The Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum met for the second time last night to discuss the united front tactic, specifically as it relates to the fight against fascism. Numbers were up from the first meeting, with activists coming from Swansea and Newport to join a variety of Cardiff socialists and anarchists in a constructive and informative discussion entirely free of wooden sectarian posturing.
Part of the remit of the forum, in a period of increasing disorientation of the left, is to revisit the ABC of Marxist theory and practice as developed by the Third and Fourth internationals in their healthy earlier periods.
A second aim is to facilitate unity in action around those issues where agreement can be reached as to what action is necessary. Clearly, in the current period, the fight against fascism is a priority, and yesterday’s discussion made real progress in establishing what is needed in that area.
Closely related to this is the fight against deportations and the elimination of border controls. This is an area where revolutionary socialists and class struggle anarchists can unite to draw in wider forces; despite the overwhelming demonisation of refugees and asylum seekers, victorious campaigns such as that around the Sukula family in Bolton show how the labour movement and local community can be moblised against the inhumane policies of the British state.
It is a sad reflection on the state of the socialist left today that the basic concept of the united front has by and large been abandoned. The idea of the united front was that revolutionaries could work alongside much wider forces around specific issues without compromising their own ability to put forward socialist arguments. By working with trade union leaders, reformist politicians etc, revolutionaries could show themselves as willing to go further than those misleaders to forward the interests of the working class. For example, in a trade union dispute we would not hesitate to call for the militant defence of picket lines where necessary, something even the most left Labour MP would baulk at.
Such a demand is but one example of how a revolutionary socialist programme should not be something to be stowed away for a great day in the future, but is relevant to the immediate struggle. Today, however, there is a widespread perception on the left that workers can only be addressed with arguments which do not challenge the fundamental tenets of the capitalist system – reformism.
The workers united front, meanwhile, has been replaced by the simplistic concept that we build as big a campaign as possible, allow left liberal ideas to dominate it, then content ourselves with selling papers on the sidelines to the few who will listen. Instead of challenging trade union barons, exposing Labour MPs and proving in practice the superiority of revolutionary socialism, the aim has become to keep everyone on board by avoiding anything which threatens the reformists, and even to big them up in front of workers and hope to grow by clinging to their coattails.
In the case of Unite Against Fascism, even Tories have been pulled on board for public meetings. How can workers be convinced that socialists, not fascists, represent their interests when they see us in league with the class enemy, whose attacks on the working class and promotion of racism have sown the seeds for fascist success in the first place?
PR will continue to fight via socialist forums in Cardiff and elsewhere for the maximum possible unity – but unity which promotes, not cripples, our ability to fight.
Our aim with the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum is that, once established, it will become the property of all its participants, and as such a step towards wider socialist unity, both within united front campaigns and, if sufficient agreement on organisation and programme can be reached, a revolutionary socialist party. Meetings will be on the first Wednesday of each month – the next (proposed by comrades of the CPGB and agreed at the forum), will be on Iran (details to follow).
There is also a CRSF e-group which all open-minded leftists are welcome to join.