Strikes in Russia
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 534-538
Lenin wrote this article for the pocket calendar Sputnik Rabochego (Worker’s Handbook) for 1914, issued by the Priboi Party Publishing House in December 1913. It contained essential information on labour legislation in Russia, the Russian and international working-class movement, political parties, associations and unions, the press, etc. The Worker’s Handbook was sequestered but the issue was sold in one day before the police could confiscate it. When Lenin received a copy of the Handbook he wrote in a letter to Inessa Armand that 5,000 copies had already been sold. A second, amended edition was published in February 1914 with deletions and amendments made for purposes of censorship and with a list of books for self-education added. Altogether 20,000 copies of the Handbook were sold.
In the majority of West-European countries, strike statistics were placed on a proper footing comparatively recently—some ten or twenty years ago. In Russia there are strike statistics dating from 1895 only. The chief defect in our official statistics, apart from understatement concerning the number of participants, is that they cover only workers in enterprises subordinated to the Factory Inspectorate. Railwaymen, metallurgical workers, tramway workers, workers in trades subject to excise, etc., miners, building and rural workers are not included in the statistics.
Here are summarised data for the entire period covered by Russian strike statistics.
|Year||Number of strikes||Number of strikers|
The extent to which these figures are understated may be judged, for example, from the fact that such a cautious writer as Mr. Prokopovich cites another figure for 1912—683,000 strikers, but “according to another estimate, 1,248,000 in factories, and in addition a further 215,000 in enterprises not under the Factory Inspectorate”, i.e., 1,468,000 or almost a million and a half. The number of economic strikes (from 1905) is as follows:
Thus the history of strikes in Russia may be divided into four clear-cut periods (if we omit the eighties with their famous Morozov strikes, noted even by the reactionary publicist Katkov as the emergence of the “labour question” in Russia):
number of strikers per annum
|1st period (1895–1904),||pre-revolutionary . .||43,000|
|2nd period (1903–07),||revolutionary . . .||1,570,000|
|3rd period (1908–10),||counter-revolutionary||96,000|
|4th period (1911–12),||present, beginning of
revival . . . . . .
In general, the average number of strikers a year in Russia over the eighteen years was 345,400. In Germany the average for fourteen years (1899-1912) was 229,500, and for Britain the average for twenty years (1893-1912) was 344,200. To give a clear picture of the connection between strikes in Russia and the country’s political history, we cite the figures for 1905-07 in three-month periods (quarters):
|Years . . . . . .||1905||1906|
|Quarters . . . . .||I||II||III||IV||I||II||III||IV|
|Number of strikers
(thousands) per quarter
|Total . . . . . .||810||481||294||1,277||269||479||296||63|
|Economic . . . .||411||190||143||275||73||222||125||37|
|Political . . . .||399||291||151||1,002||196||257||171||26|
|Year . . . . . . . . . . . .||1907|
|Quarters . . . . . . . . . .||I||II||III||IV|
|Number of strikers (thousands)
|Total . . . . . . . . . . . .||146||323||77||193|
|Economic . . . . . . . . . .||52||52||66||30|
|Political . . . . . . . . . .||94||271||11||163|
The extent to which workers from various parts of Russia participated in strikes may be seen from the following figures:
|Factory district||Number of
factory workers (thousands)in 1905
|Number of strikers (thousands)|
|Total for 10 years
|St. Petersburg . .||299||137||1,033|
|Moscow . . . . . . .||567||123||540|
|Warsaw . . . . . .||252||69||887|
|3 Southern regions||543||102||403|
|Totals . . . . .||1,661||431||2,863|
This table shows the relative backwardness of Moscow,, and still more of the South, and the outstanding priority of St. Petersburg and its area (including Riga), and also of Poland. The strikers in the main branches of industry were distributed as follows:
|Groups of industries||Total number of
factory workers (thousands) in 1904
|Number of strikers
|Total for 10 years
|Metalworking . . .||252||117||811|
|Textile . . . . . . .||708||237||1,296|
ing, leather, chem-icals . . . . . . .
|Ceramics, food . . .||454||39||285|
This shows that the metalworkers are in the lead and the textile workers are backward, the remaining workers being still more backward.
The strikes are grouped in accordance with their causes in the following way (for 14 years, 1895-1908): political, 59.9 per cent of the strikers; on wage issues, 24.3 per cent; on the issue of the working day, 10.9 per cent; labour conditions, 4.8 per cent.
In respect of the results of the strikes we get the following division (if the number of strikers whose strikes ended in a compromise be divided equally between “won” and “lost”):
|Number participating in economic strikes (thousands)|
10 year (1895 –1904)
The figures for 1911 and 1912 are incomplete and are not fully comparable with the preceding figures. In conclusion we give brief data on the distribution of strikes according to the size of the enterprise and according to the location of the enterprise:
|Number of strikers per 100 in each category:|
|Category of enterprise||Total for 10 years
|20 workers or less . . . .||2.7||47|
|21 to 50 workers . . .||7.5||89.4|
|51 to 100 ” . . .||9.4||108.9|
|101 to 500 ” . . .||21.5||160.2|
|501 to 1,000 ” . . .||49.9||163.8|
|Over 1,000 ” . . .||89.7||231.9|
|Percentage of strikes|
|in towns||outside towns|
|1895–1904 . .||75.1||24.9|
|1905 . . . . .||85||15|
The dominance of the workers of big industrial establishments in the strike movement and the relative backwardness of rural factories are quite clear from these figures.
- For details of the strike at the Morozov mills see “Explanation of the Law on Fines Imposed on Factory Workers”, V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 2, pp. 29–72.