Image from United World International
Lenin and the Panthers taught us the same lesson: that forming a united front, where the communists who are most correct in their analysis join with other ideological elements on the basis of shared desire to advance a key issue in the class struggle, is a crucial part of winning proletarian power. For the Bolsheviks, as illustrated by Lenin’s Should revolutionaries work in reactionary trade unions, this key issue which communists needed to make alliances over was evidently trade unionism. For the Panthers, as illustrated by their forming ties to certain reactionary whites via the Rainbow Coalition, the key issue was labor organizing in a broader sense.
As Young Patriots member Hy Thurman has recalled about how his org’s involvement in the alliance both advanced the class struggle, and got him and his circle to overcome their racist ideas:
In the Young Patriots our goal was to organize white people, that’s the role we had sort of taken and been given in the Rainbow Coalition. And back then we made the statement, “Go and organize your own.” You know, we don’t need you in Berkeley and other places trying to organize us. We’ll do it ourselves. So you go in your own neighborhood because that’s where the racism exists—and you have to understand that we were racist. I mean, we were raised in racism. It was indoctrinated in us. We were raised racist, but we were becoming antiracist because we began to see what was happening during the Civil Rights Movement. And we began to learn about stuff like Blair Mountain and about the Highlander Center in Tennessee and Miles Horton and the Bradens and those folks. And these were things we were curious about. But yet we still had that identity of a southern person. A hillbilly. You know? We didn’t use it in a condescending way. The term hillbilly was derogatory for some, but it was a part of our identity. We challenged those people who tried to use it in a bad way.
For those of us in the modern USA to be able to get the workers movement back to that point it was at decades agp, where labor power represented a serious threat to the ruling class, we have to build a united front around our moment’s most pivotal issue: the fight against U.S. hegemony. To make communism mainstream again, and turn our extreme class contradictions into an opportunity for defeating the capitalist state, we’ll first need to sufficiently combat NATO’s psyops. Which means unifying the forces that share the goal of building an antiwar movement that’s genuinely and totally independent from the Democratic Party.
Because of the longtime absence of an antiwar or labor movement that’s not been captured by the Democrats, serious class struggle hasn’t existed in this country for a long time either. Class struggle has only been spontaneous mobilizations of workers who are pushed to strike, without a vanguard party being there to make this activity organized and infused with revolutionary mass education. And the small communist parties that do exist in this country, and that have been trying to take advantage of the recent spontaneous worker outrages by growing their numbers, represent a kind of faux-vanguard industrial complex that exists to tail the Democrats.
The way these opportunist groups have been able to divert and diffuse radical sentiments is through the continued normalization of pro-imperialist narratives within radical spaces. Through a culture that makes it seem acceptable for “radicals” to repeat the State Department’s psyops about China, Russia, and other U.S. target countries.
When somebody’s priority is to draw recruits and online followers from these imperialism-compatible radicals, they naturally adopt an apathetic attitude towards the international struggle. They feel that those within “left” spaces are necessarily the most advanced element of the people and the most compatible with Marxism, so they’re dis-incentivized from challenging this circle’s NATO-accommodating belief systems. There is an option other than this cowardly appeasement of bad actors who fundamentally don’t care about the class struggle. This option is to build the anti-NATO united front.
This front doesn’t just give those within it who presently have reactionary sentiments an opportunity to get exposed to better ideas. It also enables us to build a relationship with the people. And it’s not only one option for doing this out of many; the united front is our sole way to reach the people. Think about it strategically: what other way can we realistically bring the anti-imperialist perspective to the majority of society, than by utilizing the platforms that the other elements of the anti-NATO movement have? If you want to promote anti-imperialism while cutting yourself off from everybody within the anti-NATO movement who doesn’t presently share your views on domestic issues, I know you won’t succeed at reaching any more minds outside of a niche. Because I went by this strategy for years, and it wasn’t until I gave up my ingrained phobias about joining with other kinds of anti-imperialists that I could truly come to represent a threat to our ruling institutions. So will be the case in your experiences as a political actor.
When Lenin talked about the folly of the “left” revolutionaries who believed they could defeat the state while isolating themselves from all the other sections of trade unionism, he was illustrating the same lesson today’s equivalents of those purity fetishists need to learn. Just like how the purist socialists of Lenin’s time couldn’t build an ideologically “pure” version of the labor movement while gaining a following that existed beyond a niche, our purist socialists willingly handicap themselves by only building ties with those deemed “acceptable” within left online circles. These “acceptable” individuals and groups lack the platforms, as well as the independence from the Democratic Party, to be able to genuinely threaten NATO. Why is Rage Against the War Machine the project that got attacked by the corporate media, as opposed to PSL’s ANSWER rally which could operate without such institutional opposition?
It’s because our ruling institutions view an antiwar coalition which functions independently from liberal reformism as infinitely more threatening than one that’s invested in tailing liberals. As well as more threatening than one whose organizers seek to operate entirely on their own, and to build a whole new movement out of nothing.
A liberal tailist antiwar project by definition is not truly “antiwar,” because its priority is not to destroy the liberal cultural hegemony that maintains U.S. imperialism. Its priority is to bring in enough liberals to be able to build something that passes for a serious “socialist” org, with no intention of challenging the anti-Russian views that these liberals hold. If these liberal tailist orgs oppose NATO’s psyops in such a serious way, their ability to draw from the left wing of the labor aristocracy will be jeopardized.
That’s the mentality which guides the entities on the left that are seeking to discredit the idea of an anti-NATO united front: an opportunistic fear of alienating a minority of comfortable people who aren’t compatible with revolutionary politics. The united front is guided by the mentality that we need to build a relationship not with the privileged minority, but with the economically struggling majority. Which requires allying with the political forces that don’t act to reinforce the Democratic Party’s dominance. This will come at the cost of alienating the political forces which do have that role. Yet after one has seen the examples of revolutionaries who’ve had to disregard the opinions of the liberal tailists in order to reach the people, it becomes apparent that alienating these tailists is a good thing. We don’t need them on our side, we need the people on our side.
By Rainer Shea