Russian Academy of Sciences The Institute of Russian History, St. Petersburg branch Trade Union Federation of St. Petersburg and Region of St. Petersburg




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recorded in the documents after 1922 or so, these more subtle resistances were undoubtedly linked to developing cultures of fraud, deception, collusi­on and routine dishonesty that we know so greatly undermined even the regime's most energetic efforts at industrialization, and suggest, among other things, the importance of labor activism in these formative years to the structuring of Soviet political culture as a whole and indeed, the deve­loping systems of Stalinism.

The forms of resistance revealed in these documents also raise important questions about worker or «proletarian* identities, and the ways workers were perceived or «represented* by Soviet authorities in these years. This complicated set of issues has only just been touched in the literature, and almost entirely in terms of the late imperial period; for Soviet Russia, with the exception of the superb recent study «Власть и реформы», the extent to which the «proletariat* may have «disappeared* after October has be raised almost entirely in social and demographic terms, not in terms of the ways workers after October came to think of themselves, or be perceived by the regime - not, that is, in terms of the extent to which the proletarian dictatorship was really a dictatorship over the proletariat.10 Yet it is only in terms of the regime's perceptions of who workers were and what attitudes and values they held that one can fully understand how Bolshevik ideologies and policies were reshaped in the post-October period, and became the public definition of communist purpose. And it is precisely in terms of how workers thought of themselves, both in the ag­gregate and in more specific terms identified with professions, localities, and places of work, that one can test the validity of regime assumptions, and understand both its successes as a «workers' regime* and its failures.

The extensive collection of documents on the «Собрание уполномочен­ных* below is especially interesting in this regard. Among other things, they show how important the suppression of free worker expression was to the «proletarian* definition of Russia's new order after October, and how in conditions of scarcity, disaffection, and resistance, the strength and vitality of class identity began to weaken. (See esp. Documents 7, 21, 35, 75). For its part, members of the Soviet government after October frequently regarded workers' demands as «absurd*, so much so as the stenographic materials in Document 75 indicate, that they could only be explained in terms of the «bourgeois element within the workers' milieu*. («Если мы хотим носить почетное имя рабочего, этого не должно быть. Нас каждый ругает: "Эй, буржуи". Эти буржуи есть в среде рабочих...»). By 1921, demands for the complete reorganization of Soviet rule on the basis of open elections were based in no small measure on the identification of the regime as one that «shoots workers* (Documents 98, 99). In a formal sense, of course, « rights* and « privileges*, which essentially meant wages and rations and hence were vital to survival, were directly and continually linked to class positions, and favored «workers*, however artificial (and artificially expanded) this category. But as the powerful letters in Documents 146, 154 testify, many workers

at the start of collectivization and industrialization clearly no longer belie-ved in the construction of a proletarian social order, regarded the regime as an exploiter and hostile to worker interests, and were sure it falsely represented «workers» for its own narrow and self-serving interests. («Ni-nety percent of the party members are, in spirit, against us*, {«90% партийцев в душе тоже против нас, и считает себя заблудившимися как бараны»)) one worker decried in a letter to Stalin (Document 154). How extensive these feelings were, and how they were reflected across different worker populations, is another question for further research.

So is the way in which Russia's physical devastation and economic collapse further influenced the regime's relations with its constituent so­cial groups after October, and also affected in powerful ways Soviet Russia's systemic evolution. While the broad parameters of this crisis are quite well known, the extent to which they contributed from the start to a rapid expansion of black and gray markets, to the breakdown of common rules of behavior as well as the ineffectiveness of official decrees, and especially how they reinforced Bolshevik absolutist (totalitarian) pretensions can only be fully understood by looking closely at archival materials like those included in this collection. Because of grave scarcities, as we know, early Soviet wages (and wages in later periods as well) were often paid at least partly in kind. As Document 75 indicates, moreover, while late or absent monetary wages were frequently made up by the distribution of additional goods, these were often an unusable «surplus* from the workers' standpoint (4 pairs of shoes, for example), and hence had to be sold. Since private trade was illegal, the transactions made necessary by the very payment of wages simultaneously undermined official economic policies and vitiated their underlying principles. In turn, the paradox of workers being forced into officially illegal behaviors by an officially sanctioned wage system could not help but further undermine the regime's legitimacy and authority. These contradictions multiplied throughout the civil war period, of course, but continued in different ways throughout NEP, despite economic recovery and the opening of free markets, since even in these relatively liberal ye­ars most workers remained dependent on the regime itself for much of their livelihood. The new shortages and dislocations that emerged in 1927 and 1928, and the return in many places to wages in kind in a context of increasingly restricted trade, only repeated the systemic dislocations of War Communism.

Was it possible in these circumstances for activist workers on their own to effectively confront Bolshevik power and fundamentally alter the nature and forms of Soviet rule? This is, of course, the important issue of «alternatives*, one that has understandably perplexed historians and other scholars for many years. The documents assembled here obviously cannot provide answers to this challenging question, but they do suggest some specific ways in which it can be further explored.

The first grouping of documents, for example, covering the period

from October 1917 to September 1918, clearly indicate the great depth of anti-Bolshevik feeling among Petrograd workers, and add impressive evidence to the existing documentary and secondary literature on this question.11 Although we have known a good deal about popular hostility to the Brest-Litovsk treaty because of its implications in political terms, we learn additionally from materials here that many worker's may have blamed the treaty for their steadily worsening economic circumstances, believing the Bolsheviks were now shipping desperately needed goods to Germany (Document 52). The murder of Volodarskii was also clearly a reflection of deep popular rage, one that brought leading party figures like Zinoviev to make concessions even while tightening a net of repression (Documents 37-39); and there is no question that mobilized industrial workers, like the mobilized peasantry, were a political force to be reckoned with, potentially of great power. The question that now needs further research is whether the Sobranie Upolnomochennykh did, in fact, offer an effective alternative to early Bolshevik rule, and what the immediate development of Soviet Russia might have been had the planned Workers' Congress succeeded in meeting in July. What were the opportunities, in other words, for a «proletarian democracy* of the sort envisioned by anti-Bolshevik workers in 1918? Could a more moderate workers' regime have avoided the horrors of civil war that clearly concerned Thornton mill workers and others in the Nevskii district in late May and early June 1918 (Document 29), or was this concern simply about Bolshevik workers fighting their non-Bolshevik comrades, rather than civil peace in the broader sense? Were their real prospects, in other words, for a workers' regime to displace Bolshevik rule, or had class antagonism and hostility become so much a part of worker mentalities by the summer of 1918 that even an independent working class government would have likely proved incapable of restoring social and economic stability or political peace, and might itself soon resembled the Bolshevik order?

That mobilized workers could force significant changes within the totalitarian system of Bolshevik rule is clearly evidenced by the second and third groupings of documents, covering the period 1918-1921. The split in Petrograd between «низы* and «власть», was not «clear for all to see*, as we read in the stenograms of the city soviet (Document 87), and the «wild hatred* toward the Bolsheviks was now clearly widespread within the city (Document 78). Here, however, the documents suggest not simply the importance of armed uprising as a way of affecting Bolshevik power, but the need for scholars to research as well the impact of the Kronstadt suppression on worker attitudes toward the regime, the degree and nature of subsequent Petrograd hostility toward Moscow, and the possible relationship between these complex issues and the ongoing conflict between the political and cultures of Leningrad and Moscow that seem to have characterized so much of subsequent Soviet history.

Finally, there are the important series of questions about the NEP period itself, reflected in the documents covering the 1922-1925, and

1926-1929 periods. These range from the significance of the «Рабочая Правда» group in party politics and the possibility, as Trotsky and others hoped of creating a new party of the Russian proletariat (Documents 118, 151), to the degree that worker antagonism toward the privileged «спе­цы» may have reflected a broad social foundation for the show trials of «engineers and wreckers* that began already in 1928, and the excesses of «cultural revolution* that accompanied the turn to forced collectivization and collectivization. Document 139 suggests, for example, that at least some Leningrad workers believed that shortages of food and other goods were again caused by the «enormous sums* the regime was spending to subsidize revolutionary groups abroad, an echo of the feeling after Brest-Litovsk. Did Stalin therefore «read» the popular mood among workers more clearly than Trotsky in this crucial moment, when Trotsky pressed for a far more revolutionary foreign policy than the party could countenance? Or did the extent of worker discontent in Leningrad in 1927 and 1928 itself presage instead GenSec's own decision to again wage war on the Russian people in 1929?

The dedication of Russian archivists and scholars in assembling this collection has brought these and other important research problems into much clearer light. Scholars everywhere are in their debt. The task now is to engage these issues with a comparable energy and commitment.

1 See, for example: Семанов С. H. Ликвидация кронштадтского мятежа. М., 1973; Ваксер А. 3. Из истории классовой борьбы в Петрограде в начале восстановительного периода (январь-апрель 1921 г.)//Ученые записки ЛГПИ им. А.И.Герцена. 1959. Т. 188; Усанов П. И. Райком всегда открыт. Л., 1978; Пухов А. С. В Петрограде накануне Кронштадтского восстания 1921 г. //Красная летопись. 1930. Т. 4; Вардин Ил. Революция и меньше­визм. М., 1925.

2Гимпелъсон Е. Г. Советский рабочий класс, 1918-1920. М., 1974. С. 184-185; БаевскийД.А. Рабочий класс в первые годы Советской власти (1917-1921). М., 1974.

3Дан Ф. Два года скитаний. Берлин, 1922. See also: Getzler I. Kronstadt 1917-1921: The Fate of a Soviet Democracy. Cambridge, 1983.

4 See esp.: Smith. S. Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories 1917-1918. Cambridge, 1983.

5Brovkin V. Beyond the Lines of the Civil War: Parties and Social Movements in Russia, 1918-1922. Princeton, 1991; Brovkin V. Workers' Unrest and the Bolsheviks' Response in 1919//Slavic Review. 1990. № 3; Aves J. Workers against Lenin: Labour Protest and the Bolshevik Dictatorship. London, 1996.

6 Chase W. Workers, Society and the Soviet State: Labor and Life in Moscow, 1918-1929. Champaign-Urbana, 1987; Kuromiya H. Stalin's Industrial Revolution: Politics and Workers, 1928-1932. Cambridge, 1988; Friedgut Th. Luzovka and Revolution: Life and Work in Russia's Donbass. Princeton, 1989.

7 Rosenberg W. Russian Labor and Soviet Power after October: Social Dimensions of Protest In Petrograd, November 1917 - June 1918//Slavic Review. 1985. № 2.

8 For strike activism and labor protest in the pre-revolutionary and 1917

СПб., 1993-; Brovkin V. /., Borodkin L.I., Kirianov Iu. I. Strikes in Imperial Russia, 1895-1913: A Quantitative Analysis, and Haimson L. and Petrusha R. Two Strike Waves in Imperial Russia, 1905-1907, 1912-1914, both in L. Haimson and C. Tilly, eds., Strikes, Wars and Revolutions in International Perspective. Cambridge and Paris, 1989; Kirianov Iu. I. The Strike Movement in Imperial Russia during the First World War, and Haimson L., Brian E. Labor Unrest in Imperial Russia during the First World War, in L. Haimson and G. Sapelli, eds. Strikes, Social Conflict and the First World War. Milan, 1992; Koenker D., Rosenberg W. Strikes and Revolution in Russia, 1917. Princeton, 1989.

9 Scott J. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Popular Resistance. New Haven, 1985; Domination and the Arts of Resistsuce. New Haven, 1990.

10 Власть и реформы. От самодержавной к советской России. СПб., 1996; Haimson L. The Problem of Social Identifies in Early Twentieth Century Russia, Rosenberg W. Identities, Power and Social Interaction in Revolutionary Russia, Rieber A. Landed Property, State Authority and Civil War, all in Slavic Review. 1988. № 1. For an important analysis which emphasizes the importance of these issues for the 1918-1921 period see: Fitzpatrick Sh. New Perspectives on the Civil War, in D. Koenker, W. Rosenberg and R. Suny, eds., Party, State and Society in the Russian Civil War: Explorations in Social History. Bloomington,1989. See also: Koenker D. Urbanization and Deurbanization in the Russian Revolution and Civil War, and BrowerD. The City in Danger: The Civil War and the Russian Urban Population, in the same volume. Among a number of important Soviet studies concerned with the demographics of this period, but which fail to problematize the issue of «working class* or explore the question of Bolshevik perceptions, see esp: Спирин Л. M. Классы и партии в Гражданской войне в России. М., 1968; Селунская В. М. и др. в кн.: Изменения социальной структуры советского общества. Октябрь 1917-1920. М., 1976.

11 The first important documentary collection on this issue was published in Paris, using largely newspaper and emigre memoir materials see; M.S.Bern-shtam, ed. Независимое рабочее движение в 1918 году. Документы и мате­риалы. Париж, 1981. For a review of the literature, see my article ^Russian Labor and Bolshevik Power after October*.

/. Октябрь 1917 - август 1918

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