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Lessons of United Front

[Hugo Oehler]

Lessons of the United Front

(August 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 39, 12 August 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

Behind Closed Doors

United front plans for common action must be conducted in the open. The workers must fight against any plan to conduct negotiations behind closed doors. No leaders of the working class would ask for such a privilege, only misleaders or ignorant “leaders” would do such. The revolutionary Marxist has nothing to hide from the working class. They conduct their negotiations before the whole working class.

The Capitalists and Their Office Boys

The task of overthrowing the capitalist system is a great one. The job of defeating the capitalist agents within our ranks is part of this task. If the revolutionary Marxists are not superior to the capitalist agents within our ranks then we are not yet capable of overthrowing the system that has sent these agents into our ranks. The tactic of the united front is a necessary step when preliminary battles between these two camps are fought. It prepares the ground for united action of the class for the overthrow of the capitalist system.

Sitting at the Same Table with Betrayers

The united front action of the working class is not a moral question. It is a question of bringing about the greatest class pressure possible in order to obtain our objective. Misleaders will be exposed in action. You can talk about misleaders year in and year out and they will retain their followers, but once you get them in different united front atcions they can be exposed – providing the Marxists know what to do.

That misleaders, betrayers, and fakers can be elected or self appointed from their organizations to the united front only proves how capable these fakers are in fooling their workers and how important it is for us to put these fakers to the test of action so the rank and file can see their true worth.

The proper application of the united front is the most effective means of exposing misleaders. It is no crime to sit down at the same table with misleaders. It is a crime if you do not know what to give and take in the united front when you do sit down with them.

Parliamentary and Extra-Parliamentary Activity

When we speak of the united front we refer to activity in the extra-parliamentary field and not in the field of parliamentary activity. Participation in parliamentary activity by revolutionists is one of the most delicate and complicated problems. The general rule, in parliamentary activity, is to oppose united front activity. The exceptions are few and far between. Besides this, one must remember that parliamentary activity, as a whole, falls into the category of auxiliary class activity and even this within the framework of the question of when to participate and boycott.

The Question of Unity and Principle Differences

Many non-Marxian, but sincere workers are for the united front because they believe we can all get together and become one party fighting the capitalist class. In other words, they propose to do away with all the different political groups and factions and the fight within the political tendencies of the working class. These workers are “half right” and “half wrong”. They are correct insofar as the united front tactic brings together different working class organizations for common action against the capitalists. They are wrong, insofar as they think, this tactic will enable the working class to merge all organizations into one big organization. Principle differences are not solved by giving up principles and getting together into one hodge-podge big organization. We would not trade one small organization of active Marxists for the merging of all other organizations into one big hodge-podge. Principle differences are settled in struggle and in action and through the united front. These methods enable the organization and leadership with a correct program to gain the rank and file and expose those organizations that are based upon a wrong program and have misleaders at their head. The united front action puts all organizations to a test and by this test in action the majority of the working class are transformed into one gigantic organization, and the masses are won over to that organization which has a correct program.

If there were no principle difference between organizations there would be no need of a united front. The need would be to iron out the secondary differences and get together into one organization. United front action is the compliment of the existence of organizations with principle differences.

(To be continued)

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