On the Question of the Trade Unions and their Organization

1 April 1920


1. The general situation and the general tasks of the trade unions in the epoch of the proletarian dictatorship
Under the dictatorship of the proletariat the trade unions cease being organs which struggle against the capitalist ruling class as sellers of labour and are converted into the apparatus of working-class rulers. The tasks of the trade unions are principally organizational: economic and educational.

The trade unions must carry out these tasks not as a self-contained and organizationally isolated force but as one of the fundamental apparatuses of the Soviet state, guided by the Communist Party. Only this condition will ensure the maximum stability of the whole system of the proletarian dictatorship as well as maximum productivity.


1. The Soviet state is an extremely variegated and all-encompassing form of workers' organization which is in practice building communism and involving ever-broader masses of the peasantry in this work. On the other hand, the Soviet state is a workers' organization which has at its disposal all the material instruments of compulsion. Being a proletarian dictatorship, the Soviet state is a lever of economic revolution. Therefore, there can be no possibility of any opposition between the trade unions and the organs of Soviet power.

2. Politics is the most concentrated expression of economics, its generalization, and its culmination. Therefore, any opposition between the trade unions, as the economic organization of the working class, and the soviets, as its political organization, is completely absurd and is a deviation from marxism in the direction of bourgeois - specifically, bourgeois tradeunionist -prejudices. Such an opposition is especially absurd and harmful in the epoch of the proletarian dictatorship when its whole struggle, its whole activity - both economic and political - must be unified more than ever before, must be concentrated and directed by a single will, bound together in an iron unity.

3. As a school of communism and a link between the vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party, and the most backward masses of the proletariat, those who are not yet entirely free of the old shop and trade union narrow- mindedness, the trade unions must educate, organize culturally, politically, and administratively, must raise these masses to the communist level and train them for the role of creators of the communist order which the Soviet state is bringing into being. In this the trade unions act as the historically determined form of the proletarian dictatorship.

4. Therefore, the first requirement is for a closer tie between the Soviet apparatus and the trade union apparatus. Since the Soviet power is the broadest possible organization and one which concentrates the whole social power of the proletariat, it is clear that with the expansion of communist consciousness and of the creative role of the masses, the trade unions must be gradually converted into auxiliary organs of the proletarian state, and not the other way around.

5. By adopting this course the trade unions will fulfil their most important function, the economic-administrative function, entering the Soviet organizations and saturating them, in this way becoming increasingly the foundation of Soviet economic apparatuses.


1. The Communist Party is the organization of the vanguard of the working class, the leader of the proletarian movement and of the struggle for a communist order.

2. The party exerts its influence on the broad non-party strata of toilers through the communist fractions and cells in all other worker organizations, especially in the trade unions. The dictatorship of the proletariat and the building of socialism are ensured only to the extent that the trade unions, while formally remaining non-party, become communist in their essence and carry out Communist Party policy.

3. Therefore, each trade union must contain a disciplined and organized communist fraction. Each party fraction is a part of a local organization and subordinated to a party committee, while the fraction in the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions is subordinated to the Central Committee of the RKP. All decrees of the All-Russian Central Trade Union Council relating to the conditions and organization of work are binding on all trade union organizations and on party members working in them and may not be repealed by any party organs other than the party Central Committee. The local committees, while entirely responsible for directing the ideological work of the trade unions, must in no way resort to petty tutelage over them. The relations between local party committees and trade union fractions are regulated precisely by the appropriate paragraphs of the party Rules.


1. Since the trade unions organize the workers according to major production branches, and are thereby directly connected with production, and therefore extremely competent organizations in each production branch, they form the underlying foundation of the economic organizations which direct industry.

2. This is manifested in the fact that the trade unions, without being an isolated organization and in no way being the complete and exclusive directors of the economy of the Soviet republic, none the less participate from top to bottom in the organization of production. However, no trade union organization interferes directly in the functioning of enterprises.

3. The lowest-level trade union cell is the factory committee. Without interfering in the administration of the enterprise, the factory committee fulfils the following functions: it helps to improve labour discipline and to this end uses all measures up to comradely courts of discipline; in addition to general propaganda, it conducts propaganda for productive labour; it involves the workers in workers' inspection; it trains the workers and interests them in understanding the role of the factory (through reports and speeches etc.); it helps in the selection of worker administrators, watches over the activities of rates and conflicts commissions, etc.

4. The trade unions participate in the factory administration by forming such administrations by agreement with the appropriate organs of the Supreme Council of the National Economy. In this the electoral principle yields to that of selection on the basis of the candidate's practical experience, technical competence, firmness, organizational capacity, and business sense.

5. The raion administrations and factory administrations consist of persons appointed by agreement between the central committee of the corresponding union, on the one hand, and the board of the glavk [central board] and the centre on the other, or (in the case of direct subordination to the Supreme Council of the National Economy) by agreement with the latter's presidium and with its final sanction.

6. The boards (presidiums) of guberniia councils on the economy are appointed by agreement between the guberniia trade union council and the gubemiia executive committee; the glavks and centres are appointed by agreement between the trade union central committee and the corresponding section of the Supreme Council of the National Economy. Finally, the latter itself, inasmuch as candidates to its presidium are appointed by the congress of economic councils, is formed with the very intimate participation of the trade unions.

7. Other leading economic organizations such as, for example, those in charge of the mobilization, distribution, registration, and protection of labour (Labour glavk and others) are formed in a similar way.

Thus, in all links of the industrial administration and in the national economic administration generally, the trade unions have a particularly important role, one which will steadily increase with the rising level of the working class as a whole.


1. The defeat of the white armies and the peaceful construction efforts required by the unbelievably catastrophic condition of the economy demand an entirely unprecedented concentration of the forces of the proletariat and the involvement of the broad peasant masses in social labour. Therefore, all apparatuses of the trade unions must take part in this intense and excessively difficult struggle for economic regeneration.

2. Accordingly, the methods and themes of trade union work must be radically changed If the proletariat, as a class, is being confronted with the task of adopting the system of 'war work,' i.e., one of maximum accuracy, effectiveness, responsibility, rapidity, and intensity, together with selflessness and self-sacrifice on the part of the workers, then this must above all apply to the organs of industrial administration in general and, consequently, of the trade unions.

3. Like the guiding proletarian party, the trade unions must reorganize their own apparatus, first of all eliminating all remnants of slovenliness and introducing discipline and the strictest business spirit as well as complete accountability for the fulfilment of every assignment.

4. The trade unions must assume the task of explaining to broad working-class circles the full necessity of restructuring the apparatus of industrial administration, making it more elastic and businesslike; this can be attained only by a maximum reduction in the numbers of boards of administration and by the gradual introduction of direct one-man administration of production units.

In this agitation it is necessary to give special prominence to the following points:

a. one-man management cannot be counterposed to worker management; on the contrary, the most economic and widespread exercise of worker management requires one-man management, since a given number of worker-administrators is spread, in this case, over a large number of factories;

b. one-man management in no way violates or limits either the rights of class or the 'rights' of the trade unions, for a class can rule in any suitable form whatever, and the form is determined by technical expediency; in each case, the ruling class as a whole [aka the Communist Party] 'appoints' the people who direct and administer;

c. one-man management presupposes selection of competent people and assures a maximum of businesslike and responsible arrangements;

d. one-man management, even in cases where a specialist is in charge, is in the final analysis a manifestation of the proletarian dictatorship, which not only sees to it that work proceeds along specific lines, but also exercises supervision in the form of worker commissars;

e. one-man management does not rule out the enlistment of the broad worker masses in the concerns of management; it simply distinguishes the functions of immediate management from those of training, which latter should comprise an entirely separate branch of activity and a separate task. This distinction has become an absolute necessity at the present moment. On the other hand, it is completely incorrect to enlist the masses in management in the form of joint management bodies composed of three or five persons.

5. One of the particularly important tasks of the trade unions is to train the officers' corps of our industry from among the workers, i.e., the question of technical vocational training. Enlisting the broad working masses in this effort, training them, labour propaganda, etc., remain in the forefront, for without a solution of these tasks labour can not move forward, and without such an advance a rebirth of our country's economic life on socialist principles is impossible.

6. The Congress believes that today, more than ever before, the party must devote the most serious attention to strengthening trade unions, and above all to reinforcing their staffs with infusions of the most devoted and steadfast Communists, and preferably those who have been through the stern school of the Civil War. The party must give a resolute rebuff to all attempts whatsoever to reduce to nothing the role and importance of the trade unions.

Resolved: April 1, 1920
First Published: Spravochnik partiinogo robotnika 1,38-40
Source: KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh 2, 150-179
Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins
Copyleft: Soviet History Archive (marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.