October All-Russian Political Strike of 1905
October All-Russian Political Strike of 1905
a general strike in Russia, one of the most important stages of the Revolution of 1905–07; the beginning of the revolution’s greatest upsurge. The strike was a national mass political manifestation that demonstrated the maturity of the revolutionary movement that had been growing from January through September 1905.
The October Strike was preceded by popular agitation against the Bulygin Duma (a consultative assembly convoked by the tsar) and by the September events in Moscow. A paramount role in the preparation of the October Strike was played by the Bolsheviks, who were guided by the resolutions of the Third Congress of the RSDLP. The strike was also backed by the All-Russian Railroad Union (VZhS), which existed from 1905 to 1907 and which voted in the summer of 1905 for a strike.
A printers’ strike over economic issues began in Moscow on September 19 and turned into a political strike involving Moscow industrial workers in other trades. At the beginning of October, the printers, metalworkers, carpenters, tobacco workers, and railroad workers of Moscow established workers’ soviets, with deputies representing different trades. Gatherings and meetings in support of the workers of Moscow were held in other industrial centers in late September and early October. The Bolsheviks strove to convert economic strikes into political ones and to transform uncoordinated actions into a general strike.
The escalation of the September workers’ demonstrations into the October All-Russian Political Strike was prompted by a general strike among railroad workers. On October 6, a meeting of representatives from the Bolshevik organizations of a number of lines included in the Moscow railroad junction passed a resolution for a joint strike. The same evening, the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP called for a general strike on the routes of the Moscow rail junction to begin at noon on October 7. The Central Bureau of the VZhS also supported the strike. On October 10 the railroad workers on all the main lines from Moscow went out on strike. That same day, a Moscow city-wide party conference of Bolsheviks resolved to declare a general strike throughout the city as of October 11.
From Moscow the October Strike spread to St. Petersburg and other major industrial cities. On October 17 the railroad workers’ strike became general. Everywhere it “stopped all rail traffic and paralyzed the power of the government in the most effective manner” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 30, p. 321). The working people of all Russia took part in the general strike. Factories, mills, transportation, and electric power plants were shut down, and the postal service, telegraph service, offices, stores, and schools were closed in the large cities. Among the strikers were industrial workers, railroad workers, and tens of thousands of workers in the mining and metallurgical industries, as well as office workers and students. The number of strikers exceeded 2 million.
The October Strike was led by the proletariat, supported by the toiling masses of the multinational Russian empire. Everywhere there were mass meetings and demonstrations, which developed into armed clashes with the police and troops in the Baltic region, the Ukraine, along the Volga, and in Transcaucasia. The strike enveloped the major cities in Poland, and the Polish workers struggled heroically. In Finland the workers created an armed guard.
The October Strike unfolded under the revolutionary slogans “Down with the Bulygin Duma!”, “Down with the tsarist government!”, “Long live the armed uprising!”, and “Long live the democratic republic!” The strikers implemented freedom of speech, the press, and assembly and instituted the eight-hour day. As a result of the revolutionary activity of the masses, soviets of workers’ deputies were established in October in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinoslav, and Kiev, and then in other cities as well; trade unions were formed in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Kharkov, Tbilisi, Riga, and Vilnius. The tsarist government’s attempt to convene the Bulygin Duma was thwarted.
In the course of the strike, the Bolsheviks successfully implemented the tactic of a left bloc, which aimed at the creation of a popular front against tsarism that would be led by the working class and would include all revolutionary democratic forces. Strike coalition committees were formed in many cities. Within these committees, some of the “leftward-moving” liberals declared their support of the strike but at the same time hindered the strike’s development into an armed uprising in every way possible.
The tsarist government tried to break the October Strike through repression. On October 14, D. F. Trepov, the governor-general of St. Petersburg, instructed troops and police “not to fire blank rounds or spare the cartridges.” However, the tsarist authorities did not succeed in undermining the strike. The army vacillated; the government did not have at its disposal enough reliable troops to suppress the revolution. A peculiar equilibrium of forces took shape throughout the country. As Lenin wrote: “Tsarism is no longer strong enough, the revolution not yet strong enough, to win” (ibid., vol. 12, p. 5).
The tsarist government was forced to concede and publish the Manifesto of Oct. 17, 1905, in which Nicholas II proclaimed the “granting” of civil liberties to the people and promised to recognize the Duma’s legislative powers. The Bolsheviks exposed the falsity and hypocrisy of the tsarist “liberties” and insisted on the continuation of the struggle. The Moscow Strike Committee—in which liberal elements predominated—and the Central Bureau of the VZhS issued a directive to end the strike. In Moscow the strike continued until October 22 and was ended by the workers only after a resolution of the Moscow city-wide party conference of the RSDLP called on revolutionary forces to end the strike and prepare a new offensive against the autocracy. Supported by the liberal bourgeoisie, which interpreted the manifesto as a turn toward development along constitutional lines, the government shifted decisively to the offensive against the revolution. Reprisals and pogroms began throughout the country. The Bolsheviks N. E. Bauman, F. A. Afanas’ev, O. M. Genkina, and others were brutally murdered by the Black Hundreds. As many as 4,000 people were killed and more than 10,000 wounded in 110 cities, towns, and villages. The strike ended by October 25 on the railroads and in most parts of the country. However, in certain enterprises it lasted longer and merged with the revolutionary actions of November 1905.
The October All-Russian Political Strike of 1905 demonstrated the strength of the Russian proletariat as the hegemon of the revolutionary liberation movement. It struck an important blow against the autocracy: the proletariat wrested the manifesto from the tsar and made it impossible for Russia to be governed without representative institutions. The strike “this time really involved the whole country, uniting all the peoples of the accursed ‘Russian empire’ in the heroic rising of a class that is the most oppressed and the most advanced” (ibid., p. 2). The October events gave a powerful impetus to the peasant movement and engendered a new form of revolutionary power—the soviets of workers’ deputies, political organs of the armed uprising.
The October Strike also confirmed the correctness of the Bolshevik tactics of actively boycotting the Bulygin Duma, forming a bloc with revolutionary bourgeois democrats, and mobilizing all forces for the further development of the revolution. Beyond its immediate meaning, the strike was important as the prologue to the December Armed Uprisings. Moreover, the October Strike was of international significance, because it enriched the proletarians of all countries with a new form of struggle: the mass revolutionary strike.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Index, part 1, p. 94.)
Bol’sheviki m glave Vserossiiskoi politicheskoi stachki v oktiabre 1905 g.: Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. Moscow, 1955.
“Vserossiiskaia politicheskaia stachka v oktiabre 1905 g.,” parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955. (In the series Revoliutsiia 1905–1907 gg. v Rossii: Dokumenty i materialy.)
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966. Pages 94–112.
I. M. PUSHKAREVA