What is the Anti-Imperialist United Front and should we fight for it?

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14/01/2019 by socialistfight

In defence of Marxism

Theoretical journal of the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency

First Published: May 1996.
Source: Published by the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Copyleft: Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (marxists.org) 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons license. Please cite any editors, proofreaders and formatters noted above along with any other publishing information including the URL of this document.

The WIL are not in favour of the Anti Imperialist United Front here; it was one of the political weaknesses that proved fatal in the end – SFG.


idom4-1The Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions drafted by Lenin in 1920 and presented to the second Comintern Congress still raises controversy, was it a one-sided mistake which assisted the rise of  Stalinist two-stagism or is there a principled application today?

This document attempts to answer a number of questions: Where did the concept of the AIUF come from? Is it valid? Does it have strategic as well as tactical implications? Does it involve a political subordination to the politics of petty bourgeois nationalism? How should we fight for it, if we fight for it at all?

The AIUF in the time of Trotsky

The term AIUF implies a yoking together of two concepts: the united front tactic and the struggle for revolutionary leadership in the colonial and semi-colonial world. We do not believe that Marxism is a closed system and that the answers to the above or any other given question can be arrived at by textual analysis. The fact that any resolution or set of theses might treat the question in a particular way does not in itself invalidate the AIUF as a tactic. Nevertheless we should look at how first the revolutionary (and non-revolutionary) Comintem and then the Trotskyist movement in the 1930s developed the united front tactic and its applicability, or otherwise, to the struggles in the colonial and semi-colonial world.

The United Front was elaborated first in the third and fourth congresses of the Comintern (1921 and 1922). It drew upon the experiences of October 1917 and took account of the ebb in the class struggle internationally and the necessity to break workers from their allegiance to social democracy. It aimed at winning the majority of workers to Communism:

an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie . . . to unify the working masses through agitation and organisation. [1]

The Theses envisaged ‘complete freedom of action for independent communist parties’ and excluded ‘electoral combinations of leaders in pursuit of one or another parliamentary aim’.

Significant here are the references to ‘immediate basic interests’ and ‘all unaligned workers’. Clearly the Comintern did not envisage the United Front as simply involving mass parties.

It was with regard to Germany that Trotsky further developed the tactic, seeing it specifically as a bloc with the Social Democrats against the fascists. Again, it involved limited, immediate questions; for example, the defence of a workers’ print shop against the fascists. Trotsky contrasts this with parliamentary agreements, or those such as the Anglo-Russian Committee of 1926:

No common platform with the Social Democracy . . . no common publications, banners, placards! . . . March separately but strike together. Agree only on how to strike, whom to strike and when to strike! [2]

The tactic was therefore conceived, and developed as applying to short-term, immediate basic questions, not simply between two mass parties, although that is how Trotsky quite rightly advocated it in a German context. There is of course scope for development of the tactic as applicable to smaller parties or groups, although we should be wary of calling any joint work, collaboration between small groups and individuals or party front projects a united front.

Turning now to national and colonial struggles, we should look at the Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions drafted by Lenin and presented to the second Comintern Congress:

All communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movements . . . [they must] give special support to the peasant movement against the landowner, against landed proprietorship . . . and strive to lend the peasant movement the most revolutionary character by establishing the closest possible alliance between the West-European communist proletariat and the revolutionary peasant movement . . . [and] struggle against attempts to give a communist colouring to bourgeois-democratic liberation trends . . . The Comintern should support bourgeois-democratic national movements in colonial and backward countries only on condition that, in these countries, the elements of future proletarian parties, which will be communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to understand their specific tasks i.e. those of the struggle against the bourgeois democratic movements within their own nation. The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with the bourgeois-democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form. [3]

The use of the word ‘alliance’ here represents a problem, involving sufficient ambiguity to give rise to confusion and disorientation later on. These consequences were no doubt unintended by the author, or by the Comintern as a whole. The Preliminary Draft Theses were endorsed by the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East in the same year (1920). However, despite its historic significance (ie the fact that it happened at all) the second Congress is disappointingly short on analysis and the development of theory and long on rhetoric and proclamation. It calls for the development of peasants’ soviets and an ‘alliance’ with the western proletariat. It decries mere political independence, referring to the then independent capitalist states in Georgia and Armenia and calling for the overthrow of the local oppressors: the bourgeoisie, landlords and usurers.

The fourth Comintern Congress of 1922 is where the concept of the Anti-Imperialist United Front emerges for the first time, in the Theses on the Eastern Question. [4] Here it is described as a ‘key slogan’ and explicitly compared to the ‘workers’ united front’ in the west. It is based on the perspective of a long drawn out struggle with world imperialism that will demand the mobilisation of all revolutionary elements . . . made all the more necessary by the tendency of the indigenous ruling classes to make compromises with foreign capital directed against the fundamental interests of the mass of the people. [5]

The slogan will help to ‘expose the vacillation of the various bourgeois nationalist groups’. Continuing the analogy with the workers’ united front the Theses speak of the need for independence of the workers’ movement in the common anti-imperialist front and state that only with its complete political autonomy secured can temporary agreements with bourgeois democracy be considered permissible or necessary. Similarly the proletariat supports and advances such partial demands as an independent democratic republic, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the introduction of women’s rights, etc., in so far as it cannot, with the relation of forces as it exists at present, make the implementation of its soviet programme the immediate task of the day. At the same time the proletariat seeks to put forward slogans which further the political links between the peasant and semi-proletarian masses and the workers movement. Explaining to the broad working masses the need for unity with the international proletariat and the Soviet republics is one of the most important functions of the anti-imperialist united front. The colonial revolution can triumph and defend its gains only if accompanied by a proletarian Anti-Imperialist United Front revolution in the advanced countries. [6]

There is clearly a problem here. The analogy of the workers’ united front is extended to disparate non-proletarian elements and becomes a longer term project, possibly assuming a strategic character. The talk of alliances and the context in which democratic demands are advanced is ambiguous, and, if not at this stage .concretised into wrong positions on specific questions, falls short of a permanent revolutionary position. There is a lack of any transitional method: if the soviet programme cannot be implemented, do revolutionaries, as is implied, stick to democratic or minimum demands? There was opposition to this line from M N Roy, among others. Trotsky, while not involved in the 1922 discussions on the Eastern Question, had already made his position clear in 1921:

The [native bourgeoisie’s] struggle against foreign imperialist domination cannot, however, be either consistent or energetic inasmuch as the native bourgeoisie itself is intimately bound up with foreign capital and represents to a large measure an agency of foreign capital. Only the rise of a native proletariat strong enough numerically and capable of struggle can provide a real axis for the revolution [7]

IDOM4-2.pngTrotsky at the Second Congress on 1920; “Common action, especially a short-term common action, is one thing, but capitulation to the bourgeoisie in the form of a permanent ‘united front’ such as the French Popular Front is another”. But is an AIUF possible that does not capitulate?


It was China, with its massive implications for permanent revolution and the united front which brought matters to a head. The ambiguities of the fourth Comintern Congress on the relationship with the national bourgeoisie and the peasantry and the ‘colonial revolution’ gave way to wholesale opportunism and disorientation as the Comintern advocated entry into, and, in effect, political subordination to, the main bourgeois nationalist party, the Kuomintang, on the basis that since it was against the warlords it was therefore part of the anti-imperialist struggle. This demonstrated that the experience of Permanent Revolution in 1917 had not been fully absorbed, and if Trotsky seemed slow on the uptake, it was because he had not previously considered his theory as relevant-or applicable outside Russia.

In his opposition to the Comintem, Trotsky used the writings of Lenin on the peasant question:

[It is necessary] to be wary of the peasantry, to organise separately from it, to be ready to combat it, insofar as the peasantry acts in a reactionary or anti-proletarian manner.


Proletarians and semi-proletarians of town and country organise separately. Don’t trust any petty proprietors – not even small, or ‘working’, proprietors . . . We stand by the peasant movement to the end; but we have to remember that it is the movement of another class, not the one which can and will bring about the socialist revolution.

And also, significantly:

‘The alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry’ . . . should not in any circumstances be understood as meaning the fusion of various classes or of the parties of the proletariat and the peasantry. Not only fusion, but any prolonged agreement would be destructive for the socialist party of the working class.

On the specific question of a united front with the national bourgeoisie, Trotsky emphasised that there should be a distinction between a united front and common action:

Common action, especially a short-term common action, is one thing, but capitulation to the bourgeoisie in the form of a permanent ‘united front’ such as the French Popular Front is another.

Trotsky also emphasised that ‘we should continually carry out ‘common action’ with the students’ and peasants’ organisations’.

This surely shows a difference between Trotsky and the Comintern orthodoxy on the very specific question of a united front involving sections of the national bourgeoisie, or any prolonged agreement, whether it is called a united front or not. Part of the problem appears to be how one defines the term. The fourth Comintern Congress had clearly stretched the analogy with the workers’ united front to something more long term (hence the reference to the ‘long drawn out struggle’ in the Theses) involving non-proletarian elements, Trotsky had not. He saw the need for ‘common action’ with sections of the national bourgeoisie on specific and immediate questions, but did not call this a united front. It is possible to argue that the Comintern Theses on the AIUF are the source of the Comintern’s confusion later on.

From his position on China, Trotsky extrapolated a method. For example, on Indochina he maintained that the only acceptable form of collaboration between classes was

the collaboration between the proletariat and the poor peasantry, as well as with the most oppressed and exploited lower layers of the urban petty bourgeoisie. This collaboration . . . transforms the proletariat into the true leader of the nation.

The same line was taken by the Indochinese left oppositionists themselves. One of them, Ho Huu Thuong wrote:

the native bourgeoisie is not independent from the international bourgeoisie – more than that it is an agency of imperialism and one which goes as far as betraying at every moment its specific class interests because its life and death depends on the goodwill of imperialism . . . the proletarian struggle should be waged first of all against it. [8]

Again, neither the Indochinese Oppositionists nor Trotsky himself excluded ‘rigidly delimited and rigidly practical agreements’ with the national bourgeoisie provided it did not have a ‘strategic long-term nature’ and there was ‘no mixing of banners’.

On Latin America, Comintern policy was better than with the East, advocating an alliance of the urban and rural proletariat against US imperialism and national capital.

In November 1938 Trotsky argued that the Latin American bourgeoisie was ‘incapable of resolving’ the democratic tasks posed by the anti-imperialist struggle and raised the question of the class independence of the working class as against the bourgeoisie. [9] In the same discussion, Trotsky advocated support for the national bourgeoisie ‘in every case where it is a direct fight against the foreign imperialists or their reactionary fascist agents’. This did not involve political support, and was meant to sharpen the contradiction between the progressive nature of the movement and the forces leading it. At the risk of labouring the point, rigidly delimited practical agreements, including military blocs in the event of open military confrontation with imperialism, were not excluded if required by the concrete dynamic of the anti-imperialist struggle. This position was concretised in relation to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and China. The Transitional Programme and the other founding documents of the Fourth International (FI) have little of value to say on the AIUF.

What we are left with is confusion caused by the Comintern’s erroneous conception of the AIUF, which must have contributed to that organisation’s slide into opportunism, and with Trotsky’s position, worked out over time in response to events, generalising from October 1917 and shared by the other Left Oppositionists. This was that limited practical agreements, including military blocs, were permissible, but they were to be short-term and not analogous with the workers’ united front. We now have the task of trying to develop strategy and tactics for the semi-colonies. Do we stand with Trotsky against the idea of a united front with the bourgeoisie? In the post-Second World War and post-Cold War contexts should the question not be posed in a slightly different way?

idom4-3Workers Power’s Simon Hardy; “. . . so long as bourgeois or petit-bourgeois forces have a real mass influence in the anti-imperialist struggle it is necessary for the working class to use the tactic of the anti-imperialist united front. This involves striking tactical agreements with non-proletarian forces at both leadership and rank-and-file level. Such agreements might involve formal alliances or committees. Where this is the case the fundamental pre-conditions for entering such blocs are: that the bourgeois or petty bourgeois forces are actually waging a struggle against imperialism, or its agents, that no limitations are placed on the political independence of the revolutionary organisation within this bloc and that there are no bureaucratic exclusions of significant forces struggling against imperialism.” All that is forgotten now by Hardy and disowned by its original author, Permanent Revolution’s Stuart King.


The AIUF since the Second World War

We now need to examine how the question of the AIUF has developed since the Second World War, looking at the positive and negative aspects of how the FI’s successor groups have raised it, and how, if at all, we should raise it.

The question has been seen on somewhat different terrain from when Trotsky was doing battle with the Comintern. Many of what in Trotsky’s time were colonies have won formal independence. This is not an entirely new development of course. Pre-war, China, Persia and the Latin American states (with the arguable exception of Argentina) were semi-colonies. This has heightened the contradictions inherent in the position of the national bourgeoisie. In Africa and Asia this semi-oppressed and semi-oppressing class has enjoyed political power. In most cases it remained the abject client of imperialism. In some cases, taking advantage of the relative strengthening of Stalinism as against imperialism and the consequent change in the balance of forces, it attained a relative freedom to manoeuvre vis-a-vis imperialism. Certain measures against foreign-owned and local private property were accompanied by left-wing, anti-imperialist rhetoric and economic links with COMECON and, in the case of Cuba of course, the creation of a deformed workers’ state. This development was important in two ways. Firstly it gave rise to conflicts within the national bourgeoisie, resulting in pro-imperialist and ‘anti-imperialist’ factions of the national bourgeoisie, as in Bolivia in 1971 (more on this later) and in the use of semi-colonies as proxies by imperialism and Stalinism. Secondly, it occasioned profound political disorientation and slippery opportunism by many of those claiming to stand in the FI tradition – notably, but not exclusively, the USFI with its turns to ‘guerillaism’ and its tailending of Castroism and ‘anti-imperialist’ bourgeois nationalist movements (‘revolutionaries of action’) in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Others, such as the Spartacists, have bent the stick in the other direction, adopting a ‘workerist’ sectarianism towards national questions and national movements.

One current which claims to have developed a profound understanding of these questions, avoiding the sectarianism and opportunism of others is the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI). It takes up the question of the AIUF, but also adds to the confusion. In its ‘re-elaboration’ of the Transitional Programme it clearly sees a role for the national bourgeoisie within the AIUF:

. . . so long as bourgeois or petit bourgeois forces have a real mass influence in the anti-imperialist struggle it is necessary for the working class to use the tactic of the anti-imperialist united front. This involves striking tactical agreements with non-proletarian forces at both leadership and rank-and-file level. Such agreements might involve formal alliances or committees. Where this is the case the fundamental pre-conditions for entering such blocs are: that the bourgeois or petty bourgeois forces are actually waging a struggle against imperialism, or its agents, that no limitations are placed on the political independence of the revolutionary organisation within this bloc and that there are no bureaucratic exclusions of significant forces struggling against imperialism . . . What is vital is that this unity should be aimed at mobilising the broadest anti-imperialist forces for precise common objectives such as the introduction of democratic rights and the expulsion of the imperialists . . . there is nothing consistently anti-imperialist or revolutionary about the semi-colonial bourgeoisie, and no permanent place for it should be reserved in an anti-imperialist united front. The purpose of anti-imperialist united action must be to aid the proletariat to mobilise the masses so that they burst through the restraints of their traditional leaderships and organisations. [10]

It is necessary to look at this confused and confusing passage in its entirety. It appears to lie somewhere between the positions of Trotsky and the fourth Comintern Congress. There is mention of ‘precise common objectives’, except that the example given is the somewhat imprecise ‘introduction of democratic rights’. ‘Formal alliances or committees’ may suggest a longer-term project, although this is not spelt out, and AIUF and ‘anti-imperialist united action’ are used as though they are interchangeable. The LRCI appears to have heeded some of Trotsky’s advice about the independence of the working class and the necessity for a bloc with the national bourgeoisie in certain situations, but as opposed to Trotsky the LRCI refers to this as an AIUF, so continuing the confusion. Worse is to follow. Under the rubric of the AIUF, the LRCI states that it would support ‘joint military co-operation (with the national bourgeoisie) against a reactionary coup, or against imperialist intervention. Thus Trotskyists can support military actions by bourgeois governments against imperialism’. [11] Yes, we can, but would we regard it as a united front? Surely not!

What the LRCI does is take two separate questions, the struggle waged by the proletariat for leadership of the other oppressed sectors and the notion of military action alongside the national bourgeoisie in the event of a struggle against imperialism, and lump them together as the united front. They thus perpetuate the previous theoretical confusion. The LRCI is quite unabashed about this. In a published polemic against the International Trotskyist Opposition (ITO), it says:

On the AIUF, for example, it is ND who is being scholastic. He believes that a bloc with the national bourgeoisie in certain circumstances is permissible, but it is not to be called the AIUF. He is welcome to call it by any name he chooses. For us it involves unity in action against a common enemy with no mixing of banners and with the aim of breaking the masses from their misleaders. This is the method of the united front as spelt out by the healthy Comintern. [12]

The LRCI appears to have lazily adopted the method of the fourth Comintern Congress, whose participants did not have the possibility of 70 years hindsight. To take the LRCI to task over this is not to be scholastic nor to play with words. Its formulation is just as ambiguous and confused as the 1922 version and, as Workers Power never tires of pointing out, ambiguous formulations have the potential to be concretised into wrong positions. In war or insurrection, confusion over common action or a united front with the national bourgeoisie can be a tragically expensive luxury.

However, criticising the LRCI, or anyone else for that matter will not make the problem go away. The problem is: just how does the proletariat relate to other oppressed groups such as the peasantry, the poor petty bourgeoisie, the street traders, those in shanty towns barely eking out an existence. How can it develop strategy and tactics in order to achieve hegemony among the oppressed groups and fight for political power in countries where it is the minority? How should it relate to the national bourgeoisie?

Before trying to answer these questions we should look briefly at how they are posed at present. The collapse of Stalinism means the end of the cold war balance of power with imperialism. The ‘New World Order’ means that there simply is not the scope for a national bourgeoisie to adopt the radical postures of a Ben Bella (Algeria), Mengistu (Ethiopia) or Machel (Angola). However, the predatory activities of the IMF and the World Bank (imposed Structural Adjustment Programmes, involving massive cuts in state budgets for example), the pegging of prices of raw materials, debt and the GATT, mean that social upheavals and explosions are inevitable. Without a revolutionary Marxist leadership these upheavals will take the forms of Zapatism (brave but futile), religious fundamentalism (such as Algeria) or communalism (Somalia and Rwanda). We may see more cases (Liberia, Somalia, Zaire) of the virtual collapse of central state authority. In some cases, such as Argentina, imperialist-imposed austerity, attacks on the trade unions, massive unemployment and privatisation have resulted in the creation of a high growth economy benefiting the local bourgeoisie at the expense of the working class.

To get one question out of the way first, we should not exclude short-term, strictly delimited common action with the national bourgeoisie where the anti-imperialist struggle demands it, purely as a way of trying to win workers and other oppressed layers from (petty) bourgeois nationalism to revolutionary Marxism. This can only ever be a short-term question, around some particular demand or issue (eg IMF-imposed austerity, or UN sanctions). We should not call this a united front because it is not one in the sense that the Comintern and then Trotsky developed the tactic. Even if in a superficial sense it appears to share some of the characteristics, to call it a united front, given the sense in which Trotskyists understand the tactic, or should understand it, causes confusion. In any case, ‘agreement’ with the national bourgeoisie might prove difficult if at the same time as trying to confront imperialism it is putting Trotskyists in jail, or worse. (This has happened surprisingly often!)

Next, we should not exclude common military action with the national bourgeoisie against imperialism or its agents. Trotskyists would have been right to fire in the same direction as General Torres in Bolivia in 1971 against ‘gorilla reaction’ represented by Banzer, whilst at the same time trying to expose to the workers, principally the miners, the crucial weaknesses in Torres’ politics. It would have been sectarian to stand aside from this conflict saying ‘they’re both the same’. However, again, we cannot possibly regard this as a united front. Most importantly of all, there must be no political support.

The most complicated question of all is, how do revolutionary Marxists, in attempting to win the leadership of the working class also fight for the working class to gain the leadership of all the oppressed masses, i.e. not the national bourgeoisie but the other non-proletarian oppressed? Without wanting to contradict the central argument of this document, does this struggle for working class leadership in the struggle against imperialism not share some of the characteristics of the united front? Do we not maintain the political independence of the working class? Do we not march separately and strike together? Do we not aim to break the non-proletarian oppressed from their own political misleaders? Do we not realise that the only way, to begin with, to relate to those we want to win is through their organisations? Do we not also realise that around concrete issues we will be working together with these misleaders, in order to demonstrate to their base the practical superiority of our programme and method, but also, if possible to win that base to it?

Further, this project must have something of a long-term character, particularly in those countries where the working class is in a small minority. It cannot simply be episodic. The struggle of the working class for hegemony within the struggle against imperialism, which must by necessity win that struggle to a permanent revolutionary and internationalist perspective, has a strategic character. If we call this project an AIUF we then say that the united front has a strategic aspect and is not simply a tactic. This is the argument of the International Trotskyist Committee (ITC). It is misconceived in that it adds to the general confusion on the AIUF, and is bound up with the ITC’s false understanding of united fronts as party fronts operating at a high level of programmatic agreement, but at least it sees that there is a problem here which needs to be resolved.

One relatively sophisticated argument for the AIUF came from the forces which at one time constituted the Fourth Internationalist Tendency (FIT), principally the Politica Obrera of Argentina and Guillermo Lora’s Partido Obrero Revolucionario of Bolivia. The FIT regarded the Comintern position as healthy and made a clear distinction between the notion of worker-peasant parties and the Stalinist ‘Anti-Imperialist Front’, and the AIUF which can only start from the proletarian political leadership of the national majority (peasants, the majority of the urban middle class) . . . it concerns a tactic, which starts from the tangible interests of the masses, designed to convert the working class into the national leader [13]

The argument continues:

The question [which] concerns us is knowing which social class will politically head the national minority . . .

The AIUF ceases to be a strategic aim [i.e. unlike the Stalinists’ AIF, presumably] in order to convert itself into a tactic subordinate to the proletarian strategy; a tactic which will permit the workers’ party to detach the masses from the political control of the parties of the other social classes. [14]

We start from the certainty that imperialist oppression is national, and is not limited to the proletariat. That means that the necessity of national liberation poses, in decisive terms, the question of such social class is capable of realising it, which translates into the political struggle of the party for the leadership of the masses . . . the AIUF . . . is precisely, the scenario within which the proletariat can conquer hegemony within the mass movement, that is, of the anti-imperialist movement . . .

To effectivise the leadership of the proletariat in the national front, it is clear that the building of the FRA [in English, Revolutionary Anti-imperialist Front] can only be conceived as an imposition on our part of the revolutionary strategy onto the petit bourgeois sectors (it concerns this and not an alliance with the national bourgeoisie. [15]

The tactic of the anti-imperialist front should serve in order to make the proletariat (i.e. its political party) convert itself into the national leader, and win political control of the oppressed masses in general, which will only be possible if it succeeds in politically smashing their leaderships in the daily struggle. The working inside the FRA cannot mean the dissolution of our party, nor its weakening, but on the contrary, it must lead to the clear differentiation of our organisation, to its political and ideological projection, and its organic strengthening . . . our positions have been within the framework indicated by the Fourth Congress of the C.I. [16]

The document repeatedly stresses that the ‘Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Front’ is a tactic, and not a strategic goal. However a strategic aspect is betrayed by the reference to an FRA in the Siglo XX mine which gives out publications, participates in elections and fights to place itself at the head of the miners each time the social tensions sharpen. [17]

There are other references to workplace and college FRAs. The document is an attempt to develop, at least on paper, a perspective for proletarian hegemony in the semi-colonies. It is not without its problems and entertains the possibility that a front might include ‘the industrial sectors of the national bourgeoisie (although this latter-named extreme is not posed in Bolivia)’. We should also be aware that it was written with Bolivia and the conflict of 1970-71 very much in mind. We refer to this document only to show that we are not the first to have considered these questions, although we do not endorse any of the politics resulting from any attempt to put these positions into practice. We recognise the sectarianism and tendency to abstract proclamation which have increasingly characterised the POR, as well as the PO, which dominated the FIT. We also bear in mind the subsequent isolationist national-Trotskyism of both organisations. Nevertheless, it says much that is useful about the approach that revolutionaries need to develop in the semi-colonies. One might say with justification that it perpetuates the confusion of the Comintern (indeed, approves of it) by using the term AIUF. If in the interests of clarity we do not call it by this name we should be thinking along these lines, flexibly, of course. The last thing we need is the imposition of a blueprint developed in Bolivia onto Sri Lanka, for example. We need to take account of the material conditions in different countries, the social weight of the proletariat and the other groups, and the general political context. There is an obvious need for a concrete analysis of South Africa which, while an imperialist country, has many of the characteristics of a semi-colony and has a large working class. Likewise the working class enjoys significant social weight in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and South Korea.

A tactic or a strategy? Would it cause too many problems to call it a ‘long-term tactic’ or a tactic with strategic implications, or maybe something else entirely?

By way of a conclusion, the points made in this document can be summarised thus:

  1. The AIUF as a concept theorised by the Comintern is no longer valid or relevant.
  2. This does not preclude short-term, specific common action with the national bourgeoisie or sections of it, although in practice this is unlikely, and in any case it is not a united front.
  3. We do not exclude some form of military bloc with the national bourgeoisie or sections of it, if only to the extent that our guns are pointing in the same direction although, again, this is unlikely in practice and we do not call it a united front.
  4. There is still a need to unite the working class under the leadership of revolutionaries and for the working class to win the leadership of the struggles of other oppressed sections, which may at times involve the use of the united front tactic.
  5. The fight for working class leadership of the struggles of the oppressed is a long-term process and has a strategic character. It also has the character, in some respects, of a united front, although in the interests of clarity, we do not refer to it as such.


LTT, April 1995.

IDOM4-4.pngThe case for the AIUF set out: “Without wanting to contradict the central argument of this document, does this struggle for working class leadership in the struggle against imperialism not share some of the characteristics of the united front? Do we not maintain the political independence of the working class? Do we not march separately and strike together? Do we not aim to break the non-proletarian oppressed from their own political misleaders? Do we not realise that the only way, to begin with, to relate to those we want to win is through their organisations? Do we not also realise that around concrete issues we will be working together with these misleaders, in order to demonstrate to their base the practical superiority of our programme and method, but also, if possible to win that base to it?”



  1. ‘Theses on Comintern Tactics’ in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, Pluto Press, 1983, p. 396 (our emphasis).
  2. L. Trotsky, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, Pathfinder, 1971, pp. 137-9.
  3. Theses Resolutions and Manifestos etc, pp. 79-80 (our emphasis).
  4. Ibid, p. 409ff.
  5. Ibid, p. 415.
  6. Ibid, p. 416 (our emphasis).
  7. L. Trotsky, ‘Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International’ in The First Five Years of the Communist International, Vol. 1, New Park, 1973, p. 275.
  8. Le Militant, Saigon, September 8, 1936.
  9. ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’ in L. Trotsky, Writings of Leon Trotsky Supplement 1934-40, Pathfinder, 1979, pp. 784-785.
  10. LRCI, Trotskyist Manifesto, 1989, p. 83 (our emphasis).
  11. Ibid.
  12. LRCI, A Left Opposition in the USFI, 1993.
  13. ‘We Describe Some Aspects of the AIUF’, Documentos No. 3, Lima 1974, p. 2 – Document of POR while still in the Lambertist OCRFI. Translated by Mike Jones.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid, p. 3.
  16. Ibid, p. 6.
  17. Ibid, p. 4.

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WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

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