V. I. Lenin

Ivan Vasilyevich Babushkin

An Obituary

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 361-364.
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.  

We are living in accursed conditions when it is possible for such things as the following to happen: a prominent Party worker, the pride of the Party, a comrade who unselfishly devoted his life to the cause of the working class, disappears without a trace. Even his nearest relatives, like his wife or his mother, his most intimate comrades do not know for years what has become of him: whether he is pining some where in penal servitude, whether he has perished in some prison or has died the death of a hero in battle with the enemy. Such was the case with Ivan Vasilyevich, who was shot by Rennenkampf. We learned about his death only quite recently.

The name of Ivan Vasilyevich is near and dear not only to Social-Democrats. All who knew him loved and respected him for his energy, his avoidance of phrase-mongering, his profound and staunch revolutionary spirit and fervent devotion to the cause. A St. Petersburg worker, in 1895 with a group of other class-conscious workers, he was very active in the district beyond the Nevskaya Zastava among the workers of the Semyannikov and Alexandrov factories and the Glass Works, forming circles, organising libraries and studying very hard himself all the time.

All his thoughts were fixed on one thing—how to widen the scope of the work. He took an active part in drawing up the first agitational leaflet put out in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1894, a leaflet addressed to the Semyannikov workers, and he distributed it himself. When the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Glass was formed in St. Petersburg, Ivan Vasilyevich became one of its most active members and worked in it until he was arrested. The idea of starting a political newspaper abroad to promote   the unification and consolidation of the Social-Democratic Party was discussed with him by his old comrades who had worked with him in St. Petersburg, the founders of Iskra, and received his warmest support. While Ivan Vasilyevich was at liberty Iskra never went short of genuine workers’ correspondence. Look through the first twenty issues of Iskra, all these letters from Shuya, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Orekhovo-Zuyevo and other places in Central Russia: they nearly all passed through the hands of Ivan Vasilyevich, who made every effort to establish the closest contact between Iskra and the workers. Ivan Vasilyevich was Iskra’s most assiduous correspondent and its ardent supporter. From the central region Babushkin made his way to the south, where he was arrested in Ekaterinoslav and imprisoned in Alexandrovsk. From Alexandrovsk he escaped with another comrade by sawing through the window-bars of his cell. Without knowing a single foreign language he made his way to London, where the Iskra editorial office was at the time. A lot of things were talked over there, a lot of questions were discussed with him. But Ivan Vasilyevich did not get the chance to attend the Second Party Congress ... imprisonment and exile put him out of active service for a long time. The revolutionary wave that arose brought new functionaries, new Party leaders to the fore, but Babushkin at this time was living in the Far North, in Verkhoyansk, cut off from Party life. But the time was not wasted for him, he studied, he equipped him self for the struggle, he was active among the workers who were his comrades in exile, trying to make them class-conscious Social-Democrats and Bolsheviks. In 1905 came the amnesty and Babushkin set out for Russia. But Siberia too was seething with struggle and people like Babushkin were needed there. He joined the Irkutsk Committee and plunged headlong into the work. He had to speak at meetings, carry on Social-Democratic agitation and organise an uprising. While Babushkin and five other comrades—whose names we have not learned—were taking a large consignment of arms from Chita in a separate railway car the train was held up by one of Rennenkampf’s punitive expeditions and all six, without the slightest pretence of a trial were lined up on the edge of a common grave hastily dug on the spot and shot. They died like heroes. The story of their death was told by   soldiers who saw it and railwaymen who were in the same train. Babushkin fell a victim to the bestial savagery of the tsarist myrmidon but, in dying, he knew that the cause to which he had devoted his life would not die, that it would be continued by tens, hundreds of thousands, millions of other hands, that other working-class comrades would die for the same cause, that they would fight until they were victorious....

*     *

Some people have concocted and are spreading a fairy-tale to the effect that the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party is a party of “intellectuals”, that the workers are isolated from it, that the workers in Russia are Social-Democrats without a Social-Democratic party; that this was the case particularly before the revolution and, to a considerable extent, during the revolution. The liberals are spreading this lie out of hatred for the revolutionary mass struggle which the R.S.D.L.P. led in 1905, and some socialists have been repeating this lying theory either out of ignorance or irresponsibility. The life history of Ivan Vasilyevich Babushkin, the ten years’ Social-Democratic activity of this worker-Iskrist is a striking refutation of this liberal lie. I. V. Babushkin is one of those working-class militants who 10 years before the revolution began to create the workers’ Social-Democratic Party. Had it not been for the tireless, heroically persistent work of such militants among the proletarian masses the R.S.D.L.P. could not have existed ten months let alone ten years. Thanks only to the activities of such militants, thanks only to their support, the R.S.D.L.P. developed by 1905 into a Party which became inseparably fused with the proletariat in the great days of October and December, which maintained this connection in the person of the workers’ deputies not only in the Second, but even in the Third, Black-Hundred Duma.

The liberals (Cadets) want to make a national hero out of the late S. A. Muromtsev who was the Chairman of the First Duma. We, the Social-Democrats, must not let the opportunity slip of expressing our contempt and hatred of the tsarist government, which persecuted even such moderate and inoffensive officials as Muromtsev. Muromtsev was only   a liberal official. He was not even a democrat. He was afraid of the revolutionary struggle of the masses. He expected the liberation of Russia to come not from this struggle, but from the good will of the tsarist autocracy, from an agreement with this malicious and ruthless enemy of the Russian people. It is ridiculous to regard such people as national heroes of the Russian revolution.

But there are such national heroes. They are people like Babushkin. They are people who, not for a year or two but for a whole decade before the revolution, whole-heartedly devoted themselves to the struggle for the emancipation of the working class. They are people who did not dissipate their energies on the futile terrorist acts of individuals, but who worked persistently and unswervingly among the proletarian masses, helping to develop their consciousness, their organisation and their revolutionary initiative. They are people who stood at the head of the armed mass struggle against the tsarist autocracy when the crisis, began, when the revolution broke out and when millions and millions were stirred into action. Everything won from the tsarist autocracy was won exclusively by the struggle of the masses led by such people as Babushkin.

Without such men the Russian people would remain for ever a people of slaves and serfs. With such men the Russian people will win complete emancipation from all exploitation.

The fifth anniversary of the December uprising of 1905, has already passed. Let us honour this anniversary by remembering the militant workers who fell in the fight against the enemy. We request our worker comrades to collect and send us reminiscences of the struggle of that period and additional information about Babushkin and also about other Social-Democratic workers who fell in the uprising of 1905. We intend to publish a pamphlet on the lives of such workers. Such a pamphlet will be the best answer to all sceptics and disparagers of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Such a pamphlet will be excellent reading matter for young workers, who will learn from it how every class-conscious worker should live and act.


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