J. V. Stalin

Economic Terrorism and
the Labour Movement

March 30, 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.

The workers’ struggle does not always and everywhere assume the same form.

There was a time when in fighting their employers the workers smashed machines and set fire to factories. Machines are the cause of poverty! The factory is the seat of oppression! Therefore, smash and burn them!— said the workers at that time.

That was the period of unorganised, anarchist-rebel conflicts.

We know also of other cases where the workers, disillusioned with incendiarism and destruction, adopted “more violent forms”—killing directors, managers, foremen, etc. It is impossible to destroy all the machines and all the factories, said the workers at that time, and besides, it is not in the workers’ interests to do so, but it is always possible to frighten the managers and knock the starch out of them by means of terrorism— therefore, beat them up, terrify them!

This was the period of individual terroristic conflicts stemming from the economic struggle.

The labour movement sharply condemned both these forms of struggle and made them a thing of the past.

This is understandable. There is no doubt that the factory is indeed the seat of exploitation of the workers, and the machine still helps the bourgeoisie to extend this exploitation, but this does not mean that the machine and the factory are in themselves the cause of poverty. On the contrary, it is precisely the factory and the machine that will enable the proletariat to break the chains of slavery, abolish poverty and vanquish all oppression—all that is needed is that the factories and machines be transformed from the private property of individual capitalists into the public property of the people.

On the other hand, what would our lives become if we set to work to destroy and burn the machines, factories and railways? It would be like living in a dreary desert, and the workers would be the first to lose their bread! . . .

Clearly, we must not smash up the machines and factories, but gain possession of them, when that becomes possible, if we are indeed striving to abolish poverty.

That is why the labour movement rejects anarchist-rebel conflicts.

There is no doubt that economic terrorism also has some apparent “justification,” in so far as it is resorted to in order to intimidate the bourgeoisie. But what is the use of this intimidation if it is transient and fleeting? That it can only be transient is clear from the one fact alone that it is impossible to resort to economic terrorism always and everywhere. That is the first point. The second point is: Of what use to us is the fleeting fear of the bourgeoisie and the concessions this fear may wring from it if we have not behind us a powerful, mass, workers’ organisation, which will always be ready to fight for the workers’ demands and be capable of retaining the concessions we have won? Indeed facts tell us convincingly that economic terrorism kills the desire for such an organisation, robs the workers of the urge to unite and come out independently—since they have terrorist heroes who are able to act for them. Should we cultivate the spirit of independent action among the workers? Should we cultivate the desire for unity among the workers? Of course we should! But can we resort to economic terrorism if it kills the desire for both among the workers?

No, comrades! It is against our principles to terrorise the bourgeoisie by means of individual, stealthy acts of violence. Let us leave such “deeds” to the notorious terrorist elements. We must come out openly against the bourgeoisie, we must keep it in a state of fear all the time, until final victory is achieved! And for this we need not economic terrorism, but a strong mass organisation which will be capable of leading the workers into the struggle.

That is why the labour movement rejects economic terrorism.

In view of what has been said above, the resolution recently adopted by the strikers at Mirzoyev’s against incendiarism and “economic” assassination is of special interest. In this resolution the joint commission of the 1,500 men at Mirzoyev’s, after mentioning the setting fire to a boiler room (in Balakhany) and the assassination of a manager on economic grounds (Surakhany), declares that it “protests against such methods of struggle as assassination and incendiarism” (see Gudok, No. 24).

By this the men at Mirzoyev’s announced their final rupture with the old, terrorist, rebel tendencies.

By this they resolutely took the path of the true labour movement.

We greet the comrades at Mirzoyev’s and call upon all the workers to take the path of the proletarian mass movement as resolutely as they have done.


Gudok, , No. 25, March 30, 1908