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Experience Teaches

V. I. Lenin

Anyone who is sincerely interested in the fortunes of the emancipation movement in our country cannot fail to be interested primarily in our working-class movement. The years of upswing, as well as those of counter-revolution, showed beyond all doubt that the working class is marching at the head of all the liberation forces and that therefore the fortunes of the working-class movement are most closely interwoven with those of the Russian social movement in general.

Take the curve indicating the workers’ strike movement during the past eight years! And try to draw a similar curve showing the growth and decline of Russia’s entire emancipation movement in general during these years. The two curves will coincide perfectly. There is a very close, an inseparable connection between the emancipation movement as a whole, on the one hand, and the working-class movement, on the other.

Look closely at the data on the strike movement in Russia since 1905.

YearNumber of strikesNumber of strikers
approximately 1,500,000, strikers
(economic and political)

Surely these data show most clearly that the Russian workers’ strike movement is the best barometer of the entire nation-wide emancipation struggle in Russia.

There were about three million strikers in the peak year (1905). In 1906 and 1907 the movement ebbed but continued at a very high level, averaging one million strikers. Then it headed downwards and kept on declining to 1910 inclusive: the year 1911 was the turning-point, for the curve began to rise, even though timidly. The year 1912 saw a new major upswing. The curve rose confidently and steadily to the 1906 level, making plainly for the year when, at the figure of three million, it established a world record.

A new epoch has come. This is now beyond all question. The beginning of 1913 is the best evidence of it. The mass of the workers is advancing from individual partial issues to the point where it will raise the general issue. The attention of the widest masses is now centred on something more than particular defects in our Russian life. It is now a question of the totality of these defects, taken as a whole: it is now a question of reform, not reforms.

Experience teaches. The actual struggle is the best solver of the problems which until recently were so debatable. Take a look now, after 1912, at, say, our disputes over the “petitioning campaign” and the slogan “freedom of association”. What has experience shown?

It turned out to be impossible to collect even a few tens of thousands of workers’ signatures to a very moderate petition. On the other hand, it is a fact that political strikes alone involved a million people. The talk that one should not go beyond the slogan “freedom of association”, because if one did the masses would allegedly not understand us and would refuse to mobilise, turned out to be meaningless and idle talk by people isolated from the realities of life. The living, real millions of the masses, however, mobilised precisely in support of the broadest, the old, uncurtailed formulas. It was only these formulas that fired the masses with enthusiasm. It has now been shown convincingly enough who has actually been advancing with the masses and who without or against them.

A fresh, vigorous and mighty movement of the masses themselves is sweeping aside as worthless rubbish the artificial formulas hatched in government offices, and marches on and on.

That is what constitutes the historic significance of the great movement taking place under our own eyes.

Published: Pravda No. 15, January 19, 1913.
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 519-521.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan

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