The Bolsheviks and Workers Control

How many times as the clock inches towards five thirty have you thought that you could do the bosses' job! Well not only have workers often thought this, they have occasionally even kicked the bosses out and given it a go.

The Bolsheviks and Workers Control is a detailed book that shows firstly how Russian workers took over and managed their workplaces, secondly how they wished to extend this control to the entire economy and thirdly how it was wrested from them by the Russian state. It is an essential read for anyone who thinks that Leninist parties have any relevance to creating a socialist society.

Factory committees sprung up before, during and after the revolution booting out managers and taking over enterprises. The committees quickly realised that co-ordination and integration of production was essential. The Resolution of Factory/Shop Commissions declares:

"The economic life of the country - agriculture, industry, commerce and transport must be subject to one unified plan, constructed so as to satisfy the individual and social requirements of the wide masses of the people".

In August 1917 the Second Conference of Factory Committees took this so seriously that they resolved to devote a quarter of their wages to support a central Soviet of Factory Committees. After the revolution they made attempts to do this with the All Russian Council of Factory Committees which the Bolsheviks stopped from meeting, believing instead in their vision of control by the State 'on the workers' behalf'.

In December 1917 The Central Council of the Petrograd Factory Committees issued a 'Practical manual for the implementation of Workers Control" which quite explicitly moves beyond stock-taking, and into real control of production, calling on each committee to set up control commissions for the various aspects of production. That same month the Bolshevick paper: Isvestiya published the 'General Instructions on Workers Control in Conformity with the Decree of November'. It also talks of commissions, but says that the only role they should play in management is making sure that the central governments directives are followed through.

So after initial luke warm support for the committees the Bolsheviks quickly moved towards one man management under direct state rule from above. By April 1918 (six months after October), Lenin's article on "The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government" was published in Isvestiya. He claims that "The irrefutable experience of history has shown that....the dictatorship of individual persons was very often the vehicle, the channel of the dictatorship of the revolutionary classes" and "Today the Revolution demands, in the interests of socialism, that the masses unquestioningly obey the single will of the leaders of the labour process."

If you are interested in how the factory committee movement worked and how the Leninists quickly moved to absorb and smash them this book has all the detail you could possibly want.

8.00 Euro from the bookservice also online at

See also

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This edition is No71 published in July 2002

Workers Solidarity 71