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

2. THE BOLSHEVIK NEWSPAPER "PRAVDA." THE BOLSHEVIK GROUP IN THE FOURTH STATE DUMA

3. VICTORY OF THE BOLSHEVIKS IN THE LEGALLY EXISTING ORGANIZATIONS. CONTINUED RISE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT. EVE OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR

 

2. THE BOLSHEVIK NEWSPAPER "PRAVDA." THE BOLSHEVIK GROUP IN THE FOURTH STATE DUMA

    A powerful instrument used by the Bolshevik Party to strengthen its organizations and to spread its influence among the masses was the Bolshevik daily newspaper Pravda (Truth ), published in St. Petersburg. It was founded, according to Lenin's instructions, on the initiative of Stalin, Olminsky and Poletayev. Pravda was a mass working-class paper founded simultaneously with the new rise of the revolutionary movement. Its first issue appeared on April 22 (May 5, New Style), 1912. This was a day of real celebration for the workers. In honour of Pravda's appearance it was decided henceforward to celebrate May 5 as workers' press day.

    Previous to the appearance of Pravda, the Bolsheviks already had a weekly newspaper called Zvezda, intended for advanced workers. Zvezda played an important part at the time of the Lena events. It printed a number of trenchant political articles by Lenin and Stalin which mobilized the working class for the struggle. But in view of the rising revolutionary tide, a weekly newspaper no longer met the requirements of the Bolshevik Party. A daily mass political newspaper designed for the broadest sections of the workers was needed. Pravda was such a newspaper.

    Pravda played an exceptionally important part at this period. It gained support for Bolshevism among broad masses of the working class. Because of incessant police persecution, fines, and confiscations of issues due to the publication of articles and letters not to the liking of the censor, Pravda could exist only with the active support of tens of thousands of advanced workers. Pravda was able to pay the huge fines only thanks to large collections made among the workers. Not infrequently, considerable portions of confiscated issues of Pravda nevertheless found their way into the hands of readers, because the more active workers would come to the printing shop at night and carry away bundles of the newspaper.

    The tsarist government suppressed Pravda eight times in the space of two and a half years; but each time, with the support of the workers, it reappeared under a new but similar name, e.g., Za Pravdu (For Truth ), Put Pravdy (Path of Truth ), Trudovaya Pravda (Labour Truth ).

    While the average circulation of Pravda was 40,000 copies per day, the circulation of Luch (Ray ), the Menshevik daily, did not exceed 15,000 or 16,000.

 

    The workers regarded Pravda as their own newspaper; they had great confidence in it and were very responsive to its calls. Every copy was read by scores of readers, passing from hand to hand; it moulded their class consciousness, educated them, organized them, and summoned them to the struggle.

    What did Pravda write about?

    Every issue contained dozens of letters from workers describing their life, the savage exploitation and the various forms of oppression and humiliation they suffered at the hands of the capitalists, their managers and foremen. These were trenchant and telling indictments of capitalist conditions. Pravda often reported cases of suicide of unemployed and starving workers who had lost hope of ever finding jobs again.

    Pravda wrote of the needs and demands of the workers of various factories and branches of industry, and told how the workers were fighting for their demands. Almost every issue contained reports of strikes at various factories. In big and protracted strikes, the newspaper helped to organize collections among the workers of other factories and branches of industry for the support of the strikers. Sometimes tens of thousands of rubles were collected for the strike funds, huge sums for those days when the majority of the workers received not more than 70 or 80 kopeks per day. This fostered a spirit of proletarian solidarity among the workers and a consciousness of the unity of interests of all workers.

    The workers reacted to every political event, to every victory or defeat, by sending to Pravda letters, greetings, protests, etc. In its articles Pravda dealt with the tasks of the working-class movement from a consistent Bolshevik standpoint. A legally published newspaper could not call openly for the overthrow of tsardom. It had to resort to hints, which, however, the class-conscious workers understood very well, and which they explained to the masses. When, for example, Pravda wrote of the "full and uncurtailed demands of the Year Five," the workers understood that this meant the revolutionary slogans of the Bolsheviks, namely, the overthrow of tsardom, a democratic republic, the confiscation of the landed estates, and an 8-hour day.

    Pravda organized the advanced workers on the eve of the elections to the Fourth Duma. It exposed the treacherous position of those who advocated an agreement with the liberal bourgeoisie, the advocates of the "Stolypin Labour Party" -- the Mensheviks. Pravda called upon the workers to vote for those who advocated the "full and uncurtailed demands of the Year Five," that is, the Bolsheviks. The elections were indirect, held in a series of stages: first, meetings of workers elected delegates; then these delegates chose electors; and it was these electors who participated in the elections of the workers' deputy to the Duma. On the day of the elections of the electors Pravda published a list of Bolshevik candidates and recommended the workers to vote for this list. The list could not be published earlier without exposing those on the list to the danger of arrest.

    Pravda helped to organize the mass actions of the proletariat. At the time of a big lockout in St. Petersburg in the spring of 1914, when it was inexpedient to declare a mass strike, Pravda called upon the workers to resort to other forms of struggle, such as mass meetings in the factories and demonstrations in the streets. This could not be stated openly in the newspaper. But the call was understood by class-conscious workers when they read an article by Lenin bearing the modest title "Forms of the Working-Class Movement" and stating that at the given moment strikes should yield place to a higher form of the working-class movement -- which meant a call to organize meetings and demonstrations.

    In this way the illegal revolutionary activities of the Bolsheviks were combined with legal forms of agitation and organization of the masses of the workers through Pravda.

    Pravda not only wrote of the life of the workers, their strikes and demonstrations, but also regularly described the life of the peasants, the famines from which they suffered, their exploitation by the feudal landlords. It described how as a result of the Stolypin "reform" the kulak farmers robbed the peasants of the best parts of their land. Pravda drew the attention of the class-conscious workers to the widespread and burning discontent in the countryside. It taught the proletariat that the objectives of the Revolution of 1i905 had not been attained, and that a new revolution was impending. It taught that in this second revolution the proletariat must act as the real leader and guide of the people, and that in this revolution it would have so powerful an ally as the revolutionary peasantry.

    The Mensheviks worked to get the proletariat to drop the idea of revolution, to stop thinking of the people, of the starvation of the peas ants, of the domination of the Black-Hundred feudal landlords, and to fight only for "freedom of association," to present "petitions" to this effect to the tsarist government. The Bolsheviks explained to the workers that this Menshevik gospel of renunciation of revolution, renunciation of an alliance with the peasantry, was being preached in the interests of the bourgeoisie, that the workers would most certainly defeat tsardom if they won over the peasantry as their ally, and that bad shepherds like the Mensheviks should be driven out as enemies of the revolution.

    What did Pravda write about in its "Peasant Life" section? Let us take, as an example, several letters relating to the year 1913.

    One letter from Samara, headed "An Agrarian Case," reports that of 45 peasants of the village of Novokhasbulat, Bugulma uyezd, accused of interfering with a surveyor who was marking out communal land to be allotted to peasants withdrawing from the commune, the majority were condemned to long terms of imprisonment.

    A brief letter from the Pskov Province states that the "peasants of the village of Psitsa (near Zavalye Station) offered armed resistance to the rural police. Several persons were wounded. The clash was due to an agrarian dispute. Rural police have been dispatched to Psitsa, and the vice-governor and the procurator are on the way to the village."

    A letter from the Ufa Province reported that peasant's allotments were being sold off in great numbers, and that famine and the law permitting withdrawal from the village communes were causing increasing numbers of peasants to lose their land. Take the hamlet of Borisovka. Here there are 27 peasant households owning 543 dessiatins of arable land between them. During the famine five peasants sold 31 dessiatins outright at prices varying from 25 to 33 rubles per dessiatin, though land is worth three or four times as much. In this village, too, seven peasants have mortgaged between them 177 dessiatins of arable land, receiving 18 to 20 rubles per dessiatin for a term of six years at a rate of 12 per cent per annum. When the poverty of the population and the usurious rate of interest are borne in mind, it may be safely said that half of the 177 dessiatins is bound to pass into the possession of the usurer, for it is not likely that even half the debtors can repay so large a sum in six years.

    In an article printed in Pravda and entitled "Big Landlord and Small Peasant Land Ownership in Russia," Lenin strikingly demonstrated to the workers and peasants what tremendous landed property was in the hands of the parasite landlords. Thirty thousand big landlords alone owned about 70,000,000 dessiatins of land between them. An equal area fell to the share of 10,000,000 peasant households. On an average, the big landlords owned 2,300 dessiatins each, while peasant households, including the kulaks, owned 7 dessiatins each; moreover, five million households of small peasants, that is, half the peasantry, owned no more than one or two dessiatins each. These figures clearly showed that the root of the poverty of the peasants and the recurrent famines lay in the large landed estates, in the survivals of serfdom, of which the peasants could rid themselves only by a revolution led by the working class.

    Through workers connected with the countryside, Pravda found its way into the villages and roused the politically advanced peasants to a revolutionary struggle.

    At the time Pravda was founded the illegal Social-Democratic organizations were entirely under the direction of the Bolsheviks. On the other hand, the legal forms of organization, such as the Duma group, the press, the sick benefit societies, the trade unions, had not yet been fully wrested from the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks had to wage a determined struggle to drive the Liquidators out of the legally existing organizations of the working class. Thanks to Pravda, this fight ended in victory.

    Pravda stood in the centre of the struggle for the Party principle, for the building up of a mass working-class revolutionary party. Pravda rallied the legally existing organizations around the illegal centres of the Bolshevik Party and directed the working-class movement towards one definite aim -- preparation for revolution.

    Pravda had a vast number of worker correspondents. In one year alone it printed over eleven thousand letters from workers. But it was not only by letters that Pravda maintained contact with the working-class masses. Numbers of workers from the factories visited the editorial office every day. In the Pravda editorial office was concentrated a large share of the organizational work of the Party. Here meetings were arranged with representatives from Party nuclei; here reports were received of Party work in the mills and factories; and from here were transmitted the instructions of the St. Petersburg Committee and the Central Committee of the Party.

    As a result of two and a half years of persistent struggle against the Liquidators for the building up of a mass revolutionary working-class party, by the summer of 1914 the Bolsheviks had succeeded in winning the support of four-fifths of the politically active workers of Russia for the Bolshevik Party and for the Pravda tactics. This was borne out, for instance, by the fact that out of a total number of 7,000 workers' groups which collected money for the labour press in 1914, 5,600 groups collected for the Bolshevik press, and only 1,400 groups for the Menshevik press. But, on the other hand, the Mensheviks had a large number of "rich friends" among the liberal bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intelligentsia who advanced over half the funds required for the maintenance of the Menshevik newspaper.

    The Bolsheviks at that time were called "Pravdists." A whole generation of the revolutionary proletariat was reared by Pravda, the generation which subsequently made the October Socialist Revolution. Pravda was backed by tens and hundreds of thousands of workers. During the rise of the revolutionary movement (1912-14) the solid founda- tion was laid of a mass Bolshevik Party, a foundation which no persecution by tsardom could destroy during the imperialist war.

    "The Pravda of 1912 was the laying of the corner-stone of the victory of Bolshevism in 1917. (Stalin.)

    Another legally functioning central organ of the Party was the Bolshevik group in the Fourth State Duma.

    In 1912 the government decreed elections to the Fourth Duma. Our Party attributed great importance to participation in the elections. The Duma Social-Democratic group and Pravda were the chief bases of the revolutionary work of the Bolshevik Party among the masses, functioning legally on a countrywide scale.

    The Bolshevik Party acted independently, under its own slogans, in the Duma elections, simultaneously attacking both the government parties and the liberal bourgeoisie (Constitutional-Democrats). The slogans of the Bolsheviks in the election campaign were a democratic republic, an 8-hour day and the confiscation of the landed estates.

    The elections to the Fourth Duma were held in the autumn of 1912. At the beginning of October, the government, dissatisfied with the course of the elections in St. Petersburg, tried to encroach on the electoral rights of the workers in a number of the large factories. In reply, the St. Petersburg Committee of our Party, on Comrade Stalin's proposal, called upon the workers of the large factories to declare a one-day strike. Placed in a difficult position, the government was forced to yield, and the workers were able at their meetings to elect whom they wanted. The vast majority of the workers voted for the Mandate (Nakaz ) to their delegates and the deputy, which had been drawn up by Comrade Stalin. The "Mandate of the Workingmen of St. Petersburg to Their Labour Deputy" called attention to the unaccomplished tasks of 1i905.

    "We think," the Mandate stated, "that Russia is on the eve of the onset of mass movements, which will perhaps be more profound than in 1i905. . . . As in 1i905, in the van of these movements will be the most advanced class in Russian society, the Russian proletariat. Its only ally can be the much-suffering peasantry, which is vitally interested in the emancipation of Russia."

    The Mandate declared that the future actions of the people should take the form of a struggle on two fronts -- against the tsarist government and against the liberal bourgeoisie, which was seeking to come to terms with tsardom.

    Lenin attached great importance to the Mandate, which called the workers to a revolutionary struggle. And in their resolutions the workers responded to this call.

    The Bolsheviks scored a victory in the elections, and Comrade Badayev was elected to the Duma by the workers of St. Petersburg.

    The workers voted in the elections to the Duma separately from other sections of the population (this was known as the worker curia). Of the nine deputies elected from the worker curia, six were members of the Bolshevik Party: Badayev, Petrovsky, Muranov, Samoilov, Shagov and Malinovsky (the latter subsequently turned out to be an agent provocateur). The Bolshevik deputies were elected from the big industrial centres, in which not less than four-fifths of the working class were concentrated. On the other hand, several of the elected Liquidators did not get their mandates from the worker curia, that is, were not elected by the workers. The result was that there were seven Liquidators in the Duma as against six Bolsheviks. At first the Bolsheviks and Liquidators formed a joint Social-Democratic group in the Duma. In October 1913, after a stubborn struggle against the Liquidators, who hampered the revolutionary work of the Bolsheviks, the Bolshevik deputies, on the instructions of the Central Committee of the Party, withdrew from the joint Social-Democratic group and formed an independent Bolshevik group.

    The Bolshevik deputies made revolutionary speeches in the Duma in which they exposed the autocratic system and interpellated the government on cases of repression of the workers and on the inhuman exploitation of the workers by the capitalists.

    They also spoke in the Duma on the agrarian question, calling upon the peasants to fight the feudal landlords, and exposing the Constitutional-Democratic Party, which was opposed to the confiscation and handing over of the landed estates to the peasants.

    The Bolsheviks introduced a bill in the State Duma providing for an 8-hour working day; of course it was not adopted by this Black-Hundred Duma, but it had great agitational value.

    The Bolshevik group in the Duma maintained close connections with the Central Committee of the Party and with Lenin, from whom they received instructions. They were directly guided by Comrade Stalin while he was living in St. Petersburg.

    The Bolshevik deputies did not confine themselves to work within the Duma, but were very active outside the Duma as well. They visited mills and factories and toured the working-class centres of the country where they made speeches, arranged secret meetings at which they ex- plained the decisions of the Party, and formed new Party organizations. The deputies skilfully combined legal activities with illegal, underground work.