ON THE EXPERIENCE
OF THE REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE
OF THE WORKERS OF LENINGRAD
«Defeat after a conscientious struggle
has no less importance to the revolution
than an easy victory» (F. Engels)
On October 14, 1999, the cellulose factory in the city of Vyborg in the Leningrad region was attacked by troops of the Russian Interior Ministry. A detachment of elite troops, «Taifun», proceeded to take over the factory using firearms and chemical substances against the unarmed workers who were guarding the factory at that time.
Having neutralized the workers' small security detachment, the troops took up positions inside the factory. The workers on night shift offered strong resistance to the troops. They sounded the factory alarm, waking up the whole city. In a few minutes the factory was surrounded by almost a thousand other workers and citizens who came to assist the workers. The troops opened fire on the unarmed workers. However the workers, instead of running in despair, showed an enviable boldness.
The factory was rapidly surrounded by workers and citizens. The troops were trapped without a chance to escape. In view of the situation the elite troops were forced to entrench themselves in the administration building hoping that the Interior Ministry would send reinforcements. In their desperation, the troops took several workers as hostages, among whom were some who had been wounded and women who were subjected to disgraceful humiliations.
As a result of the clashes dozens of workers were wounded, more than ten seriously.
Early in the morning thousands of people from neighboring towns rushed to the Vyborg factory. By then the cowardly elite troops had already been neutralized and disarmed by the workers of the factory.
«Proletarskaya Gazeta», № 5
Inspired by a victory in direct and bloody collision with bourgeois by the chastisers, workers the cellulose factory be dispatched on houses in expectation of changes in the life to best.
Behind the experience of a bloody struggle
On July 9, 1999 the troops of the Interior Ministry attacked the Vyborg factory. Two workers were injured. The assailants were expelled from the factory grounds. Victory!
On October 14, 1999 a bloody battle took place. Unarmed workers were taken hostage with firearms, several workers were kidnapped and tortured. The assault left dozens injured. The assault was a failure. The armed terrorists of the Interior Ministry were dishonorably expelled from the factory grounds. Another Victory!
After these lessons the workers became more cautious. Since then the factory grounds were guarded day and night by detachments of workers. The workers were prepared to defend the factory at the first sound of the alarm. Moreover, the leadership of the factory was elected by the work collective and its interests were safeguarded by the trade union committee. At that time nobody could foresee the suffering and the subsequent defeat.
However the factory was not functioning. The workers did not receive their wages. The families of the workers went hungry. Worry grew among the workers. The administration of the factory tried to convince the work collective that the necessary conditions were there for production. But the bank accounts of the factory were frozen for unknown reasons. The administration assured the workers that an investigation was being carried out concerning this. One must endure! The workers worried, but they hoped with patience.
The bourgeoisie was apparently frightened by the revolutionary attitude of the workers of the Vyborg factory. The heroic struggle for their rights and interests became an example to other, which threatened to arouse all Russia and destabilize the class establishment of the whole country. Therefore the bourgeoisie, forgetting for a moment its internal quarrels, rushed to finish with the situation, placing under its control the most active part of the work collective and reducing [is sublimar correct?] its revolutionary activity to empty phrase-mongering, elections, forums and meetings.
With this objective the bourgeoisie of the factory agreed to permit a conference of representatives of the work collective of the whole country hosted in the vicinity of the factory.
The conference cannot be analyzed from a [one-sided?] point of view.
The conference had been called on the initiative of a considerable number of factories together with representatives of various political forces opposed to the government. The objectives of the conference, naturally, were set by the bourgeoisie according to its concrete class interests despite the fact that formally these objectives were proclaimed as the interests of the workers.
The worker delegates to the conference were not able, as was hoped, to take control of the newly formed structure, developing it and transforming into an organ to organize the workers' resistance in the present stage of the struggle.
Although the workers did not energetically support the structure that was formed, it was proclaimed in their name and the bourgeoisie manipulated it to subjugate it to its interests.
Moreover, the new structure proclaimed at the conference would permit the bourgeoisie to obtain without delay operative and reliable information on the state of mind of the working masses. This at the same time would create favorable conditions for the bourgeoisie to take timely measures against threatening workers' revolts.
These aspects were the negative side of the conference.
Nevertheless the bourgeoisie did not see its wishes fulfilled completely. The worker delegates were able to exercise their influence on the course of the conference, that is, in the conference the class character of the worker representation remained clear. This indicates to us that the active sectors of the working class did not only become conscious of the need to unite the forces of the proletariat on a class basis, but, moreover, they were prepared to act independently and politically consistently in this situation, to formulate their interests and to defend them correspondingly.
Thanks to the conference the worker delegates coming from various regions of the country were able to exchange information and fighting experiences, and to establish mutual contacts.
The worker delegates had the chance to acquire experience on questions of organization at a state [national?] level.
These aspects were the positive side of the conference.
Subsequently the workers at the Vyborg factory learned that some of their demoralized comrades who were members of the trade union committee had sold out to the bourgeoisie; the president of the union committee, Kiriakov, turned out to be an infiltrated provocateur. In the class composition of the union committee the technical and managerial intellectuals of the factory predominated. The workers' collective reelected in an impressive manner the members of the union committee and expelled the agent provocateur from the factory. However after the incident an expectant calm returned.
While the workers patiently awaited mercy from the bourgeois leadership, the class enemy did not cease in its divisive [diversificante?] activity by individual treatment of members of the workers' collective.
Part of the work collective was made up of residents of the Sovietskii locality. In this case it was not only their wages that linked these workers to the factory. In fact the life of their families and their own existence depended fully on this factory. On the good operation of the factory depended communal and other social services, medical aid, schools, as well as other fundamental aspects of the life of the residents. The Vyborg factory was the only factory center in the area. At the present time, due to the galloping unemployment in our country to find work in other regions is extremely difficult. Thus on the operation of the factory there also depended the hopes of finding a job for the future generations.
These factors determined the minimal level of labor demands put forward by the collective: to maintain production and nothing more. As a result the workers from the locality were united by group interests and not individual ones.
The skilled workers made up two-thirds of the work collective. The majority of the collective was made up of local workers.
All the local workers had small plots of land on which they cultivated basic products. This allowed the workers' collective to sustain the strike.
Nevertheless this circumstance first drew the attention of the workers away from the strike, and second, generated illusions of self-sufficiency. This factor did not help the workers take up offensive positions, on the contrary it helped to promote defensive ones.
The other part of the work collective of the factory was made up of people from other regions of the country, who had recently become employees of the factory. This section of the work collective was primarily made up of highly skilled workers.
The work position and the wage level determined the level and state of economic demands of this group of employees. The wages were the only source of their subsistence. This group of wage workers did not have any other source of support.
Therefore the group character of their economic interests became somewhat unstable. This section of the employees acted in a determined and active manner when the factory was in danger of being closed and, on the other hand, the possibilities of relocating were minimal. Given the change in the relation of forces and in regard to their specific social and economic situation, this category of wage workers became more vulnerable to the divisive [diversificante?] policy of the bourgeoisie, more ready to sell out.
January 16, 2000, Sunday. The factory was quiet. The work collective, already worn out by the prolonged labor conflict which led to the worsening of the conditions of life, began to lower its guard. Nevertheless the factory was always guarded by detachments of workers ready for an assault by the repressive apparatus of the regime.
That night on the factory grounds there were several dozen guards at all the installations. The enemy this time was much better informed of the situation thanks to the cooperative attitude of certain dissidents within the work collective.
At 10 P. M., dozens of vehicles belonging to private security services arrived at the gates of the factory; their crews were prepared to seize the installations of the factory. Traitors among the workers opened the main gate. The workers' guards were neutralized without resistance. The factory fell rapidly into the hands of the assailants.
The workers of the Vyborg factory learned what happened only in the morning. Some 300 people crowded around the factory gates. At that time there was no hope of getting help from nearby localities since the telephone communications had been cut off and all the access roads to the Sovietskii locality were blocked by troops of the Interior Ministry. This time the enemy had prepared conscientiously for the assault.
It was not these circumstances that made it impossible for the work collective to renew the fight. This time there were traitors within the work collective. Under these conditions any attempt to retake the factory would have been in vain.
The heroic workers of the Vyborg cellulose factory were forced to recognize defeat, but they have not given up! The struggle continues.
Analysis of the causes of the defeat.
1. The workers of the Vyborg factory had risen up to defend their intrinsic economic interests together with a section of the bourgeoisie.
First, the bourgeoisie will never fight for the interests of the oppressed whatever the circumstances. They will always try to safeguard their own class interests at the expense of the sweat and blood of the working class.
Second, the bourgeoisie because of its class essence is not a reliable ally. It will always try to betray its ally by plotting with the adversary either to obtain profits or for fear of losing its wealth.
Third, it is its class enemy which the bourgeoisie fears, more than any another sector of the bourgeoisie with which it is in competition.
The establishment of alliances in the course of the struggle is natural. However, in this case the ally turned out to be a sector of the bourgeoisie. Therefore the workers had to keep this in mind and never forget this particularity. In this case the workers slackened on this question.
The workers of the Vyborg factory voluntarily yielded the leadership of the struggle to the bourgeoisie, trusting the latter with its future and its very lives. In the final analysis this bourgeois ally betrayed the workers by agreeing to make a deal with its opponents and competitors to share the profits.
In a similar situation the workers should form various structures of a class character to direct the struggle or, at least, to concentrate in their own hands the main levers of control of the factory. This leading organ should establish a strong control over the activity of the administration, over the organization of the productive activity of the factory, the balance of expenses and incomes, commercial operations with other institutions, etc. The security of the factory should be in the exclusive hands of the workers' collective. The workers should be prepared to defend the factory against any attack at any time, keeping in mind the capacities and arms of the enemy.
The observation of these conditions will make the class alliance real and not fictitious.
Similar situations are an ideal school for the preparation of the working class for the future struggle. Precisely under these circumstances it is easier to educate the administration to defend the economic interests of the work collective, to permit the formation of the union committee and strengthen its material and technical base, to create a commission for the arbitration of labor conflicts, to create close links with workers of other factories, etc.
The workers must remember that in case of victory in a similar situation the temporary bourgeois ally will inevitably and objectively become an open class enemy and oppressor.
2. The class and social hegemony of the workers in the leading organs of the work collective is not by itself a guarantee against the betrayal and Philistinism of some of its members or of the entire structure. Why?
The workers who are still at the level of the economic struggle do not have the same consciousness of struggle. Their consciousness is in essence still petty-bourgeois, exclusive and egotistical. Those individuals who have become leaders of these worker masses should carry the economic struggle through in a consistent manner to the point where the individual interests do not contradict this ultimate goal. [?] This conclusion is not applicable to those class-conscious workers, who in the present stage of the struggle are exceptions to the general rule.
However the workers should form leading organs of the work collective in accord with the class principle. Why?
First, the workers learn the science of the class struggle, its complications and problems better on the basis of their own experience. Their participation in the leadership of the struggle is a practical preparation for the future class struggle. Without this science a qualitative leap of the movement will not be possible; on the contrary, the struggle will only lead to losses and unnecessary victims.
Second, objectively, in general, the class consciousness is more consistent among the factory workers than among the representatives of the intellectuals.
Third, the workers understand and can better control leaders who come from their midst, it is easier to prevent a possible betrayal.
On the other hand it is necessary restrict the powers of this small group of people who make up the workers' leadership.
a) it is necessary to categorically exclude from the powers of this group of individuals the right to dispose of material and financial resources and to decide questions crucial to the future of the collective together with the administration of the factory or the bourgeois state;
b) an elected commission should dispose of the corresponding financial and material resources;
с) to decide crucial questions together with the administration of the factory or with the bourgeois state it is necessary to elect a temporary commission to which is delegated the right to make decisions on the part of the work collective.
We say that for the organization of each concrete strike it is necessary to elect a strike committee on the basis of the local union organization.
At the same time the broad working masses have the opportunity to enter into contact with this school of social organization.
The factors expressed in the present article are the most relevant, however, they are not the only ones at issue.
Only a capable political organization, the political vanguard of the class, is capable of foreseeing and preventing errors of principle in the class struggle of the proletariat. The political struggle is such that the worker must confront the objective reality and find forms for resolving concrete problems.
This forces those political activists who have the necessary scientific knowledge in the discipline of the class struggle to dedicate themselves body and soul, for all their lives, to the formation of a Marxist-Leninist party, based on the class-conscious workers. This has become an obvious necessity of our time.
Without the political vanguard the workers' struggle will inevitably suffer defeat after defeat bringing with it numerous victims. At the same time, the formation and the numeric increase of the political vanguard will be possible only when the organized revolutionaries participate in the daily practice of the struggle of the worker masses, not lecturing the worker masses from afar, from the tribunal of a congress or at a demonstration.
The class political vanguard is the vanguard of the working class in struggle, that is, the one that first feels the attacks of the adversary.