The All-Russia Political Strike
|Written||13 October 1905|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 392-395.
Geneva, October 26 (13)
The barometer indicates a storm—that is what is stated in today’s foreign newspapers, which carry telegraphic dispatches on the mighty growth of the all-Russia political strike.
Nor is it only the barometer that indicates a storm: everything has been dislodged by the mighty whirlwind of a concerted proletarian onslaught. The revolution is progressing at astonishing speed, unfolding an amazing wealth of events, and if we wanted to give our reader a detailed account of the last three or four days, we should have to write a whole book. However, we shall leave it to future generations to write detailed history. We are witnesses of thrilling scenes of one of the greatest of civil wars, wars for liberty, mankind has ever experienced, and we must live at higher tempo so as to devote all our energies to this war.
The storm has burst—and how insignificant do the liberal and democratic speeches, suppositions, conjectures and plans about the Duma seem now. How out-of-date have all our disputes about the Duma already become—in the space of a few days, a few hours! Some of us doubted whether the revolutionary proletariat was sufficiently strong to frustrate the infamous farce staged by police ministers; some of us were afraid to speak with all boldness about boycotting the elections. But, as it turns out, elections have not yet started everywhere, and already a mere wave of the hand has been enough to rock the whole house of cards. A mere wave of the hand has forced not only the liberals and the craven Osvobozhdeniye gentry, but even Mr. Witte, head of the new “liberal” tsarist government, to talk (true, so far only to talk) of reforms that would undermine all the artful devices of the entire Bulygin farce.
This hand, whose wave brought such an upheaval in the Duma question, is that of the Russian proletariat. A German socialist song runs as follows: “All the wheels stand still if your mighty arm so will.” This mighty arm has now been raised. Our indications and predictions on the political mass strike’s enormous importance to the armed uprising have been strikingly borne out. The all-Russia political strike has this time really involved the whole country, uniting all the peoples of the accursed Russian “Empire” in the heroic rising of a class that is the most oppressed and the most advanced. Proletarians of all nations of this empire of oppression and violence are now mustering in a great army— an army of liberty and an army of socialism. Moscow and St. Petersburg share the honour of having taken revolutionary proletarian initiative. Both capitals have gone on strike. Finland is striking. Headed by Riga, the Baltic provinces have joined the movement. Heroic Poland has again joined the ranks of the strikers, as if in mockery of the impotent rage of her enemies, who imagined that they could crush her with their blows and have, instead, only welded her revolutionary forces more closely together. The Crimea is rising (Simferopol), and also the South. In Ekaterinoslav barricades are being erected, and blood is being shed. The Volga region (Saratov, Simbirsk, Nizhni-Novgorod) is on strike, and the strike is spreading both to the central agricultural provinces (Voronezh) and to the industrial Centre (Yaroslavl).
A modest delegation of the Railwaymen’s Union has taken the lead of this army of workers, many million strong and speaking many languages. On a stage where political comedies were played by the liberals, with their highflown and cowardly speeches to the tsar, and with their smirking and scraping to Witte—on this stage a worker suddenly makes an appearance and presents his ultimatum to Mr. Witte, the new head of the new “liberal” tsarist government. The railway workers’ delegation refused to await that “board of burghers”, the State Duma. The workers’ delegation did not even care to waste valuable time on "criticism” of this Punch-and-Judy show. The workers’ delegation first prepared criticism by deeds—the political strike—and then declared to the buffoon of a minister: "There can be only one solution—the convocation of a constituent assembly, elected on the basis of universal and direct suffrage.”
The buffoon-minister spoke, to use the apt expression of the railway workers themselves, “like a real hidebound bureaucrat, hedging as usual, and not committing himself to anything definite”. He promised decrees on freedom of the press, but rejected universal suffrage; according to foreign press reports, he declared a constituent assembly “impossible at present”.
The workers’ delegation called a general strike. After leaving the Minister the workers’ delegation went to the University, where political meetings attended by some ten thousand people were taking place. The proletariat made good use of the platform placed at its disposal by the revolutionary students. At the first systematic and free political mass meetings held in Russia, in all cities, at schools and factories, and in the streets, the answer given by the buffoon-minister was discussed, and speeches centred around the task of waging a resolute armed struggle, which would make the convocation of a constituent assembly both “possible” and necessary. The foreign bourgeois press, including even the most liberal newspapers, is horrified by the “terroristic and seditious” slogans proclaimed by speakers at the free popular meetings, as though the tsar’s government, by all its policy of oppression, had not itself made insurrection imperative and inevitable.
The uprising is drawing near, is evolving from the all-Russia political strike before our very eyes. The appointment of a buffoon-minister, who assures the workers that a popular constituent assembly is impossible “at present” clearly shows the growth of the revolutionary forces, and the decline of the forces of the tsar’s government. The autocracy is no longer strong enough to come out against the revolution openly. The revolution is not yet strong enough to deal the enemy a decisive blow. This fluctuation of almost evenly balanced forces inevitably engenders confusion among the authorities, makes for transitions from repression to concession, to laws providing for freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.
Forward, then, to a new, still more widespread and persistent struggle—the enemy must not be given a chance to pull himself together! The proletariat has already performed wonders for the victory of the revolution. The all-Russia political strike has brought this victory tremendously closer, causing the enemy to toss about on his death-bed. However, we are very far indeed from having done everything that we can and must do for final victory. The struggle is approaching, but has not yet reached its real climax. At this very moment the working class is rising, mobilising and arming, on a scale hitherto unparalleled. And it will finally sweep away the abhorrent autocracy, send all the buffoons of ministers packing, set up its own provisional revolutionary government, and show all the peoples of Russia how “possible” and necessary it is, just “at present”, to convoke a truly popular and truly constituent assembly.