Strike Statistics in Russia

From Marxists-en
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Author(s) Lenin
Written 1910

Written at the end of 1910
Published December 1910 and January 1911 in the magazine Mysl Nos. 1 and 2. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the text in Mysl.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 16, pages 393-422.
Collection(s): Mysl

In his article, “Strike Statistics in Russia”, Lenin used the official data collected by V. Y. Varzar. Lenin set about analysing the statistical data towards the end of September 1910 (see his rough notebook on “Strike Statistics in Russia”, Lenin Miscellany XXV, pp. 129–55). On the basis of the collected data, Lenin intended to write an outline of the history of the Russian revolution. He expected the outline to form a book of about 300 pages, which he wanted to have translated afterwards into German. The article “Strike Statistics in Russia” was, in Lenin’s words, “a first approach to the Subject”, “the preliminary results of an attempt at making a more detailed analysis”. Lenin reserved publication, of a full account of the results “for another occasion”, but he did not manage to write a work of the size he intended.

I[edit source]

The well-known publications of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Statistics of Workers’ Strikes in Factories and Mills for the decade 1895–1904 and for 1905–08, have been commented on in our press on a number of occasions. There is such a wealth of valuable material collected in these publications that a complete study and thorough analysis of it will require a great deal of time. The analysis made in them is but a first, and very far from adequate, approach to the subject. In the present article we intend to acquaint the readers with the preliminary results of an attempt at a more detailed analysis, deferring a full exposition of the subject for publication elsewhere.

To begin with, the fact has been fully established that the strike movement in Russia in the years 1905–07 represent ed a phenomenon unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Here are the figures showing the number of strikers (in thousands) by years and countries:

AverageRussia }U.S.A.GermanyFrance
for 1895-1904431 }660527438
” 19052,863 }
” 19061,108 }
” 1907740 }Maximum number during the

fifteen years

” 1908176 }
” 190964 }

The three-year period 1905–07 is particularly remarkable. The minimum number of strikers in Russia during these three years is greater than the maximum ever attained in any of the most developed capitalist countries. This does not mean, of course, that the Russian workers are more highly developed or stronger than the workers in the West. But it does mean that mankind had never known before what energy the industrial proletariat is capable of displaying in this sphere. The specific feature of the, historical course of events was expressed in the fact that the approximate dimensions of this capability were first revealed in a backward country which is still passing through a bourgeois revolution.

In order to be clear on the question as to how it happened that, with the rather small number of factory workers in Russia compared with Western Europe, the number of strikers was so large, we must bear in mind the repeated strikes.

Here are figures showing the percentage of repeated strikes by years and the ratio between the number of strikers and the number of workers:

YearsThe number of

strikers as a per- centage of the total number of

The number of

repeated strikes as a percentage of the total number

of strikes

Hence we see that the triennium 1905–07, which is conspicuous, for the number of strikers, is also distinguished for the frequency of repeated strikes and for the high percentage of strikers in relation to the total number of workers. The statistical data cover also the number of establishments in which strikes occurred and the number of workers who took part in those strikes. Here are the figures for the various years:

Percentage of strikers in estab-

lishments affected by strikes, in relation to the total number of workers

Aggregate for ten

years (1895–1904)


This table, like the preceding one, shows that the decline in the number of strikers in 1907 compared with 1906 was, in general, considerably less than the decline in 1906 compared with 1905. We shall see further on that some industries and some districts registered not a decline, but an intensification of the strike movement in 1907 compared with 1906. For the time being we shall note that the figures by gubernias of the number of workers who actually participated in strikes reveal the following interesting phenomena. Compared with 1905 the percentage of workers who took part in strikes in 1906 declined in the overwhelming majority of industrially developed gubernias. On the other hand, there were a number of gubernias in which this percentage increased in 1906. They were those least developed industrially, and most out-of-the-way, as it were. They include, for instance, the gubernias of the Far North: Archangel (11,000 factory workers; in 1905, 0.4 per cent of the workers took part in strikes, in 1906—78.6 per cent), Vologda (6,000 factory workers; 26.8 and 40.2 per cent for the years mentioned), Olonets (1,000 factory workers; 0 and 2.6 per cent); then there is Chornoye Morye (Black Sea) Gubernia (1,000 factory workers; 42.4 and 93.5 per cent); of Volga Region—Simbirsk (14,000 factory workers; 10 and 33.9 per cent); of the central agricultural gubernias—Kursk (18,000 factory workers; 14.4 and 16.9 per cent); in the Eastern border area, Orenburg (3,000 factory workers; 3.4 and 29.4 per cent).

The significance of the increase in the percentage of workers who took part in strikes in these provinces in 1906 compared with 1905 is clear: the wave had not reached them in 1905; they began to be drawn into the movement only after a year of unparalleled struggle on the part of the more advanced workers. We shall come across this phenomenon—one very important for an understanding of the historical course of events—more than once in our further exposition.

On the other hand, in 1907 compared with 1906 the percentage of workers who took part in strikes increased in some gubernias that are very highly developed industrially: for instance, St. Petersburg (68 per cent in 1906 and 85.7 per cent in 1907—almost as high as in 1905, when 85.9 per cent of the workers took part in strikes), Vladimir (37.1 and 49.6 per cent), Baku (32.9 and 85.5 per cent), Kiev (10.9 and 11,4 per cent), and several others. Consequently, while the in creased percentage of strikers in 1906 compared with 1905 in a number of gubernias reveals the rearguard of the working class, which had lagged behind at the moment of the highest development of the struggle, the increase of this percentage in 1907 as compared with 1906 in a number of other gubernias shows us the vanguard of the working class striving to raise the struggle again, to halt the retreat that had begun.

In order to make this correct conclusion even more precise, we shall quote the absolute figures of the number of workers and the number of actual strikers in the gubernias of the first and of the second category:

Gubernias in which the percentage of workers

who took part in strikes increased in 1906

compared with 1905:
Number of


Number of

factory wor-

kers in them
Number of workers who

actually took part in

in 1905in 1906

The average number of factory workers per gubernia is 6,000. The increase in the number of workers who actually took part in strikes totalled 15,000.

Gubernias in which the percentage of workers

who took part in strikes increased in 1907

compared with 1906:
Number of


Number of

factory wor-

kers in them
Number of workers who

actually took part in

in 1906in 1907

The average number of factory workers per gubernia is 30,000. The increase in the number of workers who actually took part in strikes amounted to 100,000, or, if we exclude the Baku oil workers who were not included in the figures for 1906 (probably not more than 20-30,000), to about 70,000.

The role of the rearguard in 1906 and of the vanguard in 1907 is clearly seen from these figures.

For a still more exact idea of the extent of the movement we must take the figures for the various areas of Russia end compare the number of strikers with the number of factory workers. Here is a summary of these figures:

Factory areasNumber of

factory work- ers in 1905 (thousands)

Number of strikers (in thousands)

per year



I. St. Petersburg .2981371,03330732544
II. Moscow . . . .56712354017015428
III. Warsaw . . .2526988752510435
IV—VI. Kiev, Volga and Kharkov543102403106157[1]69[1]

The extent to which the workers took part in the movement varied in the different districts. Altogether there were 2,863,000 strikers in 1905 to a total of 1,660,000 workers, or 164 strikers for every 100 workers; in other words, on the average more than half of all the workers struck twice in that year. But this average glosses over the fundamental distinction between the St. Petersburg and Warsaw areas, on the one hand, and all the other areas, on the other. The St. Petersburg and Warsaw areas together comprise one-third of all the factory workers (550,000 out of 1,660,000), but they accounted for two-thirds of all the strikers (1,920,000 out of 2,863,000). In these areas every worker struck, on the average, nearly four times in 1905. In the other areas there were 943,000 strikers to 1,110,000 workers, i.e., the proportion of strikers was only a quarter of that in the two above-mentioned areas. This by itself shows how wrong are the assertions of the liberals, which are repeated by our liquidators, that the workers overestimated their strength. On the contrary, the facts prove that they underestimated their strength, for they did not make full use of it. Had the energy and persistence displayed in the strike struggle (we refer here only to this one form of struggle) been the same through- out Russia as they were in the St. Petersburg and Warsaw areas, the total number of strikers would have been twice as many. This conclusion can also be expressed in the following way: the workers were able to estimate only one-half of their strength in this sphere of the movement, for they had not yet brought the other half into play. In geographical terms, this may be stated as follows: the West and Northwest had woken up, but the Centre, the East and the South were still half asleep. The development of capitalism contributes something every day to awakening the tardy.

Another important conclusion from the figures by areas is that in 1906 compared with 1905 the movement declined everywhere, although unevenly; in 1907 compared with 1906 there was a very large decline in the Warsaw area and a rather slight decline in the Moscow, Kiev and Volga areas, whereas in the St. Petersburg and Kharkov areas there was an increase in the number of strikers. This means that, with the level of political consciousness and preparedness of the population as it was at the time, this particular form of the movement had exhausted itself in 1905; inasmuch as the objective contradictions in social and political life had not disappeared, the movement was bound to pass to a higher form. But after a year of recuperation, as it were, or of the mustering of forces during 1906, there were signs of a new upsurge, which actually began in part of the country. In appraising this period the liberals, echoed by the liquidators, speak contemptuously about “the expectations of the romanticists”; a Marxist, however, must state that by refusing to support this partial upsurge the liberals frustrated the last opportunity of upholding the democratic gains.

As regards the territorial distribution of the strikers, it should be noted that the vast majority of them is accounted for by six gubernias with highly developed industries, and with big cities in five of them. The six gubernias are: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vladimir, Warsaw, Petrokov and Livonia. In 1905 there were 827,000 factory workers in these gubernias, out of a total of 1,661,000; thus they accounted for nearly half of the total. As for the number of strikers in these gubernias, there were 246,000 in all during the decade 1895–1904, out of 431,000 or about 60 per cent of the total number of strikers; in 1905 there were 2,072,000 out of a total of 2,863,000, or about 70 per cent; in 1906—852,000 out of a total of 1,108,000, i.e., approximately 75 per cent; in 1907—517,000 out of a total of 740,000, or approximately 70 per cent; in 1908—85,000 out of a total of 176,000, i.e., less than a half.[2]

Consequently, the role of these six gubernias was greater during the three-year period 1905-07 than in the period be fore or after it. It is therefore clear that the big urban centres, including the capitals, displayed a considerably greater energy than all the other localities during these three years. The workers scattered in villages and in relatively small industrial centres and towns, comprising half of the total number of workers, accounted for 40 per cent of the total number of strikers in the decade 1895–1904, and for only 25–30 per cent during the period 1905–07. Supplementing the conclusion we arrived at above, we may say that the big cities had woken up, while the small towns and villages were largely still asleep.

As regards the countryside in general, i.e., as regards the factory workers living in villages, we have additional statistical data covering the number of strikes (but not that of strikers) in towns and non-urban localities. Here are the figures:

Number of strikes
Total for the

ten years

In citiesIn non-urban



In citing these data, the compilers of the official statistics point out that, according to the well-known investigations of Mr. Pogozhev, 40 per cent of all the factories in Russia are located in towns, and 60 per cent in non-urban localities.[3] Consequently, in the normal period (1895–1904), while the number of strikes in the towns was three times as high as in the rural districts, the number of strikes as a percentage of the number of establishments was 4 1/2 times as great in the towns as in the rural districts. In 1905 this ratio was approximately 8:1; in 1906 it was 9:1; in 1907—15:1 and in 1908[4] —6:1. In other words, compared with the part played by the factory workers in the villages, the part played by the urban factory workers in the strike movement was considerably greater in 1905 than in the previous years; moreover, their role became greater and greater in 1906 and 1907, i.e., proportionately the part played in the movement by the village workers became less and less. The factory workers in the villages, less prepared for the struggle by the preceding decade (1895–1904), showed the least firmness and were the quickest to retreat after 1905. The vanguard, i.e., the urban factory workers, made a special effort in 1906, and a still greater effort in 1907, to halt this retreat. Let us now examine the distribution of the strikers according to industries. For this purpose we single out four main groups of industries: A) metal-workers: B) textile-workers; C) printers, wood-workers, leather-workers, and workers in chemical industries; D) workers in the mineral products industries and food industries. Here are the figures for the different years:

Groups of industriesTotal number

of factory workers in 1904

Number of strikers (in thousands) for

the years




The metal-workers were best prepared by the decade preceding 1905. During that decade nearly half of them took part in strikes (117,000 out of 252,000). Since they were the best prepared, they made the best showing in 1905 as well. The number of strikers among them was more than three times the total number of workers (811,000 as against 252,000). Their role as vanguard stands out even more clearly when we examine the monthly figures for 1905 (it is impossible to give a detailed analysis of these figures in a short article, and we shall do so elsewhere). In 4905 the month with the maximum number of strikers among the metal-workers was not October, as was the case in all the other groups of industries, but January. The vanguard displayed the maximum energy in inaugurating the movement, “stirring up” the entire mass. In January 1905 alone 155,000 metal-workers went on strike, i.e., two-thirds of their total number (252,000). In that month alone more metal-workers were on strike than in all the preceding ten years (155,000 as against 117,000). But this, almost superhuman, energy exhausted the strength of the vanguard towards the end of 1905; in 1906 the metal-workers account for the biggest decline in the movement. The maximum drop in the number of strikers is among them: from 811,000 to 213,000, i.e., by nearly three-fourths. In 1907 the vanguard had again gathered strength: the total decline in the number of strikers was very slight (from 213,000 to 193,000), and in the three most important branches—namely, engineering, shipbuilding and foundries—the number of strikers actually increased from 104,000 in 1906 to 125,000 in 1907.

The textile-workers constitute the main mass of the Russian factory workers—a little less than half the total (708,000 out of 1,691,000). As regards their preparatory experience in the ten years prior to 1905 they occupy the second place: one-third of their number (237,000 out of 708,000) took part in strikes. They also occupy the second place for the intensity of the movement among them in 1905: about 180 strikers to every 100 workers. They entered the struggle later than the metal-workers: in January the number of strikers among them was slightly greater than among the metal-workers (164,000 as against 155,000), but in October they had more than twice as many strikers (256,000 as against 117,000). Having entered the struggle later, this main mass proved to be the most firm of all in 1906: in that year the decline was general, but it was smallest of all among the textile-workers, the number of strikers among them dropping by a half (640,000 as against 1,296,000), compared with a decrease of nearly three-quarters among the metal-workers (from 811,000 to 213,000) and of from three-fifths to five-sevenths among the other groups. Only by 1907 was the force of the main mass also exhausted: in 1907 it was this group which showed the greatest drop, by more than a half compared with 1906 (302,000 as against 640,000).

Without making a detailed analysis of the figures for the other industries, we shall only note that group D lags behind all of them. It was the least prepared, and its part in the movement was the smallest. If we take the metal-workers as the standard, it may be said that group D “defaulted” to the extent of over a million strikers in 1905 alone.

The relation between the metal-workers and the textile-workers is characteristic as reflecting the relation between the advanced section and the broad mass of the workers. Owing to the absence of free organisations, a free press, a parliamentary platform, etc., during the period 1895-1904, the masses could rally in 1905 only spontaneously, in the course of the struggle itself. This process took the form of successive waves of strikers; but in order to “stir up” the broad mass, the vanguard was obliged to spend such a tremendous amount of energy at the beginning of the movement that it proved relatively weakened when the movement reached its apogee. In January 1905, there were 444,000 strikers, including 155,000 metal-workers, i.e., 34 per cent of the total; in October, however, when the number of strikers reached 519,000, the number of metal-workers among them was 117,000, i.e., 22 per cent. It is obvious that this unevenness of the movement was tantamount to a certain dissipation of forces owing to the fact that they were scattered, insufficiently concentrated. This means, firstly, that the effect might have been heightened if the forces had been better concentrated, and, secondly, that owing to the objective conditions characteristic of the period under discussion at the beginning of each wave a number of groping actions, as it were, reconnaissances, trial moves, etc., were inevitable and were necessary for the success of the movement. Therefore, when the liberals, echoed by liquidators like Martov, proceeding from their theory that “the proletariat had over estimated its forces”, accuse us of having “followed in the wake of the spontaneous class struggle”, these gentlemen are condemning themselves and are paying us, against their will, the greatest compliment.

In concluding our review of the strike figures for each year, we shall deal also with the figures showing the size and the duration of the strikes, and the losses incurred as a result of the strikes.

The average number of strikers per establishment was as follows:

In the ten years 1895–1904 . . .244
” 1905 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .205
” 1906 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181
” 1907 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .207
” 1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .197

The decrease in the size of strikes (as regards the number of workers involved) in 1905 is explained by the fact that a great number of small establishments joined the struggle, thus lowering the average number of strikers per establishment. The further decrease in 1906 apparently reflects the waning energy of the struggle. 1907 shows a certain advance.

If we take the average number of workers who took part in purely political strikes, we get the following figures for the various years: 1905—180; 1906—174; 1907—203; 1908—197. These figures indicate even more strikingly the waning energy of the struggle in 1906 and its new growth in 1907, or (and, perhaps, at the same time) the fact that it was mostly the biggest establishments that took part in the movement in 1907.

The number of days on strike per striker was as follows:

In the ten years 1895–1904 . . .4.8
” 1905 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8.7
” 1906 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4.9
” 1907 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3.2
” 1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4.9

The persistence of the struggle, as characterised by the above figures, was greatest in 1905; then it diminished rapidly until 1907, showing a new increase only in 1908. It should be pointed out that, as regards the persistence of the struggle, strikes in Western Europe are on an incomparably higher level. In the five-year period 1894–98 the number of days on strike per striker was 10.3 in Italy, 12.1 in Austria, 14.3 in France, and 34.2 in Britain.

Taking separately the purely political strikes, the figures are as follows: 1905—7 days per striker, 1906—1.5 days, 1907—1 day. Economic strikes are always more protracted.

If we bear in mind the difference in the persistence of the strike struggles in the different years, we arrive at the conclusion that the figures of the number of strikers are not sufficient to give a proper idea of the relative sizes of the movement in these years. An accurate index is provided by figures of striker-days, which were as follows:

Of which in

purely political strikes

In the ten years1895-1904a total of2,079,408
1905” ” ”23,609,3877,569,708
1906” ” ”5,512,749763,605
1907” ” ”2,433,123521,647
1908” ” ”864,66689,021

Thus we see that the accurate figures representing the size of the movement in the year 1905 alone are more than 11 times as great as those for all the preceding ten years taken together. In other words, the size of the movement in 1905 was 115 times as great as the average per year for the preceding decade.

This ratio shows us how purblind are those people, whom we encounter only too often among the representatives of official science (and not only among them), who consider the tempo of social-political development in the so-called “peaceful”, “organic”, “evolutionary” periods as the standard for all times, as the index of the highest possible pace of development modern humanity can achieve. Actually, the tempo of “development” in the so-called “organic” periods is an index of the greatest stagnation, of the greatest obstacles placed in the way of development.

The compiler of the official statistics uses the figures of the number of striker-days to determine the losses incurred by industry. These losses (representing the drop in output) amounted to 10,400,000 rubles in the ten years 1895–1904, to 127,300,000 rubles in 1905, to 31,200,000 rubles in 1906, to 15,000,000 rubles in 1907, and to 5,800,000 rubles in 1908. In the three years 1905–07, therefore, the drop in output amounted to 173,500,000 rubles.

The losses of the workers in unpaid wages for strike days (determined in accordance with the average daily wages in the various industries) were as follows:

Group of Indust-

ries (see above

p. 18[5] )
Number of factory

workers in 1905

Losses incurred by workers as a result

of strikes (in thousands of rubles)




In the three years 1905–07 the losses of the workers amounted to 23,200,000 rubles, or over 14 times more than in the entire preceding decade.[6] According to the calculation of the compiler of the official statistics, the average loss per worker employed in factories (and not per striker) amounted to about ten kopeks a year during the first decade, about ten rubles in 1905, about two rubles in 1906, and about one ruble in 1907. But this calculation leaves out of account the enormous differences in this respect between the workers of the various industries. Here is a more detailed calculation made on the basis of the figures quoted in the above table:

Groups of


Average loss (in rubles) caused by strikes,

per factory worker

total for 10



Hence, we see that the losses per metal-worker (Group A) amounted to nearly 30 rubles in 1905, or three times more than the average, and over ten times more than the average loss per worker in the mineral products industries and in the food industries (Group D). The conclusion we arrived at above, namely, that by the end of 1905 the metal-workers had spent their strength in this particular form of the movement, is even more strikingly confirmed by this table: in Group A the amount of the losses dropped to less than one-eighth in the period from 1905 to 1906; whereas in the other groups it dropped to one-third or one-fourth.

This concludes the analysis of the strike statistics by years. In the next section we shall deal with the monthly figures.

II[edit source]

A year is too long a period to enable us to investigate the wave-like character of the strike movement. The statistics now give us the right to say that during the three years 1905–07 every month counted for a year. In those three years the working-class movement advanced a full thirty years. In 1905 there was not a single month when the number of strikers dropped below the minimum per year during the decade 1895–1904; there were but two such months in 1906 and two in 1907.

It is to be regretted that the treatment of the monthly data, as well as of the data for the separate gubernias, is very unsatisfactory in the official statistics. Many summaries need to be worked out anew. For this reason, and also for considerations of space, we shall confine ourselves for the time being to the quarterly data. With regard to the break down into economic and political strikes, it should be noted that the official statistics for 1905 and for 1906-07 are not quite comparable. Strikes of a mixed nature—in the official statistics Group 12 with economic demands and Group 12 b with economic demands—were classified as political in 1905 and as economic in the subsequent years. We shall classify them as economic strikes in 1905 too.

Number of strikers (in thousands)[7]

Of {Econ.604239165430732221253752526630
which {Polit.206242129847196257171269427111163

The boxes indicate the periods during which the wave rose highest. It is obvious from even a cursory glance at the table that these periods coincide with political events of cardinal importance that are characteristic of the entire triennium. 1905, first quarter—January 9 and its consequences; 1905, fourth quarter—the October and December events; 1906, second quarter—the First Duma; 1907, second quarter—the Second Duma; the last quarter of 1907 shows the least rise occasioned by the November political strike (134,000 strikers) in connection with the trial of the workers’ deputies of the Second Duma. Hence this period, which completes the triennium and represents a transition to a new stage in Russian history, is just that exception which proves the rule: the rise of the strike wave in this case does not imply a general social-political upsurge, but on closer examination we see that there was really no strike wave—but only an isolated demonstration strike.

The rule applying to the triennium that we are studying is that the rise of the strike wave indicates crucial turning-points in the entire social and political evolution of the country. The strike statistics show us graphically what was the principal driving force of this evolution. This does not mean, of course, that the form of the movement we are examining was the sole or the highest form—we know that this was not the case; nor does it mean that we can draw direct conclusions from this form of the movement with regard to particular questions of social and political evolution. But it does mean that what we have before us is a statistical picture (far from complete, of course) of the movement of the class which was the mainspring responsible for the general direction taken by events. The movements of the other classes are grouped around this centre; they follow it, their direction is determined (in a favourable or unfavourable way) by it, they depend on it.

One has only to recall the principal moments in the political history of Russia during the triennium under review to realise that this conclusion is correct. Let us take the first quarter of 1905. What did we see on the eve of this period? The well-known Zemstvo banquet campaign. Was it right to regard the actions of the workers in that campaign as “the highest type of demonstration”? Was the talk about refraining from causing “panic” among the liberals justified? Consider these questions in conjunction with the strike statistics (1903—87,000 strikers; 1904—25,000; January 1903—444,000, including 123,000 political strikers), and the answer will be obvious. The above-mentioned controversy over the question of the tactics in the Zemstvo campaign only reflect ed the antagonism between the liberal and working-class movements, an antagonism rooted in objective conditions.

What do we see after the January upsurge?[8] The well-known February edicts, which marked the inauguration of a certain amount of change in the organisation of the state.

Take the third quarter of 1905. The principal event in the political history was the law of August 6 (the so-called Bulygin Duma). Was that law destined to be put into effect? The liberals thought that it was and decided to act accordingly. In the camp of the Marxists a contrary view prevailed, which was not shared by those who objectively support ed the views of the liberals. The events of the last quarter of 1905 decided the controversy.

The figures referring to whole quarters make it appear that there was one upsurge at the end of 1905. Actually there were two, separated by an interval during which there was a slight abatement of the movement. The number of strikers in October was 519,000, including 328,000 involved in purely political strikes; in November 325,000 (including 147,000 in political strikes), and in December 433,000 (including 372,000 in political strikes). Publications dealing with the history of the period express the view of the liberals and our liquidators (Cherevanin and Co.), according to which there was an element of “artificiality” in the December upsurge. The statistical data refute this view, for they show that it was precisely this month that accounted for the highest number of workers involved in purely political strikes—372,000. The tendencies that impelled the liberals to arrive at their particular appraisal are obvious, but from a purely scientific standpoint it is absurd to regard a movement of such dimensions as at all “artificial”, when in one month the number of workers involved in purely political strikes was almost nine-tenths of the total number of strikers during a whole decade.

Finally, let us consider the last two waves—in the spring of 1906 and in the spring of 1907.[9] What distinguishes both of them from the January and May waves in 1905 (of which the first was also stronger than the second) is that they came during the ebb of the movement, whereas the first two waves took place during the rising tide of the movement. This distinction is generally characteristic of the two last years compared with the first year of the triennium. Hence, the correct explanation of the increase registered during these periods of 1906 and 1907 is that they denote a halt in the retreat and an attempt on the part of the retreating forces to resume the offensive. Such is the objective meaning of these upsurges, which is now clear to us in the light of the final results of the whole “three-year period of storm and stress”. The First and the Second Dumas represented nothing else than political negotiations and political demonstrations on top, prompted by the halt in the retreat below.

This clearly shows how short-sighted are the liberals who see in these negotiations something self-sufficient and in dependent, unrelated to whether a particular halt in the re treat is going to be of long duration, or what its outcome will be. This also shows clearly the objective dependence on the liberals of those liquidators who, like Martov, now speak with scorn of, the “expectations of the romanticists” during the period of retreat. The statistical data show that it was not a question of the “expectations of the romanticists”, but of actual interruptions, halts of the retreat. Had it not been for these halts, the coup d’état of June 3, 1907, which was historically absolutely inevitable since the retreat was a fact, would have taken place sooner, perhaps a year or even more than a year earlier.

Now that we have examined the history of the strike movement in its relation to the principal moments of the political history of the period, let us pass on to an investigation of the interrelation between the economic and the political strikes. The official statistics provide very interesting data touching on this subject. Let us first deal with the general total for each of the three years under review:

Number of strikers (in thousands)
Economic strikes1,439458200
Political strikes1,424650540
Total . . .2,8631,108740

The first conclusion to be drawn from these figures is that there is a very close connection between the economic and the political strikes. They rise simultaneously and drop simultaneously. The force of the movement in the period of the offensive (1905) results from the fact that the political strikes are built, as it were, on the broad basis of the no less powerful economic strikes which, even taken by themselves, far exceed the figures for the entire decade of 1895–1904.

During the decline of the movement the number of those engaged in economic strikes drops faster than the number of those engaged in political strikes. The weakness of the movement in 1906, and particularly in 1907, is undoubtedly the result of the fact that the broad and firm base of the economic struggle was absent. On the other hand, the slower drop in the number of workers involved in political strikes, in general, and the particularly insignificant decrease in that number in 1907 compared with 1906, apparently testify to the phenomenon with which we are already familiar: namely, that the advanced sections were exercising their utmost energy to halt the retreat and to turn it into an offensive.

This conclusion is fully corroborated by the data showing the interrelation between economic and political strikes in the various groups of industries. In order to avoid overburdening the article with figures we shall confine ourselves to a comparison of the quarterly data for the year 1905 with reference to the metal-workers and the textile-workers, using in this instance the summary of the official statistics,[10] which, as mentioned before, classified the mixed strikes that took place that year as political strikes.

Number of strikers

(in thousands)

1905, QuartersIIIIIIIV
Group A{ Economic120423731
(metal-workers){ Political1597663283
Group B{ Economic19610972182
(textile-workers){ Political11115453418

Here we see clearly the distinction between the advanced section and the mass of the workers. Among the advanced section those involved in purely economic strikes were a minority from the very beginning, and this holds good for the whole year. Even in this group, however, in the first quarter of the year the number of workers involved in purely economic strikes was very high (120,000). Clearly, among the metal-workers too there were considerable sections which had to be “stirred up”, and which started off by presenting purely economic demands. Among the textile-workers we see a very great preponderance of those taking part in purely economic strikes in the initial stage of the movement (in the first quarter of the year). These become a minority during the second quarter, only to become a majority again in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, when the movement reached its zenith, the number of metal-workers involved in purely economic strikes was 10 per cent of the total number of strikers and 12 per cent of the total number of metal-workers; while among the textile-workers the number of those involved in purely economic strikes represented 30 per cent of the total number of strikers and 25 per cent of the total number of textile-workers.

The interdependence between the economic and political strike is thus quite obvious: no really broad, no really mass movement is possible without a close connection between the two; the concrete expression of this connection-consists, on the one hand, in the fact that at the beginning of the movement, and when new sections are just entering it, the purely economic strike is the prevalent form, and, on the other, in the fact that the political strike rouses and stirs the backward sections, generalises and extends the movement, and raises it to a higher level.

It would be extremely interesting to trace in detail precisely how new recruits were drawn into the movement during the whole three-year period. The main material contains data relating to this subject, for the information obtained was entered on cards dealing with each strike separately. But the analysis of this information in the official statistics is very unsatisfactory, and a wealth of material contained in the cards has been lost, since it was not included in the analysis. An approximate idea is given by the following table showing the number of strikes as a percentage of the number of establishments of different sizes:

Number of strikes as a percentage of the number

of establishments

Groups of establishmentsTotal for

10 years

20 workers or less2.747.
21 to 50 workers7.589.438.819.04.1
51 to 100 ”9.4108.956.137.78.0
101 to 500 ”21.5160.279.257.516.9
501 to 1,000 ”49.9163.895.161.513.0
Over 1,000 ”89.7231.9108.883.723.0

The advanced section, which we have so far observed from the data dealing with the different districts and different groups of industries, now stands out from the data dealing with the various groups of establishments. The general rule throughout these years is that as the size of the establishments increases there is an increase in the percentage of establishments in which strikes occurred. The characteristic features of the year 1905 are, firstly, that the bigger the establishment the larger the number of repeated strikes, and, secondly, that compared with the decade 1895–1904 the rise in the percentage is the steeper the smaller the establishments. This clearly indicates the especial rapidity with which new recruits were drawn into the movement, and with which sections that had never before taken part in strikes were enlisted. Rapidly drawn into the movement in the period of the greatest upsurge, these new recruits proved the least stable: the drop in the percentage of establishments in which strikes occurred in 1907 as compared with 1906 was greatest in the small establishments, and least in the big establishments. It was the vanguard which worked the longest and the most persistently to halt the retreat.

But to return to the interrelation between the economic and the political strike. The quarterly data for the entire triennium, quoted above,[11] show, in the first place, that all the great advances in the movement were accompanied by a rise not only in the number of workers involved, in political strikes, but also of those involved in economic strikes. The only exception was the upsurge in the spring of 1907; in that year the largest number of workers involved in economic strikes was not in the second but in the third quarter.

At the beginning of the movement (first quarter of 1905) we see an overwhelming prevalence of workers involved in economic strikes over those involved in political strikes (604,000 as against 206,000). The zenith of the movement (fourth quarter of 1905) brings with it a new wave of economic strikes, not as high as in January, however, and with political strikes strongly predominating. The third advance, in the spring of 1906, again shows a very large increase in the number of participants both in economic and in political strikes. These data alone are sufficient to refute the opinion according to which the combination of the economic with the political strike represented a “weak aspect of the movement”. This opinion has been often expressed by the liberals; it has been repeated by the liquidator Cherevanin in relation to November 1905; recently it has been repeated by Martov too in relation to the same period. The failure of the struggle for an eight-hour day is especially often referred to as confirming this opinion.

This failure is an undeniable fact; it is also undeniable that any failure implies that the movement is weak. But the view of the liberals is that it is the combination of the economic with the political struggle that is the “weak aspect of the movement”; the Marxist view, on the, other hand, is that the weakness lay in the insufficiency of this combination, in the insufficient number of workers involved in economic strikes. The statistical data furnish graphic confirmation of the correctness of the Marxist view, for they reveal the “general law” of the three-year period—namely, that the movement becomes intensified as a result of the intensification of the economic struggle. And there is a logical connection between this “general law” and the basic features of every capitalist society, in which there always exist back ward sections which can be aroused only by the most extraordinary accentuation of the movement, and it is only by means of economic demands that the backward sections can be drawn into the struggle.

If we compare the upsurge in the last quarter of 1905 with the one before it and the one after it, i.e., with the first quarter of 1905 and the second quarter of 190U, we see clearly that the upsurge in October-December had a narrower economic base than either the one before or the one after, i.e., as regards the number of workers involved in economic strikes as a percentage of the total number of strikers. Undoubtedly, the demand for an eight-hour day antagonised many elements among the bourgeoisie who might have sympathised with the other aspirations of the workers. But there is also no doubt that this demand attracted many elements, not of the bourgeoisie, who had not so far been drawn into the movement. These elements were responsible for 430,000 workers taking part in economic strikes in the last quarter of 1905, their number dropping to 73,000 in the first quarter of 1906 and increasing again to 222,000 in the second quarter of 1906. Consequently, the weakness lay not in the absence of sympathy on the part of the bourgeoisie, but in the insufficient, or insufficiently timely, support on the part of nonbourgeois elements.

It is in the nature of liberals to be dismayed by the fact that a movement of the kind we are discussing always antagonises certain elements of the bourgeoisie. It is in the nature of Marxists to note the fact that this kind of movement always attracts large sections outside the ranks of the bourgeoisie. Suum cuique—to each his own.

The official statistics dealing with the results of the strikes are highly instructive as regards the vicissitudes. of the struggle between the workers and the employers The following is a summary of these statistics:

Percentage of workers involved in strikes with the

results indicated

Result of strikes10 years


In favour of the workers27.123.735.416.214.1
Mutual concessions (compromise)19.546.931.126.117.0
In favour of the employers (against the workers)51.629.433.557.668.8

The general conclusion to be drawn from this is that the maximum force of the movement signifies also the maximum success for the workers. The year 1905 was the most favour able for the workers, because in that year the force of the strike struggle was greatest. That year was also distinguished by the unusual frequency of compromises: the parties had not yet adapted themselves to the new unusual conditions, the employers were bewildered by the frequency of the strikes, which more often than ever before ended in a compromise. In 1906 the struggle became more stubborn: cases of compromise were incomparably rarer; but on the whole the workers were still victorious: the percentage of strikers who won a victory was greater than the percentage of those who lost. Beginning with 1907 defeats for the workers continually increased, and cases of compromise became rarer.

From the absolute figures it will be seen that in the ten years 1895-1904 the total number of workers who won their strikes was 117,000, whereas in 1905 alone more than three times as many workers won their strikes (369,000), and in 1906, one-and-a-half times as many (163,000).

A year, however, is too long a period for a proper study of the wave-like progress of the strike struggle in 1905–07. Since the monthly data would take up too much space, we shall cite the quarterly data for 1905 and 1906. We can omit the data for 1907, since, judging by the results of the strikes, there were no breaks in that year, no declines and rises, but a continuous retreat on the part of the workers and an offensive on the part of the capitalists, as has been fully brought out in the yearly data already cited.

Results of strikes:
In favour of the workers1587145953486376
In favour of the employers . . . .179595910011784223

The conclusions that follow from these data are highly interesting and require a detailed examination. On the whole, as we have seen, the success of the struggle, as far as the workers are concerned, depends on the force of their onslaught. Do the data cited above confirm this conclusion? The first quarter of 1905 appears to have been less favourable for the workers than the second quarter, although in the latter the movement was weaker. This inference would be wrong, however, since the quarterly data combine the up surge in January (321,000 workers involved in economic strikes) and the decline in February (228,000) and in March (56,000). If we single out January, the month of upsurge, we find that in this month the workers were victorious: 87,000 won their strikes, 81,000 lost, and 152,000 concluded a compromise. The two months of decline (February and March) brought the workers defeat.

The next period (the second quarter of 1905) was one of an advance, which reached its climax in May. The rise of the struggle signified victory for the workers: 71,000 won their strikes, 59,000 lost, and 109,000 compromised.

The third period (third quarter of 1905) was one of decline. The number of strikers was much less than in the second quarter. The decline in the force of the onslaught signified victory for the employers: 59,000 workers lost their strikes, and only 45,000 won. The workers who lost their strikes represented 35.6 per cent of the total, i.e., more than in 1906. This means that the “general atmosphere of sympathy” with the workers in 1905, which the liberals talk so much of as being the main cause of the workers’ victories (recently Martov, too, wrote of the sympathy of the bourgeoisie as “the main cause”), in no way prevented the defeat of the workers when the force of their onslaught diminished. “You are strong when society sympathises with you,” the liberals say to the workers. “Society sympathises with you when you are strong,” the Marxists say to the workers.

The last quarter of 1905 seems to be an exception: although it was the period of the greatest advance, the workers suffered defeat. But this is only a seeming exception, for this period again combines the month of upsurge in October, when the workers were victorious in the economic sphere as well (+57,000,—22,000 strikers won and lost respectively) with the two months of November (+25,000,—47,000) and December (+12,000,—31,000), when the economic struggle was on the decline and the workers were defeated. Furthermore, November—a month that was a turning-point, a month of the greatest wavering, of the most even balance between the contending forces, and of the greatest uncertainty as regards total results and the general trend of the further history of Russia as a whole and of the history of the relations between employers and workers in particular—was a month that shows a larger percentage of strikes ending in compromise than any other month in 1905: of 179,000 workers involved in economic strikes in that month, 106,000, or 59.2 per cent, ended by compromising.[13]

The first quarter of 1906 again seems to be an exception: the greatest decline in the economic struggle coupled with, proportionately, the largest number of workers winning their strikes (+34,000,—11,000). But here, too, we have the combination of a month in which the workers suffered defeat—namely, January (+4,000,—6,000)—with months in which the workers scored victories: February (+14,000,—2,000) and March (+16,000,—2,500). The number of workers involved in economic strikes is on the decline throughout this period (January, 26,600; February, 23,300; March, 23,200); but there were already clear indications of an upward trend in the movement as a whole (the total number of strikers amounted to 190,000 in January, 27,000 in February, and 52,000 in March).

The second quarter of 1906 marked a big advance in the movement, which brought with it victories for the workers (+86,000,—78,000); the greatest victories were scored in May and June, the total number of workers involved in economic strikes in June reaching 90,000—the maximum for the whole year; whereas April represents an exception: a defeat for the workers, despite the growth of the movement as compared with March.

Beginning with the third quarter of 1906, we see, on the whole, an uninterrupted decline of the economic struggle lasting to the end of the year, and, correspondingly, defeats of the workers (with a slight exception in August 1906, when the workers were victorious for the last time in the economic struggle: +11,300,—10,300).

Summed up briefly, the vicissitudes of the economic struggle in the years 1905 and 1906 may be formulated as follows: in 1905 there can be clearly distinguished three main advances in the strike struggle in general and in the economic struggle in particular—January, May and October. The number of workers involved in economic strikes in these three months amounted to 667,000, out of a total of 1,439,000 for the whole year; that is to say, not a quarter of the total, but nearly a half. And in all these three months the workers scored victories in the economic struggle, that is to say, the number of workers who won their strikes exceeded the number of those who lost.

In 1906, there is on the whole a clear distinction between the first and the second half of the year. The first half is marked by a half in the retreat and a considerable advance; the second is marked by a serious decline. In the first half of the year 295,000 workers took part in economic strikes; in the second half, 162,000. The first half brought the workers victories in the economic struggle, the second half brought them defeat.

This general summary fully confirms the conclusion that it was not the “atmosphere of sympathy”, not the sympathy of the bourgeoisie, but the force of the onslaught that played the decisive part in the economic struggle as well.

  1. 1.0 1.1 These [two–MIA Ed.] figures are not strictly comparable with the figures for the preceding years, since the oil workers were not included in the data prior to 1907. The resulting increase is probably not more than 20-30,000. —Lenin
  2. In 1908, Baku Gubernia topped the list with 47,000 strikers. The last of the Mohicans of the mass political strike! —Lenin
  3. A. V. Pogozhev, Report on the Numbers and Composition of Workers in Russia. Labour Statistics Data, St. Petersburg, published by the Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1906.
  4. The figures for 1908 include 228 strikes, and the figures for 1907 include 230 strikes, in the oilfields, which for the first time came under the Inspectorate in 1906. —Lenin
  5. See p. 402 of this volume.—Ed.
  6. It should be borne in mind that in the period when the movement was at its height the workers compelled the employers to cover part of these losses. Beginning with 1905, the statistics had to deal with a special cause of strikes (Cause Group 3 b, according to the official nomenclature): demand of pay for the time of the strike. In 1905 there were 632 cases when this demand was presented; in 1906—256 cases, in 1907—48 cases, and in 1908—9 cases (prior to 1905 this demand was never presented). The results of the struggle of the workers for this demand are known only for the years 1906 and 1907, and only two or three cases when this was the main demand: in 1906, out of 10,966 workers who struck primarily for this demand: 2,171 won the strike, 2,626 lost, and 6,169 concluded a compromise. In 1907, out of 93 workers who struck primarily for this demand, not one won the strike, 52 lost, and 41 compromised. From what we know of the strikes in 1905 we may surmise that in that year the strikes for this demand were more successful than in 1906. —Lenin
  7. Lenin cites this same table in his article “The Historical Meaning of the Inner-Party Struggle in Russia” (see p. 381 of this volume) but there he includes mixed strikes among the political strikes, as was done in the government statistics of 1905. However, in his article “Strike Statistics in Russia” Lenin corrects this inaccuracy of the official statistics, including mixed strikes among the economic strikes. This explains the difference in the, number of strikers in economic and political strikes for each quarter of 1905 shown in the two tables, although their total number is the same in both.
  8. The quarterly data would make it appear that there was only one upsurge. Actually, there were two: in January, with 444,000 strikers, and in May, with 220,000 strikers. In the interval between these two months, March accounted for the minimum number of strikers—73,000. —Lenin
  9. It should be noted that the history of the strike movement in Russia from 1895 to 4904 shows that there is usually an increase in economic strikes in the second quarter of the year. The average number of strikers per year during the entire decade was 43,000, divided as follows: first quarter, 10,000; second quarter, 15,000; third quarter, 42,000; and fourth quarter, 6,000. A mere comparison of the figures makes it quite obvious that the rise in the strike wave in the spring of 4906 and in the spring of 1907 cannot be explained by the “general” causes of the summer increase in the number of strikes in Russia. One has only to glance at the figures showing the number of workers engaged in political, strikes. —Lenin
  10. According to this summary, 1,021,000 workers took part in economic strikes and 1,842,000 in political strikes in 1905. The proportion of the workers who took part in economic strikes thus appears to be less than in 1906. We have already explained that this is wrong. —Lenin
  11. See p. 409 of this volume.—Ed.
  12. The official statistics provide no monthly totals relating to this question; they had to be obtained by adding up the figures for the various industries. —Lenin
  13. The total number of workers involved in economic strikes was as follows: October, 190,000; November, 179,000; December, 61,000. —Lenin