J. V. Stalin

The December Strike and
the December Agreement

(On the Occasion of the Fifth Anniversary)

December 13, 1909

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.

Comrades !

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the declaration of the general economic strike in the districts of Baku in December 1904.

In a few days' time we shall see the fifth anniversary of the drafting by the workers and the oil owners of the famous December agreement, our "oil constitution."

We proudly recall those days because they were the days of our victory, days of the defeat of the oil owners!

Before our eyes rises the glorious scene, familiar to us all, when thousands of strikers surrounded the Electric Power offices and dictated the December demands to their delegates, while the representatives of the oil owners, who had taken shelter in the Electric Power offices and were besieged by the workers, "expressed their solidarity," signed the agreement, "agreed to everything." . . .

That was a genuine victory for the poor proletarians over the rich capitalists, a victory which laid the foundations of a "new order" in the oil industry.

Before the December agreement we worked, on the average, eleven hours a day—after the agreement a nine-hour day was established and an eight-hour day was gradually introduced for the workers at the wells.

Before the December agreement we received on the average about eighty kopeks per day—after the agreement wages were raised to a ruble and some kopeks per day.

Before the December strike we received neither rent allowances, nor water, light or fuel—thanks to the strike we obtained all these for the mechanics, and it remained only to extend these benefits to the rest of the workers.

Before the December strike the flunkeys of capital exercised arbitrary power in the oil fields and at the works, and they beat us up and fined us with impunity—thanks to the strike, a definite system, a definite "constitution" was introduced; by virtue of which we were enabled to express our will through our delegates, collectively to reach agreement with the oil owners, and collectively to establish mutual relations with them.

From "amsharas" 1 and "pack animals" we, at one stroke, became men, fighting for a better life!

That is what the December strike and the December agreement gave us!

But that is not all. The main thing the December struggle gave us was confidence in our own strength, confidence in victory, readiness for fresh battles, the consciousness that only "our own right hand" can shiver the chains of capitalist slavery. . . .

After that we made continual progress, increasing wages, extending rent allowances to the oil workers, consolidating the "oil constitution," achieving the partial recognition of the oil field and works commissions, organising in unions and uniting around Social-Democracy. . . .

But all this did not last long. When the revolution retreated and the counter-revolution gained strength, particularly from the beginning of 1908, the oil owners, hypocritically pleading as an excuse the reduction of output and the shrinking of the oil market, began to withdraw our former gains. They withdrew the bonuses and rent allowances. They introduced the two-shift system and a twelve-hour day in place of the three-shift system and the eight-hour day. They cut down medical assistance. They have already taken away the people's halls, and are taking away the schools, allocating a paltry sum for their maintenance while they spend over 600,000 rubles per annum on the police. On top of all this, beating and fines are being reintroduced, the commissions have been abolished, and the myrmidons of the tsarist government, the servant of big capital, are persecuting the unions. . . .

Thus, during the past two years, not only have we had to give up the idea of further improving our conditions, but our conditions have been made worse; we have been deprived of our former gains and have been thrown back to the old, pre-December times.

And now, on December 13, the fifth anniversary of the victorious December strike, when the oil owners trembled before us and we, attacking, gained new rights— precisely today there rises before us the grave question which is exciting the masses of the oil industry workers: Shall we remain silent much longer, is there a limit to our patience, should we not break the chains of silence and hoist the flag of a general economic strike for our vital demands?

Judge for yourselves! Output this year has reached 500,000,000 poods—a figure not reached in any of the past four years. The price of oil is not dropping at all, for the average price for the year is the same as last year— twenty-one kopeks. The quantity of gusher oil, which involves no expenditure—is steadily increasing. The market is expanding day by day, abandoning coal and passing over to oil. Oil deliveries are steadily increasing. And yet, the more business improves for the oil owners, the more "profit" they squeeze out of the workers, the more overbearing do they become to the latter, the more tightly do they squeeze the workers, the more zealously do they discharge class-conscious comrades, and the more determinedly do they deprive us of our last crumbs!

Is it not clear, comrades, that the situation in the oil industry is becoming more and more favourable for a general struggle by the oil industry workers, and that the provocative conduct of the oil owners is inevitably pushing the workers towards such a struggle?

For, comrades, one of two things: either we go on bearing it without end and sink to the level of dumb slaves—or we rise up for a general struggle in support of our common demands.

Our entire past and present, our struggle and our victories, point to the fact that we shall choose the second path, the path of the general strike for higher wages and an eight-hour day, for housing settlements and rent allowances, for people's halls and schools, for medical assistance and compensation for disablement, for the rights of the oil field and works commissions and unions.

And we shall gain our object, comrades, notwithstanding the unprecedented reprisals, notwithstanding the growing organisation of the oil owners; we shall bring our masters to their knees as we did five years ago, if we intensify our work in preparation for a general strike, if we strengthen our oil field and works commissions, if we enlarge our unions, and if we rally around Social-Democracy.

Social-Democracy led us to victory in December 1904; it will lead us to future victories through an organised general strike.

This is what the experience of the glorious December struggle tells us.

Let then this day, the opening day of the victorious strike in December 1904, inspire us to make united and persevering efforts to prepare for a general strike!

Let our common feelings for this day serve the oil owners as a grim omen of the coming general strike led by Social-Democracy!

Long Live the Coming General Strike!

Long Live Social-Democracy!

The Baku Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.

December 13, 1909


1. "Amshara" (fellow countryman)—the common appellation given the Iranian unskilled labourers who came to work in Baku.