St. Petersburg Textile Workers Strike of 1896
St. Petersburg Textile Workers’ Strike of 1896
a manifestation by the workers of the capital under the guidance of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. The strike was caused by the oppressive conditions of the textile workers, but the immediate reason was the refusal of the owners of most of the textile mills to pay wages for May 15–17, days on which enterprises were closed because of the coronation of Nicholas II.
On May 23 workers at the Russian Cotton Mill went out on strike. They were joined on May 27 by workers at the Ekateringof Textile Mill and the Koenig Factory and on May 28 by workers at the Mitrofan’ev Textile Mill. At meetings in Ekateringof Park, the strikers worked out their demands, the main one being reduction of the workday from 13 to 101/2 hours. These demands were the basis of the proclamation “What the Workers of the St. Petersburg Cotton Mills Demand,” distributed by the League of Struggle on May 30. The number of strikers reached 10,000. By June 1 a de facto state of siege existed in the capital; at the same time, the government promised to consider legislation to shorten the workday. On June 4 the League of Struggle distributed a leaflet entitled “To All the Workers of the Factories of St. Petersburg,” which called for a general strike. By June 7 there were 18 textile factories on strike. According to official figures, there were 15,865 strikers; according to the League of Struggle, about 30,000.
Because of the arrest of more than 1,000 persons and the material need of the strikers, the textile workers’ strike did not become general. By June 10 it had noticeably weakened, and it ended in the second half of the month. During the strike, the progressive workers A. S. Shapovalov, N. la. Ivanov, F. G. Galaktionov, M. L. Rudakov, and M. M. Fel’dsherov helped distribute literature and took part in meetings. They were aided by the league’s members N. K. Krupskaia, S. I. Radchenko, M. A. Sil’vin, F. V. Lengnik, L. K. Martens, and B. I. Gorev. The strike contributed to the growth of the political consciousness of the working masses. It stirred all of Russia and evoked a response abroad, where collections were taken up for a Russian strikers’ fund. V. I. Lenin called the strike “the famous St. Petersburg industrial war” (Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 6, p. 29), which gave rise to “a steady workers’ movement, linked with Social Democracy” (ibid., vol. 25, p. 94).
REFERENCEIstoriia rabochikh Leningrada, vol. 1. Leningrad, 1972.
K. N. TARNOVSKII