Association of St. Petersburg Workmen

Association of St. Petersburg Workmen

 

one of the first Social Democratic organizations in Russia. Founded in 1885 in St. Petersburg by P. V. Tochisskii, it was originally called the Society for Raising the Moral, Intellectual, and Material Standing of the Working Class in Russia. The group adopted a charter in late 1866 and changed its name to the Fellowship of St. Petersburg Workmen. Its goals were to improve the material position of the proletariat by staging strikes and other collective actions, to raise the workers’ cultural level, and to develop their class consciousness by setting up study groups, libraries, and workers’ mutual aid funds. Its fundamental task was to prepare workers to lead a mass proletarian movement.

The association included in its ranks members of both the intelligentsia and the working class, but it tried to concentrate the most important tasks in the hands of the workers. According to the charter, the members of the organization were either full or associate members. The latter, mostly members of the intelligentsia, were supposed to help the association raise funds; on behalf of the organization they collected donations of money and books, to which end they sponsored lotteries, parties, and other events.

Among those taking part in the association’s work were the progressive workers E. A. Klimanov (Afanas’ev), V. A. Shelgunov, V. S. Buianov, N. Vasil’ev, and 1.1. Timofeev; also participating were L. V. Arkadskaia, G. L. Breitfus, L. L. Breitfus, E. L. Breitfus, E. A. Danilova, D. V. Lazarev, V. V. Lazarev, M. V. Tochisskaia, A. Filimonov, and I. A. Shalaevskii.

The organization operated along strict conspiratorial lines. In spite of their small number, the members of the association extended their activities to the largest enterprises of St. Petersburg by founding workers’ circles. The association established a library of sociopolitical and literary works and distributed among the workers copies of the Communist Manifesto by Marx and En-gels, Our Differences by G. V. Plekhanov, the Speech of Petr Alekseev in Court (seeALEKSEEV, PETR ALEKSEEVICH), Rabochii (the newspaper of the Blagoev Group), and other illegal publications.

Although it criticized the Narodniki (Populists), particularly for engaging in acts of individual terror, the association supported the idea of a resolute struggle against the autocracy and the bourgeoisie. The organization considered it possible to avoid the bourgeois democratic stage in the transformation of society. Although correctly regarding the working class as the decisive force in the struggle, the association rejected the importance of the intelligentsia in the revolutionary movement. The association’s ideology contained elements of trade unionism. The efforts of the association were concentrated on educating the workers, raising their cultural level, and promoting their class solidarity and cooperation. The association attempted to set up its own printing press, but arrests and the exiling of members beginning in February and March 1888 made this impossible. Although the association ceased to exist, the workers’ circles in the plants and factories produced cadres of revolutionary workers who joined the ranks of later Social Democratic organizations.

REFERENCES

lstoriia KPSS, vol. 1. Moscow, 1964.
Lisovskii, N. K. P. V. Tochisskii—odin iz organizatorov pervykh marksistskikh kruzhkov v Rossii. Moscow, 1963.

Z. S. NIKOLAEVSKAIA

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