The Unknown Revolution, Book One : Part 01, Chapter 05

Revolt Library >> Anarchism >> The Unknown Revolution, Book One >> Part 00001, Chapter 00005



(1882 - 1945) ~ Bolshevik-Aligned Leader of the Russian Nabat Anarchists : March of 1920 saw him taken to Moscow, where he would remain prisoner until October, when he and many other anarchists were released by virtue of a treaty between the Soviet Union and Makhno's army. Voline then returned to Kharkov, resuming his old activities... (From : Rudolph Rocker Bio.)
• "Yet there is consolation to be had. The masses learn through all too palpable first hand experience. And the experience is there." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "Socialism, so mighty in Germany, Austria and Italy, has proved powerless. 'Communism', itself very strong, especially in Germany, has proved powerless. The trade unions have proved powerless. How are we to account for this?" (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "As we know, there it was an authoritarian state communism (Bolshevism) that scored a stunning and rather easy victory in the events of 1917. Now, these days, nearly seventeen years on from that victory, not only is communism proving powerless to resist fascism abroad, but, where the regime within the USSR itself is concerned, the latter is more and more often being described more and more deliberately as 'red fascism'." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)


On : of 0 Words (Requires Chrome)

Part 01, Chapter 05

Chapter 5. The 20th Century; Hasty Development; Revolutionary Advance; Results (1900–1905)

The events and characteristics which we have just mentioned became even more pronounced at the beginning of the twentieth century.

On the one hand, instead of recognizing the aspirations of society, the absolutist regime decided to maintain itself by all possible means and to suppress not only all revolutionary movements, but also any expression of opposition. It was during this period that the government of Nicholas II diverted the growing discontent of the population by means of large-scale anti-Semitic propaganda followed by the instigation — and even the organization — of Jewish pogroms.

On the other hand, the economic development of the country continued at an accelerated pace. In a period of five years, from 1900 to 1905, industry and technology made an enormous leap. Petroleum production (at Baku), coal (at Donetz), and the production of metals, were rapidly reaching the level of other industrial countries. Roads and means of transportation (railroads, motor transport, river and ocean transport) were enlarged and modernized. Large construction plants employing thousands and even tens of thousands of workers rose or expanded on the outskirts of the large cities. Entire industrial regions sprang up or were expanded. For example, we can list the large Putilov factories, the extensive Nevsky shipyards, the large Baltic Factory, as well as others in St. Petersburg; industrial suburbs of the capital with tens of thousands of workers such as Kolpino, Chu-khovo, Sestrorech; the industrial region of Ivanovo-Voz-nessensk near Moscow; and several important factories in southern Russia: Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav and elsewhere. This rapid development was not well known abroad outside of interested groups. (There are many who, even today, believe that before the rise of Bolshevism, there was almost no industry in Russia; that industry was created entirely by the Bolshevik government.) Nevertheless, the development was considerable, not only from a purely industrial standpoint, but also socially. Industrialization brought about the rapid growth of proletarian elements. According to the statistics of the period, there were about three million workers in Russia in 1905.

At the same time the country made rapid advances inj cultural matters.

The education of adults was also progressing rapidly.

In 1905 there were about thirty universities and schools of higher learning in Russia, for men and women. Almost all these institutions depended on the State (except for a few that were supported by private municipal funds). Following an old tradition, but mainly as a result of the reforms of AlexT ander II, the statutes of the universities were quite liberal and allowed a great deal of internal independence (autonomy)! Alexander III and Nicholas II tried to diminish these. But every attempt of this type provoked major disorders. The government finally gave up such projects.

The professors of the universities and higher schools were chosen from among university graduates according to a specij fie procedure.

Almost all cities, even unimportant ones, had high schools ] and preparatory schools for boys and girls. The seconda™ schools were founded by the State, by individuals or by the “zemstvos.” In all three cases the teaching programs we™ established by the State, and the teaching was perceptibly similar. The teaching of religion was obligatory.

The teaching staff of the secondary schools was recruited from the university community with minor exceptions. The program of studies leading to the diploma, which gave acces to the university, lasted eight years. Students who were uif prepared could spend a year in a preparatory class, in addition to the eight obligatory years.

The number of primary schools in the cities and in the countryside increased rapidly. Some were founded by th State; others by municipalities and “zemstvos.” All of the were under the surveillance and control of the State. Primary education was free. It was not compulsory. The State naturally imposed the catechism in the primary schools. The men and women who taught in the primary schools had to have at least a diploma for four years of secondary school.

Evening courses for adults and some well organized “popular universities,” which were well attended, functioned in all the large cities. Municipalities and particularly individuals devoted themselves to these institutions with great zeal.

The children of workers and peasants were obviously rare in the high schools and universities. The cost of this education was too high.

Nevertheless, contrary to a widespread legend, access to these schools was not forbidden either for the children of workers or the children of peasants. The majority of the students came from families of intellectuals from the liberal professions, functionaries, clerical workers, and from bourgeois families.

The fact that intellectual circles professed a credo which was at least liberal made it possible for a propaganda of fairly progressive ideas to take place outside of the school curriculum in numerous municipal and popular schools and institutions, in spite of police surveillance.

The lecturers of the “popular universities” and the teachers of the primary schools often came from revolutionary circles. Some directors, usually with liberal leanings, tolerated them. They knew how to “arrange things.” In these circumstances the authorities were hardly able to oppose this propaganda.

In addition to schooling and conversation, education took place through writings.

An immense quantity of popular pamphlets, in general written by scholars or consisting of excerpts from the great writers, appeared on the market. These pamphlets dealt with all the sciences and analyzed political and social problems in a very progressive spirit. The official censorship was powerless against this mounting flood. The authors and publishers discovered numerous ways to deceive the vigilance of the authorities.

If we add the wide diffusion of clandestine revolutionary and socialist literature in intellectual and working class circles we will have a good idea of the vast movement of education] and preparation which characterizes the period between 1900 and 1905.

We have permitted ourselves to present certain details which are necessary for an understanding of the extent ana the progressive character of the revolutionary movements which followed. We should emphasize that this movement oil political and social aspirations was completed by a remark-j able moral development.

Young people liberated themselves from all prejudices: religious, national, sexual. In some respects Russian avant garde circles had for a long time been more advanced than those in western countries. The equality of races and nations, the equality of the sexes, free marriage (union libre), the negation of religion, were inherited truths in these circles; ini deed, they had been practiced since the time of the “Nihilists.” In all these fields, Russian writers (Belinski, Herzen Chernyshevsky, Dobrolubov, Pissarev, Mikhailovsky) accomplished an enormous task. They taught several generations of intellectuals the meaning of total liberation, and they did this in spite of the compulsory education with an opposite) content imposed by the Czarist system of secondary education.

This spirit of liberation ultimately became an inalienabl sacred tradition for Russian youth. While they submitted to the officially imposed education, young people got out frorfl under its rod as soon as they received the diploma.

“Do not go to the University!” shouted the bishop o our diocese when the diplomas were ceremoniously distril buted among us, students graduating from high school. “Dq not go to the University. Because the University is a den q rioters ...” .(Where did he want us to go?) He knew wha was happening, this honorable bishop. It was in fact the casi that, with few exceptions, all young men and women whl went to the universities became potential revolutionaries Among the people, “student” meant “rebel.”

Afterwards, when they grew older, these one-time rebels broken by the problems and misfortunes of life, forgot anc often denied their first impulses. But something generally regained: a liberal credo, a spirit of opposition, and sometimes a living spark which was ready to burn on the first serious occasion.

Nevertheless, the political, economic and social situation of the working population remained unchanged.

Exposed to the growing exploitation of the State and the bourgeoisie, without any means of defense, lacking all rights to congregate, to be heard, to impose their demands, to organize, to struggle, to strike, the workers were materially and morally dissatisfied.

In the countryside, the poverty and dissatisfaction of the peasant masses continued to grow. The peasants — 175 million men, women and children — were abandoned and were considered a sort of “human herd” (corporal punishment was a reality for them until 1904, even though it had been abolished legally in 1863). A lack of general culture and elementary education; primitive and insufficient tools; the absence of credit or any other form of protection or aid; very high taxes; arbitrary, contemptuous and cruel treatment by the authorities and “superior” classes; continual parceling of their plots as a consequence of the division of the land among new members of families; competition between the “kulaks” (wealthy peasants) and the landed gentry — such were the varied causes of their misery. Even the “peasant community” — the famous Russian mir — was no longer able to support its members. Furthermore, the government of Alexander III and that of his successor Nicholas II did everything they could to reduce the mir to a simple administrative body, closely observed and policed by the State, a body whose primary purpose was to force the peasants to pay taxes and fees.

It was thus inevitable that socialist and revolutionary propaganda and activity should meet with a certain success. Marxism, spread clandestinely but energetically, found numerous followers, mainly among students, but also among workers. The influence of the Social-Democratic Party, founded ln 1898, could be felt in many cities and in certain regions, despite the fact that this party was illegal (as were all others).

The government’s severity against militants became increasingly brutal. There were countless political trials. Measures of administrative and police repression savagely struck! thousands of “subjects.” Prisons, places of exile and hard labor camps filled up. However, although the authorities! were able to reduce the activity and influence of the party! to a minimum, they did not succeed in stifling it, as they had succeeded earlier in stifling the first political groups.

After 1900, despite all the efforts of the authorities, thej revolutionary movement grew considerably. Disorders among students and among workers became daily events. In facta universities were frequently closed for several months prej cisely because of political troubles. The response of students, supported by workers, was to organize resounding demonstrations at public places. At St. Petersburg, the square of the Kazan Cathedral became the classical spot for these popular demonstrations where students and workers gathered, singing! revolutionary songs and at times carrying red flags. The government sent detachments of police and Cossacks on horses back to “clean up” the square and the neighboring streets with swords and whips (nagaikas).

The Revolution began to conquer the streets.

Nevertheless, in order to give the reader an accurate idea of the general situation, we should make another reservation,!

The picture we have just painted is accurate. But by referring only to this picture, without making major corf rections, without referring constantly to the large totality oi the country and the people, we will run the risk of exaggerate ing, and will end up making erroneous general evaluations which will not lead to an understanding of later events.

We should not forget that, out of the immense mass oJ more than 180 million people, the groups influenced by the intellectual movement we have described consisted of a very small stratum: In fact, it consisted of a few thousand intellectuals, mainly students, and the elite of the working claa of the large cities. The rest of the population: the innumerable peasant masses, the majority of the city inhabitants and even the majority of the working population, were still outside the revolutionary ferment, indifferent and even hostile to it. The members of advanced circles did increase rapidly from 1900 on the number of workers won to the cause grev continually; the revolutionary outburst also reached the increasingly miserable peasant masses. But at the same time, the vast mass of the people — the mass whose activity alone determines major social changes — retained its primitive outlook. The “Russian paradox” remained nearly intact, and the “legend of the Czar” continued to dazzle millions of human beings. In relation to this mass, the movement in question was no more than a small and superficial ferment (only four workers took part in the Social-Democratic Congress in London, 1903).

In these conditions, all contact between those in front, who were way ahead, and the mass of the population, who remained way behind, was impossible.

The reader should constantly keep this in mind in order to understand the events that followed.

In 1901 revolutionary activity was enriched by a new element: alongside the Social-Democratic Par.ty rose the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. The propaganda of this party quickly met with considerable success.

The two parties differed from each other on three essential points:

1. Philosophically and sociologically, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party disagreed with Marxist doctrine;

2. Due to its anti-Marxism, this party elaborated a different solution for the peasant problem (the most important in Russia). While the Social-Democratic Party, basing itself solely on the working class, did not count on the peasant masses (it waited for their rapid proletarianization), and consequently neglected rural propaganda, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party hoped to win the Russian peasant masses to the revolutionary and socialist cause. The latter considered it impossible to wait for the peasants’ proletarianization. Consequently it carried out large-scale propaganda in the countryside. The Social-Democratic Party’s agrarian program anticipated nothing more than the enlargement of the peasants’ Plots and other minor reforms, whereas the minimum program of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party included the complete and immediate socialization of the land.

3. Perfectly consistent with its doctrine, the Social-Democratic Party, counting on the action of the masses, rejected all terrorist activity and all political assassinations as socially useless. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party, on the other hand, attached a certain public utility to assassination attempts against high Czarist officials who were excessively zealous or cruel. It even created a special body called the “combat organism,” which was charged with preparing and carrying out political assassinations under the direction of the Central Committee.

Except for these differences, the short-term political and social programs (“minimum programs”) of the two parties were almost the same: a bourgeois democratic republic which would pave the way for an evolution toward socialism.

From 1901 to 1905 the Socialist-Revolutionary Party carried out several assassination attempts, some of which had major repercussions. In 1902 the student Balmachev, a young militant of the party, assassinated Sipiagin, Minister of the Interior; in 1904 another Socialist-Revolutionary student, Sazonov, killed von Plehve, the well known and cruel successor to Sipiagin; in 1905, the Socialist-Revolutionary Kalayev killed the Grand Duke Serge, governor (“the hideous satrap”) of Moscow.

In addition to the two political parties, there was also a small anarchist movement. Extremely weak and totally unknown by the population, it consisted of some groups of intellectuals and workers (peasants in the South) without permanent contact. There may have been two anarchist groups in St. Petersburg and about that many in Moscow (the latter were the stronger and more active), as well as groups in the South and West. Their activity was limited to a weak (though nevertheless extremely difficult) propaganda, some assassination attempts against overly zealous servants of the regime, and some acts of “individual revenge.” Libertarian literature Was smuggled from abroad; this consisted largely of pamphlets by Kropotkin, who had himself been forced to emigrate after the collapse of the Narodnaya Volya, and had settled in England.

The rapid increase of revolutionary activity after 1900 alarmed the government. What bothered the authorities most was the fact that the propaganda was favorably received by the working population. In spite of their illegal and therefore difficult existence, both socialist parties had committees, propaganda circles, clandestine print shops and fairly numerous groups in the major cities. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party successfully committed assassinations the repercussions of which attracted a great deal of attention and even admiration. The government decided that its methods of defense and repression-surveillance, espionage, provocation, prison, pogroms-were inadequate. In order to draw the working masses away from the influence of the socialist parties and all other] revolutionary activity, it conceived a Machiavellian plan which was logically to lead to the government’s mastery over the workers’ movement. It decided to launch a legal, authorized workers’ organization which the government itself commanded. It was thus going to kill two birds with one stone: on one side it would attract toward itself the sympathy, gratitude and devotion of the working class, pulling it away from the revolutionary parties; on the other side, it would be able to lead this workers’ movement wherever it wanted, while keeping close watch on it.

There was no doubt that the task was delicate. It was necessary to attract workers into State organisms, calm their suspicions, interest them, flatter them, seduce them, and dupe them, without their being aware of it; it was necessary to pretend to satisfy their aspirations, eclipse the parties, neutralize their propaganda, and go beyond them — especially with concrete acts. To succeed, the government would be obliged to go to the point of agreeing to make certain concessions of an economic or social order, while constantly keeping th workers at its mercy, manipulating them at will.

Such a “program” had to be executed by men in whom the government had absolute confidence, men who were cunning, skillful and experienced, who were familiar with the psychology of workers, who knew how to impose themselves on workers and win their confidence.

The government finally chose two agents of the politic; secret police (Okhrana), who were charged with the mission of carrying out this project. One was Zubatov, for Moscow; the other was a priest, chaplain in a St. Petersburg prison, Father Gapon.

The government of the Czar wanted to play with fire. Before long it burned itself cruelly.

From :


November 30, 1946 :
Part 01, Chapter 05 -- Publication.

February 22, 2017 19:09:00 :
Part 01, Chapter 05 -- Added to

May 28, 2017 15:36:11 :
Part 01, Chapter 05 -- Last Updated on


Permalink for Sharing :
Share :


Login to Comment

0 Dislikes

No comments so far. You can be the first!


<< Last Work in The Unknown Revolution, Book One
Current Work in The Unknown Revolution, Book One
Part 01, Chapter 05
Next Work in The Unknown Revolution, Book One >>
All Nearby Works in The Unknown Revolution, Book One
Home|About|Contact|Search|Privacy Policy