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
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.