Reports on the Economic Debacle
|Written||27 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 523-526.
The basic and cardinal issue of today Is that of the impending catastrophe. We must collect the most accurate possible data on it. Here are some very informative quotations from the paper of our opponents, the united Narodniks and Mensheviks (Izvestia of the Petrograd Soviet No. 70, May 19):
“The calamity of mass unemployment is drawing nearer. Resistance to the workers’ demands on the part of the united employers is growing. The employers are resorting to slow-down tactics in production and to lockouts.”
“The capitalists are doing nothing to help the country out of Its economic difficulties....
“The real disorganisers and counter-revolutionaries are the capitalists, who are hanging on to their profits. But the revolution will not and should not be allowed to go under. If the capitalists do nothing to help it voluntarily, the revolution must lay hands on them.”
This could hardly be expressed more eloquently. The situation must be critical indeed. “The revolution must lay hands on the capitalists.” But what revolution? The revolution of which class? How should it lay hands on them?
Here are answers given by speakers who reported to the Executive Committee of the Soviet on May 16:
“A number of speakers revealed a depressing picture of widespread economic disorganisation in the country ... the bourgeois press says nothing about the real causes of the trouble, i.e., the war and the selfish conduct of the bourgeoisie.”
From the report of the Menshevik ministerialist Cherevanin:
’The present economic debacle is too grave to be cured by one or another palliative, by a number of separate concrete measures. What we need is a general plan, regulation of our whole economic life by the state....
“To carry out this plan a special Economic Council must be set up under the Ministry.”
The mountain has brought forth a mouse. Instead of “the revolution laying hands on the capitalists” we are offered a purely bureaucratic remedy.
From the report of Avilov:
“The main cause of the present economic break-down is the short age of the most essential industrial products....
“Owing to the rising cost of living the position of the workers of numerous grades verges on chronic starvation....
“Although they are making enormous profits, the employers re fuse to meet the workers unless there is a simultaneous rise in the prices of their goods....
“The only way out of the present situation is price fixing. But this can only be carried out if there is public control of distribution.
“Given compulsory distribution of commodities at controlled prices, there must also be established control of production, which otherwise may sag or even be suspended...
“At the same time the state must institute control over the sources from which industry receives its circulating and fixed assets—the banking houses.”
What Comrade Avilov seems to have forgotten is that the “state” is a machine which the working class and the capitalists are pulling different ways. Which class is now capable of wielding state power?
From Bazarov’s report:
“Fixed prices are virtually evaded; the state monopolies exist only on paper; controlled supply of the factories with coal and metal has not only failed to organise production in the interests of the state, but has not even been able to cope with the market anarchy or eliminate the unrestrained speculation of the middlemen and dealers.
“What is needed is compulsory state trustification of industry.
“Only by drafting the managements of the various enterprises and the capitalists into compulsory state service can really effective measures be taken to combat the anarchy which the industrialists are deliberately creating in production.”
To say that the government of the capitalists (who are deliberately creating anarchy) must draft the capitalists into compulsory state service is tantamount to forgetting the class struggle.
From the report by G. V. Shuba:
“Despite the ceaseless demands we have been making for the last two months, not an inch of progress has been made in the general question—the problem of organising the national economy and labour. The result is that we have been simply marking time. At present the situation is this: although we have succeeded, in the face of opposition, in getting a number of measures and laws passed—we already have a grain monopoly law—all this remains on paper....
“We have reached an agreement in principle on the municipalisation of agricultural machines, but we can do nothing about it because there are practically no machines. to speak of. The factories built to produce agricultural machines are turning out absolutely unessential articles for the army. Apart from the fact that the whole economic life of the country must be subject to regulation, we must at last break up and remodel the whole executive machinery of government.’
This is more to the point, closer to the heart of the matter! “Break up and remodel the whole executive machinery of government”—now that gets us down to bedrock. Obviously, the question of government machinery is only a fraction of the larger question as to which class is wielding the state power.
From Kukovetsky’s report:
“The country’s financial situation is appalling. We are heading rapidly for financial bankruptcy....
“Purely financial measures will do no good....
“Measures must be taken towards compulsory distribution of the government loan, and if this does not yield the desired results, we must introduce a compulsory loan.
“The second measure is the compulsory regulation of industry and the establishment of fixed prices on goods.”
“Compulsory” measures are a good thing, but the question is—which class will be the compellers and which the compelled?
From the report of Groman:
“What is happening in all countries today may be described as a process of disintegration of the national economic organism. It is being countered everywhere by the organising principle. The state has every. Where begun to organise the economy and labour....
“So far neither the government nor the country at large has a central organ which could regulate the country’s economic life, There is no economic brain, as it were It must be created.... An authoritative executive body must be organised. An Economic Council must be set up.”
A new bureaucratic institution—that is what Groman’s idea amounts to! Very sad.
They all admit that an unheard-of catastrophe is inevitable. But they do not understand the main thing—that only the revolutionary class can save the country.