OF THE ECCI PRESIDIUM ON THE
WORK OF TRADE UNION FRACTIONS
12 July 1932
July 1932 Inprekorr, xii, 57, p. 1817,
Experience in carrying out the decisions of the sixth Comintern congress and the supplementary decisions of the plenary sessions of the ECCI confirms the belief that it is impossible to accomplish the central task of the day — to win the majority of the working class in preparation for the fight for the proletarian dictatorship — without well-organized, systematic, and persistent work day by day both within the revolutionary trade unions which are under the ideological and organizational
influence of the communist parties, and in the reformist and other reactionary unions. Nevertheless, this most vital sector on the front of communist party mass work is now as before receiving only slight attention; this neglect is one of the chief
obstacles to the further development of the parties. In the resolution of the second international organization conference, ratified by the sixth enlarged plenum of the ECCI, on the structure and methods of work of communist fractions in trade unions, the communist parties were given important and practical directives on trade union work. By and large these still retain their validity.
The changes which have occurred since the sixth plenum in the general situation of the proletarian class struggle, and in the structure, methods of work, and composition of the leading cadres of the communist parties and revolutionary trade union movement, require some additions and alterations to be made. What comes out most clearly is the inexpediency of retaining the trade union departments of the party in countries where the revolutionary trade union movement is legal.
The communist parties of France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia have already abolished their trade union departments; the ECCI presidium endorses this action and, as an amendment to the directives of the second organization conference, proposes that other communist parties in countries with a legal revolutionary trade union movement liquidate their trade union departments, and transfer direction of the work of the fractions to the bureau of the competent party committee.
. . .
In countries where the revolutionary trade union movement is illegal, the trade union department is to be replaced, as it has been in the Polish CP, by regular working conferences of representatives of the trade union fractions under the direction of specially appointed representatives of the competent party committees (central, district, and local). These conferences are to exercise the functions of the fraction bureaus (central, district, and local) of the revolutionary trade union centres.
When liquidating the trade union departments it is most important that the party committees should not tackle the job mechanically
. . . their abolition should help to strengthen the link between fraction and party committee, the committee and the entire party organization being drawn into regular examination and settlement of trade union questions.
The most serious weaknesses in the work of communist trade union fractions are:
(a) the trade union fractions are not well instructed by the corresponding party committees. The guidance they receive is often formal and given mechanically in the form of circular letters and general directives.
. . .
(b) in their work in the unions, communists very often carry out the work of party leadership by giving orders instead of using methods of patient persuasion and personal example; as a result the revolutionary unions have no life of their own and
merely duplicate the party organizations, with roughly the same composition, the members doing no more than repeat mechanically party decisions;
(c) very often the party committees fail to discuss and decide the practical questions of trade union work. . . . All communist party committees must immediately give the most careful attention to the practical tasks of overcoming the defects and weaknesses in trade union work and of strengthening their positions in union organizations. The ECCI presidium considers that the most important of these tasks are:
(i) Efforts must be made to set up as quickly as possible trade union fractions in all unions, whatever their character, of which communists are members. For this purpose the central committees of all parties must send out experienced instructors and organizers.
. . .
(ii) The eleventh ECCI plenum endorsed the decision of the second international organization conference that fractions should be linked not only with their corresponding party committees, but also with each other, the fractions in the higher trade union bodies giving binding instructions to the fractions in the subordinate bodies, so that every fraction has a dual subordination, to both the corresponding party committee and the fraction in the higher trade union body. This regulation has in practice been often ignored, and even disputed.
. . .
The presidium recommends all communist parties to put the decision of the sixth ECCI plenum on the dual subordination of fractions into operation.
. . .
If the work of the fractions is properly managed by the party committees, the decisions and directives of the fractions will be brought into line with party policy, thus making them directives for all members of the party who work in the trade
union organization concerned.
. . .
(iii) The presidium fully endorses the decision of the second organization conference that trade union fractions should carry out their work through the factory cell.
. . .
The factory cell must direct all trade union work in the factories. It follows that the fractions working in the various unions represented in the factory must work under the direct control of the factory cell. For its part, the cell must make
vigorous use of these factory fractions to penetrate the unions which have branches in the factory, thus consolidating the influence of the communist party in these unions. To this end, it is supremely important that the area and local party committees should hold regular conferences with representatives of the factory cells and fractions in their area to discuss the practical current questions of trade union work,
with the object of organizing joint action by all the unions represented in the factory under the ideological and organizational leadership of the revolutionary trade union
group of that factory.
. . .
(iv) When questions of great political importance arise, such as the formulation of a programme of immediate demands, preparations for a strike, etc., the party committees concerned must hold prior consultations with one or more representatives of the fraction, so that clear instructions can be worked out for the fraction, telling it what to do and what not to do, and how to set about it, but leaving detailed practical questions to the fraction.
. . .
(v) Before meetings, congresses, and conferences of the red trade unions or the revolutionary trade union opposition (RTUO), the party committees concerned must discuss the agenda for these meetings, calling in representatives of the
corresponding communist fractions. The committee must draw up instructions for the fractions on every item of the agenda. If there are to be trade union elections the party committee, together with representatives of the fraction, must carefully
consider which candidates the fraction should support, and which reject. In doing so the following considerations must be kept in mind: (a) there should be a kernel of party members who will carry out the party's policy
. . .
(b) in addition to members of our party, it is essential to put forward revolutionary-minded workers (non-party, socialist, anarchist, etc.) who enjoy the confidence of the masses and have shown themselves to be good organizers of proletarian revolutionary activities
. . .
(vi) In preparing for party conferences and congresses which are to discuss trade union questions and industrial struggles, the leading trade union fractions must be drawn into active practical collaboration in the drafting of theses; in this way the
party will be able to rely on the experience of the trade union movement.
. . .
The party must instruct its members in the trade unions that their main task is to convince the bulk of the trade union membership by democratic trade union methods of the correctness of the slogans and the proposals of the communist party referring to the strengthening of the revolutionary trade union movement.
. . .
(vii) The most important and the most difficult thing is to establish the correct mutual relations between the communist fractions and the trade unions, particularly the revolutionary unions. It is precisely in this field that most mistakes are made and the greatest confusion exists. Since the revolutionary unions must be mass organizations, embracing all strata of the working class regardless of political affiliation, the communists who work in these organizations must gain influence and a leading position in them by good and intelligent work, by patiently and persistently expounding the communist line
. . .
and by their own actions giving a personal example of consistent and devoted struggle.
. . .
When communists, in accordance with decisions of the fraction or party committee, put forward proposals at trade union meetings, they do not necessarily have to emphasize that these proposals are the outcome of a party directive. By decision of the fraction, one of its members may put forward the proposal in his own name. The other members of the fraction must vote for it as one man and support it by appropriate means, such as taking part in the discussion. This applies also to those members of the fraction who, at the fraction meeting, were not in agreement with the proposal.
(viii) In carrying out party directives, the fractions, while persevering undeviatingly with their policy, must always act according to trade union democracy, so that the unions retain their separate identity and the initiative of the union officials is not hampered. If at a trade union meeting the majority are opposed to a proposal of the party committee, it should as a rule be withdrawn, no matter how useful and necessary it may be, and communists should not act upon it before the question has been again discussed.
The proposal should be put forward again and again, until a majority in its favour has been won. Communists must learn not to force their opinion on others, but to convince the erring, otherwise they will never be able to win new recruits.
(ix) While adhering irreconcilably to everything that concerns communist party policy, and pitilessly exposing the counter-revolutionary role of the reformist leaders, communists must adopt a comradely attitude to workers belonging to the socialist party and the reformist unions. In the revolutionary unions, from top to bottom, an atmosphere must be created in which non-party and social-democratic workers feel that they have equal rights with communists and communist sympathizers.
The fight against the opposition in the revolutionary unions must be waged differently from the fight within the party against the right and the 'left' opposition. On no account should questions of party discipline be brought into the fight.
The struggle must be waged only on trade union questions.
. . .
The ECCI presidium
. . . proposes that the central committees should bring these
instructions to the knowledge of all party members; they should be thoroughly discussed and popularized in the party press, at party meetings and training schools.
Furthermore, all party committees, from the central committee down to the factory cell, must work out practical measures on the basis of these directives for their trade union work, and subsequently examine strictly and methodically how the directives have been put into effect and how the local party organizations have in fact used them in practice. At the same time the ECCI presidium demands the most resolute struggle, if necessary by organizational measures, against those party bodies and committees which continue to pay inadequate attention to questions of trade union work.
THE TWELFTH PLENARY SESSION OF THE ECCI
from 27 August to 15 September 1932
174 delegates (38 with voting powers) from 35 countries.
The four items on the agenda were the international situation and the tasks of the sections, the lessons of strikes
and the struggle of the unemployed, the Far Eastern war and the struggle against imperialist war and anti-Soviet intervention, and socialist construction in the USSR.