RESOLUTION OF THE TWELFTH ECCI PLENUM
ON THE LESSONS OF ECONOMIC STRIKES AND THE
STRUGGLE OF THE UNEMPLOYED

 

EXTRACTS
September 1932

 


 

I.

THE GROWTH OF THE REVOLUTIONARY UPSURGE AND
THE CHARACTER OF STRIKE STRUGGLES AND THE STRUGGLES OF THE UNEMPLOYED


 

The growth of the revolutionary upsurge in the sphere of the economic struggle of the proletariat is expressed in: the development of the mass strike movement

. . .
the inclusion of [new groups of] the proletariat in the economic struggle in countries where the crisis developed late

. . .

the rapid conversion of small economic movements into mass economic and political strikes

. . .

the increase in the role of the communist parties and revolutionary trade union movement in strike struggles and in the struggle of the unemployed, in the rise of a new, non-party group of worker activists who fight heroically against the attacks of capital in spite of and against the reformist trade union bureaucrats.
The communist vanguard and the revolutionary trade union movement, however, has not since the eleventh Plenum of the ECCI succeeded in rousing the majority of the working class to the struggle against the unceasing attacks of capital. The chief
cause of the insufficient development of economic struggles is the still unsatisfactory application of the line of independent leadership of economic struggles, on the basis of the tactics of the united front from below, in the underestimation of partial struggles, in the weak contacts with the masses in the factories and among the unemployed, in the weakening of revolutionary positions inside the reformist trade unions, in the
inability to expose the manoeuvres of the reformist trade union bureaucrats, in capitulation to reformist trade union bureaucrats, openly or concealed by 'left' phrases.

. . .
The economic struggle of the proletariat is assuming more and more a revolutionary character, and combining, in an increasing number of cases with various elements and forms of political activity, is, at the present stage, in the overwhelming majority of capitalist countries, the fundamental link for leading the
masses to the forthcoming big revolutionary battles. The greatest possible development and strengthening of the struggle of the proletariat against wage cuts and the worsening of the conditions of labour, the exertion of all the efforts of the
communist parties and the revolutionary trade union organizations to ensure the independent leadership of strike struggles and the unemployed movement, the raising of the fighting capacity of the masses, leading them on the basis of their own experiences from the struggle for everyday partial demands to the struggle for the general class tasks of the proletariat—represent the chief tasks for all sections of the
Communist International, especially under the conditions of the end of capitalist stabilization.

 

 


2.

THE FIGHT AGAINST THE CAPITALIST OFFENSIVE AND THE
TACTICS OF THE UNITED FRONT


The experience of a number of strike movements since the eleventh Plenum

. . .
shows that the communist parties and the revolutionary trade union organizations have achieved successes in the leadership of the economic struggle of the proletariat in those cases when they have consistently applied the tactics of the united front
from below at all stages of the struggle, when they have promptly put forward demands and slogans of the strike, intelligible to the masses, when they have organized them on the basis of broad proletarian democracy, drawn all sections of
the fighting workers into the leadership of the strike, and when they have decisively exposed the manoeuvres of the reformist trade union bureaucrats and the 'confiding' conciliatory attitude towards them.
In addition to this the twelfth Plenum of the ECCI declares that in the overwhelming majority of the sections of the Comintern serious shortcomings and a number of serious opportunist mistakes have been discovered in carrying out the
tactics of the united front from below, which have been utilized by the socialdemocrats and the reformist trade union bureaucrats in their tricky manoeuvres. These shortcomings have arisen both from the underestimation and an insufficient application of the tactic of the united front (especially with regard to social-democratic workers), and also from opportunist capitulation to the reformist trade union bureaucrats (unity at any price), and in fact they have been the chief causes of the insufficient advances of the communist parties and the revolutionary trade union movement in the development of the independent leadership of the economic struggle of the proletariat.

. . .

 


3.

METHODS OF LEADING UNEMPLOYED STRUGGLES

 


The twelfth Plenum of the ECCI directs the special attention of all sections of the Comintern to the tremendous and ever growing political significance of the unemployed movement which is being directed more and more directly against the
capitalist state (the struggle for food, for relief, for social insurance, against forced labour, etc.). The struggle of the unemployed has up to the present time been prepared by the communist vanguard and organized by it to a much less degree than the strike struggle of the proletariat. The communist parties and the revolutionary trade union organizations have not succeeded in organizing serious mass activity by the employed workers in defence of the interests of the unemployed, although it has been found possible more and more frequently, to get the unemployed to actively support workers on strike.
The most serious shortcoming in the mass work of the communist parties among the unemployed has been that insufficient attention has been paid to the organization of the struggle for the partial demands of the unemployed.

...

The unemployed movement has been left without proper revolutionary leadership, which to a certain degree has been taken advantage of by the social-democrats and fascists. In cases when communists and adherents of the revolutionary trade union movement have properly estimated the political importance of work among the unemployed, and have widely popularized the programme of demands of the unemployed, capably combining them with the concrete defence of the everyday interests of the unemployed, in most cases, they have been able to obtain material successes and to extend their political influence.
The communist parties, while systematically explaining to the working masses that unemployment is an inevitable accompaniment of the capitalist system and can only be abolished by the dictatorship of the proletariat, must devote special attention to the wide mobilization and organization of the broad masses of the unemployed for a struggle for their everyday demands and social insurance, but must not allow
the Red trade unions and the Red Trade Union Opposition to serve as substitutes for the broad organization of the unemployed.

. . .



4.

WORK IN THE REFORMIST TRADE UNIONS


One of the chief causes of the insufficient mobilization of the masses by the communist parties and the revolutionary trade union organizations in the struggle against the capitalist offensive is the impermissibly weak revolutionary work carried
on inside the reformist trade unions.
The consistent everyday struggle of communists and supporters of the revolutionary trade union movement for the establishment of the united front of the workers urgently raises before all the sections of the Comintern and of the Red
International of Labour Unions the question of work inside the reformist trade unions and the methods of this work. The influence of the reformist trade union bureaucracy, especially in countries with long established and strong reformist trade
unions, is one of the chief hindrances to the development of the class struggle, and cannot be broken down by shouts about wrecking the trade unions for which communists are not striving, nor by deserting the trade unions, but by persistent
work inside the reformist trade unions, by fighting hard to win every member of the reformist trade unions, for every elected post in the trade unions, for securing the dismissal of the reformist trade union bureaucracy and winning over the local
organizations of individual trade unions and the local trade union councils of the reformist unions.
The twelfth Plenum of the ECCI calls upon all sections of the Communist International to continue the struggle with all Bolshevik consistency and determination against capitulation to the reformist trade union bureaucrats, as against the chief danger, and against those opportunist elements in the communist parties and the revolutionary trade union movement which still in practice oppose the existence of Red trade unions and the RTUO and the organization and the carrying on of independent economic strikes by them, and who, as substitute for them, support the slogan: 'Make the leaders fight'. The ECCI instructs all sections of the CI to explain to the party members and the revolutionary non-party workers that the trade union bureaucrats can only be successfully exposed and the mass of
members in the mass reformist, Catholic, Nationalist, Kuomin-tang, yellow and similar trade unions can be liberated from their influence only if, in addition to detailed everyday work, explaining and putting forward their own proposals, the
supporters of the RILU speak at all meetings, conferences and congresses on all questions concerning the organization and the tactics of the economic struggle and criticize and expose the leaders of these trade unions because they are carrying on
negotiations with the employers behind the scenes, because they are in favour of voluntarily worsening the conditions of labour, because they sabotage the struggle of the masses, strangle the initiative of the masses of members and individual
members, and when they cannot prevent the struggle any further, they commence it after considerable delay and then capitulate to the employers behind the backs of the workers.
The sections of the CI must wage a ruthless struggle against those 'leftist' sectarian elements in the communist parties and the revolutionary trade union movement who take advantage of the struggle of the Comintern against the opportunist slogan of 'Make the leaders fight' in order to give up revolutionary work
in the reformist trade unions. The twelfth Plenum of the ECCI calls on all sections of the Comintern to wage a determined struggle against 'leftist' sectarian refusals to fight for elected positions in the reformist trade unions, which is the duty of every communist according to the decisions of the tenth Plenum of the ECCI.
In countries where there are mass fascist trade unions or similar mass reactionary organizations (Italy, China) and especially in places where the fascist trade unions have the monopoly, communists must actively work inside them in an organized manner, utilizing all legal and semi-legal opportunities to draw the masses of members of these organizations into the class struggle, to discredit these
organizations in the eyes of the masses, to strengthen the positions of the revolutionary trade union movement among the masses.

 


5.

ACHIEVEMENTS AND DEFECTS IN THE WORK OF THE RED
TRADE UNIONS


. . .

The twelfth Plenum of the ECCI declares that in spite of a number of important successes (Czechoslovakia, Poland, Spain, Japan), the majority of the Red trade unions have not succeeded in taking advantage of the growth of the discontent
among the masses against the capitalist offensive, and of the sharpening of the class struggle, in order to take the lead of the strike struggles and of the unemployed movement.

. . .
The chief shortcomings and weaknesses of the leadership of the economic struggles of the proletariat by the Red trade unions, which arise in the main from the absence of a firm and practical line for the independent leadership of economic struggles, from the extremely insufficient contacts with the masses, from the
existence of considerable relics of social-democratic (in some countries, anarchosyndicalist) methods of work, have found expression in the inability to seize on the concrete economic demands and the political slogans which excite the masses, the
inability in most cases to decide on the concrete moment for commencing a struggle; the narrowness of the organizational basis in the Red trade unions; the absence, even now, of a serious organizational basis in the factories; the extremely poor development of democracy in the trade unions; and the smallness and political weakness of the cadres which is due to this.

 


6.

ACHIEVEMENTS AND DEFECTS IN THE WORK OF THE RED
TRADE UNION OPPOSITION


The Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition, as an organization embracing the organized and unorganized workers, has achieved a number of successes in a number of countries since the eleventh Plenum of the ECCI. Nevertheless, politically and organizationally, it still lags behind the growing revolutionary
upsurge of the masses of the workers.
The main task of all the Revolutionary Trade Union Oppositions is to unite the organized and unorganized workers on the basis of the class struggle, to independently lead economic battles, to work in the reformist, Catholic and similar trade unions, to isolate the treacherous trade union bureaucracy from the mass of the trade union membership and to build up a mass organization which will link the communist parties with the masses.
The main weakness of the RTUO lies in the fact that, with few exceptions, it has not formed groups in the factories, has worked badly in the trade unions, has not set up its organizations in all the links of the reformist, Catholic, etc., trade unions, and, in the majority of cases, has not led [managed to take the lead in] the struggle of the organized and unorganized workers against the capitalist offensive.

. . .
On the wave of the growing revolutionary upsurge and of the mass movement against the reformist trade union bureaucracy, the RTUO must become the lever and the organizational base for the creation of independent Red trade unions.

 


7.

THE GROWTH OF THE REVOLUTIONARY UPSURGE AND THE
FIGHT AGAINST DEVIATIONS

 


The development of the economic struggle of the proletariat under conditions of the end of capitalist stabilization urgently requires that the communist vanguard pursue a clear and distinct struggle against opportunism, which becomes more
dangerous in proportion as the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat rises higher.
Adaptation to the ideology and policy of social-democracy, capitulation to the reformist trade union bureaucrats in the independent leadership of the economic struggle of the proletariat, a confiding attitude to the 'left' manoeuvres of the
reformist trade union bureaucrats (in particular to the slogan of the 'demonstrative' general strike), refusal to link up partial economic demands with general class slogans, the tactics of a 'bloc' with reformist trade union bureaucrats instead of the
policy of a united front from below, refusal to form the RTUO on the pretext of defending the unity of the trade union movement and finally, repudiation of the leading role of the communist parties in the revolutionary trade union organizations and hiding of the face of the CP in economic struggles—these represent the chief danger at the present stage of the development of the revolutionary struggle of
the proletariat.
A necessary condition for a successful struggle against the chief danger of right opportunism is a determined struggle against 'left' opportunist deviations which are expressed in a leftist 'theory' that the workers organized in the reformist trade unions represent a '[uniformly] reactionary mass', in the leftist sectarian underestimation of the tactic of the united front, in the statement that the reformist trade unions are
'schools of capitalism', in a sectarian attitude to work inside the reformist trade unions, in reducing all the work in the reformist unions to the task of wrecking the apparatus and in the bureaucratic ignoring of the methods of proletarian democracy.

 


8.

THE TASKS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTIES IN THE ECONOMIC
STRUGGLE OF THE PROLETARIAT


The twelfth Plenum of the ECCI is of the opinion that an immediate and radical change, not in words but in deeds is necessary in the whole of the revolutionary work of the communists for the mobilization of the masses for economic struggles, for the organization and leadership of strike struggles and the unemployed movement, and particularly in all trade union work, both in the revolutionary trade unions and the RTUO and also in the reformist trade unions. The chief condition for the development of the economic struggle and independent leadership of this struggle at the present stage is the correct Bolshevik application of the tactics of the united front from below, which requires a radical change in the mass work of the communist parties.


For this purpose it is necessary:


(a) To ensure that all party and revolutionary trade union organizations establish contacts with the majority of the employed and unemployed, promptly formulate the slogans of struggle and determine its methods and forms on the basis of a really concrete knowledge of the economic situation, of the requirements and the sentiments of the employed and the unemployed workers;


(b) To ensure the wide adoption [application] of the tactic of the united front from below, and in particular a proper approach to the reformist workers, patiently overcoming their reformist illusions and prejudices, raising their class consciousness step by step, drawing them into the revolutionary organizations and leading them more and more to the decisive revolutionary battles;


(c) To ensure proletarian democracy in all stages of the economic struggles (election of strike committees and other organs of struggle) attracting the broad masses of the fighting employed and unemployed workers to the discussion
and decision of all questions of the struggle.

. . .


(d) To exert every effort to make the strikes of employed workers and the actions of the unemployed result in some material gain, in this way the confidence of the masses in their revolutionary vanguard will be strengthened.

. . .


(h) To ensure the immediate restoration and extension of revolutionary positions in the reformist trade unions; to ensure the preparation of every strike, of every action of the employed and unemployed also inside the reformist trade unions;


(i) To ensure the all-round leadership of all factory organizations and the mass organizations of the unemployed (factory committees, unemployed committees, etc.) by the Red trade unions and the RTUO, without overshadowing or domineering them.

. . .


(j) To ensure that the activities and forces of the party organizations are concentrated on the development of the strike struggle and the unemployed movement, especially in those important branches of industry (metal industry, transport and munitions) where there has been the greatest lagging behind up to the present. To ensure the rapid formation, consolidation and regular working of communist fractions in all trade union organizations, including the RTUO, unemployed committees and factory committees, without which it is impossible to establish a correct political line, to control its application, to give correct instructions (without overshadowing or domineering), or in general to strengthen the role of the Party and the revolutionary trade union organizations as the directing and leading force in the strike struggle, the unemployed movement and the general class struggle of the proletariat.

 

Comintern

III. International