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(also, workers’ united front), a political policy aimed at achieving the unity of the working class in struggling for the direct and immediate demands of workers and for the ultimate goals of the revolutionary movement among them. It presupposes unity of action among various party, youth, women’s, and trade union and other labor organizations for a limited or prolonged period, around all issues or only particular ones, and on a local, national, or international level. The basis of the united front is the fact that the proletarian masses all have the same fundamental class interests. The most consistent forces in militant united fronts are the revolutionary Marxist parties of the proletariat.
The founders of scientific communism, K. Marx and F. Engels, regarded the unification of the working class within national boundaries, as well as on the international scale, as the most important precondition for the successful fulfillment of its historical tasks. The tactical line pursued by Marx in the First International was aimed at closing the ranks of the working class, including those layers that were influenced by various petit bourgeois socialist tendencies. At the same time Marx pursued a policy of exposing the splinter groups in the workers’ movement. This policy line assured the ideological victory of Marxism within the international workers’ movement.
After World War I and the Great October Socialist Revolution a new situation developed within the international labor movement. The right-wing leaders of the Second International, who had supported their own imperialist governments from the beginning of the war, betrayed the interests of the proletariat. Supporters of the revolutionary tendency within the international labor movement created the Communist International, which became the unifying center for the world communist movement. Under these conditions the elaboration of united-front tactics—as a means of overcoming the division in the working class by means consistent with Marxist principles—became one of the most urgent tasks of the Comintern. The principles of the united front, which envisaged united action by workers of various political tendencies, were worked out by Lenin and further elaborated in a thorough manner, on the basis of the decisions of the Third Congress of the Comintern, in the expanded theses adopted at the December 1921 session of the Presidium of the Comintern Executive Committee. Problems of the united front were given further consideration at the Fourth Congress of the Comintern. With the aim of bringing broad masses of workers together in a united front, the congress projected the demand for a “workers’ government” (later expanded into the demand for a “workers’ and peasants’ government”), and pointed to the necessity of struggling for unity in the trade union movement.
In the 1920’s the Communist parties in France, Germany, Bulgaria, and elsewhere tried to achieve unity in action for the working class and all working people in the course of the revolutionary struggle. However, the refusal of the right-wing socialist leaders to accept unity in action prevented any notable successes from being achieved for a number of years. In addition, certain sectarian errors committed at that time by the Communists, for example, characterizing Social Democracy as a variety of fascism, weakened the effectiveness of efforts to struggle for a united front.
In the 1930’s, with fascism on the offensive, the unity of the working class became the most essential requirement for the antifascist struggle. This was proven by the first successes in building united fronts and even broader alliances of democratic forces in Spain, France, and Austria. The experience thus acquired was generalized in the resolutions of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, which were oriented toward uniting within the ranks of the Popular Front all the forces opposed to war and fascism. The basis for this kind of unification was the workers’ united front. “In the face of the grave danger of fascism,” said a resolution of the congress, “the establishment of a united combat front of the working class represents at the present historical stage the chief immediate task of the international workers’ movement” (Resoliutsii VII Vsemirnogo kongressa Kommunisticheskogo Internatsionala, Moscow, 1935, p. 13).
On the basis of the workers’ united front and the popular front, significant gains were achieved in the 1930’s in a number of countries—for example, Spain, France, China, and Chile. Application of the tactics of the workers’ united front and popular front made it possible for the French people to prevent fascism from coming to power. However, primarily through the fault of the right-wing Social Democratic leaders, the united fronts failed to stay together in Germany, Poland, and Bulgaria. Anticommunist elements in the socialist parties of countries such as France and Spain undermined the united front, and it was never established on an international scale. The split in the ranks of the working class caused by the reformist Social Democratic leaders paved the way for the imperialists to unleash World War II.
During World War II and in the postwar period the creation of workers’ united fronts achieved a broad unification of the democratic and antifascist forces in a number of countries. The united front helped the national-democratic and socialist revolutions to achieve victory in several countries of Europe and Asia. The desire of the working class to solidify its own ranks and to make alliances with all forces capable of struggling against reaction and the threat of war was also expressed in the founding of the number of international mass organizations, such as the World Federation of Trade Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, the International Democratic Federation of Women, and the peace movement, which developed throughout the world.
The Twentieth, Twenty-second, Twenty-third, and Twenty-fourth Congresses of the CPSU, as well as the congresses of other Marxist-Leninist parties and the international conferences of Communist and workers’ parties (Moscow, 1957, 1960, 1969) especially emphasized the importance of the struggle for unity of action by the working class, the toiling people, and the democratic forces in all countries and outlined a specific program for such struggle.
However, the right-wing leaders of the Social Democratic parties, the reformist leadership of the Socialist International, and the reformist trade union leaders do not always show readiness to organize joint action with the Communists. The anticommunist policies followed by many of them facilitate the reactionary and militaristic line of the imperialist bourgeoisie. Manifestations of revisionism, dogmatism, and sectarianism in the communist movement also do great harm to the cause of unity in action. The line of Mao Tse-tung and his group in China is oriented toward splitting the international workers’ movement.
Objective conditions urgently dictate that the masses of working people must have unity in action. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s the workers of such capitalist countries as Italy, France, Spain, and Belgium, regardless of party or trade union affiliation, frequently participated in joint actions, such as strikes and demonstrations, that were intended to counter the capitalist offensive upon their living standards and democratic rights and to oppose US intervention in Indochina and militarism and war in general. Contacts between workers’ parties and union organizations of various tendencies began to be established at many different levels. In France the strengthening of contacts between Communists and Socialists was expressed in the elaboration, with left radicals, of a joint program for the parliamentary elections in 1973 and the putting forward for the 1974 presidential election of a common candidate of the left-wing forces who received nearly half of the votes cast. In Chile the strengthening of the workers’ united front was the most important factor in the 1969 formation of the Popular Unity electoral bloc and in its success in the September 1970 elections; its activities enriched the popular masses with very valuable political experience in their struggle against the reactionary forces, which gained a temporary foothold in September 1973. The idea of the workers’ united front as the basis for an alliance of all antimonopoly forces is constantly winning more adherents in the working class.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. “Opportunizm i krakh II Internatsionala.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. l.Detskaia bolezn ‘levizny’ v kommunizme. Ibid., vol. 41.
Lenin, V. I. “Ill Kongress Kommunisticheskogo Internatsionala, 22 iiunia—12 iiulia 1921 g.” Ibid., vol. 44.
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V. V. ALEKSANDROV