Arthur MacManus

Zinoviev on Trade Union Unity

Source: Workers’ Weekly, April 17, 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
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.

The presence of the Russian delegates here and the negotiations now proceeding to further the establishment of International unity constitute in a way a tribute to the political sagacity and foresight of the much maligned Zinoviev. His speech on the question of trade union unity, delivered at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International, and published in pamphlet form at 2d. by the Communist Party, assumes in the light of developments since a greater significance. His estimation of the possibility of developing negotiations to secure an international united working class movement is now proven to have been much more accurate than was generally appreciated.

His struggle with the “Leftists” who were clamouring for continued isolation and who were opposed to any attempt to unite the trade union movement in the various countries was a real contribution to the progress of the working-class struggle. His speech, probably more than any other factor, was successful in securing the agreement of the Revolutionary trade union elements in the various countries to make this question one of the most important. On the other hand, his criticism and attacks of the “Rights” and his careful demonstration to them that although the Communist International stood for the securing of international trade union unity, yet it was still determined to combat vigorously any attempted treachery or betrayal by the Opportunists and social democrats, was also largely responsible for determining the character of the negotiations.

This conflict both with the Left and the Right, therefore, was absolutely essential to secure the beginning of the negotiations and to determine their basis. The character of the present negotiations taking place in London indicate how important this conflict was at that time.

In passing, it is worthy of note how easily some of Zinoviev’s critics failed completely to understand the significance of his speech. Postgate, for instance, in Plebs, sees in Zinoviev’s criticisms of the Left, and Right nothing more than “shower’s of abuse” calculated to create “an unpleasant screen” to “cover up a retreat.” The same superficial understanding is to be noted in the criticisms of Zinoviev’s references to the situation in Britain. Zinoviev dealt with the development of the general Left Wing movement amongst the workers in this country, and referred to this as the basis out of which must come a Mass Communist Party. He stated that it was not quite clear whether that Party would come through what he called “a Stewart-Macmanus door”, or through some other door, meaning obviously that this constituted the real test of the capacity of our Party to grow and develop with this Left Wing movement and to become its revolutionary leader. The only significance this perfectly correct estimation of the situation in Britain has for Postgate is that he—Zinoviev—is “wondering whether the British Communist Party may not have to be written off as a failure.” He says, of course, that he cannot decide on its exact meaning. Well, this is not surprising. Was it not the same Postgate who quite recently made the startling discovery that Oliver Cromwell was one of the pioneers of the Labour Movement in this country? Need one say any more? Certain it is that through whatever door the final historic revolutionary Communist Party of the British workers comes, it will not be under the leadership of the Postgate, Wilkinson, Newbold Triumvirate.

The publication of Zinoviev’s speech by the Party for sale in pamphlet form at 2d. in this country was certainly well worth while.

A. MacManus