Working notes from the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism

The importance of punctuation

The typesetters at Sytin’s print-works in Moscow struck on September 19. They demanded a shorter working day and a higher piecework rate per 1,000 letters set, not excluding punctuation marks.

This small event set off nothing more nor less than the all-Russian political strike – the strike which started over punctuation marks and ended by felling absolutism.

The police department plaintively reported that an association called the Union of Moscow Typographers and Lithographers, banned by the government, had taken advantage of the strike at Sytin’s. By the evening of September 24, fifty printing works were on strike. A program of claims was drawn up on the twenty-fifth at a meeting permitted by the city governor. This program was interpreted by the city governor as an “arbitrary action of the Soviet of print shop deputies,” and in the name of the personal “independence” of workers menaced by such “arbitrary” proletarian action, this police satrap tried to put down the print-workers’ strike with his clumsy fist.

But the strike which had arisen over punctuation marks had already had time to spread to other branches.

Leon Trotsky, The Soviet and the Revolution (quoted by Peter Szendy in À coups de points)

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