A report on the former Moscow Commercial Institute reopening for workers and renamed Karl Marx Moscow Institute of National Economy in 1919. It still operates today as the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. It was renamed after Plekhanov, who once studied there, in 1924. Includes a letter read to the gathering from preeminent Russian naturalist Kliment Timiryazyev.
‘The Opening of a Workers’ Faculty at the Institute of Public Economy in the Name of Karl Marx’ from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 1 No. 2. June 14, 1919.
The G.V. Plekhanoff-Beltoff Auditorium (formerly the Marx Auditorium) is rapidly filling with student workers. The vast room is decorated with banners, red streamers and portraits of the leaders of Socialism.
The full length of the screen is covered with red cloth, inscribed with G.V. Plekhanoff’s well-known words: “The revolutionary movement of Russia will triumph only as a revolutionary movement of the workers; there is not and cannot be any other outcome.” Higher up, above the screen, there is Plekhanoff’s portrait. Among the masses of workers present there are many working-women. A.V. Lunacharsky, N.H. Pokrovsky and representatives of trade unions and associations are present at the opening.
Introductory Address by M.H. Pokrovsky
M.H. Pokrovsky is elected, amid a storm of general applause, as chairman of the meeting. Having extended greetings to the workers’ faculty. Comrade Pokrovsky said: “It was my chief aim during my work in the People’s Commissariat of Education to see the worker in the university. Now I see the realization of my cherished hope. We will have student-proletarians, and later on professors as well, and I hope that such examples will come in tens, hundreds, and thousands.”
Then the chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Workers’ Faculty, Comrade Baer (Baganianz) gave a short review of the birth and organization of the workers’ faculty.
Prof. Nikitinski’s Greetings
The dean of the Institute, Prof. Nikitinski, when greeting the opening of the workers’ faculty in the name of the teachers’ committee, said among other things: “In the past very little has been done in this sphere, consequently very much is to be done now. The success of this work can be attained on the following three conditions: 1) conscious, earnest attitude of the workers; 2) the aid of the students, who have so zealously begun this work; 3) the aid and sympathetic attitude of the professors.” Prof. Nikitinski closed his speech with greetings to the workers’ faculty and especially to the workmen-students.
A.V. Lunacharsky’s Address
In a long, animated speech A.V. Lunacharsky pointed out that formerly the workers were merely unconscious parts of the machine. The machine, this monstrous idol, sapped all the strength out of a worker and then cast him into the street Therefore, the worker cursed the machine, as well as science and the universities. But science was born for the purpose of freeing man from slavish labor.
If capitalism made of the worker an automaton, the free worker, with the aid of science, can learn to become the director of unconscious mechanism. To be a ruling class it is not sufficient to have the power, it is also necessary to have the knowledge. This welding of economic, natural and technical science is the highway by which the workers can come to Socialism. “We will conquer and will conquer soon,” was the conclusion of Comrade Lunacharsky’s speech.
“The proletariat has nothing to lose,” said Marx, “and the world to gain.” Then Comrade Pokrovsky read the following letter sent by K.A. Timiryazyev:
“Young comrades:— Old age and illness do not permit me to appear in person, but I do not wish that my absence should be taken as a sign of indifference to the first free workers’ faculty, which was my dream for a number of years.
“Science and democracy — a close union of knowledge and labor— this was my dream, cherished for several decades, and in your meeting of today I see the beginning of the realization of one of its main phases. The workers became a real, conscious, creative force; when the main conquests of science will be understood by them, and science will receive a true and stable support, then its fate will be in the hands of the enlightened people themselves and not of the kings and their slaves, though these may call themselves Ministers of Education, Academicians, and Professors.
“Pure universal science must not, cannot and will not be the exclusive monopolized property of those who are not the ‘chosen’ ones, but on the contrary, mere cast out, despised, intriguing adventurers to whom the problems of democracy are as foreign as science itself. I hail the first workers’ faculty, and wish that all who unite under this name and under the protection of the red banner of labor, equalizing all, should come here only in search of the knowledge necessary for their labor and should cast aside all formalities, diplomas and the complicated examinations, ranks and distinctions, which lower the dignity of science, as well as of democracy.
“‘The Red Banner’ — I purposely mention these words for I know that my colleagues from the bourgeois camp cannot forgive me for having joined the forces under this banner in the days when the dark forces of the entire world have fallen upon it, hoping to drown it in blood once more. The red banner is a symbol of the future conquest of labor and science over their enemies. But what this conquest will give us will be peace, bread and freedom. Yes, and something else…less noticeable, but not less important and that is — leisure, an eight-hour working day, which will be followed, of course, by a still shorter working day. The free democracy, which has won this leisure, will become an educated democracy when it comes to realize the necessity of utilizing this leisure for attaining the power of knowledge. That the free democracy will want it, that it will be able to do it is guaranteed best by today’s meeting.”
Speeches Delivered by the Representatives of the Professors
After the address delivered by the representative of the All-Russian Association of Professional Unions, Comrade Kozelev, Professors Genkin and Ougrimov delivered greetings.
“Great is the power of knowledge and at no time was knowledge so necessary far any one as it is now for our proletariat, which has now placed itself at the head of the state power — said Genkin. Today is our holiday of learning, our holiday of education, as this is the first time that a workers’ faculty has been organized within the walls of a higher educational institution.” The meeting was adjourned after the sending of greetings to K.A Timiryazyev and with the singing of the “Internationale.”
From Izvestia, February 12th, 1919.
Soviet Russia began in the summer of 1919, published by the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia and replaced The Weekly Bulletin of the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia. In lieu of an Embassy the Russian Soviet Government Bureau was the official voice of the Soviets in the US. Soviet Russia was published as the official organ of the RSGB until February 1922 when Soviet Russia became to the official organ of The Friends of Soviet Russia, becoming Soviet Russia Pictorial in 1923. There is no better US-published source for information on the Soviet state at this time, and includes official statements, articles by prominent Bolsheviks, data on the Soviet economy, weekly reports on the wars for survival the Soviets were engaged in, as well as efforts to in the US to lift the blockade and begin trade with the emerging Soviet Union.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/srp/v1-soviet-russia-June-Dec-1919.pdf