1905 in St. Petersburg: Labor, Society, and Revolution

By Gerald D. Surh | Go to book overview

Conclusion

From the first citywide strike in 1896 to the arrest of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies in December 1905, the workers of Petersburg created a labor movement of unprecedented size, militancy, and self- conscious solidarity. Although this study has made the issue of worker autonomy a leitmotif, I have not tried to claim that the workers built a labor movement unaided. Indeed, workers found no inconsistency in the notion that they could aspire to the utmost autonomy and at the same time seek and accept outside help. From the very start their efforts were prompted and guided by revolutionary organizers, above all, by Social Democratic activists. Those tireless and dedicated men and women were at the side of the workers, literally or figuratively, in practically every major strike or demonstration from 1896 onward. Although the SDs cannot be said to have led the working class in this period (in the same sense that they did in 1917), they played the most important role of all the political parties in steering and shaping the newly radicalized workers.

The socialists were also influenced by the labor movement, whose mass mobilization in 1905 provided them with a real and full-scale object of contemplation and planning for the first time, rescuing them from the debilitating sectarian wrangling characteristic of their previous history and vindicating their years of sacrifice and effort. The revolutionary parties emerged from the 1905 Revolution with wider contacts among workers than ever before and with a firmer and more realistic grasp of their entire political project.

Yet, because most existing literature on the subject asserts or as

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