Appendix: Machajski's May Day Appeal of 1902

The May Day appeal which I have translated below (and annotated) was circulated by Machajski's group in lrkutsk in 1902. He subsequently printed it as an appendix to the Geneva edition of part 1 of The Intellectual Worker. It constitutes a representative sample of Machajski's writings. Although it was composed shortly after the two Siberian essays which marked the beginning of Makhaevism, it is a succinct summary of virtually all the major positions Makhaevism held on Social Democracy, the intelligentsia, working-class aims and tactics. in tone and vocabulary, too, it is typical of Machajski's writing style.


April 1902
For several years now, the beginning of May of each year has brought the Russian government countless concerns. These are the days when the workers prepare themselves to rebel. Accordingly, the wealth created over the centuries and plundered by ruling society has to be defended from attack by the worker masses: the idleness, luxury, and depravity of the rich have to be safeguarded; the fat salaries of state officials, the incomes running into the thousands of all the ruling and learned men, also have to be safeguarded; the parasitism of educated bourgeois society, so stoutly nourished by the hands of the working class while hundreds of thousands of people starve to death in the towns and villages of Russia, has to be defended.
The whole of bourgeois society keeps a close eye on labour unrest, on the labour movement in general. Not only the police and the prosecutors but learned professors and writers, too, investigate which of the worker's thoughts and desires are to be extirpated as "criminal," that is, harmful to the existence of contemporary society, which is built on robbery. They painstakingly weigh what may be allowed to the workers without endangering the bondage of the working masses, which is so sweet for the exploiters.
Those strata of educated society whom the Russian autocratic order does not admit to full sway over the country, does not admit to any of the highest posts in the regime, keep a close eye on the labour movement and make use of it as a means to their own objectives. Those masses of unemployed intelligentsia who see how many profitable and cushy jobs, capable of feeding all the suffering intelligenty like lords, might be created in the enormous Russian state but are not made available solely because of the ignorant administration, the policemen and the priests -those are the ones who are making use of the labour movement. The intelligentsia observes the labour movement and asks with impatience when the working people will at last, with their struggle, build for it the kind of paradise educated society in Western Europe has long since come to enjoy.
As the First of May approaches, the day when workers all over the world think about and discuss their situation, they receive all kinds of advice from educated society.
The First of May, say the respectable socialist scholars, is a holiday which the workers in their comradely associations should spend in a solemn mood, thinking about that far-off day when there will be neither rich nor poor, neither capitalists nor workers. The bourgeoisie is happy with this socialist doctrine, which advises the workers to pray on their day of struggle, just as the gentry were happy when the priests preached that the serfs would be rewarded by God in the afterlife for their poverty, sufferings, and lashings at the hands of the landowners.
On May Day, says the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia, workers everywhere should organise political demonstrations against the autocratic government; they should demand that the state be governed by the will of the entire people freely electing their rulers the way it is done in the West, where the people themselves rule.
A fine fairy tale! Just half a century ago a French government elected "by the will of the entire people," with no autocratic tsar or hereditary monarch, a democratic, republican government, showed that it knew how to slaughter workers just as well as an autocracy. This government "freely elected by the people" killed tens of thousands of workers in the streets of Paris over four days. In that same France, another republican government repeated the carnage some twenty years later. And contemporary democratic governments elected by the entire people, like the French, the English, and the North American, know, of course, how to shoot down insurgent workers so as to make them remember that they are slaves.
Some thirty years ago the German workers with the utmost enthusiasm began to elect their own Social-Democratic deputies to the ruling German parliament. These deputies at the time promised that they would immediately and definitively emancipate the working class if only the workers elected them in large numbers. And now look: after the German workers have strained every nerve and collected their pennies to elect several dozen men as their deputies, these Social-Democratic, labour deputies are beginning to explain that it is impossible to emancipate the working class at the moment, that the greatest misfortunes would befall the land if the working class were suddenly victorious and took power into its own hands.
The French workers not long ago followed the example of the German ones in their politics. And they have already wound up with "representatives" such as the ones who produced the most faithful servant of the French bourgeoisie and the best friend of the Russian police government, Minister Millerand, who without hesitation approves an order to shoot down workers.
So, if the workers elect their own Social-Democratic representatives to governmental institutions, little by little these representatives develop not into emancipators of the working class but into its new masters. Why is this so?
Throughout the world, whether a country has an autocratic government or a "government elected by the people," the law expresses not the will of the people but the will of ruling society which plunders all earthly goods. This society, with the ownership of all material wealth, thereby owns all human knowledge as well, which it turns into a secret inaccessible to the working people. By the laws of the robbers, the working class is allowed only popular education, which is ignorance in comparison with the ruling learned world. By these laws of plunder the vast majority of mankind is doomed to be born slaves, to begin in childhood the penal labour of physical work; it is doomed to grow up from generation to generation as an inferior, uneducated race of people capable only of physical labour, of mechanically executing the orders of its masters. The masters, meanwhile, use their plunder to educate all of their own children - though many of them are utter nitwits - into a superior race whose business it is to rule.
Under such predatory laws, it hardly matters whether an autocratic tsar appoints the country's administrators or they are elected by the people. In either case the government consists of intelligenty who bequeath their administrative ability only to their own offspring, leaving to the majority of mankind the slave labour, the penal labour, of physical work. The elimination of this situation, in which millions even before they are born are fated to ignorance and slave labour, and the abolition of a government which expresses this law, a law of robbery and human bondage, can be accomplished only by a world-wide conspiracy of workers, a general uprising of the working class in a unanimous strike. This uprising will tear from the hands of ruling educated society the wealth created over the centuries and will put it into everyone's hands, proclaiming every human being an equal heir to all human wealth and knowledge.
The assurance that all the working class has to do to attain the possibility of participating in the running of the state is abolish the autocratic regime and win universal suffrage - that's an old fairy tale, repeated a thousand times by every conceivable bourgeois politician-fraud.
The workers, in discussing the question of how to observe the First of May, cannot put their trust in science, cannot put their trust in the revolutionary intelligentsia and its innumerable leaflets, which at present do nothing but loudly and brazenly repeat this old fairy tale.
But, it will be said, the Russian workers have Social-Democratic committees in all the large towns. Haven't these committees, whose membership includes conscious workers, shown the true path for the proletarian struggle to take?
The Social-Democratic committees train worker organisers and agitators. Each year they prepare the May First holiday, and in numerous leaflets they call upon the workers to set forth boldly to the struggle on this day. But when the workers respond to these appeals by suddenly rising en masse (as they did in Petersburg last year,or in an entire city, as was the case three years ago in Riga), putting forth their real labour demands in noisy strikes - then you don't see any Social-Democratic agitators or organisers at the place of struggle. Not a single committee has any thought of spreading a strike that flares up, of augmenting the strength of the aroused masses, of backing up the workers' demands.
In February of last year, when the police in Kazan Square beat up students and Petersburg intelligentsia,all the Social-Democratic pamphlets and newspapers cried out with one voice that after such a disgraceful scandal the workers must immediately come out into the streets and without arguing expose themselves to bullets and bayonets. Of course! Have you ever heard of such a thing? On Kazan Square members of the well-bred public, the polite public, were beaten, not some rabble, strikers who might engage in unruly conduct, as in Riga.
On the streets of Riga it wasn't just a matter of a thrashing with whips and rifle butts, such as the students and intelligentsia are getting now, but of shooting and cutting down more than fifty workers. But since the people there were dying for the workers' cause and not for the cause dear to the heart of the intelligentsia, the Social-Democratic committees did not feel it necessary to raise the kind of ruckus throughout Russia that they are raising now in behalf of the students. It did not occur to a single Social-Democratic committee to appeal to the workers of other cities to revolt against the bestial massacre and butchering of the workers in Riga, to answer violence with an even greater general uprising, as they are now preaching.
The Social-Democratic committees patronisingly term stormy strikes like the one in Riga spontaneous outbursts of the unconscious, ignorant masses. They consider them unnecessary and useless, and during such mass disturbances they usually advise their own conscious workers to remain calm, to stay home.
And so, when they offend educated people, you, the worker, are supposed to get so indignant that you'll go right out and throw bombs; but when they shoot down workers in mass strikes-just sit quietly and appeal for calm . . . that's how the Social-Democratic committees, the representatives of the working class, reason.
Not too long ago, these "representatives" were beginning their work of so-called economic struggle, that is, they were organising strikes to relieve the hardship of factory labour and increase wages (displaying unusual caution and moderation in this struggle, of course). Now, without being shy about it, they are explaining to the old Russian revolutionaries and to the whole intelligentsia that they conducted this struggle not for its own sake but in order to interest the workers in politics and to draw them into the struggle, so that the students might now have the workers for their ardent defenders and the whole of liberal society, in its quarrel with the tsar, might have the masses of the people behind it. (That, for example, is how the Russian Social-Democratic party's founder, Plekhanov, explains its task.)
Since last year, all the Social-Democratic committees have begun to declare that now is the time not for economic but for political struggle. None of the newly established committees, such as the ones in Siberia, even think of starting with economic struggle, but summon the workers directly to a political demonstration. They assume that without even having to throw the worker the penny they tossed him earlier, they can send him under the bayonets and bullets for the intelligentsia's cause.
Last year's congress of the Jewish Social-Democratic committees determined that in the economic respect the worker had already received almost everything that he could be given; therefore a political struggle should now be conducted to realise all the dreams of the Jewish intelligentsia, that is, to gain access for it to all the higher posts in the state,all those positions and fat salaries which it cannot get because it lacks equal rights.
The Petersburg committee, in regard to the Obukhov strike, informs us that there is a crisis throughout Russia, that the owners themselves are in distress, and that therefore those workers who remain out of work should abandon economic struggle and occupy themselves with politics. This means that at a time when workers are perishing from hunger and are seeking bread, they should demand only that the government not oppress intelligenty but set them all up in the honourable posts that are due them according to the laws of robbery.
When the workers began to help the students last year, the whole of Russian educated society rejoiced, for it determined that from now on the workers would help it absolutely free of charge. The whole revolutionary intelligentsia suddenly became Social-Democratic, once it understood that this doctrine is constructed in conformity with its aspirations. It is a doctrine that has tirelessly affirmed the impossibility of a proletarian revolution in Russia only so that the Russian intelligentsia could organise its own bourgeois revolution, with the workers serving merely as cannon fodder. Now the intelligentsia is sure that its cause is on the right track. The Social-Democratic committees have long since issued corresponding instructions. On May Day the workers should not undertake strikes for the relief of labour, but should organise demonstrations "of a sharply political character" and street processions with banners inscribed "down with the autocracy." When the Petersburg workers nevertheless organised in May a series of strikes and for weeks on end stubbornly fought with the police and troops, the Petersburg committee remained highly displeased. It is clear that the workers will organise the First of May for their own cause, in defiance of all the committees.
"Conscious" workers! You who participate in the Social-Democratic committees, cast off the fables with which pharisaical science has ensnared your minds, fables about the "immaturity" of industry and the immaturity of the proletariat for socialism, about the "narrow and unsocialist interests of the worker" and the "elevated ideas" of the intelligentsia; cast off these fables for just a moment and you will hear the mighty voice of the worker masses, loudly ringing out in May of each year. You will understand that science says only what educated society needs for holding sway over the proletariat, while what the worker needs the worker masses themselves know better than anyone. Hear out these masses to the end, for they have spoken more than once, they have spoken when bayonets and bullets were directed at them.
May Day, they say, is not a day for revolting against the autocracy because it has not admitted the whole of educated bourgeois society into the government, The May struggle is a revolt against the bondage which even before you were born doomed you to hunger-strikes, ignorance, penal labour, and uncomplaining service to the learned world; a revolt against the robbery by which only the offspring of the ruling classes are the heirs of human wealth and knowledge, and any idiot among them can be your master.
These worker masses unschooled by the Social Democrats, whom you regard as understanding nothing, are choosing a path of struggle so true that by comparison with it all the ideas of the learned people about "emancipating the proletariat" are a patent deception.
The worker masses on May Day do not run to demonstrations to protect the banner of the intelligent. They present demands for alleviating the conditions of labour, and they present them for immediate satisfaction. They do not "demonstrate in favour of" shortening the working day, something the Social-Democratic intelligentsia devised as a way of responding to the workers' demands with promises, a way of duping them, as they have been duped for decades, by promising every year to get an eight-hour working day through parliament.
The worker masses put forth demands not because their bosses' businesses are successful or unsuccessful, but because they have felt themselves to be human beings and are rebelling against their slave status. And therefore the masses untaught by the intelligentsia understand that their cause lies not in clever politics, not in legal principles, but in the strength and numbers of those rebelling; that the broader their strike, the stronger and higher their demands will be. Therefore the worker masses use an infallible method in their struggle which Social-Democratic programs never hit upon. Their first object is to broaden their strike. Stopping work in their own factory, they go en masse to the next one to bring it to a halt. In this way whole cities rise up.
The "revolutionary" intelligentsia understands that spreading such a struggle to the entire state signifies the start of a proletarian revolution. And since that would abolish not only the police and the capitalists but would take away property from the intelligentsia itself, all it can do is to call such disturbances "wild outbursts of the rabble' and hope that the tsar's bayonets will be able to quiet the rabble down.
But the masses expect something else from you "conscious" workers. Pointing to the dead bodies with which they cover the streets of one town or another, year in and year out, they have long been appealing to you to abandon the intelligentsia and its plans for a bourgeois revolution and to work for labour's cause, for a universal conspiracy of workers, for the May general strike.