Nikolai Bukharin

Common Work for the Common Pot

(from “Pravda”)

Source: The Communist, December 23, 1920, p. 5 (875 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Entering upon the fourth year of its power and its work of reconstruction, the proletariat can with pride say one thing: “Now there has been proof in practice of the correctness of the Communist policy—of the policy of Common Work for the Common Pot.”

Let us take the chief and most burning question, the question of food. To-day no one, not even our most malignant foe, can deny that the situation has become much better, in spite of a very bad harvest covering a number of the provinces. Every working man, every working woman, every working-class family, every consumer feels that an improvement has set in. True, it is not very sweet even now; but if we compare the state of affairs now with that which existed this time last year, there can be no discussion. We have left the point of stagnation, and are moving forward. How have we achieved this? By the improvement of the State apparatus, by increasing the number of food-workers, by common work for the common pot.

We seldom hear now of free-trading, or at least much more seldom than before; and yet it would not hurt us to remember what existed then last autumn. We Communists were attacked under the watchword of “free-trade,” not only by our open enemies, not only by the village vultures, the speculators, the profiteers, but also by a considerable portion of the non class conscious working men and women. And now looking back, let us ask ourselves what would have happened if we had then had abandoned our positions by yielding to the cry “free-trade”. A year of bad harvests. Tens of millions of hungry workers, and Northern peasants and peasants of the Central area. Crippled transport. Enormous waves of starving people would have poured southward without plans, without knowledge of where there was and where there was not a harvest, destroying in their course the remainder of our resources in locomotives and trucks. Transport would have perished. State corn supplies would have been interrupted. Individual speculators would have made untold profits. Working-class families would have starved, and, their teeth chattering, would have watched the miserable plundering speculators playing into one another’s hands. Complete chaos, confusion, bloody unrest, collapse, and corruption—that is what free-trade, i.e., freedom for the rich to rob the poor, would have brought with it.

We went along another path, which seemed to many unattainable. And now we have proved that we are going forward, slowly but surely, along it—along the path of “common work for the common pot.”

Let us take the question of fuel. Let us compare even the external appearance of Moscow at the beginning of last winter and now. Last winter, all the house chimneys were dead. Nowhere was real smoke arising, and only little black stove pipes were ruining the walls. None of the Government offices were heated, to say nothing of private houses. All the White Guards prophesied destruction from cold for us this winter; while, in reality, however bad the situation is to-day, still things have considerably improved. Real smoke is coming out of real chimneys. In some places there is oil, and central heating has begun, and we are much better off also for wood.

And again, what is beginning to save us, comrades? Free trade in wood, private enterprise, the speculator, the broker, the robber? No! General State storage of fuel; mass work; the Red Army—(which has won us Baku; with its oil); in a word, that same “common work for the common pot.”

Transport is also improved. Thousands of Communist workers have been thrown on to the transport system, and have been actively at work along the lines, the ways, the depots—and little by little we are beginning to pull ourselves together. Even a number of factories and workshops—textile, and part of the metalworking groups—which hitherto were at a standstill, have now begun to work. The Labour State, its Army, its storing apparatus, its organisations for the mobilisation of labour power, etc., by their common work have created the conditions for a small but none the less, and all the more, reliable improvement.

All along the line, wherever we have had successes, beginning with the armed conflict and ending with the question of food, we have achieved those results, not by bowing to the watchwords of free-trade—they would have destroyed us—but by our organised common work—i.e., by Communist methods.

Not one of our opponents—we may take even Wrangel, for example—could have achieved such results. We know that in Wrangel’s camp “free-trade” brought about the result that the speculator was king, while the man in the street was nothing, and everything collapsed. This means that only the path to Communism, only Communist methods of work can save and will save human society.

And if history gives us a breathing-space, we shall turn the whole helm of our proletarian Government and the helm of our party in harmony with the watchword which alone at the present day can bring about social progress: “Common work for the common pot.”