J. V. Stalin

Before the Elections

January 13, 1908

Source : Works, Vol. 2, 1907 - 1913
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

Messrs. the oil owners have retreated. Only recently they stated through the editor of their newspaper, Neftya-noye Delo, 1 that the trade unions in Baku are "an adventitious element standing apart from the workers." In obedience to their will, the authorities posted up notices inviting the workers to elect delegates to an organising committee, wishing thereby to remove the trade unions from the leadership of the campaign. That was the case yesterday. But now, on January 7, the factory inspector has informed the trade union secretaries that the oil owners have held a meeting at which they decided to request the City Governor to grant the trade unions permits to hold meetings in the oil fields and at the works.

Messrs. the capitalists are afraid of the growing influence of the trade unions; they would like to see the workers in a state of disunity and disorganisation, and with this object they refuse to recognise even the oil field and works commissions. But we have now compelled them to admit that the task of guiding the settlement of one of the most important questions of working-class life, the question of a conference and a collective agreement, is and must be the task of the trade unions.

We have compelled them to recognise the leading role played by the trade unions, despite the fact that Messrs. the Dashnaktsakans 2 and Socialist-Revolutionaries came to the aid of Messrs. the oil owners and the authorities in their struggle against the workers' organisations.

Messrs. the Dashnaktsakans hurriedly responded to the call of the City Governor and immediately proceeded with the elections, in pursuit of their own ends, of course—to evade the conditions demanded by the trade unions for the conduct of the campaign, and above all the principal condition—recognition of the workers' organisations.

But Messrs. the oil owners were not satisfied with the hurried activity of the Dashnaktsakans. The latter had a following only among the workers employed by the smaller firms, such as Abiyants, Raduga, Ararat, Pharos and others, and at the big Armenian firms elections took place only at two or three.

The workers employed by the Caspian-Black Sea Company, Nobel's, Kokorev's, Born's, Shibayev's, Asa-dullayev's, the Moscow-Caucasus Company, and other firms, passed resolutions protesting against these elections and refused to take part in them until permits were issued to the trade unions.

The workers employed at the largest and most influential firms clearly and definitely expressed their will, and thereby answered not only Messrs. the oil owners, but also those "friends" of theirs who are fond of talking too eloquently about nothing.

By their resolutions the workers clearly and definitely confirmed the fact that the conditions demanded by the trade unions were not the inventions of "leaders," as the Socialist-Revolutionaries assert in their pamphlet Why We Are Not Going to the Conference.

The authorities, the oil owners and the Dashnaktsa-kans are trying to counteract the growing influence of the trade unions. The workers are expressing their confidence in the trade unions and their agreement with the conditions which the trade unions are demanding.

The workers are not and must not be scared by the words "conference" and "negotiations," any more than they are scared by the prospect of negotiations and of putting forward demands on the eve of a strike. The presentation of demands sometimes removes the necessity of a strike to settle a dispute. Most often, the opposite happens. But in order that "negotiations" may unfold before the workers the whole picture of the present state of affairs, in order that the campaign around the conference may render the workers inestimable service by securing the wide presentation and public discussion of all questions affecting the workers' lives, the conditions demanded by the trade unions, which will be included in the instructions to the elected delegates, must be conceded.

No negotiations are "terrible" if they are conducted in sight of the masses of the workers. The conditions that are demanded ensure the possibility of the wide participation of all the workers in the discussion of all the questions connected with the conference.

Conferences of the Shendrikov type, of sad memory, have been buried forever.

We have succeeded in persuading the comrades "associated" with the mechanics' union to follow our lead and to abandon the slogan of "a conference at all costs." And they have decided to boycott the elections if the principal condition, recognition of the leading importance of the trade unions, is not conceded. And we shall see to it that there will be no more supporters of boycott "at all costs." A conference, and what is the chief thing, a campaign around the conference, will be acceptable to the workers if the necessary conditions for it are provided.

The workers, by the resolutions they passed recently, have confirmed the correctness of our position.

Permits have been issued to us. Hence, we have obtained from the authorities and the oil owners recognition of the leading role of the unions.

The majority of the workers employed by the larger firms have declared in favour of participating in the elections on the conditions that we have indicated.

We can now calmly and confidently proceed with the election of delegates who, we advise, should be given the following instructions: let the sixteen representatives whom you elect be such as will demand, as an absolute condition for conducting negotiations in the organising committee, the recognition primarily of the following points :

1) The date of the conference to be decided by the delegates of the workers and employers as equal parties, i.e., by mutual agreement.

2) The general assembly of delegates, elected at the rate of one for every hundred workers, to remain in session until the end of the conference, to meet periodically, and, as circumstances demand, to discuss the reports of the workers' representatives at the conference and to give them guiding instructions.

3) Delegates to have the right to organise meetings at works, oil fields and workshops to discuss the terms of the agreement demanded and offered.

4) The executives of the oil industry workers' and mechanics' trade unions to have the right to send to the conference with the oil owners representatives with right of voice but not of vote, and also to have the right to report to all conference committees, delegate meetings, works and oil field meetings, etc.

5) Representatives on the organising committee are to be elected by the Delegate Council as a whole, without division according to craft. Negotiations in the organising committee are also to be conducted as a whole (a single agreement for all the workers).


Gudok, No. 14, January 13, 1908


1. Neftyanoye Delo (Oil Affairs) —the organ of the oil owners, published by the Council of the Congress of Oil Owners in Baku in 1899-1920. The Council of the Congress, the organisation of the oil owners, was elected at congresses of oil owners from among the representatives of the biggest firms. It was the function of the Council to wage an organised struggle against the working class, to protect the interests of the oil owners in dealings with the government, to ensure high profits for the oil owners, etc. p. 90

2. Dashnaktsakans, or Dashnaks—members of the Armenian bourgeois nationalist party known as the Dashnaktsutyun. In fighting for the interests of the Armenian bourgeoisie, the Dashnaks stirred up national strife among the working people of Transcaucasia. p. 91