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S. Gordon

The C.I. Retraces Steps

May 1 Manifesto Returns to “United Front From Below”

(May 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 25, 6 May 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There is no end to the crimes of Stalinism. Those serious Communist workers who have hoped that the heavy blows of Fascism in Germany might have served to give conclusive warning to the Comintern bureaucracy and to bring about a fundamental change of line, must have been overcome with dizziness by the newest crime of Stalinism. We refer to the entirely unexpected and breathtaking reversion to the infamous “united front from below” in the manifesto issued by the Communist International on the occasion of May Day and printed in a special Sunday edition of the Daily Worker on April 30.

Only six weeks before, the Communist International had issued a resolution, first published in l’Humanité of Paris on March 6, instructing the various parties to approach the Central Committees of the socialist parties and trade union centers in their respective countries, for united front negotiations and at that, to refrain from attacking the latter in the course of the united front activities.

The practical change of line that resulted brought a swing to the ultra-right which necessitated a warning on the part of the Left Opposition against new opportunist excesses on the style of the disgraceful bloc with Chiang-Kai-Shek and the Anglo-Russian Committee. In the United States too, this turn toward opportunism became increasingly evident and at the various Mooney-Scottsboro and May Day conferences and committee meetings, the representatives of the Left Opposition had as their main task, the struggle against opportunist distortions of the united front by the Stalinists. That was before April 30.

“Now ... Not Negotiation”

On April 30, the C.I. May Day manifesto, printed in the Daily Worker, not only has no word to say any longer about approaching the Central Committees of the reformists or against attacking them. It tells us, in so many words: “Now we need United Front from below, not negotiations with top leaders!”

The reason? “For the leaders of the Second International, negotiations with officials on top is merely a method of delaying, hindering, and disrupting the united front of the working class.”

The worker in the street cannot help being amazed by this lightning-quick swerve to the former, ruinous policy. The Communist worker can hardly believe his eyes. For years he had been breathing and talking “united front from below”. On March 6, his International leaders tell him, now we must approach the top leaders (the Central Committees). A little bit confused, but as a disciplined comrade, the Communist functionary approaches the Central Committees of the S.P. and the A.F. of L.

Some go even so far as to let socialist speakers go unrefuted, without distinguishing themselves from their reformist jabbering. Some go to the extent of even distributing the socialist press from Communist platforms. (Witness the case of the demonstration against the Hitler-Birthday Celebration in Teutonia Hall, New York. See the Militant of April 29.)

Now, in the May Day manifesto, the International leaders once more tell him: “Now we need United Front from below, not negotiations with top leaders!” Can the Communist worker help being bewildered? Can this latest step do anything but increase the confusion in the Communist ranks? Can such people, who change their policies with the weather, expect to maintain their authority or even to be taken seriously at all?

What Will Be the Consequences?

The revolutionary movement is not a game of leap frog and no matter how deeply the disease of bureaucratic centrism, of unexplained commands from above may have penetrated into the ranks of the Communist party, the Communist worker cannot go on switching his line of march with such fierce twists Indefinitely. The laws of friction have their function in politics as well. And any one of these numerous Stalinist turns-about-face, without explanation and without previous preparation, must finally serve as the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The bureaucratic reversion to the “united front from below” – if, in its aim to cover up the bankruptcy of the whole previous Stalinist “third period” course, it does no stop with the mere mouthing o phrases in manifestos – is bound to call forth a violent reaction within the ranks of the party. Many responsible and serious comrades breathed a breath of relief when the March 6 C.I. resolution cleared the road for actual progress in mass united front actions.

The Leninist united front tactic applied to the American socialists in the Mooney and May Day conferences and actions has thrown the reformist party into convulsions and brought about successful and concrete results.

The question or the united front has sharpened the internal conflict within the S.P. tremendously and the treacherous, die-hard stand of the Hillquit faction has served to increase the Left wing trend within it.

The whole Chicago district of the S.P. and other numerous Y.P.S.L. locals have been expelled by the Hillquit clique on the very issue of the united front with the Communists, which the former have carried through in several localities.

The powerful May Day demonstrations and the healthy reactions of the socialist workers to them were in themselves the best vindication for the Leninist united front tactic. And all this has taken place within the brief period of the six Weeks, in which the C.I. had given up the blunders of the “united front from below”.

The responsible party comrade could not have overlooked all these developments and could not have missed their significance. The Stalinist bureaucrat will have a difficult lime explaining to him what it is that prevented the leaders of the Second International from using “negotiations with officials on top” as “merely a method of delaying, hindering and disrupting the united front” on March 6 and why this suddenly becomes a fact only on April 30.

The serious Communist workers will reply to the bureaucrats and say to them: We know very well that the socialist leaders will attempt to delay, hinder and disrupt the united front of the working class. They always have.

What the Serious Communist Workers Will Say

We also know that the masses of reformist workers do want united actions. They have shown it on May Day, they have shown it by their struggle against the disrupting leaders inside their own ranks.

We can see, furthermore, the process of swift disintegration that is overtaking the Second International after the collapse of the German social democracy and the impending debacle of “Austro-Marxism” The reformist fakers have already begun to be alarmed and it is to be expected that in the future they will especially exert themselves with shouting for working class unity and for united action in the future.

The socialist masses are moving to the Left and the socialist mis-leaders will use every possible “Left” fuse to maintain their control of them. The task of exposing the reformist betrayers and of loosening their control of the masses that follow them is all the more urgent in this especially favorable situation.

The Leninist united front tactic, therefore, holds all its force as the only method of fulfilling the revolutionary task of the moment It is our duty to apply it. We have no interest in replenishing the shattering prestige of the bankrupt Stalinist bureaucracy. Our interests coincide with the needs of the revolutionary working class.

The Left Opposition will continue its work of explanation and clarification and find common ground with Communist workers on this basis. Together with them and in merciless struggle against criminal Stalinism, it will help in re-establishing the Marxist party of the International proletariat.

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