Karl Radek

Communist Reconstruction

(May 1920)

Source: Printed across four issues of the International Communist, No. 13–17, 26 March–23 April 1921, Communist Party of Australia [Australian Socialist Party], 115 Goulburn St, Sydney.
Translator unknown, originally appeared in The Communist International, No. 10, May 1920, Petrograd.
Transcribed by Duncan Hart.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

1. Two Congresses

The civil war which raged on our territory for two years is now coming to an end. In spite of the assistance which Russian landlords and capitalists received from most powerful capitalist states, the war is ending in a victory for the working class. The attempt of international capital to crush labour in Russia with the aid of French, English, American and Japanese soldiers has ended in a complete fiasco in 1919. The activity of the heads of allied capital was hindered by the protest movement against the intervention of foreign capital in Russian affairs which had chiefly sprung up among British workers who have hitherto remained least international. The attempt which was made to crush the Russian revolution with the hands of Russian peasants who were mobilized by white generals on English, French and American money ended in the complete defeat of Udenitch, Denikin and Kolchak. One of the reasons for this was the fact that the counter-revolution failed to inspire the enslaved peasant masses. The Russian counter-revolution is dead. It is probable that in the future foreign capital will make fresh attempts to mobilise new forces against Soviet Russia. Therefore Soviet Russia remains under arms. Yet they are not likely to succeed in this in the near future and the Russian working-class, without giving up the rifle, is in a position to devote itself to economic construction.

This really is the principal thing kept in view ever since October 1917.The reports of the foreign capitalist press to the effect that for the last two years Russian nationalised industry failed to clothe and boot a two million strong army, and keep it supplied with arms, is wrong, for it is entirely erroneous to say that the army lived on the heritage left by Tsarism. It is obvious, however, the during the course of the tremendous civil war which the demanded the application of all our forces and means could not be maintained on a level demanded by the interests of the working masses; this was an industry the production of which was destroyed in battle, an industry carried on at the cost of the resources of the entire country.

The results of the two years work carried on at our factories are to be witnessed in the victory of the Red Army over its enemies who were equipped by the most developed industries of England and America. Economically Russia represents at the present time a country which labours under a scarcity of machinery, a scarcity of all the means of transport, of skilled workers, of everything that would make socialist production possible; more than that, of everything that makes possible the feeding of the population of our towns in spite of the abundance of corn in Russia.
For this reason all the time during the duration of the civil war, at times of victory as well as of defeats the best leaders of the working class worked over this question of the economic revival of the country; it is only thanks to this fact that in spite of the roar of the cannons, amidst defeats and victories, the Communist Party kept in mind the importance of the economic revival of the country, that in the month of December of last year as soon as Denikin was thrown southwards, as soon as the greatest danger that menaced Soviet Russia was obviated the Communist Party was in a position to initiate the working class into the full questions of economic war, of war against hunger, starvation and disorganisation. Heated discussions on the solution of the economic question, the question that had become the sole interest of the Communist Party since December, resulted in a line of economic policy of Soviet Russia being crystallised and gave rise to a single party will. The Congress of the Communist Party liquidated all disagreements on the question of economic construction. The Congress elaborated a definite plan for the development of the economic policy of the Russian proletariat for the immediate future. The Trade Union Congress which followed upon the Party Congress adopted that plan and on its own part formed due conclusions as to the nature of the further activity of the labour organisations.

The questions which were theoretically solved by the Communist Party of Russia and practically are to be solved by the entire Russian working class are of extreme interest to the international proletariat. The entire capitalist press of Europe for a number of months strove to convince the international proletariat that Soviet Russia is in reality a Russia without soviets, that the administration and control of industry, which in October, 1917 was transferred to the Russian workers, is now withdrawn from them; that having become convinced of the workers’ incapacity for industrial administration the Soviet Government is returning this administration to the former bourgeois specialists and that industry in Russia has fallen into the hands of the military cliques who are about to effect its militarization. This alleged decision of militarization of industry is further explained in connection with the international soviet policy which is gradually shaping itself, the policy of commercial relationship with the capitalist West as a preliminary step to a return to capitalism generally. The opinion vented by the bourgeois press is that the Bolsheviki are playing the role that was played by the young Turks, by ultimately throwing the country under the financial domination of victorious Anglo-American capitalism.

When in 1918 Soviet Russia was compelled to make peace with German Imperialism the Entente press spread almost the same kind of tale which is now given so much space in the German press concerning the attempts made by Soviet Russia to conclude peace with the Allies; for the purpose of proving our disillusionment concerning the possibility of establishing a communist order with the hands of the workers, the bourgeois press quoted Lenin’s speech of April 1918 on the most immediate problems of the Soviet Government, and no doubt at the present time for proof of the same they will refer to the resolutions of the Communist Party Congress. There is a profound reason for the international bourgeoisie attempting to convince the working class of the world of the alleged return of Soviet Russia to capitalism for this is one of the means by which it hopes to prevent the European workers from fighting for the acquisition of power. The International bourgeoisie hopes to convince the workers of the futility of acquiring power, if shortly after it they are to find themselves in a worse position than before.

A clear understanding of what is going on in Russia, of the significance of the present economic policy of the Communist Party and of the Russian Soviet Government is of the utmost importance to the international proletariat. Only a full understanding of the avowed economic policy of the Soviet Government will enable the communist workers of Europe to see clearly whether they are in the right; at the same time they will also learn to understand that this road will be of a temporary significance and that as soon as it will be passed the European workers will be bound to enter the road that is now being taken by Soviet Russia. What the bourgeois hack-writers represent to the international workers as the Soviet Government’s treason to communism will, upon analysis, prove to be a transition to the proletarian power from the phase of struggle for power and of struggle to retain this power to the period of socialist construction.

2. The Struggle for the Abolition of Capitalism

In the pre-war period many looked upon the labour movement as a transition from capitalism to socialism, as the result of the gradual State influence on capitalist production and of general proletarian influence on the capitalist State. A transition from capitalism was deemed possible without deep changes in the capitalist government. In reality social revolution means a complete abolition and destruction of the State and economic apparatus of capitalism. The acquisition of political power is impossible without breaking up the State apparatus of compulsion leaving at the same time intact the economic apparatus. This impossibility arises not only from the fact that the civil war which has devastated entire territories leaves the country as much as ordinary war does, in ruins. It is also impossible because civil war is not credible without the factory workers making attempts to throw off the yoke of capital. It is impossible for the workers to fight on the barricades and to remain factory slaves at the same time leaving inviolate the rights of the capitalist owner and the privileges of the capitalist administration.

This constitutes the essence of the process of social-revolution that the working masses find themselves under conditions when they lose every confidence in capitalism and make attempts on capitalist power in its principal units, at works and factories. What is the source of the revolutionary movement observable in the workers of the whole world? It is in the fact that capitalism is incapable of securing for them constant work, of securing for them a human existence for which they are striving for now fifty years, incapable of securing even a piece of bread for them. As a result of this the working masses have lost the belief that capitalism will be able to secure the further course of production. To begin with the struggle is for higher wages and a shorter working day. But when the capitalist organism replies to every increase of wages by an increase in the price of necessities in addition to an increase in the scarcity of raw material and the growth of the transport disorganization – the workers are faced with the question of control of production.

Lack of confidence of the worker in the capitalist class as organisers of production is the source of the struggle for the control over production. Even when factories are closed down as the result of general and objective reasons the workers see in it intentional passive strike of the capitalist and strive to organize a control over him through delegates chosen from their midst. But even where the individual capitalist cannot be made responsible for the lack of work, even where closing down of a particular factory is the result of the general disorganisation they refuse to sit still and die of hunger and cold. Their belief grows that they themselves are capable of a better organisation of production than the capitalist class. The conscious struggle for the acquisition of industry begins with the growth of the belief.

This struggle is more than a wave of strikes, it is more than sabotage at factories, attempts to abolish factory administration, or attempts of its control by means of factory and works committees, who in the further struggle develop a striving not for controlling production but for its direct administration, it is more than all this; this process is the deepest source of the political revolutionary struggle for State power, it is the objective process of the collapse of capitalist economy, a process which for a certain period destroys the entire economic basis of the country, intensifies ruin and increases destitution.

But however difficult the consequences of this process be, it is unavoidable, just as the usage of cannons, machine-guns and rifles and indispensable for victory on the battlefield. Throwing retrospective glance at the Kerensky period with its slogan of industrial control and of factory and works committees the Russian working class is now able to perceive the legality of this process judging by the development of the labour movement with the end of the war in America and Europe. That which the German, American and English industry is now living through differs only in degree from the state of things of Russian industry in 1917.

The chief element in the process of the collapse of capitalist economy is the working class’ loss of confidence in the organizing capacities of the capitalist class. But in view of the fact that the working class has no organisers in its own class able to the take the place of capitalist organisers it must for this period accept the principle of control and administration by the mean of collegiate or boards elected by them. In the initial stages of the revolutionary epoch prominence is given to the reformist principle of democracy at the factories, of industrial control by the labour representatives. This is the phase under which the working class beyond the borders of Russia is labouring at the present time. This phase is continued even after the acquisition of state power; more than that, at this period it is even strengthened in view of the fact that until the complete victory of the workers over capital it was possible to organise control over production only in the centres where they had greater influence, whilst in other parts of the country the capitalists were strong enough to resist them.

But under the present protection of the Soviet Government even the weakest section of the working classes, those who during the period of struggle did not even dream of taking the administration of the factories in their own hands feel the strength of a class which is in possession of power and arise everywhere. All along factory and works committees are established and attempts are soon made to change from control over factories to their direct administration, every attempt is made to turn to the abolition of the power of the capitalist class to the advantage of labour groups and even units.

This is the cause which makes the first period which follows upon the acquisition of power a period of growing economic disorganisation. Formally during this period collegiate administration of industry through elected representatives of each individual factory is the dominating idea of the working class. But this leads rapidly to heavy consequences. Every group of the working class upon having acquired a particular factory organises its own production guided only by its own interests without considering the interests of other groups. It disposes of the accumulated reserve of goods to those who pay a better price. It produces, if it produces at all, not that which is required by the community, but that which will find a ready buyer. No particular profundity is required to see that this sort of thing is not socialism.

The question is not in the clear conception of the fact that a rough division of industry and its products among the working class has little in common with socialism, but to understand the inevitability of this occurrence as a transitory period of revolution. How is this to be combatted? At the first Congress of the Trade Unions in 1918 Com. Zinovieff proclaimed the principle of industrial administration by the Trade Unions. There is no doubt whatever that so deep a student a trade union tendencies in Europe as Com. Zinovieff was well aware of the controversies with regard to Marxists and syndicalism in which the Marxists asserted that the transfer of individual branches of industry into the hands of disunited trade unions means organisation of competition, where the workers in organised in trade unions will take the place of the capitalists organised in trusts; whilst the transfer of the industry into the hands of trade union amalgamations or of unions generally means the organisation of a dangerous type of production which will give rise to a struggle for the acquisition of power, a struggle between the various sections of the working class for personal advantages and the creation of the attitude of hostility of a class as whole towards the peasant population. But in the moment of utter anarchy which capitalism has left behind it, at the moment when the group and personal interests of workers was at its height, when emerging from the period of the capitalist oppression the workers wished immediately to transfer production into the hands of the trade unions is an attempt to introduce some kind of organisation in a sphere dominated by anarchy, to put in the place of disunited group interests the interests of large units of the proletariat whom it is easier to coordinate and to control. Only the mentally dull can see syndicalism in this sort of thing.

In the period following the acquisition of power the Russian Communists formed industrial administration of trade union representatives under whose control specialists and engineers who were formerly in the service of the capitalists were no employed, whilst for the purpose of co-ordinating the work of the various branches of industry, of creating a general economic plan, of organising the exchange of semi-manufactures between the various branches of industry and of organising a goods exchange between town and country. Councils of Public Economy were formed; these institutions were subject to the influence of the working masses employed at the factories and in the administration of the latter played the part of State organs representing the interests of the whole population. The Councils of Public Economy were formed of Trade Union representatives and the representatives of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies as organs of the working class. The Council of Public Economy includes specialists, it made attempts to elaborate a genera plan for every branch of industry, a definite administrative type and to establish an economic centre for the supply and distribution of raw materials and of fuel as well as for the distribution of products.

Both the Councils of Public Economy and the Factory administrations were formed on the principle of collegiate or boards. This system of collegiates legal in organs engaged in the elaboration of a general plan, in organs which are to include the whole production of Soviet Russia, the public economy of the certain territorial province or of one branch of industry was at the factories the result of transitional necessity. It was a necessity in the first place for the reason that the working class were in need of economic organisers belonging to the communist section of the working class, they lacked specialists and engineers whom they could trust. In the expectation of the speedy fall of the workers’ government the professional classes sabotaged industry, which convinced the workers that this bourgeois sabotage can be overcome only by the workers taking into their own hands the tasks hitherto entrusted to the professional classes.

At this time the principle of collegiates at works and factories meant that owing to the lack of experienced organisers, administration was left in the hands of the inexperienced workers for training purposes. The principle of collegiates did not imply that administration of a factory by three or five men is preferable to one man management, the principle of collegiate is not the outcome of any communistic principle, it was the result of the mere knowledge of the workers that singly their best representatives are unable to cope with the matter in hand, and they therefore entrusted administration to a number of persons who were to be a mutual complement to each other.

This period would have gone much sooner had not the civil war compelled us to put the questions of economic policy in the background. Trotsky, in his speech on March, 1918, on labour discipline, and Lenin, in his speech regarding the immediate problems of the Soviet Government, drew attention to the necessity for responsible energetic administration and express themselves against the principle of collegiates. But being driven by the civil war to carry on its industry in a war time manner, so to speak, the Soviet Government was unable to elaborate a single economic plan in view of the constant changes brought about by the military operations, nor to adopt the form of single-man management, the necessity for which was felt to be growing daily. The questions of an economic plan and of methods of administration are coming to the fore with the conclusion of the civil war, which makes the systematic economic construction possible.

3. Organisation of Labour

In its formation of an economic plan the Soviet Government should be guided by the fact that the growing economic disorganisation of Europe daily reduces the opportunities for receiving a sufficient quantity of machinery required for the re-establishment of Russian industry. It is obvious that everything possible will be done to acquire all the technical aid that the expiring capitalist world is capable of rendering, but it has to be kept in mind that it will have to create by its own means and resources the principle part of its requirement. The world revolution will not free her of this necessity because outbreak will lead to a considerable destruction of the capitalist means of production, its first stages will increase the economic disorganisation of Europe and technically it will be able only to supply the Russian Revolution with European skilled workers. Where is the material to come from for the construction of the means of production required by Soviet Russia?

Soviet Russia experiences a great shortage in machinery. She will be forced to substitute machine power by human power consisting of trained peasants and skilled workers. Here we approach the question of the so-called militarisation of labour, concerning which so much noise has been raised by the European capitalist press. The Russian skilled workers, of whom there was never an abundity, have dispersed to the villages in search of food. If Soviet Russia is to extricate herself from the economic disorganisation, its first task is to rally the scattered forces of the skilled proletariat. If the socialist community has any right at all to throw upon the battle field hundreds of thousands of workers to shed their blood in the name of the liberation of the entire working class, the more right has it to say to the skilled workers who have dispersed to the villages: “No surprise is entertained at your having fled to the villages to escape starvation; but the entire country is doomed to ruin and famine unless you return to town. Only by increasing the productivity of locomotive repairs, only by beginning to create transport means and as well as means of production can we save the Russian working class from death by starvation. Just as you are bound to fight for and protect Soviet Russia with arms in hand, equally so you are obliged to extend your credit to the Soviet Government, which is a government of the working class.”

As we have said, there is a lack of skilled labour in Russia. Even if we collect all the dispersed elements of the skilled proletariat the total amount will not be sufficient to obviate the final collapse of the capitalist edifice, to make room for new construction, let alone to gather all the elements necessary for such construction. To clean the towns and repair its houses, etc., which is necessary for the improvement of the hygiene conditions, without which it is impossible to organise work for hundreds of thousands of workers, cutting of timber for fuel reserve, for factories and works, peat and slate mining for the same purposes – all this demands a tremendous amount of physical power, which is to be drawn from the Russian peasantry. In drawing this power from the peasantry the Worker Peasant Government is not only furthering socialist construction – it is advancing ordinary civilisation. If industry is not re-established and our towns revived with the assistance of peasant power, the villages which, thank to the labour revolution, have become liberated from the oppression of the relics of the feudal system, will become subject to conditions of life which prevailed prior to feudalism, which after all was an organisation of labour on a large scale. Without the revival of town industry the villages will find themselves without either matches, tobacco, salt, paraffin-oil, without ploughes and scythes, that is to say, they will find themselves leading the lives of savages. The revival of Russia an economic body, a task which is carried out with the iron hand of labour dictatorship, lies in the interests of the peasant masses themselves.

The question of the best way of utilising the peasant forces for the economic revival of Russia came to the fore with the complete defeat of Kolchak and Denikin. The instability of the international position of Soviet Russia, the fact that our country has not yet formed a stable peace with the Western capitalist states, these chief instigators of the Russian counter-revolution, stood in the way to our desire to demobilise the army. But in reality this army had no actual military problems, it now represented a purely parasitic element eating the bread of a poverty stricken country. This gave rise to the idea of a change of the war army into a labour army, which is to supply large units for the rough work of town cleaning, clearing of railway lines, output of fuel and so forth, labour that demands no training and no skilled work. The experience of the labour army already in existence is too significant to enable us to judge how far the idea of labour armies in its originally conceived form will turn out useful or possible. But there is no doubt as to one thing: that is, that the labour armies are not built to carry out constructive work; its units are military units not differentiated for economic purposes, nor is its staff adapted for the control of industrial economy. There is a possibility that the military units will have to be reorganised in such a way that the skilled elements which they contain are separated for the purposes of skilled work whilst the unskilled peasant masses are to be used for corresponding work. At any rate whether the existing military apparatus is utilised for the present economic needs or a new apparatus is formed – peasant labour will be drafted in the work of re-establishing the economic life of the country. The protests of a return to the feudal system is sheer hypocrisy on the lips of those who never protested when Tsarism and capitalism led to slaughter millions of peasants in the interests of a handful of bankers, bureaucrats and generals. It is the proof of complete stupidity on the lips of those who fail to understand that the social significance of any sort of compulsion such as is the utilisation of the peasant masses in the interests of State economic problems depends both on the class at the head of the government and on the purpose for which the labour is used. The utilisation of labour of millions of men for the purpose of rebuilding our railways, of combating typhus and cholera, or revival of the industrial life of the country – this does not mean utilising the peasants for tasks which are foreign to their interests but is a means of serving the peasants’ cause.

But is this mobilisation and distribution of skilled labour going to take place? It is obvious that the maximum of propaganda work is necessary for this, to infuse the workers with an understanding of the importance of the work which they will be called upon to perform. But oral agitation is the more impressive when it is backed up by a firm will; when an apparatus of compulsory service is created, which is to organise the masses and put to life in the less energetic sections of the workers. The problem of collecting the skilled forces of the country and distributing them in accordance with the requirements of industrial production is only possible under a combination of an extensive propaganda with the establishment of a strong apparatus which is to have all the State organs of compulsion at its service.

The Industrial Unions are to be these organs which will include the vast masses and to which organs the mobilisation and distribution of labour power will be entrusted. Having originated in the capitalist epoch as trade unions they carried on a struggle for the improvement of the conditions of the working class. In Russian they were established at the time of the 1905 revolution. Suppressed during the counter-revolutionary period they revived in the period of the February revolution and were instantly faced with the questions of struggle for industrial control, a question that was not until that time part of the trade unions. Upon the acquisition of power by the working class, in which they took an active part, the trade unions took over the control of production and later on the organisation of industrial administration. They have thus undergone a change from the struggle for the improvement of the conditions of the working class under capitalism to the questions of the organisation of socialist production; they have changed from trade into industrial unions.

The industrial unions number millions of workers, but it must be recognised that during the two years of revolution they proved incapable of combining production with the organisation of the masses. The civil war compelled them to throw their best forces on the battlefield, as it was quite clear that the cause of Soviet Russia is equally their own cause, that it is impossible to further the trade union movement at a moment when the basis upon which the whole movement is built is endangered and requires protection. The poverty to which the trade unions became subject permitted their amalgamation with the organisations of production by attracting the leaders of the movement. There were representatives of the industrial unions in the Councils of Public Economy as well as in the factory administrations. They discussed all questions of trade union production with the administration of their unions, but the working masses took little interest in these questions.

Regarding the economic revival of Russia as a thing of first importance, the communist party considers the question of the consolidation of the industrial unions a matter of the gravest importance, as well as the questions of an actual amalgamation between the working masses and the industrial administrations.

The Communist Party is in a position to carry on only an agitation for the general strengthening of labour discipline and for the increase of productive labour. The problem of the industrial unions at every factory is to carry on a concrete matter-of-fact industrial campaign, to make the needs of every sphere of production clear to the masses and to interest the masses closely in the questions of initiative with regard to the increase in production. The industrial union is an organisation which together with the Commissariat for Education is erect a network of technical industrial schools in which the more talented workers are to be given a technical training and a knowledge of administration. It is to find experienced workers for administrative posts and should finally have control of the mobilisation and distribution of the workers. In this manner the industrial unions not only closely participate in the guidance and control of production but they also represent an organised basis of labour power which draws all its forces for the control and administration of production. This is effected by the system of sections of industrial unions which are to be found in factory and works committees, in factory administrations, in the Chief Departments embracing whole branches of industry and in local and provincial Councils of Public Economy. They are the instruments through the medium of which the Labour Government representing the interests of the workers of the entire country realises its economic policy. The role of the industrial unions in the organism of Soviet Russia greatly differs from that which is ascribed to it by the syndicalists. The industrial unions do not direct industry in part or as a whole. The direction of industry is carried out by the organs comprising the best forces of the industrial unions in conjunction with all the scientific resources – left to us by capitalism – and of representatives of the labour government. But the industrial unions are the principal mass organisation of the proletariat, they form the basis of the proletarian dictatorship, the actual representatives of the chief source of the labour government; furthermore, as a proletarian mass organisation, they represent the chief power of production and by virtue of their influence they are actually in a position to put their hall mark on industry without being its absolute leaders.

As a consequence of this very reason that the influence they wield on industry does not emanate from a trade union aspect, from the point of view of an organisation of individual groups of the working class; but that their participation in industry takes place through the medium of general state institutions, that when questions of compulsion arise they apply to the State, they are closely connected to the State – by virtue of all this in the further process of the increase of production the industrial unions will in the long run abolish all relics of trade union narrowness, of devotion to the interests of individual groups, they will become the organs which actually represent the class interests of the entire proletariat, having a clear conception of the general interests of the proletarian dictatorship in a peasant country.

This part which is to be played by the industrial unions is a reply to the cry of militarisation and to the cry of a return to the bureaucratic administration of industry. Militarisation in the sense in which imperialist States introduced it in the West during the War is impossible in Russia. At that time this militarisation meant that the State representing the interests of stock-exchange-sharks compelled the workers to surrender all that freedom which they gained in peace time for the struggle against capital; this militarisation meant a compulsion to work at the highest rate of intensity, under threat in the reverse case to be sent to the front. The purpose of this was to provide the bourgeoisie with the possibility of robbing foreign nations. In Soviet Russia the working class is at the head of the government. The Red Army is a working class body; it is not a body of a class of foreign exploiters. Organisation of production, intensity and discipline of labour do not serve as formerly a handful of bankers but are at the service of the working class to save it from a hungry death. The reason that the Communist press and the Communist leaders of Russia use military terms to indicate the road and method which will lead to an increase of discipline of labour output is to make it clear to the working class that typhus, cholera and starvation are not less dangerous to the working class than Denikin and Kolchak’s guns.

The capitalist press and that of the social compromisers are guilty of direct lying when they try to persuade the European workers that the Soviet government is intentionally introducing in Russia the kind of regime which dominated the German, French and British factories during the war. Our “militarisation” does not mean the abolition of the freedom of the labour unions, but the utilisation of all the forces of the Communist Party and of the Soviet Government for the purpose of making stronger the Industrial Unions. It involves a vital discussion of all questions of production by the entire working class. Capitalist militarisation during the war demanded from the workers that they should become mute machine supplements to machinery. In Soviet Russia so-called militarisation demands from the working masses that they should become the class-conscious builders of communist production, and even should the industrial unions in conjunction with the Soviet Government be forced to use compulsion against the most depraved sections of the working class, against the private food traders and speculators, who obstruct the railways and interfere with the government food policy, that will be a treatment meted out to those workers by labour organisations in the name of the interests of the working class.

The cry that Soviet Russia is returning to bureaucratic methods of administration by advocating the change from the system of collegiates to that of one-man management is equally ridiculous. That this system of boards or collegiates has nothing particularly in common with Communism is best proved by the fact that it is very often used by the capitalists in factories, trusts, and limited companies. One-man management would indeed by a bureaucratic form of administration if the organs of the economic policy were not closely connected with the working class, or if labour organisations were prevented from defining the economic policy, or finally if the working classes were given no opportunity to take an active interest in industrial questions.

In a labour State, where the Government is the representative of the working class, where the economic organs were formed by the labour government from members of the labour organisations, which are at any moment liable to be recalled, where such economic organs under the control of the labour State draw up a collective plan of the economic policy; where the labour government is doing everything to attract the working masses to take part in the solution of industrial questions, being well aware that without it these masses are powerless and that neither the policy nor the character of the factory administration is in strict dependence on the number of people who take part in this administration, the socialist character of administration generally depends on the policy of the State as a whole.

The reason why the Communist Party is adapting the policy of one-man management is of the following two-fold character: one of the general nature in all probability will recur under every revolution, and the other – particularly Russian. Collegiate or board administration on the whole means irresponsibility of the entire board, it naturally enough destroys that sense of responsibility which a man feels when he and no one else is responsible for a particular piece of work or post; the second, specifically Russian reason for the policy of one-man management is in the fact that the number of workers capable of taking part in the administration of production is rather thin in Russia, and that it would be an incredible waste of energy to shut them up in collegiates. The striving for one-man management signifies a widest and most rational utilisation of labour administrators. Naturally enough this policy cannot be fully carried out immediately; for a long time to come it will be found necessary to combine, where the workers suffer from a shortage of technical education, the management of an experienced worker with a bourgeois technician, or an efficient bourgeois technician will have to be supplemented with a labour commissary, or to leave intact small labour collegiates working harmoniously. The whole question is in the necessity of forming a policy, of putting an end to the policy of collegiate as a type of administration which was necessary during the period of struggle, but which is a hindrance in the present period of revival of industry. Such a policy has nothing in common with a return to capitalism, on the contrary, it is connected with the principles of socialist construction; it is connected with the mobilization of the entire body of workers for the purposes of construction, with the full development of proletarian dictatorship, and its increased direct participation in the economic administration of the country.

4. Capitalist Enslavement or Self Organisation

The proletarian revolution, originating in the deep disorganisation of capitalism necessarily augments this disorganisation and during its first period is responsible for the increase of national calamities. The Russian working class may truly be said to have gone through a hell of torments when it took over the government of a country so poorly developed capitalistically, poor in the technical sense and with a legacy of poverty and destitution; it was thrown into a two-year armed struggle in which not only its own bourgeoisie but the whole world attempted to crush the first Labour State.

The result of this was unprecedented ruin of the country – monstrous calamities. The victories of Soviet Russia, the fact that it exists and continues to develop, will tend to facilitate the transition period of other countries, also for the reason that the existence of Soviet Russia as a source of great military and economic power will restrain the capitalist countries from a direct military attempt upon the Labour States which are yet to be established. But nowhere can the working class avoid the period of civil war which leads to destitution and ruin. Socialist construction represents a long period in which during a great number of years the level of the life of the workers will not be higher but lower than that of the working masses of the capitalist countries. Trotsky was perfectly right when at the Congress of the Communist Party elaborating the following stages of the economic plan: the production and the repair of the means of transport, the manufacture of the means of production, generally and the production of articles of first necessity – he pointed out that the standard of life of the working masses would be raised very slowly and that improvements in their conditions would come about very gradually. The Communist policy being a policy of the masses, a policy whose conquest depends on the class consciousness of the workers – conceals nothing from the masses, promises it no earthy paradise, but only points out to them that the world which has been thrown into the abyss of war by capitalism will inevitably sink into utter barbarism unless the proletariat, despite hunger and cold, will show itself capable of creating a will of work, of establishing an organisation and perfect discipline of labour.

The jailers of the European proletariat, the capitalists of all countries, will make use of our communist speeches concerning discipline and labour in their own interests. They will intimidate the workers with representations of the Russian workingman driven to work by a Soviet whip. Mr Lloyd George read in the English Parliament the appeal of the Moscow Soviet, in which the following is said: “We have defeated Denikin and Kolchak but we are menaced by cold which is to be conquered by the same weapons which we used on the battlefield. It is necessary to organise our citizens into battalions for the purpose of cutting timber.” Having read this appeal the English Premier exclaimed pathetically: “Is there a British worker who will allow the State to drive him to cut timber?”

But the British worker driven by capitalism into the mines to toil for the Duke of Northumberland, compelled to live in cold and filthy dwellings, have perfectly well understood the difference between the position prevalent in the capitalists’ countries where, under the motto of freedom of labour, capital drives its slaves with the economic whip of hunger to work for the owners of the means of production, where with the war it introduced open slavery on militarised factories in the interests of the owners – the difference between all this and Soviet Russia.

The policy of increase of labour discipline, of increased productivity of labour, represents nothing more than the realisation of the slogan of every form of socialism. The slogan of organisation of labour as against the lying slogan of capitalist “freedom of labour.” This socialist idea progressed from Thomas Moore through Gracchus and Bebel, this organisation of labour was the constant problem of the great utopians. In conceiving the idea of society without classes socialism at the same time formulated the idea of organisation of the labour of free and equal men. In capitalist society the organisation of labour was established in a natural process by virtue of struggle. The owners of the means of production never knew what quantity to manufacture, never the exact demands of the community, or which of these necessities the community is in a position to buy. Capitalist society of the most civilised countries has not reached up to the present day exact statistical data of production and distribution. Based on the competition of the owners of the means of production, made possible by the destitution of the masses, it never paid much attention to the fact that this undirected mechanism of organisation of labour means hunger in some parts of the world while there is plenty in other parts; unemployment in one branch of production and a superfluity in another. Socialism born of the torment of the working class – having originated in the best minds of humanity who condemned this undirected organisation of labour in capitalist society based on the principle of so-called freedom of labour which is responsible for the broken lives of hundreds of thousands of people – socialism had for its first war cry the organisation of labour.

Having arisen during the epoch of undeveloped capitalism a hundred years prior to the proletarian revolution it naturally enough could not elaborate no definite plan, losing itself in the network of utopianism. In the period when on the arena there appeared not only suffering masses but masses struggling and fighting, socialism abandoned the questions of organisation of labour in socialist society as it had to concentrate on the organisation of labour in the struggle against capitalism. The plan of organisation of labour drawn up by the Communist Party is not the result of scientific abstract investigations but has been necessitated by life. To revive the country, to construct new life in places where formerly there reigned destitution, to infuse new blood in the arteries of the social mechanism, to start locomotives, to set in working order the telegraph and telephone, to release those wheels which will effect the beginning of an exchange of town manufactures for the agricultural districts – to bring about all this huge economic forces are required, as well as a more precise registration of the utmost necessities, an iron discipline where that is required and the means of state compulsion under the control of the leading sections of the working class. In order to compel workers drawn from the class proletarianised craftsmen and landless peasantry to work for the capitalist these capitalists formed an elaborate system from the puritan exhaltation of labour to the inhuman Malthusianism of the survival of the fittest; from the cutting off of nostrils and ears and from branding unemployed tramps with red hot irons – to the erection of work-houses which were houses of torture and death. The working class representing the interests of the greater part of humanity is not in need of such measures. The appeal of the working class reaches the heart even of the backward sections of the proletariat; it appeals to their own interests, which are identical to those of the communist society. But the working class cannot surrender the aid of compulsion for the purpose of an accelerated course of the transition to labour, which is ultimately to lead to communal labour where each is working for all and all for each, even for those who are contaminated with the poison of the expiring capitalism.

All that the capitalists and their agents have to say against the organisation of labour for which the Russian proletariat is fighting at the present time, all their rage concerning barracks and compulsion proves but one thing – their desire to make use of the last bourgeois illusion, the last bourgeois deception of freedom of labour for the purpose of enslaving labour to capitalism. At the time when international capital stood up for freedom of labour as against the organisation of labour of the utopians this could be looked upon in the light of an illusion. It had the firm belief that it would place free labour in the place of feudal ownership, even if that is only a freedom to starve. But when it speaks now of the freedom to labour it is lying directly and consciously because had it only succeeded in crushing the international labour revolution it would have abolished all freedom of labour and established an inhuman military organisation in its own interests. Economic disorganisation, the lack of merchandise, the absolute exhaustion of productive forces, the scarcity of raw material – all this upon the victory of capitalism would demand such a strong trust organisation that the worker would not be given the choice of a particular exploiter for whom to work. He would literally be distributed along with machinery and raw material.

The struggle is not at all between capitalist freedom of labour and communist organisation of labour, but between the complete enslavement of the working class to capitalism and the self-organisation of the working class in a communist system of society.

This is the light in which the matter is seen by the advanced section of the Russian proletariat at the congresses of the Communist Party and of the Industrial Unions. There is no doubt whatever that in spite of the campaign of calumny of the international bourgeoisie the Russian Communist Party and the Industrial Unions are as much now the pioneers of international revolution as they were in October, 1917, when they took the power into their hands, and in March of 1918, when they established the Red Army.

Last updated on 15 October 2021