V. I.   Lenin

Revolutionary Days



The First Steps

The fire was sparked off by a quite ordinary clash between labour and capital—a strike at a factory. It is interesting to note, however, that this strike of twelve thousand Putilov workers, which broke out on Monday, January 3, was before everything a strike in the name of proletarian solidarity. It was caused by the dismissal of four workers. “When the demand for their reinstatement was turned down,” writes a comrade from St. Petersburg on January 7, “the factory struck work immediately to a man. The strike is fully disciplined. The workers put several men to protect the machines and other property against possible damage by the less class-conscious workers. They then sent a delegation to other factories to communicate to them their demands and to ask them to join the strike.” Many thousands of workers began to join the movement. The legal Zubatov workers’ society, sponsored by the government in order to demoralise the proletariat by systematic monarchist propaganda, rendered no little service in organising the movement in its early stages and in extending it. What happened was something that the Social-Democrats had long pointed out to the Zubatovists, namely, that the revolutionary instinct of the working class and the spirit of solidarity would prevail over all petty police ruses. The most backward workers would be drawn into the movement by the Zubatovists, and then the tsarist government would itself take care to drive the workers farther; capitalist exploitation itself would turn them away from the peaceable and out-and-out hypocritical Zubatov fold towards revolutionary Social-Democracy. The practice of proletarian life and proletarian struggle would prove superior   to all the “theories” and all the vain efforts of the Zubatov gentry.[1]

And that is what has happened. One comrade, a worker and member of the St. Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, gives his impressions as follows in a letter addressed to us under date of January 5.

“I am writing under the fresh impression of a meeting of workers of the Semyannikov Shipyard just held at the Nevskaya Zastava. But first, a word about the feeling among the St. Petersburg workers. As you know, ’Zubatov’ organisations have lately begun to crop up here, or rather are being revived under the leadership of the priest Gapon. These organisations have grown considerably in number and strength in a very short time. There are now 11 branches of the so-called Russian Factory Workers’ Assembly. As was to be expected, the results of these meetings were inevitably the same as in the South.

We can now say with certainty that a sweeping strike movement is starting in St. Petersburg. Almost every day you hear of a new strike at one or another factory. The Putilov Works has been on strike now for two days. About a fortnight ago the Schau Cotton Mills in the Vyborg Quarter went on strike. The strike lasted about four days. The workers lost it. The strike may break out anew any day. A fighting spirit prevails everywhere, but it could hardly be said to be in favour of the Social-Democratic line. Most of the workers stand for a purely economic struggle and against a political one. However, we may expect and hope that this feeling will change and the workers will realise that with out a political struggle they can achieve no economic improvements. Today the Nevsky Shipyard (Semyannikov’s) went on strike. The local branch of the Russian Factory Workers’ Assembly is trying to lead the strike, but it will not succeed, of course. The Social-Democrats will be the leaders, notwithstanding the fact that they are woefully weak here.

“Leaflets have been issued by the St. Petersburg Commit tee: two addressed to the Schau Cotton Mills and one to   the Putilov workers. A meeting of the Nevsky Shipyard workers was held today. It drew about 500 workers. Members of the local branch of the Assembly spoke for the first time. They avoided political demands and put forward chiefly economic demands. Shouts of disapproval were heard in the crowd. At this point Stroyev, of Russkaya Gazeta, who is greatly respected among the St. Petersburg workers, came forward and proposed a resolution, which, he said, had been drafted by him and representatives of Social-Democracy. The resolution, though emphasising the antagonism of class interests between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, did this inadequately. Social-Democratic workers spoke after Stroyev and supported the resolution in principle, although stressing its limited character and its inadequacy. This started a commotion; some of those present did not like the speeches of the Social-Democrats and tried to obstruct the meeting. The majority voted against the chairman, who was among the obstructionists, and elected a new chairman, a socialist. The members of the (Zubatov) ’society’, however, refused to keep silent and continued to make disturbances. Al though the overwhelming majority of the meeting (90 per cent) sided with the socialists, the meeting in the long run broke up without achieving anything and postponed its decision until the next day. One thing can be said at any rate—the Social-Democrats succeeded in turning the mood of the workers in their favour. Tomorrow there is to be a big meeting. There may be two or three thousand people there. An imposing demonstration is to be expected one of these days, something like the July demonstration in the South in 1903. The Franco-Russian Society Works is on strike—about four to five thousand people. They say a strike has started at the Stieglitz Cotton Mills—about five thousand. A strike is expected at the Obukhov Works— five or six thousand.”

Comparing this information of a Social-Democrat, a local committee-man (who could only know, of course, what was happening in a small area in St. Petersburg), with the foreign press reports, especially the English, we are led to the conclusion that the latter are distinguished by a high degree of accuracy.

The strike spread from day to day with amazing speed. The workers held numerous meetings and drew up a “charter” of their own—their economic and political demands. Both these demands, despite the Zubatovist leadership, coincided on the whole with the demands of the Social-Democratic Party programme, including the slogan for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot. The spontaneous growth of this strike, unexampled in point of magnitude, was far, far in advance of the planned participation in the movement on the part of the organised Social-Democrats. But let them speak for them selves.



[1] Cf. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, pp. 86-88. (See present edition Vol. 5, pp. 454-56.—Ed.)—Lenin

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