1970s >> 1973 >> no-821-january-1973

Russia: An Underground Protest

We publish on our centre pages a translation of one of three leaflets distributed to Western correspondents in Moscow in June last year. That it was distributed to Western correspondents is indeed all we know for a fact about the leaflet. We do not know who wrote it or who distributed it: whether a real opposition called “The Citizens’ Committee” or just an individual oppositionist or even the Russian secret police, the KGB, in order to frame some oppositionist or even, for that matter, some Western intelligence agency in order to discredit the Russian government. We don’t even know if it was distributed to Russian workers as well as to Western correspondents. Such are the problems of assessing anti-government documents from a police state.

Nevertheless, we feel that the text is worth publishing since, assuming it to be genuine, it would reflect an advance in the general thinking of members of the small underground oppositionist groups in Russia, specifically an appeal for “working class” action. Particularly interesting is the emphatic rejection of the claim that Russia is socialist and the accurate description of Russia as “state capitalism”.

It is not entirely clear, however, whether the authors would regard themselves (or are supposed to be regarded) as “socialists”. Their comparatively favourable, and somewhat idealized, comments on Western society could mean that they are critics of state capitalism because they favour private capitalism. On the other hand, their appeal to workers to struggle and strike would suggest a pro- working class ideology.

But whatever they would call themselves they are certainly not Socialists as we understand the term. Part of the leaflet — the criticism of so-called foreign aid — betrays a nationalist approach; the Russian ruling class, for instance, is accused of “ruining the country”.

Apart from its description of Russia as state capitalist, the leaflet is interesting also for identifying the political dictatorship exercised by the CPSU in a State-owned economy as the source of the power of the “Partocracy’’ to constitute a privileged and exploiting class. And equally for its appeal to workers to struggle to win improvements in their living standards and some basic political rights.

The leaflet mentions various towns where there have been strikes and demonstrations. Apart from Moscow and Leningrad (and to some extent Novocherkassk) the others are in non-Russian speaking parts of the Soviet Union: Temir-Tau is in Kazakhstan, Chirchuk in Uzbekistan and Kaunas in Lithuania. Which suggests that the protests there might have a nationalist rather than a trade-unionist or democratic content.

As far as we know this is the first full English translation of this document. The Russian text we used was published in “Posev”, a Russian emigré journal, in its August 1972 issue.

Editorial Committeee