In the spring of 1905, Lenin wrote a brief commentary on the unfolding 1905 Revolution in Russia:
“Events of the greatest historical importance are developing in Russia. The proletariat has risen against tsarism. The proletariat was driven to revolt by the government. There can hardly be any doubt now that the government deliberately allowed the strike movement to develop and a wide demonstration to be started more or less without hindrance in order to bring matters to a point where military force could be used. Its manoeuvre was successful. Thousands of killed and wounded – such is the toll of Bloody Sunday, January 9th, in St. Petersburg. The army defeated unarmed workers, women, and children. The army vanquished the enemy by shooting prostrate workers. “We have taught them a good lesson!” the tsar’s henchmen and their European flunkeys from among the conservative bourgeoisie say with consummate cynicism.
Yes, it was a great lesson, one which the Russian proletariat will not forget. The most uneducated, backward sections of the working class, who naïvely trusted the tsar and sincerely wished to put peacefully before “the tsar himself” the petition of a tormented people, were all taught a lesson by the troops led by the tsar or his uncle, the Grand Duke Vladimir. The working class has received a momentous lesson in civil war; the revolutionary education of the proletariat made more progress in one day than it could have made in months and years of drab, humdrum, wretched existence.
The slogan of the heroic St. Petersburg proletariat, “Death or freedom!” is reverberating throughout Russia. Events are developing with astonishing rapidity. The general strike in St. Petersburg is spreading. All industrial, public and political activities are paralysed. On Monday, January 10th still more violent clashes occurred between the workers and the military. Contrary to the mendacious government reports, blood is flowing in many parts of the capital. The workers of Kolpino are rising. The proletariat is arming itself and the people. The workers are said to have seized the Sestroretsk Arsenal. They are providing themselves with revolvers, forging their tools into weapons, and procuring bombs for a desperate bid for freedom.
The general strike is spreading to the provinces. Ten thousand have already ceased work in Moscow, and a general strike has been called there for tomorrow (Thursday, January 13). An uprising has broken out in Riga. The workers are demonstrating in Lodz, an uprising is being prepared in Warsaw, proletarian demonstrations are taking place in Helsingfors. Unrest is growing among the workers and the strike is spreading in Baku, Odessa, Kiev, Kharkov, Kovno, and Vilna. In Sevastopol, the naval stores and arsenals are ablaze, and the troops refuse to shoot at the mutineers. Strikes in Revel and in Saratov. Workers and reservists clash with the troops in Radom.
The revolution is spreading. The government is beginning to lose its head. From the policy of bloody repression it is attempting to change over to economic concessions and to save itself by throwing a sop to the workers or promising the nine-hour day. But the lesson of Bloody Sunday cannot be forgotten. The demand of the insurgent St. Petersburg workers – the immediate convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot – must become the demand of all the striking workers. Immediate overthrow of the government — this was the slogan with which even the St. Petersburg workers who had believed in the tsar answered the massacre of January 9th. They answered through their leader, the priest Georgi Gapon, who declared after that bloody day: “We no longer have a tsar. A river of blood divides the tsar from the people. Long live the fight for freedom!”
‘Long live the revolutionary proletariat!’ say we.”