V. I. Lenin

Tasks Of The Trade Unions

Delivered: December, 1918 and January 1919

First Published: 1933; Published according to the manuscript

Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers,

Moscow, 1972 Volume 28, pages 382-385


The theses by Tomsky, Radus-Zenkovich and Nogin each express the viewpoint of

the particular job they represent: trade unions, commissariat and co-operatives

with mutual benefit societies.

Each group of theses therefore suffers from a lopsided emphasis of only one side

of the picture and an overshadowing and suppression of the fundamental points at


A correct picture of these fundamental issues concerning the trade union

movement today and its attitude towards the Soviet government requires above all

proper consideration for the specific features of the present, given situation

in the transition from capitalism to socialism.

All three gave insufficient attention or virtually no attention at all to this

vital aspect of the matter.


The chief feature of the present situation in this respect is as follows.

The Soviet government as the dictatorship of the proletariat is victorious both

among the urban proletariat and among the poor peasants but has far from won

over by communist propaganda and strong organisation all trades and the whole

mass of semi-proletarians.

Hence the special importance, particularly at the moment, of stepping up our

propaganda and organisational work so that, on the one hand, we extend our

influence over those workers and employees who are the least Soviet (that is,

the furthest from fully accepting Soviet policy), and subordinate them to the

general proletarian movement. And so that, on the other hand, we shake up and

rouse ideologically, and rally organisationally, the most backward sections and

individuals among the proletariat and semi-proletariat, such as the unskilled

workers, the town servants, rural semi-proletariat, and so on.

Then, the second principal feature of the present situation is that the

construction of socialist society is based on a solid foundation, that is, we

have not only done more than map it out and set it as our immediate practical

goal; we have formed several highly important bodies of this construction (the

Economic Councils, for example), had certain experience of their relationship

with mass organisations (trade unions, co-operatives), and obtained certain

practical results. All the same, however, our construction is not yet finished

by any means, we still have very many flaws to iron out, the very essentials are

not yet guaranteed (for instance, proper collection and distribution of grain,

production and distribution of fuel), and the main body of working people are

still not playing a big enough part in the construction.


With this in view, the trade unions have the following tasks at present.

There can be no talk of any sort of trade union "neutrality". Any campaign for

neutrality is either a hypocritical screen for counter-revolution or a complete

lack of class-consciousness.

We are now strong enough in the basic core of the trade union movement to be

able to bring under our influence and proletarian discipline both the backward

and the passive non-Communists inside the unions, and those workers who are

still in some respects petty-bourgeois.

So the chief aim now is, not to break the resistance of a strong enemy, for

Soviet Russia no longer has such an enemy among the proletarians and

semi-proletarians, but to overcome by stubborn, persistent, more extensive

educational and organisational work the prejudices of certain pettybourgeois

sections of the proletariat and semi-proletariat. The unions must steadily

extend the insufficiently wide base of the Soviet government (that is, increase

the number of workers and poor peasants directly taking part in state

administration), educate the backward working people (by practical experience in

management as well as by books, lectures and newspapers), and discover new

organisational / orins both for these new tasks of the trade union movement in

general, and for attracting a far more numerous mass of semi-proletarians, like

the poor peasants, for example.

Thus, they must attract all trade union members into state

administration-through the system of commissars, through participation in

lightning control groups, and so on and so forth. They must attract the

housemaid, first into co-operative work, in supplying the population with

provisions, supervising their production, etc., and then into more responsible

and less "narrow" work-but of course with the necessary gradualness.

They must get the specialists into state work together with the workers and keep

an eye on them.

Transitional forms demand new bounds of organisation. Thus, for instance, the

Poor Peasants' Committees are playing a tremendous role. There may be a danger

that their merging with the Soviets would somewhere end up by leaving the mass

of semi-proletarians outside of the bounds of permanent organisation. But we

cannot forgo the task of organising the poor peasants under the pretext that

they are not hired hands. It is possible and even necessary to search, search

and search again for new forms, if only, for example, by forming unions of poor

peasants (perhaps the very same Poor Peasants' Committees) as unions of the very

poor (a) uninterested in grain profiteering and high grain prices, (b)

interested in improving their lot by common measures for everyone, (c)

interested in strengthening socialised farming, (d) interested in a permanent

alliance with the urban workers, etc.

Such a poor peasant union could make up a special section of the All-Russia

Trade Union Council to prevent it overwhelming the completely proletarian

elements. The form can be modified and must be sought through applying it to

practice, to the new task of embracing the new, transitional social types (the

village poor are not the proletariat, and now not even semi-proletariat, but

those who stand closest to the semi-proletariat since capitalism is not yet

dead, and at the same time those who are most sympathetic to the transition to

socialism)...[Here the manuscript ends—Editor].