V. I.   Lenin

A Poor Defence

Published: Pravda No. 96, August 21, 1912. Signed: W.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 288-289.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

In “The Strike Movement and Wages”, an article published in Pravda No. 86 on August 9,[1] we cited official statistical data on the average wages of Russian factory workers in the first decade of the twentieth century.

It appeared that by their famous strike movement in 1905 the workers had raised their wages from 206 rubles (the annual average per worker) to 238 rubles, i.e., by 32 rubles, or 15.5 per cent.

Our conclusion did not please the official newspaper Rossiya. It devoted the leading article in its August 15 issue to a detailed restatement of the data cited by us (withholding for some reason the name of the newspaper from which it had borrowed the data), and tried to refute our conclusions.

It is true, of course, that wages rose abruptly in 1908,” wrote Rossiya. “But it is just as true that the prices of all commodities and food rose simultaneously with them....” And Rossiya went on to present its calculations, according to which wages have risen by 20 per cent, while the cost of living has gone up by 24 per cent. Rossiya’s calculations are inaccurate in every respect. In reality the rise in wages is not so large, while the rise in the cost of living is more considerable.

But we shall not now correct the mistakes of Rossiya. Let us take its figures.

They do not at all suggest that, the workers have gained anything,” wrote Rossiya. “Indeed, judging by their frequent complaints of hard times, one could rather draw the reverse conclusion, namely, that they have scarcely gained anything.”

A strange way to reason, isn’t it? If wages have risen to a lesser extent than prices of the prime necessities of life, it is necessary to raise wages to a still greater extent! Surely this is obvious.

But how can the workers achieve a rise in wages without an economic struggle and without strikes? Has Rossiya ever seen capitalists offer the workers a pay rise of their own accord, in view of the rising prices of the prime necessities of life?

Rossiya admits that wages rose abruptly in 1908—thanks to a widespread mass strike movement unprecedented in the world for tenacity. But food prices began to climb before 1905. The price of bread, for example, has never dropped in Russia since 1903 but has only risen. The prices of live stock products have never dropped since 1901 but have only risen.

It follows that solely by their strike movement did the workers ensure that wages, too, began to rise following the rise in the prices of bread and other foodstuffs. Since the wage rise is inadequate, as is admitted even by Rossiya, it is necessary to raise wages further.


[1] See pp. 258–59 of this volume.—Ed.

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