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
||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
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
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
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
"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,