A. Lozovsky

The Labor Movement

The Main Stages in
the Evolution of the R.T.U.I.

(6 January 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 2, 6 January 1922, pp. 13–14.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

With the beginning of the war all ties that kept the trade unions of various countries together were torn, the Trade Union International went to pieces, and together with it also the international professional and trade secretariats. The incredible treason in the leading trade-union circles of all countries during the first years of war put the entire labor movement of opposition arose within the old organization.

The patriots of various countries were constructing their “International” organizations on the pattern of the existing political coalitions; the revolutionary international opposition was, however, for a long time without any international cohesion.

After the March Revolution, the Russian trade-unions raised the question of organizing a true Trade Union International. This was proposed for the first time at the third convention of the Russian trade-unions (June 20–28, 1917). Then the question came up once more, during the first congress of the Russian revolutionary trade-unions held after the October Revolution in 1918.

However, the initiative of the Russian trade-unions was barren of success until 1920. When the Russian trade-unions, during their Second Congress, appealed once again for an international affiliation of all revolutionary trade-unions, their appeal met with a like failure. The same is true also of the appeal issued by the Labor Conference of the All-Russian Central Committee of the Trade Unions during the Washington Labor Conference. In this appeal the Russian Central Committee raises its protest against the Washington comedy and calls upon all revolutionary organizations to establish relations with it for the purpose of creating by a common effort an international revolutionary organization.

At the Third Congress (March 1920) the Russian trade unions decided to join the Third International on the ground that “the struggles of the international proletariat do not aim at the reform, but at the complete destruction of capitalism, and that in the political struggles all class conscious revolutionary elements are constantly joining the ranks of the Third Inter national as the organization embodying the world revolution”. At the same time the Congress of the Russian trade-unions issued an appeal to all revolutionary unions of other countries to follow the Russian example. This decision of the Russian unions formed a line of demarcation between the Amsterdam Trade Union International then already organized and the revolutionary unions of all countries. The appeal of the Russian unions was answered this time by the French syndicalists and the trade unions of Italy, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia as well as by certain trade-union groups of England. An organized differentiation of the revolutionary elements in the trade-unions movement began at this point. The strong need for the creation of a central organization led the representatives of the revolutionary unions to Russia, where, on the eve of the Second Congress of the Communist International, they laid the foundation stone of the Red Trade Union International. Taking part in the discussions of the Conference there were several representatives of the English trade-unions, delegates from the All-Russian Trade Union Central Committee, from the Italian General Federation of Labor, from the Spanish National Federation of Labor, from the Bulgarian General Trade Union Federation, from the French Revolutionary Syndicalists and Minority from the Jugoslavian General Federation of Labor. These discussions led to the voting of a declaration on the 15th of July, that served as the point of departure and basis for the further recruiting of revolutionary forces.

The declaration asserted:

“that in most countries which look part in the war the majority of the trade unions held a position of neutrality, became lackeys of capitalist imperialism during the tragic years of war, and therein played a sinister role; that they checked the workers’ movement for complete emancipation; that the duty of the working-class is to gather all trade-union forces into a powerful revolutionary class organization that would march forward hand in hand with the international political organization of the international Communist proletariat in order to win, in union with it, the final victory of the Social Revolution and the establishment of the World Soviet Republic ...

“that the program and tactics of the Amsterdam Trade Union International are incapable of leading to triumph the principle before mentioned, and of assuring the victory of the proletariat in all countries.”

Proceeding from these considerations the representative of the countries mentioned organized a provisional international fighting organization for the conquest of the trade union movement. The work of this provisional body in the first eleven months consisted chiefly in forcing the trade-union movement of all countries to the expression of a clear attitude to the new International, in the preparation of a constituent congress of the new R.T.U.I. and in spreading the idea of revolutionary trade unionism.

During the organization of the provisional Council certain differences of opinion appeared in the left wing of the trade-union movement which are to be explained by the fact that the one part of the revolutionary trade-unions received a Communist, another part a Syndicalist or Anarchist training. The Anarchists sought to impose upon the new international organization a negative attitude towards the dictatorship of the proletariat, and to prevent the Trade Union International from all collaboration with the Communist International; the left reformists on the other hand, represented by the Italian General Federation of Labor, were leaning towards Amsterdam. Only the Communists and Syndicalists bore the burden of the struggle, from July 1920 till July 1921, even though they also were not in complete accord.

The First Congress of Revolutionary Trade Unions (July 23–19, 1921), in which 380 delegates representing 14 countries participated, laid down the theoretical and practical foundation for the new structure of revolutionary trade-unionism. It drew up a clear program of action, formulated the essential means and methods of struggle, worked out the statutes, defined its attitude towards the Communist International – in brief, the Red Trade Union International assumed the clear form of a full-grown organization with definite tactics. And though there appeared, in the course of this Congress, certain differences of opinion, they were the same that had existed since the organization of the Provisional International Council. On one hand there was the standpoint that sought “to bring into accord” Moscow and Amsterdam; this was represented by the Italian Federation of Labor. On the other hand, there was the attempt io separate at all costs the Red Trade Union International from the Comintern as from a political organization, and to build between the two an insurmountable wall. In spite of wide divergences of opinion and ardent debates the Communists and Syndicalists found a common meeting ground and the Congress succeeded in drawing up definite guiding lines for revolutionary trade unions of all countries. With the holding of the first Congress the period of organized preparation for the struggle and gathering of forces came to an end. The R.T.U.I., which had now actually become an international organization, from now on could extend its activity on a worldwide scale, on the ground of its principles and tactical resolutions elaborated even in their details.

The period of the present will be marked by a systematic activity of organization of the R.T.U.I. in all countries. The work of agitation and propaganda is now tied up inseparably with the work of organization of the revolutionary trade-union movement. The revolutionary trade-union movement is showing steady if slow growth. The R.T.U.I. carries on its activity in some lands through units which have been systematically built up and which are independent organizations, whereas in other countries only the organized and also the unorganized opposition in the old trade unions have joined it. In this way, the R.T.U.I. possesses a rather unique character as an organization. From this arise also the enormous difficulties which stand in the way of its activity. The R.T.U.I. at its congress adopted the slogan “Conquest of the Trade Unions ” as opposed to the slogan of some impatient German comrades who favor the destruction of the old organizations. Of course, the conquest of the old organizations means hard work, and the difficulties which the R.T.U.I. encounters thereat lie not only in the impossibility of establishing the actual membership of the R.T.U.I., but especially in this, that the minority groups are deprived of their freedom of movement by the organizations to which they belong. They have to carry on the fight under exceedingly difficult conditions and against a powerful and splendidly organized bureaucracy, which is not without its influence on the tempo of our advance in the way of organization.

In spite of that we see a continuous increase of the number of adherents to the R.T.U.I. in all countries. Since the Congress the trade unions of Portugal have joined and likewise the majority of the Czecho-Slovak trade-unions have ranged themselves on our side. In Italy about one-third of the Labor Confederation is for us. In Norway, the representatives of the Local Trades Councils unanimously declared themselves for us. In France, the Revolutionary Syndicalists have not joined us formally, but their practical activity is in accordance with the lines of action set down by the Moscow Congress. In America a left bloc is in the process of being organized. In England, the number of followers of the R.T.U.I. is growing perceptibly.

If the R.T.U.I. would content itself with the same tasks as the Amsterdam International it could consider its work as 90% completed. But it cannot and will not be content with the role of an information and registration bureau. It is striving to found a truly international organization of trade unions, that is, such an organization as would be able to unite and direct the revolutionary struggle in all countries. The building up of such an organization will naturally take a long time, as national isolation is still uppermost in the minds of large sections of the proletariat. Whereas the Amsterdam T.U.l. stops short before these national boundary lines and considers them unbreakable, we emphatically stress the necessity of breaking down the walls between the workers of the different countries. And these walls can be destroyed only with the help of international action. The way which the R.T.U.I. has to traverse is long and difficult; it will take a long time before the R.T.U.I. can stand as an unshakable international organization. This presupposes the conquest of the countries trade-union organizations of the most important. The international situation is favorable to us. When, for instance, the A.D.G.B. (German Trade Unions Federation) comes forward with its famous ten demands, the carrying out of which would undermine the rule of the bourgeoisie, that means that the Amsterdam International is standing on a volcano.

We are not basing our tactics on the subjective efforts of single persons, but on the objective development of the movement. The tactics of the R.T.U.I. are being built on the lessons learnt from the revolutionary movement in all countries. At the present moment we are still behind Amsterdam as regards numbers; the powerful English and German unions belong to it, and in these we are still in the minority. But the Amsterdam International is rolling downhill whereas the R.T.U.I. is going up. In proportion as the differences grow within the old organizations and in proportion as the laboring masses are hurled with irresistible force against their class-enemies, in proportion as capitalist pressure pushes the laboring masses more and more to the ground, and thereby engenders a powerful wave of dissatisfaction and hatred, the R.T.U.I. becomes stronger from day to day. If capitalism should succeed in strengthening itself and in winning a victory on an international scale, then Amsterdam would also be victorious over Moscow. But as it is not a matter of the strengthening of capitalism, but of its decomposition (and even far-sighted bourgeois thinkers do not doubt this), victory must fall to the Red Trade Union International. Social Reaction or Social Revolution, Capitalism or Communism – thus stands the question on an international scale. This question must he answered in our favor. For the spirit of Communism broods over the entire world.

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