The triumph of the Stolypin reaction was shortlived. A government which would offer the people nothing but the knout and the gallows could not endure. Repressive measures became so habitual that they ceased to inspire fear in the people. The fatigue felt by the workers in the years immediately following the defeat of the revolution began to wear off. The workers resumed the struggle. The Bolsheviks' forecast that a new rise in the tide of revolution was inevitable proved correct. In 1911 the number of strikers already exceeded 100,000, whereas in each of the previous years it had been no more than 50,000 or 60,000. The Prague Party Conference, held in January 1912, could already register the beginnings of a revival of the working-class movement. But the real rise in the revolutionary movement began in April and May 1912, when mass political strikes broke out in connection with the shooting down of workers in the Lena goldfields.
On April 4, 1912, during a strike in the Lena goldfields in Siberia, over 500 workers were killed or wounded upon the orders of a tsarist officer of the gendarmerie. The shooting down of an unarmed body of Lena miners who were peacefully proceeding to negotiate with the management stirred the whole country. This new bloody deed of the tsarist autocracy was committed to break an economic strike of the miners and thus please the masters of the Lena goldfields, the British capitalists. The British capitalists and their Russian partners derived huge profits from the Lena goldfields – over 7,000,000 rubles annually – by most shamelessly exploiting the workers. They paid the workers miserable wages and supplied them with rotten food unfit to eat. Unable to endure the oppression and humiliation any longer, six thousand workers of the Lena goldfields went on strike.
The proletariat of St. Petersburg, Moscow and all other industrial centres and regions replied to the Lena shooting by mass strikes, demonstrations and meetings.
We were so dazed and shocked that we could not at once find words to express our feelings. Whatever protest we made would be but a pale reflection of the anger that seethed in the hearts of all of us. Nothing can help us, neither tears nor protests, but an organized mass struggle" – the workers of one group of factories declared in their resolution.
The furious indignation of the workers was further aggravated when the tsarist Minister Makarov, who was interpellated by the Social-Democratic group in the State Duma on the subject of the Lena massacre, insolently declared: "So it was, so it will be!" The number of participants in the political protest strikes against the bloody massacre of the Lena workers rose to 300,000.
The Lena events were like a hurricane which rent the atmosphere of "peace" created by the Stolypin regime.
This is what Comrade Stalin wrote in this connection in 1912 in the St. Petersburg Bolshevik newspaper, Zvezda (Star): "The Lena shooting has broken the ice of silence and the river of the people's movement has begun to flow. The ice is broken! . . . All that was evil and pernicious in the present regime, all the ills of much-suffering Russia were focussed in the one fact, the Lena events. That is why it was the Lena shooting that served as a signal for the strikes and demonstrations."
The efforts of the Liquidators and Trotskyites to bury the revolution had been in vain. The Lena events showed that the forces of revolution were alive, that a tremendous store of revolutionary energy had accumulated in the working class. The May Day strikes of 1912 involved about 400,000 workers. These strikes bore a marked political character and were held under the Bolshevik revolutionary slogans of a democratic republic, an 8-hour day, and the confiscation of the landed estates. These main slogans were designed to unite not only the broad masses of the workers, but also the peasants and soldiers for a revolutionary onslaught on the autocracy.
"The huge May Day strike of the proletariat of all Russia and the accompanying street demonstrations, revolutionary proclamations, and revolutionary speeches to gatherings of workers have clearly shown that Russia has entered the phase of a rise in the revolution" – wrote Lenin in an article entitled "The Revolutionary Rise." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XV, p. 533.)
Alarmed by the revolutionary spirit of the workers, the Liquidators came out against the strike movement; they called it a "strike fever." The Liquidators and their ally, Trotsky, wanted to substitute for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat a "petition campaign." They invited the workers to sign a petition, a scrap of paper, requesting the granting of "rights" (abolition of the restrictions on the right of association, the right to strike, etc.), which was then to be sent to the State Duma. The Liquidators managed to collect only 1,300 signatures at a time when hundreds of thousands of workers backed the revolutionary slogans of the Bolsheviks.
The working class followed the path indicated by the Bolsheviks.
The economic situation in the country at that period was as follows:
In 1910 industrial stagnation had already been succeeded by a revival, an extension of production in the main branches of industry. Whereas the output of pig iron had amounted to 186,000,000 poods in 1910, and to 256,000,000 poods in 1912, in 1913 it amounted to 283,000,000 poods. The output of coal rose from 1,522,000,000 poods in 1910 to 2,214,000,000 poods in 1913.
The expansion of capitalist industry was accompanied by a rapid growth of the proletariat. A distinguishing feature of the development of industry was the further concentration of production in large plants. Whereas in 1901 the number of workers engaged in large plants employing 500 workers and over amounted to 46.7 per cent of the total number of workers, the corresponding figure in 1910 was already about 54 per cent, or over half the total number of workers. Such a degree of concentration of industry was unprecedented. Even in a country so industrially developed as the United States only about one-third the total number of workers were employed in large plants at that period.
The growth of the proletariat and its concentration in large enterprises, combined with the existence of such a revolutionary party as the Bolshevik Party, were converting the working class of Russia into the greatest force in the political life of the country. The barbarous methods of exploitation of the workers practised in the factories, combined with the intolerable police regime of the tsarist underlings, lent every big strike a political character. Furthermore, the intertwining of the economic and political struggles imparted exceptional revolutionary force to the mass strikes.
In the van of the revolutionary working-class movement marched the heroic proletariat of St. Petersburg; St. Petersburg was followed by the Baltic Provinces, Moscow and the Moscow Province, the Volga region and the south of Russia. In 1913 the movement spread to the Western Territory, Poland and the Caucasus. In all, 725,000 workers, according to official figures, and over one million workers according to fuller statistics, took part in strikes in 1912, and 861,000 according to official figures, and 1,272,000 according to fuller statistics, took part in strikes in 1913. In the first half of 1914 the number of strikers already amounted to about one and a half million.
Thus the revolutionary rise of 1912-14, the sweep of the strike movement, created a situation in the country similar to that which had existed at the beginning of the Revolution of 1905.
The revolutionary mass strikes of the proletariat were of moment to the whole people. They were directed against the autocracy, and they met with the sympathy of the vast majority of the labouring population. The manufacturers retaliated by locking out the workers. In 1913, in the Moscow Province, the capitalists threw 50,000 textile workers on the streets. In March 1914, 70,000 workers were discharged in St. Petersburg in a single day. The workers of other factories and branches of industry assisted the strikers and their locked-out comrades by mass collections and sometimes by sympathy strikes.
The rising working-class movement and the mass strikes also stirred up the peasants and drew them into the struggle. The peasants again began to rise against the landlords; they destroyed manors and kulak farmholds. In the years 1910-14 there were over 13,000 outbreaks of peasant disaffection.
Revolutionary outbreaks also took place among the armed forces. In 1912 there was an armed revolt of troops in Turkestan. Revolt was brewing in the Baltic Fleet and in Sevastopol.
The revolutionary strike movement and demonstrations, led by the Bolshevik Party, showed that the working class was fighting not for partial demands, not for "reforms," but for the liberation of the people from tsardom. The country was heading for a new revolution.
In the summer of 1912, Lenin removed from Paris to Galicia (formerly Austria) in order to be nearer to Russia. Here he presided over two conferences of members of the Central Committee and leading Party workers, one of which took place in Cracow at the end of 1912, and the other in Poronino, a small town near Cracow, in the autumn of 1913. These conferences adopted decisions on important questions of the working-class movement: the rise in the revolutionary movement, the tasks of the Party in connection with the strikes, the strengthening of the illegal organizations, the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, the Party press, the labour insurance campaign.
2. The Bolshevik Newspaper "Pravda." The Bolshevik Group in the Fourth State Duma
A powerful instrument used by the Bolshevik Party to strengthen its organizations and to spread its influence among the masses was the Bolshevik daily newspaper Pravda (Truth), published in St. Petersburg. It was founded, according to Lenin's instructions, on the initiative of Stalin, Olminsky and Poletayev. Pravda was a mass working-class paper founded simultaneously with the new rise of the revolutionary movement. Its first issue appeared on April 22 (May 5, New Style), 1912. This was a day of real celebration for the workers. In honour of Pravda's appearance it was decided henceforward to celebrate May 5 as workers' press day.
Previous to the appearance of Pravda , the Bolsheviks already had a weekly newspaper called Zvezda, intended for advanced workers. Zvezda played an important part at the time of the Lena events. It printed a number of trenchant political articles by Lenin and Stalin which mobilized the working class for the struggle. But in view of the rising revolutionary tide, a weekly newspaper no longer met the requirements of the Bolshevik Party. A daily mass political newspaper designed for the broadest sections of the workers was needed. Pravda was such a newspaper.
Pravda played an exceptionally important part at this period. It gained support for Bolshevism among broad masses of the working class. Because of incessant police persecution, fines, and confiscations of issues due to the publication of articles and letters not to the liking of the censor, Pravda could exist only with the active support of tens of thousands of advanced workers. Pravda was able to pay the huge fines only thanks to large collections made among the workers. Not infrequently, considerable portions of confiscated issues of Pravda nevertheless found their way into the hands of readers, because the more active workers would come to the printing shop at night and carry away bundles of the newspaper.
The tsarist government suppressed Pravda eight times in the space of two and a half years; but each time, with the support of the workers, it reappeared under a new but similar name, e.g., Za Pravdu (For Truth), Put Pravdy (Path of Truth), Trudovaya Pravda (Labour Truth).
While the average circulation of Pravda was 40,000 copies per day, the circulation of Luch (Ray), the Menshevik daily, did not exceed 15,000 or 16,000.
The workers regarded Pravda as their own newspaper; they had great confidence in it and were very responsive to its calls. Every copy was read by scores of readers, passing from hand to hand; it moulded their class consciousness, educated them, organized them, and summoned them to the struggle.
What did Pravda write about?
Every issue contained dozens of letters from workers describing their life, the savage exploitation and the various forms of oppression and humiliation they suffered at the hands of the capitalists, their managers and foremen. These were trenchant and telling indictments of capitalist conditions. Pravda often reported cases of suicide of unemployed and starving workers who had lost hope of ever finding jobs again.
Pravda wrote of the needs and demands of the workers of various factories and branches of industry, and told how the workers were fighting for their demands. Almost every issue contained reports of strikes at various factories. In big and protracted strikes, the newspaper helped to organize collections among the workers of other factories and branches of industry for the support of the strikers. Sometimes tens of thousands of rubles were collected for the strike funds, huge sums for those days when the majority of the workers received not more than 70 or 80 kopeks per day. This fostered a spirit of proletarian solidarity among the workers and a consciousness of the unity of interests of all workers.
The workers reacted to every political event, to every victory or defeat, by sending to Pravda letters, greetings, protests, etc. In its articles Pravda dealt with the tasks of the working-class movement from a consistent Bolshevik standpoint. A legally published newspaper could not call openly for the overthrow of tsardom. It had to resort to hints, which, however, the class-conscious workers understood very well, and which they explained to the masses. When, for example, Pravda wrote of the "full and uncurtailed demands of the Year Five," the workers understood that this meant the revolutionary slogans of the Bolsheviks, namely, the overthrow of tsardom, a democratic republic, the confiscation of the landed estates, and an 8-hour day.
Pravda organized the advanced workers on the eve of the elections to the Fourth Duma. It exposed the treacherous position of those who advocated an agreement with the liberal bourgeoisie, the advocates of the "Stolypin Labour Party" – the Mensheviks. Pravda called upon the workers to vote for those who advocated the "full and uncurtailed demands of the Year Five," that is, the Bolsheviks. The elections were indirect, held in a series of stages: first, meetings of workers elected delegates; then these delegates chose electors; and it was these electors who participated in the elections of the workers' deputy to the Duma. On the day of the elections of the electors Pravda published a list of Bolshevik candidates and recommended the workers to vote for this list. The list could not be published earlier without exposing those on the list to the danger of arrest.
Pravda helped to organize the mass actions of the proletariat. At the time of a big lockout in St. Petersburg in the spring of 1914, when it was inexpedient to declare a mass strike, Pravda called upon the workers to resort to other forms of struggle, such as mass meetings in the factories and demonstrations in the streets. This could not be stated openly in the newspaper. But the call was understood by class-conscious workers when they read an article by Lenin bearing the modest title "Forms of the Working-Class Movement" and stating that at the given moment strikes should yield place to a higher form of the working-class movement – which meant a call to organize meetings and demonstrations.
In this way the illegal revolutionary activities of the Bolsheviks were combined with legal forms of agitation and organization of the masses of the workers through Pravda .
Pravda not only wrote of the life of the workers, their strikes and demonstrations, but also regularly described the life of the peasants, the famines from which they suffered, their exploitation by the feudal landlords. It described how as a result of the Stolypin "reform" the kulak farmers robbed the peasants of the best parts of their land. Pravda drew the attention of the class-conscious workers to the widespread and burning discontent in the countryside. It taught the proletariat that the objectives of the Revolution of 1905 had not been attained, and that a new revolution was impending. It taught that in this second revolution the proletariat must act as the real leader and guide of the people, and that in this revolution it would have so powerful an ally as the revolutionary peasantry.
The Mensheviks worked to get the proletariat to drop the idea of revolution, to stop thinking of the people, of the starvation of the peasants, of the domination of the Black-Hundred feudal landlords, and to fight only for "freedom of association," to present "petitions" to this effect to the tsarist government. The Bolsheviks explained to the workers that this Menshevik gospel of renunciation of revolution, renunciation of an alliance with the peasantry, was being preached in the interests of the bourgeoisie, that the workers would most certainly defeat tsardom if they won over the peasantry as their ally, and that bad shepherds like the Mensheviks should be driven out as enemies of the revolution.
What did Pravda write about in its "Peasant Life" section?
Let us take, as an example, several letters relating to the year 1913.
One letter from Samara, headed "An Agrarian Case," reports that of 45 peasants of the village of Novokhasbulat, Bugulma uyezd, accused of interfering with a surveyor who was marking out communal land to be allotted to peasants withdrawing from the commune, the majority were condemned to long terms of imprisonment.
A brief letter from the Pskov Province states that the "peasants of the village of Psitsa (near Zavalye Station) offered armed resistance to the rural police. Several persons were wounded. The clash was due to an agrarian dispute. Rural police have been dispatched to Psitsa, and the vice-governor and the procurator are on the way to the village."
A letter from the Ufa Province reported that peasant's allotments were being sold off in great numbers, and that famine and the law permitting withdrawal from the village communes were causing increasing numbers of peasants to lose their land. Take the hamlet of Borisovka. Here there are 27 peasant households owning 543 dessiatins of arable land between them. During the famine five peasants sold 31 dessiatins outright at prices varying from 25 to 33 rubles per dessiatin, though land is worth three or four times as much. In this village, too, seven peasants have mortgaged between them 177 dessiatins of arable land, receiving 18 to 20 rubles per dessiatin for a term of six years at a rate of 12 per cent per annum. When the poverty of the population and the usurious rate of interest are borne in mind, it may be safely said that half of the 177 dessiatins is bound to pass into the possession of the usurer, for it is not likely that even half the debtors can repay so large a sum in six years.
In an article printed in Pravda and entitled "Big Landlord and Small Peasant Land Ownership in Russia," Lenin strikingly demonstrated to the workers and peasants what tremendous landed property was in the hands of the parasite landlords. Thirty thousand big landlords alone owned about 70,000,000 dessiatins of land between them. An equal area fell to the share of 10,000,000 peasant households. On an average, the big landlords owned 2,300 dessiatins each, while peasant households, including the kulaks, owned 7 dessiatins each; moreover, five million households of small peasants, that is, half the peasantry, owned no more than one or two dessiatins each. These figures clearly showed that the root of the poverty of the peasants and the recurrent famines lay in the large landed estates, in the survivals of serfdom, of which the peasants could rid themselves only by a revolution led by the working class.
Through workers connected with the countryside, Pravda found its way into the villages and roused the politically advanced peasants to a revolutionary struggle.
At the time Pravda was founded the illegal Social-Democratic organizations were entirely under the direction of the Bolsheviks. On the other hand, the legal forms of organization, such as the Duma group, the press, the sick benefit societies, the trade unions, had not yet been fully wrested from the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks had to wage a determined struggle to drive the Liquidators out of the legally existing organizations of the working class. Thanks to Pravda , this fight ended in victory.
Pravda stood in the centre of the struggle for the Party principle, for the building up of a mass working-class revolutionary party. Pravda rallied the legally existing organizations around the illegal centres of the Bolshevik Party and directed the working-class movement towards one definite aim – preparation for revolution.
Pravda had a vast number of worker correspondents. In one year alone it printed over eleven thousand letters from workers. But it was not only by letters that Pravda maintained contact with the working-class masses. Numbers of workers from the factories visited the editorial office every day. In the Pravda editorial office was concentrated a large share of the organizational work of the Party. Here meetings were arranged with representatives from Party nuclei; here reports were received of Party work in the mills and factories; and from here were transmitted the instructions of the St. Petersburg Committee and the Central Committee of the Party.
As a result of two and a half years of persistent struggle against the Liquidators for the building up of a mass revolutionary working-class party, by the summer of 1914 the Bolsheviks had succeeded in winning the support of four-fifths of the politically active workers of Russia for the Bolshevik Party and for the Pravda tactics. This was borne out, for instance, by the fact that out of a total number of 7,000 workers' groups which collected money for the labour press in 1914, 5,600 groups collected for the Bolshevik press, and only 1,400 groups for the Menshevik press. But, on the other hand, the Mensheviks had a large number of "rich friends" among the liberal bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intelligentsia who advanced over half the funds required for the maintenance of the Menshevik newspaper.
The Bolsheviks at that time were called "Pravdists." A whole generation of the revolutionary proletariat was reared by Pravda , the generation which subsequently made the October Socialist Revolution. Pravda was backed by tens and hundreds of thousands of workers. During the rise of the revolutionary movement (1912-14) the solid foundation was laid of a mass Bolshevik Party, a foundation which no persecution by tsardom could destroy during the imperialist war.
"The Pravda of 1912 was the laying of the corner-stone of the victory of Bolshevism in 1917." (Stalin.)
Another legally functioning central organ of the Party was the Bolshevik group in the Fourth State Duma.
In 1912 the government decreed elections to the Fourth Duma. Our Party attributed great importance to participation in the elections. The Duma Social-Democratic group and Pravda were the chief bases of the revolutionary work of the Bolshevik Party among the masses, functioning legally on a countrywide scale.
The Bolshevik Party acted independently, under its own slogans, in the Duma elections, simultaneously attacking both the government parties and the liberal bourgeoisie (Constitutional-Democrats). The slogans of the Bolsheviks in the election campaign were a democratic republic, an 8-hour day and the confiscation of the landed estates.
The elections to the Fourth Duma were held in the autumn of 1912. At the beginning of October, the government, dissatisfied with the course of the elections in St. Petersburg, tried to encroach on the electoral rights of the workers in a number of the large factories. In reply, the St. Petersburg Committee of our Party, on Comrade Stalin's proposal, called upon the workers of the large factories to declare a one-day strike. Placed in a difficult position, the government was forced to yield, and the workers were able at their meetings to elect whom they wanted. The vast majority of the workers voted for the Mandate (Nakaz) to their delegates and the deputy, which had been drawn up by Comrade Stalin. The "Mandate of the Workingmen of St. Petersburg to Their Labour Deputy" called attention to the unaccomplished tasks of 1905.
"We think," the Mandate stated, "that Russia is on the eve of the onset of mass movements, which will perhaps be more profound than in 1905. . . . As in 1905, in the van of these movements will be the most advanced class in Russian society, the Russian proletariat. Its only ally can be the much-suffering peasantry, which is vitally interested in the emancipation of Russia."
The Mandate declared that the future actions of the people should take the form of a struggle on two fronts – against the tsarist government and against the liberal bourgeoisie, which was seeking to come to terms with tsardom.
Lenin attached great importance to the Mandate, which called the workers to a revolutionary struggle. And in their resolutions the workers responded to this call.
The Bolsheviks scored a victory in the elections, and Comrade Badayev was elected to the Duma by the workers of St. Petersburg.
The workers voted in the elections to the Duma separately from other sections of the population (this was known as the worker curia). Of the nine deputies elected from the worker curia, six were members of the Bolshevik Party: Badayev, Petrovsky, Muranov, Samoilov, Shagov and Malinovsky (the latter subsequently turned out to be an agent-provocateur). The Bolshevik deputies were elected from the big industrial centres, in which not less than four-fifths of the working class were concentrated. On the other hand, several of the elected Liquidators did not get their mandates from the worker curia, that is, were not elected by the workers. The result was that there were seven Liquidators in the Duma as against six Bolsheviks. At first the Bolsheviks and Liquidators formed a joint Social-Democratic group in the Duma. In October 1913, after a stubborn struggle against the Liquidators, who hampered the revolutionary work of the Bolsheviks, the Bolshevik deputies, on the instructions of the Central Committee of the Party, withdrew from the joint Social-Democratic group and formed an independent Bolshevik group.
The Bolshevik deputies made revolutionary speeches in the Duma in which they exposed the autocratic system and interpellated the government on cases of repression of the workers and on the inhuman exploitation of the workers by the capitalists.
They also spoke in the Duma on the agrarian question, calling upon the peasants to fight the feudal landlords, and exposing the Constitutional-Democratic Party, which was opposed to the confiscation and handing over of the landed estates to the peasants.
The Bolsheviks introduced a bill in the State Duma providing for an 8-hour working day; of course it was not adopted by this Black-Hundred Duma, but it had great agitational value.
The Bolshevik group in the Duma maintained close connections with the Central Committee of the Party and with Lenin, from whom they received instructions. They were directly guided by Comrade Stalin while he was living in St. Petersburg.
The Bolshevik deputies did not confine themselves to work within the Duma, but were very active outside the Duma as well. They visited mills and factories and toured the working-class centres of the country where they made speeches, arranged secret meetings at which they explained the decisions of the Party, and formed new Party organizations. The deputies skilfully combined legal activities with illegal, underground work.
The Bolshevik Party during this period set an example of leadership in all forms and manifestations of the class struggle of the proletariat. It built up illegal organizations. It issued illegal leaflets. It carried on secret revolutionary work among the masses. At the same time it steadily gained the leadership of the various legally existing organizations of the working class. The Party strove to win over the trade unions and gain influence in People's Houses, evening universities, clubs and sick benefit societies. These legally existing organizations had long served as the refuge of the Liquidators. The Bolsheviks started an energetic struggle to convert the legally existing societies into strongholds of our Party. By skilfully combining illegal work with legal work, the Bolsheviks won over a majority of the trade union organizations in the two capital cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Particularly brilliant was the victory gained in the election of the Executive Committee of the Metal Workers' Union in St. Petersburg in 1913; of the 3,000 metal workers attending the meeting, barely 150 voted for the Liquidators.
The same may be said of so important a legal organization as the Social-Democratic group in the Fourth State Duma. Although the Mensheviks had seven deputies in the Duma and the Bolsheviks six, the Menshevik deputies, chiefly elected from non-working class districts, represented barely one-fifth of the working class, whereas the Bolshevik deputies, who were elected from the principal industrial centres of the country (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Gostroma, Ekaterinoslav and Kharkov), represented over four-fifths of the working class of the country. The workers regarded the six Bolsheviks (Badayev, Petrovsky and the others) and not the seven Mensheviks as their deputies.
The Bolsheviks succeeded in winning over the legally existing organizations because, in spite of savage persecution by the tsarist government and vilification by the Liquidators and the Trotskyites, they were able to preserve the illegal Party and maintain firm discipline in their ranks, they staunchly defended the interests of the working class, had close connections with the masses, and waged an uncompromising struggle against the enemies of the working-class movement.
Thus the victory of the Bolsheviks and the defeat of the Mensheviks in the legally existing organizations developed all along the line. Both in respect to agitational work from the platform of the Duma and in respect to the labour press and other legally existing organizations, the Mensheviks were forced into the background. The revolutionary movement took strong hold of the working class, which definitely rallied around the Bolsheviks and swept the Mensheviks aside.
To culminate all, the Mensheviks also proved bankrupt as far as the national question was concerned. The revolutionary movement in the border regions of Russia demanded a clear program on the national question. But the Mensheviks had no program, except the "cultural autonomy" of the Bund, which could satisfy nobody. Only the Bolsheviks had a Marxist program on the national question, as set forth in Comrade Stalin's article, "Marxism and the National Question," and in Lenin's articles, "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination" and "Critical Notes on the National Question."
It is not surprising that after the Mensheviks had suffered such defeats, the August Bloc should begin to break up. Composed as it was of heterogeneous elements, it could not withstand the onslaught of the Bolsheviks and began to fall apart. Formed for the purpose of combating Bolshevism, the August Bloc soon went to pieces under the blows of the Bolsheviks. The first to quit the bloc were the Fperyod-ites (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky and others); next went the Letts, and the rest followed suit.
Having suffered defeat in their struggle against the Bolsheviks, the Liquidators appealed for help to the Second International. The Second International came to their aid. Under the pretence of acting as a "conciliator" between the Bolsheviks and the Liquidators, and establishing "peace in the Party," the Second International demanded that the Bolsheviks should desist from criticizing the compromising policy of the Liquidators. But the Bolsheviks were irreconcilable: they refused to abide by the decisions of the opportunist Second International and would agree to make no concessions.
The victory of the Bolsheviks in the legally existing organizations was not, and could not have been, accidental. It was not accidental, not only because the Bolsheviks alone had a correct Marxist theory, a clear program, and a revolutionary proletarian party which had been steeled and tempered in battle, but also because the victory of the Bolsheviks reflected the rising tide of revolution.
The revolutionary movement of the workers steadily developed, spreading to town after town and region after region. In the beginning of 1914, the workers' strikes, far from subsiding, acquired a new momentum. They became more and more stubborn and embraced ever larger numbers of workers. On January 9, 250,000 workers were on strike, St. Petersburg accounting for 140,000. On May 1, over half a million workers were on strike, St. Petersburg accounting for more than 250,000. The workers displayed unusual steadfastness in the strikes. A strike at the Obukhov Works in St. Petersburg lasted for over two months, and another at the Lessner Works for about three months. Wholesale poisoning of workers at a number of St. Petersburg factories was the cause of a strike of 115,000 workers which was accompanied by demonstrations. The movement continued to spread. In the first half of 1914 (including the early part of July) a total of 1,425,000 workers took part in strikes.
In May a general strike of oil workers, which broke out in Baku, focussed the attention of the whole proletariat of Russia. The strike was conducted in an organized way. On June 20 a demonstration of 20,000 workers was held in Baku. The police adopted ferocious measures against the Baku workers. A strike broke out in Moscow as a mark of protest and solidarity with the Baku workers and spread to other districts.
On July 3 a meeting was held at the Putilov Works in St. Petersburg in connection with the Baku strike. The police fired on the workers. A wave of indignation swept over the St. Petersburg proletariat. On July 4, at the call of the St. Petersburg Party Committee, 90,000 St. Petersburg workers stopped work in protest; the number rose to 130,000 on July 7, 150,000 on July 8 and 200,000 on July 11.
Unrest spread to all the factories, and meetings and demonstrations were held everywhere. The workers even started to throw up barricades. Barricades were erected also in Baku and Lodz. In a number of places the police fired on the workers. The government adopted "emergency" measures to suppress the movement; the capital was turned into an armed camp; Pravda was suppressed.
But at that moment a new factor, one of international import, appeared on the arena. This was the imperialist war, which was to change the whole course of events. It was during the revolutionary developments of July that Poincare, the French President, arrived in St. Petersburg to discuss with the tsar the war that was about to begin. A few days later Germany declared war on Russia. The tsarist government took advantage of the war to smash the Bolshevik organizations and to crush the working-class movement. The advance of the revolution was interrupted by the World War, in which the tsarist government sought salvation from revolution.
During the period of the new rise of the revolution (1912-14), the Bolshevik Party headed the working-class movement and led it forward to a new revolution under Bolshevik slogans. The Party ably combined illegal work with legal work. Smashing the resistance of the Liquidators and their friends – the Trotskyites and Otzovists – the Party gained the leadership of all forms of the legal movement and turned the legally existing organizations into bases of its revolutionary work.
In the fight against the enemies of the working class and their agents within the working-class movement, the Party consolidated its ranks and extended its connections with the working class. Making wide use of the Duma as a platform for revolutionary agitation, and having founded a splendid mass workers' newspaper, Pravda , the Party trained a new generation of revolutionary workers – the Pravdists. During the imperialist war this section of the workers remained faithful to the banner of internationalism and proletarian revolution. It subsequently formed the core of the Bolshevik Party during the revolution of October 1917.
On the eve of the imperialist war the Party led the working class in its revolutionary actions. These were vanguard engagements which were interrupted by the imperialist war only to be resumed three years later to end in the overthrow of tsardom. The Bolshevik Party entered the difficult period of the imperialist war with the banners of proletarian internationalism unfurled.Click here to continue to Chapter 6.