Chapter 6: From Revolutionary Syndicalism to Anarcho-syndicalism

Submitted by Steven. on June 8, 2011

The Russian Revolution, it seemed, offered the workers’ movement a revolutionary alternative to social-reformism.

The idea of soviets – not as state organs staffed by party officials but as instruments of non-party self-organization and workers’ self-management of production and of local living arrangements – played an important part in the belief systems of many anarchists and syndicalists.The majority of libertarians were enthralled by events in Russia, seeing in them what they wished to see rather than what was actually transpiring. In the words of Malatesta, they interpreted the dictatorship of the proletariat not as a system of government, but as “a revolutionary action with the help of which the workers would take possession of the land and the means of production, and would attempt to build a society in which there was no place for class, no place for exploitative and oppressive owners. In this case the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ would denote the dictatorship of everyone and therefore would not be a dictatorship at all, the same as a government of everyone is no longer a government in the authoritarian, historical, and practical sense of the word,” the old anarchist noted. A section of the libertarians became convinced that the Bolshevik system of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” is some kind of intermediate stage on the road to the anarchist organization of society (the phenomenon of “anarcho-bolshevism”). It was years before the anarchists and syndicalists grasped that behind the “power of the soviets” was hidden a new party-state dictatorship.

The revolutionary syndicalists were faced with the necessity of choosing between anarchism and Bolshevism. The question of the orientation and goals of the movement was central to the process of its unification on a global scale. At the end of 1918 the Dutch and German syndicalists renewed their appeal for the convening of an international congress, but at a conference in February 1919 in Copenhagen, only the Scandinavian delegates were able to be present. Attempts during 1919-1920 to assemble a congress in the Netherlands and Sweden were unsuccessful. Meanwhile the Bolsheviks, along with Communist parties and groups in a number of European countries, announced the creation of the Communist International. To many anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists it seemed that this new international association could be the centre of attraction not only for the left-radical wing of social-democracy but also for libertarians, as a sort of historical compromise between Marx and Bakunin on the basis of revolutionary principles. Announcements about joining the Comintern were made by the French “Committee of Syndicalist Defense” of R. Péricat (renamed the Communist Party in the spring of 1919, and later – the Communist Federation of Soviets), by the Italian USI (in July 1919 and confirmed at a USI congress in December), and even by – “temporarily” in anticipation of the holding of a congress in Spain to organize a “genuine workers’ International” – the Spanish CNT (at a congress in December 1919). A number of prominent leaders of Anglo-Saxon syndicalism joined communist parties: Bill Haywood (American IWW), T. Mann (the leading British revolutionary syndicalist), and others.

There were some anarchists who spoke out early on with a sharp critique of the Bolsheviks and their dictatorship.

Among them were the Italian Luigi Fabbri and the German Rudolph Rocker. Already in 1919 skepticism regarding the Bolsheviks’ break with the centralism of social-democracy was expressed by the Swedish revolutionary syndicalists (SAC).1 But the centre of resistance to the influence of Bolshevism became the German revolutionary trade union association FAUD.

In December 1918 FAUD called for co-operation with revolutionary socialists. Within its organization there were supporters and even members of the Communist Party.

In the spring of 1919 the prevailing view within its ranks was support for a non-party “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the form of Councils, in contrast to parliamentary activity, although it was maintained that socialization could only be carried out by revolutionary unions. In December 1919 at the 12th congress of the FVdG, which morphed into the FAUD, solidarity was expressed with Soviet Russia. But at this same congress R. Rocker took the floor with a report on the principles of syndicalism. His speech and the resulting “Declaration concerning the Principles of Syndicalism” set forth a synthesis of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism on which the ideology of the anarcho-syndicalist movement was based. An adherent of the anarcho-communism of P. Kropotkin, Rocker combined the traditional goals of anarchism (doing away with the State, private property, and the system of the division of labour; creation of a federation of free communes and a diversified economy aimed at the satisfaction of the real needs of people – the ethical basis of socialism) with ideas developed by the German anarchist G. Landauer about a new culture and the creation of the elements of a future free society without waiting for a general social upheaval. Rocker was convinced the social revolution could not be carried through spontaneously, that it must be prepared still within the framework of existing capitalist society and that the better it was prepared, the less trouble and pain there would be in carrying it through. Following the revolutionary syndicalists, he considered the unions (syndicates) to be the organs and elements of preparation for the revolution. The unions, in Rocker’s opinion, struggling not only for momentary improvements, but also for revolution, are “not a transitory product of capitalist society, but the cells of the future socialist economic organization.”

Rejecting private property as a “monopoly of possessions” and government as a “monopoly of decision-making,” the syndicalists should strive “for collectivization of land, work tools, raw materials, and all social wealth; for the reorganization of the whole of economic life on the basis of libertarian, i.e. stateless, communism, which finds its expression in the slogan: ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs!’” Rocker criticized not only the bourgeois State, State boundaries, parliamentarism and political parties; but also Bolshevism (party communism) since centralization, preservation of State power, and nationalization (government ownership) of the economy can “lead only to the worst form of exploitation – State capitalism, rather than socialism.” The syndicalists should act not to win political power, but for the eradication of political power generally. As for socialism – in the final analysis this is a question of culture – it cannot be established by any kind of decisions from above. It is only possible in the form of an association of self-managed groups of producers, of workers performing both mental and physical labour. By this means “groups, enterprises, and branches of production” would work as “autonomous members of a general economic organism, which on the basis of mutual and free agreements would systematically carry out production and distribution in the common interest.” As the instruments for such “planning from below” Rocker considered statistics and voluntary agreements. “The organization of enterprises and workshops by economic councils, the organization of the whole of production by industrial and agricultural associations, and the organization of consumption by workers’ exchanges” (i.e. industrial associations of workers at the local level) – he proclaimed.

According to the notion of the German anarcho-syndicalists, in the course of a victorious general strike it was appropriate to carry out the expropriation of private property, enterprises, food stores, real estate, etc. The management of enterprises was to be transferred into the hands of Councils of workers and employees [office workers]; the management of dwellings into the hands of Councils of tenants. Delegates from enterprises and districts would constitute a Commune.

Money and the system of commodity production (for sale) was slated to be abolished: the regulation of consumption (fixed levels in the beginning, later driven by demand) was to be entrusted to “labour exchanges” and tenants’ councils.

The fundamental difference between anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism lay in the fact that syndicalism did not consider direct action to be “selfsufficient” as a means of achieving anarchist communism.

“... Anarcho-syndicalism exists as the organizational force of the social revolution on a libertarian-communist basis; anarcho-communists must be anarcho-syndicalists in order to organize the revolution, and every anarchist who is able to become a member of a trade union should be a member of the anarcho-syndicalist Confederation of Labour,” the general secretary of the anarcho-syndicalist International, A. Shapiro, declared later.

In spite of the openly anti-Bolshevik orientation of the new doctrine, the German anarcho-syndicalists in the beginning still permitted limited co-operation with Communist Party members. Thus, in January 1921, the executive committee of FAUD stated in a letter to the Central Committee of the United Communist Party of Germany that the syndicalists were agreeable to joint actions under the condition that the participating organizations harmonize their demands in advance (including the 6-hour workday, abolition of piece-work, rejection of weapons production) and their tactics, as well as treating participants as equals. But these conditions were unacceptable to State-communists. In 1921 FAUD announced that membership in political parties was incompatible with being in a syndicalist organization.

However in 1920 the possibility of co-operation in practice was still conceivable. At the invitation the Soviets, revolutionary trade union organizations of various countries sent their own representatives to the 2nd Congress of the Comintern in Moscow in the summer of 1920. The FAUD sent its own delegates – the Australian Paul Freeman and the German [URL=/tags/augustin-souchy] Augustin Souchy – with a mandate “to study the economic Soviet system in Russia so we have a clear picture of what’s going on and can evaluate the experience of the Russian comrades for our own country.” Freeman later became a supporter of Bolshevism, while A. Souchy returned from Moscow a fervent opponent. The latter described his impressions of the Russian Revolution in a timely book.

Subjecting to a sharp critique the Bolshevist modus operandi of seizing political power, centralization, and dictatorial state socialism, the German syndicalist made this recommendation: “[the Bolshevik method] should not be followed if a revolution should begin in our own country.”

At the 2nd Congress of the Comintern there were also syndicalist delegates or observers from other countries: Spain (Ángel Pestaña), France (Marcel Verge and Berto Lepti), a delegation of British shop stewards led by John Tanner, and representatives of the IWW. Immediately after the Congress the leading activist of the Italian USI, Armando Borghi, arrived in Moscow. In the course of meetings before the Congress, organized by the Executive Committee of the Comintern, the Bolsheviks proposed to create a new revolutionary International of Trade Unions so that in each country trade unions would have to act under the leadership of the Communist Party affiliated with the Comintern. It was envisaged that this project would also involve acceptance of the dictatorship of the proletariat. A. Pestaña, A. Souchy, and J. Tanner rejected the Bolshevist ideas about the necessity of working in reformist trade unions, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the conquest of political power, and the subordination of unions to communist parties. The Spanish delegate, bound by the decision of the CNT about joining the Comintern, agreed to sign the draft plan, but only after the Bolsheviks promised to exclude from it any mention of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the seizure of political power. However it turned out Pestaña was deceived: the text was published in the original form, but with his signature.

During the Congress itself the same disagreements were on display.

Now the revolutionary unions were faced with the decision whether or not to join to the newly created “Red International of Trade Unions” (Profintern). Declarations about affiliating were made by the British shop stewards and the French revolutionary syndicalists (at a conference in September 1920 in Orléans, accompanying this with an affirmation of loyalty to the Charter of Amiens). In December 1920 in Berlin the long-awaited international syndicalist conference convened with the participation of delegates from the FAUD (Germany, but also representing Czechoslovakia), FORA (Argentina), IWW (U.S.A.), CRS (France), NAS (Netherlands), shop stewards’ and workers’ committees (Britain), and SAC (Sweden). Declarations of support for the conference were made by syndicalists from Norway and Denmark, and by the Portuguese CGT. A delegation from Russian trade unions also arrived and urged the participants to endorse the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Profintern, which they insisted was a structure separate from the Comintern. The Swedish and German delegates took the floor with a critique of Moscow and the persecution of anarchists in Russia; the French representatives showed themselves to be solid supporters of the Bolsheviks; the Dutch delegation was split; and other delegates called for spelling out concrete demands for the form to be taken by an international association of revolutionary unions. These demands, approved by all the delegates with the exception of the Russians and French, became known as the “Berlin Declaration.” According to it, the Profintern would have to base itself on class struggle, aiming at the liquidation of the rule of the capitalist system and the creation of a free communist society. In this connection it was noted that the liberation of the working class must be carried out only with the help of economic means of struggle, and that the regulation of production and distribution must become the task of economic organizations of the proletariat. The complete independence of the trade union International from any political party was emphasized, although co-operation with parties and other political organizations was to be allowed.

All the revolutionary syndicalist organizations of the world were urged to take part in the Moscow congress of the Profitern. An international syndicalist information bureau was created in Amsterdam (its secretary was the Dutchman Bernard Lansink and the other members were R. Rocker from Germany and J. Tanner from Great Britain).

The Bolsheviks, the Western European communist parties loyal to them, and the Moscow organizing committee, tried to persuade the revolutionary syndicalists to take part in the new international trade union association under the aegis of the communists. The chief opposition to this was considered to come from the German FAUD. Thus, the section of the Communist Party of Germany which dealt with trade union work in the mining industry issued a directive to district secretaries and party fractions in the unions, ordering them to “struggle and defeat” this organization.

The communists encouraged breakaways from the FAUD in every way possible. The German anarcho-syndicalists did not send delegates to the Moscow congress. In France, where an internal opposition in the CGT existed, the communists distinguished “three tendencies: (1) anarcho-syndicalists, (2) old syndicalists who wanted to return to the Amiens program of 1906, and (3) communist syndicalists.” Moscow was counting on the third tendency for support and hoped to neutralize the first. Nevertheless the secretary of the Central Committee of the CRS, Pierre Besnard, took a position of opposition to Bolshevism. A group of new leaders of the Spanish CNT (Joaquín Maurín, Andrés Nin, and others) aspired to join with Moscow. They moved to the forefront at a plenum in Barcelona in April 1921 after the arrest of the members of the previous Confederational Committee. “In some sections of our Confederation one finds a certain opposition to joining the Red International of Labour Unions. But it is our firm hope that the CNT will join the Profintern,” they wrote to Moscow.

At the congress of the Profintern held in July 1921, the communists succeeded, thanks to a system of representation which favoured them, in assuring themselves a sizeable majority. All the revolutionary syndicalist organizations which took part in the 1920 Berlin conference sent representatives (with the exception of FAUD). But a motion proposed by Albert Lemoine that the Profintern not be subordinate to the Comintern failed, despite being supported by the French syndicalists, FORA, IWW, NAS, SAC, and the German leftcommunist workers’ unions. Also defeated was a proposal by the CNT, USI, NAS, IWW, FORA, the French and Canadian syndicalists, the Uruguayan regional workers federation, and the German unions opposing work in reformist unions.

After this the oppositionist syndicalists, getting together in Moscow, adopted a “Manifesto of the revolutionary syndicalists of the world” and agreed to create an “Association of revolutionary syndicalists elements of the world.” This association would include the CNT, USI, CSR, IWW, SAC, NAS, FORA, the German workers’ organizations, and unions from Denmark, Norway, Canada, and Uruguay giving a total membership of almost 2.8 million. It was proposed to locate the bureau of the new association in Paris. But the organization was not created at this time.

The Bolsheviks succeeded in sundering the united bloc of the syndicalist opposition. The leadership of the Profintern made a deal with the delegation of the Spanish CNT, promising that the communists would facilitate the merger of the socialist trade unions of the UGT with the CNT. The French delegates held meetings with representatives of the Profintern and agreed to join the Red International, but only on condition that the “Charter of Amiens” was observed, namely that the organizational independence of unions from parties would be preserved. In principle none of the syndicalists objected to belonging to the Profintern as long as a number of conditions were met – and only the FORA repudiated its delegate to the Moscow congress.

The situation began to change in an sense unfavourable for Moscow in connection with the repression against the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists in Russia and Ukraine (a delegation of foreign syndicalists in Moscow demanded their release) and also because the Bolsheviks continued to insist on the subordination of the unions to the Comintern.

In October 1921 at an international conference of syndicalists from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and from the IWW, which was held in Düsseldorf on the occasion of the 13th congress of FAUD, a resolution was adopted to consider the founding of an International of trade unions abortive. The participants announced themselves in favour of convening a new international congress in Germany on the basis of the Berlin declaration. The preparation for this meeting was entrusted to an international Information Bureau of revolutionary syndicalists which set about putting out the appropriate international bulletin. The Italian USI also answered the call; at its own 4th congress in March 1922 it turned down a proposal by Nicolo Vecci’s group to join the Profintern until questions about the mutual relations of trade unions with the Comintern had been thrashed out at a new congress outside Soviet territory. The members of the Swedish trade union central SAC in a referendum turned down an amendment to their declaration of principles which would have envisaged the possibility of joining the Comintern and forming links with communist parties. The Spanish CNT at a plenum in August 1921 re-affirmed its independence from political parties and policy of organizing the social revolution and libertarian communism. Its newly elected National Committee was composed of anarchists.

In June 1922 at a plenum in Zaragoza the CNT adopted a resolution about withdrawing from the Comintern as a matter of principle and sending delegates to the conference of syndicalists.

Basically, the demands the syndicalists made to the Profintern reduced to the following points: “(1) cancellation of reciprocal representation between the Comintern and the Profintern in order to preserve the independence of the revolutionary union movement; (2) the second congress of the Profintern must be held abroad, in order to avoid the anticipated harmful influence of Russia on the gathering; (3) non-admission of separate delegations from the labour unions of Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, and similar nations under Russian control; (4) relocation of the residence of the executive committee of the Profintern outside of the Soviet Union; (5) independence of the labour union movement from political parties, i.e. from communist parties, at the national and international levels; (6) denial of the right of representation to revolutionary minorities, which was meant to include communist opposition fractions in labour unions affiliated with the Amsterdam International [the international trade union association controlled by socialdemocracy – V. D.]; (7) voting at international congresses of the Profintern to be conducted on the basis of countries, regardless of the number of members of organizations; (8) restriction of the Profintern to the sphere of international affairs – prohibition of interference in practice and tactics in individual countries.”2

The search for common ground between the Profintern and the syndicalists was initiated by the French Unitary General Confederation of Labour (CGTU). This organization was formed in 1922 by leftist tendencies which had withdrawn from the CGT. In a letter dated March 8 1922 directed to the Executive Office of the Profintern, its syndicalist leadership demanded the strictest observance of the complete independence of national labour union centrals from communist parties and the Comintern – only in this situation were they ready to join the Profintern. In this connection the CGTU was prepared to allow co-operation with communists within the framework of “coalitions of all the revolutionary forces” by means of specially created “Coordinating Committees.” In forwarding this proposal to Moscow, the Spanish communist Hilari Arlandis urged its acceptance, in order “to disarm the libertarians as quickly as possible” since these ideas enjoyed wide popularity among international syndicalist and even partly among communist circles, especially in Latin countries where the Profintern found itself in an “extremely delicate” situation and there was active anti-Bolshevik agitation by Russian anarchists. “If we don’t put an end to this opposition movement once and for all by making a declaration in favour of the complete independence of the Profintern,” he warned, “We shall be at high risk of never seeing an end to this issue; ... if today the non-negotiable demand of the syndicalist opposition is organizational independence with no strings attached, then tomorrow the libertarians will be raising questions about the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

The leadership of the Profintern suggested on March 10 that the CGTU send two representatives to Moscow for negotiations in order to “prepare the ground for a second congress in the interests of all tendencies which would be a great benefit for our common interests.” But the syndicalists preferred the idea of negotiations with Moscow on a broader scale. A congress of the Italian USI in March 1922 approved a proposal of the CGTU to convene an international conference to discuss the conditions of agreement.

It was originally scheduled for June 16-18 in Paris. In connection with this, the Administrative Commission of the CGTU at a meeting on April 28 rejected an invitation from the Profintern to send French delegates to Moscow.

It informed the General Secretary of the Red International Lozovsky about the decision to convene a “preliminary conference” in Paris, the purpose of which was “to make the differences disappear” which were preventing the syndicalists from affiliating with the Moscow International. The CGTU asked the USI, which was organizing the conference, to relocate it to Berlin in order to make it easier for delegations from Russian labour unions to attend.

On May 19 1922 the leaders of the USI A. Borghi and A. Giovannetti informed the “secretary of the Russian labour union central” that on June 16-18 in the capital of Germany would take place an “international syndicalist conference for the purpose of studying the differences in views existing between the revolutionary syndicalist movement of all countries and the Red International of Labour Unions, and to agree on the formation of a Revolutionary Labour Union International if the differences with the Red International could not be resolved.” The USI reported that invitations had been extended to labour union associations in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and also to the “syndicalist minorities” of various countries. In the instructions given to delegations of the Profintern to the international syndicalist conference, it was stated that discussions, and even concessions, about contentious issues were possible, with the exclusion of three basic questions – about the independence of labour unions from political parties, about the banning of communist fractions in reformist labour unions, and about non-interference in the internal affairs of individual organizations. “We must take a stand for our positions on these three most important questions and on this basis we are prepared to go all the way to an open rupture...,” the instructions went on to say.

The international syndicalist conference convened in Berlin in June 1922 with the participation of delegations from France, Germany, Norway, Spain, and also Russian anarcho-syndicalists and official Russian labour unions, representing the Profintern. The communist fraction in the USI and labour unions which had split from the German FAUD were not allowed to cast deciding votes. This prompted the Soviet delegates to quit the conference. A majority of the delegates were sharply critical of the repression of the anarchists in Soviet Russia. This was the final break between the syndicalists and the communists. And although the French delegates refrained from voting because of internal differences, the remaining delegates resolved to break with the Profintern and create an international congress of revolutionary labour unions. To prepare for this a bureau was set up in Berlin headed by R. Rocker assisted by A. Borghi (USI), A. Pestaña (CNT), Albert Jensen (from the Scandinavian syndicalists), and A. Shapiro (from the Russian anarcho-syndicalists). A declaration of principles was adopted, based on the corresponding declaration of the FAUD.

It rejected political parties, parliamentarism, militarism, nationalism, and centralism. Its positive program included the complete autonomy of economic organizations of both physical and intellectual labour, and direct action with the general strike being its highest expression, the “prelude to the social revolution.” The goal of this revolution would be the reconstruction of economic and social life, the liquidation of all State functions in the life of society, and the creation of a system of libertarian communism. The dictatorship of the proletariat and Bolshevik methods were decisively condemned. In the words of researcher W. Thorpe, the declaration “signified an important advance in syndicalist thought, since it confirmed and made clear what had often only been implied in pre-war European syndicalism.” It enunciated “not simply political neutrality, as expressed in the ‘Charter of Amiens’, but opposition to all political parties, which were regarded as qualitatively different, hostile organizations, inevitably striving to establish their control over labour unions; and also the smashing of the political state... In short, this document, adopted by the delegates in Berlin, elaborated syndicalist principles.”

In a last-ditch attempt to draw at least part of the revolutionary syndicalists to their side, the leaders of the Comintern and Profintern agreed to do away with reciprocal representation of both “red” Internationals, although they continued to insist on the “leading role” of communists in the labour unions. This concession seemed sufficient to the leadership of the French CGTU, which announced its affiliation with the Profintern; its libertarian minority formed a “Committee of Syndicalist Defense” (CDS). Satisfied with the measures taken by Moscow, a majority of the leadership of the Netherlands NAS took a position opposed to the creation of a new syndicalist International. The remaining revolutionary syndicalist unions endorsed an organizational demarcation between themselves and Bolshevism. Thus, at the congress of the Portuguese CGT in October 1922, 55 locals supported the creation of a new International and only 22 were for joining the Profintern.

At the same time, the rupture between the ascendant European anarcho-syndicalism and both the pre-war syndicalism and Bolshevism seemed inadequate to some of the revolutionary unions. Thus, the Argentine FORA, in its “Memorandum” addressed to the upcoming constitutional congress of the syndicalist International, expressed complete agreement with the proposed organizational system and methods of struggle, and endorsed the social goal of the new international organization – libertarian communism.

However it categorically rejected the notion that labour unions – organs which arose under capitalism in response to capitalist conditions and fulfilled a service as the best means of worker resistance against the State and Capital – would be transformed in the course of the revolution into the basis and ruling organs of the new society. “With the liquidation of the capitalist production system and rule of the State, the syndicalist economic organs will end their historical role as the fundamental weapon in the struggle with the system of exploitation and tyranny. Consequently, these organs must give way to free associations and free federations of free producers and consumers.” FORA took a stand against industrial (sectoral) forms of organization, considering that they imitated Capitalism. Finally, FORA categorically rejected any form of a “united front” with labour unions led by communists.

The final formation of the anarcho-syndicalist International (sometimes also known as the “Berlin International of labour unions”) took place at the constitutional congress which took place illegally in Berlin from December 25 1922 to January 2 1923, punctuated by police raids and arrests.

Represented at it were the Argentine FORA, the Italian USI, the German FAUD, the Chilean division of the IWW, the Swedish union central SAC, the Norwegian syndicalist federation, the Union for syndicalist propaganda of Denmark, the Netherlands NAS, and the Mexican General Confederation of Workers. The delegates of the Spanish CNT were arrested before they reached Berlin. The Portuguese CGT sent a written endorsement. Attending with a deliberative vote were representatives of the left-communist German General Workers Union-Unitary Organization (AAUD-E), the German anarcho-syndicalist youth, the French CDS, the French federation of construction workers, the Federation of Youth of the Seine, delegates of the Russian anarcho-syndicalist emigration, the Czechoslovak Free Workers Union, and representatives of the international syndicalist bureaus created in 1920 and 1922 in the Netherlands and Germany.

Altogether these organizations accounted for roughly two million members. The 14th annual convention of the American IWW declared it did not intend to affiliate with either the Profintern or the syndicalist International, since neither one were suitable for it.

All the delegates, except the representatives of the Netherlands NAS, rejected the “concessions” of the Bolsheviks and participation in the Profintern. The creation of a new, anarcho-syndicalist International was announced. By way of a motion proposed by the Italian Alibrando Giovanetti, as a symbol of continuity the new organization took the historical name of the First International – the “International Workers’ Association” (IWA). The declaration of principles of the IWA (“Principles of revolutionary syndicalism”) in essence repeated the basic positions of the Berlin declaration of June 1922. Elected to the Secretariat of the IWA in Berlin were R. Rocker, A. Souchy, and A. Shapiro.

The records of the congress contain harsh condemnations not only of capitalism and the reformism of social-democracy, but also of the Bolshevist “State socialism.” The delegates accused Bolshevism of suppressing revolution in Russia and creating a new state-capitalist system, in which the workers of the USSR remained exploited as wage workers. “Forcibly destroying with relentless consistency all institutions which arose out of the people’s initiative, namely soviets, co-operatives, etc., in order to subject the masses to a newly created class of commissar-rulers, [Bolshevism] paralyzed the creative activity of the masses and gave birth to a new despotism, stifling any kind of free thought and confining the spiritual life of the country to the banal party mold,” according to the appeal “To Working People of All Countries and Nationalities.” The so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat – a fig leaf for Bolshevist reaction – had proven itself able to stabilize the rule of a new upper stratum over the broad masses of the people and condemn to death revolutionaries of all tendencies, but was incapable of guiding the economic and social life of the country on a new path and carrying out really constructive work in the spirit of socialism.”

As R. Rocker explained later, for anarcho-syndicalists the Bolsheviks were the heirs of “the absolutist trend of thought in socialism,” a special kind of “socialist Jacobins,” i.e. essentially they were revolutionaries who were political rather than social, and bourgeois rather than proletarian.

In spite of this harsh critique of Bolshevism, some syndicalists still believed in the possibility of coming to an arrangement with the Profitern about a “united front” of the revolutionary proletariat. A corresponding draft resolution was introduced at the Berlin congress by the French delegation.

A majority of the other participants did not exhibit any great enthusiasm for this project, but went along with this idea so as not to complicate the situation of the French comrades. The FORA emphatically objected to such a compromise and abstained from voting on the resolution.

The creation of the IWA was officially confirmed at congresses or referenda of its sections. In Europe affiliation to the IWA was speedily approved by the FAUD, USI, SAC, and CNT. At a referendum in Norway the creation of the International was approved unanimously, and in Portugal (October 1924) 104 syndicates declared for the IWA, six for the Profintern. In the Netherlands, the communists and other supporters of the Profintern were able to gain a slight majority in a referendum of syndicates, and IWA members organized a new trade union central – the Netherlands Syndicalist Trade Union Federation (NSV). Also declaring its affiliation to the IWA was the Revolutionary-Syndicalist CGT (CGT-SR), finally splitting from the French CGTU.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s sections and groups of adherents of the IWA also appeared in Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Poland, and Rumania.

In America, affiliation with the IWA was also confirmed by a congress of the Mexican General Confederation of Labour (CGT) in December 1923. A congress of the FORA, extremely unhappy with the resolution adopted in Berlin about “revolutionary unity,” decided in March 1923 to join the anarcho-syndicalist International conditionally and to hold a referendum on this matter. But then, after the contentious resolution was repealed, the objection against participation in the IWA was removed. Also joining the IWA were anarcho-syndicalists from Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Columbia, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica, and El Salvador (in May 1929 an American continental association of workers was created as a section of the IWA). Sections also sprang up in Japan and China. In the U.S.A. the Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union of the IWW affiliated with the IWA.

  • 1 In 1922 SAC declared that affiliating to the International being created in Moscow was incompatible with the syndicalist principle of independence from political parties (RGASPI: F.532, Op. 7, D. 624, L. 23, 36, 65-66).
  • 2 SAPMO: Bestand RY1/I2/708, Aktenband No. 53, Bl. 75-78.