The Labour Movement in St. Petersburg in 1913

Chapter VII

The Okhta Explosion

The Commencement of 1913 – Explosion at the Okhta Powder Works – The Cause of the Explosion – Interpellation in the Duma – Reply to the Explanations of the War Minister

The St. Petersburg proletariat entered the new year, 1913, in the stormy atmosphere which was the aftermath of the recent strikes and demonstrations in connection with the first interpellations of the Social-Democratic fraction in the Duma. The workers at Maxwell's factories had just returned to work after fighting the lock-out for over a fortnight, with the assistance of the whole of the St. Petersburg workers.

The first political strike of the new year – on January 9 – was supported in St. Petersburg with exceptional enthusiasm. About eighty thousand workers downed tools on the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." On the previous day the whole of the police force had been mobilised in anticipation of demonstrations and many arrests made in working-class districts. Strong detachments of both mounted and foot police guarded all bridges and avenues leading to the centre of the city, and police reserves were concealed in courtyards behind closed gates. Groups of workers appearing in the Nevsky Prospect were forced back into side streets by the police.

At all the St. Petersburg factories, from the biggest to the smallest, the workers, immediately after arriving in the morning, left work and poured into the streets singing revolutionary songs. In the Vyborg, Neva and some other districts, red flags, edged with black mourning, were carried through the streets.

From the morning onwards, long processions of workers wended their way towards the Preobrazhensky Cemetery to the graves of the victims of January 9. Throughout the day, a strong police detachment stationed at the cemetery was driving the workers away.

At numerous factory meetings held on the same day, collections were taken for a fund to build a memorial to the 9th January victims and to assist workers prosecuted by the police. At some works it was decided to subscribe one day's wages and all the money collected was sent to our Duma fraction. Numerous resolutions, reflecting the political demands of the working class for civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, etc., were passed at the meetings and sent in to the fraction. Recommendations were carried concerning the unity of the movement. Other resolutions protested against the so-called "52 points," i.e. the list of 52 localities where political exiles were prohibited from residing, the appointment of representatives to the insurance commissions by the authorities instead of their election by the workers, the persecution of trade unions, etc.

The imposing strike and demonstration on January 9 showed that the struggle of the working class was again in the ascendant. Revolutionary sentiments increased from month to month amongst the St. Petersburg workers, and such was the case too all over Russia.

Such were the conditions under which the Fourth State Duma resumed its work on January 21. The deputies – landowners and officials – were in no hurry to begin their legislative work, only a small proportion of the members having turned up at the first sitting. The session commenced drowsily and the first business was the long-drawn-out question of the confirmation of the elections. Things became lively only when our fraction introduced new interpellations concerning the explosion at the Okhta powder works, the torturing of political prisoners, and the lock-out in the textile industry.

The explosion at Okhta, where explosives were manufactured for the War Office, took place at the end of December. It occurred in the afternoon and by the evening rumours were spreading throughout the city as to the large number of victims.

Five men perished under the wreckage, among which their bodies were later discovered, totally disfigured. The charred body of one worker was only identified by a rag of material from his suit. Over fifty were seriously wounded, the majority being women, because in the pipe workshop where the explosion took place mainly women were employed.

The explosion caused a mad panic at the works and it was only by chance that more victims were not involved. No medical help was at hand and the doctor who arrived an hour later was unable to do anything.

The next morning I went to the works to ascertain directly the extent and causes of the explosion. The official in charge refused to give me a pass to the scene of the explosion. I went to the chief of the works, General Somov, who also declined, stating that only the Artillery Board could issue passes. It was obvious that the management was afraid to admit deputies to the works and wanted to prevent unwelcome disclosures.

According to General Somov's explanation, the explosion was due to a mere accident. "Such accidents do happen, and may always happen, and I, for one," he said, "never enter the works without making the sign of the cross." Apparently this was the only measure of precaution that the management took to avert accidents in a highly dangerous industry.

I failed to reach the scene of the actual disaster, but the little I saw while at the works revealed its enormous extent.

I had conversations with many of the workers. They were still suffering from nervous shock and panic, and seemed to be expecting another explosion any minute. Before leaving home in the morning, some workers had put on clean underwear, being firmly convinced that they were going to face death. I was asked to insist on obtaining a detailed investigation of the causes of the explosion, to demand from the War Office an improvement in the working conditions and safety measures and to organise help for the victims and their relatives.

The victims of the explosion were buried on December 20. As early as 9 a.m. thousands of workers began to stream towards the church where the bodies were lying. Many workers, besides those from the Okhta works, followed the coffins. At one of the neighbouring plants work was completely stopped because all the workers had decided to attend the funeral. In all over 10,000 people took part in the funeral procession. Scores of wreaths were carried in front, including one from the Duma Social-Democratic fraction bearing the inscription: "To the victims of capital." All the Social-Democratic deputies who were present in St. Petersburg attended the funeral.

The St. Petersburg workers turned the funeral into a formidable demonstration against the capitalist regime which was constantly claiming new victims from their ranks. Every class-conscious worker became more determined on the necessity of an incessant, stubborn struggle.

The War Office opened an inquiry into the explosion in order to present a "report to the Emperor." The results of such an inquiry were known in advance: it would be drawn up by clever officials and would lay the blame entirely upon "divine providence." The Duma Social-Democratic fraction conducted its own investigation. By questioning the Okhta workers and collecting other material, we were able to bring to light the true causes and the attendant circumstances of the explosion.

The immediate cause was careless handling by one of the workers of a charged fuse-cap. According to the regulations not more than ten fuses were allowed to be kept on the premises, but there were, in fact, several thousands, and it was this which caused such a terrible explosion. This, however, was only the immediate cause; the explosion with its attendant roll of human victims was really due to the terrible conditions of work at the Okhta plant.

The manufacture of explosives, which is excessively dangerous work, requires highly skilled labour with correspondingly high rates of pay. Yet the works management, anxious to obtain cheap labour, engaged mainly unskilled labourers and women who came straight from the villages and were completely ignorant of that sort of work. For a continuous working-day of ten hours, a trifle was paid – 65 to 75 kopeks. The workers were little better than slaves. They were not given wage-books and were subjected to coarse abuse, fines, and arbitrary dismissal.

Every striving towards education was severely suppressed: it was considered better that they should indulge in drink rather than read the papers. Oppressed by fierce exploitation, dulled by long working-hours (the management used to force the workers to do eight or nine hours' overtime a day), the Okhta workers were naturally unable to display that degree of attention and caution which is required in the production of explosives.

To these circumstances must be added the very backward technical equipment of the works. The workshops were much too small for the work which had to be done, and a number of government commissions had recommended the thorough re-equipment of the plant and even its transfer to other premises. In such conditions explosions were bound to occur frequently. On January 3, 1913, only two weeks later, another explosion took place and more victims were added to the previous total.

Explosions and building disasters were customary phenomena in Russian industrial life. Capitalism, in its ruthless exploitation of the workers, was responsible for thousands of deaths in the various industries. In our Duma interpellation we had to cover the whole field as well as draw public attention to the terrible Okhta catastrophe. We had to describe from the Duma rostrum the conditions under which the Russian proletariat works, to reveal the extent to which it was being exploited and to strengthen its will for the revolutionary struggle.

The extraordinary circumstances of the case, the numerous victims and finally the danger of new explosions forced even the Duma majority to acknowledge the urgency of the interpellation. The motion for urgency was carried by the 134 votes of the Octobrists and the Centre against 127 votes of the Right.

The fate of this interpellation showed, however, that the recognition of the, urgency of a question by the Duma majority did not, by any means, ensure its treatment as urgent. The interpellation was decided upon by the Duma on January 25, 1913, but the answer in a written form was not given by the War Minister until the summer, six months later. The Duma members were then away on their summer vacation and another six months passed before the answer of the government could be discussed.

I was put up by the fraction as speaker for this debate. But, as might have been expected, the Duma majority remained true to itself and refrained from any action which might inconvenience the government. The Okhta explosion case was buried in the obscurity of Duma commissions and thus shared the fate of so many other of our fraction's interpellations.

Chapter VIII

The Lock-Out in the Textile Industry

The Economic Causes of the Lock-out – The Lock-out at the Rossisskaya Mill – The Attitude of the Factory Inspectors – The Aid of the St. Petersburg Workers – The Interpellation Concerning the Lock-out – The Second Lock-out at Maxwell's Factory

The intensification of the struggle of the working class led to the consolidation and mobilisation of all the forces of the manufacturers and mill-owners. The rising tide of the labour movement frightened the capitalists. Fines, disciplinary punishments, arrests of the ringleaders – all these measures had been tried. Now the united capitalists brought into action a powerful long-range weapon, mass dismissals. The lock-outs threw thousands of workers on to the streets and threatened them with destitution and starvation.

The partial crisis through which the textile industry of Russia was passing at that time strengthened the hands of the mill-owners. From the beginning of January 1913, lock-outs became common at the textile factories in St. Petersburg, especially at the bigger firms.

The most protracted lock-out was that at the Rossisskaya cotton mill, where 1,200 workers were employed. It was obviously deliberately provoked by the management, which decided to discharge all trade unionists. Moreover, the employers wanted to get rid of old workers who had been at the factory for twenty to thirty years and replace them by younger men.

On January 21, thirty workers in the carding department were informed without any previous notice that their wages were reduced by 10 kopeks a day. The next morning the workers in this department declared a strike to maintain the old rates of pay. This was precisely what the management desired. That night, when the new shift arrived, the steam engine was stopped, the electric light extinguished, and the workers were told as they arrived that the factory was going to suspend work for an indefinite period and that all workers would be paid off. The provocative nature of the owners' action was obvious. The demands of the thirty workers concerned only amounted to three rubles a day, but on account of this, 1,200 workers who were not involved in the strike were doomed to unemployment and starvation.

Ignoring the provocation, the workers presented themselves for several days at the factory at the correct hour, but they were not allowed to enter. Two days later, a notice was posted on the gates inviting the workers to attend at the office to be paid off. At first the workers refused, demanding two weeks' wages in compensation for dismissal for which the mass of the workers were in no way to blame. However, the owners found allies to assist them. The house-owners and tradesmen of the neighbourhood refused to continue supplying goods on credit until the workers paid off their old debts, which were rather large owing to the recent Christmas holidays. Under this pressure, the workers were forced to attend to be paid off. Each worker had about ten to twenty rubles to draw; the whole of this had to be paid to the local tradesmen, but in return they could obtain further credit and on a semi-starvation level pull through for a few more days.

From the early morning of the day of the lock-out, a nervous tension was apparent in the district around the mill. The teashops and inns, the "labour clubs" of that period, where workers met and discussed their affairs, were crowded with men who had passed sleepless nights in anticipation of the moment when they and their families would be faced with starvation.

Owing to their low wages, textile workers could barely make ends meet even when employed, and the first day of unemployment was the first day of severe hunger.

The more class-conscious workers, Social-Democrats and trade unionists, devoted their efforts to bringing about some sort of order and organised action. Several hundred copies of Pravda containing an appeal to the workers not to surrender were rushed to the spot for distribution. Attempts were made to arrange meetings to discuss the state of affairs at the mill, but the police dispersed all gatherings, however small.

When the first outburst of panic and despair caused by the lock-out had subsided, the mood of the workers underwent a change. The workers began to prepare for a long struggle, and in spite of the police a meeting of those locked out was called. It was decided that all workers locked out should keep in touch, that an appeal for help should be made to all St. Petersburg workers, a determined struggle waged against the use of alcohol during the lock-out, and that workers' educational societies should be requested to organise free lectures, etc. No man or woman was to approach the gates of the factory, and to plead for him or herself, or on behalf of groups of workers. When the factory was re- opened, no worker was to return unless all were reinstated.

Considering that the owners had broken the government factory regulations, the workers applied to the factory inspector, who, theoretically at any rate, was there to protect the interests of the workers. The conversation which took place in the office of the senior factory inspector for St. Petersburg showed very convincingly whose interests he really "protected."

The representatives of the textile union who went to the inspector to state their case were told by him: "I cannot conduct any negotiations with a trade union organisation. According to the law, I only have the right to discuss matters with the workers of the particular undertaking where the dispute has occurred."

"But we, too, are acting in accordance with the law," replied the delegation. "According to our statutes confirmed by the lawful authorities, the union has the right to negotiate concerning the needs of its members both with private persons and with the representatives of government institutions."

The conflict between these two contradictory "legal enactments" was solved by the happy chance that one of the dismissed workers happened to be among the representatives of the union. Therefore the factory inspector allowed the interview to proceed. The conversation lasted two hours with the inspector comfortably stretched out in his armchair, while the union delegates stood, cap in hand, before the "defender" of labour interests.

"As regards the police rough-handling the workers and beating up those who went to the factory," said the inspector, "you should complain to the Chief of the Police. It is no business of mine and I cannot help you."

But it appeared that neither could he interfere with the actions of the works management. He thought everything was perfectly in order. Workers were not entitled to receive a fortnight's wages in advance. His department had no power to stop the lock-out which the factory owners had decided among themselves. "You have got a bad case," was the inspector's parting shot.

The visit to the factory inspector showed once more by whom and for whom the laws of Russia were framed. The workers could only rely on themselves and on the comradely help of the St. Petersburg proletariat. And they obtained this help. The ready assistance given by the workers to the men and women affected by the lock-out – at about the same time over 2,000 men were dismissed in a similar provocative fashion in another large cotton mill – showed the strong solidarity uniting the working class. A struggle at one factory was perfectly understood by the workers to be a struggle of the whole working class.

The lock-out at the textile factories raised a storm of indignation among all St. Petersburg workers. At some places agitation was conducted by anarchist elements, who called on the workers to retaliate by breaking machines, by arson and other terrorist methods. Social-Democrats vigorously opposed this propaganda which only promised new dangers for the working class. Such methods were always rejected by Social-Democrats as entirely useless and harmful to the labour movement. Fortunately only a handful of people supported the anarchists and we were soon able to overcome these tendencies.

The assistance given by the St. Petersburg proletariat to the textile workers assumed a different form. Collections in relief of the dismissed workers were soon started in all factories and workshops. The money collected was sent to the Duma Social-Democratic fraction, which arranged for its distribution in the correct way.

In the early days of the lock-out, the textile workers had applied to the Social-Democratic fraction with the demand that an interpellation be introduced into the Duma concerning the revolting treatment of thousands of workers by the employers. An emergency meeting of the fraction decided to draft the interpellation at once and to introduce it at the first opportunity. It was drafted and introduced in the beginning of February, but was not put down for discussion until March 1, almost six weeks after the beginning of the lock-out. The Duma majority purposely postponed the discussion of the question so as to allow the excitement of the workers to die down before it was taken.

Interpellations could be addressed to the government only on the ground of some infraction of the existing laws. A lock-out did not constitute such an infraction, since the law of the Russian Empire did not prohibit mass dismissals of workers. Therefore in order to formulate the interpellation in a legal fashion we had to make it a question of the failure of factory inspectors to carry out their duties. Behind this formal ground was the real substance – the exposure of the organised campaign of the capitalists against the working class and its trade union organisations.

The text of the interpellation opened with a general description of the lock-outs declared by the mill-owners. In conclusion, the fraction proposed that the Duma ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he was aware of the unlawful actions on the part of factory inspectors and what he proposed to do "to induce these officials under his department to carry out their duties as imposed on them by law."

Although this interpellation was accepted by the Duma it fared no better than the other interpellations introduced by our fraction. On receiving the interpellations, the ministries concerned set in motion the entire bureaucratic machine of red tape, "making enquiries," "waiting for reports," etc. While the interpellation was thus being thickly covered with office dust, the acuteness of its subject-matter passed and it was only then that the minister fulfilled his formal duty and presented his "explanations."

The interpellation was answered, after six weeks' delay, by Litvinov-Falinsky, an official of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. This official was well known as the inspirer and executor of the whole labour policy of the tsarist government. His explanations excelled in open cynicism anything that had been said before by the tsarist ministers. Litvinov simply asserted that the state of affairs referred to in the interpellation did not exist; that there had been no reduction in wages in the carding department of the cotton mill, that there had been no lock-out and no unlawful actions on the part of factory inspectors. This answer was simply revolting even when judged by the standards that prevailed at that time. The Markovs, Purishkeviches and their colleagues on the extreme Right were delighted and applauded heartily, while mocking at the "lies of the Left."

The struggle at that cotton mill had hardly ended when a fresh lock-out occurred in the textile industry. This affected the workers at Maxwell's factories, where a bitter dispute had already taken place in December 1912. Here the owners' attack was even more blatant. As was the case in the previous dispute, the workers were summarily discharged for participating in a political strike (on the anniversary of the Lena shootings).

A meeting was held and the workers decided not to accept payment and dismissal but to reply by a strike, demanding the re-instatement of all workers previously employed at the factory: Incidentally additional demands were made referring to working conditions. Despite their privation, the workers fought with enthusiasm and, as before, relied on the support of the St. Petersburg proletariat.

The strikers asked me to organise the collection of relief funds and, during the first days of the strike, I published an appeal in Pravda addressed to all workers. The response was immediate and satisfactory; collections were made at all factories. In the evening the money was brought to me and I handed it over to the strikers' representatives. The first day brought in 700 rubles, the second over 500, etc.

The lock-out and strike lasted for a whole month. When the factory reopened on May 2, all the workers were not reinstated, but the management did not succeed in carrying out its plan in full. Instead of the wage-reductions and longer hours announced when the lock-out was declared, the old rates were maintained. This constituted a victory for the workers, who had conducted the long struggle in an organised manner.

In the spring of 1913, further lock-outs were declared in the textile industry involving a number of mills. The system of lock-outs was applied by the mill-owners as long as the state of the market was against them. In the summer, with the gradual improvement of the textile market in view of the approaching Nijni-Novgorod fair, the lock-outs became no longer profitable to the employers. This led the workers, by a number of economic strikes, to improve their conditions of work and to gain higher rates of pay.

During the lock-outs of 1912-13, the St. Petersburg textile workers suffered many hardships, but despite a number of defeats great favourable results could be noted. The textile workers, the most backward of the proletariat, learned the great importance of organisation and solidarity. The suffering was not in vain, it played its part in preparing the workers and steeling them for future battles.

Chapter IX

The Strike at Lessner's Factory

The Causes of the Strike – Strongin's Funeral – The Struggle of the Workers at Lessner's – Solidarity of the Workers – Three Months of Struggle – The Railway Repair Sheds

During the years immediately preceding the war there were several instances when the St. Petersburg workers gave evidence of close solidarity and organised power. But in this period of intense and heroic struggle the strike at Lessner's factory, which, lasted throughout the summer of 1913, was of special importance. Its cause, its duration and the vast sympathy it evoked among the masses make this strike one of the outstanding episodes of the labour movement of the pre-war years.

The strike at Lessner's cannot be classed either as purely political or as purely economic. It was one of those strikes which occur during a period of revolutionary upsurge. The only demand made by the workers – the removal of a foreman who had caused the death of one of their comrades – seemed at first sight comparatively insignificant, yet it was the cause of a long and stubborn fight such as could only arise under conditions when the working class faced the class of the capitalists in a general and open battle.

The strike at the "New Lessner" works arose in the following way. The foreman of one of the machine shops gave several hundred screw nuts to a worker, Strongin, to cut threads on them. In the course of the work several nuts were lost; they were either accidentally thrown into the rubbish heap or taken by mistake to another shop. Strongin informed the foreman, who, after shouting vile abuse at him, demanded the return of the nuts within two days "or else I shall sack you and mark your book 'for theft.'" Strongin was unable to find the nuts or to prove that he had not stolen them. The foreman's threat to sack him branded as a thief loomed before him as a disgrace that he could not endure. Strongin obtained permission to work late and during the night he went to an unfrequented part of the works and hanged himself on a staircase.

On the morning of April 23 the body was found by the watchman and, as the news spread through the works, all the workers left their benches and gathered round the dead body. The workers demanded that the management should at once investigate the matter. Instead of this, the management sent for the police, in whose presence Strongin's clothes were searched. In one of his pockets a letter was found which, after reading it, the manager tried to conceal. The workers protested and insisted that the letter should be read immediately. It was addressed to his mates at the works and read as follows:

Comrades: I am not sure whether I should write to you. But I shall write.... The foreman accuses me of theft. Before I finish with life, I want to tell you this, comrades, I am innocent. This is vouched for by my conscience, my heart, my worker's honesty, but I cannot prove it. I cannot leave the works, branded as a thief by the foreman, so I have decided to end it all.... Good-bye, dear comrades and remember – I am innocent. Yakov Strongin.

The crowd, deeply shocked by the dying declaration of a comrade hounded to death by the management, stood spellbound for several minutes. Then voices were heard: "Hats off, comrades," and the revolutionary funeral march was sung in chorus. When the foreman, the murderer of Strongin, appeared, he was met with cries of "Judas," "Betrayer," "Hangman," "follow the coffin and never show yourself again at the works." All the workers accompanied the body to the mortuary.

Next morning on arriving at work they saw there the man who was responsible for Strongin's death. When the manager declared that the board of directors refused to dismiss the foreman, the workers at once decided to strike until the murderer was removed from the works. The factory closed and all the workers employed at the "New Lessner" went home determined not to return until their demand had been granted.

A huge demonstration took place at Strongin's funeral. The police and the employers, as is customary in such cases, did all they could to prevent a large attendance. The day and hour of the funeral were kept secret as long as possible; but on the day before the editors of Pravda managed to obtain this information. An announcement was published in the stop press column, but, as the paper did not reach the workers before they started work, only individual workers learned that the funeral was to take place at 9 a.m. Yet at that hour more than 1,000 men had gathered at the mortuary. Workers from the New Lessner were there in full force, as well as representatives from other factories. Wreaths were hurriedly obtained and, as there was no time to have them printed, inscriptions were written with chalk on black ribbons and with coal on white. Some of these ribbons were cut off by the police because of the revolutionary nature of the inscriptions. Thousands of people accompanied Strongin's body to the entrance of the churchyard. There the procession was stopped by the mounted police, who only allowed the coffin and a few near relatives of the deceased to enter.

Malinovsky and I had arranged to attend the funeral as representatives of the Duma fraction, but the police in conjunction with the works management tricked us out of being present. At the factory office we were told that Strongin was to be buried at the Mitrofanyevskoye cemetery. When we found that this was incorrect, we rang up the factory and were again misdirected. After wandering for several hours on the wrong track, we finally reached the Preobrazhenskoye cemetery to find that the crowd had been dispersed by the police and the coffin had already been lowered into the ground. Many workers who had also been deceived in this way wrote to Pravda expressing their sympathy with the Lessner workers.

In reply to the strike, the management announced that all old workers were dismissed. At the same time, the bourgeois press published advertisements inviting applications for work at the factory. The strikers, however, stood firm and these strike-breaking announcements met with no response. The workers were exceptionally well organised. Realising that they could not hold out for long without assistance, they at once issued an appeal to all workers in St. Petersburg to help them in the struggle.

Soon afterwards, the workers at the other Lessner factory, "Old Lessner," came out in support of their comrades on strike. Now both the Lessner factories stood idle. The management was no longer able to recruit workers for the "New Lessner" under the pretence of accepting them for the "Old." Nor could it any longer even partially cope with its outstanding orders. Since the non-fulfilment of contracts usually entailed penalties, this threatened the owners with considerable loss.

Then the management attempted to get its orders completed at other factories, sending patterns, unfinished articles, and drawings. In spite of the measures adopted to conceal this manoeuvre, the strikers soon learned of it. They appealed to all St. Petersburg metal-workers to boycott all such work. The other workers responded unanimously and none of Lessner's work was executed at the other factories.

Every refusal to perform such blackleg work, every greeting received from other factories, encouraged the strikers and strengthened their hope of victory. Workers' contributions to the strike fund had never been so plentiful and regular. At many places collections were made not merely on one occasion, but workers gave regularly a certain percentage of their wages. At one factory overtime was allowed to be worked on condition that half a day's wage was given to the Lessner Fund. Married workers at this factory also offered to feed temporarily at their homes the children of Lessner workers who were in special need.

During the struggle about 18,000 rubles were collected – the largest sum ever collected during a strike. All money was first sent to the Duma fraction, which then arranged for its distribution according to the strikers' needs. The strike became famous all over Russia and contributions reached us from some of the remotest towns, even from the outlying regions of Eastern Siberia. I was in charge of the fund and regularly acknowledged the receipt of all donations in Pravda, stating in detail the amount collected and the source.

The struggle at Lessner's factories was the most striking event in the working-class movement of 1913. The Party was intimately concerned in it, supporting the strikers in every way and spreading information about the strike among as many workers as possible. Pravda published daily reports on the course of the struggle and printed the strikers' appeals to other workers as well as their notes and letters.

All through the summer the strike went on. Early in June the police began to arrest the leaders, hoping in this way to break down the workers' resistance. A number of those arrested were sent out of St. Petersburg and prohibited from residing in fifty-two specified localities. Simultaneously the management of the works sent personal letters to the workers at their homes inviting them to resume work on "the old terms." But still the workers held out.

At last, after sixty-eight days, the workers at the "Old Lessner" returned. At the "New Lessner" the strike continued for another two weeks until August 1; altogether the workers had been out for the unparalleled period of 102 days. In spite of the fact that it ended in defeat, the strike was of enormous importance in the history of the labour movement. It drew in and stimulated new sections of the working class and gave a practical demonstration of the power of the organised solidarity of the proletariat.

While the Lessner workers were out, other strikes were proceeding and were being supported by the workers. The strike movement normally increased during the summer months. In the summer it was more convenient to call short meetings at the works, it was easier to arrange illegal meetings (usually held in the suburban woods) and to bear the privations entailed, than it was during the winter.

With the growth of the movement, the connections of our fraction with the masses became closer. During the Duma summer recess, as during the other intervals, the deputies returned to work in the regions from which they had been elected and I alone remained in St. Petersburg. At this time I had to perform the work which was usually divided among our six deputies.

Workers would call on me to ask all sorts of questions, especially on pay-days when money in aid of strikers was brought. Each worker who came with a contribution asked many questions. I had to arrange to supply passports and secret hiding-places, for those who became "illegal," help to find work for those victimised during strikes, petition ministers on behalf of those arrested, organise aid for exiles, etc. Where there were signs that a strike was flagging, it was necessary to take steps to instil vigour into the strikers, to lend the aid required and to print and send leaflets. Moreover, I was constantly consulted on personal matters.

There was not a single factory or workshop, down to the smallest, with which I was not connected in some way or other. Often my callers were so numerous that my apartment was not large enough for them, and they had to wait in a queue on the staircase. Every successive stage in the struggle, every new strike, increased these queues which symbolised the growing unity between the workers and the fraction and at the same time furthered the organisation of the masses.

In the spring of 1913, a dispute at the locomotive repair works, where I was employed before I became a deputy, revealed the sound organisation and unity of the masses. As far back as during the election of the delegates remarkable unanimity was displayed, and the vigour and self-reliance of the workers were increased. And after one of them, a worker previously nominated, was elected deputy for St. Petersburg, the revolutionary sentiments grew still further.

The secret police were paying a great deal of attention to the activity at the works and were determined to seize the first favourable opportunity to damp down the workers' enthusiasm. The moment selected for action was the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty in February 1913. For some time previously the police had been zealously purging all factories, striving to "eliminate" all active workers so as to prevent any revolutionary demonstrations at this festival. Arrests and expulsions were carried out in batches; all suspects were removed.

During the night of February 13, several railway workers were arrested. They were set free when the occasion for their arrest was over, but were refused readmittance to the works. The general manager told them: "Send in a petition to me. We will consult the police and find out whether you may be reinstated."

The shop stewards insisted on the reinstatement of the liberated men. Thereupon the manager tried to scare them: "You are advancing revolutionary demands. Remember that you will be held responsible. Don't incite the workers."

Indignant at such an attitude, all the workers gathered in one of the shops and, after discussing the situation, demanded the immediate reinstatement of their comrades. The demand was worded uncompromisingly; failing a satisfactory reply, a strike was to be declared at once.

The works management, playing for time, suggested that it should be allowed to consider the matter. But this was greeted with derision by the assembled workers. "You have had a whole week to consider the documents"; "Reinstate the men at once"; "We shall not disperse until our five comrades have been re-engaged."

The resolute stand of the workers had its effect. Confronted with such unanimity, the management was constrained to give way. The general manager announced that after dinner the five men would be allowed to return to their jobs. This incident demonstrated the power of solidarity and I considered that it should be made widely known among the masses. Therefore I published in Pravda the following appeal to workers at the railway repair shops:

Dear Comrades: I hasten to congratulate you on your successful united action on March 4, when you boldly prevented your five comrades being deprived of their daily bread and demanded that they be reinstated. Everywhere the workers' conditions are hard, but nowhere more so than in the repair shops of the Nikolaievskaya railway. Prior to being elected to the Duma, I worked for many years in these shops and know personally the oppressive measures of the management: harsh treatment, discharge without notice or reason, etc. Apparently the new manager is following in the footsteps of the old and is perhaps even more arbitrary. Conditions are worse on the railways than in many private works. One would imagine that in State undertakings, which are less dependent on market fluctuations, working conditions would be considerably better than in privately-owned establishments. They should be models both in regard to technical equipment and the treatment of the workers. Workers in State factories should have a shorter working-day, higher wages and the assurance of not being dismissed for no reason whatever.

But what, in fact, do we observe in the State railway shops? Owing to the prevalence of overtime, 12 hours is the normal working-day instead of 9 hours. These long hours are accompanied by low wages barely enough for the most miserable existence.

As the elected representative from these shops, I am particularly pleased at the action which you have taken. With solidarity and determination you have defeated the management and succeeded in defending the livelihood of your comrades. Remember, comrades, that unity and class-consciousness constitute our force and that only by united, class-conscious action can we improve our conditions.

By order of the city governor, the newspaper was fined 500 rubles for publishing my appeal. Although we knew that it might lead to a fine or even to confiscation and although the financial position of Pravda was far from secure, we had decided to run the risk. This appeal to the workers in the railway repair shops was essentially an announcement to the whole working class and had to be circulated as widely as possible. Printed in Pravda it was much more effective than if it had been issued in the form of a leaflet from the "underground" printing press.

The appeal created the impression which we had anticipated – it reinforced the determination of the workers. For a time the success of the workers and their revolutionary spirit forced the secret police to hold back. Later, however, the police decided to make another raid.

On the morning of the first day after the Easter holidays (in April 1913), strong detachments of police appeared at the works. Several men were stationed in each shop and the workers were not allowed to pass from one shop to another unless it was necessary for work and then only under escort.

After these preparations the four selected victims were informed that they were discharged. Comrade Melnikov, who had just been elected member of the board of the metal-workers' union, was again included. The discharged workers demanded that they should be told the reason for their dismissal, but the police refused to allow them access to the general manager. Later the management informed the shop stewards that the workers had been discharged at the request of the secret police. The four discharged workers were then arrested, sent out of St. Petersburg and forbidden to reside in the "52 localities," i.e. in any of the more important cities of Russia.

The same day the workers rushed to me with requests that I should send protests against this action to any authority concerned. It was apparent that no petition or protest would avail. The secret police, smarting under the failure of their former attack on the five workers, were determined this time to inflict heavy punishments on their victims.

I published in Pravda another appeal to the workers to reply to this fresh attack by rallying round the Party and strengthening their organisation. This, of course, could not be stated openly and I worded my appeal so that it could be understood by all class-conscious workers:

The workers request me to draw the attention of the highest authorities to these barbarous methods. Very well, I will go to the Minister. But, comrades, I must say at once that this will be of little use. We must all consider our position, read our workers' newspaper more regularly and become acquainted with the ways in which other workers are fighting to improve their conditions.

Chapter X

The Dockyards

Strike at the Baltic Dockyard – Visit to the Minister for the Navy – The Struggle of the Obukhov Workers – Interpellation Concerning the Obukhov Works – Explosion at the Mine-Manufacturing Works – Demonstration at the Funeral – Fine for Attending the Funeral – The Duma on my Fine

The Baltic naval dockyards were under the control of the Minister for the Navy. Working conditions there were as intolerable as in the other War Office factories. The ordinary workers earned twelve to eighteen kopeks an hour, overtime was customary and normally meant that working-hours were doubled. The workshops were extremely unhealthy, damp, draughty, smoky, and in winter very cold. Men had to work in awkward, cramped positions. Seven or eight years there were often enough to make a man a complete wreck.

As in all war establishments, where the managers wore officers' uniforms, the workers were persecuted with exceptional ferocity. The management was intimately connected with the police and every manager and foreman was also a political police agent. Espionage was fostered and denunciation encouraged, and on obtaining the necessary information the management immediately handed the "sedition-mongers" over to the police.

Despite these conditions, the workers did not lag behind the rest of the proletariat. Throughout the spring and summer of 1913, disputes were frequent at the dockyards, leading to strikes of the whole undertaking or embracing only some of the departments and shops.

During a dispute which broke out in May in one of the shops affecting ten workers, who refused to work overtime, three delegates were chosen to negotiate with the management. While the negotiations were being conducted, the chief of the dockyards sent for the police, who arrested the delegates. The same night, May 20, after their homes had been searched, the ten workers were also arrested. In reply to this, 2,000 workers of another shop came out and added to their economic demands the demand for the release of those arrested. The same day, the strikers sent representatives to the Duma fraction to inform them of what had happened and ask them to intercede on behalf of the men who had been victimised. Another member of the fraction and myself sent a wire to the Minister for the Navy requesting an interview.

During my membership of the Duma, in common with the rest of our fraction, I had frequently to call on various Ministers. Generally we had to visit the Minister for the Interior, who controlled the police and consequently dealt with cases of arrests, expulsions, etc.

We were perfectly well aware that we would obtain no tangible results from these visits. Why then did we go? We considered that, as in the case of speeches delivered in the Duma, the visits had a certain agitational importance. When the workers were informed that their deputy, a worker like themselves, had demanded to be received by the tsarist minister, and that the latter was bound to negotiate with him, they had more heart for the struggle. The information, published in Pravda, that the workers' deputy had presented this or that demand drew fresh strata of workers into the fight. After each of my visits to a minister, new workers appeared at my apartment, workers who had hitherto had nothing to do with the Party or with the trade unions, but who now made demands, brought material for interpellations and thereby were drawn into the ranks of the organised workers. The advanced detachments of the workers were thus reinforced by fresh recruits.

Admiral Grigorovich, the Minister for the Navy, was away at the time that we applied, so we received a reply from Admiral Bubnov, his assistant, who agreed to see us the following morning. After relating all that had taken place at the works, we proposed to Bubnov that he should now give serious attention to the abuses practised by the dockyard management.

The assistant minister at first made the usual excuses: that he knew nothing of the affair, that the head of the dockyards had not informed him in his report that workers were dismissed for refusing to work overtime, or that wages had been reduced, etc. When the conversation passed on to the question of arrests, however, Bubnov forgot these denials and it became clear that the head of the dockyards acted in accordance with instructions received from higher authorities. True, Bubnov protested that his orders to the head of the dockyards did not contain a request to the police to arrest the workers. As if the police could have understood in any other way the request addressed to them for help as against the strikers!

As the result of our protests, Bubnov had to promise that he would send a special official to investigate conditions at the Baltic dockyards. This promise was merely a subterfuge. The next day, instead of an investigation, a notice, emanating from the assistant minister, was posted at the works, announcing the closing down of the workshops concerned and mass dismissals of the workers.

Our visit to the assistant minister, however, had some effect. The next day, by orders "from above," the police released the arrested men. But the strike did not end; on the contrary other departments joined in, including the carpenters and painters. These workers presented demands for higher wages and better conditions, and characteristically enough, also the demand to be treated civilly. The workers were protesting against the barrack-like regime which was then prevalent in military and naval establishments. Over 3,000 men were on strike on this occasion.

In a month's time, at the end of June, another strike broke out at the Baltic dockyards. The immediate cause was bad treatment of the workers and the systematic rate-cutting enforced by one of the managers, Polikarpov. The workers chased him out of the workshop, which was thereupon closed down. The workers, in their turn, declared a strike and put forward a number of demands. In order to break the spirit of the workers, the aid of the police was obtained, as during the first strike. More than ten workers, whom the management suspected of being leaders and organisers, were arrested. The strikers immediately informed me, and once again I called on Grigorovich, the Minister for the Navy, to speak on behalf of the prisoners.

Admiral Grigorovich was one of those tsarist ministers who posed as liberals and who attempted to keep on "good terms" with the Duma members. Their liberalism, however, was a sham. Their object was merely to avoid irritating the public by too glaring reactionary measures, but in reality they followed the same Black Hundred policy as the pogrom-makers, Maklakov, Shcheglovitov and others. Grigorovich's "reasonable" attitude was so much to the liking of the Octobrist majority that later, when the Octobrists were playing at opposition, Rodzyanko proposed Grigorovich as Premier of a responsible cabinet.

Fully aware that our conversation would be broadcast among the masses, Grigorovich played the part of a friend of the people. He told me: "I have worked my way up from the bottom of the ladder and have been through the hard school of work since I started as a simple clerk."

He even said that at one time he had addressed meetings of workers from a soap-box and preached radical ideas, etc. Hence he regarded himself as an expert on labour questions and he discussed the conditions and needs of the workers at length. I was, of course, under no misapprehension as to whom I was talking to, and fully understood his purpose in giving expression to these sentiments of love for the workers. As soon as possible I turned the conversation on to the business with which we were concerned and stated the workers' demands with regard to the men detained and the arbitrary methods of the authorities.

Grigorovich's "liberalism" at once vanished into thin air; I could get no definite answer, and finally he called in his assistant, Bubnov, and asked him to start the investigation. We knew what Bubnov meant by investigation from the example he had given us during the previous strike, when he was responsible for many further dismissals and the complete whitewashing of the management. Bubnov began to assure us that now everything was going well at the dockyards; earnings were high, no one was forced to work overtime, in fact the workers had no grievances at all. And with regard to the men arrested, no anxiety need be felt, since if they were innocent, they would be released.

When I pointed out that the picture of prosperity painted by the assistant minister was far removed from reality, that the working conditions and the managerial measures were continually provoking the workers, Grigorovich once more promised to investigate, to look into, to find out, etc.

Knowing the value of ministerial promises and in order that the workers should understand what to expect from tsarist ministers, I printed in Pravda a detailed account of this conversation, pointing out how false the promises and assurances were. My account of the visit to the Minister was, in effect, an appeal to the Baltic workers to continue their struggle and not to place any hope in the authorities.

Soon afterwards I had further negotiations with the Minister for the Navy in connection with the strike at the Obukhov works, which were also controlled by the Navy Department. The strike, which commenced at the end of July and involved the 8,000 men employed there, was caused by the intolerable working conditions. The workshops were full of noxious gases, but ventilation appliances were not installed in spite of repeated requests from the workers. All the men worked a twelve-hour day with no break for dinner, and wages were from twenty to forty rubles a month – less than the legal minimum.

The strike lasted over two months and, when it was over, about .a hundred workers were black-listed and not reinstated. In the course of the strike thirty men were arrested and fourteen deported from St. Petersburg and forbidden to reside in fifty-two cities in the Empire. But this did not satisfy the police; a trial was staged of a number of Obukhov workers; they were accused of bringing about a strike "in undertakings where a strike endangered national interests."

When the first men were arrested I applied to Bubnov for an interview, but apparently afraid that I would obtain new material for agitation, he did not answer my telegram.

The Obukhov workers were tried after the strike was ended on November 6, 1913. On the day of the trial over 100,000 St. Petersburg workers came out on a one-day strike and at all factories and mills meetings were held and resolutions of protest passed. More than a hundred such resolutions were received by our fraction and the Pravda, but they were so sharply worded that the Pravda could not print them even in extracts. This political strike met with enthusiastic and unanimous response. Caused by the desire to defend the few rights which the workers enjoyed under the existing regime, it was in fact not a defensive measure but a new attack on the government.

A week after the trial the Obukhov workers came out again; this time the strike was the result of new rules introduced by the management. Under the new rules it was impossible for even the most careful worker to avoid incurring a fine every day; overtime was compulsory and was paid at the ordinary rate instead of at time-and-a-half, and on pay-day the workers were systematically cheated.

The management assumed a most provocative attitude towards the workers. No meetings were allowed, not even those provided for in the rules, and it was announced that criminal prosecutions would be started against certain grades of workers if they stopped work. The entire district was flooded with police.

As the Obukhov workers considered that it was impossible to enter into negotiations with their immediate chiefs, they decided to send a delegation to the Minister for the Navy in order to acquaint him personally with the conditions at the dockyards and to state their demands. Once again at the request of the workers I went to Grigorovich and described the conditions of the Obukhov workers.

This time Grigorovich did not even pretend to be liberal or a friend of the people. He stated that he could neither receive a delegation from the workers nor authorise a meeting to elect one, "Whatever their needs," he said, "the workers can only submit them to the chief of the dockyards."

The autumn session of the Duma was about to open, and the Obukhov workers requested us to introduce an urgent interpellation on the conditions of the workers at the dockyards and on the actions of the management. The interpellation was introduced on November 15, but it did not appear on the agenda until ten days later.

In the debate that followed the Right produced their big guns; their chief spokesman was Markov, the outstanding leader of pogroms, never tired of appealing for hangings and shootings. The prison regime set up by the tsarist government was too mild for him. Representing in the Duma the most reactionary wing of land-owners, who had still fresh in their memory the burning and looting of their estates in 1905, Markov demanded extreme measures against all symptoms not only of a revolutionary, but even of a liberal bourgeois movement. Naturally he had a fierce hatred of the working class, which he regarded as the most dangerous enemy of the existing regime,

Markov's speech was directed against the strike movement and the Social-Democratic party which was leading it. He began with a personal attack on me, taking up my last words about the challenge which the Social-Democratic fraction, in the name of the entire proletariat, hurled at the Black Hundred majority in the Duma.

"Mr. Badayev," said Markov, "you are a young man; a challenge is only made when a fight is intended. But you are not fighting yet. A challenge to the Ministry must not be confused with common sense and common sense ought to be your principal guide."

Markov wound up his speech with a question addressed to the government. He wanted to know whether the government considered that it was sufficiently energetic in its struggle against the revolutionary movement:

"Are you, gentlemen, really doing your duty of protecting the Russian people against miscreants and enemies who act from without but who penetrate into the country with the aid of persons guilty of high treason? I declare that our fatherland is in danger."

His speech was full of threatening words and gestures directed at the Social-Democratic fraction. Turning to the benches of the Left, he put up his hands as if holding a rifle aimed at them and said: "You are attacking us, but we will have a shot at you first!"

The interpellation was passed by the Duma, but this did not mean that the workers gained anything, everything at the works remained as before; the Minister for the Navy did not make the slightest concession.

The conditions of the Obukhov workers were not exceptional. The most ruthless exploitation and intolerable conditions prevailed at other works, especially at those working for the army and navy departments. Every moment the lives of the workers were threatened by an explosion or catastrophe. Formerly, under the heavy heel of reaction, fatal accidents passed quietly, almost unnoticed; now however the funeral of every worker who died as the result of an accident was the occasion of a huge revolutionary demonstration.

Crowds of workers followed the coffins of workers whom they did not know personally, singing the revolutionary funeral march beginning: "You fell, victims" and bearing wreaths with revolutionary legends written on red ribbon. The cemetery was transformed into a meeting place for thousands. In conditions of illegal work, when workers' meetings were prohibited, when it was only possible to assemble secretly in the woods or in small apartments, demonstrations at funerals assumed a revolutionary importance. Party organisations appealed to the workers to come in thousands, speakers were appointed in preparation, leaflets were distributed, etc.

The police also made extensive preparations; strong detachments accompanied all funeral processions and both mounted and foot police were active at the cemetery. They rushed across the graves, destroyed wreaths, refused to allow even relatives of the deceased to approach the grave, prevented speeches, seized anyone who attempted to speak, and dispersed the people after making a number of arrests.

I have already recalled the conditions under which the funeral of the victims of the Okhta explosion took place. I shall tell now of a funeral demonstration during which I incurred special police persecution, and which roused the workers and was the subject of a debate in the Duma.

Early in September 1913, two workers were killed in an explosion at the St. Petersburg mine manufacturing works (formerly the Parviainen works). The twenty-pound cover of a machine was blown clean through the roof of the building, two workers were killed on the spot and the whole workshop spattered with their blood. The explosion was the result of carelessness on the part of the management, as the machine had not been tested.

On September 9, thousands of workers downed tools to be present at the funeral. Men from the mine works and also men from the Putilov, Aivaz and other factories followed the coffin. From the beginning the police obstructed the procession. First they demanded the removal of red ribbons from the wreaths; later, on the Liteyni bridge, they insisted that the coffin and wreaths should be placed on the hearse.

In answer to my question why the coffin could not be carried by hand, the police representative replied that such were his instructions from higher authorities. The procession was diverted from the main streets along Voskresenskaya and Znamenskaya. In Ligovka, taking advantage of the fact that there were fewer policemen, the workers again carried the coffin on their shoulders up to the Mitrofanyevskoye cemetery, singing the revolutionary funeral march "You fell, victims."

Near the cemetery, more police appeared and the red ribbons which had been re-attached to the wreaths were again torn off. During the burial service, many more workers arrived; they had left the factories at the dinner interval. The crowd of about 5,000 was in fighting spirits and the singing of the revolutionary funeral song was interrupted by appeals to fight. Knowing I was to speak, they surrounded the grave in a solid ring so as to give me time to begin before the police could reach me. The forces of law and order were fully armed and only waited the word from the inspectors to make use of their whips.

When the coffins had been lowered into the grave, I mounted a bench and began my speech:

"Comrades! Bloodthirsty capitalists, in their striving for larger profits, are prepared to sacrifice the lives of the workers. You see the reward which the workers receive for their hard and painful toil. The working class will only obtain improvements in its conditions when it takes the matter into its own hands...."

But no sooner had I uttered these words than policemen began to shout:

"Hold him, don't let him speak."

The police inspector ordered: 

"Mounted police, whips ready!"

The mounted police rode down, trying to disperse the crowd. A free fight developed near the grave. Several policemen pulled me down from the bench and an inspector ran up, seized me by the arm and told me that I was arrested. I showed him my deputy's card.

"You are free, but 1 shall not allow you to speak. 1 am instructed to allow no speeches."

In the meantime the crowd, thinking that I was arrested, had become very agitated and surrounded the inspector, uttering threats against the police. I again mounted the bench to continue my interrupted speech and called on the workers to keep quiet and avoid causing fresh casualties. The mounted police, flourishing their whips, pressed the crowd back from the grave to the cemetery gates, and it was only by a mere chance that fresh blood was not spilt.

After the funeral, the police drew up a protocol accusing me of disobeying the orders of the authorities. Three months later, the St. Petersburg city governor, Drachevsky, issued an order fining me 200 rubles for "interfering with the actions of the police." When an official called on me and demanded payment, I flatly refused. The city governor's order was quite illegal as the law concerning the Duma prescribed that deputies were liable to no punishments or fines except by sentence of a court and then only with the consent of the Duma itself.

I informed the workers through Pravda of this new attempt to encroach on the rights of deputies and many protest strikes were declared. Action was first taken at the mine manufacturing works where the explosion had taken place. A one-day strike was agreed on and at a meeting a resolution was carried protesting against my being fined for speaking at the funeral of their fellow workers. The Langesippen works, employing 1,000 men, followed suit, and the movement quickly spread to other factories.

After two weeks, when it evidently became clear to him that I did not intend to pay the fine, the city governor issued an order substituting six weeks' detention for the fine. He also gave orders that I was to be arrested during the next Duma recess. When this became known it led to renewed unrest among the workers.

Then the chairman of the Duma, which had as yet done nothing to protect the "immunity of deputies," thought fit to interfere. Rodzyanko, however, insisted that I should take the initiative, i.e. that I should apply to him requesting protection. In this way he could excuse himself to the Black Hundreds, saying that he was not defending an enemy of the government, but merely passing on to the correct authorities a statement received from a deputy. When he saw that I did not intend to present such a statement, he tried to achieve his purpose in a roundabout way. He sent one of his subordinates who, in the name of the chairman of the Duma, expressed sympathy with me. Rodzyanko thought that in reply I would apply for protection. Without showing that I understood the object of this visit, I stated: "I am legally entitled to protection as a deputy. Let them try to arrest me."

In view of the fact that this affair of my fine was assuming the character of a public scandal, Rodzyanko sent a letter to Maklakov, the Minister for the Interior, and received a reply stating that I would only be arrested after the expiry of my Duma immunity.

Although the attack on our "six" had been warded off for the moment, the fraction decided none the less to make this attempt the basis for an interpellation. On the one hand, the case illustrated the reactionary offensive and therefore served as agitational material; on the other hand, the more widely the persecution of workers' deputies became known, the stronger became the ties which bound the fraction to the masses.

Our interpellation ended with the following words:

Being of the opinion that the city governor of St. Petersburg acted unlawfully in imposing a fine on a member of the State Duma, the Social-Democratic fraction invites the Duma to address the following question to the Minister for the Interior on the basis of Article 33 of the regulations governing the Duma: (1) Whether he is aware of the order issued by the St. Petersburg city governor; (2) If so, what steps he proposes to take with regard to this unlawful order and to protect deputies of the State Duma from such actions of administrative bodies in the future. We request that this interpellation be regarded as urgent.

This interpellation had been signed also by certain deputies belonging to the Cadets and Progressives, but when the debate was about to take place after the Christmas recess, twenty-three "liberal" deputies withdrew their signatures. Thus the interpellation was frustrated at the very moment when it should have been read out in the Duma. This alone characterises with sufficient clarity the attitude of the Cadets towards the workers' deputies.

We collected further signatures as required by law and again introduced the interpellation a week later. Petrovsky spoke on behalf of our fraction.

"In spite of persecution and police brutality," said Petrovsky, "the workers' deputies will stand by the workers, always and everywhere. Neither the police nor the Black Hundred majority in the Duma will be able to prevent the working class from hearing the voices of their deputies.

"The city governor was afraid to carry out his own unlawful order; his fear was well founded, for the St. Petersburg workers would have replied with a general strike."

Buryanov, who had now left the Mensheviks, also spoke in favour of urgency. He dealt with the flagrant violation of the immunity of deputies which, he said, had to be checked if the Duma was to retain any self-respect.

But the Duma made no attempt to check the aggression of the tsarist police. Only the workers' deputies were concerned about the case and the Duma Black Hundreds heartily endorsed the persecutions. The interpellation was defeated by an overwhelming majority. The government received in advance the approval of the Duma for any repressive measures it might wish to take against the workers' deputies.

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