J. V. Stalin

The Oil Owners on Economic Terrorism

April 21, May 4 and 18, 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 question of economic terrorism continues to engage the attention of the "public."

We have already expressed our opinion on this question and have condemned economic terrorism as harmful for the working class and, therefore, an unsuitable method of struggle.

The workers in the oil fields and at the works have expressed themselves approximately along the same lines.

The oil owners too have, of course, expressed their opinion on this subject. And it turns out that their "views" differ radically from the views expressed by the workers; for while they condemn economic terrorism "emanating from the workers," they say nothing against the same kind of terrorism on the part of the oil owners. We have in mind the well-known leading article on economic terrorism in the well-known organ of the oil owners (see Neftyanoye Delo, No. 6, article by Mr. K—za 1)

Let us discuss this leading article. It is interesting not only as substantiation of the oil owners' "views" but also as an expression of their mood in the present stage of their struggle against the workers. For the sake of convenience the article must be divided into three parts first, where Mr. K—za raises certain particular points against the workers and their organisations; second, where he deals with the causes of economic terrorism; and third, the measures to combat it.

Let us begin with the particular points. First of all about the men at Mirzoyev's. It is generally known that immediately after the assassination of the manager of the Surakhany oil fields and the fire in the boiler room, the joint commission of the men at Mirzoyev's, on behalf of 1,500 workers, unanimously protested against this method of struggle and denied that there was any connection between the fire and assassination on the one hand and the strike on the other. There would seem to be no grounds for doubting the sincerity of their protest. But K—za thinks otherwise. He, like a carping "critic," nevertheless deems it necessary to throw doubt on the workers' sincerity and says that "the commission is mistaken," that there is a direct connection between the fire and assassination and the strike. And this after the unanimous protest of the representatives of 1,500 workers! What is that if not evidence of a desire to distort the facts, to discredit the workers, to "pillory" them, even if slander has to be resorted to in the process? And after this, is it possible to believe in the sincerity of Mr. K—za, who talks such a lot in his article about "ennobling the criminal will of people."

From the workers at Mirzoyev's Mr. K—za passes to our union. Everybody knows that our union is growing rapidly. One can judge of the enormous influence it exercises among the workers from the mere fact that the entire conference campaign is proceeding under its direct leadership. And Gudok merely noted a commonly known fact when it said that "the influence and importance of the union is growing day by day, that it is gradually winning the recognition of even the most backward and uneducated sections of the masses of workers as the natural leader of their economic struggle." Yes, all this is a commonly known fact. But our implacable "critic" cares nothing for facts, he "throws doubt" on all and sundry, he is ready even to deny facts in order to lower the prestige and dignity of the workers' union in the eyes of his readers! And, after all this, Mr. K—za has the effrontery to proclaim himself a supporter of our union and an advocate of "ennobling the economic struggle"!

Whoever takes one step must take the next; whoever rails against our union must also rail against our newspaper, and so Mr. K—za passes on to Gudok; and it turns out that Gudok "is not doing all it could do to clear the atmosphere of the economic struggle of unnecessary acrimony, dangerous resentment, excessive irritation and ignorant malice," that Gudok does nothing but makes "forays against other organisations, parties, classes, newspapers and individuals, and even against its own brother, Promyslovy Vestnik."

That is the song Mr. K—za sings. We could afford to ignore all this chatter of the celebrated "critic"— what will a flunkey of capital not chatter about in the hope of pleasing his master! But so be it! Let us, on this occasion, devote a few words to the great critic from Baku. And so, Gudok "is not clearing the atmosphere of the struggle of unnecessary acrimony, dangerous resentment." . . . Let us assume that all this is true. But, in the sacred name of capital, tell us what can introduce more acrimony and resentment—the printed word of Gudok or the actual deeds of the oil owners, who are systematically discharging workers, introducing the ten-kopek hospital levy, depriving the workers of the people's halls, resorting to the services of kochis, 2 beating up workers, etc.? Why does not Mr. K—za, this "devoted" champion of the idea of "ennobling the economic struggle," find it necessary to say even a single word about the activities of the oil owners which incense and embitter the workers? After all, the "dark" elements which are likely to resort to economic terrorism do not read our paper, they are more likely to be incensed and embittered by the repressive measures, big and small, of the oil owners—that being the case, why does Mr. K—za, who has so much to say against Gudok, say nothing at all about the "dark deeds" of Messrs. the oil owners? And is it not clear after this that Mr. K—za's insolence knows no bounds?

Secondly, where does Mr. K—za get the idea that Gudok has not tried "to clear the atmosphere of the economic struggle of unnecessary acrimony and dangerous resentment"? What about Gudok's agitation against economic terrorism and the stay-in strike, against anarchist-rebel strikes and in favour of organised strikes, against partial actions and in favour of the general class defence of our interests? What is that if not "clearing the atmosphere of the struggle of unnecessary acrimony and dangerous resentment"? Is Mr. K—za really unaware of all this? Or perhaps, in playing the role of capital's advocate, he considers it necessary to pretend that he does not know? But if that is the case, why all this fine talk about "morality" and "human conscience"?

Gudok makes "forays against other organisations, parties, classes, newspapers, individuals, and even against Promyslovy Vestnik," says Mr. K—za, continuing his indictment. Quite right, Mr. K—za, you have accidentally spoken the truth! Gudok does, indeed, wage a struggle against other classes and their organs. But can you demand anything else from a newspaper of the workers, who are exploited by all the other classes and groups? Stop playing the part of "innocent angel" and tell us straight, without equivocation: do you really not know that Neftyanoye Delo, the organ of the oil owners, and its master, the Council of the Congress, were established precisely for the purpose of making "forays" against the working class, against the workers' Party, and against the workers' newspapers? Have you really forgotten the recent instructions issued by the Council of the Congress to impose a ten-kopek levy, to raise the prices of meals, to reduce the number of schools and hutments, to deprive the workers of the people's halls, etc.? And is not Neftyanoye Delo, the organ of the oil owners, trying to justify these Asiatic instructions? Or perhaps these are not "forays" against the workers, but the "ennobling of the criminal will," regulation of the economic struggle, etc.? How else do you want a workers' newspaper to act towards the oil owners who are exploiting the workers, towards their organisation, which is fooling the workers, towards their organ, which is corrupting the workers, and towards Mr. K—za, for example, who is making comical efforts to find "philosophical" justification for the Asiatically barbarous steps of the oil owners? Does Mr. K—za really fail to understand the necessity of the class struggle between the workers and the employers? Of course! Mr. K—za understands all this perfectly well: he himself is waging a struggle against the proletariat and its organisations! But, firstly, he opposes the struggle waged by the workers, but not a struggle in general; secondly, the oil owners, it appears, are not fighting, but only "ennobling the struggle"; thirdly, K—za is not opposed to the workers, no—he is entirely for the workers for the benefit . . . of the oil owners; fourthly, after all K—za "gets paid," and this, too, must be taken into consideration, you know. . . .

Evidently, Mr. K—za's effrontery can successfully compete with his "conscience" in its capacity to stretch as circumstances require.

That is how the matter stands in Mr. K—za's leading article as regards his particular points against the proletariat and its organisations.

* * *

Let us now pass to the second part of his article.

In it the author speaks of the causes of economic terrorism. It "transpires" that the cause is the "darkness of the minds" and the "criminal will" of the backward sections of the working class. This "darkness," this "criminality," in their turn, are due to the fact that the workers' unions and newspapers are not conducting sufficiently energetic enlightening and ennobling activities among the workers. Of course, adds Mr. K—za, "the programmes (of the unions?) do not approve of economic terrorism," but mere "disapproval in the programme is not enough, once we see that life has taken the wrong road. Here an active struggle must be waged . . . by all parties and unions" "against the evil which has arisen." To explain what he means, Mr. K—za goes on to say: "Only when . . . all friends of the workers, irrespective of their party affiliation, wage an energetic struggle against . . . economic terrorism, and only then, will assassination disappear," etc.

And so, the workers' minds are dark, and that is why they often resort to assassination; but their minds are dark because their unions and newspapers make no effort to "enlighten and ennoble" them—hence, the workers' unions and newspapers are to blame for everything.

Such is the song Mr. K—za sings.

We shall not dwell on the confusion that reigns in Mr. K—za's head about economic terrorism—we have in mind his ignorant statement that economic terrorism is a programmatic question. We only wish to make the following observations: 1) If, in mentioning "programmatic terrorism," Mr. K—za talks about unions, does he really not know that the unions in Russia do not have any programmes? Every working man knows that! 2) If, however, he has parties in mind, does he really not know what every schoolboy knows, that economic terrorism is not a question of programme, but a question of tactics? Why then all this palaver about a programme? We are surprised that Messrs. the oil owners were unable to hire a better, or at least a less ignorant "ideologist."

Nor shall we dwell on the other, this time muddled (and not only ignorant!) statement of Mr. K—za's that, as regards economic terrorism, "life has taken the wrong road" and that "we" must fight against life. We shall merely observe that our cause would be in a bad way if it was life that had taken the wrong road, and not individuals who have dropped behind life. The strength of our agitation lies precisely in the fact that life itself, all-powerful, developing life, is demanding a struggle against economic terrorism. If Mr. K—za fails to understand this, we advise him to migrate to another planet. There, perhaps, he will be able to apply his muddled theory about fighting against developing life....

Let us rather pass to Mr. K—za's "analysis."

First of all we would like to ask : does Mr. K—za really think that it is the workers' unions and newspapers that are the cause of economic terrorism?

What does "enlightening" the workers mean? It means teaching the workers to wage a class-conscious systematic struggle! (Mr. K—za agrees with this!) But who else could engage in this task if not the workers' unions and newspapers with their oral and printed agitation in favour of an organised struggle?

What does "ennobling" the economic struggle mean? It means directing it against the system, but under no circumstances against persons! (Even K—za agrees with this!) But who engages in this task, except the workers' unions and newspapers?

But do not the oil owners reduce this struggle against the working class to a struggle against individual workers, singling out and discharging the most class conscious of them?

If Mr. K—za is really convinced of the justice of his charge against the workers' unions and newspapers, why does he offer his advice to these unions and newspapers? Does he really not know that organisations "which make forays against other classes, newspapers, individuals," etc., will not follow his advice? Why does he waste his time pounding water in a mortar?

Obviously, he himself does not believe his accusation.

And if, in spite of this, Mr. K—za talks against the unions, he does so only in order to divert the attention of his readers from the real cause, to conceal the real "culprits" from them.

But no, Mr. K—za! You will not succeed in concealing from your readers the real causes of economic terrorism.

Not the workers and their organisations, but the activities of Messrs. the oil owners, which incense and embitter the workers, are the real cause of "economic assassinations. "

You point to the "darkness" and "ignorance" of certain sections of the proletariat. But where are "darkness" and "ignorance" to be combated if not in schools and at lectures? Why, then, are Messrs. the oil owners cutting down the number of schools and lectures? And why do not you, the "sincere" advocate of the struggle against "darkness," raise your voice against the oil owners who are depriving the workers of schools and lectures?

You talk about "ennobling" habits. Why then, my dear sir, were you quiet when Messrs. the oil owners deprived the workers of the people's halls, those centres of popular entertainment?

You sing about "ennobling the economic struggle," but why were you silent when the hirelings of capital killed the working man Khanlar 3 (at the Naphtha

Producers' Association), when Born's, the Caspian Company, Shibayev's, Mirzoyev's, Molot, Motovilikha, Bie-ring's, Mukhtarov's, Malnikov's and other firms discharged their most advanced workers, and when workers at Shibayev's, Mukhtarov's, Molot, Runo, Kokorev's in Bibi-Eibat, and other firms were beaten up?

You talk about the workers' "criminal will," about "unnecessary acrimony," etc., but where were you hiding when Messrs. the oil owners infuriated the workers, incensed the most sensitive and most easily inflamed of them—the temporary workers and the unemployed? And do you know, my dear sir, that it was precisely that section of the workers which was doomed to starvation by the notorious ten-kopek hospital levy and the raising of the price of meals in the canteens run by the Council of the Congress?

You talk about the horrors of "blood and tears" called forth by economic terrorism, but do you know how much blood and tears is shed when large numbers of workers are in jured and can find no place in the hospitals run by the Council of the Congress? Why are Messrs. the oil owners reducing the number of hutments? And why are you not shouting about it as much as you are shouting against the workers' unions and newspapers?

You sing about "conscience," and so forth; but why is your crystal clear conscience silent about all these reprisals which Messrs. the oil owners are carrying out?

You say . . . but enough! It should be obvious that the main cause of "economic assassinations" is not the workers and their organisations, but the activities of Messrs. the oil owners, which incense and embitter the workers.

It is no less clear that Mr. K—za is a miserable hireling of Messrs. the oil owners who throws all the blame upon the workers' organisations and thus tries to justify the actions of his masters in the eyes of the "public."

* * *

Let us now pass to the third part of Mr. K—za's article.

In the third part of his article Mr. K—za speaks about measures to combat economic terrorism, and his "measures" are fully in keeping with his "philosophy" "about the causes" of economic terrorism.

Let us hear what the great philosopher from Baku has to say:

"An active struggle must be waged against the evil that has arisen, and the slogan of this struggle must be issued. This slogan, to be accepted by all parties and organisations, unions, and circles, must now be: 'Down with economic terrorism!' Only when we boldly hoist the pure white flag bearing this slogan, and only then . . . will assassinations disappear."

Thus philosophises Mr. K—za.

As you see, Mr. K—za remains faithful to his god capital to the end.

Firstly, he removed (philosophically removed!) all "blame" for "economic assassinations" from the oil owners and laid it on the workers, their unions and newspapers. In this way he fully "justified" in the eyes of so-called "society" the Asiatically aggressive tactics of Messrs. the oil owners. . . .

Secondly—and most important for the oil owners— he "invented" the cheapest method of combating "assassinations," a method that will involve no expenditure for the oil owners—intensified agitation by the unions and newspapers against economic terrorism. By this he once again emphasised that the oil owners should not yield to the workers, should not incur "expenditure."

Both cheap and easy! Messrs. the oil owners may exclaim on hearing Mr. K—za's proposal.

Of course, Messrs. the oil owners could "conveniently flout" the opinion of so-called "society," but what objection can they have to a K—za coming along and justifying them in the eyes of "society" in the interests of "the human conscience"?

On the other hand, why should they not rejoice when, after this justification, the same K—za comes along and proposes the "surest" and cheapest means of combating economic terrorism? Let the unions and newspapers agitate freely and unhindered, so long as it does not affect the pocket of the oil owners. Well, isn't that liberal? ... Why should they not, after this, send Mr. K—za, their "Warbling Brigand," on to the literary stage?

And yet, it is sufficient to think a little, it is sufficient only to adopt the point of view of the class-conscious workers, to see at once the utter absurdity of the measure Mr. K—za proposes.

Here it is by no means a matter of the unions and newspapers alone; the unions and newspapers have long been conducting agitation against economic terrorism, and yet "assassinations" have not ceased. It is much more a matter of the activities of Messrs. the oil owners, which incense and embitter the workers, of the economic repressive measures, big and small, the Asiatically aggressive tactics of Messrs. the oil owners, which foster, and will continue to foster, the "economic assassinations" with which we are concerned.

Tell me, if you please: what can agitation alone by the unions and newspapers do, even if those unions and newspapers are very influential, in face of the incensing activities of Messrs. the oil owners who are robbing the workers of one gain after another, thereby pushing the least class conscious of them on to the path of "economic assassinations"? Clearly, anti-terrorist agitation alone, even if conducted under a "pure white flag," is powerless to abolish it.

Obviously, more profound measures than simple agitation are needed to cause the "disappearance" of "economic assassinations"; and what is primarily needed is that the oil owners should drop their repressive measures, big and small, and satisfy the just demands of the workers. ... Only when the oil owners abandon their Asiatically aggressive tactics of lowering wages, taking away the people's halls, reducing the number of schools and hutments, collecting the ten-kopek hospital levy, raising the price of meals, systematically discharging advanced workers, beating them up, and so forth, only when the oil owners definitely take the path of cultured European-style relations with the masses of the workers and their unions and regard them as a force "on an equal footing"—only then will the ground for the "disappearance" of "assassinations" be created.

All this is so clear that it needs no proof.

But Mr. K—za fails to understand it; indeed, he cannot, or more correctly, does not wish to understand it, because it is "unprofitable" for Messrs. the oilowners; for it would involve them in a certain amount of expenditure, and it would reveal the whole truth about those who are "guilty" of economic "assassinations." ...

The only conclusion to be drawn is that K—za is a flunkey of capital.

But what follows from this, from K—za's role as a flunkey?

What follows is that Mr. K—za is not expressing his own views, but the views of the oil owners who "inspire" him. Consequently, K—za's article expresses not his own philosophy, but the philosophy of Messrs. the oil owners. Obviously, it is the oil owners who are speaking through the mouth of K—za; K—za is merely conveying their "thoughts, wishes and sentiments."

In this, and this alone, lies the interest of Mr. K—za's article that we are discussing.

K—za as Koza *, K—za as a "personality," is an absolute nonentity for us, imponderable matter of no value whatever. K—za has no grounds whatever for complaining that Gudok makes "forays" against his "personality"; we assure Mr. K—za that Gudok was never interested in his so-called "personality."

But K—za as an impersonal something, K—za as the absence of "personality," K—za as the mere expression of the opinion and sentiments of Messrs. the oil owners is certainly of some value to us. It is from this aspect that we are examining both K—za himself and his article.

It is obvious that Mr. K—za is not singing for nothing. The fact that in the first part of his article he furiously attacks the unions and tries to discredit them, that in the second part of his article he accuses the unions of cultivating economic terrorism, but says not a word about the Asiatic instructions issued by the oil owners, and that in the third part of his article he points to anti-terroristic agitation as the only measure with which to combat "assassinations," leaving aside the aggressive tactics of his masters, — all that shows that the oil owners do not intend to make any concessions to the masses of the workers.

The oil owners will attack, the oil owners must attack, but you workers and unions, be good enough to retreat — this is what Mr. K—za's article tells us, this is what the oil owners tell us through the mouth of their "Warbling Brigand."

Such is the moral to be drawn from Mr. K—za's article.

It remains for us workers, our organisations and newspapers, to keep a close eye on Messrs. the oil owners, not to allow ourselves to be provoked by their outrageous actions, but to continue firmly and calmly along the path of converting our spontaneous struggle into a strictly class struggle, which systematically leads to a definite goal.

As for the hypocritical screeching of various hirelings of capital, we can afford to ignore them.


Gudok, ,Nos. 28, 30 and 32, April 21, May 4 and 18, 1908

*. Koza—the Russian for goat.—Tr.


1. K—za (P. Kara-Murza)—a member of the Cadet Party, editor of Neftyanoye Delo, the organ of the Baku oil owners.

2. "Kochi"—robber, a hired assassin.

3. Khanlar Safaraliyev—a Bolshevik working man and talented organiser of the Azerbaijan workers. After a successful strike at the Naphtha oil fields he, on the night of September 19, 1907, was mortally wounded by an assassin hired by the oil owners and died several days later. In response to the appeal of the Bibi-Eibat District Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., the workers declared a general two-day strike and demanded that the Naphtha Producers' Association remove from the oil field Khanlar's murderer—the foreman driller Jafar, and also the manager Abuzarbek. Khanlar's funeral developed into a mighty protest demonstration in which 20,000 workers participated. J. V. Stalin delivered a speech at Khanlar's graveside.