Today is the 117th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, when the Tsarist authorities fired upon and attacked a march of unarmed protesters in Saint Petersburg led by Father Georgy Gapon. Official casualties listed between 90 and 130 dead, though witnesses consider the figure of 1,000 killed and wounded to be more accurate.
Bloody Sunday led to severe unrest across Russia, including anarchist-inspired mass strikes and workers’ councils, and was eventually the prelude to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
The use of the mass strike and elected workers’ councils — anarchist tactics dismissed for decades by Marx and Engels — proved decisive in bringing workers, peasants and intelligensia together. “A new weapon, more terrible than street warfare, had thus been tested and proved to work admirably,” observed anarchist Petr Kropotkin.
The events of 22 January 1905 led eventually to the Tsar’s October Manifesto and the 1906 Constitution which granted a modicum of civil liberties to the people and created the first Duma or parliament. More importantly, after January 1905, the Tsar was recognized simply as another vicious autocrat rather than the Father of the people and his position and prestige were fatally damaged.
The reaction to the January massacre closely followed anarchist ideas, proving the value of the anarchist theories of the mass strike and self-governing recallable workers’ councils. However, in the years following, reactionary social democrats under Lenin and others gradually manipulated their way into control. They infected the revolution with the false dogma of Marx-Engelsism and the corrupting idea of the “vanguard” which, after 1917, led inevitably to a dictatorship not “of” the proletariat but “over” the proletariat in the evil state capitalism of the Soviet Union.