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The Sixth (Prague) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. - JANUARY 5–17 (18–30), 1912


V. I. Lenin


1. The share of the wealth produced by the wage-worker which he receives in the form of wages is so insignificant that it is scarcely sufficient to provide for his most essential requirements; the proletarian is therefore deprived of any opportunity to lay aside any part of his earnings to provide for himself in case of inability to work as a result of accident, illness, old age or permanent disablement, as well as in case of unemployment which is inseparably linked up with the capitalist mode of production. The insurance of workers in all the aforementioned cases is therefore a reform imperatively dictated by the entire course of capitalist development.

2. The best form of workers' insurance is state insurance based on the following principles: (a) it should provide for the workers in all cases of incapacity (accidents, illness, old age, permanent disablement; extra provisions for working women during pregnancy and childbirth; benefits for widows and orphans upon the death of the bread-winner) or in case of loss of earnings due to unemployment; (b) insurance must include all wage-earners and their families; (c) all insured persons should receive compensations equal to their fall earnings, and all expenditures on insurance must be borne by the employers and the state; (d) all forms of insurance should be handled by uniform insurance organisations of the territorial type and based on the principle of jail management by the insured persons, themselves.

3. The government Bill, passed by the State Duma, is in radical contradiction to all these fundamental requirements of a rational insurance scheme; for (a) it provides for only two kinds of insurance, cases of accident and cases of illness; (b) it extends to only a small part (according to the most liberal calculations, to one-sixth) of the Russian proletariat, since it excludes from insurance whole regions (Siberia and, in the government's version, also the Caucasus) and whole categories of workers who particularly need insurance (farm labourers, building workers, railway workers, post and telegraph workers, shop assistants, etc.); (c) it provides for beggarly rates of compensation (the maximum compensation in case of total disablement resulting from accidents is set at two-thirds of the earnings, the latter, moreover, calculated on the basis of standards lower than the actual earnings) and at the same time makes the workers pay the lion's share of the expenditure on insurance—for the plan is to make the workers cover the expenditures not only on insurance against illness but also on insurance against "minor" injuries, which in practice are the most numerous. This new procedure is a change for the worse even compared with the present law, according to which compensation for injuries is paid entirely by the employers; (d) it deprives the insurance bodies of every vestige of independence, placing them under the combined surveillance of civil servants (from the courts and the "Council for Insurance Affairs"), the gendarmerie, the police (who, besides exercising general surveillance, are invested with the right to direct the practical activities of the insurance bodies, influence the selection of their personnel, etc.), and the employers (the accident insurance societies under the exclusive control of employers; sick benefit societies run by the factories; society rules guaranteeing the influence of the employers, etc.).

4. This law, which rides roughshod over the most vital interests of the workers, is the only one possible in this present period of frenzied reaction, this period of the domination of counter-revolution, and is the result of many years of preliminary negotiations and agreement between the government and the representatives of capital. An insurance reform really corresponding to the interests of the workers can only be accomplished after the final overthrow of tsarism and the achievement of conditions indispensable for the free class struggle of the proletariat.


In view of the aforementioned, the Conference resolves that:

(1) It is the urgent task both of the illegal Party organisations and of the comrades active in the legally existing organisations (trade unions, clubs, co-operative societies, etc.) to develop the most extensive agitation against the Duma Insurance Bill, which affects the interests of the entire Russian proletariat as a class, since it grossly violates them.

(2) The Conference considers it necessary to emphasise that all Social-Democratic agitation concerning the Insurance Bill should be presented in relation to the class position of the proletariat in modern capitalist society, and should criticise the bourgeois illusions being spread by the social-reformists; this agitation must, in general, be linked up with our fundamental socialist tasks; on the other hand, it is necessary in this agitation to show the connection between the character of the Duma "reform" and the current political situation and, in general, its connection with our revolutionary-democratic tasks and slogans.

(3) Fully approving of the vote of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma against the Bill, the Conference draws the attention of the comrades to the extensive and valuable material clarifying the attitude of the various classes to labour reforms furnished by the debate in the Duma on this question; the Conference particularly stresses the fact that the debate vividly brought out the aspirations of the Octobrist representatives of backward capital openly hostile to the workers, as well as the attitude of the Constitutional-Democratic Party masked, in the hypocritical speeches of its representatives, by social-reformist phrases about "social peace"; in point of fact, the Cadets came out in the Duma against the independent activity of the working class and virulently contested the principal amendments to the Bill proposed by the Social-Democratic group in the Duma.

(4) The Conference most earnestly warns the workers against all attempts to curtail or completely distort Social-Democratic agitation by confining it to what is legally permissible in the present period of the domination of the counter-revolution; on the other hand, the Conference emphasises that the main point of this agitation should be to explain to the proletarian masses that no real improvement in the worker's conditions is possible unless there is a new revolutionary upsurge, that whoever wishes to achieve a genuine labour reform must above all fight for a new, victorious revolution.

(5) Should the Duma Bill become law in spite of the pro test of the class-conscious proletariat, the Conference summons the comrades to make use of the new organisational forms which it provides (workers' sick benefit societies) to carry on energetic propaganda for Social-Democratic ideas in these organisational units and thus turn the new law, devised as a means of putting new chains and a new yoke upon the proletariat, into a means of developing its class-consciousness, strengthening its organisation and intensifying its struggle for full political liberty and for socialism.

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 17, pages 451-486.
Translated: Dora Cox

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