Days of Bloodshed in Moscow
|Written||27 September 1905|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 336-341.
Days of Bloodshed in Moscow is a draft of the article “The Political Strike and the Street Fighting in Moscow”, which is published in this volume on pages 347-55.
Geneva, October 10 (September 27), 1905
A new outbreak of the workers’ insurrection—a mass strike and street fighting in Moscow. On January 9 the first peal of revolutionary action by the proletariat thundered forth in the capital. The rumbling of this thunderclap reverberated throughout Russia, and with unparalleled rapidity roused over a million proletarians to titanic battle. St. Petersburg was followed by the outlying regions, where oppression of local nationalities had rendered the already insufferable political yoke still more intolerable. Riga, Poland, Odessa, the Caucasus—all in turn became centres of insurrection which spread and gained in intensity with every month, with every week. It has now reached the centre of Russia, the heart of the “true Russian” regions, whose stability had longest been movingly eulogised by the reactionaries. A number of circumstances explain this relative stability, i.e., backwardness, in the Russian central regions. These are: the less developed forms of big industry which involves masses of workers but is less divorced from the land and has in less measure concentrated proletarians in intellectual centres; the greater distances from foreign countries; the absence of national discord. The labour movement, which manifested itself with such great force in this region as far back as 1885-86, seemed to have died down for a long time, and the obstacles presented by the particularly difficult local conditions of work frustrated the efforts of the Social-Democrats scores of times.
But at last things began to move in the central areas too. The Ivanovo-Voznesensk strike has revealed an unexpectedly high degree of political maturity in the workers. Ever since this strike the entire central industrial region has been in a state of unrest, which has been steadily developing, gaining in intensity and sweep. This unrest has now begun to manifest itself openly in the form of an uprising. Without any doubt the outbreak was intensified by the revolutionary students in Moscow, who have just passed a resolution, quite analogous to the St. Petersburg resolution, branding the State Duma, calling for a struggle on behalf of a republic and for the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government. The “liberal” professors, who had just selected a most liberal rector, the notorious Mr. Trubetskoi, closed the University under the pressure of police threats; as they themselves said, they were afraid of a repetition of the Tiflis shambles within the University walls. They thereby merely precipitated bloodshed in the streets, outside the University.
As far as we can judge from the brief telegrams in the foreign press, the course of events in Moscow was the “customary” one, which has, so to speak, become the regular thing ever since January 9. It began with a compositors’ strike, which spread rapidly. On Saturday, September 24 (October 7), the printing-shops, electric trains, and tobacco factories were already at a standstill. No newspapers appeared, and a general strike of factory and railway workers was expected. In the evening big demonstrations were held, attended, besides the compositors, by workers of other trades, students, and so on. The Cossacks and gendarmes dispersed the demonstrators time and again, but they kept reassembling. Many policemen were injured; the demonstrators used stones and revolvers; an officer in command of the gendarmes was severely injured. One Cossack officer and one gendarme were killed, and so on.
On Saturday the bakers joined the strike.
On Sunday, September 25 (October 8), events at once took an ominous turn. From 11 a. m. workers began to assemble in the streets—especially on Strastnoi Boulevard and elsewhere. The crowd sang the Marseillaise. Printing-shops which refused to go on strike were wrecked. It was only after overcoming stubborn resistance that the Cossacks managed to disperse the demonstrators.
A crowd of about 400, consisting chiefly of bakery apprentices assembled in front of Filippov’s shop, near the Governor General’s residence. The crowd was attacked by Cossacks. The workers made their way into houses, climbed on to roofs, and showered the Cossacks with stones. The Cossacks opened fire at the roofs and, unable to dislodge the workers, resorted to a regular siege. One house was surround ed. A detachment of police and two companies of grenadiers made a flank movement, penetrated into the house from the rear and finally occupied the roof too. One hundred and ninety-two apprentices were arrested. Eight of them were injured and two workers were killed (we repeat that these are all telegraphic reports in the foreign press, of course, far from complete and providing only an approximate idea of the scale of the fighting). A reputable Belgian newspaper has published a report that janitors were busy cleaning the streets of traces of blood. This minor detail, it says, testifies to the seriousness of the struggle more than lengthy reports can.
St. Petersburg papers seem to have been allowed to write about the massacre in Tverskaya Street. However, on the very next day the censor became frightened of publicity, so that official reports as of Monday, September 26 (October 9) stated that there had been no serious disturbances in Moscow. A different story was contained in telephone messages reaching St. Petersburg newspapers. It appears that the crowd reassembled near the Governor General’s house, where sharp clashes took place. The Cossacks opened fire several times. As they dismounted to fire, their horses trampled on many people. In the evening crowds of workers thronged the boulevards, shouting revolutionary slogans and holding red banners aloft. The crowd wrecked bakers and gunsmiths’ shops. They were finally dispersed by the police. Many were injured. A company of soldiers are standing guard at the Central Telegraph office. The bakers’ strike has become general. Unrest among the students is still mounting, their assemblies growing ever larger and more revolutionary. The St. Petersburg correspondent of The Times reports that leaflets with a call to fight have been circulated in St. Petersburg, that unrest is rife among the bakers there, that a demonstration has been fixed for Saturday, October 1(14), and that the public are greatly alarmed.
Meagre as this information is, it nevertheless leads us to the conclusion that the insurrectionary outbreak in Moscow is not a relatively high stage of the movement, compared with the others. No previously trained and well-armed revolutionary contingents were in evidence; no section of the troops went over to the side of the people, nor was wide use made of bombs, the “new” type of popular armament (which created such panic among the Cossacks and soldiers in Tiflis on September 26 [October 91). In the absence of any of these conditions, it was impossible to count either on the arming of a large number of workers, or on the victory of the uprising. As we have already pointed out, the Moscow events are of moment for quite a different reason: they mark the baptism of fire of a big centre, the involvement of an enormous industrial region in a serious struggle.
The uprising in Russia does not and cannot, of course, advance at an even and regular rate. The outstanding feature of the St. Petersburg events of January 9 was the rapid and unanimous movement of huge masses, unarmed and not out for battle, who nevertheless received a great lesson in the struggle. In Poland and in the Caucasus the movement is characterised by great stubbornness and the relatively more frequent use of arms and bombs by the population. The events in Odessa were distinguished by the fact that part of the troops went over to the rebels. In all cases and at all times, the movement has been essentially proletarian, inseparably merged with the mass strike. In Moscow the movement proceeded along the same lines, as was the case in a number of other and smaller industrial centres.
The question which naturally arises now is: will the revolutionary movement stop at the stage of development it has already reached, a stage which has become “customary” and familiar, or will it advance to a higher level? If we venture into the field of appraisal of such intricate and incalculable events as those of the Russian revolution, we shall inevitably arrive at the conclusion that the second alternative is infinitely the more probable. True, even the present form of struggle, already rehearsed if we may use such an expression—guerilla warfare, constant strikes, wearing down the enemy in street fighting, now in this part of the country, now in another—this form of struggle has also yielded and continues to yield very important results. No state is able to withstand à la longue a stubborn struggle of this sort, which brings industrial life to a standstill, introduces utter demoralisation into the bureaucracy and the army, and spreads dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs among all sections of the people. Still less is the Russian autocratic government capable of enduring such a struggle. We may be quite confident that a persistent continuation of the struggle, even in forms that have already been created by the working-class movement, will inevitably bring about the collapse of tsarism.
However, it is highly improbable that the revolutionary movement in present-day Russia will halt at the stage it has already reached. On the contrary, all the facts indicate rather that this is only an initial stage in the struggle. Far from all the consequences of the shameful and ruinous war have as yet been felt by the people. The economic crisis in the cities and famine in the villages are exacerbating public feeling. Judging by available information, the Manchurian army is in an extremely revolutionary temper, and the government is afraid to bring it back—yet it is impossible not to bring it back in view of the danger of new and even more serious uprisings. Never before has political agitation among the workers and peasants in Russia been so wide spread, so methodical, or so far-reaching. The State Duma farce inevitably entails fresh defeats for the government, and fresh ill-will in the population. Within the last ten months or so, the insurrection has grown tremendously before our very eyes, and the conclusion that the uprising will soon reach a new and higher stage, wherein fighting detachments of revolutionaries or of mutinous military units will come to the assistance of the multitude, helping the masses to procure arms, and introducing the greatest vacillation into the ranks of the “tsarist” (still tsarist, but already far from wholly tsarist) troops, wherein the uprising will lead to an important victory which tsarism will be unable to recover from—this conclusion is not a figment of the imagination or a piece of wishful thinking, but one that stems directly and necessarily from the facts of the mass struggle.
The tsar’s troops were victorious over the workers in Moscow. This victory has not enfeebled the vanquished, but has only welded them more closely together, deepened their hatred, and brought them closer to the practical tasks of a serious struggle. It is one of those victories that cannot fail to introduce vacillation in the ranks of the victors. Only now are the troops beginning to learn, and to learn not only by looking up laws but from their own experience, that they are being mobilised wholly and exclusively to fight the “enemy at home”. The war with Japan is over, but mobilisation continues, mobilisation against the revolution. Such mobilisation holds no terrors for us, nor do we hesitate to welcome it, for the greater the number of soldiers called upon to wage a systematic struggle against the people, the more rapidly will the political and revolutionary education of these soldiers proceed. By mobilising ever new military units to wage war on the revolution, tsarism is delaying the issue, but such delay is of the greatest advantage to us, for in such protracted guerilla warfare the proletarians will learn how to fight, while the army will inevitably be drawn into political life, and the call of that life, the militant call of young Russia, is penetrating even the tightly locked doors of the army barracks, is awakening even the most ignorant, the most backward, and the most cowed.
An insurrectionary outbreak has once more been sup pressed. Once more we say: Hail the insurrection!
- The Ivanovo-Voznesensk strike, which began at the end of May and lasted till early August in 1905, involved about 70,000 workers of both sexes. Leadership was provided by the Northern Committee of the Bolsheviks. During the strike the workers formed a Council of Workers’ Representatives which in fact was one of the earliest Soviets of Workers’ Deputies in Russia.
- The police fired on Tiflis workers who had gathered on August 29 (September 11), 1905 in the building of the City Council to discuss the elections to the State Duma. By order of the tsarist authorities, the police and the Cossacks surrounded the building, broke into the hall where over 2,000 persons were assembled, and fell upon them. Sixty people were killed and about 300 injured.
All over the Caucasus—in Tiflis, Kutaisi, Sukhumi, etc.— political demonstrations and strikes took place in protest against the crimes perpetrated by the tsarist regime. Leaflets calling for an armed uprising against the autocracy were published by the Tiflis Committee of the RSDLP and No. 18 of Proletary dated September 26 (13), 1905 carried a special bulletin signed by the Caucasian League Committee regarding the events in Tiflis.
- For a long time.—Ed.