War Industries Committees

War Industries Committees

 

in Russia, capitalist organizations in the period of World War I (1914-18). The decision to form war industries committees was made in May 1915 at the ninth All-Russian Congress of Representatives of Trade and Industry in order to unite industrialists who were supplying the army with ammunition and military equipment, to mobilize industry for war needs and prolonged military action, to put political pressure on the tsarist government, and to subordinate the working class to the bourgeoisie. The appearance of the war industries committees was elicited by the defeats of the tsarist troops at the front in the spring of 1915, by the growth of the revolutionary movement within the country, and by the dissatisfaction of the imperialistic bourgeoisie with the policy of the tsarist government. In July 1915 the first congress of war industries committees was held. At its sessions, political questions, including the formation of a government that would enjoy the confidence of the State Duma, were raised, along with economic matters. The congress elected a Central War Industries Committee, headed by the Octobrist A. I. Guchkov (chairman) and the Progressive A. I. Konovalov. The main role in the leadership of the Central War Industries Committee was played by leaders of the Moscow bourgeoisie. By the beginning of 1916, 220 local war industries committees had been formed and were united into 33 oblast committees. Later their number in-creased. The war industries committees enlisted about 1,300 small and medium-sized industrial enterprises to serve the army and established about 120 plants and workshops of their own. In fact, the war industries committees were trying to take the leadership of the country’s economy into their own hands. However, the political and economic plans of the bourgeoisie met determined resistance from the government. Almost simultaneously with the formation of the war industries committees, the government, in order to promote the military restructuring of the country’s economy, created its own apparatus—the Special Conferences, for state defense, shipping, fuel, and food. As a result, the war industries committees became nothing but middlemen between the state and private industry. In the period up to the February Revolution of 1917 the war industries committees received orders of about 400 million rubles from the state treasury, but they fulfilled fewer than half of them. Not having gained a decisive influence in the economy, the bourgeoisie continued to view the war industries committees as a system of opposition organizations spread throughout the country. The other aspect of the activity of the war industries committees, which involved the attempt of the bourgeoisie to subordinate the working class to their influence by drawing representatives of the working class into the committees, corresponded to some extent to the interests of certain forces in the government. In July 1915, with the support of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, the leaders of the war industries committees began to form worker groups in the committees. The Bolsheviks announced their refusal to participate in the war industries committees; they called for an active boycott of the elections to the worker groups of the war industries committees and urged that the first stage of the elections be used for agitational and organizational purposes only. In preelection appearances in plants and factories, the Bolsheviks were able to present and defend their views openly for the first time since the beginning of the war. The revolutionary proletariat supported the Bolshevik slogans. In 1915 only 76 out of the 244 war industries committees held elections for worker groups, and only 58 committees were able to set up such groups. A ten-member worker group headed by the Menshevik K. A. Gvozdev was set up in the Central War Indus-tries Committee. These groups introduced a strikebreaking policy, helping the government and the bourgeoisie fight the strike movement and the growing influence of the Bolsheviks. Just before the February Revolution, when a full political crisis had matured in the country, tsarism, in trying to destroy all centers of bourgeois opposition, intensified pressure on the war industries committees and worker groups. The regular congress of the war industries committees was prohibited, and on Jan. 27, 1917, the worker group of the Central War Industries Committee was arrested. The arrest evoked protest from representatives of the bourgeois opposition. The Russian proletariat did not support the worker groups, and by February 1917 they were isolated. After the February Revolution the leaders of the Central War Industries Committee took ministerial posts in the Provisional Government and became organizers of the counterrevolution, while the committees were converted into bourgeois organizations to fight the working class.

After the victory of the October Socialist Revolution the Petrograd Soviet sent 15 workers with the deciding vote to the Central War Industries Committee. On Mar. 31, 1918, the committees were transformed into the People’s Industry Committees. The Soviet government tried to use specialists in the committees to reorganize war-devastated production but encountered resistance from bourgeois leaders. On July 24, 1918, the Soviet government adopted a decision to eliminate the war industries committees.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, pp. 48-49, 84-86, 245; vol. 30, pp. 174-75, 189-90, 270-71.
Bol’sheviki v gody imperialisticheskoi voiny, 1914-fevral’ 1917: Sb. Dokumentov. [Leningrad] 1939.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966. Pages 573-81.
Pervaia mirovaia voina 1914-1918: statei. Moscow, 1968.

A. L. SIDOROV

References in periodicals archive ?
First, extending Thomas Porter and William Gleason's analysis of liberals' organizational skills as manifested in the Union of Zemstvos and other historians' praise of the war industries committees, Tumanova provides an enormous amount of detail on a wide variety of civic organizations, irrefutably demonstrating that the self-starting, self-organizing capacity of Russia's educated public continued and expanded during the war.
Fier second chapter explores the work of the large public organizations--unions of zemstvos and cities, war industries committees, meetings of industrial magnates--in assisting recruits, families of recruits, and so on, contrasting them with wartime assistance societies under the patronage of the female members of the imperial family.