V. I.   Lenin

Demonstrations Have Begun

Published: Iskra, No. 13, December 20, 1901. Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pages 322-325.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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A fortnight ago we observed the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first social-revolutionary demonstration in Russia, which took place on December 6, 1876, on Kazan Square in St. Petersburg,[1] and we pointed to the enormous upswing in the number and magnitude of the demonstrations at the beginning of the current year. We urged that the demonstrators should advance a political slogan more clearly defined than “Land and Freedom”[2] (1876), and a more far-reaching demand than “Repeal the Provisional Regulations” (1901). Such a slogan must be: political freedom; and the demand to be put forward by the entire people has to be the demand for the convocation of the people’s representatives.

We see now that demonstrations are being revived on the most varied grounds in Nizhni-Novgorod, in Moscow, and in Kharkov. Public unrest is growing everywhere, and more and more imperative becomes the necessity to unify it into one single current directed against the autocracy, which everywhere sows tyranny, oppression, and violence. On November 7, a small but successful demonstration was held in Nizhni-Novgorod, which arose out of a farewell gathering in honour of Maxim Gorky. An author of European fame, whose only weapon was free speech (as a speaker at the Nizhni-Novgorod demonstration aptly put it), was being banished by the autocratic government from his home town without trial or investigation. The bashi bazouks accuse him of exercising a harmful influence on us, said the speaker in the name of all Russians in whom but a spark of striving towards light and liberty is alive, but we declare that his influence has been a good one. The myrmidons   of the tsar perpetrate their outrages in secret, and we will expose their outrages publicly and openly. In Russia, workers are assaulted for demanding their right to a better life; students are assaulted for protesting against tyranny. Every honest and bold utterance is suppressed! The demonstration, in which workers took part, was concluded by a student reciting: “Tyranny shall fall, and the people shall rise—mighty, free, and strong!”

In Moscow, hundreds of students waited at the station to greet Gorky. Meanwhile, the police, scared out of their wits, arrested him on the train en route and (despite the special permission previously granted him) prohibited his entering Moscow, forcing him to change directly from the Nizhni-Novgorod to the Kursk line. The demonstration against Gorky’s banishment failed; but on the eighteenth of November, without any preparation, a small demonstration of students and “strangers” (as our Ministers put it) took place in front of the Governor General’s house against the prohibition of a social evening arranged for the previous day to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the death of N. A. Dobrolyubov.[3] The representative of the autocracy in Moscow was howled down by people who, in unison with all educated and thinking people in Russia, held dear the memory of a writer who had passionately hated tyranny and passionately looked forward to a people’s uprising against the “Turks at home”, i.e., against the autocratic government. The Executive Committee of the Moscow Students’ Organisations rightly pointed out in its bulletin of November 23 that the unprepared demonstration served as a striking indication of the prevailing discontent and protest.

In Kharkov, a demonstration called in connection with student affairs developed into a regular street battle, in which the students were not the only participants. Last year’s experience taught the students a lesson. They realised that only the support of the people, especially of the workers, could guarantee them success, and that in order to obtain that support, they must not restrict them selves to struggling merely for academic (student) freedom, but for the freedom of the entire people, for political freedom. The Kharkov Joint Council of Students’ Organisations   definitely expressed this idea in its October manifesto and, judging from their leaflets and manifestos, the students of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Riga, and Odessa are beginning to understand the “senselessness of the dream” of academic freedom amidst the gloom of enslavement enshrouding the people. The infamous speech delivered by General Vannovsky in Moscow, in which he denied the “rumours” that he had at one time promised something, the unparalleled insolence of the St. Petersburg detective (who seized a student in the Institute of Electrical Engineering in order to take from him a letter he had received by messenger), the savage assault upon Yaroslavl students by the police in the streets and in the police-station—these and a thousand other facts sound their cry for struggle, struggle, struggle against the whole of the autocratic system. Patience became exhausted in the case of the Kharkov veterinaries. The first-year students submitted a petition for the dismissal of Professor Lagermark, on account of his bureaucratic attitude towards their studies and his intolerable rudeness in which he went so far as to fling copies of the syllabus in the faces of the students! Without investigating the case, the government responded by expelling the entire first-year student body from the Institute, and in addition slandered the students by declaring in its report that they demanded the right to appoint the professors. This roused the entire Kharkov student body to action, and it was resolved to organise a strike and a demonstration. Between November 28 and December 2, Kharkov was for the second time in the same year transformed into a field of battle between the “Turks at home” and the people, which protested against autocratic tyranny. On the one side, shouts of, “Down with the autocracy!”, “Long live liberty!”— on the other, sabres, knouts, and horses trampling upon the people. The police and Cossacks, mercilessly assaulting all and sundry, irrespective of age and sex, gained a victory over an unarmed crowd and are now triumphant....

Shall we allow them to triumph?

Workers! You know only too well the evil force that is tormenting the Russian people. This evil force binds you hand and foot in your everyday struggles against the employers for a better life and for human dignity. This evil force   snatches hundreds and thousands of your best comrades from your midst, flings them into jail, sends them into banishment, and, as if in mockery, declares them to be “persons of evil conduct”. This evil force on May 7 fired on the workers of the Obukhov Works in St. Petersburg, when they rose up with the cry, “We want liberty!”—and then staged a farce of a trial, in order to send to penal servitude those heroes who escaped the bullets. This evil force is assaulting students today, and tomorrow it will fling itself with greater ferocity upon you. Lose no time! Remember that you must support every protest and every struggle against the bashi-bazouks of the autocratic government! Exert every effort to come to an agreement with the demonstrating students, organise circles for the rapid transmission of information and for the distribution of leaflets, explain to all that you are struggling for the freedom of the entire people.

When the flames of popular indignation and open struggle flare up, first in one place and then in another, it is more than ever necessary to direct upon them a powerful current of fresh air, to fan them into a great conflagration!


[1] The demonstration on December 6(18) 1876 was organised by workers and students as a protest against the tyrannical actions of the autocracy. Plekhanov, who took part in the demonstration, delivered a revolutionary speech. The demonstration was broken up by the police, and many participants were arrested and sentenced to banishment or penal servitude.

[2] The slogan “Land and Freedom” was released at that time by an illegal organisation of the same name (Zemlya i Volya), founded by the Narodniks in Russia in 1876. Among the leading members were G. V. Plekhanov, A. D. Mikhailov, 0. V. Aptekman, A. A. Kvyatkovsky, S. M. Kravchinsky (Stepoyak), S. L. Perovskaya, N. A. Morozov, and V. N. Figner.

The Zemlya i Volya organisation viewed the peasantry as the chief revolutionary force in Russia and sought to bring about an uprising of the peasantry against tsarism. It conducted revolutionary activity in a number of Russian gubernias—Tambov, Voronezh, and others. in 1879 a terrorist grouping was formed in Zemlya i Volya which regarded individual terror to be the chief means of fighting against tsarism. At a congress held in Voronezh that year Zemlya i Volya split into two groups: Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will) and Chorny Peredel (General Redistribution).

[3] N. A. Dobrolyubov (1836-1861)—Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher and literary critic.

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