Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 1

The Unemployed and
the Trade Unions

IN EVERY country the bourgeoisie is now turning the unemployed against workers organized in trade unions with the object of undermining the discipline of those organizations, reducing wages and introducing demoralization amongst the proletariat. Our task, the task of the Communist International and the revolutionary International Union of Trade Unions consists in mobilizing unemployment and the unemployed for the struggle against capitalist society. But the first immediate barricade or the most advanced trench of the capitalist state is that of the apparatus and the leading organs of the major trade unions in nearly all the leading capitalist countries. To take this first trench is the immediate and fundamental task of the revolutionary proletariat. It is impossible to topple a bourgeois government while you have trade unions led by agents of that same bourgeoisie. The mighty force which holds up the old organizations of the trade unions is the organizational automatism and conservatism, that inner equilibrium and self-confidence which evolved as the result of years and decades of the trade unions’ gradual growth and consolidation and of their leaders’ acquisition of corresponding habits. But now all the conditions, the whole situation and above all the entire economic state of civilized mankind remove any stability from under the trade unions. The growing number of unemployed and the increase in unemployment represent powerful factors which undermine the stability of the whole of bourgeois society including above all the conservative trade unions. The task of communists consists in fighting, by skilfully leading the unemployed as a section of the proletariat, to smash the rule of those conservative cliques who hold the power of the trade unions in their hands. It is precisely for this reason that the question of unemployment must be placed at the centre of the attention of the communist parties. Agitation around the unemployment question must acquire a concentrated character. The Communist Party, its press, the communist fraction in parliament, and the communist cells in the trade unions must play one and the same note, awaken the attention of the working masses to the fact of unemployment, put forward the same demands and demand day in and day out that the trade unions wage a clear-cut campaign against bourgeois society on behalf of the interests of the unemployed and at the same time of the working class as a whole. Such a concentrated struggle on an international scale with common leading slogans will without doubt rally the masses.

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First 5 Years of the Comintern (Vol.1) Index

History of the Communist International Section

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Last updated on: 15.1.2007