“Formerly, only students rebelled, but now thousands and tens of thousands of workers have risen in all the big towns. In most cases they fight against their employers, against the factory owners, against the capitalists. The workers declare strikes, all of them stop work at a factory at the same time and demand higher wages, demand that they should be made to work not eleven or ten hours a day, but only eight hours. The workers also demand other things that would make the working man’s life easier. They want the workshops to be in better condition and the machines to be protected by special devices so as to prevent them from maiming the workers; they want their children to be able to go to school and the sick to be given proper aid in the hospitals; they want the workers’ homes to be like human dwellings instead of being like pigsties.
The police intervene in the workers’ struggle. The police seize workers, throw them into prison, deport them without trial to their villages, or even to Siberia. The government has passed laws banning strikes and workers’ meetings. But the workers wage their fight against the police and against the government. The workers say: We, millions of working people, have bent our backs long enough! We have worked for the rich and remained paupers long enough! We have allowed them to rob us long enough! We want to unite in unions, to unite all the workers in one big workers’ union (a workers’ party) and to strive jointly for a better life. We want to achieve a new and better order of society: in this new and better society there must be neither rich nor poor; all will have to work. Not a handful of rich people, but all the working people must enjoy the fruits of their common labour. Machines and other improvements must serve to ease the work of all and not to enable a few to grow rich at the expense of millions and tens of millions of people. This new and better society is called socialist society. The teachings about this society are called socialism. The workers’ unions which fight for this better order of society are called Social-Democratic parties. Such parties exist openly in nearly all countries (except Russia and Turkey), and our workers, together with socialists from among the educated people, have also formed such a party: the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.
The government persecutes that Party, but it exists in secret, despite all prohibitions; it publishes its news papers and pamphlets and organises secret unions. The workers not only meet in secret but come out into the streets in crowds and unfurl their banners bearing the inscriptions: ‘Long live the eight-hour day! Long live freedom! Long live socialism!’ The government savagely persecutes the workers for this. It even sends troops to shoot down the workers. Russian soldiers have killed Russian workers in Yaroslavl, St. Petersburg, Riga, Rostov-on-Don, and Zlatoust.
But the workers do not yield. They continue the fight. They say: neither persecution, prison, deportation, penal servitude, nor death can frighten us. Our cause is a just one. We are fighting for the freedom and the happiness of all who work. We are fighting to free tens and hundreds of millions of people from abuse of power, oppression and poverty. The workers are becoming more and more class- conscious. The number of Social-Democrats is growing fast in all countries. We shall win despite all persecution.”
– V.I. Lenin, “To the Rural Poor”