Economic Dislocation and the Proletariat’s Struggle Against It

Lenin on the tasks of factory committees in fighting against Economic dislocation.

We are publishing in this issue the resolution on economic measures for combating dislocation, passed by the Conference of Factory Committees.[1]

The main idea of the resolution is to indicate the conditions for actual control over the capitalists and production in contrast to the empty phrases about control used by the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois officials. The bourgeoisie are lying When they allege that the systematic measures taken by the state to ensure threefold or even tenfold profits for the capitalists are “control”. The petty bourgeoisie, partly out of naïveté, partly out of economic interest, trust the capitalists and the capitalist state, and content them selves with the most meaningless bureaucratic projects for control. The resolution passed by the workers lays special emphasis on the all-important thing, that is, on what is to be done I) to prevent the actual “preservation” of capitalist profits; 2) to tear off the veil of commercial secrecy; 3) to give the workers a majority in the control agencies; 4) to ensure that the organisation (of control and direction), being “nation-wide” organisation, is directed by the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies and not by the capitalists.

Without this, all talk of control and regulation is either sheer bunkum or outright deception of the people.

Now it is against this truth, as plain as can be to every politically-conscious and thinking worker, that the leaders of our petty bourgeoisie, the Narodniks and Mensheviks (Izvestia, Rabochaya Gazeta), are up in arms. Unfortunately, those who write for Novaya Zhizn, and who have repeatedly wavered between us and them, have this time sunk to the same level.

Comrades Avilov and Bazarov try to cover up their descent Into the swamp of petty-bourgeois credulity, compromise, and bureaucratic project-making by Marxist-sounding arguments.

Let us look into these arguments.

We Pravda people are said to be deviating from Marxism to syndicalism just because we defend the resolution of the Organising Bureau (approved by the Conference). Shame on you, Comrades Avilov and Bazarov! Such carelessness (Or such trickery) is fit only for Rech[2] and Yedinstvo[3]! We suggest nothing like the ridiculous transfer of the railways to the railwaymen, or the tanneries to the tanners. What we do suggest is workers’ control, which should develop into complete regulation of production and distribution by the workers, into "nation-wide organisation" of the exchange of grain for manufactured goods, etc. (with "extensive use of urban and rural co-operatives"). What we suggest is "the transfer of all state power to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies".

Only people who had not read the resolution right through, or who cannot read at all, could, with clear conscience, find any syndicalism in it.

And only pedants, who understand Marxism as Struve and all liberal bureaucrats “understood” it, can assert that "skipping state capitalism is utopian" and that "in our country, too, the very type of regulation should retain its state- capitalist character".

Take the sugar syndicate or the state railways in Russia or the oil barons, etc. What is that but state capitalism? How can you “skip” what already exists?

The point is that people who have turned Marxism into a kind of stiffly bourgeois doctrine evade the specific issues posed by reality, which in Russia has in practice produced a combination of the syndicates in industry and the small- peasant farms in the countryside. They evade these specific issues by advancing pseudo-intellectual, and in fact utterly meaningless, arguments about a "permanent revolution", about “introducing” socialism, and other nonsense.

Let us get down to business! Let us have fewer excuses and keep closer to practical matters! Are the profits made from war supplies, profits amounting to 500 per cent or more,   to be left intact! Yes or no? Is commercial secrecy to be left intact? Yes or no? Are the workers to be enabled to exercise control? Yes or no?

Comrades Avilov and Bazarov give no answer to these practical questions. By using “Struvean” arguments sounding “near-Marxist”, they unwittingly stoop to the level of accomplices of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie want nothing better than to answer the people’s queries about the scandalous profits of the war supplies deliverers, and about economic dislocation, with “learned” arguments about the “utopian” character of socialism.

These arguments are ridiculously stupid, for what makes socialism objectively impossible is the small-scale economy which we by no means presume to expropriate, or even to regulate or control.

What we are trying to make something real instead of a bluff is the "state regulation" of which the Mensheviks, the Narodniks and all bureaucrats (who have carried Comrades Avilov and Bazarov with them) talk in order to dismiss the matter, making projects to safeguard capitalist profits and orating to preserve commercial secrecy. This is the point, worthy near-Marxists, and not the “introduction” of socialism!

Not regulation of and control over the workers by the capitalist class, but vice versa. This is the point. Not confidence in the “state”, fit for a Louis Blanc, but demand for a state led by the proletarians and semi-proletarians—that is how we must combat economic dislocation. Any other solution is sheer bunkum and deception.


[1] The factory committees, which came into being in March 1917, immediately after the victory of the February Revolution, were class organisations of the workers. The factory elders’ councils and other elected bodies formed from provisional strike committees in the periods of revolutionary upsurge are considered the forerunners of the factory committees.

The factory committees became very active as soon as they were set up. They formulated the workers’ economic demands and   presented them to the factory owners, introduced an eight-hour day by their own decision, exercised control over the employment and discharge of labour power, formed workers’ militia units, combated sabotage on the part of the employers, secured raw materials and fuel for the factories concerned to prevent stoppages, and so on. They took an active part in the October Revolution. In 1918 they were merged with the trade unions and became primary units of the latter.

The First Petrograd Conference of Factory Committees was held from May 30 to June 3 (June 12–16), 1917. The 568 delegates attending it represented the factory committees, trade union bureaus, and other workers’ organisations of Petrograd and vicinity. The conference discussed the state of industry and the problem of controlling and regulating production in Petrograd, the tasks of the factory committees, their role in the trade union movement, etc.

The Conference became a scene of bitter struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks over the role and tasks of the factory committees and over workers’ control. The Mensheviks tried to nullify the political and economic role of the factory committees and to substitute state control involving bourgeois parties for workers’ control. The conference carried the Bolshevik motion. The conference was very important in that it enabled the factory committees to exchange experience and join forces in the campaign for workers’ control. To this end it elected a standing Central Council of Factory Committees of 25.

Lenin took part in the conference. He drafted the “Resolution on Measures to Cope with Economic Dislocation”, which was carried by a vast majority, and analysed the conference resolutions in his articles “The Petty-Bourgeois Stand on Economic Dislocation” and “Economic Dislocation and the Proletariat’s Struggle Against It”, criticising the Menshevik stand at the conference and upholding the Bolsheviks’ tactics on workers’ control over production.

[2] Rech (Speech)—Central Organ of the Cadet Party published daily in St. Petersburg from February 1906. It was closed down by the Military Revolutionary Committee under the Petrograd Soviet. On October 26 (November 8), 1917. It continued publication under different titles till August 1918.

[3] Yedinstvo (Unity)—mouthpiece of the Right wing of the defencist Mensheviks headed by G. V. Plekhanov; it was published in Petrograd. Four issues appeared in May and June 1914. From March to November 1917 the paper was published daily. In December 1917 and January 1918 it appeared under the title Nashe Yedinstvo (Our Unity). Supporting the Provisional Government and advocating coalition with the bourgeoisie and firm power, Yedinstvo waged a fierce struggle against the Bolsheviks, very often resorting to the gutter press methods. Its reaction to the October Revolution and the establishment of Soviet rule was hostile.