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].