V. I.   Lenin

The Struggle of the Proletariat and the Servility of the Bourgeoisie

Published: Proletary, No. 6, July 3 (June 20), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 537-543.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Isidor Lasker
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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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An uprising and armed barricade fighting in Lodz, a bloody affray in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, general strikes and shooting at workers in Warsaw and Odessa, the ignominious end of the Zemstvo deputation farce—such are the major political events of the past week. If we add to this what the Geneva papers report today (June 28 [15]) concerning peasant disturbances in Lebedin Uyezd, Kharkov Gubernia, the pillaging of five estates, and the dispatch of troops to these places, we see, reflected in the events of a single week, the character of all the main social forces, which is now so openly and clearly revealing itself in the course of the revolution.

The proletariat has been in a constant state of unrest, especially since the Ninth of January, never giving the enemy a moment’s respite. It is keeping up its offensive mainly in the form of strikes, while avoiding direct clashes with the armed forces of tsarism and preparing its forces for the great and decisive battle. In the industrially more developed areas, where the workers are better trained politically and where national oppression is added to the economic and general political yoke, the tsarist police and troops are going out of their way to incense and provoke the workers. And the workers, even those who are unprepared for the struggle, even those who at first confined themselves to defence, are now, through the proletariat of Lodz, setting a new example, not only of revolutionary enthusiasm and heroism, but of superior forms of struggle. They are still poorly, very poorly armed, and their uprising is still   local, isolated from the general movement; nevertheless, they are making a step forward, they are covering the city streets with scores of barricades thrown up with amazing speed, they are inflicting serious losses on the tsarist troops, they are putting up a desperate resistance in some of the houses. The armed uprising is gaining in breadth and intensity. The new victims of the tsar’s executioners—nearly 2,000 people have, been killed or wounded in Lodz—are kindling intense hatred towards the accursed autocracy in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of citizens. The new armed clashes demonstrate more and more strikingly that the decisive armed struggle of the people against the armed forces of tsarism is inevitable. All these separate outbreaks form more and more distinctly the picture of a widespread all-Russian conflagration. More and more districts, even the most backward, are being drawn into the proletarian struggle, and the zeal of the tsar’s myrmidons but serves the revolution by turning economic conflicts into political conflicts, by making the workers everywhere realise from their own hard lot that the autocracy must be overthrown at all costs, and by making of them future heroes and fighters of the popular uprising.

Armed uprising of the people! This is the slogan—advanced so resolutely by the party of the proletariat, as represent ed by the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party—which the very course of events, the spontaneous process of expansion and intensification of the revolutionary movement, powerfully impels. Away, then, with all doubts and vacillations. Let it be realised by one and all, now and without delay, how absurd and discreditable are all pretexts today for evading this urgent task of the most energetic preparation of the armed uprising—how perilous it is to delay, how vital it is to unite and co-ordinate the local uprisings which are breaking out all over the country. Taken separately, these outbreaks are ineffectual. The organised force of the tsarist government can crush the insurgents group by group, if the movement continues to spread from town to town and from district to district as slowly and sporadically as it has been doing until now. But united, these outbreaks can converge into a mighty torrent of revolutionary flame, which no power on earth will be able to   withstand. This unity is on the way, it is coming by a thou sand paths we do not know of or even suspect. These sporadic outbreaks and skirmishes are giving the people a lesson in revolution, and our job is never to lag behind the exigencies of the moment, but to be able always to point to the next, higher stage of the struggle, deriving experience and instruction from the past and from the present, and urging the workers and peasants on and on more boldly and more broadly to the complete victory of the people, to the complete destruction of the autocratic gang that is now fighting with the desperation of the doomed.

How often we would find people in the Social-Democratic, movement, particularly in its intellectualist wing, who belittled the aims of the movement, faint-hearts who have lost faith in the revolutionary energy of the working class. Even now some think that because the democratic revolution is bourgeois by its social and economic nature, the proletariat should not aspire to enact the leading role in the revolution, to take the most energetic part in it, or to put forward such advanced slogans as the overthrow of the tsarist regime and the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government. Events are teaching even these politically backward people. Events are bearing out the militant conclusions that follow from the revolutionary theory of Marxism. The bourgeois nature of the democratic revolution does not mean that this revolution can benefit only the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, it is advantageous most of all, and necessary most of all, to the proletariat and the peasantry. Events are making it increasingly clear that only the proletariat is capable of waging a determined struggle for complete liberty, for the republic, in contradistinction to the unreliability and instability of the bourgeoisie. The proletariat can become the leader of the entire people and win over the peasantry, which can expect nothing from the autocracy except oppression and violence, and nothing from the bourgeois friends of the people except betrayal and treachery. Because of its class position in modern society, the proletariat can understand, sooner than any other class, that, in the final analysis, great historic issues are decided only by force, that freedom cannot be achieved without tremendous sacrifices, that the armed resistance of   tsarism must be broken and crushed by force of arms. Otherwise we shall never live to see liberty, otherwise Russia will meet the fate of Turkey—a long painful decline and disintegration, particularly painful for all the toiling and exploited masses of the people. Let the bourgeoisie abase itself and cringe, let it bargain and beg for sops, for a wretched travesty of liberty. The proletariat will go into action and lead with it the peasantry, which suffers under the vilest and most intolerable conditions of serfdom and humiliation; it will march forward to complete liberty, which can be made secure only by an armed people basing itself upon revolutionary power.

Social-Democracy has not advanced the slogan of insurrection on the spur of the moment. It has always fought, and will continue to fight, against revolutionary phrase-mongering, and it will always demand a sober estimation of forces and an analysis of the given situation. The Social-Democratic Party has ever since 1902 spoken of preparing the uprising, without ever confounding this work of preparation with the senseless artificial improvisation of rebellions which would merely dissipate our forces uselessly. And only now, after the Ninth of January, has the workers’ party placed the slogan of insurrection on the order of the day, only now has the necessity of the uprising and the urgency of mobilising for it been recognised. The autocracy itself has made this slogan a practical slogan of the working-class movement. The autocracy has given the broad masses their first lessons in civil war. This war has begun, and it is being fought on an increasingly wider front and with increasing intensity. We have only to generalise its lessons, to explain the great significance of the words “civil war”, to derive practical guidance from each encounter in this war, to organise our forces and prepare directly and immediately all that is necessary for a real war.

Social-Democracy does not fear to face the truth. It knows the treacherous nature of the bourgeoisie. It knows that liberty will bring the workers, not tranquillity and peace, but the new and still greater struggle for socialism, a struggle against the present bourgeois friends of freedom. But in spite of this—indeed, because of this—freedom is absolutely necessary to the workers, more necessary to them than to   anyone else. Only the workers are capable of fighting at the head of the people for complete freedom, for a democratic republic. And they will fight for it to the death.

Needless to say, ignorance and degradation are still wide spread among the people; a good deal has yet to be done to develop the class-consciousness of the workers, not to speak of the peasantry. But see how quickly the slave of yesterday is straightening his back, how the spark of liberty is gleaming even in his half-dimmed eyes. Look at the peasant movement. It lacks unity and political consciousness, and we have only a faint inkling of its magnitude and its character. But one thing we know: the class-conscious worker and the peasant who is rising to the struggle will under stand each other upon the first exchange of words; every ray of light will bring them closer together in the struggle for freedom; they will then not surrender their revolution to the contemptibly pusillanimous and selfish bourgeois and landlords—their democratic revolution which can give them land and freedom, which can give the working people every alleviation of their living conditions conceivable in bourgeois society to enable them to continue the struggle for socialism. We need but look at the central industrial region. How long is it since we thought it to be sunk in deep slumber? How long is it since only a sporadic, partial, petty trade union movement was considered possible there? And now a general strike has broken out in that region. In the hundreds of thousands they have risen there, and more are rising. Political agitation is spreading as never before. To be sure, the workers there are still far behind the heroic proletariat of heroic Poland, but the tsarist government is fast educating them; it is fast making them “catch up with Poland”.

No, the general armed uprising of the people is no dream. The complete victory of the proletariat and the peasantry in this democratic revolution is no idle thought. And what great perspectives such a victory would open before the European proletariat, which for so many years has been artificially held back from the pursuit of happiness by the reactionary militarists and landlords! The victory of the democratic revolution in Russia will be the signal for the beginning of the socialist revolution, for a new victory of   our brothers, the class-conscious proletarians of all countries.

How utterly contemptible, as compared with the mighty and heroic struggle of the proletariat, was the exhibition of loyalty displayed by the Zemstvo men and the Osvobozhdeniye gentry at the famous audience granted by Nicholas II. These mountebanks got their deserts. Before the ink had dried on their grovelling and rapturous reports of the tsar’s gracious words, the true meaning of those words was revealed to all in new deeds. The censorship is on the ram page. The newspaper Rus[1] has been suspended solely for publishing a more than moderate address. The police dictatorship headed by Trepov is in its hey day. The tsar’s words are officially interpreted as a promise to call a consultative assembly of representatives of the people, with the ancient autocracy “rooted in the native soil” remaining inviolate.

Prince Meshchersky’s opinion of the reception, published in Grazhdanin, proved to be right. Nicholas knew how to donner le change to the Zemstvo men and the liberals, he wrote. Nicholas knew how to lead them by the nose!

The gospel truth! The leaders of the Zemstvo people and of the Osvobozhdeniye crowd have been led by the nose. It serves them right. They got what they deserved for their servile speeches, for their concealment of their true decisions and ideas on the constitution, and for their shameful silence after the tsar’s jesuitical speech. They have haggled for a parody of freedom that will be “safe” for the bourgeoisie. All have haggled—Shipov with Bulygin, Trubetskoi with Shipov, Petrunkevich and Rodichev with Trubetskoi, and Struve with Petrunkevich and Rodichev. They are haggling while agreeing “provisionally” to the purely Shipovian programme of the Zemstvo delegation. These hucksters got what they asked for—a kick from the military jackboot.

Surely, this humiliation of the leaders of the Russian bourgeois Osvobozhdeniye trend should mark the beginning of the end! Surely, those who have the making of sincere and honest democrats will now at last turn their backs on that notorious Constitutional-Democratic Party. Surely they ought to realise that they are hopelessly disgracing themselves and betraying the cause of the revolution by supporting   a “party”, the “Zemstvo group” of which crawls on its belly before the autocracy, while the Osvobozhdeniye League repeats the like before the Zemstvo group.

We greet the finale of the Zemstvo deputation. The mask has been torn off. Choose, gentlemen of the landowning classes and of the bourgeoisie! Choose, gentlemen of education and members of “leagues” of every description: for revolution or for counter-revolution? for freedom or against freedom? He who would be a true democrat must fight, he must break with the grovellers and traitors, he must create an honest party that will have respect for itself and for its convictions, he must take his stand firmly and irrevocably on the side of the armed uprising. As for those who want to continue the game of diplomatising, of withholding their true opinions, who want to bargain and cringe, to make rhetorical threats believed by none and to go into raptures at the promise of a post of Marshal of the Nobility from the deified sovereign—as for such, let them be publicly branded with the unanimous contempt of all believers in freedom.

Down with the bourgeois betrayers of freedom!

Long live the revolutionary proletariat! Long live the armed uprising for complete freedom, for the republic, for the vital, urgent interests of the proletariat and the peasantry!


[1] Rus (Russia)—a bourgeois-liberal newspaper, which appeared at intervals in St. Petersburg between December 1903 and June 1908 under different names: Rus, Molva (Hearsay), and Dvadtsaty Vek (The Twentieth Century).

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