Metalworkers’ Strikes in 1912
|Written||24 August 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 311-324.
The Association of Factory Owners in the Moscow Industrial Area has this year published (Moscow, 1913, P. P. Ryabushinsky’s Press) something in the nature of a report on its activities for 1912. Perhaps the most interesting part of the report is that giving data on the strike movement in various parts of Russia.
The total number of strikers in Russia is estimated by the Association of Moscow Factory Owners as 96,750 in 1911 and 211,595 in 1912. These figures are for economic strikes only. The Association estimates political strikes as affecting 850,000 workers in 1912, 8,000 in 1911 and 4,000 in 1910.
Note that “for convenient comparison with official information”, which does not cover enterprises not under the Factory Inspectorate, the Association of Moscow magnates has omitted the 6,000 Lena strikers. It goes without saying that we still have no guarantee that such a comparison has been done correctly—the factory owners decided to copy the bad aspects of our official statistics and not worry about the completeness of their data or even about the accuracy of those who compiled them. The summary table of the number of strikers (page 23 of the report), for instance, is astonishingly full of crude errors, which we have endeavoured to correct in giving the totals quoted above. That table assessed the metalworkers participating in strikes in the Kingdom of Poland for the whole of 1912 as 2,390, and on page 56 we are told that for seven months of 1912 a total of 3,790 metalworkers took part in strikes in the Kingdom of Poland!
One cannot help wishing that our Kit Kityches would hire writers able to count or would send their statistics to workers’ trade unions to be checked and corrected.
Let us see what role the metalworkers played in the economic strike movement of 1912 according to the factory owners’ statistics.
These data distribute the total number of strikers, 211,595, as follows: metalworkers, 78,195; textile workers, 89,540; workers of all other branches of industry, 43,860. Since there are far fewer metalworkers than textile workers in Russia, these figures show immediately that in 1912 the metalworkers conducted a most stubborn and persistent strike struggle as compared with workers in other branches of industry. To give this conclusion clearer expression, let us compare the total number of workers in Russia with the number of strikers in 1912.
|Total number of workers
in Russia accordingto statistics
strikers in 1912 (according to the factory owners’ data)
|Metalworkers . . . . . . . .||529,274||280,194||78,195|
|Textile workers . . . . . . .||823,401||840,520||89,540|
|Others . . . . . . . . . . .||901,112||831,241||43,860|
|Totals . . . . . . .||2,253,787||1,951,955||211,595|
These data show dearly that the metalworkers hold first place for the vigorous nature of their strike struggle; the second place is held by the textile workers, and the workers in other branches of industry take last place.
If the “other” workers had been as energetic in striking as the metalworkers, the number of strikers would have been increased by some 90,000.
There is no doubt that the relatively more favourable market conditions in 1912 facilitated the strike struggle of the metalworkers, but, although the metalworkers outdid everyone else in persistence, the “others”, as we shall see later, fared best of all as far as success of the economic strikes was concerned.
The persistence of the strike struggle is determined, among other things, by the average duration of the strikes. This average is obtained by dividing the total number of days lost through strikes by the number of strikers.
Here are the figures given by the Association of Factory Owners:
|1895-1904 . . . . . . . .||4.8 days|
|1909 . . . . . . . . . .||6.5 ”|
|1911 . . . . . . . . . .||8.2 ”|
|1912 . . . . . . . . . .||13.4 ”|
“It turns out that the resistance of the workers,” says the report, “was almost twice as great in 1912 as that of 1911.” To this we must add that if we take the last seven months of 1912 (and, indeed, only for this period are the data in the report under review reasonably well processed), we get an average of 16 days as the length of a strike.
It therefore follows that the stubbornness of the workers in the strike struggle is undoubtedly increasing and is becoming greater as time goes on.
The duration of the strikes in the different branches of industry was as follows:
|1911||1912||The last seven
|Metalworkers . . . . . . . .||10.0 days||14.2 days||18.8 days|
|Textile workers . . . . . . .||9.2 ”||11.9 ”||14.0 ”|
|Others . . . . . . . . . . .||5.0 ”||15.6 ”||16.8 ”|
|All industries . . .||8.2 ”||13.4 ”||16.0 ”|
From this we see that as far as concerns the duration of strikes, metalworkers held first place in 1911 and in the second half of 1912; it was only in the first half of 1912 that the “others” took first place and the metalworkers found themselves in the second place. Throughout the whole of the period under review the textile workers have been in the second place as far as the duration of their strikes is concerned.
The factory owners assess the general outcome of the strikes by a computation of “losses to industry” from strikes. Our capitalists do not wish to compute what the working class has gained, through strikes! Here is a summary of the factory owners’ statistics:
|Branches of industry||Direct losses
to industry from strikes (economic)
country in underproduc- tion
|Metal . . . . . . . . . . . .||558||1,145||4,959|
|Textiles . . . . . . . . . . . .||479||807||6,010|
|Others . . . . . . . . . . . .||328||529||3,818|
|Totals for 1912 . . . . .||1,365||2,481||14,787|
|” ” 1911 . . . . . . . . . . .||402||716||4,563|
We see from this table that in 1912 the capitalists’ losses were three times greater than in 1911.
Representatives of bourgeois political economy will object—but, they will say, did not the “country” lose three times as much and were not the workers’ wage losses three times as much, and are not the workers’ losses in wages of more significance than the factory owners’ losses?
According to factory owners’ statistics, and bourgeois logic, too, these foolish workers are only doing themselves harm with their strikes, and the solicitous authorities and capitalist benefactors who persecute them for striking are only acting in the interests of the workers....
The same factory owners tell us that they have succeeded in assessing the results of the 1911 strikes in respect of 96,730 strikers.
In the strike struggle 47,369 workers (49 per cent) were defeated and 49,361 (51 per cent) achieved the complete or partial satisfaction of their demands, i.e., were successful.
This is the result of strikes that factory owners’ statistics and bourgeois economy prefer not to take into account! And, indeed, it cannot be reckoned in rubles; for apart from the workers’ direct gain in increased wages when a strike is successful, there is still another “gain”. The entire working class, and, therefore, the entire country (the country of the working masses and not of the bourgeois minority) gains from the resistance offered by striking workers to the exploiters. Without that resistance the workers would have become downright paupers, crushed by the high cost of living; without that resistance they would be transformed from human beings into the hopeless slaves of capital.
According to the factory owners’ statistics, strikes were less successful in the second half of 1912; 52 per cent of the workers on strike suffered defeat, only 36 per cent were successful, and for 11 per cent the outcome was not determined. At this point we must make a more thorough examination of the role of striking metalworkers in Russia in general and in the various districts in particular.
The Association of Moscow Factory Owners provides fairly well processed information on strikes, as we have said, only for the last seven months of 1912. The information covers five areas of Russia—the Moscow, St. Petersburg, Baltic and Southern areas, and the Kingdom of Poland.
The metalworkers striking during these months are distributed by areas as follows:
|Area||Number of strikers in the
last seven months of 1912
|Moscow . . . . . . . . .||48,140||3,760|
|St. Petersburg . . . . .||35,390||15,160|
|Baltic . . . . . . . . .||13,210||1,160|
|Southern . . . . . . . .||22,195||16,605|
|Kingdom of Poland . . . .||12,690||3,790|
|Totals . . . . . . . .||131,625||40,475|
In the Southern area, therefore, metalworkers predominate among the total number of strikers, In the St. Petersburg area they constitute a very significant section of the strikers (over 40 per cent) and are second only to the textile workers (16,770 strikers in the St. Petersburg area). In the Moscow, Baltic and Polish areas, the metalworkers were but a small minority among the strikers. By comparing the first five months of 1912 with the last seven months we get:
|Number of strikers:|
|First 5 months||Last 7 months|
|Metalworkers . . . .||37,720||40,475|
|Textile workers . . .||22,950||60,590|
|Others . . . . . . . .||19,300||24,560|
|Totals . . . . .||79,970||131,625|
In the second half of the year the vigour with which the metalworkers engaged in strikes was somewhat less—the strike movement greatly increased among the textile workers while that of workers in other branches of Industry remained at approximately the same level.
To assess the outcome of strikes the Moscow Association of Factory Owners divides strikers into three groups—those defeated, those successful (whose demands were wholly or partially acceded to) and those whose strikes ended without definite results.
This is one of the most interesting of all questions of strike statistics. The millionaires’ association has handled the question badly; for example, there are no data on offensive strikes (when the workers demand an improvement in their living and working conditions) and defensive strikes (when workers resist changes introduced by the capitalists worsening living and working conditions). Nor is there any detailed information on the causes of strikes (such information is given even in our official statistics), etc.
The way the Association of Moscow Factory Owners have handled what information they do give is, furthermore, extremely unsatisfactory. There are even obvious cases of out-and-out distortion of figures; in the Moscow area, for instance, the number of metalworkers successful in strikes is assessed at 40 (with 3,420 defeated and 300 with undetermined results).
But in the letterpress of the report, page 35, we find that at the beginning of July 1912, there was a strike of workers in a number of art metalware workshops involving more than 1,200 workers in 15 enterprises. It was an offensive strike—the workers demanded a nine-hour day with a seven-hour day on the eve of holidays, as well as higher wages and better sanitary conditions. The owners of the workshops tried to organise resistance and decided unanimously not to make concessions and not to accept orders from the shops on strike. The workers had apparently chosen a favourable moment—it was the height of the building season, “it was hard to find unengaged workers. By the end of July the owners of the majority of work shops made concessions”.
This is what the report says! And in the statistical table the number of metalworkers winning strikes is shown as 40 (forty!). One begins to wonder whether the factory owners’ statisticians were not only too willing “to forget” the victories of the workers. Did they not strive—unwittingly, of course—to please the Kit Kityches by understating the number of victorious workers?
In any case, organised, class-conscious workers must approach the factory owners’ statistics with caution and scepticism and must persist in their attempts to compile their own, workers’ strike statistics.
The overall figures on the outcome of strikes given by the factory owners are:
|Number of strikers||Metal-
|Defeated . . . . . . . .||19,990||43,085||7,150||70,225|
|Successful . . . . . . .||17,860||20,285||9,520||47,665|
|Outcome unknown . . .||2,625||3,220||7,890||13,735|
|Totals. . . . . .||40,475||66,590||24,560||131,625|
We see from this that the most successful of all were workers in other branches of industry—more workers won their strikes than lost them. Second place is held by the metalworkers; the number of successful strikers is nevertheless very considerable—over 40 per cent of the total. The textile workers had the worst results—their losses were more than twice as great as their gains.
Taking them by and large, the results of the strike struggle in 1912 were not bad, although they were not so good as those of 1911. To make it easier to compare the data for different years let us divide the number of strikers, the outcome of whose strikes is unknown, equally between the successful and unsuccessful strikers. In this way we obtain for the last seven months of 1912, a total of 77,000 unsuccessful (i.e., 58.4 per cent) and 55,000 successful (i.e., 41.6 per cent) strikers out of 132,000.
It cannot be guaranteed that these figures are identical in kind with those of official statistics for previous years. We shall, however, quote these figures so that workers will be able to judge the general outcome of strikes in Russia in the best and worst years of the working-class movement.
|Number of strikers (thousands)|
|1895–1904 (total for ten years)||159||37.5||265||62.5||424|
|1905 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||705||48.9||734||51.1||1,439|
|1906 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||233||50.9||225||49.1||458|
|1907 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||59||29.5||141||70.5||200|
|1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||—||—||—||—||—|
|1909 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||—||—||—||—||—|
|1910 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||—||—||—||—||—|
|1911 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||49||51.0||47||49.0||96|
|1912 (seven months) . . . . . . .||55||41.6||77||58.4||132|
Thus, the results of the strikes in the second half of 1912 were not so good as those of 1905, 1906, and 1911 but better than those of 1895–1004 and better than those of 1907. We must repeat that the figures at our disposal for the various years are probably not fully comparable, but they can give some idea of the situation.
Let it be noted that according to British strike statistics for the ten years 1900–09 the average annual percentage of workers winning strikes was 26.8, defeated 31.7, and ending their strikes in a compromise 41.3. If the last figure is divided equally between successful and unsuccessful strikers we get: successful, 47.5 per cent, unsuccessful, 52.3 per cent. Strikes in Russia in 1905 and 1906, and again in 1911, were more successful than the average British strikes despite the tremendous advantages possessed by the British workers in respect of organisation and political liberty.
It is rather interesting to compare the results of metalworkers’ strikes in different parts of Russia.
The Moscow and St. Petersburg areas differ from all others in this respect. The strikes of both metalworkers and all other workers were, in general, relatively unsuccessful in the last seven months of 1912 in the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas. The opposite is true of other areas.
Here are the figures for the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas.
|Number of striking metal workers
in the last seven months of 1912
|Moscow area||St. Petersburg
|Defeated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||3,420||10,840|
|Successful . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||40||4,170|
|Outcome unknown . . . . . . . . . . . .||300||150|
|Totals . . . . . . . . . . . .||3,760||15,160|
The number of defeated is much greater than the number of successful strikers. The same is true of the textile workers in both areas and of “the others” in St. Petersburg. Only in the Moscow area did “the others” show a greater number of successful (4,380) than unsuccessful strikers (1,230).
Apparently there were certain general conditions in the Moscow and St. Petersburg districts that were unfavourable to workers’ strikes in nearly all branches of industry.
In the South, on the contrary, and in the Baltic and Polish districts, the strikes of all workers in general, and of metalworkers in particular, were successful.
|Number of striking metalworkers in the
last seven months of 1912
|Defeated . . . . . . . . . . . .||4,390||440||900|
|Successful . . . . . . . . . . .||10,040||720||2,890|
|Outcome unknown . . . . . . . .||2,175||—||—|
|Totals . . . . . . . . .||16,605||1,160||3,790|
The metalworkers had their greatest success in Poland; in general, the economic conditions for a strike movement in that district turned out most favourable for the workers. They were successful there in all branches of industry (in the South “the others” suffered a defeat and in the Baltic area the textile workers’ struggle ended in “a draw”—there were 1,485 each successful and unsuccessful strikers). Even the textile workers, who were, in general, most severely defeated throughout Russia in the second half of 1912 (43,000 defeated and 20,000 successful) scored a brilliant victory in the Kingdom of Poland—only 390 defeated as compared with 8,060 successful.
In the West and South of Russia the workers attacked the capitalists and scored big victories; in Moscow and St. Petersburg they also attacked but in most cases their at tacks were warded off. Unfortunately, the data we are analysing are too scanty to permit a comparison with 1911 and it is impossible to draw a definite conclusion as to the causes of the difference.
As we have seen, the metalworkers come first as far as the persistence of their strikes is concerned and the textile workers are in the last place. It is interesting to compare the persistence of the successful strikes of metalworkers with that of the unsuccessful. Here are the figures:
number of dayslost per striker
|Defeated . . . . . . . . .||19,990||230.7||11.5|
|Successful . . . . . . . .||17,860||387.3||21.7|
|Outcome unknown . . . . .||2,625||145.3||55.4|
|Totals . . . . . . . .||40,475||763.3||18.8|
We see that the distinguishing feature of successful metalworkers’ strikes is that they were almost twice as persistent as the unsuccessful strikes (21.7 days as compared with 11.5 days). Victory was not easily achieved. Only by tremendous vigour and persistence was it possible to break the resistance of the capitalists. The strikes whose outcome was not clearly defined were apparently those in which the strength of the “contestants” was more or less equal and the struggle was extraordinarily stubborn; the average length of strikes leading to indefinite results was 55.4 days.
Be it noted that among “the other” workers we also observe greater stubbornness in successful strikes and among textile workers we see the opposite—the unsuccessful strikes of the latter were the most stubborn.
A comparison of the persistence of metalworkers’ strikes in the different areas of Russia gives the following results:
|Average length of strikes per striking metalworker|
|Defeated . . . . . . . . . .||11.5||12.1||5.9||12.0||5.2|
|Successful . . . . . . . . .||1.5||37.2||23.7||14.9||22.4|
|Outcome unknown . . . . . . .||12.0||261.3||—||47.1||—|
|Totals . . . . . . .||11.5||21.4||17.0||18.4||18.3|
First place for duration of strikes among the metalworkers in general is taken by the St. Petersburg area; next comes the South, then the Polish and Baltic areas and, lastly, the Moscow area. With the exception of the Moscow area all other successful strikes were more stubborn than the unsuccessful.
Judging by the persistence of their strikes and also by the percentage of workers participating in the strike struggle, the St. Petersburg metalworkers play the role of vanguard to the metalworkers of all Russia. And the metalworkers in general play the same role to the workers of the other branches of industry.
Extreme brevity is the distinguishing feature of the descriptions of individual strikes in the report by the Moscow Association of Factory Owners. We shall quote a few of these descriptions so that metalworkers may see how the gentlemen who compile reports for factory owners depict their struggle.
In the Moscow area the strike of 1,200 workers in art metalware workshops is a remarkable case. We have already mentioned this.
The factory owners regard the strike at Siemens and Halske, lasting 14 weeks and ending on August 19, as one of the most stubborn in the St. Petersburg area. The Factory Owners’ Association reports that 1,600 workers took part. The factory management did not agree to withdraw the fine imposed for May Day but “in exchange expressed the wish to pay the workers a Christmas bonus of three rubles. Then the factory management agreed to include May Day in the list of holidays if the government did not put any obstacles in the way” (page 38 of the report). “During the strike,” we read in the report, “there were several cases of workers attacking the newly employed with the help of whom work was partially resumed.”
Most noteworthy of the metalworkers’ strikes in the South was that of 3,886 Nikolayev shipyard workers that caused the loss of more than 155,000 working days. The workers demanded the eight-hour day, a fifty per cent in crease in wages, the annulment of fines and all overtime, and the institution of elected shop stewards, etc. The strike lasted all the month of June. “At the end of June an agreement was reached between the workers and the shipyard management under which all workers returned to their places; the shipyard recognised the shop stewards, a messroom was opened and wages were increased by 18 per cent.” There were clashes between strikers and blacklegs.
The strike that broke out at a locomotive works in Kharkov in November involving 2,000 workers was exceptionally stubborn. The works had urgent government orders to fulfil and “suffered heavy losses on account of the stoppage”.
Among the strikes in the Urals area, which were completely omitted from the Association of Factory Owners’ statistics, we must make special mention of the strike at the Sysert factories. The workers won a wage increase. “At the government munitions factory in Zlatoust the strike was caused by the death of three workers from injuries inflicted by machines. The strikers demanded the installation of safety devices and also an increase in wages.”
Even a cursory glance at the scanty figures provided by the factory owners’ statistics must reveal the following.
Strike statistics that are complete, accurate, intelligently processed and published in good time have tremendous importance, both theoretical and practical, for the workers. They provide valuable information that illuminates every step of the great road the working class is travelling towards its world-wide goals, and also the closer, current tasks of the struggle.
In countries that are to some extent democratic and free, tolerable government statistics are possible. This is out of the question in Russia. Our government statistics are poor, they are absurdly split up among “departments”, they are unreliable and their publication is delayed. The factory owners’ statistics are little better and still less complete, although sometimes they are published somewhat earlier than those of the sleepy Russian civil servant.
The workers must consider producing their own, workers’ strike statistics. The difficulties involved in compiling such statistics are, of course, exceedingly great in view of the persecution of workers’ associations and the working-class press in Russia. It is impossible to overcome these difficulties at once. Workers, however, are not accustomed to showing fear of persecution or retreating in face of difficulties.
Even partial strike statistics by workers, i.e., those that cover separate areas, separate branches of industries and relatively short periods, will be of great value. Such statistics will teach the workers how to compile something fuller and better and will at times enable them to compare the factory owners’ or civil servants’ picture with their own.
We therefore permit ourselves to conclude this analysis of factory owners’ statistics with the wish that workers should, despite all the obstacles, again and again attempt to compile their own, workers’ strike statistics. Two or three class-conscious workers could compile an accurate description of each strike, the time it begins and ends, the number of participants (with distribution according to sex and age wherever possible), the causes and the results of the strike. Such a description should be sent in one copy to the headquarters of the workers’ association concerned (trade union or other body, or the office of the trade union newspaper); a second copy should be sent to the central workers’ newspaper; lastly, a third copy should be sent to a working-class deputy of the State Duma for his information.
Both factory owners’ and government statistics will always contain not only gaps but also distortions. Even in the press that sympathises with the workers we often come across monstrously false, absurd appraisals of strikes as manifestations of “a craze”, etc., appraisals permeated with the bourgeois spirit.
Only by getting down to business themselves will the workers—in time, after stubborn work and persistent effort—be able to help towards a better understanding of their own movement and thus ensure bigger successes for that movement.