Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Individuals from Bay Area Socialist Organizing Committee and the Crisis in Marxism Study Group

A Beginning Critique of the United Front Against War and Racism

First Issued as an unpublished text: n.d. [1981-2].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following is a somewhat schematic rendering of our differences with Line of March and analysis of the present situation that faces both Marxist Leninists and the working class in the United States at this present time. We are forced to be somewhat schematic because we are responding to a fairly inclusive framework proposed by the LOM Editorial Board in their call for a United Front Against War and Racism in the last issue of their journal.

We feel it is positive that LOM has put forward their opinions to be struggled with. However, we do not completely agree their framework or analysis. As a result we cannot totally unite with their proposed strategy for the coming period. Some of our differences are subtle, but we feel they stein from a different framework for looking at our present situation. As time goes on, the concrete differences between these two analysis will undoubtedly sharpen.

Tonight, Steve H. from BASOC will present a somewhat more rounded exposition of our formulations. They are still at a primitive stage. Hopefully in the future we will be able to expound more thoroughly either through an article or forum.

The areas of our differences are: what is the nature of fascism; what is the actual historical experience of the United Front Against Fascism and what lessons have been drawn from that experience; the applicability of the UFAF as a strategy for revolution in the United States; the particularization of the UFAF into the United Front Against War and Racism (UFAWAR); and the analysis of the present situation.

LOM is presenting their analysis tonight, so this paper will only pose what our questions and differences are.

What is the nature of fascism? We do not agree that fascism is necessarily inherent in capitalism. We feel that fascism is a form of exceptional, in relation to bourgeois democratic, state. In our opinion to characterize fascism as simply the “most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialistic elements of finance capital” fosters the view that somehow these same elements are not fundamental features of bourgeois democracy.

So how would we characterize fascism? First, we see it as arising out of fairly specific conditions which have been historically characterized by a general political and economic crisis that cannot be resolved through traditional forms of political practice within that society. The crisis is sharp enough that it prevents the bourgeoisie from resolving its own internal contradictions and exerting hegemony over the society. The petty bourgeoisie and middle strata break with the traditional bourgeois parties and ’float’ out to become the principal mass base of fascism. The working class is on the defensive but not defeated. The crisis provides the basis for reorganizing and integrating them into the new fascist state system by means of ideological mobilization and disorganizing them by means of physical repression.

What is the actual historical experience of the UFAF and what lessons have been drawn from that experience? LOM does not elaborate as to what is either the complete strategy of the UFAF or what it was developed in relation to.

The UFAF strategy was developed by the Bulgarian General Secretary of the Third Communist International, Georgi Dimitroff in 1935. It came about in response to the pre-1934 Comintern position that excluded the social democrats from the united front in general, characterizing them as social fascists. This tragic ultra-left error of the Comintern heavily contributed to the inability of the German CP to forge the necessary alliances to prevent the rise of fascism. Dimitroff’s strategy actually signaled a beginning break with this error and led to the more flexible strategy that, gave parties room to maneuver in the anti-fascist war.

There are other aspects to this strategy that LOM does not integrate into their summation. This has to do with the relationship of the United Front to the Popular Fronts, both in theory and in practice (as a good historical materialist analysis should).

Since LOM does not elaborate on this concrete historical experience, it is difficult to unite with the implications of the strategy they propose.

LOM’s simple assertion that the strategy was successful, through the simple device of writing off all attempts to analyze its concrete application as reflections of idealism or Trotskyite subjectivism does not answer the critiques that have been raised about the failure of this strategy in the particular revolutionary experiences of Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Germany. To then pose that the UFAF strategy contains universal truths that are suspiciously similar to other essential tenets of Marxism-Leninism, such as the class nature of the state and the truism that no bourgeoisie voluntarily surrenders power, is undialectical and does no service to a concrete analysis of the UFAF strategy. If we are to use this strategy, either in general or in the particular, we must develop a more dialectical and historical materialist approach to it.

Similarly it is questionable whether without that summation we can use that strategy 9 as the basis for developing a revolutionary strategy for the United States.

LOM’s analysis of the present situation and their subsequent posing of the UFAWAR as a revolutionary strategy for the present period is very weak. We feel the alternative framework we have posed shows that the situation for the development of fascism, or ascendancy of a fascist tendency, is more complex than they believe. At the same time, we feel their lack of concrete analysis of the present situation leads them to make broad generalizations of the situation we are faced with. This in turn is reflected in their inability to describe the complexity of the current crisis. Instead we are handed a “twin pillars” analysis, none of which is sufficiently historically substantiated in their article.

We do think that racism and militarism are integral parts of U.S. capitalism. And particularly that racism is the major social stratification of the working class in the U.S. However, we do not think the present crisis is accurately characterized by their analysis.

We would characterize the present period as one of a fundamental restructuring of the capitalist mode. “It is a crisis in the mode of production and therefore a crisis in class relationships defined first of all (but not only) by the process of production. We must avoid (in our analysis) and work. . .economism. A structural economic crisis is not explained by the economy but by society, because the economy is not a ’mechanism’ but a social process continuously shaped and recast by the changing relationships of humankind to the productive forces and by the class struggle defining humankind in a historically specific manner.” (Manuel Castells, “The Economic Crisis and American Society,” page 12).

Concretely this means a crisis in capitalist accumulation such that the economies of advanced capitalist countries are very unstable. This is to be contrasted with the ’constant’ instability of the underdeveloped countries. This is creating the political conditions for the restructuring of the state, whose final form we do not know.

We see the particular social austerity program developed by Reagan as an aspect of but not the totality of the bourgeois restructuring of the relationship between capital and the state. Additionally, we think this restructuring is international in character and can not, as such, be simply reduced to the particularities of the U.S. As such we think this crisis we face is the first time since the 1930s that the attacks have truly cut across the class stratification lines. We pose the crisis as one on the level of the restructuring that resulted in the New Deal and introduction as state policy of Keynesian economics.

This is not to undermine the fact that minority communities are particularly heavy hit. But this is a result of their location in the economic and political structure as a whole and not because they are being particularly singled out at this point. LOM’s analysis fails to grasp this and ignores the across the board attacks that are directed at all sectors of the class, be they women, minorities or white men. LOM’s lack of class analysis of the balance of forces in the current crisis has a substantial impact on their inability to accurately characterize the current crisis, in all its complexity. LOM fails to undertake the rigorous economic, political and ideological analysis that could explain and help us to formulate our current tactics.

What do we think should be happening at this time? In terms of the relationship of Marxist Leninists to the mass movement, we feel it is essential to forge broad alliances in response to the crisis. And it is doubly important that we attempt to pull working class forces together. As such we endorse the concept of united fronts of the working class generally, not just from the top down.

In relationship to the principal task facing Marxist Leninists, that of party building, we feel that current crisis poses us many theoretical tasks that will assist in forging the necessary understanding of our society. Some of the questions to be taken up include a thorough class analysis and balance of fences in the present situation, the role of the united front, in general, and its relation to popular fronts. What are the other tactical alternatives open to us and last but certainly not least is a thoroughgoing conjunctural analysis to set the basis to chart our way through the tasks posed by the current crisis. This analysis consists of two interrelated aspects: an assessment of the balance of class forces and the intensity of class and other social contradictions of a society (in its world context); and an assessment of the possible and likely directions of its development as a result of these contradictions and the outcome of class struggle. Or as Lenin said, what we need is a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. Absolutely essential to that analysis is that we be theoretically, historically and politically accurate and rigorous.

Suggested Readings for further thought:
Georgi Dimitroff: United Front Against Fascism
Nicos Poulantzas: Fascism and Dictatorship
Manuel Castells: The Economic Crisis and American Society
Theoretical Review: Towards a Contemporary Strategy: Lessons of the 1930s (Vol. I, No. 21, March-April 1981)
Palmiro Togliatti: Lectures on Fascism