History of the World Crisis

Lecture 14: 
The Institutions of the Russian Regime

Delivered to the “Gonzales Prada” People’s University,
at the Peruvian Student Federation hall, Lima, on October 19, 1923.



Translated by: Juan R. Fajardo, 2016.
Source of the text: Translated from Historia de la crisis mundial, in Obras Completas, volume 8, https://www.marxists.org/espanol/mariateg/oc/historia_de_la_crisis_mundial/index.htm
Editorial Note: This text is available in print as part of: José Carlos Mariátegui, History of the World Crisis and Other Writings, Marxists Internet Archive Publications (2017); ISBN 978-0-692-88676-2.




Author’s Notes:

The framework of the Russian constitution is the following:

Beginning: He, who does not work, does not eat. End: Suppression of exploitation of man by man. Middle: During the proletariat’s decisive struggle against its exploiters power must belong exclusively to the working masses.

The cell of the Soviet regime is the urban and rural soviet, or council. These urban and rural soviets are grouped first in a volost congress, then in district congresses, then in the regional congresses, and lastly in the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, made up of urban soviets’ delegates (one for every 25,000 inhabitants) and of provincial congress delegates (one for every 125,000 inhabitants). The All-Russian Congress meets twice a year. It appoints an executive central committee which is the supreme authority in the intervals between congresses. From its own members, the Executive Central Committee names the people’s commissars who, in turn, make up a college or soviet. There are eighteen people’s commissars.

The term of each delegate is three months. However, all delegates can be recalled at any time. All workers, without distinction of gender, nationality, religion, etc., are the electors.

There is no democratic dualism in the soviet system. The soviets are, at once, executive and legislative organs. The council of people’s commissars is but a leadership committee, a general staff, for the soviet assembly. Parliament, due to aging, is often out of step with the latest currents. The soviet is in constant renovation, in constant change. All the twists and turns of public opinion are reflected in the soviet. The soviet is the typical organ of the proletarian regime, just as parliament is the typical organ of the democratic system. It is a system of professional representation and of class representation.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, therefore, is not a party dictatorship, but a class dictatorship, a dictatorship of the working class. When the soviet regime was inaugurated, the Bolsheviks did not predominate, except in the urban soviets, in the industrial centers. In the peasants’ soviets the Social Revolutionary Party – which more closely corresponded to the little-evolved and petty-bourgeois mentality of the peasants – was predominant. However, the Bolsheviks gained the collaboration of these peasant masses by carrying out their program of peace and land distribution.

The economy and the politics of the soviet system are a transaction between the interests of the urban workers and the interests of the rural workers. The latter are not yet educated, prepared, trained for communism. Their attitude had, for example, made the distribution of lands necessary, instead of their collective management. Gorky sees the future threat in the peasantry, in its selfishness, in its ill-will toward the city worker. The need to spur production, for example, made freedom of small trade necessary. In the beginning, under the requisitions system, the peasants reduced production. Now, they increase it because free trade is an incentive for them. The same happens among industrial workers. They are allowed to work over-time to produce goods destined for free trade. In this way, the system achieves an increase in production, and, insofar as it is organized on purely communist bases, the satisfaction of needs which the State cannot yet address is entrusted to the private initiative and commerce of the workers and peasants.
The soviets’ foreign policy is eminently pacifist. The Federation of Soviet Republics is based upon the right of its components to leave it. It constitutes a voluntary association of nations. Russia has renounced all territorial claims in Poland. It has recognized the independence of Finland and of the Baltic provinces. The Red Army has as its primary objective the defense of the Revolution. It is an instrument at the service of world revolution. The Red Army is now one of 600,000 men.

It has saved the regime from the counterrevolutionary assaults of Kolchak, Denikin, Judenicht, Wrangel. It has forced the European powers to abandon the policy of armed intervention in Russia. Russia has embassies accredited in Berlin, in Warsaw, in Ankara. It has semi-official or commercial representatives in England, Italy, and other important countries. It has attended the Geneva Conference and, later, those at The Hague and Lausanne. Russia attended the Lyon Fair, by official invitation.

A commission of French bankers has just visited Russia.

The blockade, another of the Entente’s weapons, has done extraordinary damage to Russian production. It has caused the deaths of a great number of peasants in the Volga region.

Special care is given to education and instruction. The worker has access to higher education. In 1917 there were 23 libraries in Petrograd and 30 in Moscow. In 1919, there were 49 in Petrograd and 85 in Moscow. Moscow’s institutes have increased from 369 to 1357. School attendance, which was three-and-a-half million, has increased to five million. Twelve thousand new schools have been established. The total number of libraries, which in 1919 was 13,500, was more than 32,000 in 1920. Twenty-four workers’ universities have been created.

Gorky was placed in charge of founding the house of intellectuals, who are, for the most part, hostile to the revolution. The arts are given great encouragement. I have attended an exhibit of Russian art in Berlin. Russia was abundantly represented at the last international exhibition in Venice.

The eight-hour workday is rigorously observed. For those who work at a night-job the workday is of seven hours. Every worker has the right to 42 hours of continuous rest every week. Every year he has the right to vacation of one month – temporarily reduced to fifteen days. Social security extends through the worker’s entire life: sickness, unemployment, accident, old age, and maternity. Workers’ control operates in production. There are rest houses for workers. The summer residence of the former Grand Duke Sergei, in Ilinskoye, is the main sanatorium for fatigued workers.

The professional alliances.

The attention to children. Health houses for children. Children receive instruction, food, and clothing. The protection of children begins at maternity. The pregnant woman has the right to assistance from eight weeks before the birth.

Women and the soviets. Women have all civil and political rights. The Prime Minister has been a Russian woman: Alexandra Kollontai. There were several women in the delegation. Propaganda among women.

The religious problem. Separation of the State and the School from the Church. Irreligious propaganda.

Marriage and its dissolution. A demand from one of the parties is enough for a divorce.

The N.E.P. The Public Economy Council. Milliutin. The electrification of Russia. Concessions to foreign capital.

The polemic with the Social-Democrats and the anarchists. The soviets’ policy has emerged from reality, it has been dictated by events. In the end, it has been influenced by the general European situation.

The people’s tribunals and the revolutionary tribunal.