Working Class without Class Consciousness
A letter from a factory intellectual
The editor has received a letter. Although it’s unsigned, it is of interest. There is sincere pain and truth in it. We decided to publish it, without commentary. Perhaps one of our readers will answer the author.
A copy of the second issue of the paper “Workers’ Cause” happened to come into my hands. Speaking frankly, the very name provokes a smile. Which cause of the Workers’ might it speak of?
The Russian workers are the shock workers of capitalist labor! They conscientiously multiply the profits of their bosses, working without complaint for insignificant or no wages and wait until capitalism in Russia will become civilized. The Russian worker in the main hopes that the capitalists will soon be sated, will become kindly, and will guarantee the existence without poverty for his wage slaves. They piously believe, that they live poorly because capitalism is unsteady here in Russia, that it is young. But time will pass and the wild and coarse capitalism will become kind and humane.
And none of your arguments, Messrs. (or Comrades?) Marxists, can convince our workers that capitalism in the West became “civilized” after a long and extremely brutal class struggle, in which many their workers died? That, as soon as profit falls, the western capitalist will resort to lock outs, fire the worker activists, move enterprises to other countries, where the labor is cheaper.
“Thus, they say, we see, that the class war in the West is conducted in a civilized manner, with peaceful mass meetings and strikes. The workers have only economic demands, and do not at all wish to seize power”.
Have you never heard from the Russian worker that in the West Communism is unpopular among the workers, and that no one wants the dictatorship of the proletariat there? Of course, you have heard it! And that in the civilized world for workers, the capitalist boss is not at all a “parasite,” not a class enemy, but a collaborator and partner; that between them its all love and free agreement.
And the workers don’t care to understand that “civilized” capitalism is the same as “civilized” fishing. The fisherman does nothing bad to the fish, but on the contrary, throws it a bait and proposes to eat it. And the fish certainly swallows the worm on a hook voluntarily. And it does not occur to them, poor in spirit, that the capitalist boss is not their benefactor, who lets them work for barely a crust of bread, but it is the workers who give both power and riches to their boss-capitalist. His power and riches are what he underpays them, what he robs them of. Not by force, as in primitive slaveholding or feudal regimes, but “in a civilized manner, by kind accord.” The capitalist boss has plants, factories, land and mineral resources. The worker has only his hands. If you don’t want to work for such wages as are offered, go where they pay more. Or die. It’s all voluntary. For instance, according to the Labor Code proposed by the government of the Russian Federation, the worker will labor 12, 14 hours a day. Again, it’s all voluntary, by agreement!
Everything that is going on in our country happens with the tacit agreement of the workers. In the West the workers are only now securing such conditions of labor and social guarantees, which the workers in the USSR had! But the Russian worker silently prepares to accept working conditions of 19th Century capitalism. And look, the western workers are ready to fight for, and indeed do fight for, every cent, compelling the boss to take them into account, but the Russian worker simply waits, until the capitalists become kinder. No, our workers are not opposed to someone speaking for them, either a party, or a hero, they will even applaud him, but they will not involve themselves personally in such nonsense as the struggle for a decent standard of living. Our workers have something more important to do – to cultivate their vegetable garden, to work two or three jobs, to enrich the boss, to hit the bottle! Our Robinson Crusoes survive on their own. But capitalism attacks on all fronts, and there is no one to civilize it, although this would seem to be the historical task of the working class itself – the antipode of the capitalist class. However, our “fighters” struggle more with their bottles, and bow to the management. You hear from each and every one that they are all “against”, but when the management gathers them together, they are all “for”. Enough of this is seen at the plant daily…
So if you, Messrs. Marxists, publish a newspaper under the name “Workers’ Cause”, then publish there material about how to cultivate flower gardens, what kind of handicrafts in what region are most profitable, in order to have the means, not for the education of the children, or for medical treatment, but perhaps to pay for one’s funeral, what ingredients make the best quality home-brew, etc. Yes, change your newspaper. I suggest the names “School for Survival”, “Rescue Territory”. Perhaps, “Save Yourself, He Who Can!” These names more closely express the political consciousness of the Russian worker.
A factory intellectual.