International Federation of Trade Unions

Full nameInternational Federation of Trade Unions
Native nameAmsterdam International
FoundedJuly 1919
Date dissolved1945
Key peopleW. A. Appleton, Walter Citrine
Office locationSeveral Cities

The International Federation of Trade Unions (also known as the Amsterdam International) was an international organization of trade unions, existing between 1919 and 1945. IFTU had its roots in the pre-war IFTU.

IFTU had close links to the Labour and Socialist International.[1] The IFTU was opposed by the Communist-controlled trade unions. After the American AFL dropped out in 1925 the IFTU became a mainly European body with social democratic orientation. Its primary activity was to lobby the League of Nations and national governments on behalf of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

There were various International Trade Secretariats. The major ITS was the International Transportworkers Federation.[1]

As of 1930 it had affiliates in 29 countries and a combined membership of 13.5 million.[2] Its headquarters was in Amsterdam 1919–1930, in Berlin 1931–1933, in Paris 1933–1940 and in London 1940–1945. Walter Schevenels was the secretary-general of the IFTU 1930–1945. The IFTU dissolved in 1945 to be replaced by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).


The European trade union movement had been divided by the First World War. An international meeting of trade unions was held in Bern, Switzerland, February 5-February 9, 1919, after the First World War.[3]

The constituent congress of IFTU was held in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in July 1919. Union representatives from 14 countries took part (United States, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Great Britain, Holland, Luxemburg, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Czechoslovakia), representing a combined membership of 17.7 million.[2][4][5]

All delegations at the 1919 congress were Europeans, except the American Federation of Labor. However, the AFL delegate Samuel Gompers participated with a mandate from the Pan-American Federation of Labor. The only major industrial country absent was Italy, whose delegates encountered passport problems.[4]

In the refounded IFTU the general principle was that only one national centre per country would be admitted. However, at the founding congress there were exceptions. The British delegation consisted of both TUC and GFTU representatives. From Germany and the Netherlands both Social Democratic (GGWD and NVV) and Syndicalist (VDGW and NAS) trade unions participated.[6]

At the congress there were two candidates for the presidency of IFTU. The Briton W. A. Appleton was elected with 31 votes against 18 for the Dutchman Jan Oudegeest. Appleton had been nominated by Samuel Gompers whilst Oudegeest had been nominated by Arvid Thorberg. Two vice-presidents were also elected. In the election for the first vice-president the German Carl Legien was defeated by the Frenchman Léon Jouhaux. The defeat of the German candidate could be seen as an indication that many trade unionists in the former Allied countries were suspicious of the Germans, who had dominated the international labour movement before the war. Following Legien's defeat, the German and Austrian delegations abstained from nominating candidates for the second vice-president. The Belgian Cornel Mertens was elected to the position. Jan Oudegeest and fellow Dutchman Edo Fimmen were elected general secretaries.[7]