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Lessons of United Front

Hugo Oehler

Lessons of the United Front

(August 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 38, 5 August 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

The Frame Work of the United Front

In the consideration of the united front one must not only know the Leninist concept. One must, above all, apply this to objective conditions, and the frame work of the working class and its organizations.

Local, sectional, national and international united front action are complicated in their application. Defensive and offensive struggles call for different modes of working class motion, just as periods of reaction, reform and revolution do. The immediate objective must at no time be isolated and separated from the direction of the objective the Marxian is heading for.

The Reformist Refusal or Acceptance of the United Front

The proper application of the united front tactic is a winning one for the revolutionist regardless of the acceptance or refusal of the reformist leaders. The degree of tho gain will be altered by the position taken by the misleaders. However, In turn, the position of the misleaders in refusing or accepting does not rest within their own hands. Their refusal or acceptance in the last analysis rests in the hands of the pressure of their rank and file. Insufficient pressure will enable the fakers to refuse and strong pressure will compel the misleaders to accept or stand exposed. This does not mean we revert to united front from below. We increase the PRESSURE from below, upon the organization to force them into the united front.

If the leadership is able to prevent the organization from joining the united front we expose such a leadership, not through slander but through political criticism. If the pressure is sufficient to force the leaders into the united front and "if" their program is not to the interest of the working class and their action opposed to working class interest than we EXPOSE THEM IN ACTION as part of the united front. A Marxist can expose an opportunist and reformist if they refuse action. It is far better and a more thorough job of exposure if it is done in action.

Workers do not have illusions only about certain misleaders in whom they still have faith. They also have many illusions about capitalism. In action, around the united front, the twofold process of disillusionment in misleaders and in the capitalist system can be developed. Only Marxian revolutionists can stand this acid test.

Calling the United Front

The calling of the united front is not the simple task of sending a letter to all working class organizations. Many Right wing secretaries will throw the communication in the basket and the organization will in no way have knowledge of the projected united front. After it is decided to call a united front and before the provisional committee (whatever may be its composition) sends out the call those taking the initiative should organize their own forces to bring pressure from below on all other organizations and especially in the organizations that have labor fakers at the head. The rank and file of those taking the initiative must know about the call and its objective. They must set to work preparing the ground work for the call so when it is sent to all the working class organizations there is sufficient pressure from below to force as many organiaztions as possible into united working class action. Continued effort must be made to bring those organizations in the united front that at first refuse. Political exposure of those organizations must be carried on.

United Fronts That Exclude Communists or Have Wrong Program

There are many types of reformers who endeavor to carry on united front action between reformist organizations and exclude the Communists in order to keep the conference and action respectable. The relation of the Communist to this policy of exclusion should be that of breaking into the conference. This refers to united front action on immediate demands. We will consider all factors involved more than once before breaking into a parliamentary united front action of reformists.

The second question of importance in such a united front called bv reformists is the question of what kind of a draft program they have presented. We must enter to oppose their class collaboration policy with a policy of class struggle. If we pass the first line trench and are seated but do not succeed in shaping the immediate demands into a program of action and class struggle we should not serve on the Executive Committee elected to carry out the reformist, abstract anti-working class, opportunist program of the united front.

The third important relationship to consider is the relationship of onr entrance into a united front that is dominated by forces that adopt a fundamentally wrong program of action such as the Amsterdam Congress of the Stalinists or the Washington Continental Congress of the reformists. Under such a circumstance we expose from within the conference if we are allowed into the conference and expose a correct program against theirs. But we do not enter the Executive Committee elected.

The Form of the United Front

The united front is not only a question of local, national or international unity, and is not a question of unity between organizations or political tendencies to constitute a Left wing in a trade union fight, etc. It is also a question of organizational development to a higher stage.

The organizational development of the united front can take on a varied number of forms. Temporary agreements between organizations on one or several demands or a bloc in struggle that covers a whole series of demands and actions, or a federation as a crystalized higher form of the united front which deals with one phase of the class struggle, etc., or the Soviet, which is the highest form of the united front action of the working class. The Soviet as an organization in itself passes through a whole series of stages of development.

Plans and Propaganda

Delegates do not come to united front conference to hear propaganda speeches. The leaders as well as the delegates who take the floor must be instructed to save their propagahda speeches to use on those workers outside of the united front who have not yet been won over to our action.

Delegates must confine their arguments, and those in charge of the conference must set the keynote on the question of program and how to carry out the program adopted. What to do and how to do it is the job of the convention, not propaganda speeches. The delegates should not have to be propagandized.

Immediate Demands and Ultimate Demands

United fronts are not passive agreements. United fronts can be only temporary alliances of different organizations in action upon immediate demands. Communists cannot form a permanent body with reformists to fight war or overthrow capitalism. Such can be a merger of different organizations and political tendencies into one political organization. One does form a united front on concrete issues relating to war and the overthrow of capitalism as temporary agreements in action.

On the other hand, the Marxists does not enter the united front forgetting the ultimate demands. The revolutionists always has in mind the relation of the immediate demand to the ultimate demand. The proper connection of the two, distinguishes the revolutionist from the reformist.

(To be continued)

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