(previously submitted to blackpowerencyclopedia)
by Lil Joe
Organisations of workers united in common economic and class political interests to achieve common economic and political ends
United Front is a political association of workers and organisations fighting to achieve economic and political objectives. This concept is based upon, and results from the level of techno-economic development of material productive forces that determine corresponding methods of distribution of labour and its products. Physical means of production determine social relations of production and corresponding methods of appropriation. United fronts are alliances of workers and organisations of workers predicated upon the recognition that as wage workers they face a common threat from a common enemy -- the capitalist class and its political parties and states.
There are reactionary forces in the world, Capitalists that bring suffering and misery to the world. Communist revolutionaries are the opposite force. The force that is truly for the good. Organisations of workers unit in common economic and class political interests to achieve common economic and political ends. In this connection material means and political ends are identical: that is to say, theory of objectives determine method. Worker's class consciousness is awareness of universal ends and means by which individual interests are sublated and consciously subsumed: Hic Rhodus! hic salta! Class struggle itself is the determination of worker's class- consciousness for itself of what is to be done? Consciousness of worker's universal position as wage workers having interests suggests strategies that negate the internecine strife of worker against worker. Such strife is engendered by capitalist commodification of labour power and competition for jobs and income. This accounts for racial and sectarian strife between workers. Labour unions union puts an end to the competition of workers all against all! The increasing unity of workers unions into federations and federations into labour congresses produce class parties that bring together the entire working class by common opposition to the capitalist class as a class, and the capitalist mode of production itself. Here is the rose, dance here!
An 'economy' is a totality. Physical means of production determine the economic divisions of labour in production and between industries and class formations. Techno-economic relations of production and corresponding economic form of distribution, e.g. capitalist commodity production and appropriation of labour and its products, constitute the capitalist mode of production and its relations of production based on buying and selling of labour power. It is this mode of appropriation, of labour power and its products, the result of the capitalist mode of production that result in capitalist private property and class formations. Class struggle is political struggle. It is not concepts of private property backed by State violence that determine a mode of production; rather, it is the mode of production and appropriation that determine property, law and State partisanship.
The economic value of labour power is objectified in the value of its products transfered from subject (workers) to object (product) as commodities through the labour process. Labour processes are at the same time valorisation processes. Capitalists purchase labour power as cheaply as possible. Workers sell labour power for as much as possible. They would pay less to black workers compared to white workers and less to women compared to men, or the reverse if they could get away with it. Capitalists would do the reverse if they could get away with it. Profit maximisation is the objective.
Workers wages are determined by 'the cost of living'. By cost of living in technical language is what Marxist economists describe as 'socially necessary labour time' that equals the cost of means of subsistence. However, Capitalists must compel their workers to produce products as commodities embodying value embodied in commodities in excess of wages. This is to say, capitalist's must turn a profit: the rate of surplus value is the ratio of unpaid labour time value over the value of socially necessary labour time purchased. Actually, an excess over capitalist's total cost prices of production. Rates of surplus value (unpaid labour) correspond to the degree of exploitation of wage labour by capital. Although capitalist racial policy reserved skilled labour and crafts to white workers who received relatively higher wages compared to harder working Black workers, the reality is that skilled labour, even at higher wages, yields higher rates of surplus value by greater degrees of exploitation.
Workers combine to decrease competition among themselves and to protect themselves by winning the best possible conditions of work. It is at once natural and social that to advance their material interests workers combinations are formed. Unions. Trade unions and working class reformism are the result of limited experiences and objectives. Trade and labour unions come together in permanent federations and confederations of unionised workers -- e.g. TUC in Britain, AFofL and the CIO in the United States. In united front coalitions it is the task of communist workers to mobilise the masses of the working class to transitional demands engendering consciousness of the necessity for conquest of power by workers as a class in and for itself.
Revolution is the avenging angel. Class war is against definite class enemies. But every class struggle is a political struggle: a struggle for economic and State power. Rising classes engaging in social class struggle must for itself ascertain economic domination and political State power. To clarify and achieve this objective identity politics and reformist goals are negated and sublated. In technologically advanced industrial democracy the class struggle of wage workers against collective capital engenders political battles from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution. Communist consciousness corresponds to both its techno-economic situation and subjective consciousness accord.
It is this which enables the working class as a class of the immense majority of the population to win the battle of democracy to legislate the transfer of the productive forces from possession and management by capitalists to the public property and management of workers as a class dictatorship. It is a matter of principle and partisan disciplined political independence of the working class distinct from all others.
Class-consciousness is product of class struggle and research driven theoretical polemic. Workers won to revolutionary objectives must experience the necessity that proves the truth, that is the reality and power -- the this sidedness of their thinking in practice: by their own experience and critiques of those experiences. Because without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. Critical thinking is not a luxury of the bourgeois intelligentsia but a working class necessity. It's class struggle praxis from which arises in the working class the consciousness of itself as a class for itself.
Workers' united fronts are aimed at class solidarity of the vast majority of workers of different organisations recognising the capitalist class nationally and internationally is the common class enemy, the enemy of all workers and the recognition that the capitalist mode of production and appropriation itself must be destroyed. United Front is a Leninist term and concept that emerged from the experience of Russian workers striving to achieve concrete objectives, both through united front coalitions and independently. Bolsheviks educating workers around transitional demands published in Lenin's "April Thesis" enabled Bolsheviks in Soviet United Fronts to win the majority to revolutionary objectives necessitating the October 1917 Russian Revolution Bolshevik conquest of power.
Russian workers soviets were the power-base connected to which revolutionary workers established the founding of the Communist International. Lenin's "What is to be Done?" and "Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder", Stalin's "Foundations of Leninism" and Trotsky's "First Five Years of the Communist International", his "Problems of the Chinese Revolution" and writings on Civil War in Spain articulated the concept, principles and strategies for revolutionary workers of the world's various countries to join forces. The united front is comprised of workers organisations including those not yet ready or prepared to undertake communist revolutions. The initial purpose of the Communist International was to coordinate such preparations.
The Soviet Union and United Fronts in Europe and Asia
The Soviet workers' state created by the Russian Revolution solidified workers and peasants power sealed by years of Civil War. Insomuch as the capitalist class is cosmopolitan in its economic interconnections, notwithstanding divisions and national competition between them often leading to wars between capitalist states, capitalists everywhere recognised the Bolshevik led workers and poor peasants Soviet power as a danger and threat to the entire system of capitalist commodity production by exploited wage workers. Global capitalists of several leading imperialist powers stopped fighting each other to invade the new Soviet workers and peasant's state. Their intervention into the Russian civil war was defeated. In connection with this international class war staged in Russia and Ukraine the Bolshevik-Communist Party was itself committed to aid workers and peasants form parties and united fronts the world over as well. In Asia, this led to the Communist Internationals organisation of the Baku Congress of the People's of the East, held in Baku, Azerbaijan (then part of the Soviet Union), September 1920.
Political power however does not determine economic reality. Rather the opposite. It's economic reality that forces political adjustments to it. It was the vast masses of poor peasants of the Russian empire that joined forces with Russian wage workers resulting in united fronts of workers and peasants soviets who were the bulk of the Bolshevik established government organised Red Army. This Soviet Red Army defeated the landlord and capitalists White Army and cadets, together with throwing from Soviet territories the foreign armies that had intervened on the behalf of capitalism.
Notwithstanding the communist worker's determination and the Soviet victory against landlords, capitalists and foreign intervention, the new Russian and other soviet republics lacked the industrial capacity to transition from capitalist modes of production and appropriation to socialism. Wage labour remained wage labour. War communism gave way to a New Economic Policy recognising and organising state owned industry and state farms engaging in capitalist commodity production along with freeing up private peasants agricultural commodity production. Just the same and despite the difficult tasks of recovering the economy and people from world war and devastating civil war, the Bolshevik Communist Party used resources at their disposal to organise the structure and policies for a new, Communist International. The International was in support of revolutionary wage workers in Europe and for workers, peasants and bourgeois national liberation movements in Asia. Thus, the International Congresses and Baku Congress.
Military force, political determination and successful ideological struggle mobilized masses of poor peasants rallying in support for the workers led republican revolution consistent with their class interests. Soviets of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors were spontaneously established all over Russia, hundred of soviets in local, regional, and national territories represented the interests of classes from which they were constituted. Relations of production via rural peasants vis-a-vis landlords and relations of wage workers vis-a-vis capitalists are economically different and distinct. Soviets of peasants and soviets of wage workers have different economic interests and perceptions. Soviets of peasants together with soviets of workers however were all opposed to landed privilege and their political representative, Tsarism. Soviets of peasants and soviets of workers came together in united fronts for the establishment of democratic republics. The highest expression of these united fronts was the All-Russian Soviet Congress. Bourgeois liberal republicans were also opposed to Tsarism, which they negated by the establishment of the bourgeois Provisional Government. The Bolshevik's October Revolution deposed this Provisional Government and was an historical political negation of negation by the establishment of the All-Russian Soviet Congress as the sole government of the State by free and open direct election to this governing body.
The Soviet State, however, wasn't sufficient to displace capitalism with socialism. Impatience wants the impossible, to reach the goal without the material means of getting there. A socialist economy requires an international interconnected industrial basis. This material foundation together with workers expropriations of these industrial productive forces in the most technologically advanced democratic capitalist countries along with working class majorities winning the battle of democracy is the physical precondition for the elimination of the capitalist modes of production and appropriation.
The economic objective of socialist revolution is the economical emancipation of the working class by its abolition of wage labour and capitalist relations of production, the suppression of capitalist commodity production by worker's expropriation of the productive forces and subsequent management of production and distribution from each according to his ability and to each according to his need. These are the preconditions by which the working class emancipates itself from wage slavery. Such productive forces didn't exist and thus workers expropriations couldn't happen in the Soviet Union. The rural petty bourgeoisie, that is the peasant masses of the country side were the overwhelming population of the Soviet Union. Capitalist commodity production in the countryside was so vast that it made it impossible to eliminate commodity production and wage labour in the few urban areas where workers and industry existed and wage workers were a majority. The Soviet Union was 'socialist' in name and propaganda only.
The most that could be achieved in the Soviet economy was workers state ownership of industrial and landed capital, what Lenin called 'state-monopoly capitalism'. The state and the economy were managed by party apparatus and bureaucrat appointment hierarchy rather than by the worker's state control of capitalist commodity production by a monopoly on foreign trade, and domestic planning. This in context of a developing economy trading agricultural surpluses for industrial resources enabled the Soviet economy to avoid the Great depression of the 1930s-40s.
The politico-bureaucratic triumph of the Stalinist faction in the Soviet economy and state constituted a political counter-revolution. It was the failure of working class revolutionary expropriations of productive forces and destruction of capitalist states that resulted in the failure of socialist economic relations and the defeat of the Soviet Communist Left Opposition. Communist revolutionaries in the Soviet Union who refused to submit organised themselves into a Soviet based 'Left Opposition'. Those who survived and continued to promote world revolution came to be known as "Trotskyists". During the 1930s most Soviet revolutionaries were jailed, exiled or killed. In contradistinction to the Leninist revolutionaries that fought for international class struggle and workers revolution on a cosmopolitan scale, the "Stalinist bureaucracy" became a conservative privileged stratum in the Soviet State, negating its working class base, and evolved a revisionist theory and bourgeois nationalist policy called "socialism in one country". Trotsky and Trotskyism is also demonised. "Trotskist" workers and unions organisers were expelled from Communist Party organisations, government posts and thrown out of unions. Many were jailed and killed. The "Stalinisation" of the Soviet Communist Party, state bureaucracy and production management was the inevitable consequence of the continuation of capitalist commodity production by wage labour
European and North American revisionist communist parties tied to the Soviet Communist Party had their revolutionary wings clipped. They became for the most part, rather than participants and advocates of an international working class cosmopolitan revolution they became international lackeys of the Soviet bureaucracy's foreign policy. They were not 'Russian spies', however. This slander is the result of U.S. imperialism's so-called 'Cold War' against the Soviet Union on one hand and its domestic demonisation of communism and communists on the other.
Communist workers and intellectuals in the West (Europe and the United States) ceased to be revolutionary. As affiliates of the Soviet Communist Party they became reformists advancing peaceful co-existence in 'united fronts' with bourgeois liberals. The very concept of revolutionary coalitions of workers advanced by the Communist International was abandoned. In the 1930s and thereafter they called for 'popular fronts with bourgeois liberal parties ostensibly against fascist reactionaries. United States Communist Party affiliates support Democrats, a capitalist class party of imperialism, ostensibly against Republican Party 'fascists'.
The international policy of 'socialism in one country' was used to divert communist workers from class war to overthrow their own bourgeoisie to instead fight 'fascism'. Rather than fighting to overthrow international capitalism, nationalist popular front 'compromises' with liberal 'allies' forced workers to submit to capitalist commodity production, continue as wage workers in exploitative relations of production.
In economically retarded colonial countries communist affiliate parties of the Stalinist Communist International revolutionary workers were to give up communist objectives. Instead, they were instructed to form 'united fronts' with the bourgeois nationalists parties. The national (colonial) bourgeois wants political power and independence. As in colonial North America's Thirteen Colonies fight for national independence in mid-18th century so the bourgeois national independence in the 20th.
Mao on United Front
All political parties and groups in the united front must help each other and make mutual concessions for the sake of long-term cooperation, but such help and concessions should be positive, not negative. We must consolidate and expand our own Party and army, and at the same time should assist friendly parties and armies to consolidate and expand; the people want the government to satisfy their political and economic demands, and at the same time give the government every possible help to prosecute the War of Resistance; the factory workers demand better conditions from the owners, and at the same time work hard in the interests of resistance; for the sake of unity against foreign aggression, the landlords should reduce rent and interest, and at the same time the peasants should pay rent and interest. All these principles and policies of mutual assistance are positive, not negative or one-sided. The same should be true of mutual concessions. Each side should refrain from undermining the other and from organizing secret party branches within the other's party, government and army. For our part we organize no secret party branches inside the Kuomintang and its government or army, and so set the Kuomintang's mind at rest, to the advantage of the War of Resistance. To sustain a long war by long-term co-operation or, in other words, to subordinate the class struggle to the present national struggle against Japan--such is the fundamental principle of the united front. Subject to this principle, the independent character of the parties and classes and their independence and initiative within the united front should be preserved, and their essential rights should not be sacrificed to co-operation and unity, but on the contrary must be firmly upheld within certain limits. Only thus can co-operation be promoted, indeed only thus can there be any co-operation at all. Otherwise co-operation will turn into amalgamation and the united front will inevitably be sacrificed. In a struggle that is national in character, the class struggle takes the form of national struggle, which demonstrates the identity between the two. On the one hand, for a given historical period the political and economic demands of the various classes must not be such as to disrupt co-operation; on the other hand, the demands of the national struggle (the need to resist Japan) should be the point of departure for all class struggle. Thus there is identity in the united front between unity and independence and between the national struggle and the class struggle. THE QUESTION OF INDEPENDENCE AND INITIATIVE WITHIN THE UNITED FRONT
The United Front organisation was formed in South-Central Los Angeles in the wake of the 1965 Watts uprising and its political and ideological consequences. This united front organisation was formed by working class revolutionary communists politicised by the civil rights movement in militant response to national and local economic exploitation and poverty at the basic level and to corresponding social and racial oppression.
The civil rights movement arose in the U.S. South. It initially was in response to racial discrimination and social segregation suffered by Negro people in the Jim Crow South. The philosophy, strategy and tactics of the civil rights movement was non-violent resistance to and challenging of political exclusion, legal and extralegal racist violence and Jim Crow laws. This civil rights movement initially was organised and led by the Southern black churches and black bourgeoisie. These organisations fought to end segregation and for racial integration of disenfranchised and socially excluded American blacks into mainstream social, economic and political Society.
In Northern urban ghettos in ideological response to State and racist violence against blacks in the South, and defacto-segregation and police violence in the North, Black nationalism arose. Notwithstanding its militant rhetoric and rejection of non-violence the black nationalist ideology of Black power was usually black cultural racialism that nonetheless accepted and black businessmen and politicians benefited from racial segregation. Black power is black bourgeois ethnic ideology.
Civil rights 'integrationism' and black nationalist 'separatism' are in their respective ideology and politics deeply rooted in the economic culture, politics and ideologies of American exceptionalism: the Notion of 'American dream'. The position taken up by the notion is that of culture __ intellectual totality qua intellectual resolution of empirical contradictions. One pillar of ideological American exceptionalism in this land of opportunity is that 'racism' has restricted such 'opportunity' to European immigrants and to their descendants: so-called 'white-skin privilege'.
American exceptionalism is the official bourgeois ideology transmitted from generation to generation constituting an American version of capitalist dominated class culture. This ideology states the assumption of a combined ethnic version of the 'protestant work ethic' engendered 'success'. Such an American culture is predicated upon the economic ideological assumption that America ostensibly is 'exceptional' supposedly 'because' it is a god-given 'land of opportunity'. Through socialisation and education processes individuals internalize the myth of the American dream that by hard work and playing by the rules of law each has the opportunity to 'make it' __ i.e. become successful capitalist millionaires. Unemployment and want characteristic of the lives of tens of millions living in rural and urban blight and poverty in ghettos is blamed on 'racism' to which correspond 'white skin privilege' distinguishing African from European immigrant's descendants.
Black power ideology promotes 'identity politics', 'political correctness' and 'affirmative action' by means of which to use the exploitation and sufferings of the millions of working class and black surplus populations in order to promote black businessmen and women, bureaucrats and politicians into the capitalist class, city, state and federal bureaucracy and government, law enforcement, the courts, the military officer corps, the media and so on. This is what these opportunists mean by 'black power' and coalitions. In the Black liberation and revolutionary movements of the '60s - '70s these kinds of black opportunists and race hustlers were recognised and denounced to be poverty pimps.
The opposite is the case of working class revolutionary black 'Marxist-Leninists'. The South Central Los Angeles United Front organisation had the same objectives as had the first five years of the Communist International and the Left Opposition. The Left Opposition and Spanish Trotskyist sections in the Spanish Civil War in Europe and with regard to the Chinese Communist Party led People's Liberation Army fought for the political independence of the working class and its Communist Party. They fought to win workers and poor peasants to fight the capitalist system of production and appropriation thus in opposition to capitalist class parties and states. The South-Central Los Angeles United Front cadres also denounced capitalism. Revolutionaries want to destroy the capitalist mode of production and appropriation. Revolutionaries do not want entry into the ruling class by affirmative action but to elevate the working class to ruling class.
In American capitalism as in all other class cultures the economically dominant class is politically dominate. The dominate classes dominate the culture as the ruling ideas are the interests of the dominate class grasped as ideas. It was not racist ideological categories that created impoverished inner city ghettos, but the opposite. It was the cultural direction undertaken by the capitalist mode of production and appropriation in the United States that racialised already existing poverty. Racialisation of poverty districts created the social fact based category called ghettos. Isolating black working class poor neighborhoods into racialised ghettos of poverty in turn engendered racial consciousness among black workers as well as the unemployed and surplus populations. There were 'ghetto rebellions' across the United States.
The labour process is physical and techno-economic relations of production are social. On the production side of the equation there is a natural co-operation of workers producing physical means of production and subsistence. In the struggle for workers as people to provide material means of subsistence and social necessaries this is a natural basis for solidarity of workers. The capitalist class and its State is a political and material power that is to be physically and politically destroyed by workers revolution as a physical and social process as natural as production and distribution are physical and social processes. Capitalist appropriating classes are the natural physical and social enemy of all populations of the working class workers.
The capitalist mode of production and appropriation are the natural enemy of all populations of the working class.
Racial ideology and Identity politics are reactionary racialised xenophobic and religious bigotry that keep workers at each other's throats. Groups identify with the "race" rather than natural common class interests. Identity politics deliberately obfuscates class relations of production and exploitation of wage labour by capital. American exceptionalism is delusional. As such rather than fighting to overthrow capitalism and the government, identity politics preach the goal of sending members of 'one's own' racial or religious groups to become members of the capitalist class and State.
Recognition of the natural basis for worker's solidarity is social political class consciousness. The original 'red necks' were not rabid racist as suggested in contemporary American culture, but were communist (red) miners in West Virginia's Battle of Blair Mountain. The strikers wore red scarfs and bandanas in open rebellion against capitalist exploitation. These workers were fighting the State. Their slogan in union struggle: united we stand, divided we fall was all inclusive, negation of racism and sexism.
For its first few hundred years the citizens of the British Thirteen Colonies and then the genocidal westward expansion of the United States together with the Southern agricultural modes of commodity production was primarily by chattel slaves, while in the industrializing North the mode of production and appropriation was primarily industrial capitalist commodity production by wage slaves. Indigenous American modes of production and appropriation and European American capitalist modes of production were separate and apart from one another. Wage workers from Europe and their descendants were in the majority 'white'. These were economic and class relations. Economic relations determined 'race relations'.
The International Working-Men's Association was an international united front including an American section. It was committed to the Abolitionist cause. Communists advocated to American workers, North and South, a class alliance of wage slaves with chattel slaves. in class rather than racial terms: Labour cannot be free in white skin, where in black skin it is branded. Communities of German immigrant workers joined the Union Army in a conscious fight against the slave owner's Confederacy.
Capitalist commodity production by wage labour defeated and displaced capitalist commodity production by chattel slaves by Civil War. Yet 'race consciousness' remained, although under the new conditions of production of share-croppers. Segregation, state and Klan terror and official southern propaganda permeated American culture. Racialist ideology is the basis for the myth of so-called 'white-skin privilege': the myth that wage workers had biological identity of interests in 'race solidarity' with the class enemy, the capitalist class. There also arose a nativist, bitter hostility against new immigrants from southern Europe and especially against Chinese 'coolies'. Similar to the nativist hostility today against 'Mexican' undocumented workers.
Displacements of human labour by machines operated by fewer (thus more exploited) skilled labourers results in increased surplus produce embodying surplus value but results also in a relative corresponding increase of the surplus population of chronically unemployed workers. Surplus populations both white and black are unskilled and without working class jobs and wages are made welfare dependent. Unemployed young people with empty pockets and time on their hands hung out together in neighborhood groups. Bourgeois print and electronic media call the surplus population riff raff, thugs, hoodlums and dangerous social scum of the lumpenproletariat to be controlled by state institutions. Those opposed to the welfare state prefer to let them die to decrease the surplus population.
Race is not a biological category. It is a manipulative politico- ideology. Due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade in context of British mercantilism and subsequent unfolding U.S. history, chattel slaves were from Africa and the initial tide of wage workers come from Europe. The Southern mode of labour appropriation was in conflict with industrial capitalist mode of appropriation and corresponding relations of production in the North. Chattel slaves from Africa and wage workers from Europe were different classes. Southern capitalist mode of appropriation of slave labour relations of production appeared as race relations. These appearances enforced by bourgeois political race ideology. "Race" consciousness distorted wage worker's class consciousness, by racism.
The International Working-Men's Association was an international united front including an American section. It was committed to the Abolitionist cause. Communists advocated to American workers, North and South, a class alliance of wage slaves with chattel slaves. In class rather than racial terms: Labour cannot be free in white skin, where in black skin it is branded. Communities of German immigrant workers joined the Union Army in a conscious fight against the slave owner's Confederacy.
Capitalist commodity production by wage labour defeated and displaced capitalist commodity production by chattel slaves by Civil War. Yet 'race consciousness' remained, although transformed by new conditions of production. Segregation, state and Klan terror and official southern propaganda permeated American culture. Racialist ideology is the basis for the myth of so-called 'white-skin privilege': the myth that wage workers had biological identity of interests in 'race solidarity' with the class enemy, the capitalist class. There also arose a nativist, bitter hostility against new immigrants from southern Europe and especially against Chinese 'coolies'. Similar to the nativist hostility today against 'Mexican' undocumented workers.
Profits of capital and wages of labour are inversely related in this dominant-subordinate class relations of production. It is in the interests of capitalist politicians and ideologists to promote sexism and racism to degrade working class women and minorities in order to pay them less money in wages. The racialist category of singling oppression in this country to one segment of the working class is used by the State, its politicians and media to separate black workers from 'white' workers, to manipulate the latter.
Boom-bust cycles are an inevitable feature of capitalist commodity production and appropriation systems in which labour power is itself a commodity: hired and fired. The swelling black populations in urban slums were a racialised and impoverished component of America's unemployed surplus population. This surplus population included former black share croppers and maids migrating from rural poverty and "Okies" migrating from the Dust Bowl mid-west. Unemployed Mexican-Americans and Native Americans within Reservations were also components of this surplus population. The majority of the surplus population is white. Surplus population must not be confused with the 'lumpinproletariat'.
American wage workers repeatedly fought to form unions and federations, confederations and unite fronts to advance workers interests. The Knights of Labor, then the American Federation (AFL), the United Mine Workers (UMW), Rail Road Workers, the Socialist Labor Party, the Socialist Party, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the Industrial Workers of the world, the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Teamsters, the United Mine Workers Union, Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the AFL-CIO . . . Blacks were 10% of the U.S. population and constituted 30% of organised labour. Labour is the natural ally of civil rights.
This history of class struggle contributed to the logic of working class black communities attraction to revolutionary theory characteristic of the '60s, '70s civil rights, self-defense and black liberation organisations. Marxism, Leninism and working alliances with socialist and communist organisations was an inevitable trend in working class black community uprisings.
As wages of labour and profits of capital are inversely related so the interests of the working class and the capitalist class are mutually exclusive. Workers live in neighborhoods they can afford. Low wage workers live in poor neighborhoods, slums. The same as the civil rights movement the United Front communists rejected racial separatism. On the other hand, it made concessions to racial nationalist ideology by advocating an independent black 'nation'. Its concept of nation however was based on the Stalinist Communist Party's advocacy that the Black Belt South was in majority black and this the basis for a black nation. The United Front adopted Stalin's view expressed in his "Marxism and the National Question" where it is explicated that a nation is defined as peoples sharing a common language, a common territory, a common economy and a common psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. The United front therefore adopted the Communist International's Leninist promotion of rights of nations to self-determination as applied to the Black Belt up to and including its right of succession from the American Union.
In the rebellious '60s era of social and political upheavals in Black communities in social isolation engendered ideological consciousness originating from social facts of American history of racism resulting in black racial solidarity. Black bourgeois and in particular petty bourgeois and politicians benefited as mush as did the 'white' capitalists and politicians from so-called identity politics. Patriotism is the last refuge of the bourgeois. Identity politics is bourgeois politics. The ruling class is the enemy of the working class. Black power racialism's real objective was to use the history of racial oppression of slaves, share croppers, workers and the impoverished urban surplus population of inner cities to advance their own bourgeois interests: to raise themselves as individuals into and then from the segregated groups of 'black' professionals, petty-bourgeois, lawyers, professors, media propagandists, politicians and preaches into mainstream capitalists and into mainstream media, politics and the repressive government bureaucracy, courts, police and military.
76th and San Pedro: The United Front Organisation 1965-1967
According to Sociology, 'classes' are defined by income bracket, neighborhood lived in, church denomination attended and habits associated 'status'. Bourgeois Sociology is an ideology that diverts from economic relations of production and corresponding economic mechanisms of appropriation forms of income - wages (workers) profits (capitalists) debtors loans related to interest (finance capital) tenets payment of rent related to (landlords).. As capitalist profits and worker wages are inversely related and mutually exclusive so too the interests of debters and lenders and of tenets and landlords. Working class communities are communities housing wage workers either buying houses or renting apartments. Elements of the surplus population sleep on streets or are in jails or prisons. Owing to a history of housing discrimination and de facto segregation and racial oppression South Central L.A in the 30s and 60s was comprised primarily of black workers. Landlords, business owners and police were primarily white.
Working class communities are in economic subordination and political subjection to the economic and political power of the capitalists class and State. There are no communities independent of the capitalist mode of production and appropriation. Rather, houses or apartments are in the category of means of subsistence. Classes are not determined by neighborhood lived in. This is pseudo-science called Sociology.
Low wage workers live in poorer communities. These wage workers together with the surplus populations of chronically unemployed workers live in inner city slums. South-Central Los Angeles is such an inner-city community of poor workers and surplus population. Elements of surplus populations eke out a living in natural social rebellion against hunger and poverty. The poor and surplus populations include members of which had to beg, borrow and steal to pay bills. The criminalisation of economic behavior is forced on the surplus population. Its not about genetic skin color melanin, hair texture and morphological characteristics. It's about survival. Denied jobs, therefore denied legitimate income, workers thrown into surplus populations are forced to obtain money and subsistence -- food, clothing, shelter -- by crime.
Employed and unemployed workers live in the same working class communities. South Central LA's Black working class youth were rebellious against the condition of poverty. Black male youth were organised into neighborhood clubs, aka 'gangs'. The clubs identified with their respective neighborhood. Clubs were more geographical than racial or 'ethnic'. These clubs were largely social, although there was a lot of internal and external fist fights between members of a club and between clubs. There were no gun battles and no drug dealing money involved, so there was no shooting and killing of members or rival clubs.
Prior to the Watts uprising, throughout South Central L.A. and not just in Watts, the communities youth were not gangsters and largely a-political. They were of course aware of what the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr were doing down South and of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X critiques of it. Neither the civil rights movement nor the Nation of Islam addressed the issue of working class politics. The AFL-CIO was an appendage of the Democratic Party. Martin Luther King Jr spoke of an American "Negro Revolution" and Malcolm X of a "Black Revolution". This was nothing but rhetoric. There was no revolutionary theory in the American working class because there was no revolutionary movement in the United States. Revolution is not about 'race'. "Black power" is nothing but an ideologico-slogan of the black bourgeoisie. Neither of these articulated the necessity for a politically independent working class party the objective of which would be conquest of state power. This is because there were no working class party politics in America. Without a revolutionary working class movement there can be no revolutionary working class theory.
Bold and rebellious young males were organised into neighborhood clubs -- Slausons, Baby Slausons and Renegades, Gladiators, Pueblo Cavilors, Pueblo Condors, Outlaws and Baby Outlaws, 20s, Businessmen and Baby Businessmen, Huns, Nickerson Farmers, Orientals and Baby Orientals of Imperial Courts, Compton Swampmen, the Hill, the TreeTops and others. Social consciousness emerged from social experience as racially oppressed Black youth living in poverty and fighting that poverty. They recognised the police, the court system and prison guards to be the enemy.
Consequent to the Watts uprising of 1965 the United Front attracted youth based in South Central L.A. working class and surplus population that changed their world-outlook from race to class struggle and socialism. Formally, its politico-ideological concept was Maoist Little Red Book communism. The youth had no connection to nor ideological union with the black bourgeoisie nor the government. The United Front was in no way in class collaboration with the capitalists or capitalist politicians. It was revolutionary. This transition from neighborhood restriction on one hand, and skin colour identity politics on the other, brought these youth into United Front's Maoist Marxism-Leninism.
The United Front was a communist organisation of working-class Black youth living together as a collective housed at the corner building on 76th and San Pedro, across from Freemont High School. It was politically associated with the Communist Party U.S.A. (Marxist-Leninist), a Maoist group headquartered at its book store in Watts, on 92nd a Beach. The United Front together with the CPUSA (M-L) and its Maoist literature challenged identity politics. By its making available Marxist as well as Leninist, Stalinist and Maoist literature to South Central, Watts and Compton the CPUSA (ML) and the United Front introduced Marxism to the black intelligentsia.
Prior to civil rights legislation community businessmen, landlords and their police protection were for the most part 'white', and bigoted. Working class families living under such circumstances were subjected to State repression. Police are vicious and consequently are feared, resented, despised and hated. Working class black families living in poverty and racially oppressed endured this condition as 'racist'. But such condition also engendered rebellion. Rebellion is social and political protest.
South Central LA community youth organised into clubs or 'gangs' were working-class youth affiliations on a territorial community basis. Drugs, drug-dealing and money had no place in these clubs. These community organisations directly participated in the Watts Rebellion in 1965. This uprising, beginning on August 11, 1965 was in direct response to police beating of a Black man and kicking a pregnant Black woman at the intersection of Avalon Boulevard and 166th Street. The word of this incident spread through the neighborhood and crowds of Black youth went to the scene of the beating and kicking. Police reinforcement came to disperse the people, but were repelled by barrages of rocks and bottles. The six-day uprising began, quickly turning into food and other commodities being expropriated by the people and young rebels subsequently burning of those businesses. The uprising spread throughout South Central L.A.'s east side, and Watts, primarily Central Avenue and 103rd Street. Police were reinforced by a military invasion, 4,000 armed troops, tanks, and armored vehicles arrived from the California Army National Guard on the streets, everywhere, which suppressed the uprising.
Burning buildings during the rebellion
This proto-revolutionary uprising and its social and political results explain the popularity of Mao's Little Red Book quote 'political power grows from the barrel of a gun' and the reason many newly politically aware Black working class youth in South Central LA were attracted to the "United Front". After the uprising, the club members were politically aware and conscious and aware of the repressive powers of the State.
Prior to the uprising State institutions were seen simply as 'racist' individuals rather than repressive institutions: 'prejudiced against Blacks'. Capitalists were 'white men'. The State institutions were white cops, white judges, white prison guards. But the uprising was a virtual urban guerrilla war battling cops and soldiers. Dozens of rebels were killed and hundreds wounded and even more jailed. This class warfare politicised black youth. Critical analysis evolved from subjectivity to objective political analysis. The recognition of the State as the State.
In South Central Los Angeles, a part of this rational process of evolving critical practical thinking, or 'praxis', this awakening working class' class-conscious politics was confirmed and thus deepened in 1966, '67 and 68 by working class black youth of city slums across the United States took to the streets in uprising . In several cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Washington D.C. the State deployed not just Army National Guards but regular Army, e.g. the 92nd and 101 Airborne troops to suppress rebellious 'citizens'.
Praxis-epistemology is practico-critical revolutionary activity that's predicated upon and engendered by social individuals coming into conflict with ruling class culture itself. The existence of revolutionary ideas presupposes the existence of an economically exploited socially oppressed and politico-militarily repressed working class coming into its own class consciousness engendered revolutionary objectives.
The attraction to Mao must be understood in context of American culture.
Most of the black youth who later became rebels and revolutionaries were raised along with the rest of the 'baby-boom' generation, in the 1950s and early 60s. That is, the culture of anti-communism and cold war propaganda was drummed into heads of children, not the least by which children in grammar school had to participate in nuclear war bomb drills, hiding under desks with backs to class room windows. There was the news media propaganda agency 'reporting' on 'Sputnik', Soviet military parades showing off nuclear bomb carrying missiles, and Khrushchev nightly on TV news denounced as a Communist Dictator, Protestant churches called him 'the Anti-Christ'. Newsreels in theaters voiced over videos of him at the UN General Assembly presenting him as a madman beating his fists on delegation tables and at the podium. Then there came the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was easier to associate with Mao. After all he was a man of color, Chinese.
Upon entering the United Front's public spaces, separated from its family housing spaces one was greeted by big Chinese delivered poster portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. These portraits had been purchased by and initially sent to the CPUSA(M-L) bookstore on 92nd and Beach Street and provided to the United Front by the CPUSA(M-L).
To enter the United Front building one had to be completely free from the fear of Communism. The anti-Soviet propaganda of the Cold War was to some extent continued in the Maoist doctrine of "Soviet Revisionism". The new anti-Sovietism was the presentation of the Soviet Communist Party as having abandoned world revolution and national liberation armed struggle. The attraction of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party was the Red Book and Cultural Revolution and the dictum that 'political power grows from the barrel of a gun'. Like Mao and the Chinese cadres of revolution, United Front cadres dressed in Army green uniforms and its green caps.
The United Front was in direct opposition to the cultural nationalists of the US Organisation and to government agency funded black organisations in South Central LA. More important is along with taking up Mao's Red Book came new legitimacy of Marxist and Leninist literature. The writings of Marx and Lenin -- particularly "The Communist Manifesto" by Marx and Engels and "The State and Revolution by Lenin". Mao's Four Essays on Philosophy -- "On Contradiction", "On Practice", "Where Do Correct Ideas Come From" -- and "Combat Liberalism" were on top of reading lists.
The United Front's leadership developed a 'class struggle perspective'. In opposition to not just "Soviet Revisionism", with its Stalin vs khrushchev partisan polemic but directly in opposition to the U.S. government's interventions against the Vietnamese workers and peasants revolution and against African liberation movements and the U.S. Black liberation Movement. United Front cadres consciously advanced the class line against poverty pimp collaboration with the State. It's definitive slogan was "one cannot defeat U.S. imperialism by collaborating with its agents".
The United Front therefore opposed the government funded Young Men For Total Democracy, and SLANT, both based in Watts and promoters of the Watts Summer Festival. This festival was denounced as a government supported "Darky Carnival". In opposition to this the United Front organised protests that took place at the Festival itself. The United Front called upon festival goers to instead renounce this sham and return to the original rebellious spirit of the Watts uprising of 1965. Instead of buck dancing in the slave quarters at the darky carnival, the United Front called for the building of a militant, class struggle movement, which it called the "August 11th Movement". This resulted in the direct confrontation with the goons of the Watts Summer Festival.
The next and final major confrontation of the United Front against class collaboration with government organised or/and funded poverty pimps, cultural nationalists and Black politicians of the Democratic Party. This occurred in 1966. At Jefferson High School, in its auditorium, the Black bourgeois businessmen and Democrats were allowed to hold a 'Black Power Conference'. The Conference was well attended by black poverty-pimps, black preachers, politicians and professors -- businessmen, Democrats and cultural nationalists. There was plenty of black pride poetry reading, praying, entertainment, demagoguery and black pride rhetoric denouncing 'racism', thereby advocating election of Black Democrats providing, in the name of Black Power, ideological justification for State recruitment of black repressive police officers.
1968: Marxian theory of international proletarian revolution was vindicated by the simultaneous Black inner-city working class youth uprisings engendered by social conditions and police confrontations sparked by the cold blooded assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Occurring simultaneously in 120 cities across the United States, inner-city confrontations of working class youth occurred in global context: the Vietnamese Tet Offensive, the Mexican student protests and repression in Mexico City and the Olympics protest demonstration of Black athletes expressing solidarity with the black uprisings in the States. In France anti-war protests by students in Paris led to the French working classes taking to the streets in the French May-June workers General Strike.
Every form of social thinking and political theory without exception is stamped by the brand of class interests. In South-Central Los Angeles' inner-city working class clubs, members emerged organisations other than political cadres separate and apart from United Front cadres. Slausons, Gladiators, Pueblo Cavilors, Pueblo Condors, Outlaws and Baby Outlaws, 20s, Businessmen and Baby Businessmen &c. were also being transformed by their experiences in and consequent to the politics unleashed through the Watts uprising to become revolutionaries many of which formed, and became cadres of L.A. and Watts chapters of the newly forming Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. As the case of United Front cadres so other revolutionary black youth of neighborhoods that became Panthers despised, rejected and denounced both the State and government funded poverty pimps and their cultural nationalist fronts.
United Front cadre members who attended the Black Power Conference to express and articulate critiques and criticisms of its class collaborationist character were physically attacked and dispersed by cultural nationalists that constituted its 'security' apparatus. Upon returning to its home base at the building located across the street from Freemont High School, internal contradictions emerged in this organisation which engendered its end. Within weeks, the remaining cadre dissolved the United front. Several cadres decided to continue participation of the class struggle officially becoming members of the LA Chapter of the Black Panther Party. Among these were Yusef and Ray 'Masia' Hewitt.
Black Panther Members Prior to Press Conference
Original caption: Philadelphia: Panther Minister of Information Elbert (Big Man) Howard (L) confers with Panther Afeno Shakur (C) and Minister of Education Ray Massi Hewitt prior to press conference. Howard and Hewitt announced that Washington, DC, will be the site of the final Constitutional Convention. - September 7, 1970
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