AAUD/AAUD-E, relationship with IWW, non-English materials, etc.

One limitation of mine I’m personally ashamed of is knowing only one language. That isn’t particularly unique for an American, but regardless, it’s annoying. In addition to the trouble communicating with half of my family, there is tons of material on individuals, organizations and struggles that have never been translated into English. Google Translate is not sufficient for any real reading of these writings, unfortunately. Maybe one day I’ll have the time, interest and confidence to learn other languages, but until then, the awkward, robotic interpretations of Google Translate will have to do.

A specific topic of interest I’ve had for about a year or so is the German AAUD and AAUD-E. I even made a ‘reader‘ on them. There are a couple translations of their official organizational materials, and a few histories about council communism or the period following the failed German Revolution that talk about them, but these are sort of only scratching the surface, in my opinion. There aren’t any reflections by members, articles from their publications or detailed accounts of their activities.

For a bit of background, the AAUD (Allgemeine Arbeiter-Union Deutschlands/General Workers’ Union of Germany) was the revolutionary union linked to the KAPD (Kommunistische Arbeiter-Partei Deutschlands/Communist Workers’ Party of Germany) in the early 1920s in Germany. The KAPD was a council communist splitoff from the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands/Communist Party of Germany), which was the Moscow linked and Marxist-Leninist party. During this hectic time, along with an alphabet soup of different revolutionary organizations, there were numerous general strikes, uprisings and Russian Revolution-style workers councils immediately post-World War I, which is generally called the German Revolution by the radical left.

From what I can tell, the AAUD drew a fair amount of inspiration from the North American IWW, and there were some people who were members of both, reflecting the international movement of revolutionaries and immigration at the time. The AAUD, unlike the IWW, apparently did not fight for bread and butter gains. The justification for this was because they believed they were in a revolutionary situation, and demands on wages and conditions were a step backward.

Eventually, some in the AAUD disagreed with its relationship with the KAPD, and split, creating the AAUD-E (Allgemeine Arbeiter-Union Deutschlands-Einheitsorganisation/General Workers’ Union of Germany-Unitary Organization). The AAUD-E aimed to bridge the political-economic separation of labor and thought that was typical of communists of the time (and still is). As the events of the German Revolution and the post-war era drew more distant, the KAPD, AAUD and AAUD-E hemorrhaged massive amounts of members and disintegrated into an even bigger alphabet soup of splits.

I think I’m mostly interested in the AAUD/AAUD-E for geeky radical left reasons. It isn’t clear there are lessons to be drawn from them, and what lessons exist are probably exaggerations. Regardless, it’s still interesting stuff.

Here’s a bunch of stuff I wish to God were in English:

Pro-IWW leaflet advocating German workers join the AAUD. Circa 1918. Seems to be saying that the AAUD are part of the IWW, either organizationally or in spirit.

The IWW and the AAUD by Paul Mattick. Written in 1929 for Kampfruf, the publication for (apparently) some AAUD split-off.

-Paul Mattick’s PROGRAMM UND AUFGABEN Die Todeskrise des kapitalistischen Systems und die Aufgaben des Proletariats. Printed by the IWW, it was a program intended to put more Marxist economics into the union.

Something about efforts in the 1920s of left communist political organizations, the councilist unionens and anarcho-syndicalists to try and work together.

Der Wellenbrecher, the newspaper of a section (ship workers?) of one of the AAUD splitoffs.

Textes de l’AAUD , which I believe is just a PDF of a French language translation of two things that have already been translated into English (this and this).

A 1927 article signed by the AAUD and KAPD. Something about how a Guardian article on the USSR rearming Germany through the KPD was false, I think.



  1. This is a good collection, the page about Block Antiautoritärer Revolutionäre I was rereading in machine translate tonight and it is super interesting (what I could make out) but having a translation sure would be great!

    Also just one comment, the KAPD would have described themselves as “Linkskommunisten” not “Rätekommunisten.”

  2. J X Keenan · · Reply

    The plural of the German word ‘Union’ is ‘Unionen’, not ‘Unionens’. Kill the .

  3. J X Keenan · · Reply

    Sorry. Kill the ‘s’.

  4. In regards to the pro-IWW leaflet, the impression I get from reading it (badly) is that they viewed the IWW as an international workers movement and the One Big Union concept as a rallying cry of revolutionary labor before they viewed the IWW/OBU as a formal organization with a constitution, bylaws and regulated structure. I don’t have any sources on hand, but that seems like it was a common understanding of the IWW with pro-IWW groups in Europe and Revolutionary Russia in the 1910-20s.

  5. I had initially thought about making this a whole research topic at school in history, and the Reuther archive has a couple letters back and forth between the two organizations. The new biography of Paul Mattick by Gary Roth ( https://libcom.org/forums/history/new-paul-mattick-biography-06072015 ) spends some time on Mattick’s own appreciations of the distinction between the AAU and the IWW (whose paper he wrote for, or permitted to republish him, into the 1940s). Another intriguing transnational connection is that AAU founder and future German national-bolshevik Fritz Wolffheim, who was instrumental in Hamburg with linking the IWW and the AAU according to a few Pannekoek biographies, co-edited an IWW paper in ‘Frisco with Lala Hardayal.

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