Before and Now (1912)
|Written||30 August 1912|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 302-303.
Eighteen years ago, in 1894, the working-class movement in St. Petersburg was just being born in its modern, mass form illumined by the light of the Marxist teaching.
The seventies had affected a quite insignificant top section of the working class. The foremost representatives of the working class revealed themselves even then as great leaders of the workers’ democratic movement, but the masses were still slumbering. Only in the early nineties did they begin to awaken, and at the same time there began a new and more glorious period in the history of the entire democratic movement in Russia.
Unfortunately, we must confine ourselves here, in our small parallel, to one aspect of one manifestation of the working-class movement, namely, the economic struggle and economic “exposures”.
At that time, in 1894, a very few circles of the foremost workers were heatedly discussing plans for organising factory exposures. A weighty statement by the workers them selves, addressed to their fellow-workers and pointing out the more glaring abuses of power by capital, was an exceedingly rare occurrence at the time. Speaking of such things publicly was out of the question.
But the awakening mass of the workers was able to take up the factory exposures addressed to it, despite all difficulties and in the face of all obstacles. The strike movement was growing, and the connection between the economic struggle of the working class and other, higher forms of struggle was developing irresistibly. The vanguard of Russia’s democratic movement was awakening, and ten years later it showed itself in its full stature. It is to this force alone that Russia owes the rupture of the old shell.
Those who recall the first factory exposures which the advanced workers of St. Petersburg addressed to the masses in 1894 will find it most interesting and instructive to compare them with the factory exposures made by Pravda. This little comparison of one manifestation of the workers’ struggle clearly shows the growth of its entire scope, its breadth and depth, its strength, etc.
At that time there were a mere five or six factory exposures, secretly circulated by workers in several dozen copies.
Today there are tens of thousands of copies of the daily Pravda, each making several exposures relating to the most diverse fields of labour.
At that time there were a mere five or six so-called “circles”, which discussed—in secret, of course—the state of affairs in the factories, with some Marxist intellectual or other participating, and decided on the subject of the points to be “published”.
Today there are hundreds and thousands of workers’ groups springing up spontaneously, discussing their vital needs and taking their letters, their exposures, their appeals for resistance and unity, to Pravda of their own accord.
In a matter of eighteen years, the workers have advanced from the first signs of activity, from a most timid beginning, to a movement that is a mass movement in the most exact sense of the term.
We must unfortunately limit ourselves only to parallels of factory exposures. But they, too, show the great path travelled, and the goal to which this path leads.
Eighteen years are a short span in the history of a whole class which is destined to accomplish the greatest task in the world—the emancipation of mankind.
The greater part of this path has been travelled in the dark. But now the road has been reached. Forward with courage and determination!