Russian Labor law in the Twentieth Century: Patterns of Development and Historical Lessons

Author:Nelli Diveeva - Evgeniy Khokhlov - Marina Filippova
Position:St. Petersburg University (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Pages:6-38
BRICS LAW JOURNAL Volume IV (2017) Issue 4
ARTICLES
RuSSIan LaBoR Law In THE Tw EnTIETH CEn TuRY:
PaTTERnS oF DEVELoPMEnT anD HISToRICaL LESSonS
NELLI DIVEEVA,
St. Petersburg University (St. Petersburg, Russia)
EVGENIY KHOKHLOV,
St. Petersburg University (St. Petersburg, Russia)
MARINA FILIPPOVA,
St. Petersburg University (St. Petersburg, Russia)
DOI: 10.21684/2412-2343-2017-4-4-6-38
The revolution that took place in Russia on 25 October (or, according to the new st yle,
on 7 November) 1917 is believed to have been the most important political event of the
20th century and to have had a great inuence on all aspects of life both within the
country and worldwide. This article discusses the extent to which the Russian socialist
revolution aected the relatively narrow, although extremely important, area of the
mechanism for the legal regulation of labor. For this purpose, the authors compared the
concept of socialism and the practice of its implementation in Russia with the practice of
the legal regulation of labor in the countries that did not experience a socialist revolution
and therefore were considered by socialists as “bourgeois” countries. At the same time,
the authors challenged the view of the majorit y of Russian researchers of the Soviet
period, including the researchers of the history of the legal regulation of labor, that
Soviet economic history was a process of linear progressive development (when applied
to the sphere of labor). The article shows and analyzes the dissimilarity in the qualitative
characteristics of the history of the economy and the history of the legal regulation of
labor in Soviet Russia. On this basis, the conclusions are drawn as to the inuence of the
Soviet experience on other countries in the sphere of the legal regulation of social labor
and the relevance of this experience for the current times.
NELLI DIVEEVA, EVGENIY KHOKHLOV, MARINA FILIPPOVA 7
Keywords: Socialist revolution; mechanism of the legal regulation of labor; application
of labor; history of Russian labor law; history of the Russian economy; Soviet experience
of labor management.
Recommended citation: Nelli Diveeva et al., Russian Labor Law in the Twentieth
Century: Patterns of Development and Historical Lessons, 4(4) BRICS Law Journal 6–38
(2017).
Table of Contents
Introduction
1. Socialist Theory and the History of “Real Socialism” in the USSR
2. The Use of Labor in the Era of “Military Communism”
3. The Mechanism of Legal Regulation of Labor in the Context
of the New Economic Policy
4. Governance of Labor after the “Great Break”
5. The Evolution of the Economic Mechanism in the 1950s–1980s
Conclusion
Introduction
The revolution that took place in Russia on 25 October (or, according to the new
style, on 7 November) 1917, was referred to in the Soviet Union as the Great October
Socialist Revolution. It is also believed that it was the most important political event
of the 20th century and that it had a great inuence on all aspects of life both within
the coun try and worldwide. This belief is probably quite correct, but our task is
smaller: we will try to determine to what extent the Russian socialist revolution
aected the relatively narrow, though extremely important, area of the mechanism
of the legal regulation of labor. But for this we will have to, at least in very general
terms, compare the concept of socialism – to the extent that the thinkers developed
it mainly in the 19th century – and the practice of its implementation in Russia, with
the practice of the legal regulation of labor in the countries where there was no
socialist revolution and therefore considered “bourgeois countries” by socialists.
On the mechanism of the legal regulation of labor in a market economy, it can be
considered indisputable that it was generally established in the second half of the
19th century. What it embraced were mainly the relations surrounding wage labor
that took place in the area of industrial (factory) production.
This mechanism is based on three methods of regulation: (a) individual-
contractual regulation, (b) collective-contractual regulation, and (c) state regulation.
BRICS LAW JOURNAL Volume IV (2017) Issue 4 8
Individual-contractual regulation, governed by the principle of freedom of contract is
the principal method of the three, and the only one as of the end of the 18th century
and the rst half of the 19th century. However, as demonstrated by the practice of
using social labor during this period, one should not overestimate the principle of
freedom of contract in relation to labor relations, since it entails very high social costs
(such as the widespread use of child and female labor, the absence of any satisfactory
protection of it, etc.). In turn, this at the very least impedes the social development
of a huge layer of wage workers if not leads to their degradation. And this situation
already poses a threat to the public interest.
Therefore, in order to protect socially signicant interests, both individual and
general social ones, it becomes necessary to restrict the operation of the principle of
freedom of contract in labor relations (that is, in the relations of applied labor). The
role of such “restrictors” is exercised by the state and trade unions. The state adopts
labor legislation and establishes labor inspectorates to monitor the implementation
of this legislation; with the participation of trade unions, a system of collective
bargaining agreements is formed. Both are eective means of limiting the freedom
of labor contract, primarily in the interests of an employee as the weaker player in
the labor market.
Thus, the existing mechanism of the legal regulation of labor is a necessary stage
in the evolution of the market (capitalist) economy and, therefore, has an objective
character.1
In Russia, as well as in other European countries, this mechanism started to take
shape, in the second half of the 19th century, albeit with some delay. Beginning in
the 1880s, a number of labor laws were adopted relating to, for instance, the labor
of minors, employment contracts, working time, social insurance, and the labor in
specic branches of the economy. Ultimately, the standards of labor that were mainly
established in the Industry Charter and the Mining Charter were consolidated in the
Charter on Industrial Labor (edited in 1913).
At the same time, the system of the legal regulation of labor that developed
in Russia possessed one essential feature that, together with other factors, played
a fatal role in the destiny of the Russian state: the system lacked the indispensable
component of the collective bargaining agreement. The activity of the Russian
trade unions was legitimized by the state in 1906. However, the emerging trade
unions were under the inuence of revolutionary radicals of various kinds and
1 We believe it is important to emphasize a point of objectivity in the genesis of the mechanism of the
legal regulation of labor, which is in contrast to the l ong tradition of super-li beralism in economic
theory, originating in the work of T. Malthus and D. Ricardo and represented at dierent times by
such thinkers as H. Spencer, G. de Molinari, F. Bastiat and others, and in our times by L. von Mises and
F.A. Hayek. The liberal economist K. Marx showed where the evolution of the liberal economic model
could, and moreover, will go. The only reason this forecast has not yet come true is that this model has
been replaced by a new one, which is based on the more or less broad interventionism of the social
welfare state and (in the sphere of labor) on the activities of trade unions.

To continue reading

Request your trial