Russia: Class Struggle. Unemployment

  Class Struggle In Russia

Under capitalism the class struggle is a form of guerrilla warfare which is fought out continually between wage and salary earners on the one hand and the privileged minority who own the means of production on the other. But the trump card always remains with the latter, since it is they who manipulate the state machinery and can use it to suppress working class resistance if the struggle becomes really savage.

Russia, just like any other capitalist country, conforms to this pattern. In their Open Letter to the Party Kuron and Modzelewski revealed that in 1962 tanks had been used against workers in Novocherkassk, a small town near Rostov in southern Russia. Now the New China News Agency has come out with fresh reports of brutal suppression. According to Peking there were disturbances in Chimkent (Soviet Central Asia) in June 1967 which resulted in tanks and armoured cars being used against demonstrating workers. Casualties are reported as several dozen dead and numerous injured and arrested.

The New China News Agency also gave news of a strike by workers in Kharkov, in the Ukraine. The only details given were that once again it was “crushed by the force of arms”.

Unemployment in Russia

In 1965 a number of Western newspapers carried reports of unemployment in Russia and we commented on these in the Socialist Standard (August 1965). These articles were mainly based on a paper by Professor Efim Manevich which appeared in the Russian economics journal Voprosy Ekonomiki (June 1965). Since, then the Novosti Press Agency in Moscow has published a rejoinder by Professor Manevich (USSR: Full Employment?) which gives details of “the employment problems solved and of those that are to be solved in the USSR in the near future”.

Manevich states quite plainly at the beginning of his pamphlet that unemployment has been wiped out in Russia—and then proceeds to prove just the opposite.

The seasonal nature of much farming work is a considerable problem, especially when it is remembered that 46 per cent of Russia’s population is still engaged in rural occupations. Professor Manevich writes that:

Collective and state farms are taking measures to make better use of their labour resources in the autumn-winter period. It is at this time—from January through March and November-December —that more than a third of all able-bodied collective farmers have no work to do.

He refers to the work of another Russian economist (G. Sarkisyan) whose investigations have shown that “one able-bodied collective farmer is busy in the collective economy less than 200 days a year on the average which is even less than three quarters of the annual sum total of working time”. In fact “at many collective farms in the western areas of the Ukraine and Byelorussia, as well as in the Daghestan, North-Ossetian, Chechen-Ingush, Mari, Mordovian and Chuvash Autonomous Republics, the labour force is only 40-50 per cent occupied.”

But this is not only a rural problem:

     Random investigations carried out in a number of small and medium-size towns of Chelyabinsk Region showed that more than 18 per cent of the people who were not gainfully employed were unable to take part in social production because of lack of employment in their particular trade or profession or in the absence of housing facilities. For instance, in the town of Asha 21.1 per cent of all polled persons did not take part in social production because they could not find employment in their particular trade and profession.

Other workers can only find work by travelling long distances each day.

   This applies, for instance, to Noginsk, Mozhaisk, Pavlovo Posad and some other towns of Moscow Region where mostly textile enterprises are sited. That is why some of the men there have to find jobs in other towns and spend sometimes 2 or 3 hours traveling to and from work.

The overall situation seems to be that while the fraction of the able-bodied population not employed in social production is 6-7 per cent in Moscow and Leningrad, the figure for the whole of the Soviet Union is 20 per cent and in Siberia it reaches 26 per cent Yet Professor Manevich still denies that there is unemployment on the grounds that those not engaged in social production can occupy themselves with housework (which applies to the many women who cannot find work) or with their “individual auxiliary economies”. This last phrase refers to the allotments which all collective farmers and state farmworkers, as well as many industrial workers, have. Professor Manevich argues that these people can’t be said to be unemployed since they can busy themselves on their plots of land and so scrape a living in that way. Ibis is largely a question of semantics—but Manevich can’t have it both ways, either they are employed or many are chronically underemployed. Whichever way you look at it, many Russian workers cannot find suitable work and we will quote the Professor on that:

  (There) are potential possibilities of drawing into social production a certain portion of the able-bodied population especially women, who wait to work but do not do it due to the inadequate development of local industries, services and other spheres which employ mostly women.
Due to the inadequate development of industry in many medium-size and small towns the working people have to engage in their individual economies and housekeeping.