Vera Zasulich 1897
Source: Zasulich, 1897 “International Notes — Russia” Justice, (447 words) 8th February, 1897, p.5.
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
We give here some special information sent by the Union of St. Petersburg upon the days immediately succeeding the commencement of the strike of the factory hands of the employer Maxwell: On January 3 and 5 there were special meetings of the Council at the Ministry of Finance, and, with the consent of the manufacturers; it was resolved to shorten the hours of labour. On January 7 there was posted up in all the textile workshops a placard signed by the Inspector of Factories, and informing the workers that from April 16 the working day will be from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., with an interval of one hour and a-half for dinner. The workers at Maxwell’s, like those of Stigliz, Kenig, Kalinkinsky, and Ghatermhoff, all of whom had joined the strike, were not satisfied with this, and the strike is going on.
On January 3 the working people of Alexandrovsky’s shops (the iron foundry of the St. Petersburg to Moscow railway) also came out on strike. Upon January 7 a placard, signed by the chief of the railway, granted the workers all they were asking for, and they resumed work.
We have not direct news about the end of the strike in the five textile factories mentioned above. But in any case a partial success was gained on January 7. The Government cannot get out of its promises. Since last autumn the Russian papers have been talking of a Commission for the purpose of working out a project for the successive and gradual shortening of the hours of labour by law. But this project will have every chance of remaining a project for a long time if the workers do not take measures to force its execution. The recent strike has forced the Government to fix the date for the legal change at an earlier one than was intended. That the workers, once aroused; can no longer bear their atrocious position is shown by a passage in a letter about the strike at Maxwell’s written by a man who knew Maxwell’s factory intimately:- “At eight in the evening, after such a day, (from five in the morning till eight in the evening) of toil, without: taking time to rest or eat, they come in crowds to our evening school. You ought to see their faces, worn and very pale, but full of energy.” To study after working fifteen hours certainly a great deal of energy is required, and this energy should be enough to force the Government that prevents the direct conflict between capital and labour to grant the demands of the workers, or to leave them free to combine and fight as seems good to them.
We have just received from our Russian comrades the following manifesto :-
The Society for Help to the Exiled and Imprisoned. (Sixteenth year of existence.)
The prisons of St. Petersburg are overcrowded with political prisoners. Our society is unable, through lack of funds, to fulfil all its duties.
On January 2 a strikje began at the Petrowski cotton mill, which was followed by one at the Alexandrowski ironworks. We are told that at the factory of Pal the workpeople are prepared to stop work, and after that many others.
There is no doubt as to what will be the conduct of the Government in this matter. Its prisons will widely open their doors for the partakers in the strike.
We must be prepared for it, but we cannot hope to allay in the least the distress if the supply of funds is not secured. Besides the permanent calls upon it, our society has to consider the intolerable situation of the workmen and their families, who ventured to begin a strike in wintertime, when the loss of their earnings is felt more intensely. It therefore opens temporarily collections to a special fund on behalf of the strikers, and declares herewith that the society is willing to accept any contributions to that fund.
A special report will be given of all the money which may by received for that purpose.
St. Petersburg, January 7 (19), 1897.
Since that date further information from Russia has brought us the news of a complete victory of the workers at the Alexandrowski ironworks, and of the joining of the strikers by the workers from dome other cotton mills, so that the complete number of the strikers was lastly about 20,000. There is hope that the strike will soon be finished by a complete victory of the strikers, but the Government will take vengeance by filling the prisons with the strikers, and exiling the leaders to Siberia. The material help of the European comrade’s is therefore more urgent. This would not only bring help to the families of the imprisoned strikers, but at the same time help the spread among the Russian workers of Socialism and of belief in the international solidarity of the proletariat.