Lenin. on Trade Unions and Revolution 1893–1917 9780231885522

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Table of contents :
Acknowledgments
Contents
I. Introduction: Communism and Trade Unionism
II. Lenin and the Russian Trade Union Movement of the 1890s
III. Economism and Lenin’s Criticism of It
IV. Lenin’s Alternative to Economism
V. Trade Unions in the Revolution of 1905
VI. Lenin’s Fight against Liquidators and Boycotters, 1907–14
VII. Lenin’s Views on the Neutrality of Trade Unions, 1905–14
VIII. The Imperialist War and the Social-Chauvinists, 1914–17
IX. 1917–Year of Revolutions
X. Lenin on Trade Unions and the Relation Between Reform and Revolution
XI. A Summing-Up
Selected Bibliography
Index
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Lenin

ON TRADE UNIONS AND REVOLUTION 1893-1917

STUDIES OF THE RUSSIAN COLUMBIA

UNIVERSITY

INSTITUTE

Lenin ON TRADE UNIONS AND REVOLUTION 1893-1917 THOMAS TAYLOR HAMMOND

NEW YORK COLUMBIA

1957

UNIVERSITY

PRESS

THE TRANSLITERATION

SYSTEM

USED

IN

THIS

SERIES

IS BASED ON THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SYSTEM WITH SOME MODIFICATIONS

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER:

©

56-Iigll

1 9 5 4 COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, NEW YORK FIRST PUBLISHED IN BOOK FORM

1957

PUBLISHED IN GREAT BRITAIN, CANADA, INDIA, AND

PAKISTAN

BY THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS LONDON, TORONTO, B O M B A Y , AND KARACHI

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

To Geroid T. Robinson

The Russian Institute of Columbia University T H E Russian Institute was established by Columbia University in 1946 to serve two major objectives: the training of a limited number of well-qualified Americans for scholarly and professional careers in the field of Russian studies and the development of research in the social sciences and the humanities as they relate to Russia and the Soviet Union. T h e research program of the Russian Institute is conducted through the efforts of its faculty members, of scholars invited to participate as Senior Fellows in its program, and of candidates for the Certificate of the Institute and for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Some of the results of the research program are presented in the Studies of the Russian Institute of Columbia University. T h e faculty of the Institute, without necessarily agreeing with the conclusions reached in the Studies, believe that their publication advances the difficult task of promoting systematic research on Russia and the Soviet Union and public understanding of the problems involved. T h e faculty of the Russian Institute are grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for the financial assistance which it has given to the program of research and publication.

Studies of the Russian Institute of Columbia University SOVIET N A T I O N A L

INCOME

Abram

Bergson

edited by Ernest J.

Simmons

A N D PRODUCT IN 1 9 3 7 T H R O U G H T H E GLASS OF SOVIET

LITERATURE:

V I E W S O F RUSSIAN S O C I E T Y T H E PROLETARIAN

EPISODE

IN RUSSIAN L I T E R A T U R E ,

Edward

1928-1932

J.

Brown

M A N A G E M E N T OF T H E I N D U S T R I A L F I R M IN T H E USSR:

David

A STUDY IN SOVIET E C O N O M I C P L A N N I N G S O V I E T P O L I C I E S IN C H I N A , UKRAINIAN NATIONALISM,

Allen

1917-1924

John

I939-1945

Granick

S.

A.

Whiting Armstrong

Thad Paul

POLISH POSTWAR ECONOMY L I T E R A R Y POLITICS I N T H E SOVIET U K R A I N E , 1 9 1 7 - 1 9 3 4

Alton

George S. X. Lucky j

T H E E M E R G E N C E OF RUSSIAN P A N S L A V I S M ,

Michael

1856-1870

Alexander

B O L S H E V I S M IN T U R K E S T A N , 1 9 1 7 - 1 9 2 7 T H E L A S T Y E A R S OF T H E GEORGIAN MONARCHY,

1658-1832

Boro

Petrovich G. Park

David Marshall

Lang

L E N I N ON T R A D E UNIONS AND REVOLUTION,

1893-1917

Thomas

Taylor

Hammond

Ackno wledgmen ts A N U M B E R of people have supplied help of various kinds. Thanks are due first of all to Professor Geroid T . Robinson of Columbia University, who has proved himself a faithful friend many times. H e suggested the topic, guided the research and writing through their many stages, and made innumerable suggestions and criticisms, devoting many more hours to my problems than the average person would be willing to give. His influence is evident in the style, organization, and basic approach of the whole work. Professor Philip E. Mosely of Columbia, who had many advisees of his own to worry about, nevertheless found time to help in making arrangements for my research trip and to make editorial suggestions. Mr. Solomon Schwarz read the manuscript, generously shared with me some of his first-hand knowledge of the Russian trade union movement, and made available a copy of his own book on Lenin and trade unionism. Professors Shepherd B. Clough, Jacques Barzun, and P. F. Brissenden, all of Columbia, read the entire work and made many helpful comments, as did Professor Philip T a f t of Brown University and Professor Calvin B. Hoover of Duke University. Mr. Boris Nicholaevsky, a walking bibliography, suggested where I might find certain Social-Democratic newspapers and journals. T h e late Professor Franz Neumann of Columbia University read an early draft of the first four chapters and encouraged me to continue. Dr. Alfred George Meyer, formerly of the Russian Research Center at Harvard University, kindly loaned me a copy of his doctoral dissertation on Leninism and read my chapter on reform and revolution. Professor John S. Curtiss of Duke University furnished information about Russian collections in European libraries. Mr. Whitman Bassow helped me obtain some microfilms from Paris. Miss Jean Marsh and my wife both as-

X

Acknowledgments

sisted with the typing. My wife also spurred me on with occasional remarks of: "Aren't you ever going to finish that thing?" Numerous libraries and librarians played a role in the project, of which the following deserve special mention: Mr. Simeon J . Bolan of Columbia University Library, Mr. John T . Dorosh of the Library of Congress, Mrs. Annie Adama van ScheltemaKleefstra and Mr. John Bezemer of the International Instituut fur Sociale Geschiedenis in Amsterdam, M. Debyser and Mme Dumesnil of the Bibliothèque et Musée de la Guerre in Paris, the Russkii Zagranichnyi Istoricheskii Arkhiv in Prague, and the Slovanska Knihovna of Charles University in Prague. Special thanks are due the Social Science Research Council for an Area Research Training Fellowship which made possible my research trip to Europe. T h e Institute for Research in the Social Sciences of the University of Virginia has given me stenographic assistance on this and several other publications, for which I also wish to express my appreciation. T H O M A S T.

HAMMOND

Contents I II

INTRODUCTION:

C O M M U N I S M AND TRADE

UNIONISM

LENIN A N D T H E RUSSIAN TRADE UNION M O V E M E N T THE 189OS

III

ECON'OMISM AND LENIN'S CRITICISM O F IT

IV

LENIN'S A L T E R N A T I V E TO

V VI

OF

ECONOMISM

T R A D E UNIONS IN T H E REVOLUTION OF

1905

L E N I N ' S F I G H T AGAINST LIQUIDATORS AND BOYCOTTERS, 1907-1914

VII

L E N I N ' S VIEWS ON T H E N E U T R A L I T Y O F TRADE UNIONS, 1905-14

VIII

THE

IMPERIALIST

WAR

AND T H E

SOCIAL-CHAUVINISTS,

1914-1917 IX X

1917

YEAR

OF

REVOLUTIONS

LENIN ON T R A D E UNIONS AND T H E RELATION REFORM AND REVOLUTION

XI

A SUMMING-UP SELECTED INDEX

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BETWEEN

Lenin ON TRADE UNIONS AND REVOLUTION 1893-1917

I Introduction: Communism and Trade Unionism C O M M U N I S T S have long had a special interest in trade unions in capitalist countries, the reasons for which are rather obvious. According to Marxist ideology, the proletariat is the revolutionary class of the present epoch, and Moscow still officially supports this view. T r a d e unions are the largest and most common organizations of the proletariat, and hence they are natural targets for Communist attempts at penetration and domination. As Stalin once said, "it is impossible to win over the vast proletarian masses unless the trade unions are won over." 1 Through control of trade unions, Communists can gain access to large numbers of workers, spread their revolutionary ideology, and recruit members for the Party. Communists also look upon trade unions as "schools of Communism" in which the workers learn how to work together as a group, develop class consciousness, and get into the habit of fighting against the capitalists. Furthermore, by taking an active part in the unions' fight for better living conditions, Communists hope to spread the notion that they are the most militant champions of the "toiling masses." 2 In the past decade there have also been many examples of the role which trade unions can play in Communist coups d'état. In several East European countries, for instance, the Communist rise to power was facilitated by the existence of mass "front" organizations such as trade unions, which made it possible for Communist parties to exert influence far out of 1 J. V. Stalin, Works, V (Moscow, 1954), 56. 2 For examples see Herbert E. Weiner, " T h e Reduction of Communist Power in the Australian T r a d e Unions," Political Science Quarterly, L X V I I I (September, 1954), 402. Stalin claimed that "Communists are the most devoted and courageous fighters of the labor movement all over the world." Stalin, Works, X , P

1

33-

4

Communism

and Trade

Unionism

proportion to their membership. In Czechoslovakia, to cite one case, the Communists were able to seize power without civil war or the intervention of Soviet troops, an achievement that was due in part to Communist domination of the trade union movement. Unions were used to stage strikes and street demonstrations, thereby giving the impression of mass support for Communism and intimidating the anti-Communist population. 3 In France and Italy today the most powerful weapon in the hands of the Communists is their domination of the majority of the trade unions; i£ a seizure of power is ever attempted in those countries, it will probably be accompanied by a general strike of the Communist-led trade unions. In the United States, although C o m m u n i s m is incomparably weaker than in France or Italy, partisans of C o m m u n i s m have won important positions in several unions and undoubtedly are trying to convert them into potential organs of revolution. 4 Communists use unions not only in the struggle for revolution, however, but also in many other activities to promote the interests of the Party or the U S S R — f o r m i n g a "popular front against fascism," sabotaging Western rearmament/ retarding the introduction of modern methods of production in capitalistowned factories, 8 carrying out espionage, propagandizing ideas of "peaceful coexistence," and so on. In case of war, Communistdominated unions can also operate as "fifth columns" in those countries opposed to the Soviet Union. Such tactics in the trade union movement have made it abundantly clear that Communists really are not interested in trade unions as such. From the Communist point of view, the 3 For descriptions of such Communist tactics, see Ivo Duchacek, " T h e February C o u p in Czechoslovakia," World Politics, Vol. II, No. 4 (July, 1950), pp. 511-32; and H u g h Seton-Watson, The East European Revolution (London, 19.50), chap. viii. ••See Communist Domination of Certain Unions, Report of the Sub-Committce on L a b o r and Labor-Management Relations of the Committee on Labor and Public W e l f a r e , United States Senate, 82d Congress, 1st Sess. (Washington, 1951). » See comment by Benoît Frachon, New York Herald Tribune, November 18, 1951, p. 23. «See article by Michael Hoffman, Neu< York Times, June 17, 1955.

Communism

and Trade

Unionism

trade union movement has no independent significance; it is useful only as an appendage of the Communist Party. In other words, Communists want the trade unions to be "front" organizations. Like other "fronts" they will contain many non-Communists, but they will be controlled by Party cells and used for Party ends. T h u s the Party will act somewhat like that old capitalist device, the holding company, exercising a "controlling interest" in a whole network of subsidiary "front" organizations and multiplying its influence in proportion to the number of non-Communists who are drawn into the network. Communists are not interested in trade unions as such, nor are they genuinely interested in the fight for reforms which is usually carried on by trade unions. Although Communists agitate for improvements, they do so in order to win support and foment discontent rather than because of any genuine desire to obtain reforms.7 For they know that the winning of reforms is liable to reduce the dissatisfaction of the workers and make them less responsive to appeals for revolution. A n d in fact the trade unions of countries such as America and Britain, through winning higher wages, shorter hours, and other benefits for the workers, have done probably as much as any other institution to spare these countries from revolution. Trade unions and Communist parties differ basically in their attitude toward reforms: Trade unions concentrate on the struggle for gradual improvements, assuming that conditions can be made better year by year. Communists, on the other hand, claim that fundamental improvements are impossible under capitalism, and that the struggle for reforms should therefore be subordinated to the fight for revolution. Despite the contemporaneity of all these issues, they are not new; they were matters of concern to Lenin and other Russian Marxists during the years before the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin in that early period elaborated the "Party line" toward i Weiner, "Reduction of Communist Power," describes the tactics of the Communists in Australia since W o r l d W a r II of instigating strikes for purposes of "general economic disruption" (pp. 398-401).

6

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and Trade

Unionism

trade unions which Communists have followed ever since. T h e idea of Communist "front" organizations, for example, was clearly explained by Lenin as early as 1902 in connection with a dispute about trade unions. Lenin's writings on trade unions and other subjects are carefully studied today by Communists throughout the world; an examination of his works should lead, therefore, to a fuller understanding of the theories and principles underlying Communist tactics in the trade union movement today. In the writings of Lenin on trade unions there are two main themes. One has to do with the relationship between the trade unions and the Party. On this point Lenin was faced with questions such as the following: Should the trade unions be affiliated with the Party, either openly or secretly? Should the unions be controlled by the Party, or should they enjoy independence and equality? Lenin's answer to this last question depended upon his view of whether the workers become socialist spontaneously, or whether they have to be indoctrinated and led by a small vanguard of "conscious" Party leaders. In dealing with this problem, Lenin had a good deal to say about the nature and organization of the Party itself and developed his famous theory of "Vanguardism." His writings on trade unions, it will be seen, do not deal merely with the petty details of organizing unions, conducting strikes, and the like, but are concerned with the most basic principles of Bolshevism. T h e second major theme in Lenin's writings on trade unions is the relation between reform and revolution. During the period before the Bolshevik Revolution there was considerable debate in Russia and elsewhere over which was the best way to improve the condition of the working class—the trade union method of peaceful reform, or the alternative method of revolution. There was also disagreement over whether reforms are possible under capitalism anyhow, or whether the trade union fight for improvements is just a blind alley. Was Marx correct when he declared that the workers were doomed to "increasing misery" as long as capitalism survived?

Communism

and Trade

Unionism

7

Supposing the trade unions were able to win reforms under capitalism, would such reforms "corrupt" the workers and make them deaf to calls for revolution? Are reforms responsible for the fact that some workers, particularly the "labor aristocracy" of trade unionists, become reconciled to capitalism? Why is it that in countries such as France and Italy trade unions support the Communist movement, whereas in others such as England, Germany, and the United States trade unions are among the most effective opponents of Communism? What did Lenin have to say on all these points? This book is an examination of Lenin's writings about trade unions under capitalism. It is concerned with Lenin's ideas rather than his actions, his actions regarding trade unions under capitalism being comparatively unimportant. T h e book does not deal with the question of trade unions under socialism, since Lenin had relatively little to say in detail about this subject, the problem of how trade unions could be made to fit into the Soviet system being still unresolved at the time of his death. Also, this investigation has been restricted to works written by Lenin before the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. It should be borne in mind that Lenin's ideas and Lenin's published writings are not necessarily synonymous. Some of his ideas may never have been written down, and it is also possible that at times he deliberately misrepresented his views for tactical purposes. Yet these same writings have become a major part of the "Holy Scripture" of Communism, which the faithful are taught to believe entire. Accordingly we must take them all seriously, and not pick and choose or add at random our grain of salt. In analyzing Lenin's writings, one should bear in mind that he was not an ivory-tower thinker but a man of action, engaged in a day-to-day struggle to bring about certain fundamental changes in Russian society. Like most political leaders he was concerned not so much with creating a systematic body of thought (or with remaining true to an already existing body of thought) as he was with influencing people and events. No

8

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and Trade

Unionism

doubt he often chose a certain word or phrase not because it expressed his point of view with precision, but because it was likely to create the desired response in his audience. In addition, much of the material in his collected works consists of extemporaneous speeches, hastily written newspaper articles, and other items composed in the full rush of revolutionary activity. It is dangerous, therefore, to attach great significance to any particular word or sentence in Lenin's writing, for his works are sometimes exaggerated, ambiguous, one-sided, contradictory, or even factually incorrect. It would be a mistake, however, to overemphasize the imperfections in Lenin's writings. T h e works of Marx and Engels likewise contain many inconsistencies and ambiguities, but it would be foolish to conclude from this that Marx and Engels were opportunists and nothing more. Although on some of the points discussed in this book it is impossible to discover exactly what Lenin believed, the broad outlines of his ideas regarding trade unions under capitalism are nevertheless fairly clear. There would indeed be little reason for calling special attention to the gaps and inconsistencies in Lenin's writings if it were not for the fact that he himself, and to a greater extent his followers, put forward the claim that his version of Marxism is a science having universal validity. Communists do not look upon Lenin's works as the haphazard pronouncements of a politician but as the systematic philosophy of one of the world's great thinkers. T h e following chapters may shed some light on the truth of this claim.

II Lenin and the Russian Trade Union Movement of the 1890s BACKWARDNESS TRADE

UNION

OF

THE

RUSSIAN

MOVEMENT

W H E N Lenin first entered the arena of revolutionary activity, trade unions were of little consequence in Russia. In fact it might almost be said that trade unions in the modern sense did not exist in Russia until the Revolution of 1905. T h e government prohibited independent trade unions until 1906, and although this did not always prevent the workers from organizing, it was at least a serious hindrance. Primitive forms of workers' organizations spread through Russia in the wake of the rapid industrialization which took place during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Sometimes strike committees or strike funds were created during a dispute and then dissolved when the strike was over. A t other times the workers formed mutual benefit societies and burial or sickness funds. These "trade union" activities were usually local, involving the workers in only one factory or town and having no organizational connection with activities in other communities. T h e most common manifestation of the labor movement was NOTE.—The material for the brief historical sketch in this section is taken primarily from the following works: Sergei P. Turin, From Peter the Great to Lenin (London, 1935); V. V. Sviatlovskii, Professionalnoe dvizhenie v Rossii (St. Petersburg, 1908); M. I. Tugan-Baranovskii, Russkaia fabrika v proshlom i nastoiashchem (3d ed.; St. Petersburg, 1907); L. Martov, P. Maslov, and A. Potresov, eds., Obshchestvennoe dvizhenie v Rossii v nachale XX veka (4 vols.; St. Petersburg, 1909-14); James Mavor, An Economic History of Russia (2 vols.; London and Toronto, 1925); Manya Gordon, Workers Before and After Lenin (New York, 1941). English translations of the Russian titles cited in the footnotes will be found in the Selected Bibliography, together with the dates of original publication. All dates before February 14, 1918, are according to the Old Style (Julian) calendar, which lags behind the Gregorian calendar by twelve days in the nineteenth century and thirteen days in the twentieth century. Dates after February 14, 1918, are according to the New Style.

JO

Trade

Union Movement

of the i8pos

strikes. T h e early strikes were usually spontaneous and unorganized, and they sometimes involved the wrecking of machinery or factory stores. But as the workers gained experience and received advice from socialist organizers, the strikes showed more planning and direction. As might be expected, the factory owners and the government were alarmed by the spread of strikes and by the attempts of the workers to organize and demand better conditions of employment. Police and troops were sent to suppress the disorders, protect private property, and arrest revolutionary agitators. Thus the government inevitably became involved in the economic struggle between employers and employees, and workers who had started out fighting against the employers often ended up fighting against the government as well. While factory owners called for more stringent measures to outlaw labor organizations and strikes, the workers came to the realization that more could sometimes be gained from the government than from individual employers. A shortening of the workday, for example, could be won in a single factory by means of a strike, but it could be made obligatory in all factories only by means of government legislation. T h e workers, therefore, tried to exert pressure upon the government to correct the terrible conditions under which they worked. Generally speaking, the tsarist regime attempted to suppress strikes and labor organizations, while at the same time making an effort to set bounds to the worst abuses of the factory system.1 Though independent trade unions were illegal until March 4, 1906, and strikes heavily punishable, both increased in number during the decade before that date. When the government realized that it could not suppress the labor movement, it tried a new tactic—trade unions organized by the police. On occasion, however, the workers converted the police-sponsored trade unions into militant organizations which refused to obey orders from the government and took matters into their own hands.2 1 For a favorable view of tsarist labor legislation, see Gordon, Workers Before and After Lenin, chap. 1. 2 For descriptions of the "Zubatov" trade unions, see: Sviatlovskii, Profes-

Trade

Union

Movement

of the 1890s

LENIN'S

EARLY

ATTITUDE

TOWARD

TRADE

UNIONS

ir

Lenin was naturally interested in these attempts of the workers to organize, and for a while he was an active participant in the labor movement. In 1895 he and some other Marxists founded the St. Petersburg "League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class," a tiny group of young intellectuals. When a wave of strikes broke out in the capital, Lenin and his comrades seized this opportunity to spread revolutionary ideas among the workers. Lenin talked with the workers, studied their grievances, and wrote leaflets and pamphlets for distribution in the factories, among them the tracts Explanation of the Law on Fines and To the Male and Female Workers of Thornton's Factory.3 T h e close interest which Lenin and the other members of the League of Struggle had in the strike movement is indicated by the fact that the League's report to the International Socialist Congress of 1896 is devoted almost entirely to that subject. In this report the League explained that its practical aims were: (1) the organization of trade unions and strike funds; (2) mass agitation in factories and shops by means of pamphlets, leaflets, and the like; and (3) the training of competent agitators among the workmen. In carrying out these aims it had distributed handbills in St. Petersburg. Each of the handbills, said the report, treated of some definite abuse on the part of the employers. . . . They aimed at formulating the demands of the workers, developing a feeling of class solidarity among them, showing the antagonism sionalnoe dvizhenie v Rossii, p p . 54-57, a n d J a m e s M a v o r , Economic History of Russia, I I , 188-206. F o r a n excellent analysis of g o v e r n m e n t policy t o w a r d factory workers, see: J a c o b W a l k i n , " T h e A t t i t u d e of t h e T s a r i s t G o v e r n m e n t T o w a r d t h e L a b o r P r o b l e m , " American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. X I I I , N o . 2 (April, '954). PP- >63-843 " O b i a s n e n i e zakona o s h t r a f a k h , v z i m a e m y k h s r a b o c h i k h n a f a b r i k a k h i z a v o d a k h , " L e n i n , Sochineniia, I, 365-97 ( a u t u m n , 1895); a n d "K r a b o c h i m i r a b o t n i t s a m f a b r i k i t o r n t o n a , " ibid., I, 430-34 ( N o v e m b e r , 1895). All r e f e r e n c e s t o Lenin's Sochineniia (Works) a r e t o t h e t h i r d R u s s i a n e d i t i o n (Moscow, 1932-37) unless otherwise i n d i c a t e d . A f t e r each article by L e n i n t h e d a t e of w r i t i n g is given in parentheses.

i2

Trade Union Movement

of the 1890s

between their interests and the interests of the capitalists, and finally proving that the Tsar's government has shown itself and will show itself under all circumstances the zealous servant of the bourgeoisie.4 Lenin was arrested and imprisoned on December 20, 1895, yet he continued to communicate with the other members of the League and to help direct their activities. Early in 1897, however, he was exiled to Siberia, far from St. Petersburg and the labor movement, never again to be quite so closely connected with trade unions. 5 As a revolutionary Marxist looking forward to the day when the working class would rise to overthrow the capitalist order, Lenin naturally approved of the strike movement and the attempts of the Russian workers to organize trade unions. In his writings of this period he often referred to the need of the Russian workers for united action. He said that the growth of large factories and the increased oppression by the employers had led to the result that the workers, finding themselves completely powerless against the factory owners, began to understand that complete downfall and pauperism awaited them if they remained disunited. . . . They had only one solution—to join together for the struggle with the factory owners for higher wages and better living conditions.* It seemed to Lenin that the ability and the desire of the workers to unite were being fostered by the following factory conditions: (1) A large factory with machine production, requiring continuous year-around work, completely severs the connection of the worker with the land and with his own farm, thus making him completely proletarian. . . . (2) Further, when hundreds and thousands of workers work together, they become accustomed to discussing their « Report Presented by the Russian Social-Democrats to the International Congress of Socialist Workers and Trade Unions, London, 1896 (London, 1896), p. 4. 5 For further details on this phase of Lenin's life, from various points of view, see George Vernadskii, Lenin, Red Dictator (New Haven, 1931), pp. 28-29; Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution (New York, 1948), pp. 124-26; David Shub, Lenin (Garden City, N.Y., 1948), pp. 29-33; Anna M. Pankratova, ed., Istoriia SSSR (Moscow, 1945), II, 266-70. «"Obiasnenie zakona o shtrafakh, vzimaemykh s rabochikh na fabrikakh i zavodakh," Lenin, Sochineniia, I, 396 (autumn, 1895).

Trade

Union

Movement

of the 1890s

/)

needs together, and to acting together. . . . (3) Finally, the continuous movement of workers from factory to factory . . . convinces the workers of the similarity of exploitation in all factories. They borrow the experiences of other workers in their clashes with the capitalists, and in this manner strengthen the firmness and solidarity of the workers. . . . T h e more large factories and plants develop, the stronger and more stubborn the strikes become, because the stronger the oppression of capitalism, the more necessary it is for the workers to offer united resistance. . . . Among the Russian workers this unity finds most frequent and strongest expression in strikes, because our workers are not permitted to unite in unions or friendly societies.' A l t h o u g h L e n i n was glad to have the workers unite in strikes and other forms of common action, he did not by any means think that local unions or strike committees were enough in themselves. H e always had in mind the aim of organizing the strike movement into a broad class movement, with the whole proletarian class aligned against the whole capitalist class: As capitalism grows and strikes become more frequent, strikes become inadequate. T h e employers take common measures against strikes. . . . It is no longer a single employer that confronts the workers in a particular factory, but the whole capitalist class, and the government which helps it. . . . T h e unity of the workers in a single factory, or even in a single branch of industry, is no longer adequate to resist the whole capitalist class; it becomes absolutely necessary to exert the joint efforts of the whole of the working class.9 L e n i n rejoiced in the strike movement of the 1890s as one sign of opposition on the part of the workers to the status q u o and as a step toward the goal of revolution. Even w h e n the strikes were not led by Social-Democrats 8 and were not waged 7 "Proekt i obiasnenie progTammy sotsial-demokraticheskoi partii," ibid., I, 43i (1895-96).

8 Ibid., pp. 431-32. A11 italics are given as in the original unless otherwise noted. 9 T h e term "Social-Democrat" in this book refers to a member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (R.S.-D.L.P.), which was formed in March, 1898, through the joining together of several small Marxist groups like the League of Struggle. At the Second Congress of the Party in July, 1903, it split into two factions—Bolshevik and Menshevik. T h e Bolshevik group, with Lenin at its head, led the successful Communist revolution of 1917. In March, 1918, the name of the Party was changed to the Russian Communist Party (of Bolsheviks).

Trade

Union Movement

of the

1890s

for revolutionary aims, Lenin felt that the strike movement would have great educational value for the workers. Strikes would show the worker that the capitalist was not the master and that the individual worker had the support of his comrades. Strikes would cause the worker to form trade unions, make him class-conscious, and show him that the capitalist and the government were his enemies. In short, strikes would be a "school of war." 10 Every strike [said Lenin] concentrates all the attention and all the efforts of the workers first on one and then on another evil from which the working class is suffering. Every strike gives rise to a discussion of these evils and helps the workers to appraise them, to understand where the oppression of the capitalists comes in, . . . and to learn how to fight against this oppression. Every strike gives more experience to the whole of the working class. If the strike is successful, it reveals the strength that lies in the unity of the workers and stimulates others to take advantage of the success of their fellow workers.11 Lenin concluded that the Social-Democratic Party should aid the strike movement, promote the formation of trade unions, and help the workers to make their strikes and unions better organized. Social-Democrats, he said, should take part in all the spontaneous manifestations of the struggle of the working class, in all the conflicts between the workers and the capitalists over the working day, wages, conditions of labor, etc. Our task is to merge our activities with the practical everyday questions of working-class life, to help the workers to understand these questions, to draw the attention of the workers to the most important abuses, to help them to formulate their demands to the employers more precisely and practically, to develop among the workers a sense of solidarity, to help them to understand the common interests and the common cause of all the Russian workers as a single class representing the international army of the proletariat. 12 Later it became the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks), and finally, in 1952, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. 10 "O stachkakh," Lenin, Sochineniia, II, 575-77 (end of 1899). 11 "Proekt i obiasnenie programmy sotsial-demokraticheskoi partii," ibid., 440 (1895-96). 12 "Zadachi russkikh sotsial-demokratov," ibid., II, 173 (end of 1897).

Ill Economism1 and Lenin's Criticism of It THE

ORIGINS

OF

ECONOMISM

W E have noted above that in the last years of the nineteenth century Lenin on several occasions observed with approval the spread of strikes and trade unions. W e also noted, however, that Lenin did not believe that the economic struggle 2 had independent significance, but looked upon it as a means of developing political consciousness among the workers, of training them in revolutionary activity, and thereby bringing closer the overthrow of the tsarist regime. Whereas in 1895 Lenin had felt it necessary to urge SocialDemocrats to form trade unions, organize strikes, and generally aid the economic struggle, by 1897 he began to notice that some Social-Democrats were concentrating all or most of their efforts on the economic struggle and were neglecting things which he considered more important. T h e more successful the workers were in winning economic concessions from management and from the government, the more some SocialDemocrats tended to think that the economic struggle—not the political struggle—was the best means of improving the condition of the working class. This gave rise in the 1890s to a 1 Some readers may be bothered by the use of the terms Economism and Economists with a special meaning in this book. W h i l e admitting that the terms are confusing at first, the present author has used them for lack of suitable substitutes. Neither syndicalism, trade unionism, Bernsteinism, nor Reformism carries the proper meaning. T h e terms Economism and Economists were used at the time of the dispute by Lenin and others, and they have since been widely used in histories of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party in many languages, including English. 2 T h e terms economic struggle, political struggle, economic reform, and political reform will be used many times in this book. As Lenin generally employed the terms, they are differentiated according to aim rather than method. For example, the demand for an eight-hour working day would be economic regardless of whether the demand be made to an employer or to the government. Concessions regarding the standard of living, working conditions, and the like would still be economic, regardless of the fact that they might have been won from the government. Changes in the structure and functioning of government, however, would be political.

i6

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

trend known as "Economism," which prompted a bitter controversy and brought about an ideological split within the Party. T h e "Economists" were not experts in the science of economics; rather they were a group of Russian Social-Democrats who believed that greater stress should be placed on the economic side of the labor movement. T h e y argued that there was little hope of overthrowing the tsarist government, but that significant results could be obtained in the economic struggle against the capitalists. A raise in wages today, they said, is worth more than dreams of a socialist society to be realized at some time in the indefinite future. Instead of the Party trying to impose its abstract ideas on the labor movement, they said, it would be better to get in closer touch with the masses of the workers and learn practical lessons from their spontaneous activities. Economism, in short, placed less emphasis on the political struggle and more on the economic struggle, less on the Party and more on the trade unions, less on ideological questions and more on practical, everyday problems, less on the importance of leadership by the Party and more on the spontaneous movement of the workers. T h e opposite point of view was preached by Lenin and the rest of the "Politicals." Lenin said that the first indications of the split between Economists and Politicals came at a meeting of the League of Struggle in early 1897. T h e conversation at the meeting centered around a set of rules for a workers' benefit fund—rules which declared that the fund's aim was to aid strikers, purchase books, set up an office, publish a newspaper, and so forth. 3 Some members of the League defended the rules, while others insisted that "first of all it was necessary to consolidate the League of Struggle into an organization of revolutionaries which should have control of all the various workers' benefit funds, students' propaganda circles, etc. . . . T h e controversialists had no sus* T h e rules were subsequently published in the first issue of Rabochaia Mysl (St. Petersburg: October, 1897). Since this mimeographed version failed to reach many of the members, the rules were republished in Listok Rabotnika, No. 9-10 (Geneva: November, 1898), pp. 46-47.

Lenin's Criticism of Economism

n

picion at that time that these disagreements were the beginning of a split. . . . T h e appearance of Rabochaia Mysl in October, 1897, brought Economism to the light of day." * Rabochaia Mysl (Workers' thought) became the mouthpiece for the more extreme Economist views, while Rabochee Dielo (Workers' cause), was the chief organ of the more moderate Economists.6 At the beginning of 1899 there appeared in Russian SocialDemocratic circles a letter called the "Credo," which was one of the fullest expressions of the general point of view of Economism.® T h e "Credo" declared it to be a fundamental law of society that the labor movement follows the line of least resistance; in countries where revolutionary political activity was difficult or impossible, the labor movement naturally tended to flow into legal political and economic channels. In Russia, said the "Credo," the weak forces of the proletariat were confronted with an impregnable wall of political oppression, with the result that the labor movement was moving away from the struggle to seize governmental power and toward the path of peaceful reform. T h e "Credo" welcomed this development, declaring that energy should not be wasted on the impossible task of revolution, but that attention should be concentrated on the economic struggle and on immediate practical demands. All talk of an independent workers' political party, said the "Credo," was nothing more than an attempt to transplant foreign ideas onto Russian soil. Instead of forming such a party, Russian Marxists should concentrate on building up economic organizations and on waging the economic struggle with greater energy. When Lenin read a copy of the "Credo," he became seriously alarmed. He compiled an answer entitled "A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats," 7 which was signed by him and sixteen other * "Chto delat?" Lenin, Sochineniia, IV, 387 (February, igo2). 5 "Iz proshlogo rabochei pechati v Rossii," ibid., XVII, 344 (April, 1914). • T h e "Credo" was quoted by Lenin in "Protest rossiiskikh sotsial-demokratov," ibid., II, 478-80 (September, 1899). T h e writer of the "Credo" was a young revolutionary named E. Kuskova, who later became the wife of S. N. Prokopovicz, the well-known emigré expert on Soviet economics. T h e "Credo" apparently was not intended for publication, but was brought to light by the antiEconomists as a "horrible example" of Economism. t Ibid., II, 477-86.

Lenin's

i8

Criticism

of

Economism

revolutionary exiles. Meanwhile, Social-Democrats in Switzerland were also making protests against Economism; George Plekhanov, Paul Axelrod, and other members of the Emancipation of Labor Group wrote articles against it.8 Finally, in 1902, Lenin published his famous pamphlet What Is to Be Done?, which contained a detailed review of the dispute over Economism and the fullest statement ever made by Lenin of his views on trade unions. 8 What was this dispute all about? What were the proposals of the Economists that called forth such bitter denunciations from Lenin and others? 10 THE

IDEAS

LENIN'S

OF

THE

CRITICISM

ECONOMISTS OF

AND

THEM

Throughout this book the position of the Economists is presented as Lenin himself explained it. T h i s is, of course, not necessarily an accurate representation of their views, but to go into the complicated history of all the various Economist groups would take us too far afield from our main subject, the views of Lenin. Lenin himself later admitted that in his debate with the Economists he had exaggerated. T h e Economists, he said, had bent the stick in one direction, and in order to straighten the stick he had bent it in the other. 11 T h e views of the Economists varied considerably from person to person and from time to time. Here, however, we will 8 Vademecum dlia redaktsii "Rabochago diela," s predisloviem G. Plekhanova (Geneva, 1900). Rabochee Dielo r e p l i e d w i t h a p a m p h l e t e n t i t l e d Otvet redaktsii "Rabochago diela" na pismo P. Akselroda i "Vademecum" G. Plekhanova (Geneva, 1900). 8 Chto Delat? ( S t u t t g a r t , 1902). Also p u b l i s h e d in Sochineniia, Vol. IV. 10 i t is i n t e r e s t i n g to n o t e t h a t E c o n o m i s m is n o t simply a t h i n g of t h e past, b u t seems t o arise today also w h e n t h e r e is a n a t u r a l conflict b e t w e e n t h e political a i m s of a C o m m u n i s t p a r t y a n d t h e e c o n o m i c a i m s of a t r a d e u n i o n . For e x a m p l e , since W o r l d W a r I I t h e r e r e p o r t e d l y h a v e b e e n m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of Economism within the Communist-dominated Confédération Generale du Travail in F r a n c e . Even B e n o î t F r a c h o n , w h o is t h e l e a d e r of t h e C G T a n d a n i m p o r t a n t figure in t h e F r e n c h C o m m u n i s t P a r t y , has b e e n suspected of Economist tendencies. See P h i l i p W i l l i a m s , Politics in Post-War France ( L o n d o n , 1954), P- 571 1 See G e o r g e P l e k h a n o v , " R a b o c h i i klass i sotsial-demokraticheskaia intelligentsia," Iskra, N o . 71 (August 1, 1904), p . 3.

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

*9

attempt to generalize their position (as presented by Lenin) under four main headings: (1) T h e importance and effectiveness of the economic struggle; (2) Participation of the workers in the political struggle; (3) T h e economic struggle as a means of developing political consciousness; and (4) "Subservience to spontaneity" vs. "conscious leadership." The Importance and Effectiveness of the Economic Struggle One of the fundamental points of the Economist position, as explained by Lenin, was that the workers should concentrate their energies on the economic struggle because, in contrast to the political struggle, it was possible to wage the former with significant success. Lenin said that the Economists put forward such slogans as the following: " A kopeck added to a ruble is worth more than socialism and politics"; 1 2 the workers "must fight, knowing that they are fighting not for future generations, but for themselves and their children"; 13 "the trade union struggle is a struggle for the welfare of the workers and their children, and not a struggle for some kind of socialism that will be realized only in the very remote future"; " "the workers for the workers . . . strike funds are more valuable for the movement than 100 other organizations." 1 5 Lenin declared that the Economists, instead of calling upon the workers to go forward with the consolidation of the revolutionary organizations and the expansion of political activity, were calling for a retreat to petty trade union activity. He insisted that when the workers tried to limit themselves to the economic struggle alone they were heading up a blind alley, because they could not possibly achieve any significant improvement in their condition by economic struggle alone: Trade unionism and strikes, at best, can only enable the workers . . . to obtain slightly better terms of sale for their commodity—labor power. Trade unions and strikes become impotent when, owing to a depression, there is no demand for this "commodity." They are 12 "Chto delat?" Lenin,

is Ibid. 14 Ibid.

1» Ibid., pp. 388-89.

Sochineniia,

IV, 389 (February, igo2).

20

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

unable to remove the conditions which convert labor power into a commodity, and which doom the masses of the toilers to poverty and unemployment. To remove these conditions, it is necessary to conduct a revolutionary struggle against the whole existing social and political system.16 T o support his argument that economic struggle alone was not enough, Lenin pointed to a case where a group of St. Petersburg factory owners were ready to satisfy the workers' demands but the government forbade the manufacturers to give in, fearing they might set a bad example. Lenin concluded from this that "the Russian government is a much more wicked enemy of the Russian workers than the Russian manufacturers." 17 Earlier, as has been noted above, Lenin had pointed out the fact that strikes were effective in winning such improvements as higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions. But strikes alone, he said, could not bring about a fundamental improvement for the working class; that is, strikes could not remove the inherent evils of the capitalist system, which inevitably meant exploitation of the workers. Trade unions and strikes, moreover, were ineffective in times of depression. 18 (For further elaboration of this point, see Chapter X.) Participation of the Workers in the Political Struggle The Economists, according to Lenin, were so impressed with the importance of the economic struggle that they put the political struggle in the background. They even went so far as to say that the workers should "leave politics to the intelligentsia and the 1« "Novoe poboishche," ibid., IV, 115 (June, 1901). For a discussion of this quotation as it relates to the doctrine of Increasing Misery, see Chapter X. 17 "Novyi fabrichnyi zakon," Lenin, Sochineniia, II, 134 (1897). i s I t is interesting to note the similarity of Lenin's views to those of Frederick Engels. In 1881 Engels wrote about t h e English labor movement: " T h e r e are plenty of symptoms that t h e working class of this country is awakening to the consciousness that it has for some time been moving in the wrong groove; that the present movements for higher wages and shorter hours, exclusively, keep it in a vicious circle o u t of which there is n o issue; that it is not the lowness of wages which forms the f u n d a m e n t a l evil, b u t the wages system itself." The British Labour Movement (London, 1934), p. 10. T h i s article was published first in The Labour Standard (London), April 4, 1881.

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

21

liberals." 19 T h e Economists insisted that "the working class, 'following the line of least resistance,' should confine itself to the economic struggle, while 'liberal opposition elements' fight for 'constitutional reforms' with the 'participation' of the Marxists." 2 0 T h e Economists, said Lenin, complained that placing primary emphasis on the political struggle interfered with the pursuit of economic gains—that "the economic basis of the movement is obscured by the effort never to forget the political ideal." 21 T h e y argued that regardless of what the wishes of the Social-Democratic leaders might be, it was "impossible to impose on the mass labor movement . . . the task of overthrowing absolutism." T h e only political task the workers could carry out was to "struggle for immediate political demands." 22 T h e Economists further maintained that if the economic struggle were developed sufficiently, the political struggle would automatically be taken care of, because, as Marxism taught, "politics always obediently follows economics." 28 Lenin, on the other hand, insisted that the struggle of the working class for its emancipation should be primarily a political struggle and that its first aim should be to achieve political liberty: The workers cannot wage the struggle for their emancipation without striving to influence affairs of state, to influence the administration of the state, the passing of laws. . . . T h e workers' struggle against the capitalists must inevitably bring them into conflict with the government. . . . The struggle between the working class and the capitalist class is already exercising influence upon the government and is acquiring political significance. But the more the labor movement develops, the more clearly and sharply will the workers' complete lack of i» "Nasushchnye zadachi nashego dvizheniia," Lenin, Sochineniia, IV, 55 (December, 1900). 20 "Protest rossiiskikh sotsial-demokratov," ibid., II, 483 (August-September, 1899). 21 "Chto delat?" ibid., IV, 388 (February, 1902).

22 Ibid., p. 444. 2« Ibid., p. 389.

Lenin's

22

Criticism

of

Economism

political rights, . . . the complete impossibility for the workers to influence the government openly and directly, be felt. Therefore, the most urgent thing the workers must do, the first thing the working class must aim at in bringing its influence to bear upon the government, is to achieve political liberty.2* S o m e S o c i a l - D e m o c r a t i c leaders, said L e n i n , w e r e s p e n d i n g most

of

their

conditions

in

time the

exposing

factories.

and These

criticizing

bad

leaders s h o u l d

economic not

con-

centrate their attention on such exposures alone, but should deal with more f u n d a m e n t a l

problems:

Social-Democrats lead the struggle of the working class not only for better terms for the sale of labor power, but also for the abolition of the social system which compels the propertyless class to sell itself to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given g r o u p of employers, but in its relation to all classes in modern society, to the state as an organized political force. Hence, it not only follows that Social-Democrats must not confine themselves entirely to the economic struggle; they must not even allow the organization of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. 25 T h i s d i d n o t m e a n that t h e fight f o r e c o n o m i c r e f o r m s o r the w a g i n g of t h e e c o n o m i c s t r u g g l e s h o u l d b e neglected, b u t m e r e l y that they m u s t n o t b e c o m e t h e c h i e f g o a l : Revolutionary Social-Democracy always included, and now includes, in its activities the fight for reforms. But it utilizes "economic" agitation for the purpose of presenting to the government, not only demands for all sorts of measures, but also (and primarily) the demand that it cease to be an autocratic government. Moreover, it considers it to be its duty to present this demand to the government, not on the basis of the economic struggle alone, but on the basis of all manifestations of public and political life. In a word, it subordinates the 2» "Proekt i obiasnenie programmy sotsial-demokraticheskoi partii," ibid., I, 442-43 (1895-96). W h e n Lenin speaks here of wanting to achieve "political liberty," he seems to be thinking chiefly of greater liberty for the Bolshevik Party so that it could carry on its work of preparing for a seizure of power. T h i s does not necessarily mean that Lenin intended to permit political liberty under the "dictatorship of the proletariat." 20 " C h t o delat?" ibid., IV, 404.

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

struggle for reforms to the revolutionary struggle for liberty and Socialism.26 T h e journal Rabochee Dielo, presenting a moderate Economist position, did not go so far as to declare that the workers' struggle must take the exclusive form of an economic movement. Instead, it said that Social-Democrats must "give the economic struggle itself a political character." 27 Lenin declared that by this Rabochee Dielo meant demanding from the government only economic reforms, thus degrading Social-Democratic politics to "Reformism," to trade union politics on the model of English trade unionism. 28 T o limit the revolutionary working-class movement to mere Reformist trade union politics, argued Lenin, meant submitting to bourgeois ideology and making it possible for the bourgeoisie to triumph in the coming revolution. "Any degrading of Social-Democratic politics to trade union politics," he said, "means precisely to prepare the ground for converting the labor movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy." 29 T h e dangers that Lenin believed might result from Economism did not lead him to take a stand opposing the economic struggle that the trade unions were waging. T h e idea of flatly opposing the trade union movement would never have occurred to him. T r a d e unions were important organs of the proletarian class, and there could be no question of ignoring them or opposing them. " T h e accusation that the majority 2« Ibid., p. 409. See also "Po povodu 'Profession de Foi,"" ibid., X X X , 2, 6 (end of 1899). 27 "Chto delat?" ibid., IV, 405. 28 Ibid., pp. 407-8. 2» ibid., p. 414. It is probable that the most influential antirevolutionary organization in the United States is not the National Association of Manufacturers, or the Chamber of Commerce, or the Un-American Activities Committee, but the A.F. of L.-C.I.O. These unions weaken the motive for revolution by helping to effect enduring improvements in the condition of the workers. T h e A.F. of L. especially is the very embodiment of what Lenin would call antirevolutionary "petty trade unionism." T h i s is apparently what Lenin feared would happen to Russian trade unions under the influence of Economism —that they would become satisfied with reform instead of pressing for revolution.

24

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

[the Bolshevik faction] ignores the economic struggle, . . . that it ignores the self-activity of the workers, is . . . devoid of any basis," he claimed. 30 Lenin called upon his fellow SocialDemocrats to "lead the economic struggle of the proletariat, . . . organize trade unions of workers and try to expand them into all-Russian unions, . . . use every strike, every manifestation of economic oppression . . . for the widest socialist and revolutionary propaganda and agitation." 31 Social-Democracy is a combination of the labor movement with socialism. Its task is not passively to serve the labor movement at each of its separate stages, but to represent the interests of the movement as a whole, to point out to this movement its ultimate aims and its political task, and to protect its political ideological independence.32 Instead of neglecting the economic struggle, said Lenin, Social-Democrats should combine it with the political struggle, furnish the workers with revolutionary leadership, and direct them from the narrow limits of the economic struggle into a broad fight for the overthrow of the existing regime. From Lenin's viewpoint the economic struggle might serve as an important support for the political struggle, b u t the political fight was the main one. Always in the forefront of his mind was the coming revolution, through which, he thought, the economic and all other problems of the working class would finally be solved. T r a d e unions and the struggle for economic reforms, therefore, were judged by him chiefly on the basis of their relation to the coming revolution. 33 Lenin's early insistence on the primacy of the political struggle had an interesting parallel during the revolutionary events of 1917, when the Russian Marxists were debating whether or not Russia was ripe for a socialist revolution and whether it was proper, therefore, for the Bolsheviks to attempt to seize power. T h e Mensheviks and some of the Bolsheviks protested that, according to Marx, a proletarian revolution could take so "Tezisy moego referata," Leninskii sbornik, X V I (Moscow-Leningrad, 1931), p. 74 (December, 1904). 31 "Pismo 'Severnomu Soiuzu,' " Lenin, Sochineniia, V, 130 (April, 1902). 32 "Nasushchnye zadachi nashego dvizheniia," ibid., IV, 56 (December, igoo). 33 For further elaboration of this point, see Chapter X.

Lenin's Criticism of Economism place only in an advanced, industrialized, capitalist country. Marx had predicted that capitalism would transform the methods and relations of production, would proletarianize the majority of the population, and that the oppressed workers would inevitably rise up and overthrow the capitalists in a political revolution. Economics would determine politics. Lenin, while professing loyalty to Marxism, acted directly contrary to Marx's formula. Just as in 1902 he demanded that the political struggle be given precedence over the economic struggle, so in ig 17 he insisted upon carrying out a "proletarian" revolution, despite the fact that Russia was a backward, agricultural country with very few proletarians. Having succeeded in his political revolution, Lenin then used the power of the state to carry out an economic revolution, expropriating the property of the capitalists and "socializing" ownership in the basic means of production. Politics determined economics. The Economic Struggle as a Means of Developing Political Consciousness Earlier we have noted that one of the reasons why Lenin was pleased by the spread of strikes and the growth of the trade union movement was that he believed this economic struggle would help develop political consciousness among the backward workers. Yet we have also seen that Lenin violently attacked the Economists when they argued that the economic struggle was "the most widely applicable method of drawing the masses into active political struggle." " Just where did Lenin stand on this issue? He did not retract his earlier statements that the strike movement developed political consciousness, but he claimed that this was only an immature form of political consciousness— not true Social-Democratic consciousness. Those Social-Democrats who had limited themselves to narrow economic agitation, he said, had been engaged not in real socialist work, but in mere trade union work. The practice of exposing bad factory conditions 3* "Chto delat?" Lenin, Sochineniia, IV, 405. For an article supporting this argument, see "4-i sezd Vseobschchago Evreiskago Rabochago Soiuza v Rossii i Polshe," Rabochee Dielo, No. 10 (September, 1901), pp. 122-26.

26

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

merely dealt with the relations between the workers in a given trade and their immediate employers, and all that it achieved was that the vendors of labor power learned to sell their "commodity" on better terms, and to fight the purchasers of labor power over a purely commercial deal. These exposures might have served (if properly utilized by revolutionaries) as a beginning and a constituent part of SocialDemocratic activity, but they might also have led (and with subservience to spontaneity inevitably did lead) to a "pure and simple" trade union struggle and to a non-Social-Democratic labor movement. 35 L e n i n declared that there were many other ways besides the economic struggle of attracting the masses to the political struggle and making them revolutionary: All and sundry manifestations of police tyranny and autocratic outrage, besides the evils connected with the economic struggle, are equally "widely applicable" as a means of "drawing in" the masses. . . . Of all the innumerable cases in which the workers suffer . . . from tyranny, violence, and lack of rights, undoubtedly only a relatively few represent cases of police tyranny in the economic struggle as such.36 Social-Democrats must point out to the workers not only the economic ills of their life under tsardom, L e n i n maintained, b u t all of the other ways in which they were oppressed: Inasmuch as political oppression affects all sorts of classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in varied spheres of life and activity . . . . we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organization of the political exposure of autocracy in all its aspects.37 "Subservience to Spontaneity" vs. "Conscious Leadership" A c c o r d i n g to the Economists, said L e n i n , the ideological disputes of the Social-Democratic intelligentsia and the ideological propaganda which they disseminated had almost no influence on the practical-minded masses engaged in the day-to-day economic struggle. In a letter to Iskra, a Social-Democratic 85 " C h t o delat?" Lenin,

3« Ibid., IV, 406. «Ibid., IV, 405.

Sochineniia,

IV, 404.

Lenin's

Criticism

of

Economism

newspaper of which L e n i n was an editor, a "defender Economism" criticized Lenin's attitude:

of

T h e principal drawback of . . . \Iskra\ is the extreme importance it attaches to the influence the ideologists of the movement exercise upon its various tendencies. A t the same time, Iskra gives too little consideration to the material elements and the material environment of the movement whose interaction creates a certain type of labor movement and defines its path, from which the ideologists, in spite of all their efforts, are incapable of diverting it, even if they are inspired by the best theories and programs. 58 L e n i n was p r o m p t to reply. It was not only the material environment w h i c h determined what kind of labor m o v e m e n t developed, he said. Conscious leadership was just as important. T h e Economists, he charged, fail to understand that an "ideologist" is worthy of that name only when he marches ahead of the spontaneous movement, points out the road, and when he is able ahead of all others to solve all the theoretical, political, tactical and organizational questions which the "material elements" of the movement spontaneously encounter. . . . T o say, however, that ideologists (i.e., conscious leaders) cannot divert from its path the movement created by the interaction of environment and [material] elements, is to ignore the elementary truth that consciousness participates in this interaction and creation. Catholic . . . labor unions in Europe are also an inevitable result of the interaction of environment and [material] elements. T h e difference, however, is that it was the consciousness of priests . . . and not that of socialists that participated in this interaction. 38 T h e Economists argued that instead of trying to impose an abstract ideology on the workers, Social-Democrats should observe the spontaneous labor m o v e m e n t and learn f r o m the masses.40 T h e y claimed that Social-Democracy existed "merely to serve the spontaneous labor m o v e m e n t , " that the workingclass movement could not be pushed f r o m outside, b u t must grow spontaneously. 4 1 38 "Beseda s zashchitnikami ekonomizma," ibid., IV, 339 (December, 1901).

8» Ibid., p. 341.

40 "Chto delat?" ibid., IV, 390. «1 "Proekt zaiavleniia redaktsii 'Iskry' i 'Zari,' " ibid., IV, 9 (autumn, 1900).

28

Lenin's

T h e j o u r n a l Rabochee

Dielo

Criticism

of

Economism

p u b l i s h e d a characteristic state-

m e n t of the v i e w that spontaneity was m o r e i m p o r t a n t

than

leadership: T h e revolutionary Social-Democrat is confronted only by the task of accelerating objective developments by his conscious work; it is not his task to obviate them or substitute his own subjective plans for this development. Iskra knows all this in theory. B u t the enormous importance which Marxism quite justly attaches to conscious revolutionary work causes it in practice, owing to its doctrinaire view of tactics, to belittle the significance of the objective or the spontaneous elements of development,42 L e n i n considered such a v i e w i n t o l e r a b l e . T o r e l i n q u i s h the leadership of the mass labor m o v e m e n t w o u l d b e o p e n i n g u p the w a y to all sorts of d e v i a t i o n s f r o m the c o r r e c t ,

Marxian

path. " E c o n o m i s m , " he said, " f a i l s to u n d e r s t a n d t h e d a n g e r of, a n d e v e n defends,

straggling,

i.e

the conscious

leaders

l a g g i n g b e h i n d the s p o n t a n e o u s a w a k e n i n g of t h e masses."

43

T h e fundamental error committed by the "new tendency" in SocialDemocracy lies in its subservience to spontaneity, and its failure to understand that the spontaneity of the masses demands a great deal of consciousness from us Social-Democrats. T h e more spontaneously the masses arise, the more widespread the movement becomes, so much the more rapidly grows the demand for greater consciousness in the theoretical, political, and organizational work of SocialDemocracy. 44 T o those w h o h a d a r g u e d that the mass l a b o r

movement

c o u l d n o t b e " p u s h e d " f r o m outside, L e n i n r e p l i e d that there had b e e n far too little of such p u s h i n g o n t h e part of the conscious leaders, that they had " b o w e d far t o o slavishly b e f o r e the e c o n o m i c struggle of the w o r k e r s . "

45

T h e "material elements"

of the m o v e m e n t , w h i c h the E c o n o m i s t s t h o u g h t so i m p o r t a n t , -12 B. Krichevskii, "Printsipy, taktika i borba," Rabochee Dielo, No. 10 (September, 1901), p. 18. (Also quoted in " C h t o Delat?" Lenin, Sochineniia, IV, 399.) For a view similar to Krichevskii's see " R . M.," "Nasha deistvitelnost," Otdelnoe prilozhenie k "Rabochei Mysli," September, 1899, pp 3-16. .(b) v postanovleniiakh ee sezdov igoj-igii gg., p. 42. (Italics added.) 11 "Tretia konferentsiia, R.S.-D.R.P. ('Vtoraia obshcherossiiskaia')," Lenin, Sochineniia, 4th ed. (Moscow, 1941-50), X I I I , 46 (July, 1907). (Italics added.)

Neutrality of Trade

64

Unions

T h r e e other resolutions were offered to the Conference on this question. One was by V. G . Grinevich (M. G. Kogan), an active trade unionist who feared that Lenin was not sufficiently concerned over the interests of the unions: T h e premature establishment of an organizational connection might lead not to friendship, but to the isolation of the political and the economic organizations of the proletariat. . . . T h e establishment of formal organizational connections (meaning the unions' incorporation into the Party or the recognition of its ideological leadership) is inadmissible in those cases where it: a) leads to a division of the trade union organizations, b) narrows the circle of their members or of their influence, or c) hinders the unity of the unions with the same kind of unions in other cities or fusion with related unions in larger organizational units. . . Another resolution was presented in opposition to L e n i n by Theodore Dan, a Menshevik. He likewise sounded a note of caution against forcing the trade unions to accept Party leadership: T h e demand for the recognition by the trade unions of the SocialDemocratic program and the subordination of them to the Party organizations not only cannot contribute to the strengthening of the connection between the economic and the political movements of the proletariat, but is capable, on the contrary, of sowing seeds of discord between the trade union movement and tearing away the Party from the working masses organized in trade unions, thereby pushing the latter along the road of anarchism and syndicalism.14 It was the same difference in point of view that had so often divided Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. T h e Mensheviks were generally interested in making the labor movement as broad as possible, even at the price of some weakening of Party domination. L e n i n generally insisted upon rigid Party control, even at the price of some narrowing of the labor movement. 12

"Vtoraia obshcherossiiskaia konferentsiia," ibid., XII, 440-41. For a discussion of these resolutions see Solomon Schwarz, Lenine et le mouvement syndical (Paris, 1935), pp. 59-60, and Isaac Deutscher, Soviet Trade Unions (London and New York, 1950), pp. 10-11. Deutscher mistakenly says that these events took place at the London Congress. it "Vtoraia obshcherossiiskaia konferentsiia," Lenin, Sochineniia, XII, 442.

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

The Stuttgart Congress T h e International Socialist Congress held at Stuttgart in A u g u s t , 1907, is important to our story because it devoted a great a m o u n t of attention to the question of trade u n i o n neutrality. B o t h Mensheviks and Bolsheviks (including L e n i n ) attended the Congress, took part in the debate on neutrality, and after the Congress carried on a hot controversy over the interpretation of the resolution adopted. T h e resolution was sufficiently a m b i g u o u s for both sides to claim a victory. It said in part: T o emancipate the proletariat . . . , the political and the economic struggles are equally necessary. . . . T h e Party and the trade unions have tasks equally important. . . . Each of the two organizations has its distinct domain determined by its nature and in which it ought to regulate its action in an absolutely independent fashion. But there is also a domain . . . in which it is possible to gain advantages only through the accord and cooperation of the Party with the trade unions. Consequently the proletarian struggle will be that much more active and that much more fruitful if the relations between the trade unions and the Party are closer, without compromising the necessary unity of the trade union movement. T h e Congress declares that it is in the interest of the working class that in all countries close relations be formed between the trade unions and the Party and that they be made permanent. 11 In part this resolution reflected the controversy g o i n g on between Lenin and the Mensheviks. It contained an amendment offered by George Plekhanov, representing the Menshevik point of view. H e made a speech at the Congress saying: We have, in western Russia, fifteen parties at least, of which eleven function side by side in certain regions. If we draw the trade unions and the parties together more intimately, we cut the trade union organization in Russia into fifteen impotent fragments. . . . In view of the circumstances . . . , I think that the trade union organizations ought to be neutral. . . . n Vile Congrès Socialiste International tenu à Stuttgart du z6 au 24 août 1907. Compte-rendu analytique publié par le Secrétariat du Bureau Socialiste International (Bruxelles, 1908), pp. 424-25.

66

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

It is {or these considerations that I wish to attach to the . . . resolution, at the end of the third paragraph, the following: "without compromising the necessary unity of the trade union movement." 18 Both L e n i n and the Mensheviks could find something in the Stuttgart resolution that they liked and something that they disliked. Y e t both pretended that they were entirely satisfied and praised the resolution, the reason probably being that each faction wished to claim the backing of international socialism for its particular point of view. O n the one hand, the resolution spoke of the political struggle and the economic struggle as being "equally necessary," of the Party and the trade unions as having tasks "equally important," and of each regulating its action " i n an absolutely independent fashion." T h i s coincided with the Menshevik point of view. Furthermore, Plekhanov's amendment asserting the primary importance of preserving trade u n i o n unity was a clear victory for the Menshevik side. T h u s these were the parts of the resolution which the Mensheviks emphasized. 19 Plekhanov claimed that the Stuttgart resolution, with his amendment, repudiated the position taken by the Bolsheviks at the L o n d o n Congress. T h i s was not exactly true, nor was Lenin's statement that Plekhanov's amendment "did not have any serious significance." 17 Actually, the amendment provided exactly the kind of loophole the Mensheviks wanted; it enabled them to declare in favor of unions connected to the Party as a general principle for all countries, w h i l e at the same time violating this principle in Russia whenever it suited their convenience. B u t while the amendment was a victory for Plekhanov and the Mensheviks, not all of the resolution was. Plekhanov had stated q u i t e clearly that he thought trade unions ought to be is Ibid., p. 209. This amendment was adopted unanimously. Whether Lenin voted is not known. 18

See, for example, V. G. Grinevich, Professionalnoe dviihenie rabochikh v

Rossii (3d ed., Moscow, 1923), p. 248. 1 7 "Predislovie k broshiure Voinova (A. V. Lunacharskogo) ob otnoshenii partii k profcssionalnym soiuzam," Lenin, Sochinetiiia, 4th ed., XIII, 142-43 (November, 1907).

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

neutral, but the resolution called for close relations between the trade unions and the Party "in all countries." So it was this part of the resolution that Lenin emphasized. T h e resolution of the Stuttgart Congress [Lenin said] . . . brings an end to the recognition of "neutrality" as a principle. T h e r e is not a word concerning neutrality or non-partyness in the resolution. O n the contrary, the necessity of a close connection of the unions with the socialist party and the strengthening of these connections received complete definition. 1 8

There can be no doubt, however, that there were several parts of the resolution which Lenin did not like, even though he never publicly admitted it. He must have found particularly distasteful the statement that trade unions within their own domain must regulate their actions "in an absolutely independent fashion." However, the general tenor of the resolution is certainly opposed to neutrality. T h e appeal for close and permanent relations between the trade unions and the Party was the sort of thing Lenin had been demanding. Consequently, he swallowed the objectionable parts of the resolution and proclaimed it a victory for him and his followers. LENIN

OPENLY

ATTACKS

NEUTRALITY

Lenin claimed that the Stuttgart Congress marked a turning point in his views on the question of neutrality. A month after the Congress he wrote: In " W h a t Is to Be Done?" . . . I expressed myself . . . for the neutrality of trade unions. Since that time, neither in pamphlets nor in newspaper articles have I expressed myself otherwise. . . . O n l y the London Congress of the R.S.-D.L.P. and the Stuttgart International Socialist Congress forced me to the conclusion that the neutrality of the trade unions cannot be defended in principle. T h e closest drawing together of the unions with the Party—that is the only true principle. 1 9

It is true that Stuttgart marked something of a change for 18 "Mezhdunarodnyi sotsialisticheskii kongress v Shtutgarte," I.enin, Sochineniia, XII, 81 (end of 1907). 1» "Predislovie k sborniku: "Za 12 l e t , ' " ibid., XII, 66 (September, 1907).

68

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

Lenin, but not in the way he claimed. It was only after that Congress that he openly renounced neutrality, using this precise word. But, as we have seen, he was from the very first opposed to genuine neutrality, even though he was willing to permit an appearance of neutrality for tactical reasons.®0 However, Lenin naturally recognized that in the early stages of the labor movement it was not always possible to secure Party domination of the trade unions. During the first years of the Russian labor movement, when Social-Democratic consciousness was very little developed, some of the trade unions had inevitably been neutral. In 1907, however, Lenin declared that this could no longer be tolerated. All trade unions had to be brought under the firm control of the Party. Plekhanov attacked Lenin on this issue, arguing that neutrality was necessary for the unity of the workers, in order that together they could work to improve their material conditions. 21 Lenin replied that neutrality might lead to Reformism: The theory of the neutrality of the unions, in contrast to the theory of the necessity of a close connection of them with revolutionary Social-Democracy, leads inevitably to a preference for those methods of improvement which cause a dulling of the class struggle of the proletariat. . . . Neutrality . . . promotes primarily the unity of the workers for the improvement of their conditions, but not unity for battle.22 As an example of the detrimental effect of union neutrality, Lenin cited the case of Germany, where, he said, the unions had been led along the path of Reformism: That the idea of neutrality, which was rejected at Stuttgart, had had time to inflict much damage on the labor movement is seen particularly clearly from the example of Germany. There, neutrality has been preached most and applied most. As a result, the trade unions 20 On this point see Schwarz, Lenine et le mouvement syndical, pp. 68-6g, and Osnovy marksistsko-leninskogo ucheniia o profsoiuzakh, Part I (Moscow, 1933),

pp. S9-30. G. V. Plekhanov, "Kritika teorii i p rale tiki sindikalizma," Sovremennyi Mir, No. i t (December, 1907). "Neitralnost professionalnykh soiuzov," Lenin, Sochineniia, X I I , 146 (February, 1908).

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

of Germany have deviated . . . obviously in the direction of opportunism.23 But if neutrality was bad, did this mean that Lenin in the early days, when he wrote What Is to Be Done?, had himself been spreading false ideas among the working class? Lenin had to find some justification for having defended a policy of external neutrality earlier: At the beginning of the political and economic labor movement in Europe it was possible to defend the neutrality of the unions as a means of spreading the initial base of the proletarian struggle in the epoch of its comparative backwardness, and in the absence of systematic bourgeois influence in the unions. But at the present time, from the point of view of international Social-Democracy, to defend the neutrality of the trade unions is completely out of place.24 THE

IDEA

PARTY

OF

UNIONS

CONTROLLED

BY

CELLS

Interestingly enough, shortly after Lenin took the position that "the neutrality of the trade unions cannot be defended in principle," he was again busily engaged in trying to devise ways of preserving the appearance of neutrality in practice. His reasons for desiring a semblance of neutrality were the same as before—to avoid arousing the suspicions of non-Bolshevik workers and of the tsarist government. By 1908 reaction was in full swing in Russia and the police were busy dissolving many of the trade unions, particularly those known to have close connections with the socialist parties. In such a situation it would have been the utmost folly for unions openly to bear a Social-Democratic label. Something had to be done to preserve the Social-Democratic nature of the unions while concealing this from the police. In addition there was the problem of preventing the collapse of the whole trade union movement. Proposed solutions to these problems were embodied in a resolution adopted at a meeting of the Central Committee of the 23 "Mezhdunarodnyi (end of 1907). "Ibid., X I I , 145.

sotsialijticheskii

kongress v Shtutgarte,"

ibid.,

X I I , 90

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

Party in January, 1908. T h e r e the Bolsheviks offered a resolution which was not written by Lenin, but which he indicated met his approval. It said in part: I. . . . the work of Social-Democracy in the trade union movement . . . must be carried out . . . not in . . . a spirit of recognizing the principle of the neutrality or the non-partyness of trade unions, but on the contrary, in the spirit of constantly striving for the closest and most lasting rapprochement possible of the unions with the Social-Democratic Party. T h e recognition by the trade unions of the Party must be achieved by the work of propaganda and organization of Social-Democracy within the trade unions, and the declaration of this partyness is expedient only when a significant majority of the members of the trade union are joined firmly to Social-Democracy. II. The trade unions during their legal existence did not succeed in the majority of cases in creating solidly organized cells within their center. . . . Therefore repression by the government led not only to the closing of many unions, but also to the complete destruction of several of them. In view of this there rises to the first rank at the present time the task of creating such solidly organized cells. Without such cells it is impossible either to create stable trade unions or to lead the economic struggle of the proletariat. Ill These cells must be organized in all factories and plants, that is, plant trade union organizations must be established. T h e members of the Social-Democratic Party must form solid groups in all such organizations for systematically influencing them in a Social-Democratic spirit. IV. Where police repression has completely smashed the legal trade unions . . . it is necessary immediately to begin the organization of illegal trade unions. . . . As the foundation for the local unity of the trade unions there should be united Party-trade union groups, located in close organizational connection with the local Party center.25 T h i s resolution marks a return to an idea which Lenin first expressed in What Is to Be Done?, an idea which he was to 26 "Rezoliutsiia o professionalnykh soiuzakh," ibid., X I I , 447-48. Lenin expressed his approval in "Neitralnost professionalnykh soiuzov," ibid., X I I , 138-41 (February, 1908). (Italics added.) T h e resolution was adopted by both the Bolshevik and Menshevik members of the Central Committee, after minor modifications.

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

u t i l i z e also a f t e r the establishment of the Soviet

state—i.e.,

c o n t r o l l i n g u n i o n s t h r o u g h Party cells. A s d e v e l o p e d by L e n i n the scheme was this: A union m u s t be organized in each factory. A l s o w i t h i n each factory cell there w o u l d be f o r m e d a sub-cell, a cell members,

of

cell union Party

w h o w o u l d a t t e m p t to lead the u n i o n in accordance

w i t h directives f r o m the Party center. " T h e Party n a t u r e of the trade u n i o n s , " he said, " m u s t be a t t a i n e d exclusively b y the w o r k of Social-Democrats w i t h i n the unions, a n d . . . SocialD e m o c r a t s must f o r m solid cells in the u n i o n s . "

28

T h e idea of P a r t y cells in the trade u n i o n s was the ideal s o l u t i o n f o r the k i n d of trade u n i o n - P a r t y r e l a t i o n s h i p L e n i n desired. H e c o u l d see that there were certain practical disadvantages in h a v i n g the u n i o n s o p e n l y affiliated w i t h the Party, b u t he was even m o r e seriously c o n c e r n e d o v e r w h a t

might

h a p p e n if the trade u n i o n m o v e m e n t w e r e n o t u n d e r the firm c o n t r o l of the Social-Democratic Party. T h e answer, he declared, lay in u n i o n s w h i c h in a p p e a r a n c e w e r e n e u t r a l b u t in fact w e r e d o m i n a t e d by Party cells. T h i s is, of course, the t e c h n i q u e that various

Communist

"front"

organizations

have

been

using

ever since. I n s u b s e q u e n t years L e n i n c o n t i n u e d to h o l d to the idea of trade u n i o n s d o m i n a t e d by P a r t y cells, a n d he spelled o u t the m e t h o d i n greater detail. A t the P r a g u e C o n f e r e n c e of Bolshev i k s in 1912 the f o l l o w i n g r e s o l u t i o n b y h i m was a d o p t e d : It is necessary that the illegal Party organizations participate most actively in the leadership of the economic struggle (strikes, strike committees, etc.), and that in this area collaboration be established between the illegal Party cells and the trade unions, and especially with the Social-Democratic cells in the trade unions, and also with individual workers in the trade union movement. W h i l e taking into consideration local conditions, it is advisable that cells of Social-Democrats in the trade unions, organized according to trade, be joined with Party cells organized on a territorial basis.27 28 "Neitralnost professionalnykh soiuzov," ibid., XII, 138 (February, 1908). 2T "Rezoliutsii prazhkoi konferentsii R.S.-D.R.P.," ibid., XV, 383 (January,

72

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

T h a t L e n i n continued to hold these views is shown by the resolution adopted at the meeting of the Central C o m m i t t e e and Party workers in August, 1913. O n c e again L e n i n was the author. T h e resolution said in part: Social-Democrats must attract into all workers' societies the broadest possible circles of workers, inviting into membership all workers without distinction according to party views. But the SocialDemocrats must within these societies organize Party groups and through long, systematic work within all these societies establish the very closest relations between them and the Social-Democratic Party. . . . in all the work of the trade unions, . . . while defending the complete unity of the movement and the subordination of the minority to the majority, the Party line must be followed, and one must strive for the election to all responsible posts of Party adherents, etc.28 In other words, in a trade u n i o n the majority rules only so long as it faithfully follows the Party line! O n c e again, as in What Is to Be Done?, the concept of the C o m m u n i s t " f r o n t " organization clearly emerges. H e r e also is anticipated the method by which trade unions were to be organized in the new Soviet state—trade unions controlled by the Party, "the Vanguard of the proletariat," and used by the Party as a method of ruling the masses. In December, 1920, Lenin was to declare: T h e trade unions establish connections between the Vanguard and the masses. . . . Thus we get, as it were, a system of cogwheels. . . . T h e dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be effected by organizations that embrace the whole of the proletariat. It is impossible to effect the dictatorship without having a number of "transmission belts" from the Vanguard to the masses of the advanced class, and from the latter to the masses of the toilers, . . . the peasants.29 1912). See also "Nelegalnaia partiia i legalnaia rabota," Lenin, Sochineniia, 4th ed., XVIII, 359 (November, 191s). 28 "Rezoliutsii letnego 1913 goda soveshchaniia Ts.K. R.S.-D.R.P. s partiinymi rabotnikami," Lenin, Sochineniia, XVII, 1 0 - u (summer, 1913). 28 "O professionalnykh soiuzakh, o tekushchem momente i ob oshibkakh tov. Trotskogo," ibid., XXVI, 64-65 (December, 1920).

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

73

T h u s Lenin described a m a j o r part of the system of cogwheels by which the Party effected its dictatorship: T h e Party machine, h e said, controlled the trade unions, which in turn controlled the advanced class (the proletariat), which in turn controlled the "masses of the toilers, . . . the peasants." In his famous book, "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Sickness, L e n i n explained how his concept of " f r o n t " trade unions was put into effect after the Bolshevik Revolution: In its work the Party relies directly on the trade unions . . . which, formally, are non-Party. Actually, all the controlling bodies of the overwhelming majority of the unions, and primarily, of course, the all-Russian general trade union center . . . , consist of Communists and carry out all the instructions of the Party. Thus . . . we have a formally non-Communist, flexible, relatively wide, and very powerful proletarian apparatus, by means of which the Party is closely linked up with the class and with the masses, and by means of which, under the leadership of the Party, the dictatorship of the class is effected.»0 TRADE

UNIONS

AS T O O L S

OF

THE

PARTY

A t the core of the attacks on Lenin's views regarding neutrality was the idea of trade u n i o n equality with the Party and independence from Party dictation. T h e Stuttgart resolution had said that " t h e Party and the trade unions have tasks equally important," a n d that "each of the two organizations has its distinct domain . . . in w h i c h it ought to regulate its action in an absolutely independent fashion" (italics added). It was on this g r o u n d that many of Lenin's critics took their stand. Peter Struve, for example, insisted that the unions had "a self-sufficient significance." 31 Victor Chernov, the Socialist »"Detskaia bolezn 'Levizny' v kommunizme," ibid., XXV, 192 (April, 1920). That Lenin thought this system of Party cells applicable to countries other than Russia is clear from his insistence that parties belonging to the Comintern follow the same practice. See "Usloviia priema v kommunisticheskii internatsional," ibid., X X V , 282 (July, 1920). In 1927 Stalin stated: "Formally, the Party cannot give the trade unions any directives; but the Party gives directives to the Communists who work in the trade unions." Works, X (Moscow, 1954) 108. »1 "Nasushchnaia zadacha viemeni," Osvobozhcdenie, No. 63 (January 7, 1905).

Neutrality

74

of Trade

Unions

R e v o l u t i o n a r y leader, declared at the E i g h t h I n t e r n a t i o n a l Socialist Congress: T r a d e union action, cooperative action, and political action are means and not the end. . . . Each form . . . has need of independence and autonomy. . . . Coordination must be free, spontaneous and not forced from without; it must have for its basis the principle of equality of rights. 32 O n a n o t h e r occasion, C h e r n o v d w e l t on the dangers to the trade u n i o n m o v e m e n t of d o m i n a t i o n by a political party: Party tutelage can be extremely inconvenient and harmful for the trade union movement. T h i s is especially true in those cases when the party looks on the trade union as a simple tool for recruitment and agitation, or as support for an election campaign, and when, as a consequence of this, the development of the trade union movement itself does not have independent interest and significance for the party. 33 L e n i n ' s p o i n t of v i e w was, of course, just the opposite. F o r h i m trade u n i o n s were " a u x i l i a r i e s " of the Party. 3 4 T h e y w e r e to serve "as a b a s e " for the Party; their p u r p o s e w o u l d be to "assist the socialist m o v e m e n t . "

35

T r a d e unions, he said, w e r e

absolutely essential f o r the success of the r e v o l u t i o n a r y movem e n t , a n d in that sense they w e r e as i m p o r t a n t as the Party. H e d i d not b e l i e v e that the trade u n i o n m o v e m e n t had any i n d e p e n d e n t significance, h o w e v e r . It was i m p o r t a n t only in so far as it played a role in the r e v o l u t i o n a r y m o v e m e n t to overthrow capitalism. A n d f o r it to play that role correctly it w o u l d have to be u n d e r the constant c o n t r o l of the Bolshevik Party. Otherwise

the

unions

would

stray

from

the

correct

revo-

l u t i o n a r y path a n d o n t o the disastrous road of Reformism. 3 6 3 2 "Speech of 30 August, 1910," Huitième Congrès Socialiste International tenu à Copenhague du 28 août au j septembre 1910. Compte rendu analytique (Bruxelles, 1911), p. 115.

s 3 "Professionalnoe dvizhenie i marksistskaia ortodoksiia," Sbornik

statei, No. 1

('9°7>s* " C h t o delat?" Lenin, Sochineniia, IV, 450 (1902). s» " P o povodu "Profession de foi,' " ibid., X X X , 6-7 (end of 1899). 3 6 For an extreme statement by D. Riazanov, a Bolshevik, to the effect that trade union questions must be decided "always from the point of view of Party interests," see the article "Sotsial-demokratiia i professionalnye soiuzy v Rossii," Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 5 (May «3, 1909).

Neutrality

of Trade

Unions

75

T h e controversy over the relationship between the Party and the trade unions under capitalism came to an end for practical purposes with the beginning of W o r l d W a r I. From that time on, the attention of Lenin and the other Russian revolutionaries was occupied with other issues and other problems, which will be dealt with in the succeeding chapters. 37 Communist parties still use Lenin's tactic of trade unions that try to appear neutral. In October, 1956, the Italian Communist Party announced the restoration of " a u t o n o m y " to the General Confederation of Italian Labor (CGIL) and other mass organizations. T h e announcement maintained that trade unions should not be mere "transmission belts" for some political party, not even for the Communist Party. However, it cautioned that the C G I L should not go to the other extreme of adopting a policy of " p u r e unionism" or "political neutrality." T h e wording of the directive made it rather clear that the Italian Party was following Lenin's scheme of unions which pretended to be independent, but which in fact continued to be dominated by Party cells. Barrett M c G u r n , "Italian Reds 'Liberate' Mass Organizations," New York Herald Tribune (Paris ed.), October ig, 1956.

VIII The Imperialist War and the Social-Chauvinists, 1914-17 BY far the most noteworthy thing about Lenin's attitude toward trade unions during the period from July, 1914, to January, 1917, was the fact that he almost ignored the question. One searches in vain through his writings of these years for a single article addressed directly to the subject of trade unions. A few remarks can be found scattered here and there, but they are usually peripheral to the main point of discussion. T h e r e are several possible reasons for this neglect of an issue which had taken u p so much of Lenin's time in earlier years. One is the fact that the trade unions in Russia were badly hit by the war. As early as October, 1914, Lenin was writing that "the majority of the labor unions have been closed." 1 There was relatively little happening in the Russian trade union movement, and with the war censorship it was difficult for him to find out about what did happen. Lenin spent this period in Switzerland, cut off by the war not only from Russia but also from the other big countries whose trade union movements had some importance. Another reason for Lenin's neglect of the trade union question was his almost complete preoccupation with another matter—the attitude of socialists toward the war. During the years before 1914, the Second Socialist International had on many occasions taken a strong stand against war. Yet when the war actually came, the vast majority of the European socialists did nothing to oppose it, socialist deputies in parliaments voted for war credits, and proletarians worked or fought along with their co-nationals. 2 T h i s course of events was one of the greatest disappointments of Lenin's life. Alone except for a handful 1 "Voina i rossiiskaia sotsial-demokratiia," Lenin, Sochineniia, XVIII, 64 (October, 1914). 2 See Merle Fainsod, International Socialism and the World War (Cambridge, Mass., 1935).

Imperialist

War and

Social-Chauvinists

77

of fellow members of the extreme left, he spent his exile in denouncing the "traitors to Marxism," the pseudo-internationalists who, he said, had proved to be "Social-Chauvinists." If Lenin did not write much on trade unions, therefore, it was in part because he was spending his time trying to explain why this "betrayal" had taken place and how it might be overcome. Most of what he wrote during these years is concerned with the question of war and peace, or with related matters such as national self-determination and imperialism. When he mentioned trade unions at all it was usually in attempting to explain the causes of the war and the "great betrayal." THE OF

SOCIAL-CHAUVINISTS THE

AS

SUCCESSORS

ECONOMISTS

As has been seen, Lenin was inclined to identify the enemy of the present with the enemy of the past, and this he did with the Social-Chauvinists. From his point of view, the entire European socialist movement for the previous twenty years or more had been split into two main groups: the Revolutionists (among whom Lenin belonged), and the Reformists or Opportunists in their various guises. He declared that the SocialChauvinists had proved un-Marxian in regard to war because in reality they had been un-Marxian all along: they had talked like revolutionaries, but had acted like Reformists. The Russian Social-Chauvinists, he said, could be traced all the way back to the Economists, the first variety of Reformists in Russia, who had wanted to put undue emphasis on the trade union movement. The Economists, he said, had been the predecessors of the Mensheviks, who in turn had produced the Liquidators, and who finally had shown themselves to be Social-Chauvinists. Thus, he argued, his enemies of the Social-Democratic right had been traitors to Marxism all along.3 T o Lenin's way of thinking, those who had wrong ideas concerning trade unions were the same ones who had wrong ideas concerning the war. Those who over-emphasized legal, Reform»"Sotsializm i voina," Lenin,

Sochineniia,

XVIII, 218-ii

(August, 1915).

Imperialist

War and

Social-Chauvinists

ist activities, such as trade union work, had actually sold themselves to the capitalists, and therefore they supported the capitalistic war. T h o s e who limited themselves to the economic struggle and to legal organizations, he said, had become so corrupted that they no longer believed in Marxism and were even willing to condone mass slaughter for the sake of imperialist aims. 4 L e n i n f o u n d that what he considered to be erroneous attitudes toward the war were particularly prevalent a m o n g the trade union leaders of western Europe. " I n England," he said, "the British Socialist Party has completely sunk into chauvinism, as is the case with the majority of the semi-liberal leaders of the trade unions." 5 T h e same was true, he said, of the trade union leaders in Switzerland and France." IMPERIALISM

AS

AN

SOCIAL-CHAUVINISM

EXPLANATION IN

THE

TRADE

OF UNIONS

L e n i n declared from the beginning that W o r l d W a r I was an imperialist war, that it was merely a fight among the capitalists of various nations for control of world resources and markets. B u t if this was so, then why did the workers support such a war; why did they fight to enrich the imperialistic capitalists? L e n i n had an answer for this too; it was a variation of the Marxist theory of the L a b o r Aristocracy: What is the economic nature of the theory of national defense in the war of 1914-15? . . . A few crumbs of the huge profits of the bourgeoisie may fall to the share of a small circle of the labor bureaucracy, the Labor Aristocracy, and the petty-bourgeois fellowtravellers. T h e class basis of Social-Chauvinism and of Opportunism is the same, namely, the alliance between a thin stratum of privileged workers and "their" national bourgeoisie against the masses of the working class; the alliance between the lackeys of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie, against the class the latter is exploiting. 7 * " O p p o r t u n i z m i krakh II internatsionala," ibid., X I X , 8-9 (January, 1916). s "Polozhenie i zadachi sotsialisticheskogo internatsionala," ibid., X V I I I , 68 (November, 1914). « " O t k r y t o e pismo k Sharliu Nenu," ibid., X I X , 398 (January, 1917); "Patsifizm burzhuaznyi i patsifizm sotsialisticheskii," ibid., 372 (January, 1917). ' " O p p o r t u n i z m i krakh II internatsionala," ibid., X I X , 8 (January, 1916). Lenin's ideas concerning the Labor Aristocracy are discussed below in Chapter X .

Imperialist

War and

Social-Chauvinists

19

Lenin's favorite example of a country whose trade u n i o n Labor Aristocracy had sold themselves to the bourgeoisie was England. T h e r e , he said, the war effort was made possible only through the opportunist actions of the trade u n i o n officials: [The English government is] compelled to strain every nerve to increase "popular enthusiasm for the war." This would be absolutely impossible to attain . . . were not the proletarian masses entirely disorganized and demoralized by the shifting of a minority of the best situated, skilled, and unionized workers to [the support of] liberal, i.e., bourgeois politics. T h e English trade unions already comprise about one-fifth of the wage workers. T h e leaders of those trade unions are mostly liberals whom Marx long ago called agents of the bourgeoisie. All these peculiarities of England help us . . . better to understand the essence of present-day Social-Chauvinism. 8 T h e "chauvinism" of the English trade u n i o n leaders, said Lenin, was not accidental. It was the natural result of many decades d u r i n g which they had been corrupted by sharing the profits of British imperial trade, a corrupting process which had been described many years before by M a r x and Engels." Lenin cited statements by M a r x and Engels in w h i c h they described how the profits of capitalism were used to " b r i b e " the English workers, especially the trade unionists, and w i n them over to Reformism. M a r x and Engels, said L e n i n , spoke of how the capitalists attempted "to buy the workers," and how prosperity generally demoralized the workers. 1 0 L e n i n also quoted Engels as speaking of "the worst type of English trade unions, which allow themselves to be led by m e n sold to, or at least paid by, the bourgeoisie." 11 Almost all of Lenin's remarks about the "bourgeois-chauvinist" leaders of the trade unions refer to the example of England, probably because Marx and Engels had written so m u c h about 8 "Angliiskii patsifizm i angliiskaia neliubov k teorii," ibid., X V I I I , 138 (May, 1915). » "Imperializm i raskol sotsializma," ibid., X I X , 306 (December, 1916). 10 "Karl Marks," ibid., X V I I I , 29 (November, 1914). Lenin's ideas on the possibility of improvements under capitalism and the effect of such improvements are discussed in Chapter X . 11 "Imperializm, kak vysshaia stadiia kapitalizma," ibid., X I X , 158 (July, 1916).

8o

Imperialist

War and

Social-Chauvinists

that country, 12 but he felt the same way about the union leaders of Germany and the United States. H e stated that " K a r l Legien, one of the most prominent . . . representatives of the German trade unions," was an "opportunist" who made "liberal bourgeois" speeches. 13 "Such men . . . as Mr. Legien in Germany and Mr. [Samuel] Gompers in the U.S.A.," he said, "we consider to be bourgeois. . . . [They] represent not the working class but the aristocracy and the bureaucracy of the working class." 14 Lenin also discovered "Labor Aristocrats" in Russia. T h e leaders of the unions of railwaymen and postal employees in Russia generally supported the Mensheviks or the SocialistRevolutionaries. These men, declared Lenin, constituted a "petty-bourgeois and bourgeois upper layer" in the unions, but the masses of the members, he predicted, w o u l d give their support to the Bolsheviks. 18 T h e conduct of the Liquidators and other socialist Reformists during the war was considered by Lenin to be proof of what he had been saying for many years, namely, that these men were not really Marxists, because they were substituting reform for revolution. Prominent among these "traitors to Marxism," he found, were trade union leaders and others who had placed too much emphasis on trade union work and thus had wandered astray from revolutionary socialism to Reformist socialism. 1 2 There is also the possibility that Lenin was influenced by a book on English trade unionism, Industrial Democracy, by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, which Lenin translated into Russian. His translation was published under the title Teortia i praktika angliiskago tred-iunionizma, (2 vols., St. Petersburg, 19001901). Solomon Schwarz believes that the description of English Reformist trade union practices contained in this book very early prejudiced Lenin against the trade union movement. See Schwarz, Lenine et le mouvement syndical, p. g. i" "Chemu ne sleduet podrazhat v nemetskom rabochem dvizhenii," Lenin, Sochineniia, XVII, 333-35 (April, 1914). " "Pismo Lige sotsialisticheskoi propagandy v Amerike," ibid., XVIII, 329 (November, 1915). is "Pismo k tovarishcham," ibid., XXI, 342-43 (October 16 and 17, 1917).

IX 1917—Year of Revolutions LENIN'S TRADE

NEGLECT UNION

OF

THE

QUESTION

D U R I N G the crucial months from the February R e v o l u t i o n to the O c t o b e r R e v o l u t i o n of 1917 L e n i n almost completely ignored the subject of trade unions. For years he had been writing about the coming revolution and the role that the trade unions w o u l d play in this event, but w h e n the revolution finally came, we find him saying nearly nothing about them. His primary concern d u r i n g this period was of course with the question of seizing power, and he apparently considered the trade unions comparatively unimportant in this connection. O n e obvious reason why L e n i n said little about unions during 1917 was that they were overshadowed by the Soviets. W h e n tsardom was overthrown in February, 1917, he declared that the Soviets would be the organ of revolutionary governmental power which would replace the old administration. O n e might have expected that, if he considered the Soviets the chief tool of the Party in the political sphere, he would have looked upon the trade unions as its chief weapon in the economic sphere, but such was not the case. Instead, he placed greater emphasis on another type of organization—the factory committees. D u r i n g and after the February revolution, as the power of the government and the employers declined and as the masses became infected with the revolutionary spirit, it became quite c o m m o n for the workers in a factory to choose a committee to manage their affairs. In a decree of A p r i l 22, 1917, the Provisional Government recognized the right of these committees to represent the workers in their relations with employers and with the government. 1 " T h e factory committees." said the rules proposed by a group of Moscow factory com1 S . O . Zagorsky, State Control Haven, Conn., 1988), p. 171.

of Industry

in Russia During

the War (New

82

79/7—Year of

Revolutions

mittees, "must also, in view of the weakness of the trade unions, undertake the organization of strikes and leadership in the economic struggle of the workers." 2 As the quotation indicates, many functions which one normally would have expected trade unions to assume were instead taken over by the factory committees. T h a t Lenin emphasized the factory committees more than he did the unions was no doubt partly a result of the fact that during the months preceding the Bolshevik revolution the majority of the unions were dominated by the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, whereas the Bolsheviks were able to achieve a preponderance among the factory committees. 3 T h e trade unions, representing to some extent the élite of the workers, tended to be less revolutionary than the factory committees, 4 and Lenin therefore looked more to the latter. T h u s during 1917 both the Soviets and the factory committees helped to draw Lenin's attention away from the trade unions. Neither of these two organizations occupied Lenin's main attention, however. As usual, he was concerned primarily with the Party. H e was, as we have seen, more inclined toward illegal, underground activities than toward legal trade union work. Nevertheless, Lenin did refer to trade unions occasionally, and we shall now examine what he had to say on the subject. WORKERS'

CONTROL

A f t e r the collapse of the tsarist government in February, 1917, many workers decided to seize control of the factories and operate them for their own benefit. Factory committees and trade unions took steps to put workers' control into effect. Factory owners, managers, engineers, and foremen were some2 Sergei P. Turin, From Peter the Great to Lenin (London, 1935), p. 135. s William Henry Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution (New York, 1935), I, 266; E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, /51/7-/923, II (New York, 1952), p. 61. • See Isaac Deutscher, Soviet Trade Unions, pp. 13-16; Sergei P. Turin, From Peter the Great to Lenin, p. 137; W. H. Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution I, 266; and E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, II, 62.

igiy—Year

of

Revolutions

8)

times ejected, arrested, beaten, or even murdered. In other cases the regular administrators stayed on the job, but submitted to varying degrees of dictation from the workers. Workers often gave factory managers orders regarding production, distribution, prices, wages and so o n — i n other words, they assumed the usual functions of management. But whatever the type of worker interference, it usually brought about a reduction of production and a general disruption of orderly economic life. 5 Lenin's reaction to this spontaneous establishment of workers' control was somewhat mixed. As a revolutionary he was bound to look with sympathy upon such dramatic manifestations of the decline in power of the old ruling classes and the rising influence of the proletariat. He knew that demands for workers' control would win popular support for the Bolshevik Party. Furthermore, the disruption of production could be welcomed as evidence of the collapse of capitalism. As a Marxist, however, Lenin could not look upon this type of workers' control with unadulterated joy, for it smacked more of syndicalism than of Marxism. T h e goal of the Bolsheviks was not the atomization of economic power into a multitude of autonomous units, but a planned economy, controlled at the center by the organs of government. T h u s Lenin found himself in an ambiguous position regarding workers' control: On the one hand he realized the necessity of the Bolsheviks' appealing to the proletariat with the slogan of "workers' control," just as they were appealing to the peasants with the promise of "land" and to the soldiers with the promise of "peace." But on the other hand he sometimes attempted to convince the proletariat that the desirable kind of workers' control could best be effected through a central organ—a Soviet government. In the first months after the February Revolution, Lenin was interested in workers' control primarily as a slogan for appealing 5 Turin, From Peter the Great to Lenin, pp. 136-37; Pavel N. Ainosov, Oktiabrskaia Revolutiutsiia 1 Fabzavkomy, 2 vols. (Moscow, 1927); Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution, I, 266-72.

84

191J—Year

of

Revolutions

to the workers. He demanded time after time that industry and trade be placed under some sort of supervision by the workers or their representatives. Exactly what kind of supervision he wanted, or by whom, it is impossible to ascertain; as in so many other cases, his writings on this subject lack precision and consistency. Since this book is concerned with trade unions, we will not attempt to present all of the many complicated and confusing angles of Lenin's statements on workers' control, but instead will emphasize the place which he gave to trade unions. A t first he assigned them no place at all. One might have thought that the trade unions, as economic organizations of the workers, would be the logical bodies to put workers' control into effect, but Lenin first gave this role to the Soviets, and only later, somewhat as an afterthought, spoke of trade unions, factory committees, and other organizations in this connection. In March, 1917, before Lenin had even returned to Russia, he called for "immediate control by the Soviets of Workers' Deputies" over the land, the banks, and the trusts.8 T h e first time he spoke of trade unions in relation to workers' control was in a draft resolution prepared for the Conference of Representatives of Factory Committees of the Petrograd region which met in May and June of 1917: The way to avoid catastrophe is to establish real workers' control over the production and distribution of goods. T o establish such control it is necessary, first, to make certain that in all the important institutions there be a labor majority . . . ; second, that all the shop and factory committees, the central and local Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies, and equally the trade unions be granted the right to participate in such control, that all commercial and bank accounts be open to their inspection and that the management be compelled to supply them with all data; and, third, that the representatives of all the more important democratic and socialist parties be granted the same right. Workers' control . . . should be immediately developed, by way of a series of carefully considered and gradual, but immediately * "Zadachi proletariata (April 10, 1917).

v nashei

revoliutsii,"

Lenin,

Sochineniia,

XX,

1*4

rp/7—y^ar

of

85

Revolutions

realizable measures, into complete regulation of the production and distribution of goods by the workers. A well-regulated and successful introduction of the foregoing measures can be accomplished only upon the passing of the power of the state into the hands of the proletarians and semi-proletarians. 7 T h u s o n the first occasion w h e n L e n i n assigned the trade u n i o n s a role i n workers' c o n t r o l , he listed t h e m a l o n g w i t h the factory committees, the Soviets, a n d " a l l the m o r e i m p o r t a n t d e m o c r a t i c and socialist parties." T h i s d r a f t r e s o l u t i o n is interesting also because it shows that L e n i n was t h i n k i n g not

of

anarchistic c o n t r o l o n the local level b y the w o r k e r s i n each factory, b u t of nation-wide c o n t r o l b y the state, of " c a r e f u l l y considered

measures"

f o r the

"complete

regulation

of

the

p r o d u c t i o n a n d d i s t r i b u t i o n of g o o d s . " A l s o , b y this time, L e n i n was no l o n g e r t h i n k i n g of workers' c o n t r o l p r i m a r i l y as a d e v i c e f o r b r i n g i n g a b o u t r e v o l u t i o n , b u t was l o o k i n g i n t o the f u t u r e , to the role of workers' c o n t r o l i n the post-revolutionary era. T h e r i g h t k i n d of w o r k e r s ' c o n t r o l , he said, c o u l d be a c h i e v e d o n l y through

revolution.

A f e w days later Pravda p u b l i s h e d the r e s o l u t i o n a d o p t e d b y the C o n f e r e n c e of Factory C o m m i t t e e s , a n d to it L e n i n a d d e d an article of c o m m e n t . O n c e m o r e h e m a d e it clear that the k i n d of workers' c o n t r o l he w a n t e d h a d n o t h i n g i n c o m m o n w i t h syndicalism, that w h a t h e envisaged was the o r g a n i z a t i o n of the R u s s i a n e c o n o m y o n a " n a t i o n a l scale."

8

I n fact he

s h o w e d w i t h d a n g e r o u s clarity that his k i n d of w o r k e r s ' c o n t r o l was d i f f e r e n t f r o m the k i n d w h i c h m a n y of the w o r k e r s w e r e busy establishing: W e do not suggest anything resembling the ludicrous passing of the railroads into the hands of the railwaymen, of the leather factories into the hands of the leather workers: W h a t we do advocate is workers' control, which is gradually to develop into complete proletarian regulation of the production and distribution of goods, into a "nation-wide organization" of the exchange of grain for manut "Proekt rezoliutsiia ob ekonomicheskikh merakh borby s rasrukhoi," XX, 4»«-i4 (May, 1917). «"Rarrukha i proletarskaia borba s nei," ibid., X X , 47* (June, 1917).

ibid.,

iqij—Year

86

of

Revolutions

factured products, etc. . . . What we demand is "the passing of all state power into the hands of the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies." 9 TRADE

UNIONS

IN

AGRICULTURE

T h e only other important statement by Lenin in 1 9 1 7 on the question of trade unions had to do with unions in agriculture, and it resulted from his interest in mobilizing the peasants for the impending revolution. One of the most significant steps in the development of Lenin's revolutionary strategy was his realization that in Russia it would be impossible for the small proletarian class to carry out a socialist revolution unless it could enlist the aid of at least part of the numerically preponderant peasantry. This was the basis of his slogan, first proclaimed in April, 1905, "the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry." 10 In 1 9 1 7 he was faced with the practical problem of how to bring this alliance of proletariat and peasantry into being, and one solution which he offered was the formation of unions for agricultural wage workers. On this subject he wrote an entire article, the only lengthy piece during that year which he devoted exclusively to the subject of trade unions. For this reason alone the article is worthy of detailed comment. T h e occasion was the meeting of the First All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions in Petrograd at the end of June, 1917. Lenin asked the Conference to assume the responsibility for establishing "an All-Russian Union of Agricultural Workers," and he appealed to their sympathy for the agricultural laborers: Every [other] class in Russia is organizing. Yet the class that is exploited more than any other class, that is poorer, more divided, and more crushed than any other—the class of agricultural wage workers—has, it seems, been overlooked. . . . It is the bounden duty of the vanguard of the Russian proletariat, the trade unions of industrial workers, to come to the aid of their »Ibid., p. 473. 10 "Revoliutsionnaia demokraticheskaia diktatura proletariata i krestianstva," VII, 196-202 (March, 1905). T h e idea was elaborated in "Dve taktiki sotsialdemokratii v demokraticheskoi revoliutsii," ibid., VIII, 27-126 (July, 1905).

ibid.,

igij—Year

of

Revolutions

brothers, the village workers. T h e difficulties in organizing the village workers are enormous. . . . It is all the more necessary for us, therefore . . . to organize an all-Russian union of village workers. . . . T h e factory wage workers are the ones to take the initiative in utilizing the nuclei, groups, and branches of trade unions, scattered all over Russia, for the awakening of the agricultural worker to an independent life. . . -11 T h e unions should comprise, said L e n i n , "everyone w h o is exclusively, or mainly, or even partly, engaged as a hired worker in any agricultural enterprise." 12 As to whether these three types of hired workers should all be grouped together in the same unions he was not sure: Experience will show whether or not such unions must be subdivided into parallel organizations such as unions of pure agricultural workers and unions of workers who are only partly engaged in wage labor. This is, after all, not so essential. T h e essential thing is that the fundamental class interests of everybody who sells his labor power are alike; and that the welding together of all those who earn even a part of their livelihood by hiring themselves out to others is absolutely necessary.13 It is worth noting that both in 1903 14 and in i g j 7 L e n i n spoke of trade unions only for agricultural laborers, that is, hired workers, and not peasant cultivators working full-time for themselves. H e w o u l d open the agricultural trade unions to any one " e v e n partly engaged as a hired worker in any agricultural enterprise." A peasant w h o worked part of the time as a hired hand could join, even though he might also w o r k some of the time for himself. However, those who e x p e n d e d all of their labor in w o r k i n g on their own farms w o u l d be excluded. In his book, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, L e n i n defined " t h e proletarian and semi-proletarian strata" of the agricultural population as that section "which earns its liveli11 " O neobkhodimosti osnovat soiuz selskikh rabochikh Rossii," ibid., X X , 557 (June, 1917). 12 Ibid., p. 558. is Ibid., p. 559.

1* " K derevenskoi bednote," ibid., V, 296 (autumn, 1903).

88

1917—Year

of

Revolutions

hood mainly, or half, by the sale of labor power." 15 H e stated further that " t o calculate that the proletarian and semiproletarian population taken together comprises one half of the peasantry is to underestimate and not to exaggerate their numbers." 18 Since Lenin w o u l d open the agricultural trade unions not only to those who earned half of their livelihood by the sale of labor power, but to any one "even partly engaged as a hired worker," this means that, according to his estimate, more than half of the peasantry would be eligible. L e n i n would have opened the unions not only to the "proletarian and semiproletarian strata," but also to many peasants who were somewhat better off. L e n i n did not explain in precise and systematic fashion what was the characteristic experience as a worker (whether agricultural or industrial) which was expected to prepare a man for trade union activity, for acceptance of leadership by the Bolsheviks, and ultimately for participation in revolution. B u t the quotation above seems to indicate that the crucial element was the sale of labor power. H e declared that "the fundamental class interests of everybody who sells his labor power are alike," including "all those w h o earn even a part of their livelihood by hiring themselves out to others." In other words, having an employer and working for wages, even if only occasionally, was sufficient to determine one's basic outlook towards capitalism. It might be well to note here that L e n i n often used such terms as "proletariat," "peasantry," and "working class" in vague and variable ways. So far as the present writer has been able to discover, Lenin never defined precisely the difference between a peasant and a proletarian. Of course the more broadly he defined the proletariat, the larger would have been that class which, according to Marx, was supposed to play the leading role in the proletarian revolution. L e n i n may have been tempted for such considerations to include in the proletariat many persons who ordinarily would be classified as peasants. 15

ia

"Razvitie kapitalizma v Rossii,"

Ibid., p. 394.

ibid., Ill,

392 (1899).

IÇIJ—Year

of

Revolutions

89

Since in Lenin's writings the revolutionary class—the proletariat —is never precisely defined, his whole revolutionary theory is thereby deprived of exactness. The operation of "inexorable" Leninist laws leading to a proletarian revolution can not be very well understood if one does not even know which persons are "inevitably" predestined to play the leading role. T h e article discussed above constituted the one and only occasion before the October Revolution when Lenin expressed himself at any length on the subject of trade unions in agriculture. It was the last time that he mentioned them before the Bolshevik uprising. So much was happening so fast that his attention was diverted to other, more pressing, matters.

X Lenin on Trade Unions and the Relation Between Reform and Revolution REFORM

VS.

REVOLUTION

Reformism and Lenin's Opposition to It THE dispute between Lenin and the Economists (discussed in Chapters III and IV) involved an age-old controversy—the choice between reform and revolution. Although trade unions and the parties of socialist revolution have traditionally professed the same ultimate objective—the improvement of the condition of the working class—they have differed sharply over the method to be used in achieving that objective. Ordinary trade unions (and here one would exclude the so-called "trade unions" in totalitarian countries) concentrate on the method of reform—the winning of gradual improvements through exerting pressure on employers and the government. Revolutionaries, on the other hand, have naturally concentrated on the method of revolution —the wholesale transformation of society through a forcible seizure of power. T h e two methods are to a large extent mutually conflicting. Many trade unionists are opposed to the method of revolution from the beginning. Others start out as revolutionists but become so absorbed in fighting for immediate benefits that they neglect the struggle for revolution. This, according to Lenin, was what transformed a number of the Russian Marxists into Economists. He said that some of the Economists, for example, argued that "a kopeck added to a ruble is worth more than socialism and politics," and that the workers should fight "not for future generations, but for themselves and their children." 1 At times revolutionists become so impressed by the accomplishments of the reform method that they decide revolution is both unnecessary and undesirable. T h e authors of the "Credo," for 1

"Chto delat?" Lenin, Sochineniia,

IV, 389 (February, 1902).

Trade

Unions,

Reform,

and

Revolution

instance, predicted with approval that the "striving to seize power will be transformed into a striving for change, a striving to reform present-day society in a democratic direction." 2 T r a d e unions by their very nature usually are engaged in the day-to-day struggle for reforms, and hence are natural breeding grounds for Reformism. It was for this reason that L e n i n opposed trade union neutrality, and insisted upon putting the unions under the firm control of the Party. H e was afraid that if the unions were left to themselves they would become so absorbed in the fight for higher wages, shorter hours, and the like, that they w o u l d neglect the fight for revolution. Revolutionists (and here we are thinking chiefly of Communists) usually claim to be the most militant fighters for improvements—both immediate and long-range—for the working class. Actually their attitude is somewhat hypocritical. Revolutionists make demands for reforms as a way of criticizing the existing regime, and in order to gain popular support. B u t they do not really want the working class to benefit too much from reforms under the existing regime, for then the workers are likely to lose their revolutionary ardor and become Reformists or Social-Chauvinists. Lenin, for example, claimed that too much prosperity demoralized the workers, thus making them content with capitalism." Revolutionists naturally wish to create dissatisfaction—not satisfaction—with the regime that they plan to overthrow. A n d revolutionists have often lost support among trade union members by their ambiguous attitude toward reforms, as well as by attempting to carry out Lenin's demand that the struggle for reforms must be subordinated to "the revolutionary struggle for . . . socialism." 4 T h e debate over reform vs. revolution which raged in Russia between Leninists and Economists was only one example of a general dispute over this issue which split the Marxist movement throughout Europe. T h e dispute was fostered in part by the fact that M a r x himself had not always been consistent on 2 "Protest rossiiskikh sotsial-demokratov," ibid., II, 478 (1899). 8 " K a r l Marks," ibid., X V I I I , 29 (November, 1914). * " C h t o delat?" ibid., IV, 409 (1902).

pa

Trade

Unions,

Reform,

and

Revolution

this question. Most of his writing breathed the fire of revolt, but on a few occasions he declared that some countries might achieve socialism without violent revolution. 6 If Marx himself was not clear on this point, it is easy to understand why disagreement arose among his followers. In the years after his death some Social Democrats, particularly in Germany, came to the conclusion that in certain respects Marx's prognosis had been mistaken and that his theories needed revision. In 1899 Eduard Bernstein, a prominent German Social-Democrat, published his famous work, Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie. In it he "revised" Marx by declaring that since the days of the Communist Manifesto considerable progress had been made toward what he called socialism by peaceful, Reformist measures and without recourse to revolution. In Russia this controversy was extremely bitter, and as we have seen, one of Lenin's accusations against the Economists was that they were disciples of Bernstein. In the economic sphere, Bernstein looked upon trade unions as one of the chief means by which the workers were making (and could continue to make) peaceful steps toward socialism. In the political arena, he believed that progress toward democratic socialism could be made (and was being made) by electing socialist representatives to parliaments and by the passage of laws leading toward socialism. Was Bernstein right? Could trade unions, strikes, and parliaments, by effecting a gradual improvement in the condition of the working class, make revolution unnecessary? Can socialism be achieved by ev-olution instead of reu-olution? * For a statement by Marx to the effect that "the slightest improvement in the position of the proletariat "remains a Utopia within the bourgeois republic," see The Class Struggles in France (New York, 1935), p. 58. For a passage emphasizing the inevitability of "bloody struggle," see The Poverty of Philosophy (Chicago, 1910), pp. 190-91. Later in life, however, Marx sometimes expressed a different point of view. At the meeting of the First International at T h e Hague in 1872 he declared that in some countries the workers might achieve their goals by peaceful means. See Max M. Bober, Karl Marx's Interpretation of History (2d ed., Cambridge, Mass., 1948), pp. 264-65. Engels, in his introduction to Marx's work. The Class Struggles in France, pp. 25-30, speaks in favor of legal methods of struggle, and against revolution.

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If the trade unions should steadily improve conditions by raising wages, shortening hours, and the like, would this not be a refutation of the Marxist theory that under capitalism there is "increasing misery"—that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? A great deal is written in present-day newspapers and magazines to the effect that Communism thrives on misery, that Communists hope and work for a worsening of economic conditions in France, Italy, and other countries, on the assumption that the worse conditions get, the greater is the chance of revolution. O n the other hand, the Marshall Plan and the Point Four program were supposed to help in checking the spread of Communism by raising the workers' standard of living.® What position did Lenin take on this problem of reform vs. revolution? There was never any doubt whether Lenin was for or against Reformism. In 1899 he declared that the "notorious 'Bernsteinism' . . . is an attempt to narrow the theory of Marxism, an attempt to convert the revolutionary workers' party into a reformist party." 7 He consistently castigated the Reformists and insisted upon the necessity of revolution. W h e n Karl Kautsky published an attack on Reformism, it was Lenin who translated the book into Russian. 8 Lenin was certain that Bernstein was mistaken and that revolution was the only possible way to achieve genuine socialism. He believed that Reformism had led many German SocialDemocrats astray from the true teachings of Marx, and he was • R a t h e r frank statements about the conflict between reform and revolution have been made by Benoît Frachon, secretary-general of the Communist-led Confédération Générale du T r a v a i l , the largest trade union organization in France. For example, in 1955 he opposed e x p a n d i n g production in France lest conditions for the workers under capitalism become too favorable. " W h a t is the good of the class war," he asked, "if the capitalist regime can improve, even slowly, the lot of the working class?" Harold Callender, "Capitalism's Demise," New York Times, June 26, 1955. * "Protest rossisskikh sotsial-demokratov," Lenin, Sochineniia, II, 481 (September, 1899). » Die Soziale Revolution: I. Sozialreform und Soziale Revolution; II. Am Tage Nach der Sozialen Revolution (Berlin, 1902). Lenin's Russian translation was published in Geneva in 1903.

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alarmed that the Economists might cause the same thing to happen in his own country. Trade unions, he felt, tended to produce Reformism, and he was afraid that if the views of the Economists prevailed, the cause of revolution in Russia would be lost. If Lenin was opposed to Reformism, does this mean he was opposed to reforms? He often claimed that the whole raison d'etre of the Social Democratic movement was to improve the condition of the workers, and yet he severely attacked the Economists for trying to accomplish this same end by methods different from his. Why was this? Before we attempt to answer all of these questions, let us clarify the meaning of some of the terms Lenin used. The Difference between Reform and Revolution First of all, we must see how Lenin distinguished between reform and revolution. T h e following quotation by him may be taken as typical: A Reformist change is one that leaves the foundations of the power of the ruling class intact and is merely a concession by the ruling class that leaves its power unimpaired. A revolutionary change undermines the foundations of power. . . . The essence of Reformism lies in mitigating an evil and not destroying it.9 According to Lenin, Reformist and revolutionary changes were distinguished from one another not only by the content of the changes themselves, but also by the method through which they were brought about. A given change could be harmful if achieved in a Reformist way, but beneficial if won in a revolutionary way. For example, during the Revolution of 1905 he praised the resolution of a Bolshevik congress which called for "the revolutionary satisfaction" of the demand for an eight9 " I t o g i diskussii o s a m o o p r e d e l e n i i , " L e n i n , Sochineniia, X I X , 260 ( a u t u m n , 1916). F o r s i m i l a r s t a t e m e n t s see: " C h t o t a k o c ' d r u z i a n a r o d a ' i kak o n i voiuiut p r o t i v sotsial-demokratov?" ibid., I, 259-60 (1894); Vozrastaiushchee nesootvetstvie," ibid., X V I , 316 ( F e b r u a r y , 1913); " S p o m y e voprosy," ibid., 435 ( J u n e , 1913); a n d " P l a t f o r m a r e v o l i u t s i o n n o i s o t s i a l - d e m o k r a t i i , " ibid., X , 393 ( M a r c h , 1907). It m a y b e t h a t L e n i n was i n f l u e n c e d by Kautsky's book o n r e f o r m a n d revolut i o n . F o r s t a t e m e n t s by K a u t s k y s i m i l a r t o s t a t e m e n t s l a t e r m a d e by Lenin, see his The Social Revolution and on the Morrow of the Social Revolution (London, >9°3). P P 2-3-

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hour working day, but condemned a Menshevik resolution which demanded the "legal enactment" of the same measure. 10 O n another occasion Lenin said: It is necessary to formulate and put forward all these demands, not in a Reformist, but in a revolutionary way; not by keeping within the framework of bourgeois legality, but by breaking through it; not by confining oneself to parliamentary speeches and verbal protests, but by drawing the masses into real action, by widening and fomenting the struggle for every kind of fundamental democratic demand, right up to and including the direct onslaught of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, i.e., to the socialist revolution. 11 In reading Lenin's works, care must be taken not to confuse "reform vs. revolution" on the one hand, and "the economic struggle vs. the political struggle" on the other, for they are not the same thing. Reformist activities and methods could, from Lenin's point of view, be used in the political struggle as well as in the economic struggle. Likewise, both the economic and the political struggles could be waged in a revolutionary manner. Lenin said that he opposed the Economists not because they were waging the economic struggle, but because they were waging it in a Reformist way and because they were either neglecting the political struggle or were waging it also in a Reformist way. Economic Reform and Political Reform Attention should also be directed to the distinction between economic reform and political reform. As has been pointed out earlier, Lenin generally differentiated between the two according to their effect rather than their source. For example, the granting of an eight-hour day would be "economic" regardless of whether it be granted by an employer or by the government. Changes in the structure and functioning of government, however, would be "political." In the numerous statements about reform which will be quoted from Lenin in this chapter, the question will naturally 10 " D v e taktiki sotsial-demokratii v demokraticheskoi revoliutsii," Lenin, Sochineniia, VIII, 86-87 (June-July, 1905). u "Sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i pravo natsii na samoopredelenie," ibid., X I X , 39 (March, 1916).

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arise as to w h e t h e r he looked u p o n both economic and political reform in the same light. O n many points it is impossible to say. In numerous places he speaks of "reforms" without saying what specific reforms or w h i c h type of reforms he means. B u t it is clear that L e n i n considered economic and political reforms to be closely related. In 1909 he wrote about "the necessary connection of factory . . . r e f o r m w i t h democratic political ref o r m . " 12 From L e n i n ' s v i e w p o i n t the Social-Democratic battle was against both the capitalist system a n d the tsarist government, with the two conflicts m e r g i n g into one because (as M a r x had taught) the government was an apparatus for the defense of the prevailing economic system. A blow against the economic system, therefore, was a blow against the government, and vice versa. Since the government d e f e n d e d the capitalists, said L e n i n , "the workers' struggle against the capitalists must inevitably bring them [the workers] into conflict w i t h the government." 1S In Lenin's fight w i t h the Economists, as we have seen in Chapter III, he insisted that political reforms were more urgent than economic ones. W i t h o u t changes in the government, he said, any economic reforms w o u l d b e insecure. W i t h o u t democratic political reform, every factory reform "is inevitably condemned . . . to be a dead letter." 14 " T h e economic struggle can lead to a lasting improvement in the condition of the working masses," he said, ". . . only if it is properly combined with the political struggle." 16 THE

POSSIBILITY

CAPITALISM; INCREASING

THE

OF

IMPROVEMENTS

DOCTRINE

UNDER

OF

MISERY

Before g o i n g any further into L e n i n ' s views on reform and revolution, it is necessary to answer the basic question of 12 " O b i a s n i t e l n a i a z a p i s k a k p r o e k t u g l a v n y k h o s n o v a n i i zakona o 8 - m i c h a s o v o m r a b o c h e m d n e , " ibid., X I V , 227 ( a u t u m n , igog). 13 " P r o e k t i o b i a s n e n i e p r o g r a m m y s o t s i a l - d e m o k r a t i c h e s k o i p a r t i i , " ibid., I, 442 (1895-96). 14 " O b i a s n i t e l n a i a z a p i s k a k p r o e k t u g l a v n y k h o s n o v a n i i zakona o 8 - m i c h a s o v o m r a b o c h e m d n e , " ibid., X I V , 227 ( a u t u m n , 1909). i ' " T a k t i c h e s k a i a p l a t f o r m a k o b e d i n i t e l n o m u sezdu," ibid., I X , 48 ( M a r c h , 1906).

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whether he thought reforms could produce lasting benefit under capitalism. What about the trade unions and their fight for reforms—was all that a waste of time and energy? Could the workers improve their situation without revolution? Or would their economic and political condition inevitably deteriorate under capitalism in the long run? Reference has already been made to the fact that Lenin the Marxian philosopher, who preached deterministic laws regarding "inevitable" historical developments, sometimes came into conflict with Lenin the engineer of revolution, who taught that conscious leaders could influence these historical developments. T h e devoted disciple of Marx, which Lenin claimed he was, sometimes had difficulty in living comfortably with the Lenin who was concerned above all else with the practical task of bringing about a revolution in Russia. A n example of this sort of Leninist dichotomy can be found in his writings about the doctrine of Increasing Misery. Lenin seems to have believed it correct Marxian doctrine that under capitalism the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and that the working class inevitably suffers from increasing economic and political misery. As conditions become worse and worse—so the theory goes—the workers would become increasingly dissatisfied with capitalist society until, in desperation, they would rise in revolt and overthrow the whole capitalist order. 14 T h i s greatly simplified picture was one aspect of what Lenin claimed to be an inexorable system discovered by Marx. Sometimes Lenin paid lip-service to this theory, but on many other occasions, as we shall see, he made statements which contradicted it in whole or in part. In fact he made such a variety of vague or conflicting statements on the question of Increasing i« A recent statement of the doctrine of Increasing Misery was made by Benoit Frachon, head of the C G T . T h e French workers in 1955. he claimed, were poorer than they had been in 1914, while more than half of the population of the United States were living on sub-minimum incomes. See Harold Callender, "Capitalism's Demise," New York Times, June 26, 1955. Communists like Frachon sometimes give the impression that they are loudly proclaiming the doctrine in a desperate attempt to counteract factual evidence which contradicts it.

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Misery that it will be necessary to analyze them carefully one by one. The Condition of the Working Class Gets Worse or at Least Gets no Better L e n i n sometimes said that under capitalism the economic and political condition of the workers declined. A s early as 1896 he declared that the real wages of the workers in Russia fell d u r i n g the period following the emancipation of the peasants: As capitalism grows, the conditions of the workers become worse. Even if earnings did increase here and there after the emancipation of the peasants, . . . the prices of the means of subsistence continuously rose, so much so that even with increased wages the workers were able to buy less than . . . before. 17 T h e same sort of thing happened in other countries, said L e n i n . H e declared that the economic position of the worker under capitalism deteriorated absolutely and also relatively (that is, relatively to the economic condition of the rest of society). H e cited figures on Germany, where, he said, the situation of the workers was incomparably better than in Russia: T h e wages of the workers in Germany rose during the last thirty years an average of twenty-five per cent. In the same period of time the cost of living rose at least forty per cent!! T h e worker grows poorer absolutely, that is, becomes clearly poorer than before. . . . More graphic, however, is the relative impoverishment of the workers, that is, the decrease of their share of the income of society. T h e relative share of the workers in rapidly prospering capitalist society becomes all the time less, because the millionaires are always becoming richer. 18 T h e Russian revolution of 1905, that even though conditions might tionary upsurge, they w o u l d become the revolution than they had been

said Lenin, demonstrated improve during a revoluworse after the decline of before. L o o k i n g back on

17 "Proekt i obiasnenie programmy sotsial-demokraticheskoi partii," Lenin, Sochineniia, I, 429 (1895-96). is "Obnishchanie v kapitalisticheskom obshchestve," ibid., XVI, 212 (November, 1912).

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the revolution of 1905 several years later, he said: " T h e tsar granted concessions when the onslaught of the revolution was growing, and he took back all the concessions when the onslaught weakened. . . . T h e distress of the peasants and workers has now become, after the revolution, still heavier than before." 19 T h e first two quotations in this section dealt with increasing economic misery only. T h e last quotation, however, seems to indicate a belief in a worsening of political conditions also, since many of the concessions granted by the tsar during the revolution of 1905 were political. It is also worth noting that in the last quotation Lenin said the distress of the peasants, as well as the workers, had become heavier than before. Lenin referred to the workers more often than to the peasants in connection with Increasing Misery, but a few statements, such as this one, seem to lump the two groups together. Occasionally Lenin did not go so far as to indicate a worsening under capitalism, but said that no improvement was possible. Reforms, he said, are "phantoms with which the liberals fool the people." 20 He declared that as long as power is held by the wealthy capitalists, the "modern slaveowners," all reforms are "an empty fraud." 21 The Condition of the Working Class Sometimes Gets Better At times Lenin took note of actual improvements in the condition of the workers under capitalism, thus admitting the decreasing misery of the workers (at least temporarily decreasing). For example, in 1895 Lenin discussed a new law limiting the fines which employers might impose upon their employees.22 In 1897 he pointed out that the workers had won a law providing for a shorter workday.23 In 1910 he spoke about the gains ie "Uroki revoliutsii," ibid., X I V , 370 (October, 1910). 20 "Maevka revoliutsionnogo proletariata," ibid., X V I , 490 (June, 1913). 21 "Itogi i znachenie prezidentskikh vyborov v Amerike," ibid., X V I , 191 (November, 1912). -- "Obiasnenie zakona o shtrafakh, vzimaemykh s rabochikh na fabrikakh i zavodakh," ibid., I, 365-97 (autumn, 1895). "Novyi fabrichnyi zakon," ibid., II, 1 3 1 , 155 (1897).

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of the Revolution of 1905, saying: " T h e working class of Russia . . . achieved for itself in several months of 1905 improvements which the workers for tens of years had vainly waited for from the 'authorities.' " 24 In this case it is not clear whether Lenin meant economic improvements or political ones. A t another time he said: " T h e gains of the workers from the strikes of 1905 were expressed not only in a rise in wages. Besides that there was a change for the better in the whole general condition of the worker." 25 T h i s seems to indicate both economic and political reforms. T h u s Lenin admitted that both economic and political improvements actually were obtained by the workers under capitalism. How did he reconcile these statements with his other assertions to the effect that under capitalism the workers suffer from Increasing Misery? Lenin's writings never directly face u p to this contradiction, but certain of his statements do provide something of a reconciliation by placing two qualifications on the doctrine of Increasing Misery: first, that certain kinds of improvements can be obtained under capitalism temporarily (i.e., that Increasing Misery is a long-run tendency), and second, that the improvements obtained under capitalism are not fundamental ones. These two questions will be discussed next. The Duration of Improvements through Reform Lenin made many statements to the effect that even though some economic and political reforms could be achieved under capitalism, the resulting improvements would be only temporary. In other words, the workers were bound to suffer from Increasing Misery in the long run, even though there might be temporary periods of improvement. One of the reasons for the temporary nature of these improvements, he said, was that capitalism experienced recurring depressions, which nullified any gains made by the workers in times of prosperity: -4 " U r o k i revoliutsii," ibid., X I V , 369 (October, 1910). 26"Iazyk tsifr," ibid., X V I , 600 (September, 1913). See also "Fabrikanty rabochikh stachkakh," ibid., X V I , 469-71 (May, 1913).

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TOI

Trade unionism and strikes, at best, can only enable . . . [the workers] to obtain slightly better terms of sale for their commodity —labor power. Trade unions and strikes become impotent when, owing to a depression, there is no demand for this "commodity." They are unable to remove the conditions which convert labor power into a commodity, and which doom the masses of the toilers to poverty and unemployment. T o remove these conditions, it is necessary to conduct a revolutionary struggle against the whole existing social and political system. . . .2a As another example of the temporary nature of economic reform under capitalism, Lenin cited a case in England where a "union of agricultural workers succeeded in raising the wages to fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen shillings a week," only to find that later they fell again to "twelve-thirteen shillings a week." 27 Depressions were not the only reason which Lenin found for the temporary nature of reforms under capitalism. When the capitalist regime was under attack, he said, it sometimes granted reforms to forestall revolution, only to take them back again later on. Lenin spoke of the "bourgeoisie, with one hand giving reforms, with the other hand taking them back, so that it comes to nothing." 28 In this case it is not clear which Lenin meant— economic reforms or political reforms or both. A good example of the temporary nature of reforms, said Lenin, was provided by the Revolution of 1905. By 1910, he declared, the "distress of the peasants and workers" was worse than it had been before the revolution, since "all the concessions" granted by the tsar had subsequently been withdrawn. 29 But in 2913 Lenin drew exactly the opposite conclusion concerning the Revolution of 1905: In all Russia the earnings of industrial workers made a huge jump in 1905 or after 1905. . . . The sacrifices made by the workers in the strikes of 1905 paid for a significant improvement in the economic condition of the workers. 26 "Novoe poboishche," ibid., IV, 1 1 5 (June, 1901). 27 "V Anglii," ibid., XVI, 107 (August, 1912). 28 "Marksizm i reformizm," ibid., XVI, 610 (September, 1913). 2» "Uroki revoliutsii," ibid., XIV, 370 (October, 1910).

I02

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And, although after the victory of . . . the counterrevolutionary system, whole groups of workers were pushed back again, capital did not succeed in pushing earnings down to the former low level.30 This statement (made in 1913) is a flat contradiction of the preceding statement (made in 1910), which said that the distress became, after the revolution, "still heavier than before." This is another illustration of the fact that Lenin often tailored his facts and interpretations to suit the purpose at hand. At times Lenin indicated a belief in an accretion of reforms under capitalism right up to the time of the revolution—a progressive improvement in the condition of the workers, and partial achievement even of fundamental reforms: We advocate the overthrow of capitalism and the expropriation of the bourgeoisie as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for a complete and comprehensive realization of all democratic reforms. Some of those reforms will be started prior to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, others in the process of the overthrow, still others after it has been accomplished. The socialist revolution is by no means a single battle; on the contrary, it is an epoch of a whole series of battles around all problems of economic and democratic reforms, which can be completed only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie.31 In other words, "some" of the fundamental economic and political reforms would be "started" under capitalism, but these reforms could be "completed" only by the overthrow of capitalism. This quotation indicates that some progress toward the abolition of poverty and the realization of democratic political reforms would be made under capitalism, and it implies that these gains would not subsequently be lost. Thus it is a denial of the whole general idea of Increasing Misery, and a specific denial of the idea that all reforms under capitalism are temporary. As regards the duration of economic and political reforms so "Iazyk tsifr," ibid., XVI, 598 (September, 1913). 31 "Revoliutsionnyi proletariat i pravo natsii na X V I I I , 324 (November, 1915).

samoopredelenie,"

ibid.,

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under capitalism, it thus is impossible to say exactly what Lenin thought. On the one hand he told the workers to work for revolution, appealing to them with the argument that no lasting reforms were possible until the revolution had succeeded. But on the other hand he argued that the preliminary battles of the revolutionary movement would bring lasting economic and political reforms—before the revolution. The Quality of Reforms On many occasions, as we have seen, Lenin admitted the possibility of economic and political improvements under capitalism. Usually, however, he placed two qualifications on the type of reforms possible without revolution: one, that they were temporary (we have shown that he was not consistent on this point), and two, that they were not fundamental reforms. Lenin himself did not use the word "fundamental." He said: Only the revolutionary struggle of the masses is able to achieve any serious [italics added] improvement in the life of the workers. . . . It is not enough to undermine and limit the tsarist power. It is necessary to destroy it. Until the tsarist power is overthrown, the concessions of the tsar will always be insecure.32

Lenin never stopped to explain exactly what he meant by "serious" improvements. Through reading his works, however, it is possible to get a pretty good idea what he meant. One such improvement was the abolition of "the conditions that convert labor power into a commodity, and that doom the masses of the toilers to poverty and unemployment." 33 "Serious" improvements were those which would undermine "the foundations of power" of the ruling class.34 In other words, by "serious" reforms Lenin meant the end of what he considered to be the basic characteristics of capitalist society. However, Lenin did not state his views on the possibility of fundamental reforms in consistent fashion. On one occasion he declared that such reforms would "be started prior to the overs-'"Uroki revoliutsii," ibid., X I V , 369-70 (October, 1910). .13 "Novoe poboishche," ibid., IV, 1 1 5 (June, 1901). a* "Itogi diskussii o samoopredelenii," ibid., X I X , 260 (autumn, 1916).

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throw of the bourgeoisie," even though they would "be completed only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie." 35 In other words, part of a fundamental reform could be achieved under capitalism. From Lenin's point of view, to speak of the possibility of the full realization of fundamental reforms without the overthrow of capitalism and the abolition of bourgeois rule was completely self-contradictory, for to him the only reforms that could really be called fundamental were those that would undermine capitalism and bourgeois rule. In his view it was ridiculous to expect from the rulers of bourgeois society any changes which would undermine the foundations of their power, for no ruling class ever willingly relinquished its rule. Any reforms under capitalism, therefore, would at best merely mitigate the evils of capitalism without destroying them.86 Summary Lenin's vague and conflicting views on the subject of Increasing Misery may be summarized as follows: 1. At times he said without qualification that under capitalism the economic condition of the working class worsens absolutely and also relatively (that is, by comparison with the rest of society). He seems to have meant this to apply to political conditions and to the peasantry, although usually he applied it only to economic conditions and to the proletariat. 2. At other times Lenin did not say that under capitalism economic and political conditions get worse, but he indicated that they could get no better. 3. Often Lenin mentioned actual improvements in the economic and political condition of the working class under capitalism, in spite of the fact that he had said such improvements were impossible. 4. Sometimes he attempted to reconcile the contradiction between points 1 and 3 by saying that although certain improvements in the economic and political condition of the working as "Revoliutsionnyi proletariat i pravo natsii na samoopredelenie," ibid., X V I I I , 324 (November, 1915). (Italics added.) 3« "Itogi diskussi o samoopredelenii," ibid., X I X , 260 (autumn, 1916). See also Alfred George Meyer, "Lenin's Theory of Revolution" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Harvard University, 1951), p. 1 1 1 .

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class could be won under capitalism, these improvements would be only temporary. 5. However, on other occasions he said that such improvements might be "prolonged" for a considerable period of time. 6. Occasionally he completely contradicted point 4 by speaking of a progressive improvement in the condition of the working class right u p to the revolution. 7. Lenin consistently maintained that under capitalism "serious" improvements (the abolition of poverty, the end of unemployment, and the like) could never be completely attained, even for a time. THE

EFFECT

COMING

OF

OF

REFORMS

ON

THE

REVOLUTION

Since Lenin believed that no "serious" reforms were possible under capitalism, he insisted on the necessity of revolution. Part of his concern about reforms, therefore, had to do with the effect they might have on the prospects for revolution. W h i c h was better from Lenin's point of v i e w — a worsening of the economic and political condition of the workers, or an improvement? Which would speed u p the coming of revolution— bad conditions or good conditions? O n this key question Lenin seems to have vacillated between the two positions, on one occasion stating that neither position was always correct. He referred to the narrow-mindedness and stupidity of the fashionable revisionist theory, which . . . declares . . . that "the principle of progress is: the better things are, the better." This principle in its general form is as untrue as its reverse: "the worse things are, the better." 3T Much of the time Lenin wrote as though he feared improvements because they would delay the revolution, but at other times he contradicted himself by saying that improvements would hasten the coming of revolution. Increasing Misery as an Aid to Revolution T h e author has found two statements by Lenin to the effect that a worsening "Goniteli zemstva i annibaly liberalizma," Lenin, Sochineniia, (June-July, 1901).

IV, 152-53

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of the economic condition of the workers aids progress toward revolution. In 1901 Lenin pointed to the fact that a depression had brought "poverty and unemployment" to the "masses of the toilers." " T h e industrial crisis," he said, "will compel many, many workers to realize" the necessity of "a revolutionary struggle against the whole existing social and political system." 38 This depression, therefore was desirable, for it had demonstrated to the workers the need for revolution. In an article of 1912 Lenin discussed the factors that were creating a revolutionary situation in Russia: " T h e growing cost of living," he said, "arouses newer and newer strata of the workers, . . . creating a revolutionary mass strike." 3 9 Apparently this rise in prices was from Lenin's point of view a good thing, for it had promoted dissatisfaction and helped toward bringing about a revolution. Decreasing Misery as a Hindrance to Revolution Besides these two cases where Lenin said that a worsening of the condition of the workers had aided progress toward revolution, there are many instances in which he said almost the same thing: namely, that an improvement of the condition of the workers hinders progress toward revolution. Lenin often declared that the bourgeoisie followed a policy of granting economic and political reforms in order to prevent revolution. By throwing the workers a few crumbs, he said, the capitalists hoped to save most of the loaf for themselves: In every country the bourgeoisie inevitably works out two systems of rule, two methods of fighting for its interests and of retaining power. . . . They are, firstly, the method of force, the method which rejects all concession to the labor movement, . . . the method of irreconcilably rejecting reforms. . . . The second method is the method of "liberalism" which takes steps towards the development of political rights, towards reforms, concessions, and so forth. In Germany . . . when in 1890 the change towards "concessions" took place, this change, as is always the case, proved to be even more 38 " N o v o e poboishche," ibid., I V , 1 1 5 (June, 1901). 39 "Revoliutsionnyi podem, stachki i zadachi partii," 1912).

ibid., X V I ,

227 (winter

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dangerous to the labor movement, and gave rise to an . . . echo of bourgeois "Reformism": opportunism in the labor movement. . . . Not infrequently the bourgeoisie for a certain time achieves its object by . . . [this type of] "liberal" policy. A part of the workers and a part of their representatives at times allow themselves to be deceived by sham concessions.40 Of the two tactics of the bourgeoisie, the method of reform was, in this instance, "even more dangerous to the labor movement" than the method of force. T h u s in this quotation Lenin seems to say that a situation without reforms is to be preferred; in other words, the worse conditions are, the better the chance of revolution. Lenin maintained that under conditions of "bourgeois democracy" the workers and their leaders were wooed away from revolution by political as well as economic concessions. Modern capitalism, he said, has created political privileges and sops for the respectful, meek, reformist and patriotic salaried employees and workers corresponding to the economic privileges and sops. Lucrative and easy berths in the Ministries . . . , in parliament and on various commissions, on the editorial staffs of "respectable" legal newspapers, or on management boards of no less respectable and "bourgeois lawabiding" trade unions—these are the means with which the imperialist bourgeoisie attracts and rewards the representatives and adherents of the "bourgeois labor parties." The mechanics of political democracy work in the same direction. . . . In this age of book printing and parliamentarism it is impossible to make the masses follow you . . . without scattering right and left promises of all kinds of reforms and blessings for the workers, if only they abandon the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.41 As an example of how Reformism was used to fight revolution Lenin cited the case of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party in the American elections of 1 9 1 2 :