Alois Neurath

The Labor Movement

The National Trade Union Congress of Czecho-Slovakia

(10 February 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 11, 10 February 1922, p. 78.
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.

The National Trade Union Congress of Czecho-Slovakia met in Prague from Sunday, January 22nd, to Thursday, January 26th 1922. Before its opening, articles on the significance of this Congress had been published by the Communist press both at home and abroad expressing the hope that the majority of the trade-union representatives would vote in favor of the Red Trade Union International. The prospects were very favourable indeed. Several unions had some time ago elected Communist leaders. The following unions were already permeated with Communist spirit before the Congress: rural and forest workers, chemical workers, workers of the building trade and lumbermen These organisations comprise 344,000 members.

According to the figures of the Prague Trade Union Commission 832,000 workers are organised in Czech unions. The Moravian Trade Union Conference took place at Brunn, September 28th, the overwhelming majority of which voted in favor of the Red Trade Union International. At this conference 207,000 workers were represented. In October a Trade Union Conference at Bosenberg, representing 143.000 organised workers, demanded secession from the Amsterdam International. It was the task of the Communist Party, i.e., the National Communist Trade Union Committee, to do their best in enlightening the workers and influencing the election of the delegates to the National Trade Union Congress. Have these bodies thoroughly fulfilled their task? This question must be answered in the negative. It is true that our Party was unable to begin preparations in time as it was only founded on October 31st, 1921. After its formation, however, the Communist Party could have done more than has been done in making the organized proletariat of all unions recognise the immense importance of the National Trade Union Congress. Only some days before the beginning of the Congress the Party Executive examined the preparations of the Communist Trade Union Committee. For a considerable time the Agricultural Workers’ Union had paid no dues to the National Trade Union Commission. The Party Executive and the Communist Trade Union Committee side with the view of the Red Trade Union International that unity of the trade union movement must be kept intact. They reject the opinion that unions with a Communist majority should leave the National Trade Union Fereration. For this very reason the Communist Trade Union Committee advised the Agricultural Workers’ Union to pay their dues to the National Trade Union Commission, thus preserving their right of representation at the National Congress. The same advice was given by the Executive of the Communist Party. The Congress being over now, it is not only our right but our duty to say that the Agricultural Workers’ Union has not considered this advice. They did not pay their dues and thus lost their right of sending a delegation to the National Congress. This was a fundamental problem. The decision of the Red Trade Union International to do everything possible to maintain the unity of the trade-union movement must be followed by Communist trade-union representatives. This principle has been violated by the leaders of the Agricultural Workers’ Union, who in spite of all decisions did not pay their dues, thus placing themselves outside the National Trade Union Congress, and considerably weakening the Communist representation in this Congress.

According to the report of the Credentials Committee the following 602 delegates attended the Congress: 37 editors of trade organs, 126 delegates of Divisional and Local Trade Union Councils and 439 delegates of union branches. Before the Congress the Social Democrats who control the entire union apparatus spoke and wrote very little but worked all the more actively. With all the tricks of experienced politicians the Amsterdam trade-union bureaucrats were “preparing” the elections. The conferences in Moravia, Silesia, Slovakia and the unions which already before the Congress were under Communist leadership are ample proof of the fact that the majority of the workers in Czecho-Slovakia supported the campaign against the Amsterdam International. In the first session of the Congress the strength of both fractions was tested in a trial vote. The motion being of small importance, however, the result was not quite clear 316 delegates voted in favour of Tayerle, secretary of the Trade Union Commission, and 270 against him. Two days later however, when the new rules of the Trade Union Federation were decided upon, Tayerle received 343 votes, while 226 delegates voted against him. The day before the Congress was closed the following proposal of the building trades workers was voted upon by soll-call:

“Dealing with the problem of international affiliation the Seventh National Trade Union Congress approves of the withdrawal of the Czecho-Slovakian Trade Union Federation from the Amsterdam Trade Union International and its affiliation to the Moscow Trade Union International.”

Representatives of 222,027 workers voted in favor of this proposal and of 338,477 against it, i.e., the Congress decided with a majority of 116,405 to remain affiliated to the Amsterdam International.

From their point of view the Amsterdam trade-union officials excellently prepared for the Congress. They succeeded in bringing their influence to bear upon the delegates of the Congress. Tayerle welcomed the guests, thereby casually mentioning that a representative of the Third International was present. Mertens, representative of the Amsterdam International and Jouhaux, delegate of the French Amsterdam Labor Federation were given the floor to greet the Congress. The representative of the Third International, however, was not allowed to speak. Yet the letter of Comrade Lozovsky to the Congress could not well be suppressed. As for the rest, the Amsterdam supporters in the Czecho-Slovakian Trade Union Federation are shrewd wirepullers. The talk very much about the unity of the movement and the neutrality of the trade unions. They say that so-called political differences should not be allowed to influence economic organisations of the workers.

It would be a great mistake, however, to consider the machinations and tactical tricks of the Amsterdam bureaucrats the only reason for the result of the Congress. The tricks of the Amsterdamers and the mistakes of the Communist Party and the Communist trade unions could influence the Congress but to a certain extent. What is more, we must not overlook or deny the fact that large numbers of workers who do not agree with the Amsterdam officials, are not yet sufficiently informed on the principles of the Red Trade Union International. With the support of the Communist Party the Communist Trade Union Committee must carry on more intensive agitation and propaganda activities among the organized workers than has been the case heretofore. We will have favorable opportunities for this work. If the Communist Trade Union Committee and the Communist trade-union representatives fulfil their duty in the large economic struggles, the Amsterdam bureaucrats will in spite of their intrigues be left hanging in the air.

Last updated on 4 May 2019