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 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.
Next: VII. Politics and Tactics of the Profintern