V. I. Lenin

Strike Statistics in Russia



The well-known publications of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Statistics of Workers’ Strikes in Factories and Mills for the decade 1895–1904 and for 1905–08, have been commented on in our press on a number of occasions. There is such a wealth of valuable material collected in these publications that a complete study and thorough analysis of it will require a great deal of time. The analysis made in them is but a first, and very far from adequate, approach to the subject. In the present article we intend to acquaint the readers with the preliminary results of an attempt at a more detailed analysis, deferring a full exposition of the subject for publication elsewhere.

To begin with, the fact has been fully established that the strike movement in Russia in the years 1905–07 represent ed a phenomenon unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Here are the figures showing the number of strikers (in thousands) by years and countries:

Average Russia } U.S.A. Germany France
for 1895-1904 431 } 660 527 438
” 1905 2,863 }
” 1906 1,108 }
” 1907 740 } Maximum number during the
fifteen years
” 1908 176 }
” 1909 64 }

The three-year period 1905–07 is particularly remarkable. The minimum number of strikers in Russia during these three years is greater than the maximum ever attained in any of the most developed capitalist countries. This does not mean, of course, that the Russian workers are more highly developed or stronger than the workers in the West.   But it does mean that mankind had never known before what energy the industrial proletariat is capable of displaying in this sphere. The specific feature of the, historical course of events was expressed in the fact that the approximate dimensions of this capability were first revealed in a backward country which is still passing through a bourgeois revolution.

In order to be clear on the question as to how it happened that, with the rather small number of factory workers in Russia compared with Western Europe, the number of strikers was so large, we must bear in mind the repeated strikes.

Here are figures showing the percentage of repeated strikes by years and the ratio between the number of strikers and the number of workers:

Years The number of
strikers as a per-
centage of the
total number of
The number of
repeated strikes as
a percentage of
the total number
of strikes
1895–1904 1.46%-5.10% 36.2%
1905 163.8 85.5
1906 65.8 74.5
1907 41.9 51.8
1908 9.7 25.4

Hence we see that the triennium 1905–07, which is conspicuous, for the number of strikers, is also distinguished for the frequency of repeated strikes and for the high percentage of strikers in relation to the total number of workers.

The statistical data cover also the number of establishments in which strikes occurred and the number of workers who took part in those strikes. Here are the figures for the various years:

  Percentage of strikers in estab-
lishments affected by strikes,
in relation to the total number
of workers
Aggregate for ten
years (1895–1904)
1905 60.0
1906 37.9
1907 32.1
1908 11.9

This table, like the preceding one, shows that the decline in the number of strikers in 1907 compared with 1906 was,   in general, considerably less than the decline in 1906 compared with 1905. We shall see further on that some industries and some districts registered not a decline, but an intensification of the strike movement in 1907 compared with 1906. For the time being we shall note that the figures by gubernias of the number of workers who actually participated in strikes reveal the following interesting phenomena. Compared with 1905 the percentage of workers who took part in strikes in 1906 declined in the overwhelming majority of industrially developed gubernias. On the other hand, there were a number of gubernias in which this percentage increased in 1906. They were those least developed industrially, and most out-of-the-way, as it were. They include, for instance, the gubernias of the Far North: Archangel (11,000 factory workers; in 1905, 0.4 per cent of the workers took part in strikes, in 1906—78.6 per cent), Vologda (6,000 factory workers; 26.8 and 40.2 per cent for the years mentioned), Olonets (1,000 factory workers; 0 and 2.6 per cent); then there is Chornoye Morye (Black Sea) Gubernia (1,000 factory workers; 42.4 and 93.5 per cent); of Volga Region—Simbirsk (14,000 factory workers; 10 and 33.9 per cent); of the central agricultural gubernias—Kursk (18,000 factory workers; 14.4 and 16.9 per cent); in the Eastern border area, Orenburg (3,000 factory workers; 3.4 and 29.4 per cent).

The significance of the increase in the percentage of workers who took part in strikes in these provinces in 1906 compared with 1905 is clear: the wave had not reached them in 1905; they began to be drawn into the movement only after a year of unparalleled struggle on the part of the more advanced workers. We shall come across this phenomenon—one very important for an understanding of the historical course of events—more than once in our further exposition.

On the other hand, in 1907 compared with 1906 the percentage of workers who took part in strikes increased in some gubernias that are very highly developed industrially: for instance, St. Petersburg (68 per cent in 1906 and 85.7 per cent in 1907—almost as high as in 1905, when 85.9 per cent of the workers took part in strikes), Vladimir (37.1 and 49.6 per cent), Baku (32.9 and 85.5 per cent), Kiev (10.9 and 11,4 per cent), and several others. Consequently, while the in creased percentage of strikers in 1906 compared with 1905   in a number of gubernias reveals the rearguard of the working class, which had lagged behind at the moment of the highest development of the struggle, the increase of this percentage in 1907 as compared with 1906 in a number of other gubernias shows us the vanguard of the working class striving to raise the struggle again, to halt the retreat that had begun.

In order to make this correct conclusion even more precise, we shall quote the absolute figures of the number of workers and the number of actual strikers in the gubernias of the first and of the second category:

Gubernias in which the percentage of workers
who took part in strikes increased in 1906
compared with 1905:
Number of
Number of
factory wor-
kers in them
Number of workers who
actually took part in
in 1905 in 1906
10 61,800 6,564 21,484

The average number of factory workers per gubernia is 6,000. The increase in the number of workers who actually took part in strikes totalled 15,000.

Gubernias in which the percentage of workers
who took part in strikes increased in 1907
compared with 1906:
Number of
Number of
factory wor-
kers in them
Number of workers who
actually took part in
in 1906 in 1907
19 572,132 186,926 285,673

The average number of factory workers per gubernia is 30,000. The increase in the number of workers who actually took part in strikes amounted to 100,000, or, if we exclude the Baku oil workers who were not included in the figures for 1906 (probably not more than 20-30,000), to about 70,000.

The role of the rearguard in 1906 and of the vanguard in 1907 is clearly seen from these figures.

For a still more exact idea of the extent of the movement we must take the figures for the various areas of Russia end compare the number of strikers with the number of factory workers. Here is a summary of these figures:

Factory areas Number of
factory work-
ers in 1905
Number of strikers (in thousands)
per year
1905 1906 1907 1908
I. St. Petersburg . 298 137 1,033 307 325 44
II. Moscow . . . . 567 123 540 170 154 28
III. Warsaw . . . 252 69 887 525 104 35
IV—VI. Kiev, Volga and Kharkov 543 102 403 106 157[1] 69*
Total 1,660 431 2,863 1,108 740 176

The extent to which the workers took part in the movement varied in the different districts. Altogether there were 2,863,000 strikers in 1905 to a total of 1,660,000 workers, or 164 strikers for every 100 workers; in other words, on the average more than half of all the workers struck twice in that year. But this average glosses over the fundamental distinction between the St. Petersburg and Warsaw areas, on the one hand, and all the other areas, on the other. The St. Petersburg and Warsaw areas together comprise one-third of all the factory workers (550,000 out of 1,660,000), but they accounted for two-thirds of all the strikers (1,920,000 out of 2,863,000). In these areas every worker struck, on the average, nearly four times in 1905. In the other areas there were 943,000 strikers to 1,110,000 workers, i.e., the proportion of strikers was only a quarter of that in the two above-mentioned areas. This by itself shows how wrong are the assertions of the liberals, which are repeated by our liquidators, that the workers overestimated their strength. On the contrary, the facts prove that they underestimated their strength, for they did not make full use of it. Had the energy and persistence displayed in the strike struggle (we refer here only to this one form of struggle) been the same through-   out Russia as they were in the St. Petersburg and Warsaw areas, the total number of strikers would have been twice as many. This conclusion can also be expressed in the following way: the workers were able to estimate only one-half of their strength in this sphere of the movement, for they had not yet brought the other half into play. In geographical terms, this may be stated as follows: the West and Northwest had woken up, but the Centre, the East and the South were still half asleep. The development of capitalism contributes something every day to awakening the tardy.

Another important conclusion from the figures by areas is that in 1906 compared with 1905 the movement declined everywhere, although unevenly; in 1907 compared with 1906 there was a very large decline in the Warsaw area and a rather slight decline in the Moscow, Kiev and Volga areas, whereas in the St. Petersburg and Kharkov areas there was an increase in the number of strikers. This means that, with the level of political consciousness and preparedness of the population as it was at the time, this particular form of the movement had exhausted itself in 1905; inasmuch as the objective contradictions in social and political life had not disappeared, the movement was bound to pass to a higher form. But after a year of recuperation, as it were, or of the mustering of forces during 1906, there were signs of a new upsurge, which actually began in part of the country. In appraising this period the liberals, echoed by the liquidators, speak contemptuously about “the expectations of the romanticists”; a Marxist, however, must state that by refusing to support this partial upsurge the liberals frustrated the last opportunity of upholding the democratic gains.

As regards the territorial distribution of the strikers, it should be noted that the vast majority of them is accounted for by six gubernias with highly developed industries, and with big cities in five of them. The six gubernias are: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vladimir, Warsaw, Petrokov and Livonia. In 1905 there were 827,000 factory workers in these gubernias, out of a total of 1,661,000; thus they accounted for nearly half of the total. As for the number of strikers in these gubernias, there were 246,000 in all during the decade 1895–1904, out of 431,000 or about 60 per cent of the total number of strikers; in 1905 there were 2,072,000 out of a total of   2,863,000, or about 70 per cent; in 1906—852,000 out of a total of 1,108,000, i.e., approximately 75 per cent; in 1907—517,000 out of a total of 740,000, or approximately 70 per cent; in 1908—85,000 out of a total of 176,000, i.e., less than a half.[2]

Consequently, the role of these six gubernias was greater during the three-year period 1905-07 than in the period be fore or after it. It is therefore clear that the big urban centres, including the capitals, displayed a considerably greater energy than all the other localities during these three years. The workers scattered in villages and in relatively small industrial centres and towns, comprising half of the total number of workers, accounted for 40 per cent of the total number of strikers in the decade 1895–1904, and for only 25–30 per cent during the period 1905–07. Supplementing the conclusion we arrived at above, we may say that the big cities had woken up, while the small towns and villages were largely still asleep.

As regards the countryside in general, i.e., as regards the factory workers living in villages, we have additional statistical data covering the number of strikes (but not that of strikers) in towns and non-urban localities. Here are the figures:

  Number of strikes
Total for the
ten years
In cities In non-urban
1895-1904 1,326 439 1,765
1905 11,891 2,104 13,995
1906 5,328 786 6,114
1907 3,258 315 3,573
1908 767 125 892

In citing these data, the compilers of the official statistics point out that, according to the well-known investigations of Mr. Pogozhev, 40 per cent of all the factories in Russia are located in towns, and 60 per cent in non-urban localities.{6} Consequently, in the normal period (1895–1904), while the number of strikes in the towns was three times as high as in the rural districts, the number of strikes   as a percentage of the number of establishments was 4 1/2 times as great in the towns as in the rural districts. In 1905 this ratio was approximately 8:1; in 1906 it was 9:1; in 1907—15:1 and in 1908[3] —6:1. In other words, compared with the part played by the factory workers in the villages, the part played by the urban factory workers in the strike movement was considerably greater in 1905 than in the previous years; moreover, their role became greater and greater in 1906 and 1907, i.e., proportionately the part played in the movement by the village workers became less and less. The factory workers in the villages, less prepared for the struggle by the preceding decade (1895–1904), showed the least firmness and were the quickest to retreat after 1905. The vanguard, i.e., the urban factory workers, made a special effort in 1906, and a still greater effort in 1907, to halt this retreat.

Let us now examine the distribution of the strikers according to industries. For this purpose we single out four main groups of industries: A) metal-workers: B) textile-workers; C) printers, wood-workers, leather-workers, and workers in chemical industries; D) workers in the mineral products industries and food industries. Here are the figures for the different years:

Groups of industries Total number
of factory
workers in
Number of strikers (in thousands) for
the years
1905 1906 1907 1908
A 252 117 811 213 193 41
B 708 237 1,296 640 302 56
C 277 38 471 170 179 24
D 454 39 285 85 66 55
Total 1,691 431 2,863 1,108 740 176

The metal-workers were best prepared by the decade preceding 1905. During that decade nearly half of them took   part in strikes (117,000 out of 252,000). Since they were the best prepared, they made the best showing in 1905 as well. The number of strikers among them was more than three times the total number of workers (811,000 as against 252,000). Their role as vanguard stands out even more clearly when we examine the monthly figures for 1905 (it is impossible to give a detailed analysis of these figures in a short article, and we shall do so elsewhere). In 4905 the month with the maximum number of strikers among the metal-workers was not October, as was the case in all the other groups of industries, but January. The vanguard displayed the maximum energy in inaugurating the movement, “stirring up” the entire mass. In January 1905 alone 155,000 metal-workers went on strike, i.e., two-thirds of their total number (252,000). In that month alone more metal-workers were on strike than in all the preceding ten years (155,000 as against 117,000). But this, almost superhuman, energy exhausted the strength of the vanguard towards the end of 1905; in 1906 the metal-workers account for the biggest decline in the movement. The maximum drop in the number of strikers is among them: from 811,000 to 213,000, i.e., by nearly three-fourths. In 1907 the vanguard had again gathered strength: the total decline in the number of strikers was very slight (from 213,000 to 193,000), and in the three most important branches—namely, engineering, shipbuilding and foundries—the number of strikers actually increased from 104,000 in 1906 to 125,000 in 1907.

The textile-workers constitute the main mass of the Russian factory workers—a little less than half the total (708,000 out of 1,691,000). As regards their preparatory experience in the ten years prior to 1905 they occupy the second place: one-third of their number (237,000 out of 708,000) took part in strikes. They also occupy the second place for the intensity of the movement among them in 1905: about 180 strikers to every 100 workers. They entered the struggle later than the metal-workers: in January the number of strikers among them was slightly greater than among the metal-workers (164,000 as against 155,000), but in October they had more than twice as many strikers (256,000 as against 117,000). Having entered the struggle later, this main mass proved to be the most firm of all in 1906: in that year the decline   was general, but it was smallest of all among the textile-workers, the number of strikers among them dropping by a half (640,000 as against 1,296,000), compared with a decrease of nearly three-quarters among the metal-workers (from 811,000 to 213,000) and of from three-fifths to five-sevenths among the other groups. Only by 1907 was the force of the main mass also exhausted: in 1907 it was this group which showed the greatest drop, by more than a half compared with 1906 (302,000 as against 640,000).

Without making a detailed analysis of the figures for the other industries, we shall only note that group D lags behind all of them. It was the least prepared, and its part in the movement was the smallest. If we take the metal-workers as the standard, it may be said that group D “defaulted” to the extent of over a million strikers in 1905 alone.

The relation between the metal-workers and the textile-workers is characteristic as reflecting the relation between the advanced section and the broad mass of the workers. Owing to the absence of free organisations, a free press, a parliamentary platform, etc., during the period 1895-1904, the masses could rally in 1905 only spontaneously, in the course of the struggle itself. This process took the form of successive waves of strikers; but in order to “stir up” the broad mass, the vanguard was obliged to spend such a tremendous amount of energy at the beginning of the movement that it proved relatively weakened when the movement reached its apogee. In January 1905, there were 444,000 strikers, including 155,000 metal-workers, i.e., 34 per cent of the total; in October, however, when the number of strikers reached 519,000, the number of metal-workers among them was 117,000, i.e., 22 per cent. It is obvious that this unevenness of the movement was tantamount to a certain dissipation of forces owing to the fact that they were scattered, insufficiently concentrated. This means, firstly, that the effect might have been heightened if the forces had been better concentrated, and, secondly, that owing to the objective conditions characteristic of the period under discussion at the beginning of each wave a number of groping actions, as it were, reconnaissances, trial moves, etc., were inevitable and were necessary for the success of the movement. Therefore, when the liberals, echoed by liquidators like Martov,   proceeding from their theory that “the proletariat had over estimated its forces”, accuse us of having “followed in the wake of the spontaneous class struggle”, these gentlemen are condemning themselves and are paying us, against their will, the greatest compliment.

In concluding our review of the strike figures for each year, we shall deal also with the figures showing the size and the duration of the strikes, and the losses incurred as a result of the strikes.

The average number of strikers per establishment was as follows:

In the ten years 1895–1904 . . . 244
” 1905 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205
” 1906 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
” 1907 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
” 1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197

The decrease in the size of strikes (as regards the number of workers involved) in 1905 is explained by the fact that a great number of small establishments joined the struggle, thus lowering the average number of strikers per establishment. The further decrease in 1906 apparently reflects the waning energy of the struggle. 1907 shows a certain advance.

If we take the average number of workers who took part in purely political strikes, we get the following figures for the various years: 1905—180; 1906—174; 1907—203; 1908—197. These figures indicate even more strikingly the waning energy of the struggle in 1906 and its new growth in 1907, or (and, perhaps, at the same time) the fact that it was mostly the biggest establishments that took part in the movement in 1907.

The number of days on strike per striker was as follows:

In the ten years 1895–1904 . . . 4.8
” 1905 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.7
” 1906 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.9
” 1907 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2
” 1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.9

The persistence of the struggle, as characterised by the above figures, was greatest in 1905; then it diminished rapidly until 1907, showing a new increase only in 1908. It should be pointed out that, as regards the persistence of   the struggle, strikes in Western Europe are on an incomparably higher level. In the five-year period 1894–98 the number of days on strike per striker was 10.3 in Italy, 12.1 in Austria, 14.3 in France, and 34.2 in Britain.

Taking separately the purely political strikes, the figures are as follows: 1905—7 days per striker, 1906—1.5 days, 1907—1 day. Economic strikes are always more protracted.

If we bear in mind the difference in the persistence of the strike struggles in the different years, we arrive at the conclusion that the figures of the number of strikers are not sufficient to give a proper idea of the relative sizes of the movement in these years. An accurate index is provided by figures of striker-days, which were as follows:

  Of which in
In the ten years 1895-1904 a total of 2,079,408
1905 ” ” ” 23,609,387 7,569,708
1906 ” ” ” 5,512,749 763,605
1907 ” ” ” 2,433,123 521,647
1908 ” ” ” 864,666 89,021

Thus we see that the accurate figures representing the size of the movement in the year 1905 alone are more than 11 times as great as those for all the preceding ten years taken together. In other words, the size of the movement in 1905 was 115 times as great as the average per year for the preceding decade.

This ratio shows us how purblind are those people, whom we encounter only too often among the representatives of official science (and not only among them), who consider the tempo of social-political development in the so-called “peaceful”, “organic”, “evolutionary” periods as the standard for all times, as the index of the highest possible pace of development modern humanity can achieve. Actually, the tempo of “development” in the so-called “organic” periods is an index of the greatest stagnation, of the greatest obstacles placed in the way of development.

The compiler of the official statistics uses the figures of the number of striker-days to determine the losses incurred by industry. These losses (representing the drop in output) amounted to 10,400,000 rubles in the ten years 1895–1904,   to 127,300,000 rubles in 1905, to 31,200,000 rubles in 1906, to 15,000,000 rubles in 1907, and to 5,800,000 rubles in 1908. In the three years 1905–07, therefore, the drop in output amounted to 173,500,000 rubles.

The losses of the workers in unpaid wages for strike days (determined in accordance with the average daily wages in the various industries) were as follows:

Group of Indust-
ries (see above
p. 18{4} )
Number of factory
workers in 1905
Losses incurred by workers as a result
of strikes (in thousands of rubles)
1905 1906 1907 1908
A 252 650 7,654 891 450 132
B 708 715 6,794 1,968 659 228
C 277 137 1,997 610 576 69
D 454 95 1,096 351 130 22
Total 1,691 17,541 17,541 3,820 1,815 451

In the three years 1905–07 the losses of the workers amounted to 23,200,000 rubles, or over 14 times more than in the entire preceding decade.[5] According to the calculation of the compiler of the official statistics, the average loss per worker employed in factories (and not per striker) amounted   to about ten kopeks a year during the first decade, about ten rubles in 1905, about two rubles in 1906, and about one ruble in 1907. But this calculation leaves out of account the enormous differences in this respect between the workers of the various industries. Here is a more detailed calculation made on the basis of the figures quoted in the above table:

Groups of
Average loss (in rubles) caused by strikes,
per factory worker
total for 10
1905 1906 1907 1908
A 2.6 29.9 3.5 1.8 0.5
B 1.0 9.7 2.8 0.9 0.3
C 0.5 7.2 2.2 2.1 0.2
D 0.2 2.4 0.7 0.3 0.05
Total 0.9 10.4 2.3 1.1 0.3

Hence, we see that the losses per metal-worker (Group A) amounted to nearly 30 rubles in 1905, or three times more than the average, and over ten times more than the average loss per worker in the mineral products industries and in the food industries (Group D). The conclusion we arrived at above, namely, that by the end of 1905 the metal-workers had spent their strength in this particular form of the movement, is even more strikingly confirmed by this table: in Group A the amount of the losses dropped to less than one-eighth in the period from 1905 to 1906; whereas in the other groups it dropped to one-third or one-fourth.

This concludes the analysis of the strike statistics by years. In the next section we shall deal with the monthly figures.


[1] These [two–MIA Ed.] figures are not strictly comparable with the figures for the preceding years, since the oil workers were not included in the data prior to 1907. The resulting increase is probably not more than 20-30,000. —Lenin

[2] In 1908, Baku Gubernia topped the list with 47,000 strikers. The last of the Mohicans of the mass political strike! —Lenin

[3] The figures for 1908 include 228 strikes, and the figures for 1907 include 230 strikes, in the oilfields, which for the first time came under the Inspectorate in 1906. —Lenin

{4} See p. 402 of this volume.—Ed.

[5] It should be borne in mind that in the period when the movement was at its height the workers compelled the employers to cover part of these losses. Beginning with 1905, the statistics had to deal with a special cause of strikes (Cause Group 3 b, according to the official nomenclature): demand of pay for the time of the strike. In 1905 there were 632 cases when this demand was presented; in 1906—256 cases, in 1907—48 cases, and in 1908—9 cases (prior to 1905 this demand was never presented). The results of the struggle of the workers for this demand are known only for the years 1906 and 1907, and only two or three cases when this was the main demand: in 1906, out of 10,966 workers who struck primarily for this demand: 2,171 won the strike, 2,626 lost, and 6,169 concluded a compromise. In 1907, out of 93 workers who struck primarily for this demand, not one won the strike, 52 lost, and 41 compromised. From what we know of the strikes in 1905 we may surmise that in that year the strikes for this demand were more successful than in 1906. —Lenin

{6} A. V. Pogozhev, Report on the Numbers and Composition of Workers in Russia. Labour Statistics Data, St. Petersburg, published by the Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1906.

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