The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Russia:
A Trotskyist Voice

Feb 28, 1994

In Russia today, there are unfortunately few organizations of the extreme left. More exactly, there are really only individual militants. For the most part, they are searching for their ideas and their program, and at times they tend to find them in the Western extreme left, which is thus more or less represented in Russia in all its variations.

We publish here the translation of three editions of a factory bulletin edited and distributed by a very little group of militants in Leningrad (currently, St. Petersburg), who to a large extent share the ideas of the International Communist Union (UCI), a grouping with which we in Spark are in political agreement. These militants have chosen to defend these same ideas in front of the workers.

Of course, we don't make the mistake, characteristic of many of the Trotskyist and other organizations, of pretending that the ICU has a section in Russia.

But we publish these texts, even though they are dated in terms of the events they cover, because we want to salute the work and the courage of these comrades who search to be heard, despite the difficulties. They express a viewpoint different from those reactionary ones which are today predominant in Russia, and which the Western press loves to cite.

(This bulletin appears at the Factory of the Baltic, which is primarily a military naval shipyard. Here is the translation of an edition dated September 29, 1993, a special edition, concerning the putsch, dated October 13, 1993, and a regular bulletin dated October 27, 1993.

RABOTCHAIA BORBA [Workers' Fight]
Factory Bulletin
for the Workers of the Factory of the Baltic
September 29, 1993

The Breakdown of (the State of) the Bureaucracy

The problems that the accelerating economic crisis produces are provoking more and more conflicts in the top ranks. There is no unity in any fraction of the bureaucracy. The number of turncoats from one political camp to another grows. The mutual accusations of corruption burst forth like from a cornucopia. One vice president, some vice premier ministers, the incumbent key ministers, are all found, at the same time, in the center of enormous political scandals. As a result of the bureaucratic confrontations, the foundations of the central power are being destroyed. The traditional hierarchy of the nomenklatura "from top to bottom", with its subordination of the "lower ranks" to the "superiors", is falling to pieces.

With a strong voice, a "third force" is making itself heard in the struggle between the two branches of the federal power: the separatism of the regional elites. And they proclaimed the republic of Vologda, that of the Angaro-Ienisseisk, and that of the Oural; in St. Petersburg, the Soviet hesitantly introduced, at the time of the April referendum, a question concerning the granting of a statute of sovereign republic to the region of Leningrad.

Reasons for the Breakdown

The official media states, "The national territorial division of the Russian Federation is a land mine theoretically situated at the feet of the country." Stupidity! The federal pact is just a piece of paper. The real "land mine" is the crisis of the bureaucratic system. The nomenklatura of the economy has emptied the state coffers. The center doesn't give endowments anymore to the regions. The periphery responds by withholding taxes. For example, the governor of Krasnoiarsk, Zubov, decided to hold part of the federal taxes in "compensation". But whose pockets did it land in? Surely not in those of the population. The autonomy which the middle echelons of the bureaucracy then take from the center allows them to pillage the public budget to phenomenal dimensions. As a result of the breakdown of the state apparatus, the traditional system of the nomenklatura has disappeared, a system in which the center determined nominations. But the size and number of the local nomenklatura doesn't grow smaller. In effect, the old system of nominations "from top to bottom" supposedly was only a way to sort out the apprentice bureaucrats; today, one sees very well, that it is the system of cronyism and family clientelism that is reinforced.

The political demagogy of the "isolated kinglets" rests on an economic demagogy. These smooth-talkers from the provinces paint a flattering picture of the "enchantments" of the market economy and the "advantages" of privatization. But in reality, the arbitrary acts of the bureaucrats break up the productive forces of the country. 95% of the Russian economy is found in the hands of the state. But the state of the apparatus has broken up. All at once, every clan of the bureaucracy strives to increase its economic power and to reinforce its political power. And to establish its complete control over the factories and sources of primary materials, and to... pillage, pillage, pillage. The industrial bureaucracy also has obtained a certain degree of autonomy, and it enriches itself wonderfully on the backs of the workers. The old economic links break up; the fall of production is aggravated.

Those Who Will Put an End to the Crisis

The only force which has the means to end the crisis and to reestablish the unity of the country on a truly democratic basis is the working class. We see the first steps of the workers' fight. The workers of Bachkorostan and of the maritime Province are on strike, as are the miners of the Kuzbass and Vorkuta. The resistance of the workers is also growing in the other republics. In June, a general strike in the Ukraine made the government of Kravchuk & Company tremble. The miners of the Donbass, one more time, were at the vanguard of the struggle! In Moldavia, in August, the railroad workers were on strike. And it was only the Draconian police measures taken by the government that forced the railroad workers to suspend their strike. The workers need to organize themselves and not give any sort of demagogues the right to be parasites on the workers' struggles. The workers' struggle is the struggle against the power structure.

SHOP TALK

"Multicapital": Where Does It Come from and What Does It Mean?

At the end of August, at the site of the Factory of the Baltic, the "Multicapital" company sprang up. This enterprise bought back from the workers their stocks at 40,000 rubles a piece. The management insisted in transforming the factory into a stock company. At the same time, the stock buyback by "Multicapital" was done under the guidance of management. Up until the present, the director of the plant, Chtchuliakovski, has been getting around in a black Volga [the car of the old style bureaucracy]. Will we soon see him zooming around in a white Mercedes?

Who Gets a Wage and Why?

In Shop #3 (casting of non-ferrous metals), the health of the workers is permanently threatened. The equipment is practically worn out, and it has been that way for a long time. And this doesn't seem to disturb management in the least! The workers who open the boxes of the propellers are forced to work with pneumatic hammers that are already 20 years old. The risk of developing diseases from the vibrations is not slim! The molders and casters have to work without any protection from fumes and without aspirator-respirators. Zinc oxide poisoning and silicosis are not rare. Without protective goggles, the eyes are vulnerable. The lack of special protective clothing is catastrophic! The casters and the molders use one pair of protective gloves per station. But the gloves are only given out one time a month! As to the protective hood which was replaced, it doesn't protect the burners, and it doesn't work with continuous fires. We want to know: what work does Selivonietz, the sub-director of safety, do which could justify him getting paid?

RABOTCHAIA BORBA
Factory Bulletin
for the Workers of the Factory of the Baltic
Special Edition, October 13, 1993

Comrade Workers!

The crisis of the bureaucratic system provoked a split within the ruling class. Each of the rival fractions of the nomenklatura is trying to seize the true levers of command of state power. The struggle of the bureaucratic clans provoked a bloody massacre in Moscow. On October 3-4, the conflict wasn't at all fought between "democracy" and "fascism." No! It was a disgusting quarrel between the bureaucratic cliques, fighting for power. For a long time Yeltsin wanted to be dictator. And now, by crushing the White House, the president set up his personal power... But, for now, on paper only.

Yeltsin, Candidate for Dictator

Why is it that Yeltsin, having decreed the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet on September 21, didn't take decisive measures right away? Why was the state of siege only introduced in Moscow? The answer is easy. The break inside the ruling class is already at such a deep point that neither one of the competing fractions has the support of the majority of the bureaucracy. The forces of order (the army, the minister of security, the militia) play their own game. The center doesn't control the autonomous regions. In the autonomous regions, the only law that exists is the local law.

The sense of this "peaceful" confrontation of 12 days (between September 21 and October 3) between Parliament and the President is clear: each of the camps, dead set against the other, tried to win over to its side, first a part of the army; then the regional bureaucratic apparatuses. The underhanded deals between the apparatuses lasted 12 days. The Supreme Soviet lost position after position. Then Yeltsin decided to provoke something, stirring up an intervention of the people of the extreme right, which forced the army to take the side of the President. The rest is known.

But, after having rushed his old colleagues – Kasbulatov, Rutskoy, & Company – to the Lefortovo prison, Yeltsin couldn't reinforce his power. The regional and local Soviets are far from rushing to dissolve themselves. The army and the police terrorize the population. Formally the forces of order are on the side of the president. But in fact, they pursue their own goals. And yes, Yeltsin at last became a dictator... within the limits of the Boulevard of the Gardens in Moscow [within the city limits].

Against Nationalism

The media is infected by the nationalist poison. Yeltsin & Company borrowed from the extreme right the slogans of appealing to Russian greatness. The nationality of Kasbulatov became a trump card in the hands of unscrupulous politicians. Under the pretext of maintaining law within the state of emergency, the refugees of the Caucasus are expelled from Moscow. The ruling class more and more bases itself on the principle of "divide and conquer." The workers should oppose the spread of nationalist demagogy. Whatever their nationality, the workers have only one enemy: the bureaucracy.

For Communism

What unifies the ruling class today? For sure, it is their hatred of communism. With the insistence of a fly, the news media which speaks for the authorities, talks about a "communist" coup. The newly repentant heirs of the counterrevolutionary Stalin decreed the outlawing of communist organizations. Even communist symbols were outlawed! For sure, demagogues of the type of Anpilov (of Trudovaia Moskva), of Zioganov (Russian CP), not to forget Nina Andreieva (CP-Bolshevik) have nothing to do with communism. For the sort of politicians of this genre, there are no tears to shed. But the thousands of toilers who despise the Yeltsin regime could make it their right to call themselves communists and fight for their emancipation.

The workers' struggle is the struggle against the system!

Down with the bloody dictatorship of Yeltsin,

This dictatorship founded on lies and deceit!

The struggle continues!

RABOTCHAIA BORBA
Factory Bulletin
for the Workers of the Factory of the Baltic
October 27, 1993

Toward the Elections or Toward the Defense of the Workers' Interest

One more time, the bureaucracy prepares us for one of its political spectacles: elections to the federal Assembly and the State Duma. To the fanfare celebrating the "victory of democracy," Yeltsin & Company will try to satisfy his political ambition and carry out new attacks against the working class and the overwhelming majority of the toilers.

But what democracy could he be talking about when, in Moscow, the OMON [tactical police] exist; when meetings and demonstrations are prohibited; when the "democrats", having installed censorship and outlawed the opposition press, took total control over all the media and, under the cover of anticommunist hysteria, devised their rules for the electoral game?

What is this democracy when, for each candidate, it's necessary to gather numerous signatures [1% of the eligible voters] supporting the candidate and indicating on the form all the information on their identification card, including their identification number, phone number and address (don't these forms serve afterwards as a base for following up against those who don't think right?); or when, for an election to be valid, the quorum is fixed at only 25% of the voters?

If this is democracy, whom is it for? In any case, not for the workers.

The authorities freed up 170 billion rubles [about 200 million dollars] to organize the campaign. Does this mean that all the needs of the country in terms of housing, of kindergartens, of hospital equipment, are amply satisfied? Is there no better way to use this money than in this farce carried out by the politicians?

Evidently, the political careers of certain bureaucrats depend on the election results. But, this doesn't change anything for the bureaucracy as a whole, which remains in power.

The elections don't solve and can't solve the lot of the working class, whose force is not concentrated in the ballot box – where the voice of a bureaucrat and of a shopkeeper mean as much as that of a worker – but in the plants. The plants produce what makes the country strong. To engage ourselves in the struggle to defend our collective interests against the bureaucrats and the newly wealthy is the only thing which could be the bearer of the future for us, the workers. And it's high time to do this.

"We want no condescending saviors to rule us from a judgement hall. The workers ask not for their favors. Let us consult for all." The words of "The International" are old, but for the working class, they are more current than ever!

The workers' struggle is the struggle against the bureaucratic system and the capitalist system!

SHOP TALK

Some Results of the Stock Sale

At the Factory of the Baltic there is a stock sale. [Transfer of the state property to the "workers' collective"]. What will happen? Let's take the example of the Kirov Factory, where the workers already gathered the fruits of this transformation. This industrial giant is divided into 47 entities of small size. Before, the place made reactors. Now it makes casino tables. The most skilled workers suddenly find themselves doing odd jobs (replacing window panes, painting, etc.) This changes their job classification, which means a cut in wages. What can we expect, here at the Factory of the Baltic, when we know that the leader of the stock sale for privatization of the plant is none other than the old secretary of the party organization, Venkov?

What Will Be the Reaction?

Everyone saw it on TV or in the papers: in France, since October 12, the airport service workers have been on strike. Their movement radicalized, leading to conflicts with the police. The struggle began because management intended to lower the workers' wages, perhaps by one fourth, and to decrease the workforce. In November, in all of Russia, they are planning to increase the price of bread and other necessities. This will drastically reduce the standard of living of the workers of Russia, which we don't need. Is it possible, one more time, that the workers will swallow such a bitter pill? But, could it be that the example of what to do can be found in the West? In any case, if we take an example, it should be the strikers of France!

One More Time on the Privatization

The struggle between bureaucratic cliques for power and for business deals is increasing. They accuse each other of corruption. Thus, the judicial organs of the police arrested the guy who had the responsibility for privatization in St. Petersburg, A. Fechkov. Nothing surprising: he who distributes things never forgets to serve himself. But this arrest of Fechkov illustrates once again at least one thing: privatization is pillage.

About the November 7 Holiday

The authorities intended to suppress the November 7 holiday. For the leaders of the bureaucracy – from Stalin and Breshnev to Yeltsin and Sobtchak – it's been a long time since the celebration of the October Revolution has had anything to do with the revolution or with workers' power. The bureaucracy strangled the revolution; it repressed the revolutionary Bolsheviks, and liquidated the power of the working class.

Now, in the course of bourgeois respectability, the bureaucracy tries to get rid of the last symbols of a revolution that it crushed. In a certain way, things are clearer. OK, all the more reason to have a good October Festival!