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John G. Wright

World of Labor

(28 March 1936)

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 12, 28 March 1936, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Stakhanov Campaign Gripped by
Serious Crisis in the Soviet Union

For months now the Stalinist press has been filled with ballyhoo for Stakhanovism. The February issue of the Communist Interantional boasts that:

“The words ‘Stakhanovism’ and ‘Stakhanov methods’ have become famous far beyond the confines of the first socialist state in the world.” (p. 351)

At the very height of this campaign, news comes from Moscow, as reported by Harold Denny in the New York Times, that:

“Stakhanovism has fallen back so completely in its birthplace that only one of the many Donetz Basin coal mining units was not falling in its production quota.” (N.Y. Times, March 18)

The breakdown is not limited to the coal industry. The situation is so serious that, according to Denny’s dispatch, it “caused Communist party and government leaders to demand ... that it (i. e. Stakhanovism) be revived and strengthened.”

Is Denny perhaps vilifying Stakhanovism? Is there really a “breakdown”, and how serious is it?

It is impossible as yet to gauge the situation fully, but sufficient facts are already available to enable us to outline it.

The introduction of what Denny calls the “Stakhanov speeding system” indubitably produced results at the outset. If we take the key steel and coal figures as the basis for a general orientation, we find that the output of steel increased from an average production of 35.5 thousand tons in September to 38 thousand tons in December; a like increase was gained in the production of coal (the Donetz Basin) which rose from the average daily output of 178.2 thousand tons in September to 229 thousand tons in December.

These were, so to speak, the honeymoon months of Stakhanovism. In January, we find the steel production still increasing. It rises to an average daily production of 42 thousand tons. But the figures for the coal industry already show a small but indubitable decrease. In January, the average daily output in the Donbas region fell to223 thousand tons of coal. The February figures indicate a levelling off in the production of steel, the industry apparently maintaining its January output of 42 thousand tons per day, while a further decline is indicated in the Donbas coal production (221 thousand tons of coal). The figures of the Second Five Year Plan call for a daily production of 46 thousand tons of steel, and 230.1 [thousand] tons of coal from the Donetz basin.(The above figures have been averaged from the daily data published in Pravda.)

In short, instead of steadily increasing, the output is either remaining stationary or declining. The question naturally arises how are we to reconcile these facts with the claims made by the Stalinists that the “Stakhanov movement ensures a gigantic growth of the productivity of labor ...” etc., etc. (Communist Int., Feb. 1936, p. 35).The answer is that the facts give the lie to the Stalinist boasts.

The inability to maintain levels already attained can signify only one thing: that the gains have been made not so much on the basis of a scientific rationalization of industry as at the expense of an increased physical exertion on the part of the workers. The workers are unable to maintain the intensel abor for more than a few weeks. Their physical exhaustion is reflected in the declining output. Moreover, there are many signs that the workers are resisting the attempts of the bureaucracy to load an intolerable burden on their shoulders. Born a few short months ago, Stakhanovism already faces a crisis.

The economic and cultural development of the U.S.S.R. is no longer compatible with the existence of a usurping, self-willed bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is now a brake upon further development, and it must come into an ever greater conflict with the Soviet proletariat. That is the real meaning of the latest news from the Soviet Union.

* * *

Split in the Swedish C.P.

The European press reports that a split has taken place in the Communist Party of Sweden (section of the Third International).

A considerable section of the Swedish C.P. refused, it seems, to follow blindly the turn toward national defense that was ratified by the Seventh Congress. The section that split has issued its own organ, Proletarian Unity, in which it charges the Third International with having betrayed the revolutionary tradition of Leninism.

The split in Sweden is the first open sign of the opposition that has been rumored to be stirring in the ranks of the Comintern, since the “new turn” was officially sanctioned six months ago. There are also continued rumors of a revolt in the Polish C.P.

The indications are that Stalin and his henchmen will not have internally the same easy sailing with their latest turn as they had with all the preceding zigzags.

* * *


A Special Congress of the Belgian Labor Party (P.O.B.) was held on February 22, for the purpose of ratifying the action of Socialist Ministers who had previously approved the military project of Duveze, as demanded by the French General Staff.

These proposals of the Belgian War Department proved somewhat embarrassing to the Socialist Ministers in the coalition Government. They had entered into this coalition ministry with the understanding that no matters relating to the army would be broached until after the next parliamentary elections; and they had been assured by the war ministry that the condition of national defense was perfectly splendid.

Unforeseen contingencies, however, suddenly compelled the Minister of War to demand that the compulsory term of military service be extended 6 months, that more millions be added to the army budget, and so on, in order to guarantee "collective security.” The embarrassed Socialist Ministers did not hesitate for a moment to vote in approval of these measures. But of course, there still remained the task of swinging the trade unions solidly in line. A series of maneuvers and “discussions” followed, culminating in the Special Congress.

It follows as a matter of course that this Congress adopted a resolution which admits “the possibility of a defensive war in certain circumstances.” The resolution goes on to emphasize that such a defensive war in the international sphere “coincides with the struggle against Fascism.” The P.O.B. went, of course, on record in favor of a collective security on the basis of the League Covenant for mutual aid.

Vandervelde, who had “retired” from active service on account of his age, can still summon sufficient strength to remain true to the betrayal of 1914, in company with Messrs. Spaak, De Man and Co.

Last January 25, Vandervelde celebrated his 70th birthday. On this happy occasion the Soviet ambassador to Belgium sent him a gift, no doubt in token of the fact that the preparation for the Second Imperialist War is proceeding full blast under the banner of the Second and Third Internationals.

* * *

Steel for the Slaughter

While the agents of the imperialists are mobilizing the cannon fodder, the steel plants are working the world over to provide the ammunition.

In 1935, the world production of steel and cast iron was double that of the year 1932.

The steel production of the United States has increased 31% over that of 1934. Germany has increased its production 36.5%, taking the lead in Europe. Czechoslovakia showed an increase of 22.6%; Italy, 19.6%; England, 11.9%; Poland, 8.9%.

The rising tempo of the steel production reflects the speed with which the next world slaughter is approaching.

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