Red International of Labor Unions

Problems of Strike Strategy

Decisions of the International Conference on Strike Strategy

Held in Strassburg, Germany, January, 1929


Revolutionary strike strategy—the strategy which must be worked out and applied by the Trade Union Unity League and its affiliated unions—is designed to secure the victory of the working class both in its everyday “bread and butter” struggles and in the political struggles into which every serious economic conflict now develops almost from the first day of battle.

The American working class, facing the most powerfully organized and the best technically equipped ruling class in the world, has the greatest need for studying its own struggles, learning their strong and weak points, and above all studying the rich experiences of the great conflicts that have taken place since the world war and the Russian Revolution between workers and their robber rulers in the principal imperialist and colonial countries.

Especially must we study and draw the lessons from the tremendous class conflicts now in progress, conflicts which shake the whole imperialist world, class battles that are widened and sharpened to revolutionary keeness by the world economic crisis.

To carry out the greatest mobilization of workers for each separate conflict, to be able to mass the whole striking power of our class on the weakest point of the enemy front in decisive conflicts, to carry through the offensive and consolidate our gains—these are the tasks of a revolutionary strike strategy.

First and foremost our strike strategy must be such as to achieve the maximum immediate results from each separate struggle while guaranteeing that no struggle remains isolated from the general direction of the class struggle as a whole. It is here that the revolutionary unions of the Trade Union Unity League (T.U.U.L.) come into sharpest conflict with the opportunist conception of strike strategy within our own ranks, which sees immediate “gains” for workers from the standpoint of the social reformists. This conception makes a false and mechanical distinction between the daily economic interests of the masses and the revolutionary aims, of the working class as a whole, that must be brought forward in every struggle.

No such distinction exists except in the minds of those who see a contradiction between the struggle for the everyday economic demands and the revolutionary necessity of connecting them with the proletarian struggle for power.

The problem of building the revolutionary unions of the T.U.U.L—the American Section of the Red International of Labor Unions—as well as the problem of building a mass Communist Party in the United States is largely a question of a correct strike strategy. With this is bound up the problem of destroying the reformist illusions of the American Federation of Labor and the social fascists of its Muste wing whose program is that of the Socialist Party.

Both of these problems are inseparable from the main problem of winning the majority of the decisive sections of the working class for Communism. Seen from this standpoint the importance of the question of working out and applying a correct strike strategy is brought clearly into the foreground—for our Party, for the revolutionary trade unions and for our whole class.

“It is clear that we must show the workers that we know not only how to make a revolution, but also how to lead and direct their movements for partial demands. But the chief thing we must realize ... is that the road from the social-democrats to us lies through the trade unions, through the trade union opposition, through the revolutionary trade unions, through the mass organizations (factory committees, strike committees, committees of unemployed, etc.)”—Communist International, page 48, vol. VII, No. 2-3.

In other words our leadership of the revolutionary struggle of our class can be won only through the capable leadership of struggles for partial demands, through our ability to organize and lead the struggles of mass organizations of workers for partial demands. It is at best extremely doubtful whether any considerable number of workers will believe in our ability “to make a revolution” unless we can organize and lead the smaller but necessary struggles which arise out of rationalization, and in which we must be able to convince workers of the necessity of engaging in higher forms of struggle.

The resolutions and decisions of the International Conference on Strike Strategy held in Strassburg, called by the Executive Bureau of the Red International of Labor Unions (R.I.L.U.) embody in concrete form the experiences and lessons of the class struggle on a world scale. Self criticism in the Leninist sense was the method used to determine the weaknesses and the strength of the proletarian forces involved in a whole series of struggles.

As Comrade Lozovsky says in the “Foreword”: “We cannot limit ourselves to our forefathers’ wisdom; we, as revolutionary dialecticians, must direct our attention to new factors, new situations, and base ourselves on these new factors in analyzing these problems. Facts themselves have proven that the reformist trade union bureaucracy has become a part of the bourgeois government, having the special function of breaking strikes. This being so, we must seek ways and means of carrying on the economic struggle without and despite the reformist trade union bureaucracy.”

New forms and methods of struggle are necessary. Worker readers will find in this pamphlet a description of the new forms and methods which have developed out of the sharpening class struggle in this imperialist epoch—and also how to organize and use them.

The united front from below appears in its most concrete form in almost every section of the resolutions and decisions of the Strassburg conference.

Out of these new forms and methods of struggle, and the masses of the working class whose weapons they are, out of the struggle itself, develop the new and necessary forces to lead the growing conflicts which more and more become struggles against capitalism and its government—political struggles in which the problem of power is raised in one form or another.

In “New Tactics and New Forces” Lenin wrote in 1905:

“From all sides one hears with equal frequency passionate appeals for new forces and complaints of the absence of people in the organizations, and at the same time a gigantic offer of services, a growth of young forces, especially among the working class . . . . . The practical organizer who complains of shortage of people in such conditions cannot see the wood for the trees, admits that he is blinded by events, that it is not he, the revolutionary, who dominates them . . . . but that they are dominating him or have overwhelmed him. Such an organizer would be well advised to keep quiet, or to leave his place free for young forces, which have energy . . . . There are people, there is a mass of people. We have only to throw overboard our ‘tailist’ ideas and teachings to give space for action and initiative, and then we shall prove ourselves worthy representatives of the great revolutionary class.”

More forces are needed but they can come only from the ranks of the new contingents of the working class that are marching into struggle. Correct strike strategy correctly applied will bring forward the needed forces. Tried and tested by its ability to use the new forms and methods of struggle, the revolutionary leadership of our class develops out of the class struggle and collective experiences, similar to those from which axe drawn the practical conclusions of the Strassburg conference.

The American working class will reap a rich harvest from the study of this pamphlet and in turn, by applying the lessons herein contained, will be able to add to its growing sum of achievements in the United States and give revolutionary proletarian aid to the millions of workers and colonial peoples who are marching forward under the revolutionary banners of the Communist International and the Red International of Labor Unions.

Next: Foreword