Concerning

Fifth World Congress of the RILU

 

 

In Communists in Action Piatnitsky had complained that 'so far party reorganization on the basis of factory nuclei has not been carried out in any of the sections of the Comintern'. At best, they included 20 per cent of the communists working in factories. To remedy this situation, and to improve trade union work, were two of the seven tasks confronting communist parties. (The other five were to investigate the causes of their loss of ground, to fight the dangers from left and right within the parties, to wage a systematic campaign against social-democracy and reformism, to build the united front from below, and to pay more attention to party structure, since political could not be separated from organizational questions.) In the summer of 1930 the ECCI convened a conference of representatives of seven communist parties (Germany, France, Britain, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland) to discuss agitation and propaganda. The chief weaknesses in their work were said to be their inadequate use of material about capitalist crises and Soviet progress, a low theoretical level, a failure to link their political agitation with the economic crisis and unemployment, and an inadequate explanation of the need to fight on two fronts. Progress had been shown in the bolshevization of the press, in better publications, in the success of the Lenin School, and in the better ideological preparation of campaigns.
The earlier part of the letter referred to directives issued in February 1930 on expanding agitation and propaganda to ensure that the forms and methods of work fitted the task of communist leadership of mass industrial action. All parties without exception must improve and strengthen their factory-cell organization; the KPD attributed its electoral success in part to the establishment of 188 new factory cells.
The fifth RILU congress was held in Moscow in the latter half of August 1930.
The number of countries represented is given as 55 in one source, 60 in another. In his opening speech Lozovsky said it was 'the policy of the entire reformist trade union leadership to break off any and every struggle and to enslave the working class'. This they did very subtly in order not to lose the loyalty of their members; sometimes they called strikes in agreement with the employers. The resolution adopted said the congress marked 'a turning point in the strategy and tactics of the RILU in western Europe'. The congress ratified 'the decision of the revolutionary trade union opposition in Germany and Poland to drop the slogan of "into the reformist unions" '. 'Parallel red unions' were to be established wherever the situation warranted this step, in preparation for taking over the leadership of the class struggle. There was growing antagonism between the reformist leaders and the masses; revolutionary unions were the 'best weapon' for the complete defeat of Amsterdam, 'the most dangerous enemy of the working class'. Where there were no RILU unions, the trade union opposition had to be strengthened. 'RILU adherents must take steps to create opposition groups in the factories, and to strengthen the local and central organization of the revolutionary trade union opposition.' The splitting policy of the social-fascist trade union leaders had to be vigorously combated, but this did not run counter to the need to build independent unions; for revolutionaries to dispute this need was tantamount to a renunciation of revolutionary work in the trade union movement, an abandonment of the most exploited sections of the working class. The congress also 'welcomed the decision of the Soviet trade unions to establish an international school for the trade union movement'.
An article in the Communist International shortly before the RILU congress opened argued that the old idea of a labour aristocracy was no longer valid; the capitalists could no longer afford to bribe large numbers, the few 'labour aristocrats' did not work in industry, but in government and social-fascist organizations, where they 'deceived and terrorized' the masses. However, the results of the factorycommittee elections in Germany showed that these masses were not yet disillusioned about the reformist unions, whose influence could be countered and eliminated by independent revolutionary leadership of the industrial struggle. Revolutionary unions would bring in the unorganized and the unemployed, and include representatives of factory committees. 'No Leninist considers it necessary to establish new trade unions "just for the sake of a split", but no communist can declare—as Brandler, Walcher & Co. do—that the establishment of revolutionary trade unions is a violation of unity, once there is no longer any possibility of carrying on revolutionary mass work in the reformist unions.'
The establishment of communist-controlled unions had long been urged by Lozovsky. At the sixteenth CPSU congress he argued that there was far too much 'trade union legalism' in the American, British, German, and other communist parties; they submitted to trade union discipline in preference to party discipline and independent leadership. The old opportunist leadership of the Russian unions, he said, had sabotaged the RILU, interpreting the united front as fraternization with Amsterdam, and not as a revolutionary tactic to expose the IFTU leaders. A year earlier, in the trade union commission of the ECCI (February 1929), Piatnitsky had been extremely critical of the CGTU and the communist unions of Czechoslovakia (where some members, he said, had acted as strikebreakers). The time might come when it would be necessary to split the German unions; the harder they worked in the reformist unions now, the better their chances later. Lozovsky said there was no problem about organizing the unorganized and the unemployed where there were red unions; where there were no revolutionary unions, there was a good deal of opposition by communists to bringing the unorganized into the reformist unions because it would strengthen them; how could they urge them to go into unions whose leaders they had accused of strike-breaking ? There had been much opposition in the KPD to running their own independent list of candidates for factory-committee elections.
At the tenth plenum Lozovsky answered Gusev's objections to the formation of new unions; these were a necessary outcome of the decisions of the ninth plenum and the fourth RILU congress; the situation for them was favourable in Poland and the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red International

of the Labour Unions