By Our Labour Correspondent The announcement made at last week's Trades Union Congress that an Anglo-Soviet Trades Union Council is being set tip marks a new orientation in international labour relations that cannot fail to have widespread and disquieting repercussions.
For many years there have been two international trade union organisations work
ing more or less in opposition. One was the I.F.T.U. (International Federation of Trade Unions) to which the T.U.C. belonged, and the other was the R.1.L.U. (Red International of Labour Unions) which was set up as part of the Third International to co-ordinate the activities of the Communistcontrolled unions of all countries.
The present war has destroyed the I.F.T.U. as a body of importance inasmuch as of the 27 countries affiliated. to it in 1938, representative of some 19,000,000 workers, in over half of these lands trade unionism has ceased to exist.
The I.F.T.U. has always been opposed to the admission of the Soviet trade unions to membership. At the last attempt a resolution advocating their affiliation was proposed by Mr. George Hicks, supported by Sir Walter Citrine, together with the representatives of France, Mexico and Norway. Those of the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and the U.S.A. combined to oppose the application which was defeated by 46 votes to 37, after (he American Federation of Labour's delegate had roundly condemned the Russian unions as being no different from the German Labour Front and threatening the withdrawal of the A.F.L. from the 1.F.T.U. should the Soviet bodies be admitted.
This attitude of American labour might well be borne in mind to-day by those who are trying to understand the viewpoint of the U.S.A.
Exactly where the new Anglo-Russian T.U. Council will lead is not that the moment clear, but it has been stated that its life will extend beyond the conclusion of the war. It is practicable for us to form a military alliance with the Soviet while rejecting their Communism, but it is debatable whether such a distinction can be maintained permanently in the sphere of trade unionism.
British Labour's attitude to the Russian trade unions has never been a kindly one, but with the basis of the I.F.T.U. irretrievably destroyed as it would seem to be now, it is possible that the prospect of a Fourth International with Russia ensconced in the fauteuils, may well prove irresistible.
In connection with this it is cogent to recollect that many of the well-known Labour leaders will be retiring after the war, and that there is evidence that the younger ones now rising to take their places are invariably inclined much farther to the Left than their predecessors, not all of whom by a long way were whole-hearted in their opposition to capitalism, let alone ardent advocates of Socialism.