There were still indications, it is true, that the old spirit of terrorism was not yet quite extinct: Captain Zolotykhin, for example, an officer of the Moscow secret police, was assassinated by a female revolutionist in 1890. But such incidents were merely the last fitful sputterings of a lamp that was going out for want of oil. In 1892 Stepniak declared it evident to all that the professional revolutionists could not alone overthrow autocracy, however great their energy and heroism; and he arrived at the same conclusion as the writer just quoted. Of course, immediate success was not to be expected. “It is only from the evolutionist’s point of view that the struggle with autocracy has a meaning. From any other standpoint it must seem a sanguinary farce—a mere exercise in the art of self-sacrifice!” Such are the conclusions arrived at in 1892 by a man who had been in 1878 one of the leading terrorists, and who had with his own hand assassinated General Mezentsef, Chief of the Political Police.
Thus the revolutionary movement, after passing through four stages, which I may call the academic, the propagandist, the insurrectionary, and the terrorist, had failed to accomplish its object. One of those who had taken an active part in it, and who, after spending two years in Siberia as a political exile, escaped and settled in Western Europe, could write thus: “Our revolutionary movement is dead, and we who are still alive stand by the grave of our beautiful departed and discuss what is wanting to her. One of us thinks that her nose should be improved; another suggests a change in her chin or her hair. We do not notice the essential that what our beautiful departed wants is life; that it is not a matter of hair or eyebrows, but of a living soul, which formerly concealed all defects, and made her beautiful, and which now has flown away. However we may invent changes and improvements, all these things are utterly insignificant in comparison with what is really wanting, and what we cannot give; for who can breathe a living soul into a corpse?”
In truth, the movement which I have endeavoured to describe was at an end; but another movement, having the same ultimate object, was coming into existence, and it constitutes one of the essential factors of the present situation. Some of the exiles in Switzerland and Paris had become acquainted with the social-democratic and labour movements in Western Europe, and they believed that the strategy and tactics employed in these movements might be adopted in Russia. How far they have succeeded in carrying out this policy I shall relate presently; but before entering on this subject, I must explain how the application of such a policy had been rendered possible by changes in the economic conditions. Russia had begun to create rapidly a great manufacturing industry and an industrial proletariat. This will form the subject of the next chapter.