People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 28, 2007
October Revolution And The Working Class Of USSR
Workers' demonstration in Senate Square, Petrograd, 1918
M K Pandhe
THE ninetieth anniversary of the October Revolution has great significance for the working people all over the world. Though the capitalist press is crying hoarse that the relevance of October revolution is no more of any meaning for the world, the achievements of working class after the socialist transformation is even now inspiring the revolutionary masses in all the continents.
For the first time in the planet earth, capitalism was abolished and a classless society was established under the leadership of the working class. Exploitation of man by man became a matter of past and working people became master of their own destiny. It gave a powerful impetus to the working class all over the world to fight against capitalist exploitation, with the ultimate objective of becoming gravediggers of the capitalism itself.
While elaborating the role and functions of trade unions after establishment of a socialist State, Comrade Lenin pointed out the following tasks:
“The trade unions should help to staff all the State business and administrative bodies connected with economies: nominate their candidates for them, stating their length of service, experience, and so forth.”
“One of the most important functions of the trade unions is to promote and train factory managers from among the workers and the masses of working people generally.”
“The trade unions must take a far greater part in the activities of all the planning bodies of the proletarian state, in drawing up economic plans and also programmes of production and expenditure of stocks of material supplies for the workers….”
“The drawing up of scales of wages and supplies etc. is one of the essential functions of the trade unions in the building of socialism and in their participation in management of industry.” (Lenin, Collected Works Vol - 33 P 190 - 191)
Thus, the role of trade unions was materially
different from their role in the capitalist system
where the role of trade unions is mainly to resist capitalist exploitation. The working class of the Soviet Union realized that their productivity will not lead to their exploitation but will result in improvement in their material well being.
These guidelines gave a powerful impetus to the working class of Soviet Union to enthusiastically participate in socialist construction. It generated grassroot level initiative to produce more and help in improving their own material well-being.
Inspired by the ideals of Comrade Lenin the spontaneous upsurge among the working class was clearly visible in the Stakhanovist movement spread all over USSR. Stakhanov was a coal mine worker who raised the technical standard of coal output five to six times by the use of modern techniques and innovative production methods. Though at initial stage his methods were opposed by officials and administrators and even by a section of workers it soon spread like wild fire among the rank and file workers. Men and women workers in other sectors of economy could show extremely high performance, not expected by several leading technicians.
The movement without any pressure from above, became what is known as a Stakhanovist movement which enhanced productivity of a worker manifold. It has further resulted in radical improvement in material welfare of the workers.
It gave rise to the urgent desire to acquire technical knowledge of production methods and lakhs of technical workers emerged as champions of Socialist constructions. In every factory the worker who performed the best was called a model worker and was honoured and rewarded by the undertaking. The movement created several heroes and heroines of labour who created labour standards unknown in the capitalist world.
Machine Building workers contributed in developing machines with modern technique which resulted in increasing production capacity radically. The Stakhanovist movement developed a sense of Socialist competition among the workers to achieve higher and higher standards of production.
The Stakhanov type of movement can emerge only in a socialist system where the working class is the master of the society. In the capitalist system based on exploitation of the workers cannot inspire the workers to achieve higher standards of production.
The most important feature of the Stakhanovist movement is that it emerged from the initiative of the rank an file. Comrade Stalin in his speech at the first all union conference of Stakhanovites strongly emphasized the need for leaders to learn from the rank and file workers and peasants. He said in the Conference:
“Lenin taught us that only such leaders can be real Bolshevik leaders as they know not only how to teach the workers and peasants but also how to learn from them”. Certain Bolsheviks were not pleased with these words of Lenin’s. But history has shown that Lenin was one hundred per cent right in this field also. And indeed, millions of working people, workers and peasants labour, live and struggle. Who can doubt that these people do not live in vain, that, living and struggling, these people accumulate vast practical experience? Can it be doubted that leaders who scorn this experience cannot be regarded as real leaders?“ (Problem of Leninism Page 538 Russian Edition).
GROWTH OF MATERIAL WELL BEING
In the First Five Year Plan which commenced in 1928 the number of workers employed in large scale industry increased by 57 per cent. While the national income increased by 85 per cent. The average annual wages of the workers in the large scale industries increased by 67 per cent while social insurance fund rose by 292 per cent. Thus, all fruits of economic development were enjoyed by the working people who contributed in this development.
Average annual wages of the workers in 1928 stood at 991 roubles which rose to 1519 roubles in 1933.
Even in the rural areas women were given prominence as in industrial areas. In 1933, 6000 women collective farmers were chairpersons of collective farms while more than 60,000 were member of managements boards of collective farms.
The advancement of socialist system continued to improve the living standards of the working class in the Soviet Union. During 1933 to 1938 the national income of USSR increased more than double. While the number of workers and employees increased from 22 million in 1933 to 28 million in 1938.
The average annual earning of workers increased from 1519 roubles in 1933 to 3447 ROUBLES in 1938.
The State expenditure on Social and cultural services increased by 6 times during 1933 to 1938.
In 10 years alone the earning of workers increased by more than three and a half times while the social funding from the states increased more than that.
GAINS OF WORKING CLASS
Right to work as a fundamental right was enshrined in the Constitution of the Soviet Union. To ensure this right the Government of USSR undertook a massive programme of construction of housing, afforestation and construction of roads through out the country. The main thrust was, however, on development of modern industrial base. The Soviet Government achieved in three five year plans what took USA more than 50 years.
The massive programme of rural electrification covering one sixth of the global was a remarkable achievement of USSR. Which provided jobs to a large number of workers. For the first time in the world a country emerged without any unemployment. No capitalist country could provide this prior to the October Revolution or even after dismantling of socialism in USSR.
The Soviet Government could offer to every worker a residential accommodation, electricity connection and water facilities at a cost of only 4-5 per cent of the wages of a worker. By paying only 10 kopecs a worker could go any where in Moscow city. Such cheap transport facility could not be provided to the working class by any capitalist government in the world.
The Soviet Government made education free to all the children of workers till the graduation level. All Workers were covered free of cost by the State funded medical insurance scheme and no fee was charged for all types of medical assistance to the workers. Every worker was covered by old age pension scheme after retirement. Special resorts were constructed for the old workers who were net work of Sanatoria was built throughout Soviet Union involving facilities enjoyed by a few rich in the capitalist world.
The Soviet Union gave a special emphasis for health and recreation of workers. Cultural palaces were constructed all over the country to encourage cultural activities among the workers and their family members. Sports complexes were also developed on a wide scale encouraging talented young generation. Every worker was given excellent facilities in holiday homes during this annual leave where he would relax along with his family members.
A five day week was introduced for all the industrial workers while in hazardous industries seven hour day was introduced by the Soviet Government. Annual leave was also extended up to one month per year of service for several categories of workers.
Supply of good quality food in the canteen at a nominal cost was made compulsory in all the establishments. This reduced drudgery of women workers to cook food in the residence. Provision of crèche was compulsory so that women could bring their children with them at the workplace. Free time was allowed for the women workers to feed their children while at work.
Women were allowed entry in all occupations and no discrimination was practiced at workplace. Many women were working as chief executives in the factory and showing good performance.
I had an occasion to visit Soviet Union in 1960 and I could see all these facilities by visiting several establishments and cultural palaces. I had an occasion to spend one weekend with workers families and could see how the enjoy life in a socialist system.
The outbreak of imperialist war in 1939 changed the world situation and defense of the Socialist system became the major problems faced by the Soviet Union which required diversion of huge funds to armament industry. The treacherous attack on Soviet Union by Hitler armies in 1941 caused heavy destruction of socialist economy and loss of life of millions of men, women and children. However, working people stood firm despite huge sufferings and ultimately fascist forces were defeated on the soil of Soviet Union with innumerable sacrifices of the Soviet people. Socialist system was heroically defended by the Soviet working people.
During the war several industries were shifted to Ural mountains and working class played a meritorious role in producing necessary war equipments and consumer goods for the people. Exemplary courage was shown by the working class in keeping the flow of armament production and services despite acute shortages faced by the army and the people in comparison with the requirements.
There is no parallel in the world history of the human endurance and sacrifice shown by the working people. While the capitalist powers cracked before Hitlerite blitzcreig, the working people in USSR showed remarkable tenacity to defend the gains of socialism.
Working class in USSR played a glorious role in overcoming the unprecedented devastation caused due to the second world war. Working day and night the task of rebuilding factories, dams, houses, schools and roads was undertaken by the working class with remarkable speed and wounds of war were healed with top priority.
The working conditions during this period were extremely bad but the workers faced them with clear understanding of defending the gains of socialism.
Though there was no working class family which did not lose a member or members during the anti-fascist war, yet the Soviet army played a remarkable role in liberating eastern European countries from the cruel yoke of fascism. The Red Army could successfully accomplish this task due to the solid support given by the working class in supplying all necessary requirements to win the war against fascism.
DISMANTLING OF SOCIALISM
Despite spectacular achievements of Socialist construction and improvement in the standard of life of the working people in USSR, the progress could not be sustained due to failure to strengthen socialist democracy in the country. The concept of Socialist democracy was undermined at a later stage.
After passing away of Comrade Stalin in 1953 the CPSU under the leadership of Kruschev adopted a revisionist path, grosly underestimated the role of imperialism, distorted the concept of peaceful co-existance and purposefully ignored the leading role of the working class which emasculated the working class in the Soviet Union.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union failed, later on, to inculcate Socialist consciousness among the working class. The Gorbachov leadership through concept of Glasnost and Perestroika allowed capitalist ideology to percolate in the working class which resulted in gradual erosion of socialist values in the society.
Soviet trade unions after fifties, miserably failed to play an important role in Socialist production and bureaucracy and technocrats influenced by revisionist ideology got control over the industrial undertakings. Socialist emulation among the working class became a matter of past.
The counter revolutionary forces with support of imperialist power utilised the growing discontent of the working class due to deterioration of living standards, acute shortage of essential commodities and growing corruption in all aspects of social life dismantled the Socialist system and paved the way for restoration of capitalism. When such developments were taking place working class was powerless to defend Socialist system. As a matter of fact a section of the working class was influenced by Yeltsin and supported the effort to dismantle socialism.
The gains of Socialism thus got obliterated due to ideological weakening of the working class whose revolutionary role got undermined. It has changed the balance of forces world over in favour of capitalist class.
After dismantling of Socialism all the free facilities were withdrawn by the new Government. The private owners withdrew all privileges available in the factories and workers had to go on strike even for demanding wages for the period they worked.
With rising prices of essential commodities the quality of life was reduced drastically and according to official statistics the life expectancy came down. Unemployment grew rapidly and the working class had to wage long drawn struggles to get job security.
A Russian delegate who came to Haldia in one International Energy Conference said in public meeting, “The Russian working class committed a serious blunder by allowing dismantling of Socialism. Workers are now realizing from their own experience the mistakes they have committed. Now we have to find how to bring the good old days by fighting a determined struggle against capitalist exploitation. We appeal to the working class of India to learn from our experience”.
The working class of Russia and CIS countries is learning from their experience in the recent situation how their standard of life has been adversely affected after dismantling of Socialism in USSR. They are forced to come forward in the struggle to improve their working and living conditions.
With US imperialist machinations against Russia growing day by day, Russian people are being drawn into anti-imperialist struggles and struggles against emergence of a unipolar world.
The depredations of capitalism will certainly give rise to development of socialist consciousness almost the working class of Russia and their struggle for restoration of socialism are bound to emerge sooner or later.
On the 90th Anniversary of October revolution the working class of Russia and the world will no doubt remember the achievement of socialism in USSR. The invincibility of the ideology of socialism is bound the reassert in the forthcoming period.
The policies of globalization have become unsustainable and the working class struggles all over the world are emerging in a militant manner. Capitalism failed to solve a single social problem despite its claim that it is the final stage of world civilization. The general crisis of capitalism is getting aggravated and growing inequality in the world is becoming unsustainable.
The socialist countries viz China, Cuba and Vietnam are advancing their economy more rapidly than capitalist countries. Their achievements are inspiring the working class, in their struggles against capitalist exploitation.
The working class all over the world has to highlight the contribution of October Revolution to the era of destruction of capitalist system and fight for a socialist system without exploitation of human society.
Long live the spirit of October Revolution!
Socialism is invincible!