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Lessons of United Front

[Hugo Oehler]

Lessons of the United Front

(July 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 37, 29 July 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

Political Factions Within an Organization

The united front is the tactic that enables us to bring together the combined pressure of various organizations of the working class. But one finds that a conference of many political tendencies or a trade union that has many political tendencies raises another problem within the broad problem of the united front. A conference or organization that has many different political tendencies will, in the main divide between Right and Left and Centre. Working agreements, of a temporary measure, on one or more issues, within the conference or organization, will to a great degree determine which section of the conference or organization, Right-Centre or Left, will dominate the organization or conference. This united front is conducted on the same basis as any united front. However, the complicated situation causes intensification of contradictions between political tendencies which proceed at a more rapid tempo.

Is It Proper to Break a United Front?

A united front is only a temporary agreement on immediate demands in action and must be preserved as long as it functions for the CLASS INTEREST. If the development of the struggle and the united front for one reason or the another is transformed from the basis of class struggle to that of class collaboration and the Right wing is about ready to betray or sell out – it is the duty of Marxists and revolutionists to point out, and to warn of the danger, and if it cannot be corrected, then the Left wing must break the united front BEFORE THE BETRAYAL. Such action will result in a temporary setback, not due to the break but due to the sell-out. However, if the Left wing has conducted itself correctly, broke away in time, and still retains the confidence of the masses, who could not see their position at the time of the break, the Left wing can lead in the reorganization of the forces, or in checking the retreat and prepare for a come-back.


The united front of different working class organizations, in the first place, is an attempt to increase the pressure against the capitalist class, and in the second, a give-and-take proposition between the organizations. In the final analysis it is a victory for that organization and its leadership whic knows what to give and what to take. The representatives delegated for the united front conference and those who will do the negotiating must know in advance what the objectives, of the united front and the organization are and within what framework they must work.

Compromises on secondary questions can and must be made and all the more so when friction is about to split the conference or organization. However, one must know how to distinguish between compromises and compromises. The same word can be filled with two different contents. One must never compromise on principle, while one can compromise on other factors It is up to the representatives and delegates to know the difference between these two words of compromises.

For example, at the June 1933 Unemployed Conference in Chicago the report of the program and policy Committee was amended on the question of the united front, to first strike out the clause, “the right of political criticism”, and second, to strike out and change the word “force”, in the sentence which said “any organization not entering the united front must be forced into it.” The committee compromised on the word force and changed it to a milder form, but the committee would not budge one inch or compromise on the question of political criticism. The question of political criticism is a question of principle but the question of modifying the word force is not.

Leaders and Leaders

After a group of labor fakers have sold out and betrayed the workers it is often the style to condemn all leaders. One must be able to distinguish between difference kinds of leaders. It is always in place to call for rank and file CONTROL and no revolutionist or Marxist is opposed to rank and file control. It is out of place and wrong to call for rank and file LEADERSHIP. Rank and file leadership is an empty slogan, yet as harmful as the slogan of the “united front from below”. Both are inverted non-Marxian slogans.

(To be continued)

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