The Russian bourgeoisie has launched an offensive on all fronts against the Russian working class. Since the official proclamation of the bourgeois ‘reforms’ the price of labour power [wages – note of the English translator] in Russia, according to official statistics, has fallen 2.5 times. Now the ruling classes have proposed to reduce the price of labour power even further, the bourgeois government has promised to get the country out of the crisis by cutting salaries in half. Hypocritically lamenting the dependence of the economy of the country on foreign capital, Russian capital, both private as well as state capital (‘democratic’ capital and ‘patriotic’ capital), these leeches of Khrushchev and Brezhnev revisionism, are preparing a new broad offensive against the rights of the workers, thus increasing the intolerable index of exploitation to the Russian proletariat. The present world crisis, the rivalry between different sectors of imperialist capital for the control of the sources of super-profits, leads to armed conflicts, from the invasion by NATO troops, with the participation of a limited contingent of troops of the Russian army on Yugoslav territory, to the bloody war on the territory of Chechnya in Russia. These wars not only waste the lives of Russian soldiers and mercenaries, but also place a terrible economic burden on the backs of the Russian workers. The growing militarization of Russia also leads to the continuing pauperization of the worker masses including in those factories that produce military equipment. The new offensive of Russian capital against the rights and lives of the workers forces them to rise up against the ruling classes to fight for their vital interests. This fight will be long, harsh and bloody. The proletariat must prepare itself in a conscientious and serious manner. The times of confusion, hunger strikes, collective suicides due to desperation, futile pickets at the gates of the palaces of power, the miserable belief in the mercy of the bourgeoisie, in endless judicial processes, demonstrations controlled by bourgeois unions and other bourgeois organizations, strikes following a narrow economist path, parliamentary cretinism and petty-bourgeois illusions in the generosity of the ruling classes are becoming things of the past.
In the last years Russia has been shaken by the combativity of the proletariat against the shameless exploitation by the Russian bourgeoisie, from combative strikes to the ‘war of the rails’, to the violent seizure of the factories by the workers including organized confrontations with the state organs of repression. These actions have struck fear in the heart of the bourgeoisie, forcing it to take extreme measures including using firearms against unarmed workers. In some places workers’ blood has been spilled. These acts of barbarism on the part of the Russian bourgeoisie, far from frightening the working class, have made it conscious of the need to mobilize and organize in order to establish better organizing structures. These actions by the oppressed masses have so far had a relatively local and spontaneous character. Mainly these actions have taken place under the control of the bourgeois unions or pro-bourgeois ‘yellow’ unions, which pursue purely economic goals together with timid proposals for reforms of the current bourgeois labour legislation. However this struggle has enriched the experience of struggle of the Russian proletariat and has made a qualitative advance for the Russian workers’ movement.
To a certain extent the Russian workers have learned to manoeuvre within the present labour code and to limit the illegal actions by the owners. As a result, it has been impossible for the owners to act in an arbitrary way, such as placing the workers on forced unpaid ‘vacations,’ etc. The workers have found ways to get around these illegal actions by the owners on the basis of the current labour legislation. The bourgeois unions have finally been unmasked and ridiculed. The workers are organizing themselves on the basis of class union structures such as the workers’ union ‘Zashita Truda’ (Defence of Labour). The most conscious workers are realizing slowly but surely the need for a workers’ vanguard organization, without which the workers’ struggle will see defeat after defeat. Besides, the most active part of the working class is becoming conscious of the fact that it needs a class political vanguard and not a petty-bourgeois extension of the union. Therefore these days the petty-bourgeois propaganda is not well received by the working class, it has been exposed politically in their eyes. Not only individuals but the broad worker masses are recognizing the need to solve this fundamental problem of the Russian workers’ movement. The Russian working class is being transformed from an indifferent and disorganized mass into an organized force. This creates the conditions for serious class confrontations with the bourgeoisie, which will lead to the reduction of the average rate of profit for the Russian and international capitalists. The bourgeoisie has no intention of accepting this setback. This is why the ruling classes will utilize new forms and new schemes to intensify their offensive against the exploited classes.
One of the fundamental points of the draconian measures that the
bourgeois mafia is planning to adopt is the adoption of a new labour code,
according to which fascist forms of labour relations between the administration
and the employees would be imposed in the factories.
Bourgeois propaganda has prepared a series of lies to confuse the petty-bourgeois spectator and to conceal the fascist essence of the reform of the labour code. As one of their arguments they say that the new labour code will modernize labour relations in conformity with the changes that have taken place in the economy these last years, in order to promote investment in the industrial sector, to improve labour discipline, to increase the ‘mobility of labour’, the modernization of the factory and, as a result, the reduction in the number of employees (the present labour code places obstacles on this) etc.
The Ministry of Labour has proposed a draft labour code that in essence abolishes the present labour code. This draft ‘labour code’ will lead to the fascization of labour relations in production. These they are some of the points in the draft ‘labour code’:
* The administration can dismiss any employee without apparent cause or explanation, that is, the arbitrariness of the owner with regard to the employee will be legalized. The union in this case will lose the right to intervene. - Article 27 point 1.
* The worker can be deprived of his wages or be dismissed for publicly exposing the arbitrariness or illegalities of the administration of the enterprise. It is argued that this point is needed to avoid endangering the ‘reputation of the owner in the eyes of his customers.’ The members of the union committee will no longer be immune. - Article 27, point 3.
* The union is totally deprived of the right to information, of access to the factory installations, of meeting places, of seeing the bank accounts for the income of the union dues. The union is denied the right to take legal actions against members of the administration (this is permitted in the present labor code). That is, the employees in fact will be forced to take illegal actions in order to defend their rights.
* The practice of ‘blacklists’ is being reintroduced. A worker’s request for a job can be rejected without any explanation. That is, the worst traditions of the gendarmerie of tsarist Russia, the order of fascist Germany and the U.S. anti-worker policy of the ‘scapegoat’ are being restored to persecute and get rid of any conscious worker. Those workers whose names consistently appear on these blacklists will never be able to get a job.
* The employer is granted the right to ‘lock-out’, this is, to dismiss in mass the whole workforce. In particular, so many obstacles are placed on the calling of strikes that the union is practically deprived of legal resources. - Article 25, point 2 and article 26, point 4.
* Any employee who wants to prematurely cancel the labour contract would face fines. - Article 25, point 2 and article 26, point 4.
* The agitation by the union and social organizations, leaflets, picketing, etc. will be prohibited during the course of negotiations with the administration. - Article 36, point 1.
* In case of a slackening of production the collective contract is automatically cancelled. This makes it possible for the administration of the factory to cancel any collective contract that goes against its interests through a simple formal procedure. - Article 32.
* Any collective contract that is advantageous to the exploiter can be extended indefinitely by the administration. Thus they can maintain a ‘democratic’ facade by arguing that a collective contract exists. During the time that a so-called collective contract is in force it cannot be subject to amendments. Thus the workforce is subjected to a complete and permanent ‘Constitution.’ - Article 41.
* The term of annual vacations is reduced to 14 days. - Article 64.
* The owner has the right to interrupt the vacation of any employee at his discretion.
* The limit on overtime hours is abolished. - Article 58.
* The administration has the right to make the workers work on Saturdays. - Article 59, point 1.
* The system of fines existing before 1917 is restored. - Article 75, point 2 and article 80, point 1. The fines can be as much as 50% of the monthly salary. - Article 76. Also the employees can be forced to pay fines to the administration for lack of fulfillment of the profit plan. In particular, the employees must pay huge fines for organizing strikes regardless of the reasons that have led to them.
* The director of the factory has the right to change the system of fixed payment to the worker, according to the results of the work, to the system of payment based on a minimum wage plus bonuses whose magnitude is solely determined by the director.
* The committee that oversees labour conflicts will be replaced by commissions, the majority of whose members will be appointed by members of the administration.
* A strict procedure will be put in place for calling strikes. The strike must be preceded a week in advance by a one-hour ‘warning’ strike. During that period the administration has at hand on its side a large number of legal arguments to prevent the strike action. - Article 116.
* The workers will not be paid for the duration of the strike independent of its character. - Article 118, point 3.
* The owner has the right to rescind labour contracts at his discretion and in case of a strike to replace the workforce with strikebreakers. - Article 119.
* The workforce is prohibited from impeding access to the installations of the factory to strike breakers, under severe penalties. - Article 114.
This new draft labour code, which is essentially fascist, has a great number of restrictions on the rights of the workers, and it is aimed at transforming them into an indifferent mass of serfs without any rights. At present we have confined ourselves to presenting a certain number of points of the new draft labour code.
The bourgeoisie has prepared several versions of the draft in case of an outbreak of social discontent. However all these versions in essence represent the setting up of fascist forms of relations of production between the owner and the wageworker. Under all of them the working class would be subjected to a choice without a choice.
The bourgeois unions have also proposed their own draft version of a new labour code. This draft is fundamentally anti-worker and pro-fascist regarding the rights of the working class, although some of the most controversial aspects are concealed by intricate legal formulas and deceptive verbiage. Thus the bourgeois unions have flagrantly shown that they are organizations that are anti-worker to the bone and in this case they have sided with the fascism of the bourgeoisie.
In an extreme case the Ministry of Labour has prepared a series of drafts for the step-by-step transformation of the present labour code according to the fascist schemes of the bourgeoisie in order to confuse the working class and to avoid a social explosion.
The interregional federation of the workers’ union ‘Defence of Labour’ and the Fund for a workers’ academy has prepared its own draft labour code that has been endorsed by the majority of the workers’ organizations. In December of 1997 this draft was proposed as an alternative draft to the Russian Duma by representatives Grigorev and Avalianin. This draft, although it has a number of weak points, is today the only alternative document to the new bourgeois-fascist labour code that consolidates and extends the rights of the workers compared to the present labour code. Until now the State Duma has ignored this alternative document.
‘Proletarskaya Gazeta’ No.8
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