V. I. Lenin

The Beginning of Demonstrations

Published: Rabochaya Gazeta No. 2, December 18 (31), 1910. Published according to the text in Rabochaya Gazeta.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 16, pages 355-358.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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After three years of revolution, from 1905 to 1907, Russia went through three years of counter-revolution, from 1908 to 1910, three years of the Black-Hundred Duma, an orgy of violence and suppression of rights, a capitalist offensive against the workers, and the retraction of the gains made by the workers. The Tsarist autocracy which was half-broken in 1905 but not destroyed, has mustered its forces, joined hands with the landlords and capitalists in the Third Duma and has re-introduced the old order of things in Russia, Stronger than ever is the capitalists’ oppression of the workers, more brazen than ever the lawlessness and tyranny of the officials in the towns and, particularly, in the countryside, more ferocious than ever the reprisals against the champions of freedom, more frequent than ever the infliction of capital punishment. The tsarist government, the landlords and the capitalists have taken furious revenge on the revolutionary classes, and the proletariat above all, for the revolution, as though hastening to utilise the interruption in the mass struggle for the destruction of their enemies.

But there are enemies that can be defeated in a few battles, can be kept under for a time, hut cannot he destroyed. The complete victory of the revolution is fully possible and such a victory would utterly destroy the tsarist monarchy, would wipe the feudal landlords from the face of the earth, would transfer all their lands to the peasants without compensation, would replace the rule of officialdom by democratic self-government and political freedom. Such reforms are not only possible, they are indispensable, in every country in the twentieth century, they have already been effected more or less completely in all the states of Europe, at the cost of more or less prolonged and persistent struggle.

But no victories of the reaction, however complete, no triumph of counter-revolution can destroy the enemies of the tsarist autocracy, the enemies of oppression by the landlords and capitalists, because these enemies are the millions of workers who are being massed in ever-greater numbers in the towns, in the big factories and on the railways. These enemies are the ruined peasantry whose life is many times harder now that the rural superintendents and rich peasants have united for legalised plunder, for the appropriation of the peasants’ land with the sanction of the landlords’ Duma, under the protection of all the landlord and military authorities. Enemies like the working class and the poor peasantry cannot be destroyed.

And now, after three years of the most wanton riot of counter-revolution, we see that the mass of the people, those most oppressed, downtrodden, benighted, intimidated by persecutions in every form, are beginning to raise their heads again, to reawaken and resume the struggle. Three years of executions, persecutions and savage reprisals have destroyed tens of thousands of the “enemies” of the autocracy, hundreds of thousands have been imprisoned or exiled, many hundreds of thousands more have been intimidated. But millions and tens of millions of people are no longer what they were before the revolution. Never yet in the history of Russia have these millions experienced such instructive and vivid lessons, such open class struggle. That a new and profound underlying ferment has set in among these millions and tens of mil lions is evident from this summer’s strikes and the recent demonstrations.

Workers’ strikes in Russia both during the period of the preparation of the revolution and during the revolution itself were the most widely used means of struggle of the proletariat, of this advanced class, which is the only consistently revolutionary class in modern society. Economic and political strikes, now alternating, now inseparably interwoven, united the mass of the workers against the capitalist class and the autocratic government, threw the whole of society into a ferment, and roused the peasantry for the struggle.

When a continuous wave of mass strikes began in 1895 this was the beginning of the phase of preparation for the   people’s revolution. When in January 1905 the number of strikers in this one month exceeded 400,000, this was the beginning of the actual revolution. In all the three years of the revolution the number of strikers, though gradually declining (almost 3,000,000 in 1905, 1,000,000 in 1906, and three-fourths of a million in 1907), was higher than had ever been known in any other country.

When the number of strikers dropped abruptly (176,000) in 1908 and was followed by an even more marked decline in 1909 (64,000) this spelt the end of the first revolution or, rather, the first phase of the revolution.

And now, since the summer of this year, the tide is beginning to rise again. The number of participants in economic strikes is increasing and increasing very rapidly. The phase of the total domination of the Black-Hundred reaction has come to an end. The phase of a new upsurge is beginning. The proletariat, which retreated—although with considerable interruptions between 1905 and 1909, is regaining its strength and is beginning to take the offensive. The revival in certain branches of industry leads at once to a revival of the proletarian struggle.

The proletariat has begun. Others, the bourgeois, democratic classes and sections of the population are continuing. The death of Muromtsev, Chairman of the First Duma, a moderate liberal, a foreigner to democracy, evokes the first timid beginning of demonstrations. The death of Leo Tolstoy gives rise—for the first time after a long interval—to street demonstrations with the participation mainly of students but partly also of workers. The fact that quite a number of factories and plants stopped work on the day of Tolstoy’s funeral marks the beginning, though a very modest one, of demonstrative strikes.

Very recently, the atrocities of the tsarist gaolers, who in Vologda and Zerentui tortured many of our imprisoned comrades who are being persecuted for their heroic struggle during the revolution, have deepened the ferment among the students. Assemblies and mass meetings are being held all over Russia, the police are raiding, the universities, beating the students, arresting them, prosecuting newspapers for publishing the slightest particle of truth about the disorders, but only aggravating the unrest by all these actions.

The proletariat has begun. The democratic youth are continuing. The Russian people are awakening to new struggle, advancing towards a new revolution.

The first beginning of the struggle has shown us again that the forces are alive which shook the tsarist regime in 1905 and will destroy it in the coming revolution. The first beginning of the struggle has shown us again the significance of the mass movement. No persecutions, no reprisals can halt the movement once the masses have risen, once the millions have begun to bestir themselves. Persecutions only pour oil on the flames, draw ever-new contingents of fighters into the struggle. No terrorist acts can help the oppressed masses, and no power on earth can halt the masses when they rise in revolt.

Now they have begun to rise. This upsurge may be rapid, or it may be slow and fitful, but in any case it is leading to a revolution. The Russian proletariat led the way in 1905. Remembering this glorious past it must now exert every effort to restore, reinforce and develop its own organisation, its own Party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. At present our Party is passing through difficult days but it is invincible, just as the proletariat is invincible.

So to work, comrades! Get busy everywhere, building organisations, creating and reinforcing Party units of Social-Democratic workers, intensifying economic and political agitation. In the first Russian revolution the proletariat taught the masses to fight for freedom, in the second revolution it must lead them to victory!


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