Anti-United Front Policy Plays into Hands
of Socialist Party Bureaucrats

(March 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 15, 3 March 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The conference on unemployment held under the auspices of the “Labor Committee” of the Socialist party of New York last week, offers a number of aspects deserving of examination.

The brutal attacks of the socialist gangsters upon the Left wing delegates who came to present their credentials, the atmosphere of terrorism which pervaded the whole session, are a natural accompaniment of Socialist bureaucratism – weapons borrowed from the class enemy and first introduced by the Right wing into the labor movement in the days when the Left wing first raised the banner of internationalism during and after the war. The socialist patrons, allies and brothers of the Lewises, Schlesingers, Kaufmans and their ilk in the labor movement, revealed at this conference how seriously are to be taken their piously hypocritical protestations against violence and their preachments of the pacific methods of “democracy”.

Socialist “United Fronts”

The fervid claims that they are against the splitting of the labor movement and for the “united front”, did not stand up so well in the conference. The united front of the socialist bureaucracy is directed against the Left wing, which they fear and hate, from whose militancy and boldness in putting all questions from the class standpoint, they recoil right into the arms of the worst reactionaries in the labor movement or into the embraces of the petty bourgeois liberal politicians. Confronted with the choice between the “united front” with Wm. Green and his kin and the united front with the Left wing and Communist movement, the socialist bureaucrats will always choose the former – unless the Communists are able to arouse the socialist rank and file to force their party and their party leadership to a reluctant choice of the latter. Confronted with a choice between relying upon treacherous and servile attempts to ingratiate themselves with the bourgeois politicians, upon preserving a saccharine respectability, of hush-hushing the mass movement – and relying upon the organized proletarian movement and its militant mass action, its demonstrative pressure, the socialist fakers will always choose the former again unless their rank and file is afforded the possibility of choosing the alternative of a united front with the Left wing.

This brings us to the question of the tactics which the official Communist party leadership pursued. In the Left wing conference for Unemployment Insurance, the representatives of the Communist League of America (Opposition) proposed that the conference shall make a direct appeal to the S.P. conference for a united front of both movements, for the merger of all the organizations represented by the two conferences so that the action of the New York workers for this specific goal might be successfully coordinated. Towards this end, our comrades proposed that the Left wing send a delegation to the S.P. conference (and call upon its affiliated bodies to do likewise) for the purpose of challenging the Right wing leaders in their own citadel, so to speak. That is, the Left wing delegates should have been represent at the Rand School conference to demand of its organizers and patrons that they declare themselves publicly on the question of a genuine united front. Had the Left wing adopted our proposal, and at the same time carried on an agitation among the socialist and reformist workers in the ranks for this united front offer, it would not only have strengthened its position immeasurably, but would have been able to mobilize a movement among the socialist rank and file demanding of their leaders that favorable action be taken on the Left wing proposal.

Stalinist Blundering

As it was, the official Left wing decided on a policy which could not but yield the outcome that it did. It decided to go to the socialist conference with the ultimatist demand that the delegates denounce the organizers of the conference and follow the lead of the Communists, that is, of the Left wing unemployment conference. With such a policy, the S.P. leaders were easily able to strengthen their bonds with their following and weaken any sympathy that the latter might have for the Left wing. The Left wing was put in the position of claiming that its conference alone was “legal”, so to speak, that it alone was entitled to the monopoly of leadership – which everybody must acknowledge in advance and on its say-so. Instead of gaining the indispensably necessary support of the socialist and reformist workers, the Left wing succeeded only in isolating itself by alienating the latter.

Not merely this is of importance, but another circumstance, which does not, it is true, conflict with the other. The socialist workers – to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands and millions of unemployed – are not interested primarily (most of them are not interested in it at all, as yet) in whether or not the Communists have or fight for the leadership of the unemployed movement. What they are interested in is to set in motion a genuine united movement, powerful enough to extract some immediate concessions from the plutocracy and its government. They look with a certain suspicion upon those who, to their minds, seek to “exploit” the unemployed and their struggles for purely “party” reasons. The policy pursued by the party – “our leadership” or nothing! “our conference” or no united front at all! – only strengthens these suspicions in the minds of the mass. There is not, in our view, the slightest necessary conflict between building the strongest and widest possible movement of the masses, and establishing the claim of the Communists to leadership of this movement. Quite the contrary. The Communists, by demonstrating in practise and in the simplest, most understandable, least ambiguous way that they have no interests separate and apart from the interests of the class as a whole, will gain the support of the masses not only for the movement in general, but for revolutionary leadership within it in particular. That is what the united front intelligently understood and correctly practised, signifies, in essence. The Stalinist rejection of the united front and their substitution for it of the ultimatist “united front from below”, has brought it to its present position in the unemployed movement, and more specifically, it led directly to the inexcusable blunder made with relation to the socialist conference.

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