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John G. Wright

Soviet Youth in Forefront
of Increasing Mass Unrest

(26 October 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 43, 26 October 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This is the fifth of a series of articles on the present crisis in the Soviet Union. The “June laws” to which it refers were described in detail in previous articles. These laws abolished the 35-hour week (7-hour day, 5-day week, with the 6th day off), decreed in its stead the 48-hour week (8-hour day, 6-day week with the 7th day off), made it a criminal offense to quit one’s job, punishable by forced-labor terms to be served at the same place of employment at 25% less pay, etc.

* * *

The Moscow press is engaged in a major campaign to “enforce the June laws”. All Soviet papers are under instruction to carry a special section devoted solely to the progress of the drive. In Pravda this section is headed: “We are Checking the Application of the June Laws.”

Pravda and Izvestia, prefer, for obvious reasons, to devote most space to individual violations. But in the Pravda alone we find from July 20 to August 4 a total of 5,093 violations divided as follows: (Only reports of 30 or more violations are listed by us)

Alma Ata

   102 violations

Several Leningrad plants (unnamed)

   272 violations

Ordjonikidze plant, Leningrad

   237 violations

Elektrostal plant

   146 violations

Another Leningrad plant

   170 violations

Gorki district (up to July 26)

3,540 violations

Single plant, Rostov-on-the-Don

     30 violations

Kirov Metallurgical plant, Stalino

   303 violations

Serp i Molot (Hammer & Sickle) plant

    220 violations

Single plant, Moscow

      35 violations

Single plant, Vladivostok

     38 violations


5,093 violations

At the beginning of August, general membership meetings of the party organizations were held all over the Soviet Union to place particular stress on the June laws. Not a single account thus far published either in Pravda or Izvestia even hints at successful fulfillment. Just the contrary.

For instance, Sedyuk, secretary of the Kiev party organization, reported that “in the enterprises of (his) province the ukase is being fulfilled poorly.” Another reporter from Krasnoyarsk cited “facts of violation of labor discipline in the enterprises of the (Krasnoyarsk) province.” Patolischev, secretary of the Yaroslavl Regional Committee stated: “In our city industry functioned no better in July than it did in June.” (Pravda, August 17)

Youth Lead Resistance

A.A. Kuznetsov, secretary of the Leningrad party organization reported cautiously, “Violations and self-willed departures have by and large decreased. But the number is still considerable. In certain enterprises the number of violations has increased instead of decreasing.” Secretary Vlassov reporting for the Saratov party organization, after painting the same dismal picture, added that 25 communists and 60 Komsomols (members of the Young Communist organization) were among the violators. (Pravda, August 18)

If in June Stalin was forced to disclose that the youth was in the forefront of the wave of resistance, in July he is compelled to reveal that members of the Komsomol stand at the head of the youth. Out of 237 “violators” in the important Ordjonikidze plant in Leningrad 52 were members of the Komsomol and ‘a ‘similar situation exists in many other enterprises.” (Pravda, July 27)

Nesterov, the director of the typographical plant Pechatny Dvor stressed the fact that “among the violators of labor discipline there are many youth” and concluded that the “great share of the blame for this falls on the do-nothing of Komsomol organization.” (Pravda, August 18)

Only lack of space prevents us from adducing scores of similar quotations. Here is how Pravda summed up the situation on August 11:

“The execution of the June 16 ukase of the Praesidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR is not taking place without resistance. Who is resisting the carrying out of measures which were unanimously approved by the Soviet people and which strengthen the economic and defensive power of our country? First and foremost, the resistance naturally comes from the laggards and floaters, i.e., those against whom the barb of the law is aimed.”

Resistance Caught Kremlin Unawares

Apparently the Kremlin had not expected such resistance.

On July 25 the Pravda had pilloried those directors of industry who “failed to exercise their sole authority” in enforcing the June laws, and who tried instead to shift the responsibility to the trade unions and the party organizations.

“Worthless indeed is the industrial leader,” said, the editorial, “who tries to evade responsibility for the conditions in and the functioning of his enterprise, and who seeks to hide behind the party and trade union organizations. It is a fact that some directors are trying to transfer the enforcement (of the ukase) upon the party and trade union organizations.”

A week later, the Pravda had to eat its own words, and had to announce editorially in bold type that a special plenum of Central Committee had changed the “line”.

“This ukase is not being carried out satisfactorily,” admitted the Pravda. “... Today the main task of all party organizations with regard to industry is to assure the direction and control of the enforcement of the regulations affecting the change to the 8-hour day and 7-day week and the prohibition of self-willed departure of workers and employees from enterprises and departments.” (Pravda, August 1. Emphasis in the original)

What about the trade unions? A rectification on this point was not long delayed, either. On August 28, Izvestia addressed those trade union functionaries who survived the July purge:

“The trade union organizations must center their work among the masses around the question of strengthening labor discipline and struggling against the disorganization of production. It is impossible to reconcile oneself to the fact that many trade union organizations stand on the side-lines, shying away from control over the unswerving enforcement of the ukase of the Praesidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR in the enterprises and institutions.”

The next day, Izvestia stated:

“The realization of the June 26th ukase is still being carried out unsatisfactorily in many enterprises. The circumstance that violations and labor turnover are still declining slowly while labor productivity is not registering any noticeable growth constitute evidence that in these factories the directors, the party and trade union organizations have still done far from everything in order to fulfill honestly and precisely the ukase of the Praesidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR.” (Izvestia, Aug. 29)

The courts and the prosecutors are likewise under fire. Many judges and prosecutors have been removed. By special ukase of August 10, all cases of violation of the labor laws will henceforth be heard by People’s Judges alone. No “people’s jury”.

In a special editorial entitled: Laggards and Floaters Must Be Ruthlessly Punished, Izvestia warned:

A “Long Term” Campaign

“Profoundly mistaken are those who think that the struggle against laggards and floaters is a short-term ‘campaign’. The Ukase of the Praesidium of the Supreme Council must be and will be carried into life constantly and unswervingly, precisely and rigorously.” (Izvestia, August 9)

In the space of a few weeks, Stalin thus has had to mobilize and purge his entire “public” apparatus, the factory administration, the trade unions and the party, not to mention the Komsomols and the courts, in an effort to stem the rising tide of mass resistance.

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