Theoretical Weekends at Scission moves along today with a piece that is theoretical, analytical,and historical (and much easier to understand then yesterday's post). As usual, I have only skimmed this thing so far, but it looks interesting to me, so we can all read it and decide on it together.
PS: for my readers and friends who like Stalin, you might want to move on now.
Oh, and that, poster that you see with the article itself...it hangs in my reading room. It was a gift from my now deceased and wonderful friend, journalist and auto worker, and true communist Carol Loretz...who is very much missed.
Strikes against Stalin in 1930s Russia
- Jeffrey Rossman
... The rations for workers were cut back, so they started making a fuss. The Teikovo calico factory-it's impossible to believe-has gone on strike. Yes, yes! ... a real Italian strike. What a horror. The fifteenth year of the revolution, and suddenly ... It simply can't be. But? ... I walked around town today, agitated by the news of what had happened. My look was serious and tense. Near the cooperative ... a worker who had drunk a fair amount stopped me and began to shout loudly into my ear: "My friend, when will you let us eat, you devils!10
We must reduce the rations of the Red Army and GPU, for they grow plump while the workers starve . . . The Communists and the GPU live well, earn a lot, and receive good rations. The new bourgeoisie-the Communists-sit in the homes of the former mill-owners. . . . They live well, they have their closed shops, but everyone else starves. During the past thirty-six years I've never seen Teikovo workers go without bread, but now it has happened. Lenin certainly wouldn't have allowed this. . . . But now we have not a "Communist" party, but some kind of "utopia." This regime is a "utopia." The working class is perishing. Year fourteen of the revolution-and starvation continues. The policy of Lenin (sic) and the Soviet regime is incorrect. We must declare a boycott of the Soviet regime. We must overthrow the Soviet regime .... Help for the strikers will come from abroad .... Not only Soviet but also foreign miners will support our demands because they ... [once] went on strike and won. If bread isn't going to be added and we're going to stay like this, then it's better to be down with Soviet power!
I consider Khudiakov to have been the organizer and inspirer of the strike. His father was a trader and he himself traded alongside his father. I've known his family for thirty years, and although he considers himself a worker, in fact he is a trader - if he did work, then it was only as a guard. At all the assemblies, wherever they occur, Khudiakov speaks out against the measures of the Soviet regime.
... More than anyone else, Khudiakov and Gradusov stirred up the masses. After their appearances, the masses were disposed in an unruly and anti-Soviet manner, and especially after the long and harsh speeches by Gradusov.... Maybe their speeches could have been more successful, but the fundamental mass of workers condemned them for it. Undoubtedly, the layer of back- ward workers and the whole audience of recently arrived, extraneous non- workers supported them.
As a result of [delays in explaining the new ration policy to workers] and the existence of huge deficiencies in the performance of supply agencies and cooperatives, unhealthy moods arose among a certain segment of workers, and these moods were used by Trotskyites and class-alien enemies, who managed to put significant groups of backward workers under their influence and organize a strike movement an assault against party and Soviet organizations.
Some workers in the crowd said that we don't have to go on a hunger march, but Shishkin put this question to a vote and a majority decided to go. Not only workers but also the entire audience ... . perhaps up to and including lishentsy - voted. I believe that the hunger march took place not through any fault of the workers, but on the initiative of Shishkin and Gradusov, who stirred up the crowd of workers more than anything else. And if one of them had said to the workers that we don't need to go on a hunger march, then I'm certain that the march would not have taken place.
As a result of the strike, factories came to a standstill. And if the march per se had been organized rather than spontaneous, then the exacerbation [of the social climate] would have been greater, [but wasn't] because march participants held differing opinions. When the workers proposed that I become the leader of the march, I refused. And if I'd wanted to assume a position at the head of the march, then in my personal opinion we would have had to join - and could have joined - striking peat bog workers. And as a result, Ivanovo could have been left without electrical power. There were shouts from the crowd on this issue, about joining the peat bog workers and even the peasants, but the crowd came to no decision at all.14
As a former commander in the Red Army and participant in the Civil War, I am a worker by birth and have a record of twenty-one years in the factory. And I consider it my duty to state that at the height of the strike when I, standing virtually at the head of the crowd, demanded only the improvement of the workers' economic condition (because I radically disagree with the party's policy of reducing workers' rations), at that moment there were extraneous persons in the crowd, such counterrevolutionary personalities as Khudiakov. They made political demands and generally expressed dissatisfaction with the Soviet regime. I consider my mistake to be that we carried out the strike within view of the entire region - particularly, for example, the hunger march on Ivanovo. And the whole trouble is that lishentsy and other anti-Soviet individuals used the strike for their agitation. I believe that we should have carried out the strike on the strength of the workers alone so that extraneous people did not participate. My deficiencies notwithstanding, I must say again that I am not a counterrevolutionary. But as for my character, I do not agree with the social condition of the workers. All the same, bearing in mind the loss that the strike caused the government, I readily agree to bear the punishment for my crimes. But I do not want to be considered a rebel [buntovshchik], because I am prepared to defend Soviet power at any moment. Therefore, I ask the OGPU not to prescribe a heavy punishment for me.20