The Third International after Lenin

Friday, November 6, 2009

92nd Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution-2



What Were First Steps After Bolshevik Revolution?

BY FARRELL DOBBS
The selection below describes some of the first steps taken by the Bolshevik-led soviet government that came to power 80 years ago in the October 1917 revolution in Russia. It is excerpted from the first volume of Revolutionary Continuity: Marxist Leadership in the U.S. by Farrell Dobbs from the chapter titled, "First Workers' State." The book is copyright 1980 by the Anchor Foundation, Inc. Reprinted with permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.

The welfare of the peasants and oppressed nations was bound up with the fate of the unfolding of the socialist revolution. As concrete action was taken to meet their needs, they could be induced to support broader measures required to safeguard these gains. To assure such an advance in fundamental outlook, however, these sections of the population had to be drawn into all aspects of the continuing struggle on an extensive scale against the exploiters and conditions of life they had created....

Distribution of land to poor peasants
Landed estates were expropriated with government authority and parceled under management of the peasants themselves. Primary responsibility for redistribution of such holdings was assigned to soviets of poor peasants, which were organized separate and apart from units representing better- off peasants. All categories of small farmers were encouraged to help increase the total agricultural output, and industrial aid was extended in the form of implements, fertilizer, etc., to help them do so.

While concentrating on the foregoing measures, a first step was taken toward development of a transition from small- peasant farming to socialization of the land. Where feasible, model collective farms were established and operated by soviets of agricultural laborers. Even though these units could as yet constitute only a minor part of the economic complex, it was expected that they would increase as the farm equipment and supplies necessary for collectivization were produced, and the example they set would contribute to ultimate peasant recognition of the advantages inherent in mechanized, socialist agriculture.

High priority was also given to the exercise of self- determination by oppressed nationalities. This question involved a democratic right, not a principle of socialist organization. These nations had been denied the elementary democratic right of self-government by the Russian bourgeoisie after it took power in February 1917, and the violation could be corrected only under proletarian leadership....

Even a viable federated structure could exist, moreover, only through voluntary acceptance of fraternal association by the nations involved; the right of self-determination had to remain fully operative. For these reasons, the new Bolshevik- led government extended freedom of choice to all nationalities. They could either remain part of the Soviet Union with broad local autonomy, or peacefully secede from it should they so desire. In most cases they joined the federation of soviets.

Concerning the situation in industry, changes had already begun concurrent with the reappearance of soviets when the tsar was dethroned [in February 1917]. Organization of factory committees was initiated by the Petrograd workers and gradually extended elsewhere. These committees went beyond actions to improve wages, hours, and job conditions. They also took measures to alleviate shortages of goods and curb price gouging. Factory owners were forced to open their books for inspection by the workers. Capitalist profiteering was exposed. Supervision was expanded step by step over factory operations and the distribution of products.

Dual power of an economic character began to develop, with neither the workers nor the bosses having total control. It was not possible, though, to resolve this contradiction in the workers' favor at the factory level. A political obstacle had to be removed. At every turn the bourgeois Provisional Government sided with the bosses. The compromisers in the soviet leadership backed the government, and the workers found themselves stalemated.

Workers' control of industry
Although the October insurrection ended capitalist use of the government against the workers, it did not follow that they could achieve full economic supremacy in one stroke. More was involved than the seizure of capitalist industry by the soviet regime. For this step to become practical, the workers first needed to gain experience in administering the national economy while most factories remained temporarily capitalist owned.

To carry out the desired measures in the industrial sphere, Lenin explained, revolutionary democracy had to be applied so the masses could develop confidence in their own strength. In addition to their other functions, the trade unions had to become schools for managing the economy. The workers had to be schooled in the art of administration in handling overall management of production and distribution. Toward that end their control over the bosses had to be extended at once to every facet of industry and trade. Knowledge acquired through such activities would prepare them to administer the whole economic structure, and all capitalist enterprises could then be expropriated.

Quick action was taken by the soviet government to set this process into motion. By official decree workers' control was established over all industrial, commercial, banking, and agricultural enterprises employing five or more people. Committees elected by the workers in these enterprises were authorized to keep a constant eye on company books, records, inventories, etc.; ferret out secrets kept from them by the bosses; and see that all operations were conducted in the public interest.

Factory committees of this kind constituted the organizational nuclei for state regulation of the industrial economy. They became part of and subordinate to the trade unions in the various branches of industry. The unions, while independent, were in turn responsible to the soviets, and subordinate to them on matters of planning and state policy. By means of this overall structural form, the workers in each factory could defend their immediate interests. Actions they took could be coordinated with the general policies required for the given branch of production, and all this could be done in a way that served the broad objectives of the working class as a whole.

Disputes with individual employers were handled by the factory committees. Where necessary they conducted strikes to enforce their demands. It was no longer possible, though, for the bosses to retaliate by using lockouts as a punitive weapon against the workers. The capitalists could do no more than appeal their cases to higher workers' bodies.


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