By Ali Forte
Following the October Revolution, the victorious Bolshevik party’ united with the Mensheviks and the revolutionary elements of the SR party (or the left SRs), as well as anarchists and formed a united government, but before this, the parties had been united against the reactionary and Tsarist forces of the white army. The united front allowed for the greater unification of proletarians and farmers throughout Russia and allowed for the revolutionary forces to represent a much larger portion of the proletarian class than would otherwise have been possible. The Bolsheviks were able to use this post-revolution united front to establish themselves as the leading party of the worker and to gain a majority in many of the major soviets, thus cementing their place as the vanguard of the workers of the world. From this, we learn the power of the working class, if united and despite not representing a majority in such a united front spreads their message so long as the material conditions are such that the reformist members may consider a more revolutionary and scientific approach to governance.
Following the Russian Civil War, and the firm establishment of the powers of the Soviet Union, the 3rd Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) was formed. It is helpful to look at the policies concerning the establishment of socialism outside the USSR in four periods. In the first period, the ‘export of revolution’ to other countries was considered the overarching goal of communists, calling for what would later be understood by the theories of popular and united fronts, such as the one between the CPC and KMT in revolutionary china. In the second period, the world revolutionary tide had died down and the Soviet Union pivoted its policy under the direction of Comrade Stalin to building socialism in the USSR, to establish her as the stronghold of world socialism. In the third period, it appeared that the contradictions of capitalism had reached such a point that another revolutionary period was inevitable, and it was decided that the communists of the world should push forward for revolution under just the banner of communism. This was because of the betrayal of communist forces by the petit-bourgeois elements of many of the popular fronts (see: the betrayal of the CPC by KMT forces). The fourth period of the Comintern called for a popular front for the first time, by name, against the racist powers that had seized power across Europe. From these periods we may learn several things for our modern fight, and perhaps find a few criticisms of the decisions of the Comintern throughout this time, aided by the power of hindsight, such that we may grow past these mistakes and more effectively wage our struggle. Perhaps the most poignant of these criticisms are the attempts by the Comintern to force the revolution and purge moderate left elements of groups, such that the social fascists in Germany sided even more strongly than perhaps they otherwise would have with the fascists in Germany. We learned that the bourgeoisie can make allies, but to keep their leaders at an arm’s length, and to embrace the workers of these parties for their potential for revolutionary activity remains in a way that the bourgeois members do not retain.
We should look at Dimitrov’s instructions to communists in the United States because many of the circumstances he references we can see happening again today. He says: “There [The united states] millions of people have been set into motion by the crisis. The program for the recovery of capitalism has collapsed. Vast masses are beginning to abandon the bourgeois parties and are at present at the crossroads.” And just as in the period following the Great Depression, millions of Americans are out of work, struggling financially, and are looking for solutions. Comrade Dimitrov goes on to say that in America, fascism presents itself in a different way to the wave of Fascism that had arisen in Europe, it presented itself as an opposition to fascism, embracing the constitution and portraying that European strain as some travesty imported from abroad. Comrade Dimitrov tells us that the failure to stop fascism in America would be catastrophic and shift the entire dynamic of world politics. It is because of that grave danger that he outlines a rather different set of instructions for America than the rest of the imperialist powers of the world and says that a people’s front more than a united front is needed. To use his words: “Under these circumstances, can the American proletariat content itself with organizing only its class-conscious vanguard, which is prepared to follow the revolutionary path? No.
It is perfectly obvious that the interests of the American proletariat demand that all its forces dissociate themselves from the capitalist parties without delay. It must find in good time ways and suitable forms to prevent fascism from winning over the wide mass of discontented working people. And here it must be said that under American conditions the creation of a mass party of working people, a “Workers’ and Farmers’ Party,” might serve as such a suitable form. Such a party would be a specific form of the mass People’s Front in America and should be put in opposition to the parties of the trusts and the banks, and likewise to growing fascism. Such a party, of course, will be neither Socialist nor Communist. But it must be an anti-fascist party and must not be an anti-Communist Party.”
To take the history that we have learned over these past few weeks, and the history of both the revolution and civil wars, and apply them to the conditions that we face today, we find the need for a United Front against a new rising tide of fascism may become a necessity, should outright violence or unrest occur in the near future. If the necessity arises for that popular front we must, as Dimitrov says, combat the reactionary opportunists of the liberal parties in their attempts to frame themselves as the core of said front. We must fight against sectarianism and attempts to lessen our policy in such a front. What may well be immediately needed, however, is a united front of what scattered workers parties exist across the united states, both to spread our message and class consciousness, and to solidify any base of power that the workers might have in such a popular front with the anti-fascist elements of the bourgeoisie.
In the reading, comrade Dimitrov stated five principles with which worker party unity could be achieved:
“This unification is possible only:
First, on condition of complete independence from the bourgeoisie and complete rupture of the bloc of Social-Democracy with the bourgeoisie;
Second, on condition that unity of action be first brought about;
Third, on condition that the necessity of the revolutionary overthrow of the rule of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of Soviets be recognized;
Fourth, on condition that support of one’s own bourgeoisie in imperialist war be rejected;
Fifth, on condition that the party be constructed on the basis of democratic centralism, which ensures unity of will and action, and which has been tested by the experience of the Russian Bolsheviks.
We must explain to the Social-Democratic workers, patiently and in comradely fashion, why political unity of the working class is impossible without these conditions. We must discuss together with them the sense and significance of these conditions.“
We can analyze these points one by one to find ways to apply them to our modern struggle. The first point is explained by Comrade Dimitrov as such “Because the whole experience of the labor movement, particularly the experience of the fifteen years of coalition policy in Germany, has shown that the policy of class collaboration, the policy of dependence on the bourgeoisie, leads to the defeat of the working class and to the victory of fascism. And only the road of irreconcilable class struggle against the bourgeoisie, the road of the Bolsheviks, is the true road to victory.”
[Teaching us that we cannot expect the bourgeoisie to be a permanent and steadfast ally against fascism, as their own material interests do not inherently put them against fascism. The workers must struggle against the bourgeoisie and through that struggle against fascism. ]
The second point is explained as “Because unity of action to repel the offensive of capital and of fascism is possible and necessary even before the majority of the workers are united on a common political platform for the overthrow of capitalism, while the working out of unity of views on the main lines and aims of the struggle of the proletariat, without which a unification of the parties is impossible, requires a more or less extended period of time. And unity of views is worked out best of all in joint struggle against the class enemy even today. To propose to unite at once instead of forming a united front means to place the cart before the horse and to imagine that the cart will then move ahead. Precisely for the reason that for us the question of political unity is not a maneuver, as it is for many Social-Democratic leaders, we insist on the realization of unity of action as one of the most important stages in the struggle for political unity.”
[From this we learn we do not have to work directly with or join with the social democrats or other liberal members of the front but instead work in the same direction. We are not ‘with’ the bourgeoise elements of the social democratic parties, but instead we are both against fascism and it is through that unity of action through which we will wage our fights. We march separate, but in step, just as it was said before the revolution. ]
The third point is: Because the experience of the victory of the great October Revolution on the one hand, and, on the other, the bitter lessons learned in Germany, Austria and Spain during the entire post-war period, have confirmed once more that the victory of the proletariat is possible only by means of the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie, and that the bourgeoisie would rather drown the labor movement in a sea of blood than allow the proletariat to establish socialism by peaceful means. The experience of the October Revolution has demonstrated patently that the basic content of the proletarian revolution is the question of the proletarian dictatorship, which is called upon to crush the resistance of the overthrown exploiters, to arm the revolution for the struggle against imperialism and to lead the revolution to the complete victory of socialism. To achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat as the dictatorship of the vast majority over an insignificant minority, over the exploiters – and only as such can it be brought about – for this Soviets are needed embracing all sections of the working class, the basic masses of the peasantry and the rest of the toilers, without whose awakening, without whose inclusion in the front of the revolutionary struggle, the victory of the proletariat cannot be consolidated.”
[This point is very simply understood, as it is a belief core to the Marxist understanding of history, the bourgeois will never relinquish power through means other than force, we cannot reform the bourgeoisie from power. It is only through revolution that we can establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. To hold any other position as a workers party would be to work against our own interests.]
The explanation for the fourth: “Because the bourgeoisie wages imperialist war for its predatory purposes, against the interests of the vast majority of the peoples, under whatever guise this war may be waged. Because all imperialists combine their feverish preparations for war with extremely intensified exploitation and oppression of the working people in their own country. Support of the bourgeoisie in such a war means treason to the country and the international working class.”
[the proletariat of any other nation are not our enemy; they are our comrades in the same struggle against the oppressive forces of capitalism as we are. The enemy is the bourgeoisie and it is the bourgeoisie who benefits from imperialist wars.]
The explication for the fifth and final point: “Because only a party built on the basis of democratic centralism can ensure unity of will and action, can lead the proletariat to victory over the bourgeoisie, which has at its disposal so powerful a weapon as the centralized state apparatus. The application of the principle of democratic centralism has stood the splendid historical test of the experience of the Russian Bolshevik Party, the Party of Lenin and Stalin.”
[This point is rather self-explanatory, the worker’s party should be organized in Democratic Centralism, as it forms the system of soviet governance.]
To close, after seeing both the need for a united or perhaps even popular front in the near future, and the conditions for such an alliance with both other parties, we should look at Dimitrov’s writings found under “A correct line is not enough” In which he says that merely shouting the slogans of the party from the rooftops does not do the work that must be done. Once the line is decided and the action is to be made all parts of the organization must work in sync to execute it to its fullest extent. He, and therefore I, will quote comrade Stalin on this matter. “Another condition is the ability to convert decisions of the Communist International and its sections into decisions of the widest masses themselves. This is all the more necessary now when we are faced with the task of organizing a united front of the proletariat and drawing very wide masses of the people into an anti-fascist People’s Front. The political and tactical genius of Lenin and Stalin stands out most clearly and vividly in their masterly ability to get the masses to understand the correct line and the slogans of the Party through their own experience. If we trace the history of Bolshevism, that greatest of treasure houses of the political strategy and tactics of the revolutionary labor movement, we can see for ourselves that the Bolsheviks never substituted methods of leading the Party for methods of leading the masses.”
We must speak to our fellow workers in a way that they understand, teach them the lessons of the party not in jargon or slogans but in a way that speaks to them and the material conditions that they experience. The American worker is downtrodden and tired, but strong. If they awaken and unite together the new tide of Fascism will surely be defeated.