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Lessons of United Front

Hugo Oehler

Lessons of the Leninist United Front Tactic

(July 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 34, 8 July 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The United Action of the Working Class

The confusion within the ranks of the working class on the question of the United Front is primarily due to the present leaderships of the Second and Third International. All leaders who fear a test in action, leaders who fear a comparison of policies, leaders who retain control of their organizations by bureaucratic methods – and those who are the direct agents of the capitalist class within our ranks – fear the united front of the working class. The pressure of the masses through the united front places a heavy burden upon all misleaders and non-Marxian leaders. That leadership which has a correct policy and uses a little common horse-sense will be favored to the highest degree by united action of the working class.

For these reasons, many organization are systematically kept out of united front action or are miseducated purposely by leaders who cannot stand the test. Those leaders who fear the test demand either a non-aggression pact (social democrats) or leadership of the movement conceded in advance (Stalinism), where the workers are told to join the united front under Communist leadership. Other forms used by these misleaders and non-Marxian leaders are the united front from below, or the united front of leaders alone, or the united front of leaders in negotiation behind closed doors. All such “united fronts” are false, are a denial in substance though not in name, in order to cover up and to avoid the test in action which flows from the Leninist united front.

The two most powerful working class organizations in the world the social democrats and the Stalinists have been miseducating the reformist and revolutionary working class on the question of the united front. Likewise, the reactionary A.F.L. leadership fear this powerful working class weapon. The most criminal of all in miseducating the working class, are the Stalinists. Why – because we expect nothing else but confusion, opportunism and miseducation from the socialist and reactionary labor leaders; such leaders join united action only after mass pressure forces them into the united front; such leaders openly oppose revolutionary Marxism as practised in the Russian revolution by the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky.

But those who claim to abide by the decisions of the Communist International, as the Stalinists do, and who in reality have systematically revised Marxism, must be exposed for what they are worth, all the more so because they have usurped the October Revolution and have under their influence the greatest number of revolutionists that must be won over back to internationalism, to Marxism.

If we consider two periods of the history of the errors of Stalinism on the question of the united front, which by no means was the most harmful error, but which flowed from more basic deviations from revolutionary Marxism, we can realize how great is the confusion contributed to by Stalinism. On outstanding example, in the first stage of the blunders, was the united front with leaders, in the British General Strike and in the Chinese Revolution In these struggles the Stalinists and their bedfellows, the Right wingers, threw overboard all the lessons and experiences of the Russian Revolutions. They violated the ABC of how to make a united front and to set the masses in motion and how to break a united front when the allies begin to break and openly betray the movement. After a aeries of such blunders and errors, the defeat of the Chinese revolution had the sobering effect of waking them up. But to wake up and to find the correct path – – are two different things and the first without the latter will only lead to new mistakes. After burning their fingers badly while playing around with the leaders, the non-Marxian Stalinists swung to the other extreme, to “correct” the error’ without admitting the error, and thereby, the notorious “Third Period”.

The opportunist Right zig-zag of the united front – from above – had the full support of the Right wing but the Stalinists’ ultra-Left zigzag – to the united front from below – was not consistent with the Right wing opportunist line of policy and the united trout with leaders. Whereas, the British General Strike and the Chinese Revolution were the outstanding examples of the Right-Centre (Bucharin-Stalin) mistakes on the united front from above with leaders, the victory of Fascism in Germany is the crowning defeat and expression of the “united front from below”. As Trotsky says, Stalinism will go down in history as the leader of defeats. The wrong concept of the united front as well as the defeat is the result of a more basic revisionism of Marxism by Stalinism. Throughout this whole period the International Left Opposition has carried on a fight against the Stalinists and social democrats and other political currents and their position on the united front and since then, history has confirmed the correctness of our position on this tactical and strategical question as well as on more fundamental questions of Marxism.

(To be continued)

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Last updated: 24 October 2015