‘The Stakhanovist Movement’ by N. Markin (Leon Sedov) from New International. Vol. 3 No. 1. February, 1936.

‘Let us victoriously carry out the plan of the Stakhanovite 1936!’

Written by Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov as N. Markin while living in Paris and published in the Workers Party’s ‘New International.’

‘The Stakhanovist Movement’ by N. Markin (Leon Sedov) from New International. Vol. 3 No. 1. February, 1936.

Its real meaning and the bureaucratic distortions

Leon Sedov.

DURING THE night of August 31, Alexei Stakhanov, a coal miner, 29 years of age, peasant by birth, cut 102 tons of coal during a six-hour shift with a pneumatic drill, the average production being 6–7 tons. (The best average production in Europe [Poland, Ruhr] is about ten tons, and the maximum, 16–17 tons.) The “Stakhanovist movement” dates its birth from that day.

Shortly thereafter, the Soviet papers blazed with reports about other record-breaking feats. Boussygin, a smith (at the Gorki automotive plant) forges 112–127 crank-shafts an hour (while the smiths in the Ford plants produce 100 an hour). At turning wheels on a lathe, the norm being six pair a shift, a Stakhanovist worker turned out 12 pair which record was quickly surpassed: first by 15, then by 17 and 18 pair. In the Ural copper mines, a driller Ivanchikov produced during a single shift 970% of the norm, i.e., ten times the average productivity. That day he earned 320 rubles, that is to say, an amount representing almost twice the average monthly wage of a Soviet worker. The Vinogradov sisters, weavers by trade, from attending 70 looms passed to 144. In the Krivorog metallurgical basin, a Stakhanovist miner succeeded in surpassing the norm first 2,300%, then 2,500%! Stakhanov’s own record was beaten very quickly: the miner Gobatiuk produced 406 tons of coal during a single shift; a few days later, the driller Borisov produced almost 800 tons, passing all records, and over-fulfilling the norm 46 times!

How Are the Records Attained?

These are fantastic figures! Let us endeavor to examine whether they are real, what are the underlying causes for the results obtained, and by what means they are attained.

‘Stakhanov conveyor, organized at the shoe factory “Paris Commune”. Photo brigade Ignatovich. Soyuzphoto. Moscow city, 1935.’

First of all we must make a general observation. During the recent years Soviet industry has grown enormously and has become enriched by a new and an advanced technology. But up to now the growth of Soviet industry has been expressed principally by quantitative indices, by increase in the volume of production. There has been an uninterrupted growth in the number of factories – often of the most modern type – and of the most perfected machines, but the output per machine has increased very slightly up to last year. In other words, the existing technology has been functioning on an extremely low level, yielding only a tiny fraction of what the very same technology yields in America or in Germany. It is precisely this low level of utilization of advanced technology that has created the very possibility of this dizzy leap in production. If a motor geared to 1,000 revolutions a minute is run only at 100 revolutions, it is relatively not difficult, under normal conditions, to speed it up to 1,000 revolutions, but it is very difficult (and frequently dangerous) to speed it up to, say, 1,050 revolutions. The motors of Soviet industry have been turning at a very low speed. This difference in level between the possibilities lodged in advanced technology and its extremely weak utilization was, in the sphere of production, the necessary preliminary condition for the Stakhanovist movement.

‘Through Stakhanov’s work we will achieve a new rise in labor productivity, we will exceed the plan of 1937!’

Let us examine in greater detail the work of Stakhanov himself. A driller, as Stakhanov relates, used to work no more than 2½ or 3 hours maximum with his pneumatic drill, and the rest of the time he had to do shoring, i.e., had to perform auxiliary tasks while the drill remained idle. During a working day of two shifts, the pneumatic drill was in use only 5–6 hours instead of 12. At the present time, Stakhanov’s drill functions during the full 6 hours (instead of 2½), and the work of shoring is performed by others. In other words, an elementary division of labor has been introduced, which has immediately yielded a very great increase in the productivity of labor. A number of other improvements have been introduced into the process of production itself with the resulting increase in efficiency. But the addition of auxiliary workers makes it necessary to introduce immediately important corrections into the records, a factor which Ordjonikidze himself recognized during the Stakhanovist Congress recently held in Moscow.

“It is sometimes thought that a single man [Stakhanov – N.M.] produced 102 tons. This is not true. These 102 tons were produced by an entire brigade.”

Thus, if the output attained is divided by the whole number of workers in the brigade, we obtain not the figure 100 tons or more per worker, but at the most 30 35 tons which, in comparison to the previously attained maximum productivity of 14 tons, represents a considerable increase but of far more modest proportions. We have here an increase in the productivity of labor from 2 to 2½ times, and not from 15 to 20 times.

Irregularity of the Results

Alexi Stakhanov.

Another essential cause for the records must be sought in the fact that we are dealing here not with an average workday under normal conditions of production, but with a very special preparation, often over a considerable period of time: and, moreover, the record-maker works in a state of extraordinary intensity, which of course he is unable to sustain for any considerable period of time. (We may note, as an interesting fact, that a special function has been created in the Stakhanovist brigade, that of a worker who relieves the tired men, a function which by its nature denotes a particular over-exertion of labor power.) Thus, the records, in their majority, are obtained under entirely special and artificial conditions, and by means of enormous intensity. That is why the records not only are unstable but also are not indicative, as a perspective, of a rise in the average productivity of labor.

In most cases, the records themselves bear a unique character. It is not without good cause that Ordjonikidze, when introducing one of the Stakhanovists, Sorokov, as a most extraordinary phenomenon, remarked at the Stakhanovist Congress (Nov. 14-17, 1935) that: “This comrade has made records not for a couple of days, but over a period of three months.” What a Stakhanovist succeeded in producing yesterday, he is unable to produce the next day. The basic causes for this are: the general lack of organization in industry, all sorts of disproportions within each individual plant, between different branches of industry, and so on. The brigade of the Stakhanovist Sukhorukov produces 150 carloads of coal one day, 80 carloads on the next, and so on, along the same feverish curve (Trud, Oct. 20, 1935). The brigade of the Stakhanovist Zhukov produces 80–90 tons of coal one day, and the next day only 8 tons (less than a tenth!), and a day later 92 tons, only to have the productivity drop again to 20 tons on the day following (Trud, Oct. 24, 1935). According to the newspapers, the causes for this are: hours of idleness due to a balky motor, poor functioning of the conveyor belt, etc., and probably also often clue to the over-fatigue of the Stakhanovist, worn out from the preceding day. At the Lenin locomotive construction plant the “successes of the Stakhanovists did not prove lasting. Just a few days later, the output of the lathers fell off sharply. Now there are days during which they do not even produce the norm.” (Trud, Nov. 1, 1935) At an investigation made among 20 miners who lagged behind, it was established that only one of them could be classified in the category of “loafers” while the others lagged behind because of lack of organization in production, and for other technical causes. The November 2 issue of Trud publishes interesting extracts from the “diary” of a Stakhanovist miner. From these notes, a salient fact emerges that out of fifteen days, the author of the diary worked only two full days; he did no work at all during five days, and worked only part time during the remainder, being continually shifted from one place to the next: either the machine was not ready or the coal seam was not prepared, or there was no timber for shoring, or there were no coal cars to load, and so on and so forth. The most famous record-holder after Stakhanov himself, Boussygin (already mentioned above) finds himself in a similar situation. Hardly had the newspapers broadcasted the news of his records (Boussygin, you see, has licked the smiths of Ford) when it turned out that Boussygin, the very next day “was unable to work full speed, his drill not having been properly prepared”. On the following day Boussygin “stood idle for two hours because the section administration had not prepared the drill, and had not changed the dies”. Still a day later Boussygin remained idle for 1½ hours, and in addition to this he began producing a “completely waste product. It was established that there was a mix-up in the grade of steel in the supply section” (Pravda, Nov. 23 and 24, 1935). This is the situation in which one of the most famous Stakhanovists finds himself, who works under exceptionally privileged conditions. Boussygin “raised such a row that the whole shop was aroused”, “Boussygin sounded the alarm”, “Boussygin went through the shop accompanied by the director”, Boussygin declares, “I have many points to bring up, many things will have to be altered”, and so on. Boussygin can take all these liberties; but the rank and file worker does not dare let out even a peep. The administration is naturally afraid of Boussygin and of other record-holders like him; places them in working conditions that are particularly favorable, provides them with special service and ahead of everybody else. One can without difficulty picture to himself the situation in which a rank and file worker, not a Stakhanovist, finds himself. Even Trud itself pleads: “We must not concern ourselves solely with the workers who have already made records.”

‘Widen the rows of Stakhanovites!’ 1936.

Again we see the entire unreality of the record of Boussygin – as well as of other record-holders – who, we are told, has apparently passed the American norms. Boussygin has succeeded several times in producing 127 crankshafts an hour while the smiths in Ford’s plants produce only 100, but the difference between them lies in this: that the Ford smiths do it every hour, yesterday as well as today, before yesterday and tomorrow – in other words it is the average norm, the American standard, and not a record. But Boussygin produces 127 in one hour, and during the next hour, possibly none at all.


A regular ballyhoo has been raised about these records. A woman weaver, Odintsova, announces to the Stakhanovist Congress that she is preparing to take on 150 looms. The two women record-holders, the Vinogradov sisters yell out to her: “And we will take on 208 [laughter, applause].” Such incidents are numerous and the leaders in charge of the Congress laboriously fan this “sporting” spirit, approving it, provoking it, etc. It goes without saying that this ballyhoo, which accompanies the Stakhanovist movement, is an altogether unhealthy phenomenon, towards which the mass of the Soviet workers can not only have an entirely negative but also even a hostile attitude. Lenin once remarked on the subject of the records attained by American rationalization: “Under capitalism, this is a torture, or a trick.” There are elements of “torture and trick” in the Soviet records as well.

We have already pointed out the fact that these records are not indicative of a perspective of growth in average productivity. We shall now show, using as an example the mine in which Stakhanov works, how slight an effect these records have upon the average productivity. In this mine, aside from Stakhanov himself, also work a number of record-holders who have even “surpassed” him. The mine yielded 8,120 tons of coal in October as against 8,065 tons in September, that is to say, an increase of only seven-tenths of 1% in productivity. However, if we were to take into account not only the quantity of the coal mined but also the amount transported to the surface and loaded into cars, the growth would be even less. In other branches of industry an analogous situation obtains. Of course we must not lose sight of the fact that we are still at the beginnings of the movement.

Why Has the Stakhanovist Movement Arisen?

Is one to conclude from what has been said above that the Stakhanovist movement – considered not as a number of isolated records but as a movement for raising the productivity of labor – is a “bluff”, devoid of all perspectives? Not at all. In our opinion this movement, purged of the spirit of record-setting and of ballyhoo, has a great future before it. Let us endeavor to indicate the fundamental causes of it.

While we have pointed out the weak utilization of the new and often powerful technology as the basic cause for the very possibility of an important rise in the productivity of labor; while on the other hand, we have indicated the necessity of a sharply critical approach to the record-making results, there still remains to be answered a question of paramount importance: Why did the Stakhanovist movement “suddenly” spring up at the end of 1935? What served as the impetus for it? Why did it not arise, say, one or two years ago, when the advanced technology was already available?

In his remarkably platitudinous speech to the Stakhanovists, Stalin gave the following explanation of this phenomenon: “It has become happier and gayer to live. And when people live gaily, work proceeds apace.” (Pravda, Nov. 22, 1935.) The matter is a very simple one, it appears: the Soviet worker raises the productivity of labor out of “gaiety”, and he owes his gaiety of course to Stalin! Molotov, who subjected practically every speaker at the Congress to a stiff cross-examination, asking each one why he worked now with the Stakhanovist methods and not previously, supplied a more realistic estimate: “In many places, the immediate impetus to high productivity of labor on the part of the Stakhanovists was the mere desire to increase their wages.” (Pravda, Nov. 19, 1935.) America, which Stalin was not fated to discover, was thus shamefacedly discovered by Molotov.

‘A. Stakhanov among the miners of Donbass, 1935.’

Through all the dispatches in the press, through all the speeches of the Stakhanovists the leit-motif is: personal material interest. This is the fundamental stimulus of the Stakhanovist movement, and it is precisely (his, and this alone that assures its indubitable growth in the immediate future. These conditions of personal interest have been created only in the very recent period, in connection with the course toward the stabilization of the ruble, the elimination of the system of food cards, and the general normalization of the system of provisioning. Only a few months ago the amount earned in rubles played a relatively modest role in the worker’s budget, which was largely based upon the products distributed by the factory cooperative, and upon the factory kitchen, etc. Under these conditions a larger or smaller amount earned in rubles did not greatly matter. But, under the new conditions, when the ruble is once again becoming the “universal equivalent” of commodities – to be sure, a very imperfect and as yet unstable “equivalent”, but an equivalent nevertheless – the Soviet workers in the struggle for higher wages, are impelled to raise the productivity of their labor, because piece-work wages which have been introduced everywhere in the USSR automatically expresses in rubles the growth of the productivity of labor of every individual worker. Piece-work rates, which were introduced a long time ago, have become the prevailing wage form, both in industry and in transportation, even in those branches where it has created difficulties because of the collective, “brigade” character of the work. In the coal mining industry, for instance, piece-work was already the prevalent form, but there still frequently obtained the so-called brigade piece-work wages, that is, a brigade of workers received wages for the entire group for the amount produced by the brigade, and within the brigade the wages were divided almost equally. Now the transition is beginning – and it will indubitably be quickly effected wherever it has not been made as yet – to a differential piece-work rate, that is to say, each worker will receive pay in proportion to what he produces. In proportion as the new technology has created the pre-condition for the Stakhanovist movement, the piece-work wage, under the conditions of the monetary reform, has effectively brought this movement into being. And in the contradictory Soviet economic life with its elements of socialism and capitalism, the Stakhanovist movement has not only become economically necessary but to a certain extent also progressive – in that it raises the productivity of labor. It is of course not progressive in the sense that it “prepares the conditions for the transition from socialism [?] to communism [!!]” (Stalin, Pravda, Nov. 22, 1935); but in the sense that, within the framework of the existing transitional and contradictory economy, it prepares by means of capitalist methods the elementary pre-conditions for a socialist society. In the pre-Stalinist epoch, money and piece-work wages were never considered as categories either of communism, or even of socialism. Piece-work wages were defined by Marx “as the form of wages most suited to the capitalist mode of production.” (Capital) And only a bureaucrat who has lost the last shred of Marxian honesty can present this forced retreat from the allegedly already realized “socialism” back to money and piece-work wages (and consequently, to accentuating inequality to the over-exertion of labor power and to the lengthening of the working day) as “preparing the transition to communism”.

‘The best Stakhanovites of fur factory No. 2 Morozov, Leonov and Ovchinnikov dyeing fox fur. Photo by M. Plotnikova. Moscow city, 1935.’

The introduction of piece work inevitably brings in its train a deep-going differentiation in the ranks of the Soviet working class itself. If this differentiation has been curbed until recently by the system of regulated provisioning – food cards, cooperatives and factory restaurants – then under the conditions of the passage to a monetary economy, it will take on the broadest development. There is hardly an advanced capitalist country where the difference in workers’ wages is as great as at present in the USSR In the mines, a non-Stakhanovist miner gets from 400 to 5oo rubles, a Stakhanovist more than 1,600 rubles. The auxiliary worker, who drives a team below, only gets 170 rubles if he is not a Stakhanovist and 400 rubles if he is (Pravda, Nov. 16, 1935), that is, one worker gets about ten times as much as another. And 170 rubles by no means represents the lowest wage, but the average wage, according to the data of Soviet statistics. Inhere are workers who earn no more than 150, 120 or even 100 rubles. A very skilled and specialized worker, Kaslov (motor construction factory at Gorky) earned, for half the month of October, 950 rubles, that is, more than u times the wage of the team driver and more than 16 times that of the worker who gets 120 rubles. The Stakhanovist textile workers get 500 rubles and more, the non-Stakhanovists, 150 rubles or less (Pravda, Nov. 18, 1936). The examples we give by no means indicate the extreme limits in the two directions. One could show without difficulty that the wages of the privileged layers of the working class (of the labor aristocracy in the true sense of the term) are 20 times higher, sometimes even more, than the wages of the poorly-paid layers. And if one takes the wages of specialists, the picture of the inequality becomes positively sinister. Ostrogliadov, the head engineer of a pit, who more than realizes the plan, gets 8,600 rubles a month; and he is a modest specialist, whose wages cannot, therefore, be considered exceptional. Thus, engineers often earn from 80 to 100 times as much as an unskilled worker. Such inequality is established now, 18 years after the October revolution, almost on the eve, according to Stalin, of the “passage from socialism to communism”!

And to this should be added other personal privileges of the Stakhanovists: places reserved for them in the rest homes and the sanatoria; lodging repairs: places for their children in the kindergartens (Trud, Oct. 23, 1935); free admittance to the movies; in addition, Stakhanovists are shaved without having to wait in line (Donbess, Trud, Nov. 11, 1936) ; they have the right to free lessons at home for themselves and their families (Trud, Nov. 2, 1935, and elsewhere), to free medical visits day and night, etc., etc.

“We work like Stakhanov” Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, 1936.

We believe that the Stalinist leadership is putting the Stakhanovists in a very privileged position not only in order to encourage the rise in the productivity of labor, but for the purpose of favoring, just as deliberately, the differentiation of the working class, with the political aim of resting upon a base, much narrower no doubt, but also surer: the labor aristocracy.

The accentuated differentiation in the working class, the formation of an aristocracy emerging from it, sharpens extremely the internal antagonisms. Also, it is not surprising that the Stakhanovist movement should be received in a hostile manner by the working mass. This the Soviet press is unable to dissimulate. The hostility takes various forms: from joking to … assassination. And among the mockers are found communist workers and even workers who hold small responsible posts in the party or the unions (Trud, Nov. 3, 1935).

The leaders summon to struggle against the “sabotagers”. The Stalinist Governor-General of the Ukraine, Postychev, declares: “The struggle against the sabotagers and those who are resisting the Stakhanovist movement … is now one of the main sectors of the class struggle” (Pravda, Nov. 13, 1925). The lieutenant of Stalin at Leningrad, Zhdanov, says the same:

“In certain enterprises, the Stakhanovist movement has met with a certain resistance, even on the part of backward workers … The party will stop at nothing to sweep out of the road of the victory of the Stakhanovist movement all those who resist it.” (Pravda, Nov. 18, 1935.)

Do these threats have an effect on the workers? Extracts which we give further on show us that in any case the workers are not inclined to yield without a fight wherever their vital interests are involved.

Trud of Nov. 18 communicates that “in pit No. 5 the miner Kirilov beat up the section boss who demanded of him a good job of propping behind the Stakhanovist miner Zamsteyev”. Let us see what happened: the application of Stakhanovist methods in the coal pits led to a considerable reduction in the number of miners (for example, in the pit where Stakhanov works, their number was reduced from 36 to 24). Unemployment does not threaten them, but a part of them are transferred to the auxiliary work of propping, much more poorly paid. This is the situation in which the miner Kirilov found himself.

‘Stakhanovites of the Kungur District Consumer Union, 1936.’

In the same number of Trud is related how two workers “conducted a malicious agitation against the Stakhanovist methods. Jagtirev sought to persuade the Stakhanovist worker Kurlitchev not to work. As a result the work on this section was impaired”. The Stakhanovists complain that it is only “when there is supervision that the work moves ahead.” (Trud, Sept. 24, 1925) In Odessa, in the heavy machinery construction plant, the worker, Poliakov hurled himself at the Stakhanovist Korenozh with an iron beam. Poliakov has been expelled from the trade union, driven from his job and it is planned to hand him over to a tribunal as an example. (Trud, Oct. 23, 1935) In Marionpole, in the Azorstal plant, two workers, Chisjakov and Khomenko were sentenced to four and two years imprisonment for having threatened to kill a Stakhanovist brigader. In the Krasny Shtampovchik plant, a Stakhanovist worker found a dirty broom on her loom with the following note: “To comrade Belozh: This bouquet of flowers is offered in honor of her realization of three norms.” (Trud, Nov. 1, 1925) Six days were needed to find those guilty. Among them was the shop steward, Muraviev. They were fired. But their superiors demanded that the matter be taken to the tribunal. Trud (Nov. 12, 1935) reports that “the textile workers, who have carried through their work intensively, have confronted and still confront great obstacles. Class struggle [!!] manifests itself at every step”. A small example: “… the windows of the stoop were opened to let out the bad air, thus soiling the factory”. In another factory: “The shuttle-boxes were soaped on dozens of looms. Behind all this are to be seen acts of sabotage. In the factory Bolshevik the shameless enemy [that is, the workers themselves. – N.M.] openly jeered the worker Udotzev, who operated 144 automatic looms.” A Stakhanovist worker relates how they jeered him: “They came to me saying: how thin you are! how pale you have become! are you slipping?”

Izvestia of the 28th, reports that in section 25 of the Moscow box factory, the workers Kolnogorov, father and son, “reproached the Stakhanovist Solovin with having lowered the piece rates, they incited the workers Naumov and Kiepekin, who lived with the Kolmogorovs, to place lighted paper under Solovin’s feet, while he slept. This bestial act caused serious burns to Solovin. The criminals were arrested”.

“Machinery together with the people who created it can and must work miracles”. -Stalin. “Life has become better, comrades, life has become happier… “‘We will struggle for a flowering Soviet Socialist Moldavia. We will focus all workers of Moldavia on the Stakhanov movement, on people of advanced technology, on people of advanced culture.’ 1936.

In the Aviakhin factory, the worker Krikov regularly surpassed the norm while the more qualified workers produced less than he: “On October 14, everything became clear. Karpov said the following to Krikov: Don’t work so hard and don’t surpass the norm. Demand, on the contrary, that they raise the piece rates …” Krikov reported this fact to the administration and the worker Karkov who was at first discharged, and was reinstated with a severe censure after having repented. (Pravda, Nov. 17, 1935)

The same number of Pravda relates that at Smolensk, “the backward workers began to persecute the Stakhanovist lather Likhoradov … Things reached the point where a certain Sviridov broke a gear wheel and tore off Likharadov’s power belt”. Likhoradov himself says (Pravda, Nov. 17, 1935): “When I had made seven hoops [that is, exceeding considerably the norm. – N.M.], it created quite an affair. The hostile elements were ready to wallop me.”

‘Presentation of the Challenge Red Banner of the Union of Workers of Grain State Farms to the brigade of the best Stakhanovite-combine operator of the Strelchenko experimental state farm. Azov-Black Sea Territory; 1937.’

The Soviet journals call the workers who resist the Stakhanovist movement “damagers”. “The favorite method of those who fight against the Stakhanovist movement consists in causing damages and in breaking the machinery,” writes Trud. Pravda (Nov. 3, 1935) communicates that in Tambov, four Stakhanovist workers, “arriving at work, found their tool boxes shattered and their tools stolen”. The struggle is so acute that on certain occasions, fortunately rare, it takes on the character of terroristic acts. “On the evening of October 23, the best Stakhanovist of the Trud factory, the locksmith Shmirev, was killed … The criminals have been arrested.” (Pravda, Oct. 19. 1935) A few weeks later, Pravda announces that the “murderers have been sentenced to death by the military tribunal”.

In the Ivan pit, the best Stakhanovist, Nicolas Tsekhnov, was killed “in order to prevent the introduction of the Stakhanovist system in the section … The criminals have been arrested.” (Izvestia, Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, 1935) We have already mentioned the fact that Stakhanovists often work at the expense of their neighbors. Trud (Oct. 23, 1935) communicates: “The Stakhanovist is overloaded with work; and his neighbor loafs.” The same journal says elsewhere: “The successes of the Stakhanovists have led to the reduction of the number of workers in certain branches: a new struggle has begun.” Shura Dimitrova, a Stakhanovist worker, declared squarely to the chairman of the factory committee: “This makes me sick. Either you fix it so that everybody has work to do or else you bring back the workers without my having to stop working like this.” It is not difficult to imagine what state of mind prevails in the plant under such conditions. The foreman of the First of May factory [in Leningrad], Soldatov, says: “When there weren’t any Stakhanovists, nobody loafed; and with the Stakhanovists, loafing has begun.” (Trud, Oct. 2b, 1935)

‘First All-Union Conference of Workers and Workers of the Stakhanovites of Industry and Transport. Moscow; 1935’

We have given such a large number of quotations in order to show all the acuteness of the struggle inside the working class on the Stakhanovist movement. If the Stakhanovist movement does not yet threaten the Soviet worker with unemployment – industry, in its powerful upswing, is still capable of absorbing all the working hands that are free – it does threaten them with unemployment on the job, with being shifted to auxiliary jobs, with physical over-tension, with wage reductions, etc. The further differentiation of the working class means the enhancement of economic inequality and antagonisms.

It would be absurd to think that the majority, or even a considerable portion of the working class, can become Stakhanovist. The rise in wages of the Stakhanovists is already, without doubt, the object of uneasiness in the bureaucracy. Occupied with the stabilization of the Soviet money, it cannot “fling” rubles in all directions. Stalin has declared openly that the present technical norms must be revised “as non-conformable any longer with the reality; turn back and put on the brakes … they must be replaced with new, higher technical norms” which “are needed, moreover, in order to push the backward masses towards the more advanced”. That’s clear enough. These new norms, according to Stalin, must “pass somewhere between the present norms and those obtained by the Stakhanovs and the Boussygins. (Pravda, Nov. 22, 1935) And after the raising of the technical norms will undoubtedly follow a decrease in the piece rates, that is, a blow at the wage level. In a number of enterprises, the piece rates were reduced by the manager right after the first records of the Stakhanovists. That’s what the Soviet worker senses and that’s what alarms him. And he seeks the road of self-defense, and protests in his own way, as we have seen from the facts reported.

It is very probable that we are on the eve of serious defensive economic struggles of the working class in the USSR. This struggle will inevitably take on, at the beginning, a discordant and partisan character. The working class in the USSR has no trade unions, has no party. Those completely degenerated bureaucratic organization which call themselves trade unions, are considered by the bureaucrats themselves (those of other organizations) as a bankrupt appendix of the economic organisms of the state. This avowal is openly made in the Soviet press.

‘Kienya Sofya Alexandrovna, a noble Stakhanovite of the Metrostroy, with her comrades at the wall newspaper “Stakhanovets”. Moscow city; 1937’

The questions of the defense of the economic interests of the working class in the USSR will, in the very near future, acquire an enormous importance. The workers will inevitably aspire to create their organizations, however primitive they may be, but at least capable of defending the direct interests of the workers in the field of the working day, of rest, of vacations and of wages, and to put up a wall against the pressure of the bureaucracy in the direction of intensification, under cover of the Stakhanovist movement or any other.

The task of the Bolshevik-Leninists is to help the working class of the USSR in this struggle against the enormous bureaucratic deviations in the field of the raising of the productivity of labor. Especially must the advanced Soviet worker be helped – on the basic of active participation in increasing the economic power of the country – to formulate correctly, to launch and to popularize among the masses demands, fundamental slogans, a sort of minimum program of the defense of the interests of the working class against the bureaucracy, its arbitrariness, its violations, its privileges, its corruption. It is very likely that on the basis of the industrial successes and of a certain rise in the standard of living of the masses, at least of its upper layers, – a rise lagging far behind the industrial gains – the Soviet worker, in this manner, that is, by the defense of his elementary economic interests, will once more associate himself with political struggle. Thus will be opened before the October revolution a perspective of regeneration.

December 12, 1935

The New International began as the theoretical organ of the Communist League of America, formed in 1928 by supporters of The International Left Opposition in the Communist Party. The CLA merged with the American Workers Party led by AJ Muste to form the Workers Party of the U.S. in Dec 1935 before intervening in the Socialist Party, at which time this magazine was suspended. After leaving the SP, the main Trotskyist forces formed the Socialist Workers Party in 1938 and resumed publication. In the split of 1940, the Bureaucratic Collectivist faction who no longer defended the Soviet Union, left the Party and held on to the magazine; the SWP then produced ‘The Fourth International’ as their organ of theory.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/ni/vol03/no01/v03n01-w13-feb-1936-new-int.pdf

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