A wonderful document from the first years of the Art Workers Union. Called RABIS ( Russian : РАБИС ) or Sorabis, the All-Russian Union of Art Workers, had over 50,000 members in the early 1920s. After 1924 it’s name was All-Union Trade Union of Art Workers. Existing as an independent trade union through 1953, it would grow to over 150,000 members in the World War Two-era, when the entire Soviet Union, including every artist, was mobilized.
‘All-Russian Union of Art Workers’ (1921) from The New Theatre and Cinema of Soviet Russia by Huntly Carter from, 1925.
After the February Revolution more than fifteen art unions were created in Russia. These unions were independent and in no way connected with each other. (1) The National Union of Musical Art Workers; (2) The National Union of Actors; (3) The National Union of Scenic and Arena Artists; (4) Union of Circus Actors; (5) Union of Kino Workers; (6) Union of Actors of the private ballet; (7) Union of Stage Workers (theatrical hairdressers, scene shifters, dress-makers, etc.); (8) Union of Stage Employees (cloak-room attendants, wardrobe keepers, etc.) (9) Union of Photographic Workers; (10) Union of Painters; (11) Union of Artists of the New Art; (12) Union of Sculptors; (13) Union of Artists of Applied Arts and Art Industries; (14) Union of Engravers; (15) Union of Architects; (16) Union of Composers, etc.
All these above-mentioned narrow-corporative and craft unions were never of great importance. Actors in a theatre entered one union, orchestra players joined another, stage workmen a third, etc. All these unions issued different instructions- and it is not to be wondered at that since the Revolution the Art Workers decided to create one large union, which was finally formed in the beginning of 1919. At the present moment the All-Russia Union of Art Workers unites workers in all branches of art and enters with equal rights into the family of proletarian unions, headed by the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions.
All these above-mentioned unions joined hands and formed one big Union of Art Workers, including all actors of the drama, opera, ballet, cinematograph, circus and music hall; managers, ballet-masters, music conductors, composers, dramatists and authors of cinematograph scenarios, musicians (including those in the Red Army and the Fleet), chorus singers (including church and synagogue choristers, chapel masters, organ players, etc.), cinematograph operators, acrobats, clowns, circus riders and riding masters, trainers, athletes, wrestlers, gymnasts, couplet singers and other music hall actors, theatre artists (scene painters, property men, etc.), as well as image painters, photographers, workers in the kino-ateliers, theatrical hair-dressers and costumiers, dressmakers, shoe makers, carpenters, electrical engineers, house painters, theatre servants, watchmen, circus saddlers and stable boys. The great employees (managers, cashiers, controllers, etc.), and the door keepers, Chaliapine as well as the simple ticket porter, enter with equal rights into the union. We must add that the union includes also tuners of musical instruments, musical instrument makers, teachers in all branches of art as well as employees in picture galleries and museums and all employees in the following departments of the People’s Commissariat for Education: (1) The Theatre Department; (2) Music Department;(3) Photographic and Cinematographic Department; (4) Department of Fine Arts; (s) Department for the safe-keeping of museums and monuments of antiquity.
Each theatre, circus, cinematograph, and workshop has a local committee which is the primary organ of the union. The functions of the latter are the same as the functions of local factory committees in other unions. At the present time the union numbers nearly 150,000 members, and has branch offices in more than 150 towns.
Since the annexation of Siberia, the Ukraine, Crimea and Turkestan the number of members and branch offices increases every day.
The All-Russian Congress of Art Workers, which was held in Moscow in May, 1919, elected a central committee composed of five musicians, one composer, five actors, three kino players, two music hall actors, one juggler, three stage workmen (one dress maker, one carpenter, and one mechanic), one painter, and one sculptor.
The union unites all the Art Workers without any consideration of their political opinions. The union has a communist fraction which exercises great influence.
The principal question dealt with by the union is the salary question. Detailed rates are settled for every category, and are strictly based on grades of skill.
Under the reign of the Tsar the artists were in a miserable position; now they are in better conditions than other workers. Before the Revolution theatres played every day; theatre workers did not know what rest was. Now, according to a decree of the Soviet Government, all theatre workers have their holiday on Monday instead of Sunday, because it would be unreasonable to deprive working people of theatres on Sunday. Before the Revolution managers and impresarios took from theatre workers everything they could. Now, all theatres are nationalized and are administered by a collegiate board, which includes representatives of the Union of Art Workers. The union has also its representative in the collegiate boards of the Art Section of the Commissariat of Education and in the corresponding departments of local Soviets.
We are ready to take the initiative for the organization of an International Union of Art Workers.
Art is International. Artists have always been Internationalists.
There is a great need in organizing a World Labour Exchange of Art Workers. We appeal to our European comrades. They must help us to organize in International Union of Art Workers.
The Russian people have awakened from their slumber. They long for theatres, music and works of Art. But the needs of several millions cannot ha satisfied by our artists alone. in towns as well as in the country actors have to play several times through the evening. We appeal to our European comrades to come and help us in our work. There is a lack of material necessary to the development of Arts.
Europe must give us cinematographic films, “Eastman Kodak” apparatus, chemicals, musical instruments, strings, mouth pieces, colours, etc..
Come to Russia, comrades, and you will see that the Russian Soviet Republic is neither a desert nor a barbarous country. You will convince yourselves that Art occupies a place of honour in our lives.
We are waiting for you, workers in all branches of Art.
Send your delegation to Moscow and give us the possibility to send our comrades to confer with you.
Long live the International Union of Art Workers!
The Central Committee of the All-Russian Union of Art Workers.
The New Theatre And Cinema Of Soviet Russia by Huntly Carter. International Publishers, New York. 1925.
A wonderful, comprehensive look at the world of film and theater in the first years of the Soviet Union by Huntly Carter. Only this edition was printed in the US. Heavily illustrated with 68 photographs and 17 woodcuts, it also includes an invaluable appendix of performances from Msocw and Petrograd from 1917-23. Huntly Carter (1862-1942) was a British journalist and arts critic of the performing and visual arts. He served as international editor and reviewer for the modernist periodical The New Age and was a member of the 1917 Club. He regularly participated in cultural exchange programs between the Soviet Union and Great Britain and spent much time and extensive travels in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s, meeting luminaries such as Vsevolod Meyerhold, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Igor Stanislavsky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Sergei Eisenstein. 372 pages.
Contents: Preface, The Origin of the New Theatre, Historical Limitations, State Conception and Organisation, The Three Groups and a New Threefold, Classification of Theatrical Activities, The Three Representative Personalities, THE LEFT GROUP) Meierhold’s Theatre or The Theatre of Revolution, The Proletcult Theatre, The Club and Factory Theatres, The Open-Air Mass and Street Theatres, Street Pageants and Workers’ Cafes Chantants, The Little Theatres of Revolutionary Satire, THE CENTRE GROUP) Lunacharsky’s Theatre, The Kamerny (Chamber) Theatre, The Central Jewish Theatre (The Jewish Kamerny, etc), The Old Jewish Theatre (The Gabima), The Children’s Theatre (State, Club, School, etc), The State Circus, THE RIGHT GROUP) Stanislavsky’s Theatre, The Studio Theatres, The Post-N.E.P. Theatres, THE CINEMA: ITS FOUR DIVISIONS) The Gos-Kino, The Prolet-Kino, The Revolutionary Kino, The Bourgeois or Commercial Kino, Summary and Criticism, APPENDICES) The Theatrical Situation in Soviet Russia in 1922 A Statement From A. Lunacharsky, Symposium on the New Russian Theatre, The All-Russian Union OF Art Workers, A Typical Moscow Weekly Theatre Poster, List of Productions in Moscow and Petrograd 1917-1923, Notes on the Illustrations. 277 pages.
For a PDF of the full book: https://archive.org/download/in.ernet.dli.2015.166125/2015.166125.The-New-Theatre-And-Cinema-Of-Soviet-Russia_text.pdf