Copyright: Iskra Research; March 1990.

This article was first published in two parts in the Bulletin of the Workers League for April 20 and April 27, 1990.

Stalinist trade unions face collapse

The Soviet All-Union Central Trade Union Council is in deep trouble. The official leader of 140 million Soviet workers and employees, its participation in the so called "triangle" control (Party and management are the other two parties) over every business and enterprise is enshrined in the constitution. It directly owns a network of newspaper, magazine and book publishing houses; its central newspaper Trud has a circulation of 21.4 million a day, twice as large as the government daily Izvesiia; it runs tens of thousands of children's summer camps, sanatoria, vacation resorts; it manages a network of thousands of trade and business schools.

This facade of influence and strengh hides extensive internal decay. Unsanctioned strikes, previously extremely rare and brutally suppressed (as in 1962 in Novocherkassk, when hundreds of workers were shot down during meat price riots), have been breaking out since 1987. In the last year they have spread far and wide, taking on extremely political overtones. We all heard of the strikes in Armenia and Azerbaidzhan over the Nagorny Karabakh issue. National uprisings similar to this have taken place in one republic after another: Georgia, Latvia, Moldavia, etc. Millions of workers downed their tools in response to nationalist propaganda, fueled by decades of bureaucratic Great Russian chauvinism.

More significant were the nationwide miners' strikes which broke out last summer in response to the sharp deterioration of the economic and social conditions of life, which itself is the logical result of the breakup of the unified planned economy. The strikes cut across ethnic and republican boundaries uniting workers of many nationalities in opposition to the bureaucracy. Workers' put forward social and political demands (to abolish special privileges of the bureacrats, political freedom for all parties, free trade unions, to restrict the capitalist speculators in the cooperatives) which totally demolished bureacracy's claim to represent the working class.

Nascent organs of direct anti-bureacratic working class rule were established in the setting up of strike committees in opposition to the bureacratic official trade unions. And very significantly, for the first time since the 1920s, workers attempted to elaborate an understanding of the underlying causes of Stalinism, testing out the various radical middle class political circles and groups.

Since the strikes, nothing has been the same. Over the winter, a number of regional Party, government and trade union leaderships both in the Russian Federation and in other republics have been overthrown. Mass meetings of workers took place in industrial cities of Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Volgograd, Tomsk, Gorky, Krasnodar, Kharkiv, Lviv and hundreds of other cities and towns.

In Tyumen, an oil and gas-bearing region of Siberia, the regional trade union conference representing 700,000 union members voted to replace the whole trade union council (Trud, Feb 27, 1990). A public meeting in Volgograd (large heavy-industry city) led to the resignation of the regional Party First Secretary and the whole bureau of the Party (Trud, 9 Feb. 1990). A mass meeting in Saratov (large food-industry center) passed a vote expressing their distrust in the Obkom (regional) Party Committee and calling for its resignation (Trud, Feb. 13, 1990). In Kremenchug (large industrial town in the Ukraine) the Party conference pushed out the whole previous city Party leadership and called for abolishing the raiion (borough) Party apparatuses (Izvestiia, 12 Feb. 1990). In Ul'yanovsk (reginal center on the Volga) a mass demonstration called for the resignation of all the oblast' Party leaders (Izvestiia, 12 Feb. 1990).

Mismanaged Soviet economy

The mass movement of the Soviet working class is a long overdue response to the sharp deterioration in the living standards and social protection of the toiling masses, to political disenfranchisement of the working class compared to the privileged layers of intelligentsia, speculators and governmental mafia, to the ecological disasters like the Aral Sea dust bowl and the pollution enveloping all the industrial cities and towns, to the criminal neglect of the safety aspects in the management of gigantic enterprises like the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the shoddiness and managerial swindling during housing construction in Armenia which led to the death of 25,000 people. These rebellions have accelerated as the Gorbachev leadership has shown its complete bankruptcy and prostration in resolving any of the myriad problems of the mismanaged Soviet economy.

A salient feature of Stalinist economic planning (or wrecking) has been the total disregard by the bureaucratic planning apparatus of the ABCs of Marxist, or indeed bourgeois, economic science. While verbally supporting the classical Adam Smith's (and Marx's) Labor Theory of Value, in practice the bureaucracy completely separated commodity prices of a product from its socially necessary labor content, arbitrarily assigned both producer and consumer goods prices, allocated resources and evaluated performance with a view to bulk goods production. The result has been that resources were allocated to never-ending gigantic construction projects (which take decades to complete, wreck the ecology in the process and produce no beneficial results to the economy at the end), that enterprises continue for decades to produce goods which may not have any usefulness anymore (useless pig iron rather than stainless steel, black and white TVs instead of color, overweight and overpowered tractors of 30 year-old design, etc.). There grew a chronic shortage of raw and semi-finished materials as well as consumer goods. The staff of each enterprise, large or small includes large numbers of buyers, whose job it is to scour the country looking for suppliers. Once a possible supplier is found, the enterprise then must secure a government permission to buy the required materials, get the government to fund the purchase, and so on, and so forth. Because of this chronic shortage system, factories tend to increase their stocks of raw materials ad infinitum. Workers, technicians, engineers and scientists tend to squirrel away tools and supplies for a rainy day. All these infinite stocks require warehousing, or as usual, they eventually rot, rust, become obsolete.

All this irrationality is the result of the bonapartist encroachment and usurpation by the bureaucracy of the dictatorship of the working class. In an economy totally devoid of objective criteria to evaluate input of resources and labor and output of goods and services of any enterprise, bureacracy carved out for itself a role as the all-knowing and all-seeing planner, evaluator and director. The role of the bureaucracy as the manager of the nationalized economy has thus increased to monstrous proportions during the last 65 years.

Equally important for the bureaucracy, has been the camouflage, which this price/value imbalance provided for its gigantic appetites in the field of consumption. The Stalinist bureaucracy had created and maintained a network of shops, resorts, apartment houses, hotels, restaurants, theatres, hospitals, foreign travel, which catered exclusively to the members of the Nomenklatura, to the bureacrats, in proportion to their rank in the hierarchy. Thus, if a kilo of meat had the same price in both an open-to-all state supermarket and a closed ministry or Party Committee store, in the first, a woman worker bought a kilo of frozen bones and gristle for 2.3 roubles, in the second Madame Gorbacheva purchased a kilo of fresh lean tenderloin for the same 2.3 R. The bureaucrats live in large, splendidly furbished apartments in the town centre; young workers' and engineers' families are assigned a single room in a barracks-type dormitory while they wait for years in a queue for a prefabricated tiny flat of a shoddily constructed, run-down housing project in distant suburbs.

During the seventies and eighties the corruption, always prevalent at all levels of the bureacracy reached astronomical proportions. Government ministers were inventing production figures, Brezhnev and his cronies were covering their chects with medals, favoritism, nepotism, and a total breakdown in morals prevailed in the top echelons of the oligarchy.

It is ironic that while this blatant inequality in living standards has been carefully hidden and covered up, the bureaucracy now blames "uravnilovka" (egalitarianism) and a lack of economic incentives for the stagnation of the economy.

Perestroika leads to economic collapse

During the seventies and the eighties, the old extensive methods of developing production — mobilization of fresh labor and natural resources - were completely played out. Further investments in heavy industry, into the development of energy resources and into gigantic land amelioration projects did not result in any appreciable increase in the production of consumer goods, but were gobbled up by the heavy industry sector of the economy. Improvement in quality of products, technological innovation, were all impossible in the conditions of the heavy bureacratic strangulation of economic prosesses. The sharp decrease of world oil and gas prices during the 1982-83 recession kicked the last prop from under the ineficient Soviet economy.

The initial attempts of the Andropov and Gorbachev leaderships to use the old political levers to increase production — anti-alcoholism campaign, investments in machine-tools industry, then in consumer goods industry — could not overcome the tendency of blindly managed, complicated Soviet economy to continue its unproductive cycle of investment waste.

In conditions where the economic program of perestroika calls for enterprise accountability (khozraschet) by the manager of each enterprise, allows enterprise-to-enterprise trade and permits each plant to trade with foreign markets, the intra-Union resource management broke down completely. The duties (but not the staffs) of Moscow ministries in managing branches of industry have been curtailed. In the absence of a market and realistic prices, economy has reverted to a primitive inter-enterprise barter of semi-finished goods and raw materials. National republican governments have passed laws restricting trade outside their republics. City governments have set up residency requirements for consumer goods purchase. Rationing of basic consumer items like soap, sugar, shoes and clothing, meat and sausage has been set up in all the cities and towns. The supplies of some items are so tight that in some regions of the country only 400 grams of meat per person per month can be sold at official (low) prices at state stores (Trud, March 3, 1990).

The Soviet economy is now taking giant steps backwards to a semi-feudal mode of existence. Central planning has practically ground to a halt. During the initial stage of Khozraschet (self-accounting) in 1988, the state continued to place so called "state orders" with each enterprise and continued to oversee the transfer of materials, funds, energy, etc. The factories were rebelling against the low nominal prices set for their products and pushed for curtailment of government orders so that they could directly sell or barter them to other state factories or to the "cooperatives" for much higher prices. Gorbachev's economic management team has in practice acquiesced to this. The press is now filled with reports of plants and factories suffering from shortages of supplies and raw materials. Production is falling off. Official statistics reported a decrease in GNP of about 1.5% for 1989 in some vital industries.

Big enterprises are forced to develop independent barter trade for the necessary raw materials, scour the country for cement, steel rod, wood, nylon fibre, glass bottles, or whatever it is they need to keep production going. They are even encouraged to develop subsidiary consumer goods industries, especially in food production. Newspapers print laudatory reports of steel mills which have set up milk farms and of textile manufacturers which build their own housing for the workers, of a shipping company on the Baltic near Leningrad which grows vegetables for its own workers (Trud, Feb. 28, 1990).

In the special section on the USSR published on March 12th, a Financial Times analyst, Charles Leadbeater writes: "Reform has set off a process of fragmentation and disintegration within the industrial economy, without yet offering a new market basis on which relationships might be reconstructed, discipline enforced, incentives provided and efficiency increased."

Corruption, always widespread within the economy has now assumed such vast proportions, that Prime Minister Ryzhkov himself was found to be involved in the sale of eighteen battle tanks abroad. Each industrial enterprise is deeply involved in selling all the raw materials, tools, finished goods, machinery and other resources it can lay its hands on both to the internal speculators — the "cooperatives" — and abroad for hard currency.

Response of the Stalinist trade unions

The trade union bureaucracy has watched the explosive events in East Europe with growing terror and trepidation. Newspaper Trud carried a very illuminating interview with a Stalinist trade union journalist from Czechoslovakia in its Feb. 20th issue. Maria Klirova commented on the overthrow of the Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia:

"Regrettably, trade unions were the last to understand anything in our country. And so the leading organs of the trade unions lost their credibility practically overnight.

"We saw that the union regional and industrial committees sank in paperwork and spent their time in organizational paper chase, like some sort of a perpetual motion machine. So the workers demanded their liquidation. Maybe it is not fitting that I refer to it, but in Smolensk (she had visited a factory in Smolensk prior to this interview) I spoke to trade union officials who could not imagine the same thing happening to them."

This winter, the central trade union newspaper Trud was filled with articles of rank and file rebellions sweeping out the old apparatchiks. The response of the bureaucracy has been manyfold. First, to assure the workers that despite all evidence, everything is not so bad as it looks, i.e. such "good news" stories as a finished apartment building for workers here, a decrease in working hours there, etc. Secondly, it attempts to highlight its self-reforms: new and better leaders in this or that region, punishments for some crooks, etc. Thirdly, it stakes out some claims to defend the interests of the workers: the AUCTU had recently defeated a government attempt to raise industrial energy prices which threatened a whole number of factories with closing; it has pushed through a curtailment on the range of consumer goods to be sold at market prices through a network of commercial shops; in a number of industrial regions it competes with the unofficial strike committees in calling for radical economic and social demands. Fourthly, it counsels patience and points to the peaceful relationships between the trade unions and the employers in the West (more about this below). Fifthly, it promises an improvement in the supply situation as a result of the radical measures of Gorbachev. Sixthly, it engages in organizational maneuvers, creating regional or republican entities. Seventhly, the Stalinist leadership in the unions had last year attempted to channel the anger of the workers into the formation of the United Front of Toilers as a political pressure group (this attempt has since backfired and the UFT has gotten out of control of the traditional bureaucrats in many areas of the country). Eighthly, Stalinists attempt to fan national and ethnic antagonisms, blaming this or that nationality for its selfishness. Ninthly, the Stalinists are spreading illusions in the strength of capitalism, censoring any news of the terrific trade antagonisms driving each ruling class to policies of class warfare and trade war (more below).

Bureaucracy and nationalism

This fragmentation of the economy is naturally assisting the centrifugal forces within the USSR. The bureaucracy as a whole no longer identifies its long term interests with the maintenance of a unified planned economy, instead seeing its future as capitalist owners of shops and factories, or local managers of subsidiaries of foreign corporations. The nationalist-republican bureaucracies see themselves as the main beneficiaries of the breakup of the Union. While both the All Union and the republican bureaucracies alone have proved too weak to confront and discipline a united Soviet working class, they seek to utilize cultural, ethnic, language, religious and national differences to split the working class, confuse it with chauvinist slogans, replace its class consciousness with national, religious, racial and other backward prejudices.

The trade union bureaucracy is developing a parallel program of national divisiveness. An interview with a chairman of the Kuybyshev regional Trade Union Council, V.Dolgov in the newspaper Trud on February 23rd, 1990 details how this apparatchik is busy setting up a Russian republican CTU (in addition to the All-Union Council). He reasons that "Over 60% of the total economic and raw material potential of the country is concentrated in Russia; people of many languages live here; no less than other republics of the Union, it needs to reassert its statehood, to strengthen the lawful rights and defend the interests of the peoples living on its territory."

The "esteemed" bureaucrat conveniently forgets, that Great Russian chauvinism has been an inseparable feature of the Stalinist oppression; that until recently the smallest details of economic, social and cultural life of the Ukraine or Latvia were decided in the Kremlin; that national republics were stripped of their assets, shortchanged in the allocation of development funds; that workers in the national republics were coerced into migrating to the gigantic enterprises being built in Russia proper, while workers from Russia were recruited to work at Latvian and Moldavian factories under the grand strategy of "Divide and Conquer". Now, he and his kind want to create a sovereign Russian trade union center to prevent any unwanted cooperation between the workers of Russia and the national republics and also to give the impression of some kind of activity.

American workers well know the great harm that similar national divisions, like the one in the UAW between US and Canadian locals, caused to any united action against the multinational corporations and the governments.

International relations of the labor Stalinists

The Stalinist international trade union organization, the World Federation of Trade Unions is in shambles. It was originally formed in 1945 by the American CIO, British TUC and Soviet AUCTU which all yielded to the unstoppable push for unity by the international working class at the conclusion of World War II. In 1949, the CIO and most of the Western trade unions broke away to form their own International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, blaming the Stalinists' police repression in East Europe to justify their own decisive support for the imperialist Cold War and the Stalinist-imperialist division of Europe. Since then the WFTU, based in Prague, Czechoslovakia, became a Stalinist mouthpiece providing a labor cover for the Kremlin diplomacy and a left cover for the anti-working class policies of the bourgeois "national liberation" leaderships and for the pro-capitalist reformism of "left" unions like the French CGT. No May Day parade in Moscow was complete without a bunch of these labor fakers — some of them government ministers, who would shoot down workers' demonstrations in their own countries — who expressed their "international solidarity" with Stalin, Brezhnev, or whoever occupied the seat of General Secretary in the Kremlin.

Now, as the misnamed "Communist" parties are rushing to rejoin the pro-capitalist, also misnamed "Socialist" International, the future of WFTU is in grave doubt. The Hungarian union federation disbanded and reorganized itself on the West European model, in the process disaffiliating from WFTU and applying for a membership in ICFTU. The Czechoslovak trade union federation did the same, leaving the WFTU without a home (it was headquartered in Prague). East Germany, Bulgaria and Roumania are all heading in the same direction, leaving the Stalinist international labor organization an empty shell.

No tears should be shed over the collapse of WFTU. The whole history of Profintern, set up in 1925 and the WFTU, was a dead-end sectarian fiasco for the world proletariat. Rather than confront the political task of lifting the class consciousness of the proletariat, defeating the reformist lackeys of the bourgeoisie in the leadership of the trade unions and winning the working class over to a revolutionary program, Stalinists created separate trade union organizations with their own rotten bureaucratic apparatuses. The working class was thus split not just along the national frontiers of the Potsdam and Yalta accords, but also through the setting up of rival labor organizations.

The leadership of the French CGT has recently visited Moscow and conducted high level discussions with AUCTU. The substance of these talks was not reported. We can only guess that since the "Communist" parties of both France and the USSR are rushing to join with the social-democrats, their trade union brethren won't be far behind. They have already begun a search for new international alliances with the most right wing forces. The February 28th report about the AFL-CIO winter conference in Florida entitled "DIFFICULT MOVES" applauds its "positive moves on the international arena" referring to the vote by the AFL-CIO in favor of "conversion" and in favor of granting the 'most favored nation' trade status to the USSR. Soviet newspapers have reported on cooperation between CIA and the KGB. No doubt, the Stalinist thugs of AUCTU and the mafia-ridden, corrupt and reactionary anti-communists of the AFL-CIO have many ideas on mutual cooperation.

AUCTU and social-democratic reformism

The Soviet press, which for years trumpeted about the glories of "real socialism" and reviled everything in the West, all the while keeping quiet about the real gains won by the proletariat of the advanced countries, has now turned 180 degrees. Conditions of life in the West are extolled to high heaven, mass media is filled with idylls about the Western supermarkets, department stores, highways, restaurants, social security programs, educational systems, job retraining schemes, pension and charity programs and the like.

An March 3rd article in Trud about an old age home in Sweden entitled "CHARITY SWEDISH STYLE" describes a well run and comfortable housing complex for retirees. There is no doubt that the conditions of retired workers in Sweden, West Germany, France and the few other wealthy capitalist countries are at present much better than conditions facing single retirees in the USSR who are forced to live on miserable 60 and 70 roubles a month pensions while shortages sweep the economy and prices skyrocket.

What this and similar articles on the "Swedish Model" leave out is the bankruptcy of the whole scheme. An article on the Swedish government crisis the week before, called "SWEDEN, THE SEARCH FOR A COMPROMISE", while noting the economic difficultied of Sweden, left its readers with the impression that a way out is about to be found: "However, it is too early to talk about Karlsson's refusal to take steps to control the situation". (Trud, February 27, 1990). And a late-breaking news addendum about Karlsson's confirmation as Prime Minister strengthened the impression that Swedes have found a way out.

A long article in the February 25th issue of Trud dealt with the class relations in Austria and was entitled "MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL PARTNERSHIP?". Despite the question mark in the title, the Stalinist hacks made it perfectly clear that Austria is a shining example of the benefits of corporatism.

"The word 'compromise' was one that we frequently heard in Austria on different occasions and at various levels. It may be confidently stated that it is the basis for what was later called 'social partnership'. There have been and continue to be discussions about this partnership. It still evokes different emotions. Yet is really exists, it really entered into the bloodstream of the country."

Believe it or not, the editors of Trud even found elements of workers control of production in the United States! An article in the February 23rd issue, entitled "'WORKERS CONTROL' AMERICAN STYLE" details the recent fines which Northrop had to pay some whistleblowers who revealed the company's bilking of the Federal government. This is a new definition of 'turning a molehill into a mountain'.

In general, quality of life in the US, judging by Soviet press reports is just terrific. Wages average $20,000/year, benefits include full medical care, vacations average three weeks, most families own their own homes and two cars, color TVs and VCRs fill the living rooms, education is free for all through grade 12 and widely available to all thereafter. When reality does intrude and these Stalinist hacks are forced to report on a murdered striker, the homeless or the poverty seen in the cities, this is treated as an aberration, blamed on race or mental handicaps of the sufferers.

The Stalinist labor bureaucracy is jumping on the bandwagon of social-reformism just when it is standing on its last legs. All the past gains of the workers in the "welfare states" of West Europe, Canada, Australia and others are under constant and increasing attacks. The collapse of the "social accords" governments of Sweden and Australia show that the conditions of world=wide competition, multinational industrial corporations, banks and stock exchanges spell the doom of all such schemes.

Glorification of corporatism

While it is nothing new for AUCTU to practice corporatism, to preach common interests of workers and management (they have been doing it since the mid-twenties) and to take the side of the employers and the management against the workers, in the past they have justified this by referring to the working class nature of Soviet state and hence, to the identity of interests of the workers and "their" state. But verbally at least, they were in favor of class struggle in capitalist countries, even if in practice they sacrificed it daily on behalf of the diplomatic interests of the Kremlin bureaucracy.

Today, the policies of Perestroika have demanded that the loyal trade union bureaucrats cease class struggle even against the private employers. It simply will not do for Shalayev (the head of AUCTU) to promote a strike against a privatised coal mine or a Soviet Fiat auto factory. Since Shalayev is constrained by the uncontrollable movement of the Soviet working class against the policies of unemployment, inflation and privatization from openly forbidding strikes, he must perforce use arguments. The usual line is that in the West, the workers and employers are too civilised and respectful of each other to resort to strikes, that the strike is an ineffective weapon in comparison to moderate negotiations, legal arbitration, legislative and electoral activities, etc. And if, heaven forbid, strikes do occur, it is only because either the employers or the workers were "unreasonable", and acted against their own best interests.

In reporting on the strike by the British ambulance service which ended with a setback settlement below the cost of living, Trud writes on March 15th: "The result of this industrial conflict was a classic British compromise between the unions and the employers. Initially the government offered a raise of just 6.5% a year, considerably less than the 7.6% rate of inflation. The trade unions demanded 11.4% because of the considerable real losses of the last few years. After six months of strikes, unending series of talks, parliamentary debates, involvement by third party arbitrators, who played a crucial role in arranging a settlement, the conflicting sides finally agreed to 17.6% over two years (yearly increase of 8.8%)." The purpose of Trud's careful arithmetic is to prove that if only both sides were better tutored in algebra or higher mathematics, the whole misunderstanding could have been avoided.

In reporting on the Pittston strike in the US, the headline of this article in the February 24th issue of Trud proclaimed: "PITTSTON GAVE IN TO THE MINERS". No mention was made of the violence of this strike, of the picketers killed and wounded by the company thugs or of the decimation of the UMW in the last ten years. When talking about the 64 million dollar fine, correspondent V. Sisnyov explained the harshness of the judge's ruling as caused by a judge's personal animosity: "…he (the judge) had personal reasons: a strikers' leader Jack Stamp put up his own name as a candidate to the state legislature, bumping the judge's father, Donald MacDoughlin the elder."

According to this article, the role of the US government is that of a friendly neutral:

"This compromise is considered so important that the Chairman of the AFL-CIO, Lane Kirkland called a special press conference to announce it at the yearly conference of the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO in Bar Harbor Florida. In addition to the president of the UMW, Richard Trumka, the press conference was attended by the Labor Secretary Elisabeth Dole, who initiated the last round of talks between Pittston and the UMW and appointed an arbiter to participate in them."

In an interview with George Curpies, Vice-President of IAM, published in Trud on February 21, 1990 and entitled: "WE REMAIN FRIENDS" (in reference to IAM's friendliness to the Soviet bureaucracy), the role of the bureaucrats in isolating and defeating the struggle at Eastern was covered up and the issues were again presented as a personal vendetta by Frank Lorenzo against both common sense and the union:

"Eastern lost a billion dollars this past year, this cannot continue and a few days ago Lorenzo offered his creditors 10 cents on every dollar of investments. This actually is the bankruptcy, which we warned about last March. So if Lorenzo declares bankruptcy and liquidates the company, everyone will lose their jobs. Thus today in the United States in front of the Government, the Congress, with the help from the judges, one man through his personal ill will ruins and devastates a whole airline company and condemns twenty five thousand people to unemployment and privations."

Perhaps we should conclude this lesson in glories of corporatism with an interview with the General Secretary of the National Congress of the Trade Unions of Singapore, the Honourable Ong Teng Cheong. This gentleman besides heading one of the most tame, toothless and police ridden company union associations in all of Asia is also the Assistant Prime Minister of Singapore. Singapore is such a shining light of democracy that even the capitalist press is censored and most foreign newspapers get confiscated at the airport. Jails and cemeteries are full of the Honourable Ong Teng Cheong's opponents for leadership of the trade unions. But let us hear the gentleman speak:

Question: What is the reason for 'Industrial Peace' in Singapore?

Answer: "There are three causes. First, the government conducts a policy which corresponds to the interests of workers. Second, as I have already said, the trade unions themselves had adopted a correct approach, a correct action philosophy. An finally, here in Singapore we have a very effective system for resolving industrial conflicts. So there is no need to resort to the extreme measure of a strike."

Glories of capitalism

The newspaper and magazine articles and TV and radio programs praising Western efficiency, high productivity, low costs, abundance of consumer goods, high wages, excellent working conditions, high personal satisfaction, etc. are too many to enumerate. Capitalism is presented as an extremely efficient, advanced and even just!!! system of production and social relations. Hard work and perseverence do pay off, people get what they deserve, and the Moon is made of green cheese.

One example is a lengthy article about an average American, the mayor of Rockville Maryland, whose father was a pennyless immigrant from Russia. He made his own way in life and now through his hard work owns a string of car washes, a real estate firm and a construction company. Mayor Sidney Kramer works long hours seven days a week, and in his own words, what helps him in his work is "common sense and a will to always be just" (Trud, February 27, 1990).

Another example of a hard working American worker is an article about a policeman in San-Diego. The Soviet journalist gushes with his admiration for this "well dresssed and equipped professional", who makes $38,000 a year, owns a quarter of a million dollars home and solves 90-95% of all crimes.

Efficiency of the capitalist market system is emphasized and contrasted with the low productivity, high costs and low quality of Soviet products. Cooperatives, leasing arrangements, privatization, price decontrol, rationalization of enterprises (layoffs), division of the land to private peasants are all cited as the tools to lift Soviet Union out of its economic and social stagnation. Joint production and marketing agreements with Western firms are supposed to lead to an infusion of new technology; a new "Marshall Plan" will rebuild the infrastructure of the Soviet Union. Land privatization will make Soviet farmers produce on a par with the Belgians and the Americans.

Throughout this barrage of procapitalist propoganda it is never explained just how the integration of the USSR into the world capitalist structure will lead to a revival of Soviet industry and agriculture. A scientific examination of today's world economy will show that the major multinational corporations and banks already face a host of problems: overproduction in the major industries (automobiles, petrochemicals, agriculture, etc.), highly leveraged and shaky capital markets, increasing impoverishment both in the advanced and in the Third World countries and hence a shrinkage of the internal markets.

Indeed the examples of Yugoslavia, China and Poland all illustrate the bankruptcy of such unfounded hopes. A recent article in the Financial Times, dealing with the Polish agriculture, talked about the collapse of the internal market for foodstuffs and the inability of private Polish farmers to compete with the well developed and highly organized West European farmers. According to Gorbachev, agriculture is supposed to the one sector which will benefit the most from land privatization and the opening up of the economy.

Tasks of the Fourth International

The biggest handicap of the Soviet economy is and has been its domination by the unscrupulous, egotistic and reactionary bureaucratic caste. The bureaucracy distorted the economy to enforce its political dictatorship over the working masses of the USSR and to hide its tremendous appetites for the social product of the working class. All the distortions of the price-cost-availability structure cannot be resolved while the state is dominated by this anti-democratic, top heavy, parasitic social layer. Gorbachev's program of lifting the restrictions on foreign trade and allowing the Rouble to be freely convertible will lead to total devastation of the whole Soviet industry and agriculture; will transform the USSR into a vast underdeveloped economic colony of the imperialists.

The Soviet working class is beginning to struggle against the logical results of the restoration of capitalism. Its initial steps are still confused, clouded by the decades of Stalinist lies and repressions. Because of the crisis of Stalinism and its complete moral, theoretical and political collapse, the task of the Fourth International to build a Marxist leadership within the Soviet working class becomes possible and yet more urgent, since both the bureaucracy and the imperialists are in such a hurry. Whereas in the past Stalinism and imperialism suppressed the working class with different methods and, indeed employed a certain division of labor to prevent the revolutionary unity of the world proletariat, today the unity in action of the imperialists and the Stalinists is crystally clear. The building of a Soviet section of the Fourth International to unite the struggle of the working class against both imperialism and Stalinism is on the order of the day.

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