Communism and Syndicalism


Leon Trotsky

(October 1929)

THE trade union question is one of the most important for the labour movement and, consequently, for the Opposition. Without a precise position on the trade union question, the Opposition will be unable to win real influence in the working class. That is why I believe it necessary to submit here, for discussion, a few considerations on the trade union question.

1. The Communist Party is the fundamental weapon of revolutionary action of the proletariat the combat organisation of its vanguard that must raise itself to the role of leader of the working class in all the spheres of its struggle without exception, and consequently, in the trade union field.

2. Those who, in principle, counterpose trade union autonomy to the leadership of the Communist Party, counterpose thereby – whether they want to or not – the most backward proletarian section to the vanguard of the working class, the struggle for immediate demands to the struggle for the complete liberation of the workers, reformism to Communism, opportunism to revolutionary Marxism.

3. Prewar French syndicalism, at the epoch of its rise and expansion, by fighting for trade union autonomy actually fought for its independence from the bourgeois government and its parties, among them that of reformist-parliamentary socialism. This was a struggle against opportunism – for a revolutionary road.

Revolutionary syndicalism did not in this connection, make a fetish of the autonomy of the mass organisations. On the contrary, it understood and preached the leading role of the revolutionary minority in relation to the mass organisations, which reflect the working class with all its contradictions, its backwardness, and its weaknesses.

4. The theory of the active minority was, in essence, an incomplete theory of a proletarian party. In all its practice, revolutionary syndicalism was an embryo of a revolutionary party as against opportunism, that is, it was a remarkable draft outline of revolutionary Communism.

5. The weakness of anarcho-syndicalism, even in its classic period, was the absence of a correct theoretical foundation, and, as a result a wrong understanding of the nature of the state and its role in the class struggle; an incomplete, not fully developed and, consequently, a wrong conception of the role of the revolutionary minority, that is, the party. Thence the mistakes in tactics, such as the fetishism of the general strike, the ignoring of the connection between the uprising and the seizure of power, etc.

6. After the war, French syndicalism found not only its refutation but also its development and its completion in Communism. Attempts to revive revolutionary syndicalism now would be to try and turn back history. For the labour movement, such attempts can have only reactionary significance. Continue reading “Communism and Syndicalism”