V. I. Lenin

The Historical Meaning of the Inner-Party Struggle in Russia



Martov’s arguments on the Russian revolution and Trotsky’s arguments on the present state of Russian Social-Democracy definitely confirm the incorrectness of their fundamental views.

We shall start with the boycott. Martov calls the boycott “abstention from politics”, the method of the “anarchists and syndicalists”, and he refers only to 1906. Trotsky says that the “boycottist tendency runs through the whole history of Bolshevism—boycott of the trade unions, of the State Duma, of local self-government bodies, etc.”, that it is the “result of sectarian fear of being swamped by the masses, the radicalism of irreconcilable abstention”, etc. As regards boycotting the trade unions and the local self-government bodies, what Trotsky says is absolutely untrue. It is equally untrue to say that boycottism runs through the whole history of Bolshevism; Bolshevism as a tendency, took definite shape in the spring and summer of 1905, before the question of the boycott first came up. In August 1906, in the official organ of the faction, Bolshevism declared that the historical conditions which made the boycott necessary had passed.{1}

Trotsky distorts Bolshevism, because he has never been able to form any definite views on the role of the proletariat in the Russian bourgeois revolution.

But far worse is the distortion of the history of this revolution. If we are to speak of the boycott we must start from the beginning, not from the end. The first (and only) victory in the revolution was wrested by the mass movement, which proceeded under the slogan of the boycott. It is only to the advantage of the liberals to forget this.

The law of August 6 (19), 1905 created the Bulygin Duma as a consultative body. The liberals, even the most radical of them, decided to participate in this Duma. The Social-Democrats, by an enormous majority (against the Mensheviks), decided to boycott it and to call upon the masses for a direct onslaught on tsarism, for a mass strike and an uprising. Hence, the question of the boycott was not a question within Social-Democracy alone. It was a question   of the struggle of liberalism against the proletariat. The entire liberal press of that time showed that the liberals feared the development of the revolution and directed all their efforts towards reaching an “agreement” with tsarism.

What were the objective conditions for an immediate mass struggle? The best answer to this is supplied by the statistics of strikes (subdivided into economic and political strikes) and of the peasant movement. We cite here the principal data, which will serve to illustrate the whole of our subsequent exposition.

Number of Persons Involved in Strikes per Quarter{2} (in thousands)
  1905 { 1906 { 1907 {
Total 810 481 294 1,277 269 479 296 63 146 323 77 193
Economic strikes 411 190 143 275 73 222 125 37 52 52 66 30
Political strikes

291 154
171 26 94
11 163
Per cent of uyezds
affected by the
peasant movement
  { 14.2% { 36.9% { 49.2% { 21.1%

These figures reveal what enormous energy the proletariat is capable of displaying during a revolution. In the entire decade preceding the revolution the number of strikers in Russia was only 431,000, i. e., an average of 43,000 per year, while in 1905 the total number of strikers was 2,863,000—at a time when the total number of factory workers was only 1,661,000! The world has never witnessed a strike movement like it. In the third quarter of 1905, when the question of the boycott arose for the first time, we observe the transition to a new and much more powerful wave of the strike movement   (and, following it, of the peasant movement). The real historical content of the question of the boycott was whether to help the rise of this revolutionary wave and direct it towards the overthrow of tsarism, or whether to allow tsarism to divert the attention of the masses by the game of a consultative Duma. It is therefore easy to see how much triviality and liberal-like obtuseness there is in the efforts to link the boycott in the history of the Russian revolution with “abstention from politics”, “sectarianism”, etc. Under the slogan of the boycott adopted against the liberals a movement arose which brought about an increase in the number of political strikers from 151,000 during the third quarter of 1905 to one million during the fourth quarter of 1905.

Martov declares that the “chief cause” of the success of the strikes in 1905 was “the growing current of opposition in wide bourgeois circles”. “The influence of these wide sections of, the bourgeoisie extended so far that they, on the one hand, directly instigated the workers to political strikes,” and, on the other, urged the employers “to pay the wages of the workers during a strike” (Martov’s italics).

We shall contrast this honeyed praise of the “influence” of the bourgeoisie with dry statistics. In 1905 strikes much more frequently ended in favour of the workers than in 1907. Here are the figures for that year: 1,438,610 strikers presented economic demands; 369,304 workers won their fight, 671,590 ended it with a compromise and 397,716 lost. Such in fact (and not according to liberal fables) was the “influence” of the bourgeoisie. Martov distorts the actual attitude of the proletariat towards the bourgeoisie in a truly liberal fashion. It was not because the bourgeoisie, on rare occasions, paid for the strikes, or came forward in opposition that the workers won (in “economics” and in politics), but it was because the workers were winning victories that the bourgeoisie were disaffected and paid. The force of the class attack, the force of the strikes in which millions took part, the force of the peasant riots and of the uprisings in the armed forces were the cause, the “chief cause”, my dear Martov; the “sympathy” of the bourgeoisie was the effect.

Martov writes: “October 17, which opened up prospects of elections to the Duma and made it possible to hold meetings, to form workers’ unions and to publish Social-Democratic   newspapers, indicated the direction along which the work should have been conducted.” But the trouble was that “the idea of the possibility of a ‘strategy of attrition’ did not enter anybody’s head. The whole movement was being artificially pushed towards a serious and decisive clash, i. e., towards the December strike and the December “sanguinary defeat”.

Kautsky disputed with Rosa Luxemburg whether in Germany in the spring of 1910 the moment had come for the transition from the “strategy of attrition” to the “strategy of over throw”, and Kautsky stated plainly and definitely that this transition was inevitable if the political crisis developed further. But Martov, clinging to Kautsky’s apron strings, retrospectively advocated the “strategy of attrition” for the period when the revolution reached its highest intensity. No, my dear Martov, you are merely repeating liberal speeches. October 17 did not “open up” “prospects” of a peaceful constitution—that is only a liberal fairy-tale; it opened civil war. This war was prepared, not by the subjective will of parties or groups, but by the whole course of events since January 1905. The October Manifesto signified not the cessation of the struggle, but the balancing of the contending forces: tsarism was no longer in a position to govern, the revolution was not yet in a position to overthrow it. The objectively inevitable consequence of this situation was a decisive struggle. Both in October and in November civil war was a fact (and the peaceful “prospects” were a liberal lie); this war found expression not only in pogroms, but also in the struggle by armed force against insubordinate units of the army, against the peasants in one-third of Russia and against the border regions. Those who under such circumstances regard the December armed uprising and mass strike as “artificial” can only artificially be classed as Social-Democrats. The natural party for such people is the liberal party.

In 1848 and in 1871 Marx said that there are moments in a revolution when surrendering to the enemy without a struggle has a more demoralising effect on the masses than defeat in a fight.{3} December 1905 was not only such a moment in the history of the Russian revolution, it was the natural and inevitable culmination of the mass encounters   and battles which had been growing in intensity in all parts of the country during the preceding twelve months. Even dry statistics bear witness to this fact. The number of per sons who took part in purely political strikes (i.e., in which no economic demands were presented) was: in January 1905, 123,000; in October, 328,000; in December, 872,000. And yet there are people who want us to believe that this growth was “artificial”! We are treated to a fairy-tale to the effect that such a growth of the mass political struggle, in addition to the mutinies in the armed forces, is possible without its inevitable development into an armed uprising! No, this is not a history of the revolution, it is a liberal libel on the revolution.


{1} See present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 141–49.—Ed.

{2} The periods which are of special importance are enclosed in boxes: 1905, I—Jan. 9; 1905, IV—the climax of the revolution, October and December; 1906, II—the First Duma; 1907, II—the Second Duma. The figures are from the official statistics of strikes,{4} which I am working on in detail for the outline of the history of the Russian revolution that I am now preparing for the press (see pp. 393–421 of this volume.—Ed.).

{4} This refers to V. Y. Varzar’s book Statistics of Strikes at Factories During the Three Years 1906-08, St. Petersburg, 1910.

{3} Marx und Engels: Revolution und Konterrevolution in Deutschland. See also Marx’s letter to Ludwig Kugelmann of April 17, 1871 (Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 319-20).

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