V. I.   Lenin

The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat


The form which the coming struggle will probably take is determined partly by its content and partly by the preceding forms of the revolutionary struggle of the people and of the counter-revolutionary struggle of the autocracy.

As regards the content of the struggle, we have already shown that after two years of revolution it now centres on the overthrow of the old regime. The complete achievement of this aim is possible only by means of an armed uprising of the whole people.

As regards the preceding forms of the struggle, the “last word” of the mass popular movement in Russia is a general strike and an uprising. The last quarter of 1905 could not but leave ineradicable traces in the mind and mood of the proletariat, the peasantry, the politically-conscious sections of the army, and the democratic sections of the various professional associations of intellectuals. It is quite   natural, therefore, that after the dissolution of the Duma, the first thought to enter the minds of the broad mass of those capable of fighting was: the general strike. No one seemed to entertain any doubt that the reply to the dissolution of the Duma must inevitably be an all-Russian strike.

The universal acceptance of this opinion was of definite value. Nearly everywhere the revolutionary organisations deliberately and systematically restrained the workers from spontaneous and limited outbreaks. Reports to this effect are coming in from all parts of Russia. The experience of October-December has undoubtedly helped to concentrate everyone’s attention to a much greater degree than before on general and simultaneous action. Furthermore, another very characteristic fact must be noted: judging from the reports from some of the big centres of the working-class movement, e. g., St. Petersburg, the workers have not only quickly and easily appreciated the need for general and simultaneous action, but have firmly insisted on militant and determined action. The ill-advised idea of a demonstration (one-day or three-day) strike against the dissolution of the Duma suggested by several St. Petersburg Mensheviks met with the most determined opposition of the workers. The true class instinct and experience of those who had more than once waged a serious struggle at once suggested to them that the issue now required far more than a demonstration. We shall not demonstrate, said the workers. We shall start a desperate, determined fight when the moment for general action arrives. Judging from the available information, this was the general opinion of the St. Petersburg workers. They understood that partial actions, and demonstrations in particular, would be ridiculous after all that Russia has gone through since 1901 (the year in which the widespread demonstration movement began); that the intensification of the political crisis makes it impossible to “start from the beginning” again; that organising peaceful demonstrations would merely play into the hands of the government, which had “tasted blood” with great satisfaction in December. Peaceful demonstrations would exhaust the proletariat to no purpose and would merely provide exercise for the police and soldiers in seizing and shooting unarmed people. They would   merely somewhat confirm Stolypin’s boast that he had achieved victory over the revolution, for he had dissolved the Duma without thereby intensifying the anti-government movement. Now everyone regards this as an empty boast, for everyone knows and feels that the fight is still ahead. At that time a “demonstration” would have been construed as a struggle, it would have been converted into a (hopeless) struggle, and the cessation of the demonstration would have been proclaimed throughout the world as another defeat.

The idea of a demonstration strike was only worthy of our Ledru-Rollins[1] of the Cadet Party, who overrated parliamentarism as short-sightedly as Ledru-Rollin did in 1849. The proletariat rejected this idea at once, and it did well to reject it. The workers, who have always stood face to face with the revolutionary struggle, appreciated more correctly than certain intellectuals both the enemy’s readiness to fight and the need for resolute militant action.

Unfortunately, in our Party, owing to the predominance of the Right wing among Russian Social-Democrats at the present time, the question of militant action has been neglected. The Unity Congress of the Russian Social-Democrats was carried away by the Cadet victories; it was unable to appreciate the revolutionary significance of the present situation and shirked the task of drawing all the conclusions from the experience of October-December. But the necessity of using this experience confronted the Party much sooner and much more sharply than many devotees of parliamentarism had expected. The confusion displayed by the central institutions of our Party at the critical moment was the inevitable outcome of this state of affairs.

The combination of a mass political strike with an armed uprising is again dictated by the whole situation. At the same time, the weak aspects of a strike as an independent means of struggle stand out in bold relief. Everyone is convinced that an extremely important condition for the success of a political strike is suddenness, the possibility of catching the government unawares. This is now impossible. The government learned in December how to combat strikes, and at the present moment it is very well prepared   for such a fight. Everyone points out the extreme importance of the railways during a general strike. If the railways stop running—the strike has every chance of becoming general. If the railways are not brought to a complete standstill— the strike will almost certainly not be general. But it is particularly difficult for the railwaymen to strike: punitive trains stand in full readiness and armed troop detachments are scattered all along the line, at the stations, sometimes even in the trains. A strike under such conditions may mean— in the majority of cases it must mean—a direct and immediate collision with the armed forces. The engine-driver, the telegraphist, the switchman, will instantly be faced with the dilemma: either to be shot on the spot (Golutvino, Lubertsy and other stations on the Russian railway system have not won revolutionary fame all over Russia for nothing) or to remain at work and break the strike.

Of course, we have a right to expect great heroism from very many railway workers and employees, who have proved their devotion to the cause of liberty by deeds. Of course, we are far from denying the possibility of a railway strike and its chances of success. But we have no right to hide from ourselves the real difficulties of the task; to remain silent about such difficulties would be the very worst policy. If we face realities, if we do not bury our heads in the sand, it will be clear that a strike must inevitably and immediately develop into an armed uprising. A railway strike is an uprising; this cannot be disputed after what happened in December. And without a railway strike, the railway telegraph will not stop working, the conveyance of letters by rail will not be interrupted, and, consequently, a post and telegraph strike of serious dimensions will also be impossible.

Thus, the inexorable logic of the situation that has developed since December 1905 proves the subordinate significance of a strike in relation to an uprising. Whether we like it or not, and in spite of all “directives”, the acute revolutionary situation is bound to convert a demonstration into a strike, a protest into a fight, a strike into an uprising. Of course, an uprising, an armed mass struggle, can flare up only if it is actively supported by one or another section of the army. Therefore, a strike of the troops, their refusal   to shoot at the people, can undoubtedly, in certain cases, lead to the victory of a merely peaceful strike. But it is scarcely necessary to prove that such cases would be but single episodes in an exceptionally successful uprising, and that there is only one way of making such episodes more frequent and likely: successful preparation for an uprising, energy and strength in the first insurgent actions, demoralisation of the troops by extremely daring attacks or by the desertion of a large section of the army, etc.

In short, in the situation now created by the dissolution of the Duma, there can be no doubt that an active fight must lead directly and immediately to an uprising. Perhaps the situation will change; in that case this conclusion will have to be revised; but for the time being it is absolutely indisputable. Therefore, to call for an all-Russian strike without calling for an uprising, without explaining its in separable connection with an uprising, would be folly bordering on crime. Therefore, in our work of agitation, all efforts must be concentrated on explaining the connection between the two forms of the struggle, on preparing the conditions that will enable three streams of the struggle—a workers’ outbreak, a peasant uprising and an army “revolt”— to merge into a single torrent. These three forms of a really popular, i.e., mass, active movement, infinitely remote from a mere conspiracy, of an uprising, overthrowing the autocracy, were quite definitely seen long ago, last summer at the time of the famous mutiny of the Potemkin.[2] The success of an all-Russian uprising probably depends most of all on the fusion of these three streams. No doubt such grounds for a struggle as the dissolution of the Duma will greatly assist this fusion, because the most backward section of the peasants (and, consequently, of our army, which mainly consists of peasants) had set great hopes on the Duma.

Hence the conclusion: to take the greatest possible advantage of the dissolution of the Duma as the grounds for concentrated agitation and for a call for a national uprising; to explain the connection between a political strike and an uprising; to direct all efforts towards achieving unity and joint action on the part of the workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors in an active, armed struggle.

Finally, when speaking of the form of the movement, special mention must be made of the peasant struggle. Here the connection between a strike and an uprising is particularly clear.’ It is also clear that here the purpose of an uprising must be, not only the complete destruction, or removal, of all local authorities and their replacement by new authorities elected by the people (the common aim of every uprising, whether in the towns, in the countryside, in the army, etc.), but also the expulsion of the landlords and the seizure of their lands. The peasants must undoubtedly aim at the actual abolition of landlordism even before the question is decided by a national constituent assembly. There is no need to say much about this, because no one, probably, could imagine a peasant uprising without the peasants settling accounts with the landlords and seizing their lands. Obviously, the more conscious and organised such an uprising is, the fewer will be the instances of destruction of buildings, property, livestock, etc. From a military point of view, for the achievement of certain military aims, destruction—e. g., the burning of buildings and sometimes of property—is quite legitimate and essential in certain cases. Only pedants (or traitors to the people) can bewail the fact that the peasants always resort to such methods. Nevertheless, we need not conceal from ourselves that the destruction of property is sometimes only the result of lack of organisation, of inability to take and retain the property of the enemy instead of destroying it—or the result of weakness, when one of the belligerent sides wreaks vengeance on the enemy because it is not strong enough to destroy or crush him. Of course, in our work of agitation we must, on the one hand, do all we can to explain to the peasants that it is absolutely legitimate and necessary to wage a pitiless struggle against the enemy, even to the extent of destroying his property; on the other hand, we must show that on the degree of organisation depends the possibility of a much more rational and advantageous outcome of the struggle: destroying the enemy (the landlords and bureaucrats, especially the police) and transferring all property to the people, or to the peasants, intact (or with the least possible damage).



[1] Ledru-Rollin (1807-74)—French politician, representative of the petty-bourgeois democrats.

[2] The mutiny on the armoured cruiser Potemkin broke out on June 14 (27), 1905. The crew brought the warship to the port of Odessa, where a general strike was in progress. However, the favourable conditions that had arisen for joint action by the Odessa workers and the sailors of the Potemkin were not utilised. Numerous arrests of its members had weakened the Odessa Bolshevik organisation and it lacked unity. The Mensheviks were against an armed uprising and held the workers and sailors back trem action. The tsar ist government ordered the entire Black Sea Fleet to crush the rising on the Potemkin, but the crews refused to open fire on the cruiser and the commanders were compelled to withdraw the squad ron. After eleven days of cruising in the Black Sea the crew of the Potemkin were forced by shortage of food and coal to take their vessel to a Rumanian port and surrender to the authorities there. Most of the sailors remained abroad. Those who returned to Russia were arrested and court-martialled.

The Potemkin mutiny was unsuccessful, but the fact that the crew of a big naval vessel had joined the revolution marked an im portant stage in the development of the struggle against the autocracy. In his appraisal of its significance, Lenin called it “the attempt to form the nucleus of a revolutionary army” (see present edition, Vol. 5, p. 562).

  II | IV  

Works Index   |   Volume 11 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >