Workers Control Over Production and Distribution

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Workers’ Control Over Production and Distribution


(1) From February to October 1917, the chief form of revolutionary involvement by the Russian proletariat in the capitalist economy.

(2) After the October Revolution of 1917, a major social and economic measure undertaken by the Soviet state to prepare the way for the nationalization of industry and transportation, a necessary condition for the planned organization of social production.

The movement for workers’ control arose after the February Revolution of 1917 at state-owned railroads and at major enterprises in Petrograd, Moscow, the Urals, the Donets Coal Basin, and other industrial centers. V. I. Lenin considered workers’ control a major step in the transition to socialism. Although workers’ control would not abolish capitalist relations at once, it would gradually undermine and restrict the dominance of capital and thereby create conditions for the gradual transformation of the capitalist organization of the economy into a socialist one. The April 1917 conference of the RSDLP(B) put forth the task of struggling for workers’ control. The Bolsheviks advanced the slogan of workers’ control, always juxtaposing this slogan to the dictatorship of the proletariat, always putting it immediately after the latter (see V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. sock, 5th ed., vol. 34, p. 306).

On June 1(14), 1917, the first citywide conference of the factory committees of Petrograd adopted the Resolution on Economic Measures to Cope with Economic Disorganization, which was written by Lenin and confirmed by the party’s Central Committee. The resolution related the question of workers’ control to the organization of a nationwide planned regulation of the economy. Workers’ control was exercised without preliminary permission of the entrepreneurs. Despite the fierce resistance of entrepreneurs, the movement to establish workers’ control spread to the major industrial centers and the major sectors of large-scale industry. The organs of workers’ control were factory committees, and special control commissions operated at major enterprises. The basic form of workers’ control was control of the production and technical activity of the enterprises, which often extended to the enterprises’ commercial and financial activity as well. Control was exercised over the hiring and firing of manual and office workers and the receipt of orders and the use of products.

The content and significance of workers’ control changed radically after the October Revolution. From that time on, workers’ control was exercised by the proletariat at state-owned enterprises and sought to achieve the socialist reorganization of industry. Lenin defined the tasks of workers’ control under the dictatorship of the proletariat in late October 1917 in the Draft Regulations on Workers’ Control. This draft became the basis of the Regulations on Workers’ Control, which were adopted by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on Nov. 14 (27), 1917. According to the decree, workers’ control was introduced as a mandatory measure in all sectors of the economy at enterprises that employed hired workers and extended to production, purchase, sale, and storage of goods and raw materials and the financial activity of enterprises. Control was exercised by the workers of a particular enterprise through elected organizations (factory committees, councils of leaders) with the participation of representatives from the ranks of office workers and technicians. Commercial secrecy was abolished. Decisions of workers’ control organs were binding on the employers.

According to data of the All-Russian Industrial Census of 1918, by mid-1918 control organs operated at 70.5 percent of all enterprises with more than 200 workers. The leading entrepreneurial organizations called on their members to fight the implementation of this decree. Workers’ control served as a school of management for the working masses, promoted gifted industrial managers from workers’ ranks, and prepared the conditions for the transition to public ownership of industry under socialism. In November 1918, V. I. Lenin said that “the first fundamental step that every socialist, workers’ government has to take is workers’ control” (ibid., vol. 37, p. 139).

The historical experience of the Soviet state in establishing workers’ control in the transition period from capitalism to socialism has been utilized in one form or another in the other socialist countries.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. sock, 5th ed. (See Index, part 1, p. 542.)
KPSS ν rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferenlsii iplenumov TsK, 8th ed., part 1. Moscow, 1970. Pages 488–91.
Dekrety Sovelskoi vlasti, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957.
Freidlin, B. M. Ocherki istorii rabochego dvizheniia ν Rossii ν 1917 g. Moscow, 1967.
Selitskii, V. I. Massy ν bor’be za rabochii kontrol’ (mart-iiul’ 1917). Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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