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John G. Wright

The Kremlin’s Child Labor System

Soviet Russia Today Pretends It’s “Socialist” Schooling –

(11 January 1941)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 2, 11 January 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Stalin issued last October a set of ukases whereby: 1) Soviet children of 14–17 were made subject to draft into a conscript labor force; 2) the right to education so solemnly “guaranteed” by the Stalin Constitution was abolished without a formal constitutional amendment, or consultation of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R. On November 10, 1940, three days after they had celebrated the Twenty Third Anniversary of the October revolution, 350,000 children of 14 and 15, and 250,000 youngsters of 16 and 17 were drafted as the first contingent.

Under Lenin: “All school children must be supplied with food, clothing, footwear, textbooks and other school accessories at the expense of the state.” (Section IV Paragraph 80, Program of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) adopted at the Eighth Party Congress, March 18–23, 1919) Under Stalin: Tuitions have been introduced into Soviet schools – to drive the children from the school rooms into the factories.

No official news of this has appeared in the Daily Worker. “Unofficial” periodicals like Soviet Russia Today have been assigned the task of covering up in this country the exploitation of child labor outlawed under Lenin and Trotsky and re-established under Stalin. “The first 600,000 Soviet youth,” writes Jessica Smith, “enrolled in the newly organized State Labor Reserves schools began their period of training and study ...” (Soviet Russia Today, January 1941) This opening sentence with its vista of “schools,” “training,” “study,” “enrollment” is of a piece with the rest of the article – a web of impudent and cynical lies. Most of these children have already been thrown into industry and are “studying” in coal and iron mines, in basic plants and large-scale industries, in the heaviest and most dangerous occupations.

What This “Schooling” Really Is

On the very first day of the draft, P. Moskatov, head of the special Labor Reserves Administration wrote a special article.

“It is very important,” he warned, “to assign in advance work places and to prepare the organization of the training process for those Tride Schools and Factory and Shop Instruction Courses (F.Z.O.) whose industrial schooling will take place directly in the enterprises themselves (metallurgical plants, coal mines)” (Pravda, November 10, 1940)

That speaks for itself.

Apart from “Trade Schools” and “Factory and Shop Instruction Courses” (F.Z.O.), referred to by Moskatov, there are also the “Railroad Schools” to which 35,606 have been assigned, i.e., less than 6 per cent of the total.

Factory and Shop Instruction Courses (FZO). embrace 250,000 youngsters of 16 and 17. Their working day is fixed at eight hours a day. Article 9 of Order No. 1 issued by the Labor Reserves Administration, and countersigned by P. Moskatov, reads: “The length of the school day in the Factory, and Shop Instruction Courses (F.Z.O.) is fixed at eight hours.” (Pravda, October 5, 1940) But – an innocent or gullible reader may object – a school, day of 8 hours is one thing, and an 8-hour working day is something else again. Not in Stalin’s language! “In the F.Z.O.” writes the same Moskatov, “according to the entire program 118 hours are allotted for instruction at place of work and the remaining 1,138 hours:– for productive, work under the guidance of the masterworkman (foreman).” (Pravda, November 10, 1940)

Clearly, this means one thing and one thing only: Everyone of the 250,000 youngsters who have been “enrolled” in the F.Z.O. for six months, i.e. 26 weeks (and who then will be required to work four years as conscript laborers) will receive during their training less than five hours a week “instruction at place of work” (118 divided by 26). The rest of the time must be spent in “productive work.” As is well known, it actually takes about 5 hours a week to instruct a child – or any new worker for that matter – how to function productively in a mine or plant.

Just how many of the 315,000 boys of 14 and 15 – only males have been drafted as yet – who come under the other category of “Trade School Students” (and who are “enrolled” for 1–2 years before serving 4 years more) will be assigned at once to industry remains one of the Kremlin’s dark secrets. As Moskatov clearly states, however, the plan is to do precisely that. Their “school-day” is fixed at 7 hours – “5 hours productive training and 2 hours for general education and special discipline.” (Pravda, October 5)

A 5-hour working day for children of 14 and 15 in coal mines, and metallurgical industries! An 8-hour day for those 16 and 17! Those not sent directly into large-scale industry will produce in “special” workshops.

How These Children Will Be Robbed

But that is not all. The Kremlin parasites intend not only to exploit child labor but to underpay these children and thus drive still lower the wages of adult workers. “Students” will receive one-third of the prevailing wages.

Article 19 of Order No. 1 issued by the Labor Reserves Administration reads:

“Trade Schools, Railroad Schools, and the F.Z.O. are permitted to fulfill elementary productive orders for the state. It is hereby established that one-third of the revenues accruing from the fulfillment of these orders as well as for the work done by the students during their training in, industry is assigned to the state budget; one-third remains at the disposal of the Director for expanding the schools and the F.Z.O. and for supplying the cultural and living needs of students, master-workmen (foremen) and instructors; and one-third is to be given into the hands of the students fulfilling the work.” (Pravda, October 5)

Even the “Railroad Students” will be assigned to perform “elementary” productive tasks – at one-third the wages!

Stalin’s pen-prostitutes of both sexes, who try to throw sand in the eyes of American workers, feel so immune as to boast that the Soviet children (who have been driven from the real schools and institutions by the introduction of tuitions) are not asked to pay for this “education”! “The students in those schools are supported wholly by the government. Tuition and maintenance including housing, bedding equipment, food and transportation are free ...” (Soviet Russia Today, January 1941)

But the editors of Soviet Russia Today dare not quote from the official decrees to substantiate these vile boasts. Let us juxtapose to their lies the Kremlin’s legal text.

What the “Students” Will Get

Article 12 of Order Number 1 of the Labor Reserves Administration follows:

“The students (FZO) are provided at the expense of the state with their food, bedding, spetz-odezhda (specialists-clothing); and those from rural regions and out of town are also provided with housing.” (Pravda, October 5)

Note that Stalin did not even make a pretence of listing “school accessories” or “equipment.” Let us examine the three items which are designated: 1) spetz-odezhda; 2) food; 3) bedding and housing.

What is “specialists-clothing” (spetz odezhda)? This high-falluting label is intended to evoke visions of hats, shoes, gloves, socks, coats, overcoats, etc. To be precise, it means work-clothes. To be still more precise, it is nothing but a miserable pair of overalls, or an ordinary apron.

Food – that is indeed free – if and when supplied in dining rooms and kitchens. This, as we shall presently see, cannot be taken for granted.

As for housing and bedding only out-of-towners, it will be observed, are assured of lodgings – on paper. The “natives” must shift for themselves. And not they alone.

In Moscow, for example, 74,600 children were drafted, but only 25,000 will be housed at government expense. Report of the Moscow City Committee (five days before the draft):

“Out of the required 25,000 beds, only 9,000 have been prepared.” (Pravda, Nov. 5)

Report from Yaroslavl:

“Preparations for opening of the schools proceeding poorly ... Not a single place for housing has been prepared or arranged for ... There are not enough beds or bedding ... One doesn’t even hear any discussion about providing fire-wood for the schools, equipping the dining rooms and kitchens.” (idem)

Report from the city of Ridder (during the draft itself):

“Nobody knows what trades will be taught in the schools. Workshops are not being prepared; there are no lodgings, either.” (Pravda, Nov. 12)

Report from Leningrad (Nov. 12):

“However, the schools and institutions have not yet been completely equipped with living quarters.”

Comment by B. Moskatov:

“Certain Executive Committees of local Soviets fire likewise approaching very light-mindedly the selection of buildings for the new schools. In Podolsk, for example, it was planned to use a grain bin for housing.” (Pravda, Nov. 10)

A Picture of Chaos and of Bureaucracy

Report from Chita:

“It was decided to select an apartment house that is being built for the school building. But as yet only the walls of the first story have been raised; The second story is being completed poorly and will hardly be ready by December 1. And where will the students live? Who will be the director of the school? What equipment must the schools have? There is. nobody who can even answer these questions.” (Pravda, Nov. 12)

Pravda, November 13:

“We have received a telegram from Voronezh that the leaders of Glavpiebelprom have proposed to the Borsk combine that it take over for the school a building which is threatening to cave in.”

Pravda’s comment:

“These managers apparently think that, laws are hot written for them. Will it really be necessary for the prosecutors to teach these people how to fulfill Soviet laws?” (Pravda, Nov. 13)

This is how the children are being lodged, fed and maintained “wholly by the government”! Similar data could be adduced at will. Suffice it to quote in conclusion Pravda’s own summary of the situation:

In a number of places housing is lacking and suitable buildings are not even being looked for. These signals testify to this, that in a number of places the enormous state importance of preparing labor reserves is not being appreciated, and that certain workers are obviously violating discipline and not fulfilling government directives.” (Pravda, November 12)

We know what Pravda means by “a number of places” and “certain workers.” It means everywhere; it means every bureaucrat – from the satraps in Moscow and Leningrad to the pettiest scoundrel in the provinces. It means that the children are being subjected to working and living conditions even more inhuman than those endured by the adult workers.

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