Raya Dunayevskaya 1953

Tensions Within The Soviet Union

Source: Correspondence, Nov. 28, 1953. This piece appeared as Dunayevskya’s column, “Two Worlds: Notes From a Diary.” It is included in The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, microfilm numbers 9335-9336.

Last July the U.S. Government Printing Office issued Document No. 69 entitled Tensions Within the Soviet Union. The study was prepared by some Library of Congress scholars at the request of Senator Alexander Wiley, [1] Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The honorable Senator got considerable publicity for the document and it is easy to understand why. For the political conclusion of these scholars is that the tensions in the Soviet Union exist, not between the rulers and the workers, but within the intelligentsia that rules.

Only seven pages of this 92 page document are devoted to the workers. It leads them to conclude: “This is particularly notable because the preservation of the Soviet regime may depend upon the Soviet scientist, since revolutions in our day need not be mass uprisings but may hinge upon the mood and upheaval of a few scientists in charge of extraordinary weapons.”

The Senator himself adopts this myth and hurries to slander the Russian workers: “Oppression creates inertia, disillusionment, fatigue, aloofness and cynicism.”

The Continuous Revolt Of The Russian Workers

It is not easy to see the revolt of the Russian workers because the methods of struggle in a totalitarian land are not on the surface. The workers’ unions in Russia have been liquidated by being incorporated into the state apparatus. Nevertheless the struggles have been continuous and have been carried on so persistently at the point of production that the Russian economy is in a constant crisis. Crisis is not a state of mind, but a state of production.


1) Throughout the First and Second Five Year Plans (1928-1938) workers left the plants and returned to their farms with a disrespect for capitalist routines very similar to the Southern production worker in the Northern United States.

2) The passport system accomplished as little in disciplining the workers as had the 1932 laws which authorized the factory director not only to fire a worker for absence without permission but even deprive him of his food card and his living quarters owned by the factory.

3) It was impossible to decree slavery. Quite the contrary. The Russian worker, like the American worker, knows how to handle his job. Where he is forbidden to strike, he slows down. The Senators and scholars speak of “low labor productivity” in Russia as if that means the Russian workers are backward. Like the economists in the United States in relation to American workers, however, the Russian intelligentsia recognizes low productivity for what it is: a sign of revolt against the conditions of production. Figures show that to complete the First Plan even in a half-way fashion, 22.8 million workers were used where the Plan called for only 15.7 million. Labor turnover was no less than 152 per cent.

4) The totalitarian rulers have more power than any government has ever had in history. Nevertheless, they did not feel capable of disciplining this rebellious labor force. They decided instead to divide it, by finding some social basis in the factory, among a special section of the workers. American workers who have seen Reuther operating with the skilled trades will have no difficulty in understanding what Stalin was aiming at.

As early as 1931 Stalin called for the “liquidation of depersonalization.” This was a very fancy phrase for a very ugly truth; he had no factory personalities to defend his regime. To get them he decided to give the skilled worker a personality and a wage to go with it and at the same time transform the skilled workers into a speed demon for a day. This man set the “norm,” that is, the rate of speed, through especially good machines and supplementary help and at a pace which he knew he would have to keep up for only a single day. This time-study then became the rate for the worker to produce every day.

That is how Stakhanovism was born. It was four years in the making. This speed-up movement met with such resistance that it was not unusual for Stakhanovites to find themselves murdered in the dark of the night.


At the start of war the laws of June 26th and October 2nd, 1940, forbade a worker to leave his job and punished 15 minutes lateness with six months “corrective labor” – labor in the factory with 25 per cent reduction in pay. They established State Labor Reserves which gave the youth technical training of from six months to two years and then made it obligatory for them to work for the state for four years “at the prescribed rate of wages.”

Yet, after six months of operation of these laws, the Pravda reported that truancies were greater than in the months prior to it. A declaration of martial law on the railroads was passed similar to Truman’s proposal to draft railroad workers in order to prevent their strike in 1946.

In 1943 the conveyor belt system was first introduced. And on the basis of the discipline of the line, there was introduced competition by factories. This meant that Factory Stalin challenges or, more correctly, is ordered to challenge, Factory Molotov. Factory Molotov must take up the challenge “to fulfill and overfulfill” its quarterly plan by ten per cent. All workers in both factories must pitch into this back-breaking state-ordered plan. This is called “socialist emulation.”

Day in and day out the Russian worker has fought the mode of labor in the factory. For two solid decades he had been unyielding in his resistance. Had the revolt not been so continuous, the terror would not have been so violent. No one wants to put millions in forced labor camps. The millions in forced labor camps are a true measure of the never-ending resistance of the Russian workers to their oppressors.

Back To Senator Wiley

It is these Russian workers who, the honorable Senator tells us, are “aloof.” With sure class instinct, he turns from the workers to the “scientists.” Technocrats and capitalists have had their daydreams of push-button factories which would solve the class struggle. None, however, have been more naive than the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Russian specialists with weapons” might substitute for mass uprisings. How Malenkov and Co. would love to believe that! But their ivory towers, unlike the Senate’s, are too near the point of production in Russia where day in and day out they must contend, not with mythical scientists of “independent thinking,” but with the very real mass resistance.

1. Wiley was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. He died in 1967. [Transcriber’s note.]