Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Militant, 7 February 1949

N. Henri

World Trade Union Body –
A Pawn in the Cold War

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 6, 7 February 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


PARIS – After a little more than three years existence, the World Federation of Trade Unions has undergone a split.

At its foundation, the WFTU might have appeared as a powerful force from which the world working class could derive great benefit. Never had the trade union movement known such an international organization. Moreover, it was organized at the very moment when virtually the majority of the working class throughout the world was regrouping in trade unions.

No one stayed outside the ranks of the WFTU except the reacti0ary officialdom of the American Federation of Labor. Alongside the British trade unions, the CIO, the French General Confederation of Labor and the Soviet trade unions (which, so far as trade Unionism is concerned, are one of the Kremlin’s instruments for oppressing the Soviet masses) there were grouped in the WFTU a whole series of trade union organizations of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, first powerful expression of the young workers’ movement in those lands.

What is the balance sheet of this trade union international? Up to the time of the official split, after the split had already occurred on a national basis in several countries, it is necessary to say flatly that from the viewpoint of the interests of the working people, its record it absolutely shameful

Some examples:

The WFTU sent delegations, notably to Greece. But the WFTU did not organize any action whatever to help the Greek workers. It did not organize any action to help the workers of Spain. It did not organize any action against the War on the Indo-Chinese people. It did not even dream of lifting a little finger for the Indonesian people although it would appear that in this case neither Washington nor Moscow would be opposed.

Silent During Strikes

The WFTU Was silent during the big strikes in the United States and during all the other big workers’ struggles.

The WFTU not only said nothing in behalf of the German and Japanese workers; insofar as its sections were involved in action, it was to collaborate with the military governments to try to create domestic organizations in these countries which, while calling themselves trade unions, were deprived of all rights in the question of wages.

The WFTU did nothing to support the trade union movement in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. On the contrary, it encouraged the reactionary currents in France and Great Britain who wished to convert trade unionism in the colonies into a simple appendage of the movements in the imperialist countries.

Part of Cold War

And why the split? Because a revolutionary tendency opposed a reactionary tendency? Not at all. Today’s split is only a part of the cold war. When the “Big Three” reached an understanding at Yalta and Potsdam, the trade union bureaucrats of these powers, thick as thieves with their rulers, also reached an understanding. Their aim was to get the masses to accept the governmental decisions and thus turn the masses back into the framework of the old order of things – submission to capitalist exploitation or the oppression of the Kremlin.

When the “Big Three” quarrelled, the trade union officials took up the quarrel of their masters. If tomorrow Washington and Moscow make another deal, then we’ll again see the trade union bureaucrats getting together. It was with this perspective in mind that the heads of the British trade unions presented their proposal for a one year’s suspension of business. In that time Truman and Stalin might reach an understanding, in which event the WFTU could continue its tranquil little life.

Stalinists Indifferent

The heads of the Soviet trade unions and the other Stalinist trade union chieftains could gain nothing at present from such a proposition. A year ago they could still agree to a compromise on the' question of the Marshall Plan; because, dominating the French CGT and the Italian CGT, they were anxious to avoid a split. They could still derive all the advantages of their positions without too much inconvenience. But now that the split is an accomplished fact on the national scale, what difference does it make to them if there is a split that leaves them formally owners of the name of an international organization?

As for the interests of the working people, none of the bureaucrats – those of the “Russian party” as well as those of the “American party” – have any interest in such matters.

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 5 March 2024