V. I. Lenin

The Trade Unions

The Present Situation

And Trotsky’s Mistakes[1]

Speech Delivered At A Joint Meeting Of Communist Delegates To The Eighth

Congress Of Soviets, Communist Members Of The All-Russia Central Council Of

Trade Unions And Communist Members Of The Moscow City Council Of Trade Unions

December 30, 1920

First Published: Published in pamphlet form in 1921;Published according to the

pamphlet text collated with the verbatim report edited by Lenin.

Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers,

Moscow, 1965, Volume 32, pages 19-42

Comrades, I must first of all apologise for departing from the rules of

procedure, for anyone wishing to take part in the debate should have heard the

report, the second report and the speeches. I am so unwell, unfortunately, that

I have been unable to do this. But I was able yesterday to read the principal

printed documents and to prepare my remarks. This departure from the rules will

naturally cause you some inconvenience; not having heard the other speeches, I

may go over old ground and leave out what should be dealt with. But I had no


My principal material is Comrade Trotsky ’s pamphlet, The Role and Tasks of the

Trade Unions. When I compare it with the theses he submitted to the Central

Committee, and go over it very carefully, I am amazed at the number of

theoretical mistakes and glaring blunders it contains. How could anyone starting

a big Party discussion on this question produce such a sorry excuse for a

carefully thought out statement? Let me go over the main points which, I think,

contain the original fundamental theoretical errors.

Trade unions are not just historically necessary; they are historically

inevitable as an organisation of the industrial proletariat, and, under the

dictatorship of the proletariat, embrace nearly the whole of it. This is basic,

but Comrade Trotsky keeps forgetting it; he neither appreciates it nor makes it

his point of departure, all this while dealing With “The Role and Tasks of the

Trade Unions”, a subject of infinite compass.

It follows from what I have said that the trade unions have an extremely

important part to play at every step of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But

what is their part? I find that it is a most unusual one, as soon as I delve

into this question, which is one of the most fundamental theoretically. On the

one hand, the trade unions, which take in all industrial workers, are an

organisation of the ruling, dominant, governing class, which has now set up a

dictatorship and is exercising coercion through the state. But it is not a state

organisation; nor is it one designed for coercion, but for education. It is an

organisation designed to draw in and to train; it is, in fact, a school: a

school of administration, a school of economic management, a school of

communism. It is a very unusual type of school, because there are no teachers or

pupils; this is an extremely unusual combination of what has necessarily come

down to us from capitalism, and what comes from the ranks of the advanced

revolutionary detachments, which you might call the revolutionary vanguard of

the proletariat. To talk about the role of the trade unions without taking these

truths into account is to fall straight into a number of errors.

Within the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the trade unions

stand, if I may say so, between the Party and the government. In the transition

to socialism the dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable, but it is not

exercised by an organisation which takes in all industrial workers. Why not? The

answer is given in the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist

International on the role of political parties in general. I will not go into

this here. What happens is that the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of

the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the

proletariat. The dictatorship cannot be exercised or the functions of government

performed without a foundation such as the trade unions. These functions,

however, have to be performed through the medium of special institutions which

are also of a new type, namely, the Soviets. What are the practical conclusions

to be drawn from this peculiar situation? They are, on the one hand, that the

trade unions are a link between the vanguard and the masses, and by their daily

work bring conviction to the masses, the masses of the class which alone is

capable of taking us from capitalism to communism. On the other hand, the trade

unions are a “reservoir” of the state power. This is what the trade unions are

in the period of transition from capitalism to communism. In general, this

transition cannot be achieved without the leadership of that class which is the

only class capitalism has trained for large-scale production and which alone is

divorced from the interests of the petty proprietor. But the dictatorship of the

proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of

that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one

of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so

corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation

taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian

dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the

revolutionary energy of the class. The whole is like an arrangement of

cogwheels. Such is the basic mechanism of the dictatorship of the proletariat,

and of the essentials of transition from capitalism to communism. From this

alone it is evident that there is something fundamentally wrong in principle

when Comrade Trotsky points, in his first thesis, to “ideological confusion”,

and speaks of a crisis as existing specifically and particularly in the trade

unions. If we are to speak of a crisis, we can do so only after analysing the

political situation. It is Trotsky who is in “ideological confusion”, because in

this key question of the trade unions’ role, from the standpoint of transition

from capitalism to communism, he has lost sight of the fact that we have here a

complex arrangement of cogwheels which cannot be a simple one; for the

dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised by a mass proletarian

organisation. It cannot work without a number of “transmission belts” running

from the vanguard to the mass of the advanced class, and from the latter to the

mass of the working people. In Russia, this mass is a peasant one. There is no

such mass anywhere else, but even in the most advanced countries there is a

non-proletarian, or a not entirely proletarian, mass. That is in itself enough

to produce ideological confusion. But it’s no use Trotsky’s pinning it on


When I consider the role of the trade unions in production, find that Trotsky ’s

basic mistake lies in his always dealing with it “in principle “, as a matter of

“general principle”. All his theses are based on “general principle”, an

approach which is in itself fundamentally wrong, quite apart from the fact that

the Ninth Party Congress said enough and more than enough about the trade

unions’ role in production,[2] and quite apart from the fact that in his own

theses Trotsky quotes the perfectly clear statements of Lozovsky and Tomsky, who

were to be his “whipping boys” and an excuse for an exercise in polemics. It

turns out that there is, after all, no clash of principle, and the choice of

Tomsky and Lozovsky, who wrote what Trotsky himself quotes, was an unfortunate

one indeed. However hard we may look, we shall not find here any serious

divergence of principle. In general, Comrade Trotsky’s great mistake, his

mistake of principle, lies in the fact that by raising the question of

“principle” at this time he is dragging back the Party and the Soviet power. We

have, thank heaven, done with principles and have gone on to practical business.

We chatted about principles—rather more than we should have—at the Smolny.

Today, three years later, we have decrees on all points of the production

problem, and on many of its components; but such is the sad fate of our decrees:

they are signed, and then we ourselves forget about them and fail to carry them

out. Meanwhile, arguments about principles and differences of principle are

invented. I shall later on quote a decree dealing with the trade unions’ role in

production, a decree all of us, including myself, I confess, have forgotten.

The actual differences, apart from those I have listed, really have nothing to

do with general principles. I have had to enumerate my “differences” with

Comrade Trotsky because, with such a broad theme as “The Role and Tasks of the

Trade Unions”, he has, I am quite sure, made a number of mistakes bearing on the

very essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But, this apart, one may

well ask, why is it that we cannot work together, as we so badly need to do? It

is because of our different approach to the mass, the different way of winning

it over and keeping in touch with it. That is the whole point. And this makes

the trade union a very peculiar institution, which is set up under capitalism,

which inevitably exists in the transition from capitalism to communism, and

whose future is a question mark. The time when the trade unions are actually

called into question is a long way off: it will be up to our grandchildren to

discuss that. What matters now is how to approach the mass, to establish contact

with it and win it over, and how to get the intricate transmission system

working (how to run the dictatorship of the proletariat). Note that when I speak

oI the intricate transmission system I do not mean the machinery of the Soviets.

What it may have in the way of intricacy of transmission comes under a special

head. I have only been considering, in principle and in the abstract, class

relations in capitalist society, which consists of a proletariat, a

non-proletarian mass of working people, a petty bourgeoisie and a bourgeoisie.

This alone yields an extremely complicated transmission system owing to what has

been created by capitalism, quite apart from any red-tape in the Soviet

administrative machinery. And that is the main point to be considered in

analysing the difficulties of the trade unions’ “task”. Let me say this again:

the actual differences do not lie where Comrade Trotsky sees them but in the

question of how to approach the mass, win it over, and keep in touch with it. I

must say that had we made a detailed, even if small-scale, study of our own

experience and practices, we should have managed to avoid the hundreds of quite

unnecessary “differences” and errors of principle in which Comrade Trotsky’s

pamphlet abounds. Some of his theses, for instance, polemicise against “Soviet

trade-unionism”. As if we hadn’t enough trouble already, a new bogey has been

invented. Who do you think it is? Comrade Ryazanov, of all people. I have known

him for twenty odd years. You have known him less than that, but equally as well

by his work. You are very well aware that assessing slogans is not one of his

virtues, which he undoubtedly has. Shall we then produce theses to show that

“Soviet trade-unionism” is just something that Comrade Ryazanov happened to say

with little relevance? Is that being serious? If it is, we shall end up with

having “Soviet trade unionism”, “Soviet anti-peace-signing”, and what not! A

Soviet “ism” could be invented on every single point. (Ryazanov : “Soviet

anti-Brestism.”) Exactly, “Soviet anti Brestism”.

While betraying this lack of thoughtfulness, Comrade Trotsky falls into error

himself. He seems to say that in a workers’ state it is not the business of the

trade unions to stand up for the material and spiritual interests of the working

class. That is a mistake. Comrade Trotsky speaks of a “workers’ state”. May I

say that this is an abstraction. It was natural for us to write about a workers’

state in 1917; but it is now a patent error to say: “Since this is a workers’

state without any bourgeoisie, against whom then is the working class to be

protected, and for what purpose?” The whole point is that it is not quite a

workers’ state. That is where Comrade Trotsky makes one of his main mistakes. We

have got down from general principles to practical discussion and decrees, and

here we are being dragged back and prevented from tackling the business at hand.

This will not do. For one thing, ours is not actually a workers’ state but a

workers’ and peasants’ state. And a lot depends on that. (Bukharin : “What kind

of state? A workers’ and peasants’ state?”) Comrade Bukharin back there may well

shout “What kind of state? A workers’ and peasants’ state?” I shall not stop to

answer him. Anyone who has a mind to should recall the recent Congress of

Soviets,[3] and that will be answer enough.

But that is not all. Our Party Programme—a document which the author of the ABC

of Communism knows very well—shows that ours is a workers’ state with a

bureacratic twist to it. We have had to mark it with this dismal, shall I say,

tag. There you have the reality of the transition. Well, is it right to say that

in a state that has taken this shape in practice the trade unions have nothing

to protect, or that we can do without them in protecting the material and

spiritual interests of the massively organised proletariat? No, this reasoning

is theoretically quite wrong. It takes us into the sphere of abstraction or an

ideal we shall achieve in 15 or 20 years’ time, and I am not so sure that we

shall have achieved it even by then. What we actually have before us is a

reality of which we have a good deal of knowledge, provided, that is, we keep

our heads, and do not let ourselves be carried awav by intellectualist talk or

abstract reasoning, or by what may appear to be “theory” but is in fact error

and misapprehension of the peculiarities of transition. We now have a state

under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect

itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect

the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state. Both forms

of protection are achieved through the peculiar interweaving of our state

measures and our agreeing or “coalescing” with our trade unions.

I shall have more to say about this coalescing later on. But the word itself

shows that it is a mistake to conjure up an enemy in the shape of “Soviet

trade-unionism”, for “coalescing” implies the existence of distinct things that

have yet to be coalesced: “coalescing” implies the need to be able to use

measures of the state power to protect the material and spiritual interests of

the massively organised proletariat from that very same state power. When the

coalescing has produced coalescence and integration, we shall meet in congress

for a business-like discussion of actual experience, instead of “disagreements”

on principle or theoretical reasoning in the abstract. There is an equally lame

attempt to find differences of principle with Comrades Tomsky and Lozovsky, whom

Comrade Trotsky treats as trade union “bureaucrats”—I shall later on say which

side in this controversy tends to be bureaucratic. We all know that while

Comrade Ryazanov may love a slogan, and must have one which is all but an

expression of principle, it is not one of Comrade Tomsky’s many vices. I think,

therefore, that it would be going a bit too far to challenge Comrade Tomsky to a

battle of principles on this score (as Comrade Trotsky has done). I am

positively astonished at this. One would have thought that we had grown up since

the days when we all sinned a great deal in the way of factional, theoretical

and various other disagreements—although we naturally did some good as well. It

is time we stopped inventing and blowing up differences of principle and got

down to practical work. I never knew that Tomsky was eminently a theoretician or

that he claimed to be one; it may be one of his failings, but that is something

else again. Tomsky, who has been working very smoothly with the trade union-

movement, must in his position provide a reflection of this complex

transition—whether he should do so consciously or unconsciously is quite another

matter and I am not saying that he has always done it consciously—so that if

something is hurting the mass, and they do not know what it is, and he does not

know what it is (applause, laughter ) but raises a howl, I say that is not a

failing but should be put down to his credit. I am quite sure that Tomsky has

many partial theoretical mistakes. And if we all sat down to a table and started

thoughtfully writing resolutions or theses, we should correct them all; we might

not even bother to do that because production work is more interesting than the

rectifying of minute theoretical disagreements.

I come now to “industrial democracy”, shall I say, for Bukharin’s benefit. We

all know that everyone has his weak points, that even big men have little weak

spots, and this also goes for Bukharin. He seems to be incapable of resisting

any little word with a flourish to it. He seemed to derive an almost sensuous

pleasure from writing the resolution on industrial democracy at the Central

Committee Plenum on December 7. But the closer I look at this “industrial

democracy”, the more clearly I see that it is half-baked and theoretically

false. It is nothing but a hodge-podge. With this as an example, let me say once

again, at a Party meeting at least: “Comrade N. I. Bukharin, the Republic,

theory and you yourself will benefit from less verbal extravagance.” (Applause.)

Industry is indispensable. Democracy is a category proper only to the political

sphere. There can be no objection to the use of this word in speeches or

articles. An article takes up and clearly expresses one relationship and no

more. But it is quite strange to hear you trying to turn this into a thesis, and

to see you wanting to coin it into a slogan, uniting the “ayes” and the “nays”;

it is strange to hear you say, like Trotsky, that the Party will have “to choose

between two trends”. I shall deal separately with whether the Party must do any

“choosing” and who is to blame for putting the Party in this position of having

to “choose”. Things being what they are, we say: “At any rate, see that you

choose fewer slogans, like ’industrial democracy’, which contain nothing but

confusion and are theoretically wrong.” Both Trotsky and Bukharin failed to

think out this term theoretically and ended up in confusion. “Industrial

democracy” suggests things well beyond the circle of ideas with which they were

carried away. They wanted to lay greater emphasis and focus attention on

industry. It is one thing to emphasise something in an article or speech; it is

quite another to frame it into a thesis and ask the Party to choose, and so I

say: cast your vote against it, because it is confusion. Industry is

indispensable, democracy is not. Industrial democracy breeds some utterly false

ideas. The idea of one-man management was advocated only a little while ago. We

must not make a mess of things and confuse people: how do you expect them to

know when you want democracy, when one-man management, and when dictatorship.

But on no account must we renounce dictatorship either—I hear Bukharin behind me

growling: “Quite right.” (Laughter. Applause.)

But to go on. Since September we have been talking about switching from the

principle of priority to that of equalisation, and we have said as much in the

resolution of the all-Party conference, which was approved by the Central

Committee.[4] The question is not an easy one, because we find that we have to

combine equalisation with priority, which are incompatible. But after all we do

have some knowledge of Marxism and have learned how and when opposites can and

must be combined; and what is most important is that in the three and a half

years of our revolution we have actually combined opposites again and again.

The question obviously requires thoughtfulness and circumspection. After all, we

did discuss these questions of principle at those deplorable plenary meetings of

the Central Committee[4b]—which yielded the groups of seven and eight, and

Comrade Bukharin’s celebrated “buffer group”[6]—and we did establish that there

was no easy transition from the priority principle to that of equalisation. We

shall have to put in a bit of effort to implement the decision of the September

Conference. After all, these opposite terms can be combined either into a

cacophony or a symphony. Priority implies preference for one industry out of a

group of vital industries because of its greater urgency. What does such

preference entail? How great can it be? This is a difficult question, and I must

say that it will take more than zeal to solve it; it may even take more than a

heroic effort on the part of a man who is possibly endowed with many excellent

qualities and who will do wonders on the right job; this is a very peculiar

matter and calls for the correct approach. And so if we are to raise this

question of priority and equalisation we must first of all give it some careful

thought, but that is just what we fail to find in Comrade Trotsky’s work; the

further he goes in revising his original theses, the more mistakes he makes.

Here is what we find in his latest theses:

“The equalisation line should be pursued in the sphere of consumption, that is,

the conditions of the working people’s existence as individuals. In the sphere

of production, the principle of priority will long remain decisive for us”. . .

(thesis 41, p. 31 of Trotsky’s pamphlet).

This is a real theoretical muddle. It is all wrong. Priority is preference, but

it is nothing without preference in consumption. If all the preference I get is

a couple of ounces of bread a day I am not likely to be very happy. The

preference part of priority implies preference in consumption as well.

Otherwise, priority is a pipe dream, a fleeting cloud, and we are, after all,

materialists. The workers are also materialists; if you say shock work, they

say, let’s have the bread, and the clothes, and the beef. That is the view we

now take, and have always taken, in discussing these questions time without

number with reference to various concrete matters in the Council of Defence,[7]

when one would say: “I’m doing shock work”, and would clamour for boots, and

another: “I get the boots, otherwise your shock workers won’t hold out, and all

your priority will fizzle out.”

We find, therefore, that in the theses the approach to equalisation and priority

is basically wrong. What is more, it is a retreat from what has actually been

achieved and tested in practice. We can’t have that; it will lead to no good.

Then there is the question of “coalescing “. The best thing to do about

“coalescing” right now is to keep quiet. Speech is silver, but silence is

golden. Why so? It is because we have got down to coalescing in practice; there

is not a single large gubernia economic council, no major department of the

Supreme Economic Council, the People’s Commissariat for Communications, etc.,

where something is not being coalesced in practice. But are the results all they

should be? Ay, there’s the rub. Look at the way coalescence has actually been

carried out, and what it has produced. There are countless decrees introducing

coalescence in the various institutions. But we have yet to make a business-like

study of our own practical experience; we have yet to go into the actual results

of all this; we have yet to discover what a certain type of coalescence has

produced in a particular industry, what happened when member X of the gubernia

trade union council held post Y in the gubernia economic council, how many

months he was at it, etc. What we have not failed to do is to invent a

disagreement on coalescence as a principle, and make a mistake in the process,

but then we have always been quick at that sort of thing; but we were not up to

the mark when it came to analysing and verifying our own experience. When we

have congresses of Soviets with committees not only on the application of the

better-farming law in the various agricultural areas but also on coalescence and

its results in the Saratov Gubernia flour-milling industry, the Petrograd metal

industry, the Donbas coal industry, etc., and when these committees, having

mustered the facts, declare: “We have made a study of so and so”, then I shall

say: “Now we have got down to business, we have finally grown up.” But could

anything be more erroneous and deplorable than the fact that we are being

presented with “theses” splitting hairs over the principle of coalescence, after

we have been at it for three years? We have taken the path of coalescence, and I

am sure it was the right thing to do, but we have not yet made an adequate study

of the results of our experience. That is why keeping quiet is the only common

sense tactics on the question of coalescence.

A study must be made of practical experience. I have signed decrees and

resolutions containing instructions on practical coalescence, and no theory is

half so important as practice. That is why when I hear: “Let’s discuss

’coalescence’”, I say: “Let’s analyse what we have done.” There is no doubt that

we have made many mistakes. It may well be that a great part of our decrees need

amending. I accept that, for I am not in the least enamoured of decrees. But in

that case let us have some practical proposals as to what actually has to be

altered. That would be a business-like approach. That would not be a waste of

time. That would not lead to bureaucratic projecteering But I find that that is

exactly what’s wrong with Trotsky’s “Practical Conclusions”, Part VI of his

pamphlet. He says that from one-third to one-half of the members of the All

Russia Central Council of Trade Unions and the Presidium of the Supreme Eccnomic

Council should serve on both bodies, and from one-half to two-thirds, on the

collegiums, etc. Why so? No special reason, just “rule of thumb”. It is true, of

course, that rule of thumb is frequently used to lay down similar proportions in

our decrees, but then why is it inevitable in decrees? I hold no brief for all

decrees as such and have no intention of making them appear better than they

actually are. Quite often rule of thumb is used in them to fix such purely

arbitrary proportions as one-half or one-third of the total number of members,

etc. When a decree says that, it means: try doing it this way, and later on we

shall assess the results of your “try out”. We shall later sort out the results.

After sorting them out, we shall move on. We are working on coalescence and we

expect to improve it because we are becoming more efficient and


But I seem to have lapsed into “production propaganda”. That can’t be helped. It

is a question that needs dealing with in any discussion of the role of the trade

unions in production.

My next question will therefore be that of production propaganda. This again is

a practical matter and we approach it accordingly. Government agencies have

already been set up to conduct production propaganda. I can’t tell whether they

are good or had; they have to be tested and there’s no need for any “theses” on

this subject at all.

If we take a general view of the part trade unions have to play in industry, we

need not, in this question of democracy, go beyond the usual democratic

practices. Nothing will come of such tricky phrases as “industrial democracy”,

for they are all wrong. That is the first point. The second is production

propaganda. The agencies are there. Trotsky’s theses deal with production

propaganda. That is quite useless, because in this case theses are old hat. We

do not know as yet whether the agencies are good or bad. But we can tell after

testing them in action. Let us do some studying and polling. Assuming, let us

say, that a congress has 10 committees with 10 men on each, let us ask: “You

have been dealing with production propaganda, haven ’t you? What are the

results?” Having made a study of this, we should reward those who have done

especially well, and discard what has proved unsuccessful. We do have some

practical experience; it may not be much but it is there; yet we are being

dragged away from it and back to these “theses on principles”. This looks more

like a “reactionary” movement than “trade unionism”.

There is then the third point, that of bonuses. Here is the role and task of the

trade unions in production: distribution of bonuses in kind. A start on it has

been made. Things have been set in motion. Five hundred thousand poods of grain

had been allocated for the purpose, and one hundred and seventy thousand has

been distributed. How well and how correctly, I cannot tell. The Council of

People’s Commissars was told that they were not making a good job of this

distribution, which turned out to be an additional wage rather than a bonus.

This was pointed out by officials of the trade unions and the People’s

Commissariat for Labour. We appointed a commission to look into the matter but

that has not yet been done. One hundred and seventy thousand poods of grain has

been given away, but this needs to be done in such a way as to reward those who

display the heroism, the zeal, the talent, and the dedication of the thrifty

manager, in a word, all the qualities that Trotsky extols. But the task now is

not to extol this in theses but to provide the bread and the beef. Wouldn’t it

be better, for instance, to deprive one category of workers of their beef and

give it as a bonus to workers designated as “shock” workers? We do not renounce

that kind of priority. That is a priority we need. Let us take a closer look at

our practices in the application of priority.

The fourth point is disciplinary courts. I hope Comrade Bukharin will not take

offence if I say that without disciplinary courts the role of the trade unions

in industry, “industrial democracy “, is a mere trifle. But the fact is that

there is nothing at all about this in your theses. “Great grief!” is therefore

the only thing that can be said about Trotsky’s theses and Bukharin’s attitude,

from the standpoint of principle, theory and practice.

I am confirmed in this conclusion when I say to myself: yours is not a Marxist

approach to the question. This quite apart from the fact that there are a number

of theoretical mistakes in the theses It is not a Marxist approach to the

evaluation of the “role and tasks of the trade unions”, because such a broad

subject cannot be tackled without giving thought to the peculiar political

aspects of the present situation. After all, Comrade Bukharin and I did say in

the resolution of the Ninth Congress of the R.C.P. on trade unions that politics

is the most concentrated expression of economics.

If we analysed the current political situation, we might say that we were going

through a transition period within a transition period. The whole of the

dictatorship of the proletariat is a transition period, but we now have, you

might say, a heap of new transition periods: the demobilisation of the army, the

end of the war, the possibility of having a much longer breathing space in peace

than before, and a more solid transition from the war front to the labour front.

This—and this alone—is causing a change in the attitude of the proletarian class

to the peasant class. What kind of change is it? Now this calls for a close

examination, but nothing of the sort follows from your theses. Until we have

taken this close look, we must learn to wait. The people are overweary,

considerable stocks that had to be used for certain priority industries have

been so used; the proletariat’s attitude to the peasantry is undergoing a

change. The war weariness is terrible, and the needs have increased, but

production has increased insufficiently or not at all. On the other hand, as I

said in my report to the Eighth Congress of Soviets, our application of coercion

was correct and successful whenever we had been able to back it up from the

start with persuasion. I must say that Trotsky and Bukharin have entirely failed

to take account of this very important consideration.

Have we laid a sufficiently broad and solid base of persuasion for all these new

production tasks? No, indeed, we have barely started doing it. We have not yet

made the masses a party to them. Now I ask you, can the masses tackle these new

assignments right away? No, they cannot, because while there is now no need for

special propaganda on the question of, say, whether Wrangel the landowner should

be overthrown or whether any sacrifices should be spared for the purpose, we

have just started to work on this question of the role of the trade unions in

production, and I mean the business aspect of the matter and not the question of

“principle”, the reasoning about “Soviet trade-unionism” and such like trifles;

we have just set up the agency for production propaganda, but we have as yet no

experience. We have introduced the payment of bonuses in kind, but we lack the

experience. We have set up the disciplinary courts, but we are not yet aware of

the results. Still, from the political standpoint it is the preparedness of the

masses that is crucial. Has the question been prepared, studied, weighed, and

considered from this angle? No, far from it. And that is a basic, deep-going and

dangerous political mistake, because if ever there was need to act according to

the rule of measuring your cloth seven times before cutting it once, it is in

this question. We find instead that the cutting has been started in earnest

without a single measure having been taken. We are told that “the Party must

choose between two trends”, but the false slogan of “industrial democracy “ was

invented without a single measuring.

We must try to understand the meaning of this slogan, especially in the present

political situation, when the masses are confronted with bureaucratic practices

in visual form, and when we have the question itself on the agenda. Comrade

Trotsky says in his theses that on the question of workers’ democracy it remains

for the Congress to “enter it unanimously in the record”. That is not correct.

There is more to it than an entry in the record; an entry in the record fixes

what has been fully weighed and measured, whereas the question of industrial

democracy is far from having been fully weighed, tried and tested. Just think

how the masses may interpret this slogan of “industrial democracy”.

“We, the rank and file who work among the masses, say that there is need for new

blood, that things must be corrected and the bureaucrats ousted, and here you

are beating about the bush, talking about getting on with production and

displaying democracy in achieving success in production; we refuse to get on

with production under such a bureaucratic set-up of central and other boards, we

want a different one.” You have not given the masses a chance to discuss things,

to see the point, and to think it over; you have not allowed the Party to gain

fresh experience but are already acting in haste, overdoing it, and producing

formulas which are theoretically false. Just think how this mistake will be

further amplified by unduly zealous functionaries! A political leader is

responsible not only for the quality of his leadership but also for the acts of

those he leads. He may now and again be unaware of what they are about, he may

often wish they had not done some thing, but the responsibility still falls on


I now come to the November 9 and December 7 plenary meetings of the Central

Committee, which gave expression to all these mistakes in action, rather than in

logical categories, premises and theoretical reasoning. This threw the Centrai

Committee into confusion; it is the first time this has happened in our Party’s

history, in time of revolution, and it is dangerous. The crux was that there was

a division, there was the “buffer” group of Bukharin, Preobrazhensky and

Serebryakov, which did the most harm and created the most confusion.

You will recall the story of Glavpolitput[8] and Tsektran.[9] The resolution of

the Ninth Congress of the R.C.P. in April 1920 said that Glavpolitput was being

set up as a “temporary” institution, and that conditions should be brought back

to normal “as soon as possible”. In September you read, “Return to normal

conditions”.[9b] The plenary meeting was held in November (November 9), and

Trotsky came up with his theses and ideas about trade-unionism. How ever fine

some of his points about production propaganda may be, he should have been told

that all this was neither here nor there, quite beside the mark, and a step

backward it is something the C.C. should not be dealing with at present.

Bukharin says: “It is very good.” It may be very good, but that is no answer to

the question. After a heated debate, a resolution is adopted by 10 to 4 saying

in a polite and comradely way that Tsektran has itself “already got down to . .

. strengthening and developing methods of proletarian democracy within the

union”. It adds that Tsektran must “take an active part in the general work of

the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions, being incorporated in it on an

egual footing with other trade union bodies”.

What is the gist of the Central Committee’s decision? It is obviously this:

“Comrades of Tsektran! You must do more than go through the motions of carrying

out Congress and C.C. decisions, you must actually do so to help all trade

unions by your work, wipe out every trace of red tape, favouritism, arrogance,

the we-are-better-than-you attitude, and boasts of being richer and getting more


We then get down to brass tacks. A commission is set up, and the names of its

members are published. Trotsky walks out, refuses to serve on the commission,

and disrupts its work. What are his reasons? There is only one. Lutovinov is apt

to play at opposition. That is true, and that also goes for Osinsky. Frankly

speaking, it is not a pleasant game. But do you call that a reason? Osinsky was

making an excellent job of the seed campaign. The thing to do was to work with

him, in spite of his “opposition campaign”, for this business of disrupting the

work of a commission is bureaucratic, un-Soviet, un-socialist, incorrect and

politically harmful. Such methods are doubly incorrect and politically harmful

at a time when there is need to separate the wheat from the chaff within the

“opposition”. When Osinsky conducts an “opposition campaign”, I tell him: “This

is a harmful campaign”, but it is a pleasure to see him conduct the seed

campaign. I shall not deny that, like Ishchenko and Shlyapnikov, Lutovinov is

making a mistake in his “opposition campaign”, but that is no reason to disrupt

the work of a commission.

What did the commission in fact signify? It signified transition to practical

work from intellectualist talk about sterile disagreements. What the commission

was due to discuss and deal with was production propaganda, bonuses, and

disciplinary courts. It was then that Comrade Bukharin, the head of the “buffer

group”, together with Preobrazhensky and Serebryakov, seeing the Central

Committee dangerously divided, set out to create a buffer, one that I find

difficult to describe in parliamentary terms. If I could draw cartoons as well

as Comrade Bukharin does, I would depict him as a man pouring a bucket of

kerosene on the flames, and give the following caption: “Buffer kerosene”.

Comrade Bukharin wanted to create something, and his intentions were no doubt

most sincere and entirely in the “buffer” spirit. But the buffer failed to

materialise; the upshot was that he failed to take account of the political

situation and, what is more, made some theoretical mistakes.

Should all such disputes have been brought up for broad discussion? Was it worth

going into these trifles? Was it worth wasting the few precious weeks before a

Party congress? Wecould have used the timo to analyse and study the question of

bonuses, disciplinary courts and coalescence. Those are the questions we could

have given a practical solution to in the C.C. commission. If Comrade Bukharin

wished to create a buffer, instead of giving a display of barking up the wrong

tree, he should have demanded and insisted that Comrade Trotsky remained on the

commission. If he had said and done that, we should have been on the right

track, with the commission looking into the practical aspects of such things as

one-man management, democracy, appointees, etc.

But to go on. By December (the December 7 Plenary Meeting), we were already

faced with this flare-up of the watermen, which intensified the conflict, and as

a result there were now eight votes in the Central Committee to our seven.

Comrade Bukharin, in an effort to bring about a “reconciliation” through the use

of his “buffer”, hastily wrote the “theoretical” part of the December plenum’s

resolution, but with the commission a shambles, nothing, of course, could come

of it.

Where did Glavpolitput and Tsektran err? Certainly not in their use of coercion;

that goes to their credit. Their mistake was that they failed to switch to

normal trade union work at the right time and without conflict, as the Ninth

Congress of the R.C.P. required; they failed to adapt themselves to the trade

unions and help them by meeting them on an equal footing. Heroism, zeal, etc.,

are the positive side of military experience; red-tape and arrogance are the

negative side of the experience of the worst military types. Trotsky’s theses,

whatever his intentions, do not tend to play up the best, but the worst in

military experience. It must be borne in mind that a political leader is

responsible not only for his own policy but also for the acts of those he leads.

The last thing I want to tell you about—something I called myself a fool for

yesterday—is that I had altogether overlooked Comrade Rudzutak’s theses. His

weak point is that he does not speak in ringing tones; he is not an impressive

or eloquent speaker. He is liable to be overlooked. Unable to attend the

meetings yesterday, I went through my material and found a printed leaflet

issued for the Fifth All-Russia Trade Union Conference, which was-held from

November 2 to 6, 1920.[11] It is called: The Tasks of the Trade Unions in

Production. Let me read it to you, it is not long. Fifth All-Russia Trade Union

Conference The tasks of the trade unions in production (Theses Of Comrade

Rudzutak’s Report)

1. Immediately after the October Revolution, the trade unions proved to be

almost the only bodies which, while exercising workers’ control, were able and

bound to undertake the work of organising and managing production. In that early

period of the Soviet power, no state apparatus for the management of the

national economy had yet been set up, while sabotage on the part of factory

owners and senior technicians brought the working class squarely up against the

task of safeguarding industry and getting the whole of the country’s economic

apparatus back into normal running order.

2. In the subsequent period of the Supreme Economic Council’s work, when a

considerable part of it consisted in liquidating private enterprises and

organising state management to run them, the trade unions carried on this work

jointly and side by side with the state economic management agencies.

This parallel set-up was explained and justified by the weakness of the state

agencies; historically it was vindicated by the establishment of full contact

between the trade unions and the economic management agencies.

3. The centre of gravity in the management of industry and the drafting of a

production programme shifted to these agencies as a result of their

administration, the gradual spread of their control over production and

management and the-co-ordination of the several parts. In view of this, the work

of the trade unions in organising production was reduced to participation in

forming the collegiums of chief administrations, central boards, and factory


4. At the present time, we are once again squarely faced with the question of

establishing the closest possible ties between the economic agencies of the

Soviet Republic and the trade unions, for the best use must be made of every

working individual, and the whole mass of producers must be induced to take a

conscious part in production, for the state apparatus of economic management,

gradually gaining in size and complexity, has been transformed into a huge

bureaucratic machine which is out of all proportion to the scale of industry,

and is inevitably impelling the trade unions to take direct part in organising

production not only through its men in the economic agencies but also as an

organised whole.

5. While the Supreme Economic Council’s point of departure in drawing up an

overall production programme is the availability of the material elements of

production (raw materials, fuel, the state of machinery, etc.), the trade unions

must look at it from the standpoint of organising labour for the tasks of

production and its best use. Therefore, the overall production programme, in

whole and in part, must be drawn up with the participation of the trade unions

in order to combine the use of the material resources of production and manpower

in the best possible way.

6. Only if the whole mass of those engaged in production consciously take a hand

in establishing real labour discipline, fighting deserters from the labour

front, etc., can these tasks be fulfilled. Bureaueratic methods and orders will

not do; it must be brought home to each participant in production that his

production tasks are appropriate and important; that each must take a hand not

only in fulfilling his assignments, but also play an intelligent part in

correcting any technical and organisational defects in the sphere of production.

The tasks of the trade unions in this sphere are tremendous. They must teach

their members in each shop and in each factory to react to and take account of

all defects in the use of manpower arising from improper handling of technical

means or unsatisfactory management. The sum total of the experience gained by

separate enterprises and industry as a whole must be used to combat red-tape,

bureaucratic practices and carelessness.

7. In order to lay special emphasis on the importance of these production tasks,

they must be organisationally worked into current operations. As the economic

departments of the trade unions, which are being set up in pursuance of the

decision of the Third All-Russia Congress, extend their activity, they must

gradually explain and define the nature of all trade union work. Thus, in the

present social conditions, when all of production is geared to the satisfaction

of the working people’s needs, wage rates and bonuses must be closely tied in

with and must depend on the extent to which the production plan is fulfilled.

Bonuses in kind and partial payment of wages in kind must be gradually

transformed into a system of workers’ supply which depends on the level of

labour productivity.

8. Trade union work on these lines would, on the one hand, put an end to the

existence of parallel bodies (political departments, etc.) and, on the other,

restore the close ties between the masses and the economic management agencies.

9. After the Third Congress, the trade unions largely failed to carry out their

programme for participation in economic construction owing, first, to the

military conditions, and second, to their organisational weakness and isolation

from the administrative and practical work of the economic bodies.

10. In view of this, the trade unions should set themselves the following

immediate practical tasks: a) the most active participation in solving

production and management problems; b) direct participation, with the respective

economic agencies, in setting up competent administrative bodies; c) careful

consideration of the various types of management bodies, and their influence on

production; d) unfailing participation in working out and laying down economic

plans and production programmes; e) organisation of labour in accordance with

the economic priorities; f) development of an extensive organization for

production agitation and propaganda.

11. The economic departments of the trade unions and of their organisations must

be actually transformed into powerful and expeditious levers for the trade

unions’ systematic participation in organising production.

12. In the matter of providing workers with steady material supplies, the trade

unions must shift their influence onto the distribution bodies of the

Commissariat for Food, both local and central, taking a practical and

business-like part and exercising controI in all the distributive bodies, and

paying special attention to the activity of central and gubernia workers’ supply


13. In view of the fact that the narrow departmental interests of some chief

administrations, central boards, etc., have plunged the so-called “priority”

into a state of utter confusion, the trade unions must everywhere uphold the

real order of economic priorities and review the existing system so as to

determine them in accordance with the actual importance of the various

industries and the availability of material resources in the country.

14. Special attention must be given to the so-called model group of factories to

help them set an example through the organisation of efficient management,

labour discipline and trade union activities.

15. In labour organisation, apart from the introduction of a harmonious

wage-rate system and the overhaul of output rates, the trade unions should take

a firm hand in fighting the various forms of labour desertion (absenteeism,

lateness, etc.). The disciplinary courts, which have not received due attention

until now, must be turned into a real means of combating breaches of proletarian

labour discipline.

16. The economic departments must be entrusted with the fulfilment of these

tasks and also the drafting of a practical plan for production propaganda and a

number of measures to improve the economic condition of the workers. It is

necessary, therefore, to authorise the economic department of the All-Russia

Central Council of Trade Unions to call a special All-Russia Conference of

Economic Departments in the near future to discuss the practical problems of

economic construction in connection with the world of state economic agencies.

I hope you see now why I called myself names. There you have a platform, and it

is very much better than the one Comrade Trotsky wrote after a great deal of

thinking, and the one Comrade Bukharin wrote (the December 7 Plenum resolution)

without any thinking at all. All of us members of the Central Committee who have

been out of touch with the trade Union movement for many years would profit from

Comrade Rudzutak’s experience, and this also goes for Comrade Trotsky and

Comrade Bukharin. The trade unions have adopted this platform.

We all entirely forgot about the disciplinary courts, but “industrial

democracy”, without bonuses in kind or disciplinary courts, is nothing but empty


I make a comparison between Rudzutak’s theses and those submitted by Trotsky to

the Central Committee. At the end of thesis 5, I read:

“. . a reorganisation of the unions must be started right away, that is, a

selection of functionaries must be above all made from precisely that angle”. .

. .

There you have an example of the real bureaucratic approach: Trotsky and

Krestinsky selecting the trade union “functionaries”!

Let me say this once again: here you have an explanation of Tsektran’s mistake.

It was not wrong to use pressure; that goes to its credit. It made the mistake

of failing to cope with the general tasks of all the trade unions, of failing to

act itself and to help all the trade unions to employ the disciplinary comrades’

courts more correctly, swiftly and successfully. When I read about the

disciplinary courts in Comrade Rudzutak’s theses it occurred to me that there

might be a decree on this matter. And in fact there was. It is the Regulations

Governing Workers’ Disciplinary Comrades’ Courts, issued on November 14, 1919

(Collection of Statutes No. 537).

The trade unions have the key role in these courts I don’t know how good these

courts are, how well they function, and whether they always function. A study of

our own practical experience would be a great deal more useful than anything

Comrades Trotsky and Bukharin have written.

Let me end by summing up everything there is on the question. I must say that it

was a great mistake to put up these disagreements for broad Party discussion and

the Party Congress. It was a political mistake. We should have had a

business-like discussion in the commission, and only there, and would have in

that case moved forward; as it is we are sliding back, and shall keep sliding

back to abstract theoretical propositions for several weeks, instead of dealing

with the problem in a business-like manner. Personally, I am sick and tired of

it, and quite apart from my illness, it would give me great pleasure to get away

from it all. I am prepared to seek refuge anywhere.

The net result is that there are a number of theoretical mistakes in Trotsky’s

and Bukharin’s theses: they contain a number of things that are wrong in

principle. Politically, the whole approach to the matter is utterly tactless.

Comrade Trotsky’s “theses” are politically harmful. The sum and substance of his

policy is bureaucratic harassment of the trade unions. Our Party Congress will,

I am sure, condemn and reject it. (Prolonged, stormy applause.)


[1] Lenin’s first speech to Party activists in the discussion of the role and

tasks of the trade unions in socialist construction was delivered at the Bolshoi

Theatre on December 30, 1920.

Trotsky had started the discussion in the Communist group of the Fifth

All-Russia Trade Union Conference on November 3 with his call “to tighten the

screws of War Communism” as opposed to the Party’s line to stimulate democratic

activity in the trade unions.

The disagreements turned “on the different approach to the mass, the way of

winning it over, and keeping in touch with it” (Lenin ). The disagreements in

the group were brought before the Central Committee Plenary Meeting. But

Trotsky’s December 24 speech before the delegates of the Eighth All-Russia

Congress of Soviets and trade union activists carried the issue outside the

Central Committee. On December 25, he published his views in a pamphlet.

Lenin was against any discussion, believing that it distracted the Party’s

attention and forces from the immediate tasks of fighting the economic

dislocation and the famine. In his-speeches and articles— The Party Crisis and

Once Again on the Trade Unions, the Current Situation and the Mistakes of

Trotsky and Bukharin —he put forward and developed a number of important

principles underlying the trade unions’ role in the dictatorship of the

proletariat and their tasks in socialist construction.

The discussion lasted more than two months. The overwhelming majority of the

Party organisations approved Lenin’s platform and rejected the opposition’s. The

results of the discussion were summed up at the Tenth Congress of the Party on

March 8-16, 1921.

[2] On its agenda were the current tasks of economic construction and the

question of the trade union movement. It defined the short-term economic tasks

and stressed the need for the trade unions’ active participation in socialist

construction. It adopted the following resolutions: “The Current Tasks of

Econormic Construction” and “The Trade Unions and Their Organisation”. See

K.P.S.S. v rezolutsiakh i resheniakh syezdov, konferentsi i plenumov TsK (The

C.P.S.U. in the Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and C.C

Plenary Meetings, Part 1, 1954, pp. 477-90, 490-94).

[3]The reference is to the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’,

Peasants’, Red Army and Cossack Deputies held in Moscow on December 22-29, 1920.

It was attended by 2,537 delegates, the greatest number ever. Of them 1,728 had

voice and vote, and 809, voice only. Of the total number of delegates 91.7 per

cent were Communists; 2.7, Communist sympathisers; 3.9, non-party people; 0.3,

Mensheviks; 0.3, Bundists; 0.15, Left S.R.s; 0.15, anarchists, and 0.8, from

other parties.

The Congress met at a time when the war against the foreign intervention and

internal counter-revolution was coming to a end, and when the economic front

stood out as “the main and most important one” (Lenin ). On its agenda there

were the following questions, the chief of which had been discussed beforehand

by the Communist group: report on the activity of the All-Russia Central

Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, electrification of

Russia; rehabilitation of industry and transport; development of agricultural

production and promotion of farming; efficiency of Soviet establishments and the

struggle against bureaucratic practices. These problems were thrashed out in

three sections: industry, agriculture and Soviet administration.

Lenin guided much of the work of the Congress. At the plenary meeting on

December 22, he gave a report on the activity of the All-Russia Central

Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, and on December 23,

he summed up the debate. He spoke six times at the Communist group meetings on

December 21, 22, 24 and 27 on the question of concessions and the draft law on

measures to consolidate and develop peasant farming. By an overwhelming

majority, the Congress adopted a resolution on Lenin’s report, approving the

government’s activity, and rejected a draft resolution motioned by the other


The Congress adopted a plan for the electrification of the country (GOELRO),

worked out on Lenin’s initiative and instructions. This was the first long-range

economic plan of the Soviet state and Lenin called it “the second Party

Programme”. He also wrote the resolution on Krzhizhanovsky’s report.

Another major question on the agenda was a draft law on measures to consolidate

and develop peasant farming, which had been adopted by the Council of People’s

Commissars on December 14, 1920. Lenin stressed that the law was “a kind of a

focus around which hundreds of decrees and bills of the Soviet power were

grouped”. Lenin took part in the discussion of its principal clauses by the

non-Party peasant delegates to the Congress at a special meeting on December 22,

and by the Communist group on December 24 and 27. The draft law was adopted


The Congress passed a comprehensive resolution to improve and reorganise the

entire Soviet apparatus as required by the transition to peaceful economic

construction. It regulated relations between central and local organs of power

and administration. The Congress also discussed the reorganisation of the whole

system of economic management in accordance with the new economic tasks, and

approved a new statute of the Council of Labour and Defence.

It instituted the Order of the Red Banner of Labour as an award for dedication,

initiative, efficiency and hard work in solving economic tasks.

[4] The reference is to the resolution of the Ninth All-Russia Conference of the

R.C.P.(B.), “The Current Tasks of Party Organisation”. See K.P.S.S. v

rezolutsiakh . . . (The C.P.S.U. in the Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses,

Conferences and C.C. Plenary Meetings, Part 1, 1954, pp. 506-12).

[4b] The reference is to the November and December plenary meeting of the

Central Committee in 1920. For the text of their resolutions see Pravda No. 255

of November 13, and No. 281 of December 14, and also Izvestia of the C.C.,

R.C.P. [5] No. 26 of December 20.

[5] Izvestia of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party was an

information organ dealing with Party problems. It was published under a

resolution of the Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) as a weekly supplement to

Pravda from May 28, 1919, and as an independent organ from October 1920.

In 1929, it was transformed into a fortnightly, Partiinoye Stroitelstvo (Party

Construction ), and in June 1946 renamed Partiinaya Zhizn (Party Life ).

[6] The “buffer group” took shape during the trade union discussion in 1920-21.

It was headed by N. I. Bukharin and included Y. Larin, Y. A. Preobrazhensky, L.

P. Serebryakov, G. Y. Sokolnikov, V. N. Yakovleva and others. They tried to

reconcile the differences between Lenin and Trotsky’s views, acting as a

“buffer” in disagreements on the question of the role and tasks of the trade

unions. In fact Bukharin attacked Lenin and defended Trotsky.

Lenin characterised the “buffer” group and its anti-Party views in his article,

“The Party Crisis”, in the pamphlet, Once Again on the Trade Unions, the Current

Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin, and elsewhere.

[7] The Council of Workers’ and Peasants’ Defence was set up by the All-Russia

Central Executive Committee on November 30, 1918, to implement its September 2,

1918 decree which proclaimed the Soviet Republic a military camp. Lenin was

appointed its Chairman. It was vested with extraordinary powers in mobilising

the resources of the Soviet state for defence in that exceptionally difficult


The Council was the Republic’s chief military-economic and planning centre

during the intervention and Civil War and also controlled the activity of the

Revolutionary Military Council and other military organs. Its decrees were

binding on all Soviet citizens, as well as on central and local agencies. Early

in April 1920, it was reorganised into the Council of Labour and Defence

(C.L.D.) (Soviet Truda i Oborony—STO), and under a decision of the Eighth

All-Russia Congress of Soviets in December 1920 it began to operate as a

government commission responsible for co-ordinating the work of all economic

departments. It was abolished in 1937.

[8] Glavpolitput—the Chief Political Department of the People’s Commissariat for

Communications—was formed as a provisional organ under the direct leadership of

the Party’s Central Committee in February 1919, and in January 1920 it was

renamed the Chief Political Administration. It took extraordinary measures to

rehabilitate the railways that had been ruined in the imperialist war and the

Civil War, to improve Party and political work among railway workers, and to

strengthen and stimulate the activity of the railwaymen’s trade union and make

it an instrument for the further development of the railways. It introduced

military discipline on the railways to gear them to the war effort. The measures

effected by Glavpolitput saved the railways from utter ruin, but produced

bureaucratic and undemocratic practices in the trade unions and a tendency to

lose touch with the masses.

It was abolished by a Central Committee decision on December 7, 1920, at the end

of the Civil War and the start of peaceful development.

[9] Tsektran—the Central Committee of the Joint Trade Union of Rail and Water

Transport Workers. In September 1920, the two unions were merged to set up a

strong centralised administration capable of tackling the tasks of rapidly

rehabilitating transport, whose stoppages tended to paralyse the national

economy. Its extraordinary powers and military methods of work, which sprang

from the enormity of the tasks before it, bred bureaucratic practices, the

appointments system, administration by injunction, etc. The plenary meetings of

the C.C. on November 8 and December 7, 1920, condemned Tsektran’s methods and

adopted a decision to incorporate it into the general system of the All-Russia

Central Council of Trade Unions on a par with other unions. Tsektrall was

advised to change its methods, develop trade union democracy, make all trade

union bodies elective, reduce the appointments system, etc. The First All-Russia

Congress of Transport Workers in March 1921 called by the Central Committee of

the Party expelled those communists who opposed this reform from the Tsektran

leadership and outlined new methods of work.

[9b] See Izvestia of the C.C., R.C.P. No. 26, p. 2, the Resolution of the

September Plenum of the C.C., Paragraph 3, which said: “The C.C. further

believes that there has been a great improvement in the grave situation in the

transport workers’ unions, which produced Glavpolitput and Politvod,[10] as

temporary levers for assisting and organising the work. Therefore, incorporation

of these organisations in the union, as union agencies being adapted to and

absorbed by the union apparatus, can and must now proceed.”

[10] Politvod—the Chief Political Administration of Water Transport of the

People’s Commissariat for Communications—was set up inApril 1920 as an agency of

Glavpolitput to carry on political education among the workers and exercise

political control over the technical and administrative personnel; to put water

transport on its feet as soon as possible; to stimulate higher productivity and

improve discipline. It was dissolved in December 1920.

[11] The Party wanted the trade unions’ work reorganised in accordance with the

tasks of peaceful socialist construction, democracy developed and military

methods of administration abolished. This was opposed by Trotsky, who demanded,

at the Communist group meeting on November 3, a “shake-up” of the trade unions.

He wanted “the screws tightened” and the trade unions governmentalised

immediately. He disagreed on the “approach to the mass, the way of winning it

over, and keeping in touch with it”. His speech started the Party discussion on

the trade unions, but the Communist delegates rejected his demands, for their

realisation would have abolished the trade unions and undermined the

dictatorship of the proletariat. That is why his theses were discussed by the

Party Central Committee. At the November 8 C.C. Plenary Meeting, Lenin came out

with his own theses which, when put to the vote, won 8 votes, as against 7 for