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

By Gerald D. Surh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Strike Movements and the Rising Political Tide, 1896-1904

The motive force of the 1905 Revolution was supplied by the mass strike movement of Russia's urban and industrial workers. In the year 1905 alone, the country witnessed over 13,000 strikes involving some 2.7 million strikers, about seven times as many as occurred in the entire preceding decade. In addition, 33 percent of the factories and 60 percent of the workers struck, compared to fewer than 1 percent of the factories and 3 percent of the workers in the period from 1895 to 1904.1

This vast strike movement was the most distinctive feature of the revolution in 1905, and workers were the most important single social group responsible for bringing about the political reforms granted by the Tsarist regime in response to the disorders. Their mass strikes supplied most of the force behind the revolutionary alliance against the autocracy, an alliance that ranged from peasant to professional. The rapid adoption of the slogans of radical democracy by the strikers inspired the educated opposition at every turn, encouraging it to believe that the alliance was more solid than it in fact proved to be. After October 17, the government's promise of civil liberties and an elected legislature mollified much of the opposition, and most of the liberals abandoned militant unity for orderly electoral campaigning as separate parties. The strikers, meanwhile, focused on their still unsatisfied political and workplace demands and, where they did not escalate to armed revolts, they rallied to the authority of the newly created cen-

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1
Stachki 1905, p. 13. The actual magnitudes were even greater than are indicated by Varzar's Factory Inspectorate data, for the reasons given in Chapter 1.

-51-

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