In the R.I.L.U.

The Second Congress
of the Profintern

(January 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 3, 9 January 1923, pp. 35–37.
From International Press Correspondence (weekly), Vol. 3 No. 1, 16 January 1923, pp. 8–10.
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 Second Congress of the Red Trade Union International summed up the achievements of a period of development of the international revolutionary trade union movement. The activity of the R.I.L.U. has shown how great are the difficulties With which the revolutionary labor movement is confronted in all countries. The international labor movement is extremely variegated, has different forms, many traditions and many old prejudices only being gradually overcome in the course of severe struggles. It has been the task of the R.LL.U. to crystallize a solid revolutionary centrepiece out of the whole of this variegated international trade union movement, to collect all revolutionary experiences, and to place this at the common disposal of the international proletariat. This is a task requiring work of a most tedious nature, the greatest exertion, and iron perseverance.

At the same time the Second Congress extended our sphere of work, and unfolded a great number of practical questions and problems, upon which the revolutionary workers of all countries must concentrate their attention. There were four questions in particular which aroused the special attention of the whole congress. First the question of the united front, secondly the question of the unity of the trade union movement, further the task of organization to be carried out by the revolutionary federalists, and finally the relations of the R.I.L.U. to the anarcho-syndicalist.

Those objections which have hitherto been raised against the united front, and against the unity of the trade union movement, were no longer to be heard. Some months ago voices may still have bcm heard against the united front, but at the congress itself this was no longer the case. Life has proved the severest teacher It has shown that the tactics of the united front are no empty imagining of the Moscow Bolshevists, but the sole escape from the desperate position in which the workers of Europe and America find themselves. And if the Comintern and the R.I.L.U. have been the first to resort to the united front, all honor is due to them for it. At the Second Congress the united front was no longer discussed merely as a general question, but the practical execution of uniled front tactics was debated, the question was raised as to what problems form the main points of interest for the working class, and what concrete problems are to be set up as a central point for our propaganda and agitation. The resolution moved on these points opens out a number of practical questions, and proposes that all revolutionary workers shall concentrate the attention of the proletariat on the concrete practical tasks of the daily struggle.

The Congress further occupied itself particularly with the question of the unity of the trade union movement. The participators in the congress felt clearly, that any further split in the trade union movemart would mean the greatest possible weakening of the forces of the working class. The R.I.L.U. has, on its part, adopted every possible measure for preventing this split. With this object it has applied several times to the Amsterdam International with proposals for putting an end to the split. But at every point it has encountered the desire for a split an the part of the Amsterdamers, and has thus been forced to take up the fight not only against capital, but also against the Amsterdamers.

How can unity be attained? In all its resolutions, declarations, and references, the R.I.L.U. has expressed itself willing to enter into any kind of agreement. Naturally unity is only possible if the workers of the Left receive at least a minimum guarantee of freedom of action. The Amsterdamers shouted at the top of their voices about unity, but when the French C.G.T.U. proposed to the reformist confederation that they convene a common congress based on proportional representation, the reformists, who are in the minority in France, replied with a cynical resolution stating: we are in the majority; anyone wishing to complain can do so in our own organizations. The Amsterdamers in Czecho-Slovakia behaved in a similar manner. We for our part were, and still are, ready to re-establish unity on the condition that the minority alike whether we or the reformists be the minority receives beforehand a guaranty that it has the liberty to propagate its ideas strict discipline being at the same time observed in the struggle against the bourgeoisie. The resolutions passed by the Second Congress on this subject are formulated with the utmost clearness and precision. We shall fight obstinately for the union of the parallel trades unions, for the re-admittance of the expelled, and for the creation of a real united front for the fight against bourgeois reaction.

The question of unify also occupied the leading place in the discussion of questions of organization in the trade unions. The congress had to reply to all questions on the organizational structure and work of the revolutionary trade unions. The congress was clearly aware that the slogan of strengthening the trade unions may easily be misinterpreted, and that the strengthening of the trade unions may easily signify a temporary enhancement of the influence of the reformist leaders. But the congress relegated these considerations to the background under the conviction that the strengthening of the trade unions implies a strengthening of the organization of the working class, and that the strengthening of working class organization establishes the basis of the social revolution. If the reformists derive a passing advantage from this work, this is no reason to hold us back from it. This standpoint could also be observed in the treatment of the other practical questions on the agenda. The practical tasks in the most important countries were dealt with rom this point of view. The congress discussed the situation in one country after another, at the same time showing the comrades what practical tasks lie before them, when they begin to adopt the general principles and lines of action of the R.I.L.U. in their respective countries. The congress placed in the forefront of battle for all workers the united front, the strengthening of the trade unions, and the gathering together of the working masses to fight for communism by means of figthing for the daily needs of the working class.

The congress had to give a practical reply to the question of the international industrial federations. It is well known that the international federation secretariats, being under the influence of the Amsterdam International, systematically exclude the revolutionary trade unions these tactics are excused by the statement that the trade unions in questions are affiliated to the R.I.L.U. These international federation secretariats, which however only represent European federations, have thus no scruples about isolating a considerable part of the revolutionary European workers and the revolutionary workers of the rest of th globe from the other part of the proletariat

From the first day of its establishment, the R.I.L.U expressed itself opposed to the immediate founding of international revolutionary trade union federations. And the whole activity of the R.I.L.U has been in accordance with this line of action. But the R.I.L.U. cannot look on and see the revolutionary trade unions scattered, and thus even at the First Congress the question of the creation of international propaganda committees, to be arranged according to the different branches of industry, and around which all revolutionary federations could gather, was placed on the agenda.

The task of the revolutionary propaganda committees was to unite the revolutionary trade unions, and to strive to create a united international in each branch of production. Although a number of the revolutionary workers expressed the wish to form industrial and craft internationals, the congress rejected this plan. The Second Congress again emphasized the urgent wish of the R.I.L.U. to create united industrial internationals, and made it the duty of all revolutionary trade unions to exert every endeavor to attain this end. The revolutionary federations recommended the congress to keep to the corresponding international propaganda committees, and to continue their struggle on the same lines as before the Second Congress. The creation of united internationals now depends on the secretariats belonging to Amsterdam. We for our part have done all that lies in our power towards creating an international for every branch of industry.

The congress had also to solve the question of the relations of the R.l.L.U. to the Comintern, or rather that of the relations between communists and syndicalists. As is well known, the anarcho-syndicalist organizations subjected the resolutions accepted by them at the First Congress to severe criticism, especially that part of the resolutions establishing close connections between the Comintern and the R.I.L.U. The French syndicalists headed this campaign against the resolutions of the 1st congress, but themselves split up into several groups on the matter. One tendency, the so-called purely syndicalist, found the results of the First Congress sufficient cause for the founding of its own international, and was joined in this by many small syndicalist groups in some countries, with whose aid it then combatted the R.I.L.U. The German loyalists. and the Italian, Swedish, and Dutch syndicalists, agitated for the creation of a new international. They used as a prefect the alliance of the R.I.L.U. with the Comintern, and the necessity of founding an “independent” and in every respect "autonomous" international.

All this time the anarcho-syndicalists have been carrying on their fight against the R.I.L.U. under the flag of independence and autonomy. But among the syndicalists there existed another fairly powerful tendency, having the closest affinity with the communists, being in favor of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of working in common with the communists. This tendency however held the opinion that the co-operation of the Comintern and the R.I.L.U. should not be an essential part of the organization, but should take place as occasion required. This group of syndicalists, whose tactics were based on the assumption that the syndicalists, and not the communists, form the vanguard of the labor moment. showed a decider! wish to establish the united front with communists against the bourgeoisie. This wish permeated the resolutions of (he congress of the C.G.T.U. held at Saint-Etienne. The proposals made by the French delegation at our congress were also further evidence of this wish.

The communists had come to a definite conclusion on the subject. For the communists, the connection between Comintern and the R.I.L.U. is a matter of course. We were aware that our Syndicalist comrades were still under the influence of old prejudices. But as these are the prejudices of revolutionary workers who are earnestly and anxiously willing to fight, and as they are not prejudices of single individuals but have been held by a fairly large number of labor organizations, the communists have here made perfectly conscious concessions for the purpose of enabling them to form a united front with the syndicalists against reformism and capitalism. The resolution moved by some of the delegations was based on this sentiment. We are desirous of forming a revolutionary bloc with the syndicate's, and thus we make concessions in the hope that in the course of the struggle the correctness of our point of view will become apparent. With this resolution the congress put an end to the debates between the R.I.L.U. and the anarcho-syndicalist organizations. In order that this question should be even better cleared up, the congress made a special appeal to the anarcho-syndicalist organizations of all countries, and to the Berlin bureau of the syndicalists, asking them to work no longer at splitting the international trade union movement, but to enter the Rilu, and to fight within this organization, with the revolutionary workers of all countries, lor the emancipation of the working class.

Mention must also be made of the trade union question in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. We must take into consideration that the R.I.L.U. is a really international organization. while the Amsterdam international is merely an European one. During the past year the Russian revolution set a new world in motion the labor movement is developing rapidly in Java, China, Japan, and India. The Russian revolution called fresh forces into existence. In these countries the labor movement is still tinged with nationalism, especially where a struggle against foreign rule has to be carried on. But nevertheless in the midst of this gigantic revolutionary stream class strivings may be seen with ever increasing clearness. And the R.I.L.U. and the Comintern are alike confronted with the task of giving this class movement form, of imparting to if an actually revolutionary character, of filling it with the spirit of communism, that the movement may be enabled to attain the greatest possible success in the struggle with foreign and national capitalism.

The Second Congress was above all a practical congress. It centred around questions of organization, questions of practical activity. The general principles had been already laid down by the First Congress. Our program had already Seen drawn up in its main outlines, the revolutionary workers of all countries know our aims; the present question is as to the best method of attaining these aims. The Congress confirmed the program of action worked out by the First Congress; it confirmed it because it contains the concentrated experience of the revolutionary trade union movement in all countries. The Second Congress has not attempted to conceal the difficulties confronting the revolutionary trade union movement. There are many tens of millions of workers still under the influence of the reformists. There are millions still under the influence of the Catholics, the democrats, the protestants, etc. And there are ten millions still outside of any organization whatever. As we are faced by a working class of which a large organized part still supports capitalist rule, the Congress has been obliged to work out its tactics and program of action accordingly.

The Amsterdam International, which represents the conservative part of the working class, is in the habit of boasting of its millions of members. We are ready to admit that the numerical strength or the R.I.L.U. is less than that of the Amsterdam international, but the R.I.L.U. is an international organization, while the Amsterdam International is merely a European one; the R.I.L.U. is composed of workers, possessing in general the same program, the same tactics, the same desire to fight against capitalism, while the Amsterdam International has many passive and reformist elements in its ranks, and on the other hand many workers in actual sympathy with us. We have followers even within the Amsterdam International while it has none in our ranks This strengthens us and weakens the Amsterdamers. We do not overestimate our powers, but do not want to underestimate them

The Second Congress of the R.I.L.U. showed how great is the influence which was already been won by the revolutionary idea in the international trade union movement the workers of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia gather round the flag of the R.I.L.U., for on this flag there is inscribed the motto of fight to the death against capitalism, and of conquest of power for the working class. How long it will be before this victory will be attained the Second Congress could not and must not say. If could only say one thing; our goal will be reached by systematic and persevering work towards gathering the masses together, uniting the workers beneath revolutionary watchwords, and untiring combat against the bourgeoisie.

The Second Congress has been a step of the utmost importance along the long road of struggle of the international proletariat for its emancipation. The international proletariat is a stage further towards organizing its forces. It will still have to suffer many single defeats in battle, but these baffles and defeats only serve to steel the international organizations of the working class, the Comintern, and the R.I.L.U., and will lead the working class to final victory.

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