The Russian Revolution

The appeal from the International Socialist Bureau on behalf of the Russian revolutionaries which we publish elsewhere, is an interesting document and, like the Revolution itself, gives a working man much food for thought. We by no means desire to dogmatise respecting the events which are now passing in Russia, the more so since reliable news from that quarter is scanty and unsatisfactory. Yet the evidence before us, the news from the seat of the revolution, and the communication we publish from the Bureau, give rise to grave misgivings.

The other great nations of Europe have long ago burst asunder the feudal bonds on industry and commerce, and the few survivals are more picturesque than effective. The aristocracy, where it has been able to continue in existence, is merged into the plutocracy and forms one compact mass against the workers. Russia, however, lags behind; and her economic backwardness is reflected in her mediaeval system of government. Hence in the other nations of Western Europe a straight fight is possible between the proletariat and the capitalist ruling class; whilst in Russia the rising capitalist class has yet its emancipation from Autocracy to accomplish: so that, in contrast with practically the whole of civilised nations, the working class and the capitalist class in Russia have, in the abolition of Tsardom’s tyranny, a step to go together. This historical circumstance, which is at once the strength and weakness of the Russian movement, distinguishes it from that of all capitalist countries.

No Socialist, therefore, can withhold his sympathy from the great struggle of the Russian people for the elements of political liberty, and all must heartily wish that the great barrier to economic and political progress, Tsardom, may be speedily broken down.

It is satisfactory to note that, in the present communication from the Bureau the idea (which was so common at an earlier period of the revolution, and which was proclaimed by many who called themselves Socialists) that out of the ruins of Tsarist Russia the Socialist Republic would arise, is absent; whilst the elements of political liberty, the creation of a Constituent Assembly, or at most the inauguration of a Russian Republic, are taken for granted as the probable outcome of the present struggle. It has been insisted upon in these columns that the Socialist Republic cannot be the outcome of the defeat of autocracy in Russia because the economic elements are lacking or insufficiently developed. As Marx said: “No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and the new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions for their existence have been matured in the womb of the old society.” The industrial development of Russia is still in its infancy, and vigorous though the infant may be, the greater part of the empire is yet untrodden by it. It is indeed probable that whatever government succeeds that of the Tsar will be compelled, if only to appease the peasants – the bulk of the nation – to bring about that most reactionary of things in which the land is split up among the peasants as their private property.

But the student who watches with as little emotion as possible the flowing tide of social life, is sickened at noting for how little human suffering and human blood count in great social movements, and how often the masses of the people have been struggling and fighting for a victory the fruits of which when won are not for them; and the present case appears to be but another illustration of this sad fact. The Russian revolution is a struggle, headed at first by the capitalist middle-class, for the free and untrammelled development of capitalism; and, as in former revolutions, it is the proletariat which later forces on the hesitating bourgeoisie to the completion of their revolutionary work. The hesitancy of the capitalist class is natural under the circumstances. They have an unholy fear of the proletariat which is only a degree less than their fear of the Autocracy that is throttling them.

We have misgivings, however, that the Russian working-class movement, not fully conscious of its mission, will lose its identity in the struggle for middle-class emancipation, and be absorbed by the party of the small capitalist, so that after having been the catspaw of the middle-class, the proletariat will have to start afresh the work of educating and organising the workers for their own great battle. Nevertheless the struggle must go on, even though the spoils of victory go to the capitalist class, freed from autocratic restrictions and oppression, and the workers, who remain wage-slaves and subjected, have only started on the road to their emancipation, have only cleared away one enemy in order to have a straight fight with the other whom their victory has placed in power.

Let us then do all in our power to help our Socialist comrades in Russia in the hope that they will not be deceived as to the outcome of the present upheaval: in the hope, also, that they will sternly keep their separate identity and distinct aim, so that the Russian bourgeois State of to-morrow may find a militant class-organisation of Socialist workers heading the final struggle against the capitalist class whose defeat must herald the triumph of Humanity.

In the body of the Manifesto all Socialists are urged, innocently enough, to bring pressure to bear on their governments to prevent the lending of money “at high interest” to the Government of Russia. Our Russian comrades have an object lesson close at hand as to the value of bringing pressure to bear on a government with any other object than that of defeating it. It is to be feared that the recommendation rests on a misapprehension. If the Socialists in any country are doing their duty in waging incessant war with all their power upon the capitalist government, it should be clear that the Government, knowing that the Socialists as soon as they can defeat them will immediately do so, will pay no attention to Socialist threats and will not yield to pressure in any particular except to superior force or for their own interests, being aware that the Socialists are doing their worst all the time and can do no more. It is conceivable that the capitalist class would, in order to get the support of some or all of the Socialists, or to avoid being defeated by them, make some small effort to get that support or avoid that defeat. But a Socialist movement which supports Capitalism ceases to be Socialist. The movement which begs a crumb when it has power to take its fill is – well! words fail to describe it. The spectacle of Socialists attempting to prevent the capitalist class lending money at high interest is pitiably amusing. The capitalist class would buy shares in hell itself, if hell could pay a dividend! In this connection the only word for the Socialist to concern himself in is the taking from the capitalist class the power to lend at all.


International Socialist Bureau, “Maison du Peuple”, Brussels


In spite of his given word, Nicholas II, twice perjured Tsar, has dissolved the Duma as he had violated the constitution of Finland. After having concentrated his troops in St. Petersburg and forced the deputies to disperse, he has, to draw away the attention of Europe, issued a manifesto of which each word is an untruth. He accuses the Duma of having committed illegal acts, – after having illegally imposed the fundamental laws upon it, contrary to his promises of the 30th October. He accuses it of impotence, – after having refused it any power, after having compelled it to be but a tribune, which has served, at least, to denounce the crimes of the bureaucracy. He reproaches it with having done nothing, – after having made it impossible for it to realise a single parliamentary act.

International Socialism will not lose its time in vain protestations. It is to the action of all that it once more appeals. The new outrage of the man of the 22nd January has not at all surprised the Socialist Party and does not find it unprepared. The Duma was doomed as soon as the clique of secret councillors, the officials and Grand Dukes, saw the weakness of the majority of the assembly; and the latter, despite the efforts of the Social Democratic and Labour Groups, has followed tactics which could but weaken it.

An odiously restrictive electoral régime, administrative pressure of the most shameless kind exercised on the voting, popular suspicion keeping from the ballot boxes the few proletarians who had access to them; all this has created a fictitious majority which in no wise represented the aspirations of the majority of the country. The elected of the liberal bourgeoisie have themselves proved, by their attitude after the dissolution, that they were wrong to show themselves vacillating before the government, and hesitating before the most urgent reforms. Have they not lost the confidence of the peasants by promising only an insufficient agrarian reform, the adoption of which would not have restored the land to the people of the country districts? Have they not discontented the workmen in offering miserable palliatives to them instead of fundamental reforms? Have they not deceived all those who ardently aspired to liberty, by not knowing how to be firm and energetic respecting the amnesty, the pogroms, and the death penalty? And in spite of their repeated declamations of loyalty, the Tsar has had nothing but contempt for them. At the opening of Parliament he praised the fundamental laws before them, and, during the whole of the session, he refused them everything. At last, when by their own fault they found themselves without support and without power, they were dispersed without effort like dead leaves before the winds of Autumn.

The consequence of the coup d’état of Nicholas II will be to compel the liberal bourgeoisie to abandon the phase of speechmaking and to choose between absolutism and revolution. Compromises and delays are henceforth done with. After recent experience the most naively optimistic must be convinced that it is useless to try to conciliate contraries. The creation of a Duma without power of executive could not prevent the bureaucracy from pillaging the public treasury, from starving the peasantry, from organising with the pecuniary assistance of the occidental bourgeoisie, massacres and outrages upon the liberty of the workers.

But the revolution does not founder with the Duma. The revolution, on the contrary, enters upon a new phase, more decisive. Before putting an end to the parliamentary comedy, Nicolas II consummated the financial and economic ruin of his empire. He killed the idea of a constitutional Tsarism in the minds of the conservative classes. He opened the eyes of the peasants in refusing them the land. He rallied a portion of the navy and army to the cause of the people, who, after having ascertained the impotence of the liberal bourgeoisie, come again on the scene, grouped under the flag of Socialism. As at the beginning of the struggle it is the proletariat that leads, in the front rank, the struggle against absolutism. With the workmen of the towns, the peasants are joining, who understand better every day that only that union can give them the land, and so also are the intellectuals, more permeated with our doctrines than in any other country. Liberal bourgeoisie itself, if it will not be condemned to a radical impotency, will be, in many cases, compelled to follow the stream.

Two armies thus find themselves henceforth face to face: the army of the Tsar and the army of the people, and between the two, whose conflict is inevitable, victory will be by so much the more decisive for us as the revolution will have been better able to concentrate its forces, realise a unity of action, and utilise more abundant resources. The revolution commenced by the strike, will, at the proper time, be pursued by the strike, by refusal of taxation and of military service, by the occupation of the lands of the crown, of the aristocracy, and of the church, by armed revolt with the aid of the soldiers and sailors whom the Socialist propaganda daily wins to the new ideas. It will be pursued without truce and without weakness until the day when Tsarism, having neither troops nor money, neither credit nor power of any sort, the people will be at last the masters of their own destinies.

The past of the Russian Socialists speaks for the future. They will know how to compel the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and to do their duty to the end. Let us know how to do ours. We can aid in the common work by two means: BY PREVENTING THE AUTOCRACY PROCURING MONEY, – AND BY SENDING MONEY TO THE SOCIALISTS OF RUSSIA.

The radical government of France, the reactionary government of Germany, the capitalist class of all countries, have made themselves the accomplishes of the Tsar in lending him at high interest the pay of his gendarmes, of his executioners, and of his black bands. Let us bring pressure to bear on the governments to put an end to their compliance! Let is warn the possessing class that the Russian Republic of to-morrow will not pay the infamous debts which the Tsar contracts in order to hire assassins! Let us rally all useful support to the cause of Liberty to end that millions of men may be delivered from an implacable tyranny. And, if contrary to all expectation, the Holy Alliance of the international reaction attempted to intervene in the conflict to break the revolutionary effort and save the Tsarist oppression, let us know how to take the necessary measures to effectively help the people of Russia, who, united still closely in that conjuncture, would make no distinction between Tsarism, already stricken to its death, and the foreign invader, guilty of attempting to outrage the autonomy of a nation conscious of its rights. Let us give, then, and give generously! Let the accumulated pence of the poor decide the victory!


Let each Socialist, let each worker, send his mite, be it to the central organisation of his party, be it to the authorised delegates of our Russian comrades, or to the Secretariat of the International Socialist Bureau.



The Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau (Belgium). Eduoard Anseele, Emile Vandervelde, Camille Huysmans, Secretary. (November 1906)

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