To All Activists of the Trade-Union Movement
April 29, 1918[1]

First Published: Novaya Zhizn, No. 80, April 30, 1918, p. 4.
Sources: "Statement of Minority Group of Trade-Union Leaders" in James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, The Bolshevik revolution, 1917-1918: Documents and materials, Stanford University Press; London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934, pp. 647-648; National Library of Russia.
Translated: Emanuel Aronsberg
Online Version: Marxist Internet Archive 2021
HTML Markup: Zdravko Saveski

The trade-union movement is in danger!

The fighting economic organizations of the working classes cannot flourish at a time when the revolution, in which the proletariat plays such an active role, is breaking down as a result of national economic disorganization and external defeat.

Every day brings a decrease of the productive forces of the country.

Industry has now become a state pensioner. The majority of factories and shops subsist on grants from the state treasury. The productivity of labor is alarmingly low, the production of goods is diminishing, and the printing of paper money is increasing steadily. All this renders extremely difficult the work of the trade unions. On the shoulders of the economic organizations of the proletariat falls the heavy burden of regulating industry and introducing order into the prevailing economic chaos . . .

But the economic organizations of the proletariat are threatened from still another quarter . . . from the side of the Soviet Government.

The Soviet Government takes the stand that it alone expresses fully the interests of the working masses and that, therefore, all other organizations can exist only in so far as they subscribe without a murmur to the internal and external policies of the Soviet of People's Commissars. Since the November Revolution we have witnessed innumerable instances of how big, small, or even microscopic commissars have used every kind of oppression, including bayonets, in their dealings with recalcitrant proletarian organizations.

Here are a few instances: the Soviet Government closed the quarters of the Union of Employees of Credit Institutions, arrested several times its board of directors, closed the co-operative store which supplied the families of the employees [of the credit institutions] in order to force the starving employees formally to recognize the Soviet Government. In Rybinsk the executive committee [of Soviets] ordered an "inspection" of the local Soviet of trade unions . . . To fight opposition tendencies of certain trade unions new unions of the same trade and sharing the point of view of the Soviet Government are set up. The authorities then decide which union is more adequate for the interests of the workers.

Along with the persecutions of irreconcilable trade unions, other unions are being systematically subjugated and are being converted into instruments of the government. The seaman's union of the trade fleet is taking charge of the department of commercial navigation . . . the railwaymen's unions are subsidized by the state, etc.

A whole scheme for putting the different branches of national industry under the management of the trade unions is being elaborated. This will lead to greater confusion and disintegration of the political life of the country . . . Since its acceptance at the First Congress of Trade Unions this scheme has been enforced consistently all over the land. In a number of places [trade] unions have employed Red Guards in their economic struggle . . . other trade unions are investing all their capital in production, organizing out of their own resources artels for home building, establishing stores for the sale of products, undertaking the management of sequestered factories . . . At the same time the membership of trade unions is decreasing . . .

The above facts cannot but rouse our deep anxiety for the future of the Russian trade-union movement . . . The majority of trade-union leaders seem to be under the impression that we are living after a successfully executed socialist revolution and that all capitalist relationships have been abolished in Russia. This idea was born with the successful November Revolution, which was carried through under the slogan of "land and peace" and supported by workers and peasants, the latter of which are becoming more and more the dominant social basis for political authority. But an authority dependent on two classes is least of all fitted to become a socialist authority, and that is why the attempts to identify or to merge the purely proletarian trade organizations with the Soviet organizations, which are of a mixed class composition, cannot fail to produce sad results.


[1] Lozovsky was among those who signed the statement.