Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the Russian Revolution in 1905. However, before there was a revolution, he, as well as other leaders in his party, had to decide who should start the revolution. The workers or peasants were chosen. According to Marxism, the workers of the world should unite. Of course, there was a problem-Russia in the late 1800s and early 1900s had very few workers. Instead, Russia had an agrarian economy. Therefore, the original approach to starting a revolution was to get the peasants involved. Unfortunately for the revolutionaries, the peasants did not want to get involved and usually had the revolutionaries thrown in jail.
The revolution attempt was failing. In the section entitled “The Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats” in Lenin’s What is to be Done?, he begins to argue that even though the workers are a small population, they should be the ones to start the revolution since they, “…marked the awakening antagonisms between workers and employers; but the workers, were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of the interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social Democratic consciousness” (What is to be Done, Section Two). Basically, Lenin was stating that the workers have not yet realized that they fit with the Social Democratic viewpoint, but with a little encouragement, they would be the ones to start a revolution. He specifically cites the St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896 as the first sign of the worker’s discontent and a sign that they are very close to his and his fellow revolutionaries viewpoints.
What was the St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896? On May 16 and 17, 1896 the textile mills in the city were closed for the coronation of Nicolas II. However, the workers were not paid for the two days the mills were closed. The first strike began on May 23 when workers of the Russian Cotton Mill demanded payment for the two days holiday. On the 27th of May, workers from the Ekateringof Textile Mill and the Koenig Factory joined, followed by workers at the Mitrofan’ev Textile Mill on May 28th. The workers now had more demands, including a shorter work day. By the beginning of June, the strikes had led to a de facto siege on the capital city, headed by the League of Struggle. At the end of the first week of June, 18 textile factories were on strike and official reposts stated that over 15,000 workers were participants on the strike. However, due to over 1,000 arrests by mid-june the strike had weakened significantly.
Although there was no short term effects to the strikes in the summer of 1896, the long term effects led to the 1905 revolution. Lenin saw these strikes as the beginning of the uprising of the workers. Although the strikes were, according to Lenin, a union struggle, the underlying cause lined up with the Social Democratic views. In Lenin’s mind, the St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896 was the start of something bigger, something that could change the face of Russia forever.
This post was really unique compared to the other class posts. Most people focused, in some way, on Bloody Sunday. I appreciated hearing your interpretation of the Lenin reading because I definitely struggled reading the article. I also enjoyed hearing about another revolt, one that influenced the Revolution of 1905. What was the result of the result on Marxism and the League of Struggles? How did the revolt influence ideologies? Did this revolt promote worker involvement in the 1905 revolution, or would that be too far of a reach? Think of these questions to expand further on this topic. This was really great overall!
I agree with carlin’s comment above. It was really great to read about something different than Bloody Sunday and Father Gapon (even though those are very interesting topics). I think you did a good job of summarizing Lenin’s ideas from the excerpt you cited which can be a little tricky with how dense some of his work is. In addition it was great that you hit on some of the earlier events leading up to the 1905 revolution. It is sometimes easy to look at something like Bloody Sunday and say here is why people revolted in 1905, but in reality it is the steady build-up that is important. Lots of little things add up before the situation is brought to a full boil!
You are completely correct that these uprisings led to the 1905 revolution and Lenin’s eventual takeover. Lenin was right that the workers needed consciousness in order to change the existing system. And that consciousness helped overthrow regimes in 1905 and 1917. But Marxism is based off of an industrialized capitalist economy. And although the Russian workforce increased in numbers and had many more strikes, the country was still agrarian. A proper Marxist revolution could not happen until Russia modernized and because of popular unrest it was rushed, and the 1896 strikes show why.
I agree with Connor and Ben. You provide valuable context for the labor movement and its development leading up to 1905. Ben’s analysis of the significance of the 1896 strikes seems especially important. Well done!
This post really added to what we’ve talked about in class. Great job!