A battle for ownership of Soviet industry

June 26, 1991

By Renfrey Clarke

A senior Soviet economist and leader of the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, GALINA RAKITSKAYA is involved in the movement for people's self-management in the USSR. She was interviewed in Moscow by Jim Percy and Renfrey Clarke. In this, the third and concluding part of the interview, Rakitskaya discusses who will end up owning privatised industries.

How can the self-management movement resist the nomenklatura or the mafiosi or whoever else is waiting to grab property?

That's a very serious question, because if the demands of this movement aren't taken into account, it's entirely possible that civil war will result. The right-wing democrats don't understand it. But our nomenklatura reformers, Gorbachev and has circle, are beginning to. And they're beginning to manoeuvre, to talk about the rights of the labour collectives, to say "We defend them! We stand up for them!"

We're finding outright reactionaries trying to manipulate the labour collective movement, turning the workers against the intelligentsia, the democrats and so forth. There are people trying to stir up this antagonism — the United Front of Workers and the organisation "Unity", Nina Andeyeva's people. But the Union of Labour Collectives stands on democratic positions.

The 1990 law swept away what seemed to be one of the big gains of perestroika, the provision of workers' self-management.

The authors of the USSR law of 1990 clearly had in mind creating a system of enterprise administration based on models from the West. They had the idea to organise workplace councils in which there would be state employees, representatives of the banks, various managers and finally representatives of the workers. Forty-nine per cent of the members would be elected by the labour collective, and 51% would be from elsewhere.

They argued that this would be even better than in the West, and it's true — compared with the West, it's not bad. But our labour collectives don't like it. They want 100%. They maintain that if they need to draw in experts from the banks, they can do this themselves.

Towards the middle of last year, all ideas of popular democracy were thrust into the background of the parliamentarians' plans. They were trying to do something about the economy, and nothing was happening because the apparatus wasn't yielding any power to them.

The reaction of the parliamentarians was then to abandon any mention of popular democratic and socialist ideas.

The right-wing democrats in the parliament hate the nomenklatura, and as far as they're concerned, socialism and the nomenklatura are the same thing. So they say: "We don't need property in common — we want to be just like in the West!"

This party which you are planning to establish — what relations will it have to the Social Democrats and to other existing parties?

We'll collaborate in any way possible to avert the danger of a renewed dictatorship.

We won't be collaborating with the Communist Party as an organisation. But the idea has been floated that at first, for a limited period, we should allow dual membership — that is, an individual would be allowed to be a member of another party and also of ours.

We know there are members of the Communist Party who would like to belong to the kind of party we're trying to set up.

Earlier you spoke of the problem of getting information around among the various segments of the left and the workers' collectives. How do you plan to overcome those problems?

We need our own paper, because what gets published today is verging on disinformation. To give an example, the congress of the Union of Labour Collectives considered whether we should agitate for a general strike if the Supreme Soviet didn't fulfil our demands. We decided that we should, and that we would establish a united strike committee. But the Communist Party press reported, "The congress came out against strikes".

So what do we do? We duplicate materials wherever we can, on the job and so forth. We're sending the materials of the congress out to the enterprises, and also the Russian law on enterprises, because out on the job people don't know this law. The nomenklatura hides it from them.

We know that in order to broaden our influence we need appropriate structures. We have to lay the basis for a Party of People's Self-Management, as a way of crystallising the movement of the left.

We all share the task of ensuring that control over property passes neither to the nomenklatura, nor to capitalists, but that at least 90% of it goes to the people. Or 95%.

Issue