(Concerning January 9)
You probably remember January 9 of last year. . . . That
was the day on which the St. Petersburg proletariat came face to face with the
tsarist government and, without wishing to do so, clashed with it. Yes, without
wishing to do so, for the proletariat went peacefully to the tsar for "bread and
justice," but was met as an enemy, with a hail of bullets. It had placed its
hopes in portraits of the tsar and in church banners, but both portraits and
banners were torn into shreas and thrown into its face, thus providing glaring
proof that arms must be countered only by arms. And it took to arms wherever
they were available -- it took to arms in order to meet the enemy as an enemy
and to wreak vengeance on him. But, leaving thousands of victims on the
battle-field and sustaining heavy losses, the proletariat retreated, with anger
burning in its breast. . . .
This is what January 9 of last year reminds us of.
Today, when the proletariat of Russia is commemorating
January 9, it is not out of place to ask: Why did the St. Petersburg proletariat
retreat after the clash last year, and in what way does that clash differ from
the general clash that took place in December?
First of all it retreated because then it lacked that
minimum of revolutionary consciousness that is absolutely essential if an
uprising is to be victorious. Can the proletariat that goes with prayer and hope
to a bloody tsar who has based his entire existence on the oppression of the
people, can the proletariat which trustiully goes to its sworn enemy to beg "a
crumb of charity" -- can such people really gain the upper hand in street
fighting?. . .
True, later on, after a little time had passed, rifle
volleys opened the eyes of the deceived proletariat and revealed the vile
features of the autocracy; true, after that the proletariat began to exclaim
angrily: "The tsar gave it to us -- we'll now give it to him!" But what is the
use of that when you are unarmed? What can you do with bare hands in street
fighting, even if you are enlightened? For does not an enemy bullet pierce an
enlightened head as easily as an unenlightened one?
Yes, lack of arms -- that was the second reason for the
retreat of the St. Petersburg proletariat.
But what could St. Petersburg have done alone even if it
had possessed arms? When blood was flowing in St. Petersburg and barricades were
being erected, nobody raised a finger in other towns -- that is why the
government was able to bring in troops from other places and flood the streets
with blood. It was only afterwards, when the St. Petersburg proletariat had
buried its fallen comrades and had returned to its everyday occupations -- only
then was the cry of workers on strike heard in different towns: "Greetings to
the St. Petersburg heroes! " But of what use were these belated greetings to any
body? That is why the government did not take these
sporadic and unorganised actions seriously; the proletariat was split up in
separate groups, so the government was able to scatter it without much effort.
Hence, the third reason for the retreat of the St.
Petersburg proletariat was the absence of an organised general uprising, the
unorganised action of the proletariat.
But who was there to organise a general uprising? The
people as a whole could not undertake this task, and the vanguard of the
proletariat -- the proletarian party -- was itself unorganised, for it was torn
by internal disagreements. The internal war, the split in the party, weakened it
more and more every day. It is not surprising that the young party, split into
two parts, was unable to undertake the task of organising a general uprising.
Hence, the fourth reason for the proletariat's retreat was
the absence of a single and united party.
And lastly, if the peasantry and the troops failed to join
the uprising and infuse fresh strength into it, it was because they could not
see any exceptional strength in the feeble and short-lived uprising, and, as is
common knowledge, nobody joins the feeble.
That is why the heroic proletariat of St. Petersburg
retreated in January last year.
Time passed. Roused by the crisis and lack of rights, the
proletariat prepared for another clash. Those who thought that the losses
sustained on January 9 would crush the fighting spirit of the proletariat were
mistaken -- on the contrary, it prepared for the "last" clash
with greater ardour and devotion, it fought the troops and Cossacks with greater
courage and determination, The revolt of the sailors in the Black Sea and Baltic
Sea, the revolt of the workers in Odessa, Lodz and other towns, and the
continuous clashes between the peasants and the police clearly revealed how
unquenchable was the revolutionary fire burning in the breasts of the people.
The proletariat has recently been acquiring with amazing
rapidity the revolutionary consciousness it lacked on January 9. It is said that
ten years of propaganda could not have brought about such an increase in the
proletariat's class consciousness as these days of uprising have done. That is
so, nor could it be otherwise, for the process of class conflicts is a great
school in which the revolutionary consciousness of the people grows hour by
A general armed uprising, which at first was preached only
by a small group of the proletariat, an armed uprising, about which some
comrades were even doubtful, gradually won the sympathy of the proletariat --
and it feverishly organised Red detachments, procured arms, etc. The October
general strike clearly demonstrated the feasibility of simultaneous action by
the proletariat. This, in its turn, proved the feasibility of an organised
uprising -- and the proletariat resolutely took this path.
All that was needed was a united party, a single and
indivisible Social-Democratic Party to direct the organisation of the general
uprising, to co-ordinate the preparations for the revolution that were going on
separately in different towns, and to take the initiative in the assault. That
was all the more necessary because
life itself was preparing the ground or a new upsurge -- day by day, the crisis
in the towns, starvation in the countryside, and other factors of a similar
nature were making another revolutionaly upheaval inevitable. The trouble was
that such a party was then only in the process of formation; enfeebled by the
split, the party was only just recovering and beginning to unite its ranks.
It was precisely at that moment that the proletariat of
Russia entered into the second clash, the glorious December clash.
Let us now discuss this clash.
In discussing the January clash we said that it lacked
revolutionary consciousness; as regards the December clash we must say that this
consciousness existed. Eleven months of revolutionary storm had sufficiently
opened the eyes of the militant proletariat of Russia, and the slogans: Down
with the autocracy! Long live the democratic republic! became the slogans of the
day, the slogans of the masses. This time you saw no church banners, no icons,
no portraits of the tsar -- instead, red flags fluttered and portraits of Marx
and Engels were carried. This time you heard no singing of psalms or of "God
Save the Tsar" -- instead, the strains of the Marseillaise and the
Varshavyanka deafned the tyrants.
Thus, in respect to revolutionay consciousness, the
December clash differed radically from the January clash.
In the January clash there was a lack of arms, the people
went into battle unarmed. The December clash marked a step forward, all the
figlters now rushed for arms, with revolvers, rifles, bombs and in some places
even machine guns in their hands. Procure arms by
force of arms -- this became the slogan of the day. Everybody sought arms,
everybody felt the need for arms, the only sad thing about it was that very few
arms were procurable, and only an inconsiderable number of proletarians could
come out armed.
The January uprising was utterly sporadic and unorganised;
in it everybody acted haphazard. In this respect, too, the December uprising
marked a step forward. The St. Petersburg and Moscow Soviets of Workers'
Deputies, and the "majority" and "minority" centres "took measures" as far as
possible to make the revolutionary action simultaneous. They called upon the
proletariat of Russia to launch a simultaneous offensive. Nothing of the kind
was done during the January uprising. But that call had not been preceded by
prolonged and persevering Party activity in preparation for the uprising, and so
the call remained a call, and the action turned out to be sporadic and
unorganised. There existed only the desire for a simultaneous and organised
The January uprising was "led" mainly by the Gapons. In
this respect the December uprising had the advantage in that the
Social-Democrats were at the head of it. The sad thing, however, was that the
latter were split into separate groups, that they did not constitute a single
united party, and, therefore, could not co-ordinate their activities. Once again
the uprising found the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party unprepared and
divided. . . .
The January clash had no plan, it was not guided by any
definite policy, the question whether to take the offensive or defensive did not
confront it. The December
clash merely had the advantage that it clearly raised this question, but it did
so only in the course of the struggle, not at the very beginning. As regards the
answer to this question, the December uprising revealed the same weakness as the
January one. Had the Moscow revolutionaries adhered to the policy of offensive
from the very beginning, had they at the very beginning attacked, say, the
Nikolayevsky Railway Station and captured it, the uprising would, of course,
have lasted longer and would have taken a more desirable turn.
Or had the Lettish revolutionaries, for example, resolutely pursued a policy of
offensive and had not wavered, then they undoubtedly would first of all have
captured batteries of artillery, thereby depriving the authorities of all
support; for the authorities had at first allowed the revolutionaries to capture
towns, but later they passed to the offensive and with the aid of artillery
recaptured the places they had lost.
The same must be said about other towns. Marx was right when he said: In an
uprising only audacity conquers, and only those who adhere to the policy of
offensive can be audacious to the end.
This was the cause of the proletariat's retreat in the
middle of December.
If the overwhelming mass of the peasantry and troops
failed to join in the December clash, if that clash even roused dissatisfaction
among certain "democratic" circles -- it was because it lacked that strength and
durability which are so necessary for the uprising to spread and be victorious.
From what has been said it is clear what we, the Russian
Social-Democrats, must do today.
Firstly, our task is to complete what we have begun -- to
form a single and indivisible party. The all-Russian conferences of the
"majority" and the "minority" have already drawn up the organisational
principles of unification. Lenin's formula defining membership of the Party, and
democratic centralism, have been accepted. The respective centres that direct
ideological and practical activities have already merged, and the merging of the
local organisations is already almost completed. All that is needed is a Unity
Congress that will officially endorse the unification that has actually taken
place and thereby give us a single and indivisible Russian Social-Democratic
Labour Party. Our task is to facilitate the execution of this task, which is so
precious to us, and to make careful preparations for the Unity Congress, which,
as is known, should open in the very near future.
Secondly, our task is to help the Party to organise the
armed uprising, actively to intervene in this sacred cause and to work
tirelessly for it. Our task is to multiply the Red detachments, to train and
weld them together; our task is to procure arms by force of arms, to
reconnoître the disposition of government institutions, calculate the
enemy's forces, study his strong and weak sides, and draw up a plan for the
uprising accordingly. Our task is to conduct systematic agitation in favour of
an uprising in the army and in the villages, especially in those villages that
are situated close to towns, to arm the reliable elements in them, etc., etc. .
Thirdly, our task is to cast away all hesitation, to
condemn all indefiniteness, and resolutely to pursue a policy of offensive. . .
In short, a united party, an uprising organised
by the Party, and a policy of offensive -- this is what we need today
to achieve the victory of the uprising.
And the more famine in the countryside and the industrial
crisis in the towns become intensified and grow, the more acute and imperative
does this task become.
Some people, it appears, are beset with doubts about the
correctness of this elementary truth, and they ask in a spirit of despair: What
can the Party, even if it is united, do if it fails to rally the proletariat
around itself? The proletariat, they say, is routed, it has lost hope and is not
in the mood to take the initiative; we must, they say, now expect sa]vation to
come from the countryside; the initiative must come from there, etc. One cannot
help saying that the comrades who argue in this way are profoundly mistaken. The
proletariat is by no means routed, for the rout of the proletariat means its
death; on the contrary, it is as much alive as it was before and is gaining
strength every day. It has merely retreated in order, after mustering its
forces, to enter the final clash with the tsarist government.
When, on December 15, the Soviet of Workers' Deputies of
Moscow -- the very Moscow which in fact led the December uprising -- publicly
announced: We are temporarily suspending the struggle in order to make serious
preparations to raise the banner of an uprising again -- it expressed the
cherished thoughts of the entire Russian proletariat.
And if some comrades nevertheless deny facts, if they no
longer place their hopes in the proletariat and now clutch at the rural
bourgeoisie -- the question is:
With whom are we dealing, with Socialist-Revolutionaries or Social-Democrats?
For no Social-Democrat will doubt the truth that the actual (and not only
ideological) leader of the rural population is the urban proletariat.
At one time we were assured that the autocracy was crushed
after October 17, but we did not believe it, because the rout of the autocracy
means its death; but far from being dead, it mustered fresh forces for another
attack. We said that the autocracy had only retreated. It turned out that we
were right. . . .
No, comrades! The proletariat of Russia is not defeated,
it has only retreated and is now preparing for fresh glorious battles. The
proletariat of Russia will not lower its blood-stained banner; it will yield the
leadership of the uprising to no one; it will be the only worthy leader of the
January 7, 1906