Brian Pearce

Soviet Trade Union Publications

(Spring 1952)

From Anglo-Soviet Journal, Vol. 13 No. 1, Spring 1952.
Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Achievements of Soviet Economics in the First Postwar Five-Year Plan Period
Profizdat, Moscow, 1951

The Soviet Trade Unions During the Period of the Postwar Five-Year Plan
Profizdat, Moscow, 1951

The Great Construction Works of Communism
Profizdat, Moscow, 1951

These three pamphlets recently issued in English by the publishing house of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions of the USSR lend themselves to review as a group, although each one is a separate and self-contained publication. The first describes the economic advance of the years 1946–50, the second deals with the part played by the trade unions in bringing about this advance, while the third has for its subject the new projects which have been launched on the basis of this advance.

The title of the first pamphlet is perhaps somewhat misleading for the English reader, as its subject is not the theoretical work of economists but the actual economic developments of the given period. It provides a clear, factual review of progress in the different branches of the national economy. Particular emphasis is laid upon the key importance of heavy industry, which has to produce the means of equipping all the other branches. A higher rate of development was laid down for this branch in the plan for this reason, and its realisation was what made possible fulfilment of their tasks by the other branches, including agriculture. Within the field of agriculture the key position is assigned to grain production, seen as the basis for all the other sections, livestock included. The supply of machines by heavy industry to the rest of industry and to agriculture, and the supply of grain by the grain-producing state and collective farms to the rest of the countryside and to the towns, stand out as the two fundamental economic processes. The pamphlet concludes with an account of the improvements in the standard of living which have been made as a result of the increased production in 1946–50 – abolition of rationing, four substantial price reductions, expansion of health services, and so on.

The second pamphlet explains how the trade unions contributed to accomplishing the 37 per cent increase in the productivity of labour (one per cent more than was planned) which was a feature of the period. Of particular interest is the account given of the rise of new forms of ‘Stakhanovism’ in various industries (notably the movement for high-speed metal machining in the engineering industry), the organisation by the trade unions of ‘Stakhanovite schools’ to spread the experience of the most advanced workers over the whole labour force, and the appearance of ‘Stakhanovite factories’, such as the now-famous Kalibr machine-tool plant in Moscow. The intense interest of the Soviet workers in mastering the technique of their trades and continually raising their qualifications, and the work of the trade unions in facilitating this progress, are illustrated by numerous examples.

This pamphlet can serve as a handy guide to the functioning of the 30 million-strong Soviet trade unions, perhaps the most useful so far produced. It is all the more informative because it is set out not abstractly but as an account of the work of these organisations over a definite period. All sides of the trade unions’ many-sided activities are described, including factory inspection, social insurance administration and housing control. Exceptionally striking to the ‘Western’ reader is the way in which production tasks and the more familiar trade-union tasks of increasing the immediate benefits of members are treated not as two contrasted sides of the trade unions’ responsibilities but as all bound up together:

More than 1,200,000 people took part in the discussion at meetings and conferences which examined the draft collective agreements for 1950. The workers submitted a big number of proposals for raising productivity, improving labour conditions, mechanising arduous and labour-consuming jobs and improving cultural and other services.

The last of the three pamphlets opens with an overall account by Academician A. Winter of the great plan for the transformation of nature, with special reference to electric power production. He sets the plan in its historical perspective, tracing the history of power-development in Russia, and makes some interesting comparisons with large-scale power schemes in other countries. This is followed by more detailed descriptions of each of the separate schemes (Volga dams, Main Turkmenian Canal, etc.) by Professor T.L. Zolotaryov, who also gives a concise but vivid account of the new machinery (excavators, dredgers, etc.) being used on the dam-building and canal-digging sites. The pamphlet is rounded off with brief pieces of reportage by a number of writers who have visited the sites, including Boris Polevoi, which illustrate the spirit and attitude of the workers, both those actually employed on the schemes and those who are producing the machinery, equipment and other supplies for them. They show how the entire people is being drawn into this vast undertaking and how this in turn is having profound effects in the social and cultural spheres.

The pamphlet closes with Polevoi’s picture of Victor Mokhov, a collective farm-lad who has become famous for his skilled handling of one of the giant scrapers which are being used in the making of the Volga-Don Canal, due to be opened for navigation this spring:

Victor Mokhov’s dream of becoming a famous mechanic has become a reality. The other dream of this orphaned son of a Soviet soldier – to become a musician – is also materialising. He has become a fine performer on that instrument of his [an accordion]. Reflecting the historical vicissitudes of this famous spot, the various melodies he plays are a medley of military marches dating back to the Civil War. It was to their tunes that his teacher, the old Red Guard, fought against the White-Guard Cossacks at Tsaritsyn. Intermixed are Stalingrad songs sung by his father, who lost his life in that city’s defence. Then, mingled with these are modern Soviet songs extolling the labour and love of our peaceful people. Then, interspersed, follow flashes of new, as yet barely known, melodies whose leitmotif is the great constructions of Communism.

Last updated on 6 June 2015