I should like to remark at this point that attempts were made at two other places to organize the working masses in the same fashion as was done in Novorossiysk.Ã‚Â An endeavor was attempted in the Donetz area among the coal miners, but before it got underway the Don Cossacks attacked the group and murdered the principal organizer, Comrade Konev.Ã‚Â This act undermined the organization of economic soviets from the beginning.
The same situation was duplicated in Siberia, again among the coal miners.Ã‚Â In this instance, a rebellion broke out among the Czechoslovak armed forces that happened to be located there.Ã‚Â The outcome was that both experiments were liquidated at the very start through the murder of the leaders and organizers.Ã‚Â And now let us return to the events in Novorossiysk.
Shortly after our plan was adopted, elections were held at which each group elected two delegates to the economic soviet.Ã‚Â Immediately afterwards the delegates held a conference and a group of delegates was selected whose task was to organize the practical work of the soviet.Ã‚Â Two or three days later, we conducted a meeting at which committees were selected for the purpose of coordinating certain projects.
We then proceeded to invite spokesmen from the cooperative movement and arrived at an understanding with them that the cooperatives would take over the task of providing and distributing the essential consumer goods to the entire population of the city.Ã‚Â They were also to assume responsibility for distributing the products that would be made in the factories and shops of the city.
In spite of the fact that there were a number of old Bolsheviks among the active leaders of the cooperative movement, the former were quite eager to collaborate with us and the entire idea of an economic soviet seemed to meet with their favor.
It was not long before the political soviet became little more than a hollow rubber stamp.Ã‚Â Not only the workers, but also the entire population of the city in general began to direct their interests toward our economic soviet.Ã‚Â It goes without saying that this turn of events was not entirely to the liking of some of the activists in the political soviet.
One episode in particular will help to illustrate this development.Ã‚Â As soon as the representatives of the Kerensky regime were deposed, a Red Guard was organized, whose function was the defense of the city.Ã‚Â It consisted of workers who were expected to devote a certain number of hours daily to the security of the community.
Shortly after the political soviet had taken over the authority in the city, it had closed down and sealed off the banks in the city.Ã‚Â At the same time, however, they had forgotten to withdraw funds for the daily needs of the community and for essential activities that required financial outlays. The security of these banks was of course placed in the hands of the Red Guards and, shortly after the second revolution, when a delegation from the political soviet came to the bank with an official authorization to remove a certain sum of money, the Red Guards refused to admit the delegation unless they were accompanied by a representative of the economic soviet.Ã‚Â The delegation was greatly offended by this requirement, but there was no way around it and finally they had to appeal to the economic soviet.Ã‚Â Only when a spokesman for the economic soviet arrived at the bank did the Red Guards allow the vaults to be opened and the required sum of money withdrawn.
This incident produced deep resentment among some of the Bolsheviks, but the majority of the active leaders among them understood the matter and realized that the small anarchist group possessed more influence than they did.Ã‚Â Furthermore, they realized that this prestige was not achieved through political speeches and promises, but through a healthy sense of realism, which almost overnight had transformed the worker into a builder and shaper of his own life and the lives of his fellow human beings.Ã‚Â Indeed, a certain segment of the old-time Bolsheviks came to realize that the economic soviet was engaged in a useful and constructive activity and was developing the class-consciousness of the working masses.
Even the engineers, technicians, bookkeepers, managers and other administrative personnel who remained at their posts cooperated with the internal affairs committee.Ã‚Â But the fact that the economic soviet resolved to introduce equal pay for all made the deepest impression on the laboring masses.Ã‚Â It heightened their courage and they began to feel like real human beings for the first time.Ã‚Â “Equality” was transformed from an ephemeral abstraction without much real meaning to them into a reality.Ã‚Â All, from common laborer to engineer, received equal compensation and, in addition, all special privileges were abolished except for children and the sick.
I can safely affirm that at that particular moment the utopia of a free society began to achieve fulfillment in real life.Ã‚Â As one of the initiators and as an active participant in this effort, I enjoyed the opportunity, day after day, of observing the entire field of action.Ã‚Â I could scarcely believe my eyes at times; how the plain workers of yesterday were constructing their new tomorrow today.
There were two large cement factories in Novorossiysk, employing thousands of workers, both quite modern and equipped with complex machinery.Ã‚Â On one occasion I happened to speak to one of the highly paid engineers who had remained at his post even though we knew that he was descended from the old aristocracy and was highly conservative in his thinking.Ã‚Â It must have been quite difficult for him to adjust to the new order of things.Ã‚Â In former days, for instance, he had an automobile and chauffeur to himself.Ã‚Â Now, when he wished to travel somewhere, he was obliged to turn to the internal affairs committee to justify his use of an automobile.
When I spoke to him (several months after the workers had taken over the industry) he said to me: “Comrade Yelensky, I have been an engineer for a long time and I have worked with ordinary laborers all that time, but I never knew or suspected that they possessed such creative power.Ã‚Â These plain workingmen are able to manage competently the entire, complex mechanism of the shops and factories, and even if they make minor mistakes, it does not matter too much.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We, the engineers, have become mere co-workers among the great mass of workers.Ã‚Â What sort of magic have you implanted in the heads and hearts of this great mass of workers to have brought forth from them their creative power?Ã‚Â I observe, and my eyes cannot believe what I see.Ã‚Â To me, this constitutes a great social and technological miracle.”
Indeed it was a kind of moral and spiritual miracle.Ã‚Â With the exception of a very small minority, the entire population of Novorossiysk seemed highly pleased.Ã‚Â The few who had previously enjoyed special privileges and lived in luxury were naturally unhappy over such a radical transformation in their way of life, though of course they had the same right as everyone to obtain an equal share of everything.Ã‚Â In general however, the townspeople reacted well to the new situation.Ã‚Â It is interesting to note that drunkenness almost totally disappeared, and if occasionally one did see a drunken person on the streets, his fellow townsmen would attempt to talk to him and persuade him that in times like these it was a disgrace for anyone to become intoxicated.Ã‚Â The expression “in times like these” acquired a new and profound significance for the majority of the population.Ã‚Â A sense of collective responsibility prevailed and the new social situation created new relationships between individuals and the larger community.
Thefts and robberies also nearly completely disappeared from the city.Ã‚Â We were beginning to believe that we could proceed peacefully with our task of constructing a new and freer world.Ã‚Â Unfortunately our dreams collided with reality, and black clouds began to appear on the horizon.