Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Is the united front a 'right wing' strategy?
This is an extract from the SWP Left Platform's perspectives:
For Lenin and Trotsky the strategy of the united front was essential to advancing the interests of the working class. A united front unites broad layers of people around shared demands and simultaneously provides the conditions for the revolutionary party to flourish and grow.
The united front is therefore integral to revolutionary strategy, unless the party is so small or the objective situation is so adverse that no such broad unity is possible. But what happens when the revolutionary party stops pursuing a united front strategy?
The lack of such a strategy can lead to revolutionaries accommodating to political forces to their right. This is because the party has no effective mechanism for changing the balance of forces in favour of revolutionaries.
At the same time the party is also prone to sectarianism and reliance on party propaganda. This is for precisely the same reason: no effective lever to change reality exists, so propaganda is all that is left.
In reality these two errors often co-exist. When propaganda manifestly fails to alter the real balance of class forces, panic sets in. Revolutionaries then collapse into accepting unity on terms dictated by other forces in the class.
The alternative to this vacillation is a structured united front, with reformists, in which revolutionaries can provide political and strategic direction to the struggle. For the SWP in recent years, Stop the War has been the most successful example of this.
The absence of united front method produces vacillation. Revolutionaries alternate between bouts of sectarian party activity (and ‘party fronts’, consisting of members plus our immediate periphery) and adaptation to conditions created by larger or stronger forces. What is missing is a systematic approach to class unity - the united front - and consequently revolutionaries’capacity for shaping events.
To put it in Marxist terms, we need a dialectical unity of opposed principles. In this case it is the unity of building an independent vanguard party with the need for working class solidarity (irrespective of party affiliation or ideological differences)in the united front. In the absence of this dialectical unity we are left with two wrong but mutually reinforcing poles: sectarianism (or propagandism) and liquidationism (or adaptation).