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The United Front: a strategy for today

By: 
Carolyn Egan

April 12, 2017

We are seeing the rise of racism and Islamophobia across the country: a Qur’an torn up at a public meeting in Ontario, mosques being picketed across the country, women wearing  hijab being attacked on the streets, Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary spouting racist slogans and calling for the return to “Canadian Values”.

At the same time women in Toronto organized for International Women’s Day under the banner of “Stop the Hate, Unite the Fight, Build the Resistance” bringing thousands out to march. More recently the Toronto and York Region Labour Council in conjunction with the Urban Alliance on Race Relations packed Toronto City Hall chambers with a forum entitled “Stop the Hate” with leaders of different communities leading a discussion on how to stem the rise of reaction. Many ideas came forward from the very diverse crowd that had come together.

There are ongoing discussions taking place on how we best build a broad based movement. The left has experience through many years of struggle of organizing successful campaigns for change whether they have been about defending public services, fighting racism, or for women’s rights. One of the strategies used has been the united front.

Unity in action

This was first articulated by Leon Trotsky when looking at the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930’s. He called for the social democrats and the communists, both of whom had large memberships, to come together in common cause, not giving up their own organizations or identities, but to fight the rise of fascism together. Sadly his advice was not heeded and we saw the horrific results.

In short the united front is a strategy for working class people and their allies in different organizations to come together to fight for a shared objective. We have seen recent successful examples of this method, such as the anti-war movement in Canada, when unions, faith groups, students, the Muslim communities and the left joined forces to build a grass roots movement which brought hundreds of thousands out across the country. The same method has been used by reproductive justice activists, anti-racist, Indigenous and other movements around the world.

It’s goal is unity in action by groups that may have differences in political goals or outlooks but share progressive views, and decide to work together to fight for a particular issue. It is an attempt to bridge the gap among groups and allow them to fight shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy.

People from many different political viewpoints come together, not necessarily agree on every issue, but can build the unity to win. It is a very important political strategy that can bring real victories in the here and now. Every win we have can strengthen the movement for change, move the struggle forward, and give momentum and confidence to those who have taken up the fight.

The stakes are very high today. There is a tremendous amount to win or loose. We see the rise of Trumpism in the US, the National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece preying on people’s fears and anxieties for the future. They fan the flames of racism and misogyny, as the rich get richer and the austerity agenda marches on. We need to build the unity necessary now so that progressive forces can come together and defeat the rise of the right in Canada and Quebec. The united front is a strategy for today.

Join the conference One solution, revolution: Marxism 2017, April 21-22 in Toronto, including the session “Fighting racism in the age of Trump”, “Marxism and Women’s Liberation”, and “From protests and strikes to revolution”

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