Sunday, April 22, 2012

From The Pen Of American Communist Leader (CP and SWP)James P. Cannon- On Eugene V. Debs And His Role In The Class Struggle On The 100th Anniversary Of The U.S. Presidential Election of 1912

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for background on Eugene V. Debs- Socialist Party of America candidate for U.S.President in 1912 (and on other occasions as well) who gathered almost a million votes in that campaign.

James P. Cannon

E.V. Debs


Source: Fourth International, Vol.17 No.1, Winter 1956, pp.8-17.
Originally entitled: The Debs Centennial.
Later reprinted as a pamphlet by Merit Publishers, New York, N.Y. 10003.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.



1. Labor and Socialism Today
2. The Making of a Socialist
3. The Role of the Agitator
4. The Double Story
5. The Debs Legend
6. The All-inclusive Party
7. The Years of Growth and Expansion
8. Internal Conflict and Decline
9. The Role of Debs in the Internal Conflict
10. Debs and Lenin
11. The Most Important Lesson
1. Labor and Socialism Today

The centennial of the birth of Debs coincided with the merger of the AFL and CIO in a year of standstill, which appears to present a mixed picture of progress and reaction.

The organized labor movement as it stands today, with industrial unionism predominant, owes a lot to Debs, but his name was not mentioned at the merger convention. Debs was the greatest of the pioneers of industrial unionism who prepared the way-but that was yesterday. The smug bureaucrats who ran the convention are practical men who live strictly in the present, and they are convinced that progress is something you can see and count, here and now.

They counted approximately 15 million members in the affiliated organizations, and even more millions of dollars in the various treasuries, and found the situation better than ever. The official mood was never more complacent and conservative.

On the other hand, various groups and organizations calling themselves socialists, taking the numerical size of the present-day movement of political radicalism as their own criterion, found nothing to cheer about in Debs’ centennial year. They compared the present membership and support of all the radical organizations with the tens of thousands of members and hundreds of thousands of votes of the Socialist Party in Deb’s time, and concluded that things were never so bad. Their celebrations of the Debs Centennial were devoted mainly to nostalgic reminiscences about the “Golden Age of American Socialism” and sighs and lamentations for a return to “the way of Debs.”

In my opinion, both of these estimates derive from a misunderstanding of the present reality of the labor movement and of its perspectives for the future. The changes since the time of Debs are not all progressive as the complacent trade-union bureaucrats imagine, and not all reactionary as some others assume, but a combination of both.

The organization of 15 million workers in the AFL-CIO, plus about 2 million more in the independent unions – and the acquisition of a trade-union consciousness that has come with it – represents in itself a progressive achievement of incalculable significance. And more than trade-union expansion is involved in this achievement.

There has been a transformation of the position of the working class in American capitalist society, which is implicitly revolutionary. Properly understood, the achievements on the trade-union field represent a tremendous advance of the cause of American socialism; since the socialist movement is a part of the general movement of the working class, and has no independent interests or meaning of its own.

In addition to that – and no less important – the revolutionary socialist movement of the present, although numerically smaller, is ideologically richer than its predecessors. Insofar as it has assimilated the experience of the past, in this and other countries, and incorporated their lessons in its program, it is better prepared to understand its tasks. That represents progress for American socialism in the highest degree, for in the last analysis the program decides everything.

At the same time, it is obvious that the progressive growth of the industrial labor movement has not been accompanied by a corresponding development of the class-consciousness of the workers. On the contrary, the recent years have seen a decline in this respect; and this is reflected in the numerical weakness of socialist political organization.

That is certainly a reactionary manifestation, but it is far outweighed by the other factors in the situation. The over-all picture is one of tremendous progress of the American working class since the time of Debs. And the present position is a springboard for another forward leap.

In their next advance the organized trade unionists will become class conscious and proceed to class political organization and action. That will be accomplished easier than was the first transformation of a disorganized, atomized class into the organized labor movement of the present day. And most probably it will take less time.

The same conditions and forces, arising from the contradictions of the class society, which produced the one will produce the other. We can take it for granted without fear of going wrong, that the artificial prosperity of present-day American capitalism will explode sooner and more devastatingly than did the more stable prosperity of expanding capitalism in the time of Debs; and that the next explosion will produce deeper changes in the consciousness of the workers than did the crisis of the Thirties, which brought about the CIO.

In the light of that perspective, the work of revolutionary socialists in the present difficult period acquires an extraordinary historical significance. With that prospect in view, the present momentary lull in the class struggle, which gives time for thought and reflection, can be turned to advantage. It can be, and probably will be, one of the richest periods in the history of American socialism – a period of preparation for great events to come. A study of the socialist movement of the past can be a useful part of this preparation for the future.

That is the only sensible way to observe the Debs Centennial. It should be an occasion, not for nostalgic reminiscence, not for moping and sighing for the return of times and conditions that are gone beyond recall, but for a thoroughgoing examination and critical evaluation of the early socialist movement. It should be seen as a stage of development, not as a pattern to copy. The aim should be to study its defeats as well as its victories, in order to learn something from the whole experience.

The first rule for such an inquiry should be to dig out the truth and to tell it; to represent the Debsian movement as it really was. Debs deserves this, and he can stand it too. Even his mistakes were the mistakes of a giant and a pioneer. In an objective survey they only make his monumental virtues stand out more sharply in contrast.

2. The Making of a Socialist

The real history of America is the history of a process leading up to socialism, and an essential part of that process is the activity of those who see the goal and show it to others. From that point of view Eugene V. Debs is a man to remember. The day of his birth one hundred years ago – November 5, 1855 – was a good day for this country. Debs saw the future and worked for it as no one else has been privileged to do. On the honor roll of the socialist pioneers his name leads all the rest.

The life of Debs is a great American story; but like everything else American, it is partly foreign. He was truly indigenous, about as American as you can get, and he did far more than anyone else to “Americanize” socialism. But he was not, as he is sometimes pictured, the exponent of a peculiar homemade socialism, figured out all by himself, without benefit of “foreign” ideas and influences.

Debs was the perfect example of an American worker whose life was transformed by the ideas of others, and imported ideas at that. Many influences, national and international, his own experiences and the ideas and actions of others at home and abroad, conspired to shape his life, and then to transform it when he was already on the threshold of middle age.

The employers and their political tools did all they could to help. When President Cleveland sent federal troops to break the strike of the American Railway Union in 1894, and a federal judge put Debs in jail for violating an injunction, they made a great, if unintended, contribution to the auspicious launching of the native American socialist movement.

The inspired agitator began to “study socialism” in Woodstock jail. That was the starting point of the great change in the life of Debs, and thereby in the prospects of socialism in this country. It was to lead a little later to the organization of the first indigenous movement of American socialism under the name of the Socialist Party.

The transformation of Debs, from a progressive unionist and Populist into a revolutionary socialist, didn’t happen all at once, as if by a sudden revelation. It took him several more years after he left Woodstock jail, carefully checking the new idea against his own experiences in the class struggle, and experimenting with various reformist and utopian conceptions along the route, to find his way to the revolutionary socialism of Marx and Engels.

But when he finally got it, he got it straight and never changed. Debs learned the basic essentials from Kautsky, the best popularizer of Marxism known in this country in the epoch before the First World War. Thereafter the Marxist theory of the class struggle was the central theme of all his agitation. He scornfully denounced the Gompers theory that the interests of capital and labor are identical. And he would have no truck with the delusive theory that capitalism will grow into socialism through a series of reforms.

Debs campaigned for the overthrow of capitalism by workers’ revolution, and refused to settle for anything less. As he himself expressed it, he “determined to stick to the main issue and stay on the main track, no matter how alluring some of the by-ways may appear.”

Debs was the main influence and most popular attraction making possible the formation of the Socialist Party of America at the “Unity Convention” in 1901, and the party became an important factor in American life mainly because of him.

There had been socialists and socialist organizations in this country for a half century before that; but they had been derailed every time by a combination of objective circumstances and their own misunderstanding of the doctrine they espoused. The original socialists had been mainly utopians of various kinds, or German immigrants who brought their socialist ideas with them and never learned to relate them to American conditions.

Engels who, like Marx, was foreign to no country, saw no future for that kind of socialism in the United States. In his letters to friends in this country, up to the time of his death in 1895, he continuously insisted that American socialism would never amount to anything until it learned to “speak English” and find expression through the native workers.

In Debs the movement finally found a man who really spoke the language of the country, and who knew how to explain the imported idea of socialism to the American workers in relation to their own experiences.

When he came to socialism, Debs had already attained national fame as a labor leader. He brought to the new party the rich benefits of his reputation and popularity, the splendor of his oratorical gifts, and a great good will to work for the cause. Debs made the difference; Debs, plus conditions at the time which produced an audience ready to respond. With Debs as its outstanding spokesman after the turn of the century, socialism began for the first time to get a hearing in this country.

3. The Role of the Agitator

Part of what I have to say about Debs and the movement he symbolized is the testimony of a witness who was there at the time. The rest is afterthought. My own appreciation of Debs goes all the way back to the beginning of my conscious life as a socialist. I never knew Debs personally, but I heard him. speak several times and he loomed large in my life, as in the lives of all other radicals of my generation.

Debs was an ever-present influence in the home where I was raised. My father was a real Debs man – all the way through. Of all the public figures of the time, Debs was his favorite. Debs, character and general disposition, his way of life – his whole radiant personality – appealed strongly to my father.

Most of the pioneer socialists I came to know were like that. They were good people, and they felt warmly toward Debs as one of their own – the best representative of what they themselves were, or wanted to be. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they loved Debs as a man, as a fellow human being, as much as they admired and trusted him as a socialist leader and orator.

My father’s political evolution had been along the same line as that of Debs. He had been a “labor man” since the old Knights of Labor days, then a Populist, then a Bryanite in the presidential campaign of ‘96, and he finally came to socialism, along with Debs, around the turn of the century.

The Appeal to Reason, for which Debs was then the chief editorial writer, came to our house in the little town of Rosedale, Kansas, every week. When Moyer and Haywood, then leaders of the Western Federation of Miners, were arrested in 1906 on a framed-up charge of murder, the Appeal, with Debs in the lead, opened up a tremendous campaign for their defense. Debs called for revolutionary action to prevent the judicial murder, with his famous declaration: “If they hang Moyer and Haywood, they will have to hang me!”

That was when I first began to take notice of the paper and of Debs. From week to week I was deeply stirred by the thunderous appeals of Debs and the dispatches of George H. Shoaf, the Appeal’s “war correspondent” in the Western mine fields. My father and other local socialists chipped in to order extra bundles of the paper for free distribution. I was enlisted to help in that work. My first activity for the movement – in the memory of which I still take pride – was to distribute these special Moyer-Haywood editions of the Appeal from house to house in Rosedale.

The campaign for the defense of Moyer and Haywood was the biggest socialist action of the time. All the agitation seemed to center around that one burning issue, and it really stirred up the people. I believe it was the action itself, rather than the political arguments, that influenced me most at first. It was an action for justice, and that always appeals powerfully to the heart of youth. My commitment to the action led to further inquiry into the deeper social issues involved in the affair.

It was this great Moyer-Haywood campaign of Debs and the Appeal to Reason that started me on the road to socialism while I was still a boy, and I have always remembered them gratefully for that. In later years I met many people all around the country whose starting impulse had been the same as mine. Debs and the Appeal to Reason were the most decisive influences inspiring my generation of native radicals with the great promise of socialism.

Debs was a man of many talents, but he played his greatest role as an agitator, stirring up the people and sowing the seed of socialism far and wide. He was made for that and he gloried in it. The enduring work of Debs and the Appeal to Reason, with which he was long associated, was to wake people up, to shake them loose from habits of conformity and resignation, to show them a new road.

Debs denounced capitalism with a tongue of fire, but that was only one side of his agitation. He brought a message of hope for the good time coming. He bore down heavily on the prospect of a new social order based on cooperation and comradeship, and made people see it and believe in it. The socialist movement of the early days was made up, in the main, of people who got their first introduction to socialism in the most elementary form from Debs and the Appeal to Reason.

That’s a long time ago. In the meantime history has moved at an accelerated pace, here and everywhere else. Many things have happened in the world of which America is a part – but only a part – and these world events have had their influence on American socialism. The modern revolutionary movement has drawn its inspiration and its ideas from many sources and many experiences since the time of Debs, and these later acquisitions have become an essential part of its program.

But for all that, the movement of the present and the future in the United States is the lineal descendant of the earlier movement for which Debs was the outstanding spokesman, and owes its existence to that pioneering endeavor. The centennial of the birth of Debs is a good time to remind ourselves of that and to take a deeper look at the movement of his time.

4. The Double Story

Those of the younger generation who want to study the ancestral origins of their movement, can easily find the necessary material already assembled. A group of conscientious scholars have been at work reclaiming the record as it was actually written in life and pointing it up with all the necessary documentation.

The published results of their work are already quite substantial. Almost as though in anticipation of the Debs Centennial, we have seen the publication of a number of books on the theme of Debs and American socialism within the last decade.

The Forging of American Socialism, by Howard H. Quint, gives an account of the tributary movements and organizations in the nineteenth century and ends with the launching of the Socialist Party at the Unity Convention in 1901.

The American Socialist Movement – 1897-1912, by Ira Kipnis, takes the story up to the presidential campaign of 1912, and gives an extensive report of the internal conflicts in the Socialist Party up to that time. The reformist leaders of the party come off badly in this account. The glaring contrast between them and Debs is fully documented on every point.

Following that, the Debs Centennial this year coincides with the publication of a rather concise history of The Socialist Party of America by David A. Shannon. Professor Shannon’s research has evidently been thoroughgoing and his documentary references are valuable. In his interpretation, however, he appears to be moved by a tolerance for the reformist bosses of the party, who did an efficient job of exploiting the popularity of Debs and counteracting his revolutionary policy at the same time.

On top of these historical works, Debs speaks for himself in Writings and Speeches of Eugene V. Debs. This priceless volume, published in 1948, contains an “explanatory” introduction by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. which in simple decency had better been left out.

Schlesinger, the sophisticated apologist of American imperialism, has no right to introduce Debs, the thoroughgoing and fully committed revolutionary socialist; and still less right to “explain” him because he can’t begin to understand him. Schlesinger’s ruminations stick out of this treasury of Debs’ own speeches like a dirty thumb; but everything else in the book is clean and clear. It is the real Debs, explained in his own words.

Finally, there is the truly admirable biography of Debs by Ray Ginger, entitled The Bending Cross. Following after earlier biographies by David Karsner and McAlister Coleman, Ginger gives a more complete and rounded report. This is a sweet book if there ever was one; the incomparable Gene comes to life in its pages. All the lights and shadows in that marvelous life as it was actually lived are there, the shadows making the lights shine brighter.

Out of this imposing mass of documentary material – allowing for the shadings of opinion and interpretation by the authors – emerges a pretty clear picture of what the Socialist Party was and what Debs was. Debs was by far the most popular socialist in the heyday of the party, and in the public mind he stood for the party. But the history of American socialism in the first two decades of this century is a double story.

It is the story of the party itself – its official policies and actions – and the story of the unofficial and largely independent policies and actions of Debs. They were related to each other and they went on at the same time, but they were not the same thing. Debs was in and of the party, but at the same time he was bigger than the party – bigger and better.

5. The Debs Legend

Ray Ginger, the biographer of Debs, remarks that he was a legendary figure while he was still alive. Many stories – some of them of doubtful authenticity – were told about him, and many people professed devotion to him for different and even contradictory reasons.

Debs was a many-sided man, the like of which the movement has not seen, and this gave rise to misinterpretations by some who saw only one facet of his remarkable personality; and to misrepresentations by others who knew the whole man but chose to report only that part which seemed to serve their purpose. This business of presenting fragmentary pictures of Debs is still going on.

There is no doubt that Debs was friendly and generous, as befits a socialist, and that he lived by the socialist ideal even in the jungle of class society. For that he was praised more than he was imitated, and attempts were often made to pass him off as a harmless saint. It was the fashion to say Debs was a good man, but that’s not what they put him in prison for. There was nothing saintly about his denunciation of the exploiters of the workers and the labor fakers who preached the brotherhood of workers and exploiters.

For all the complexity of his personality, Debs was as rigidly simple in his dedication to a single idea, and in suiting his actions to his words, as was John Brown, his acknowledged hero. His beliefs and his practices as a socialist agitator were related to each other with a singular consistency in everything he said and did. The record is there to prove it.

He was a famous labor organizer and strike leader – a man of action – long before he came to socialism, and he never lost his love and feel for the firing line of the class struggle after he turned to the platform. Striking workers in trouble could always depend on Gene. He responded to every call, and wherever there was action he was apt to turn up in the thick of it.

Debs was a plain man of the people, of limited formal education, in a party swarming with slick lawyers, professional writers and unctuous doctors of divinity. It was customary for such people to say – flattering themselves by implication – that Debs was a good fellow and a great orator, but not the “brains” of the party; that he was no good for theory and politics.

The truth is, as the documentary record clearly shows, that as a political thinker on the broad questions of working-class policy in his time, Debs was wiser than all the pretentious intellectuals, theoreticians and politicians in the Socialist Party put together. On practically all such questions his judgment was also better than that of any of the left-wing leaders of his time, most of whom turned to syndicalism to one degree or another.

Debs’ own speeches and writings, which stand up so well even today, make the Socialist Party for which he spoke appear better than it really was. The simplicity, clarity and revolutionary vigor of Debs were part of the party’s baggage – but only a part. The Socialist Party, by its nature and composition, had other qualities and the other qualities predominated.

6. The All-inclusive Party

The political law that every workers’ party develops through internal struggles, splits and unifications is vividly illustrated in the stormy history of the Socialist Party – from start to finish. There is nothing obscure about this history; it is quite fully documented in the historical works previously mentioned.

The Socialist Party came into existence at the “Unity Convention” of 1901, but it had roots in the movements of the past. The new unity followed from and was made possible by a split in the old Socialist Labor Party, which was left on the sidelines in dogmatic isolation; a split in the original, short-lived “Social Democracy,” in which Debs and Berger broke away from the utopian colonist elements of that organization; and an earlier split of thousands of native radicals – including Debs and J.A. Wayland, the famed publisher of the Appeal to Reason – from the Populist movement, which in its turn, had been “united” with the Democratic Party and swallowed up by it.

These currents of different origins, plus many other local groups and individuals who had begun to call themselves socialists, were finally brought together in one camp in the Socialist Party.

Revolutionists and reformists were present at the first convention, and even after, until the definitive split in 1919. In addition, the new organization made room for a wide variety of people who believed in socialism in general and had all kinds of ideas as to what it really meant and how it was to be achieved. All hues of the political rainbow, from dogmatic ultra-radicalism to Christian Socialism, showed up in the party from the start.

The mixed assemblage was held together in uneasy unity by a loose organizational structure that left all hands free from any real central control. The principle of “States’ Rights” was written into the constitution by a provision for the complete autonomy of the separate state organizations; each one retained the right to run its own affairs and, by implication, to advocate its own brand of socialism. Decentralization was further reinforced by the refusal to sanction a national official organ of the party. This measure was designed to strengthen the local and state publications – and incidentally, the local bosses such as Berger – in their own bailiwicks.

The party’s principle of the free press included “free enterprise” in that domain. The most influential national publications of large circulation – Appeal to Reason, Wilshire’s Magazine, The Ripsaw and The International Socialist Review – were all privately owned. The individual owners interpreted socialism as they saw fit and the party members had no say, and this was accepted as the natural order of things.

To complete the picture of a socialist variety store, each party speaker, writer, editor and organizer, and – in actual practice – each individual, promoted his own kind of socialism in his own way; and the general unification, giving rise to the feeling of greater strength, stimulated all of them to greater effort. The net result was that socialism as a general idea got a good work-out, and many thousands of people heard about it for the first time, and accepted it as a desirable goal.

That in itself was a big step forward, although the internal conflict of tendencies was bound to store up problems and difficulties for the future. Such a heterogeneous party was made possible, and perhaps was historically justified as an experimental starting point, by the conditions of the time.

The socialist movement, such as it was, was new in this country. In its experiences, as well as in its thinking, it lagged far behind the European movement. The different groups and tendencies espousing socialism had yet to test out the possibility of working out a common policy by working together in a single organization. The new Socialist Party provided an arena for the experiment.

The trade unions embraced only a narrow stratum of the skilled and privileged workers; the problem of organizing the basic proletariat in the trustified industries – the essential starting point in the development of a real class movement – had not yet been seriously tackled. It was easier to organize general centers of radicalism, in the shape of socialist locals, than industrial unions which brought down the direct and immediate opposition of the entrenched employers in the basic industries.

In the country at large there was widespread discontent with the crude brutalities of expanding capitalism, just entering into its first violent stage of trustification and crushing everything in its path. Workers, exploited without the restraints of union organization; tenant and mortgaged farmers waging an unequal struggle to survive on the land; and small businessmen squeezed to the wall by the trend to monopolization – they all felt the oppression of the “money power” and were looking about for some means of defense and protest.

The ruling capitalists, for their part, were happy with things as they were. They thought everything was fine and saw no need of ameliorating reforms. The two big political parties of capitalism had not yet developed the flexibility and capacity for reformist demagogy which they displayed in later decades; they stood pat on the status quo and showed little interest in the complaints of its victims. The collapse of the Populist Party had left a political vacuum.

The stage was set in the first decade of the present century for a general movement of social protest. And the new Socialist Party, with its appeal to all people with grievances, and its promise of a better deal all the way around in a new social order, soon became its principal rallying center.

7. The Years of Growth and Expansion

With Debs as its presidential candidate and most popular agitator, and powerfully supported by the widely-circulated Appeal to Reason, the new party got off to a good start and soon began to snowball into a movement of imposing proportions. Already in 1900, as the presidential candidate of the new combination of forces before the formal unification in the following year, Debs polled nearly 100,000 votes. This was about three times the vote for a presidential candidate of any previous socialist ticket.

In 1904 the Debs vote leaped to 402,283, a sensational four-fold increase; and many people, calculating the rate of growth, began to predict a socialist majority in the foreseeable future. In 1908 the presidential vote remained stationary at 420,713; but this electoral disappointment was more than counter-balanced by the organizational growth of the party.

In the intervening four years the party membership had doubled, going from 20,763 in 1904 to 41,751 in 1908. (Official figures cited by Shannon.) The party still had the wind in its sails, and the next four years saw spectacular advances all along the line.

Socialist mayors were elected all the way across the country from Schenectady, New York, to Berkeley, California, with Milwaukee, the home of small-time municipal reform socialism almost as famous and even milder than its beer – the shining light in between.

We had a socialist mayor in New Castle, Pennsylvania, when I was there in 1912-1913, working on Solidarity, eastern organ of the IWW. Ohio, a center of “red socialism,” had a number of socialist mayors in the smaller industrial towns. On a tour for the IWW Akron rubber strike in 1913, I spoke in the City Hall at St. Marys, Ohio, with Scott Wilkins, the socialist mayor of the town, as chairman of the meeting. Scott was a “red socialist,” friendly to the IWW.

By 1912, according to official records cited by Kipnis, the party had “more than one thousand of its members elected to political office in 337 towns and cities. These included 56 mayors, 305 aldermen and councilmen, 22 police officials, 155 school officials and four pound-keepers.”

If the transformation of society from capitalism to socialism was simply a process of electing enough socialist mayors and aldermen, as a great many leaders of the Socialist Party – especially its candidates for office – fervently believed, the great change was well underway by 1912.

In the campaign of 1912 the socialist cause was promoted by 323 papers and periodicals – five dailies, 262 weeklies and 10 monthlies, plus 46 publications in foreign languages, of which eight were dailies. The Appeal to Reason, always the most widely read socialist paper, reached a circulation of over 600,000 in that year. The party membership, from a claimed 10,000 (probably an exaggeration) at the formation of the party 11 years earlier, had climbed to an average of 117,984 dues-payers for 1912, according to official records cited by Shannon.

In the 1912 presidential election Debs polled 897,000 votes on the Socialist ticket. This was before woman suffrage, and it was about six percent of the total vote that year. Proportionally, this showing would represent more than three million votes in the 1952 election.

Considering that Debs, as always, campaigned on a program of straight class-struggle socialism, the 1912 vote was an impressive showing of socialist sentiment in this country at that time, even though a large percentage of the total must be discounted as protest, rather than socialist, votes, garnered by the reform socialists working the other side of the street.

But things were not as rosy as this statistical record of growth and expansion might seem to indicate. The year 1912 was the Socialist Party’s peak year, in terms of membership as well as votes, and it never reached that peak again. The decline, in fact, had already set in before the votes were counted. This was due, not to public disfavor at the time, but to internal troubles.

At the moment of its greatest external success the contradictions of the “all-inclusive party” were beginning to catch up with it and tear it apart. After 1912 the Socialist Party’s road was downhill to catastrophe.

8. Internal Conflict and Decline

The Socialist Party was more radical in its first years than it later became. The left wing was strong at the founding convention and still stronger at the second convention in 1904. As we see it now, the original left wing was faulty in some of its tactical positions; but it stood foursquare for industrial unionism and took a clear and definite stand on the basic principle of the class struggle – the essential starting point of any real socialist policy. The class struggle was the dominant theme of the party’s pronouncements in its first – and best – period.

A loose alliance of the left and center constituted the party majority at that time. The right-wing faction led by Berger, the Milwaukee slow-motion, step-at-a-time municipal reformer, was a definite minority. But the opportunists fought for control of the party from the very beginning. As a pressure tactic in the fight, Berger threatened, at least once a year, to split off his Wisconsin section.

Soon after the 1904 convention the centrists led by Hillquit combined with the Milwaukee reformists against the proletarian left wing. Thereafter the policy of Berger – with a few modifications provided by Hillquit to make it go down easier – became the prevailing policy of the party. With this right-wing combination in control, “political action” was construed as the pure and simple business of socialists getting elected and serving in public office, and the party organization became primarily an electoral machine.

The fight for industrial unionism – the burning issue of the labor movement championed by Debs and the left wing – was abandoned and betrayed by the opportunists in the hope of propitiating the AFL bureaucracy and roping in the votes of conservative craft unionists. The doctrine of socialism was watered down to make it more acceptable to “respectable’ middle-class voters. The official Socialist Party turned more and more from the program of the class struggle to the scramble for electoral success by a program of reform.

This transformation did not take place all at once and without internal convulsions. The battle between left and right – the revolutionists and the reformists – raged without let-up in all sections of the party. Many locals and state organizations were left-wing strongholds, and there is little room for doubt that the majority sentiment of the rank and file leaned toward the left.

Debs, who voiced the sentiments of the rank and file more sensitively and accurately than anyone else, always stood for the class-struggle policy, and always made the same kind of speeches no matter what the official party platform said. But Debs poured out all his energies in external agitation; the full weight of his overwhelming influence was never brought to bear in the internal struggle.

The professional opportunists, on the other hand, worked at internal party politics all the time. They wangled their way into control of the national party machinery, and used it unscrupulously in their unceasing factional maneuvers and manipulations. They fought, not only to impose their policy on an unwilling party, whose majority never trusted them, but also to drive out the revolutionary workers who consciously opposed them.

In 1910 Victor Berger, promoting the respectable reformist brand of socialism, was elected as the first socialist congressman; and a socialist city administration was swept into office in Milwaukee in the same year. These electoral victories had the double effect of strengthening the reformist influence in the party and of stimulating the hunger and thirst for office in other parts of the country by the Milwaukee method. Municipal elections, in which the opportunist wing of the party specialized, on a program of petty municipal reform, yielded many victories for socialist office-seekers, if not for socialism.

Says Kipnis:

“Few of these local victories were won on the issue of capitalism versus socialism. In fact, this issue was usually kept well in the background. The great majority of Socialists elected to office between 1910 and 1912 were ministers and professional men who conducted their successful campaigns on reform questions that appeared crucial in their own communities; local option, prohibition, liquor law enforcement; corruption, inefficiency, maladministration, graft, and extravagance; bi-partisan combinations, boss and gang rule, and commission government; public improvements, aid to schools, playgrounds, and public health; municipal ownership, franchises, and equitable taxation; and, in a small minority of the elections, industrial depression and labor disputes.”

The steady shift of the official policy from the class struggle to reformist gradualism, and the appeal to moderation and respectability that went with it, had its effects on the social composition of the party. Droves of office-hunting careerists, ministers of the gospel, businessmen, lawyers and other professional people were attracted to the organization which agreeably combined the promise of free and easy social progress with possible personal advantages for the ambitious. In large part they came, not to serve in the ranks but to take charge and run the show. Lawyers, professional writers and preachers became the party’s most prominent spokesmen and candidates for office.

At a Christian Socialist Congress in 1908 it was claimed that more than 300 preachers belonged to the Socialist Party. The preachers were all over the place; and in the nature of things they exerted their influence to blunt the edge of party policy. Kipnis pertinently remarks: “Since the Christian Socialists based their analysis on the brotherhood of man rather than on the class struggle, they aligned themselves with the opportunist, rather than the revolutionary, wing of the party.”

The revolutionary workers in the party ranks were repelled by this middle-class invasion, as well as by the policy that induced it. Thousands left the party by the other door. Part of them, recoiling against the parliamentary idiocy of the official policy, renounced “politics” altogether and turned onto the by-path of syndicalism. Others simply dropped out. Thousands of revolutionary-minded workers, first-class human material out of which a great party might have been built, were scattered and lost to the movement in this period.

The revolutionary militants who remained in the party found themselves fighting a losing battle as a minority, without adequate leadership. In a drawn-out process the “all-inclusive” Socialist Party was being transformed into a predominantly reformist organization in which revolutionary workers were no longer welcome.

At the 1912 convention the right-wing majority mobilized to finish the job. They pushed through an amendment to the constitution committing the party to bourgeois law and order, and proscribing the advocacy of any methods of working-class action which might infringe upon it. This amendment – the notorious “Article 11, Section 6” – which later was included almost verbatim in the “Criminal Syndicalism” laws adopted by various states to outlaw the IWW – read as follows:

“Any member of the party who opposes political action or advocates crime, sabotage, or other methods of violence as a weapon of the working class to aid in its emancipation shall be expelled from membership in the party. Political action shall be construed to mean participation in elections for public office and practical legislative and administrative work along the lines of the Socialist Party platform.”

This trickily worded amendment was deliberately designed to split the party by forcing out the revolutionary workers. This aim was largely realized. The convention action was followed by the recall of Bill Haywood, the fighting leader of the left wing, from the National Executive Committee, and a general exodus of revolutionary workers from the party.

The reformist bosses had also calculated that their demonstration of respectability would gain more recruits and more votes for the Socialist Party, if not for socialism. But in this they were sadly disappointed. The party membership declined precipitately after that, and so did the votes. By 1916 the party membership was down to an average of 83,138, a drop of close to 35,000 from the 1912 average. And the party vote that year – with Benson, a reformist, as presidential candidate in place of Debs – fell to 588,113, a decline of one-third from the Debs vote of 1912.

The Socialist Party never recovered from the purge of 1912, and came up to the First World War in a weakened condition. The war brought further mass desertions – this time primarily from the right-wing elements, who were finding the struggle for socialism far more difficult and dangerous than the program of reformist gradualism had made it appear. At the same time, the war, and then the Russian Revolution, also brought a new influx of foreign-born workers who swelled the membership of the language federations and provided a new base of support for a reinvigorated left wing.

This new left wing, armed with the great ideas of the Russian Revolution, fought far more effectively than its predecessor. There was no disorganized withdrawal and dispersal this time. The opportunist leaders, finding themselves in a minority, resorted to wholesale expulsions, and the split became definitive. The new left wing emerged from the internal struggle and split as the Communist Party.

The new Communist Party became the pole of attraction for all the vital elements in American radicalism in the next decade. The Socialist Party was left on the sidelines; after the split it declined steadily. The membership in 1922 was down to 11,277; and by 1928 it had declined to 7,793, of which almost half were foreign-language affiliates. (All figures from official records cited by Shannon.)

Debs remained a member of the shattered organization, but that couldn’t save it. Nothing could save it. The Socialist Party had lost its appeal to the rebel youth, and not even the magic name of Debs could give it credit any more. The great agitator died in 1926. In the last years of his life the Socialist Party had less members and less influence – less everything – than it had started with a quarter of a century before.

9. The Role of Debs in the Internal Conflict

The Socialist Party was bound to change in any case. It could begin as an all-inclusive political organization, hospitably accommodating all shades and tendencies of radical thought; but it could not permanently retain the character of its founding days. It was destined, by its nature, to move toward a more homogeneous composition and a more definite policy. But the direction of the change, and the eventual transformation of the party into a reformist electoral machine, were not predetermined. Here individuals, by their actions and omissions, played their parts, and the most decisive part of all was played by Debs.

The role of Debs in the internal struggles of the Socialist Party is one of the most interesting and instructive aspects of the entire history of the movement. By a strange anomaly, the conduct of this irreproachable revolutionist was the most important single factor enabling the reformist right wing to control the party and drive out the revolutionary workers.

He didn’t want it that way, and he could have prevented it, but he let it happen just the same. That stands out clearly in the record, and it cannot be glossed over without falsifying the record and concealing one of the most important lessons of the whole experience.

Debs was by far the most popular and influential member of the party. If he had thrown his full weight into the internal conflict there is no doubt that he could have carried the majority with him. But that he would never do. At every critical turning point he stepped aside. His abstention from the fight was just what the reformists needed to win, and they could not have won without it.

Debs never deviated from the class-struggle line in his own public agitation. He fought steadfastly for industrial unionism, and he never compromised or dodged that issue as the official party did. He had no use for vote-catching nostrums. He was opposed to middle-class intellectuals and preachers occupying positions of leadership in the party. His stand against the war was magnificent. He supported the Russian Revolution and proclaimed himself a Bolshevik.

On all these basic issues his sympathies were always consistently with the left wing, and he frequently took occasion to make his own position clear in the International Socialist Review, the organ of the left wing. But that’s as far as he would go. Having stated his position, he withdrew from the conflict every time.

This seems paradoxical, for Debs certainly was no pacifist. In the direct class struggle of the workers against the capitalists Debs was a fighter beyond reproach. Nothing and nobody could soften him up or cool his anger in that domain. He didn’t waste any of his good nature on the capitalist-minded labor fakers either.

Debs’ blind spot was the narrower, but no less important, field of party politics and organization. On that field he evaded the fight. This evasion was not inspired by pacifism; it followed from his own theory of the party.

As far as I know, Debs’ theory of the party was never formally stated, but it is clearly indicated in the course he consistently followed in all the internal conflicts of the party – from beginning to end. He himself always spoke for a revolutionary program. But at the same time he thought the party should have room for other kinds of socialists; he stood for an all-inclusive socialist party, and party unity was his first consideration.

Debs was against expulsions and splits from either side. He was opposed to the split in 1919 and saddened by it. Even after the split had become definitive, and the Rights and Lefts had parted company for good, he still appealed for unity.

Debs believed that all who called themselves socialists should work together in peace and harmony in one organization. For him all members of the party, regardless of their tendency, were comrades in the struggle for socialism, and he couldn’t stand quarreling among comrades.

This excellent sentiment, which really ought to govern the relations between comrades who are united on the basic principles of the program, usually gets lost in the shuffle when factions fight over conflicting programs which express conflicting class interests. The reformists see to that, if the revolutionists don’t. That’s the way it was in the Socialist Party. Debs held aloof from the factions, but that didn’t stop the factional struggles. And there was not much love lost in them either.

Debs’ course in the internal conflicts of the party was also influenced by his theory of leadership, which he was inclined to equate with bureaucracy. He deliberately limited his own role to that of an agitator for socialism; the rest was up to the rank and file.

His repeated declarations – often quoted approvingly by thoughtless people – that he was not a leader and did not want to be a leader, were sincerely meant, like everything else he said. But the decisive role that leadership plays in every organization and every collective action cannot be wished away. Debs’ renunciation of leadership created a vacuum that other leaders – far less worthy – came to fill. And the program they brought with them was not the program of Debs.

Debs had an almost mystic faith in the rank and file, and repeatedly expressed his confidence that, with good will all around, the rank and file, with its sound revolutionary instincts, would set everything straight. Things didn’t work out that way, and they never do. The rank and file, in the internal conflicts of the party, as in the trade unions, and in the broader class struggle, can assert its will only when it is organized; and organization never happens by itself. It requires leadership.

Debs’ refusal to take an active part in the factional struggle, and to play his rightful part as the leader of an organized left wing, played into the hands of the reformist politicians. There his beautiful friendliness and generosity played him false, for the party was also an arena of the struggle for socialism. Debs spoke of “the love of comrades” – and he really meant it – but the opportunist sharpers didn’t believe a word of it. They never do. They waged a vicious, organized fight against the revolutionary workers of the party all the time. And they were the gainers from Debs’ abstention.

Debs’ mistaken theory of the party was one of the most costly mistakes a revolutionist ever made in the entire history of the American movement.

The strength of capitalism is not in itself and its own institutions; it survives only because it has bases of support in the organizations of the workers. As we see it now, in the light of what we have learned from the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, nine-tenths of the struggle for socialism is the struggle against bourgeois influence in the workers’ organizations, including the party.

The reformist leaders were the carriers of bourgeois influence in the Socialist Party, and at bottom the conflict of factions was an expression of the class struggle. Debs obviously didn’t see it that way. His aloofness from the conflict enabled the opportunists to dominate the party machine and to undo much of his great work as an agitator for the cause.

Debs’ mistaken theory of the party was one of the most important reasons why the Socialist Party, which he did more than anyone else to build up, ended so disgracefully and left so little behind.

10. Debs and Lenin

Here we can make an instructive comparison between the course of Debs – to whom we owe so much – and that of Lenin to whom we owe even more.

As we see them in their words and works, which were always in harmony, they were much alike in character – honest and loyal in all circumstances; unselfish; big men, free from all pettiness. For both of them the general welfare of the human race stood higher than any concerns of self. Each of them, in his own way, has given us an example of a beautiful, heroic life devoted to a single idea which was also an ideal. There was a difference in one of their conceptions of method to realize the ideal.

Both men started out from the assumption that the transformation of society requires a workers’ revolution. But Lenin went a step farther. He saw the workers’ revolution as a concrete actuality of this epoch; and he concerned himself particularly with the question of how it was to be prepared and organized.

Lenin believed that for victory the workers required a party fit to lead a revolution; and to him that meant a party with a revolutionary program and leadership – a party of revolutionists. He concentrated the main energies of his life on the construction of just such a party, and on the struggle to keep it free from bourgeois ideas and influences.

Lenin recognized that this involved internal discussion and conflict, and he never shirked it. The Menshevik philistines – the Russian counterparts of the American Bergers and Hillquits – hated him for that, especially for his single-minded concentration on the struggle for a revolutionary program, and for his effectiveness in that struggle, but that did not deter him. Lenin believed in his bones that the internal problems of the party were the problems of the revolution, and he was on top of them all the time.

After 1904 Debs consistently refused to attend party conventions, where policy was decided, and always declined nomination for the National Committee, where policy was interpreted and put into practice. Lenin’s attitude was directly opposite. He saw the Party Congress as the highest expression of party life, and he was always on hand there, ready to fight for his program. He regarded the Central Committee as the executive leadership of the movement, and he took his place at the head of it.

Lenin wrote a whole book about the conflict at the Second Congress of the party in 1903, where the first basic division between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks took place. He was in his element there, in that internal struggle which was to prove so fateful for the Russian Revolution and the future of all mankind.

Contrasting his own feeling about it to that of another delegate dismayed by the conflict, Lenin wrote:

“I cannot help recalling in this connection a conversation I happened to have at the Congress with one of the ‘Centre’ delegates. ‘How oppressive the atmosphere is at our Congress!’ he complained. ‘This bitter fighting, this agitation one against the other, this biting controversy, this uncomradely attitude ...’

“‘What a splendid thing our Congress is!’ I replied. ‘A free and open struggle. Opinions have been stated. The shades have been brought out. The groups have taken shape. Hands have been raised. A decision has been taken. A stage has been passed. Forward! That’s the stuff for me! That’s life! That’s not like the endless, tedious, word-chopping of intellectuals which terminates not because the question has been settled, but because they are too tired to talk any more ...’

“The comrade of the ‘Centre’ stared at me in perplexity and shrugged his shoulders. We were talking in different languages.” (One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, p.225 footnote.)

In her book, Memories of Lenin, Krupskaya, his widow, quoted those words of Lenin with the remark: “That quotation sums up Ilyich to a ‘t’.”

The practical wiseacres in Lenin’s time looked disdainfully at the ideological conflicts of the Russian emigres, and regarded Lenin as a sectarian fanatic who loved factional squabbling for its own sake. But Lenin was not righting over trifles. He saw the struggle against opportunism in the Russian Social Democratic Party as an essential part of the struggle for the revolution. That’s why he plunged into it.

It is important to remember that the Bolshevik Party, constructed in the course of that struggle, became the organizer and leader of the greatest revolution in history.

11. The Most Important Lesson

Debs and Lenin, united on the broad program of revolutionary socialism, were divided on the narrower question of the character and role of the party. This turned out to be the most important question of our epoch for socialists in this country, as in every other country.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 clarified the question. Lenin’s party of revolutionists stood up and demonstrated its historical rightness at the same time that the all-inclusive party of Debs was demonstrating its inadequacy.

This is the most important lesson to be derived from the experiences in the two countries, so far apart from each other yet so interdependent and alike in their eventual destiny.

The validity of the comparison is not impaired by reference to the well-known fact that Russia came to a revolutionary situation before America, which hasn’t come to it yet. Lenin’s greatest contribution to the success of the Russian Revolution was the work of preparation for it. That began with the construction of a revolutionary party in a time of reaction, before the revolution; and the Bolshevik Party, in turn, began with Lenin’s theory of the party.

The Socialist Party of Debs’ time has to be judged, not for its failure to lead a revolution, but for its failure to work with that end in view and to select its membership accordingly. Socialism signifies and requires the revolutionary transformation of society; anything less than that is mere bourgeois reform. A socialist party deserves the name only to the extent that it acts as the conscious agency in preparing the workers for the necessary social revolution. That can only be a party of revolutionists; an all-inclusive party of diverse elements with conflicting programs will not do.

The achievements of American socialism in the early years of the present century are not to be discounted, but it would be well to understand just what these achievements were. The movement, of which the party was the central organizing force, gave many thousands of people their first introduction to the general perspective of socialism; and it provided the arena where the main cadres of the revolutionary movement of the future were first assembled. These were the net results that remained after everything else became only a memory, and they stand to the historic credit of the early Socialist Party – above all to Debs.

But these irrevocable achievements were rather the by-products of an experimental form of socialist organization which, by its nature, could only be transitory. By including petty-bourgeois reformists and proletarian revolutionists in one political organization, the Socialist Party, presumed to be an instrument of the class struggle of the workers against the capitalists, was simply introducing a form of the class struggle into its own ranks. The result was unceasing internal conflict from the first day the party was constituted. The eventual breakup of the party, and the decision of the revolutionary elements to launch a party of their own, was the necessary outcome of the whole experiment.

In the Russian movement Lenin saw all that beforehand, and the revolution was the gainer for it. After the Russian Revolution, the left wing of the American Socialist Party, and some of the syndicalists too, recognized the superiority of Lenin’s method. Those who took the program of socialism seriously had no choice but to follow the path of Lenin. The Bolshevik Party of Lenin rightly became the model for the revolutionary workers in all countries, including this country.

The launching of the Communist Party in 1919 represented, not simply a break with the old Socialist Party, but even more important a break with the whole conception of a common party of revolutionists and opportunists. That signified a new beginning for American socialism, far more important historically than everything that had happened before, including the organization of the Socialist Party in 1901. There can be no return to the outlived and discredited experiment of the past.

The reconstituted movement has encountered its own difficulties and made its own mistakes since that new beginning in 1919. But these are of a different order from the difficulties and mistakes of the earlier time and have to be considered separately. In any case, the poor ideological equipment of the old movement cannot help in their solution.

The struggle against the crimes and betrayals of Stalinism, the prerequisite for the construction of an honest revolutionary party, requires weapons from a different arsenal. Here also the Russians are our teachers. The programmatic weapons for this right against Stalinist treachery were given to us by Trotsky, the coequal and successor of Lenin.

There can be no return to the past of the American movement. In connection with the Debs Centennial some charlatans, who measure the worth of a socialist movement by its numerical strength at the moment, have discovered new virtues in the old Socialist Party, which polled so many votes in the time of Debs, and have recommended a new experiment on the same lines. Besides its worthlessness as advice to the socialist vanguard of the present day, that prescription does an injustice to the memory of Debs.

He deserves to be honored for his great positive contributions to the cause of socialism, not for his mistakes. The life work of Debs, as the foremost agitator for socialism we have ever had, as the man of principle who always stood at his post in the class struggle in times of danger and difficulty, will always remain a treasured heritage of the revolutionary workers.

It is best – and it is enough – to honor him for that. The triumph of the cause he served so magnificently will require a different political instrument – a different kind of party – than the one he supported. The model for that is the party of Lenin.


James P Cannon Archive

Uno de Mayo (Martes) En Boston!- Un Dia Sin Los Obreros!-Huelga Generale!

Uno de Mayo!- Un Dia Sin Los Obreros!

*Ni trabajo!

*Ni escuela!

*Ni compras!

*Fiesta en las calles del Distro Financiero!

Comenzamos en 7 por la manana en el cruce Federal y Franklin en Boston

An Encore, The "Jelly Roll Baker" Is In The House- The Blues Of Lonnie Johnson

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Lonnie Johnson Doing "Blackbird Blues."


Ballads and Blues, Lonnie Johnson and Elmer Snowden, Vanguard Records, 1960

Okay, okay those of you who have been keeping tabs know that I have spend much of the last year, when not doing political commentary or book or movie reviews, reviewing many of the old time blues artists that were the passion of my youth (and still are). So this writer, who thought he had heard virtually all the key blues men and women of the old days, got his comeuppance recently when the name of Lonnie Johnson and his version of the classic double-entendre "Jelly Roll Baker" came up. To name drop just a little, the occasion was a local reunion of Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin of the old Jim Kweskin Jug Band from the 1960’s (that also included Geoff’s ex-wife and great performer in her own right, Maria Muldaur). They did a stirring rendition of the song and attributed it to the performer under review here. After scratching my head I ran out to get some more of Brother Lonnie’s work and I am here to tell you- get this CD because if you have any interest at all in the blues you will not be disappointed.

Why this particular album to start out with? Well, it features Lonnie Johnson and long time friend Elmer Snowden together for the first time although early on (back in the 1920’s) they had worked together on some blues and jazz albums. That is, perhaps, why this work is interesting as an example of that closeness between the jazz and blues idioms before those musical forms parted ways sometime in the late 1940’s. As others have mentioned Johnson, the father of single-note six-string soloing, is in a strangely haunting voice on this selection of blues, ballads, and jazz, crooning the double-entendre "Jelly Roll Baker" and the heartache-laden "Back Water Blues". I cannot add much to that description except you cannot go wrong by giving Haunted House, the first cut, a listen. That sets the mood. Finally, let me say WOW!

"Why Should I Grieve After You're Gone (1927)"

After you're gone, I'm left all alone.
Just feeling blue, all depending on you.
Not even the telephone, it don't ring anymore.
Not even the sun that shines, don't shine in my door anymore.
Since youâ've been gone away, many a million miles away.
I will give you a million smiles a day, to keep your blues away.

As the sun go down, and the wrong news, no play.
As the time goes lower and lower and lower, there's only you.
While I'm feeling blue, just feeling blue.
I would be happy today, but it all depends on you.

As the sun go down, and sinks behind the trees.
And just before it falls, I will answer to your calls.
When you're a million, million miles away, I will give you a million smiles a day.
That's because I love you, and wants to keep your blues away.

"Big Leg Woman"

Yes, I've got me a big legged woman, that solid rocks my soul
Yes, I've got me a big legged woman, that solid rocks my soul
And every time she turns the lights down low, Jack that's when I give up all my gold
She's so fine, she's so mellow, the rest I can't explain
Yes, she's so fine, she's so mellow, rest I can't explain
Way my baby stacked up, it's enough to drive the average cat insane
Yes, she's got great big legs, so pleasin' on the eye
Yes, she's got those great big legs, so pleasin' on the eye
And the preacher walked by, turned around and looked, Jack and hollered "My, my, my!"
She's got those big brown eyes, yes and she's somethin' really fine
Yes, she's got those big brown eyes, Jack she's somethin' really fine
And the best part about it, Jack she's mine, all mine!

"Cat You Been Messin' Around"

Now look here woman, you done lost your mind,
this is not my child, you bring me a better line
'Cause there's something wrong, woman don't start that lies there's something wrong
I never had such mix-ups in my family, since I was born
First it's loop-footin', and its head is long
And it's been half nuts ever since you brought it back home
So there's something wrong, I mean there's something wrong
Oh, take it back where you got it, woman 'cause depression is on
Now his eyes is blue, and his hair's brown
You know darn well you've been messin' around
So take that lie off of me, I mean take that lie off of me
Woman you had a twelve-month vacation, so don't put that lie on me
Now his head is nappy, and his feets is long, his eyes is crossed, and his sight is gone
You know there's something wrong, yes, woman there's something wrong
I never had nothing like that in my family, woman since I was born
Now I said it wasn't my child and you argued me down,
now my eyes ain't blue and my hair ain't brown
Woman you've been messin' around, yes,woman you've been messin' around
So woman get out of my face, or I take my fist and knock you down

"Low Down St. Louis Blues"

I love my St. Louis women, but their ways I really can't stand
I love my St. Louis women, but their ways I really can't stand
They always bettin' some woman, how she can take her man
My woman dips snuff
, and she drinks a good old homemade corn
My woman dips her snuff, and she drinks a good old homemade corn
She get as drunk as she can be, then she fight for the whole night long
And I got another gal, live down on Deep Morgan Street
And I got another gal, she lives down on Deep Morgan Street
If she don't kill a man every day, all I can do is to keep 'r off of me
She drinks her homemade corn whiskey, blackjack and a razor's her friend
She drinks her homemade corn whiskey, a blackjack and a razor's her friend
And she loves to kill a man, just like the devil loves sin
Boys I got another gal, she lives down on Walnut Street
Boys I got another gal, she lives down on Walnut Street
My other gal is so bad, the cops is scared to walk the beat
She can make a blackjack talk and a razor fairly moan
She can make a blackjack talk and a razor fairly moan
From the way that gal kill up men, the graveyard ain't got much more room

"Dont Drive Me From Your Door"

Just look how it's rainin', my feet's on the ground
Just look how it's rainin', and my poor feet's on the ground
For the woman I've made happy, well she's after every man in town

Friends please open your door, and don't drive me away
Please open your door, and don't drive me away
The rent man has put me outdoors, and I've got no place to stay

Let me stay here tonight, it's ice all on the ground
Let me stay here tonight, it's ice all over the ground
Cause I'm motherless and I'm fatherless, and please don't turn me down

When I had plenty money, I had friends all over town
When I had plenty of money, I had friends all over town
But just as soon as I got outdoors, none of my friends could be found

After mother and father's gone, a dollar's your right-hand friend
After mother and father's gone, dollar's your right-hand friend
Then after your last dollar's gone, you're like a road that has no end

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, lord where will I go
I'm beggin' you my friend, don't drive me from your door
I cannot sleep on the ground, there's nothing but ice and snow

Jelly Roll Baker

She said, 'Mr. Jellyroll Baker
Let me be your slave
When Gabriel blows his trumpet

Then I'll rise from my grave

For some-a your jellyro-oll
Yes, I love a good jellyroll'
It is good for the sick
Yes, and it's good for the old'

I was sentenced for murder
In the 1st degree
*The judge's wife called up and says
'Let that man go free'

He's a jellyroll baker
He's got the best jellyroll in town
He's the only man can bake jellyroll
With his damper down

Once in a hospital
Shot all full-a holes
The nurse left the man dyin'
An says he's got to get her jellyroll

His good old jell-e-e-y
She says, 'I love my good jellyroll'
She says, 'I ruther let him lose his life
Than to miss my good jellyroll'

Lady asked me who learnt me
How to bake good jellyroll?
I says, 'It's nobody, Miss
'It's just a gift from my soul'
To bake good jellyro-oll
Mmm-mmm, that good ol' jellyroll

She says, 'I love your jellyroll
It do's me good deep down in my soul
She says, 'Can I put in a order
For two weeks ahead?
I'd ruther have your jelly-roll
Than my home-cooked bread'

I love your jell-e-e-y
I love your good jellyroll
It's just like Maxwell House Coffee
It's good, deep down in my soul.

The "Jelly Roll Baker" Is In The House- The Blues Of Lonnie Johnson

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Lonnie Johnson Doing "Got The Blues For Murder Only".


Steppin’ The Blues, Lonnie Johnson, Columbia Records, 1990.

Parts of the following have been used in a review of Lonnie Johnson Blues and Ballads CD (hereafter B&B).

Okay, Okay those of you who have been keeping tabs know that I have spend much of the last year, when not doing political commentary or book or movie reviews, reviewing many of the old time blues artists that were the passion of my youth (and still are). So this writer, who thought he had heard virtually all the key blues men and women of the old days, got his comeuppance a while back when the name of Lonnie Johnson and his version of the classic double-entendre song “Jelly Roll Baker” came up. To name drop just a little, the occasion was a local reunion of Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin of the old Jim Kweskin Jug Band from the 1960’s (that also included Geoff’s ex-wife and great performer in her own right, Maria Muldaur). They did a stirring rendition of the song and attributed it to the performer under review here. After scratching my head I ran out to get some more of Brother Lonnie’s work and as noted above I have fulsomely praised his B&B CD in this space.

Although this CD has merit musically and certainly has historical worth as a comparison of young Lonnie Johnson in the 1920’s to the later B&B Lonnie this is one time when aging seems to have created a better body of work. A comparison of “I’m Nuts About That Gal” (really an early version of his classic “Jelly Roll Baker”) and the “Jelly Roll Baker” of the B&B make my point succinctly. That said, the noted Johnson guitar work is highlighted on “Guitar Blues”, the novelty sassy song in two parts “Toothache Blues” and “Deep Blue Sea Blues”. That is why you want this album.

Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- The School Dance -Last Chance For Romance- A Final Nod To Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand”

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Angels performing Till.

CD Review

The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era: The ‘60s: Last Dance, Time-Life, 1991

As I have noted in reviewing The ‘50s: Last Dance of this Time-Life Roll ‘n’ Roll Era series I have spent tons of time and reams of cyberspace “paper” in this space reviewing the teenage culture of the 1950s, especially the inevitable school dance and the also equally inevitable trauma of the last dance. That event, the last dance that is, was the last chance for even shy boys like me to prove that we were not wallflowers, or worst. The last chance to rise (or fall) in the torrid and relentless pecking order of the social scene at school. And moreover to prove to that certain she that you were made of some sort of heroic stuff, the stuff of dreams, of her dreams, thank you very much. Moreover, to make use of that social capital you invested in by learning to dance, or the “shadow” of learning to dance at some Miss Somebody‘s Saturday morning dance studio. Egad.

Fair, enough, true enough, if only a rather short sketch of the preparations, the seemingly endless preparations for the ‘big night.’ A night that entailed getting into some serious grooming workouts, including procedures not usually a part of the daily toilet. Plenty of deodorant, hair oil, and breathe fresheners, no question. Moreover, endless energy used getting worked up about wardrobe, mode of transportation, and other factors that I have addressed elsewhere, and, additionally, factors contingent upon whether you were dated up or stag. All that need not be repeated here. What does stand some further inspection is something that has received scant notice in all this welter of detail, with the exception of that overblown coverage of the last dance. Nothing on the inner workings of the dance itself.

Actually, and I will only speak to the late fifties and early sixties but I am sure this observation will hold up for other times as well, there are two school dance sequels, that first tremulous middle school dance series, and the later even more significant high school dances. Age, more convoluted socials relationships, physical and sexual growth, changes in musical taste, attitudes toward life and toward the opposite sex (or nowadays, perhaps, same sex) all made them two distinct affairs, except the ubiquitous teacher chaperones to guard against all manner of murder and mayhem, or, more likely, someone sneaking out for butts, booze or off-hand nuzzling (or, have mercy, all three). I will keep strictly to the high school dance scene here since the compilation under review includes musical selections that were current in the time of my high school time.

These musical selections "spoke" to that gnawing feeling in the back of your mind, half hidden by massive teenage psychic overlay, of the need to take a constant survey of what is going on in your little so-called world. A moment's glazed stare as you wait to get into the dance venue allows you to think through the litany of problems to be addressed as soon as you get a breather. Shall I give examples?

For example; being stood up for a date; or when that certain he or she did not call; or that certain he or she had another date; or that certain "unto death" friend of yours took that certain he or she away from you; or when that certain he or she said no, no for any number of things but you know the real “no,” right?; or, finally, that mournful, pitiful midnight crying time when sometime he or she, did or did not do, or did or did not say, or he or she forget to remember, and so on. But those issues will wait for another day because right now the doors are opening and you have more pressing issues in your heated little mind. Hope drives your every move from here on in.

I don’t have to spend much time on the physical and technical details of the dance, hell, you can describe them in your sleep. And if you can’t do so watch a film like 1973’s American Graffiti, the segment on the local high school dance, as I have noted previously, once you get indoors could have been 1962 anyplace U.S.A. (and I am willing to bet anytime U.S.A., as well. For this baby-boomer, that particular high school dance, could have taken place at my high school when I was a student in the early 1960s). From the throwaway crepe paper decorations that festooned the place placed around the gym by the ever helpful Girls Club or Tri-Hi-Y up to the ever-present foldaway gym bleachers to those evil-eyed chaperones to the platform the local band (a band that if it did not hit it big would go on to greater glory at our future weddings, birthday parties, and other important occasions) covering the top hits of the day performed on it was a perfect replica of my own experience.

Also perfect replica in that film were the classic boys’ attire for a casual dance, plaid or white sports shirt, chinos, stolid shoes, and short-trimmed hair (no beards, beads, bell-bottoms, it’s much too early in the decade for that) and for the girls blouses (or maybe sweaters, cashmere, if I recall being in fashion at the time, at least in the colder East), full swirling dresses, and, I think beehive hair-dos. Wow! Of course, perfect replica were the infinite variety of dances (frug, watusi, twist, stroll, etc) that blessed, no, twice blessed, rock and roll let us do in order to not to have to dance too waltz close. We all owe Chubby Checker and Gary U.S. Bonds a debt that can never be repaid. Mercy.

Damn, my going on and on about the physical descriptions is just so much eye wash. The thing could have been held in an airplane hangar for all we really cared. And everyone could have been dressed in paper bags. What mattered, and maybe will always matter, are the hes looking at those certain shes, and visa-versa. The endless small meaningful looks (if stag, of course, eyes straight forward if dated up, or else bloody hell). Except for those wallflowers that are permanently looking down at the ground, and pleased to be doing it. And that, my friends, is the real struggle that went on in those events, for the stags. The struggle against wallflower-dom. The struggle for at least some room in the social standing, even if near the bottom, rather than outcaste-dom.

That struggle was as fierce as any class struggle old Karl Marx might have projected. The straight, upfront calculation (and not infrequently miscalculation)of those evil eyes, the maneuvering, the averting of eyes, the not averting of eyes, the reading of silence signals, the uncomprehended "no", the gratuitous "yes." Need I go on? I don’t think so, except, if you had the energy, or even if you didn’t, then you dragged yourself to that last dance. And hoped, hoped to high heaven that it was a slow one. Ah, to be young was very heaven as old man Wordsworth had it in another context. Enough memory said.

Stick outs on this CD compilation include: the late legendary blue artist Etta James’ Something’s Got A Hold On Me (fast); The Angels’ Till (slow, ouch! on feet); Bo Diddley’s Road Runner (fast); and Donnie Brooks’ classic (the one you prayed they would play) Mission Bell. How is that for dee-jay even-handedness?

'Till lyrics

Till the moon deserts the sky
Till the all the seas run dry
Till then I'll worship you

Till the tropic sun turns cold
Till this young world grows old
My darling, I'll adore you

You are my reason to live
All I own I would give
Just to have you adore me, oh, oh, oh

Till the rivers flow upstream
Till lovers cease to dream
Till then I'm yours, be mine

instrumental interlude

You are my reason to live
All I own I would give
Just to have you adore me

Till the rivers flow upstream
Till lovers cease to dream
Till then I'm yours, be mine

Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee And The Battle Of The Sexes-Round 236

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Patsy Cline performing "She’s Got You."

Patsy Cline: Greatest Hits, Patsy Cline, MCA Records, 1991

Sometimes one cannot win in this wicked old world. A few years ago, after some serious prodding bordering on violations of the Genera Conventions against torture which certainly, now in retrospect, warrant further investigation, further criminal investigation, I was asked by the chairperson of my North Adamsville High School Class 1964 (ouch!) Reunion Committee to answer certain questions about my likes and dislikes back in the day. The alleged purpose of this exercise (other than to see if we were still youthfully sharp) was to compile a survey /sketch of class life in the long ago misty 1960s. There was, moreover, a certain method to her madness that I did not catch onto as quickly as I should have if I had had my proper "forget high school days" guard up, as she probed by stages.

If you know something about interrogation techniques this may sound familiar. She started off with easy stuff. You know like favorite sports (easy, as a participant, running, maybe running scared, if that is a sport, but, more importantly, as a spectator our beloved raider red and black-bled football team which held even me in thrall as they ground it out on the gridiron on those granite grey autumn Saturday afternoons yelling myself, and not just me, hoarse), favorite teachers (the usual suspects, a bevy of hard-bitten, hard-nosed, grindstone-touting English and history bugs), favorite school lunch (none of the above but I should have become more suspicious with that question because I, and I know others from the class who even now refuse, refuse on principle, to have anything to do with pizza in the sixty-six guises that passed for lunch five days a week, sometimes as American chop suey even). She then worked her way into more intimate stuff like personal tastes in music. Obviously after she reeled us in, such a profound question required answers, especially for those of us who considered ourselves nothing but unabashed children of rock and roll.

But she devised even more malignant tricks as she unfolded her CIA-like probes. She posed the questions very specifically and asked what she probably thought we would think was an innocuous question: in your youth did you prefer The Rolling Stones or the Beatles? Innocent, right? Pick one or the other. I did and went on and on about how the Stones lit my flamed-out youth on fire, how I came to the blues via their cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s (really Willie Dixon’s) Little Red Rooster (banned in Boston, moreover, that made it just that much more appealing) etc. ,etc.

Are you with me so far? Then, out of nowhere, or at least nowhere for a child of rock and roll, she asked about this combination- the Brenda Lee versus Patsy Cline shoot-out. What, are you kidding? I cavalierly dismissed the notion of either singer having the slightest influence on my budding manly rock persona and refused, purposefully refused, to answer (okay, okay I put N/A). No big deal this is America after all and N/A is part of the democratic tradition if frowned upon by partisans. End of story.

Not though when my "significant other" (known in the old days, in polite society, as my paramour and in impolite society as...oh, well you can fill in the blank) finished reading my response (I had off-handedly shown it to her for some laughs). The gist of her indignant argument centered on my alleged testosterone-driven choices of male Rock 'n' Roll bands like the Stones to the exclusion of kinder, gentler music-in short, choices that women might prefer. Okay, I took the point and then made my female singer selection. Naturally, I need to make a little comment to motivate my choice.

Frankly, like I said, I really do not remember being a fan of either Brenda Lee or Patsy Cline in my youth. Both names are associated in those high school memories with dreamy school dances or other types of romantic endeavor. It was not until several years ago that I came to appreciate Patsy Cline's work. I have always been a sucker for female torch- singers like Billie Holiday and the young Peggy Lee in her Benny Goodman period but Patsy only recently became part of my musical interests as a country "torch" singer.

Frankly, on the face of it Patsy Cline would not have fallen under my idea of a torch singer back in the day. That is, until you heard that voice coming out of the past to chill you to the marrow with her heart-rending renditions of some very classic country and crossover ballads. For those of us who came of age in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s this was the music at the high school dance where you got to ask that guy or girl that you had your eye on for that slow dance that gave you time to talk and feel out the situation. A retrospective thanks, Patsy. This two CD set contains so many classics it is hard to know where to begin but I counted at least 20 that you need to listen to. That, my friends, rather says it all. Classic Hank William tunes like Your Cheating Heart, Willie Nelson’s Crazy, others like He’s Not You and She’s Got Him. Wow. A few non-ballad novelty type songs could have been leave out and done no damage but when you look at the overall package. Again, WOW.

One last word. My last word. Let me get back to that controversy with my "significant other" (I prefer "soul-mate" but I will let that pass here). I mentioned in that hard-nosed class reunion questionnaire that in the summer of 2005 I attended a Rolling Stones concert at Fenway Park. Now who do you think was standing beside me shaking, as the kids say, her "booty" for all she was worth? So much for that testosterone theory. Moreover, who imprisoned me in Fenway Park practically at gunpoint, until I bought her a sassy little Stones T-shirt as a memento of the occasion? Enough said.


Here Are Some Lyrics For Brenda and Patsy So You Can Make An Informed Decision On These Burning Questions Of The Day.

Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry lyrics

Lyrics to I'm Sorry :

I'm sorry, so sorry
That I was such a fool
I didn't know
Love could be so cruel
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Uh, oh
Oh, yes

You tell me mistakes
Are part of being young
But that don't right
The wrong that's been done

(I'm sorry) I'm sorry
(So sorry) So sorry
Please accept my apology
But love is blind
And I was to blind to see
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Uh, oh
Oh, yes

You tell me mistakes
Are part of being young
But that don't right
The wrong that's been done
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Uh, oh
Oh, yes

I'm sorry, so sorry
Please accept my apology
But love was blind
And I was too blind to see

She's Got You Lyrics

Artist: Patsy Cline

I've got your picture that you gave to me
And it's signed with love just like it used to be
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got your picture, she's got you

I've got the records that we used to share
And they still sound the same as when you were here
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got the records, she's got you

I've got your memory, or, has it got me?
I really don't know but I know it won't let me be

I've got your class ring that proved you cared
And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got these little things, she's got you

I've got your memory, or, has it got me?
I really don't know but I know it won't let me be

I've got your class ring that proved you cared
And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got these little things, she's-got-you

Out In The Two-Timing Femme Fatale 1950s Crime Noir Night- “Armored Car Robbery”- A Review

Out In The Two-Timing Femme Fatale 1950s Crime Noir Night- “Armored Car Robbery”- A Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the crime noir film Armored Car Robbery.

DVD Review

Armored Car Robbery, starring Charles McGraw, William Talman, Adele Jurgens, RKO Radio Pictures, 1950

Forget what I ever said about the classic two-timing femme fatales. And who knows maybe three-timing, or more. Once you go down that road what is to stop a dame, any dame , and why, at any small number when you are looking, forever looking, to step up in class, to latch onto the big dough guys who will take you out of the dime-a-dance scene you are mired in. So forget frails like Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon who was ready to make any guy, any two guys for that matter, take the fall as long as she got her damn bird, and the stuff of dreams. With dough enough to keep her in style, and the small-time grifters off her back. Forget Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shang-hai who had half the male world, the smart guys too, lining up to take the fall, and just ask where to take it until in the end even the smart guys cried “uncle.” Forget Jane Greer in Out Of The Past twisting up every guy in California, some smart guys too, and guys who supposedly knew what was what wound up hiding out until the coast was clear, maybe for about a century hiding out nursing their wounds , once she got done with them. And forget one more, just one more, that no femme list is complete without, Ava Garner trying to get some guy, her everlovin’ husband no less, some supposedly badass guy, to take the fall for her on his deathbed in the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers. Ya, forget them all as just slightly nervous misunderstood frills that had a couple of bad breaks along the way. Sweet little Yvonne (played by Adele Jurgens. Ya, I know, the name doesn’t exactly ring bells in the fatale world, good or bad)in this sleeper of a crime noir under review, Armored Car Robbery (Ya, I know as well, they seemed to have run out of interesting titles on this one) puts them all to shame. I might be over- touting the thing but hear me out.

Naturally no femme fatale worth her salt is driven by anything but the desire, the very strong desire, to get out from under whatever menial labor she is stuck doing, from serving them off the arm in some hash house to beating drunks for drinks and donuts in some two bit-bar fly scene. Yvonne here is strictly an independent operator working her fanny off (no pun intended) as a stripper ( maybe today the more politically correct term would be a sex worker, or some other more exotic description, although I am willing to stand corrected on that) in a low-rent Chicago burlesque house. Naturally such places, as Damon Runyon, Studs Terkel, and a few other guys have informed us, do not draw serious high-rollers or serious smart guys. So, through this and that, Yvonne winds up married, unhappily married as it turns out, to Benny who is nothing but a small-time grafter down on his uppers as the film opens. Strictly from Jump Street and strictly a guy who takes orders, not gives them.

And that is where this film gets interesting because while Bennie is nothing a but small-time hood he knows a certain smart guy, Dave Purvis (played by William Talman, probably better known as the ever-losing District Attorney in the 1950s Perry Mason television series and not a classic ladies’ man by any means which means he too has to keep grabbing dough), who has a plan, a big heist plan, which the reader can figure out from the title of the film, involves robbing, well, an armored car. Why? As the late old time yegg Willie Sutton has often been quoted as saying in all kinds of contexts –“that’s where the money is.” Big half a million dollar dough (big 1950s dough, now just tip money for the big guys). Bennie (and a couple of his confederates) are in, in to get under from under in the Yvonne department, to keep her in style, some style anyway. But here is the beauty of the thing, and what puts Yvonne right up there with the more well-known fatales, she is running around, married to Benny or not, running around no questions asked, with one Dave Purvis. See Yvonne knows what every true-blue two-timing femme fatale knows-go with the brains of the operation. And so her fate is set.

Of course even a kid wet behind the ears knows that the magic mantra behind every crime noir is that crime, well, crime doesn’t pay. The only difference usually is in what manner it doesn’t pay (and how bad the femme fatale makes some guy, or guys, fall). Here the heist gets blown by a simple call to the police by a witness. The stick-up (at a ball park during baseball season which is probably a separate chargeable crime itself ) is blown but not before a fatal shoot-out of a police officer in pursuit. Benny also gets shot-up in the melee. And that is where Lieutenant Cordell (played by ruggedly handsome, jut-jawed, and straight-as-an-arrow Charles McGraw with the perfect police officer’s face) comes in to see some rough-hewn justice is served. See the officer killed was his longtime partner and as we already know from detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon a guy has to do something about the murder of his partner, private or public cop. From there it is only time before Dave and Yvonne, once Benny expires from his wounds, are cornered in a dramatic airfield shoot-out. But here is the clincher- when Dave earlier , dough in hand, told Yvonne that Benny had gone to his just rewards she showed all the emotion of one who heard that a fly had been swatted dead. Didn’t I tell you she was poison? Ya, I did.

From The "Occupy Wall Street" Website-May Day Directory: Occupy General Strike In Over 115 Cities

Click on headline to link to the latest on May Day 2012.

In Honor Of The 142nd Anniversary Of Vladimir Lenin's Birthday-The April Theses (1917)

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the great Russian revolutionary and leader of the Bolshevik Party, Vladimir Lenin, for some quick background information. As always with this source, especially on political questions and personalities use with care and as a start, then move on for more in-depth analysis.

Markin comment:

In honor of the 142nd birthday anniversary of the great Russian revolutionary and leader of the Bolshevik Party, Vladimir Lenin. And the leader, along with Leon Trotsky, come hell or high water, of the only successful workers' revolution in history, thus far. Forward

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution
[a.k.a. The April Theses]

Published: April 7, 1917 in Pravda No. 26. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pp. 19-26.
Translated: Isaacs Bernard
Transcription: Zodiac
HTML Markup: B. Baggins
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2005), (1997), (1999). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

This article contains Lenin’s famous April Theses read by him at two meetings of the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, on April 4, 1917.

I did not arrive in Petrograd until the night of April 3, and therefore at the meeting on April 4, I could, of course, deliver the report on the tasks of the revolutionary proletariat only on my own behalf, and with reservations as to insufficient preparation.

The only thing I could do to make things easier for myself—and for honest opponents—was to prepare the theses in writing. I read them out, and gave the text to Comrade Tsereteli. I read them twice very slowly: first at a meeting of Bolsheviks and then at a meeting of both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

I publish these personal theses of mine with only the briefest explanatory notes, which were developed in far greater detail in the report.

1) In our attitude towards the war, which under the new [provisional] government of Lvov and Co. unquestionably remains on Russia’s part a predatory imperialist war owing to the capitalist nature of that government, not the slightest concession to “revolutionary defencism” is permissible.

The class-conscious proletariat can give its consent to a revolutionary war, which would really justify revolutionary defencism, only on condition: (a) that the power pass to the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants aligned with the proletariat; (b) that all annexations be renounced in deed and not in word; (c) that a complete break be effected in actual fact with all capitalist interests.

In view of the undoubted honesty of those broad sections of the mass believers in revolutionary defencism who accept the war only as a necessity, and not as a means of conquest, in view of the fact that they are being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it is necessary with particular thoroughness, persistence and patience to explain their error to them, to explain the inseparable connection existing between capital and the imperialist war, and to prove that without overthrowing capital it is impossible to end the war by a truly democratic peace, a peace not imposed by violence.

The most widespread campaign for this view must be organised in the army at the front.


2) The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that the country is passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.

This transition is characterised, on the one hand, by a maximum of legally recognised rights (Russia is now the freest of all the belligerent countries in the world); on the other, by the absence of violence towards the masses, and, finally, by their unreasoning trust in the government of capitalists, those worst enemies of peace and socialism.

This peculiar situation demands of us an ability to adapt ourselves to the special conditions of Party work among unprecedentedly large masses of proletarians who have just awakened to political life.

3) No support for the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises should be made clear, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Exposure in place of the impermissible, illusion-breeding “demand” that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government.

4) Recognition of the fact that in most of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies our Party is in a minority, so far a small minority, as against a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, from the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries down to the Organising Committee (Chkheidze, Tsereteli, etc.), Steklov, etc., etc., who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and spread that influence among the proletariat.

The masses must be made to see that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are the only possible form of revolutionary government, and that therefore our task is, as long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent explanation of the errors of their tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.

As long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticising and exposing errors and at the same time we preach the necessity of transferring the entire state power to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, so that the people may overcome their mistakes by experience.

5) Not a parliamentary republic—to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step—but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.

Abolition of the police, the army and the bureaucracy.[1]

The salaries of all officials, all of whom are elective and displaceable at any time, not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.

6) The weight of emphasis in the agrarian programme to be shifted to the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies.

Confiscation of all landed estates.

Nationalisation of all lands in the country, the land to be disposed of by the local Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. The organisation of separate Soviets of Deputies of Poor Peasants. The setting up of a model farm on each of the large estates (ranging in size from 100 to 300 dessiatines, according to local and other conditions, and to the decisions of the local bodies) under the control of the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies and for the public account.

7) The immediate union of all banks in the country into a single national bank, and the institution of control over it by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

8) It is not our immediate task to “introduce” socialism, but only to bring social production and the distribution of products at once under the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.

9) Party tasks:

(a) Immediate convocation of a Party congress;

(b) Alteration of the Party Programme, mainly:

(1) On the question of imperialism and the imperialist war,

(2) On our attitude towards the state and our demand for a “commune state”[2];

(3) Amendment of our out-of-date minimum programme;

(c) Change of the Party’s name.[3]

10. A new International.

We must take the initiative in creating a revolutionary International, an International against the social-chauvinists and against the “Centre”.[4]

In order that the reader may understand why I had especially to emphasise as a rare exception the “case” of honest opponents, I invite him to compare the above theses with the following objection by Mr. Goldenberg: Lenin, he said, “has planted the banner of civil war in the midst of revolutionary democracy” (quoted in No. 5 of Mr. Plekhanov’s Yedinstvo).

Isn’t it a gem?

I write, announce and elaborately explain: “In view of the undoubted honesty of those broad sections of the mass believers in revolutionary defencism ... in view of the fact that they are being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it is necessary with particular thoroughness, persistence and patience to explain their error to them....”

Yet the bourgeois gentlemen who call themselves Social-Democrats, who do not belong either to the broad sections or to the mass believers in defencism, with serene brow present my views thus: “The banner[!] of civil war” (of which there is not a word in the theses and not a word in my speech!) has been planted(!) “in the midst [!!] of revolutionary democracy...”.

What does this mean? In what way does this differ from riot-inciting agitation, from Russkaya Volya?

I write, announce and elaborately explain: “The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are the only possible form of revolutionary government, and therefore our task is to present a patient, systematic, and persistent explanation of the errors of their tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.”

Yet opponents of a certain brand present my views as a call to “civil war in the midst of revolutionary democracy”!

I attacked the Provisional Government for not having appointed an early date or any date at all, for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, and for confining itself to promises. I argued that without the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies the convocation of the Constituent Assembly is not guaranteed and its success is impossible.

And the view is attributed to me that I am opposed to the speedy convocation of the Constituent Assembly!

I would call this “raving”, had not decades of political struggle taught me to regard honesty in opponents as a rare exception.

Mr. Plekhanov in his paper called my speech “raving”. Very good, Mr. Plekhanov! But look how awkward, uncouth and slow-witted you are in your polemics. If I delivered a raving speech for two hours, how is it that an audience of hundreds tolerated this “raving”? Further, why does your paper devote a whole column to an account of the “raving”? Inconsistent, highly inconsistent!

It is, of course, much easier to shout, abuse, and howl than to attempt to relate, to explain, to recall what Marx and Engels said in 1871, 1872 and 1875 about the experience of the Paris Commune and about the kind of state the proletariat needs. [See: The Civil War in France and Critique of the Gotha Programme]

Ex-Marxist Mr. Plekhanov evidently does not care to recall Marxism.

I quoted the words of Rosa Luxemburg, who on August 4, 1914, called German Social-Democracy a “stinking corpse”. And the Plekhanovs, Goldenbergs and Co. feel “offended”. On whose behalf? On behalf of the German chauvinists, because they were called chauvinists!

They have got themselves in a mess, these poor Russian social-chauvinists—socialists in word and chauvinists in deed.

[1] i.e. the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the whole people.—Lenin

[2] i.e., a state of which the Paris Commune was the prototype.—Lenin

[3] Instead of “Social-Democracy”, whose official leaders throughout the world have betrayed socialism and deserted to the bourgeoisie (the “defencists” and the vacillating “Kautskyites”), we must call ourselves the Communist Party.—Lenin

[4] The “Centre” in the international Social-Democratic movement is the trend which vacillates between the chauvinists (=“defencists”) and internationalists, i.e., Kautsky and Co. in Germany, Longuet and Co. in France, Chkheidze and Co. in Russia, Turati and Co. in Italy, MacDonald and Co. in Britain, etc.—Lenin

On His Birthday Anniversary -From The Pen Of Vladimir Lenin-May Day Action by the Revolutionary Proletariat (1913)

Click on the headline to link to the Lenin Internet Archives.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts.
V. I. Lenin

May Day Action by the Revolutionary Proletariat

Published:Sotsial-Demokrat No. 31, June 15 (28), 1913. Published according to the Sotsial-Demokrat text.
Source:Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 218-227.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription: R. Cymbala
HTML Markup: B. Baggins and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (1996). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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A year has passed since the Lena events and the first, decisive upsurgence in the revolutionary working-class movement since the June Third coup. The tsar’s Black Hundreds and the landowners, the mob of officials and the bourgeoisie have celebrated the 300th anniversary of plunder, Tatar incursions, and the disgracing of Russia by the Romanovs. The Fourth Duma has convened and begun its “work”, though it has no faith in that work and has quite lost its former counter-revolutionary vigour. Confusion and tedium have beset liberal society, which is listlessly making appeals for reforms while admitting the impracticability of anything even approximating reform.

And now comes a May Day action by Russia’s working class, who first held a rehearsal in Riga, then went into resolute action in St. Petersburg on May 1. (0.S.); this action has rent the dun and dreary atmosphere like a thunderbolt. The tasks of the approaching revolution have come to the fore again in all their grandeur, and the forces of the advanced class leading it stand out in bold relief before hundreds of old revolutionaries, whom persecution by hang men and desertion by friends have not defeated or broken, and before millions of people of the new generation of democrats and socialists.

Weeks before May Day, the government appeared to have lost its wits, while the gentlemen who own factories behaved as if they had never had any wits at all. The arrests and searches seemed to have turned all the workers’ districts in the capital upside down. The provinces did not lag behind the centre. The harassed factory owners called conferences and adopted contradictory slogans, now threatening the workers with punishment and lock-outs, now making concessions in advance and consenting to stop work, now inciting the government to commit atrocities, now reproaching the government and calling on it to include May Day in the number of official holidays.

But even though the gendarmes showed the utmost zeal, even though they “purged” the industrial suburbs, even though they made arrests right and left according to their latest “lists of suspects”, it was no use. The workers laughed at the impotent rage of the tsar’s gang and the capitalist class and derided the governor’s menacing and pitiful “announcements”; they wrote satirical verses and circulated them by hand or passed them on by word of mouth; they produced, as if from nowhere fresh batches of small, poorly printed “leaflets”, short and plain, but very instructive, calling for strikes and demonstrations, and reminding the people of the old, uncurtailed, revolutionary slogans of the Social-Democrats, who in 1905 led the first onslaught of the masses against the autocracy and against monarchy.

A hundred thousand on strike on May Day, said the government press the next day. Bourgeois newspapers, using the first telegraphed information, reported a hundred and twenty-five thousand (Kievskaya Mysl). A correspondent of the central organ of the German Social-Democrats wired from St. Petersburg that it was a hundred and fifty thousand. And the day after the whole bourgeois press quoted a figure of 200,000–220,000. Actually the number of strikers reached 250,000!

But, apart from the number of May Day strikers, much more impressive—and much more significant—were the revolutionary street demonstrations held by the workers. Everywhere in and around the capital crowds of workers singing revolutionary songs, calling loudly for revolution and carrying red flags fought for several hours against police and security forces frantically mobilised by the government. And those workers made the keenest of the tsar s henchmen feel that the struggle was in earnest, that the police were not faced with a handful of individuals engaged in a trivial Slavophil affair,[2] that it was actually the masses of the capital’s working class who had risen.

This was a really brilliant, open demonstration of the proletariat’s revolutionary aspirations, of its revolutionary forces steeled and reinforced by new generations, of revolutionary appeals to the people and the peoples of Russia. Last year the government and the manufacturers were able to take comfort from the fact that the Lena explosion could not have been foreseen, that they could not have made immediate preparations to combat its consequences; this time, however, the monarchy had displayed acute foresight, there had been ample time for preparation and the “measures” taken were most “vigorous”; the result was that the tsarist monarchy revealed its complete impotence when faced with a revolutionary awakening of the proletarian masses.

Indeed, one year of strike struggle since Lena has shown, despite the pitiful outcries of the liberals and their yes-men against the “craze for striking”, against “syndicalist” strikes, against combining economic with political strikes and vice versa—this year has shown what a great and irreplaceable weapon for agitation among the masses, for rousing them, for drawing them into the struggle the Social-Democratic proletariat had forged for itself in the revolutionary epoch. The revolutionary mass-scale strike allowed the enemy neither rest nor respite. It also hit the enemy’s purse, and in full view of the whole world it trampled into the mud the political prestige of the allegedly “strong” tsarist government. It enabled more and more sections of the workers to regain at least a small part of what had been achieved in 1905 and drew fresh sections of the working people, even the most backward, into the struggle. It did not exhaust the capacity of the workers, it was frequently demonstrative action of short duration, and at the same time it paved the way for further, still more impressive and more revolutionary open action by the masses in the shape of street demonstrations.

During the last year, no country in the world has seen so many people on strike for political ends as Russia, or such perseverance, such variety, such vigour in strikes. This circumstance alone shows to the full the pettiness, the contemptible stupidity of those liberal and liquidationist sages who tried to “adjust” the tactics of the Russian workers in 1912–13, using the yardstick of “European” constitutional periods, periods that were mainly devoted to the preparatory work of bringing socialist education and enlightenment, to the masses.

The colossal superiority of the Russian strikes over those in the European countries, the most advanced countries, demonstrates, not the special qualities or special abilities of Russia’s workers, but the special conditions in present-day Russia, the existence of a revolutionary situation, the growth of a directly revolutionary crisis. When the moment of a similar growth of revolution approaches in Europe (there it will be a socialist and not a bourgeois-democratic revolution, as in our country), the proletariat of the most developed capitalist countries will launch far more vigorous revolutionary strikes, demonstrations, and armed struggle against the defenders of wage-slavery.

This year’s May Day strike, like the series of strikes in Russia during the last eighteen months, was revolutionary in character as distinguished not only from the usual economic strikes but from demonstration strikes and from political strikes demanding constitutional reforms, like, for instance, the last Belgian strike.[3] Those who are in bond age to a liberal world outlook and no longer able to consider things from the revolutionary standpoint, cannot possibly understand this distinctive character of the Russian strikes, a character that is due entirely to the revolutionary state of Russia. The epoch of counter-revolution and of free play for renegade sentiment has left behind it too many people of this kind even among those who would like to be called Social-Democrats.

Russia is experiencing a revolutionary situation because the oppression of the vast majority of the population—not only of the proletariat but of nine-tenths of the small producers, particularly the peasants—has intensified to the maximum, and this intensified oppression, starvation, poverty, lack of rights, humiliation of the people is, further more, glaringly inconsistent with the state of Russia’s productive forces, inconsistent with the level of the class consciousness and the demands of the masses roused by the year 1905, and inconsistent with the state of affairs in all neighbouring not only European but Asian—countries.

But that is not all. Oppression alone, no matter how great, does not always give rise to a revolutionary situation in a country. In most cases it is not enough for revolution that the lower classes should not want to live in the old way. It is also necessary that the upper classes should be unable to rule and govern in the old way. This is what we see in Russia today. A political crisis is maturing before our very eyes. The bourgeoisie has done everything in its power to back counter-revolution and ensure “peaceful development” on this counter-revolutionary basis. The bourgeoisie gave hangmen and feudal lords as much money as they wanted, the bourgeoisie reviled the revolution and renounced it, the bourgeoisie licked the boots of Purishkevich and the knout of Markov the Second and became their lackey, the bourgeoisie evolved theories based on “European” arguments, theories that revile the Revolution of 1905 as an “intellectualist” revolution and describe it as wicked, criminal, treasonous, and so on and so forth.

And yet, despite all this sacrificing of its purse, its honour and its conscience, the bourgeoisie—from the Cadets to the Octobrists—itself admits that the autocracy and land owners were unable to ensure “peaceful development”, were unable to provide the basic conditions for “law” and “order”, without which a capitalist country cannot, in the twentieth century, live side by side with Germany and the new China.

A nation-wide political crisis is in evidence in Russia, a crisis which affects the very foundation of the state system and not just parts of it, which affects the foundation of the edifice and not an outbuilding, not merely one of its storeys. No matter how many glib phrases our liberals and liquidators trot out to the effect that “we have, thank God, a constitution” and that political reforms are on the order of the day (only very limited people do not see the close connection between these two propositions), no matter how much of this reformist verbiage is poured out, the fact remains that not a single liquidator or liberal can point to any reformist way out of the situation.

The condition of the mass of the population in Russia, the aggravation of their position owing to the new agrarian policy (to which the feudal landowners had to snatch at as their last means of salvation), the international situation, and the nature of the general political crisis that has taken shape in our country—such is the sum-total of the objective conditions making Russia’s situation a revolutionary one because of the impossibility of carrying out the tasks of a bourgeois revolution by following the present course and by the means available to the government and the exploiting classes.

Such is the social, economic, and political situation, such is the class relationship in Russia that has given rise to a specific type of strike impossible in modern Europe, from which all sorts of renegades would like to borrow the example, not of yesterday’s bourgeois revolutions (through which shine gleams of tomorrow’s proletarian revolution), but of today’s “constitutional” situation. Neither the oppression of the lower classes nor a crisis among the upper classes can cause a revolution; they can only cause the decay of a country, unless that country has a revolutionary class capable of transforming the passive state of oppression into an active state of revolt and insurrection.

The role of a truly advanced class, a class really able to rouse the masses to revolution, really capable of saving Russia from decay, is played by the industrial proletariat. This is the task it fulfils by means of its revolutionary strikes. These strikes, which the liberals hate and the liquidators cannot understand, are (as the February resolution of the R.S.D.L.P. puts it) “one of the most effective means of overcoming the apathy, despair, and disunion of the agricultural proletariat and the peasantry, ... and drawing them into the most concerted, simultaneous, and extensive revolutionary actions”.[1]

The working class draws into revolutionary action the masses of the working and exploited people, who are deprived of basic rights and driven to despair. The working class teaches them revolutionary struggle, trains them for revolutionary action, and explains to them where to find the way out and how to attain salvation. The working class teaches them, not merely by words, but by deeds, by example, and the example is provided not by the adventures of solitary heroes but by mass revolutionary action combining political and economic demands.

How plain, how clear, how close these thoughts are to every honest worker who grasps even the rudiments of the theory of socialism and democracy! And how alien they are to those traitors to socialism and betrayers of democracy from among the intelligentsia, who revile or deride the “underground” in liquidationist newspapers, assuring naive simpletons that they are “also Social-Democrats”.

The May Day action of the proletariat of St. Petersburg, supported by that of the proletariat of all Russia, clearly showed once again to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear the great historic importance of the revolutionary underground in present-day Russia. The only R.S.D.L.P. Party organisation in St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Committee, compelled even the bourgeois press, before the May Day action as well as on the eve of January 9, and on the eve of the Tercentenary of the Romanovs as well as on April 4,[4] to note that St. Petersburg Committee leaflets had appeared again and again in the factories.

Those leaflets cost colossal sacrifices. Sometimes they are quite unattractive in appearance. Some of them, the appeals for demonstration on April 4, for instance, merely announce the hour and place of the demonstration, in six lines evidently set in secret and with extreme haste in different printing shops and in different types. We have people (“also Social-Democrats”) who, when alluding to these conditions of “underground” work, snigger maliciously or curl a contemptuous lip and ask: “If the entire Party were limited to the underground, how many members would it have? Two or three hundred?” [See No. 95 (181) of Luch, a renegade organ, in its editorial defence of Mr. Sedov, who has the sad courage to be an outspoken liquidator. This issue of Luch appeared five days before the May Day action, i.e., at the very time the underground was preparing the leaflets!]

Messrs. Dan, Potresov and Co., who make these disgraceful statements, must know that there were thousands of proletarians in the Party ranks as early as 1903, and 150 thousand in 1907, that even now thousands and tens of thousands of workers print and circulate underground leaflets, as members of underground R.S.D.L.P. cells. But the liquidationist gentlemen know that they are protected by Stolypin “legality” from a legal refutation of their foul lies and their “grimaces”, which are fouler still, at the expense of the underground.

See to what extent these despicable people have lost touch with the mass working-class movement and with revolutionary work in general! Use even their own yardstick, deliberately falsified to suit the liberals. You may assume for a moment that “two or three hundred” workers in St. Petersburg took part in printing and distributing those underground leaflets.

What is the result? “Two or three hundred” workers, the flower of the St. Petersburg proletariat, people who not only call themselves Social-Democrats but work as Social-Democrats, people who are esteemed and appreciated for it by the entire working class of Russia, people who do not prate about a “broad party” but make up in actual fact the only underground Social-Democratic Party existing in Russia, these people print and circulate underground leaflets. The Luch liquidators (protected by Stolypin censors) laugh contemptuously at the “two or three hundred”, the “underground” and its “exaggerated” importance, etc.

And suddenly, a miracle occurs! In accordance with a decision drawn up by half a dozen members of the Executive Commission of the St. Petersburg Committee—a leaflet printed and circulated by “two or three hundred”—two hundred and fifty thousand people rise as one man in St. Petersburg.

The leaflets and the revolutionary speeches by workers at meetings and demonstrations do not speak of an “open working-class party”, “freedom of association” or reforms of that kind, with the phantoms of which the liberals are fooling the people. They speak of revolution as the only way out. They speak of the republic as the only slogan which, in contrast to liberal lies about reforms, indicates the change needed to ensure freedom, indicates the forces capable of rising consciously to defend it.

The two million inhabitants of St. Petersburg see and hear these appeals for revolution which go to the hearts of all toiling and oppressed sections of the people. All St. Petersburg sees from a real, mass-scale example what is the real way out and what is lying liberal talk about reforms. Thousands of workers’ contacts—and hundreds of bourgeois news papers, which are compelled to report the St. Petersburg mass action at least in snatches—spread throughout Russia the news of the stubborn strike campaign of the capital’s proletariat. Both the mass of the peasantry and the peasants serving in the army hear this news of strikes, of the revolutionary demands of the workers, of their struggle for a republic and for the confiscation of the landed estates for the benefit of the peasants. Slowly but surely, the revolutionary strikes are stirring, rousing, enlightening, and organising the masses of the people for revolution.

The “two or three hundred” “underground people” express the interests and needs of millions and tens of millions, they tell them the truth about their hopeless position, open their eyes to the necessity of revolutionary struggle, imbue them with faith in it, provide them with the correct slogans, and win these masses away from the influence of the high-sounding and thoroughly spurious, reformist slogans of the bourgeoisie. And “two or three” dozen liquidators from among the intelligentsia, using money collected abroad and among liberal merchants to fool unenlightened workers, are carrying the slogans of that bourgeoisie into the workers’ midst.

The May Day strike, like all the revolutionary strikes of 1912–13, has made clear the three political camps into which present-day Russia is divided. The camp of hangmen and feudal lords, of monarchy and the secret police. It has done its utmost in the way of atrocities and is already impotent against the masses of the workers. The camp of the bourgeoisie, all of whom, from the Cadets to the Octobrists, are shouting and moaning, calling for reforms and making fools of themselves by thinking that reforms are possible in Russia. The camp of the revolution, the only camp expressing the interests of the oppressed masses.

All the ideological work, all the political work in this camp is carried out by underground Social-Democrats alone, by those who know how to use every legal opportunity in the spirit of Social-Democracy and who are inseparably hound up with the advanced class, the proletariat. No one can tell beforehand whether this advanced class will succeed in leading the masses all the way to a victorious revolution. But this class is fulfilling its duty—leading the masses to that solution—despite all the vacillations and betrayals on the part of the liberals and those who are “also Social-Democrats”. All the living and vital elements of Russian socialism and Russian democracy are being educated solely by the example of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, and under its guidance.

This year’s May Day action has shown to the whole world that the Russian proletariat is steadfastly following its revolutionary course, apart from which there is no salvation for a Russia that is suffocating and decaying alive.



[1]See present edition, Vol. 18, p. 457.—Ed.

[2]This refers to the Slavophil demonstrations organised by reactionary nationalist elements in St. Petersburg on March 17, 18 and 24 (March 30 and 31 and April 6), 1913 on the occasion of the Serbo Bulgarian victories over the Turks during the first Balkan War. The reactionaries tried to use the national liberation struggle of the Balkan peoples in the interests of the expansionist, Great-Power politics of Russian tsarism in the Near East.

[3]The strike referred to here took place in Belgium from April 14 to April 24 (N. S.), 1913. It was a general strike of the Belgian proletariat demanding a constitutional reform—the introduction of universal suffrage. Of the more than one million Belgian workers, between 400,000 and 500,000 took part in the strike. The development of the strike was regularly reported in Pravda, and lists of Russian workers’ contributions in aid of the strike were also printed.

[4] April 4, 1913 was the first anniversary of the shooting of workers in the Lena Goldfields; it was marked by a one–day strike of St. Petersburg workers in which over 85,000 people participated.