Raya Dunayevskaya 1959
Source: News & Letters, April 1959. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s regular column, “Two Worlds."
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.
I have finally waded through the seven hour speech that Khrushchev delivered on January 28th to the 21st Congress of the Russian Communist Party. Even if you give your captive audience a break for lunch, seven hours is a long, long time to talk. When the sun suddenly shines through the windows, the ebullient First Secretary of the Communist Party takes time out to laugh and call to the attention of the press that the sun shines on this “socialist land” that will in 1970 – specifies Khrushchev, overtake America in industrial production and standard of living of the masses. Khrushchev expands himself as a theoretician. Without making any references to the Chinese “Communes,” he pontificates on the fact that “the socialist stage cannot be skipped. To pass prematurely (to communism) when the economic conditions have not yet been created would harm the cause of Communism.” Having theoretically thus put the Chinese Communist Party in its place, Khrushchev becomes the practical man and denounces those who dare to say there is any disagreement between the Russian and Chinese Communist Parties: “We have no disagreement with this Party nor could we have any disagreement.”
Timed “prolonged applauses” punctuate the crescendos in the speech which glorify Russia that was the first in the world to launch the Sputnik and beat America a second time in the try for the moon. Khrushchev mixes his boasts with threats of all-out nuclear war via missiles with a 5,000 mile range.
Seven hours is a long time – long enough to have some truths stand out. Khrushchev admits that on the production front, as of this moment, Russian industrial power is only half that of the United States and in per capita labor productivity, not only the United States but Western Europe outshines Russia. It is here that the discerning reader can see that the real “crescendo” of the speech is not in the boasting, but in the self-defense again the “bourgeois slander” which has attributed the change in the Russian education system to a labor shortage.
The cat in the bag is beginning to show itself.
Last year the traditional type Stalinist Five Year Plan had to be scrapped. In trying to escape the challenge of the silent revolt (slowdowns) of the Russian workers against speed up the ever-inventive conjurer of the totalitarian state came up with a brainstorm he called “uninterrupted production practice.” This, Khrushchev explained to the 13th Congress of the Young Communists, meant that manual training (introduced in 1956) even to the first four grades in school and extended and supplemented in grades five to seven with actual work in shop and on farm would become the “voluntary” way of life and create a new source of labor.
Needless to say, the kept Russian press took up the refrain of “uninterrupted production practice” and on July 8th of last year Pravda assured us that the result of the experience of the schools that had switched to a curriculum combining study with production work (three days study; three days work) was that “All students like work in factories"! Characteristic of the totalitarian state, all this was done on a mass scale at the time the Five Year Plan was scrapped and 1958 made the transition point to the new Seven Year Plan (1959 through 1965).
Khrushchev, the boaster, now becomes Khrushchev, the dictator. “It is the function of all the ideological work of our party and state,” thunders the Top Man, “to develop new traits in Soviet people, to train them in ... love of work.”
What a descent from the mount. If the “ideological work” for the Seven Year Plan consists in training people in “love of work,” it is a far cry from everybody from the 5th grade on falling all over themselves “to get closer to life” and rushing to work in the factories they all “like.” But Khrushchev isn’t one to note contradictions. He is a master at compounding them.
Because none of the sensationalism of the “De-Stalinization” Report at the 20th Congress pervaded the present speech, this Report on the Seven Year Plan rated a great deal less coverage in the daily press than the one made three years ago. At the same time, however, the bourgeois press behaved as if Khrushchev always gets what Khrushchev wants and “therefore” there was no point to examining how this would be done. Never did the old platitude, “Nothing succeeds like success,” so overwhelm bourgeois and radical alike. Shooting for the moon held the journalists on earth so spellbound that, in the end, only the Russian bureaucracy itself worried as to just how it will reach the production targets since they are all based on a 50% rise in labor productivity in industry and no less than a doubling of labor productivity in industry and no less than a doubling of labor productivity on collective farms.
“In view of the reduction of the working day,” said Khrushchev, the practical man, who was promising a reduction of the workweek to 40 hours by 1962, “hourly output will rise even more. Higher labor productivity will account for three-fourths of the increase of industrial output in 1965.”
Planning specifies it precisely and planning is not based on wishing but on laws and state power and forced labor camps.
And what can the ordinary worker look forward to as a result of trying once again “to catch up with and out distance America"?
“It is planned,” the bulgy tyrant continues, “to raise the minimum wages of low-paid workers from between 270-350 rubles a month to between 500 or 600 rubles a month.” That is approximately $100-120 a month at the official Russian exchange! (The ruble has no value on the international exchange.)
So we have wandered all over the globe and unto the moon but had to return to earth, Russian earth, to find that the key to the Seven Year Plan is in labor productivity and that the Russian worker and peasant will once again bear the heavy burden of industrialization. We can be sure that the Seven Year Plan will meet with resistance by the Russian masses who see no reason to increase their labor productivity when conditions of labor after three decades of Plans are no different than the exploitative conditions under private capitalism.