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The Western Mail, April 10th, 1933


- - - 

Food Shortage and Lack of Raw Materials


The first Five Year Plan abolished unemployment.  Whereas in the capitalist world the figures of the workless rose from month to month, the Soviet Union could correctly say that they had successfully tackled that problem.  Indeed, their great problem was shortage of labour. 

The Five Year Plan has succeeded on the munitions side and many gun and tank factories have been built.  For the Plan was primarily a military and not an, economic plan. 

The second Five Year Plan, which began on January 1st, 1933, has seen the return of unemployment.  More than 20,000 workers have recently been dismissed from several Kharkoff factories.  Several thousand were dismissed from the Kharkoff Tractor Works.  From another Kharkoff factory 8,000 were dismissed.  In Moscow the number of dismissals has been great.  In some factories about 25 to 40 per cent. of the staffs have been dismissed, while in some offices up to 53 per cent have lost their jobs.

It is impossible to estimate the total unemployed, for many of them are peasants who invaded the towns, found work in the factories, and are now being sent back again to the villages.  No unemployment figures are published.

Condemned to Starve 

There is no unemployment insurance.  When a man is dismissed his bread-card is taken away from him, or in some cases is left to him for a fortnight.  Unemployment is thus a condemnation to starvation.  The unemployed man is usually refused a passport and has to leave the city for the countryside, where there is no bread.  A man often loses his post for coming to work a quarter of an hour late, for labour discipline is now exceedingly strict. 

Why is there unemployment in Russia?  Why has this problem, which did not exist a year ago, returned to trouble the Soviet Government? 

The first reason is the shortage of raw materials.  The supply of coal, timber or oil fails and the factories have to stand idle, waiting until the necessary fuel arrives. In Kharkoff, not many miles away from the richest coal district of Russia, there was a shortage of coal and led to long delays in factories.  In Moscow there was a shortage of petrol, and this also led to stoppages.  Bad transport is responsible for these de1ays.  The railway lines get blocked, and this disorganises distribution.

The Economy Drive

In the “Pravda” of March 19 I read: “Disgraceful Work of the Administration of the Southern Railway.  In the storehouses of the Almaznyansky Metal Factory 13,000 tons of metal are lying idle, intended mainly for the agricultural machine factories; 1,500 tons are waiting to be sent to the Kharkoff Tractor Factory, 2,000 tons to the Stalingrad Factory, 2,000 tons to the Nijni-Novgorod Motorcar Factory.  The Southern Railway is only sending 12 to 15 wagons of iron per day instead of 35.  On some days no wagons at all are dispatched.”

The second reason for unemployment in Russia is financial.  There is now a rigid economy campaign being carried on.  Many factories have had large deficits.  The operating costs are exceedingly high.  “What do you do when factories have deficit?”  I asked official in the Commissariat for Finance.  He replied, “We apply methods to force them to economise.  We even oblige them not to pay salaries and make them dismiss their staffs.”

That tends to unemployment.  The director of the factory has to make both ends meet, and thus dismisses workmen. 

Feeding the Workers. 

The third reason for the unemployment in Soviet Russia is the food shortage.  Each factory has been made responsible for the feeding of its workers. A factory is given a certain agricultural district from which to draw supplies.  A director is made responsible for the feeding.  There is hardly ever enough food for all the workers In the factory on account of the breakdown of agriculture.  In order to make the food supply go round workers are dismissed and are sent to the countryside.  The food shortage is probably the main cause of unemployment. 

The final cause for unemployment was given to me by a director of the Kharkoff Tractor Factory.  “Why have you dismissed men?” I asked him.  He replied, “We’ve improved our technical knowledge and so we do not need so many men.”  An admission that technological unemployment is not a feature of capitalism alone. 

The Five Year Plan was intended to make Russia independent of the rest of the world.  This aim has failed.  Foreign specialists are leaving Russia.  When they have gone woe betide the Soviet machines. 

The lack of raw materials, financial difficulties, the food shortage, and increase in the use of machines - those are the four causes of unemployment in Russia.


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