MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations



War Industries Committees

The War Industries Committees, created in May 1915, were formed by Russia's leading captialists to help the tsarist regime with the war effort (manufacture of war materials, supplies, etc). The chairman of the Central War Industries Committee was the Octobrist leader and large capitalist A. I. Guchkov. Among its members were the manufacturer A. I. Konovalov and the banker and sugar manufacturer M. I. Tereshchenko.

In an effort to raise patriotism and worker productivity for longer days and weeks (despite falling pay and increasing food prices), "workers' groups" were created within the committees. To create these groups with some legitamacy, the capitalists convened a wide ranging worker delegates' meeting in Petrograd on September 27 (October 10), 1915. Despite the best efforts of the capitalists, a Bolshevik resolution calling for a boycott and for a revolutionary way out of the war obtained 95 votes to the Mensheviks 81. Naturally, the capitalists would not accept this result, so a second meeting was convened, this time without the pro-Bolshevik delegates. This opened the way for the Mensheviks, led by Gvozdev and an agent provocateur Abrosimov, to elect a "workers' group" of ten delegates... at least for the city of Petrograd. Nation-wide elections to the "workers' groups" took place only in 70 out of the 239 regional and local War Industries Committees, and of those 70 only 36 committees actualy had workers' representatives elected and serve a role.

We are opposed to participation in the war industries committees, which help prosecute the imperialist and reactionary war. We are in favour of utilising the election campaign; for instance, we are for participation in the first stage of the elections for the sole purpose of agitation and organisation.

Several Theses, Vladimir Lenin

Lenin believed the creation of these committees were a turning point in workers consciousness during the war. A ground swell of mass indignation arose when the tsar made clear that the only way workers could organise was to openly support the war.

The outstanding fact in the life of Russian Social-Democracy today is the elections of St. Petersburg workers to the war industries committees. For the first time during the war, these elections have drawn masses of the proletarians into a discussion and solution of basic problems of present-day politics; they have revealed the real picture of the state of affairs within Social-Democracy as a mass party. What has been revealed is that there are two currents and only two: one is revolutionary and internationalist, genuinely proletarian, organised by our Party, and against defence of the fatherland; the other is the “defence” or social-chauvinist current, a bloc of the Nashe Dyelo people (i.e., the backbone of the liquidators), the Plekhanovites, Narodniks and non-partisans, this bloc being backed by the entire bourgeois press and all the Black Hundreds in Russia, which proves the bourgeois and non-proletarian essence of the bloc’s policy.

Social-Chauvinist Policy Behind a Cover of Internationalist Phrases, Vladimir Lenin