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Results of the Revolution

 
Moscow insurrection, December 1905

The two and a half years of discontent from 1905 to 1907 had produced a wave of strikes, mutinies and disorders, unprecedented  in Russian and world history. Although the revolution failed to achieve its ultimate objective - the overthrow of autocracy - different sections of the Russian population made gains as a result of their struggle.

The industrial working class in particular had wrested certain improvements in its condition from the government and the employers thanks to its discovery in a general strike of a powerful new means of exerting political pressure. In some regions the workers succeeded in securing significant wage rises compared to the pre-revolutionary level, although in real terms the average wage across the country remained approximately the same because of the rise in the prices of some staple commodities.

In addition, the workers compelled the bosses to reduce the number of minor offences in the work-place punishable by fines and also to cut the working hours. Most factories now operated 9 or 10-hour day, and some had an 8-hour day. There was even a small number of companies in which workers secured collective agreements with employers which guaranteed such benefits, as annual paid leave and sick benefit. However, there was still no national labor legislation which would guarantee welfare provisions of this kind for the majority of workers.  

Certain achievements had been made in widening political rights of the workers. Those of them who worked in companies employing 50 workers or more had now the right to participate in elections to the State Duma. Economic strikes were legalized, and so too were trade-unions which could now openly engage in their activities. The revolution had tremendously raised the workers’ class consciousness, their awareness of their political potency, the cohesion of their ranks and their class solidarity. Because the workers bore the brunt of the battle against the autocracy, the ups and downs of their struggle affected all sections of the Russian society: from government circles and business classes to the multi-million peasantry. Their fighting spirit, courage and determination were an example and a source of inspiration for other underprivileged social strata in the struggle for the betterment of their conditions. The labor movement was the backbone of the First Russian Revolution and the  backdrop against which all major events of the years of turmoil unfolded.

The peculiar circumstances of Russia’s backwardness, with her predominantly peasant population downtrodden and illiterate, middle classes weak and amorphous and  bourgeoisie still in its infancy, had propelled the relatively small proletariat to the forefront of political struggle and the role of a chief agent of the anti-autocratic, ‘bourgeois’ revolution. This allowed Russian Marxists, such as Plekhanov and Lenin, to advance the theoretical proposition about the proletariat’s leading role, or hegemony, during the anti-autocratic stage of the revolution. Lenin and his Bolsheviks came to interpret the idea of proletarian hegemony as meaning that the politically active workers and Marxist revolutionaries held ideological and organizational leadership over the nonproletarian toiling masses and, above all, over the peasantry.                 

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The Revolution of 1905-7

 

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