Leagues of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class
Leagues of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class
the first social democratic city organizations. The Leagues of Struggle emerged in Russia in the period 1895–1900 and played a significant part in the creation of a Russian Marxist workers’ party.
The first League of Struggle, the one that inspired and gave its name to others like it, was the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, an organization founded by V. I. Lenin in 1895. City organizations appeared in Moscow and Ivanovo-Voznesensk in 1895, organizations known as Workers’ Leagues (Unions) until 1897 and 1898. The Urals Workers’ League was founded in 1896, Leagues of Struggle in Kiev and Ekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk) in 1897, the Group of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class in Perm’ in 1898, and the League of Struggle in Kharkov in late 1900 and early 1901.
The Leagues of Struggle joined together social democrats—both workers and intelligentsia—of all nationalities; they were linked with each other and with Marxist circles in other cities. They made the transition from Marxist propaganda in circles to mass-scale revolutionary social democratic agitation among workers. They put forward political demands alongside economic demands and assumed the leadership of the workers’ movement. They published and distributed illegal leaflets and proclamations, which added to an upsurge in the strike movement and a growth of consciousness and organization among strikers. The Leagues of Struggle made the historic turn toward a merger between the workers’ movement and the theory of scientific socialism.
Lenin’s St. Petersburg League of Struggle was the nucleus of the Bolshevik Party. Many who later rose to prominence in the party received their political education and initial experience with the illegal proletarian struggle in the Leagues of Struggle—including I. V. Babushkin, N. E. Bauman, O. A. Va-rentsova, A. N. Vinokurov, M. F. Vladimirskii, V. V. Vorovskii, S. I. Gusev, I. F. Dubrovinskii, M. I. Kalinin, G. M. Krzhizha-novskii, N. K. Krupskaia, I. Kh. Lalaiants, F. V. Lengnik, M. N.Liadov, S. I. Mitskevich, G. I. Petrovskii, N. G. Poletaev, N. A. Semashko, D. I. Ul’ianov, A. I. Ul’ianova, V. A. Shchel-gunov, and B. L. Eidel’man. The St. Petersburg, Kiev, Moscow, and Ekaterinoslav Leagues of Struggle initiated and organized the First Congress of the RSDLP, held in March 1898.
The Kiev League of Struggle was formed in March 1897 through the merger of two social democratic groups—the Russian Rabochee delo (The Workers’ Cause) group and a Polish social democratic group—with more than 30 members in all. It was led by, among others, B. L. Eidel’man, P. L. Tuchapskii, V. G. Kryzhanovskaia, and S. V. Pomerants. A Workers’ Committee was formed, which kept close liaison with the social democratic circles in the factories and plants. The Kiev League of Struggle had its own printing press and library, the latter with works by K. Marx, F. Engels, and V. I. Lenin. In 1897 it printed more than 6,500 copies of proclamations and distributed them at 25 enterprises in Kiev. It published two issues of Rabochaia gazeta (Workers’ Newspaper), an all-Russian social democratic organ; the third issue was seized by the gendarmes in 1898. Copies of the league’s leaflets found their way as far as Nikolaev, Odessa, Kharkov, Kremenchug, and Ekaterinoslav. The Kiev League of Struggle maintained links with St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities. Soon after the First Congress of the RSDLP, it was broken up. Reestablished in the summer of 1898, the Kiev League of Struggle was made a committee of the RSDLP in the fall of 1898.
The Ekaterinoslav League of Struggle was founded in December 1897. It had four leaders, two workers and two members of the intelligentsia. Its membership was organized into two groups: a factory group led by I. V. Babushkin and a city group, made up primarily of members of the intelligentsia, led by I. Kh. Lalaiants. In 1898 and 1899 the Ekaterinoslav League of Struggle printed and distributed 21 different leaflets. In February 1898 alone, it passed out more than 2,000 copies of such leaflets to workers at seven plants. It led the workers’ circles—in which more than 100 took part—at enterprises in the city and its environs. It maintained liaison with the Leagues of Struggle in St. Petersburg, Kiev, Moscow, Kharkov, Nikolaev, Tula, Poltava, Vil’na (Vilnius), and the Urals. Its various activities contributed to the creation of social democratic groups in the Donbas. In January 1899 the Ekaterinoslav League of Struggle was made a committee of the RSDLP.
The Ivanovo-Voznesensk Workers’ League grew out of earlier Marxist circles. Its chairman was F. A. Kondrat’ev, and its secretary, A. A. Evdokimov. The leadership group also included O. A. Varentsova, N. N. Kudriashov, M. A. Bagaev, K. N. Otrakov, and S. P. Shesternin. The Ivanovo-Voznesensk Workers’ League had by-laws, which defined the movement’s final goals and immediate demands and which allowed members to be sent to other localities to direct strikes, spread revolutionary propaganda, or establish workers’ circles. It had approximately 100 adherents, and it influenced the emergence of social democratic circles in Shuia, Kokhma, and elsewhere. It directed workers’ circles, led strikes, and possessed its own library and bookshop. In 1897 it adopted the name League of Struggle; in the summer of 1898 it was made a committee of the RSDLP.
The Urals Workers’ League arose as a result of initiatives on the part of the social democratic circles in Zlatoust and Cheliabinsk. It did not take the name League of Struggle; however, its goals and activities were similar to those of other leagues of struggle. The core leadership included social democrats from the groups in Cheliabinsk, Zlatoust. Ekaterinburg, and Bishkil’, including A. A. Beliakov, P. V. Balashov, N. M. Zobnin, I. I. Godlevskii, S. A. Poluzadov, A. S. Tiutev, V. G. Rogozhnikov, and N. N. Kudrin. The Urals Workers’ League had three branches—one each in Cheliabinsk, Zlatoust, and Ekaterinburg—which led the strike movement at many plants in the Urals. It received illegal literature from the Liberation of Labor and from St. Petersburg, Moscow, and elsewhere. During its period of existence it held three congresses. In early 1898 the Urals Workers’ League was broken up. Despite its shortcomings—it had no by-laws binding on all its constituent organizations, some of its leaders failed to understand the importance of the political struggle, and it concentrated too much attention on economic demands—it did contribute to the growth of the workers’ movement at plants in the Urals.
The Perm’ Group of Struggle owed its founding to the efforts of E. A. Puzyrev, an exiled member of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle. Its membership included Ia. N. Grauzdin, I. P. La-dyzhnikov, P. A. Matveev, R. N. Pomortseva, and V. N. Trapez-nikov. The Perm’ Group of Struggle organized workers’ circles, directed strikes in the railroad shops and in the plants in Motovi-likha, and rendered assistance to the social democratic circle at the technical school in Kungur. It waged a struggle against the Urals Union of Social Democrats and Socialist Revolutionaries, which appeared in 1901 and gravitated toward the opportunist trend known as economism. It established ties with the Bureau of the Russian organization of Iskra. In July 1902 the Perm’ Group of Struggle declared its adherence to the RSDLP, and in January 1903 it was made a committee of the RSDLP.
The Kharkov League of Struggle was founded in late 1900 and early 1901 and functioned parallel to the local committee of the RSDLP. Its leaders were V. A. Nikitin, N. A. Nikitin, M. P. Po-liakov, and V. A. Karpinski. The Kharkov League of Struggle published 11 leaflets—five jointly with the RSDLP committee—and organized and led meetings, demonstrations, and strikes. In October 1901 it put out its first, hectographed issue of its own press organ, Khar’kovskii proletarii (Kharkov Proletarian), distributed in 100 copies. In June 1902, influenced by the Leninist Iskra and under pressure from its own worker-members, it merged with the RSDLP committee and adopted the name Kharkov Committee of the RSDLP-League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class.
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A. I. SEREDA