To the Working Men and Women of the Thornton Factory
Published according to the text of the leaflet, checked with the text in the miscellany Rabotnik, No. 1–2 (1896).
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers,, 1972, Moscow, Volume 2, pages 81-86.
The leaflet “To the Working Men and Women of the Thornton Factory” was written after November 7(19), 1895, in connection with a strike of about 500 weavers that broke out on November 6(18) against bad conditions and the new oppressive measures introduced by the factory management. The strike was directed by the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. Before the strike broke out, the Leak of Struggle issue a leaflet, written by G. M. Kzhizhanovsky, containing the weavers’ demands, but so far it has not been possible to find a copy of it.
Lenin’s leaflet was issued several days later and circulated in the factory when the strike was over. The facts about the workers’ conditions were carefully collected by Lenin himself.
The leaflet was mimeographed, and in the spring of 1896 was reprinted abroad in No. 1-2 of the Rabotnik miscellany.
Working men and women of the Thornton Factory!
November 6th and 7th should be memorable days for all of us.... The weavers, by their solid resistance to the employer’s pressure have proved that at a difficult moment there are still people in our midst who can uphold our common interests as workers, that our worthy employers have not yet succeeded in turning us for all time into the miserable slaves of their bottomless purses. Let us, then, comrades, stand firm and steadfast and carry on to the very end, let us remember that we can improve our conditions only by our common and concerted efforts. Above all, comrades, don’t fall into the trap so cunningly prepared for you by Messrs. Thornton. They reason as follows: “There is a hitch now in disposing of our goods, so that if we keep to our previous working conditions we shall not get the profits we got previously.... And we are not ready to take anything less.... So then, we’ll have to tighten up on the workers, let them shoulder the cost of the bad prices on the market.... But the job has to be done cleverly and not in any old way, so that the worker, in the simplicity of his mind, will not understand what Sort of a titbit we are preparing for him.... If we tackle all of them at once, they will all rise up at once, and we shan’t be able to handle them, so we shall first dupe those miserable weavers, and then the others won’t get away.... We are not accustomed to restrain ourselves in dealing with these creatures, and what for, anyhow? New brooms sweep cleaner here So then, the employers, who are so full of concern for the worker’s well-being, want, to quietly and steadily impose on the workers of all departments what they have already imposed on the weavers.... That is why, if we all remain indifferent to the fate of the weaving sheds, we shall dig with our own hands a pit into which we, too, shall soon be thrown. Latterly the weavers have been earning, in round figures, 3 rubles 50 kopeks a fortnight, and during the same period families of seven have contrived somehow to live on 5 rubles, and families consisting of husband, wife and child on 2 rubles in all. They have sold the last of their clothes and used up the last. coppers they earned by their hellish labour at a time when their benefactors, the Thorntons, were adding millions to the millions they already had. To crown it all ever-new victims of the employers’ avarice have been thrown out on the streets before their eyes, and the pressure has been regularly increased with the most heartless cruelty.... Without any explanation, they have started mixing noils and clippings with the wool, which slows the job down terribly; delays in getting the warp have increased as though inadvertently; finally, they have begun without ado to introduce short time, and now the pieces have to be five instead of nine schmitz long, so that the weaver has to fuss around longer and oftener in obtaining and fixing the warps, for which, as is known, not a kopek is paid. They want to wear our weavers down, and the earnings of I ruble 62 kopeks per fortnight, which have already begun to appear in the pay-books of some of the weavers, may, in the near future, become general in the weaving sheds.... Comrades, do you, too, want to see the day when you get this sort of kindness from the employers? If not, if, finally, your hearts have not entirely turned to stone in face of the suffering of poor folks like yourselves, rally solidly round our weavers, let us put forward our common demands, and on every suitable occasion let us wrest better conditions from our oppressors. Workers of the spinning sheds, don’t delude yourselves about the stability and slight increase in your earnings.... After all, almost two-thirds of your number have already been dismissed, and your better earnings have been purchased at the cost of the starvation of your own spinners who have been thrown out of work. This again is a cunning trick of the employers and is not difficult to understand if you only count how much was earned by the entire mule-spinning department previously, and how much now. Workers of the new dyeing department! Twelve rubles a month, all told, is what you now earn, at the cost of 14 1/4 hours’ daily work, saturated from head to foot with the murderous fumes of dyes! Pay attention to our demands: we also want to end the illegal deductions made from you due to your foreman’s inefficiency. Labourers, and all nix-skilled workers generally! Do you really expect to retain your 60-SO kopeks a day, when the skilled weaver has to content himself with 20 kopeks a day? Comrades, don’t be blind, don’t swallow the employers’ bait, stand up for one another more firmly, otherwise it will go badly for all of us this winter. We must all keep a most watchful eye on the employers’ manoeuvres aimed at reducing rates, and with all our strength resist every tendency in this direction for it spells ruin for us.... Turn a deaf ear to all their pleadings about business being bad: for them it only means less profit on their capital, for us it means starvation and suffering for our families who are deprived of their last crust of stale bread. Can there be any comparison between the two things? They are now putting pressure on the weavers first of all, and we must secure:
1) an increase in weavers’ rates to their spring level, i.e., by about 6 kopeks per schmitz;
2) that the weavers, too, be brought under the law which says that the worker must be told how much he can earn on a job before he begins it. Let the rates list, bearing the factory inspector’s signature, exist not only on paper, but in reality, as required by law. For weaving, for example, the existing rates should be accompanied by information about the quality of the wool, the quantity of noils and clippings in it, and there should be an estimate of the time required for preparatory work;
3) that the working time be so distributed that we do not stand idle through no fault of our own; now, for example, things are so arranged that on each piece the weaver loses a day waiting for warp, and since the piece is becoming almost half its former size, the weaver ’will suffer .a double loss, regardless of the rates list. If the boss wants to rifle our earnings this way, let him do so outright, in such a manner that we definitely know what he wants to squeeze out of us;
4) that the factory inspector sees to it that there is no trickery about the rates, that there are no double rates. That means, for example, that the rates list should not contain two different rates for one and the same kind of article. only with different names. For example, we got 4 rubles 32 kopeks a piece for weaving Bieber, and only 4 rubles 14 kopeks for Ural,—yet as far as work goes isn’t it one and the same thing? A still more impudent piece of trickery is the double price given for goods of one denomination. That way Messrs. Thornton dodged the fines laws, which state that a fine may only be imposed for such damage as results from the worker’s carelessness and that the deduction has to be recorded in his pay-book under the heading “fines” not later than three days after it is imposed. A strict record has to be kept of all the fines, the total sum of which is not to go into the employer’s pocket, but must be used to cover the needs of the workers of the factory concerned. With us, however—we have but to look at our books—there are empty spaces, there are no fines, and one might think our employers are the most kind-hearted of all. Actually, however, due to our lack of knowledge, they dodge the law and easily fix things to suit themselves.... We are not fined, you see, yet deductions are made from us, the smaller rate being paid and as long as two rates have existed, a smaller and a bigger one, there has been nothing at all to cavil at, they have kept on deducting the money and putting it into their own pockets;
5) that in addition to introducing a single rate, let each deduction be registered in the fines column, with an indication of why it is made.
Then wrong fining will be obvious, less of our work will be done for nothing, and there will be a drop in the number of disgraceful things being done now, as, for example, in the dyeing department, where the workers’ earnings are lower on account of the foreman’s inefficiency, which cannot, according to law, be a reason for non-payment of labour, since there can be no question here of the worker’s carelessness. And haven’t all of us had deductions for which we are not in the least to blame?
6) we demand that the payment we make for lodgings be on the pre-1891 level, that is to say, one ruble per person per month, because our earnings being what they are we positively have nothing to pay the two rubles with, and in any case, what for?... For the filthy, smelly, crowded kennel always in danger of fire? Don’t forget, comrades, that all over St. Petersburg it is considered enough to pay a ruble a month, and that only our considerate bosses are not satisfied with that—so we must force them here, too, to cut down their greed. In defending these demands, comrades, we are not rebelling at all; we are merely demanding that we be given what all the workers of other factories now enjoy by law, the return of what has been taken from us by those who placed all their hopes on our inability to uphold our own rights. Let us, then, show on this occasion that our “benefactors” are mistaken.
- Noils—A short staple combings separated from the long wool fibres by carding.
- Schmitz—A measure of 5 arshins (about 11 1/2 feet) used in fixing weaver’ rates.
- Bieber” and “Ural”—names of sorts of woollen cloth.