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Previous: Narodniki, part 13

(ix) Proto-party

From various circles and communes, a proto-party is formed, i.e. the first model of future revolutionary organization. It is formed by the efforts of one person, or a small circle of comrades who set a unification of circles as their goal. 

After founding the "Tchaikovsky circle", Mark Natanson (see Narodniki, Part 12 ) was arrested and sent to Siberia. There he was busy with self-education. Vera Figner writes:

"After he has come back from the exile armed with this knowledge, he became the central person in the gathering of revolutionary forces which were dissipated by the rout of 1877-78, which led to 'the trial of 193'. For his tireless efforts, he was called the gatherer of the Russian lands - Ivan Kalita. He has traveled to all the biggest towns of Russia, looking everywhere for members of the ruined organizations; he was raising the spirits of the defeated and fallen into prostration, he called on everyone to unite and renew the former work. It was a unique role in its kind.

He traveled abroad and called on the emigrants who stayed there to return back to Russia; he invited his former comrades - Klements, Kravchinsky, Ivanchin-Pysarev, and others, to do the same; he passed to me an invitation from the arrested members of the "Fritsch circle" (Russian female students abroad) to come to Moscow to support their communications. No one but Natanson had at that time such a grand aim - to unite everybody into a single whole. Due to his tireless energy and revolutionary persistence he was able, at least for a while, to unify the remnants of St. Petersburg members of the Tchaikovsky circle with their former antagonists, the faithful followers of Lavrov. But his efforts in this direction, in 1875-76, did not bring practical results: the union with the followers of Lavrov soon broke off. The old differences, both theoretical and practical, were difficult to overcome; both organizations were much used to, without compromising on anything, leading their own lines, and the temperament of the members of both groups disunited them. On the other hand, dissipated in different places, separate members of the former circles didn't organize either into any local groups, or into an All-Russia union, but the honor of such attempt at unification belongs to Mark, and his extensive connections started at that time have led to certain fruits in the next period of the revolutionary movement".

One of the activists of that period, A.D. Mikhailov, remembers:

"We recognized the following means to be appropriate: propaganda of the party ideas, agitation among workers and people, destructive terrorist activity, neutralization of those who are pernicious to the people, organization of secret societies around a unifying center, strengthening our connections in the society, the army, the people, organization and carrying through of a revolution when the revolutionary society shall reach an appropriate strength, and only among other means there was the killing of the tsar, which, however, under the pressure of surrounding conditions, was recognized as the most appropriate, the most actual for the given time period".

Here we see listed main directions of work for a revolutionary organization; however, this organization work was preceded by a large amount of theoretical activity. 

Next: Narodniki, Part 15

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