The First of May (1905)
|Written||25 April 1905|
Published in 1905 as a separate leaflet. Published according to the text of the leaflet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 347-350.
The First of May was written by Lenin in Geneva and is sued as a leaflet over the signature of the Bureau of Committees of the Majority and the Editorial Board of Vperyod. The leaflet was reprinted by a number of local Social-Democratic committees.
RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC LABOUR PARTY[edit source]
Workers of ALL Countries, Unite![edit source]
Comrades workers! The great holiday of the workers of all the world is coming. On the First of May they celebrate their awakening to light and knowledge, their association in one fraternal union for the struggle against all oppression, against all tyranny, against all exploitation, for a socialist system of society. All who work, who feed the rich and the nobility by their labour, who spend their lives in back breaking toil for scanty wages, who never enjoy the fruits of their own labour, who live like beasts of burden amidst the luxury and splendour of our civilisation—all stretch out their hands to fight for the emancipation and happiness of the workers. Down with enmity between workers of different nationalities or different creeds! This enmity can only benefit the plunderers and tyrants, who live by the ignorance and disunion of the proletariat. Jews and Christians, Armenians and Tatars, Poles and Russians, Finns and Swedes, Letts and Germans—all, all of them march together under the one common banner of socialism. All workers are brothers, and their solid union is the only guarantee of the well-being and happiness of all working and oppressed mankind. On the First of May this union of the workers of all countries, international Social-Democracy, reviews its forces and gathers its strength for a further unremitting and unswerving struggle for freedom, equality, and fraternity.
Comrades! We stand now in Russia on the eve of great events. We are engaged in the last desperate fight with the autocratic tsarist government, we must carry this fight on to its victorious end. See what calamities this government of brutes and tyrants, of venal courtiers and hangers on of capital, has brought upon the entire Russian people! The tsarist government has plunged the Russian people into an insane war against Japan. Hundreds of thousands of young lives have been torn away from the people to perish in the Far East. Words cannot describe all the calamities that this war brings upon us. And what is the war for? For Manchuria, which our predatory tsarist government has seized from China! Russian blood is being shed and our country ruined for the sake of foreign territory. Life is becoming harder and harder for the workers and peasants; the capitalists and officials keep tightening the noose round their necks, while the tsarist government is sending the people out to plunder foreign territory. Bungling tsarist generals and venal officials have led to the destruction of the Russian. fleet, squandered hundreds and thousands of millions of the nation’s wealth, and lost entire armies, but the war still goes on, claiming further sacrifices. The people are being ruined, industry and trade are coming to a standstill, and famine and cholera are imminent; but the autocratic government in its blind madness follows the old path; it is ready to ruin Russia if only it can save a handful of brutes and tyrants; it is launching another war besides the one with Japan—war against the entire Russian people.
Never before has Russia experienced such an awakening from her slumber, from her oppression and enslavement, as she is experiencing today. All classes of society are stirring, from the workers and peasants to the landlords and capitalists, and voices of protest have been raised everywhere, in St. Petersburg and the Caucasus, in Poland and Siberia. Everywhere the people demand an end to the war; they demand the establishment of a free people’s rule, the convocation of deputies of all citizens without exception in a Constituent Assembly to institute a people’s government and save the nation from the abyss into which the tsarist government is pushing it. Workers of St. Petersburg, about two hundred thousand strong, went to the tsar on Sunday, the Ninth of January, with the priest Georgi Gapon in order to submit these demands of the people. The tsar received the workers as enemies. He shot down thousands of unarmed workers in the streets of St. Petersburg. The struggle is now on all over Russia. Workers are on strike, demanding freedom and a better life. Blood is being spilt in Riga and in Poland, on the Volga and in the South. Everywhere the peasants are rising. The struggle for freedom is becoming the struggle of the entire people.
The tsarist government has gone mad. It wants to borrow money to carry on the war, but no one will trust it with a loan any longer. It promises to convene representatives of the people, but actually everything remains unchanged; the persecutions do not cease, the lawlessness of the officials proceeds as before; there are no free public meetings, no freely circulated people’s newspapers; the prisons in which fighters for the working-class cause are languishing have not been thrown open. The tsarist government is trying to set one people against another. It has brought about a massacre in Baku by maligning the Armenians among the Tatars; now it is preparing a fresh massacre aimed at the Jews by fanning hatred against them among the ignorant people.
Comrades workers! We will tolerate no longer such outrageous treatment of the Russian people. We will rise to defend freedom, we will strike back at all who try to deflect the wrath of the people from the real enemy. We will rise up in arms to overthrow the tsarist government and win freedom for the entire people. To arms, workers and peasants! Hold secret meetings, form fighting squads, get whatever weapons you can, send trusted men to consult with the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party! Let this year’s First of May be for us the celebration of the people’s uprising, let us prepare for it and await the signal for the decisive attack on the tyrant. Down with the tsarist government! We will overthrow it and set up a provisional revolutionary government to convene a Constituent Assembly of the people. Let people’s deputies be elected by universal, direct, and equal vote, through secret ballot. Let all fighters for freedom be released from prison or brought back from exile. Let public meetings be held openly and people’s newspapers be printed without surveillance by the accursed officials. Let all the people arm, let a rifle be given to every worker, so that the people themselves, not a handful of plunderers, may decide their own destiny. Let free peasants’ committees be set up in the countryside to overthrow the serf-owning landlord power, to free the people from the hateful oppression of the officials, to restore to the peasants the land that has been taken away from them.
This is what the Social-Democrats want, this is,what they call upon you to fight for, arms in hand: for complete freedom, for the democratic republic, for the eight-hour day, for peasants’ committees. Prepare then for the great battle, comrades workers, stop work in the factories and mills on the First of May, or take up arms according to the advice of the committees of the Social-Democratic Labour Party. The hour of the insurrection has not yet struck, but it is not far off now. The workers of the world are now looking with bated breath to the heroic Russian proletariat which has offered incalculable sacrifices to the cause of freedom. The St. Petersburg workers proclaimed on the famed Ninth of January: Freedom or death! Workers of all Russia, we will repeat that great battle-cry, we will not shrink from any sacrifices: through the uprising we will win freedom; through freedom, socialism!
Long live the First of May, long live international revolutionary Social-Democracy!
Long live the freedom of the workers and peasants, long live the democratic republic! Down with the tsarist autocracy!
Bureau of Committees of the Majority Editorial Board of “Vperyod”