Version Two, Communism and its Tactics by Sylvia Pankhurst
Those who have been students at a school of art and craft, which has been fortunate enough to be entrusted with some piece of work destined for actual use, will realise something of what industry will be under Communism. They will remember with pleasure the zealous fervour with which the students threw themselves into the effort, the friendly emulation in efficiency, the general determination to achieve as fine a result as possible in the collective work. Everyone was enthused by the thought that this was no mere exercise, but an object needed and desired. The finest and most difficult parts of the work were done by the teachers and more accomplished students, the easier and more mechanical tasks were willingly performed by those who were least advanced, who, nevertheless, felt that their turn to execute something ambitious would come with the acquisition of further skill. In the tasks set merely for their training, the students had already learnt that their own stage of progress determined the sort of exercises their teachers set them, and now when engaged in this joint enterprise, for which all had set the highest posible standard of efficiency, they realised that for the sake of the whole work no one should be allotted a part that was beyond his skill. Every student, however, even the dullest, firmly believed in his own capacity for progress — otherwise he would have given up this sort of study and turned to something else. Moreover, every student was encouraged to design, to invent, to learn, to do things that were at present beyond the range of his capacities. Every one of them spent a considerable part of his time in doing something of his own choosing, something which was to be his own creation and the expression of his own ideas. These last are the merits of the school; its demerits are that its students rarely take part in or come in contact with constructive work that is to be put to use. The acquisition of technical efficiency is undoubtedly retarded thereby, and much of the zest necessary to the highest accomplishment is also lost.
In commercial industry the profit to the employer and the wage to the worker are placed, both by employer and by worker, before mastery of the craft and the production of useful and beautiful objects. The latter are apt to be regarded as only necessary in so far as they minister to the former. Mechanical efficiency is acquired in the practice of industry with a rapidity uncommon in the schools. Girls and boys who have worked a few months in the potteries learn to paint more accurately on slippery cups and saucers than students who have studied an equal time in the schools of art do on the paper nicely strained on their drawing-boards, using the finest sable brushes and water colours.
But the boys and girls in all but a few branches of industry soon reach the end of their progress. Their creative faculties are stultified, or altogether unawakened, because they are kept to the production of a few stereotyped objects.
Only in rare instances does commercial industry supply scope to the creative faculties. Therefore, in commercial industry there is almost no living creative art. The Wedgewood pottery is but a dead copying of a beautiful art that was once alive. The productions of the famous Copenhagen porcelain factory, though tainted by commercialism, have yet something of living and developing art in them, because the workers there are encouraged to make designs on their own account without being compelled to turn out designs continually in order to assure their living. Those workers display an interest and pleasure in their work which, in heightened measure, will obtain thoughout industry under Communism.
The craft guilds of the past were somewhat vitiated by production for profit, but they gave to their members the opportunities for enjoyable work and craft development which modern industry absolutely denies to the vast majority.
The Soviets under Communism will bring industry to all the best features of the school and unite them to practical work. When profit making is eliminated, the young students will be able to gain technical experience in the actual workshop without losing the opportunities for study and experiment which the school provides: the industry will have its own school departments.
To-day the opponents of Communism turn to Russia for evidence against Communism and to prove the failure of the Soviets. It cannot be stated too emphatically that the Russian Revolution has not succeeded in establishing Communism, and that the Soviet Constitution has only been very partially applied. Moreover, the Russian Soviets are not regularly constituted, since they include representatives of political parties, representatives of political groups of foreigners living in Russia, representatives of Trade Unions, Trades Councils, and Co-oprative Societies, as well as representatives of the workshops.
Pravda of April 18th, 1918, published the following regulations for the Moscow Soviet elections:—
"Regulations for Representation.
“Establishments employing 200 to 500 workers, one representative; those employing over 500, send one representative for every 500 men. Establishments employing less than 200 workers, combine for purpose of representation with other small establishments.
“Ward Soviets send two deputies, elected at a plenary session.
“Trade Unions with a membership not exceeding 2,000, send one deputy; not exceeding 5,000, two deputies; above 5,000, one for every 5,000 workers, but not more than ten deputies for any one union.
“The Moscow Trades’ Council sends five deputies.
“Political parties send 30 deputies to the Soviet: the seats are allotted to the parties in proportion to their membership, providing the parties include four representatives of industrial establishments and organised workers.
“Representatives of the following National non-Russian Socialist parties, one representative per party, are allotted seats:—
(a) “Bund” (Jewish).
(b) Polish Socialist Party (Left).
(c) Polish and Lithuanian Social Democratic Parties.
(d) Lettish Social Democratic Party.
(e) Jewish Social Democratic Party.”
The intention in giving representation to these various interests was, of course, to disarm their antagonism to the Soviet power and to secure their co-operation instead; but the essential administrative character of the Soviets was thereby sacrificed. Constituted thus they must inevitably discuss political antagonisms rather than the production and distribution of social utilities and amenities.
The Russian Soviets sprang into life in the crisis of the revolution of March 1917. They had not been created beforehand in preparation for it. They had arisen in the revolution of 1905, but had died away at its fall.
The March 1917 revolution only created Soviets in a few centres. Their number grew, and was added to by the November Bolshevik revolution; but five years later the Soviet Government admitted that the network of Soviets necessary to cover Russia was not complete. Kameneff, reporting on the question to the seventh all-Russian Congress of Soviets in 1920, stated that even where Soviets existed their general assemblies were often rare, and when held, frequently only listened to a few speeches and dispersed without transacting any real business. The Soviets were never able to cope with the productive needs.
The so-called “New Economic Policy” inaugurated by the Soviet Government in 1921; a policy that is really a reversion to Capitalism, of course, inevitably struck at the root of the Soviet idea. It has robbed the Soviets of their essential function — the administration of industry — and has transformed them into political, and to a large extent powerless, bodies.
The introduction of the New Economic Policy came as the climax of a retrogressive cycle. At the height of the revolutionary wave had come the call, partially responded to, for the management of industry by the Workshop Councils: then, with the ebbing of the tide and with the growth of reactionary tendencies in the bodies possessing coercive authority, the Workshop Councils were superseded. Management boards were established, consisting of representatives of the Factory Committees, the Trade Unions, and the Council of National Economy, a body created jointly by the Trade Unions and the Soviets. Then followed management by a single person, the Workshop Councils being deprived of all right to interfere in the management of the factories, save indirectly, through their minor share in the election of officials and boards of management. Thus by reducing the functions of the Workshop Councils, the return to private ownership and management of industrial enterprises was facilitated.
The Russian Soviets do not administer production, distribution and transport. They merely elect a proportion of those who have a share in administering certain industries.
The Workshop Council, the basis upon which the Soviet structure is theoretically supposed to be built; the local soviet, often in Russia a diversely mixed body, has but little autonomy. It is dominated by the Councils of delegates from wide areas, or the representatives who are endowed with an increasing measure of coercive authority the further they are removed from the workshop.