Viktor Kotel'nikov of the Samara Strike Committee sent me today a copy your letter and asked to "put things straight" by responding to it. This is what I am going to do in this late hour.
I am not going to respond to the ICL letter as such. I hope that the absurdity of their insuniations will become clear from what follows.
I must stay beforehand that I do not belong to any party or political; organization of any kind. My relations with the Samara stachkom are of purely informal nature.
They began year ago when I received a message from Russia that two leaders of the three-month long industrial action in the city of Samara were arrested and needed help. I posted this information on the mailing list (marxism-general) and proposed to its subscribers to send a collective letter to Samara authorities demanding the release of these men. Their names were Grigory Isayev and Viktor Kotel'nikov. Eight or ten people joined me and we sent a letter to Samara.
Soon I received a letter from Isayev who thanked us for support and told that he and Kotel'nikov were freed under the pressure of Samara workers. And he told me something else. Their stachkom now had email.
This was a stroke of luck whose significance I did not realize fully until now. For it was not only the first Russian genuinely proletarian organization--Isayev and Kotel'nikov are cadre industrial workers from the machine-building plant--who could now speak to the world directly, it was also the most politically advanced organization of Russian workers, with a long history of struggle and a high level
of theoretical awareness.
The guiding force behind the Strike Committee was the Party of Proletarian Dictatorship (Partiia Diktatury Proletarita) whose roots went back to the early 1970s when a group of Samara workers formed, in deep underground, a political organization to bring their class to power once again. Their leader and main theoretician was A.B. Razlatsky who were convinced that the capitalist restoration in the USSR
was close and that the working had little time to prepare for that hour when, what he called, the "Administration," the ruling class of the country would make the final step and finish off the social-economical foundations of the October Revolution.
Already in the 1970s the group was able to organize shop-floor strikes and influence the mass of workers in the struggle for better work conditions. Eventually and despite of their sophisticated conspiratorial methods , the KGB discovered the organization. Razlatsky and Isayev were arrested and sentenced to labor camps. Their were set free during Gorbachev's perestroika and immediately resumed their political work,
expanding and strengthening their class base in Samara's industrial enterprises.
Soon after his liberation from the camp Razlatsky died but the struggle continued. In the winter of 1998--during the strike which began in the plant where Isayev and Kotel'nikov worked and which included the blockede of the downtown, the occupation of the plant and the lock out of its entire administration--there was formed the city strike committee of Samara, with Isayev and Kotel'nikov as its chairman and vice-chairman respectively. The Committee represents eight biggest industrial enterprises of the city.
Soon after the end of the strike, there began the so-called "rail war" of the spring of 1998. While miners of Kuzbass, Vorkuta and Tula were cutting the main railway artheries in the east, north and south of Russia they sent a delegation of miners to Moscow to picket indefinitely the goverment demanding its and the president's resignation. They occupied the Gorbaty Bridge in the heart of now fashionable Krasnaya Presnya district where in 1905 red workers fought the Cossacks with revolvers and bricks. But this time they were led not by the Bolsheviks but the pro-capitalist leadership of the Independent Miners' Union (IMU). This is when the PPD in Samara decided to send Isayev and Kotel'nikov to the Gorbaty Bridge and to inject into the picket a bit of the spirit of 1905. They went and stayed their for four months, sleeping in their tent under the banners: "All Power To Strike Committees! " and "All Bosses Are Bastards!" During that period, they took active part in a number strikes in and around Moscow and tried to highten the political consciousness of the picket and the numerous workers' delegations whio came to support it from all over Russia. Eventually they succeded in pursuading the miners and their leaders to form the All-Russian Strike Committee. Isayev became its vice-chairman. The chairman was the head of the IMU, A. Sergeev. Soon after he made a deal with the government and lifted the picket, leaving on the bridge only a dozen or so militant workers who refused to give up. They were led by Isayev and Kotel'nikov. The next night Luzkov's riot police armed with
machine guns surrounded their camp, seized the workers, and deported them from Moscow.
Three months later the Samara people took most active part in the First Congress of Strike Committees held in the Urals. At the end of the congress they were asked to organize the second and, this time, an independent one. As a matter of fact, the first congress was almost stifled by the communist movement who helped to organize it: the workers tried to do this on their own but failed. They had neither money nor "connections." Communists did. In a letter which I plan to translate and publish shortly, Isayev describes how the representatives of communist parties were brought to the congress by bus, train, and plane loads and outnumbered those of strike committees; how unanimously they voted down any resolution intendeed to radicalize and organize the movement of strike committees--those same communists who otherwise have been getting at each other's throats for the last ten years.
This is how the idea of an appeal to the international working class was born. In March the stachkom informed me that many delegates could not come because they did not have money even for a one-way ticket and that there was no way that the congress could convene at the original date. They needed money for other things as well, of course, but above all for transportation for on this depended the political composition of their congress. You bet, it were the most militant committees who were also the poorest.
The stachkom asked me to help raising money for the congress abroad. The Internet was the only medium to do this. But we quickly discovered one problem: How to transfer money to Samara? Given the expected average amount of donations ($10-20)--after all it was an appeal to the international working, not banking, class--the cost of available methods of transfer was prohibitive. Who would pay $18 for a wire transfer of $20? The solution was to find people abroad who would serve as collectors of individual donations so that they could be transfered to Samara in lump sums thus saving in transfer costs. They gave me several names of people who they believed could be willing to help them in this way. I wrote them a letter with this request. Only one answered yes. Bob Malecki who was another marxism-general old-timer who signed the letter of protest against the arrest of Isayev and Kotel'nikov. This is how Bob and I became the stachkom's "representatives" abroad.
Well, this is all. There are, of course, many more things to tell about the Samara stachkom, the congress, and the struggle in Russia. Stachkom will try to do its best to provide as full and as objective information about the congress as possible. Today one of their supporters abroad arranged for them a year-long unlimited access to the Internet. But there remains another technical problem. I am presently the only one who helps stachkom with translation between Russian and English. My abilities and time to do this are limited. Stachkom needs more people able to help it in this regard. Stachkom fully understands its responsibility before Russian proletariat to use its Internet access for providing the international working class with truthful information about the struggle in Russia. Beside the bi-lingual web page, stachkom has set two mailing lists: firstname.lastname@example.org (in English) and email@example.com (in Russian).
To subscribe, send a blank message to
Good night, comrades,
PS. I will send a copy of this letter with those of the ISWoR and ICL to the
with the request to publish them on their web page (section: The letters).
From - International Solidarity with Workers in Russia - ISWoR 8th April 1999.
Three e-mails are below. First is the ISWoR response to Ikcelam. Second is Ikcelam's message. Third is the original message IN FULL from the Samara Strike Committee.
Dear comrades all, On 5th April, a message was widely distributed on the international left, see below, condemning the sectarian behaviour of the ICL, the international Spartacist organisation and some of their friends. ISWoR, independent of all the comrades concerned, has investigated the two web sites in question and come to the conclusions that:
A. The second All Russia Congress of Committee-s is an event of considerable importance both to the Russian working class and internationally. It must be supported fully and absolutely. ISWoR will be collecting donations from our supporters and members and sending as much as we can to the Samara strikers to organise their All Russia Congress. We urge all comrades and groups to send money by whichever way they feel confident. Any and all attempts to set up similar bodies must be supported.
B. It is clear that the ICL have been involved supporting Samara workers for some time and are heavily supporting this initiative. This work is only to be commended. Well done comrades!
C. Ikcelam, the author of the post, obviously does not like ICL politics or the organisation. We have yet to get a response from the Samara strikers on his allegations, and we do not know whether Vladimir Bilenkin is even a member or close to the ICL. That our left-wing movement in general is sectarian, and not just the ICL, does not mean we should simply condemn those who make typical sectarian mistakes - and that is all this is here. ISWoR did not find any evidence that one penny of this money is going astray - nor do we think it is.
D. The Samara web site in English does look like an ICL front. This can easily be corrected but not by removing the pro-ICL links - this would be sectarian jealousy and give weapons to right-wing witch-hunters - but by the rest of the left getting involved, giving practical support, and earning the right to get their organisation linked on the Samara strikers web site - just as the ICL and their friends have done! It would be good also for the Samara web site to put in links and information about other struggles in Russia - such as the Yasnogorsk/Tula Strikers for whom ISWoR has been raising solidarity internationally.
E. Friendly advice to the ICL would be to follow the example of dozens of activists who are members of a wide range of left political parties or none at all, but despite these differences, work together in ISWoR. We are a new international body with supporters in 15 countries already. We are united around four simple principles of building international solidarity for workers in Russia, opposing racism and fascism there and opposing the IMF-Yeltsinite exploitation that has destroyed the economy. We know the ICL support these principles too. Therefore we would urge them, and all other comrades of all other groups to work together in supporting the Samara strikers and all progressive workers organisations in Russia. This method can achieve maximum solidarity internationally which is so important in these times.
Lisa Taylor - for ISWoR Interim International Committee
Subj: Re - Spartacists & All Russia Congress of Strike Committees
Date: 05/04/99 21:26:40 GMT
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Subj: Spartacist & All Russia Congress of Strike Committees
To the Samara Strike Committee
To the All Russian Congress of Strike Committees
Dear Grigory Isayev,
Dear Viktor Alekseevich Kotel'nikov,
The Samara Strike Committee has made an international Appeal in English (see it in full below) for funds to help finance an All Russia Congress of Strike Committee-s on 17th April this year. This is a very important initiative that must be supported. But from the point of view of the international working class giving solidarity and funds, there are some big question marks. The whole Appeal (in the English version) appears to be a front organisation for the Spartacists (International Communist League).
The Sparts are small international sectarian grouping that rarely collaborates with other political tendencies and who are regarded as a pariah by most other Marxist tendencies internationally. I suspect strongly that the Samara Strike Committee is not aware of this. This will do them great harm when it comes to international support.
FIRSTLY the Samara strikers web site in English has direct links to only two other web sites: The Homepage of John Clements (French Spartacist web site); and that of Bob Malecki in Sweden (another Spartacist politically). This leads directly to the Sparts international web site.
SECONDLY, on the Samara Appeal there is an appeal for the money to be sent to "international representatives", Bob Malecki (Spartoid in Sweden) to cover Europe; and Bilenkin - another Spart I believe - to cover the USA; and lastly by Swift (money transfer) direct to the Samara Strike Committee.
THIRDLY, both Malecki and Bilenkin have distributed this Appeal widely and internationally by e-mail (and obviously in different languages and in the Sparts own press) - but having first REMOVED the request for money to go direct to the Samara Strike Fund, at the end of the e-mail (see original below the double dotted lines). On Malecki-s web site, you will find it removed also. So it seems the Sparts are directing all the money via themselves. Also on Malecki-s web site there is an appeal for money for himself personally, which differs in no respect whatsoever from the appeal for the Samara Strike Committee. This is not an accusation of theft, and we must give Malecki the benefit of the doubt on this as it is an easy mistake to make. But it is bad political judgment and organizational behavior.
I think the Spartacists should collaborate with others internationally in supporting this All Russia Strike Committee Conference. There needs to be a constant campaign against sectarianism and abuse and misuse of connections with workers in struggle.
Yours for honesty, Ikcelam Brown
THE ORIGINAL APPEAL
To the International Working Class
The Samara Strike Committee--the host of the Second All-Russian Congress of Strike Committees--had to postpone the beginning of the congress from March 28 to April 17 due to the lack of money to transport the delegates of the congress to the city of Samara (the Volga river).
The coffers of our most militant working class organizations are empty. Our workers cannot fill them. They do not get paid their wages. Their families starve. Yet without some minimal financial resources the desperately needed higher level of class organization cannot be reached. This is why we, the organizers of the congress, have no choice but to appeal to the international working class, its organizations and all progressive people around the world to help us in making this event happen.
Why do we need this congress now?
We need it because all illusions that the anti-capitalist working class movement in our country can be organized from the outside, by the existing communist parties have been proven to be nothing but illusions.
We can now clearly see that the organized communist movement ("komdvizhenie") formed and led by the remnants of the former CPSU has broken with Marxism, with the ideas and ideals of communism , has broken with the working class and has become either the agent of the nationalist bourgeoisie and the state-capitalist bureaucracy or has ossified into sectarian, self-centered formations--politically sterile and hopelessly removed from the actual struggles of Russian proletariat.
The accelerated disintegration and decay of the communist parties in our country has been accompanied by the profound weakening of the physical and moral strength of the working class under the terrible blows of the cannibalistic regime of capitalist restoration who now denies to us even the means of bare subsistence, of mere reproduction of our physical capacities to work, which even the slaveholders of the past did not deny to their slaves. We have been driven millennia back to the conditions of primitive want, of pure, unmitigated barbarism.
But the modern barbarism of the bourgeois society breeds fascism. The self-appointed "saviors" of workers and the nation are already marching in the streets of Moscow and other cities brandishing swastikas under the slogans "Russia for Russians!" and "Russians Are Supermen!" And they are not alone. They find sympathizers among the members of the monstrous apparatus of repression created by Yeltsin's regime to defend those who stole from us our factories, among broad sections of the petty bourgeoisie, among many intellectuals, and, yes, even among not a few workers, demoralized by the abysmal conditions of their existence.
We now stand alone against the barbarism of 'liberal' capitalism and the rising barbarism of its fascist twin. We now know that no savior will come to our help. We must save ourselves. We must save society. We must save the country. We can do this only by making it OUR society, OUR country, OUR dictatorship--the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
This is why we need this congress, the congress of strike committees who have already proven their will to fight in the battles of the rail war in the spring of 1998, in the occupation of enterprises, in establishing the de-facto power of the workers' soviets in a number of towns across Russia. This is why we believe that we have the right and the duty to ask the
international proletariat to help us now.
All Power To Strike Committees!
Workers of All Countries, Unite!
Donations can be sent
1) by wire to Viktor Alekseevich Kotel'nikov. 443086, Russia, Samara, ul.
Novo-Sadovaya 179, bunker
2) by money order or check to our international representatives
915 32 Robertsfors
In USA ($US only):
P.O. Box 5192
Raleigh, NC, 27650-5192
Grigory Isayev, Vice-Chairman of the All-Russian Strike Committee
Victor Kotel'nikov, Vice-Chairman of the Samara Strike Committee
Web page: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/7871/
443086, Russia, Samara, ul. Novo-Sadovaya 179, bunker
Tel/fax: (846-2) 352691, 353262.
You can also transfer money directly to our bank account via SWIFT.
this method is costly: a flat $30US fee per one transfer. CLICK HERE to see
the list of intermediary banks in different countries which will transfer
funds via SWIFT to
THE SAVINGS BANK OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
SWIFT CODE: SABRUMM
in favor of
acc. # 30301840700000605400
SAVINGS BANK OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (SAMARA OFFICE)
SWIFT CODE: SABRRUMMSE1
Sovetskye OSB 6994
Beneficiary's account: 4230184035443040010301
Beneficiary: Viktor Alekseevich Kotel'nikov
Purpose: voluntary gratuitous donation
The Unity of Labour is the Hope of the World.
The United Front is a combat organization for struggle and not a front organization for bureaucrats in the Russian CP who's politics hardly have anything to do with defending the interests of either Russian workers or the workers in the former Yugoslavia.
sorry - no spare money for donations as times are tough and here we are in the middle of our biggest election campaign since the formation of our organisation.
do you have an international?
good luck with the strike committee - all power to the people!
yours in solidarity,
Jo, a party officer, Scotland
Дата: 3 апреля 1999 г. 21:57
Тема: FWD: From Samara Strike Committee
Samara Strike Committee,
I would really like to make a contribution to your proposal for a congress of all the delegates from the militant unions across Russia. I too feel that political parties are bankrupt by the fact that the politicians are a class of their own with opposing interests to that of working class people. Also I see fascism as an attempt by the elites to distract attention away from constructive class struggle, towards the self defeating nature of the poor fighting the poor. However I'm concerned about your phrase "..dictatorship of the proletariat". Do you wish for another Lenin to lead you towards a just society?? Surely by now you're aware that they'll lead half of you into graves or into their wars, and the other half back to the factories as their wage slaves.
Mario, a Wobbly, USA
Дата: 4 апреля 1999 г. 1:54
Тема: RE: From Samara Strike Committee to the International Working Class
Hello, I will publish your letter, will you
please fill in the entry form with your information. cheers
Dai, labor activist, UK
Дата: 4 апреля 1999 г. 2:03
Dear comrades in SAMARA STRIKE COMMITTEE:
We received your message , we feel your situation and the hard struggle which you are holding against capitalist system.
we are supporting you in any possible way.
Here, I would like to inform you that I sent your message to the central committee of our party, and soon you will be informed about what we can do for you.please be in contact.
Note: I have translate your appeal to Arabic language and I will try to send it to other worker class organization.
Amin, a communist from a Near-East country
Дата: 4 апреля 1999 г. 2:37
Тема: Re: From Samara Strike Committee to the International Working Class
Thanks Grigory, . . . we will translate and publish it in LabourNet immediatedly. With deepest solidarity for your struggle, Karl, Vienna