An interview with Vera Dimitrievna Arfanas, chairperson of the workers' committee of the OAO "Rosselmash" factory, published in the Russian Marxist paper Rabochaya Demokratiya (Workers' Democracy), issue no 45, August 1998
Q. Vera Dimitrievna, how many workers are there now in your factory?
A. Up to the "reform" there were 54,000, now there are approximately 23,000, but of these around 7,000 are workers and the remaining 16,000 are administration.
Q. What about wages?
A. We've received nothing since August 1996.
Q. Are there any Trade Unions?
A. Yes, we have several. The first is the FNPR - that is a trade union in the pockets' of the bosses.
Q. Does anyone join this union?
A. Yes, many do. The thing is, in our factory, as soon as you enter, every worker almost automatically becomes a member of this trade union. Their subs are deducted, although they never signed anything to join the union.
Q. And they don't mind?
A. For a time they used to hide behind the FNPR for protection. But that's now all finished. There is a general tendency to leave.
The second trade union is the "Sotsprof". This is another bosses' union. For example, even the director has joined it.
The third trade union is the "Workers' Fightback". This was set up in 1996 on the basis of the workers' committee, and I am its chairperson. We only allow workers to join our union. We don't even allow a foreman to join, although he is also a worker and works as hard as we do.
Q. By the way, what is the relationship between the workers and the workers' committee?
A. If I am to be honest, it was difficult to start with, but now the situation is changing very quickly in our favour. we invite all the workers to attend our meetings, irrespective of what trade union they belong to. The main thing is to organise them and to encourage them to struggle.
Q. And what struggle does the workers' committee lead?
A. On the 1st of June we organised a meeting of the workers and put forward demands to the factory management in relation to wages, rents and services, and also to introduce workers' control over the administration of the factory.
Q. And what in your opinion should the workers' committee control?
A. First of all it is necessary to establish proper accounting and control all production designated for sale, and find out who it is being sold to and for how much. At the present time a lot of middle men turn up at our factory and the director and the managers are carrying out fiddle through subcontractors, firms, shops which they are really in control of. We must put a stop to all this... and still the wages don't arrive.
Q. In your opinion how can the picket achieve success?
A. The miners on their own cannot achieve success. That would be a hopeless business. Only the joint action of the organised workers of the whole of Russia can lead to victory. But for that a united all-Russian workers' committee is needed, which would unite all the workers' local committees.
And one other thing. You see that the miners are demanding the resignation of the president. But Yeltsin will not go just like that. And even if he does go, they'll just put Lebed, Luzhkov, or someone like that in his place, and we workers will be left out in the cold yet again. What is needed is not just to replace one Tsar by another, but to put an end to the system of wage slavery itself.
Q. Let us suppose that such an all-Russian workers' committee were already in existence, what tasks would lay before it?
A. We have already put forward our demands: the resignation of the president and the government, a change of economic course, the nationalisation of the most important branches of industry. But the present regime is not capable of carrying out these demands. Only workers' power is capable of doing that. And therefore, the main task of an all-Russian workers' committee is to take power.
Q. By the way do you think the working class needs a party to do this?
A. Yes of course. But such a party does not yet exist. There is only the workers' committees and the strike committees.
Q. What about the CPRF, the RKRP (Communist Workers' Party) and so on?
A. No! These are all remnants of the old CPSU. They want to drag us back to the past. But history cannot be reversed. Just look at all that rubbish that we had to put up with under "Socialism"! Socialism is a society without commodities and without classes. But in the USSR we the workers were just wage slaves. Only they hid this from us.
Q. But didn't they deceive us with the use of "Marxist-Leninist ideology"? Shouldn't we send this ideology to the devil and find some other new one?
A. What are you talking about? We live according to Marx! Marxism is the only revolutionary theory!
Q. But the comrades from the Samara strike committee, for example, maintain their own new theory, according to which after the seizure of power by the workers, the workers' party should not rule.
A. What do you mean no party? The party is the advanced guard of the working class and it certainly must rule.