Industrial Conscription in Russia
At the time the Daily Worker was suppressed the Government here were about to introduce a scheme of compulsory registration of workers for various industries producing war and other essential materials. The Communists, indeed, maintained that the two events were connected. Thus Mr. Harry Pollitt in a meeting at Manchester:
He said it was significant that the suppression of this newspaper should coincide with the attempt to introduce industrial conscription. (Manchester Guardian, February 10th.)
Those who do not know Mr. Pollitt and the Communist Party to which he belongs may imagine that the Communists are opposed to industrial conscription. Nothing could be further from the truth. They object to it only in this country, never a word of criticism came from them about industrial conscription in Russia.
The following particulars of the Russian industrial conscription measures decided on by the Russian Government late in 1940 are taken from the Anglo-Russian News Bulletin issued by Mr. W. P. Coates, the well-known supporter and defender of all the actions of the bolshevik Government. The issue is dated December 14th, 1940.
In his introductory explanation, Mr. Coates explains that formerly there was a more or less constant flow of people from the villages into the towns attracted “by the higher wages and by the superior amenities of town life.” Now, owing to the fact that village life is approximating to town life this flow has declined. In addition, large numbers of people have tried to enter what Mr. Coates calls the “more spectacular careers, such as aviation, science, literature,” although “in many cases with no natural ability for such careers.’’ In consequence the less “spectacular’’ careers are not receiving a large enough supply of labour. Mr. Coates appears to be puzzled or even pained about this, for, as he explains, “the Soviet leaders have always emphasised that every form of work . . . is equally honourable in the U.S.S.R.” He does not dwell on the fact that they may be equally honourable but there are vast differences of pay between the “spectacular” careers and the others.
Now the Russian Government is going to force the workers into the desired direction.
The first step is to abolish free education in the “three upper forms of the secondary schools (the pupils in which are aged 15, 16 and 17) and in the Universities” and to charge a “small tuition fee.” This is intended “to regulate and stimulate the flow of young people into the free vocational schools and from thence into industry.”
After finishing their training in the various vocational schools the pupils “will be required to take up work in the trade for which they have been trained for at least four years.”
At this point Mr. Coates explains that the Soviet Government had in the past “spent enormous sums on the training of young people for trades and professions,” only to find that some of the trainees were unwilling “to take up work in places other than the large towns,” or else were given to changing their place of work very frequently.
The decrees on labour discipline, etc . . . have to a large extent put an end to this constant changing of jobs, but they have not solved the question of ensuring a constant planned supply of labour for the ever-expanding industries for the new plants, railways, etc.
The new Decree (paragraphs 9 and 10) deal with this problem in the following drastic manner:
(9) To obligate the Town Soviets to designate annually by drafting (mobilising) youths (male) of 14 to 15 years of age to Trade and Railway Schools and of 16 to 17 years of age for Factory Workshop Training Schools, the number being fixed annually by the Council of People’s Commissars of the U.S.S.R.
(10) That all these who graduate from the Trade Schools, and Factory Workshop Training Schools, are to be considered as mobilised and are obliged to work four years continuously in State enterprises, as directed by the Central Labour Reserves Administration under the Council of People’s Commissars of the U.S.S.R. Their wages at their place of work are to be in accordance with the general rates.
(Mr. Coates explains that those wage rates will be the same as those received by other workers performing the same duties.)
The tuition fees to be charged at Secondary Schools and Universities in order to discourage entrants range from 150 roubles a year up to 500 roubles a year, and Mr. Coates gives the equivalent in English currency as from £6 to £20 a year.
It need hardly be said that this elaborate scheme for preserving the privileges of the favoured minority under the Bolshevist regime is characteristic of the State capitalism that prevails in that country. It has nothing whatever in common with Socialism.