* It must, of course, be remembered that factory courts can be only one of the ways and means of publicity, and not even the chief means. The life in factories, the conditions of the workers and their struggle can be brought to public knowledge in a real and comprehensive manner only by a free working-class press and by free meetings of the people to discuss all state affairs. Similarly, workers' representation at factory courts is only one of the means of representation and is far from being the chief means. The real representation of the workers' needs and interests is possible only through a national representative assembly (a parliament) that would promulgate laws and supervise their execution. Below we shall deal with the question as to whether factory courts are possible under the conditions now obtaining in Russia.
they, who do not want to consider the worker as an equal. If workers make a request or ask a question civilly, they are everywhere met with rudeness, with oaths and threats. Is it not obvious that when factory owners blame the workers for their rudeness under these circumstances they are placing the blame on the wrong shoulders? Factory courts would speedily wean our exploiters of their insulting manner: there would be worker judges in the court side by side with the factory owners, and they would discuss cases and vote together. The factory-owner judges would have to regard the worker judges as their equals and not as their hired servants. The contestants and witnesses in court would come from the factory owners and the workers, and the former would get their training in addressing workers civilly. This is very important to the workers, in view of the fact that at present discussions of this sort are extremely rare: the factory owner refuses to recognise delegates elected by the workers, so that the latter have only one way open to them -- to strike, a difficult and often a very burdensome way. Further, if there were also workers among the judges, workers would be able to appeal freely to the court against rough treatment. Worker judges would always be on their side, and if a factory owner or a master ware summoned to court for insulting behaviour, he would lose all desire to display his arrogance and insolence.
Factory courts consisting of representatives of masters and workers in equal numbers, therefore, would have great significance for the workers and would bring them many benefits. They would be more accessible to the workers than the ordinary courts, there would be less pettifoggery and red tape, the judges would have a better knowledge of the factory conditions, and would judge more fairly; they would acquaint the workers with the laws, they would teach the workers to elect their representatives and to participate in state affairs, they would give greater publicity to factory life and to the working-class movement, and they would accustom the factory owners to treat the workers decently, to have polite dealings with them as equals with equals. It is no matter for wonder, therefore, that the workers in all European countries demand the establishment of factory courts, that they demand that these courts should be
set up, not only for factory workers (which the Germans and the French already have), but also for workers engaged in home-work for capitalists (for handicraftsmen), as well as for agricultural labourers. No officials appointed by the government (no judges and no factory inspectors ) can ever replace institutions in which the workers themselves participate : after what has been said above, this requires no further explanation. Every worker, furthermore, knows from his own experience what he has to expect from government officials; if he is told that government officials can be concerned with the workers' welfare equally with people elected from among the workers themselves, he knows it to be a lie and a deception. Deception of this sort is of great advantage to the government that wants the workers to remain the ignorant, rightless, and inarticulate slaves of the capitalists, and for this reason one often hears these lying assertions from government officials or from writers who defend the interests of the factory owners and the government.
The need for factory courts and the benefits they could bring the workers are so obvious that they were long ago recognised even by Russian government officials. True, it was so long ago that many have forgotten it! It was at the time when our peasants were liberated from serf dependence (in 1861, over 38 years ago). About that time the Russian Government decided also to replace the laws governing artisans and factory workers with new ones; it was all too obvious then that the old laws for workers could not remain when the peasants had been liberated, since many of the workers had been serfs when the old laws were drawn up. And so the government appointed a commission of several officials to study the factory laws of France and Germany (and of other countries) and to draft a bill to change the Russian laws for artisans and factory workers. The commission included some very important people. Nevertheless, they got down to the task and printed five tomes in which they outlined foreign laws and proposed a new law for Russia. This new law, proposed by the commission, was to institute factory courts with the judges elected from among the factory owners and the workers in equal numbers. The draft was printed in 1865, that is, thirty-four years ago. But what, the
worker will ask, happened to this draft law? Why did not the government, which had itself instructed the officials to draft a law on the necessary changes, introduce factory courts in Russia?
Our government dealt with the commission's draft in the same manner in which it deals with any draft laws that are in any way of benefit to the people and to the workers. The officials were rewarded for their labours for the good of the tsar and the fatherland; they were given decorations to hang from ribbons round their necks and accorded higher ranks and more lucrative posts. And the draft law they had prepared was quietly "pigeon-holed," as they say in offices. And so this draft law is still stacked away in its pigeon-hole. The government has even stopped thinking of according the workers the right to elect comrades from their midst to factory courts.
It cannot, however, be said that the government has not once thought about the workers since that time. True, it has not thought of them of its own free will, but only when forced to do so by menacing workers' unrest and strikes; nevertheless, it has thought of them. It has published laws prohibiting child labour in factories, prohibiting night-work for women in certain industries, reducing the working day, and appointing factory inspectors. Despite all the pettifoggery employed in drafting them, despite the numerous loopholes left open for the factory owners to violate and get round them, these laws have still been of some benefit. Why, then, does the government prefer introducing new laws and new officials -- factory inspectors -- instead of introducing factory courts, provided for by a law that has been fully elaborated? The reason for this is very obvious and the workers must fully understand it, for this example will make clear the entire policy of the Russian Government with respect to the working class.
The government has appointed new officials instead of factory courts, because factory courts would raise the level of the workers' class-consciousness; make them more conscious of their rights, of their human and civic dignity; teach them to think independently about state affairs and about the interests of the entire working class; teach them to elect their more developed comrades to represent them,
and in this way undermine, if only in part, the undivided authority assumed by government officials. This is what the government fears more than anything else. It is even prepared to dispense a few hand-outs to the workers (only mites, of course, and only with one hand that does the giving ceremonially in full view of the public, so that it may pose as a benefactor, while taking them away slyly and gradually with the other hand! The workers now know this trick, having had a sample of it in the factory law of June 2, 1897!) -- it is prepared to dole out crumbs as long as the autocratic power of the bureaucracy is left untouched and there is no awakening of the workers' class-consciousness, no development of their independence. The government can easily avoid this terrible danger by appointing new officials, since officials are the humble servants of the government. It is no trouble to forbid officials (factory inspectors, for instance) to publish their reports, it is no trouble to forbid them to talk to the workers regarding their rights and regarding the abuses of the masters, it is no trouble to turn them into factory police sergeants and to order them to report to the police all dissatisfaction and unrest on the part of the workers.
Therefore, so long as the present political system remains in Russia -- i.e., denial of rights to the people, lawless actions on the part of government officials and the police, who are not answerable to the people -- the workers cannot expect the introduction of factory courts which can be of benefit to them. The government understands full well that factory courts would very speedily cause the workers to go over to more radical demands. Having elected their representatives to the factory courts, the workers would soon realise the insufficiency of this step, because the factory owners and landlords who exploit them send their representatives to very many state institutions at a much higher level; the workers would certainly demand a general all people's representation. Having once secured court publicity for factory affairs and the workers' needs, they would soon see that this is not enough, because in our day real publicity can be obtained only through newspapers and popular meetings, so that the workers would demand freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.
This is why the government has buried the draft law to introduce factory courts in Russia!
On the other hand, let us assume for a moment that the government were deliberately, with deception of the workers in mind, to introduce factory courts today and to retain the present political system intact. Would this be of any benefit to the workers? It would bring them no benefits at all: the workers would not even elect to these courts the most class-conscious and most loyal of their comrades, those who are most devoted to the cause of the working class, knowing that in Russia for every straightforward and honest word a man may be seized simply by order of the police and thrown into prison or transported to Siberia without trial!
It follows, therefore, that the demand for factory courts with judges elected from among the workers is only one small part of a wider and more radical demand: the demand for political rights for the people, i.e., the right to participate in the administration of the state and the right to make known the needs of the people openly, not only in the press, but also at popular meetings.