2. CORVÉE AND SOCIALISM
The bitterest enemies of socialism sometimes do it a service by the excessive zeal of their “exposures”. They bear down on the very things that deserve sympathy and emulation. They open the people’s eyes to the infamy of the bourgeoisie by the very nature of their attacks.
That is what happened to one of the most infamous bourgeois newspapers, Russkaya Volya, which on August 20 published a report from Yekaterinburg entitled “Corvée”. Here is what it had to say:
“The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has introduced in our city a service in kind by horse-owners, who must take it in turns to put their horses at the disposal of the Soviet for the daily business trips of its members.
“A special schedule has been drawn up and every ‘citizen with a horse’ is punctually notified in writing when and where, and at what precise hour, be must arrive for duty with his horse.
“To make things clearer, the ‘order’ adds: ‘In the event of noncompliance with this demand, the Soviet will hire cabmen at your expense to the amount of 25 rubles’.”
The defender of the capitalists is indignant, of course. The capitalists watch with perfect equanimity how the vast majority of the people suffer want all their lives—not only those doing “corvée”, but also those doing back-breaking work in a factory, mine, or some other job, often starving because they have no work at all. And the capitalists look on with equanimity.
But now that the workers and soldiers have introduced just one little public duty for the capitalists, the exploiters are howling, “Corvée!”
Ask any worker or peasant whether it would be bad if the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies were the only power in the state and introduced everywhere some public duty for the rich, such as a compulsory duty with horses, motor vehicles or bicycles, compulsory daily clerical work to keep a record of products or of the needy, and so on, and so forth.
Any worker, any peasant, except perhaps the kulaks, will say it would be a good thing.
And this is true. It is not socialism as yet—only one of the first steps towards socialism, but it is just what the poor need urgently and immediately. Without such measures, the people cannot be saved from famine and ruin.
Why, then, does the Yekaterinburg Soviet remain a rare exception? Why have similar measures not been taken all over Russia long ago? Why are they not being developed into a whole system of measures of precisely this kind?
Why, after the introduction of a public duty for the rich to lend their horses, is a similar public duty for the rich not introduced to present full accounts of their financial operations, especially by the terms of government contracts, under a similar control of the Soviets, with “punctual notification in writing” as to when and where the accounts should be presented, when and where taxes should be paid, and to what amount?
Because by far most of the Soviets are controlled by S. R. (“Socialist-Revolutionary”) and Menshevik leaders who have in fact deserted to the bourgeoisie, have entered the bourgeois cabinet and pledged themselves to support it, betraying not only socialism but democracy as well. Those leaders are making agreements with the bourgeoisie, who, far from allowing the imposition of a public duty on the rich—as in Petrograd, for example—have for months been holding up much more moderate reforms.
Those leaders deceive themselves and the people by saying that “Russia is not yet ripe for the introduction of socialism”.
Why must we treat such assertions as deception?
Because, through such assertions, the situation is misrepresented to make believe that it is a question of unprecedentedly complicated and difficult changes, such as are bound to break up the normal way of life of millions of people. The situation is misrepresented to make believe that some want to “introduce” socialism in Russia by decree, without considering the existing technical level, the great number of small undertakings, or the habits and wishes of the majority of the population.
That is a lie from beginning to end. Nobody has ever proposed anything of the kind. No party or individual has had any intention of “introducing socialism” by decree. It is, and has been, a question solely of measures which, like the public duty imposed on the rich in Yekaterinburg, have the full approval of the mass of the poor, i.e., the majority of the population, measures which are perfectly ripe, technically and culturally, will bring immediate relief to the poor and make it possible to ease the hardships of the war and distribute them more evenly.
Almost six months of revolution have passed, but the S. R. and Menshevik leaders still obstruct all these measures, betraying the interests of the people in favour of compromise with the bourgeoisie.
Until the workers and peasants realise that those leaders are traitors who must be driven out, must be removed from their posts, they will inevitably remain under the thumb of the bourgeoisie.
 The Mensheviks’ unity congress in Petrograd from August 19–26 (September 1–8), 1917. Its aim was to unite the isolated Menshevik groups in a single party. The congress was attended by defencists (those supporting Plekhanov and Potresov), internationalists (Martov’s followers) and representatives of Novaya Zhizn, which had taken an active part in convening the congress. The congress passed a resolution in favour of continuing the war “to a victorious conclusion”. Another resolution approved of the fact that socialists were members of the Provisional Government, and expressed confidence in the government. The Central Committee elected at the congress included P. B. Axelrod, F. I. Dan, L. Martov, I. G. Tsereteli and N. S. Chkheidze. While the congress was in session, however, the delegates turned out to differ strongly among themselves, with the result that the attempt to unify the Mensheviks virtually failed.
 Reference is to the June 3 coup d’état, which ushered in the period of the Stolypin reaction.
On June 3 (16), 1907, the tsar issued a manifesto dissolving the Second Duma and revising the Duma election law. The new law greatly increased the Duma representation of the landowners and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie, and drastically reduced the already small proportion of peasants’ and workers’ deputies. It was a gross violation of the Manifesto of October 17, 1905, and the Fundamental Law of 1906, both of which made legislation subject to approval by the Duma. The Third Duma, elected under the new law, convened on November 1 (14), 1907. It was made up mostly of Black Hundreds and Octobrists.
 In the elections to the district councils in Petrograd, held late in May and early in June 1917, the Bolsheviks polled 20 per cent of the votes. The elections to the Petrograd City Council on August 20 (September 2) brought the Bolsheviks 33 per cent of the votes.
Source: Marxist Internet Archive.