V. I. Lenin

Strike Statistics in Russia



A year is too long a period to enable us to investigate the wave-like character of the strike movement. The statistics now give us the right to say that during the three years 1905–07 every month counted for a year. In those three years the working-class movement advanced a full thirty years.   In 1905 there was not a single month when the number of strikers dropped below the minimum per year during the decade 1895–1904; there were but two such months in 1906 and two in 1907.

It is to be regretted that the treatment of the monthly data, as well as of the data for the separate gubernias, is very unsatisfactory in the official statistics. Many summaries need to be worked out anew. For this reason, and also for considerations of space, we shall confine ourselves for the time being to the quarterly data. With regard to the break down into economic and political strikes, it should be noted that the official statistics for 1905 and for 1906-07 are not quite comparable. Strikes of a mixed nature—in the official statistics Group 12 with economic demands and Group 12 b with economic demands—were classified as political in 1905 and as economic in the subsequent years. We shall classify them as economic strikes in 1905 too.

Number of strikers (in thousands){7}
  Year 1905 1906 1907
  Total 810 481 294 1,277 269 479 296 63 146 323 77 193
Of { Econ. 604 239 165 430 73 222 125 37 52 52 66 30
which { Polit. 206 242 129 847 196 257 171 26 94 271 11 163

The boxes indicate the periods during which the wave rose highest. It is obvious from even a cursory glance at the table that these periods coincide with political events of cardinal importance that are characteristic of the entire triennium. 1905, first quarter—January 9 and its consequences; 1905, fourth quarter—the October and December events; 1906, second quarter—the First Duma; 1907, second quarter—the Second Duma; the last quarter of 1907 shows the least rise occasioned by the November political strike (134,000 strikers) in connection with the trial of the workers’ deputies of the Second Duma. Hence this period, which completes the triennium and represents a transition to a new stage in Russian history, is just that exception which proves the rule: the rise of the strike wave in this case does not imply a general social-political upsurge, but on closer examination we   see that there was really no strike wave—but only an isolated demonstration strike.

The rule applying to the triennium that we are studying is that the rise of the strike wave indicates crucial turning-points in the entire social and political evolution of the country. The strike statistics show us graphically what was the principal driving force of this evolution. This does not mean, of course, that the form of the movement we are examining was the sole or the highest form—we know that this was not the case; nor does it mean that we can draw direct conclusions from this form of the movement with regard to particular questions of social and political evolution. But it does mean that what we have before us is a statistical picture (far from complete, of course) of the movement of the class which was the mainspring responsible for the general direction taken by events. The movements of the other classes are grouped around this centre; they follow it, their direction is determined (in a favourable or unfavourable way) by it, they depend on it.

One has only to recall the principal moments in the political history of Russia during the triennium under review to realise that this conclusion is correct. Let us take the first quarter of 1905. What did we see on the eve of this period? The well-known Zemstvo banquet campaign. Was it right to regard the actions of the workers in that campaign as “the highest type of demonstration”? Was the talk about refraining from causing “panic” among the liberals justified? Consider these questions in conjunction with the strike statistics (1903—87,000 strikers; 1904—25,000; January 1903—444,000, including 123,000 political strikers), and the answer will be obvious. The above-mentioned controversy over the question of the tactics in the Zemstvo campaign only reflect ed the antagonism between the liberal and working-class movements, an antagonism rooted in objective conditions.

What do we see after the January upsurge?[1] The well-known February edicts, which marked the inauguration   of a certain amount of change in the organisation of the state.

Take the third quarter of 1905. The principal event in the political history was the law of August 6 (the so-called Bulygin Duma). Was that law destined to be put into effect? The liberals thought that it was and decided to act accordingly. In the camp of the Marxists a contrary view prevailed, which was not shared by those who objectively support ed the views of the liberals. The events of the last quarter of 1905 decided the controversy.

The figures referring to whole quarters make it appear that there was one upsurge at the end of 1905. Actually there were two, separated by an interval during which there was a slight abatement of the movement. The number of strikers in October was 519,000, including 328,000 involved in purely political strikes; in November 325,000 (including 147,000 in political strikes), and in December 433,000 (including 372,000 in political strikes). Publications dealing with the history of the period express the view of the liberals and our liquidators (Cherevanin and Co.), according to which there was an element of “artificiality” in the December upsurge. The statistical data refute this view, for they show that it was precisely this month that accounted for the highest number of workers involved in purely political strikes—372,000. The tendencies that impelled the liberals to arrive at their particular appraisal are obvious, but from a purely scientific standpoint it is absurd to regard a movement of such dimensions as at all “artificial”, when in one month the number of workers involved in purely political strikes was almost nine-tenths of the total number of strikers during a whole decade.

Finally, let us consider the last two waves—in the spring of 1906 and in the spring of 1907.[2] What distinguishes   both of them from the January and May waves in 1905 (of which the first was also stronger than the second) is that they came during the ebb of the movement, whereas the first two waves took place during the rising tide of the movement. This distinction is generally characteristic of the two last years compared with the first year of the triennium. Hence, the correct explanation of the increase registered during these periods of 1906 and 1907 is that they denote a halt in the retreat and an attempt on the part of the retreating forces to resume the offensive. Such is the objective meaning of these upsurges, which is now clear to us in the light of the final results of the whole “three-year period of storm and stress”. The First and the Second Dumas represented nothing else than political negotiations and political demonstrations on top, prompted by the halt in the retreat below.

This clearly shows how short-sighted are the liberals who see in these negotiations something self-sufficient and in dependent, unrelated to whether a particular halt in the re treat is going to be of long duration, or what its outcome will be. This also shows clearly the objective dependence on the liberals of those liquidators who, like Martov, now speak with scorn of, the “expectations of the romanticists” during the period of retreat. The statistical data show that it was not a question of the “expectations of the romanticists”, but of actual interruptions, halts of the retreat. Had it not been for these halts, the coup d’état of June 3, 1907, which was historically absolutely inevitable since the retreat was a fact, would have taken place sooner, perhaps a year or even more than a year earlier.

Now that we have examined the history of the strike movement in its relation to the principal moments of the political history of the period, let us pass on to an investigation of the interrelation between the economic and the political strikes. The official statistics provide very interesting data touching on this subject. Let us first deal with the general total for each of the three years under review:

  Number of strikers (in thousands)
1905 1906 1907
Economic strikes 1,439 458 200
Political strikes 1,424 650 540
Total . . . 2,863 1,108 740

The first conclusion to be drawn from these figures is that there is a very close connection between the economic and the political strikes. They rise simultaneously and drop simultaneously. The force of the movement in the period of the offensive (1905) results from the fact that the political strikes are built, as it were, on the broad basis of the no less powerful economic strikes which, even taken by themselves, far exceed the figures for the entire decade of 1895–1904.

During the decline of the movement the number of those engaged in economic strikes drops faster than the number of those engaged in political strikes. The weakness of the movement in 1906, and particularly in 1907, is undoubtedly the result of the fact that the broad and firm base of the economic struggle was absent. On the other hand, the slower drop in the number of workers involved in political strikes, in general, and the particularly insignificant decrease in that number in 1907 compared with 1906, apparently testify to the phenomenon with which we are already familiar: namely, that the advanced sections were exercising their utmost energy to halt the retreat and to turn it into an offensive.

This conclusion is fully corroborated by the data showing the interrelation between economic and political strikes in the various groups of industries. In order to avoid overburdening the article with figures we shall confine ourselves to a comparison of the quarterly data for the year 1905 with reference to the metal-workers and the textile-workers, using in this instance the summary of the official statistics,[3] which, as mentioned before, classified the mixed strikes that took place that year as political strikes.

  Number of strikers
(in thousands)
  1905, Quarters I II III IV
Group A { Economic 120 42 37 31
(metal-workers) { Political 159 76 63 283
  Total 279 118 100 314
Group B { Economic 196 109 72 182
(textile-workers) { Political 111 154 53 418
  Total 307 263 125 600

Here we see clearly the distinction between the advanced section and the mass of the workers. Among the advanced section those involved in purely economic strikes were a minority from the very beginning, and this holds good for the whole year. Even in this group, however, in the first quarter of the year the number of workers involved in purely economic strikes was very high (120,000). Clearly, among the metal-workers too there were considerable sections which had to be “stirred up”, and which started off by presenting purely economic demands. Among the textile-workers we see a very great preponderance of those taking part in purely economic strikes in the initial stage of the movement (in the first quarter of the year). These become a minority during the second quarter, only to become a majority again in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, when the movement reached its zenith, the number of metal-workers involved in purely economic strikes was 10 per cent of the total number of strikers and 12 per cent of the total number of metal-workers; while among the textile-workers the number of those involved in purely economic strikes represented 30 per cent of the total number of strikers and 25 per cent of the total number of textile-workers.

The interdependence between the economic and political strike is thus quite obvious: no really broad, no really mass movement is possible without a close connection between the two; the concrete expression of this connection-consists, on the one hand, in the fact that at the beginning of the movement, and when new sections are just entering it, the purely economic strike is the prevalent form, and, on the other, in   the fact that the political strike rouses and stirs the backward sections, generalises and extends the movement, and raises it to a higher level.

It would be extremely interesting to trace in detail precisely how new recruits were drawn into the movement during the whole three-year period. The main material contains data relating to this subject, for the information obtained was entered on cards dealing with each strike separately. But the analysis of this information in the official statistics is very unsatisfactory, and a wealth of material contained in the cards has been lost, since it was not included in the analysis. An approximate idea is given by the following table showing the number of strikes as a percentage of the number of establishments of different sizes:

  Number of strikes as a percentage of the number
of establishments
Groups of establishments Total for
10 years
1905 1906 1907 1908
20 workers or less 2.7 47.0 18.5 6.0 1.0
21 to 50 workers 7.5 89.4 38.8 19.0 4.1
51 to 100 ” 9.4 108.9 56.1 37.7 8.0
101 to 500 ” 21.5 160.2 79.2 57.5 16.9
501 to 1,000 ” 49.9 163.8 95.1 61.5 13.0
Over 1,000 ” 89.7 231.9 108.8 83.7 23.0

The advanced section, which we have so far observed from the data dealing with the different districts and different groups of industries, now stands out from the data dealing with the various groups of establishments. The general rule throughout these years is that as the size of the establishments increases there is an increase in the percentage of establishments in which strikes occurred. The characteristic features of the year 1905 are, firstly, that the bigger the establishment the larger the number of repeated strikes, and, secondly, that compared with the decade 1895–1904 the rise in the percentage is the steeper the smaller the establishments. This clearly indicates the especial rapidity with which new recruits were drawn into the movement, and with which sections that had never before taken part in strikes were enlisted. Rapidly drawn into the movement in the period of the greatest upsurge, these new recruits proved the   least stable: the drop in the percentage of establishments in which strikes occurred in 1907 as compared with 1906 was greatest in the small establishments, and least in the big establishments. It was the vanguard which worked the longest and the most persistently to halt the retreat.

But to return to the interrelation between the economic and the political strike. The quarterly data for the entire triennium, quoted above,{4} show, in the first place, that all the great advances in the movement were accompanied by a rise not only in the number of workers involved, in political strikes, but also of those involved in economic strikes. The only exception was the upsurge in the spring of 1907; in that year the largest number of workers involved in economic strikes was not in the second but in the third quarter.

At the beginning of the movement (first quarter of 1905) we see an overwhelming prevalence of workers involved in economic strikes over those involved in political strikes (604,000 as against 206,000). The zenith of the movement (fourth quarter of 1905) brings with it a new wave of economic strikes, not as high as in January, however, and with political strikes strongly predominating. The third advance, in the spring of 1906, again shows a very large increase in the number of participants both in economic and in political strikes. These data alone are sufficient to refute the opinion according to which the combination of the economic with the political strike represented a “weak aspect of the movement”. This opinion has been often expressed by the liberals; it has been repeated by the liquidator Cherevanin in relation to November 1905; recently it has been repeated by Martov too in relation to the same period. The failure of the struggle for an eight-hour day is especially often referred to as confirming this opinion.

This failure is an undeniable fact; it is also undeniable that any failure implies that the movement is weak. But the view of the liberals is that it is the combination of the economic with the political struggle that is the “weak aspect of the movement”; the Marxist view, on the, other hand, is   that the weakness lay in the insufficiency of this combination, in the insufficient number of workers involved in economic strikes. The statistical data furnish graphic confirmation of the correctness of the Marxist view, for they reveal the “general law” of the three-year period—namely, that the movement becomes intensified as a result of the intensification of the economic struggle. And there is a logical connection between this “general law” and the basic features of every capitalist society, in which there always exist back ward sections which can be aroused only by the most extraordinary accentuation of the movement, and it is only by means of economic demands that the backward sections can be drawn into the struggle.

If we compare the upsurge in the last quarter of 1905 with the one before it and the one after it, i.e., with the first quarter of 1905 and the second quarter of 190U, we see clearly that the upsurge in October-December had a narrower economic base than either the one before or the one after, i.e., as regards the number of workers involved in economic strikes as a percentage of the total number of strikers. Undoubtedly, the demand for an eight-hour day antagonised many elements among the bourgeoisie who might have sympathised with the other aspirations of the workers. But there is also no doubt that this demand attracted many elements, not of the bourgeoisie, who had not so far been drawn into the movement. These elements were responsible for 430,000 workers taking part in economic strikes in the last quarter of 1905, their number dropping to 73,000 in the first quarter of 1906 and increasing again to 222,000 in the second quarter of 1906. Consequently, the weakness lay not in the absence of sympathy on the part of the bourgeoisie, but in the insufficient, or insufficiently timely, support on the part of nonbourgeois elements.

It is in the nature of liberals to be dismayed by the fact that a movement of the kind we are discussing always antagonises certain elements of the bourgeoisie. It is in the nature of Marxists to note the fact that this kind of movement always attracts large sections outside the ranks of the bourgeoisie. Suum cuique—to each his own.

The official statistics dealing with the results of the strikes are highly instructive as regards the vicissitudes.   of the struggle between the workers and the employers The following is a summary of these statistics:

  Percentage of workers involved in strikes with the
results indicated
Result of strikes 10 years
1905 1906 1907 1908
In favour of the workers 27.1 23.7 35.4 16.2 14.1
Mutual concessions (compromise) 19.5 46.9 31.1 26.1 17.0
In favour of the employers (against the workers) 51.6 29.4 33.5 57.6 68.8

The general conclusion to be drawn from this is that the maximum force of the movement signifies also the maximum success for the workers. The year 1905 was the most favour able for the workers, because in that year the force of the strike struggle was greatest. That year was also distinguished by the unusual frequency of compromises: the parties had not yet adapted themselves to the new unusual conditions, the employers were bewildered by the frequency of the strikes, which more often than ever before ended in a compromise. In 1906 the struggle became more stubborn: cases of compromise were incomparably rarer; but on the whole the workers were still victorious: the percentage of strikers who won a victory was greater than the percentage of those who lost. Beginning with 1907 defeats for the workers continually increased, and cases of compromise became rarer.

From the absolute figures it will be seen that in the ten years 1895-1904 the total number of workers who won their strikes was 117,000, whereas in 1905 alone more than three times as many workers won their strikes (369,000), and in 1906, one-and-a-half times as many (163,000).

A year, however, is too long a period for a proper study of the wave-like progress of the strike struggle in 1905–07. Since the monthly data would take up too much space, we shall cite the quarterly data for 1905 and 1906. We can omit the data for 1907, since, judging by the results of the strikes, there were no breaks in that year, no declines and rises, but a continuous retreat on the part of the workers and an offensive on the part of the capitalists, as has been fully brought out in the yearly data already cited.

Years 1905 1906
Results of strikes:
In favour of the workers 158 71 45 95 34 86 37 6
Compromise 267 109 61 235 28 58 46 8
In favour of the employers . . . . 179 59 59 100 11 78 42 23
Total[5] . . . 604 239 165 430 73 222 125 37

The conclusions that follow from these data are highly interesting and require a detailed examination. On the whole, as we have seen, the success of the struggle, as far as the workers are concerned, depends on the force of their onslaught. Do the data cited above confirm this conclusion? The first quarter of 1905 appears to have been less favourable for the workers than the second quarter, although in the latter the movement was weaker. This inference would be wrong, however, since the quarterly data combine the up surge in January (321,000 workers involved in economic strikes) and the decline in February (228,000) and in March (56,000). If we single out January, the month of upsurge, we find that in this month the workers were victorious: 87,000 won their strikes, 81,000 lost, and 152,000 concluded a compromise. The two months of decline (February and March) brought the workers defeat.

The next period (the second quarter of 1905) was one of an advance, which reached its climax in May. The rise of the struggle signified victory for the workers: 71,000 won their strikes, 59,000 lost, and 109,000 compromised.

The third period (third quarter of 1905) was one of decline. The number of strikers was much less than in the second quarter. The decline in the force of the onslaught signified victory for the employers: 59,000 workers lost their strikes, and only 45,000 won. The workers who lost their strikes represented 35.6 per cent of the total, i.e., more than in 1906. This means that the “general atmosphere of sympathy” with the workers in 1905, which the liberals talk so much of as being the main cause of the workers’ victories (recently   Martov, too, wrote of the sympathy of the bourgeoisie as “the main cause”), in no way prevented the defeat of the workers when the force of their onslaught diminished. “You are strong when society sympathises with you,” the liberals say to the workers. “Society sympathises with you when you are strong,” the Marxists say to the workers.

The last quarter of 1905 seems to be an exception: although it was the period of the greatest advance, the workers suffered defeat. But this is only a seeming exception, for this period again combines the month of upsurge in October, when the workers were victorious in the economic sphere as well (+57,000,—22,000 strikers won and lost respectively) with the two months of November (+25,000,—47,000) and December (+12,000,—31,000), when the economic struggle was on the decline and the workers were defeated. Furthermore, November—a month that was a turning-point, a month of the greatest wavering, of the most even balance between the contending forces, and of the greatest uncertainty as regards total results and the general trend of the further history of Russia as a whole and of the history of the relations between employers and workers in particular—was a month that shows a larger percentage of strikes ending in compromise than any other month in 1905: of 179,000 workers involved in economic strikes in that month, 106,000, or 59.2 per cent, ended by compromising.[6]

The first quarter of 1906 again seems to be an exception: the greatest decline in the economic struggle coupled with, proportionately, the largest number of workers winning their strikes (+34,000,—11,000). But here, too, we have the combination of a month in which the workers suffered defeat—namely, January (+4,000,—6,000)—with months in which the workers scored victories: February (+14,000,—2,000) and March (+16,000,—2,500). The number of workers involved in economic strikes is on the decline throughout this period (January, 26,600; February, 23,300; March, 23,200); but there were already clear indications of an upward trend in the movement as a whole (the total number of strikers amounted to 190,000 in January, 27,000 in February, and 52,000 in March).

The second quarter of 1906 marked a big advance in the movement, which brought with it victories for the workers (+86,000,—78,000); the greatest victories were scored in May and June, the total number of workers involved in economic strikes in June reaching 90,000—the maximum for the whole year; whereas April represents an exception: a defeat for the workers, despite the growth of the movement as compared with March.

Beginning with the third quarter of 1906, we see, on the whole, an uninterrupted decline of the economic struggle lasting to the end of the year, and, correspondingly, defeats of the workers (with a slight exception in August 1906, when the workers were victorious for the last time in the economic struggle: +11,300,—10,300).

Summed up briefly, the vicissitudes of the economic struggle in the years 1905 and 1906 may be formulated as follows: in 1905 there can be clearly distinguished three main advances in the strike struggle in general and in the economic struggle in particular—January, May and October. The number of workers involved in economic strikes in these three months amounted to 667,000, out of a total of 1,439,000 for the whole year; that is to say, not a quarter of the total, but nearly a half. And in all these three months the workers scored victories in the economic struggle, that is to say, the number of workers who won their strikes exceeded the number of those who lost.

In 1906, there is on the whole a clear distinction between the first and the second half of the year. The first half is marked by a half in the retreat and a considerable advance; the second is marked by a serious decline. In the first half of the year 295,000 workers took part in economic strikes; in the second half, 162,000. The first half brought the workers victories in the economic struggle, the second half brought them defeat.

This general summary fully confirms the conclusion that it was not the “atmosphere of sympathy”, not the sympathy of the bourgeoisie, but the force of the onslaught that played the decisive part in the economic struggle as well.


[1] The quarterly data would make it appear that there was only one upsurge. Actually, there were two: in January, with 444,000 strikers, and in May, with 220,000 strikers. In the interval between these two months, March accounted for the minimum number of strikers—73,000. —Lenin

[2] It should be noted that the history of the strike movement in Russia from 1895 to 4904 shows that there is usually an increase in economic strikes in the second quarter of the year. The average number of strikers per year during the entire decade was 43,000, divided as follows: first quarter, 10,000; second quarter, 15,000; third quarter, 42,000; and fourth quarter, 6,000. A mere comparison of the figures makes it quite obvious that the rise in the strike wave in the spring of 4906 and in the spring of 1907 cannot be explained by the “general”   causes of the summer increase in the number of strikes in Russia. One has only to glance at the figures showing the number of workers engaged in political, strikes. —Lenin

[3] According to this summary, 1,021,000 workers took part in economic strikes and 1,842,000 in political strikes in 1905. The proportion of the workers who took part in economic strikes thus appears to be less than in 1906. We have already explained that this is wrong. —Lenin

{4} See p. 409 of this volume.—Ed.

[5] The official statistics provide no monthly totals relating to this question; they had to be obtained by adding up the figures for the various industries. —Lenin

[6] The total number of workers involved in economic strikes was as follows: October, 190,000; November, 179,000; December, 61,000. —Lenin

{7} Lenin cites this same table in his article “The Historical Meaning of the Inner-Party Struggle in Russia” (see p. 381 of this volume) but there he includes mixed strikes among the political strikes, as was done in the government statistics of 1905. However, in his article “Strike Statistics in Russia” Lenin corrects this inaccuracy of the official statistics, including mixed strikes among the economic strikes. This explains the difference in the, number of strikers in economic and political strikes for each quarter of 1905 shown in the two tables, although their total number is the same in both.

  I |  

Works Index   |   Volume 16 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >