Program of the General Workers' Union of Germany, adopted at their third national conference in Leipzig, December 12-14, 1920.
Its welter of initials and its confused relations with revolutionary syndicalism should not mislead us into thinking that the AAUD was just another group. The AAUD was part of a tendency that shot into prominence at the turn of the century with mass strikes which combined “politics” and “economics”, as well as the huge, at times anti-trade union strikes in northern Germany in 1913 which gave rise to autonomous committees. In conjunction with this trend the idea of the unitary organization was born, the first formulation of which appeared in the Bremen Arbeiterpolitik. The left communist newspapers, especially the one published by Wolffheim and Laufenberg, never ceased to expound its necessity.
In April-May 1919, the first important union, the General Miners Union, was formed by previously unorganized workers together with almost all the trade union members in that economic sector, before being dismantled by the police. The former members of this union would join the revolutionary syndicalists (who were then backpedaling in respect to the rest of the movement) or the AAUD; others would return to their old trade unions. The Port and Shipyard Workers Union of Hamburg, founded in August 1919, combined a defense of immediate interests with the advocacy of certain political perspectives: arming the workers, a critique of the Spartacist leadership of the KPD, and active solidarity with the Russian Revolution. The AAU of the Ruhr was formed at the same time on a similar basis.
The founding congress of the AAUD took place in February 1920. The first spokesmen of unionism, who were at that time already deeply involved in their national-bolshevism (which attracted a small minority within the AAUD), were sidelined. One debate dominated the congress: must the party-form be abandoned as soon as possible (the position defended by Roche, of Hamburg), or should it be at least provisionally maintained (the position defended by Schröder and the leadership of the future KAPD)?
The KAPD would be tempted to treat the unionen as its working class base. Pannekoek criticized the practice which transformed them into “factory groups” instead of “workers groups”. Since the future, he said, lies in the neighborhood and city soviets, in the councils which embrace and transcend the workplace, what good is a union which is nothing but an extended version of the party?1 His criticism was justified, but in its essentials, from the time of its founding, the AAUD was not a branch of the KAPD. In the winter of 1920-1921 the AAUD alone had some 150,000 members (while the KAPD had about 40,000). It was the most active union. It regularly published a dozen weeklies and its numerous pamphlets occasionally had print runs of up to 120,000 copies. It would lose almost all of its members after 1923.
Program of the AAUD
- The AAUD fights for the class unity of the proletariat.
- Its goal is a classless society, the first phase of which is the dictatorship of the proletariat, thatis, the will of the proletariat alone determining the political and economic organization of society in its entirety, thanks to the organization of the councils.
- The progressive realization of the council idea is the road which the growth of the self-consciousness of the proletarian class is taking. The dictators, properly speaking, are the delegates of the councils; these delegates must carry out the decisions of the councils. The councils2 can be recalled at any time by the rank and file which bestowed their mandates. There is no place for so-called leaders except as advisors.
- The AAUD rejects all reformist and opportunist methods of struggle.
- The AAUD is against any participation in parliamentarism, since that would mean sabotage of the council idea.
- Likewise, the AAUD rejects all participation in the legal enterprise councils as dangerous class collaboration with the employers.
- The AAUD is opposed to trade unionism because the latter is opposed to the council idea.
- But the AAUD is particularly opposed in the most violent possible manner to the trade unions because they are the principal obstacles to the continuation of the proletarian revolution in Germany. They are the principal obstacles standing in the way of the unification of the proletariat as a class.
- The goal of the AAUD is unitary organization. All of its efforts will be directed towards the attainment of this goal. Without admitting the justification for the existence of political parties (since historical development impels towards their dissolution), the AAUD does not fight against the political organization of the KAPD, whose goals and methods of struggle are also those of the AAUD, and strives to move forward alongside the KAPD in the revolutionary struggle.
- The mission of the AAUD is to carry out the revolution in the workplace. It takes the political and economic education of the workers seriously.
- During the phase of the conquest of political power, the Factory Organization becomes a link in the proletarian dictatorship exercised in the workplace by the factory councils, which is founded upon the Factory Organization. The purpose of the Factory Organization is to assure that political power is always and exclusively exercised by the executive council.
Extract from “The General Workers Union—Revolutionary Factory Organization”, published by the Economic District of Greater Berlin, 1921, p. 48. Introduction by either Denis Authier or Gilles Dauvé. Published in English in a collection of texts as appendix to Dauvé and Authier’s The Communist Left in Germany 1918-1921. Online version taken from the Collective Action Notes website.