34) Revolution Begins

Only two days before Bloody Sunday, the ex-Marxist liberal, Struve, wrote in his journal Osvobozhdenie: “There is not yet such a thing as a revolutionary people in Russia,” to which Trotsky replied scathingly, speaking of the liberals,

They did not believe in the revolutionary role of the proletariat; instead, they believed in the force of the zemtsy’s petition [a reference to the campaign of banquets and petitions launched the previous autumn by the liberals organized around the Zemstvos], in Witte, in Svyatopolk Mirsky, in jars of dynamite. There was no political prejudice in which they did not believe. Our belief in the proletariat was the only thing they regarded as prejudice.213

The magnificent movement of the proletariat was the final answer to all the skeptics.

On January 10, barricades appeared in St. Petersburg. By January 17, 160,000 workers were on strike in 650 factories in the capital. The spontaneous mass movement in solidarity with the Petersburg workers swept across the whole country. The events of Bloody Sunday caused an immediate reaction on the part of the working class. In January alone more than 400,000 workers participated in strikes throughout Russia. From January 14 to 20 the Polish capital was in the grip of a revolutionary general strike involving factories, trams, coach drivers, and even doctors. The city, occupied by Russian troops, resembled an armed camp. On January 16 socialist groups called a demonstration in which 100,000 workers took part. Troops called in to disperse the crowd fired up to 60,000 rounds. In three days, according to official figures, there were 64 dead and 69 wounded of whom 29 died later. A state of siege was declared.

The Baltic area was also swept by the revolutionary current. Riga, Revel, and all the other cities were involved in mass revolutionary movements. The center was Riga where on January 13, 60,000 workers staged a political general strike and 15,000 workers staged a protest march. The Russian governor general, A.N. Neller-Zakomelsky, ordered the troops to fire on the crowd, killing 70 and injuring 200. In the teeth of ferocious repression, the strike movement continued to sweep like wildfire through Poland and the Baltic states. A similar situation existed in the Caucasus where a political general strike broke out. The movement cut across all national lines: Polish, Armenian, Georgian, Lithuanian, and Jewish workers expressed their solidarity with their Russian class brothers in the most practical way—by fighting against the hated Russian autocracy. Most seriously of all, from the government’s point of view, a railway strike began in Saratov, in Central Russia, on January 12, which quickly spread to the other railway lines, extending the revolutionary wave outwards to the most backward provinces.

The movement of the workers had an electrifying effect on all classes in society. The public retreat of the regime encouraged not only the workers, but also the middle class, the bourgeois liberals, and the students.

The workers’ action strengthened the position of the radical elements within the intelligentsia just as the Zemtsy’s conference had earlier put a trump card in the hands of the opportunist elements.214

This movement provoked panic in government circles. After Bloody Sunday, the ruling clique intended to move quickly towards reaction, as indicated by the dismissal of the liberal Sviatopolk-Mirskii in favor of the conservative bureaucrat Bulygin, and the granting of almost unlimited dictatorial powers to General Trepov. Now all its calculations were thrown into disarray. Under the pressure of the growing strike movement, on February 18, the tsar issued his first Manifesto in which he hinted at a constitution and popular representation. By its united action, the working class had achieved more in one week than all the years of speechifying and petitions and banquets by the liberal bourgeois.

The shock waves that flowed from January 9 pushed the whole movement to the left. The tide began to flow strongly in favor of revolutionary action, and the revolutionary Social Democracy. Bolshevik and Menshevik workers, yesterday shunned and mistrusted by their workmates, now came to the fore in every factory. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the role of these conscious worker agitators in the unfolding strike wave, despite its apparently spontaneous character. The activities of the revolutionaries were greatly assisted by General Trepov who obligingly exiled large numbers of “truble makers” from St. Petersburg to the provinces where they acted as a necessary leaven to the revolutionary movement.

After Bloody Sunday, this situation experienced a complete turn-about. The possibilities which now unfolded before the Russian Marxists were now immense. But the Party, still reeling from the effects of the split, was in very poor shape to take advantage of the opportunities. A cursory glance at Lenin’s correspondence at this time reveals the deficient state of the organization, particularly with regard to contact between the Bolshevik activists inside Russia and the leading center abroad:

A nice business: we talk of organization, of centralism, while actually there is such disunity, such amateurism among even the closest comrades in the center, that one feels like chucking it all in in disgust. Just look at the Bundists: they do not prate about centralism, but every one of them writes to the center weekly and contacts are thus actually maintained . . . Really, I sometimes think that nine-tenths of the Bolsheviks are actually formalists. Either we shall rally all who are out to fight into a really iron-strong organization and with this small but strong party quash that sprawling monster, the new-Iskra [i.e., Mensheviks] motley elements, or we shall prove by our conduct that we deserve to go under for being contemptible formalists . . .

The Mensheviks have more money, more literature, more transportation facilities, more agents, more “names,” and a larger staff of contributors. It would be unpardonable childishness not to see that.215

While some element of exaggeration may be put down to Lenin’s natural feelings of frustration and impatience, the accusation of formalism directed against a layer of the Bolshevik professionals inside Russia was not at all accidental. Starting out from a position of clear superiority among the Party activists in Russia, the Bolshevik committeemen, when unexpectedly confronted with the explosive movement of the masses failed to react with the necessary flexibility, and consequently made mistakes and frequently lost the initiative. In a situation where hundreds of thousands of workers and youth were entering the arena of politics, seeking the revolutionary road, the most pressing need was to open up the Party, and let in at least the best elements among the masses. But the committeemen, steeped in the habit of clandestine, small circle work, proved reluctant to move over and make way for the new, fresh layers. They found a hundred and one excuses for not opening up—the workers were not ready to join, the need to safeguard security, and so on and so forth. After all, they reasoned, wasn’t the basic difference between Lenin and Martov at the Second Congress the need to safeguard the purity of the revolutionary vanguard by not swamping it with too many raw and untutored elements? We must not dilute the membership!

Yet that very Lenin who argued in favor of restricting Party membership in 1903 now argued even more vehemently in favor of opening the doors and windows and letting in the largest possible number of workers and youth:

“We need young forces,” he thundered, “I am for shooting on the spot anyone who presumes to say that there are no people to be had.

The people in Russia are legion: all we have to do is to recruit young people more widely and boldly, more boldly and widely, and again more widely and again more boldly, without fearing them. This is a time of war. The youth—the students, and still more the young workers—will decide the issue of the whole struggle. Get rid of all the old habits of immobility, of respect for rank, and so on. Form hundreds of circles of Vperyod-ists [i.e., Bolsheviks] from among the youth and encourage them to work at full blast. Enlarge the Committee threefold by accepting young people into it, set up half a dozen or a dozen subcommittees, “co-opt” any and every honest and energetic person. Allow every subcommittee to write and publish leaflets without any red tape (there is no harm if they do make a mistake: we on Vperyod will “gently” correct them). We must, with desperate speed, unite all people with revolutionary initiative and set them to work. Do not fear their lack of training, do not tremble at their inexperience and lack of development . . . [because] events themselves will teach them in our spirit. Events are already teaching everyone precisely in the Vperyod spirit.

Only you must be sure to organize, organize, and organize hundreds of circles, completely pushing into the background the customary, well-meant committee (hierarchic) stupidities. This is a time of war. Either you create new, young, fresh, energetic battle organizations everywhere for revolutionary Social Democratic work of all varieties among all strata, or you will go under, wearing the aureole of “committee” bureaucrats.216

Reminding his colleagues that “the strength of a revolutionary organization lies in the number of its connections,” Lenin wrote to Gusev on February 15:

A professional revolutionary must build up dozens of new connections in each locality, put all the work into their hands while he is with them, teach them and bring them up to the mark not by lecturing them but by work. Then he should go to another place and after a month or two return to check up on the young people who have replaced him. I assure you that there is a sort of idiotic, philistine, Oblomov-like fear of the youth among us. I implore you: fight this fear with all your might.217

These lines strikingly reveal the whole essence of Lenin’s method, particularly on organizational questions. While stressing the need for a strong, centralized revolutionary organization, Lenin’s attitude to organizational questions was always extremely flexible. After the Second Congress, the Mensheviks attempted to caricature Lenin as a hidebound bureaucrat, striving to create a party composed of an elite of intellectual professional revolutionaries which would exclude ordinary workers who would have to submit to the commands of an “all-powerful center.” This caricature, which has been maliciously repeated and exaggerated by bourgeois historians, is the opposite of the truth, as the above passage—very typical of the period with which we are dealing—irrefutably demonstrates.


213 Trotsky, 1905, 95.

214 Ibid., 96.

215 LCW, A Letter to A. A. Bogdanov and S. I. Gusev, February 11, 1905, vol. 8, 143–45.

216 Ibid., 146.

217 LCW, To S.I. Gusev, February 15, 1905, vol. 34, 296–97.

35) The Shidlovsky Commission

Conscious of the danger facing it from all sides, the regime acted with a mixture of ruthlessness and cunning. While attempting to crush the movement by new arrests, deportations, martial law and pogroms, the government simultaneously attempted to woo the liberal bourgeoisie with the Manifesto of February 18 and set in motion a maneuver designed to split and disorient the working class. Utilizing the time-honored trick of the ruling class in all countries when it feels its back to the wall, the tsarist government set up a commission headed by Senator Shidlovsky “to enquire into the causes of the discontent among the workers.” The aim of this stratagem was clearly an attempt to defuse the situation, diverting the workers away from revolutionary action and preventing them from moving in the direction of Marxism. In an unprecedented move, the government announced that the workers would be represented on the commission by means of elected delegates.

This maneuver presented the Marxists with a tactical problem. On the one hand, the reactionary aims of the government were quite clear. On the other hand, to refuse to participate would be to renounce a splendid opportunity to carry the ideas of revolutionary socialism to the mass of workers. For the Menshevik leaders, with their opportunistic leanings, there was no particular problem. They immediately advocated using the commission as a “tribune” from which to address the workers of all Russia. Among the Bolsheviks in Petersburg, however, the prevailing mood was initially in favor of a boycott. Similar moods existed also among the Menshevik workers who were far to the left of the leaders in exile. At the Third Congress, Rumyantsev (“Filipov” in the minutes) stated that “there were no differences over the need to boycott the [Shidlovsky] commission.”218 However, the general mood of the workers was overwhelmingly in favor of participation, and the Bolsheviks soon modified their position in favor of participating, at least in the election of delegates, taking full advantage of the legal opportunities for agitation among a wider layer of workers than would normally be possible.

The strike movement continued and intensified. The demands put forward by the workers ranged from the demand for hot water for tea and washup facilities, to the demand for the eight-hour day and a constituent assembly. The last-named demands showed the influence of Social Democratic ideas. Still more significant was the demand for the right to elect deputies and that the workers’ elected representatives should enjoy immunity. This already anticipated the formation of the Soviets in the coming months. If the authorities thought that the setting up of a commission would halt the mass movement, they were in for a rude awakening.

“The rank-and-file workers,” writes Surh, “were more intransigent and less willing to postpone strikes and entrust demands to the deliberations of the commission than were their deputies.”

Through the collective struggle the workers began to realize their strength as a class and their worth and dignity as human beings. A common demand, which reflected the awakening consciousness of the workers, was the demand for politer treatment of workers by managers and foremen:

“Unconditionally polite treatment by the plant management,” went the Putilov demands, “of all workers without exception, and the abolition of the use of ‘ty’ with workers [‘ty’ is the familiar form of ‘you’ and was reserved in public discourse for children and social inferiors like serfs and domestics].”

Workers at the Baltic Shipyards stated that

foremen, subforemen, and the whole management in general must without fail treat workers like people and not like an object . . . and not use unpleasant and unnecessary words, as is now done.219

Demands for the removal of unpopular foremen were frequently backed up by direct action. Workers would seize the offender, put him in a sack, and cast him out of the factory. By March 18, the Factory Inspectorate had recorded more than 20 cases of such “sackings” in St. Petersburg. After two sackings at the Putilov Works, the foremen apparently learned good manners and became extremely polite to the workers. The newly found mood of confidence of an awakened working class was fertile ground for revolutionary agitation. Taking advantage of the legal opportunities presented by Shidlovsky, Bolshevik and Menshevik agitators flooded the workplaces with their leaflets, and spoke at many mass meetings. The tactic of both factions was to participate in the elections, to use them as a platform to reach a large number of workers, but to refuse to participate in the commission itself until certain demands were met.

The correctness of the decision to participate in the campaign around the Shidlovsky commission was shown by subsequent events. On February 17, 400 candidates stood in the elections, of whom 20 percent were Social Democrats, 40 percent “radicalized workers” and the remainder “Economist” workers and others. But despite being in a minority, the Bolshevik delegates managed to set the tone of the meeting. The arrest of a number of delegates created a mood of angry militancy in which the Bolsheviks succeeded in delivering what amounted to an ultimatum to Senator Shidlovsky, demanding freedom of speech and assembly, the right of delegates to conduct their activities without let or hindrance, the right to meet and discuss freely with their electorate, and the freeing of their arrested comrades. But when, on the following day, the votes were due to be taken, the government decided that things were getting out of hand and refused to accept the workers’ demands, whereupon the boycott campaign now went ahead in earnest. Having been through the experience of the commission, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the class, it was now relatively easy to expose the fraudulent nature of the entire maneuver, while simultaneously agitating for the eight-hour working day, a state insurance policy, democratic elections, and an end to the war. Three days later the authorities hastened to put an end to the one and only attempt to solve the labor problem by legal means. The workers, meanwhile, had learned a great deal from the experience which set an important precedent for the election of workers’ deputies which played a role in the establishment of the Petersburg Soviet later on.

Lenin understood clearly that all the manifestos, commissions, and promises of reform were only a smokescreen to deceive the masses, behind which the reaction was playing for time and preparing its revenge. Time was therefore of the essence. In an uninterrupted stream of articles, he poured scorn on the liberals with their illusions in peaceful constitutional reform, and flayed the Mensheviks for their illusions in the liberals. One of the facets of Lenin’s political genius was his ability to separate the essential from the inessential and grasp the essence of a problem. He quickly realized that it was now a question of “either . . . or.” The time for playing games was past. Either the working class, under a conscious revolutionary leadership, would succeed in gathering together all the oppressed masses under its leadership, above all the poor peasants and the oppressed nationalities, and smash the power of tsarism by an armed uprising, or, inevitably, the forces of black reaction would destroy the revolution, exacting a bloody revenge on the working class. There was no middle way. Everything, therefore, hinged on the Marxists’ ability to win over a decisive majority of the working class and as quickly as possible make the necessary political, organizational, and material preparation for a national armed uprising. This idea was at the kernel of all Lenin’s pronouncements throughout 1905 and partly explains the urgent and at times uncharacteristically sharp tone of his correspondence with the interior. There was no time to lose.

People can change. In a revolution they can change very swiftly. Early in February, Gapon himself, having been pushed temporarily to the left by his experiences, issued an Open Letter to the Socialist Parties of All Russia, which included an appeal for an armed uprising:

I call upon all the socialist parties of Russia to enter immediately into an agreement among themselves and to proceed to the armed uprising against tsarism. All the forces of every party should be mobilized. All should have a single plan of action . . . The immediate aim is the overthrow of the autocracy, a provisional revolutionary government which will at once amnesty all fighters for political and religious liberties, at once arm the people, and at once convoke a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.220

Gapon’s appeal was given a warm welcome by Lenin, who, in his article A Militant Agreement for the Uprising, stressed the need for a united front of all revolutionary forces to prepare the uprising, on the basis of the old slogan “march separately and strike together.” However, here, and in all his other articles, is emphatic on the absolute necessity of maintaining the complete political independence of the working class and its party:

We see in the independent, uncompromisingly Marxist party of the revolutionary proletariat the sole pledge of socialism’s victory and the sole road to victory that is most free from vacillation. We shall never, therefore, not even at the most revolutionary moments, forego the complete independence of the Social Democratic Party or the complete intransigence of our ideology.

Under the pressure of the mass movement, the Mensheviks, particularly the ones on the ground in Russia, began to move left. Not only the Bolshevik Vperyod, but also the Menshevik Iskra published articles and diagrams on street fighting. However, the opportunist tendencies which were already apparent before January 9 were revealed in the exaggerated role attributed by the Mensheviks to the liberal bourgeoisie and in Martov’s insistence upon political, rather than technical preparation of the masses for armed uprising, of which Lenin tersely commented: “The separation of the ‘technical’ side of the revolution from the political side of the revolution is the greatest twaddle.”221

The question of arming the workers, which Lenin persistently raised, flowed from the needs of the moment. While making conciliatory noises, the government was systematically preparing the forces of reaction. Shaken by the show of solidarity between the workers of different nationalities, the authorities set about trying to break this unity by organizing bloody pogroms. As early as February, the agents of the regime incited the Tartars in Baku to launch a murderous assault on the Armenians in that city. Throughout the year 1905, all over Russia, mobs were bribed with money and vodka by the police to beat up and murder Jews, socialists, and students. In organizing workers’ defense, the different party organizations cooperated in action. For practical purposes, agreements were arrived at involving Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Bundists, the socialists from other nationalities, and even petty bourgeois organizations like the nationalist Polish Socialist Party, and the SRs.

In theory, there would have been nothing wrong, under these conditions, with arriving at practical, episodic agreements even with the bourgeois liberals, for example, for joint defense against the pogromists, while maintaining complete organizational and political independence. But in reality, such agreements with the liberals were virtually nonexistent. The latter were striving, not for an armed insurrection, but for a deal with tsarism, leaning for a time on the mass movement in order to frighten the regime into granting a constitution. Lenin’s articles in this period were full of the sharpest attacks on the liberals, warning against their treachery and combating the Mensheviks’ attempts to blur the dividing line between the working class and the bourgeois liberals and foment illusions in the latter.


218 Tretiy s’yezd RSDRP (Protokoly), 179.

219 G.D. Surh, 1905 in St. Petersburg, 209 and 181.

220 Quoted in F. Dan, The Origins of Bolshevism, 305.

221 LCW, A Militant Agreement for the Uprising, vol. 8, 159 and 163.

36) Lenin and the ‘Committeemen’

Some people have attempted to find the “original sin” of Stalinism in Lenin’s method of democratic centralism. Actually, the organizational methods of Bolshevism, impregnated through and through with the spirit of democracy, have nothing in common with that monstrous bureaucratic caricature. A measure of centralism is necessary in any serious organization, whether a railway or a revolutionary party. Every political party, every stable organization, necessarily has a conservative side. The need to provide the material means to pass from the realms of theory to that of practice demands the creation of an apparatus. The living principle of an apparatus is routine: the thousand and one organizational tasks of collecting money, organizing distribution and sales of literature and so on, require a meticulous attention to detail. Without this, the construction of the party would be unthinkable. From the outset, a number of people must be dedicated to these tasks. As the party grows, their numbers increase. Unless special measures are undertaken to constantly raise the theoretical level of these comrades and enlarge their horizons, a certain organizational narrowness tends to creep in, which can play a harmful role under certain circumstances. Unconsciously or semiconsciously, the impression can be created of the primacy of organization, whereas ideas, principles, and theory are regarded as of secondary importance. The opinions, initiative, and criticism of the workers, the rank and file, are regarded as an unnecessary encumbrance, at variance with the principle of centralism, or control from above.

That there were elements of this in the Bolshevik Party (as in any other party) is undeniable. But the attempts by unscrupulous bourgeois historians to link this with the abominations of Stalinism and to blame Lenin’s “pitiless centralism” is a monstrous distortion. Unfortunately, a layer of Bolshevik organizers inside Russia, the so-called committeemen, on occasion acted like the very caricature invented by the Mensheviks. They interpreted Lenin’s organizational ideas as fixed and immutable formulas, to be applied mechanically, irrespective of the needs of the moment. Even the most correct idea, when carried beyond a certain limit, becomes transformed into its opposite. By making a fetish of organizational forms, and overlooking the dialectical method of applying these ideas in a rapidly changing situation, despite their undoubted capacity for self-sacrifice and hard work, the committeemen frequently played a negative role in the development of the Party, until corrected by the intervention of Lenin. Looking back on this period at the end of his life, Trotsky summed up Lenin’s position in the following way:

Lenin understood better than anyone else the need for a centralized organization: but he saw in it, above all, a lever for enhancing the activity of the advanced working men. The idea of making a fetish of the political machine was not only alien but repugnant to his nature . . . The habits peculiar to a political machine were already forming in the underground. The young revolutionary bureaucrat was already emerging as a type. The conditions of conspiracy, true enough, offered rather meager scope for such of the formalities of democracy as electiveness, accountability and control. Yes, undoubtedly the committeemen narrowed these limitations considerably more than necessity demanded and were far more intransigent and severe with the revolutionary workingmen than with themselves, preferring to domineer even on occasions that called imperatively for lending an authentic ear to the voice of the masses.222

A tendency towards routinism and conservatism can be seen in any apparatus, as any trade unionist knows from bitter experience. These elements, as we have said, were also present in the Bolshevik Party, but were far less important in the Bolshevik Party than in any other political party in history—and certainly less than in those Social Democratic parties and reformist trade unions which are entirely dominated by the worst sort of bureaucratic machines and parliamentary cliques, who have long ago sold their soul to the possessing classes. Politicians like Tony Blair or Felipe Gonzalez, who throw up their hands in feigned horror at the “Leninist” theory of democratic centralism, run their parties on the basis of the purest bureaucratic, centralist, and dictatorial lines. This centralism reflects, on the one hand, the interests, salaries, and privileges of the apparatus, on the other the pressure of big business which wishes to make the labor movement subject to its discipline. That these people should point an accusing finger at Lenin is hypocrisy of a highly advanced type.

Trotsky answers the cynical attacks on Lenin and Bolshevism:

“In this connection,” he adds, “it is rather tempting to draw the inference that future Stalinism was already rooted in Bolshevik centralism or, more sweepingly, in the underground hierarchy of professional revolutionists.

But upon analysis that inference crumbles to dust, disclosing an astounding paucity of historical content. Of course, there are dangers of one kind or another in the very process of stringently picking and choosing persons of advanced views and welding them into a tightly centralized organization. But the roots of such dangers will never be found in the so-called “principle” of centralism: rather they should be sought in the lack of homogeneity and the backwardness of the workers—that is, in the general social conditions which make imperative that centripetal leadership of the class by its vanguard. The key to the dynamic of leadership is in the actual interrelationship between the political machine and its party, between the vanguard and its class, between centralism and democracy. Those interrelationships cannot, of their very nature, be established a priori and remain immutable. They are dependent on concrete historical conditions, their mobile balance is regulated by the vital struggle of tendencies, which, as represented by their extreme wings, oscillate between despotism of the political machine and the impotence of phrase mongering.223

In common with many other bourgeois authors, Solomon Schwarz distorts Lenin’s ideas on organization beyond recognition. He tries to paint Lenin as a defender of the bureaucratic intelligentsia against the workers, by quoting from the minutes of the Third Congress, when the quotes he uses prove precisely the opposite. The same author is compelled to admit that similar problems existed in the Menshevik organization. This is clear from the discussions on reorganization that took place at their All Russian Conference of Party Workers in Geneva in April/May 1905, and in the letters of prominent Mensheviks. In a well known pamphlet entitled Workers and Intelligentsia in our Organizations, signed “A Worker” and published in 1904 with a foreword by Axelrod, the author says: “It is better not to harbor undue illusions about the Martovite intelligentsia either.”

In March 1905, Gusev, secretary of the Petersburg committee and of the Bureau of Majority Committees, wrote to the center abroad the following:

A circular on organizational questions is needed, particularly on the issue of drawing workers into the committees. It is necessary to stress the importance of the conditions in which this can be done. The criteria for bringing in workers should not be how well read they are, but how revolutionary, how devoted, energetic, and influential. Nowadays there are many such [people], and mainly among unorganized workers, most of them very young and lacking the qualities of political leaders, although they are well read in social democratic literature. Further, I have already written to you about moving the base of our organization, the secret work, to workers’ homes. Concretely, this means that a part of our best illegal forces must become outwardly proletarianized.224

The essence of the problem facing the Party was: how to establish firm links between the relatively small forces of the revolutionary vanguard and the mass of the workers and youth who were moving into struggle? The revolution does not unfold in an orderly and pre-determined fashion, like an orchestra responding to the flourishes of a conductor’s baton. It is a living play of forces, an equation even more complex than war between nations. The events of Bloody Sunday and afterwards, to pursue the military analogy, represented a general mobilization of the working class. But that class, only just recovering from its naïve illusions and striving to find the road to a complete overhaul of society, continually stumbling over the innumerable obstacles placed in its path, as yet lacked a general staff able to point the way forward to victory. Even the most courageous army never won a war without good generals. But the best of generals without an army do not count for much.

At this time, none of the main leaders of either the Bolsheviks or Mensheviks had yet returned to Russia. Martov only returned to Russia after October 17; Lenin slightly later, on November 4. The sole exception was Trotsky, who arrived in Kiev in February. There he established close contact with the key Bolshevik figure in Russia at that time, Leonid Krassin. Krassin was in charge of a large and well-equipped secret printing press somewhere in the Caucasus. But his role went far beyond that. A highly capable young engineer, Krassin was in many ways the prototype of a Bolshevik organizer. He proved to be an outstanding organizer and technician.

“The party, like the revolution, was still young at that time,” Trotsky recalls in his autobiography, “and one was struck by the inexperience and lack of finish revealed both by the members and their actions in general.


Krassin likewise was not wholly free from this fault. But there was something firm, resolute, and “administrative” about him. He was an engineer of some experience, he held a paying job and filled it well; he was valued by his employers, and had a circle of acquaintances that was much larger and more varied than that of any of the young revolutionaries of the day. In workers’ rooms, in engineers’ apartments, in the mansions of the liberal Moscow industrialists, in literary circles—everywhere, Krassin had connections. He managed them all with great skill and, consequently, practical possibilities that were quite closed to the others were opened to him. In 1905, in addition to participating in the general work of the party, Krassin had charge of the most dangerous fields of the work, such as armed units, the purchase of arms, the preparing of stocks of explosives, and the like. In spite of his broad outlook, he was primarily a man of immediate achievement, in politics as well as in life. That was his strength but it was also his heel of Achilles.225

Lenin greatly appreciated people like Krassin who got on with the work quietly, efficiently, and without fuss. Krassin’s work went on in secret, but he played an invaluable role in building the Party in this stormy period. Politically, Krassin was a conciliator. But conciliationist moods were common among Party activists in Russia, and still more among the workers, as was clearly reflected in the report of the Petersburg delegation to the party congress:

In the recent period the demand for an end to the split is becoming widespread. Worker-Bolsheviks and Mensheviks are holding joint meetings, either with or without the intellectuals, and everywhere the demand for unification is pushed to the fore.226

One way or the other, the split in the party had to be resolved.

The obvious solution was the convening of a party congress. The Bolsheviks had been agitating for the convening of the Third Congress for months, but the Mensheviks, fearing they would be in a minority, continually stonewalled. Early in February, a police raid on the Moscow apartment of the writer Leonid Andreyev led to the arrest of all the members of the Central Committee (mainly Mensheviks and conciliators). Those still at liberty contacted the Bolshevik “Bureau of Majority Committees” with the intention of reaching agreement to convene a congress.

Though formally this was the responsibility of the Party Council, a majority of the Party organizations inside Russia were clearly in favor. If two-thirds of the committees requested a congress, the Council was obliged by the rules to call one. By the beginning of April the Bolsheviks were able to prove conclusively that a total of 21 organizations inside Russia, including the CC, were in favor of a congress.227 This represented 52 votes out of a total of 75 that would represent the whole party at a congress—many more than what would be required by the rules. An Open Letter to Plekhanov, as chairman of the Party Council, written by Lenin in the name of the CC, was published early in April. Yet the Council, openly flouting the rules and in contempt of democratic procedure, refused to call the congress. Given the irresponsible and illegal behavior of the Council, the Bolsheviks had no alternative but to convene a congress themselves, in the name of the Central Committee and the majority of Party organizations in Russia. The Mensheviks, although invited to attend, stayed away and organized their own conference in Geneva. On April 12, 1905, delegates assembled in London for over two weeks of intense discussions on the fundamental problems of the revolution.


222 Trotsky, Stalin, 62 and 61.

223 Ibid., 61–62.

224 Quoted in Schwarz, Revolution of 1905, 214 and 216 (my emphasis).

225 Trotsky, My Life, 169–70.

226 Tretiy s’yezd RSDRP (Protokoly), 549.

227 These figures were accepted as correct by Martov. See Martov and others, Obshchestvennoe Dvizhenie v Rossii v Nachale 20 Veka, vol. 3, 557.

37) The Third Congress

On April 12, 1905, the first genuinely Bolshevik Party Congress opened its doors in London. On the agenda were the following questions: 1) the armed uprising; 2) the attitude to the government’s policy, including the slogan of the provisional revolutionary government; 3) the attitude to the peasant movement; 4) relations between workers and intellectuals within the party; 5) party rules; 6) the attitude to other parties (including the Mensheviks); 7) the attitude to the non-Russian Social Democratic organizations; 8) the attitude to the liberals; 9) practical agreements with the Social Revolutionaries, and organizational questions. Present at the Congress were 24 delegates with full voting rights representing 21 committees, as well as a number of other party groups, including the Vperyod editorial board and the Bolshevik Organization Abroad, which had a consultative vote. Lenin was present, nominally as a delegate from Odessa.

The Congress took place in the white heat of revolutionary upswing. The Party was faced with a whole series of pressing political and tactical questions: the attitude to the government’s concessions (the Shidlovsky Commission), the slogan of a parliament (Zemsky Sobor), the constituent assembly, armed uprising and the provisional revolutionary government, legal and semilegal work, the national and agrarian questions, and so on. But the question which dominated all others was the armed insurrection. Lenin was particularly emphatic about this:

“The entire history of the past year,” he argued, “proved that we underestimated the significance and inevitability of the uprising. Attention must be paid to the practical aspect of the matter.”228

Lunacharsky (Voinov) opened the debate. The revolution in Russia had already begun in the sense that the masses had decisively entered the arena of struggle. What was now needed, he argued, was to give an organized form to this semispontaneous movement. Otherwise, all the heroism and energies of the workers could be dissipated in disorganized and aimless local uprisings. In the previous period, when the objective conditions for revolution were absent, the Russian Marxists, Plekhanov, in the first instance, had laid heavy stress on attacking the voluntarist theories of the Narodniks, those “romantic revolutionaries” who imagined that all that was needed was a decisive push by small terrorist groups to detonate the masses into action. For this subjective idealism, the problem of armed insurrection was something independent of time and space. For the Marxists, for whom the revolution must be the work of the workers themselves, it arises inevitably at a certain point in the development of the class struggle. Where the necessary objective conditions were absent, to put forward constantly the idea of insurrection and armed struggle is mere Blanquism.

This term, which was commonly used by the Russian Marxists to denote revolutionary adventurism, takes its name from the famous French revolutionary and utopian communist, Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805–81), who based himself on an ultraleft, conspiratorial conception of the revolution, as the work, not of the masses, but as a coup de main of a small revolutionary minority. Despite his undoubted sincerity and personal courage, Blanqui’s lack of theoretical understanding doomed him to play a negative role.

“Blanqui,” wrote Engels, “is essentially a political revolutionary, a socialist only by sentiment, because of his sympathy for the sufferings of the people, but he has neither socialist theory nor definite practical proposals for social reforms. In his political activities he was essentially a ‘man of action.’”229

The modern ultralefts have faithfully preserved all of Blanqui’s faults without possessing any of his virtues.

When the conditions were absent, the Russian Marxists concentrated on the slow work of developing Marxist cadres, emphasizing theory and organization, carefully husbanding resources and building links with the masses. But now, the entire situation had been transformed by the social earthquakes of war and revolution. After January 9, Martov’s argument that you cannot “organize” the revolution and his accusation of “Blanquism” directed at the Bolsheviks smacked of sophistry. In reality, the Mensheviks’ attitude flowed from their entire conception of the revolution as a bourgeois-democratic revolution in which the working class must subordinate itself to the liberal bourgeoisie. The question of organizing the workers for an armed uprising did not enter into their scheme of things, because they saw the workers’ role as merely backing up the liberals, and forcing the autocracy to retreat under the pressure of strikes and demonstrations directed towards placing the liberals in power. The Bolshevik position was radically different.

After the shock of Bloody Sunday, the consciousness of the masses was transformed. There was a wave of local strikes and demonstrations, often of a stormy character. One of the delegates recalled the electric mood in the factories:

After the January revolutionary week in Petersburg there was such a spate of anarchistic strikes that in many factories it was enough for only one of the workers to shout: “Down tools, lads!” for a strike to break out, and anyone who spoke out against it, received from the others the tag of “provocateur.”

The danger was that the energies of the workers would be dissipated in this way. What was required was to try to unify the movement so as to be able to concentrate “full strength at the point of attack.” The same delegate stressed the need to combat ultraleft adventurism and individual terrorism:

On the one hand, needless acts of petty terrorism, on the other, acts of senseless provocation, or clashes with the police and soldiers, when individual armed persons, by bringing their weapons into play, give the enemy reason and opportunity to fire upon and slaughter unarmed crowds.230

The delegates discussed in a businesslike manner all the technical details: the drawing up of strategic maps of towns, the training of competent officers, the raising of funds, but above all the need for every branch to possess detailed knowledge of local conditions and the mood of the workers. Side by side with the technical and organizational preparation, there was to be a stepping up of the ideological, agitational, and propaganda work, as an integral part of preparing for the overthrow of tsarism. Agitation was to be carried on, not only among the workers, but also among the intellectuals, students, youth, women, the non-Russian nationalities, and, as much as possible, among the peasants, beginning with the village poor. Special attention was devoted to work in the army, with the aim of winning over the soldiers to the side of the workers. The troops were to be leafletted, and a commission of experienced specialists was set up, under the control of the Central Committee, to work out a program of transitional demands for soldiers.

Nevertheless, even at a time when the question of armed insurrection had been pushed to the fore by events, the fundamental task of the Party was still that of winning over the masses. Without that, all the talk about overthrowing tsarism would have been so much empty chatter. The congress, however, confirmed many of Lenin’s fears that the Bolshevik activists inside Russia had been slow to react to changing conditions. Accustomed to functioning over a long period in small, closed circles in the underground, the committeemen were ill at ease in the mass movement and used every excuse to avoid getting too closely involved with it. A formalistic conception of organization, discipline, and centralism, together with certain ultraleft tendencies, served to cover up for an innate conservatism and cliquishness, inherited from the past. Lenin used the Congress as an arena to wage an implacable struggle against these tendencies.

On the question of participating in legal organizations such as trade unions, co-ops, insurance and benefit schemes, where the prevailing mood of the committeemen was for a boycott, Lenin warned that “the congress cannot lay down a hard and fast rule on this point. All methods should be used for agitation. The experience of the Shidlovsky Commission gives no ground whatever for a downright negative attitude,” and went on to shock the advocates of boycott by asserting that it would be correct, under certain circumstances, to participate even in a rigged tsarist parliament:

It is impossible to reply categorically whether it is advisable to participate in the Zemsky Sobor. Everything will depend on the political situation, on the electoral system, and on other specific factors which cannot be estimated in advance. Some say that the Zemsky Sobor is a fraud. That is true. But there are times when we must take part in elections to expose a fraud.

Lenin moved an addendum to the resolution on this question which stated:

As regards the actual and sham concessions which the weakened autocracy is now making to the democrats in general and to the working class in particular, the Social Democratic party of the working class should take advantage of them in order, on the one hand, to consolidate for the people every improvement in the economic conditions and every extension of liberties with a view to intensifying the struggle, and, on the other, steadily to expose before the proletariat the reactionary aims of the government, which is trying to disunite and corrupt the working class and draw its attention away from its urgent class needs at the moment of the revolution.231

Lenin’s flexible and dialectical understanding of revolutionary tactics and strategy clashed with the unyielding dogmatism of the committeemen, whose universe revolved around the axis of their narrow local circle, which they jealously guarded, on the one hand against the leadership in exile, on the other hand against the demands of the workers for a greater say in the running of inner-Party affairs. The class composition of the congress itself left a lot to be desired, as one of the delegates, Leshchinsky (Zharkov) commented:

Looking around me, at the composition of the present congress, I am astonished that in it there are so few workers, and yet, that workers suitable to be sent to the congress, without any doubt, could have been found.232

This is borne out by Krupskaya, who says in her memoirs:

There were no workers at the Third Congress—at least none of any mark . . .
There was no scarcity of committeemen though. Unless this makeup of the congress is borne in mind a great deal of what the congress records contain will not be properly understood.

In fact, the atmosphere at the congress became frequently heated, as Lenin tackled the prejudices of the practicos head on, while the latter did not conceal their resentment at the “interference” of the exiles.

“The committeeman,” wrote Krupskaya, “was usually a rather self-assured person. He saw what a tremendous influence the work of the committee had on the masses, and as a rule he recognized no inner-Party democracy. ‘Inner-Party democracy only leads to truble with the police. We are connected with the movement as it is,’ the committeemen would say. Inwardly they rather despised the Party workers abroad who, in their opinion, had nothing better to do than squabble among themselves—‘they ought to be made to work under Russian conditions.’ The committeemen objected to the overruling influence of the Center abroad. At the same time they did not want innovations. They were neither desirous nor capable of adjusting themselves to the quickly changing conditions.”233

Bogdanov moved a resolution, drawn up by Lenin, On the Relations Between Workers and Intellectuals Within the Social Democratic Organization, which, while recognizing the difficulties under conditions of illegality, argued in favor of applying the principle of elections more broadly, to open up the Party to the workers, to make room for the new, fresh layers on the Party’s leading committees.

This resolution called forth a storm of protest on the part of the committeemen. Kamenev (Gradov) was first on his feet:

I must decisively speak against approving this resolution. This question of the relation between the intellectuals and workers in Party organizations does not exist. (Lenin: It does exist!) No, it does not: it exists as an issue for demagogy—and that’s all.

Others argued that there was no time or forces to train workers, basing themselves on the famous quote from What Is To Be Done? which incorrectly asserts that socialist consciousness must be brought to the workers from without. Thus, Romanov (Leskov) complained: “It seems to me that here we are overestimating the psychology of the workers (sic!), as if the workers by themselves could become conscious Social Democrats.”234 Yet now the very author of What Is To Be Done? answered his critics by appealing to the class instinct of the workers, and deliberately shocked his audience by referring approvingly of the participation of the workers in the Party organization during the period of “Economism.” In the English Collected Works, this speech of Lenin’s has, for reasons best known to the Stalinist editors, been left out. I quote here from the Congress minutes in Russian:

It has been said here that the bearers of Social Democratic ideas are predominantly the intellectuals. That is not true. In the epoch of Economism, the bearers of revolutionary ideas were workers, not intellectuals . . . It is further asserted that at the head of the splitters are usually situated intellectuals. That observation is very important but does not settle the matter. I long ago advised in my written works that workers should be brought onto the committees in the greatest possible number. The period following the Second Congress was characterized by the insufficient implementation of this obligation—that is the impression I have got from my conversations with the “practical workers” . . . It is necessary to overcome the inertia of the committeemen (applause and booing) . . . the workers have a class instinct, and with just a little bit of political experience they very quickly become staunch social democrats. I would be very pleased if, in the make-up of our committees, out of every two intellectuals there were eight workers.235

This is the final answer to those who still persist in repeating Lenin’s mistake in What Is To Be Done?, where he erroneously asserts that the proletariat, left to itself, can only develop a “trade union consciousness.” Lenin never repeated that statement, and, in fact, repudiated it on more than one occasion. It was not Lenin, but the committeemen with their formalistic caricature of Bolshevism, who held this view, and who booed Lenin when he tried to correct them. So indignant was he at the contemptuous attitude of the intellectuals towards the workers that he deliberately provoked them by referring positively to the worker-Economists. As a matter of fact, many of the old worker-Economists of the Rabochaya Dyelo tendency subsequently joined the Bolsheviks whereas the Economist intellectuals, such as Martynov and Akimov, almost to a man, joined the Mensheviks. This is an interesting point which is never mentioned, but nonetheless true. Burning with indignation, Lenin again intervened:

I could hardly keep my seat when it was said that there are no workers fit to sit on the committees. The question is being dragged out: obviously there is something the matter with the Party. Workers must be given places on the committees. Oddly enough, there are only three publicists at the Congress, the others being committeemen: it appears however that the publicists are for placing the workers, whereas the committeemen for some reason are quite wrought up over it.236

All the passionate arguments put forward by Lenin and his supporters fell on deaf ears. The majority remained obdurate and Lenin’s resolution was rejected, on the grounds that there was “no need” for a special resolution on this subject. Subsequent events were to show just how right Lenin was. Despite this setback, the Third Congress marked a historic landmark. The basic ideas of Lenin on the leading role of the proletariat in the revolution, the need for absolute class independence and mistrust of the liberals, was adopted without dissent. The Party’s policy on the agrarian question (Lenin led off in this debate) was radically changed to include the confiscation of all the big landlords’ estates and the setting up of peasant committees. From this point onwards, the revolutionary solution of the agrarian problem lay at the heart of the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary strategy. The Party Rules approved at the Second Congress were basically reaffirmed, although Lenin made it abundantly clear that they were not to be interpreted in a narrow sense, but that the party organization should be quickly opened up to include the best of the workers and the youth. With the bitter experience of the split still fresh in everyone’s memory, he also insisted on including in the Rules clear and specific guarantees for the rights of minorities within the Party. Minorities were to have the right to express their point of view freely at all levels of the Party, subject only to the condition that the raising of differences should not be done in such a way as to disorganize and undermine the practical intervention of the Party in the struggle against tsarism and capitalism.


228 LCW, The Third Congress of the RSDLP, April 12 (25)–April 27 (May 10), vol. 8, 370.

229 Marx and Engels, Selected Works, vol. 2, 381.

230 Tretiy s’yezd RSDRP (Protokoly), 10 in both quotes.

231 LCW, The Third Congress of the RSDLP, April 12 (25)–April 27 (May 10), 1905, vol. 8, 375 and 376.

232 Tretiy s’yezd RSDRP (Protokoly), 124.

233 Krupskaya, Reminisences of Lenin, 125 and 124–25.

234 Quoted in Tretiy s’yezd RSDRP (Protokoly), 255 and 265.

235 Ibid., 262 (my emphasis).

236 LCW, The Third Congress of the RSDLP, vol. 8, 411.

38) How the Party Financed Itself

Lenin’s demand for the opening up of the ranks to let the workers in was entirely in tune with the real situation in Russia. Great events had shaken and transformed the consciousness of the mass of the workers. Decades of slow and painful work were now rewarded by a sudden upsurge in interest in the ideas of revolutionary socialism. The congress launched a new weekly paper, Proletary, to replace the Vperyod, and elected a new central committee to replace the old conciliationist one. The congress thus resolved the old unsatisfactory division between the Party’s central organ, Central Committee, and Party Council, reducing these to a single center, the CC, which was later divided into two parts, the exterior and the interior. Lenin, for the time being, remained outside Russia, while the Russian Bureau of the CC, based in St. Petersburg, was made up of Bogdanov, Krassin, and Postolovsky, with Rumyantsev later being co-opted on. Lenin was, in effect, in charge of the Foreign Bureau of the CC, which maintained close links with the Russian Bureau, but also had direct links with the local Party committees, with whom it carried on a regular correspondence.

The scope for the work inside Russia was now considerably easier. Although arrests were still made, sentences tended to be more lenient. Sometimes the local police were overruled by liberal provincial governors. The police themselves were losing their nerve. Under these circumstances, the local committees were able to meet almost daily. A typical local committee would consist of not more than a dozen people. Every member of a committee had a direct responsibility for some aspect of the work, either press, finance or agitation, or responsibility for a particular district or factory. They were linked to the workers through party circles. There were also Social Democratic student organizations, and beyond these a wider periphery of sympathizers. As soon as even one worker joined in a factory, he or she was expected to begin working under the direction of the local committee. We have already seen some of the negative features of the committeemen. But it would be wrong to lose sight of their positive side. They were professional revolutionaries, dedicated to the party, hard-working and self-sacrificing. Working under difficult conditions, they were almost always on the move. They lived a hand-to-mouth existence, on very low wages, around 25–35 rubles a month, funds permitting, which was not always the case! Some had a private income. Others were sometimes forced to do part-time jobs. Some, like Krassin, as we have seen, worked as a “cover,” which sometimes gave rise to amusing circumstances:

In St. Petersburg there was an insurance company, not inaptly named Nadezhda (Hope) whose directors made it their policy to employ as clerks men known to be active revolutionaries: they found that, although they seldom remained with the firm for long owing to the high incidence of arrests, they were exceptionally honest.237

After January 9, Buzinov recalled the dramatic transformation undergone by his fellow workers. Work became a matter of secondary importance, as they eagerly gathered in the workshops to read the latest political leaflet or newspaper.238 The Party publications, with their limited print run and infrequent publication, were now hopelessly inadequate to keep pace with the demand. The old Iskra had a print run of around 10–15,000 (fortnightly, although for a brief period it appeared weekly). Now the audience for a revolutionary socialist newspaper was at least 10 or 20 times that figure. The underground printshops could not keep up with the needs of the moment. But the possibility of launching a legal paper did not arise until later in the year when Trotsky and Parvus took over the old liberal Ruskaya Gazeta and transformed it into a legal organ of the Marxists. With its low price of one kopeck, and its popular style, circulation shot up from 30,000 to 100,000, reaching a staggering 500,000 by December. By comparison, the Bolshevik legal paper Novaya Zhizn’ (New Life), had a circulation of 50,000—which was still five times more than the total print run of the old Iskra. But that was not until the autumn. In the meantime, the local Party groups had to make do with whatever leaflets and other material they could duplicate on their humble hand-operated mimeograph machines.

The congress had given a much-needed boost to the morale of the Bolsheviks, who began to grow at a considerable pace. New branches and district committees were set up. Factory cells were established, as well as Bolshevik trade union factions, designed to take advantage of the new opportunities for legal trade union work in which, however, the Mensheviks had gained a head start. Bolshevik agitation and propaganda was carried out by small specialized groups of 10 to 12 people. Each agitator-organizer was responsible for a single district. The opportunities for carrying socialist ideas to the workers were now immense. Millions of leaflets were published by both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the course of the year.

“The old forms of propaganda,” writes Krupskaya, “were dead and propaganda had turned into agitation. With the colossal growth of the working class movement, verbal propaganda and even agitation as a whole could not meet the needs of the movement. What was needed was popular literature, a popular newspaper, literature for the peasants and for the non-Russian nationalities.”239

These, and other pressing needs, immediately raised the question of finance. The question of arms, too, required large sums of money. The income of both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks did increase. Martov states that:

The budget of the revolutionary organizations, consisting in the period 1901–2 of a few hundred rubles, by mid-1905 had grown to tens of thousands of rubles a year.240

But the demands were constantly outstripping the available resources. David Lane, on the basis of a study of the Bolshevik and Menshevik press, concludes that, in February, the St. Petersburg Bolshevik Committee raised a total of 2,400 rubles, of which 265r was spent on the press and 375r on organization. There was a separate arms fund of 1,295r, of which 850r had already been spent. If we include a further 981r represented by a separate strike fund, this means that the total income of the St. Petersburg Bolsheviks in February 1905 was about 4,680 rubles. However, in just the first two weeks of July, the expenditure of the Bolsheviks had risen to 800r on arms, 540r on organization and 156r on literature.

“The Mensheviks’ income from February 15 to March 15,” according to Lane, “was larger than the Bolsheviks, being 4,039r (2,000r of which came from one contributor): of this sum, 1,250r were spent on arms, ‘organization’ in various regions came to 1,126r and 630r were spent on the printing presses.”241

In his history of the Social Democracy, Martov gives a whole series of figures for the financial state of both Menshevik and Bolshevik groups in 1905, which show how far the demands of the situation outstripped the income raised from the members in subscriptions. Thus, the Baku committee, in February, raised a total of 1,382 rubles, of which only 38 (3 percent) came “from workers.” Only 14 percent of the income of the Sevastopol committee came from subscriptions. The situation in Riga was better, but still only amounted to 22 percent. However, in the Bolshevik stronghold, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, the corresponding figure was 53 percent.242 Both factions received large donations from wealthy sympathizers. But the Mensheviks, with their far looser organization, were always far more dependent upon this source than the Bolsheviks, who strove for, and finally achieved, an organization built upon the kopecks of the workers—the only real foundation for a workers’ party. By contrast, we have already seen how, in early 1905, almost half of the income of the Mensheviks came from a single contributor. On February 15, according to the same source, the Petersburg Mensheviks’ income totalled 247 rubles “of which 200 rubles were from a sympathizer.”243 The situation with the Jewish Bund was completely different. Despite their opportunistic policy, the Bund had a well-established, centralized working class organization, about which Lenin spoke enviously more than once. Fifty percent of their needs were met from the workers’ donations.

Throughout 1905, neither the Bolsheviks nor the Mensheviks could keep up with the demand for socialist literature. Everywhere there was a thirst for the written word. The workers wanted to know. Workers who had been hostile or indifferent, or simply too afraid to accept a socialist leaflet, now eagerly sought out those of their comrades whom they knew to be somehow involved in revolutionary politics:

“If earlier no one (even) saw them,” recalls the smith Alexei Buzinov, who worked in the Nevsky Ship and Machine Works, “or perhaps did not want to notice them in order to keep out of truble, now everyone suddenly knew that these were smart, well-informed people. Many dug around in their past, memories began to come to light, and it turned out that someone here and there, somehow or other, had been in contact with socialists . . . From their side, I do not recall a single reproach, personal or otherwise, for earlier threats or insults. In the workers’ attitude towards them, it began to be recognized that the socialists were the leaders of the labor movement. They were paid heed to, they were looked after in a special way, with a kind of crude but touching good-heartedness.”244

Like the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks also had some wealthy sympathizers who were systematically tapped for cash. Well-heeled civil servants, Zemstvo liberals, doctors, and other professional people provided money through donations, put up full-timers and even hid fugitives. The radicalization of the professional layers was shown by the number of resolutions of sympathy and solidarity with the workers’ movement passed by professional unions. The engineers’ union actually elected the Bolshevik Krzhizhanovsky to its Executive Committee. Many intellectual unions collected money and gave assistance to the labor movement in the course of the year. The engineers voted at their congress not to participate in the compilation of black lists of worker activists. In Odessa, the director of a big printing works always helped the Bolsheviks out in a financial crisis. The industrialist Saava Morozov donated 2,000 rubles a month to Krassin from late 1903 onwards. Krassin’s biography states that he raised the necessary funds for Novaya Zhizn’ “mainly through the generosity of his employer, the manufacturer Saava Morozov.”245

Maxim Gorky, whose fame as a writer was already established, played a key role in raising this kind of money, enlisting the aid of many other writers and prominent intellectuals, whose enthusiasm had been aroused by the revolution. Students and other middle class people were approached for donations. Even the odd landowner, like A. Tsurupa, gave regular contributions. The collaboration of some of these wealthy sympathizers went well beyond the passive role of supplying sums of money, and some of them showed a real commitment and even took big risks for the workers’ cause. Such a case was that of a nephew of Morozov, Nikolai Schmidt, himself the owner of a furniture factory in the Presnaya district of Moscow. Although only 23 years old, Nikolai went over to the side of the workers in 1905. He provided funds not only for the Bolshevik paper Novaya Zhizn’, but also to purchase weapons. His factory, which played an important part in the Moscow uprising, was known to the police as a “devils’ nest.” Schmidt paid a terrible price for his devotion to the workers’ cause.

These donations became very important because the amount of money raised from subscriptions, paper and literature sales was nowhere near enough to meet the demands of the new situation. Immediately after the Third Congress of the Party Krassin was put in charge of secret military work. He organized the establishment of underground bomb factories and arms dumps. Arms were smuggled in from abroad. Local Party committees began to set up military groups (boyeviye komitety). The military committees were charged with obtaining arms and setting up fighting units. This work was stepped up in the autumn when it became clear that a decisive showdown was inevitable. Some of the money was raised from wealthy sympathizers. Yet another source of finance were the “appropriations,” bank robberies carried out by Bolshevik armed units. Lenin wrote many times on this question in his writings of 1905 on the revolutionary army and militia. In these writings Lenin insisted that the work of the armed units was necessarily bound up with the revolutionary movement of the masses and only permissible in such a situation. This was not a terrorist conspiracy but part of a broad movement and a united front including fighting agreements with all forces prepared to conduct a fight against the dictatorial regime. Such activities, it must be stressed, have nothing whatsoever in common with the kind of terrorism, guerrillaism and the like which has unfortunately become a feature of the modern period when, in the absence of an authoritative Marxist leadership, all kinds of primitive methods of struggle have reemerged from the dustbin of history.


237 J.L.H. Keep, The Rise of the Social Democracy in Russia, 181.

238 See Surh, 1905 in St. Petersburg, 239.

239 Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin, 127.

240 Martov and others, Obshchestvennoe Dvizhenie v Rossii v Nachale 20 Veka, vol. 2, 63.

241 Lane, Roots of Russian Communism, 78.

242 Martov and others, Obshchestvennoe Dvizhenie v Rossii v Nachale 20 Veka, vol. 3, 569.

243 Lane, Roots of Russian Communism, 78.

244 Surh, 1905 in St. Petersburg, 238.

245 Lubov Krassin, Leonid Krassin his Life and Work,1929, 36.