A. Lozovsky

Is Unity of the International Trade Union Movement Possible?

Source: Daily Worker, January 3, 1925
Publisher: Workers (Communist) Party of America
Transcription/HTML: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

THAT unity is a very beautiful thing and therefore desirable is not disputed for a moment by the bitterest disrupters. We are not faced with the question of unity “in general,” or of unity in “principle” or of unity in a very remote future, but with the question whether at the present time, in view of the actual International situation, of the existence of divided, parallel organizations, etc. it is possible to attain unity and how it is to be brought about.

We must remark at the outset that the split does not exist in every country. In many countries the followers of the R.I.L.U. are within the organizations affiliated to Amsterdam. In these countries the followers of the R.I.L.U. and the followers of the Amsterdam International are organizatorily united. On the other hand there are a number of countries where parallel organizations exist, and finally, a fairly large number of countries, the trade union movements of which are wholly affiliated to the Red International of Labor Unions.

What obstacles stand in the way of unity? These obstacles can be divided into two groups: (1) Organizatory; (2) political obstacles. The existence of parallel organizations inevitably leads to organizatory conservatism and to the effort to retain at all costs the existing forms of organizations. The reformist trade union movement clings with great tenacity to the old traditions and only adapts itself very painfully to the new forms of the class struggle. In the reformist trade union movement the narrow craft interests come before the interests of the workers of the country as a whole and the interests of the fatherland come before the interests of the international proletariat. It would, however, be a mistake to assume that organizatory conservatism is only confined to the reformists. There are revolutionary workers who suffer from organizatory conservatism and believe that it is best to follow the old road, not to make any sharp turns, not to unite the workers of different tendencies, as this could destroy the organizatory structure.

The organizatory obstacles are, of course, of secondary importance in comparison with the political obstacles. Many comrades ask: “Can we unite with the reformists when they are even against the class struggle?” These comrades desire to lay down conditions regarding unity (break with the bourgeois coalition, fight against the Dawes plan, etc.) To demand from the reformists that they abandon the coalition with the bourgeoisie is to demand the impossible. To make unity dependent upon this implies a breach of unity, for the abandonment of the coalition with the bourgeoisie means the end of reformism.

On the other hand, the most bitter opponents of unity on the side of the reformists submit their conditions to the left wing of the trade union movement. This specially applies to the “Vorwaerts,” the organ of the German social-fascists. The “Vorwaerts” spits poison and gall against unity. It is of course in favor of unity, but desires that the Communists shall not organize any nuclei, that they shall not incite the workers against the leaders of the trade union movement, that they shall not “caluminate,” but faithfully carry out the policy of the black hundred which is conducted by the German social-democracy along with the German General federation of Trade Unions. In this respect the “Vorwaerts” fully reflects the view regarding unity which exists in the right wing of the Amsterdam International.

The meaning of all this talk over this theme is that they turn to us and say: “Become reformists and then we shall unite with you!” This astute solution of the problem of unity is typical of the Second International, which leads, ideologically and politically, the reactionary portion of the Amsterdam International. It must be said that all this kind of talk is mere waste of time. The Communists have not the lest reason for transforming themselves into reformist corpses, and whoever believes that the Communists will deviate even a hair’s breath from their principles in arriving at unity does not understand anything of Communism or of the problem of unity.

If, however, the reformists maintain their position and the Communists their, then the unity of the trade union movement is impossible!—the reader will say, No, his would be a thoroughly erroneous conclusion. In fact we do not submit demands to the reformists in order that they shall become Communists, and we do not propose to the reformists that they shall occupy themselves with the futile task of debolshevizing the Bolsheviki. The revolutionary trade unions of all countries which are in the R.I.L.U. propose, in full agreement with the Communist International, a way which is acceptable to the most bitter opponents of Communism in the Amsterdam International, if they only adopt a somewhat conscientious attitude regarding the interests of the working class.

“we will not submit conditions to one another” says the R.I.L.U. “We will convene a conference of representatives of both Internationals, we will jointly decide the time and place of the International Unity Congress, at which the organizations affiliated to the R.I.L.U. and to the Amsterdam International, as well as those trade union organizations which are outside both internationals, shall be represented. We will discuss at the International congress the concrete tasks of the struggle against the capitalist offensive and against the fascist reaction. At this congress we will create the United Trade Union International.

Whoever has the majority at this congress will carry through their resolutions and will have the majority on the executive body. The constitution of the new International will be in accordance with the standpoint of the majority. At this unity congress the Red International of Labor Unions and the Amsterdam International will declare that they dissolve their organizations and enter into the United International. We Communists and revolutionary workers of all countries declare through the Communist International and the R.I.L.U. that if we find ourselves in a minority, that we shall remain in the new international and submit to the discipline of the movement, whilst we shall carry on our fight for influence among the masses. If the opponents of Communism make a similar declaration the question will be quite clear.

Let the masses of workers pronounce judgment as to whose tactics—those of the Communists or those of the reformists—are more consistent with the interests of the working class. We are not afraid of bringing our tactics before the court of the many millions of proletarians. May the opponents of Communism come forward in an equally open manner as the followers of the R.I.L.U. do and will continue to.

We ask, what is there in the proposal which can be unacceptable for an honest proletarian, no matter to what tendency he may belong? if the leaders of the Amsterdam International are convinced that they have behind them the overwhelming majority, why are they afraid to attend a congress of this sort? The majority will be with them, and the will of the majority of the congress will decide the political line of the United International. Everything is clear regarding this proposal. We propose to those who everywhere make a great cry over their democratic principles, the most democratic way conceivable for uniting the divided international trade union movement. Meanwhile however, the opponents of the R.I.L.U. do not desire this proletarian-democratic solution of the question and hide their fear of proletarian democracy by means of the great outcry over the craftiness of the Communists.

To mobilize the masses for unity is the most important task at the present moment. The majority of the leaders of the Amsterdam International believe that they will be able to evade this problem and to patch up the growing fissure in their own ranks which is consequent upon the inexorable radicalization of the working masses. If the Amsterdam International does not meet the wish of the majority of its own members it will simply collapse and unity will be restored over the heads of the present leaders. This is the reason why we, although we are quite aware of the enormous difficulties which are lying in our path, reply to the question, whether the unity of the international trade union movement is possible: yes, it is possible and inevitable. Together with the leaders or without the leaders, the divided international trade union movement will in any event be welded together into a powerful anti-capitalist bloc.