Translated and Edited: Keith Rosenthal, December 2010
Editor’s Note: This phenomenal, historical and analytical study has, until now, not been translated into English. This is a shame on many levels for it stands nearly peerless in its meticulous treatment of the specific subject it takes up. That is, the debates and discussions surrounding the implementation of workers’ control of production within the first months after the October revolution of 1917 in Russia.
The problem of the management of the enterprises
Thus the tidy rational “realism” of Lenin was to stumble on the reactionary ideology of some and the revolutionary ideal of others: two very concrete realities that didn’t lack, each in their own way, certain rationality.
The non-Bolshevik manual of workers' control
Art. 9 – The control commission of each enterprise may, through the intermediary of the higher organ of workers' control, raise before the central governmental institutions the question of seizing an enterprise or other coercive measures against the enterprise, but it has not right to take over its direction.
The Left Bolsheviks18 and workers’ control
2 Editor’s Note: Factory committees, which sprang up during the Russian Revolution of 1917, were varied in origin and purpose, at times acting in a supervisory role over management, in other instances engaging in matters of collective bargaining and worker representation, and in some instances acting as rudimentary organs of workers' control. While the majority of factory committees fulfilled union-type roles, historians estimate that in 7–10% of cases, factory committees were the result of workers' take-over of the factory. Most factory committees of this type developed as a means by workers to counter lock-outs and/or sabotage by factory owners. (Wikipedia).
3 Editor’s Note: War communism was the economic and political system that existed in Russia during the Civil War, from 1918 to 1921. This policy was adopted by the Bolsheviks with the aim of keeping towns and the Red Army supplied with weapons and food, in conditions in which all normal economic mechanisms and relations were being destroyed by the war. (Wikipedia).
4 Lenin, Collected Works, XXII (in German), p. 56.
5 Editor’s Note: In 1917, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (a non-Marxist party based upon peasant revolution and agrarian reform) split between those who supported the bourgeois, Provisional Government, established after the February Revolution, and those who supported the Bolsheviks who favored a communist insurrection. The majority stayed within the mainstream party but a minority who supported the Bolshevik path became known as Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. (Wikipedia).
6 Lenin, Collected Works, XXII, p. 46.
7 Lenin, Collected Works, XXII, pp 26-27
8 It is possible to believe, indeed, that the Sovnarkom had already entertained the project of its president. Vtsik = The Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviets. Sovnarkum = The Council of People’s Commissars.
9 Lozovsky, Workers' Control, Petrograd, 1918, p. 10.
10 The council, in the spirit of Lozovsky, would include delegates from the factory committees, representatives from the unions and other workers’ organizations. See final draft below.
11 Documents annexed to volume XXII, p. 613.
12 Lozovsky, Workers’ Control, p. 10.
13 Discussion at the All-Russian Council of Workers’ Control, meeting of November 28, 1917.
14 Editor’s Note: Usufruct is the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from property that belongs to another person.
* Editor's Note: It is estimated that in Russia in 1917, only 20% of the population lived in an urban setting, with the remainder of the population being composed of rural and semi-rural peasants and their families. Within the cities, roughly a third of the workers were illiterate; in the countryside, roughly two-thirds of rural workers were illiterate. As a further illustration, in a 1918 study of 724 metalworkers at the Putilov factory in Petrograd (the most advanced factory in Russia), it was found that a mere 9.6 percent had finished the three-year rural or the four-year city schools; only two men in the sample had more than four years of education. (Rex Wade, "Red guards and workers' militias in the Russian Revolution," Stanford University Press, 1984, p.23)
15 R. Arsky, Workers’ Control, pp. 21, 22.
16 Philips Price, The Russian Revolution, Hambourg 1921, pp. 261 and 266.
17 In early December 1917, the government, as a result of growing unemployment in the industries that had stopped receiving orders for war materials, had to resort to decreeing the closure of a number of enterprises for a month and a half, in order to organize their conversion to civilian needs. Cf. I. Larine und L. Kritzmann, Wirtschaftsleben und Wirtschaftlicher Aufbau in Soviet Russland, 1917-1920, Hambourg 1921, p. 13.
18 Editor’s Note: Russian left communism began in 1918 as a faction within the Russian Communist Party named the Left Communists, which opposed the signing of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with Imperial Germany. The Left Communists wanted international proletarian revolution across the world. The leader of this faction, in the beginning, was Bukharin. They stood for a revolutionary war against the Central Powers; opposed the right of nations to self-determination; and they generally took a voluntarist stance regarding the possibilities for social revolution at that time. They argued against the over-bureaucratization of the state and further argued that full state ownership of the means of production should proceed at a quicker pace than Lenin desired. (Wikipedia).
19 I. Larine and L. Kritzmann, op cit, p. 163.
20 N. Ossinsky, The Construction of Socialism, Moscow 1918, p. 35 and after.
21 Marx, The civil war in France (Paris, 1936), pp 62 and 63.
22 It is symptomatic that still in 1923, a ‘left communist’ had continued to support the thesis of N. Ossinsky in debate with Lenin, where he raised this unexpected comment: “The slogan of workers’ control, which had been the most popular among the working masses through October, completely changed content after the ascension to power of the Bolsheviks. In truth, nobody had an absolutely clear idea that this control could be realized, perhaps even Lenin (!). For a while, after the revolution, Lenin continued to defend his point of view.” Cf. J.S. Rosenfeld, Die organization der Industrie-verwoltung in Das heutige Russland, 1917-1922 (Moscow, April 1923), p.3
23 L. Kritzmann, op cit, p. 158.
24 Lenin, report to the Third Congress of the All-Russian Soviets, Petrograd, January 11, 1918, cf. Complete Works, Vol. XXII, p. 220.
25 Lozovsky, The unions in soviet Russia, p. 654.
26 Lozovsky, The professional monitor, the organ of the central council of the unions, 24 November 1917.
27 Lozovsky, The unions in soviet Russia (Moscow, May 1920), op cit., p. 654.
28 Lozovsky, The professional monitor, 24 November 1917.
29 Document annexed to volume XXII of the Complete Works of Lenin, p. 615. This statement, signed by the resigned People's Commissars Nogin (Industry and Commerce), Rykov (Internal Affairs), Milioutine (Agriculture) and Theodorovitch (Supply), was approved notably by the Bolshevik syndicalists Riasanov and Shlyapnikov, as well as by Larine, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
30 Editor’s Note: The Mensheviks were a faction of the Russian revolutionary movement that emerged in 1904 after a split occurred in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, producing two distinct trends: the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The split proved to be long-standing and had to do both with pragmatic issues based in history such as the failed revolution of 1905, and theoretical issues of class leadership, class alliances, and bourgeois democracy. While both factions believed that a "bourgeois democratic" revolution was necessary, the Mensheviks generally tended to be more moderate and were more positive towards the "mainstream" liberal opposition. (Wikipedia).
31 Editor’s Note: This speech was delivered at a meeting of the Workers’ Section of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, December 4, 1917.
32 Lenin, Complete Works, XXII, p. 125-127.