Reiner Tosstorff, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. Translated by Ben Fowkes.
The 'Red International of Labour Unions' (RILU, Russian abbreviation Profintern) was a central instrument for the spreading of international communism during the inter-war period. This comprehensive and scholarly history of the organisation, based on extensive research in the former communist archives in Moscow and East Berlin, sheds significant light on the international trade union movement of the period.
Tosstorff shows how the RILU began as a revolutionary alliance of syndicalists and communists in defiance of the social democratic International Federation of Trade Unions. His text presents a full account of the organisation’s main stages: the decline of the revolutionary wave after World War One, after which many syndicalists left, and others were integrated into the communist parties; the continuation of the RILU as an international communist apparatus; and its dissolution in 1936–7 as part of communism's popular front policy.
First published in German as Profintern: Die Rote Gewerkschaftsinternationale 1920-1937 by Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn, in 2004
'Reiner Tosstorff's book gives a detailed account of the history of the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU), founded in 1921 as a body associated with the Communist International. Whereas the Comintern organised the minority of workers belonging to revolutionary parties, the trade-unions were the mass-organisation of the class. Tosstorff traces the various organisational problems that attended the founding of the RILU, and the splits, alliances, manoeuvres, negotiations and compromises that characterised its early years. From 1924 onwards the RILU rapidly became no more than an appendage of the Comintern, echoing the errors and betrayals of the latter body. The book contains a wealth of historical detail that makes it the standard work on the question. It may also have contemporary relevance to the way in which Marxists relate to the post-Seattle generation of anti-capitalists.'
Ian Birchall's review of the German language original in Historical Materialism journal (2009).