Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party

United front tactics are an essential tool of the proletarian party

The Third Congress of the CI on the Reformist Parties as Diehard Defenders of Capitalism

First Published:The Workers’ Advocate Vol. 13, No. 6, August 15, 1983.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This is the fourth article in a series on united front tactics. The Marxist-Leninist teachings on united front tactics clarify the theoretical basis for the present tactics being used successfully by the Marxist-Leninist Party in strikes, demonstrations and in the mass movement generally. These teachings also refute the fashionable liquidationist preaching about the joys of wallowing in the swamp hand in hand with the Democratic Party politicians and labor bureaucrats, preaching that is all the rage today among those who have turned their backs on revolutionary work and the class struggle. Instead, united front tactics are designed for winning the majority of the working class for revolutionary communism.

Some time ago our Party began a new study of the questions of the united front. This study includes examining the basic principles of united front tactics as elaborated in the Marxist-Leninist classics and at the congresses of the Third (Communist) International and reviewing the experience in applying united front tactics in the working class movement of various countries.

It was the Third Congress of the CI in mid-1921 that first set forward the slogan of “building up a united proletarian front.” The last two articles in this series were devoted to the Third Congress. They summed up the lessons of the Third Congress on united front tactics under five general headings and discussed three of them in detail. This article takes up the fourth heading.


The Reformist and Centrist Parties Are Bulwarks of Capitalism

The liquidators of yesterday and today regard united front tactics as an excuse for reconciliation with opportunism. For them, the “united front” is but a pleasant-sounding slogan to cover up their cozy nuzzling with the hacks in the opportunist swamp. For this reason, it is important to stress that the Third Congress utterly denounced the social-democratic parties, whether they were avowedly reformist parties or phrasemongering centrist parties, and showed that they had stained their hands with the blood of the working class. For the Third Congress, the only question was how to fight the opportunist class traitors, not whether to fight them. United front tactics in their true sense are a tool to unite the workers in the face of the bitter resistance of the reformists and centrists and to destroy the influence of reformism and centrism.

Bulwarks of Capitalism

The Third Congress regarded the reformist and centrist parties as workers’ parties only in the sense that they had influence over masses of workers and that these workers naively believed that these parties were opposed to the capitalists. Marxism, however, had long ago shown that opportunism represented bourgeois influence upon the workers’ movement. Later, during World War I, Lenin stressed that the social-democratic Second International had gone bankrupt on a world scale and that its opportunist leaders had gone over to the bourgeoisie. He showed that the social- democratic parties had become bourgeois workers’ organizations, and reiterating Engels’ penetrating expression, he called them “bourgeois labor parties.” (See his article “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Collected Works, Vol. 23, pp. 105-20) These parties, led by a soldout petty-bourgeois stratum represented the bourgeois trend within the working class movement.

Lenin repeatedly explained that the fact that a party had a following among the workers did not determine its class character. For example, at the Second Congress of the CI, he denounced the view that the British Labor Party was a proletarian party. He stated:

Of course, most of the Labor Party’s members are working men. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct, point of view, the Labor Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organization of the bourgeoisie, which exists to systematically dupe the workers with the aid of the British Noskes and Scheidemanns [Noske and Scheidemann were German social-chauvinist leaders who helped the bourgeoisie subvert the German revolution at the end of World War I and who were prominent organizers of the bloody suppression of the post-war upsurge and of the murder of the communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht – ed.]” (“Speech on Affiliation to the British Labor Party,” August 6, 1920, Collected Works, Vol. 31, pp. 257-58)

Lenin further pointed out at the Second Congress that:

Opportunism in the upper ranks of the working class movement is bourgeois socialism, not proletarian socialism. It has been shown in practice that working class activists who follow the opportunist trend are better defenders of the bourgeoisie than the bourgeois themselves. Without their leadership of the workers, the bourgeoisie could not remain in power.” (“Report on the International Situation and the Fundamental Tasks of the CI,” July 19, 1920, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 231)

The Third Congress, too, denounced the bourgeois nature of the opportunist workers’ parties. It exposed their role as petty-bourgeois parties in the service of the bourgeoisie and denounced them as bulwarks of capitalism:

“The petty-bourgeois democrats in the capitalist countries, whose foremost sections are presented by the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, are at the present moment the chief support of capitalism in so far as the majority or, at least a considerable part, of the industrial and commercial workers and employees remain under their influence.” (From Point 2, The International Alignment of Class Forces, from the “Theses on the Tactics of the Russian Communist Party”)

Lenin, speaking at the Third Congress, pointed out that: “...we clearly see that in many West European countries, where the broad mass of the working class, and possibly the overwhelming majority of the population, are organized, the main bulwark of the bourgeoisie consists of the hostile working class organizations affiliated to the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals.” (“Report on the Tactics of the Russian Communist Party,” July 5, 1921, Collected Works, Vol. 32, p. 481)

The Third Congress denounced not just the reformist and centrist parties, but also the reformist international trade union center, as serving the bourgeoisie. It stated that:

“The International Trade Union Association of Amsterdam represents the organization in which the Second International and the Second-and-a-Half International meet each other and join hands. The whole international bourgeoisie looks upon this organization with assurance and confidence. The principal idea of the International Trade Union Association is at present the idea of the neutrality of Trade Unions....

“Under the flag of neutrality the Amsterdam Trade Union Association undertakes the execution of the dirtiest and most difficult commissions of the bourgeoisie: the strangling of the miners’ strike in England...the decrease of wages, the organized plundering of the German workers for the sins of the imperialist German bourgeoisie....

“At the present moment the Amsterdam International Trade Union Association represents the chief support of International Capital.” (from Point 2, Amsterdam a Bulwark of Capitalism, of the resolution on “The CI and the Red International of Trade Unions”)

The Reformists and Centrists Continue Their Dirty Work

But did the adoption of the united front slogan by the CI mean that it thought that the reformists and centrists, rotten as they were, were tending to become better? On the contrary. Over the last year before the Third Congress the social-democrats had deepened their treachery and stepped up their attacks on communism. The Third Congress pointed out:

“The third year of the Communist International witnessed the further decline of the Social Democratic Parties, and the loss of influence and unmasking of the reformist Trade Union leaders. During the last year, however, they have attempted to organize themselves and proceed to an attack on the Communist International.” (from Point 11, Decline of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals of the “Theses on Tactics”)

The theses went on to detail the crimes of social-democracy in a number of countries. The case of Germany will suffice to show that the reformists and centrists were not relenting in the least in their service to the bourgeoisie. The Third Congress related that:

“In Germany, the Social-Democratic Party [the avowed reformists – ed.], after withdrawing from the government, proved that it was no longer able to carry on even agitational opposition of the pre-war kind. Every one of its oppositional actions was carefully calculated not to elicit any struggles of the working class. Although apparently in the opposition in the Reichstag [parliament – ed.], Social-Democracy organized a campaign in Prussia against the Middle-German miners, for the confessed purpose of provoking an armed combat before the Communist battle-front could be organized. [This refers to the events leading up to the armed struggle in the “March Action,” which was discussed in detail in the last article – ed.] In the face of the capitulation of the German bourgeoisie to the Entente [the U.S.-Anglo-French victor imperialists of World War I – ed.], in the face of the undeniable fact that the German bourgeoisie is only able to carry out the dictates of the Entente by making the living conditions of the German proletariat absolutely unbearable, German Social-Democracy reentered the Government in order to aid the bourgeoisie in turning the German proletarians into helots [serfs or slaves – ed.]....

“The centrists’ parties and groups of the Two-and-a-Half International are no less crass examples of counter-revolutionary organizations. The German Independents brusquely refused to respond to the appeal of the German Communist party for unity of action, in spite of all differences, in the battle against the impoverishment of the working class. During the March revolt they took a decided stand on the side of the White Guard movement against the Middle-German workers, only to raise a hypocritical howl about White Terror, after they had aided in securing victory to this very White Terror, and had denounced the proletarian vanguard, before the eyes of the bourgeoisie, as thieving, plundering ’gutter’ proletarians. Although they pledged themselves, at the Congress of Halle, to support Soviet Russia, their press is replete with calumny against Soviet Russia. They stepped into the ranks of the entire counter-revolutionary congregation...by supporting the Kronstadt revolt against the Soviet Republic....” (Ibid.)

The Third Congress further pointed out that the reformists and centrists had united against revolutionary work in the trade unions “by expulsion of the Communists and splits in the trade unions.” (Ibid.)

The Third Congress concluded that:

“It is the task of the Communist International to wage relentless war against the Two-and-a-Half International as well as against the Second International and the Amsterdam Trade Union International.” (Ibid.)

Hence the adoption of the united front slogan by the Third Congress did not mean that the Congress thought that there were any encouraging signs whatsoever about the nature of reformism and centrism. On the contrary, the task was to fight the reformists and centrists. The liquidators of today are fond of denouncing the struggle among the masses against reformism and opportunism as an allegedly impractical “pure line” as opposed to their own truly impure and stinking corrupt alliance with opportunism, which they regard as the embodiment of “united front tactics.” But the true united front tactics, as elaborated by the Third Congress, were set forward to help in waging a “relentless war” against the opportunists and to bring this war right into the midst of the widest masses of working people.

The Reformist Coalition With the Bourgeoisie

The reformists and centrists generally love to make great play with the slogan of “unity.” Their idea of unity, however, is determined by their political stand. They are for unity with the bourgeoisie. In stark contrast, the united front slogan of the communist parties is an appeal to the working class to break up the class collaborationist coalition with the bourgeoisie imposed by the opportunists and form, instead, a united front for struggle against the bourgeoisie.

The social-democratic coalition with the bourgeoisie reached maturity on a world scale and appeared starkly, in all its repulsiveness, in World War I. Lenin pointed out repeatedly that opportunism means alliance with the bourgeoisie and that the social-chauvinism of the social-democrats in World War I brought this formerly secret alliance into the open. He wrote:

The economic basis of ’social-chauvinism’...and of opportunism is the same, namely, an alliance between an insignificant section at the ’top of the labor movement, and its ’own’ national bourgeoisie, directed against the masses of the proletariat; an alliance between the servants of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie, directed against the class that is exploited by the bourgeoisie. Social-chauvinism is consummated opportunism.” (“Opportunism and the Collapse of the Second International,” Collected Works, Vol. 21, p. 442, emphasis as in the original)

And he added:

The alliance with the bourgeoisie used to be ideological and secret. It is now public and unseemly. Social- chauvinism draws its strength from nowhere else but this alliance with the bourgeoisie and the General Staffs.... All Marxists in Germany, France, and other countries have always stated and insisted that opportunism is a manifestation of the bourgeoisie’s influence over the proletariat; that it is a bourgeois labor policy, an alliance between an insignificant section of near-proletarian elements and the bourgeoisie.... Unity with opportunism means unity between the proletariat and its national bourgeoisie, i.e., submission to the latter, a split in the international revolutionary working class.” (Ibid., pp. 443-44)

Thus the unity of the opportunists with the bourgeoisie stood out clearly in World War I in the social-chauvinist alliance with the war machines of their own bourgeoisie. After the war, this social-democratic unity with the bourgeoisie continued and deepened. The reformists and centrists served as tools of the bourgeoisie in suppressing the postwar revolutionary upsurge, cutting wages, implementing austerity programs, and so forth.

Hence united front tactics must not consist of simple sentimental longing after “unity” in the abstract. True united front tactics must counterpose proletarian unity against the bourgeoisie with the opportunist policy of coalition with the bourgeoisie. Only thus is the united front slogan of any value to the proletarian struggle.

One of the fashionable ideas of the liquidators is that the difference between revolutionaries and the social-democrats and reformists is just over ultimate goals. They hold that the reformists may not be for the revolution, but they are for the Immediate struggle. This, the liquidators say, is the basis for united front tactics: let us unite with the Democratic Party marsh and the labor bureaucrats in the struggle for the immediate goals which, allegedly, “we all” agree on.

This, however, is utterly wrong. It means to pretend that the immediate struggle can be waged on the basis of class collaboration, on the basis of preserving the coalition with the bourgeoisie. It means to confuse the reformist and centrist leaders with the working masses still under their influence who are searching for the path to their emancipation. These working masses are in favor of struggle for their immediate interests, and the Leninist united front tactics appeal to this burning sentiment of the masses to take part in the struggle. But the reformist and centrist leaders do their best to derail this struggle in order to preserve the coalition with the bourgeoisie. The reformist and centrist parties hypocritically give certain slogans of struggle in order to throw dust in the eyes of the working masses, just as the cynical Democratic Party leaders hypocritically mouth their so-called “opposition” to Reagan at the same time as they rubber stamp each of his measures.

The liquidationist unity with the reformists is just a lying excuse for taking part in the opportunist coalition with the bourgeoisie and for running after crumbs from the bourgeoisie such as cozy petty-bourgeois positions in the labor bureaucracy. It is the exact opposite of the Leninist united front tactics. As we have seen, the Third Congress of the CI did not give the united front appeal out of any belief that the reformist and centrist trends were in favor of fighting for the immediate demands of the workers. On the contrary, it held that the claim of these trends to be for the struggle for the partial demands and immediate interests of the workers was no more honest or sincere or meaningful than their claim to be for the ultimate goal of socialism or any other of the hypocritical phrases which they mouthed in order to throw dust in the eyes of the working class. The reformist and centrist politicians could be found, then as now, fighting tooth and nail to hold back from the class struggle those honest workers and activists who hate the bourgeoisie but have not yet emancipated themselves from a naive belief in the opportunist big shots. The united front appeal is a special method of appeal to these workers and activists to abandon the coalition with the bourgeoisie and take the first steps upon the road of struggle against the class enemy.

In fact, Lenin repeatedly showed that the coalition of the opportunists with the bourgeoisie affected all fields of their work. For example, in his “Greetings to Italian, French and German Communists,” written seven months after the First Congress of the CI, he stressed:

The Scheidemann [reformist and social-chauvinist – ed.] and Kautsky [centrist – ed.] gang differ from us not only (and not chiefly) because they do not recognize the armed uprising and we do. The chief and radical difference is that in all spheres of work (in bourgeois parliaments, trade unions, cooperatives, journalistic work, etc.) they pursue an inconsistent, opportunist policy, even a policy of downright treachery and betrayal.

̶Fight against the social-traitors, against reformism and opportunism – this political line can and must be followed without exception in all spheres of our struggle. And then we shall win the working masses.” (Collected Works, Vol. 30, p. 62)

More on the Reformist Version of “Unity”

The reformist and centrist version of “unity” in the working class movement is completely connected with their stand of maintaining a coalition with the bourgeoisie. For them, “unity” exists when the workers are subordinated to the reformist leaders and their class collaborationist policies. The social-democrats pervert the slogan of “unity” in order to use it to demand allegiance to themselves, on the one hand, and also as the pretext by which they justify wrecking and splitting the militant actions of the proletariat. Let us glance briefly at how this works in practice.

At the beginning of World War I, the social-chauvinists had control of most of the official parties of the social-democratic Second International. The reformist and centrist leaders, finding themselves in possession of the party and union leaderships, found it convenient to sanctify their heavy-handed suppression of the militant workers and activists in the name of “unity.” They called any criticism of reformism and social-chauvinism a violation of “unity”; the workers were to go cheerfully to the battlefields to slaughter their class brothers in other lands under the signboard of “unity.”

This situation was described as follows in the “Theses on the United Front” issued by the Executive Committee of the CI in December 1921, half a year after the Third Congress:

“At the first beginning of the development of a conscious and organized protest against the treachery of the leaders of the Second International, the latter held in their hands the whole apparatus of working class organization. They used the principle of unity and proletarian discipline in order mercilessly to gag the voice of revolutionary proletarian protest and to hand over without opposition all the power of the workers’ organizations to the service of national imperialism. Under these conditions the revolutionary wing had to win for itself at all costs freedom of agitation and propaganda....” (from Point 5. The Revolutionary Protest)

At the same time, it was clear even then, when the reformist and centrist leaders had control of the apparatus of almost all the organizations, that their “concern” for the solidity of proletarian organization was just a sham. They only were willing to recognize discipline when it was the discipline of the left to them, not of them to follow the will of the class-conscious proletarians. This was perhaps revealed most clearly in the process that led to the infamous unanimous vote of the German social-democratic parliamentary group for war credits on August 4,1914 at the outbreak of the war. This vote was preceded by a caucus meeting of all the deputies to the Reichstag (parliament), including those of the reformist, centrist and left trends in the party.

The diehard social-chauvinist deputies came to this caucus meeting with the ultimatum that they would vote for war credits no matter what the caucus decided. There was simply no way that the reformist deputies were going to break their coalition with the bourgeoisie. This revealed that they only cared for the party in so far as the party was firmly in their control, as it indeed turned out to be. Of course, when the centrist deputies voted along with the social-chauvinists, thus defeating the left deputies who were opposed to the war credits, the reformists and centrists then miraculously rediscovered the joys of “unity” and party discipline. They demanded that the left obey the caucus vote. And the lefts, who were not yet sufficiently firm in their position and who did not yet understand the need for breaking the “unity” with both the reformists and centrists, submitted to this ultimatum. Hence the unanimous vote of the parliamentary group for war credits.

Lenin summed up this episode as follows:

Talk about the ’unity’ of the German Social-Democrats is sheer hypocrisy, which actually covers up the inevitable submission of the Lefts to ultimatums from the opportunists.” (“The Collapse of the Second International,” Collected Works, Vol. 21, p. 256)

Here we have the dirty secret of the reformist conception of “unity”: the submission of the left to the dictates of the rotten opportunists.

But despite the shrieks of the reformists and centrists, the revolutionary proletarians slowly consolidated themselves and gained strength as the imperialist carnage called the First World War continued. Through a difficult and protracted struggle, the communist vanguards gained strength on a world scale. By the time of the post-war proletarian upsurge and the founding of the CI, it began to appear that the reformist and centrist leaders might find themselves in the minority in a whole series of parties and trade unions.

Faced with this calamity, what did the reformist and centrist leaders do? Did they say: we demanded obedience to party decisions when we had control of the party leaderships, now, when we are the minority, we will give an example of that rigorous obedience that we ourselves have always demanded? Not on your life! No more than the German social-chauvinist deputies would have voted against war credits if the caucus had so decided. Perish the thought that the reformist and centrist leaders would consent to lose their cozy positions and have to serve as rank-and-file soldiers in an organization that was actually fighting the bourgeoisie. Instead the reformist and centrist leaders embarked on frenzied splitting and wrecking activity in order to thwart the will of the class-conscious proletariat.

A vivid example comes from the history of the Socialist Party of the U.S. In 1919 the left wing gained a decisive majority in the voting for the national officers of the party and the national executive committee. Instead of turning over the control of the party to the elected left-wing officials, the social-chauvinist and centrist leaders united to tear up the voting results and expel en masse even entire state organizations of the SP, such as the Michigan, Massachusetts and Ohio organizations, and entire language or national federations, including the Russian, Lithuanian, Polish, Lettish, Hungarian, Ukrainian and South Slav Federations. At the next national convention of the SP, which opened on August 30, 1918, they arbitrarily disqualified left delegates in order to manufacture an opportunist majority. The right and center leaders then called on the capitalist police to throw those delegates out of the convention hall.

In essence, similar scenes happened in socialist parties and trade unions around the world. The CI “Theses on the United Front” of December 1921 pointed to this frenzied wrecking activity of the social-democratic leaders. It pointed out:

“The heroes of the Second and Amsterdam [reformist trade union – ed.] Internationals preach unity in words, but in fact act to the contrary. The social-peace reformists of Amsterdam, having failed to suppress by their organization the voice of protest, criticism and revolutionary appeal, are now trying to get out of the blind alley into which they have brought themselves by introducing splits, disorganizations and organized sabotage into the struggle of the working masses.” (from Point 6. New Form of Old Treachery) Indeed, the trade unions provide another excellent example of the social-democratic perversion of the “unity” slogan.

The CI stood for trade union unity. It was for the unity of all workers, independent of political and ideological differences, in the same trade unions. The CI exposed the fraud of “trade union neutrality” and showed that, in reality, the unions stood on one side or the other of the political struggle. Hence the CI held that the unions should support the proletarian party and take a conscious part in the political struggle, according to the methods appropriate for unions, which differ from the methods of political parties. But this should not be accomplished by splitting unions or by expelling or hounding workers with different political views in the communist-led unions.

The reformists and centrists, however, had another idea. They did their best to purge the unions of revolutionary-minded workers. They forced devastating splits in the trade union movement. This was their last word in “unity.”

At the same time, the reformists and centrists hypocritically covered up their splitting and wrecking activity with pious proclamations of “trade union neutrality.” Under the banner that the unions were allegedly outside politics and the political struggle, they enforced the policy of class collaboration and coalition with the bourgeoisie. They demagogically ranted that this filthy “trade union neutrality” was necessary for the unity of all workers in the same union, while defending this “neutrality” and this “unity” by mass expulsions of everyone who was for a real struggle against the bourgeoisie.

The Third Congress had already pointed to the reformist and centrist policy of “expulsion of the Communists and splits in trade unions.” (from Point 11 of the “Theses on Tactics”) The Fourth Congress of the CI elaborated further on this crime of the reformist and centrist leaders. It denounced

“...the systematic splitting of the trade unions by the leaders of the Amsterdam International. The Amsterdam leaders shrink from any fight against the capitalist offensive, and they continue in their policy of cooperation with the employers. To avoid being hindered by the Communists in their alliance with the employers, they endeavor systematically to banish the influence of the Communists from the trade unions. Nevertheless, the Communists in many countries have already won a majority, or are on the point of winning a majority, in the trade unions, in spite of these tactics, and the Amsterdam leaders do not shrink from mass expulsions nor from formally splitting the trade unions. Nothing so weakens the resistance of the proletariat against the capitalist offensive as the splitting of the trade unions. Of this the reformist leaders of the trade unions are well aware, but seeing the inevitable end of their influence, they hasten to disrupt the unions...in order to leave to the Communists a legacy of broken fragments of the old trade union organizations.” (from Point 8. Splitting the Trade Unions and the Organization of White Terror Against the Communists of the “Resolution on the Tactics of the CI”)

The reformists and centrists continue this perversion of the “unity” slogan when they are faced with the question of the united front. The “Theses on the United Front” of December 1921 pointed out:

“But while for those strata of the workers who are newly awakening to conscious life and are still little tried, the cry of the United Front is the expression of a genuine and sincere desire to combine the forces of the oppressed classes against the assault of the capitalist class; on the other hand, for the leaders and diplomats of the Second, Two-and-a-Half and Amsterdam Internationals the proclamation of this motto is only a new attempt to dupe the workers and to inveigle them by a new method into the old meshes of class- collaboration.” (from Point 7. Reformist Treachery to Unity)

The reformists and centrists advocated that all that had to be done to have a “united front” was for everyone to follow behind the reformist dictate and for the class-conscious workers to surrender their hard-won independence from the opportunists. The reformist and centrist model was precisely the flabby old social-democratic parties and trade unions of August 1914 that had ensured the temporary paralysis of the militant working class in the face of the outbreak of the world imperialist slaughter. But to take part in a “united front” on such terms would simply mean making peace with the bourgeoisie. The Leninist united front tactics require a united front of struggle against the bourgeoisie, the only type of united front that is of use to the proletarian class struggle.

Are United Front Tactics a Trick?

We have thus seen that the reformists and centrists are diehard advocates of coalition with the bourgeoisie and diehard disrupters of the unity of the proletariat. We have seen that the Leninist united front tactics are a means of fighting the reformists and centrists and their coalition with the bourgeoisie.

There are those who have thereby concluded that united front tactics are simply a trick. They say that the Leninist united front tactics are, allegedly, not really aimed at uniting the proletariat but simply at exposing the social- democratic leaders. Why, in their eyes, these tactics simply consist of making proposals for united action against the bourgeoisie with one’s fingers crossed behind one’s back, hoping after hope that the reformists and centrists will turn down the proposals, so one can expose them for their refusal to unite. Allegedly, the last thing one wants is that the proposals are accepted, so that they are especially formulated for the purpose of forcing a refusal from the opportunists.

This, however, is utter nonsense. To make proposals that one oneself is opposed to would be to engage in mere conjuring tricks. Perhaps a party might, depending on circumstances, be able to carry out such a trick a few times, but it would be at the risk of losing its political soul.

The Leninist united front proposals are made by the communist parties because these proposals, if accepted, would advance the struggle against the bourgeoisie. This is not in contradiction with the goal of discrediting the reformist and centrist trends, because the communists know that the experience of the struggle shows the workers which trend is correct: the reformist or the revolutionary. The fact that the united front proposals benefit communism, therefore, does not come from some hidden clauses or fine print or other tricks cunningly concealed in the proposal, but from the fact that the communist doctrine is true and is the only profound and accurate guide to the working class struggle and the fact that it is the communist party that throws itself heart and soul into the class struggle. The communist parties must insist that the united front agreements contain provisions that ensure that they will actually help advance the struggle against the bourgeoisie, but the communist parties have no need of special sectarian provisions.

When the reformists and centrists reject the united front proposals, which is what they usually do, then of course the communist parties must make maximum use of this rejection to discredit the reformist and centrist trends, The communist parties must tirelessly, again and again, demonstrate to the workers how the reformist and centrist leaders sabotage the struggle against the bourgeoisie. The parties must make use of live political events to demonstrate over and over to the workers that it is opportunism which is responsible for the split in the working class movement. This is indeed at the heart of united front tactics.

But the communist parties are in favor of the acceptance of their united front proposal. They strive their hardest to ensure that the working masses will take up these proposals. They know, however, that the acceptance of these proposals by the reformist and centrist leaders does not mark the end of reformist and centrist sabotage of the workers’ front. No, each step in actually implementing the proposals and carrying forward the struggle against the bourgeoisie will require a stubborn stand against reformist and centrist foot-dragging and treachery.

Precisely because the communist parties strive so hard to develop the united front among the working masses, they are faced with the hard task of knowing how flexible they can be in the various united front proposals. Certain concessions in the proposals might help the working masses come forward to take up the struggle. But if the parties concede too much in order to obtain agreement from the reformist and centrist leaders, than a united front agreement can turn into its opposite, into a fetter on the struggle. For example, the trade union bureaucrats have their own idea of what a “united front” is support of an economic struggle would be. Their terms may be: obey all the decisions of the reformist trade union bureaucracy, give up mass picketing, don’t extend the struggle to other plants, be ready to give up the struggle whenever the capitalists offer a few crumbs to the bureaucrats, and give up all criticism of the labor bureaucracy. A “united front” on such terms would be of no benefit to the proletariat or communism. It would simply mean agreeing to join the coalition with the bourgeoisie.

Thus the Leninist united front tactics are not a trick. The united front proposals must be well thought out, so that they advance the class struggle and don’t fall into the snares of the reformist coalition with the bourgeoisie. And it is the communist parties who are at the heart of the united workers’ front, not because of some special sectarian provisions or tricks in the united front agreements, but because it is communism which is the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat and the guiding force of the workers’ movement.

(Part V will be continued in a later issue.)