The Russian Factory Committees


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The Experience
of the Factory Committees
in the Russian Revolution

by R.M.Jones

First published as a pamphlet by Scorcher Publications, Cardiff in 1984.


"For the Russian workman to live meant simply not to die." [1] Before February 1917, Russian workers endured military discipline in the work-place with compulsory overtime, a high death rate in industrial 'accidents' and hunger once they got home. In 1905 they had taken on the Tsarist monarchy and created something entirely new in that struggle -- the soviet (or council). Twelve years later, after more than two years of war and on a growing wave of strikes, they were ready to overthrow Tsarism. In doing so, they once again created their own organisations -- soviets and factory committees. As they destroyed the old, so they had to construct a new society. For the workers that meant changing the conditions of their lives, especially in their work. ''For it is not machines nor factories, but human interrelationships that make the essence of socialism." [2]

Alongside the Russian workers' attempts to create socialism -- not as some abstract far-off utopia in a political party programme, but through confronting and changing the concrete reality of their everyday life -- were the activities of socialist parties, supposedly sympathetic to working class aspirations. This pamphlet tells the story of the Russian workers' struggle, in particular the efforts of the factory committees. The success of the Bolsheviks in defeating the working class and crushing all hope of socialism is the other side of the story. Today's supporters of Lenin and Trotsky still parade their writings and their politics as relevant to the working class and to socialism. It is still necessary then to expose how fundamentally capitalistic their political approach was when faced with a working class taking power where it mattered -- in the workplace, through the factory committees, and in the community, through the local soviets. The negative side of this pamphlet is Bolshevism; the positive side is what workers achieved, and tried to achieve, even in defeat.


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[1] The Russian Revolution of February 1917, Marc Ferro, p112.

[2] The Russian Enigma, Ante Ciliga, p13.