First Published: 1914 in
Rabotnicheski Vestnik No. 279, April 9.
Source: Georgi Dimitrov, Selected Works
Sofia Press, Sofia, Volume 1, 1972, pp. 36-39
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive
The visit to Sofia during the Easter holidays of Comrade K. Legien,1) President of the International Trade Union, was for the Sofia workers and for the whole Bulgarian prolefighting against capitalist exploitation a rare proletarian festival which left behind profound and indelible memories.
No one else has yet been given such a grand and cordial welcome in Bulgaria's capital as the president of the Trade Unions International. The organized workers of Sofia and the entire class-conscious Bulgarian proletariat gave a vivid expression of their boundless sympathies for the organized international proletariat when welcoming Comrade K. Leand at the impressive workers' meeting in New Ameri, as well as through hundreds of messages of greetings sent from the provinces; they manifested their sentiments of international proletarian solidarity in a most eloquent manner and showed that in spirit and struggle they were part and parcel of the eight-million strong workers' army, rallied under the banner of the International.
This was also a brilliant manifestation of the idea of proletarian unity, of the complete unity of its organization and struggle, as well as a condemnation of the attempts made so far by the corrupt mock-socialist intelligentsia to split the workers' forces. We value this manifestation all the more, because a proletariat devoid of class-consciousness and a feeling of cohesion and unity in its organization and struggle against capitalism is doomed.
K. Legien's visit to our country is of great importance for the unity and further development of the Bulgarian trade union movement. True, as we are bidding farewell today to our dear guest and his most congenial companion Comrade Bukscheck, we cannot yet say unfortunately that the trade union split in a number of trades has been completely overcome. It should be stressed, however, that his mission in this respect was not in vain. What has been done at the recent conferences of trade union representatives is a decisive step towards doing away with the existing split in trade unions, something which may be considered as impending.
First of all, at the conferences presided over by Comrade K. Legien, a survey was made of the state of the trade union movement in our country and, in particular, of the trade unions affiliated to the two trade union centres. What became strikingly clear here was the vast numerical, financial and all-round superiority of the Social-democratic trade unions over the rival trade unions affiliated to the centre of Rightwing Socialists. Before a representative of the International it was positively ascertained, with all the necessary factual data, that our General Workers' Trade Union, comprising 13 central trade unions, numbered 6,563 regular members on March 20, 1914, that from January 1 to March 20 of the same year 47,200 weekly membership dues totalling 15,534.45 leva were received in the central treasury of these unions, and that the total revenue for the same period was 20,283.45 leva, with ready cash on March 20 reaching 40,410.79 leva. Whereas the rival 'right-wing' unions, according to the two sole tables submitted by their centre containing uncerdata, and with unconfirmed resources, have 3,163 members, with a revenue from membership dues 3,920.80 leva, a total revenue of 7,153.41 leva and ready cash 4,678.99 leva in March!
It was also ascertained that the Right-wing Socialist centre has a few organizations only in the trades of print tailors, shoemakers, sales clerks and carpenters, and that mainly in Sofia, as the listed handful of members from the other trades cannot be considered as forming organizations. Moreover, it became abundantly clear that while in the Social-democratic trade unions there is complete cohesion and centralization, as is the case in all modern trade unions, the rival unions continue to be completely decentralized and disorganized.
All these important findings, ascertained officially by the President of the International Trade Union in person, go to show once again that the de facto representative and leader of the trade union movement in Bulgaria is our trade union centre, the only one that deserves serious attention on the part of the International.
Nevertheless, Comrade Karl Legien was fully aware of the necessity of creating a single unified trade union centre, so as to secure the regular development of the trade union movement and to guarantee the success of the workers' future struggles. Proceeding from the assumption that there are two Social-democratic parties in Bulgaria, with which the two trade union centres are connected, and that the Tatexistence apart from one another is determined by the existing Party split, considering the Right-wing Party a Social-democratic one, insofar as it is affiliated to the InSocialist Bureau, without considering its true character, Comrade Legien found that the best way out of the present situation would be for the two centres to merge on the basis of neutrality, naturally not neutrality with regard to socialism, but to the existing two socialist parties. Formally, he was quite right. The trouble is that the RightSocialist Party is not in any sense of the word a SoParty, that a wide and unbridgeable gap separates it from the Workers' Social-democratic Party and that, this being so, if a trade union merger were to be effected on a basis of neutrality, the thus unified trade union movement would become the arena of Party struggles and be exposed to the demoralization which is now underthe ranks of Right-wing Socialists. This is a terrific risk which our trade union centre and the Social-demotrade unions, conscious of their responsibility for the present and future of the Bulgarian workers' movement, could not take at the moment.
We therefore proposed at the conference that the settlement of all the problems concerning the character, tactics, etc., of the trade union movement be left to the workers themselves, who form part of the organizations attached to the two trade union centres and have a direct stake in the attainment of trade union unity. We submitted to the conthe following declaration:
We agree that it be decided now, in the preservation of Comrade Karl Legien, that the two trade union centres should convene a general congress, at which the representationshould be determined on the basis of the data, ascertained by this conference, on the numerical strength of trade unions belonging to the two centres, with one delegate from the midst of the trade unions themselves per 100 members. This congress should decide sovereignly, on the basis of an ordinary majority, all questions concern the character, tactics form of organization and relationship to political parties of the future General Trade Union, its decisions being compulsory for the member unions. The congress should be convened at the end of April at the latest.'
This proposal, which leaves to the workers themselves from the two parties concerned to decide upon the outstandissues and to achieve the complete unity of their organi was flatly rejected by the right-wing leaders. Those who loudly proclaimed at every street corner their readito achieve trade union unity at all cost, now that an acceptable practical basis leading to real trade union unity was proposed, considered it advisable to back out.
We remain convinced, however, that all the workers who hold dear the unity of the trade union movement will accept this modus and will help to overcome the now existsplit in the trade unions. All the more so, as it is now no longer possible to keep up the myth, which the rival organihave been spreading for years among the workers, that the International will impose unity on the basis of neutrality.
The demagogical flirting with the idea of unification has now come to an end. The complete unity of the trade union movement in Bulgaria is about to be re-established.
Legien, Karl (1861-1920), German trade union leader, right-wing Social Democrat, member of the Reichstag from 1893, President of the German General Trade Unions and Secretary of the International Trade Union Secretariat from 1890, and after 1913 its President, during World War I an outspoken chauvinist sacrificing the trade unions to the interests of the military, and after the German revolutionj in 1918 promoter of co-operation between businessmen and trade unions.