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
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
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
"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
The working class followed the path indicated by the
The economic situation in the country at that period was as
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
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
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.