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Topical Budget 711-1: Real Russian 'Reds' Arrive (1925)


Main image of Topical Budget 711-1: Real Russian 'Reds' Arrive (1925)
35mm, black and white, 26 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

Russian delegates in London, including Comrade Tomsky.

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This short Topical Budget item (whose wide-eyed title suggests that 'Russian Reds' were some kind of exotic species) marks the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Conference of 6-8 April, 1925, which was held in London between members of the General Council of the British Trades Union Congress and the leaders of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, with the aim of promoting world trade union unity in general, and closer Anglo-Soviet relations in particular.

One of the outcomes of the conference was the establishment of a short-lived Anglo-Soviet Unity Committee, though this was disbanded in autumn 1927. The official reason for its dissolution, at least from the Soviet perspective, was "the treacherous policy of the reactionary leaders of the British trade unions."

The leader of this delegation, Mikhail Pavlovich Tomsky (1880-1936) had been a trade union activist since his teens. Expelled from the Smirnov engineering works, where he had worked since the age of 14, he joined the Social Democratic Labour Party in 1904. His union activities continued, resulting in several periods of imprisonment. He was freed after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in early 1917, and participated in the October Revolution.

Following the Bolshevik victory he became one of the Soviet Union's highest-profile trade union representatives, and was nominated General Secretary of the Red International of the Trade Unions in 1920. Following his visit to London, he became a major figure in the power struggles that resulted in Stalin's takeover of the Communist Party.

However, Tomsky himself quickly fell out of favour (not helped by his opinion that trades unions should remain independent of the state), and was forced to resign his position as trade union leader in 1929. He committed suicide in 1936 after hearing that he was about to be arrested by Stalin's secret police - at that time a near-certain death sentence.

Michael Brooke

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Complete film (0:24)
A Very Topical Year: 1925