At the end of the nineteenth century the imperialist states began an intense struggle for mastery of the Pacific and for the partition of China. Tsarist Russia, too, took part in this struggle. In 1900, tsarist troops together with Japanese, German, British and French troops suppressed with unparalleled cruelty an uprising of the Chinese people directed against the foreign imperialists. Even before this the tsarist government had compelled China to surrender to Russia the Liaotung Peninsula with the fortress of Port Arthur. Russia secured the right to build railways on Chinese territory. A railway was built in Northern Manchuria – the Chinese-Eastern Railway – and Russian troops were stationed there to protect it. Northern Manchuria fell under the military occupation of tsarist Russia. Tsardom was advancing towards Korea. The Russian bourgeoisie was making plans for founding a "Yellow Russia" in Manchuria.
Its annexations in the Far East brought tsardom into conflict with another marauder, Japan, which had rapidly become an imperialist country and was also bent on annexing territories on the Asiatic continent, in the first place at the expense of China. Like tsarist Russia, Japan was striving to lay her hands on Korea and Manchuria. Already at that time Japan dreamed of seizing Sakhalin and the Russian Far East. Great Britain, who feared the growing strength of tsarist Russia in the Far East, secretly sided with Japan. War between Russia and Japan was brewing. The tsarist government was pushed to this war by the big bourgeoisie, which was seeking new markets, and by the more reactionary sections of the landlord class.
Without waiting for the tsarist government to declare war, Japan started hostilities herself. She had a good espionage service in Russia and anticipated that her foe would be unprepared for the struggle. In January 1904, without declaring war, Japan suddenly attacked the Russian fortress of Port Arthur and inflicted heavy losses on the Russian fleet lying in the harbour.
That is how the Russo-Japanese War began.
The tsarist government reckoned that the war would help to strengthen its political position and to check the revolution. But it miscalculated. The tsarist regime was shaken more than ever by the war.
Poorly armed and trained, and commanded by incompetent and corrupt generals, the Russian army suffered defeat after defeat.
Capitalists, government officials and generals grew rich on the war. Peculation was rampant. The troops were poorly supplied. When the army was short of ammunition, it would receive, as if in derision, carloads of icons. The soldiers said bitterly: "The Japanese are giving it to us with shells; we're to give it to them with icons." Special trains, instead of being used to evacuate the wounded, were loaded with property looted by the tsarist generals.
The Japanese besieged and subsequently captured Port Arthur. After inflicting a number of defeats on the tsarist army, they finally routed it near Mukden. In this battle the tsarist army of 300,000 men lost about 120,000 men, killed, wounded or taken prisoner. This was followed by the utter defeat and destruction in the Straits of Tsushima of the tsarist fleet dispatched from the Baltic to relieve Port Arthur. The defeat at Tsushima was disastrous: of the twenty warships dispatched by the tsar, thirteen were sunk or destroyed and four captured. Tsarist Russia had definitely lost the war.
The tsarist government was compelled to conclude an ignominious peace with Japan. Japan seized Korea and deprived Russia of Port Arthur and of half the Island of Sakhalin.
The people had not wanted the war and realized how harmful it would be for the country. They paid heavily for the backwardness of tsarist Russia.
The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks adopted different attitudes towards the war.
The Mensheviks, including Trotsky, were sinking to a position of defending the "fatherland" of the tsar, the landlords and the capitalists. The Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, on the other hand, held that the defeat of the tsarist government in this predatory war would be useful, as it would weaken tsardom and strengthen the revolution.
The defeats of the tsarist armies opened the eyes of the masses to the rottenness of tsardom. Their hatred for the tsarist regime grew daily more intense. The fall of Port Arthur meant the beginning of the fall of the autocracy, Lenin wrote.
The tsar wanted to use the war to stifle the revolution. He achieved the very opposite. The Russo-Japanese War hastened the outbreak of the revolution.
In tsarist Russia the capitalist yoke was aggravated by the yoke of tsardom. The workers not only suffered from capitalist exploitation, from inhuman toil, but, in common with the whole people, suffered from a lack of all rights. The politically advanced workers therefore strove to lead the revolutionary movement of all the democratic elements in town and country against tsardom. The peasants were in dire need owing to lack of land and the numerous survivals of serfdom, and lived in a state of bondage to the landlords and kulaks. The nations inhabiting tsarist Russia groaned beneath a double yoke – that of their own landlords and capitalists and that of the Russian landlords and capitalists. The economic crisis of 1900-03 had aggravated the hardships of the toiling masses; the war intensified them still further. The war defeats added fuel to the hatred of the masses for tsardom. The patience of the people was coming to an end.
As we see, there were grounds enough and to spare for revolution.
In December 1904 a huge and well-organized strike of workers took place in Baku, led by the Baku Committee of the Bolsheviks. The strike ended in a victory for the workers and a collective agreement was concluded between the oilfield workers and owners, the first of its kind in the history of the working-class movement in Russia.
The Baku strike marked the beginning of a revolutionary rise in Transcaucasia and in various parts of Russia.
"The Baku strike was the signal for the glorious actions in January and February all over Russia." (Stalin.)
This strike was like a clap of thunder heralding a great revolutionary storm.
The revolutionary storm broke with the events of January 9 (22, New Style), 1905, in St. Petersburg.
On January 3, 1905, a strike began at the biggest of the St. Petersburg plants, the Putilov (now the Kirov) Works. The strike was caused by the dismissal of four workers. It grew rapidly and was joined by other St. Petersburg mills and factories. The strike became general. The movement grew formidable. The tsarist government decided to crush it while it was still in its earliest phase.
In 1904, prior to the Putilov strike, the police had used the services of an agent-provocateur, a priest by the name of Gapon, to form an organization of the workers known as the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers. This organization had its branches in all the districts of St. Petersburg. When the strike broke out the priest Gapon at the meetings of his society put forward a treacherous plan: all the workers were to gather on January 9 and, carrying church banners and portraits of the tsar, to march in peaceful procession to the Winter Palace and present a petition to the tsar stating their needs. The tsar would appear before the people, listen to them and satisfy their demands. Gapon undertook to assist the tsarist Okhrana by providing a pretext for firing on the workers and drowning the working-class movement in blood. But this police plot recoiled on the head of the tsarist government.
The petition was discussed at workers' meetings where amendments were made. Bolsheviks spoke at these meetings without openly announcing themselves as such. Under their influence, the petition was supplemented by demands for freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association for the workers, the convocation of a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of changing the political system of Russia, equality of all before the law, separation of church from the state, termination of the war, an 8-hour working day, and the handing over of the land to the peasants.
At these meetings the Bolsheviks explained to the workers that liberty could not be obtained by petitions to the tsar, but would have to be won by force of arms. The Bolsheviks warned the workers that they would be fired upon. But they were unable to prevent the procession to the Winter Palace. A large part of the workers still believed that the tsar would help them. The movement had taken a strong hold on the masses.
The petition of the St. Petersburg workers stated:
"We, the workingmen of St. Petersburg, our wives, our children and our helpless old parents, have come to Thee, our Sovereign, to seek truth and protection. We are poverty-stricken, we are oppressed, we are burdened with unendurable toil; we suffer humiliation and are not treated like human beings.... We have suffered in patience, but we are being driven deeper and deeper into the slough of poverty, lack of rights and ignorance; we are being strangled by despotism and tyranny.... Our patience is exhausted. The dreaded moment has arrived when we would rather die than bear these intolerable sufferings any longer...."
Early in the morning of January 9, 1905, the workers marched to the Winter Palace where the tsar was then residing. They came with their whole families – wives, children and old folk – carrying portraits of the tsar and church banners. They chanted hymns as they marched. They were unarmed. Over 140,000 persons gathered in the streets.
They met with a hostile reception from Nicholas II. He gave orders to fire upon the unarmed workers. That day over a thousand workers were killed and more than two thousand wounded by the tsar's troops. The streets of St. Petersburg ran with workers' blood.
The Bolsheviks had marched with the workers. Many of them were killed or arrested. There, in the streets running with workers' blood, the Bolsheviks explained to the workers who it was that bore the guilt for this heinous crime and how he was to be fought.
January 9 came to be known as "Bloody Sunday:" On that day the workers received a bloody lesson. It was their faith in the tsar that was riddled by bullets on that day. They came to realize that they could win their rights only by struggle. That evening barricades were already being erected in the working-class districts. The workers said: "The tsar gave it to us; we'll now give it to him!"
The fearful news of the tsar's bloody crime spread far and wide. The whole working class, the whole country was stirred by indignation and abhorrence. There was not a town where the workers did not strike in protest against the tsar's villainous act and did not put forward political demands. The workers now emerged into the streets with the slogan, "Down with autocracy!" In January the number of strikers reached the immense figure of 440,000. More workers came out on strike in one month than during the whole preceding decade. The working-class movement rose to an unprecedented height. Revolution in Russia had begun.
After January 9 the revolutionary struggle of the workers grew more acute and assumed a political character. The workers began to pass from economic strikes and sympathy strikes to political strikes, to demonstrations, and in places to armed resistance to the tsarist troops. Particularly stubborn and well organized were the strikes in the big cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, Riga and Baku, where large numbers of workers were concentrated. The metal workers marched in the front ranks of the fighting proletariat. By their strikes, the vanguard of the workers stirred up the less class-conscious sections and roused the whole working class to the struggle. The influence of the Social-Democrats grew rapidly.
The May Day demonstrations in a number of towns were marked by clashes with police and troops. In Warsaw, the demonstration was fired upon and several hundred persons were killed or wounded. At the call of the Polish Social-Democrats the workers replied to the shooting in Warsaw by a general protest strike. Strikes and demonstrations did not cease throughout the month of May. In that month over 200,000 workers went on strike throughout Russia. General strikes broke out in Baku, Lodz and Ivanovo-Voznesensk. More and more frequently the strikers and demonstrators clashed with the tsarist troops. Such clashes took place in a number of cities – Odessa, Warsaw, Riga, Lodz and others.
Particularly acute was the struggle in Lodz, a large Polish industrial centre. The workers erected scores of barricades in the streets of Lodz and for three days (June 22-24, 1905) battled in the streets against the tsarist troops. Here armed action merged with a general strike. Lenin regarded these battles as the first armed action of the workers in Russia.
The outstanding strike that summer was that of the workers of Ivanovo-Voznesensk. It lasted for about two and a half months, from the end of May to the beginning of August 1905. About 70,000 workers, among them many women, took part in the strike. It was led by the Bolshevik Northern Committee. Thousands of workers gathered almost daily outside the city on the banks of the River Talka. At these meetings they discussed their needs. The workers' meetings were addressed by Bolsheviks. In order to crush the strike, the tsarist authorities ordered the troops to disperse the workers and to fire upon them. Several scores of workers were killed and several hundred wounded. A state of emergency was proclaimed in the city. But the workers remained firm and would not return to work. They and their families starved, but would not surrender. It was only extreme exhaustion that in the end compelled them to return to work. The strike steeled the workers. It was an example of the courage, staunchness, endurance and solidarity of the working class. It was a real political education for the workers of Ivanovo-Voznesensk.
During the strike the workers of Ivanovo-Voznesensk set up a Council of Representatives, which was actually one of the first Soviets of Workers' Deputies in Russia.
The workers' political strikes stirred up the whole country.
Following the town, the countryside began to rise. In the spring, peasant unrest broke out. The peasants marched in great crowds against the landlords, raided their estates, sugar refineries and distilleries, and set fire to their palaces and manors. In a number of places the peasants seized the land, resorted to wholesale cutting down of forests, and demanded hat the landed estates be turned over to the people. They seized the landlords' stores of grain and other products and divided them among the starving. The landlords fled in panic to the towns. The tsarist government dispatched soldiers and Cossacks to crush the peasants' revolts. The troops fired on the peasants, arrested the "ringleaders" and flogged and tortured them. But the peasants would not cease their struggle.
The peasant movement spread ever wider in the central parts of Russia, the Volga region, and in Transcaucasia, especially in Georgia.
The Social-Democrats penetrated deeper into the countryside. The Central Committee of the Party issued an appeal to the peasants entitled: "To You, Peasants, We Address Our Word!" The Social-Democratic committees in the Tver, Saratov, Poltava, Chernigov, Ekaterinoslav, Tiflis and many other provinces issued appeals to the peasants. In the villages, the Social-Democrats would arrange meetings, organize circles among the peasants, and set up peasant committees. In the summer of 1905 strikes of agricultural labourers, organized by Social-Democrats, occurred in many places.
But this was only the beginning of the peasant struggle. The peasant movement affected only 85 uyezds (districts), or roughly one-seventh of the total number of uyezds in the European part of tsarist Russia.
The movement of the workers and peasants and the series of reverses suffered by the Russian troops in the Russo-Japanese War had its influence on the armed forces. This bulwark of tsardom began to totter.
In June 1905 a revolt broke out on the Potemkin, a battleship of the Black Sea Fleet. The battleship was at that time stationed near Odessa, where a general strike of the workers was in progress. The insurgent sailors wreaked vengeance on their more detested officers and brought the vessel to Odessa. The battleship Potemkin had gone over to the side of the revolution.
Lenin attributed immense importance to this revolt. He considered it necessary for the Bolsheviks to assume the leadership of this movement and to link it up with the movement of the workers, peasants and the local garrisons.
The tsar dispatched several warships against the Potemkin, but the sailors of these vessels refused to fire on their insurgent comrades. For several days the red ensign of revolution waved from the mast of the battleship Potemkin. But at that time, in 1905, the Bolshevik Party was not the only party leading the movement, as was the case later, in 1917. There were quite a number of Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists on board the Potemkin. Consequently, although individual Social-Democrats took part in the revolt, it lacked proper and sufficiently experienced leadership. At decisive moments part of the sailors wavered. The other vessels of the Black Sea Fleet did not join the revolt of the Potemkin. Having run short of coal and provisions, the revolutionary battleship was compelled to make for the Rumanian shore and there surrender to the authorities.
The revolt of the sailors on the battleship Potemkin ended in defeat. The sailors who subsequently fell into the hands of the tsarist government were committed for trial. Some were executed and others condemned to exile and penal servitude. But the revolt in itself was an event of the utmost importance. The Potemkin revolt was the first instance of mass revolutionary action in the army and navy, the first occasion on which a large unit of the armed forces of the tsar sided with the revolution. This revolt made the idea of the army and navy joining forces with the working class, the people, more comprehensible to and nearer to the heart of the workers and peasants, and especially of the soldiers and sailors themselves.
The workers' recourse to mass political strikes and demonstrations, the growth of the peasant movement, the armed clashes between the people and the police and troops, and, finally, the revolt in the Black Sea Fleet, all went to show that conditions were ripening for an armed uprising of the people. This stirred the liberal bourgeoisie into action. Fearing the revolution, and at the same time frightening the tsar with the spectre of revolution, it sought to come to terms with the tsar against the revolution; it demanded slight reforms "for the people" so as to "pacify" the people, to split the forces of the revolution and thus avert the "horrors of revolution." "Better part with some of our land than part with our heads," said the liberal landlords. The liberal bourgeoisie was preparing to share power with the tsar. "The proletariat is fighting; the bourgeoisie is stealing towards power," Lenin wrote in those days in reference to the tactics of the working class and the tactics of the liberal bourgeoisie.
The tsarist government continued to suppress the workers and peasants with brutal ferocity. But it could not help seeing that it would never cope with the revolution by repressive measures alone. Therefore, without abandoning measures of repression, it resorted to a policy of manoeuvring. On the one hand, with the help of its agents-provocateurs, it incited the peoples of Russia against each other, engineering Jewish pogroms and mutual massacres of Armenians and Tatars. On the other hand, it promised to convene a "representative institution" in the shape of a Zemsky Sobor or a State Duma, and instructed the Minister Bulygin to draw up a project for such a Duma, stipulating, however, that it was to have no legislative powers. All these measures were adopted in order to split the forces of revolution and to sever from it the moderate sections of the people.
The Bolsheviks declared a boycott of the Bulygin Duma with the aim of frustrating this travesty of popular representation.
The Mensheviks, on the other hand, decided not to sabotage the Duma and considered it necessary to take part in it.
The revolution had set in motion all classes of society. The turn in the political life of the country caused by the revolution dislodged them from their old wonted positions and compelled them to regroup themselves in conformity with the new situation. Each class and each party endeavoured to work out its tactics, its line of conduct, its attitude towards other classes, and its attitude towards the government. Even the tsarist government found itself compelled to devise new and unaccustomed tactics, as instanced by the promise to convene a "representative institution" – the Bulygin Duma.
The Social-Democratic Party, too, had to work out its tactics. This was dictated by the growing tide of the revolution. It was dictated by the practical questions that faced the proletariat and brooked no delay: organization of armed uprising, overthrow of the tsarist government, creation of a provisional revolutionary government, participation of the Social-Democrats in this government, attitude towards the peasantry and towards the liberal bourgeoisie, etc. The Social-Democrats had to work out for themselves carefully considered and uniform Marxist tactics.
But owing to the opportunism of the Mensheviks and their splitting activities, the Russian Social-Democratic Party was at that time divided into two groups. The split could not yet be considered complete, and formally the two groups were not yet two separate parties; but in reality they very much resembled two separate parties, each with its own leading centre and its own press.
What helped to widen the split was the fact that to their old differences with the majority of the Party over organizational questions the Mensheviks added new differences, differences over tactical questions.
The absence of a united party resulted in the absence of uniform party tactics.
A way out of the situation may have been found by immediately summoning another congress, the Third Congress of the Party, establishing common tactics and binding the minority to carry out in good faith the decisions of the congress, the decisions of the majority. This was what the Bolsheviks proposed to the Mensheviks. But the Mensheviks would not hear of summoning the Third Congress. Considering it a crime to leave the Party any longer without tactics endorsed by the Party and binding upon all Party members, the Bolsheviks decided to take the initiative of convening the Third Congress into their own hands.
All the Party organizations, both Bolshevik and Menshevik, were invited to the congress. But the Mensheviks refused to take part in the Third Congress and decided to hold one of their own. As the number of delegates at their congress proved to be small, they called it a conference, but actually it was a congress, a Menshevik party congress, whose decisions were considered binding on all Mensheviks.
The Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Party met in London in April 1905. It was attended by 24 delegates representing 20 Bolshevik Committees. All the large organizations of the Party were represented.
The congress condemned the Mensheviks as "a section that had split away from the Party" and passed on to the business on hand, the working out of the tactics of the Party.
At the same time that this congress was held, the Mensheviks held their conference in Geneva.
"Two congresses – two parties," was the way Lenin summed up the situation.
Both the congress and the conference virtually discussed the same tactical questions, but the decisions they arrived at were diametrically opposite. The two sets of resolutions adopted by the congress and the conference respectively revealed the whole depth of the tactical difference between the Third Party Congress and the Menshevik conference, between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Here are the main points of these differences.
Tactical line of the Third Party Congress. The congress held that despite the bourgeois-democratic character of the revolution in progress, despite the fact that it could not at the given moment go beyond the limits of what was possible within the framework of capitalism, it was primarily the proletariat that was interested in its complete victory, for the victory of this revolution would enable the proletariat to organize itself, to grow politically, to acquire experience and competence in political leadership of the toiling masses, and to proceed from the bourgeois revolution to the Socialist revolution.
Tactics of the proletariat designed to achieve the complete victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution could find support only in the peasantry, for the latter could not settle scores with the landlords and obtain possession of their lands without the complete victory of the revolution. The peasantry was therefore the natural ally of the proletariat.
The liberal bourgeoisie was not interested in the complete victory of this revolution, for it needed the tsarist regime as a whip against the workers and peasants, whom it feared more than anything else, and it would strive to preserve the tsarist regime, only somewhat restricting its powers. The liberal bourgeoisie would therefore attempt to end matters by coming to terms with the tsar on the basis of a constitutional monarchy.
The revolution would win only if headed by the proletariat; if the proletariat, as the leader of the revolution, secured an alliance with the peasantry; if the liberal bourgeoisie were isolated; if the Social-Democratic Party took an active part in the organization of the uprising of the people against tsardom; if, as the result of a successful uprising, a provisional revolutionary government were set up that would be capable of destroying the counter-revolution root and branch and convening a Constituent Assembly representing the whole people; and if the Social-Democratic Party did not refuse, the circumstances being favourable, to take part in the provisional revolutionary government in order to carry the revolution to its conclusion.
Tactical line of the Menshevik conference. Inasmuch as the revolution was a bourgeois revolution, only the liberal bourgeoisie could be its leader. The proletariat should not establish close relations with the peasantry, but with the liberal bourgeoisie. The chief thing was not to frighten off the liberal bourgeoisie by a display of revolutionary spirit and not to give it a pretext to recoil from the revolution, for if it were to recoil from the revolution, the revolution would be weakened.
It was possible that the uprising would prove victorious; but after the triumph of the uprising the Social-Democratic Party should step aside so as not to frighten away the liberal bourgeoisie. It was possible that as a result of the uprising a provisional revolutionary government would be set up; but the Social-Democratic Party should under no circumstances take part in it, because this government would not be Socialist in character, and because – and this was the chief thing – by its participation in this government and by its revolutionary spirit, the Social-Democratic Party might frighten off the liberal bourgeoisie and thus undermine the revolution.
It would be better for the prospects of the revolution if some sort of representative institution were convened, of the nature of a Zemsky Sobor or a State Duma, which could be subjected to the pressure of the working class from without so as to transform it into a Constituent Assembly or impel it to convene a Constituent Assembly.
The proletariat had its own specific, purely wage-worker interests, and it should attend to these interests only and not try to become the leader of the bourgeois revolution, which, being a general political revolution, concerned all classes and not the proletariat alone.
Such, in brief, were the two tactics of the two groups of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.
In his historic book, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Lenin gave a classical criticism of the tactics of the Mensheviks and a brilliant substantiation of the Bolshevik tactics.
This book appeared in July 1905, that is, two months after the Third Party Congress. One might assume from its title that Lenin dealt in it only with tactical questions relating to the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution and had only the Russian Mensheviks in mind. But as a matter of fact when he criticized the tactics of the Mensheviks he at the same time exposed the tactics of international opportunism; and when he substantiated the Marxist tactics in the period of the bourgeois revolution and drew the distinction between the bourgeois revolution and the Socialist revolution, he at the same time formulated the fundamental principles of the Marxist tactics in the period of transition from the bourgeois revolution to the Socialist revolution.
The fundamental tactical principles expounded by Lenin in his pamphlet, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, were as follows:
1) The main tactical principle, one that runs through Lenin's whole book, is that the proletariat can and must be the leader of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the guiding force of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia.
Lenin admitted the bourgeois character of this revolution, for, as he said, "it is incapable of directly overstepping the bounds of a mere democratic revolution." However, he held that it was not a revolution of the upper strata, but a people's revolution, one that would set in motion the whole people, the whole working class, the whole peasantry. Hence the attempts of the Mensheviks to belittle the significance of the bourgeois revolution for the proletariat, to depreciate the role of the proletariat in it, and to keep the proletariat away from it were in Lenin's opinion a betrayal of the interests of the proletariat.
"Marxism," Lenin said, "teaches the proletarian not to keep aloof from the bourgeois revolution, not to be indifferent to it, not to allow the leadership of the revolution to be assumed by the bourgeoisie, but, on the contrary, to take a most energetic part in it, to fight most resolutely for consistent proletarian democracy, for carrying the revolution to its conclusion." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol.-III, p. 77.)
"We must not forget," Lenin says further, "that there is not, nor can there be, at the present time, any other means of bringing Socialism nearer, than complete political liberty, than a democratic republic." (Ibid., p. 122.)
Lenin foresaw two possible outcomes of the revolution:
a) Either it would end in a decisive victory over tsardom, in the overthrow of tsardom and the establishment of a democratic republic;
b) Or, if the forces were inadequate, it might end in a deal between the tsar and the bourgeoisie at the expense of the people, in some sort of curtailed constitution, or, most likely, in some caricature of a constitution.
The proletariat was interested in the better outcome of the two, that is, in a decisive victory over tsardom. But such an outcome was possible only if the proletariat succeeded in becoming the leader and guide of the revolution.
"The outcome of the revolution," Lenin said, "depends on whether the working class will play the part of a subsidiary to the bourgeoisie, a subsidiary that is powerful in the force of its onslaught against the autocracy but impotent politically, or whether it will play the part of leader of the people's revolution." (Ibid., p. 41.)
Lenin maintained that the proletariat had every possibility of escaping the fate of a subsidiary to the bourgeoisie, and of becoming the leader of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. This possibility, according to Lenin, arises from the following.
First, "the proletariat, being, by virtue of its very position, the most advanced and the only consistently revolutionary class, is for that very reason called upon to play the leading part in the general democratic revolutionary movement in Russia." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VIII, p. 75.)
Secondly, the proletariat has its own political party, which is independent of the bourgeoisie and which enables the proletariat to weld itself "into a united and independent political force." (Ibid., p. 75.)
Thirdly, the proletariat is more interested than the bourgeoisie in a decisive victory of the revolution, in view of which "in a certain sense the bourgeois revolution is more advantageous to the proletariat than to the bourgeoisie." (Ibid., p. 57.)
"It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie," Lenin wrote, "to rely on certain remnants of the past as against the proletariat, for instance, on the monarchy, the standing army, etc. It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie if the bourgeois revolution does not too resolutely sweep away all the remnants of the past, but leaves some of them, i.e., if this revolution is not fully consistent, if it is not complete and if it is not determined and relentless.... It is of greater advantage to the bourgeoisie if the necessary changes in the direction of bourgeois democracy take place more slowly, more gradually, more cautiously, less resolutely, by means of reforms and not by means of revolution... if these changes develop as little as possible the independent revolutionary activity, initiative and energy of the common people, i.e., the peasantry and especially the workers, for otherwise it will be easier for the workers, as the French say, 'to hitch the rifle from one shoulder to the other,' i.e., to turn against the bourgeoisie the guns which the bourgeois revolution will place in their hands, the liberty which the revolution will bring, the democratic institutions which will spring up on the ground that is cleared of serfdom. On the other hand, it is more advantageous for the working class if the necessary changes in the direction of bourgeois democracy take place by way of revolution and not by way of reform; for the way of reform is the way of delay, of procrastination, of the painfully slow decomposition of the putrid parts of the national organism. It is the proletariat and the peasantry that suffer first of all and most of all from their putrefaction. The revolutionary way is the way of quick amputation, which is the least painful to the proletariat, the way of the direct removal of the decomposing parts, the way of fewest concessions to and least consideration for the monarchy and the disgusting, vile, rotten and contaminating institutions which go with it." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, pp. 756.)
"That," Lenin continues, "is why the proletariat fights in the front ranks for a republic and contemptuously rejects silly and unworthy advice to take care not to frighten away the bourgeoisie." (Ibid., p. 108.)
In order to convert the possibility of the proletarian leadership of the revolution into a reality, in order that the proletariat might actually become the leader, the guiding force of the bourgeois revolution, at least two conditions were needed, according to Lenin.
First, it was necessary for the proletariat to have an ally who was interested in a decisive victory over tsardom and who might be disposed to accept the leadership of the proletariat. This was dictated by the very idea of leadership, for a leader ceases to be a leader if there is nobody to lead, a guide ceases to be a guide if there is nobody to guide. Lenin considered that the peasantry was such an ally.
Secondly, it was necessary that the class, which was fighting the proletariat for the leadership of the revolution and striving to become its sole leader, should be forced out of the arena of leadership and isolated. This too was dictated by the very idea of leadership, which precluded the possibility of there being two leaders of the revolution. Lenin considered that the liberal bourgeoisie was such a class.
"Only the proletariat can be a consistent fighter for democracy," Lenin said. "It may become a victorious fighter for democracy only if the peasant masses join its revolutionary struggle." (Ibid., p. 86.)
"The peasantry includes a great number of semi-proletarian as well as petty-bourgeois elements. This causes it also to be unstable and compels the proletariat to unite in a strictly class party. But the instability of the peasantry differs radically from the instability of the bourgeoisie, for at the present time the peasantry is interested not so much in the absolute preservation of private property as in the confiscation of the landed estates, one of the principal forms of private property. While this does not cause the peasantry to become Socialist or cease to be petty-bourgeois, the peasantry is capable of becoming a whole-hearted and most radical adherent of the democratic revolution. The peasantry will inevitably become such if only the progress of revolutionary events, which is enlightening it, is not interrupted too soon by the treachery of the bourgeoisie and the defeat of the proletariat. Subject to this condition, the peasantry will inevitably become a bulwark of the revolution and the republic, for only a completely victorious revolution can give the peasantry everything in the sphere of agrarian reforms – everything that the peasants desire, of which they dream, and of which they truly stand in need." (Ibid., pp. 108-09.)
Analysing the objections of the Mensheviks, who asserted that these Bolshevik tactics "will compel the bourgeois classes to recoil from the cause of the revolution and thus curtail its scope," and characterizing these objections as "tactics of betrayal of the revolution," as "tactics which would convert the proletariat into a wretched appendage of the bourgeois classes," Lenin wrote:
"Those who really understand the role of the peasantry in the victorious Russian revolution would not dream of saying that the sweep of the revolution would be diminished if the bourgeoisie recoiled from it. For, as a matter of fact, the Russian revolution will begin to assume its real sweep, will really assume the widest revolutionary sweep possible in the epoch of bourgeois-democratic revolution, only when the bourgeoisie recoils from it and when the masses of the peasantry come out as active revolutionaries side by side with the proletariat. In order that it may be consistently carried to its conclusion, our democratic revolution must rely on such forces as are capable of paralysing the inevitable inconsistency of the bourgeoisie, i.e., capable precisely of 'causing it to recoil from the revolution.'" (Ibid., p. 110.)
Such is the main tactical principle regarding the proletariat as the leader of the bourgeois revolution, the fundamental tactical principle regarding the hegemony (leading role) of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution, expounded by Lenin in his book, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.
This was a new line of the Marxist party on questions of tactics in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, a line fundamentally different from the tactical lines hitherto existing in the arsenal of Marxism. The situation before had been that in the bourgeois revolution – in Western Europe, for instance – it was the bourgeoisie that played the leading part, the proletariat willy-nilly playing the part of its subsidiary, while the peasantry was a reserve of the bourgeoisie. The Marxists considered such a combination more or less inevitable, at the same time stipulating that the proletariat must as far as possible fight for its own immediate class demands and have its own political party. Now, under the new historical conditions, according to Lenin, the situation was changing in such a way that the proletariat was becoming the guiding force of the bourgeois revolution, the bourgeoisie was being edged out of the leadership of the revolution, while the peasantry was becoming a reserve of the proletariat.
The claim that Plekhanov "also stood" for the hegemony of the proletariat is based upon a misunderstanding. Plekhanov flirted with the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat and was not averse to recognizing it in words – that is true. But in reality he was opposed to this idea in its essence. The hegemony of the proletariat implies the leading role of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution, accompanied by a policy of alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry and a policy of isolation of the liberal bourgeoisie; whereas Plekhanov, as we know, was opposed to the policy of isolating the liberal bourgeoisie, favoured a policy of agreement with the liberal bourgeoisie, and was opposed to a policy of alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. As a matter of fact, Plekhanov's tactical line was the Menshevik line which rejected the hegemony of the proletariat.
2 ) Lenin considered that the most effective means of overthrowing tsardom and achieving a democratic republic was a victorious armed uprising of the people. Contrary to the Mensheviks, Lenin held that "the general democratic revolutionary movement has already brought about the necessity for an armed uprising," that "the organization of the proletariat for uprising" had already "been placed on the order of the day as one of the essential, principal and indispensable tasks of the Party," and that it was necessary "to adopt the most energetic measures to arm the proletariat and to ensure the possibility of directly leading the uprising." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VIII, p. 75.)
To guide the masses to an uprising and to turn it into an uprising of the whole people, Lenin deemed it necessary to issue such slogans, such appeals to the masses as would set free their revolutionary initiative, organize them for insurrection and disorganize the machinery of power of tsardom. He considered that these slogans were furnished by the tactical decisions of the Third Party Congress, to the defence of which his book Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution was devoted.
The following, he considered, were these slogans:
a) "Mass political strikes, which may be of great importance at the beginning and in the very process of the insurrection" (ibid., p. 75);
b) "Immediate realization, in a revolutionary way, of the 8-hour working day and of the other immediate demands of the working class" (ibid., p. 47);
c) "Immediate organization of revolutionary peasant committees in order to carry out" in a revolutionary way "all the democratic changes," including the confiscation of the landed estates (ibid., p. 88);
d) Arming of the workers.
Here two points are of particular interest:
First, the tactics of realizing in a revolutionary way the 8-hour day in the towns, and the democratic changes in the countryside, that is, a way which disregards the authorities, disregards the law, which ignores both the authorities and the law, breaks the existing laws and establishes a new order by unauthorized action, as an accomplished fact. This was a new tactical method, the use of which paralysed the machinery of power of tsardom and set free the activity and creative initiative of the masses. These tactics gave rise to the revolutionary strike committees in the towns and the revolutionary peasant committees in the countryside, the former of which later developed into the Soviets of Workers' Deputies and the latter into the Soviets of Peasants' Deputies.
Secondly, the use of mass political strikes, the use of general political strikes, which later, in the course of the revolution, were of prime importance in the revolutionary mobilization of the masses. This was a new and very important weapon in the hands of the proletariat, a weapon hitherto unknown in the practice of the Marxist parties and one that subsequently gained recognition.
Lenin held that following the victorious uprising of the people the tsarist government should be replaced by a provisional revolutionary government. It would be the task of the provisional revolutionary government to consolidate the conquests of the revolution, to crush the resistance of the counter-revolution and to give effect to the minimum program of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Lenin maintained that unless these tasks were accomplished a decisive victory over tsardom would be impossible. And in order to accomplish these tasks and achieve a decisive victory over tsardom, the provisional revolutionary government would have to be not an ordinary kind of government, but a government of the dictatorship of the victorious classes, of the workers and peasants; it would have to be a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. Citing Marx's well-known thesis that "after a revolution every provisional organization of the state requires a dictatorship, and an energetic dictatorship at that," Lenin came to the conclusion that if the provisional revolutionary government was to ensure a decisive victory over tsardom, it could be nothing else but a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.
"A decisive victory of the revolution over tsardom is the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry," Lenin said. "...And such a victory will be precisely a dictatorship, i.e., it must inevitably rely on military force, on the arming of the masses, on an uprising and not on institutions of one kind or another, established in a 'lawful' or 'peaceful' way. It can be only a dictatorship, for the realization of the changes which are urgently and absolutely indispensable for the proletariat and the peasantry will call forth the desperate resistance of the landlords, of the big bourgeoisie, and of tsardom. Without a dictatorship it is impossible to break down that resistance and to repel the counter-revolutionary attempts. But of course it will be a democratic, not a Socialist dictatorship. It will not be able (without a series of intermediary stage of revolutionary development) to affect the foundations of capitalism. At best it may bring about a radical redistribution of landed property in favour of the peasantry, establish consistent and full democracy, including the formation of a republic, eradicate all the oppressive features of Asiatic bondage, not only in village but also in factory life, lay the foundation for a thorough improvement in the position of the workers and for a rise in their standard of living, and – last but not least – carry the revolutionary conflagration into Europe. Such a victory will by no means as yet transform our bourgeois revolution into a Socialist revolution; the democratic revolution will not directly overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships; nevertheless, the significance of such a victory for the future development of Russia and of the whole world will be immense. Nothing will raise the revolutionary energy of the world proletariat so much, nothing will shorten the path leading to its complete victory to such an extent, as this decisive victory of the revolution that has now started in Russia." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 82-3.)
As to the attitude of the Social-Democrats towards the provisional revolutionary government and as to whether it would be permissible for them to take part in it, Lenin fully upheld the resolution of the Third Party Congress on the subject, which reads:
"Subject to the relation of forces, and other factors which cannot be exactly determined beforehand, representatives of our Party may participate in the provisional revolutionary government for the purpose of relentless struggle against all counter-revolutionary attempts and of the defence of the independent interests of the working class; an indispensable condition for such participation is that the Party should exercise strict control over its representatives and that the independence of the Social-Democratic Party, which is striving for a complete Socialist revolution and, consequently, is irreconcilably hostile to all the bourgeois parties, should be strictly maintained; whether the participation of Social-Democrats in the provisional revolutionary government prove possible or not, we must propagate among the broadest masses of the proletariat the necessity for permanent pressure to be brought to bear upon the provisional government by the armed proletariat, led by the Social-Democratic Party, for the purpose of defending, consolidating and extending the gains of the revolution." (Ibid., pp. 46-7.)
As to the Mensheviks' objection that the provisional government would still be a bourgeois government, that the Social-Democrats could not be permitted to take part in such a government unless one wanted to commit the same mistake as the French Socialist Millerand when he joined the French bourgeois government, Lenin parried this objection by pointing out that the Mensheviks were here mixing up two different things and were betraying their inability to treat the question as Marxists should. In France it was a question of Socialists taking part in a reactionary bourgeois government at a time when there was no revolutionary situation in the country, which made it incumbent upon the Socialists not to join such a government; in Russia, on the other hand, it was a question of Socialists taking part in a revolutionary bourgeois government fighting for the victory of the revolution at a time when the revolution was in full swing, a circumstance which would make it permissible for, and, under favourable circumstances, incumbent upon the Social-Democrats to take part in such a government in order to strike at the counterrevolution not only "from below," from without, but also "from above," from within the government.
3) While advocating the victory of the bourgeois revolution and the achievement of a democratic republic, Lenin had not the least intention of coming to a halt in the democratic stage and confining the scope of the revolutionary movement to the accomplishment of bourgeois-democratic tasks. On the contrary, Lenin maintained that following upon the accomplishment of the democratic tasks, the proletariat and the other exploited masses would have to begin a struggle, this time for the Socialist revolution. Lenin knew this and regarded it as the duty of Social-Democrats to do everything to make the bourgeois-democratic revolution pass into the Socialist revolution. Lenin held that the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry was necessary not in order to end the revolution at the point of consummation of its victory over tsardom, but in order to prolong the state of revolution as much as possible, to destroy the last remnants of counter-revolution, to make the flame of revolution spread to Europe, and, having in the meantime given the proletariat the opportunity of educating itself politically and organizing itself into a great army, to begin the direct transition to the Socialist revolution.
Dealing with the scope of the bourgeois revolution, and with the character the Marxist party should lend it, Lenin wrote:
"The proletariat must carry to completion the democratic revolution, by allying to itself the mass of the peasantry in order to crush by force the resistance of the autocracy and to paralyse the instability of the bourgeoisie. The proletariat must accomplish the Socialist revolution by allying to itself the mass of the semi-proletarian elements of the population in order to crush by force the resistance of the bourgeoisie and to paralyse the instability of the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie. Such are the tasks of the proletariat, which the new Iskraists (that is, Mensheviks – Ed.) always present so narrowly in their arguments and resolutions about the scope of the revolution." (Ibid., pp. 110-11.) And further:
"At the head of the whole of the people, and particularly of the peasantry – for complete freedom, for a consistent democratic revolution, for a republic! At the head of all the toilers and the exploited – for Socialism! Such must in practice be the policy of the revolutionary proletariat, such is the class slogan which must permeate and determine the solution of every tactical problem, of every practical step of the workers' party during the revolution." (Ibid., p. 124.)
In order to leave nothing unclear, two months after the appearance of the Two Tactics Lenin wrote an article entitled "Attitude of Social-Democrats to the Peasant Movement," in which he explained:
"From the democratic revolution we shall at once, and just in accordance with the measure of our strength, the strength of the class-conscious and organized proletariat, begin to pass to the Socialist revolution. We stand for uninterrupted revolution. We shall not stop half way." (Ibid., p. 145.)
This was a new line in the question of the relation between the bourgeois revolution and the Socialist revolution, a new theory of a regrouping of forces around the proletariat, towards the end of the bourgeois revolution, for a direct transition to the Socialist revolution – the theory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution passing into the Socialist revolution.
In working out this new line, Lenin based himself, first, on the well-known thesis of uninterrupted revolution advanced by Marx at the end of the forties of the last century in the Address to the Communist League, and, secondly, on the well-known idea of the necessity of combining the peasant revolutionary movement with the proletarian revolution which Marx expressed in a letter to Engels in 1856, saying that: "the whole thing in Germany will depend on the possibility of backing the proletarian revolution by some second edition of the Peasants' War." However, these brilliant ideas of Marx were not developed subsequently in the works of Marx and Engels, while the theoreticians of the Second International did their utmost to bury them and consign them to oblivion. To Lenin fell the task of bringing these forgotten ideas of Marx to light and restoring them to their full rights. But in restoring these Marxian ideas, Lenin did not – and could not – confine himself to merely repeating them, but developed them further and moulded them into a harmonious theory of Socialist revolution by introducing a new factor, an indispensable factor of the Socialist revolution, namely, an alliance of the proletariat with the semi-proletarian elements of town and country as a condition for the victory of the proletarian revolution.
This line confuted the tactical position of the West-European Social-Democratic parties who took it for granted that after the bourgeois revolution the peasant masses, including the poor peasants, would necessarily desert the revolution, as a result of which the bourgeois revolution would be followed by a prolonged interval, a long "lull" lasting fifty or a hundred years, if not longer, during which the proletariat would be "peacefully" exploited and the bourgeoisie would "lawfully" enrich itself until the time came round for a new revolution, a Socialist revolution.
This was a new theory which held that the Socialist revolution would be accomplished not by the proletariat in isolation as against the whole bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat as the leading class which would have as allies the semi-proletarian elements of the population, the "toiling and exploited millions."
According to this theory the hegemony of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution, the proletariat being in alliance with the peasantry, would grow into the hegemony of the proletariat in the Socialist revolution, the proletariat now being in alliance with the other labouring and exploited masses, while the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry would prepare the ground for the Socialist dictatorship of the proletariat.
It refuted the theory current among the West-European Social-Democrats who denied the revolutionary potentialities of the semi-proletarian masses of town and country and took for granted that "apart from the bourgeoisie and the proletariat we perceive no social forces in our country in which oppositional or revolutionary combinations might find support" (these were Plekhanov's words, typical of the West-European Social-Democrats).
The West-European Social-Democrats held that in the Socialist revolution the proletariat would stand alone, against the whole bourgeoisie, without allies, against all the non-proletarian classes and strata. They would not take account of the fact that capital exploits not only the proletarians but also the semi-proletarian millions of town and country, who are crushed by capitalism and who may become allies of the proletariat in the struggle for the emancipation of society from the capitalist yoke. The West-European Social-Democrats therefore held that conditions were not yet ripe for a Socialist revolution in Europe, that the conditions could be considered ripe only when the proletariat became the majority of the nation, the majority of society, as a result of the further economic development of society.
This spurious anti-proletarian standpoint of the West-European Social-Democrats was completely upset by Lenin's theory of the Socialist revolution.
Lenin's theory did not yet contain any direct conclusion regarding the possibility of a victory of Socialism in one country, taken singly. But it did contain all, or nearly all, the fundamental elements necessary for the drawing of such a conclusion sooner or later.
As we know, Lenin arrived at this conclusion ten years later, in 1915.
Such are the fundamental tactical principles expounded by Lenin in his historic book, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.
The historic significance of this book consists above all in the fact that in it Lenin ideologically shattered the petty-bourgeois tactical line of the Mensheviks, armed the working class of Russia for the further development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, for a new onslaught on tsardom, and put before the Russian Social-Democrats a clear perspective of the necessity of the bourgeois revolution passing into the Socialist revolution.
But this does not exhaust the significance of Lenin's book. Its invaluable significance consists in that it enriched Marxism with a new theory of revolution and laid the foundation for the revolutionary tactics of the Bolshevik Party with the help of which in 1917 the proletariat of our country achieved the victory over capitalism.
By the autumn of 1905 the revolutionary movement had swept the whole country and gained tremendous momentum.
On September 19 a printers' strike broke out in Moscow. It spread to St. Petersburg and a number of other cities. In Moscow itself the printers' strike was supported by the workers in other industries and developed into a general political strike.
In the beginning of October a strike started on the Moscow-Kazan Railway. Within two days it was joined by all the railwaymen of the Moscow railway junction and soon all the railways of the country were in the grip of the strike. The postal and telegraph services came to a standstill. In various cities of Russia the workers gathered at huge meetings and decided to down tools. The strike spread to factory after factory, mill after mill, city after city, and region after region. The workers were joined by the minor employees, students and intellectuals – lawyers, engineers and doctors.
The October political strike became an all-Russian strike which embraced nearly the whole country, including the most remote districts, and nearly all the workers, including the most backward strata. About one million industrial workers alone took part in the general political strike, not counting the large number of railwaymen, postal and telegraph employees and others. The whole life of the country came to a standstill. The government was paralysed.
The working class headed the struggle of the masses against the autocracy.
The Bolshevik slogan of a mass political strike had borne fruit. The October general strike revealed the power and might of the proletarian movement and compelled the mortally frightened tsar to issue his Manifesto of October 17, 1905. This Manifesto promised the people "the unshakable foundations of civil liberty: real inviolability of person, and freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association." It promised to convene a legislative Duma and to extend the franchise to all classes of the population.
Thus, Bulygin's deliberative Duma was swept away by the tide of revolution. The Bolshevik tactics of boycotting the Bulygin Duma proved to have been right.
Nevertheless, the Manifesto of October 17 was a fraud on the people, a trick of the tsar to gain some sort of respite in which to lull the credulous and to win time to rally his forces and then to strike at the revolution. In words the tsarist government promised liberty, but actually it granted nothing substantial. So far, promises were all that the workers and peasants had received from the government. Instead of the broad political amnesty which was expected, on October 21 amnesty was granted to only a small section of political prisoners. At the same time, with the object of dividing the forces of the people, the government engineered a number of sanguinary Jewish pogroms, in which many thousands of people perished; and in order to crush the revolution it created police-controlled gangster organizations known as the League of the Russian People and the League of Michael the Archangel. These organizations, in which a prominent part was played by reactionary landlords, merchants, priests, and semi-criminal elements of the vagabond type, were christened by the people "Black-Hundreds." The Black-Hundreds, with the support of the police, openly manhandled and murdered politically advanced workers, revolutionary intellectuals and students, burned down meeting places and fired upon assemblies of citizens. These so far were the only results of the tsar's Manifesto.
There was a popular song at the time which ran :
"The tsar caught fright, issued a Manifesto:
Liberty for the dead, for the living – arrest."
The Bolsheviks explained to the masses that the Manifesto of October 17 was a trap. They branded the conduct of the government after the promulgation of the Manifesto as provocative. The Bolsheviks called the workers to arms, to prepare for armed uprising.
The workers set about forming fighting squads with greater energy than ever. It became clear to them that the first victory of October 17, wrested by the general political strike, demanded of them further efforts, the continuation of the struggle for the overthrow of tsardom.
Lenin regarded the Manifesto of October 17 as an expression of a certain temporary equilibrium of forces: the proletariat and the peasantry, having wrung the Manifesto from the tsar, were still not strong enough to overthrow tsardom, whereas tsardom was no longer able to rule by the old methods alone and had been compelled to give a paper promise of "civil liberties" and a "legislative" Duma.
In those stormy days of the October political strike, in the fire of the struggle against tsardom, the revolutionary creative initiative of the working-class masses forged a new and powerful weapon – the Soviets of Workers' Deputies.
The Soviets of Workers' Deputies – which were assemblies of delegates from all mills and factories – represented a type of mass political organization of the working class which the world had never seen before. The Soviets that first arose in 1905 were the prototype of the Soviet power which the proletariat, led by the Bolshevik Party, set up in 1917. The Soviets were a new revolutionary form of the creative initiative of the people. They were set up exclusively by the revolutionary sections of the population, in defiance of all laws and prescripts of tsar-dom. They were a manifestation of the independent action of the people who were rising to fight tsardom.
The Bolsheviks regarded the Soviets as the embryo of revolutionary power. They maintained that the strength and significance of the Soviets would depend solely on the strength and success of the uprising.
The Mensheviks regarded the Soviets neither as embryonic organs of revolutionary power nor as organs of uprising. They looked upon the Soviets as organs of local self-government, in the nature of democratized municipal government bodies.
In St. Petersburg, elections to the Soviet of Workers' Deputies took place in all the mills and factories on October 13 (26, New Style) 1905. The first meeting of the Soviet was held that night. Moscow followed St. Petersburg in forming a Soviet of Workers' Deputies.
The St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies, being the Soviet of the most important industrial and revolutionary centre of Russia, the capital of the tsarist empire, ought to have played a decisive role in the Revolution of 1905. However, it did not perform its task, owing to its bad, Menshevik leadership. As we know, Lenin had not yet arrived in St. Petersburg; he was still abroad. The Mensheviks took advantage of Lenin's absence to make their way into the St. Petersburg Soviet and to seize hold of its leadership. It was not surprising under such circumstances that the Mensheviks Khrustalev, Trotsky, Parvus and others managed to turn the St. Petersburg Soviet against the policy of an uprising. Instead of bringing the soldiers into close contact with the Soviet and linking them up with the common struggle, they demanded that the soldiers be withdrawn from St. Petersburg. The Soviet, instead of arming the workers and preparing them for an uprising, just marked time and was against preparations for an uprising.
Altogether different was the role played in the revolution by the Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies. From the very first the Moscow Soviet pursued a thoroughly revolutionary policy. The leadership of the Moscow Soviet was in the hands of the Bolsheviks. Thanks to them, side by side with the Soviet of Workers' Deputies, there arose in Moscow a Soviet of Soldiers' Deputies. The Moscow Soviet became an organ of armed uprising.
In the period, October to December 1905, Soviets of Workers' Deputies were set up in a number of large towns and in nearly all the working-class centres. Attempts were made to organize Soviets of Soldiers' and Sailors' Deputies and to unite them with the Soviets of Workers' Deputies. In some localities Soviets of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies were formed.
The influence of the Soviets was tremendous. In spite of the fact that they often arose spontaneously, lacked definite structure and were loosely organized, they acted as a governmental power. Without legal authority, they introduced freedom of the press and an 8-hour working day. They called upon the people not to pay taxes to the tsarist government. In some cases they confiscated government funds and used them for the needs of the revolution.
During October and November 1905 the revolutionary struggle of the masses went on developing with intense vigour. Workers' strikes continued.
The struggle of the peasants against the landlords assumed wide dimensions in the autumn of 1905. The peasant movement embraced over one-third of the uyezds of the country. The provinces of Saratov, Tambov, Chernigov, Tiflis, Kutais and several others were the scenes of veritable peasant revolts. Yet the onslaught of the peasant masses was still inadequate. The peasant movement lacked organization and leadership.
Unrest increased also among the soldiers in a number of cities – Tiflis, Vladivostok, Tashkent, Samarkand, Kursk, Sukhum, Warsaw, Kiev, and Riga. Revolts broke out in Kronstadt and among the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol (November 1905). But the revolts were isolated, and the tsarist government was able to suppress them.
Revolts in units of the army and navy were frequently provoked by the brutal conduct of the officers, by bad food ("bean riots"), and similar causes. The bulk of the sailors and soldiers in revolt did not yet clearly realize the necessity for the overthrow of the tsarist government, for the energetic prosecution of the armed struggle. They were still too peaceful and complacent; they frequently made the mistake of releasing officers who had been arrested at the outbreak of the revolt, and would allow themselves to be placated by the promises and coaxing of their superiors.
The revolutionary movement had approached the verge of armed insurrection. The Bolsheviks called upon the masses to rise in arms against the tsar and the landlords, and explained to them that this was inevitable. The Bolsheviks worked indefatigably in preparing for armed uprising. Revolutionary work was carried on among the soldiers and sailors, and military organizations of the Party were set up in the armed forces. Workers' fighting squads were formed in a number of cities, and their members taught the use of arms. The purchase of arms from abroad and the smuggling of them into Russia was organized, prominent members of the Party taking part in arranging for their transportation.
In November 1905 Lenin returned to Russia. He took a direct part in the preparations for armed uprising, while keeping out of the way of the tsar's gendarmes and spies. His articles in the Bolshevik newspaper, Novaya Zhizn (New Life), served to guide the Party in its day-to-day work.
At this period Comrade Stalin was carrying on tremendous revolutionary work in Transcaucasia. He exposed and lashed the Mensheviks as foes of the revolution and of the armed uprising. He resolutely prepared the workers for the decisive battle against the autocracy. Speaking at a meeting of workers in Tiflis on the day the tsar's Manifesto was announced, Comrade Stalin said:
"What do we need in order to really win? We need three things: first – arms, second – arms, third – arms and arms again!"
In December 1905 a Bolshevik Conference was held in Tammerfors, Finland. Although the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks formally belonged to one Social-Democratic Party, they actually constituted two different parties, each with its own leading centre. At this conference Lenin and Stalin met for the first time. Until then they had maintained contact by correspondence and through comrades.
Of the decisions of the Tammerfors Conference, the following two should be noted: one on the restoration of the unity of the Party, which had virtually been split into two parties, and the other on the boycott of the First Duma, known as the Witte Duma.
As by that time the armed uprising had already begun in Moscow, the conference, on Lenin's advice, hastily completed its work and dispersed to enable the delegates to participate personally in the uprising.
But the tsarist government was not dozing either. It too was preparing for a decisive struggle. Having concluded peace with Japan, and thus lessened the difficulties of its position, the tsarist government assumed the offensive against the workers and peasants. It declared martial law in a number of provinces where peasant revolts were rife, issued the brutal commands "take no prisoners" and "spare no bullets," and gave orders for the arrest of, the leaders of the revolutionary movement and the dispersal of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies.
In reply to this, the Moscow Bolsheviks and the Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies which they led, and which was connected with the broad masses of the workers, decided to make immediate preparations for armed uprising. On December 5 (18) the Moscow Bolshevik Committee resolved to call upon the Soviet to declare a general political strike with the object of turning it into an uprising in the course of the struggle. This decision was supported at mass meetings of the workers. The Moscow Soviet responded to the will of the working class and unanimously resolved to start a general political strike.
When the Moscow proletariat began the revolt, it had a fighting organization of about one thousand combatants, more than half of whom were Bolsheviks. In addition there were fighting squads in several of the Moscow factories. In all, the insurrectionaries had a force of about two thousand combatants. The workers expected to neutralize the garrison and to win over a part of it to their side.
The political strike started in Moscow on December 7 (20). However, efforts to spread it to the whole country failed; it met with inadequate support in St. Petersburg, and this reduced the chances of success of the uprising from the very outset. The Nikolayevskaya (now the October) Railway remained in the hands of the tsarist government. Traffic on this line was not suspended, which enabled the government to transfer regiments of the Guard from St. Petersburg to Moscow for the suppression of the uprising.
In Moscow itself the garrison vacillated. The workers had begun the uprising partly in expectation of receiving support from the garrison. But the revolutionaries had delayed too long, and the government managed to cope with the unrest in the garrison.
The first barricades appeared in Moscow on December 9 (22). Soon the streets of the city were covered with barricades. The tsarist government brought artillery into action. It concentrated a force many times exceeding the strength of the insurrectionaries. For nine days on end several thousand armed workers waged a heroic fight. It was only by bringing regiments from St. Petersburg, Tver and the Western Territory that the tsarist government was able to crush the uprising. On the very eve of the fighting the leadership of the uprising was partly arrested and partly isolated. The members of the Moscow Bolshevik Committee were arrested. The armed action took the form of disconnected uprisings of separate districts Deprived of a directing centre, and lacking a common plan of operations for the whole city, the districts mainly confined themselves to defensive action. This was the chief source of weakness of the Moscow uprising and one of the causes of its defeat, as Lenin later pointed out.
The uprising assumed a particularly stubborn and bitter character in the Krasnaya Presnya district of Moscow. This was the main stronghold and centre of the uprising. Here the best of the fighting squads, led by Bolsheviks, were concentrated. But Krasnaya Presnya was suppressed by fire and sword; it was drenched in blood and ablaze with the fires caused by artillery. The Moscow uprising was crushed.
The uprising was not confined to Moscow. Revolutionary uprisings broke out in a number of other cities and districts. There were armed uprisings in Krasnoyarsk, Motovlikha (Perm), Novorossisk, Sormovo, Sevastapol and Kronstadt.
The oppressed nationalities of Russia also rose in armed struggle. Nearly the whole of Georgia was up in arms. A big uprising took place in the Ukraine, in the cities of Gorlovka, Alexandrovsk and Lugansk (now Voroshilovgrad) in the Donetz Basin. A stubborn struggle was waged in Latvia. In Finland the workers formed their Red Guard and rose in revolt.
But all these uprisings, like the uprising in Moscow, were crushed with inhuman ferocity by the autocracy.
The appraisals of the December armed uprising given by the Men-sheviks and the Bolsheviks differed.
"They should not have taken to arms," was the rebuke the Menshe-vik Plekhanov flung at the Party after the uprising. The Mensheviks argued that an uprising was unnecessary and pernicious, that it could be dispensed with in the revolution, that success could be achieved not by armed uprising, but by peaceful methods of struggle.
The Bolsheviks branded this stand as treachery. They maintained that the experience of the Moscow armed uprising had but confirmed that the working class could wage a successful armed struggle. In reply to Plekhanov's rebuke – "they should not have taken to arms" – Lenin said:
"On the contrary, we should have taken to arms more resolutely, energetically and aggressively; we should have explained to the masses that it was impossible to confine ourselves to a peaceful strike and that a fearless and relentless armed fight was indispensable." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 348.)
The uprising of December 1905 was the climax of the revolution. The tsarist autocracy defeated the uprising. Thereafter the revolution took a turn and began to recede. The tide of revolution gradually subsided.
The tsarist government hastened to take advantage of this defeat to deal the final blow to the revolution. The tsar's hangmen and jailers began their bloody work. Punitive expeditions raged in Poland, Latvia, Esthonia, Transcaucasia and Siberia.
But the revolution was not yet crushed. The workers and revolutionary peasants retreated slowly, putting up a fight. New sections of the workers were drawn into the struggle. Over a million workers took part in strikes in 1906; 740,000 in 1907. The peasant movement embraced about one-half of the uyezds of tsarist Russia in the first half of 1906, and one-fifth in the second half of the year. Unrest continued in the army and navy.
The tsarist government, in combating the revolution, did not confine itself to repressive measures. Having achieved its first successes by repressive measures, it decided to deal a fresh blow at the revolution by convening a new Duma, a "legislative" Duma. It hoped in this way to sever the peasants from the revolution and thus put an end to it. In December c the tsarist government promulgated a law providing for the convocation of a new, a "legislative" Duma as distinct from the old, "deliberative" Bulygin Duma, which had been swept away as the result of the Bolshevik boycott. The tsarist election law was of course anti-democratic. Elections were not universal. Over half the population – for example, women and over two million workers – were deprived of the right of vote altogether. Elections were not equal. The electorate was divided into four curias, as they were called: the agrarian (landlords), the urban (bourgeoisie), the peasant and the worker curias. Election was not direct, but by several stages. There was actually no secret ballot. The election law ensured the overwhelming preponderance in the Duma of a handful of landlords and capitalists over the millions of workers and peasants.
The tsar intended to make use of the Duma to divert the masses from the revolution. In those days a large proportion of the peasants believed that they could obtain land through the Duma. The Constitutional-Democrats, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries deceived workers and peasants by stating that the system the people needed could be obtained without uprising, without revolution. It was to fight this fraud on the people that the Bolsheviks announced and pursued the tactics of boycotting the First State Duma. This was in accordance with the decision passed by the Tammerfors Conference.
In their fight against tsardom, the workers demanded the unity of the forces of the Party, the unification of the party of the proletariat. Armed with the decision of the Tammerfors Conference on unity, the Bolsheviks supported this demand of the workers and proposed to the Mensheviks that a unity congress of the Party be called. Under the pressure of the workers, the Mensheviks had to consent to unification.
Lenin was in favour of unification, but only of such unification as would not cover up the differences that existed over the problems of the revolution. Considerable damage was done to the Party by the conciliators (Bogdanov, Krassin and others), who tried to prove that no serious differences existed between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Lenin fought the conciliators, insisting that the Bolsheviks should come to the congress with their own platform, so that the workers might clearly see what the position of the Bolsheviks was and on what basis unification was being effected. The Bolsheviks drew up such a platform and submitted it to the Party members for discussion.
The Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., known as the Unity Congress, met in Stockholm (Sweden) in April 1906. It was attended by 111 delegates with right of vote, representing 57 local organizations of the Party. In addition, there were representatives from the national Social-Democratic parties: 3 from the Bund, 3 from the Polish Social-Democratic Party, and 3 from the Lettish Social-Democratic organization.
Owing to the smash-up of the Bolshevik organizations during and after the December uprising, not all of them were able to send delegates. Moreover, during the "days of liberty" of 1905, the Mensheviks had admitted into their ranks a large number of petty-bourgeois intellectuals who had nothing whatever in common with revolutionary Marxism. It will suffice to say that the Tiflis Mensheviks (and there were very few industrial workers in Tiflis) sent as many delegates to the congress as the largest of the proletarian organizations, the St. Petersburg organization. The result was that at the Stockholm Congress the Mensheviks had a majority, although, it is true, an insignificant one.
This composition of the congress determined the Menshevik character of the decisions on a number of questions.
Only formal unity was effected at this congress. In reality, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks retained their own views and their own independent organizations.
The chief questions discussed at the Fourth Congress were the agrarian question, the current situation and the class tasks of the proletariat, policy towards the State Duma, and organizational questions.
Although the Mensheviks constituted the majority at this congress they were obliged to agree to Lenin's formulation of the first paragraph of the Party Rules dealing with Party membership, in order not to antagonize the workers.
On the agrarian question, Lenin advocated the nationalization of the land. He held that the nationalization of the land would be possible only with the victory of the revolution, after tsardom had been overthrown. Under such circumstances the nationalization of the land would make it easier for the proletariat, in alliance with the poor peasants, to pass to the Socialist revolution. Nationalization of the land meant the confiscation of all the landed estates without compensation and turning them over to the peasantry. The Bolshevik agrarian program called upon the peasants to rise in revolution against the tsar and the landlords.
The Mensheviks took up a different position. They advocated a program of municipalization. According to this program, the landed estates were not to be placed at the disposal of the village communities, not even given to the village communities for use, but were to be placed at the disposal of the municipalities (that is, the local organs of self-government, or Zemstvos), and each peasant was to rent as much of this land as he could afford.
The Menshevik program of municipalization was one of compromise, and therefore prejudicial to the revolution. It could not mobilize the peasants for a revolutionary struggle and was not designed to achieve the complete abolition of landlord property rights in land. The Menshevik program was designed to stop the revolution halfway. The Mensheviks did not want to rouse the peasants for revolution.
The Menshevik program received the majority of the votes at the congress.
The Mensheviks particularly betrayed their anti-proletarian, opportunist nature during the discussion of the resolution on the current situation and on the State Duma. The Menshevik Martynov frankly spoke in opposition to the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution. Comrade Stalin, replying to the Mensheviks, put the matter very bluntly:
"Either the hegemony of the proletariat, or the hegemony of the democratic bourgeoisie – that is how the question stands in the Party, that is where we differ."
As to the State Duma, the Mensheviks extolled it in their resolution as the best means of solving the problems of the revolution and of liberating the people from tsardom. The Bolsheviks, on the contrary, regarded the Duma as an impotent appendage of tsardom, as a screen for the evils of tsardom, which the latter would discard as soon as it proved inconvenient.
The Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress consisted of three Bolsheviks and six Mensheviks. The editorial board of the central press organ was formed entirely of Mensheviks.
It was clear that the internal Party struggle would continue.
After the Fourth Congress the conflict between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks broke out with new vigour. In the local organizations, which were formally united, reports on the congress were often made by two speakers: one from the Bolsheviks and another from the Mensheviks. The result of the discussion of the two lines was that in most cases the majority of the members of the organizations sided with the Bolsheviks.
Events proved that the Bolsheviks were right. The Menshevik Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress increasingly revealed its opportunism and its utter inability to lead the revolutionary struggle of the masses. In the summer and autumn of 1906 the revolutionary struggle of the masses took on new vigour. Sailors' revolts broke out in Kronstadt and Sveaborg; the peasants' struggle against the landlords flared up. Yet the Menshevik Central Committee issued opportunist slogans, which the masses did not follow.
As the First State Duma did not prove docile enough, the tsarist government dispersed it in the summer of 1906. The government resorted to even more drastic repressions against the people, extended the ravaging activities of the punitive expeditions throughout the country, and announced its decision of shortly calling a Second State Duma. The tsarist government was obviously growing more insolent. It no longer feared the revolution, for it saw that the revolution was on the decline
The Bolsheviks had to decide whether to participate in the Second Duma or to boycott it. By boycott, the Bolsheviks usually meant an active boycott, and not the mere passive abstention from voting in the elections. The Bolsheviks regarded active boycott as a revolutionary means of warning the people against the attempts of the tsar to divert them from the path of revolution to the path of tsarist "constitution," as a means of frustrating these attempts and organizing a new onslaught of the people on tsardom.
The experience of the boycott of the Bulygin Duma had shown that a boycott was "the only correct tactics, as fully proved by events." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 393.) This boycott was successful because it not only warned the people against the danger of the path of tsarist constitutionalism but frustrated the very birth of the Duma. The boycott was successful because it was carried out during the rising tide of the revolution and was supported by this tide, and not when the revolution was receding. The summoning of the Duma could be frustrated only during the high tide of the revolution.
The boycott of the Witte Duma, i.e., the First Duma, took place after the December uprising had been defeated, when the tsar proved to be the victor, that is, at a time when there was reason to believe that the revolution had begun to recede.
"But," wrote Lenin, "it goes without saying that at that time there were as yet no grounds to regard this victory (of the tsar – Ed.) as a decisive victory. The uprising of December 1905 had its sequel in a series of disconnected and partial military uprisings and strikes in the summer of 1906. The call to boycott the Witte Duma was a call to concentrate these uprisings and make them general." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XII, p. 20.)
The boycott of the Witte Duma was unable to frustrate its convocation although it considerably undermined its prestige and weakened the faith of a part of the population in it. The boycott was unable to frustrate the convocation of the Duma because, as subsequently became clear, it took place at a time when the revolution was receding, when it was on the decline. For this reason the boycott of the First Duma in 1906 was unsuccessful. In this connection Lenin wrote in his famous pamphlet, "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder:
"The Bolshevik boycott of 'parliament' in 1905 enriched the revolutionary proletariat with highly valuable political experience and showed that in combining legal with illegal, parliamentary with extra-parliamentary forms of struggle, it is sometimes useful and even essential to reject parliamentary forms.... The boycott of the 'Duma' by the Bolsheviks in 1906 was however a mistake, although a small and easily remediable one.... What applies to individuals applies – with necessary modifications – to politics and parties. Not he is wise who makes no mistakes. There are no such men nor can there be. He is wise who makes not very serious mistakes and who knows how to correct them easily and quickly. (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. X, p. 74.)
As to the Second State Duma, Lenin held that in view of the changed situation and the decline of the revolution, the Bolsheviks "must reconsider the question of boycotting the State Duma." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 392.)
"History has shown," Lenin wrote, "that when the Duma assembles opportunities arise for carrying on useful agitation both from within the Duma and, in connection with it, outside – that the tactics of joining forces with the revolutionary peasantry against the Constitutional-Democrats can be applied in the Duma." (Ibid., p. 396.)
All this showed that one had to know not only how to advance resolutely, to advance in the front ranks, when the revolution was in the ascendant, but also how to retreat properly, to be the last to retreat, when the revolution was no longer in the ascendant, changing one's tactics as the situation changed; to retreat not in disorder, but in an organized way, calmly and without panic, utilizing every minute opportunity to withdraw the cadres from under enemy fire, to reform one's ranks to muster one's forces and to prepare for a new offensive against the enemy.
The Bolsheviks decided to take part in the elections to the Second Duma.
But the Bolsheviks did not go to the Duma for the purpose of carrying on organic "legislative" work inside it in a bloc with the Constitutional-Democrats, as the Mensheviks did, but for the purpose of utilizing it as a platform in the interests of the revolution.
The Menshevik Central Committee, on the contrary, urged that election agreements be formed with the Constitutional-Democrats, and that support be given to the Constitutional-Democrats in the Duma, for in their eyes the Duma was a legislative body that was capable of bridling the tsarist government.
The majority of the Party organizations expressed themselves against the policy of the Menshevik Central Committee.
The Bolsheviks demanded that a new Party congress be called.
In May 1907 the Fifth Party Congress met in London. At the time of this congress the R.S.D.L.P. (together with the national Social-Democratic organizations) had a membership of nearly 150,000. In all, 336 delegates attended the congress, of whom 105 were Bolsheviks and 97 Mensheviks. The remaining delegates represented the national Social-Democratic organizations – the Polish and Lettish Social-Democrats and the Bund – which had been admitted into the R.S.D.L.P. at the previous congress.
Trotsky tried to knock together a group of his own at the congress, a centrist, that is, semi-Menshevik, group, but could get no following.
As the Bolsheviks had the support of the Poles and the Letts, they had a stable majority at the congress.
One of the main questions at issue at the congress was that of policy towards the bourgeois parties. There had already been a struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks on this question at the Second Congress. The fifth Congress gave a Bolshevik estimate of all the non-proletarian parties – Black-Hundreds, Octobrists (Union of October Seventeenth), Constitutional-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries – and formulated the Bolshevik tactics to be pursued in regard to these parties.
The congress approved the policy of the Bolsheviks and decided to wage a relentless struggle both against the Black-Hundred parties – the League of the Russian People, the monarchists, the Council of the United Nobility – and against the Octobrists, the Commercial and Industrial Party and the Party of Peaceful Renovation. All these parties were outspokenly counter-revolutionary.
As regards the liberal bourgeoisie, the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the congress recommended a policy of uncompromising exposure; the false and hypocritical "democracy" of the Constitutional-Democratic Party was to be exposed and the attempts of the liberal bourgeoisie to gain control of the peasant movement combated.
As to the so-called Narodnik or Trudovik parties (the Popular Socialists, the Trudovik Group and the Socialist-Revolutionaries), the congress recommended that their attempts to mask themselves as Socialists be exposed. At the same time the congress considered it permissible now and then to conclude agreements with these parties for a joint and simultaneous attack on tsardom and the Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie, inasmuch as these parties were at that time democratic parties and expressed the interests of the petty bourgeoisie of town and country.
Even before this congress, the Mensheviks had proposed that a so-called "labour congress" be convened. The Mensheviks' idea was to call a congress at which Social-Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists should all be represented. This "labour" congress was to form something in the nature of a "non-partisan party," or a "broad" petty-bourgeois labour party without a program. Lenin exposed this as a pernicious attempt on the part of the Mensheviks to liquidate the Social-Democratic Labour Party and to dissolve the vanguard of the working class in the petty-bourgeois mass. The congress vigorously condemned the Menshevik call for a "labour congress."
Special attention was devoted at the congress to the subject of the trade unions. The Mensheviks advocated "neutrality" of the trade unions; in other words, they were opposed to the Party playing a leading role in them. The congress rejected the Mensheviks' motion and adopted the resolution submitted by the Bolsheviks. This resolution stated that the Party must gain the ideological and political leadership in the trade unions.
The Fifth Congress was a big victory for the Bolsheviks in the working-class movement. But the Bolsheviks did not allow this to turn their heads; nor did they rest on their laurels. That was not what Lenin taught them. The Bolsheviks knew that more fighting with the Men-sheviks was still to come.
In an article entitled "Notes of a Delegate" which appeared in 1907, Comrade Stalin assessed the results of the congress as follows:
"The actual unification of the advanced workers of all Russia into a single all-Russian party under the banner of revolutionary Social-Democracy – that is the significance of the London Congress, that is its general character."
In this article Comrade Stalin cited data showing the composition of the congress. They show that the Bolshevik delegates were sent to the congress chiefly by the big industrial centres (St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Urals, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, etc.), whereas the Mensheviks got their mandates from districts where small production prevailed, where artisans, semi-proletarians predominated, as well as from a number of purely rural areas.
"Obviously," says Comrade Stalin, summing up the results of the congress, "the tactics of the Bolsheviks are the tactics of the proletarians in big industry, the tactics of those areas where the class contradictions are especially clear and the class struggle especially acute. Bolshevism is the tactics of the real proletarians. On the other hand, it is no less obvious that the tactics of the Mensheviks are primarily the tactics of the handicraft workers and the peasant semi-proletarians, the tactics of those areas where the class contradictions are not quite clear and the class struggle is masked. Menshevism is the tactics of the semi-bourgeois elements among the proletariat. So say the figures." (Verbatim Report of the Fifth Congress of the-R.S.D.L.P., Russ. ed., 1935, pp. xi and xii.)
When the tsar dispersed the First Duma he expected that the Second Duma would be more docile. But the Second Duma, too, belied his expectations. The tsar thereupon decided to disperse it, too, and to convoke a Third Duma on a more restricted franchise, in the hope that this Duma would prove more amenable.
Shortly after the Fifth Congress, the tsarist government effected what is known as the coup d'etat of June 3. On June 3, 1907, the tsar dispersed the Second State Duma. The sixty-five deputies of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma were arrested and exiled to Siberia. A new election law was promulgated. The rights of the workers and peasants were still further curtailed. The tsarist government continued its offensive.
The tsar's Minister Stolypin intensified the campaign of bloody reprisals against the workers and peasants. Thousands of revolutionary workers and peasants were shot by punitive expeditions, or hanged. In the tsarist dungeons revolutionaries were tortured mentally and physically. Particularly savage was the persecution of the working-class organizations, especially the Bolsheviks. The tsar's sleuths were searching for Lenin, who was living in hiding in Finland. They wanted to wreak their vengeance on the leader of the revolution. In December 1907 Lenin managed at great risk to make his way abroad and again became an exile.
The dark period of the Stolypin reaction set in.
The first Russian revolution thus ended in defeat.
The causes that contributed to this defeat were as follows :
1) In the revolution, there was still no stable alliance of the workers and peasants against tsardom. The peasants rose in struggle against the landlords and were willing to join in an alliance with the workers against them. But they did not yet realize that the landlords could not be overthrown unless the tsar were overthrown, they did not realize that the tsar was acting hand-in-hand with the landlords, and large numbers of the peasants still had faith in the tsar and placed their hopes in the tsarist State Duma. That is why a considerable section of the peasants were disinclined to join in alliance with the workers for the overthrow of tsardom. The peasants had more faith in the compromising Socialist-Revolutionary Party than in the real revolutionaries – the Bolsheviks. As a result, the struggle of the peasants against the landlords was not sufficiently organized. Lenin said :
"The peasants' actions were too scattered, too unorganized and not sufficiently aggressive, and that was one of the fundamental causes of the defeat of the revolution." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XIX, p. 354.)
2) The disinclination of a large section of the peasants to join the workers for the overthrow of tsardom also influenced the conduct of the army, which largely consisted of peasants' sons clad in soldiers' uniforms. Unrest and revolt broke out in certain units of the tsar's army, but the majority of the soldiers still assisted the tsar in suppressing the strikes and uprisings of the workers.
3) Neither was the action of the workers sufficiently concerted. The advanced sections of the working class started a heroic revolutionary struggle in 1905. The more backward sections – the workers in the less industrialized provinces, those who lived in the villages – came into action more slowly. Their participation in the revolutionary struggle became particularly active in 1906, but by then the vanguard of the working class had already been considerably weakened.
4) The working class was the foremost and principal force of the revolution; but the necessary unity and solidarity in the ranks of the party of the working class were lacking. The R.S.D.L.P. – the party of the working class – was split into two groups: the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks pursued a consistent revolutionary line and called upon the workers to overthrow tsardom. The Mensheviks, by their compromising tactics, hampered the revolution, confused the minds of large numbers of workers and split the working class. Therefore, the workers did not always act concertedly in the revolution, and the working class, still lacking unity within its own ranks, could not become the real leader of the revolution.
5) The tsarist autocracy received help in crushing the Revolution of 1905 from the West-European imperialists. The foreign capitalists feared for their investments in Russia and for their huge profits. Moreover, they feared that if the Russian revolution were to succeed the workers of other countries would rise in revolution, too. The West-European imperialists therefore came to the assistance of the hangman-tsar. The French bankers granted a big loan to the tsar for the suppression of the revolution. The German kaiser kept a large army in readiness to intervene in aid of the Russian tsar.
6) The conclusion of peace with Japan in September 1905 was of considerable help to the tsar. Defeat in the war and the menacing growth of the revolution had induced the tsar to hasten the signing of peace. The loss of the war weakened tsardom. The conclusion of peace strengthened the position of the tsar.
The first Russian revolution constituted a whole historical stage in the development of our country. This historical stage consisted of two periods: the first period, when the tide of revolution rose from the general political strike in October to the armed uprising in December and took advantage of the weakness of the tsar, who had suffered defeat on the battlefields of Manchuria, to sweep away the Bulygin Duma and wrest concession after concession from the tsar; and the second period, when tsardom, having recovered after the conclusion of peace with Japan, took advantage of the liberal bourgeoisie's fear of the revolution, took advantage of the vacillation of the peasants, cast them a sop in the form of the Witte Duma, and passed to the offensive against the working class, against the revolution.
In the short period of only three years of revolution (1905-07) the working class and the peasantry received a rich political education, such as they could not have received in thirty years of ordinary peaceful development. A few years of revolution made clear what could not be made clear in the course of decades of peaceful development.
The revolution disclosed that tsardom was the sworn enemy of the people, that tsardom was like the proverbial hunchback whom only the grave could cure.
The revolution showed that the liberal bourgeoisie was seeing an alliance with the tsar, and not with the people, that it was a counterrevolutionary force, an agreement with which would be tantamount to a betrayal of the people.
The revolution showed that only the working class could be the leader of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, that it alone could force aside the liberal Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie, destroy its influence over the peasantry, rout the landlords, carry the revolution to its conclusion and clear the way for Socialism.
Lastly, the revolution showed that the labouring peasantry, despite its vacillations, was the only important force capable of forming an alliance with the working class.
Two lines were contending within the R.S.D.L.P. during the revolution, the line of the Bolsheviks and the line of the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks took as their course the extension of the revolution, the overthrow of tsardom by armed uprising, the hegemony of the working class, the isolation of the Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie, an alliance with the peasantry, the formation of a provisional revolutionary government consisting of representatives of the workers and peasants, the victorious completion of the revolution. The Mensheviks, on the contrary, took as their course the liquidation of the revolution. Instead of overthrowing tsardom by uprising, they proposed to reform and "improve" it; instead of the hegemony of the proletariat, they proposed the hegemony of the liberal bourgeoisie; instead of an alliance with the peasantry, they proposed an alliance with the Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie; instead of a provisional government, they proposed a State Duma as the centre of the "revolutionary forces" of the country.
Thus the Mensheviks sank into the morass of compromise and became vehicles of the bourgeois influence on the working class, virtual agents of the bourgeoisie within the working class.
The Bolsheviks proved to be the only revolutionary Marxist force in the Party and thecountry.
It was natural that, in view of such profound differences, the R.S.D.L.P. proved in fact to be split into two parties, the party of the Bolsheviks and the party of the Mensheviks. The Fourth Party Congress changed nothing in the actual state of affairs within the Party. It only preserved and somewhat strengthened formal unity in the Party. The Fifth Party Congress took a step towards actual unity in the Party, a unity achieved under the banner of Bolshevism.
Reviewing the revolutionary movement, the Fifth Party Congress condemned the line of the Mensheviks as one of compromise, and approved the Bolshevik line as a revolutionary Marxist line. In doing so it once more confirmed what had already been confirmed by the whole course of the first Russian revolution.
The revolution showed that the Bolsheviks knew how to advance when the situation demanded it, that they had learned to advance in the front ranks and to lead the whole people in attack. But the revolution also showed that the Bolsheviks knew how to retreat in an orderly way when the situation took an unfavourable turn, when the revolution was on the decline, and that the Bolsheviks had learned to retreat properly, without panic or commotion, so as to preserve their cadres, rally their forces, and, having reformed their ranks in conformity with the new situation, once again to resume the attack on the enemy.
It is impossible to defeat the enemy without knowing how to attack properly.
It is impossible to avoid utter rout in the event of defeat without knowing how to retreat properly, to retreat without panic and without confusion.Click here to continue to Chapter 4.