V. I.   Lenin

Hands Off!

Published: Proletary, No. 3, September 8, 1906. Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 189-193.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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The book Moscow in December 190S deals with events of tremendous importance in the history of the Russian revolution. As regards the positive conclusions to be drawn from the Moscow uprising, we gave them in general outline in our last issue.[1] Here we shall dwell on those aspects of this important, but badly executed, piece of work which have special reference to the Social-Democrats in Moscow.

The “compilers” of this book state in their preface that they used material supplied by Social-Democratic organisations, which, however, “as such have no connection with this work”. It goes without saying that it is extremely irregular for Social-Democratic organisations to supply such in formation to persons who are not responsible to these organisations. The organisations of the workers’ party have now undoubtedly been put in an awkward position by the slovenly treatment of their materials and by the choice assortment of banalities with which these have been “ornamented”. All the Moscow Social-Democratic organisations, and primarily, of course, their leading body—the Moscow Committee—must, in our opinion, consider this matter and take measures to prevent a recurrence of such irregularities.

Here is one of the many instances of how the anonymous authors of the book “treat” the material supplied to them by the Social-Democratic organisations. The authors deal with the role of the revolutionary organisations in the Moscow events, and, in particular, with the Manifesto of the Combat Organisation of the Moscow Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, published on December   11, in No. 5 of Izvestia Sovetov Rabochikh Deputatov.[2] Without giving any coherent account of the contents and character of this document, the authors give rein to their profundity by the following criticism. They quote No. 5: ’The fighting is at its height. For many hours a number of sanguinary battles were fought in the streets of Moscow between the people in revolt and the tsar’s troops”, and they “criticise” as follows: “We know that there were only minor skirmishes between troops and a few fighting squads in the streets of Moscow.” And with mock passion they cry out against this “substitution [sic!] of the action of handfuls of armed men for mass struggle”, and exclaim: “Where did the masses come in, how could they display activity?” etc., etc.

What is this?? Can these efforts to appear profound by such methods of “criticism” be called a scientific analysis?? Just think: in a serious historical work, in a special chapter devoted to the part played by the revolutionary organisations, the authors try to find fault with the fact that on December 11, i.e., a few days before the crisis, when new methods of struggle were just beginning to be applied, the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies dared to speak of “a people in revolt”! Perhaps it should have spoken of “a few fighting squads” in a profoundly condescending tone and not have called on the people and the masses to assist in the fight that was beginning? What term but cheap can we apply to these doctrinaire efforts to be “clever”, these verbal quibbles, when you find these very same “compilers” in a number of pas sages in their book referring to the people as a whole, the “whole population” turning out on the streets? Do try to understand, you pitiful creatures, that to be a member of a revolutionary organisation in Moscow on December 11, and yet not to speak of the people in revolt could only mean that the one who kept silent was a member of the Black Hundreds or a soulless pedant like Pollack in Leonid Andreyev’s To the Stars.[3]

Let us proceed. As regards the Manifesto issued by the Combat Organisation and published in the same issue of Izvestia (No. 5), the compilers say with a sneer: “Squads of three or four persons, in the opinion of the authors of the manifesto, were to present [!] the people with a capital   city freed from centuries of oppression.” “The Combat Organisation decided that there was no need f or the masses to act.”

Let us turn to the Manifesto. The compilers of this book do not print it in full; they only give excerpts from it. But even in the excerpts chosen by these “investigators” we read a direct call of the Combat Organisation: “Organise as many of these squads as possible.” Thus, the idea of “presenting” something to the people, the idea that “there was no need for the masses to act”, is imputed to those who from the very first day of the armed struggle called upon “as many workers as possible” to join the fighting squads....

What is this? Literary slovenliness or hack literature? The authors make no attempt whatever to analyse the connection between military organisation and military technique, the functions and interrelation of the direct armed fight and the auxiliary struggle. They shut their eyes to the past, they forget that both general strikes and demonstrations in Russia began with a very small, even insignificant number of participants, judged by present-day standards. Of a serious historical approach there is not a hint—nothing but truly nauseating attacks. The Manifesto of the Combat Organisation is quoted on page 145 in fragments, in order to distort its meaning; only further on (page 154) is it mentioned in passing that the Manifesto contains an instruction to “spare the lives of infantrymen”, i.e., directly reckons with the psychology of the masses, making a clear distinction between Black-Hundred troops and wavering troops. But the Manifesto of the Octobrists, which had no bearing whatever on the study of the Moscow uprising, is printed in full!

Social-Democratic organisations have entrusted information to persons who print the Manifesto of the Octobrists in full, yet tear fragments out of the manifestoes of the Combat Organisation of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies for banal exercises in commonplace witticisms....

Let us pass on to the conclusions drawn by the compilers: “The proletariat, as a mass, did not go into action” (p. 245). “The Moscow proletariat did not go into action either on December 9-10 ... or on the following days. This does credit to its intelligence and discipline” (p. 244).

Do you hear, comrade workers: it is suggested that it is to your “credit” that the masses did not fight enough!! The fact that the masses of the workers took an inadequate part in the active, aggressive struggle is, if you please, a point in their favour. And the fact that the masses of the workers forged ahead of their leaders and proceeded to build barricades on a large scale, that they were constantly pressing their leaders to call for more drastic action, must no doubt be held against them....

“The events in Moscow,” say the compilers, “prove that in the present historical period, in which militarism has been developed to an enormous degree, a necessary condition for the victory of the people in revolt is that a considerable part of the army should actively go over to the side of the insurgent population, or that the masses of the soldiers should categorically refuse to use arms against the people....”

Our wiseacres failed to understand or even to notice the struggle that went on to win over the vacillating troops. Evidently they think that an uprising is possible without having to fight the Black-Hundred section of the troops, without an active struggle on the part of the revolutionary people, which throws the ranks of the army into confusion. They have adopted the standpoint of the Cadets, who are ready to welcome the “going over” of the troops, but who declare that an armed uprising or propaganda for it is criminal folly”....

... “But such action on the part of the troops is conceivable only towards the end [sic!] of a revolution, which moreover must involve the whole of the people. The December uprising of the proletariat, which enjoyed only the passive [?] sympathy of the mass of the bourgeois population, its actions in pursuit of its own slogans [our italics], could not [!] find support in the army, and therefore the ’attempt to convert the general strike into an armed uprising’ could not be crowned with success and must be regarded as a historical blunder.”

Let this be a lesson to you, workers of Moscow! Don’t fight for “your own slogans”!...

It is hard to imagine how people could sink to such depths of pedantry, to such Cadet-like poverty of thought, to drawing such banal conclusions from serious historical material.   Let the Moscow Social-Democrats express their indignation to the authors of this book and call on all Party members and revolutionaries to collect materials for a worthy account and serious criticism of the December uprising. Let all its mistakes and shortcomings be ruthlessly exposed for the instruction of the fighting proletariat. But to the Cadets and the literary hacks the party of the proletariat must say, “Hands off!”


[1] See pp. 171-78 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] This refers to the newspaper Izvestia Sovetov Rabochikh Deputatov (Bulletin of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies), published daily from December 7 (20) to 12 (25), 1905, during the general strike and armed uprising in Moscow. This newspaper, like the Izvestia of the St. Petersburg Soviet, was printed in defiance of the authorities, under the protection of volunteer squads at various printing presses of Sytin, Mamontov, Kushnerev, Chicherin. About 5,000-10,000 copies of each issue were printed. On December 12 (25) the last, sixth issue of Izvestia appeared.

[3] Andreyev, Leonid Nikolayevich (1871-1919)—a Russian writer, author of the play To the Stars written in 1905.

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