Concerning the October strike, Martov writes: “Just at this time, when general excitement reigns among the working masses ... an attempt is made to merge the struggle for political liberty and the economic struggle into a single whole. Comrade Rosa Luxemburg’s opinion notwithstanding, this revealed, not the strong, but the weak side of the movement.” The attempt to introduce the eight-hour working day by revolutionary means ended in failure and “disorganised” the workers. “The general strike of the post and telegraph employees in November 1905 acted in the same direction.” This is the way Martov writes history.
It is sufficient to glance at the statistics given above to see the falsity of this history. Throughout all the three years of the revolution we observe that every time the political crisis becomes acute there is an upsurge, not only of the political, but also of the economic strike struggle. Not the weakness, but the strength of the movement lay in the combination of the two forms of struggle. The opposite view is the view of the liberal bourgeois, for the very thing he wanted was that the workers should take part in politics, without, however, the broad masses being drawn into the revolution and into the struggle against the bourgeoisie. It was precisely after October 17 that the liberal Zemstvo movement finally split; the landlords and industrialists formed the openly counter-revolutionary party of the “Octobrists”, who unleashed all the force of reprisals against the strikers (while in the press the “Left” liberals, the Cadets, accused the workers of “madness”). Martov, echoing the Octobrists and the Cadets, is of the opinion that the “weakness” of the workers lay in the fact that at that very time they were trying to make the economic struggle still more aggressive. In our opinion the weakness of the workers (and still more the peasants) lay in the fact that they did not resolutely, widely and quickly enough pass to the aggressive economic and armed political struggle which inevitably resulted from the whole course of events, and not at all from the subjective desires of particular groups or parties. A wide gulf separates our view from Martov’s and, in spite of Trotsky’s assertions, this gulf between the views of “intellectuals” reflects only the gulf which in fact existed at the end of 1905 between the classes, namely, between the revolutionary proletariat, which fought, and the bourgeoisie, which behaved in a treacherous manner.
It must be added that defeats of the workers in the strike struggle are characteristic not only of the end of 1905, which Martov seized upon, but to a still greater extent of 1908 and 1907. The statistics show that during the ten years 1895–1904 the employers won 51.6 per cent of the strikes (according to the number of strikers involved); in 1905, 29.4 per cent; in 1906, 33.5 per cent; in 1907, 57.6 per cent; in 1908, 68.8 per cent. Does this mean that the economic strikes of 1906–07 were “mad” and “inopportune”, and that they revealed the “weak side of the movement”? No. It means that inasmuch as the offensive of the revolutionary struggle of the masses was not strong enough in 1905, defeat (both in politics and in “economics”) was inevitable, but that if the proletariat had not been able to rise at least twice for a new attack against the enemy (a quarter of a mu lion persons involved in political strikes alone during the second quarter of 1906 and also 1907), the defeat would have been still greater; the coup d’état would have taken place not in June 1907, but a year, or even more than a year, earlier, and the workers would have been deprived of the economic gains of 1905 even sooner than they were.
It is this significance of the revolutionary struggle of the masses that Martov absolutely fails to understand. Echoing the liberals, he says, in reference to the boycott at the beginning of 1906, that “for a time the Social-Democrats remained outside the political line of battle”. From a purely theoretical standpoint such a presentation of the question of the boycott in 1906 is an incredible simplification and vulgarisation of a very complex problem. What was the real “line of battle” during the second quarter of 1906—was it parliamentary or extra-parliamentary? Look at the statistics: the number of persons involved in “economic” strikes rose from 73,000 to 222,000, the number of those involved in political strikes rose from 196,000 to 257,000. The number of uyezds affected by the peasant movement rose from 36.9 per cent to 49.2 per cent of the total. It is known that mutinies in the armed forces also increased greatly and be came more frequent during the second quarter of 1906 compared with the first. It is known further that the First Duma was the most revolutionary parliament in the world (at the beginning of the twentieth century), yet at the same time it was the most impotent; not a single one of its decisions was put into effect.
Such are the objective facts. In the estimation of the liberals and Martov, these facts show that the Duma was the real “line of battle”, whereas uprisings, political strikes and the unrest among the peasants and soldiers were the inconsequential affair of “revolutionary romanticists”. And the deep-thinking Trotsky is of the opinion that the factional differences that arose on this ground represented an “intellectualist” “struggle for influence over an immature proletariat”. In our opinion the objective data prove that in the spring of 1906 there was such a serious upsurge of a real revolutionary mass struggle that the Social-Democratic Party was obliged to regard precisely that struggle as the principal struggle and exert every effort to support and develop it. In our opinion the specific political situation at that period—when the tsarist government obtained from Europe a two thousand million loan on the security, as it were, of the con vocation of the Duma, and when the tsarist government was hastily promulgating laws against the boycott of the Duma—fully justified the attempt made by the proletariat to wrest the convocation of the first parliament in Russia out of the hands of the tsar. In our opinion it was not the Social-Democrats, but the liberals, who “remained outside the political line of battle” at that time. Those constitutional illusions, on the spread of which among the masses the whole career of the liberals in the revolution was based, were most glaringly refuted by the history of the First Duma.
In both the First and the Second Dumas the liberals (Cadets) had a majority and occupied the political foreground with much noise and fuss. But it was just these liberal “victories” that clearly showed that the liberals remained all the time “outside the political line of battle”, that they were political comedians who deeply corrupted the democratic consciousness of the masses. And if Martov and his friends, echoing the liberals, point to the heavy defeats of the revolution as an object-lesson of “what should not be done”, our answer to them is, firstly, that the only real victory gained by the revolution was the victory of the proletariat, which rejected the liberal advice to enter the Bulygin Duma and led the peasant masses to an uprising; secondly, by the heroic struggle it waged during the course of three years (1905–07) the Russian proletariat won for itself and for the Russian people gains that took other nations decades to win. It won the emancipation of the working masses from the influence of treacherous and contemptibly impotent liberalism. It won for itself the hegemony in the struggle for freedom and democracy as a pre-condition of the struggle for socialism. It won for all the oppressed and exploited classes of Russia the ability to wage a revolutionary mass struggle, without which nothing of importance in the progress of mankind has been achieved anywhere in the world.
These gains cannot be taken away from the Russian proletariat by any reaction, or by any hatred, abuse and malice on the part of the liberals, or by any vacillation, short-sightedness and lack of faith on the part of the socialist opportunists.