Factory Owners on Workers’ Strikes
|Written||30 May 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 125-131.
P. P. Ryabushinsky’s press in Moscow has published an interesting book entitled The Association of Factory Owners in the Moscow Industrial Area in 1912 (Moscow, 1913). The price is not given. The factory owners do not wish their publications to be put on sale.
Yuli Petrovich Guzhon, the president of the association, when opening this year’s annual meeting on March 30, congratulated the industrialists “on the beginning of the seventh operative year” of their organisation and declared that the industrialists had “by their unity created for themselves a conception of the might of the industrial corporation that could not be ignored”. “The present main task of new members of the association must be the strengthening of the prestige of that might,” said Mr. Guzhon.
As you see, the speech was not what one might call literate, it was reminiscent of the speech of some army clerk; nevertheless it was full of arrogance.
Let us look at the sections of the book dealing with facts. More than one-third of it (pp. 19–69) is taken up by the section devoted to strikes. The industrialists give us the following picture of the total number of workers taking part in strikes in 1912.
|Category of strike||Number of striking
|Economic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||207,720||96,730|
|Metal goods industry . . . . . . . . . . .||64,200||17,920|
|Textiles ” ” . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||90,930||51,670|
|Other branches . . . . . . . . . . . . .||52,590||27,140|
|Political . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||855,000||8,380|
|Over Lena events . . . . . . . . . . . . .||215,000|
|May Day celebrations . . . . . . . . . . .||300,000|
|Autumn political strikes . . . . . . . . .||340,000|
|Totals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||1,062,720||105,110|
It is easy to see that the industrialists’ figures are an understatement. But for the time being we shall not deal with that (the Lena strike of 6,000 workers has been omitted because the Lena Goldfields do not come under the Factory Inspectorate), but we shall examine the factory owners’ statistics.
The number of workers who took part in strikes in 1912 was more than a half of the total number of industrial workers in Russia, to be exact, 51.7 per cent. Economic strikes, furthermore, accounted for only one-tenth of the workers (10.1 per cent) and political strikes for more than four-tenths (41.6 per cent).
“Typical of the past year,” write the factory owners, “was the extraordinary growth in the number of political strikes that time and again interrupted the normal course of work and kept the entire industry in a state of tension.” This is followed by a list of the most important strikes in the second half of the year—August, in Riga, against the disenfranchisement of workers; September, in Warsaw, over the events at the Kutomary Penal Colony; October, in St. Petersburg, over the annulment of the elections of representatives, in Revel, in memory of the events of 1905, and in St. Petersburg, over the well-known verdict in the case of naval ratings; November, in St. Petersburg, over the Sevastopol verdict and on the day of the opening of the Duma, and then a strike On the occasion of the second anniversary of Leo Tolstoy’s death; December, in St. Petersburg, over the appointment of workers in insurance institutions. From this the factory owners draw the conclusion:
‘The frequency of the demonstration strikes, which occur one after another, and the unusual variety and difference in the importance of the motives for which the workers considered it necessary to interrupt work, are evidence, not only of a considerable thickening of the political atmosphere, but also of the decline of factory discipline.” Then follow the usual threats of “severe measures”—fines, stopping of bonuses, lock-outs. “The interests of the country’s production,” declare the factory owners, “urgently demand the raising of factory discipline to the high level at which it stands in the West-European countries.”
The factory owners wish to raise “discipline” to the “Western” level but do not think of raising the “political atmosphere” to the same level....
We shall leave for subsequent articles the data concerning strike distribution over various areas, and in various branches of industry and according to the degree of success achieved.
The 1912 data of the Moscow Factory Owners Association on the incidence of strikes in various areas and branches of industry are very badly compiled. It would do no harm if our millionaires were to hire, say, some high-school boy to help them compile their books and check the tables. Mistakes and absurdities leap to the eye when we compare, for example, the data given on pages 23, 26 and 48. Oh yes, we love talking about culture and “the prestige of the might” of the merchants, but we can’t do even the simplest job half-way decently.
Below we give the factory owners’ strike statistics—for economic strikes only—by areas for 1912 as a whole and for the last seven months of that year:
|Areas||For all 1912||For the last 7
months of 1912
of dayslost (000)
of dayslost (000)
|Moscow . . . . . . . . .||60,070||799.2||48,140||730.6|
|St. Petersburg . . . . .||56,890||704.8||35,390||545.7|
|Baltic . . . . . . . . .||18,950||193.5||13,210||153.6|
|South . . . . . . . . . .||23,350||430.3||22,195||427.0|
|Kingdom of Poland . .||21,120||295.7||12,690||249.9|
|Totals . . . .||180,380||2,423.5||131,625||2,107.4|
A glance at the figures for the South is enough to show how useless, i.e., extremely incomplete, the factory owners’ statistics are. The figures for the last seven months of 1912 seem to be more reliable, because here, and only here, the distribution of strikers is given in detail according to areas, major industries and the results achieved.
The area data show us that the St. Petersburg workers are in advance of all the workers of Russia in the economic struggle as well (to say nothing of the political struggle). The number of strikers in the St. Petersburg area (35,000 for the last seven months of 1912) is about three-quarters of the number of strikers in the Moscow area (48,000) although the number of factory workers there is about four times that of the number in the St. Petersburg area. In the Kingdom of Poland there are slightly more workers than in the St. Petersburg area but the number of strikers there was little more than a third of the St. Petersburg figure.
As far as Moscow is concerned, there is, of course, the need to consider the worsening marketing conditions in the textile industry, although in Poland two-thirds of those participating in economic strikes were textile workers and we shall see later that these textile strikes in Poland were particularly successful.
In 1912, therefore, the St. Petersburg workers to a certain extent drew the workers of other parts of Russia into the economic strike movement.
In respect of determination, on the other hand, the strikes in the South and in Poland take first place; in these areas nineteen days per striker were lost, whereas in St. Petersburg and Moscow the figure was fifteen days (in the Baltic area 12 days per striker). The average for all Russia was sixteen days on strike per striker. The gentlemen who compile the factory owners’ statistics give the figure for the whole of 1912 as 13.4 days. It follows from this that the persistence of the workers and their determination in struggle were greater in the second half of the year.
Statistics show, furthermore, the increased persistence of the workers in the strike struggle. From 1895 to 1904 the average number of days lost per striker was 4.8, in 1909 it was 6.5 days, in 1911 it was 7.5 days (8.2 days if political strikes are excluded) and in 1912, 13.4 days.
The year 1912, therefore, showed that there is a growing persistence among workers in the economic struggle and that the number of strikers—compared with the number of workers—is greatest in St. Petersburg.
In our next article we shall examine data on the degree of success achieved by strikes.
The factory owners’ statistics give the following figures for strikers (in economic strikes) for 1912 according to branches of industry:
|Branch of industry||For all 1912||For the last 7
months of 1912
of dayslost (000)
of dayslost (000)
|Metalworkers . . . . .||57,000||807.2||40,475||763.3|
|Textile workers . . . . .||85,550||1,025.8||66,590||930.6|
|Others . . . . . . . . .||37,830||590.5||24,560||413.5|
Here the extreme insufficiency of the factory owners’ statistics and the extreme carelessness with which they have been compiled are still more apparent—the number of strikers for the first five months (which was 79,970) added to that for the last seven months gives a total of 211,595, and not 180,000, and not 207,000!
The factory owners themselves prove that they underestimate the number of strikers.
The metalworkers are in the lead both in the ratio of number of strikers to the total number of workers and in the duration of the strikes; 18 days were lost per metalworker on strike, 14 days per textile worker and 16 days per worker in other industries. The better marketing conditions in the iron and steel industry do not, as we see, relieve the workers of the necessity of striking for a tiny wage increase!
As far as the results of the strikes are concerned, the factory owners’ statistics declare that 1912 was a less favourable year for the workers than 1911 had been. In 1911, they say, 49 per cent of the strikers suffered a defeat and in 1912, 52 per cent were defeated. These data, however, are not convincing, because the figures compared are for the whole of 1911 and for seven months of 1912.
The strikes of 1912 were offensive and not defensive in character. The workers were fighting for improved working conditions and not against worse conditions. This means that 52 per cent of the workers did not gain any improvement, 36 per cent were fully or partially successful and for 12 per cent the results are unclear. It is very likely that the factory owners concealed their defeat in this 12 per cent of all cases because every success of capital over labour arouses their special attention and jubilation.
If we compare the outcome of strikes for the last seven months of 1912 by areas and by branches of industry, we get the following picture.
The least successful of all were the strikes in the Moscow area—75 per cent of the strikers failed (i.e., did not gain any improvement); then follow the St. Petersburg area with 63 per cent, the South with 33 per cent, the Baltic area with 20 per cent and Poland with 11 per cent of failures. In the last-named three areas, therefore, the workers achieved tremendous victories. Out of the 48,000 strikers in these three areas, 27,000 achieved improvements, they were victorious; 11,000 suffered defeats; the results achieved by 10,000 are uncertain.
In the first two areas (Moscow and St. Petersburg), on the contrary, out of the 83,000 strikers only 20,000 were successful; 59,000 were defeated (i.e., did not achieve any improvement) and the results achieved by 4,000 are uncertain.
Taken by branches of industry, the number of strikers who were defeated was: textile workers, 66 per cent, metal-workers, 47 per cent, and others, 30 per cent.
Marketing conditions were worst of all for the textile workers. In the Moscow area only 6,000 of the 38,000 strikers in the textile industry were successful, 32,000 were defeated; in St. Petersburg there were 4,000 successful and 9,000 defeated. Textile workers in Poland, however, had 8,000 successful strikers and 400 defeated.
The financial results of the strikes (economic strikes) for the last two years are shown as follows by the factory owners statistics:
output forthe country
|Iron and steel industry . .||558||1,145||4,959|
|Textile industry . . . . .||479||807||6,010|
|Other branches . . . . . .||328||529||3,818|
|Totals for 1912||1,365||2,481||14,787|
|Totals for 1911||402||716||4,563|
Thus the factory owners’ total losses for two years amount to 1,800,000, workers’ losses in wages to 3,000,000 rubles, and losses in output to 19,000,000 rubles.
Here the factory owners place a period. How wise they are! What did the workers gain?
In two years 125,000 workers gained a victory. Their wages for the year amount to 30,000,000 rubles. They demanded pay increases of 10 per cent, 25 per cent and even 40 per cent, as the factory owners themselves admit. Ten per cent of 30,000,000 rubles is 3,000,000 rubles. And the reduction in the working day?
And what of the new (the factory owners expression) demands, such as the demand “not to discharge workers without the consent of their fellow-workers”?
You are wrong, you gentlemen who own factories! Even in the economic sense (to say nothing of political strikes) the workers’ gains are terrifying. The bourgeoisie does not understand either workers’ solidarity or the conditions of proletarian struggle.
About 300,000 workers have sacrificed 3,000,000 rubles to the economic struggle in two years. A direct gain was immediately achieved by 125,000 workers. And the whole working class made a step forward.