From For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy!
October 15, 1948 No. 20 (23)

Trade Unions in the New Democracies

B. Voda-Pexa

The trade unions in the new democracies embrace broad sections of industrial workers, office workers and intellectuals.

Unity of the trade union movement – the lack of which brought many defeats to the working class in the past, disarming it in face of the rising danger of fascism – was achieved as a result of the bitter experience of the working people. This experience was bought at the price of the tears and blood of the people’s liberation struggle, headed by the communists. Unity was also won as a result of the liberation of these countries by the valiant Soviet Army.

Broad perspective have opened up before the trade unions as the mass organisation of the working class which today occupies a leading place in the new state order. Never before have these organisations of the working class presented such a powerful force as now, when they unite vast numbers of working people who were previously divided by various barriers and prejudices.

Trade unions in the new democracies today are on of the main section of the People’s Front, an important bulwark of the new state power. After the nationalisation of the greater part of industry, the banks and large-scale trading, the working class is now directing its country’s economy together with working people as a whole. Conscious of its historic role, organizing itself in the trade unions, the working class is bulwark of its vanguard, the Communist and Workers’ Parties in rebuilding life on socialist principles.

This fundamentally changes the position of the trade unions, confronting them with new tasks. It makes it possible-even necessary-to apply new forms and methods to defend the economic interests of the workers, employees and intellectuals.

In their activities the trade unions take into account the fact that the struggle for the realisation of common state tasks and the socialist transformation of the new democracies is inseparable from the struggle for higher living standard for the people. Though they remain organisations defending the material and cultural interests of the working people, the unions in the new democracies are becoming an important factor in the public and state life. They are educating the working people in the spirit of loyalty to the new state order and Socialism. They are school where the workers are learning to be future public and state figures. Like the Soviet trade unions, the unions in the new democracies are the mass school of state and economic administration, the “School of Communism” as Lenin said.

Successes in the Work of Trade Unions

The working class of the new democracies smashed the plans of reaction. The reactionaries had counted on the collapse of the nationalised industry which is laying the economic foundation for development toward Socialism. In spite of great difficulties and organisational defects after the war, production in these countries is steadily growing up, targets are being smashed and labour productivity is increasing.

In Poland last spring, production had increased by 152 per cent compared with the pre-war, in Bulgaria by 134 per cent, Hungary by 127 per cent and Czechoslovakia by 110 per cent. Rumania where industry has only been nationalised very recently has, in the main, reached the pre war level of production.

This is the result of the efforts of the Communist and Workers’ Parties and trade unions; it is the result of the fact that the working class is now working for itself, for its state and not for capitalists.

Trade unions of the new democracies devote considerable attention to strengthening the nationalised industries, increasing and improving output, raising the productivity of labour as the basis for the successful building of Socialism and the steady improvement of the living standards of the people. The turning point in the attitude to labour which Lenin spoke of as a more difficult and more important factor in the victory of the new social order than the overthrow of the bourgeoisie has already started in the new democracies. This is best seen from the steadily increasing number of workers’ taking part in labour emulation.

With the growth of production and stabilisation of the monetary system, the trade unions worked extensively to improve the conditions of the working people. This work was greatly facilitated by the help given by the Soviet Union to the new democracies in the form of grain supplies during the droughts, reduction of reparations, and so on.

For instance, real wages of Hungarian workers increased by 43 per cent between October 1946 and July 1948. In Czechoslovakia, average earnings registered a 37 per cent increase between January 1946 and spring 1948. Moreover, the price index remained unchanged. A similar picture is given by the other new democracies.

In the capitalist countries, on the other hand, real wages are steadily dropping. This is true not only of the countries which are in the stranglehold of the “Marshall Plan”, but also of the United States itself where real wages have fallen by 16.5 per cent from January 1945 to the middle of this year.

In Rumania, Hungry and the other new democracies, prices of essential goods have been cut and rations increased. In Poland, bread rationing has been abolished. According to the reactionary newspaper, “The Observer”, prices in the United States went up to 8 per cent in one week alone, the week of August 18 to 25.

In the new democracies, planned economy has eliminated unemployment. Surplus labour power, especially in the countryside, is rapidly being drawn into expanding industry. The direct opposite is happening in the capitalist countries, where unemployment is daily increasing. The United States today has 2,500,000 unemployment and 13,500,000 on short time.

In the new democracies young people and women get equal pay for equal work, enjoy the right to leisure and benefit from other big democratic reforms. Under the influence of the trade unions, the social insurance system, labour protection, living condition and education are being improved. Workers in industry and offices can get medical treatment at health resorts and in sanatoria. Their children can go to nurseries, secondary schools and universities. Such attention for the working people is impossible in the capitalist countries.

Strengthening the ties of the working class with the rest of the working people, especially with the working peasantry, the trade unions supported the small and medium peasants in their struggle for land reform and other vital interests.

By successfully fighting for industrialisation, for creation of new agricultural technique, by helping the small and medium peasants to build cooperatives and by supporting them in their fight against kulaks, the trade unions are an important weapon in the fight for socialist transformation of the countryside.

Here mention should be made of successful work carried out by the unions in the new democracies in educating and mobilising the masses to combat reaction – the exploiting and parasitic elements which are endeavouring to take advantage of the temporary difficulties in these countries. A striking example of this was demonstrated by the Czechoslovak unions which during the February days came forward under the leadership of the Communist Party with their programme of demands, rallied the workers for the general strike which ended in complete victory for popular masses.

Trade Unions and the People’s Front

The People’s (National, Fatherland) Front was formed as a broad union of democratic forces under Communist leadership to fight for the national liberation of the countries enslaved by fascism and for the creation and strengthening of people’s democratic states led by the working class.

The Communists waged a sharp struggle inside the People’s Front against the reactionaries who tried to hold up its activities from within and distorted the aims and tasks of the Front.

The existence in the People’s Front of parties and organisations representing broad semi-proletariat and petty-bourgeois strata, makes it easier for the working class to carry out its role making it possible for it to spread its influence among the masses and to lead them.

On the other hand, it makes it imperative to wage a continual struggle against petty-bourgeois vacillations and reactionary intrigues. Before the decision of the People’s Front can be put into being there must be further persistent struggle. But not all members of the People’s Front are capable of waging this with equal intensity. Therefore, the vanguard of the working class – the Communist and Workers’ Parties – must not forget that all the organisations in the People’s Front, the trade unions are its chief support, most capable of upholding its policy consistently and keeping contact with the working class and, through it, with the whole of the working people.

Lenin and Stalin time and again stressed the great role of the trade unions in building the new society. Lenin, for instance, said that there could be no transition from capitalism to communism, “without having the supremacy of the class which alone was educated by capitalism for large-scale production and which alone was isolated from the interests of the small proprietor”.

Notwithstanding the specific conditions of development in the new democracies, the Lenin and Stalin thesis regarding the trade unions as the main and direct support of the vanguard of the working class, can be fully applied to these countries.

Distortion of Trade Union Role by Yugoslav Communist Leaders

By taking an anti-Marxist path Tito-Kardelj-Djilas-Rankovic clique consider the peasantry as the leading force in the country. They have merged the Communist Party in the People’s Front and have completely distorted the role of the trade unions.

The trade unions in the Yugoslavia are artificially separated from the Party; they are regarded as the “conveyor belt” that connects the industrial and office workers with the heterogeneous People’s Front, not with the Party. According to the present bosses of the Yugoslav Party, the trade unions are not the main support of the Party. These traitors to the proletariat have gone so far as to deny the need of trade unions as an independent organisation of the working class. Djilas, for instance, declared in January 1947 that it was senseless and mistaken to hold separate meetings of trade unions and the People’s Front organisations, and that such meetings should be held together, at the same time.

The Yugoslav Communist leaders consider the organs of state power – the People’s Committee – to be the main support of the Party and give them the place of trade unions and working class. This clique of traitors offers as an explanation of the “specific” features of the liberation struggle in Yugoslavia and claims that the trade unions, that is, the working class, played no role in this struggle. This “theory” was propagated for instance, by Moses Pijade in his article on the mechanism of the state power in Yugoslavia (“Borba”, June 12, 1948).

The Tito clique deprives the People’s Committees of the guiding influence of the working class and promotes the peasantry to the role of leading force in the country. Relegating the trade unions, and therefore, the whole working class, to the background in the political life of the country, negating the leading role of the working class, is part of the anti-Marxist line of the Yugoslav party leaders, which is leading to degeneration of Yugoslavia into a bourgeois republic.

Work of Party in Trade Union

The decision of the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties on the situation in Communist Party of Yugoslavia states that the transition from capitalism to Socialism in the new democracies is accompanied by a sharpening of the class struggle. Therefore, at the same time as the Communist and Workers’ Parties and their leading role among the masses are strengthened, it is also necessary to pay great attention to strengthen further the trade unions.

The tremendous growth in the membership of the Communist and Workers Parties makes it necessary to ensure that the Party organisations do not lose their ability to be the leaders and educators of the working people, that they neither merge with the trade unions in the nature and level of their work nor replace them.

Taking into account the composition of trade unions as a broad organisation of the working people, the Party should apply forms and methods of work which will gain it the following of the mass of trade unionists and through them enable it to raise the whole of working class to a higher political level. In some of the new democracies there are still  certain unions leaders who are inclined to practice impermissible methods of work, to be bureaucratic and to issue decrees.

Addressing the Second Congress of Bulgarian Trade Unions last February, comrade Dimitrov said that it was the duty of the trade union to develop genuine democracy, to rely on the initiative of the industrial and office worker, to strengthen conscious discipline and to observe freedom of opinion. “There can be no lords and governors in the working class”, said comrade Dimitrov, “the working class demands of its leaders intelligence and character, decisiveness and tact in relation to the factory and office worker. We can only lament over the leader who does not understand this”.

Party members who are also members of trade unions should ensure that the trade unions practice democratic principles and methods in all their work.

Criticism and self-criticism are being practised on an over wider scale in the trade unions of the new democracies. What is important is that such criticism is beginning to be made not only from above but also from below. This will make it possible to expose mistakes and shortcomings more quickly and thoroughly, to expose bureaucrats and enemies, and to carry out mass control from below.

Party members should always be vigilant so that any reactionary machinations can be smashed in early stages. They should expose wreckers, saboteurs and spies, guard the enterprise carefully, prevent provocateurs and enemies getting into the trade union organisation, and steadily raise the class vigilance of union members. It is always necessary to remember the growing resistance being put up by the exploiting strata and classes, supported by imperialism, which are living their last days.

Party organisations should educate their members to take a leading place among the working people in the struggle for higher productivity of labour, to be the initiators of labour emulation – so important a factor in increasing production – thus improving the people’s living standards. Only under these circumstances can the Communists maintain and develop their leading role among the mass of trade unionists.

Party organisations are responsible for the work of the trade unions. The Communist and Workers’ Parties regard the development for the trade union movement as among the most important and current questions in their work. The strengthening of the trade unions and their work will help to mobilise the working people to carry out current tasks, raise their militancy and enhance the leading role of the working class. This is one of the principal guarantees of the victory of Socialism in the new democracies.

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