Trade Unions, International Federation of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Trade Unions, International Federation of


(or Amsterdam International of Trade Unions), an international association of reformist trade unions established in July 1919 at a congress in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on the basis of the regenerated prewar International Secretariat of Trade Unions.

At the moment of its formation the IFTU united the trade union centers of 14 countries, with a membership totaling 17,738,000 (in 1937 it comprised the trade union centers of 26 countries and had a membership of 19,485,586). The IFTU was formed to strengthen the reformist trade unions and keep the workers from going over to the side of communism and revolutionary trade unions. Its political line was determined by the leaders of the right wing of the international trade union movement: W. Appleton and W. Citrine of Great Britain, L. Jouhaux of France and others. The Soviet trade unions and the overwhelming majority of trade unions of the dependent and colonial countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as well as many progressive trade unions of capitalist countries, were denied participation in the IFTU. The Second Congress of the IFTU (November 1920, London) adopted a program which reflected to a certain extent the interests of the workers (it called for the introduction of an eight-hour workday, cancellation of war debts, nationalization of land and industry, and so on). However, the leadership of the IFTU impeded the struggle of the masses for the realization of those programmatic demands. The agenda of a number of IFTU congresses contained such questions as the socialization of the means of production (Amsterdam Congress, 1919; London Congress, 1920); the eight-hour workday (the congresses of London, 1920; Rome, 1922; Vienna, 1924; and Paris, 1927), the economic crisis (Brussels Congress, 1933); militarism, wars, and disarmament (the congresses in Amsterdam, 1919; Rome, 1922; Vienna, 1924; Paris, 1927; Stockholm, 1930; Brussels, 1933; London, 1936); and fascism (the congresses in Brussels, 1933; and Zürich, 1939), and others. But the IFTU leadership often hindered the implementation of the antifascist and antimilitarist resolutions adopted at the congresses and the decisions intended to protect the political and economic rights of the workers. They rejected all proposals of the Red International of Labor Unions (Profintern) concerning common actions by the labor movement and expelled the left-wing trade unions from the IFTU.

On the demand of IFTU union members the leadership of the IFTU in 1937 began negotiations with the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions concerning the terms for entry of the Soviet trade unions into the IFTU. An agreement was worked out, but it was not ratified by the IFTU authorities.

With the start of World War II the IFTU influence on the international labor movement sharply decreased. This decline was due to the inadequacy of the IFTU leaders in the face of the fascist offensive and amid the raging struggle for liberation from fascism. After the capitulation of France in 1940 the IFTU virtually ceased to exist. The formation of the World Federation of Trade Unions, which resulted from the growth of the world labor movement, forced the IFTU leaders to announce on Dec. 14, 1945, the dissolution of the IFTU.


Lenin, V. I. “Usloviiapriema v Kommunisticheskiilnternatsional.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41.
Lenin, V. I. “Sidneiu Khilmanu, 13okt. 1921” (letter). Ibid., vol. 53.
Lozovskii, A. Moskva Hi Amsterdam? 2nd ed. Moscow, 1925.
Foster, W. Z. Ocherki mirovogo profsoiuznogo dvizheniia. [Moscow,] 1956. (Translated from English.)
Istoria profsoiuznogo dvizheniia az rubezhom, vols. 2–3. Moscow, 1955–58.
Lorwin, L. L. International Labour Movement. New York, [1963].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.