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The Working Class and Its Press

V. I. Lenin

There is nothing more important to class-conscious workers than to have an understanding of the significance of their movement and a thorough knowledge of it. The only source of strength of the working-class movement—and an invincible one at that—is the class-consciousness of the workers and the broad scope of their struggle, that is, the participation in it of the masses of the wage-workers.

The St. Petersburg Marxist press, which has been in existence for years, publishes exclusive, excellent, indispensable and easily verifiable material on the scope of the working-class movement and the various trends predominating in it. Only those who wish to conceal the truth can ignore this material, as the liberals and liquidators do.

Complete figures concerning the collections made for the Pravdist (Marxist) and liquidationist newspapers in St. Petersburg for the period between January 1 and May 13, 1914, have been compiled by Comrade V.A.T.[3] We publish his table below in full, and shall quote round figures in the body of this article as occasion arises, so as not to burden the reader with statistics.

The following is Comrade V.A.T.'s table. (See pp. 364–65.) First of all we shall deal with the figures showing the number of workers' groups. These figures cover the whole period of existence of the Pravdist and liquidationist newspapers. Number of workers' groups:

the Pravdist
the liquidationist
For 191262089
For 19132,181661
1914, from Jan. 1 to May 132,873671

Collections for Marxist (Pravdist) and liquidationist newspapers in St. Petersburg from January 1 to May 13, 1914
made by
St. Petersburg MoscowProvincesTotal
PravdistLiquidationistPravdist LiquidationistPravdist LiquidationistPravdist Liquidationist
No.[1]rubles[2] No.RublesNo. Rubles No.RublesNo. Rubles No.RublesNo. Rubles No.Rubles
Workers groups 2,02413,943.243082,231.98130865.0025263.52 7194,125.863382,800.622,87318,934.106715,296.12
Total from non-workers
3251,256.921651,799.4046260.51241,137.30 3321,082.792302,113.907132,650.014536,759.77
   Student and
   youth groups
26369.4919292.138119.303 21.0020162.1323317.0954650.9245630.22
   Groups of adherents”,
   friends, etc.
8164.0014429.25642.105892.00 28252.72351,129.3542458.82542,450.60
   Other groups 28.00672.6012.0030 115.2924113.5233125.2930186.12
   Individuals 281650.96120966.722963.6114197.30221 332.05132443.805311,046.622661,608.32
   Unspecified 864.47638.70233.50226.5033220.60 16110.1443318.5724175.34
   From abroad 1049.79341,709.17
Total 2,34915,200.164734,103.381761,125.51491,400.821,051 5,208.655684,914.523,58621,584.111,12412,055.89

The total number of groups is 7,095. Of course, there are groups which made several collections, but separate data for these are not available.

We see that only one-fifth of the total number of workers' groups are in sympathy with the liquidators. In two-and-a-half years, Pravdism, Pravdist decisions and Pravdist tactics have united four-fifths of Russia's class-conscious workers. This fact of workers' unity can well bear comparison with the phrases about "unity" uttered by the various grouplets of intellectuals, the Vperyodists, Plekhanovites, Trotskyists, etc., etc.

Let us compare the figures for 1913 and 1914 (those for 1912 are not comparable, because Pravda appeared in April, and Luch five months later). We shall find that the number of Pravdist groups has grown by 692, i. e., 31.7 per cent, whereas the liquidationist groups have gone up by 10, i. e., 1.5 per cent. Hence, the workers' readiness to support the Pravdist newspapers has grown 20 times as fast as their readiness to support the liquidationist newspapers.

Let us see how the workers in various parts of Russia are divided according to trend:

 per cent of total workers’ groups
St. Petersburg8614

The inference is clear: the more politically developed the masses of the workers are, and the higher their level of class-consciousness and political activity, the higher is the number of Pravdists among them. In St. Petersburg the liquidators have been almost completely dislodged (fourteen out of a hundred); they still have a precarious hold in the provinces (32 out of 100), where the masses are politically less educated.

It is highly instructive to note that figures from an entirely different source, namely, those giving the number of workers' delegates elected during the Insurance Board elections, tally to a remarkable degree with those of the workers' groups. During the election of the Metropolitan Insurance Board, 37 Pravdist and 7 liquidationist delegates were elected, i. e., 84 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. Of the total number of delegates elected, the Pravdists constituted 70 per cent (37 out of 53), and at the election of the All-Russia Insurance Board they obtained 47 out of 57, i. e., 82 per cent. The liquidators, non-party people and Narodniks form a small minority of workers, who still remain under bourgeois influence.

To proceed. The following are interesting figures on the average amounts collected by workers groups:

Average amounts collected by workers’ groups
St. Petersburg6.887.24
Whole of Russia6.587.89

The Pravdist groups show a natural, understandable and, so to speak, normal tendency: the average contribution from the average workers' group rises with the increase in the average earnings of the working masses.

In the case of the liquidators, we see, apart from the spurt in the Moscow groups (of which there are only 25 in all!), that the average contributions from the provincial groups are higher than those from the St. Petersburg groups! How are we to explain this odd phenomenon?

Only a more detailed analysis of the figures could provide a satisfactory reply to this question, but that would be a laborious task. Our conjecture is that the liquidators unite the minority of the higher-paid workers in certain sections of industry. It has been observed all over the world that such workers cling to liberal and opportunist ideas. In St. Petersburg, the longest to put up with the liquidators were the printing workers, and it was only during the last elections in their Union, on April 27, 1914, that the Pravdists won half the seats on the Executive and a majority of the seats for alternate members. In all countries the printers are most inclined towards opportunism, and some grades among them are highly paid workers.

If our conclusion about the minority of the workers, the labour aristocracy, being in sympathy with the liquidators is merely conjectural, there can be no doubt whatever where individuals are concerned. Of the contributions made by non-workers, more than half came from individuals (531 out of 713 in our case, 266 out of 453 in the case of the liquidators). The average contribution from this source in our case is R.1.97 whereas among the liquidators it is R.6.05!

In the first case, the contributions obviously came from lower-paid office workers, civil servants, etc., and from the petty-bourgeois elements of a semi-proletarian character. In the case of the liquidators, however, we see that they have rich friends among the bourgeoisie.

These rich friends from among the bourgeoisie take still more definite shape as "groups of adherents, friends, etc." These groups collected R.458.82 for us, i. e., two per cent of the total sum collected, the average donation per group being R.10.92, which is only half as much again as the average donation of workers' groups. For the liquidators, however, these groups collected R.2,450.60, i. e., over 20 per cent of the total sum collected, the average donation per group being R.45.39, i. e., six times the average collected by workers' groups!

To this we add the collections made abroad, where bourgeois students are the main contributors. We received R.49.79 from this source, i. e., less than one-fourth of one per cent; the liquidators received R.1,709.17, i. e., 14 per cent.

If we add up individuals, "adherents and friends", and collections made abroad, the total amount collected from these sources will be as follows:

    Pravdists—R.1,555.23, i. e., 7 per cent of the total collections.

    Liquidators—R.5,768.09, i. e., 48 per cent of the total collections.

From this source we received less than one-tenth of what we received from the workers' groups (R.18,934). This source gave the liquidators more than they received from the workers' groups (R.5,296)!

The inference is clear: the liquidationist newspaper is not a workers' but a bourgeois newspaper. It is run mainly on funds contributed by rich friends from among the bourgeoisie.

As a matter of fact, the liquidators are far more dependent upon the bourgeoisie than our figures show. The Pravdist newspapers have frequently published their financial re ports for public information. These reports have shown that our newspaper, by adding collections to its income, is paying its way. With a circulation of 40,000 (the average for May 1914), this is understandable, in spite of confiscations and a dearth of advertisements. The liquidators, however, published their report only once (Luch No. 101), showing a deficit of 4,000 rubles. After this, they adopted the usual bourgeois custom of not publishing reports. With a circulation of 15,000, their newspaper cannot avoid a deficit, and evidently this is covered again and again by their rich friends from among the bourgeoisie.

Liberal-labour politicians like to drop hints about an "open workers' party", but they do not like to reveal to genuine workers their actual dependence upon the bourgeoisie! It is left for us, "underground" workers, to teach the liquidator-liberals the benefit of open reports....

The overall ratio of worker and non-worker collections is as follows:

Collected byOut of every ruble collected for
Workers87 kopeks44 kopeks
Non-workers13 kopeks56 kopeks
Total1.00 ruble1.00 ruble

The Pravdists get one-seventh of their aid collections from the bourgeoisie and, as we have seen, from its most democratic and least wealthy sections. The liquidationist undertaking is largely a bourgeois undertaking, which is supported only by a minority of the workers.

The figures concerning the sources of funds also reveal to us the class status of the readers and buyers of the newspapers.

Voluntary contributions are made only by regular readers, who most intelligently sympathise with the trend of the given newspaper. In its turn, the trend of the given news paper willy-nilly "adapts itself" to the more "influential" section of its reading public.

The deductions that follow from our figures are, first, theoretical, i. e., such as will help the working class to understand the conditions of its movement, and secondly, practical deductions, which will give us direct guidance in our activities.

It is sometimes said that there is not one working-class press in Russia, but two. Even Plekhanov repeated this statement not long ago. But that is not true. Those who say this betray sheer ignorance, if not a secret desire to help the liquidators spread bourgeois influence among the workers. Long ago and repeatedly (for example, in 1908 and 1910), the Party decisions clearly, definitely, and directly pointed to the bourgeois nature of liquidationism. Articles in the Marxist press have explained this truth hundreds of times.

The experience of a daily newspaper, which openly appeals to the masses, was bound to disclose the real class character of the liquidationist trend. And that is what it did. The liquidationist newspaper has indeed proved to be a bourgeois undertaking, which is supported by a minority of the workers.

Moreover, let us not forget that almost up to the spring of 1914 the liquidationist newspaper was the mouthpiece of the August bloc. It was only lately that the Letts with drew from it, and Trotsky, Em-El, An, Buryanov and Yegorov have left, or are leaving, the liquidators. The break-up of the bloc is continuing. The near future is bound to reveal still more clearly the bourgeois character of the liquidationist trend and the sterility of the intellectualist grouplets, such as the Vperyodists, Plekhanovites, Trotskyists, etc.

The practical deductions may be summed up in the following points:

    1) 5,674 workers' groups united by the Pravdists in less than two-and-a-half years is a fairly large number, considering the harsh conditions obtaining in Russia. But this is only a beginning. We need, not thousands, but tens of thousands of workers' groups. We must intensify our activities tenfold. Ten rubles collected in kopeks from hundreds of workers are more important and valuable, both from the ideological and organisational point of view, than a hundred rubles from rich friends among the bourgeoisie. Even from the financial aspect, experience goes to prove that it is possible to run a well-established workers' newspaper with the aid of workers' kopeks, but impossible to do so with the aid of bourgeois rubles. The liquidationist under taking is a bubble, which is bound to burst.

    2) We lag behind in the provinces, where 32 per cent of the workers' groups support the liquidators! Every class-conscious worker must exert every effort to put an end to this lamentable and disgraceful state of affairs. We must bring all our weight to bear in the provinces.

    3) The rural workers are apparently still almost untouched by the movement. Difficult as work in this field may be, we must press forward with it in the most vigorous manner.

    4) Like a mother who carefully tends a sick child and gives it better nourishment,, the class-conscious workers must take more care of the districts and factories where the workers are sick with liquidationism. This malady, which emanates from the bourgeoisie, is inevitable in a young working-class movement, but with proper care and persistent treatment, it will pass without any serious after effects. To provide the sick workers with more plentiful nourishment in the shape of Marxist literature, to explain more carefully and in more popular form the history and tactics of the Party and the meaning of the Party decisions on the bourgeois nature of liquidationism, to explain at greater length the urgent necessity of proletarian unity, i. e., the submission of the minority of the workers to the majority, the submission of the one-fifth to the four-fifths of the class-conscious workers of Russia—such are some of the most important tasks confronting us.


[1] Number of collections. —Lenin

[2] Sums collected (rubles) —Lenin

[3] V. A. T.—initials of V. A. Tikhomirnov, a member of the Pravda staff.

Published: Trudovaya Pravda Nos. 14 and 15, June 13 and 14, 1914. Symposium Marxism and Liquidationism, Part II. Priboi Publishers, St. Petersburg, 1914.
Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the text of the symposium verified with that of the newspaper Trudovaya Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 363-371.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg

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