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Carl Davis

Russia Squeezes Slave Labor out of Hungary

(30 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 39, 30 September 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

In an Associated Press report hidden away in the newspapers, we read that Russia has proposed to take 30,000 Hungarian workers as part payment for reparations claimed by those two countries. These 30,000 workers would be employed in Russia and Yugoslavia until the reparations claimed by them are paid off. The Stalinist Communist Party of Hungary supported this proposal as did the Stalinist-controlled Socialist Party.

The proposal for “reparations labor” is merely a dressed up word for slave labor, for that is the essence of the Russian proposal. The whole incident calls attention to the worldwide growth of a new phenomenon which rises from the decaying social order of capitalism, and the brutal bureaucratic collectivist dictatorship in Russia.

Marxian socialism has described the worker in capitalist society as a “free” worker. In its scientific, social sense, this means that the worker is “free” from the ownership of property in the “means of production”: factories, machinery, land; that he owns only his labor power, his ability to work, which he sells to the boss in return for wages. In other words, the worker is only nominally free. He is, in reality, a wage slave because the social organization of capitalism makes it necessary for the worker to sell himself to the boss or else to starve.

Decline of “Free” Labor

Nevertheless, as compared to previous society, slavery and feudal— the worker is “free.” His body is not owned as a chattel; he can return home after his work, move to another city, or quit his job for another. In recent years, however, the worker has become less and less free as capitalism finds it less and less possible to function normally and progressively. The decay of capitalism and the difficulty of extorting profits has increased a world-wide tendency toward slave labor in which all forms of freedom are obliterated.

Imperialism has enslaved the colonial world and in many parts of the world actual slave labor exists. But nowhere in the world does slave labor exist so extensively as in Stalin’s Russia.

Russia has become the biggest slave state in the world. Although it is impossible to obtain accurate figures of the number of slaves in the convict labor camps, it has been estimated at between ten and seventeen millions. State officials, party members, workers and peasants make up the population in the slave camps. Initiated, as a political weapon against opponents, the slave camps in Russia have become an indispensable adjunct of the Russian economy.

What kind of labor do these camps engage in? Every kind. They build factories, work in them, clear swamps, forests and build roads; they work on railroads and in mines, and they work in the fields. The slave camps are under the constant surveillance of the secret police fully armed with a variety of weapons. The slave laborers receive a minimum of food, within echo-call of starvation, and a minimum of clothes. They live in barracks whose conditions beggar description. And the slave laborers work until they die. It is as simple as all that. There is no medical relief for their sickness; their is no rest from labor.

Some fortunate ones return from these camps as marked persons. Almost all die there after a few years. But the supply is inexhaustible. The periodic purges contribute new slave laborers. The occupied countries, especially Poland, are another source of replenishing the camps. Russia’s victory in the war and the conquest of new territories was still another supply source for the bureaucracy which rules over the Russian people.

The New Slave Laborers

Thus, the camps are filled with opponents of the regime, recalcitrant workers and peasants, officials who have erred in judgment or expressed doubts about some policy or other of the regime and “potential” enemies of the state. In the latter category fall most of slave laborers of the occupied countries, Baltics, Poles, Rumanians and Germans.

Fascist Germany under Hitler also developed slave labor camps to a high degree following the pattern molded by Stalin. But even in Nazi Germany, many of the foreign laborers were hired and paid wages. Tens of thousands came willingly, other tens of thousands were forced to work there, while still other tens of thousands were actually slave workers.

The war only accentuated this tendency inherent in the social decay of modern society. The French enslave German prisoners of war long after the war has ended. Every power uses slave labor in one form or another. It therefore comes as no surprise at all that Stalin demands Hungarian workers as slaves to pay off reparations assessed against that country. And this fact alone testifies that reparations are a system of economic enrichment against defeated countries, enrichment which comes out of the blood, sweat and tears of the masses of workers and peasants who had nothing to do with the war. It also bears out the imperialist, slave character of the war itself.

It may be argued that 30,000 Hungarians are not a great number. But this is only a beginning, and overlooks Russia, Germany and Eastern Europe. It overlooks the social pattern. How many Germans have been transported to Russia? How many men, women and children have been torn from their homes and families to become slaves to Stalin’s regime? Nobody knows, except the Kremlin rulers.

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