Raya Dunayevskaya 1957

New Crisis in Russia

Source: This piece originally appeared in Dunayevskaya’s column “Two Worlds” in the April 16, 1957 News & Letters;
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

A new internal crisis is brewing in Russia. On March 30, the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party passed an edict for the “decentralization” of Russia’s highly centralized planned economy.

The report of Nikita Khrushchev, spelling out the meaning of this shake-up of the Administration of the State Plan, took up no less than two-thirds of all the leading newspapers’ space.

Russian Workers In Continuous Revolt

As usual, the daily press in America sees only the maneuverings on top and is blind to – or deliberately ignores – the revolt of the Russian workers from below which causes the maneuvers on high.

I do not mean to say that the workers want this decentralization. They know that whether the desk of the State-Planner is in Moscow or in the district where the factory is located they will have to work harder. Like Ford’s “decentralization plans,” the Russian decentralization will not give the worker any voice in production.

No, neither the reorganization on top nor the fact that it was caused by revolt from below is the key to the internal crisis in Russia. What is crucial is that the present decentralization will not stop the revolt from below.

Russian workers cannot strike. Their resistance to exploitation must therefore find other ways to express itself. The most common forms of resistance are continual slowdowns and high labor turnover. So great is the labor turnover in the building industries, for example, that the Plan approved at last year’s 20th Congress had to promise building workers that 10 per cent of all they built would be used for their own housing. But when First Deputy Premier Pervukhin reported on the success of the 1956 Plan he had to add that plans for an increase in labor productivity were “underfulfilled in the coal, lumber, machine tools, and building materials industries.” And he also had to add that there had been “losses of working-time and uneven work.”

The Old Tune: Labor Must Produce More

Over the years and decades the Russian workers have been in continuous revolt against the State Plan. Millions of them are in forced labor camps as a result.

What is new now is that even among the millions of workers and peasants who are not in forced labor camps, who constitute the normal working force, the slowdowns have reached a high peak since the 20th Congress that the Sixth Five Year Plan has had to be entirely scrapped.

A few months ago it was announced that the “planned rate of increase of economic expansion” had been cut from 11 per cent to 7 per cent. But the new Plan is no more acceptable to the workers than the old one because no less than 80 per cent of the total increase in industrial output in 1957 was “planned” to come from increased labor productivity.

During the past few months both [the] Communist Party paper Pravda, and the government paper Izvestia, as well as the so-called union paper, Trud, have been full of sudden stories about “Violations of Labor Law.”

Management is blamed for dismissing workers without cause and unions are blamed for dismissing workers without cause and trade unions are blamed for being “careless in analyzing worker complaints.” While Khrushchev has carried out a campaign to get the lesser bureaucrats away from their desks and “into the fields,” management has blamed government for the housing shortage. As one manager put it, “It is rare that housing is ready at same time as factory building ... (and this) greatly complicates recruiting of workers.”

But all these bureaucrats – government, management, and “the intelligentsia” – are united in one thing: to take it out of the hide of the worker.

Some persons,” says the outraged, well-fed, well-housed manager, “take a job only to obtain housing and then leave jobs in search of better circumstances for themselves.”

At the head of all the bureaucrats, of course, stands Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party and the political boss over all planning, the new “decentralized” kind as well as the “centralized” kind. As usual, it all rests on “raising labor productivity.”

The struggle over labor productivity is the class struggle which is tearing at Russian totalitarianism. It will not rest until the workers have finally succeeded in overthrowing it.

- R.D.