A. Lozovsky

The Tasks of the Communists
in the Trade Unions

(December 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 111, 13 December 1922, pp. 915–934.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

The Communist International, having determined to wage decisive and bitter struggle against all shades of reformism, could not from the very beginning of the struggle but come into conflict with the most important bulwark of reformism, – the Modern Trade Unions. Hence in its first declarations the Communist International defined its altitude towards the reformist unions and to the International Labor movement. The Second Congress of the Comintern outlined the policy of the Communists in the Trade Union movement, repudiating the “split and smash the unions” theory which was bred by impatience and misconception of the fundamental tasks of the Communist policy.

The Third Congress again dealt with the Trade Union question. This is not surprising, for the Trade Unions had become the last refuge of the world bourgeoisie and the chief foundation upon which capitalist rule is resting. In its exhaustive theses the Third Congress of the Comintern discussed the most vital questions of the world’s Trade Union movement and especially emphasized the necessity of making the most of the struggle against the reformists, conducted for the purpose of capturing the Trade Unions. Finally, the last meeting of the enlarged Executive Committee of the Comintern found it necessary to sharply condemn the tendency prevailing in some Communist circles to liquidate the Profintern. It was quite clear that this liquidation tendency, though often based on very high motives, was in reality a result of weakness and inability to rally the forces for the struggle against reformism.

The Fourth Congress must make a further step forward. The general principles for carrying on Communist work in the Labor Unions have been formulated. The next task is to develop the problems in a concrete form and emphasize once more the questions which have been brought to the front by the practical international class-struggle. In order to present these questions in their proper light, we must first of all study the circumstances under which the struggle of the Communists for the revolutionizing of the Labor Unions is proceeding at the present time.

A cursory glance at the International Trade Union movement will show that it is experiencing a severe crisis. The crisis is caused, on the one hand, by the powerful capitalist offensive, and, on the other, by the bankruptcy of the theory and practice of the leading elements of the world Trade Union movement. The activities of the capitalists in their offensive took definite shape towards the end of 1920, and assumed a well-planned and organized character, as a campaign directed towards reducing the cost of production under any circumstances, by cheapening the Labor power. The bourgeoisie hoped to solve its post-war difficulties by exerting pressure on the working class, The sharper the crisis developed, the more ferociously did the bourgeoisie conduct its aggressive campaign. The bourgeoisie was determined to continue to obtain by all possible means the monstrous profits to which it had become accustomed during the war. The forms of the offensive varied, assuming a different aspect in countries having a high currency to that in countries with a low currency. Taken as a whole, however, the attack was centered on the eight-hour day; the scale of wages was systematically reduced; and a campaign was started against the very existence of the Unions. (The „open shop campaign” in America.) In addition to the purely economic offensive, the bourgeoisie during the last two years has been setting up special organizations for the destruction of the labor unions. A classical illustration of the new bourgeois tactics is furnished by Italy where recently a crushing blow was dealt to the entire communist movement. Italy has now the deplorable honor of taking the lead of all “civilized” countries as far as the smashing up and destruction of Labor organizations is concerned. The entire Fascisti movement and analogous movements in other countries are neither more nor less than preventative counter-revolution. The Italian workers are forced to endure all the disadvantages and hardships of counter-revolution without reaping the benefits of revolution. This universal capitalist offensive encountered an extremely weak resistance on the world Labor Union movement. The Amsterdamers, who never missed an opportunity for boasting of their great victories over the capitalists, and of the great benefits which the International Labor Bureau of the League of Nations will bestow upon humanity, assumed from the first moment of the offensive the policy of watchful waiting. Not once during this period did they have the courage to take the initiative in a serious struggle, at best making a few steps forward only under the lash of the indignation of the working masses. A typical case in point was the recent lockout in England, the miners’ strike in America, the metal workers’ strike in France and a series of strikes in Germany and Italy. Everywhere the Amsterdamers played a passive role, they always strove to bring the conflict to a speedy end and merely hampered the struggle of the working class by disorganizing and demoralizing its ranks. The failure on the part of the Trade Unions to offer effective resistance, of the leaders to lead the masses of the workers to battle, caused deep disappointment among the broad masses of workers with the resulting withdrawal of entire groups of workers from the unions. The growth of the trade union movement during 1921 – 1922 was not only checked, but the membership was even rapidly declining. Hundreds of thousands of workers are leaving the unions which, due to this shrinking, become weak and unable to resist the capitalist offensive. The General Confederation of Labor of France, at the beginning of 1920 numbering above two million members, has now together with the United Confederation only 600,000 members. In Italy the membership of the Trade Unions decreased from 2,000,000 to 700,000. In England the trade unions lost one million three hundred thousand members and in the United States the unions lost nearly a million and a half members. A similar downward trend is observed in Czechoslovakia. Sweden, Norway, Holland, Denmark, etc. Only in Germany and Austria has the membership of the unions remained approximately constant. This should not be attributed to the excessive revolutionary spirit of the leaders of the labor union movement of these countries, but to the tragic condition of the Austro-German proletariat and to its greater susceptibility to organization.

Besides the numerical loss entailed by the unions, we observe among them a general instability and lack of self confidence. The Amsterdamers, who during several years were making the world resound with their declarations of the glorious reforms which the International Labor Bureau was about to bestow upon the suffering masses, now remain silent. The glorious days have passed. They have even themselves lost faith in the social creative force of their organizations. They continue to participate in the International Labor Bureau at the League of Nations for no other reason than the fact that they are chained to it like galley-slaves, and they will share the fate of this in-all-respects-remarkable institution. They cannot renounce the cooperation of classes, because all their actions are based upon this principle. Moreover, this cooperaion is growing closer every day, because the rupture of class cooperation between the unions and the bourgeoisie would not only sound the death knell of the bourgeoisie, but also of the Amsrerdamers.

While the leaders of the Amsterdam International were remarkably modest and extremely inactive in resisting the capitalist offensive, they became extremely insolent, aggressive and energetic whenever the issue was to fight against the revolutionary workers. The period between the III. Congress and the IV. is marked by an intense struggle of the Amsterdam leaders against the revolutionary wing of the labor movement. The Amsterdamers are determined never to be in the minority: they prefer rather to split the organizations than to turn into the hands of the Communists the leadership of the trade unions. Such is the slogan of the Amsterdam International. This policy is the logical deduction from the Amsterdam position: for any other policy would make it difficult for them to save the capitalist system. In France the Amsterdamers succeeded in splitting the trade union movement and there we now have two Confederations of Labor. No sooner did the Communists begin to threaten the fat jobs of the Czechoslovakian Amsterdamers than the latter repeated the manoeuvre of their French colleagues and split the entire trade union movement of that country. In Spain the reformist General Workers’ Union, split its largest miners’ organization as soon as the communists and the syndicalists secured a majority in it. In Germany a systematic campaign of persecution against the communists is conducted in the unions of the building trade, of railwaymen and transport workers. The German method consists in the expulsion of communists elected to any union office and the refusal to recognize their elected candidates, thus cutting off the revolutionary leaders from the revolutionary masses. This line of policy is adhered to by the German Amsterdamers most persistently and stubbornly in their untiring efforts to force the best militant elements out of the trade unions.

”The enemy is on the left. The ranks must be purged to keep strong” such is the cynical declaration of the central organ of the General Federation of Trade Unions in Germany, the Korrespondenz Blatt, in an article entitled The Enemy is on the Left. “Get out of the unions” – such is the slogan of the Amsterdamers who draw from it practical deductions. And the stronger the communist menace, the clearer the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, the clearer become the efforts of the Amsterdamers to split the unions. Revolutionary unions are of no use to them. They prefer catholic and yellow unions to the revoiutionary unions. There is more than sufficient evidence to to corroborate this fact. Thus the reformist Miners’ Union of Germany gladly concludes an agreement with the Catholic Union and the nationalist Polish Union, emphatically refusing to have any dealings with the Union of Hand and Brain Workers, on the pretext that its members are unorganized. This latter union is a revolutionary organization under the leadership of communists. The honorable gentlemen of the Miners’ Union, however, prefer Catholics to Communists.

The Amstedam attack upon the trade unions is not limited to national boundaries. The Amsterdam International at its last Congress in Rome, at a conference held jointly with the representatives of the International Industrial Secretariats again adopted a resolution io the effect that the revolutionary unions must have no place in the international secretariats. This resolution is carried out with the rigidity they always display in fighting the revolutionary unions. During the last year the Russian unions were either expelled or refused admission to the International Industrial Organizations of the following industries: Metal workers, Miners, Woodworkers, Builders, Textile workers, Agricultural workers, Post and Telegraph employees, Leather workers, Transport workers, etc. The formal motive for expulsion was that these unions are connected with the Profintern through the All-Russian Central Council of Labor Unions. The real reason is, however, that they brought about a revolution, that they are connected with the Soviet Government, that they are permeated with the spirit of communism and constitute the basis of the Soviet State and of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The International Secretariats affiliated with the Amsterdam International would gladly admit counter-revolutionary unions, but for revolutionary unions the doors are shut, for their admission may spoil the peaceful life and the digestion of the gentlemen of the Secretariats.

What does the attack on the revolutionary unions signify. It is essentially nothing else but a reflex of the International capitalist offensive against the working class. It is the reflex of the social battles waged between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The Amsterdam International, standing on the other side of the barricade, is bombarding the International labor movement with all the guns it has at present in its possession. The modern trade union leaders realise quite clearly that the labor movement, while it remains united, is progressing slowly, but surely, to the left, and that, as soon as the communists capture the labor union movement, the fate not only of the bourgeoisie but of reformism as well will be sealed. It is precisely for this reason that they consciously apply the tactic of splitting the unions and expelling the revolutionary elements. Their aim is to strip the working class of all power, to render it incapable of capturing the state power, and to disorganize and demoralize it so that it could not seize the means of production and distribution. The Amsterdam International is employing all conceivable means and methods to save modern “civilization”.

The Amsterdamers do not stand alone in their struggle against the communists; the anarchists are their allies. During the last two years we saw the struggle of the anarchists against communism becoming more and more acute. Ever since 1920 the hostile attitude of the anarchists assumed a virulent character, not differing at all of late from that of the reformists. It is true their arguments are different. In their attack they are carrying different banners, but the political meaning of their attack is the same. The anarchists are doing their utmost to hamper the work of the communists within the trade unions, vilifying this work, and even denying the communists the right to work in the trade union movement. Such attacks were within the last year coming from the American Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), from the Italian Syndicalist Union, from the Anarcho-Syndicalists and from several Syndicalist groups in France. All these campaigns were carried on under the slogan of “The struggle against politics” putting up the Trade Union International in opposition to the Communist. International and the Communist Parties. It is a well-known fact that politics, the party and the State are represented by the anarchists in the shape of an apocalyptic beast, and it is all the same to them what kind of politics, parties and State the question is about. In their transcendental reasoning they lump all things together, having become accustomed to reason in terms of the eternal and absolute. Their attitude is one of blunt and categorical denial of any kind of political action and of any relations whatever between the trade unions and the Communist Parties. Their abstract doctrines go by the name of independence, under which banner, they demonstrated last year against the Comintern and the Profintern. The trade unions all to themselves, and the Party all to itself – such was the meaning of these demonstrations. In a number of anarchist resolutions and manifestos this primitive idea was chewed over and over again, its pure and simple trade union garb failing of course to make it either more clear or more revolutionary.

The anarchists did not rest content with a mere controversial struggle against the communists. A number of things occurred during the last year showing that the anarchists were anxious to emulate Amsterdam. Some of the anarchist organizations have begun to expel those of their members who stand for the Profintern and for the bond between both revolutionary Internationals. Such expulsions look place in the Italian Sydicalist Union. The Dutch syndicalists are also threatening the communists with terrible punishments and their example is being followed by the anarcho-syndicalist groups of other countries. All these attacks have for their purpose the severing of the trade union movement from the political movement, the detaching of the revolutionary trade unions from the Profintern and the establishing of a separate transmundane little International. It is in this sense that all the anarchist groups are trying to carry out the instructions of the International Anarchist Conference of December 1921, which decided to establish a new independent autonomous revolutionary-syndicalist International. An attempt to put this into practice was made in June of the present year when the initiators succeeded in bringing together the representatives of a few organizations. To give a proper idea of the nature of this new International, it is sufficient to say that the German socialists – those typical Tolstoyans and political vegetarians – are playing a leading part in it. What is the reason for this increased virulence of the struggle against the Profintern on the part of the anarchists? It is important to recall the fact that the anarcho-syndicalist groups even joined the Comintern in the first periods after the October Revolution. The Spanish National Confederation of Labor, the Italian Syndicalist Union etc., adhered to the Comintern. What is the explanation of the withdrawal of these groups not only from the Comintern but even from the Profintern? The attacks of the anarchists against the Comintern, the Profintern and the Russian Revolution in general find their explanation in the general state of the world labor movement, and the anarchist attacks are a reflection of the attacks of International capitalism and of the Amsterdamers. It is a link in the same chain. The anarchists, notwithstanding their revolutionary phraseology, have always been the bearers of petty bourgeois ideas. Consequently, when the whole of bourgeois society gathered its forces for the offensive on communism, when a united front was created of all the resources of the bourgeois State to combat the communist peril, it was only natural that the anarchists should occupy their proper place in this anti-communist front. The anarchists, it is true, frequently explained their attacks upon the Comintern and the Profintern by the attitude of Soviet Russia toward their comrades and by their general opposition to any State and any dictatorship. However, we are not interested in what the anarchists say, but in what they do. And what they do is this: In the most difficult period of the communist movement, when the entire State apparatus and the coercive power of international capitalism are launched against it, when the powerful apparatus of the old trade unions is being directed against communism and the communist movement, the anarchists come forward with their anti-communist program and with their fight for the would-be independence of the trade union movement. An anarcho-reformist front was established which linked up with the bourgeois front. The anti-communist front is crowned by the anarchist petty bourgeois demagogy. Thus the communist movement is obliged to carry on a struggle, not only against capitalism, but also against reformism and anarchism, which have formed a bloc against the communist peril. As usual, anarchism showed itself to be the ally of reformism. This is not at all surprising, as they are the two sides of one and the same petty bourgeois medal.

Anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists are particularly fond of emphasizing the neutrality of the trade unions towards the political parties. This they claim as a special merit and a distinguishing feature of the revolutionary syndicalist movement. At the same time they use the term independence instead of neutrality, but in substance it amounts to the same thing.

What is neutrality? Neutrality is a current within the trade union movement which advocates the slogan of an identical attitude to all the political parties, or of complete and absolute independence of trade unionism from politics. It is a known fact that politics is a “bête noire” to the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, while at the same time they confound politics with parliamentarism and political activity, political struggle with parliamentary elections and the game of electioneering. Neutrality is, on the one hand, the cry os the extreme reformists and, on the other, of the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists. one of the most prominent leaders of the American Labor movement, John Mitchell, in his book Organized Labor, lays stress with particular clearness on this neutrality and advances the idea that the present social order is made up of three elements: Capital, Labor, and the Public. It is hard to guess what this distinguished leader understood by “Public”. Apparently it refers to those social-reformers with whom he held counsel at various leagues and associations for the purpose of talking about social legislation and the amelioration of the lot of the working class. The extent of this gentleman’s independence and neutrality can be gauged from the fact that after his death he left a legacy of not less than half a million dollars. All this money was earned by him as a leader of the American trade union movement!

This neutrality is the worst form of bourgeois influence over the proletariat and the ideological subordination of proletarian interests to the ruling classes.

At bottom the theory of independence is built on the very same principles.

It is true that the latter professes aims which are in opposition to those of the neutralist politicians. Independence as preached by anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists is a theory of the exclusiveness of the trade union movement and of its hegemony over all other forms of the labor movement, denying to the political parties not only the right of leadership but even the very right of existence.

The ideology of independence was manifested with particular clearness during the past year in the polemics of the anarcho-syndicalists of all shades against the Profintern. The French, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and American syndicalists, whose claims are in inverse ratio to their importance in the labor movement, persistently put themselves in opposition to the Communist Parties, and declare that the trade unions alone will make the revolution and reap the fruits of its victories. To this theory the communists can give the answer: “By all means, go ahead and demonstrate by facts the correctness of your theory.” In this period of serious struggle we have a particular right to demand from the leaders of the Labor movement not only declarations, not only promises to bring about the revolution, but the actual realization of these promises. The best theory is the one that is vindicated by facts. Our Communist theory has been confirmed not only by Russian, but also by the other revolutions. On the other hand the theory of the anarchists and syndicalists has obtained no such confirmation. On the contrary, anarchism, to the extent that it manifested itself in practice during the Russian Revolution, was essentially the expression of petty bourgeois anti-proletarian ideology. The Makhno movement was the militant anarchism, demonstrating that anarchism in action is an elementary anti-proletarian petty bourgeois force.

It is for this reason that we treat the anti-communist theory of independence not only with scepticism and mistrust, but also consider this theory extremely harmful and highly dangerous to the labor movement of the country where it gains power and predominance. The division of politics and economics into two parallel independent parts is tantamount to breaking up the proletarian Labor movement into two. The Labor movement may manifest itself in different forms according to the conditions of time and place and the political environment and co-relation of forces, making certain forms and methods of struggle more acceptable than others. But one thing is perfectly clear. The moment we draw a line between the political and the economic labor movement, especially when we oppose one to the other, we weaken the labor movement, tearing apart that which is organically welded together in the very process of the struggle, and by weakening the proletariat we reduce the very possibility of a successful fight against the splendidly organized and united enemy of our class. The bourgeoisie does not indulge in such theories, it does not separate politics from economics; it knows well how to make use of everything which has been created by the apparatus of the bourgeoisie. Tne power of State, literature, science, art and the Church, the economic organizations of the employers all these represent one solid block which is ever in opposition to the proletarian struggle for emancipation from the capitalist yoke. “Politics” – says the program or the Russian Communist Party – “is nothing if not concentrated economics.” I believe that this is the most brilliant and the most exact formula of the relation between politics and economics. By politics, we communists understand the movement of the working class for its emancipation, the opposition of the working class to the entire bourgeois society. The activity which has tor its purpose the achievement of the goal, the establishing of regular relations between the masses, is what we call politics. Only people with limited mentality can confuse political struggle with parliamentarianism, which is only one of the many varieties of the political activity of the proletariat. In this opposition of politics and economics, in neutrality, in the theory of independence, one can only see a desire of the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists to sow discord between the Communist Party and the Trade-Unions, to wage a fight against communism; because communism is not a fleshless spirit, it cannot exist outside of time and space and a definite organization. It exists to the extent that it has physical embodiment. Of course the working class as a whole is such an embodiment of the Communist ideal, but the working masses, when they have communist instincts, crystalize their communist consciousness around a definite organization, and that is the Communist Party. Therefore, the opposition of trade unions to the Communist Parties, the desire to sow discord between them, under the guise of independence, is directed, not only against the Party as such, but also against communism, against the working class and against the social revolution.

In their fight against “politics” the Anarcho-Syndicalists place syndicalism against communism. What is syndicalism? First of all, by syndicalism is presumed the trade union movement as a whole, i.e. the totality of labor unions in any given country. Under such circumstances the opposition of syndicalism to communism loses its meaning, for to the extent that trade unions embrace the organized, they are the same time embrace the Communist section of the workers. Therefore the opposition of the trade unions to the communist party is tantamount to placing the communist workers against themselves.

From this it is evident that syndicalism signifies something else as well. In fact under syndicalism is conceived also a certain, definite, ideological tendency within the labor movement, and within the trade unions. The distinguishing feature of the ideological tendency is the fact that it is pre-eminently based upon the trade unions. What then are the underlying characteristic traits of syndicalism? Syndicalism, in the form in which it has crystallized itself in the course of the last two decades, is the theory of the priority of the trade union movement over the other forms of the labor movement. As we see, at its basis, syndicalism has an anarchist, anti-Party, and anti-political tendency.

Syndicalism asserts that the working class creates its vanguard in the form of trade unions and will realise its aims through the trade unions.

In this connection it is extremely interesting to note the discussions carried on in France between the Syndicalists and the Communists in connection with the resolution adopted at the Marseilles Congress of the Communist Party with reference to the trade union movement. The opinion cautiously expressed by the Marseilles Congress to the effect that the Communist Party is the vanguard of the proletariat, was sharply opposed by the Syndicalists.

Syndicalism as a tendency within the trade unions strives to elaborate its own program, its own tactics, its own forms and methods of struggle and to weld the working masses together in their class action. This is also the aim of Communism.

Therefore it is evident, that, in the countries where there is a syndicalist movement, we have not the opposition of the trade unions to the party (no matter how often syndicalists of various shades reiterate this) but we have already the opposition of one party to another, and the one party is called Communist – while the other – Syndicalist.

Of course the Syndicalists will be horrified at the very idea that they in fact represent a party, for a party (and in this respect the syndicalists are the successors of the anarchists) is something extremely offensive from their point of view. This negative idea of a party is created in these countires by corrupt parliamentary morals and extreme elasticity of the conscience and backbone not only of the bourgeois leaders in the West European countries but also of so-called Socialist leaders of the movement.

On the basis of this reformist practice and parliamentary idiocy, political action is confounded with electioneering. The trouble of the syndicalists is that they fail to see the roots of their own theory and therefore, for them, syndicalism is something that rises organically out of the mass labor movement, while communism is something foreign originating from “suspicious politicians” obviously dangerous to the working class.

Syndicalism taken as an ideological tendency in its soundest and most realistic form in many respects approaches communism, inasmuch as it not only aims al the same goal of the overthrow of capitalism, etc., but also puts forward the same underlying methods of the dictatorship of the proletariat. What then should be the relations between the syndicalists and communists? First of all, Syndicalism, as I have already stated, does not present a single movement. There are various tendencies in the syndicalist movement. There (in the syndicalist movement) we have first of all anarcho-syndicalists, scarcely differing from the anarchists; then there are revolutionary syndicalists who have already succeeded in drawing a certain line of demarkation between themselves and anarchism, and finally we have syndicalist communists who closely approach to communism. Syndicalism, therefore, does not present itself as something final, as something cast into a definite form but is a combination of a number of ideological tendencies which vacillate between anarchism and communism.

Therefore, the problems of the Communists in those countries where there is a revolutionary-syndicalist trade union movement should be clear.

The first task of the Communists is to take the initiative in uniting the left wing of the labor movement. Syndicalist-Communist are nearest to us. Of all the modern types of syndicalism these have really learned most from the war and the Russian Revolution. They understand the significance of the dictatorship of the proletariat and how necessary and inevitable it is during the transition period. They regard the question, not from the point of view of abstract anarchist theory concerning the problems of the revolution, but from the point of view of actual experience, from the point of view of men who desire to learn from life itself.

This element it typified by the group known as the Workers’ Life in France which may be characterized as a group of non-partisan communists. In its very nature this is a communist group. There are very many members of the Communist party in its ranks but its practices extend beyond the party lines. There is however, nothing surprising in that, so far as France is concerned. The Communist Party of France is not an organization that could command political authority for all revolutionary workers of the country. The party is still in process of formation, not yet uniform in its ideology, and not sufficiently united and welded together to be able to master the mass movement of France, notwithstanding the fact that objectively the situation is very favorable for a serious Communist Party.

There is not the slightest doubt that Communism and Syndicalism present two very diverse theories, different methods of approaching the problems of the labor movement, and to the methods of solving the problems confronting the working class.

And, on all points on which there are serious differences with the representatives of syndicalism, the communists should carry on a firm ideological struggle against all anti-communist tendencies of syndicalism. Communists can in no way tolerate any doctrine or practice which leads to the negation of political parties, no matter by whom this theory is promulgated or defended. Hence, the necessity of a systematic and organized campaign against all those anarchistic ideas and tendencies which still appear at the present time in the labor movement. This, however, should not in the least interfere with practical and close cooperation between the Communists and the Syndicalists in their struggle not only against capital which is on the offensive but also against reformism. How can we achieve this result? By revolutionary activity only. Syndicalism is stronger and more aggressive against communism in the measure as the Communist Party is weak and politically helpless.

Wherever the Communist Party takes the lead, in all events in which it takes the initiative at the proper time, wherever it is capable to discern the weakest spots of our class enemies and to strike at them in good time, there the syndicalists, even if they are strong, – are compelled to follow the communists’ lead. But whenever there is constant internal strife within the party, and uncertainty as to the quality of their communist convictions, there is hesitation in taking the initiative, and normal relations between syndicalists and communists cannot be established. For the Communists, to justify their own lack of initiative and incapacity to master the labor movement, themselves begin to advance the theory of independence, thus making a virtue of necessity.

For Communists, the problem of the mutual relationships between the trade unions and the political party does not exist. The aim of the communists is to infuse a single communist spirit and a single communist will into all working class organizations. Only when following a definite plan and systematically accomplishing this task can the Communist Party have any meaning. Only such a party is a real Communist Party, which in practice as well as theory works for the conquest of the trade unions. Therefore at the Fourth Congress very little attention need be paid to the theoretical aspects of this question, which has been settled long ago. If, none the less, we have to discuss the question once more, it is not in order to establish any new principles, but in order to see how our good old principles are being applied. And we must frankly say that they are being very badly applied by many communists.

To begin with, the mutual relationships between the parties and the trade unions will necessarily vary from country to country. Although a theoretical unity has been secured by us in this nutter, it is perfectly clear that great differences arise in the field of practice. The relations between the party and the trade unions vary with the character of the working class movement, with special circumstances, with the whole political and social environment, with traditions, with the pan that the socialist parties play in a given country and so on. If we have correctly set it as our aim to win over all the trade unions to communism, to permeate them with the communist spirit, and to induce them to adopt communist tactics – it does not mean that we can realize our aims all in a moment, and still less that we can do it by using the same methods in different countries.

Consider Britain, for instance. Here we have a country with a gigantic trade union movement, old anti-political and anti-socialist traditions, and with a very small Communist Party numbering a couple of thousand members. As far as Britain it concerned, to speak of relationships between the Party and the trade unions, in the full sense of the word, is almost meaningless. The trade unions are hostile to the Party, In such a country, we must speak not of relationships between the Party and the trade unions in general, but of relationships between the Party and that part of the revolutionary unions, which is growing upon the soil of the developing class war. In this respect in each country the practical problem is a different one. As far as Britain is concerned, we see clearly that it would be disastrous if the Party were content to organise its forces only within its little Party nuclei. The aim here must be to create a more numerous opposition trade union movement. Our aim must be that our Communist groups should act as a point of crystallization round which the opposition elements will concentrate. The aim must be to create, to marshall, to integrate the opposition forces, and the Communist Party will itself grow concurrently with the growth of the opposition. There must be established a relationship between the Party organization and the opposition which by its very nature is heterogenous, – in such a manner that the Communists could not be charged with striving to mechanically dominate the entire opposition movement. This goal, i.e. the goal of winning the working masses for Communism, we must work for under these circumstances with the utmost care, definiteness and staying power.

The task in the United States is of much the same character. Here we have a small Communist Party and a fairly large opposition trade union movement, its forces being organized in the Trade Union Educational League. What is the task of the communists in the States? They must work within the trade onion movement upon the platform of the Trade Union Educational League. What it the League’s program? Simply the program of the R.I.L.U. Of course it is less rounded up, less clear than the program of the Communist International. The program of the Trade Union Educational League of America is of course less clear, less definite, less specific than the program of the Communist Party of America. But it cannot have this precise character, inasmuch as it aims at uniting all the opposition elements. Our task in America is to assemble the forces of the entire anti-Gompers opposition. The Party most show the greatest persistence in aiding in the work of the League, seeing that within a very brief period the League has been able to develop tremendous energy in its organisational work. Our task in America is to help the league to rally its forces to induce sympathisers with communism to give their active support to the League, to strive by all available means to assist it in the struggle against Gompersism, which is corrupting the American labour movement. Of course the Party has to consider the question of method in extending its influence. But influence in the working class movement is secured neither by resolutions nor by certain successful decisions of the Central Executive Committee, but by the work done by communists in their respective labour organisations. We must, therefore, speak less or, if you will, not at all, about control of the activities of the League, for such talk leads only to a mechanical control, or rather to an attempt at mechanical interference in work which by its very nature, the party can neither carry on nor accomplish.

The problem of communist influence in the trade unions is first of all an organizational matter of the Party. We must first of all create a strongly welded and a serious political party. We must attract to the ranks of our organisation the largest possible numbers of workers from the various branches of the labour movement, we must weld our own membership together by inner discipline, then our influence in the trade unions will grow, without stop. The influence of the Party in the trade unions is directly proportional to its work among the masses, to its political resonance. The aim then, must be to make that political influence solid by organisational means. We have to point out that our organisational work in the trade unions is always lagging behind our political work.

Germany offers a good example of this. In Germany there is a very large communist movement, and in round figures the Communist Party exercises influence upon approximately one third of the membership of the Amsterdam trade unions. But, if you try to estimate our forces there in point of organization, you will at once find that this huge mass is very badly welded together, that there is no proper cohesion between all these masses marching behind our banner and that the work of crystallising our political successes into a proper organisation is lagging behind. This contrast between the rapid growth of our political influence and the extremely slow process of making the spreading revolutionary ideas solid in an adequate organisation is a very dangerous feature of the German working class movement. The result may be that at a given moment of fierce political struggle the Party may be lacking sufficient organisational centres to concentrate the whole revolutionary energy and to lead it with the utmost efficiency.

Of course, in Germany, the problem of the relationships between the Party and the trade unions has assumed and assumes different forms from those of Britain and the United States. In Germany the most acute phase of the problem concerns more especially the relationships between the Party and the Union of Hand and Brain Workers. It is well known that this union was originally founded through the initiative of the Spartacus organisation. The Communist Party has subsequently changed its tactics towards the trade unions. This union with a membership of 150,000 workers is regarded all the time by many of the trade union communists of Germany as an obstacle to the communist movement. There seems to be a certain abstract approach to the practical question and a misunderstanding of our slogan of the conquest of the trade unions. “If our tactics; are those of not splitting but conquering the unions, then it follows that the Union of Hand and Brain Workers has no right to exist – that is the way some communists are reasoning. But this reasoning is purely metaphysical. The Union does in fact exist, and in the concrete circumstances now prevailing in Germany, it will continue to exist for some years to come. In as much as it exists, it naturally endeavours to increase its membership. No organisation can exist without continuing to enroll new members. Otherwise the Union may lose all of its members to the last man, due to their natural death.

The Party must compel its members to pursue a communist policy. The entire controversy anent this question, the whole dispute of the last few months, should have been conducted on just this level. But instead of insisting on the principle that the members of the Communist Party must pursue a communist policy, the question, was propounded as to the relationship of the Party to the Union, and thereby the matter grew more complicated and involved. Fortunately, at the last congress the problem of the Union of Hand and Brain Workers was more or less settled. The wrong approach to the subject is due to the tendency to work exclusively within the old unions and to the desire to do away with all kinds of independent organizations under any circumstances.

In Italy the Trade Union movement and the political Parties are closely allied. The example of the Syndicalist Union proves nothing, as this organisation has no influence upon the labour movement. The General Confederation of Labour and the Communist Party represent the strongest force in the labour movement. In reference to Italy every discussion on the interrelationship between the Party and Trade Unions is unnecessary and purposeless.

Of a peculiar character is the problem of the relationships between the Party and the Trade Unions in France. Here we have an old syndicalist union and a young Communist Party itself is just as keen in defending the autonomy and interest of the Trade Union movement, as are the syndicalists themselves. It is known that the French syndicalists have attacked with particular vehemence the resolution adopted at the First Congress of the R.I.L.U. when an alliance was formed between the two Internationals (the Comintern and the R.I.L.U.) and a resolution was adopted that in every country the revolutionary unions and the Communist Parties should work together in all attacks and defensive acts. The most remarkable fact is that the resolution was opposed not only from the raaks of the syndicalists, but also from those of the Communist Party. Members of the C.P. insisted with particular emphasis on the need for independence and autonomy, referring particularly to the traditions of the French working class movement. If we are to talk about traditions, we must say that this tradition is a very bad one. It flourished upon the opportunist soil of the French Socialist Party, and it was natural and reasonable during that period. When the Socialist Party was a reformist Party the independence from the Socialist Party meant independence from opportunism and reformism. Every communist must fight for independence of such a kind. But where we have to do with a Communist Party, which ought to be free from the ailments of its socialist predecessors, this theory loses its significance. We have here nothing at all to do with historical tradition.

The Amiens Charter was appropriate in 1906 when it was necessary to resist the opportunist party inflicted by Parliamentary cretinism. Then it was in accordance with the demands of the time. But when one attempts now to apply the Amiens program to all countries, when one attempts to make of it an international program, ignoring the tremendous change wrought by the Russian Revolution and the Communist International, then one inevitably congeals in formulae, one does not see life and one runs the risk of spending one’s life in these formulae. In this respect France is a country of wonders on independence from their party and, jointly with syndicalists, they get the Administrative Commission of the United Confederation of Labour to adopt resolutions to the effect that the expulsion from the party of a leader of a labour union will be regarded as an unfriendly act towards the United Confederation of Labour.

In France we have really two Parties – not two Communist Parties – the Party of the Left and the Party of the Centre, but two Parties of which one is the French Communist Section of the Comintern while the other is called the Syndicalist Party. We should not conceal the real state of affairs: the Syndicalists represent a party, which does not call itself a party. In the French Communist Party we find approximately four different tendencies; in the Syndicalist Party there are four or five such tendencies.

When we tell the Anarcho-Syndicalists that they are a Party they become fiercely enraged and express the utmost surprise. We, a Party? We should say not; we are only workers. According to the notion of the syndicalists a political party consists of elements outside the working class, whereas their party has grown organically within the organised labour body.

What distinguishes the French Communist Party and in particular its attitude towards the Trade Union movement? For illustration we shall cite a few instances.

But first of all what is it that characterises the Communist Party in general? It is the fact that every one of its members recognises the necessity to work within the proletariat, recognises the necessity for an organic connection of the party with the working class and recognises the fact that the party represents the vanguard of the labour movement. Let the syndicalists think about it whatever they please, but to be in the party means precisely to strive for this purpose and no other.

On the eve of the Paris Congress of the French Communist Party a very interesting debate arose on the theses presented by Comrade Rosmer.

Against these theses a bloc was effected between some of our friends affiliated to the Communist International and the Anarcho-Syndicalists who were also opposed to these theses. Whenever a bloc is effected between communists and people standing outside the communist party, this must be recognised as a symptom of a disease which must be cured at all costs. Some comrades, members of the French Communist Party, were so frightened by these theses that when they were rejected by the central committee of the Party, the Internationale wrote: “The Central Committee saved the party, for the theses contained some very dangerous things.”

After the Congress the Bulletin Communist published an article by Comrade Sutiff, administrative secretary of the Party, who relates the history of these theses in words which deserve to be reproduced here:

“The Left presented to the Central Committee a resolution which offers an entirely unacceptable Trade Union policy. This resolution states that the Communist Party holds that the party expresses more exactly the aspirations of the working class and is the most capable of achieving its emancipation.”

A communist, who is the administrative secretary of the French Communist Party, is protesting against a resolution affirming that the Communist Party expresses best the aspirations of the working class. Syndicalists may protest it as their right. We may argue with them, but we are entirely at a loss to comprehend the protest of the Communist Party, and still more, of its secretary. If the party does not express the aspirations of the working class then what are its purposes? Is it to be engaged in parliamentarism and in writing newspaper articles? The Comintern understands the tasks of the party quite differently.

Every member of the Party should be deeply convinced that his party expresses better than any other the aspirations of the working class. Without this conviction we shall never be able to do anything and will be all the time compelled to remain passive. A party which is lacking such a deep conviction is not a Communist Party. And when even the secretary of the party is scared by such an idea, it shows clearly that the party is afflicted with disease.

Sutiff writes further: “Especially important is the fact that the theses propose to organise within the United General Confederation of Labour something in the nature of a Communist General Confederation of Labour.” This is untrue. This resolution states that the Communists should unite not only on the territorial basis, i.e. by sections and districts, but also by federations, etc.

There are such members of the French Communist Parly who, as soon as they begin to work in the trade unions, leave their membership cards outside the hall. When they join a trade union, they forget that they are communists. Being communists at party meetings, they reserve the right to do anything they please outside the party meetings and often they figure as the most zealous exponents of the independence and autonomy of the trade union movement.

The Comintern does not desire to subordinate the trade Unions. A Communist Party, which would declare that it would like to submit to itself the trade unions would show that it is lacking an elementary understanding of the tactics the Comintern. But the Communist Party must see to it that every communist who is a member of the Party should remain a communist everywhere. We must’ strive to have the trade union movement permeated by communist spirit and insist that the members of the Party who are at the same time members of trade unions should continue to remain members of the Party at all times. The Communist Party is not created through mobilisation. Nobody joins the Party by a decree, and, therefore, if you join the Party voluntarily, you take upon yourself voluntary, but at the same time strict obligations. It is altogether inadmissible that members of the Party should say: We are entirely independent in our trade union tactics.

Let us cite one more example. The last number of the La Lutte des Classes contains an article or, more correctly, a declaration signed by Comrades Monat, Schenbellion, Orlieange, Charbit, etc. Of these six comrades, only Monat is not a member of the Communist Party. In this declaration we read:

“Among us some are members of the Party and some are not, but we are all revolutionary syndicalists, i.e. we attribute to the trade union the basic role in the revolutionary struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat and assign to the Party only an auxiliary and not a leading part.”

We must ask why these revolutionary syndicalists are members of the Party. We are entirely unable to understand why a member of the Party, who knows the reasons of his belonging to the Party and cannot be suspected of endeavouring to become a deputy in Parliament, remains in the Party if he ascribes to it only a secondary importance. This question can be explained historically. The Communist Party of France is not homogenous in its makeup. It is constituted of different ideological elements. The old ideology of every component part entered along with it into the Party and took root in it.

The theses presented to the Fourth Congress of the Comintern contain a paragraph stating: If, in a country where a really revolutionary syndicalist movement exists, there is a Communist Party which is lacking sufficient strength and influence in the trade union movement, there it is evident that the inter-relationship between the parties and the trade unions should be determined according to the relative strength of the organisations. Such an inter-relationship must be established because, without the co-operation of the Red Trade Union International and the Communist International, the revolutionary labour movement will be crushed by the onslaught of capitalism.

However, we have in France on the one hand a Communist Party, which itself is in favor of autonomy and independence of trade union movement, and, on the other, the labour unions which are insisting still more on autonomy and independence of trade union movement. The Communist International is, of course, certain that the assurances of the Anarcho-Syndicalists that the trade unions alone will achieve the social revolution have no serious foundation. We also doubt the feasibility of the slogan “All power to the trade unions.” But every country has such relationships between the political party and the trade unions as its own Communist Party deserves. The realities of the struggle, the growing contradictions in France, the fierce offensive of the bourgeoisie, all this will force the French workers – the communists no less that the syndicalists – to change their views with regard to mutual relationship between the Party and the trade unions. Let them “autonomously” establish their mutual relations as best they may, and as they wish. Life will teach them its lessons showing that the victory is not to those who preach “the autonomy” and “the independence of the trade union movement”, but to those who endeavour to secure that every form of the working class movement is permeated with a single communist spirit and with a single communist will.

The more acute the struggle between the revolutionary workers and the bourgeoisie, the more conspicuous is the alliance and unity between the reformists and contemporary bourgeois society.

It was pointed out above that the attack of the Amsterdamers on the revolutionary unions has grown fiercer concurrently with the development of the capitalist offensive. This alliance is especially conspicuous in relation to the unity of the trade union movement, a matter which interests not us alone who know that the trade union movement must, surely, though slowly, come to understand the necessity of struggle with the rule of capital, and that the capitalist offensive can only have a successful issue when the trade unions have either been completely destroyed, or else broken up into warring groups. The salvation of the bourgeoisie is in the disorganization of the working class movement, in its disintegration, in the breaking up of the organizations created by the workers in the course of the struggle. Thus the unity of the trade union movement is a menace to the rule of capitalism, for the pressure of capital forces these huge reformist organizations to move to the left, and in proportion as they move to the left, the working class has a better chance of victory. Perfectly natural, therefore, is the desire of the bourgeoisie to split the trade unions, to break them up into fragments, and then crush the warring factions one after another. It must be noted that in this matter the Amsterdamers do what they are told by their masters. During the last year the expulsions of the revolutionary unions were especially numerous. It is known for example, that the split in the French General Confederation of Labour was developing under the open “ideological” influence of the French bourgeoisie and its agents. It is a no less familiar fact that the disruptive activities of the Czecho-Slovakian Amsterdamers coincided with a severe economic depression and with a capitalist offensive against the working class. The worse the position of the workers in Germany, the more loudly do the Amsterdamers vociferate that the danger is from the left and it is plainly proposed to free themselves from tins danger by ridding the ranks of their revolutionary elements.

Unfortunately this question of a split in the world’s trade union movement is now put on the order of the day. That does not depend on us. It was not we communists who caused the split. During the recent years we were striving to carry on a struggle within the trade unions, to switch the movement on to new tracks, the labour organizations, but we are all the time systematically defending our slogan of conquest of the trade unions, not their destruction. It is not owing to us that a split became the issue. What ought we to do? What is our task? What must the communist do in view of this greatest menace to all the gains of the working class? The communists must redouble their efforts and mobilize all means at their disposal to offer resistance to a split. The communists’ slogan must be “We will not permit a split!” No split! Because it will weaken the labour movement in each country. There must be no split, for a split would throw back the working class by many years, would weaken its powers of resistance, would give the employers a new weapon against the working class, a new possibility of strengthening their rule. We will not permit a split? But this must be something more than a mere slogan. It must be our starting point in all our practical activities. Every step taken by the communists in the trade unions must have in view the establishment and strengthening of unity in our organizations. Where a split has already occurred, where, despite our efforts and against our will, parallel organizations have already been created, there the communists must carry on an earnest and systematic struggle to reunite the separate parts. The struggle has to be waged on two fronts. It has to be waged against the reformists, the agents of the bourgeoisie, who wish by all means in their power to split the workers’ movement in order to weaken it, and it must also be waged with equal zeal against those so-called left-wing elements which seek salvation for the working class in the splitting of the trade unions. This leftism has nothing in common with our revolutionary Marxist viewpoint. There are leftists of this type in France who willingly walk into the traps of the reformists’ provocations. They are anxious to be left all to themselves as soon as possible. We have such leftists in Czechoslovakia who imagine that the best thing for the workers’ organizations is to isolate themselves from the other workers’ organizations. Such is the viewpoint of the leaders of the Union of Agricultural Workers who only a year ago did everything in their power to remain outside the general trade union movement of Czecho-Slovakia. “A united trade union movement”, this is our slogan, and that is why the communists must not withdraw their members from the reformist trade unions. If they do so and these communists are transferred to the revolutionary unions, we shall not be in a position to exert the necessary influence on the reformist organizations and to induce these to unite with the revolutionary organizations.

In these circumstances the communists must pay serious attention to applying in full the tactics of United Front. It is quite obvious that, without an agreement between parallel unions, it will be impossible to beat down the capitalist onslaught upon the most elementary conquest of the working class. The communists must make clear to the masses the need for agreement among the unions, the need for a joint struggle to keep up wages, to raise the standard of life, etc. In such cases we must compel the leaders of the parallel unions to enter into agreements for joint action. This must become the program of practical action for the Communist Party itself. In such cases no attention should be paid to the attacks of the reformists, of unreasonably zealous anarcho-syndicalists, nor even of Communists. With great persistence and exertion we must systematically carry out this policy which in action, if applied in practice will lead to reunion of the parallel and rival organizations.

The struggle for unity of the trade union movement is the most important task of the Communist Parties of all countries. We know why the reformists want to split the trade union movement. Not only do they wish to rid themselves of continuous criticism and of the revolutionary ferment, but they want by means of a split to make the social revolution itself impossible. Having made up their minds never to remain in a minority the Amsterdamers had to arrive logically at the conclusion to split the worldwide trade union movement. This is all the more necessary for them since the confidence of the workers to their reformistic promises is steadily vanishing day by day. Every day the capitalist offensive drives new nails into the coffin of international reformism, for the strength of reformism lay in the concessions of the bourgeoisie. It is true that the bourgeoisie made concessions only because it was afraid of the revolutionary movement; but in any case immediately after the war the reformists, in their role of intermediaries, could show the workers that the reformist tactics were having a certain measure of success. The rank and file worker failed to see that the reforms were not the outcome of reformistic tactics but were granted in spite of such tactics, he failed to notice that the zeal of the bourgeoisie for reform ran parallel with the growth of revolutionary discontent and revolutionary uprisings. When the revolutionary wave subsided, the bourgeois tactics, changed from defence to attack. At present it is plain to every rank and file worker that reformism is bankrupt; reformism proved helpless to retain what it claims to have secured during the first years after the war. The International Labour Bureau, the League of Nations, all the loudly proclaimed promises of the Versailles Treaty – all this is exposed now in its nakedness and true colours. Reformism, on its last legs, scenting its imminent death, endeavours by any means in its power, to disorganise the ranks of the working class, so that the proletariat may be rendered unable to replace the tumbling bourgeoisie. In answer to the systematic splitting of the trade union movement, we communists must declare all together and each Communist Party separately, that, cost what it may, we will prevent the split.

To prevent a split becomes every day more and more difficult. The Amsterdamers, having decided to rid themselves of the revolutionary workers, take steps accordingly. The expulsion of Communists has become a normal incident of current life. The Communist International as well as the separate Communist Parties are confronted with the problem of struggling against these expulsions. What do the Amsterdamers hope to gain by them? They want to isolate the communist leaders from the sympathisers with communism among the masses of the workers. They want to detach the most advanced revolutionary elements from the working masses in order to continue their own influence upon the members of the trade unions in point of organization and ideal. It is evident that the Communist International cannot tolerate these tactics of isolating communists from the working class movement. The communists are in favor of unity, but they cannot sacrifice communism to this unity. The task of the immediate future is to carefully estimate the practical value of a series of measures to counteract this epidemic of expulsions. It is known that the expulsions affect, first of all, the leaders. In Germany there has been introduced a system of expelling elected communists. In Czecho-Slovakia it is done in a simpler manner. There the Executive decided to expel the Union of Chemical Workers and the Union of Woodworkers – 110,000 workers in all.

Every country has its special method of dealing with the communists. This is why the Communist Party in each country must also have its own methods of fighting against the destruction of trade unions by reformists. Still there are certain general questions which apply to all countries. First of all, it is necessary to point out that Communist Parties are not making sufficient use of the possibilities for fighting against the expulsions, according to the rules contained in the constitutions of the various unions. The constitutions of all the unions provide that members may be expelled for specific offenses. But, as far as I know, the rules do not provide for the expulsion of communists simply because they are communists. None the less, there have been numerous expulsions, and refusals to recognise the validity of elections, simply on this ground. Is it possible to carry on the fight upon the battleground afforded by the trade union rules and regulations? I think this could be done in a great many countries. The trade union rules afford ample opportunities for such a fight. If we merely insist on our formal rights, this will make no impression on the Amsterdamers. It would be extremely naive of us to entertain any doubt upon this even for a moment. It is not with such a thought in our minds that we suggest the utilization of all the statutory rights assured to every member of the trade union. It is necessary io make extensive agitation and propaganda among the members of the trade, unions; it is essential that we should raise the question of the expulsions at every general meeting, in every delegates’ assembly and indeed wherever workers of the industry are affected by expulsions. In some countries our comrades have merely published one or two articles in the newspapers, and that has been the end of the matter. Instead the expulsion of only one communist from a trade union ought to be made the occasion for persistent political agitation among the members of the union, and the reinstatement of the expelled members should be insisted on. There should be an extensive campaign against the expulsions carried on in mills and factories. The question of expulsions can be raised at any time. Especially just now, in this our of the capitalist offensive, which is extremely critical for the working class, every worker understands that the expulsions are nothing short of treason. To expose the hidden reasons for the expulsions, to make their real causes clear to every worker – this must be the task of communist agitation and propaganda. Such facts should not be allowed to pass with impunity for the trade union bureaucrats. Only when they know that every incident of the kind will serve as material for their exposure for years to come and not merely for a day or two, will they think twice and then think again before they dare to expel or drive communists from the trade unions. Furthermore, some local union elects its own officials. The Central Executive refuses to ratify the election. Such cases have occurred in Germany. The question arises – what is there to do? Have new elections? They are sure to give the same political result as regards the complexion of the local Executive. Usually the refusal to ratify the election has been accompanied by the expulsion of the elected persons. What is to be done? Should we content ourselves in such cases with mere agitation, or should we take further steps? It would obviously be wrong to rest content with a mere protest Since local unions have elected communists, and have done so with due observance of the rules, the expulsion or the refusal to ratify the elected persons is a shameless violation of the most elementary democratic rights of the members of the unions. If the bond between the members of the unions and the comrades they have elected is something more than a casual one, if the rank and file have deliberately elected communists because they are communists, then the local organisations, for the sake of saving the union and for the sake of preserving the integrity of the working class movement, should refuse to obey the orders of the Central Executive.

Something must be done to put an end to the stubbornness and the usurped power of the Amsterdamers. Of course, a serious conflict is possible. The representatives of the Central Executive could expel the entire local organization for insubordination. But no local organization need comply with the demands of the Central Executive when these are an infringement of the rules. We do not want a split, but this by no means signifies that we can allow the reformists to do exactly what they like about the unions.

However much we fight against a split, we shall all the time have to face aggressive acts of the reformists against ourselves. Hence the chief task of the communists is [not] to allow the elements expelled from the trade unions to remain scattered for a single moment. The question how to unite the expelled is one of extreme importance. Among the communists there are some comrades who make such a fetish of unity that they think the mere assembling and uniting of the expelled involves an attack on the unity of the trade union movement. This is utterly untrue, and is an extremely dangerous viewpoint. Whoever brings the expelled together, whoever assembles the elements that have been dispersed by the reformist policy, is in fact working for the reestablishment of the lost unity; he is creating the prerequisites for the re-uniting of the split and scattered parts. According to the conditions of the struggle, according to the special features of of a union a variety of organisations are possible. In Germany for example, in some cases, certain elements can unite to form unions of the expelled; others join the Union of Manual and Intellectual Workers. There is no single form or method for the struggle against the policy of splitting the unions. It is necessary to estimate every practical step separately and according to circumstances, adopt the one practical measure or the other. We must bear in mind that in certain definite conditions it may be possible and permissible to withold the payment of dues to the central executive. If the Central Executive has expelled the elected executive of a local organisation, then pending the decision of the matter, the local organisation is justifed and in some cases obliged to refuse payment of dues to the centre. This does not mean that it is necessary to preach non-payment of dues to the local uniou itself. By no means. Every member of the union continues to pay his dues. These sums remain in the local treasury, and on the books an account is to be kept of the amounts payable to headquarters in accordance with the rules, but these amounts are not handed over until the dispute is settled. Is this a universal method of struggle? Of course not. In special circumstances, under definite conditions, it may become one of the methods and. means of the struggle. In and by itself, this struggle can only give definite results if it assumes a mass character. Of course every communist must individually do all in his power to prevent such expulsion. But in this matter it is essential to involve in the campaign of protest all sympathising organisations, whether local or national. What should be the forms the protest movement of those sympathising with the expelled should assume? Here again it is extremely difficult to determine the forms of the protest. There can, however, be absolutely no doubt that such a protest is necessary, that united action is absolutely indispensable to put an end to the orgy of expulsions. Whether these organisations will adopt, the organisational form of protest, the financial or any other form – is again a concrete question. Undoubtedly each country will find, in accordance with local conditions, hundreds of means of protest against the expulsions. The important point is that the Parties should not limit themselves to resolutions, that they should realise that, unless they succeed in checking this flood of expulsions, unless they can beat down the Amsterdamers’ onslaught, the International labour movement will be rent asunder, and the hour of the victory over the bourgeoisie will be put off.

Let us remember that the epidemic of expulsions increased after the Second and the Two and a Half International united and that it has affected not only single countries but also the international organisations of various industries. Thus, during the past year, quite a number of revolutionary unions have been expelled or refused admission by the international secretariats of their respective industries. A number of Russian trade unions were refused admission, such as the metal workers, leather workers, textile workers, communal service employees, wood workers, transport workers, postal telegraph employees etc. The only Russian trade union accepted by the international federation was that of the provision workers and they too were accepted only conditionally. In all countries the revolutionary unions are confronted with the question how the revolutionary unions are to be brought together. Hitherto we have had international industrial propaganda committees. These systematic expulsions of entire unions from the international federations may compel the revolutionary unions to pass beyond propaganda committees and to found a bureau for the organisation of new internationals. This is not a problem of the distant future, it is a matter of the present moment. What ought the communists to do in this field? We have to call the attention to the fact that even those few communists who participate in the international industrial committees show too little concern a the expulsion of their revolutionary comrades. This shows first of all that not all those who call themselves communists are really communists. Within the near future the revolutionary unions of all countries will be compelled to unite by industries in order to struggle by their combined force for the creation of a single international in each industry. Here, too, the communists must render all possible assistance to those organisations which are doing on an international scale the work which the revolutionary workers are carrying on in each country.

However difficult may be the struggle of the communists in the trade union movement and no matter now the reformist may be provoking us to a split, we nevertheless shall continue to battle for the slogan which was already adopted by the Second Congress of the Communist International: “The Conquest of the Trade Unions, not their Destruction.” The two years that have elapsed since then have shown the soundness of these tactics. The theory that the trade unions must be destroyed had its birth in the impatience of many of the communists, and frequently also in the lack of strength necessary for the struggle against the reformist bureaucracy. What would have happened by now to the Communist International had it advocated such a view? It would not have been able to do a tenth part of the work which it has done within the trade unions of all lands.

The communists must set vigorously to work, where the masses assemble, and in the very strongholds of the reformists. Let the reformists persecute us to curry favour with the bourgeoisie. Let them try to eradicate the communist virus. Let them endeavour, in alliance with the bourgeoisie, to destroy the constantly growing opposition. Vain will be their efforts. Communism it not a chance doctrine, it is not something artificially implanted, it is an organic growth from the living substance of the working masses. It is the embodiment of something which ferments and ripens among the workers by a natural process. The Communist International is a conscious expression of the unconscious historical process. It would, therefore, be folly to hold aloof from unceasing, steadfast, and systematic work within the unions. It would be folly to adopt the watchword: Let us cut loose from the mass organisations and found little unions of our own. No! Let others work for the destruction of the unions. The bourgeoisie is destroying them; the reformist tactics destroy and weaken the trade union organisations of the working class. It is not for the communists to participate in any such endeavour. Very few people remain now who have not been taught by the experience of the last few years. Nevertheless, there still remain a few eccentrics of this way of thinking – in the United States, in Germany, and in certain syndicalist quarters. It seems to them that the working class movement would grow if only the communist saints could be carefully segregated from the reformist sinners, if only the communist working class found nice, neat, pure little unions of their own. In reality, the working class movement as a whole would infallibly suffer if any such course were adopted. It would suffer because the communist ferment, the communist consciousness, the communist energy and the communist initiative would be withdrawn from their natural sphere of action. There would be an artificial withdrawal of the motive force of the revolution, and a terrible blow would be dealt to the working class and to communism. That is why the communist slogan must be the conquest of the trade unions.

Now what do we mean by the conquest of the trade unions? Here we touch upon the weak side of our communist work in many lands. In certain countries the conquest of the trade unions is understood to mean the conquest of the leading positions in the unions. When the secretaryships and the chairmanships of the unions are in the hands of the communists, many Communist Parties rest upon their laurels until the first shake up, the first conflict comes. Only when a serious struggle begins do they suddenly realise that the masses have not yet been won over, and that to win the leading posts is not yet equivalent to the conquest of the trade unions. That has been the experience of the communists in Czecho-Slovakia, in Germany, and in many other countries. What do such tactics betoken? They betoken that our Communist Parties have not thought it necessary to convert communist sentiment into communist consciousness. It means that the communists have not yet founded adequate communist nuclei, bound by strong communist discipline within the framework of the unions. It means that they allow the fate of the mass organisations to remain subject to chance sentiments, to the humour of this or that leader. Unfortunately there is still lacking in many countries a widespread system of communist educational work, education which shall teach that the conquest of the unions means the conquest of the masses, that it means the communist enlightenment of the masses, that it means the communist organization of the most forward elements, so that the union as a whole may be infused from top to bottom with a communist spirit and a communist consciousness. Only when the communists themselves have united their forces and know what they want, are they capable of taking the ‘ initiative in consolidating the whole opposition. They must not limit their efforts to the unification of their own ranks. The Trade union movement embraces now tens of millions of persons. A union is specifically an organization of masses. Therefore the question of the relationship of the Party to its nuclei, and of the relationship of these nuclei to the opposition as a whole is, the most important problem of our communist tactics in the trade union movement. Our communist nuclei, our communist groups, constitute an instrument for transmission, a connecting link between the Communist Party and the trade unions. When are these relationships to be established? How is the work to be distributed between these parts – an answer to these questions must be contained in the practical program of action of every country. During the first period of communist work in the trade unions, our agitation assumed a purely abstract character. It was a proclamation of communist slogans, of the necessity for the social revolution, of the struggle with the bourgeoisie; but this agitation was not always deducted from the real and concrete needs of the given country. Very often the setting up of Moscow and Amsterdam against each other has likewise assumed an abstract character. That is why we have made such a slow progress, why it is taking so long for us to extend our tentacles into the mass organisations. The task of the Communists is to render their propaganda more concrete, more practical, to better fit it to the conditions of the moment. And in any case, from these concrete needs of the workers of a given country or of a given industry, they must draw general conclusions, from the practical struggle they must advance to the general task of the working class, and upon the basis of this practical struggle they must raise the class consciousness of the masses. Only such work can give us the necessary results, and by working in such a manner we are most likely to succeed in toe conquest of the trade unions, to conquer the trade unions means to induce them – even when their leaders are against it – to realise our practical program and to put our proposals in force.

That is the only way in which the conquest of the trade unions can be achieved. Of course to apply these tactics, to penetrate into all the workers’ organizations with our influence, to centre the attention of the workers on our slogans we need not only energetic, methodical, organisational work, but also a proper press. Unfortunately the Communist Parties pay little attention to our trade union organs. The trade union movement occupies a disproportionately small place in the general Party press. Special trade union organs are not published by all the Parties, and financial considerations often hit first of all the trade union organ. It appears to many communists that trade union matters are of minor importance; and when financial stringency arises the trade union organs issued by the communists are the first to be curtailed. Without the conquest of the trade unions, the social revolution is impossible. And to conquer the trade unions it will be necessary in the near future to pay special attention to our trade union press. We must develop it, must make it much more practical. We must broaden the scope of our printed agitation and propaganda. We must discuss in our press not only questions of a general political and international character (these latter questions are of great importance, and it is essential that they should be discussed), but also questions of concrete, practical struggle, questions of wages, organization, social insurance, etc. In a word, all the questions which interest and stir the working masses must always find space in our press. Our entire Party press must remember that without the conquest of this stronghold of the reformists, we cannot take a single step forward. But it would, of course, be a mistake were we to limit ourselves to agitation and propaganda. The strengthening of our political work in point of organization must by the first concern of every Communiat Party. Otherwise the difference between the political development of the masses and its crystallisation in a proper organization will lead to a series of disasters. The conquest of the unions means a drawn out persistent systematic and concrete organisational work. It cannot promise immediate results, but it will ensure a strong proletarian foundation for the great communist edifice. The aims formulated by the Second Congress of the Communist International will be fulfilled all the sooner the more we steer clear of abstractions and the more practical sense we show in putting the questions of trade union activity in the approach to the conquest of the masses and of the trade unions.

Our work in the labour unions, being based upon a practical and concrete program of action, must be to gather the whole trade union movement of the world into the fold of the Red International of Labour Unions. It is necessary to point out that during the interval between the Third and Fourth Congresses there were in some parties liquidation tendencies towards the Profintern. Some have reasoned as follows. If we stand for the United Front, for the unification of the trade union movement, for the winning over of the trade unions and not for their destruction, consequently we ought to dissolve the Profintern. Then there will be a real unity in the trade union movement, and the tasks of the communists in winning over the trade union movement will thereby be greatly facilitated. This concept was put forward by Levi and his partisans in Germany. It has also been noticeable amongst some communists in other countries. Many comrades did not at first understand what lay behind this advocacy of the dissolution of the R.I.L.U. To many it seemed that there was not disagreement on questions of principle but merely upon a question of expediency. These comrades were mistaken. What lay at the root of dissolving the Profintern was the idea of dissolving also the Comintern.

What, indeed, does the dissolution of the Profintern really mean? In means the refusal to perform the task of gathering all the revolutionary trade union forces into an International centre; it means the leaving of the revolutionary element in the worldwide trade union movements scattered and disunited. If it were concerned solely with communist factions, with communist nuclei in the trade unions, the question would be simple enough. A new international is not needed for the communist element in the trade union movement. Quite well indeed did the Communist International fulfill its role of uniting the communist movements in all countries. The task of the Profintern is to unite the revolutionary trade union movement in all its diversity, in all its multiformity. Under this category come communists and syndicalists of every shade of opinion, including those who are merely revolutionary-minded workers of the left wing – all those who are opposed to the class peace and who desire to carry on the proletarian struggle against capitalism and its agents. This is why the dissolution of the R.I.L.U. means really the narrowing down of the whole basis of International communist activity, and in its turn must logically lead to the dissolution of communist organizations. The Extended Executive of the Comintern has put an end to this “dissolutionist” tendency. No longer does there exist, even one Communist Party in which the idea of the dissolution of the R.I.L.U. would be seriously considered.

But even though there is no active desire to wind up the affairs of the R.I.L.U., there is a good deal of passive attitude towards the Profintern. It seems to many communists that although the question of the Profintern may be an interesting question it is, after all, only of secondary importance. This error is very dangerous to the communist working class movement, the revolutionary Trade Union movement must have its own centre. Otherwise the connecting link is broken between the Communist international and the revolutionary workers of all shades of opinion. To strengthen the Profintern is simultaneously to strengthen the Comintern. The Communist Parties, when they work for the Profintern, are working for themselves and for the Communist International. Therefore in all their trade union work, in their whole policy in this sphere of the Trade Union movement, they must always bear in mind this most important task of the International Communist movement. The R.I.L.U. has already grown to a considerable force during its brief period of existence. In every corner of the world there is a fierce struggle raging concerning the program and tactics of the R.I.L.U. It is being especially attacked on account of its close affiliations with the Communist International. This is why the entire energy of the Communist Parties is needed in order to deepen and broaden the work directed to the conquest of the Trade Unions, and in order to attract them to the world centre of the revolutionary Trade Union movement. This will not split the Trade Unions, but unite them. We do not propose to detach individual groups of workers and unite them to the Profintern.

We propose, and no one can deny our right to propose this, to attract the Trade Unions to the program and tactics of the Profintern. What we want is not to split, not to dismember as organization, not to destroy he Trade Unions, but to effect the ideological conquest of these proletarian organizations and to unite them around the revolutionary program and revolutionary tactics. I feel absolutely convinced that the serious difficulties confronting the Communist international in relation to the Trade Union movement will be overcome. The day will soon dawn when all the forms of the working class movement will combine into a united whole, and when our glorious communist banner will wave over all the workers’ organizations.

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Last updated on 3 January 2021