Nikolai Bukharin

Programme of the World Revolution

Chapter XIV
Labour Discipline of the Working Class and the Poorest Elements of the Peasantry

To organise production so that life should be possible without masters, to organise it on a fraternal basis, is a very good thing, but it is easier said than done. We meet with numberless difficulties: in the first place we are now standing face to face with the heritage of the unfortunate war – a ruined country. The working class, is now obliged to clear up the mess made by Nicholas Romanoff and his servants – Sturmer, Sukhomlinoff, Protoppopoff, a mess which was later increased by Gutchkoff and Rodzianko with their servants – Kerensky, Tzeretelli, Dan, and the rest of the treacherous company. Secondly, the working class are now compelled to organise production whilst repelling the blows of their greatest enemies; on the other hand, those who are attacking them with savage hatred from without, as well as those who are attempting to destroy the Workers’ Government from within.

In order to emerge victorious under such conditions, to conquer once and for ever, the workers must struggle against their own inertia. Whilst organising a labour army, it is at the same time imperative to create a revolutionary labour discipline in this army. The fact of the matter is that there are still such individuals among the workers who do not yet believe that they have now become masters of the situation. We want them to understand that at the present time the State Exchequer belongs to the workers and the peasants; the factories are national factories, the land is the land of the people, forests, machinery, mines, factory plant, houses, everything has been transferred into the hands of the working class. The administration over all this is a workers’ administration. The attitude of the workers and peasants towards all this wealth cannot now be the same as it was before; before it belonged to the masters, now all this wealth belongs to the people. The masters used to sweat the workers to the utmost. The landowner who lived like a lord fleeced the poor peasant and farm labourer as bare as he could. Both the worker and the farm labourer were therefore right when they did not consider themselves bound to do their best under the master’s whip, for the sake of strengthening the might and power of their tormentors. This is why there can be no question whatever of a labour discipline when the whip of the capitalist is brandished over the workmen’s head and the whip of the landowner over that of the peasant and farm labourer. Things are quite different now. These whips have now been destroyed. The working class is now working for itself, it is now not making money for the capitalists, but working in the people’s cause, in the cause of the toiling masses which were previously held in bondage.

But nevertheless, we repeat, there still are workers lacking class spirit who do not seem to see all this. Why is that? Because they have been slaves too long. Slavish servile thoughts ever crowd in their brain. Perhaps they think, at the bottom of their hearts, that they cannot possibly exist without God and a master. And consequently they use the revolution to their own ends, trying to fill their pockets, to grasp where they can, and what they can, never stopping to think of their labour duties nor of the fact that slovenliness and cheating at work at present is a crime against the working class. For labour does not now serve to enrich a master; labour now supports the workers – the poverty-stricken classes who are now at the helm of State. The indifferent workman now does not injure directors or bankers, but members of workers’ administrations, workers’ unions, and the Government of the workers and peasants. To handle machinery carelessly, to break tools, to try and get little work done in the ordinary working hours for the purpose of working overtime and receiving double pay – by all this it is not the master who is cheated, it is not the capitalist who is harmed, but the working class as a whole. The same thing applies to the land. He who steals farming implements which have been registered by the farm labourers and peasants, robs society and not the landowner, who has been driven out a long time ago. The man who cuts down timber despite the prohibition of the peasants’ organisations is thereby robbing the poor. Any man who, instead of cultivating the land taken from the landowner, is engaged in bread speculation or secret distilling, is a cheat and a criminal against the workers and peasants.

Now it is quite evident to everyone that, for setting in order and organising production, it is necessary for the workers to organise themselves and create their own labour discipline. At the factories and works the workers must themselves see to it that every comrade should turn out as much as is required. Professional workers’ unions and the Soviets of the workers are in direct supervision of production. They may, when possible, shorten the working day, and we mean to aim at such excellent organisation of production as to make it possible for each set of workmen to work only six instead of eight hours. But the very same workers’ organisations, as well as the workers’ Government and the working class as a whole, may and should expect of their members the most careful handling of national wealth and the most conscientious devotion to their work. The workers’ organisations, especially labour unions, should themselves fix the average output, that is to say, the amount of work that must be performed by every workman during one working day: he who does not execute the required quantity, allowance of course being made for sickness and weakness, is sabotaging, undermining the work of constructing a new social order, and hinders the working class in its progress towards perfect Communism.

Production is a vast machine, every part of which must be in perfect harmony with the other, all working equally well. An imperfect tool in the hands of a good workman is worthless, and so is a good tool in the hands of an inefficient one. What we want is a good tool and a good workman.

Therefore we should strain our powers to the utmost to organist the supply of fuel and raw material, to organise transport and to distribute this fuel and raw material properly, at the same time taking measures for self-discipline and a proper training of the working masses to conscientious labour.

It is more difficult to do this in Russia than in any other country. The working class (and this applies in a still greater degree to the peasantry) have not gone through a long stage of organised training as the Western European and American workers have. We have among our number many workers who are only just becoming workers, who are only just getting accustomed to collective social work, who are only now learning that to say “other people’s business is no concern of mine” is not the proper sentiment for a workman to express. This kind of workman will always tend to disturb the harmony of social labour. The more we have of the kind who still nurse the idea of becoming their own masters, of saving a little money and starting a shop, the harder will be our task of carrying through real labour discipline. But for this very reason must those in the vanguard of the revolution, pioneers and labour organisations, grow more and more determined to establish and strengthen such discipline. If this is a success it will become possible to organise everything else and for the working class to emerge victorious out of the difficulties created by the war, by disorganisation and sabotage, and all the barbarity and atrocities of the capitalist order.

Last updated on 7.8.2008