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Kurt Landau

New Turn in German Trade Union Tactics

(December 1929)

Throughout the World of Labor, The Militant, Vol. III No. 2, 11 January 1930, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The convention of the revolutionary trade union opposition met in Berlin on November 30 and December 1.

This convention, which the German Communist Party prepared for many months, had at the beginning, a very specific aim. It was that of creating in Germany a sort of minority movement in the trade unions, of reuniting into a red bloc the opposition existing in the various organizations and thus to establish the first condition for the creation of new trade unions in Germany.

But in the course of the preparations for the convention, a series of experiences showed the German C.P. the contrast that existed between its theses on “the radicalization of the masses” and the reality.

A series of strikes led by the party and the revolutionary trade union opposition remained isolated and were concluded with heavy defeats. The hope of arousing a chain of solidarity strikes by simply starting strikes at certain points, collapsed lamentably, and had to collapse because – without even considering all the tactical errors committed – the radicalization had not attained, in the German proletariat, the degree that presupposes the leadership of the party.

The leadership was incapable of drawing this lesson from the experiences of recent months but it nevertheless had to recognize that experiences such as that of the pipe-layers do not strengthen the influence of the party on the masses, but on the contrary reduce this influence substantially. It should then have had to adopt a different policy at the convention of the revolutionary trade union opposition, which ought to be the beginning of the elimination of new organizations; but the leadership maintained its estimate of the situation and its false evaluation of the processes of regroupment in the masses; in this way it only increased the prevailing confusion.

There were 1,122 delegates at the convention, of whom 27 were from enterprises employing from three to ten thousand work-era, and 25 delegates from big factories of more than ten thousand workers. But the great majority of the delegates had not been elected by genuine workers’ meetings but merely chosen in small meetings of the opposition where, in most of the instances, only a fraction of the workers in the factory were present. It is therefore a great exaggeration to say that these delegates represented two million workers.

Nevertheless, the convention although entirely dominated by the party, could have marked the beginning of a broad front of proletarian defense against the serious offensive of capital, on the condition that the situation were correctly estimated. The principal report was made by the famous trade union strategist, Merker, member of the Central Committee of the C.P.G. He duly outlined the progress of rationalization, the brutal offensive of the bosses but he had nothing to say of “the revolutionary wave”, of the powerful proletarian counter-offensive, of the “storming battles” of the working class that the Wedding Congress of the Party still announced in June. The delegates had still less to say about it. Their speeches indicated a profound fury against the reformists, the terrible consequences of the brutal employers’ dictatorship, they showed everything save the impetuous drive of the masses of which the leadership of the party speaks daily.

The attitude of the English delegate representing the Red International of Labor Unions who, at the beginning of the congress was not yet acquainted with the tactical reversal, proved very well how surprising was the sharp turn and consequently, how disconcerting; the new zig-zag of the Executive Committee of the Communist International came so brusquely as to thwart the plans of Losovsky who had first intended to come to the convention himself. Under these conditions, the turn that has just been acknowledged was not a renunciation of the false tactic of the C.I. and of the C.C. of the German Party. Added to the wrong estimate of the situation, which is not abandoned, pinned on a system of erroneous methods that prevent the mobilization of the masses, this reversal leaves the door open to any kind of an interpretation and to all adventurist and opportunist digressions.

Berlin, December, 1929


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