Thoughts on the United Front
If we have to secure the Kuomintang’s consent beforehand for everything we do, what if the Kuomintang does not consent? Since the policy of the Kuomintang is to restrict our growth, there is no reason whatever for us to propose such a slogan, which simply binds us hand and foot. At present there are things for which we should secure prior consent from the Kuomintang, such as the expansion of our three divisions into three army corps — this is to report first and act afterwards. There are other things which the Kuomintang can be told after they have become accomplished facts, such as the expansion of our forces to over 200,000 men — this is to act first and report afterwards. There are also things, such as the convening of the Border Region assembly, which we shall do without reporting for the time being, knowing that the Kuomintang will not agree. There are still other things which, for the time being, we shall neither do nor report, for they are likely to jeopardize the whole situation. In short, we must not split the united front, but neither should we allow ourselves to be bound hand and foot, and hence the slogan of “everything through the united front” should not be put forward. If “everything must be submitted to the united front” is interpreted as “everything must be submitted to” Chiang Kai-shek and Yen Hsi-shan, then that slogan, too, is wrong. Our policy is one of independence and initiative within the united front, a policy both of unity and of independence. — Mao Zedong, The Question of Independence and Initiative Within the United Front
The concept of a United Front is probably one of the most neglected in contemporary Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizing. Yet, the actually existing terrain within the United States calls for the development of united fronts, not strategic/long term or of a nature which would require subsuming one’s Maoist organization or Maoist led mass organization into formations led by modern revisionists or Trotskyists, but united fronts of a tactical nature. Tactical united fronts can be organized in every city around a variety of issues, such as gentrification, Palestine/international solidarity work, food insecurity, police brutality, and other issues of day to day importance to the masses and mass activists. Using Palestine solidarity work as an example, it is imperative to unite as many people with an interest in seeing Palestine liberated as possible. Communists, anarchists, progressive clergy, community organizations, progressive veterans’ organizations, and others of that nature should be united around basic principles of unity that uphold the right of the Palestinian people to recover their land and struggle against Zionist genocide. In a united front, ground rules for relationships between organizations must be established (no poaching of other organizations’ members, no attempts at splitting, etc.) and diversity of tactics must be respected. Pacifists can participate in a united front only if they respect the tactics used by militants, furthermore, if they can be relied upon to not engage in snitching and pig-like activities. Anyone who cannot respect these principles, points of unity, or reserve their opinions on irrelevant questions to the tactical united front (for example, if you’re participating in a united front against police brutality or mass incarceration and a local PSL branch is a member, it is stupid to consistently try to goad them into debates about ‘actually existing socialism’ at meetings or demonstrations) can not participate in the United Front. Of course, struggle will appear, but it is important to not struggle in a destructive fashion or in a petty fashion that will harm the work or the masses.
There is much to be learned from the Filipino mass movement about the question of the United Front. Of course, the Philippines is a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country and a victim of US imperialism, but the principled way in which our Filipino comrades relate to each other bears close attention. We see various sectors of the community coming out, struggling and winning concrete gains and advancing the struggle for New Democracy and transformation of their country. A Maoist formation working on imperialist terrain, particularly in majority oppressed nationality communities, must first do a concrete SICA (Social Investigation and Class Analysis) to determine who in the community is advanced, intermediate, or backward. The temptation is to simply deal with those who are apt to chant “fuck the police”, and of course these elements are advanced and should be united. But many neglect the possibility of winning over the intermediate, who comprise the majority of the population, so that they too can chant “fuck the police”. It is one thing for someone of my age and class background to say fuck the police, it is another for a 50 year old minister to provide us safe haven when the cops start beating people and offering us space for free food programs, educational events, and offering us donations. When we get arrested, the solidarity that we get depends entirely on our prestige among the masses of our community, the activist community, and whether or not we have a reputation of behaving in a correct, principled fashion. If we have not acquired a positive reputation in the community, or, worse, have alienated ourselves from the masses and the community, and have neglected united front work in the interests of sectarian squabbling, who will take the time to come bail us out, see to it that our families are provided for, and that we are not being abused? Some will do it out of political principle, of course, but this isn’t good enough. If most of your support comes from outside your area than inside, you’ve made a mistake in your orientation and your work.
Finally, in construction of a United Front we must keep in mind that all of our work must be in the interests of the masses, not in the interests of a small circle of people or activists. Continuously seek to bring people into the united front, do not seek the limelight or personal prestige, and be patient. Your actions are greater propaganda than your flyers and words. When there is an event that you can show up to, whether it be an art build or a community gardening day or a trash pickup, show up regardless of who’s hosting it (provided they’re safe) and participate actively and without gripe or complaint. Donate to what you can, whether it be in terms of skills or monetary contributions. Build solidarity through practice. When debates or differences occur, hear both sides and take principled judgment based on concrete facts. Do not feel compelled to participate in clique or sect activity, this is toxic and drives people away from the movement. Isolate elements who have shown a propensity for threats, wanton violence, and attacks on other activists, and do not allow abusers of nonmen to remain among you. Adherence to these principles is a must for the construction of a successful united front and building of effective inter-organizational solidarity on the local level. Also, keep in mind that belonging to a united front does not entail subsuming one’s political line to that of another organization within the front, nor does it entail hiding one’s politics. Avoid right opportunism and failure to uphold the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but also be able to table/reserve opinions when necessary in the interests of building a broader mass movement and ensuring unity on tactical questions and actions.