The Decisive Days

I: A United Front Against Tsarism

Ia: October Heat

Again, as with Bloody Sunday, the Tsarist state had raised the stakes of the struggle. It had demonstrated its ability to see off the movements in Ivanovo, Odessa and Baku. But the movement as a whole had not been defeated and morale was high. Many improvements in pay and conditions had been won. Even the Bulygin Duma was a concession of sorts. At the same time, there were economic spurs to action. Prices were again outstripping pay rises. The recession which had begun around 1900 was still not over, and the conflict in Baku sent oil prices up by 200 to 300 per cent. This was the situation that faced the worker: ‘If he did not want to go down, he would have to fight on and go on striking. Naturally, those whose earlier strikes had been successful went more confidently down this path and embarked on action more easily.’[1]

At the same time, the ability of the state to mobilise its forces against the large provincial movements of the spring and summer must have been preying on many people’s minds. So again, as after Bloody Sunday, even the more confident workers did not react at once. In terms of large-scale action, the socialist parties now had their eyes fixed on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, still some months away.[2]

The movement began unremarkably, even hesitantly. In mid-September, typesetters at a Moscow printing works went on strike. One of their demands was that they should be paid for punctuation marks — ‘the strike which started over punctuation marks and ended by felling absolutism’, Trotsky commented later.[3]The Moscow print-workers had a militant tradition. The strike spread to many other printing works and to the bakers, who had won a big strike in April but whose employers had failed to fulfil their part of the settlement. It even spread to other cities, including St Petersburg. But towards the end of the first week in October, everything seemed to be dying down.

However, by then the ferment had spread to the railways. Moscow was the railway hub of the empire. Once the workshops there began to come out, Tsarism began to seize up. It was no longer a simply a question of piecemeal demands about wages and conditions. A Petersburg railway conference demanded the eight-hour day, civil liberties, an amnesty for political prisoners and a constituent assembly. Now the die was cast. It was a political as well as an economic issue. It was a struggle to take some of the state’s power away and give it to the people. The railways carried the strike throughout the empire. In every city, the strike spread out from the rail-head. A general strike took shape throughout the country, and not only among workers: the professional and educated classes joined in, schools and universities closed down, economic life came to a halt. The strike went round the country and then knocked at the gates of St Petersburg.[4]

The working class had taken centre stage, and Abraham Ascher has paid a remarkable tribute to it:

In truth, in October 1905 the industrial proletariat emerged as an organised — and for a time also as the most dynamic — force in the revolution. It was not the only class to go on the offensive against the government, but it clearly initiated the strike, kept it going, and provided most of the cannon fodder for the assault on the old order. The workers may not have been able to bring the government to its knees without the support of white-collar employees, professionals and the middle class. But if the workers had not taken the lead, there would have been no general strike in the first place. In the nine months since Bloody Sunday, the proletariat had undergone a notable process of politicisation, and the autocracy’s reluctance to introduce fundamental reforms had induced a decisive shift to the left in society at large.[5]

Strike Fever in Moscow[6]

AT the end of August or the beginning of September, I was arrested after walking into an ambush in the flat of one of the party workers (comrade Andrey). Comrade Timofey (Savkov) and some other workers were arrested at the same time as me…

We were released at the end of September. In the three or four weeks which we spent under arrest, the situation in Moscow had changed radically. The print-workers’ strike had just begun, and the bakery workers joined it at once. A demonstration took place at the statue of Pushkin on Strastnaya Square, and the first clash with the police and the Cossacks occurred there.[7]Only stones had been used by the workers so far.

The Bolshevik Moscow Committee immediately strained every nerve to turn the print strike into a general strike. At the beginning of October, I went to the List factory as an agitator. The workers not only agreed to go on strike straightaway, but also offered their help in stopping other plants and factories. I went with quite a large group of workers to the ‘Dobrova and Nabgolts’ plant. We succeeded in halting the factory in a quarter of an hour. The older workers turned obstinate, but the younger ones impetuously demanded a walk-out and did not shrink from using a certain amount of force.

Then someone suggested going to the Tsindel factory. It was quite a substantial crowd that now set off. On the way, several other plants and factories came to a stop. The workers who had formerly been apathetic, timid and difficult to rouse were beyond recognition. They were totally gripped by strike fever and downed tools at our first call. It was only a small group of us that approached the Tsindel factory, for part of the crowd had dispersed to their homes on the way, while others, carried away by the work of stopping factories and plants, had scattered throughout the Zamoskvareche district.[8]

At the Tsindel factory itself, we fell into an ambush. A police detachment sprang out at us from the factory gates. At the same time, police and gendarmes who been hiding in courtyards until then appeared behind us. There was a skirmish in which one of the policemen cut my forehead quite seriously with his sabre. However, this time I managed to escape arrest. The comrades helped me.

Thus began the October strike. A few days later the railways came to a halt. Moscow fulfilled our hopes. The strike begun by her became an all-Russian strike.

The Strike Comes to St Petersburg[9]

The Council of Ministers was cut off from the Tsar. The ministers were unable to get to Tsarskoye Selo to report.[10]They tried to set up a special telegraph line, but this was unsuccessful: workers willing to operate it were not to be found.

In Petersburg, the strike started on 12 October, and on the afternoon of the 13th it turned into a general strike. Plants, factories banks, offices, power stations, shops, trams — everything went on strike.

On the afternoon of 12 October, Trepov’s famous order to the troops had been posted up everywhere: ‘No bullets to be spared. No blank volleys.’[11]General assemblies of all the trade unions were summoned to meet at the university that same evening.[12]

I had never seen such an enormous number of people in one building. The assembly hall, all the lecture theatres, the long corridor, all the staircases and landings — everywhere was packed with the assembled masses. Each trade meeting (the union leaders had invited not only union members but all individuals belonging to the given trade) had a separate location. The assembly hall had been assigned to the meeting of the office workers’ union.[13]Several thousand people gathered there.

I was elected chairman. Setting out the reasons which impelled the proletariat of the whole of Russia to come out in struggle against the autocracy, I called on all the office workers to declare a general strike, and I read out a long list of establishments which had already gone on strike. The Nadezhda company was at the top of the list.[14]

The speeches began. The students were in charge of all the arrangements and kept perfect order among the many thousands assembled in the university.

I received a note: ‘The power station is about to stop work and the lights will go out. Take action to avoid disorder.’

I warned the meeting about this. Students were already going along the rows giving out from boxes on their shoulders candles which had been cut in half. Someone lit a candle, after him another, then a third. Thousands of lights began to glow around the hall. I looked down from the high platform and a feeling of rapture bubbled up in my heart: it seemed that we were holding a requiem for the defunct autocracy.

I suggested that the candles be put out and only lit when the electricity went off. Everyone looked at the bright filaments of the electric lights. They linked us with the power station workers whose revolutionary will was about to put out the light and in doing so send a greeting to us, who were going hand in hand with them.

I received a second note from the organisers: ‘The university is surrounded by troops. Cossacks and police are approaching. Take action to prevent panic if they appear at the doors of the hall.’ In my mind I heard the words: ‘No bullets to be spared.’ That was not so terrible. The awful thing would be if turmoil overcame the whole vast multitude gathered in the university. I made an emergency announcement: ‘Whatever happens, you must all keep looking towards the chairman alone, don’t leave your place and don’t stir without my permission. I ask each of you to look after your neighbours. Complete and unquestioning subordination to the chair is the first duty of revolutionary discipline.’

What more should I tell them? To tell them everything might mean provoking panic right now.

The troops did not appear. Having surrounded the university, they waited without moving. No one dared to give them the order to break up the gathering inside the university.

The meeting ended. A resolution with political demands was passed. I asked that the assembly hall be cleared so as to make space for the meeting of another union which was waiting its turn. We left singing the workers’ Marseillaise.

I went out into the corridor, pushed my way to the window and leaned my forehead against the cold glass. The joy of struggle filled my heart. Mechanically, I glanced at the university courtyard and was transfixed with delight at the magical picture before me.

The courtyard was full of people. A thick, black, solid mass of workers faded into the darkness. A worker stood on a stack of firewood high above the crowd with a burning torch in his hand. Beside him, another worker, bare-headed, was making a fiery speech. His inspired face was illuminated by the flickering red light of the torch. The same light fell on the front ranks of the listeners and swept across the crowd further out. The bulk of the crowd was completely swallowed up in darkness, and it seemed that there was no end to the army of workers listening intently to their leader. The torchlight picked out the faces of individual listeners in the gloom, and on them was written both the joy of struggle, the thrill of awareness of their power, the happiness of the approach of freedom and the inspiration of the revolution.

Nevsky Prospekt was empty. There was no electricity. The huge shop windows, freshly boarded up, showed up in the darkness as monstrous white stains. They seemed like the eyes of the commercial bourgeoisie wide open with horror.

A searchlight hummed on the Admiralty tower, and a shaft of dazzling white light swept Nevsky Prospekt. The silence of the streets was broken now and then by the distinct clatter of the horse-shoes of a passing mounted patrol.

Ib: A Soviet at Work

The Petersburg Soviet Goes to Work[15]

ON 13 October, the office workers’ union was invited to elect deputies to the Soviet on the basis of one per 500 union members. At that time, we had up to 6000 office workers in Petersburg in our ranks. After discussing the question and resolving that our representation could not be equivalent to that of the industrial proletariat, we decided to elect one deputy per 1000 members and elected six people. I was one of the deputies…

Later, in the spirit of the revolution, electoral rules were worked out on the basis of which all bourgeois-liberal organisations and non-proletarian unions were barred from taking part in the Soviet. In vain, the ‘Union of Unions’ knocked at our doors asking for its representatives to be allowed in, if only with in a consultative role.[16]The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies categorically refused. We wanted to rid our ranks of the presence of elements which were alien to the spirit of proletarian revolution, and we also felt a physical revulsion for liberal chatter. We knew that when the time came to go out into the street, the gentlemen of the ‘Union of Unions’ would get under our feet and would try with their pathetic prattle to persuade us not to resort to an uprising and to convince us that we should preserve our lives for Russia, and so on.

IzvestiyaHits the Streets[17]

Izvestiya, no 1, 17 October 1905:[18]To All Working Men and Women:Comrades!The all-Russia strike has begun. The working class, having held fast to the demands for a Constituent Assembly and universal suffrage and not having obtained any rights, has resorted to the final mighty instrument of the world-wide workers’ movement — the general strike. And the blind power of the autocracy has been shaken by the conscious power of proletarian solidarity. The chairman of the Committee of Ministers, citizen Witte, has openly admitted in the presence of the railwaymen’s deputies that the government could fall.

Comrades! We, deputies from different factories and plants in Petersburg, having discussed the situation, call on all workers to support the great cause of the struggle for freedom, for the happiness of the people, and join the all-Russian strike. One more effort — and the chains of centuries of slavery will fall from the people. But, for this effort, the working class must closely unite its ranks and must come out as a single organised force. We must not let strikes break out here and die down there in individual factories and plants. Therefore we have resolved to unite the leadership of the movement in the hands of a general Workers’ Committee. We invite every plant, every factory and every trade to elect deputies, one for every 500 people. The assembly of the deputies of a factory or plant makes up the factory or plant committee. The assembly of the deputies of all the factories and plants makes up the General Workers’ Committee of Petersburg. In uniting our movement, this committee will give it organisation, unity and strength. It will represent the needs of the Petersburg workers before the rest of society. It will determine what we should do during the strike and indicate when to end it. Organise yourselves, comrades! Make haste to elect your deputies. In the coming days, decisive events will take place in Russia. They will determine the fate of the working class for many a long year, we must meet these events in full readiness, fully conscious, united by our Workers’ Committee under the glorious red banner of the proletarians of all countries and the working people.

The Soviet of Deputies of the Petersburg Factories and Plants: At the third session of the Soviet of Deputies there were 226 deputies from 96 enterprises, as well as a representative of the unified strike committee of the railway workers and white-collar staff and five trade unions.

Following the election of the chairman, it was stated that there was present in the assembly, among the elected deputies from the Maxwell Mill, according to the person making the statement, a certain Fomin, who had betrayed a number of representatives on the Shidlovsky Commission to the police as well as the barrister Morgulies.[19]Several deputies emphasised Fomin’s activity as an agent provocateurand demanded his immediate expulsion from the session.

Amid tremendous excitement, and restrained only by the importance of its responsibilities from the use of force against Fomin, the assembly unanimously resolved: that Fomin should leave the hall immediately. Fomin left the hall, accompanied by whistling and cries of ‘Judas!’ and ‘traitor’.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------As a matter of urgency, the following proposal was put from the striking shop assistants:

In view of the exceptional position of shop assistants among other workers, to help them in the strike in the following way: to join with them and with others at 10am on 16 October at the meeting arranged at the Lesgaft Institute and to go and close down the stores, office workers and watchmakers being invited as well.

The assembly resolved to recommend workers to help the shop assistants with closing down the stores.

All stores and shops are subject to closure. Commercial establishments which trade in food supplies are to open from 8am to 11am and on bank holidays from 1pm to 3pm…

With regard to the official newspapers which are appearing, the assembly resolved: to inform the kiosks and newspaper sellers that they are to stop selling newspapers. Otherwise, the kiosks will be demolished and the sellers will have their papers confiscated and destroyed.

With regard to the water supply, the Soviet, starting from the position that shutting off the water supply could have a harmful effect on the health of the population, demands that the city government immediately take measures to remove the troops from the city water-supply building and to place it at the disposal of the workers. Otherwise, the Soviet warns that the water supply may be shut off…

The General Workers’ Soviet resolved: to propose to all shops and cafés that their workers and white-collar staff refuse foodstuffs to police and Cossacks, even for money.

For and Against the Soviet[20]

We acted quite openly. Against us was the huge organisation of the Russian monarchy with its police, secret police, gendarmes, troops, colossal resources and strength. Against us were all the capitalists, merchant magnates and bankers with their millions and their power over the whole economic life of Russia. Against us were all the liberal organisations which accused us of exaggerating our strength, of failing to consider the wider picture, and which tried to show that our demands were intemperate, the advice to limit ourselves to what was possible, the appeals to our political ‘common sense’, the attempts to persuade us how ridiculous it was to demand of an all-powerful government that it destroy itself — for such was indeed the nature of our revolution — and how impossible were our hopes of the troops, who were an obedient tool in the hands of that same police. For we were only the 300 000 Petersburg workers who had elected us and the sympathy of all the exploited proletarians scattered all over Russia. Against us was also the peasantry, to the extent that, on the one hand, it did not understand the basis of our demands at all, while, on the other, it saw the strikes organised on the railways as an obstacle in the way of their products reaching the urban markets. During railway strikes, all the white-collar staff often left their stations together with their families on the last train owing to the danger of the reprisals with which they had been threatened by an unseeing peasantry.

And in the face of all these circumstances, we were strong, and even the autocratic government and the cowardly bourgeoisie trembled before us.

Here is how the situation which had arisen was characterised by an old lackey of the autocracy, the editor and publisher of the semi-official newspaper of the Black Hundreds AS Suvorin, in his paper, New Times:[21]

Russia does not obey the legitimate government and it does obey a self-styled government, or more accurately, a government elected by the unions (the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies). Its organisations exist all over Russia, in every nook and cranny. It does not lose its connections either during these strikes or during political strikes or during post and telegraph strikes. At a time when the legitimate government is without railways and without the post and telegraph, the union government makes use of all these things. When the legitimate government despatches secretcirculars and prints secretdocuments, the union government reproduces them in its revolutionary media.

Democracy, Soviet-Style[22]

In the sessions of the Soviet, we witnessed extraordinary scenes. Some issue or other is under discussion. A deputy from some plant speaks out passionately according to the dictates of his conscience against the solution proposed by the Executive Committee. This same solution is put to the vote — and he raises his hand in favour.

‘Excuse me, comrade’, I ask, ‘You’ve just spoken against this solution and now you’ve voted for it. What’s this all about?’

‘Personally, I don’t agree with it. But it was discussed this afternoon in our factory and my electors were in favour of exactly what the Executive Committee was proposing. I’m not representing myself personally, I’m representing our plant, and I consider myself in duty bound to vote the way my electors have spoken.’

… All the resolutions of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies without exception could be carried out only by the entire mass of the Petersburg proletariat, and often only by the entire mass of the proletariat of the whole of Russia. Every resolution of ours set in motion hundreds of thousands and millions of people. Nevertheless, not one resolution of the Soviet remained a paper decision. This fact caused the Ministry of Justice, which later had the responsibility of seeking out a legal basis for prosecuting us, no little difficulty. We were an association whose aims were defined by the will of the entire proletariat and were intended to bring about the armed overthrow of the autocratic government. But again, this intention existed as a result of the fact that the will of the entire working class was directed towards it. We were an association. But the boundaries of this ‘association’ of ours were not set by individuals with membership cards — they took in the entire mass of the workers in Petersburg, for, as I have already said, not one of our resolutions could be carried out by the forces of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies alone, but each one could only be realised by the entire working class and was intended for the entire proletariat. The issues which were put on the Soviet’s agenda had been scrutinised beforehand by all the workers in factory meetings. Every time we discussed them, we had before us resolutions which had already been passed by factories, plants and unions, which gave us the richest possible material and which confirmed each time that the deputies of the Soviet, and the Soviet as a whole, breathed the same air as the whole working class of Petersburg and shared the same will and the same aspirations. By this time, the revolution had long outlived the period of conspiracy and had come out from the underground. We were the first stage of the open workers’ movement which presented all the more terrible a threat to the government and the bourgeoisie as the issue of an armed uprising against the Tsar and against capital was posed quite openly, not by isolated individuals but by hundreds of thousands and by millions.

The Leaders of the Soviet[23]

My work in the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies absorbed me completely. I put it to my work comrades at the Nadezhda company that I simply did not have the time to fulfil my office duties. A general meeting of the department, in which I was employed, decided to free me from my work for the company, dividing my duties among all the others, and making it possible for me to give all my time to the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. In this way, I lived on the pay I received from Nadezhda until the end of December without doing any work there at all.

From early in the morning, I was already at our Soviet headquarters in the premises of the print-workers’ union at 25 Commercial Street. I stayed there every day until late at night. After a hectic day, when, late at night, we were at last a little free from decisions about the business of the day and from answering copious inquiries directed to us not just from Petersburg but also from all corners of Russia, we — there were most often three of us: LD Trotsky, Pyotr Aleksandrovich Zlydniev (a worker at the Obukhov plant who died in 1913 in exile in Siberia)[24]and I — came together and had long discussions about the future tactics of the Soviet and plans for our activity.

LD Trotsky was the ideological leader of the Soviet. The Soviet’s chairman — Nosar-Khrustaliev — was more in the nature of a front-man, for he was unable to decide a single major issue.

An abnormally proud man, he came to hate LD Trotsky for the very fact that he constantly had to go to him for advice and directions.[25]

Bogdan Mirzodzhanovich Knuniyants, a former technology student who was the representative of the Petersburg Committee of the RSDWP (Bolsheviks), also played a big role in the Soviet and was always pleasant and genial with all the comrades. He later escaped from exile in Obdorsk[26]and worked for several years in his native Caucasus. In 1910 or 1911, he was arrested in Baku, sentenced to hard labour, and died of typhus in prison.[27]

The Soviet and its Parties — I: Trotsky Remembers[28]

L Trotsky’s Letter to Istpart:[29]I did not then belong organisationally to either faction [that is, neither the Mensheviks nor the Bolsheviks]. In Petersburg, I continued working together with comrade Krasin[30]and at the same time kept in touch with the Menshevik group. At the centre of all our discussions in that period were the questions of the armed uprising, the workers’ government, the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, etc, etc. In the spring, the Menshevik group supported my theses on the necessity of preparing for an armed uprising and for the seizure of power by a provisional revolutionary government. From abroad, the editorial board of the Menshevik Iskradispatched thunder and lightning against the Petersburg Mensheviks. Then came the collapse of the group. Its composition was renewed and the slogan of the seizure of power was replaced by the slogan of ‘revolutionary self-government’.[31]

After the big disasters in Petersburg, which were brought about by the agent-provocateurNikolai ‘Golden Spectacles’ (I’ve forgotten his surname, I think it was Dobroskok), I had to go into hiding temporarily in Finland. There I prepared a translation of the speech by Lassalle and of his introduction to it in which he developed the idea of the conquest of power by the Russian working class and of permanent revolution.[32]I arrived in St Petersburg at the height of the October strike. The strike wave was spreading farther and farther, but there was a danger that the movement, lacking the unity of a central organisation, would have no effect and come to nothing. From Yordansky,[33]to whom I had gone with a plan for an organisation elected on the model of the Shidlovsky Commission, I learned that the Mensheviks had already launched the slogan of an elected revolutionary self-government. The section of the Bolshevik Central Committee led by Bogdanov which was in Petersburg was flatly against the creation of a non-party workers’ organisation. The negative attitude of the Petersburg Bolshevik leadership towards the Soviet lasted until the arrival in Russia of comrade Lenin. I was present at the meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee (or the bureau of the Central Committee or the Petersburg Bureau of the Central Committee) where tactics in relation to the Soviet were worked out. Bogdanov put forward the following plan: to propose to the Soviet in the name of the Bolshevik faction that it immediately accept the Social Democratic programme and overall leadership by the party; if the Soviet rejected this, to withdraw from it completely. I think Meshkovsky, Postalovsky and Igor (Goldman) were at the meeting. Bogdanov’s ‘ultimatist’ (recallist) tactics were already present in their clearest form. All objections to presenting this programmatic ultimatum to the Petersburg Soviet were deemed groundless. I tried to persuade Igor, who, it seemed to me, was vacillating, but the meeting adopted Bogdanov’s plan.[34]

A few days later, comrade Anton (Krasikov)[35]actually proposed to the Soviet in the name of the Bolsheviks that it should adopt the party programme and put itself under the leadership of the party. As far as I remember, the debate was very brief. Khrustaliev was against it. Krasikov’s proposal got very little support. But the Bolsheviks, in spite of Bogdanov’s plan, did not leave the Soviet. By this time, the Petersburg Soviet had grown tremendously, and the Bolshevik workers were taking as active a part in the Soviet elections as they were in the activities of the Soviet itself. Some days later, after comrade Lenin’s arrival, the Bolsheviks’ view of the Soviet changed in principle…

Apart from the ultimatist episode described above, the disagreements between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks found no expression in the Soviet. All the resolutions and decisions, which were drafted and adopted in extreme haste, were read through beforehand by two or three leading Bolsheviks and Mensheviks (Krasikov, Knuniyants [‘Bogdan’], Sverchkov, Zlydniev and others). The idea of a workers’ government, that is to say, the conquest of power by the workers’ Soviet, although not in any programme, flowed from the entire position of the Soviet. Sharp factional divisions opened up after the December defeat. The Mensheviks retreated all along the line. Zborovsky[36]and Weinstein-Zvezdin turned abruptly to the right. Sverchkov and Zlydniev did not follow them all the way, but refused to accept the theory of permanent revolution.[37]This drew me closer to the Bolshevik group in prison. Although it, too, did not accept ‘permanent revolution’, it stood firmly against the penitential howling of Menshevism.[38]

That is all I can tell you in haste about the realm of inter-party relations in the first Petersburg Soviet.

With communist greetings 

L Trotsky

25 August 1921

The Soviet and its Parties: II: Sverchkov Remembers[39]

From its very beginnings, the Soviet had to resolve the question of its relations with the revolutionary parties. The complexity of this question consisted in the fact that the Soviet was a non-party organisation which became the leader of the political struggle. Which way should it go? Should it adopt a definite programme?

The Petersburg Bolsheviks decided that the Soviet had officially to adopt the programme of the Social Democratic Party. They put this before the Soviet with the threat that if it was rejected, they would immediately leave the Soviet.[40]This created an extraordinarily difficult situation. In essence, the vast majority of the Soviet consisted of Social Democrats, and not once did its decisions clash with the position of the Federative Council of the RSDWP. It would not have cost any effort to get the programme adopted. A majority in our favour was always guaranteed. However, we ourselves categorically rose up in arms against this proposal.

The workers and the unions did not elect their deputies to the Soviet on the basis of party affiliation at all. By no means were all the 300 000 workers united in November under the leadership of the Soviet Social Democrats. In every 500 voters who elected a Social Democrat as their deputy to the Soviet, a significant proportion, often a majority, were non-party, while a minority were SRs, who also had some members of their party in the Soviet, elected as deputies in the plants. Adopting the party programme and making the Soviet dependent on the party centre meant the complete destruction of the principle on which the Soviet was built and to which it owed its rise: the uniting of the entire mass of the proletariat in one militant class organisation. If we were to adopt the party programme, the SRs would immediately have to leave the Soviet, and the whole plan of representation from the plants would immediately be destroyed, for thousands of non-party workers and hundreds of SRs would stop seeing the Soviet as their organisation insofar as it was made dependent on party centres in whose formation they had not played any part. On the other hand, the question of the relations between the Soviet and the party organisations became extraordinarily complicated. Should the Soviet be subordinate to the Central Committee of the party? Or to the City Committee? Or should it, on the contrary, be above the City Committee? And what basis was there for resolving the question in one way or another? There was no way of obtaining an answer to these questions. In view of this, the Executive Committee decided to stop altogether discussion of the question put forward by the Bolsheviks of adoption of the party programme by the Soviet. The Petersburg Bolsheviks were extremely dissatisfied with this, but they did not carry out their threat to leave the Soviet. The situation remained rather strained right up until the arrival in Petersburg of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who asked the Petersburg organisation not to raise this question, for he at once appreciated the Soviet’s role in the revolution.

We had no special relations with the SR Party. The SRs only had a few members in the Soviet. Amendments proposed by the SRs to Soviet resolutions were always rejected, although in certain cases they could have been accepted without any hesitation.

In November, a representative of the SR Central Committee came to me with an offer to put at the disposal of the Soviet the SR Fighting Organisation (headed by Savinkov[41]and Azef).[42]I consulted with the members of the presidium, and they were fully in agreement with my reply that we did not need the services of the Fighting Organisation, for we were not conspirators and we could carry out with our own forces every act we found necessary.

The Soviet and its Parties: III: Gorev Remembers Lenin[43]

What the attitude of the Petersburg Bolsheviks was towards the Petersburg Soviet is an extraordinarily interesting question. Martov[44]has written about this in his book The History of Social Democracy in Russia, referring to published documents, in particular to the resolutions of some of the Petersburg districts and to articles in Novaya zhizn.[45]But he was obviously unaware of the behind-the-scenes history of these events. When the Petersburg Soviet broadened its activity and became a unified revolutionary force, the [Bolshevik] Petersburg Committee took fright at this. I remember, for example, the words of ‘Nina Lvovna’:[46]‘What I would like to know is where do we come in? We have to reckon with them. The Soviet is issuing resolutions while we are lagging behind and can’t get our own directives through.’

This was also said in resolutions from district meetings, especially in the Petersburg Side, where Doroshenko was the leader, and beyond the Neva Gate, where the Bolshevik Kaplan and the Bolshevik Mendeleyev, now the well-known Menshevik Schwarz-Monozon, were working.[47]They demanded that the Soviet either turn itself into a trade union organisation or accept our programme and effectively merge with the party organisation. What caused this? If one compares it with what happened in Moscow, there is the following difference. In Moscow, the Soviet was, in fact, nothing but a federation of all the revolutionary socialist organisations. It was a platform for uniting all the parties. But the Bolsheviks as a political organisation had much greater organisational influence among the broad masses in Moscow than in Petersburg. When elections began for the Petersburg Soviet and the initiative for participation in these elections was taken by the Mensheviks, it turned out that the vast majority in it were non-party people. They followed the Social Democrats ideologically, but there was no organisational link with them. The Bolsheviks had a painful feeling that this enormous mass was slipping out of their hands. At this point, the enlarged Federative Council, in which both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and representatives of their central bodies took part, including the leaders of the Menshevik party who had been released from prison, adopted the ultimatum, that is, that the Soviet should either accept the party programme or turn itself into a simple trade union federation.[48]

Lenin put an end to this negative approach to the Soviet of Deputies. In spite of the legend which has grown up, starting with the biography of Lenin written by Zinoviev,[49]to the effect that Lenin was the first to come back to Petersburg during the October days, he was in fact one of the last to get back, coming in from Finland illegally and remaining in illegality. His impression of the session of the Petersburg Soviet, to which he was taken clandestinely, is particularly interesting. This was in November, when the Petersburg Soviet was not yet quite sure how secure its position was, and was moving about from place to place. The session was held either in the premises of the Free Economic Association or in the Rozhdestvensky Institute. There were about 500 people there in all. It made a tremendous impression. Lenin sat silent and listened. After the session, a small group of us took him to the Vienna Restaurant to celebrate his return, and we stayed there until morning. Lenin began to chastise the members of the [Bolshevik] committee for being completely incapable of appreciating the enormous force represented by the Soviet and for putting forward ridiculous proposals that the Soviet should subordinate itself to them. He then said that the Soviet was also the embryo of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry which he had been propagandising since the summer of 1905. ‘Let peasant deputies join it as well (in Siberia, deputies have already been elected by soldiers)’, he said, ‘and it will be a Soviet of workers’ and peasants’ deputies, an organ of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.’ He wrote several articles in this spirit in Novaya zhizn, and his opinion played a decisive role in the state of mind of the Petersburg Bolsheviks and their attitude to the Soviet. They no longer thought about ultimatums, but only about how to win an influential role in the Soviet.

In this way, the possibility of an understanding between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks took shape.

Ic: Days of Freedom

The October Victory[50]


HE [Soviet’s] first Executive Committee was elected on the morning of 17 October. I joined it as a member of the presidium.

The Soviet’s morning session was broken up by the police. However, they did not make so bold as to arrest anyone. We moved to the Rozhdestvensky Institute (at the corner of Suvorov Prospekt and 2 Rozhdestvenskaya Street).[51]The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies ascertained on 17 October that the strike had become general and resolved that it should not end except by a decision of the Soviet. Of the resolutions passed at this session of the Soviet, it is interesting to mention the decision that temporarily — until the resumption of work — workers were not to have to pay rent or for goods bought on credit. Traders were not to demand immediate payment in money for products, but to put them on credit.

It was on 17 October that a young man who was to become a familiar figure, with a lion’s mane, sharp eyes, nervous movements and a powerful, fascinating way of speaking, appeared for the first time on the platform of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. This was the representative of the RSDWP, comrade LD Trotsky, who had come from abroad illegally. He appeared under the surname ‘Yanovsky’, from the name of the village where he was born, Yanovka in the province of Kherson. From his very first speech we felt that here was a leader. At the break, he was surrounded by a crowd asking him questions and introducing themselves. Only a few of us realised that this was Trotsky, who was by that time well-known in the party.

In the corner of the hall where the Soviet was sitting, there appeared for the first time a huge red banner on which, under the slogan ‘Workers of All Countries, Unite!’, was written ‘The Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies’.

On the evening of 17 October, the news of the signing by the Tsar of a manifesto which announced freedoms and the convocation of a State Duma with legislative powers spread with the speed of an electric spark.[52]People rejoiced and congratulated each other. But volleys were to be heard at the junction of Zagorodny Prospekt and Zabalkansky Prospekt. Colonel Riman, of Bloody Sunday fame, was laying siege to the Technological Institute, where a group of students had locked themselves in because they were against letting troops into the building to stop the popular meetings which were taking place there.[53]Students in all educational institutions provided premises for popular meetings, but only the technological students insisted on taking this right to its conclusion.

The manifesto of 17 October gave us no little pleasure. We knew that everything, every word written in it was a lie, but nevertheless it was a new landmark of victory on the road to revolution. Everybody was talking about Witte’s letter to the Tsar, as a result of which the manifesto had been issued.[54]We knew from experience the tactics of the crafty bureaucrat, and between the lines we read the confusion and panic which prevailed in the government camp…

On the morning of 18 October, a cavalry detachment under the command of Cornet Frolov attacked a crowd of demonstrators at the Technological Institute and cut many of them to pieces.[55]On the afternoon of 18 October, the notorious Colonel Min fired upon a crowd in Gorokhov Street at close range. In the evening, troops shot at workers beyond the Narva Gate.[56]

Women Workers Raise the Red Flag[57]

Even before the all-Russia general strike, the strike movement had flared up now here, now there in the plants and factories, and it was never the case that the women workers did not join the strikes. I never heard that force had to be used to get them out. Of course, there were individual cases, but such cases did not stand out in the mass. I know this well as at that time I had a wide range of contacts among women workers and male workers in nearly all the districts [of Petersburg — PG].

When the October general strike did start, the women in the Laferm tobacco factory, now the Uritsky, were the first to go out into the street, and this also happened at the Stiglitz thread factory, now the Khalturin. At Kirchner, the bindery on the Petersburg Side, now the Svetoch factory, the young girls themselves began to bring out their older women comrades. At Wolff, the typesetters were the first to stop work in the printshop, after them the folders and then the rest of the workers. There was no talk of the women workers breaking the solidarity of the movement. There may have been individual cases, but in the mass, I repeat, the woman worker went hand-in-hand with the man.

When the constitutional manifesto of Nicholas II was published on the morning of 18 October, I remember how almost all the plants and factories came out on strike afresh as soon as they heard about it. Many of our worker comrades from the plants and factories gathered at our flat that morning: from Siemens and Galske, from the Cartridge factory, from the Guk factory, from the Bekker piano factory and the girls who came from the Stasiulevich printing house. We decided there and then to organise a demonstration with a red flag up the Nevsky to the Kazan Cathedral. In a moment, we had collected the money for a flag. One of the girls and I ran across the road, bought some red calico at the shop of a textile mill, made the flag in an instant and went out into the street. Masses of people were already in the street. Everyone was excited and joyful, as they hoped that the Tsar had really given a constitution. Why, at that moment the word constitution had such a stupefying effect on the masses and on the more conscious workers that at first they were no longer able to form a clear picture of what was happening. That one word constitutionhad a tremendous significance for the masses. Young and old all poured out on to the street. Large groups of working people gathered, and the word constitution was to be heard everywhere.

The police were inactive that morning, and they took no steps to stop people assembling. We joined the crowd and suggested going to the Nevsky with a red flag. Everyone responded eagerly to our suggestion. In a moment, someone found a pole and nails for the flag. The flag was nailed to the pole with a stone instead of a hammer in the road right there and then on the corner of Maly Prospekt and the Sixth Line and the huge crowd, singing ‘Stand up, rise up, working people’, set off down the Ninth Line to the Laferm factory, which had not yet stopped work.[58]As soon as the crowd approached the factory and the workers saw the demonstration with the red flag through the window, they stopped work and all poured out into the street so that not one woman was left in the factory. We all set off singing down the Ninth Line toward the Nevsky and Kazan Cathedral.

On the Neva Embankment near the Ninth Line, an incident happened with an admiral, or some other high-ranking naval officer. He was travelling in his own carriage, with a cocked hat on his head. The workers stopped the horses, made the coachman bare his head, then opened the carriage door and likewise made the sailor take off his cocked hat in honour of our red flag. The sailor resisted and did not remove his headgear for a long time, but the workers, including the women, surrounded the carriage on all sides and forced him with threats to take off his cocked hat. Once he had taken it off, they did not allow him to put it back on until the red flag had been carried past the carriage. The demonstration went on across the Nikolayev Bridge to the Nevsky, and the sailor went on to wherever he had to go.

Did the woman worker not take part in the elections in the factories and plants when the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies was elected in 1905? Not only did she take part, but she was elected too. I myself was a member of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. I had to do this illegally like many other members of the Soviet who were not working in industry at that time. Many women workers knew me through meetings of the Society of Factory and Plant Workers of Petersburg[59]and illegal circles, and also knew me through factory meetings. Women workers at the Laferm factory nominated me for election to the Soviet, but there was no way that I could be elected as I did not work there. The rule was that the factory had to certify that such-and-such a person actually worked at that particular workplace. So then Anna Afanasieva, a working woman, was nominated in my place, and her certification from the factory was transferred to me.

Other women were elected to the Soviet: Tatiana Vasilievna Razuvayeva, a folder from the Wolff printshop, and Anna Gavrilovna Boldyreva[60]from the Maxwell textile mill. Other women were elected too, but from exactly which factories I do not know.

When at the beginning of 1905 meetings had taken place in the institutions of higher education, had the women workers not attended these meetings eagerly, had they not scrutinised what the speakers said?! I saw many working women at these meetings even with children, as there was no-one to leave them with at home, and they themselves wanted to listen, to understand, to learn, to be enlightened and to widen their horizons.

A People’s Militia[61]

Izvestiya, no 2, 18 October 1905: … The people do not need the Tsar’s decrees, but weapons. When the people of Petersburg take arms in their hands, they will write their great decree on the blood-reddened walls of the Winter Palace with the point of a bayonet. That will be the decree of the death of the Tsarist government and the decree of a free republican life for the people.

The revolutionary strike continues. There is no retreat by the people. Ahead lies a harsh struggle. For the struggle, arms are necessary. For the arming of the people, money is necessary.

On Saturday, the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies resolved to send a delegation to the Petersburg City Council[62]with the stern demand that it report on its affairs.

The City Council has spent and is spending the people’s millions on the Tsar’s war, the Tsar’s gendarmerie and the Tsar’s police. There is no crime of Tsarism on which the Petersburg City Council would not spend a portion of the people’s resources.

It is only for the sacred cause of the struggle against the Tsarist government that the Council cannot and will not find resources.

In the name of the Petersburg proletariat, the workers’ deputation demands that the Council must fulfil its duty and recognise that a People’s Militia is essential for the salvation of our lives and honour and in order to win freedom. The Council must recognise that every citizen has the right to bear arms. The Council must come to the aid of the proletariat and assign the necessary sums from the people’s resources for the creation of a people’s militia.

The militia will consist of armed leaders elected by the people. The militia will be our protection and support. In the militia is our salvation.

The Soviet Abolishes Censorship[63]

Izvestiya, no 3, 20 October 1905: On 19 October, the Workers’ Soviet held its the fourth session, at which there were 132 deputies from 74 enterprises and four unions…

In Russia, ‘freedom’ of speech has been decreed by the Tsar, but the Central Directorate for Press Affairs has been preserved, and the censor’s pencil is still at work. The Soviet of Deputies takes as its starting-point the need for the working class, which bears on its shoulders the whole or nearly the whole burden of the struggle, to have its say on the issue of press freedom. The freedom of the printed word must be won by the workers. The Soviet of Deputies resolves that only those newspapers may appear whose editors disregard the Censorship Committee and do not send their editions to the censor, but act in general as the Soviet of Deputies does with the publication of its own newspaper. Therefore typesetters and other worker-comrades in the printing industry who are involved in the production of newspapers are only to do their work if the editors proclaim and implement the freedom of the press. Until that moment, the worker-comrades in newspapers will continue to strike and the Soviet of Deputies will take all possible measures to find means to give these worker-comrades employed in newspapers their pay. Newspapers which do not abide by the present resolution will be confiscated from the newspaper-sellers and destroyed, presses and machines will be damaged, and workers who do not abide by the resolution of the Soviet of Deputies will be boycotted [sent to Coventry — PG].

The Soviet Demands, Witte Gives Way[64]

The meeting decided to send at once to Witte, the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, a deputation consisting of three people.[65]The delegation went to Witte with a definite resolution: the immediate release of the three deputies arrested inKazan Square, with the proviso that there could otherwise be undesirable consequences. After negotiations with Witte, the detainees were released…

The Print-Workers Impose Press Freedom[66]

Izvestiya, no 5, 3 November 1905: Resolution on the Freedom of the Press, passed at a general meeting of the print union on 30 October.

The general meeting of the union of print-workers, basing itself on the resolution of the Soviet of Deputies on the introduction of press freedom by the workers themselves, resolves: all books and periodical publications are to come out without censorship, disregarding the Central Directorate for Press Affairs. The most active boycott will be applied to all publications and owners of printing houses which do not abide by the present resolution, and worker-comrades in such printing houses will stop work. The union’s office for relations with the journalists’ union, publishers and the owners of printing houses is charged with putting the present resolution into practice. The date the present resolution comes into effect will be published in the press and sent out in circulars.

Together with the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, the union will take all possible measures to render material aid to those comrades who stop work in the struggle for the freedom of the press.

The Secret Police Appeal to the Soviet[67]

Absolutely everyone came to the Soviet with all their troubles and grievances. I remember a petition which was brought to me by a deputation ‘of conscious agents of the Secret Police Department’, as they called themselves. The agents of the Department complained that their position was one without rights, and they requested the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies to help them organise themselves into a trade union.

A New Russia[68]

So, I was back in the Motherland after 15 years of emigration! In those years, Russia had become a different country. But something particularly new was happening in Petrograd in those very days. The newspapers which I read on the journey spoke in a way that was unfamiliar to Russian people — freely. Everything came as a surprise to me. I was even surprised that in the given circumstances it could not, of course, be otherwise.

I did not want to be registered with someone else’s passport, as this could cause trouble in future for the passport’s owner. Searching for an ‘overnight stop’, I went to the editorial offices of a paper, I think it wasTovarishch(Comrade). Nobody there knew me personally. Shchegolev came out to talk it over with me. I told him my name, and said that I had just arrived from abroad illegally and that I was without a passport. In view of my long-established reputation, I thought everyone would avoid me like the plague. But I was struck by the way they vied with one another in offering me a flat for the night. We set off in a group from the editorial offices for the flat of a well-known teacher. There, in keeping with the Petersburg custom of that time, we stayed up late, and I actually spent the night there. In the general discussion of political topics, everybody talked as openly as I had heard them do in Paris. Everything was said in the presence of servants and people who arrived by chance. I was addressed by my surname, and this did not make anyone tremble. All of this was the more striking for me, as not only Russians who had come from Russia but sometimes even émigrés were afraid of meeting me abroad in case I compromised them.

Among other things, I was told that there would be a workers’ meeting the next day in such-and-such a plant. I decided to go to it.

I had to go through various back-streets. I stopped at a crossroads, not knowing which way to turn, and asked a passer-by where N— Street was. According to an old habit of clandestinity, I put my question cautiously, in an undertone, so that no one else would hear. The passer-by could not give me the necessary directions himself, but he wanted to oblige and to my great chagrin, he appealed to a policeman right over on the other side of the street, asking: ‘Whereabouts here is N— Street? This gentleman is asking after it!’

Turning to me, the policeman asked: ‘Is it the workers’ meeting you’re after?’

In earlier years I would have known what this question meant, but now I tried to show that the question did not astonish me in the least, and I calmly replied: ‘Yes!’

The policeman gave me a detailed explanation of the shortest route to the meeting.

That policeman showed me better than anything else that this Russia was completely different from the one I had left in former times.

I entered an enormous workshop. Among the machines, flywheels and drive belts, I saw that up on top of a machine stood Bunakov-Fundaminsky, an SR I was well acquainted with, who was gesticulating as he spoke. The first words I heard were: ‘We Socialist Revolutionaries…’

Yes, this was a new Russia! This was a Russia I had never seen before.

I stood to one side, mingling with the crowd and listening with difficulty to what the speakers were saying. I was quite overwhelmed, tears were running down my face, and I was carried away willy-nilly by my memories of 1883-84 and our attempts to make contact with workers, when, if we succeeded in gathering 25 or 30 workers together in a clandestine flat or somewhere in the woods, we would call it a ‘mass meeting’. On one of my first evenings, I went with Sverchkov, a member of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, to a meeting on the Petersburg Side. Seeing that the street was full of people, I said to Sverchkov: ‘Look, look, can these really be Russians?’

Sverchkov looked at me in some surprise, and only then did I get an inkling of how far apart I had grown from Russia.

Later, I went to a block of flats on Pushkin Street and asked for a student who lived there whose name I had forgotten. I described him and as his main distinguishing characteristic I said: ‘He’s Russian!’

I often caught myself making such blunders, on returning to Russia after 17 years in emigration.

Burtsev’s initial euphoria soon gave way to foreboding. He had at last come face-to-face with a real mass struggle in which each individual triumph is always temporary and never far away from defeat unless it leads to an overall victory. He did not like what he saw. His reaction was in principle no different to all those on the right of Russian socialism who raised their voices against the mass movement as soon as things got really serious and junked it completely once it had been defeated.

Week after week, meetings, gatherings and reports passed before my eyes. There were meetings of workers’ deputies, peasant meetings, general political meetings, etc. Sometimes, I also had to attend semi-clandestine revolutionary meetings. Here, the revolutionaries not only resorted to appeals, for I also often saw Brownings and automatic pistols in their hands. The talk was all about preparing a social revolutionary uprising among the workers and peasants, about the struggle against the Kadets,[69]about the struggle against all non-socialists, etc. In a word, the revolutionary atmosphere smelled of gunpowder.

It was hard for me to see and hear all this. I felt that something dismal and fateful was being readied which would poison what we had gained in 1905.

I argued that Russia was not ready for social revolution and the introduction of socialism, that a few revolutionaries did not have sufficient strength even to defend our gains and that we could only do this in alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, that we should make our aim not the immediate realisation of socialism but above all the reinforcement of our political gains.[70]While the socialists were fighting against the Kadets along the entire front, I was insisting on the necessity of an alliance with them. I warned against continuing with general strikes and against the decrees that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies was issuing in those days.

II: In the Balance

IIa: Racism and Resistance

Revolutions are never one-way affairs. They are struggles, and the other side can hit back even when it is on the retreat. Thus it was, as Trotsky put it, that ‘the Soviet brought the strike to an end during those terrible black days when the cries of slaughtered infants, the frenzied curses of mothers, the dying gasps of old people, and savage howls of despair rose to the heavens from every corner of the country’.[71]

Pogroms — racist massacres mainly of Jews — had some history as an instrument of Tsarist policy. But they had never been employed on the scale of 1905. According to very sketchy figures, there were, in the aftermath of the October strike, pogroms in 110 localities, in which between 3500 and 4000 people died and up to 10 000 were maimed. According to Pokrovsky, over 1000 people in Tomsk were locked into a theatre which was then burned down in the presence of the governor and the bishop.[72]‘It is amazing how they took place simultaneously in all the towns and cities of Russia’, wrote the Tsar, in all seriousness, to his mother.[73]Eighty per cent of all the pogroms in 1905-06 took place in the 60 days which followed the publication of the constitutional manifesto. Nearly 87 per cent of all pogroms occurred in the southern provinces, and these pogroms account for 62 per cent of all Jewish fatalities in 1905 (for the significance of the geographical spread, see below Chapter 5: The Pattern of Conflict in the 1905 Revolution). According to one estimate, more than 3100 Jews died, possibly 2000 were seriously injured, and over 15 000 wounded.[74]

Despite this, and other, more direct kinds of evidence, Abraham Ascher disagrees ‘with the proposition that the pogroms began in response to a signal from St Petersburg or that they would not have taken place at all without official inspiration or approval’. He goes on to blame the foot-soldiers of the pogroms — reactionaries, racists and looters, of course, but more especially ‘peasants, shopkeepers, coachmen, janitors, and even some workers’.[75]In a more specialised historical study, Shlomo Lombrosa took a radically different view:

I feel it is beyond question that the attitude and actions of the government became the overwhelming contributive cause of the pogroms... the participation of government officials in right-wing political movements; the subsidising of these movements and their publications by the government; the willingness of the government not to prosecute officials who were clearly responsible for pogroms; the willingness of the government to promote individuals responsible for pogroms; the pernicious attitude that Jews bore responsibility for pogroms; the unwillingness of the government to compensate pogrom victims; all these factors point to a clear anti-Semitic policy by the central government. It was the attitude of the government that created the conditions that allowed the pogroms to occur.[76]

It is worth keeping these general judgements in mind when looking at the example of Odessa.

The Odessa Pogrom[77]

ONE of the biggest of the October pogroms, yet quite typical in terms of its entire ‘ritual’, was the Odessa pogrom, which lasted from 18 to 22 October.

As in many other cities, meetings many thousands strong took place for some days before the publication of the Tsar’s ‘manifesto’, mainly in the university. All this time there were continual clashes with police and troops. On 16 October, there was to have been a meeting to discuss joining the general strike, but the meeting was prohibited by the city governor. An excited mass of workers and students smashed up a gun shop and began to build barricades in several streets (Preobrazheniye, Pochta and Richelieu), which were soon fired on by Cossacks. During the destruction of the barricades, nine were killed, up to 80 were injured and over 200 people were arrested. On 17 October, the university was shut by order of Neidhardt, the city governor, and a whole mass of people thronged the streets.[78]The entire city was occupied by troops, and reinforced patrols were on the streets. Several thousand people gathered at the Jewish hospital where the bodies of three of those killed on the barricades had been taken. A meeting was held, and it was decided to hold the funeral of the fallen on the next day. Later, Neidhardt’s famous declaration, in which he threatened, in the name of 30 000 meshchanin, bloody reprisals against all students and troublemakers was put up all over the city.[79]Intense agitation for a pogrom was already under way at that time among the down-and-outs of the port and other dregs of the population as well as among the soldiers of the garrison. Guns were being distributed, leaders of the pogrom were being selected. On the morning of the 18th, a large crowd assembled at the Jewish hospital to take part in the funeral ceremony, but it turned out that during the night the bodies had been taken somewhere else on Neidhardt’s orders. The crowd was terribly angry. A meeting was held there and then. But the police appeared and the meeting had to be abandoned. At the same time, the news came about the ‘manifesto’. Meetings and demonstrations with red flags began. Demonstrations went on all day in different parts of the city.[80]

At the same time, the police did everything they could to stir up the dark forces against the Jews. ‘From somewhere’ rumours appeared that the Jews had torn up the Tsar’s portrait in the city duma, had smashed the metal inscription with the words ‘God Save the Tsar’ in the duma building, had flogged a headless scarecrow bearing the inscription ‘Autocracy’, had attacked Orthodox clergy, and had threatened the Russian population for having oppressed them in the past: ‘Now’, they were reported to be saying, ‘we’re going to be giving you the orders’, etc, etc.

The first attack on the Jews by hooligans organised by the police took place on the evening of the 18th in a part of the city called Dalnik. A crowd of armed hooligans led by the police began to beat up Jewish passers-by, and then began to smash Jewish homes and shops and rob them. When it became known in the university that the pogrom had started, a self-defence force went there, and eventually succeeded in putting the hooligans to flight. It was an anxious night. A resumption of the pogrom was expected at any moment. But it only resumed in the morning — with the beginning of the ‘patriotic’ demonstrations.

We reproduce the subsequent course of bloody events — or rather, individual episodes of them — from the report of Senator Kuzminsky:

Embittered by the violent actions of the Jews [the Tsarist senator relates], crowds of demonstrators began to smash Jewish shops in various parts of the city… Soon individual cases turned into a general pogrom: all Jewish shops, houses and flats which happened to be on the route followed by the demonstrators were completely smashed up, all property of the Jews was destroyed, while what remained by chance untouched was looted… The crowds of hooligans broke into Jewish flats and not infrequently dealt brutally with the people inside. In the courtyard of the three-storey block of flats at 5 Kartamyshev Street, a crowd of hooligans killed the Jews on the spot… The hooligans threw children from the first and second floors down on to the street, and one hooligan seized a child by the feet and smashed his head against the wall…

Senator Kuzminsky’s report characterised the role in the pogrom of the police and troops as well as that of the representatives of the local authority like this:

All ranks in the police, thinking that the Jews were behind all kinds of political disturbances and strikes and deeming them to be revolutionaries, fully sympathised with the pogrom which had been committed against the Jewish population… In many cases, police officers themselves directed the crowds of hooligans in the wrecking and pillaging of Jewish houses, flats and shops and supplied the hooligans with clubs… they [the police — PG] themselves took part together with them in this wrecking, robbing and murdering and led the activities of the crowd.

A multitude of facts are presented in the report as evidence of this assertion.

When in one place a soldier wanted to drive the hooligans away, a policeman who was on the spot went up to him and told him threateningly: ‘If you’re going to drive Russian people away, I’ll give you what-for.’ To an officer’s question as to why the police did not stop the pogrom, a policeman replied that the authorities had permitted that the Jews should be thrashed for three days for having torn up the Tsar’s portrait and smashed the metal inscription with the words ‘God Save the Tsar’ in the duma. Another policeman told how when he reported the beginning of the pogrom to his local police station, the reply he received was: ‘Don’t interfere, it’s none of your business!’ In many places, the police fired shots into the ground or into the air, and then told army patrols that this was the Jews firing from buildings, pointing out which buildings had to be fired at. According to the report, the district police acted as one with the city police,[81]while the troops blindly carried out the will of the latter:

Usually, the troops and the city police only beat up students, firing only at Jewish defence groups and student militia groups… Generally, the crowds of hooligans acted without let or hindrance and in the complete conviction that neither the troops nor the police would put up any opposition… When many students, Jews and other persons who were members of defence groups were arrested by the dozen… and detained in police stations in the worst conditions, they frequently suffered assaults by police, soldiers and Cossacks.

When they assaulted detainees, the police would often pronounce this sentence on them: ‘Here’s freedom for you, here’s “Down with the Tsar” for you.’ An officer who was present at one of these scenes added on his own account: ‘You didn’t want the government, well there’s no government here.’

Far from hiding his sympathetic attitude to the pogrom and his intimate involvement in it, Neidhardt himself, the governor of the city, paraded it. The report relates:

The crowds of hooligans, which had been engaged in wrecking and looting, met him [Neidhardt] enthusiastically with cries of ‘hurrah’; in response to these greetings he… exchanged bows with the crowd, took off his uniform cap and said: ‘Thank you, brothers!’ Someone who had been assaulted in front of the city governor appealed to him for help, but received the reply: ‘I can do nothing, you wanted freedom, here’s your Yid freedom.’

Baron Kaulbars, the commander of the troops, made a speech to the police in which he said with unusual cynicism: ‘Let us call things by their proper names… All of us in our hearts sympathise with this pogrom.’[82]

Such was the general style of the Odessa pogrom, and it went on in this way on the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st, and it was halted only on 22 October. The total number of victims, according to the information in the senator’s report, which used police sources exclusively, was extremely high: over 500 dead, 289 wounded recorded by the police as against 608 who went to hospital, 1632 Jewish premises wrecked, the total cost of the damage being 3 668 824 rubles.

A more recent study of the Odessa pogrom cites a contemporary Labour Zionist account as arguing ‘that the police more than any other group in Odessa were responsible for the deaths and pillage’. It also identifies the identifies the ‘hooligans’ of the pogrom as day labourers who competed with Jews for jobs on a daily basis, especially, during the summer, in the rail depots and the port (see above Chapter 2: The Revolution Takes Shape, Part III: Stopping the War, d: The Potemkin Mutiny).[83]Odessa is an example of a pogrom which did take place. But there were also outstanding cases of resistance.

By Any Means Necessary[84]

In practical terms, the [Petersburg] Soviet resolved to apply following measures. Every district in Petersburg was to organise a detachment with a commanding staff on permanent, uninterrupted duty in a specified place. Workers in the metallurgical plants were to produce the necessary quantity of steel side-arms (owing to the impossibility of obtaining firearms). A workers’ detachment armed with revolvers was set up under the auspices of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

A day later everything was ready. In many newspapers an announcement appeared along these lines: ‘The workers of N— plant request the citizens of Petersburg, in the event that a pogrom should arise or the threat of it appear, immediately to call in about it to telephone number —’ (the telephone number of the central staff of the squads was given).

At the next session of the Soviet, examples of the steel side-arms, several thousands of which had already been made in the plants, were demonstrated before me. Here were wire whips with little lead weights at the end, daggers, short sabres and knives. In no museum had I seen such a variety of personal weapons. Nearly everywhere, the plant managements issued the steel to make them with free of charge.

The question of opposing the pogroms came up at the Union of Unions as well. A short report was given about the measures taken by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, and it was proposed that the addresses of persons under threat should be given to the Soviet.

The anxious representative of the Union of Professors, the well-known Professor Novgorodtsev, got up and spoke on this matter: ‘I will give my address but only on one condition: let no member of the Soviet come anywhere near my apartment. I trust the police far more than I do protection measures by the Soviet.’

The workers did not confine themselves to making steel side-arms. Special collections were taken everywhere for money to buy firearms. The Putilov plant collected 5000 rubles for this purpose, the Semyannikov 2000, the Franco-Russian 1500. All the plants resolved to put aside a certain percentage of their pay for weapons. In some newspapers, the typesetters were armed by the employers themselves at their own cost. The gun shops, taking no account of police prohibitions, began to sell weapons without permission of any kind being required.

The workers began to guard the industrial districts at night; they organised patrols and a militia. As a result, robbery in the streets and assaults in the working-class quarters completely ceased. In response to this, by order of the Petersburg city governor, a real hunt for the workers’ militia units was organised by the police and the army.

The last attempt on the part of the Black Hundreds to attack the Soviet, which was frustrating all their plans, took place on 13 November.

We were meeting in the premises of the Free Economic Association. Fifty agitators each from the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and SRs were allowed into the session as audience so that each member of the Soviet could make the usual report to his or her electors afterwards; respected individuals from the parties were also invited. Among the latter, we often saw Vera Ivanovna Zasulich.[85]

During the session we received news that a Black Hundred meeting taking place in Senate Square was calling for a pogrom. This was reported in secret to one of the members of the Executive Committee. He sent his men there, giving them the task of following everything that happened and then coming to tell him about it. Some time later, they returned with the news that the mob had decided to deal with the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies and was making for the Free Economic Association. We sent out our patrols immediately, called out our detachment of armed workers and deployed them in the front garden of the Free Economic Association and in other places which put the Zabalkansky Prospekt and the 4th Company within their field of fire. After a brief emergency meeting, we decided not to inform the whole Soviet about what was happening, but to take measures to ensure that we were in a position to defend ourselves.

On the resumption of the session of the Soviet, BM Knuniyants, the representative of the Bolshevik faction in the Soviet, spoke out of turn. ‘In the name of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party Bolshevik fraction, I propose that all faction representatives who are not members of the Soviet should immediately withdraw from the session.’

Several dozen persons stood up and left the hall.

Comrade Trotsky rose: ‘I ask all members of the Menshevik faction who do not belong to the Soviet to leave the session immediately.’

Several dozen more went out.

ND Avksentiev rose:[86]‘In the name of the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, I propose that all members of the party who are not in the Soviet should leave the session.’

The last of the audience who were present got up and left. Many of the members of the Soviet asked what this meant. They were told that the necessary explanations would be forthcoming when they needed to know them.

The Black Hundred mob, encountering our patrols and getting wind of the serious opposition that had been prepared, halted and slowly began to disperse one by one without reaching the place where the Soviet was in session.

The measures taken by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies in October to prevent a pogrom were crowned with success. We later had the pleasure of reading in the official report from Lopukhin to Stolypin that a pogrom did not take place in Petersburg thanks exclusively to the counter-measures taken by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.[87]

Censoring the Racists[88]

There were no means to which the government would not stoop as it prepared the ‘liquidation’ of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. Foremost among the weapons in its anti-soviet arsenal were lies and slander against the revolutionary movement.

In the second half of November, all kinds of right-wing organisations began stirring, and pogrom leaflets appeared. At first they attempted to print them legally, on the basis of ‘freedom of the press’. But here they came up against a totally unforeseen difficulty: the typesetters categorically refused to set them. Masses of drafts of these leaflets began to be brought to the Soviet with protests against the printing firms for accepting the orders, and declarations of the workers’ unwillingness to fulfil them. The Soviet had to consider this question, and it resolved that only the printing of slanders and calls for a pogrom which were anonymous was not to be permitted. As far as expositions of programmes and programmatic articles of a monarchical tendency were concerned, no obstacles should be put in the way of printing them. However, the Soviet was bad at putting this resolution into practice. As before, print-workers came to the Executive Committee every day, complaining that they could not carry out this work. ‘We can’t typeset that, it makes us sick!’, they said.

The Executive Committee authorised me to censor the drafts and either accept them for printing or reject them. I often had to cross out the whole draft with a red pencil or go over it and cut it by half or more.

One interesting draft of this kind was brought to the Executive Committee by the workers of the Trenke and Fiusno printworks. It talked about the ‘autocracy’ of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which, it said, was using the workers to the detriment of their interests, about the intolerable behaviour of members of the Executive Committee who were helping themselves to the Soviet’s money, and many other slanders. The leaflet was signed ‘A group of workers in the factories and plants of Petersburg’. The order was for 100 000 copies in the name of Count Orlov-Davydov and Countess Musina-Pushkina, with details of their addresses.

We refused to allow this leaflet to be printed. But at the same time, as it contained slanders against actual members of the Executive Committee, we nevertheless decided to publish it in full. This was done in the newspaper Novaya Zhizn(The New Life) with, of course, exposure of the count and countess, who had concealed themselves behind the modest and completely incongruous pseudonym of ‘A group of workers’.

Having suffered defeat, the Black Hundreds were forced to resort to printing their notorious productions clandestinely.

Resistance to the pogroms was in fact more widespread than one might suppose. This may partly be because Jews and other ethnic minorities were not the only targets. The victims also included socialists, prominent strikers and members of the intelligentsia.

The fact remains that the 1905 revolution promoted anti-racist solidarity to such a point that a liberal Jewish paper commented in June 1905: ‘Never before, perhaps, has the Christian population in the Pale felt so much solidarity with the Jews.’ (The Pale of Settlement was the area in which most Jews were forced to live.) In the same month, Iskra, the Menshevik paper, stated: ‘The heroic behaviour of Jews arouses admiration everywhere.’ Posledniye izvestiya, the paper of the Jewish Bund, noted that the prevailing anti-Jewish consciousness had undergone a significant change for the better.[89]Even in Odessa, Russian workers formed defence units against the pogrom — ‘for example, members of the sailors’ union armed themselves and patrolled the harbour to protect Jewish property’. Ivan Avdeyev, a Bolshevik organiser in the city’s railway workshops, told how his workplace had formed a self-defence group during the pogrom to demonstrate that ‘the Russian worker values civil freedom and liberty, and does not become a Black Hundred or a hooligan. On the contrary, he is capable of not only protecting his own interests, but those of other citizens.’[90]Peasants in the southern regions most affected by pogroms openly and vociferously protested against them, declared their solidarity with the anti-racist fighters, and organised to prevent a pogrom in their villages. A Jewish peasant told how peasants from a neighbouring village provided protection for his village, and sent riders with anti-pogrom leaflets to ‘many other villages’, despite atrocious travelling conditions.[91]

Against this background, the reaction of the hardcore Zionists to the pogroms is striking, to say the least. The Social Democrats, the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Bund and some of the socialist Zionists agreed that the pogroms were part of a gathering counter-revolution. They were in favour of united resistance to the pogroms and any other aspect of the counter-revolution. But their top priority was the struggle to change the state and the society in which pogroms flourished.

The hardcore Zionists had a completely different view. They argued, for example, that the pogroms were directed exclusively against Jews. Jabotinsky, one of the leaders, argued that these were ordinary Jewish pogroms and had nothing to do with a counter-revolution. The proof of this, according to him, was that the Russian workers had not protested against them, and that the Soviet had called the second general strike in defence of the Kronstadt sailors and against martial law in Poland without even mentioning the pogroms of the Jews! ‘The proletariat has forgotten us’, said Jabotinsky. At a mass meeting in St Petersburg in November, Usyshkin, another Zionist leader, said:

We blame for all the horrors of the pogroms not the Russians but the entire Jewish people. They are short-sighted and weak. They serve others instead of themselves. Our misfortune is exile. Let us have done with it! ... But the main enemies of the Zionists are the left Jewish parties, our Social Democrats. I do not believe in this new god, for he will betray us just like other gods... The Jewish people will obtain neither moral nor economic nor political peace until it establishes itself in its own land.[92]

As so often in its later career, Zionism in 1905 was more hostile to the anti-racists than to the forces responsible for the slaughter of the Jews.

IIb: Striking Against Repression

The St Petersburg Soviet had its hands full in the aftermath of the October strike. Not only did it resist the pogrom, produce its paper Izvestiyaby seizing newspaper presses and take up 101 lesser issues, it was also involved in launching a large-scale struggle for the eight-hour day — in the middle of which it had to take a stand against repression both on its own doorstep and in Poland. It is worth noting that in at least three of these cases — the October strike, resisting the pogrom and the struggle for the eight-hour day — the most militant workers led by example and then brought the issue to the Soviet in order to generalise it. The Soviet was not simply a united front, it was above all a united front in action.

From Political to Economic Strikes[93]

Izvestiya, no 4, 30 October 1905: Bulletins: The Fifth session of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies took place on 20 October… Then the question was considered of the attitude of the Workers’ Soviet to the economic strikes now taking place. The chairman pointed out that, at the same time as the general political strike, economic strikes had been going on in individual workplaces, such as on the horse-drawn trams. The announcement by the Workers’ Soviet of the end of the political strike could be interpreted as a signal for the ending of strike action. In order that there should be no such misunderstanding, the Workers’ Soviet must speak out in connection with this. For its part, the Executive Committee proposes the following resolution: ‘The Soviet of Deputies considers that the ending of the political strike according to its resolution of 19 October in no way excludes the possibility of economic strikes in individual workplaces.’ The resolution was passed unanimously.

Reinforcing the Struggle for the Eight-Hour Day

Izvestiya, no 5, 3 November 1905: Resolution:[94]The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies salutes the comrades who have introduced the eight-hour working day in their plants by revolutionary action. The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies believes that the universal introduction of the eight-hour working day demands a corresponding increase in pay rates so that wages remain at least at their previous level. The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies unanimously resolves that all factories and plants which have not yet done so should introduce the eight-hour working day by revolutionary action. Mutual support by workers in all districts will be a pledge of the successful implementation of the resolution of the Soviet of Deputies.

Solidarity with the Poles and the Kronstadt Sailors

A ‘crowded and tumultuous’[95]emergency session of the Petersburg Soviet on 1 November 1905 began with a report by two delegates from the Kingdom of Poland (that is, Polish territory which was ruled as a Russian province). The minutes of this session were published on 3 November 1905 in Izvestiya, no 5.[96]The report of the discussion about Poland appeared as the front page lead. The delegates themselves remained completely anonymous with not even a mention of their political affiliation.

The first Polish delegate, who made the main speech, pointed out that the Russian proletariat had had to abandon the October strike:

... but in Poland the situation is a thousand times worse. There the yoke of capital is joined by the Russian government’s yoke which is politically reinforced by its Russification tendencies. The manifesto of 17 October gave nothing to the Poles, and the Polish proletariat cannot and does not want to stop the struggle. We are accused of wanting autonomy, of wanting to secede from Russia — nothing of the kind. By autonomy we mean the right to speak our native language, to have our own self-government and our own schools... I came here to appeal to the Russian people and only to the Russian people, not to the government.[97]

The delegate described the continuation of the strike in Poland, and hazarded a guess that this might be a long struggle. He made no bones about what could happen: ‘... it is possible that acts of terrorism will begin, as the Polish people have been too insulted and angered — with a stroke of the pen, everything has been taken away from them...’[98]

A member of the Soviet’s Executive Committee[99]replied that the two peoples had one struggle: ‘The cause the Polish proletariat stands for is our cause...’ He supported the struggle of the Poles against the national oppression of the Russian government. He went on to say that he knew that the separatist demands were not those of the Polish proletariat. He also pointed out that the rural provinces of Chernigov (in Ukraine) and Samara (in Russia proper) were under a regime which was similar to martial law in Poland.

The emergency session had also been called because of the government’s decision to court-martial hundreds of sailors after a mutiny in Kronstadt, the island fortress which commands the sea approaches to St Petersburg. The mutiny had flared up some 10 days after the end of the October strike.[100]Abetted by what Trotsky calls ‘the gangs of the well-known miracle worker Ioann of Kronstadt’, it had descended into chaos despite the best efforts of the more political soldiers and sailors. However, it was the restoration of order which caused the dramatic loss of life, as Ascher relates:

Although the rioters did not offer much resistance, there was nevertheless a good deal of bloodshed, much of it resulting from attacks by loyal troops on neutral barracks. Twenty-four people were killed, five of them civilians; 72 were wounded, including 14 civilians.

According to Pokrovsky, 600 men were expected to be shot after the forthcoming field courts-martial.

A detailed report on the mutiny was given to the Soviet by one of the sailors who had come straight from Kronstadt and appealed for support:

Twelve hundred men have now been handed over to the court. Recognised ringleaders are to be shot, and these ringleaders are also our true comrades, fighters for freedom. We must make some response to their sentences, all the more as these soldiers were the first to rise, and if we stand by them, the coming over of the troops to the side of the people will be assured.[101]

We take up the minutes at the end of the sailor’s speech.[102]

The chairman asked those delegates from plants where there had been meetings and resolutions about the Kronstadt events to report on them.

The deputy from the Gun Plant: The meeting unanimously expressed its readiness to go to any lengths to defend its sailor comrades. Let all the workers of Petersburg, all citizens, rise up in defence of the sailors.

The deputy from the Aleksandrov Mechanical Engineering Plant: We had our meeting. Everyone is looking forward to the decisions of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

The Metallurgical Plant on the Vyborg Side: Our resolution is: lift the death sentences, martial law and the courts-martial. As party people, we have decided to follow the Federative Committee[103]and the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies as to what form the protest should take, but a strike is not desirable.

The Baltic Plant: In a discussion about the eight-hour day,[104]workers were saying: ‘What’s the point of economic demands when so many people are being shot?’ We’re for a strike.

The Franco-Russian Plant: For a strike.

The Putilov Plant: The plant will strike if other plants strike too.

Resolution passed at the Pullman Plant:

We, the workers of the Pullman Plant, adopted the following resolution at a meeting in the plant on 31 October: Extremely angered by the decision of the government about the sailors of the town of Kronstadt, who put forward their just demands, we demand that the death sentences be withdrawn immediately, and an investigation be ordered immediately with the participation of representatives of the people. We demand the immediate freeing of the sailors, otherwise we declare a political strike.

Resolution passed unanimously by the workers of the Semyannikov Plant at a meeting on 1 November:

We, the workers of the Semyannikov Plant, assembled at a meeting on 1 November, are angry at the attitude of the government to the sailors who rose up in Kronstadt, we express the most resolute protest against the use of courts-martial and death sentences, and we demand a public inquiry into the Kronstadt events. We consider the introduction of martial law in Poland to be incompatible with the lying declarations of the government.[105]We are prepared to support our protest with action, the general forms of which we invite the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies to elaborate.

On 1 November, at the Baranov Mechanical Engineering Plant on the Vyborg Side which was finishing work after eight hours according to the decision of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, the workers organised a meeting in which the following resolution, proposed by a Socialist Revolutionary speaker, was adopted unanimously:

We greet our sailor and soldier brothers who have risen up against the autocracy hated by all. We summon all servicemen who have been roused to a final onslaught which will reduce the rotten remnants of an obsolete police regime to dust. We summon them to struggle in the ranks of the proletariat and the working peasantry for the rights of the people, for the improvement of our economic position and for the transfer of all the land into the hands of the working people.[106]

We protest against the handing-over of the Kronstadt fighters for the will of the people to field courts-martial consisting of Tsarist hangmen, and under the leadership of the Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies we shall take all possible measures to oppose their brutal sentences.

Down with the autocracy!

Long live the will of the people and the people’s court!

At the end of the meeting, the workers left singing the Marseillaise.

The workers of the St Petersburg Gun Plant, in full strength at their general meeting on 31 October 1905, having discussed the news which had reached them that the government was prepared to impose death sentences on several hundred sailors who had risen in Kronstadt, resolved:

Recognising that the uprising of the sailors in Kronstadt had been provoked by the government itself which has for many years oppressed the soldiers and sailors as much as the workers and the rest of the people, we protest against its intention to condemn our sailor comrades to death, we demand that the government make an immediate announcement to the entire people that it renounces the planned bloody punishment, and we declare for our part that otherwise we will not answer for the consequences and are ready to go to any lengths to prevent the executions and to avenge our sailor comrades who rose up to free a Motherland tormented by the government. We ask the rest of the workers in Petersburg and in the whole of Russia to unite behind this resolution of ours, and we request the newspapers to reproduce it.

After a heated discussion, the overwhelming majority of the Soviet deputies voted to call a strike at 12 noon the following day under the slogans ‘Down with the courts-martial!’, ‘Down with the death penalty!’ and ‘Down with martial law in Poland and throughout Russia!’ According to Trotsky, the success of this extraordinary appeal for a purely political strike ‘surpassed all expectations’. He claimed: ‘The absolute number of working-class strikers involved in the November strike exceeded not only that of the January strike but also that of the October strike.’ He also remarked on the fact that ‘many medium-sized and small industrial undertakings which had not hitherto participated in political struggle now joined the strike, elected deputies and sent them to the Soviet’.[107]

This enthusiasm is evident in an eye-witness account of how the economic struggle for the eight-hour day turned into a political strike against repression in one industrial district of St Petersburg. There is no indication as to who the author of the report was, but its content and style, to which the translation has been kept as faithful as possible, strongly suggest that it was one of the workers involved.

Changing Front[108]

Izvestiya, no 5, 3 November 1905: The workers’ life in the Moscow Gate district is taking its proper course. Meetings took place on Sunday at the Arthur Koppel, Malkiel, Carriage and Ozoling plants. SR and SD [Social Democratic] speakers spoke about the Black Hundreds and other government machinations, and called on the people to organise armed detachments and arm themselves for the final struggle against an autocracy which is kicking the bucket.

Many also spoke about the eight-hour working day which, according to the resolution of the Soviet of Deputies, it had been decided to implement by revolutionary action from 31 October.

On Monday 31st, all the plants in the district in question, having completed exactly eight hours’ work, went, with red flags and singing the Marseillaise, out into the street where a peaceful demonstration had been organised as well. On the way, the demonstrators pulled out enterprises which were still at work. The same thing happened on Tuesday as well. The workers went off with red flags after eight hours’ labour. At the corner of Volkov Street and Loman Street, a detachment of about 50 Cossacks with an officer at their head fell upon the peaceful procession of workers. The demonstrators were forced to stop the procession and disperse. Several people were beaten with whips. On Wednesday 2 November, in accordance with the resolution of the ‘Soviet of Deputies’, meetings began in the morning in all the plants, and the workers began to leave the workshops at 10 o’clock.[109]

There were about 3000 people in the meeting at the ‘Arthur Koppel’ plant.

An SR speaker explained the significance of the strike in simple terms, and then went on to a general description of the period we are going through. When he concluded, a resolution was proposed and passed unanimously which put forward demands for the lifting of the death sentences on the sailors and the lifting of martial law in Russia; among other things, it was mentioned that the interests of the workers are closely linked with the interests of the working peasantry, etc.

At the end of the meeting, the entire mass of workers went out into the street with red flags and singing the Marseillaise.

A deputy inspector of police who was not far off rushed into the crowd in order to snatch the flags, but some good punches knocked him down, and he was reduced to helplessness. Several workers took advantage of this to kick him, and there was no way the policeman would have got away alive if some comrades had not stepped in and stopped the beating.

At the Ozoling plant, worked stopped at 12 o’clock sharp. After that there was a meeting on the premises of the plant and the following resolution was passed:

We, the workers of the Ozoling plant, meeting on the premises of the plant on 2 November, and, having clarified our attitude about the period we are going through, resolve: to demand the withdrawal of the field courts-martial for the rebel sailors and soldiers of Kronstadt and their replacement by jury trials. Next, having clarified what a close connection there is between the interests of the workers and the interests the working peasantry and all the rest of the working population of Russia who have awoken from a long and heavy sleep, we salute their entry into the struggle with our common enemy — the Tsarist government — and demand the lifting of martial law throughout Russia. In conclusion, we express our complete solidarity with the party of the Socialist Revolutionaries which is the true proponentist[110]of the interests of all working people.

The workers were in an excellent mood, and all of them expressed their readiness to continue the strike until the ‘Soviet’ ordered that it should end.

Count Witte, now the prime minister, sent out a brief telegram which was put up in every workplace appealing to his ‘Brother workers’ to go back to work. Trotsky describes the telegram as a perfect example of Witte’s ‘total failure to understand the meaning of revolutionary events, his childish confusion in the face of them, and at the same time his self-opinionated conceit’. He goes on to quote in full the Soviet’s devastating reply, which was published in Izvestiyaon 4 November (‘The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies... wishes first of all to express its extreme surprise at the Tsar’s favourite’s extraordinary familiarity in permitting himself to address the workers of Petersburg as his “brothers”’). These documents do not feature here as they are reproduced in full in Trotsky’s own work on the revolution.[111]

Trotsky mentions — very much in passing — that the Soviet’s reply was ‘proposed by us’.[112]There was a little more to it than that. Sverchkov reveals that the Soviet’s Executive Committee had originally given the job to him. Despite trying all day, he was unable to come up with the short, sharp retort he felt was necessary. Trotsky, who, he says, wrote nearly all the Soviet’s resolutions and most of Izvestiya, did not appear until after the beginning of the full session in the evening. When Sverchkov asked for his help, it turned out that Trotsky knew nothing of Witte’s telegram. He read it and wrote a reply on the spot. He had hardly finished when the item came up on the agenda and he had to read it out. ‘It has rarely fallen to me’, wrote Sverchkov, ‘to witness such enthusiasm as that with which comrade Trotsky’s reply was adopted by the meeting of the Soviet.’[113]The point is not simply the obvious one about Trotsky’s brilliance or about what Duncan Hallas has called ‘his sure touch and iron nerve’ as a revolutionary leader, which first became evident at this time.[114]It is also the case that these qualities fitted the needs of the elected collective leadership of the St Petersburg working class, as this story shows.

Another little story by Sverchkov shows how the Soviet deputies, in their turn, were in tune with their mass base: ‘The workers of a small power station, which had not yet got around to going on strike, read Count Witte’s appeal and telegraphed their reply: ”READ YOUR APPEAL STOP WENT ON STRIKE!”’ Sverchkov goes on to outline the stunning impact of the strike on the government:

On the evening of the day on which the November general strike began, there was a meeting of the Admiralty Council at which it was decided to dismiss the field courts-martial appointed for the Kronstadt mutineers and to hand the men over to a normal military court ‘for riotous behaviour in a state of intoxication’. By framing the charge in this way, the authorities wished to show at once that death sentences by the military court were out of the question. A few days later, it was announced that martial law in Poland would be lifted. As a matter of fact, it was withdrawn by decree on 12 November.[115]

Although they fell short of the Soviet’s original demands, these were tremendous gains. They were particularly outstanding, considering that the strike had to be declared in the middle of the struggle for the eight-hour day and the huge lock-out which the employers imposed in response (see below this chapter, Part IIc: Retreat). The employers had supported the October strike, from which they stood to gain politically, to the extent of paying the wages of the strikers. But their liberalism, in both senses of the word, now evaporated and they instantly became allies and loyal subjects of the Tsar. Within two days the future of thestrike was already in question, as the minutes of the St Petersburg Soviet show. They also show that the deputies, despite being used to making quick decisions under pressure, found it impossible to face up to this issue straight away.

Stalemate in the Soviet[116]

Izvestiya, no 7, Monday 7 November 1905Minutes:Session of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies4 November: The question of stopping the strike was raised. For its part, the Executive Committee considered the continuation of the strike to be extremely desirable, but it had take account of the mood of the masses as became clear from the reports of the deputies. In a number of plants, morale was falling somewhat, and because of this the Executive Committee considered it necessary to stop the strike on Monday at 12 midday, as long as the government did not, of course, give new grounds for striking in the intervening period. This had gone through the Executive Committee by a majority of nine votes to six. The Federative Committee[117]had been unanimously against stopping the strike.

The debate on this question was opened. Of the 32 speakers, 13 felt that it was necessary to fix a date now for the end of the strike. The rest were against this. The reason for the urgency about fixing a date was that the mood was falling in a number of plants, protracted strikes had exhausted the workers, and only the establishment of a definite end date could keep the strike going for a day or two longer. It was pointed out that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies risked losing its authority if it called frequent and protracted strikes without taking into account the mood of its electors. Discontent with strikes would lead to growth in the ranks of the Black Hundreds. In the Putilov plant, protection by armed workers’ detachments is already necessary.

Those who advocated continuing the strike argued passionately that to end the strike without having gained anything would be impossible — it was essential to wrest from the government a full amnesty, the lifting of martial law and the death sentences on our sailor comrades. The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies must not play with strikes like that — now bringing out this terrible weapon, now putting it away — but must treat it with care. To end the strike now would mean showing the government our weakness, provoking reaction and discontent among the masses. What would have been the point of starting it? Reproaches were aimed at the deputies who surrendered and retreated so readily, in the first strike as now, when all that was needed was to assemble the workers, explain the point and importance of the strike to them properly and they would agree on the spot and go on strike. Only those who had houses, cows, money — the Black Hundreds — were now against the strike, while all the young people for the strike. If morale was waning somewhere or other and two or three factories went back to work, that was less harmful than giving up the cause half-way through, when the whole world was watching Petersburg and awaiting the results of its struggle with the government. True, the workers were suffering from the strike, but we had a strike fund and it was helping those in need.

Eventually, the Soviet voted not to take an immediate decision about ending the strike. The deputies returned to the issue at their next session the following day, 5 November. Sverchkov reported:

The majority of the speakers, taking into account the mood in the plants, spoke in favour of stopping the strike on Monday. A minority were for continuing it as its demands had not been granted. The decision of the railway workers to return to work at midday on Monday had a certain influence on the outcome of the debate.[118]

A major speech by Trotsky on behalf of the Soviet’s Executive Committee stressed the gains of the strike, the growing hostility of the liberal bourgeoisie, the unreliability of the democratic intelligentsia and the need to make practical preparations for armed conflict.[119]An overwhelming majority of the deputies then voted for a return to work at midday on the following day.

A counter-revolution on a broad front had been in the offing since the moment the Tsar had issued the constitutional manifesto. This had now become much clearer than it had been to the joyous, over-optimistic crowds on 17 October. The November strike checked this counter-revolution at the extreme forward points of its advance. But the mobilisation of the Black Hundreds continued apace, and there were increasing reports of random and not-so-random attacks on ‘disloyal elements’ by reactionary forces ranging from Cossacks to cab drivers. Behind them, the humiliated armies were returning from the Far East, and were being reorganised for deployment as the heavy brigades of repression. At the same time as the counter-revolution gathered momentum, the revelation of struggle and solidarity continued to revolutionise people’s hearts and minds. The final passage in the minutes of the Soviet for 5 November after the decision to end the strike touches on this contradictory and unstable situation: 

A soldier comrade rose and reported that there had recently been great ferment and division among the soldiers: one section was with the workers, one section against. The commanders were agitating against the students and the Jews.[120]The politically conscious section of the soldiers was very much in need of support and was asking for more frequent supplies of literature. The soldier’s quite lengthy speech criticised the present regime very sharply and made a very strong impression on the meeting which was expressed in loud applause which did not die down for a long time. A comrade who was arrested by soldiers at the entrance to the Free Economic Association was released and returned to the meeting. It was reported that in the Putilov plant an agitator had been badly beaten by the Black Hundreds who had cut him with knives, wounding him eight times; he is in hospital.[121]

The question was whether there was time to turn the inner transformation of the revolution’s new adherents into coordinated activity before the workers who had been in the forefront of the struggle became totally exhausted and the counter-revolution got into its stride. Lenin’s insistent and, at times, exasperated nagging of his own party to get down to practical preparations for an uprising now made sense.[122]Even before the November strike, the unnamed sailor who had given the lengthy report on the Kronstadt mutiny had ended his speech on this note (not, it seems, without some excusable exaggeration to make his point):

There is no lack of consciousness among the sailors. Nor is there any lack of explanations in terms of propaganda and agitation. But there is a tremendous lack of something which it is vitally urgent to pay attention to — lack of organisation. Kronstadt specially emphasises this. So our main slogan must now be: ‘Organisation, organisation, organisation.’[123]

Despite the urgent tasks now before it, the Soviet again took the time on the following day to listen to a Pole, who spoke in greater detail than his predecessors about the course of the workers’ struggle in his country.

Solidarity: A Polish Socialist Speaks[124]

Then the floor was given to a representative of the Polish Socialist Party[125]who had come from Warsaw. He said:

The Central Committee of our party has sent me here to familiarise myself in detail with the state of affairs in Petersburg and in turn to give you information about those events in Poland which called forth from you here in Russia a strike on such a grand scale, and also to resolve the question of the participation of the Polish proletariat in the general movement in Russia.

The Polish proletariat linked its movement with your movement a long time ago. Meetings in Poland started as early as the beginning of the war; after 9 January the entire Polish proletariat rose as one man, and when you had to retreat, our strike kept on going until 1 March. We again declared a general strike on 1 May. There were many victims at that time on top of the hundreds who had been killed in January and February. And we again protested with a strike against this carnage. A month later, workers in Łódż, an industrial area second only to Warsaw, demonstrated outside the city; they were shot down, and we once more declared a general strike. Martial law was then introduced in Łódż.

 On 13 June, a peaceful meeting was fired on. We went out on strike. On 13 August, the Bulygin comedy was announced. The proletariat replied with a general strike as it understood that this was no more than a sop for the bourgeoisie in order to unite with it against the proletariat.[126]Martial law was declared in Warsaw, and the entire Polish proletariat without exception again went on strike. When on 17 October the second comedy was announced, we, like you, replied with a protest. There, as here, there was carnage and masses of dead. We replied to martial law with a sharp protest — a long strike; in addition to the demands you put forward, we had our own special one — Polish autonomy. Our strike went on until last Wednesday.

When martial law was declared throughout the whole of Poland, the Polish proletariat met it quite calmly; we were already used to it, we knew that it was only the start. For us there had never been anything else; we always lived under martial law. The three-week strike was too exhausting for the workers, and we had already ended it when we suddenly learned that Petersburg had gone on strike.

If we had only known a few hours earlier that you were standing by your Polish brothers, we would have strained every nerve and continued the strike. But we didn’t know, and it was so unpleasant that at the time when you went on strike, our cities were going back to work one after another. We must definitely avoid that in the future. Now, you see, we are just taking a break. We don’t believe Nicholas and his manifestos. As long as we have no power or guaranteed rights, as long as they put pressure on us with bayonets and bullets, all those manifestos are just fiction. Now we are embarking on organisation, agitation and practical preparation; our slogan is the overthrow and total destruction of the autocracy so that not a trace of it should remain, the introduction of full civil rights and Polish autonomy. Our proletariat was united with yours a long time before Marx said, ‘Workers of all lands unite’ — Catherine[127]united them with unbreakable chains. And now we must break these artificial chains and put a natural relationship in their place. We are now connected by the dregs of the bureaucracy of no benefit to anyone who are sent to us, and we want to purge our country of them. Witte wanted to extend martial law to the whole of Poland, and he wanted to accuse us of separatism. This is an old trick of the Russian government to counter the revolutionary endeavours of the people. ‘Ladies and gentlemen’, it cries, ‘the fatherland is in danger, the Poles want to take some of our land; we must unite to resist this.’ The government successfully used this trick as early as 1863, at the time of the Polish uprising. Perhaps even today some liberals fall for this line, but they have no strength; the proletariat, which is organised and filled with class consciousness, is strong. We thought this was so, and the Russian proletariat has confirmed it. Your protest[128]has tremendous significance not just for us, but for you as well. If Witte could have stirred you up against the Jews and the Poles, then the Russian revolution would have been in danger. But this is not what is happening now. The Russian proletariat recognises that in its unity with the Polish proletariat is the pledge of victory.

I am drawing to a close. So then, I have come here not only to bring you greetings, but also to establish a closer relationship between us; then our fight for our common cause can be successful.

If they bother to mention it at all, historians tend to see the November strike as the beginning of the end of the St Petersburg Soviet, if not of the entire revolution. Above all, they identify it as one of the crucial moments when the revolutionary workers went too far, alienating the liberals who began to clamour loudly for decisive action by the authorities.[129]They take it as read that such a split in the opposition was fatal, above all for the workers themselves (effectively accepting one of the key arguments of the right wing which now began to come to the fore among the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries). Apart from anything else, this begs the question of what the alternative was. As Trotsky put it: ‘Who knows if a savage bacchanalia of reaction would not have set in throughout the country if the experiment in Poland had been successful, if the proletariat had not demonstrated that it was “alive and fit and ready to give blow for blow?”’[130]Instead, the workers of Petersburg demonstrated the strength of solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the empire and the victims of repression. By doing so, they began to exercise what a guards colonel called ‘a regrettable moral influence on our soldiers’.[131]And not just soldiers, for on the third day of the strike, the representative of a local peasant union, before going on to a congress in the city, addressed the Soviet in warmly fraternal terms. He did so not in his personal capacity, but at the request of his membership.[132]If the workers’ unreliable liberal allies were retiring to a safe distance, other forces, more humble and certainly more straightforward, were coming closer.

Even among the professional and educated classes, there were exceptions to the liberal rule, particularly among the young. Here are some of the resolutions supporting the strike which were published in Izvestiya:


Resolution of the Pharmacists’ Union: … We, the pharmacists of the city of Petersburg, express our deep contempt for the inveterate, hardened liars of the Russian government who have deceived the Russian people with the false promises of 17 October in front of the whole world. We declare that we are part of the working population of the labouring proletariat and the labouring peasantry, that we go hand-in-hand with them and will fight by their side until a full amnesty is won and martial law, the death penalty and the shameful exceptional laws against the Jews and all the other nationalities are wiped out; until the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, elected by the entire people in a direct, equal and secret ballot. Only then will we be able to fight for our ultimate goal — socialism.

Now, in accordance with the resolution of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, we declare a general political strike until such time as the Workers’ Soviet resolves to end it.

H               H               H

… At a meeting on 1 November, the pupils of the four senior classes of Gymnasium[High School] no 8 discussed, among other issues, the issue of the strike. After long discussions, a resolution was passed which stated that the pupils ofGymnasiumno 8 would not under any circumstances strike separately, as pupils, but would follow the decisions of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. As soon as a general political strike was declared, the pupils of Gymnasiumno 8 would join it, expressing in this way their solidarity with the revolutionary proletariat.

The call of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies for a political strike from 2 November was approved unanimously, and the pupils went on strike until the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies brought the general political strike to an end. 

H               H               H

We, the students of the St Petersburg dental schools and the dentists who were present, have met together and formed a union with the aim of uniting in order to participate in the general liberation struggle… Until a future programme and tactics for our union are worked out, we have resolved: to join the general political strike declared by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies… 

H               H               H

Resolution of a general meeting of the pupils of the three senior classes of St PetersburgGymnasiumno 1: ‘We, the pupils of the three senior classes of St PetersburgGymnasiumno 1, in a general meeting on 2 November 1905 have resolved: Expressing our solidarity with the general political strike, we are suspending our studies until it is over.’ The Council of Senior Students. This resolution was passed by a majority of 132 votes to 57.

These resolutions appeared in Izvestiyano 7, 7 November 1905, which was printed illegally on the presses of the reactionary, anti-Jewish paperNovoye vremya(see above, ‘For and Against the Soviet’), whose offices had been seized for the purpose overnight. Izvestiya’s circulation had now risen from the 1000 to 1500 of the first issue to 30 000.[134]Trotsky summed up the importance of the November strike with the remark already mentioned by a Russian guards colonel which was quoted in the Timesnewspaper: ‘Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that the intervention of the workers on behalf of the Kronstadt mutineers had a regrettable moral influence on our soldiers.’ Trotsky concluded: ‘It is in this “regrettable moral influence” that the main significance of the November strike must be sought.’[135]A story told by Sverchkov illustrates the point, and shows why revolutionaries like him refused to accept that the November strike had been a mistake.

Soldiers, Sailors and Workers[136]

During the November strike, naval electricians who had been sent to replace workers went on strike themselves and were arrested. They were imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress.[137]A day later, a sapper[138]came to me at the Executive Committee:

We’re stationed in the Peter and Paul Fortress. They brought us the sailors who didn’t want to work in the power station. So we had a talk amongst ourselves: did we want to set them free? There are gunners stationed in the fortress as well as us. What their attitude to this would be, we don’t know. So they sent me to the Executive Committee in order for you to tell us how to do it.

I promised him I would find out the gunners’ attitude on this issue. He went off. Half an hour later, an gunner appeared: ‘Our detachment is stationed in the Peter and Paul Fortress. We want to release the arrested sailors who went on strike. But we don’t know what the sappers would say to that. Please find out.’

I told him that a sapper from the fortress had just been to me with the same question regarding the gunners. He went away tremendously happy. On the same day, the sailors were released by order of the government. It is still not known whether the government found out from the gendarmes about the state of mind ofthe sappers and the gunners, or whether this coincidence happened by chance.

Afterwards, the November strike was heavily criticised. GV Plekhanov[139]spoke of it as a great mistake on the part of the Petersburg proletariat. However, we never agreed that it was untimely and had only sapped the strength of the working class. We were on the way to an armed uprising. We had to do everything we could to draw the troops into the revolutionary movement. The Kronstadt events were one of the best occasions for making contact with them. The sympathies of the army and the navy bent towards us as a result of our fight for the lives of their comrades. Deputations from individual companies of troops began to come to the Executive Committee.

Another story about sailors and power workers appeared in a report on the progress of the strike which was published in Izvestiya, no 5, Thursday, 3 November 1905:[140]

Some power stations were already on strike, and soldiers or sailors were sent to them. In this connection, the following incident is told. A small detachment of sailors came across some workers. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘To the power station.’ ‘What, you’re going to work while we’re on strike in defence of your comrades?’ At this, the group of sailors turned back.

IIc: Retreat

St Petersburg was one of the most militant cities in the Russian empire throughout 1905. From the October strike until the end of the November strike, it was also the most revolutionary. From then on, however, the workers of the city were in retreat. The conventional explanation, that the November strike isolated the workers by alienating the liberals, does not stand up against the evidence that the strike generated active support among soldiers, sailors and peasants.

A Stalinist explanation from MN Pokrovsky was: ‘After 17 October, the actions of the Petersburg workers ended in failure, and this naturally gave rise to disillusionment among the less determined workers.’ The reason for these failures — and for the bigger failure to mount an insurrection — lay in the nature of the Petersburg Soviet’s leadership. The Soviet was dominated, according to Pokrovsky, by the irresolute and compromising Mensheviks, who were responsible for sapping the healthy Bolshevik instincts of the Petersburg workers. Above all, he put the blame on Trotsky — ‘a genuine, complete and utter Menshevik who had no desire at all for an armed uprising and no desire in general to take the revolution to its conclusion by overthrowing Tsarism’.[141]A related argument was that the Soviet had drained the workers’ strength by calling one strike after another about relatively minor matters.[142]There is little reliable evidence for any of this. Above all, there was clearly tremendous rank-and-file enthusiasm both for the eight-hour struggle and for the November strike. Indeed, in the case of the eight-hour struggle, the action was well under way before the Soviet discussed it on 29 October.[143]

Nevertheless, the downturn in struggle in St Petersburg did begin at this time. The chapter in Sverchkov’s autobiography which is translated here identifies some of the real reasons for this. The Petersburg workers were trying to do too much on their own. It was not so much a question of holding themselves back until workers in other cities caught up as of making links and giving a lead which could be taken up elsewhere. The fact that they did not do this in time left them isolated and exposed to the full force of a massive lockout. This was one thing Pokrovsky was quite right about:

… the movement itself was strung out like horses in a race. The Petersburg proletariat was far ahead of the provinces, and the proletariat as a whole was far ahead of the peasantry. This was the autocracy’s main advantage in the colossal struggle which was under way. It must not be forgotten that what gained the concession of 17 October [the constitutional manifesto] was an all-Russia strikeand that an all-Russia strike was never again successfully repeated.[144]

In some ways the situation was similar to the previous period, when individual struggles, however large, could be isolated and defeated by overwhelming concentrations of armed force at the behest of a centralised state. The difference was that the government could not rely on its own troops for the moment, especially at the time of the November strike, despite its massive garrison in St Petersburg. The private employers took the initiative in planning and implementing the lockout, and the government linked up with them by enforcing it at the state plants as well.[145]

Sverchkov clearly had strong feelings of his own against the whole idea of the eight-hour struggle. The main problem with his account is that in it he mentions the November strike only in passing, as if the overlap between the two conflicts was of no importance. As a result, he gives the impression that the eight-hour struggle was a crucial mistake whose devastating consequences prevented the Petersburg workers from supporting the Moscow uprising in December. By contrast, Trotsky is much more positive about the eight-hour struggle. He sees the fact that the November strike unavoidably cut into it ‘like a wedge at the very start’ (on 2 November) as creating a difficult and complicated situation for the workers and an opportunity for the previously uncertain employers to unite and strike back.[146]Even in Sverchkov’s account, the issue of calling off the eight-hour struggle does not arise until after the end of the November strike. Despite its faults, however, Sverchkov’s account is important because it gives an unusually vivid impression of the lockout’s devastating impact on workers who had already made many sacrifices. It gives the lie to Pokrovsky’s claim that the workers’ exhaustion was ‘not material but political’.[147]And it shows up the ruthlessness not only of the autocracy but of the liberals who now made common cause with it.

Calling Off the Struggle for the Eight-Hour Day[148]

THE story of the introduction of the eight-hour day by revolutionary means began with a resolution on the part of a number of large plants (the Obu­khov, the Aleksandrov and the Semyannikov).[149]In its session on 29 October, the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies dealt with the shortening of the working day to the length indicated which was already being enforced by direct action. The November general strike meant that a decision on this issue had to be put off until it was over; but immediately after the return to work, it stood before the Soviet in all its magnitude.

The putting into effect of the eight-hour working day came up against active resistance by the industrialists, who immediately supported the government. The owners of 72 metallurgical enterprises and textile factories and plants announced to the workers that closure of the plants and dismissals were imminent. The state plants were the first to close, and their workers were thrown on the street. The private enterprises followed them. More than 100 000 workers were out of work.

The leaders of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies clearly understood that it was completely impossible in practical terms to introduce an eight-hour working day simply and solely in Petersburg, without the rest of Russia. The members of the Executive Committee repeatedly put clear arguments about this in the Soviet. But the demand for an eight-hour day was so precious to the workers that they did not listen to these arguments, did not think over the approaching consequences or the calamities of unemployment, and they could not give up the idea of the introduction of the shortening of the working day to the desired length by direct action.

In individual plants the question of working time was put to a secret ballot in which two proposals were voted on: to adopt a shortening of working time from 10 and 10½ hours to nine, as many owners had offered, or introduce an eight-hour working day under threat of a general lockout. Everywhere, the workers responded with a few dozen votes in all for the owners’ offer and a thousand votes for the eight-hour working day.[150]

The government chose the issue of the eight-hour working day as the best possible basis on which to weaken and fragment the Petersburg proletariat. It was too afraid of the powerful effect the November strike had had on the troops. It received the strong support of all the Petersburg capitalists.

On 12 November, the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies passed a resolution on the temporary suspension of the introduction of the eight-hour working day.

On 14 November, a resolution worded by comrade VI Lenin on the closure of the plants and on the unemployment which had begun was passed by the Soviet. This resolution exposed the alliance concluded between the government and the bourgeoisie against the workers and the proletariat, the revolutionary peasants, the army and the navy, and called for unity on an all-Russia scale in order to strike the autocracy a mortal blow.

The issue of all-Russia unity came up in all its breadth, and the Soviet instructed its Executive Committee to establish close contact with all revolutionary organisations in Russia in order to plan another general strike.

The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies organised help for the unemployed. But what could we do about the terrible need of tens of thousands of people, having in the Soviet’s fund throughout the entire period of its existence about 35 000 rubles, a considerable part of which only came in at the end of November (12 500 rubles was transferred to the second Soviet of Workers’ Deputies from the resources of the first Soviet on the day of its arrest)?

The great bulk of the monetary resources of the Soviet consisted of contributions from those very workers. The liberal intelligentsia gave us pennies. Suffice it to point out that the Union of Unions, which brought together up to 45 000 members of the intelligentsia, among them a great number of professors, professional engineers, lawyers and other well-off figures in society, contributed to the Soviet’s fund in the entire period of its existence lessthan the workers of the Putilov plant alone, who worked a total of 43 days during 1905 as a whole owing to continuous economic and political strikes and who were absolutely starving.

The introduction of the eight-hour day by revolutionary action and the factory and plant closures which followed weakened the Petersburg proletariat and lowered its combativity for a protracted period.

The government and the bourgeoisie had calculated correctly. Having united against the working class in a struggle over its basic demand and having subjected it to the trials and tribulations of poverty and hunger, it [the government] exulted. The bourgeoisie sensed its own strength. The November congress of the zemstvo-constitutionalists, where Professor PN Miliukov[151]still played first fiddle, resounded with openly anti-revolutionary speeches. The Kadets dropped the mask that they no longer needed. This congress was terribly worried by the rising which broke out in Sevastopol on the battleship Ochakovunder the leadership of the famous Lieutenant PP Schmidt on 14 November. But it breathed freely a day later on hearing an urgent report from Miliukov that ‘the rising has been crushed, thank God’[152]

We organised help for the unemployed on as large a scale as we could. A special ‘Unemployed Commission’ was formed from three members of the Executive Committee, three representatives of the Bolshevik faction, three from the Mensheviks and three from the Socialist Revolutionaries. The Petersburg City Council decided to organise canteens for the unemployed, and out of a budget of 15 million, it assigned for this purpose 2000 rubles. The Soviet allotted more than 10 000 rubles for the unemployed out of the 25 000 rubles which it had at its disposal at that time. It was impossible to relieve the misery with these sums. Workers in the factories and plants which had not been closed agreed to contribute a day’s pay or a certain percentage of their wages to the unemployed. But the plant managements were standing guard, and, on instructions from the owners, they delayed the payment of these contributions in every way they could, and thus prevented the workers from helping their hungry comrades. Thus, many of these contributions did not reach their destination.

The Petersburg proletariat was so exhausted by this struggle that in December it was in no condition to react even to the Moscow uprising.

Some factories gained a reduction of an hour or half-an-hour, cutting the working day to 10 or 10½ hours. But most workers had to accept their former conditions or worse before being allowed back to work. At the Nevsky plant, for example, the workers had to agree not to hold meetings on factory property or call wildcat strikes.

According to Gorev, Martov, the Menshevik leader, may have had more than a hand in Lenin’s resolution on the struggle against the lockout. With the Bolsheviks having dropped their sectarian attitude towards the Soviet and the right-wing Mensheviks not yet in the ascendant, there was still a basis for united action between the two Social Democratic organisations. The resolution highlighted the danger of the Petersburg workers fighting in isolation, and refused to accept battle under such unfavourable conditions, demanding the reopening of the factories and the reinstatement of the dismissed workers. It thus sought to mitigate the defeat by trying to pull together an urgent defensive battle in which there was some chance of winning back ground. As Sverchkov mentions, it also called on the Soviet and its Executive Committee to develop practical links across the empire in preparation for a general political strike ‘and other forms of resolute struggle’. By posing immediate issues in the context of the revolutionary struggle as a whole, the resolution is a reminder of how steeply the stakes of each conflict were rising and how close was the margin between overall victory and defeat.[153]

III: Repression and Resistance

IIIa: Arrest of a Soviet[154]

Soviets were now being set up in a number of towns and cities. The Petersburg Soviet continued to function for three weeks after the suspension of the eight-hour struggle. But it became increasingly clear that its days were numbered. On 26 November, what Sverchkov calls ‘the first assault on the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies’ was carried out when police, troops and gendarmes entered the premises of the Executive Committee and arrested its chairman, Nosar-Khrustaliev, by order of the Minister of Internal Affairs.[155]The final blow fell on 3 December when the Soviet was arrested. However, the spirit with which the Soviet had begun its career was far from dead. The deputies went to their fate calmly, defiantly and exasperating the authorities as much as they could.

THE Executive Committee was meeting in the council room of the Free Economic Association, the door of which led to the music gallery of the general hall. Comrade Trotsky went out to the music gallery and warned all the deputies about the impending arrest and about the fact that the Executive Committee had decided to remain, not to go anywhere else and not to mount any resistance, owing to the complete impossibility of doing so. No-one objected.

Comrade Trotsky returned to the Executive Committee and went on conducting the meeting. Somebody looked out of the window and said that the building was surrounded by troops. After some time, the sound of spurs and the clank of weapons could be heard inside the building. The door opened and into the room where the Executive Committee was in session came Chief of Police Znachkovsky with several okhranniki.[156]He took out a piece of paper and began to read from it. One of the members of the Executive Committee went on speaking about the item which was up for discussion. The police chief interrupted him and read: ‘In accordance with the order of the minister…’

Comrade Trotsky abruptly cut him short: ‘I must ask you not to prevent the speaker from speaking. If you wish to be given the floor, ask me and I will put it for discussion by the meeting, which may or may not want to hear you.’

‘Carry on, comrade!’, comrade Trotsky requested the member of the Executive Committee who had been speaking.

He carried on.

The police chief stood there with a perplexed expression, not knowing what to do. This went on for some minutes. The speaker finished. Comrade Trotsky appealed to the meeting: ‘The representative of the police wishes to give us a report. Will you allow him to take the floor on a point of information?’

We decided to give him the floor. Cheering up, the police chief read out the order for our arrest. Comrade Trotsky proposed that we accept it as an item of information and pass on to next business. The next speaker according to the items on the agenda took the floor. The police chief stood there in sheer bewilderment, not knowing what to do. It was written all over his face that never in his long career had he ever seen anything like this.

‘Excuse me!’, he began once more, appealing to comrade Trotsky.

Trotsky abruptly cut him short. ‘I must ask you not to obstruct us! I gave you the floor, you made your report which we accepted as an item of information.’ He turned to us. ‘Does the meeting wish to engage in further dialogue with the police officer?’

Everyone answered in the negative.

‘I must ask you to remove yourself’, said comrade Trotsky to the police chief. The latter spread his hands helplessly and after standing there for a few more minutes, left with the okhranniki. We had a good laugh.

‘Comrades!’, said comrade Trotsky, ‘I suggest that we do not give any names and immediately destroy all documents and notes and anything unnecessary in our pockets.’

Everybody began to wreak havoc on their pockets and tear up various papers. On the table grew a pile of scraps which there was no possibility at all of putting back together. Again the door opened and the same police chief came in accompanied by an officer and a detachment of soldiers of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. The soldiers took up position in a half-circle, cutting us off from the door.

SL Weinstein (Zvezdin), a member of the Executive Committee, took the floor.[157]He said that by today’s act of brute force against those elected by the population of Petersburg, the government had reinforced the arguments in favour of a general strike. It had determined the strike in advance. The government was again openly going down the path of force against the entire people. Now everyone would see that the manifesto of 17 October was a foul and worthless lie.

The officer whispered with the police chief and ordered the soldiers to go out of the door, leaving it open. They stood tightly packed together at the door itself. Weinstein went on: ‘The outcome of new, decisive action by the people against the government now depends on the troops. The soldiers are the sons of the people. The people’s cause is their cause.’

The officer hurriedly pushed the soldiers back into the corridor and shut the door. Weinstein raised his voice:

Let the fraternal call of an entire country in torment reach the soldiers even through closed doors! Let it not be drowned by the noise of drums, but find its way through the sealed doors of the barracks to the soldier’s heart! In the coming struggle with the government, let the soldiers stop playing the role of blind hangmen of the people and turn their rifles on those who force them to reinforce a rule of force, depravity and robbery with the blood of their brothers.

A file of policemen entered the room. They placed themselves in a line against the wall, surrounding all the members of the Executive Committee. Comrade Trotsky declared the session of the Executive Committee closed.

There was a lesson here, though it was not an easy one to accept. In his autobiography, Trotsky summed up the 1905 revolution in these words: ‘All the elements of a successful revolution were present but these elements did not mature.’[158]Of such elements, the one which remained uppermost in his mind as he was writing was the consciousness of the workers. He recalled how the crowds on the day after the publication of the constitutional manifesto were too overjoyed with their first victory to heed warnings like his about this ‘half-victory’. He remembered how, on 29 October, the Soviet deputies had displayed the weapons that were being made in the factories against the Black Hundred pogrom more in fun than in seriousness, as if their mere readiness to strike back could solve everything on its own. In other words, even the leading workers in St Petersburg, where the Russian working class was at its most revolutionary, underestimated what they were up against. The positive experiences of struggle revealed to them their potential for solidarity, their power as a class, their ability to give a lead to militancy elsewhere in the population. What happened in December, starting with the arrest of the Petersburg Soviet, brought home to them that this really was a life-and-death struggle.

On the evening of 3 December, the Petersburg Soviet was surrounded by troops. The entrances and exits were locked. From the music gallery, where the Executive Committee was in session, I called down to where hundreds of deputies were already gathering: ‘No resistance to be made, no arms to be surrendered to the enemy.’ The weapons were revolvers. And there in the meeting hall, already surrounded on all sides by detachments of infantry, cavalry and artillery of the Guards, the workers began to destroy their weapons. With skilful hands, they struck a Mauser against a Browning and a Browning against a Mauser. And there was no sound of jokes or quips as on 29 October. In the clanging and ringing, in the rasping of breaking metal, one heard the gnashing teeth of a proletariat which fully grasped for the first time that a different, more powerful and ruthless effort was necessary to overthrow and crush the enemy.[159]

That is why the point at which the 1917 revolution began was so close to where 1905 ended. The Tsarist autocracy, against which the waves of revolution broke in vain throughout 1905, was swept away by the first high tide of 1917. In 1905, it took eight months of revolution before the first soviet appeared. The first soviet of 1917 was formed in the same city only four days after the revolution began — on the same day as the Guards regiments, which had sealed the fate of its predecessor, mutinied.[160]After eight months of this second revolution, the soviets were in power. This last point remains controversial as far as conventional historians are concerned.[161]Yet in historical terms, it is simply an extension of the first point, that is, that in general the consciousness of the workers in 1905 did not rise to a level which corresponded to the demands of a struggle for power. In the counter-revolution which followed 1905, it often seemed that only the ruins of the revolution were left. It took 1917 to show that beneath those ruins a strong foundation survived.

This is not to say that the failure of the 1905 revolution was predetermined: the movement in Poland came very close to coordinating with the movement in Russia proper, the workers’ movement came very close to linking up with the movement in the armed forces, and so on. They were near misses. No one can say what might have happened had the same cards fallen differently. Pokrovsky, in one of his better moments as an historian, summarised the overall movement of working-class consciousness in 1905. It is a brilliant summary — as long as one remembers that it could only be made with hindsight:

In January 1905, the workers thought that they could talk to the Tsar in a nice, polite way and they were cruelly disillusioned. In October, they reached the idea that you had to show your fist to the Tsar — only show it — and you would get something from him. It was an idea of the following stage that you had to use arms against the Tsar, and it was clear only to a minority of the working class.[162]

As that last sentence implies, consciousness is always uneven, even inside the same class. At the same time, it is uneven within certain limits, within a certain framework of change. As a generalisation, it is possible to say that although the workers of 1905 travelled a great distance from their starting-point, they did not go the whole way. But they travelled a long way, and if they had not done so the workers of 1917 might not have been able to complete the journey.

IIIb: Midnight in Moscow

Despite being the starting-point of the October strike, Moscow had been overshadowed by St Petersburg during October and November. The Moscow uprising in December 1905 was subsequently overshadowed by the successful insurrection of October 1917, in which part of the army came over to the revolutionaries and carried out under soviet command crucial military operations against the government. The Moscow uprising in 1905 was largely a matter of barricades and small, lightly-armed guerrilla groups, which were relatively few in number but had mass support. The revolutionaries, as we shall see, had missed the bus when it came to taking advantage of a mutinous movement in the Moscow garrison.

However, there are three good reasons for giving the uprising a fair amount of attention. One is that it was a lesson — a painful lesson — which stood the revolutionaries of 1917 in good stead. For one thing, it demonstrated the importance of coordinating the movement in different cities. This coordination was much greater in 1917 both in terms of soviet organisation on an all-Russia scale and in terms of the political leadership given by the Bolshevik party.[163]For another, it showed that winning over a section of the armed forces to the revolution was much more important than fighting on the barricades. These were the negative lessons of the Moscow uprising, lessons of failure. The positive lesson was that despite all the weaknesses and failings of revolutionary organisation in Moscow, it came remarkably close to taking control of the city, as the extracts from Pokrovsky show.

The uprising did not take place in Moscow simply because the revolutionary leaders there ‘were intoxicated with their own rhetoric’, as Abraham Ascher suggests,[164]but because of a sea-change that was taking place in the mass movement. That sea-change was the rise of the textile-workers, who had previously been much less militant than the less numerous metal-workers. Trotsky caught a hint of the way the wind was blowing on 12 November, when the Petersburg Soviet debated whether or not to call off the campaign of direct action for the eight-hour day. The metal-workers, who were the backbone of the Soviet (two-thirds of the deputies came from metallurgical plants), were divided. So were the textile-workers. But it was a textile-worker, not a metal-worker, a woman, not a man, who appealed to the Soviet’s fighting spirit:

A middle-aged woman weaver from Maxwell’s factory rose to speak. She had a fine, open face; she wore a faded cotton dress although it was late autumn. Her hand trembled with excitement as she nervously fingered her collar. Her voice had a ringing, inspired, unforgettable quality. ‘You’ve let your wives get accustomed to sleeping in soft beds and eating sweet food’, she hurled at the Putilov delegates. ‘That’s why you are afraid of losing your jobs. But we aren’t afraid. We’re prepared to die, but we’ll get the eight-hour day. We’ll fight to the end. Victory or death! Long live the eight-hour day!’[165]

This was the sound of both desperation and future victory, as Trotsky commented: ‘To this day, 30 months later, this voice of hope, despair and passion is still ringing in my ears, a lasting reproach, an indomitable call to action.’ It is no accident that the main uprising took place in Moscow, one of the main centres of the textile industry. The rise of the textile-workers was related to the insurgent movement in the armed forces, among the peasants and in certain sections of the professional and educated classes. It was the same spirit as that of the Maxwell weaver which achieved the successes and taught the lessons of the Moscow uprising, as Lenin acknowledged:

In the December days, the Moscow proletariat taught us magnificent lessons in ideologically ‘winning over’ the troops, as, for example, on 8 December in Strastnaya Square, when the crowd surrounded the Cossacks, mingled and fraternised with them, and persuaded them to turn back. Or on 10 December, in Presnya District, when two working girls, carrying a red flag in a crowd of 10 000 people, rushed out to meet the Cossacks crying: ‘Kill us! We will not surrender the flag alive!’ And the Cossacks were disconcerted and galloped away, amidst the shouts from the crowd: ‘Hurrah for the Cossacks!’ These examples of courage and heroism should be impressed forever on the mind of the proletariat.[166]

Of all the achievements of the uprising, there was one that Lenin picked out as the most important:

From a strike and demonstrations to isolated barricades. From isolated barricades to the mass erection of barricades and street fighting against the troops. Over the heads of the organisations, the mass proletarian struggle developed from a strike to an uprising. This is the greatest historic gain the Russian revolution achieved in December 1905; and like all preceding gains it was purchased at the price of enormous sacrifices.[167]

These words may sound strange coming from Lenin, who is usually portrayed as the father of totalitarianism. But it was in 1905 that Lenin and the Bolsheviks really discovered the mass workers’ movement. This was the hidden heart of Bolshevism. The Bolshevik party never represented the working class in the way the soviets did. It tried to be the party of the most militant workers, uniting them politically, coordinating their activity and enabling them to relate to other workers as a clearly defined group, not as disparate individuals. When sectarianism and organisational inertia inside the party got in the way of its relationship with the mass movement, then the pressure of the mass movement was used by Lenin and others to revive it. It was never a perfect party, but it was, to borrow a term from psychology, a ‘good enough’ party. It acted, it led, it made mistakes and took responsibility for them. It learned and changed. In fact, 1905 helped it acquire a genuine tradition of self-criticism which went on flourishing after the 1917 revolution and could not be erased even by the early years of Stalinism, as these passages — especially the ones from Pokrovsky — demonstrate.

Unpreparedness in Petersburg[168]

Gorev first describes the agitational section, which he says was the best part of the Petersburg Bolshevik organisation. Then he moves on.

THINGS went very badly in the other section — the military and fighting organisation. The fighting organisation was run first by Skrypnik, then by Essen. But when the crucial moment came, when it was necessary during the December days to prevent at all costs the sending of the Semyonovsky regiment to Moscow to suppress the uprising and to call the armed detachments to action in order to blow up the Nikolai line, then this — a comparatively easy task — was not carried out because the fighting organisation was in the most rudimentary state.

At the beginning of December, I saw Alexinsky,[169]who had come from Moscow, for the first time. In a unified inter-factional meeting, he shouted hysterically: ‘Where are your bombs, how many revolvers have you got, where are your armed detachments?’ Unfortunately, we had hardly any of these things, although, as the December events in Moscow showed, the Fighting Organisation could doubtless have played a big role and could have turned the Moscow events in a different direction. If the railway line had really been blown up outside Petersburg and the transportation of the Semyonovsky regiment hadbeen hampered, that would have raised the revolutionary mood in Petersburg and disorganised the government, which was in any case not on top of the situation.

Hesitancy in Moscow[170]

Vasil’ev-Yuzhin begins this passage by criticising the Petersburg Soviet for ‘exhausting the strength of the proletariat on trifles’ (see above this chapter, part II: In the Balance, c: Retreat). However, he goes on to contrast that with the main weakness of the Moscow Bolsheviks.

The Moscow [Bolshevik] Committee was rather to be reproached for unnecessary caution and indecisiveness. In mid-November, it was already obvious that the recovering Tsarist government intended to go on to the offensive. Martial law was declared on the railways and in certain areas; revolutionary outbreaks in the forces were harshly repressed, especially in the navy; the government finally decided to liquidate the Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, starting with the arrest of its Executive Committee.

At the end of November, a serious movement flared up among the troops in Moscow. The soldiers of the Rostov regiment sent their officers packing, seized weapons, and readily welcomed and listened to agitators from the revolutionary parties, but met the area commander with bayonets. I was told that they had at their disposal eight of the 13 machine guns which were in Moscow at that time. The party committee received the news of this important event at a general meeting devoted to a discussion of the agrarian programme.

‘What are we going to do? How are we going to take advantage of the Rostov men’s rising?’

We asked our military organiser about the mood in other regiments. The mood was uncertain, possibly sympathetic, but their neutrality was more to be counted on than their active help. However, even the Cossacks had begun to listen to our agitators.

I proposed firm and rapid action: get the Rostov men out of the barracks, seize the main government institutions, arrest the most important representatives of authority, and take possession wherever possible of stores of arms in order to arm the workers, who for want of weapons were at that time forging pikes for themselves.

In defence of my proposal, I added the following considerations: We would soon have to go into battle anyway, for the government was clearly going on to the offensive. We could not and did not have the right to retreat without a battle. This would not be permitted by the workers, whom we ourselves had familiarised with the idea of an inevitable armed uprising. If the soldiers were not immediately taken out on to the street, they would become demoralised and the movement would soon be crushed. This would affect the mood of the other troops and then we would definitely not be able to count on their help at all in the inevitable conflict that was coming. Attack was better than defence. We had the chance to attack — we must make good use of it.

Zemlyachka objected passionately, possibly too passionately, to my proposal. Referring to the failure of the mutinies in Sevastopol and Kiev, she called on the committee to abstain from ‘adventures’. Unfortunately, this time Marat (Shantser) was faint-hearted too. Trying to reconcile the two points of view, he proposed informing Petersburg about the state of affairs in Moscow and waiting for directions from there, while keeping up the mood of the Rostov regiment with ‘agitational speeches’. When it came to the vote, only seven of the 20 members of the committee were in favour of my proposal. I still think that this decision of the committee was a grave and inexcusable mistake.

A session of the Soviet of deputies took place that evening. I was called out to talk to soldiers who had come. They turned out to be representatives of the sapper regiment. They said that their regiment wanted to take the same action as the Rostov men. On top of this, they were guarding one of the arsenals, which they could deliver to us. Once more, I put it to Shantser, who was at the session, that the movement which had begun among the soldiers should be used for decisive action. He began by wavering, but then he persuaded me that we had to wait. I left it to him to explain to the sappers.

How the Revolution was Lost[171]

Power passed into the hands of the Moscow Soviet in practically the entire city from the very first day of the strike. Summoned just before the beginning of the strike to ‘pacify’ Moscow, Governor-General Dubasov had been the energetic ‘pacifier’ of the peasants in the south of Russia where he had for the first time used artillery against the insurgent villages. His authority extended only to the centre of the city where he sat tight with his ‘reliable’ troops — about 1500 cavalry and infantry in all, according to his own estimate. He had to lock the remaining soldiers in their barracks and take their rifles and bullets away as they were ‘unreliable’. He implored the high command to send him ‘just one brigade of infantry’ (that is, 1500 to 2000 men) from Petersburg. But an uprising was expected at any moment in Petersburg too, and the reply Dubasov got was: ‘There are no troops to spare for Moscow.’ …

There is no shadow of a doubt that the uprising would have had a chance of success if it had begun a week earlier and had coincided with the growing movement in the Moscow garrison. Nor is there any shadow of a doubt that a victorious uprising in Moscow would have been the signal for an uprising in the Central Industrial Region, above all in Petersburg where no chicanery by the Mensheviks would have been able to hold back the workers any longer.[172]Dubasov’s first success, one that he himself did not expect and that did not depend on him in the slightest, was the separation of the soldiers’ movement from the proletarian movement. His second and third successes were almost as accidental as that. First of all, the ‘Information Bureau’ was arrested on the night of 7-8 December. This was an organisation which brought together representatives of all the revolutionary parties in Moscow and effectively led the entire movement. Shantser and Vasiliev-Yuzhin, the two foremost members of the [Bolshevik] committee, belonged to it. With their arrest, the committee was beheaded. Rank-and-file party workers remained in it who were unprepared and untrained to lead a city-wide uprising. The arrest, as the majority of contemporaries confirmed, was a matter of sheer chance: one of the representatives of the rail union failed to observe the rules of underground security when he entered the bureau and revealed the location of the meeting to the police. There was also another version: that the flat had been found by a woman who, as was later brought to light, was working for the Moscow secret police. Be that as it may, Dubasov had nothing to do with this victory, and at first he did not even know who he had in his hands. He reported to Petersburg: ‘Have now arrested six leading railwaydelegates.’[173]Even afterwards, the secret police failed to unmask Shantser: who he was and what part he played in the uprising, that remained undiscovered and that was why he got off very lightly, relatively speaking — he was only sentenced to administrative exile.[174]This outcome was partly made possible by the fact that members of the SR Fighting Organisation blew up the Moscow Secret Police Department the very next night, and everything seized during the police search of the ‘Information Bureau’ was destroyed. This was the only important operation carried out by the SRs during the Moscow uprising.

Next, the railway workers’ promise to bring the Nikolai line to a halt turned out to be unfounded — and once again, this was independent of Dubasov’s will or efforts. All the other lines in the Moscow junction stopped, but the Nikolayev line went on working. Dubasov was able to get unimpeded reinforcements from Petersburg, and even before that he was able to bring in from the Moscow Military District units which were still unaffected by propaganda and were suited for ‘pacification’. In the very first days he got in this way a regiment of dragoons and a battery of horse-drawn artillery from Tver. The latter was particularly valuable to him as the Moscow artillery, we should remember, was ‘unreliable’ in its entirety.

The more the government’s chances improved, the more the chances of the insurgents declined. The latter could only be saved by the most speedy action: despite everything, Dubasov still did not have many troops, while the enthusiasm of the leading workers, especially the young ones, was still very great. A courageous and successful blow against the centre could still have changed the situation. Of course, it would not have guaranteed victory, but it was the last chance. Loss of time at this point really was ‘like death’.[175]

Here ‘chance’ ended and lack of organisation began. Another three days— 7, 8, 9 December (old style) — were lost. What one of the historians of the December uprising has said of 7 December applies to all of these days: 

Everything actually boiled down to mass agitation and information; plant meetings were organised to explain the state of affairs. District meetings were held. The Moscow Soviet of workers’ deputies organised meetings and issued a daily Izvestiya, but not a word was there about the uprising as such. The question of the uprising was avoided.[176]

We have already included an extract from Izvestiyaof 9 December which completely bears out this judgement.[177]As well as meetings there were extraordinarily solid demonstrationsfilled with genuine revolutionary enthusiasm, but these were of unarmed workersand were no substitute for an armed uprising. All this — both the solid strike and the solid demonstrations — were a repetitionof the methods of struggle already used in October. They were already familiar to the government and no longer scared it, and the workers were beginning to be fed up with them. Asked how things were going, Dubrovsky (Innokenty), one of the leading organisers in the Moscow Committee and in the party generally, replied: ‘I’ve been here about three days now and have done innumerable meetings. Everything has already been said, the workers’ mood has reached its highest pitch, immediate action is vital otherwise demoralisation will set in.’ In order to act, weapons, above all, were vital, but as the historian of December we have just quoted says, ‘not one serious attempt was made to procure arms during these days’…[178]

But even with the supplies of arms we had in our hands, something could have been done. Comrade Dosser (Leshy), one of the leaders of the uprising, wrote in his memoirs: 

There were probably several hundred armed fighters. The majority had revolvers which were of little use, but some were equipped with weapons powerful enough for street fighting — Mausers and Winchesters.[179]Given the disorganisation of the authorities and the impossibility of actively using the majority of the Moscow garrison, it might have been possible to try disarming a military unit and arming the risen people. Both the crowd and the fighters were quick to take up every practical suggestion and to carry it out at once. But such a clearly formulated aim was not given to the insurgents by those from whom they expected it.[180]

Instructions for the fighting units — very practical and sensible — only appeared in Izvestiyaon 11 December when Moscow was covered with barricades for the third day and the battle was in its third day. The very appearance of the barricades came before any directives from the centre…

The task of the barricades was to prevent Dubasov’s men from gaining access to the working-class areas, and they carried out this task superbly. The barricade was a real border dividing Soviet power from Tsarist power. However, the aim of the uprising was not separation from the remnants of Tsarist power, but the destruction of those remnants. What was needed for this was attack, not defence. But the attack was delayed again and again. And when at last the signal for battle was given, firstly, that battle had begun spontaneously long before, and secondly, the fighting spirit was already waning…

The loss of three days — fivedays in all since the very start of the movement — had a tremendous effect on the whole course of the uprising. The initiative passed into the hands of the enemy: having received his first reinforcements, Dubasov had the opportunity to go on to the offensive. He immediately resorted to a weapon which, truth to tell, the organisers of the uprising had thought about least of all… When we heard cannon fire in December, we could not believe our ears. We thought our fighters must be throwing bombs. Alas! It was not our bombs, but Dubasov’s cannon.

In Dubasov’s position, where the thing to be feared most of all was direct contact between his troops and the revolutionary masses — such contact even had a demoralising effect on the Cossacks — ‘action at a distance’ was the natural solution. He did not have to fear ‘rousing the entire population against him’, for the entire population, with the exception of a handful of bourgeois and bureaucrats, was on the side of the insurgents. He stood to win by using artillery against them and had had lost nothing. Brownings were powerless against cannon. At this moment, the absence of gunners on our side, whom we might have had, made itself keenly felt. The high command feared above all that the insurgents might also turn out to have cannon. ‘Even if the revolutionaries took only two guns, it would be a disaster’, the general in command of the Moscow Military District wrote in a letter. ‘Even if they were unable to use them, they would nevertheless be trophies which would create a tremendous impression! And what an awful blunder it would have been on our part!’[181]In order to avoid such a disaster, all the Moscow artillery — which was out of action, as the gunners were locked in their barracks — was concentrated in the Kremlin, as far away as possible from the uprising. At first, a battery brought from Tver was active on the streets, then the Guards’ artillery, obtained from Petersburg.

These reinforcements from Petersburg, obtained by Dubasov after much pleading, were the final, mortal blow to the uprising. Now against the Moscow barricades were the garrisons of both capitals.[182]

IIIc: Repression in Riga


Historical background: A possession of Germany since the end of the twelfth century (and variously of Sweden, Poland and Denmark), Latvia (with Estonia to the north) was incorporated into the Russian empire at the end of the eighteenth century. In return for their support for the Russian Tsar, the land-owning German barons were allowed to remain as the ruling élite in Latvia. Such was their zeal in defending the imperialism of the Romanovs that the last of the Tsars considered them more loyal than even the Russian nobles. 

By the end of the nineteenth century, Latvia had an industrial labour force of nearly a million. Riga, its capital, ranked third, next to Moscow and St Petersburg, by the volume of industrial output and the number of workers. While the urban proportion of European Russia was no more than 13 per cent of the population, almost a third of the two million Latvians lived in the towns. And unlike the typical Russian muzhik, most Latvian peasants could read and write. By the end of the nineteenth century, the literacy rate in Latvia was more than three times greater than the Russian average.

‘Russification’ took the form chiefly of persecution of the Latvian language. In 1887, all schools were placed under the control of the Russian Ministry of Education, and Russian was decreed the official language. The massive influx of Russian civil servants was as deeply resented as the rule of the German Baltic barons, and completed the explosive mixture of class hatred and nationalism in the minds of the Latvian populace. 

Latvian Social Democracy: Social Democracy was introduced into Latvia in the 1890s. But it was not until June 1904 that two regional socialist groupings[183]came together to form the first countrywide Marxist organisation, the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP). Party membership was then 2500. By the high point of October 1905, it had soared to 18 200.

At several periods prior to 1917, the Latvian party was actually bigger than the Russian party to which, in 1906, it became affiliated (as the Latvian Social Democracy, or LSD). During the 1905 revolution, there were nearly as many members of the local LSDSP (7200) in Riga alone, as Bolsheviks (8400) in the whole of Russia. Per head of the population (with less than two million people), Latvia was consistently the most socialist region of the Russian empire.

The 1905 Revolution: The revolution in Latvia dwarfed anything seen in Russia. From the first it assumed an armed character. The revolutionaries formed fighting organisations (kaujinieki) to defend demonstrations and meetings from police attacks, execute spies and provocateurs, and organise the escape of arrested comrades. Throughout the summer of 1905, agitators spread the revolution through the countryside, while strikes mounted, often culminating in armed clashes, and in July a general strike was declared. The October manifesto, granting a degree of political freedom, provided a launch pad to open insurrection. In Riga and Liepaja, ‘Federative Committees’ seized control of all public administration for two months. In the countryside, martial law was answered with peasant risings. Councils of revolutionary peasants took over all public administration, telephones and telegraphs, formed a people’s militia, demanded the immediate release of imprisoned peasants, and occupied the estates of the barons who had fled.

Repression: Late in December 1905, the Tsar sent Prince Alexander Orlov and the Life Uhlan Regiment into Latvia to direct a programme of ‘pacification’. At Orlov’s disposal was a Russian military force totalling 19 000.[184]Placed under the command of those same Baltic barons who had been chased away by the insurrection, this expedition took on a punitive character. 

Armed with ‘proscription lists’ drawn up by the barons, the soldiers killed all those named without trial. Members of Peasant Councils and all suspected ‘agitators’ were hanged from trees or telegraph poles along the roadsides. In the first 10 months of 1906 alone, 2556 suspected revolutionaries were hanged or shot; another 4533 were deported to Siberia, and some 5000 fled abroad into exile.[185]

The peasant insurgents, unable to hold out against regular troops, escaped into the woods, where they formed themselves into irregular partisan bands of ‘Forest Brothers’ (Mezhabrali) and continued to wage a guerrilla war against the landlords, troops and Tsarist administration. In the towns, groups of Fighters operated as urban guerrillas. 

The Attack on the Riga Secret Police: The attack on the headquarters of the Riga secret police on 29 January 1906 by 12 fighters of the LSD Fighting Organisation was an audacious action even by the standards of the Latvian guerrillas. It entered into Latvian folklore and Soviet myth (becoming the subject of books and film). But the true story, told faithfully here by our anonymous ‘Active Member’ (who omits certain details and the names of participants for reasons of security) captures the true spirit of the venture.

A Note on the Source: When the Independent Labour Party published The Revolution in the Baltic Provinces of Russia in 1907, the struggle described had still not been extinguished, and the authors and editors were naturally circumspect. The anonymous author (‘an active member’) was actually two people, Ernest Rolavs and Herman Punga, both active revolutionists who subsequently gave their lives in the struggle. The work was edited and translated into English by another Latvian Social Democrat, resident in England, Alexander Zirnis, a gifted linguist who was one of the first to translate Lenin into English, before succumbing to ill health and dying at a tragically young age in 1917.

Philip Ruff

The Work of the Tsar’s Punishment Expeditions[186]

NOW let us enquire as to the methods of these punitive expeditions. The counter-revolution which is proceeding against the inhabitants of the Baltic Provinces is organised on a very simple plan. The barons supply the punitive expeditions with ‘Proscription Lists’, and all the persons named thereon are put to death without trial. The expeditions proceed through the country, and in every village from 10 to 30 persons are shot and hundreds more flogged. The members of the peasants’ administrative councils and all who are suspected of being agitators are hanged, generally on trees and telegraph poles on the highway. In 10 months over 400 communities have been punished in this manner in the Baltic Provinces alone, 3000 persons have been shot and hanged, and 2000 peasant farms have been burnt to the ground or blown up by the military and everything belonging to the occupants destroyed. The nobility of Stockmanshoffthemselves, supported by the military, put 17 peasant farms to the flames last Christmas eve, saying it was the Christmas gift the Lettish peasants deserved.

One or two more instances, out of a great number, of the horrible and brutal deeds of the counter-revolution, may be cited here.

In Windau, the military on the night of 22 December, surprised four members of the local committee of the Socialists. They were all asleep and the officer ordered the soldiers to carry the four men on their bayonet points out into the street and there he had them tortured to death. The parents of one of the young men — Mr Karkling — besought the officer in pity to let them have the body of their unfortunate son, but only after they had presented him with a thousand roubles did he consent to this.

In the small Livonian town of Fellin, in which place there was not even a branch of the Socialist party, Baron von Sievers, a landowner and also the chief of the local punishment expedition, arrested and condemned to death 49 persons without any pretence whatever of trial. Before their execution they were compelled, in the presence of their families and relatives, to dig their own graves. Baron Sievers then ordered them to kneel down on the edges of the graves, and the soldiers were commanded to shoot from behind and to aim at their heads. The result of this most inhuman proceeding was to scatter the skulls of these unfortunate and heroic men all around the excavations, whilst the headless corpses tumbled into the graves. The spectacle was so terrible that some of the women who were compelled to be present — the wives, mothers and sisters of the condemned men — instantly went raving mad.

In another place the corpses of the executed peasants were hanged in the windows of a dismantled castle on the highroad as a warning to the inhabitants not to join the revolutionists. A volume of similar acts of fiendish cruelty in the country districts could be given.

In the towns it was no better, sometimes even worse, for the revolutionists were not only shot but also, before this, most terribly tortured, so that even death was sought as a happy release. As an example I will quote from a letter I received from a friend who was arrested and tortured, and only escaped, through the assistance of some comrades, from the hands of his persecutors a few hours before the time fixed for his execution.

The letter was sent to me with the expressed hope that some of the more important English newspapers might be induced to publish it and so assist somewhat to enlighten British opinion regarding the most dastardly character of the acts of the Russian government in the Baltic Provinces. Extracts from it were published in the Manchester Guardian,[187]and read as follows:

April 1906: On 26 January of this year the police and military surrounded and entered a restaurant in Mill Street, Riga, arresting all who were present. A strict search was immediately made; nothing was found save a few leaflets and several passports on the floor, and on a window ledge a Browning revolver and a small dagger. All whose passports had been viséd,[188]or were not under suspicion of the local police, were liberated. Those arrested were divided into two groups, numbering respectively 14 and four. The soldiers guarding the smaller group were instructed to take especial care of their charge. The four consisted of Mr Lapse, Mr Rosenthal, Mr Gr— and myself. Eight soldiers and one officer composed our guard. The latter commanded us not to stare about as we passed through the streets, but to look straight in front only, under penalty of being instantly shot. In about 10 minutes we reached the Central Police Station, and were passed into the ‘Detective’ department before the chiefs of which we four were immediately taken. The officer of our guard declared ‘these four men were armed’. This charge astounded us, for we all knew that only one revolver and the small dagger had been found in the restaurant.

Again our names and passports were demanded. I had studied my passport well, and therefore could easily answer any questions. The others gave their addresses but I could not disclose mine, and my passport had not been viséd by the police. Finally three of us were locked in a corridor, every other place being quite full, but our comrade, Mr Lapse, was locked in a small ante-room, the police guarding him strictly.

I was in a strange and doubtful condition. I knew that the police had been looking for me for about three years for several political ‘offences’, also I was aware of the fact that one of the spies who had already betrayed several of my comrades knew my face and some of my activities.

Nevertheless, I determined not to disclose my family name, but to keep to the name given in my passport, knowing that the police could not then trace anyone else through me.

Our arrests took place at two o’clock in the afternoon, and at eight o’clock the three of us were again examined by the chief.

He demanded the name of the owner of the revolver, threatening to shoot us if we refused to answer. Neither of us acknowledged that we knew each other previously.

Again we were sent back and again recalled, but this time separately. Comrade Gr— was called first. After a few moments we heard heart-sickening screams and lamentations. I involuntarily shuddered, knowing that we were all to be terribly tortured.

I felt much concerned at our helpless position; our enemies could do with us whatever they liked and we could not make the slightest resistance.

My reflections were cut short by the entrance of Comrade Gr— his face covered with blood…

I was called next. I calmly entered the room and found there five police officers and one detective. I was ordered to write my name, which was compared with the signature on the passport and found to be identical. I said with certainty that it was a true one. I had scarcely finished my answer when I received a blow in my face, and then a second one from a policeman’s fist. I stumbled back but immediately received a kick from behind. With a great struggle I placed my back against the wall and faced my enemies; then and officer ran up to me, clapped a revolver to my head, screaming: ‘Be quiet! be quiet, you dog!!’ I protested, and again he threatened to shoot me. I was pulled from the wall and again my name was demanded, also my address and the names of my friends; I merely repeated my old answers. At last, cursing and swearing, they pushed me out of the room.

That was the beginning of our examination, but we knew that the worst had yet to come.

At midnight we were again called. One of our friends told us he had been fearfully beaten with rifles. We saw his limbs, quite black and terribly swollen. About three o’clock my turn came; I was taken into a small office on the third floor. In the room there was a table on which were some empty whiskey bottles, and standing near it eight police officers. A soldier and a policeman guarded the door, an officer walked about the room with a long (three foot) thick rubber nagaika(whip) in his hand… At last the officer with the nagaikatook out his watch and said: ‘If you do not in five minutes give us the answers we require, then this sheet of paper will be beaten to shreds on your back.’ (This paper was the one on which I gave my first answers to the questions of the police.) I replied that I had nothing whatever to add. The five minutes passed and the officers began their work. I was carried into a small recess behind a barrier, then taking a wet towel they bound it round my mouth so that I could not scream, one of the officers holding the ends of the towel. They stripped me, and two officers held my hands and one my legs, and so put me acrossthe barrier. The paper was placed upon my back and beaten to shreds. After the first part of the flogging they again put the questions to me. I would not reply. The beating was repeated. When they saw I was losing consciousness they stopped for a little while and then went on again.

This lasted over an hour and then I was dressed… Then they again commanded me to write my answer on a sheet of paper. An officer took the pen and cried: ‘Write the truth, you dog, or I will prick out your eyes!’ He took the pen and began slowly to prick my eye. Because of the pain I took the pen out of his hand as if willing to write, but I put it on the table. This angered the officer terribly and catching up his nagaika(this one was about two-and-a-half feet long, with a leaden ball on the end) struck me across the head several times. I became quite dizzy and fell back on the barrier, and he ceased to beat me. Afterwards another officer came and said to me: ‘You know that the country is under martial law and therefore we may shoot all you cursed agitators and revolutionists like dogs without any trial whatever if we like. See, this is what we shall do to you. I think you have heard already how the revolutionists who have been arrested are alleged to have attempted to escape near the Central Prison, and how they were all instantly shot. The same thing we will do to you.’[189]

Then they called in five soldiers and said to them: ‘You see this man, he must be taken to the prison. But may he not escape on the way?’

‘No, he shall not escape, your Excellency.’

‘But will he escape to the next world?’

‘Yes, he will, Excellency.’

I was told to finish dressing myself and then surrounded by the soldiers and went out. But we had not gone far, before we were called back, and I was told that they had decided to let me die by hunger unless I would betray my friends. I was brought back again to the detective department. I must confess that this sort of thing did not intimidate me in the least, as I preferred to be shot immediately rather than to undergo such tortures again. Therefore when I was brought back I proposed to my comrades that we should make a desperate effort to escape, even if it would cost us our lives. We all agreed. Then I went to the door behind which our friend Mr Lapse was imprisoned. I called to him. In a feeble voice he told how terribly he had been tortured. He had been beaten with rifles, then thrown to the ground and one of the officers had got on to his chest and began to jump, trying to break his ribs…

This was a most terrible night for us. Every one of us was tortured (there were now six of us in this one place)…

The next morning, 27 January, our friend Lapse feebly called us to his door and returned the food we had previously sent to him, telling us that as the result of his tortures he was unable to eat anything. Soon afterwards he called for water and we then saw that blood was pouring from his mouth. Our agitation and helplessness were awful, we could do nothing…

We decided to escape if possible, if not, to perish in the attempt. Our comrades outside had found means to get into communication with us, and we were expecting help from them.

On 29 January we got up very early in the morning. Twelve members of the Social Democratic Workers Party armed with Mauser pistols had come to liberate us. Eight of them stayed outside in the street and only four came into the police buildings. Two of them stopped in the waiting-room where there were one soldier and a policeman. The other two went as if on business direct to the detective department where there were one soldier, 10 detectives and two officers. There were also more than 160 soldiers quartered in the upper floors of the buildings…

We saw our friends. Their entrance took the guards by surprise. The soldier who had the rifle was shot first. We had been provided by this time with revolvers. The police were so terrified that they immediately ran into a room near by, one of them jumped through the window breaking his leg. We six went towards the exit. As I entered the waiting-room I saw the policeman fall from a shot. In a few moments we were out in the street where the other friends secured our escape…

The same evening I left Riga disguised, in the very same train in which the Governor of Livonia travelled…

Later in the evening four of our friends left behind, amongst whom was our cruelly tortured comrade Lapse, were shot near the Central Prison.

Editor’s Afterword

I would like to add two notes to this final extract. The first is that the accounts of torture in the ILP booklet from which this passage is taken show that the atrocities in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are as much part of one tradition as 1905 and the mass movements of today are part of another. This is a rock on which all attempts to present the last Tsar as a tragic or romantic figure on the ‘Nicholas and Alexandria’ model must eventually founder. Harrison Salisbury, in his lively account of Russia during 1905-17, says, with some reluctance, that ‘the comments made by Nicholas concerning the punitive expeditions which shot, pillaged, and burned with no pretence of legality through late 1905 and almost the whole of 1906 make one wonder’. He goes on:

For instance, Gen VA Bekman reported 14 December 1905, that he had refrained from razing the town of Tukkum in Latvia when the inhabitants assured him that they had driven all the rebels out and would deliver all arms and maintain peace. Short of ammunition, he accepted the proposition and called off his attack. The residents greeted the troops with the traditional bread-and-salt, turned over the bodies of an officer and a dragoon who had been killed, and surrendered 62 guns and 45 revolvers. The Tsar, underlining the explanation, noted in the margin of Bekman’s report: ‘This is no reason. The city should have been destroyed.’ There are many, many comments of similar nature. KN Uspensky quotes the Tsar as commenting on news of the punitive expeditions: ‘Cela me chatouille!’ (‘This tickles me!’)[190]

Finally, many thanks to Philip Ruff for his introduction and for making the ILP booklet available. Without him, the horror of the counter-revolution, so often ignored in the past, would have figured here only at second-hand.

Pete Glatter


[1].      MN Pokrovskii, Izbrannye proizvedeniia. Kniga 3: Russkaia istoriia v samom szhatom ocherke(Mysl’, Moscow, 1967), pp404-05 [MN Pokrovsky, Brief History of Russia, Volume 2 (Martin Lawrence, London, 1933), pp157-58].

[2].      Lev Trotskii, Moia zhizn’(Vagrius, Moscow, 2001), p177 [Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography(Pathfinder, New York, 1970), p175].

[3].      Leon Trotsky, 1905(Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973), p102.

[4].      This summary is chiefly derived from Pokrovskii, op cit, pp406-10 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp159-63], and from Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp100-20.

[5].      Abraham Ascher, The Revolution of 1905: Russia in Disarray(Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 1988), p219.

[6].      Source: M Vasil’ev (Iuzhin), ‘Iz vospominanii o moskovskom vosstanii 1905 g’ [‘From Reminiscences of the Moscow Uprising of 1905’], Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, no 5, 1922, pp188-89.

[7].      The same spot became a ‘Speakers’ Corner’ and a focal point of protests and demonstrations 83 years later. See, for example, Boris Kagarlitsky, Farewell Perestroika(Verso, London, 1990), pp8, 9, 12-18, 24-25, 155, 156.

[8].      The district ‘across the Moscow River’ (which is what its name means) away to the south of the Kremlin. It was at this time a major industrial area with a fifth of the city’s factories and a third of its workers. See Dan Richardson, The Rough Guide to Moscow (Rough Guides, London, 2001), p229.

[9].      Source: Dmitrii Sverchkov, Na zare revoliutsii[At the Dawn of the Revolution] (Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo [State Publishing House], Leningrad, 1924), pp130-32.

[10].    Tsarskoye Selo — literally ‘Royal Village’, 25 kilometres south of St Petersburg where Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra had their favourite palace. See Rob Humphreys and Dan Richardson, St Petersburg: The Rough Guide (Rough Guides, London, 1993), p306.

[11].    According to several other sources, this order was given two days later. See, for example Ascher, op cit, p223; Harrison E Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow: Russia’s Revolutions 1905-1917(Cassell, London, 1978), p155; Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p126.

[12].    Trepov seemed to be in favour of repressing all dissent except in the universities, where he thought the movement would die down once it had had the opportunity to let off steam. As a result, the government restored autonomy to the universities after a 21-year break at the end of August. Tens of thousands of people flocked to revolutionary meetings in the universities, which were now no-go areas for police and troops. Rather than dying down, the student movement spread. It was particularly strong in the seminaries for student priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. Trotsky commented: ‘The fact that perfectly free popular gatherings were taking place within the walls of the universities while Trepov’s unlimited terror reigned in the streets was one of the most astonishing political paradoxes of the autumn months of 1905.’ See Ascher, op cit, pp196-206; Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p100.

[13].    Trade unions had been appearing all over the city, often spontaneously, since February 1905. Sverchkov, who had been a Social Democrat for several years, had been active in organising a metal-workers’ union as well as his own union of office workers and accountants. It was from this union that he was elected to the St Petersburg Soviet on 13 October 1905 (Sverchkov, op cit, pp113-14) The office workers’ union has also been included among the 14 professional associations affiliated to the Union of Unions, for which see below (Ascher, op cit, p143).

[14].    His own workplace (nadezhda means hope) (Sverchkov, op cit, p113).

[15].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare revoliutsii, op cit, pp133-34.

[16].    The Union of Unions, set up in May 1905, was a federation of unions of the intelligentsia, that is, professional associations with liberal political aims and not concerned with improving pay and conditions. See Ascher, op cit, pp142-44.

[17].    Source: Dmitrii Sverchkov (ed), Izvestiya soveta rabochikh deputatov: S-Peterburg, 17-go oktiabria–14-go dekabria 1905 goda[The News of the Council of Workers’ Deputies: St Petersburg, 17 October–14 December 1905] (Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo [State Publishing House], 1925), Leningrad, pp7-8. None of the material from Izvestiyareproduced here is by Trotsky, all of whose contributions appear in his Collected Works, see Lev Trotskii, Sochineniia, t 2, ch 1, Nasha pervaia revoliutsiia[Collected Works, Volume 2, part 1, Our First Revolution] (Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, Leningrad, 1926).

[18].    As far as I remember, between 1000 and 1500 copies of it came out, and by the end of October it had already become a rarity [note in original] (Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p10).

[19].    This is almost certainly a misprint of Margulies, which is a Jewish name. At this early stage of its existence, the Soviet was not only shrugging off police intimidation, but also dissociating itself from the racist scapegoating of Jews. My thanks to Ronnie Margulies for his help with this point.

[20].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare,op cit, pp147-48.

[21].    For more about Suvorin, a worthy forerunner of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, see the footnote on Novoye vremya(New Times) in Chapter 1 above, Part VII: The Liberal Warmongers.

[22].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit,pp148-50.

[23].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp155-56.

[24].    According to Deutscher, Zlydniev, who was probably an important left Menshevik, worked particularly closely with Trotsky at this time. He came from Nikolayev, the town where Trotsky had completed his secondary education. Zlydniev had enormous influence among the Obukhov workers, and was the leader of the elected shopfloor representatives in the plant before the October strike. He was the spokesman for the other defendants at the trial of the Soviet deputies which opened at the end of December 1905. A protest resolution sent to the court stated: ‘We declare to the government that if our comrade, PA Zlydniev, whom we all respect, is guilty, then we are guilty likewise, to which we testify with our signatures.’ It was signed by more than 2000 Obukhov workers (Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921(Oxford University Press, London, 1970), p131; Solomon M Schwarz, The Russian Revolution of 1905: The Workers’ Movement and the Formation of Bolshevism and Menshevism(University of Chicago Press, London, 1967), p125; Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p374.

[25].    In view of such statements, the claim by Schwarz that Sverchkov’s autobiography shows what a good chairman Khrustaliev was seems totally misleading. Sverchkov is not included in the index of Schwarz’s book on 1905, although he is cited more than once in the text (Schwarz, op cit, pp173 (n13), 182).

[26].    The same village to which Sverchkov and Trotsky were exiled after 1905. Well inside the Arctic Circle, Obdorsk was over 1000 miles away from the nearest railway at Tyumen in western Siberia.

[27].    BM Knuniyants (also known as Radin, Ruben and Rusov) was, according to Deutscher, one of the two main Bolshevik spokesmen in the Soviet, the other being Sverchkov himself. Knuniyants was the spokesman of the Soviet delegation to the Petersburg city duma on 16 October, and voiced the demand that the duma should support the strike, divert funds for this purpose from the police and finance the organisation of an armed workers’ militia. However, Knuniyants, despite playing a leading role in the Soviet, viewed it with suspicion as a rival to the party, at least initially (unlike Sverchkov, apparently) (Deutscher, op cit, pp125, 130; Schwarz, op cit, pp140n, 175n, 179-80; Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp155-56;Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp127-28). See also this chapter, Part Ib: A Soviet at Work.

[28].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp13-16. Trotsky sent the letter from which these extracts are taken, explaining that he did not have the time to write the introduction he had been asked for. The letter was published together with Sverchkov’s own introduction at the beginning of the book.

[29].    The standard abbreviation of Kommissiia po istorii oktiabrskoi revoliutsii i rossiiskoi kommunisticheskoi partii [b-kov], The Commission for the History of the October Revolution and the Russian Communist Party [Bolsheviks], which oversaw Sverchkov’s autobiography as it did numerous other relevant historical works, including non-communist and controversial ones.

[30].    Leonid Krasin (1870-1926) joined one of the earliest socialist groups in Russia in 1890 and the original Bolshevik faction in 1903. As a ‘conciliator’, keen to heal the split in the party, he was closely associated with Trotsky (who claimed to have influenced him politically) throughout 1905 and he fell out with Lenin, but remained second only to him in the Bolshevik leadership. He fell out with Lenin again in 1909. He held a number of high posts in the Soviet regime from 1918, most of them to do with organising the economy, but was also ambassador to Britain twice before his death (Deutscher, op cit, p117; Trotskii, Moia zhizn’, op cit, pp172-76 [My Life, op cit, pp169-73]; SV Utechin, Concise Encyclopaedia of Russia(Dent, London, 1961), pp289-90.

[31].    The idea behind this Menshevik slogan was to create an alternative political system based on democratic elections during the revolution, before Tsarism was reformed or replaced. It was also an alternative to the active boycott of the projected elections for the Bulygin Duma advocated by the Bolsheviks and the left Mensheviks — which basically meant using the election campaign to increase agitation for an uprising. Lenin was extremely scornful about the idea of organising elections for ‘revolutionary self-government’ while there was fighting in the streets. The supporters of the active boycott saw the October strike which destroyed the Bulygin scheme, as a vindication of their argument. The original idea behind the Petersburg Soviet came as a left Menshevik response to the October strike. Contrary to a later Menshevik argument, it was not an application of the slogan of revolutionary self-government, which cut the link between democratic representation and the class struggle in order to be acceptable to the liberal bourgeoisie. See, for example VI Lenin, ‘The Boycott of the Bulygin Duma and Insurrection’, Collected Works, Volume 9 (Progress, Moscow, 1972), pp179-87; Schwarz, op cit, pp168-71.

[32].    Trotsky refers to this at greater length in his autobiography, though without mentioning Lassalle. He includes a wonderfully brief and clear summary of the theory of permanent revolution, that is, a perspective in which the workers, if they won the support of the peasantry, could not only seize power but begin to introduce socialist measures to the extent that revolutions in other countries tipped the balance of forces in their favour (Trotsky, My Life, op cit, pp171-72 [Trotskii, Moia zhizn, op cit, pp173-74]).

[33].    A writer, later the Soviet ambassador to Italy (Trotsky, My Life, op cit, p176 [Trotskii, Moia zhizn, op cit, p178]).

[34].    Schwarz points out that it was not strange for Trotsky to be in such a meeting when the party was preparing for unification. According to Schwarz, Boris I Goldman (‘Igor’) was the real name of B Gorev, who was the representative of the Bolsheviks’ Central Committee on their Petersburg Committee. For Gorev’s own view of the Bolsheviks, Lenin and the Petersburg Soviet, see below, The Soviet and its Parties: III: Gorev Remembers Lenin.

[35].    One of the original Bolsheviks at the 1903 party congress where the split with the Mensheviks took place (Trotsky, My Life, op cit, p160 [Trotskii, Moia zhizn, op cit, p163]).

[36].    SS Zborovsky (also known as A Kuzovlev) was a member of the Petersburg Menshevik group (Schwarz, op cit, pp171-72).

[37].    Trotsky seems to be implying here that Sverchkov was a Menshevik at this time. By contrast, Deutscher clearly states that in the Soviet, the ‘chief Bolshevik spokesmen were Knuniyants-Radin and Sverchkov’. He describes Trotsky himself as ‘the chief Menshevik representative, even though abroad he had resigned from the group’ (Deutscher, op cit, p130).

[38].    Menshevism’s decisive turn to the right after 1905 included sharp criticism of its own members for having allowed themselves to be swept to the left during the revolution itself.

[39].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp156-57.

[40].    See L Trotsky’s letter reproduced earlier [note in text].

[41].    Boris Savinkov (1879-1925) moved sharply to the right after 1905 in line with the dominant trend in the intelligentsia. In 1917, he returned to Russia after a period of exile and became Deputy War Minister in the Provisional Government under Kerensky. He played a key role in the intrigue between Kerensky and General Kornilov, who attempted a military coup. Trotsky described him at this time as ‘a mighty seeker of adventures, a revolutionist of the sporting type, one who had acquired a scorn for the masses in the school of individual terror, a man of talent and will — qualities which had not, however, prevented him from becoming for a number of years an instrument in the hands of the famous provocateur Azef…’. After the October revolution, Savinkov joined the Whites and led a short-lived anti-Bolshevik uprising of army officers in Yaroslavl (Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924(Pimlico, London, 1997), pp170, 209, 438-55, 558-59, 642; Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Volume Two (Sphere, London, 1967), pp125, 147, 193).

[42].    Yevno Azef (1869-1918), one of the founders of the SR Party, headed the Fighting Organisation, which operated independently of the party, for security reasons, from 1903 to 1908. The ‘most notorious police agent in Russia’, in Utechin’s words, he became a kind of unofficial double agent, betraying revolutionaries to the police and organising the assassination of prominent figures, including his own boss, Plehve, the Minister of Internal Affairs, in 1904 (see above, Chapter 1: The Road to Bloody Sunday, Part VIII: The Rise of Father Gapon). He was unmasked by Burtsev (see above, this chapter, Part I: Tribunes of the People, a: October Heat: A New Russia) in 1908 and spent the rest of his life dealing on the Berlin stock exchange under an assumed name (Pokrovskii, op cit, pp312-13, 346-47 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp69, 102]; LG Praisman, Terroristy i revoliutsionery, okhraniki i provokatory[Terrorists and Revolutionaries, Secret Policemen and Provocateurs] (ROSSPEN [Rossiiskaia politicheskaia entsiklopediia], Moscow, 2001); Utechin, op cit).

[43].    Source: B Gorev, ‘Za kulisami pervoi revoliutsii. Otryvki iz vospominanii o deiatel’nosti peterburgskikh bol’shevikov vo vtoroi polovine 1905 goda’ (Doklad chitannyi v Istoricheskoi sektsii Doma Pechati) [‘Behind the Scenes of the First Revolution: Excerpts from Memories of the Activities of the Petersburg Bolsheviks in the Second Half of 1905’ (A Report Read to the Historical Section of the Press Centre)], Istoriko-revoliutsionnyi biulleten’[The Bulletin of Revolutionary History], no 1, January 1922, pp14-15.

[44].    Yulii Martov (real name Tsederbaum, 1873-1923) was the leader of the Mensheviks. He broke with Lenin in 1903 after they had worked closely together for some years. He opposed the First World War, unlike the majority of his party. He stayed in Russia after the October 1917 revolution, but settled in Germany after heading a Menshevik delegation abroad in 1920. Trotsky remarks more than once on the inability of ‘this unusually able man’ to do anything other than vacillate and flounder around at decisive moments. True to his obsession with compromise, he urged the imprisoned Soviet deputies to deny that they had aimed at an armed uprising and to base their defence on the argument that their actions had been in line with the constitutional manifesto (Deutscher, op cit, p146; Trotsky, My Life, op cit, pp182-83 [Trotskii, Moia zhizn’, op cit, p184]; Utechin, op cit, p340).

[45].    The first issue of Novaya zhizn(The New Life), the first legal Bolshevik paper in Russia, appeared in the third week of November 1905 (Schwarz, op cit, p160).

[46].    According to Schwarz, ‘Nina Lvovna’ (also known as Zver) was MM Essen, an influential member of the Bolshevik Petersburg Committee (Schwarz, op cit, p180).

[47].    The fact that Schwarz was a key figure in one of the district organisations most hostile to the Soviet suggests that there may have been an element of extreme rebound in Schwarz’s becoming a Menshevik. In his own version of the story told here by Gorev, the resolution in his district, which he drafted, opposed the ultimatist line on the Soviet, as did another one from a meeting of workers at the Semenov plant, which he claims the credit for getting through. He gives no clear sources for these claims, and he does not quote from the resolutions, which he says were ‘poorly formulated’. An article he wrote on the same theme was published, but ‘was so poorly constructed that the rejection of the Soviet as political leader seemed to be the main point, while the arguments in its favour melted into the background’ (Schwarz, op cit, pp180, 188).

[48].    According to Schwarz, the resolution passed by the Federative Council and put to the Soviet did not say this, ‘but was in fact a compromise, as could be expected from its source. It toned down the Bolsheviks’ view enough to enable them to retreat from their “ultimatum” stand’. He suggests that the version told here by Gorev in 1922 was ‘recent’ (Schwarz’s book was published in 1967). However, he later admits in a footnote that in 1927 Nevsky, a Bolshevik historian whom he describes as ‘a reliable writer’, more or less agreed — ‘surprisingly’ — with Gorev and, as we have seen, with Trotsky in 1921 (Schwarz, op cit, pp182-84).

[49].    Grigory Zinoviev, whose real name was Radomyslsky (1883-1936), joined the RSDWP in 1901, and sided with the Bolsheviks at the split in 1903, and was one of the key leaders of the party during 1909-17. He opposed with Kamenev the Bolshevik-led seizure of power. A major figure in the Soviet leadership struggles of the 1920s, he sided with Kamenev and Stalin against Trotsky, then with Kamenev and Trotsky in the Joint Opposition against Stalin and Bukharin. Deprived of all offices by Stalin, he was expelled from the Communist Party several times and imprisoned before being executed after the first show trial of the Great Terror in 1936 (Utechin, op cit, pp621-22).

[50].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp139-41.

[51].    This was the third time the Soviet had had to move since its first session four days earlier.

[52].    This ‘constitutional’ manifesto ordered the government to introduce ‘civic freedom based on the principles of real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly, and union’, and ‘to admit to participation in the Duma… those classes of the population which at present are altogether deprived of the franchise’. It also laid down that ‘no law can become effective without the approval of the State Duma’. Other parts of the manifesto made it clear that these concessions were linked with ‘measures to suppress the direct manifestation of disorder, rioting and violence… in order to carry out more successfully the measures designed by us for the pacification of the state’. In the resulting electoral law of December 1905 for the first State Duma, the vote of a landowner equalled the votes of 3½ city dwellers, 15 peasants and 45 workers (Ascher, op cit, p302).

[53].    For more on Colonel Riman, see above Chapter 1, Part IX: Two Views of Bloody Sunday, b: Bloody Sunday across St Petersburg.

[54].    For the role of Witte at this time and his ‘letter’ or memorandum, see, for example, Ascher, op cit, pp222-28; Trotsky, 1905,op cit, pp136-40.

[55].    A cornet was a very junior cavalry officer.

[56].    For more on Colonel Min, see above footnote on Colonel Riman. Min, promoted to general, commanded the military suppression of the Moscow uprising. He was assassinated by a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party in August 1906. See VI Lenin, ‘The Events of the Day’, Collected Works, Volume 11 (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1962), p167.

[57].    Source: V Karelina, ‘Rabotnitsy posle 9-go ianvaria’ [‘Women Workers after 9 January’], in P Kudelli (ed), Rabotnitsa v 1905 goduv Peterburge[The Woman Worker in 1905 in Petersburg] (Priboi, Leningrad, 1926), pp64-67.

[58].    Thirteen streets simply designated as numbered pairs of ‘Lines’ (linii) intersect Vasilievsky Island’s three main avenues (prospekty) at right angles. See, for example, Richardson and Humphreys, op cit, pp147-50.

[59].    Karelina is referring to Gapon’s organisation, in which she played a leading part. See above Chapter 1: The Road to Bloody Sunday, Part VIII: The Rise of Father Gapon.

[60].    See above Chapter 2, A Revolution Takes Shape, Part I: The Changes Begin, b; A Woman’s Life, for some biographical details of Boldyreva.

[61].    Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p11. This extract is taken from the front page lead.

[62].    I have translated the word duma(council) here in order not to confuse it with assemblies covering most of the empire such as the projected Bulygin Duma and the slightly more democratic and less toothless State Duma which was conceded as a result of the 1905 revolution. It is, of course, no accident that the lower house of the present Russian parliament is also called the State Duma, as a standard handbook on the 1993 constitution acknowledges (SM Shakhrai(ed), Konstitutsiia rossiiskoi federatsii: entsiklopedicheskii slovar’[The Constitution of the Russian Federation: An Encyclopaedic Dictionary] (Bol’shaia Rossiiskaia Entsiklopediia, Moscow, 1995) p44).

[63].    Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, pp21, 22.

[64].    Ibid, p22. In his notes on this issue, Sverchkov points out that Trotsky at this time represented in the Soviet the RSDWP Federative Committee, which brought together the city’s Bolsheviks and Mensheviks (ibid, p32).

[65].    Among them was Zlydniev [note in text].

[66].    Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p42.

[67].    Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, p176.

[68].    Source: VL Burtsev, Bor’ba za svobodu Rossii. Moi vospominaniia[The Struggle for the Freedom of Russia: My Memoirs](1882-1922 gg), Volume 1 (Gamaiun, Berlin, 1923), pp161-63, 168. Vladimir Lvovich Burtsev (1862-1936), a Socialist Revolutionary and historian of the Russian revolutionary movement, was famous for his ability to unmask police agents. He supported the First World War and returned to Russia, where he resumed publication of the journal Byloe(The Past), from which a number of the extracts translated here are taken. He emigrated for the last time in the early 1920s, and concentrated on attacking the Bolsheviks (Utechin, op cit, p83).

[69].    The Constitutional Democratic party was, as its name suggested, generally in favour of tacking something like a Western European parliament on to the Tsarist monarchy and the empire, in theory at any rate. In practice, it was willing to make all kinds of compromises with Tsarism at the expense of the majority of the population. Formed in October 1905, it was the main liberal party to come out of the 1905 revolution. As such, it was seen by right-wing socialists — Mensheviks and right SRs — as what should be the leading oppositional force to Tsarist autocracy. See, for example, Ascher, op cit, pp234-37;VA Fedorov (ed),Istoriia Rossii XIX — nachala XX v [History of Russia in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries] (Prospekt, Moscow, 2004), pp400-01; Figes, op cit, pp192-93 and passim; VI Lenin, ‘The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers Party’, Collected Works, Volume 10 (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1972), pp214-22. Russians abbreviated Constitutional Democrat to Kadet, taking the k and the d from the first letters of the party’s name. They are referred to in English as Kadets or Cadets, depending on the individual writer’s taste.

[70].    Burtsev undoubtedly had in mind the rather shaky ‘freedoms’ set out in the constitutional manifesto and the revised State Duma, which was to be a touch more democratic than the old Bulygin model which had been swept away by the October strike.

[71].    Leon Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p148.

[72].    Pokrovskii, op cit, pp417-19 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp169-71]; Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p148-55.

[73].    Quoted in Ascher, op cit, p259.

[74].    Shlomo Lombrosa, ‘The Pogroms of 1903-1906’, in John D Klier and Shlomo Lombrosa (eds), Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History(Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992), pp229-30.

[75].    Ascher, op cit, pp260, 261.

[76].    Lombrosa, op cit, pp241-42.

[77].    Source: AD Kirzhnits (compiler), Evreiskoe rabochee dvizhenie[The Jewish Workers’ Movement], Volume 7 of MN Pokrovskii (ed), 1905: Materialy i dokumenty[1905: Materials and Documents], (Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo [State Publishing House], Moscow, 1928), pp215-17. This source is full of fascinating information about the detail of the pogroms, what pogrom leaflets were like, how people were roped into them, etc.

[78].    DM Neidhardt was one of two high officials ‘who had brazenly shown their sympathy for the pogroms’ to be dismissed and put on trial. Both were cleared by the Senate the following year (Ascher, op cit, p260).

[79].    Meshchaninis often translated as a member of the petit-bourgeoisie or lower middle class. Officially, a meshchaninwas a member of the meshchanstvo, a group which derived from feudal ideas about social divisions (estates, orders) rather different from modern notions of class. David Lane has used the term ‘townsmen’, that is, tradesmen, traders, shopkeepers, ‘men employed on their own account’, and handicraftsmen, see his The Roots of Russian Communism: A Social and Historical Study of Russian Social-Democracy 1898-1907(Martin Robertson, London, 1975), p18.

[80].    Der Bund, no 10, 1905 [footnote in the original]. Der Bundwas the paper of the General Jewish Union (Bund) of Poland and Lithuania, a separate — but anti-Zionist — Jewish Social Democratic party.

[81].    The different types of Tsarist police do not seem to have any obvious modern equivalents.

[82].    This part of Kuzminsky’s report is cited in Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p150. For ‘an astonishingly candid interview’ with Kaulbars (who apparently outranked Neidhardt), see Ascher, op cit, p258.

[83].    Robert Weinberg, ‘The Pogrom of 1905 in Odessa: A Case Study’, in Klier and Lombrosa, op cit, pp264, 272-78.

[84].    Source: Dmitrii Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp152-54.

[85].    Vera Zasulich (1849-1919) was one of the first generation of Russian Marxists, and a lifelong bohemian. She began to get involved in revolutionary politics when she was about 17. Imprisoned for two years without charge at the age of 20, she was forced into exile after shooting Trepov (see footnote on Trepov in Chapter 2: A Revolution Takes Shape, Part I: The Changes Begin). She corresponded with Marx and with Engels, whom she met in 1893. A founder member in 1883 of the Emancipation of Labour Group, the first Marxist organisation in Russia, she caught tuberculosis in 1889 looking after its leader, Georgy Plekhanov. She contributed to Iskra(The Spark), the first RSDWP paper, and Zarya(The Dawn), its journalduring 1900-02. She became a Menshevik after the party split in 1903. She returned to Russia in October 1905, and, demoralised by the December defeat, went into semi-retirement. She supported the First World War, and opposed the October revolution. Lenin was outraged when she was evicted from her lodgings in the winter of 1918-19. She died of pneumonia in May 1919, receiving respectful Bolshevik obituaries, and the Soviet government paid for what was essentially a Menshevik funeral (Jay Bergman, Vera Zasulich: A Biography (Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 1983); VI Zasulich, Izbrannye proizvedeniia[Selected Works] (Mysl’, Moscow, 1983).

[86].    Nikolai Dmitrievich Avksentiev (1878-1943) became leader of the right-wing Socialist Revolutionaries, Minister of Internal Affairs in the Provisional Government, a member of a short-lived anti-Bolshevik government in 1918 known as the Ufa Directory which was overthrown by Whites under Admiral Kolchak, and spent the rest of his life in emigration (Utechin, op cit, pp43, 570).

[87].    The report of AA Lopukhin, the Director of the Department of Police in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, revealed that in October and November 1905 a secret press in the Petersburg police headquarters had printed thousands of leaflets urging ‘all true Russians to rise and exterminate all foreigners, Jews, Armenians, etc, and all those who were advocates of reform and talked of restricting the autocratic power of the Sovereign’. The affair, which showed that the entire chain of command including the Tsar was at least sympathetic to the pogromists, became public in February 1906. Sverchkov may have been mistaken about the report going to Stolypin as he did not become the strong man of the cabinet until two months later. The report, as Ascher says, probably went to Witte (Ascher, op cit, p259).

[88].    Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp176-77.

[89].    Lombrosa, op cit, p222.

[90].    Weinberg, op cit, p279.

[91].    Kirzhnits, op cit, p223.

[92].    Quoted in ibid, p218.

[93].    Source: Dmitrii Sverchkov (ed), Izvestiya soveta rabochikh deputatov. S-Peterburg, 17-go oktiabria–14-go dekabria 1905 goda [News of the Council of Workers’ Deputies, St Petersburg, 17 October–14 December 1905] (Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo [State Publishing House], Leningrad, 1925), p33.

[94].    Source: Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p42. This resolution appeared in the entries for 1 November 1905.

[95].    Trotsky, 1905,op cit, p182.

[96].    In his notes on this edition of Izvestiya, Sverchkov says that it was actually printed on 2 November, the second day of the strike, as by 3 November all the printing houses had stopped work. He also mentions that the deputies from workplaces turned themselves into ‘rabkory’ — worker correspondents — who vied with each other in getting reports and workplace resolutions to Izvestiyaas quickly as possible (Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p48).

[97].    Ibid, p37.

[98].    Ibid.

[99].    This was Knuniyants, according to Sverchkov’s notes (ibid, p48).

[100].  For summaries of the mutiny, see, for example, Ascher, op cit, pp269-70; Sidney Harcave, The Russian Revolution of 1905(Collier, London, 1970), pp220-21; Pokrovskii, op cit, pp421-22, 428-29 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp174-75, 179-80]; Trotsky, 1905,op cit, pp181-93.

[101].  Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, pp38, 48.

[102].  Source: Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, pp39-40.

[103].  This was the joint committee which united the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions in the city.

[104].  The struggle for the eight-hour day was in full swing at this point. See below this chapter, Part II: A Soviet at Work, b: The Struggle for the Eight-Hour Day.

[105].  This presumably refers to the liberal-sounding official statements which followed the constitutional manifesto of 17 October 1905.

[106].  According to Sverchkov’s notes, one can see signs in the resolutions from the factories of the political struggle between the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats (both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, presumably). Phrases like ‘the transfer of all the land into the hands of the working people’, as here, or references to ‘the labouring peasantry’, as in the pharmacists’ resolution below, are signs of SR influence. The SRs could get over-insistent on the inclusion of such phrases, and the Social Democratic workers could respond by being over-emphatic about keeping them out (Sverchkov,Izvestiya, op cit, pp68, 77).

[107].  Trotsky, 1905,op cit, pp182-83. See also Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, p158, which echoes Trotsky’s claims. For the significance of strikes in smaller workplaces, see below Chapter 5: Patterns of Conflict in the 1905 Revolution, Table 7. Bear in mind that the strike figures in Chapter 5, unlike Trotsky’s estimate, only take in part of the working class.

[108].  Source: Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p41. This report appeared in the entries for 1 November 1905.

[109].  This was the November strike.

[110].  This made-up word is intended to preserve the flavour of the original Russian.

[111].  Trotsky, 1905,op cit, pp183-84.

[112].  Trotsky is similarly modest elsewhere. See, for example: Trotsky, 1905,op cit, p192; Sverch­kov, op cit, p161. For an even more striking piece of modesty, see the footnote below on the speech in the 5 November session of the Soviet by the Executive Committee’s representative in favour of calling off the strike.

[113].  Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, p160.

[114].  Duncan Hallas, Trotsky’s Marxism(Pluto Press, London, 1979), p4.

[115].  Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, p160.

[116].  Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p62. 

[117].  This was the joint committee which coordinated the activity of all the Social Democrats in the city, Bolshevik and Menshevik.

[118].  Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p63.

[119].  The complete speech is in Trotsky, 1905,op cit, pp185-88. However, Trotsky modestly does not mention that it was his speech at all. The speech achieved the extremely difficult feat of keeping up morale at the same time as winning a decision in favour of calling off the strike. See Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p77.

[120].  This was the first appearance of a soldiers’ deputy in the Soviet. He was soon followed by others. The Soviet took stringent — and successful — security measures to prevent their identities being discovered by the police (Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p77).

[121].  Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p65.

[122].  See, for example, VI Lenin, ‘To the Combat Committee of the St Petersburg Committee’, Collected Works, Volume 9, op cit, pp344-46. For a wider discussion of Lenin’s ideas about armed insurrection at this time, see Tony Cliff, LeninVolume 1: Building the Party(Pluto Press, London, 1975), pp183-96.

[123].  Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, pp38-39. The specific form which the lack of organisation had taken at Kronstadt had been the inability of the more political servicemen to prevent the movement degenerating into attacks on property, etc.

[124].  Source: Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, pp65-66. The speech is translated here in full as it appears in the minutes of the 6 November 1905 session of the Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, published in Izvestiya, no 7, Monday, 7 November 1905.

[125].  In view of the content of the speech, the speaker must have come from the PPS-Left or ‘Młodzi’. See the introduction to Chapter 4 below on Rosa Luxemburg and the 1905 revolution in Poland.

[126].  The speaker means that the Russian autocracy saw the Bulygin duma as a way of attracting the bourgeoisie to its side. For brief details of the Bulygin duma, see above Chapter 2: A Revolution Takes Shape, Part IV; Afterword.

[127].  Empress Catherine II, often called the Great (1729-1796). The daughter of a Prussian field marshal, she came to the throne in 1762 after her supporters murdered her husband, Peter III. Russia acquired immense swathes of territory during Catherine’s reign, and Poland was partitioned three times, after which the border of the empire had moved some 400 miles to the west. See, for example Lionel Kochan, The Making of Modern Russia(Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1979), pp126-30; Utechin, op cit, p87.

[128].  The November strike.

[129].  See, for example, Ascher, op cit, p281; Hans Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution 1881-1917(Longman, London, 1983), p217.

[130].  Trotsky, 1905,op cit, p189. Trotsky quotes from a Soviet resolution.

[131].  Ibid.

[132].  Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p63.

[133].  Source: Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, pp67-68.

[134].  Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, p75.

[135].  Trotsky, 1905,op cit, p189.

[136].  Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp160-61.

[137].  Located on the opposite bank of the River Neva from the Winter Palace, the Peter and Paul Fortress gained a grim reputation as a place of terror for dissidents and revolutionaries after first being used as a prison in 1718, when Peter the Great’s son was tortured to death there (Humphreys and Richardson, op cit, pp165-72).

[138].  A military engineer.

[139].  Georgy Valentinovich Plekhanov (1857-1918) was the most important figure from the old Narodnik revolutionary movement to come over to Marxism. Known as the ‘Father of Russian Marxism’, he founded the first Marxist organisation in Russia, and wrote extensively on politics and Marxist theory. He worked closely with Lenin to build the RSDWP until 1903, but joined the Mensheviks soon after the party split. His verdict on 1905 was summed up in what became a well-known phrase: ‘It was wrong to take up arms.’ He supported the First World War. Bitterly anti-Bolshevik in 1917, he died soon after the Bolsheviks took power (Utechin, op cit, pp422-23).

[140].  Source: Sverchkov, Izvestiya, op cit, p43.This report appeared under the entries for 1 November 1905.

[141].  Pokrovskii, op cit, pp414-16, 425-37, 597-600 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp167-69, 177-89, 320-23].

[142].  M Vasil’ev (Iuzhin), ‘Iz vospominanii o moskovskom vosstanii 1905 g’, Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, no 5, 1922, p190. Pokrovsky’s antipathy to Trotsky seems to date back to a similar period, see Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp342-60.

[143].  Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p195. This is confirmed by the extract from Sverchkov which follows.

[144].  Pokrovskii, op cit, p430 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp181-82].

[145].  Ascher, op cit, pp279-80, 282.

[146].  Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp194-201.

[147].  Pokrovskii, op cit, p435 [Pokrovsky, op cit, p186].

[148].  Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp166-69.

[149].  According to Trotsky, deputies from one of the Petersburg districts decided as early as 26 October to push the issue in their workplaces, which voted in favour on 27 October and began to stop work after eight hours on 28 October. ‘An identical movement flared up simultaneously at the other end of Petersburg.’ In other words, the action was well under way by the time the Soviet discussed it on 29 October (Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp194-201).

[150].  At the Aleksandrov plant, for example, the vote was 1668 votes for implementing an eight-hour day and 14 against (Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p195).

[151].  Pavel Miliukov (1859-1943) was an historian, leader of the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party, member of the State Duma during 1907-17, and Foreign Minister in the Provisional Government after the overthrow of the Tsar in 1917. He later lived in Paris, and died in London (Utechin, op cit, pp132-33, 352).

[152].  Trotsky describes this extraordinary rising in some detail (Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp214-24). See also Ascher, op cit, pp270-72; Pokrovskii, op cit, pp422-24 [Pokrovsky, op cit, pp175-76].

[153].  Ascher, op cit, p183; Gorev, ‘Za kulisami pervoi revoliutsii’, Istoriko-revoliutsionnyi biulleten’,no 1, January 1922, p15; VI Lenin, ‘Resolution of the Executive Committee’, Collected Works, Volume 10, op cit,pp50-51; Pokrovskii, op cit, p429 [Pokrovsky, op cit, p181].

[154].  Source: Sverchkov, Na zare, op cit, pp195-97.

[155].  Ibid, p179.

[156].  Secret policemen. The Tsarist secret police was known as the Okhrana.

[157].  Trotsky’s account indicates that Weinstein was the representative of the Office Workers Union (Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p247).

[158].  Trotskii, Moiazhizn, op cit, p181 [Trotsky, My Life, op cit, p179].

[159].  Trotskii, Moiazhizn, op cit, pp181-82 [Trotsky,My Life, op cit, p180].

[160].  Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 1 (Sphere, London, 1967), p448.

[161].  Figes, for example, calls it ‘a small-scale event, being in effect no more than a military coup’, though he seems to accept that it had some claim to being democratic (Figes, op cit, pp484, 489).

[162].  Pokrovskii, op cit, p594 [Pokrovsky, op cit, p318].

[163].  In the July Days, for example. See Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 2, op cit, pp17-91.

[164].  Ascher, op cit, p310.

[165].  Trotsky, 1905, op cit, p198. The woman may have been V Karelina, whose writings have been used more than once in this collection (see above, Chapter 2: A Revolution Takes Shape, Part III: Stopping the War, and this chapter, Part I: A United Front Against Tsarism, c: Days of Freedom, Women Workers Raise the Red Flag), or possibly Anna Afanasyeva, who had allowed Karelina to take her place in the Soviet.

[166].  VI Lenin, ‘Lessons of the Moscow Uprising’, Collected Works, Volume 11, op cit, p175. The same incident is described in slightly different terms in Trotsky, 1905, op cit, pp252-53.

[167].  VI Lenin, ‘Lessons of the Moscow Uprising’, Collected Works, Volume 11, op cit, p172.

[168].  Source: B Gorev, ‘Za kulisami pervoi revoliutsii’, Istoriko-revoliutsionnyi biulleten’, no 1, January 1922, p15.

[169].  Grigory Alexeyevich Alexinsky (1879-?) was an ultra-left Bolshevik at this point. In Trotsky’s words, ‘a shrieking orator and a passionate lover of intrigue’, he later rapidly moved rightwards until by 1914 he was an outright supporter of Russia in the First World War, working with Plekhanov and other extreme defencists, and by 1917 an organiser of a slander campaign against the Bolsheviks. He went into exile in 1918, and wrote a fanciful exposé of Lenin.

[170].  Source: M Vasil’ev (Iuzhin), ‘Iz vospominanii o moskovskom vosstanii 1905 g’, Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, no 5, 1922, pp191-92.

[171].  Source: Pokrovskii, Izbrannye proizvedeniia. Kniga 3: Russkaia istoriia v samom szhatom ocherke, op cit, pp454, 456-61 [Pokrovsky, Brief History of Russia, Volume 2, op cit, pp204, 206-11].

[172].  See above this chapter, Part IIc: Retreat.

[173].  V Storozhev, ‘Dekabr’skoe vooruzhennoe vosstanie (po arkhivnym materialam)’ [‘The December Armed Uprising (According to Archive Materials)’], in Dekabr’skoe vosstanie v Moskve1905 g[The December 1905 Uprising in Moscow] (Moscow, 1919), p79 [endnote in the text].

[174].  That is, as an administrative decision, without a trial.

[175].  A reference to a saying of Peter the Great which was quoted by Lenin on the eve of the October revolution. From a translator’s note in Pokrovsky, op cit, p207.

[176].  Iaroslavskii, Dekabr’skoe vosstanie, p141; author’s emphasis [footnote by Pokrovsky]. An endnote in the edited edition used as the source for this translation adds that the quotation is slightly inaccurate (Pokrovskii, op cit, pp458, 632). According to GK Derman (ed), Pervaia Russkaia revoliutsiia. Ukazatel’ literatury[The First Russian Revolution: A Bibliographical Index] (Kommun­isticheskaia akademiia, Moscow, 1930), p99, the full publication details of Yaroslavsky’s work are E Iaroslavskii, Dekabr’skoe vosstanie, in MNPokrovskii (ed), 1905: istoriia revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia v otdel’nykh ocherkakh[The Year 1905: A History of the Revolutionary Movement in Separate Works] (Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo [State Publishing House], Moscow, 1925), Volume 3.

[177].  Pokrovsky, who quoted this passage at some length, summarised it like this: ‘This seemed no more than a promise to repeat what had happened in October.’ (Pokrovskii, op cit, p452 [Pokrovsky, op cit, p203])

[178].  Iaroslavskii, op cit [footnote by Pokrovsky].

[179].  Another prominent leader of the uprising, comrade Sedoy, described our forces like this: ‘“How many fighters were there in Moscow?”, you will ask. As far as I can tell from my information there were about 700 or 800 armed with revolvers in the fighting units. In the Railway district there were not more than 100, but in Presnya, Khamovniki and Bytyrki with what we inherited but without counting the Schmidt unit there were not more than 180 to 200 in all. This takes into account both the “bulldogs” and revolvers which were taken from the police and the double-barrelled guns we got from the population.’ (Dekabr’ 1905 g na Krasnoi Presne[December 1905 in Red Presnya], p184 [footnote by Pokrovsky]) An endnote in the edited edition used as the source for this translation adds that the quotation is taken from an appendix to the work Pokrovsky cites entitled ‘Vecher vospominanii dekabristov 1905 g’ [‘An Evening of Memories with the Decembrists of 1905’]. According to Derman (op cit), Dekabr’ 1905 g na Krasnoi Presnewas edited by V Nevsky, was published in Moscow by the State Publishing House, and ran to three editions in 1924 and 1925.

[180].  Dekabr’ 1905 g na Krasnoi Presne[footnote by Pokrovsky]. An endnote in the later edited edition used as the source for this translation adds that the quotation comes from Z Dosser, ‘Na Presne i v Moskovskom Komitete bol’shevikov v dekabr’skie dni1905 g’ [‘In Presnya and in the Bolshevik Moscow Committee in the December Days of 1905’] and is taken from page 13 of the above work, which was an anthology of memoirs by participants in the uprising.

[181]   Dekabr’ 1905 g na Krasnoi Presne, p16 [footnote by Pokrovsky]. See footnote above for full details of publication.

[182].  Moscow and St Petersburg are often referred to in Russia as the two capitals, whichever one of them happens to have that title officially at the time (in 1905 it was St Petersburg, today it is Moscow).

[183].  Baltic Latvian Social-Democratic Workers Organisation (BLSDSO) and Latvian Social-Dem­ocratic Group of Courland (LSDGK).

[184].  Ascher, op cit, p331, gives the composition of Orlov’s forces as three infantry regiments, 14 cavalry squadrons, four heavy guns, and 20 machine guns.

[185].  Figures from Bruno Kalnins, Latvijas socialdemokratijas piecdesmit gadi[Fifty Years of The Latvian Social Democratic Party] (LSDSP Arzemju Komtiejas Izdevums, Stockholm, 1952), p333.

[186].  Source: Ernest O F Ames (ed), The Revolution in the Baltic Provinces of Russia: A Brief Account of the Activity of the Lettish Social Democratic Workers Party by an Active Member(ILP, London, 1907), pp66-79.

[187].  The direct ancestor of today’s Guardian.

[188].  That is, endorsed as being valid and in order. These would have been internal passports which were abolished by the Soviet government after the October 1917 revolution and re-introduced under Stalin in December 1932 (Richard Sakwa, Soviet Politics: An Introduction(Routledge, London, 1990), p49.

[189].  It is a fact that many were said by the authorities to have tried to escape only to put as good a face as possible upon their continual shooting of prisoners without trial [footnote in the original].

[190].  Salisbury, op cit, p167.