I've written a short introduction to an important concept in left-wing political strategy: 'Socialists and the united front'
, now up at Counterfire. I've limited myself to the emergence of united front strategy in the years following the Russian Revolution of 1917, rather than attempting a sweeping history of its application over nearly a century.
My own little contribution was designed to accompany a very illuminating archive piece already on the site: The united front and the Comintern
by Duncan Hallas. My article hopefully provides the context needed to fully comprehend the landmark events Hallas wrote about.
It is also, however, prompted by a particular contemporary development: the emerging Coalition of Resistance
is, like most examples of united fronts since the mid-1920s, a small-scale operation (at least for now) compared with the socially convulsive movements of the Comintern era. It is, nevertheless, an example of tapping into a widespread desire for broad unity in the working class to develop an active coalition on the central political issue of our times.
For revolutionaries, like me, this means working with people who largely accept reformist ideas and solutions. Unfortunately we revolutionaries are much smaller in number than the major Communist movements of 90 years ago, but the principles remain the same.
The urgent priority for everyone now is to forge broad opposition to the savage cuts pursued by the ConDem coalition. It would be sectarian for revolutionaries to remain aloof from a project designed to increase co-ordination and effectiveness of our campaigning, or to limit themselves to their own established, narrow front operations.
It would also, though, be a mistake to simply tail-end larger forces, like the Labour Party or the TUC, in the misguided belief that such timidity and caution is a necessary part of unity. If we wait for them to act, we could be waiting a long time.
It is necessary for revolutionary socialists to work with others, typically on the political left, who also embrace the need for decisive action and a dynamic response - who are willing to show a little flair and initiative. Those who do not lead are destined to follow, lagging behind instead of shaping events.
For Lenin and Trotsky there was, as Duncan Hallas explained, a simultaneous need to build revolutionary organisation, and expand the influence of radical anti-capitalist ideas articulating opposition to the system as a whole and advocating socialist alternatives. It isn't a choice between broad campaigns or socialist argument - instead, the 'battle of ideas' takes place in the context of developing activism and resistance with people influenced by reformist ideas.
This remains true today. The growing opposition to austerity will provide revolutionary socialists, in organisations like Counterfire, opportunities to unite with others in common struggle - and, at one and the same time, creates an audience for discussions about how we abolish economic crisis, inequality and injustice once and for all.