Date: August 1928
Publisher: The National Minority Movement
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.
Last November a notice appeared in an important capitalist newspaper, to the effect that Mr. W. M. Citrine, Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, was about to write a series of articles exposing the activities of Communists in the trade unions.
Shortly afterward, a series of articles commenced in “The Labour Magazine,” entitled, “Democracy or Disruption,” by W. M. Citrine. They are now being used all over the country as the basis of the attack on the Minority Movement. The articles have been written at some length with the purpose of putting “paid” to the Minority Movement.
We are sorry that Mr. Citrine has had all his trouble for nothing, for the representation at our annual conference, our increasing individual membership and increasing circulation of our various trade union papers, are all indications that in spite of Citrine’s attack and his control of the trade union machine, the Minority Movement was never more alive.
The trade unionists who pay Mr. Citrine his £750 a year are, however, entitled to demand to know why all this time, money and energy, have been spent by the Secretary of the T.U.C. in attacking revolutionary workers (at the same time, of course, he was hand-in-glove with Mond and his associates), instead of using his position to help reorganise the trade union movement so that it may more effectively fight capitalism, and ultimately become strong enough to participate actively in its revolutionary overthrow.
Now, his great travail is over. The complete delivery has taken place, and never has such a distortion been produced.
What do all Citrine’s allegations amount to? That the M.M. is a disruptive body; it receives money from Moscow; it believes in force; all its members have to dance to the tune called by their paymasters in Moscow. That about sums it all up, and probably the greatest satisfaction that Citrine has, is that in every speech Jix says the same thing, and in every issue “The Daily Mail” says the same thing. Such a united front is its own condemnation in the eyes of all serious workers.
In his concluding article, Mr. Citrine, strangely enough, sums up his indictment of the Minority Movement in fourteen points. It was an unhappy coincidence that led him to fix on such a method, for it aptly recalls the meteoric rise to fame (as meteoric as Mr. Citrine’s own) of the late President Wilson—his famous fourteen points, and his equally rapid descent into oblivion as the sham and hypocrisy of his policy was exposed.
I am confident that in the trade union world the same fate awaits Mr. Citrine and his fourteen points. Because they are meant to play the same rôle in trade unionism as Wilson’s points played in the War Policy of the Allies. Just as Wilson was used to hide the real facts of the war, and the real designs of the Allies it the Peace Conference from the war-weary populations of the world, so Citrine’s points are meant to hide the real facts of the capitalist situation, and the designs of the capitalists in the new offensive against the workers that they are about to carry out under the slogan of “Industrial Peace and Rationalisation.”
It is because of these facts that importance attaches itself to what the Secretary of the Trades Union Congress writes and says. If he took the direct working-class line, he would be subjected to the same abuse as A. J. Cook. To-day, there are nothing but compliments for Mr. Citrine, and if his policy was not pro-capitalist, if he were not simply the agent of capitalism in control of the Trades Union Congress, long ago there would have been an outcry at Mr. Citrine departing from the functions of a technical secretary, such as Mr. Bowerman was, and to a more limited extent, the late Fred Bramley was forced to be, because his policy was more working-class than that of his successors.
To-day, Mr. Citrine is not a technical Secretary, he is the leading force in the General Council, and his election as President of the I.F.T.U. is a complete break with all the past traditions of his office. It has only been possible for this to be accomplished because his policy is Mond’s policy, and Thomas and Bevin stand for Mondism, and these three between them dominate the policy of the General Council.
It is because of these facts, that we are replying to Mr. Citrine’s fourteen points in some detail, in order that there may be no ambiguity as to what is the real position of the Minority Movement. It is war to the death between the capitalist policy of Mr. Citrine and the working-class policy that the Minority Movement stands to fight for inside the trade union movement.
“It is the duty of all who have a sincere feeling for the welfare of the Trade Union and Labour Movements to abandon a negative attitude towards Communist propaganda.”
Workers who have this “sincere feeling for the welfare of the Trade Union and Labour Movement” have long realised that Socialism has been abandoned as the objective of the Trade Union and Labour Movement, and that all tactics, policy and leadership have been deliberately directed towards bringing about this abandonment. This is reflected in the Liberalising of the Labour Party, the expulsion of Communists and Left Wing workers from the trade unions, the General Strike betrayal, and the surrender on all issues of wages and hours, culminating in the present negotiations with the Mond group and the pursuit of class peace instead of class struggle.
These issues have led to the rise of the Communist Party, Minority Movement and Left Wing Movements, which aim at the common direction of the class fight against capitalism.
As a result the Movement that will lead the workers to victory is being developed in the hard school of struggle. Sincere workers are abandoning their “negative attitude” by joining the Minority Movement, thus showing a positive desire for the welfare of the whole working class movement, which can be immeasurably strengthened by a strong and virile trade union organisation.
“The M.M. is definitely a disruptive force, assisted and inspired by Communist organisations both inside and outside this country.”
The Minority Movement is an organisation of trade unionists and co-operators who voluntarily join and accept common discipline and loyalty in carrying out M.M. policy once that policy has been decided upon by the members themselves. It is not a competitive trade union. It is an attempt by common effort and leadership to get the M.M. policy adopted by all the organisations to which its members belong.
It consists of trade unionists who are also Communists, I.L.P.ers, Syndicalists, Labour Party members, Co-operators, etc. It receives and welcomes the active support of Communists, because practical experience has shown that a Communist policy is a working-class policy.
The M.M. exists to strengthen the workers’ organisations. It strives for 100 per cent. trade unionism with a fighting outlook; for the elimination of rival policies and unions; for industrial unionism; for amalgamation of unions in kindred industries as a step towards the realisation of one union for each industry; for powerful workshop committees; for a new leadership of honest fighters, and a centralised national Trade Union Movement affiliated to a powerful Trade Union International, embracing all workers, irrespective of race, colour or creed.
Because of this it is assailed by the highly-paid leaders of the Trade Union Movement, who are anxious at all costs to preserve their jobs, and to do this resort to disruptive tactics, as seen in the N.U.G.M.W., Scottish Mineworkers’ Union, Shop Assistants, Boilermakers, and the General Council’s own attempts to smash the N.U.W.C.M. and their treatment of the Trades Councils.
“The principal officers of the M.M. are all paid Communists and take their instructions from the Communist Party, nationally and internationally.”
Our Executive Committee is composed of Communists, Left Wingers, I.L.P.’ers and Syndicalists, and is appointed at our Annual Conference by the delegates from amongst the delegates.
It is common knowledge that I am a Communist and have been General Secretary of the Minority Movement since its inception in 1924.
No one can say I have kept my Communism in the background, although I have had many hints from Mr. Citrine’s friends that if I cared to drop it there was a place for me on the General Council.
Tom Mann, our Honorary President, is also a Communist, and has never hidden the fact. Had he cared to go the Citrine way he could have had one of the very comfortable jobs that are such a marked feature of the official movement. It is true that I fight at every meeting of the Executive for the adoption of a Communist policy; that is to say, a working-class policy, and if it is adopted by the Executive, it is because they consider it will best serve the interests of the working-class movement as a whole.
Jack Tanner, Jack Williams, Alex Gossip, Tom Nally, and other E.C. members of the M.M., will be more than amused when they learn they are mere puppets dancing to strings pulled by the Communist Party, which in effect is what Mr. Citrine is saying.
Members of the C.P. who are members of the M.M. naturally endeavour to get their Party policy adopted in all the organisations with which they are connected; if they are successful, then that policy becomes the policy of the Movement with which they are associated. If their suggestions are defeated, they accept and loyally carry out the policy decided upon by the majority.
“It is not a natural development from the militant movements of pre-war days, but owes its origin to the inspiration of the Red International.”
The M.M. is the natural development of the old Shop Stewards and Vigilance Movements. Without their previous existence and experience, it would have been impossible to form one common movement uniting all militant trade unionists, such as the M.M. is to-day, even if instruction had been received from ten Internationals.
What the Red International of Labour Unions did do, was to stress the necessity of organising the scattered militant workers into one organisation in order to conserve their strength instead of allowing their activities to be dissipated in a dozen directions and the trade unions thus exposed to heavy defeat in face of an organised capitalist offensive.
Every day that passes indicates the correctness of the Red International’s policy, and the growing strength of the Minority Movement proves that the British workers realise this more and more and are ready to give and receive international advice, criticism and suggestions.
It is true that the M.M. is affiliated to the R.I.L.U. So are the revolutionary trade unionists of every country in the world. This is because it is a real International, that seeks to unite the workers of the world in the every-day struggle against capitalism. For British trade unionists this association is of particular importance as there can be no advance for British workers unless they are closely allied with the trade unionists of both colonial and semi-colonial countries oppressed by British imperialism, like China and India. It has now become a truism even in the insular British movement, that the chief danger threatening British standards is the low-paid labour of what the “Manchester Guardian” describes as “yellow and brown labour as against white labour, or 2s. 6d. a day against 10s. a day.”
The trade union movements of all these countries are allied with the R.I.L.U., and not the Amsterdam International, to which the British T.U.C. is affiliated, and of which Mr. Citrine has been given the chairmanship as virtue’s crowning reward for services rendered; and Mr. Citrine will find from experience that the real directors of Amsterdam’s policy are the leaders of the Second International, Messrs. Hilferding, MacDonald, Abramovitch, and Albert Thomas, of the International Labour Office, who recently, in Rome, eulogised Fascism in the approved manner of Mr. Citrine’s other friend, Sir Alfred Mond.
“The Red International exists for the revolutionary overthrow by violence of the Social system. The M.M. is affiliated to and financed by the Red International and must carry out its instructions.”
The Red International does not believe in violence, but it does point out the lesson of history—that no ruling class ever voluntarily surrenders its political power. If it were possible to achieve Socialism by peaceful, democratic means, nothing would ensure this so much as a powerful Trade Union Movement. Again, if, on the issue of the transference of power the capitalists force civil war on the workers, no instrument will be more useful and indispensable for ensuring a speedy victory for the workers with the very minimum of violence, than a strong trade union movement such as the R.I.L.U. seeks to develop in every country of the world.
Of course, the workers will realise that the capitalists can hardly be expected to give up their property merely because a ballot vote at a General Election has gone against them, when they have the example of miners’ officials in Scotland refusing to give up their jobs even though four ballots have gone against them.
The Minority Movement is proud to be affiliated to the R.I.L.U., and thus identified with the greatest International Trade Union Movement in the world. It is proud to receive from time to time financial help from the International to which it belongs, with the same International Working-class spirit which made the British miners proud to receive the assistance of the Russian miners during the lock-out in 1926, and the German metal workers to receive the help of the British engineers in 1923, and the M.M. to send its contributions to help the Indian and Chinese trade unionists in their present struggles.
The M.M. does not receive financial donations or motor cars from biscuit or cigarette capitalists. It does not receive financial help from capitalist newspapers for articles signed by trade union leaders, who oft-times never write them, and it would refuse such assistance if it were offered tomorrow. It gives and receives help from its International, and looks forward to the day when it will be in a position to help more extensively the Trade Union organisation, education and agitation in such countries as India, Egypt and China.
The M.M. sent fourteen of its members direct from the workshops to the recent Fourth Congress of the R.I.L.U. Its delegates participated in the work of that Congress and helped to formulate the decisions reached, which as internationalists we accept. It has also a permanent representative on the Executive Bureau of the R.I.L.U., and, therefore, actively participates in the making of all decisions.
“The Minority Movement is committed to work for the violent overthrow of the social system and is pledged to carry this out in its daily struggle.”
This is a mere repetition of Point 5. Mr. Citrine has “violence” on the brain, perhaps that is why he does not object to violence being used against the militant workers in his “daily struggle” to make trade unionism safe for Sir Alfred Mond.
We did not hear of Mr. Citrine protesting when violence was threatened to A. J. Cook at a General Council meeting recently, nor have we any recollection of the trade union leaders protesting or leading any agitation against the bloody violence that went on for four-and-a-half years between German, French, British, Austrian, and Russian trade unionists during the war; but we do recollect that Mr. Citrine’s friends, Ben Tillett, Lt. Col. Will Thorne, the Rt. Hon. Arthur Henderson, and the Rt. Hon. J. R. Clynes, recruited youngsters to go and murder other youngsters with whom they had no difference in order to safeguard the property of Mr. Citrine’s allies, the Mond Group of exploiters. We do not recollect any protest being made by Citrine against the bloody oppression of our Chinese, Egyptian and Indian fellow trade unionists in their struggles against brutal exploitation by British imperialists, led by the Mond Group.
We have not heard of any protests made by Citrine against the physical violence, which that well-known pacifist, Herbert Smith, resorted to when he endeavoured to make the Miners’ Annual Conference at Llandudno, safe for industrial peace, by using physical violence against the men he knew would oppose such a policy, and whom he knew would not retaliate because of his age, and we do not mind admitting that we are sufficiently violent to think that perhaps they made a mistake in not giving Smith what he asked for and deserved.
It is interesting in this connection to recall that Mr. Citrine’s leader, Ramsay MacDonald (also a well-known “pacifist”) did write in “Forward” on July 28th, 1928, “The whole Movement owes a debt of the deepest gratitude to Herbert Smith and the others who shared his views,” while Mr. Lloyd George in making comments on the Llandudno conference, expressed himself quite clearly when he said, “So far as I can see, their arguments were addressed to the scruff of the neck. The leaders secured a majority by the effective process of kicking downstairs all those who disagreed with them, before the vote was taken.”
Mr. Citrine’s idea is to make the workers believe that the whole aim and function of the Minority Movement is to call them to the barricades; such a view, of course, is a deliberate misrepresentation of our position. Citrine himself is only leading industrial peace propaganda because he knows very well that the trade union struggle to-day is a political struggle, that the wage fight is a revolutionary fight which he and his supporters, Thomas and Bevin, dare not attempt to lead on account of its implications. Therefore, they preach industrial peace and the “peaceful transition” theory as the easy and cowardly way out of a situation that calls for a complete change in the whole policy and practice of trade unionism, and which only a new and courageous leadership thrown up by the workers themselves can supply.
“The Minority Movement has specific instructions to capture all responsible posts in the Trade Union Movement for Communists so that the industrial movement shall conform to the principles established for the Communist Party.”
The Trade Unions are the mass organisations of the workers catering for them (until recently) without regard to political distinctions. Every trade unionist in benefit and accepting the rules of his union is, or should be, entitled to contest any official position.
The Minority Movement believes that the supreme need of the trade union movement is a change of leadership. To this end its members are instructed to contest every possible position, and it endeavours within the limits of the trade union rules to get support for its members.
For instance, instead of four militant workers contesting one position inside a union, these workers and others associated with their particular group, themselves decide who is the most capable and who has the best chance of winning the position. Once the decision is made that candidate goes forward with the support of every Minority Movement member of his particular union.
Of course, Mr. Citrine being a “democrat” would say that this was not democracy, not the will of the workers expressing itself; but how much fraction work went to get Citrine his present job? How much bartering will take place at the Swansea Trade Union Congress to get certain members of the General Council elected, and to get other prominent trade union leaders elected on to the American and Canadian delegations? Or the fraction work that deposed Mr. Clynes as leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party and gave the job to Mr. MacDonald?
The Minority Movement considers this task of providing a new leadrship so important that it is organising special training classes in such subjects as workmen’s compensation, wage agreements, and all the intimate questions associated with trade union activity.
If the Communists get control of the Trade Unions it will be because the workers believe in their policy, and naturally this would tend to a closer relationship between the Communist Party and the trade unions; but in order to prevent the workers having any opportunity of expressing their desire for electing a new leadership, the Citrine clique resort to every conceivable unconstitutional action.
However, this objection of Citrine’s to the control of the Trade Union Movement by a political party is unreal, for the General Council of the Trade Union Congress is dominated by the leaders of the Labour Party—MacDonald and Henderson—just as the Second International dominates the International Federation of Trade Unions. The workers will find by experience that the closer the Trade Unions are identified with the revolutionary party of the workers, the Communist Party, the stronger they will become in their resistance to capitalism and their preparations for its overthrow.
“Definite instructions are issued by the Red International as to how this shall be done. At conferences specific orders are given to Communists and Minority Movement members instructing them how to act and vote.”
It is, of course, flattering to the Red International of Labour Unions to know that every time a doorkeeper or a sick steward is to be elected in any British union a special session is held in Moscow to decide who is to be nominated and to instruct the M.M. accordingly. As the R.I.L.U. has connections with over thirty countries it must be kept pretty busy, for the German, French, Dutch, American, Indian and African Citrines are all telling the same story. It is true that the Minority Movement supporters organise their forces at every conference in order to get their policy adopted by various organisations. They choose their men to state their case or oppose some reactionary resolution, as the case might be; they try and get their respective delegations to vote for the Minority Movement policy, and if they fail they do not refuse to vote in accordance with their mandate, but they do claim the right to be allowed to state the minority opinion of a delegation, especially in view of the undemocratic method of procedure adopted at such conferences as the T.U.C. and Labour Party.
Of course, the saintly Mr. Citrine is suggesting that it is only the wicked militants who organise their work at conferences, the General Council would never do such a thing! Oh, no! What are the facts? Every General Council member fights on his delegation to get the General Council’s Annual Report accepted without criticism. Each General Council member is told off to defend a particular section of the Report at Congress. When some inconvenient resolution comes up at Congress the big guns, Mr. Thomas or Mr. Bevin, are put up by the platform to oppose it, and when the General Council is beaten in its own delegations (as Thomas was beaten at Edinburgh on the question of the Russian unions) its members then turn about and speak as “members of the General Council,” in opposition to their own union decisions. This, of course, is a special type of “official” trade union “democracy.”
It would also be interesting to know what are the plans of the General Council in relation to their known determination to try and smash Cook and those standing with him in opposition to Mondism.
“These members are organised into fractions under the control of Communist organisers, work as a group, and are openly spoken of as ‘Communist’ delegates. Their election is engineered by all sorts of subversive methods. They are there to act on the instructions of Communists and take no notice of the views of their members as expressed in the trade union branches and executive Councils.”
Our comrades are elected (that is, when the “democratic” friends of Citrine allow their names to appear on the ballot paper) to the conferences in the same way as any other workers.
It is a lie to say that any subversive methods are used, and Citrine knows it is a lie. When they are elected they work as a group and do consult with leading officials of the Minority Movement. There is no secret about that, and nothing subversive of trade unionism.
Since the advent of an organised opposition at the Trades Union Congress there has been a keener interest displayed, a larger and more consistent attendance, both on the floor and the platform, and the debating level raised because of the fillip given it by the organised battle for leadership that is going on, and there has been a more thorough consideration of the agenda and the General Council’s Report. Everyone admits that these changes have been brought about by the advent of the organised forces of the Minority Movement at the T.U.C.
It is another lie to say that our members take no notice of instructions from their own trade union members. The whole trouble is that trade union members in the majority of cases do not have any opportunity either of passing resolutions for the agenda, or giving a mandate on the agenda when it appears, for they are rarely consulted. If one of our members is mandated to vote for a certain policy to which he is opposed, that member carries out the instructions of his union and votes accordingly.
This sudden yearning for “democratic action” by Citrine represents the height of hypocrisy when we remember how the General Strike was called off by the General Council without consultation either “through their trade union branches or Executive Councils.”
“That the subversive actions of these agents have resulted in attempted disruption in a number of unions.”
This is priceless! No facts are given in support of this sweeping generalisation, but what it means is that if you dare to oppose the policy of Lt.-Col. Will Thorne, General Secretary of the National Union of General Workers, or the Right Hon. J. R. Clynes, President of the same union, you are guilty of subversion. If your branch wants to be represented at a Minority Movement Conference it is guilty of subversion.
W. G. Sherwood, National Organiser of the General Workers’ Union was appointed a fraternal delegate from the Trade Union Congress to the American Federation of Labour Conventions last autumn. In the course of his fraternal speech he said:
“Branches of our organisation, over 15,000 strong, refused to comply with the instructions of our General Council. Well, Mr. President, we simply smashed the branches . . . We had on our General Council two men who represented great areas in our country, but they were going to Minority Meetings, and we said, sign a declaration or get out. Well, they had to get out.”
To which the President of the A.F. of L. responded:
“We were made happy when we listened to those words, we felt that our position had been thoroughly vindicated, that the traditional course of the American Federation of Labour had found additional approval from our older brothers from across the sea.”
There are no unions which have been disrupted by the Minority Movement. Citrine is endeavouring to make the M.M. the scapegoat for the present state of the Trade Union Movement when this is directly attributable to the General Council’s betrayal of the General Strike, the capitulation on the Trade Union Act, the break with the Russian Unions and the present policy of Mondism. This is the actual subversion of Trade Union Movement and the General Council is directly responsible for it. These are the things which have caused the disgust and apathy that is so marked a feature of the Trade Union Movement to-day.
It is pertinent to remind Mr. Citrine of one or two other examples of “democratic” action by his friends. The boilermakers were asked to take a ballot in May of this year on the question of whether Communists were eligible to be nominated as delegates to the T.U.C. and Labour Party Conference. This union has been reduced to such a state by the “democracy” of its Executive, that out of 68,000 members only 5,000 voted. The Executive of this Union has been compelled to admit of “irregularities” in voting in certain cases, yet refused to allow an appeal against the ballot vote on the ground of irregularities. They knew, of course, that this would have necessitated taking the vote over again. These, however, are small matters compared with the larger issue which the Boilermakers’ Executive has raised, that is that when the ballot vote went in favour of the Executive, and thus prevented any known Communist from being elected as a delegate to the T.U.C. or Labour Party Conference, this result was promptly interpreted to mean that no Communist could be eligible to contest any full-time position in the Boilermakers’ Society.
The reason for this, of course, was that the Executive had to be re-elected in August of this year, and it was realised that some of the old gang would have been defeated had the Communists been eligible to stand for election.
The Shop Assistants’ action against the Minority Movement is another instance of “democracy,” where not only is an employer allowed to be the Chairman of the Standing Orders of this Union, contrary to rule, but without any mandate from the branches, allowed a resolution to be placed before the conference condemning the Minority Movement. Another instance of “democracy” was the National Committee of the A.E.U. where Messrs. Pitt and Lawrence, of London, without any mandate from their District or Divisional Committee, brought a resolution condemning the Minority Movement, and on their return to London were promptly repudiated by the Divisional Committee which had appointed them as representatives, and by the London District Committee.
We could go on for quite a long time giving Mr. Citrine examples of his own peculiar type of “democracy.”
The rôle of the Minority Movement is to save the unions from the disruption caused by the existing leadership, which stands for a multiplicity of unions, which has no common policy, which opposes effective amalgamations of the workers’ forces, but which is in favour of working with the employers to help reconstruct the very capitalist system which is responsible for the present misery of trade unionists.
“The method usually employed is to undermine confidence in the Union Executive and officials; to vilify, abuse and misrepresent them; to exploit unscrupulously every grievance in order to divide the rank and file against the officials.”
Let us admit that Mr. Citrine knows all there is to be known about the art of vilification, abuse and misrepresentation, and that is why these words come so readily from his pen. The Minority Movement is opposed to the existing leadership of the trade unions because this leadership jeopardises the interests of the working-class, as demonstrated in the results of its policy since the end of the war.
There is no need for the Minority Movement to undermine the workers’ confidence in the T. U. leaders, because their own actions has this effect.
What confidence can the workers in the Dyeing Section of the Textile industry have in their present leaders, after the recent exhibition of disunity on the very eve of the posting of strike notices? What confidence can the transport workers have in a leadership that is unable to state a common policy for all the unions in the road and rail powers’ controversy? What confidence can there be in a leadership that has united with Mond, the admirer of Fascism, and made a united front with the employers to try and smash Cook, because he dared fight Mondism?
The Minority Movement would be lacking in its duty if it did not expose these things. It does not divide the rank and file against the officials where the officials are acting in the interests of the workers. Many prominent national and local trade union officials are connected with us and endorse our policy in the trade unions.
“The fantastic policy of promoting reckless general and partial strikes has destroyed unions in other countries, split their ranks into fragments and brought about chaos.”
This is delightfully general, again, with no facts in support of the assertion. The Minority Movement does not advocate a policy of “promoting reckless strikes,” neither does the Red International of Labour Unions. In fact, at the last Congress of the R.I.L.U., conduct of certain strikes was closely examined and mistakes openly admitted. Such open admissions Citrine cannot understand. The British General Council’s way is never to admit mistakes, and never to let the workers know the truth (what did Mr. Thomas say when he brought the Samuel Memorandum to the General Council on the Tuesday the General Strike was called off?).
One of the mistakes pointed out at the R.I.L.U. Congress was the under-estimation of the necessity for making effective preparations for strike action, and instances were given where the International had strongly criticised certain sections for their failure to make adequate preparations. In another case the preparations were made, the workers were ready, but our own comrades were hesitant in calling a strike; the International insisted on a strike taking place because the situation was ripe—the strike took place and was successful.
Did the Minority Movement urge the General Council to use the nine months from August, 1925, to May, 1926, as a preparation period to organise all our forces, to defend the miners? Of course it did, our appeals are on record. Does this show a “fantastic policy of promoting reckless strikes?” Was it the Minority Movement who called out the Covent Garden porters, promised them to stop the ships and trains that were bringing fruit and vegetables into the country, and then never attempted to fulfil this promise, or was it Mr. Citrine’s friends, Tillett and Bevin? Was not this strike defeated because the Union had no policy at all, and are not conditions in Covent Garden worse to-day than they have been for a decade?
We advocate strikes in certain circumstances and conditions, and always indicate what preparatory measures should be taken, and the issues on which the fight should be conducted. We regard strikes as intense class conflicts in which we have to manuvre, plan and utilise our forces strategically and far from being promoters of “fantastic strikes,” will give a lead on the conduct of strikes, for the first time in the Trade Union history of this country, when the Minority Movement discusses the whole question of strike strategy at its Annual Conference, for the purpose of formulating a clear policy on strikes, their preparation, organisation and conduct.
The Paris Congress of the International Federation of Trade Unions last August revealed the fact that the Reformists Oudegeest and Jouhaux were prepared to smash international trade union unity rather than allow the militant workers to get the majority in a united International, and perhaps some day the letter of Alfred Thomas, Secretary of the International Labour Office at Geneva, will be published, in which (writing from the Balkans on the eve of the Greek Trade Union Congress where he found that the revolutionary workers were going to get the majority) he recommended the I.F.T.U. to split the Greek Trade Union Movement in order to prevent this taking place.
Mr. Citrine can be supplied with much more material to show who have been the splitters on the Continent, and who are the splitters in the Miners’ Union in Scotland at the present time.
“Such advocacy is forced by the Red International upon Communist and Minority leaders, sometimes against their own convictions. ”
We wonder whether Mr. Citrine ever forces his convictions upon those stalwart fighters on the General Council: Miss Varley, or Messrs. Boothman, Ogden, Davenport, etc. This pious humbug makes us sick, especially when we know how the game is wangled on the General Council, and all the little moves that are made to score a particular point.
An International Congress is a gathering where workers from every country exchange their experiences, give their views, and report on the economic situation in the various countries. Naturally there are certain common features, and the sum total of experiences exchanged makes it possible to lay down a certain line of policy. Once that policy is decided it is for the whole International to carry it out, even though certain sections may have opposed it.
Is there anything wrong in this? Are we only to be internationalists on condition that Britishers can have all their own way?
If the E.C. of the Red International reads of a decision made by the Executive of the Minority Movement and thinks that decision wrong, has the E.C. of the Red International to be silent for fear of being accused of interfering in the international affairs of this country? If it did it would not be an International at all, but a replica of the Amsterdam Punch and Judy show of which Mr. Citrine is about to become President.
For example, the Executive of the Minority Movement last year recommended the trades councils to sign the General Council document; some members were against signing, but the majority of the Executive were for. The Executive of the R.I.L.U. pointed out that this would lead to the General Council using the trades councils simply as pawns, and for doing the donkey work in the Movement without giving them any real power within the T.U.C. or on the General Council. This forecast has actually been fulfilled, and now many of the trades councils that signed the document have seen clearly what is the real policy of the General Council, and they are once more affiliating to the M.M. Our Annual Conference will no doubt decide that during the coming year we shall work for the re-affiliation of all trades councils to the Minority Movement.
It is only upon such a basis of joint mutual criticism and assistance that any real International can be built up. It ensures the building up of a Movement that can in a very real sense claim to be part of a world movement, in which all sections have equal rights and claims, but in which once policy has been decided upon the whole movement goes forward on the basis of that policy, even though it may not be in accord with the personal opinions of certain sections or individuals.
This is a method of co-operative working, loyalty, and discipline that Mr. Citrine, being one of “God’s own Englishmen,” cannot understand.
“Unions in other countries have set their face against these disruptionists and unions in Great Britain are similarly retaliating vigorously against the Communist and Minority Movement reactionaries.”
It is true that the fight against us is pretty intense; at the moment it is also unequal. The machine is in the hands of our opponents. By resorting to every despicable tactic their fertile minds (in this direction) can conceive of, they have been able to get many official decisions against us.
They endeavour to prevent our correspondence being read in trade union branches; they forbid delegates to be elected to attend our conferences; they request delegates for office to sign forms stating that they have no connection with us, etc., etc.; but is this stopping the capitalist offensive against the workers and improving their conditions, or does it tend towards the stabilisation of British capitalism?
For a time by frightening middle-aged trade unionists into believing that if they vote for the M. M. they are endangering their superannuation and sick benefit, the offensive against us may be successful, but only for a time.
The basic factors of British capitalism are such that the class struggle between the workers and their exploiters must intensify. Capitalist successses and stabilisation in this country can only be achieved by a terrific driving-down of the workers’ standards on a wholesale scale. The number of workers involved in these attacks are so large that the simple trade union struggle of yesterday has become a political struggle, in which by resisting the attacks of the capitalists the workers are undermining the stability of the whole capitalist system.
The leaders of the trade unions have therefore to face this position, either to accept the full implications of the present situation, which means they must become a class leadership and organise a class fight, or they must become the agents of capitalism and co-operate with the capitalists in an endeavour to reconstruct “peacefully” the capitalist system.
They have chosen the latter and by their present policy they are leading the trade unions straight along the road to new wage reductions, increased exploitation, increased unemployment, and new wars. The mass of the workers are unaware of these things now; for a time they may continue to follow the Citrine leadership, but many of the best workers have long ago seen what this policy means, and their number is being added to rapidly. The Citrine leadership is the most dangerous factor in British trade unionism; in essence it means fraternisation with the class enemy to reconstruct capitalism, and attacks upon the Communist and Minority Movement supporters in order to justify the faith and trust that the Mond group of capitalists place in their agents.
We would like to put one or two questions to Mr. Citrine to test his alleged desire to save the movement from disruption. How is it that he quite freely attacks the M.M. but dares not give a straight lead on many fundamental issues? What unions does he recommend non-unionists to join in an industry where rival unions exist?
What policy does he recommend the trade unionists in the transport industry to follow in regard to the Road v. Rail issue? What has he to say to the Lancashire textile workers, with all their multiplicity of unions and rival policies, beyond congratulating Baldwin on his “courageous and timely speech?” Why was not the struggle of the Lancashire and Yorkshire operatives ever discussed by the General Council? What should be done in the Notts coalfield now?
What are the prospects for British capitalism, and also the outlook for trade unionism, and what should be done in the present situation to defend the interests of the workers?
These are not questions that emanate from Moscow, but directly arise from the day to day issues confronting the British workers, issues on which Citrine has not the courage to express any opinion, because, if he did, he would be repudiated for interfering in the internal affairs of affiliated unions, all of which claim the right to pursue their own affairs irrespective of the effects upon the working class as a whole. For example, Citrine dares not publicly express any opinion upon the action of his friend, J. H. Thomas, in negotiating a reduction in wages behind the backs of the railway craft unions and without consulting the craft unions at all.
But the leaders who would not let him give answers to theabove questions are quite content to use him as a servile tool to attack the M. M.
The Minority Movement is not a disruptive organisation, to-day it alone stands for the fullest democracy in the trade unions. It is not hostile to trade unionism, it is hostile to the Citrine type of leadership, which is wrecking trade unionism. It stands for organised activity inside the trade union movement to win the support of the masses for the constructive proposals that it puts forward as a result of analyses, discussions and consultation on the part of serious-minded workers.
The historic rôle of trade unionism is to fight for the defence and betterment of the workers’ standards, and ultimately to prepare for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism (the cause of the workers’ poverty and degradation) and the establishment of workers’ control of industry.
We propose the following policy as one best calculated to reorganise the trade union movement to fit it to carry out these tasks:—
1. 100 per cent. Trade Unionism: The formation wherever possible of Factory Committees.
2. The reorganisation of the trades’ councils to transform them into local unifying centres of the working-class movement.
3. Fight to change the existing leadership of the trade unions.
4. Amalgamation of kindred unions, as a basis for formation of one union for each industry.
5. Affiliation of N.U.W.C.M. and Trades Councils to the T.U.C. with representatives on the General Council.
6. Abolition of bloc vote at T.U.C. and full rights for all minority opinions; General Council to be elected by delegates from those present at Congress.
7. One united trade union international.
8. United resistance to any further attacks on trade uui0n standards. Forward programme of demands for higher wages: Seven-hour day and five-day week, with no reduction in wages. Fullest safeguards for those compelled to work piece work or any system of payment by results, whilst campaigning for the abolition of all such systems. More effective safeguards and protective machinery against workshop dangers. Rest pauses for those engaged in particularly dangerous and exhaustive tasks. Repudiation of all forms of class collaboration schemes, profit sharing, co-partnership schemes, etc. Intensive propaganda for socialism with the nationalisation of all fundamental industries, without compensation and with workers control of industry.
This is our reply to Citrine and his “fourteen points”—our ideas of working-class democracy as against his working-class disruption. He stands for class collaboration and war on the militants who oppose it—we stand for the class struggle as the only means of attaining Socialism. The issue is clearly before the workers, and we call upon them with ever-increasing confidence to demonstrate to Citrine and the leadership he typifies, that they identify themselves with the historic rôle of trades unionism—the Socialist fight against Capitalism—and repudiate the leaders who seek to betray it.