On the Need for a Socialist United Front,
For Both Electoral and Non-Electoral Work
"Workers Advocate", Newspaper of the "Workers Communist Organization" - January 2014
This is a time when conditions for the working class, oppressed nationalities and other working people are not improving, where there is a recovery for the profits of the millionaires and billionaires, but when practically the only jobs opening up are minimum wage jobs. While some among the masses still have faith in a Democrat like de Blasio (or on a national level Obama), this has to be put in the context of an election where less than 25% of those registered bothered to vote. The 75% who did not vote were mainly those disgusted with the political system, but this does not at all mean that they see a clear political alternative, much less a clear socialist one. Meanwhile, the left, split into a dozen or more political groups, has little influence among these masses, who do not see any clear difference between these groups. This is why we see this as the time to put forward the need for a socialist united front.
Before people from the different left groups cry: “What, you want us to dissolve in some broad front?”, we want to make clear that we are not asking any of these groups to dissolve. We are simply asking them to agree to work together on issues on which they have basic agreement.
For example, we know that the movement among fast-food workers is led by unions and other organizations that have strong ties with the Democratic Party, and that the influence of the left groups among them is negligible. But if we had a socialist united front, we could have the forces to at least broadly distribute a flyer that would link the growth of service work and the low minimum wage to the crisis of capitalism, and possibly even to force those controlling the rallies to allow a socialist speaker.
At this point, polls show that some 33% of young people in the U.S. prefer socialism to capitalism (37% prefer capitalism and 30% are not sure). But these people are not organized around any political party, nor are they likely to organize around one in the near future. But one might get a certain number of these to work around a socialist front, particularly if it was built among rank and file workers, oppressed nationalities and students, and not mainly made up of members of existing left groups.
Take the situation in Seattle, WA, where an avowed socialist, Kshama Sawant, won a city-wide seat in the City Council in last November’s election. This does not mean that the majority of voters in Seattle supported the political positions of the Socialist Alternative organization, whose candidate she was, but that they saw someone who called herself a socialist, and moreover spoke up for the workers’ immediate interests (as when she spoke to Boeing workers rallying to reject contract concessions, calling on them to occupy their plant), as representing them. (It also does not mean that scientific socialists should not also criticize her understanding of what socialism is, as we ourselves would do in another context.) Could not this situation be repeated in many other cities throughout the country?
We are not talking only (or even mainly) of an electoral bloc. We are talking of a group that could come to the aid of workers’ struggles (as the Stella D’Oro Strike Support Committee did), that could mobilize forces, particularly in oppressed nationality communities, against police brutality, that could bring people together against U.S. imperialist wars (as UNAC, the United National Anti-War Coalition, has done to an extent), that could oppose and expose the “national security” espionage apparatus and the pursuit of whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and all the anti-democratic and proto-fascist maneuvers of the so-called “war on terror.”
Of course, such a united front would also take part in elections, as an alternative to the twin parties of capitalism, the Democrats and Republicans (what some call the Republicrats). It could run candidates for, say, City Council or House of Representatives, all of whose members are up for election in 2014. (A House race has the advantage of being able to raise national, and not just local, issues.) To our mind, the best way to work around elections would be to gather together interested groups, mass organizations as well as left groups, and individuals, draw up a program that speaks to the issues, and then select a candidate, preferably someone who is known in the community as a fighter around these issues, not to first select a candidate and then write up a program.
One of the main arguments against a left candidate is that he or she will take away votes from the Democrats and give the election to the Republicans, But in New York (and probably in a lot of other places) there are a lot of districts, whether in Harlem, the Upper West Side, the South Bronx or Central Brooklyn, where the Democrats get over 90% of the vote. In such districts it is mathematically impossible for a left, socialist candidate to give the election to the Republicans, since at worst (or best) they could split the vote 45% left, 45% Democrat and 10% Republican. This was the same point Lenin made regarding elections to the Duma (advisory parliament) under the tsar in 1907 (see “How to Vote in the St. Petersburg Elections”, at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1907/jan/25c.htm).
Such a united front could be the task of a Labor Party. But the Labor Party that was formed in 1996 refused to take up these questions and finally withered away into oblivion.
Such a united front organization is also not a substitute for a genuine Communist Party based on scientific socialism, Marxism-Leninism, which we and others are trying to build. But it could be an important tactical vehicle that would begin to wean the working masses and other progressive forces away from the twin parties of capital and towards socialism!
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