Unity: Essential for victory!

BY:Bruce Bostick| January 22, 2020
Unity: Essential for victory!


Editor’s note: This article responds to the November 2019 discussion question on political independence, working-class leadership, and the fight for democracy.

Issues around the question of “unity” are now front and center for the people’s movement, for our people, and for our party, in this time of special crisis of this system. Literally everything coming out of the Trump administration reflects its roots as a cabal of, by, and for the wealthiest of the ruling class. As such, racism (the ruling class’s oldest, most effective and central weapon used to divide the working class) infects every policy and position. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, disdain for the disabled, hatred of organized labor, and other drivers of isolation, division, and hopelessness among working people are reflected in literally every move made by this administration.

Our corporate, racist enemies understand that if they are to be successful in stripping our people of everything we’ve won in the past century, they need to split us up to undermine our strength. The working class will have to develop much stronger unity for this year’s all-important election, if we are to come out victorious. It has struck me that some who are anti-Trump, who want to see needed changes, and even some of those who are part of today’s upsurge of support for socialist, leftist ideas, don’t necessarily connect that goal to the need to widen unity against Trump, the GOP, and their corporate, right-wing partners. For Communists, as well as unionists and progressives of all stripes, helping our people understand the need for unity to defeat Trump and his minions must be at the top of our priorities during this year.

Democratic Party—Independence

The corporate leaders of the Democratic Party are hardly working to further unity. Instead, they are attempting to tamp down and control the rising rebellion of people demanding real changes: health care for all, worker’s rights and pension protection, stopping public giveaways to billionaires, and ending accommodation to racism, misogyny, and homophobia. Democrats’ attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, their accommodation to right-wing, Zionist elements who want to outlaw criticism of Israeli policies, their closing ranks against “socialist” ideas—all these only serve to aid Trump and prevent united action to defeat him.

On the other hand, to dismiss the Democratic Party, along with its historic impeachment fight, is to dismiss our people’s fight to preserve and protect precious democratic gains that we have won in tough, bloody struggles. Given the nature of the electoral system at this time, to dismiss the Democratic Party as a whole is to ignore the political ground we fight on and hand over the upcoming election to corporate neo-fascists. To defeat Trump and the GOP, it will absolutely take the Democratic Party, including even the so-called moderate sectors. Understanding this fact does not eliminate the necessity of continuing to fight for real shifts away from policies that enrich the top 1% and impoverish the rest of us. Given the embedded institutional nature of our nation’s electoral two-party, corporate-controlled system, it is an absolute certainty that if we are able to defeat Trump, a Democrat will be elected.

However, some are threatening to boycott elections or vote for third parties, attacking candidates, and moving in a dangerous direction toward isolation—“a plague on all.” Some Bernie supporters have fed this, but they are hardly alone. To one degree or another, some are calling for unity, but others are undervaluing the need for united action across the wide democratic people’s movement. It is dialectical that both exist side by side.

Independence and Unity

New activists—especially young folks thoroughly disgusted by Trump’s egotism, racism and anti-immigrant cruelty, open misogyny, and attacks on working families and newly achieved LGBT rights—have been mobilized. Along with their anger has been a growing awareness of the undemocratic nature of our corporate-controlled electoral system, including the electoral college, designed as it was to protect control by oligarchs and slave owners. Many of these new activists recognize the need for democratizing the electoral system and opening it to new parties, as well as express more progressive and socialist ideas. This is far reaching and extremely positive.

However, we need to help honest fighters understand that, while we agree with the goals of opening the system up to new parties and eliminating the outmoded and racist electoral college, walking away from the fight against Trump and Trumpism breaks the unity needed to elect a new progressive government. It is a recipe for disaster: completely turning over all our public institutions to neo-fascists, giving up hard-won gains of the past century to blood-thirsty corporations, and returning to vicious rule of Jim Crow. Further, during this time of climate emergency, the world cannot afford to wait out a second Trump presidency. While we see the need for independence from the old corporate parties, such independence needs to be viable, not something that isolates the left from the wider public. To be viable, a new party needs real infrastructure, including support of organized labor, African Americans, women, and wider sections of the population. Minus that, the left can be isolated and crushed.

Some on the extreme ultra-left espouse the concept “the worse—the better,” but we’ve seen what the capitalist class did to working-class families and communities. What emerged from the disastrous 2016 election was “better” only for the corporate ruling class.

We need to bring not a small amount of self-criticism with us in explaining how and why we must have stronger, wider fighting unity in electoral politics at this time. We are coming to grips with horrible set-backs, as well as a period internally in which our party’s historic “three-legged strategy” (running our own candidates, working with allies to build independent electoral structures, and working within the old parties to push progressive issues/candidates) rested awkwardly on only one leg. We need to work for unity, defeat Trump, and build wider alliances that can provide the basis for further independent developments. However, all is for naught if we do not defeat Trump and elect a progressive alternate government.

Unity: Ideological, Not Just a Tactical Issue

“Unity” of working people, in order to defeat the boss and win struggles, predates Marxism/Leninism. In the infancy of the workers’ movement, this understanding emerged as central. This basic principle was codified in the mass slogan of the trade union movement:

“United we stand, Divided we fall! An injury to one is an injury to all!”

Everyone seems to be “for unity.” Many unions and even some of the more sectarian, divisive groupings call themselves united. It seems that while everyone on our side of the political equation is for unity, we have no unanimity of who should be united around what issues, against whom, for what period of time, and ultimately toward what goal.

Questions of unity, including how, where, when to apply it, and who is included in that push, have to be applied whenever we as communists (or even progressive activists) do anything at all. To fail to deal with this key issue when applying our Marxist/Leninist scientific guidelines is like trying to make steel without coke. It might “look somewhat like Marxism,” but like the coke-less “steel” will fail as soon as challenged.

Unity is looked upon in some circles as a tactical question, as a concession to others, a watering down of revolutionary principles to help on a temporary issue. When the question of needed wider unity is raised, there is a camp that promotes standards that disqualify individuals/groups. Some of those disqualifying points include being a Democrat, a non-socialist, previously haven taken positions you oppose, etc. There are some who’ll assert, wrongly, that it is a violation of Marxist principles to unite with anyone not in favor of socialism. That ridiculous assertion is itself a violation of Marxism, not to mention that anyone who has ever worked on strike solidarity would find these marching orders strange at the least.

I’d assert that we need to reach out to build unity with those who we jointly agree with, around the issue or issues that we hold in common. That unity, to be successful, needs to be sufficient to relatively isolate our enemy and strengthen our side of that fight. Unity can be long-range, as in the needed long-term unity of our working class; African American, Latin, and other oppressed peoples; people of color; women; and LGBT folks, but it also can be around one single issue or even one vote.

Unity and Our History

The periods of revolutionary shifts in our nation’s history, including abolition, the New Deal, and the 1960s Civil Rights struggle, all took place only when those struggles evolved from agitation to wide struggles involving the masses of our people.

In each of these struggles, there were long periods of agitation, building of movements and struggles, but ultimately uniting in the huge battles that ended slavery, won huge gains for our working class and people, and won basic rights of citizenship for African Americans. They succeeded only when these movements widened out, included wide “center forces,” and became the property of our entire people.

The reverse has also been true. When the revolutionary movement, Communists, and the left have been isolated, the corporate ruling class has quickly moved to attack and crush them. In the war hysteria of World War I, when the left was somewhat isolated by its opposition to that war, Eugene Debs was imprisoned and the Palmer Raids took place, resulting in the arrest and deportation of thousands of leftist workers.

After the defeat of fascism in World War II, the left broke with the old parties, ran Henry Wallace, a progressive New Dealer, on the new Progressive Party ticket. The ruling class saw this as an opening and organized the vicious McCarthy-era attacks on the Communist Party and the wider left, resulting in horrible setbacks for our entire people.


Some argue that reaching out to others with whom we may have disagreements on some points endangers Marxism/Leninism or waters down working-class ideology. But that position seems to say that our ideology is so weak that it cannot stand up to even casual relationships with those who don’t hold our views. The fact is simply that wider unity is essential to people’s victory. Wherever our party or workers’ parties across the globe unite with wider sections of the people, it is the corporate enemy’s selfish ideology of racism, misogyny, homophobia, war, and hopelessness that is weakened.

The fight for unity is just that, a tough and ongoing struggle, not something handed down from above as in Michelangelo’s famous painting in the Sistine Chapel. It requires constant adjustment, always working with regular people. It is here that we develop real democratic connections, find the way to implement real people’s democratic changes. Our people will let us know, quickly, when we go astray, and that is the compass that we need to constantly check.

After all, they, collectively and acting in revolutionary unison, will ultimately make our history!







    Bruce Bostick is a retired steelworker and labor activist in Ohio.

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