Black Partition

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Black Partition

 

(Chernyi Peredel; also Party of Socialists and Federalists), a revolutionary populist organization in Russia in the early 1880’s. The Black Partition was formed in August and September 1879 after a split in the secret society Land and Liberty. Its name is connected with the rumor, widespread among the peasants, of an imminent partition of the land among the common people (chern’).

The members of the Black Partition initially subscribed to the program of Land and Liberty; they denied the need for political struggle and rejected the terrorist and conspiratorial tactics of the People’s Will in the belief that only the people could bring about a revolution. They favored large-scale agitation and propaganda among the masses. The organizers of the Central Circle of the Black Partition in St. Petersburg included G. V. Plekhanov, P. B. Aksel’rod, O. V. Aptekman, M. P. Popov, L. G. Deutsch, and V. I. Zasulich. The circle set up a press, which published the journal Chernyi peredel and the newspaper Zerno, and established ties with students and workers. Affiliated circles were active in such cities as Moscow, Kharkov, Kazan, Perm’, Saratov, and Samara.

After such figures as Plekhanov, Deutsch, and Zasulich emigrated in the early 1880’s, the leaders of the Black Partition included A. P. Bulanov, M. K. Reshko, K. Ia. Zagorskii, and M. I. Sheftel’. The new leaders set up a press in Minsk and broadened their ties with the workers. The organization’s headquarters was moved to Moscow. In the spring of 1880 the Black Partition members E. N. Koval’skaia and N. P. Shchedrin organized in Kiev the Southern Russian Workers’ Union, which comprised several hundred workers.

By this time the views of the Black Partition members had undergone a major evolution. The importance of struggle in order to attain political freedom and the need to use terror as a means of revolutionary struggle were recognized in the program of the northern Russian society Land and Liberty. The program was drafted with Aksel’rod’s help and was approved by the members of the Black Partition who had emigrated.

Arrests in 1880 and 1881 weakened the Black Partition. Influenced by the successes of the People’s Will, many members adopted the views of that organization, notably Ia. V. Stefanovich, Bulanov, and Popov. By the end of 1881 the Black Partition had ceased to exist as an organization, although some of the group’s circles remained active until the second half of the 1880’s. Such former members as Plekhanov, Deutsch, and Zasulich broke with Populism and in 1883, adopting a Marxist position, established in Geneva the first Russian Marxist organization, the Liberation of Labor group.

REFERENCES

Aptekman, O. V. “Chernyi peredel.” In Chernyi peredel. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Deutsch, L. G. “Chernyi peredel.” In Istoriko-revoliutsionnyi sbornik, vol. 2. Leningrad, 1924.
Levin, Sh. M. “Chernyi peredel’ i problema politicheskoi bor’by.” In Voprosy istorii sel’skogo khoziaistva, krest’ianstva i revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia v Rossii. Moscow, 1961.
Ol’khovskii, E. R. “K istorii ‘Chernogo peredela’ (1879–1881 gg.).” In Obshchestvennoe dvizhenie v poreformennoi Rossii. Moscow, 1965.
Zhuikov, G. S. “Iz istorii vzaimootnoshenii K. Marska s liderami chernoperedel’chestva v 1880–1881 gg.” In Karl Marks i sovremennost’. [Leningrad] 1970.

E. R. OL’KHOVSKII

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This varied collection of primary source materials and interpretive essays provides fresh perspective on Marx's views about the possiblities for a socialist transformation in Russia and on his relations with the Russian revolutionaries of his day, particularly the populists in the People's Will (Narodnaya volya) and Black Repartition (Chernyi peredel) organizations.
Already in 1879 the Russian populist movement had split and the Black Repartition group, which included such key figures as Zasulich and Plekhanov, opted soon after for an interpretation of Marxism which emphasized the necessity of a capitalist stage in Russia.