If, in the first period of the Soviet revolution, the principal ire of the bourgeois world was directed against our savagery and blood-thirstiness, later, when that argument, from frequent use, had become blunted, and had lost its force, we were made responsible chiefly for the economic disorganization of the country. In harmony with his present mission, Kautsky methodically translates into the language of pseudo-Marxism all the bourgeois charges against the Soviet Government of destroying the industrial life of Russia. The Bolsheviks began socialization without a plan. They socialized what was not ready for socialization. The Russian working class, altogether, is not yet prepared for the administration of industry; and so on, and so on.
Repeating and combining these accusations, Kautsky, with dull obstinacy, hides the real cause for our economic disorganization: the imperialist slaughter, the civil war, and the blockade.
Soviet Russia, from the first months of its existence, found itself deprived of coal, oil, metal, and Cotton. First the Austro-German and then the Entente imperialisms, with the assistance of the Russian White Guards, tore away from Soviet Russia the Donetz coal and metal working region, the oil districts of the Caucasus, Turkestan with its Cotton, Ural with its richest deposits of metals, Siberia with its bread and meat. The Donetz area had usually supplied our industry with 94 per cent of its coal and 74 per cent of its crude ore. The Ural supplied the remaining 20 per cent of the ore and 4 per cent of the coal. Both these regions, during the civil war, were cut off from us. We were deprived of half a milliard poods of coal imported from abroad. Simultaneously, we were left without oil: the oilfields, one and all, passed into the hands of our enemies. One needs to have a truly brazen forehead to speak, in face of these facts, of the destructive influence of “premature,” “barbarous,” etc., socialization. An industry which is completely deprived of fuel and raw materials – whether that industry belongs to a capitalist trust or to the Labor State, whether its factories be socialized or not – its chimneys will not smoke in either case without coal or oil. Something might be learned about this, say, in Austria; and for that matter in Germany itself. A weaving factory administered according to the best Kautskian methods – if we admit that anything at all can be administered by Kautskian methods, except one’s own inkstand – will not produce prints if it is not supplied with cotton. And we were simultaneously deprived both of Turkestan and American Cotton. In addition, as has been pointed out, we had no fuel.
Of course, the blockade and the civil war came as the result of the proletarian revolution in Russia. But it does not at all follow from this that the terrible devastation caused by the Anglo-American-French blockade and the robber campaigns of Kolchak and Denikin have to be put down to the discredit of the Soviet methods of economic organization.
The imperialist war that preceded the revolution, with its all-devouring material and technical demands, imposed a much greater strain on our young industry than on the industry of more powerful capitalist countries. Our transport suffered particularly severely. The exploitation of the railways increased considerably; the wear and tear correspondingly; while repairs were reduced to a strict minimum. The inevitable hour of Nemesis was brought nearer by the fuel crisis. Our almost simultaneous loss of the Donetz coal, foreign coal, and the oil of the Caucasus, obliged us in the sphere of transport to have recourse to wood. And, as the supplies of wood fuel were not in the least calculated with a view to this, we had to stoke our boilers with recently stored raw wood, which has an extremely destructive effect on the mechanism of locomotives that are already worn out. We see, in consequence, that the chief reasons for the collapse of transport preceded November, 1917. But even those reasons which are directly or indirectly bound up with the November Revolution fall under the heading of political consequences of the revolution; and in no circumstances do they affect Socialist economic methods.
The influence of political disturbances in the economic sphere was not limited only to questions of transport and fuel. If world industry, during the last decade, was more and more becoming a single organism, the more directly does this apply to national industry. On the other hand, the war and the revolution were mechanically breaking up and tearing asunder Russian industry in every direction. The industrial ruin of Poland, the Baltic fringe, and later of Petrograd, began under Tsarism and continued under Kerensky, embracing ever new and newer regions. Endless evacuations simultaneous with the destruction of industry, of necessity meant the destruction of transport also. During the civil war, with its changing fronts, evacuations assumed a more feverish and consequently a still more destructive character. Each side temporarily or permanently evacuated this or that industrial Centre, and took all possible steps to ensure that the most important industrial enterprises could not be utilized by the enemy: all valuable machines were carried off, or at any rate their most delicate parts, together with the technical and best workers. The evacuation was followed by a re-evacuation, which not infrequently completed the destruction both of the property transferred and of the railways. Some most important industrial areas – especially in the Ukraine and in the Urals – changed hands several times.
To this it must be added that, at the time when the destruction of technical equipment was being accomplished on an unprecedented scale, the supply of machines from abroad, which hitherto played a decisive part in our industry, had completely ceased.
But not only did the dead elements of production – buildings, machines, rails, fuel, and raw material – suffer terrible losses under the combined blows of the war and the revolution. Not less, if not more, did the chief factor of industry, its living creative force – the proletariat – suffer. The proletariat was consolidating the November revolution, building and defending the apparatus of Soviet power, and carrying on a ceaseless struggle with the White Guards. The skilled workers are, as a rule, at the same time the most advanced. The civil war tore away many tens of thousands of the best workers for a long time from productive labor, swallowing up many thousands of them for ever. The Socialist revolution placed the chief burden of its sacrifices upon the proletarian vanguard, and consequently on industry.
All the attention of the Soviet State has been directed, for the two and a half years of its existence, to the problem of military defence. The best forces and its principal resources were given to the front.
In any case, the class struggle inflicts blows upon industry. That accusation, long before Kautsky, was leveled at it by all the philosophers of the social harmony. During simple economic strikes the workers consume, and do not produce. Still more powerful, therefore, are the blows inflicted upon economic life by the class struggle in its severest form – in the form of armed conflicts. But it is quite clear that the civil war cannot be classified under the heading of Socialist economic methods.
The reasons enumerated above are more than sufficient to explain the difficult economic situation of Soviet Russia. There is no fuel, there is no metal, there is no cotton, transport is destroyed, technical equipment is in disorder, living labor-power is scattered over the face of the country, and a high percentage of it has been lost to the front – is there any need to seek supplementary reasons in the economic Utopianism of the Bolsheviks in order to explain the fall of our industry? On the contrary, each of the reasons quoted alone is sufficient to evoke the question: how is it possible at all that, under such conditions, factories and workshops should continue to function?
And yet they do continue principally in the shape of war industry, which is at present living at the expense of the rest. The Soviet Government was obliged to re-create it, just like the army, out of fragments. War industry, set up again under these conditions of unprecedented difficulty, has fulfilled and is fulfilling its duty: the Red Army is clothed, shod, equipped with its rifle, its machine gun, its cannon, its bullet, its shell, its aeroplane, and all else that it requires.
As soon as the dawn of peace made its appearance – after the destruction of Kolchak, Yudenich, and Denikin – we placed before ourselves the problem of economic organization in the fullest possible way. And already, in the course of three or four months of intensive work in this sphere, it has become clear beyond all possibility of doubt that, thanks to its most intimate connection with the popular masses, the elasticity of its apparatus, and its own revolutionary initiative, the Soviet Government disposes of such resources and methods for economic reconstruction as no other government ever had or has today.
True, before us there arose quite new questions and new difficulties in the sphere of the organization of labor. Socialist theory had no answers to these questions, and could not have them. We had to find the solution in practice, and test it in practice. Kautskianism is a whole epoch behind the gigantic economic problems being solved at present by the Soviet Government. In the form of Menshevism, it constantly throws obstacles in our way, opposing the practical measures of our economic reconstruction by bourgeois prejudices and bureaucratic – intellectual scepticism.
To introduce the reader to the very essence of the questions of the organization of labor, as they stand at present before us, we quote below the report of the author of this book at the Third All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions. With the object of the fullest possible elucidation of the question, the text of the speech is supplemented by considerable extracts from the author’s reports at the All-Russian Congress of Economic Councils and at the Ninth Congress of the Communist Party.
Report on the Organization of Labor
Comrades, the internal civil war is coming to an end. On the western front, the situation remains undecided. It is possible that the Polish bourgeoisie will hurl a challenge at its fate ... But even in this case – we do not seek it – the war will not demand of us that all-devouring concentration of forces which the simultaneous struggle on four fronts imposed upon us. The frightful pressure of the war is becoming weaker. Economic requirements and problems are more and more coming to the fore. History is bringing us, along the whole line, to our fundamental problem – the organization of labor on new social foundations. The organization of labor is in its essence the organization of the new society: every historical form of society is in its foundation a form of organization of labor. While every previous form of society was an organization of labor in the interests of a minority, which organized its State apparatus for the oppression of the overwhelming majority of the workers, we are making the first attempt in world-history to organize labor in the interests of the laboring majority itself. This, however, does not exclude the element of compulsion in all its forms, both the most gentle and the extremely severe. The element of State compulsion not only does not disappear from the historical arena, but on the contrary will still play, for a considerable period, an extremely prominent part.
As a general rule, man strives to avoid labor. Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic: it is created by economic pressure and social education. One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal. It is on this quality, in reality, that is founded to a considerable extent all human progress; because if man did not strive to expend his energy economically, did not seek to receive the largest possible quantity of products in return for a small quantity of energy, there would have been no technical development or social culture. It would appear, then, from this point of view that human laziness is a progressive force, Old Antonio Labriola, the Italian Marxist, even used to picture the man of the future as a “happy and lazy genius.” We must not, however, draw the conclusion from this that the party and the trade unions must propagate this quality in their agitation as a moral duty. No, no. We have sufficient of it as it is. The problem before the social organization is just to bring “laziness” within a definite framework, to discipline it, and to pull mankind together with the help of methods and measures invented by mankind itself.
Compulsory Labor Service
The key to economic organization is labor-power, skilled, elementarily trained, semi-trained, untrained, or unskilled. To work out methods for its accurate registration, mobilization, distribution, productive application, means practically to solve the problem of economic construction. This is a problem for a whole epoch – a gigantic problem. Its difficulty is intensified by the fact that we have to reconstruct labor on Socialist foundations in conditions of hitherto unknown poverty and terrifying misery.
The more our machine equipment is worn out, the more disordered our railways grow, the less hope there is for us of receiving machines to any significant extent from abroad in the near future, the greater is the importance acquired by the question of living labor-power. At first sight it would seem that there is plenty of it. But how are we to get at it? How are we to apply it? How are we productively to organize it? Even with the cleaning of snow drifts from the railway tracks, we were brought face to face with very big difficulties. It was absolutely impossible to meet those difficulties by means of buying labor-power on the market, with the present insignificant purchasing power of money, and in the most complete absence of manufactured products. Our fuel requirements cannot be satisfied, even partially, without a mass application on a scale hitherto unknown, of labor-power to work on wood, fuel, peat, and combustible slate. The civil war has played havoc with our railways, our bridges, our buildings, our stations. We require at once tens and hundreds of thousands of hands to restore order to all this. For production on a large scale in our timber, peat, and other enterprises, we require housing for our workers, if they be only temporary huts. Hence, again, the necessity of devoting a considerable amount of labor-power to building work. Many workers are required to organize river navigation; and so on, and so forth ...
Capitalist industry utilizes auxiliary labor power on a large scale, in the shape of peasants employed on industry for only part of the year. The village, throttled by the grip of landlessness, always threw a certain surplus of labor-power on to the market. The State obliged it to do this by its demand for taxes. The market offered the peasant manufactured goods. Today, we have none of this. The village has acquired more land; there is not sufficient agricultural machinery; workers are required for the land; industry can at present give practically nothing to the village; and the market no longer has an attractive influence on labor-power.
Yet labor-power is required – required more than at any time before. Not only the worker, but the peasant also, must give to the Soviet State his energy, in order to ensure that laboring Russia, and with it the laboring masses, should not be crushed. The only way to attract the labor power necessary for our economic problems is to introduce compulsory labor service.
The very principle of compulsory labor service is for the Communist quite unquestionable. “He who works not, neither shall he eat.” And as all must eat, all are obliged to work. Compulsory labor service is sketched in our Constitution and in our Labor Code. But hitherto it has always remained a mere principle. Its application has always had an accidental, impartial, episodic character. Only now, when along the whole line we have reached the question of the economic re-birth of the country, have problems of compulsory labor service arisen before us in the most concrete way possible. The only solution of economic difficulties that is correct from the point of view both of principle and of practice is to treat the population of the whole country as the reservoir of the necessary labor power – an almost inexhaustible reservoir – and to introduce strict order into the work of its registration, mobilization, and utilization.
How are we practically to begin the utilization of labor-power on the basis of compulsory military service?
Hitherto only the War Department has had any experience in the sphere of the registration, mobilization, formation, and transference from one place to another of large masses. These technical methods and principles were inherited by our War Department, to a considerable extent, from the past.
In the economic sphere there is no such heritage; since in that sphere there existed the principle of private property, and labor-power entered each factory separately from the market. It is consequently natural that we should be obliged, at any rate during the first period, to make use of the apparatus of the War Department on a large scale for labor mobilizations.
We have set up special organizations for the application of the principle of compulsory labor service in the centre and in the districts: in the provinces, the counties, and the rural districts, we have already compulsory labor committees at work. They rely for the most part on the central and local organs of the War Department. Our economic centres – the Supreme Economic Council, the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture, the People’s Commissariat for Ways and Communications, the People’s Commissariat for Food – work out estimates of the labor-power they require. The Chief Committee for Compulsory Labor Service receives these estimates, co-ordinates them, brings them into agreement with the local resources of labor-power, gives corresponding directions to its local organs, and through them carries out labor mobilizations. Within the boundaries of regions, provinces, and counties, the local bodies carry out this work independently, with the object of satisfying local economic requirements.
All this organization is at present only in the embryo stage. It is still very imperfect. But the course we have adopted is unquestionably the right one.
If the organization of the new society can be reduced fundamentally to the reorganization of labor, the organization of labor signifies in its turn the correct introduction of general labor service. This problem is in no way met by measures of a purely departmental and administrative character. It touches the very foundations of economic life and the social structure. It finds itself in conflict with the most powerful psychological habits and prejudices. The introduction of compulsory labor service pre-supposes, on the one hand, a colossal work of education, and, on the other, the greatest possible care in the practical method adopted.
The utilization of labor-power must be to the last degree economical. In our labor mobilizations we have to reckon with the economic and social conditions of every region, and with the requirements of the principal occupation of the local population – i.e., of agriculture. We have, if possible, to make use of the previous auxiliary occupations and part-time industries of the local population. We have to see that the transference of mobilized labor-power should take place over the shortest possible distances – i.e., to the nearest sectors of the labor front. We must see that the number of workers mobilized correspond to the breadth of our economic problem. We must see that the workers mobilized be supplied in good time with the necessary implements of production, and with food. We must see that at their head be placed experienced and business-like instructors. We must see that the workers mobilized become convinced on the spot that their labor-power is being made use of cautiously and economically and is not being expended haphazardly. Wherever it is possible, direct mobilization must be replaced by the labor task – i.e., by the imposition on the rural district of an obligation to supply, for example, in such a time such a number of cubic sazhens of wood, or to bring up by carting to such a station so many poods of cast-iron, etc. In this sphere, it is essential to study experience as it accumulates with particular care, to allow a great measure of elasticity to the economic apparatus, to show more attention to local interests and social peculiarities of tradition. In a word, we have to complete, ameliorate, perfect, the system, methods, and organs for the mobilization of labor-power. But at the same time it is necessary once for all to make clear to ourselves that the principle itself of compulsory labor service has just so radically and permanently replaced the principle of free hiring as the socialization of the means of production has replaced capitalist property.
The Militarization of Labor
The introduction of compulsory labor service is unthinkable without the application, to a greater or less degree, of the methods of militarization of labor. This term at once brings us into the region of the greatest possible superstitions and outcries from the opposition.
To understand what militarization of labor in the Workers’ State means, and what its methods are, one has to make clear to oneself in what way the army itself was militarized – for, as we all know, in its first days the army did not at all possess the necessary “military” qualities. During these two years we mobilized for the Red Army nearly as many soldiers as there are members in our trade unions. But the members of the trade unions are workers, while in the army the workers constitute about 15 per cent, the remainder being a peasant mass. And, none the less, we can have no doubt that the true builder and “militarizer” of the Red Army has been the foremost worker, pushed forward by the party and the trade union organization. Whenever the situation at the front was difficult, whenever the recently-mobilized peasant mass did not display sufficient stability, we turned on the one hand to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and on the other to the All-Russian Council of Trade Unions. From both these sources the foremost workers were sent to the front, and there built the Red Army after their own likeness and image – educating, hardening, and militarizing the peasant mass.
This fact must be kept in mind today with all possible clearness because it throws the best possible light on the meaning of militarization in the workers’ and peasants’ State. The militarization of labor has more than once been put forward as a watchword and realized in separate branches of economic life in the bourgeois countries, both in the West and in Russia under Tsarism. But our militarization is distinguished from those experiments by its aims and methods, just as much as the class-conscious proletariat organized for emancipation is distinguished from the class-conscious bourgeoisie organized for exploitation.
From the confusion, semi-unconscious and semi-deliberate, of two different historical forms of militarization – the proletarian or Socialist and the bourgeois – there spring the greater part of the prejudices, mistakes, protests, and outcries on this subject. It is on such a confusion of meanings that the whole position of the Mensheviks, our Russian Kautskies, is founded, as it was expressed in their theoretical resolution moved at the present Congress of Trade Unions.
The Mensheviks attacked not only the militarization of labor, but general labor service also. They reject these methods as “compulsory.” They preach that general labor service means a low productivity of labor, while militarization means senseless scattering of labor-power.
“Compulsory labor always is unproductive labor,” – such is the exact phrase in the Menshevik resolution. This affirmation brings us right up to the very essence of the question. For, as we see, the question is not at all whether it is wise or unwise to proclaim this or that factory militarized, or whether it is helpful or otherwise to give the military revolutionary tribunal powers to punish corrupt workers who steal materials and instruments, so precious to us, or who sabotage their work. No, the Mensheviks have gone much further into the question. Affirming that compulsory labor is always unproductive, they thereby attempt to cut the ground from under the feet of our economic reconstruction in the present transitional epoch. For it is beyond question that to step from bourgeois anarchy to Socialist economy without a revolutionary dictatorship, and without compulsory forms of economic organization, is impossible.
In the first paragraph of the Menshevik resolution we are told that we are living in the period of transition from the capitalist method of production to the Socialist. What does this mean? And, first of all, whence does this come? Since what time has this been admitted by our Kautskians? They accused us – and this formed the foundation of our differences – of Socialist Utopianism; they declared – and this constituted the essence of their political teaching – that there can be no talk about the transition to Socialism in our epoch, and that our revolution is a bourgeois revolution, and that we Communists are only destroying capitalist economy, and that we are not leading the country foreword but are throwing it back. This was the root difference – the most profound, the most irreconcilable – from which all the others followed. Now the Mensheviks tell us incidentally, in the introductory paragraph of their resolution, as something that does not require proof, that we are in the period of transition from capitalism to Socialism. And this quite unexpected admission, which, one might think, is extremely like a complete capitulation, is made the more lightly and carelessly that, as the whole resolution shows, it imposes no revolutionary obligations on the Mensheviks. They remain entirely captive to the bourgeois ideology. After recognizing that we are on the road to Socialism, the Mensheviks with all the greater ferocity attack those methods without which, in the harsh and difficult conditions of the present day, the transition to Socialism cannot be accomplished.
Compulsory labor, we are told, is always unproductive. We ask what does compulsory labor mean here, that is, to what kind of labor is it opposed? Obviously, to free labor. What are we to understand, in that case, by free labor? That phrase was formulated by the progressive philosophers of the bourgeoisie, in the struggle against unfree, i.e., against the serf labor of peasants, and against the standardized and regulated labor of the craft guilds. Free labor meant labor which might be “freely” bought in the market; freedom was reduced to a legal fiction, on the basis of freely-hired slavery. We know of no other form of free labor in history. Let the very few representatives of the Mensheviks at this Congress explain to us what they mean by free, non-compulsory labor, if not the market of labor-power.
History has known slave labor. History has known serf labor. History has known the regulated labor of the mediaeval craft guilds. Throughout the world there now prevails hired labor, which the yellow journalists of all countries oppose, as the highest possible form of liberty, to Soviet “s1avery.” We, on the other hand, oppose capitalist slavery by socially-regulated labor on the basis of an economic plan, obligatory for the whole people and consequently compulsory for each worker in the country. Without this we cannot even dream of a transition to Socialism. The element of material, physical, compulsion may be greater or less; that depends on many conditions – on the degree of wealth or poverty of the country, on the heritage of the past, on the general level of culture, on the condition of transport, on the administrative apparatus, etc., etc. But obligation, and, consequently, compulsion, are essential conditions in order to bind down the bourgeois anarchy, to secure socialization of the means of production and labor, and to reconstruct economic life on the basis of a single plan.
For the Liberal, freedom in the long run means the market. Can or cannot the capitalist buy labor-power at a moderate price – that is for him the sole measure of the freedom of labor. That measure is false, not only in relation to the future but also in connection with the past.
It would be absurd to imagine that, during the time of bondage-right, work was carried entirely under the stick of physical compulsion, as if an overseer stood with a whip behind the back of every peasant. Mediaeval forms of economic life grew up out of definite conditions of production, and created definite forms of social life, with which the peasant grew accustomed, and which he at certain periods considered just, or at any rate unalterable. Whenever he, under the influence of a change in material conditions, displayed hostility, the State descended upon him with its material force, thereby displaying the compulsory character of the organization of labor.
The foundations of the militarization of labor are those forms of State compulsion without which the replacement of capitalist economy by the Socialist will for ever remain an empty sound. Why do we speak of militarization? Of course, this is only an analogy – but an analogy very rich in content. No social organization except the army has ever considered itself justified in subordinating citizens to itself in such a measure, and to control them by its will on all sides to such a degree, as the State of the proletarian dictatorship considers itself justified in doing, and does. Only the army – just because in its way it used to decide questions of the life or death of nations, States, and ruling classes – was endowed with powers of demanding from each and all complete submission to its problems, aims, regulations, and orders. And it achieved this to the greater degree, the more the problems of military organization coincided with the requirements of social development.
The question of the life or death of Soviet Russia is at present being settled on the labor front; our economic, and together with them our professional and productive organizations, have the right to demand from their members all that devotion, discipline, and executive thoroughness, which hitherto only the army required.
On the other hand, the relation of the capitalist to the worker is not at all founded merely on the “free” contract, but includes the very powerful elements of State regulation and material compulsion.
The competition of capitalist with capitalist imparted a certain very limited reality to the fiction of freedom of labor; but this competition, reduced to a minimum by trusts and syndicates, we have finally eliminated by destroying private property in the means of production. The transition to Socialism, verbally acknowledged by the Mensheviks, means the transition from anarchical distribution of labor-power – by means of the game of buying and selling, the movement of market prices and wages – to systematic distribution of the workers by the economic organizations of the county, the province, and the whole country. Such a form of planned distribution presupposes the subordination of those distributed to the economic plan of the State. And this is the essence of compulsory labor service, which inevitably enters into the programme of the Socialist organization of labor, as its fundamental element.
If organized economic life is unthinkable without compulsory labor service, the latter is not to be realized without the abolition of fiction of the freedom of labor, and without the substitution for it of the obligatory principle, which is supplemented by real compulsion.
That free labor is more productive than compulsory labor is quite true when it refers to the period of transition from feudal society to bourgeois society. But one needs to be a Liberal or – at the present day – a Kautskian, to make that truth permanent, and to transfer its application to the period of transition from the bourgeois to the Socialist order. If it were true that compulsory labor is unproductive always and under every condition, as the Menshevik resolution says, all our constructive work would be doomed to failure. For we can have no way to Socialism except by the authoritative regulation of the economic forces and resources of the country, and the centralized distribution of labor-power in harmony with the general State plan. The Labor State considers itself empowered to send every worker to the place where his work is necessary. And not one serious Socialist will begin to deny to the Labor State the right to lay its hand upon the worker who refuses to execute his labor duty. But the whole point is that the Menshevik path of transition to “Socialism” is a milky way, without the bread monopoly, without the abolition of the market, without the revolutionary dictatorship, and without the militarization of labor.
Without general labor service, without the right to order and demand fulfillment of orders, the trade unions will be transformed into a mere form without a reality; for the young Socialist State requires trade unions, not for a struggle for better conditions of labor – that is the task of the social and State organizations as a whole – but to organize the working class for the ends of production, to educate, discipline, distribute, group, retain certain categories and certain workers at their posts for fixed periods – in a word, hand in hand with the State to exercise their authority in order to lead the workers into the framework of a single economic plan. To defend, under such conditions, the “freedom” of labor means to defend fruitless, helpless, absolutely unregulated searches for better conditions, unsystematic, chaotic changes from factory to factory, in a hungry country, in conditions of terrible disorganization of the transport and food apparatus... What except the complete collapse of the working-class and complete economic anarchy could be the result of the stupid attempt to reconcile bourgeois freedom of labor with proletarian socialization of the means of production?
Consequently, comrades, militarization of labor, in the root sense indicated by me, is not the invention of individual politicians or an invention of our War Department, but represents the inevitable method of organization and disciplining of labor-power during the period of transition from capitalism to Socialism. And if the compulsory distribution of labor-power, its brief or prolonged retention at particular industries and factories, its regulation within the framework of the general State economic plan – if these forms of compulsion lead always and everywhere, as the Menshevik resolution states, to the lowering of productivity, then you can erect a monument over the grave of Socialism. For we cannot build Socialism on decreased production. Every social organization is in its foundation an organization of labor, and if our new organization of labor leads to a lowering of its productivity, it thereby most fatally leads to the destruction of the Socialist society we are building, whichever way we twist and turn, whatever measures of salvation we invent.
That is why I stated at the very beginning that the Menshevik argument against militarization leads us to the root question of general labor service and its influence on the productivity of labor. It is true that compulsory labor is always unproductive? We have to reply that that is the most pitiful and worthless Liberal prejudice. The whole question is: who applies the principle of compulsion, over whom, and for what purpose? What State, what class, in what conditions, by what methods? Even the serf organization was in certain conditions a step forward, and led to the increase in the productivity of labor. Production has grown extremely under capitalism, that is, in the epoch of the free buying and selling of labor-power on the market. But free labor, together with the whole of capitalism, entered the stage of imperialism and blew itself up in the imperialist war. The whole economic life of the world entered a period of bloody anarchy, monstrous perturbations, the impoverishment, dying out, and destruction of masses of the people. Can we, under such conditions, talk about the productivity of free labor, when the fruits of that labor are destroyed ten times more quickly than they are created? The imperialistic war, and that which followed it, displayed the impossibility of society existing any longer on the foundation of free labor. Or perhaps someone possesses the secret of how to separate free labor from the delirium tremens of imperialism, that is, of turning back the clock of social development half a century or a century?
If it were to turn out that the planned, and consequently compulsory, organization of labor which is arising to replace imperialism led to the lowering of economic life, it would mean the destruction of all our culture, and a retrograde movement of humanity back to barbarism and savagery.
Happily, not only for Soviet Russia but for the whole of humanity, the philosophy of the low productivity of compulsory labor – ”everywhere and under all conditions” – is only a belated echo of ancient Liberal melodies. The productivity of labor is the total productive meaning of the most complex combination of social conditions, and is not in the least measured or pre-determined by the legal form of labor.
The whole of human history is the history of the organization and education of collective man for labor, with the object of attaining a higher level of productivity. Man, as I have already permitted myself to point out, is lazy; that is, he instinctively strives to receive the largest possible quantity of products for the least possible expenditure of energy. Without such a striving, there would have been no economic development. The growth of civilization is measured by the productivity of human labor, and each new form of social relations must pass through a test on such lines.
“Free,” that is, freely-hired labor, did not appear all at once upon the world, with all the attributes of productivity. It acquired a high level of productivity only gradually, as a result of a prolonged application of methods of labor organization and labor education. Into that education there entered the most varying methods and practices, which in addition changed from one epoch to another. First of all the bourgeoisie drove the peasant from the village to the high road with its club, having preliminarily robbed him of his land, and when he would not work in the factory it branded his forehead with red-hot irons, hung him, sent him to the gallows; and in the long run it taught the tramp who had been shaken out of his village to stand at the lathe in the factory. At this stage, as we see, “free” labor is little different as yet from convict labor, both in its material conditions and in its legal aspect.
At different times the bourgeoisie combined the red-hot irons of repression in different proportions with methods of moral influence, and, first of all, the teaching of the priest. As early as the sixteenth century, it reformed the old religion of Catholicism, which defended the feudal order, and adapted for itself a new religion in the form of the Reformation, which combined the free soul with free trade and free labor. It found for itself new priests, who became the spiritual shop-assistants, pious counter-jumpers of the bourgeoisie. The school, the press, the market place, and parliament were adapted by the bourgeoisie for the moral fashioning of the working-class. Different forms of wages – day-wages, piece wages, contract and collective bargaining – all these are merely changing methods in the hands of the bourgeoisie for the labor mobilization of the proletariat. To this there are added all sorts of forms for encouraging labor and exciting ambition. Finally, the bourgeoisie learned how to gain possession even of the trade unions – i.e., the organizations of the working class itself; and it made use of them on a large scale, particularly in Great Britain, to discipline the workers. It domesticated the leaders, and with their help inoculated the workers with the fiction of the necessity for peaceful organic labor, for a faultless attitude to their duties, and for a strict execution of the laws of the bourgeois State. The crown of all this work is Taylorism, in which the elements of the scientific organization of the process of production are combined with the most concentrated methods of the system of sweating.
From all that has been said above, it is clear that the productivity of freely-hired labor is not something that appeared all at once, perfected, presented by history on a salver. No, it was the result of a long and stubborn policy of repression, education, organization, and encouragement, applied by the bourgeoisie in its relations with the working class. Step by step it learned to squeeze out of the workers ever more and more of the products of labor; and one of the most powerful weapons in its hand turned out to be the proc1amation of free hiring as the sole free, normal, healthy, productive, and saving form of labor.
A legal form of labor which would of its own virtue guarantee its productivity has not been known in history, and cannot be known. The legal superstructure of labor corresponds to the relations and current ideas of the epoch. The productivity of labor is developed, on the basis of the development of technical forces, by labor education, by the gradual adaptation of the workers to the changed methods of reduction and the new form of social relations.
The creation of Socialist society means the organization of the workers on new foundations, their adaptation to those foundations, and their labor re-education, with the one un-changing end of the increase in the productivity of labor. The working class, under the leadership of its vanguard, must itself re-educate itself on the foundations of Socialism. Whoever has not understood this is ignorant of the ABC of Socialist construction.
What methods have we, then, for the re-education of the workers? Infinitely wider than the bourgeoisie has – and, in addition, honest, direct, open methods, infected neither by hypocrisy nor by lies. The bourgeoisie had to have recourse to deception, representing its labor as free, when in reality it was not merely socially-imposed, but actually slave labor. For it was the labor of the majority in the interests of the minority. We, on the other hand, organize labor in the interests of the workers themselves, and therefore we can have no motives for hiding or masking the socially compulsory character of our labor organization. We need the fairy stories neither of the priests, nor of the Liberals, nor of the Kautskians. We say directly and openly to the masses that they can save, rebuild, and bring to a flourishing condition a Socialist country only by means of hard work, unquestioning discipline and exactness in execution on the part of every worker.
The chief of our resources is moral influence – propaganda not only in word but in deed. General labor service has an obligatory character; but this does not mean at all that it represents violence done to the working class. If compulsory labor came up against the opposition of the majority of the workers it would turn out a broken reed, and with it the whole of the Soviet order. The militarization of labor, when the workers are opposed to it, is the State slavery of Arakeheyev. The militarization of labor by the will of the workers themselves is the Socialist dictatorship. That compulsory labor service and the militarization of labor do not force the will of the workers, as “free” labor used to do, is best shown by the flourishing, unprecedented in the history of humanity, of labor voluntarism in the form of “Subbotniks” (Communist Saturdays). Such a phenomenon there never was before, anywhere or at any time. By their own voluntary labor, freely given – once a week and oftener – the workers clearly demonstrate not only their readiness to bear the yoke of “compulsory” labor but their eagerness to give the State besides that a certain quantity of additional labor. The “Subbotniks” are not only a splendid demonstration of Communist solidarity, but also the best possible guarantee for the successful introduction of general labor service. Such truly Communist tendencies must be shown up in their true light, extended, and developed with the help of propaganda.
The chief spiritual weapon of the bourgeoisie is religion; ours is the open explanation to the masses of the exact position of things, the extension of scientific and technical knowledge, and the initiation of the masses into the general economic plan of the State, on the basis of which there must be brought to bear all the labor-power at the disposal of the Soviet regime.
Political economy provided us with the principal substance of our agitation in the period we have just left: the capitalist social order was a riddle, and we explained that riddle to the masses. Today, social riddles are explained to the masses by the very mechanism of the Soviet order, which draws the masses into all branches of administration. Political economy will more and more pass into the realms of history. There move forward into the foreground the sciences which study nature and the methods of subordinating it to man.
The trade unions must organize scientific and technical educational work on the widest possible scale, so that every worker in his own branch of industry should find the impulses for theoretical work of the brain, while the latter should again return him to labor, perfecting it and making him more productive. The press as a whole must fall into line with the economic problems of the country – not in that sense alone in which this is being done at present – i.e., not in the sense of a mere general agitation in favor of a revival of labor – but in the sense of the discussion and the weighing of concrete economic problems and plans, ways and means of their solution, and, most important of all, the testing and criticism of results already achieved. The newspapers must from day to day follow the production of the most important factories and other enterprises, registering their successes and failures encouraging some and pillorying others ...
Russian capitalism, in consequence of its lateness, its lack of independence, and its resulting parasitic features, has had much less time than European capitalism technically to educate the laboring masses, to train and discipline them for production. That problem is now in its entirety imposed upon the industrial organizations of the proletariat. A good engineer, a good mechanic, and a good carpenter, must have in the Soviet Republic the same publicity and fame as hitherto was enjoyed by prominent agitators, revolutionary fighters, and, in the most recent period, the most courageous and capable commanders and commissaries. Greater and lesser leaders of technical development must occupy the central position in the public eye. Bad workers must be made ashamed of doing their work badly.
We still retain, and for a long time will retain, the system of wages. The further we go, the more will its importance become simply to guarantee to all members of society all the necessaries of life; and thereby it will cease to be a system of wages. But at present we are not sufficiently rich for this. Our main problem is to raise the quantity of products turned out, and to this problem all the remainder must be subordinated. In the present difficult period the system of wages is for us, first and foremost, not a method for guaranteeing the personal existence of any separate worker, but a method of estimating what that individual worker brings by his labor to the Labor Republic.
Consequently, wages, in the form both of money and of goods, must be brought into the closest possible touch with the productivity of individual labor. Under capitalism, the system of piece-work and of grading, the application of the Taylor system, etc., have as their object to increase the exploitation of the workers by the squeezing-out of surplus value. Under Socialist production, piece-work, bonuses, etc., have as their problem to increase the volume of social product, and consequently to raise the general well-being. Those workers who do more for the general interest than others receive the right to a greater quantity of the social product than the lazy, the careless, and the disorganizers.
Finally, when it rewards some, the Labor State cannot but punish others – those who are clearly infringing labor solidarity, undermining the common work, and seriously impairing the Socialist renaissance of the country. Repression for the attainment of economic ends is a necessary weapon of the Socialist dictatorship.
All the measures enumerated above – and together with them a number of others – must assist the development of rivalry in the sphere of production. Without this we shall never rise above the average, which is a very unsatisfactory level. At the bottom of rivalry lies the vital instinct – the struggle for existence – which in the bourgeois order assumes the character of competition. Rivalry will not disappear even in the developed Socialist society; but with the growing guarantee of the necessary requirements of life rivalry will acquire an ever less selfish and purely idealist character. It will express itself in a striving to perform the greatest possible service for one’s village, county, town, or the whole of society, and to receive in return renown, gratitude, sympathy, or, finally, just internal satisfaction from the consciousness of work well done. But in the difficult period of transition, in conditions of the extreme shortage of material goods, and the as yet insufficiently developed state of social solidarity, rivalry must inevitably be to a greater or less degree bound up with a striving to guarantee for oneself one’s own requirements.
This, comrades, is the sum of resources at the disposal of the Labor State in order to raise the productivity of labor. As we see, there is no ready-made solution here. We shall find it written in no book. For there could not be such a book. We are now only beginning, together with you, to write that book in the sweat and the blood of the workers. We say: working men and women, you have crossed to the path of regulated labor. Only along that road will you build the Socialist society. ’Before you there lies a problem which no one will settle for you: the problem of increasing production on new social foundations. Unless you solve that problem, you will perish. If you solve it, you will raise humanity by a whole head.
The question of the application of armies to labor purposes, which has acquired amongst us an enormous importance from the point of view of principle, was approached by us by the path of practice, not at all on the foundations of theoretical consideration. On certain borders of Soviet Russia, circumstances had arisen which had left considerable military forces free for an indefinite period. To transfer them to other active fronts, especially in the winter, was difficult in consequence of the disorder of railway transport. Such, for example, proved the position of the Third Army, distributed over the provinces of the Ural and the Ural area. The leading workers of that army, understanding that as yet it could not be demobilized, themselves raised the question of its transference to labor work. They sent to the centre a more or less worked-out draft decree for a labor army.
The problem was novel and difficult. Would the Red soldiers work? Would their work be sufficiently productive? Would it pay for itself? In this connection there were doubts even in our own ranks. Needless to say, the Mensheviks struck up a chorus of opposition. The same Abramovich, at the Congress of Economic Councils called in January or the beginning of February – that is to say, when the whole affair was still in draft stage – foretold that we should suffer an inevitable failure, for the whole undertaking was senseless, an Arakcheyev Utopia, etc., etc. We considered the matter otherwise. Of course the difficulties were great, but they were not distinguishable in principle from many other difficulties of Soviet constructive work.
Let us consider in fact what was the organism of the Third Army. Taken all in all, one rifle division and one cavalry’ division – a total of fifteen regiments – and, in addition, special units. The remaining military formations had already been transformed to other armies and fronts. But the apparatus of military administration had remained untouched as vet, and we considered it probable that in the spring we should have to transfer it along the Volga to the Caucasus front, against Denikin, if by that time he were not finally broken. On the whole, in the Third Army there remained about 120,000 Red soldiers in administrative posts, institutions, military units, hospitals, etc. In this general mass, mainly peasant in its composition, there were reckoned about 16,000 Communists and members of the organization of sympathizers – to a considerable extent workers of the Ural. In this way, in its composition and structure, the Third Army represented a peasant mass bound together into a military organization under the leadership of the foremost workers. In the army there worked a considerable number of military specialists, who carried out important military functions while remaining under the general control of the Communists. If we consider the Third Army from this general point of view, we shall see that it represents in miniature the whole of Soviet Russia. Whether we take the Red Army as a whole, or the organization of the Soviet regime in the county, province, or the whole Republic, including the economic organs, we shall find everywhere the same scheme of organization: millions of peasants drawn into new forms of political, economic, and social life by the organized workers, who occupy a controlling position in all spheres of Soviet construction. To posts requiring special knowledge, we send experts of the bourgeois school. They are given the necessary independence, but control over their work remains in the hands of the working class, in the person of its Communist Party. The introduction of general labor service is again only conceivable for us as the mobilization of mainly peasant labor-power under the guidance of the most advanced workers. In this way there were not, and could not, be any obstacles in principle in the way of application of the army to labor. In other words, the opposition in principle to labor armies, on the part of those same Mensheviks, was in reality opposition to “compulsory” labor generally, and consequently against general labor service and against Soviet methods of economic reconstruction as a whole. This opposition did not trouble us a great deal.
Naturally, the military apparatus as such is not adapted directly to the process of labor. But we had no illusions about that. Control had to remain in the hands of the appropriate economic organs; the army supplied the necessary labor power in the form of organized, compact units, suitable in the mass for the execution of the simplest homogeneous types of work: the freeing of roads from snow, the storage of fuel, building work, organization of cartage, etc., etc.
Today we have already had considerable experience in the work of the labor application of the army, and can give not merely a preliminary or hypothetical estimate. What are the conclusions to be drawn from that experience? The Mensheviks have hastened to draw them. The same Abramovich, again, announced at the Miners’ Congress that we had become bankrupt, that the labor armies represent parasitic formations, in which there are 100 officials for every ten workers. Is this true? No. This is the irresponsible and malignant criticism of men who stand on one side, do not know the facts, collect only fragments and rubbish, and are concerned in any way and every way either to declare our bankruptcy or to prophecy it. In reality, the labor armies have not only not gone bankrupt, but, on the contrary, have had important successes, have displayed their fidelity, are developing and are becoming stronger and stronger. Just those prophets have gone bankrupt who foretold that nothing would come of the whole plan, that nobody would begin to work, and that the Red soldiers would not go to the labor front but would simply scatter to their homes.
These criticisms were dictated by a philistine scepticism, lack of faith in the masses, lack of faith in bold initiative, and organization. But did we not hear exactly the same criticism, at bottom, when we had recourse to extensive mobilizations for military problems? Then too we were frightened, we were terrified by stories of mass desertion, which was absolutely inevitable, it was alleged, after the imperialist war. Naturally, desertion there was, but considered by the test of experience it proved not at all on such a mass scale as was foretold; it did not destroy the army; the bond of morale and organization – Communist voluntarism and State compulsion combined – allowed us to carry out mobilizations of millions to carry through numerous formations and redistributions, and to solve the most difficult military problems. In the long run, the army was victorious. In relation to labor problems, on the foundation of our military experience, we awaited the same results; and we were not mistaken. The Red soldiers did not scatter when they were transformed from military to labor service, as the sceptics prophesied. Thanks to our splendidly-organized agitation, the transference itself took place amidst great enthusiasm. True, a certain portion of the soldiers tried to leave the army, but this always happens when a large military formation is transferred from one front to another, or is sent from the rear to the front – in general when it is shaken up – and when potential desertion becomes active. But immediately the political sections, the press, the organs of struggle with desertion, etc., entered into their rights; and today the percentage of deserters from our labor armies is in no way higher than in our armies on active service.
The statement that the armies in view of their internal structure, can produce only a small percentage of workers, is true only to a certain extent. As far as the Third Army is concerned, I have already pointed out that it retained its complete apparatus of administration side by side with an extremely insignificant number of military units. While we – owing to military and not economic considerations – retained untouched the staff of the army and its administrative apparatus, the percentage of workers produced by the army was actually extremely low. From the general number of 120,000 Red soldiers, 21% proved to be employed in administrative and economic work; 16% were engaged in daily detail work (guards, etc.) in connection with the large number of army institutions and stores; the number of sick, mainly typhus cases, together with the medico-sanitary personnel, was about 13%; about 25% were not available for various reasons (detachment, leave, absence without leave, etc.). In this way, the total personnel available for work constitutes no more than 23%; this is the maximum of what can be drawn for labor from the given army. Actually, at first, there worked only about 14%, mainly drawn from the two divisions, rifle and cavalry, which still remained with the army.
But as soon as it was clear that Denikin had been crushed, and that we should not have to send the Third Army down the Volga in the spring to assist the forces on the Caucasus front, we immediately entered upon the disbanding of the clumsy army apparatus and a more regular adaptation of the army institutions to problems of labor. Although this work is not yet complete, it has already had time to give some very significant results. At the present moment (March, 1920), the former Third Army gives about 38% of its total composition as workers. As for the military units of the Ural military area working side by side with it, they already provide 49% of their number as workers. This result is not so bad, if we compare it with the amount of work done in factories and workshops, amongst which in the case of many quite recently, in the case of some even today, absence from work for legal and illegal reasons reached 50% and over. [Since that time time percentage has been considerably lowered (June, 1920).] To this one must add that workers in factories and workshops are not infrequently assisted by the adult members of their family, while the Red soldiers have no auxiliary force but themselves.
If we take the case of the 19-year-olds, who have been mobilized in the Ural with the help of the military apparatus – principally for wood fuel work – we shall find that, out of their general number of over 30,000, over 75% attend work. This is already a very great step forward. It shows that, using the military apparatus for mobilization and formation, we can introduce such alterations in the construction of purely labor units as guarantee an enormous increase in the percentage of those who participate directly in the material process of production.
Finally, in connection with the productivity of military labor, we can also now judge on the basis of experience. During the first days, the productivity of labor in the principal departments of work, in spite of the great moral enthusiasm, was in reality very low, and might seem completely discouraging when one read the first labor communiqués. Thus, for the preparation of a cubic sazhen of wood, at first, one had to reckon thirteen to fifteen labor days; whereas the standard – true, rarely attained at the present day – is reckoned at three days. One must add, in addition, that artistes in this sphere are capable, under favorable conditions, of producing one cubic sazhen per day per man. What happened in reality? The military units were quartered far from the forest to be felled. In many cases it was necessary to march to and from work 6 to 8 versts, which swallowed up a considerable portion of the working day. There were not sufficient axes and saws on the spot. Many Red soldiers, born in the plains, did not know the forests, had never felled trees, had never chopped or sawed them up. The provincial and county Timber Committees were very far from knowing at first how to use the military units, how to direct them where they were required, how to equip them as they should be equipped. It is not wonderful that all this had as its result an extremely low level of productivity. But after the most crying defects in organization were eliminated, results were achieved that were much more satisfactory. Thus, according to the most recent data, in that same First Labor Army, four and a half working days are now devoted to one sazhen of wood, which is not so far from the present standard. What is most comforting, however, is the fact that the productivity of labor systematically increases, in the measure of the improvement of its conditions.
While as to what can be achieved in this respect, we have a brief but very rich experience in the Moscow Engineer Regiment. The Chief Board of Military Engineers, which controlled this experiment, began with fixing the standard of production as three working days for a cubic sazhen of wood. This standard soon proved to be surpassed. In January there were spent on a cubic sazhen of wood two and one-third working days; in February, 2.1; in March, 1.5; which represents an exclusively high level of productivity. This result was achieved by moral influence, by the exact registration of the individual work of each man, by the awakening of labor pride, by the distribution of bonuses to the workers who produced more than the average result – or, to speak in the language of the trade unions, by a sliding scale adaptable to all individual changes in the productivity of labor. This experiment, carried out almost under laboratory conditions, clearly indicates the path along which we have to go in future.
At present we have functioning a series of labor armies – the first, the Petrograd, the Ukrainian, the Caucasian, the South Volga, the Reserve. The latter, as is known, assisted considerably to raise the traffic capacity of the Kazan-Ekaterinburg Railway; and, wherever the experiment of the adaptation of military units for labor problems was carried out with any intelligence at all, the results showed that this method is unquestionably live and correct.
The prejudice concerning the inevitably parasitic nature of military organization – under each and every condition-proves to be shattered. The Soviet Army reproduces within itself the tendencies of the Soviet social order. We must not think in the petrifying terms of the last epoch: “militarism,” “military organization,” “the unproductiveness of compulsory labor.” We must approach the phenomena of the new epoch without any prejudices, and with eyes wide open; and we must remember that Saturday exists for man, and not vice versa; that all forms of organization, including the military, are only weapons in the hands of the working class in power, which has both the right and the possibility of adapting, altering, refashioning, those weapons, until it has achieved the requisite result.
The Single Economic Plan
The widest possible application of the principle of general labor service, together with measures for the militarization of labor, can play a decisive part only in case they are applied on the basis of a single economic plan covering the whole country and all branches of productive activity. This plan must be drawn up for a number of years, for the whole epoch that lies before us. It is naturally broken up into separate periods or stages, corresponding to the inevitable stages in the economic rebirth of the country. We shall have to begin with the most simple and at the same time most fundamental problems.
We have first of all to afford the working class the very possibility of living – though it be in the most difficult conditions – and thereby to preserve our industrial centres and save the towns. This is the point of departure. If we do not wish to melt the town into agriculture, and transform the whole country into a peasant State, we must support our transport, even at the minimum level, and secure bread for the towns, fuel and raw materials for industry, fodder for the cattle. Without this we shall not make one step forward. Consequently, the first part of the plan comprises the improvement of transport, or, in any case, the prevention of its further deterioration and the preparation of the most necessary supplies of food, raw materials, and fuel. The whole of the next period will be in its entirety filled with the concentration and straining of labor-power to solve these root problems; and only in this way shall we lay the foundations for all that is to come. It was such a problem, incidentally, that we put before our labor armies. Whether the first or the following periods will be measured by months or by years, it is fruitless at present to guess. This depends on many reasons, beginning with the international situation and ending with the degree of single-mindedness and steadfastness of the working class.
The second period is the period of machine-building in the interests of transport and the storage of raw material and fuel. Here the core is in the locomotive.
At the present time the repairing of locomotives is carried on in too haphazard a fashion, swallowing up energy, and resources beyond all measure. We must reorganize the repairing of our rolling-stock, on the basis of the mass production of spare parts. Today, when the whole network of the railways and the factories is in the hands of one master, the Labor State, we can and must fix single types of locomotives and trucks for the whole country, standardize their constituent parts, draw all the necessary factories into the work of the mass production of spare parts, reduce repairing to the simple replacing of worn-out parts by new, and thereby make it possible to build new locomotives on a mass scale out of spare parts.
Now that the sources of fuel and raw material are again open to us, we must concentrate our exclusive attention on the building of locomotives.
The third period will be one of machine-building in the interests of the production of articles of primary necessity.
Finally, the fourth period, reposing on the conquests of the first three, will allow us to begin the production of articles of personal or secondary significance on the widest possible scale.
This plan has great significance, not only as a general guide for the practical work of our economic organs, but also as a line along which propaganda amongst the laboring masses in connection with our economic problems is to proceed. Our labor mobilization will not enter into real life, will not take root, if we do not excite the living interest of all that is honest, class-conscious, and inspired in the working class. We must explain to the masses the whole truth as to our situation and as to our views for the future; we must tell them openly that our economic plan, with the maximum of exertion on the part of the workers, will neither to-morrow nor the day after give us a land flowing with milk and honey: for during the first period our chief work will consist in preparing the conditions for the production of the means of production. Only after we have secured, though on the smallest possible scale, the possibility of rebuilding the means of transport and production, shall we pass on to the production of articles for general consumption. In this way the fruit of their labor, which is the direct object of the workers, in the shape of articles for personal consumption, will arrive only in the last, the fourth, stage of our economic plan; and only then shall we have a serious improvement in our life. The masses, who for a prolonged period will still bear all the weight of labor and of privation, must realize to the full the inevitable internal logic of this economic plan if they are to prove capable of carrying it out.
The sequence of the four economic periods outlined above must not be understood too absolutely. We do not, of course, propose to bring completely to a standstill our textile industry: we could not do this for military considerations alone. But in order that our attention and our forces should not be distracted under the pressure of requirements and needs crying to us from all quarters, it is essential to make use of the economic plan as the fundamental criterion, and separate the important and the fundamental from the auxiliary and secondary. Needless to say, under no circumstances are we striving for a narrow “national” Communism: the raising of the blockade, and the European revolution all the more, would introduce the most radical alterations in our economic plan, cutting down the stages of its development and bringing them together. But we do not know when these events will take place; and we must act in such a way that we can hold out and become stronger under the most unfavorable circumstances – that is to say, in face of the slowest conceivable development of the European and the world revolution. In case we are able actually to establish trading relations with the capitalist countries, we shall again be guided by the economic plan sketched above. We shall exchange part of our raw material for locomotives or for necessary machines, but under no circumstances for clothing, boots, or colonial products: our first item is not articles of consumption, but the implements of transport and production.
We should be short-sighted sceptics, and the most typical bourgeois curmudgeons, if we imagined that the rebirth of our economic life will take the form of a gradual transition from the present economic collapse to the conditions that preceded that collapse, i.e., that we shall reascend the same steps by which we descended, and only after a certain, quite prolonged, period will be able to raise our Socialist economy to the level at which it stood on the eve of the imperialist war. Such a conception would not only be not consoling, but absolutely incorrect. Economic collapse, which destroyed and broke up in its path an incalculable quantity of values, also destroyed a great deal that was poor and rotten, that was absolutely senseless; and thereby it cleared the path for a new method of reconstruction, corresponding to that technical equipment which world economy now possesses.
If Russian capitalism developed not from stage to stage, but leaping over a series of stages, and instituted American factories in the midst of primitive steppes, the more is such a forced march possible for Socialist economy. After we have conquered our terrible misery, have accumulated small supplies of raw material and food, and have improved our transport, we shall be able to leap over a whole series of intermediate stages, benefiting by the fact that we are not bound by the chains of private property, and that therefore we are able to subordinate all undertakings and all the elements of economic life to a single State plan.
Thus, for example, we shall undoubtedly be able to enter the period of electrification, in all the chief branches of industry and in the sphere of personal consumption, without passing through “the age of steam.” The programme of electrification is already drawn up in a series of logically consequent stages, corresponding to the fundamental stages of the general economic plan.
A new war may slow down the realization of our economic intentions; our energy and persistence can and must hasten the process of our economic rebirth. But, whatever be the rate at which economic events unfold themselves in the future, it is clear that at the foundation of all our work – labor mobilization, militarization of labor, Subbotniks, and other forms of Communist labor voluntarism – there must lie the single economic plan. And the period that is upon us requires from us the complete concentration of all our energies on the first elementary problems: food, fuel, raw material, transport. Not to allow our attention to be distracted, not to dissipate our forces, not to waste our energies. Such is the sole road to salvation.
Collegiate and One-Man Management
The Mensheviks attempt to dwell on yet another question which seems favorable to their desire once again to ally themselves with the working class. This is the question of the method of administration of industrial enterprises – the question of the collegiate (board) or the one-man principle. We are told that the transference of factories to single directors instead of to a board is a crime against the working class and the Socialist revolution. It is remarkable that the most zealous defenders of the Socialist revolution against the principle of one-man management are those same Mensheviks who quite recently still considered that the idea of a Socialist revolution was an insult to history and a crime against the working class.
The first who must plead guilty in the face of the Socialist revolution is our Party Congress, which expressed itself in favor of the principle of one-man management in the administration of industry, and above all in the lowest grades, in the factories and plants. It would be the greatest possible mistake, however, to consider this decision as a blow to the independence of the working class. The independence of the workers is determined and measured not by whether three workers or one are placed at the head of a factory, but by factors and phenomena of a much more profound character – the construction of the economic organs with the active assistance of the trade unions; the building up of all Soviet organs by means of the Soviet congresses, representing tens of millions of workers; the attraction into the work of administration, or control of administration, of those who are administered. It is in such things that the independence of the working class can be expressed. And if the working class, on the foundation of its existence, comes though its congresses, Soviet party and trade union, to the conclusion that it is better to place one person at the head of a factory, and not a board, it is making a decision dictated by the independence of the working class. It may be correct or incorrect from the point of view of the technique of administration, but it is not imposed upon the proletariat, it is dictated by its own will and pleasure. It would consequently be a most crying error to confuse the question as to the supremacy of the proletariat with the question of boards of workers at the head of factories. The dictatorship of the proletariat is expressed in the abolition of private property in the means of production, in the supremacy over the whole Soviet mechanism of the collective will of the workers, and not at all in the form in which individual economic enterprises are administered.
Here it is necessary to reply to another accusation directed against the defenders of the one-man principle. Our opponents say: “This is the attempt of the Soviet militarists to transfer their experience in the military sphere to the sphere of economics. Possibly in the army the one-man principle is satisfactory, but it does not suit economical work.” Such a criticism is incorrect in every way. It is untrue that in the army we began with the one-man principle: even now we are far from having completely adopted it. It is also untrue that in defence of one-man forms of administration of our economic enterprises with the attraction of experts, we took our stand only on the foundation of our military experience. In reality, in this question we took our stand, and continue to do so on purely Marxist views of the revolutionary problems and creative duties of the proletariat when it has taken power into its own hands. The necessity of making use of technical knowledge and methods accumulated in the past, the necessity of attracting experts and of making use of them on a wide scale, in such a way that our technique should go not backwards but forwards – all this was understood and recognized by us, not only from the very beginning of the revolution, but even long before October. I consider that if the civil war had not plundered our economic organs of all that was strongest, most independent, most endowed with initiative, we should undoubtedly have entered the path of one-man management in the sphere of economic administration much sooner, and much less painfully.
Some comrades look on the apparatus of industrial administration first and foremost as on a school. This is, of course, absolutely erroneous. The task of administration is to administer. If a man desires and is able to learn administration, let him go to school, to the special courses of instruction: let him go as an assistant, watching and acquiring experience; but a man who is appointed to control a factory is not going to school, but to a responsible post of economic administration. And, even if we look at this question in the limited, and therefore incorrect light of a “school,” I will say that when the one-man principle prevails the school is ten times better: because just as you cannot replace one good worker by three immature workers, similarly, having placed a board of three immature workers in a responsible post, you deprive them of the possibility of realizing their own defects. Each looks to the others when decisions are being made, and blames the others when success is not forthcoming.
That this is not a question of principle for the opponents of the one-man principle is shown best of all by their not demanding the collegiate principle for the actual workshops, jobs, and pits. They even say with indignation that only a madman can demand that a board of three or five should manage a workshop. There must be one manager, and one only. Why? If collegiate administration is a “school,” why do we not require an elementary school? Why should we not introduce boards into the workshops? And, if the collegiate principle is not a sacred gospel for the workshops, why is it compulsory for the factories?
Abramovich said here that, as we have few experts – thanks to the Bolsheviks, he repeats after Kautsky – we shalt replace them by boards of workers. That is nonsense. No board of persons who do not know the given business can replace one man who knows it. A board of lawyers will not replace one switchman. A board of patients will not replace the doctor. The very idea is incorrect. A board in itself does not give knowledge to the ignorant. It can only hide the ignorance of the ignorant. If a person is appointed to a responsible administrative post, he is under the watch, not only of others but of himself, and sees clearly what he knows and what he does not know. But there is nothing worse than a board of ignorant, badly-prepared workers appointed to a purely practical post, demanding expert knowledge. The members of the board are in a state of perpetual panic and mutual dissatisfaction, and by their helplessness introduce hesitation and chaos into all their work. The working class is very deeply interested in raising its capacity for administration, that is, in being educated; but this is attained in the sphere of industry by the periodical report of the administrative body of a factory before the whole factory, and the discussion of the economic plan for the year or for the current month. All the workers who display serious interest in the work of industrial organization are registered by the directors of the undertaking, or by special commissions; are taken through appropriate courses closely bound up with the practical work of the factory itself; and are then appointed, first to less responsible, and then to more responsible posts. In such a way we shall embrace many thousands, and, in the future, tens of thousands. But the question of “threes” and “fives” interests, not the laboring masses, but the more backward, weaker, less fitted for independent work, section of the Soviet labor bureaucracy. The foremost, intelligent, determined administrator naturally strives to take the factory into his hands as a whole, and to show both to himself and to others that he can carry out his work. While if that administrator is a weakling, who does not stand very steadily on his feet, he attempts to associate another with himself, for in the company of another his own weakness will be unnoticed. In such a collegiate principle there is a very dangerous foundation – the extinction of personal responsibility. If a worker is capable but not experienced, he naturally requires a guide: under his control he will learn, and tomorrow we shall appoint him the foreman of a little factory. That is the way by which he will go forward. In an accidental board, in which the strength and the weakness of each are not clear, the feeling of responsibility inevitably disappears.
Our resolution speaks of a systematic approach to the one-man principle – naturally, not by one stroke of the pen. Variants and combinations are possible here. Where the worker can manage alone, let us put him in charge of the factory and give him an expert as an assistant. Where there is a good expert, let us put him in charge and give him as assistants two or three of the workers. Finally, where a “board” has in practice shown its capacity for work, let us preserve it. This is the sole serious attitude to take up, and only in such a way shall we reach the correct organization of production.
There is another consideration of a social and educational character which seems to me most important. Our guiding layer of the working class is too thin. That layer which knew underground work, which long carried on the revolutionary struggle, which was abroad, which read much in prisons and in exile, which had political experience and a broad outlook, is the most precious section of the working class. Then there is a younger generation which has consciously been making the revolution, beginning with 1917. This is a very valuable section of the working class. Wherever we cast our eye – on Soviet construction, on the trade unions, on the front of the civil war – everywhere we find the principal part being played by this upper layer of the proletariat. The chief work of the Soviet Government during these two and a half years consisted in maneuvering and throwing the foremost section of the workers from one front to another. The deeper layers of the working class, which emerged from the peasant mass, are revolutionarily inclined, but are still too poor in initiative. The disease of our Russian peasant is the herd instinct, the absence of personality: in other words, the same quality that used to be extolled by our reactionary Populists, and that Leo Tolstoy extolled in the character of Platon Karatayev: the peasant melting into his village community, subjecting himself to the land. It is quite clear that Socialist economy is founded not on Platon Karatayev, but on the thinking worker endowed with initiative. That personal initiative it is necessary to develop in the worker. The personal basis under the bourgeoisie meant selfish individualism and competition. The personal basis under the working class is in contradiction neither to solidarity nor to brotherly co-operation. Socialist solidarity can rely neither on absence of personality nor on the herd instinct. And it is just absence of personality that is frequently hidden behind the collegiate principle.
In the working class there are many forces, gifts, and talents. They must be brought out and displayed in rivalry. The one-man principle in the administrative and technical sphere assists this. That is why it is higher and more fruitful than the collegiate principle.
Conclusion of the Report
Comrades, the arguments of the Menshevik orators, particularly of Abramovich, reflect first of all their complete detachment from life and its problems. An observer stands on the bank of a river which he has to swim over, and deliberates on the qualities of the water and on the strength of the current. He has to swim over: that is his task! But our Kautskian stands first on one foot and then on the other. “We do not deny,” he says, “the necessity of swimming over, but at the same time, as realists, we see the danger – and not only one, but several: the current is swift, there are submerged stones, people are tired, etc., etc. But when they tell you that we deny the very necessity of swimming over, that is not true – no, not under any circumstances. Twenty-three years ago we did not deny the necessity of swimming over ...”
And on this is built all, from beginning to end. First, say the Mensheviks, we do not deny, and never did deny, the necessity of self-defence: consequently we do not repudiate the army. Secondly, we do not repudiate in principle general labor service. But, after all, where is there anyone in the world, with the exception of small religious sects, who denies self-defence “in principle”! Nevertheless, the matter does not move one step forward as a result of your abstract admission. When it came to a real struggle, and to the creation of a real army against the real enemies of the working class, what did you do then? You opposed, you sabotaged – while not repudiating self-defence in principle. You said and wrote in your papers: “Down with the civil war!” at the time when we were surrounded by White Guards, and the knife was at our throat. Now you, approving our victorious self-defence after the event, transfer your critical gaze to new problems, and attempt to teach us. “In general, we do not repudiate the principle of general labor service,” you say, “but ... without legal compulsion.” Yet in these very words there is a monstrous internal contradiction! The idea of “obligatory service” itself includes the element of compulsion. A man is obliged, he is bound to do something. If he does not do it, obviously he will suffer compulsion, a penalty. Here we approach the question of what penalty. Abramovich says: “Economic pressure, yes; but not legal compulsion.” Comrade Holtzman, the representative of the Metal Workers’ Union, excellently demonstrated all the scholasticism of this idea. Even under capitalism, that is to say under the regime of “free” labor, economic pressure is inseparable from legal compulsion. Still more so now.
In my report I attempted to explain that the adaptation of the workers on new social foundations to new forms of labor, and the attainment of a higher level of productivity of labor, are possible only by means of the simultaneous application of various methods – economic interest, legal compulsion, the influence of an internally co-ordinated economic organization, the power of repression, and, first and last, moral influence, agitation, propaganda, and the general raising of the cultural level,
Only by the combination of all these methods can we attain a high level of Socialist economy.
If even under capitalism economic interest is inevitably combined with legal compulsion, behind which stands the material force of the State, in the Soviet State – that is, the State of transition to Socialism – we can draw no watertight compartment at all between economic and legal compulsion. All our most important industries are in the hands of the State. When we say to the turner Ivanov, “You are bound at once to work at the Sormovo factory; if you refuse, you will not receive your ration,” what are we to call it? Economic pressure or legal compulsion? He cannot go to another factory, for all factories are in the hands of the State, which will not allow such a change. Consequently, economic pressure melts here into the pressure of State compulsion. Abramovich apparently would like us, as regulators of the distribution of labor power, to make use only of such means as the raising of wages, bonuses, etc., in order to attract the necessary workers to our most important factories. Apparently that comprises all his thoughts on the subject. But if we put the question in this way, every serious worker in the trade union movement will understand it is pure utopia. We cannot hope for a free influx of labor power from the market, for to achieve this the State would need to have in its hands sufficiently extensive “reserves of maneuver,” in the form of food, housing, and transport, i.e., precisely those conditions which we have yet only to create. Without systematically organized transference of labor power on a mass scale, according to the demands of the economic organization, we shall achieve nothing. Here the moment of compulsion arises before us in all its force of economic necessity. I read you a telegram from Ekaterinburg dealing with the work of the First Labor Army. It says that there have passed through the Ural Committee for Labor Service over 4,000 workers. Whence have they appeared? Mainly from the former Third Army. They were not allowed to go to their homes, but were sent where they were required. From the army they were handed over to the Committee for Labor Service, which distributed them according to their categories and sent them to the factories. This, from the Liberal point of view, is “violence” to the freedom of the individual. Yet an overwhelming majority of the workers went willingly to the labor front, as hitherto to the military, realizing that the common interest demanded this. Part went against their will. These were compelled.
Naturally, it is quite clear that the State must, by means of the bonus system, give the better workers better conditions of existence. But this not only does not exclude, but on the contrary pre-supposes, that the State and the trade unions without which the Soviet State will not build up industry acquire new rights of some kind over the worker. The worker does not merely bargain with the Soviet State: no, he is subordinated to the Soviet State, under its orders in every direction – for it is his State.
“If,” Abramovich says, “we were simply told that it is a question of industrial discipline, there would be nothing to quarrel about; but why introduce militarization?” Of course, to a considerable extent, the question is one of the discipline of the trade unions; but of the new discipline of new, Productional, trade unions. We live in a Soviet country, where the working class is in power – a fact which our Kautskians do not understand. When the Menshevik Rubtzov said that there remained only the fragment of the trade union movement in my report, there was a certain amount of truth in it. Of the trade unions, as he understands them – that is to say, trade unions of the old craft type – there in reality has remained very little; but the industrial productional organization of the working class, in the conditions of Soviet Russia, has the very greatest tasks before it. What tasks? Of course, not the tasks involved in a struggle with the State, in the name of the interests of labor; but tasks involved in the construction, side by side with the State, of Socialist economy. Such a form of union is in principle a new organization, which is distinct, not only from the trade unions, but also from the revolutionary industrial unions in bourgeois society, just as the supremacy of the proletariat is distinct from the supremacy of the bourgeoisie. The productional union of the ruling working class no longer has the problems, the methods, the discipline, of the union for struggle of an oppressed class. All our workers are obliged to enter the unions. The Mensheviks are against this. This is quite comprehensible, because in reality they are against the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is to this, in the long run, that the whole question is reduced. The Kautskians are against the dictatorship of the proletariat, and are thereby against all its consequences. Both economic and political compulsion are only forms of the expression of the dictatorship of the working class in two closely connected regions. True, Abramovich demonstrated to us most learnedly that under Socialism there will be no compulsion, that the principle of compulsion contradicts Socialism, that under Socialism we shall be moved by the feeling of duty, the habit of working, the attractiveness of labor, etc., etc. This is unquestionable. Only this unquestionable truth must be a little extended. In point of fact, under Socialism there will not exist the apparatus of compulsion itself, namely, the State: for it will have melted away entirely into a producing and consuming commune. None the less, the road to Socialism lies through a period of the highest possible intensification of the principle of the State. And you and I are just passing through that period. Just as a lamp, before going out, shoots up in a brilliant flame, so the State, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the most ruthless form of State, which embraces the life of the citizens authoritatively in every direction. Now just that insignificant little fact – that historical step of the State dictatorship – Abramovich, and in his person the whole of Menshevism, did not notice; and consequently, he has fallen over it.
No organization except the army has ever controlled man with such severe compulsion as does the State organization of the working class in the most difficult period of transition. It is just for this reason that we speak of the militarization of labor. The fate of the Mensheviks is to drag along at the tail of events, and to recognize those parts of the revolutionary programme which have already had time to lose all practical significance. Today the Mensheviks, albeit with reservations, do not deny the lawfulness of stern measures with the White Guards and with deserters from the Red Army: they have been forced to recognize this after their own lamentable experiments with “democracy.” They have to all appearances understood – very late in the day – that, when one is face to face with the counter-revolutionary bands, one cannot live by phrases about the great truth that under Socialism we shall need no Red Terror. But in the economic sphere, the Mensheviks still attempt to refer us to our sons, and particularly to our grandsons. None the less, we have to rebuild our economic life today, without waiting, under circumstances of a very painful heritage from bourgeois society and a yet unfinished civil war.
Menshevism, like all Kautskianism generally, is drowned in democratic analogies and Socialist abstractions. Again and again it has been shown that for it there do not exist the problems of the transitional period, i.e., of the proletarian revolution. Hence the lifelessness of its criticism, its advice, its plans, and its recipes. The question is not what is going to happen in twenty or thirty years’ time – at that date, of course, things will be much better – but of how today to struggle out of our ruins, how immediately to distribute labor-power, how today to raise the productivity of labor, and how, in particular, to act in the case of those 4,000 skilled workers whom we combed out of the army in the Ural. To dismiss them to the four corners of the earth, saying “seek for better conditions where you can find them, comrades”? No, we could not act in this way. We put them into military echelons, and distributed them amongst the factories and the works.
“Wherein, then, does your Socialism,” Abramovich cries, “differ from Egyptian slavery? It was just by similar methods that the Pharaohs built the pyramids, forcing the masses to labor.” Truly an inimitable analogy for a “Socialist”! Once again the little insignificant fact has been forgotten-the class nature of the government! Abramovich sees no difference between the Egyptian regime and our own. He has forgotten that in Egypt there were Pharaohs, there were slave-owners and slaves. It was not the Egyptian peasants who decided through their Soviets to build the pyramids; there existed a social order based upon hierarchical caste; and the workers were obliged to toil by a class that was hostile to them. Our compulsion is applied by a workers’ and peasants’ government, in the name of the interests of the laboring masses. That is what Abramovich has not observed. We learn in the school of Socialism that all social evolution is founded on classes and their struggle, and all the course of human life is determined by the fact of what class stands at the head of affairs, and in the name of what caste is applying its policy. That is what Abramovich has not grasped. Perhaps he is well acquainted with the Old Testament, but Socialism is for him a book sealed with seven seals.
Going along the path of shallow Liberal analogies, which do not reckon with the class nature of the State, Abramovich might (and in the past the Mensheviks did more than once) identify the Red and the White Armies. Both here and there went on mobilizations, principally of the peasant masses. Both here and there the element of compulsion has its place. Both here and there were not a few officers who had passed through one and the same school of Tsarism. The same rifles, the same cartridges in both camps. Where is the difference? There is a difference, gentlemen, and it is defined by a fundamental test: who is in power? The working class or the landlord class, Pharaohs or peasants, White Guards or the Petrograd proletariat? There is a difference, and evidence on the subject is furnished by the fate of Yudenich, Kolchak, and Denikin. Our peasants were mobilized by the workers; in Kolchak’s camp, by the White Guard officer class. Our army has pulled itself together, and has grown strong; the White Army has fallen asunder in dust. Yes, there is a difference between the Soviet regime and the regime of the Pharaohs. And it is not in vain that the Petrograd proletarians began their revolution by shooting the Pharaohs on the steeples of Petrograd. [This was the name given to the imperial police, whom the Minister for Home Affairs. Protopopoff, distributed at the end of February, 1917, over the roofs of houses and in the belfries.]
One of the Menshevik orators attempted incidentally to represent me as a defender of militarism in general. According to his information, it appears, do you see, that I am defending nothing more or less than German militarism. I proved, you must understand, that the German NCO was a marvel of nature, and all that he does is above criticism. What did I say in reality? Only that militarism, in which all the features of social evolution find their most finished, sharp, and clear expression, could be examined from two points of view. First from the political or Socialist – and here it depends entirely on the question of what class is in power; and secondly, from the point of view of organization, as a system of the strict distribution of duties, exact mutual relations, unquestioning responsibility, and harsh insistence on execution. The bourgeois army is the apparatus of savage oppression and repression of the workers; the Socialist army is a weapon for the liberation and defence of the workers. But the unquestioning subordination of the parts to the whole is a characteristic common to every army. A severe internal regime is inseparable from the military organization. In war every piece of slackness, every lack of thoroughness, and even a simple mistake, not infrequently bring in their train the most heavy sacrifices. Hence the striving of the military organization to bring clearness, definiteness, exactness of relations and responsibilities, to the highest degree of development. “Military” qualities in this connection are valued in every sphere. It was in this sense that I said that every class prefers to have in its service those of its members who, other things being equal, have passed through the military school. The German peasant, for example, who has passed out of the barracks in the capacity of an NCO was for the German monarchy, and remains for the Ebert Republic, much dearer and more valuable than the same peasant who has not passed through military training. The apparatus of the German railways was splendidly organized, thanks to a considerable degree to the employment of NCO’s and officers in administrative posts in the transport department. In this sense we also have something to learn from militarism. Comrade Tsiperovich, one of our foremost trade union leaders, admitted here that the trade union worker who has passed through military training-who has, for example, occupied the responsible post of regimental commissary for a year – does not become worse from the point of view of trade union work as a result. He is returned to the union the same proletarian from head to foot, for he was fighting for the proletariat; but he has returned a veteran-hardened, more independent, more decisive – for he has been in very responsible positions. He had occasions to control several thousands of Red soldiers of different degrees of class-consciousness – most of them peasants. Together with them he has lived through victories and reverses, he has advanced and retreated. There were cases of treachery on the part of the command personnel, of peasant risings, of panic – but he remained at his post, he held together the less class-conscious mass, directed it, inspired it with his example, punished traitors and cowards. This experience is a great and valuable experience. And when a former regimental commissary returns to his trade union, he becomes not a bad organizer.
On the question of the collegiate principle, the arguments of Abramovich are lust as lifeless as on all other questions – the arguments of a detached observer standing on the bank of a river.
Abramovich explained to us that a good board is better than a bad manager, that into a good board there must enter a good expert. All this is splendid – only why do not the Mensheviks offer us several hundred boards? I think that the Supreme Economic Council will find sufficient use for them. But we – not observers, but workers – must build from the material at our disposal. We have specialists, we have experts, of whom, shall we say, one-third are conscientious and educated, another third only half-conscientious and half-educated, and the last third are no use at all. In the working class there are many talented, devoted, and energetic people. Some – unfortunately few – have already the necessary knowledge and experience. Some have character and capacity, but have no knowledge or experience. Others have neither one nor the other. Out of this material we have to create our factory and other administrative bodies; and here we cannot be satisfied with general phrases. First of all, we must select all the workers who have already in experience shown that they can direct enterprises, and give such men the possibility of standing on their own feet. Such men themselves ask for one-man management, because the work of controlling a factory is not a school for the backward. A worker who knows his business thoroughly desires to control. If he has decided and ordered, his decision must be accomplished. He may be replaced – that is another matter; but while he is the master, the Soviet, proletarian master – he controls the undertaking entirely and completely. If he has to be included in a board of weaker men, who interfere in the administration, nothing will come of it. Such a working-class administrator must be given an expert assistant, one or two according to the enterprise. If there is no suitable working-class administrator, but there is a conscientious and trained expert, we shall put him at the head of an enterprise, and attach to him two or three prominent workers in the capacity of assistants, in such a way that every decision of the expert should be known to the assistants, but that they should not have the right to reverse that decision. They will, step by step, follow the specialist in his work, will learn something, and in six months or a year will thus be able to occupy independent posts.
Abramovich quoted from my own speech the example of the hairdresser who has commanded a division and an army. True! But what, however, Abramovich does not know is that, if our Communist comrades have begun to command regiments, divisions, and armies, it is because previously they were commissaries attached to expert commanders. The responsibility fell on the expert, who knew that, if he made a mistake, he would bear the full brunt, and would not be able to say that he was only an “adviser” or a “member of the board.” Today in our army the majority of the posts of command, particularly in the lower – i.e., politically the most important – grades, are filled by workers and foremost peasants. But with what did we begin? We put officers in the posts of command, and attached to them workers as commissaries; and they learned, and learned with success, and learned to beat the enemy.
Comrades, we stand face to face with a very difficult period, perhaps the most difficult of all. To difficult periods in the life of peoples and classes there correspond harsh measures. The further we go the easier things will become, the freer every citizen will feel, the more imperceptible will become the compelling force of the proletarian State. Perhaps we shall then even allow the Mensheviks to have papers, if only the Mensheviks remain in existence until that time. But today we are living in the period of dictatorship, political and economic. And the Mensheviks continue to undermine that dictatorship. When we are fighting on the civil front, preserving the revolution from its enemies, and the Menshevik paper writes: “Down with the civil war,” we cannot permit this. A dictatorship is a dictatorship, and war is war. And now that we have crossed to the path of the greatest concentration of forces on the field of the economic rebirth of the country, the Russian Kautskys, the Mensheviks, remain true to their counter-revolutionary calling. Their voice, as hitherto, sounds as the voice of doubt and decomposition, of disorganization and undermining, of distrust and collapse.
Is it not monstrous and grotesque that, at this Congress, at which 1,500 representatives of the Russian working class are present, where the Mensheviks constitute less than 5%, and the Communists about 90%, Abramovich should say to us: “Do not be attracted by methods which result in a little band taking the place of the people.” “All through the people,” says the representative of the Mensheviks, “no guardians of the laboring masses! All through the laboring masses, through their independent activity!” And, further, “It is impossible to convince a class by arguments.” Yet look at this very hall: here is that class! The working class is here before you, and with us; and it is just you, an insignificant band of Mensheviks, who are attempting to convince it by bourgeois arguments! It is you who wish to be the guardians of that class. And yet it has its own high degree of independence, and that independence, it has displayed, incidentally, in having overthrown you and gone forward along its own path!