A. Lozovsky

The Labor Movement

Two Confederations in France
– C.G.T. and C.G.T.U.

(5 April 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 31 [13], 5 April 1923, pp. 248–249.
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.

In France there exist two confederations. One of them considers itself to be the representative of the whole working class of France, and invariably appears in the name of the whole proletariat, even before the League of Nations, while the other only represents the revolutionary section of the working class. The former has a morbid tendency to take part in official and solemn conferences, and to hang round the ante-chambers of ministries-the latter avoids all parade, all official celebrations arranged by former, present, or future ministers. The former speaks at every opportunity, suitable or unsuitable, on liberty, equality, and fraternity, and the great work it is accomplishing for humanity – the latter only speaks of the class war and really battles for it. The former was represented at the international peace conference at the Hague; where its delegates in high-sounding phrases swore to carry out the general strike should there be an outbreak of war – the latter was not represented at the Hague, it swore no oaths, and made no promises. The former lifts up its eyes in ecstasy to the League of Nations as the fountain head of all right and all justice – the latter sees in the League of Nations an international band of robbers, and bases its hopes solely on the social revolution. The former is on a level with the Amsterdam International with its conservatism, its inner nationalist antagonisms, its mutual distrust, its subordination of international questions to national ones – the latter is the representative of the Red International of Labor Unions, is carrying to the masses the program and tactics of this organization, the irreconcilable class war, and places international questions above national ones. Those who swore to carry out the general strike forgot their promise when the French troops occupied the Ruhr area. But those who were not at the Hague, and had taken no oaths, remembered this sharp weapon in the proletarian armory. The members of the former confederation continue to write resolutions and to implore the League of Nations to interfere, while the members of the other confederation sit behind prison doors, and receive free board and lodging from the third republic.

Two confederations: both have proceeded from the working class of France, both are composed of the same social elements, but how fundamentally different are their programs, their tactics, and the manner of their development! How came it that one working class has created two diametrically antagonistic organizations? How did it come about that two products so foreign to one another could grow in the same proletarian soil? The historical development of the working class renders it the class of the future, but at the same time it is the class of the actual present. It forms one of the fundamental pillars of the capitalist state of society. It is the class which creates and destroys capitalism. It is the class which gradually develops out of and separates from the society whose foundation it formed at the commencement of the capitalist system. Besides this, the working class is not a group cut off from all others, it is not isolated from the other classes by any impenetrable wall. The working class reaches far into the petty bourgeoisie and peasantry. It invariably absorbs the new elements, works upon them slowly and constancy, and awakens them to a consciousness ol their class interests. Its position with respect to production connects it by many strands to the existing capitalist order. The interests of the development of the working class, and of the whole of society, place the working class in opposition to capitalist society. This opposition results in various groupings of ideas, all having their roots in the working class.

The might of capitalist society, whose creator and destroyer is the working class, became particularly apparent during the war, where the national-chauvinist seed so generously sown for decades bore such rich fruits. Reformism is the concentration of the ideology which believes in a union between the proletariat and the bourgeois society; it mirrors that stage of the labor movement during which the working class was solely the creator of capitalist society. Revolutionary syndicalism and communism form another stage, another side, another tendency of the labor movement the ideology of the class which arises as the destroyer of capitalism, Thus right and left members grow organically out of the working class: on the one side reconciliation with capital, subordination to national ideology; and on the other side the striving to destroy this capitalism and to cast down its gods.

These are the historical causes which have led to the creation of the two confederations at present representing the French working class. Where is the past and where the future of the working class, along what lines will the labor movement evolve? On the lines laid down by the knights of doleful countenance, from the reformist labor confederation, on the lines of class reconciliation, on the lines of rule of imperialist ideology over the working class? Or on the lines of revolutionary struggle, of emancipation of the working class from the ideological and material fetters of capitalist society? Is it possible to doubt in which direction society is evolving? It suffices to cast one glance around, one superficial glance at the conflicts increasing on all sides. It suffices to lend an ear to the subterranean rumblings from the depths of modern society, and we must recognize that the wheel of history is revolving in a contrary direction to reformism in theory and practice. There where revolution is victorious, there the reformist illusions are rapidly scattered to the winds (Russia); and where counter-revolution is victorious, there reformism establishes its power in the minds of the working masses (Hungary).

Two confederations, one representing the concentration of conservatism and backwardness in the working class, the other the concentration of its revolutionary ardour, its enthusiasm, the readiness for sacrifice and the traditions of the revolutionary struggles of the last century. The confederation which makes itself so loudly heard on all official occasions does not even enjoy the confidence of its own International. The national reformists of Germany know very well that they have nothing to expect from the national reformists of France. The other confederation enjoys the full confidence of the revolutionary workers of Germany, for it is the bearer of the best traditions of revolutionary France. Two confederations, two worlds, two different currents in the labor movement. If the reformist confederation was composed entirely of conscious representatives of labor conservatism, of trade union employees, then it would be madness and Utopianism for the Unitarian Labor Confederation to propose an amalgamation of the two confederations. But the reformist confederation counts among its members, hundreds and thousands of proletarians who are being urged into the new paths by the pressure of events, and who will march to battle shoulder to shoulder with the revolutionary proletariat of France. For this reason it is very well possible to entertain the idea of uniting the two confederations, a step greatly to the advantage of revolutionary syndicalism and communism But it is just for this reason that the reform st bureaucrats do not desire this unity. But their resistance will not help them much! They did not want revolutionary syndicalism either, but it came in spite of that, and found expression in the Unitarian Labor Confederation. They do not want communism, but this “frightful spectre” is haunting the whole of Europe all the same. They do not want the revolution, but despite the resistance of the ruling classes, and of their agents among the working class, revolution has already seized upon a sixth part of the globe, and the day is not far distant when it will plant its standard in the other parts of the world as well.

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