Kuzbass Autonomous Industrial Colony footnote

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David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
Nov 10 2012 15:44
Kuzbass Autonomous Industrial Colony footnote

I've been interested in the Kuzbass experiment and the colonists betrayal by the Bolsheviks since I heard of it. I ran into an article on a Russian industrial site on the visit of descendents of founding members to a plant tracing it's origins to the colony.

mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
Joined: 16-12-06
Nov 11 2012 15:38

There is actually a book on this. It is called Project Kuzbas: American Workers in Siberia (1921-1926), J. P. Morray.

And here is an amazon link for this:


Joined: 3-12-09
Nov 13 2012 09:07

'Betrayal' means that a shared loyalty or nature is torn by one of the parties. In this case, 'Bolshevik betrayal' (presumably of 'proletarian interests') assumes that Bolshevism represented that class. But by 1921 it was quite clear that the Lenin régime was a despotism no better than Tsarism. From its beginning as a racket Bolshevism represented the interests of a revamped Russian government and economy.

With ample evidence and reason, some described it as a prototype totalitarian state from the start, or a 'red fascism'. That it betrayed the Russian, or foreign workers at Kuzbass AIC in this case, is false, but the betrayal myth is crucial to present the original Bolsheviks (1902-1917) as authentic and heroic 'proletarian representatives'. According to the myth, their main weakness was their hapless propensity for 'mistakes', 'period confusions', red terrors and other peccadilloes of immaturity. All this led to a final betrayal, something like the original sin. This propensity is excused with another myth -- the 'absence of the international revolution'. However, this myth never goes into details as to how the 'mistakes' would have stopped then. Indeed, political myths aren't invented to explain, but to comfort and delude. *

There was no Bolshevik betrayal in October 1917 or at the Kuzbass Autonomous Industrial Colony 'experiment'. This workerist sham was approved/signed by the Lenin régime in November 1921, just months after the crushing of Kronstadt and vast peasant insurrections, and the inception of the NEP. It represented no alternative for the workers or any threat to the régime which invested in it.

In a well-researched study, Jonathan Aves concludes that:

In early 1921 the Communist Party faced what amounted to a revolutionary situation. Industrial unrest was only one aspect of a more general crisis that encompassed the Kronstadt revolt and the peasant risings in Tambov and Western Siberia.

(Workers Against Lenin: Labour Protest and the Bolshevik Dictatorship, IB Tauris Publishers, London, New York 1996, page 155)

That was the undeniable social setting for the Kuzbass AIC, something impossible to ignore for anybody in Russia at the time.

Rutgers, Haywood and Co. knew all this. They witnessed what the Cheka terror meant for Russian society. This situation had only worsened by 1921-26, so the Kuzbass 'experiment' -- apart from its pre-'Stakhanovist' value -- had no relevance for Stalin's centralised industrialisation plans. But serving the 'Socialist Fatherland' with self-management shams -- that was the dream-project of apparatchiks with a penchant for social-engineering. That Stalin terminated the sham in 1926 was not a 'betrayal' -- there was no room for 'anarcho-syndicalist experiments' with scant PR value for the Russian state. After eliminating Bukharin's faction, Stalin was preparing to implement the final Bolshevik war against the peasantry and to launch his barbaric 5-Year Plans.

One thing should be said about the ex-leftist Rutgers's survival wits -- he avoided an early retirement at the Lubianka resort in 1938, by making his way to the Netherlands. He survived the Nazi occupation as well and seems to have remained a loyal and bovine Stalinist to the end (1961).

It's not surprising that left communist Firtinaci points to Joseph P Morray's Project Kuzbas: American Workers in Siberia (1921-1926), without mentioning that this work was published by the Stalinist CPUSA's International Publishers. Of course anybody researching the Kuzbass AIC should be acquainted with all the available literature, including Stalinist apologetics. But it's highly doubtful that Morray would present a critical account of the Kuzbass AIC, meaning an exposé of the Lenin or the Stalinist régimes, and their ruthless anti-labour repression in 1921. Self-management and shooting down of workers and peasants wasn't at all contradictory in Lenin's dreamland.

There were specific exchanges on the Kuzbass Autonomous Industrial Colony mythology on: http://libcom.org/forums/announcements/re-joining-iww-27072011?page=1

* The myth of the 'international' or 'word revolution' was essential propaganda to consolidate the Bolsheviks after their 1917 coup. All sacrifices were worthy, as 'help' from other 'proletarian bastions' was soon to come. In the meantime, Russia remained embedded in WW1, a pawn of either the Central Powers or the Entente, until November 1918. What the sacrifices meant was made very clear from early on:

Another propaganda device was to connect workers' efforts for improving their conditions with the alleged 'efforts of the imperialists' to overthrow the Soviet state. The resolution adopted on December 31, 1917, by a joint meeting of the factory and shop committees held at the Putilov plant was very typical in this respect. It is worth quoting this resolution at length since its language already contained the idioms which became the staple of Bolshevik propaganda:

'In view of the difficult situation of the soviets in Russia crushed by the Anglo-American imperialism, [note that the German imperialists 'ad portas' aren't mentioned -- my comment] which tries to drown in the blood of the Russian proletariat the blooming of the world socialist revolution, the meeting states that the demands of workers [to increase their wages] are opposed to the general proletarian interests, [these demands] disrupt the supply of food, as well as the procurement, transportation, and distribution of all materials necessary for the life of the state devastated by the imperialist war.'

The resolution called the striking workers 'self-seeking egotists ... and 'traitors' who 'have no place among honest workers'; it condemned their strike as illegal.

(Gennady Shkliarevsky, Labor in the Russian Revolution, Factory Committees and Trade Unions -- 1917-18, St Martins Press, New York, 1992, page 147)

As it became usual for Bolsheviks, propaganda clichés were backed by relentless Cheka repression, just in case the message didn't get through.

Transforming 'the imperialist war' into a civil war' -- a central tenet of leftist 'internationalism' -- meant extending WW1 within the crumbling Russian empire, so that a war with 24 million deaths became a war with up to 34 million killed (not counting the millions maimed). WW1 Russian losses have been estimated at around 3,700,000. But the Russian Civil War's losses have been estimated at 7 to 10 million (Adam Hochschild, To End All Wars, Pan Macmillan 2011, page 349). 'Peace, Bread and Land', the catchwords that brought the Bolsheviks to power in 1917, were grimly hollow from the start. 'Soviet power' was also fatally undermined in the 1917 coup itself. Those who claim that this had little or nothing to do with the well-intentioned Bolsheviks, who made 'mistakes; or 'betrayed' later, have to contend with historical evidence showing a contrary picture.

David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
Nov 22 2012 02:26

Needless snark removed.