MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E  C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

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

    C H A P T E R   F I V E

    THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY DURING THE NEW RISE OF THE W0RKING-CLASS MOVEMENT BEFORE THE FIRST IMPERIALIST WAR (1912-1914)

    1. RISE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT IN THE PERIOD 1912-14

        The triumph of the Stolypin reaction was shortlived. A government which would offer the people nothing but the knout and the gallows could not endure. Repressive measures became so habitual that they ceased to inspire fear in the people. The fatigue felt by the workers in the years immediately following the defeat of the revolution began to wear off. The workers resumed the struggle. The Bolsheviks' forecast that a new rise in the tide of revolution was inevitable proved correct. In 1911 the number of strikers already exceeded 100,000, whereas in each of the previous years it had been no more than 50,000 or 60,000. The Prague Party Conference, held in January 1912, could already register the beginnings of a revival of the working-class movement. But the real rise in the revolutionary movement began in April and May 1912, when mass political strikes broke out in connection with the shooting down of workers in the Lena goldfields.

        On April 4, 1912, during a strike in the Lena goldfields in Siberia, over 500 workers were killed or wounded upon the orders of a tsarist officer of the gendarmerie. The shooting down of an unarmed body of Lena miners who were peacefully proceeding to negotiate with the management stirred the whole country. This new bloody deed of the tsarist autocracy was committed to break an economic strike of the miners and thus please the masters of the Lena goldfields, the British capitalists. The British capitalists and their Russian partners derived huge profits from the Lena goldfields -- over 7,000,000 rubles annually -- by most shamelessly exploiting the workers. They paid the workers miserable wages and supplied them with rotten food unfit to eat. Unable to endure the oppression and humiliation any longer, six thousand workers of the Lena goldfields went on strike.

        The proletariat of St. Petersburg, Moscow and all other industrial centres and regions replied to the Lena shooting by mass strikes, demonstrations and meetings.

        "We were so dazed and shocked that we could not at once find words to express our feelings. Whatever protest we made would be but a pale reflection of the anger that seethed in the hearts of all of us. Nothing can help us, neither tears nor protests, but an organized mass struggle" -- the workers of one group of factories declared in their resolution.

        The furious indignation of the workers was further aggravated when the tsarist Minister Makarov, who was interpellated by the Social-Democratic group in the State Duma on the subject of the Lena massacre, insolently declared: "So it was, so it will be!" The number of participants in the political protest strikes against the bloody massacre of the Lena workers rose to 300,000.

        The Lena events were like a hurricane which rent the atmosphere of "peace" created by the Stolypin regime.

        This is what Comrade Stalin wrote in this connection in 1912 in the St. Petersburg Bolshevik newspaper, Zvezda (Star ):

        "The Lena shooting has broken the ice of silence and the river of the people's movement has begun to flow. The ice is broken! . . . All that was evil and pernicious in the present regime, all the ills of much-suffering Russia were focused in the one fact, the Lena events. That is why it was the Lena shooting that served as a signal for the strikes and demonstrations."

        The efforts of the Liquidators and Trotskyites to bury the revolution had been in vain. The Lena events showed that the forces of revolution were alive, that a tremendous store of revolutionary energy had accumulated in the working class. The May Day strikes of 1912 involved about 400,000 workers. These strikes bore a marked political character and were held under the Bolshevik revolutionary slogans of a democratic republic, an 8-hour day, and the confiscation of the landed estates. These main slogans were designed to unite not only the broad masses of the workers, but also the peasants and soldiers for a revolutionary onslaught on the autocracy.

        "The huge May Day strike of the proletariat of all Russia and the accompanying street demonstrations, revolutionary proclamations, and revolutionary speeches to gatherings of workers have clearly shown that Russia has entered the phase of a rise in the revolution" -- wrote Lenin in an article entitled "The Revolutionary Rise." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XV, p. 533.)

        Alarmed by the revolutionary spirit of the workers, the Liquidators came out against the strike movement; they called it a "strike fever." The Liquidators and their ally, Trotsky, wanted to substitute for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat a "petition campaign." They invited the workers to sign a petition, a scrap of paper, requesting the granting of "rights" (abolition of the restrictions on the right of association, the right to strike, etc.), which was then to be sent to the State Duma. The Liquidators managed to collect only 1,300 signatures at a time when hundreds of thousands of workers backed the revolutionary logans of the Bolsheviks.

        The working class followed the path indicated by the Bolsheviks.

        The economic situation in the country at that period was as follows:

        In 1910 industrial stagnation had already been succeeded by a revival, an extension of production in the main branches of industry. Whereas the output of pig iron had amounted to 186,000,000 poods in 1910, and to 256,000,000 poods in 1912, in 1913 it amounted to 283,000,000 poods. The output of coal rose from 1,522,000,000 poods in 1910 to 2,214,000,000 poods in 1913.

        The expansion of capitalist industry was accompanied by a rapid growth of the proletariat. A distinguishing feature of the development of industry was the further concentration of production in large plants. Whereas in 1901 the number of workers engaged in large plants employing 500 workers and over amounted to 46.7 per cent of the total number of workers, the corresponding figure in 1910 was already about 54 per cent, or over half the total number of workers. Such a degree of concentration of industry was unprecedented. Even in a country so industrially developed as the United States only about one-third the total number of workers were employed in large plants at that period.

        The growth of the proletariat and its concentration in large enterprises, combined with the existence of such a revolutionary party as the Bolshevik Party, were converting the working class of Russia into the greatest force in the political life of the country. The barbarous methods of exploitation of the workers practised in the factories, combined with the intolerable police regime of the tsarist underlings, lent every big strike a political character. Furthermore, the intertwining of the economic and political struggles imparted exceptional revolutionary force to the mass strikes.

        In the van of the revolutionary working-class movement marched the heroic proletariat of St. Petersburg; St. Petersburg was followed by the Baltic Provinces, Moscow and the Moscow Province, the Volga region and the south of Russia. In 1913 the movement spread to the Western Territory, Poland and the Caucasus. In all, 725,000 workers, according to official figures, and over one million workers according to fuller statistics, took part in strikes in 1912, and 861,000 according to official figures, and 1,272,000 according to fuller statistics, took part in strikes in 1913. In the first half of 1914 the number of strikers already amounted to about one and a half million.

        Thus the revolutionary rise of 1912-14, the sweep of the strike movement, created a situation in the country similar to that which had existed at the beginning of the Revolution of 1i905.

        The revolutionary mass strikes of the proletariat were of moment to the whole people. They were directed against the autocracy, and they met with the sympathy of the vast majority of the labouring population. The manufacturers retaliated by locking out the workers. In 1913, in the Moscow Province, the capitalists threw 50,000 textile workers on the streets. In March 1914, 70,000 workers were discharged in St. Petersburg in a single day. The workers of other factories and branches of industry assisted the strikers and their locked-out comrades by mass collections and sometimes by sympathy strikes.

        The rising working-class movement and the mass strikes also stirred up the peasants and drew them into the struggle. The peasants again began to rise against the landlords; they destroyed manors and kulak farmholds. In the years 1910-14 there were over 13,000 outbreaks of peasant disaffection.

        Revolutionary outbreaks also took place among the armed forces. In 1912 there was an armed revolt of troops in Turkestan. Revolt was brewing in the Baltic Fleet and in Sevastopol.

        The revolutionary strike movement and demonstrations, led by the Bolshevik Party, showed that the working class was fighting not for partial demands, not for "reforms," but for the liberation of the people from tsardom. The country was heading for a new revolution.

        In the summer of 1912, Lenin removed from Paris to Galicia (formerly Austria) in order to be nearer to Russia. Here he presided over two conferences of members of the Central Committee and leading Party workers, one of which took place in Cracow at the end of 1912, and the other in Poronino, a small town near Cracow, in the autumn of 1913. These conferences adopted decisions on important questions of the working-class movement: the rise in the revolutionary movement, the tasks of the Party in connection with the strikes, the strengthening of the illegal organizations, the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, the Party press, the labour insurance campaign.