On my blog, we have had some interesting discussions about the nature of socialism and what constitutes a so-called “workers state”. Obviously, a “workers state” would be a state in which the major economic assets are owned by the entire working class. But what would that mean, concretely, for an individual worker? Would it mean that he would exert overbearing influence on the government? Not exactly… That would be analogous to affirming, that in a capitalist country every capitalist is a little king and gets to tell the government what to do. Hardly… Individual capitalists are often at odds with their government. Marx stated this point very clearly in his Communist Manifesto: “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie. “
With emphasis on the words “common affairs” and “whole bourgeoisie“, not “my bourgeois neighbor Bob”. Since Bob is an idiot who cannot rule even inside his own home, let alone the entire nation. And if this is true of capitalists, who are a minority among the overall population, how much triply true must it be of workers, who number in the millions? You can’t have millions of people running the nation, it would be like bedlam. They must elect a representative executive committee. And the decisions of that committee are not necessarily going to suit everyone. That’s just politics.
So this morning I saw this historical piece written by Dmitry Lyskov, it fits into this theme perfectly, and it actually serves as a case study on why individual workers and even groups of workers, even mascots of the industrial proletariat (such as Coal Miners) cannot always be trusted. Yeah, most of the time these guys are the Salt of the Earth, but not always. Lyskov’s piece deals with recent Russian history of 20 years ago. The headline reads: Miners Assisted In the Deconstruction Of the USSR And Almost Destroyed Russia As Well.
Lyskov starts with the events of the “Trans-Siberian” strike which began in 1989, brought down the transportation system, and cut Russia in two. Initiated by desperate miners, the strike helped to bring Boris Yeltsin and his “team of reformers” into the government. And the miners did not limit their demands to the economic: They demanded market reforms and helped to bring about the restoration of capitalism. In this regard they are similar to the Polish Solidarity movement which turned Marx on his head by using the power of the industrial working class to destroy the workers state and return to capitalism. An irony much appreciated by the international bourgeoisie who applauded these efforts. And which, by the way, can serve as a reliable litmus test: If the Westie media adores something, then you can be sure that whatever process they are praising, even if it’s a workers strike, cannot bode well for the actual socialist movement.
The strikes began in 1989, in the coal-mining regions of Vorkuta and Kuzbass, as the so-called “Soap Revolt”. The grimy miners would come up from their shift, go to take a shower and find there was no soap in the bin. At that time (various root causes hypothesized by economists) the Soviet economy was in the grip of some type of ridiculous systemic glitch, under which ordinary consumer products suddenly disappeared from the shelves of the stores: Everything from soap to cigarettes. And the workers did as workers do — and quite rightfully — they went on strike and demanded their most basic rights. The strikes then spread everywhere, even to the Donbass. Initially the demands were not even so much economic, as just basic: The workers demanded food, basic consumers goods, etc. But then, rather quickly, as the political “vanguards” inserted themselves, the demands took on a highly-charged and anti-Communist political character: The Vorkuta Strike Executive Committee demanded (1) the repeal of the Constitution of the USSR, (2) to reduce by 40% the apparatus of bureaucracy, (3) to invite American economist Vasily Leontiev into the country to conduct “reforms”, and (4) to award complete economic independence to the coal mines. The Kuzbass committee went even further and demanded that the mines be allowed to engage in foreign trade with their product, by passing the Soviet Foreign Trade Ministry! Miners were promised lavish bonuses and a gilded seat at the capitalist trough.
From the Tribune of the Supreme Soviet, Mikhail Gorbachov declared that the demands of the miners were just.
[to be continued]