United Front

(Einheitsfront)
   a tactical maneuver designed by the KPD to entice labor support by feigning cooperation with the trade unions* and/or the SPD. The term was coined by Ernst Toller* and pertained initially to the policy advanced in 1918-1919 by Kurt Eisner's* Bavarian government in its futile effort to maintain SPD-USPD unity. Better known is the KPD effort, originating with Paul Levi* in January 1921, to "go to the masses" and thereby win trade-union support. Dictated by necessity, not conviction, the proposal was not adopted until June, that is, after the KPD's disastrous March 1921 uprising in which the Party, goaded by the USPD's recent split, made a futile attempt at revolution.
   The United Front strategy was inherently ambiguous and dishonest. Adherents of a so-called United Front from below aimed to entice worker support by cooperating with the unions. Those desiring a United Front from above hoped to attract labor by working with the SPD leadership. But the ambiguity went deeper than this. While the policy implied working within existing institutions to coax mass support, it also meant that such work was no more than preparation for the overthrow of the Republic. Yet by relaxing principles of doctrine and discipline sufficiently to work within the Weimar system, the KPD risked its doctrine and discipline. The discrepancy between means and ends, between the desire to build mass support and the need to maintain ideological purity, spawned factional strife and perennial tension with Moscow. Indeed, the very nature of the policy encouraged Moscow's determination to minimize ideolog-ical deviation by imposing strict discipline on the KPD.
   Making use of the 1923 hyperinflation, the KPD lent support to SPD gov-ernments in Thuringia* and Saxony,* and made joint cause with the SPD in such endeavors as a demonstration following Walther Rathenau's* assassina-tion.* Cooperation spawned the Proletarian Hundreds, armed formations of workers. Yet not only was the United Front applied inconsistently (the KPD voted against the Law for the Protection of the Republic,* also a response to Rathenau's murder), it avoided the compromises needed for working-class unity. Moreover, it invariably misread "opportunities" and promoted labor actions supported neither by the majority of workers nor by the trade unions. Finally, the policy spawned vicious factionalism; Ruth Fischer,* for example, condemned the United Front as a policy that threatened to degrade communism to the level of "reformism."
   Never fully embraced by the KPD, United Front efforts were finally aban-doned in 1928. In every instance the impetus for policy change derived from Moscow.
   REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Mitchell, Rev-olution in Bavaria; Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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