Position of the Working Class in Russia and the Tasks of the CPRF in Strengthening its Influence in the Proletarian Milieu
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has held its 6th regular Plenary Session. Three weeks ahead of the Plenum the newspaper “Pravda” in its September 25, 2014 issue published the report of the CC CPRF Presidium “The Position of the Working Class in Russia and the Tasks of the CPRF in Strengthening its Influence in the Proletarian Milieu.”
At the CC CPRF plenary meeting held on October 18 the Chairman of the CC Gennady Zyuganov set forth the main provisions of the report. The CC CPRF Plenum, after a discussion, passed a resolution which read in part: “To support and adopt the assessments and conclusions of the report of the CC CPRF Presidium.”
Below is a summary of the Report “The Position of the Working Class in Russia and the Tasks of the CPRF in Strengthening its Influence in the Proletarian Milieu.”
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Raising the issue of the interaction between the Communist Party and the working class corresponds to the bedrock principles of the party. The CPRF Program stresses our staunch adherence to socialism. It says: “In spite of the temporary retreat of the revolutionary movement, the modern epoch is one of transition from capitalism to socialism.” The 15th Party Congress has declared that “More and more factors in the surrounding world potentially contribute to the essentially revolutionary struggle for socialism.” The Political Report to the Congress stresses that the coming years should “see the Russian proletariat mature as a class.” All these provisions have a fundamental strategic character.
Capitalism in Russia is of the reactionary, comprador type
The report to the CC Plenum provides an extended characteristic of capitalism in Russia.
First of all, it is a regressive and reactionary society. In terms of industrial output we are at least 5 times behind the developed states. Agriculture has been ruined. The monetary system is in paralysis. The level of professional skill in all the spheres of the economy and management is falling catastrophically. Contrary to official propaganda, the industry is being degraded. Since the beginning of the year 54 enterprises in the Sverdlovsk Region alone have announced job cuts. As of October 1 more than 5,000 workers have been laid off. Many enterprises introducing a short week and are reducing and delaying payment of wages.
Secondly, the capitalism that has established itself in the country is parasitic. The state apparatus in Russia today is twice the size it was in the whole Soviet Union. Much of the physically fit workforce is concentrated in private security firms. The number of workers in industry has dropped by more than 2 million since 2000. By contrast, the number of those engaged in real estate transactions and the banking and financial sector has grown by 3 million.
The third feature of Russian capitalism is its comprador character. The new “strategic owners” quickly realized that they can secure a place in the global capitalist system only if they become suppliers of raw materials. Since then the Russian economy has been dominated by two sectors: commodity export and banking. Other sectors, especially science-intensive ones, have been ruthlessly destroyed.
The zone of comprador capital has recently been expanding. Russia’s domestic market depends on imports. The leading retail networks are in the hands of transnational companies. Even the military-industrial complex relies on the import of components. Comprador capital sucks huge resources out of Russia. Since the start of this year $90 billion has been taken out of the country. Integration into global capitalism has taken the form of bondage.
The fourth feature of Russian capitalism is its oligarchic character. Big and medium-sized capital is closely intertwined with the bureaucracy. The only difference is that Russian oligarchs are on the Forbs list while owners of medium-sized businesses and criminal elements hold sway “in their neck of the woods.”
The conflict within the comprador capital merely underscores its oligarchic nature. The “state” capitalists are in cahoots with the authorities and seek to grab new juicy pieces in the process of privatization. On the other side are “liberal” capitalists. They had everything going for them in the 1990s, but have been forced to retreat when property was redivided. The two branches of the bourgeois class compete with one each other for the right to squeeze the juice out of the working people.
Thus, capitalism in Russia is regressive and parasitic, oligarchic and comprador. It is not viable and is historically doomed.
The country is rent apart by contradictions
Russia has lived through a temporary retreat of socialism and restoration of the omnipotence of private property. Capitalism has again split the country into two main classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. ВThe system of contradictions that existed in Russia before the October 1917 Revolution has been forcibly brought back. And as then, they are intertwined with the antagonism between labor and capital, between the exploiters and the oppressed.
The minority that has seized the means of production lives by exploiting hired labor. The absolute majority of our fellow citizens have to sell their labor in order to earn a living for themselves and their families. Their ability to work is all that they have.
Social stratification in Russia has brought about an unprecedented polarization of wealth. Today even official statistics show that 47,4% of all the money mass in the country is concentrated in thee hands of 20% of the wealthiest people. At the same time the poorest 20% have a mere 5,2% of the total money mass.
Russia has become a country of poor people. оThe poverty line is determined by the living minimum calculated by the Yeltsin government in 1992. It is barely enough to keep a person from starving to death. Last year the RAS Sociology Institute published the results of a study of poverty and inequality. The data are alarming: 30% of our people live in poverty. They have been pushed there by the dictatorship of comprador capitalism. The position of the absolute majority of citizens is deteriorating.
The advocates of private property have promised people a leap into the comfortable “civilized world.” Instead they were plunged into poverty. This is just one thread in a bundle of contradictions.
The socialist way of life created by the Soviet system has been destroyed. The core of its humanistic values was respect for the working man. ”From each according to his abilities, to each according to his work” was not only the principles of distributing wealth, but the criterion of a person’s social worth. That is why labor under socialism was assessed not only by wages, but by free flats, passes to rest homes and sanatoria, the award of the Labor Veteran title, decoration with orders, medals and Winner of Socialist Emulation campaigns.
Today that cult has been supplanted by the propagation of unearned incomes, the cult of stealing and material gain. The very nature of capitalism does not allow labor to be treated as something honorable, laudable and heroic.
Mutual help, cooperation and collectivism were an inalienable part of the socialist way of life. Exchange of experience and knowledge helped to form stable working collectives. Today a different system of labor relations prevails at 90% of enterprises: it deliberately destroys the old collectives creating a sense of alienation between the social strata. The foreman looks down on the worker and communicates with him only inasmuch as technology requires. The head of a working shift communicating with the foreman thinks it beneath him to go beyond the narrow range of production matters.
Under capitalist conditions Russians have been confronted with growing ethnic conflicts. Bourgeois propaganda mocks the concepts of the friendship of the peoples and internationalism and encourages competition among hired workers. They are being set against one another in the struggle for jobs, for housing, for the way they spend their leisure time. The country is again faced with ugly inter-denominational conflicts. Hostility between Christianity and Islam is being provoked.
New phenomena are added to the bundle of contradictions that have come back to us from before the October Revolution
The communists alone have opposed the adoption of the current land Code which made it possible to sell of Russian land, to make it the property of those who do not till it and even have no connection to Russia. Imported products account for more than 60% of the Russian food market. Among the CPRF’s initiatives are draft laws on food security and price parity. These bills have been rejected just like the proposals concerning the development of agricultural machine building. All this speaks volumes about the authorities’ attitude to the peasant. The Communist Party in the State Duma has advocated spending at least 10% of the budget on support of agriculture and related sectors. However, in recent years the budget has allocated about 1% for these purposes.
One of the numerous contradictions is that between the Constitutional norms and the real political process. This unfortunate state of affairs was most recently highlighted by the spate of elections of local governors. Only 11 heads of regions were elected as scheduled, while 19 governors were elected ahead of schedule. They were in a hurry to extend their powers because they were well aware that it would be way more difficult to do it next year. In the event they sought to take advantage of the temporary surge in the popularity of the central authorities after the reunification of the Crimea with Russia. But the elections did not prove to be a catalyst for passing strong and well-considered decisions. The main machinations, “dirty” technologies and abuse of administrative resources were shifted in time to the period preceding the elections. Early elections were widely used to ensure the result that suited the authorities. In some regions a third of the voters voted at home or voted early.
Today we can safely say that the country has a political system that rules out the possibility of honest and clean elections. But the Communists must fight on in any conditions. The CPRF has confirmed its position as the main alternative to power and has strengthened its role as the main opposition force. The forces of the Liberal persuasion have signally failed with their anti-people economic program and provocative position on the issues of Crimea and Ukraine.
There is yet another contradiction which has grown sharper within “new bourgeoisie” which has seized the command heights in the economy. We see a conflict between two parts of comprador capital. One part of is formed by “state” capitalists who are one with the authorities and hope to grab the juiciest pieces of state property through privatization. The other part are “Liberal capitalists”. They were on top of things in the 1990s but have lost ground when property was redivided.
While these two branches of the bourgeois class are engaged in the tug-of-war and worshipping different “gods”, citizens are supposed to look at their struggle as the essence of the main contradictions in the country. But that is not so: no one has yet managed to deceive the laws of social development.
Ukraine’s woes are our woes
In a socially divided society sharp ideological struggle is inevitable. This was vividly manifested in Ukraine.
“Early” Maidan protests were directed primarily against the oligarchs. Greedily converting power into money Yanukovich was for many an embodiment of capitalist arbitrariness. But the protest was hijacked by conflicting clans of big bourgeoisie. The pro-Western, extreme Right forces came on top. The ever wavering petty bourgeoisie and Lumpen-proletarians embraced radical nationalism. Ukraine has been blown up by the explosive mixture of people’s discontent with their position, the anger of businessmen with the “raidership” practiced by the Yanukovich “family” and Western interference. The Russian ruling circles saw Ukraine mainly as the territory through which the gas pipeline passes.
As a result of a government coup big capital in Ukraine established its undisguised dictatorship. Poroshenko, Kolomoisky, Taruta and other billionaires assumed the functions of directly running the state. Moreover, they have created private armies and a secret police. They launched political reprisals. Monuments to Lenin and the Soviet soldiers who liberated Ukraine from the Nazis are being destroyed. The law that allowed the use of Russian as a regional language has been repealed.
The Crimea and South-Eastern Ukraine responded by an upsurge of anti-fascist and anti-oligarchy movement. The events in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are directly linked with the balance of class forces. Ukraine’s industrial proletariat has been best preserved in economically developed South-East. It is there that Kiev usurpers have met with most powerful resistance.
The CPRF is at one with the participants of popular resistance in Ukraine. Russian Communists come out for the recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Actively helping their population, we have collected and dispatched there about 2000 tons of humanitarian aid.
The class essence of the current Ukrainian authorities is obvious. It is highlighted by the persecution of the Communist Party. We maintain that there are no grounds for banning the CPU. CPU is the only political force that is staunchly opposed to the power of the oligarchs. This is the gist of the matter. Those who seek to suppress dissent and deprive people of the freedom of choice seek to make short shrift of it. But one should not forget that the spread of fascism in Europe began with reprisals against Communists. Expressing solidarity with the Communist Party of Ukraine we demand an end of the persecution of our comrades.
We are convinced that only mass activities of the working people can enable the healthy forces in Ukrainian society to force the successors of Bandera back into the underground from which they have crept out. Ukraine for the first time in its history achieved the rule of the people and prosperity only as part of the Soviet socialist state. The only reliable protection against its current woes is a total change of the social and economic system. The CPRF is doing everything to encourage the world community to counteract the spread of fascism in Ukraine. Expressing solidarity with the Communist Party of Ukraine we demand an end of persecution of our comrades. The attempts to ban the CPU are outrageous and inadmissible.
We demand that the ruling circles of the Western countries stop interfering in the internal affairs of our fraternal people. The USA’s debt of $17 trillion is prompting Washington to ignite the fuse of a new war. This fact puts in bold relief the rotten nature of imperialism. All the progressive forces must step up the international struggle against the nationalist ideology and launch a broad anti-war and anti-NATO campaign. Most importantly it is necessary to strengthen the proletarian backbone of the struggle for a different world.
We are convinced that socialism will protect Ukraine from its current woes. It is only in alliance with a socialist Russia that it can achieve prosperity. Many today believe that an alliance with Europe would deliver prosperity to their country. But such an alliance always tends to turn sour.
The key lesson to be drawn from Ukrainian events is that it is only by becoming aware of its class interests that the proletariat will avoid becoming cannon fodder in the fight between groups of the bourgeoisie. The working class and its allies must come out as an independent political force and to this end it must strengthen and support its vanguard, the Party of Leninites, the Party of Communists.
Vanguard of future change
V.I.Lenin set two tasks for the Communist Party: “to defeat the exploiters and uphold the power of the exploited,” and “to build new economic relations.” Describing the second task as a creative one the founder of Bolshevism stressed that these two sides of the “socialist revolution are inseparably bound up and distinguish our revolution from all the previous ones in which the destructive side sufficed.”
There is only one alternative to capitalism, and that is socialism. The task of transition from capitalism to socialism reflects not only the centuries-old dream of the peoples about social equality. As Marxism-Leninism established, this need stems from the development of the productive forces. As early as 100 years ago socialization of production visibly manifested itself in the growth of cartels, syndicates and trusts, in the growing might of financial capital. Now all this has assumed a gigantic scale. The power of transnational companies exceeds the potential of many states. This process has been accelerated by the scientific and technological revolution. It has sharply increased the automation of production. Karl Marx did not only predict the emergence of such productive forces, but proved that they are a technological prerequisite of social equality. Thus the material basis for the advent of the communist system continues to be formed and expanded.
However, any trend can only prevail if it has its proponents. A change in property relations and restructuring society along socialist lines can only be advocated by the class that opposes the bourgeoisie. The name of that class is the proletariat. After the bourgeois counterrevolution the Russian working class has become an inalienable part of the world proletariat, its nucleus. It found itself in a system of production relations that did not exist under socialism.
What are the prospects of its struggle? What is the balance of the social classes in present-day Russian society? According to Rosstat, the Russian Statistical Agency, those who use hired labor and derive profits account for 1.21% of the economically active population. That is about 850,000 people who own means of production. They employ 66.5 million people. On average one capitalist exploits about 80 hired workers. Over the last 5 years the number of employees in the country dropped by more than 200,000, a sure sign that concentration of capital is taking place in the country. The number of dollar billionaires is growing and that of middle-level entrepreneurs is falling.
More and more people join the proletariat. When a middle-level capitalist is ousted from the market he seeks to preserve his business by cutting wages, intensifying labor and increasing the rate of exploitation. The authors of the Communist Manifesto have stressed that the proletariat, the class of modern workers who can only exist when they find work and they find it only as long as their work increases capital. These workers, who are forced to sell themselves piecemeal, represent as much a commodity as any other object of trade and are therefore equally at the mercy of the vicissitudes of competition, all the market fluctuations.
When the Manifesto was being written proletarians were as a rule workers. The scientific and technical revolution brought a dramatic change to the situation. Along with the proletarians of manual labor the class of exploited workers now includes a huge army of proletarians who are workers by brain.
The biggest group of hired workers in Russia are skilled workers in industrial enterprises, construction, transport, communications, geology and geological exploration. They number 9.6 million. There are about 9 million industrial workers with middle-level skills. They include operators, instrument control people, drivers of equipment and machines. Rosstat puts the number of unskilled workers at 7.5 million. On balance, there are grounds for saying that about 26 million proletarians, more than a third of all hired workers in the country, belong to the industrial working class. Admittedly, it is a huge number. It is greater than the size of the industrial working class of the entire Soviet Union in 1940.
About 5.5 million workers in modern Russia are employed in retailing, services, housing and utilities. If one counts them in, the total size of the urban working class is more than 31 million. A further 2.5 million hired workers are engaged in agriculture and forestry, fishing and fish farming.
Those who claim that the working class in the country has disappeared are deeply mistaken. If one goes along with this weird way of thinking, bread is now baked by members of the bourgeoisie and the oligarchs drive buses… We have a strictly scientific criterion for referring a person to the working class or the bourgeoisie and that is the person’s place in the system of production relations. Above all this means the place in the system of property relations as well as the social organization of labor, the distribution and consumption of the product created. Lenin in his work The Great Beginning provided a wonderful definition of classes.
We know that the national crisis that Lenin described as the revolutionary situation includes “an exacerbation beyond the usual level of the poverty and hardship of the oppressed classes. But impoverishment can be relative as well as absolute. Relative impoverishment of the working people takes place at all the stages of the development of capitalism. It is marked by the diminished share of the working class in the national revenue. However, capitalist Russia is witnessing also absolute impoverishment of the working class, i.e. a steady decline of its living standards day by day. In the study called “Poverty and Inequality in Modern Russia” scientists at the RAS Sociology Institute have proved that Russian poverty is “poverty with a work record book”. At least 20% of people who have jobs are struggling to survive. Two-thirds of “poor men with jobs” are industrial workers who more often than not have a medium or even high level of skills. Low-skilled workers are by no means in the majority. Their share is 26-28%. Almost a fifth of the workers who experience constant hardship have middle-level skills. Capitalism has deprived the working class of prospects of social betterment. Even 40% of the people who are not poor are not sure that their children will achieve as much as their parents. Only one in every ten respondents believes they would be better off.
That is why the main slogan the Russians have for the future of their country is “social justice, equal rights for all, a strong state that shows concern for all the citizens.” 45% of respondents have said this was their personal dream. Such are the results of the RAS Sociology Institute Study “What the Russians Dream of”. Only 7% have said they see their future in a “free market, private property and minimum state interference in the economy”. There are twice as many respondents who said they were in favor of socialism than the liberals and nationalists taken together.
To fight for the working class
V.I.Lenin has a succinct formula: “The class that can guide the working and exploited masses can only be a class that follows its path without hesitation, is not discouraged and does not fall into despair in the most difficult, adverse and dangerous transitions. We have no use for hysterical impulses. We need the measured step of the iron battalions of the proletariat.”
We Communists must see two sides of the deindustrialization of Russia engendered by the restoration of capitalism. One is the closure of a huge number of enterprises that are the pride of the nation, liquidation of entire sectors of industry. The other side is deliberate destruction of the working class. We see the destructive process of deindustrialization of the work force. Since 2000 the number of workers engaged in the production of machines and equipment dropped by 2.3 times, those in the production of means of transport and equipment by 1.4 times and those engaged in the production of coking coal and petroleum products has dropped by half.
This has nothing to do with the transition to post-industrial technologies.
For the CPRF the new industrialization of Russia has economic, patriotic and class implications. The work of the CPRF at the State Duma on the draft law on Industrial Policy signifies one more step in the struggle for a second industrialization of our country. The revival of industry will increase the ranks of the working class. In this way the party demonstrates the close link between patriotism and the class approach to its work.
The CPRF considers the preservation of the working class as an economic as well as a political minimum task.
If high-skilled workers join its ranks the working class will be able to become aware of its basic interests more quickly and precisely and to understand their direct link with Russia’s return to the path of socialist development.
The number of workers in Russia is considerable. There are more workers today than there were in 1917. There are more of them than at the time of the 1959 national census. Two important facts have been established. First, the working class has a vital stake in socialism. Second, it is the most numerous social group in Russia. This means that it can play the leading role in the struggle for a sweeping transformation of society. Wherever we Communists manage to arouse this force it is reckoned with by the owners of enterprises and bureaucrats. But if it is to perform the vanguard role the CPRF must expand its influence in the workers’ milieu. A party organization acquires authority and influence at the grassroots level precisely when workers themselves are actively involved in its activity, when there is no gap between the declarations on the proletarian character of the Communist Party and its daily work. It is also important to seek out leaders from amongst workers, to help them to come into their own as leaders, to teach and educate them.
We have to think of a way of forming primary branches that would link them closely to the leading enterprises in their cities and communities. This does not signify a renunciation of the territorial principle of work: enterprises, after all, are located on a certain territory. The local CPRF branch may accumulate the necessary experience for such work by first targeting two or three factories. Such “anchor points” can be giant enterprises as well as small enterprises. During the Soviet years a book was published titled “The Leaflets of the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP(B): 1905-1907.” One can see from it that the Bolsheviks worked not only at factories, but also at bakeries and small workshops. The leaflets were targeted at specific workshops or factories. We should learn to do the same. We should act aggressively and imaginatively. Workers must see Communists as expressing their interests, as their protectors and organizers. The CPRF branch has to see itself as a local cell of the working class party.
The strength of the working class lies in its cohesion.
Marxism-Leninism has proved and practice has confirmed that the working class is best capable of organization and conscious struggle against capital. Large-scale production forms these qualities. It requires a concentration of manpower and a high level of labor discipline. The production and technical requirements to the cultural and educational level of the worker are constantly growing. These conditions of the worker’s labor and life emerge objectively, fostering a spirit of anti-bourgeois mutual help and solidarity.
Russia still has more than 100,000 medium-sized and big enterprises. Incidentally, according to international standards an enterprise that employs 500 workers and more is considered to be large. These enterprises may include factories, railway depots and mines, construction projects and ore mining enterprises where large numbers of workers are concentrated. In the non-ferrous metallurgy sector eight of the biggest enterprises account for a third of all the metal produced in the country. In steel-making, eight enterprises account for half of the entire output of the sector. The situation is similar in the oil refining industry. The concentration of the working class remains an important factor contributing to party influence in the proletarian milieu. We should direct our efforts at developing the workers movement and combining it with the socialist ideology.
An important condition for achieving that task is assimilating the historical experience of the workers and the labor movement. It is equally important for the Party to know the current position of the proletarian masses. The CPRF attaches particular importance to the international experience of the struggle for the rights and interests of the working people.
Proletarians of workers by brain
Russia has about 20 million hired workers by brain. They do not own any means of production. They do not include the executives and managers of capitalist companies, members of power bodies and security structures. Most of the workers that generate intellectual values are hired workers and therefore are oppressed. That they belong to the proletariat was noted back in the 19th century. Dmitry Pisarev called these people “the thinking proletariat”. Friedrich Engels referred to them as “proletarians of intellectual labor” stressing that specialists would be needed to liberate the working class: “…because it is necessary to master the management not only of the political machine, but of entire social production, and what is needed here is not sonorous phrases, but solid knowledge”.
While referring hired workers by hand and by brain to the proletariat we do not shut our eyes to the differences between them. They have to do with the substance of the work, the level of education, the different traditions engendered by their different social status. That part of the intelligentsia connected with the performance of managerial functions is inclined to exaggerate its role. It is from their milieu that suggestions arise that the proletariat today is disappearing. While some intellectuals are working hard to introduce the socialist worldview to the workers, others are spreading bourgeois ideology.
The “office proletariat” occupies a special place among proletarians of intellectual labor. The difficulty of introducing socialist consciousness to these people are compounded by the fact that they have few links with the working class in general. Yet they too are overworked and underpaid. The high level of education gives them a deeper insight into the problems of the surrounding world. All this creates prerequisites for attracting the proletarians of intellectual labor to the CPRF. Indeed, party propagandists for work with young people should be recruited from their ranks. Activities on the internet are important vehicles for influencing these people.
A specific section of the modern “office proletariat” is the hired workers engaged in the municipal services. The bourgeois regime tries to keep all local government firmly in its grip. First, because it is typically subsidized, it constantly has to go begging to the regional authorities. Second, these authorities keep a close eye on the municipal workforce. Third, while excluding local self-government from the state power vertical structure, the regime is assiduously trying to turn it into an inalienable part of the bureaucratic pyramid.
Because the current vertical power structure in Russia has been built from the top, it has had an impact on our activities in parliament. The CPRF holds 20.4% of the seats in the State Duma, 11.3% at the level of constituent entities of the Federation and an average 3.5% in the local government bodies. We have to greatly expand our influence in the municipalities.
The allies of the working class
The classics of scientific communism have given us a profound insight into the essence of the petty bourgeoisie. In his book Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany Friedrich Engels argues potently that the sentiments of the petty bourgeoisie are determined by its “intermediate position between the class of bigger capitalists… and the proletarian class”. Owing to this the class of small artisans and merchants is eternally given to vacillations between the hope of rising to the ranks of the richer class and the fear of falling to the position of proletarians or even paupers… As a result of all this the views of this class are noted for their extreme volatility”.
The difference between big and medium-sized capital is only quantitative. Their qualitative characteristics are the same: the source of their livelihood is profit derived through exploitation of hired labor. The difference of small entrepreneurs from big and medium-sized capital is fundamental: the life of the people engaged in small-scale entrepreneurship is a fanciful mix of labor and proprietorship elements. Another essential feature is that small entrepreneurship occupies a peripheral niche in the economy. All that yields an average profit margin covers big and medium-sized capital. Less profitable spheres – the economic periphery – is left to the petty bourgeoisie. Finally, small entrepreneurship plays the role of a social dampener. It is the refuge of the workforce that has been pushed out of big-time commodity production.
The ideologists of capitalism put their stake on small entrepreneurs who embrace the mentality of proprietors. The socialist vanguard addresses them as workers. Out of 71.5 million people engaged in the Russian economy, 10.8 million work in small business, i.e. 15%. Without this economic situation, the number of jobless in the country would have increased by 3.5 times, with one jobless person for every four or five persons in work.
Small business consists not only of proprietors. It also employs millions of hired workers. Small enterprises are by no means a safe haven for them. The fluidity of personnel here is higher than average indicators. Besides “the mowing down of petty bourgeoisie”, as Roza Luxemburg put it, is inevitably accompanied by the “mowing down” of hired workers engaged in the small private enterprise sector. Small business is typically low-tech and has low labor productivity. This is compensated for by the growing individual labor intensity and greater exploitation. Wages at small enterprises are almost 60% lower than the average payable wages in Russia as a whole.
Objectively the petty bourgeoisie is an ally of the proletariat. Yes, its position is ambivalent. But the main thing is that it rejects capitalism and the omnipotence of oligarchs. This is all the more the case with hired workers engaged in small commodity production.
The peasantry is an issue in its own right. Rural Russia has been decimated. An external manifestation of this has been the marked shrinking of the population engaged in agriculture. In 1987 collective farms, state-owned farms and other agricultural enterprises in the RSFSR employed 10.5 million people. Today there are only 6.4 million people in this sector. However, the “internal” features of “depeasantization” are even more important. The countryside has dramatically changed its social look. Two categories of people are primarily engaged in agriculture today: private owners and the workers they hire.
As the Communists have been warning all along private ownership of land has proved to have little connection with the wish to engage in agricultural production. Only 3.8% of the land owned by big agricultural capitalists is being used for farming. The “strategic owners” have turned huge areas of ploughland into fallow land. Other farmland has overgrown with brushwood and even forests. Rural “development” is steadily moving in one direction: growing exploitation of the hired agricultural worker by capitalists.
Rosstat records six main types of plant-growing output. In three cases agricultural organizations predominate. They produce 78% of grain, 89% of sugar beet and 71% of sunflower seeds. In the three remaining types private subsidiary plots of land are predominant, accounting for 84% of the production of potatoes, 71% of vegetables and 79% of fruits and berries. There are no private farmers in this sector.
Thus, the restoration of capitalism eliminates the peasant from the Russian countryside. Therefore the Russian countryside cannot be saved without socialism. The class alliance of the proletariat and the petty urban and rural bourgeoisie is the driving force of radical transformation of the production relations in Russia. The leading position of the working class in this alliance is logical: its economic and political interests are incompatible with capitalism. At the same time the Communist Party must be the guiding force for the workers themselves.
The workers and the Communist Party
In order to confidently increase its influence in the proletarian milieu we should give a clear answer to two questions:
Why does the working class need the Communist Party?
Why does the Communist Party need the working class?
Let us answer these questions one by one.
The working class needs the Communist Party in order to become aware of its root interests. Life prompts the proletarians to engage in spontaneous economic struggle. But that struggle seeks to solve the problems of the here and now. The goals of the working class are to replace capitalism with socialism. Only the Communist Party can see the strategy and link it with tactics.
The workers need the Communist Party to coordinate their actions. It alone is capable of thinking about and combining different links of the class struggle.
The workers need the Party in order to introduce ideological content in the work of trade unions. Lenin in his time cited a host of examples of “trade unions that are against socialism”. We see such examples today as well. Under Russian laws only the trade union has the right to call strikes. But to do so it must assume the proletariat’s position. Only the Communist Party can induce it to do it.
The proletariat needs the Communist Party to ensure the interaction of the working class with its allies.
The workers need the Party to counteract bourgeois propaganda.
The Communist Party enables the members of the working class to take part in the work of the power bodies and local government.
The workers need the party that embraces proletarian internationalism for mutual support of the protests of Russian and foreign working people, to prevent a confrontation between the workers of our country and labor migrants. The working class can raise aloft the great slogan “Proletarians of All Lands, Unite” only if it is firmly held by the Communists.
He who believes that the working class can do without the CPRF, without the Marxist-Leninist ideology is either oblivious of the true interests of the workers or is deliberately trying to distort them.
Let us now see why the Communist Party needs the working class.
Of all the social groups the working class is the only consistent champion of socialism. Only socialism rids it of capitalist exploitation. Therefore it is objectively interested in a scientific view of the social and political processes.
Workers are the only effective basis of the mass movement of the opponents of capitalism. As Lenin pointed out, by becoming socialists workers “fight with selfless courage against everything that stands in their way”.
History has proved that it is only by relying on the working class that the Communist Party can be a major political force that leads the proletarian masses to victory. The attempts of Euro-Communists to rely on other social strata have invariably led to their losing political influence.
Workers are not interested in using our party for purposes other than the struggle for socialism. The Communist Party has worked out a historical tradition of close and fruitful interaction with this social class.
Workers are the only social class that is consistently not interested in the strategic partnership with big business.
Reliance on the working class vanguard is the key condition for introducing socialist consciousness in the minds of large social groups. The working class is the core of the alliance with the proletarians of workers by brain. It is also the core of the alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie.
The working class presents high demands to Communists and helps the Party to oppose opportunism and revisionism. The workers are better placed than anyone to assess the achievements and successes of the Communist Party and to point out its shortcomings and mistakes. The refusal of the CPSU, during the course of perestroika, to rely on the working class became the key factor behind the defeat of socialism in the country.
This, then, demonstrates the mutual need of the Communist party and the working class in each other. It was demonstrated by Lenin when he wrote at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: “The separation of the workers’ movement from socialism has weakened and stunted the development of both: the socialist doctrines that did not unite with the workers’ struggle have remained mere utopias, good wishes that had no impact on real life; the workers’ movement remained petty, fragmented, failed to acquire a political role and was not covered by the advanced science of the time. Therefore… the desire to merge socialism and the workers’ movement into a single social-democratic movement was increasingly manifesting itself. The class struggle of workers, in the event of such a merger, becomes a conscious struggle of the proletariat for its liberation from exploitation by the property-owning classes and the highest form of the socialist workers’ movement – an independent workers social-democratic party –emerges.
An urgent task of the CPRF is to strengthen its links with the working class and increase its influence in the proletarian milieu.
The working class and class struggle
What are the chances of our party relying on the class consciousness of the proletariat? The RAS Sociology Institute has conducted a survey among hired workers in the mining and metallurgical industry of Russia. Whom do they consider to be the worst defenders of the rights and interests of hired workers? Metallurgists and miners have named the owners of enterprises. In 2003 and in 2011 only 1% of the respondents said that capitalists were defending their interests. Nor do workers look for protection on the part of “their superiors at work”. No more than 5-7% are pinning their hopes on them. State structures too are not noted for their concern for the working man. Only between 2 and 7% of respondents think otherwise. Thus the study has concluded that working people are aware that the interests of hired labor and capital are incompatible.
The attempt to impose the cult of individualism on the working class of Russia over the last two-odd decades have failed. At the same time the official trade unions have stopped performing the function of consolidating the working people. Rather than promoting, they are destroying proletarian solidarity and acting in the interests of the exploiters. The Russian Federation of Independent Trade Unions is taking a firm position of appeasement. However, this gives no reason for us to forget Lenin’s work Left-Wing Communism: Infantile Disorder. In his work he dismissed as childish rubbish “very learned and terribly revolutionary talk” to the effect that communists are unable to work in reactionary trade unions, that they should withdraw from them and create a “brand-new, squeaky-clean… ‘workers’ union’ invented by Communists.” He stressed that “when the highest form of class unity of proletarians – the revolutionary party – began to emerge… the trade unions inevitably began to reveal some reactionary features, a certain ‘guild’ narrowness, a certain inclination to be apolitical, a certain hide-bound attitude, etc., but the development of the proletariat has not and could not proceed anywhere in the world except through the trade unions, through their interaction with the party of the working class.”
The CPRF is aware of all the problems and difficulties of interacting with the bourgeois liberal leadership of the ITUF and the Labor Confederation of Russia. But we are ready to actively cooperate with the local and regional trade unions in upholding the specific interests of the working people. The CPRF is also prepared to help create truly new trade unions that reject social appeasement. The Party of course has a duty to protect the real interests of the exploited in collaboration with any trade union groups if their activities are not reduced to simulation. The CPRF branches should approach cooperation with the trade unions on a case-by-case basis. Renunciation of the search for ways to interact cannot be tolerated.
In designing our long-term policy it is important to know people’s sentiments. Scientists at the RAS Sociology Institute have been trying to find out what kind of system our citizens want Russia to have. Respondents were asked to assess the state system and the socio-economic system. The survey revealed four major groups.
Those who dream of a liberal Russia. They are sure that “it is necessary to liberalize all the spheres of life and free business from the power of the bureaucrats”. The advocates of “pure” capitalism, private property and free market competition accounted for 7% of the respondents. Scientists describe them as right-wing liberals.
Advocates of a mixed economy. They are for capitalism with elements of planning or for socialism with a considerable share of the capitalist market. They account for 21% of respondents. Sociologists have described them as left-wing liberals similar to European social-democrats.
Those who favor a combination of a strong state and market. They want to see the state play a greater role in all spheres of life, nationalization of big enterprises and strategic sectors, but with the preservation of the capitalist way of life. The right-wing statists account for about 10% of Russians.
The last of the four groups are advocates of the strong state and the socialist way of life.
Some of them would allow elements of the market but others would not. But all these left-wing statists dream of a society reminiscent of Soviet socialism. This is the largest group accounting for 57% of the total sample surveyed.
It is significant that the largest number of liberals are among the wealthiest Russians. As for the advocates of socialism, they are the predominant group among two-thirds of the population that is less well-off.
Thus, modern Russia is veering left. Moreover, it is becoming radicalized. The model that imitates a bourgeois democracy is losing its popular appeal. The social aspect of democracy is increasingly coming to the fore. There is greater awareness of the need for the working people to actively uphold their interests. The majority of Russians who live by their work are aware that the existing regime is alien to them in social class terms and that the basic interests of working people do not coincide with the interests of capital.
From the dictatorship of capital to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The working class still has real opportunities for becoming the vanguard in the confrontation with the bourgeoisie. It sees the way out in overcoming the restoration of capitalism. The political goal of transition to the building of socialism is destroying the dictatorship of capital. Marx, Engels and Lenin stressed that the dictatorship of capital is the political method of maintaining the omnipotence of private property. This dictatorship asserts the relations of exploitation of man by man and of labor by capital.
Big capital in Russia is doing everything to consolidate its position. It does not only delegate its advocates to government but itself is penetrating its highest bodies. After the coup d’etat there was not a single government except the Primakov-Maslyukov cabinet that did not include dollar millionaires and even multi-millionaires. The present Putin-Medvedev government is no exception. One can readily see billionaires among members of the Federation Council and the State Duma.
The people feel the results of their activities daily and in everything: from the Labor Code that limits the rights of workers to uphold their economic interests to tricky electoral legislation. The conclusion is obvious: it is impossible to return to the royal road of socialist development without liquidating the dictatorship of capital. Without it the strategic and programmatic principles of the CPRF can never be implemented. It is worth recalling the famous formula of Karl Marx: “between the capitalist and communist societies lies the period of revolutionary transformation of the former into the latter. Corresponding to this period is a transitional political period and the state during that period can be no other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”
The attitude to the dictatorship of the proletariat is the main watershed in the world Communist movement. It has more than once separated Marxists from opportunists. V.I.Lenin repeatedly stressed the repressive function of the dictatorship of the working class: Bolsheviks would betray the interests of the working people if they started preaching “non-resistance to evil by violence”. On the contrary, the Communists are convinced that the revolution is only worth anything if it knows how to defend itself. The betrayal of that principle by Gorbachev and his cabal and the inability of the party to correct them cost the working people dearly. It would have been easier to prevent the betrayal by remembering Lenin’s words: “He who speaks about non-class policy and non-class socialism should be put in a cage and exhibited next to some kind of an Australian kangaroo.”
But anyone who reduces the dictatorship of the proletariat to violence is thereby grossly distorting it. In his work The Great Beginning Lenin stresses: “The dictatorship of the proletariat… is not merely violence towards exploiters or largely violence”. The main thing is the new economic foundation of society that ensures “a higher type of social organization of labor compared with capitalism. This is the heart of the matter. Herein lies the source of the strength and the guarantee of the inevitable triumph of communism.”
The dictatorship of the working class is also about the shaping of a new type of personality. According to Lenin, it is about changing the mores that have been befouled and spoiled by the cursed private ownership of the means of production, the whole atmosphere of dog-eat-dog, mistrust, hostility, tripping each other up which is inevitably engendered by the dominance of property owners.
The apologists for capital have lied about the idea of proletarian dictatorship by equating it to the idea of bloody violence. History proves otherwise. Soviet power was established triumphantly and almost bloodlessly. The White Army managed to unleash a bloody Civil War only on the bayonets of the interventionists. But bourgeois propagandists insist on “not remembering it”.
Another thing they tend to “forget” is that the classics of Marxism preferred peaceful forms of establishing proletarian dictatorship. As Lenin stressed, “even if there is one chance in a hundred” for peaceful advance of the revolution, “an attempt to use that chance would have been worth making.” These lines were written on the eve of the revolution, in September 1917.
It cannot be gainsaid that the working class is interested in peaceful liberation of Russia from the yoke of capital. To do this peacefully and without losses means to have the best starting conditions for building a new society, for transition to socialism.
The struggle of ideologies has no pauses
The majority of the Russian nation and our whole multinational community is the proletariat. Therefore the Russian question, and indeed the nationalities question as a whole, cannot be solved without solving the worker’s question. Our “hardline” patriots ignore the exploitative nature of the bourgeois state. They reduce the solution of the Russian question solely to the revival of Russian culture and the Russian spirit. But that is nothing if not a utopia. Today the revival of Russian culture is inseparable from the struggle for socialism, for awakening the proletarian consciousness. The strategists of the Western imperialism were well aware of the key condition for the restoration of capitalism in Russia. They were weakening the Soviet working class in order to forcibly turn it from a class nation into a proletariat stripped of property and power.
Russophobia and anti-Sovietism are the attributes of the dictatorship of the oligarchic capital in Russia. The alternatives are: either we will become a peripheral bourgeois nation with a borrowed Western culture, or we will come back to life as a socialist nation on the basis of Russian and Soviet culture. Everything depends on which class becomes the leading force in the nation. Either capital preserves its dictatorship or the proletarian dictatorship takes hold. The fate of all the people of Russia hinges on this.
Tough competition in the labor market and fear of unemployment impede class solidarity. Soviet history is being openly falsified. Vulgar crass materialism and consumerism are openly cultivated. All the bourgeois parties and “new “patriotic” groups are falling over themselves to politically disarm the working class. They preach the idea of partnership between labor and capital and are calling for the national unity of the proletarians and the capitalists. The task both of the liberals and the nationalists of every stripe is to separate workers according to their nationalities.
We take some of the blame for the fact that the working class has undeveloped socialist consciousness. Only the Communist Party can introduce it into the proletarian struggle. Otherwise a very different kind of ideas will dominate their minds. We are duty-bound to bring to the masses scientific knowledge of socialism and proletarian dictatorship. What is needed is not a short-lived propaganda campaign but long-term systematic work.
The struggle of two ideologies does not stop for a minute. The adepts of the bourgeoisie have harnessed the theories of convergence, the post-industrial and information society and other concepts. All these mental constructs deny the ability of the working class to take an active part in managing production, society and the state.
“Are such theories penetrating our party?” Gennady Zyuganov asked in his speech to the October Plenum of the CC CPRF. “Such cases are few and far between, but vigilance is necessary. The CPRF cannot agree that the proletariat is receding into the past, that class struggle is no longer relevant and should be replaced with the national liberation struggle. All those who are anxious to ‘renew Marxism’ in this way should read more attentively the works of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Stalin and seek genuine unity of the social-class and national liberation struggle”.
The CPRF and the working class. Immediate tasks
In our slogans and our deeds we should constantly stress that the CPRF is a party of the working class, a party of the working people. In conducting political actions it is important to stress our role in the struggle for the interests of the workers. It is necessary to stress that their aspirations coincide with the basic interests of other strata of the working people, with the interests of the resurgence of Russia. The class and popular-patriotic character of the CPRF’s activities complement each other.
To strengthen the links of the CPRF with the working class a number of immediate and longer-term tasks need to be addressed. All the areas of party work, including party organization, should be involved.
In admitting new members to the Party it is necessary to bring in more representatives of the working class.
The city and district committees of the CPRF should determine the primary organizations responsible for work at specific enterprises. If necessary the party branches will have to be reorganized.
All the party committees that have not yet done so should within six months elect a secretary for the workers’ movement or charge one of the current secretaries with his duties. All the party committees should form corresponding commissions and departments.
By decision of our plenum the share of workers in the elected governing body of the party cannot be less than the share of the workers that are card-carrying members of the party branch.
Considering the new tasks, strengthening of the link with the working class is moving to the foreground of the CPRF political struggle.
In each local branch it is necessary to identify the enterprises that would become the “anchor points” for the deepening of links with the working class. The focus should be on concrete factories, mines, construction sites and transport enterprises. Having started with two or three such “anchor points” one should gradually increase their number.
Liaison with at least one such “anchor point” should be a permanent assignment for members and alternate members of the CC and the members of other governing and control bodies of the party.
At enterprises and organizations that are not among the “anchor points,” commissions for the workers’ movement should have “representatives” from amongst members or supporters of the party. Their task is to inform the party committees about the life of a given enterprise.
We should proceed according to the principle: the Party does not leave unattended a single fact of unfair dismissal.
It is high time to give up local rallies and pickets under the slogan “for everything good against everything bad”. The focus should be on protecting the interests of hired workers by hand and by brain and the issues of solidarity. Every rally and picket should have a concrete theme and task to which the participants can relate. The slogans and demands must be clearly expressed and compliance with them must be verified.
It is necessary to change the character of party work inside the trade unions. It is necessary to strengthen our influence within them and to enter their governing bodies. The local committees must ensure a concerted effort to bring the Party and its members and supporters into the trade union committees and their bureaus. This is particularly important for enterprises chosen as “anchor points.”
The propaganda of the leading role of the working class in the struggle to bring Russia back to the path of socialism demands a more active ideological work on our part. The Plenum could give the following instructions.
The Agitation and Propaganda Department of the CC to prepare a series of popular propaganda materials devoted to the working class and the proletarian class struggle. To submit to the Presidium of the CC CPRF proposals on creating party schools for workers and on conducting a competition to name the most popular textbook on the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism for workers.
The Party Education Center of the CC CPRF must in its activities pay due attention to the questions of the theory of the proletariat’s class struggle. The Party Committee should recognize this need in organizing party-political studies locally.
In the cities and district centers without a developed industry and transport hubs the “anchor points” for interaction with the working class should include primary and secondary vocational schools: vocational technical schools, colleges and technicums which train skilled workers for the industry, construction, transport and communication. It is necessary to appoint as mentors to them foremost workers and specialists from amongst veterans in the corresponding sectors and teachers who have remained loyal to communist convictions.
The Union of Soviet Officers should be recommended to conduct systematic work with the officers currently employed by private security firms.
An important role in strengthening the influence of the CPRF in the proletarian milieu should be played by Communist deputies of all levels. Three priorities should be identified for our work in this area.
The CPRF in the State Duma, jointly with the CC Commission for Industrial Policy, should in their law-making work proceed from the need to advance specific measures to preserve and enlarge the working class in industry and construction, in transport and communications. We should actively work to implement the provisions of the anti-crisis program of the CPRF aimed at restoring the real sector of the Russian economy and its high tech branches.
To develop amendments to the Labor Code of the RF aimed at protecting hired works by hand and by brain. To stipulate real mechanisms that would enable working people to protect their interests. To expand the possibilities of holding strikes.
People’s representatives of the CPRF from the State Duma to the Municipal Council – should be assigned to one or two enterprises which have been designated as “anchor points” of the party for links with the workers.
The heads of the CPRF at the State Duma, jointly with the CC Commission for the Workers, Trade Union and Protest Movement shall:
Develop the themes and schedule of drafting the laws that protect the interests of the working class, and implementing this plan and schedule should be seen as a apriority task of the Communists in legislatures.
In order to strengthen the protection of trade union activists develop amendments to the laws on trade unions and have them discussed with the representatives of trade union associations;
To develop the themes and schedule of roundtables and parliamentary hearings devoted to the topical problems of the work, socio-economic and community life of the working class and the protection of its labor and class interests.
In nominating candidates for deputy of the State Duma of the RF and other representative power bodies workers from the “factory floor” should be included in the lists by all means.
To launch an aggressive parliamentary and extra-parliamentary work, it is necessary to strengthen the legal services of the CPRF. Party supporters from amongst professional lawyers and law students should be involved in this legal work on a wider scale. It is necessary to define more clearly the character of their activities.
One of the challenges is to search for ways of ideological influence on labor migrants, especially those who are joining the ranks of the multinational working class of Russia.
The solution of the problem of labor migrants must be seen as an essential part of the work to enhance the role of the CPRF in the proletarian milieu.
The CC Department for Nationalities Policy should study the issue of creating a public council on cooperation with labor migrants.
It is necessary to be more active in initiating the establishment of permanent links of the regional CPRF committees with the ethnic communities.
Two years ago the Central Committee of the CPRF set before the party the task of turning hired workers into a “revolutionary class capable of giving a nationwide scale to the emerging mass protest”. This fundamental decision will only be put into practice when Russia gets a powerful workers movement inspired by socialist consciousness. Mastering the great teaching of Marxism-Leninism is a twin task. It is addressed both to the revolutionary workers’ movement and to the Communist party which historically plays the leading role in the proletarian struggle for socialism.
Russia is entering another exceptionally complicated period. In order to guide the working people through the severe trials the
country needs a strong party of the largest – proletarian – part of our society.