Andreas Nin

The Labor Movement

The Syndicalists and the International

On the Occasion of a Recent Incident in Germany

(26 April 1922)


From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 30, 26 April 1922, pp. 231–232.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The strength of Revolutionary Syndicalism lies in this, that it relies chiefly for support upon the broad laboring masses, whose interests, and instinctive desire and efforts to struggle for life it embodies. The doctrine of Syndicalism finds expression in the uninterrupted class struggle, in the unrelenting assault upon the stronghold of Capitalism. Syndicalism is action.

Nothing is more strange than when this lighting Syndicalism which is to be found chiefly in France, Italy and Spain is laced with German Syndicalism. The latter’s chief representatives (Rocker, Kater and others) have not yet forsaken their old position of demagogic Anarchism and even the great events since 1914 (the World War and the Russian Revolution) have failed to change their outlook. Their press organs would seem to convey the impression that their contents are intended for the perusal of people living in the late seventies than for men of the present time

Always “up in the clouds”, as Rosa Luxemburg said, they stand aside as mere spectators in the great battles fought by the proletarian masses in Germany or, what is still worse, go hand in hand with counter-revolutionaries, as was the case in the March days of 1921. One would like to believe that this was not due to self-interest. On the question of political power, dictatorship and other dangerous problems which the historical time we are posing through places before revolutionaries, they take up a position which is more in keeping with the Tolstoian principle of “non-resistance” than with Revolutionary Syndicalism.

German Revolutionary Syndicalism represents a motley group of metaphysical theorists, who awaken the same interest as antediluvian specimens in a museum, but no more. We would give no further attention to it, and had not some comrades of western Europe informed as to the actual character of this Syndicalism. we would have ascribed more importance to it than it actually deserves.

This false valuation of the ideological riches and the numerical significance of the Syndicalist Freie Arbeiter Union (Free Workers’ Union) of Germany leads to the strange result, that whilst the movement is perfectly insignificant in its own country, in other countries it possesses a certain specific importance. For this reason it is necessary for us to deal with the attempt of the German Syndicalists to set up an International Union, which in the event of it being successful should lead to awakening of the powers of the international proletariat.

At their National Conference, which took place in Düsseldorf, it was decided to convene a conference for the formation of an autonomous Syndicalist International, in order thus to renew the splitting tactics which they already announced in December 1920 in Berlin and which the entire lack of any support on the part of the working masses turned into a fiasco. In Düsseldorf this attempt at disintegration was supported by Lansing of Holland, Kasparson of Sweden and Williams of the United States. For the rest none of them was empowered by his organization to subscribe to such a plan as could inflict a great deal of damage upon the revolutionary movement.

Lansing might express the feeling of the “National Workers Secretariat”. Although in the Dutch Syndicalist organizations opinions are divided, their delegates to the formation Congress of the Red Trade Union International voted for unconditional affiliation with Moscow, this being the attitude of most of their members.

In Sweden a process of elucidation is going on, but the crisis is not yet solved and the Red Trade Union International receives strong sympathy.

Williams, this anxious and vacillating delegate, who during the Congress had declared that he could not recognize the dictatorship of the proletariat (he fears that in that case the authorities of the United States would close the central bookshop of his organization), cannot be regarded as representing the outlook of these proved and courageous antagonists of capitalism, the Industrial Workers of the World, whose most prominent representatives are either in prison or exiled. The Executive Committee of the I.W.W. has pronounced against affiliation with Moscow, at the same time, however, it refused support to the initiative of the German Syndicalists. We are convinced that the I.W.W. in a short time will free itself from the wavering elements who stand at present at the head of the organization and will affiliate with us.

In spite of the crisis of French Syndicalism and the indecision of the Italian as well as the Spanish and Portugese Syndicalists we are convinced that the full recognition of the Red Trade Union International by the Syndicalist workers is only a question of time and that the German plan will suffer defeat.

We will now consider how the promulgators of the new International justify their activity.

“In view [of] the fact that the Congress of the Red Trade Union International, which took place in Moscow, has come to no result,” so runs a resolution adopted in Düsseldorf, “as it has not founded an actual Syndicalist International, this meeting decides to convene an independent International Syndicalist Congress.”

The German Syndicalists had expected to obtain from Moscow what by reason of its very constitution was impossible. We were never of the opinion and certainly not a single delegate, who has taken part in our work, had ever thought for a moment, that the Congress could end with the formation of an International of a specific Revolutionary Syndicalist character. Its purpose was more the unification – upon the ground of mutual concessions of all those Syndicalist organizations accepting the principle of the class war and opposing the compromising tactics and social peace propagated of the yellow Amsterdam International.

If every tendency and shade of opinion wished to form its own international organization, it would end in the formation of a great number of international groups which would fight amongst themselves to the advantage of the capitalist class. “Purity” of principles would be assured, but the interests of the bourgeoisie would not be in the least injured thereby.

We cannot understand the purpose of the German Syndicalists. There would be some sense in it, if these comrades could prove to us that those organizations, adhering to our principles, are strong enough to carry the social revolution to completion throughout the world Revolutionary Syndicalism has its fighting traditions and a firm foundation in the workers’ movements in the Latin countries. In Central Europe and in the scarcely awakened Orient Revolutionary Syndicalism is, however, absolutely unknown, and it would be a mistake to organize the international revolutionary forces without taking into account the fight of the European and American masses as also the trade-union movements in Russia and in the East.

In the period previous to the world war the International in fact united only the proletariat of the European countries. Meanwhile there exist in the East and in the Far East millions of workers, who are exposed to the most terrible exploitation. The daily progressing industrial development has also awakened there the proletarian class. In the process of economical development and violent struggles, their organizations are becoming stronger and in the face of extraordinary difficulties they are fearlessly standing up against bourgeois exploitation.

In the period previous to the world war the International in fact united only the proletariat of the European countries. Meanwhile there exist in the East and in the Far East millions of workers, who are exposed to the most terrible exploitation. The daily progressing industrial development has there also awakened the proletarian class. In the process of economical development and violent struggles, their organizations are becoming stronger and in the face of extraordinary difficulties they are fearless standing up against bourgeois exploitation.

Over this gigantic area our Revolutionary Syndicalists have not the least influence, and we greatly doubt whether German Syndicalists will obtain it, even if they for this purpose use a new International, which they propose to create.

Only the international mass organization which has the unshakable will to carry through the revolution can gather about it the revolutionary workers of all countries. No other organization outside the Red Trade Union International gives us as many guarantees in this respect. To sever from it means to leave the revolutionary circle and to promote the efforts to split the forces fighting against the bourgeois rule, and this at the moment when the capitalist class is concentrating and mobilizing all its strength. Therefore it is today more necessary than ever to safeguard the unity of all elements fighting for the social revolution.


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