The Paradoxes of working class of Russia

The history of the working class of Russia and the USSR is full of paradoxical situations. We will tell you about some of them.

Submitted by meerov21 on February 15, 2019


The main paradox of the working class of Russia is that it brought the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 and it was the first who rose against the Bolsheviks in 1918. The historian Dmitry Churakov compares the scale of the workers' protests against Lenin in 1918 with the Russian revolution of 1905 and 1917!

The workers saw this party was not fulfilling its promises. By the summer of 1918, half the workers in Petrograd and hundreds of thousands more workers across the country lost their jobs. The Bolsheviks did not know how to manage industry and it was paralyzed.

The workers of the largest factories and plants began to kick the Bolsheviks out of the Soviets. This was probably the main reason for the ban on re-election the Soviets and the transition to one-party dictatorship in 1918. Then workers formed alternative Councils - the "Assemblies of commissioner factories and plants", which united half of the working class of Petrograd and quickly spread to all industrial centers. But this movement was crushed in 1918.

In 1919-1921 workers many times went on strike against the Bolsheviks putting forward political slogans. In the spring of 1919 the Left SRs (they already had a real anarcho-syndicalist program) initiated strikes at the big factories of Petrograd. Moreover, along with economic requirements, there was also a demand for free elections to Councils. It was a libertarian social-revolutionary movement with the armed clashes between workers of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and Bolsheviks. Then the left Social Revolutionaries of Petrograd and Northwest Russia voted at their local Congress for the resolution, according to which "Bolshevik and tsarist counter-revolutions are identical". But this movement was defeated. Hundreds of left SRs were arrested or shot.

The Leninist system, which is called "War communism", was based on the attempt to destroy market relationship. Later in his work "НЭП и задачи Политпросветов" Lenin admitted that he and his party in 1918-1921 tried to build "Communist relations". The party-state apparatus controlled all industrial production, conducting a total nationalization in the cities, as well as the state controlled the distribution of goods and labor.

But the Bolshevik leadership was forced to abandon this policy at the 10th party Congress in March 1921 after a wave of peasant and workers ' uprisings and protests.

During the NEP state factories and associations (Trusts) began to sell their products. That was "commercial, "for profit state capitalism" if you like...

Initially It did not lead to increased antagonism between the workers and the administration, but on the contrary softened this antagonism, because now workers have an opportunity to eat. In times of military communism the workers were starving and many died of hunger: Petersburg was transformed in 1921 to almost a dead city... Moreover: according to a study published by historian Sergei Yarov, workers were positive about the privatization of some factories in 1921-1922, because there were higher wages.

In addition, in 1921, Lenin abolished serfdom for workers and allowed them to change jobs at will; it was achieved by strikers in St. Petersburg in February 1921. And it also softened the antagonism and reduced the workers ' protests.

Nevertheless, conflicts between workers and administration emerged periodically. But independent trade unions in Russia were banned by the Bolsheviks, destroyed as the Soviets and Workers ' control in 1918-1921. Formally, these institutions continued to exist, but in practice they are subordinate to party committees, and these committees fulfil the instructions of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party. At the same time lovely party Central Committee continued to be the owner of the plants, i.e. the Supreme exploiter. In such circumstances trade unions and factories have the same owner, so do trade unions protect the rights of workers?...

In 1926-1930 Stalin made a turn from NEP to a system reminiscent of Lenin's military communism.

Separate protests took place in 1922 - 1930 and in 1962 (a workers revolt in Novocherkassk, which was shot). But in the late USSR, workers were integrated into the system of social partnership. It was a strange system of state paternalism at the factories. Workers and superiors were connected by a mass of informal links. It gave to the workers certain advantages (for example, the opportunity to get a cheap tourist trip or closed eyes on poor quality work), but paralyzed their resistance. Some of my familiar russian supporters of the council communism called this system "quasi-feudal."

Also the state provided a good social protection for the russian workers and building social housing for them in 1956 -1986. The state of Stalin's time was bloody terrorist form of fordism associated with hunger (*1), but Khrushchev and Brezhnev improved the situation of workers, began to pay pensions to the elderly, built social housing etc. The state bureaucratic apparatus owned property, began to exploit workers more gently.

In addition, workers of the USSR were crushed by terror and fear. The KGB and the party committees (two hands of the regime) carefully monitored the behavior of the workers. Dissatisfied workers leaders could be arrested or placed in a mental hospital. Therefore, the population of the USSR was extremely atomized and far less able to protest than the working class of Western and Eastern Europe, where the control was weaker. This monstrous pressure spawned disintegration of the collectivist traditions of the working class of Russia.

It is one of the main paradoxes of the Leninist countries: their population is more individualistic than the population of the West. For example so famous researcher of two Koreas, Andrei Lankov, notes that North Koreans are far more individualist than the southerners. This is another amazing paradox of Bolshevism: state collectivism, which declared the whole society a "single family" (there was even such a famous propaganda film about the working class of the USSR in 1954: "Big Family"), led to the most extreme, destructive forms of individualism and to the total cynicism and to disbelief in the triumph of any utopian idea.

Finally, drunkenness became an important aspect of life in the Bolshevik Russia. Perhaps it was a reaction to a hopeless existence, a product of "learned helplessness" (a special phenomenon that psychology studies). It is also possible that this was a reaction to the collapse of utopia. Drunkenness reached monstrous proportions in the proletarian districts. For example, my childhood was spent in a working-class area, where almost the entire male population at the weekend was drunk.

However, in the late USSR, economic strikes happened occasionally. For example, sometimes there were miners' strikes. In addition, in 1980, under the influence of the impression of Polish "Solidarity", workers of the Latvian port of Ventspils went on strike. The reaction of the authorities was ambivalent. Usually, they tried to fulfill some of the requirements of the workers. At the same time, if the workers persisted, the state resorted to repression.

In addition, spontaneous riots sometimes occurred: mobs attacked police stations. But these riots were usually caused by the violence of police officers. This was, for example, a riot in the city of Murom in 1961 (the authorities responded with repressions: a few dozen people were arrested and three were sentenced to death).

But In general, the working class of Russia was not ready for a big fight. In 1989-1991 hundreds of thousands of miners went on strike. In the 1990s a wave of privatizations began and then 50% of the industry was destroyed. But the working class which had lost the traditions of the struggle could not offer decent resistance to this.

It was another paradox of the totalitarian system of Bolshevism, which appropriated the name "socialism". Many factories were privatized and looted by representatives of the party bureaucracy and the KGB, who merged with mafia groups. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the working class (including highly skilled or unskilled workers, as well as engineers and other specialists) did not resist them. Bolshevik totalitarianism became a real sado-masochistic school of violence and passivity, which prepared the workers for submission to the new-old bosses.


*1) According to modern studies of economists, prepared by a group of one of the leading Russian and European economists Sergei Guriev, the economic system of the USSR in 1928-1940 did not exceed the tsarist system. The Tsar's trend can gave about the same results as Stalin's one. On the other hand, the Bolshevik system had much more victims.



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Submitted by meerov21 on February 15, 2019

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