The Spark

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

A Strike in Moscow

May 22, 2017

In April of 1917, strikes broke out in all the factories of Russia. They were launched to impose raises or the eight-hour work day, or to respond to sabotage organized by the bosses. Trotsky wrote that these strikes “carried out deep revolutionary processes that brought together in a political whole all the heterogeneous elements of the working class.” The stories below come from Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory by Kevin Murphy.

“The factory committee (of the Gurzon factory) resolved that not one worker could be laid off without their agreement. The workers decided that they also had the right to appoint and dismiss management. On May 23, management complained that the workers of the molding department had announced to their boss, M. Mattis, that they did not want him as their boss anymore and that they had revoked his position, effective immediately. The next day, the bolt workshop recalled its supervisor. This boss had particularly molested the women in the workshop, firing those who got pregnant or forcing those who worked in production to clean the floor....

On June 19, the factory committee submitted these demands on other questions:

1. Create a permanent space for the factory committee, for the general assemblies of the factory, conferences, and other cultural and educational activities.

2. Accept seven-hours for the night shift, with pay for eight hours.

3. Pay wages regularly in the following way: Not later than the 20th of the month, give an advance for the month, and pay the cost of living bonuses no later than the 8th of the next month.

4. Install ventilation systems for all the enclosed spaces where there is production.

5. Have showers and baths for both sexes.

6. A sufficient temperature during winter in all workshops; wash stands.

7. In every workshop, there must be a cafeteria or comfortable and closed place.

8. Make toilets close to every workshop.

9. In every workshop, make lockers for the workers’ clothes.

10. In the laminating workshop and the construction zone, bring in hot water because it is actually very far away and inaccessible because of the nature of the work.

11. The wages for sick time, in relation or not to the work, must be completely paid starting with the first day of sickness and based on the workers’ average wages.

12. Women who have children must be given two weeks off before and four weeks off after they give birth, but they must be paid for all this time based on the average wages.

13. Drugs prescribed by private doctors must be distributed by the local dispensary and, if the dispensary doesn’t have them, the factory must get them from another pharmacist.

14. In times when work stops because of a shortage of material, wages must be paid at half of the minimum wage.

15. After the birth of an infant, pay out 25 roubles; after the death of an infant, give 25 roubles, for the death of adults, give 75 roubles.

16. All workers who have been at the factory at least a year must be given two weeks of vacation; all workers who have two years or more of seniority must have a month of vacation at the minimum pay.”

The variety, the clarity, and the power of these demands shows the organization and the growing confidence of the workers. The need for a regular place to meet shows that the workers’ first priority was to reinforce their own organizations.