Some curious statistical data on the conditions in which the party of the proletariat in Russia pursues its activities were published at the congress of the social-democratic party held in Stockholm.
The 140 members of the congress had spent, in all, 138 years and 3½ Months in jail.
They had spent 148 years and 6½ months in exile.
Eighteen members had escaped from prison once and 4 members twice.
Twenty-three members had escaped from exile once, 5 twice and 1 three times.
If we take into account the fact that the 140 members had spent a total of 942 years in the social-democratic movement, we shall see that the periods spent in prison and exile represented about one-third of the time spent actively in the party. But these figures are, if anything, over-optimistic. To say that the 140 members of the congress engaged in party work for a total of 942 years means only that the political activities of the congress members took place during that period of time; it certainly does not mean that these 942 man-years were completely filled with political work. It may well be that actual, direct political activities, given the conditions of clandestinity, covered only one-fifth or one-tenth of that time. On the other hand, periods spent in prison or exile were exactly as indicated by the figures: the congress members had spent more than 50,000 days and nights behind bars and a still longer period in remote, barbaric regions of the country.
Perhaps we may be allowed to add some statistics from our own past. The author of these lines, arrested for the first time in January i 898 after ten months of activity in workers’ circles in the town of Nikolayev, spent two years in jail and escaped from Siberia after serving two years of his total sentence of four years exile.
The second time the author was arrested on December 3, 1905 as a member of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. The activities of the Soviet continued over seven weeks. Those sentenced for being members of the Soviet were kept in prison for fifty seven weeks, after which they were conveyed to Obdorsk for “settlement in perpetuity.” ... Any Russian social-democrat who has worked in the party for ten years or so can supply more or less similar information about himself.
The extraordinarily confused regime which came into being in Russia after October 17, 1905 and which the Almanach de Gotha, with the unconscious humor of legal pedantry, describes as “a constitutional monarchy with an autocratic Tsar,” in no way changed these conditions of our political work. We obtained fifty days of freedom, and we enjoyed them to the full. During those glorious days Tsarism realized something we had already known for a long time: namely, that the two of us could not exist side by side. Then came the terrible months of reckoning. After October 17, Tsarism changed Dumas as a boa constrictor sloughs off its skins, but no matter what skin it happened to be wearing, its nature as a boa constrictor remained intact. Those simpletons and liberal hypocrites who, during the past two years, have so often appealed to us to embrace legality are like Marie-Antoinette who recommended to the starving peasants that they should eat cake. Anyone might think that we suffer from some kind of organic revulsion from cake. Anyone might think that our lungs have been infected by some insatiable craving to breathe the air of the dungeons used for solitary confinement in the Peter and Paul Fortress! Anyone might think that we cannot or do not want to find a different employment for those endless hours which the jailer confiscates from our lives.
We are as little enamored of our underground as the drowned man is of the sea bottom. But—let us say it straight—we have no more choice in the matter than our enemy, absolutism. Our clear awareness of this fact allows us to remain optimistic even when the underground mercilessly tightens its ring around our throats. It will not strangle us, of that we are certain. We shall survive everyone. When the bones of the present princes of the earth, their servants and their servants’ servants, have turned to dust, when no one is able to find the graves in which many of today’s parties and their activities are buried, then the cause we serve will rule the world, then our party, today struggling for breath underground, will become absorbed without trace in a humanity which, for the first time in history, will be master of its own fate. The whole of history is an enormous machine in the service of our ideals. It works with barbarous slowness, with insensitive cruelty, but it works. We are sure of it. But when its omnivorous mechanism swallows up our life’s blood for fuel, we feel like calling out to it with all the strength we still possess:
"Faster! Do it faster!"
Oglby (near Helsingfors)
8-21 April 1907.
Last updated on: 23.11.2006