It is impossible to take possession of production properly without taking control of the distribution of products. When products are wrongly distributed there can be no proper production. Supposing that the largest branches of industry are nationalised. As we have seen above, one branch of production works for another. To make production systematic it is necessary that each branch should be supplied with as much material as it requires; one enterprise getting more, another less. That means that each product should be distributed regularly, according to plan, in correspondence with the demands of the branches in question. The various organs of supply, that is to say, such working organisations as deal with distribution of products, must be in direct communication with the organs dealing with its production. Only then can the work of production run smoothly.
But there are some products that are directly used by the consumer. Such as bread, for instance, many food products, the greater part of clothing materials, many india rubber products (no factory buys goloshes, which enter into direct use of the consumer), and so on. Here an equally strict account and a just distribution of these products among the population is necessary. And such a just distribution is absolutely impossible without a definite plan being carried into execution. First, the quantity of goods must be registered, then the demand for them, and after that the products must be distributed according to these calculations. The best instance of the necessity of an organised plan is the food question, the question of bread. At present the bourgeoisie, the village sweaters, the Right Social Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, the well-to-do land grabbing peasants, have all raised a hue and cry about repealing the bread monopoly, and that speculators, big and small, the wholesale dealers and myesochinki  should be allowed to ran their trade as they like. It is easy to understand why the tradesmen are interested in the repeal of the bread monopoly; in some way or another this monopoly hinders them from fleecing the consumer. On the other hand, it is quite clear that the present state of things is absurd: the rich calmly go on eating white bread, buying it in smuggler fashion; that they have black bread in plenty there is no question. They just pay considerably more and get everything they want. Who helps them in this? The speculators, of course. What they are anxious about is not to Iced the population, but to grab a little more money, to stuff a little more, into their pockets, and it is, of course, the rich, not the poor, that can give more. That is why the speculators bring bread not to those localities where it is most needed, but to where they get paid most. And, so far, it has not been possible to put an end to this. Hence it is clear that to organise a systematic distribution of bread, the bread monopoly must be left intact, as well as the food committees and the hoards of food, and further, this monopoly must be carried out in the strictest manner, speculators must be dealt with without mercy, private traders must be made to understand that they dare not make money out of a national calamity, disturbing the general plan. The trouble at the present time is in the, fact that the bread monopoly is imperfectly carried out, while contraband private trading is thriving, and not in the fact that there is a monopoly. And that, at a time when there is so little bread, when the Germans have occupied the richest provinces; at a time when in many places grain stored for seeds has been eaten up, when the fields remain uncultivated and people are starving! Every piece of bread is precious, every pound of flour and grain is priceless. And just for this very reason everything must be strictly registered, so that not a crumb be wasted, and that all the bread be distributed evenly, and that the rich should not be privileged in any way. This, we repeat, can be done and will be attained if the workers only set to work promptly, if they aid the working organisers in their task, if they help to catch speculators and cheats.
Unfortunately, there are quite a number of people not filled with class spirit, who make purchases at their own risk independently of the working organisations, thereby also increasing the disorganisation of the general plan. Each one thinks to himself: “No matter what you say, I can mind my own business best” – and off he goes to buy bread. Later on, conflicts are apt to arise on the way, on account of this very bread, and then he complains: “They don’t give you a chance to look after yourself.” As a matter of fact the whole affair looks some- what like this: let us imagine a train going, packed full; some passengers are standing in the corridors, others lying on the floors in a word there is not enough room to drop a pin. Then all of a sudden one man smells something burning, raises a cry of “fire,” and dashes like mad towards the door, pushing people aside. The people, panic stricken, try to break open the door, a wild scuffle ensues, they bite and hit each other, break one another’s ribs, trample children underfoot. The result is – dozens of killed, wounded, maimed. Is that right? It might all have been quite different. If reasonable people had been found to reassure the crowd, to calm it, everyone would have walked out in order without a scratch! Why did everything happen in the way it did ? Because each one thought: he will act for himself, the others are “no concern of mine.” But in the end it is he who gets his neck broken first.
The very same thing takes place with those who buy bread independently, infringing the regulations of the workers’ food organisation. Each one thinks that he will make things easier for himself. But what is the result? Every such purchase upsets the systematic registering of the stock in hand: owing to these purchases the regular delivery of bread becomes impossible. One locality, for instance, where there is absolute starvation, must have bread delivered at the expense of another, where things are comparatively better. But, instead, some people from the latter locality buy up all the bread and take it with them. The former locality is thus left to starve to death. What follows? As the organised public purchases have become disorganised there appears on the scene the marauding speculator. He at once begins to try his hand at private purchases. In this manner the unintelligent poor, lacking in class consciousness, not understanding things themselves, aid and abet the vampire speculator, whose real place is on the gallows. Now we can understand why these speculating gentry exploit the natural dissatisfaction of the hungry against the Soviet Government, and why the greatest scoundrels and sweaters often stand at the head of risings against the Soviets in small provincial towns. Workers should understand once and for all that salvation is not to be attained by a return to the old order, but by ways which lead forward towards the destruction of speculation towards the annihilation of private trade, towards the social distribution of products by the workers’ organisations.
The same holds good concerning a whole series of other products. The working class ought not to suffer in order that the rich may get everything for extra prices, but, on the contrary, must put an end to the profiteering speculators who, like the hungry ravens, come flocking from all directions. A just, regulated distribution of products, on the basis of registering the demands and reserves, is one of the fundamental tasks confronting the working class. What does this mean? It means the nationalisation of trading, that is, in other words, the abolition of trading, for the transition to social distribution cannot exist side by side with dealers and agents who live like parasites and completely upset the work of supply. Not back to “free private trading,” that is to say, to “free” robbery, but towards an exact, regulated distribution of products by workers’ organisations this should be the watchword of the intelligent workers.
In order to execute this plan more successfully a compulsory union of the whole population into co-operative communes must be aimed at. Only then can products be justly distributed, when the population that is to get them is united and organised into large groups, whose demands can be exactly estimated. If the population, instead of being united and organised, is scattered, it becomes extremely difficult to carry out this distribution in a more or less orderly way; it is difficult to calculate how much of each article is needed, what and how much is to be delivered, and through what agency the distribution is to be effected. Let us imagine that the population is united into co-operative communes according to their parishes. Every town or parish, say, is united into one co-operation which is in its turn united with the house committees. Then a given product is first distributed to such communes, and these, having calculated beforehand what product and of what quality they require, they distribute it through their agents, amongst the different consumers.
In uniting the population into such co-operative communes the already existing co-operative societies will be of great importance. The wider the sphere of work of the co-operatives, the wider the circle of the population included, the more organised will the distribution of products become, and the more frequently will these co-operatives be changed into organs of supply for the whole population. Compulsory communes surround already existing co-operatives; such, in all probability, will be the most convenient form of the organisation of distribution, by the aid of which it will be ultimately possible to supplant trade and do away once and for ever with private profit.
To make the task of a regular distribution of products still easier, we must aim at changing our private system of domestic economy into a social one. At present every family has its own kitchen, every family, independently of others, buys provisions, dooming woman to slavery, turning her into an eternal cook who sees nothing from dawn till night except kitchen utensils, brushes, dusters, and all kinds of refuse. An immense amount of labour is absolutely wasted. If we united and organised housekeeping, beginning with the supply and preparation of food (by means of joint purchase of provisions, joint cooking, construction of large model restaurants, etc.), it would be much easier to keep an account of the demands of various households, and besides the saving of money thus effected, the regular general distribution would be greatly assisted.
One of the most vital questions for the consumer, and a very painful one for the town labourers, is the housing question. The poor are here mercilessly exploited. And on the other hand landlords used to make heaps, of money on the business. The expropriation of this kind of property, a transfer of houses and of various kinds of residential premises, their registering and the regular distribution of flats and rooms, the transfer of this work into the hands of the local workers’committee and of the organs of the Soviet Government is a difficult but grateful task. We have had enough of the lording of the better classes! The worker, the poor toiler, has also a right to a warm room and to a living as befits a human being.
In this way must economic life gradually be organised. The working class must organise production. The working class must organise distribution. The working class to organise consumption – food, clothes, and housing – there is an account kept of everything, everything is distributed in the most reasonable way. There are no masters – there is the self-administration of the working class.
1. The term “myesochnik” comes from a Russian word which means a sack, and is applied to petty food speculators who carry flour, bread, etc., from the country into the towns in sacks.
Last updated on 7.8.2008