J.R. Johnston

A Contrast: Lenin’s Method and Attlee’s

(3 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 9, 3 March 1947, p. 5.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The British are in mortal trouble with their “socialist” experiment. The cold spell paralyzed the weakened, creaking economy and the Labour Government has been exposed to the world.

The crisis was there long before the cold spell. Major source of Britain’s fuel is coal – and the plain truth of the matter, is that the British miners do not. want to work in the mines anymore. The miserable wages, the primitive conditions of life, the backwardness of the mechanical organization of coal production, the lack of safety devices, the gloomy, pitiless, monotonous labor – against this the miners were rebelling even before the end of the war. Now the older ones are tired and the younger ones do not want to stay in the mining areas.

How deep is this sentiment is proved by the following. Princess Elizabeth was invited to the last Eistedfodd – one of the great singing festivals of the world and a national expression of the life of the Welsh people. The British cabinet, conscious of the hostility of the Welsh miners, decided to use the occasion for some propaganda. Inserted in Princess Elizabeth’s speech was a passage to the effect that the Welsh miners, who in the past had always shown such sterling qualities, could be depended upon to stand by the nation in its crisis, etc., etc. Not one single paper in Wales printed the passage.

The British people are, alas, tolerant of royalty and capitalists own newspapers in Wales as elsewhere. But the miners and the whole population are embittered by generations of exploitation and social degradation. They are sick of it, and “nationalization” does not impress them.

The Nationalized Mines

But isn’t the property nationalized? Isn’t private profit abolished? Shouldn’t things therefore flow smoothly and the benefits of the “new system” be immediately obvious? New system indeed!

We shall show where there was a new system. Russia, in 1918, had an economic crisis to which Britain’s cold spell is minor. The whole economy had broken down and the country was in the grip of civil war. This is how the infant Soviet State survived.

On June 27, 1918, Lenin spoke to the Fourth Conference of Trade Unions and Factory Committees of Moscow. His first words were:

“Comrades, you all know, of course, of the great disaster that has befallen our country, namely, famine.” After explaining the causes of the famine he called upon the people. A grain monopoly was needed. Capitalism still existed in Russia. “But ... in order to assure that every surplus food of grain is transferred to the state, prolonged, difficult and hard, organizational work must be carried on, not by organizers, not by agitators, but by the masses themselves.”

Lenin gave the responsibility to the masses themselves, and above all the workers.

“The rural poor must be roused, educated and shown that the Soviet government will do all it possibly can to help them so as to carry out the grain monopoly ... if the workers learn to solve these problems independently – for no one will come to their aid – if they learn to unite the village poor around themselves, they will achieve victory, they will have bread and the proper distribution of bread, they will even have the proper distribution of labor, because by distributing labor properly we shall be supreme in all spheres of labor, in all spheres of industry.”

That is how Russia was saved. It is true that Attlee calls upon the British people to help. Even Winston Churchill announced a “blood, sweat and tears” program. But under Churchill, as under Attlee, the whole monstrous bureaucracy of capitalism stifles the creative energies of the people. Yet it was on this energy and creative capacity of the masses that Lenin depended.

“Your factory committees must cease to be merely factory committees, they must become the fundamental state nuclei of the ruling class.”

If Attlee said that his whole cabinet would split into half a dozen parts.

“Your organization, your solidarity, your energy will determine whether we shall hold out in this severe transitional period ... Take up this work yourselves, take it up from every side, expose abuses every day. Rectify every mistake that is committed with your own experience. Many; mistakes are committed today because the working class is still inexperienced, but the important thing is that it should itself take up this work and rectify its own mistakes. If we act in this way, if every committee understands that it is one of the leaders of the greatest revolution in the world – then we shall achieve socialism for the whole world.”

Russia overcame the crisis – that and many others. That is the way and the only way to solve the economic crisis of Britain. The British working glass is one of the most highly developed in the world. It is bureaucracy and the whole capitalist bureaucratic apparatus which still sits on its back, despite the labor government. The Welsh people and the British will organize and modernize their coal industry and achieve results which will astonish the world. But that will only be when the great body of the nation administers the economy and the workers themselves control production. That is the only true socialism and any thing else is a mockery and a disaster for the people.

Last updated on 6 January 2022