The United Front

Michael Moore said recently in the context of the Flint water crisis that the auto workers sit-down strikes in 1936-37 in Flint created the middle class. Out of the Flint stikes came the CIO, which immeasurable empowered workers in their fight for a living wage.
An interestingly ironic corollary to this notion is that this strike and thereby the development of the middle class was led by the Communist Party USA, and some allied groups such as the Socialist Party, the Socialist Worker’s Party, the IWW, and the League for Industrial Democracy (which founded SDS).  Of these, the Communist Party was the largest.
Now back in the sixties, we used to call the CP “revisionist” for its abandoning the goal of revolution. I hung with the Maoists and post-Maoists back in the day. But looking back now, before Sen. Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover launched a scorched earth attack on Communists, the CP was one of the most powerful and effective reform organizations in the country. The early founders of the CIO, the UAW, the United Steel Workers, and the United Mine Workers were the first integrated unions – or even organizations of any kind – in the country. The CPs campaign around the lynching of Emmet Till was a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King himself was trained at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which if not run by CP members, was certainly CP influenced. The CPs support of the Black Panther Party kept them relevant through the 60s and 70s, despite their diminished capacity thanks to the virulent anticommunism.
A wonderful account of the CP in the 40s and 50s is Jessica Mitford’s “A Fine Old Conflict.” She tells her story with great humor and humanity.
Of course there were many things wrong with the CPUSA. It’s disparaging democracy both externally and internally disabled them from understanding the current situation, just as it did in the Soviet Union. The CPs slavishness to the USSR in foreign policy – the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Hungary – were disastrous. But we need to appreciate their legacy.
One of the most effective tools in that legacy is the United Front strategy. In organizing the CIO for example, the CP united with Socialists and Democrats. In getting antilynching laws on the books the CP united with the ACLU and a number of liberal organizations which later failed to come to their defense.

In the next phase of the Sanders movement, we need to artfully apply the United Front strategy to the biggest threat to people of color in recent memory, Donald Trump. We need to unite with Black and Latino people to nip this racist demagogue in the bud. We need to abort his candidacy now. If it means temporarily uniting with the Clintons – in the unlikely event that she wins the nomination – we should do so. If we can have a tacit alliance with Assad and Putin in order to defeat ISIS, we can take over the Democratic Party and force Clinton to play along. To do otherwise, to withhold our support for her if she wins the nomination will – whether true or not – be seen as helping Trump, isolating us from the Black and Latino movements, derailing our revolutionary movement. Developing a united front against Trump is the only way forward. Now if the disgruntled Republicans should mount a third party bid, we might want to consider what a four-way race might look like…

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