V. I.   Lenin

Moscow Zubatovists in St. Petersburg

Published: Iskra, No. 31, January 1, 1903. Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 301-306.
Translated: ??? ???
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
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Moskovskiye Vedomosti (No. 345, Dec. 15, 1902) carries a “Letter to the Publisher,” written by a worker named F. A. Slepov, which we reproduce in full below. First of all, we would like to lend encouragement to our esteemed “fellow journalist,” Mr. Gringmut, editor of Moskovskiye Vedomosti, for publishing a document of such great interest. And Mr. Gringmut undoubtedly stands in need of encouragement, for of late his extremely useful activity in obtaining (and featuring) material for revolutionary agitation has somehow fallen off, faded ... lost some of its fervour. You must try harder, colleague! Secondly, it is of the utmost importance at the present time that the St. Petersburg workers should watch every step of Zubatovism, should collect information more regularly about workers who have linked up with spies and are conferring with former, present and future generals, society ladies, and “true Russian” intellectuals, and should spread this information as widely as possible, explaining it in detail to one and all.

Here is the letter, which we have supplemented with a few comments of our own in brackets:

“Dear Sir,

“Could you find it possible to publish the following in Moskovskiye Vedomosti, which is held in such esteem by all true Russian people:

“On the 10th of this month, a meeting of the Board of the Russkoye Sobraniye[1] was held in the premises of the Sobraniye in St. Petersburg and was devoted exclusively to questions concerning the life of Russian factory workers.

“Among the most prominent members of St. Petersburg society present at the meeting were: General K. V. Komarov,   former Assistant Governor General of Warsaw; Auditor General A. V. Vasilyev; Colonel A. P. Veretennikov; Count Apraxin; Count A. P. Ignatyev, ex-Governor General of Kiev; Count P. A. Golenishchev-Kutuzov; General Zabudsky; Admiral Nazimov; Nikolai Vyacheslavovich von Plehve; I. P. Khrushchov, member of the Board of the Ministry of Public Education; Professor Zolotaryov of the General Staff; V. S. Krivenko; Count N. F. Heyden; General Demyanenkov; Archpriest Ornatsky and other church dignitaries. Also present were ladies from the upper circles of St. Petersburg society, as well as Mayor Lelyanov and Councillor Dekhterev of the City Council. The press was represented by V. V. Komarov, editor of Svyet; V. L. Velichko, editor of Russky Vestnik; Syromyatnikov, of the staff of Novoye Vremya; K. K. Sluchevsky, former editor of Praviteistvenny Vestnik; Leikin, editor and publisher of the Oskolki magazine; the painter Karazin, and others.

“The meeting opened with a report on the condition of workers in the manufacturing industries delivered by I. S. Sokolov, a worker” (concerning Sokolov see No. 30 of Iskra, which gives a fuller list, based on information taken from Svyet, of St. Petersburg worker-Zubatovists.—Ed., Iskra)." In the main, the speaker explained the present condition of the working class in the industrial cities, their material and spiritual needs, their efforts to acquire knowledge, etc." (It is a pity that Mr. Sokolov’s report has not been published! It would be interesting to see how he managed to “explain” the workers’ efforts to acquire knowledge but made no mention of police persecution of such efforts.—Ed., Iskra.) “Then representatives of the Moscow workers” (would it not be more correct to say: representatives of the Moscow secret police? Was it not on money supplied by the police that you and your friends travelled to St. Petersburg, Mr. Slepov?—Ed., Iskra), “among whom I was, also had the honour of attending the meeting of the Russkoye Sobraniye and reporting to that illustrious gathering on the state of affairs in the working-class world of Moscow. In our report we first of all expressed, on behalf of Russian workers, our profound gratitude to the members of the Russkoye Sobraniye for giving their representatives the opportunity to explain the present condition of the Russian working class. Further we   requested the representatives of Russian higher society to devote serious attention to the education of the Russian workers” (quite naturally! It is precisely from the upper classes that the worker should expect an education—by means of the whip probably!—Ed., Iskra), “which is in a far from satisfactory state, a fact that is being successfully used for socialist propaganda by persons with malicious intent” (if the lack of education is advantageous to the socialists, why, then, is the government closing schools for workers and reading-rooms? It doesn’t make sense, Mr. Slepov!—Ed., Iskra), “thereby causing harm not only to the workers, but to the entire Russian state. Then we endeavoured to call the attention of the illustrious assembly to the lack of sympathy among Moscow factory-owners for the Moscow workers’ idea of uniting in a close family for the purpose of founding their own mutual aid societies, which are so important for delivering the workers from crushing want. In this connection we asked members of the illustrious assembly to raise in government circles the question of loans to the workers’ mutual aid societies” (see the speech of the Nizhni-Novgorod worker, Samylin, before the court, in No. 29 of Iskra, in which be tells how he was arrested for taking part in a workers’ circle studying economics. There is education for you; there you have mutual aid societies!—Ed., Iskra). “Undoubtedly, support of the workers in their material needs would constitute the best. refutation of malicious propaganda among them” (can it really be that Mr. Slepov—and what an appropriate name he has! [Slepov, from slepoi—the Russian for “blind"—Ed.] —seriously believes that for the sake of some miserable hand-out a class-conscious worker would cease striving for liberty? As to “supporting” the non-class-conscious, ignorant mass “in their material needs,” this is beyond the power of even the most highly placed patrons of the Zubatovists, since in order to provide such support it is first necessary to change the whole social system, which rests on destitution of the masses.—Ed., Iskra.). “These false ’well-wishers’ of the workers usually say that the workers can improve their life only by means of riots, disturbances, resistance to the authorities, etc. Unfortunately such incitement sometimes meets with success, as every-   one knows. Peaceful improvement of the workers’ living conditions is the best way to refute these agitators. Then we had the honour to report to the illustrious assembly that in Moscow, despite most widespread unemployment, socialist propaganda had lost all its appeal of late” (but only quite recently we heard of an enormous number of arrests in Moscow! What would be the point of the arrests and who would there have been to arrest if this propaganda had lost its appeal??—Ed., Iskra), “precisely because the workers are already beginning to organise and have a Mutual Aid Society and a Consumers’ Society, and because the sympathetic attention of the authorities has already been given to the needs of the workers, making it possible to arrange for them lectures on general education, etc. Besides what has been said above, we also reported to the Sobraniye about cases in Moscow in which we had figured in the capacity of mediators and conciliators between workers and manufacturers, not only putting an end to disorders but even averting them, as, for instance, at the Hakental factory, the Bromley Bros. factory and the Dobrov-Nabholtz factory. We also mentioned the strike of workers of the Goujon metallurgical plant, where the workers of the rolling and nail shops did stop work, but thanks to our intervention did not go so far as to cause disturbances, and returned to work as a result of our comradely advice” (the workers get plenty of such “comradely” advice during each strike both from the police and from the factory inspectors, who are always asking them to “return to work.” This is not comradely, but police advice. —Ed., Iskra).

“The members of the Russkoye Sobraniye listened to our reports sympathetically” (how else but sympathetically would they listen to workers who are helping the police in its business!—Ed., Iskra) “and many voiced the opinion that serious thought should be given to the question of the workers and that they should be afforded the opportunity and the means of ridding themselves of the influence of the socialist doctrine” (an interesting scene: generals and priests, Zubatov spies and writers loyal to the police spirit intend to “help” the workers rid themselves of the influence of the socialist doctrine!—and incidentally, at the same time to help hook unwary workers who will swallow the bait.—Ed.,   Iskra), “allowing them independent activity, under control of government statutes and under the guidance of that section of the intelligentsia which truly loves its native land and is striving for its welfare and prosperity” (fine independent activity indeed under police control! No, the workers are already demanding independent activity untrammelled by the police, with the right to choose as leaders those of the intellectuals whom they, the workers, trust.— Ed., Iskra). “V. V. Komarov, A. V. Vasilyev, Colonel Veretennikov, Mr. Dekhterev, the painter Karazin, Princle D. P. Golitsyn, and many others reacted most warmly to the question of the workers. The idea was expressed that it was necessary to set up special workers’ councils, headed by a central council, which would be a beneficial factor in averting misunderstandings between workers and manufacturers. As Mr. Dekhterev put it, this should be allowed because a crowd can never act intelligently and that influence over a crowd of workers could be exerted best of all by the workers themselves; as an example, he cited a similar type of institution in France which was coping with the above-mentioned task successfully.” (Yes, Workers’ Councils are meeting with success in France and throughout Europe. That is true. But they are meeting with success because there the workers enjoy political liberty, have their own unions, their own newspapers, their elected representatives in parliament. Does Mr. Dekhterev really think that the St. Petersburg workers are all so naïve as not to know this?— Ed., Iskra). “The question of government loans to the workers’ mutual aid societies also met with sympathy by members of the Russkoye Sobraniye. The meeting closed with a decision to elect a special commission to consider the steps to be taken in the matter. We trust that you, Mr. Editor, as a true Russian, will accord us, workers, the same sympathy, and that you will find it possible to publish the above in your paper, so that our best people may all unite for a joint struggle against the enemies of our native land, who are stirring up sedition among the mass of the people, sowing the seeds of internecine strife and undermining loyalty to the time-honoured traditions, and respect and reverence for the supreme authority. We are firmly convinced that there are also people in Russia who are ready to give their all to the   service of their fatherland, to offer up their forces and abilities on its altar and, in close communion, to erect an insurmountable barrier to falsehood and malice in Russia.

“F. A. Slepov, worker.”

And at the close Mr. Slepov could not but let his tongue run away with him! All support for the workers’ needs, all sympathy on the part of the government boiled down to one thing: to form groups from among the workers themselves to combat socialism. This is the truth of it. And it will be most interesting for the workers to learn that in addition to the knout and imprisonment, exile and prisons, the Zubatov workers will also try to inculcate in them “respect and reverence for the supreme authority.” No sensible worker will say at a public meeting what he really thinks—that would be delivering himself directly into the hands of the police. But through our own papers, our own leaflets and our own meetings we can and must see to it that the new Zubatov campaign is turned entirely to the good of socialism.


[1] Russkoye Sobraniye (the Russian Assembly)—a Black-Hundred monarchist organisation, which supported the policy of the Zubatovists. It was formed in the autumn of 1900.

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