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

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

        The Bolshevik Party during this period set an example of leadership in all forms and manifestations of the class struggle of the proletariat. It built up illegal organizations. It issued illegal leaflets. It carried on secret revolutionary work among the masses. At the same time it steadily gained the leadership of the various legally existing organizations of the working class. The Party strove to win over the trade unions and gain influence in People's Houses, evening universities, clubs and sick benefit societies. These legally existing organizations had long served as the refuge of the Liquidators. The Bolsheviks started an energetic struggle to convert the legally existing societies into strongholds of our Party. By skilfully combining illegal work with legal work, the Bolsheviks won over a majority of the trade union organizations in the two capital cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Particularly brilliant was the victory gained in the election of the Executive Committee of the Metal Workers' Union in St. Petersburg in 1913; of the 3,000 metal workers attending the meeting, barely 150 voted for the Liquidators.

        The same may be said of so important a legal organization as the Social-Democratic group in the Fourth State Duma. Although the Mensheviks had seven deputies in the Duma and the Bolsheviks six, the Menshevik deputies, chiefly elected from non-working class districts, represented barely one-fifth of the working class, whereas the Bolshevik deputies, who were elected from the principal industrial centres of the country (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Gostroma, Ekaterinoslav and Kharkov), represented over four-fifths of the working class of the country. The workers regarded the six Bolsheviks (Badayev, Petrovsky and the others) and not the seven Mensheviks as their deputies.

        The Bolsheviks succeeded in winning over the legally existing organizations because, in spite of savage persecution by the tsarist government and vilification by the Liquidators and the Trotskyites, they were able to preserve the illegal Party and maintain firm discipline in their ranks, they staunchly defended the interests of the working class, had close connections with the masses, and waged an uncompromising struggle against the enemies of the working-class movement.

        Thus the victory of the Bolsheviks and the defeat of the Mensheviks in the legally existing organizations developed all along the line. Both in respect to agitational work from the platform of the Duma and in respect to the labour press and other legally existing organizations, the Mensheviks were forced into the background. The revolutionary movement took strong hold of the working class, which definitely rallied around the Bolsheviks and swept the Mensheviks aside.

        To culminate all, the Mensheviks also proved bankrupt as far as the national question was concerned. The revolutionary movement in the border regions of Russia demanded a clear program on the national question. But the Mensheviks had no program, except the "cultural autonomy" of the Bund, which could satisfy nobody. Only the Bolsheviks had a Marxist program on the national question, as set forth in Comrade Stalin's article, "Marxism and the National Question," and in Lenin's articles, "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination" and "Critical Notes on the National Question."

        It is not surprising that after the Mensheviks had suffered such defeats, the August Bloc should begin to break up. Composed as it was of heterogeneous elements, it could not withstand the onslaught of the Bolsheviks and began to fall apart. Formed for the purpose of combating Bolshevism, the August Bloc soon went to pieces under the blows of the Bolsheviks. The first to quit the bloc were the Vperyod -ites (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky and others); next went the Letts, and the rest followed suit.

        Having suffered defeat in their struggle against the Bolsheviks, the Liquidators appealed for help to the Second International. The Second International came to their aid. Under the pretence of acting as a "conciliator" between the Bolsheviks and the Liquidators, and establishing "peace in the Party," the Second International demanded that the Bolsheviks should desist from criticizing the compromising policy of the Liquidators. But the Bolsheviks were irreconcilable: they refused to abide by the decisions of the opportunist Second International and would agree to make no concessions.

        The victory of the Bolsheviks in the legally existing organizations was not, and could not have been, accidental. It was not accidental, not only because the Bolsheviks alone had a correct Marxist theory, a clear program, and a revolutionary proletarian party which had been steeled and tempered in battle, but also because the victory of the Bolsheviks reflected the rising tide of revolution.

        The revolutionary movement of the workers steadily developed, spreading to town after town and region after region. In the beginning of 1914, the workers' strikes, far from subsiding, acquired a new momentum. They became more and more stubborn and embraced ever larger numbers of workers. On January 9, 250,000 workers were on strike, St. Petersburg accounting for 140,000. On May 1, over half a million workers were on strike, St. Petersburg accounting for more than 250,000. The workers displayed unusual steadfastness in the strikes. A strike at the Obukhov Works in St. Petersburg lasted for over two months, and another at the Lessner Works for about three months. Wholesale poisoning of workers at a number of St. Petersburg factories was the cause of a strike of 115,000 workers which was accompanied by demonstrations. The movement continued to spread. In the first half of 1914 (including the early part of July) a total of 1,425,000 workers took part in strikes.

        In May a general strike of oil workers, which broke out in Baku, focussed the attention of the whole proletariat of Russia. The strike was conducted in an organized way. On June 20 a demonstration of 20,000 workers was held in Baku. The police adopted ferocious measures against the Baku workers. A strike broke out in Moscow as a mark of protest and solidarity with the Baku workers and spread to other districts.

        On July 3 a meeting was held at the Putilov Works in St. Petersburg in connection with the Baku strike. The police fired on the workers. A wave of indignation swept over the St. Petersburg proletariat. On July 4, at the call of the St. Petersburg Party Committee, 90,000 St. Petersburg workers stopped work in protest; the number rose to 130,000 on July 7, 150,000 on July 8 and 200,000 on July 11.

        Unrest spread to all the factories, and meetings and demonstrations were held everywhere. The workers even started to throw up barricades. Barricades were erected also in Baku and Lodz. In a number of places the police fired on the workers. The government adopted "emergency" measures to suppress the movement; the capital was turned into an armed camp; Pravda was suppressed.

        But at that moment a new factor, one of international import, appeared on the arena. This was the imperialist war, which was to change the whole course of events. It was during the revolutionary developments of July that Poincare, the French President, arrived in St. Petersburg to discuss with the tsar the war that was about to begin. A few days later Germany declared war on Russia. The tsarist government took advantage of the war to smash the Bolshevik organizations and to crush the working-class movement. The advance of the revolution was interrupted by the World War, in which the tsarist government sought salvation from revolution.

     

    B R I E F   S U M M A R Y
     

        During the period of the new rise of the revolution (1912-14), the Bolshevik Party headed the working-class movement and led it forward to a new revolution under Bolshevik slogans. The Party ably combined illegal work with legal work. Smashing the resistance of the Liquidators and their friends -- the Trotskyites and Otzovists -- the Party gained the leadership of all forms of the legal movement and turned the legally existing organizations into bases of its revolutionary work.

        In the fight against the enemies of the working class and their agents within the working-class movement, the Party consolidated its ranks and extended its connections with the working class. Making wide use of the Duma as a platform for revolutionary agitation, and having founded a splendid mass workers' newspaper, Pravda, the Party trained a new generation of revolutionary workers -- the Pravdists. During the imperialist war this section of the workers remained faithful to the banner of internationalism and proletarian revolution. It subsequently formed the core of the Bolshevik Party during the revolution of October 1917.

        On the eve of the imperialist war the Party led the working class in its revolutionary actions. These were vanguard engagements which were interrupted by the imperialist war only to be resumed three years later to end in the overthrow of tsardom. The Bolshevik Party entered the difficult period of the imperialist war with the banners of proletarian internationalism unfurled.