Trade Unions of the USSR

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Trade Unions of the USSR


nonparty social organizations of a highly mass character, uniting on a voluntary basis factory workers and office employees in all occupations, regardless of race, nationality, sex, or religious beliefs. The right of the working people to associate in trade unions and other social and public organizations is guaranteed by the Constitution of the USSR (art. 51). At the beginning of 1975 the trade unions had 106 million members (see Table 1). The Soviet trade unions are the embodiment of the tie between the Communist Party and the toiling masses. According to V. I. Lenin’s definition, the trade unions are educational organizations designed to involve and instruct people—schools of administration, management, and communism that play an important role in carrying out political and economic tasks and in involving the working people in the management of production (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. sock, 5th ed., vol. 42, p. 203).

The book What Is to be Done? and other works by Lenin, as well as the resolutions of the Second Congress of the RSDLP (1903), pointed out the necessity of establishing trade unions to protect the class interests of the proletariat under tsarism and imperialism and emphasized the role and significance of trade unions as a school for class struggle. The importance of party leadership of the trade unions was noted, and the theoretical and organizational principles of the trade union movement were defined. Underscoring the historical inevitability and necessity of the formation of trade unions as an organization of the industrial proletariat, Lenin wrote that “the development of the proletariat did not, and could not, proceed anywhere in the world otherwise than through the trade unions, through reciprocal action between them and the party of the working class” (ibid, vol. 41, p. 33–34).

The forerunners of the trade unions in Russia were the strike committees and the strike funds for resistance, which originated at enterprises during the mass working-class movement of 1895–96 and restricted their activity to economic tasks. The Social Democratic groups and the Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, which led the strike struggle before trade unions were organized, played an important role in preparing workers for the founding of mass trade unions. Unlike the trade unions of Western Europe, the trade unions of Russia were founded during the epoch of imperialism, when there was already a revolutionary Marxist party of the proletariat. As a result, the Russian trade unions were revolutionary and militant.

Table 1. Trade union membership in prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR
1905 .................................80,000
1907 .................................245,000
1913 .................................45,000
1918 .................................2,638,000
1925 .................................7,740,000
1932 .................................16,500,000
1949 .................................28,500,000
1954 .................................40,400,000
1959 .................................52,781,000
1963 .................................68,000,000
1966 .................................80,000,000
1968 .................................86,000,000
1972 .................................98,000,000
1974 .................................103,000,000

A qualitatively new type of trade union emerged spontaneously during the Revolution of 1905–07. During the January strikes of 1905, strike committees, soviets of factory deputies, and other workers’ organizations were established at the largest enterprises in the industrial cities. The workers’ organizations, which gave rise to the first trade unions, led the strikes and fought for the improvement of working conditions. Trade union organizations emerged in March 1905 at the Putilov, Obukhov, and Semiannikov plants and at many other plants in St. Petersburg. Trade unions were soon established in virtually all the major cities and industrial centers in central Russia and the national borderlands. Most of the unions were founded between October and December 1905.

The trade unions organized workers by industry and occupation (shop). Most of the small unions united workers in a single trade. The trade unions organized strikes and work stoppages and set aside a portion of their resources for strike funds. They established dining halls, hostels, and employment offices for the unemployed; negotiated with management to improve working conditions; established evening and Sunday schools for workers, as well as libraries and reading rooms; and published newspapers and journals. The regulations of many trade unions included demands for higher wages, the eight-hour workday, free medical care, the abolition of fines, and permission to celebrate May 1.

From the time trade unions were organized, the Bolshevik Party waged a stubborn struggle against the petit bourgeois parties—the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s)—for leadership of the trade unions and for their transformation into party strongholds. The Bolshevik Party also struggled against reformist and anarchosyndicalist tendencies in the trade union movement, and it opposed trade union neutrality. In his article “Trade Union Neutrality,” Lenin wrote that the party should work in the trade unions “not in the spirit of trade union neutrality but in the spirit of the closest possible relations between them and the Social Democratic Party” (ibid, vol. 16, p. 427). Bolsheviks headed the major industrial trade unions. Most of the nonindustrial, small trade unions were under the influence of the petit bourgeois parties.

In the autumn of 1905 interunion bodies were established in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kharkov, and certain other proletarian centers. The main task of the newly established central trade union bureaus was to unify the trade unions and prepare for an all-Russian trade union congress. Representatives of trade union organizations from St. Petersburg, Kharkov, Eka-terinoslav, and Nizhny Novgorod participated in the Moscow Conference, renamed the First All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions, which opened on Sept. 24, 1905. The conference exposed the divisive politics of the Mensheviks, who opposed the Bolshevik proposal for convening an all-Russian congress of trade unions and advocated an “all-workers’ congress,” which they viewed as a means of establishing a “broad” workers’ party instead of a revolutionary Marxist party of the working class. At the First All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions, the first attempt was made to centralize the trade union movement by preparing for the convocation of an all-Russian congress of trade unions. The Second All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions (St. Petersburg, February 1906) elected an organizational commission for the convocation of the trade union congress.

With the decline of the revolution and the intensification of repression, it became impossible to convene a trade union congress. Between 1905 and 1907 more than 100 trade union newspapers and journals were published in Russia. After the suppression of the December armed uprisings, many trade unions were crushed. By the beginning of 1908 there were 95 illegal trade unions, which used both legal and illegal forms of struggle, including participation in various societies and congresses associated with the people’s universities, factory physicians, the fight against alcoholism, and the women’s movement. A new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910, as the strike struggle intensified. The Bolshevik press paid a great deal of attention to the trade unions. For example, in a section entitled “The Trade Union Movement,” the newspaper Pravda provided systematic information on trade union activity and published articles presenting Lenin’s point of view on the trade union movement.

Many trade union organizations were suppressed during World War I (1914–18). Trade unions led by the Bolsheviks opposed the imperialist war and called on the workers to boycott the war industries committees.

The victory of the February Revolution of 1917 created the conditions for trade union activity. In March-April 1917, 130 trade unions were organized in Petrograd and Moscow. Throughout the country, a total of about 2,000 trade unions were established, organizing up to 1.5 million people. Factory committees (fabzavkoms, or FZK’s) were established. With the assistance of the trade unions and the factory committees, the Bolshevik Party involved the working people in meetings and demonstrations against the policies of the bourgeois Provisional Government and its supporters, the Mensheviks and SR’s. The Third All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions was held in Petrograd in June 1917. The delegates included 73 Bolsheviks; 17 nonparty delegates who supported the Bolsheviks; 105 SR’s, Mensheviks, and Social Democrats belonging to no faction; and delegates affiliated with the non-Bolshevik groupings. The conference discussed basic questions, such as control over production and over the distribution of output, the relationship between the trade unions and the factory committees, and the struggle against unemployment. As a result of the numerical preponderance of the SR’s and the Mensheviks, conciliatory SR-Menshevik resolutions were adopted on the most important questions, but the resolutions did not receive support in the provinces. The provisional All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions (VTsSPS) elected by the conference had 35 members, including 16 Bolsheviks. It became the central body of the trade union movement. In 1917 the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) passed the resolutions The Tasks of the Trade Union Movement and The Party and the Trade Unions, which were important to the development and consolidation of the trade unions. Members of the trade unions and the factory committees participated in the defeat of General Kornilov’s counterrevolutionary revolt. During the period when the October Socialist Revolution was prepared and carried out, representatives of the trade unions and the factory committees joined the bodies directing the armed uprising, procured and stored weapons, organized the instruction of detachments of the Red Guard, established ties with the soldiers, and carried out the measures outlined by the revolutionary military committees.

After the victory of the October Revolution of 1917 there were fundamental changes in the role and tasks of the trade unions, which were transformed from semilegal organizations of the oppressed and exploited classes into social associations of the proletariat, which had become the ruling class. The trade unions played a major role in the struggle to establish and consolidate Soviet power, in the destruction and re-creation of the machinery of state, in the organization of workers’ control, in the nationalization of industry, and in the inculcation of conscious labor discipline in the workers. Trade union associations focused on the working and living conditions of the working people. Evaluating the role of the trade unions, Lenin wrote in the spring of 1920: “Without close contacts with the trade unions, and without their energetic support and devoted efforts, not only in economic, but also in military affairs, it would of course have been impossible for us to govern the country and to maintain the dictatorship for two and a half months, let alone two and a half years” (ibid., vol. 41, p. 31).

The First All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions, which was held in Petrograd from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14 (Jan. 20–27), 1918, was attended by 416 delegates with a casting vote and 75 with a consultative vote, including 273 Bolsheviks, 21 Left SR’s, six Maximalists, six anarchosyndicalists, 66 Mensheviks, ten Right SR’s, and 34 nonparty delegates. The trade union congress pointed out that the trade unions should concentrate on questions of economic organization, including participation in all central bodies regulating production, the organization of workers’ control, the registration and distribution of labor power, the organization of exchange between the city and the countryside, the struggle against sabotage, and the enforcement of the universal obligation to work. In addition, the trade union congress recognized the necessity of merging the factory committees and the trade unions and affirmed the principle of organizing trade unions by industry. The demands of the SR-Menshevik delegates for trade union “neutrality” were rejected by the trade union congress, which passed a resolution stating that neutrality “conceals actual support for bourgeois policies and the betrayal of the interests of the working class.” The trade union congress emphasized that the trade unions should completely support the policies of Soviet power. The regulations of the VTsSPS were adopted at the first trade union congress.

During the Civil War and Military Intervention of 1918–20 the defense of the socialist homeland had priority in trade union activity. Loyal helpers of the Communist Party, the trade unions directed all of their organizational and educational activities at assisting the Red Army and at strengthening the home front by fighting against hunger and by raising labor productivity, especially in defense enterprises. The transformation of the country into a military camp affected the methods of trade union activity, resulting in the introduction of compulsory and collective membership and the cooptation and appointment rather than the election of leaders. The trade union carried out four mobilizations of their members (May and October 1919 and May and August 1920), sending tens of thousands of soldiers to the front. To assist the Red Army and the families of frontline soldiers, aid commissions (assistance bureaus) were established under the auspices of the VTsSPS, the Central Committee of the trade unions, and the governing bodies of trade unions and factory committees.

Taking part in the struggle against hunger, the trade union organizations of the industrial centers were involved in the formation of the food appropriation detachments. Between August 1918 and April 1920 the trade unions assigned up to 80,000 persons to food appropriation and distribution. To direct the organization and activity of the food appropriation detachments, the All-Russian Central Military Provision Bureau, which was subordinate to the VTsSPS, was established in August 1918, and provincial and district military provision bureaus were established at the local level. In 1918 the VTsSPS adopted a resolution on strengthening labor discipline and introducing a system of bonuses and piecework, as well as a decree on labor standards and model rules for internal regulations at enterprises and institutions.

The Second All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions was held in Moscow from Jan. 16 to Jan. 25, 1919. On January 20, Lenin presented a report entitled “On the Tasks of Trade Unions,” in which he outlined the basic propositions of the doctrine that the trade unions are a school of communism, and in which he disclosed the role and tasks of the trade unions during the period of building socialism and communism. The Second All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions called for an emphasis on raising labor productivity, strengthening labor discipline, and improving the working and living conditions of the working people. The hierarchy of trade union bodies established by the trade union congress corresponded to the administrative division of the country (that is, district, province, krai, and republic). The reorganization of the trade unions by industry was completed in 1920.

The Fifth All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions (November 1920) raised a number of issues: the switch from the methods used by the trade unions during the war and the transition to advanced democracy, the substitution of the elective principle for the cooptation and appointment of members of administrative bodies, the regular convocation of general assemblies of trade union members, and the accountability of elected bodies. Ia. E. Rudzutak’s report on the production tasks of the trade unions was discussed at a session held by the Communist delegates to the Fifth All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions. During the session, L. D. Trotsky proposed the slogan of “tightening the screws” and “shaking up” and “governmen-talizing” the trade unions. The supporters of the Workers’ Opposition (A. G. Shliapnikov) spoke out at the session, counter-posing the trade unions to the Soviet government and the party. The “buffer” group was represented by N. I. Bukharin. The discussion, which was extremely heated, was not confined to the question of trade unions but, in effect, centered on the leading role of the party in the dictatorship of the proletariat, the party’s relationship to the masses, and the methods of building socialism.

Lenin’s Platform of the Ten defined the trade unions as schools of administration, economic management, and communism and referred to persuasion as the basic method of trade union activity. The Tenth Congress of the RCP (Bolshevik), which took place in March 1921, summed up the trade union controversy, approved Lenin’s platform, and condemned the concepts of the opposition groups.

The Fourth All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions was held in Moscow from May 17 to May 25, 1921. Lenin’s recommendations in his draft Instructions From the Council of Labor and Defense to Local Soviet Institutions were made the foundation for measures to increase the participation of the trade unions in economic construction. The December (1921) Plenum of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) decided that it was necessary to reconsider certain questions regarding trade union activity, including trade union membership, the struggle against petit bourgeois ideology, and the relationship of the trade unions to specialists associated with the prerevolutionary regime. The plenum established a commission headed by Lenin to reexamine these questions.

On Jan. 12, 1922, the Central Committee and the Eleventh Congress of the RCP(B) approved Lenin’s theses on the role and tasks of the trade unions under the New Economic Policy (NEP). The trade unions focused on improving the working and living conditions of the workers, especially those employed in private capitalist enterprises. In addition, the trade unions participated in the struggle against famine, which struck more than 18 provinces in 1921—22. The trade unions collected 4 trillion rubles (in 1922 currency) and 900,000 poods (14.74 million kg) of foodstuffs, supported 130,000 children, manufactured agricultural implements and repaired equipment, and provided medical aid. From May 1921 through May 1922 the trade unions carried out the governmental functions of regulating labor relations and protecting labor. (The inspectorate of labor, the supervisory body for the protection of labor, was turned over to the trade unions.) With the introduction of NEP, these functions reverted to the People’s Commissariat of Labor in 1922.

During the period of reconstruction, the main forms for the organization of trade union activity included voluntary membership on an individual basis (from 1922), collective decisionmaking on basic questions of trade union activity, participation in the establishment of economic bodies and in the elaboration of production programs and plans, and the organization of industrial propaganda. The trade unions also endeavored to involve the working people in production management through general and delegate assemblies, production conferences of workers, commissions to fight against bad management, and the promotion of worker-administrators. Other forms of trade union activity during the period of reconstruction included providing material and moral incentives for labor, assuming leadership of the movement of rationalizers and inventors, and participating in Communist subbotniki (voluntary unpaid work).

The trade unions were active in the implementation of Lenin’s plan for socialist construction, participating in the socialist industrialization of the country, the collectivization of agriculture, and the cultural revolution. The party repudiated attempts by representatives of the right wing of the ACP(B) to introduce opportunistic methods of work borrowed from Western trade unions and to resist the restructuring of trade union activity to meet new tasks.

During the prewar five-year plans (1929–10) the trade unions promoted the growth of creative initiative among the masses; the development of mass socialist emulation, the shock brigade movement, and the Stakhanovite movement; and the implementation of the strictest policy of economies. They also contributed to raising labor productivity, lowering the prime cost of output, and intensifying the struggle against violations of labor discipline. During collectivization the trade unions participated not only in selecting and dispatching the dvadtsatipiati-tysiachniki (The Twenty-five Thousanders) for work in the countryside but also in organizing the sponsorship (sheftsvo) of enterprises in the countryside. The trade unions made a major contribution to eliminating illiteracy; engaged in cultural and educational activity; organized clubs, houses of culture, and various circles and courses; and published newspapers and journals. A great deal of attention was devoted to the vocational training of trade union members, particularly young people. In 1918 the trade unions promoted the establishment of workers’ schools (rabfaki) at universities and institutes. The trade unions assisted in the elaboration of methods of instruction, controlled the granting of stipends and the operation of hostels and dining halls, and provided financial aid for workers in the workers’ schools. Students were admitted to the workers’ schools primarily on the authorization of trade unions.

The growing role of the trade unions was reflected in a number of legislative acts and directives. The trade unions took part in industry’s switch to the seven-hour workday, the introduction of which was proclaimed in 1927 in a manifesto issued by the Central Executive Committee of the USSR to mark the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. (By Jan. 1, 1933, all industrial workers had switched to the seven-hour workday.) In 1933 the trade unions received jurisdiction over the administration of state social insurance, over the supervision of the observance of labor legislation, and over the protection of labor and the implementation of safety measures. Under a resolution passed by the Seventeenth Party Congress, in 1934 the trade unions were made responsible for the functions of the local bodies of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection at enterprises, as well as for the direction of social control over stores, dining halls, and departments of worker supply.

Because of the threat of war, it was necessary to strengthen the economy and improve the country’s defense capability. The Ninth Plenum of the VTsSPS (June 1940) adopted an appeal to the working class, showing the need for the introduction of the eight-hour workday. A decree on the eight-hour workday was issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on June 26, 1940. In accordance with resolutions passed by the Eighteenth Congress (1939) and Eighteenth Conference (1941) of the ACP(B), the trade unions paid more attention to the organization of labor and production, the strengthening of labor discipline, and the struggle against shortcomings and drawbacks in production.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) trade union activity was aimed at restructuring enterprises and institutions to meet war needs, at transferring industrial enterprises and population from the frontline regions to the eastern regions of the country, and at the mass industrial training of new personnel, particularly women and young people. From 1942 the trade unions led the all-Union socialist emulation to increase production for the front. They organized subbotniki and voskresniki (voluntary unpaid work on holidays and weekends), and they played a role in providing universal military training. During the war most of the trade union sanatoriums and houses of rest were reequipped as military hospitals. Every trade union organization sponsored a military hospital or a hospital train. The trade unions organized the mass training of nurses and members of volunteer first-aid groups. During the war 90,000 nurses and 160,000 first-aid volunteers received training without interruption of their regular work schedule. Like other social organizations, the trade unions collected donations from the working people for the formation of air squadrons and tank columns and for gifts to Soviet soldiers, and they took care of orphans and the families of frontline soldiers. The trade union of workers in the arts organized the cultural sponsorship of Soviet Army units. The trade unions played an increasing role in the organization of public catering; workers’ control over dining halls, stores, and auxiliary farms; and collective and individual gardening.

During the early postwar years the trade unions concentrated on reconstructing and further developing the national economy and on improving the standard of living of the working people. On June 8, 1946, the VTsSPS adopted the resolution On the Organization of All-Union Socialist Emulation for the Fulfillment and Overfulfillment of the Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the National Economy of the USSR. Under the leadership of the CPSU, the trade unions played a major role in the achievement by the Soviet people of the great feat of rebuilding from ashes entire regions of the country, industrial centers, cities, and settlements that had been temporarily occupied by the fascist Germans.

The practice of concluding collective bargaining agreements, which had been temporarily abolished in the 1930’s, was resumed in 1947. The trade unions took part in the reintroduction of the seven-hour workday and of a shorter workday in jobs performed under harmful and difficult conditions (1956). They were also involved in the distribution of state allocations for labor protection and occupational safety measures, as well as in the restoration and expansion of the country’s cultural institutions. In January 1957 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree confirming the Statute on the Procedure for Reviewing Labor Disputes, which was worked out by the VTsSPS. Under the statute, the local committees of trade unions were empowered to conduct direct investigations of labor disputes between factory workers and office employees, on the one hand, and the management of enterprises (organizations), on the other. The December (1957) Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU reviewed the question of trade union work in the USSR and elaborated a series of measures aimed at further expanding the rights of the trade unions in economic and cultural construction. The Plenum recognized the necessity for joint decisions on the most important issues by the State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR on Labor and Wages and the VTsSPS. The Plenum also recognized the necessity of prohibiting the allocation of housing, as well as the dismissal of factory workers and office employees on management’s initiative, without the consent of the factory and local committees.

The Plenum generated very important legislative regulations that significantly expanded the rights and functions of the trade unions. In 1958 the Statute on the Permanent Production Conference in the Industrial Enterprise, Construction Project, and Sovkhoz was adopted, as well as the Statute on the Rights of the Factory, Plant, and Local Committees of the Trade Union, according to which questions regarding the development of production, working conditions, wages, living conditions, culture, leisure, and health measures cannot be resolved without the participation of the trade unions.

In 1960 all self-supporting sanatoriums (except tuberculosis sanatoriums) and houses of rest were transferred to the jurisdiction of the trade unions. In 1975, 8.3 million people received treatment or rested in 948 trade union health centers. In 1974, about 9.8 million schoolchildren vacationed in 25,600 Pioneer camps organized by the trade unions. In 1974 more than 21 million tourists and more than 108 million excursion participants took advantage of the services provided by the tourism and excursion organizations directed by the trade unions.

The trade unions have administered the state social insurance of factory workers and office employees since 1933, the state social insurance of mechanics, specialists, and kolkhoz managers since 1964; and the state social insurance of kolkhoz members since 1970. During this period the budget for the state social insurance was increased several times over. Today it amounts to more than 20 billion rubles.

In 1970 the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted the Basic Principles of Labor Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics, which had been introduced in the Supreme Soviet by the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the VTsSPS. The Basic Principles of Labor Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics consolidated in law the trade unions’ right of legislative initiative, which is vested in the VTsSPS and the trade union councils at the republic level. The trade unions had exercised this right even before it was legally formalized.

Among the measures adopted on the initiative or with the participation of the trade unions were a pension law, a law shortening the workday, a statute on the procedures for reviewing labor disputes, decrees increasing wages for low-paid factory workers and office employees, and decrees on collective gardening by factory workers and office employees. A new Statute on the Rights of the Factory, Plant, and Local Committees of the Trade Union was adopted in 1971. The trade unions have specialized technical and legal inspectorates through which they exercise social control over the observance by management of labor legislation and of standards for the protection of labor. In 1974 the new Statute on Procedures for Reviewing Labor Disputes was confirmed by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

In developed socialist society there has been a particularly marked increase in the trade unions’ role as the Leninist school of communism. Under the leadership of the CPSU the Soviet trade unions have had vast experience in involving the working people in the management of production. The trade unions do their utmost to develop the creative initiative of the working people, in order to increase the efficiency of social production, improve the scientific organization of labor and the quality of output, utilize production reserves as completely as possible, increase the intensification of production, improve the economic indicators of work for all branches of the national economy, and, consequently, raise the standard of living of the Soviet people.

Approximately 50 million people participate in the permanent production conferences. More than half of the 78 million participants in socialist emulation are also involved in the movement for a communist attitude toward labor.

The Soviet trade unions actively assist the party in the struggle for scientific and technological progress. The All-Union Society of Inventors and Rationalizers (VOIR) and the scientific and technical societies, which are directed by the trade unions, play an important role in promoting scientific and technological progress. In 1975 there were more than 20 scientific and technical societies with a total membership of more than 7 million. In the same year VOIR had more than 7.5 million members.

The trade unions endeavor to raise the level of political activity of the working people, as well as their cultural level. On Jan. 1, 1975, the trade unions had jurisdiction over more than 7,000 people’s universities (1.8 million students); 22,000 clubs, palaces, and houses of culture; more than 294,000 club rooms; and 24,100 libraries (about 300 million copies of books and more than 24 million readers). The central publication of the trade unions is the newspaper Trud (Labor; since 1921). Independently, as well as jointly with the ministries and departments, the trade unions publish ten central newspapers and 77 industrial mass journals and scientific and technological journals. More than 10 million people belong to 506,300 amateur craft circles and groups. The trade unions sponsor festivals, exhibits, talent shows, amateur art competitions, and song festivals. The 29 voluntary sports societies of the trade unions unite 25 million athletes. Sports competitions, cross-country races, and Sparta-kiads are held. The trade unions are expanding the network of

Table 2. Congresses and conferences of the trade unions in prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR
First All-Russian Conference ....................MoscowSept. 24–Oct. 7, 1905
Second All-Russian Conference ..................St. PetersburgFeb. 24–28, 1906
Third All-Russian Conference....................PetrogradJune 21–28 (July 4–11), 1917
First All-Russian Congress......................PetrogradJan.7–14(Jan. 20–27), 1918
Second All-Russian Congress....................MoscowJan. 16–25, 1919
Third All-Russian Congress .....................MoscowApr. 6–13, 1920
Fourth All-Russian Congress ....................MoscowMay 17–25, 1921
Fifth All-Russian Congress......................MoscowSept. 17–22, 1922
Sixth All-Union Congress.......................MoscowNov. 11–18, 1924
Seventh All-Union Congress.....................MoscowDec. 6–18, 1926
Eighth All-Union Congress......................MoscowDec. 10–24, 1928
Ninth All-Union Congress ......................MoscowApr. 20–29, 1932
Tenth All-Union Congress ......................MoscowApr. 19–27, 1949
Eleventh All-Union Congress ....................MoscowJune 7–15, 1954
Twelfth All-Union Congress .....................MoscowMar. 23–27, 1959
Thirteenth All-Union Congress ...................MoscowOct. 28-Nov. 2, 1963
Fourteenth All-Union Congress...................MoscowFeb. 27-Mar.4, 1968
Fifteenth All-Union Congress ....................MoscowMar. 20–24, 1972

sports schools for children and young people and building new stadiums, gymnasiums, swimming pools, skating rinks, sports camps, and ski centers.

Since the early years of Soviet power, the trade unions of the USSR have actively supported unity in the international trade union movement. In 1921 the Soviet trade unions participated in the creation of the Red International of Trade Unions (Profintern). The Soviet trade unions cooperate with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which was founded with their participation in 1945, and they maintain contact with the trade union centers of 115 countries.

The trade unions of the USSR have been awarded the Order of Lenin twice (1957 and 1972).

Under the Regulations of the Trade Unions of the USSR, adopted at the Tenth Congress of Trade Unions (April 1949) and supplemented and modified at the Eleventh through Fifteenth trade union congresses, democratic centralism is the basis of the organizational structure of the trade unions. Each member of the trade unions can vote and be elected to all trade union bodies, participate in the work of the assemblies, and raise questions regarding the activity of trade union and administrative bodies. The trade unions are organized in conformity with the production principle. The primary trade organizations constitute the foundation of the trade unions. Each primary trade organization is made up of trade union members who work at a particular enterprise, sovkhoz, kolkhoz, or institution or study at a particular school. Every trade union unites the factory and office workers in one or several sectors of the national economy.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were 25 trade unions in the USSR, organizing factory workers and office employees in the aviation and defense industry; the aviation industry; automobile transport and highway construction and maintenance; the geological survey; the consumer cooperatives and state trade system; state institutions; railroad transport; cultural work; the timber, paper, and wood products industries; machine building; medical work; local industry and municipal service enterprises; and the metallurgical industry. The 25 Soviet trade unions also include organizations of workers and office employees in the maritime and river fleets, the petroleum, chemical, and gas industries; the food industry; education, higher schools, and scientific institutions; the radio and electronics industry; communications; agriculture and state purchases; construction and building materials; shipbuilding; the textile industry and light industry; the coal mining industry; and power plants and the electrical engineering industry.

Every branch trade union has a central committee, which is elected at a congress of the particular trade union. The majority of branch trade unions have their own republic, krai, oblast, city, and raion committees. Interunion bodies, the trade union councils, operate in the republics, krais, and oblasts. The work of all the trade unions in the USSR is directed by the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (VTsSPS), which is elected by the congress of trade unions of the USSR, to which it is accountable.

A list of the congresses and conferences of the trade unions in prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR is given in Table 2.


1- i Vserossiiskii s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov, Moskva, 1918: Polnyi stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1918.
2- i Vserossiiskii s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov, Moskva, 1919: Stenograficheskii otchet, part 1. Moscow, 1921.
3- i Vserossiiskii s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov: Stenograficheskii otchet, 6–13aprelia 1920g., part 1. Moscow, 1921.
4- i Vserossiiskii s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov: Stenograficheskii otchet (17–25 maia 1921), part 1. Moscow, 1921.
5-i Vserossiiskii s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov: Stenograficheskii otchet (17–22 sentiabria, 1922). Moscow, 1922.
6- i Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov SSSR (11–18 noiabria 1924), Plenumy i sektsii: Polnyi stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1925.
7- i Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov SSSR (6–18 dekabria 1926), Plenumy i sektsii: Polnyi stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1927.
8- i Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov, Moskva, 1928: Polnyi stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1929.
9- i Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov, Moskva, 1932: Stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1932.
10- i Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov, Moskva, 1949: Stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1949.
11-i’ Vsesoiuznyi s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov, Moskva, 1954. Moscow, 1954.
12- i s”ezd professional’nykh soiuzov SSSR, Moskva, 1959: Stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1959.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.