When the syndicalist international, IWMA (now IWA) held its foundation congress at the turn of the years 1922-1923, it was against a background of great upheavals. World War I had ended a few years earlier, a war which was immediately followed by widespread revolutionary movements in a number of countries, setting lasting trends in the development of the world.
During the war the social democratic international
collapsed, and its affiliated parties threw their internationalism
overboard. Under the leadership of especially their Belgian chairman
Emilie Vandervelde, they gave active support to the war in the name of
their respective countries. The reformist trade union international
collapsed at about the same time.
After the end of the war,
attempts began to re-build the international organizations. The
Communist international was organized at a congress in Moscow i 1919, as
a continuation of the so-called Zimmerwald international which has been
etstablished already during the war. The trade union international was
re-established the same year at a congress in Amsterdam. The social
democratic international was formed in 1921 at a congress in Vienna,
with the Austrian Friedrich Adler as its prime mover. This organization
merged with the social democratic international in 1923.
communist initiativ a congress in Moscow in 1921 founded the so-called
Red trade union international. This organization made great efforts to
get the syndicalists as members, but the syndicalist organizations
refused, being unwilling to be involved in a union international led by a
political movement, in this case the communists.
During the days
25.12.1922 to 02.01.1923 delegates from 10 countries representing about
2 million organized workers held a congress in Berlin.It was at this
congress that the syndicalist international IWMA was founded.
congress was certainly not able to work undisturbed. Care was needed
because some of the delegates had to get there illegally, without the
knowledge of the police. The first day of the congress was held in a
building in the outskirts of Berlin. The plan was to continue the
congress the next day at another place, but the police were on the trail
so the delegates had to be given a secret message to meet at the third
place, in Nieder-Schönweide, another area in Berlin. Work went on ok
until during the afternoon, when a police patrol suddenly entered the
building and wanted to see the delegates’ identity papers. The German
comrades protested powerfully, and demanded that the police show
documentation that they had orders for this action. They had no such
orders, so the patrol withdrew, leaving two policemen behind to watch.
The congress delegates then crowded out through the door into the
street, pushed the policemen aside, and disappeared.
met again the next day, this time near Alexanderplatz in the centre of
Berlin, not far from the police headquarters.
In this building
the congress proceeded without interruption for some days. But then one
day before noon came a new police attack. The whole building was
surrounded by policemen carrying rifles and with revolvers and grenades
on their belts. They forced their way into the meeting room, where the
delegates raised an uproar and protested powerfully. One delegate
lacking proper papers jumped out of the window but was caught by the
police outside. A Polish delegate lacking papers resisted the police but
was knocked down. A French woman delegate then rushed foreward and hit
the police officer in the face with her clenched fist. She was arrested
and transported with some other comrades to the prison in Moabit. Every
delegate was thoroughly searched. Among the delegates were Emil Manus
who represented Denmark and Norway, and Edvind Lindstam and Frans
Severin who represented the SAC. Two other SAC members were also
present, not as delegates, but as individual members passing through
Berlin on a journey to Paris. They were the later well-known authors
Eyvind Johnsson and Viktor Vinde, the latter to later become editor of
After all this, the police left the meeting
alone and the congress continued. It founded the International Working
Men’s Association IWMA (*since 1974 the International Workers’
Association IWA). The Syndicalist International kept going during the
Second World War, when the other internationals collapsed, and
continues its activity today.
from ”Solidaritet” Aug-sept 1959
*Translator´s (of NSF-IWA) remarks on the new name IWA in paranthesis.