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The Bolsheviks in the tsarist DumaA. Badayev(1929)
A Remarkable Book
The author of this book is a former working man, a metal worker, a fighter in the old Bolshevik Guard. In 1912 he was elected by the Leningrad, then St. Petersburg, workers to the State Duma. He has written a book which in his extreme modesty he calls Reminiscences. Actually this book is a serious historical document describing the times when the labour movement in Russia, recovering from the setback in 1905, the defeat of the first Russian revolution, stood on the threshold of the imperialist war and was gaining new impetus, heading towards a new upsurge, freeing the country from the chains in which it was put by reaction.
Comrade Badayev took part in the Party conferences at Cracow and Poronino, where Lenin lived at the time and which was also the seat of the so-called Foreign Centre of the Bolshevik Party. Early in the war he was arrested, together with the other Bolshevik deputies, and after standing trial was exiled to the remote Turuchansk district of Siberia.
Every working man, whether Russian or not, should read this book. He will learn from its pages how the Bolshevik Party stubbornly fought for the interests of the proletariat before the war, during the period of deepest reaction, when the Party was outlawed and had to work “underground.” He will learn how our Party fought the Menshevik-Liquidators – those typical petty-bourgeois opportunists and reformists, the advocates of a bourgeois “Labour” Party, and how it gathered strength in its struggle against the “Left” – the so-called boycottists and otzovists (recallists), who, pretending to conduct a fight from the Left, demanding the boycott of the Duma and the recall of the Social-Democratic deputies, were actually heading for the liquidation of the Party, for its defeat, refusing to make use of the parliamentary tribune for the purposes of revolutionary agitation and mobilisation of the masses, refusing in fact to conduct mass work. He will see how at that time Trotsky acted as the organiser and inspirer of the struggle against the Bolshevik Party, scraping together the opportunist “August bloc,” allegedly “non-fractional “– a bloc of all groups and tendencies opposing Lenin and the Bolsheviks. He will see how our Party, under the most difficult conditions of the tsarist regime, combined illegal work at the factories and workshops with the full utilisation of the tribune of even such a rotten parliament as the tsarist-landlord State Duma for revolutionary agitation among, and the organisation of, the masses.
Young Leninists, too, in Russia and abroad should read this book. They will find in it a clear and vivid description of the living conditions and the struggles of the working class under tsarism, and they will obtain a picture of the position of the workers in a capitalist society. The crucial moments of the working-class struggle in 1913-14 are portrayed as vividly as if projected on a screen. Here they will read of the explosion in the Okhta powder works, where adult married men received a wage of 70-80 kopeks (about 40 cents or 1s. 8d.) for a long working day, where it was necessary to work several years in order to get the maximum day’s rate of one ruble, where women and girls received still less, where the arbitrary will of the management reigned supreme, where the workers lost their health and, their energy exhausted, awaited their turn to die from an explosion or from systematic poisoning by noxious substances or gases. They will find a description of mass lock-outs at textile factories and mills, the manufacturers refusing to have anything to do with the trade unions. The workers’ deputy, Shagoy, a textile worker himself, spoke in the State Duma about the hard life of the textile workers, who only by working hard for long hours could eke out a pittance, just enough to save themselves from starving. A strike at Lessner’s factories is described, where one worker, Jacob Strongin, hanged himself on the staircase as a protest against an accusation of theft. The “Old Lessner” factory went on strike for sixty-eight days; the “New Lessner” for one hundred and two. And this in spite of the most savage persecution on the part of the police, the secret political police and the capitalists. Strikes at the Baltic works and the Obukhov works are recalled. It would be useful for the workers now working at these factories to remember the state of things that prevailed in those days.
Young workers should know the conditions of work that prevailed in capitalist factories in Russia. Only then will they be able to realise how far we have progressed during the years of revolution, in comparison with those days, and what profound and radical changes the revolution has effected.
The activity of the Duma fraction, of our workers’ “six,” is an example, scarcely ever surpassed, of how much can be done for the cause of the working class by a parliamentary fraction of Bolsheviks, which maintains connections with the masses and which acts according to the directions of its Party, even though that be an underground Party. The Duma tribune was fully utilised for the purpose of radicalising the masses.
Badayev, Petrovsky, Muranov, Shagov, and Samoylov interpellated the government, investigated its activity while touring the provinces to maintain contact with their constituents; they connected the illegal Party centre with the workers. A. E. Badayev told the “diehards” of the State Duma:
“We shall live to see the day when ail the workers of Russia will present their demands; then they will not ask your permission, but will take everything from you and give land and freedom to all.” In the name of the workers he challenged the government of the Tsar, the capitalists, and the landlords: “I do not appeal to your sense of pity, gentlemen, when I describe the conditions of the workers at the Obukhov works. Two camps are facing each other; on the one side the united ministers, and on the other the united proletariat, and it is in the name of the latter that I here challenge the ministers.”
The “diehards” felt ill at ease; they wanted to provoke the working class to immediate action. Markov of the Black Hundreds dealt with the question of the workers seizing power:
“You are preparing to fight the government itself; you imagine that the proletariat is entitled to shout: ‘We are a .hundred thousand, we are ten million strong, or whatever the exact figure may be. We shall take everything by force, we shall take the land, we shall take this, that and the other.’ But if you can take all by force, why do you chatter here? Go and take it. If there is no force at the back of it, why all this bluster?”
Even in those days the approach of the revolutionary storm was perceptible, but the imminence of that storm which in 1917 swept away the Markovs, the Rodzyankos and the Goremykins was then still unsuspected by them; then Markov, turning to the benches of the Left... put up his hands as if aiming a rifle at them and said, “You are attacking us, but we will have a shot at you first.” History has proved that the workers were better shots than the BlackHundreds. And this was due to the fact that the working class conducted the revolutionary struggle under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.
In Badayev’s Reminiscences we find most interesting information about the activity of the Party. The election campaign to the State Duma, the leadership of the workers’ fraction in the Duma, the Cracow Conference, the Poronino Conference, the organisation of the labour press, the work of Pravda, the participation of Comrades Sverdlov, Stalin, and others in the work of the Bolshevik Duma fraction, the unceasing attention paid by Lenin to the activity of the fraction, the conference in November 1914, and many other aspects of the life of the Party are all described in Badayev’s book with great feeling and adequately substantiated by documents.
The same clear account is given of the pre-war days, of the attitude of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at the outbreak of the imperialist war, the arrest of the Bolshevik fraction, the preliminary investigation and the trial of the fraction. A very vivid portrait is given of the agent-provocateur Roman Malinovsky, who was used by the secret police to disrupt and destroy the Party.
The events described in Comrade Badayev’s book bring us close up to the imperialist war. Already at that time our Party represented an important international factor. It was the only truly consistent Party of the proletarian revolution in the Second International. It had to fight against the reformist theories and reformist practice which held sway among the leaders of the Second International. It conducted a fight on two fronts, not only amongst the Russian socialists, but also on the international arena, sharply criticising the inconsistent and opportunist mistakes of the Centrists and the Lefts in the German and other Social-Democratic parties. But at the same time the Bolshevik Party gave a splendid example of how to apply the tactics of the united front from below. And in this respect Comrade Badayev’s book will assist the workers of other countries in finding the path to the establishment of that united front over the heads of treacherous leaders, as we, the Russian Bolsheviks, were able to find that path during the revolution of 1905, during the period of 1912-14 and during the period of the proletarian revolution.
In July 1914, on the eve of the war, the Black Hundred newspaper Russkoe Znamya (Russian Banner) demanded that Comrade Badayev be sent to the gallows; an article in that paper even bore the title Badayev to the Gallows. The newspaper prophesied that, at some future date, Badayev would “present a bill to the reactionaries and set the whole of Russia aflame.” The prophecy came true. The work which Badayev carried on on the eve of the war played no small part in helping to bring about the revolution that swept the Black Hundreds away.
It was for this work that Badayev and his comrades in the Duma were arrested, put on trial and sentenced to exile in Siberia. In an article entitled: What Has the Trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction Proved?* written in 1915, Lenin said that:
“The class-conscious workers of Russia have created a Party and have placed at the front a vanguard which, when the World War is raging and international opportunism is bankrupt the world over, has proven most capable of fulfilling the duty of international revolutionary Social-Democrats…. At a time when nearly all ‘Socialist’ (excuse me for debasing this word!) Deputies of Europe proved to be chauvinists and servants of chauvinists, when the famous ‘Europeanism’ that had charmed our Liberals and Liquidators proved a routine habit of slavish legality, there was a Workers’ Party in Russia whose Deputies neither shone with fine rhetoric, nor had ‘access’ to the bourgeois intellectual drawing-rooms, nor possessed the business-like efficiency of a ‘European’ lawyer and parliamentarian, but excelled in maintaining connections with the working masses, in ardent work among those masses, in carrying out the small, unpretentious, difficult, thankless and unusually dangerous functions of illegal propagandists and organisers.”
* Our Party was called Social-Democratic up to 1918. – Ed.
Lenin attached great importance to the fact that owing to this trial millions of workers were informed of how we Bolsheviks were opposed to the imperialist war. Quoting the words in the indictment:
“It is necessary to direct the armies not against our brothers, the wage slaves of other countries, but against the reaction of the bourgeois governments and parties of all countries.”
“These words will spread, thanks to the trial, and they have already spread over Russia as an appeal to proletarian internationalism, to proletarian revolution.”
In this article, however, Lenin criticised the mistakes our comrades committed during the trial in not taking advantage of the open trial to expound Social-Democratic views which, he said, were hostile not only to tsarism in general but also to social-chauvinism of all shades.*
* This article by Lenin is given in full as a commentary to the last chapter of this book. – Ed.
Great events have taken place since that lime. The appeal to the proletarian revolution led to the victory of October. The land of the proletarian dictatorship has existed for fifteen years. Its strength, its growth, its successes, notwithstanding the great difficulties that have to be overcome and the great sacrifices that have to be made, are beyond doubt.
Let our brothers abroad take their lesson from what we have gone through. Let them know, that whatever sacrifices the proletarian revolution may entail, in the final analysis its path is not only the shortest, but entails less sacrifices and less suffering for the working class than capitalism and war have in store, that it is the only path on which the proletariat will gain not an illusory but a genuine victory, the only path on which the proletariat can break the chains of capitalist slavery, of capitalist exploitation.
My book deals with the revolutionary events of the last years of the existence of tsarism. During the years 1912 to 1914 the revolutionary movement made the greatest advance that occurred in the period between 1905 and the February revolution.
The theme of this book is the activity of the Bolshevik fraction in the Fourth State Duma, as the central feature of the work of our Party. I have tried to show how the activity of the fraction was reflected in the revolutionary struggle of the working class and how, in their turn, various aspects of the labour movement were reflected in the work of the fraction.
Incidentally I have had to dwell briefly on the characteristics of certain political parties, government officials, and public men of tsarist Russia, with whom our fraction was forced to come into contact on a number of questions.
Of the separate centres of the labour movement, most attention is devoted to St. Petersburg. The proletariat of St Petersburg was always in the vanguard of the struggle of the working class; its action was of the greatest importance both for the course of the revolution itself and for its preparation.
In describing the activities of the Central Committee, of the St. Petersburg Committee, and of the other underground organisations of our Party, I have also tried to show how the tsarist government was combating them and what were the special methods adopted by the secret police.
This book is based on my personal recollections. In so far as many events have escaped my memory because of the length of time which has elapsed since they occurred, I have verified and supplemented my statements from various contemporary records.
The following have thus served as material for this book: personal recollections, my own files which I managed to preserve, the files of the police department which are now kept in the archives of the revolution, illegal party publications, the pre-revolutionary Pravda, liquidationist and bourgeois newspapers, stenographic reports of the State Duma, accounts of the trial of the fraction and, finally, conversations with a number of comrades who took part in the underground work of that period.
THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND THE BEGINNING OF THE WORK OF THE FOURTH STATE DUMA
THE LABOUR MOVEMENT IN ST. PETERSBURG IN 1913
THE SPLIT IN THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC DUMA FRACTION
XII. The Poronino Conference
THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT ON THE EVE OF THE WAR
XVII. Roman Malinovsky
XXI. Preparations for the Congress, Lenin's instructions