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J. V. Stalin
THE RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND ITS IMMEDIATE TASKS
Brdzola (The Struggle), No. 2,
Translated from the Georgian
From J. V. Stalin, Works
Foreign Languages Publishing House,
Vol. 1, pp. 9-30.
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, firstname.lastname@example.org (March 2001)
THE RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PARTY
AND ITS IMMEDIATE TASKS
Human thought was obliged to undergo considerable trial, suffering and change before it reached scientifically elaborated and substantiated socialism. West-European Socialists were obliged for a long time to wander blindly in the wilderness of utopian (impossible, impracticable) socialism before they hewed a path for themselves, investigated and established the laws of social life, and hence, mankind's need for socialism. Since the beginning of the last century Europe has produced numerous brave, self-sacrificing and honest scientific workers who tried to explain and decide the question as to what can rid mankind of the ills which are becoming increasingly intense and acute with the development of trade and industry. Many storms, many torrents of blood swept over Western Europe in the struggle to end the oppression of the majority by the minority, but sorrow remained undispelled, wounds remained unhealed, and pain became more and more unendurable with every passing day. We must regard as one of the principal reasons for this the fact that utopian socialism did not investigate the laws of social life; it soared higher and higher above life,
whereas what was needed was firm contact with reality. The utopians set out to achieve socialism as an immediate object at a time when the ground for it was-totally unprepared in real life -- and what was more deplorable because of its results -- the utopians expected that socialism would be brought into being by the powerful of this world who, they believed, could easily be convinced of the correctness of the socialist ideal (Robert Owen, Louis Blanc, Fourier and others). This outlook completely obscured from view the real labour movement and the masses of the workers, the only natural vehicle of the socialist ideal. The utopians could not understand this. They wanted to establish happiness on earth by legislation, by declarations, without the assistance of the people (the workers). They paid no particular attention to the labour movement and often even denied its importance. As a consequence, their theories remained mere theories which failed to affect the masses of the workers, among whom, quite independently of these theories, matured the great idea proclaimed in the middle of the last century by that genius, Karl Marx: "The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself. . . . Working men of all countries, unite! "
These words brought out the truth, now evident even to the "blind," that what was needed to bring about the socialist ideal was the independent action of the workers and their amalgamation into an organised force, irrespective of nationality and country. It was necessary to establish this truth -- and this was magnificently performed by Marx and his friend Engels -- in order to lay firm foundations for the mighty Social-Democratic Party, which today towers like inexorable fate over the European bourgeois system, threatening its destruction and the erection on its ruins of a socialist system.
In Russia the evolution of the idea of socialism followed almost the same path as that in Western Europe. In Russia, too, Socialists were obliged for a long time to wander blindly before they reached Social-Democratic consciousness -- scientific socialism. Here, too, there were Socialists and there was a labour movement, but they marched independently of each other, going separate ways: the Socialists towards utopian dreams (Zemlya i Volya, Narodnaya Volya*), and the labour movement towards spontaneous revolts. Both operated in the same period (seventies-eighties) ignorant of each other. The Socialists had no roots among the working population and, consequently, their activities were abstract, futile. The workers, on the other hand, lacked leaders, organisers, and, consequently, their movement took the form of disorderly revolts. This was the main reason why the heroic struggle that the Socialists waged for socialism remained fruitless, and why their legendary courage was shattered against the solid wall of autocracy. The Russian Socialists established contact with the masses of the workers only at the beginning of the nineties. They realised that salvation lay only in the working class, and that this class alone would bring about the socialist ideal. Russian Social-Democracy now concentrated all its efforts and attention upon the movement that was going on among the Russian workers at that time. Still
* Zemlya i Volya -- Land and Freedom; Narodnaya Volya -- People's Will. --Tr.
inadequately class conscious, and ill-equipped for the struggle, the Russian workers tried gradually to extricate themselves from their hopeless position and to improve their lot somehow. There was no systematic organisational work in that movement at the time, of course; the movement was a spontaneous one.
And so, Social-Democracy set to work upon this unconscious, spontaneous and unorganised movement. It tried to develop the class consciousness of the workers, tried to unite the isolated and sporadic struggles of individual groups of workers against individual masters, to combine them in a common class struggle, in order that it might become the struggle of the Russian working class against the oppressing class of Russia; and it tried to give this struggle an organised character.
In the initial stages, Social-Democracy was unable to spread its activities among the masses of the workers and it, therefore, confined its activities to propaganda and agitation circles. The only form of activity it engaged in at that time was to conduct study circles. The object of these circles was to create among the workers themselves a group that would subsequently be able to lead the movement. Therefore, these circles were made up of advanced workers -- only chosen workers could attend them.
But soon the study-circle period passed away. Social-Democracy soon felt the necessity of leaving the narrow confines of the circles and of spreading its influence among the broad masses of the workers. This was facilitated by external conditions. At that time the spontaneous movement among the workers rose to an exceptional height. Who of you does not remember the year when nearly the whole of Tiflis was involved in this spontaneous movement? Unorganised strikes at the tobacco factories and in the railway workshops followed one after another. Here, it happened in 1897-98; in Russia it happened somewhat earlier. Timely assistance was needed, and Social-Democracy hastened to render that assistance. A struggle started for a shorter working day, for the abolition of fines, for higher wages, and so forth. Social-Democracy well knew that the development of the labour movement could not be restricted to these petty demands, that these demands were not the goal of the movement, but only a means of achieving the goal. Even if these demands were petty, even if the workers themselves in individual towns and districts were now fighting separately, that fight itself would teach the workers that complete victory would be achieved only when the entire working class launched an assault against its enemy as a united, strong and organised force. This fight would also show the workers that in addition to their immediate enemy, the capitalist, they have another, still more vigilant foe -- the organised force of the entire bourgeois class, the present capitalist state, with its armed forces, its courts, police, prisons and gendarmerie. If even in Western Europe the slightest attempt of the workers to improve their condition comes into collision with the bourgeois power, if in Western Europe, where human rights have already been won, the workers are obliged to wage a direct struggle against the authorities, how much more so must the workers in Russia, in their movement, inevitably come into collision with the autocratic power, which is the vigilant foe of every labour movement, not only because this power protects the capitalists, but also because, as an autocratic power, it cannot resign itself to the independent action of social classes, particularly to the independent action of a class like the working class, which is more oppressed and downtrodden than other classes. That is how Russian Social-Democracy perceived the course of the movement, and it exerted all its efforts to spread these ideas among the workers. Herein lay its strength, and this explains its great and triumphant development from the very outset, as was proved by the great strike of the workers in the St. Petersburg weaving mills in 1896.
But the first victories misled and turned the heads of certain weaklings. Just as the Utopian Socialists in their time had concentrated their attention exclusively on the ultimate goal and, dazzled by it, totally failed to see, or denied, the real labour movement that was developing under their very eyes, so certain Russian Social-Democrats, on the contrary, devoted all their attention exclusively to the spontaneous labour movement, to its everyday needs. At that time (five years ago), the class consciousness of the Russian workers was extremely low. The Russian workers were only just awakening from their age-long sleep, and their eyes, accustomed to darkness, failed, of course, to register all that was happening in a world that had become revealed to them for the first time. Their needs were not great, and so their demands were not great. The Russian workers still went no further than to demand slight increases in wages or a reduction of the working day. That it was necessary to change the existing system, that it was necessary to abolish private property, that it was necessary to organise a socialist system -- of all this the masses of the Russian workers had no inkling. They scarcely dared to think about abolishing the slavery in which the entire Russian people were submerged under the autocratic regime, to think about freedom for the people, to think about the people taking part in the government of the country. And so, while one section of Russian Social-Democracy deemed it its duty to carry its socialist ideas into the labour movement, the other part, absorbed in the economic struggle -- the struggle for partial improvements in the conditions of the workers (as for example, reduction of the working day and higher wages) -- was prone to forget entirely its great duty and its great ideals.
Echoing their like-minded friends in Western Europe (called Bernsteinians), they said: "For us the movement is everything -- the final aim is nothing. " They were not in the least interested in what the working class was fighting for so long as it fought.<"p15"> The so-called farthing policy developed. Things reached such a pass that, one fine day, the St. Petersburg newspaper Rabochaya Mysl  announced.<"p15a"> "Our political programme is a ten-hour day and the restitution of the holidays that were abolished by the law of June 2"(!!!).*
Instead of leading the spontaneous movement, instead of imbuing the masses with Social-Democratic ideals and guiding them towards the achievement of our final aim, this section of the Russian Social-Democrats
* It must be stated that lately the St. Petersburg League of Struggle, and the editorial board of its newspaper, renounced their previous, exclusively economic, trend, and are now trying to introduce the idea of the political struggle into their activities.
became a blind instrument of the movement; it blindly followed in the wake of the inadequately educated section of the workers and limited itself to formulating those needs and requirements of which the masses of the workers were conscious at the time. In short, it stood and knocked at an open door, not daring to enter the house. It proved incapable of explaining to the masses of the workers either the final aim -- socialism, or even the immediate aim -- the overthrow of the autocracy; and what was still more deplorable, it regarded all this as useless and even harmful. It looked upon the Russian workers as children and was afraid of frightening them with such daring ideas. Nor is this all: in the opinion of a certain section of Social-Democracy, it was not necessary to wage a revolutionary struggle to bring about socialism; all that was needed, in their opinion, was the economic struggle -- strikes and trade unions, consumers' and producers' co-operative societies, and there you have socialism. It regarded as mistaken the doctrine of the old international Social-Democracy that a change in the existing system and the complete emancipation of the workers were impossible until political power had passed into the hands of the proletariat (the dictatorship of the proletariat). In its opinion there was nothing new in socialism and, strictly speaking, it did not differ from the existing capitalist system: it could easily fit into the existing system, every trade union and even every co-operative store or producers' co-operative society was already a "bit of socialism, " they said. They imagined that by means of this absurd patching of old clothes they could make new garments for suffering mankind! But most deplorable of all, and in itself unintelligible to revolutionaries, is the fact that this section of the Russian Social-Democrats have expanded the doctrine of their West-European teachers (Bernstein and Co.) to such a degree that they brazenly state that political freedom (freedom to strike, freedom of association, freedom of speech, etc.) is compatible with tsarism and, therefore, a political struggle as such, the struggle to overthrow the autocracy, is quite superfluous because, if you please, the economic struggle alone is enough to achieve the aim, it is enough for strikes to occur more often -- despite government prohibition -- for the government to tire of punishing the strikers, and in this way freedom to strike and to hold meetings will come of its own accord.
Thus, these alleged "Social-Democrats" argued that the Russian workers should devote all their strength and energy entirely to the economic struggle and should refrain from pursuing all sorts of "lofty ideals." In practice, their actions found expression in the view that it was their duty to conduct only local activities in this or that town. They displayed no interest in the organisation of a Social-Democratic workers' party in Russia; on the contrary, they regarded the organisation of a party as a ridiculous and amusing game which would hinder them in the execution of their direct "duty" -- to wage the economic struggle. Strikes and more strikes, and the collection of kopeks for strike funds -- such was the alpha and omega of their activities.
You will no doubt think that since they have whittled down their tasks to such a degree, since they have renounced Social-Democratism, these worshippers of the spontaneous "movement" would have done a great deal, at least for that movement. But here, too, we are
deceived. The history of the St. Petersburg movement convinces us of this. Its splendid development and bold progress in the early stages, in 1895-97, was succeeded by blind wandering and, finally, the movement came to a halt. This is not surprising: all the efforts of the "Economists" to build up a stable organisation for the economic struggle invariably came up against the solid wall of the government and were always shattered against it. The frightful regime of police persecution destroyed all possibility of any kind of industrial organisation. Nor did the strikes bear any fruit, because out of every hundred strikes, ninety-nine were strangled in the clutches of the police; workers were ruthlessly ejected from St. Petersburg and their revolutionary energy was pitilessly sapped by prison walls and Siberian frosts. We are profoundly convinced that this check (relative of course) to the movement was due not only to external conditions, the police regime; it was due no less to the check in the development of the very ideas, of the class consciousness of the workers, and, hence, to the waning of their revolutionary energy.
Although the movement was developing, the workers could not widely understand the lofty aims and content of the struggle because the banner under which the Russian workers had to fight was still the old faded rag with its farthing motto of the economic struggle; consequently, the workers were bound to wage this struggle with reduced energy, reduced enthusiasm, reduced revolutionary striving, for great energy is engendered only for a great aim.
But the danger that threatened this movement as a result of this would have been greater had not our con- ditions of life, day by day and with increasing persistence, pushed the Russian workers towards the direct political struggle. Even a small simple strike brought the workers right up against the question of our lack of political rights, brought them into collision with the government and the armed forces, and glaringly revealed how inadequate the economic struggle was by itself. Consequently, despite the wishes of these "Social-Democrats," the struggle, day by day, increasingly assumed a distinctly political character. Every attempt of the awakened workers openly to express their discontent with the existing economic and political conditions under which the Russian workers are groaning today, every attempt to free themselves from this yoke, impelled the workers to resort to demonstrations of a kind in which the economic aspect of the struggle faded out more and more. The First of May celebrations in Russia laid the road to political struggle and to political demonstrations. And to the only weapon they possessed in their struggle in the past -- the strike -- the Russian workers added a new and powerful weapon -- the political demonstration, which was tried for the first time during the great Kharkov May Day rally in 1900.
Thus, thanks to its internal development, the Russian labour movement proceeded from propaganda in study circles and the economic struggle by means of strikes to political struggle and agitation.
This transition was markedly accelerated when the working class saw in the arena of the struggle elements from other social classes in Russia, marching with firm determination to win political freedom.
The working class is not the only class that is groaning under the yoke of the tsarist regime. The heavy fist of the autocracy is also crushing other social classes. Groaning under the yoke are the Russian peasants, wasted from constant starvation, impoverished by the unbearable burden of taxation and thrown to the mercy of the grasping bourgeois traders and the "noble" landlords. Groaning under the yoke are the little people in the towns, the minor employees in government and private offices, the minor officials -- in general, that numerous lower class of the urban population whose existence is as insecure as that of the working class, and which has every reason to be discontented with its social conditions. Groaning under the yoke is that section of the petty bourgeoisie and even of the middle bourgeoisie which cannot resign itself to the tsar's knout and lash; this applies especially to the educated section of the bourgeoisie, the so-called representatives of the liberal professions (teachers, physicians, lawyers, university and high-school students). Groaning under the yoke are the oppressed nations and religious communities in Russia, including the Poles, who are being driven from their native land and whose most sacred sentiments are being outraged, and the Finns, whose rights and liberties, granted by history, the autocracy is arrogantly trampling underfoot. Groaning under the yoke are the eternally persecuted and humiliated Jews who lack even the miserably few rights enjoyed by other Russian subjects -- the right to live in any part of the country they choose, the right to attend school, the right to be employed in government service, and so forth. Groaning are the Georgians, Armenians, and other nations who are deprived of the right to have their own schools and be employed in government offices, and are compelled to submit to the shameful and oppressive policy of Russification so zealously pursued by the autocracy. Groaning are the many millions of Russian non-conformists who wish to believe and worship in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and not with the wishes of the orthodox priests. Groaning are . . . but it is impossible to enumerate all the oppressed, all who are persecuted by the Russian autocracy. They are so numerous that if they were all aware of this, and were aware who their common enemy is, the despotic regime in Russia would not exist another day. Unfortunately, the Russian peasantry is still downtrodden by age-long slavery, poverty and ignorance; it is only just awakening, it does not yet know who its enemy is. The oppressed nations in Russia cannot even dream of liberating themselves by their own efforts so long as they are opposed not only by the Russian government, but even by the Russian people, who have not yet realised that their common enemy is the autocracy. There remain the working class, the little people among the urban population, and the educated section of the bourgeoisie.
But the bourgeoisie of all countries and nations is very skilful in reaping the fruits of another's victory, very skilful in getting others to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. It never wishes to jeopardise its own relatively privileged position in the struggle against the powerful foe, the struggle which, as yet, it is not so easy to win. Although it is discontented, its conditions of life are tolerable and, therefore, it gladly yields to the working class, and to the common people in general, the right to offer their backs to the Cossacks' whips and the soldiers' bullets, to fight at the barricades, and so forth. It "sympathises" with the struggle and at best expresses "indignation" (under its breath) at the cruelty with which the brutal enemy is quelling the popular movement. It is afraid of revolutionary action and resorts to revolutionary measures itself only at the last moment of the struggle, when the enemy's impotence is evident. This is what the experience of history teaches us. . . . Only the working class, and the people generally, who in the struggle have nothing to lose but their chains, they, only they, constitute a genuine revolutionary force. And Russia's experience, although still meagre, confirms this ancient truth taught by the history of all revolutionary movements.
Of the representatives of the privileged class only a section of the students have displayed determination to fight to the end for the satisfaction of their demands. But we must not forget that this section, too, of the students consists of sons of these same oppressed citizens, and that, until they have plunged into the sea of life and have occupied a definite social position, the students, being young intellectuals, are more inclined than any other category to strive for ideals which call them to fight for freedom.
Be that as it may, at the present time the students are coming out in the "social" movement almost as leaders, as the vanguard. The discontented sections of different social classes are now rallying around them.<"p23"> At first the students tried to fight with a weapon borrowed from the workers -- the strike. But when the government retaliated to their strikes by passing the brutal law ("Provisional Regulations") under which students who went on strike were drafted into the army, the students had only one weapon left -- to demand assistance from the Russian public and to pass from strikes to street demonstrations. And that is what the students did. They did not lay down their arms; on the contrary, they fought still more bravely and resolutely. Around them rallied the oppressed citizens, a helping hand was offered them by the working class, and the movement became powerful, a menace to the government. For two years already, the government of Russia has been waging a fierce but fruitless struggle against the rebellious citizens with the aid of its numerous troops, police and gendarmes.
The events of the past few days prove that political demonstrations cannot be defeated. The events in the early days of December in Kharkov, Moscow, Nizhni-Novgorod, Riga and other places show that public discontent is now manifesting itself consciously, and that the discontented public is ready to pass from silent protest to revolutionary action. But the demands of the students for freedom of education, for non-interference in internal university life, are too narrow for the broad social movement. To unite all the participants in this movement a banner is needed, a banner that will be understood and cherished by all and will combine all demands. Such a banner is one inscribed: Overthrow the autocracy. Only on the ruins of the autocracy will it be possible to build a social system that will be based on government by the people and ensure freedom of education, freedom to strike, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom for nationalities, etc., etc. Only such a system will provide the people with means to protect themselves against all oppressors, against the grasping merchants and capitalists, the clergy and the nobility; only such a system will open a free road to a better future, to the unhindered struggle for the establishment of the socialist system.
The students cannot, of course, wage this stupendous struggle by their own efforts alone; their weak hands cannot hold this heavy banner. To hold this banner stronger hands are needed, and under present conditions this strength lies only in the united forces of the working people. Hence, the working class must take the all-Russian banner out of the weak hands of the students and, inscribing on it the slogan: "Down with the autocracy! Long live a democratic constitution!", lead the Russian people to freedom. We must be grateful to the students for the lesson they have taught us: they showed how enormously important political demonstrations are in the revolutionary struggle.
Street demonstrations are interesting in that they quickly draw large masses of the people into the movement, acquaint them with our demands at once and create extensive favourable soil in which we can boldly sow the seeds of socialist ideas and of political freedom. Street demonstrations give rise to street agitation, to the influence of which the backward and timid section of society cannot help yielding.[*] A man has only to go out into the street during a demonstration to see courageous fighters, to understand what they are fighting for, to hear free voices calling upon everybody to join the struggle, and militant songs denouncing the existing system and exposing our social evils. That is why the government fears street demonstrations more than any thing else. That is why it threatens with dire punishment not only the demonstrators, but also the "curious onlookers" In this curiosity of the people lurks the chief danger that threatens the government: the "curious onlookers" of today will be a demonstrator tomorrow and rally new groups of "curious onlookers" around himself. And today there are tens of thousands of such "curious onlookers" in every large town. Russians no longer run into hiding, as they did before, on hearing of disorders taking place somewhere or other ("I'd better get out of the way in case I get into trouble," they used to say); today they flock to the scene of the disorders and evince "curiosity": they are eager to know why these disorders are taking place, why so many people offer their backs to the lash of the Cossacks' whip.
In these circumstances, the "curious-onlookers" cease to listen indifferently to the swish of whips and sabres. The "curious onlookers" see that the demonstrators have assembled in the streets to express their wishes and demands, and that the government retaliates <"fnp25">
* Under the conditions at present prevailing in Russia illegally printed books and agitation leaflets reach each inhabitant with enormous difficulty. Although the effects of the distribution of such literature are considerable, in most cases it covers only a minority of the population.
by beatings and brutal suppression. The "curious onlookers" no longer run away on hearing the swish of whips; on the contrary, they draw nearer, and the whips can no longer distinguish between the "curious onlookers" and the "rioters." Now, conforming to "complete democratic equality" the whips play on the backs of all, irrespective of sex, age and even class. Thereby, the whip lash is rendering us a great service, for it is hastening the revolutionisation of the "curious onlookers." It is being transformed from an instrument for taming into an instrument for rousing the people.
Hence, even if street demonstrations do not produce direct results for us, even if the demonstrators are still too weak today to compel the government immediately to yield to the popular demands -- the sacrifices we make in street demonstrations today will be compensated a hundredfold. Every militant who falls in the struggle, or is torn out of our ranks, rouses hundreds of new fighters. For the time being we shall be beaten more than once in the street; the government will continue to emerge victorious from street fighting again and again; but these will be Pyrrhic victories. A few more victories like these -- and the defeat of absolutism is inevitable. The victories it achieves today are preparing its defeat. And we, firmly convinced that that day will come, that that day is not far distant, risk the lash in order to sow the seeds of political agitation and socialism.
The government is no less convinced than we are that street agitation spells its death warrant, that within another two or three years the spectre of a people's revolution will loom before it. The other day the government announced through the mouth of the Governor of Yekaterinoslav Gubernia that it "will not hesitate to resort to extreme measures to crush the slightest attempt at a street demonstration." As you see, this statement smacks of bullets, and perhaps even of shells, but we think that bullets are no less potent than whips as a means of rousing discontent. We do not think that the government will be able even with the aid of such "extreme measures" to restrain political agitation for long and hinder its development. We hope that revolutionary Social-Democracy will succeed in adjusting its agitation to the new conditions which the government will create by resorting to these "extreme measures." In any case, Social-Democracy must watch events vigilantly, it must quickly apply the lessons taught by these events, and skilfully adjust its activities to the changing conditions.
But to be able to do this, Social-Democracy must have a strong and compact organisation, to be precise, a party organisation, that is united not only in name, but also in its fundamental principles and tactical views. Our task is to work to create this strong party that is armed with firm principles and impenetrable secrecy.
The Social-Democratic Party must take advantage of the new street movement that has commenced, it must take the banner of Russian democracy into its own hands and lead it to the victory that all desire !
Thus, there is opening up before us a period of primarily political struggle. Such a struggle is inevitable for us because, under present political conditions, the economic struggle (strikes) cannot produce substantial results. Even in free countries the strike is a two-edged sword: even there, although the workers possess the means of fighting -- political freedom, strongly organised labour unions and large funds -- strikes often end in the defeat of the workers. In our country, however, where strikes are a crime punishable by arrest and are suppressed by armed force, where all labour unions are prohibited, strikes acquire the significance only of a protest. For the purpose of protest, however, demonstrations are far more powerful weapons. In strikes the forces of the workers are dispersed; the workers of only one factory, or of a few factories and, at best, of one trade, take part; the organisation of a general strike is a very difficult matter even in Western Europe, but in our country it is quite impossible. In street demonstrations, however, the workers unite their forces at once.
All this shows what a narrow view is taken by those "Social-Democrats" who want to confine the labour movement to the economic struggle and industrial organisation, to leave the political struggle to the "intelligentsia," to the students, to society, and assign to the workers only the role of an auxiliary force. History teaches that under such circumstances the workers will merely pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie, as a rule, gladly utilise the muscular arms of the workers in the struggle against autocratic government, and when victory has been achieved they reap its fruits and leave the workers empty-handed. If this happens in our country, the workers will gain nothing from this struggle. As regards the students and other dissidents among the public -- they, after all, also belong to the bourgeoisie. It will be sufficient to give them a harmless, "plucked constitution" that grants the people only the most insignificant rights, for all these dissidents to sing a different song: they will begin to extol the "new" regime. The bourgeoisie live in constant dread of the "red spectre" of communism, and in all revolutions they try to put a stop to things when they are only just beginning. After receiving a tiny concession in their favour they, terrified by the workers, stretch out a hand of conciliation to the government and shamelessly betray the cause of freedom.[*]
The working class alone is a reliable bulwark of genuine democracy. It alone finds it impossible to compromise with the autocracy for the sake of a concession, and it will not allow itself to be lulled by sweet songs sung to the accompaniment of the constitutional lute.
Hence the question as to whether the working class will succeed in taking the lead in the general democratic movement, or whether it will drag at the tail of the movement in the capacity of an auxiliary force of the "intelligentsia," i.e., the bourgeoisie, is an extremely important one for the cause of democracy in Russia. In the former case, the overthrow of the autocracy will result in a broad democratic constitution, which will grant equal rights to the workers, to the downtrodden peasantry and to the capitalists. In the latter case, we shall have that "plucked constitution," which will be able, no less than absolutism, to trample upon the demands of the workers and will grant the people the mere shadow of freedom.
* Here, of course, we do not mean that section of the intelligentsia which is already renouncing its class and is fighting in the ranks of the Social-Democrats. But such intellectuals are only exceptions, they are "white ravens."
But in order to be able to play this leading role, the working class must organise in an independent political party. If it does that, no betrayal or treachery on the part of its temporary ally -- "society" -- will have any terrors for it in the struggle against absolutism. The moment this "society" betrays the cause of democracy, the working class itself will lead that cause forward by its own efforts -- the independent political party will give it the necessary strength to do so.
<"en2"> Rabochaya Mysl (Workers' Thought ) -- a newspaper which openly advocated the opportunist views of the "Economists." Published from October 1897 to December 1902. Sixteen issues appeared. [p. 15]
<"en3"> The Law of June 2, 1897, fixed the working day for workers in industrial enterprises and railway workshops at 11 1/2 hours, and also reduced the number of holidays for the workers. [p. 15]
<"en4"> This refers to the "Provisional Regulations Governing Military Service for Students at Higher Educational Establishments" introduced by the government on July 29, 1899. On the basis of these regulations, students who took part in collective demonstrations against the police regime that had been introduced in higher educational establishments were expelled and conscripted as privates in the tsarist army for a period ranging from one to three years. [p. 23]