“Some think that talk about democracy in the trade unions is mere declamation, a fashion, called forth by certain phenomena in internal Party life, that, in time, people will get tired of ‘chatter’ about democracy and everything will go on in the ‘old way.’
Others believe that democracy in the trade unions is, essentially, a concession, a forced concession, to the workers’ demands, that it is diplomacy rather than real, serious business.
Needless to say, both groups of comrades are profoundly mistaken. Democracy in the trade unions, i.e., what is usually called ‘normal methods of proletarian democracy in the unions,’ is the conscious democracy characteristics of mass working-class organizations, which presupposes consciousness of the necessity and utility of systematically employing methods of persuasion among the millions of workers organized in the trade unions. If that consciousness is absent, democracy becomes an empty sound.
While war was raging and danger stood at the gates, the appeals to ‘aid the front’ that were issued by our organizations met with a ready response from the workers, for the mortal danger we were in was only too palpable, for that danger had assumed a very concrete form evident to everyone in the shape of the armies of Kolchak, Yudenich, Denikin, Pilsudski and Wrangel, which were advancing and restoring the power of the landlords and capitalists. It was not difficult to rouse the masses at that time. But today, when the war danger has been overcome and the new, economic danger (economic ruin) is far from being so palpable to the masses, the broad masses cannot be roused merely by appeals. Of course, everybody feels the shortage of bread and textiles; but firstly, people do contrive to obtain both bread and textiles in one way or another and, consequently, the danger of a food and goods famine does not spur the masses to the same extent as the war danger did; secondly, nobody will assert that the masses are as conscious of the reality of the economic danger (shortage of locomotives and of machines for agriculture, for textile mills and iron and steel plants, shortage of equipment for electric power stations, and so forth) as they were of the war danger in the recent past.
To rouse the millions of the working class for the struggle against economic ruin it is necessary to heighten their initiative, conscienceless and independent activity; it is necessary by means of concrete facts to convince them that economic ruin is just as real and mortal a danger as the war danger was yesterday; it is necessary to draw millions of workers into the work of reviving industry through the medium of trade unions built on democratic lines. Only in this way is it possible to make the entire working class vitally interested in the struggle which the economic organizations are waging against economic ruin. If this is not gone, victory on the economic front cannot be achieved.
In short, conscious democracy, the method of proletarian democracy in the unions, is the only correct method for the industrial unions.
Forced ‘democracy’ has nothing in common with this democracy.”