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Life Under a Marxist Regime

by John Spritzler

April 23, 2024

Workers and Peasants Fought Against the Bolshevik Party's Authoritarian Domination

During the rule of the Bolshevik (Communist) Party in the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks strictly enforced the invalid authoritarian principle*. The result was that the creative and intelligent initiative from below by the only people who had direct knowledge of the relevant facts--the workers in the various enterprises--was stifled. This in turn prevented the economic enterprises from functioning at all efficiently and reasonably to provide the products and services that people needed or desired. An excellent first hand account of this is provided by the author known as Voline, in Chapter 5 of his book The Unknown Revolution:1917-1921.


​In order that somebody could do what ordinary workers were prevented from doing by the invalid authoritarian principle, a new category of person was required, known as functionaries. The functionaries acted as intermediaries between the workers in the different kinds of economic enterprises and as decision-makers for these enterprises, from manufacturing to farming. Functionaries were people who did exactly what the Communist Party leaders told them to do. They were motivated to rise to a higher rank of functionary by being absolutely obedient to the Communist Party elite because if they made it to the top ranks they enjoyed special privileges--materially and otherwise. Eventually there were about two million high level "functionaries" bossing about eight million low-ranking functionaries.


Top-ranking functionaries versus rank-and-file workers and low-ranking functionaries: this was the form of the re-emergence of class inequality in the Soviet Union, all made possible, in fact made inevitable, by the enforcement of the invalid authoritarian principle.

Contrary to the egalitarian practice of the anarchists during the Spanish Revolution of 1936-9, the Bolsheviks during those same years instituted extreme wage inequality. A former Bolshevik, Victor Serge, provides the following information for wages at this time (the following paragraph is partially exact quotes and partially my edited quotes from Serge's book Russia Twenty Years After, pg. 4-5:

Hundreds of thousands of Soviet women workers get between 70 and 90 rubles a month (all figures are monthly here), a poverty wage entirely inadequate to feed the one who gets it. Laborers (males) get 100 to 120 rubles. Skilled workers get 250 to 400 rubles. Stakhanovist workers (i.e., those who work supposedly--it's all propaganda--absurdly hard) get 500 rubles and over. A scientific collaborator of a large establishment gets 300 to 400 rubles; a stenographer knowing foreign languages, about 200 rubles; a newspaper editor 230 rubles; miscellaneous employees, 90 to 120 rubles. A director of an enterprise or head of an office gets 400 to 800 rubles; high functionaries (communists) and big specialists get from 1,000 to 5,000 rubles. In the capitals, renowned specialists get as high as between 5,000 and 10,000 rubles per month. Writers get the same income. The great official dramatists, the official painters who do the portraits of the important leaders over and over again, the poets and novelists approved by the Central Committee, may get a million a year and more.

After the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia and Ukraine, there were major uprisings against their power by workers and peasants who wanted a real revolution. The sailors and workers in Kronstadt, in 1921, declared:

"A fundamental change in the policy of the government is required. In the first place, the workers and peasants need liberty. They do not want to live according to the regulations of the Bolsheviks; they want to decide their own destinies for themselves."

Two headlines of Kronstadt newspapers were:




These sailors and workers wanted their local elected soviet to be free from domination by the Bolshevik Party; they rejected the invalid authoritarian principle. "Lev Trotsky was sent to Petrograd to organize the armed response. He assembled as many loyal troops as he could under the command of Mikhail Tukhachevskii, and on March 7 began the bombardment of the island by the great guns of Petrograd." Tragically the Bolshevik Party--led by Lenin, not yet Stalin!-- succeeded in defeating the good people of Kronstadt.

In Ukraine, a large peasant army led by the anarchist, Nestor Makhno, fought against the Bolsheviks for the same liberty of the workers and peasants that the sailors and workers of Kronstadt fought for. Unfortunately, the idea that the invalid authoritarian principle needs to be rejected was not sufficiently widespread and understood in Russia/Ukraine at this time and the Bolsheviks, claiming to be the legitimate central government, were able to use lies to martial enough troops to be loyal to the central government to defeat these genuinely revolutionary workers and peasants. Read more about this in The Unknown Revolution:1917-1921.


“On September 23 [2012], a siren pierced the night at the 80,000-worker Taiyuan plant as rioting erupted. Zhonghong recalled, “During the previous month workers had clocked as many as 130 hours overtime.” Overtime was compulsory. This was more than three times the maximum 36-hour limit of overtime per month allowed under Chinese law. Put another way, workers were subjected to 13-to-1, and under extreme conditions, 30-to-1 work-to-rest schedules, that is, just one day off every two weeks or one day off a month in the pressure-cooker months preceding the release of the new iPhones.

"Fatigue and bodily pain aside, workers experienced being severely ill treated. “Over the past two months,” Zhonghong continued, “we couldn’t even get paid leave when we were sick.” The ever-tightening production cycle pressured workers to speed up. Days off were canceled and the sick were pressed to continue to work. The upgraded iPhone was hailed as a thinner, faster, and brighter model. In stark contrast, workers experienced some of their darkest days on the production floor. Worker fury was fueled by security staff brutality at the male workers’ dormitory. Zhonghong explained:


“At about 11: 00 p.m., security officers severely beat two workers for failing to show their staff IDs. They kicked them until they fell to the ground.”


"This beating of workers by security officers touched off the riot. By midnight, thousands of workers had had enough. They smashed company security offices, production facilities, shuttle buses, motorbikes, cars, shops, and canteens in the factory complex. Some grabbed iPhone back-plates from a warehouse. Others broke windows, demolished company fences, pillaged factory supermarkets, and overturned police cars and set them ablaze. The company security chief used a patrol car public address system in an attempt to get the workers to end their “illegal activities.”


"But as more and more workers joined the roaring crowd, managers called in the riot police. By 3: 00 a.m., five thousand riot police in helmets with shields and clubs, government officials, and medical staff had converged on the factory. Over the next two hours, the police took control of the dormitories and workshops of the entire complex, detaining the most defiant workers and locking down others in their dormitory rooms. More than forty workers were beaten, handcuffed, and sent off in half a dozen police cars. The factory was sealed off by police lines on all sides, so that workers were contained and onlookers were prevented from joining in. While police repression could demobilize, defuse, and crush worker actions, such methods could also highlight the depths of conflict and might even intensify it.


"In emergency mode, Foxconn announced “a special day off” for all workers and staff at the Taiyuan facility. Local officials were sensitive to the fact that riots could undermine economic goals, thereby provoking the wrath of higher authorities if grievances were not quickly resolved and worker insurgency suppressed. The iPhone parts factory reopened after a one-day lockdown. The timely shipment and continuous flow of products appeared to have remained Apple’s overriding concerns. On the same day that the riot occurred, Apple CEO Tim Cook assured the world that retail stores would “continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date.” 18 But as international news headlines blared “China Apple Factory Riot” 19 and “Riot Reported at Apple Partner Manufacturer Foxconn’s iPhone 5 Plant,” 20 Apple was compelled to reassure consumers around the world, including Chinese consumers, that it was not running sweatshops.”


— Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and The Lives of China's Workers by Jenny Chan, Mark Selden, et al.

​“In a long-awaited response to intern abuse, the Chinese central government in 2016 belatedly took some of the first steps to protect the basic rights of student interns. Specifically, vocational schools are instructed to manage student internships in accordance with the “Regulations on the Management of Vocational School Student Internships.”


"Under the new regulations, effective April 11, 2016, the duration of workplace-based internships should normally be six months. Vocational schools and enterprises are required to jointly provide interns with commercial general liability insurance. The regulations also require that student internships have substantial educational content and work-skills training provisions, along with comprehensive labor protections for student interns such as eight-hour working days, no overtime, and no night shifts.


"Above all, no more than 10 percent of the labor force at “any given facility,” and no more than 20 percent of the workers in “any given work position,” should consist of student interns at any point in time. 16


"However, the government left intact incentives for corporations to continue to prioritize student interns as cheap and expendable labor.


"The 2016 regulations stipulate the statutory minimum level for paying interns: “Wages shall be at least 80 percent of that of employees during the probationary period” (emphasis added). 17


"In other words, interns are to be paid for their labor, but employers are permitted to pay them just 80 percent of the minimum income offered to employees. Employers save further since interns, defined as students rather than workers, receive no corporate payments toward retirement.

Fundamentally, the interests shared by companies and local governments are intertwined to the detriment of student interns.


"In 2019, Foxconn Hengyang in Hunan province, whose primary contracts were with Amazon, reportedly violated limits on the number of intern and dispatch workers (also known as agency workers), who made up, respectively, 21 percent and 34 percent of the 7,435 workers. Under the law, dispatch workers should not exceed 10 percent of the company’s workforce.


"The proliferation of “flexible” employment has adversely impacted not only dispatch workers. Regular workers would also encounter greater difficulty in making collective demands on employers as they now must compete with contingent laborers in the workplace.


"Worse, student interns were illegally required to work 10-hour shifts, day and night, including two hours of forced overtime. 18


"The super-exploitation of Chinese student labor has in fact gone far beyond Foxconn to e-commerce giants such as, and from manufacturing to the services industry. 19”


— Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and The Lives of China's Workers by Jenny Chan, Mark Selden, et al.

Extract from March 22, 2018:


​"Production and social reproduction of Chinese rural migrants

​China’s rapid capital accumulation was spurred in part by its heavy reliance on a rural-to-urban migratory workforce over the past four decades. By official reckoning some 282 million rural migrants have been drawn into the manufacturing, service, and construction sectors in towns and cities all across the country, an increase of more than 50 million following the economic recovery since 2009, and accounting for one-fifth of China’s total population. City governments have adopted a “points system” granting certain rural migrants, particularly big entrepreneurs, an urban household registration based on criteria such as their ability to buy a house, specialized job skills, and educational attainments. However, even after years of working in the city, the great majority of moderately educated migrants and their children remain second-class citizens, retaining rural residential status and lacking equal access to public education, subsidized health care, and retirement benefits, making possible the suppression of labor costs.


"Low-paid migrant workers are often housed in dormitories, which are cost-effective for the employer and conducive to ensuring that workers spend most of their off-hours preparing for the next shift. The socio-spatial boundary between work and life is blurred, helping to ensure that production deadlines are met by facilitating overtime work. The all-in-one, multi-functional architecture of production workshops, warehouses, and residential places was typical of early industrial districts, and is still common in contemporary cities where migrant settlers are concentrated.


"In the search for limited personal freedom over their private lives, workers leave the management-dominated collective dormitory to rent private apartments as soon as they can afford to. These are often inexpensive rental rooms with no windows, or only a small window, which are at least a link to the outside world. Some complexes are infested with mosquitoes, rats, and cockroaches. Utilities and property management fees vary widely. As private housing prices have reached sky-high in megacities, workers’ earnings have been eaten up by the landlords.


"Blue-collar migrants are selling their labor in food delivery, package delivery, car-hailing and home cleaning services, to name only a few examples, fueling the growth of China’s GDP and the shift from manufacturing to service work. With the continued expansion of the digital economy, tens of millions of new “flexible” jobs mediated by platforms and apps are created. As independent contractors, however, they are not adequately protected by the national labor law; their job security and income stability are minimal. With the shutdown of unlicensed workplaces and unregistered dormitories after the deadly fire, the vulnerability of informal service workers, and their children, as well as many working people from other sectors, came to the fore. Some of them had to pay higher rent for a temporary housing to withstand the freezing cold, while the others had no choice but to leave.


"Chinese internal migrants have long been targets in urban governments’ “clean out” efforts. From the city to the countryside, under the accelerated pace of “development” and economic transformation, encroachment of cities on rural farm land and villages has been intensified. Scores of villagers have been displaced, bereft of the ability to return home to till the land. Landless laborers, who have lost their access to household plots in their natal villages, face an added burden: employers are reluctant to hire villagers who have lost the contracted land that supported subsistence, thus requiring employers to increase wages. Rural project contractors, particularly in the construction industry organized through localistic networks, refuse to hire dispossessed peasant workers because they have to pay up-front to maintain the basic livelihood of these workers before they are paid for work, which typically occurs at the completion of the project. Among the jobless, landless migrants are the lowest of the low."

The Chinese Myth versus Reality


We often hear that the Communist Party of China has lifted the Chinese people up out of poverty. To understand how false this claim is, read "Bill Gates Says Poverty Is Decreasing. He Couldn't Be More Wrong" by Jason Hickel (also see this same point made about Africa here). As Hickel explains, moving people from living in a rural society, where money is a relatively unimportant way of obtaining one's needs and people have less money, to an urban society where money is the only way of obtaining one's needs and people have more money, makes it easy to misleadingly say, "See, people were lifted out of poverty when they went from rural to urban living," even when the actual conditions of life for the urban people--working as horribly oppressed wage-slaves in huge factories--make their lives arguably worse than those of rural peasants. Millions of rural Chinese peasants have been forced to leave the rural countryside and immigrate to cities to work in the cheap labor and extremely oppressive factories, as described in some detail here.


In particular, the Communist Party of China in 1999 eagerly signed an agreement with the United States leading to China's accession to the World Trade Organization, which resulted in the reduction of tariffs on agricultural products and new limits on how much the Chinese government could subsidize farmers as discussed here and here [2003] ("Farmers of land-intensive products--particularly cotton, sugar crops, oilseeds, corn and soybeans--will be among the most adversely affected".) Life prospects for farmers, especially for their adolescent children, were made bleak and this motivated them to migrate to the cities for urban wage work.


In the rural homes they left, these farmers did not have very much money, nor did they need to rely solely upon money to get what they needed to live; but in the city they relied totally on their wage to buy what they needed to live--and it provided an abject poverty standard of living. The fact that their city wage was higher than whatever small amount of money they obtained in the countryside does not mean their standard of living was higher in the city than in the countryside; the opposite was the case. But apologists for the Communist Party of China point to the wage to assert that the peasants were "lifted out of poverty."


An indication of the terrible poverty--in terms of standard of living rather than magnitude of an urban wage compared to a rural wage--of China's urban factory workers who migrated to cities from their rural homes is this: these factory workers cannot even afford to raise their children (69 million as of 2018 or "1 in 5 children in China") with them in the city and so must leave their children to be raised by their grandparents in their rural home, which the parents can only typically afford to visit "a few days over the holidays every year."  "By 2006, migrant workers comprised 40% of the total urban labor force.[51]


Read here about the enormous economic inequality in China today.

The Communist Party of China oppresses and represses the working class much the same as Western capitalist governments do. Read about the repression here and here and here and here.



* The invalid authoritarian principle is the wrong (click here to see why, and read "What Makes a Government Legitimate" to see what the valid authoritarian principle is) notion that one must obey the highest level of government no matter what (i.e., whether or not the government is a truly legitimate government, as discussed in "What Makes a Government Legitimate?")

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