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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 09:23 AM
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German workers and the birth of the united front

from the International Socialist Review:

German workers and the birth of the united front

This article is based in part on discussions at the Socialism educational conferences in 2009 and 2010, as well as exchanges with Charles Peterson, Todd Chretien, and Ashley Smith. John Riddell ( is editor of seven volumes of documents on the Communist movement in Lenins time, one of which, Toward the United Front, will be published by Haymarket in 2012. He is an active member of the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly.

THE POLICY of the united front is among the most effective tools for working-class action inherited from the era of V. I. Lenin and the Russian Revolution. As originally formulated by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern) in December 1921, united front policy called for the greatest possible unity of all workers organizations in every practical action against the united capitalists, while assuring revolutionary socialists and other participating currents absolute autonomy and freedom in presenting their point of view.1

Initiatives to build unity in action with diverse currents in the workers movement can be traced back to the First International and its efforts to build bridges in action to British trade unionists and the followers of Auguste Blanqui and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France, as well as to initiatives by the Bolshevik party in Russia before 1917. The December 1921 Comintern policy statement cited Bolshevik precedent but was framed as a response to current needs, in the context of an ebb in revolutionary struggle. Over the ensuing decades, revolutionary socialists have utilized united front tactics in very different circumstances, includingin recent yearsto oppose imperialist wars, support liberation struggles, and meet threats of violence from fascist groups.

The evolution of united front policy was marked by ambiguities, false steps, and corrections. The main driving force in its formulation was the thinking and the initiatives of the working-class ranks and the urgency of their struggle for immediate needs and essential human rights. This impulse was conveyed to the Comintern by member parties in countries where these struggles were most intense: Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Britain, and above all Germany, site of the most intense revolutionary battles in the years after 1918.

A united front struggle is a step on the road to revolution and simultaneously an effective instrument to win an immediate reform. Many critics of revolutionary socialism have seized on this fact to declare united front policy inherently contradictory or even dishonest, claiming that revolutionary socialists always sacrifice the interests of united front allies for partisan purposes. In addition, some socialists scorn united fronts, refusing to join with pro-capitalist labor officials or politicians. Others put an antirevolutionary spin on the united front, seeing its culmination in parliamentary combinations or coalition governments with bourgeois forces. ..............(more)

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