Proletarskaya Gazeta # 24
July 2004

The Necessity of a Class Organization of the Workers

The bourgeois reforms in Russia are deepening class contradictions in our society more and more. All reforms, without exception, are meant to undermine the interests of the toiling masses. Nevertheless, it is necessary to point out that the basis of the deepening of the class contradictions lies in the unprecedented exploitation of the Russian toiling masses, especially of the working class. How does the extreme level of exploitation of the Russian working class manifest itself? One of the examples of the most savage super-exploitation of the workers is extremely low wages and chronic late wage payments. The Russian bourgeoisie makes profit out of free labor. Moreover, by delaying wage payments, the bourgeoisie obtains additional profit from the interest that banks pay for holding their financial resources. At the same time, the already miserable wage is devalued due to inflation, which leads to a constant increase of prices for necessary goods.

The arbitrariness of the bourgeoisie forces workers’ families into a half-starved existence, which unavoidably leads to the aggravation of the contradiction between labor and capital.

Spontaneous strikes of the workers against this type of arbitrariness by the bourgeois masters have become a continual phenomenon in today’s Russia. While realizing the fundamental weaknesses of the movement of workers’ protests, the bourgeoisie intensifies the oppression even more and eventually declares openly that it does not care about the interests of the working class. I shall give a concrete example.

Earlier this year the workers of the transport workshop of the company "Lenrauma-mebel" in Leningrad went on a spontaneous strike organized by a group of worker activists. Before this incident, the workers’ collective of this company was considered to be pretty "well-behaved" and politically passive. These workers were uninterested in the events in Russian society and lived with their own petty-bourgeois illusions. Each one of the workers hoped to survive alone, trying to adapt to the new conditions dictated by the bourgeoisie.

The strike was due to late payment of wages amounting to several months’ pay. The strike came after long and tedious negotiations with the administration and the "owner" of the company, which did not lead to any positive results. Finally, the workers were forced to resort to a more militant form of protest, a strike. The director of the company was honest enough to declare that the bourgeoisie did not take power in order to take care of the "working cattle." The "owner" apparently purchased the company in order to make profit. Now the "owner" determines how much and when the "cattle" should be paid; that is his own prerogative. The director’s statement was filled with arrogance and contempt toward the workers. He frankly stated that now the life of the "working cattle" should resemble that of real cattle and that there should be no reason to be upset about this.

After this incident with the director four worker activists were fired without even respecting the current bourgeois legislation. The rest of the workers were promised that their wages would be paid in the near future. However, this promise turned out to be hollow and so far it has not been fulfilled.

There is only one union in the factory: the Federation of Independent Unions of Russia (FIUR). The leadership of the FIUR at first sided with the bourgeois administration by trying to convince the workers not to "upset the master" by going on strike. On the contrary, this would only lead to things getting worse. The workers understood that the FIUR only pretends to defend the interests of the working class; however, in reality this false union directly represents the interests of the bourgeoisie. In the best of outcomes this false union makes sure that the standards of living of the "working cattle" does not fall below cattle standards, in order not to threaten the stability of the system.

A superficial analysis of the current state of affairs would lead to the following erroneous conclusions. Most of the strikes up to now take place in a spontaneous manner and do not have connection with the union movement. The number of such strikes is noticeably increasing. Most of such protest actions occur in isolation, their organization is weak and, as a rule, they do not go beyond economic struggles. In other words, they usually stick to the local economic interest of the concrete workers’ collective. This is the main weakness of the Russian working class today. This is the main cause that leads the struggle of the working class to defeat, not helping to uproot the causes of class oppression. It looks like the struggle of the working class is pointless.

However, these conclusions are erroneous and show poor political awareness and shallow knowledge of the science of classes and class struggle.

It is necessary to see in the increasing number of spontaneous strikes of Russian workers an expression of the increasing mass discontent of the workers with the bourgeois system. It is necessary to appreciate in these developments the fact that the working class understands better the need for an independent and organized struggle for its own interests. Today’s strike movement will turn into class conscious struggle of the Russian working class. Moreover, in Russia there exists a class conscious nucleus within the workers’ unions "Zaschita," which constantly fights for the organization of the workers’ struggle. At present, this nucleus is relatively small and does not yet influence all the layers of the working class. However, it already bears witness to the existence of actual objective and subjective conditions for the elevation of the economic struggle of the Russian working class into a massive class movement in the foreseeable future.

Arkadii Zykov

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