A. Lozovsky

The World’s Trade Union Movement

Pamphlet issued by the Trade Union Educational League, 1924

TUEL Labor Herald Library pamphlet, No. 10


Superstition and ignorance is protected by the privileged classes who live on the labor of others. Modern Science and revolutionary ideas are welcomed by the workers who keep society alive.



Lecture No. 1

The World’s Trade Union Movement Before and After the War




IN order to understand the development and the ways of the world trade union movement in the post-war period, we will have to give a short characterization of its conditions before and during the war. Before the war the trade union movement could be characterized as follows, first of all from the geographical point of view it was not yet a world movement; it was mostly developed in Europe and in the Anglo Saxon countries, and on the other hand in the British colonies, such as Canada, Australia, South Africa. All Asia without mentioning Africa — this great area of working masses — which by its population is much greater than the so-called civilized world, had not been drawn into the world’s socialist nor into the world’s trade union movement, for the simple reason that the labor movement began to crystalize in these countries only at the end of the war and mainly in the post-war period. So from the geographical point of view we have a trade union movement which is confined within a certain territorial frame, which can only be called a world movement with certain reservations.





In the whole world before the war there were about ten million organized workers, which were organized into unions of all kinds of political shades, beginning with anarcho-syndicalists and ending with Catholic, democrat, Protestant and so forth. The bulk of these organized workers were in Europe. Taking the main countries we get the following picture: Before the war in Great Britain in round numbers were about 4,000,000 organized workers; in Germany, about 3,00,000; in the United States, 2,700,000; in France, about 1,000,000; in Italy, 900,000; in Belgium, 200,000; in Holland, 220,000, etc., etc. We will stop with these figures in order to show the real value, to show what they really contain.

France before the war was showing 1,000,000 members in the trade unions; but in the General Confederation of Labor, the only organization which could be called a class organization, there were no more than 500,000. The rest were unions of agricultural workers which stood on the other side of the national trade union movement — almost on the other side; unions of government employees, which in fact were in opposition to the CGT; here we also find some little yellow unions; in short the official statistics include in the trade unions every organization, which under the law of 1884 had to register its by-laws — and even without such registration was under that law.

It is clear such figures cannot give the real picture of the trade union movement, for such a picture we can get only when we know not only the amount but also the contents—in other words the political composition and the political movements which exist in that group of workers.

The same about Germany. Here were 3,500,000 members, at a time when the reformist unions show only 2,500,000.

The same about England, where instead of four million and a couple of hundred thousand, we should say a maximum of about three million workers had, if not a class conscious platform, at least very close to it.

In the whole world we had about ten million organized workers. In the first question which naturally comes up—What actually did that big army represent?—we have to look behind the figures. That ten million is a big army is shown by the last war. Ten million well organized workers, knowing what they want, distributed all over the world, are a great power. We can say without exaggeration that, if these ten million organized workers had been not only revolutionary in mood but revolutionary in fact, the world war would have never come about. You will see farther on that this mass of workers represented a very vivid and varied picture.





The trade union movement of that time was divided on the main lines, between those having a class-conscious point of view and those of non-class viewpoint. Among those with a class conscious viewpoint we can count the principal trade union bodies of Germany, England, France, Italy and the Scandinavian countries, which in their programs, resolutions, etc., pointed out the class struggle and which theoretically, at least, were opposed to class collaboration.

The non-class unions, were those which in their programs declared openly for cooperation between classes and for social peace; these were the Catholic, democratic, Protestant, and other unions. We should also count here the yellow unions, which theoretically recognized the class and social peace, but, in practice had been conducting a class struggle—but not on the side of the workers; rather on the side of the bourgeoisie. This is the first grouping which divided the great mass of organized workers and which is the primary classification of the trade unions existing at that time.

But this rough division of the class and non-class is, in itself, not enough if we do not explain what the class unions at that time really were.

Examining that part of the unions which, before the war, united about three-fourths of all organized workers on a class basis, we can point out in general three political groupings which had been formed during a long historical period. On one side was trade unionism—taking here trade unionism as a certain ideological and political movement—then anarcho-syndicalism and third, social-democratic trade unions. These are the three different clear political divisions into which the class trade union movement was divided. Let us take up the characteristics of each one of these movements.





What do we understand in the trade union literature and politics under trade unionism? This name, which was adopted from the Anglo-Saxon countries, became during the long period of development of the English and American trade union movement not only an external formula or symbol for a certain trade union in a certain country, but it represented also a certain ideological and political content of the trade union movement. Under trade unionism we understand such a form of the labor and trade union movement which has for its purpose only the narrow economic problems of bettering conditions of labor, higher wages, etc.

Trade unionism is a theory which has grown out of the practical Anglo-Saxon labor movement, which in fact does not have in its program, in theory or in practice, the overthrowal of capitalism, but only the betterment of conditions within the capitalist system.

So the main characterization of trade unionism (also a characterization of reformism, which is understood widely outside the borders of Anglo-Saxon countries) is the struggle within the frame of the capitalist system and the conception of that system as a permanent one within the frame of which we have to struggle and better the conditions of the working class. Most of the practical and theoretical workers of the Anglo-Saxon labor movement openly construed the problems of the trade union only in the sense of bettering the conditions of the working class under capitalism and even put up the theory of the existence of three main factors, Labor, Capital, and Society (public).

What the trade union leaders understood by the “public” somewhat reminds us in Russia of our term “the third element.” There was such a third element in the zemstvo (councils of the rural citizenry), the intelligenzia, which was objectively counted as revolutionary but which played a somewhat separate role between the two main struggling classes. Under “public” they understood that part of the bourgeoisie which under the pressure of the working class came to the conclusion of the usefulness of the gradual betterment of the conditions of labor in the interests of capital itself.

The further characterization of the trade union form of the labor movement is its organizational division (structure) and the domination of the local over the general interest. These local or craft organizations which have been built up during decades still retain their local power at the present time, notwithstanding the fact that objective conditions force the labor movement to unite the small, loose parts, to amalgamate the unions into wider organizations uniting the workers of a whole industry. As a result of the domination of the sectional interests over the interests of the whole industry, we have now the domination of the narrow economic interests over the interests of the whole class. This is pure trade unionism.





The second movement, which represents the opposite side of the trade union movement is known by the name of “anarcho-syndicalism.” If trade unionism is connected with Anglo-Saxon countries, anarcho-syndicalism is connected with the Latin. The birth place of anarcho-syndicalism is France, there it had its greatest development and there also was created the theory which united numbers of workers of the Latin countries.

What are the main characteristics of anarcho-syndicalism? Trade unionism as we said, is devoted to the interests of one craft. Anarcho-syndicalism—and this is surely the progressive side of it—is devoted to the interests of the working class. It was a healthy reaction of a certain part of the proletariat against the opportunism and reformism which had existed in labor organization, trade union as well as political. The first characteristic of anarcho-syndicalism which differentiates it is that it puts first the general class interests and struggles—not for betterment within capitalism, but for the overthrow of the system.

The second characterization of the anarcho-syndicalist movement within the international labor movement is its anti-political character. Anarcho-syndicalists consider the union as the primary organ for the class struggle. They believe there are no other organizations except the trade unions which can conquer capitalism. All political parties—say the anarcho-syndicalists—beginning with the bourgeois and ending with the socialist, and at the present time with the Communist, are, from the social point of view, mixed organizations; while the trade unions represent a purely labor organization.

A party is a union of citizens. A trade union unites the producers. In the party there may be workers and also people from other classes. In a trade union—only workers. That is why the anarcho-syndicalists place the union ahead of the party. This is why the trade union happens to be the main weapon of the social revolution.

Besides that, in the opinion of the theoreticians and active workers of anarcho-syndicalism (of whom we may name Sorel, LaGuardelle, Grifuel) the characterization which differentiates the trade unions is that they not only are the basic stronghold of the working class in its struggle to overthrow capitalism, but also organizations around which the new society will be built. According to the belief of the anarcho-syndicalists the trade unions will not only make the revolution but will also create the new society. The trade unions will organize production, regulate production within the industries, will govern the public economy. This is the social philosophy of anarcho-syndicalism. But this is not all.

There is one more characteristic of anarcho-syndicalism which is, in full, inherited from the anarchist theory concerning the State: The State, independently of its form or contents, is an enemy. The structure of the State in itself—the anarchists always write the State with a capital “S”—is an organ of exploitation, of one part of the people by the others, and that exploitation is always used against the workers. Therefore, before the war, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat was a very vague and theoretical one. The anarcho-syndicalists were always out-spoken against the dictatorship of the proletariat, for, from their theory, the latter will mean the continuation of exploitation. They are anti-state, claiming that the State should be destroyed. They thought of the new society which will arise from the social revolution as one in which the trade union will play the leading role. They imagined it as a non-state society, which would be regulated only by the trade unions and which would be occupied only by the problems of production, distribution, etc.

However, this is only in the future; but what differentiates the anarcho-syndicalists from the other trade unionists? Anarcho-syndicalism in its direct struggle uses some methods which differentiate it from other movements. First of all, it believed in the initiative of the minority, and according to its ideas that minority with initiative could in many cases take the place of the mass. The anarcho-syndicalists in general shared the anarchist distrust of the masses. The individual plays the more important role. The minority with initiative can not only start something, drag the masses along, but also build for the masses, instead of them.

This role of the “militant minority” is one of the main characteristics of the anarcho-syndicalist point of view. And, from this angle, they brought into the every-day struggle things that we do not see in other movements. They brought into the struggle an element of adventure which could always be seen in their custom of exaggeration of the role of the strike. Organizing strikes as often as possible, they even created a special terminology—“revolutionary exercises,” figuring that every strike is a good thing. They claim that a strike is always for the benefit of the working class and it drags in a certain amount of workers into the movement and sharpens the social relations and the struggle between the classes. A careful and long preparation, the study of the objective conditions of strikes, the realistic calculation of the relation of forces and the calculation of the role of the masses and the relation between the masses and the militant minority, all this has been entirely ignored by the anarcho-syndicalists and considered as of no importance at all.

They imagined the social revolution as beginning suddenly, without the necessary organizational, political and other historical surroundings. At last they present the idea of sabotage, or what we call the “economic terror;” as a means of compulsion against employers. They have been out-spoken against large, strong trade union treasuries, looking at it from the point of view that the trade unions are, as a matter of fact, like plain people, the one that has much money is not very active in the struggle; and therefore, the trade union that has much money in its treasury, will be afraid of losing it and will not be as militant and ready for strikes as necessary. This is, in short, the characterization of anarcho-syndicalism within the trade union movement of the world, and which is especially characteristic of the Latin countries, France, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, etc. In Italy, notwithstanding the fact that it is a Latin country, the trade union movement took another form.





Finally, we have the third movement, the social-democratic trade union movement, the most representative of which has been the German and Austrian trade unions. What are the characteristics of this type of trade union organization? It has to a certain degree been between trade unionism and anarcho-syndicalism. In theory, the social-democratic trade union movement arose from the necessity of creating a new social order. Therefore, it has been different than the pure trade unionism in that it had as its aims the problem of creating a new society, or the destruction—under certain conditions—of capitalism. It was socialistic in the sense that it had socialistic ideas. But we would be greatly mistaken if we would mix the socialist ideas, or in other words the socialist theory and resolutions about socialism, with the everyday practice—with the preparation of the coming of socialism.

The characteristic of the pre-war social-democratic trade union movement was the thought of the possibility of arriving at the new society by gradual transition, separate victories and separate changes of society. In this way, the overthrow of capitalism was not the aim of these unions, but the gradual change of society. And this development of socialism from a capitalist society they visioned as a developed form of democracy, a developed democratic society which spreads its democracy to the maximum. It is the development from political democracy, gradually becoming an economic and social democracy. This is the basis of the theory of the social-democratic trade union movement. Socialism, from their point of view, is the legal son of democracy. It should gradually grow out of the development of democratic forms.

And now we see that the characteristic of the social-democratic trade union movement which differentiates it is what we call “graduation” or slow evolutionary steps from one form into another. This idea has different names in different countries, but in general and more correctly it may be understood as “reformism,” which means the idea of gradual change of society by means of reforms. In France that which we call “gradation” has had the name of “possibilism.” In England the same thing has been called “Fabianism,” adopted by the so-called Socialists who are for a slow, gradual transition from one system into another.

The social-democratic trade union movement stands separate from the Social-Democratic Party. It believes somewhat in a division of function: The party has to do with politics, we, the trade unions, have to do with economics. The general problems of the labor movement are under the jurisdiction of the party, but we, the trade unions, should only have to deal with economics. And it is interesting that there were many cases where the trade unions of Germany refused to consider the question of a general strike under the pretext that it was not under their jurisdiction, that it was the business of the party.

We have, therefore, three ideological factions in the world's trade union movement, which, before the war, were often in conflict with each other. These conflicts were mostly conflicts of leaders of different countries, notwithstanding the fact that these factions existed in every country. In Germany, where the socialist movement was most influential, the anarcho-syndicalist movement was very weak and mostly in so-called “local unions.” In France, where the anarcho-syndicalist movement was the stronger, alongside with it there existed a powerful reformist trade union movement of pure German type. In America, and England where they have a specific type of trade union movement, other forms of the trade union movement also existed.





The ideological differences which existed in the trade union movement and the factional struggle within it found their expression also within the organizational struggle, and the last, in its order, found its expression in the International which was created before the war. The careful study of these various factions within the trade union movement will give an explanation—why the beginning of war was also the beginning of bankruptcy of the world-wide trade union and socialist movement.

What is the difference between the labor movement and the other forms of social movements? First of all, it is an international movement. Capital played a big role in malting it an international movement, if not by creating the same conditions of labor, as least by the same forms and methods of exploitation, which were the forerunners of the creation of international organization for the working class. Thus, the necessity of creating international organization—Internationals—was growing as long as capitalism was expanding into new countries. It was growing also because capitalism itself has been becoming more international and called forth as a power against itself the international labor organization.

What are the characteristics of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries? In that time capitalism created new organizations for better exploitation, it created new combines, trusts, syndicates, etc., in which it concentrated its power, thanks to which is was able to hold down the working masses. All that, and the development of capitalist exploitation beyond the border of the given nation, forced the working masses to such forms of unity which would also extend beyond the borders of the separate country, which would unite the workers independently of their belonging to one or the other nation or state.

Thus, the growth of capitalism, the growth of forms and methods of capitalist exploitation, the growth of the centralized State, the progress of technique, the means of communication, etc., all together forced the working class to seek new forms of connections in order to be able, by centralized effort in a united fight, to compel consideration from the employers.

But, notwithstanding the great necessity of a struggle in a united front, on an international scale, neither the international trade union movement nor the political movement had risen to united international action, although they did create political and trade union internationals.




In the trade union sphere of the pre-war period we have the International Secretariat of Trade Unions, which was created in 1902. Its conferences usually were connected with the International Socialist Congresses, as these trade unions usually sent their delegates to the latter Congresses. This International Secretariat was not an international organization in the sense which especially we, the Communists, understand it. It was not an organization for struggle; but an international organization for the exchange of information. We could easily call it an “international information bureau,” an international bureau for sending statistics to each other, an international post-office box, or anything but an international labor unison. It lacked the characteristic of a real labor international; that is, the domination of interests of the class as a whole over the interests of separate parts of the international.





Besides the International Secretariat of Trades Unions, there were international units of trade unions—or internationals—by industries The International Textile Union, the Metal Workers Union, The Wood Workers Union; the Barbers’ Union; the Cap Makers’ Union, the Needle Trades, etc., over twenty international unions, which could be more correctly called a semblance of international unity than real unity. In fact we cannot remember one time in the international labor movement before the war where any industrial international played a leading role in the international struggle, where the unions would take concurrent action in different countries.

Therefore, if we look at these internationals from the point of view of those problems which an international in general should solve, we must openly state that no such international in fact existed. They were organizations which called themselves “internationals.” They had stationery with their names upon it, but they were only indications of the necessity of militant internationals, which they themselves were not. The existence of these internationals proved the necessity of creating real international units. Their weakness characterized the degrees of the development of these international connections—otherwise the degrees of the development of the working class movement of the world.

Again, if we wish to get a clear understanding of those causes which led up to the disintegration of the labor movement of the world with the beginning of the war, let us see what these labor organizations represented, and what were the connections between them.

Only after we carefully acquaint ourselves with these organizations, will we understand why 1914 was the year of the complete disintegration, demoralization and disorganization of the international labor movement. The competition between international capitalist groups before the war, was reflected in the industrial international unions, and with the coming of the war, came out .more boldly. After the international Congress of Metal Workers in 1914, one of the former delegates at that Congress, Merrheim, at that time a revolutionary syndicalist, stated in an article that at that Congress the competition between the British and German metallurgy showed itself.

The labor movement of that period, although officially connected in international unity, in fact was filled with national prejudices, national separatism, and national interests. The questions of “fatherland” were superior to the interests of the working class, and the question of “defending the fatherland” was a principle accepted by the whole labor movement.





This was the situation in the international trade union movement at the moment the war came. From the point of view of the amount of the trade union membership of all countries, they at once began to shrink. The mass mobilizations which seized upon the adult population, tools from the ranks of the working class hundreds of thousands and millions of people, and therefore, the unions naturally began to shrink. For instance, in Germany, which before the war had 3,500,000 members in trade unions, at the end of 1915 had only 1,500,000.

In the reformist unions there were instead of the 2,500,000, less than 1,000,000. The French Confederation of Labor, which before the war had 500,000 members, at the end of 1915 not more than 150,000. Colossal changes also took place in other countries, in the amount of memberships. Thus we see that the direct influence of the war upon the trade unions was to shrink the membership and to empty the ranks of the unions.






But this was not the most important thing, as not only by the emptying of the ranks of the unions did the war attack the trade union movement, but this process also changed the old ideology, creating a new one, the ideology of the war period. This ideology in different countries had different names, but mainly it was called “war socialism.” What was the main feature of this ideology which was created by the leaders of the trade union and political movement during the war?

We think it can be characterized in the following short formula: “Fatherland, first of all.” Let us remember that at the beginning of the war one of the most talkative “left socialists” of France, Gustave Hervè, who turned over to social patriotism with lightening agility, has explained this evolution in the following way: “The workers”—said he—“were caught by the iron hand of the war by the throat, raised into the air and thrown back by the strong hand to the ground, and they felt first of all their own ground. Every one of the workers who was thrown by the hurricane of events fell to the ground of his own country.”

We have to say that although the reformists of all countries as it was already mentioned in the social sense have been believers in evolution, but in their own personal viewpoint, they have been developing in an entirely different way. In this case we may rather use the conception of revolution than evolution, for they have been changing their views literally over night. And this may be said not only about the reformists but also about a very great number of anarcho-syndicalists, who suddenly, somehow, began to feel that they had a “fatherland” although anti-patriotism was previously their hobby.





The military ideology of the labor movement brought great changes in the relation of forces. The modern war is not a war of small groups, or small armies. Modern war is a war of masses, a war of nations in the real sense of the word. It is a war of industry against industry. The tactics of the working class in this war, the tactics of its unions, the methods of struggle, play a decisive role in the modern war.

Not without reason did the garrulous Lloyd-George in 1916 say to the Metal Workers, “In this victory on the northern front won by the British Army, you, metal workers, played a great and decisive part.” Yes, the influence of industry played a decisive role in the war. The growth of military industry explains the numerical changes of the unions beginning in 1916-1917. But, on the other hand, this growth also explains the lowering of the level of the labor movement, for in the war industry, which was the basis of war and which concentrated all workers not gone to the front, the conditions of work were such that those who participated in it were in fact ideological and political participants in the war.

When we talk about the war between France and England on one side and German on the other, we have to talk not only about the war between the two groups of bourgeoisie, but also the war between the socialists and trade unions of these fighting countries. Here, the war was not only in the sense that the workers had been organized into unions and sent to the front and ordered to fire at their comrades with machine guns. The war which began in 1914 started a war also between the trade unions of the Allies and the unions of the Central Powers. It started a polemic and an ideological fight where the representatives of one side—the Allies, tried to prove to the German trade unions, that they were traitors to the principles of international socialism when they were supporting the Kaiser, and Legien, the leader of the German unions, tried to prove that the traitors were the unions of the Allies, because they were supporting the bourgeoisie allied to the Russian Czar.

This war between the leaders of the trade unions is most characteristic of the unions of the whole war period. It is even more characteristic than the c nduct of the trade unionists in every country who in the name of “defense of the fatherland” gave up the gains which had cost them man years of bitter struggle against their bourgeoisie. In England, by way of compromise between the cabinet ministers and the trade unions, they did away with the working rules which benefited labor. In Germany and other countries, by agreement with the trade unions was created an indefinite working day. In short, the trade unions during the war period were the basis of the struggle. They took an active ideological and political and, more than that, a military, participation in the international slaughter.

This division into military coalitions brought about the attempt in 1916 by the trade unionists of the Allies to organize their own conference in Leeds, England, and at that conference to create the new Trade Union International of the Allies. Every time that the representatives of the neutral countries, as for instance the Swiss, Norwegian, Holland, Sweden, tried to organize an international conference in order to bring together the members of one and the same trade union international, the representatives of “democracy” and “civilization,” that is, of France, England and other countries, bitterly refused to sit at one table with representatives from the Countries of the Central Powers.

Why did they refuse? Why did they not want to meet the representatives from the German trade unions in order to talk over the methods and forms of stopping the slaughter?—Because they were tied up with their bourgeoisie and a meeting between the allies of the bourgeoisie of the Allied powers and the allies of the bourgeoisie of the Central Powers would be a meeting between the two bourgeoisie themselves. And, as the war had been conducted for the destruction of the countries, for the economic destruction, for the economic exhaustion, it is natural that neither the French nor the British or the American unions, could agree to meet the Germans. The Germans expressed heir willingness to meet, but the French and Belgians considered themselves citizens of attacked countries which were fighting for “Right” and “civilization.”

The trade union movement was broken up into different coalitions along the lines of diplomacy, which is, perhaps, the lowest form of disgrace, the most extreme point reached by the trade union movement in its disintegration.





The war, which ended in a victory of “democracy” over “barbarism,” resulted in the famous Versailles, Trianon, and Sevres Treaties, which brought “peace to humanity.” It would be a mistake to consider the victory only as a victory of one bourgeoisie over the other. It was not only of the bourgeoisie of the Allied countries over the German and Austrian people,—it was something more than that — it as the victory of the trade unions of the allied countries over the trade unions of Germany and Austria. It was a victory of one part of the workers over the other. The dominant position which the German trade unions occupied before the war, was destroyed by the victor of the Allies. The British unions became the dominant factor in the international trade union movement, which corresponds to the economic hegemony of their bourgeoisie. In this way the development of the labor movement, the development of international organizations is closely related to the destiny of capitalism, and the victory of the bourgeoisie of one country reflects on the position which the workers of the other country had in one or another international.

The victory of the Allies signified a victory of the trade unions of the Allied countries which very boldly was demonstrated at the international conferences which were held at the end of the war and which also reflected itself in the whole post-war period.





In the picture which we are presenting here it seems there is no light at all. Everything shows up colored in black or yellow-black. Being dependent on the national flag, everything is tinted with the national color. But a clear-cut red color could not be noticed and it seems difficult to understand how from such a dark prospect could be born that new thing about which we are to speak. We will answer that question which comes up naturally.

Alongside of the process of adjustment of the labor movement to the war, another process has been in development, the process of collecting the hatred to the war. In what are the roots of reformism and of Communism? How could one and the same working class create two opposite movements, fighting each other with arms in hand? What are the causes of it?

The answer is, that the working class is the basis and builder of capitalist society, and, at the same time, the destroyer of capitalist society: It is at once trying to adapt itself to capitalist society and trying to destroy it. Thus Communism and reformism taking their origins in the working class, reflect the different stages of its development, the different tendencies of that class which day by day shows more and more of that side which leads to the destruction of bourgeois society. It would have been a mistake if we would have considered the war period from the point of view that because Legien and Jouhaux have been the representatives of the working class, the class itself was filled with war ideology. It is a fact that these gentlemen became traitor to their principles. There is not the slightest doubt about that. But why did millions of proletarians in every country follow these leaders? Why? That’s the root of the question.

Here we come to that side of the problem which has not been clear enough to us before the war. We did not estimate the real degree of influence of the bourgeoisie on the working class. We had been fighting against reformism even before the war, we fought against the bourgeoisie. But that the bourgeois relations, the bourgeois ideology, the bourgeois literature, the bourgeois church and philosophy, and in general all that was created by the bourgeoisie could so much dominate the working class, this—to be frank—every Bolshevik may say we did not expect.

And for us, the left wing of the labor movement, which had been the left wing before the war and remained as such during the war, was the degree of the collapse entirely unexpected. We underestimated the influence of bourgeois society on the labor movement. We did not calculate that organic connection which existed between the labor movement and that society in which the labor movement developed.

However, during the war, concurrently with the maximum influence of the bourgeois society on the working class, began to develop that tendency which is within the working class of antagonism toward bourgeois society.

This tendency which in the first period was very weak and very insignificant in some countries found its reflection only in individual actions, such as Liebknecht in Germany (and he, among other things, did not vote the first time against the war credits, he voted against them the second time), appeared in the trade union movement of France. I happened to participate directly in the creation of the first international nucleus in the Confederation of Labor together with Monatte, Rosmer and the “dead-in-life” Merrheim. That was the first nucleus from which grew the Zimmerwald and Kienthal Conferences. The labor movement from within itself began to develop a new movement, new powers....

The whole post war period of the labor movement can be understood only when we come up to the war period from the point of view, not only of the changing of leaders, but also the objective forces which lead the workers in the political and spiritual sense; also from the point of view of the growing, new forces within these anti-patriotic groups, which by the end of the war took a definite form and in the post war period brought about the creation of the Communist International and the Red International of Labor Unions.

The trade union movement after the war, as the labor movement in general, could be understood only by a careful study of the labor movement as it existed during the war period, by calculating those contradictory forces within the capitalist state which create the class struggle and create organizations which have on their banners the overthrow of capitalist society.

We have therefore acquainted ourselves in a general way with the basic factors in the development of the trade union movement before and after the war period. It is natural that these basic lines drawn by us could be fully understood only by better acquaintance with more material which depicts the situation of the labor movement in every country. Only by studying the particular forms of the labor movement of our epoch can we form an opinion not only about the causes which brought about new forms of the labor movement but also to understand the organizational and other forms which were taken by the newly-formed national and international organizations.






Lecture No. 2

The World’s Trade Union Movement at the end of the War


The Influence of the Russian Revolution on the International Labor Movement


THE first period in the post-war development of the trade unions is marked by the influence of the Russian revolution. It is known that even the February revolution of 1917 brought in something new in the war itself, and mainly in the international labor movement, for it cut through the black cloud which covered up the whole so-called civilized world and brought in a ray of hope for the liberation of the exploited and down-trodden.

The fact of the Russian revolution in itself had an influence in strengthening those movements which had been forming themselves within the international labor movement, which were striving to end the war. We have to point out that the acceptance of the Russian revolution by the international socialist and even the trade union movement was different, depending on the territorial, geographical and diplomatic relations of the various countries.

For the leading Austrian and German trade unions the Russian revolution was the beginning of the disintegration of the Allies, and they from the sheer practical consideration, if they did not congratulate the revolution, anyway were glad that Russia ceased to be a danger to their “dear fatherland.” On the other hand, in the leading circles of the trade union movement of the Allied countries, the Russian revolution was looked upon as something that would strengthen the democratic front of the Allies against Germany. In this way, from the beginning of the Russian revolution, the attitude of the different trade union circles was dictated by the expected success in arms of one or the other military coalition.

This official view of the leaders of the trade union movement was met by something new which was brought by the Russian revolution. That new thing was the following:

We know that to the social patriots of central Europe including among them most of the leaders of the trade unions which played a leading role during the war, the struggle against Czarism was that triumph which had to play the biggest role in raising the military spirit of the masses. Czarism fell and, by that for the social-patriots of Central Europe, this monster against which they claimed to defend their “fatherland” no longer existed. On the other hand, the Russian revolution in its first period bettered the position of the social-patriots of the Allied countries, because they who fought for “culture and civilization” were

the Allies of Czarism and the mere possibility of alliance with Czarism for the high ideals of defending “democracy and culture” was very difficult to explain.

We should also point out that at the beginning the revolution appeared somewhat to help the Allies. By using the word “Allies” we do not mean the leaders of the government at that time, but the union leaders of the Allied countries. It seemed to the union leaders that they gained something as at present liberal friends will not be allied any more with Czarism but with not less but maybe more liberal Russia, with a republic under the leadership of Kerensky.

But these gains which they tried to realize were quickly evaporated. In the leading circles of labor, and especially in the trade union movement they began to look with great fear at the growing “anarchy,” as it is known, began to appear about June, 1917. We will not stop here, to explain how they sent to us their “socialist ambassadors,” how La Fon, Moute, and Cachin — at present Cachin is a Communist but at that time was not-were given the mission of bringing Russia into the folds of “democracy,” otherwise stated “to drag Russia back into the war.” We will not stop here to explain how the Belgians sent to us their wonderful speakers, and how the British and Americans worked to the same end. There were attempts from the labor movement, from the trade union organizations of the Allied countries to influence the Russian revolution, to bring it into the folds of the Allies by the promises that were made.

It is well to point out also that French imperialism — giving the devil his due — was very able in conducting agitation and propaganda for the purpose of fooling the masses. They prepared already the sending to us from France as a semi-official representative but with plenary powers, the leader of the Metal Workers, Merrheim, who was in the cabinet circles, and if it did not succeed it was our fault, the fault of the Russian workers, for we arranged suddenly for them the October Revolution. On the other hand, from the side of the labor circles of Europe they considered the revolution from the point of view of “What will the revolution give to conduct and continue the war?”

But the Russian revolution in its further October development, reflected on the laboring masses; it created an enthusiasm, a great encouragement, for the revolution itself. From the moment of the October revolution there begins a new epoch in the war itself as well as in the international labor movement. Therefore, in order to understand the shapes which the labor movement has taken in Western Europe it is necessary to understand the general relation of forces and that new force — the Russian revolution — and then we will be able to judge the influence of its post-October period.

The October revolution made such a great change in the picture of the labor movement that it brought to the foreground the question of ending the war. As this was the central question for the labor movement of all countries, the end of the war brought in a certain change in the trade union organizations of all countries.

How was the October upheaval accepted in the Western European trade union movement? Again, in different ways, depending on the diplomatic coalitions. The reformists were against the Bolshevik Bashibuzuhs (barbarians) who broke down all principles of “democracy,” “eternal rights” etc., but even this oposition was different in Central Europe than it was in the Allied countries. In Central Europe they looked upon the October revolution, and later on upon the Brest Litovsk Peace as a liquidation of the enemy’s power. Thus, the trade unions of Central Europe, although opposed to the October revolution, at the same time considered it as a somewhat unexpected aid and relief in the sense of liberating the necessary forces for the fight on the Western Front.

Entirely different was the conception of the October revolution in the countries of the Allies. Here our exit from the war was considered an unheard of violation of all laws of god and man. They looked upon us almost as violators of a sworn promise, although you know we never gave any promises. All promises were made by Nicholas II, and after him by Kerensky. However, their relations to Soviet Russia in every country has been changing, according to the coalitions and new groupings, depending on the changes of relations of forces, etc. That is why we had new groupings and new alignments also in the trade union movement.





What were these new grouping of forces? I mentioned previously that the question of ending the war by Soviet Russia was presented not in a theoretical way, but in practice, and therefore in the consciousness of the masses this question was brought in, not in the form of an illegal proclamation, but as an historical occurence which cannot be covered up by the military censorship. It was impossible to hide from the masses the fact that Russia ended the war — was through with the war. And the problem of the reformists was that this end of the war which already was a fact of life, should be used for the further mobilization of the masses on one hand, and mobilization of these masses against the revolution itself on the other. That was their main problem.

At the time when the leading center of the reformist part of the trade union movement was trying to solve this problem, in the masses of France, Germany and England this ending of the war in fact brought to us a wave of sympathy and the desire to do the same thing. Thus, the end of the war changed the inner groupings, it made stronger the international groupings and that feeling which had not definite characterization during the war, and which was called “pacifism.” The Russian revolution itself, the ending of the war by us, strengthened the general desire for peace on one hand, and on the other — the labor pacifism, that is, the tendency of the workers also to end the war.





The Brest Litovsk Peace was the culminating point around which the struggle of the working masses of the world for peace concentrated. If you will take the trade union literature of the period of the Brest Litovsk Peace, the German, French and English literature, we will see that the fact in itself of making the Brest Litovsk Peace, the preparation for it, was discussed by this literature in a varied manner, depending on the coalition to which each belonged.

In 1920, while in Germany, I had to make a speech before the AllGerman Factory Committee Congress, where a majority were Social Democrats. We Russians have a habit in our greetings to Western Europe of saying many unpleasant truths, and at that Congress I quoted a few remarks from the Korrespondentzblatt (central organ of the German Federation of Trade Unions), in which the German trade unionists expressed themselves about the Brest Litovsk Peace. For instance, the following: “It is not in the interest of Germany to safeguard the unity of Russia,” This was stated by the central organ of the German trade union movement at the time when General Hoffman was knocking his fist on the table demanding the signing of the Brest Litovsk Peace without any changes as proposed by the German military staff. There is some more; there is a statement, for instance “Surely the Peace as signed is not entirely satisfactory to us, nevertheless it is a great move ahead on the way of establishing the principles of democracy in those countries which were formerly under the oppression of Czarism.”

I could quote much more from these exceptional articles, but when I quoted them in 1920, at that Congress where over a thousand people were present, three-fourths of whom were Social Democrats, I heard a remark behind me in the presidium, “Unheard of impudence!” That was a remark of Humbrecht, but the members of the Congress were sitting with lowered heads. After I quoted, I said: “You can now imagine, after your experience with the Versailles Peace which repreaents a worse edition of Brest Litovsk, how we Russian workers felt when reading such things at the time of Brest Litovsk.” The Brest Litovsk Peace, as well as the Russian revolution was considered by the reformists exclusively from the point of view of the “dear fatherland,” and the interests of the particular state.

If we will take the literature of the Allied countries we will see that all that has been written about the Blest Litovsk Peace by the leaders of the trade union movement of France, England, Belgium, etc. without mentioning the United States — Gompers is still writing such things, which proves absolutely his impaired mental capacity — we will see that they considered the Brest Litovsk Peace mainly as an injury to the interest of their “fatherland.”

The reasons for Brest Litovsk Peace are well known. However, I cannot deny myself the pleasure of mentioning an interesting moment from the struggle and quarrel within the Russian Communist Party on the question of the Brest Litovsk Peace. You know that the Party at that time almost split: For peace at any price was Ilyitch (Lenin) and in the C. E. C. there were about half and half. And here, Radek relates at one of the fiercest discussions, Ilyitch (Lenin) said: “The peasants have already voted for peace.” Radek asked, with a stare, “When?” “They voted with their feet” — answered Ilyitch — “because they are running away from the front and against this vote nothing can be done.”

This, in a general way, was the reason for the Brest Litovsk Peace. And this reason was not noticeable even to all of us, so much the less of course, to the working masses of Europe. We have to say that the Brest Litovsk Peace, and the period of great difficulty in which the revolution was after the Brest Litovsk Peace, was used during a long period as a strong weapon in the hands of our opponents, the reformists, against Communism. But, on the other hand, the fact of peace in itself brought in something entirely new into the world’s labor movement for the rank and file worker, be he a member of a trade union, or be he in Australia or Alaska, and even not knowing anything at all of what was going on in Russia; the fact in itself that the press of the whole world was against us, was cursing us, because we were confiscating banks, factories, etc., all that created a stimulation in him, a somewhat uncertain sympathy for us.

In this way we can say in a somewhat paradoxical way, that the first agitator for Bolshevism was the bourgeois press itself — for we had no Communist press in the different countries; and the more the bourgeois press was cursing us, the more sympathy it created for us. And all that, taken together, influenced the creation of that uncertain movement which, although very slowly, was growing as a left wing in the international labor movement, which at the proper moment joined with the revolutionary trade union movement and created world wide organization known by the names of Comintern (The Communist International) and Profintern (the Red International of Labor Unions). We should consider these moments, as I have already said, in order to understand the further development of the international labor movement.





There was another very important occurence which brought in a change in the picture of the world trade union movement. That was the appearance, formation, and development of the trade union movement in Russia. While I have been picturing the trade union movement of the world, Russia was not even mentioned. It is true that there were some unions in Russia, but they were so insignificant that they did not play any role at all within Russia, and so much less outside of Russia. The trade unions which were organized by us in 1905, and those developed in I9o6, had been destroyed by the victory of Stolypin (a reactionary premier). They appeared again in the period of economic revival in 1912-13 but were entirely destroyed at the beginning of the war

But in the post-war period, we see something entirely different. Together with the February revolution, with the appearance of trade unions in Russia, and especially with the October revolution, there appeared on the scene also a fourth factor in the world labor movement, one which we may call the heart of the revolutionary trade union movement, which, in short, may be characterized as the “Communist trade union movement,” which includes the best there is in the unions of the world.

Above we gave the characteristics of the three types of the trade union movement, which we marked according to their geographical lines, as the Anglo-Saxon, the Latin and the German; but if we will use the political terminology we will have: Trade Unionism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and the Reformist or Social-Democratic trade movements.

What are the characteristics of the fourth type of the trade union movement? We characterized it as “Communist.” But, doesn’t that mean that the trade union movement is the same as the Party movement? — It is first of all Communist by its contents, by its tactics, aims and methods of struggle, although it officially is not a part of one or another party. The party is supposed to have only an ideological leadership of the trade union movement.

The fourth type of the trade union movement, which we may without exaggeration call the “Russian type” (to apply to it also a geographical term), is different from the other trade union movements in that it has never been a purely economic or purely co-operative movement. Our trade union movement was always a deeply class movement, even when it had before itself the everyday problems, it would consider them from the point of view of the general interests of the class struggle.

The fourth type of the trade union movement is different from the reformist trade union movement in that it never had as its aim the gradual transition from capitalism to socialism. Our movement is different from the anarcho-syndicalist in that it has never been anti-state in the metaphysical sense, in the abstract. The Russian trade union movement, if it is anti-state, is so only in that sense that it is against the bourgeois state. We consider the state from the following point of view: What kind of a state is it? Which class does it represent? Which class does it oppress? And from this concrete, historical point of view we consider the given, particular state. In other words, for the fourth type of the trade union movement, the decisive factor in its attitude toward the state is not the form of the state, but its social contents.

From this we can see that this type of the trade union movement has definite principles which differentiates it from all other types of the trade union movement. We will not dwell upon it in detail. Otherwise we would have to touch the structure of our trade unions and the work of the trade unions of Russia in the different spheres. We will take only the more important things which differentiate our trade union movement from all other forms of trade union organization.

It can be said without exaggeration, that the trade union movement of the fourth type, that is, the Russian trade union movement, has absorbed all that which makes for strength and revolutionary spirit in all other separate types of the trade union movement of different countries. Thus, for instande, we have a close similarity to the syndicalists in the sense of bringing forward the class problem, the revolutionary struggle and the direct action of one class against the other. But we also have some points which are similar to those of the reformists of Germany — in the sense of centralization, in the sense of striving for the maximum concentration of forces. We have less in common with the Trade Unionists’ movement, although we do agree with them in the way they conduct their stubborn economic struggle. But the difference between us is that they are concentrating their struggle and stubborness exclusively on the everyday problem, without passing the borders of that problem, at a time when we are using these qualities for wider aims and problems.

T1nis, we see that a fourth type of the trade union movement has accepted all that is really revolutionary, which could be taken from the trade union movement of the world.





The first characteristic of the post-war trade union movement, is its stormy growth. I believe there is no historical parallel of such a rapid development in the trade union movement and also in the labor organizations in general. We will take a few figures and then we will consider the reasons for such phenomenal increase. We will take the figures of 1919 and later those of 1920, etc.

According to official statistics of 1913, Great Britain had 4,000,000 members, in 1919, after the end of the war, there were 8,000,000 members. In Germany, in 1913, there were 3,500,000 members, and in 1920, they had 12,000,000 members. In the United States, where the changes were not so stormy as in other countries, in 1913, there were 2,700,000, and in 1919 5,000,000. In France the official statistics for 1913 shows 1,000,000, and in 1919, 2,500,000 members of trade unions. Such growth of membership we have also in the unions of Italy, Belgium, and which is more characteristic, even in the neutral countries. We see that the workers joined the trade union organizations in great masses.





What are the reasons for such unprecedented growth? First of all the uncertainty created in the ranks of the workers right after the end of the war as to the future. The beginning of demobilization created before the working class an array of very important problems, and before the wide masses arose the question of how to retain and safeguard their interests. Individual workers, during the war, felt themselves somewhat independent, although of course the more conscious part joined the unions. But the masses, the millions, did not go to the unions. At the end of the war the general uncertainty, the threat of loss of war-time gains, created an atmosphere which stimulated the joining of any organization where they might collectively decide their problems.

After the war, individual workers felt less independent than during the war. The colossal world events which they lived through, participants of which they had been, forced them to think matters over.

We know that the war itself which resulted from the imperialist contradictions, had as one of its main aims the killing of the socialist movement (at least many of the bourgeoisie were of that opinion), but in fact, although the first year it seemed did kill all the revolution that had been in the working class yet — at the end of the war — notwithstanding the colossal blood-letting which they had just lived through — in the masses had grown up a great discontent that had to find some organized expression. This uncertainty of the tomorrow, the general social dissatisfaction, forced the individual workers to seek a shelter, a collective family, called forth the attraction to the trade unions.

The masses went into unions looking for a better life, for better conditions of work, looking for answers to those cursed questions that were placed before them by the war. In this colossal stream into the unions went class conscious and also less conscious elements: Those who had already found answers to the questions placed before them by the war, and those who were looking for these answers. The working class went to the unions, and that is the most characteristic feature of the post-war period.

During the war and previously we had in the trade unions the more conscious part of the proletariat; but right after its end we see how the workers joined the unions in masses. This peculiarity of the post-war period of the trade union movement, we should remember in order to understand our tactics of winning the unions, our opposition to the splits, our desire to win over the organization as a whole, for we consider the trade union organizations not as a union of privileged, individuals, but as an organization which unites if not the majority, at least a great part of the workers of a given industry.





But, alongside this development of the trade union movement, we have in the post-war period also the development of what we may call “the reformist illusions.” The development of these illusions is the second peculiarity of the post-war trade union movement. Above, we gave the characteristic of reformism, and we pointed out its special features, but in the post-war period it seems that the reformists had the opportunity to demonstrate the practicability of their ideals and by reforms to show the correctness of their point of view as against the viewpoint of the revolutionary left wing element of the labor movement. How did the development of these reformist illusions appear? What are their peculiar characteristics?

It is known that the end of the war was coincident with revolution in the Central Powers. The revolution in Germany which is officially dated “the 9th of November,” has shown that in the moment of the social impact of the revolutionary collision of the class forces, the only organized forces were the working class and the employers. The old military regime, the old structure of Junkers’ Germany had fallen apart under the pressure of military defeats. The insurrection started and the strongest organized force was the proletariat; and, as in Germany, the specific gravity of the proletariat was much stronger than in other countries the role of the proletariat in the revolution could be understood.

We can, for instance, bring the following examples of the comparative importance of the German and the Russian proletariats: In Germany with a population of 65,000,000, the sick-benefit societies have insured about 22,000,000 people who are living by wage labor. In Russia, the maximum number of proletarians of all kinds, if we will include also the agricultural proletariat, is only between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000, and that is to a population of 150,000,000. By comparing these figures the specific gravity of the German proletariat will be seen.

Here another assumption appears; that in this revolution the German proletariat should have played the leading role. If the Russian proletariat in a peasant country, with a small city population, played such a leading and distinct role, so much more should the German proletariat have played such a role. But it did not conduct itself as it should have done, and up to now this is the real cause of the tragedy of the German revolution.





A few days before the revolution a conference started between the representatives of the German trade unions and the employers which ended November 15th with an agreement known in history by the name of Arbeitsgemeinschaft. This is very difficult to translate from the German, but in a general way it means “class collaboration.” Under such a name was created an organization of employers and workers for the regulation of all social questions. It was a commission which in the moment of the dissolution of the German empire had to save the basis of this empire.

The reformists themselves considered this agreement of unusual importance and, as it is natural in the German manner, tried to give it a philosophical interpretation. A philosophy was created of collaboration in all the economic and political life of the country, philosophy of equal participation by the workers and employers in the administration of things. But philosophy is one thing and life is quite another: To run industry in collaboration is impossible. As long as these collaborative commissions have been the political expressions of the shifting powers within the labor masses, as happened the moment the revolution began, so much did they play, from the start, a conservative role.

They were conservative because they selected one moment out of the revolutionary process and made it permanent, without giving the revolution opportunity to develop. And what were the essentials of the revolution. Let us take the Russian revolution. The course of the Russian revolution was the swift changes of the relation of class forces, the sharpening of struggle, the growth of class consciousness going forward in forced tempo, like a falling stone, which, the closer it comes to earth the faster it falls. It was what we may call a rapid movement in the sense of growing class unity. The growth of these class forces created a shifting between the struggling classes, and if we would take as a culminating point the relation of forces in the first period of the revolution and will stop at that it will only mean to mark time.

That is why this program of marking time by the reformists was executed by them in such a brilliant way that the working class of Germany up to now cannot get out of that “brilliant” situation.

These collaborative commissions received the approval of the employers and one of the leading employers of Rhenish Westphalian province in the coal and iron syndicate, Dr. Reichardt, explaining at a meeting of the employers the reason why that collaborative agreement was signed said, literally, the following: “If we would not sign this agreement, all foundations would collapse; we succeeded with this agreement to stop these elementary forces which surely would bring about the destruction of industry and the destruction of all order.”

We think we need no de-coding of these words. What do these words mean from the lips of a leader of the employers’ organization? Let us remind ourselves of the similar expression by the leaders of the textile, iron and metal syndicates of Russia just previous to the October revolution and let us come to the necessary conclusion. We may say, and that was the belief also of the employers, that the trade unionists saved the order, production and margin of profit, and the whole old capitalist system.

But the leaders of the reformist trade union movement accepted all this as a victory of the working class. Of course, in comparison with that which had been up till the 9th of November when the iron fist of Ludendorf and Hindenburg crushed all resistance of the workers, here, perhaps, could be seen a victory; but in comparison with those objective possibilities which have been hidden in the powerful class, this agreement was the fixing of a certain moment and the holding up since that moment the labor movement as a whole.

It is known that the German revolution started with a workers’ government, the same which we are demanding at present in all countries. Immediately a government was created of Social-Democrats and Independents and the bourgeois parties stepped out.

However, this government “governed” so well that in a very short time it turned over the power to the bourgeoisie and at present is only an addition to the bourgeois parties.[1]

The reformist trade union and political movements of Germany expected that by strengthening itself with an array of reforms it would be able to use the organizing and other forces of the bourgeoisie in order to raise the political and economic structure of the country to a higher level, and then to make another step ahead, etc. And in this is contained the illusion of German trade union and political movements. It imagined the change of society, we will say, in the form of gradual steps. They stopped, in the sphere of economics — at the collaborative commissions and, in politics — at the coalition government.

I happened, at the time of the Frankfort conference in March of this year (1923) in a discussion with the Social-Democrats, to compare the tactics of the Communists and the reformists and mainly in the example of the German Social-Democracy, where I approached the question from the national point of view, from the point of view of the interests of these same Social-Democrats. I asked them: “Imagine for one moment, that the Social-Democracy of Germany at the beginning of the war would have taken an international position — what would be the results from the national point of view?” Let’s forget for a while the international point of view. If the war would have begun it would have been liquidated very quickly, for against the will of the trade unions Wilhelm would not have been able to conduct the war. There would have been no war, and of course, there would have been no Versailles Treaty. This way, from the viewpoint of expedience, your international position would, on one hand have saved millions of lives, and on the other — would exclude the very possibility for Germany of the Versailles Treaty. “The second example again is taken from the national point of view: If, at the time of the Brest Litovsk Peace, the German Social-Democracy, the German trade unions, would have acted not as the slaves of Hindenburg and Ludendorf, but in a decisive way, with strikes against the forcing upon Soviet Russia of a robber’s peace, and would have forced its government to conclude a really democratic peace, you would have split the whole Allied front, and again, Germany would not have come to the Versailles Treaty.”

So the social patriots in the final analysis are the worst enemies of their “fatherland.” Even from the purely practical point of view, the tactics of the reformists not only does not give the results which they strive for, but gives just the opposite results, destroying the country and production and leading the working class into poverty.





An attempt to use the reformist tactics we have also in the countries of the Allies, but there it was proceeding on different lines. It is known that the Allies conducted the struggle for “eternal principle,” for “eternal peace,” at least that is what they are always speaking and writing about. What kind of an “eternal peace” was achieved? At least the ten million killed in the war did receive, in fact, “eternal peace.” Just after the end of the war with this same “eternal peace” begins a new, curious and most interesting phase of Allied reformism. The reformist trade unions, as we already have mentioned, have been the foundation, the basis of the war itself, and it is clear that they were very anxiously awaiting the end of it, expecting: “The war will end and we will get everything.” The war came to an end and it was necessary to begin making the peace treaty. When the leaders of the trade unions dared to mention that they would like to participate in the working out of the treaties, they were given to understand that the time when they used to come in through the front door had passed; now they can come up the back stairs.

Above we have already characterized the feelings prevalent in the laboring masses. In the period of two years the reformist “quadrille” in which participated on one hand the leaders of the trade unions and, on the other, the political leaders of the Allied nations, never stopped; although the latter clearly saw the danger which the growth of the trade union movement represented to them. As a result of the activities of the reformists, a new institution was created which was supposed to attain all the expectations and hopes of the reformists.


During the war there was much talk of the necessity of creating a league of nations, a real league of nations. In his time Wilson proclaimed the fourteen points, which became somewhat similar to “Fourteen Commandments” for all pacifist and reformist simpletons. They were given the possibility, if not to participate in the diplomatic conferences, in conjunction with them to work on some parts of this treaty. Such leaders of the trade unions as Gompers, Jouhaux, Appleton, have been invited into the commission to work out that part of the Versailles Treaty which deals with the problems of labor on an international scale and also the creation of that institution which was supposed to regulate the questions of labor.

In the Versailles Treaty which is the most curious document ever created by human fantasy, there is a thirteenth paragraph which begins literally as follows: “Labor should not be a commodity.” You will probably be surprised to find such a clearly socialist point in the Versailles Treaty, and that Clemenceau and Lloyd-George and Orlando could have signed it.

But we should remember that the government leaders of Europe are not afraid of words, they will sign any words. They put in such a formula but Lloyd-George and Clemenceau, as practical men, understood that the center of gravity is not in this formula, that the Versailles Treaty will be enforced by the one with the biggest army.

At the time of signing the Versailles Treaty, Clemenceau, the inspirer of it, made a curious remark which Poincare is even now trying to accomplish: “In Europe there is a surplus of twenty million Germans.” This means that instead of 6$,000,000 population there should be left only 45,000,000, and there are enough means to do that. The Versailles Treaty which had for its purpose to reduce the population of Germany by 20,000,000, at the same time proclaimed such “eternal principles” as “Labor should not be a commodity,” and “Justice should triumph.”

As a result of this thirteenth paragraph, “this best part of the Versailles Treaty,” — as one reformist remarked — we have the League of Nations’ International Labor Bureau. The League of Nations is a trust of the victorious countries in which the strongest have the greater influence. In international politics the wording doesn’t mean much:

Force plays the role and this trust of the victors found it necessary to create an International Labor Bureau whose purpose was to bring about “justice” between capital and labor.





Having before it a great purpose, the International Labor Bureau was organized in the following way: In October 1919 a conference was called at Washington to which were invited the representatives of trade unions, employers’ organizations and representatives of governments which, as it is known, are “neutrals.” The bourgeoisie and the reformists liked very much to talk about the non-class rule of government, spreading widely_ the legend of the “neutrality” of government. In the report of the Amsterdam International there are many pages telling of victories the Amsterdamers attained at the Washington Conference. These victories consisted in the adoption by the Washington Conference of a program of social reform, and especially the endorsement of the eight-hour day.

It is interesting that the representatives of the governments neutral in the war voted for that program. The organizations of those countries where the eight-hour day was already won by the workers, insisted that it should be spread all over; and, of course, they declared their motives to be humanitarian, as it is well known that these are the main considerations of the employers and the governments.

The question of competition and the price of commodities also played a big role at the Conference. There were long discussions with representatives of the Japanese government which tried to prove that Japan has its peculiarities thanks to which the workers there must work twelve hours a day. But here the greatest defenders of the eight-hour day were not only the representatives of the workers organizations but also the employers of England and France, which, of course, are not interested in the principle of the eight-hour day but in the question of competition.





Finally, the program of social reforms has been adopted and as a result of the Washington Conference the International Labor Bureau was created. It is composed of six representatives of the workers, six representatives of the employers’ organizations which, we may mention, at the Washington Conference also created their international, and twelve representatives of governments: England, France, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, etc. Thus, we see that the reformists had a “brilliant victory:” Out of twenty-four representatives they have six. The director of this wonderful institution, the choice of the reformists, was Albert Thomas. The working class all over the world can now calm itself, the International Labor Bureau will do for it absolutely everything, for, at the head of it, stands such an experienced fighter as Albert Thomas.

Two questions arise in connection with the International Labor Bureau. First, why did the bourgeoisie bother itself with such a plaything? Second, what was the attitude of the working masses to this “revolutionary” creation? The bourgeoisie bothered itself with the plaything of the reformists in order to release the safety valve. Experienced engineers know that it is necessary sometimes to open the valves in order to save the engine from bursting, and the bourgeoisie also perfectly understood that directly after the end of the war it was necessary to open a few of such social valves; otherwise, the energy which accumulated in the working class would explode the whole bourgeois capitalist system. Moreover an explosion had already happened in the East and the Russian revolution represented in itself a definite fact which they had to consider while marking their strategic lines.

For such reasons, the bourgeoisie in order to open a few valves, was willing to go along the road of compromise. This gave to the reformists the possibility to say to the workers; “Now, you see, thanks to our tactics, they are giving in. We are now able to get that which would cost us under other conditions, great sacrifices.”

The bourgeoisie was consciously compromising, figuring correctly that it was better to give something than to lose all. They also calculated correctly that if they would continue to have the economic and political power in their hands, they would be able to end their compromises as soon as the masses become calm. We must point out that this same Clemenceau in a very quick manner in a few months put through the French parliament the eight-hour law in order to show that victorious France is giving something real to the working class for its colossal losses in the war.

How did this reformist activity reflect upon the mass? And why did they, in the first post-war period, follow these reformists? With the end of the war although there was enough energy and hatred accumulated within the working class, there was no willingness to fight. The war brought about a great fatigue, a tiredness, and a revolution would, in effect, mean a new civil war, a new demand for expenditure of energy, a new and bloody period. This frightened the wide masses, who still lived in hope of getting all promised them during the war, without new colossal sacrifices, to get something real.

All this taken together created more sympathy among the masses for forms of solving the social conflicts proposed by the bourgeoisie and the reformists.

Thus, in a certain historical moment, directly after the war, it was to the benefit of the bourgeoisie to keep up the illusions among the masses, and in the masses was a desire to put off the final moment of conflict. “Remove this cup from us,” prayed the labor reformists, pointing to Russia, where, together with the revolution, came great suffering, fighting on all fronts, etc.

These are the causes which led to the development of the reformists’ policies, these are the causes which created the sympathy among the bourgeoisie masses for those institutions which have been created by the ourgeoisie together with the leaders of the reformist political and trade union movement.


1.  Since this lecture was delivered the whole German working class has been delivered up to the tender mercies of the Fascist General von Seeckt, agent of German capitalism, by vote of the German Social Democratic members of the Reichstag.








The International Federation of Trade Unions (The Amsterdam International)

(not published)




The Amsterdam International in Theory and in Practice

(not published)






Lecture No. 5

The Red International of Labor Unions






LET us pass over now to the other ideological-political trend in the international labor movement.

The organization which is competing with the Amsterdam International, is the Red International of Labor Unions, which was organized in 1920. What are the roots of this International? No doubt the roots of this revolutionary organization should be sought in the war period when the sobering of the workers began, and the creation of revolutionary neuclei within the labor organizations, political as well as trade union took place. The idea of creating a new international appeared at that time.

It is true that all during the war the idea of creating a new trade union international did not appear. At the time of the Zimmerwald conference, and even before, the Bolsheviks declared the necessity of creating the Third International, but the idea of creating a new international within the trade union movement had not yet appeared. No doubt at the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences in which some separate trade unions participated, the political antecedents were laid for the formation of the left wing of the trade union movement and for an independent international organization.

This idea sprung up after the war. The necessity, the reasons which forced the creation of this new international, this new power which might give opportunity of better alignment of the militant trade union movement—is connected with the later period, mainly with the Russian revolution and the creation of the Third International.

The Russian revolution was the outstanding feature which brought about the formation of the Third International and also stimulated the creation of the revolutionary international of trade unions. Nevertheless the idea of creating a revolutionary trade union international was absent even directly after the October revolution. More than that, the idea appeared much late than the organization of the Comintern.

The crucial moments which brought a distinction into the labor movement were the following: The appearance of the Russian trade union movement and the creation of the Third International. With the growth of the Russian trade union movement the problem of international connections arose before it. And already at the Third All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions, where a majority were Mensheviks, from June 20th to 28th, 1917, a resolution was adopted stating the necessity of renewing international connections.

The Bolsheviks, who brought in their own resolution, spoke of the need of unifying that wing of the trade union movement which does not subordinate the interests of the working class to the interests of the bourgeoisie and which conducts a revolutionary struggle against war and the ruling classes.

In this formula, so far very vague, we already find the germ of the idea of future development of the left trade union movement as an international organization.

At the First All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions, which was held from the 3rd to the 9th of January, 1918, where the Bolsheviks had already two-thirds of the votes, in the main resolution on the question of the problems of the trade unions there was a paragraph in which the necessity of reconstruction of the trade union international was stated. What kind of an international and how to organize it?

An answer to this question was not given there. The formulation of our position on these questions, the position of the Russian trade unions, was formed at a later period, at the time when the separate parts of the Amsterdam International participated in the drafting of separate paragraphs of the Versailles Treaty, the Washington Conference, etc. When this position of the Amsterdam International became clear, when it bound its future up to the International Labor Bureau, then the necessity arose of creating some kind of a center for the concentration of the left trade union movement all over the world.

The creation of the Third International greatly aided the formation of the left trade union movement. It is very well known that the Third International at its beginning placed before itself the problem of winning over the trade unions and capturing the laboring masses. This formation of the political international and later on the formulation of its tactics, program, and general line of conduct, called forth in the sphere of the trade union movement also, on one hand the formation of left-wing union organizations, and on the other concentrated into one all that existed in the international trade union movement.

And so the bankruptcy of the old trade union international, the going over of a majority of its leaders to the policy of class collaboration, the formation of the left-wing labor movement through Zimmerwald and Kienthal, and the crystalization of it through the Comintern, the Russian revolution which brought a certain clarification into the labor movement of the world, the further strengthening of the Russian trade union movement on one hand and, on the other, the continuation of the tactics of class collaboration which was the foundation of the newly created International Federation of Trade Unions—the Amsterdam International and its industrial sections; these are the general causes which resulted in the creation of the new militant international.






The organizational appearance of the Profintern should be dated about the middle of 1920. About that time the Second Congress of the Comintern took place and besides there were present at that time in Moscow representatives of trade union organizations from different countries (England, Italy, representatives of the minorities of the unions of France and Spain). From conversations with them, the possibility of creating at least a temporary center of revolutionary trade unions arose.

These parleys, in which I had to participate in the name of the Central Executive Committee of the Russian Trade Unions, at first had a very uncertain character. Those at a conference held on the 15th of June, at which were present R. Williams, D’Aragona, Colombina, and representatives of the Central Executive Committee of the Russian Trade Unions, nothing definite was accomplished. It was a conference to exchange opinions on the question of the possibility of uniting all the left elements in the trade union movement.

These parleys continued, and on the 15th of July were ended by an agreement between the Russian unions, the Italian Federation of Labor, Spanish, Jugo-Slav and Bulgarian trade unions. This agreement stated the dissatisfaction with the policies of the Amsterdam International, its treasonable tactics and the necessity of fighting it. At this conference the idea was also advanced of uniting all the revolutionary trade unions on the basis of recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the struggle for a social revolution.

This first declaration was drafted with great difficulty because D’Aragona opposed the clear presentation of every point. When we accented the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, mass action, etc., he did not feel very comfortable. Now we can understand the reasons for it. It seems that if he had no premonition of his future Fascist inclinations, at least this reformist was opposed to all revolutionary clarity. This declaration which was not sufficiently clear served as the basis for the creation of the first neucleus from which has grown the Red International of Labor Unions. The constitution was adopted, the methods of struggle against Amsterdam were definitely stated and a willingness to organize the general revolutionary trade union movement all over the world was shown.

Thus, in July, 1920, we created such a propagandist center, the purpose of which was to act as a beacon light to the whole scattered left trade union movement. This ideological propaganda center was given the name “The International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions.”

Our action brought forth a storm of protest from the Amsterdam International, which saw in this new tricks of “Moscow.” The Amsterdamers at their London Congress passed a resolution of protest, a verbal assault. They disapproved of the wording of our manifesto where we called them “traitors” and less pleasant epithets. Such names, of course, do not awaken any sympathy. They paid special attention to our sharp tone, to our clear statements, and to our lack of “diplomatic style.”

Our declaration brought a storm of protest, and from the beginning the Red International of Labor Unions appeared in the literature of the Amsterdam International as an “international insulter,” as an organization which had for its purpose to insult the leaders of the trade union movement, and according to the Amsterdamers, the Red International does nothing else.

The reformists reacted against the organization of our international and against our first acts. Quite differently reacted the working masses of all countries.

The fact alone of the appearance of the new International, which directly opposed the Amsterdam International, won for us sympathies in all countries. The main reason for these sympathies was not, at the beginning, the character of our International, not in its statutes; not in its theoretical position, but in the fact that this International was of “Moscow”—born on the territory of the Russian revolution.

The same should also be said in regards to the Comintern. The Comintern was at first also considered as a “Moscow” organization, and the sympathy to the Comintern is usually accepted as sympathy for the Russian revolution. This is the way it occurred in our struggle with the reformists. It is understood thus, not only by the two reformist internationals, but also by the representatives of the bourgeois diplomatic world. The Comintern is based on the Communist Party, the Profintern on the trade union movement, and both of them on the Russian revolution, that is, on one-sixth of the land area of the globe. This whole thing plays a big role in international politics, and all that had, and still has, a special influence on the Western European proletariat.

Thus, the ideological alignment with the Profintern in its first year had a character of sympathy for the Russian revolution, for the Russian proletariat. Often such sympathy was shown to us in spite of the reformists who even then conducted a fight against the Bolsheviks. But even in the first year of our existence it became clear that the revolutionary international trade union movement does not appear as a unit. It has different currents which have to crystallize themselves, and that would have to transpire after the new “International Committee for Propaganda” or the new international ideological center, worked out its program, its tactics, adopted its line of conduct, and took a definite theoretical, technical, and organizational position in the international labor movement.

The more was formulated our theory and our practice, the clearer became the necessity to fight on two fronts: On one hand against the reformist wing, and on the other against the anarchist confusion.





These problems of the ideological formation of the new organization, and the organizational strengthening of it, the drawing of a line of definite program and tactics, was the task of the First (Constituent) Congress of the Profintern, which was held in July, 1921.

This Congress laid the foundation of the Profintern, gave it a definite constitution, a definite tactical line, drafted a definite program, and fixed the fundamental slogans for the whole international trade union movement. At this Congress, to which were invited all the revolutionary trade unions, it was decided to give to the new organization the name: “The Red International of Labor Unions.”





What are differences between this new international unit and the Amsterdam International? What are the most important questions that arise now before the revolutionary trade union movement of the world? First of all, we and the Amsterdam International have different points of departure and it is natural that from this alone comes all the rest. The leaders of the Amsterdam International look upon the present day situation as a temporary crisis, as a temporary disturbance in the capitalist organism.

They take up the problem of curing this sick organism from the viewpoint that only a full-blooded capitalism and a further development of capitalist relations can create the environment for a painless capture by the working class of political and economic power.

Thus, the starting point which decides the whole line of conduct of the Amsterdam International, is the estimation of the present conditions as a temporary and unstable but developing capitalism. But we consider this disturbance of the capitalist system, not as a temporary one, not as an accidental one which may be cured, but as a crisis which will bring present society to final catastrophe.

On one hand, therefore, we have an attempt to cure and in the future to attain the normal development of the capitalist organism, and on the other, an effort not to remedy it, but to “cure it to death” if we may so express it. Not an attempt to revive it, but to destroy this society, which from our point of view is too slow in its dying. It is self evident that from this starting point we make our further conclusions in the. concrete field of our tactics.

What are the methods of solving the problems confronting us? The Amsterdam International is convinced that the best method of solving, the problems confronting the working class, is the collaboration with, the left wing of the bourgeoisie and the development of democratic forms of the state, which will give the working class opportunity of obtaining the economic organism of the nations, which should bring about the so-called “industrial democracy.”

This program stands out in sharp contradiction—not only to our viewpoint—but also to history itself and the logic of developing events, which leads not to gradual betterment but to the overthrow of capitalism, not to democracy but to the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is our point of view, briefly put, as contrasted to the viewpoint of reformism. It is natural that as long as our starting points and aims are different, that long are the problems arising in the world of reality solved in different manners by the reformist and the revolutionary trade unionists.





What are the most important questions which we had to decide at the First Congress in order to form the left wing which gathered around the Provisional International Council of Revolutionary Trade Unions? The first question which arose from the development of the left-wing movement itself was the question of the neutrality and independence of the trade unions.

What is the role of the trade unions in the class struggle? Are the trade unions independent and the only organs of class struggle? And what are their relations to the Comintern? These are the questions which could not have failed to arise as long as we united different trends in the left trade union movement (Communists, syndicalists, anarchists, etc.).

First of all we will take up neutrality. What is the essence of this theory? This is the tendency which places before the trade union movement only the recognition of economic problems and which is neutral to all existing political groupings. Thus neutrality is an attempt to separate the trade union movement from its general class-political problems, to concentrate the attention of the unions exclusively on economic problems and to force them to keep away from political parties and groups.

We see glaring forms of neutrality in America, England and Germany, etc. And always it happened as follows: The stronger a trade union would worship neutralism—that is, one and the same attitude toward all political groups—the closer it was found to be to the bourgeois parties. This, of course, is not an accident. The theory of neutralism brings those unions closer to bourgeois groups, because this theory is itself being advocated by the ideologists of the bourgeoisie, who always aim to “save the unions from political contagion” and to concentrate their attention on “purely economic” problems such as wages, hours, etc. [2]

Here, naturally, arises another question. Is it possible for the labor organizations to be neutral in reality? That is, to hold one and the same attitude toward all political groups? Is it possible? Such neutrality actually does not exist. The history of the labor movements of England, United States, Germany and those countries where neutralism had its greatest development shows that the labor organizations can never be neutral and every time when they attempt to be so, they played into the hands of the enemy class.

In reality, neutralism or its essence is supposed to keep the trade unions aside in times of political struggles. But what is political struggle? It is not merely parliamentary speech-fighting. In the political struggle the working class places itself in opposition to other classes. The working class cannot stand aside from the class struggle. If the working class will not conduct a class struggle it will lose those positions already gained. The tactics of political sterility play into the hands of the bourgeoisie and by no means are to the interests of the proletariat.

In order to show the nonsense of neutralism we will take an example from the Russian revolution. After the October revolution the Social Revolutionists, or “S. R.”, took an active position against us, part of the Mensheviks took a “neutral” position. Were the Mensheviks neutral in the struggle? Of course not! In the various moments they were on one side or the other of the barricades. In the social struggle there is no neutralism. So much the less can a labor organization be neutral.

Closely related to neutrality is the theory of the independence of the trade union movement. This theory in itself has very many variations. But in its clearer way it is expressed by the anarcho-syndicalists of France.

What is the essence of the “independence” of the trade union movement? Not alone that they exist parallel to the political parties of the proletariat, but in that they are—in the opinion of the “independents” the chief force in the struggle against the bourgeoisie. The unions, according to their opinion, will make the revolution themselves. They, themselves, will lead it and attain the final results of victory. Thus, under the formula of “independent” trade unions we have a competition with the revolutionary party, the idea of taking the place of the party organization and leaving to the trade unions alone all the problems confronting the working class.

It is quite natural that the theory of “neutralism,” that the theory of “independence,” could find no sympathy at our First (Constituent) Congress; because the former as well as the latter is strange to the working class. What are the roots of the theory of “independence?” In setting forth “economics” as in opposition to “politics.”

For the anarcho-syndicalists who advocate the “full independence” of the trade union movement, political struggle does not exist. There is an economic struggle of the working class which is all-embracing, and they call a “social struggle” what we call a “general class struggle.” They deny politics, confusing politics with parliamentarism, and, fighting against the latter, they repudiate all political struggle.

But what is “politics“ and what is “economics?“ Can these two be divided? In the program of the Russian Communist Party there is a very excellent definition of “politics.“ It is stated: “Politics is concentrated economics.“ And, in reality, what do we understand by “political struggle?“ We understand such a clashing of class forces in which—instead of separate detachments of the workers coming to blows with separate detachments of the bourgeoisie—a class as such meets the other class. Thus, every step of ours, in which the general class formation and methods of struggle are reflected, is in fact, a political struggle.

Can we separate from the political struggle economic moments and say, for example, “The fight for an eight hour day, for the seizure of the factories, is a purely economic struggle?“ Can we here divide politics from economics? It may be done in the confused anarchist minds. But in reality, in the everyday class struggle, this cannot be done.

We have the struggle of the British coal miners to keep their wage scale, for those forms of nationalization in the mining industry which they advocate—what’s that, an economic or political struggle? When a million coal miners are participating in a struggle which is shaking the whole colossal power of the British Empire—what is that economics or politics?

We see a colossal economic battle in America for the eight hour day, for labor insurance, demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of workers against the lengthening of the work day—what is it: economics or politics? The attempt to sub-divide economics from politics is pure

metaphysics, a purely mental division. We may create in our practical struggle all kinds of organizational forms to serve one or another side of the labor movement, but an attempt to substitute one organization for the other, an attempt to set them in conflict, is purely anarchistic—that is, a senseless disorganization of the labor movement.

It is natural that we cannot adopt this metaphysical point of view. The First Congress had to state its position on neutralism in very clear terms, which would not permit any misunderstanding, and give to the world revolutionary trade union movement a definite analysis. But if a independence is pure metaphysics, why, then, are there in existence separate organizations, separate trade unions and separate party organizations? If economics and politics are so tightly connected, why, then, for a period of over one hundred years, has there been created separate forms of organizations: On one hand, economic ones—trade unions, on the other, political?

If we consider the development of the labor movement we will see that the working class has been erecting its organizations groupingly, along the lines of least resistance. Its organizations began to appear as organizations of benefit societies, sick and death benefit associations, etc., and those organizations would not overstep the borders of their trade; would often limit themselves to one factory or shop.

All these organizations have been the type of first elementary connections, the first elementary unity among the workers, and only further along as the struggle sharpened these benefit societies turned into unions. Later, after these neuclei had been created, political movements began to appear.

Concurrently with the appearance of the idea for the organization of benefit societies, the ideology of class began to take form; the later these class ideas appeared, the later began the formation of different types of organization. Firstly, the idea of economic self defense appears in labor organization, and later on, political. Historically, the working class created three types of organization: First, for the defense of its labor power—the trade unions; the second for self defense, as a consumer on the market-the co-operatives; thirdly, for the struggle against the apparatus of bourgeois society—political organizations.

If we take the whole world’s labor movement we have three different forms of relations between the parties and the trade unions. We have countries where the trade union and the parties are independent of each other and even fighting among themselves—this is mainly among the Latin countries, mostly in France and in Spain. Then we have the following type; organizationally the party and the trade unions are separate, but politically the trade unions are under the leadership of the party-this is the type of the Russian and German trade union movement; and last, we have the third type, when the trade unions are creating political parties, as, in England, Norway and Belgium. In Norway, one and the same meeting elects two committees, one for the trade union and one for the party. We have also other forms of relations between the party and trade unions, but these are the fundamental ones.

Where do these types lead, historically? To the strengthening of separatism or to some kind of unity? There is no doubt that the existence of these parallel organizations is a temporary character of the international trade union movement. The more it will develop and the more the masses will come to revolutionary consciousness, so much closer will be the relations between the different forms of the labor movement, and, at the proper moment, all these lines will come together into a united organizational form which will unite all the different organizational groupings, political, trade union, etc.

Thus the historical development of the labor movement is toward a synthesis, a blending, of all forms of labor organization. If we correctly consider the development of the labor movement, we will have to oppose strongly the idea of separatism, which is trying always to preserve existing relations. We have to remark that not only on account of these causes are we opposed to separatism—to independence; but also because separatism as well as neutralism does not exist in fact. There cannot be a trade union organization which would stand aside in case of definite class conflict. Neutralism and independence are also “politics“ but a bad anti-labor politics.





Another question which also defined the tactics of the revolutionary labor movement was the question of our attitude towards the old, reformist trade unions. In the Red International we collected all that was revolutionary in the trade unions: Independent unions, separate national centers, revolutionary minorities in the old unions, etc.

We had to give an answer to the question: Are we going to create new trade unions, or fight for the winning over of the old unions? At present this question is not of such importance as it was at that time. At that time we had to state clearly: Are we for the destruction of the reformist unions, or for the winning of them over to us?

Our First (Constituent) Congress gave a reply: Not for the destruction but for the winning over of the old trade unions. Why did that question arise at all? It was because at the end, of 1918, the German Communist Party at its First Congress in Heidelberg, decided to call upon the workers to leave the old unions and create new ones. Thanks to this decision a small union was created in Germany which tried to replace the powerful organism of the reformist trade union movement which embraces about ten million members.

The Communist Party, later on, changed its point of view; but a part of the Party split away and organized the German Communist Labor Party, one of the main slogans of which was. “The destruction of the old trade unions.“ The Comintern at that time was categorically against this decision. But how did it happen that the German Communist Party adopted the slogan—not to win over but to destroy the trade unions It happened because in all the struggles of the German proletariat after the revolution, the conservative machine which split the revolutionary movement was the trade unions, which fell upon the revolutionary movement with all its weight.

Basing themselves upon the unions, former members of the Social-Democratic Party, such as Noske, shot down thousands of workers. All this brought about pessimism and despair in the more revolutionary and impatient German workers. From that was created a whole theory: The old trade unions are rotten through and through; they are reactionary, and in order successfully to fight the bourgeoisie it is necessary to destroy them completely. If this colossal apparatus is being used against the revolution, if it is so entwined with the bourgeois state, it is necessary to destroy it before the power of labor can be established.

In reality, the trade unions, especially in the post-war period, have been closely entwined with the bourgeois state. We notice this all over Europe. We could illustrate that graphically in the form of a pyramid, the apex of which is organically attached to the bourgeois state apparatus.

In deciding upon our line of action in this regard, we followed the Comintern which was categorically opposed to the theory of destroying the unions, but was for winning them over. Why? Did we not equally estimate the reactionary character of the trade unions? Did we not recognize the fact of the interlacing of the bourgeois state with the heads of the trade unions? Did we not see their reactionary role? Certainly, we saw all that, but we are approaching the trade unions from an entirely different point of view than our German comrades then were.

What is a union? A union is an organization which unites laboring masses. And we have to consider that in Germany where the slogan of destroying the unions was proclaimed, they united nine million workers. If we come out with the slogan for the destruction of the unions what will we do? The mass will not follow us, because they came to the union in order to gain something real. With the tactics of destroying the unions we can only bring a couple of thousand workers out of these organizations. We may create a “pure“ Communist little union, which will have all the Communist virtues, but which will not embrace the laboring masses. This is not Communist tactics. We must be there where the workers are. Such a seeping out of the revolutionary ferment from the mass organizations would mean the unquestioned rule by the reformists of the old unions. The winning over of the trade unions means the winning over of the working class, the winning over of those millions which are there, and as long as this is our aim, we cannot propagate a slogan for the destruction of the unions.

There was another reason why we were opposed to that slogan. What does it mean to consider the trade unions as hopeless in the revolutionary sense? If the nine million workers of German are “hopeless,“ then the revolution itself is “hopeless.“ Thus, we come to unexpected conclusions which are of a Menshevik character.

These are the motives on account of which we were against the destruction of the unions, and why we came out with a clear and unambiguous slogan: The winning of the unions, the winning of the masses. I may say that the last year glaringly proved our point of view, the correctness of our tactics, and mainly in German herself. The leaders, especially the trade union bureaucracy, are hopeless; but the laboring masses are not, for their consciousness is created not by abstract considerations but by the increasing capitalistic contradictions which we have in every country.

This by no means guarantees us against a split. We have all reasons to expect that the bureaucracy of the trade unions will split the unions as soon as this bureaucracy begins to feel the danger to its rule, but if such a split will take place it will be against our will and against our wishes.


1. The word “Profintern“ is a contraction of the Russian term “Professionalnye Soyuz Internationalnye“ or, literally, “Occupational Union International.”


2.  Readers in the United States know perfectly well how this theory of the neutrality of trade unions as advocated by Gompers in his opposition to independent political action by the working class has always aided the capitalist political parties.








A. Lozovsky

Lecture No. 6

The Red International and the Process of Clarification





THE next question, which life itself put on the order of the day, and which we had to answer, was the question of factory and shop committees. In Russia the Factory and Shop Committees appeared at the time of the February revolution. At that time it seemed that such a form of organization is a specifically Russian one, that is, it belonged specifically to a country where, at the moment that labor organization became possible, there were no labor unions.

But the German revolution has already shown that the Factory and Shop Committees appear not only where there are no trade unions, or where they are weak, but also where the trade unions are strong and where they have a great influence on the masses.

Thus, their appearance and development does not depend on the existence or non-existence of trade union organizations, but is explained by entirely different reasons. It is plain that the Factory and Shop Committees have some different kind of functions which even the strong trade unions cannot fulfill. What are these functions?

First of all, control of industry. The Factory and Shop Committees represent those organs which strengthen the victory of revolution in the sphere of production. Labor control was born in close connection with the Factory and Shop Committees, being their main function. It is the first elementary form which precedes socialization of production, the seizure of all tools of production and distribution.

This role of the Factory and Shop Committees showed itself especially marked in the October revolution. In the countries of Western Europe which lived through revolutionary upheavals, in Austria, in Hungary, in Germany, Factory and Shop Committees, in the period of their appearance, had a varied character. They were something between the Russian Labor Soviet[1] and the Factory and Shop Committees. This confusion lasted for quite a while.

From the above the question of Factory and Shop Committees presented itself in the following complex way: First, in general to clarify our attitude toward the Factory and Shop Committees; second, the question of the Factory and Shop Committees created legally in Germany and Austria, etc.; thirdly, the question of the functions of Factory and Shop Committees. Our attitude toward the Factory and Shop Committees was dictated by the role they played.

We considered and still consider that, during the time of and after the social revolution, the Factory and Shop Committees play an exceedingly important role. In the second question, about our attitude toward the existing Factory and Shop Committees created by law, we had differences of opinion among ourselves. That part of revolutionary workers affiliated with us, in whom revolutionary instinct served in place of tactical clarity and persistence, considered that we could not go into these Factory and Shop Committees, because they were elected according to law; participating in these Committees, we, to a certain degree, give influence to these organizations, which we should destroy because they are against us.

We did not agree with these comrades, for we cannot adopt a formal revolutionary point of view. Our aim is to develop the functions of the Factory and Shop Committees, to urge them on in overstepping the legal bounds, to revolutionize them and thus to make of them a basis for revolutionary action. The First Congress expressed itself in that sense, rejecting the tactics of boycott against the legal Factory and Shop Committees which, in fact, are inherently the organs for unity of the working class.

We have, especially in Germany, among workers of one and the same factory, members of different unions; for instance, in any big German factory, we have members of the Free Union, members of the “Catholic Union,” members of the “Hirsch-Dunker Union,” and the “Union of Hand and Brain Workers.” It is natural that even a pure economic struggle in this factory meets great organizational obstructions. It was necessary, to find such an organ as would directly represent all the workers of the given factory, but here we met with great interference, thanks to the reformists.

We took the position that all the workers should fully participate in the elections of the Factory and Shop Committees. The reformists were opposed. They insisted that only members of the “Free Unions ” should be elected to these Committees, but no members of the Catholic, Hirsch-Dunkers, or workers who are members of any anti-class units. Externally it appeared that revolutionary logic was on their side. We wanted to create a class organ and to it would be elected not only members of class unions, but also members of the Catholic unions who are absolutely not interested in the problems of the working class.

But, in reality, in this seemingly class purity there is, on one hand, misunderstanding of the problems of the Factory Committees, and, on the other, a striving to remain in the old, conservative frame-work. If the Factory and Shop Committees are to become organs of struggle, it is possible only when they are elected by all the workers of the given factory. Is there a danger that in such a case this organ may become anti-class in character? Of course there is.

But it is our purpose to elect to each of these Factory Committees the more advanced and revolutionary workers through our propaganda and agitation in each factory. As long as the workers are electing the reformists, it shows their backwardness. If they elect Catholics, that shows still more backwardness. But we take the working class as it is. It has to be educated, united on the basis of certain political action, and not phrases. That is why we were categorically opposed to “leftism,” which was suddenly shown by the reformists.

In France, at the time of the last conventions of the Metal Workers and Mine Workers, at the discussion of the Factory and Mine Committees, there were three points of view. Some said that in the elections only members of revolutionary trade unions should participate; others were of the opinion that these Committees should be elected not only by members of the revolutionary unions but also by the reformist unions. The last—our point of view—was adopted, that the Factory and Shop Committees should be elected by all the workers of the given factory or shop, independent of whether they belong to any union at all. Digging into this question is enough, in reality, to arrive at our point of view.

Let us admit for a moment that the Factory and Shop Committees should be elected only by members of revolutionary unions. But what is the use to elect them at all; the workers who are members of revolutionary unions are already organized, so what's the use of organizing them along some other system? Our aim is that, for example, one hundred revolutionary organized workers shall have an influence on another nine hundred workers, and it is clear by putting the question in such a way, all limitations of participating in the elections of Factory and Shop Committees do not stand any criticism. The First Congress of the Profintern in its resolutions on the organizational question, opposed all limitations, advocating the idea of creating Factory and Shop Committees through general and equal franchise in the factories and shops. The Congress also advocated the slogan of labor control through these Factory and Shop Committees, which control is a powerful instrument of the working class for the seizure of shops and factories.





It is necessary to stop a moment on the definition of the “socialization of production,” which, for the last two years has been subject to various explanations. We think that under the definition of the “socialization of production,” should be understood such a system of productive relations by which the private owner is expropriated and the working class becomes the owner of the establishment. But this is our “barbarian ” Bolshevik point of view; the reformists, under the term “socialization of production” understand something entirely different.

In Germany, directly after the November revolution of 1918, the question of socialization of production arose the second day of the revolution. But there the question did not present itself in such a manner as it did to us. We, on the second day after the October revolution, began to seize the factories and shops, “offending” the owners, because it was very difficult not to offend them. But in Germany, they advocated the idea of a gradual socialization of the means of productions.

The German reformists at that time advocated not the forcible seizure, which only the “wild ” Bolsheviks could permit themselves, but a buying up for compensation to the owners for the property seized. We first seized the factories and then began to talk about how to work out “socialization.” The reformists, on the other hand, stood on the viewpoint of “gradualization,” spent their time in talking about socialization, and its realization they postponed indefinitely.

The following happened. Scientific commissions on socialization were created, in which, alongside with Kautsky and others, the owners also worked, and the longer these Commissions worked the deeper they got into jungles until, finally, they reached the conclusion that, “Socialization is a very difficult thing.”

They chewed that question for one year, then they chewed it for another year, until, as a result of this chewing they made a couple of thick volumes of all kinds of theoretical investigations—and socialization did not only not forge ahead, but it disappeared entirely from the scene.

It is clear that such a form of socialization, which turns itself into a discussion about socialization, without any practical results, could not be acceptable to our Congress. We consider Labor Control as the first step to real socialization. We did not think it possible to possess Labor Control while the bourgeoisie was still in power. We considered it as a means of seizing the establishment. We had enough reasons to approach this question from that point of view, because we had before us the experience of the Russian revolution, quite rich in that regard.





It would be proper to halt on another question which, again, was of interest not only to us, the revolutionary International, but which took up almost all the attention of the Amsterdam International. This was the question of organizational structure. If we take the organizational structure of the trade unions we will see that the unions, from narrow craft organizations, are turning into wider units and later into industrial unities. This process is very slow.

At the First Congress of the Profintern the trade unions were understood as organs first for the defense of the interests of the working class, later, as organs of attack on the bourgeoisie, and, finally as organs for socialist construction.

As long as the trade unions, for many years, were confronted by a very strong enemy, and as long as that enemy—the bourgeoisie—changed the forms of its organization, the working class had to do the same. Otherwise, it would lag behind the bourgeoisie organizationally.

In reality, the bourgeoisie has, besides the apparatus of the state, which is a very powerful tool for the suppression of the labor movement, its own employers’ organization, united according to industry. The employer who, for instance, owns a big metal factory, cannot join two or three unions merely because he has laborers, pattern makers and others working for him. He joins only one certain union, which corresponds to the industry generally.

The employers are always perfecting their organization, adapting it to the conditions of struggle, giving it the forms which make it the most effective fighting instrument against the working class. In this respect the working class has always been lagging behind the employers. While, for instance, we have in England, all the employers’ societies organized on one hand according to industry and—on the other hand—into one “British Federation of Manufacturers,” the working class of England only a year and a half ago organized the whole British Federation of Trades Councils, outside of which there are yet over a million workers.

For the revolutionary International, which has to confront such a problem as the social revolution, it is necessary to create an organizational prerequisite for such revolution. It is necessary to rebuild the trade union movement on a new basis. This is why we adopted a slogan of industrial unionism: In one industry, one union. And this slogan was carried into every country by revolutionary workers.

I will not stop to detail other organizational questions, which are very numerous. I will only point out that at the First Congress a program of action was adopted which in sixteen paragraphs formulated briefly the problems of the revolutionary trade unions.






I have mentioned that the Amsterdam International was mostly an European organization; of the non-European countries participating in the Amsterdam International are only the trade unions of Canada and part of the unions of Argentine. That is all that the Amsterdam International has outside of Europe. That is why we, without exaggeration may say that the Amsterdam International could more correctly be called a federation of European unions than a real international.

At the same time, the particular attribute of the Profintern as well as of the Comintern is precisely that the Profintern became the central point for the revolutionary trade union movement, not only of Europe but also of America, Asia and Africa. The Russian revolution awoke all the oppressed Near and Far East, and in many of the Eastern countries the organized labor movement reckons its birth from the date of the Russian revolution. The fact that the Profintern is organically connected with the Russian revolution in itself was a reason for the attraction of the sympathy of labor unions of the Near and Far East.

It is true that some of the unions of various countries which are affiliated to the Amsterdam International also made attempts to organize unions in the East. The British trade unions attempted to influence the growth of the trade unions of India by creating ideological and organizational connections with the trade union movement of the large cities.

The British trade unions never considered the problem of aiding the liberation of India from the clutch of the British Empire, but on the other hand, acting in full contact with their government, definitely helped the success of the imperialist policy of the British bourgeoisie, using the apparatus of the trade unions for that purpose.

When we confronted the problem of connection with the East, with its labor organizations, we based ourselves not only on the sympathy of the laboring masses of the oppressed East, but also on certain labor organizations which were leaning toward the Russian revolution as to a bright light. This connection with the East should be remembered in order to get a clear understanding of the particular attributes of the revolutionary trade union movement as compared with the reformist.






We thus considered the fundamental questions which were on the agenda of the Constituent Congress of the revolutionary trade unions and this is, in a general way, the ideological, theoretical and practical equipment with which the Profintern began its struggle for influence on the masses.

First of all, it met with opposition from the reformists, which was quite natural, as this Congress was aimed against them. We also met with opposition from a part of the anarcho-syndicalists, who saw a too close connection between the Profintern and Comintern. The fight on this point which began right after the First Congress is still continuing.

We will dwell on the characteristics of the Constituent Congress itself, on our slogan: The fight for unity of the trade union movement. The Congress itself, according to its composition, had a very original character. There were representatives of independent organizations and representatives of revolutionary minorities within the reformist unions. Such minorities we have in all countries. We also had there separate unions of revolutionary workers which split away from the old unions. Also those who have been expelled from reformist ranks. Thus, the Congress by its composition was in fact a congress of such organizations an exact estimate of whose members could not be made, because for that purpose it would be required to form our minorities organizationally, which would have brought a split in the old unions.

At our Congress were official representatives of the revolutionary parts of those organizations which participate in “Amsterdam.” This peculiarity of the Profintern should be remembered when we consider the specific gravity and the practical influence on the world’s trade union movement. The creation of a new international must find its justification in the objective conditions of the class struggle.

In general, internationals are created with great difficulty, and it is natural that there must be very serious objective reasons in the world’s labor movement in order that such may be created, and, which is more important, may live and develop.

Above we characterized those conditions in which the labor movement has been in the last couple of years. Now, arises the question Has the Profintern grown for the last two years, since its Constituent Congress?

It is enough briefly to compare the Profintern with the Amsterdam International in order to see a steady, undeviating growth of our influence. How can we explain that growth? By the ideological, organizational and political disintegration of reformism and by that bankruptcy which has appeared recently especially in connection with the occupation of the Ruhr, in the reformist internationals in general and in the Amsterdam International in particular.

In order clearly to understand the internal struggle of opinions which exists in the world’s trade union movement, we will, on one hand, have to consider briefly the fundamental questions which were agitating the labor movement in the last year and a half, and, on the other hand, we will have to take these same questions which we took for the Amsterdam International and see how we answer them. First of all, we will consider around which questions and slogans the struggle of the Profintern was shaping itself in the world’s labor movement.





We stated above that the decisions of the Constituent Congress of the Profintern brought forth, right from the start, opposition not only from the reformists but also from the anarcho-syndicalists, many of whom it seemed stood on the platform of proletarian dictatorship.

The anarcho-syndicalists are divided into a few categories: First, there are anarcho-syndicalists who learned much from the Russian revolution and the world war; they are called revolutionary syndicalists or plain syndicalists. They recognize the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the forcible overthrow of the bourgeoisie; they recognize the soviet form of government and in general the necessity of the state. But the anarcho-syndicalist movement has also many other variations There are anarcho-syndicalists who learned nothing from the war or from the Russian revolution. These so-called “pure syndicalists” have been preserved from the pre-war time in such a condition that it seems they have been all that time in pickle.

What is this “pure syndicalism?” The anarcho-syndicalists are advocating the same program which they advocated in 1906, 1907, 1908 and other years, being convinced that their platform is adaptable not only to their own countries, but that, in general, their point of view and tactics are most correct for the whole international.

Directly after the First Congress, began the struggle on the question of relations between the Profintern and the Comintern. What was the argument about? The anarcho-syndicalist section held the viewpoint that the Profintern should have nothing in common with the Comintern; the Profintern should not participate in any kind of politics and should not be under the influence of any political party; the Profintern should not stand on the platform of proletarian dictatorship, for every dictatorship is an evil.

The struggle centered itself mainly not around the principle questions, not around the question if, in general, the working class can conquer without the dictatorship; but around the decision of our Congress for mutual representation between the Comintern and the Profintern. In this mutual representation the anarcho-syndicalists saw a tendency of the Profintern and Comintern to violate every law of God and man, and a plain attempt to ignore the principle of independence of the trade union movement.

Thus, the struggle within the Profintern began around the question of the relations between the two Internationals. I have mentioned our point of view of the relations between the trade union and the party. From that it is clear what relations in our estimation should exist between the Profintern and the Comintern. However, as long as the anarcho-syndicalists are of the opinion that the trade unions are the exclusive organizations for leadership over the whole labor movement, so long, naturally, the anarcho-syndicalists not only questioned the mutual representation, but came out actively in opposition to it.

We will not dwell here on all those documents which appeared as a result of this inner struggle. It is necessary only to remark that within the Profintern, for the period of its first year of existence, the struggle around the form of mutual representation between the Profintern and Comintern was a very sharp one. And it ended at the Second Congress of the Profintern, which struck out the Eleventh paragraph of the Constitution, that had authorized such representation. By that exclusion a bloc was arranged between the Communists and the healthy part of the international syndicalists.





We had to reply to another question which arose before the international trade union movement; the question of uniting the workers along vertical lines. Another question was that of tactics: If we created our International, should we also create such internationals according to industry? We came to the conclusion that industrial internationals should not be created. At the same time, it is necessary to create international propaganda committees according to industry, whose purpose shall be to unite all the workers of the given industry into their proper international.

In this question there seems to be a contradiction: On one hand we have two parallel, competing internationals, the Amsterdam and Profintern; and, on the other, we are issuing a slogan to all revolutionary unions to join their proper industrial international. Is it logical? What was the aim of creating our Profintern? It was for the purpose of penetrating more deeply in all labor organizations. If we created our center of the world’s trade union movement, it was not because we considered the parallel existence of the two International a virtue, but because there was no other means to centralize the struggle of all the revolutionary workers. Our aim was also to see that all the separate revolutionary unions, as well as our minorities in the ranks of the old unions, by joining the industrial internationals, should influence the whole reformist trade union movement.

In order that this going into these industrial internationals should not have a disorganized character we created the Propaganda Committees. The name in itself “Propaganda Committee” proves that it is not a dual organization, but an ideological center the purpose of which is to unite the elements for influencing these industrial internationals. The International Propaganda Committees according to industries are a logical addition to the Profintern and, thus, by our work we are embracing the laboring masses along both the horizontal and vertical lines.


1. The Labor Soviet in Russia is an integral part of the trade unions and, at the same time, participates in the administration of production in the given factory.







7. Policies and Tactics of the Profintern


8. The Relation of Forces of the Reformist and Revolutionary Trade Union Movements and their Perspectives


(not published)


Red International

of the Labour Unions