ARMED INSURRECTION AND OUR TACTICS
July 15, 1905
The revolutionary movement “has already brought about the necessity for an armed uprising”—this idea, expressed by the Third Congress of our Party, finds increasing confirmation day after day. The flames of revolution are flaring up with ever-increasing intensity, now here and now there calling forth local uprisings. The three days’ barricade and street fighting in Lodz, the strike of many tens of thousands of workers in Ivanovo-Voznesensk with the inevitable bloody collisions with the troops, the uprising in Odessa, the “mutiny” in the Black Sea Fleet and in the Libau naval depot, and the “week” in Tiflis—are all harbingers of the approaching storm. It is approaching, approaching irresistibly, it will break over Russia any day and, in a mighty, cleansing flood, sweep away all that is antiquated and rotten; it will wipe out the disgrace called the autocracy, under which the Russian people have suffered for ages. The last convulsive efforts of tsarism—the intensification of repression of every kind, the proclamation of martial law over half the country and the multiplication of gallows, all accompanied by alluring speeches addressed to the liberals and by false promises of reform—these things will not save-it from the fate history has in store for it. The days of the autocracy are numbered; the storm is inevitable. A new social order is already being born, welcomed by the entire people, who are expecting renovation and regeneration from it.
What new questions is this approaching storm raising before our Party? How must we adjust our organisation and tactics to the new requirements of life so that we may take a more active and organised part in the uprising, which is the only necessary beginning of the revolution? To guide the uprising, should we—the advanced detachment of the class which is not only the vanguard, but also the main driving force of the revolution—set up special bodies, or is the existing Party machinery enough?
These questions have been confronting the Party and demanding immediate solution for several months already. For those who worship “spontaneity,” who degrade the Party’s objects to the level of simply following in the wake of life, who drag at the tail and do not march at the head as the advanced class-conscious detachment should do, such questions do not exist. Insurrection is spontaneous, they say, it is impossible to organise and prepare it, every prearranged plan of action is a utopia (they are opposed to any sort of “plan”—why, that is “consciousness” and not a “spontaneous phenomenon”!), a waste of effort—social life follows its own, unknown paths and will shatter all our projects. Hence, they say, we must confine ourselves to conducting propaganda and agitation in favour of the idea of insurrection, the idea of the “self-arming” of the masses; we must only exercise “political guidance”; as regards “technical” guidance of the insurgent people, let anybody who likes undertake that.
But we have always exercised such guidance up to now!—the opponents of the “khvostist policy” reply.
Wide agitation and propaganda, political guidance of the proletariat, are absolutely essential. That goes without saying. But to confine ourselves to such general tasks means either evading an answer to the question which life bluntly puts to us, or revealing utter inability to adjust our tactics to the requirements of the rapidly growing revolutionary struggle. We must, of course, now intensify political agitation tenfold, we must try to establish our influence not only over the proletariat, but also over those numerous strata of the “people” who are gradually joining the revolution; we must try to popularise among all classes of the population the idea that an uprising is necessary. But we cannot confine ourselves solely to this! To enable the proletariat to utilise the impending revolution for the purposes of its own class struggle, to enable it to establish a democratic system that will provide the greatest guarantees for the subsequent struggle for socialism—it, the proletariat, around which the opposition is rallying, must not only be in the centre of the struggle, but become the leader and guide of the uprising. It is the technical guidance and organisational preparation of the all-Russian uprising that constitute the new tasks with which life has confronted the proletariat. And if our Party wishes to be the real political leader of the working class it cannot and must not repudiate these new tasks.
And so, what must we do to achieve this object? What must our first steps be?
Many of our organisations have already answered this question in a practical way by directing part of their forces and resources to the purpose of arming the proletariat. Our struggle against the autocracy has entered the stage when the necessity of arming is universally admitted. But mere realisation of the necessity of arming is not enough— the practical task must be bluntly and clearly put before the Party.
Hence, our committees must at once, forthwith, proceed to arm the people locally, to set up special groups to arrange this matter, to organise district groups for the purpose of procuring arms, to organise workshops for the manufacture of different kinds of explosives, to draw up plans for seizing state and private stores of arms and arsenals. We must not only arm the people “with a burning desire to arm themselves,” as the new Iskra advises us, but also “take the most energetic measures to arm the proletariat” in actual fact, as the Third Party Congress made it incumbent upon us to do. It is easier on this issue than on any other to reach agreement with the section that has split off from the Party (if it is really in earnest about arming and is not merely talking about “a burning desire to arm themselves”), as well as with the national Social-Democratic organisations, such as, for example, the Armenian Federalists and others who have set themselves the same object. Such an attempt has already been made in Baku, where after the February massacre our committee, the Balakhany-Bibi-Eibat group and the Gnchak Committee set up among themselves an organising committee for procuring arms. It is absolutely essential that this diffi- cult and responsible undertaking be organised by joint efforts, and we believe that factional interests should least of all hinder the amalgamation of all the Social-Democratic forces on this ground.
In addition to increasing stocks of arms and organising their procurement and manufacture, it is necessary to devote most serious attention to the task of organising fighting squads of every kind for the purpose of utilising the arms that are being procured. Under no circumstances should actions such as distributing arms directly to the masses be resorted to. In view of the fact that our resources are limited and that it is extremely difficult to conceal weapons from the vigilant eyes of the police, we shall be unable to arm any considerable section of the population, and all our efforts will be wasted. It will be quite different when we set up a special fighting organisation. Our fighting squads will learn to handle their weapons, and during the uprising— irrespective of whether it breaks out spontaneously or is prepared beforehand—they will come out as the chief and leading units around which the insurgent people will rally, and under whose leadership they will march into battle. Thanks to their experience and organisation, and also to the fact that they will be well armed, it will be possible to utilise all the forces of the insurgent people and thereby achieve the immediate object—the arming of the entire people and the execution of the prearranged plan of action. They will quickly capture various stores of arms, government and public offices, the post office, the telephone exchange, and so forth, which will be necessary for the further development of the revolution.
But these fighting squads will be needed not only when the revolutionary uprising has already spread over the whole town; their role will be no less important on the eve of the uprising. During the past six months it has become convincingly clear to us that the autocracy, which has discredited itself in the eyes of all classes of the population, has concentrated all its energy on mobilising the dark forces of the country—professional hooligans, or the ignorant and fanatical elements among the Tatars—for the purpose of fighting the revolutionaries. Armed and protected by the police, they are terrorising the population and creating a tense atmosphere for the liberation movement. Our fighting organisations must always be ready to offer due resistance to all the attempts made by these dark forces, and must try to convert the anger and the resistance called forth by their actions into an anti-government movement. The armed fighting squads, ready to go out into the streets and take their place at the head of the masses of the people at any moment, can easily achieve the object set by the Third Congress—“to organise armed resistance to the actions of the Black Hundreds, and generally, of all reactionary elements led by the government” (“Resolution on Attitude Towards the Government’s Tactics on the Eve of the Revolution”—see “Announcement”).
One of the main tasks of our fighting squads, and of military-technical organisation in general, should be to draw up the plan of the uprising for their particular districts and co-ordinate it with the plan drawn up by the Party centre for the whole of Russia. Ascertain the enemy’s weakest spots, choose the points from which the attack against him is to be launched, distribute all the forces over the district and thoroughly study the topography of the town—all this must be done beforehand, so that we shall not be taken by surprise under any circumstances. It is totally inappropriate here to go into a detailed analysis of this aspect of our organisations’ activity. Strict secrecy in drawing up the plan of action must be accompanied by the widest possible dissemination among the proletariat of military-technical knowledge which is absolutely necessary for conducting street fighting. For this purpose we must utilise the services of the military men in the organisation. For this purpose also we must utilise the services of a number of other comrades who will be extremely useful in this matter because of their natural talent and inclinations.
Only such thorough preparation for insurrection can ensure for Social-Democracy the leading role in the forthcoming battles between the people and the autocracy.
Only complete fighting preparedness will enable the proletariat to transform the isolated clashes with the police and the troops into a nation-wide uprising with the object of setting up a provisional revolutionary government in place of the tsarist government.
The supporters of the “khvostist policy” notwith- standing, the organised proletariat will exert all its efforts to concentrate both the technical and political leadership of the uprising in its own hands. This leadership is the essential condition which will enable us to utilise the impending revolution in the interests of our class struggle.
(The Proletarian Struggle), No. 10, July 15, 1905