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100 years of proletarian autonomy

category international | workplace struggles | opinion / analysis author Monday May 30, 2005 21:38author by FdCA - Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchiciauthor email internazionale at fdca dot it Report this post to the editors

Recalling the centenary of the formation of the first Soviets

One hundred years ago, in May 1905 in Ivanovo-Voznesensk (a textiles district of Moscow) the first Workers' Soviet was born. The platform of demands of the workers of the area sought:

  • the abolition of night work and overtime
  • a minimum monthly wage
  • the abolition of the "factory police"
  • the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for workers.
The Soviet was made up of 110 delegates, had a collegial management and its tasks were:
  • to manage strikes
  • to block any separate actions or bargaining
  • to ensure the maintenance of order and the strengthening of organization between the workers
  • to ensure that work was not recommenced without a decision of the Soviet.
This, then, is how the proletariat's revolutionary experience began in Czarist Russia and would eventually lead to the 1917 insurrection. It was the "First Russian Revolution".

Following a series of local strikes and the creation of new workers' organizational forms, in October 1905 the Council of Workers' Deputies of St. Petersburg was born. This Soviet elected a provisional executive committee of 22 members (2 for every district of the city, 2 for every trade union) and had its own newspaper. It managed to impose the introduction of an 8-hour day in the factories. The struggle was then repressed with every means at the disposal of the bosses, who were reduced to locking out and firing 19,000 workers.

Soviets then appeared in all of Russia's industrial cities.

There were about fifty Workers' Councils and some councils were formed by soldiers and peasants. The movement of poor peasants and farm labourers grew with forms of struggle which ranged from a refusal to pay taxes to driving out local authorities and landowners.

1905 was therefore an extremely important example for the international proletariat, an experience which was directly linked to the proletarian structures of self-government through councils born in France during the Paris Commune in 1871.

The Soviets were exclusively organized by, managed by and made up of proletarians who were struggling for their own class interests. They were organizations that aimed for class unity and the autonomy of the working class.

Apart from economic demands, the Soviets also had a whole series of of policies which were aimed at changing society in a socialist way. The following 10 years saw a progressive spread of class consciousness in the hearts of the Russian proletariat.

In fact, in 1917 the Soviets rose up again to become the principal actors of the "second revolution" in October, only for the Bolshevik Party, Lenin and Trotsky, to destroy them, first by using them for their own purposes, later by removing any traces of workers' control or autonomy and, finally, by physically eliminating any opposition to the party's dictatorship.

The Soviets of 1905 and of the period from 1917 to 1921, the Factory Councils, the neighbourhood Councils, the "third revolution" of Kronstadt and the Makhnovist movement in Ukraine remain as milestones in the history of proletarian autonomy and of the class struggle against the enemies of the revolution, of equality and of freedom. They form a part of those revolutionary experiences of the proletariat on which Anarchist Communist theory is based.

Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici
May 2005

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