Astudents’ strike has been called at St. Petersburg University.footnote1 A number of other higher educational establishments have joined in. The movement has already spread to Moscow and Kharkov. Judging from all the reports in the foreign and Russian newspapers and in private letters from Russia, we are faced with a fairly broad academic movement.

Back to the old days! Back to pre-revolutionary Russia! That is what these events signify above all. As before, official reaction is tightening the screw in the universities. The eternal struggle in autocratic Russia against the student organizations has taken the form of a crusade by the Black-Hundred Minister Schwartz—acting in full agreement with ‘Premier’ Stolypin—against the autonomy which was promised the students in the autumn of 1905 (what did not the autocracy, faced with the onset of the revolutionary working class, ‘promise’ Russian citizens at that time!); against an autonomy which the students enjoyed so long as the autocracy had ‘other things to think of than students’, and which the autocracy, if it was to remain such, could not but begin to take away.

As before, the liberal press laments and groans, this time together with some Octobrists—the professors lament and snivel too, imploring the government not to take the road of reaction and to make use of an excellent opportunity ‘to ensure peace and order with the help of reforms’ in ‘a country exhausted by convulsions’—imploring the students not to resort to unlawful courses which can only play into the hands of reaction, etc. How ancient and antiquated, how hackneyed are all these tunes, and how vividly they resurrect before our eyes what took place twenty years ago or so, at the end of the eighties of last century! The similarity between that time and this is all the more striking when we take the present moment by itself, apart from the three years of revolution we have gone through. For the Duma (at first sight) with only the tiniest difference expresses that same pre-revolutionary relation of forces—the supremacy of the wild landlord, who prefers using Court connections and the influence of his friend the official to any kind of representation; the support of that same official by the merchants (the Octobrists) who do not dare to differ from their benevolent patrons; the ‘opposition’ of the bourgeois intellectuals who are concerned most of all to prove their loyalty, and who describe appeals to those in power as the political activity of liberalism. And the workers’ deputies in the Duma recall feebly, far too feebly, the part which the proletariat was recently playing by its open mass struggle.

It may be asked, can we in such conditions attribute any importance to the old forms of primitive academic struggle of the students? If the liberals have sunk to the level of the ‘politics’ of the eighties (one can of course only in irony speak of politics in this connection), will it not be a debasement of the aims of Social-Democracy if it decides that it is necessary to support the academic struggle in some way or other?

Here and there, apparently, Social-Democratic students are putting this question. At any rate, our editorial board has received a letter from a group of Social-Democratic students which says, among other things:

‘On September 13 a meeting of the students of St. Petersburg University resolved to call upon students for an all-Russian student strike, the reason given for this appeal being the aggressive tactics pursued by Schwartz. The platform of the strike is an academic one, and the meeting even welcomes the ‘first steps” of the Moscow and St. Petersburg Professional Councils in the struggle for autonomy. We are puzzled by the academic platform put forward at the St. Petersburg meeting, and consider it objectionable in present conditions, because it cannot unite the students for an active struggle on a broad front. We envisage student action only as one co-ordinated with general political action, and in no case apart from it. The elements capable of uniting the students are lacking. In view of this we are against academic action.’

The mistake which the authors of the letter are making is of much greater political importance than may appear at first sight, because their argument, strictly speaking, touches upon a theme which is incomparably more broad and important than the question of taking part in this particular strike.