Factory committees in 1918 - Chris Goodey debates Maurice Brinton

Debates between Trotskyists and libertarians about the Russian Revolution rarely break new ground. But this debate from the 1970s raised many thought-provoking questions that still await satisfactory answers even today.

Submitted by tolern on June 2, 2011

FACTORY COMMITTEES AND THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT (1918) by Chris Goodey (followed by debate with Maurice Brinton)

In a paper of this length there is only room to ask a few questions, which may be just as well, since the sickness in the study of revolutionary history has undoubtedly been caused by a surfeit of answers. This is especially true for the history of the Russian revolution; this genesis point of our transitional world is rightly used as a testing-ground for our conception of ourselves as a historical movement. The trouble has been that dogma and the most rigid kind of orthodoxy have governed our approach. It is only the current practice and experience of the world movement for socialist revolution that is beginning to allow us an overall review of the battle-stations which we have unthinkingly maintained for a long time.

There is nothing dishonest or dangerous in revising the past in the light of current knowledge and experience, and so I will take as a starting point my own belief that contemporary experience has redefined both the socialist struggle and the socialist model as self-managed socialism, and that the symptoms of this - May '68 in France, the Prague spring, the Chilean revolution - together prove that this redefinition has a "global", overall validity. It is a socialism in which the direct forms of working people's power at the point of production, distribution and social organisation have much greater potential power over historical development than fifty years ago, when neither the objective conditions nor the subjective capabilities were so favourable.

But this does not mean that those direct forms of power did not exist then, nor that they played no part in the revolutionary process; what it does mean is that their history has been hidden and ignored. The debate about the role of the factory committees in the Russian revolution is largely a modern one. It has been initiated by the libertarian tendencies of the left, and has caught the Marxist left and its allies in positions of frozen orthodoxy.

In any discussion about the ways through which the Russian proletariat exercised its dictatorship in the years immediately after the revolution, it has to be said that the objective conditions impoverished that experience. The restricting circumstances did not suddenly begin with the Civil War; three and a half years of world war had already completely subordinated the productive life of the country in the interests of West European imperialism, and the treaty of Brest-Litovsk alone deprived the new workers' state of 32% of its population and 89% of its home-produced fuel supplies. Production statistics for 1920, in ratio to those for 1913. were as follows - workers, 1:4; working hours, 1:8; productive capacity, 1:16.[2] The strike wave of the first half of 1920, when 77% of large and medium-sized Soviet factories experienced strikes (mainly for food), and the eventual political expression of this in the Kronstadt "third revolution", therefore, took place in circumstances that were quite different even from the extraordinary and chaotic "objective" situation of 1917.

The pioneering research on the factory committees done by writers with broadly libertarian sympathies (e.g. F. Kaplan: Bolshevik Ideology, or the work of R. V. Daniels and Paul Avrich) has been of crucial value in opening up an area where the Marxist left has not had the temerity to explore (nor the capacity for self-criticism). However, that has remained its only value. The factory committees represent for them the only "real" dictatorship of the proletariat, suppressed by the Bolsheviks under Lenin. Leninism is thus equated with Stalinism, and we are confronted with the perfect complement to Stalinism's libelous claim to the Leninist tradition, a libel which is one of the major obstacles in the fight for a socialist consciousness. It is an argument that almost totally ignores the tremendous weight of those "objective conditions".

It is entirely legitimate to oppose this argument by pointing out the mitigating circumstances of the isolation of the revolution in the Civil War, or even the pre-October circumstances, but it is certainly not enough. To oppose it with this response alone is to accept implicitly the a-historical premise of the original argument: that is, that "if" it had not been for the Civil War (or, on the other hand, the inherent totalitarianism of the Bolshevik idea), the Russian proletariat in 1917 would have been able, without the aid of a party, without the technological preconditions for a real de-proletarisation, to construct a socialism with all the characteristics of a modern "self-managed" socialism, or even the "direct association of producers" itself. The two arguments thus share common ground.

They also share an apocalyptic vision of how democratic socialist democracy was in 1917, a mythological view of the soviets. This is not to deny that socialist democracy did exist then, merely to suggest that it should be analysed in terms more appropriate to historical materialism than to religious mysticism. It is also part of the revolutionary process to demystify our own history.

A short analysis of the factory committees cannot do this. But it can at least contribute to the preliminary debate, by making good the missing analysis in the discussion about revolutionary subjectivity - that is, an analysis of the internal composition of the Russian working class, its organs of struggle and organisation, its relation to the party. In all the talk about "objective conditions" it is necessary to point out that they form a unity, though a contradictory one, with that subjectivity; the role of these internal relations of the workers' movement was crucial in helping to create the "objective conditions" themselves, and in creating the modern Soviet state.

The factory committees were at the centre of these internal relations. There can be no doubt that the key Bolshevik intervention in the revolutionary process was at this level. The party convened regional and then national conferences of what had till then been delegate committees isolated in the factories. It was these conferences, not the town soviets, which discussed the essential practical questions of workers' control (over employers' sabotage, spurious fuel shortages, etc., and extending to the control of supervision and management), demilitarisation of industry, the formation of the Red Guards, and so on. The predominance of the Bolshevik party in these conferences was the basis of its predominance in the workers' sections of the soviets and eventually in the soviets as a whole. In this was an apparent source of conflict: between the political strategy of the Bolshevik party in which the factory committees were the rank-and-file to be deployed, and the aims of a working class which sought to extend the forms of its own direct power. Did the party use the factory committees for its own ends and, after October, suppress their potential emergence as the real managers of a socialist economy? Or was it only because the party intervened to make them a nationwide, conscious movement that the October revolution was made possible at all?

We cannot answer the question either way until we find out, not what the aims of the proletariat were (or rather the aims of this or that section of it), but what the proletariat actually was. It is common practice to quote Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, often against Trotsky himself: "The soviets lagged behind the factory committees, the factory committees lagged behind the masses . . . . The masses showed themselves to be a 'hundred times to the left' of the leftest party" (i.e. the Bolsheviks).[3] Yet there is a factor in Trotsky's equation which is regularly overlooked, and that is the relation between the masses and the factory committees. It is a grotesque mistake to assume that factory committees were the Russian proletariat. If, as the libertarian argument insists, there was a nascent bureaucracy in 1917, then the factory committees were part of it. Their members' allegiance was as much to the workers' political parties to which they mostly belonged as to their factory constituencies. The memoirs of Bolshevik factory committee militants are full of cheerful acknowledgments that they, like the party professionals and the other parties, were continually taken aback by the spontaneous thrust of mass revolutionary action, and were forced, sometimes under the threat of violence at mass factory meetings, to take their place at the front of demonstrations.[4] As political militants, they were a bridge between the party leadership and the masses. As workplace representatives their main function until June was to fight for collective bargaining procedures. February was, after all, a bourgeois revolution; the rate of increase in both profits and investments actually rose sharply after that revolution, and only began to fall, equally sharply, after the July days. Bourgeoisie and proletariat had fought for the same revolution. The unusual feature of the fight was that even before February, the proletariat was already challenging the capitalist class for control of the anti-Tsarist revolution: there is evidence of this in the power-struggle between workers' and employers' representatives on the Wan Industry Committees (the wartime production-boosting organs of joint consultation). Thus the workers often found themselves fighting for more rational methods of capitalist production.

This was especially true in those factories run by Tsarist ministerial departments for the war effort, the small, labour-intensive ordnance plants. It was in precisely these factories that the "workers' council" experience after February was fullest. Supervisors, foremen and floor managers were largely elected by the workers. This was partly due to the fact that the former management had seen itself as agents of the Tsarist government and therefore went to ground in February; but it was also partly because the highly skilled ordnance workers thought they could manage capitalist production, at shop-floor level at least, better than their bosses.[5] The effective leader of the Central Council of Factory Committees, Vlas Y. Chubar', as well as many of his fellow council members, came from one of the ordnance factories. Chubar's training as an apprentice had included English, French and civil engineering.[6]

Therefore both the political and the factory-level distinctions between the factory committees and their working-class base depended on a more fundamental distinction, that of skill. Dilution (razvodnenie) and de-skilling {dekvalifitsirovanie) were almost as much at issue in Petrograd as they were on Clydeside.[7] The war had produced a change and a cleavage in the proletariat by calling up large numbers of men and replacing them with women, immigrants and minors, thus introducing the conditions for mass production. For the skilled workers, dilution was both the zenith of their power and the beginning of the end. They had always had scarcity value, and this increased during the war, even as they were being squeezed out at the top to become supervisors, trainers, etc., for the new mass producers; they could exploit this scarcity in "economic" terms (differentials increased enormously during the war), but now they could also recruit a new and vibrant rank-and-file for their "political" ambitions. However, the basis of their power was an obsolete, pre-war technology (production bays, the seven-year apprenticeship); meanwhile peasant immigrants and women, the new rank-and-file, were being trained in seven weeks for work on adjacent rows of electric and pneumatic lathes which destroyed the basis of the skilled turners' power, while giving the latter an army to organise. It was a general European phenomenon, but the opportunity to fuse these two major forces was taken at the flood.

The fusion took in some respects a hierarchical, sexist and "racist" (anti-peasant) character. We find very few of the "new proletariat" (women or chornorabochie - literally "black workers", meaning peasant labourers) sitting on the factory committees;[8] the vast majority of members are turners, fitters and electricians. (It is worth noting in passing that the leading national figures in shop stewards' or workers' council movements - Davy Kirkwood on Clydeside, Richard Muller in Berlin, Giovanni Parodi at FIAT Turin and Vlas Chubar' in Petrograd - were all skilled turners, born within a few years of each other.)

Each thrust of "revolutionary spontaneity" came from the 'new proletariat', in February, July and the "nationalisations from below" of early 1918. In February it was the women workers who had rampaged through the Petrograd factories bringing the rest out on strike, against the orders of shop-floor representatives of all parties.[9] Yet once this revolution was accomplished, the conferences of factory committees only mention the women workers to refer to their "indiscipline", especially (and significantly) in the factories where dilution was strongest. The electrical industry was the only one where the absolute number of women taken on during the war actually exceeded that of men; a month after the February revolution, the Central Council of Factory Committees in Petrograd made the following statement about the Svetlana electrical factory, one of the starting points of the revolution:

"It is almost exclusively women who work there. It is to be regretted that their understanding of the situation is weak, and so is the workers' sense of organisation and proletarian discipline . . . . It has been decided to delegate a comrade from the first reserve regiment to the general assembly of women workers."

In a factory where so many of the workers were women that an all-male committee was impossible, a man had to be specially delegated from outside the factory. "Indiscipline" seems to have been a code word for revolutionary fervour, not for backwardness. Similar attitudes on the part of the factory committees towards peasant immigrants and youth can be traced.[10]

Some recent writers have brought the discussion about the internal composition of the working class as far as this point - notably the disciples of Mario Tronti, who have studied this period internationally and in great detail.[11] They have made the point that the significance of Petrograd was not its position as a westernised outpost surrounded by a semi-feudal hinterland, but as part of a chain of munitions-producing centres stretching through Berlin, Vienna, Turin, Paris to Glasgow, and across the Atlantic. In each of these centres, they point out, it was the skilled metal-workers who ran the councils, committees, etc.; their interests were often sectional, and even where they saw the need for a political revolution going beyond the bourgeois state (i.e. in Petrograd and Turin), they still thought of production and of their role in production in terms of the capitalist mode.

This analysis stands up to empirical scrutiny. Not only the Bolsheviks, but Gramsci and Ordine Nuovo lamented the indiscipline of the new proletariat whom the "factory councils" had been designed to incorporate; they refer to traditional skilled workers as "the better elements" in much the same way that Emile Vandervelde, the Belgian Arthur Henderson, talked about "the moral qualities of the producer" when he saw the Petrograd ordnance factory committees raise production under their own management after February. On the other hand, the new proletariat in Russia had names for the traditional skilled workers - "the wise guys with their nuts and bolts", "metalworkers' republics". The shop-floor organisers of the whole class mistook this hostility towards themselves, as a section, for backwardness on the question of the class struggle: at certain key conjunctures in the revolutionary process, the opposite was manifestly the case.

It is, however, to be regretted that having brought the historical argument into wholly new territory, i.e. the internal composition of the working class, the writers of this school then leave it there. In the manner of (bourgeois) sociology, they see the class structure of the proletariat only as a structure, as a series of adjacent layers, one of which plays an all-determining role. They have explored the internal composition, but not the internal dialectic. This leads them to dismiss what Bologna calls "the self-management project" as the outmoded property of only one section of the class, moreover a project which is irrelevant to the "new proletariat". It must be pointed out that, again, this "sociological" deficiency in the argument must be traced forward to the attitudes of the school to current practice, which derive not from an overall world analysis but from the highly specific conditions of Italy, where the role of a "new proletariat" in mass production (e.g. peasants from the South in FIAT) is relatively important.

The work of Bologna and Tronti seems to be diametrically opposite to that of Pannekoek, the Dutch council communists and their descendants, who are the supreme upholders of the "councillist" idea. Yet they are really two sides of the ' same coin. The "council fetish" works against the councils' detractors as well as their supporters. One side dismisses what the other upholds, namely a council project which they both see structurally, as an institution. But in Russia, Italy and elsewhere, the role, functions and membership of shop-floor councils and committees could change rapidly and represent complex, conflicting interests. They were less an institution with stable functions than the symptoms of a process in which the fight against the bourgeoisie in the factories was helped, and not only hindered, by the interaction between different sections of the working class; both sections played "leading", determining roles, but of quite different kinds.

It is a commonplace that internal class antagonisms are sharpest in a pre-Revolutionary situation (groups of workers in Ivanovo-Voznesensk were having gun-battles with each other in 1916). The "antagonisms" between the factory committees and factory assemblies, or between skilled and "new" workers, are less antagonistic and more fruitful than might appear from the evidence so far. (It may be argued that no one in their right mind would ever question the unity of the working class in the Russian revolution, in the first place. But taking such positions for granted is the first step towards the kind of sterility which I have pointed to in the existing arguments; and, outside of certain left-wing milieux, there is no harm in asking questions.).

It would be a mistake to think that the sectional interests of the skilled workers who formed the factory committees held back the revolutionary process, any more than they created it. The revolutionary process was carried through by neither one section of the workers' movement nor the other, but precisely by the relations between them. It was the product of an interaction between the spontaneous forces of the mass movement and the steadier "organisational" approach of the vanguard.

The use of the term "vanguard" for one particular section may appear somewhat contradictory in relation to what I have just said. The term describes their view of themselves and the view of the other layers; it does not accurately describe the influence of both sections on the objective developments. In February and July the masses in the factories were "well to the left" of the committees and had sometimes to use violent intimidation to get their delegates to support insurgent action. Can the latter still be called a vanguard, and why did they usually remain in place? In the bigger factories, at least, the principle of instant recall of delegates (one of the most important features of socialist democracy) does not seem to have operated. The names of committee officials tend to remain constant throughout 1917 in any one factory, although the turnover of labour was colossal. The source documents of individual factory committees are very reticent about their own mode of election or appointment, and where references do occur there seems to have been some backstairs dealing between the various political parties. In one example, where the SRs held a majority over the Bolsheviks, the July days (which discredited the SRs with the workers en masse) made a redistribution of places on the factory committee inevitable. Factory militants of the two parties tried to get a behind-the-scenes agreement between themselves, so that there would be an increase in the number of committee places for the Bolsheviks at the expense of the SRs, reflecting the general mood. It was only when the latter objected to the precise size of the majority claimed by the Bolsheviks that the issue was put to a vote at a mass meeting.[12]

The working masses, then, accepted the skilled committee layer as their natural leaders. Socialist democracy reached a ceiling; the false consciousness of the proletariat in relation to its own revolutionary leadership. This is the second reason, apart from the "authoritarian nature of the Leninist party", that is deduced by the libertarian argument for the deformation of the Russian revolution, the evidence is plentiful and has to be faced. Again, facing it and examining it is the only way of dealing with it.

What is the precise location of this "false consciousness" in Russian history and its relation to the movement for workers' control? The weakness of feudalism in Russia had been the vast size of the territory which it had to cover with its primitive communications technology. This vastness created a weakness in local administration which was made up for by all kinds of institutions in which peasants and artisans, lacking any external embodiment of political authority apart from the priesthood, organised themselves for the purposes of their own subjugation to the Tsarist state. This was the meaning of the so-called primitive communism of the village commune, and of the artel system for artisans and labourers. These forms of self-organisation were inoculated against revolutionary or centrifugal tendencies by the internalisation of order and discipline through religion and the suppression of women and children, the severity of which was quite special to Russia. Even by the time of the First World War the commune system was still in substantial existence: the chornorabochie\n the advanced Petrograd factories were still hired in artel-type gangs which employed and paid themselves.

The collapse of the Tsarist system meant the collapse of the forms of self-organisation which had underwritten that system. The old forms which were being lost could not be separated from the new, socialist forms of self-organisation at the base. The factory committees developed out of "councils of elders" and often carried that name through the revolutionary experience - the name of the village commune's governing body. In some ways this pre-capitalist tradition of self-organisation was fruitful in 1917. The practice of control from below did not just affect the factories but the whole of social life. The bread queues, for example, were in actual fact rationing committees - each one had an elected committee which allotted places in the queue according to the age, needs and size of family of the women. Monasteries, old people's homes, tenants, passengers on long train journeys, children in primary as well as secondary schools, all created "soviets".[13] But this tradition was double-edged: at the very point where their own direct power took the most advanced and prophetic forms, the masses carried through the ideological ballast of the previous society. "Tradition" contributed, but ambiguously.

The essence of the libertarian argument is that the level of productive forces plays a less determining role in the development of history than the existence of hierarchy: in the revolutionary process, that hierarchy takes the form of "authoritarianism" among the leaders (in this case the Bolshevik party), and "false consciousness" among the masses in submitting to what they consider their natural leaders. But to put the attack on hierarchy in first place is in fact to reflect the authoritarian principle which it wants to destroy. There was a whole political movement, the SRs, which was built round the belief that the existing forms of self-organisation could be developed through a cultural revolution into communism, and which similarly ignored the vital role of the level of productive forces. They ignored it to the extent of fighting against the introduction of industry into Russia; at the same time, they sought to develop a modern communist project directly out of a "primitive communism" which was in fact a perfected form of internalised authoritarianism, the backbone of the Tsarist state. It was a self-defeating project. The post-1917 careers of the factory committees and their leaders will show exactly how seriously this question must betaken.

We should be grateful to the modern writers who have questioned the homogeneity of the workers' movement as it is portrayed in the work of more orthodox historians (and this includes the "Trotskyist" movement, though Trotsky's own history does not deserve this accusation). The reluctance to analyse revolutionary subjectivity in all its complex internal richness is rooted in an irrational fear that to probe too closely would reveal no unity at all, that the Russian workers' movement was always divided into leaders and led with antagonistic interests, that the "enemy" argument might actually be true. But in fact the libertarian argument, which is implied by all the modern researchers on the factory committees, can be nailed quite easily; it is a mundane question of doing the research, and the less mundane one of seeing the need to do it.

Let us take one very specific example. Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control is not in itself a work of original research, but it draws on most of the modern writers who have done research in this area. He develops an argument concerning the first months of Soviet power that has been raised by all the modern researchers, but which first appears in a pamphlet written by Kerensky in 1920.[14] The argument is that Lenin and the Bolshevik leaders suppressed the factory committees immediately on the seizure of power, because they held too much real power. There is, first of all, no doubt about the fact that the factory committees were the most powerful institution in Russia by the end of 1917, not only among the working class but in the whole political life of the country: no one could move without them. There is also no doubt about the fact that this power later submerged. Let us deal with the argument, rather than mutter some dismissive phrase about the party leadership being better able to cope with the long-term interests of the class than the class's own representatives. We have seen how there is a tendency in this kind of argument to pose a divergence between the interests of the party leadership and those of the working class, only to reconstruct the monolith as a homogeneous working class devoid of sectional interests. In this process the factory committees are collapsed into "the working class", whereas in fact, even if the original premise is accepted - the divergence between the class and a nascent bureaucracy - the committees belong to the latter. Brinton notes that the legislation on workers' control immediately after October was elaborated in totally different ways by Lenin and by the factory committee leaders.[15] His basis for this argument is a document drawn up by the Central Council of Petrograd Factory Committees on how to run the new socialist economy, which was published in part in Izvestia [16 ] and fully in Narodnoe Khozyaistvo [17] under the title of "Draft Instructions on Workers' Control".

This document was the contribution of the factory committee leaders to a debate summoned by the new Soviet government and involving the trade unions and government commissioners for the economy. It laid down the duties of the factory committees in precise detail -shop-floor duties for individual committees, and for the Central Council the running of the department of the economy within the new state.

"Control must be understood as a transitional stage towards organising the whole economic life of the country according to socialist principles; it is the first urgent step towards this from below, and runs parallel with the work at the top, which is the central organisation of the national economy."

The étatist project dovetails perfectly here with the anarcho-syndicalist one; there is no irony in saying that workers' control is state control on the shopfloor - the experience of bureaucratisation lies ahead, not in the past. The result of the debate was that the factory committees' proposals were more acceptable to Lenin than those of either the trade unions or his economic experts, and not simply for manipulative reasons: they were the only proposals which were based on the thoroughgoing destruction of the old state administrative apparatus, for reasons which I shall make clear later on. The "work at the top" which the document refers to is VSNKh (the Supreme Council of the National Economy), which shortly afterwards was set up on the initiative of the Central Council of Factory Committees itself (the evidence is their own),[18] and which eventually became the organ for bringing local soviets to heel by withholding credit and subjugating them to centralised state control. Yet this is the document which Brinton refers to as the great example of workers' management, of how the factory committees were at odds with Lenin.

It makes an interesting digression to discover how he could have reached such a conclusion. His knowledge of the document is fifth-hand. It derives from an article by Didier L. Limon (Lénine et le contrôle ouvrier), written in the late forties and reprinted in Autogestion (no. 4, Paris, December 1967). This article derives its knowledge from an article by Anna Pankratova, written in 1923 and translated in the same issue of Autogestion (Les comités d'usine en Russia).

Pankratova got to know of it through a pamphlet, Rabochii Kontrol' ("Workers' Control"), written by S. A. Lozovskii at the end of 1917. Although Narodnoe Khoayaistvo and the document are not a rarity, it is evident that Lozovskii's pamphlet is the "original" secondary source for the rest, since all four writers quote from only one, identical passage:

"Workers' control over industry, as an integral part of control over the whole economic life of the country, should be understood not in the narrow sense of a simple revision, but on the contrary in the broad sense of an intervention in the employers' decisions concerning capital, stocks, raw materials and finished articles in the factory; effective supervision over the profitable and expedient execution of orders; the use of energy and labour power; and participation in the organisation of production itself on a rational basis, etc., etc."

Unfortunately the whole reference has got a bit shop-soiled in passing through four pairs of hands.

Lozovskii continually refers to the document by a title that was not the published one: when he quotes from it, he calls it the "Practical Manual for the Execution of Workers' Control". Pankratova takes over this title from him, and also gets the date wrong: she dates it 6th February 1918 (Lozovskii's pamphlet was written in November 1917). There are obvious "political" reasons for Stalin's rewriter-in-chief of history books to do this, for the new date situates it after the first trade union congress and the fusion between unions and factory committees, instead of before. This erases from history the antagonism between the two (which forms the very basis of Lozovskii's polemic). Limon in the 1940s takes over the wrong title and the wrong date, and adds his own embellishment: his quotation from the above paragraph ends abruptly at the word "intervention": this cuts out any reference to what is to be intervened in, and gives the word an apocalyptic significance. At the same time. Limon has decided to change the authors of the document too - he refers to them as "the non-Bolshevik leaders of the all-Russian Council of Factory Committees".

Brinton thus takes over from Limon an amputated quotation bearing the wrong date, the wrong title and the wrong authors. Then he gets to work himself. There is a passing reference to Limon's "sophisticated Leninist apologetics" (a facet of which is presumably Limon's ability to read Russian, which Brinton cannot, in spite of the fact that he quotes the original source in impeccable Russian even when he has obtained things from secondary and tertiary sources). Then, in addition to his inherited mistakes, he decides to re-write the text:

"Workers' control of industry, as a part of workers' control of the totality of economic life, must not be seen in the narrow sense of a reform of institutions but in the widest possible sense: that of moving into fields previously dominated by others. Control should merge into management. [19]

By this time, any resemblance to the original quotation is purely coincidental. That last sentence is in fact Limon's - it is Limon's interpretative comment on the text (which he has misread by closing the quotation at the word "intervention"). Brinton elects to include Limon's gloss inside the quotation marks, as part of the original text.

This seems to me a bit strong. It is no wonder that Brinton emerges with his particular set of conclusions; given this libertarian attitude towards verifiable facts, one can see how the pumpkin turned into a golden coach. The "Draft Instructions" are perhaps the first contributory document to the idea of a centrally planned, state-owned "total" economy: in Brinton's book they appear as an "anti-Leninist", anti-Stalinist tract. But sarcasm does not sit too well on the orthodox Marxist left. Writers like these have at least attempted to get a worms'-eye-view of the revolutionary process; from a book like Isaac Deutscher's The Prophet Armed or E. H. Carr's history, which in their own ways are immensely valuable, it is difficult to grasp that such a thing as the working class existed, let alone any factory committees.

The factory committee layer, then, was closely associated from the very beginning with the attempt to build a new, centralised economic apparatus, to raise the level of productive forces; the primacy of this task was rejected by both the SRs and the tendencies to the left of Bolshevism. Is this to imply that the factory committee leaders had already become apparatchiks? If that is the case, then it must be admitted that they had been so even from February (Vlas Chubar, for example, had spent the entire February-October period in a room marked nachalnik zavoda - works manager - in the Petrograd Gun Factory as chairman of its factory committee). But this would then destroy the argument that they were the "real" leaders of the working class. In fact, though, the Central Council was elected by a large delegate conference of factory committees.

Looking at the later careers of the former factory committee leaders, it is certainly possible to talk about a process of bureaucratisation. But if we trace those careers backwards, we can see that the process is grounded in a more material condition than "false consciousness" or careerism. Chubar' was shot in 1938 and elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1937. From 1934, when he was elected to the Politburo, he had been known as an expert on capital formation in industry and was critical of the "lack of financial discipline" in carrying out the first 5-year plan; he was given the task of correcting these faults in the second. In the decade up to 1934 he had been chairman of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic, where he was one of the chief executants of collectivisation: one of his aides there was Matvei Zhivotov, who had been chairman of the factory committee at the "1886" power station in Petrograd in 1917, a member of the bureau of the Central Council of Factory Committees and at that time a notably forthright attacker of "bureaucratic attitudes" among the party professionals. In 1927 Chubar' and Skrypnik, another former member of the bureau, were among the cheerleaders at the Party Central Committee meeting which shouted down Trotsky. From 1920 to 1923 Chubar' was head of VSNKh in the Ukraine, in the company of Zhivotov and Artur Kaktyn', a Latvian journalist who had been co-opted on to the bureau of the Central Council of Factory Committees in 1917. In 1920 Kaktyn' wrote a pamphlet called Edinyi khozyaistvennyi plan i edinyi khozyaistvennyi tsentr ("The Single Economic Plan and the Single Economic Centre"). This pamphlet is a polemic in favour of the ideas of Eugene Varga, who had just started to publish in Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn' ("Economic Life") the ideas which paved the way for the 5-year plans. Kaktyn's pamphlet gives a brief history of the factory committees in passing, and points out how the 1917 plans of the Central Council of Factory Committees for the creation of VSNKh were the ideal model for the "single economic plan". This was no false hindsight. The eyes of the factory committee stratum had been turned in this direction from October. I shall try to demonstrate later the relation of this to the internal dialectic within the proletariat. For the moment, let us note that the question for this stratum in the late 1920s was industrialisation at all costs; the costs included (for example) famine and massacre in the Ukraine, handing out favours to a non-socialist technocracy, and the elimination of those like Trotsky who counted these costs. For the former shop-floor leaders of the proletariat which in emancipating itself and liquidating the old apparatus had also virtually liquidated itself, the problem was how to create a new proletariat.

If we now go back and look at a factual account and timetable of how the council process was formed out of and transformed the objective reality, by means of its own internal class dialectic, we shall be able to see more clearly how those shop-floor leaders became involved with the "Stalinist" project, or rather that part of it associated with names such as Ordzhonikidze.

Shop-floor committees appear under the name of "councils of elders" from 1903 onwards: they exist only fitfully, as negotiating organs during strikes (trade unions are effectively outlawed). They are a fluctuating mixture of highly political militants and management stooges, united by the fact that they are skilled workers.[20] Skilled men are at a premium in a country where industrialisation took place in one go and where, less than a generation before, anything up to 90% of the skilled workers in the big new factories were West Europeans; otherwise, the picture and the timetable correspond to what is also happening in factories all over Europe.

In the First World War working-class political activity outside the factory is still suppressed. As in the rest of Europe, political militants are deliberately called up first, but arc sent back because they are all skilled workers who are now in even shorter supply. At the bosses' request, the Mensheviks and SRs participate in the establishment of factory-level War Industry Committees, which are intended to imitate the West European forms of joint consultation and to boost munitions production. The leader of the "workers' section" of these committees is the Menshevik Kuz'ma Gvozdev, an electrician-fitter at the Ericson telephone factory. The Bolsheviks attack the committees because they are against the war, and refuse to participate in elections to them. But there is a whole new proletariat in the factories which participates enthusiastically in the elections - not necessarily because they approve of the war, but because it means that there is some form of representation for them, that they can hold mass meetings, vote, etc. The Bolsheviks are then forced to recognise this new and very real aspect of the situation, and participate half-heartedly in the elections. But even for the pro-war Mensheviks such as Gvozdev the situation is ambiguous: they have in fact entered an anti-Tsarist revolutionary alliance with the industrial bourgeoisie, and it is an alliance in which they are already claiming seniority. In early 1916 militarisation of factory management becomes total; the Tsarist government forces the industrial bourgeoisie to disband their "subversive" war industry committees and the workers' sections are sent to prison.[21]

At the turn of 1916-17 the vast new working class is leaderless. The vanguard of the new elements is the women, whose experience of the chaos and oppression covers most aspects of social and working life - they are the same women who organise the bread queues. They are the leaders of the "spontaneous process" of the February revolution. The very first demonstrations release Gvozdev from prison: he initiates an Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, which in turn convenes the Soviet itself (it has thus been created from the top down). The source of the revolutionary experience and its political expression are as yet remote from each other.

Factory committees, in the sense of permanent organs of shop-floor representation, spring up first in the dozen or so Petrograd ordnance factories run directly by the Tsarist state[22] ; management inside the factory has disappeared, and the workers elect their own, to look after the day-to-day running of production. In the other factories, committees soon spring up to introduce a "modern" system of the eight-hour day and collective bargaining; the rate of private industrial investment shoots up, and until June most strikes are avoided at the eleventh hour by negotiations, in which the committees come off best.

In early April the first step towards co-ordination of the committees' activity is taken: there is a conference of the ordnance factories, i.e. the most "advanced" workers, technically and politically. They co-opt Bolshevik representatives to the meeting, who advise that a conference of all the Petrograd factories should be convened; this takes place at the beginning of June.[23] The spontaneity of February, the product of the "new proletariat" above all and "advanced" in a quite different sense, is channelled by the skilled factory committee workers from its broad social course on to the factory floor, to the "workers' control" slogan, to the preparation for political control of the Soviet.

This "channelling" activity dams up the patience of workers in the larger factories, which in June bursts; a rival "revolutionary centre" temporarily draws away a significant number of factory committees from the centre set up by the conference. It is non-party basically, but includes some rank-and-file Bolsheviks from the Vyborg factories. This centre is one of the main bodies responsible for the agitation which culminates in the July days, which is in turn a "spontaneous" action which goes far beyond the immediate plans of most of the factory committees, pushed unwillingly to the head of the demonstrations. The July uprising is defeated, but the momentum is maintained within the narrower context of the factory committee movement: they channel the defeated thrust of the masses into a much more aggressive form of workers' control. It is at precisely this point that the balance in the duality of power tips decisively towards the working class. The rate of investment falls like a stone from July onwards and the bourgeoisie starts to sabotage production; this in turn only increases the power of the factory committees as they take over responsibility for getting things produced and for ensuring supplies of fuel and raw materials. The second conference of factory committees in early August confirms this. The Kornilov revolt seeks to restore the status quo. Kornilov is not just any general but the man responsible for militarising the labour force in Petrograd during the war; his identity is a testimony to the power of the committees. The Central Council of Petrograd Factory Committees takes a more directing role, especially in the formation of the Red Guard. When the Bolshevik leaders, or rather Lenin alone, waits for the people to be on the streets before taking responsibility for the October uprising, it is precisely these people he is talking about - the hard core of the factory committee leaders and the militia they had formed. It is not a "spontaneous" movement, but it fulfills the basic demands of what the masses fought for in July.

The October revolution intensifies the crisis of the bourgeoisie in the factories, to the extent that "workers' control" over sabotage is no longer effective - the sabotage is now taking the form of abandoning the enterprises. Throughout the first few months of 1918, Lenin and Trotsky, supported by the former factory committee leaders, try to hold back the economic chaos. They plan nationalisation, which for them means a pragmatic short-term attempt to bring certain industries under state control for the purposes of capital development, to limit rather than suppress the market and private property (as the quotation from the committees' "Draft Instructions on Workers' Control" suggests), and to hire the skills of the bourgeoisie. The mass of workers, on the other hand, see nationalisation as signifying real socialisation; they carry out wildcat "spontaneous" nationalisations which undermine the basis of the negotiations going on between Lenin and Trotsky and Western representatives for financial and technical assistance.[24] The Bolshevik leaders warn against this; but the masses carry on socialising enterprises from the bottom up, in the name of the Soviet government which they are defying but which they regard as theirs. ("False consciousness"? Or a sophisticated grasp of the real situation, of the partial nature of their own direct power?) Their defiance ensures that the Western representatives will not be enticed into real negotiations, that the capitalist countries will invade, that the civil war will start in earnest, that the proletariat will have virtually disappeared by 1920. It is the Russian proletariat itself which has created these "objective conditions".

Between October and the middle of 1918 production is already collapsing as a result of the imperialist war. The class struggle is going on, but beyond the reach of the Bolshevik government. VSNKh, which includes the former factory committee leaders, begins to function. It supports Lenin's attempt to prevent wildcat nationalisations but simultaneously supports the view of Bukharin and the "left" group that such nationalisations should be given de facto recognition. According to Kaktyn':

"The instructions on active workers' control elaborated by the Petrograd Council of Factory Committees led only to a general channelling of the overflowing, wide-ranging process of seizure of the factories by the workers. Although it proceeded in an anarchic way, accompanied by a similarly anarchic process of demilitarisation of the munitions industry, the importance of this colossal creative work was enormous. It brought the solid basis of Soviet power." [25]

Unable to influence this class war, the Bolshevik leaders accuse these workers of having a "petty-bourgeois consciousness", of having a cottage-industry mentality that looks on the factory as they would on a small private business of their own. Historians like Carr and even Avrich, whom one might expect to be more sympathetic to the workers' view, take this accusation at face value. In fact there are not many people on any section of the left who disbelieve the story that the Russian workers were backward in this and were "too close to the soil". It is a mistaken view, which results from studying too much of the polemic of the time and not enough about what the proletariat actually was. The women and youth among the "new proletariat" were largely from the families of urban workers who had been called up,[26] and were certainly not "backward peasants"; on the other hand the chornorabochie and peasant heavy labourers had very little influence on factory politics. There were also the in-betweens, especially the Kustar' artisans from the countryside who had been called up and then sent to work in the factories because they had some needed skill. These would certainly have originally been the "petty bourgeoisie" in the countryside, but the evidence is that they had been proletarianised rapidly and intensely by mass production. Questionnaires sent by the Tsarist government to factory bosses asking about the effects of the vodka prohibition receive delighted answers saying that the workers have been transformed into "real industrial workers" overnight.[27]

So we are talking about a genuine class struggle. The slanders of the Bolshevik leaders are not examples of an arbitrary "authoritarianism", though. While this new spontaneous action is going on, the party leadership has its hands full coping with the political and military tasks posed by the October revolution, looking for a breathing space. At the very moment when the leadership is struggling to consolidate one situation created by the spontaneous initiative of the working class, the class itself is already in the process of creating an entirely new situation. The party leadership, which has only recently come round to the idea of permanent revolution and has not thought about how to run the economy (its only ideas in 1917 are Menshevik ones, and it is a recent Menshevik, Yuri Larin, who is belatedly appointed as economic adviser), wants a dictatorship of the proletariat over a mixed economy. The proletariat itself wants the bourgeoisie out of the apparatus - but it can only achieve this by provoking its own liquidation, in a physical sense.

In this situation the factory committees are no longer the pilot group they were in 1917. The debates at the first trade union congress in January 1918 (which was also the sixth conference of factory committees) reflect the apparent divergence: the debate is between those who believe that workplace democracy is the priority, and those who put political and military tasks first. In the factories, a small fraction of anarcho-syndicalists and a larger number of nonparty delegates are gaining ground on the Bolsheviks because of their insistence on the first of these priorities. The Bolshevik faction on the Putilov factory committee, for example, wants to withdraw the members of the Red Guard there from their skilled jobs in the locomotive-building shop and send them to fight the reaction. The non-party delegates, led by Oskar Vakkhanen, the sole anarcho-syndicalist delegate, complain that their skills are more urgently required in production since Russia is without railway engines. The non-party delegates have usually supported the Bolsheviks before, but Vakkhanen wins the vote.[28] He is certainly right about the railway engines, but his priorities are questionable. If we know now that the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised in the political sphere without also being exercised at the point of production (and this knowledge depends on our consciousness of the consequences of bureacratisation), then the converse is also true: that the consolidation of a Soviet state whose existence was still in doubt at the time of this first "trade union debate" was the precondition for any kind of "socialism" at all, even if this socialism could only be built at the expense of direct workers' power.

The official incorporation of the factory committees into factory cells of the trade unions in January 1918 was not exactly a suppression of the former. It came only after the trade unions had accepted the line of the Central Council of factory committees on economic development and the role of VSNKh. In this debate the Central Council had attacked the trade unions (citing Vikzhel in particular, though the disease apparently extended to Bolshevik-controlled unions too) for being too interested in their craft status[29] : they were "syndicalists", uniting workers on the basis of their craft, and were therefore interested in preserving what was left of the existing structure of national economic management. This was not just a "loyal" reproduction of the Leninist line, it was something of vital interest to the factory committees themselves. They united workers not on the basis of craft but of the branch of production: they therefore had an interest in a more fundamental reorganisation of the whole economy, in which they genuinely saw state planning and centralisation as the indispensable precondition of workers' control on the spot. The factory committee leaders had emerged in 1917 as part of a highly skilled section of the working class and had acted accordingly, maintaining and channelling the spontaneous creativity of the class as a whole towards political goals; this was a successful process to which their sectional interests contributed, even where there was antagonism between these and the interests of the new proletariat. But now, in positions of power in the state apparatus, removed from their immediate working-class context, they represented the much more generalised interest of a class which had to be re-formed along with the economy. And at the same time the sectional interest of the remaining handful of traditional skilled workers still on the spot, their "craft status", became a much more reactionary interest, tied to the old economic apparatus. This is of the utmost importance in studying the changeover to collegiate management in mid-1919. The former factory committee leaders approved of the change from management by trade-union/factory committee cells to a system of increased participation by state and technicians (which already had a de facto existence). This does not mean they had already turned into petty bureaucrats - they fought hard against piecework, for example, which was reintroduced at the same time. The opposition to collegiate management came from people like Holzman, the metalworkers' union leader, who claimed that by introducing it the party was "protecting unskilled workers and labourers at the expense of 'industrial' groups of the proletariat"[30] ; this indicates that collegiate management was seen as a lowering of status for the skilled workers who had naturally slid into the "workers' management" posts.

Overshadowing the question of what happened to the factory committees, however, are those statistics of Milyutin's on the decline of productive capacity by 1920, which I quoted at the beginning. The careers of the various shop-floor leaders illustrate the point. Gvozdev, the arch-patriot, production-boosting munitions worker, bosses' friend, and Minister of Labour under Kerensky, was released from prison in 1920 - and sent to work for VSNKh. Vladimir Shatov, politically educated by the Wobblies and therefore closely associated with the "new proletariat", an anarcho-syndicalist member of the Central Council of Factory Committees, the most coherent advocate of "workplace democracy before anything else" at the first trade union congress, became Minister responsible for the militarisation of labour in the Far East - he spent 1920 ordering railwaymen to work for nothing.[31] The former factory committee leaders were working for VSNKh in 1920, bringing the last of the independent local Soviets to order. The convergence of the Menshevik, Bolshevik and Anarcho-syndicalist careers rested on a more fundamental convergence between their ideas on how to run a socialist economy, which in turn was determined by the productive and technological level available to them. While the Bolshevik party were the political vanguard, the only party with the revolutionary will and effective programme to create the conditions for raising this level, it was the shop-floor leaders in particular who seemed to grasp the meaning of this for the future of socialism, and worked for "industrialisation at all costs".

The arguments presented here might seem like a justification of Stalinism. On the other hand, they could equally signify a ritual dating of the "degeneration" of the Russian revolution as beginning in 1920, though we really ought to be out of that particular wood by now. They would both be false assumptions. Whatever the later results, it was the internal dialectic of the Russian workers' movement and the detonating role of this dialectic within the wider context of the class struggle that produced our transitional world - from the civil war and war communism, the introduction of NEP and the ending of the razverstka, to Stalinism itself and the current state of the world revolution. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" was indirect, and the indirect forms of workers' power - party and state - only survived at the expense of the direct forms, of the self-managing organs at the base. It is the classic instance of bureaucratic degeneration. Thermidor is not a date: it is a tendency inherent in those indirect forms of power, in the creation of any "workers' state" - it is inherent always and from the beginning. A ritual precise dating of Thermidor is the business of those who regard the history of the revolution as the history of the party, and the analysis of revolutionary subjectivity as taken for granted. The degeneration is not the personal property of a Stalin or those who suffer from "false consciousness", it is rooted in our transitional material world.

This is not to assert that the "Leninist party" (of 1917) is somehow to blame for this degeneration. (Even in our present world, in spite of the fact that bureaucratic degeneration is inherent in the "workers' state" and the "workers' party", these are still the necessary complement to forms of direct workers' power which act as increasingly effective antibodies against that degeneration.). But among revolutionary historians the mechanical exegesis of the history of the party has a de-dialectising influence on our revolutionary activity today. To refer to the tradition of Lenin and the Bolsheviks by upholding the content of the Bolshevik programme or the Leninist party schematically, as models for our activity today, is to deny that tradition. The Leninist reference is to precisely the opposite, to all those elements which did distinguish the Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks, Anarcho-Syndicalists etc. - to a creative audacity, to a willingness to jettison old models and go along with the revolutionary praxis of working people. The collective attempt to carry on this real "tradition" needs also to discover its own history. (From Critique no.3)


1. This article is an extended version of a paper given to the Third Conference of Radical Soviet & East European Studies, Birmingham University, 5 May 1973.

2. V. Milyutin, article in Moscow Izvestiya mo. 275 (1920), quoted by K. Leites in Recent Economic Developments in Russia (Oxford, 1922), p.162.

3. Trotsky: History of the Russian Revolution, p.435.

4. See account of Putilov factory committee's behaviour during the July days in I. I. Gaza: Putilovets v trekh revolyutsiakh (Moscow 1933).

5. Emile Vandervelde: Three Aspects of the Russian Revolution, p.48-9. (London 1918).

6. V. Drobizhev and N. Dumova: V. Ya. Chubar': Biograficheskii Ocherk (Moscow 1963).

7. M. I. Mitel'man (ed.): Istoria Putilovskovo zavoda, p.484-489 (Moscow, 1961); Trotsky: op. cit., p.419.

8. Evidence for this can be obtained from the documents and protocols issued by the factory committees themselves, the most comprehensive selection of which is available in D. Chugeav: Revolyutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii, 4 vols. (Moscow, 1959-61).

9. Article by V. Kayurov in Proletarskaya Revolyutsia no. 1 (1923), p.157-171.

10. Izvestiya of the Petrograd Soviet, 6 (19) April 1917, quoted in Amoscv etc. (ed.): Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsia i Fabzavkomy, 2 vols, (Moscow 1927), p.19.

11. e.g. Sergio Bologna: Composizione di classe e teoria: del partito alle origini del movimento consiliare (in Operai e Stato, Milan, 1972).

12. D. Chugaev; Revolyutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii vavguste 1917 g, (Moscow 1959) p.244.[]

13. Eye-witness accounts by foreign observers are especially informative in this respect; these examples are taken from John Reed, Louise Bryant and Phillips Price.[]

14. A. Kerensky: Soviet Russia in the Autumn of 1919, (London, 1920).

15: M. Brinton: The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control (London, 1970), p.25.

16. Izvestiya, 7 December 1917.

17. Narodnoe Khozyaistvo no. 1, 1918.

18. Article by V. Chubar' in Narodnoe Khozyaistvo no. 11, 1918.

19. M. Brinton: op. cit., p.26.

20. See Benjamin Ward: "Wild Socialism in Russia" ( California Slavonic Studies vol. 3, Berkeley 1964).

21. Oskar Anweiler: Dic Ratebewegung in Russland (Leiden, 1958), chapter 3, section 1.

22. Amosov: op. cit., vol. 1.

23. Ibid.

24. Milyutin: article in Narodnoe Khozyaistvo (no. 5, 1918); Jacques Sadoul: Notes sur la Revolution Bolchevique, p.279.

25. Arthur M. Kaktyn': Edinyi khozyaistvennyi plan, etc. ( op. cit. ), p.19

26. S. Kohler: "Die russische Industrie wahrend des Weltkriegs", in Quellen und Studien vol. 1 no. 5 (Berlin, 1921), p.89.

27. Statistical Bureau of the Society of Mill and Factory Owners (Moscow District), quoted in J. Y. Simpson: The Self-discovery of Russia (London, 1916).

28. I. I. Gaza: op. cit.

29. A. M. Kaktyn': op. cit. p.20.

30. Holzman: "K bor'be za vosstanovlenie narodnovo khozyaistva", quoted in Drobizhev and Drumova: op. cit., p.27.

31. H. K. Norton: The Far-eastern Republic of Siberia, London 1923.

Reply by Maurice Brinton

It is a welcome sign of the times that a serious exchange of radical opinion is now under way concerning the formative period of the Russian state, and Critique is to be congratulated on having played a part in the initiation of this discussion. How deep the confrontation goes will, of course, depend on how open the journal remains to those in the revolutionary movement who do not accept the label of 'marxist', but who feel they may nevertheless have something of relevance to contribute.

In your last issue, Chris Goodey claims that 'it is only the current practice and experience of the world movement for socialist revolution that is beginning to allow us an overall view of the battle-stations which we have unthinkingly maintained for a long time'. In a very general sense that is, of course, true.

But elements of a serious critique antedated - and by a considerable period - 'May 1968 in France, the Prague events and the Chilean revolution. Some of those who initiated this critique would moreover shudder to find themselves subsumed under the 'we' that Goodey refers to. They did not wait until the late sixties to express their views. As early as 1918 they had clearly seen the direction in which Russian society was moving and proclaimed a principled opposition, often at the cost of their lives. It is a tragic fact, for which Leninists of all kinds (Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and the advocates of various theories of 'state capitalism', i.e. International Socialists, Bordigists, 'Marxist humanists', etc.) must carry their full share of responsibility that we know less today about the early weeks of the Russian Revolution than we do, for instance, about the history of the Paris Commune.

'Unfortunately it is not the workers who write history. It is always "the others".[1] 'Official' historians seldom have eyes to see or ears to hear the acts and words which express the autonomous activity of the working class. They think in terms of institutions, congresses, leaders. In the best instances they will vaunt rank and file activity as long as it coincides with their own conceptions. But they 'will radically condemn it or impute the basest of motives to it as soon as it deviates from that line'.[2] They seem to lack the categories of thought necessary to perceive life as it really is. To them an activity which has no leader or programme, no institutions and no statutes, can only be conceptualised as 'troubles' , 'disorder', 'anarchy'. In the words of Cardan[3] 'the spontaneous activity of the masses belongs, by definition, to what history suppresses'.

Goodey is correct when he claims it is 'part of the revolutionary process to demystify our own history' and when he points out that the struggle for 'direct forms of working peoples' power at the point of production' has been 'hidden and ignored'. (The formulation in the passive is, however, disingenuous. By whom was it hidden? And why was it ignored?) But he is profoundly wrong when he attributes this silence of the 'Marxist left' to such ideological shortcomings as lack of 'temerity' or insufficient 'capacity for self-criticism'. A proper evaluation of these matters cannot but lead, for anyone with even moderate pretensions to intellectual honesty, to a complete break with Leninism in all its aspects and to a re-examination of certain basic Marxist beliefs.

A steady trickle of documentation is now coming to light concerning the role of the Factory Committees in the Russian Revolution.[4] Goodey sees these committees as 'the most powerful institution in Russia by the end of 1917' and in this he is certainly right. He is also correct in claiming that 'this power later submerged'. What is lacking in his article, however, is a serious attempt to explain what happened in between, when it happened, why it happened, and to whom it happened. The 'submergence' of which Goodey speaks was well advanced, if not virtually completed, by May 1918, i.e. before the Civil War and the 'Allied' intervention really got under way. The traditional explanations of the degeneration of the Russian revolution are just not good enough.

In my view, Goodey's silence on these essential questions is unavoidable. It flows directly from his honestly declared political position. He sees Party and State as 'indirect forms of workers' power, and explicitly absolves the Leninist Party from any blame in the degeneration. He claims that 'even in our present world, in spite of the fact that bureaucratic degeneration is inherent in the "workers' state" and the "workers' party", these are still the necessary complement to forms of direct workers' power. He only conceives these forms of direct workers' power as 'effective antibodies against that degeneration'. He nowhere posits them as the necessarily dominant units in the initiation of policy, in other words as the basic nuclei of the new society. With this kind of overall outlook a serious analysis of the smashing of the Factory Committees is virtually impossible, for the Bolshevik Party was to play a dominant rote in this tragedy. There is nothing more Utopian than the belief that the Russian working class could have maintained its power through a 'workers' party' or a 'workers' state' when it had already lost that power at the point of production.

I have elsewhere[5] sought to bring together material from disparate sources and to document as concisely and yet as fully as possible the various stages of a process which led, within the short period of four years, from the tremendous upsurge of the Factory Committee movement (a movement which both implicitly and explicitly sought to alter the relations of production) to the establishment of unquestioned domination by a monolithic and bureaucratic agency (the party) over all aspects of economic and political life. I argued that as this agency was not itself based on production, its rule could only epitomise the continued limitation of the authority of the workers in the productive process. This necessarily implied the perpetuation of hierarchical relations within production itself, and therefore their perpetuation within society at large.

It is impossible, within the space available, to recapitulate all the evidence here. The first stage of the process under discussion was the subordination of the Factory Committees to the All-Russian Council for Workers' Control in which the unions (themselves already strongly under Party influence) were heavily represented. This took place very shortly after the coming to power of the Soviet Government.

The second phase - which almost immediately followed the first - was the incorporation of this All-Russian Council for Workers' Control into the Vesenka (Supreme Economic Council), even more heavily weighted in favour of the unions, but also comprising direct nominees of the State (i.e. of the Party). By early 1918 the Bolsheviks were actively seeking to merge the Committees into the trade union structures. The issue provoked heated discussions at the First All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions (Jan. 7-14, 1918) which saw desperate attempts, led mainly by anarcho-syndicalists, to maintain the autonomy of the Committees, against the advice of Ryazanov who urged the Committees 'to commit suicide by becoming an integral element of the trade union structure'.[6] During the next two years a sustained campaign was waged to curb the power of the unions themselves, for the unions, albeit in a very indirect and distorted way, could stiff be influenced by the working class. It was particularly important for the new bureaucracy to replace this power by the authority of direct Party nominees. These managers and administrators, nearly all appointed from above, gradually came to form the basis of a new ruling class. The important point, as far as the re-evaluation of history is concerned, is that each of these steps was to be resisted, but each fight was to be lost. Each time, the 'adversary' appeared in the garb of the new 'proletarian' power. And each defeat was to make it more difficult for the working class itself directly to manage production, i.e. fundamentally to alter its status as a subordinate class.

Goodey claims that the 'essence of the libertarian argument is that the level of the productive forces plays a less determining role in the development of history than the existence of hierarchy: in the revolutionary process that hierarchy takes the form of "authoritarianism" among the leaders (in this case the Bolshevik Party) and "false consciousness" among the masses in submitting to what they consider their natural leaders. It is difficult to know from where he can derive such a crudely psychological formulation of the libertarian case. As far as I know, no libertarian has argued that the level of the productive forces is either 'more' or 'less' important than the role of ideas and attitudes in influencing historical development. Both are important. What libertarians have stressed (and most Marxists have signally refused to recognise) is that the conceptions and attitudes of the dominant Party were as much an objective fact of history - influencing the evolution of events at critical moments - as were production statistics for electricity or steel.

Goodey claims that the libertarian argument 'can be nailed quite easily' and I find it a compliment that he should choose my essay on which to practice his skills as a carpenter. He focusses attention on one particular episode I describe in the hope that by challenging its factual accuracy he can somehow impugn the credibility of the rest. He correctly defines the area of the discussion. The argument is that Lenin and Bolshevik leaders suppressed the factory committees immediately on the seizure of power, because they held too much real power.

Right on! Goodey is also correct in attributing to me the view 'the legislation on workers' control immediately after October was elaborated in totally different ways by Lenin and by the factory committees' leaders. Again, right on! There is abundant evidence (summarised in my text) to substantiate this view. The Achilles' heel of my thesis is allegedly my reference to a document drawn up by certain members of the Central Council of Petrograd Factory Committees on how the economy should have been run immediately after the October events. I am quite prepared to take up the challenge on this rather narrow basis. According to Goodey (and he devotes three pages to the matter) my knowledge of the document in question was 'fifth hand'. I had inherited from one Didier Limon 'an amputated quotation, bearing the wrong date, the wrong title, and the wrong authors'. I had then 'rewritten the text'. Strong stuff. Unfortunately, on every single point Goodey is wrong.

According to Goodey the fateful history of this document was as follows. It was originally published in part in Izvestia (December 7, 1917) and fully in Narodnoe Khozyaistvo (no. 1, 1918). Lozovski, a Bolshevik trade unionist, allegedly altered its title from 'Draft Instructions on Workers Control' to 'Practical Manual for the Execution of Workers Control'. This was done in his book Rabochii Kontrol which according to Goodey was written 'in November of 1917'. (Goodey does not explain how Lozovski could, in November 1917, have been distorting the title of a text that had not yet been published, but this is a minor point.) Then, still according to Goodey's chronology, Pankratova took up the text in her writings of 1923. For reasons of her own she dated it February 6, 1918 (i.e. after the First Trade Union Congress, which sought to 'fuse from above' the Factory Committees and the Unions). Goodey is to be congratulated in detecting this early piece of falsification by one of Stalin's pet historians. But the relevance of this to what either Limon or I wrote totally escapes me: neither of us gave the wrong date for the text under discussion.

According to Goodey, Limon takes over from Pankratova 'the wrong title and the wrong date and adds his own embellishments'. He truncates a quotation in the text and changes the authorship of the original document, attributing it to the 'non-Bolshevik leaders of the All-Russian Council of Factory Committees'. On all these scores, Goodey is wrong. Limon did not get his facts via Pankratova. The 'secret' can now be let out of the bag. Limon got his facts[9] from someone who had seen the document at first hand, and before Pankratova had even thought of writing about it. I have also seen this original source. Even Goodey could have had access to it, had he been less concerned in proving the bad faith of those he disagrees with politically, and had he chosen to check with Limon. (Limon is, after all, on the Editorial Board of Autogestion, for which paper Goodey is the 'correspondent for Great Britain').

The 'original' source is Chapter 8 Les Soviets d'Usine a I'oeuvre') of Max Hoschiller's book Le Mirage Sovietique (Payot, Paris, 1921). Hoschiller was a French revolutionary who spoke Russian well. The authenticity of his account is vouched for by no less a figure than Andre Merrheim[10] who wrote the Preface to Hoschiller's book. It was in fact at Merrheim's suggestion that Hoschiller went to Russia.

Now what does Hoschiller say a) as to the authorship, b) as to the title, and c) as to the content of the controversial document? Hoschiller makes it clear that in the weeks preceding the revolution it was the anarchists who were striking the tune ('donnaientle la') in the Factory Committees and that the Bolsheviks could only trail along after them Cetaient bien obliges de marcher a leur remorque'). On December 7, 1917, the decree setting up the Vesenkha (Supreme Economic Council) was promulgated.[11] The Vesenkha comprised some members of the All-Russian Council of Workers Control (a very indirect sop to the Factory Committees), massive representation of all the new Commissariats and a number of experts, nominated from above, in a consultative capacity. According to Hoschiller the leaders of the Factory Committees, dissatisfied with Lenin's concessions ('mecontents en depit de toutes les concessions du chef du gouvernement') did not implement the decisions but elaborated their own decree in the form of a Practical Manual for the Implementation of Workers Control ('elaborerent leur propre decret sous forme d'un Manuel Pratique pour I' Execution du Controle ouvrier'). Hoschiller describes how jealously he had kept the eight great in-folio sheets, printed in double columns, that had been widely distributed in the streets of Petrograd. He has clearly seen the original, which is more than can be said with any confidence of Lozovski, Pankratova . . . or even of Goodey.

Goodey then takes issue with Limon's attribution of this text to the 'non-Bolshevik leaders of the All-Russian Council of Factory Committees'. Is he really suggesting that the Manual was a Party document? Reference to the Hoschiller text shows that it was no such thing. One particular prescription of the Manual epitomises this point. The Manual spoke of 'Regional Federations of Factory Committees' and of the need for a 'National Union of Factory Committees'. But even Deutscher is forced to point out that such demands were diametrically opposed to Party policy at the time. 'A few weeks after the upheaval the Factory Committees attempted to form their own national organisation. . . . The Bolsheviks now called upon the trade unions to render a special service to the nascent Soviet State and to discipline the Factory Committees. The unions came out firmly against the attempt of the Factory Committees to form a national organisation of their own. They prevented the convocation of a planned All-Russian Congress of Factory Committees'.[12] It ill behoves various Bolsheviks, after all this, to denounce the factory Committees as only having had parochial preoccupations.

Two other facts stress the wide divergence of approach already obvious at this stage between the Leninists and the leaders of the Factory Committees. First the very real difficulties Lenin experienced in getting wide support for his 'Draft Decrees on Workers Control'. These were originally published in Pravda (on November 3, 1917) but only ratified by the V.Ts.l.K. (All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets) eleven days later after heated opposition from the rank and file of the Factory Committees. Secondly the fact that Izvestiya (December 13, 1917) found it necessary to publish a text (General Instructions on Workers Control in Conformity with the Decree of November 14) which became widely known as the Counter-Manual.

Concerning the substance of the passage under dispute Hoschiller's text makes it crystal clear that Limon has 'amputated' nothing. Quoting from the Introduction to the Manual, Hoschiller (p.167) writes that workers' control 'ne doit pasetre considere dans le sens etroit d'une revision mais dans le sens plus large de "I'ingerance"/ Full stop. (A full stop put by Hoschiller, not by Limon. And a reasonable place, I would have thought, at which to end a quotation.) That my own reference to this document included, through the carelessness of a misplaced unquote, a few words that were Limon's hardly constitutes 'rewriting the text' and alters precisely nothing to the substance of the matter.

So there you have it. No plot. No 'fifth hand knowledge' of a 'shop-soiled' quotation. No Lozovski as the 'evident' original secondary source of all the rest. No wrong dates inherited from Pankratova. No Limon changing the authorship of the document. No truncating of quotations. All these are figments of Goodey's imagination and he should clearly stop prattling about 'attitudes to verifiable facts'. If this is really the best your contributor can do to 'nail' the libertarian argument those who manufacture bandages for sore thumbs are in for a boom.

But let us return to the main argument. Goodey claims that 'if . . . there was a nascent bureaucracy in 1917, then the Factory Committees were part of it'. This is totally to misunderstand the concept of bureaucracy. It attributes to the word a restricted meaning, of little value to those who seek radically to change society. The classical Marxist conceptions are here totally inadequate. A bureaucracy is not just 'officialdom' or a 'social stratum enjoying certain material privileges' or a 'gendarme, ensuring a certain pattern of distribution under conditions of want'. If the concept of self-management is to have any meaning a bureaucracy must be seen as a group seeking to manage from the outside the activities of others. If that group has a monopoly of decisional authority, its bureaucratic potential will be vastly enhanced. In this sense if there was a nascent bureaucracy by the end of 1917 in Russia it was certainly not to be found in the Factory Committees. It was to be found in the Party itself. Certain Party attitudes here played a very important role. Trotsky himself (if we must refer to him) perceptively described all this.

Referring to the Third Party Congress (April 25-May 10,1905) he spoke of 'the young revolutionary bureaucrat already emerging as a type. (They were) far more intransigent and severe with the revolutionary working men than with themselves, preferring to domineer'.[15] No less a man than Lenin had written that 'a worker agitator who shows any talent should not work in the factory'.[ 16] Is it any wonder that with these conceptions the Party soon lost all contact with the class? Goodey seeks to prove his point that the Factory Committees belong to the nascent bureaucracy by looking at the later careers of certain Factory Committees' leaders: men such as Chubar, Matvei, Zhivotov and Skrypnik. That non-Bolshevik leaders of the Factory Committees later supported the Bolsheviks is indisputable. But so what? It is not unknown for individual shop stewards to end up as foremen. Does this really prove anything beyond the capacity of established power, in its various garbs, to recuperate dissent? Does the fact that Alexandra Kollontai later became a Stalinist ambassador invalidate her earlier writings on the emancipation of women? Does Trotsky's later Bolshevism invalidate his prophetic warnings of 1904 on the subject of the Party substituting itself for the working class? (See Our Political Tasks. )

If Goodey is really interested in the history of what happened to the personnel of the Factory Committees (and not to just a few of their leaders) a fruitful area might be the history of the various syndicalist groups, and in particular of the 'Revolutionary Center of Factory Committees', a body of anarchist inspiration which competed for-a while with the All-Russian Council of Factory Committees, without ever succeeding in supplanting it, so many were the obstacles put in its path. The search will, I suspect, prove disappointing. Systematic persecution of 'left' dissidents soon became a way of life. Proletarian partisans of the individual Factory Committees tried to resist and to regroup but their resistance was easily overcome. The search might also encompass the fate of groupings of Bolshevik origin, such as Miasnikov's Workers' Group (an offspring from the Workers' Opposition) and of Bogdanov's Workers' Truth. One fact such a search will reveal - and of this there can be little doubt - is that these groups had perceived (as early as 1921, without the privilege of hindsight, and far more clearly than does Chris Goodey) that the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' had been liquidated paripassu with the liquidation of the Factory Committees. (from Critique no.4)

Maurice Brinton is author of 'The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control: 1917-1921' (Solidarity, 1970)


1. P. Cardan. 'Le role de I'ideologie bolchevik dans la naissance de la bureaucratie'. Socialisme ou Barbarie no. 35 (January-March 1964). This text was subsequently published in English as Solidarity Pamphlet no. 24 From Bolshevism to the Bureaucracy.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Carr's The Bolshevik Revolution : 1917-1923 (Macmillan, 1952), Daniels' The Conscience of the Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1960), Avrich's The Russian Anarchists (Princeton University Press, 1967) and Kaplan's Bolshevik Ideology (Owen, 1969) provide an excellent starting point for anyone interested in this discussion.

5. M. Brinton 'The Bolsheviks and Workers Control : 1917-1921' (Solidarity, 1970).

6. Ryazanov, D. B. in Pervyi vserossiiskii s'ezd professional'nykh soiuzov, Yanvarya 1918 g (First All-Russian Congress of Trade Unions, 7-14 January 1918, Moscow, 1918), p.235.

7. D. Limon, 'Lenine et le Controle Ouvrier' (Autogestion no. 4, Paris, 1967).

8. Pankratova's article on 'The Factory Committees in Russia at the time of the Revolution (1917-1918)' was published in the previously mentioned issue of Autogestion.

9. D. Limon. Personal communication.

10. Merrheim, one-time secretary of the French Metalworkers' Federation and co-author of the Charter of Amiens, was one of the important figures of the anti-war movement in France during the First World War. He was an active participant in the Zimmerwald Conference of anti-war socialists.

11. Sobraniye uzakonenii 1917-1918, no. 4, art. 58.

12. I. Deutscher, Soviet Trade Unions (Royal Institute for International Affairs, London, 1950) p.17.

13. According to Carr (The Bolshevik Revolution, Vol. I I , p.73, Pelican edition 1966) 'in the controversy behind the scenes which followed the publication of Lenin's draft, the trade unions became the unexpected champions of order, discipline and centralised direction of production; and the revised draft decree finally presented to V.Ts.l.K. on 14/27 November 1917 was the result of a struggle between the trade unions and the Factory Committees which repeated the struggle at the October Conference. (The First All-Russian Conference of Factory Committees had been held on October 17-22, 1917. - M.B.)

14. M. Brinton, op. cit., p.62.

15. L. Trotsky. Stalin. Hollis and Carter, London, 1947. p.61.

16. Lenin. Sochineniya, IV, 44.

17. M. Dobb. Soviet Economic Development since 1917. New York, 1948 pp.89-90.

Further reply by Chris Goodey

It has become clear to me, as a result of the various responses to my article Factory Committees and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat which appeared in Critique no. 3, that while some of the questions raised in it and some of the detail of the research have aroused interest, the theoretical framework of the article is feeble and, where it exists, self-contradictory. The following notes should be read as a kind of glossary to clarify some of the terms used in that article. For the most part, the definitions have emerged from the detail.

1. "Self-management"
Self-management is a process, the management of society by itself. It is not a "structure" or "model" of the socialist system.

On the one hand, therefore, it is not simply an aggregate of workers' and people's councils, at either the economic or the political level or both. It is not some pure essence of socialism, always present and possible in roughly the same form throughout its history. A society cannot manage itself without overcoming the key division between mental and manual labour, between managing and executing "management's" orders. A technological revolution affecting the division of labour (e.g. computerisation and cybernetics, which in spite of the constraints of the relations of production are functionally anti-bureaucratic) radically changes the already-existing project for a self-managed society, and forces the revolutionary movement to make an "on-line" intervention. Anyone examining 1917 must take into consideration the fact that they are commuting across a transformation in science and technology.

On the other hand, self-management is not the icing on top of a cake, something irrelevant to discussion about earlier periods and only put on the agenda because of the new, technologically determined situation.

Ernest Mandel, for instance, in a discussion on "Workers' Self-Management"[1] , says that "socialism is Soviets - that is to say workers' councils - electrification and television", updating Lenin's famous formula in a way which for me is equally schematic as the "pure" concept of self-management. As an "interpretation" or model (structure) of democratic political or economic planning, self-management is an abstraction and it would be better not to use the term. It can only be used to define what we mean by socialism to the extent that it acts as a permanent catalyst, entering and transforming every aspect of social practice and doing so permanently: this includes, for the purposes of this article, its retroactive effect on revolutionary history (apart from a diversity of other aspects, e.g. relations of domination in the party and the workers' organisation, in interpersonal and sexual relations, etc. )

2. "Internal dialectic"
"Dialectic" is, of course, the last resort of scoundrels. I shall try to give a clearer picture of what lies behind the phrase which I loosely used in the previous article, the "internal dialectic of the proletariat". When revolutionary historians focus on the proletariat, they tend to see some kind of "ultimate proletariat", an irreducible entity (and in this sense, an object). There are, of course, different ways of seeing the same thing. Some see the proletariat either as cannon fodder for a pre-determined history which is the field of action of great heroes (a Stalin, a Mao or - in the view of some of his followers - a Trotsky) or as some pure sanctuary beyond which all extraneous material - "workers" parties, the results of recuperation, the capitalist system itself - is lumped together and cast in the devil's role: these seem to me to be the same concept, a sort of "wave theory" rather than a particle theory of the masses, which is totalitarian. Others see the importance of examining the composition of the proletariat or of the masses in general. But even then, they are more than the sum of their sectors, and this becomes clear in a revolutionary situation, as I shall explain.

The crucial - and incorrect - word is "sum". If self-management is not a sum or aggregate of councils but a process, then the proletariat and the masses in general are a field of sectoral and individual interactions constituting life itself, a creating and negating cadre of activity. If we make the proletariat the focus of our attention during a revolutionary period, what we find is a complex field of tensions and intervals between various (shifting) sectors which are interlocked with the concrete totality of the period: with the technological (skilled/unskilled), political ("conscious"/"unconscious" ) and sexual-social (men/women/immigrant groups) revolutions. This much is stating the obvious. It is probably meaningless to speak, as I did in the original article, of "interactions" between the various sectors. As Karl Korsch has pointed out, even Hegel noticed long ago that in an "interacting" relation, where A causes B which causes A, no casual relation is established for either A or B. The crucial step is to see that what constitutes the "energy" of the revolutionary process (the measure of its negation of the ruling class) is precisely these intervals and tensions . If it is the antagonisms amongst the bourgeoisie which produce the state, then it is the "antagonisms" (in fact, symptoms of the "field" which I have described) amongst the proletariat which "produce" the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and its state. This raises all kinds of questions which there is no room for here. For the moment, this brief exposition is simply an attempt to clarify some of the vagueness in the earlier article (see Critique no.3. especially pages 41-43).

3. "Direct and indirect forms of workers' power"
It is too easy to oppose the two forms. "Easy", because it takes us back to a pre-1917 world in which there was a simple dividing line between friends and enemies, away from the complexities of our real, transitional world. (This is not to deny that they have opposed each other in actual fact, indeed this has been one of the key confrontations in the Russian and other experiences: the mistake is to collapse the indirect forms into a lucky dip which also contains the bourgeoisie, capital, trade unions, "recuperation" of all kinds.) On the other hand, it now seems to me (and this is not made clear in the earlier article) the historian cannot salvage very much from the Bolsheviks' simple conception of the relation between "direct" and "indirect" forms of workers' power, between base councils and party or state, and that the terms themselves conceal rather than express the reality.

One of the reasons for this is to be found in what has intervened historically between then and now. Part of this was referred to in the article: the fact that in the Russian experience at least, the indirect forms of power stayed alive partly by consuming the direct forms ("necessarily" inasmuch as at that period it could not have happened the other way round). However there is a further point: the fusion between party and state which took place immediately after and as a consequence of that. There has been fifty years of marxist criticism of this fused bureaucratisation. But criticism of the bureaucratic state has largely been made in the name of a future withering away of the state or its transformation into a self-regulating mechanism of the ensemble of self-managed councils (whether this happens in ze ... demands a transitional period is irrelevant here); it has never been based on a desire to return to war communism or the NEP ("Soviets", yes, but in a modern context). But criticism of the party, which has fused with this state, is pointed in precisely the opposite direction, backwards in time towards a pristine "Leninist" concept (which Leninist concept is another matter) of the party, a pure essence decanted from its poisonous association with the bureaucratic state.

It seems to me not only equally one-sided to say (a) that the party is a vanguard whose job is to be permanently at the head of the revolutionary forces or (b) that the party/club/group is merely the expression of the proletariat's own activity, but also inadequate to refer (as Marcel Liebman does - brilliantly and accurately - in Leninism under Lenin) simply to a party-masses dialectic, in which the party is sometimes ahead of and sometimes (in revolutionary periods) behind the masses: as if all that is needed today is a similar party. In all three cases one remains locked in 1917. If this dialectic, which actually occurred between the Bolshevik party and the masses in 1917, is to be preserved, it must be transformed. That, of course, is not an original comment: what would be original is for it to be achieved, or even for some theoretical guidelines to be worked out. It could only be done by jettisoning certain central themes. Among these are the notion that there is either a necessary "balance" or a conflict between democracy and centralism, in an age where the technological preconditions exist to abolish the very distinction; the notion that the science of socialism stands "outside" the producers when science itself has entered and become once and for all an inextricable part of material production; and the assumed homogeneity of the revolutionary forces, when the "internal composition" of the proletariat and the masses is fanning out into a complex field of movement not simply demanding but imposing their autonomy. Finally, to bring the argument back to the viewpoint of the revolutionary historian, it involves a change in the historiographical approach. The question is not: how can we update the concept of the party (ending up with a few embellishments on the Leninist theory of the vanguard), but: what possible function in the future socialist society was the "party" a prototype of?

The relation between "direct" and "indirect" forms of workers' power is a question that may have to be put in quite different terms, with the distinction removed. But a precondition of this is to sort out the mess which the fusion between party and state has bequeathed to us.

A note on Brinton's reply
Maurice Brinton's reply in Critique no. 4 to my earlier piece raises some important points, but as so often happens in these cases he appears to be replying to an article which I did not write. I do not think it will be interesting or useful to repeat myself, and therefore in lieu of a counter-response I would simply ask that interested readers should compare the two articles and see if they too think that Brinton has ignored the main thrust of the argument and attributed to me views about (for example) the influence of the civil war or the recuperation of workers' leaders which I did not express in my article.

Apart from this, there is the question of the use of source materials and textual accuracy, which I feel needs some further clarification. I reproached Brinton, on the issue of the Practical Manual for the Execution of Workers' Control, for claiming to present a whole set of "new facts" about the Russian revolution while using hardly any new source material (something which his way with bibliographical footnotes somehow conceals). His response rests on two points. The first is a printer's error in his book. On this I stand corrected. The second is to interpose yet another piece of non-source evidence: Max Hoschiller's book, Le Mirage du Sovietisme . Brinton thus acknowledges that he quoted Limon who quoted Hoschiller who quoted the Manual: he evidently obtained it at third hand, rather than at fifth hand as I had previously stated. Again, I stand corrected, and apologise for not checking the facts. In fact Hoschiller (whose opinion of the "Bolshevik coup d'etat" is that it was a "monstrous lock-out", because it provoked civil war and ruined industry) quotes only a few passages from the Manual, in a fairly accurate translation from the Russian (the fate of these in the hands of Limon and Brinton is another matter). For those who wish to examine the Manual (a crucial document in the history of the Russian revolution because of its influence), I will repeat the bibliographical information which I gave: it was published in full, under its original title of "Draft Instructions on Workers' Control" in Narodnoe Khozyaistvo no. 1, 1918 (i.e. the text, written in November 1917, was reproduced in this journal), which is available in Western Libraries and from which I translated the passage in my own article. It is interesting to note that parts of it - including the essential parts quoted by Brinton and the rest - are reprinted in Natsionalizatsiya promyshlennosti v SSSR2, written by the official Soviet historian I.GIadkovin 1954 (not a peak year for anarcho-syndicalist tendencies in the bureaucracy, one presumes); it is also interesting that he adds a footnote[3] which might well have come from Brinton himself, writing with approval of how the Manual was published separately as a brochure and was "famous throughout industrial Russia", and what an important part it played in bringing about the flight of the bourgeoisie.

This is precisely the importance of the Manual: when it and the Lenin decree on workers' control were presented to the employers as an ultimatum, they sparked off a chain reaction in which the employers left and the factories were nationalised from below. As a blueprint for workers' control it obviously conflicts with the Lenin decree: but the very act of presenting either of them to the employers as a blueprint for workers' control in capitalist-owned industry (and this is how both of them were planned, as the texts themselves and the untruncated quotation in Hoschiller's book reveals) caused the capitalists to leave and an entirely new situation, irrelevant to the Manual or Lenin's decree, to arise. (From Critique no.5)

1. In International, vol. 2 no. 3.

2. 'The Nationalisation of Industry in the USSR.

3. Ibid., p. 82.