[Marxism] Re: United Fronts (was Falluja and Marxmail)

ilyenkova at netzero.com ilyenkova at netzero.com
Fri Dec 24 14:11:33 MST 2004

 Mark Lause wrote:
 >to return to the question of a united front, the very idea of a
 strike represents a united front at the most basic level.  Regardless of
 all their many differences, workers combine their efforts to promote
 what they see as their common interest in winning the goals of a strike.
 The idea of a united front is implicit in the concept of a revolutionary
 general strike, which is discussed in the Chartist and National Reform
 movements of the nineteenth century.<

 Mark is correct to point to the 19th C. Chartist movement as an 
implicit form of the united front. The conventional strike expresses the 
united front but in a very rudimentary way in so far as the strike is 
limited to trade union demands and remains the province of a single 
union or local. Conversely, the Knights of Labor's use of the classwide 
united front as a basic strategy is detailed by Richard Oestereicher in 
his study of the K of L in Detroit where the Knights brought the 
employers to their knees with a continually expanding strike that used 
the consumer boycott, secondary boycotts and even tertiary boycotts!! 
(BTW Rosa L. in The Mass Strike, the Party and The Trade Unions, also 
pointed to the Chartists as the first to employ the tactic in a 
strategic way). Those who argue that the concept has little usefulness 
in a period of deep labor quiecence obviously have a point. Luxemburg 
herself introduced the concept in the context of the long strike wave of 
1896 to1905 culminating in the Petrograd soviets of 1905.

 Others point correctly to the mass struggles of the 30s at Toledo, 
Minneapolis, San Francisco, Flint etc as concrete examples of the united 
front as a class front and not simply an elementary tactic. In each of 
the mass strikes of the 30s, non-strikers were essential to victory, 
evidence the role of the Unemployed League in Toledo in 1933; the 
sympathy strikes by construction workers in Minnealoplis; and, support 
stoppages by the Seamen, among others in San Francisco. My own opinion 
is that Cannon brought to the young Trotskyist movement an intuitive 
understanding of the classwide united front from his IWW days. But his 
bloc in the 1920s CP with Foster to form the Party's *proletarian 
kernal* expressed his affinity for Zinovievism and trade unionist burrowing.

 Closer to home, Andy P. points to the SWP in its 1968-73 antiwar work 
as using the concept in its calls for mass, democratic organizing 
conferences at the national level under NPAC. We motivated these 
conferences as all inclusive and democratic not simply as a tactic, but 
because we believed that the process of open and vigorous debate was the 
best way to deepen and broaden the movement.

 Recently, the So. California grocery strike showed us clearly the 
results of not strategizing this way when the UFCW tops pulled union 
pickets from the wharehouses. On the other hand we saw in that strike 
incipient moves from the ranks in the right direction in mobilizing 
community support, and from young leftists who organized shop-ins to 
disrupt the flow of goods inside the stores.

 On campuses the invocation of the united front principle in a raw form 
held many a coalition of leftists and liberal students together. 

 The MWM also was an embryonic expression of the front as a classwide 
organizing strategy in that the action's call was to all workers, 
although it focused primarily on mobilizing organized workers.

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