A. Lozovsky

The Red Trade Union International

Open Letter to the Members
of the Italian Syndicalist Union

(16 May 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 37, 16 May 1922, pp. 298–298.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

(R.T.U.I.) The Congress of the U.S.I. which was recently held in Rome has adopted resolutions which offend against the interests of labor.

These resolutions contain attacks against

  1. the Russian Revolution
  2. the Red Trade Union International;
  3. the Proletarian United Front

The Anarchists, who assert every day that they would tolerate no dictatorship whatsoever, wielded an absolute dict0torship at the Congress; they compelled the Executive Committee in which they were in the majority to adopt voting regulations which prevented the important labor organizations from giving expression to their wishes. At a time when the Italian proletariat is more and more urgently clamoring for unity, both on a national and on an international scale, the Anarchists have brought their influence to bear upon the Congress of the U.S.I. to adopt decisions which are in open contravention to the ardent desire of labor. It is indeed a rare sight to see the “radicals” follow in the footsteps of the reformist leaders of the Confederation of Labor.

I. The Russian Revolution – the Stronghold of the World Proletariat

When in October 1917 the Russian working class conquered power, the international bourgeoisie perceived that the end of its class prerogatives had appeared on the horizon. A great hope made the pulses of all workers beat faster. The revolution was born in pain and in misery. The Russian proletariat which had inherited from the bourgeoisie an economic apparatus disrupted by many years of war stood faced with the huge task of reconstruction. Tremendous difficulties impeded the efforts of the Russian workers – the social structure of Russia, a predominantly agrarian country, the relative weakness of the industrial proletariat, civil war, the blockade and the armed intervention of international capital. But the Russian proletariat did not hesitate to sacrifice itself on behalf of the international working class whose fate and future was closely bound up with that of the Soviet Republic. The economic collapse resulting from the world war and the revolutionary convulsions of the capitalist world gave rise to the belief that the outbreak of the world revolution was imminent. Urged on by this hope, the Russian working class offered resistance, suffered hardships and fought heroic struggles. And it succeeded in defeating both its domestic and its foreign enemies. But its hope was not realized; the world revolution did not break out as speedily as was believed by many. On the contrary, by the middle of 1920, the bourgeoisie, which had after the armistice feared a general rebellion of the exploited, had all along the line gone over to a general attack on the working class. The preliminary conditions for a revolution are still present, capitalism is still faced with formidable difficulties, but the revolution fails to break out. The Soviet Republic stands unshaken; its revolutionary impetus, however, has suffered a setback owing to the present standstill of the proletarian movement. Capitalism has grown bolder, and the Soviet Government which knows very well that the final victory of Communism is impossible as long as capitalism continues to exist in the remaining countries must, in order to rebuild its ruined economic system, give the signal for retreat and negotiate with capitalism, lest it perish. The Bolsheviki have not hesitated to submit, for the time being, to terms which enabled them to travel again the road towards the realization of Communism, as soon as the revolutionary tendencies in the other countries again increase; they are also well aware of the fact that the very existence of the Soviet Republic constitutes a continuous threat to international capitalism and that its downfall would surely result in the collapse of the revolutionary movement in all countries.

II. The Campaign against the Russian Revolution

Just in this moment fraught with danger, when revolutionary unity and the sympathies of the proletariat are more than ever imperative for the Russian Revolution, certain sections of the labor movement have launched a savage campaign of slander against the Soviet Republic. Some Anarchist groups which have only defeats (not always honorable) to their credit are attacking those who have realized the first victorious proletarian revolution and saved the honor of international labor by their attack on imperialism. To criticize the Russian Revolution merely because it does not adapt itself to traditional Anarchist formulae, and not bring about a revolution in ones’s own country at the same time, is – to say the least – a rather easy procedure.

There is well nigh no country where the Russian Revolution has evoked greater enthusiasm than Italy. This great enthusiasm has borne your great movements and revolutionary uprisings whose impetus gave rise to the hope that your country would sound the clarion call for the decisive struggle against the bourgeoisie in Western Europe. And now it is Italy where the campaign against the Russian Revolution has assumed an especially ferocious character. Urged on by sectarian obstinacy, the Anarchists do not scruple to endanger the international revolutionary movement and disrupt the militant organizations of the proletariat.

III. The Decisions of the Rome Congress on the Red Trade Union International

The Giovanetti resolution on the R.T.U.I., adopted by the Congress, is proof of the hatred harbored by the Anarchists against the Russian Revolution and simultaneously of their utter mental confusion. It is an indication of mental aberration, if one declines all connections whatsoever with the Communist International and simultaneously recognizes the necessity for seeking temporary communication with other parties or organizations. If such a course is thought advisable, why does one not adopt practical directions for the realization of such collaboration? It is furthermore a sign of a disordered mind, if one emphasizes the absolute independence of the labor movement in spite of the fact that the experiences of recent years have shown that the trade-union organizations need not necessarily be directly connected with the political parties in order to become the most humble servants of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. And finally it is a sign of lunacy if one wants to limit the activities of the R.T.U.I. to problems and actions of an exclusively international character. These would-be internationalists reveal a rather queer state of mind if they demand for the national organizations an absolute autonomy after the fashion of the Second and Vienna International and along the lines of the Italian example set by Serrati, Turati, d’Aragona and other reformists. How do these people understand the term “internationalism”? The proletariat is one, and therefore uniform discipline is necessary.

We need not criticize the demand that the next Congress of the R.T.U.I. be held in Western Europe. We merely wish to recall the fact that the same demand was formulated last year by the reformist leaders of the Italian Confederation of Labor at a time when the delegates of all countries had already arrived in Moscow. The Executive Committee of the R.T.U.I. has already official[ly] declared that it is not against the Congress being held outside of Russia. But can the Italian comrades give us guarantees for the personal safety of the delegates? We have repeatedly announced that we would favor the Congress being held for instance in Milan. But we wish to remind you that in 1920 Comrade Pestaña, the delegate of the Spanish Confederation of Labor was arrested in Italy on his return from Russia extradited by the police of your country to the Spanish jailers and is still languishing in jail there. Or has the Congress of the U.S.I. forgotten Germany whose authorities arrested the Spanish delegates to our First Congress and have just now delivered Comrades Nicola Fort and Concepcion to the Spanish hangmen. From the attitude of the Italian Anarchists it can be inferred that they prefer any bourgeois state to the republic where the proletariat has for the first time attained victory.

IV. The Significance of the Red Trade Union International

Urged on by their sectarian hatred, the Anarchists have taken a hostile attitude towards the R.T.U.I. What does the existence of that militant organization imply? The R.T.U.I. expresses the determination of the revolutionary working class organized in the labour unions to destroy capitalist rule; it signifies solidarity with the great Russian Revolution, the first station on the road to the World Revolution, and further, ceaseless warfare against the yellow reformism sponsored by Amsterdam. The R.T.U.I. endeavors to combine all progressive elements in the labor movement and coordinate their actions with all those forces honestly fighting for the Social Revolution. To attack the R.T.U.I. under the pretext of trade union autonomy is a futile objection. The R.T.U.I. has at no time had designs on the independence of the trade unions; its congresses and leading organs have adopted and published resolutions which were everything but a barrier to that autonomy. The fact that the Executive Committee of the R.T.U.I. exchanges delegates with that of the Comintern is surely not likely to interfere with that autonomy.

The Program of Action adopted at our First Congress provides an excellent basis for the revolutionary trade unions. The spirit animating it is the same that has always fired the revolutionary workers – the spirit of rebellion, of stubborn struggle against the bourgeoisie, of unconditional rejection of the class truce and class collaboration policy. Our Program of Action can be subscribed to by all revolutionary Syndicalists. No delegate raised even the smallest objection against it during the debates at our First Congress. So, if we are agreed on all essential questions, why should we allow problems of second-rate importance to divide us? Have the Italian Anarchists so very little faith in themselves that they fear temporary collaboration with representatives of the Third International in certain revolutionary actions?

V. The Proletarian United Front

The resolution on the unity of the proletariat, adopted at the Rome Congress, is also in open contradiction to. the desire of the proletariat voiced in its aspiration to unity. The decision of a sectarian minority which succeeded in bringing together a faked majority has rendered a great service to the cause of the worst enemies of labor. Revolutionary unity is today more imperative than ever. The continuous aggression of the bourgeoisie threatening the gains of the proletariat must be met. The working class stands in bitter need of unity of organization, both nationally and internationally. Numerically weak sectarian organizations are at present of little use to the working class which must have strong and disciplined mass organizations, following a certain aim and determined to attain it. What are you being offered in this respect by the section under the leadership of Borghi? Empty phrases, vague formulae and pompous platitudes! What definite methods of struggle does it advise the workers to adopt, what are its directions, its program? It is incapable of countering the Program of Action of the R.T.U.I. with a revolutionary program corresponding more to the needs of the workers!

A new organization on an international basis would merely collect insignificant outsiders among the organizations of the proletariat and would be foredoomed to utter impotence.

Comrades of the U.S.I.!

The immediate results of the Borghi fraction’s victory will seriously hinder the development of the U.S.I. and very probably splits will weaken it still further; a great part of the working masses will lose all faith in it.

The workers in the U.S.I. cannot consent to the conflicting decisions of the Rome Congress which aim at transforming your union into a appendage of the Italian Anarchists, while simultaneously reasserting the principle of trade union autonomy.

All those who declare against the Russian Revolution are (whether they intend to or not) playing the game of the bourgeoisie; they are undermining the power of the proletariat. The Anarchist groups which with the help of more or less shrewd election manoeuvres succeeded in forcing decisions upon the U.S.I. which are contrary to the real wishes of its members, have inflicted serious harm upon the revolutionary movement.

To divert your organization from its revolutionary trade union direction is to lead it to impotence and death..

Workers of the U.S.I.!

You cannot and must not consent to the destruction of your organization through the sectarian obstinacy of some Anarchist groups. You must not admit of the glory of the Russian Revolution being dragged through the mire in your name. We are certain that the revolutionary workers of Italy will resist these demagogic machinations.

The Executive Committee of the Red Trade Union International


Lozovsky, General Secretary

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