MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

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C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

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S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

 

5.
  
DECEMBER ARMED UPRISING. DEFEAT OF THE UPRISING. RETREAT OF THE REVOLUTION. FIRST STATE DUMA. FOURTH (UNITY) PARTY CONGRESS

    During October and November 1905 the revolutionary struggle of the masses went on developing with intense vigour. Workers' strikes continued.

    The struggle of the peasants against the landlords assumed wide dimensions in the autumn of 1905. The peasant movement embraced over one-third of the uyezds of the country. The provinces of Saratov, Tambov, Chernigov, Tiflis, Kutais and several others were the scenes of veritable peasant revolts. Yet the onslaught of the peasant masses was still inadequate. The peasant movement lacked organization and leadership.

    Unrest increased also among the soldiers in a number of cities -- Tiflis, Vladivostok, Tashkent, Samarkant, Kursk, Sukhum, Warsaw, Kiev, and Riga. Revolts broke out in Kronstadt and among the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol (November 1905). But the revolts were isolated, and the tsarist government was able to suppress them.

    Revolts in units of the army and navy were frequently provoked by the brutal conduct of the officers, by bad food ("bean riots"), and similar causes. The bulk of the sailors and soldiers in revolt did not yet clearly realize the necessity for the overthrow of the tsarist government, for the energetic prosecution of the armed struggle. They were still too peaceful and complacent; they frequently made the mistake of releasing officers who had been arrested at the outbreak of the revolt, and would allow themselves to be placated by the promises and coaxing of their superiors.

    The revolutionary movement had approached the verge of armed insurrection. The Bolsheviks called upon the masses to rise in arms against the tsar and the landlords, and explained to them that this was inevitable. The Bolsheviks worked indefatigably in preparing for armed uprising. Revolutionary work was carried on among the soldiers and sailors, and military organizations of the Party were set up in the armed forces. Workers' fighting squads were formed in a number of cities, and their members taught the use of arms. The purchase of arms from abroad and the smuggling of them into Russia was organized, prominent members of the Party taking part in arranging for their transportation.

    In November 1905 Lenin returned to Russia. He took a direct part in the preparations for armed uprising, while keeping out of the way of the tsar's gendarmes and spies. His articles in the Bolshevik newspaper, Novaya Zhizn (New Life ), served to guide the Party in its day-to-day work.

    At this period Comrade Stalin was carrying on tremendous revolutionary work in Transcaucasia. He exposed and lashed the Mensheviks as foes of the revolution and of the armed uprising. He resolutely prepared the workers for the decisive battle against the autocracy. Speaking at a meeting of workers in Tiflis on the day the tsar's Manifesto was announced, Comrade Stalin said:

    "What do we need in order to really win? We need three things: first -- arms, second -- arms, third -- arms and arms again!"

    In December 1905 a Bolshevik Conference was held in Tammerfors, Finland. Although the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks formally belonged to one Social-Democratic Party, they actually constituted two different parties, each with its own leading centre. At this conference Lenin and

Stalin met for the first time. Until then they had maintained contact by correspondence and through comrades.

    Of the decisions of the Tammerfors Conference, the following two should be noted: one on the restoration of the unity of the Party, which had virtually been split into two parties, and the other on the boycott of the First Duma, known as the Witte Duma.

    As by that time the armed uprising had already begun in Moscow, the conference, on Lenin's advice, hastily completed its work and dispersed to enable the delegates to participate personally in the uprising.

    But the tsarist government was not dozing either. It too was preparing for a decisive struggle. Having concluded peace with Japan, and thus lessened the difficulties of its position, the tsarist government assumed the offensive against the workers and peasants. It declared martial law in a number of provinces where peasant revolts were rife, issued the brutal commands "take no prisoners" and "spare no bullets," and gave orders for the arrest of,the leaders of the revolutionary movement and the dispersal of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies.

    In reply to this, the Moscow Bolsheviks and the Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies which they led, and which was connected with the broad masses of the workers, decided to make immediate preparations for armed uprising. On December 5 (18) the Moscow Bolshevik Committee resolved to call upon the Soviet to declare a general political strike with the object of turning it into an uprising in the course of the struggle. This decision was supported at mass meetings of the workers. The Moscow Soviet responded to the will of the working class and unanimously resolved to start a general political strike.

    When the Moscow proletariat began the revolt, it had a fighting organization of about one thousand combatants, more than half of whom were Bolsheviks. In addition there were fighting squads in several of the Moscow factories. In all, the insurrectionaries had a force of about two thousand combatants. The workers expected to neutralize the garrison and to win over a part of it to their side.

    The political strike started in Moscow on December 7 (20). However, efforts to spread it to the whole country failed; it met with inadequate support in St. Petersburg, and this reduced the chances of success of the uprising from the very outset. The Nikolayevskaya (now the October) Railway remained in the hands of the tsarist government. Traffic on this line was not suspended, which enabled the government to transfer regiments of the Guard from St. Petersburg to Moscow for the suppression of the uprising.

    In Moscow itself the garrison vacillated. The workers had begun the uprising partly in expectation of receiving support from the garrison. But the revolutionaries had delayed too long, and the government managed to cope with the unrest in the garrison.

    The first barricades appeared in Moscow on December 9 (22). Soon the streets of the city were covered with barricades. The tsarist government brought artillery into action. It concentrated a force many times exceeding the strength of the insurrectionaries. For nine days on end several thousand armed workers waged a heroic fight. It was only by bringing regiments from St. Petersburg, Tver and the Western Territory that the tsarist government was able to crush the uprising. On the very eve of the fighting the leadership of the uprising was partly arrested and partly isolated. The members of the Moscow Bolshevik Committee were arrested. The armed action took the form of disconnected uprisings of separate districts Deprived of a directing centre, and lacking a common plan of operations for the whole city, the districts mainly confined themselves to defensive action. This was the chief source of weakness of the Moscow uprising and one of the causes of its defeat, as Lenin later pointed out.

    The uprising assumed a particularly stubborn and bitter character in the Krasnaya Presnya district of Moscow. This was the main stronghold and centre of the uprising. Here the best of the fighting squads, led by Bolsheviks, were concentrated. But Krasnaya Presnya was suppressed by fire and sword; it was drenched in blood and ablaze with the fires caused by artillery. The Moscow uprising was crushed.

    The uprising was not confined to Moscow. Revolutionary uprisings broke out in a number of other cities and districts. There were armed uprisings in Krasnoyarsk, Motovlikha (Perm), Novorossisk, Sormovo, Sevastapol and Kronstadt.

    The oppressed nationalities of Russia also rose in armed struggle. Nearly the whole of Georgia was up in arms. A big uprising took place in the Ukraine, in the cities of Gorlovka, Alexandrovsk and Lugansk (now Voroshilovgrad) in the Donetz Basin. A stubborn struggle was waged in Latvia. In Finland the workers formed their Red Guard and rose in revolt.

    But all these uprisings, like the uprising in Moscow, were crushed with inhuman ferocity by the autocracy.

    The appraisals of the December armed uprising given by the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks differed.

    "They should not have taken to arms," was the rebuke the Menshevik Plekhanov flung at the Party after the uprising. The Mensheviks argued that an uprising was unnecessary and pernicious, that it could be dispensed with in the revolution, that success could be achieved not by armed uprising, but by peaceful methods of struggle.

    The Bolsheviks branded this stand as treachery. They maintained that the experience of the Moscow armed uprising had but confirmed that the working class could wage a successful armed struggle. In reply to Plekhanov's rebuke -- "they should not have taken to arms" -- Lenin said:

    "On the contrary, we should have taken to arms more resolutely, energetically and aggressively; we should have explained to the masses that it was impossible to confine ourselves to a peaceful strike and that a fearless and relentless armed fight was indispensable." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 348.)

    The uprising of December 1905 was the climax of the revolution. The tsarist autocracy defeated the uprising. Thereafter the revolution took a turn and began to recede. The tide of revolution gradually subsided.

    The tsarist government hastened to take advantage of this defeat to deal the final blow to the revolution. The tsar's hangmen and jailers began their bloody work. Punitive expeditions raged in Poland, Latvia, Esthonia, Transcaucasia and Siberia.

    But the revolution was not yet crushed. The workers and revolutionary peasants retreated slowly, putting up a fight. New sections of the workers were drawn into the struggle. Over a million workers took part in strikes in 1906; 740,000 in 1907. The peasant movement embraced about one-half of the uyezds of tsarist Russia in the first half of 1906, and one-fifth in the second half of the year. Unrest continued in the army and navy.

    The tsarist government, in combating the revolution, did not confine itself to repressive measures. Having achieved its first successes by repressive measures, it decided to deal a fresh blow at the revolution by convening a new Duma, a "legislative" Duma. It hoped in this way to sever the peasants from the revolution and thus put an end to it. In December 1905 the tsarist government promulgated a law providing for the convocation of a new, a "legislative" Duma as distinct from the old, "deliberative" Bulygin Duma, which had been swept away as the result of the Bolshevik boycott. The tsarist election law was of course anti-democratic. Elections were not universal. Over half the population -- for example, women and over two million workers -- were deprived of the right of vote altogether. Elections were not equal. The electorate was divided into four curias, as they were called: the agrarian (landlords), the urban (bourgeoisie), the peasant and the worker curias. Election was not direct, but by several stages. There was actually no secret ballot. The election law ensured the overwhelming preponderance in the Duma of a handful of landlords and capitalists over the millions of workers and peasants.

    The tsar intended to make use of the Duma to divert the masses from the revolution. In those days a large proportion of the peasants believed that they could obtain land through the Duma. The Constitutional-Democrats, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries deceived workers and peasants by stating that the system the people needed could be obtained without uprising, without revolution. It was to fight this fraud on the people that the Bolsheviks announced and pursued the tactics of boycotting the First State Duma. This was in accordance with the decision passed by the Tammerfors Conference.

    In their fight against tsardom, the workers demanded the unity of the forces of the Party, the unification of the party of the proletariat. Armed with the decision of the Tammerfors Conference on unity, the Bolsheviks supported this demand of the workers and proposed to the Mensheviks that a unity congress of the Party be called. Under the pressure of the workers, the Mensheviks had to consent to unification.

    Lenin was in favour of unification, but only of such unification as would not cover up the differences that existed over the problems of the revolution. Considerable damage was done to the Party by the conciliators (Bogdanov, Krassin and others), who tried to prove that no serious differences existed between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Lenin fought the conciliators, insisting that the Bolsheviks should come to the congress with their own platform, so that the workers might clearly see what the position of the Bolsheviks was and on what basis unification was being effected. The Bolsheviks drew up such a platform and submitted it to the Party members for discussion.

    The Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., known as the Unity Congress, met in Stockholm (Sweden) in April 1906. It was attended by 111 delegates with right of vote, representing 57 local organizations of the Party. In addition, there were representatives from the national Social-Democratic parties: 3 from the Bund, 3 from the Polish Social-Democratic Party, and 3 from the Lettish Social-Democratic organization.

    Owing to the smash-up of the Bolshevik organizations during and after the December uprising, not all of them were able to send delegates. Moreover, during the "days of liberty" of 1905, the Mensheviks had admitted into their ranks a large number of petty-bourgeois intellectuals who had nothing whatever in common with revolutionary Marxism. It will suffice to say that the Tiflis Mensheviks (and there were very few industrial workers in Tiflis) sent as many delegates to the congress as the largest of the proletarian organizations, the St. Petersburg organization. The result was that at the Stockholm Congress the Mensheviks had a majority, although, it is true, an insignificant one.

    This composition of the congress determined the Menshevik character of the decisions on a number of questions.

    Only formal unity was effected at this congress. In reality, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks retained their own views and their own independent organizations.

    The chief questions discussed at the Fourth Congress were the agrarian question, the current situation and the class tasks of the proletariat, policy towards the State Duma, and organizational questions.

    Although the Mensheviks constituted the majority at this congress they were obliged to agree to Lenin's formulation of the first paragraph of the Party Rules dealing with Party membership, in order not to antagonize the workers.

    On the agrarian question, Lenin advocated the nationalization of the land. He held that the nationalization of the land would be possible only with the victory of the revolution, after tsardom had been overthrown. Under such circumstances the nationalization of the land would make it easier for the proletariat, in alliance with the poor peasants, to pass to the Socialist revolution. Nationalization of the land meant the confiscation of all the landed estates without compensation and turning them over to the peasantry. The Bolshevik agrarian program called upon the peasants to rise in revolution against the tsar and the landlords.

    The Mensheviks took up a different position. They advocated a program of municipalization. According to this program, the landed estates were not to be placed at the disposal of the village communities, not even given to the village communities for use, but were to be placed at the disposal of the municipalities (that is, the local organs of self-government, or Zemstvos), and each peasant was to rent as much of this land as he could afford.

    The Menshevik program of municipalization was one of compromise, and therefore prejudicial to the revolution. It could not mobilize the peasants for a revolutionary struggle and was not designed to achieve the complete abolition of landlord property rights in land. The Menshevik program was designed to stop the revolution halfway. The Mensheviks did not want to rouse the peasants for revolution.

    The Menshevik program received the majority of the votes at the congress.

    The Mensheviks particularly betrayed their anti-proletarian, opportunist nature during the discussion of the resolution on the current situation and on the State Duma. The Menshevik Martynov frankly spoke in opposition to the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution. Comrade Stalin, replying to the Mensheviks, put the matter very bluntly:

    "Either the hegemony of the proletariat, or the hegemony of the democratic bourgeoisie -- that is how the question stands in the Party, that is where we differ."

    As to the State Duma, the Mensheviks extolled it in their resolution as the best means of solving the problems of the revolution and of liberating the people from tsardom. The Bolsheviks, on the contrary, regarded the Duma as an impotent appendage of tsardom, as a screen for the evils of tsardom, which the latter would discard as soon as it proved inconvenient.

    The Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress consisted of three Bolsheviks and six Mensheviks. The editorial board of the central press organ was formed entirely of Mensheviks.

    It was clear that the internal Party struggle would continue.

    After the Fourth Congress the conflict between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks broke out with new vigour. In the local organizations, which were formally united, reports on the congress were often made by two speakers: one from the Bolsheviks and another from the Mensheviks. The result of the discussion of the two lines was that in most cases the majority of the members of the organizations sided with the Bolsheviks.

    Events proved that the Bolsheviks were right. The Menshevik Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress increasingly revealed its opportunism and its utter inability to lead the revolutionary struggle of the masses. In the summer and autumn of 1906 the revolutionary struggle of the masses took on new vigour. Sailors' revolts broke out in Kronstadt and Sveaborg; the peasants' struggle against the landlords flared up. Yet the Menshevik Central Committee issued opportunist slogans, which the masses did not follow.