic mistake of presenting too high a basis for unity, which along with other “Left” errors marred the development of this young Black united front.

Revolutionary Black workers and progressives overcame those initial mistakes 50 years ago. They went on to build the Ethiopian Support Work, the National Negro Congress, the Civil Rights Congress led by Paul Robeson and William Patterson and the National Negro Labor Congress led by such people as Bill Hood, Big Train Thompson and Vicki Garvin. To drag us back now to our earliest errors in united front work wouldn’t be a tragedy, it would be a farce!

Our job is to develop the united front policies and programs that draw in the masses, gradually change our situation from weak to strong, from small numbers to amazingly large numbers of our people on the move. Revolution is a contest of strength and wits. If we don’t use everything to change the balance of forces we will be courting disaster for our people.

This leads us to the problem of how broad a Black united front we need today. We have concentrated our attention oh the nationalist wing of the Black liberation movement. Our current situation, with the barrage of attacks on the national Black community, calls for an even broader Black united front.

The Black liberation movement has two wings: the nationalist wing and the integrationist wing. Both Dr. King and Malcolm X made plans to unite the civil rights wing and the nationalist wing in the fight for human rights, democratic rights and in defense of our people from racist attacks and national oppression. This is no new concept in our movement. Frederick Douglass and Martin Delaney represented two distinctly different tendencies, but they worked for united action under the common front against slavery inside the Black Convention Movement.

Objections have been raised to this unity of all forces that can be united. One of the chief objections raised is that the civil rights organizations are supposed to be too reform-minded. I’ve heard groups draw on the Russian Revolution as a reference. “No, you’ve gone too far. We’ve got to close the door and keep those reformists out,” they say.

Yet, if we look seriously at the Bolshevik experience, we see that the Bolsheviks, basing themselves on concrete situations, formed united fronts with the Mensheviks (Russian reformists) on several occasions. Even though the Bolsheviks always struggled against reformism, they formed common fronts with the Mensheviks.

When the working masses are under attack, they pressure the revolutionaries and reformists towards united action.

Our own history is the best reference for broad united fronts against the main and direct enemy of Black people. The Black Convention Movement against slavery was politically mature enough to put unity against slavery in the forefront and relax the intensity of their struggle over different political views. Of course, this didn’t mean they had no heated debates over the destiny of Black people. But it did mean they had united and coordinated action against the common enemy, slavery.

Our main and direct enemy today is U.S. imperialism. It arose on the enslavement and mass murder of our people.

We will be in the forefront of the various revolutionary and progressive forces. At the core of the social forces united to defeat this common enemy will be the multi-national working class and the oppressed nationalities. This involves our strategy.

Tactically, we must unite our people on every possible level as broadly as possible to defend our vital national rights and interests from racism and national oppression.

I join in the call for a patriotic front, the broad Black united front, which we need to end our people’s suffering by overthrowing imperialism and becoming the masters of our own destiny.

Pamoja Tutasninda (Together We Will Win)