Theses of the Workers Opposition - Alexander Shliapnikov

All Russian Central Council of Trade Unions members
All Russian Central Council of Trade Unions members

Original thesis of the Workers' Opposition group within the Bolshevik Party, arguing for greater trade union control of the economy. Written in 1919, it was published in Pravda on January 25, 1921.

Submitted by Ed on September 3, 2007

General Tenets
1. The role and tasks of trade unions in the transitional period have been precisely and clearly defined by recommendations of the All-Russian congresses of trade unions. The first All-Russian congress of trade unions in January 1918 defined the tasks of trade unions thus: “the center of gravity of unions’ work at the present time must be in the area of economic organization. [Trade unions] must assume the main work of the organization of production and reformation of the undermined productive forces of the country.”

The second congress in February 1919: “ unions have passed from control over production to the organization of it, participating in the administration of separate enterprises, as in the entire economic life of the country. unions must prepare their organizations as well as the broad working masses not only for management of production, but also of the entire state apparatus.”

The third congress, April 1920: confirmed the basic decisions of the earlier two.

The eighth congress of the Russian Communist Party in March 1919 decided: the apparatus of socialized industry must rest upon the trade unions first of all.

2. the transition from military tasks to economic construction and from militarized methods of work to democratic methods, revealed a crisis in professional workers organizations, expressing itself in the inconsistency of the content of their everyday work with those tasks, which were defined in the congress resolutions and reinforced in the party program. The practices of party congresses and state organs for the past two years have systematically narrowed the scope of the work of trade unions and brought almost to zero the influence of workers’ unions in the Soviet government. The role of trade unions in the organization and administration of production in fact has been reduced to the role of an office of inquiry and recommendation, placing staff in administrative posts, between state organs and unions there is no agreement and conflicts overload party organizations. The unions still have neither a printing press nor paper. Journals of even the largest unions come out with a delay of several months. The state printing press gives lowest priority to work on behalf of unions.

3. This decline of the role and significance of the trade unions occurs at a time, when the experience of three years of the Russian revolution shows, that the unions wholly and faithfully carried out a communist line, led behind them wide circles of nonparty working masses; when to all and each it is clear that the realization of the RKP program in our country, where the majority of the population is petty commodity producers, demands a strong authoritative mass worker organization, accessible to the broad masses of the peasantry. The belittling of the significance and actual role of the trade unions in Soviet Russia signifies the manifestation of bourgeois, class hostility toward the proletariat and must be quickly overcome.

Immediate tasks and activity of the trade unions
4. The first real possibility of a respite from bloody armed struggle makes it possible to concentrate all forces and resources of the country on struggle with economic ruin and on the utmost elevation of productive forces of our republic. Past experience teaches that the realization of tasks put forth was successful only insofar as broad layers of the working masses took part in the realization of them. Now we must construct our activity so that it is directed toward involving the working masses directly in the work of building the national economy.

5. Victory over ruin ... is possible and achievable only through radical change of the existing system and of the methods of organization and management of the economy of the republic, now resting on an enormous bureaucratic machine, excluding the creative initiative and independent action of producers organized into unions. The system of building economic policy by a bureaucratic path, over the heads of organized producers, by means of functionaries, appointees, dubious specialists, has given birth to duality in management of the economy, involving constant conflicts between factory committees and the management of enterprises, between unions and economic organs. The entire sum of conditions given birth to by this system delays the appearance of an enthusiasm for production among the working masses and their involvement and systematic participation in overcoming economic ruin.

6. The effort observed at present to evade putting into practice decisions of the party congress on the role and tasks of the trade unions in the soviet government attest to the direct distrust of the strength of the working class. The conscious leading elements of the working class, organized communists, must direct all their energy to overcoming this distrust and the bureaucratic stagnation existing in the party. The necessity of the annihilation of this existing system is dictated by those circumstances, that the huge masses of producers are educated and ideologically prepared by the trade unions so that the real defense of class interests of the producers, in the times in which we are living, consists in the victory over economic ruin, in the renewal and elevation of productive forces of the republic; the very existence of the working class of our country depend on the success of the fulfillment of these tasks. The existing bureaucratic approach to economic construction places obstacles in the way of the achievement of the maximum of production results, which introduces discord, distrust and demoralization into the ranks of the workers.

7. The difficult economic situation of our country demands the quickest heroic measures, able to put a stop to the approaching catastrophe. The chief measure capable of raising production, is the execution of economic policy of workers organizations through professional and production unions, the presentation to them of decisive influence in the state economic organs, which collect and distribute all types of material resources of the country. Management of the national economy is simultaneously management by the workers. The introduction of a system of organization and management of the national economy by means of production unions creates a unified leadership, destroys contraposition of working masses to specialists and in this way creates a wide scope of organizational and administrative activity for people of science, theory and practice.

8. Professional and production unions are to be built on the basis of workers democracy, the elective principle and accountability of all organs from the bottom to the top.

Entire branches of our industry are managed by worker-administrators. Many hundreds of complex industrial enterprises are led by collegia or individual worker-managers. As representatives of unions and economic organs they are not responsible nor obligated by accountability to the organizations which appointed them, but answer only to the economic organ. The unification of leadership of industry in the unions destroys this harmful phenomenon.

9. It is necessary to begin the transition from the existing bureaucratic system by strengthening the lowest cells of professional and production unions, putting in place the goal of preparation of them for direct management of the economy, in order to ensure the success of the transition of workers unions from the contemporary passive cooperation with the organs of national economy to active, conscious, initiating and creative participation in the management of the entire economy of the country and in the goals of accelerating this transition, the implementation of the following measures is necessary:

a. create boundaries between separate unions according to characteristic of production

b. quickly begin the reinforcement of the unions with workers, technical and other material resources in the goals of adapting them to new tasks

c. conduct a selection of the staff of the union and workers committees from the standpoint of their fitness, to realize the tasks standing before the unions. This selection must proceed from the lowest levels and under the control of the unions.

d. All areas where there is currently parity between VSNKh and VTsSPS on the management and organization of the economy must be shifted toward increasing the rights and advantages of workers organizations

e. Not one person must be assigned to an economic administrative post bypassing the union

f. All proposed candidates cannot be rejected and must be considered obligatory for VSNKh and its organs.

g. All staff put in place by or nominated by unions are to be responsible to the unions and can be replaced by the unions at any time.

h. Unions recognized by VTsSPS as sufficiently strong for the organization of direct management of entire branches of industry, are to realize this right, not waiting for others to become ready for this.

10. development of activity and consciousness of the worker in the process of his activity — in this must consist the role of the unions, as schools of communism.

The Management of the National Economy

General Theses
11. emphasizes that the unions must concentrate in their hands all management of the economy as a unified economic whole.

12. This concentration of management will be achieved in the center as well as on the local level, by election of representatives of organized producers. In this way unity of will will be created, necessary in the organization of the economy, and likewise the real possibility of an initiative influence from the wide masses on the organization and development of our economy.

13. The organization of management of the entire economy will belong to an All-Russian congress of producers, unified in professional production unions, which elects a central organ, governing the entire economy of the republic

a. All-Russian congresses of production unions of separate branches of the economy elect organs, managing production economic branches and departments.

b. Oblast, guberniia, uezd, regional and similar organs of administration to be instituted by corresponding local congresses of professional and production unions. In this way there will be achieved a combination of production centralism with local initiative and spontaneous activity.

14. Enterprises, related according to production feature, to be unified into groups (clusters, boards) in the aims of the best use of technical means and materials Related enterprises located in the same city or village to b e united under a common management, created by the union. The management of unified enterprises, territorially separate, to be created by congresses of workers committees of the given enterprises, convoked by the union.

Organization of workers committees, managing enterprises
15. All workers and employees, who are members of professional and production unions should actively and in an organized manner participate in management of the economy.

16. All workers and employees, without distinction to position and profession, occupied in separate economic units, such as: factories, mines, transport services and in connection with all types of agriculture, are direct managers of property located within them, are answerable for its preservation and the expedient use of it before all laborers of the republic.

17. workers and employees ... are to elect a leading organ, called a workers committee for each of their own enterprises.

18. The workers committee is the primary organizational cell of the union of the given production and is formed under the leadership and control of the corresponding union.

19. among the tasks of the workers committee is included the management of the given factory or economic unit, including:

a. leadership of production activity of all workers and employees of the given economic unit

b. care of all needs of the producers

Members of the committee are to distribute among themselves their work on the management of the economy in accord with the statutes and instructions of the union, so along with collective responsibility, first of all resting with the chairman, there should be defined precisely the personal responsibility of each.

20. All activity of the enterprise is to be elaborated and approved by the laborers employed in the given enterprise under the responsibility and leadership of the workers committee and unions.

Organization of workers’ everyday life
21. One of the indispensable conditions of the elevation of our national economy is the systematic implementation of the naturalization of wages, as a measure, ensuring the heightening of the productivity of labor and the betterment of the producers’ lives. All examples below must be connected with the tariff system and enter into the general sum of natural wages.

1. Abolition of payment of rations and household articles, issued to workers by ration cards and orders of state produce organs

2. Abolition of payment of lunches for workers and their families.

3. Abolition of payment of baths, trams, theaters and so on.

4. Abolition of payment for apartments, heat and electricity.

5. In places, where the housing question is severe, to conduct consolidation of soviet and military institutions in the aims of presenting apartments to workers.

6. To organize repairs of workers’ living quarters by means of the resources of the enterprise, under the conditions of the guarantee of fulfillment by the enterprise of its basic production tasks.

7. to recognize as a matter of first-degree importance the construction of workers’ villages and workers communal homes and to include in the program of the State Committee for Construction for the approaching construction period maximum construction of workers’ housing.

8. To organize special workers’ trams and trains, timing their movement from and to work in the enterprises

9. To give precedence to supply of workers with items of widespread use.

10. to simplify and speed up the order of receiving work-clothes, also the order of fixed and bonus payments

11. to attach to the factories or specially organize shoe and clothing repair shops for servicing workers’ needs, to which the enterprises must lend assistance, as organizations of equipment, as well as much as possible supply them with equipment.

12. to supply communal economic units with technical inventory and means for tending to communal gardens at the cost of the enterprise.

13. Enterprises, located in close proximity to the countryside, should organize the repair of agricultural machinery.

14. In drawing up financial and production estimates for factories, the necessity of implementing the measures enumerated above must be taken into account.

22. All the measures indicated above must be carried out first of all in nationalized enterprises. In private and handicrafts enterprises they can be carried out with the permission in each case of the trade union.

The measures of a collective nature should be carried out in the factories depending on the success of their work. Measures having a purely personal meaning for the individual worker should be carried out in the form of incentives, starting with the more advanced workers.

Signed by

All-Russian Union of Metalworkers. Chairman of Central Committee A. Shliapnikov, assistant chairman M. Vladimirov, secretary S. Sliznev, members: I. Kariakin, V. Pleshkov, S. Medvedev.

Central Board of Artillery Factories. Member of Central Committee and chairman A. Tolokontsev, members: P. Borisov, G. Bruno, Ia. Kubyshkin.

Assistant chairman of the soviet of military industry K. Orlov.

Chief of Board of Aviation Factories Mikhailov.

Director of State Machine-building factories (Gomza) A. Vasil'ev.

Chairman of Central Board of Heavy Industry I. Kotliakov.

Chairman of chief administration of unified medium-sized machine building factories I. Barulin.

Chairman of board of Sormovo factory Chernov-Greshnev.

Member of the committee of Moscow section of the All-Russian Union of Metalworkers N. Ivanov.

Chief of section for production propaganda of the All-Russian union of metalworkers N. Kopylov.

All-Russian Miners’ Union. Chairman of Central Committee A. Kiselev, members: M. Mikov, S. Losev, V. Sigert, S. Arutiuniants, A. Gorbachev, A. Storozhenko.

Member of the central committee of the Miners’ Union and member of the collegium of the mining council of VSNKh V. Voronin.

Chairman of the Usol’sk. subregion of miners’ administration V. Sorokin.

Kizelovskii regional committee of miners’ union. Chairman I. Ialunin, members: S. Rychkov, A. Mironov, I. Lagunov, P. Fedurin, A. Zaburdaev.

Chairman of the central committee of the textileworkers’ union I. Kutuzov.

Chairman of the central committee of the Farm and Forest Workers’ Trade Union N. Kubiak, member Khitrov.

Chairman of Kursk gubernia commission on supply of workers Izvorin.

Member of the party control commission under the party central committee Chelyshev.

Signed December 18, 1919