It was only in the five years from 1920 to 1924 that Rosmer, somewhat reluctantly, took on a leadership rôle in the Communist movement. His account of this period in Lenin’s Moscow is readily available, so we have endeavoured to avoid overlap and to concentrate on the relatively little known area of Rosmer’s rôle in the founding of the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern). This was an important part of the effort to draw syndicalists and anarchists into the orbit of the Comintern. This is introduced by an extract from Reiner Tosstorff’s habilitation (post-doctoral) thesis on the RILU, which describes the events of the founding congress. (All notes in this section are Tosstorff’s, except where indicated.) Then we give Rosmer’s speech to the congress. In this he makes a strong defence of the positive aspects of the syndicalist tradition, while at the same time advocating close links between the RILU and the Comintern. The open atmosphere of debate still present in 1921 is shown by the fact that Rosmer can permit himself open, though fraternal, criticism of Zinoviev (who had pulled out of the congress at the last minute). There is also a short article from L’Humanité in which Rosmer presents the RILU to French readers. In addition, an article from 1923 on the Schlageter case and Radek’s notorious speech gives an indication of how Rosmer was evaluating the new phenomenon of fascism.
Marguerite Rosmer played an important rôle in organising French solidarity with the victims of the Russian famine. Her articles in L’Humanité give a vivid picture of a side of revolutionary Russia which, as she points out, was not seen by those who only attended conferences.
Rosmer’s own account of the period of 1920-24 can be found in Lenin’s Moscow, originally published in Paris in 1953; English translation, London, 1971; second revised edition, London, 1987. It was previously excerpted in New International, Volume 21, no 2, Summer 1955, pp98-119; Volume 21, no 3, Fall 1955, pp188-97; Volume 21, no 4, Winter 1955-56, pp236-9; and Volume 22, Summer 1956, pp133‑5, and was reviewed by Albert Glotzer, ‘Moscow under Lenin by Alfred Rosmer’, New International, Volume 19, no 5, September/October 1953, pp299-30.
Other texts by Rosmer from this period include A Rosmer, ‘Fraternal Greetings to the First Session of the Second World Congress of the Comintern’, 19 July, 1920, in Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite: Proceedings of the Second Congress, Volume 1, New York, 1991, pp126-7, and A Rosmer, ‘British Imperialism and French Imperialism after the London Conference’, 23 August 1924, Labour Monthly, Volume 6, no 9, September 1924, pp535-43.
R Wohl, French Communism in the Making, 1914-1924 (Stanford, 1966) contains numerous references to Rosmer, whom the author interviewed in the early 1960s. Cf also Trotsky’s letters to Rosmer, November 1921 and 22 May 1922, in P Broué (ed), Le Mouvement communiste en France, Paris, 1967, pp131-4 and 178-81.
On the Red International of Labour Unions, in which Rosmer played an important rôle, cf W Thorpe, ‘The Workers Themselves’ (Amsterdam, 1989), and Reiner Tosstorff’s thesis ‘Moscow’ or ‘Amsterdam’? The Red International of Labour Unions 1920/21-1937. This is due to be published (in German) in Amsterdam next year. A summary of this thesis appears in Communist History Network Newsletter, no 8, July 2000.
For an account of the founding congress of the RILU, with summaries of Rosmer’s contributions, cf JT Murphy, The ‘Reds’ in Congress (London, 1921). For an account of meetings between Rosmer and the Russian anarcho‑syndicalists cf GP Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work (Chicago, 1940), pp440-3.
The Links Between the Comintern and the RILU
O begin with, the first sessions of the congress were entirely devoted to the usual preliminaries. After opening remarks in the name of the Provisional International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions by Lozovsky, and the installation of the chair, the secretariat and the credentials commission, speeches of greetings from Koenen for the Comintern, Tom Mann for the syndicalists, Rykov for the Russian unions, Sirolle for the French and a representative from Germany took up the first day. There were, of course, in the subsequent course of events frequent deviations from the agenda adopted at this time.
The subsequent proceedings were also initially determined by the demands of establishing the congress through the laying down of standing orders and the allocation of voting rights; in addition the tasks of producing a manifesto to the workers of the world and of addressing special appeals to the British workers (because of the miners’ strike in the spring) and to the Spanish workers (because of the terror in that country) were allocated. The substantive discussion was then embarked on, with the report on the activity of the Provisional International Council being delivered by Rosmer. In this Rosmer once again reported on the foundation of the Provisional International Council in the previous year, and sketched out the political direction in which some of the founders — Robert Williams, the CGL representatives — had gone in the meantime, and drew a positive balance-sheet of the influence that had already been achieved.
In the discussion his report was not fundamentally called into question. However, some speakers considered that the claims in respect of the numbers of supporters and degree of influence were exaggerated. Only Murphy pointed out that there had also been differences within the council — between the supporters of autonomous organisation and of fractional work in the IFTU — and criticised some mistakes, for example, the manifesto to the London Congress of the IFTU drawn up jointly with the Comintern. Representatives of the German Communist Party and the revolutionary unions used the opportunity to attack each other about the attitude to take towards the reformist unions. Finally, there was no opposition to Lozovsky’s proposal to set up a commission which would draw up a resolution approving the report. This was accepted on the final day without discussion. The points in Rosmer’s report which were disputed by a succession of delegates were instead taken up by them at the appropriate points on the agenda.
Rather more indication of the differences which would soon break out was given during the discussion of a manifesto from the congress ‘to the workers of the world’ which had been drawn up by Lozovsky. Here the speakers not only criticised it for being too long and general, but also because it would normally only have been issued at the end of the congress. Williams of the IWW also gave the reason for this: there were at least two tendencies, and it was first necessary to clarify the balance of forces. So the draft was referred to the chair, and in the last sessions of the congress a much tighter and less rhetorical text was presented and accepted without discussion.
One of the difficulties of the proceedings of the congress was that the following item — Lozovsky’s report on tasks and tactics — could at first be introduced only in Russian, and the prerequisite for any discussion of it — the production of translations into French, German and English — now made it necessary for the debate to be postponed for several days. In parallel with the speech in Russian, Varga had given the delegates speaking other languages a report on the world economy, which was modelled on his expositions to the Third Congress of the Comintern, and could not be developed further.
The arguments, already described, relating to the next session, about the allocation of the disputed mandates (from the USA, Canada, Germany and France), and also the general challenges to several national delegations, were then either settled or postponed, but they already offered a foretaste of the climax of the congress, which consisted of the confrontation between the syndicalists on the one hand and the Communist majority on the other. The discussion about the agenda item on the mutual relations between the Comintern and the RILU stretched over three days, from 9 to 11 July. This could not lead to direct membership of the Comintern on the part of the unions, as had originally been hoped, because substantial sections of the syndicalists rejected this, but for the Communist majority it meant finding as close as possible a connection between the trade union International and the International of the parties.
Rosmer introduced this discussion. Until the eve of the congress, it was intended that Zinoviev should deliver the main report. Rosmer was merely supposed to supplement him. But Zinoviev withdrew shortly before the congress opened, fearing, not without justification, that he would provoke the syndicalists. The entire job was entrusted to Rosmer, who was at first unwilling, but after intensive persuasion by Lozovsky, Mann — who supported him with an accompanying speech — and Trotsky, he finally accepted.
In his report, he again sketched out the formation of the Provisional International Council, showed how it had come into existence as a compromise between the conceptions of the Bolsheviks and the syndicalists, and contrasted the traditional perceptions of syndicalism, with the help of some remarks of Zinoviev’s, to the positions of the Bolsheviks, who were seeking cooperation. On the one hand, he defended the traditions of the Charte d’Amiens, which had been by no means based on a mere neutralism — somewhat after the model of the German trade unions — while on the other, he tried to make it clear to his syndicalist friends that the Bolsheviks were not a party in the traditional Social Democratic sense, but a revolutionary workers’ organisation, and as a result were not so very different from revolutionary syndicalism as it had developed before the World War. Hence it was not a question of subordinating the unions to the party. If the bourgeoisie was closing ranks, the revolutionaries in unions and parties must also group themselves into a united front. Therefore it was necessary to pronounce in favour of a permanent link between the two organisations.
Tom Mann did not add much to what he called Rosmer’s ‘exhaustive’ expositions. In his contribution, which was more a declaration of war on the ‘reformist bourgeoisification’ of the trade union movement than a discussion of the concrete question they were facing, he confined himself to a few examples from England.
Altogether 23 speakers intervened. The spearhead of the defence of the ‘independence of the unions’ was formed by the French, or strictly speaking by the majority of the French delegation, whose spokesperson on this item of the agenda was Sirolle. They put the stress on the French experience, which was that only trade unions could be genuine revolutionary workers’ organisations. Political parties, on the other hand, always tried to subordinate the unions and harness them to the parliamentary game. Hence the unions had to rely on their absolute independence. The cooperation being offered was nothing but a kind of superior subordination, that of the younger brother to the elder.
A broad-ranging spectrum of syndicalists and industrial unionists of the most varied shades, including the various German revolutionary unionists who were present, the IWW from the USA, Tom Barker for the Argentine and Uruguayan syndicalists, Arlandis for the CNT, and Bouwman for the Dutch Nationaal Arbeids‑Secretariat (NAS), followed the main line of his arguments. Opposing them were above all the Russians such as Lozovsky, Reinstein and the President of the miners’ union, Artem-Sergeev. They received support from representatives of the Western Communist parties, including the German and the Polish. They considered that the insistence of the syndicalists on the absolute independence of the unions was an evasion of the political demands that had been put on the agenda by the revolution. In this way, they would not appear united in face of the united bourgeoisie.
But in the apparently united front of the syndicalists, on listening closely, one could detect varying accents. In particular, the very first speaker in the debate, Arlandis, certainly declared that in accordance with its mandate the Spanish delegation was defending the independence of the RILU and thereby the interests of the whole syndicalist movement in the world. But he ended his speech by saying that they should thoroughly agree with the practical conclusion of Rosmer and Mann, which was to strive for a link with the Comintern. A similar stance was also visible in the case of Bouwman, although he explained that the question of the relationship to ‘Moscow’ was violently disputed within the NAS. But Tommasi from the minority of the French delegation placed himself clearly on the side of Rosmer and Mann, and he explicitly attacked Sirolle.
On the other hand, the position of the syndicalists increasingly took on a different accent as a result of the fact that in numerous contributions the independence of the unions became confused with the question of autonomous organisation. Here it was less a question of criticising the subordination of the unions to the party than of the rejection of an International which had taken a position in opposition to the withdrawal from the mass reformist trade unions. But this only concerned a certain group of countries, for example Germany or the USA, and was not relevant to France. Here the revolutionary minority in the CGT saw itself as the true CGT, and expected that it would soon form the majority.
Rosmer was able to refer to this disagreement within the syndicalist opposition in his summing up, after the debate had been concluded on a proposition from Rykov, when the arguments began to become more and more repetitive. When, as a result, he predicted the imminent disintegration of the opposition, he nonetheless had to note that a ‘very sharp, pronounced split’ had occurred at the congress. But in concluding, he expressed the hope that the proposed resolution offered enough latitude to enable the entry of all organisations into membership of the RILU.
This resolution argued for the close cooperation of all revolutionary organisations in the labour movement, and hence demanded the establishment of ‘organic and technical’ links between the RILU and the Comintern through reciprocal representation in the leading bodies, in order to make possible the carrying out of ‘joint and united’ revolutionary actions. (How this would look in concrete terms had then to be determined within the framework of the statutes.) It was this formula of the ‘organic link’ which in the following months provoked the opposition of the syndicalists. They saw in it a paraphrase for subordination, although in fact what was at issue was simply organisationally safeguarded cooperation. In opposition to this was a text proposed by the majority of the French delegation, which declared in favour of the fullest independence for the RILU, and rejected a ‘leadership on the level of ideas’ by the Comintern, but nonetheless was ready for cooperation ‘without any kind of subordination’.
A transparent manoeuvre by the German revolutionary unions, asking for the postponement of the vote until the Comintern congress had determined its position on the reciprocal links, collapsed in face of the counter-argument put forward by Nin that they could determine their position independently, and that otherwise they would in fact be subordinating themselves to the guidelines of the Comintern. Finally, a vote was taken on the two resolutions. In the final outcome, 287 voted for the position proposed by Rosmer, and 37 for the counter-proposal (the FORA (Argentina), the NAS, the French majority, the German minority, the delegates from the USA, and the Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation).
This highly successful vote revealed that this resolution was not merely carried by the Communist delegates, but was also based on their alliance with a section of the syndicalists who stood for close cooperation with the Bolsheviks. To this milieu belonged not only Rosmer and his fellow-rapporteur Tom Mann; the resolution had also been signed by the two representatives of the French minority, by Joe Knight from the Canadian One Big Union, and not least by Maurín and Nin from the CNT delegation (it also bore the signature of prominent Communist trade unionists from Russia, Germany and Czechoslovakia). After the vote, Nin, who had already read the resolution, spoke on behalf of these syndicalists, in a declaration by the Spanish delegation which formed the prelude to a series of comments on how they had voted: the Red International of Labour Unions must include all revolutionary unions. They could not withdraw from Russia, the centre of the world revolution. If they wanted cooperation — and seeking this had become their task — then they must accept the practical consequences, the reciprocal connections between the RILU and the Comintern. The subsequent statements by delegations expressed themselves in favour of the resolution that had been accepted; that the Dutch spoke in favour was surprising, inasmuch as the NAS delegation had voted against the resolution. But it was now said that this had only happened because that was what their mandate required. But fundamentally they were in agreement with the establishment of links between the two Internationals.
Hence a bloc had been formed of Communists and a section of the syndicalists, whose dominance over the subsequent course of the congress could not be doubted. As Lozovsky wrote in the preface to the published collection of the congress resolutions: ‘This decision about connections with the Third Communist International predetermined all the remaining decisions of the Congress…’ Correspondingly the reaction was manifested among the ‘hard core’ of the syndicalists. After the report by Cascaden, who later described the breaking off of the discussion after two days as a ‘gagging order’ by the ‘Lozovsky machine’, there consequently emerged among the opposition the idea of officially withdrawing from the rest of the congress. Even if things did not come to such a spectacular step, for someone like him the congress had now ‘run its course’, and he decided from now on consistently to vote ‘No’. For others, it perhaps merely strengthened the tendency towards apathy and individual withdrawal. Even if the essential decision had been taken, there still remained, for example, the discussion on tactics, in which it was a question of deciding between autonomous associations and fractional work (the ‘cell tactic’), and hence for at least a section of the opposition it was a question of how they saw themselves.
Moreover, the congress decision did not mean that the question of the links between the two Internationals was definitively settled. The outcome of the congress and the voting behaviour of the delegations present, and the question as to whether they had behaved in accordance with their mandate or had broken it, became the central issue of violent disputes in the various syndicalist organisations. Their subsequent relationships with the RILU was determined around this question. Not least important was the fact that the agreed resolution was modified at the second RILU congress.
Speech to the Congress of the Red International of Labour Unions in July 1921
The Relations between the RILU and the Communist International
OMRADES, when the Third International was organised and appealed to all revolutionary organisations in the world, it not only directed its appeal to political parties, but it also turned to the organisations of workers. The new International was not to confine itself solely to political parties, as formerly the Second International had done; the Third International was determined to unite all parties and revolutionary unions of workers around it. Thereupon some workers’ organisations immediately attached themselves to it. Of these organisations I shall only mention the Italian Unione Sindacale, whose central council voted to join the Third International in June 1920. This decision was unanimously endorsed by the congress of the whole organisation in Parma in December 1920. The other workers’ organisation which likewise decided to join the Third International was the Spanish CNT (at its congress in Madrid in December 1920), which likewise accepted affiliation unanimously. Therefore everyone can draw the justifiable conclusion that at this time it was already known that a new International was being founded, which would revive the tradition of the First International and unite in its ranks parties and labour organisations. The Second International broke with this tradition. It is interesting that the change which has occurred was demanded by the political parties.
The Socialist parties of the Second International fixed entry conditions into the International of such a kind that they thereby excluded all labour organisations. After the Second Congress of the Communist International, the question was posed somewhat differently. The two workers’ organisations affiliated to the Third International, and also some others, delegated their representatives. Pestaña took part in the work of the congress. Borghi’s arrival coincided with the end of the congress.
When the congress accepted the question of the founding of the international trade union body onto the agenda and took a decision about it, this question came to be seen in a different light. The prospect was held out of establishing two Internationals, the Communist International and the Trade Union International. I considered it necessary to remind you of these facts, since they confirm that there cannot be any contradiction in principle when two organisations, one trade union and one political, come together in a single International. Two syndicalist organisations — the Italian Unione and the Spanish CNT — unanimously voted for affiliation to the Communist International. In other countries, many workers’ organisations expressed themselves in favour of the Third International. Also the Executive Committee at the congress of the Third International expressed itself in favour of organisations committed to the Third International being accepted into it. Only two members of the Executive were opposed to this — and these were Comrades Serrati and Levi, who at present are excluded from the Communist International.
In one of the theses proposed to the congress and accepted by it, it is stated:
Nevertheless the Second Congress of the Communist International considers both possible and desirable the immediate affiliation to the Communist International of such of these organisations as have not yet officially joined, for in these cases… [such as] the shop stewards in England, we are dealing with a profoundly proletarian mass movement, whose principles really correspond to the basic principles of the Communist International.
The question before us is therefore not so much a theoretical question as a practical and purely organisational question. This question is, however, also connected with practical problems which cannot be resolved outside of a series of other questions. This matter is also connected with the question of the interrelations of the unions and the political parties. Consequently, the Communist International, by a decision of its Executive Committee and of the whole congress, declared that it was fully ready for the acceptance of such workers’ organisations as had not already accepted the whole of the programme of the Communist International, but merely recognised its fundamental principles.
In the preliminary discussions, which took place at the same time as the deliberations in the commissions, differences in interpretation by various delegations came to light. These ranged from the standpoint of the Russian comrades, who want to know whether the interrelations with the Third International will be laid out very clearly and simply in the statutes, to the position of the French comrades who were and are outspoken opponents of the establishment of permanent links between these two organisations. The latter wanted to recognise only temporary collaboration on particularly important occasions, and in specific common actions.
During the debates, we became convinced that even today in many countries there is still strong hostility on the part of the trade unions towards the political parties, and there even exist prejudices towards the new Communist parties.
Moreover, we can summarise the situation by saying that hitherto the organisational questions of the trade union movement have been rather weakly elaborated. In these questions, both erroneous explanations and also manifestations and distortions due to prejudice can be observed. Outside Russia such formulae as for example ‘subordination of the unions to the party’ were circulated.
Such formulae served very well to preserve among certain elements in the workers’ organisations the long-standing hostile attitude towards political parties. This is especially so in the organisations which were more or less inclined to enter into collaboration with the political parties, but which in practice took a strongly negative attitude towards the basic ideas of the Russian comrades on the question of the interrelations of the political parties and unions. We can likewise observe that the existing nature and forms of the workers’ movement in France and other countries are little known, and are often wrongly interpreted.
The debates of the Third Congress of the Communist International have cast a little light on this question, and with the help of some extracts I hope to be in a position to define precisely the position of our Russian comrades, and to clarify their views about the trade unions.
The Second International insisted on the point of view that the decisive rôle belongs to the political parties, that they must take all political questions into their hands, and that they alone are capable of prescribing the general direction for the movement of the proletariat. The unions were pushed into the background as organisations which must confine themselves to the area of purely trade union questions. However, these views were never shared by our comrades. In an article written by Comrade Zinoviev, which was published before the war, the trade unions were characterised as follows:
The trade union is an alliance of all the workers of a specific branch of industry (precisely of a whole branch of industry and not of a single craft) which assumes the leadership in economic struggles. With the consent of the political party it takes a continuing part in the struggle for the total emancipation of the working class, for the abolition of wage labour and for the introduction of equal rights in all areas of existence.
As we can see, such a position is diametrically opposed to that of the Second International. I can complement this quotation with a resolution accepted by the Russian trade unions which took part in the First Congress. This congress took place in Petrograd after the October Revolution, at the beginning of 1918. The resolution reads:
The October Revolution has taken power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and put it into the hands of the workers and peasants, and thereby has created new conditions for the activity of all workers’ organisations, as well as for the trade unions. The trade unions as class organisations will be rebuilt according to the principle of production, and must devote themselves in their activity to the organisation of production. They must support the creation of food supply bodies, they must raise production in the countryside, and they must take the major active part in the organisation of workers’ control and in measuring the size of the labour force and assigning it to various tasks.
The resolution, accepted by the congress, was proposed by delegates from the Communist Party. The great difference between the conceptions of the Bolsheviks and of the syndicalists — in spite of some of the ideas held in common by both groups — is illuminated by the fact that each of them advocates a different rôle for the political party.
The party is the soul of the working class. I do not mean to say thereby that the trade unions should be subordinated to it. Absolutely not. The party must show a particular willingness to meet the unions halfway. The unions must serve as a point of support to the party in the realisation of Socialism. Here there are no second-class ‘comrades’, and we cannot tolerate any arrogance by one group of fighters towards another. The syndicalists are just as good Communists as we are. We must, however, vigorously reject what has been called ‘the theory of the equality of the parties who are in agreement’. This theory does not correspond to the truth. This is the direct legacy of the decrepit, thoroughly rotten and mendacious Second International, whose principle was as follows: ‘You shall concern yourself with political matters and we with economic matters; don’t stick your nose in our affairs and we won’t worry about yours.’ No. We must tear this theory out by the roots from the consciousness of politically aware workers.
I will give a third quotation about the different positions of the Bolsheviks and the syndicalists. After Comrade Zinoviev had exhaustively discussed and criticised the syndicalist theory, he explained clearly what, in his opinion, was good in syndicalism and what must be rejected. He said the following:
We have split from the syndicalists, but at the same time we have said there are also healthy ideas in their left wing, for example, their claim that the trade unions, cured of the infection of opportunism, can become component parts of the new Socialist society. At that time this idea was a new one, and on that point we were in agreement with the syndicalists.
I think that what I have quoted will suffice to show how far the distortion of the views of the Russian Communists with regard to the interrelations between party and unions can go.
From all these extracts, it is clearly evident that the Bolsheviks never thought of subordinating the unions to the party in any way. In order to clarify their opinion, we must imagine what the Communist Party meant for them. In Russia the Communist Party included the revolutionary elements, and always differentiated itself from the political parties of other countries, both by its doctrine and by its action. Its members had to be in the front ranks of those fighting for the proletariat, wherever that struggle might be. They had to permeate all the labour organisations. Its members strove to achieve the dominant influence in the unions, and their claim to do so was completely justified and normal.
The representatives of various tendencies, movements and parties, that is, the different groupings fighting within the unions, all make efforts to win a dominating influence. That is perfectly justified and acceptable.
It must, however, be admitted that the confusions which arise from time to time between syndicalists and Communists are often affected by the behaviour of the new Communists.
Recently it was stated by the secretary of one of the larger federations of the French Communist Party (Rhône region) that unions had to subordinate themselves to the party. It is obvious that when such a language is spoken a rapprochement will never be possible. One thing must be noted. The Russian comrades have never used such language, and never thought anything of the sort.
The quotation which I gave just now from Zinoviev’s article shows that the theory of syndicalism in general and of French syndicalism in particular have been known to him for a long time, and that he even accepted it to a certain extent.
However, we could also see from the speech he gave at the congress of the Communist International that he is not always accurate in his characterisation of French syndicalism. That is shown by his critique of the Charte d’Amiens. He saw in it nothing more than an acknowledgement of neutralism.
But the Charte d’Amiens is a far more important document than it seems to be to Comrade Zinoviev. In order to grasp its full meaning, one should not confine oneself merely to reading the text; one must be aware to what stage of the history of the syndicalist movement it belongs, and why and under what conditions it was adopted. It was elaborated at the time when syndicalism had taken firm root in France. It grouped around itself elements of the most diverse origin, former anarchists and those who had earlier been members of a range of Socialist parties; a third category was formed of the new elements, who can be regarded as true syndicalists. These diverse elements were united by the same concept of the final goal, the abolition of capitalism and wage labour. They were not so very concerned about the elaboration of a new method of struggle. And even if they succeeded in elaborating one, can it be deduced from this that the CGT was completely neutral? And has it at any time been neutral? No, and the attempt to ascribe this neutralism to the Charte d’Amiens as a characteristic feature of syndicalism is a vulgar error.
It has never been the intention of the CGT to confine its tasks to the purely trade union sphere; it has always taken part in all the political questions of the current period, and not only in specific cases, but precisely in all matters.
And even if it seemed to a superficial observer that it was renouncing political activity, that only happened because it condemned the politics of the French party in the most decisive fashion and was pursuing its own policies.
In fact, before the war the CGT was an authentic political party, but a party of a quite particular form. But when, at the Amiens Congress, the ‘charter’ which has become so famous was discussed, the revolutionary syndicalists had to fight against two groups. One the one hand, there were those who belonged to the Socialist parties and defended the conceptions of the Second International. These people, moreover, endeavoured to ensure that the French unions which belonged to the CGT should not step outside the framework of purely trade union activity, and should leave political work to them. On the other hand, the revolutionary syndicalists had to deal with some elements who showed a certain organisational strength, and who almost exactly corresponded to the English trade unionists. These workers were mainly represented by the federation of workers in the printing industry. So among the revolutionary syndicalists there were two opposed groupings. On the one hand were the trade unionists, who were concerned exclusively with questions of wages, the length of the working day, etc, and on the other hand the Socialists, who declared: ‘Yes, we are revolutionaries too, but only the political parties and not the CGT should concern themselves with the revolution; the latter should under no circumstances carry out revolutionary propaganda.’
The Charte d’Amiens was directed against all these elements, and that is why it is hard to understand it correctly straightaway. If, however, you study the French labour movement in the period from 1900 to the outbreak of the war, then it immediately becomes clear that in reality this alleged neutralism never existed. In order to finish with the question of the CGT, I shall allow myself to produce one more fact, which apparently could be of no interest to the working class. It is to do with the bloody suppression of the movement of the vine growers in Southern France, which predominantly affected small and medium property-owners. On the occasion of this event, the CGT issued an extremely sharp appeal against the government. This manifesto was enough to ensure that the most important leaders of the CGT were brought before the courts.
I have reminded you of these facts in order to show just how unfounded are the accusations of neutralism against the CGT. The most recent documents, today’s motions, show us how the French syndicalists understand and interpret the Charte d’Amiens. Very recently our Comrade Monmousseau wrote:
The Revolutionary International of Labour Unions is a natural consequence flowing directly from the line of the Charte d’Amiens, precisely inasmuch as the social revolution exists in it. So even the drawbacks of the Charte d’Amiens should not be exaggerated, even when the class struggle is apparently on the decline, for they are nothing but the reflection of the neutralist opinion. It should also not be thought that the Charte d’Amiens is at the present time an obstacle for the French comrades in the correct understanding of revolutionary actions. On the contrary, we can see that the syndicalists who are taking the most active part in the present movement give the Charte d’Amiens the sort of interpretation which demonstrates that it is not paralysing their activity.
However, it might seem that the syndicalists (especially the French) had not sufficiently benefited from the lessons of the war and the Russian Revolution, and that all the lessons which they should draw were not yet clear to them. Yet if there are good reasons for conceding that the work of necessary and urgent revision of the old primary forms is progressing too slowly, and that confusion reigns in the consciousness of many of our French syndicalist comrades, it must be stressed that already important progress has been made in this direction. Thus, for example, the statement presented by the revolutionary minority at the Congress of Orleans reads:
The congress affirms that affiliation to the trade union International in Moscow not only does not stand in contradiction to the Charte d’Amiens, but that it is the legitimate, direct and clear duty of the CGT. It is now its duty to go to Moscow, just as it was its duty in 1915 to participate in Zimmerwald. There exists only one revolutionary International, and that is the Third International, the Moscow International. After the CGT has restored its earlier fidelity to the revolutionary spirit, it commits itself to affiliate to the Third International, thereby declaring itself ready to work together with that revolutionary organisation which performs its revolutionary actions in deeds and not only in words, whereby it preserves its fullest independence, proceeding from the economic standpoint.
This statement shows that the French comrades categorically do not intend to remain in the same position which they adopted in 1906 and to make no use of the lessons of the war and the Russian Revolution. Just now, at this very time, the debate is proceeding in France about one of the most difficult and delicate questions, that is precisely about the mutual relations between parties and unions. The text which I have just read out confirms the break with the old traditions.
The old traditions of the trade union movement were completely clear. Any cooperation with the earlier Socialist parties was declared to be impossible. And that did not suffice. Between the CGT and the Socialist parties there existed a direct hostility, which culminated in a profound contradiction in the methods of organisation. The party was a reformist one, whereas the CGT was revolutionary. In such a way the question about cooperation could not be posed at all.
At present we find ourselves in a quite different situation. The split which existed before the war between the CGT and the parties has disappeared, and now the revolutionary minority maintains that it would be ready to work together with truly revolutionary parties. However, before this official so-called cooperation developed, already during the war particular cases of joint work had begun in various committees which were created for the struggle against the war, and later in favour of the Third International and the Russian Revolution. The comrades who had belonged to the previously hostile organisations first met in these committees. There were to be found in them members of the Socialist parties, as well as syndicalists and anarchists. They worked together for quite a long time, so that it was possible to suppose that from this encounter, which was brought about by the circumstances of the war and later by the foundation of the Third International, an authentic party would develop. However, events developed in a different direction. The former Socialist Party transformed itself into the Communist Party. It is interesting at this point to recall what comrade Loriot said about this in the Executive Committee of the Communist International. He stated: ‘During the Tours Congress, it seemed to us that many of the syndicalists were ready to come over to us; at present, however, we can state that they are rather turning away from us again.’ This is a very important and significant fact. How is their movement away to be explained? Simply by the fact that it turns out that the party has as yet by no means become Communist, and that it has not sufficiently differentiated itself from the earlier Socialist Party. Consequently the question of the mutual relations between the political parties and the unions remains a very serious one, and one which is very difficult to resolve, one which has to be posed differently in different countries. Undoubtedly any attempt to accelerate this rapprochement artificially will be of absolutely no value.
Only a fraternal and frank exchange of ideas between syndicalists and Communists and joint discussion on their part of the great problems of the present day will lead to the desired results.
Last year, during the Second Congress of the Third International, the question of the mutual relations between the party and the trade unions was thoroughly discussed, especially the question of the rôle of the Communist Party.
And in his intervention our Comrade Tanner, the representative of the English shop stewards, who on the whole shares the standpoint of the French syndicalists about the labour movement, opposed the rôle defined by the Communist Party; and in justifying his opposition, he stated how he conceived the organisation of the revolutionary struggle in the workers’ organisations. He said: ‘We want to unite the boldest and most conscious from among the proletariat and to create from them a tightly welded minority, which alone will be capable of inspiring the masses and drawing them with it.’
When Tanner had finished his speech, Lenin spoke in the following terms: ‘The definition which you have given of your conception of the revolutionary movement coincides completely with ours. But we give this minority a different name: we call it… the Communist Party.’
But then in England the matter was much simpler than in France, for there no old Socialist party existed to obstruct the work and make it more difficult. In England, there existed a party which was numerically not particularly strong, and in addition two political organisations and the Shop Stewards’ Committee. At first sight, however, the unification of all these different elements into a single party seemed almost impossible. Yet now we have observed that this came about in a few months, and at present we have the united Communist Party in England. At the head of this party are the most tested forces of the shop stewards, Comrade MacManus and Comrade Tanner. And this is the same Tanner who at the Second Congress of the Communist International expressed his decisively and sharply negative attitude to political parties in general, and is now a member of one. I therefore assume, in this difficult question of how the mutual relations between Communist parties and unions can be settled, that cooperation can be achieved in a short space of time. However, I repeat: in order that this cooperation can be truly achieved, and in order that in future struggles our forces will no longer be divided by conflict between the best elements of the trade union movement and of the party, it is necessary that the party shall be accurately aware of its rôle and of the rôle of the unions, and that the parties in their debates and statements shall aim at touching those groups of syndicalists who are still hostile to the founding of the Communist party.
The question of the mutual relations between the two Internationals seems to me to be much simpler. Here we are not dealing with conditions formed over a long period, which created a situation which cannot be altered all at once, in a single day. Before us there are two organisations whose revolutionary spirit nobody will deny. The only question in dispute is what form the relation between these two organisations will take. Among many comrades there is mistrust and apprehension that in the event of the establishment of a permanent and direct connection the dominant rôle would devolve to the Communist International, and that the trade union International would be constrained in its activity.
But I believe that such apprehensions are unfounded. The trade union International which we are creating will undoubtedly be so strong, the field of its activity will be so wide, and its tasks will be so diverse, that it is quite impossible to conceive that it will turn out to be a mere tool of the Communist International.
Even on the basis of principles, there is no objection to the more or less close unity between these two Internationals.
I shall recall that the Italian Unione Sindacale and the Spanish CNT immediately responded to the appeal of the Third International, the very day after its foundation. The thought of finding themselves in the same organisation as the political parties did not frighten them off; consequently this is not a new question. This question could already have been asked at the moment when the appeal for the Third International was published. If at that time the attitude to any cooperation between political organisations and unions had been hostile, then not a single organisation would have answered this appeal.
But from the first moment onwards a broad campaign against the trade union International was carried on by the leaders of the Amsterdam International. To begin with, they gave the impression that they did not take this ‘insignificant quantity’ into account in any way, but when they began to observe that this initially apparently feeble International was in a state of rapid growth and was growing stronger, they took a different attitude.
In order to put obstacles in the way of the foundation of the Red International of Labour Unions, they issued the famous declaration: ‘In Moscow, a trade union International is inconceivable. It will be nothing but a branch of the Communist International.’ They could not find a better argument for their propaganda against the Red International.
It is my opinion that such a criticism is quite without importance for us. It may well be possible that these arguments will find agreement from a few workers, and will have aroused a certain unease in them. We have to give an answer, and it will not be hard for us to do so.
We need only point out that if there is a trade union International which is dependent on political parties, then it is in fact the Amsterdam International. Of course, its leaders hide their links with political organisations; they want to ensure for themselves the appearance of a pure trade union organisation. But we know only too well what the truth of this claim is.
Not only is the connection of the leaders of this International with such people as Albert Thomas, Renaudel, and with the Belgian Socialists, such as Brouckère and many others known to us. One fact suffices in itself to prove that the Second International, the Amsterdam International and the Two-and-a-Half International are one and the same thing.
Two months ago, the representatives of these organisations assembled in Amsterdam on one and the same date, as though by chance, to deal with one and the same question. Each of them gave the appearance that this encounter was a matter of pure chance. But they did not succeed in deceiving anybody about their activities. It is not fear of the accusation of cooperation with political parties which obliges us to cease discussing the definition of the forms of relationship between the trade union International and the Communist International. We must regard the slander and hypocrisy of Amsterdam with contempt.
From this resolution can be clearly deduced that our comrades from the KAPD do not completely accept the programme of the Communist International, but on the matter in question they take a position which almost exactly coincides with the position of the comrades from the Russian unions.
At the same time, I read the article in L’Humanité by Comrade Verdier under the title: ‘The Unions Must Be Free’. Comrade Verdier not only expresses himself in favour of the absolute independence of the French trade unions in relation to the French Communist Party, but also in favour of the independence of the RILU from the Communist International. A few days ago, I saw the text of the resolution, which was probably also composed by Comrade Verdier, from an assembly in Roubaix, where on 10 June 800 workers had come together.
After we had heard the reports of Comrades Loridan, Jacob and Verdier, taking into consideration:
That the CGT unites all workers, without regard to the different political tendencies, who are conscious of the necessity for the struggle for the destruction of exploitation and wage labour;
That the reformist leaders of the CGT have infringed the Charte d’Amiens through the Sacred Union during the war and class collaboration since the armistice;
That a transformation of society is possible only along the road of proletarian revolution, which our Russian comrades have already shown in practice;
Taking into consideration that reformist methods lead only to a strengthening of capitalist society, and that the Amsterdam Trade Union International, thanks to its links with the League of Nations, is only an organ of the bourgeoisie;
We declare that the newly formed revolutionary trade unionism takes on the rôle of ceaselessly attacking the bourgeoisie on the economic level, leaving it to the political parties to take care of the organisation and education of the masses with the purpose of conquering political power.
To me personally, Comrade Verdier’s position seems incomprehensible. He is a member of the French Communist Party; before the Tours Congress he signed the theses elaborated by the Committee for the Third International and which corresponded to the resolutions of the Second Congress of the Communist International. But on the question of the mutual relations between the Communist Party and the unions, he is adopting a position which is neither syndicalist nor Communist; it quite simply belongs to the Second International. He says that the unions must work on the economic level and the parties on the political level. My response is that this is not true syndicalism. Precisely if someone wants to stand on the platform of revolutionary syndicalism, there can be no talk of a division of labour between the unions and the political parties, but rather it must be said quite bluntly: The unions can do the whole job.
The old CGT pursued a specific system, whereby it had the intention of fighting simultaneously for the overthrow of the old bourgeois society and for the achievement of Communist society.
Of course, it is still possible to defend this system today; but in my view it is unacceptable that a man like Verdier, who claims to be an orthodox syndicalist and is a member of the Communist Party, should put forward ideas which are purely and simply the ideas of the Second International.
The difference in the conception of the rôle of the unions between the Russian and the French comrades remains a very great one. The discussion which has begun in the French press has brought out the difference between these positions, but has also established their points of contact.
The journal La Vie ouvrière has published in one of its recent issues the most important resolutions of the last congress of the Russian Trade Unions, and gives an introduction which bears witness to the present mood of our French comrades:
In the second issue of the journal Moscow we find an interview with Dridzo‑Lozovsky. We consider it necessary to quote this, in order to give the possibility for the debates taking place to develop in as clear a fashion as possible. Dridzo (Lozovsky) elucidates his position. On many points, we are in agreement with him, but on others we are not. That is not unexpected. And there is no insuperable obstacle therein.
On this basis, I am of the opinion that the present differences in opinion can in no way be an obstacle to the establishment of links between the two Internationals. If we decide here to establish a permanent link between the unions and the Communist International, we are thereby only continuing the policy of the minority of the French syndicalists, which was put into practice by them in 1915 at the Zimmerwald conference. At that conference almost exclusively political parties were present, and yet it is a page in the history of the revolution of which the French syndicalists can be justifiably proud.
But if they are therefore right to be proud of their participation in the Zimmerwald conference, I can find no reason why it should not be possible here to engage in joint work with the representatives of the Communist International.
The suggestion proposed here about mutual representation in the two Executive Committees will, in my view, merely establish normal relations, and I am surprised that there are revolutionaries in France who still take such a hostile position towards the Communist International.
The question is the same everywhere: Amsterdam or Moscow? And it is never posed in a different fashion. That is a fact. Two different groupings are present. On the one side stand the Second International, Amsterdam and the Two-and-a-Half International, and on the other side the Communist International and the RILU. I can add that in the sphere of the mutual relations which we intend to establish between the Communist International and the RILU, we already have some experience.
Under these conditions we have already worked over the course of a year, and despite the fact that the RILU is still a weak organisation, it has not found it necessary to fight against any possible attacks on the part of the Communist International.
The International Trade Union Council has established its methods and principles of work in a completely autonomous fashion. There have been joint sessions with the Communist International, and the most varied questions were discussed. Both organisations have issued appeals signed in common.
But it is necessary to fight against one danger which is absolutely not a ghost story — this is living reality.
The bourgeoisie has understood very well what support it can find in the trade union organisations. During the time when the political parties were obeying the pressures from their mass membership and found themselves obliged to move closer to Moscow, the leaders of the old Socialist parties immediately hastened to seek new support in the trade union organisations. In this respect, France has quite a few typical examples to show.
Even now, at every favourable opportunity, the bourgeoisie incites the trade union organisations against the revolutionary parties. It is trying to paralyse the movement by confining it within the framework of purely trade union tasks.
But when the bourgeoisie uses the trade union organisations, when it kindles the hostility and antagonism between the unions and the parties, then we must not fall into this trap. But that can easily happen, when out of anxiety we are silent about what we intend to do. In recent days, I found in the journal Moscow a very characteristic quotation. It concerns Mussolini, the leader of the Italian fascists, who is also a zealous partisan of the independence of the trade unions. In the journal Il Popolo d’Italia (The Italian People), Mussolini says that Bolshevism is already out of date, and that the Italy of 1921 has no similarity to that of 1916. According to his words, the Socialist Party is standing on the eve of a new decision about the question of union organisation, and the CGL can in this way tear off its chains and again become free and independent. That will be a great step towards the creation of a workers’ party, and this will reduce to a minimum the influence of the political parties.
He is a true partisan of the independence of the unions. But I don’t think that anybody among the revolutionaries will agree to follow Mussolini and his fascists. The formal acknowledgement of a connection between the two Internationals would have a quite specific meaning; it would be prove that the working class is organising its forces methodically.
Of course, it can be said that in every country the working class has made many mistakes in the sphere of organisational work. The bourgeoisie has prepared itself better for the struggle. Everywhere it has closed its ranks tight shut. Even in England, where people hold on most tenaciously to political traditions; even there the Liberal and Conservative Parties, which previously were never in agreement, made an alliance, since after the war they understood that it was not the time to be fighting among themselves, and thanks to this alliance they have resisted every attack. The French bourgeoisie has also created a unitary national alliance. In Belgium, this alliance is even stronger, since it includes Socialists, who have even taken ministerial office.
In such conditions, we should not worry about admitting that our intentions are to group all revolutionary elements in the parties, as well as the unions into a single whole. And that we here assert the necessity for the establishment of permanent relations and links between the two Internationals does not suffice to prove that we are nourishing the desire to subordinate the RILU to the Communist International. That is the reason why we quite openly express ourselves in favour of a permanent link between the two organisations. We must admit that quite openly and honestly.
The Red International of Labour Unions
What it is; What it has Achieved
HE Red International of Labour Unions has suffered a strange fate in France. There is no country where it was more keenly desired, and where more active propaganda was made in its favour when it was merely a proposal. And then when a congress was held, with the great task of grouping together the revolutionary trade union organisations of all countries on a solid theoretical basis, complemented by a detailed programme of action, France withdrew. The first resolution voted on — that concerning the relations between the Communist International and the RILU — provoked a protest from the revolutionary syndicalists, who said they could not accept it.
I shall not be the one to deny the importance of this resolution, or to try to lessen its significance. We shall have an opportunity to explain and discuss it. But the fact that in Moscow it won the support of syndicalists from Spain and Italy, and of the left wing of the British labour movement inspired by Tom Mann, that is, of all those who already before the war constituted a bloc with the French syndicalists in the international movement, seemed as though it would be sufficient to remove any possibility of conflict.
Yet however important it may be, this resolution is only a fragment, a tiny fragment of the work done in Moscow, but which seems to have been completely ignored in France. We have just published, in a thick 90-page pamphlet, the resolutions and statutes adopted at the congress. We ask for them to be read and studied seriously. Here will be found plentiful and valuable information on all the questions currently preoccupying the world of labour, in particular on new questions, or questions now posed with a new urgency, such as factory and works councils and workers’ control.
The French comrades will also have the opportunity to observe that on questions of the highest importance, the RILU has adopted and energetically defended principles which are the very foundation of French syndicalism.
Just after the war in a certain number of countries, above all in Germany, there was a very strong tendency to leave the old reformist unions and to set up revolutionary workers’ unions in opposition to them. The best and bravest trade unionists, those most eager for the struggle, categorically did not want to carry on paying their subscriptions to unions whose leaders, after having betrayed the working class during the war, were continuing to betray it with their constant collaboration with the Scheidemann Socialists and with the government. Several of these new unions had already been set up, all composed of excellent revolutionaries; they had their representatives at the congress. But the RILU did not hesitate to condemn them. It had constantly declared itself against splitting the unions. The congress declared, practically unanimously, that is necessary to remain within the old reformist unions, that that is where we must carry on the revolutionary battle against the union bureaucracy, which is ossified or allied to the bourgeoisie, and that a split must be avoided at all costs. So on this point the RILU clearly supported the position taken by the French minority, and it gave it genuine assistance.
It was the same with the question of industrial unionism. Prewar French syndicalism was systematically pursuing the transformation of craft unions into industrial unions. Sometimes it even imposed it, which led Albert Thomas to write: ‘The future will show whether or not this authoritarian decision, contrary to the spirit of federalism and autonomy by which the CGT claims to be inspired, will have serious repercussions.’
The RILU has completely adopted this organisational principle, and will vigorously campaign for it to be put into practice everywhere. In our age of trusts and supertrusts, craft unions seem to be backward and dangerous formations, for they are unable to guarantee the defence of workers’ interests.
But it is above all on the new questions of factory councils and workers’ control that the congress has done work of the highest importance. It brought together delegates from the countries where these problems have been most widely studied, and where they have been put into practice in various ways: Russia, Italy, Germany, Great Britain and Czechoslovakia. The results of these various experiences have been drawn out in the discussions by the commissions and by the congress, and they will be found in the resolution adopted.
The French comrades can study it to their great advantage. On these questions, their contribution has been thin, and indeed non-existent. Revolutionary syndicalism, which was in the lead in prewar workers’ movements, has let itself be overtaken by events. The forms of struggle which it advocated, and which it strove in vain to get the trade union International of those days to espouse, since they came up against the absolute hostility of the Social Democrats, have now been adopted and applied everywhere by the Communists in all countries. While the leaders of the French CGT now never speak of the general strike, we see general strikes everywhere, in Yugoslavia, in Rumania and in Germany, and we can see that against a bourgeoisie which is armed and solidly organised, the general strike is no longer enough.
French syndicalism in particular has lived too much in the past, on the ideas and tactics of the prewar period. I am in no way a follower of Bergson, and I think in the past much nonsense has been written about the kinship between syndicalism and Bergsonism, to the great alarm of M Bergson himself, who knew that he was no subversive. But it is quite certain that syndicalism is, above all, action, and that in France since the war action has been very weak. I am well aware that France found itself in an exceptional situation, and I know how difficult the betrayals of Jouhaux, and then Merrheim and Dumoulin, have made the task of the revolutionary minority. But while the leaders of the CGT were clearly turning towards Geneva, and towards participation in government and class collaboration, with the aid and assistance of the bourgeoisie and the big newspapers, and resorting to violence if necessary, the minority was unable to regroup and organise all the new forces which were coming towards it, but which could not follow pure theoretical questions amid distortions and lies.
The minority did indeed feel the need to incorporate within syndicalism the lessons of the war and the Russian Revolution; but it didn’t do so and now it seems to want to adopt as a theoretical basis the idea — the false idea — that the union is by definition revolutionary, and the party by definition reformist. And hence it has not seen the obvious fact that, since the war, unions have everywhere become the allies and saviours of the bourgeoisie against the party. Every time a revolutionary crisis takes shape, the unions declare for ‘order’ against the turbulence of the party. Who broke the revolutionary movement in Italy last winter? The unions. Who stood up against the Spartacists in Germany? The unions. Who broke the Triple Alliance in Britain at the time when its intervention could have led to revolution? JH Thomas, the President of the Amsterdam International. And where did Albert Thomas find a refuge when the party finally put a stop to his pernicious activity? In the unions.
These are facts, not hypothetical speculations or imaginary dangers. They are essential elements in the present situation, and the RILU has constantly had this situation in mind when elaborating its programme. It has given itself a broad enough foundation to contain both syndicalists and Communists, and it has never had any intention of asking the French syndicalists to make a sacrifice of principle to which they cannot agree. Let them read the resolutions without preconceptions, let them consider the work that has been achieved as a whole, and they will see that they can take their place in the RILU without delay.
HE name is that of a German officer who was sentenced to death by a French court martial, and was executed after committing an act of sabotage in occupied Germany.
We received this information in Moscow last June, when the enlarged Executive was meeting and at the very time when the question of fascism was under discussion. Our brave Comrade Clara Zetkin had given her report, and delegates from various countries had intervened. Karl Radek, the last name on the list of speakers, devoted his contribution to the case of the officer-saboteur, which was closely linked to the subject under discussion, and the possible consequences of which required consideration by Communists.
German fascism has developed in such a way that all Communists, and especially German Communists, must follow all its manifestations very closely. It already holds sway in substantial parts of the Reich, and it is seeking to extend, develop and reinforce its positions. It is striving to encircle the red territories of the Reich so that, when the time comes, it can crush workers’ risings and drown them in blood. It is already heavily armed, and its continuing acquisition of arms has the complicity and sometimes the assistance of the Entente.
The characteristic feature of fascism is to use the discontent, poverty, and disorder of the petit-bourgeoisie, the small peasants and even a layer of the working class in defence of capitalist privileges. Concealing its true aim, it draws behind it these various elements by luring them with a plan for national regeneration which will guarantee each of them the best possible conditions of life within the national framework, and which will achieve the independence of the country in the international sphere.
As a result of the regular and progressive acceleration of chaos, of disorganisation, of the crushing of the middle classes, of the poverty of the workers, and of general distress, postwar Germany is very suitable ground for the development of fascism.
This is a phenomenon which has been observed by those who have studied postwar Germany on the spot. Back in 1919, after the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, and after the murder of thousands of German workers, ordered by the Social Democrat Noske, the German masses felt lost and demoralised. They didn’t see any way out of their wretched situation. They drifted from one illusion to another, one day expecting aid from the USA, and the next day from England. One disillusion followed another, and disorder grew along with poverty. This continuing development and increased demoralisation are the facts which are most striking to anyone who visits Germany from time to time.
What resonance was Schlageter’s act going to have in this demoralised Germany, among the masses at the end of their tether? How was fascism going to exploit it? It was already clear that there would be an attempt to make Schlageter into a national hero. The Pan-Germanists organised demonstrations glorifying Schlageter’s sacrifice of his life to save the German fatherland. They had thereby a means of extending their influence, and the possibility of drawing the disoriented masses behind them.
These were the things that Comrade Radek had in mind when he gave his speech to the Executive; it was this danger of a considerable strengthening of the influence of fascism which was preoccupying him; he was speaking directly to Germany over the heads of the delegates.
The German workers face difficult conditions for their struggle. The situation is complicated by the permanent threat from French imperialism. The bourgeoisie and the big industrialists, who built up their strength during the war, and who reinforced their trusts and supertrusts, have strengthened them further since the war and are evading the legitimate tax burden which the government is timidly trying to impose on them.
These great patriots — similar to those of all countries — possess the only real wealth, and are converting their profits into foreign currency, which they rapidly conceal outside Germany. Only the workers are ‘living’ on marks whose purchasing power has continued to diminish.
Thus crushed, will they let the capitalists go on playing their double game? On the one hand, they are getting richer, even at a time of the greatest suffering for the German people; and at the same time they are recruiting into the fascist gangs, whose prime aim is to defend capitalist privileges, all those who are tormented by suffering and chaos.
This is the question which lies behind Comrade Radek’s speech, and it is a question which is rightly preoccupying our German comrades.
We have recently shown the speed with which the German Communist Party has extended its influence among the working masses of Germany in the last few months. Its main paper, Die Rote Fahne, has more than doubled its circulation in a few weeks; its membership has increased by tens of thousands of workers, the most perceptive and the most active members of their class. While it is growing in this way, the Social Democratic Party is disintegrating. A faction among the leaders of this party was hostile to participating in the ‘grand coalition’ which is now in power. The Berlin organisation has just unanimously called on the SPD ministers to leave the Stresemann government immediately. Only the Communist Party appears as a coherent body, which knows what it wants and which alone is capable of leading the struggle simultaneously against Stinnes and against the imperialism of the Entente. The workers are turning to it in ever increasing numbers.
Precisely because the Communist Party feels it has the confidence of the working class, and that it will have the task of guiding it in its struggle, it is concerned with the conditions in which battle will be joined. It is not enough to fight. A battle joined on the wrong terms, with bad preparation, leading to the defeat of the organised working class would be followed by ferocious repression, a white terror of which the horror can be easily imagined.
The German Communists do not want to be the gravediggers of the working class. They want to be its liberators.
With this aim, they are carrying out an active struggle on all fronts. They are consolidating their strength and foiling the manoeuvres of a bourgeoisie which is trying to draw into its camp elements who can be none other than its victims.
Comrade Radek has contributed to this necessary preparatory work in his speech to the Executive.
Doubtless it is easy to distort his thinking, and to deform his words by using mutilated quotations. It is an art in which the Social Democrats are expert.
Through Starving Russia
Scenes of Atrocious Poverty and Tragic Despair
Our Comrade Marthe Bigot has passed on to us the following letter.
OR a very long time I have been wanting to tell you at some length about our work in this distant corner of the Urals, and have been prevented from carrying out my plan for many confused reasons, first of all by the feeling that we are doing too little to alleviate this immense disaster, and that you have to be living here, as we are doing, hour by hour, to understand it properly, and that it is useless to talk about it. It’s also the inadequacy of words to make our comrades feel the immensity of human suffering in the starving regions, and the near certainty that we shall never manage to shake them out of their apathy, whatever we tell them.
Today I have a few free hours before me, and despite everything I want to tell you about this terrible life of wretchedness, so that in turn you can pass on an echo of it to all mothers, to all women, and tell them what we are seeing here, for it is they who can do a great deal to shake the indifference around them being more understanding about suffering.
We have returned from a round trip in the Kurgan district, 250 versts from Cheliabinsk, where we have organised aid for two months. Last Tuesday we set out, Doctor Zetkin, who speaks Russian, a German woman comrade and I. We left behind us in the town Hélène Brion, Marcelle Magnoux, Eugénie Gaignon, two Dutch women comrades, a German woman, a Czechoslovak woman, a Polish woman, an Hungarian man and a Russian man. Some are in a clothes store distributing garments; the others are helping to set up the ‘Rosa Luxemburg‑Karl Liebknecht’ children’s camp at 10 versts from Cheliabinsk, for which International Workers’ Aid has taken complete responsibility; the third group is travelling round the town visiting children’s homes which have adopted a completely new diet since 1 May.
I am writing to you from our railway carriage, where I have been living since February. We have been stopped for some hours in the little halt at Shulika, and it is the usual nightmare of stations in the starving regions; the weather is fine, it is hot, but we are confined in our carriage with the windows shut and the doors closed tight. Despite that we can hear the endless moaning of the little children hanging around the carriage and crying with hunger: ‘Diadinka [little uncle], please give us…’ Some of them repeat that very softly in varying tones for 10 minutes or quarter of an hour, without stopping, and then flop down on the ground when they can go on no longer; others concentrate their strength and shout very loud and frequently; their little voices become irritated and rise higher and higher, chilling you to the marrow; then they stop suddenly and go away to lie down anywhere, and sometimes they never get up again…
Two Families Out of a Hundred Thousand
There are always crowds of refugees in the stations; they have come from all over, with the hope that one day they will be able to clamber onto a train and go somewhere other than their poverty-stricken hole. Yesterday, when we were at Kurgan, with our carriage quite a long way away in a siding, two families of refugees came and settled on the ground in front of us, and as they were a long way from the crowds, we were able to talk to them and to help them a little. One consisted of a mother and five children; they were in complete destitution, and doubtless the final stage. They possessed nothing but a few filthy rags which served as a rug for the two youngest when they settled on the ground, and as shawls when they all got up to move on. There was not a single receptacle, not a metal cup, and none of those odds and ends which every poor wretch in Russia carts around with him. A railway employee had just made them get out of an old coal wagon where they had probably thought they were settled for a long time; they were in despair, all weeping, except for the very little one, perhaps one year old, who was sucking a bit of the stem of a reed, the last resort of the starving who are provided with it by the spring in these wonderful May days. The mother was weeping silently; two children, aged three and seven, were bawling incessantly, and a wretched disabled child of 12, perhaps 15, was crawling on the ground and rolling in the dust; we called his mother and gave her a big piece of bread; she was dumbfounded and didn’t thank us.
The others had seen what had happened and the tears stopped immediately; distribution took place in tense haste; the bread was shared equally among all; the baby had a big lump like the others, and played with it as much as ate it; the other five had swallowed everything in a moment, and the mother, leaving the younger ones in the care of the disabled child, set off with the rest to look for shelter for the night, for the weather was becoming threatening.
Then there was a pitiful scene: as soon as the little group had moved off, the elder sister grabbed the bread which the little one was still holding and bit into it several times as though she were mad; but she resisted temptation and gave back a last piece to the wretched little runt, who had not defended himself, and she embraced him tenderly; however, this remaining piece was still attracting her, and when the little one was distracted by a passing dog, she took it back and swallowed it.
This time there were tears and piercing screams, and the big girl took the poor creature in her arms and pressed him against her, smothering him. Louise G, who, like me, was watching this scene through the window, quickly got out of the train to prevent it ending in suffocation. The mother returned at this moment, looked on calmly without understanding anything, and to console the little girl who was beginning to cry again, she gave her a breast which had been dried up for days and days, but which the girl nonetheless grabbed and sucked. A few moments later a very tall, very thin man who could scarcely stand, more or less unclothed, came to find the little brood and led them away…
A few metres from them had settled another family who had been turned out of the same coal wagon. They still had some possessions; they had kept the samovar, some receptacles, one or two old blankets and a packing-case which must have been valuable to judge by all the care that was lavished on it. The mother was breast-feeding a little one, but her breast was dry; there was another, five years old, who came up to our open window when he saw the piece of bread go to the neighbours, and who was crying softly because he wanted his share; then there was a big boy of 15, grubby and thin, and two girls of around 13 and 15, in a better state, but with hardly any clothes. The father must have been a giant when standing, but he was finding it very difficult to get to his feet. All, sitting in a circle round a bowl, were each taking in turn a spoonful of an unspeakable liquid, and at the same time they were eating a piece of bread made from dried grass called iebeda, and which at the present time costs 80 000 roubles a pound (when I return to Paris I shall bring with me a collection of all the sorts of bread eaten in these regions).
H H H
Here is the second part of Marguerite Rosmer’s letter, of which we published the first part the day before yesterday.
UCH scenes recur endlessly, they haunt your days and nights, and they make you feel your total impotence to help these wanderers condemned to death; they take to the roads, and they crowd into the stations, often several thousand at a time, as in our station at Cheliabinsk; they live on nothing, and die when they go to sleep. They are pitilessly sacrificed, since with the few resources we have at our disposal we have to organise very methodical aid, directed only to those we are sure we can save. For the others we can do nothing; we have to close our eyes and shut our ears in order to keep our balance and carry on working with all our strength.
What Has Been Achieved So Far
International Workers’ Aid had begun to operate in the administrative area of Cheliabinsk in February when we arrived here, that is Vera G, Nicolas Nicolaevich and myself with 15 wagon-loads of supplies. For the first two months we had to confine ourselves to helping children, promising that as soon as the next wagon of supplies arrived we would broaden the assistance and give ‘payoks’ to the workers. You can imagine with what impatience we waited everyday for the arrival of our comrades from France, Holland and Germany, whom we knew had reached Berlin in January, and whom we had believed had landed at Reval in mid-February, thanks to a misunderstood telegram.
We finally made contact at the end of March. We all met in Petrograd and set off for Cheliabinsk with 36 wagons and the promise that 20 more would soon follow. When we got here, we found that the situation of the children had improved so much that when I saw them marching in the town on May Day, in light‑coloured dresses, with little banners of red paper, made out of old posters advertising tea, joyful and singing loudly, I could not believe they were the same ones I had seen in February, crouching in every corner like sick monkeys or clinging to the porcelain stoves in the children’s homes, and whose misshapen and lifeless bodies had often made me doubt the effectiveness of our activities.
The unloading of the wagons was done quickly, and in four days all our goods were in stores, and we could begin distribution. This time, we were able to fulfil the promises we had made when we left and thus to help the workers themselves. Immediately with the help of the pomgol  we organised stolovaias (canteens) in the town where every day a hearty meal was served to the children. Additionally, in agreement with the professional associations, we gave each month:
- 1400 poods of products to the management of the mines at Cheliabinsk, which has enabled them to take on 350 unemployed workers, who, assisted by 350 miners, are to build over four months comfortable dwellings for mineworkers who are living in wretched huts made of earth and branches. In exchange, we have been given 10 wagons of coal which will enable us to supply fuel to other industries which are short of it.
- 1000 poods to the railway workers, in exchange for which they have promised to clean the Cheliabinsk station, which is a terrible centre of infection, to repair the railway line, etc.
- 2000 poods to various local industries which are going through a terrible crisis, since the workers no longer have the strength to work.
- 1500 poods of flour and rice were sent a fortnight ago to Troitsky and distributed among the professional associations. A bridge, which was demolished at the time of the thaw by enormous lumps of ice, could be rebuilt in a few days thanks to this assistance.
We have also given an additional payok to all the hospitals, and with the sacks which contained rice and flour we are having mattress covers made for the hospitals which are entirely without them, since the patients generally sleep two to a bed, and the children three to a bed.
A Soviet Estate
I was almost forgetting to tell you that, at 20 versts from Kurgan, where we have just come from, we have a soviet estate (Sovkoz) of which we have taken over the management. When our representative arrived in March, everything was dead; nothing was left except two horses and a cow and a few workers who were preparing to leave. Today at the ‘Pinaevo’ Sovkoz we have 60 horses, 30 cows, eight calves, 60 hens, etc, and at this moment we are sowing 300 desyatins of land; the cows which have been grazing for some days in the fields are giving 80 poods of milk a day with which butter is made in the town to supply the stolovaias which Workers’ Aid opened there in April for workers’ children. All the products of the harvest from the estate will be put to the same use this winter, as well as feeding children in residential schools. In this Sovkoz there is also a forge and a cartwright’s workshop, and in a few days 40 new carts will emerge from the workshop to transport all the products; we stayed for two days on the farm, and it was a great joy to see all the active work of the fields and the enthusiasm of the workers occupied with the tasks of our soviet estate.
You can see that what we trying to do is different from philanthropy, and that as soon as our resources allow it, we help the comrades in productive labour. The workers here are well aware of it: they know that the Western proletariat is helping them in a different spirit and with different methods than the bourgeois aid organisations which I shall discuss another day; and this is of great cheer to them.
To sum up, from February to April we have fed 62 children’s homes or hospitals, that is 12 225; five adult hospitals, that is 2150; and eight stolovaias for workers’ children, that is 3650.
And from April to the end of June (our plans have been made up till this date and our reserves are in store): 104 children’s homes, that is 24 540; 12 hospitals, that is 3260; and 13 stolovaias for workers’ children, that is 4210.
We also give a payok which varies from one to two poods a month to around 2000 workers — that is in total 34 310, which represents about 50 000 poods of food products.
Moreover, from 1 June to 30 September, thanks to the support of Workers’ Aid, there will be opened in the districts of Cheliabinsk and Kurgan three rest homes (650 beds) which will allow workers to go and rest for a month in turn.
We have therefore done here, on too limited a scale in our view, methodical and fruitful work; our comrades from the government, happy with the fraternal aid which has been offered to them, have done everything to assist us. One of the things which has particularly impressed us is the extraordinary energy displayed by everyone trying to defend themselves against the famine, and to organise to defeat it; despite the exhaustion of all the workers, I should like you to be able to see at this moment the active and feverish life of all those who, for a fortnight, have been working desperately hard at sowing in the fields, and who are countering weariness with a supreme effort of will. What can I tell you also about all the staff of the children’s homes — in particular the women — who for long months have, without weakening, contributed an effort which, in our country, in normal conditions, nobody would have been willing to attempt? In the ‘Priemniks’, for example, which take in the children who are picked up in the streets, and which contain two or three times the numbers they should take in, at whatever time of day you visit, everything is clean and tidy; every day the wooden floors are washed; once a week the houses are cleaned throughout. It was the same last winter, when living conditions were so difficult, and all this was done without cloths or soap. Fortunately, spring has come and the children spend all day sunbathing in the broad streets of Cheliabinsk, where the fine green grass grows freely. Their only clothing is a shirt, but now their skin is pink and they have no more sores. They eat their fill and can play and laugh; mortality is practically zero, and it is hoped that by the end of summer these children will be robust again.
Help Us, French Workers
We are now awaiting the arrival of a new train, and if as we hope the ARA can take responsibility for all the children in the month of June, we shall give assistance solely to the working class.
For that it is essential that the effort abroad should not weaken and that regularly all workers as well as women and children should share with their Russian brothers.
We have only just begun to distribute among the children all the treasures which children in France have sent, and it is a pity they can’t see how paper, pencils and sweetmeats are received! We are isolated here, and it was only just before leaving Kurgan that we received the first packet of newspapers from Europe. I was glad to see that some days the collections continue to fill half a column; but I searched in vain for news about our boatload of rice. You couldn’t believe, my dear Marthe Bigot, what a handful of rice means here, and the wild hopes which are founded on a few wagons, and even more so on a boat which has already been endlessly divided, and redivided, long before its arrival.
In this respect, tell our comrades on the Aid Committee that the best nourishment for children and adults is rice, fat and condensed milk. Flour is also very necessary, and I hope we shall carry out a vigorous campaign at home during the harvest to collect wheat and flour in the countryside and send a whole train to Russia.
I know that your paper L’Ouvrière has been appearing for two or three months, and I am anxious to read it; I hope that Lucie Leiciague will have brought some issues with her to Moscow, and I shall soon see them. I hope to be back with you in two months. Hélène is well, brave as always, Marcelle Magnoux and Eugénie Gaignon are also good workers and they have already learnt a good deal in Russia, much more and much better than those of our women comrades who only attend congresses.
My best wishes to all those around you and fraternal greetings to you, my dear comrade.
. Wilhelm Koenen (1886-1963) joined the KPD in 1920, and later on was a loyal Stalinist. [Note added by Revolutionary History.]
. Henri Sirolle (1885-1962) was a railway worker, anarchist and a leading figure in the CGT minority. He was a joint signatory of the ‘pact’ of the ‘pure syndicalists’ of February 1921, but then, however, at first argued for remaining in the RILU, but after the split-off of the IWMA supporters from the CGTU he for a short time joined the CGT-Syndicaliste Révolutionnaire; by 1927 he was again active in the CGT railway federation. He later held positions in the administration of the state railways. What became known as the ‘pact’ (le pacte) was an agreement between 18 leaders of the ‘pure syndicalists’ and anarchists among the revolutionary minority in the CGT, the Comités Syndicalistes Révolutionnaires (CSR) — in February 1921, three months after the Tours Congress. In 11 points they agreed to struggle for a new revolutionary leadership for the CGT (even at the cost of a split), and at the same time agreed to marginalise the pro‑Communists, that is, to struggle for the complete autonomy of the unions from any party influence. This agreement was to be kept secret. They succeeded in deposing the Vie ouvrière group from the CSR leadership as it defended an understanding with the Communists and, at the same time, warned of the dangers of a dangerous split in the factional struggle. The ‘pactists’ had the mandate and the majority of the CSR’s delegation to the founding congress of the RILU. Its existence was only revealed by them on the eve of the CGTU’s first congress at the end of June 1922 (after the split from the CGT) and ironically helped to change the ‘climate’ in favour of the Vie ouvrière group. It was attacked by the Communists as a ‘Bakuninist secret society’ or ‘syndicalist freemasonry’.
. Biulleten, no 1. Biulleten refers to the Russian edition of the 16 daily bulletins issued in the course of the congress containing the minutes of the proceedings. In principle, this was issued in four languages, English, French, German and Russian, but only the Russian and French versions survive intact. All references here are to the Russian version.
. Biulleten, no 2. In the course of the congress, a written report was then also presented, which gave a comprehensive overview of the activity of the Provisional International Council (Report of the International Council).
. Biulleten, nos 3 and 15; ‘Resolution on the Basis of the Report by Comrade Rosmer on the Activity of the Provisional Council of the Revolutionary Trade Unions for the Past Year’, in Resolutionen, Statuten, Manifeste unf Aufrufe des ersten internationalen Kongresses der Roten Fach- und Industrieverband. 3 Juli bis 19 Juli, Bremen, 1921, p17.
. Biulleten, nos 2 and 3; ‘The International Congress of the Revolutionary Trade and Industrial Unions to the Workers of the World’, in Resolutionen, Statuten…, op cit, pp12-16.
. Biulleten, no 4. This point is discussed in a later chapter of the thesis.
. Rosmer himself has described this, cf Lenin’s Moscow, London, 1987, p157.
. Biulleten, no 7. Also in The Connections Between the Red International of Labour Unions and the Communist International. Speeches of Comrades Rosmer, France, and Tom Mann, England, with the Resolution adopted at the First Congress of the RILU [in German], Berlin, 1921, pp5‑20.
. Biulleten, no 5 and in Connections between the RILU and the CI, op cit, pp21-8.
. The discussion is to be found in Biulleten, nos 5, 6 and 7.
. The ‘Pact’, the alliance of ‘pure syndicalists’ and anarchists to ensure their hegemony in the Comités Syndicalistes Révolutionnaires, had guaranteed that the French delegation would be dominated by its representatives. (Only two members of the delegation, Victor Godonnèche, who had also already been present at the Berlin syndicalist conference, and Joseph Tommasi, supported Rosmer’s course of cooperation with the Bolsheviks.) This was made easier for them by the fact that in France the CGT congress was impending, which numerous spokespersons of the Comités Syndicalistes Révolutionnaires preferred to the RILU Founding Congress. That the delegation then sent to Moscow got a very negative reception there came about not merely from the positions held by their majority, but also in particular from the fact that their speakers gave an impression of being rather uninterested. Rosmer wrote to Monatte on 13 July, after he had described the problems with the delegation: ‘Besides it is impossible to work with them; when you call meetings they don’t come; the congress only interests them to the extent that they think they can get a hearing for their speeches.’ (Syndicalisme révolutionnaire et communisme: Les archives de Pierre Monatte 1914-1924, Paris, 1968, p291) Godonnèche found even more extreme words: ‘tourist delegates looking for excursions and anarchist information’ (ibid, p304). And a PCF leader who happened to be in Moscow for the Comintern congress, Boris Souvarine, wrote to Monatte: ‘What is unforgivable is the indolence of the delegates, who, instead of settling down to work in the evenings to inform those who have mandated them, go to the theatre, to concerts or try their luck on the boulevards.’ (Ibid, p 320) The behaviour of one of the delegates, Michel Relenk, even led to notoriety within his own group.
. The Confederación Nacional del Trabajo was the national confederation of Spanish anarchist unions. Founded in 1911, it had 700 000 members by 1918.
. Also printed in Connections between the RILU and the CI, op cit, pp28-35.
. According to Cascaden’s report (Shall Unionism Die?, p59), this interruption of the discussion was linked to a considerable ‘uproar’ by the delegates, of which, however, no trace is to be found in the minutes. That is not an argument against this claim, as is shown by another violent clash towards the end of the congress, which also remains without trace in the minutes. (Cascaden’s pamphlet carries no date or place, but was probably published in Edmonton, Alberta in 1922.)
. Biulleten, no 7; Connections between the RILU and the CI, op cit, pp35ff; Resolutionen, Statuten…, op cit, pp17ff.
. Rosmer (Lenin’s Moscow, op cit, p159) also considered that this formulation was ‘uselessly and dangerously provocative’. He predicted that it would become a weapon in the hands of reformist leaders like Jouhaux, but in view of the polarisation he could not amend it.
. Biulleten, no 7.
. In fact, this attempt at postponement had already been made in the course of the discussion. But this time the German unionists referred in addition to the discussion on tactics — which had not yet taken place — which covered their special concern, the condemnation of the ‘cell tactic’.
. Biulleten, no 7. Why this list does not also contain the vote of Cascaden, that is, of the minority of the Canadian delegation, cannot be discovered from the minutes. The Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation (Swedish Workers Central Organisation) was a syndicalist labour federation in Sweden, which still exists today as a minor but state-recognised union.
. Biulleten, no 7.
. Resolutionen, Statuten…, op cit, p7.
. Cascaden, Shall Unionism Die?, op cit, pp64-6.
. Bibliothek der Roten Gewerkschafts-Internationale, Volume 3, Berlin, 1921.
. The Unione Sindacale Italiana was founded in 1912 as a syndicalist split from the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro, the main Italian trade union confederation. In 1914, it advocated an insurrection against the war; it had 300 000 members in 1920.
. J Degras (ed), The Communist International 1919-1943, Volume 1, London, 1971, p126.
. That is, the SFIO.
. In 1907 the Clemenceau government sent troops against striking vine growers; some soldiers fraternised. The following year, troops fired on workers near Paris. Following this, nearly all the leadership of the CGT was imprisoned.
. The Orleans Congress of the CGT was held in September 1920.
. At the Tours Congress of the SFIO, 25-30 December 1920, the majority voted for affiliation to the Comintern.
. This seems to be a summary rather than a verbatim quote from Lenin’s speech; see Collected Works, Volume 31, Moscow, 1966, pp235-6.
. The Communist Party of Great Britain was founded on 31 July-1 August 1920.
. The reformist-led International Federation of Trade Unions had collapsed in 1914 and was re-established in Amsterdam in 1919. It was also known as the Yellow (that is, scab) International.
. That is, the International Union of Socialist Parties, consisting of parties (including the British ILP and the German USPD) to the left of the Socialist International but which refused to join the Comintern.
. The Communist Workers Party of Germany was a left split from the German Communist Party in 1920. It was admitted to the Comintern as a ‘sympathising party’ in November 1920.
. The Third Congress of the Comintern ran from 22 June to 12 July 1921; the RILU Congress, running from 3 to 19 July, was thus in part concurrent.
. L’Humanité, 27 June 1921.
. The Committee for the Resumption of International Relations became the Comité pour la troisième internationale in May 1919; Rosmer played a leading rôle in this body.
. The Provisional International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions, set up by the Second Congress of the Comintern to prepare the RILU.
. The Tories and Liberals fought the 1918 election on a joint manifesto, and from 1918 to 1922 Lloyd George headed a Tory-Liberal coalition government.
. Belgium had a tripartite government (Socialists, Catholics and Liberals) during 1918-21.
. L’Humanité, 22 December 1921
. Presumably a reference to the March Action earlier that year.
. The League of Nations and the International Labour Organisation, both created by the Treaty of Versailles, were based in Geneva.
. That is, the syndicalist left of the CGT, shortly to become the CGTU.
. The alliance of coal, rail and transport unions failed to resist pay cuts for miners on 15 April 1921, popularly known as Black Friday.
. L’Humanité, 13 September 1923.
. French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr in January 1923 because Germany had not paid reparations. Albert Leo Schlageter (1894-1923), a German nationalist, was executed by the French for attacks on their troops’ means of communication.
. The text of Radek’s Schlageter speech appears in Hermann Weber (ed), Der deutsche Kommunismus: Dokumente, Cologne-Berlin, 1963, pp142-7. There are substantial extracts in Chapter 37 of P Broué, Revolution in Germany, due to appear in English shortly. There is a summary with quotations in Rosmer’s Lenin’s Moscow, op cit, pp222-3. It is worth noting that here Rosmer is considerably more critical of Radek than he was in the L’Humanité article.
. In two German states, Saxony and Thuringia, the Social Democrats and Communists had a majority in the state parliaments; it was here that ‘workers’ governments’ (SPD-KPD coalitions) were established on 10 October (Saxony) and 13 October (Thuringia).
. After 1917 this refers to the alliance of Britain and France.
. Rosmer was in Berlin for the meeting of the three Internationals in April 1922, and in Hamburg in May 1923 on the occasion of the fusion of the Second and the Vienna (Two‑and‑a‑Half) Internationals.
. Rosmer’s pessimistic picture of Germany contrasts sharply with the official Comintern line, which was that Germany was on the eve of a revolutionary situation. An article by Marcel Cachin on the same page of L’Humanité looks forward to the imminent establishment of a ‘workers’ and peasants’ Germany’.
. The German far right was split into two tendencies, the Pan-Germanists and the separatists; separatists sought Bavarian independence from the Reich, while Pan-Germanists wanted a single state for all German-speakers.
. Amid the massive inflation in Germany in 1923, there was much concern to base money on ‘real values’ — Sachwerte — that is, actual goods exchanged for bills in the bank’s portfolio. The Communist Party’s demand was that the part of the nation’s real wealth (land, buildings, factories) which was not eroded by inflation should be confiscated by the Reich to enable it to balance its budget.
. This is an example of the over-optimism current in the Comintern at this time. In fact, the SPD had the largest percentage of the vote for any single party at every election from 1919 to 1930. Cf Victor Serge in Clarté, 15 February 1924: ‘It would be a very big mistake to imagine that the SPD will emerge strengthened from the November crisis. It is obvious that at the next Reichstag elections, it will lose — to the advantage of the Communists — a large part of its vote.’
. Cuno resigned on 12 August, and the following day Gustav Stresemann announced the formation of a ‘grand coalition’, representing everything except the KPD and the extreme right. His government contained four SPD ministers, three from the Centre Party, and two each from the German Democratic Party and the National People’s Party.
. Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929), German Chancellor and Foreign Secretary, founder of the German Peoples Party (DVP).
. Hugo Stinnes, (1870-1924) was an industrialist with interests in coal, steel, electricity, etc, who financed the National People’s Party of Cuno and Stresemann.
. The daily paper of the German Social Democratic Party.
. Radek’s article, ‘Communism, Fascism and Social Democracy’, appeared in L’Humanité the following day, 14 September 1923. There is a summary with extensive quotations in Lenin’s Moscow, op cit, pp225-6.
. L’Humanité, 11 June 1922.
. One verst equals 1.07 kilometres.
. This may well be Clara Zetkin’s son Maxim, who accompanied his mother to Russia in 1921.
. L’Humanité, 13 June 1922.
. Committee for Assistance to the Hungry.
. One pood equals 16.38 kilograms.
. One desyatin equals 1.09 hectares.
. Reception centres.
. L’Ouvrière (The Working Woman) was a weekly paper for ‘working women by hand and brain’, published by the French Communist Party.