A. Lozovsky

The United Front

The United Front of
the Transport Workers

(31 May 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 40 [22], 31 May 1923, p. 371.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

While in Hamburg the Socialist Congress was proceeding, accompanied by the wildest agitation against Communism and social revolution, in Berlin. there met the conference of the Transport Workers, participated in by representatives of the R.I.L.U. and of organizations affiliated to the Amsterdam International. Hamburg was the rendezvous for the drawing room coalition ministers of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, whose greatest anxiety was the concealment of their nationalist and imperialist antagonism. Berlin was the meeting place of the leaders of the transport workers of all countries, convened with the sincere and honorable intention of finding a common basis of understanding among the workers of different parties. In Hamburg, all participators were permeated with the idea of supporting to their utmost that which has been happily termed by that unhappy child of Menshevism, Abramovich, “democratic capitalism”. Here m Berlin “democratic capitalism”, was not talked about, the question dealt with was how best to gather together the scattered masses, fur self-defence against the growing capitalist and democratic reaction. On one side a congress where Left and Right combine on the basis of co-operation of the classes, and on the other side, a conference resulting in an understanding for the purpose of united revolutionary class war. And although many hundreds of people took part in the Hamburg congress, including many ministers, while in Berlin it was but a modest gathering, attended by 9 persons in all, not one of whom was a bourgeois minister, still the Berlin conference was of much greater significance for the working class than the empty cackling of the Hamburg geese. What is the real import of the Hamburg congress? The strengthening of the coalition policy, the sanctioning of working unity among the classes, and thus the widening of the chasm within the labor movement. And what is the import of the Berlin consultation? The extension of the anti-capitalist front, the consolidation of proletarian positions, and a stride forward towards the restoration of unity in the labor movement, on the basis of revolutionary class war. And thus the Hamburg congress will be recorded in the history of the working class as a stage of that organizatory process which confirms the influence of the bourgeoisie over one part of the proletariat, while the Berlin conference, on the other hand, will be recorded as a stage on the road to the emancipation of ever enlarging sections of the working class from reformist ideology and reformist practice.

The antagonists of the Communist International and of the Red International of Labor Unions have often, in speech and writing, declared that the United Front slogan issued by us is nothing more than an empty pretext, as the Communists do not sincerely warn a united front. Various French hole-and-corner journalists have been particularly active an spreading themselves over this theme. In many countries we have replied to this demagogy by deeds. Now we can reply with a new international proof. If anyone asks what our United Front signifies, we reply: Read with attention the resolutions passed by the Transport Workers’ conference and you will find use answer to this question. But now we put a few questions to our opponents: Can you find in these resolutions, passed by us, anything with which any workman can disagree? Perhaps the war against war? The struggle against Fascism? The defence of Soviet Russia? The creation of organs intended to carry on the struggle against militarist reaction on international lines? Or perhaps the desire of the conference, to overcome the trade union split as rapidly as possible, is unacceptable? We are fully convinced that no worker can contest any one of the points of our resolutions. But now the reformist leaders are doubtless expressing themselves as opposed to these resolutions, for they prefer coalition with the bourgeoisie to coalition with the Communists. The idea appears through all the speeches and actions of the conveners of the Hamburg congress. The reply to its appeal for the formation of a united front, signified: Rather with the bourgeoisie against the Communists than with the communists against the bourgeoisie. The International Transport Workers’ Federation rejected these demands, and declared: Rather with the Communists against the bourgeoisie, than with the bourgeoisie against the Communists. And here lies the historical import of the unity conference of the transport workers.

Neither of the two parties to the agreement is a victim to any delusion: both parties are fully aware of the difficulty of maintaining unity of action in the present disunited state of the labor movement. Both parties grasped that the fundamental and political differences of opinion existing within the trade union movement are not to be overcome by the joint signing of some few resolutions, but that various opinions and ideas will continue to combat one another. The united front does not wipe out differences of opinion, but it paves the way for bringing the scattered trade unions together, and creates on the basis of common action – that mutual confidence which is indispensable in a struggle against a common enemy. We, the followers of the Red International of Labor Unions, take our obligations very seriously. We shall fulfil them loyally and energetically, and naturally we expect the same from the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which signed the agreement with us. All trade unions belonging to the Red International of Labor Unions, especially the Russian trade unions, have frequently mooted the question of their admittance into the international craft unions. They have, invariably been refused. When international capital blockaded Soviet Russia, international reformism carried on a blockade against the revolutionary trade unions of Russia. The goal aimed at by international reformism has not been attained; the working masses of Europe have proved themselves to possess so much class feeling and comprehension of their own interests that they have taken up the defence of Soviet Russia, and of the trade unions created by the Russia proletariat.

Where will this understanding among the transport workers lead us? We should like to see it spread as rapidly as possible to every branch of production. We shall work systematically and thoroughly for the amalgamation of the parallel trade unions in all countries. We shall continue repeatedly to propose joint action to the Amsterdam International and to all international secretariats. The interests of the international proletariat demand this. And woe to those leaders of the labor movement who do not grasp this!

Slowly and painfully the united front of the working class is born. As the roots of the schism in the working class be in the policy of working unity with the bourgeoisie, the schism is overcome in proportion as the broad masses of the workers, and the organizations created by them, throw over this policy. One thing is beyond all doubt: the unity of the working class can only originate in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, and as the conference held by the transport workers set itself the task of combatting the bourgeoisie, it thus at the same time created the premises for the unity of the transport workers of all countries. This conference proved the vitality of the united front and hence I close my remarks by repeating the declaration which I made at the Hague International Conference: “Whether you want it or not – the united front will come about. It will come about with you if you like, without you if you stand aside, and against you if you offer resistance.”

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Last updated on 13 October 2021