A New, Peculiar State: Explorations in Soviet History, 1917-1937

By Andrea Graziosi | Go to book overview

ism waged its last battle against socialist emulation. The 1930s were a new world, dominated by a building fever that infected even the political police. The preeminence of state- and building[p- "socialism" became absolute.

The transformation of the trade unions after 1929 was part of this picture. The "Face to production" line led, as Tomskii rightly foresaw, to the death of trade unionism as such. Trade unions continued to exist, of course, but they were a new organism and the break with their past was definitive. In 1930 it became their duty to "form, educate and discipline" millions of new workers. 95 It was a huge task, implying the growth of union bureaucracy (which was also caused by the extraordinary increase in the size of the workforce) and giving this bureaucracy a new role, one quite unconventional for unions. Actually, however, to "educate and discipline" soon became the province of other bodies, including those responsible for producing the myth discussed earlier. The growing trade union apparatus was thus left without well-defined functions and rendered powerless inside the shops. In fact, after the Ninth Trade Union Congress in 1932, seventeen years were to pass before a similar congress was convened. In January 1933 Ordzhonikidze could state that "one cannot make out what union organizations are doing inside factories."

During the ensuing debate a solution emerged that Piatakov thus summed up: The trade unions are to be helpers (pomoshchniki) inside the shops (i.e., they were to help the administration, support its policies, etc.), and masters of the workers' lives outside them. In other words, they had to tend the needs of workers, administering what was left of the social state outlined after the Revolution. In 1934 the disbanding of the labor commissariat and the transfer of its tasks to trade unions confirmed them in this role. 96


NOTES
1.
This chapter was first presented at the conference "State and Labor in the 1930s," organized in January 1993 by the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici and the Università di Napoli "Federico II."
2.
See the 1928-1931 issues of Sotsialisticheskii vestnik, in particular the articles by A. lugov and S. Schwarz, as well as S. Schwarz, Labor in the Soviet Union ( New York, 1952). Mensheviks fell into the same ideological trap to which the Left Opposition had succumbed: Once socialism was ruled out, their minds automatically turned to capitalism. They were thus blind to other possible developments.
3.
There had actually been a decrease not in productivity but in the growth in productivity, a normal phenomenon given diminishing returns. Apart from trade union publications and some of those issued by the labor commissariat, all the Soviet press participated in the campaign. The Torgovo-promyshlennaia

-214-

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A New, Peculiar State: Explorations in Soviet History, 1917-1937
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page III
  • Copyright Acknowledgments V
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1 - G. L. Piatakov: A Mirror of Soviet History 1
  • Notes 58
  • 2 - State and Peasants in the Reports of the Political Police, 1918-1922 65
  • Notes 108
  • 3 - At the Roots of Soviet Industrial Relations and Practices: Piatakov's Donbass in 1921 119
  • CONCLUSIONS 165
  • Notes 169
  • 4 - Stalin's Antiworker Workerism": 1924-1931" 179
  • Notes 214
  • 5-- Visitors from Other Times: Foreign Workers in the Prewar Five-Year Plans 223
  • Notes 256
  • Index of Names 267
  • About the Author 273
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