The Role of Social Estates and Classes in the Liberation Movement

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 28 August 1913


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Severnaya Pravda No. 22, August 28, 1913; Nash Put No. 4, August 29, 1913. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Severnaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 328-331.
Collection(s): Nash Put, Severnaya Pravda

Statistical data on crimes against the state in Russia have been published in a legal journal. The statistics are very instructive, they provide precise figures on the question of the role of the social estates and classes in the liberation movement at different historical epochs.

Unfortunately, the data are incomplete. The epochs dealt with are: 1827–46 (the epoch of serfdom); 1884–90 (the epoch of the raznochintsi[1] movement, the merging of the bourgeois-liberal and liberal-Narodnik movements). Lastly there is the epoch immediately preceding the revolution (1901–03) and the revolutionary epoch (1905–08), that is, the epochs of the bourgeois-democratic and proletarian movements.

The figures on the role played by the social estates are the following; out of one hundred persons charged with crimes against the state there were:

EpochNobilityUrban petty

bourgeoisie

and peasants
ClergyMerchants
1827–467623??
1884–9030.646.66.412.1
1901–0310.780.91.64.1
1905–089.187.7??

From these figures it can be seen how rapidly the nineteenth-century liberation movement became democratised and how sharply its class composition changed. The epoch of serfdom (1827–46) saw the absolute predominance of the nobility. That is the epoch from the Decembrists to Herzen. Feudal Russia is downtrodden and motionless. An insignificant minority of the nobility, helpless without the support of the people, protested. But, these, the best of the nobility, helped to awaken the people.

In the epoch of the raznochintsi or the bourgeois-liberal epoch (1884–90), the nobility were already a smaller group in the liberation movement. If, however, we add to them the clergy and merchants we get 49 per cent, i.e., almost a half. The movement still remains half a movement of the privileged classes—of the nobility and the top-level bourgeoisie. Hence the impotence of the movement, despite the heroism of individuals.

The third (1901–03) and fourth (1905–08) epochs are those of the peasant and proletarian democrats. The role of the nobility is a very small one. The urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry make up eight-tenths of the whole before the revolution and nine-tenths during the revolution. The masses have awakened. Hence the two results: (1) the possibility of obtaining something of a serious nature and (2) the liberals’ hatred of the movement (the appearance of counter-revolutionary liberalism).

Still more interesting are the data on occupations, avail able only for the last three epochs. Out of each hundred participants in the liberation movement (charged with state crimes) there are people engaged in:

EpochAgricul-

ture

Industry

and

commerce
Liberal

professions

and students
No definite

occupation or

no occupation
1884–90 . . . . .7.115.153.319.9
1901–03 . . . . .9.046.128.78.0
1905–08 . . . . .24.247.422.95.5

These are extraordinarily instructive figures. The role of the raznochintsi in the epoch of the Narodniks and the Narodnaya Volya Party (1884-90) is immediately revealed; the majority of the participants (53.3 per cent) were students or people following liberal professions. A mixed bourgeois-liberal and liberal-Narodnik movement with students and intellectuals playing an outstanding role—such is the class essence of the parties and the movement of that time. The peasants (‘agriculture”) and industrial workers (“industry and commerce”) provided a small minority (7 and 15 per cent). The so-called declassed people, that is, those who have been squeezed out of their own class and have lost contact with any definite class—this group of people constitutes one-fifth (19.9 per cent), they are more numerous than the peasants and more numerous than the workers!

This accounts for the peculiar forms taken by the movement, the magnificence of its heroism, and its impotence.

Then we come to the pre-revolutionary epoch (1901–03). The leading role is played by the urban workers (“industry and commerce”). Although they were a minority of the population they provided almost a half (46.1 per cent) of the participants. The intelligentsia and the students were already in the second place (despite the fables of the liberals and liquidators about the workers’ party). The role of the peasants was insignificant (“agriculture” 9 per cent) but was growing.

The last epoch, 1905–08. The proportion of the urban workers increased from 46.1 to 47.4 per cent. They had already aroused the peasant masses, whose share in the movement increased more than that of all other classes—from 9 to 24.2 per cent, that is, by almost three times. The peasantry had now outstripped the liberal intellectuals and the students (22.9 per cent). The role of the declassed elements, those who had been ejected from their own class, was very insignificant (5.5 per cent). The deliberately libellous character of the liberal theory on the “intellectual” nature of our revolution here stands out in bold relief.

The proletariat and bourgeois democrats (the peasantry)—these were the social forces of the movement. But the peasantry, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the population as compared with the workers and town dwellers, lagged a long way behind and provided only a quarter (24.2 per cent) of the participants because so far they had been only slightly aroused.

All that remains is to end on a note of praise for the June Third (Stolypin) agrarian policy that is very successfully, rapidly and energetically arousing the others....

  1. Raznochintsi (sing. raznochinets)—professional class not drawn from the nobility many of whom took part in the revolutionary democratic movement—Ed.