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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. 36, 22 July 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

Another So-Called United Front

In the hey-day of the “united front from below” the Stalinist called many united front conferences, sending calls to all organizations under their ideological and mechanical control and asking all other workers to break with their leadership and join the “united front”. The T.U.U.L. and the I.L.D., the W.I.R. and the fraternal organizations, as well as any A.F.L. local where the Left wing was strong enough to send a delegate, received a call.

The delegates at the conference, no matter how many paper organization or real organizations they represented, represented one political current: Stalinism – with the exception of the Left Opposition which was always kicked out the door, and several stray delegates who ran the gauntlet by accident. Month in and month out the same organizations sent delegates to the “united fronts”. Each time the conference ended with the Stalinists capturing themselves, through the “united front from below.”

The united front is a tactic of uniting, in temporary agreement, different organizations, and different political tendencies. To call together several organizations under socialist party control is not a united front, any more than the calling together of those organizations under Stalinist control constitutes a united front. United front action must be between organizations, but at the same time must embrace more than one political current. Each political current entering the united front is expected to rally those organizations and forces it has control over.

The Mooney Congress held in Chicago in May, with about two dozen political tendencies; and the Unemployment Conference held in Chicago in June, with fifteen political tendencies – are first steps toward the Leninist United Front action. However, the number of workers put in motion and not the number of political tendencies is decisive.

The United Front as a Maneuver

The reformists say that the communists are insincere and that the call for a united front is a maneuver. If this is so then the reformists have nothing to worry about because if the Communists call a united front upon such a flimsy foundation, the Communists and not the reformists will lose. Of course the united front tactic or rather, the rejection of the united front tactic by Stalinism has played into the hands of the reformists, but in the main this is merely an excuse of the reformists to avoid taking part in the united front.

On the other hand, one must not take the word maneuver in too narrow a sense. If by maneuver one means a trick than we are opposed to a maneuver, but the fact remains that every move of any military or political force is a maneuver. In this latter sense, every united front action, like all other political actions, is a maneuver. The thing for the revolutionist and honest worker to find out is: Is it a correct maneuver, one that benefits the working class – or a false maneuver?

Non-Aggression Pacts

The reformists and opportunists and misleaders will prevent a united front as long as possible, but once more the mass pressure and conditions force them to make a move toward the united front they immediately attempt to set up certain provisions which will guarantee them from the “evils of exposure”. One of their favorite means is to attempt to form a “non-aggression” pact with the others participating in the united front. They demand that while the united front is conducted, the organizations should refrain from criticizing each other. If one agrees to refrain from political criticism, then the misleaders are sure they will be able to retain their control and will not be exposed in action for their traitorous acts. Anyone who agrees to refrain from criticism during united front action forsakes one of the basic conditions of the Leninist united front. The right of minority expression and political criticism must be guaranteed at all times. Only fakers would ask for such a pact and only fools and Stalinists would agree to such pacts. Stalinism, like the social democracy, has its own crimes to cover up.

In the last several years in Germany, while Fascism was marching forward with rapid strides, while Stalinism was in its “third period”, the social democratic betrayers were rendered the greatest historical service possible by the Stalinist united front from below. When over the threshold of state power Fascism gained, and was already and the pressure from below made the social democratic leaders offer the Communists a united front, but with the “non-aggression” clause, the C.I. statement and answer agreed to refrain from criticism. Again, following the “united front from below”, the agreement to refrain from criticism rendered social democracy more service. This was repeated at the Mooney Congress in Chicago by the Stalinists.

(To be continued)

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