Stalin – An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written 1941


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First Published in English: 1941. Edited and translated from Russian by Charles Malamuth.

Special Note by the Editor/Transcriber of this Work[edit source]

Trotsky’s Stalin biography is an important historical document. Unfortunately Trotsky was not able to complete the book himself – he was assassinated by the Spanish stalinist in Ramón Mercader – and the incomplete manuscript was edited and translated by Charles Malamuth.

The first seven chapters of the book were near completion by Trotsky's own hands. The rest was mainly fragments which Malamuth had to put together to finish the book. The latter part of the book has been critizised for reflecting Malamuths views more than Trotsky's. However that problem doesn't apply to the first part of the book, which we publish here.

See the interesting review by John G. Wright, A Biography of Stalin for more facts and information about the publication of this book.

Editor’s note[edit source]

LEON TROTSKY wrote and revised in the original Russian the first seven chapters and the appendix of this book. He checked in the English translation the first six chapters and the appendix but not the seventh chapter. The first seven chapters were to have been cut and condensed after the writing of the book had been completed. Like most authors, Trotsky was more optimistic than accurate about the expected date of completion, and his case was aggravated not only by the excessive optimism of the revolutionist and the military leader but by continual harassments and attempts on his life. The date of completion was therefore deferred from time to time. Finally, he set August, 1940 as the “deadline,” to use his own expression. But his manuscript was not complete on the twentieth of August, when he was struck down by his assassin. Two days later he died. The editor therefore left the first seven chapters and the appendix unrevised, except for a few deletions of repetitious material.

Some of the manuscript of the unfinished portion was in Trotsky’s study, strung out in enormously long strips of many sheets pasted end to end, at the time of the murderous attack upon him, and in the struggle with the assassin portions of the manuscript were not only spattered with blood but utterly destroyed. Moreover, no part of this posthumous manuscript had been put in final form by the author. It was made up of notes to be more fully developed, of excerpts from the works of other writers, of various documents, of dictated material not yet corrected by the author, all tentatively grouped for further use. Some of it was roughly blocked out under tentative chapter headings. Most of it was undigested material filed under eighty-one subheadings in more than twice that many folders. Out of this largely raw material the Introduction, the chapters from eight to twelve inclusive, and the two supplements have been edited.

Under the circumstances, extensive interpolations by the editor were unavoidable but were, nevertheless, kept down to a minimum consistent with achieving the maximum of clarity and fluency. In every case, including the editor’s introduction of single words, these are set off from the author’s text by brackets. Of course, the lists of Stalin’s aliases, of Communist Party Congresses, the glossary and chronological guide are entirely the work of the editor. Portions of the author’s notes summarized by the editor are distinguished from the main body of the text by closer printing. Wherever quoted material found in Trotsky’s portfolio on the Stalin biography is not a component part of Trotsky’s text, such quoted material is marked by a star. In many cases that material bore identifying notations in Trotsky’s handwriting.

The editorial policy in regard to the unfinished portion of the manuscript was to publish Trotsky’s text entire except for repetitions and utterly extraneous material which he obviously would have cut had he survived. Many of the documents are published here for the first time, without benefit of censorship either by Trotskyists or by Stalinists.

The editor wishes to thank the author’s widow, Natalia Ivanovna Sedoff-Trotsky, for her contribution to this book. He desires also to acknowledge the assistance of Leon Trotsky’s principal secretary, M. Jean Van Heijinoort; the Director of the Harvard University Library, Mr. Keyes D. Metcalf; the Registrar of the Harvard Library, Mr. Edward L. Gookin, and his staff; the Curator of Rare Books in the Treasure Room of the Widener Library at Harvard, Mr. William A. Jackson, Mr. W. H. McCarthy, and the Misses Fritzi Oldach and Rita Fitzpatrick. Their generous co-operation and unfailing patience facilitated the editor’s access to Trotsky’s posthumous manuscript. Although the editor did not always follow their advice, his very special appreciation is reserved for Marguerite Hoyle Munson, Alexandre Barmine and Max Eastman, who read the book before publication and offered extremely valuable critical comments.

C. M.

Introduction[edit source]

THE reader will note that I have dwelt with considerably more detail on the development of Stalin during the preparatory period than on his more recent political activities. The facts of the latter period are known to every literate person. Moreover, my criticisms of Stalin’s political behavior since 1923 are to be found in various works. The purpose of this political biography is to show how a personality of this sort was formed, and how it carne to power by usurpation of the right to such an exceptional role. That is why, in describing the life and development of Stalin during the period when nothing, or almost nothing, was known about him, the author has concerned himself with a thoroughgoing analysis of isolated facts and details and the testimony of witnesses; whereas, in appraising the latter period, he has limited himself to a synthetic exposition, presupposing that the facts—at least, the principal ones—are sufficiently well known to the reader.

Critics in the service of the Kremlin will declare this time, even as they declared with reference to my History of the Russian Revolution, that the absence of bibliographical references renders a verification of the author’s assertions impossible. As a matter of fact, bibliographical references to hundreds and thousands of Russian newspapers, magazines, memoirs, anthologies and the like would give the foreign critical reader very little and would only burden the text. As for Russian critics, they have at their disposal whatever is available of the Soviet archives and libraries. Had there been factual errors, misquotations, or any other improper use of material in any of my works, that would have been pointed out long ago. As a matter of f act, I do not know of a single instance of any anti-Trotskyist writings that contain a single reference to incorrect use of source material by me. I venture to think that this fact alone is sufficient guarantee of authenticity for the foreign reader.

In writing my History [of the Russian Revolution] I avoided personal reminiscences and relied chiefly on data already published and therefore subject to verification, including only such of my own testimony, previously published, as had not been controverted by anyone in the past. In this biography I ventured a departure from this too stringent method. Here, too, the basic warp of the narrative is made up of documents, memoirs and other objective sources. But in those instances where nothing can take the place of the testimony of the author’s own memories, I felt that I had the right to interpolate one or another episode from my personal reminiscences, many of them hitherto unpublished, clearly indicating each time that in the given case I appear not only as the author but also as a witness. Otherwise, I have followed here the same method as in my History of the Russian Revolution .

Numerous of my opponents have conceded that the latter book is made up of facts arranged in a scholarly way. True, a reviewer in the New York Times rejected that book as prejudiced. But every line of his essay showed that he was indignant with the Russian Revolution and was transferring his indignation to its historian. This is the usual aberration of all sorts of liberal subjectivists who carry on a perpetual quarrel with the course of the class struggle. Embittered by the results of some historical process, they vent their spleen on the scientific analysis that discloses the inevitability of those results. In the final reckoning, the judgment passed on the author’s method is far more pertinent than whether all or only a part of the author’s conclusions will be acknowledged to be objective. And on that score this author has no fear of criticism. This work is built of facts and is solidly grounded in documents. It stands to reason that here and there partial and minor errors or trivial offenses in emphasis and misinterpretation may be found. But what no one will find in this work is an unconscientious attitude toward facts, the deliberate disregard of documentary evidence or arbitrary conclusions based only on personal prejudices. The author did not overlook a single fact, document, or bit of testimony redounding to the benefit of the hero of this book. If a painstaking, thoroughgoing and conscientious gathering of facts, even of minor episodes, the verification of the testimony of witnesses with the aid of the methods of historical and biographical criticism, and finally the inclusion of facts of personal Life in their relation to our hero’s role in the historical process—if all of this is not objectivity, then, I ask, What is objectivity?

Again new times have brought a new political morality. And, strangely enough, the [swing of the pendulum of history has] returned us in many respects to the epoch of the Renaissance, even exceeding it in the extent and depth of its cruelties and bestialities. Again we have political condottieri, again the struggle for power has assumed a grandiose character, its task—to achieve the most that is feasible for the time being by securing governmental power for one person, a power denuded to a merciless degree [of all restraints previously formulated and hitherto deemed necessary]. There was a time when the laws of political mechanics painstakingly formulated by Machiavelli were considered the height of cynicism. To Machiavelli the struggle for power was a chess theorem. Questions of morality did not exist for him, as they do not exist for a chess player, as they do not exist for a bookkeeper. His task consisted in determining the most practicable policy to be followed in regard to a given situation and in explaining how to carry that policy through in a nakedly ruthless manner, on the basis of experiences tested in the political crucibles of two continents. This approach is explained not only by the task itself but also by the character of the epoch during which this task was posed. It proceeded essentially from the state of development of feudalism and in accordance with the crucial struggle for power between the masters of two epochs—dying feudalism and the bourgeois society which was being born.

But throughout the nineteenth century, which was the age of parliamentarism, liberalism and social reform (if you close your eyes to a few international wars and civil wars), Machiavelli was considered absurdly old-fashioned. Political ambition was confined within the parliamentary framework, and by the same token its excessively venturesome trends were curbed. It was no longer a matter of outright seizure of power by one person and his henchmen but of capturing mandates in as many electoral districts as possible. In the epoch of the struggle for ministerial portfolios Machiavelli seemed to be the quaint ideologist of a dimly distant past. The advent of new times had brought a new and a higher political morality. But, amazing thing, the twentieth century—that promised dream of a new age for which the nineteenth had so hopefully striven—has returned us in many respects to the ways and methods of the Renaissance!

This throw-back to the most cruel Machiavellism seems incomprehensible to one who until yesterday abided in the comforting confidence that human history moves along a rising line of material and cultural progress. [Nothing of course is further from the truth. That is too clearly apparent today to require verbal proof. But whatever our qualifications or disagreements on this] score, all of us, I think, can say now: No epoch of the past was so cruel, so ruthless, so cynical as our epoch. Politically, morality has not improved at all by comparison with the standards of the Renaissance and with other even more distant epochs. [No social order dies gently and willingly when the day of its usefulness passes. All epochs of transition have been epochs of violent social struggles free of traditional moral restraints, epochs of life and death struggles.] The epoch of the Renaissance was an epoch of struggles between two worlds. Social antagonisms reached extreme intensity. Hence the intensity of the political struggle.

By the second half of the nineteenth century political morality had supplanted materialism (at least, in the imagination of certain politicians) only because social antagonisms had softened for a time and the political struggle had become petty. The basis of this was a general growth in the well-being of the nation and certain improvements in the situation of the upper layers of the working class. But our period, our epoch, resembles the epoch of the Renaissance in the sense that we are living on the verge of two worlds: the bourgeois-capitalistic, which is suffering agony, and that new world which is going to replace it. Social contradictions have again achieved exceptional sharpness.

Political power, like morality, by no means develops uninterruptedly toward a state of perfection, as was thought at the end of the last century and during the first decade of the present century. Politics and morals suffer and have to pass through a highly complex and paradoxical orbit. Politics, like morality, is directly dependent on the class struggle. As a general rule, it may be said that the sharper and more intense the class struggle, the deeper the social crisis, and the more intense the character acquired by politics, the more concentrated and more ruthless becomes the power of the State and the more frankly [does it cast off the garments of morality].

Some of my friends have remarked that too much space in this book is occupied by references to sources and my criticism of these sources. I fully realize the inconveniences of such a method of exposition. But I have no choice. No one is obliged to take on faith the assertions of an author as closely concerned and as directly involved as I have been in the struggle with the person whose biography he has been obliged to write. Our epoch is above all an epoch of lies. I do not therewith mean to imply that other epochs of humanity were distinguished by greater truthfulness. The lie is the fruit of contradictions, of struggle, of the clash of classes, of the suppression of personality, of the social order. In that sense it is an attribute of all human history. There are periods when social contradictions become exceptionally sharp, when the lie rises above the average, when the lie becomes an attribute of the very acuteness of social contradictions. Such is our epoch. I do not think that in all of human history anything could be found even remotely resembling the gigantic factory of lies which was organized by the Kremlin under the leadership of Stalin. And one of the principal purposes of this factory is to manufacture a new biography for Stalin … Some of these sources were fabricated by Stalin himself … Without subjecting to criticism the details of progressively accumulating falsifications, it would be impossible to prepare the reader for such a phenomenon, for example, as the Moscow trials …

Hitler is especially insistent that only the vivid oral word marks the leader. Never, according to him, can any writing influence the masses like a speech. At any rate, it cannot generate the firm and living bond between the leader and his millions of followers. Hitler’s judgment is doubtless determined in large measure by the fact that he cannot write. Marx and Engels acquired millions of followers without resorting throughout their Life to the art of oratory. True, it took them many years to secure influence. The writer’s art ranks higher in the final reckoning, for it makes possible the union of depth with height of form. Political leaders who are nothing but orators are invariably superficial. An orator does not generate writers. On the contrary, a great writer may inspire thousands of orators. Yet it is true that for direct contact with the masses living speech is indispensable. Lenin became the head of a powerful and influential party before he had the opportunity to turn to the masses with the living word. His public appearances in 1905 were few and passed unnoticed. As a mass orator Lenin did not appear on the scene until 1917, and then only for a short period, in the course of April, May and July. He carne to power not as an orator, but above all as a writer, as an instructor of the propagandists who had trained his cadres, including also the cadres of orators.

In this respect Stalin represents a phenomenon utterly exceptional. He is neither a thinker, a writer nor an orator. He took possession of power before the masses had learned to distinguish his figure from others during the triumphal processions across Red Square. Stalin took possession of power, not with the aid of personal qualities, but with the aid of an impersonal machine. And it was not he who created the machine, but the machine that created him. That machine, with its force and its authority, was the product of the prolonged and heroic struggle of the Bolshevik Party, which itself grew out of ideas. The machine was the bearer of the idea before it became an end in itself. Stalin headed the machine from the moment he cut off the umbilical cord that bound it to the idea and it became a thing unto itself. Lenin created the machine through constant association with the masses, if not by oral word, then by printed word, if not directly, then through the medium of his disciples. Stalin did not create the machine but took possession of it. For this, exceptional and special qualities were necessary. But they were not the qualities of the historic initiator, thinker, writer, or orator. The machine had grown out of ideas. Stalin’s first qualification was a contemptuous attitude toward ideas. The idea had… .

[On August 20, 1940, Trotsky was struck a mortal blow on the back of his head with a pickaxe and his brain wrenched out while he was reading a manuscript brought to him by the assassin. That is why this and other portions of this book remain unfinished.]

Chapter I: Family and School[edit source]

THE late Leonid Krassin, old revolutionist, eminent engineer, brilliant Soviet diplomat and, above all, intelligent human being, was the first, if I am not mistaken, to call Stalin an “Asiatic”. In saying that, he had in mind no problematical racial attributes, but rather that blending of grit, shrewdness, craftiness and cruelty which has been considered characteristic of the statesmen of Asia. Bukharin subsequently simplified the appellation, calling Stalin “Genghis Khan,” manifestly in order to draw attention to his cruelty, which has developed into brutality. Stalin himself, in conversation with a Japanese journalist, once called himself an “Asiatic,” not in the old but rather in the new sense of the word: with that personal allusion he wished to hint at the existence of common interests between the U.S.S.R. and Japan as against the imperialistic West. Contemplating the term “Asiatic” from a scientific point of view, we must admit that in this instance it is but partially correct. Geographically, the Caucasus, especially Transcaucasia, is undoubtedly a continuation of Asia. The Georgians, however, in contradistinction from the Mongolian Azerbaijanians, belong to the so-called Mediterranean, European race. Thus Stalin was not exact when he called himself an Asiatic. But geography, ethnography and anthropology are not all that matters; history looms larger.

A few spatters of the human flood that has poured for centuries from Asia into Europe have clung to the valleys and mountains of the Caucasus. Disconnected tribes and groups seemed to have frozen there in the process of their development, transforming the Caucasus into a gigantic ethnographic museum. In the course of many centuries the fate of these people remained closely bound up with that of Persia and Turkey, being thus retained in the sphere of the old Asiatic culture, which has contrived to remain static despite continual jolts from war and mutiny.

Anywhere else, on a site more traversed, that small, Georgian branch of humanity—about two and a half millions at the present time—undoubtedly would have dissolved in the crucible of history and left no trace. Protected by the Caucasian mountain range, the Georgians preserved in a comparatively pure form their ethnic physiognomy and their language, for which philology to this day seems to have difficulty in finding a proper place. Written language appeared in Georgia simultaneously with the penetration of Christianity, as early as the fourth century, six hundred years earlier than in Kievian Russia. The tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries are considered the epoch in which Georgia’s military power, and its art and literature flourished. Then followed centuries of stagnation and decay. The frequent bloody raids into the Caucasus of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane left their traces upon the national epos of Georgia. If one can believe the unfortunate Bukharin, they left their traces likewise on the character of Stalin.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Georgian Tsar acknowledged the suzerainty of Moscow, seeking protection against his traditional enemies, Turkey and Persia. He attained his immediate goal in that his life became more secure. The Tsarist government laid down the necessary strategic roads, partially renovated the cities, and established a rudimentary network of schools, primarily for the purpose of Russifying these alien subjects. Of course, in two centuries the Petersburg bureaucracy could not replace the old Asiatic barbarism with a European culture of which its own country was still in sad need.

Despite its natural wealth and supernal climate, Georgia continued to be a poor and backward country. Its semifeudal social structure was based on a low level of economic development and was therefore distinguished by the traits of Asiatic patriarchy, not excluding Asiatic cruelty. Industry was almost nonexistent. Agriculture and house-building were carried on virtually as they had been two thousand years before. Wine was pressed out with the feet and stored in large day pitchers. The cities of the Caucasus, comprising no more than one-sixth of the population, remained, like all Asia’s cities, bureaucratic, military, commercial, and only to a small extent industrial. Above the basic peasant mass rose a stratum of gentry, for the most part not rich and not generally cultured, in some instances distinguishable from the upper layers of the peasantry only by their pompous titles and affectations. Not without reason Georgia—with its tiny past “power,” its present economic stagnation, its beneficent sun, its vineyards, its irresponsibility, and its abundance of provincial hidalgos with empty pockets—has been called the Spain of the Caucasus.

The young generation of the nobility knocked at the portals of Russian universities and, breaking with the threadbare tradition of their caste, which was not taken any too seriously in Central Russia, joined sundry radical groups of Russian students. The more prosperous peasants and townsmen, ambitious to make of their sons either government officials, army officers, lawyers, or priests, followed the lead of the noble families. Wherefore Georgia acquired an excessive number of intellectuals, who, scattered in various parts of Russia, played a prominent role in all the progressive political movements and in the three revolutions.

The German writer Bodenstedt, who was director of a teachers’ institute at Tiflis in 1844, came to the conclusion that the Georgians were not only slovenly and shiftless, but less intelligent than the other Caucasians; at school they could not hold their own against the Armenians and the Tartars in the study of science, the acquisition of foreign languages and aptitude for self-expression. Citing this far too cursory opinion, Elisée Reclus expressed the altogether sound surmise that the difference might he due not to nationality but rather to social causes—the f act that the Georgian students came from backward villages while the Armenians were the children of the city bourgeoisie. Indeed, further development soon erased that educational lag. By 1892, when Joseph Djugashvili was a pupil in the second form of the parochial school, the Georgians, who made up approximately one-eighth of the population in the Caucasus, contributed virtually a fifth of all the students (the Russians—more than a half, the Armenians—about fourteen per cent, the Tartars—less than three per cent …). It seems, however, that the peculiarities of the Georgian language, one of the most ancient tools of culture, do indeed impede the acquisition of foreign languages, leaving a decided imprint on pronunciation. But it does not follow that the .Georgians are not gifted with eloquence. Like the other nations of the empire, under Tsarism they were doomed to silence. But as Russia became “Europeanized,” Georgian intellectuals produced numerous—if not first rate, at least outstanding—orators of the judiciary and later of the parliamentary rostrum. The most eloquent of the leaders of the February Revolution was perhaps the Georgian Iraklii Tseretelli. Therefore it would be unjustified to account for the absence of oratorical ability in Stalin by citing his national origin. Even in his physical type he hardly represents a happy example of his people, who are known to he the handsomest in the Caucasus.

The national character of the Georgians is usually represented as trusting, impressionable, quick-tempered, while at the same time devoid of energy and initiative. Above all, Reclus noted their gaiety, sociability and forthrightness. Stalin’s character has few of these attributes, which, indeed, are the most immediately noticeable in personal intercourse with Georgians. Georgian émigrés in Paris assured Souvarine, the author of Stalin’s French biography, that Joseph Djugashvili’s mother was not a Georgian but an Osetin and that there is an admixture of Mongolian blood in his veins. But a certain Iremashvili, whom we shall have occasion to meet again in the future, asserts that Stalin’s mother was a pure-blooded Georgian, whereas his father was an Osetin, “a coarse, uncouth person, like all the Osetins, who live in the high Caucasian mountains”. It is difficult, if not impossible, to verify these assertions. However, they are scarcely necessary for the purpose of explaining Stalin’s moral stature. In the countries of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Balkans, in Italy, in Spain, in addition to the so-called Southern type, which is characterized by a combination of lazy shiftlessness and explosive irascibility, one meets cold natures, in whom phlegm is combined with stubbornness and slyness. The first type prevails; the second augments it as an exception. It would seem as if each national group is doled out its due share of basic character elements, yet these are less happily distributed under the southern than under the northern sun. But we must not venture too far afield into the unprofitable region of national metaphysics.

The county town of Gori is picturesquely situated on the banks of the Kura River, seventy-six kilometers from Tiflis along the Transcaucasian Railway. One of the oldest of Georgia’s cities, Gori has an intensely dramatic history. Tradition has it that it was founded in the twelfth century by Armenians seeking refuge from the Turks. Thereafter the little town was subjected to repeated raids, for by that time the Armenians were already a commercial and urban class notable for such great wealth that they were a tempting prey. Like all Asiatic cities, Gori grew little by little, gradually drawing into its walls settlers from Georgian and Tartar villages. At about the time the shoemaker Vissarion Djugashvili migrated there from his native village of Didi-Lilo, the little town had a mixed population of approximately six thousand, several churches, many stores and more inns for the peasantry of the adjacent regions, a teachers’ seminary with a Tartar department, a preparatory classical school for girls and a junior high school.

Serfdom was abolished in the Tiflis Government only fourteen years prior to the birth of Joseph, the future General Secretary [of the Communist Party Central Committee]. Social relations and customs still reflected its effects. It is doubtful that his parents could read and write. True, five Georgian language daily newspapers were published in Transcaucasia, but their total circulation was less than four thousand. The Life of the peasantry still lay outside history.

Shapeless streets, widely scattered houses, fruit orchards—these gave Gori the appearance of a rambling village. The houses of the city poor, at any rate, were scarcely distinguishable from peasant dwellings. The Djugashvilis occupied an old adobe but with brick corners and a sand-covered roof which freely admitted the wind and the rain. D. Gogokhiya, a former classmate of Joseph’s, describing the family dwelling, writes: “Their room was no more than eight square yards and was located next to the kitchen. The entrance was directly from the court yard into the room, without a single step. The floor was laid with brick. The small window let in scarcely any light. The furnishings of the room consisted of a small table, a stool, and a wide couch, something like a plank-bed, covered with a chilopya—a straw mat.” To this was later added his mother’s old and noisy sewing machine.

No authentic documents have yet been published about the Djugashvili family and Joseph’s childhood. Nor could they be numerous. The cultural level of their milieu was so primitive that Life went unrecorded and flowed on almost without leaving any trace. Only after Stalin himself was more than fifty years old did reminiscences of his father’s family begin to appear. They were usually secondhand, written either by embittered and not always conscientious enemies, or by forced “friends,” at the initiative—one might almost say, by order—of official commissions on Party history, and therefore, for the most part, they are exercises on an assigned theme. It would be, of course, too simple to seek the truth along the diagonal between the two distortions. However, putting the two in juxtaposition, weighing on the one hand the reticences and on the other, the exaggerations, critically evaluating the inherent thread of the narrative itself in the light of future developments, it is possible to approximate the truth. Without seeking to paint artificially complete pictures, as I proceed, I shall endeavor to present to the reader the elements of those source materials on which rest either my surmises or my conclusions.

Most profuse in details are the reminiscences of the aforementioned [Joseph] Iremashvili, published in 1932 in the German language at Berlin, under the title, “Stalin und die Tragödie Georgiens “. Since their author is a former Menshevik who subsequently became something in the nature of a National Socialist, his political record as such does not inspire great confidence. It is, nevertheless, impossible to ignore his essay. Many of its gages are so patently convincing that they leave no room for doubt. Even incidents which seem doubtful at first glance, find direct or indirect confirmation in official reminiscences published several years later. It might not be amiss for me to add that certain of the guesses I had made on the basis of intentional silences or evasive expressions in Soviet publications found their confirmation in Iremashvili’s book, which I had the opportunity to read only at the very last moment. It would be an error to assume that as an exile and a political enemy Iremashvili tries to belittle Stalin’s figure or to paint it all black. Quite the contrary: he recounts Stalin’s abilities almost triumphantly, and with obvious exaggerations; he recognizes Stalin’s readiness to make personal sacrifices for his ideals; he repeatedly emphasizes Stalin’s attachment to his mother and sketches Stalin’s first marriage in most affecting strokes. A more probing examination of this former Tiflis high school teacher’s reminiscences produced the impression of a document composed of various layers. The foundation is undoubtedly made up of the remote recollections of childhood. But that basic layer has been subjected to the inevitable retrospective elaboration by memory and fantasy under the influence of Stalin’s latter-day fate and the author’s own political views. To that must be added the presence in the reminiscences of dubious, although in their essence, unimportant, details which should be ascribed to a failing rather frequent among a certain kind of memoirist—an endeavor to invest their presentation with “artistic” finish and completeness. Thus forewarned, I deem it quite proper, as I proceed, to lean upon Iremashvili’s reminiscences.

The earlier biographical references invariably speak of Stalin as the son of a peasant from the village of Didi-Lilo. Stalin for the first time referred to himself as a workingman’s son only in 1926. But this contradiction is more apparent than real: like most of Russia’s workers, Djugashvili the father continued to be listed in his passport as a peasant. However, that does not exhaust the difficulties. The father is invariably called: “worker of Alikhanov’s shoe factory in Tiflis”. Yet the family lived at Gori, not in the capital of the Caucasus. Does it mean, then, that the father lived apart from the family? Such a supposition might be justified, had the family remained in the village. It is most unlikely that the family and its provider would live in different towns. Besides, Gogokhiya, Joseph’s comrade at the theological school, who lived in the same yard with him, as well as Iremashvili, who frequently visited him, both say outright that Vissarion worked nearby, on Sobornaya Street, in an adobe with a leaky roof. We therefore surmise that the father’s employment at Tiflis was temporary, probably while the family still lived in the village. At Gori, however, Vissarion Djugashvili no longer worked in a shoe factory—there were no factories in the county seat—but as an independent petty tradesman. The intentional lack of clarity on that point is dictated undoubtedly by the desire not to weaken the impression of Stalin’s “proletarian” heritage.

Like most Georgian women Ekaterina Djugashvili became a mother when still quite young. The first three children died in infancy. On the twenty-first of December, 1879, when her fourth child was born, she was scarcely twenty years old. Joseph was in his seventh year when he fell ill with smallpox. Its traces remained for the rest of his life as witness of his plebeian origin and environment. To his pockmarks, Stalin’s French biographer, Souvarine, adds cachexia of the left arm, which, in addition to the two toes grown together, according to his information, should serve as proof of alcoholic heredity on his father’s side. Generally speaking, shoemakers, at least in Central Russia, were so notorious as drunkards that “drunk as a shoemaker” became a by-word. It is hard to tell how near the truth are the speculations on heredity communicated to Souvarine by “various persons,” most likely Menshevik émigrés. In the enumeration of Joseph Djugashvili’s “distinctive marks” by Tsarist gendarmes, a withered arm was not listed, but the adhering toes were recorded once, in 1903, by Colonel Shabelsky. It is not impossible that, prior to publication, the gendarmerie documents, like all others, had been subjected to an insufficiently thorough purge by the censor. It is impossible not to remark, however, that in later years Stalin was wont to wear a warm glove on his left hand, even at sessions of the Politburo. Rheumatism was the generally accepted reason for that. But after all, these secondary physical characteristics, whether real or imaginary, are in themselves scarcely of passing interest. It is far more important to try to assay the true character of his parents and the atmosphere of his family.

The first thing that strikes the eye is the fact that the officially collected reminiscences hardly mention Vissarion, passing him by in almost total silence, while at the same time dwelling sympathetically on Ekaterina’s hard Life of drudgery. “Joseph’s mother earned very little,” relates Gogokhiya, “working as a washerwoman or baking bread in the homes of Gori’s well-to-do inhabitants. She had to pay a ruble and a half a month for her room. But she was not always able to save that ruble and a half.” We thus learn that the responsibility of paying rent for their home rested with the mother, not the father. Furthermore, “The poverty and the mother’s hard life of toil left their imprint on Joseph’s character … “—as if his father were not a part of the family. Only later, in passing, the author inserts this sentence: “Joseph’s father, Vissarion, spent the entire day in work, stitching and repairing footwear.” However, the father’s work is not mentioned in connection with the family’s home life or its problems of making a living. The impression is thus created that the father is mentioned at all only in order to fill a gap.

Glurdzhidze, another classmate at the theological school, ignores the father altogether when he writes that Joseph’s mother “earned her living by cutting, sewing or laundering underwear”. These reticences, which are not accidental, deserve all the more attention because the customs of the people did not assign the leading role in the family to the woman. On the contrary, according to Old’ Georgian traditions, exceedingly persistent among the conservative mountaineers, woman was relegated to the position of a household slavery, was scarcely ever admitted into the august presence of her lord and master, had no voice in family affairs, and did not so much as dare to punish her own son. Even at church mothers, wives and sisters were placed behind fathers, husbands and brothers. The fact that the authors of the reminiscences place the mother where normally the father should be cannot be interpreted otherwise than as a desire to avoid characterizing Vissarion Djugashvili altogether. The old Russian encyclopedia, commenting on the extreme abstinence of Georgians in the matter of food, adds: “There is scarcely another people in the world that drink as much wine as the Georgians”. True, after moving to Gori, Vissarion could hardly have maintained his own vineyard. But to make up for that, the city had dukhans on every comer, and in them vodka successfully competed with wine.

On that score Iremashvili’s evidence is especially convincing. Like the other memoirists, but antedating them by five years, he is warmly sympathetic in his characterization of Ekaterina, who evinced great love for her only son and friendliness for his mates in play and in school. A true Georgian woman, Keke, as she was generally called, was profoundly religious. Her life of toil was one uninterrupted service: to God, to husband and to her son. Her eyesight became weak in consequence of constant sewing in a half-dark dwelling, so she began to wear eye-glasses early in life. But then any Georgian matron past thirty was regarded as almost an old woman. Her neighbors treated her with all the greater sympathy because her Life had turned out to be so very hard. According to Iremashvili, the head of the family, Bezo (Vissarion) was a person of stern disposition as well as a heartless dipsomaniac. He drank up most of his meager earnings. That was why the responsibility for rent and for the support of the family fell as a double burden on the mother. In helpless grief Keke observed Bezo, by mistreating his son, “drive out of his heart the love of God and people, and fill him with aversion for his own father”. “Undeserved, frightful beatings made the boy as grim and heartless as was his father.” In bitterness Joseph began to brood over the eternal mysteries of life. He did not grieve over the premature death of his father; he merely felt freer. Iremashvili infers that when still quite young, the boy began to extend his smoldering enmity and thirst for vengeance against his father to all those who had, or could have, any power at all over him. “Since youth the carrying out of vengeful plots became for him the goal that dominated all his efforts.” Granting these words are based on retrospective judgments, they still retain the full force of their significance.

In 1930, when she was already seventy-one, Ekaterina, who then lived in the unpretentious rooms of a servant at what was formerly the palace of the Viceroy in Tiflis, replying to the questions of journalists, said through an interpreter: “Soso (Joseph) was always a good boy … I never had occasion to punish him. He studied hard, always reading or discussing, trying to understand everything … Soso was my only son. Of course, he was precious to me … His father Vissarion wanted to make of Soso a good shoemaker. But his father died when Soso was eleven years old … I did not want him to be a shoemaker. I wanted only one thing—that he should become a priest.” Souvarine, it is true, collected quite different information among Georgians in Paris: “They knew Soso when he was already hard, unfeeling, treating his mother without respect, and in support of their reminiscences they cite ‘ticklish facts.’ “ The biographer himself remarks, however, that his information came from Stalin’s political enemies. In that set, too, circulate not a few legends, only in reverse. Iremashvili, on the contrary, speaks with great persistence of Soso’s warm attachment for his mother. Indeed, the boy could have had no other feelings for the family’s benefactress and his protectress against his father.

The German writer Emil Ludwig, our epoch’s court portrait painter, found at the Kremlin another occasion for applying his method of asking leading questions, in which moderate psychological insight is combined with political wariness. Are you fond of nature, Signore Mussolini? What do you think of Schopenhauer, Doctor Masaryk? Do you believe in a better future, Mister Roosevelt? During some such verbal inquisition Stalin, ill at ease in the presence of the celebrated foreigner, assiduously drew little flowers and boats with a colored pencil. So, at any rate, recounts Ludwig. On the withered arm of Wilhelm Hohenzollern this writer had constructed a psychoanalytic biography of the former Kaiser, which old man Freud regarded with ironic perplexity. Ludwig did not notice Stalin’s withered arm, nor did he notice, needless to say, the adhering toes. Nonetheless he attempted to deduce the revolutionary career of the master at the Kremlin from the beatings administered to him in childhood by his father. After familiarizing oneself with Iremashvili’s memoirs it is not difficult to understand where Ludwig got his idea. “What made you a rebel? Did it perhaps come to pass because your parents treated you badly?” It would be rather imprudent to ascribe to these words any documentary value, and not only because Stalin’s affirmations and negations, as we shall have frequent occasions to see, are prone to change with the greatest of ease. In an analogous situation anyone else might have acted similarly. In any event, one cannot blame Stalin for having refused to complain in public of his father who had been dead a long time. One is rather surprised by the deferential writer’s lack of delicacy.

Family trials were not however the only factor to mold the boy’s harsh, willful and vengeful personality. The far broader influences of social environment furthered the same quality. One of Stalin’s biographers relates how from time to time the Most Illustrious Prince Amilakhviri would ride up on a spirited horse to the poor home of the shoemaker to have his boots repaired, which had just been torn at the hunt, and how the shoemaker’s son, a great shock of hair over his low forehead, pierced the Prince with eyes of hate, clenching his childish fists. By itself, that picturesque scene belongs, we think, in the realm of fantasy. However, the contrast between the poverty surrounding him and the relative sumptuousness of the last of the Georgian feudal lords could not help but make a sharp and lasting impression on the consciousness of the boy.

The situation of the city population itself was not much better. High above the lower classes rose the county officialdom, which ruled the city in the name of the Tsar and his Caucasian Viceroy, Prince Golitsyn, a sinister satrap who was universally and deservedly hated. The landowners and the Armenian merchants were in league with the county authorities. Despite its general low level, and partly in consequence of it, the basic plebeian mass of the population was itself divided by barriers of caste. Each one who ever so slightly rose above his fellow, guarded his rank vigilantly. The Didi-Lilo peasant’s distrust of the city was transformed at Gori into the hostile attitude of the poor artisan toward the more prosperous families for whom Keke was obliged to sew and to wash. No less crudely did the social gradations assert themselves in school, where the children of priests, petty gentry and officials more than once made it quite clear to Joseph that he was their social inferior. As is evident from Gogokhiya’s stories, the shoemaker’s son first sensed the humiliation of social inequality early in life and poignantly. “He did not like to call on people who lived prosperously. Despite the fact that I visited him several times a day, he very rarely came to see me, because my uncle lived richly, according to the standards of those days.” Such were the first sources of a social protest, as yet instinctive, which, in the atmosphere of the country’s political ferment, would later transform the seminary student into a revolutionist.

The lowest layer of the petty bourgeoisie knows but two high careers for its gifted or only sons: those of civil servant or priest. Hitler’s mother dreamed of a pastor’s career for her son. The same fond hope was Ekaterina Djugashvili’s some ten years earlier, in an even more modest milieu. The dream itself —to see her son in priestly robes—indicates incidentally how little the family of the shoemaker Bezo was permeated with the “proletarian spirit”. A better future was conceived, not in consequence of the class struggle, but as the result of breaking with one’s class.

The Orthodox priesthood, despite its low social rank and cultural level, belonged to the hierarchy of the privileged in that it was free of compulsory military service, the head tax, and … the whip. Only the abolition of serfdom gave the peasants access to the ranks of the priesthood, that privilege being conditioned, however, by a police limitation: in order to be appointed to a church position, a peasant’s son had to have the special dispensation of the governor.

The future priests were educated in scores of seminaries, the preparatory step for which were theological schools. By their rating in the government system of education, the seminaries approximated the middle schools, with this difference, that in them lay studies were supposed to be no more than a slender pillar for theology! In old Russia the well-known boorsy were notorious for the horrifying savagery of their customs, medieval pedagogy and the law of the fist, not to mention dirt, cold, and hunger. All the vices censured by Holy Scripture flourished in these hotbeds of piety. The writer Pomyalovsky found a permanent place in Russian literature as the ruthlessly veracious author of “Theological School Sketches” [Ocherki Boorsy –1862]. One cannot but quote at this juncture the words Pomyalovsky’s biographer used with reference to Pomyalovsky himself: “that period of his school life developed in him mistrust, dissimulation, animosity, and hatred for his environment”. True, the reforms of Alexander the Second’s reign brought about certain improvements even in the mustiest region of ecclesiastical education. Nonetheless, as late as the last decade of the last century the theological schools, especially in remote Transcaucasia, remained the darkest blots on the “cultural” map of Russia.

The Tsarist government long ago, and not without bloodshed, broke the independence of the Georgian Church, subjecting it to the Petersburg Synod. But hostility toward the Russifiers continued to smolder among the lower ranks of the Georgian clergy. The enslavement of their church shook the traditional religiousness of the Georgians and prepared the ground for the influence of the Social-Democracy, not only in the city but in the village as well. The fustian atmosphere of the theological schools was even more marked, for they were designed not only to Russify their charges but to prepare them for the role of the church’s police of the soul. A spirit of sharp hostility permeated the intercourse between teachers and pupils. Instruction was carried on in Russian; Georgian was taught only twice a week, and was not infrequently slighted, as the language of an inferior race.

In 1890, evidently soon after his father’s death, the eleven-year old Soso, carrying a calico school-bag under his arm, entered the theological school. According to his schoolmates, the boy evinced a great urge for learning his catechism and his prayers. Gogokhiya remarks that, thanks to “his extraordinary memory,” Soso remembered his lessons from the words of his teacher and had no need to review them. As a matter of fact, Stalin’s memory—at least, his memory for theories—is quite mediocre. But all the same, in order to remember in the class room it was necessary to excel in attentiveness. At that time the sacerdotal order was no doubt Soso’s own crowning ambition. Determination stimulated both aptitude and memory. Another school comrade, Kapanadze, testifies that throughout the thirteen years of tutelage and throughout the later thirty-five years of activity as a teacher he never had occasion once “to meet such a gifted and able pupil” as Joseph Djugashvili. Yet even Iremashvili, who wrote his book not in Tiflis but in Berlin, maintains that Soso was the best pupil in the theological school. In other testimonies there are, however, substantial shadings. “During the first years, in the preparatory grades,” relates Glurdzhidze, “Joseph studied superbly, and with time, as he disclosed increasingly brilliant abilities, he became one of the best pupils.” In that article, which bears all the earmarks of a panegyric ordered from above, occurrence of the circumspect expression “one of the best” indicates too obviously that Joseph was not the best, was not superior to the entire class, was not an extraordinary pupil. Identical in nature are the recollections of another schoolmate, Elisabedashvili. Joseph, says he, “was one of the most indigent and one of the most gifted”. In other words, not the most gifted. We are thus constrained to the surmise that either his scholastic standing varied in the various grades or that certain of the memoirists, belonging themselves to the rear-guard of learning, were poor at picking the best pupils.

Without being definite as to Joseph’s exact rating in his class, Gogokhiya states that in development and knowledge he ranked “much higher than his schoolmates”. Soso read everything available in the school library, including Georgian and Russian classics, which were, of course, carefully sifted by the authorities. After his graduation examinations Joseph was rewarded with a certificate of merit, “which in those days was an extraordinary achievement, because his father was not a clergyman and plied the shoemaking trade”. Truly a remarkable touch!

On the whole the memoirs written in Tiflis about “the Leader’s youthful years” are rather insipid. “Soso would pull us into the chorus, and in his ringing, pleasant voice would lead us in the beloved national songs.” When playing ball, “Joseph knew how to select the best players, and for that reason our group always won.” “Joseph learned to draw splendidly”. But not a single one of these attributes developed into a talent: Joseph became neither a singer nor a sportsman nor an artist. Even less convincing sound reports like these: “Joseph Djugashvili was remarkable for his great modesty, and he was a kind, sensitive comrade.”—”He never let anyone feel his superiority”, and the like. If all of that is true, then one is forced to conclude that with the years Joseph became transformed into his opposite.

Iremashvili’s recollections are incomparably more vivid and closer to the truth. He draws his namesake as a lanky, sinewy, freckled boy, extraordinarily persistent, uncommunicative and willful, who could always obtain the goal he had set before him, be it a matter of bossing his playmates, throwing rocks or scaling cliffs. Although Soso was decidedly a passionate lover of nature, he had no sympathy for its living creatures. Compassion for people or for animals was foreign to him. “I never saw him weeping.”—”Soso had only a sarcastic sneer for the joys and sorrows of his fellows.” All of that may have been slightly polished in memory, like a rock in a torrent; it has not been invented.

Iremashvili commits one indubitable error when he ascribes to Joseph rebellious behavior as far back as the Gori school. Soso was presumably subjected to almost daily punishments as the leader of schoolboy protests; particularly, hooting against “the hated Inspector Butyrski”. Yet the authors of official memoirs, this time without any premeditated purpose, portray Joseph as an exemplary pupil even in behavior all through those years. “Usually he was serious, persistent,” writes Gogokhiya, “did not like pranks and mischief. After his schoolwork he hurried home, and he was always seen poring over a book”. According to the same Gogokhiya, the school paid Joseph a monthly stipend, which would have been quite impossible had there been any lack of respectfulness toward his superiors and above all toward “the hated Inspector Butyrski”. All the other memoirists place the inception of Joseph’s rebellious moods at the time of his Tiflis seminary days. But even then no one states anything about his participation in stormy protests. The explanation for Iremashvili’s lapses of memory, as well as for those of certain others, with reference to the place and time of individual occurrences, lies evidently in the fact that all the participants regarded the Tiflis seminary as the direct continuation of the theological school. It is more difficult to account for the fact that no one except Iremashvili mentions the hooting under Joseph’s leadership. Is that a simple aberration of memory? Or did Joseph play in certain “concerts” a concealed role, of which only a few were informed? That would not be at all at variance with the character of the future conspirator.

The moment of Joseph’s break with the faith of his fathers remains uncertain. According to the same Iremashvili, Soso, together with two other schoolboys, gladly sang in the village church during summer vacations, although even then—that is, in the higher grades of the school—religion was already something he had outgrown. Glurdzhidze recalls in his turn that the thirteen-year old Joseph told him once: “You know, they are deceiving us. There is no God …” In reply to the amazed cry of his interlocutor, Joseph suggested that he read a book from which it was evident that “the talk of God is empty chatter”. What book was that? “Darwin. You must read it.” The reference to Darwin ends a shade of the incredible to the episode. A thirteen-year old boy in a backward town could hardly have read Darwin and derived atheistic convictions from him. According to his own words, Stalin took to the road of revolutionary ideas at the age of fifteen; hence, when already in Tiflis. True, he could have broken with religion earlier. But it is equally possible that Glurdzhidze, who likewise left the theological school for the seminary, erred in his dates, anticipating by a few years. To repudiate God, in whose name the cruelties against the schoolboys were perpetrated, was undoubtedly not difficult. At any rate, the inner strength necessary for that was rewarded when the instructors and the authorities as a whole had the moral ground snatched from under their feet. From then on they could not perpetrate violence merely because they were stronger. Soso’s expressive formula, “they are deceiving us,” sheds a bright light on his inward world, irrespective of where and when the conversation took place, whether at Gori, or a year or two later, at Tiflis.

As to the time of Joseph’s matriculation at the seminary, various official publications offer the choice of three dates: 1892, 1893 and 1894. How long was he in the seminary? Six years, answers “The Communist’s Calendar.” Five, states the biographical sketch written by Stalin’s secretary. Four years, asserts his former schoolmate, Gogokhiya. The memorial shingle on the building of the former seminary states, as it is possible to decipher from a photograph, that the “Great Stalin” studied in these walls from the first of September, 1894, to the twenty-first of July, 1899; consequently, five years. Is it possible that the official biography avoids that last date, because it presents the seminary student Djugashvili as too overgrown? At any rate, we prefer to rely on the memorial shingle, because its dates are based in all likelihood upon the documents of the seminary itself.

The certificate of good conduct from the Gori school in his satchel, the fifteen-year old Joseph found himself for the first time in the autumn of 1894 in the big city that could not have failed to astound his imagination, Tiflis, the ancient capital of Georgian kings. It will be no exaggeration to say that the half-Asiatic, half-European city laid an impress on young Joseph that remained for the rest of his life. In the course of its history of almost 1,500 years Tiflis fell many times into the power of its enemies, was demolished fifteen times, on several occasions razed to its very foundations. The Arabs, the Turks and the Persians, who smashed their way in, left a profound impression upon the architecture and the customs of the people, and the traces of that influence have been preserved to this day. European sections developed after the Russian conquest of Georgia, when the former capital became the provincial seat and the administrative center of the Transcaucasian Region. Tiflis numbered more than 150,000 inhabitants the year Joseph entered the seminary. The Russians, who composed one-fourth of that number, were either exiled religious dissenters, rather numerous in Transcaucasia, or the military and civil servants. Trade and industry were concentrated in the hands of the Armenians, since ancient days and the most numerous (38%) and the most prosperous sector of the population. The Georgians, who were connected with the village and who, like the Russians, formed approximately one-fourth of the population, provided the lower layer of artisans, traders, petty civil servants and officers. “Alongside of streets which hear a contemporary European character …” states a description of the city published in 1901, “.. . nests a labyrinth of narrow, crooked and dirty, purely Asiatic lanes, squarelets and bazaars, framed by open stalls of the Eastern type, by stands, coffee houses, barber shops, and filled with a clamorous throng of porters, water carriers, errand boys, horsemen, lines of pack mules and donkeys, caravans of camels, and the like.” The absence of a sewage disposal system, insufficiency of water, the torrid summers, the caustic and infiltrating dust of the streets, kerosene lighting in the center of the city and the absence of any light at all in the outlying streets—such were features of Transcaucasia’s administrative and cultural center at the turn of the century.

”We were admitted into a four-storey house,” relates Gogokhiya, who arrived there together with Joseph, “into the huge rooms of our dormitory, which held from twenty to thirty people. This building was the Tiflis Theological Seminary.” Thanks to his successful graduation from the theological school at Gori, Joseph Djugashvili was admitted to the seminary, with everything provided, including clothes, shoes and textbooks, a circumstance that would have been utterly impossible, it must be reiterated, had he revealed himself as a rebel. Who knows, perhaps the authorities had high hopes that he might become an ornament of the Georgian Church? As in preparatory school, instruction was in Russian. Most of the instructors were Russians by nationality and Russifiers by duty. Georgians were admitted to teaching only in the event that they exhibited double zeal. The rector was a Russian, the monk Hermogenes; the inspector, a Georgian, the monk Abashidze, the most sinister and detestable person in the seminary. Iremashvili, who has not only given the first but also the most complete information about the seminary, recalls

Life in school was sad and monotonous. Locked in day and night within barrack walls, we felt like prisoners who must spend years there, without being guilty of anything. All of us were despondent and sullen. Stifled by the rooms and corridors that cut us off from the outer world, youthful joy almost never asserted itself. When, from time to time, youthful temperament did break through, it was immediately suppressed by the monks and monitors. The Tsarist inspection of schools forbade us the reading of Georgian literature and newspapers… . They feared our becoming inspired with ideas of our country’s freedom and independence, and the infection of our young souls with the new teachings of socialism. Even the few literary works the lay authorities allowed us to read were forbidden to us by the church authorities because we were future priests. The works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgeniev and other classics remained inaccessible to us.

The days in the seminary passed as in a prison or in a barracks. School life began at seven o’clock in the morning. Prayers, tea drinking, classes. Again prayers. Instruction, with recesses, until two o’clock in the afternoon. Prayers. Dinner. Poor and insufficient food. Permission to leave the walls of the seminary prison was granted only for the interval between the hours of three and five. After that the gates were locked. Roll-call. At eight o’clock, tea. Preparation of lessons. At ten o’clock—after more prayers—all went to their cots. “We felt trapped in a stone gaol,” confirms Gogokhiya. During Sunday and holiday services the students stood on their feet for three or four hours at a stretch, always on one and the same stone slab of the church floor, shifting from one numb foot to the other, under the gaze of the monks who watched them incessantly. “Even the most pious should have unlearned to pray under the influence of the interminable service. Behind devout grimaces we hid our thought from the monks on duty.”

As a rule the spirit of piety went hand and glove with the spirit of police repression. Inspector Abashidze, hostile and suspicious, observed the boarders, their train of thought, their manner of spending their time. More than once when the pupils returned to their rooms from dinner, they would find fresh evidence of a raid perpetrated during their absence. Not infrequently the monks searched the seminary students themselves. Punishment was meted out in the form of crude upbraiding, the dark cell, which was seldom vacant, low marks for deportment, which threatened the collapse of all hopes, and finally, expulsion from the holy of holies. Those who were physically weak left the seminary for the graveyard. Hard and thorny was the path of salvation!

The methods of seminary pedagogy had everything that the Jesuits had invented to curb the children’s souls, but in a more primitive, a cruder and therefore a less effective form. But the main thing was that the situation in the country was hardly conducive to the spirit of humility. In almost all of the sixty seminaries of Russia there were undergraduates who, most frequently under the influence of university students, rejected their priestly robes even before they had time to put them on, who were filled with contempt for theological scholasticism, read didactic novels, radical Russian journalism and popular expositions of Darwin and Marx. In the Tiflis seminary the revolutionary ferment, nurtured by nationalistic and general political sources, already enjoyed a certain tradition. In the past it had broken through in the form of sharp conflicts with teachers, openly expressed indignation, even the killing of a rector. Ten years prior to Stalin’s matriculation at the seminary Sylvester Dzhibladze had struck his teacher for a slighting reference to the Georgian language. Dzhibladze subsequently became a founder of the Social-Democratic movement in the Caucasus and one of Joseph Djugashvili’s teachers.

In 1885 Tiflis saw the appearance of its first socialist circles, in which the graduates of the seminary at once took the leading place. Alongside of Sylvester Dzhibladze we meet here Noah Jordania, the future leader of the Georgian Mensheviks, Nicholas Chkheidze, the future Deputy of the Duma and Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet during the month of the February Revolution of 1917, and a number of others who were destined to play a notable role in the political movement of the Caucasus and of the entire country. Marxism in Russia was still passing through its intelligentsia stage. In the Caucasus the Theological Seminary became the principal hearth of Marxist infection simply because there was no university at Tiflis. In backward, non-industrial districts, like Georgia, Marxism was accepted in a particularly abstract, not to say scholastic form. The seminarists had at least some training in the use of logical deductions. But at the base of the turn toward Marxism lay, of course, the profound social and national dissatisfaction of the people, which compelled the young Bohemians to seek the way out along the revolutionary road.

Joseph did not have occasion to lay new roads in Tiflis, notwithstanding the attempts of the Soviet Plutarchs to present the matter in this light. The blow Dzhibladze struck was still reverberating within the seminary walls. The former seminarists were already leading the left wing of public opinion, nor did they lose contact with their step-mother, the seminary. Sufficient was any occasion, a personal encounter, a mere push, for the dissatisfied, embittered, proud youth, who needed merely a formula in order to find himself, to drift naturally into the revolutionary track. The first stage along this road had to be a break with religion. If it is possible that from Gori the boy had brought with him remnants of faith, surely they were forthwith dispelled at the seminary. Henceforth Joseph decidedly lost all taste for theology.

”His ambition,” writes Iremashvili, “reached such heights that he was away ahead of us in his achievements”. If that is true, it applies only to a very brief period. Glurdzhidze remarks that of the studies in the seminary curriculum, “Joseph liked civil history and logic,” occupying himself with the other subjects only sufficiently to pass his examinations. Having grown cold toward Holy Scriptures, he became interested in lay literature, natural science and social problems. He was aided by students in the advanced classes. “Having found out about the capable and inquiring Joseph Djugashvili, they began to converse with him and to supply him with magazines and books,” relates Gogokhiya. “The book was Joseph’s inseparable friend, and he did not part with it even while eating,” testifies Glurdzhidze. In general, avidity for reading was the distinguishing characteristic during those years of burgeoning. After the final check-up at night, the monks having put out the lamps, the young conspirators would produce their hidden candles and by their flickering flames would immerse themselves in books. Joseph, who had spent many sleepless nights poring over his books, began to look ill and in need of sleep. “When he began to cough,” relates Iremashvili, “I would take his hooks away from him and put out his candle, more than once.” Glurdzhidze recalls how, in stealth, the seminary students would swallow Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Shelley, Lippert’s “History of Culture,” the Russian radical publicist Pisarev … “At times we read in church, during service, hiding in the pews.”

At that time the writings of Georgian national literature made the strongest impression upon Soso. Iremashvili describes the first explosions of the revolutionary temperament, in which an idealism still fresh combined with the sudden awakening of ambition. “Soso and I,” recalls Iremashvili, “frequently talked about the tragic fate of Georgia. We were enraptured by the works of the poet Shota Rustaveli …” Soso’s model became Koba, the hero of the romance “Nunu” by the Georgian author of “Kazbek”. In their fight against the Tsarist authorities the oppressed mountaineers, because of betrayal, suffer defeat and lose their last remnants of freedom, while the leader of the rebellion sacrifices everything, even his life, for the sake of his country and his wife, Nunu. From then on Koba “became a divinity for Soso … He wanted to become another Koba, a fighter and a hero, as renowned as ‘Koba’ himself . ..” Joseph called himself by the name of the leader of the mountaineers, and did not want to be called by any other name. “His face shone with pride and joy when we called him Koba. Soso preserved that name for many years, and it became likewise his first pseudonym when he began to write and propagandize for the party … Even now everybody in Georgia calls him Koba or Koba-Stalin .” Concerning young Joseph’s enthusiasm for the national problem of Georgia, official biographers say nothing at all. In their writings Stalin appears at once as a finished Marxist. Nonetheless, it is not hard to understand that in the naive “Marxism” of that first period, nebulous ideas of Socialism lived on in peace with the nationalistic romanticism of “Koba”.

In the course of that year, according to Gogokhiya, Joseph developed and matured to such an extent that in his second year he began to lead a group of comrades at the seminary. If Beriya,[1] the most official of the historians, is to be believed, “in 1896-1897 Stalin led two Marxist circles at the Tiflis Theological Seminary.” Stalin himself was never led by anyone. Much more probable is Iremashvili’s story. Ten seminarists among them Soso Djugashvili, organized, according to him, a secret socialist circle. “The oldest undergraduate, Devdariyani, elected leader, undertook his task in all seriousness.” He worked out, or rather received from his inspirers outside the walls of the seminary, a program according to which the members of the circle had to train themselves within six years into accomplished Social-Democratic leaders. The program began with Cosmogony and finished with a Communist society. At the secret meetings .of the circle papers were read, accompanied by a heated exchange of opinions. Matters were not limited, Gogokhiya assures us, to oral propaganda. Joseph “founded and edited” in the Georgian language a manuscript journal which appeared twice a month and circulated from hand to hand. The wideawake Inspector Abashidze once found on Joseph’s person “a notebook with an article for our manuscript magazine”. Similar publications, irrespective of their contents, were strictly forbidden, not only in theological, but even in lay institutions of education. Since the result of Abashidze’s discovery was only a “warning” and a bad mark in behavior, we are bound to conclude that the magazine was rather innocuous. It is noteworthy that the very thoroughgoing Iremashvili says nothing at all about that magazine.

[1] Lavrentii Pavlovich Beriya (1899- ), People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, head of the political police of the Soviet Union, was for many years head of the G.P.U. of Georgia. Hitherto known only as a ruthless Chekist, he acquired sudden fame as an historian after the publication of his lecture, “On the Question of the History of Bolshevik Organizations in Trans-Caucasia,” originally delivered to the Communist Party activists of Tiflis at two sessions, July 21 and 22, 1935. In those lectures he created a romantic early revolutionary career for Stalin. Today Beriya is one of Stalins most trusted lieutenants.—C. M.

In the seminary Joseph must have sensed his poverty even more sharply than in preparatory school. “… He had no money,” Gogokhiya mentions by the way, “while we received from our parents packages and pin money. During the two hours allowed for sojourning outside the school walls, Joseph could not afford any of the things accessible to the sons of the more privileged families. All the more unbridled were his dreams and plans of the future and more marked the effect on his instincts in dealing with his schoolmates.

”As boy and youth,” testifies Iremashvili, “he was a good friend to those who submitted to his domineering will”. But only to those. The more imperative was self-restraint in the presence of his preceptors, the more freely did his despotism assert itself in the circle of his comrades. The secret circle, fenced off from the entire world, became the natural arena on which Joseph tried his strength and the endurance of others. “He deemed it something unnatural,” writes Iremashvili, “that any other fellow-student might he a leader and organizer of the group .. . since he read the greater part of the papers”. Whoever dared to refute him or even to attempt to explain something to him, immediately evoked his “merciless enmity”. Joseph knew how to persecute and how to avenge himself. He knew how to strike at weak spots. Under such circumstances the initial solidarity of the circle could not long endure. In his struggle for mastery, Koba, “with his supercilious and poisonous cynicism, injected personal squabbles into the society of his friends”. These complaints about his “poisonous cynicism,” his rudeness and his vengefulness, occur many, many times during Koba’s life.

In the rather fantastic biography written by Essad-Bey it is told that presumably prior to his seminary days young Joseph led a vagabond life in Tiflis in the company of “kintos”—heroes of the street, fast talkers, singers and hooligans—and that from them he acquired his crude ways and his virtuosity at swearing. All of that is quite obvious invention. From the theological school Joseph went directly to the seminary, so that there was no interval left for vagabondage. But the point is that the nickname “kinto” does not occupy the last place in the Caucasian dictionary. It signifies a clever schemer, a cynic, a person capable of the lowest sort of conniving. In the autumn of 1923 I first heard that appellation with reference to Stalin from the lips of the old Georgian Bolshevik Philip Makharadze. Is it not possible that this sobriquet had been acquired by Joseph in his more youthful years and gave birth to the legend concerning the street chapter of his life?

The same biographer speaks of the “heavy fist,” with the aid of which Joseph Djugashvili presumably assured himself of his triumph on the occasions when peaceful means proved ill-suited. That too is hard to believe. Risky “direct action” was never a part of Stalin’s character, in all likelihood not even in those remote years. He preferred and knew how to find others to do the actual fighting, himself remaining in the shadows if not altogether behind the curtains. “What brought him adherents,” states Iremashvili, “was fear of his crude anger and his vicious mockery. His partisans surrendered to his leadership, because they felt secure under his power … Only such human types as were quite poor spiritually and inclined to fights could become his friends …” The inevitable results were not far behind. Some members of the circle left, others took less and less interest in the discussions. “Two groups, for and against Koba, formed in the course of a few years; the struggle for a cause developed into a disgusting personal squabble …” This was the first big “squabble” on Joseph’s path of life, but it was not the last. Many of them were ahead.

It is impossible not to tell here, although considerably anticipating, how Stalin, already the General Secretary of the Communist Party, having painted at one of the sessions of the Central Committee a depressing picture of the personal intrigues and squabbles which were developing in the various local committees of the Party, quite unexpectedly added: “but these squabbles have also their positive side, because they lead to the monolithicism of leadership”. His hearers looked at each other in surprise; the orator continued his report undisturbed. The essence of that “monolithicism” even in his youthful years was not always identical with the idea. Says Iremashvili: “His concern was not with finding and determining the truth; he would contend against or defend that which he had previously affirmed or condemned. Victory and triumph were much more precious to him.”

It is impossible to ascertain the nature of Joseph’s views in those days, since they left no traces in writing. According to Soso Iremashvili, his namesake stood for the most forcible actions and for “the dictatorship of the minority”. The participation of a purposeful imagination in the work of memory is quite obvious here: at the end of the past century the very question of “dictatorship” did not yet exist. “Koba’s extreme views did not take form,” continues Iremashvili, “in consequence of ‘objective study,’ but came as the natural product of his personal will to power and of his merciless ambition, which dominated him physically and spiritually.” Behind the undoubted prejudice in the judgments of the former Menshevik one must know how to find the kernel of truth. In Stalin’s spiritual life, the personal, practical aim always stood above the theoretical truth, and the will played an immeasurably greater part than the intellect.

Iremashvili makes one more psychological observation, which, although it contains a measure of retrospective evaluation, still remains extremely pertinent: Joseph “saw everywhere and in everything only the negative, the bad side, and had no faith at all in men’s idealistic motives or attributes”. This point of view, which had already revealed itself during his youth, when the entire world is usually still covered with the film of idealism, was in the future to run through Joseph’s entire life as its leit-motif. Precisely because of that, Stalin, despite the other prominent traits of his character, was to remain in the background during periods of historical progress, when the finest qualities of selflessness and heroism awaken among the masses. Inversely, his cynical disbelief in men and his special ability to appeal to the worst in their nature were to find ample scope during the epoch of reaction, which crystallizes egoism and perfidy.

Joseph Djugashvili not only did not become a priest, as his mother had dreamed, but he did not even receive the certificate that could have opened for him the doors to certain provincial universities. As to how that happened and why, there are several versions, which cannot he readily reconciled. In reminiscences written in 1929, with obvious intent to eradicate the unfavorable impression of the reminiscences written by him in 1923, Abel Yenukidze states that at the seminary Joseph began to read secret books of harmful tendency. His offense did not escape the attention of the Inspector and hence the dangerous pupil “flew out of the seminary”. The official Caucasian historian Beriya informs us that Stalin was “expelled for unreliability”. There is, of course, nothing unlikely in that; similar expulsions were not infrequent. What does seem strange is that so far the seminary documents on that subject have not been published. That they have not been destroyed by fire and have not been lost in the maelstrom of the revolutionary years is apparent at least from the previously mentioned memorial shingle and even more so from the complete silence as to their fate. Are the documents being kept from publication because they contain inauspicious facts or because they refute certain legends of latter-day origin?

Most frequently one finds the assertion that Djugashvili was expelled for leading a Social-Democratic circle. His former classmate at the seminary, Elisabedashvili, not a very reliable witness, informs us that in the Social-Democratic circles, “organized by direction and under the leadership of Stalin,” there were “a hundred to one hundred twenty” seminarists. Had this referred to the years 1905-1906, when all the waters had overflowed their banks and all the authorities were in utter bewilderment, this might have been believed. But for the year 1899 that figure is utterly fantastic. Had the organization numbered as many members as that, the affairs could not have been limited to mere expulsion: the intervention of the gendarmes would have been quite unavoidable. Joseph nevertheless not only was not immediately arrested, but remained at liberty for nearly three years after leaving the seminary. Therefore, the version that the Social-Democratic circles were the cause of his expulsion has to be definitely rejected.

That issue is presented much more cautiously by Gogokhiya, who as a rule tries not to stray too far from the groundwork of facts. “Joseph stopped paying attention to his lessons,” he writes, “studied for no more than passing marks, so as to pass the examinations. The ferocious monk Abashidze guessed why the talented, well-developed Djugashvili, who possessed an incredibly rich memory, studied only for passing marks … and succeeded in obtaining a decision to expel him from the seminary.” As to what the monk had “guessed,” only more guesses are possible. From Gogokhiya’s words the conclusion is inevitable that Joseph was expelled from the seminary for failure in his studies, which was the result of his break with theological super-wisdom. The same conclusion might be drawn from Kapanadze’s story about the “break” which occurred at the time he studied in the Tiflis seminary: “he was no longer the assiduous pupil he had been before”. It is noteworthy that Kapanadze, Glurdzhidze and Elisabedashvili entirely avoid the question of Joseph’s expulsion from the seminary.

But most astounding of all is the circumstance that Stalin’s mother in the last period of her Life, when official historians and journalists began to take an interest in her, categorically denied the very fact of expulsion. At the time he entered the seminary the fifteen year old boy was remarkable, according to her words, for his glowing health, but close application to his studies exhausted him to such an extent that physicians feared tuberculosis. Ekaterina added that her son did not want to leave the seminary and that she “took” him against his will. That does not sound very likely. Ill health might have called for a temporary interruption of studies, but not for a complete break with the school, not for a mother’s complete repudiation of so alluring a career for her son. Also, in the year 1899 Joseph was already twenty years old, he was not distinguished by submissiveness, and it is hardly possible that his mother could have disposed of his fate so easily. Finally, after leaving the seminary, Joseph did not return to Gori and place himself under his mother’s wing, which would have been the most natural thing in the event of illness, but remained in Tiflis, without occupation and without means. Old Keke did not tell the whole truth when she talked with the journalists. It might be supposed that at the time his mother had regarded her son’s expulsion as a dire disgrace to herself, and since the event took place in Tiflis, she had assured her neighbors at Gori that her son had not been expelled but had voluntarily left the seminary because of the state of his health. To the old woman, moreover, it must have seemed that it was unbecoming for “the leader” of the State to have been expelled from school in his youth. It is hardly necessary to seek other, more recondite, reasons for the persistence with which Keke repeated, “he was not expelled, I took him out myself”.

But perhaps Joseph was not actually subjected to expulsion in the precise sense of the word. Such a version, perhaps the most likely, is given by Iremashvili. According to him, the seminary authorities, having become disappointed in their expectations, began to treat Joseph with ever-increasing disfavor and to find fault constantly. “It so developed that Koba, who was convinced of the fruitlessness of any earnest study, gradually became the worst pupil in the seminary. He would reply to the reproachful remarks of his teachers with his poisonous and contemptuous leer.” The certificate which the school authorities gave him for passing from the sixth to the last form was so bad that Koba himself decided to leave the seminary the year before graduation. Taking into consideration that explanation, it at once becomes clear why Yenukidze wrote “flew out of the seminary,” avoiding the more precise expressions, “was expelled,” or, “left the seminary”; why most of his schoolmates say nothing at all about that significant moment of Joseph’s seminary life; why no documents are published; why, finally, his mother felt she had the right to say that her son had not been expelled, although she herself gave the episode a different coloring, transferring responsibility from her son to herself. From the point of view of Stalin’s personal characterization or his political biography, the details of his break with the seminary have scarcely any significance. But they are not a bad illustration of the difficulties which totalitarian historiography places in the way of research even on such subsidiary questions.

Joseph entered the preparatory theological school at the age of eleven, in 1890, passed four years later into the seminary, and abandoned it in 1899, thus remaining altogether in the ecclesiastical schools for nine years. Georgians mature early. Joseph left the seminary a grown man, “without diploma,” writes Gogokhiya, “but with definite, firm views on life”. The nine year period of theological studies could not fail to have left a profound influence on his character, on the manner of his thought, and on his style, which form an essential part of personality.

The language of the family and of their milieu was Georgian. His mother, even in her old age, did not know Russian. The situation could scarcely have been otherwise with his father. The boy studied Russian speech only in school, where again the majority of the pupils were Georgians. The spirit of the Russian language, its free nature, its inherent rhythm, Joseph never acquired. Moreover he was called upon to study the foreign language, which was to take the place of his native tongue, in the stilted atmosphere of a theological school. He imbibed the turns of Russian speech together with the formulae of churchly scholasticism. He learned the speech itself, not as a natural and inseparable spiritual organ for the expression of his own feelings and thoughts, but as an artificial and external instrument for transmitting a foreign and hated mysticism. In later li fe he was even less able to become intimate with or to assimilate the language, to use it precisely or to ennoble it, because he habitually employed words to camouflage thought and feeling rather than to express them. Consequently, Russian always remained for him not only a language half-foreign and makeshift, but, far worse for his consciousness, conventional and strained.

It is not hard to understand that from the moment Joseph inwardly broke with religion the study of homiletics and liturgy became insufferable to him. What is hard to understand is how he was able to lead a double life for such a long time. If we are to credit the tale that at the early age of thirteen Soso had counterposed Darwin to the Bible, we must conclude that from then on for seven whole years he patiently studied theology, although with diminishing eagerness. Stalin himself placed the inception of his revolutionary Wettanschauung at the fifteenth or sixteenth year of his life. It is quite possible that he turned away from religion two or three years before he turned toward socialism. But even if we were to allow that both changes occurred simultaneously, we shall see that the young atheist in the course of five whole years continued to explore the mysteries of Orthodoxy.

True, in Tsarist educational Institutions many free-thinking youths were obliged to lead a double life. But that has reference principally to universities, where the régime nevertheless was distinguished by considerable freedom and where official hypocrisy was reduced to a ritualistic minimum. In the middle schools this divergence was more difficult to endure, but it usually lasted only a year or two, when the youth saw ahead of him the doors of the university, with its relative academic freedom. The situation of young Djugashvili was extraordinary. He did not study in a lay educational institution, where the pupils were under surveillance only part of the day and where the so-called “Religion” was actually one of the secondary subjects; but in a closed educational institution, where all of his life was subjected to the demands of the church and where his every step was taken before the eyes of the monks. In order to endure this régime for seven or even five years, extraordinary cautiousness and an exceptional aptitude for dissimulation were needed. During the years of his sojourn in the seminary no one noticed any kind of open protest by him, any bold act of indignation. Joseph laughed at his teachers behind their backs, but he was never impudent to their faces. He did not slap any chauvinistic pedagogue, as Dzhibladze had done; the most he did was to retort “with a contemptuous leer”. His hostility was reserved, underhanded, watchful. The seminarist Pomyalovsky during his life as a pupil was, as we heard, inoculated with “suspiciousness, secretiveness, enmity and hatred for the surrounding milieu”. Almost the same attitude, but even more pointed, Iremashvili states, was characteristic of Koba: “In 1899 he Id t the seminary, taking with him a vicious, ferocious enmity against the school administration, against the bourgeoisie, against everything that existed in the country and embodied Tsarism. Hatred against all authority.”

Chapter II: “Professional revolutionist”[edit source]

IN 1883, when Soso was going on his fourth year, Baku, the oil capital of the Caucasus, was connected by rail with the Black Sea port of Batum. To the backbone of its mountain ranges, the Caucasus added its backbone of railways. After the oil industry the manganese industry began to grow. In 1896, when Soso had already begun to have dreams about the name of Koba, the first strike in the railway shops of Tiflis broke out.

In the development of ideas, as in industry, the Caucasus was in the tow of Central Russia. During the second half of the ’nineties, beginning in Petersburg, the ruling tendency of the radical intelligentsia was toward Marxism. When Koba was still pining away in the fusty atmosphere of seminarist theology, the Social-Democratic movement had already managed to attain broad dimensions. A tempestuous wave of strikes was rolling over the length and breadth of the land. At first the initial hundreds, and then thousands of intellectuals and workers suffered arrest and banishment. A new chapter opened in the revolutionary movement.

In 1901, when Koba became a member of the Tiflis Committee, there were approximately forty thousand industrial workers in Transcaucasia engaged in nine thousand enterprises, without counting the artisan shops. A negligible number, considering the extent and the riches of this region, washed by two seas; yet, the corner stones of Social-Democratic propaganda were already at hand. Fountains of Baku oil, the first extractions of Chitaurian manganese, the vivifying activities of the railways, these gave an impetus, not only to the strike movement of the workers, but also to the theoretical thought of the Georgian intelligentsia. The liberal newspaper Kvali (The Furrow) recorded, in surprise rather than with hostility, the appearance on the political arena of representatives of the new movement: “Since 1893 young men representing a singular trend and advocating a unique program have been contributing to Georgian publications; they are supporters of the theory of economic materialism.” To distinguish them from the progressive nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie, which dominated the preceding decade, the Marxists were given the nickname “Mesame-dasi “, meaning “the third group”. At the head of it was Noah Jordania,[1] the future leader of the Caucasian Mensheviks and the future head of the ephemeral Georgian democracy.

[1] Noi Nikolayevich Zhordaniya (1868-1953), also known as An, Kostrov, etc., was member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party’s Central Committee after 1907, a defensist during World War I, First President of the First Georgian Republic (1918-1921) until the invasion of his country by the Red Army, when he escaped to France.—C. M.

The petty bourgeois intellectuals of Russia, who aspired to escape the oppression of the police régime and the backwardness of that impersonal ant-heap which was the old society, were obliged to jump over the intervening stages because of the country’s extremely belated development. Protestantism and Democracy, under whose banner the revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had taken place in the West, had long ago become transformed into conservative doctrines. The semi-mendicant Caucasian Bohemians could nowise be tempted by liberal abstractions. Their hostility to the privileged classes had acquired a natural social coloration. For the impending battle ahead these intellectuals needed a fresh theory, one that had not yet been compromised. They found that in Western Socialism, in its highest scientific expression –Marxism. The point at issue was no longer equality before God or equality before the law, but economic equality. Actually, by resorting to the remote Socialist perspective, the intellectuals insured their anti-Tsarist struggle against the skepticism that threatened it prematurely in consequence of the disillusioning experiences of Western Democracy. These conditions and circumstances determined the character of Russian, and even more so of Caucasian, Marxism, which was exceedingly limited and primitive because it was adapted to the political needs of backward, provincial intellectuals. Itself lacking in theoretical realism, that Marxism nevertheless rendered a very real service to the intellectuals in that it inspired them in their struggle against Tsarism.

The critical edge of the Marxism of the ’nineties was directed first of all against jejune Populism,[2] which superstitiously feared capitalistic development, hoping to find for Russia “exceptional”, privileged historical paths. The defense of the progressive mission of capitalism became therefore the principal theme of the Marxism of the intellectuals, who not infrequently pushed into the background the program of the proletarian class struggle. In the legal press Noah Jordania preached assiduously the unity of the “nation’s” interests: in connection with that he had in mind the necessity of the union of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie against the autocracy. The idea of such a union was subsequently to become the cornerstone of Menshevik policy and in the end was to cause their ruin. Official Soviet historians continue to this very day to take cognizance of Jordania’s idea, and to present it in all sorts of ways, although it was long ago lost in the course of battle. At the same time they shut their eyes to the fact that three decades later Stalin was applying that Menshevik policy not only in China but in Spain and even in France, and under circumstances immeasurably less justifiable than those prevailing when feudal Georgia was under the heel of Tsarism.

But even in those days, Jordania’s ideas did not meet with universal recognition. In 1895, Sasha Tsulukidze,[3] who subsequently became one of the outstanding propagandists of the Left Wing, joined Mesame-dasi . He died of tuberculosis at twenty-nine, in 1905, leaving behind him a number of journalistic works which testified to his considerable Marxist training and literary talent. In 1897 the ranks of Mesame-dasi were joined by Lado Ketskhoveli[4] who, like Koba, was a former pupil of the Gori theological school and of the Tiflis seminary. He was, however, several years older than Koba and had served him as a guide during the first stages of his revolutionary career. Yenukidze recalled in 1923, when memoirists still enjoyed sufficient freedom, that “Stalin many times stressed with amazement the extraordinary talents of the late Comrade Ketskhoveli who even in those days knew how to pose questions correctly in the spirit of revolutionary Marxism.” That testimony, especially the reference to “amazement,” refutes the more recent tales that even then the leadership was Koba’s and that Tsulukidze and Ketskhoveli were merely his “assistants”. It might also he added that young Tsulukidze’s articles in their content and form rank considerably higher than anything Koba wrote two or three years later.

[2] See Glossary.

[3] Aleksandr Grigoryevich Tsulukidze (1876-1905) died June to, 1905.—C. M.

[4] Vladimir Zakharyevich Ketskfioveli (1877-1903) died August 1903, shot by his prison guard.—C. M.

Having taken his place in the Left Wing of Mesame-dasi, Ketskhoveli drew young Djugashvili into it the following year. At that time it was not a revolutionary organization, but a circle of like-minded people centering around the legal newspaper Kvali, which in 1898 passed from the hands of the liberals into the hands of the young Marxists, led by Jordania.

”In secret we frequently visited the offices of Kvali,” relates Iremashvili. “Koba went with us several times, but later made fun of the members of the editorial board.” The differences of opinion in the Marxist camp in those days, however elementary they might have been, were nevertheless quite substantial in character. The Moderate Wing did not really believe in revolution, still less that it was near, reckoning on prolonged “progress” and longing for a union with the bourgeois liberals. The Left Wing, on the other hand, sincerely hoped for a revolutionary upheaval of the masses and therefore stood for a more independent policy. In essence the Left Wing consisted of revolutionary democrats who fell into a natural opposition to the “Marxist” semi-liberals. Because of his early environment as well as his personal character, it was natural that Soso should instinctively incline toward the Left Wing. A plebeian democrat of the provincial type, armed with a rather primitive “Marxist” doctrine—it was as such that he entered the revolutionary movement, and such in essence he remained to the very end, despite the fantastic orbit of his personal fate.

The differences of opinion between the two still vaguely differentiated groups temporarily converged on the question of propaganda and agitation. Some stood for circumspect educational work among small groups; others, for leadership of strikes and for agitation by means of leaflets. When those who favored mass work won out, the subject of their differences became the content of the leaflets. The more circumspect stood for agitation on the ground of exclusively economic needs, determined to “refrain from frightening the masses”. They received from their opponents the contemptuous appellation of “Economists.” The Left Wing, on the other hand, deemed unpostponable the transition to revolutionary agitation against Tsarism. Such was Plekhanov’s position among the émigrés abroad. Such in Russia was the position of Vladimir Ulyanov and his friends. The first Social-Democratic groups arose in Tiflis,” relates one of the pioneers. “As early as 1896-1897 that city had circles in which workers were the preponderant element. These circles were at first of a purely educational character … The number of these circles constantly increased. In 1900 they already numbered several score. Each circle consisted of ten to fifteen people.” With the growth of the number of circles, their activity became bolder.

In 1898, while still a seminary student, Koba established contact with workers and joined the Social-Democratic organization. “One evening Koba and I,” recollects Iremashvili, “secretly made our way from the seminary at Mtatsminda to a small house, which stood leaning against a cliff and which belonged to a worker of the Tiflis Railway. After us, secretly arrived others from the seminary who shared our views. There also met with us a Social-Democratic labor organization of railway workers.” Stalin himself told about it in 1926 at a meeting in Tiflis:

I recall the year 1898, when the first circle of workers from the railway shops was assigned to me. I remember how in the home of Comrade Sturua, in the presence of Sylvester Dzhibladze (he was at that time one of my teachers) … and other advanced workers of Tiflis, I received lessons in practical work… . Here, in the circle of these comrades, I then received my first revolutionary baptism by fire: here, in the circle of these comrades, I then became a pupil of the revolution …

In the years 1898-1900, in the railway shops and in a number of Tiflis factories, strikes broke out with the active, and at times leading, participation of young Social-Democrats. Proclamations, printed by hand with the aid of a bootblack brush in an underground printing shop, were distributed among the workers. The movement was still developing in the spirit of “economism”. Part of the illegal work fell to Koba; exactly what part it is not easy to determine. But apparently he had already managed to become an initiate in the world of the revolutionary underground.

In 19oo Lenin, who had just then completed his Siberian exile, went abroad with the express intention of founding a revolutionary newspaper, in order, with its aid, to muster the scattered party and to switch it definitely onto the rails of revolutionary endeavor. Simultaneously an old revolutionist, the engineer Victor Kurnatovsky, who was confidentially initiated into these plans, journeyed from Siberia to Tiflis. It was he, and not Koba, as the Byzantine historians now aver, who brought the Tiflis Social-Democracy out of its “economistic” limitations and invested its activities with a more revolutionary trend.

Kurnatovsky had begun his revolutionary activity with the terroristic Narodnaya Volya (”People’s Will”) party. At the time of his third exile, toward the end of the century, he, who was already a Marxist, became very friendly with Lenin and his circle. The newspaper Iskra (The Spark), founded abroad by Lenin, whose adherents began to be known as Iskrovites, had in the person of Kurnatovsky its principal representative in the Caucasus. Old Tiflis workers recall: “On the occasion of any arguments and discussions all the comrades turned to Kurnatovsky. His conclusions and judgments were always accepted without argument.” From that testimony one gathers the significance for the Caucasus of this tireless and inflexible revolutionist, whose personal fate was composed of two elements: the heroic and the tragic.

In 1900, undoubtedly upon Kurnatovsky’s initiative, the Tiflis Committee of the Social-Democratic Party was established. It was composed entirely of intellectuals. Koba, who evidently fell soon after, like many others, under Kurnatovsky’s spell, was not yet a member of that committee which, incidentally, did not long survive. From May through August, a wave of strikes affected Tiflis business establishments; among the strikers of the railroad shops are listed the locksmith Kalinin, the future President of the Soviet Republic, and another Russian worker, Alliluyev, Stalin’s future father-in-law.

In the meantime, in the North, upon the initiative of university students, a cycle of street demonstrations hegan. A large First of May demonstration at Kharkov in 190o brought to its feet a majority of the city’s workers and aroused an echo of amazement and exultation throughout the country. Other cities followed suit. “The Social-Democracy understood,” wrote the Gendarme General Spiridovich, “the tremendous agitational significance of going forth into the street. From then on it took upon itself the initiative for demonstrations, attracting to them an ever greater number of workers. Not infrequently the street demonstrations grew out of strikes.” Tiflis did not remain quiet for long. The First of May celebration—let us not forget that the old calendar still reigned in Russia—was marked on April 22, 1901, by a street demonstration in the heart of the city, in which nearly two thousand people took part. At the time of the encounter with the police and the Cossacks, fourteen were wounded and more than fifty of the rioters arrested. Iskra did not neglect to notice the important symptomatic significance of the Tiflis demonstration: “From that day on an open revolutionary movement began in the Caucasus.”

Kurnatovsky, who was in charge of the preparatory work, had been arrested on the night of March the twenty-second, a month before the demonstration. That same night a search was made in the observatory where Koba was employed; but he was not caught because he was away at the time. The gendarme administration resolved “… to locate the aforementioned Joseph Djugashvili and to question the accused.” Thus Koba passed to the “status of illegality” and became a “professional revolutionist” for a long time to come. He was then twenty-two years old. There still remained sixteen years before the victory would be won.

Having escaped arrest, Koba spent the next few weeks in hiding at Tiflis, and so managed to take part in the May Day demonstration. Beriya states that categorically, adding, as always, that Stalin “personally” led it. Unfortunately, Beriya is not to be trusted. In this case, however, there is also the testimony of Iremashvili, who, it is true, was at that time not in Tiflis but in Gori where he had become a teacher. “Koba, as one of the leaders who were being sought,” he says, “managed to hide by leaving the market square as he was on the verge of arrest … He fled to his home town of Gori. He could not live in his mother’s lodgings, because that was the first place where he would be sought. He therefore had to hide even in Gori. Secretly, during the hours of the night, he frequently visited me at my lodgings.”

The Tiflis demonstration made an exceedingly strong impression on Koba. “Not without alarm” Iremashvili had noticed that it was precisely the bloody outcome of the clash that had inspired his friend. “The movement was to grow strong in a life and death struggle: in the opinion of Koba the bloody struggle was to bring the quickest decision.” Iremashvili did not guess that his friend was merely repeating the preachings of Iskra .

From Gori Koba evidently again returned illegally to Tiflis, for according to the information of the gendarme administration, “in the Autumn of 1901 Djugashvili was elected to the Tiflis Committee … participated in two sessions of that committee, and toward the end of 1901 was assigned to propaganda activity in Batum …” Since the gendarmes were not inclined toward any “trend” other than the catching of revolutionists, and were, thanks to the internal agency, usually well informed, we can consider it established that in 1898-1901, Koba did not play the leading role in Tiflis which has been ascribed to him in recent years; until the fall of 1901 he was not even a member of his local committee, but was merely one of the propagandists, that is, a leader of circles.

Toward the end of 1901, Koba moved from Tiflis to Batum on the shores of the Black Sea, close to the Turkish border. This move can be explained on the grounds of double necessity—to hide from the eyes of the Tiflis police and to introduce revolutionary propaganda in the provinces. Menshevik publications, however, give another reason. According to them, from the very first days of his activities in workers’ circles Djugashvili attracted attention to himself by his intrigues against Dzhibladze, the principal leader of the Tiflis organization. In spite of warnings, he continued to spread slander “for the purpose of undermining the true and recognized representatives of the movement and in order to obtain a leading position.” Placed on trial before a Party court, Koba was found guilty of slander unbecoming a comrade and unanimously expelled from the organization. There is hardly any possibility of verifying that story, which comes, we must not forget, from Stalin’s bitterest opponents. The documents of the Tiflis gendarme administration—at any rate, those that have been published to date—say nothing at all about Joseph Djugashvili’s expulsion from the Party, and on the contrary, speak of his assignment to Batum “for propaganda”. We might therefore set aside the Menshevik version without further ado if other testimony did not indicate that his removal to Batum was the result of some unpleasantness.

One of the first and most conscientious historians of the labor movement in the Caucasus was T. Arkomed, whose book was published in Geneva in 191o. In it, he tells about the bitter conflict that broke out in the Tiflis organization in the autumn of 1901 over the question of inducting into the committee elected representatives of the workers: “Against it spoke a certain young, indiscriminately ‘energetic,’ and in all matters intelligent comrade, who, pleading conspirative considerations, the lack of preparation and the lack of class consciousness among the workers, came out against admitting workers into the committee. Turning to the workers, he ended his speech with the words: ‘Here they flatter the workers; I ask you, are there among you even one or two workers fit for the committee? Tell the truth, placing your hand on your heart!’” The workers, however, did not listen to the orator and voted to include their representatives on the committee. Arkomed did not mention the name of that “indiscriminately energetic” young man, for in those days circumstances did not permit the disclosure of narres. In 1923, when this book was republished by the Soviet publishing house, that name remained undisclosed, and, we are prone to think, not through oversight. The book itself, however, contains a valuable indirect clue. “The aforementioned young comrade,” Arkomed continues, “transferred his activity from Tiflis to Batum, from where the Tiflis workers received information about his unseemly behavior, his hostile and disorganizing agitation against the Tiflis organization and its workers.” According to this author, the hostile behavior was dictated not by motives based on principle, but “by personal caprice and the striving for absolute power.” All of this is similar to what we have heard from Iremashvili concerning the squabble in the seminary circle. The “young man” closely resembles Koba. There can be no doubt that the reference was to him, since numerous reminiscences attest that he was the only one of the Tiflis Committee who went to Batum in November, 1901. It is therefore probable that the change in his sphere of activity was made because Tiflis became too hot to hold him. If not actually “expelled,” he may have been removed merely to make the atmosphere of Tiflis healthier. From that, in turn, follows Koba’s “incorrect attitude” toward the Tiflis organisation and the subsequent rumors about his expulsion. Let us note at the same time the cause of the conflict: Koba was protecting “the apparat “ [political machine] against pressure from below.

Batum, which at the beginning of the century had a population of nearly thirty thousand, was a significant industrial center in the Caucasus, according to the scale of those days. The number of workers in the factories reached almost eleven thousand. The working day, as was quite customary then, exceeded fourteen hours, at wretched pay. It is no wonder then that the proletariat was in the highest degree responsive to revolutionary propaganda. As in Tiflis, Koba did not have to begin from scratch: illegal circles had been inexistence at Batum since 1896. Co-operating with the worker Kandelyaki, Koba extended the network of these circles. At a New Year’s Eve party they united to form a single organization, which however was not granted the prerogatives of a committee and remained dependent upon Tiflis. This evidently was one of the causes of the new friction to which Arkomed alluded. Koba, as a rule, could not endure anyone in authority over him.

At the beginning of 1902 the Batum organization managed to establish an illegal printshop, a very primitive one, which was located at Koba’s lodgings. This direct violation of the rules of conspiracy was undoubtedly due to the dearth of material resources. “A crowded little room dimly lighted with a kerosene lamp. At a small round table Stalin sits and writes. To one side of him is the printing press, at which several typesetters are busy. The type is laid out in match and cigarette boxes and on pieces of paper. Stalin frequently hands over to the typesetters what has just been written.” That is how one of the participants of the organization recalls the scene. It must be added that the text of the proclamation was approximately on the same level as the technique of printing. Somewhat later, with the co-operation of the Armenian revolutionist Kamo, something like a printing press, a cash register and type were brought in from Tiflis. The print shop widened and became more efficient. The literary level of the proclamations remained the same. But that did not detract from their influence.

On February the twenty-fifth, 1902, the management of Rotschild’s kerosene plant posted a notice which proclaimed the dismissal of 389 workers. In reply a strike broke out on the twenty-seventh. The disturbance affected other factories as well. There were clashes with strike-breakers. The police chief asked the governor to help him with troops. On the seventh of March the police arrested 32 workers. The following morning almost 400 workers of the Rotschild plant gathered at the prison, demanding either the release of those under arrest or the arrest of all the others. The police moved all of them into deportation barracks. At that time the feeling of solidarity was welding the laboring masses of Russia doser together, and this new unity asserted itself in a new way each time in the most desolate corners of the country; the revolution was only three years off … The very next day, on the ninth of March, a bigger demonstration took place. The barracks were approached, according to the indictment, by “a huge crowd of workers, with leaders at their head, marching in well-formed ranks, with song, noise and whistling.” There were nearly two thousand people in that crowd. The workers Khimiryants and Gogoberidze, as spokesmen, demanded that the military authorities either liberate the imprisoned ones or arrest all. The crowd, as the court later acknowledged, was “in a peaceful mood and unarmed”. The authorities managed, however, to bring it out of its peaceful mood. The workers responded to the attempt of the soldiers to clear the square with their rifle butts by throwing stones. The troops began to shoot, killing 14 and wounding 54. The occurrence stirred the entire country: in the beginning of the century human nerves reacted with far greater sensitiveness to mass slaughter than they do now.

What was Koba’s role in that demonstration? It is not easy to say. Soviet compilers are torn between contradictory problems: to ascribe to Stalin participation in the greatest possible number of revolutionary events, and at the same time to expand as much as possible the terms of his imprisonment and exile. Court artists have been known, in portraying two concurrent events, to represent Stalin at one and the same moment as a hero of the streets and a prison martyr. On April twenty-seventh, 1937, the official Moscow Izvestiya published the photograph of a painting by the artist E. Khutsishvili, portraying Stalin as organizer of the strike of the Tiflis railroad workers in 1902. The next day the editorial board was compelled to apologize for the error. “From the biography of Comrade Stalin,” its statement proclaimed, “it is known that he … from February, 1902, until the end of 1903 was in the Batum and Kutais prisons. Therefore, Comrade Stalin could not have been the organizer of the strike at Tbilisi (Tiflis) in 1902. Asked about that, Comrade Stalin declared that portraying him as the organizer of the railway strike at Tbilisi in 1902, from the point of view of historical truth, is a complete misunderstanding, since at that time he was in prison in Batum.” But if it is true that Stalin was in prison from February, then “from the point of view of historical truth” he could not have led the Batum demonstration, which occurred in March. However, on that occasion not only did the assiduous artist err badly, but likewise the Izvestiya editorial board, despite its reference to the primary source. Koba was, as a matter of fact, arrested not in February, but in March. He could not have led the Tiflis strike, not because he was in prison but because he was on the shores of the Black Sea. There is still the possibility that he participated in the Batum events. It remains only to discover the nature of this participation.

Stalin’s French biographer, Barbusse, who wrote to the Kremlin’s dictation, asserts that Koba took his place at the head of the Batum demonstration “as a target”. That flattering phrase contradicts not only the evidence of the police records but the very nature of Stalin, who never and nowhere took his place as a target (which, by the way, is not at all necessary). The publishing house of the Central Committee, which is directly under Stalin’s orders, in 1937 devoted an entire volume to the Batum demonstration, or rather, to Stalin’s part in it. However, the 240 handsome pages complicated the question even more, because the dictated “reminiscences” are at complete variance with the partial accounts previously published. “Comrade Soso was constantly on the scene of action and guided the central strike committee,” Todria writes obligingly. “Comrade Soso was always with us,” affirms Gogoberidze. The old Batum worker Darakhvelidze says that Soso was “in the midst of the tempestuous sea of workers, directly leading the movement; he personally led out of the mob the worker G. Kalandadze, who was wounded in the arm during the shooting, and took him home.” The leader could scarcely have abandoned his post in order to rescue one wounded man; the duties of a stretcher hearer could have heen discharged by any rank and file participant of the demonstration. None of the other authors, and they number twenty-six, mentioned that dubious episode. But in the final reckoning that is a mere detail. The tales concerning Koba as the direct leader of the demonstration are more conclusively refuted by the circumstance that the demonstration, as became only too clear in court, took place without any leadership whatever. Despite the insistence of the prosecutor, the Tsarist court admitted that even the workers Gogoberidze and Khimiryants, who actually marched at the head of the crowd, were only rank and file participants of the procession. The name of Djugashvili, despite the great number of defendants and witnesses, was not so much as mentioned throughout the court trial. The legend thus collapses of itself. Koba’s participation in the Batum events was apparently of an obscure character.

After the demonstration Koba, according to Beriya, carried through “tremendous” work, writing proclamations, organizing their printing and distribution, transforming the funeral procession in honor of the victims of the ninth of March into “a grandiose political demonstration,” and the like. Unfortunately, these prescribed exaggerations are not supported by anything at all. At that time Koba was being sought by the police and could hardly have displayed “tremendous” activity in a small town where, according to the same writer, he had previously played a prominent role before the eyes of the demonstrating crowd, the police, the troops and observers in the street. On the night of April fifth, during a session of the leading party group, Koba was arrested along with other collaborators and lodged in prison. Wearisome days began. Many of them.

Published documents disclose at this juncture an exceedingly interesting episode. Three days after Koba’s arrest, during the regular meeting between the prisoners and their visitors, someone threw two notes out of a window into the prison yard, reckoning that one of the visitors might pick them up and take them to their indicated destination. One of these notes contained a request to look up the school teacher Soso Iremashvili at Gori and to tell him that “Soso Djugashvili has been arrested and asks him immediately to inform his mother about it, so that in case the gendarme should ask her When did thy son leave Gori?’ she would say, ‘All summer and winter until the fifteenth of March he was here.’ “ The second note addressed to the teacher Elisabedashvili, touched upon the need to continue revolutionary activities. Both scraps of paper were intercepted by the prison guards, and the gendarme cavalry captain Djakeli without much difficulty reached the conclusion that the author was Djugashvili and that he had “played a prominent role in the labor troubles at Batum”. Djakeli immediately sent to the chief of the Tiflis gendarme administration a demand to search Iremashvili’s lodgings, to question Djugashvili’s mother and also to search and arrest Elisabedashvili. About the consequences of these operations the documents say nothing.

It is with relief that we greet on the pages of an official publication a name already familiar to us: Soso Iremashvili. True, Beriya had already mentioned him among the members of the seminary circle, but he said very little about the relationship of the two Sosos. However, the nature of one of the notes intercepted by the police is incontestable proof that the author of the reminiscences to which we have already referred more than once was actually on intimate terms with Koba. It is to him, his childhood friend, that the man under arrest entrusts his instruction to his mother. It likewise confirms the fact that Iremashvili also enjoyed the confidence of Keke, who, as he tells us, called him in childhood her “second Soso.” The note dispels the last doubts concerning the credibility of his very valuable reminiscences, which are entirely ignored by Soviet historians. The instructions which Koba as confirmed by his own depositions during the interrogation, attempted to transmit to his mother, were intended to deceive the gendarmes as to the time of his arrival in Baku and thus to keep him out of the impending trial. There is no reason, of course, to see anything prejudicial in that attempt. The deception of gendarmes was a rule in that very serious game which was called revolutionary conspiracy. However one cannot help pausing with amazement at the carelessness with which Koba subjected two of his comrades to danger. The purely political aspect of his act merits no less attention. It would be natural to expect a revolutionist who had helped to prepare a demonstration that had ended so tragically to desire to share the prisoners’ dock with the rank and file workers. Not for sentimental considerations, but in order to shed political light on the events and to condemn the behavior of the authorities—that is, in order to utilize the tribune of the courtroom for purposes of revolutionary propaganda. Such opportunities were not any too frequent! The absence of such desire in Koba can be explained only by the narrowness of his outlook. It is quite evident that he did not understand the political significance of the demonstration and that his chief aim was to escape its consequences.

The very plot to deceive the gendarmes would not have been feasible, we might say, if Koba had actually led the street procession and had been marching at the head of the crowd, had offered himself as a “target”. In that event scores of witnesses would inevitably have identified him. Koba could have stayed out of the trial only if his participation in the demonstration had remained secret, anonymous. Actually, only one police constable, Chkhiknadze, testified at the preliminary investigation that he had seen Djugashvili “in the crowd” before the prison. But the testimony of a single policeman could not carry any great weight as evidence. At any rate, despite that testimony and the interception of Koba’s own notes, he was not indicted in the case of the demonstration. The trial was held a year later and lasted nine days. The political direction of the court arguments was relegated entirely to the tender mercies of liberal lawyers. They did indeed obtain minimum punishments for the twenty-one defendants, but only at the price of lessening the revolutionary significance of the Batum events.

The police constable who made the arrests of the Batum organization’s leaders characterized Koba in his report as one “who had been expelled from the theological seminary, living in Batum without written documents or definite occupation and without lodgings of his own, the Gori denizen Joseph Djugashvili.” The reference to expulsion from the seminary is not documentary in character, for a simple constable could have no archives at his disposal, and was apparently repeating rumors in his written report; far more significant is the reference to the f act that Koba had no passport, no definite occupation nor place of residence: the three typical characteristics of the revolutionary troglodyte.

In the old and neglected provincial prisons of Batum, Kutais, and again Batum, Koba spent more than a year and a half. In those days that was the customary period of imprisonment while awaiting investigation and banishment. The régime of the prisons, as of the country as a whole, combined barbarism with paternalism. Peaceable and even familiar relations with the prison administration would be suddenly terminated by stormy protests, when the prisoners would bang their boots against the doors of their cells, shout, whistle, break up the dishes and the furniture. After the storm subsided there would again be a lull. Lolua tells briefly about one such explosion in the Kutais prison—of course, “upon the initiative and under the leadership of Stalin.” There is no reason for doubting that Koba played a prominent part in prison conflicts and that in contacts with the prison administration he knew how to defend himself and others.

”He established an orderly routine in his prison life,” Kalandadze wrote thirty-five years later. “He rose early in the morning, exercised, then set to studying the German language and economic literature … He liked to share with his comrades his impressions of the books he had just read …” It is not at all difficult to imagine a list of those books: popular compositions on natural science; a bit from Darwin; Lippert’s “History of Culture;” perhaps Buckle and Draper in translations of the ’seventies; the “Biographies of Great Men” in Pavlenkov’s edition; the economic teachings of Marx, as expounded by the Russian professor Sieber; something or other on the history of Russia; Beltov’s famous book on historical materialism (under this pseudonym the émigré Plekhanov appeared in legal literature); finally, the weighty investigation of the development of Russian capitalism, published in 1899, written by the exile V. Ulyanov, the future N. Lenin, under his legal pseudonym of V. Ilyin. All of those were there, more or less. In the theoretical knowledge of the young revolutionist there were, of course, great gaps. Yet he seemed to be not badly armed against the teachings of the Church, the arguments of Liberalism and especially the prejudices of Populism.

In the course of the ’nineties the theories of Marxism won their victory over the theories of Populism, a victory which found support in the successes of capitalism and in the growth of the labor movement. However, the strikes and demonstrations of the workers stimulated the awakening of the village, which, in turn, led to a revival of Populist ideology among the city intelligentsia. Thus, at the beginning of the century there began to develop rather rapidly that hybrid revolutionary tendency which took a bit from Marxism, repudiated the romantic terms (”Land and Freedom”) and “Zemlya Volya “ (”The Will of the People”) and gave itself the more European title, “Party of Socialists-Revolutionists” Narodnaya Volya [the S-R (Essar) Party]. The fight against “Economism” was fundamentally finished in the Winter of 1902-1903. The ideas of Iskra found too convincing a confirmation in the successes of political agitation and street demonstrations. Beginning with 1902, Iskra devoted more and more of its space to attacks against the eclectic program of the Socialists-Revolutionists and against the methods of individual terror, which they preached. The passionate polemic between “the gray-haired” and the “gray”[5] penetrated all corners of the land, including, of course, the prisons as well. On more than one occasion Koba was obliged to cross swords with his new opponents; it is credible that he did so with sufficient success: Iskra provided him with excellent arguments.

Since Koba was not indicted and placed on trial in the case of the demonstration, his judicial examination was conducted by the gendarmes. The methods of secret investigation, as well as the prison régime, differed considerably in different parts of the country. At the capital the gendarmes were more cultured and more circumspect; in the provinces they were cruder. In the Caucasus, with its archaic customs and colonial social relations, the gendarmes resorted to the crudest forms of violence, especially when dealing with untutored, inexperienced and weak-willed victims.

Pressure, threats, terrorization, torments, falsifying the depositions of witnesses, the subornation of false witnesses, the concoction and inflation of cases, ascribing decisive and absolute significance to the hearsay reports of secret agents—such were the special features of the method pursued by the gendarmes in disposing of cases.

Arkomed, who wrote the above lines, states that the gendarme Lavrov was wont to resort to inquisitorial methods in securing “confessions” he knew beforehand to be false. These police proceedings must have left a lasting impression on Stalin, for thirty years later he was to apply Captain Lavrov’s methods on a colossal scale. From the prison reminiscences of Lolua we learn, by the way, that “Comrade Soso did not like to address his comrades by using vy,” saying that the Tsar’s servitors used vy in addressing revolutionists when sending them to the gallows. As a matter of fact, the use of ty was customary in revolutionary circles, especially in the Caucasus. A few decades later Koba was to send to the gallows not a few of his old comrades with whom, unlike the “Tsar’s servitors,” he had been on terms of ty6 since their early years. But that is still quite far off.

[5] In Russian “gray-haired” is sedoy and “gray” sery. The etymon of each word consists of its consonants, which are initials, the s d in SeDoy standing for Social-Democrat and the s r in SeRy for Socialist-Revolutionist.—C. M.

[6] In Russian, as in French and in many other languages, vy, the second person plural, literally the equivalent of the English you, is used in polite intercourse; whereas, ty, the second person singular, literally the equivalent of the English thou, is used either affectionately with intimates, or as a mark of superiority when addressing servants, animals and inferiors generally.—C. M.

It is surprising that the records of Koba’s police examinations pertaining to that first arrest, as well as all the records pertaining to his subsequent arrests, have not yet been published. As a rule, the Iskra organization demanded that its members refuse to testify. Revolutionists usually wrote: “I have been a Social-Democrat by conviction for a long time; I repudiate and deny the accusations against me; I refuse to give testimony or to take part in any secret investigation.” Only at a trial in open court, to which the authorities resorted however only in exceptional circumstances, did the Iskrovites come out with their banner unfurled. The refusal to give testimony, which was quite justified from the point of view of the Party’s interests as a whole, in certain cases made the situation of the arrested person rather difficult. In April, 1902, Koba, as we have seen, attempted to establish his alibi by a ruse for which others were obliged to suffer. It may be supposed that on other occasions as well he relied more on his own cunning than on the standard behavior obligatory for all. Consequently, the entire series of his police depositions present, we should think, not a very attractive—at any rate, not a “heroic”—record. That is the only possible explanation why the records of Stalin’s police examinations are still unpublished.

The preponderant majority of revolutionists were subjected to punishment by the so-called “administrative order”. On the basis of the reports of local gendarmes, the “Special Conference” at Petersburg, composed of four high-ranking officials from the Ministries of the Interior and Justice, brought out verdicts without the presence of the accused, and these verdicts were confirmed by the Minister of the Interior. On July 25, 1903, the Tiflis Governor received from the capital a verdict of that sort, ordering him to banish sixteen political prisoners to Eastern Siberia under the direct surveillance of the police. The names were listed as was customary according to the gravity of offense or the offender’s culpability, and their specific place of exile in Siberia was correspondingly better or worse. The first two places in that list are occupied by Kurnatovsky and Franchesky, who were sentenced to four years. Fourteen other persons were banished for three years, the first place here being filled by Sylvester Dzhibladze, who is already known to us. Joseph Djugashvili occupies the eleventh place on that list. The gendarme authorities did not yet regard him among the important revolutionists.

In November Koba, with other exiles, was sent from Batum Prison to the Government of Irkutsk. Transported from one halting place for convicts to the next, their journey lasted nearly three months. In the meantime the revolution was seething, and everyone was trying to escape as soon as possible. By the beginning of 1904 the exile system had become a sieve. In most cases it was not very difficult to escape; each province had its own secret “centers,” which provided forged passports, money, addresses. Koba remained in the village of Novaya Uda not more than a month, i.e., precisely the time necessary to look around, find the indispensable contacts, and work out a plan of action. Alliluyev, the father of Stalin’s second wife, states that during his first attempt to escape, Koba froze his face and ears and was obliged to return to acquire warmer clothing. A strong Siberian troika, driven by a reliable coachman, raced him quickly over the snow-laden highway to the nearest railway station. The return journey through the Urals took not three months, but about a week.

It is pertinent here, and only fair, to complete the story of the engineer Kurnatovsky, who really inspired the revolutionary movement at Tiflis at the beginning of the century. After two years in the military prison, he was banished to the Yakut Region, from which escapes were immeasurably more difficult than from the Irkutsk Government. At Yakutsk, on the road, Kurnatovsky participated in the armed resistance of the exiles against the outrages of the authorities, and was sentenced by the court to twelve years at hard labor. Amnestied in the fall of 1905, he reached Chita, which was then deluged with combatants of the Russo-Japanese War. There he became chairman of the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Cossaks’ Deputies—the head of the so-called “Chita Republic”. At the beginning of 1906 Kurnatovsky was again arrested and sentenced to death. General Rennenkampt, the pacifier of Siberia, carried the condemned man in his train so that he might witness with his own eyes the executions of workers at every railway station. Because of the new liberal tendency in connection with elections to the First Duma, his death sentence was commuted to life-long banishment to Siberia. Kurnatovsky managed to escape from Nerchinsk to Japan. From there he went to Australia, where he was in great need, worked as a lumberjack and strained himself. Ill, with inflammation in his ears, he somehow managed to make his way to Paris. “An exceptionally difficult lot,” relates Krupskaya, “finally undermined him. In the autumn of 1910, after his arrival, Ilyitch and I called on him at the hospital.” Two years later, when Lenin and Krupskaya were already living at Cracow, Kurnatovsky died. On the shoulders of the Kurnatovskies and over their corpses the revolution marched forward.

The revolution marched forward. The first generation of the Russian Social-Democracy, headed by Plekhanov, started its critical and propagandistic activity at the beginning of the ’eighties. The pioneers were counted singly; later, by tens. The second generation, which Lenin led—he was fourteen years younger than Plekhanov—entered the political arena at the beginning of the ’nineties. Social-Democrats were counted by hundreds. The third generation, composed of people some ten years younger than Lenin, enlisted in the revolutionary struggle at the end of the past and the beginning of the present century. To that generation, which was already numbered by thousands, belonged Stalin, Rykov, Zinoviev, Kamenev, the author of this book and others.

In March, 1898, at the provincial town of Minsk, the representatives of nine local committees convened and founded the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. All the participants were promptly arrested. It is hardly possible that the resolutions of the Congress were received very soon in Tiflis, where the seminary student Djugashvili contemplated joining the Social-Democracy. The Minsk congress, prepared by Lenin’s coevals, merely proclaimed the Party, but did not yet create it. One strong blow by the Tsarist police proved sufficient to demolish the weak party contacts for a long time to come. In the course of the next few years the movement, which was preponderantly economic in character, sank its roots locally. The young Social-Democrats usually carried out their activities on the home ground until subjected to arrest and banishment. Such a thing as Party workers traveling from one city to another was an exception. Transition to illegal status, for the purpose of eluding arrest, was almost never practiced; they had neither the experience nor the technical means nor the necessary contacts for that.

Beginning with 1900, “Iskra “ began to build a centralized organization. Without question the leader of that period was Lenin, who rightfully pushed into the background “the old people” headed by Plekhanov. Party construction found its support in the incomparably broader sweep of the labor movement, which roused the new revolutionary generation, considerably more numerous than the one from which Lenin himself had emerged. The immediate task of Iskra was to select from among the local workers the persons of greatest stamina and to use them in the creation of a central apparatus capable of guiding the revolutionary struggle of the entire country. The number of Iskra adherents was considerable, and it was constantly growing. But the number of genuine Iskrovites, of trusted agents of the foreign center, was of necessity limited: it did not exceed twenty to thirty persons. Most characteristic of the Iskrovite was his severance from his own city, his own Government, his own province, for the sake of building the party. In the Iskra dictionary “localism” was a synonym for backwardness, narrowness, almost for retrogression. “Welded into a compact conspirative group of professional revolutionists,” wrote the Gendarme General Spiridovich, “they traveled from place to place wherever there were party committees, established contacts with their members, delivered illegal literature to them, helped to establish printshops and garnered the information needed by the Iskra . They penetrated into local committees, carried on their propaganda against ‘Economism,’ eliminated their ideological opponents and in this way subjected the committees to their influence.” The retired gendarme gives here a sufficiently correct characterization of the Iskrovites. They were members of a wandering order, above the local organizations which they regarded as an arena for the exercise of their influence.

Koba took no part in that responsible work. He was first a Tiflis Social-Democrat, then a Batum Social-Democrat—in other words, a revolutionist in a small, local way. The contact of the Caucasus with “Iskra “ and with Central Russia was through Krassin, Kurnatovsky and others. The entire work of unifying the local committees and groups into a centralized party was accomplished without Koba. That circumstance—which is established beyond the shadow of a doubt on the basis of the correspondence of those days, memoirs and other documents—is very important in the estimation of Stalin’s political development; he moved forward slowly, uncertainly, groping his way.

In June, 1900, Krassin, in his capacity as a prominent young engineer, arrived to assume a responsible post in Baku. “No less intensive,” writes Krassin, “was the activity in a different sphere; namely, underground Social-Democratic work in Baku itself, as well as throughout the Caucasus—in Tiflis, Kutais, Batum, whither I journey from time to time to maintain contact with the local organizations there”. Krassin remained in Baku until 1904. Hampered by his official position, he could not participate directly in the work of the masses. The workers were not aware of his actual role and later even attempted to insist that he be removed as manager at the electric station. Krassin dealt only with the tops of the organization; he was the leader of the local leaders. Among the revolutionists with whom he had occasion to come directly in contact he mentions the brothers Yenukidze, Lado Ketskhoveli, Alliluyev, Shelgunov, Halperin and others. It is noteworthy that the one man who carried on the leading work in the Caucasus from 1900 to 1904 does not mention Stalin even once. No less significant is the fact that as late as 1927 this pretermission passed entirely unnoticed, and Krassin’s autobiography was printed by Gosizdat (the State Publishing House) without any annotations or corrections. Similarly, no place whatever is accorded to Stalin in the reminiscences of other Bolsheviks who were in any way connected with the movement in the Caucasus during those years. This is true, of course, only of reminiscences written prior to the beginning of the official revision of Party history, i.e., not later than 1929.

In February, 1902, there was supposed to take place in Kiev a conclave of the Iskrovites who were agents of the foreign center. “To that conference,” writes Pyatnitsky, “came representatives from all parts of Russia”. Discovering that they were under surveillance, they began to leave the city hastily in various directions. However, all of them were caught, some in Kiev, some en route. Several months later they made the famous jail break from the Kiev prison. Koba, who at that time worked in Batum, was not invited to the Kiev meeting, and undoubtedly knew nothing about it.

Koba’s political provincialism is most instructively exemplified by his relations with the foreign center, or rather, by the absence of any relations at all with it. Beginning with the middle of the past century, the émigrés continued almost invariably to play the dominant role in the Russian revolutionary movement. What with constant arrests, exiles and executions in Tsarist Russia, the haunts of these émigrés, who were the most outstanding theoreticians, publicists and organizers, were the only continuously active sectors of the movement and hence by the nature of things laid their imprint upon it. The editorial board of the Iskra became unquestionably at the beginning of the century the center of the Social-Democracy. From there emanated not only the political slogans but also the practical directions. Every revolutionist passionately desired as soon as possible to spend some time abroad, to see and to hear the leaders, to verify the correctness of his own views, to establish permanent contact with Iskra and, through it, with the underground workers in Russia itself. V. Kozhevnikova, who at one time was close to Lenin in connection with work abroad, tells how “from exile and on the road to exile there began a general fight abroad to the editorial office of Iskra … and then again to Russia for active work.” The young workingman Nogin—to take one example out of a hundred —in April, 1903, fled from exile to go abroad, “in order to catch up with life,” as he wrote to one of his friends, “in order to read and learn”. A few months later he returned illegally to Russia as an Iskra agent. All of the ten participants of the aforementioned Kiev jail break, among them the future Soviet diplomat Litvinov, soon found themselves abroad. One after another they subsequently returned to Russia, to prepare the congress of the party. Concerning these and other trusted agents, Krupskaya writes in her reminiscences, “Iskra carried on active correspondence with all of them. Vladimir Ilyich looked through every letter. We knew in minute detail which Iskra agent did what, and discussed with them each phase of their entire activity; we re-established broken contacts, informed them of arrests and the like.” Among these agents were coevals of Lenin as well as of Stalin. But as yet, Koba was not included among that upper layer of revolutionists, the disseminators of centralism, the builders of a unified party. He remained a “local worker,” a Caucasian, and a congenital provincial.

In July, 1903, the Party congress prepared by Iskra finally convened in Brussels. Under pressure from Tsarist diplomats and the Belgian police subservient to them, it was obliged to transfer its deliberations to London. The congress adopted the program worked out by Plekhanov, and passed resolutions on tactics; but when it came to organizational questions, unexpected differences of opinion suddenly arose among the Iskrovites themselves, who dominated the congress. Both sides, including the “hard” ones, headed by Lenin and the “soft” ones, headed by Martov, at first supposed that the differences were not fundamental. All the more amazing therefore was the sharp clash of these differences. The party, which had but recently been unified, suddenly found itself on the verge of a split.

”As far back as 1903, while sitting in prison, and having learned through comrades returning from the Second Congress about the very serious differences of opinions between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, Stalin resolutely joined the Bolsheviks.” So runs a biography, written at the dictation of Stalin himself, which is in the nature of an instruction to Party historians. It would be, however, most incautious to regard that instruction with any excess of confidence. At the congress which led to the split were three Caucasian delegates. With which one of these did Koba meet, and how precisely did he meet him, being at that time in solitary confinement? How and in what way did he express his solidarity with the Bolsheviks? The only confirmation of this version of Stalin’s comes from Iremashvili. “Koba, who had always been an enthusiastic partisan of Leninist violent methods,” he writes, “immediately, of course, took his place on the side of Bolshevism and became its most passionate defender and leader in Georgia.” However, that testimony, its categorical character notwithstanding, is flagrantly anachronous. Prior to the congress no one, including Lenin himself, had ever advocated “Leninist violent methods” as opposed to the methods of those members of the editorial board who were the future leaders of Menshevism. At the congress itself the arguments were not concerned with revolutionary methods; tactical differences of opinion had not yet arisen. Iremashvili is obviously in error, and no wonder: throughout 1903 Koba was in prison, so Iremashvili could not have had any direct impressions of him. In general, although his psychological observations and reminiscences of actual incidents are quite convincing and almost always confirmable, his political observations are less reliable. It would seem that he lacked both the instinct and the background requisite for an understanding of the evolution of the warring revolutionary tendencies; in that sphere he presents us with retrospective guesses, dictated by his own latter-day views.

The wrangle at the Second Congress flared up, as a matter of fact, over the question of party membership; whether it should include only those who were members of the illegal organization, or anyone who systematically participated in the revolutionary struggle under the leadership of local committees. At the time of the discussion Lenin said: “I do not deem the difference of opinion among us so substantial that the life or death of our party is dependent on it. We are far from perishing because of a bad clause in our party regulations.” Toward the end of the congress there was also argument over the question of the personnel of the editorial board of Iskra and of the Central Committee; and never once did the differences of opinion spread beyond those narrow limits. Lenin attempted to obtain sharp and explicit boundaries for the Party, a compact composition of the editorial board and severe discipline. Martov and his friends preferred a looser organization, more on the order of a family circle. However, both sides were still merely feeling their way and, despite the sharpness of the conflict, no one yet thought these differences of opinion “most serious.” According to Lenin’s pointed observation of a later day, the struggle at the congress was in the nature of an “anticipation”.

Lunarcharsky, the first Soviet leader in the field of education, wrote subsequently:

The greatest difficulty in that struggle consisted in this, that the Second Congress, having split the Party, had not yet plumbed the really profound differences between the Martovists on the one hand and the Leninists on the other. These differences still seemed to turn on the one paragraph of the party statutes and the personnel of the editorial board. Many were embarrassed by the insignificance of the reason that led to the split.

Pyatnitsky, later a prominent official of the Comintern, but at that time a young workman, writes in his reminiscences: “I could not understand why petty differences kept us from working together”. The engineer Krzhizhanovsky, who was very close to Lenin in those years, and later the head of the State Planning Commission, recalls, “To me personally, the thought about Comrade Martov’s opportunism seemed particularly far-fetched.” There is a lot of such testimony. From Petersburg, from Moscow, from the provinces came protests and wails. No one wanted to acknowledge the split which transpired at the congress among the Iskrovites. The parting of the ways took place in the course of the following period, slowly, with inevitable shifts to one side and the other. Not infrequently the first Bolsheviks and Mensheviks continued to work peaceably together.

In the Caucasus, because of its backward social and political development, what had occurred at the Congress was understood even less than anywhere else. True, all three of the Caucasian delegates, in the heat of passion, joined the majority in London. But it is significant that all three subsequently became Mensheviks: Topuridze deserted the Majority[7] by the end of the Congress itself; Zurabov and Knunyants came over to the Mensheviks in the course of the next few years. The famous Caucasian illegal printshop, in which Bolshevik sympathies predominated, continued in 1904 to reprint the Menshevik Iskra, which formally remained the central organ of the Party. “Our differences of opinion,” write Yenukidze, “were absolutely not reflected in our work”. Only after the Third Congress of the Party, i.e., not earlier than the middle of 1905, did the printshop pass into the hands of the Bolshevik Central Committee. There is therefore no reason whatever to credit the assertion that Koba, sitting in an out-of-the-way prison, had at once estimated the differences as “most serious.” Anticipation was never his strong suit. And it would hardly be possible to censure a young revolutionist even less circumspect and suspicious, had he then departed for Siberia without taking a stand on the struggle within the Party.

From Siberia Koba returned directly to Tiflis; that f act cannot help but evoke amazement. Fugitives who were in the least conspicuous seldom returned to their native haunts, where they could too easily be observed by the ever-vigilant police, especially when that place was not Petersburg or Moscow but a small provincial city like Tiflis. But the young Djugashvili had not yet severed his Caucasian umbilical cord; Georgian still remained almost exclusively the language of his propaganda. Moreover, he did not feel himself to be a focus for police attention. He had not yet made up his mind to try his talents in Central Russia. He was unknown abroad, nor did he try to go there. It would seem also that a more personal reason kept him in Tiflis: if Iremashvili is not confused in his” chronology, Koba was already married at that time. During his imprisonment and exile he had left his young wife behind him at Tiflis.

[7] See Glossary.

The war with Japan, which began in January, 1904, at first weakened the labor movement, but gave it unprecedented momentum by the end of that year. The military defeats of Tsarism quickly dispelled the patriotic moods which had at first affected liberal and partly student circles. Defeatism, although with a varying coefficient, increasingly overcame, not only the revolutionary masses, but even the oppositionist bourgeoisie. Despite all of that, the Social-Democracy, before the great upheaval which was impending, lived through months of stagnation and internal ailment. The differences between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, overtaxing because as yet indeterminate, little by little began to seep through the cramped confines of the Party headquarters and subsequently encompassed the entire field of revolutionary strategy.

”Stalin’s work during the period of 1904-1905 passed under the flag of fierce struggle against Menshevism,” states his official biographer. “Literally on his own shoulders he bore the brunt of the entire struggle with the Mensheviks in the Caucasus, beginning in 1904 and ending with 1908,” writes Yenukidze in his newly-revised reminiscences. Beriya affirms that after his flight from exile Stalin “organized and directed the struggle against the Mensheviks, who after the Second Congress of the Party, during Comrade Stalin’s absence, became particularly active.” These authors want to prove too much. If one were to accept on faith the statement that as early as 1901-1903 Stalin was already playing a leading role in the Caucasian Social-Democracy, that he had joined the Bolsheviks as early as 1903, and, beginning with February, 1904, had already begun his struggle against Menshevism, then one must pause with amazement before the fact that all these efforts had yielded such pitiful results: on the eve of the revolution of 1905 Georgian Bolsheviks were literally counted singly. Beriya’s reference to the fact that the Mensheviks became particularly active “during Stalin’s absence” sounds almost like irony. Petty bourgeois Georgia, including Tiflis, remained the fortress of Menshevism for a score of years quite irrespective of anyone’s presence or absence. In the revolution of 1905 the Georgian workers and peasants followed indivisibly behind the Menshevik faction; in all the four Dumas[8] Georgia was invariably represented by Mensheviks; in the February Revolution of 1917 Georgian Menshevism provided all of Russia with leaders of national caliber—Tseretelli, Chkheidze and others. Finally, even after the establishment of the Soviet Government in Georgia, Menshevism continued to exert considerable influence, which was subsequently expressed in the uprising of 1924. “All of Georgia must be plowed under!” that was how Stalin summarized the lessons of the Georgian uprising at the session of the Political Bureau in the autumn of 1924, i.e., twenty years after he had “opened a fierce struggle against Menshevism”. It would therefore be more correct and more just to Stalin not to exaggerate Koba’s role during the first years of the century.

[8] The first two Dumas were elected in accordance with the election law of December 24 (it o.s.) 1905, the First Duma sitting from May 10 (April 27 o.s.) to July 22 (9 o.s.), 1906, and the Second Duma from March 5 (February 20 o.s.) to June 15 (2 o.s.), 1907. The last two Dumas were elected in accordance with the more restrictive election law of June 16 (3 o.s.), 1907. The Third Duma sat throughout its allotted term, from November 14 (1 o.s.), 1907 to June 22 (9 o.s.), 1912, and the Fourth Duma very nearly so, from November 28 (15 o.s.). 1912 to March 10 (February 25), 1917.—C. M.

Koba returned from exile as a member of the Caucasian Committee, to which he had been elected in absentio, during his tenure in prison, at a conference of the Transcaucasian organizations. It is possible that at the beginning of 1904 a majority of the Committee members, eight in all, was already sympathetic to the Majority of the London Congress; but that alone is no indication of Koba’s own sympathies. The local Caucasian organizations obviously tended in the direction of the Mensheviks. The conciliationist Central Committee of the Party, under the leadership of Krassin, was at the time opposed to Lenin. Iskra was entirely in the hands of the Mensheviks. Under these conditions the Caucasian Committee, with its Bolshevik sympathies, seemed suspended in mid-air. Yet Koba preferred to have firm ground under his feet. He prized the apparatus more than the idea.

Official information about Koba’s activities in 1904 is exceedingly sketchy and unreliable. It remains unknown whether he carried on any activity in Tiflis, and if he did, the nature of his work. It is hardly possible that a fugitive from Siberia could have shown himself in workers’ circles, where many knew him. It is likely that precisely for that reason Koba moved to Baku as early as June. Concerning his activity there we are informed in the stereotyped phrases: “he directed the struggle of the Baku Bolsheviks,” “he exposed the Mensheviks”. Not a single fact, not a single specific recollection! If Koba wrote anything at all during those months, it is being withheld from publication, and probably not through mere oversight.

On the other hand, the belated attempts to represent Stalin as the founder of the Baku Social-Democracy are based on nothing at all. The first workers’ circles in the smoky and gloomy city poisoned by the Tartar-Armenian feud appeared as early as 1896. The basis for a more complete organization was laid three years later by Abel Yenukidze and several workmen expelled from Moscow. At the very beginning of the century, the very same Yenukidze, in collaboration with Lado Ketskhoveli, organized the Baku Committee, which was Iskrovite in sympathies. Due to the efforts of the Yenukidze brothers, who were closely connected with Krassin, a large underground printshop was established at Baku in 1903. It played an important part in laying the groundwork for the First Revolution. In that very printshop Bolsheviks and Mensheviks worked together in the friendliest fashion until the middle of 1905. When the aged Abel Yenukidze, for many years Secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union, lost favor with Stalin, he was compelled in 1935 to revise his recollections of 1923 anew, substituting for well-established facts mere assertions about the inspiring and leading role of Soso in the Caucasus and particularly in Baku. His submission did not save Yenukidze from his doom. Neither did it add a single vivid stroke to Stalin’s biography.

When Koba first appeared on the Baku horizon in June, 1904, the local Social-Democratic organization had to its credit a record of eight years of revolutionary activity. The “Black City” had played a particularly important part in the labor movement during the preceding years. The Spring had brought to Baku a general strike that unleashed an avalanche of strikes and demonstrations throughout the South of Russia. Vera Zasulitch was the first to appraise those developments as the beginning of the Revolution. Due to the more proletarian character of Baku, especially by comparison with Tiflis, the Bolsheviks managed to secure there an earlier and a more stable foothold than elsewhere in the Caucasus. The same Makharadze, who had used the Tiflis term “kinto” with reference to Stalin, states that in the autumn of 190¢ there was created in Baku, “under the direct leadership of Soso, a special organization for revolutionary work among the backward oil industry workers, Tartars, Azerbaijanians, and Persians.” That testimony might evoke less doubt if Makharadze had made it in the first edition of his memoirs and not ten years later, when under the whip of Beriya he again rewrote the entire history of the Caucasian Social-Democracy. The process of his step-by-step approach to the official “truth” was supplemented by his castigation of each preceding edition of his book in its turn as a spawn of the Evil Spirit and its withdrawal from circulation.

Upon return from Siberia, Koba undoubtedly met Kamenev, who was born in Tiflis[9] and who was one of the first of Lenin’s young followers there. It is possible that it was Kamenev, recently returned from abroad, who had helped to convert Koba to Bolshevism. But Kamenev’s name was expunged from the history of the Party a few years before Kamenev himself was shot on a fantastic charge. In any event, the real history of Caucasian Bolshevism began, not with Koba’s return from exile, but in the autumn of 1904. That date is established in various connections even by official authors wherever they are not obliged to refer specifically to Stalin. In November, 1904, a Bolshevik conference convened at Tiflis, composed of fifteen delegates from local Caucasian organizations, for the most part insignificant groups. It passed a resolution in favor of convoking a new Party congress. That act was an outright declaration of war, not only against the Mensheviks but also against the conciliationist Central Committee. Had Koba participated in that first conference of the Caucasian Bolsheviks, Beriya and the other historians would not have failed to report that the conference had been held “at the initiative and under the leadership of Comrade Stalin”. Utter silence on that score means that Koba, who was at the time in the Caucasus, did not participate in the conference. In other words, not a single Bolshevik organization sent him as a delegate. The conference elected a Bureau. Koba did not become a member of that important body. All of that would have been inconceivable had he enjoyed a position of any prominence at all among Caucasian Bolsheviks.

[9] Lev Borisovich Kamenev was born in Moscow July 31 (18 o.s.), 1883. However, he was connected with Tiflis off and on for about ten years. In 5896 he moved with his family to Tiflis, where his father found employment with the Transcaucasian Railway, and young L. B. transferred from the Wilno Gimnasia (high school) to the Second Tiflis Gimnasia, from which he was graduated in 1901. During his last couple of years in the Tiflis gimnasia young Kamenev had been so active as a Marxist that upon graduation he was debarred from ma triculating at any Russian university or engineering school. After petitioning the then Minister of Public Instruction Bogolepov, he was finally granted permission to matriculate in the Faculty of Jurisprudence of Moscow University, where he continued to “misbehave” and landed first in the Butyrki and then in the Taganka prisons. He was denied the right to return to the university and was sent back to Tiflis under police surveillance. In Tiflis as an active Iskrist he taught a circle of railway workers and another of shoemakers until the autumn of 1902, when he went to Paris. There he met many of the leaders of the Iskra group, and wrote articles on the student movement for Iskra . Several months later Lenin carne to Paris from London to deliver a lecture. Kamenev met him, fell under his spell, and when Lenin moved from London to Geneva young Kamenev moved from Paris to Geneva. There he studied Marxism under Lenin’s guidance and made his debut as an orator in a debate with Martov, who at the time was traveling through Europe on Kamenev’s passport. In Paris Kamenev met Trotsky’s sister, Olga, who later became his wife. Immediately after the Second Congress of the Party Lenin sent Kamenev back to Tiflis as a Bolshevik organizer. There he also took part in organizing a strike on the Transcaucasian Railway. He had to leave Tiflis again after a police raid on his apartment, January 18-19, 1904. After five months’ imprisonment in Moscow, he was sent back to Tiflis on July 28, 1904. There he remained, except for organizational tours, until the spring of 1905; when he went to London as delegate to the Third Congress.—C. M.

Victor Taratuta, who was at the conference as a delegate from Batum and who was subsequently a member of the Party’s Central Committee, gives us a fairly definite and unquestionable hint as to who was then the leader among the Bolsheviks in the Caucasus. “At the Caucasus regional conference, which took place at the end of 1904 or at the beginning of 1905,” he writes, “… I first met also Comrade Kamenev, Lev Borisovich, in his capacity as leader of the Caucasian Bolshevik organisations. At that regional conference Comrade Kamenev was elected traveling propagandist and was to canvass the country far and wide in order to agitate for the convocation of a new Party congress. At the same time he was delegated to visit the committees of the entire country and to establish contact with our foreign centers of those days.” This authoritative witness does not say a word about Koba’s participation in that activity.

Under those circumstances there naturally could not have been any reason at all for including Koba in the general Russian center of the Bolsheviks, the “Bureau of the Committees of the Majority,” composed of seventeen members, which was formed for the purpose of convoking the congress. Kamenev became a member of that Bureau as the representative of the Caucasus. Among the others on the list of the Bureau members who subsequently became famous Soviet leaders we find the names of Rykov and Litvinov. It might not be amiss to add that Kamenev and Rykov were two or three years younger than Stalin. On the whole the Bureau was composed of representatives of the “third” generation.

Koba came to Baku for the second time in December, 1904, that is, soon after the Tiflis Bolshevik Conference had taken place. On the eve of his arrival a general strike broke out in the oil fields and factories, catching all of Russia by surprise. The Party’s organizations manifestly had not yet learned to understand the nature of the insurrectionary mood of the masses, which was aggravated by the first year of the war. The Baku strike directly preceded the famous Bloody Sunday in Petersburg, the tragic march of the workers under the leadership of the priest Gapon to the Winter Palace on January twenty-second, 1905. One of the “memoirs” fabricated in 1935 vaguely mentions that Stalin led the strike committee in Baku and that everything transpired under his leadership. But according to the same author, Koba arrived in Baku after the strike had begun and remained in the city only ten days in all. As a matter of fact, he came on a special assignment, which probably had something to do with preparations for the congress. By that time he might have made his choice in favor of Bolshevism.

Stalin himself attempted to set back the date of his joining the Bolsheviks. Not satisfied with the statement that he had become a Bolshevik before his release from prison, he declared in 1924, at the memorial evening of the Kremlin cadets, that he had first established contact with Lenin as far back as the time of his first exile:

I first met Comrade Lenin in 1903. True, it was not a person to person meeting, but by correspondence, in the course of an exchange of letters. Yet it left me with an indelible impression that remained with me throughout the entire tenure of my work in the Party. At that time I was in Siberia, in exile. Familiarity with Comrade Lenin’s revolutionary activity at the beginning of the ’nineties, and especially since 1901, after the appearance of “Iskra,” led me to the conviction that in Comrade Lenin we had an extraordinary man. I did not regard him then as only a leader of the Party, but as its actual creator, for he alone understood our Party’s inner substance and its urgent needs. When I compared him with the other leaders of our Party, it always seemed to me that Comrade Lenin’s companions-in-arms—Plekhanov, Martov, Axelrod, and others—ranked a whole head lower than Comrade Lenin, that by comparison with them, Lenin was not only one of the leaders, but a leader of the highest type, a mountain eagle who knew no fear in the fight and who boldly led the Party forward over the unexplored paths of the Russian revolutionary movement. That impression sank so deep into my soul that I felt the necessity to write about it to one of my close friends, who was at the time in emigration, requesting a reply from him. Sometime later, when I was already in exile in Siberia –that was toward the end of 1903-1 received an exultant answer from my friend and simple yet profoundly pregnant letter from Comrade Lenin, to whom it would seem my friend had shown my letter. Comrade Lenin’s little letter was comparatively brief, but it subjected the practices of our Party to bold and fearless criticism and gave a remarkably clear and cogent exposition of the entire plan of the Party’s work for the impending period. Only Lenin could write a letter about the most complicated matters so simply and clearly, so cogently and boldly that each phrase did not so much speak as shout. That simple and audacious letter strengthened my conviction that in Lenin we had the mountain eagle of our Party. I cannot forgive myself that due to the habits of an old underground worker, I burned Comrade Lenin’s letter along with many other letters. My acquaintance with Comrade Lenin began at that time.

The chronology of that story, so typical of Stalin because of its psychological and stylistic primitiveness, is not all that is wrong with it. Koba did not reach his place of exile until January, 1904; consequently he could not have received the alleged letter there in 1903. Furthermore, it is not at all clear where and just how he wrote “to one of my closest friends” abroad, since prior to his banishment to Siberia he had been in prison for a year and a half. Exiled persons never knew ahead of time to what place they would be banished; hence, Koba could not have communicated his Siberian address in advance to his friend abroad, and certainly there was no time for a letter from exile and a reply from abroad in the course of the one month Koba spent in exile. According to Stalin’s own version, Lenin’s letter was not of a personal but of a programmatic character. Copies of that type of letter were invariably sent out by Krupskaya to a number of addresses, while the original was kept in the Party archives abroad. It is most unlikely that in this one instance an exception was made for the sake of an unknown young Caucasian. Yet the archives do not contain the original of that letter, the copy of which Koba burned “due to the habits of an old underground worker” (he was at the time exactly twenty-four years old). But most amazing is the fact that Stalin says nothing at all about his reply to Lenin. Having received a letter from the leader whom he admittedly venerated as a demigod, it stands to reason that Koba would have answered him at once. Yet Stalin is silent about that—and not by accident: the archives of Lenin and Krupskaya do not contain Koba’s reply. Of course, it might have been intercepted by the police. But in that event the copy would have been preserved in the files of the police department and would have been reproduced in the Soviet press years ago. But that relationship would not have been limited to one letter. A young Social-Democrat could not have failed to regard permanent contact with the leader of his Party, with its “mountain eagle,” as most precious to him. As for Lenin, he regarded every contact with Russia as precious and meticulously replied to every letter. Yet no correspondence between Lenin and Koba has come to light in the course of recent years. Everything in this tale evokes perplexity—everything except its purpose.

The year 1904 was perhaps the most difficult in Lenin’s Life, barring the last years of his illness. Without desiring it and without foreseeing it, he broke with all the prominent leaders of the Russian Social-Democracy and for a long time thereafter could find no one capable of replacing his former companions-in-arms. Bolshevik literary men were recruited slowly and with great effort. Nor were they up to the par of the Iskra editors. Lyadov, one of the most active Bolsheviks in those days, who in 1904 was with Lenin at Geneva, recalled twenty years later: “Olminsky came, Vorovsky came, Bogdanov came … we awaited the coming of Lunacharsky, for whom Bogdanov vouched that immediately upon arrival he would join us.” These men were returning from exile. Their reputations preceded them. They were expected. But when mobilizing the editorial staff of the factional newspaper no one suggested Koba as a possibility. Yet nowadays he is portrayed as a prominent Bolshevik leader of that period. The first issue of the newspaper Vperyod [Forward] was finally published in December twenty-second at Geneva. Koba had nothing whatever to do with that momentous event in the life of his faction. He did not so much as get in touch with the editors. The newspaper contains neither his articles nor his news reports. That would have been unthinkable had he been a leader of the Caucasian Bolsheviks at the time.

Finally, there is direct and documentary testimony in support of the conclusion we made on the basis of circumstantial evidence. In an extensive and 50 exceedingly interesting statement on Joseph Djugashvili written in 1911 by the chief of the Tiflis Secret Police Department, Karpov, we read:

He has been active in the Social-Democratic organization since 19o2, at first as a Menshevik and later as a Bolshevik.

Karpov’s report is the only document known to us which states explicitly that during a certain period after the split Stalin was a Menshevik. The Tiflis newspaper Zarya Vostoka which was careless enough to have published that document in its issue of December twenty-third, 1925, either did not think of offering, or could not offer, any explanations whatsoever. No doubt the editor was later cruelly punished for that blunder. It is most significant that even Stalin did not find it convenient to refute that statement. Not a single one of the official biographers or historians of the Party ever again referred to that important document, while at the same time scores of insignificant bits of paper were reproduced, requoted and rephotographed without end. Let us suppose for the moment that the Tiflis gendarmerie, which in any event should have been best informed on that score, had given incorrect information. Then immediately the supplementary question arises: how was such an error possible? Had Koba actually been at the head of the Caucasian Bolsheviks, the Secret Police Department could not have failed to know it. It could have committed such a crude error in political characterization only with reference to some green neophyte or some third-rate figure, but never with reference to a “leader”. Thus, the one document which fortuitously found its way into print demolishes in one fell swoop the official myth reared with such great effort. And how many more such documents are being preserved in fireproof vaults, or, on the contrary, are solicitously relegated to the flames!

It may seem that we have wasted altogether too much time and effort, in order to establish a very modest conclusion. Is it not really all the same whether Koba joined the Bolsheviks in the middle of 1903 or on the eve of 1905? Yet that modest conclusion, apart from the f act that incidentally it discloses to us the mechanics of Kremlin historiography and iconography, has very significant bearing on the proper understanding of Stalin’s political personality. The majority of those who have written about him accept his transition to Bolshevism as something inherent in his character, sel f-evident, natural. Yet such a view is definitely one-sided. True, firmness and resoluteness predetermine a person to the acceptance of the methods of Bolshevism. Yet these characteristics in themselves are not decisive. There were any number of persons of firm character among Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionists. On the other hand, weak people were not so very rare among the Bolsheviks. Psychology and character are not all that there is to the nature of Bolshevism, which, above all, is a philosophy of history and a political conception. Under certain historical conditions workers are pushed onto the path of Bolshevism by the entire pattern of their social circumstances. That happens almost regardless of the hardness or softness of individual characters. An intellectual needed exceptional political intuition and theoretical imagination, unusual faith in the dialectic historical process and in the revolutionary attributes of the working class, in order seriously and firmly to tie his fate to the Bolshevik Party in the days when Bolshevism was no more than a historical anticipation. The preponderant majority of intellectuals who joined Bolshevism in the period of its revolutionary rise abandoned it in subsequent years. It was more difficult for Koba to join, but it was likewise more difficult for him to break with it, because he had neither theoretical imagination nor historical intuition nor the gift of foresight, just as, on the other hand, he was devoid of light-mindedness. His intellect always remained immeasurably inferior to his will. In a complex situation, when confronted with new considerations, Koba prefers to bide his time, to keep his peace, or to retreat. In all those instances when it is necessary for him to choose between the idea and the political machine, he invariably inclines toward machine. The program must first of all create its bureaucracy before Koba can have any respect for it. Lack of confidence in the masses, as well as in individuals, is the basis of his nature. His empiricism always compels him to choose the path of least resistance. That is why, as a rule, at all the great turning points of history this near-sighted revolutionist assumes an opportunist position, which brings him exceedingly close to the Mensheviks and on occasion places him to the right of them. At the same time he invariably is inclined to favor the most resolute actions in solving the problems he has mastered. Under all conditions well-organized violence seems to him the shortest distance between two points. Here an analogy begs to he drawn. The Russian terrorists were in essence petty bourgeois democrats, yet they were extremely resolute and audacious. Marxists were wont to refer to them as “liberals with a bomb”. Stalin has always been what he remains to this day—a politician of the golden mean who does not hesitate to resort to the most extreme measures. Strategically he is an opportunist; tactically he is a “revolutionist”. He is a kind of opportunist with a bomb.

Soon after his departure from the seminary Koba became something in the nature of a bookkeeper at the Tiflis Observatory. Despite its “miserly salary,” he liked his job, Iremashvili informs us, because it left him a lot of free time for revolutionary activity. “He was least of all concerned with his personal welfare. He made no demands on life, regarding them as incompatible with Socialist principles. He had sufficient integrity to make sacrifices for his ideal.” Koba was true to that vow of poverty which was taken unostentatiously and without any ado by all the young people who went into the revolutionary underground. Besides, unlike many others who took that vow, he had not been accustomed to comforts since childhood. “I visited him several times in his small, squalid, poorly furnished room on Mikhailovskaya Street,” relates the irreplaceable second Soso. “Every day Koba wore a simple black Russian blouse and the red necktie that was then characteristic of all Social-Democrats. In the winter he wore an old brown cape over it. As headgear he knew only the Russian peak cap. Although when Koba left the seminary he was far from friendly with most of the young seminary Marxists, they would nevertheless make up a collection from time to time in order to help him out of his dire needs.” Barbusse informs us that in 1900, that is, a year after his departure from the seminary, Joseph found himself entirely without means: “His comrades made it possible for him to obtain food.” Police documents indicate that Koba remained in the service of the observatory until March, 1901, when he was obliged to go into hiding. His job, as we have heard, scarcely gave him a living. “… His income did not make it possible for him to dress adequately,” continues Iremashvili. “Yet it is also true that he did not make any effort to keep his clothes at least clean and in order. He could never be seen otherwise than in a dirty blouse and in an unpolished pair of shoes. He detested from the bottom of his heart everything that reminded him of the bourgeois.” The dirty blouse, the unpolished boots, the tousled hair were likewise generally characteristic of all young revolutionists, especially in the provinces.

Passing in March, 1901, to illegal status, Koba became a professional revolutionist. From then on he had no name because he had many names. At various periods, and upon occasions at one and the same time, he was called, “David”, “Koba”, “Nizheradze”, “Chizhikov”, “Ivanovich”, “Stalin”. Similarly the gendarmes invested him with their nicknames. The most persistent of these was “Ryaboi”, which alluded to his pock-marked face. Henceforth Koba would revert to legal status only in prison and in exile, that is, between each two periods of underground.

”He never lacked singleness of purpose”, Yenukidze wrote about the young Stalin in his corrected memoirs. “All of his actions, encounters, friendships were directed toward a definite objective … Stalin never sought personal popularity,” he adds, and there limited his circle of contacts “to the advanced workers and to professional revolutionists”. The purpose of that refrain, repeated in many official memoirs, is to explain why until his very accession to power Stalin remained unknown to the nation’s masses and even to the general membership of the Party. It is untrue, however, that he presumably did not seek popularity. He sought it greedily, but he could not find it. From the first, the absence of popularity rankled in his heart. It was precisely his inability to win fame by a frontal attack that drove this forceful personality into devious and crooked ways.

Since early youth Koba had sought power over people, who for the most part seemed to him weaker than himself. Yet he was neither wiser nor more educated nor more eloquent than others. He did not possess a single one of those attributes which attract sympathy. But he was richer than others in cold persistence and practical common sense. He did not yield to impulses: rather, he knew how to subject them to his calculations. That characteristic had already shown itself when he was a schoolboy. “Usually Joseph replied to questions unhurriedly,” writes Glurdzhidze. “Whenever his answer was in all its aspects well founded, he would reply; if not, he would procrastinate with his answer for a more or less brief period of time.” Quite apart from the exaggeration concerning his answer having been “in all its aspects well founded,” these words contain mention of the one rather vital trait of the young Stalin that gave him an important advantage among the young revolutionists, who for the most part were big-hearted, precipitate, and naive.

Even in that early period Koba did not hesitate to set his opponents against each other, to slander them, and to carry on intrigues against every one who in any way seemed superior to him or who seemed a hindrance to his path. The moral unscrupulousness of the young Stalin generated an atmosphere of suspicion and of sinister rumors about him. Much of which he was not guilty was beginning to be ascribed to him. The Socialist-Revolutionist Vereshchak, who came in close contact with Stalin in prison, related in the émigré press in 1928 how, presumably after Joseph Djugashvili had been expelled from the seminary, the director received from him a denunciation of a former comrade in his revolutionary group. When Joseph was obliged to give an account of himself in this affair before the Tiflis organization, he presumably not only admitted that he had been the author of the denunciation, but even deemed it something in his favor: instead of becoming transformed into priests and teachers, those expelled would be forced to become, according to his alleged reckoning, revolutionists. This entire episode, pounced upon by certain gullible biographers, bears the obvious brand of invention. A revolutionary organization can maintain its existence only through ruthless strictness in regard to anything at all which in the slightest way smacks of denunciation, provocation, or betrayal. The smallest indulgence in that sphere spells the beginning of gangrene for it. Had Soso been proven capable of resorting to such means, compounded of one-third Machiavelli to two-thirds Judas, it is altogether inadmissible that the Party would have tolerated him in its ranks after that. Iremashvili, who at the time belonged to the same seminarist circle as Koba, knows nothing at all about that episode. He himself succeeded in graduating from the seminary and became a teacher. Yet it is no mere accident that so vicious an invention is connected with Stalin’s name. Nothing of the kind was ever rumored about any of the other old revolutionists.

Souvarine, who wrote the best documented of Stalin’s biographies, attempts to deduce his moral personality from his membership in the ominous order of “professional revolutionists”. In this instance, as in many others, Souvarine’s generalizations are most superficial. A professional revolutionist is a person who completely dedicates himself to the labor movement under conditions of illegality and forced conspiracy. Not everyone is capable of that, and certainly, in any event, not the worst kind of person. The labor movement of the civilized world knows numerous professional officials and professional politicians; the preponderant majority of that caste is noted for its conservatism, egotism and narrow-mindedness, living not for the movement, but at its expense. By comparison with the average labor bureaucrat of Europe or America, the average professional revolutionist of Russia cut an incomparably more attractive figure.

The youth of the revolutionary generation coincided with the youth of the labor movement. It was the epoch of people between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Revolutionists above that age were few in number and seemed old men. The movement was as yet utterly devoid of careerism, lived on its faith in the future and on its spirit of self-sacrifice. There were as yet no routine, no set formulae, no theatrical gestures, no ready-made oratorical tricks. The struggle was by nature full of pathos, shy and awkward. The very words “committee,” “party” were as yet new, with an aura of vernal freshness, and rang in young ears as a disquieting and alluring melody. Whoever joined an organization knew that prison followed by exile awaited him within the next few months. The measure of ambition was to last as long as possible on the job prior to arrest; to hold oneself steadfast when facing the gendarmes; to ease, as far as possible, the plight of one’s comrades; to read, while in prison, as many books as possible; to escape as soon as possible from exile abroad; to acquire wisdom there; and then return to revolutionary activity in Russia.

The professional revolutionists believed what they taught. They could have had no other incentive for taking to the road to Calvary. Solidarity under persecution was no empty word, and it was augmented by contempt for cowardice and desertion. “Turning over in my mind the mass of comrades with whom I had occasion to meet,” writes Eugenia Levitskaya concerning the Odessa underground of 1901-1907, “I cannot recall a single reprehensible, contemptible act, a single deception or lie. There was friction. There were factional differences of opinion. But no more than that. Somehow everyone looked after himself morally, became better and more gentle in that friendly family.” Odessa was not, of course, an exception. The young men and young women who devoted themselves entirely to the revolutionary movement, without demanding anything in return, were not the worst representatives of their generation. The order of “professional revolutionists” cannot suffer by comparison with any other social group.

Joseph Djugashvili was a member of that order and shared many of its traits; many, but not all. He saw the purpose of his life in overthrowing the powers that be. Hatred of them was immeasurably more active in his soul than love for the oppressed. Prison, exile, sacrifices, privations did not frighten him. He knew how to look danger straight in the eye. At the same time he was keenly sensitive about such of his traits as his slowness of intellect, lack of talent. the general colorlessness of his physical and moral countenance. His overweening ambition was tinged with envy and ill will. His pertinacity marched hand in hand with vindictiveness. The jaundiced glint of his eyes impelled sensitive people to take notice. As far back as his schooldays he displayed an aptitude for noting the weaknesses of people and for harping upon them pitilessly. The Caucasian environment proved most favorable for nurturing these basic attributes of his nature. Without being swept off his feet while in the midst of enthusiasts, without catching fire while in the midst of those who were easily inflamed yet quick to cool down, he learned early in life to prize the advantages of icy grit, of circumspection and especially of astuteness, which in his case became subtly transformed into wiliness. Special historical circumstances were to invest these essentially secondary attributes with primary significance.

Chapter III: The First Revolution[edit source]

ACCORDING to our surmise, Koba did not join the Bolsheviks until some time after the November Conference, which met at Tiflis. That conference resolved to take an active part in preparations, already under way, for a new congress of the Social-Democratic Labor Party. Without any objection, we accepted Beriya’s bare assertion that Koba had left Baku in December on a propaganda tour in favor of that congress. That much is not improbable. It was clear to all that the Party was split in two. By that time the Bolshevik faction had already gained such strength that organizationally it was superior to its Menshevik opponent. Forced to choose between the two, it is not unlikely that Koba joined the Bolshevik faction. But we would be hard put to it, if we had to offer positive proof that Koba was already a member of the Bolshevik faction by the end of 1904. Beriya goes so far as to marshal a number of quotations from leaflets published at the time, yet he does not venture to say that Koba wrote any of them. That shy reticence about the authorship of these leaflets speaks louder than words. Beriya’s quotations from leaflets written by others than Koba serve, of course, the obvious purpose of filling in the gaping lacunae in Stalin’s biography.

Meantime, the differences of opinion between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks passed from the domain of party regulations to the domain of revolutionary strategy. The campaign of banquets—launched by zemstvo [1] workers and other liberals, and which grew apace during the autumn of 1904, largely because the distracted Tsarist authorities were too negligent to do anything about it—posed point-blank the question of relations between the Social-Democracy and the oppositionist bourgeoisie. The Menshevik plan called for an attempt to transform the workers into a democratic chorus supporting liberal soloists, a chorus sufficiently considerate and circumspect not only to “refrain from frightening” the liberals, but, more than that, one dedicated to bolstering the liberals’ faith in themselves. Lenin immediately launched his offensive. He derided the very idea of this plan—to substitute diplomatic support of a helpless opposition for the revolutionary struggle against Tsarism. The victory of the revolution can be secured only under pressure of the masses! Only a bold social program can rouse the masses to action: yet that is precisely what liberals fear. “We would have been fools had we taken their panic into consideration.” A smallish pamphlet by Lenin, which appeared in November, 1904, after a long silence, raised the spirits of his comrades and played an important part in developing Bolshevism’s tactical ideas. Was it not perhaps this pamphlet that had won Koba over? We do not venture to answer in the affirmative. In years to come, whenever he had occasion to exercise his own discretion in assuming a position with reference to the liberals, he invariably floundered toward the Menshevist notion of the importance of “refraining from frightening” the liberals. (Witness the revolutions in Russia in 1917, in China, in Spain and elsewhere.) The possibility is not excluded, however, that on the eve of the First Revolution, the plebeian Democrat appeared to be sincerely indignant with the opportunistic plan, which evoked great dissatisfaction even among rank and file Mensheviks. It must be said that, on the whole, among the radical intelligentsia, the tradition of maintaining a contemptuous attitude toward liberalism had not yet had time to fade away. It is also possible, however, that only Bloody Sunday[2] in Petersburg and the wave of strikes that swept the country in its wake had nudged the cautious and suspicious Caucasian to the path of Bolshevism. In any event, the milestone of that turn remained unrecorded in the annals of history.

[1] Zemstvo —semi-official local self-government principally in the provinces of Central Russia (there were no zemstvo s in the Western Russian provinces, in Poland, in the Baltic provinces, in the Cossack districts, in the Caucasus, Turkestan, and Siberia), administered under the supervision of the landed gentry ostensibly for public benefit. The institution was introduced by the Tsar-Liberator Alexander II (edict of January 1, 1864) shortly after the liberation of the serfs, liberalizing the police régime of the autocracy and representing a progressive step toward a constitutional régime. From its very inception the zemstvo had no real political authority, being dependent on the good will of the provincial governor and other appointees of the tsarist autocracy. Under Alexander III the self-governing ambit of the zemstvo was further limited! introducing in 1889 the office of zemski nachalnik, or Lands Administrator, a nobleman who functioned as judge over the peasantry, and who tightened his reins over the zemstvo ’s administrative power in local affairs. Barring these important limitations, the zemstvo outwardly resembled a county council. It took care of the roads, public health, fire-insurance, relief of the indigent, public education and other cultural and economic functions. In an extremely limited and rather timid way, the zemstvo was likewise a sounding board for liberal political sentiments. Always loyal to the Tsar, zemstvo leaders as a class were in favor of a constitutional régime in Russia. The Tsar used the zemstvo as a tool of the autocracy; whereas, from time to time, the revolutionists attempted to utilize individual zemstvo members, at least, as an auxiliary force in their struggle against the autocracy. Zemstvo physicians, engineers, statisticians, clerks and other employees came to be with increasing frequency revolutionists or sympathizers of the revolutionary parties.—C. M.

[2] January 22, 1905 (commonly known in Russia as The Ninth of January) went down into the annals of Russian history as “Bloody Sunday” after Tsar Nicholas II met a procession of loyal and unarmed Petersburg workingmen, come to petition him for redress of grievances under the leadership of Priest Gapon, with volleys of gunfire that killed hundreds of them. More than any other single factor, that act of monumental brutality undermined the faith of the average Russian in the good intentions of their “Little Father” and swept Russian workingmen in droves toward the revolutionary parties. That day marked the beginning of Russia’s first revolutionary year, 1905.—C. M.

The two old Bolsheviks, Stopani and Lehman, in their elaborately detailed reminiscences list all the revolutionists with whom they had occasion to deal at Baku and Tiflis toward the end of 1904 and the beginning of 1905: Koba is not on that list. Lehman names the people “who were at the head” of the Caucasian Union: Koba is not one of them. Stopani names the Bolsheviks who, jointly with the Mensheviks, led the famous Baku strike in December, 1904: again Koba’s name is among the missing. Yet Stopani should know whereof he writes, since he was himself a member of that strike committee. The reminiscences of both authors were published in the official Communist historical journal, and both memoirists, far from being “enemies of the people,” were good Stalinists; but they wrote their pieces in 1925, before planned falsification on assignment from above was developed into a system. In an article written as recently as 1926, Taratuta, a former member of the Bolshevik Central Committee, discussing “The Eve of the Revolution of 1905 in the Caucasus,” makes no mention whatever of Stalin. In the commentaries to the correspondence of Lenin and Krupskaya with the Caucasian organization Stalin’s name does not appear so much as once throughout the entire fifty pages. It is simply impossible to find around the latter part of 1904 and the beginning of 1905 any trace of activity by him who is nowadays portrayed as the founding father of Caucasian Bolshevism.

Nor does this conclusion run counter to the very latest of the interminable asseverations about Stalin’s implacable campaigning against the Mensheviks. All that is needed to reconcile these apparent contradictions is to push his campaigning some two years back, which is not hard, since there is no need to cite documents and no occasion to apprehend disproof. On the other hand, there is no reason to doubt that, having once made his choice, Koba waged his fight against the Mensheviks in the harshest, crudest and most unscrupulous manner That penchant for underhand ways and intrigues, which had been charged against him while he was a participant in the seminarist circles, a propagandist of the Tiflis Committee and a member of the Batum group, now found a far wider and bolder expression in the factional struggle.

Beriya names Tiflis, Batum, Chituary, Kutais and Poti as the places at which Stalin had engaged in debates against Noah Jordania, Irakli Tsereteli, Noah Ramishvili and other Menshevik leaders, as well as against the Anarchists and the Federalists. But Beriya cavalierly ignores all dates—an omission far from unintentional. As a matter of fact, the first of these discussions, which he fixes with some semblance of exactitude, took place in May, 1905. The situation is exactly the same in the case of Koba’s published writings. His first Bolshevik composition, a thin little pamphlet, was issued in May, 1905, under the rather odd title, “Slightly About Party Differences.”[3] Beriya deems it necessary to remark, without revealing on what grounds, that this pamphlet was written “at the beginning of 1905,” thereby disclosing more flagrantly than ever his attempt to shorten the two-year gap. One of the correspondents, evidently the future Litvinov, who did not know any Georgian, reported abroad the appearance in Tiflis of a pamphlet “which created a sensation”. This “sensation” can be explained only by the circumstance that the Georgian audience had heretofore heard nothing but the voice of the Mensheviks. In substance, this pamphlet amounts to no more than a sophomoric summary of Lenin’s writings. No wonder that it has never been reprinted. Beriya cites from it painstakingly culled quotations, which easily explain why the author himself was content to east over that pamphlet, as over his other literary works of that period, the pall of oblivion.

[3] Officially translated in English as “A Glance at the Disagreements in the Party.”—C. M.

In August, 1905, Stalin restated that chapter of Lenin’s book, “What Is To Be Done?”, which attempted to explain the correlation of the elemental labor movement and socialistic class-consciousness. According to Lenin’s representations, the labor movement, when left to its own devices, was inclined irrevocably toward opportunism; revolutionary class-consciousness was brought to the proletariat from the outside, by Marxist intellectuals. This is not the place for a criticism of that concept, which in its entirety belongs in a biography of Lenin rather than of Stalin. The author of “What Is To Be Done?” himself subsequently acknowledged the biased nature, and therewith the erroneousness, of his theory, which he had parenthetically interjected as a battery in the battle against “Economism” and its deference to the elemental nature of the labor movement. After his break with Lenin, Plekhanov came out with a belated, but all the more severe, criticism of “What Is To Be Done?”. The question of introducing revolutionary classconsciousness into the proletariat “from the outside” became timely again. The central organ of the Bolshevik Party recorded “the splendid posing of the question” concerning the introduction of class-consciousness “from the outside” in an anonymous article in a Georgian newspaper. That praise is cited nowadays as a kind of testimonial of Koba’s maturity as a theorist. As a matter of fact, it was nothing more than one of the customary encouraging remarks usually made by the foreign center whenever some provincial publication placed itself on record in defense of the ideas or the leaders of its own f action. As to the quality of the article, a sufficiently clear idea of it may be obtained from the following quotation in Beriya’s Russian translation:

Contemporary Life is arranged capitalistically. In it exist two great classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; a life or death struggle is waged between them. The circumstances of life compel the former to uphold the capitalistic order. The same circumstances compel the latter to undermine and to destroy the capitalistic order. Corresponding to these two classes, a two-f old class-consciousness, bourgeois and socialistic, is likewise created. Socialistic class-consciousness corresponds to the situation of the proletariat . .. But what significance can socialistic class-consciousness alone have, when it is not disseminated in the proletariat? It remains merely an empty phrase, and no more! Matters will take quite a different turn when that class-consciousness finds circulation in the proletariat: the proletariat will then realize its situation and will strive at an increasing pace to achieve the socialist way of Life …

and so forth. Such articles were rescued from duly merited oblivion only by the subsequent fate of their author. Yet, it is quite self-evident that the articles in themselves do not explain that fate; rather, they render it even more enigmatic.

Throughout 1905 Koba did not figure at all among Lenin’s and Krupskaya’s Caucasian correspondents, even as he had not figured prior to that. On the eighth of March a certain Tari, writing from Tiflis, summarized the reactions of certain Caucasian Mensheviks in the following words: “Lenin grasped the meaning of our times before anyone else and better than anyone else.” The same Tari wrote: “Lenin is referred to as a kind of Bazarov among these Arcady Nikolayeviches.” The reference is, of course, to Turgenev’s heroes: Bazarov, the practical realist type; and Arcady Nikolayevich, the idealist and phrasemonger. Under the name of Tari the editors of the historical journal indited the footnote, “Author unknown”. But the pointed literary reference alone suffices to show that Stalin could not have been the author of that letter. In Lenin’s articles and letters for the second half of 1905—at least in those published to date—are mentioned more than thirty Social-Democrats who had worked in Russia; of these, nineteen are closest in age to Lenin and twelve to Stalin. Stalin himself does not figure in that correspondence, either as a direct participant or as a third person. We are therefore obliged to adhere as firmly as ever to the conclusion we have already enunciated—that Stalin’s tale of having received a letter from Lenin in 1903 is simply a fabrication.

After his break with the editorial board of Iskra, Lenin, who was then about thirty-four years old, lived through months of wavering—a condition doubly difficult for him because so flagrantly at variance with his character—before he became convinced that his followers were comparatively numerous and his young authority sufficiently strong. The successful culmination of the arrangements for the new congress made plain beyond a doubt that the Social-Democratic organizations were preponderantly Bolshevik. The conciliatory Central Committee, led by Krassin, finally capitulated to the “illegal” Bureau of the Committees of the Majority and participated in the congress it could not prevent. Thus, the Third Congress—which convened in April, 1905, in London, and from which the Mensheviks deliberately stayed away, satisfying themselves with a conference in Geneva—became the constituent congress of Bolshevism. The twenty-four voting and fourteen advisory delegates were all, almost without exception, those Bolsheviks who had been faithful to Lenin from the moment of the split at the Second Congress and had aroused the Committees of the Party against the combined authority of Plekhanov, Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Martov, and Potresov. At this Congress was legitimatized that view on the moving forces of the Russian Revolution which Lenin developed in the course of his forthright fight against his former teachers and closest collaborators on the Iskra, and which thenceforth acquired greater practical significance than the Party’s official program worked out in common with the Mensheviks.

The ill-starred and inglorious war with Japan was hastening the disintegration of the Tsarist régime. Coming after the first great wave of strikes and demonstrations, the Third Congress reflected the approach of the revolutionary denouement. “The entire history of the past year has shown,” Lenin said in his report to the assembled delegates, “that we had underestimated the significance and the inevitability of insurrection.” The Congress took a resolute step forward on the agrarian question by acknowledging the necessity of supporting the peasant movement then current even to the extent of confiscating the lands of the landed gentry. More concretely than heretofore, it outlined the general perspective of the revolutionary struggle and the conquest of power, particularly on the question of the provisional revolutionary government as the organizer of civil war. As Lenin put it, “Even if we were to take possession of Petersburg and guillotine Nicholas, we would still be confronted with several Vendées.” The Congress undertook, with greater boldness than ever, the technical preparation of the insurrection. “On the question of creating special fighting groups,” said Lenin, “I must say that I deem them indispensable.”

The greater one’s regard for the significance of the Third Congress, the more noteworthy is Koba’s absence from it. By that time he had to his credit nearly seven years of revolutionary activity, including prison, exile and escape. Had he been a person of any consequence at all among the Bolsheviks, surely that record would have assured at least his candidacy as a delegate. Koba was moreover at liberty all through the year 1905, and according to Beriya, “took the most active part in the matter of organizing the Third Congress of the Bolsheviks.” If that is true, surely he should have been the chief of the Caucasian delegation. Why, then, wasn’t he? Had illness or any other exceptional cause prevented his journeying abroad, the official biographers would surely not have failed to tell us about it. Their uncommunicativeness is explicable only on the grounds of their not having at their disposal a single credible explanation for the absence of the “leader of the Caucasian Bolsheviks” from that historically important congress. Beriya’s assertions about “the most active” participation of Koba in organizing the Congress is one of those meaningless phrases with which official Soviet historiography is replete. In an article devoted to the thirtieth anniversary of the Third Congress, the well-informed Osip Pyatnitsky says nothing whatsoever about Stalin’s participation in the arrangements for the Congress, while the court historian Yaroslavsky limits himself to a vague remark, the substance of which is that Stalin’s work in the Caucasus “had undoubtedly tremendous significance” for the Congress, without elucidating the precise nature of that significance. Yet, from all we have so far managed to learn, the situation appears to be quite clear after hesitating for a considerable period of time, Koba joined the Bolsheviks shortly before the Third Congress; he took no part in the November Conference in the Caucasus; he was never a member of the bureau established by it; and being a newcomer, he could not have even hoped for a delegate’s mandate. The delegation consisted of Kamenev, Nevsky, Tskhakaya, and Dzhaparidze; these were the leaders of Caucasian Bolshevism at that time. Their subsequent fate is not irrelevant to our narrative: Dzhaparidze was shot by the English in 1918; Kamenev was shot eighteen years later by Stalin; Nevsky was proclaimed an “enemy of the people” by Stalin’s fiat and vanished without a trace; and only the aged Tskhakaya has survived, having managed to outlive himself.

The negative aspect of Bolshevism’s centripetal tendencies first became apparent at the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democracy. The habits peculiar to a political machine were already forming in the underground. The young revolutionary bureaucrat was already emerging as a type. The conditions of conspiracy, true enough, offered rather meager scope for such of the formalities of democracy as electiveness, accountability and control. Yet, undoubtedly the committeemen narrowed these limitations considerably more than necessity demanded and were far more intransigent and severe with the revolutionary workingmen than with themselves, preferring to domineer even on occasions that called imperatively for lending an attentive ear to the voice of the masses. Krupskaya notes that, just as in the Bolshevik committees, so at the Congress itself, there were almost no workingmen. The intellectuals predominated. “The ‘committeeman,’ “ writes Krupskaya, “was usually quite a self-confident person; he was fully aware of the tremendous influence wielded by the Committee’s activities on the masses; the ‘committeeman; as a rule, did not recognize any internal party democracy; inherently the ‘committeeman’ was contemptuous of the ’foreign center,’ which raged and ranted and started squabbles ‘they ought to try Russian conditions for a change’ … At the same time, he did not want any innovations. The ‘committeeman’ did not desire, and did not know how, to adapt himself to rapidly changing conditions.” That restrained yet very pithy characterization is most helpful to an understanding of Koba’s political psychology, for he was the “committeeman” par excellence . As early as 1901, at the outset of his revolutionary career at Tiflis he opposed drafting workingmen into his Committee. As a “practico”—that is, as a political empiricist—he reacted with indifference, and subsequently with contempt, toward the émigrés, toward the “foreign center”. Devoid of personal qualifications for directly influencing the masses, he clung with redoubled tenacity to the political machine. The axis of his universe was his Committee—the Tiflis, the Baku, the Caucasian, before it became the Central Committee. In time to come his blind loyalty to the Party machine was to develop with extraordinary force; the committeeman became the super-machine man, the Party’s General Secretary, the very personification of the bureaucracy and its peerless leader.

In this connection it is rather tempting to draw the inference that future Stalinism was already rooted in Bolshevik centralism or, more sweepingly, in the underground hierarchy of professional revolutionists. But upon analysis that inference crumbles to dust, disclosing an astounding paucity of historical content. Of course, there are dangers of one kind or another in the very process of stringently picking and choosing persons of advanced views and welding them into a tightly centralized organization. But the roots of such dangers will never be found in the so-called “principle” of centralism; rather they should be sought in the lack of homogeneity and the backwardness of the toilers—that is, in the general social conditions which make imperative that very centripetal leadership of the class by its vanguard. The key to the dynamic problem of leadership is in the actual interrelationships between the political machine and its party, between the vanguard and its Glass, between centralism and democracy. Those interrelationships cannot, of their nature, be established a priori and remain immutable. They are dependent on concrete historical conditions; their mobile balance is regulated by the vital struggle of tendencies, which, as represented by their extreme wings, oscillate between the despotism of the political machine and the impotence of phrasemongering.

In the pamphlet, “Our Political Problems,” written by me in 1904, which contains not a little that is immature and erroneous in my criticism of Lenin, there are, however, pages which present a fairly accurate characterization of the east of thought of the “committeemen” of those days, who “have foregone the need to rely upon the workers after they had found support in the ’principles’ of centralism.” The fight Lenin was obliged to wage the following year at the Congress against the high and mighty “committeemen” completely confirmed the justice of my criticism. “The debates assumed a more passionate character,” recounts Lyadov, one of the delegates. “There began to emerge definite groupings into theoreticians and practicos, literaries’ and committeemen … In the course of these disputes the rather youngish worker Rykov came most prominently to the forefront. He succeeded in grouping around himself a majority of the committeemen.” Lyadov’s sympathies were with Rykov. “I could not contain myself,” Lenin exclaimed in his concluding remarks, “when I heard it said that there were no workingmen fit for committee membership.” Let us recall how insistently Koba had challenged the Tiflis workingmen to acknowledge—”placing your hand on your heart”—that among them there were none fit for taking the holy orders of the priestly caste. “The question is being put off,” Lenin persisted. “There is evidently an illness in the Party.” That illness was the high-handedness of the political machine, the beginning of bureaucracy.

Lenin understood better than anyone else the need for a centralized organization; but he saw in it, above all, a lever for enhancing the activity of the advanced workingmen. The idea of making a fetish of the political machine was not only alien but repugnant to his nature. At the Congress he spotted the caste tendency of the committeemen at once and opened an impassioned fight against it. “Vladimir Ilyich was very much excited,” confirms Krupskaya, “and the committeemen were very much excited.” On that occasion the victory was with the committeemen, whose leader was Rykov, Lenin’s future successor in the post of Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. Lenin’s resolution, proposing that each Committee should necessarily contain a majority of workingmen, failed to pass. Again against the will of Lenin, the committeemen resolved to place the editorial board abroad under the control of the Central Committee. A year earlier Lenin would have chosen to split rather than consent to have the direction of the Party dependent upon the Russian Center, which was subjected to raids by the police and was, therefore, unstable in its composition. But now he firmly reckoned that the decisive word would be his. Having Brown strong in his fight against the old authoritative leaders of the Russian Social-Democracy, he felt much more self-confident than at the Second Congress and, therefore, calmer. If, as Krupskaya states, he was indeed “excited” during the debates or rather, seemed excited, he was all the more circumspect about the organizational steps he undertook. He not only accepted his defeat on two exceedingly important questions in silence, but even helped to include Rykov in the Central Committee. He did not doubt for a moment that the Revolution, that great teacher of the masses in matters of initiative and enterprise, would be able, simultaneously and without great difficulty, to demolish the youthful and as yet unstable conservatism of the Party’s political machine.

In addition to Lenin, to the Central Committee were elected the engineer Leonid Krassin and the naturalist, physician and philosopher A. A. Bogdanov, both coevals of Lenin; Postolovsky, who soon after abandoned the Party, and Rykov. The alternates were the “literary,” Rumyantsev and the two practicos Gussev and Bour. Needless to say, no one thought of proposing Koba for the first Bolshevik Central Committee.

In 1934, the Congress of the Communist Party of Georgia, using as a basis Beriya’s report, declared that “nothing so far written reflects the real and authentic role of Comrade Stalin, who had actually led the struggle of the Bolsheviks in the Caucasus for a good many years.” How that happened, the Congress did not explain. But all the old memoirists and historians were forthwith proscribed, and some of them were eventually shot. Then, to correct all the iniquities of the past, it was decided to establish a special “Stalin Institute”. With that was launched a sweeping purge of all the old parchments, which were instanter covered with new characters. Never before under the vault of heaven had there been such large-scale invention of falsehoods. Yet, the situation of the biographer is not utterly hopeless.

[We know that] Koba returned from exile to Tiflis in February, 1904, always invariably and triumphantly “directing the activity of the Bolsheviks”. With the exception of brief departures, he spent the major part of the years 1904 and 1905 at Tiflis. According to the latest memoirs, the workers were wont to say, “Koba is skinning the Mensheviks alive.” Yet it would seem that the Georgian Mensheviks hardly suffered from that surgical operation. It was only as late as the latter half of 1905 that the Tiflis Bolsheviks entered the “period of lining up together” and “considered” issuing news sheets. What then was the nature of the organization to which Koba belonged during most of 1904 and during the first half of 1905? If he did not stay out of the labor movement altogether, which is unlikely, everything we have heard from Beriya notwithstanding, he must have been a member of the Menshevik organization. By the beginning of 1906 the number of Lenin’s followers at Tiflis had increased to three hundred. But the Mensheviks numbered about three thousand. The mere correlation of forces doomed Koba to literary opposition at the very climax of revolutionary development.

”Two years (1905-1907) of revolutionary work among the workers of the oil industry,” Stalin testifies, “hardened me”. It is decidedly improbable that in a painstakingly edited and re-edited text of his own speech the orator merely

happened to be muddled as to where exactly he had been during the year when the nation underwent its revolutionary baptism by fire, as well as the following year, 1906, when the entire country was still in the throes of convulsions and was living in constant apprehension of the dénouement. Such events cannot be forgotten! It is impossible to be rid of the impression that Stalin deliberately avoided mention of the First Revolution because he simply had nothing at all to say about it. Since Baku conjured a more heroic background than Tiflis, he retrospectively moved himself to Baku two and a half years earlier than he had a right to. True, he has no reason to fear objections by Soviet historians. Yet the question, “What did Koba really do in 1905?” remains unanswered.

The first year of the Revolution opened with the shooting of the Petersburg workers who had marched with a petition to the Tsar. The appeal written by

Koba on the occasion of the events of January the twenty-second is crowned with this adjuration:

Let us hold out our hands to each other and rally around our Party’s committees. We must not forget even for a minute that only the Party committees can worthily lead us, only they will light our way to the Promised Land …

and the like. What self-assurance in the voice of this “committeeman”! During those very days, or perchance hours, in far-off Geneva, Lenin was writing into an article by one of his collaborators the following adjuration to the insurgent masses:

Make way for the anger and hatred that have accumulated in your hearts throughout the centuries of exploitation, suffering and grief!

All of Lenin is in that phrase. He hates and rebels together with the masses, feels the rebellion in his bones, and does not ask of those in revolt that they act only with the permission of the “committees”. The contrast between these two personalities in their attitude toward the one thing that united them politically—toward the Revolution—could not be expressed more concisely or more cogently.

The establishment of the Soviets[4] began five months after the Third Congress, at which no place had been found for Koba. The initiative was that of the Mensheviks, who, however, had never dreamed whither their handiwork would lead. The Menshevik faction predominated in the Soviets. The rank and file Mensheviks were carried away by the revolutionary developments; the leaders mused in perplexity over the sudden leftward swing of their own faction. The Petersburg Committee of the Bolsheviks was frightened at first by such an innovation as a non-partisan representation of the embattled masses, and could find nothing better to do than to present the Soviet with an ultimatum: immediately adopt a Social-Democratic program or disband. The Petersburg Soviet as a whole, including the contingent of Bolshevik workingmen as well, ignored this ultimatum without batting an eyelash. Only after Lenin’s arrival in November did a radical turn take place in the policy of the “committeemen” toward the Soviet. But the ultimatum had wreaked its havoc by decidedly weakening the Bolshevik position. On that issue, as on the others, the provinces followed the lead of the capital. By that time the profound differences of opinion in the estimation of the historical significance of the Soviets had already begun. The Mensheviks attempted to evaluate the Soviet as no more than a fortuitous form of labor representation—a “proletarian parliament,” an “organ of revolutionary self-administration,” and the like. All of that was exceedingly vague. Lenin, on the contrary, knew how to eavesdrop thoroughly on the Petersburg masses who called the Soviet “the proletarian government,” and at once evaluated that new form of organization as the lever of the struggle for power.

[4] See Glossary.

In the writings of Koba for the year 1905, sparse in both form and content, we find nothing at all about the Soviets. This is not only because there were not any in Georgia, but because he simply did not pay any attention to them, passed them by. Is it not astounding? The Soviet as a powerful political machine should have impressed the future General Secretary at first glance. But he regarded it as an alien political machine which directly represented the masses. The Soviet did not submit to the discipline of the Committee, requiring more complex and more resilient methods of leadership. In a certain sense, the Soviet was a mighty competitor of the Committee. So, during the Revolution of 1905, Koba stood with his back to the Soviets. Essentially, he stood with his back to the Revolution itself, as though taking umbrage at it.

The reason for his resentment was his inability to see his own way to the Revolution. Muscovite biographers and artists constantly endeavor to represent Koba at the head of one or another demonstration, “as a target,” as a fiery orator, as a tribune. All of that is a lie. Even in his later years Stalin did not become an orator; no one ever heard him deliver “fiery” speeches. Throughout 1917, when all the agitators of the Party, beginning with Lenin, went around with cracked voices, Stalin did not address any public meetings at all. It could not have been otherwise in 1905. Koba was not even an orator on the modest scale that other young Caucasian revolutionists were; such as, Knunyants, Zurabov, Kamenev, Tseretelli. At a closed session of the Party he was able to expound fairly well thoughts he had firmly made his own. But there was nothing of the agitator in him. He would force himself to utter sentences with great difficulty, without tonality, without warmth, without emphasis. The organic weakness of his nature, the reverse side of his strength, consisted in his complete inability to catch fire, to rise above the humdrum level of trivialities, to conjure a vital bond between himself and his audience, to arouse in an audience its better self. Unable to catch fire himself, he was incapable of inflaming others. Cold spite is not enough for mastering the soul of the masses.

1905 unsealed the lips of all. The country that had been silent for a thousand years began to speak for the first time. Anyone who was at all capable of expressing his detestation of the bureaucracy and of the Tsar found tireless and grateful listeners. Undoubtedly, Koba, too, tried himself out. But comparison with other extempore orators proved altogether too disadvantageous to him. He could not bear that. Although insensitive to the feelings of others, Koba is extremely easily hurt, exceedingly sensitive about his own feelings, and, although it may seem startling, he is moody to the point of capriciousness. His reactions are primitive. Whenever he feels himself ignored or neglected, he is inclined to turn his back upon developments as well as upon people, creep into a comer, moodily pull on his pipe and dream of revenge. That was why in 1905 he walked into the shadows with hidden resentment and became something in the nature of an editor.

But Koba was far from a born journalist. His thinking is too slow, his associations too single-tracked, his style too plodding and barren. When he desires to produce a forceful effect he resorts to vile expressions. Not a single one of the articles he then wrote would have been accepted by an editorial board in the slightest degree thoughtful or exacting. True enough, underground publications were not, as a rule, notable for their literary excellence, since they were, for the most part, written by people who took to the pen of necessity and not because it was their calling. Koba, at any rate, did not rise above that level. His writing revealed an attempt to attain a systematic exposition of the theme; but that effort usually expressed itself in schematic arrangement of material, the enumeration of arguments, artificial rhetorical questions, and in unwieldy repetitions heavily on the didactic side. The absence of his own thought, of original form, of vivid imagery—these mark every line of his with the brand of banality. Here is an author who never freely expresses his own thoughts, but diffidently restates the thoughts of others. The word “diffidently” may seem startling when applied to Stalin; it nevertheless characterizes his groping manner as a writer most adequately, from his Caucasian period to this very day.

It would, of course, be erroneous to assume that such articles did not lead to action. There was great need for them. They answered a pressing demand. They drew their strength from that need, for they expressed the ideas and slogans of the Revolution. To the mass reader, who could not find anything of the kind in the bourgeois press, they were new and fresh. But their passing influence was limited to the circle for which they were written. Now it is impossible to read these dryly, clumsily, and not always grammatically, formulated phrases, startlingly decorated with the paper flowers of rhetoric, without a sense of constraint, embarrassment, annoyance, and at times laughter over lapses into unconscious humor. And no wonder: even at that time no one looked upon Koba as a journalist. All the Bolshevik writers, prominent and obscure, from the capital and from the provinces, contributed to the first legal Bolshevik daily newspaper Novaya Zhizn (New Life), which began publication in October, 1905, at Petersburg under Lenin’s guidance. Yet Stalin’s name is not among them. It was Kamenev, not Stalin, who was called upon to represent the Caucasus on that newspaper in an editorial capacity. Koba was no born writer and never became a writer. That he plied the pen with greater than usual diligence in 1905 merely emphasizes the fact that the alternate method of communicating with the masses was even less native to him.

Many of the committeemen proved themselves not big enough for the period of endless meetings, of stormy strikes, of street demonstrations. Revolutionists must harangue crowds in the public square, must write on the spur of the moment, make grave decisions instantaneously. Neither the first nor the second nor the third is a gift of Stalin’s: his voice is as weak as his imagination; the gift of improvisation is alien to this plodding thinker, who ever gropes his way. Far brighter luminaries outshone him on the Caucasian firmament. He watched the Revolution with envious alarm, and almost with hostility: it was not his element. “Right along,” writes Yenukidze, “in addition to going to meetings and attending to a lot of business in the Party locals, he sat in his little cubbyhole filled with books and newspapers or in the similarly ‘roomy’ editorial office of the Bolshevik newspaper.” One need but visualize for a moment the maelstrom of “the mad year” and recall the grandeur of its pathos, in order fully to appreciate this portrait of a lonely and ambitious young man, who buried himself, pen in hand, in a tiny room—which most likely was not any too neat, either –bound on the fruitless quest of the unyielding phrase that might in some small measure be in tune with the epoch.

Developments followed upon developments. Koba remained on the sidelines, dissatisfied with everybody and with himself. All the prominent Bolsheviks, among them many who in those years were the leaders of the movement in the Caucasus—Krassin, Postolovsky, Stopani, Lehman, Halperin, Kamenev, Taratuta, and others—passed Stalin by, did not mention him in their memoirs, and he himself has nothing to say about them. Some, like Kurnatovsky and Kamenev, undoubtedly came in contact with him in the course of their revolutionary activities. Others might have met him, but did not deem him different from the average run of “committeemen”. Not one of them singled him out with so much as a word of appreciation or fellow-feeling, nor did any of them give the future official biographers the slenderest foothold in the way of a sympathetic reference.

In 1926 the official commission on Party history issued a revised edition –that is, one adapted to the new post-Leninist tendency— of source materials about the year 1905. Of the more than a hundred documents nearly thirty were Lenin’s articles; there were approximately as many articles by various other authors. Despite the fact that the campaign against Trotskyism was already approaching its paroxysm of rage, the editorial board of true believers could not avoid including in the anthology four of my articles. Yet throughout the four hundred and fifty-five pages there was not a single line by Stalin. In the alphabetical index, which included several hundred names, listing anyone at all who was in the slightest way prominent during the revolutionary years, Stalin’s name did not appear even once; only Ivanovich is mentioned as one who had attended the Tammerfors Conference of the Party in December, 1905. Remarkable is the f act that as recently as 1926 the editorial board was still ignorant of the f act that Ivanovich and Stalin were one and the same person. These impartial details are far more convincing than all the retrospective panegyrics.

Stalin seems to stand apart from the revolutionary year, 1905. His “pupilage” had come during the pre-revolutionary years, which he spent at Tiflis, Batum and subsequently in prison and exile. According to his own avowal, he had turned “apprentice” at Baku—that is, in 1907-1908. The period of the First Revolution is thus totally eliminated as a training period in the development of the future “craftsman”. Whenever he waxes autobiographic, Stalin does not mention that great year, which brought out into the world and molded the most distinguished revolutionary leaders of the older generation. That should be firmly kept in mind, for it is far from accidental. In his autobiography, the very next revolutionary year, 1917, was to become almost as misty a spot as 1905. Again we shall find Koba, now become Stalin, in an unpretentious editorial office, this time of the Petersburg Pravda, unhurriedly writing dull comments on brilliant events. Here is a revolutionist so constituted that a real revolution of the masses upsets him by throwing him out of his rut and kicks him aside. Never a tribune, never the strategist or leader of a rebellion, he has ever been only a bureaucrat of revolution. That was why, in order to find full play for his peculiar talents, he was condemned to hide his time in a semi-comatose condition until the revolution’s raging torrents had subsided.

The split into the Majority and Minority had been ratified at the Third Congress, which declared the Mensheviks “a seceded portion of the Party”. The Party was in a state of utter disunion, when the developments transpiring in the autumn of 1905 exerted their beneficent pressure and somewhat softened factional hostility. On the eve of his long-awaited departure from exile in Switzerland to revolutionary Russia in October of that year, Lenin wrote Plekhanov a warm and conciliatory letter, in which he ref erred to his erstwhile teacher and opponent as “the finest influence among Russian Social-Democrats” and appealed to him for co-operation, declaring, “Our tactical differences of opinion are being swept aside at an astounding rate by the revolution itself …” That was true. But not for long, because the revolution itself did not long endure.

There is no doubt that in the beginning the Mensheviks were more resourceful than the Bolsheviks in establishing and utilizing mass organizations. But as a political party they merely floated with the current and almost drowned in it. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, adjusted themselves more slowly to the sweep of the movement. But they enriched it with their ringing slogans—the product of their realistic estimation of the Revolution’s forces. The Mensheviks were preponderant in the Soviet; yet the general direction of the Soviet’s policy proceeded in the main along Bolshevik lines. Opportunists to the very marrow of their bones, the Mensheviks were temporarily able to adapt themselves even to the revolutionary upsurge; yet they were incapable either of guiding it or of remaining faithful to its historic tasks during the Revolution’s ebb-tide.

After the October General Strike—which snatched the constitutional manifesto from the Tsar, while generating in the workers’ districts a mood of optimism and daring—unification tendencies assumed irresistible force in both factions. Unifying or federative committees of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks sprang up in all sorts of places. The leaders succumbed to this tendency. As a step toward complete fusion, each f action convoked its preliminary conference. The Mensheviks convened at Petersburg toward the end of November. In that city the new-fangled “liberties” were still respected. But the Bolsheviks met in December, when the reaction was already in full swing, and they were therefore obliged to hold their conclave on Finnish soil, at Tammerfors.

Initially the Bolshevik conference was conceived as an extraordinary congress of the Party. But the railway strike, the uprising in Moscow and a number of other exceptional developments in the provinces made it imperative for many delegates to remain at home, rendering the representation exceedingly unrepresentative. The forty-one delegates that arrived represented twenty-six organizations with a total voting strength of approximately four thousand. The figure seems insignificant for a revolutionary party contemplating the overthrow of Tsarism and the assumption of its place in the impending revolutionary government. Yet these four thousand had already learned to express the will of hundreds of thousands. Still, because of its numerical inadequacy, the congress transformed itself into a mere conference. Koba, using the pseudonym Ivanovich, and the workingman, Teliya, came as representatives of the Transcaucasian Bolshevik organizations. The stirring events then transpiring in Titus did not deter Koba from abandoning his editorial office.

The minutes of the Tammerfors discussions, which proceeded while Moscow was being cannonaded, have not yet been found. The memory of the delegates, overwhelmed by the grandeur of the events then taking place, has retained very little. “What a pity that the minutes of that conference have not been preserved,” Krupskaya wrote thirty years later. “It was such an enthusiastic gathering! It took place at the very climax of the Revolution, when every comrade was spoiling for a fight. They practiced shooting between sessions … None of the delegates at the conference could have forgotten that. There were Lozovsky, Baransky, Yaroslovsky, and many others. I remember these comrades because their reports of local conditions were exceptionally interesting.” Krupskaya did not name Ivanovich: she did not remember him. In the memoirs of Gorev, a member of the conference’s praesidium, we read in part: “Among the delegates were Sverdlov, Lozovsky, Stalin, Nevsky and others.” Not devoid of interest is the order of these names. It is also known that Ivanovich, who spoke in favor of boycotting the elections to the State Duma, was chosen a member of the committee concerned with that question.

The waves of the surf still beat so high that even the Mensheviks, frightened by their own recent opportunistic mistakes, did not dare to place both their feet on the uncertain board of parliamentarism. In the interests of agitation they proposed to take part only in the preliminary stage of the elections, but not to take their seats in the Duma. The predominant mood among the Bolsheviks was for an “active boycott”. In his own peculiar way Stalin described Lenin’s position of those days at the unpretentious celebration of Lenin’s fiftieth birthday in 1920, as follows:

I remember how that giant, Lenin, twice admitted the errors of his ways. The first episode was in Finland, in 1905, in December, at the All-Russian Bolshevik Conference. At that time the question was posed concerning the advisability to boycott the Witte Duma[5]. The discussion opened, the attack was begun by the provincials, the Siberians, the Caucasians. But what was our surprise, when at the end of our speeches, Lenin stepped forward and declared that he had been in favor of participating in the elections, but that now he saw that he had been mistaken and was ready to support our faction. We were amazed. That produced the impression of an electric shock. We gave him a thunderous ovation.

[5] On October 30, 1905, on the initiative of S. Y. Witte, the Tsarist Government issued a manifesto (popularly known from its old style date as the “Manifesto of the Seventeenth of October”), which, in addition to granting formally a democratic franchise and the fundamental civil liberties, enunciated the principle that no law could henceforth be promulgated in Russia without the consent of the Duma. That virtual capitulation of the autocracy, instigated by Witte, was a maneuver for winning the Liberal groups to the side of the Government and gaining their support against the imminent revolution. Witte was appointed Prime Minister and granted the privilege of choosing his cabinet even from among Oppositionist groupings. It was thus during his administration that the elections to the First Duma took place in March, 1906. At the polis the autocracy sustained a crushing defeat, for, while the Government parties secured but a handful of seats, the majority of the Duma consisted of Opposition deputies, with the Constitutional Democrats (popularly known as the Kadets), led by the prominent Zemstvo leader I. I. Petrunkevich, as the strongest party in the Duma. Whereupon the Tsar dismissed Witte and replaced him with the reactionary and obedient Goremykin. The First Duma was opened by the Tsar on May to and was dissolved by his ukase on July 21, with the agrarian problem as the chief bone of contention between the Government and the Opposition. The stormy debates were around a bill, sponsored by the Kadets, which provided for the expropriation of large estates, with compensation to the owners, and distribution of the expropriated lands among the peasants. Having catered to the nobility by dissolving this Duma, Nicholas II made a concession to the Liberals by dismissing Goremykin and appointing Stolypin Prime Minister. The “Witte Duma” was thus the First Duma, which Witte had initiated but which he was denied the opportunity either to guide or to manage.

The Second Duma, elections to which were not boycotted by the Socialist parties, was even more strongly Oppositionist than the First, with a stronger Left Wing (180 Socialists, including the Bolsheviks, as against 85 moderate Laborites in the First Duma), and its conflict with the Government was even sharper than that of the First Duma. Its climax carne when the Government charged 55 Socialist deputies with a plot against the Tsar, who forthwith dissolved the Second Duma June 15, 1907, after a three-months session that had begun on March 5.

The Third Duma opened November 14, 1907, after the Government had meantime so altered the electoral law that it secured a majority of reactionary and conservative deputies, with the Liberals and Socialists in a minority. That Duma sat through its legal tenure of office until 1912. It was followed the same year by the Fourth Duma, which continued until 1917.—C. M.

No one else mentioned that “electric shock” nor the “thunderous ovation” given by fifty pairs of hands. It is nevertheless possible that Stalin’s version of the occurrence is substantially correct. In those days Bolshevik “firmness” had not yet become associated with tactical resilience, especially among the “practico,” who were devoid of both background and mental outlook. Lenin himself might have wavered; the pressure of the provincials might have seemed to him the pressure of the revolutionary elements themselves. But regardless of whether it was so or not, the conference resolved “to attempt to undermine this police Duma, rejecting all participation in it.” The only strange thing about it is that Stalin in 1920 continued to see Lenin’s “mistake” in his initial readiness to take part in the elections; by that time Lenin himself had come to acknowledge his yielding in favor of the boycott as his real mistake.

Concerning Ivanovich’s participation in the debates on the question of boycotting the Duma elections, there is the colorful tale of a certain Dmitrievsky, which seems to be a pure and simple fabrication. He writes:

Stalin was at first excited. This was the first time he spoke before a meeting of the Party’s leading group. This was the first time he spoke before Lenin. But Lenin regarded him with interested eyes, nodding his head approvingly. Stalin’s voice grew stronger. When he finished, everybody approved of him. His point of view was accepted.

Whence this information of the author, who had nothing at all to do with the conference? Dmitrievsky is a former Soviet diplomat, a chauvinist and anti-Semite, who temporarily joined Stalin’s faction during its struggle against Trotskyism and later, while abroad, deserted to the camp of the Right Wing of the White emigration. It is significant that even as a functioning outright Fascist Dmitrievsky continues to regard Stalin highly, to detest all of his opponents, and to repeat all the legends of the Kremlin. But let us hear more of his tale. After the session at which the boycott of the Duma was considered, Lenin and Stalin

together walked out of the People’s House, where the conference was being held. It was cold. A sharp wind blew. For a long time they continued to walk through the streets of Tammerfors. Lenin was interested in that man, who he had heard was one of the most resolute and hard-headed revolutionists of Transcaucasia. He wanted to take a good look at him at close range. Attentively, for a long time and in great detail he questioned him about his work, about his life, about the people he had met, about the books he had read. From time to time, Lenin would drop brief comments … and their tone was satisfactory, approving. That man was precisely the kind he needed.

Dmitrievsky was not at Tammerfors, he could not have eavesdropped on Lenin’s conversation with Stalin in the street at night and, as is evident from his book, he had never talked with Stalin himself, to whose authority he does not refer. Yet in that story of his one senses something vivid and … familiar. After some tugs on my memory, I realized that Dmitrievsky had simply adapted to the Finnish climate my own account of my first meeting with Lenin and of our walk in the streets of London in the autumn of 1902. Folklore is rich with the transposition of brilliant episodes from one mythological person to another. The bureaucracy pursues the very same methods in creating its own myths.

Koba was exactly twenty-six years old when he finally pecked his way out of his provincial shell and emerged into the orbit of the Party as a whole. True, that emergence of his was hardly noticed, and seven additional years were to pass before he became a Central Committee member. The Tammerfors conference was nonetheless an important milestone in his life. He visited Petersburg, met the staff of the Party, observed its mechanism, compared himself with other delegates, took part in discussions, was elected to a committee and (as his official biography has it) “definitely connected himself with Lenin.” To our regret, very little is known about all of that.

It was possible to convene the unification congress only in April of 1936, at Stockholm. By that time the Petersburg Soviet had been arrested, the Moscow uprising crushed, the Juggernaut of repression had rolled over the entire country. The Mensheviks scattered to the Right. Plekhanov expressed their state of mind in his winged phrase, “We should not have taken up arms!” The Bolsheviks continued to hold true to their course of insurrection. Over the hones of the revolution, the Tsar was convoking the First Duma, in which, from the very beginning of the elections, the victory of the Liberals over the frank monarchical reaction was clearly apparent. The Mensheviks, who a mere few weeks back had stood for a semi-boycott of the Duma, now transferred their hopes from the revolutionary struggle to constitutional conquests. At the time of the Stockholm Congress, the support of the Liberals seemed to them the most important task of the Social-Democracy. The Bolsheviks awaited the further development of the peasant uprisings, which were expected to help the proletarian struggle to resume the offensive, at the same time sweeping aside the Tsarist Duma. Counterposing the Mensheviks, they continued to support the boycott. As always after a defeat, the differences of opinion at once assumed an acute character. It was under such bad auspices that the unifying Congress began its session.

The number of voting delegates at the Congress was 113, consisting of 62 Mensheviks and 42 Bolsheviks. Since theoretically each delegate represented 300 organized Social-Democrats, it might be said that the entire Party had about 34,000 members, of whom 19,000 were Mensheviks and 14,000 Bolsheviks. Considering the vehemence of electioneering, these figures are undoubtedly considerably exaggerated. In any event, at the time the Congress convened the Party was no longer growing, but shrinking. Of the 113 delegates, Tiflis had eleven. Of these eleven, ten were Mensheviks, one was a Bolshevik. That single Bolshevik was Koba, under the pseudonym of Ivanovich. The relationship of forces is herewith expressed in the exact terminology of plain arithmetic. Beriya had the temerity to state that “under the leadership of Stalin” the Caucasian Bolsheviks had isolated the Mensheviks from the masses. These figures hardly bear him out. And besides, the closely-knit Caucasian Mensheviks played a tremendous role in their own fraction[6] at the Congress.

[6] See Glossary.

Ivanovich’s rather active participation in the work of the Congress was recorded in the minutes. Yet unless one knew while reading the record that Ivanovich was Stalin, one would not pay the slightest heed to his speeches and remarks. As recently as ten years ago no one quoted those speeches, and even Party historians had not noticed the circumstance that Ivanovich and the General Secretary of the Party were one and the same person. Ivanovich was placed on one of the technical committees set up to find out how the delegates had been elected to the Congress. For all its insignificance, that appointment was symptomatic: Koba was quite in his element when it came to machine technicalities. Incidentally, the Mensheviks twice accused him of lying in the course of his report. It is impossible to vouch for the objectivity of the accusers themselves. Yet it is likewise impossible not to note again that such incidents were always connected with Koba’s name.

At the heart of the Congress’s business was the agrarian question. The peasant movement had caught the Party virtually napping. The old agrarian program, which had made almost no encroachments on the large land holdings, simply collapsed. Confiscation of the lands of the landed gentry became imminent. The Mensheviks were fighting for the program of “municipalization”— that is, the transference of the land into the hands of the democratic organs of local self-administration. Lenin stood for nationalization, on condition of the passing of all power to the people. Plekhanov, the chief theoretician of Menshevism, recommended not trusting the future central government and not arming it with the land funds of the country. “That republic,” said he, “of which Lenin has dreamed, once established would not maintain itself forever. We cannot proceed on the basis that in the near future there will be established in Russia the same sort of democratic order as in Switzerland, in England or in the United States. Considering the possibilities of restoration, nationalization is dangerous …” This is how circumspect and modest were the expectations of the founder of Russian Marxism! In his opinion, the transference of land into the hands of the State would have been admissible only in the event that the State itself belonged to the workers. “… The seizure of power is compulsory for us,” Plekhanov was saying, “when we are making a proletarian revolution. But since the revolution now impending can be only petty bourgeois, we are duty-bound to refuse to seize power.” Plekhanov subordinated the question of the struggle for power—and that was the Achilles’ heel of his entire doctrinaire strategy—to the a priori sociological definition, or rather, nomenclature, of the revolution, and not to the real interrelationship of its inherent forces.

Lenin fought for the seizure of the land of the landed gentry by revolutionary peasant committees and for the sanction of that seizure by the constituent assembly through a law on nationalization. “My agrarian program,” he wrote and said, “is entirely a program of peasant insurrection and the complete fulfillment of the bourgeois democratic revolution.” On the basic point he remained in agreement with Plekhanov: the Revolution would not only begin, but would also culminate, as a bourgeois revolution. The leader of Bolshevism not only considered Russia unable to establish Socialism independently—it had not even entered anyone’s head to pose that question prior to 1924—but he believed that it was impossible to retain even the forthcoming democratic conquests in Russia without a Socialist revolution in the West. It was at that very Stockholm Congress that he expressed this view most unequivocally. “The Russian (bourgeois democratic) Revolution can win with its own forces,” he said, “but under no circumstances can it retain and strengthen its conquests with its own hand. It cannot attain that unless there is a Socialist upheaval in the West.” It would be erroneous to think that, in tune with Stalin’s latter-day interpretation, Lenin had in mind the danger of outside military intervention. No, he spoke of the inevitability of an internal restoration, in consequence of the peasant, as a petty proprietor, turning against the revolution after the agrarian upheaval. “Restoration is equally inescapable in the event of municipalization or nationalization or land division, because the petty little proprietor, under any and all forms of possession and ownership, remains the mainstay of the restoration. After the complete victory of the democratic revolution,” Lenin insisted, “the petty little proprietor will inevitably turn against the proletariat, and the sooner the common enemy of the proletariat and the petty proprietor will be overthrown, the sooner will he turn … Our democratic revolution has no reserve force other than the Socialist proletariat in the West.”

But to Lenin, who placed the fate of Russian Democracy in direct dependence on the fate of European Socialism, the so-called “final aim” was not separated from the democratic upheaval by some boundless historical epoch. As early as during the period of the struggle for democracy, he aspired to marshal the points of support for the swiftest advancement toward the Socialist goal. The sense of land nationalization lay in the fact that it opened a window into the future: “In the epoch of the democratic revolution and the peasant uprising,” he said, “one cannot limit oneself to mere confiscation of the land of the landed gentry. It is necessary to go beyond that—to strike the fatal blow at the private ownership of land, in order to clear the way for the further struggle for Socialism.”

Ivanovich disagreed with Lenin on this crucial question of the Revolution. At this congress he expressed himself resolutely against nationalization and in favor of distributing the confiscated lands among the peasants. To this very day few people in the Soviet Union know of this difference of opinion, which is fully recorded on the pages of the minutes, because no one is permitted either to quote, or to comment upon, Ivanovich’s speech during the debate on the agrarian program. Yet, surely it is worthy of notice. “Since we are concluding a temporary revolutionary union with the struggling peasantry,” Stalin said, “since we cannot on that account ignore the demands of that peasantry, we must support those demands, if, as a whole and in general, they do not conflict with the tendencies of economic development and with the progress of the revolution. The peasants demand division; division is not inconsistent with the above-mentioned phenomena (?); therefore, we must support complete confiscation and division. From that point of view, both nationalization and municipalization are equally unacceptable.” [Years later] Stalin [was to say] that in Tammerfors Lenin had delivered an insuperable speech on the agrarian question which had evoked general enthusiasm [without revealing that] he had not only spoken against Lenin’s agrarian program, but had declared it “equally” unacceptable with Plekhanov’s. [Moreover, in 1924, he pretended to have been strongly impressed by it in 1906.]

In the first place, the very fact that a young Caucasian who did not know Russia at all dared to come out so uncompromisingly against the leader of his faction on the agrarian question, in which field Lenin’s authority was considered particularly formidable, cannot but evoke surprise. The cautious Koba, as a rule, did not relish either stepping on unfamiliar ice or remaining in a minority. He usually engaged in debate only when he felt that the majority was behind him, or, as in later years, when the machine assured his victory, irrespective of the majority. All the more compelling should have been the motives that induced him to speak on that occasion in defense of the not so popular land division. These motives, insofar as it is possible to decipher them some thirty odd years later, were two, and both of them very characteristic of Stalin.

Koba came to revolution as a plebeian democrat, a provincial and an empiricist. Lenin’s ideas about the international nature of the revolution were both remote and alien to him. He sought “guarantees” closer at hand. The individualistic approach to land ownership asserted itself more acutely and found a far more spontaneous expression among the Georgian than among the Russian peasants, because the former had no direct experience with communal land holdings. Wherefore the peasant’s son from the village of Didi-Lilo decided that investing these small proprietors with additional parcels of land would be the most reliable guarantee against counter-revolution. It is thus clear that in his case “divisionism” was no doctrinaire conviction—he was, indeed, inclined to reject convictions derived from doctrines with the greatest of ease—but rather his organic program, in perfect harmony with the most fundamental inclinations of his nature, his upbringing, his social milieu. Indeed, twenty years later we shall rediscover in him an atavistic reversion to “divisionism”.

Almost as unmistakable seems Koba’s second motive. In his eyes, Lenin’s prestige was decidedly lowered by the December defeat: he always attached greater significance to the fact than to the idea. At this congress Lenin was in a minority. Koba could not win with Lenin. That alone considerably diminished his interest in the nationalization program. Both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks looked upon division as the lesser evil by comparison with the program of the opposing faction. Koba had therefore reason to hope that the majority of the congress would in the final reckoning come to terms on the lesser evil. Thus, the organic inclinations of the radical democrat coincided with the tactical calculations of the schemer. But Koba figured wrongly: the Mensheviks had a good majority, so there was no need for them to choose the lesser when they preferred the greater evil.

It is important to note for future reference that during the Stockholm Congress, following in Lenin’s footsteps, Stalin regarded the union of the proletariat with the peasantry as “temporary,” that is, limited merely to common democratic tasks. It did not even occur to him to maintain that the peasantry as such could ever become an ally of the proletariat in the cause of the Socialist revolution. Twenty years later that “disbelief” in the peasantry was to be proclaimed as the principal heresy of “Trotskyism”. Indeed, much was to reappear in an altered aspect twenty years later. Declaring the agrarian program of the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks “equally unacceptable” in 1906, Stalin deemed land division “not in conflict with the tendencies of economic development”. What he really had in mind were the tendencies of capitalistic development. As for the impending socialist revolution, to which he did not devote so much as a single serious thought in those days, he was quite certain that scores of years would elapse before it was likely to come about, and in the interim capitalism’s natural laws would perform the task of concentration and proletarianization in the economic structure of the village. Not without reason did Koba refer in his leaflets to the remote Socialist goal with the biblical words, “the Promised Land”.

The chief report on behalf of the adherents of division was, of course, not by the virtually unknown Ivanovich, but the more authoritative Bolshevik, Suvorov, who developed the point of view of his group with sufficient amplitude. “It is said that this is a bourgeois measure; but the peasant movement itself is petty bourgeois,” Suvorov argued, “and if it is possible for us to support the peasantry, then it must be only in that direction. By comparison with serfdom, the independent economy of the peasants represents a step forward; yet, later it will be outstripped by further developments.” The Socialist transformation of society will be able to take its turn only when capitalist development will have “outstripped”—that is, will have ruined and expropriated—the independent farmer created by the bourgeois revolution.

The original author of the land division program was, of course, not Suvorov, but the radical historian Rozhkov, who had joined the Bolsheviks shortly before the revolution. He did not appear as a reporter at the Congress only because he was then in prison. According to Rozhkov’s view, which was developed in his polemic against the author of this book, not only Russia, but even the most advanced countries were far from prepared for a socialist revolution. World-wide capitalism still had the prospect of a long epoch of progressive work, the completion of which was lost in the mists of the future. In order to subvert the obstacles in the way of the creative endeavor of Russian capitalism, the most backward of all capitalist systems, the proletariat was bound to pay the price of land division for its union with the peasantry. Capitalism would then make short shrift of such illusions as agrarian leveling by gradually concentrating the land in the hands of the more powerful and progressive landowners. Lenin had named the adherents of this program, which directly preached reliance on the bourgeois farmer, “Rozhkovists,” after their leader. It is not superfluous to note that Rozhkov himself, whose attitude was serious in matters of doctrine, passed during the years of reaction to the side of the Mensheviks.

On the first ballot Lenin joined the partisans of division, in order, according to his own explanation “not to break up the votes against municipalization”. He regarded the program of division as the lesser evil, adding, however, that although division presented a certain defense against the restoration of the landed gentry and the Tsar, unfortunately it could also create the basis for a Bonapartist dictatorship. He accused the adherents of division of being “one-sided in regarding the peasant movement only from the point of view of the past and the present, without taking into consideration the point of view of the future,” of socialism. There was a lot of confusion and not a little of individualism glossed over with mysticism in the peasant view of the land as “God’s” or “nobody’s;” yet, inherent in that view was a progressive tendency, and it was therefore necessary to discover how to seize upon it and utilize it against the bourgeois social order. The partisans of division did not know how to do that. “The practicos … will vulgarize the present program .: . will expand a small error into a large one … They will cry to the peasant crowd that the land is nobody’s, God’s, the government’s, will argue for the advantages of division, and in that way they will defame and vulgarize Marxism.” On Lenin’s lips the word “practicos” signified in this case revolutionists with a narrow outlook, propagandists of the neat little formulae. That blow strikes the nail on the head all the more accurately when we consider that in the course of the next quarter of a century Stalin was to call himself proudly nothing other than a “practico,” in distinction from “literaries” and “émigrés”. He was to proclaim himself a theoretician only after the political machine secured his practical victory and sheltered him from criticism.

Plekhanov was, of course, right when he placed the agrarian question in unseverable conjunction with the question of power. But Lenin, too, understood the nature of that conjuncture, and rather more deeply than Plekhanov. According to his formulation, in order to make nationalization possible, the revolution must perforce establish “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry,” which he strictly distinguished from the socialistic dictatorship of the proletariat. In distinction from Plekhanov, Lenin thought that the agrarian revolution would be consummated, not by liberal, but by plebeian hands, or it would not be consummated at all. However, the nature of the “democratic dictatorship” he preached remained hazy and paradoxical. According to Lenin, should the representatives of the small property holders obtain a dominant position in a revolutionary government—an unlikely eventuality in a bourgeois revolution occurring in the twentieth century—that very government would threaten to become a tool of reactionary forces. Yet acceptance of the proposition that the proletariat was bound to take possession of the government in the wake of the agrarian revolution removes the fences between the democratic revolution and the socialistic revolution, for the one would naturally pass into the other, the revolution thus becoming “permanent”. Lenin had no ready answer for that argument. But needless to say, Koba the “practico” and “divisionist” regarded the perspective of permanent revolution with sovereign contempt.

Arguing against the Mensheviks in defense of the revolutionary peasant committees as instrumentalities for the seizure of the landed gentry’s lands, Ivanovich said, “If the liberation of the proletariat can be the act of the proletariat itself, then the liberation of the peasantry can likewise be the act of the peasants themselves.” As a matter of fact, that symmetrical formula is a parody on Marxism. The historical mission of the proletariat grows to considerable extent precisely out of the inability of the petty bourgeoisie to liberate itself by means of its own forces. The peasant revolution is impossible, of course, without the active participation of the peasants in the form of armed detachments, local committees, and the like. Yet the fate of the peasant revolution is decided, not in the village, but in the city. A shapeless remnant of medievalism in contemporary society, the peasantry cannot have an independent policy; it needs an outside leader. Two new classes vie for that leadership. Should the peasantry follow the liberal bourgeoisie, the revolution would stop halfway, in order subsequently to roll back. Should the peasantry find its leader in the proletariat, the revolution must inevitably pass beyond bourgeois limits. It was precisely on that peculiar correlation of classes in a historically belated bourgeois society that the perspective of permanent revolution was founded.

No one, however, at the Stockholm Congress defended that perspective, which I again attempted to expound while lodged in a Petersburg prison cell. The uprising had already been repulsed. The revolution was in retreat. The Mensheviks longed for a bloc with the Liberals. The Bolsheviks were in a minority; besides, they were split. The perspective of permanent revolution seemed compromised. It would have to await its return match for eleven years. By a vote of sixty-two against forty-two with seven abstaining, the Congress adopted the Menshevik program of municipalization. That played no role whatsoever in the future course of events. The peasants remained deaf to it, while the Liberals were hostile. In 1917 the peasants accepted land nationalization as they accepted the Soviet Government and the leadership of the Bolsheviks.

Ivanovich’s two other speeches at the Congress were no more than a paraphrased digest of Lenin’s speeches and articles. On the question of the general political situation, he justly attacked the endeavor of the Mensheviks to abate the movement of the masses by adapting it to the political course of the Liberal bourgeoisie. “Either the hegemony of the proletariat,” he reiterated the widespread formula, “or the hegemony of the democratic bourgeoisie—that is how the question stands in the Party, and therein are our differences.” But the orator was very far from understanding all the historical implications of that alternative. The “hegemony of the proletariat” means its political supremacy over all the revolutionary forces of the country, and above all, over the peasantry. In the event of the complete victory of the revolution, that “hegemony” must naturally lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat, with all its implied consequences. Yet Ivanovich firmly held on to the view that the Russian Revolution was capable of no more than merely clearing the way for the bourgeois regime. In some incomprehensible way he connected the idea of the proletariat’s hegemony with the notion of an independent policy by the peasantry, which would liberate itself by dividing the land into small parcels.

This so-called “unifying” congress did attain the unification of the Party’s two main factions as well as of the national organizations—the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania, the Latvian Social-Democracy and the Jewish Bund. The congress thus justified its name. But its real significance, as Lenin put it, was rather in the fact that it “helped to make more distinct the cleavage between the Social-Democracy’s Right and Left Wings.” If the split at the Second Congress was no more than an “anticipation” and was subsequently overcome, the “unification” at the Stockholm Congress became merely a milestone on the road to the final and definitive split that occurred six years later. Yet during the Congress Lenin was far from thinking that a split was inevitable. The experience of the turbulent months of 1905, when the Mensheviks had made a sharp turn to the left, was altogether too fresh. Despite the fact that thereafter, as Krupskaya writes, they “showed their hand plainly enough,” Lenin, according to her testimony, still continued to hope “that the new rise of the revolutionary wave, of which he had no doubt, would overwhelm them and reconcile them to the Bolshevik line.” But the new rise of the revolution did not come.

Immediately after the Congress Lenin wrote an appeal to the Party which contained a restrained yet in no way ambiguous criticism of the resolutions adopted. The appeal was signed by delegates from among “the former faction of Bolsheviks,” which was considered dissolved on paper. The remarkable thing is that of the forty-two Bolshevik participants of the congress, only twenty-six signed that appeal. Ivanovich’s signature is lacking, even as the signature of the leader of his group, Suvorov. Apparently the adherents of division regarded their differences of opinion with Lenin’s group so important that they declined to appear jointly with them before the Party, despite the very circumspect formulation of the appeal on the question of land. It would be useless to seek commentaries on that fact in the Party’s official publications of today. Yet neither did Lenin refer so much as once to any of Ivanovich’s speeches in his extensive printed report about the Stockholm Congress, in which he gave a detailed account of the debates, mentioning all the important speakers, Mensheviks as well as Bolsheviks: evidently Lenin did not deem Ivanovich’s speeches as essential to these debates as it has been attempted to represent them thirty years later. Stalin’s position inside the Party—outwardly, at any rate—had not altered. No one proposed him for the Central Committee, which was composed of seven Mensheviks and the three Bolsheviks, Krassin, Rykov, and Desnitsky. After the Stockholm Congress, even as prior to it, Koba remained a Party worker of merely “Caucasian caliber”.

During the last two months of the revolutionary years the Caucasus was a seething caldron. In December, 1905, the strike committee, having assumed the management of the Transcaucasian railway and telegraph, began to regulate the transport movement and the economic life of Tiflis. The suburbs were in the hands of the armed workers. But not for long. The armed authorities quickly repulsed their enemies. Tiflis Government was declared under martial law. Armed conflicts raged on at Kutais, Chituary and other places. Western Georgia was in the throes of a peasant uprising. On the tenth of December Chief of Police Shirinkin, of the Caucasus, reported to the director of his department at Petersburg: “The Kutais Government is in a state of emergency … the gendarmes have been disarmed, the rebels have taken possession of the western sector of the railroad and are themselves selling tickets and looking after public order … I have received no reports from Kutais. The gendarmes have been removed from the line and are concentrated in Tiflis. Couriers sent with reports are searched by the revolutionists and their documents confiscated; the situation there is insufferable … The Governor-General is ill from nervous exhaustion … I shall send details by mail, or, if that is not possible, by courier …”

All these developments did not take place of their own free will. The collective initiative of the aroused masses was, of course, chiefly responsible for it; and at every step it had to have individuals as its agents, organizers, leaders. Koba was not among them. Unhurriedly, he commented on the developments after they had transpired. Only that had made it possible for him to go away to Tammerfors during the most stirring of times. No one noticed his absence and no one noticed his return.

Matters were brought to a head by the suppression of the uprising in Moscow. By that time the Petersburg workers, exhausted by preceding battles and lockouts, were already passive. The suppression of rebellions in Transcaucasia, the Transbaltic Region and Siberia came after the pacification of Moscow. Reaction was beginning to come into its own. The Bolsheviks were all the more reluctant to acknowledge this because the surf’s belated waves were still running counter to the all-encompassing ebb-tide. All the revolutionary parties were determined to believe that the ninth wave was on the verge of breaking. When some of Lenin’s more skeptical followers suggested to him the possibility that the reaction had already set in, he responded, “I’11 be the last to admit it!” The pulse heats of the Russian Revolution were still finding their most emphatic expression in labor strikes, ever the basic way of mobilizing the masses. There were two and three quarter million strikers in 1905; nearly a million in 1906: that figure, tremendous in itself, was indicative of acute regression.

According to Koba’s explanation, the proletariat had suffered an episodic defeat, “first of all, because it did not have, or had too few, weapons; no matter how class-conscious you might be, you cannot oppose bullets with your bare hands!” Obviously, that explanation oversimplified the problem. Naturally, it is rather hard to “oppose” bullets with bare hands. But there were also more profound causes for the defeat. The peasantry did not rise in its entire mass; it rose less in the center of the country than on the outskirts. The army was only partially won over. The proletariat did not yet really know its own strength or the strength of its opponent. The year 1905 went down into history—and therein is its immeasurable significance—as “the general rehearsal”. But Lenin was able to characterize it thus only after the fact. In 1906 he himself awaited a quick showdown. In January, Koba, paraphrasing Lenin, wrote, with oversimplification, as usual: “We must once and for all reject all wavering, cast aside all indefiniteness, and irrevocably assume the point of view of attack … A united party, an armed uprising organized by the Party, and the policy of attack— this is what is demanded of us by the victory of the uprising.” Even the Mensheviks did not yet dare to say aloud that the Revolution had ended. At the congress in Stockholm Ivanovich had the opportunity to declare without fear of contradiction: “And so, we are on the eve of a new explosion … On that all of us are agreed.” As a matter of fact, at that time, the “explosion” was already in the past. The “policy of attack” became increasingly the policy of guerrilla clashes and scattered blows. The land was widely inundated with so-called “expropriations”—armed raids on banks, treasuries, and other repositories of money.

The disintegration of the Revolution was relinquishing the initiative of attack, which was passing into the hands of the government, and by that time the government was managing to cope with its own shattered nerves. In the Autumn and Winter the revolutionary parties began to emerge from the underground. The jousts continued, with visors open. The Tsarist police agents came to know the enemy by its face, as a whole and individually. The reign of terror began on the third of December, 19o5, with the arrest of the Petersburg Soviet. All those who had compromised themselves and had not managed to hide were in due course arrested. Admiral Dubassov’s victory over the Moscow warriors merely added more viciousness to the current acts of repression. Between January, 1905, and the convocation of the First Duma on the Twenty-seventh of April [May 10th], 1906, the Tsarist government, according to approximate calculations, had killed more than fourteen thousand people, had executed more than a thousand, had wounded twenty thousand, had arrested, exiled and imprisoned about seventy thousand. The principal number of victims fell in December, 1905, and during the first months of 1906. Koba did not offer himself “as a target”. He was neither wounded nor exiled nor arrested. It was not even necessary for him to go into hiding. He remained, as formerly, in Tiflis. That can in nowise be explained by his personal skill or by a happy accident. It was possible for him to go to the Tammerfors Conference secretly, by stealth. But it was quite impossible to lead the mass movement of 1905 by stealth. No “happy accident” could have possibly shielded an active revolutionist in small Tiflis. As a matter of fact, Koba kept aloof from important developments to such an extent that the police paid no attention to him. In the middle of 1906 he continued to vegetate in the editorial office of a legal Bolshevik newspaper.

In the meantime, Lenin was in hiding in Finland, at Kuokalla, in constant contact with Petersburg and the entire country. The other members of the Bolshevik Center were also there. That was where the torn threads of the illegal organization were picked up and rewoven. “From all the ends of Russia,” writes Krupskaya, “came comrades with whom we discussed our work”. Krupskaya mentions a number of names, including that of Sverdlov, who in the Urals “enjoyed tremendous influence,” mentions, by the way, Voroshilov, and others. But, despite the ominous reproofs of official criticism, she does not mention Stalin even once during that period. And not because she avoids the mention of his name; on the contrary, wherever she has the slightest foundation in fact, she tries to push him forward. She simply could find no trace of him in her memory.

The First Duma was dissolved on the eighth of July, 1906. The strike of protest, for which the Left Wing parties had appealed, did not materialize: the workers had learned to understand that a strike alone was not enough, and there was no strength left for anything more than that. The attempt by the revolutionists to hamper the mobilization of army recruits failed pitifully. The uprising at the Sveaborg fortress, with the participation of the Bolsheviks, proved to be an isolated flare-up, and was quickly suppressed. The reaction gained strength. The Party went deeper and deeper into the underground. “From Kuokalla, Ilyitch actually guided the entire activity of the Bolsheviks,” Krupskaya wrote. Again a number of names and episodes, but no mention of Stalin. Nor is he mentioned in connection with the November session of the Party at Terioki, where the question of elections to the Second Duma was being decided. Koba did not journey to Kuokalla. Not the slightest trace of the alleged correspondence between him and Lenin for the year 1906 has been preserved. No personal contact between them was established, despite the meeting at Tammerfors. Nor did the second meeting, at Stockholm, bring them any closer together. Krupskaya, telling about a walk through the Swedish capital in which Lenin, Rykov, Stroyev, Alexinsky, and others took part, does not name Stalin as being among them. It is also possible that the personal relations, having scarcely arisen, became strained because of the differences of opinion on the agrarian question: Ivanovich did not sign the appeal, so Lenin did not mention Ivanovich in his report.

In accordance with the resolutions adopted at Tammerfors and Stockholm, the Caucasian Bolsheviks united with the Mensheviks. Koba did not become a member of the United Regional Committee. But then, if one is to trust Beriya, he did become a member of the Caucasian Bolshevik Bureau, which existed secretly in 1906 parallel to the Party’s official committee. Yet there is no evidence about the activity of that Bureau and about Koba’s role in it. One thing is certain: the organizational views of the “committeeman” of the days of the Tiflis-Batum period underwent a change—if not in their essence, at least, in the form of their expression. Koba no longer dared to urge workingmen to confess that they were not yet sufficiently mature to serve on committees. The soviets and the trade unions advanced revolutionary workingmen to the first plane of importance, and they usually proved to he far better prepared to lead the masses than the majority of underground intellectuals. As Lenin had foreseen, the “committeemen” were forced to change their views rather suddenly, or at least, their arguments. Now Koba defended in the press the need for party democracy; more than that, the kind of democracy in which “the mass itself decides the issues and acts by itself.” Mere elective democracy was insufficient: “Napoleon III was elected by universal suffrage; yet, who does not know that this elected emperor was the greatest enslaver of the people?” Could Besoshvili (Koba’s pseudonym at the time) have foreseen his own future, he would have refrained from referring to a Bonapartistic plebiscite. But there was much that he did not foresee. His gift of foresight was good for short distances only. Therein, as we shall see, was not only his weakness but also his strength—at least, for a certain epoch.

The defeats of the proletariat forced Marxism to retreat to defensive positions. Enemies and opponents silenced during the stormy months again raised their heads. The Left as well as the Right held materialism and dialectics responsible for the rage of the reaction. On the Right, the Liberals, Democrats, Populists; on the Left, the Anarchists. Anarchism played no part at all in the 1905 movement. There were only three factions in the Petersburg Soviet—the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks, and the Essars. The Anarchists found a more reverberating sounding board in the atmosphere of disillusionment after the downfall of the Soviets. The ebb-tide also left its imprint in backward Caucasus, where in many respects the conditions were more favorable for Anarchism than elsewhere in the country. As part of his defense of Marxist positions then under attack, Koba wrote in his native Georgian a series of newspaper articles on the theme of “Anarchism and Socialism”. These articles, which testify to their author’s good intentions, do not lend themselves to restatement because they are in themselves no more than a restatement of the works of others. Nor is it easy to tull quotations from them, for they are smoothly stained an even gray that renders the selection of any individualistic expressions even more difficult. It is sufficient to say that this work of his was never republished.

To the right of the Georgian Mensheviks, who continued to regard themselves as Marxist, arose the party of Federalists—a local parody, partly of the Essars and partly of the Kadets. Besoshvili quite justly denounced that Party’s penchant for cowardly maneuvers and compromises, but in doing so, he resorted to rather venturesome figures of speech. “As is well known,” he wrote, “every animal has its definite coloration. But the nature of the chameleon is not satisfied with that; with a lion, he assumes the coloration of a lion; with a wolf, that of a wolf; with a frog, that of a frog, depending on when which coloration is most advantageous to him …” A zoologist would be rather likely to protest against such slander of the chameleon. But since the Bolshevik critic was essentially right, he may be forgiven the style of one who failed to become a village priest.

That is all there is to say about the doings of Koba-Ivanovich-Besoshvili during the First Revolution. It is not much, even in the purely quantitative sense. Yet the author has tried very hard not to omit anything at all worthy of notice. The point is that Koba’s intellect, devoid of imagination, was not very productive. The discipline of intellectual labor was alien to him. An overpowering personal motivation was required to stir him to prolonged and systematic application. He did not find that stirring motivation in the Revolution, which brushed him aside. That is why his contributions to the Revolution appear so pitifully meager by comparison with the Revolution’s gift to his personal fortunes.

Chapter IV: The Period of Reaction[edit source]

THE personal life of underground revolutionists was always relegated to the background, repressed. Yet it persisted. Like the palms on a Diego Rivera landscape, love struggled toward the sun from under heavy boulders. It was almost always identified with revolution. The same ideas, the same struggle, the same danger, a common isolation from the rest of the world, welded strong bonds. Couples came together in the underground, were parted by prison, and again sought each other out in exile. We know little of young Stalin’s personal life, but that little is all the more precious for the light it shed on him as a man.

”He married in 1903”, Iremashvili tells us. “His marriage, according to his lights, was a happy one. True, it was impossible to discover in his own home that equality of the sexes which he himself advocated as the basic form for marriage in the new state. But it was not in his character to share equal rights with any other person. His marriage was a happy one because his wife, who could not come up to him in general intelligence, regarded him as a demi-god and because, being a Georgian woman, she was brought up in the sacrosanct tradition which obligates the woman to serve.” Although Iremashvili considered himself a Social-Democrat, he himself subscribed almost religiously to the tradition which made the Georgian woman essentially a family slave. He ascribed to Koba’s wife the same characteristics that he had ascribed to his mother, Keke. “That truly Georgian woman … with all her heart looked after her husband’s welfare. Passing countless nights in ardent prayers, she waited for her Soso while he was busy at secret conferences. She prayed that Koba might turn away from his ideas that were displeasing to God and turn to a peaceful home life of toil and contentment.”

Not without astonishment do we learn from these lines that Koba, who had repudiated religion at thirteen, was married to a naively and profoundly religious wife. That might seem quite an ordinary case in a stable bourgeois environment, in which the husband regards himself as an agnostic or amuses himself with Masonic rites, while his wife, having consummated her latest adultery, duly kneels in the confession box before her priest. But among Russian revolutionists such matters were immeasurably more important. There was no anemic agnosticism at the core of their revolutionary philosophy, but militant atheism. How could they have any personal tolerance toward religion, which was inextricably linked to everything against which they fought at constant risk to themselves? Among working people, who married early, one might find not a few instances of the husband turning revolutionist after marriage while his wife continued to cling stubbornly to the old faith. But even that usually led to dramatic collisions. The husband would keep his new life a secret from his wife and would grow further and further away from her. In other cases, the husband would win his wife over to his own views and away from her kinsfolk. Young workers would frequently complain that it was hard for them to find girls who were free of the old superstitions. Among the student youth the choice of mates was considerably easier. There were almost no cases of a revolutionary intellectual marrying a believer. Not that there were any rules to that effect. But such things were not in keeping with the customs, the views and the feelings of these people. Koba was undoubtedly a rare exception.

It would seem that the divergence in views led to no dramatic conflict. “This man, so restless in spirit, who felt himself spied upon, under the constant surveillance of the Tsarist secret police at every step and in everything he did, could find love only in his impoverished home. Only his wife, his child and his mother were exempt from the scorn he poured on all others.” The idyllic family picture drawn by Iremashvili allows the inference that Koba was indulgently tolerant of his intimate companion’s beliefs. But since that runs counter to his tyrannical nature, which appears to be tolerance must really be moral indifference. Koba did not seek in his wife a friend capable of sharing his views or at least his ambitions. He was satisfied with a submissive and devoted woman. In his views he was a Marxist; in his feelings and spiritual needs—he was the son of the Ossetin Beso from Didi-Lilo. He required no more of his wife than his father had found in the long-suffering Keke.

Iremashvili’s chronology, which is not faultless as a rule, is more reliable in personal matters than in the field of politics. But his marriage date arouses some doubt. He gives it as 1903. Yet Koba was arrested in April, 1902, and returned from exile, in February, 1904. It is possible that the wedding took place in prison. Such cases were not rare. But it is also possible that the marriage took place only after his flight from exile at the beginning of 1904. In that event a church wedding did present certain difficulties for one of “illegal” status; yet, in view of the primitive ways of those times, especially in the Caucasus, police obstacles were not insurmountable. If Koba’s wedding took place after his exile, it can in part explain his political passivity during 1904.

Koba’s wife—we do not even know her name[1]—died in 1907; according to some accounts, of pneumonia. By that time the two Sosos were no longer on friendly terms. Iremashvili complains: “The brunt of his struggle was henceforth directed against us, his former friends. He attacked us at every meeting and discussion in the most savage and unscrupulous manner, trying to sow poison and hatred against us everywhere. If possible, he would have rooted us out with fire and sword … But the overwhelming majority of Georgian Marists remained with us. That merely enraged and incensed him all the more.” But Georgian customs proved so prepotent that political disagreement did not deter Iremashvili from visiting Koba on the occasion of his wife’s death in order to bring him words of comfort: “He was very downcast, yet he met me in a friendly manner, as in the old days. This hard man’s pale face reflected the heartfelt anguish caused by the death of his faithful life’s companion. His emotional distress … must have been very deepseated and enduring, for he was incapable of hiding it any longer from outsiders.”

[1] Ekaterina Svanidze, sister of an obscure comrade, who subsequently became President of the Soviet Bank for Foreign Trade (Vnyeshtorgbank).—C. M.

The deceased was buried in accordance with all the rules of Orthodox ritual. Her relatives insisted on it. Nor did Koba object. “When the modest procession reached the entrance to the cemetery,” Iremashvili tells us, “Koba firmly pressed my hand, pointed to the coffin and said: ’Soso, this creature softened my heart of stone; she died, and with her died—my last warm feelings for all human beings.’ He placed his right hand on his heart: ‘It is all so desolate here inside, so inexpressibly desolate!’ “ These words may seem theatrically pathetic and unnatural; yet it is not unlikely that they are true, not only because they refer to a young man overwhelmed by his first heartfelt sorrow but also because in time to come we shall rediscover in Stalin the same penchant for strained pathos, a trait not unusual among persons of harsh character. The awkward style for expressing his feelings came to him from the seminary training in homiletics.

Koba’s wife left him a little boy with fine and delicate features. In 1919-1920 he was a student at the Tiflis secondary school, where Iremashvili was an instructor. Soon after that his father transferred Yasha to Moscow. We shall meet him again in the Kremlin. That is all we know about this marriage, which in point of time (1903-1907) fits rather neatly into the framework of the First Revolution. It is no fortuitous coincidence: the rhythms of the revolutionist’s personal life were too closely intertwined for that with the rhythms of great events.

”Beginning with the day he buried his wife,” insists Iremashvili, “he lost the last vestige of human feelings. His heart filled with the inexpressibly malicious hatred his merciless father had already begun to engender in him when he was still a child. He crushed with sarcasm his less and less frequently recurring moral impulses. Ruthless with himself, he became ruthless with all people.” Such was he during the period of reaction which meantime had advanced upon the country.

The beginning of mass strikes in the second half of the ’nineties signified the approach of revolution. But the average number of strikers was even less than fifty thousand a year. In 1905 that number rose at once to two and three-quarter millions; in 1906 it came down to one million; in 1907 to three-quarters of a million, including repeat strikes. Such were the figures for the three years of the revolution. Never before had the world witnessed a similar wave of strikes! The period of reaction opened in 1908. The number of strikers fell at once to 174,000; in 1909 to 64,000; in 1910 to 50,000. But while the proletariat was rapidly closing its ranks, the peasants it had aroused not only continued but even strengthened their offensive. The ravaging of landowners’ estates became particularly widespread during the months of the First Duma’s tenure. There came a wave of soldiers’ mutinies. After the suppression of the attempted uprisings at Sveaborg and Kronstadt in July, 1906, the monarchy became bolder, introduced courts-martial, and, with the aid of the Senate, vitiated the election law. But it did not attain the requisite results. The Second Duma proved even more radical than the First.

In February, 1907, Lenin characterized the political situation of the country in the following words: “The most unrestrained, the most brazen lawlessness … The most reactionary election law in Europe. The most revolutionary body of popular representatives in Europe in the most backward country!” Hence his conclusion: “Ahead is a new, an even more menacing … revolutionary crisis.” This conclusion proved erroneous. Although the revolution was still strong enough to leave its impress on the arena of Tsarist pseudo-parliamentarism, it was already broken. Its convulsions became increasingly weaker.

The Social-Democratic party was undergoing a similar process. It continued to grow in membership. But its influence on the masses declined. A hundred Social-Democrats were no longer able to lead as many workers into the street as ten Social-Democrats had led the year before. The different aspects of a revolutionary movement, as a homogeneous historical process and generally as a development possessing survival value, are neither uniform nor harmonious in content or movement. Not only workers but even the petty bourgeois attempted to avenge their defeat by Tsarism in open battle by voting on the Left; but they were no longer capable of a new insurrection. Deprived of the apparatus of the Soviets and of direct contact with the masses, who quickly succumbed to gloomy apathy, the more active workers felt the need for a revolutionary party. Thus, this time the leftward swing of the Duma and the growth of the Social-Democracy were symptoms of the revolution’s decline, not of its rise.

No doubt, Lenin admitted such a possibility even then. But, pending final verification by experience, he continued to base his policy on a revolutionary prognosis. Such was the fundamental rule of that strategist. “The revolutionary Social-Democracy,” he wrote in October, 1906, “must be the first to take its place in the most resolute and the most direct struggle, and the last to resort to the more roundabout methods of struggle.” Under direct struggle come demonstrations, strikes, the general strike, clashes with the police, the insurrection. Under roundabout methods—the utilization of legal opportunities, including parliamentarism, for the mobilization of forces. That strategy inevitably implied the danger of resorting to militant methods after the objective conditions for the employment of such methods no longer prevailed. Yet on the scales of the revolutionary party, that tactical risk weighed immeasurably less than the strategic danger of not keeping up with developments and losing sight of a revolutionary situation.

The Fifth Congress of the Party, held in London in May, 1907, was remarkable for the number of people that attended it. In the hall of the “Socialist” Church there were 302 voting delegates (one delegate for each 500 party members), about half a hundred with advisory voices, and not a few guests. Of these, 90 were Bolsheviks and 85 Mensheviks. The national delegations formed the “center” between these two flanks. At the previous congress 13,000 Bolsheviks and 18,000 Mensheviks (one delegate for each 300 party members) were represented. During the twelvemonth between the Stockholm and the London congresses, the Russian section of the Party had increased from 31,000 to 77,000 members, i.e., two and a half times. Inevitably, the keener the factional struggle, the more inflated the figures. Yet, no doubt, the advanced workers did continue to join the Party during that year. At the same time the Left Wing grew stronger at a considerably faster rate than its opponent. In the 1905 Soviet the Mensheviks were preponderant; the Bolsheviks were a modest minority. At the beginning of 1906 the forces of both factions in St. Petersburg were approximately equal. During the interval between the First and the Second Dumas, the Bolsheviks began to get ahead. By the time of the Second Duma, they had already won complete dominance among the advanced workers. Judging by the nature of the resolutions adopted, the Stockholm Congress was Menshevik, the London Congress—Bolshevik.

This shift of the Party leftward was carefully noted by the authorities. Shortly before the Congress the Police Department explained to its local branches that “the Menshevik groups in their present state of mind do not present as serious a danger as the Bolsheviks.” In the regular report on the progress of the Congress, presented to the Police Department by one of its foreign agents, the following appraisal was included: “Among the orators who in the course of discussion spoke in defense of the extreme revolutionary point of view were Stanislav (Bolshevik), Trotsky, Pokrovsky (Bolshevik), Tyszko (Polish Social-Democrat); in defense of the opportunist point of view—Martov and Plekhanov,” (leaders of the Mensheviks). “There is clear intimation,” the Okhrana [2] agent continued, “that the Social-Democrats are turning toward revolutionary methods of struggle … Menshevism, which blossomed thanks to the Duma, declined in due time, when the Duma demonstrated its impotence, giving ample scope to Bolshevik, or rather, to extreme revolutionary tendencies.” As a matter of fact, as was already pointed out, the shift in sentiment within the proletariat was much more complicated and inconsistent. Thus, while the vanguard, buoyed by its own experiences, moved to the Left, the mass, discouraged by defeats, moved to the Right. The breath of the reaction was already hovering over the congress. “Our revolution is passing through trying times,” said Lenin at the session of May twelfth. “We need all the strength and will power, all the self-restraint and perseverance of a united proletarian party, if we are to endure in the face of the pervasive moods of disbelief, defection, apathy, submissiveness.”

[2] The Okhrana (short for Okhrannoye Otdyelyeniye, or Department of Safety) was the political secret service of the Imperial Police Department, the most important branch of the Ministry of the Interior since its founding in 188i. For fifty years prior to that its functions had been performed by the Third Section of the Imperial Court Chancery. Hence, the terms: Okhrana, Okhranka, Third Section, Political Police, Police Department are used interchangeably with reference to the tsarist state’s espionage activities directed against revolutionists. The Okhrana was divided into an External and Internal Agency on the basis of methods of espionage, the first consisting of a corps of detectives and the latter of stoolpigeons and agents provocateurs planted inside the revolutionary organizations. The Okhrana was aided in its activities against the revolutionary movement by another branch of the Police Department, the Special Corps of the Gendarmerie. In addition to branches in the important cities of Russia, the Okhrana maintained also a Foreign Agency abroad wherever Russian revolutionary émigrés congregated.—C. M.

”In London,” wrote a French biographer, “Stalin for the first time saw Trotsky. But the latter hardly noticed him. The leader of the Petersburg Soviet is not the sort of person who readily strikes up acquaintances or becomes chummy without genuine spiritual affinity.” Whether that is true or not, the fact remains that I first learned about Koba’s presence at the London Congress from Souvarine’s book and subsequently found confirmation of it in the official records. As in Stockholm, Ivanovich took part not as one of the 302 voting delegates, but as one of the 42 whose participation was only deliberative. Bolshevism was still so weak in Georgia that Koba could not muster the necessary 500 votes in all of Tiflis! “Even in Koba’s and my native town of Gori,” writes Iremashvili, “there was not a single Bolshevik”. The complete predominance of the Mensheviks in the Caucasus was attested to in the course of the Congress debates by Koba’s rival, Sha’umyan, a leading Caucasian Bolshevik and future member of the Central Committee. “The Caucasian Mensheviks,” he complained, “taking full advantage of their crushing numerical weight and official dominance in the Caucasus, do everything in their power to prevent Bolsheviks from getting elected.” In a declaration signed by the same Sha’umyan and Ivanovich, we read: “The Caucasian Menshevik organizations are composed almost entirely of the town and village petty bourgeoisie.” Of the 18,000 Caucasian members of the Party, no more than 6,000 were workers; but even most of these followed the Mensheviks.

Koba’s appointment as a mere deliberative delegate was accompanied by an incident not devoid of piquancy. When it was Lenin’s turn to preside at the Congress, he proposed adoption without discussion of a resolution by the mandate commission, which recommended the granting of deliberative participation to four delegates, including Ivanovich. The indefatigable Martov shouted from his place: “I should like to know who is being granted an advisory voice. Who are these people, where do they come from, and so forth?” To which Lenin responded: “I really don’t know, but the Congress may rely on the unanimous opinion of the mandate commission.” It is quite likely that Martov already had some secret information about the specific nature of Ivanovich’s record—we shall touch upon it more fully—and that it was precisely for this reason that Lenin hastened to dispose of the ominous hint by referring to the unanimity of the mandate commission. In any event, Martov deemed it proper to refer to “these people” as nobodies: “Who are they, where do they come from, and so forth?” while Lenin, for his part, not only did not object to this characterization but confirmed it. In 1907, Stalin was still utterly unknown, not only to the Party generally but even to the three hundred delegates of the Congress. The mandate commission’s resolution was adopted, with a considerable number of delegates not voting.

Most remarkable, however, is the fact that Koba did not even once take advantage of the deliberative voice granted to him. The Congress lasted nearly three weeks, discussions were exceedingly extensive and ample. Yet Ivanovich’s name is not listed so much as once among the numerous speakers. His signature appears only on two short statements by Caucasian Bolsheviks about their local conflicts with the Mensheviks, and even then in third place. He left no other traces of his presence at the Congress. To appreciate the full significance of that, it is necessary to know the backstage mechanics of the Congress. Each of the factions and national organizations met separately during recesses between official sessions, worked out its own line of conduct and designated its own speakers. Thus, in the course of three weeks of debates, in which all the more noticeable members of the Party took part, the Bolshevik faction did not deem it fit to entrust a single speech to Ivanovich.

Toward the end of one of the last sessions of the Congress a young Petersburg delegate spoke. All had hastily left their seats and almost no one listened to him. The speaker was obliged to mount a chair in order to attract attention. But notwithstanding these extremely unfavorable circumstances, he managed to draw an ever-growing press of delegates around him and before long the assemblage quieted down. That speech made the novice a member of the Central Committee. Ivanovich, doomed to silence, noted the young newcomer’s success —Zinoviev was only twenty-five—probably without sympathy, but hardly without envy. Not a soul paid the slightest heed to the ambitious Caucasian with his unused deliberative voice. The Bolshevik Gandurin, a rank and filer at the congress, stated in his memoirs: “During the recesses we usually surrounded one or another of the important workers, overwhelming him with questions.” Gandurin mentioned among the delegates Litvinov, Voroshilov, Tomsky, and other comparatively obscure Bolsheviks of those days. But he did not mention Stalin even once. Yet he wrote his memoirs in 1931, when it was much harder to forget Stalin than to remember him.

Among the elected members of the new Central Committee, the Bolsheviks were Myeshkovsky, Rozhkov, Teodorovich and Nogin, with Lenin, Bogdanov, Krassin, Zinoviev, Rykov, Shantser, Sammer, Leitheisen, Taratuta and A. Smirnov as alternates. The most prominent leaders of the faction were elected alternates, because persons able to work in Russia were pushed to the forefront. But Ivanovich was neither among the members nor among the alternates. It would be incorrect to seek the reason for that in the tricks of the Mensheviks: as a matter of fact, each faction elected its own candidates. Certain of the Bolsheviks on the Central Committee, like Zinoviev, Rykov, Taratuta and A. Smirnov, were of the same generation as Ivanovich and even younger in actual age.

At the final session of the Bolshevik faction, after the closing of the Congress, a secret Bolshevik Center was elected, the so-called “B. C.,” composed of fifteen members. Among them were the theoreticians and “literaries” of the time and of the future, such as Lenin, Bogdanov, Pokrovsky, Rozhkov, Zinoviev, Kamenev, as well as the most prominent organizers, such as Krassin, Rykov, Dubrovinsky, Nogin, and others. Ivanovich was not a member of that collegium either. The significance of that is perfectly obvious. Stalin could not become a member of the Central Committee without being known to the entire party. Another obstacle—let us admit for the nonce—was that the Caucasian Mensheviks were particularly hostile to him. But had he any weight and influence inside his own faction, he could not have failed to become a member of the Bolshevik Center, which badly needed an authoritative representative of the Caucasus. Ivanovich himself could not have failed to dream of a place in the “B. C.” Yet no such place was found for him.

In view of all this, why did Koba come at all to London? He could not raise his arm as a voting delegate. He proved unnecessary as a speaker. He obviously played no role whatever at the closed sessions of the Bolshevik faction. It is inconceivable that he should have to come out of mere curiosity—to listen and to look around. He must have had other tasks. Just what were they?

The Congress came to an end on May nineteenth. As early as the first of June, Premier Stolypin challenged the Duma with his demand that it immediately expel fifty-five Social-Democratic deputies and sanction the arrest of sixteen of them. Without waiting for the Duma’s authorization, the police proceeded to make arrests on the night of June second. On the third of June the Duma was prorogued, and in the course of this governmental shake-up a new election law was promulgated. Mass arrests, carefully prearranged, took place simultaneously throughout the country, with railwaymen among those taken into custody, in an effort to forestall a general strike. The attempted mutinies in the Black Sea Fleet and in a Kiev regiment ended in failure. The monarchy was triumphant. When Stolypin looked into his mirror, he saw there the image of St. George, Bearer of Victory.

The obvious disintegration of the revolution led to several new crises in the Party and in the Bolshevik faction itself, which overwhelmingly assumed the Boycottist position. This was almost an instinctive reaction against the government’s violence, but at the same time it was an attempt to cover their own impotence with a radical gesture. While relaxing after the Congress in Finland, Lenin thought the matter over in all its aspects, and came out resolutely against the boycott. His situation in his own faction became rather difficult. It is not any too easy to pass from revolutionary heydays to work-a-day dreariness. “With the exception of Lenin and Rozhkov,” wrote Martov, “all the prominent representatives of the Bolshevik faction (Bogdanov, Kamenev, Lunarcharsky, Volsky, and others) came out for the boycott.” The quotation is partly interesting in that, while it includes among the “prominent representatives” not only Lunarcharsky but even the long-forgotten Volsky, it does not mention Stalin. In 1924, when the official Moscow historical journal reproduced Martov’s testimony, it had not yet occurred to the editorial board to evince interest in how Stalin had voted.

Yet Koba was among the Boycottists. In addition to direct testimonies on that score, which, it is true, come from Mensheviks, there is a bit of indirect testimony which is the most convincing of all: not a single one of the present official historians refers with so much as a single word to Stalin’s position on elections to the Third Duma. In a pamphlet entitled “Concerning the Boycott of the Third Duma,” which was published shortly after the Revolution, and in which Lenin defended participation in balloting, it was Kamenev who voiced the Boycottists’ point of view. It has been all the easier for Koba to preserve his incognito, because it did not occur to anyone in 1907 to ask him to come out with an article. The old Bolshevik Piryeiko recalls that the Boycottists “upbraided Comrade Lenin for his Menshevism.” There is no reason to doubt that Koba, too, was not backward in his intimate circle with rather trenchant epithets in Georgian and Russian. As for Lenin, he demanded of his faction readiness and ability to face realities. “The boycott is a declaration of outright war against the old government, a direct attack against it. Barring a widespread revolutionary revival … there can be no talk of the boycott’s success.” Much later, in 1920, Lenin wrote: “It was an error … for the Bolsheviks to have boycotted the Duma in 1906.” It was an error, because after the December defeat it was impossible to expect a revolutionary attack in the near future; it was therefore senseless to spurn the Duma’s tribune for mobilizing the revolutionary ranks.

At the Party Conference which met at Finland in July, all of the nine Bolshevik delegates, with the exception of Lenin, were in favor of the boycott. Ivanovich did not take part in that conference. The Boycottists had Bogdanov as their spokesman. The affirmative resolution on the question of whether to participate in the balloting passed with the united votes of “the Mensheviks, the Bundists, the Poles, one of the Letts, and one Bolshevik,” wrote Dan. That “one Bolshevik” was Lenin. “In a small summer house Ilyich ardently defended his position,” Krupskaya recalled; “Krassin pedaled up on his bicycle, stopped at a window for a while and listened closely to Ilyich. Then, without coming into the house, he went away, thoughtful …” Krassin went away from that window for more than ten years. He returned to the Party only after the October Revolution, and even then not at once. Gradually, under the influence of new lessons, the Bolsheviks came over to Lenin’s position, although, as we shall see, not all of them. Quietly, Koba too repudiated Boycottism. His Caucasian articles and speeches in favor of the boycott have been magnanimously relegated to oblivion.

The Third Duma began its inglorious activity on the first of November. The big bourgeoisie and the landed gentry had been previously assured of a majority in it. Then began the gloomiest period in the life of “renovated Russia.” Labor organizations were dispersed, the revolutionary press was stifled, courtsmartial came in the wake of the punitive expeditions. But more frightful than the outward blows was the internal reaction. Desertion assumed a mass character. Intellectuals abandoned politics for science, art, religion, and erotic mysticism. The finishing touch on this picture was the epidemic of suicides. The transvaluation of valnes was first of all directed against the revolutionary parties and their leaders. The sharp change of mood found a bright reflection in the archives of the Police Department, where suspicious letters were censored, thus preserving the most interesting ones for history.

At Geneva Lenin received a letter from Petersburg, which read: “It is quiet both above and below, but the silence below is tainted. Under its cover such anger looms as will make men howl, for howl they must. But so far we, too, suffer the brunt of that anger …” A certain Zakharov wrote to his friend in Odessa: “We have absolutely lost faith in those whom we had so highly regarded … Think of it, at the end of 1905 Trotsky said in all seriousness that the political revolution had culminated in a grand success, and that it would be followed immediately by the beginning of the social revolution! . . And what about the wonderful tactic of armed insurrection, which the Bolsheviks had bruited about? . . Truly, I have lost all faith in our leaders and in all of the so-called revolutionary intellectuals.” Neither did the liberal and radical press spare the vanquished their sarcasm.

News dispatches from local organizations to the Party’s central organ, which was again transferred abroad, were no less eloquent in recording the revolution’s disintegration. Even in the hard-labor prisons, the heroes and heroines of uprisings and of terrorist acts turned their backs in enmity upon their own yesterdays and used such words as “party,” “comrade,” “socialism,” in no other than the ironic sense.

Desertions took place not only among the intellectuals, not only among those who were here today and gone tomorrow and to whom the movement was but a half-way house, but even among the advanced workers, who had been part and parcel of the Party for years. Religiousness, on the one hand, and drunkenness, card-playing and the like, on the other, waxed stronger than ever in the backward strata of the working class. In the upper stratum the tone was beginning to be set by individualists who strove to raise their personal, cultural, and economic status above that of the mass of their fellow-workers. The Mensheviks found their support in that thin layer of the labor aristocracy which was made up for the most part of metal workers and printers. Workers of the middle stratum, whom the revolution had accustomed to reading newspapers, displayed greater stability. But, having entered political life under the leadership of intellectuals and being suddenly left on their own, they became petrified and marked time.

Not everybody deserted. But the revolutionists who did not wish to surrender ran against insurmountable difficulties. An illegal organization needs sympathetic surroundings and constant renewal of reserves. In an atmosphere of decadence it was not only hard but virtually impossible to abide by the indispensable rules of conspiracy and maintain revolutionary contacts. “Underground work proceeded lackadaisically. During 1909 there were raids on Party printshops at Rostov-on-the-Don, Moscow, Tyumen, Petersburg …” and elsewhere; “supplies of proclamations in Petersburg, Byelostok, Moscow; the archives of the Central Committee in Petersburg. In all these arrests the Party was losing good workers.” This is recounted almost in a tone of distress by the retired Gendarme General Spiridovich.

”We have no people at all,” Krupskaya wrote in invisible ink to Odessa, at the beginning of 1909. “All are scattered in prisons and places of exile.” The gendarmes made visible the invisible text of the letter and—increased the population of the prisons. The scantiness of revolutionary ranks led unavoidably to the lowering of the Committee’s standards. Insufficiency of choice made it possible for secret agents to mount the steps of the underground hierarchy. With a snap of his finger the provocateur doomed to arrest any revolutionist who blocked his progress. Attempts to purge the organization of dubious elements immediately led to mass arrests. An atmosphere of suspicion and mutual distrust stymied all initiative. After a number of well-calculated arrests, the provocateur Kukushkin, at the beginning of 1910 became head of the Moscow district organization. “The ideal of the Okhrana is being realized,” wrote an active participant of the movement. “Secret agents are at the head of all the Moscow organizations.” The situation in Petersburg was not much better. “The leadership seemed to have been routed, there was no way of restoring it, provocation gnawed away at our vitals, organizations fell apart …” In 1909 Russia still had five or six active organizations; but even they soon sank into desuetude. Membership in the Moscow district organization, which was as high as 500 toward the end of 1908, dropped to 250 in the middle of the following year and half a year later to 150; in 1910 the organization ceased to exist.

The former Duma deputy Samoilov tells how at the beginning of 1910 the Ivanovo-Voznesensk organization, which until recently had been rather influential and active, fell apart. Right after it the trade unions faded away. Their places were taken by gangs of the Black Hundreds. The pre-revolutionary régime was being gradually restored in the textile factories, which meant the lowering of wages, severe penalties, dismissals, and the like. “The workers kept on the job bore it in silence.” Yet there could be no return to the old order. Abroad, Lenin pointed to letters from workers, who, telling of the renewed oppression and persecution by the manufacturers, would add, “Wait, 1905 will come again!”

Terror from above was supplemented by terror from below. [The fight of] the routed insurrectionists continued convulsively for a long time in the form of scattered local explosions, guerrilla raids, group and individual terrorist acts. The course of the revolution was characterized with remarkable clarity by statistics of the terror. 233 persons were assassinated in 1905; 768 in 1906; 1,231 in 1907. The number of wounded showed a somewhat different ratio, since the terrorists were learning to be better shots. The terrorist wave reached its crest in 1907. “There were days,” wrote a liberal observer, “when several big acts of terror were accompanied by as many as scores of minor attempts and assassinations of lower rank officialdom … Bomb laboratories were established in all cities, the bombs destroying some of their careless makers …” and the like. Krassin’s alchemy became strongly democratized.

On the whole, the three-year period from 1905 through 1907 is particularly notable for both terrorist acts and strikes. But what stands out is the divergence between their statistical records: while the number of strikers fell off rapidly from year to year, the number of terrorist acts mounted with equal rapidity. Clearly, individual terrorism increased as the mass movement declined. Yet terrorism could not grow stronger indefinitely. The impetus unleashed by the revolution was bound to spend itself in terrorism as it had spent itself in other spheres. Indeed, while there were 1,231 assassinations in 1907, they dropped to 400 in 1908 and to about a hundred in 1909. The growing percentage of the merely wounded indicated, moreover, that now the shooting was being done by untrained amateurs, mostly by callow youngsters.

In the Caucasus, with its romantic traditions of highway robbery and gory feuds still very much alive, guerrilla warfare found any number of fearless practitioners. More than a thousand terrorist acts of all kinds were perpetrated in Transcaucasia alone during 1905-1907, the years of the First Revolution. Fighting detachments found also a great spread of activity in the Urals, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, and in Poland under the banner of the P. P. S. (Polish Socialist Party). On the second of August, 1906, scores of policemen and soldiers were assassinated on the streets of Warsaw and other Polish cities. According to the explanation of the leaders, the purpose of these attacks was “to bolster the revolutionary mood of the proletariat.” The leader of these leaders was Joseph Pilsudski, the future “liberator” of Poland, and its oppressor. Commenting on the Warsaw events, Lenin wrote: “We advise the numerous fighting groups of our Party to terminate their inactivity and to initiate some guerrilla operations …” “And these appeals of the Bolshevik leaders,” commented General Spiridovich, “were not without issue, despite the countermanding action of the [Menshevik] Central Committee.”

Of great moment in the sanguine encounters of the terrorists with the police was the question of money, the sinews of any war, including civil war. Prior to the Constitutional Manifesto of 1905 the revolutionary movement was financed principally by the liberal bourgeoisie and by the radical intellectuals. That was true also in the case of the Bolsheviks, whom the liberal opposition then regarded as merely somewhat bolder revolutionary democrats. But when the bourgeoisie shifted its hopes to the future Duma, it began to regard the revolutionists as an obstacle in the way of coming to terms with the monarchy. That change of front struck a powerful blow at the finances of the revolution. Lockouts and unemployment stopped the intake of money from the workers. In the meantime, the revolutionary organizations had developed large political machines with their own printshops, publishing houses, staffs of agitators, and, finally, fighting detachments in constant need of armaments. Under the circumstances, there was no way to continue financing the revolution except by securing the wherewithal by force. The initiative, as almost always, came from below. The first expropriations went off rather peacefully, quite often with a tacit understanding between the “expropriators” and the employees of the expropriated institutions. There was the story of the clerks in the Nadezhda Insurance Company reassuring the faltering expropriators with the words, “Don’t worry, comrades!” But this idyllic period did not last long. Following the bourgeoisie, the intellectuals, including the self-same bank clerks, drifted away from the revolution. Police measures became more stringent. Casualties increased on both sides. Deprived of support and sympathy, the “fighting organizations” quickly went up in smoke or just as quickly disintegrated.

A typical picture of how even the most disciplined detachments degenerated is given in his memoirs by the already-cited Samoilov, the former Duma deputy of the Ivanovo-Voznesensk textile workers. The detachment, acting originally “under the directives of the Party Center,” began to “misbehave” during the second half of 1906. When it offered the Party only a part of the money it had stolen at a factory (having killed the cashier during the act), the Party Committee refused it flatly and reprimanded the fighters. But it was already too late; they were disintegrating rapidly and soon descended to “bandit attacks of the most ordinary criminal type.” Always having large sums of money, the fighters began to preoccupy themselves with carousing, in the course of which they often fell into the hands of the police. Thus, little by little, the entire fighting detachment came to an ignominious end. “We must, however, admit,” writes Samoilov, “that in its ranks were not a few … genuinely devoted comrades who were loyal to the cause of the revolution and some with hearts as pure as crystal …”

The original purpose of the fighting organizations was to assume leadership of the rebellious masses, teaching them how to use arms and how to deliver the most telling blows at the enemy. The main, if not the only, theoretician in that field of endeavor was Lenin. After the December Insurrection was crushed, the new problem was what to do abut the fighting organizations. Lenin came to the Stockholm Congress with the draft of a resolution, which, while giving due credit to guerrilla activities as the inevitable continuation of the Decemher Insurrection and as part of the preparation for the impending major offensive against Tsarism, allowed the so-called expropriations of financial means “under the control of the Party.” But the Bolsheviks withdrew this resolution of theirs under the pressure of disagreement in their own midst. By a majority of sixty-four votes to four, with twenty not voting, the Menshevik resolution was passed, which categorically forbade “expropriations” of private persons and institutions, while tolerating the seizure of state finances only in the event that organs of revolutionary government were set up in a given locality; that is, only in direct connection with a popular uprising. The twenty-four delegates who either abstained from voting or voted against this resolution made up the Leninist irreconcilable half of the Bolshevik faction.

In the extensive printed report about the Stockholm Congress, Lenin avoided mention of the resolution concerning armed acts altogether, on the grounds that he was not present during the discussion. “Besides, it is, of course, not a question of principle.” It is hardly possible that Lenin’s absence was accidental: he simply did not want to have his hands tied. Similarly, a year later at the London Congress, Lenin, who as chairman was obliged to be present during the discussion on the question of expropriations, did not vote, in spite of violent protests from the Menshevik benches. The London resolution categorically forbade expropriations and ordered dissolution of the Party’s “fighting organizations”.

It was not, of course, a matter of abstract morality. All classes and all parties approached the problem of assassination not from the point of view of the Biblical commandment but from the vantage point of the historical interests represented. When the Pope and his cardinals blessed the arms of Franco none of the conservative statesmen suggested that they be imprisoned for inciting murders. Official moralists come out against violence when the violence in question is revolutionary. On the contrary, whoever really fights against class oppression, must perforce acknowledge revolution. Whoever acknowledges revolution, acknowledges civil war. Finally, “guerrilla warfare is an inescapable form of struggle … whenever more or less extensive intervals occur between major engagements in a civil war.” [Lenin.] From the point of view of the general principles of the class struggle, all of that was quite irrefutable. Disagreements came with the evaluation of concrete historical circumstances. When two major battles of the civil war are separated from each other by two or three months, that interval will inevitably he filled in with guerrilla blows against the enemy. But when the “intermission” is stretched out over years, guerrilla war ceases to be a preparation for a new battle and becomes instead a mere convulsion after defeat. It is, of course, not easy to determine the moment of the break.

Questions of Boycottism and of guerrilla activities were closely interrelated. It is permissible to boycott representative assemblies only in the event that the mass movement is sufficiently strong either to overthrow them or to ignore them. But when the masses are in retreat, the tactic of the boycott loses its revolutionary meaning. Lenin understood that and explained it better than others. As early as 1906 he repudiated the boycott of the Duma. After the coup of June third, 1907, he led a resolute fight against the Boycottists precisely because the high-tide had been succeeded by the ebb-tide. It was self-evident that guerrilla activities had become sheer anarchism when it was necessary to utilize even the arena of Tsarist “parliamentarism” in order to prepare the ground for the mobilization of the masses. At the crest of the civil war guerrilla activities augmented and stimulated the mass movement; in the period of reaction they attempted to replace it, but, as a matter of fact, merely embarrassed the Party and speeded its disintegration. Olminsky, one of the more noticeable of Lenin’s companions-in-arms, shed critical light on that period from the perspective of Soviet times. “Not a few of the fine youth,” he wrote, “perished on the gibbet; others degenerated; still others were disappointed in the revolution. At the same time people at large began to confound revolutionists with ordinary bandits. Later, when the revival of the revolutionary labor movement began, that revival was slowest in those cities where ‘exes’ had been most numerous. (As an example, I might name Baku and Saratov.)” Let us keep in mind the reference to Baku.

The sum total of Koba’s revolutionary activities during the years of the First Revolution seems to be so inconsiderable that willy-nilly it gives rise to the question: is it possible that this was all? In the vortex of events, which passed him by, Koba could not have failed to seek such means of action as would have enabled him to demonstrate his worth. Koba’s participation in terrorist acts and in expropriations cannot be doubted. And yet, it is hard to determine the nature of that participation.

”The chief inspirer and general supervisor … of fighting activity,” writes Spiridovich, “was Lenin himself, aided by trusted people close to him.” Who were they? The former Bolshevik Alexinsky, who with the outbreak of the war became a specialist in exposing the Bolsheviks, stated in the foreign press that inside the Central Committee was a “small committee, whose existence was hidden not only from the eyes of the Tsarist police but also from the members of the Party. That small committee, consisting of Lenin, Krassin, and a third person … was particularly concerned with the party’s finances.” By concern with finances Alexinsky means leadership in expropriations. The unnamed “third person” was the naturalist, physician, economist and philosopher Bogdanov, whom we already know. Alexinsky had no reason to be reticent about Stalin’s participation in fighting operations. He says nothing about it because he knows nothing about it. Yet during these years Alexinsky was not only very intimate with the Bolshevik Center but was also in touch with Stalin. As a general rule, that muckraker told more than he knew.

The notes to Lenin’s works state about Krassin: [He] “guided the fighting technical bureau of the Central Committee”. Krupskaya in her turn wrote: “The Party members now know about the important work which Krassin carried on at the time of the Revolution of 1905 in arming the fighters, in supervising the manufacture of explosives, and so forth. All of it was done in secrecy without any fanfare, yet a lot of energy was invested in that cause. Vladimir Ilyich knew about that work of Krassin’s more than anyone else, and from then on always prized him.” Voitinsky, who at the time of the First Revolution was a prominent Bolshevik, wrote: “I have a distinct impression that Nikitich [Krassin] was the only man in the Bolshevik organization whom Lenin regarded with genuine respect and with complete confidence.” True, Krassin concentrated his efforts principally in Petersburg. But had Koba guided in the Caucasus operations of a similar type, Krassin, Lenin and Krupskaya could not have failed to know about it. Yet Krupskaya, who, in order to prove her loyalty, tried to mention Stalin as often as possible, did not say anything at all about his role in the Party’s fighting activities.

On the third of July, 1938, the Moscow Pravda quite unexpectedly declared that “the unprecedented powerful sweep of the revolutionary movement in the Caucasus” in 1905 was connected with the “leadership of the most militant organizations of our Party, created there for the first time directly by Comrade Stalin.” But that single official assertion that Stalin had something to do with “the most militant organizations” refers to the beginning of 1905, before the question of expropriation arose; it gives no information about Koba’s actual work; finally, it is doubtful from the very nature of things, since there was no Bolshevik organization at Tiflis until the latter half of 1905.

Let us see what Iremashvili has to say about it. Speaking with indignation about terrorist acts, “exes,” and the like, he declares: “Koba was the initiator of the crimes perpetrated by the Bolsheviks in Georgia, which played into the hands of the reaction.” After his wife’s death, when Koba lost “the last remnant of human feelings,” he became “a passionate defender and organizer … of the vicious systematic murder of princes, priests and bourgeois.” We already had occasion to be convinced that Iremashvili’s testimony becomes less reliable the further it strays from personal experiences to politics, and from childhood and youth to the more mature years. Political ties between these friends of youthful days terminated at the beginning of the First Revolution. It was only by accident that on the seventeenth of October, on the day the Constitutional Manifesto was published, Iremashvili saw in the streets of Tiflis—only saw, but did not hear—how Koba, hanging onto an iron street lamp (on that day everybody climbed up street lamps), was haranguing a crowd. Being a Menshevik, Iremashvili could find out about Koba’s terroristic activity only secondhand or thirdhand. This testimony is therefore obviously unreliable. Iremashvili cites two examples: the famous Tiflis expropriation of 1907, which we shall have occasion to discuss later, and the killing of the popular Georgian writer, Prince Chavchavadze. With reference to the expropriation, which he placed erroneously in 1905, Iremashvili remarks: “Koba was able to deceive the police on that occasion, too; it did not even have sufficient evidence to suspect his initiative in that cruel attempt. But that time the Social-Democratic Party of Georgia expelled Koba officially …” Not the slightest proof of Stalin’s having anything to do with the assassination of Prince Chavchavadze is adduced by Iremashvili, who limits himself to the meaningless observation: “Indirectly Koba likewise was in favor of murder. He was the instigator of all the crimes, that agitator seething with hatred.” Iremashvili’s recollections in this part are interesting only insofar as they shed light on Koba’s reputation among his political opponents.

The well-informed author of an article in a German newspaper (Volksstime, Mannheim, September 2nd, 1932), most likely a Georgian Menshevik, emphasizes that both friends and enemies considerably exaggerated Koba’s terroristic adventures. “It is true that Stalin possessed exceptional ability and inclination for organizing attacks of that kind … However, in such affairs he usually performed the work of organizer, inspirer, supervisor, but not of direct participant.” Certain biographers are therefore quite incorrect in representing him as “running around with bombs and revolvers and carrying out the wildest sort of adventures.” The story of Koba’s alleged participation in the assassination of the Tiflis military dictator, General Gryaznov on January 17, 1906, appears to be that sort of invention. “That affair was executed in accordance with the decision of the Social-Democratic Party of Georgia (Mensheviks) through Party terrorists especially designated for that purpose. Stalin, like all other Bolsheviks, had no influence in Georgia and did not take part either directly or indirectly in that affair.” This testimony of the anonymous author deserves consideration. Yet in its positive aspect, it is virtually meaningless: acknowledging in Stalin “exceptional aptitude and inclination” for expropriations and assassinations, it does not support that characterization with any data.

The old Georgian Bolshevik terrorist Kote Tsintsadze, a conscientious and reliable witness, states that Stalin, dissatisfied with the backwardness of the Mensheviks in the matter of the attempt to assassinate General Gryaznov, invited Kotè to help him organize for that purpose a fighting detachment of their own. However, the Mensheviks soon managed to carry out this task themselves. The same Kotè recollects that in 1906 it occurred to him alone to organize a fighting detachment of Bolsheviks for the purpose of robbing state treasuries. “Our prominent comrades, especially Koba-Stalin, approved of my initiative.” This testimony is doubly interesting: in the first place, it shows that Tsintsadze regarded Koba as a “prominent comrade”—that is, as a focal leader; in the second place, it leaves us free to draw the conclusion that in these matters Koba did not go beyond approving the initiative of others .[3]

[3] In 1931 Koté Tsintsadze died in exile, imposed by the “prominent comrade Koba-Stalin.”—L. T.

Against the direct resistance of the Menshevik Central Committee, but with the active co-operation of Lenin, the fighting groups of the Party managed to convoke a conference of their own at Tammerfors in November, 1906. Among the leading participants of that conference were revolutionists who subsequently played either an important or noticeable role in the Party; such as, Krassin, Yaroslavsky, Zemlyachka, Lalayants, Trilisser, and others. Stalin is not among them, although at the time he was at liberty in Tiflis. It might be supposed that he preferred not to risk putting in an appearance at the conference because of conspiratorial considerations. Yet Krassin, who was then at the head of the Party’s fighting activities and who because of his renown was subject to greater risk than anyone else, played a leading role at that conference.

On the eighteenth of March, 1918—that is, a few months after the founding of the Soviet régime—the Menshevik leader, Julius Martov, wrote in his Moscow newspaper: “That the Caucasian Bolsheviks attached themselves to all sorts of daring enterprises of an expropriatory kind should he well known to the same citizen Stalin, who in his time was expelled from his Party organization for having something to do with expropriation.” Stalin deemed it necessary to have Martov brought before the judgment of the revolutionary tribunal: “Never in my life,” he told the court and the crowded courtroom, “was I placed on trial before my Party organization or expelled. This is a vicious libel.” But Stalin said nothing about expropriations. “With accusations like Martov’s, one has a right to come out only with documents in hand. But it is dishonorable to throw mud on the basis of rumors, without having any facts.” Wherein is the political source of Stalin’s indignation? It was no secret that the Bolsheviks as a whole were involved in expropriations: Lenin openly defended expropriation in the press. On the other hand, expulsion from a Menshevik organization could scarcely be regarded by a Bolshevik as a shameful circumstance, especially ten years later. Stalin, therefore, could not have had any impelling motives for denying Martov’s “accusations,” had they corresponded to actuality. Besides, to challenge a clever and resourceful opponent to come into court under these conditions meant to risk giving him the chance to try him. Does it mean, then, that Martov’s accusations were false? Generally speaking, Martov, carried away by his journalistic temperament and his detestation of the Bolsheviks, had more than once overstepped the pale within which the indubitable nobility of his nature should have confined him. However, in this instance the point at issue was the trial. Martov remained quite categorical in his affirmation. He demanded that certain witnesses be subpoenaed: “First of all, the well-known Georgian Social-Democratic public figure, Isidor Ramishvili, who was the chairman of the revolutionary court which determined Stalin’s participation in expropriating the steamship Nicholas I in Baku; Noah Jordania; the Bolshevik Sha’umyan, and other members of the Transcaucasian district committee of 1937-1908. In the second place, a group of witnesses headed by Gukovsky, the present Commissar of Finance, under whose chairmanship was tried the case of the attempted assassination of the worker Zharinov, who, before the Party organization, had exposed the Baku committee and its leader, Stalin, as being connected with an expropriation.” In his reply, Stalin said nothing either about the expropriation of the steamship or about the attempt to assassinate Zharinov, at the same time insisting: “I was never tried; if Martov says so, he is a vicious libeller.”

In the strictly legal sense of the word, it was impossible to expel “expropriators,” since they had themselves prudently resigned from the Party beforehand. But it was possible to pose the question of whether to accept them back in the organization. Direct expulsion could be meted out only to those instigators who remained in the ranks of the Party. But there were apparently no direct incriminations of Koba. It is therefore possible that to a certain extent Martov was right when he affirmed that Koba had been expelled: “in principle” it was so. But Stalin was also right: individually he had never been tried. It was not easy for the tribunal to make head or tail of this, especially in the absence of witnesses. Stalin objected to their being subpoenaed, pleading the difficulty and the unreliability of communications with the Caucasus in those crucial days. The revolutionary tribunal did not delve into the essentials of the case, declaring that libel was not under its jurisdiction, but sentenced Martov to “social censure” for insulting the Soviet government (”the government of Lenin and Trotsky,” as the report of the trial in the Menshevik publication proclaimed it ironically). It is impossible not to pause with apprehension at the mention of the attempt on the life of the worker Zharinov for his protest against expropriations. Although we know nothing at all about that episode, it throws off an ominous reflection into the future.

In 1925 the Menshevik Dan wrote that expropriators like Ordzhonikidze and Stalin in the Caucasus provided the Bolshevik faction with the wherewithal; but this is merely a repetition of what Martov had said, and undoubtedly on the basis of the same sources. No one informs us of anything concrete. Yet there was no lack of attempts to raise the curtain over that romantic period in Koba’s life. With the ingratiating legerity characteristic of him, Emil Ludwig asked Stalin during their conversation in the Kremlin to tell him “anything” about the adventures of his youth, such as, for example, the robbing of a bank. In reply, Stalin gave his inquiring interlocutor a pamphlet biography in which presumably “everything” was told; but there was not a word in it about robberies.

Stalin himself has never, anywhere, said anything at all, not so much as a word, about his fighting adventures. It is hard to say why. He was never distinguished by autobiographical modesty. What he deems inconvenient to tell, others do by his orders. Beginning with his dizzying rise, he might have been motivated by consideration of governmental “prestige.” But in the first years after the October Revolution such considerations were quite foreign to him. The former fighters contributed nothing about it in print during that period when Stalin was not yet the inspirer and the controller of historical reminiscences. His reputation as organizer of fighting activities does not find support in any other documents: neither in police records nor in the depositions of traitors and turncoats. True, Stalin has a firm grip on the police records. But if the gendarme archives contained in them any concrete data about Djugashvili as an expropriator, the punishments to which he had been subjected would have been immeasurably more stringent than they were.

Of alf the hypotheses, only one has some verisimilitude. “Stalin does not refer and does not allow others to refer to terroristic acts which in one way or another are connected with his name,” writes Souvarine, “otherwise, it would inevitably have been apparent that others took part in these acts while he merely supervised them from afar.” At the same time it is quite possible—and this is consonant with Koba’s character—that with the aid of understatements and emphases, wherever it was necessary, he circumspectly ascribed to himself those achievements which as a matter of fact he had no right to claim as his own. It was impossible to check up on him under the conditions of underground conspiracy. Hence, the absence of his further interest in disclosures of details. On the other hand, the actual participants in expropriations and persons close to him do not mention Koba in their reminiscences, only because they have nothing to say. Others did the fighting; Stalin supervised them from afar.

Concerning the London Congress Ivanovich wrote the following in his illegal Baku newspaper:

Of the Menshevik resolutions, only the resolution on guerrilla activities was passed, and that only accidentally: the Bolsheviks did not take up the challenge on that occasion, or rather, they did not wish to carry the fight to the bitter end, simply from the desire to give the Mensheviks at least one chance to be glad about something.

The explanation is astounding, because of its absurdity; “to give the Mensheviks a chance to be glad”—such philanthropic solicitude did not figure among Lenin’s political habits. As a matter of fact, the Bolsheviks “did not take up the challenge” only because on that question they had against them not only the Mensheviks, the Bundists and the Lefts, but also their closest allies, the Poles. Moreover, there were very sharp disagreements among the Bolsheviks themselves on the question of expropriations. Yet it would be erroneous to assume that the author of the article had simply talked too much without any ulterior motives. As a matter of fact, he found it necessary to derogate the restrictive decision of the Congress in the eyes of the fighters. That, of course, does not render the explanation itself any the less senseless. Yet such is Stalin’s way: whenever he wants to camouflage his purpose, he does not hesitate to resort to the crudest tricks. And not infrequently the very obvious crudity of his arguments does just that, freeing him from the necessity to seek more profound motives. A conscientious Party member would have merely shrugged his shoulders in chagrin after reading how Lenin had failed to take up the challenge in order to “give the Mensheviks something to be glad about,” but the simple fighter gladly agreed that the “quite accidental” restriction against expropriations need not be taken seriously. For the next fighting operation that was sufficient.

At ten forty-five in the morning on the twelfth of June [19071, in the Erivan Square of Tiflis, an exceptionally daring armed attack took place on a convoy of Cossacks that accompanied an equipage transporting a bag of money. The course of the operation was calculated with the precision of clockwork. Several bombs of exceptional strength were thrown in a set rotation. There were numerous revolver shots. The bag of money (341,000 rubles) vanished with the revolutionists. Not a single one of the fighters was caught by the police. Three members of the convoy were left dead on the spot; about fifty persons were wounded, most of them slightly. The chief organizer of the enterprise, protected by an officer’s uniform, sauntered about the square, observing all the movements of the convoy and of the fighters and at the same time, by means of clever remarks, keeping the public away from the scene of the pending attack, so that there would he no unnecessary victims. At a critical moment, when it might seem that alf was lost, the pseudo-officer took hold of the bag of money with amazing self possession and temporarily hid it in a couch belonging to the director of the observatory, the same one in which the youthful Koba had at one time worked as a bookkeeper. This leader was the Armenian fighter Petrosyan, who bore the alias Kamo .

Having come to Tiflis at the end of the preceding century, he fell into the hands of propagandists, among them Koba. Knowing almost no Russian, Petrosyan once asked Koba again: “Kamo [instead of komu, meaning: to whom ] shall I take this?” Koba began to laugh at him: “Hey, you—kamo, kamo! …” From that indelicate jest was born a revolutionary alias which became historical. So Kamo’s widow, Medvedeva, tells us. She says nothing more about the relations of these two people. But she does tell about the touching attachment of Kamo for Lenin, whom he visited for the first time in 1906 in Finland. “That fearless fighter of limitless audacity and unbreakable will power,” writes Krupskaya, “was at the same time an exceedingly sensitive person, somewhat naive, and a tender comrade. He was passionately attached to Ilyich, Krassin and Bogdanov … He made friends with my mother, told her about his aunt and about his sisters. Kamo often went from Finland to Petersburg, always taking his weapons with him, and each time, with special care, mother would tie his revolvers on his back.” This is all the more remarkable because Krupskaya’s mother was the widow of a Tsarist official and did not renounce religion until she was quite old.

Shortly before the Tiflis expropriation, Kamo again visited the staff in Finland. Medvedeva writes: “Disguised as an officer, Kamo went to Finland, called on Lenin, and with arms and explosives returned to Tiflis.” The journey took place either on the eve of the London Congress or immediately after it. The bombs came from Krassin’s laboratory. A chemist by education, Leonid, when still a student, dreamed of bombs the size of a nut. The year 1905 gave him an opportunity to extend his research in that direction. True, he never succeeded in making one of those ideal dimensions, but the laboratories under his supervision produced bombs of great devastating force. This was not the first time that the fighters tested them on a square in Tiflis.

After the expropriation Kamo appeared in Berlin. There he was arrested upon the denunciation of the provocateur Zhitomirsky, who occupied a prominent place in the foreign organization of the Bolsheviks. During the arrest the Prussian police seized his suitcase, in which presumably bombs and revolvers were discovered. According to the information of the Mensheviks (the investigation was conducted by the future diplomat Chicherin), Kamo’s dynamite was intended for an attack on the banking house of Mendelssohn in Berlin. “That is not true,” declares the well-informed Bolshevik Pyatnitsky, “the dynamite was prepared for the Caucasus.” Let us leave the destination of the dynamite an open question. Kamo remained in a German prison more than a year and a half, continuously simulating violent insanity upon the advice of Krassin. As an incurable madman he was surrendered to Russia, and spent another year and a half in Metekh Castle in Tiflis, subjected to the most trying tests. Declared finally hopelessly insane, Kamo was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, from which he escaped. “After that, illegally, hiding in the hold of a ship, he went to Paris to have a talk with Ilyich.” That was in 1911. Kamo suffered frightfully because of the split that occurred between Lenin on the one hand, Bogdanov and Krassin on the other. “He was ardently attached to all three,” Krupskaya repeats. Then follows an idyll: Kamo asked that almonds be brought to him, sat in the kitchen, which was also the dining room, ate almonds, as in his native Caucasus, and related the story of the frightful years, told how he simulated madness and how he had tamed a swallow while in prison. “Ilyich listened to him, and he was poignantly sorry for this recklessly audacious man, who was childish and naive and warm-hearted and ready for the greatest exploits, and who after his escape did not know what exactly to do.”

Again arrested in Russia, Kamo was condemned to death. The manifesto issued in 1913, on the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, brought an unexpected commutation to lifelong hard labor in place of the gibbet. Four years later the February Revolution brought him unexpected liberation. The October Revolution brought power to the Bolsheviks. But it threw Kamo out of his rut. He was like a mighty fish flung out on the shore. During the civil war I tried to interest him in guerrilla warfare in the enemy’s rear, but work on the battlefield was apparently not to his liking. Besides, the frightful years he had endured had not passed without taking their toll. Kamo was stifling. He had not risked his and other people’s lives scores of times, in order to become a prosperous official. Kotè Tsintsadze, another legendary figure, died of tuberculosis in Stalin’s exile. A similar end would undoubtedly have been Kamo’s lot had he not been accidentally run over and killed by an automobile on one of the streets of Tiflis in the summer of 1922. Most likely a member of the new bureaucracy sat in that automobile. Kamo was wending his way through the darkness on a modest bicycle: he had not made a brilliant career. The very way he perished is symbolic.

Apropos of Kamo, Souvarine writes with unwarranted superciliousness about “the anachronistic mysticism” which is incompatible with the rationalism of the advanced countries. As a matter of fact, only a few traits of the revolutionary type, which is far from being no longer of any use in the countries of “Western civilization,” had found a limited expression in Kamo. Insufficiency of the revolutionary spirit in the labor movement of Europe has already brought about the triumph of Fascism in a number of countries in which “anachronistic mysticism” —this is where the word is apt!—finds its most disgusting expression. The struggle against the iron tyranny of Fascism will undoubtedly bring out among the revolutionary fighters of the West all those traits which in Kamo so astonish the skeptical Philistine. In his “Iron Heel” Jack London foretold a whole epoch of American Kamos in the service of Socialism. The historical process is far more complex than a superficial rationalist would wish to believe it.

In Party circles, Koba’s personal participation in the Tiflis expropriation has long ago been regarded as indubitable. The former Soviet diplomat Bessedovsky, who had heard various tales in second and third rate bureaucratic salons, tells that Stalin, “in accordance with Lenin’s instruction” did not take a direct part in the expropriations but that he himself had presumably “later bragged that it was he who had worked out the plan of action to its minutest detail and that the first bomb was thrown by him from the roof of the house of Prince Sumbatov.” It is hard to tell whether Stalin had actually bragged about his participation or whether Bessedovsky is merely bragging about his information. In any event, during the Soviet epoch Stalin never confirmed or denied these rumors. Evidently he was not at all opposed to having the tragic romanticism of expropriations connected with his name in the consciousness of the youth. In 1932 I still had no doubt about Stalin’s leading role in the armed attack on Erivan Square and referred to it incidentally in one of my articles. However, a closer study of the circumstances of those days compels me to revise my view of the traditional version.

In the chronology attached to the twelfth volume of Lenin’s Works, under the date of June 12, 1907, we read: “Tiflis expropriation (341,000 rubles), organized by Kamo-Petrosyan.” And that is all. In an anthology dedicated to Krassin, in which much is said about the famous illegal printshop in the Caucasus and about the Party’s military activities, Stalin is not mentioned even once. An old militant, well informed about the activities of that period writes: “The plans for all the expropriations organized by the latter [Kamo], at the Kvirili and Dushet chancelleries and at Erivan Square, were made and considered by him jointly with Nikitich [Krassin].” Not a word about Stalin. Another former militant states: “Such expropriations as the one in Tiflis and elsewhere were carried out under the direct leadership of Leonid Borissovich [Krassin].” Again nothing about Stalin. Nor is Stalin mentioned even once in Bibineishvili’s book, which recites all the minutiae concerning the preparations and performance of the expropriations. It undoubtedly follows from these omissions that Koba was not in direct contact with the members of the detachments, did not instruct them, consequently was not the organizer of the act in the real sense of the word, let alone a direct participant.

The Congress in London came to an end on April twenty-seventh.[4] The expropriation in Tiflis occurred on June twelfth [25th n.s.], a month and a half later. Stalin had too little time left between his return from abroad and the day of the expropriation to supervise the preparation of such a complicated enterprise. It is more likely that the fighters had been selected and had been drawn together in the course of several preceding reckless adventures. Possibly they marked time, pending the Congress’s decision. Some of them might have had doubts as to how Lenin would look upon expropriations. The fighters were waiting for the signal. Stalin might have brought them that signal. But did his participation go beyond that?

[4] The London Congress was held from May 13 to June 1 (April 30 to May 19, o. s.), 5907. Hence, there was even less than a month and a half from the time it came to an end and the Tiflis expropriation.—C. M.

We know virtually nothing about the relations of Kamo and Koba. Kamo was inclined to attach himself to people. Yet no one speaks of his attachment to Koba. The reticence about their relations leads one to think that there was no attachment; that, rather, there were conflicts. The source of that might have been Koba’s attempts to boss Kamo or to ascribe to himself what he had no right to claim. Bibineishvili tells in his book on Kamo that “a mysterious stranger” appeared in Georgia after it had become Soviet, and under false pretenses took possession of Kamo’s correspondence and of other valuable material. Who needed them and for what purpose? The documents, as well as the man who absconded with them, disappeared without a trace. Would it be too hasty to presume that through one of his agents Stalin had snatched from Kamo certain evidence which for one reason or another he found disturbing? That does not exclude, of course, the possibility of close collaboration between them in June, 1907. Neither is there anything to restrain us from conceding that the relationship between the two might have become worse after the Tiflis “affair,” in which Koba might have been Kamo’s adviser in working out the final details. Moreover, the adviser might have fostered abroad a highly colored version of his own role. After all, it is easier to ascribe to one’s self the leadership of an expropriation than the leadership of the October Revolution. Yet Stalin will not hesitate to do even the latter.

Barbusse states that in 1907 Koba went to Berlin and remained there for a certain time “for conversations with Lenin.” What sort of conversations the author does not know. The text of Barbusse’s book consists mostly of errors. But the reference to the Berlin journey commands our attention all the more, because in the dialogue with Ludwig, Stalin also refers to his having been in Berlin in 1907. If Lenin journeyed especially for that meeting to the capital of Germany, then in any event it was not for the sake of theoretical “conversations.” The meeting might have taken place either directly before, or more likely, immediately after, the Congress, and almost undoubtedly was devoted to the impending expropriation, the means of forwarding the money, and the like. Why did these negotiations take place in Berlin and not in London? It is quite likely that Lenin might have deemed it careless to meet with Ivanovich in London, where he was in full sight of the other delegates and of numerous tsarist and other spies attracted by the Congress. It is also possible that a third person, who had nothing to do with the Congress, was supposed to participate in these conferences.

From Berlin Koba returned to Tiflis, but a short time after moved to Baku, from where, according to Barbusse, “he again went abroad for a meeting with Lenin.” One of the trusted Caucasians (Barbusse was in the Caucasus and while there wrote down a number of stories arranged for him by Beriya) apparently said something about Stalin’s two meetings with Lenin abroad, in order to emphasize their close relationship. The chronology of these meetings is very significant: one precedes the expropriation and the other directly follows it. That sufficiently determines their purpose. The second meeting was in all likelihood concerned with the problem: to continue or to stop?

Iremashvili writes: “The friendship of Koba-Stalin with Lenin began with that.” The word “friendship” is patently a misnomer. The distance separating these two men precluded personal friendship. But it would seem that just about that time they did begin to know each other. If the assumption is warranted that Lenin had previously made arrangements with Koba about plans for the Tiflis expropriation, then it was quite natural for him to have been filled with admiration for the man he regarded as the organizer of that coup. It is likely that upon reading the telegram about the seizure of the booty without a single loss of life by the revolutionists, Lenin exclaimed to himself, or he might have told Krupskaya, “Splendid Georgian!” These are the words we shall find in one of his letters to Gorky. Enthusiasm for people who showed resoluteness, or were simply successful in carrying out an operation assigned to them, was highly characteristic of Lenin to the very end of his life. Above all, he prized men of action. Basing his judgment of Koba on the latter’s vaunted record in the Caucasian expropriations, Lenin apparently came to regard him as a person capable of seeing things through or of leading others unflinchingly. He made up his mind that the “splendid Georgian” would be useful.

The Tiflis booty brought no good. The entire sum consisted of five-hundred ruble notes. It was impossible to circulate currency of such large denomination. After the adverse publicity received by the unfortunate skirmish in Erivan Square, it was senseless to try to exchange these bills at any Russian bank. The operation was transferred abroad. But the provocateur Zhitomirsky, who warned the police about it betimes, participated in the organization of the exchange operations. The future Commissar of Foreign Affairs Litvinov was arrested while attempting to exchange them in Paris. Olga Ravich, who subsequently became Zinoviev’s wife, fell into the hands of the police at Stockholm. The future People’s Commissar of Public Health Semashko was arrested at Geneva, apparently by accident. “I was one of those Bolsheviks,” he wrote, “who at the time was on principle opposed to expropriations.” The mishaps connected with the exchange considerably increased the number of such Bolsheviks. “The average Swiss,” says Krupskaya, “was scared to death. All they talked about was the Russian expropriators. They talked about it with horror at the hoarding house where Ilyich and I took our meals.” It is noteworthy that Olga Ravich, as well as Semashko, disappeared during the recent Soviet “purges.”

The Tiflis expropriation could in no way be regarded as a guerrilla clash between two battles in a civil war. Lenin could not help but see that the insurrection had been shoved ahead into the hazy future. As far as he was concerned, the problem consisted this time only of a simple attempt to assure financial means to the Party at the expense of the enemy, for the impending period of uncertainty. Lenin could not resist the temptation, took advantage of a favorable opportunity, of a happy “exception”. In that sense, one must say outright that the idea of the Tiflis expropriation contained in it a goodly element of adventurism, which, as a rule, was foreign to Lenin’s politics. The case with Stalin was different. Broad historical considerations had little value in his eyes. The resolution of the London Congress was only an irksome scrap of paper, to be nullified by means of a crude trick. Success would justify the risk. Souvarine argues that it is not fair to shift responsibility from the leader of the faction to a secondary figure. There is no question here of shifting responsibility. At the time, the majority of the Bolshevik faction was opposed to Lenin on the question of expropriations. The Bolsheviks, in direct contact with the fighting detachments, had extremely convincing observations of their own, which Lenin, again an emigrant, did not have. Without corrections from below, the leader of the greatest genius is bound to make crude errors. The fact remains that Stalin was not among those who understood the inadmissibility of guerrilla actions under conditions of revolutionary retreat. And that was no accident. To him the Party was first of all a machine. The machine required financial means in order to exist. The financial means could be obtained with the aid of another machine, independent of life and of the struggle of the masses. There Stalin was in his own element.

The consequences of this tragic adventure, which rounded out an entire phase of Party life, were rather serious. The fight over the Tiflis expropriation poisoned relations inside the Party and inside the Bolshevik faction itself for a long time to come. From then on, Lenin changed front and came out more resolutely than ever against the tactic of expropriations, which for a time became the heritage of the “Left” Wing among the Bolsheviks. For the last time the Tiflis “affair” was officially reviewed by the Party Central Committee in January, 1910, upon the insistence of the Mensheviks. The resolution sharply condemned expropriation as an inadmissible violation of Party discipline, while conceding that rendering harm to the labor movement was not the intention of the participants, who had been “guided solely by a faulty understanding of Party interests”. No one was expelled. No one was mentioned by name. Koba was thus amnestied along with others, as one who had been guided by “a faulty understanding of Party interests”.

In the meantime, the disintegration of revolutionary organizations proceeded apace. As early as October, 1907, the Menshevik “literary” Potressov wrote to Axelrod: “We are undergoing complete disintegration and utter demoralization … There is not only no organization, but not even the elements for it. And this non-existence is even extolled as a principle …” This extolling of disintegration as a principle soon became the task of most leaders of Menshevism, including Potressov himself. They declared the illegal Party liquidated once and for all, and the aim to restore it—a reactionary utopia. Martov insisted that it was precisely “scandalous incidents like the exchange of the Tiflis currency” which forced “the most devoted parties and the most active elements of the working class” to shun all contact with an illegal political machine. The Mensheviks, now known as the Liquidators, saw in the frightful development of provocation another convincing argument in favor of the “necessity” to forsake the mephitic underground. Entrenching themselves in trade unions, educational clubs and insurance societies, they carried on their work as cultural propagandists, not as revolutionists. To safeguard their jobs in the legal organizations, the officials from among the workers began to resort to protective coloration. They avoided the strike struggle, so as not to compromise the scarcely tolerated trade unions. In practice, legality at any price meant outright repudiation of revolutionary methods.

The Liquidators were in the forefront during the most desolate years. “They suffered less from police persecution,” writes Olminsky. “They had many of the writers, a good part of the lecturers and on the whole most of the intellectuals. They were the cocks of the walk and they crowed about it.” The attempts of the Bolshevik faction, whose ranks were thinning every hour, to preserve its illegal machine were dashed at each turn against hostile circumstances. Bolshevism seemed definitely doomed. “All of present-day development,” wrote Martov, “renders the formation of any kind of durable party-sect a pathetic reactionary utopia.” In that fundamental prognosis Martov and, with him, Russian Menshevism, made a cruel mistake. The perspectives and the slogans of the Liquidators proved to be the reactionary utopia. There was no place for an open labor party in the Third of June régime. Even the party of the liberals was refused registration. “The Liquidators have shaken off the illegal party,” wrote Lenin, “but they have not carried out the obligation to found a legal one either.” Precisely because Bolshevism remained loyal to the tasks of the revolution in the period of its decline and degradation, it prepared its unprecedented blossoming in the years of the revolution’s new resurgence.

Meantime, at the opposite pole to the Liquidators, in the left wing of the Bolshevik faction, an extremist group formed, which stubbornly refused to recognize the altered situation and continued to defend the tactic of direct action. After the elections, the differences of opinion that arose on the question of boycotting the Duma led to the formation of the Recallist faction, which called for the recall of the Social-Democratic deputies from the Duma. The Recallists were undoubtedly the symmetrical supplement of the Liquidators. While the Mensheviks, always and everywhere, even under the irresistible pressure of revolution, deemed it necessary to participate in any “parliament,” even a purely fortuitous one patterned by the Tsar, the Recallists[5] thought that by boycotting the parliament established in consequence of the defeat of the revolution, they would be able to evoke new mass pressure. Since electrical discharges are accompanied by thunderclaps, the “irreconcilables” attempted to evoke electrical discharges by means of artificial thunderclaps.

[5] See Glossary.

The period of dynamite laboratories still exerted its powerful influence upon Krassin. That shrewd and sensible man joined for a time the sect of Recallists, in order to abandon the Revolution altogether for years to come. Bogdanov, another of Lenin’s closest collaborators in the secret Bolshevik trinity, likewise moved to the Left. With the break-up of this secret triumvirate the old top leadership of Bolshevism fell apart. But Lenin did not budge. In the summer of 1907 the majority of the faction was for the boycott. By the spring of 1908 the Recallists were already a minority in Petersburg and Moscow. Lenin’s preponderance was made obvious beyond doubt. Koba speedily took that into account. His unfortunate experience with the agrarian program, when he had come out openly against Lenin, made him more circumspect. Noiselessly and unobtrusively, he reneged on his fellow-boycotters. From then on his regular behavior at each turn was to keep out of sight and keep quiet while changing his stand.

The continued splintering of the Party into petty groups, which waged ruthless battles in a vacuum, aroused in sundry factions a longing for reconciliation, for agreement, for unity at any price. It was precisely at that period that another aspect of “Trotskyism” came to the forefront: not the theory of permanent revolution, but “reconciliation” of the Party. That will have to he discussed, however briefly, so as to facilitate understanding of the subsequent conflict between Stalinism and Trotskyism. In 1904—that is, from the moment differences of opinion arose as to the nature of the liberal bourgeoisie—I broke with the Minority of the Second Congress [The Mensheviks] and during the ensuing thirteen years belonged to no faction. My position on the intra-party conflict came down to this: as long as the revolutionary intellectuals were dominant among the Bolsheviks as well as among the Mensheviks and as long as both factions did not venture beyond the bourgeois democratic revolution, there was no justification for a split between them; in the new revolution, under the pressure of the laboring masses, both factions would in any case he compelled to assume an identical revolutionary position, as they did in 1905. Certain critics of Bolshevism to this day regard my old conciliationism as the voice of wisdom. Yet its profound erroneousness had been long ago demonstrated both in theory and practice. A simple conciliation of factions is possible only along some sort of “middle” line. But where is the guaranty that this artificially drawn diagonal line will coincide with the needs of objective development? The task of scientific politics is to deduce a program and a tactic from an analysis of the struggle of classes, not from the [ever-shifting] parallelogram of such secondary and transitory forces as political factions. True, the position of the reaction was such that it cramped the political activity of the entire Party within extremely narrow limits. At the time, it might have seemed that the differences of opinion were unimportant and artificially inflated by the émigré leaders. Yet it was precisely during the period of reaction that the revolutionary party was unable to train its cadres without a major perspective. The preparation for tomorrow was a most important element in the policy of today. The policy of conciliation thrived on the hope that the course of events itself would prompt the necessary tactic. But that fatalistic optimism meant in practice not only repudiation of factional struggle but of the very idea of a party, because, if “the course of events” is capable of directly dictating to the masses the correct policy, what is the use of any special unification of the proletarian vanguard, the working out of a program, the choice of leaders, the training in a spirit of discipline?

Later, in 1911, Lenin observed that conciliationism was indissolubly connected with the very essence of the Party’s historical task during the years of counter-revolution. “A number of Social-Democrats,” he wrote, “in that period sank into conciliationism, proceeding from the most varied motives . Most consistently of all was Conciliationism expressed by Trotsky, about the only one who tried to provide a theoretical foundation for that policy.” Just because in those years conciliationism became epidemic, Lenin saw in it the greatest menace to the development of a revolutionary party. He was well aware of the fact that the Conciliators claimed “the most varied motives,” opportunistic as well as revolutionary. But in his crusade against that dangerous tendency he felt he had the right not to make any distinction between its subjective sources. On the contrary, he attacked with redoubled ferocity those Conciliators whose basic positions were closest to Bolshevism. Avoiding public conflict with the Conciliationist wing of the Bolshevik faction itself, Lenin chose to direct his polemics against “Trotskyism,” especially since I, as has already been said, attempted to provide a “theoretical foundation” for Conciliationism. Quotations from that violent polemic were later to render Stalin a service for which they were certainly not intended.

Lenin’s work during the years of reaction—minute and painstaking in its detail, audacious in its sweep of thought—will always offer a great lesson in revolutionary training. “We learned at the time of revolution,” wrote Lenin in July, 1909, “ ‘to talk French,’ i.e., … to arouse the energy and the sweep of direct mass struggle. We must now, at the time of stagnancy, reaction, disintegration, learn ’to speak German,’ i.e., act slowly … conquering inch by inch.” The leader of the Mensheviks, Martov, wrote in 1911: “That which two or three years ago the leaders of the open movement [i.e., the Liquidators] acknowledged only in principle—the necessity to build the Party ‘in German’— … is now everywhere acknowledged as the task to the practical realization of which it is high time to set to work.” Although both Lenin and Martov had apparently begun “to speak German,” as a matter of fact, they talked different languages. For Martov, “to speak German” meant to adapt himself to the Russian semi-absolutism in the hope of gradually “Europeanizing” it. For Lenin, the same expression meant: to utilize with the aid of the illegal party the meager legal possibilities of preparing a new revolution. As the subsequent opportunistic degeneration of the German Social-Democracy demonstrated, the Mensheviks more truly reflected the spirit of “the German language” in politics. But Lenin understood much more correctly the objective course of development in Germany as well as in Russia: the epoch of peaceful reform was being superseded by the epoch of catastrophes.

As for Koba, he knew neither French nor German. Yet all his inclinations drew him toward Lenin’s position. Koba did not seek the open arena, like the orators and journalists of Menshevism, because the open arena exposed his weak rather than his strong attributes. He needed above all a centralized machine. But under the conditions of a counter-revolutionary régime that machine could be only illegal. Although Koba lacked historical perspective, he was more than amply endowed with perseverance. During the years of reaction he was not one of the tens of thousands who deserted the Party, but one of the very few hundreds who, despite everything, remained loyal to it.

Soon after the London Congress both young Zinoviev, who was elected to the Central Committee, and young Kamenev, who became a member of the Bolshevik Center, became émigrés. Koba remained in Russia. Subsequently he credited that to himself as an extraordinary achievement. As a matter of fact, it was nothing of the kind. The selection of place and nature of work depended to a very minor extent on the choice of the individual in question. Had the Central Committee seen in Koba a young theoretician and publicist capable of rising to higher things abroad, he undoubtedly would have been ordered to emigrate and he would have had neither the chance nor the desire to decline. But no one called him abroad. From the time the top leadership of the Party became aware of him, he was looked upon as a “practico,” i.e., as a rank and file revolutionist, useful primarily for local organizational activity. And Koba himself, who had tested his own abilities at the congresses in Tammerfors, Stockholm and London, was hardly inclined to join the émigrés, among whom he would have been relegated to third place. Later, after Lenin’s death, necessity was transformed into virtue, and the very word “émigré” came to sound on the lips of the new bureaucracy pretty much as it had sounded on the lips of the conservatives of the Tsarist epoch.

Resuming his exile, Lenin felt, according to his own words, as if he were stepping into his grave. “We here are frightfully cut off from everything now …,” he wrote from Paris in the autumn of 1909. “These years have actually been hellishly difficult …” In the Russian bourgeois press there began to appear disparaging articles about the emigration, which presumably epitomized the defeated revolution repudiated by cultivated circles. In 1912, Lenin replied to these libels in the Petersburg newspaper of the Bolsheviks: “Yes, there is much that is hard to bear in the émigré environment … There is more want and poverty here than elsewhere. Especially high among us is the percentage of suicides …” However, “only here and nowhere else have been posed and considered the most important fundamental questions of the entire Russian democracy during the years of confusion and interregnum.” The leading ideas of the Revolution of 1917 were being prepared in the course of the wearisome and exhausting battles of the émigré groups. In that work Koba took no part at all.

From the autumn of 1907 until March, 1908, Koba carried on revolutionary activity in Baku. It is impossible to establish the date of his removal there. He may have left Tiflis at the very moment that Kamo was loading his last bomb; circumspection was the dominant aspect of Koba’s courage. Baku, city of many diverse races, which at the beginning of the century had already a population of more than a hundred thousand, continued to grow rapidly, drawing into the oil industry masses of Azerbaijan Tatars. The Tsarist authorities replied, not without some success, to the revolutionary movement of 1905, by instigating the Tatars against the more advanced Armenians. However, the revolution took hold even of the backward Azerbaijanians. Belatedly, as far as the rest of the country was concerned, they participated en masse in the strikes of 1907.

In the “Black City” Koba spent about eight months, from which should be deducted the time he took for his journey to Berlin. “Under the leadership of Comrade Stalin,” wrote the not too inventive Beriya, “the Baku Bolshevik organization grew up, gained strength and was tempered during its struggle against the Mensheviks.” Koba was sent to regions where the opponents were particularly strong. “Under the leadership of Comrade Stalin, the Bolsheviks broke the influence of the Mensheviks and the Essars,” and so forth. We learn little more from Alliluyev. The gathering of Bolshevik forces after the havoc wrought by the police occurred, according to him, “under the direct leadership and with the active participation of Comrade Stalin … His organizational talent, genuine revolutionary enthusiasm, inexhaustible energy, firm will and Bolshevik persistence …” and the like. Unfortunately, the reminiscences of Stalin’s father-in-law were written in 1937. The formula: “under the direct leadership and with the active participation” faultlessly betrays the Beriya trademark. The Essar Vereshchak, who was active in Baku at the same time and observed Koba with the eyes of a political opponent, recognizes in him exceptional organizational talent but completely denies him any personal influence among the workers. “His personality,” he writes, “produced a bad first impression. Koba took that into account as well. He never spoke openly at mass meetings … Koba’s presence in this or that labor district was always a secret matter, and one could guess at it only by the enlivened activity of the Bolsheviks.” This is more like the truth. We shall have occasion to meet Vereshchak again.

The reminiscences of Bolsheviks written prior to the totalitarian era gives the first place in the Baku organization not to Koba but to Sha’umyan[6] and Dzhaparidze,[7] two exceptional revolutionists killed by the English during their occupation of Transcaucasia, on September 20, 1918. “Of the old comrades in Baku,” writes Sha’umyan’s biographer Karimyan, “Comrades A. Yenukidze, Koba (Stalin), Timofei (Spandaryan), Alyosha (Dzhaparidze) were then active. The Bolshevik organization … had a broad base for activity in the trade union of the oil industry workers. The actual organizer and secretary of all the trade union work was Alyosha (Dzhaparidze).” Yenukidze is mentioned ahead of Koba; the principal role is assigned to Dzhaparidze. Further: “Both of them (Sha’umyan and Dzhaparidze) were the most beloved leaders of the Baku proletariat.” It had not yet occurred to Karinyan, who was writing in 1924, to name Koba among “the most beloved leaders.”

[6] Stepan Grigoryevich Sha’umyan (1878-1918). –C. M.

[7] Prokofii Aprasionovich Dzhaparidze (1880-1918).—C. M.

The Baku Bolshevik Stopani tells how in 1907 he became absorbed in trade union work, “the most burning task for the Baku of those days.” The trade union was under the leadership of the Bolsheviks. In the union “a prominent role was played by the irreplaceable Alyosha Dzhaparidze and a lesser role by Comrade Koba (Djugashvili), who gave most of his strength primarily to party work, of which he was in charge …” Of what this “Party work” consisted, apart from “the most burning task” of leading the trade unions, Stopani does not specify. But he does contribute a very interesting casual remark about disagreements among the Baku Bolsheviks. All of them agreed on the need of organizationally “consolidating” the Party’s influence in the trade unions, but “with reference to the degree and form of that consolidation there were also disagreements among ourselves: we had our own ‘Left’ (Koba-Stalin) and ‘Right’ (Alyosha Dzhaparidze and others, including myself); the disagreements were not on fundamentals but with reference to the tactics or the methods of establishing that contact.” Stopani’s deliberately vague words—Stalin was then already very powerful—enable us faultlessly to imagine the actual disposition of figures. Due to the belated wave of the strike movement, the trade union had become of foremost importance. The leaders of the union naturally proved to be those who knew how to talk with the masses and how to lead them: Dzhaparidze and Sha’umyan. Again pushed into second place, Koba entrenched himself in the underground committee. The Party’s struggle to win influence in the trade union meant to Koba that the leaders of the masses, Dzhaparidze and Sha’umyan, should submit to his bossing. In the fight for this sort of “consolidation” of his own personal power, Koba, as is evident from Stopani’s words, roused against himself all the leading Bolsheviks. The activity of the masses was not favorable to the plans of the underhanded schemer.

Exceptionally bitter became the rivalry between Koba and Sha’umyan. Matters reached such a pass that after Sha’umyan’s arrest, according to the testimony of the Georgian Mensheviks, the workers suspected Koba of having renounced his rival to the police, and demanded that he be tried by a party court. Their campaign was terminated only by Koba’s own arrest. It is unlikely that the accusers had definite proofs. Their suspicion might have been aroused by any nutuber of circumstantial coincidences. Suffice it, though, that Koba’s Party comrades thought him capable of turning informer, when motivated by thwarted ambition. Such things have never been told about anyone else!

Concerning the financing of the Baku Committee at the time of Koba’s participation in it, there is circumstantial but far from indubitable evidence concerning armed “expropriation;” financial tributes imposed on industrialists under the threat of death or of firing their oil wells; the fabrication and circulation of counterfeit currency, and the like. It is hard to decide whether these deeds, which actually took place, were imputed to Koba’s initiative as far back as those remote years or whether the greater part of them were first connected with his name considerably later. In any event, Koba’s participation in such risky enterprises could not have been direct; otherwise, it would have been inevitably revealed. In all likelihood, he guided the militant operations, as he had tried to guide the trade union, from the sidelines. It is noteworthy in this connection that very little is known about the Baku period of Koba’s life. The most insignificant episodes are recorded whenever they tend to enhance the “Leader’s” fame, yet his revolutionary activity is referred to only in the most general phrases. The amount of suppression is hardly accidental.

The Essar Vereshchak, while still quite young, landed in 1909 in the so-called Ba’ilov Prison of Baku, where he spent three and a half years. Koba, who was arrested on March twenty-fifth, spent a half a year in that prison, left it to go into exile, spent nine months there, returned illegally to Baku, was again arrested in March, 1910, and was again imprisoned there, side by side with Vereshchak, for nearly six months. In 1912 the prison buddies met again at Narym, in Siberia. Finally, after the February Revolution, Vereshchak, then a delegate from the Tiflis garrison, met his old acquaintance at the First Congress of Soviets in Petrograd.

After the rise of Stalin’s political star, Vereshchak gave a detailed account of their joint prison life in the émigré press. Perhaps not everything in his story is reliable and not all of his judgments are convincing. Thus, Vereshchak asserts, no doubt on the basis of hearsay, that Koba had himself acknowledged that “for revolutionary reasons” he had betrayed certain of his seminary comrades; the unlikelihood of that tale has already been indicated. The Populist author’s discussions of Koba’s Marxism are extremely naive. But Vereshchak had the invaluable advantage of observing Koba in an environment where, willy-nilly, the habits and conditions of cultured coexistence atrophy. Intended for four hundred inmates, the Baku prison held at the time more than fifteen hundred. The prisoners slept in the overcrowded cells, in the corridors, on the steps of stairways. There could have been no isolation of any kind under such conditions of overcrowding. Alf the doors, except those of the punitive cells, were wide open. Criminals and politicals moved freely about from cell to cell, from building to building, and in the yard. “It was impossible to sit or to lie down without stepping on someone’s toes.” In such circumstances people saw each other, and many saw themselves, in quite unexpected lights. Even cold and reserved persons disclosed traits of character which under ordinary conditions they managed to keep hidden.

”Koba was an extremely one-sided person,” writes Vereshchak. “He had no general principles and no adequate educational background. By his very nature he had always been a person of little culture, a crude person. All this in him was combined with a peculiarly studied slyness, which at first obscured from the view of even the most observing person the other traits hidden behind it.” By “general principles” the author seems to imply moral principles: as a Populist he was an adherent of the school of “ethical” socialism. Vereshchak was surprised by Koba’s stamina. A cruel game was played in that prison, the purpose of which was by hook or crook to drive one’s opponent frantic: this was called “chasing into a bubble.” “It was never possible to drive Koba off his balance …” states Vereshchak, “nothing would get his goat …”

That game was quite innocent by comparison with the game the authorities played. Among the imprisoned were persons more or less recently sentenced to death who hourly awaited the culmination of their fate. The condemned ate and slept with the others. Before the eyes of the prisoners, they were led out at night and hanged in the prison yard, so that in the cells “were heard the cries and moans of the hanged.” All the prisoners suffered from the nervous strain. “Koba slept soundly,” says Vereshchak, “or calmly studied Esperanto (he was convinced that Esperanto was the international language of the future).” It would be silly to think that Koba was indifferent to the executions. But he had strong nerves. He did not feel for others as for himself. Nerves like that were in themselves an important asset.

Despite the chaos, the hangings, the party and personal conflicts, the Baku prison was an important revolutionary school. Koba stood out among the Marxist leaders. He did not participate in person to person discussions, preferring public forums, a sure sign that in education and experience Koba was superior to the majority of his fellow-prisoners. “Koba’s outward appearance and his polemical coarseness made his presentation always unpleasant. His speeches were devoid of wit; in form they were a dry and formal exposition.” Vereshchak recalls a certain “agrarian discussion,” when Koba’s comrade Ordzhonikidze, “struck the face of the co-reporter, the Essar Ilya Kartsevadze, for which he was cruelly beaten up by the other Essars.” This is no invention: the very ardent Ordzhonikidze preserved his predilection for physical arguments even when he became a prominent Soviet dignitary. Once Lenin even proposed expelling him from the party for that.

Vereshchak was astonished by the “mechanical memory” of Koba, whose little head “with its undeveloped forehead” presumably contained all of Marx’s “Capital”. “Marxism was his element, in it he was unconquerable … He knew how to substantiate anything with the appropriate formulae from Marx. This man made a strong impression on young party people unenlightened in politics.” Vereshchak himself was among the “unenlightened”. To this young Populist, brought up on homespun Russian belletristic sociology, Koba’s Marxist baggage must have seemed exceedingly imposing. As a matter of fact, it was modest enough. Koba had neither theoretical curiosity nor perseverance in study nor discipline of thought. It is hardly correct to speak of his “mechanical memory”. It is narrow, empirical, utilitarian, but, despite the seminary training, not in the least mechanical. It is a peasant memory, devoid of sweep and synthesis, but firm and tenacious, especially in rancor. It is not at all true that Koba’s head was full of ready quotations for all the occasions of life. Koba was never a bookworm or a scholastic. Through Plekhanov and Lenin he culled from Marxism the most elementary statements on the class struggle and on the subordinate significance of ideas in relation to material factors. Although he over-simplified these propositions, he was nevertheless able to apply them with success against the Populists, even as a person with the crudest sort of revolver is able to fight successfully against a man with a boomerang. But on the whole Koba remained essentially indifferent to the Marxist doctrine.

During his confinement in the prisons of Batum and Kutais, as we remember, Koba attempted to probe the mysteries of the German language: at the time the influence of the German Social-Democracy on the Russian one was exceedingly great. Yet Koba was even less successful in learning Marx’s language than his doctrine. In the Baku prison he began to study Esperanto as “the language of the future”. That touch most instructively exposes the quality of Koba’s intellectual equipment, which in the sphere of learning always sought the line of least resistance. Although he spent eight years in prison and exile, he never managed to learn a single foreign language, not excluding his ill-starred Esperanto.

As a general rule, political prisoners tried not to associate with criminals. Koba, on the contrary, “could be always seen in the society of ruffians, blackmailers, and” among the mauserist robbers.” He felt himself on an equal footing with them. “He was always impressed by people of real ’business.’ And he looked upon politics as a ‘business’ which one should know how to ‘do’ and how to ‘outdo.”’ This is a very apt observation. But this very observation refutes better than anything else the remarks about his “mechanical memory,” filled with ready-made quotations. The company of people with higher intellectual interests than his own was irksome to Koba. In the Politburo[8] of Lenin’s day he almost always sat silent, morose and irritable. Conversely, he became more sociable, more even tempered and more human among people of primitive mentality who were unrestrained by any predilection for brains. During the civil war, when certain sections of the army, usually the cavalry branches, became unruly and went in for violence and roistering, Lenin was wont to say, “Hadn’t we better send Stalin there? He knows how to talk with people of that kind.”

Koba was not the initiator of prison protests and demonstrations, but he always supported the initiators. “That made him a good comrade in the eyes of the prison public.” This observation, too, is apt. Koba was never, in anything or anywhere, an initiator. But he was quite capable of utilizing the initiative of others, of pushing the initiators ahead, and of retaining for himself freedom of choice. That does not mean that Koba was devoid of courage; he merely preferred to spend it economically. The prison régime was a mixture of laxity and cruelty. The inmates enjoyed considerable freedom inside the prison walls. But whenever a certain elusive pale was transgressed, the administration resorted to military force. Vereshchak tells how in 1909 (obviously, he means 1908), on the first day of Easter, a company of the Salyan Regiment beat up all the political prisoners, without exception, forcing them to run the gauntlet. “Koba walked, his head unbowed, under the blows of rifle butts, a book in his hands. And when the free-for-all was let loose, Koba forced the doors of his cell with a slop bucket, ignoring the threat of bayonets.” That self-contained man—true, on rare occasions—was capable of blinding rage.

[8] See Glossary.

The Moscow “historian” Yaroslavsky restates Vereshchak, as follows: “Stalin ran the gauntlet of soldiers, reading Marx …” Marx’s name is dragged in here for the same reason that a rose appears in the hands of the Virgin Mary. All of Soviet historiography is made up of such roses. Koba holding “Marx” under rifle butts has become the subject of Soviet scholarship, prose and poetry. Yet such behavior was in no way exceptional. Prison beatings, just like prison heroism, were the order of the day. Pyatnitsky tells how after his arrest at Wilno in 1902, the police proposed to send him, then still quite a young worker, to the district police officer, who was notorious for his beatings, in order to force testimony from him. But the elder policeman replied: “He won’t say anything there, either. He belongs to the Iskra organization.” Even in those early days the revolutionists of Lenin’s school had the reputation of being unyielding. In order to ascertain that Kamo had actually lost his sensitivity, as alleged, physicians pushed pins under his fingernails, and only because Kamo had adamantly endured such tests for a number of years was he finally declared hopelessly insane. What then is the weight of a few rifle butt blows, by comparison with that? There is no basis for underestimating Koba’s courage, but it must be confined within the limits of its time and place.

Because of the prison conditions, Vereshchak had no difficulty in observing a certain trait of Stalin’s, which enabled him to remain unknown for such a long time: “That was his ability quietly to incite others while he himself remained on the sidelines.” Then follow two examples. On one occasion a young Georgian was being beaten up in the corridor of the “political” building. The evil word “provocateur” resounded through the building. Only the soldiers on guard were able to stop the chastisement. His bloody body was removed on a stretcher to the city hospital. Was he a provocateur? And if so, why was he not killed? “In Báilov prison provocateurs, when proved to be such, were usually killed,” Vereshchak remarks in passing. “No one knew anything or could make head or tail of it, and only a long time later we learned that the rumor had originated with Koba.” It was never found out whether the man who had been beaten up was actually a provocateur. Might he have been simply one of the workers who was opposed to expropriations or who accused Koba of having denounced Sha’umyan?

Another instance. On the steps of the stairway which led into the “political” building a certain prisoner known as “the Greek” stabbed a young worker who had but recently been brought to the prison. The Greek himself regarded the man he had killed as a stoolpigeon, although he had never before met him at any time. This sanguine incident, which naturally aroused the entire prison, remained a mystery for a long time. Finally, the Greek began to intimate that he evidently had been “misled” for no good reason: the misinformation had come from Koba.

Caucasians are easily aroused and easily resort to the knife. The cool and calculating Koba, who knew the language and the customs of these people, found it easy to set one against another. In both instances it was undoubtedly a matter of vengeance. The instigator did not need to have the victims know who was responsible for their mishap. Koba is not inclined to share his feelings, not even the joy of vengeance. He prefers to enjoy it alone, by himself. Both episodes, sordid though they are, do not seem unlikely; subsequent events invest them with inherent verisimilitude … In Báilov Prison the preparation of future events went on. Koba acquired experience, Koba grew strong, Koba matured. The gray figure of the former seminarist with pock marks on his face cast an ever more sinister shadow.

Vereshchak further mentions, this time obviously on the basis of hearsay, Koba’s various risky enterprises during his activities at Baku: the organization of counterfeiters, the robbing of state treasuries, and the like. “He was never tried in court for any of these affairs, although the counterfeiters and the expropriators were in prison together with him.” If they had known of his role, someone among them would inevitably have betrayed him. “The ability to achieve his purpose quietly by making use of others, while at the same time remaining unnoticed himself, made Koba a sly schemer who did not spurn any means and who avoided public accounting and responsibility.”

We thus learn more about Koba’s life in prison than about his activities outside. But in both places he remained true to himself. Between discussions with the Populists and small talk with holdup men, he did not forget about his revolutionary organization. Beriya informs us that from prison Koba managed to establish regular contact with the Baku Committee. That was quite possible: where there was no isolation of politicals from the criminals and of the politicals from each other, it was impossible to remain cut off from the outside. One of the issues of the illegal newspaper was entirely prepared in prison. The pulse of the revolution, although considerably weakened, continued to beat. The prison may not have stimulated Koba’s interest in theories, but neither did it break his fighting spirit.

On the twentieth of September Koba was sent to Solvychegodsk, in the northern part of Vologda Province. This was privileged banishment: only for two years; not in Siberia, but in European Russia; not in a village, but in a small town of two thousand inhabitants, with fine opportunities for escape. It is thus obvious that the gendarmes did not have even moderately weighty evidence against Koba. In view of the extremely low cost of living in those remote borderlands, it was not hard for exiles to get along on the few rubles a month the government allotted them; for their extra needs they received aid from friends and from the revolutionary Red Cross. How Koba spent his nine months in Solvychegodsk, what he did, what he studied, we do not know. No documents have been published: neither his essays, nor his diaries, nor his letters. In the local police “case of Joseph Djugashvili,” under the heading “behavior,” is recorded: “rude, impudent, disrespectful to superiors”. “Disrespectfulness” was a trait common to all revolutionists; “rudeness” was his individual trait.

In the spring of 1909 Alliluyev, who was already in Petersburg, received a letter fom Koba, then in exile, asking him for his address. “At the end of that summer of the same year Stalin escaped from exile to Petersburg, where I met him accidentally on one of the streets in the Lityeiny district.” It so happened that Stalin did not find Alliluyev at his home nor at his place of work, and was obliged to wander through the streets for a long time without any place of shelter. “When I met him accidentally on the street, he was extremely tired.” Alliluyev arranged for Koba to stay at the home of a janitor of one of the guard regiments who was a sympathizer of the revolution. “Here Stalin lived quietly for a while, saw some of the members of the Bolshevik fraction of the Third Duma, and later proceeded southward, to Baku.”

Again to Baku! He could hardly have been drawn there by local patriotism. It would be more accurate to suppose that Koba was not known in Petersburg, that the deputies of the Duma did not display any interest in him, that no one asked him to remain or offered the aid which was so indispensable to an illegal resident. “Returning to Baku, he again undertook energetically to strengthen further the Bolshevik organizations … In October, 1909, he came to Tiflis, organized and directed the fight of the Tiflis Bolshevik organization against the Menshevik-Liquidators.” The reader, no doubt, recognizes Beriya’s style.

In the illegal press Koba published several articles, interesting only because they were written by the future Stalin. Owing to the absence of anything more noteworthy, exceptional significance is nowadays accorded to the correspondence written by Koba in December, 1909, for the Party’s foreign newspaper. Contrasting the active industrial center of Baku to Tiflis, stagnant with civil servants, storekeepers and artisans, his “Letter From The Caucasus” quite correctly explains the dominance of the Mensheviks at Tiflis in terms of its social structure. Then follows a polemic against the perennial leader of Georgian Social-Democracy, Jordania, who again proclaimed the need “to unite the forces of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.” The workers must renounce their policy of irreconcilability because, Jordania argued, “the weaker the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the more victorious will be the bourgeoisie …” Koba counterposed to that the directly contrary proposition: “The more the revolution will rely on the class struggle of the proletariat, which will lead the village poor against the landlords and the liberal bourgeoisie, the more complete will be the victory of the revolution.” All of this was quite right in essence, but did not contain a single new word; beginning with the spring of 1905 such polemics were reiterated a countless number of times. If this correspondence had any value for Lenin, it was not because of the sophomoric reproduction of his own thought, but because it was a living voice from Russia at a time when the majority of such voices had died down. However, in 1937, this “Letter From The Caucasus” was proclaimed “the classic example of Leninist-Stalinist tactics.” “In our writings and in all of our teachings,” writes one such panegyrist, “not enough light has been shed on this article, extraordinary in its profundity, wealth of implications, and historical significance.” The most generous thing to do is to disregard it.

”In March and April, 1910, it was finally possible,” the same historian (a certain Rabichev) informs us, “to create a Russian collegium of the Central Committee. Stalin was on the staff of that collegium. However, before that collegium got down to work, it was arrested.” If this is true, then Koba, at least formally, joined the staff of the Central Committee in 1910. An important milestone in his biography! But it is not true. Fifteen years prior to Rabichev, the old Bolshevik Germanov (Frumkin) related the following: “At the conference between the writer of these lines and Nogin it was decided to propose that the Central Committee confirm the following list of five as the Russian section of the Central Committee: Nogin, Dubrovinsky, Malinovsky, Stalin, and Milyutin.” Thus, under consideration was not a decision of the Central Committee, but merely the project of two Bolsheviks. “Stalin was personally known to both of us,” continues Germanov, “as one of the best and most active of Baku workers. Nogin went to Baku to talk things over with him; but for a number of reasons, Stalin could not assume the duties of a Central Committee member.” Germanov does not state the exact reason for the difficulty. Nogin himself wrote about his journey to Baku two years later, as follows “… in the deep underground was Stalin (Koba), well known in the Caucasus in those days and forced to hide in the Balakhana oil fields.” It follows from Nogin’s account that he did not even see Koba.

The reticence about the reasons why Stalin could not enter the Russian collegium of the Central Committee suggests some interesting deductions. 1910 was the period of the most complete degeneration of the movement and of the most widespread flood of conciliatory tendencies. In January, a plenum of the Central Committee was held in Paris, at which the Conciliators gained a very unstable victory. It was decided to restore the Central Committee in Russia with the participation of the Liquidators. Nogin and Germanov were Bolshevik Conciliators. The revival of the “Russian” collegium—that is, of the one acting illegally in Russia—was Nogin’s task. Owing to the absence of prominent figures, several attempts were made to draw in the provincials. Among them was Koba, whom Nogin and Germanov knew as “one of the best of the Baku workers.” However, nothing came of that idea. The well-informed author of the German article to which we have already referred states that although “the official Bolshevik biographers attempt to present [his] expropriations and expulsion from the Party as never having happened … nevertheless, the Bolsheviks themselves hesitated to place Koba in any noticeable post of leadership.” It may be safely assumed that the reason for the failure of Nogin’s mission was Koba’s recent participation in “militant activities”. The Paris plenum had branded the expropriators as persons guided by “a faulty understanding of party interests”. Fighting for legality, the Mensheviks could in no wise consent to collaboration with an outright leader of expropriations. Nogin came to understand that, it would seem, only in the course of his negotiations with leading Mensheviks in the Caucasus. No collegium with Koba on it was set up. Note that of the two Conciliators whose protegé Stalin was, Germanov is among those missing without a trace; as for Nogin, only his premature death in 1924 saved him from the fate of Rykov, Tomsky, Germanov and other of his closest friends.

Koba’s activity in Baku was undoubtedly more successful than in Tiflis, irrespective of whether he played a primary, secondary or tertiary role. But the idea that the Baku organization was the only unconquerable fortress of Bolshevism belongs to the realm of myths. At the end of 1911 Lenin himself accidentally laid the foundation for that myth by listing the Baku organization alongside of the Kiev organization as among “the model and progressive for Russia in 1910 and 1911”—that is, for the years of the Party’s complete disintegration and the beginning of its revival. “The Baku organization existed without interruption during the difficult years of reaction and played a most active part in all the manifestations of the labor movement,” states one of the footnotes to the fifteenth volume of Lenin’s works. Both of these judgments, which are nowadays closely connected with Koba’s activities, have proved to be completely erroneous upon investigation. As a matter of fact, after its resurgence, Baku passed through the same stages of decline as the other industrial centers of the country—true, somewhat belatedly, but even more drastically.

Stopani writes in his memoirs: “Beginning with 1910, Party and trade union life in Baku died down completely.” Here and there remnants of trade unions still continued to exist for some time, but even they did so with the Mensheviks playing the preponderant role. “Soon Bolshevik activity virtually died down, thanks to constant failures due to arrest, lack of active workers and general chaos.” The situation was still worse in 1911. Ordzhonikidze, who visited Baku in March, 1912, when the tide was again beginning to rise noticeably throughout the country, wrote abroad: “Yesterday I managed finally to get together a few workingmen … There is no organization, i.e., of the local center; therefore, we had to be content with private conferences …” These two testimonials are sufficient. Let us recall in addition the testimony of Olminsky, which has already been cited, that “revival was slowest in those cities where ‘exes’ had been most numerous (as an example, I might name Baku and Saratov).” Lenin’s mistake in estimating the Baku organization is an ordinary instance of the error of an exile who is obliged to judge from afar on the basis of partial or unreliable information, among which might have been the excessively optimistic intelligence supplied by Koba himself.

The general picture thus drawn is clear enough. Koba did not take an active part in the trade union movement, which at that time was the principal arena of struggle (Karinyan, Stopani) . He did not speak at workers’ meetings (Vereshchak), but sat in “deep underground” (Nogin). He could not “for a number of reasons” enter the Russian collegium of the Central Committee (Germanov). In Baku “exes” had been more numerous than elsewhere (Olminsky) and so were acts of individual terror (Vereshchak). To Koba was ascribed direct leadership of the Baku “militant activities” (Vereshchak, Martov and others). Such activity undoubtedly demanded departure from the masses into the “deep underground”. For some time the existence of the illegal organization was artificially sustained by means of monetary plunder. Hence all the stronger was the impact of the reaction and all the more belated the beginning of the revival. That conclusion is not only of biographical but likewise of theoretical significance, for it helps to shed light on certain general laws of the mass movement.

On the twenty-fourth of March, 1910, the gendarme Captain Martynov stated that he had arrested Joseph Djugashvili, known under the alias of “Koba,” a member of the Baku Committee, “a most active Party worker who occupied a leading position” (granting that the document had not been corrected by Beriya’s hand). In connection with that arrest, another gendarme reported in line of duty: “in view of the persistent participation” of Djugashvili in revolutionary activity and his “two escapes,” he, Captain Galimbatovsky, “would suggest that the highest measure of punishment be invoked”. But one need not suppose that the reference was to execution: “the highest measure of punishment” by administrative order meant exile to the remote places of Siberia for a term of five years.

Meantime Koba was in the Baku prison, already well known to him. The political situation of the country and the prison regime had undergone profound changes in the course of the intervening year and a half. 1910 was dawning. Reaction was triumphing all along the line. Not only the mass movement, but even the expropriations, the terror, the acts of individual despair struck a new low. The prison became stricter and calmer. There was not even any talk of collective discussion. Koba had sufficient leisure to study Esperanto, if he had not become disillusioned with the language of the future. On the twenty-seventh of August, by order of the Governor-General of the Caucasus, Djugashvili was forbidden to live in Transcaucasia for the duration of the next five years. But the recommendations of Captain Galimbatovsky, who apparently was unable to present any serious charges, fell on deaf ears in Petersburg: Koba was again sent away to Vologda Province to complete his unfinished two-year term of exile. The Petersburg authorities quite obviously did not yet regard Joseph Djugashvili as a serious menace.

Chapter V: The New Resurgence[edit source]

FOR about five years (1906-1911) Stolypin lorded it over the country. He exhausted all of the reaction’s resources. The Third of June Regime managed to disclose its worthlessness in all spheres, but above all in the domain of the agrarian problem. Stolypin was obliged to descend from political combinations to the police club. And, as if the better to expose the utter bankruptcy of his system, Stolypin’s assassin came from the ranks of his own secret police.

By 1910 the industrial revival became an indisputable fact. The revolutionary parties were confronted with the question: What effect will this break in the situation have on the political condition of the country? The majority of Social-Democrats maintained their schematic position: the crisis revolutionizes the masses, the industrial resurgence pacifies them. Both factions, Bolshevik as well as Menshevik, tended, therefore, to disparage or flatly deny the revival that had actually begun. The exception was the Vienna newspaper Pravda, which, notwithstanding its Conciliationist illusions, defended the very correct thought that the political consequences of the revival, as well as of the crisis, far from being automatic in character, are each time determined anew, depending on the preceding course of the struggle and on the entire situation in the country. Thus, following the industrial resurgence, in the course of which a very wide-spread strike struggle had managed to develop, a sudden decline in the situation might call forth a direct revolutionary resurgence, provided the other necessary conditions were present. On the other hand, after a long period of revolutionary struggle which ended in defeat, an industrial crisis, dividing and weakening the proletariat, might destroy its fighting spirit altogether. Or again, an industrial resurgence, coming after a long period of reaction, is capable of reviving the labor movement, largely in the form of an economic struggle, after which the new crisis might switch the energy of the masses onto political rails.

The Russo-Japanese War and the shocks of the revolution prevented Russian capitalism from sharing the world-wide industrial resurgence of 1903-1907. In the meantime, the uninterrupted revolutionary battles, defeats, and repressions, had exhausted the strength of the masses. The world industrial crisis, which broke out in 1907, extended the prolonged depression in Russia for three additional years, and far from inspiring the workers to engage in a new fight, dispersed them and weakened them more than ever. Under the blows of lockouts, unemployment and poverty, the weary masses became definitely discouraged. Such was the material basis for the “achievements” of Stolypin’s reaction. The proletariat needed the resuscitative font of a new industrial resurgence to revive its strength, fill its ranks, again feel itself the indispensable factor in production and plunge into a new fight.

At the end of 1910, street demonstrations—a sight long unseen—took place in connection with the deaths of the liberal Muromtsev, the erstwhile First Duma president, and of Leo Tolstoy. The student movement entered a new phase. Superficially—such is the customary aberration of historical idealism—it might have seemed that the thin layer of the intellectuals was the breeding place of the political revival and that by the force of its own example it was beginning to attract the upper layer of the workers. As a matter of fact, the wave of revival was not proceeding from the top down but from the bottom up. Thanks to the industrial resurgence, the working class was gradually emerging from its torpor. But before the chemical changes that had transformed the masses became apparent, they were transmitted to the students through the intervening social groups. Since the university youth was easier to set in motion, the revival manifested itself first of all in the form of student disturbances. But to the properly prepared observer it was clear beforehand that the demonstrations of the intellectuals were no more than a symptom of much more profound and significant processes within the proletariat itself.

Indeed, the graph of the strike movement soon began to climb. True, the number of strikers in 1911 amounted to a mere hundred thousand (the previous year it had not reached even half of that), but the slowness of the resurgence showed how strong was the torpor that had to he overcome. At any rate, by the end of the year the workers’ districts looked quite different than at the beginning of the year. After the plentiful harvests of 1909 and 1910, which gave the impetus to the industrial resurgence, came a disastrous failure of crops in 1911, which, without stopping the resurgence, doomed twenty million peasants to starvation. The unrest, starting in the villages, again placed the agrarian question on the order of the day. The Bolshevik conference of January, 1912, had every right to refer to “the beginning of political revival”. But the sudden break did not take place until the spring of 1912, after the famous massacre of the workers on the Lena River. In the deep taiga, more than five thousand miles from Petersburg and over fourteen hundred miles from the nearest railway, the pariahs of the gold mines, who each year provided millions of rubles in profit to English and Russian stockholders, demanded an eight-hour day, an increase in wages and abolition of fines. The soldiers, called out from Irkutsk, fired on the unarmed crowd. 150 killed, 250 wounded; deprived of medical aid, scores of the wounded died.

During the debate on the Lena events in the Duma, Minister of the Interior Makarov, a stupid official, no worse and no better than other of his contemporaries, declared, to the applause of the Rightist deputies, “This is what happened and this is what will happen again!” These amazingly brazen words produced an electric shock. At first from the factories of Petersburg, then from all over the country news about declarations and demonstrations of protest began to come in by telephone and telegraph. The repercussion of the Lena events was comparable only to the wave of indignation that had swept the toiling masses seven years before, following Bloody Sunday. “Perhaps never since the days of 1905,” wrote a liberal newspaper, “have the streets of the capital been so alive”.

In those days Stalin was in Petersburg, at liberty between two exiles. “The Lena shots broke the ice of silence,” he wrote in the newspaper Zvezda [The Star], to which we shall have occasion to refer again, “and the river of popular resentment was set in motion. It has begun! … All that was evil and destructive in the contemporary régime, all that had ailed long-suffering Russia— all of it has merged into the one fact of the events on the Lena. That is why the Lena shots were the signal for strikes and demonstrations.”

The strikes affected about three hundred thousand workers. The First of May strike set four hundred thousand marching. According to official data, a total of seven hundred and twenty-five thousand struck in 1912. The total number of workers increased by no less than twenty per cent during the years of industrial resurgence, while, because of the feverish concentration of production, their economic role assumed even greater importance. The revival in the working class affected all the other strata of the population. The hungry village stirred portentously. Flare-ups of dissatisfaction were observed in the army and navy. “In Russia the revolutionary resurgence,” Lenin wrote to Gorky in August, 1912, “is not any other kind, but definitely revolutionary”.

The new movement was not a repetition of the past, but its continuation. In 1905 the mighty January strike had been accompanied by a naive petition to the Tsar. In 1912 the workers at once advanced the slogan of a democratic republic. The ideas, traditions and organizational experience of 1905, enriched by the hard lessons learned during the years of reaction, fertilized the new revolutionary period. From the very beginning the leading role belonged to the workers. Inside the proletarian vanguard the leadership belonged to the Bolsheviks. That, in essence, predetermined the character of the future revolution, although the Bolsheviks themselves were not as yet clearly aware of that. By strengthening the proletariat and securing for it a tremendously important role in the economic and political life of the country, the industrial resurgence reinforced the foundation for the perspective of permanent revolution. The cleansing of the stables of the old regime could not be accomplished otherwise than with the broom of the proletarian dictatorship. The democratic revolution could conquer only by transforming itself into the socialist revolution and thus, only by overcoming its own self.

Such continued to be the position of “Trotskyism”. But it had its Achilles’ heel: Conciliationism, associated with the hope for the revolutionary resurrection of Menshevism. The new resurgence—”not any other kind, but definitely revolutionary”—struck an irreparable blow at Conciliationism. Bolshevism relied on the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat and taught it to lead the peasant poor behind it. Menshevism relied on the labor aristocracy and inclined toward the liberal bourgeoisie. The moment the masses again entered the arena of open conflict, there could have been no talk of “conciliation” between these two factions. The Conciliators were forced into new positions: the revolutionists among them—with the Bolsheviks, the opportunists—with the Mensheviks.

[Koba’s third deportation lasted from September 23, 1910, to July 6, 1911, when he was released upon completing the remainder of his two-year term. About two months of this was spent en route from Baku to Solvychegodsk, with stops in various transfer prisons. Hence,] this time Koba spent more than eight months in [residence as an] exile. Virtually nothing is known about his life at Solvychegodsk, the exiles with whom he maintained contact, the books he read, the problems that interested him. From two of his letters of that period it appears that he received publications from abroad and was able to follow the life of the Party or rather of the emigrants where the conflict between the factions had reached an acute phase. Plekhanov, plus an inconsequential group of his followers, again broke with his closest friends and carne to the defense of the illegal Party against the Liquidators. That was the last flare of radicalism in the life of this remarkable man who was rapidly verging toward his decline. Thus arose the startling, paradoxical and short-lived bloc of Lenin with Plekhanov. On the other hand, there was the rapprochement of the Liquidators (Martov and others) the Forwardists (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky) and the Conciliators (Trotsky). This second bloc, utterly devoid of any basis in principles, was formed, in a measure, to the surprise of the participants themselves. The Conciliators still aimed at “conciliating” the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks; and since Bolshevism, in the person of Lenin, ruthlessly rejected the very idea of any sort of agreement with the Liquidators, the Conciliators naturally shifted to the position of a union or a semi-union with the Mensheviks and the Forwardists. The cement of that episodical bloc, as Lenin wrote to Gorky, was “detestation of the Bolshevik Center for its merciless struggle in defense of its ideas.” The question of the two blocs was subjected to a lively discussion in the thinned Party ranks of those days.

On the thirty-first of December, 1910, Stalin wrote abroad to Paris: “Comrade Simeon! Yesterday I received from comrades your letter. First of all, ardent greetings to Lenin, Kamenev and others.” This salutation is no longer reprinted because of Kamenev’s name. Then follows his estimate of the situation in the Party. “In my opinion the line of the bloc (Lenin-Plekhanov) is the only normal one … Lenin’s hand is apparent in the plan of the bloc—he is a smart peasant and knows on which side his bread is buttered. But that does not mean yet that any old bloc is good. The Trotskyist bloc (he would have said—’synthesis’)—that’s putrid unscrupulousness … The Lenin-Plekhanov bloc is vital because it is profoundly principled, is grounded in unity of views on the question of the ways to revive the Party. But precisely because it is a bloc, and not a fusion, precisely for that reason the Bolsheviks need their own faction.” All this was quite in line with Lenin’s views, was essentially a mere paraphrasing of his articles, and was in the nature of a self-recommendation as to principles. Having further proclaimed, as if en passant, that “the main thing” was, after all, not the emigration, but the practical work in Russia, Stalin forthwith hastened to explain that the practical work means “the application of principles”. Having thus reinforced his position by repeating the magic word, “principle,” Koba carne doser to the point. “… In my opinion,” he writes, “our next task, which must not be postponed, is the organization of a central (Russian) group, which would co-ordinate the illegal, semi-legal and legal work … Such a group is as necessary as air, as bread.” There was nothing new in the plan itself. Attempts to re-establish the Russian nucleus of the Central Committee had been made by Lenin more than once since the London Congress, but hitherto the dispersion of the Party had doomed them all to failure. Koba proposed the convocation of a conference of Party workers. “It is quite possible that this very conference would bring forth the suitable people for the above-mentioned central group.” Having exposed his aim to switch the center of Party gravity from abroad to Russia, Koba again hastened to allay any possible apprehensions of Lenin’s: “It will be necessary to act steadfastly and mercilessly, braving the reproaches of the Liquidators, the Trotskyists and the Forwardists …” With calculated modesty, he wrote about the central group of his project: “Call it what you like—‘the Russian section of the Central Committee’ or ’the assistance group of the Central Committee’—that is of no moment.” The pretended indifference was supposed to cover Koba’s personal ambition. “Now about myself. I have six months left. At the end of the term I am at your service. If the need of organizers is really acute, I can fly the coop at once.” The purpose of the letter was clear: Koba advanced his own candidacy. He wanted to become, at last, a member of the Central Committee.

Koba’s ambition, in no wise reprehensible, was unexpectedly illuminated by his other letter, addressed to the Moscow Bolsheviks. “The Caucasian Soso is writing to you.” (This is the way the letter began.) “You remember in ’04 [1904] at Tiflis and Baku. First of all, my ardent greetings to Olga, to you, to Germanov. I. M. Golubev, with whom I am beguiling my days in exile, told me about all of you. Germanov knows me as K … b … a (he’ll understand).” It is curious that as late as 1911 Koba was obliged to remind the old party members about himself by resorting to indirect and purely accidental indications: he was still unknown or in danger of being easily forgotten. “I am ending (exile) in July of this year,” he continued. “Ilyich and Co. are calling me to one of two centers, without waiting for the end of the term. However, I should like to finish my term (a legal person has more opportunities) … But if the need is great (I am awaiting their answer), then, of course, I’ll fly the coop… . We here are stifling without anything to do, I am literally choking.”

From the point of view of elementary circumspection, that part of the letter seems astounding. An exile, whose letters always run the risk of falling into the hands of the police, for no apparent practical reason sends by mail to members of the Party with whom he is scarcely acquainted, information about his conspiratorial correspondence with Lenin, about the fact that he is being urged to flee from exile and that in case of need he would “of course, fly the coop”. As we shall see, the letter actually did fall into the hands of the gendarmes, who without much ado established the identity of the sender and of all the persons mentioned by him. One explanation of this carelessness is inescapable: impatient boastfulness! “The Caucasian Soso,” who may not have been sufficiently noticed in 1904, cannot resist the temptation to inform the Moscow Bolsheviks that Lenin himself had included him among the central workers of the Party. However, the motive of boastfulness plays only a subsidiary role. The key to this mysterious letter is in its last part:

about the “tempest in the teapot” abroad we have heard, of course: the blocs of Lenin-Plekhanov on the one hand and of Trotsky-Martov-Bogdanov on the other. The attitude of the workers to the first bloc, as far as I know, is favorable. But in general the workers are beginning to look disdainfully at the emigration: “let them crawl on the wall as much as their hearts desire; but as for us, whoever values the interests of the movement —work, the rest will take care of itself.” That I think is for the best.

Amazing lines! Lenin’s struggle against the Liquidators and the Conciliators Stalin regarded as a “tempest in a teapot”. “The workers”—and Stalin with them—”are beginning to look disdainfully” at the emigration (including also the general staff of the Bolsheviks). “Whoever values the interests of the movement—work, the rest will take care of itself.” The interests of the movement appeared to have no connection with the theoretical struggle which was working out the program of the movement.

A year and a half later, when, under the influence of the beginning of the swing, the struggle among the émigrés became more acute than ever, the sentimental semi-Bolshevik Gorky bemoaned in a letter to Lenin the “squabbles” abroad—the tempest in a teapot. “As to the squabbles among Social-Democrats,” Lenin answered him reprovingly, “it is a favorite complaint of the bourgeois, the liberals, the Essars, whose attitude toward trying questions is far from serious, who lag behind others, play at diplomacy, sustain themselves with eclecticism …” “The business of those who understand the roots these squabbles have in ideas …,” he insisted in a subsequent letter, “is to aid the mass in seeking out these roots and not to justify the mass in its attitude toward these debates as the ’personal affair of the generals.’” “In Russia now,” Gorky persisted for his part, “among the workers there is a lot of good … youth, but it is so fiercely set against the emigration …” Lenin replied: “This is actually true. But it is not the leaders” fault … That which is torn should be bound together; while it is cheap, popular, but of little use, to scold the leaders …” It seems as if in his restrained rebuttals to Gorky, Lenin was indignantly refuting Stalin.

A careful comparison of Stalin’s two letters, which their author never intended should be compared, is exceedingly valuable for an insight into his character and his ways. His real attitude toward “principles” is far more truthfully expressed in the second letter: “work, the rest will take care of itself”. Such essentially was the attitude of many a not over-sapient Conciliator. Stalin resorted to the crudely contemptuous expressions about the “emigration” not only because rudeness is an integral part of his nature, but chiefly because he counted on the sympathy of the practicos, especially Germanov. He knew all about their moods from Golubev, who had recently been banished from Moscow. Activities in Russia were in a bad way, the underground organization had declined to the lowest point, and the practicos were very apt to take it out on the émigrés for raising much ado about trifles.

To understand the practical aim behind Stalin’s double dealing, remember that Germanov, who several months before had proposed Koba’s candidacy for the Central Committee, was himself closely connected with other Conciliators influential among the higher-ups of the Party. Koba deemed it useful to show that group his solidarity with it. But he was clearly aware of the strength of Lenin’s influence and therefore began with a declaration of his loyalty to “principles”. In his letter to Paris he humored Lenin’s irreconcilability, for Stalin was afraid of Lenin; in his letter to the Muscovites, he set them against Lenin, who for no good reason “crawls on the wall”. The first letter was a crude restatement of Lenin’s articles against the Conciliators. The second letter repeated the arguments of the Conciliators against Lenin. All this within twenty-four days.

True, the letter to “Comrade Simeon” contains the cautious phrase: the center abroad “is not everything and not even the main thing. The main thing is to organize activities in Russia.” On the other hand, in the letter to the Muscovites there was what appears to be an inadvertently dropped innuendo: the attitude of the workers toward the Lenin-Plekhanov bloc, “as far as I know, is favorable”. But what in one letter is a subsidiary correction, serves in the other letter as the starting point for developing the contrary line of thought. The task of the vague asides, which are almost mental reservations, is to soften the contradiction between both letters. But, as a matter of fact, they merely betray the author’s guilty conscience.

The technique of any intrigue, however primitive, is sufficient unto its goal. Koba purposely did not write directly to Lenin, preferring to address himself to “Simeon”. That made it possible for him to refer to Lenin in a tone of admiring intimacy, without making it incumbent upon him to probe into the substance of the question. Doubtless, Koba’s actual motivations were no mystery to Lenin. But his was the approach of the politician. A professional revolutionist who in the past had demonstrated will power and resoluteness was now eager to advance himself in the Party machine. Lenin took note of that. On the other hand, Germanov, too, remembered that in Koba’s person the Conciliators would have an ally. His goal was thus achieved; at any rate, for the present. Koba had many qualifications for becoming an outstanding member of the Central Committee. His ambition was well-founded. But amazing were the ways by which the young revolutionist approached his goal—the ways of duplicity, deceit, deliberate cynicism!

In conspiratorial life, compromising letters were destroyed; personal contacts with people abroad were rare, so Koba had no fear that his two letters might be compared. The credit for saving these invaluable human documents for the future goes entirely to the censors of the Tsarist post office. On the twenty-third of December, 1925, when the totalitarian regime was still very far from having attained its present automatism, the Tiflis newspaper, Zarya Vostoka, was heedless enough to have published a copy of Koba’s letter to the Muscovites, taken from the police archives. It is not hard to imagine the drubbing the ill-starred editorial board got for that! The letter was subsequently never reprinted, and not a single one of the official biographers ever refers to it.

Notwithstanding the dire need of organizers, Koba did not “fly the coop at once,”—that is, he did not escape, but this time served his sentence to the end. The newspapers brought information about student meetings and street demonstrations. No less than ten thousand people crowded into Nevsky Prospect.[1] Workers began to join in with the students. “Is this not the beginning of the change?” Lenin asked in an article several weeks before he received Koba’s letter from exile. During the first months of 1911 the revival became indisputable, yet Koba, who already had three escapes to his credit, was this time calmly awaiting the end of his term of exile. The awakening of the new spring seemed to have left him cold. Remembering his experiences of 1905, was he fearful of the new resurgence?

All biographers without exception refer to Koba’s new escape. As a matter of fact, there was no need of escape; the term of his exile ended in July, 1911. The Moscow Okhrana, mentioning in passing Joseph Djugashvili, referred to him this time as one who “completed his term of administrative exile in the city of Solvychegodsk.” The conference of the Bolshevik members of the Central Committee, which meantime took place abroad, appointed a special commission to arrange a Party conference, and it appears that Koba, along with four others, was appointed to that commission. After exile, he went to Baku and Tiflis, in order to stir up the local Bolsheviks and to induce them to participate in the conference. There were no formal organizations in the Caucasus, so it was necessary to begin building almost from scratch. The Titus Bolsheviks approved the appeal Koba wrote on the need for a revolutionary party:

Unfortunately, in addition to political adventurers, provocateurs and other riff-raff, the advanced workers in our very own cause of strengthening our own Social-Democratic Party, are obliged to meet a new obstacle in our ranks—namely, people of bourgeois mentality.

[1] The principal street of Petersburg (Leningrad).—C. M.

The reference was to the Liquidators. The appeal was rounded out with a metaphor characteristic of our author:

The sombre sanguine clouds of black reaction hanging over the country are beginning to disperse, are beginning to he superseded by the stormy clouds of the people’s rage and indignation. The black background of our life is slashed by lightning, while in the distance the dawn is flaring, the storm is approaching …

The object of the appeal was to proclaim the emergence of the Tiflis group and thus secure for the few local Bolsheviks participation in the forthcoming conference.

Koba left Vologda Province lawfully. It is doubtful that he went lawfully from the Caucasus to Petersburg: former exiles were usually forbidden for a definite period of time to live in the important cities. But whether with or without permission, the provincial finally set forth to the territory of the capital. The Party was just emerging from its torpor. The best forces were in prison, exile, or had emigrated. It was precisely for that reason that Koba was needed in Petersburg. But his first appearance in the capital was brief. Only two months elapsed between the end of his banishment and his next arrest, and of this from three to four weeks must have been consumed by his journey to the Caucasus. Nothing is known to us about Koba’s adjustment to his new environment or how he began to work in the new setting.

The only memento of that period is the very brief news item Koba sent abroad concerning the secret meeting of the forty-six Social-Democrats of the Vyborg district. The main thought of a speech delivered by a prominent Liquidator consisted in this: that “in a party sense no organizations are needed,” since for activity in the open it was sufficient to have “initiating groups” that would concern themselves with arranging public speeches and legal meetings on questions of state insurance, municipal politics and the like. According to Koba’s news item, this plan of the Liquidators for adaptation to the pseudo-constitutional monarchy was met with the wholehearted resistance of all workers, including the Mensheviks as well. At the end of the meeting, all, with the exception of the principal speaker, voted in favor of an illegal revolutionary party.

Either Lenin or Zinoviev provided this letter from Petersburg with the following editorial note:

Comrade K’s correspondence merits the greatest attention of all to whom the Party is dear … One could hardly imagine a better rebuttal to the views and hopes of our peacemakers and Conciliators. Is the incident described by Comrade K exceptional? No, it is typical …

Yet it is very rarely that “the Party receives such definite information, for which we are grateful to Comrade K.” Referring to this newspaper episode, the Soviet Encyclopaedia writes:

Stalin’s letters and articles testify to the unshakable unity of fighting effort and political line that bound Lenin and the genius who was his companion in arms.

In order to achieve this appreciation it was necessary to issue one after another several editions of the encyclopedia, liquidating along the way no mean number of editors.

Alliluyev tells how one day early in September, on his way home, he noticed spies at the gate of his house, and, going upstairs to his flat, he found Stalin and another Georgian Bolshevik there. When Alliluyev told him about the “tail” he left downstairs, Stalin retorted, not any too courteously: “What the devil is the matter with you? … Some comrades are turning into scared Philistines and yokels!” But the spies proved real enough: on the ninth of September Koba was arrested and by the twenty-second of December he was already in his place of exile, this time in the provincial capital of Vologda—that is, in more favorable circumstances than heretofore. It is likely that this exile was simply punishment for unlawful residence in Petersburg.

The Bolshevik center abroad continued to send emissaries to Russia, to prepare the conference. The contact between local Social-Democratic groups was established slowly and was frequently broken. Provocation raged, the arrests were devastating. However, the sympathy with which the idea of a conference was met by the advanced workers showed at once, according to Olminsky, that “the workers merely tolerated liquidationism, and inwardly were far from desiring it.” Extremely difficult conditions notwithstanding, the emissaries managed to establish contact with a great many local illegal groups. “It was like a gust of fresh air,” wrote the same Olminsky.

At the conference convoked in Prague on the fifth of January, 1912, were fifteen delegates from a score of underground organizations—for the most part very weak ones. The reports of the delegates drew a sufficiently clear picture of the state of the Party: the few local organizations were composed almost exclusively of Bolsheviks, with a large percentage of provocateurs, who betrayed the organization as soon as it began to get on its feet. Particularly sad was the situation in the Caucasus. “There is no organization of any kind at Chiatury,” reported Ordzhonikidze about the only industrial spot in Georgia. “Nor is there any organization in Batum.” In Tiflis—”the same picture. During the last few years there was not a single leaflet and no illegal work of any kind …” In spite of the obvious weakness of local groups, the conference reflected the new spirit of optimism. The masses were getting into motion, the Party sensed the trade wind in its sails.

The decisions reached at Prague determined the Party’s course for a long time to come. In the first place, the conference recognized as necessary the creation of Social-Democratic nuclei surrounded by as extensive a network as possible of all sorts of legal workers’ societies. The poor harvest, which led to the famine of twenty million peasants, confirmed once more, according to the conference, “the impossibility of securing any sort of normal bourgeois development in Russia as long as its policy is directed … by the class of serfdom-minded landlords.” “The task of the conquest of power by the proletariat, leading the peasantry, remains as ever the task of the democratic revolution in Russia.” The conference declared the faction of Liquidators outside the Party’s ranks and appealed to all Social-Democrats, “regardless of tendencies and shadings,” to wage war on the Liquidators in the name of reconstituting the illegal Party. Having thus gone all the way in breaking with the Mensheviks, the Prague Conference opened the era of the independent existence of the Bolshevik Party, with its own Central Committee.

The newest “History” of the Party, published in 1938 under Stalin’s editorial guidance, states:

The members of that Central Committee were Lenin, Stalin, Ordzhonikidze, Sverdlov, Goloshchekin, and others. Stalin and Sverdlov were elected to the Central Committee in absentio, since at the time they were in exile.

But in the official collection of party documents (1926) we read:

The conference elected a new Central Committee composed of Lenin, Zinoviev, Ordzhonikidze, Spandaryan, Victor (Ordynsky), Malinovsky and Goloshchekin.

The “History” does not include in the Central Committee either Zinoviev, or the provocateur Malinovsky; but it does include Stalin, who was not on the old list. The explanation of this riddle can throw some light on Stalin’s position in the Party of those days as well as on the present methods of Muscovite historiography. As a matter of fact, Stalin was not elected at the conference, but was made a member of the Central Committee soon after the conference by way of what was called co-optation. The above-mentioned official source states that quite definitely:

Later Comrade Koba (Djugashvili-Stalin) and Vladimir (Belostostky, former worker of the Putilov plant) were co-opted into the Central Committee.

Likewise according to the materials of the Moscow Okhrana, Djugashvili was made a member of the Central Committee after the conference on the basis of the right of co-optation reserved for members of the Central Committee. The same information is given by all Soviet reference books, without exception, until the year 1929, when Stalin’s instruction, which revolutionized historical scholarship, was published. In the jubilee publication of 1937 devoted to the conference we read:

Stalin could not participate in the work of the Prague Conference because at the time he was in banishment at Solvychegodsk. At the time Lenin and the Party already knew Stalin as an important leader… . Therefore, in accordance with Lenin’s proposal, the delegates to the conference elected Stalin to the Central Committee in absentio.

The question whether Stalin was elected at the conference or co-opted later by the Central Committee may seem of minor importance. As a matter of fact, that is not the case. Stalin wanted to become a member of the Central Committee. Lenin deemed it necessary to have him elected to the Central Committee. The choice of available candidates was so limited that second-rate figures became members of the Central Committee. Yet Koba was not elected. Why? Lenin was far from being a dictator in his Party. Besides, a revolutionary party would not brook any dictatorship over itself! After preliminary negotiations with delegates, Lenin apparently deemed it wiser not to advance Koba’s candidacy. “When in 1912 Lenin brought Stalin into the Central Committee of the Party,” writes Dmitrievsky, “it was met with indignation. Openly no one opposed it. But they gave vent to their indignation among themselves.” The information of the former diplomat, which as a rule does not merit confidence, is nevertheless of interest in so far as it reflects bureaucratic recollections and gossip. Lenin undoubtedly met with serious opposition. There was but one thing he could do: wait until the conference carne to an end and then appeal to the small leading circle, which either relied on Lenin’s recommendation or shared his estimate of the candidate. Thus, Stalin for the first time carne into the Central Committee through the hack door.

The story about the internal organization of the Central Committee underwent similar metamorphoses.

The Central Committee … upon Lenin’s motion, created a Bureau of the Central Committee, headed by Comrade Stalin, for guiding Party activity in Russia. In addition to Stalin, the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee was composed of Sverdlov, Spandaryan, Ordzhonikidze, Kalinin.

So states Beriya, who, while I was at work on this chapter, was appointed chief of Stalin’s secret police; his scholarly endeavors did not remain unrewarded. In vain, however, would we look for any documentary support of this version, which is repeated in the latest “History”. In the first place, no one was ever placed “at the head” of Party institutions: such a method of \election did not exist at all. According to the old official reference books, the Central Committee elected “a bureau composed of: Ordzhonikidze, Spandaryan, Stalin, and Goloshchekin”. The same list is given also in the notes to Lenin’s works. Arriong the papers of the Moscow Okhrana the first three—”Timofei, Sergo, and Koba”—are named as members of the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee under their aliases. It is not devoid of interest that in all the old lists Stalin occupies invariably either the last or the next to the last place, which could not have been the case, of course, had he been placed “at the head”. Goloshchekin, having been expelled from the Party machine in the course of one of the later purges, was likewise crowded out of the 1912 bureau; his place was taken by the fortunate Kalinin. History is becoming day in the hands of the potter.

On the twenty-fourth of Fehruary, Ordzhonikidze informed Lenin that at Vologda he had visited Ivanovich [ Stalin]: “Carne to a definite understanding with him. He is satisfied with the way things turned out.” The reference is to the decision of the Prague Conference. Koba learned that, at last, he had been co-opted into the recently created “center”. On the twenty-eighth of February he escaped from exile, in his new capacity as member of the Central Committee. After a brief sojourn at Baku, he proceeded to Petersburg. Two months earlier he had turned thirty-two.

Koba’s advancement from the provincial arena to the national one coincided with the resurgence of the labor movement and the comparatively widespread development of the labor press. Under the pressure of the underground forces, the Tsarist authorities lost their erstwhile self-assurance. The hand of the censor weakened. Lawful possibilities became more extensive. Bolshevism broke through into the open, at first with a weekly, later with a daily newspaper. At once the possibilities for exerting influence on the workers increased. The Party continued in the underground, but the editorial boards of its newspapers became for the time being the legal stalls of the revolution. The name of the Petersburg Pravda colored an entire period of the labor movement, when the Bolsheviks began to be called “Pravdists”. During the two and a half years of the newspaper’s existence, the government closed it eight times, but each time it reappeared under some similar name. On some of the most crucial questions the Pravda was often forced to limit itself to understatements and hints. But its underground agitators and proclamations said for it what it itself could not say openly. Besides, the advanced workers had meantime learned to read between the lines. A circulation of forty thousand may seem all too modest by comparison with Western European or American standards. But under the oversensitive political acoustics of Tsarist Russia, the Bolshevik newspaper, through its direct subscribers and readers, found a responsive echo among hundreds of thousands. Thus, the young revolutionary generation rallied around Pravda under the leadership of those veterans who had withstood the years of reaction. “The Pravda of 1912 was laying the foundation for the victory of Bolshevism in 1917,” Stalin wrote subsequently, hinting at his own participation in that activity.

Lenin, whom the news of Stalin’s escape had not yet reached, complained on March fifteenth: “Nothing from Ivanovich—what’s the matter with him? Where is he? How is he? …” Men were scarce. There were no suitable people even at the capital. In the same letter Lenin wrote that an illegal person was “damnably” needed at Petersburg, “since things are in a had way there. It’s a hard and furious war. We have no information, no leadership, no supervision of the newspaper.” Lenin was waging “a hard and furious war” with the editorial board of Zvezda [The Star] which balked about waging war with the Liquidators. “Hurry up and fight with Zhivoye Dyelo [The Living Cause, a journal of the Liquidators]—then victory is assured. Otherwise, it will go badly with us. Don’t he afraid of polemics …” Lenin insisted again in March, 1912. Such was the leitmotif of all his letters in those days.

”What’s the matter with him? Where is he? How is he?” we might well repeat after Lenin. Stalin’s actual role—as usual, behind the scenes—is not easy to determine: a thorough appraisal of facts and documents is needed. His duties as a member of the Central Committee in Petersburg—that is, as one of the official leaders of the Party—extended, of course, to the illegal press as well. Yet prior to the instructions to the “historians” that circumstance was relegated to utter oblivion. Collective memory has its own laws, which do not always coincide with Party regulations. Zvezda was founded in December, 1910, when the first signs of revival became evident. “Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev,” states the official notice, “were most closely associated in making arrangements for the publication and in editing it from abroad.” The editorial board of Lenin’s works names eleven persons among its chief collaborators in Russia, forgetting to mention Stalin among them. Yet there is no doubt that he was a member of this newspaper’s staff and by virtue of his position an influential one. The same forgetfulness—nowadays it might be called sabotage of memory—is characteristic of all the old memoirs and reference books. Even in a special issue which in 1927 Pravda devoted to its own fifteenth anniversary, not a single article, not even the editorial, mentions the name of Stalin. Studying the old publications, one refuses at times to credit his own eyes!

The only exception is found in the valuable memoirs of Olminsky, one of those most closely associated with Zvezda and Pravda, who describes Stalin’s role in the following words:

Stalin and Sverdlov appeared in Petersburg at various times after their flight from exile … The presence of both at Petershurg (until their new arrest) was brie f, but each time managed to produce considerable effect on the work of the newspaper, the f action, and the like.

This bare statement, incorporated, moreover, not in the main text, but as a footnote, probably characterizes the situation most accurately. Stalin would show up in Petersburg for short periods from time to time, bring pressure to bear on the organization, on the Duma faction, on the newspaper, and would again disappear. His appearances were too transitory, his influence too much of the Party machine kind, his ideas and articles too commonplace to have left a lasting impression on anyone’s memory. When people write memoirs otherwise than under duress, they do not remember the official functions of bureaucrats but the vital activity of vital people, vivid facts, clear-cut formulae, original proposals. Stalin did not distinguish himself with anything of the kind. No wonder then that the gray copy was not remembered alongside the vivid original. True, Stalin did not merely paraphrase Lenin. Bound by his support of the Conciliators, he continued to ply simultaneously the two lines with which we are already familiar from his Solvychegodsk letters—with Lenin, against the Liquidators; with the Conciliators, against Lenin. The first policy was in the open, the second was masked. Neither did Stalin’s fight against the émigré center inspire the memoirists, although for a different reason: all of them, actively or passively, took part in the “conspiracy” of the Conciliators against Lenin and hence preferred to turn away from that page of the Party’s past. Only subsequent to 1929 did Stalin’s official position as a representative of the Central Committee become the basis for the new interpretation of the historical period preceding the war.

Stalin could not have left the impress of his personality on the newspaper for the simple reason that he is not by nature a newspaperman. From April, 1912, through February, 1913, according to the calculations of one of his intimate associates, he published in the Bolshevik press “no less than a score of articles,” which is an average of about two articles a month. And that at the high tide of events when life posed new problems each exciting day! True, in the course of that year Stalin spent nearly six months in exile. But it was much easier to contribute to Pravda from Solvychegodsk or Vologda than from Cracow, from where Lenin and Zinoviev sent articles and letters every single day. Sluggishness and inordinate cautiousness, utter lack of literary resourcefulness, and, finally, extreme Oriental laziness combined to make Stalin’s pen rather unproductive. His articles, more self-assured in tone than during the years of the First Revolution, continued to bear the indelible imprint of mediocrity.

”Following the economic demonstrations of the workers,” he wrote in Zvezda of April fifteenth, “came their political demonstrations. Following strikes for increase in pay, carne protests, meetings, political strikes occasioned by the Lena shooting … There is no doubt that the underground forces of the liberation movement have begun to work. Greetings to you, first swallows!”

The image of “swallows” as a symbol of “the underground forces” is typical of our author’s style. But, after all, it is clear what he is trying to say. Drawing “conclusions” from the so-called “Lena events,” Stalin analyzes—as always, schematically, without regard for living reality—the behavior of the government and of the political parties, accuses the bourgeoisie of shedding “crocodile tears” over the shooting of the workers and concludes with the admonition: “Now that the first wave of the upswing is passing, the dark forces, which had attempted to hide behind a screen of crocodile tears, are again beginning to appear.” Notwithstanding the startling effect of his image, “the screen of crocodile tears,” which seems particularly whimsical against the otherwise neutral background of the text, the article does state, by and large, what, roughly, should have been said and what scores of others would have said. But it is precisely the “roughness” of his exposition—not only of his style, hut of the analysis itself—which makes the reading of Stalin’s writings as unendurable as discordant music to a sensitive ear. He wrote in an illegal proclamation:

It is today, on the day of the First of May, when nature awakens from the slumber of winter, the woods and mountains are covered with greensward, the fields and meadows are decorated with flowers, the sun begins to warm more warmly, the joy of renewal is sensed in the air, while nature indulges in dancing and exultation—it is precisely today that the workers decided to proclaim to the world that they bring to humanity spring and liberation from the gyves of capitalism … The ocean of the labor movement spreads ever wider … The sea of proletarian anger rises in mounting waves … Certain of victory, calm and strong, they march proudly on the road to the promised land, on the road to effulgent socialism.

Here is the Petersburg revolution speaking the language of Tiflis homiletics.

The strike wave swelled, contacts with the workers multiplied. The weekly could no longer fill the needs of the movement. Zvezda began to collect money or a daily newspaper. “At the end of the winter of 1912,” writes the former deputy Poletayev, “Stalin, who had fled from exile, came to Petersburg. The work of establishing a labor newspaper gained momentum.” In his 1922 article on the tenth anniversary of Pravda Stalin himself wrote:

It was in the middle of April, 1912, in the evening, at the apartment of Poletayev, that two Duma deputies (Pokrovsky and Poletayev), two literaries (Olminsky and Baturin) and I, a member of the Central Committee … came to agreement on the platform of Pravda and made up the newspaper’s first issue.

Stalin’s responsibility for the Pravda platform was thus established by Stalin himself. The essence of that platform may be summarized in the words, “work, the rest will take care of itself”. True, Stalin himself was arrested on the twenty-second of April, the very day the first issue of Pravda carne out. But for almost three months Pravda was true to the platform worked out jointly with him. The word “liquidator” was expunged from the newspaper’s vocabulary.

”Irreconcilable war with liquidationism was indispensable,” writes Krupskaya. “That is why Vladimir Ilyich was so disturbed when from the very start the Pravda persistently deleted from his articles all polemics with the Liquidators. He wrote irate letters to Pravda .” A part of them--evidently, only a small part —has managed to see the light. “At times, although that was rare,” she further complains, “Ilyich’s articles would be lost without a trace. At other times, his articles were held up, were not published at once. It was then that Ilyich became nervous, wrote irate letters to Pravda, but it didn’t do much good.”

The fight with the editorial board of Pravda was a direct continuation of the fight with the editorial board of Zvezda . “It is harmful, disastrous, ridiculous to hide differences of opinion from the workers,” wrote Lenin on the eleventh of July, 1912. Several days later he demanded that the secretary of the editorial board, Molotov, the present [Vice-] Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars and People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, explain why the newspaper “persistently and systematically strikes out of my articles and out of the articles of other colleagues any mention of the Liquidators?” Meantime, elections to the Fourth Duma were approaching. Lenin warned: “The elections in the workers’ curiae of Petersburg will undoubtedly be accompanied by a fight all along the line with the Liquidators. This will prove the most vital issue for the advanced workers. Yet their newspaper will be silent, will avoid the word, liquidator!’ … To dodge these questions is to commit suicide.”

Sitting in Cracow, Lenin discerned sharply enough the tacit yet persistent conspiracy of the conciliatory higher-ups of the Party. But he was thoroughly convinced that he was right. The rapid revitalization of the labor movement was bound to pose sharply the fundamental problems of the revolution, sweeping away the ground not only from under the feet of the Liquidators but of the Conciliators as well. Lenin’s strength did not lie so much in his ability to build a machine—he knew how to do that, too—as in his ability at all critical moments to utilize the living energy of the masses for overcoming the limitations and the conservatism characteristic of any political machine. It was so in this instance, too. Under the growing pressure of the workers and under the lash from Cracow, Pravda, reluctantly and constantly balking, began to abandon its position of dilatory neutrality.

Stalin spent a little more than two months in the Petersburg prison. On the second of July he left for his new exile of four years, this time across the Urals, in the northern part of Tomsk Province—in Narym Region, famous for its forests, lakes and swamps. Vereshchak, already known to us, again met Koba in the village of Kolpashevo, where the latter spent several days en route to his destination. Here were Sverdlov, I. Smirnov, Lashevich, classic old Bolsheviks. It was not easy to predict then that Lashevich would die in Stalin’s exile, that Smirnov would be shot by him and that only premature death would save Sverdlov from a similar fate. “Stalin’s arrival at the Narym Region,” wrote Vereshchak, “enlivened the activity of the Bolsheviks and was marked by quite a few escapes”. After several others, Stalin himself escaped: “He went away almost openly with the first spring steamer …” As a matter of fact, Stalin escaped at the end of summer. This was his fourth escape.

Upon his return to Petersburg on September twelfth, he found a considerably altered situation there. Stormy strikes were going on. The workers again poured into the streets with revolutionary slogans. The policy of the Mensheviks was obviously discredited. Pravda ’s influence grew apace. Besides, Duma elections were near. The tone for the election campaign had already been set by Cracow. The grounds of argument were chosen. The Bolsheviks engaged in the election fight apart from the Liquidators and against them. The workers were to be welded together under the banner of the three main slogans of the democratic revolution: the republic, the eight-hour day, and confiscation of landed estates. Liberate the petty bourgeois democrats from the influence of the liberals, draw the peasants to the side of the workers—such were the leading ideas of Lenin’s election platform. Combining painstaking attention to details with audacious sweep of thought, Lenin was practically the only Marxist who had thoroughly studied all the possibilities and pitfalls of Stolypin’s election law. Having politically inspired the election campaign, he guided it technically day by day. To help Petersburg, he sent in from abroad articles and instructions and thoroughly prepared emissaries.

Safarov, now among the missing, on his way from Switzerland to Petersburg in the spring of 1912, stopped at Cracow, where he learned that Inessa, a leading Party activist who was close to Lenin, was also going there to help in the election campaign. “For at least a couple of days on end Ilyich pumped us full of instructions.” The election of the workers’ curiae representatives in Petersburg was set for the sixteenth of September. Inessa and Safarov were arrested on the fourteenth. “But the police did not yet know,” wrote Krupskaya, “that on the twelfth Stalin, who had escaped from exile, had arrived. The elections to the workers’ curiae were a great success.” Krupskaya did not say: “Thanks to Stalin”. She merely placed two sentences side by side. That was a measure of passive self-defense. “At extempore meetings in a number of factories,” we read in a new edition of the reminiscences of the former Duma deputy Badayev (this was not in the first edition), “Stalin, who had recently escaped from Narym, spoke.” According to Alliluyev, who wrote his reminiscences as late as 1937, “Stalin directly managed the entire tremendous Fourth Duma election campaign … Living illegally in Petersburg, without a definite permanent haven, and not wishing to disturb any of his close comrades during the late hours of the night, after a workers’ meeting that had dragged on and also because of conspiratorial considerations, Stalin would often spend the remainder of the night in some tavern over a glass of tea.” Here he also managed occasionally “to take a short nap, sitting in the tavern that reeked of makhorka smoke.”

Stalin could not have exerted great influence on the issue of the elections in the earlier stages, when it was necessary to come in direct contact with the voters, not only because he was a poor speaker, but because he had no more than four days at his disposal. He made up for that by playing an important part throughout the subsequent stages of the many-storied electoral system, whenever it was necessary to muster the curiae representatives and manage them by pulling wires from behind the scenes, relying on the illegal apparatus. In that activity Stalin undoubtedly proved himself more apt than anyone else.

An important document of the election campaign was, “The Instruction Of The Petersburg Workers To Their Deputy.” In the first edition of his memoirs Badayev states that this instruction was composed by the Central Committee, but in the new edition its authorship is ascribed personally to Stalin. In all likelihood the instruction was the product of collective effort, in which the final say might have been Stalin’s, as the representative of the Central Committee.

”… We think,” it is stated in the Instruction, “that Russia lives on the eve of impending mass movements probably far more fundamental than in mos … As in 1905, the initiator of these movements will be the most progressive class of Russian society, the Russian proletariat. Its ally can be only the longsuffering peasantry, which is deeply concerned with the liberation of Russia.” Lenin wrote to the Pravda editorial board: “Publish without fail … this Instruction … in large type and in a prominent place.” The convention of provincial representatives adopted the Bolshevik Instruction by an overwhelming majority. In those stirring days Stalin also figured more actively as a publicist; I counted four of his articles in Pravda within one week.

The election results in Petersburg, as in all the industrial regions generally, were quite favorable. Bolshevik candidates were elected in six of the most important provinces, which altogether comprised about four-fifths of the working class. The seven Liquidators were elected chiefly by the votes of the city petty bourgeoisie. “In contradistinction to the elections of 1907,” wrote Stalin in his correspondence to the central organ published abroad, “the elections of 1912 coincided with the revolutionary revival among the workers.” Precisely for that reason the workers, who were quite remote from the boycottist tendency, fought actively for their rights of suffrage. The government commission made an attempt to invalidate the elections in some of the largest Petersburg factories. The workers countered that with a unanimous strike of protest, which achieved its purpose. “It is not superfluous to add,” the author of this correspondence continues, “that the initiative in this election campaign was that of the Central Committee representative.” The reference here is to Stalin himself. His political conclusions on the election campaign were: “The revolutionary Social-Democracy is alive and powerful—such is the first conclusion. The Liquidators are political bankrupts—such is the second conclusion.” And that was right.

The seven Mensheviks, largely intellectuals, tried to place the six Bolsheviks, workers with little political experience, under their own control. At the end of November Lenin wrote personally to Vassilyev [Stalin]: “If all of our six are from the workers’ curiae, they must not submit in silence to a lot of Siberians.2 The six must come out with a very clear-cut protest, if they are being lorded over …” Stalin’s reply to that letter, as to others, remains under lock and key. But Lenin’s appeal did not meet with sympathy: the six themselves rated unity with the Liquidators, who had been read “out of the Party,” above their own political independence. In a special resolution published in Pravda, the united faction acknowledged that “the unity of the Social-Democracy is a pressing need,” expressed itself in favor of merging Pravda with the Liquidators’ newspaper Lootch’ [The Ray] and, as a step in that direction, recommended that all of its members become contributors to both newspapers. On the eighteenth of December the Menshevik Lootch’ triumphantly published the names of four of the Bolshevik deputies (two having declined) on its list of contributors; the names of the members of the Menshevik faction appeared simultaneously on the Pravda masthead. Conciliationism had won again, which in essence meant a defeat for the spirit and the letter of the Prague Conference.

Soon on the list of the Lootch’ contributors appeared still another name— Gorky’s. That smelled of a plot. “And how did you happen to get mixed up with Lootch’ ???” Lenin wrote to Gorky with three question marks. “Is it possible that you are following in the footsteps of the deputies? But they have simply fallen into a trap!” Stalin was in Petersburg during this ephemeral triumph of the Conciliators, effecting the Central Committee’s control over the fraction and over Pravda . No one has disclosed anything concerning a protest from him against decisions that struck a cruel blow at Lenin’s policy—a sure sign that behind the scenes of the Conciliationist maneuvers stood Stalin himself. Justifying subsequently his sinful behavior, Deputy Badayev wrote: “As on all other occasions, our decision … was in agreement with the attitude of those Party circles in which we had then occasion to discuss our activities …” This roundabout excuse hints at the Petersburg Bureau of the Central Committee and first of all at Stalin. Badayev is circumspectly pleading that the blame should not be shifted from the leaders to the led.

2 Referring to political exiles in Siberia, most of whom were intellectuals.—C. M.

Several years ago it was observed in the Soviet press that not enough light has been shed on the history of Lenin’s internal struggle with the Duma fraction and with the editorial board of Pravda . In recent years everything has been done to make such enlightenment more difficult than ever. Lenin’s correspondence of that critical period has not yet been published in full. At the historians’ disposal are only such documents as for one reason or another had been taken out of the archives prior to the institution of totalitarian control. However, even from these scattered fragments a faultless picture emerges. Lenin’s intractability was only the other side of his realistic farsightedness. He insisted on division along the line which in the final reckoning was bound to become the battle-line of the civil war. The empiricist Stalin was constitutionally incapable of taking a long-range point of view. He energetically fought the Liquidators during the campaign, in order to have his own deputies: it was a matter of securing an important point of support. But once this organizational task had been performed, he did not deem it necessary to raise a new “tempest in a teapot,” especially since even the Mensheviks, under the influence of the revolutionary wave, seemed to be inclined to talk a different language. Truly, there was no reason for “crawling on the wall”! As far as Lenin was concerned, his whole policy came down to the revolutionary education of the masses. The struggle of the election campaign meant nothing to him as long as after the election the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma remained united. He deemed it necessary to give the workers every opportunity—at each step, with each act—to convince themselves that in all fundamental questions the Bolsheviks were clearly distinguishable from all other political groups. This was the most important point of conflict between Cracow and Petersburg.

The waverings of the Duma fraction were closely connected with Pravda ’s policy. “During that period,” wrote Badayev in 1930, “Stalin, whose status was illegal, ran Pravda “. The well-informed Savelyev wrote likewise: “Remaining in illegal status, Stalin actually ran the newspaper during the autumn of 1912 and the winter of 1912-13. Only for a short while did he leave during that time, going abroad, to Moscow, and other places.” These eye-witness accounts, consistent with all the factual circumstances, cannot be questioned. Yet it was not true that Stalin ran the paper in the real sense of the word. The man who really ran the newspaper was Lenin. Every day he sent articles, criticisms of the articles of others, proposals, instructions, corrections. Stalin, a sluggish thinker, could not possibly keep up with this active stream of suggestions and ideas, nine-tenths of which seemed to him superfluous or exaggerated. Essentially the editorial board maintained a defensive position. It had no political ideas of its own, and tried merely to dull the sharp edges of the Cracow policy. Lenin not only knew how to shield these sharp edges, but also how to sharpen them anew. Under these conditions, Stalin naturally became the secret inspirer of the Conciliators’ opposition to Lenin’s pressure.

”New conflicts,” states the editorial board of Lenin’s Works (Bukharin, Molotov, Savelyev), “arose in consequence of the weakness of the stand taken against the Liquidators at the end of the election campaign and also in connection with the invitation extended to the Forwardists to contribute to Pravda . These relations became still worse in January, 1913, after the departure from Petersburg of J. Stalin …” The thoroughly considered expression, “became still worse,” testifies that even prior to Stalin’s departure Lenin’s relations with the editorial board were not marked by friendliness. But Stalin avoided in every way making “a target” of himself.

The members of the editorial staff were figures of little influence in a Party sense and some of them chance figures. It would not have been hard for Lenin to have secured their replacement. But they had support in the attitude of the Party’s higher-ups and in the person of the Central Committee’s representative. A violent conflict with Stalin, who was closely connected with the editorial board and the fraction, would have meant a shakeup of the Party staff. That is why, for all its persistence, Lenin’s policy was circumspect. On November thirteenth he was “deeply grieved” to reproach the editorial board for having failed to have an article on the opening of the International Socialist Congress at Basle: “It would not have been very hard to write such an article, and the Pravda editorial board knew that the Congress was opening on Sunday.” Stalin, no doubt, was genuinely surprised. An international congress? In Basle? That was utterly remote from him. Yet the chief source of friction were not the incidental, although continually recurring errors, but rather the fundamental divergence in views on the Party’s course of development. Lenin’s policy made sense only to one with an audacious revolutionary perspective; from the point of view of newspaper circulation or the building of a machine, it could not seem other than highly extravagant. In the depth of his heart Stalin continued to regard the “émigré” Lenin as a sectarian.

We cannot avoid noting a delicate episode that occurred at that time. During those years Lenin was in dire need. When Pravda got on its feet, the editorial board designated for its inspirer and chief contributor an honorarium, which, its very modest size notwithstanding, was his financial mainstay. Just when the conflict waxed sharpest, the money stopped coming. Although he was exceptionally sensitive about matters of that sort, Lenin was compelled to remind them rather insistently about himself. “Why don’t you send the money due me? The delay causes us considerable embarrassment. Don’t be late, please.” The holding up of the money can hardly be looked upon as a kind of financial punishment (although subsequently, when he was in power, Stalin did not hesitate to resort to such methods time and again). But even if it was all a matter of simple inattentiveness, it casts a sufficient light on the relations between Petersburg and Cracow. Indeed, they were very far from friendly.

Indignation with Pravda breaks through into the open in Lenin’s letters immediately after Stalin’s departure for Cracow to attend the conference at the Party headquarters. The irresistible impression is created that Lenin was only waiting for that departure in order to break up the Petersburg nest of Conciliators, preserving at the same time the possibility of a peaceful understanding with Stalin. The moment the most influential enemy was neutralized, Lenin launched a devastating attack on the Petersburg editorial board. In his letter of January twelfth, addressed to a trusted person in Petersburg, he refers to “the unpardonable stupidity” committed by Pravda in regard to the newspaper of the textile workers, insists on the correction of “your stupidity” and the like. The letter in its entirety was written in Krupskaya’s hand. Further, in Lenin’s handwriting: “We received a stupid and impudent letter from the editorial board. We will not reply. They must be got rid of … We are exceedingly disturbed by the absence of news about the plan for reorganizing the editorial board … Reorganization; but better yet, the complete expulsion of all the old timers, is extremely necessary. It’s managed absurdly. They praise the Bund[3] and Zeit (an opportunist Jewish publication), which is simply despicable. They don’t know how to proceed against Lootch’, and their attitude toward the articles [that is, the articles of Lenin himself] is monstrous. I’ve simply lost patience …” The tone of the letter shows that Lenin’s indignation—and he knew how to contain himself when necessary—had reached the limit. The devastating criticism of the newspaper referred to the entire period when the responsibility for its direct supervision was Stalin’s. The identity of the person who wrote the “stupid and impudent letter from the editorial board” has not yet been disclosed, and, of course, not by chance. It could hardly have been written by Stalin: he was too cautious for that; besides, he was most likely already away from Petersburg at the time. It is more likely that the letter was written by Molotov, the official secretary of the editorial board, who is just as inclined to rudeness as Stalin but is devoid of the latter’s flexibility.

[3] See Glossary.

How resolutely Lenin now tackled the chronic conflict is evident from further lines in his letter: “What has been done about the control of money? Who got the subscription money? In whose possession is it? How much does it amount to?” Lenin apparently did not exclude the possibility of a break and was concerned with keeping the financial resources in his own hands. But it did not come to a break; the disconcerted Conciliators could scarcely have dared to think of it. Passive resistance was their sole weapon. Now even that would be knocked out of their hands.

Replying to Shklovsky’s pessimistic letter from Bern and arguing that the affairs of the Bolsheviks were not so bad as they seemed, Krupskaya began with the acknowledgment, “of course, Pravda is badly managed.” That phrase sounds like common ground, like something beyond dispute. “Every Tom, Dick and Harry[4] is on that editorial staff, and most of them are not literaries … The workers’ protests against Lootch’ are not published, in order to avoid polemics.” However, Krupskaya promises “substantial reforms” in the near future. This letter was written on January nineteenth. The next day Lenin wrote to Petersburg, through Krupskaya: “… we must plant our own editorial staff in Pravda and kick the present one out. Things are now in a very bad way. The absence of a campaign for unity from below is stupid and despicable … Would you call such people editors? They are not men but pitiful dishrags and they are ruining the cause.” This was the style to which Lenin resorted when he wanted to show that he would fight it out to the bitter end.

[4] Literally: “s bong da s sosenkt “—”[everyone] from the pine woods and from the small pines.”—C. M.

He opened a parallel fire from carefully placed batteries against the conciliationism of the Duma fraction. As early as the third of January he wrote to Petersburg: “See to it unconditionally that the letter of the Baku workers which we are sending you is published …” The letter demands that the Bolshevik deputies break with Lootch’ . Pointing to the fact that in the course of five years, the Liquidators “have been reiterating in every way that the party has died,” the Baku workers asked: “Wherefore now their present urge to unite with a corpse?” The question hits the mark rather neatly. “When will the four [deputies] resign from Lootch’ ?” Lenin persisted for his part. “Must we wait much longer? … Even from distant Baku twenty workers are protesting.” It would not be amiss to presume that, having failed to obtain through letterwriting the break of the deputies with Lootch’, Lenin discreetly began to mobilize the lower ranks while Stalin was still in Petersburg. No doubt it was upon his initiative that the Baku workers protested—not by chance did Lenin choose Baku!—and besides, they sent their protest not to the editorial office of Pravda, where the Baku leader Koba was in charge, but to Lenin in Cracow. The complex threads of the conflict become flagrantly apparent. Lenin advances. Stalin maneuvers. With the Conciliators balking, though not without the unwitting aid of the Liquidators, who more and more exposed their opportunism, Lenin managed before long to induce the Bolshevik deputies to resign under protest as contributors to Lootch’ . But they continued to be bound by the discipline of the liquidationist majority of the Duma fraction.

Preparing for the worst, even for a split, Lenin, as always, did all he could to achieve his political goal with the least disturbance and fewest victims possible. This was exactly why he first asked Stalin to come abroad and then was able to make him understand that it would be best for him to stay away from Pravda during the forthcoming “reforms”. Meantime another member of the Central Committee was sent to Petersburg—Sverdlov, the future First President of the Soviet Republic. That significant fact has been officially attested. “For the purpose of reorganizing the editorial board,” proclaims a footnote in the sixteenth volume of Lenin’s Works, “the Central Committee sent Sverdlov to Petersburg”. Lenin wrote him: “Today we learned about the beginning of reforms on Pravda . A thousand greetings, congratulations and wishes for success … You cannot imagine how tired we are of working with an utterly hostile editorial staff.” With these words, in which accumulated bitterness mingled with a sigh of relief, Lenin settled scores with the editorial board for the whole period of difficulties during which, as we have been told, “Stalin actually ran the newspaper.”

”The author of these lines vividly remembers,” wrote Zinoviev in 1934, when the sword of Damocles was already hanging over his head, “what an event was Stalin’s arrival in Cracow …” Lenin was doubly glad—because during Stalin’s absence from Petersburg he would be able to carry out his delicate operation there and because he would probably be able to do it without any shakeup inside the Central Committee. In her sparing and wary account of Stalin’s sojourn in Cracow Krupskaya, as if slipping it in, observed “Ilyich was then very nervous about Pravda ; Stalin was also nervous. They were parleying as to how to adjust matters.” These very significant lines, for all their intentional obscurity, is all that apparently remains from franker text set aside upon the censor’s demand. In connection with circumstances already known to us, it is hardly possible to doubt that Lenin and Stalin “were nervous” for different reasons, each trying to defend his policy. However, the struggle was too unequal: Stalin had to retreat.

The conference for which he was called lasted from December twenty-eighth to January first, 1913, and was attended by eleven persons—members of the Central Committee and the Duma fraction and prominent local leaders. In addition to general political problems arising from the revolutionary resurgence, the conference considered the acute questions of internal Party life—the Duma fraction, the Party press, the attitude toward the Liquidators and toward the slogan of “unity”. The principal reports were made by Lenin. It must be supposed that the Duma deputies and their leader, Stalin, were obliged to listen to not a few bitter truths, although these were expressed in a friendly tone. It seems that Stalin kept his peace at the conference; only that can explain the fact that in the first edition of his memoirs (1929), the deferential Badayev failed even to list him among the participants. To keep silent under critical conditions is, moreover, Stalin’s favorite method. The protocols and other documents of the conference “have not yet been found.” Very likely special measures were taken to make sure that they should not be found. In one of Krupskaya’s letters of that period to Russia it is stated: “At this conference the reports from locals were very interesting. Everybody was saying that the masses have now grown up … During the elections it had become apparent that there were self-made workers’ organizations everywhere … For the most part they are not connected with the Party, but they are of the Party in spirit.” As for Lenin, he noted in a letter to Gorky that the conference “was very successful” and “will play its part”. Above all, he had in mind the straightening out of the Party’s policy.

Not without a touch of irony, the Police Department informed the man in charge of its agency abroad that, his last report notwithstanding, deputy Poletayev was not present at the conference, while the following persons were: Lenin, Zinoviev, Krupskaya; deputies Malinovsky, Petrovsky, Badayev; Lobov, the worker Medvedev, the Lieutenant of Russian Artillery Troyanovsky,[5] Troyanovsky’s wife[6] and Koba. Not devoid of interest is the order of the names: on the Department’s list Koba’s name is last. In the notes to Lenin’s Works (1929) he is named fifth, after Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Krupskaya, although Zinoviev, Kamenev and Krupskaya had already been long in disfavor at the time. In the listing of the newest era Stalin invariably occupies the second place, directly after Lenin. These shufflings reflect rather aptly the nature of his historical career.

[5] Alexander A. Troyanovsky, subsequently Soviet Ambassador to Japan and later to the United States.—C. M.

[6] Not the Mrs. Troyanovsky Washington diplomatic circles knew, but Elena Rozmirovich, an Old Bolshevik.—C. M.

With this letter the Police Department wanted to show that Petersburg was better informed about what was going on in Cracow than its agent abroad. No wonder one of the important roles at the conference was played by Malinovsky, whose real character as a provocateur was known only to the most exalted on the police Olympus. True, certain Social-Democrats who had come in contact with him became suspicious of him as far back as the years of reaction, hut they could not substantiate their misgivings with proofs, and their suspicions relaxed. In January, 1912, Malinovsky was delegated by the Moscow Bolsheviks to attend the conference in Prague. Lenin greedily seized upon this capable and energetic worker and helped to advance his candidacy at the duma elections. The police, for its part, also supported its agent by arresting all his possible rivals. This representative of the Moscow workers at once established his authority in the Duma fraction. Upon receiving from Lenin the ready-made texts of his parliamentary speeches, Malinovsky would transmit the manuscripts for review to the director of the Police Department. The latter attempted at first to introduce emendations; but the régime of the Bolshevik fraction confined the autonomy of the individual deputy within very narrow limits. Consequently, although the Social-Democratic deputy was the best informer of the Okhrana, the Okhrana agent became the most militant orator of the Social-Democratic fraction.

Suspicions of Malinovsky cropped up again in the summer of 1913 among a number of prominent Bolsheviks; but because of lack of proof, the matter was again dropped. But then the government itself became frightened of possible exposure and of an accompanying political scandal. By order of his superiors, in May of 1914, Malinovsky filed with the President of the Duma a declaration of intention to resign his mandate as a deputy. Rumors of his role spread again and with renewed force, and this time got into the press. Malinovsky went abroad, called on Lenin and demanded an investigation. He had apparently carefully laid out his line of behavior in collaboration with his police superiors. Two weeks later the Party’s Petersburg newspaper published a telegram which indirectly declared that the Central Committee, having investigated the Malinovsky affair, was convinced of his personal integrity. After another few days a resolution was published to the effect that by the willful resignation of his mandate Malinovsky “placed himself outside the ranks of organized Marxists”. In the language of the legal newspaper that meant expulsion from the Party.

Lenin’s opponents subjected him to a prolonged and cruel barrage for “sheltering” Malinovsky. The participation of a police agent in the Duma fraction, and especially in the Central Committee, was, of course, a great calamity to the Party. As a matter of fact, Stalin had gone to his last exile because of Malinovsky’s betrayal. But in those days suspicions, complicated at times by factional hostility, poisoned the atmosphere of the underground. No one presented any direct evidence against Malinovsky. After all, it was impossible to condemn a member of the Party to political—and perhaps even physical—death on the basis of vague suspicion. And since Malinovsky occupied a responsible position and the reputation of the Party depended to a certain extent on his reputation, Lenin deemed it his duty to defend Malinovsky with the energy which always distinguished him. After the overthrow of the monarchy the fact that Malinovsky had served in the Police Department was fully substantiated. After the October Revolution the provocateur, who returned to Moscow from a German war prisoners’ camp, was shot by order of the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding the lack of men, Lenin was in no hurry to send Stalin back to Russia. It was necessary to complete “the essential reforms” in Petersburg before he returned. On the other hand, Stalin himself was hardly eager to return to the place of his former labors after the Cracow conference, which, however indirectly, had unmistakably condemned his policy. As usual, Lenin did all he could to obtain an honorable retreat for the vanquished man. Vengeance was altogether alien to his nature. In order to keep Stalin abroad during the crucial period, Lenin got him interested in working on the problem of minor nationalities—an arrangement thoroughly in the spirit of Lenin!

A native of the Caucasus, with its scores of semi-cultured and primitive yet rapidly awakening nationalities, he did not have to have proved to him the importance of the nationalities problem. The tradition of national independence continued to flourish in Georgia. It was from that that Koba himself had received his first revolutionary impulse. His very pseudonym harked back to his own nationality’s struggle for national independence. True, according to Iremashvili, during the years of the First Revolution he had grown cool to the Georgian problem. “National liberation … no longer meant anything to him. He did not want to set any limitations upon his will to power. Russia and the whole world must henceforth be his prize.” Iremashvili obviously anticipates the facts and attitudes of a much later time. The one thing beyond doubt is that, having become a Bolshevik, Koba forsook the nationalistic romanticism that continued to live in peace and harmony with the nerveless socialism of the Georgian Mensheviks. But after repudiating the idea of Georgian independence, Koba could not, like many Great-Russians, remain wholly indifferent to the nationalities problem, because relations between Georgians, Armenians, Tatars, Russians and others constantly complicated revolutionary activities in the Caucasus.

In his views Koba became an internationalist. But did he ever become one in his feelings? The Great-Russian Lenin could not endure any jests or anecdotes that were likely to hurt the sensibilities of an oppressed nationality. Stalin had in him too much of the peasant from the village of Didi-Lilo. During the prerevolutionary years he did not dare, of course, to trifle with national prejudices, as he did later, when be was already in power. But that disposition disclosed itself in small matters even then. Referring to the preponderance of Jews in the Menshevik faction at the London Congress of 1907, Koba wrote:

Apropos of that, one of the Bolsheviks jestingly remarked (I think it was Comrade Alexinsky) that the Mensheviks were a Jewish f action while the Bolsheviks were truly Russian, and hence it would not be amiss for us Bolsheviks to instigate a pogrom in the Party.

It is impossible not to be astonished even now that in an article intended for the workers of the Caucasus, where the air was rife with nationalistic animosities, Stalin ventured to quote a jest of such suspicious odor. It was, moreover, no mere matter of accidental tactlessness but of conscious calculation. In the very same article, the author jauntily “jested” about the congressional resolution on expropriations, for the purpose of dispelling the doubts of the Caucasian fighters. One may confidently assume that the Menshevik faction in Baku was then headed by Jews and that with his “jest” anent a pogrom the author intended to discredit his factional opponents in the eyes of the backward workers. That was easier than to win them through persuasion and education, and Stalin always and in everything sought the line of least resistance. It might be added that neither was Alexinsky’s “jest” accidental: that ultra-left Bolshevik subsequently became a downright reactionary and anti-Semite.

Naturally, in his political activities Koba upheld the Party’s official position. Yet prior to his journey abroad, his political articles had never been above the level of daily propaganda. Only now, upon Lenin’s initiative, did he approach the problem of nationalities from a broader theoretical and political point of view. First-hand knowledge of the intricate national relations in the Caucasus undoubtedly made it easier for him to orient himself in that complicated field, in which abstract theorizing was particularly dangerous.

In two countries of pre-war Europe the national question was of exceptional political significance: in Tsarist Russia and in Hapsburg Austria-Hungary. In each of these the workers’ party created its own school. In the sphere of theory, the Austrian Social-Democracy, in the persons of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner, considered nationality independent of territory, economy and class, transforming it into a species of abstraction limited by so-called “national character.” In the field of national policy, as for that matter in all other fields, it did not venture beyond a corrective of the status quo. Fearing the very thought of dismembering the monarchy, the Austrian Social-Democracy strove to adapt its national program to the borders of the patchwork state. The program of so-called “national cultural economy” required that the citizens of one and the same nationality, irrespective of their dispersal over the territory of Austria-Hungary and irrespective of the administrative divisions of the state, should be united, on the basis of purely personal attributes, into one community for the solution of their “cultural” tasks (the theater, the church, the school, and the like). That program was artificial and utopian, in so far as it attempted to separate culture from territory and economy in a society torn apart by social contradictions; it was at the same time reactionary, in so far as it led to a forced disunion into various nationalities of the workers of one and the same state, undermining their class strength.

Lenin’s position was the direct opposite. Regarding nationality as unseverably connected with territory, economy and class structure, he refused at the same time to regard the historical state, the borders of which cut across the living body of the nations, as a sacrosanct and inviolate category. He demanded recognition of the right to secession and independent existence for each national portion of the state. In so far as the various nationalities, voluntarily or through force of necessity, coexist within the borders of one state, their cultural interests must find the highest possible satisfaction within the framework of the broadest regional (and consequently, territorial) autonomy, including statutory guarantees of the rights of each minority. At the same time, Lenin deemed it the incontrovertible duty of all the workers of a given state, irrespective of nationality, to unite in one and the same class organizations.

The national problem was particularly acute in Poland, aggravated by the historical fate of that country. The so-called P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Party), headed by Josef Pilsudski, carne out ardently for Polish independence; the “socialism” of the P.P.S. was no more than a vague appendage of its militant nationalism. On the other hand, the Polish Social-Democracy, whose leader was Rosa Luxembourg, counterposed to the slogan of Polish independence the demand for the autonomy of the Polish region as a constituent part of democratic Russia. Luxembourg proceeded from the consideration that in the epoch of imperialism the separation of Poland from Russia was economically infeasible and in the epoch of socialism—unnecessary. She looked upon “the right of self-determination” as an empty abstraction. The polemic on that question lasted for years. Lenin insisted that imperialism did not reign similarly or equably in all countries, regions and spheres of life; that the heritage of the past represented an accumulation and interpenetration of various historical epochs; that although monopolistic capitalism towers above everything, it does not supersede everything; that, notwithstanding the domination of imperialism, the numerous national problems retained their full force and that, contingent upon the internal and world conjunctures, Poland might become independent even in the epoch of imperialism.

It was Lenin’s view that the right of self-determination was merely an application of the principles of bourgeois democracy in the sphere of national relations. A real, full-bodied, all-sided democracy under capitalism was unrealizable; in that sense the national independence of small and weak peoples was likewise “unrealizable”. However, even under imperialism, the working class did not refuse to fight for democratic rights, including among them the right of each nation to its independent existence. Moreover, in certain portions of our planet it was imperialism itself that invested the slogan of national self-determination with extraordinary significance. Although Western and Central Europe have somehow managed to solve their national problems in the course of the nineteenth century, in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America the epoch of national democratic movements had not really begun to unfold until the twentieth century. To deny the right of nations to self-determination is tantamount in effect to offering aid and comfort to the imperialists against their colonies and generally against all oppressed nationalities.

The problem of nationalities was considerably aggravated in Russia during the period of reaction. “The wave of militant nationalism,” wrote Stalin, “called attention from above to numerous acts of repressions by those in power, who wreaked their vengeance upon the border states for their love of freedom, calling forth in response a wave of nationalism from below, which at times passed into crude chauvinism.” This was the time of the ritual murder trial of the Kiev Jew Bayliss. Retrospectively, in the light of civilization’s latest achievements, especially in Germany and in the U.S.S.R., that trial today seems almost a humanitarian experiment. But in 1913 it shocked the whole world. The poison of nationalism began to affect many sections of the working class as well. Alarmed, Gorky wrote to Lenin about the need for counteracting this chauvinistic rabidness. “As for nationalism, I quite agree with you,” replied Lenin, “that we must cope with it more earnestly than ever. We have a splendid Georgian staying with us here who is writing a long article for Prosveshcheniye [Enlightenment], after garnering all the Austrian and other material. We will bear down on it.” The reference was to Stalin. Gorky, long connected with the party, knew all its leading cadres well. But Stalin evidently was utterly unknown to him, since Lenin had to resort to such an impersonal, although flattering, expression as “a splendid Georgian.” This is, by the way, the only occasion when Lenin characterized a prominent Russian revolutionist by the token of his nationality. He had in mind, of course, not a Georgian, but a Caucasian: the element of primitiveness undoubtedly attracted Lenin; small wonder that he treated Kamo with such tenderness.

During his two months’ sojourn abroad Stalin wrote a brief but very trenchant piece of research entitled “Marxism and the National Problem”. Since it was intended for a lawful magazine, the article resorted to a discreet vocabulary. Its revolutionary tendencies were nonetheless distinctly apparent. The author set out by counterposing the historico-materialistic definition of nation to the abstracto-psychological, in the spirit of the Austrian school. “The nation,” he wrote, “is a historically-formed enduring community of language, territory, economic life and psychological composition, asserting itself in the community of culture.” This combined definition, compounding the psychological attributes of a nation with the geographic and economic conditions of its development, is not only correct theoretically but also practically fruitful, for then the solution to the problem of each nation’s fate must perforce be sought along the lines of changing the material conditions of its existence, beginning with territory. Bolshevism was never addicted to the fetishistic worship of a state’s borders. Politically the point was to reconstruct the Tsarist empire, that prison of nations, territorially, politically, and administratively, in line with the needs and wishes of the nations themselves.

The party of the proletariat does not enjoin the various nationalities either to remain within the bounds of a given state or to separate from it: that is their own affair. But it does obligate itself to help each of them to realize its actual national will. As for the possibility of separating from a state, that is a matter of concrete historical circumstances and the relation of forces. “No one can say,” wrote Stalin, “that the Balkan War is the end and not the beginning of complications. Quite possible is such a combination of internal and external circumstances that one or another nationality in Russia will deem it necessary to postulate and to solve the problem of its own independence. And, of course, it is no business of the Marxists to place barriers in such cases. But for that very reason Russian Marxists cannot get along without the right of nations to self-determination.”

The interests of the nations which voluntarily remain within the bounds of democratic Russia would be fenced off by means of “the autonomies of such self-determined units as Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the like. Regional autonomy is conducive to a better utilization of the natural wealth of the region; it does not divide citizens along national lines and makes it possible for them to group themselves in class parties.” The territorial self-administration of regions in all spheres of social life is counterposed to the extra-territorial—that is, platonic—self-administration of nationalities in matters of “culture” only.

However, most directly and acutely significant, from the point of view of the proletariat’s struggle, was the problem of the relations between workers of various nationalities inside the same state. Bolshevism stood for a compact and indivisible unification of workers of all nationalities in the party and in the trade unions on the basis of democratic centralism. “The type of organization does not exert its influence on practical work alone. It places an indelible stamp on the worker’s whole spiritual life. The worker lives the life of his organization, within which he develops spiritually and is educated … The international type of organization is a school of comradely feelings, of the greatest agitation in favor of internationalism.”

One of the aims of the Austrian program of “cultural autonomy” was “the preservation and development of the national idiosyncrasies of peoples.” Why and for what purpose? asked Bolshevism in amazement. Segregating the various nationalistic portions of mankind was never our concern. True, Bolshevism insisted that each nation should have the right to secede—the right, but not the duty—as the ultimate, most effective guarantee against oppression. But the thought of artificially preserving national idiosyncrasies was profoundly alien to Bolshevism. The removal of any, even disguised, even the most refined and practically “imponderable” national oppression or indignity, must be used for the revolutionary unification rather than the segregation of the workers of various nationalities. Wherever national privileges and injuries exist, nations must have the possibility to separate from each other, that thus they may facilitate the free unification of the workers, in the name of a close rapprochement of nations, with the distant perspective of the eventual complete fusion of all. Such was the basic tendency of Bolshevism, which revealed the full measure of its force in the October Revolution.

The Austrian program disclosed nothing but its own weaknesses: it saved neither the Empire of the Hapsburgs nor the Austrian Social-Democracy itself. Cultivating the idiosyncrasies of proletarian national groups, while at the same time failing really to satisfy the oppressed nationalities, the Austrian program merely camouflaged the dominance of the Germans and the Magyars, and was, as Stalin justly pointed out, “a refined form of nationalism.” However, it should be pointed out in all fairness that while criticizing their concern about “national idiosyncrasies,” the author invested his opponents’ thoughts with a patently oversimplified interpretation. “Only think,” he exclaims, “of preserving such national idiosyncrasies of the Transcaucasian Tatars as self-flagellation during the Shakhsey-Vakhsey festival! To develop such national idiosyncrasies of Georgia as the law of retaliation!” As a matter of fact, the Austro-Marxists did not have in mind, of course, the preservation of any such patently reactionary survivals. As for such “national idiosyncrasies of Georgia as the law of retaliation,” it was none other than Stalin who subsequently “developed” it to such an extent as perhaps no one else in human history. But that belongs in another sequence of ideas.

A prominent place in this study was allotted to a polemic against his old opponent Noah Jordania, who during the years of reaction began to lean toward the Austrian program. By example after example, Stalin showed that cultural-national economy, “generally … becomes even more senseless and ridiculous from the point of view of Caucasian conditions.” No less resolute was his criticism of the policy of the Jewish Bund, which was organized not on the territorial but on the national principle and attempted to impose that system upon the whole party. “One of two things: either the federalism of the Bund, and then the Russian Social-Democracy must be reconstructed on the principle of ’dividing’ the workers by nationalities; or an international type of organization, and then the Bund would have to be reconstructed on the principle of territorial economy … There is no middle ground: principles conquer, they never become reconciled.”

”Marxism And The National Problem” is undoubtedly Stalin’s most important—rather, his one and only—theoretical work. On the basis of that single article, which was forty printed pages long, its author is entitled to recognition as an outstanding theoretician. What is rather mystifying is why he did not write anything else of even remotely comparable quality either before or after. The key to the mystery is hidden away in this, that Stalin’s work was wholly inspired by Lenin, written under his unremitting supervision and edited by him line by line.

Twice in his life Lenin broke with close collaborators who were high-grade theoreticians. The first time in 1903-1904, when he broke with all of the old authorities of the Russian Social-Democracy—Plekbanov, Axelrod, Zasulich— and with the outstanding young Marxists, Martov and Potressov; the second time—during the years of reaction—when Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Pokrovsky, Rozhkov, all highly qualified writers, left him. Zinoviev and Kamenev, his closest collaborators, were not theoreticians. In that sense, the new revolutionary resurgence found Lenin stranded. No wonder then that he greedily pounced upon any young comrade who might be useful in working out one or another problem of the party program.

”This time,” recalls Krupskaya, “Ilyich talked a lot with Stalin about the national problem, was glad to find a man who was seriously interested in this problem and knew his way about in it. Prior to that Stalin lived approximately two months in Vienna, studying the national problem there, became well acquainted with our Viennese public, with Bukbarin, with Troyanovsky.” Some things were left unsaid. “Ilyich talked a lot with Stalin”—that means: he gave him the key ideas, shed light on all their aspects, explained misconceptions, suggested the literature, looked over the first drafts and made corrections … “I recall,” relates the same Krupskaya, “Ilyich’s attitude toward authors of little experience. He looked for the substance, for fundamentals, he thought in every way bow best to help, how to set them straight. But he did it all somehow with very great care, so that the author in question did not realize that he was being corrected. And Ilyich certainly knew how to help people in their work. If, for example, he wanted to assign the writing of an article to someone but was not certain whether that person would write it properly, he would first start a detailed conversation with him on the theme, develop his own thoughts, get the person interested, sound him out thoroughly, and then he would suggest: ‘Won’t you write an article on that theme?’ And the author did not even notice how the preliminary conversation with Ilyich had helped him, would not realize that he was incorporating in his article even Ilyich’s favorite words and expressions.” Krupskaya, of course, does not name Stalin. But this characterization of Lenin as coach of young authors is included in that chapter of her memoirs in which she tells about Stalin’s work on the problem of nationalities: Krupskaya was not infrequently compelled to resort to roundabout devices, so as to protect at least a portion of Lenin’s intellectual rights from usurpation.

Stalin’s progress on his article is pictured for us with sufficient clarity. At first, leading conversations with Lenin in Cracow, the outlining of the dominating ideas and of the research material. Later Stalin’s journey to Vienna, into the heart of the “Austrian school”. Since he did not know German, Stalin could not cope with his source material. But there was Bukharin, who unquestionably had a head for theory, knew languages, knew the literature of the subject, knew how to use documents. Bukharin, like Troyanovsky, was under instructions from Lenin to help the “splendid” but poorly educated Georgian. Evidently, the selection of the most important quotations was their handiwork. The logical construction of the article, not devoid of pedantry, is due most likely to the influence of Bukharin, who inclined toward professorial ways, in distinction from Lenin, for whom the structure of a composition was determined by its political or polemical interest. Bukharin’s influence did not go beyond that, since on the problem of nationalities he was much closer to Rosa Luxembourg than to Lenin. Just what was the amount of Troyanovsky’s participation, we do not know. But from that time dates the beginning of his contact with Stalin, which several years later, after circumstances had changed, secured for the insignificant and unstable Troyanovsky one of the most responsible of diplomatic posts.

From Vienna Stalin returned with his material to Cracow. Here again carne Lenin’s turn, the turn of the attentive and tireless editor. The stamp of his thought and the traces of his pen are readily discoverable on every page. Certain phrases, mechanically incorporated by the author, or certain lines, obviously written in by the editor, seem unexpected or incomprehensible without reference to the corresponding works of Lenin. “Not the national but the agrarian problem decides the fate of progress in Russia,” writes Stalin without any explanations. “The national problem is subsidiary to it.” This correct and profound thought about the relative effect of the agrarian and national problems on the course of the Russian Revolution is entirely Lenin’s and was expounded by him innumerable times during the years of reaction. In Italy and in Germany the struggle for national liberation and unification was at one time the crux of the bourgeois revolution. It was otherwise in Russia, where the dominating nationality, the Great-Russians, did not experience national oppression, but, on the contrary, oppressed others; yet it was none other than the vast peasant mass of the Great-Russians themselves that had experienced the profound oppression of serfdom. Such complex and seriously considered thoughts would never have been expressed by their real author as if in passing, as a generality, without proofs and commentaries.

Zinoviev and Kamenev, who long lived side by side with Lenin, acquired not only his ideas but even his turns of phrase, even his handwriting. That cannot be said about Stalin. Of course, he too lived by Lenin’s ideas, but at a distance, away from him, and he used them only as he needed them for his own independent purposes. He was too sturdy, too stubborn, too dull and too organic, to acquire the literary methods of his teacher. That is why Lenin’s corrections of his text, to quote the poet, look “like bright patches on dilapidated tatters”. The exposure of the Austrian school as “a refined form of nationalism” is undoubtedly Lenin’s, as are a number of other simple but pertinent formulae. Stalin did not write like that. With reference to Otto Bauer’s definition of the nation as “a relative community of character,” we read in the article: “Wherein then does Bauer’s nation differ from the mystical and self-sufficient ’national spirit’ of the spiritualists?” That sentence was written by Lenin. Neither before nor after this did Stalin express himself like that. And further, when, referring to Bauer’s own eclectic corrections of his own definition of a nation, the article comments, “thus, the theory sewn with idealistic threads refutes itself,” one cannot help but recognize Lenin’s pen. The same is true of the characterization of the national type of labor organization as “a school of comradely feelings.” Stalin did not write like that. On the other hand, throughout the entire work, notwithstanding its numerous angularities, we find no chameleons assuming the hue of rabbits, no underground swallows, no screens made of tears: Lenin had expunged all these seminarist embellishments. The original manuscript with its corrections can, of course, be hidden. But it is impossible, in any way, to hide the hand of Lenin, as it is impossible to hide the fact that throughout all the years of his imprisonment and exile Stalin produced nothing which even remotely resembles the work he wrote in the course of a few weeks in Vienna and Cracow.

On the eighth of February, when Stalin was still abroad, Lenin congratulated the editorial board of Pravda “on the tremendous improvement in all phases of managing the newspaper, which has been noticeable during recent days.” The improvement was in the matter of principles, and expressed itself chiefly in intensified fighting against the Liquidators. According to Samoilov, Sverdlov was then carrying out the duties of the actual editor; living in illegal status and never emerging from the apartment of an “immune” deputy, he busied himself all day long with newspaper manuscripts. “He was, besides all that, a very fine comrade in all personal matters as well.” This is correct. Samoilov does not say anything of the kind about Stalin, with whom he came in close contact and toward whom he is very respectful. On the tenth of February the police entered the “immune” apartment, arrested Sverdlov, and soon banished him to Siberia, undoubtedly because of Malinovsky’s denunciation. Toward the end of February, Stalin, who had returned from abroad, made his home with the same deputies: “He played the leading role in the life of our [Duma] faction[7] and of the newspaper Pravda,” relates Samoilov, “and he attended not only all the conferences, which we arranged in our apartment, but not infrequently, with great risk to himself, visited also the sessions of the Social-Democratic faction, where, by upholding our position in arguments against the Mensheviks and on various other questions, he rendered us great service.”

[7] See Glossary.

Stalin found the situation in Petersburg considerably changed. The advanced workers firmly supported Sverdlov’s reforms, inspired by Lenin. Pravda had a new staff. The Conciliators had been set back. Stalin did not even think of really defending the positions from which he had been torn away two months before. That was not in his spirit. He was now concerned only with saving his face. On the twenty-sixth of February he published in Pravda an article, in which he called upon the workers “to raise their voice against the separatist efforts inside the fraction, no matter where they come from”. In substance, the article was part of the campaign to prepare the split of the Duma fraction, at the same time to place the responsibility on the opponents. No longer bound by his own past record, Stalin attempted to express his new purpose in the old phraseology. Hence, his misleading expression about attempts to split the fraction, “no matter where they come from”. In any event, it is evident from the article that, after attending school in Cracow, the author tried to change his line and start off on the new policy as inconspicuously as possible. But he had practically no opportunity to do that, for he was soon arrested.

In March the Bolshevik organization, under the lawful sponsorship of Pravda, arranged for a concert and evening of entertainment. Stalin “wanted to go there,” relates Samoilov: there one could see many comrades. He asked Malinovsky’s advice: was it safe to go, was it not dangerous? The perfidious adviser replied that, in his opinion, there was no danger. However, the danger was prepared by Malinovsky himself. As soon as Stalin carne, the hall filled with spies. Comrades attempted to lead him through the stage entrance, having previously dressed him up in a woman’s mantle. But he was arrested. This time he was fated to disappear from circulation for exactly four years.

Two months after that arrest Lenin wrote to Pravda : “I congratulate you heartily upon your success … the improvement is tremendous and important. Let us hope it is permanent and definite and final … if only no evil spell is cast on it!” In the interest of completeness, we cannot ref rain from quoting also the letter which Lenin sent to Petersburg in October, 1913, when Stalin was already in distant exile and Kamenev was in charge of the editorial board: “Here everybody is satisfied with the newspaper and its editor. In all this time I haven’t heard a single word of criticism … everybody is satisfied and myself especially, for I have proved to be a prophet. Do you remember?” And at the end of the letter: “Dear Friend, all attention is now devoted to the fight of the six for their rights. I beg you to bear down with all your strength, so as not to let either the newspaper or Marxist public opinion waver even once.”

All the cited evidence leads to one inescapable conclusion: in Lenin’s opinion, the newspaper was very badly conducted when Stalin was in charge. During that same period the Duma fraction wavered toward conciliationism. The newspaper began to straighten out politically, only after Sverdlov, with Stalin away, brought about “substantial reforms.” The newspaper improved and became satisfactory when Kamenev took charge of it. Likewise, under his leadership, the Bolshevik deputies of the Duma won their political independence.

Malinovsky played an active role, even two roles at the same time, in splitting the fraction. The gendarme General Spiridovich wrote apropos of that: “Malinovsky, carrying out the directives of Lenin and of the Police Department, achieved in October, 1913 … the final quarrel between the ‘seven’ and the ’six.’” Then Mensheviks, for their part, gloated repeatedly over the “co-incidence” of Lenin’s policy with that of the Police Department. Now that the course of events has rendered its own verdict, the old argument has lost its significance. The Police Department hoped that the split of the Social-Democracy would weaken the labor movement. On the contrary, Lenin reckoned that only a split would secure for the workers the needed revolutionary leadership. The police Machiavellis obviously figured wrong. The Mensheviks were doomed to insignificance. The Bolsheviks won all along the line.

Stalin devoted himself to intensive work in Petersburg and abroad for more than six months prior to his last arrest. He helped to conduct the Duma election campaign, managed Pravda, participated in an important conference of the Party staff abroad, and wrote his essay on the national problem. That half year was undoubtedly of great importance to his personal development. For the first time he bore responsibility for activities on the soil of the capital, for the first time he carne in contact with major politics, for the first time he carne in close touch with Lenin. That feeling of supposed superiority which was so much a part of him as a realistic “practico” could not help having been shaken by personal contact with the great émigré. His estimation of himself had to become more critical and sober, his ambition more secretive, guarded. His hurt provincial self-satisfaction must inevitably have been colored with envy, mitigated only by cautiousness.

Chapter VI: War and Exile[edit source]

SEEING in the street a man squatting and gesturing strangely, Leo Tolstoy decided that he was looking at a madman; on coming closer he was satisfied that the man was attending to necessary work—sharpening a knife on a stone.

Lenin was fond of citing this example. The interminable discussions, factional squabbles, splits between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, arguments and splits inside the Bolshevik faction itself, seemed to the observer on the sidelines like the activities of maniacs. But the test of events proved that these people were attending to necessary work; the struggle was waged not over scholastic subtleties, as it seemed to the dilettantes, but over the most fundamental questions of the revolutionary movement.

Because of their painstaking and precise definitions of ideas and because they drew clear political boundary lines, only Lenin and his disciples were ready to meet the new revolutionary resurgence. Hence, the uninterrupted series of successes which very quickly secured for the Pravdists dominance over the labor movement. The majority of the older generation had abandoned the struggle during the years of reaction. “Lenin has nothing but boys,” the Liquidators were wont to say contemptuously. But in that Lenin saw his Party’s great advantage. Revolution, like war, necessarily places the main part of its burden on the shoulders of youth. That socialist party which is unable to draw the “youngsters,” is hopeless.

In its secret correspondence, the tsarist police, which came face to face with the revolutionary parties, was far from niggardly with flattering admissions concerning the Bolsheviks. “During the past ten years,” wrote the Director of the Police Department in 1913, “the most energetic, courageous element, capable of tireless struggle, resistance and constant organization, have been .. . the organizations and persons concentrating around Lenin … The permanent organizational heart and soul of all Party undertakings of any importance is Lenin … The faction of Leninists is always better organized than the others, stronger in its singleness of purpose, more resourceful in propagating its ideas among the workers … When during the last two years the labor movement began to grow stronger, Lenin and his followers came closer to the workers than others, and he was the first to proclaim purely revolutionary slogans … The Bolshevik circles, nuclei and organizations are now scattered through all the cities. Permanent correspondence and contacts have been established with almost all the factory centers. The Central Committee functions almost regularly and is entirely in the hands of Lenin … In view of the aforesaid, there is nothing surprising in the fact that at the present time the assembling of the entire underground Party is proceeding around the Bolshevik organizations and that indeed the latter really are the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party.” There is almost nothing to add to this.

The correspondence of the foreign staff acquired a new optimistic tone. Krupskaya wrote to Shklovksy at the beginning of 1913: “All the contacts are somehow different than before. Somehow you feel more as if you were dealing with likeminded people … The affairs of Bolshevism are sounder than ever.” The Liquidators, who prided themselves on their realism and only yesterday derided Lenin as the head of a degenerate sect, suddenly found themselves relegated to the sidelines and isolated. From Cracow Lenin watched tirelessly for all the manifestations of the labor movement, registering and classifying all the facts that might enable him to take the pulse of the proletariat. From the painstaking calculations in Cracow of money collections for the labor press it was evident that in Petersburg 86% of the reading workers were on the side of Pravda and only 14% on the side of the Liquidators; almost the same relation of forces existed in Moscow; in the backward provinces the Liquidators were somewhat better off, but on the whole four-fifths of the advanced workers sided with Pravda . Of what value could be abstract appeals to the unity of factions and tendencies, when the correct policy counterposed to these “factions and tendencies” was able, in the course of three years, to rally around Bolshevism the preponderant majority of the advanced workers? During elections to the Fourth Duma, when not Social-Democrats but ordinary voters cast their ballots, 67% of the workers’ curiae came out for the Bolsheviks. During the conflict between the two factions of the Duma fraction in Petersburg, five thousand votes were cast for the Bolshevik deputies and only 621 for the Mensheviks. The Liquidators were utterly crushed in the capital. There was the same relation of forces in the trade union movement: of the thirteen Moscow unions, not one belonged to the Liquidators; of the twenty Petersburg unions, only four, the least proletarian and the least important, found themselves partly or entirely in the hands of the Mensheviks. At the beginning of 1914, during the elections of representatives of workers to the Petersburg sick benefit funds, the tickets of Pravda ’s nominees won completely. All the groups hostile to Bolshevism—the Liquidators, the Recallists, all sorts of Conciliators—proved utterly incapable of sinking their roots into the working class. Hence, Lenin drew his conclusions: “Only in the course of fighting against these groups can the real workers’ Social-Democratic Party be formed in Russia.”

In the spring of 1914 Emile Vandervelde, who was then President of the Second International, visited Petersburg, in order to acquaint himself on the spot with the conflict of the factions inside the working class. The opportunistic skeptic measured the arguments of the Russian barbarians by the rule of Belgian parliamentarism. The Mensheviks, he reported upon his return, wanted to organize legally and demand the right of coalition; the Bolsheviks wanted to demand the immediate proclamation of the republic and the expropriation of the land. This disagreement Vandervelde called “rather childish”. There was nothing Lenin could do but smile bitterly. Soon came developments that made possible an incontestable verification of men and ideas. The “childish” differences of opinion between the Marxists and the opportunists gradually spread throughout the world-wide labor movement.

”The war between Austria and Russia,” Lenin wrote to Gorky at the beginning of 1913, “would be a very useful thing for the revolution (throughout all of Eastern Europe), but it is hardly possible that Franz-Josef and Nicki would give us this pleasure.” Yet they did—although not until a year and a half later.

Meantime the industrial conjuncture had passed its zenith. The first underground tremors of the crisis began to be felt. But they did not stop the strike struggle. On the contrary, they invested it with a more aggressive character. Only a little more than six months prior to the outbreak of the war there were almost a million and a half strikers. The last great explosion occurred on the very eve of mobilization. On the third of July the Petersburg police was shooting into a crowd of workers. In response to an appeal by the Bolshevik Committee, the most important factories struck as a sign of protest. There were as many as two hundred thousand strikers. Meetings and demonstrations were held everywhere. Attempts were made to construct barricades. Into the welter of these events in the capital that became a miliary encampment, came the French President Poincaré for final negotiations with his crowned “friend”; and had the opportunity to peek with one eye into the laboratory of the Russian Revolution. But several days later the government took advantage of the declaration of war to wipe off the face of the earth both the labor organizations and the labor press. The first victim was Pravda . The attractive idea of the tsarist government was to stifle the revolution with a war.

The assertion of certain biographers that Stalin was the author of the “defeatist” theory, or the formula for “transforming the imperialist war into a civil war,” is pure invention and attests to the complete lack of understanding of Stalin’s intellectual and political character. Least of all was he in tune with the spirit of political innovation and theoretical daring. He never anticipated anything; he never ran ahead of anyone. Being an empiricist, he was ever afraid of a priori conclusions, preferring to measure ten times before cutting the cloth. Inside this revolutionist always lurked a conservative bureaucrat. The Second International was a powerful political machine. Stalin would never have ventured to break with it on his own initiative. The elaboration of the Bolshevik doctrine on war is in its entirety part and parcel of Lenin’s record. Stalin did not contribute to it a single word, even as he contributed nothing to the doctrine of revolution. However, in order to understand Stalin’s behavior during the years of exile, and especially during the first critical weeks after the February Revolution, as well as his subsequent break with all the principles of Bolshevism, it is necessary to outline briefly the system of views which Lenin had already elaborated at the beginning of the war and to which he had gradually converted his Party.

The first question posed by the European catastrophe was whether socialists could take upon themselves the “defense of the fatherland”. It was not a question of whether the individual socialist should carry out his duties as a soldier. There was nothing else he could do. Desertion was never a revolutionary policy. The question was whether a socialist party should support the war politically —vote from the military budget, terminate its fight against the government, agitate for “defense of the fatherland”. Lenin answered: No, it should not, it has no right to do so—not because it was war, but because it was a reactionary war, a bloody shambles brought about by slave-owners who wanted to divide the world.

The formation of national states on the continent of Europe covered an epoch which began approximately with the Great French Revolution and ended with the Versailles Peace of 1871. During that period, wars for the establishment or defense of national states, as a condition prerequisite to the development of productive forces and culture, had a progressive historical character. Revolutionists not only could, but were duty-bound, to support these national wars politically. From 1871 to 1914 European capitalism, having attained its fruition on the basis of national states, outlived itself, transforming itself into monopolistic or imperialistic capitalism. “Imperialism is that state of capitalism which, having accomplished all that it could accomplish, turns toward decline.” The cause of the decline lies in the fact that the productive forces become equally constrained by the framework of private property and by the borders of the national state. Seeking a way out, imperialism strives to divide and to redivide the world. National wars are succeeded by imperialist wars. The latter are thoroughly reactionary in character, epitomizing the historical blind alley, the stagnation, the decay of monopolistic capitalism.

Imperialism can exist only because there are backward nations on our planet, colonial and semi-colonial countries. The struggle of these oppressed peoples for national unity and independence has a twofold progressive character, since, on the one hand, it prepares favorable conditions of development for their own use, and on the other, it strikes blows at imperialism. Hence, in part, the conclusion that in a war between a civilized imperialist democratic republic and the backward barbarian monarchy of a colonial country, the socialists will be entirely on the side of the oppressed country, notwithstanding its monarchy, and against the oppressor country, notwithstanding its “democracy”.

Imperialism covers its predatory aims—the seizure of colonies, of markets, of sources of raw materials, of spheres of influence—with the ideas of “protecting peace from the aggressors,” “defense of the fatherland,” “defense of democracy,” and the like. These ideas are false to the core. “The question of whether one or another group struck the first military blow or was the first to declare war,” wrote Lenin in March, 1915, “has no significance whatever in determining the tactic of socialists. Phrases about ‘defense of the fatherland,’ about resisting the invasion of the enemy, about a war of defense, and the like, are an utter deception of the people on both sides …” As far as the proletariat is concerned, the objective historical significance of the war is the only thing that has any meaning: which class is waging it and for what aims?—and not the ruses of diplomacy, which knows how to represent the enemy in the role of the aggressor.

Equally spurious are the references of the imperialists to the interests of democracy and culture. Since the war is waged by both camps, not for the sake of defending the fatherland, democracy and culture, but for the sake of partitioning the world and for the sake of colonial enslavement, no socialist has the right to prefer one imperialist camp to another. Utterly useless would be the attempt “to say, from the point of view of the international proletariat, which nation’s defeat would be the least evil for socialism.” To sacrifice in the name of that supposedly “lesser evil” the political independence of the proletariat, is to betray the future of humanity.

The policy of “national unity” means in time of war, even more than in time of peace, the support of reaction and the eternization of imperialist barbarism. Refusal of that support, which is a socialist’s elementary duty, is, however, merely the negative or passive side of internationalism. That alone is not enough. The task of the party of the proletariat is to present “a manifold propaganda of socialist revolution, embracing the army and the theatre of war, propaganda showing the necessity to turn the guns, not against their own brothers, the hired slaves of the other countries, but against the reactionary and bourgeois governments and parties of all countries.”

But the revolutionary struggle in time of war may bring defeat to one’s own government! Lenin is not frightened by that conclusion. “In every country the struggle with one’s own government, which wages the imperialist war, must not stop short before the possibility of the defeat of that country in consequence of revolutionary agitation.” Therein is the essence of the so-called theory of “defeatism”. Unscrupulous opponents attempted to interpret this as meaning that Lenin admitted the possibility of collaboration between internationalists and foreign imperialists for the sake of victory over one’s own national reaction. As a matter of fact, what was under consideration was the general struggle of the world proletariat against world imperialism by way of the simultaneous struggle of the proletariat of each country against its own imperialism as the direct and main enemy. “From the point of view of the interests of the toiling masses and the working class of Russia,” wrote Lenin to Shlyapnikov in October, 1914, “we Russians cannot doubt in the slightest way, absolutely cannot doubt at all, that now and at once the least evil would be—the defeat of Tsarism in the present war …”

It is impossible to fight against the imperialist war with pious lamentations for peace in the manner of the pacifists. “One of the forms of fooling the working class is pacifism and the abstract preachment of peace. Under capitalism, and especially in its imperialistic stage, wars are inescapable.” Peace, concluded by the imperialists, will be a mere breathing spell before a new war. Only a revolutionary mass struggle against war and the imperialism engendered by it is capable of securing a real peace. “Without a series of revolutions the so-called democratic peace is a philistine utopia.”

The struggle against the illusions of pacifism is one of the most important elements in Lenin’s doctrine. He rejected with particular abhorrence the demand for “disarmament” as flagrantly utopian under capitalism and capable only of deflecting the attention of the workers from the need to arm themselves. “The oppressed class that does not strive to learn how to use guns and to have guns, such an oppressed class deserves to be treated as slaves.” And further: “Our slogan must be: the arming of the proletariat in order to win, to expropriate and to disarm the bourgeoisie … Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie can it throw all arms on the scrap heap, without playing false to its world-wide historic task …” Lenin rejects the bare slogan of “peace,” counterposing to it the slogan of “transforming imperialist war into civil war.”

Most of the leaders of labor parties found themselves during the war on the side of their own bourgeoisie. Lenin christened their tendency, “social-chauvinism”: socialism in words, chauvinism in deeds. The betrayal of internationalism did not, however, fall from the sky but was the inescapable continuation and development of the policy of reformist adjustment to the capitalist state. “The content of political ideas in opportunism and social chauvinism is one and the same: collaboration of classes instead of their struggle, repudiation of the revolutionary need to struggle, aid to ‘one’s own’ government in a difficult situation instead of utilizing those difficulties for the revolution.”

The final period of capitalist prosperity before the war (1909-1913) secured the particularly strong attachment of the proletarian upper layer to imperialism. Out of the surplus profit the bourgeoisie secured from the colonies and from the backward countries generally, fat morsels fell into the laps of the labor aristocracy and the labor bureaucracy as well. Their patriotism was thus dictated by direct self-interest in the policy of imperialism. During the war, which exposed all the social relations, “the opportunists and the chauvinists derived their tremendous power from their union with the bourgeoisie, the governments and the general staffs.” The opportunists definitely went over to the camp of the class enemy.

The intermediate, and perhaps the broadest tendency in socialism, the so- called Center (Kautsky and others), which in time of peace wavered between reformism and Marxism, became almost wholly the prisoner of the social- chauvinists under the cover of pacifist phrases. As for the masses, they were found unprepared and deceived by their own party machine which they had been building for decades. Having given the sociological and political evaluation of the labor bureaucracy of the Second International, Lenin did not stop half way. “Unity with opportunists is the unity of workers with ‘their own’ national bourgeoisie and the splitting of the international revolutionary working class.” Hence, his conclusion about the need, once and for all, to sever all contact with the social-chauvinists. “It is impossible to carry out the tasks of Socialism at the present time, it is impossible to achieve the actual international mobilization of the workers, without a resolute break with opportunism,” as well as with centrism, “that bourgeois tendency in Socialism”. The very name of the party must be changed. “Is it not better to repudiate the sullied and discredited name ’Social-Democrats’ and return to the old Marxist name of ‘Communists’?” It is high time to break with the Second International and build the Third!

That was where the difference of opinion, which only two or three months before the war had seemed “childish” to Emile Vandervelde. The President of the Second International had meantime himself become a patriotic minister of his king.

The Bolshevik Party was the most revolutionary—indeed, the only revolutionary—section of the Second International. Yet even the Bolshevik Party did not at once find its way in the labyrinth of the war. As a general rule, the confusion was most pervasive and lasted longest among the Party’s higher-ups, who came in direct contact with bourgeois public opinion. The Bolshevik Duma fraction at once made a sharp right turn by joining the Mensheviks in an equivocal declaration. True, the document proclaimed in the Duma on July twenty-sixth kept its skirts clear of “false patriotism under the cover of which the ruling classes waged their predatory policy,” but at the same time promised that the proletariat “would defend the cultural weal of the people against all encroachments, no matter where they came from, whether from within or from without.” Under the subterfuge of “defending culture,” the fraction was assuming a patriotic position.

Lenin’s theses on the war did not reach Petersburg until the beginning of September. The reception accorded them by the Party was far from one of general approbation. Most of the objections were to Lenin’s slogan of “defeatism,” which, according to Shlyapnikov, aroused “perplexity”. The Duma fraction, which was then led by Kamenev, again tried to smooth down the sharp edges of Lenin’s formulations. It was the same story in Moscow and in the provinces. “The war caught the ‘Leninists’ unprepared,” testifies the Moscow Okhrana, “and for a long time … they could not agree on their attitude toward the war …” The Moscow Bolsheviks wrote in code by way of Stockholm for transmission to Lenin that “notwithstanding all respect for him, his advice to sell the house [the slogan of ‘defeatism] has not struck a responsive chord.” In Saratov, according to the local leader Antonov, “the workers of the Bolshevik, Menshevik and Essar tendencies did not agree with the defeatist position. More than that … they were (with rare exception) decided defensists.” Among the advanced workers the situation was more favorable. At Petersburg factories inscriptions appeared, reading: “If Russia wins, we’ll not be better off, we’ll be oppressed more than ever.” And Samoilov wrote: “The Ivanovo-Voznesensk comrades sensed, with the class instinct of proletarians, what was … the right road and definitely took to it as early as the very first months of the war.”

However, only a very few individuals managed to formulate their opinions. Sweeping arrests blotted out the Social-Democratic organizations. The smashing of the press scattered the workers. All the more important, therefore, became the role of the Duma fraction. Recovering from the first siege of panic, the Bolshevik deputies began to develop important illegal activities. But they were arrested as early as the fourth of November. The chief evidence against them consisted of the documents of the party staff abroad. The authorities charged the arrested deputies with treason. During the preliminary investigation Kamenev and all the deputies, with the single exception of Muranov, repudiated Lenin’s theses. At the trial, which took place on the tenth of February, the defendants maintained the same line. Kamenev’s declaration that the documents with which he was confronted “decidedly contradict his own views on the current war” was not dictated only by concern for his own safety; essentially, it expressed the negative attitude of the entire Party upper layer toward defeatism. To Lenin’s great indignation, the purely defensist tactics of the defendants extremely weakened the agitational effectiveness of the trial. The legal defense could have proceeded hand in hand with a political offensive. But Kamenev, who was a clever and well-educated politician, was not born to meet extraordinary situations. The attorneys, for their part, did whatever they could. Repudiating the charge of treason, one of them, Pereverzev, prophesied at the trial that the loyalty of the labor deputies to their class will be forever preserved in the memory of future generations; whereas their weaknesses—lack of preparation, dependence on their intellectual advisers, and the like—”all of that will fall away, like an empty shell, together with the libelous charge of treason.”

By virtue of one of those sadistic jests which history never tires of perpetrating, it fell to none other than Pereverzev in his capacity as Minister of Justice in Kerensky’s government, to charge all the Bolshevik leaders with treason to the state and espionage, doing so with the aid of cynical forgeries to which even the Tsarist prosecutor would never have resorted. Only Stalin’s prosecutor, Vishinsky, outdid in that respect the democratic Minister of Justice.

Notwithstanding the equivocal behavior of the defendants, the very fact of the trial of the labor deputies delivered a smashing blow to the myth of “civil peace” and aroused the stratum of workers that had gone through the revolutionary school. “About 40,000 workers bought Pravda,” wrote Lenin in March, 1915, “many more read it. .. . It is impossible to destroy that layer. It lives … It alone stands up among the popular masses, and in the very heart of them, as the propagator of the internationalism of the toilers, the exploited, the oppressed.” The awakening of the masses began soon, but its influence made its way slowly to the outside. Being subject to military service, the workers were tied hand and foot. Every violation of discipline threatened them with immediate evacuation to the front, accompanied by a special police notation that was tantamount to a death sentence. This was particularly effective in Petersburg, where surveillance was doubly severe.

Meantime, the defeats of the Tsarist army pursued their course. The hypnosis of patriotism and the hypnosis of fear gradually relaxed. During the second half of 1915 sporadic strikes broke out, occasioned by high prices in the Moscow textile region, but they were not developed. The masses were dissatisfied, but they kept their peace. In May, 1916, scattered disturbances among recruits flared up in the provinces. Food riots began in the south, and at once spread to Kronstadt, the fortress that guarded the approaches to the capital. Finally, toward the end of December, came Petrograd’s turn. The political strike involved as many as two hundred thousand workers at once, with the unquestionable participation of the Bolshevik organizations. The ice was broken. In February began a series of stormy strikes and disturbances, which developed rapidly into an uprising and culminated when the capital’s garrison went over to the side of the workers. “The German course of development,” on which the liberals and the Mensheviks relied, did not materialize. As a matter of fact, the Germans themselves soon drifted away from the so-called German way … In distant exile Stalin was fated to find out about the triumph of the insurrection and the Tsar’s abdication.

Over the approximately thirty thousand square miles of the Turukhansk Region, located in the northern part of Yeniseisk Province, was scattered a population of approximately ten thousand souls, Russians and aliens. The small settlements of two to ten, rarely more, houses were hundreds of miles apart. Since winter endures here for fully eight months, agriculture is non-existent. The inhabitants fish and hunt, for there is an abundance of both fish and game. Stalin reached that inhospitable region in the middle of 1913 and found Sverdlov already there. Soon Alliluyev received a letter, in which Stalin urged him to hurry Deputy Badayev about forwarding the money sent by Lenin from abroad … “Stalin explained in detail that he needed the money in a hurry, so as to provide himself with the necessary food supplies, kerosene and other things before the approach of the harsh arctic winter.”

On the twenty-fifth of August, the Police Department warned the Yeniseisk gendarmerie about the possibility of an attempt to escape by the exiles Sverdlov and Djugashvili. On the eighteenth of December the Department requested by telegraph that the Governor of Yeniseisk undertake measures to forestall the escape. In January the Department telegraphed the Yeniseisk gendarmerie that Sverdlov and Djugashvili, in addition to the hundred rubles previously received, were to receive another fifty rubles toward the organization of their escape. In March the agents of the Okhrana had even heard that Sverdlov had been seen in Moscow. The Governor of Yeniseisk hastened to report that both exiles “are present in person and that measures to forestall their escape have been undertaken.” In vain did Stalin write to Alliluyev that the money was sent by Lenin presumably for kerosene and other such necessities: the Department knew firsthand—that is, from Malinovsky himself—that an escape was being prepared.

In February, 1914, Sverdlov wrote to his sister: “Joseph Djugashvili and I are being transferred a hundred versts [nearly seventy miles] north—eighty versts [nearly fifty-five miles] north of the Arctic Circle. The surveillance is stronger. We have been separated from mail delivery, which reaches us once a month through a ‘walker’ who is frequently late. Actually, we have no more than eight to nine mail deliveries a year …” The new place assigned to them was the forsaken settlement of Kureika. But that was not enough. “Because he received money, Djugashvili has been deprived of his allowance for four months. Both he and I need money. But you cannot send it in our names.” By sequestering the allowance, the police helped the Tsarist budget and lessened the chances of escape.

In his first letter from Kureika Sverdlov clearly described the manner of his joint life with Stalin. “My arrangements in the new place are considerably worse. For one thing, I no longer live alone in the room. There are two of us. With me is the Georgian Djugashvili, an old acquaintance, for we had already met elsewhere in exile. He is a good chap, but too much of an individualist in everyday life, while I believe in at least a semblance of order. That’s why I am nervous at times. But that is not so important. Much worse is the fact that there is no seclusion from our landlord’s family. Our room is next to theirs, and has no separate entrance. They have children. Naturally, the youngsters spend many hours with us. Sometimes they are in the way. Besides, grown-ups from the village drop in. They come, sit down, keep quiet for half an hour and suddenly rise: ‘Well, I’ve got to go, good-bye!’ No sooner do they leave when someone else comes in, and it’s the same thing all over again. They come, as if in spite, at the very best time for study, in the evening. That’s understandable: in the daytime they work. We had to part with our former arrangements and plan our day differently. We had to give up the habit of poring over a book until long after midnight. There is absolutely no kerosene. We use candles. Since that provides too little light for my eyes, I do all my studying in the daytime now. As a matter of fact, I don’t study very much. We have virtually no books …” Thus lived the future President of the Soviet Republic and the future dictator of the Soviet Union.

What interests us most in that letter is the restrained characterization of Stalin as “a good chap, but too much of an individualist.” The first part of the testimonial has the obvious aim of softening the second part. “An individualist in everyday life” meant in this case a man who, being obliged to live side by side with another person, did not take into consideration either the latter’s habits or interests. “A semblance of order,” on which Sverdlov insisted unsuccessfully, called for a certain voluntary self-limitation in the interests of one’s roommate. Sverdlov was by nature a considerate person. Samoilov testified that he was “a fine comrade” in personal relations. There was not a shadow of considerateness in Stalin’s nature. Moreover, there may have been a goodly measure of vengeance in his behavior: let us not forget that it was Sverdlov who had been commissioned to liquidate the very editorial staff of Pravda on which Stalin had relied for support against Lenin. Stalin never forgave such things; he never forgave anything. The publication of Sverdlov’s entire Turukhansk correspondence, promised in 1924, never took place; apparently, it contained the history of the subsequent sharpening of relations.

Schweitzer—the wife of Spandaryan, the third member of the Central Committee who journeyed to Kureika on the eve of the war, after Sverdlov had already had himself transferred from there—tells that in Stalin’s room “the table was piled with books and large packages of newspapers, while on a rope in the corner hung various tackle, fishing and hunting, of his own making.” Evidently, Sverdlov’s complaint about the insufficiency of books had led to action: friends added to the Kureika library. The tackle “of his own making” could not, of course, have been a rifle and firearm supplies. It consisted of nets for fish and traps for rabbits and other such game. Subsequently Stalin became neither a marksman nor a hunter, in the sporting sense of the word. Indeed, judging by general appearances, it is easier to imagine him placing traps at night than firing a gun at a bird in flight.

The Socialist-Revolutionary Karganov, who subsequently became an opera singer, places his meeting with Stalin in the Turukhansk exile in 1911 instead of 1913; in such cases chronological errors are usual. Among other things, Karganov tells how Stalin, coming out in defense of a criminal in exile called Tchaika [Sea-gull], who had robbed a peasant, argued that Tchaika could not be condemned, that Tchaika should be brought over to their side, that people of that sort were needed for the forthcoming struggle. We have already heard from Vereshchak about Koba’s partiality for criminals. On one occasion, in the course of an argument, Stalin had presumably revealed himself as an anti- Semite, resorting to coarse Georgian expressions against the Jews. Violating the traditions of the political exiles, if one is to believe Karganov, he entered into friendly relations with a police constable, the Osetin Kibirov. Replying to the reproaches of his comrades, Stalin declared that such friendly relations would not deter him, when necessary, from doing away with the constable as a political enemy. According to the same Karganov, Stalin astonished the exiles “by his complete lack of principles, his slyness and exceptional cruelty .. . Even in trifles his extraordinary ambition showed itself.” It is hard to decide at what point in this tale truth ends and invention begins. But on the whole, Karganov’s story is quite closely reminiscent of Vereshchak’s observations in the Baku prison.

For postal and other connections Kureika depended on the village Monastyrskoye, from where the threads led to Yeniseisk and beyond into Krasnoyarsk. The former exile Gaven, now among the missing, tells us that the Yeniseisk commune was in touch with political life, underground as well as lawful. It carried on correspondence with the other regions of exile as well as with Krasnoyarsk, which in its turn had contacts with the Petersburg and Moscow committees of the Bolsheviks and provided the exiles with underground documents. Even in the Arctic Circle people managed to live on party interests, divided into groups, argued until they were hoarse and sometimes to the point of fierce hatred. However, the exiles began to differ on principles only in the middle of 1914, after the arrival in the Turukhansk region of the third member of the Central Committee, the zealous Spandaryan.

As for Stalin, he kept aloof. According to Shumyatsky, “Stalin … withdrew inside himself. Preoccupied with hunting and fishing, he lived in almost complete solitude … He had practically no need for intercourse with people, and only once in a while would go to visit his friend Suren Spandaryan at the village of Monastyrskoye, returning several days later to his anchorite’s cave. He was sparing with his disjointed remarks on this or that question, whenever he happened to be at gatherings arranged by the exiles.” These lines, softened and embellished in one of the subsequent versions (even the “cave” for some reason became a “laboratory”), must be understood to mean that Stalin terminated personal relations with the majority of the exiles and avoided them. No wonder that his relations with Sverdlov were likewise severed: under the monotonous condition of exile even more adaptable persons than he were not able to avoid quarrels.

”The moral atmosphere …” Sverdlov wrote discreetly in one of his letters that happened to be published, “is not especially favorable … A number of encounters (personal conflicts), possible only under the conditions of prison and exile, their pettiness notwithstanding, have had a pretty strong effect on my nerves …” Because of such “encounters,” Sverdlov secured his transfer to another settlement. Two other Bolsheviks hastened to abandon Kureika: Goloshchekin and Medvedev, who are now likewise among the missing. Choleric, rude, consumed by ambition, Stalin was not easy to get along with.

The biographers obviously exaggerate when they say that this time an escape was physically impossible, although undoubtedly it was bound to involve serious difficulties. Stalin’s preceding escapes were not escapes in the true sense of the word, but simply unlawful departures from places of exile. To get away from Solvychegodsk, Vologda, even Narym, involved no great effort, once one decided to dispense with his “legality.” The Turukhansk Region was quite different: there one had to effect a rather difficult passage by deer or dogs, or by boat in the summertime, or by carefully hiding under the boards of a ship’s hold, provided the captain of the ship was friendly toward political exiles; in a word, the Turukhansk exile intent on escape incurred serious risks. But that these difficulties were not insurmountable was best of all demonstrated by the fact that during those years several persons did manage to escape from the Turukhansk exile. True, after the Police Department learned about their plan of escape, Sverdlov and Stalin were placed under special surveillance. But the Arctic “guards,” notoriously lazy and easily tempted by wine, had never deterred others from running away. The Turukhansk exiles enjoyed a sufficient latitude of movement for that. “Stalin often came down to the village of Monastyrskoye,” wrote Schweitzer, “where the exiles were wont to foregather. To do that, he employed illegal as well as every legal subterfuge.” The surveillance could not have been very active in the limitless Northern wastelands. Throughout the first year Stalin seemed to have been getting his bearings and taking preparatory steps rather unhurriedly: he was cautious. But in July of the following year the war broke out. The dangers of illegal existence under the conditions of a war-time régime were added to the physical and political difficulties of an escape. It was precisely that heightened risk that kept Stalin from escaping, as it deterred many others.

”This time,” writes Schweitzer, “Stalin decided to remain in exile. There he continued his work on the national question, finished the second part of his book.” Shumyatsky, too, mentions Stalin’s work on that subject. Stalin actually did write an article on the national question during the first months of exile: with regard to that we have the categorical testimony of Alliluyev. “The same year (1913), at the beginning of winter,” he writes, “I received a second letter from Stalin … An article on the national question which Stalin asked me to forward abroad to Lenin was enclosed in the envelope.” The essay could not have been very extensive if it could have been included in a letter envelope. But what became of that article? Throughout all of 1913 Lenin continued to develop and define the national program. He could not have failed to pounce greedily on Stalin’s new effort. Silence about the fate of the article simply testifies that it was considered inadequate for publication. His endeavor to pursue independently the line of the thought suggested to him at Cracow had apparently sidetracked Stalin onto the wrong road, so that Lenin found it impossible to revise the article. Only thus may be explained the astounding fact that during the ensuing three and a half years of exile the offended Stalin made no further effort to appear in the Bolshevik press.

In exile, as in prison, great events seem particularly incredible. According to Shumyatsky, “news of the war stunned our public, some of whom took utterly false notes …” “Defensist tendencies were strong among the exiles, everybody was disoriented,” writes Gaven. No wonder: even in Petersburg, recently renamed Petrograd, revolutionists were disoriented. “But Stalin’s authority among the Bolsheviks was so great,” declares Schweitzer, “that his very first letter to the exiles put an end to all doubts and steadied the vacillators.” What became of that letter? Such documents were copied as they passed from hand to hand, circulating throughout the colonies of exiles. All of the copies could not have been lost: those that fell into the hands of the police should have been found in its archives. If Stalin’s historical “letter” is not available, it is only because it was never written. Despite all its triteness, Schweitzer’s testimonial is a tragic human document. She wrote her memoirs in 1937, a quarter of a century after the events, as a compulsory assignment. The political contribution she had been forced to ascribe to Stalin belonged, as a matter of fact, although on a more modest scale, to her husband, the untamable Spandaryan, who died in exile in 1916. Of course, Schweitzer knows well enough what really happened. But the mechanism of falsification works automatically.

Closer to facts are the memoirs of Shumyatsky, published some thirteen years before Schweitzer’s article. Shumyatsky ascribed the leading role in the struggle with the patriots to Spandaryan. “He was one of the first to assume an unyielding position of ‘defeatism,’ and at the rare gatherings of the comrades sarcastically upbraided the social-patriots …” Even in the much later edition Shumyatsky, characterizing the general confusion of ideas, preserved the phrase: “The late Spandaryan saw the matter clearly and distinctly …..The others, apparently, saw the matter less clearly. True, Shumyatsky, who never visited Kureika, hastens to add that “Stalin, being completely isolated in his cave, without any vacillation at once assumed a defeatist line,” and that Stalin’s letters “supported Suren in his fight against his opponents”. But the credibility of that insertion, which attempts to insure for Stalin second place among the “defeatists,” is weakened considerably by Shumyatsky himself. “Only toward the end of 1914 and at the beginning of 1915,” he writes further, “after Stalin had managed to visit in Monastyr and support Spandaryan, did the latter cease to be subjected to the attacks of the opposition groups.” Had Stalin assumed his internationalist position openly only after meeting with Spandaryan rather than at the beginning of the war? In his attempt to mask Stalin’s prolonged silence, but, as a matter of fact, thereby underscoring it more than ever, Shumyatsky eliminated from the new edition all reference to the fact that Stalin’s visit to Monastyrskoye occurred “only at the end of 1914 and at the beginning of 1915”. As a matter of fact, the journey took place at the end of February, 1915, when, thanks to the experience of seven months of the war, not only the vacillators but even many active “patriots” had managed to recover from the opiate. As a matter of fact, it could not have been otherwise. The leading Bolsheviks of Petersburg, Moscow, and the provinces met Lenin’s theses with perplexity and alarm. Not one of them accepted them as they were. There was therefore not the slightest reason for expecting that Stalin’s slow and conservative mind would independently reach the conclusions which meant a complete upheaval in the labor movement.

Throughout his term of exile only two documents became known in which Stalin’s position on the war found reflection: these were a personal letter of his to Lenin and his signature to a collective declaration of the Bolshevik group. The personal letter, written on the twenty-seventh of February from the village of Monastyrskoye, is Stalin’s first and apparently only communication to Lenin throughout the war. We quote it in its entirety:

My greetings to you, dear Ilyich, warm, warm greetings. Greetings to Zinoviev, greetings to Nadezhda Konstantinovna.[1] How are you, how is your health? I live, as before, chew my bread, completing half of my term. It is rather dull, but it can’t be helped. But how are things with you? It must be much livelier where you are … I read recently Kropotkin’s[2] articles—the old fool must have completely lost his mind. I also read a short article by Plekhanov in Ryech[3]—an incorrigible old gossip. Ekh-mah! And the Liquidators with their deputy-agents of the Free Economic Society? There’s no one to beat them, the devil take me! Is it possible that they will get away with it and go unpunished? Make us happy and let us know that in the near future a newspaper will appear that will lash them across their mugs, and do it regularly, and without getting tired. If it should occur to you to write, do so to the address: Turukhan Territory, Yeniseisk Province, Village Monastyrskoye, for Suren Spandaryan. Your Koba. Timofeyi [Spandaryan] asks that his sour greetings be conveyed to Guesde,[4] Sembat[5] and Vandervelde[6] on their glorious—ha-ha—post of ministers.

[1] Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife.—C. M.

[2] Prince Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1842-1921) Russian Anarchist, scientist, historian, critic, social philosopher, who lived in exile in London at the time.—C. M.

[3] Ryech, daily newspaper of the Kadets (Constitutional Democrats), a bourgeois liberal party.—C. M.

[4] Jules Basile Guesde (1845-1922), ex-Left-Wing leader of French Socialist Party, was Minister Without Portfolio (August, 1914-October, 1915).

[5] Marcel Sembat (1862-1922), French reformist Socialist politician, Minister of Public Works (1914-1916).—C. M.

[6] Emile Vandervelde (1866-1938), Belgian reformist Socialist, chairman of the International Socialist Bureau, Minister of State during World War I, held various cabinet posts. —C. M.

This letter, obviously influenced by conversations with Spandaryan, offers essentially very little for an evaluation of Stalin’s political position. The aged Kropotkin, theoretician of pure anarchy, became a rabid chauvinist at the beginning of the war. Plekhanov, whom even the Mensheviks completely repudiated, did not cut any better figure. Vandervelde, Guesde and Sembat were too exposed a target in their role of bourgeois ministers. Stalin’s letter does not contain the slightest hint of the new problems which at the time dominated the thoughts of revolutionary Marxists. The attitude toward pacifism, the slogans of “defeatism” and of “transforming the imperialist war into the civil war,” the problem of forming a new international—these were then the pivotal points of innumerable debates. Lenin’s ideas were far from popular. What would have been more natural than for Stalin to suggest to Lenin his agreement with him, if that agreement were a fact? If one is to believe Schweitzer, it was here, at Monastyrskoye, that Stalin first became acquainted with Lenin’s theses. “It is hard to express,” she writes in the style of Beriya, “with what feeling of joy, confidence and triumph Stalin read Lenin’s theses, which confirmed his own thoughts …” Why then did he not drop a single hint about those theses in his letter? Had he worked independently over the problems of the new International, he could not have refrained from sharing at least a few words with his teacher about his own conclusions or from consulting him about some of the most trying questions. But there is no evidence of that. Stalin assimilated from Lenin’s ideas those which suited his own outlook. The rest seemed to him the dubious music of the future, if not a foreign “tempest in a teapot”. It was with these views that he subsequently came to the February Revolution [of March. 1917].

The letter from Monastyrskoye, poor in content, with its artificial tone of jaunty bravado (”the devil take me,” “ha-ha” and the like), reveals a lot more than its author intended to reveal. “It is rather dull, but that can’t be helped.” A man capable of living an intense intellectual life does not write like that. “If it should occur to you to write, do so to the address of …” A man who really values an exchange of theoretical thoughts, does not write like that. The letter bears the characteristic threefold stamp: slyness, stupidity and vulgarity. No systematic correspondence with Lenin developed throughout his four years of exile, despite the importance Lenin attached to contacts with likeminded people and his penchant for keeping up a correspondence.

In the autumn of 1915 Lenin asked the émigré Karpinsky: “ I have a great favor to ask: find out … the surname of ‘Koba’ ( Joseph Dj …?? we forgot). Very important!!” Karpinsky replied: “Joseph Djugashvili”. What was it about: a new money order, or a letter? The need to make inquiry about his surname certainly shows that there was no constant correspondence.

The other document which bears Stalin’s signature is an address by a group of exiles to the editorial board of a legal journal devoted to workers’ insurance:

Voprosy Strakhovaniya [7] should also devote all its diligence and endeavor to the cause of insuring the working class of our country with ideas against the thoroughly corrupting anti-proletarian preachments of Messrs. Potressovs, Levitskies, and Plekhanovs, which run radically counter to the principles of internationalism.

[7] Although ostensibly devoted to workers’ insurance, Voprosy Strakhovaniya [Insurance Problems], founded October 29, 1913, as an outgrowth of Pravda ’s insurance department discussed general politics as well, and, after Pravda ’s suppression by the tsarist authorities during the war, published articles on the dangerous war question.—C. M.

This was undoubtedly a declaration against social patriotism, but, again, strictly within the limits of ideas common not only among Bolsheviks but even among Left-Wing Mensheviks. The letter, which, judging from the style, must have been written by Kamenev, was dated March 12, 1916—that is, at a time when revolutionary pressure had already gained considerable impetus while patriotic pressure had largely relaxed.

Kamenev and the convicted deputies arrived for their exile at Turukhansk in the summer of 1915. The deputies’ behavior at the trial continued to be a source of great controversy among Party members. About eighteen Bolsheviks, including four members of the Central Committee—Spandaryan, Sverdlov, Stalin and Kamenev—came together at Monastryskoye. Petrovsky delivered a report on the trial and Kamenev supplemented it. The participants of the discussion, relates Samoilov, “pointed to the mistakes we had made at the trial: Spandaryan did it particularly sharply, all the others expressing themselves more indulgently.” Samoilov does not mention at all Stalin’s participation in the discussion. But then Spandaryan’s widow was forced to ascribe to Stalin what had actually been done by her husband. “After the discussion,” continued, Samoilov, “a resolution was passed which, on the whole, approved … the behaviour of the fraction at the trial.” Such indulgence was very far from the irreconcilability of Lenin, who publicly castigated Kamenev’s behavior as “unworthy of a revolutionary Social-Democrat.” At Lenin’s request, Shklovsky, from Berne, wrote to Samoilov, at Monastyrskoye, in roundabout terms: “I am very glad that you have no desire to quarrel with my family, yet how many unpleasantnesses he (Kamenev) caused us (and not he alone) … Any man can make a mistake or do something foolish, but he must rectify his mistake at least through a public apology, if he and his friends have any regard for my honor and the honor of my kinsmen.” Samoilov explains that the words “my family” and “my kinsmen” must be understood as “the Party Central Committee”. The letter was in the nature of an ultimatum. However, neither. Kamenev nor the deputies made the declaration Lenin demanded of them. And there is no reason for assuming Stalin’s support of that demand, although Shklovsky’s letter was received at Monastyrskoye just before the conference.

Stalin’s tolerance of the deputies’ behavior was essentially a discreet expression of solidarity. In the face of a trial pregnant with dire consequences, Lenin’s sharpened formulae must have seemed doubly out of place: what is the sense of making sacrifices for something you regard as a mistake? In the past Stalin himself had not displayed any inclination to use the prisoners’ dock as a revolutionary tribune: while the trial of the Baku demonstrators was pending, he had resorted to rather dubious tricks in order to set himself apart from the other defendants. He judged Kamenev’s tactic at the trial as a stratagem rather than as an opportunity for political agitation. Anyway, he remained an intimate friend of Kamenev’s throughout their term of exile and during’ the revolution. They stand together on the group photograph taken in Monastyrskoye. Twelve years would pass before Stalin, not as a matter of principle, merely as a weapon in the struggle for personal power, would bring out Kamenev’s behavior at the trial as a dire accusation against him. However, the tone of Shklovsky’s letter should have intimated to Stalin that the issue was far more crucial than he had supposed and that he could no longer continue marking time. It was precisely because he understood this that he wrote the above-cited letter to Lenin; its free and easy form was intended to cover up his unwillingness to commit himself politically.

In 1915 Lenin tried to publish in Moscow a legal Marxist anthology, in order to express at least in an undertone the Bolshevik Party’s views on the war. The anthology was held up by the censor, but the articles were preserved and were published after the revolution. Besides Lenin, we find among the authors the literary Stepanov, Olminsky (whom we already know), the comparatively recent Bolshevik Milutin, the Conciliator Nogin, all émigrés. We also find there an article entitled, “On the Split of the German Social-Democracy,” by Sverdlov. But there was no contribution to this anthology by Stalin, who lived under the same conditions of exile as Sverdlov. That might be explained either by Stalin’s apprehension that he would not be in tune with the others or by his annoyance at his failure to place his article on nationalities: touchiness and capriciousness were just as much a part of him as cautiousness.

Shumyatsky states that Stalin was called to the colors while in exile, apparently in 1916, when the older ages were being mobilized (Stalin was then going on thirty-seven), but was not inducted into the army because of his unbending left arm. Patiently he bided his time beyond the Arctic Circle, fishing, setting his traps for rabbits, reading and possibly also writing. “It is rather dull, but it can’t be helped.” A recluse, taciturn, choleric, he was far from the central figure among the exiles. “Clearer than many others,” writes Shumyatsky, a Stalin adherent, “in the memory of the Turukhanites is the monumental figure of Suren Spandaryan … the intransigent revolutionary Marxist and magnificent organizer.” Spandaryan reached Turukhansk on the eve of the war, a year later than Stalin. “ ‘What peace and quiet here!’ “ he was wont to remark sarcastically. “ ‘Everybody agrees with everybody else on everything—the Essars, the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the Anarchists … Don’t you know that the Petersburg proletariat is listening to the voice of the exiles? ……Suren was the first to assume an anti-patriotic position and made everybody listen to him. But in personal influence on his comrades Sverdlov held first place. “Lively and sociable,” an extrovert constitutionally incapable of being self-centered, Sverdlov always rallied the others, gathered important news and circulated through the various colonies of exiles, and organized an exiles’ co-operative, besides conducting systematic observations at the meteorological station. The relations between Spandaryan and Sverdlov came to be strained. The exiles grouped themselves around these two figures. Although both groups fought together against the administration, rivalry “for spheres of influence,” as Shumyatsky puts it, never stopped. It is not easy to ascertain today that struggle’s basis in principles. Antagonistic to Sverdlov, Stalin supported Spandaryan discreetly and at arm’s length.

In the first edition of his memoirs Shumyatsky wrote: “The administration of the region realized that Suren Spandaryan was the most active of the revolutionists and regarded him as their leader.” In a subsequent edition this sentence was stretched to include two persons: Sverdlov as well as Spandaryan. Constable Kibirov, with whom Stalin had presumably established friendly relations, had established a prying surveillance of Spandaryan and Sverdlov, considering them “the ringleaders of all the exiles”. Losing for a time the official thread, Shumyatsky entirely forgot to mention Stalin in that connection. The reason is not hard to understand. The general level of the Turukhansk exiles was considerably above the average. Here were held simultaneously the men who constituted the essential nucleus of the Russian center: Kamenev, Stalin, Spandaryan, Sverdlov, Goloshchekin, and several other prominent Bolsheviks. There was no official Party machine in exile and it was impossible to lead anonymously, pulling the strings behind the scenes. Everyone was in full view of the others. Slyness, firmness and persistence were not enough to win these thoroughly experienced people: one had to be cultured, an independent thinker and a skilled debater. Spandaryan, apparently, was distinguished for the superior daring of his thinking, Kamenev for his broader scholarship and greater catholicity of views, Sverdlov for his greater receptivity, initiative and flexibility. It was for that reason that Stalin “became self-centered,” content with monosyllabic remarks, which Shumyatsky thought of describing as “pointed” only in a later edition of his composition.

Did Stalin study in exile and what did he study? He had long passed the age when one is satisfied with aimless and random reading. He could advance only by studying specific questions, taking notes, trying to formulate his own ideas in writing. Yet apart from the reference to his article on the national question, no one has anything to say about Stalin’s intellectual life during those four years. Sverdlov, who was in no sense a theoretician or a literary, wrote five articles during those years, translated from foreign languages, contributed regularly to the Siberian press. “In that way my affairs are not in bad shape,” he wrote in an optimistic tone to one of his friends. After the death of Ordzhonikidze, who had absolutely no predilection for theory, his wife wrote about her late husband’s prison years: “He studied and read without end. Long excerpts from what he had read during that period were preserved in the thick oilcloth- bound copybook issued to Sergo by the prison authorities.” Every revolutionist brought out from prison and exile such oilcloth-bound copybooks. True, much was lost during escapes and searches. But from his last exile Stalin could have brought out anything he liked and under the best of conditions, and in the years to come it was not he who was subjected to searches but, on the contrary, he who subjected others to them. Yet it is useless to seek any traces of his intellectual life throughout that entire period of solitude and leisure. For four years—the years of the revolutionary movement’s resurgence in Russia, of the World War, of the international Social-Democracy’s collapse, of a vehement struggle of ideas in Socialism, of laying the groundwork for the new International—it is impossible that throughout that entire period Stalin did not take pen in hand. Yet in all that he then wrote there does not seem to be even a single line that could have been used to enhance his latter-day reputation. The years of war, the years of paving the way for the October Revolution are a blank space in the history of Stalin’s ideas.

Revolutionary internationalism found its finished expression under the pen of the “émigré” Lenin. The arena of a single country, moreover, of backward Russia, was too limited to permit the proper evaluation of a world-wide perspective. Just as the émigré Marx needed London, which was in his day the hub of capitalism, in order to integrate German philosophy and the French Revolution with English economics, so Lenin had to be during the war at the focal point of European and world events, in order to draw the decisive revolutionary inferences from the premises of Marxism. Manuilsky, the official leader of the Communist International after Bukharin and preceding Dimitrov, wrote in 1922: “… Sotsial-Demokrat [The Social-Democrat], published in Switzerland by Lenin and Zinoviev, and the Paris Golos [The Voice] (Nashe Slovo [Our Word] ), published by Trotsky, will be to the future historian of the Third International the basic fragments out of which was forged the new revolutionary ideology of the international proletariat.” It is cheerfully conceded that Manuilsky overestimated Trotsky’s role. However, he did not even have a pretext for naming Stalin. But then, years later he would do his utmost to rectify that omission.

Tranquilized by the monotonous rhythms of the snowy waste, the exiles were far from expecting the events that transpired in February [March], 1917. All of them were caught by surprise, notwithstanding that they always lived by their faith in the inevitability of revolution. “At first,” writes Samoilov, “we seemed to have suddenly forgotten our differences of opinion … Political disagreements and mutual antipathies seemed suddenly to have vanished …” That interesting confession is confirmed by all the publications, speeches and practical steps of that time. The barriers between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, between the Internationalists and the Patriots, fell down. The whole country was flooded with buoyant but nearsighted and verbose conciliationism. People floundered in the welter of heroic phrases, the principal element of the February Revolution, especially during its first weeks. Groups of exiles started from all the ends of Siberia, merged into one stream and flowed westward in an atmosphere of exultant intoxication.

At one of the meetings in Siberia, Kamenev, who sat in the praesidium together with Liberals, Populists and Mensheviks, as it was later told, joined in signing a telegram which greeted the Grand Duke Michael Romanov on the occasion of his presumably magnanimous but, as a matter of fact, cowardly renunciation of the throne, pending the decision of the Constituent Assembly. It is not impossible that Kamenev, sodden with sentimentality, thought it best not to worry his colleagues in the praesidium with a disrespectful refusal. In the great confusion of those days no one paid the slightest heed to that, and Stalin, whom no one even thought of including in the praesidium, did not protest against Kamenev’s fall from grace until a pitiless struggle began between them.

The first great point on the way, which contained a considerable number of workers, was Krasnoyarsk. Here a Soviet of deputies was already in existence. The local Bolsheviks, who were members of the general organization together with the Mensheviks, awaited directives from the leaders who were traveling through. Caught entirely by the wave of unification, these leaders did not even require the establishment of an independent Bolshevik organization. What was the use? The Bolsheviks, like the Mensheviks, stood for supporting the provisional government which was headed by the Liberal Prince Lvov. Differences of opinion were also voided on the question of the war: it was necessary to defend Revolutionary Russia! In such a mood Stalin, Kamenev and others were proceeding toward Petrograd. “The path along the railroad,” recalls Samoilov, was “extraordinary and tumultuous, a mass of welcoming demonstrations, meetings and the like.” At most stations the exiles were met by the exultant populace with military bands playing the Marseillaise[8]: the day of the Internationale had not yet dawned. At the larger railway stations there were gala banquets. The amnestied had to “talk, talk without end”. Many lost their voices, became ill from fatigue, refused to leave their cars; “but even in the cars we were not left in peace.”

[8] The Marseillaise was the battle-hymn common to all opponents of tsarist autocracy, in the patriotic and republican tradition of the Great French Revolution; whereas, the Internationale (written by Eugene Pottier in 1871) was confined exclusively to Socialists, champions of a new social order predicated on the self-liberation of all toilers throughout the world, irrespective of race or nationality, from exploitation and oppression.—C. M.

Stalin did not lose his voice, for he made no speeches. There were many other, more skilled orators, among them the puny Sverdlov with his powerful bass. Stalin remained on the sidelines, sullen, alarmed by the flood of nature at springtide and, as always, malevolent. He was again being elbowed out of the way by persons of far smaller caliber. He had already established a record of well-nigh a score of years of revolutionary activity, intersected by unavoidable arrests and resumed after escapes. Almost ten years had passed since Koba had abandoned “the stagnant morass” of Tiflis for industrial Baku. He had worked in the capital of the oil industry for nearly eight months, he had spent nearly six months in the Baku prison, nearly nine months in the Vologda exile. A month of underground activity was paid for with two months of punishment. After escaping he had again worked in the underground for nearly nine months, spent about six months in prison, stayed nine months in exile—a somewhat more favorable ratio. At the end of exile—less than two months of illegal work, nearly three months of prison, nearly two months in Vologda province: two and a half months of punishment for one month of activity. Again two months of underground, nearly four months of prison and exile. Another escape. More than half a year of revolutionary activity, then—prison and exile, this time until the February Revolution; that is, lasting four years. On the whole, of the nineteen years of his participation in the revolutionary movement, he spent two and three quarters years in prison, five and three quarters years in exile. That was not a bad proportion; most professional revolutionists spent much longer periods in prison.

During those nineteen years Stalin did not emerge as a figure of either primary or even secondary rank. He was unknown. Referring in 1911 to Koba’s intercepted letter from Solvychegodsk to Moscow, the chief of the Tiflis Okhrana wrote a detailed report on Joseph Djugashvili that contained neither notable facts nor striking features, barring perhaps the mention that “Soso,” alias “Koba” had begun his career as a Menshevik. At the same time, referring to Gurgen (Tskhakaya), who was mentioned incidentally in the same letter, the gendarme remarked that the latter “has long been one of the important revolutionists …..According to this record, Gurgen was arrested “together with the famous revolutionist Bogdan Knuniants.” The latter was not only a fellow-Georgian but the same age as Koba. As for the “fame” of Djugashvili himself, there is not even the remotest suggestion of it.

Two years later, characterizing in detail the structure of the Bolshevik Party and its general staff, the Director of the Police Department remarked in passing that Sverdlov and “a certain Joseph Djugashvili” had been inducted by co-optation into the Bureau of the Central Committee. The expression, “a certain” indicates that Djugashvili’s name did not yet mean anything to the Chief of Police in 1913, notwithstanding such a source of information as Malinovsky. Until recently, Stalin’s revolutionary biography up to March, 1917, was quite unremarkable. Scores of professional revolutionists, if not hundreds, had done the same sort of work as he, some better, others worse. Industrious Moscow researchers have figured out that during the three years, 1906-1909, Koba wrote sixty-seven appeals and newspaper articles, or less than two a month. Not one of these articles, which were no more than a mere rehash of other people’s ideas for his Caucasian readers, was ever translated from the Georgian language or reprinted in the leading organs of the party or the faction. There is no article by Stalin or any reference to him in any list of contributors to the Petersburg, Moscow or foreign publications of that period, legal or illegal, newspapers, magazines, or anthologies. He continued to be regarded not as a Marxist writer, but as a small-time propagandist and organizer.

In 1912, when his articles began to appear more or less regularly in the Bolshevik press of Petersburg, Koba gave himself the pseudonym Stalin, taking it from the word for steel, just as Rosenfeld before him had taken the pseudonym Kamenev from the word for stone: it was fashionable among young Bolsheviks to choose hard pseudonyms. Articles under Stalin’s signature do not arrest anyone’s attention: they are devoid of personality, barring crudity of exposition. Beyond the narrow circle of leading Bolsheviks, no one knew who the author of the articles was, and hardly anyone wondered about it. In January, 1913, Lenin wrote in a carefully considered note on Bolshevism for the famous Rubakin bibliographic reference book: “The principal Bolshevik writers are: G. Zinoviev, V. Ilyin,[9] Yu. Kamenev,[10] P. Orlovsky, and others.” It could not have occurred to Lenin to name Stalin among the “principal writers” of Bolshevism, although at that very time he was abroad and at work on his “nationality” article.

[9] Lenin.—C. M.

[10] L. B. Kamenev.—C. M.

Pyatnitsky, who was uninterruptedly connected with the entire history of the Party, with its foreign staff as well as with its underground agency in Russia, with the literary men as well as with the illegal transporters,[11] in his careful and on the whole conscientious memoirs, embracing the period 1896-1917, discusses all more or less prominent Bolsheviks but never once mentions Stalin; that name is not included even in the index at the end of the book. This fact deserves all the more attention because Pyatnitsky was far from hostile to Stalin; on the contrary, he remains to this day in the second rank of his entourage. In a large anthology of materials of the Moscow Okhrana, which covers the history of Bolshevism from 1903 to 1917, Stalin is mentioned three times: with reference to his co-optation into the Central Committee, with reference to his appointment to the Bureau of the Central Committee, and with reference to his participation in the Cracow Conference. There is nothing there about his work, not a word of evaluation, no mention of a single distinguishing individual trait.

[11] See Glossary.

Stalin emerges for the first time within range of police vision, as within range of party vision, not as a personality but as a member of the Bolshevik Center. In the gendarme reports, as in the revolutionary memoirs, he is never mentioned personally as a leader, as an initiator, as a writer in connection with his own ideas or actions, but always as part of the Party machine—as member of the local Committee, as member of the Central Committee, as one of the contributors to a newspaper, as one of many others in a list of names, and then never in the first place. It was no accident that he found himself on the Central Committee considerably later than others of his age, and not through election but by way of co-optation.

This telegram from Perm was sent to Lenin in Switzerland: “Fraternal greetings. Leaving today for Petrograd. Kamenev, Muranov, Stalin.” The thought of sending the telegram was, of course, Kamenev’s. Stalin signed last. That trinity felt itself bound by ties of solidarity. The amnesty had liberated the best forces of the Party and Stalin thought with trepidation of the revolutionary capital. He needed Kamenev’s relative popularity and Muranov’s title of deputy. Thus the three of them together arrived in a Petrograd shaken by revolution. “His name,” writes Ch. Windecke, one of his German biographers, “was at that time known only in narrow Party circles. He was not greeted like Lenin was a month later … by an inspired crowd of the people with red banners and music. He was not greeted, as two months later Trotsky, hurrying from America, had been, by a deputation which rode out to greet him halfway and which carried him on its shoulders. He arrived without a sound and without any noise, and sat down to work … Outside the borders of Russia no one had any idea of his existence.”

Chapter VII: The Year 1917[edit source]

THIS was the most important year in the life of the country and of Joseph Djugashvili’s generation of professional revolutionists. As a touchstone, that year tested ideas, parties, men.

At Petersburg, now called Petrograd, Stalin found a state of affairs he had not expected. Bolshevism had dominated the labor movement prior to the war’s outbreak, especially in the capital. In March, 1917, the Bolsheviks in the Soviet were an insignificant minority. How had that happened? The impressive mass that had taken part in the movement of 1911-1914 actually amounted to no more than a small fraction of the working class. Revolution had made millions, not mere hundreds of thousands, spring to their feet. Because of mobilization, nearly forty per cent of these workers were new. The old-timers were at the front, playing there the part of the revolutionary yeast; their places at the factories were taken by nondescript newcomers fresh from the country, by peasant lads and peasant women. These novices had to go through the same political experiences, however briefly, as the vanguard of the preceding period. The February Revolution in Petrograd was led by class-conscious workers, Bolsheviks mostly, but not by the Bolshevik Party. Leadership by rank-and-file Bolsheviks could secure victory for the insurrection but not political power for the Party.

Even less auspicious was the state of affairs in the provinces. The wave of exultant illusions and indiscriminate fraternization, coupled with the political naiveté of the recently-awakened masses, swept in the natural conditions for the flourishing of petty bourgeois socialism, Menshevism and Populism. Workers— and following their lead, the soldiers, too—were electing to the soviet those who, at least in words, were opposed not only to the monarchy but to the bourgeoisie as well. The Mensheviks and the Populists, having gathered very nearly all of the intellectuals into their fold, had a countless number of agitators at their disposal, all of them proclaiming the need of unity, fraternity and other equally attractive civic virtues. The spokesmen for the Army were for the most part the Essars, those traditional guardians of the peasantry, which alone sufficed to bolster that party’s authority among the proletarians of recent vintage. Hence, the dominance of the compromisers’ parties seemed assured—at least, to themselves.

Worst of all, the course of events had caught the Bolshevik Party napping. None of its tried and trusted leaders were in Petrograd. The Central Committee’s Bureau there consisted of two workingmen, Shlyapnikov and Zalutsky, and one college boy, Molotov. The “manifesto” they issued in the name of the Central Committee after the victory of February called upon “the workers of plants and factories, and the insurrectionary troops as well, immediately to elect their chosen representatives to the provisional revolutionary government.” However, the authors of this “manifesto” themselves attached no practical significance to this call of theirs. Furthest from their intentions was the launching of an independent struggle for power. Instead, they were getting ready to settle down to the more modest role of a Leftist opposition for many years to come.

From the very beginning the masses repudiated the liberal bourgeoisie, deeming it no different from the nobility and the bureaucracy. It was out of the question, for example, that either workers or soldiers should vote for a Kadet. The power was entirely in the hands of the Socialist Compromisers, who had the backing of the people in arms. But, lacking confidence in themselves, the Compromisers yielded their power to the bourgeoisie. The latter was detested by the masses and politically isolated. The régime based itself on quid pro quo. The workers, and not only the Bolsheviks, looked upon the Provisional Government as their enemy. Resolutions urging the transfer of governmental power to the Soviets passed almost unanimously at factory meetings. The Bolshevik Dingelstead, subsequently a victim of the purge, has testified: “There was not a single meeting of workers that would have refused to pass such a resolution proposed by us …” But, yielding to the pressure of the Compromisers, the Petrograd Committee of the Bolshevik Party stopped this campaign. The advanced workers tried their utmost to throw off the tutelage on top, but they did not know how to parry the learned arguments about the bourgeois nature of the revolution. Several shades of opinion clashed in Bolshevism itself, but the necessary inferences from the various arguments were not drawn. The Party was in a state of abysmal chaos. “No one knew what were the slogans of the Bolsheviks,” the prominent Saratov Bolshevik Antonov subsequently recalled, “It was a most distasteful spectacle.”

The twenty-two days that elapsed between Stalin’s arrival from Siberia [Sunday, March 12/2s] and Lenin’s from Switzerland [Monday, April 3/16] are exceptionally significant for the light they throw on Stalin’s political complexion. He was suddenly thrust into a wide-open field of action. Neither Lenin nor Zinoviev was yet in Petrograd. Kamenev was there, the Kamenev compromised by his recent behavior in court and generally renowned for his opportunistic tendencies. There was also young Sverdlov, scarcely known in the Party, more of an organizer than a politico. The furious Spandaryan was no more: he had died in Siberia. As in 1912, so now again Stalin was for the time being, if not the leading, at least one of the two leading, Bolsheviks in Petrograd. The disoriented party expected clear instructions. It was no longer possible to evade issues by keeping still. Stalin had to give answers to the most urgent questions—about the Soviets, the government, the war, the land. His answers were published; they speak for themselves.

As soon as he reached Petrograd, which was one vast mass meeting in those days, Stalin went directly to Bolshevik headquarters. The three members of the Central Committee Bureau, assisted by several writers, were deciding Pravda ’s complexion. Although the Party leadership was in their hands, they went about the job helplessly. Letting others crack their voices addressing workers’ and soldiers’ meetings, Stalin entrenched himself at headquarters. More than four years ago, after the Prague conference, he had been co-opted into the Central Committee. Since then much water had run over the dam. But the exile from Kureika had the knack of keeping his hold on the Party machine: he still regarded his old mandate as valid. Aided by Kamenev and Muranov, he first of all removed from leadership the “Leftist” Central Committee Bureau and the Pravda editorial board. He went about it rather rudely, the more so since he had no fear of resistance and was in a hurry to show that he was boss.

”The comrades who arrived,” Shlyapnikov wrote later, “were critical and negative in their attitude toward our work.” They did not find fault with its colorlessness and indecisiveness, but, on the contrary, with its persistent effort to draw the line between themselves and the Compromisers. Like Kamenev, Stalin stood closer to the Soviet majority. Pravda, after passing into the hands of the new editorial board, declared as early as March 15 (28) that the Bolsheviks would resolutely support the Provisional Government “in so far as it fights reaction or counter-revolution”. The paradox of this declaration was that the only important agent of counter-revolution was the Provisional Government itself. Stalin’s stand on war showed the same mettle: as long as the German Army remained subservient to its Emperor, the Russian soldier should “staunchly stand at his post, answering bullet for bullet and salvo for salvo”. As if all there was to the problem of imperialism was the Emperor! The article was Kamenev’s, but Stalin raised not the slightest objection to it. If he differed at all from Kamenev in those days, it was in being more evasive than his partner. “All defeatism,” Pravda explained, “or rather what the venal press stigmatized by that name under the aegis of tsarist censorship, died the moment the first revolutionary regiment appeared on the streets of Petrograd.” This was an outright disclaimer of Lenin, who had preached defeatism out of reach of the tsarist censorship, and at the same time a reaffirmation of Kamenev’s declaration at the trial of the Duma fraction. But on this occasion it was countersigned by Stalin. As for “the first revolutionary regiment,” all its appearance meant was a step from Byzantine barbarism to imperialist civilization.

”The day the transformed Pravda appeared …” recounts Shlyapnikov, “was a day of triumph for the Defensists. The whole Tauride Palace, from the businessmen of the Duma Committee to the Executive Committee, the very heart of revolutionary democracy, buzzed with but one news item—the triumph of the moderate and sensible Bolsheviks over the extremists. In the Executive Committee itself we were greeted with malicious smiles … When that issue of Pravda reached the factories, it created confusion and indignation among our Party members and sympathizers, spiteful satisfaction among our opponents . .. The indignation in the outlying districts was stupendous, and, when the proletarians found out that Pravda had been taken in tow by three of its former managing editors recently arrived from Siberia, they demanded the expulsion of the latter from the Party.”

Shlyapnikov’s account was retouched and softened by him in 1925 under the pressure of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev, the “triumvirate” that then ruled the Party. Yet it does record clearly enough Stalin’s initial steps in the arena of the Revolution and the reaction to them of class-conscious workers. The sharp protest of the Viborgites, which Pravda was soon obliged to publish in its own columns, forced the editorial board henceforth to formulate its opinions more circumspectly but not to change its policy.

Soviet politics was shot through and through with compromise and equivocation. The great need of the masses was above all to find someone who would call a spade a spade; that is, of course, the sum and substance of revolutionary politics: Everybody shied from that, for fear of upsetting the delicate structure of dual power.

The greatest amount of falsehood accumulated around the war issue. On March 14 (27) the Executive Committee proposed to the Soviet its draft of the manifesto “To the Peoples of the World.” This document called upon the workers of Germany and Austria-Hungary to refuse “to serve as a tool of conquest and violence in the hands of kings, landowners and bankers.” But the Soviet leaders themselves had not the slightest intention of breaking with the kings of Great Britain and Belgium, the Emperor of Japan, or the bankers and landowners, their own and those of all the Entente countries. The newspaper of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Miliukov noted with satisfaction that “the appeal is blossoming into an ideology shared by us and our allies.” That was quite right—and quite in the spirit of the French Socialist ministers since the outbreak of war. During practically the very same hours, Lenin was writing to Petrograd by way of Stockholm that the revolution was threatened with the danger of having the old imperialist policy camouflaged behind new revolutionary phrases. “I shall even prefer to split with anyone at all in our Party rather than yield to social-patriotism …” But in those days Lenin’s ideas did not have a single champion.

Besides marking a victory for the imperialist Miliukov over the petty bourgeois democrats, the unanimous adoption of this manifesto by the Petrograd Soviet meant the triumph of Stalin and Kamenev over the Left Wing Bolsheviks. All bowed their heads before the discipline of patriotic hypocrisy. “We welcome wholeheartedly,” Stalin wrote in Pravda, “the Soviet’s appeal of yesterday … This appeal, if it reaches the broad masses, will undoubtedly bring back hundreds and thousands of workers to the forgotten slogan: Workers of the world, unite! “ There was really no lack of similar appeals in the West, and all they did was to help the ruling classes preserve the mirage of a war for democracy.

Stalin’s article on the manifesto is not only highly revealing as to his stand on this particular issue but also of his way of thinking in general. His organic opportunism, forced by time and circumstance to seek temporary cover in abstract revolutionary principles, made short shrift of these principles when it came to an issue. He began his article by repeating almost word for word Lenin’s argumentation that even after the overthrow of tsarism, Russia’s participation in the war would continue to be imperialistic. Nevertheless, when he came to draw his practical conclusions, he not only welcomed the social-patriotic manifesto with equivocal qualifications but, following Kamenev’s lead, rejected out of hand revolutionary mobilization of the masses against war. “First of all,” he wrote, “it is undeniable that the bare slogan, ‘Down with War!’ is utterly inapplicable as a practical solution …..And his suggested solution was: “pressure on the Provisional Government with the demand that it immediately express its readiness to start peace negotiations …” With the aid of friendly “pressure” on the bourgeoisie, to whom conquest was the whole purpose of the war, Stalin wanted to achieve peace “on the basis of the self- determination of nations.” Since the beginning of the war Lenin had been directing his hardest blows against precisely this sort of philistine utopianism. No amount of “pressure” can make the bourgeoisie stop being the bourgeoisie: it must be overthrown. But Stalin stopped short before this conclusion, in sheer fright—just like the compromisers.

No less significant was Stalin’s article, “On the Abolition of National Limitations.” [in Pravda, April 7 (March 25), 1917.] His basic idea, acquired from propagandist pamphlets as far back as Tiflis Seminary days, was that national oppression was a relic of medievalism. Imperialism, viewed as the domination of strong nations over weak ones, was a conception quite beyond his ken. “The social basis of national oppression,” he wrote, “the force that inspires it, is the degenerating landed aristocracy … In England, where the landed aristocracy shares its power with the bourgeoisie … national oppression is softer, less inhuman, provided of course we do not take into consideration the special consideration that during the war, when the power passed into the hands of the landlords, national oppression increased considerably (persecution of the Irish, the Hindus).” The absurd assertions with which his article bristles—that supposedly racial and national equality is secure in the democracies; that in England during the war the power had passed to the landlords; that the overthrow of the feudal aristocracy would mean the abolition of national oppression—are shot through and through with the spirit of vulgar democratism and parochial obtuseness. Not a word to the effect that imperialism was responsible for national oppression on a scale of which feudalism was utterly incapable, if only because of its indolent provincial make-up. In theory he had not moved forward since the beginning of the century; more than that, he seemed to have entirely forgotten his own work on the national question, written early in 1913 under Lenin’s fescue.

”To the extent that the Russian Revolution has won,” the article concluded, “it has already created actual conditions [for national freedom] by having overthrown the sovereignty of feudalism and serfdom …” As far as our author was concerned the Revolution was already completely a thing of the past. In prospect, quite in the spirit of Miliukov and Tseretelli, were “the drafting of laws” and “their statutory ratification.” Yet still untouched was not only capitalistic exploitation, the overthrow of which had not even occurred to Stalin, but even the ownership of land by the landed gentry, something he himself had designated as the basis of national oppression. The government was run by Russian landlords like Rodzianko and Prince Lvov. Such was—hard though it is to believe even now!—Stalin’s historical and political slant a mere ten days before Lenin was to proclaim the course toward socialist revolution.

The All-Russian Conference of Bolsheviks, convoked by the Central Committee Bureau, opened in Petrograd on March 28, simultaneously with the conference of representatives of Russia’s most important Soviets. Although fully a month had elapsed since the Revolution, the Party was still in the throes of utter confusion, which was further enhanced by the leadership of the past two weeks. Differentiation of political trends had not yet crystallized. In exile that had needed the arrival of Spandaryan; now the Party had to wait for the arrival of Lenin. Rabid chauvinists like Voitinsky and Eli’ava, among others, continued to call themselves Bolsheviks and took part in the Party Conference alongside those who considered themselves internationalists. The patriots vented their sentiments far more explicitly and boldly than the semi-patriots, who constantly backed down and apologized. Since a majority of the delegates belonged to the Swamp [middle-of-the-roaders of unstable views], their natural spokesman was Stalin. “We all feel alike about the Provisional Government,” said the Saratov delegate Vassilyev. “There are no differences as to practical steps between Stalin and Voitinsky,” Krestinsky chimed in with pleasure. The very next day Voitinsky joined the Mensheviks and seven months later he led a detachment of Cossacks against the Bolsheviks.

It seems that Kamenev’s behavior at the trial had not been forgotten. It is possible that there was also talk among the delegates about the mysterious telegram to the Grand Duke. Perhaps Stalin took the trouble to remind others of these errors by his friend. Anyway, it was not Kamenev but the far lesser known Stalin who was delegated to present the chief political report, on the policy toward the Provisional Government. The protocol record of that report has been preserved; it is a priceless document to historians and biographers. Its subject was the central problem of the revolution—the relations between the Soviets, directly supported by the armed workers and soldiers, and the bourgeois government, existing only by the grace of the Soviet leaders. “The government,” said Stalin in part, “is split into two organs, neither of which has full sovereignty … The Soviet has indeed taken the initiative in revolutionary changes; the Soviet is the sole revolutionary leader of the insurgent people— the organ that controls the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government has undertaken the task of actually fortifying the achievements of the revolutionary people. The Soviet mobilizes the forces and exercises control, while the Provisional Government, balking and bungling, takes upon itself the role of defender of those achievements of the people which the latter have already actually made.” This excerpt is worth a whole program!

The reporter presented the relationship between the two basic classes of society as a division of labor between two “organs”. The Soviets, i.e., the workers and soldiers, make the Revolution; the government, i.e., capitalists and liberal landed gentry, “fortify” it. During 1905-1907 Stalin himself wrote over and over again, reiterating after Lenin: “The Russian bourgeoisie is antirevolutionary; it cannot be the prime-mover, let alone the leader, of the Revolution; it is the sworn enemy of revolution, and a stubborn struggle must be waged against it.” Nor was this guiding political idea of Bolshevism in any sense nullified by the course of the February Revolution. Miliukov, the leader of the liberal bourgeoisie, said at the conference of his party a few days before the uprising: “We are walking on a volcano … Whatever the nature of the government—whether good or bad—we need a firm government now more than ever before.” When the uprising began, notwithstanding the resistance of the bourgeoisie, there was nothing left for the liberals to do except take their stand on the ground prepared by its victory. It was none other than Miliukov who, having declared only yesterday that a Rasputinite monarchy was better than a volcanic eruption, was now running the Provisional Government which, according to Stalin, was supposed to be “fortifying” the conquests of the revolution but which actually was doing its utmost to strangle it. To the insurgent masses the meaning of the Revolution was in the abolition of the old forms of property, the very forms the Provisional Government was defending. Stalin presented the irreconcilable class-struggle which, defying all the efforts of the Compromisers, was straining day after day to turn into civil war, as a mere division of labor between two political machines. Not even the Left Menshevik Martov would have put the issue in such fashion. This was Tseretelli’s theory —and Tseretelli was the oracle of the Compromisers—in its most vulgar expression: “moderate” and more “resolute” forces perform in an arena called “democracy” and divide the act between them, some “conquering” and others “fortifying”. Here ready-made for us is the formula of future Stalinist policy in China (1924-1927), in Spain (1934-1939) as well as generally in all his ill- starred “popular fronts”.

”It is not to our advantage to force the course of events now,” the reporter continued, “accelerating the secession of the bourgeois layers … We have to gain time by checking the secession of the middle bourgeois layers, in order to get ready for the struggle against the Provisional Government.” The delegates listened to these arguments with vague misgivings. “Don’t frighten away the bourgeoisie” had ever been Plekhanov’s slogan, and in the Caucasus, Jordania’s. Bolshevism attained its maturity in fierce combat with that trend of thought. It is impossible to “check the secession” of the bourgeoisie without checking the proletariat’s class struggle; essentially, both are merely the two aspects of the same process. “The talk about not frightening away the bourgeoisie …” Stalin himself had written in 1913, shortly before his arrest, “evoked only smiles, for it was clear that the task of the Social-Democracy was not merely ‘to frighten away’ the very same bourgeoisie but to dislodge it in the person of its advocates, the Kadets.” It is even hard to understand how any old Bolshevik could have so forgotten the fourteen-year-old history of his faction as to resort at the most crucial moment to the most odious of Menshevik formulae. The explanation is to be found in Stalin’s way of thinking: he is not receptive to general ideas, and his memory does not retain them. He uses them from time to time, as they are needed, and casts them aside without a twinge, almost as a reflex. In his 1913 article he was referring to Duma elections. “To dislodge” the bourgeoisie meant merely to take mandates away from the liberals. The present reference was to the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie. That was a job that Stalin relegated to the remote future. For the present, quite like the Mensheviks, he deemed it necessary “not to frighten them away.”

After reading the Central Committee’s resolution, which he had helped to draw up, Stalin declared rather unexpectedly that he was not in complete accord with it and would rather support the resolution proposed by the Krasnoyarsk Soviet. The secret significance of this maneuver is not clear. On his way from Siberia Stalin might have had a hand in drafting the resolution of the Krasnoyarsk Soviet. It is possible that, having sensed the attitude of the delegates, he thought it best to edge away from Kamenev ever so little. However, the Krasnoyarsk resolution ranked even lower in quality than the Petersburg document: “… to make completely clear that the only source of the Provisional Government’s power and authority is the will of the people, to whom the Provisional Government must wholly submit, and to support the Provisional Government … only in so far as it pursues the course of satisfying the demands of the working class and of the revolutionary peasantry.” The nostrum brought out of Siberia proved quite simple: the bourgeoisie “must wholly submit” to the people and “pursue the course” of the workers and peasants. Several weeks later the formula of supporting the bourgeoisie “in so far as” was to become the butt of general ridicule among Bolsheviks. But already several of the delegates protested against supporting the government of Prince Lvov: the very idea ran too drastically counter to the whole tradition of Bolshevism. Next day the Social-Democrat Steklov, himself a supporter of the “in so far as” formula, and at the same time as a member of the “contact commission” close to the ruling spheres, was careless enough at the conference of the Soviets to draw such a dismal picture of the Provisional Government’s actual machinations—opposition to social reforms, efforts on behalf of the monarchy and annexations—that the conference of Bolsheviks recoiled in alarm from the formula of support. “It is now clear,” was the way the moderate delegate Nogin expressed the feeling of many others, “that it is not support we should be discussing but counter-action”. The Left Wing delegate Skrypnik expressed the same thought: “Much has changed since Stalin’s report of yesterday … The Provisional Government is plotting against the people and the revolution … yet the resolution speaks of support.” The crestfallen Stalin, whose appraisal of the situation could not stand the test of time even to the extent of twenty-four hours, moved “to instruct the committee to alter the clause about support.” But the conference went one better: “By a majority against four, the clause about support is stricken from the resolution.”

One might think that henceforth the reporter’s whole schema about the division of labor between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would be cast into oblivion. Actually, only the phrase was stricken from the resolution, not the thought. The dread of “frightening away the bourgeoisie” remained. In substance the resolution was an appeal exhorting the Provisional Government to wage “the most energetic struggle for the total liquidation of the old regime” at the very time it was busy waging “the most energetic struggle” for the restoration of the monarchy. The conference did not venture beyond friendly pressure on the liberals. No mention was made of an independent struggle for the conquest of power—if only for the sake of democratic objectives. As if intent upon exposing in the most lurid light the true spirit behind the resolutions passed, Kamenev declared at the conference of Soviets, which was going on simultaneously, that on the issue of power he was “happy” to add the vote of the Bolsheviks to the official resolution which had been moved and sponsored by the Right Menshevik leader Dan. In the light of these facts, the split of 1903, made permanent by the Prague conference of 1913, must have seemed a mere misunderstanding.

Hence it was not by chance that at the next day’s session the Bolshevik conference was deliberating the proposal of the Right Menshevik leader Tseretelli to merge the two parties. Stalin reacted to this in the most sympathetic manner: “We ought to do it. It is necessary to define our proposals as to the terms of unification. Unification is possible along the line of Zimmerwald-Kienthal.” The reference was to the “line” of two socialist conferences in Switzerland at which moderate pacifists had been preponderant. Molotov, who two weeks earlier had been punished for his Leftism, came out with timid objections: “Tseretelli wants to unite divergent elements … Unity along that line is wrong …” “More resolute was Zalutsky’s protest: “Only a philistine can be motivated by the mere desire for unity, not a Social-Democrat … It is impossible to unite on the basis of superficial adherence to Zimmerwald-Kienthal … It is necessary to advance a definite platform.” But Stalin, who had been dubbed a philistine, stuck to his guns: “We ought not to run ahead and anticipate disagreements. Party life is impossible without disagreements. We will live down these trivial disagreements inside the Party.” It is hard to believe one’s eyes: Stalin declared differences with Tseretelli, the inspirer of the dominant Soviet bloc, to be petty disagreements that could be “lived down” inside the Party. The discussion took place on April first (Apr. 14, o.s.). Three days later Lenin was to declare war unto death against Tseretelli. Two months later Tseretelli was to disarm and arrest Bolsheviks.

The conference of March, 1917, is extraordinarily important for insight into the state of mind of the Bolshevik Party’s leading members immediately after the February Revolution—and particularly of Stalin as he was upon his return from Siberia after four years of brooding on his own. He emerges from the scanty chronicle of the protocols as a plebeian democrat and oafish provincial forced by the trend cf the times to assume the Marxist tinge. His articles and speeches of those weeks cast a faultlessly clear light on his position during the years of war: had he drawn the least bit toward Lenin’s ideas during his Siberian sojourn, as memoirs written twenty years after the fact avow, he could not have gotten as hopelessly stuck in the morass of opportunism as he did in March, 1917. Lenin’s absence and Kamenev’s influence made it possible for Stalin to show himself at the outbreak of the revolution for what he really was, revealing his most deeply rooted traits—distrust of the masses, utter lack of imagination, short-sightedness, a penchant for the line of least resistance. These characteristics continued to reassert themselves in later years whenever Stalin had occasion to play a leading role in important developments. That is why the March conference, at which Stalin revealed himself so utterly as a politician, is today expunged from Party history and its records are kept under lock and key. In 1923, three copies were secretly prepared for the members of the “triumvirate”—Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev. Only in 1926, when Zinoviev and Kamenev joined the opposition against Stalin, did I manage to procure from them this remarkable document, which enabled me to have it published abroad in Russian and English.

But after all, this record does not differ in any essential from his Pravda, articles and merely supplements them. Not a single declaration, proposal, protest in which Stalin more or less articulately counterposed the Bolshevik point of view to the policy of the petty bourgeois democrats has come down to us from those days. An eye-witness of those times, the Left Wing Menshevik Sukhanov —author of the already-mentioned manifesto, “To the Toilers of the World”— wrote in his invaluable “Notes On The Revolution”: “In addition to Kamenev, the Bolsheviks then had Stalin on the Executive Committee … During his nondescript tenure … [he] made—and not only on me—the impression of a gray spot which was occasionally dimly apparent and left no trace. There is really nothing more that can be said about him.” For that description, which was admittedly rather one-sided, Sukhanov later paid with his life.

On the third [ 16] of April, having traversed belligerent Germany, Lenin, Krupskaya, Zinoviev and others crossed the Finnish border and arrived in Petrograd … A group of Bolsheviks headed by Kamenev had gone to meet Lenin in Finland. Stalin was not one of them, and that little fact shows better than anything else that there was nothing even remotely resembling personal intimacy between him and Lenin. “The moment Vladimir Ilyich came in and sat down on the couch,” relates Raskolnikov, an officer of the Navy and subsequently a Soviet diplomat, “he opened up on Kamenev: ‘What have you people been writing in Pravda ? We saw several issues and were very angry with you …’ “ During his years of working with Lenin abroad Kamenev had grown quite used to such cold showers. They did not deter him from loving Lenin, even from worshiping him, all of him, his passion, his profundity, his simplicity, his witticisms, at which Kamenev laughed before they were uttered, and his handwriting, which he involuntarily imitated. Many years later somebody remembered that on the way Lenin had asked about Stalin. That natural question (Lenin undoubtedly inquired about all the members of the old Bolshevik staff) later served as the starting point for the plot of a Soviet motion picture.

An observant and conscientious reporter of the revolution wrote the following about Lenin’s first public appearance before the foregathered Bolsheviks: “I shall never forget that speech which, like thunder, shook and astonished not only me, a heretic who had accidentally wandered in, but even all the faithful. Decidedly, no one expected anything of the kind.”

It was not a question of oratorical thunder, with which Lenin was sparing, but of the whole trend of his thought. “We don’t want a parliamentary republic, we don’t want a bourgeois democracy, we don’t want any government except the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Poor Peasants’ Deputies!” In the coalition of socialists with the liberal bourgeoisie—i.e., in the “popular front” of those days—Lenin saw nothing but treason to the people. He jeered fiercely at the fashionable phrase “revolutionary democracy,” which lumped into one workers and petty bourgeoisie, Populists, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. The compromisist parties which ruled in the Soviets were not allies to him but irreconcilable enemies. “That alone,” remarks Sukhanov, “sufficed in those days to make the hearers’ heads spin!”

The Party was as unprepared for Lenin as it had been for the February Revolution. All the criteria, slogans, turns of speech accumulated during the five weeks of revolution were smashed to smithereens. “He resolutely attacked the tactics of the leading Party groups and individual comrades prior to his arrival,” wrote Raskolnikov, referring first and foremost to Stalin and Kamenev. “The most responsible Party workers were on hand. Yet even to them Ilyich’s speech was something utterly new.” There was no discussion. All were too stunned for that. No one wanted to expose himself to the blows of this desperate leader. In corners, they whispered among themselves that Ilyich had been too long abroad, that he had lost touch with Russia, that he did not understand the situation, and worse than that, that he had gone over to the position of Trotskyism. Stalin, yesterday’s reporter at the Party Conference, was silent. He realized that he had made a frightful mistake, far more serious than on that occasion at the Stockholm Congress when he had defended land division, or a year later, when for a while he was one of the boycottists. Decidedly, the best thing to do was to make himself scarce. No one cared to know Stalin’s opinion on the question anyway. Subsequently, no one could remember anything, for his memoirs, about what Stalin did during the next few weeks.

Meantime Lenin was far from idle: he surveyed the situation with his sharp eyes, tormented his friends with questions, sounded out the workers. The very next day he presented the Party with a short résumé of his views. These came to be the most important document of the revolution, famous as “The Theses of April Fourth”. Lenin was not only unafraid “to frighten away” liberals but even members of the Bolshevik Central Committee. He did not play hide and seek with the pretentious leaders of the Bolshevik Party. He laid bare the logic of class war. Casting aside the cowardly and futile formula, “in so far as,” he confronted the Party with the task of seizing the government. But first and foremost it was necessary to determine who was the enemy. The Black Hundred Monarchists cowering in their nooks and corners were of no consequence whatever. The staff of the bourgeois counter-revolution was made up of the central committee of the Kadet Party and the Provisional Government inspired by it. But the latter existed by grace of the Social-Revolutionists and the Mensheviks, who in their turn held power because of the gullibility of the masses. Under these conditions, application of revolutionary violence was out of the question. First of all the masses had to be won. Instead of uniting and fraternizing with the Populists and the Mensheviks, it was necessary to expose them before the workers, soldiers and peasants as agents of the bourgeoisie. “The real government is the Soviet of Workers’ Delegates … Our Party is a minority in the Soviet … That can’t be helped! It is up to us to explain—patiently, persistently, systematically—the erroneousness of their tactics. As long as we are a minority, our job is to criticize in order to undeceive the masses.” Everything in that program was simple and reliable and every nail was driven in firmly. These theses bore only one single signature: “Lenin”. Neither the Party Central Committee nor the editorial board of Pravda would countersign this explosive document.

On that very Fourth of April Lenin appeared before the same Party Conference at which Stalin had expounded his theory of peaceful division of labor between the Provisional Government and the Soviets. The contrast was too cruel. To soften it, Lenin, contrary to his custom, did not subject the resolutions that had been passed to analysis but merely turned his back on them. He raised the conference to a much higher plane. He forced it to see new perspectives—perspectives at which the makeshift leaders had not even guessed. “Why didn’t you seize power?” the new reporter demanded, and proceeded to recapitulate the current explanations: the revolution was presumably bourgeois; it was only in its initial stage; the war created unforeseen difficulties; and the like. “That’s all nonsense. The point is that the proletariat is not sufficiently conscious and not sufficiently organized. That should be admitted. The material force is in the hands of the proletariat, but the bourgeoisie is wide awake and ready.” Lenin shifted the issue from the sphere of pseudo-objectivism, where Stalin, Kamenev and others tried to hide from the tasks of the revolution, into the sphere of awareness and action. The proletariat failed to seize power in February, not because seizure of power was forbidden by sociology, but because their failure to seize power enabled the Compromisers to deceive the proletariat in the interests of the bourgeoisie—and that was all! “Even our Bolsheviks,” he continued, so far without mentioning any names, “display confidence in the government. That can be explained only by intoxication with the revolution. This is the end of socialism … If that’s the case, I cannot go along. I would rather remain in a minority.” It was not hard for Stalin and Kamenev to recognize the reference to themselves. The entire conference understood to whom the speech referred. The delegates had no doubt that Lenin was not joking when he threatened to break away. This was a far cry from the “in so far as” formula and from the generally homespun policy of the preceding days.

The axis of the war issue was no less resolutely shifted. Nicholas Romanov had been overthrown. The Provisional Government had half promised a republic. But did this change the nature of the war? France had long been a republic, and more than once. Yet its participation in the war remained imperialistic. The nature of war is determined by the nature of the ruling class. “When the masses declare that they do not want any conquests, I believe them. When Guchkov and Lvov say that they do not want any conquests—they are liars.” This simple criterion is profoundly scientific and at the same time understandable to every soldier in the trenches. Lenin then delivered a direct blow, calling the Pravda by its right name. “To demand from a government of the capitalists that it should repudiate annexation is nonsense, crying mockery …” These words struck directly at Stalin. “It is impossible to end this war without a peace of violence unless capitalism is overthrown.” Yet the Compromisers were supporting the capitalists, and Pravda was supporting the Compromisers. “The appeal of the Soviet—not a single word of it has a semblance of class consciousness. It is all phrasemongering.” The reference is to the very manifesto that had been welcomed by Stalin as the voice of internationalism. Pacifist phrases, while preserving the old alliances, the old treaties, the old aims, were meant only to deceive the masses. “What is unique for Russia is the incredibly rapid transition from uncontrollable violence to the most subtle deception.” Three days ago Stalin had declared his readiness to unite with Tseretelli’s party. “I hear,” said Lenin, “that there is a unification tendency afoot in Russia: unity with a Defensist is treason to Socialism. I think that it is better to remain alone, like Liebknecht, one against a hundred and ten!” It was no longer permissible even to bear the same name as the Mensheviks, the name of Social Democracy. “I propose for my part that we change the Party name, that we call ourselves the Communist Party.” Not a single one of the participants of the conference, not even Zinoviev, who had just arrived with Lenin, supported this proposal, which seemed a sacrilegious break with their own past.

Pravda, which continued to be edited by Kamenev and Stalin, declared that Lenin’s theses were his personal opinion, that the Central Committee Bureau did not share his opinion, and that Pravda itself pursued its old policy. That declaration was written by Kamenev. Stalin supported him in silence. He would have to be silent for a long time. Lenin’s ideas seemed to him the phantasmagoria of an émigré, yet he bided his time to see how the Party machine would react. “It must be openly acknowledged,” wrote subsequently the Bolshevik Angarsky, who had passed through the same evolution as the others, “that a great many of the Old Bolsheviks .. . maintained the Old Bolshevik opinions of 1905 on the question of the character of the Revolution of 1917 and that the repudiation of these views was not easily accomplished.” As a matter of fact, it was not a question of “a great many of the Old Bolsheviks” but of all of them without exception. At the March conference, at which the Party cadres of the entire country met, not a single voice was heard in favor of striving to win the power for the Soviets. All of them had to re-educate themselves. Out of the sixteen members of the Petrograd Committee, only two supported the theses, and even they did not do it at once. “Many of the comrades pointed out,” Tsikhon recalled, “that Lenin has lost contact with Russia, did not take into consideration present conditions, and so forth.” The provincial Bolshevik Lebedev tells how in the beginning the Bolsheviks condemned Lenin’s agitation, “which seemed Utopian and which was explained by his prolonged lack of contact with Russian life.” One of the inspirers of such judgments was undoubtedly Stalin, who always had looked down at the “émigrés”. Several years later Raskolnikov recalled that “the arrival of Vladimir Ilyich laid down a sharp Rubicon in the tactic of our Party. It must be acknowledged that prior to his arrival there was decidedly great chaos in the Party … The task of taking possession of the power of the State was conceived of as a remote ideal … It was considered sufficient to support the Provisional Government with one or another kind of qualification … The party had no leader of authority capable of welding it together into a unit and leading it.” In 1922 it could not have occurred to Raskolnikov to see Stalin as the “leader of authority.” Wrote the Ural worker Markov, whom the revolution had found at his lathe, “Our leaders were groping until the arrival of Vladimir Ilyich … Our Party’s position began to clarify with the appearance of his famous theses.” “Remember the reception given to Vladimir Ilyich’s April Theses,” Bukharin was saying soon after Lenin’s death, “when part of our own Party looked upon them as a virtual betrayal of accepted Marxist ideology.” This “part of our own Party” consisted of its entire leadership without a single exception. “With Lenin’s arrival in Russia in 1917,” wrote Molotov in 1924, “our Party began to feel firm ground under its feet .. . Until that moment it had merely felt its way weakly and uncertainly…. The Party lacked the clarity and resoluteness required by the revolutionary moment …” Earlier than the others, more precisely and more clearly, did Ludmilla Stahl define the change that had taken place: “Until Lenin’s arrival all the comrades wandered in darkness …” she said on April 4 [17], 1917, at the time of the sharpest moment of the Party crisis. “Seeing the independent creativeness of the people, we could not help taking it into consideration … Our comrades were content with mere preparations for the Constituent Assembly through parliamentary methods and did not even consider the possibility of proceeding further. By accepting Lenin’s slogans we shall be doing that which life itself urges us to do.”

The Party’s rearmament of April was a hard blow to Stalin’s prestige. He had come from Siberia with the authority of an Old Bolshevik, with the rank of a member of the Central Committee, with the support of Kamenev and Muranov. He too began with his own kind of “rearmament,” rejecting the policy of the local leaders as too radical and committing himself through a number of articles in Pravda, a report at the conference, and the resolution of the Krasnoyarsk Soviet. In the midst of this activity, which by its very nature was the work of a leader, Lenin appeared. He came into the conference like an inspector entering a classroom. After having heard several sentences, he turned his back on the teacher and with a wet sponge wiped off the blackboard all of his futile scrawls. The feelings of astonishment and protest among the delegates dissolved in the feeling of admiration. But Stalin had no admiration to offer. His was a sharp hurt, a sense of helplessness and green envy. He had been humiliated before the entire party far worse than at the closed Crakow conference after his unfortunate leadership of the Pravda . It was useless to fight against it. He, too, now beheld new horizons at which he had not even guessed the day before. All he could do was to grit his teeth and keep his peace. The memory of the revolution brought about by Lenin in April, 1917, was stamped forever on his consciousness. It rankled. He got hold of the records of the March Conference and tried to hide them from the Party and from history. But that in itself did not settle matters. Collections of the Pravda for 1917 remained in the libraries. Moreover, those issues of Pravda came out in a reprint edition —and Stalin’s articles spoke for themselves. During the first years of the Soviet régime innumerable reminiscences about the April crisis filled all the historical journals and the anniversary issues of newspapers. All this had to he gradually removed from circulation, counterfeited, and new material substituted. The very word, “rearmament” of the Party, used by me casually in 1922, became subject in time to increasingly ferocious attacks by Stalin and his satellite historians.

True, as late as 1924, Stalin still deemed it the better part of wisdom to admit, with all due indulgence for himself, the error of his ways at the outset of the revolution: “The Party …,” he wrote, “accepted the policy of pressure by the Soviets on the Provisional Government in the question of peace, and did not at once decide to take a forward step … toward the new slogan of power to the Soviets … That was a profoundly erroneous position, for it multiplied pacifist illusions, poured water into the mill of defensism and hampered the revolutionary education of the masses. I shared that erroneous position at that time with other comrades in the Party and repudiated it completely only in the middle of April, after subscribing to Lenin’s theses.” This public admission, necessary in order to protect his own rear in the struggle against Trotskyism, which was then beginning, proved too circumscribing two years later. In 1926 Stalin categorically denied the opportunist character of his policy in March, 1917—”This is not true, comrades, this is gossip!”—and admitted merely that he had “certain waverings … but who among us did not have momentary waverings?” Four years later, Yaroslaysky, who in his capacity as historian mentioned the fact that Stalin at the beginning of the revolution had assumed “an erroneous position,” was subjected to ferocious persecution from all sides. It was no longer permissible so much as to mention the “passing waverings”. The idol of prestige is a voracious monster! Finally, in the “history” of the Party edited by himself Stalin ascribes to himself Lenin’s position, reserving his own views as the portion of his enemies. “Kamenev and certain workers of the Moscow organization, as for example, Rykov, Bubnov, Nogin,” proclaims this remarkable history, “stood on the semi-Menshevik position of conditional support for the Provisional Government and the policy of the Defensists. Stalin, who had just returned from exile, Molotov and others, together with the majority of the Party, defended the policy of no confidence to the Provisional Government, came out against defensism,” and the like. Thus, by way of gradual change from fact to fiction, black was transformed into white. This method, which Kamenev called “doling out the lie,” runs through Stalin’s entire biography, finding its culminating expression, and at the same time its collapse, in the Moscow trials.

Analyzing the basic ideas of the two factions of the Social Democracy in 1909, I wrote: “The anti-revolutionary aspects of Menshevism are already apparent in all their force; the anti-revolutionary characteristics of Bolshevism are a threat of tremendous danger only in the event of a revolutionary victory.” In March, 1917, after the overthrow of Tsarism, the old cadres of the Party carried these anti-revolutionary characteristics of Bolshevism to their extreme expression: the very differentiation between Bolshevism and Menshevism appeared to have been lost. Imperative was a radical rearmament of the Party. Lenin, the only man big enough for the job, accomplished that in the course of April. Apparently, Stalin did not want to come out publicly against Lenin. But neither did he come out for him. Without much ado he shook clear from Kamenev, just as ten years before he had deserted the Boycottists and just as at the Cracow Conference he quietly abandoned the Conciliators to their fate. He was not in the habit of defending any idea that did not promise immediate success. The conference of the Petrograd organization was in session from the fourteenth to the twenty- second of April. Although Lenin’s influence already predominated, the debates were pretty sharp now and then. Among those who participated were Zinoviev, Tomsky, Molotov and other well known Bolsheviks. Stalin did not even show up. Obviously, he sought to be forgotten for a while.

The All-Russian Conference convened in Petrograd on April twenty-fourth. It was supposed to clear up any matters left over from the March conference. About 150 delegates represented 79,000 Party members, of whom 15,000 were in the capital. This was not at all a bad record for an anti-patriotic party that had emerged from the underground only yesterday. Lenin’s victory became clear from the very start, with the elections to the presidium of five members, for among those elected were neither Kamenev nor Stalin, the two men responsible for the opportunist policy in March. Kamenev had sufficient courage to demand the privilege of a minority report at the conference. “Recognizing that formally and factually the classic remnant of feudalism, the ownership of land by the landed gentry, has not yet been liquidated … it is too soon to assert that bourgeois democracy has exhausted all of its possibilities.” Such was the basic thought of Kamenev and of Rykov, Nogin, Dzerzhinsky, Angarsky and others. “The impetus for social revolution,” Rykov was saying, “should have come from the West.” The democratic revolution has not ended, the orators of the opposition insisted, supporting Kamenev. That was true. However, the mission of the Provisional Government was not to complete the revolution but to reverse its course. Hence it followed that the democratic revolution could be completed only under the rule of the working class. The debates were animated yet peaceful, since in all essentials the issue had been decided beforehand and Lenin did everything possible to make his opponents’ retreat easy.

During these debates Stalin came out with a brief statement against his ally of yesterday. In his minority report Kamenev had argued that since we were not calling for the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government, we must demand control over it; otherwise the masses would not understand us. Lenin protested that the proletariat’s “control” of a bourgeois government, especially under revolutionary conditions, would either be fictitious or amount to no more than mere collaboration with it. Stalin decided this was a good time to register his disagreement with Kamenev. To provide some semblance of an explanation for the change in his own position, he took advantage of a note issued on the nineteenth of April by Minister of Foreign Affairs Miliukov. The latter’s extreme imperialist frankness literally drove the soldiers into the street and caused a government crisis. Lenin’s conception of the revolution was based on the interrelationship of classes, not on some isolated diplomatic note, which differed little from other acts of the government. But Stalin was not interested in general ideas. All he needed was some obvious pretext in order that he might make his shift with the least damage to his vanity. He was “doling out” his retreat. At first, as he put it, “it was the Soviet that outlined the program, while now it is the Provisional Government.” After Miliukov’s note “the government is advancing upon the Soviet, while the Soviet is retreating. After that to speak of control is to speak nonsense.” It sounded strained and false. But it turned the trick: Stalin managed thus to separate himself in time from the opposition, which got only seven votes when the ballots were cast.

In his report on the question of national minorities, Stalin did whatever he could to bridge the gap between his March report, which saw the source of national oppression solely in the landed aristocracy, and the new position, which the Party was now assimilating. “National oppression,” he said, unavoidedly arguing against himself, “is not only supported by the landed aristocracy but also by another force—the imperialistic groups, which apply the method of enslaving nations learned in the colonies to their own country as well …” Moreover, the big bourgeoisie is followed by “the petty bourgeoisie, part of the intellectuals and part of the labor aristocracy, who also enjoy the fruits of this robbery.” This was the very theme Lenin had so persistently harped upon during the war years. “Thus,” his report continued, “there is a whole chorus of social forces that supports national oppression”. In order to put an end to this oppression, it was necessary “to remove this chorus from the political scene”. By placing the imperialistic bourgeoisie in power, the February Revolution certainly did not lay the ground for the liberation of national minorities. Thus, for example, the Provisional Government resisted with all its might all efforts to broaden the autonomy of Finland. “Whose side should we take? It is clear that it must be the side of the Finnish people . ..” The Ukrainian Pyatakov and the Pole Dzerzhinsky came out against the program of national self-determination as Utopian and reactionary. “We should not advance the national question,” Dzerzhinsky was saying naively, “since that retards the moment of social revolution. I would therefore suggest that the question of Poland’s independence should be removed from the resolution.” “The social democracy,” Stalin replied, “in so far as it pursues a course directed toward a socialist revolution, should support the revolutionary movement of the nationalities against imperialism.” Here for the first time in his life Stalin said something about “a course directed toward a socialist revolution”. The sheet of the Julian calendar that day bore the date: April 29, 1917.

Having assumed the prerogatives of a congress, the Conference elected a new Central Committee, which consisted of Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Milutin, Nogin, Sverdlov, Smilga, Stalin, Fedorov; and the alternates: Teodorovich, Bubnov, Glebov-Avilov and Pravdin. Of the 133 delegates, for some reason only 109 took part in the secret balloting with full vote; it is possible that part of them had already left town. Lenin got 104 votes (was Stalin perhaps one of the five delegates who refused to support Lenin?), Zinoviev 101, Stalin 97, Kamenev 95. For the first time Stalin was elected to the Central Committee in the normal party way. He was going on 38. Rykov, Zinoviev and Kamenev were about 23 or 24 when first elected by party congresses to the Bolshevik general staff.

At the Conference an attempt was made to leave Sverdlov out of the Central Committee. Lenin told about it after the latter’s death, treating it as his own glaring mistake. “Fortunately,” he added, “we were corrected from below”. Lenin could hardly have had any reason for opposing Sverdlov’s candidacy. He knew him only through correspondence as a tireless professional revolutionist. It is not unlikely that the opposition came from Stalin, who had not forgotten how Sverdlov had had to straighten things out after him in Petersburg and reorganize Pravda ; their joint life in Kureika had merely enhanced his enmity. Stalin never forgave anything. He apparently tried to take his revenge at the conference and in one way or another, we can only guess how, managed to win Lenin’s support. But his attempt did not succeed. If in 1912 Lenin met with the resistance of the delegates when he tried to get Stalin onto the Central Committee, he now met with no less resistance when he tried to keep Sverdlov off. Of the members of this Central Committee elected at the April Conference, only Sverdlov managed to die a natural death. All the others—with the exception of Stalin himself—as well as the four alternates, have either been officially shot or have been done away with unofficially.

Without Lenin, no one had known what to make of the unprecedented situation; all were slaves of old formulae. Yet clinging to the slogan of democratic dictatorship now meant, as Lenin put it, “actually going over to the petty bourgeoisie”. It may well be that Stalin’s advantage over the others was in his lack of compunction about going over and his readiness for rapprochement with the Compromisers and fusion with the Mensheviks. He was not in the least hampered by reverence for old formulae. Ideological fetishism was alien to him: thus, without the least remorse he repudiated the long-held theory of the counterrevolutionary role of the Russian bourgeoisie. As always, Stalin acted empirically, under the pressure of his natural opportunism, which has always driven him to seek the line of least resistance. But he had not been alone in his stand; in the course of the three weeks before Lenin’s arrival, he had been giving expression to the hidden convictions of very many of the “Old Bolsheviks”.

It should not be forgotten that the political machine of the Bolshevik Party was predominantly made up of the intelligentsia, which was petty bourgeois in its origin and conditions of life and Marxist in its ideas and in its relations with the proletariat. Workers who turned professional revolutionists joined this set with great eagerness and lost their identity in it. The peculiar social structure of the Party machine and its authority over the proletariat (neither of which is accidental but dictated by strict historical necessity) were more than once the cause of the Party’s vacillation and finally became the source of its degeneration. The Party rested on the Marxist doctrine, which expressed the historical interests of the proletariat as a whole; but the human beings of the Party machine assimilated only scattered portions of that doctrine according to their own comparatively limited experience. Quite often, as Lenin complained, they simply learned ready-made formulae by rote and shut their eyes to the change in conditions. In most cases they lacked independent daily contact with the laboring masses as well as a comprehensive understanding of the historical process. They thus left themselves exposed to the influence of alien classes. During the War, the higher-ups of the Party were largely affected by compromisist tendencies, which emanated from bourgeois circles, while the rank and file Bolshevik workingmen displayed far greater stability in resisting the patriotic hysteria that had swept the country.

In opening a broad field of action to democratic processes, the revolution was far more satisfying to “professional revolutionists” of all parties than to soldiers in the trenches, to peasants in villages and to workers in munition factories. The obscure underground men of yesterday suddenly became leading political figures. Instead of parliaments they had Soviets, and there they were free to argue and to rule. As far as they were concerned, the very class contradictions that had caused the revolution seemed to be melting away under the rays of the democratic sun. That was why almost everywhere in Russia Bolsheviks and Mensheviks joined hands. Even where they remained apart, as in Petrograd, the urge for unity was decidedly compelling in both organizations. At the same time, in the trenches, in the villages and in the factories, the chronic antagonisms assumed an ever more open and more intense character, foreboding civil war instead of unity. As often happens, a sharp cleavage developed between the classes in motion and the interests of the party machines. Even the Bolshevik Party cadres, who enjoyed the benefit of exceptional revolutionary training, were definitely inclined to disregard the masses and to identify their own special interests with the interests of the machine on the very day after the monarchy was overthrown. What, then, could be expected of these cadres when they became an all-powerful state bureaucracy? It is unlikely that Stalin gave this matter any thought. He was flesh of the flesh of the machine and the toughest of its bones.

But by what miracle did Lenin manage in a few short weeks to turn the Party’s course into a new channel? The answer should be sought simultaneously in two directions—Lenin’s personal attributes and the objective situation. Lenin was strong not only because he understood the laws of the class struggle but also because his ear was faultlessly attuned to the stirrings of the masses in motion. He represented not so much the Party machine as the vanguard of the proletariat. He was definitely convinced that thousands from among those workers who had borne the brunt of supporting the underground Party would now support him. The masses at the moment were more revolutionary than the Party, and the Party more revolutionary than its machine. As early as March the actual attitude of the workers and soldiers had in many cases become stormily apparent, and it was widely at variance with the instructions issued by all the parties, including the Bolshevik. Lenin’s authority was not absolute, but it was tremendous, for all of past experience was a confirmation of his prescience. On the other hand, the authority of the Party machine, like its conservatism, was only in the making at that time. Lenin exerted influence not so much as an individual but because he embodied the influence of the class on the Party and of the Party on its machine. Under such circumstances, whoever tried to resist soon lost his footing. Vacillators fell in line with those in front, the cautious joined the majority. Thus, with comparatively small losses, Lenin managed in time to orient the Party and to prepare it for the new revolution.

Every time that the Bolshevik leaders had to act without Lenin they fell into error, usually inclining to the Right. Then Lenin would appear like a deus ex machina and indicate the right road. Does it mean then that in the Bolshevik Party Lenin was everything and all the others nothing? Such a conclusion, which is rather widespread in democratic circles, is extremely biased d hence false. The same thing might be said about science. Mechanics without Newton and biology without Darwin seemed to amount to nothing for many years. This is both true and false. It took the work of thousands of rank and file scientists to gather the facts, to group them, to pose the problem and to prepare the ground for the comprehensive solutions of a Newton or a Darwin. That solution in turn affected the work of new thousands of rank and file investigators. Geniuses do not create science out of themselves; they merely accelerate the process of collective thinking. The Bolshevik Party had a leader of genius. That was no accident. A revolutionist of Lenin’s makeup and breadth could be the leader only of the most fearless party, capable of carrying its thoughts and actions to their logical conclusion. But genius in itself is the rarest of exceptions. A leader of genius orients himself faster, estimates the situation more thoroughly, sees further than others. It was unavoidable that a great gap should develop between the leader of genius and his closest collaborators. It may even be conceded that to a certain extent the very power of Lenin’s vision acted as a brake on the development of self-reliance among his collaborators. Nevertheless, that does not mean that Lenin was “everything” and that the Party without Lenin was nothing. Without the Party Lenin would have been as helpless as Newton and Darwin without collective scientific work. It is consequently not a question of the special sins of Bolshevism, conditioned presumably by centralization, discipline and the like, but a question of the problem of genius within the historical process. Writers who attempt to disparage Bolshevism on the grounds that the Bolshevik Party had the good luck to have a leader of genius merely confess their own mental vulgarity.

The Bolshevik leadership would have found the right line of action without Lenin, but slowly, at the price of friction and internal struggles. The class conflicts would have continued to condemn and reject the meaningless slogans of the Bolshevik Old Guard. Stalin, Kamenev and other second-raters had the alternative of giving consistent expression to the tendencies of the proletarian vanguard or simply deserting to the opposite side of the barricades. We must not forget that Shlyapnikov, Zalutsky, Molotov, tried to take a more Leftist course from the very beginning of the revolution.

However, that does not mean that the right path would have been found anyway. The factor of time plays a decisive role in politics—especially, in a revolution. The class struggle will hardly bide its time indefinitely until the political leaders discover the right thing to do. The leader of genius is important because, in shortening the learning period by means of object lessons, he enables the party to influence the development of events at the proper moment. Had Lenin failed to come at the beginning of April, no doubt the Party would have groped its way eventually to the course propounded in his “Theses”. But could anyone else have prepared the Party in time for the October denouement? That question cannot be answered categorically. One thing is certain: in this situation—which called for resolute confrontation of the sluggish Party machine with masses and ideas in motion—Stalin could not have acted with the necessary creative initiative and would have been a brake rather than a propeller. His power began only after it became possible to harness the masses with the aid of the machine.

It is hard to trace Stalin’s activities during the next two months. He was suddenly relegated to a third-rate position. Lenin himself was now directly in charge of the Pravda editorial board day in and day out—not merely by remote control, as before the War—and Pravda piped the tune for the whole Party. Zinoviev was lord and master in the field of agitation. Stalin still did not address any public meetings. Kamenev, half-hearted about the new policy, represented the Party in the Soviet Central Executive Committee and on the floor of the Soviet. Stalin practically disappeared from that scene and was hardly ever seen even at Smolny. Sverdlov assumed paramount leadership of the most outstanding organizational activity, assigning tasks to Party workers, dealing with the provincials, adjusting conflicts. In addition to his routine duties on the Pravda and his presence at sessions of the Central Committee, Stalin was given occasional assignments of an administrative, technical or diplomatic nature. They are far from numerous. Naturally lazy, Stalin can work under pressure only when his personal interests are directly involved. Otherwise, he prefers to suck his pipe and bide his time. For a while he felt acutely unwell. Everywhere he was superseded either by more important or more gifted men. His vanity was stung to the quick by the memory of March and April days. Violating his own integrity, he slowly reversed the trend of his thoughts. But in the final reckoning it was a half-hearted turn.

During the stormy “April days,” when the soldiers went out into the streets in protest against Miliukov’s imperialistic note, the Compromisers were busy as always with exhortations addressed to the government and soothing promises addressed to the masses. On the twenty-first the Central Executive Committee sent one of its Pastoral telegrams, under the signature of Chkheidze, to Kronstadt and to other garrisons, conceding that Miliukov’s militant note was undeserving of approval, but adding that “negotiations, not yet concluded, have begun between the Executive Committee and the Provisional Government” (by their very nature these negotiations could never come to an end). [It continued], “recognizing the harm of all scattered and unorganized public appearances, the Executive Committee asks you to restrain yourself,” and so forth.

From the official protocols we note, not without surprise, that the text of the telegram was composed by a commission that consisted of two Compromisers and one Bolshevik, and that this Bolshevik was Stalin. It is a minor episode (we find no important episodes pertaining to him throughout that period), but decidedly a typical one. The reassuring telegram was a classic little example of that “control” which was an indispensable element in the mechanics of dual power. The slightest Bolshevik contact with that policy of futility was denounced by Lenin with particular vehemence. If the public appearance of the Kronstadtites was not opportune, the commission should have told them so in the name of the Party, in its own words, and not taken upon itself responsibility for the “negotiations” between Chkheidze and Prince Lvov. The Compromisers placed Stalin on the commission because the Bolsheviks alone enjoyed any authority in Kronstadt. This was all the more reason for declining the appointment. But Stalin did not refuse it. Three days after the telegram of reassurance, he spoke at the Party conference in opposition to Kamenev, selecting none other than the controversy over Miliukov’s note as particularly cogent proof that “control” was senseless. Logical contradictions never disconcerted that empiricist.

At the conference of the Bolshevik military organizations in June, after the basic political speeches by Lenin and Zinoviev, Stalin reported on “the nationalist movement in the nationalist regiments.” In the active army, influenced by the awakening of the oppressed nationalities, there was a spontaneous regrouping of army units in accordance with nationality. Thus there sprang up Ukrainian, Mussulman, Polish regiments, and the like. The Provisional Government openly combated this “disorganization of the army,” while here, too, the Bolsheviks came out in defense of the oppressed nationalities. Stalin’s speech was not preserved. But it could hardly have added anything new.

The First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which opened on the third of June, dragged on for almost three weeks. The score or two of Bolshevik delegates from the provinces, lost in the mass of Compromisers, constituted a group far from homogeneous and still subject to the moods of March. It was not easy to lead them. It was to this Congress that an interesting reference was made by a Populist already known to us, who had at one time observed Koba in a Baku prison. “I tried in every way to understand the role of Stalin and Sverdlov in the Bolshevik Party,” wrote Vereshchak in 1928. “While Kamenev, Zinoviev, Nogin and Krylenko sat at the table of the congress praesidium, and Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev were the main speakers, Sverdlov and Stalin silently directed the Bolshevik Fraction. They were the tactical force. It was then for the first time that I realized the full significance of the man.” Vereshchak was not mistaken. Stalin was very valuable behind the scenes in preparing the Fraction for balloting. He did not always resort to arguments of principle. However he did have the knack of convincing the average run of leaders, especially the provincials. But even on that job the pre-eminent place was Sverdlov’s, who was permanent chairman of the Bolshevik Fraction at the Congress.

Meantime, the Army was being treated to “moral” preparation for the offensive, which unnerved the masses at home as well as at the front. The Bolshevik Fraction resolutely protested against this military venture and predicted a catastrophe. The Congress majority supported Kerensky. The Bolsheviks decided to counter with a street demonstration, but while this was being considered differences of opinion arose. Volodarsky, mainstay of the Petrograd Committee, was not sure that the workers would come out into the streets. The representatives of the military organizations insisted that the soldiers would not come out without arms. Stalin thought it “a fact that there is ferment among the soldiers, while there is no such definite mood among the workers,” yet he nevertheless supposed that it was necessary to offer resistance to the Government. The demonstration was finally set for Sunday, June tenth. The Compromisers were alarmed and in the name of the Congress forbade the demonstration. The Bolsheviks submitted. But frightened by the bad impression of their own interdict against the masses, the Congress itself appointed a general demonstration for the eighteenth of June. The result was unexpected: all the factories and all the regiments came out with Bolshevik placards. An irreparable blow had been struck at the authority of the Congress. The workers and soldiers of the capital sensed their own power. Two weeks later they attempted to cash in on it. Thus developed the “July Days,” the most important borderline between the two revolutions.

On May fourth Stalin wrote in Pravda : “The Revolution is growing in breadth and depth … The provinces are marching at the head of the movement. Just as Petrograd marched in front during the first days of the Revolution, so now it is beginning to lag behind.” Exactly two months later the “July Days” proved that the provinces were lagging considerably behind Petrograd. What Stalin had in mind when he made his appraisal were the organizations, not the masses. “The Soviets of the capital,” Lenin observed as early as the April conference, “are politically more dependent upon the bourgeois central government than the provincial Soviets.” While the Central Executive Committee tried with all its might to concentrate the power in the hands of the government, the Soviets in the provinces, Menshevik and Essar in their composition, in many cases took over the local governments against their will and even attempted to regulate economic life. But the “backwardness” of the Soviet institutions in the capital was due to the fact that the Petrograd proletariat had advanced so far that the radicalism of its demands frightened the petty bourgeois democrats. When the July demonstration was under discussion, Stalin argued that the workers were not eager for the fray. That argument was disproved by the July Days themselves, when, defying the proscription of the Compromisers and even the warnings of the Bolshevik Party, the proletariat poured out into the street, shoulder to shoulder with the garrison. Both of Stalin’s mistakes are notably characteristic of him: he did not breathe the air of workers’ meetings, was not in contact with the masses and did not trust them. The information at his disposal came through the machine. Yet the masses were incomparably more revolutionary than the Party, which in its turn was more revolutionary than its committeemen. As on other occasions, Stalin expressed the conservative inclinations of the Party machine and not the dynamic force of the masses.

By the beginning of July Petrograd was already completely on the side of the Bolsheviks. Acquainting the new French Ambassador with the new situation in the capital, the journalist Claude Anet pointed across the Neva to the Vyborg district, where the largest factories were concentrated. “There Lenin and Trotsky reign as masters.” The regiments of the garrison were either Bolshevik or wavering in the direction of the Bolsheviks. “Should Lenin and Trotsky desire to seize Petrograd, who will deter them from it?” The characterization of the situation was correct. But it was not yet possible to seize power because, notwithstanding what Stalin had written in May, the provinces lagged considerably behind the capital.

On the second of July, at the All-City Conference of the Bolsheviks, where Stalin represented the Central Committee, two excited machine gunners appeared with the declaration that their regiments had decided to go out into the street immediately, fully armed. The conference went on record against this move. Stalin, in the name of the Central Committee, upheld this decision of the conference. Thirteen years later Pestkovsky, one of Stalin’s collaborators and a repentant oppositionist, recalled this conference. “There I first saw Stalin. The room in which the conference was taking place could not hold all those present: part of the public followed the course of the debates from the corridor through the open door. I was among that part of the public, and therefore, I did not hear the report very well … Stalin appeared in the name of the Central Committee. Since he spoke quietly, I did not make out much of what he said from the corridor. But there was one thing I noticed: each of Stalin’s sentences was sharp and crisp, his statements were distinguished by their clarity of formulation …”

The members of the conference parted and went to their regiments and factories in order to restrain the masses from a public demonstration. “About five o’clock,” Stalin reported after the event, “at the session of the Central Executive Committee I declared officially in the name of the Central Executive Committee at the conference that we decided not to come out.” Nevertheless, the demonstration developed by about six o’clock. “Did the Party have the right to wash its hands … and stand apart? … As the party of the proletariat we should have intervened in its public demonstration and given it a peaceful and organized character, without aiming at armed seizure of power.” Somewhat later Stalin told about the July Days at a Party congress: “The Party did not want the demonstration, the Party wanted to bide its time until the policy of the offensive at the front should be discredited. Nevertheless, the elemental demonstration, evoked by the chaos in the country, by the orders of Kerensky, by the dispatch of detachments to the front, took place.” The Central Committee decided to make the demonstration peaceful in character. “To the question posed by the soldiers whether it was permissible to go out armed, the Central Committee answered no. But the soldiers said that it was impossible to go out unarmed … that they would take their arms only for self-defense.”

At this point, however, we come across the enigmatic testimony of Dyemyan Byedny. In a very exultant tone, the poet laureate told in 1929 how in the quarters of the Pravda Stalin was called to the telephone from Kronstadt and how in reply to the question asked of him, whether to gó out with arms in hand or without arms, Stalin replied: “Rifles? … You comrades know best! … As for us scribblers we always take our arms, pencils, everywhere with us … As for you and your arms, you know best! …” The story was probably stylized. But one senses a grain of truth in it. In general, Stalin was inclined to underestimate the readiness of the workers and soldiers to fight: he was always mistrustful of the masses. But wherever a fight started, whether on a square in Tiflis, in the Baku prison, or on the streets of Petrograd, he always strove to make it as sharp in character as possible. The decision of the Central Committee? That could always be cautiously turned upside down with the parable about the pencils. However, one must not exaggerate the significance of that episode. The question probably came from the Kronstadt Committee of the Party. As for the sailors, they would have gone out with their arms anyway.

Without developing into an insurrection, the July Days broke through the framework of a mere demonstration. There were provocative shots from windows and rooftops. There were armed clashes without plan or clear purpose but with many killed and wounded. There was the accidental half-seizure of the Fortress of Peter and Paul by the Kronstadt sailors, there was the siege of the Tauride Palace. The Bolsheviks proved themselves complete masters in the capital, yet deliberately repudiated the insurrection as an adventure. “We could have seized power on the Third and Fourth of July,” Stalin said at the Petrograd Conference. “But against us would have risen the fronts, the provinces, the Soviets. Without support in the provinces, our government would have been without hands and feet.” Lacking a direct goal, the movement began to peter out. The workers returned to their factories, the soldiers to their barracks. There remained the problem of the Peter and Paul Fortress, still occupied by the Kronstadtites. “The Central Committee delegated me to the Peter and Paul Fortress,” Stalin has told, “where I managed to persuade the sailors present not to accept battle … As a representative of the Central Executive Committee I went with the [Menshevik] Bogdanov to [the Commanding Officer] Kozmin. He was ready for battle … We persuaded him not to resort to armed force … It was apparent to me that the Right Wing wanted blood in order to teach a ’lesson’ to the workers, soldiers and sailors. We made it impossible for them to attain their wish.” Stalin was able to carry out such a delicate mission successfully only because he was not an odious figure in the eyes of the Compromisers: their hatred was directed against other people. Besides, he was able, like no one else, to assume in these negotiations the tone of a sober and moderate Bolshevik who avoided excesses and was inclined to compromise. He surely did not mention his advice about “the pencils” to the sailors.

In the teeth of the obvious facts, the Compromisers proclaimed the July demonstration an armed uprising and accused the Bolsheviks of conspiracy. When the movement was already over, reactionary troops arrived from the front. In the press appeared news, based on the “documents” of the Minister of Justice Pereverzev, that Lenin and his collaborators were outright agents of the German General Staff. Then began days of calumny, persecution and rioting. The Pravda offices were demolished. The authorities issued an order for the arrest of Lenin, Zinoviev and others responsible for the “insurrection”. The bourgeois and Compromisist press ominously demanded that the guilty surrender themselves to the hands of justice. There were conferences in the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks: should Lenin appear before the authorities, in order to give open battle to the calumny, or should he hide? Would the matter go as far as a court trial? There was no lack of wavering, inevitable in the midst of such a sharp break in the situation.

THE YEAR 1917 211

The question of who “saved” Lenin in those days and who wanted to “ruin” him occupies no small place in Soviet literature. Dyemyan Byedny told some time ago how he rushed to Lenin by car and argued with him not to imitate Christ who “gave himself up into the hands of his enemies”. Bonch-Bruyevich, the former office manager of the Sovnarkom [People’s Council of Commissars], completely contradicted his friend by telling in the press how Dymyan Byedny passed the critical hours at his country place in Finland. The implication that the honor of having convinced Lenin “belonged to other comrades” clearly indicates that Bonch was obliged to annoy his close friend in order to give satisfaction to somebody more influential.

In her reminiscences Krupskaya states: “On the 7th I visited Ilyich at his quarters in the apartment of the Alliluyevs together with Maria Ilyinichna [Lenin’s sister]. This was just at the moment when Ilyich was wavering. He marshalled arguments in favor of the necessity to appear in court. Maria Ilyinichna argued against him hotly. ‘Gregory [Zinoviev] and I have decided to appear. Go and tell Kamenev about it,’ Ilyich told me. I made haste. ‘Let’s say good-bye,’ Vladimir Ilyich said to me, ’we may never see each other again.’ We embraced. I went to Kamenev and gave him Vladimir Ilyich’s message. In the evening Stalin and others persuaded Ilyich not to appear in court and thereby saved his life.”

These trying hours were described in greater detail by Ordzhonikidze. “The fierce hounding of our Party leaders began … Some of our comrades took the point of view that Lenin must not hide, that he must appear … So reasoned many prominent Bolsheviks. I met Stalin in the Tauride Palace. We went together to see Lenin …” The first thing that strikes the eye is the fact that during those hours when “a fierce hounding of our Party leaders” was going on, Ordzhonikidze and Stalin calmly meet at the Tauride Palace, headquarters of the enemy, and leave it unpunished. The same old argument was renewed at Alliluyev’s apartment: to surrender or to hide? Lenin supposed that there would be no open trial. More categorical than any other against surrender was Stalin: “The Junkers [military students, equivalent of West Pointers] won’t take you as far as prison, they’ll kill you on the way …” At that moment Stassova appeared and informed them of a new rumor—that Lenin was, according to the documents of the Police Department, a provocateur. “These words produced an incredibly strong impression on Lenin. A nervous shudder ran over his face, and he declared with the utmost determination that he must go to jail.” Ordzhonikidze and Nogin were sent to the Tauride Palace, to attempt to persuade the parties in power to guarantee “that Ilyich would not be lynched … by the Junkers.” But the frightened Mensheviks were seeking guarantees for themselves. Stalin in his turn reported at the Petrograd Conference: “I personally posed the question of making a declaration to Lieber and Anissimov [Mensheviks, members of the Soviet Central Executive Committee], and they replied to me that they could not give guarantees of any kind.” After this feeler in the camp of the enemy, it was decided that Lenin should leave Petrograd and hide securely underground. “Stalin undertook to organize Lenin’s departure.”

To what extent the opponents of Lenin’s surrender to the authorities were right was proved subsequently by the story of the officer commanding the troops, General Polovtsev. “The officer going to Terioki [Finland] in hopes of catching Lenin asked me if I wanted to receive that gentleman whole or in pieces … I replied with a smile that people under arrest very often try to escape.” For the organizers of judicial forgery it was not a question of “justice” but of seizing and killing Lenin, as was done two years later in Germany with Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Stalin was more convinced than the others of the inevitability of a bloody reprisal; such a solution was quite in accord with his own cast of thought. Moreover, he was far from inclined to worry about what “public opinion” might say. Others, including Lenin and Zinoviev, wavered. Nogin and Lunarcharsky became opponents of surrender in the course of the day, after having been in favor of it. Stalin held out more tenaciously than others and was proved right.

Let us see now what the latest Soviet historiography has made of this dramatic episode. “The Mensheviks, the Essars and Trotsky, who subsequently became a Fascist bandit,” writes an official publication of 1938, “demanded Lenin’s voluntary appearance in court. Also in favor of it were those who have since been exposed as enemies of the people, the Fascist hirelings Kamenev and Rykov. Stalin fought them tooth and nail,” and so on. As a matter of fact, I personally took no part in those conferences, since during those hours I was myself obliged to go into hiding. On the tenth of July, I addressed myself in writing to the Government of the Mensheviks and Essars, declaring my complete solidarity with Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, and on the twenty-second of July I was arrested. In a letter to the Petrograd Conference Lenin deemed it necessary to note particularly that “during the difficult July days (Trotsky) proved himself equal to the situation.” Stalin was not arrested and was not even formally indicted in this case for the very simple reason that he was politically non-existent as far as the authorities or public opinion were concerned. During the fierce persecution of Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, myself and others, Stalin was hardly ever mentioned in the press, although he was an editor of Pravda and signed his articles. No one paid the slightest attention to these articles and no one was interested in their author.

Lenin hid at first in Alliluyev’s apartment, then moved to Sestroretsk, where he stayed with the worker Emelyanov, whom he trusted implicitly and to whom he refers respectfully without mentioning him by name in one of his articles. “At the time of Vladimir Ilyich’s departure for Sestroretsk—that was in the evening of July eleventh—Comrade Stalin and I,” relates Alliluyev, “escorted Ilyich to the Sestroretsk station. During his sojourn in the tent at Razliv, and later in Finland, Vladimir Ilyich sent notes to Stalin through me from time to time. The notes were brought to me at my apartment; and, since it was necessary to answer them immediately, Stalin moved in with me in the month of August and lived with me in the very room in which Vladimir Ilyich hid out during the July days.” Here he evidently met his future wife, Alliluyev’s daughter Nadezhda, who was a mere adolescent at the time. Another of the veteran Bolshevik workers, Rahia, a Russified Finn, told in print how Lenin instructed him on one occasion “to bring Stalin the next evening. I was supposed to find Stalin in the editorial offices of Pravda . They talked very long.” Along with Krupskaya, Stalin was during that period an important connecting link between the Central Committee and Lenin, who undoubtedly trusted him completely as a cautious conspirator. Besides, all the circumstances naturally pushed Stalin into that role: Zinoviev was in hiding, Kamenev and I were in jail, Sverdlov was in charge of all the organizational work. Stalin was freer than others and less in the eye of the police.

During the period of reaction after the July movement, Stalin’s role grew considerably more important. Pestkovsky wrote in his apologetic reminiscences about Stalin’s work during the summer of 1917: “The laboring masses of Petrograd knew Stalin very little then. Nor was he seeking popular acclaim. Having no talent as an orator, he avoided addressing mass meetings. But no Party conference, no serious organizational conclave got along without a political speech by Stalin. Because of that, the Party activists knew him well. When the question arose about Bolshevik candidates from Petrograd to the Constituent Assembly, the candidacy of Stalin was advanced to one of the foremost places upon the initiative of the Party activists.” Stalin’s name in the Petrograd list was in the sixth place … As late as 1930, in order to explain why Stalin did not enjoy popularity, it was still deemed necessary to point out that he lacked “the oratorical talent”. Now such an expression would be utterly impossible: Stalin has been proclaimed the idol of the Petrograd workers and a classic orator. But it is true that, although he did not appear before the masses, Stalin, alongside of Sverdlov, carried out in July and August extremely responsible work at headquarters, at conclaves and conferences, in contacts with the Petersburg Committee, and the like.

Concerning the leadership of the Party during that period, Lunarsharsky wrote in 1923: “… Until the July days Sverdlov was, so to speak, at the chief headquarters of the Bolsheviks, in charge of all that happened, together with Lenin, Zinoviev and Stalin. During the July days he advanced to the forefront.” That was true. In the midst of the cruel devastation which fell upon the Party that little dark man in eye-glasses behaved as if nothing untoward had happened. He continued to assign people to their tasks, encouraged those who needed encouragement, gave advice, and when necessary gave orders. He was the authentic “General Secretary” of the revolutionary year, although he did not bear that title. But he was the secretary of a party whose unchallenged political leader, Lenin, remained underground. From Finland Lenin sent articles, letters, drafts of resolutions, on all the basic questions of policy. Although the fact that he was at a distance led him not infrequently into tactical errors, it enabled him all the more surely to define the Party’s strategy. The daily leadership fell to Sverdlov and Stalin, as the most influential members of the Central Committee remaining at liberty. The mass movement had in the meantime weakened considerably. Half of the Party had gone underground. The preponderance of the machine had grown correspondingly. Inside of the machine, the role of Stalin grew automatically. That law operates unalterably through his entire political biography and forms, as it were, its mainspring.

It was the workers and soldiers of Petrograd who suffered the direct defeat in July. In the final reckoning, it was their impetuousness that was smashed to pieces against the relative backwardness of the provinces. The defeatist mood among the masses of the capital was therefore deeper than anywhere else. But it lasted only a few weeks. Open agitation was resumed in the middle of July, when at small meetings in various parts of the city three courageous revolutionists appeared: Slutsky, who was later killed by the White Guards in Crimea; Volodarsky, killed by the Essars in Petrograd; and Yevdokimov, killed by Stalin in 1936. After losing accidental fellow-travelers here and there, by the end of the month the Party again began to grow.

On the twenty-first and twenty-second of July an exceptionally important conference, which remained unnoticed by the authorities and by the press, was held in Petrograd. After the tragic failure of the adventurous offensive, delegates from the front began to arrive at the capital more and more often with protests against the suppression of liberties in the army and against continuation of the war. They were not admitted to the Central Executive Committee, because the Compromisers had nothing to tell them. The soldiers from the front got acquainted with one another in the corridors and reception rooms, and exchanged opinions on the grandees of the Central Executive Committee in vigorous soldierly words. The Bolsheviks, who had the knack of insinuating themselves everywhere, advised the bewildered and irate delegates to confer with the workers, soldiers and sailors of the capital. The conference that thus originated was attended by representatives of 29 front-line regiments, of 90 Petrograd factories, of Kronstadt sailors and of several surrounding garrisons. The front-line soldiers told about the senseless offensive, about the carnage, and about the collaboration between the Compromisist commissars and the reactionary officers, who were again getting cocky. Although most of the front-line soldiers continued to regard themselves as Essars, the sharply-worded Bolshevik resolution was passed unanimously. From Petrograd the delegates went back to the trenches as matchless agitators for a workers’ and peasants’ revolution. It would seem that the leading roles in the organization of this remarkable conference were played by Sverdlov and Stalin.

The Petrograd Conference, which had tried in vain to keep the masses from demonstrating, dragged on, after considerable interruption, until the night of the twentieth of July. The course of its activities sheds considerable light on Stalin’s role and his place in the Party. The organizational leadership on behalf of the Central Committee was borne by Sverdlov, who unpretentiously and without any false airs of modesty, left the sphere of theories and important questions of policy to others. The conference was mainly concerned with appraising the political situation as it developed after the havoc of July. Volodarsky, leading member of the Petrograd Committee, declared in the very beginning: “On the current moment only Zinoviev can be the reporter … It would be well to hear Lenin …” No one mentioned Stalin. The conference, cut short by the mass movement, was resumed only on the sixteenth of July. By that time Zinoviev and Lenin were in hiding, and the basic political report fell to Stalin, who appeared as a substitute for Zinoviev. “It is clear to me,” he said, “that at the given moment the counter-revolution has conquered us. We are isolated and betrayed by the Mensheviks and the Essars, lied about

The reporter’s chief point was the victory of the bourgeois counterrevolution. However, it was an unstable victory; as long as the war continued, as long as the economic collapse had not been overcome, as long as the peasants had not received their land, “there are bound to be crises, the masses will repeatedly come out into the streets, and more, there will be bolder battles. The revolution’s peaceful period is over …” Hence the slogan, “All power to the Soviets,” was no longer practical. The Compromisist Soviets had helped the militaristic bourgeois counter-revolution to crush the Bolsheviks and to disarm the workers and soldiers, and in that way they themselves had forfeited actual power. Only yesterday they could have removed the Provisional Government with a mere decree; within the Soviets the Bolsheviks could have secured power in simple by-elections. But now this was no longer possible. Aided by the Compromisers, the counter-revolution had armed itself. The Soviets themselves had become a mere camouflage for the counter-revolution. It would be silly to demand power for these Soviets! “It is not the institution, but what class policy an institution pursues that matters.” Peaceful conquest of power was out of the question now. There was nothing left to do but prepare for an armed uprising, which would become possible as soon as the humblest villagers, and with them the soldiers at the fronts, turned toward the workers. But this bold strategic perspective was followed by an extremely cautious tactical directive for the impending period. “Our task is to gather forces, to strengthen the existing organizations and to restrain the masses from premature demonstrations … That is the general tactical line of the Central Committee.”

Although quite elementary in form, this report contained a thoroughgoing appraisal of the situation that had developed within the last few days. The debates added comparatively little to what the reporter had said. In 1927 the editorial board of the protocols recorded: “The basic propositions of this report had been agreed upon jointly with Lenin and developed in accordance with Lenin’s article, ‘Three Crises,’ which had not yet had time to appear in print.” Moreover the delegates knew, most likely through Krupskaya, that Lenin had written special theses for the reporter. “The group of the conferees,” declares the protocol, “requested that Lenin’s theses be made public. Stalin stated that he did not have the theses with him …..The demand of the delegates is all-too understandable: the change in orientation was so radical that they wanted to hear the authentic voice of their leader. But Stalin’s reply is incomprehensible: had he simply left the theses at home, they could have been presented at the next session; however, the theses were never delivered. The impression thus created was that they had been hidden from the conference. Even more astonishing is the fact that the “July Theses,” quite unlike all the other documents written by Lenin in the underground, have not been published to this day. Since the only copy was in Stalin’s possession, we must presume that he lost them. However, he himself said nothing about having lost them. The editorial board of the protocols expresses the supposition that Lenin’s theses were composed by him in the spirit of his articles, “Three Crises” and “About Slogans,” written before the conference but published after it at Kronstadt, where there was still freedom of the press. As a matter of fact, a juxtaposition of texts shows that Stalin’s report was no more than a simple exposition of these two articles, without a single original word added by him. Evidently Stalin had not read the articles themselves and did not suspect their existence; but he used the theses, which were identical with the articles in the tenor of their thought, and that circumstance sufficiently explains why the reporter “forgot” to bring Lenin’s theses to the conference and why that document was never preserved. Stalin’s character makes that hypothesis not only admissible but unavoidable.

Inside the conference committee, where a fierce struggle was going on, Volodarsky, who refused to admit that the counter-revolution had won a decisive victory in July, gathered a majority. The resolution that had now emerged from the committee was no longer defended before the conference by Stalin but by Volodarsky. Stalin made no demand for a minority report and took no part in the debate. There was confusion among the delegates. Volodarsky’s resolution was finally supported by 28 delegates against 3, with 28 not voting. The group of Vyborg delegates excused their abstention from voting by the fact that “Lenin’s theses had not been made public and the resolution was not defended by the reporter.” The hint at the improper hiding of the theses was plain enough. Stalin said nothing. He had sustained a double defeat, since he had evoked dissatisfaction with his concealment of the theses and could not secure a majority for them.

As for Volodarsky, he continued to defend in substance the Bolshevik schema for the Revolution of 1905: first, the democratic dictatorship.; then the inevitable break with the peasantry; and, in the event of the victory of the proletariat in the West, the struggle for the socialist dictatorship. Stalin, supported by Molotov and several others, defended Lenin’s new conception: the dictatorship of the proletariat, resting on the poorest peasants, can alone assure a solution of the tasks of the democratic revolution and at the same time open the era of socialist transformations. Stalin was right as against Volodarsky,- but he did not know how to prove it. On the other hand, in refusing to recognize that the bourgeois counter-revolution had won a decisive victory, Volodarsky was proved right against both Lenin and Stalin. That debate was to come up again at the Party Congress several days later. The conference ended with passing an appeal written by Stalin, “To All the Toilers,” which read in part: “… The corrupt hirelings and cowardly calumniators dare openly to accuse the leaders of our Party of ‘treason’ … Never before have the names of our leaders been as dear and as close to the working class as now when the impudent bourgeois rabble is throwing mud at them!” Besides Lenin, the chief victims of persecution and calumny were Zinoviev, Kamenev and myself. These names were especially dear to Stalin “when the bourgeois rabble” threw mud at them.

The Petrograd Conference was in the nature of a rehearsal for the Party Congress that convened on the twenty-sixth of July. By that time nearly all the district Soviets of Petrograd were in the hands of the Bolsheviks. At the headquarters of the trade unions, as well as in factory and shop committees, the influence of the Bolsheviks had become dominant. The organizational preparation for the Congress was concentrated in Sverdlov’s hands. The political preparation was guided by Lenin from underground. In letters to the Central Committee and in the Bolshevik press, which began to come out again, he shed light on the political situation from various angles. He it was who wrote the drafts of all the basic resolutions for the Congress, carefully weighing all the arguments at clandestine meetings with the various reporters.

The Congress was called “Unifying,” because in it was to take place the fusion into the Party of the Petrograd Inter-district [Mezhrayonnaya ] organization, to which belonged Joffe, Uritsky, Ryazanov, Lunarcharsky, Pokrovsky, Manuilsky, Yurenev, Karakhan and I, as well as other revolutionists who in one way or another entered into the history of the Soviet Revolution, “During the years of the War,” states a footnote to Lenin’s Works, “the Inter-districters [Mezhrayontsy ] were close to the Bolshevik Petersburg Committee.” At the time of the Congress the organization numbered about 4,000 workers.

News of the Congress, which met semi-legally in two different working class districts, got into the newspapers. In government circles there was talk of breaking it up. But when it came to a showdown, Kerensky decided that it would be more sensible not to butt into the Vyborg District. As far as the general public was concerned, the people in charge of the Congress were unknown. Among the Bolsheviks at the Congress who subsequently became famous were Sverdlov, Bukharin, Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Ordzhinikidze, Yurenev, Manuilsky … The praesidium consisted of Sverdlov, Olminsky, Lomov, Yurenev and Stalin. Even here, with the most prominent figures of Bolshevism absent, Stalin’s name is listed in the last place. The Congress resolved to send greetings to “Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Lunarcharsky, Kamenev, Kollontai and all the other arrested and persecuted comrades.” These were elected to the honorary praesidium. The 1938 edition records only Lenin’s election.

Sverdlov reported on the organizational work of the Central Committee. Since the April Conference the Party had grown from 8o,000 to 240,000 members, i.e., had tripled in size. The growth, under the blows of July, was a healthy one. Astonishing because of its insignificance was the total circulation of the entire Bolshevik press—a mere three hundred and twenty thousand copies for such a gigantic country! But the revolutionary set-up is electric: Bolshevik ideas made their way into the consciousness of millions.

Stalin repeated two of his reports—on the political activity of the Central Committee and on the state of the country. Referring to the municipal elections, at which the Bolsheviks won about twenty per cent of the vote in the capital, Stalin reported: “The Central Committee … did its utmost to fight not only the Kadets, the basic force of the counter-revolution, but likewise the Mensheviks and Essars, who willy-nilly followed the Kadets.” Much water had gone under the bridge since the days of the March Conference, when Stalin had considered the Mensheviks and the Essars as part of “the revolutionary democracy” and had relied on the Kadets to “fortify” the conquests of the Revolution.

Contrary to custom, questions of war, social patriotism, the collapse of the Second International and the groupings inside of world socialism, were excerpted from the political report and assigned to Bukharin, since Stalin could not make head or tail of international matters. Bukharin argued that the campaign for peace by way of “pressure” on the Provisional Government and the other governments of the Entente had suffered complete collapse and that only the overthrow of the Provisional Government could bring an early approach to a democratic liquidation of the war. Following Bukharin, Stalin made his report on the tasks of the Party. The debates were carried on jointly on both reports, although it soon became apparent that the two reporters were not in agreement.

”Some comrades have argued,” Stalin reported, “that, because capitalism is poorly developed in our country, it is utopian to pose the question of the socialist revolution. They would have been right, had there been no war, no collapse, had not the very foundations of national economy gone to pieces. But today these questions of intervention in the economic sphere are posed in all countries as imperative questions …” Moreover, “nowhere did the proletariat have such broad organizations as the Soviets … All this precludes the possibility that the laboring masses should refrain from intervening in economic life. Therein is the realistic foundation for posing the question of the socialist revolution in Russia.”

Amazing is the obvious incongruity of his main argument: if the weak development of capitalism makes the program of socialist revolution utopian, then the demolition of the productive forces through war should not bring the era of socialism any closer but on the contrary make it more remote than ever. As a matter of fact, the tendency to transform the democratic revolution into the socialist one is not grounded in the demolition of the productive forces through war, but in the social structure of Russian capitalism. That tendency could have been perceived—as indeed it was—before the war and independently of it. True, the war accelerated the revolutionary process in the masses to an immeasurably more rapid tempo, but it did not in the least change the social content of the revolution. However, it should be added that Stalin cribbed his argument from some isolated and undeveloped remarks of Lenin, whose purpose was to get the old cadres used to the need of rearming.

During the debates, Bukharin tried partly to defend the old Bolshevik schema: in the first revolution the Russian proletariat marches shoulder to shoulder with the peasantry, in the name of democracy; in the second revolution—shoulder to shoulder with the European proletariat, in the name of socialism. “What is the sense of Bukharin’s perspective?” Stalin retorted. “According to him, we are working for a peasant revolution during the first stage. But that cannot … fail to coincide with the workers’ revolution. It is impossible that the working class, which is the vanguard of revolution, should at the same time fail to fight for its own demands. Therefore, I consider Bukharin’s schema light-minded.” This was absolutely right. The peasant revolution could not win otherwise than by placing the proletariat in power. The proletariat could not assume power, without beginning the socialist revolution. Stalin employed against Bukharin the very same reflections which, expounded for the first time in the beginning of 1905, were branded “utopian” until April, 1917. But in a few years Stalin was to forget these arguments which he voiced at the Sixth Congress; instead, jointly with Bukharin he was to revive the “democratic dictatorship” formula, which would have an important place in the program of the Comintern and play a fatal role in the revolutionary movement of China and other countries.

The basic task of the Congress was to change the key-note from peaceful transition of power to the Soviets to preparedness for armed insurrection. To do that, it was first of all necessary to understand the shift in the correlation of forces that had taken place. Its general direction was obvious—from the people to the bourgeoisie. It was far more difficult to determine the extent of the change: only another open clash between the classes could measure the new correlation of forces. This test came toward the end of August with General Kornilov’s revolt, which made it immediately clear that the bourgeoisie continued to have no support either among the people or the army. The July shift was consequently superficial and episodic in character; nevertheless it was real enough. Henceforth, it was unthinkable to suggest peaceful transition of power to the Soviets. Formulating the new course, Lenin was above all concerned with making the Party face the changed correlation of forces as resolutely as possible. In a certain sense he resorted to deliberate exaggeration: it is more dangerous to underestimate the enemy’s forces than to overestimate them. But an overdrawn appraisal would have made the Congress balk, just as it had done at the Petrograd Conference—especially, because of Stalin’s oversimplified expression of Lenin’s ideas.

”The situation is clear,” Stalin was saying. “No one talks any more about dual authority. The Soviets, which were once a real force, are now merely powerless organs for rallying the masses.” Certain of the delegates were absolutely right in protesting that the triumph of the reaction in July was temporary, that the counter-revolution had not won and that dual authority had not yet been abolished to the advantage of the bourgeoisie. Stalin replied to these arguments as he had done at the Conference, with the stock phrase: “Reaction does not occur during revolution.” As a matter of fact, the orbit of every revolution is made up of exceptional curves of ascent and descent. Counter-jolts by the enemy, or resulting from the very backwardness of the masses themselves, which render the régime more acceptable to the needs of the counter-revolutionary class, bring forth reaction, without yet displacing those in power. But the victory of the counter-revolution is quite another matter: that is inconceivable without the passing of power into the hands of another class. No such decisive transition took place in July. To this very day, Soviet historians and commentators continue to copy Stalin’s formula from book to book, without asking themselves this question: if the power had passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie in July, why did the bourgeoisie have to resort to an uprising in August? Until the July events, under the régime of dual authority the Provisional Government was a mere phantom while real power reposed in the Soviet. After the July events, part of the real power passed from the Soviet to the bourgeoisie, but only a part: dual authority did not disappear. That was the very thing that subsequently determined the character of the October Revolution.

”Should the counter-revolutionaries manage to last a month or two,” Stalin said further, “it would be only because the principle of coalition has not been abolished. As the forces of the revolution develop, explosions will occur, and the moment will come when the workers will arouse and rally around themselves the strata of the poor peasantry, raise the banner of the workers’ revolution and start the era of socialist revolution in the West.” Let us note: the mission of the Russian proletariat is to start “the era of socialist revolution in the West.” That was the Party formula for the ensuing years. In all essentials Stalin’s report gives the correct appraisal of the situation and the correct prognosis—Lenin’s appraisal and prognosis. But, as usual, his report lacks elaboration of thought. The orator asserts and proclaims; he never proves or argues. His appraisals are made by rule of thumb or taken ready-made; they do not pass through the laboratory of analytic thinking and there is no indication of that organic connection between them which in itself generates the necessary arguments, analogies and illustrations. Stalin, as a polemicist, is given to reiterating propositions already expressed, at times in the form of aphorisms, which assume as already proved the very things that need proving. Often the arguments are spiced with churlishness, especially in the peroration, when there is no need to fear an opponent’s rebuttals.

In a 1938 publication concerning the Sixth Congress, we read: “Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky and others were elected members of the Central Committee.” Only three dead men are named side by side with Stalin. Yet the protocols of the Congress inform us that 21 members and to alternates were elected to the Central Committee. In view of the Party’s semi-legality the names of persons elected by secret ballot were not announced at the Congress, with the exception of the four who had received the largest number of votes. Lenin –133 out of a possible 134, Zinoviev –132, Kamenev –131, Trotsky –131. Besides them the following were elected: Nogin, Kollontai, Stalin, Sverdlov, Rykov, Bubnov, Artem, Uritsky, Milutin, Berzin, Dzerzhinsky, Krestinsky, Muranov, Smilga, Sokolnikov, Sha’umyan.[1] The names are arranged in the order of the number of votes received. The names of eight alternates have been definitely established: Lomov, Joffe, Stassova, Yakovleva, Dzhaparidze, Kisselev, Preobrazhensky, Skrypnik.

The Congress ended on the third of August. The next day Kamenev was liberated from prison. From then on he not only spoke regularly in Soviet institutions but exerted an unmistakable influence on the Party’s general policy and on Stalin personally. Although in varying degrees both of them had adapted themselves to the new line, it was not so easy for them to rid themselves of their own ’mental habits. Wherever possible, Kamenev rounded out the sharp angles of Lenin’s policy. Stalin did not object to that; he merely kept out of harm’s way. An open conflict flared up on the issue of the Socialist conference in Stockholm, the initiative for which had come from the German Social-Democrats. The Russian patriots and compromisers, inclined to grasp at any straw, saw in that conference an important means of “fighting for peace”. But Lenin, who had been accused of connections with the German General Staff, came out resolutely against participation in this enterprise, which was obviously sponsored by the German Government. At the session of the Central Executive Committee of August sixth Kamenev openly came out for participation in the conference. It did not even occur to Stalin to come to the defense of the Party position in the Proletarian (which was then Pravda ’s name). Instead, Stalin held back from publication Lenin’s sharp article against Kamenev, which appeared only after a delay of ten days and only because of its author’s persistent demands, reinforced by his appeal to other members of the Central Committee. Nevertheless, even then, Stalin did not come out openly in support of Kamenev.

Immediately after Kamenev’s liberation a rumor was launched in the press by the democratic Ministry of Justice to the effect that he had had some connections with the Tsarist secret police. Kamenev demanded an investigation. The Central Committee commissioned Stalin “to discuss with Gotz [one of the Essar leaders] a commission in the case of Kamenev.” He had been given similar assignments in the past: “to discuss with the Menshevik Bogdanov the case of the Kronstadtites, “to discuss” with the Menshevik Anissimov guarantees for Lenin. Remaining behind the scenes, Stalin was more suitable than others for all sorts of delicate assignments. Besides, the Central Committee was always sure that in discussions with opponents Stalin would not let anyone pull the wool over his eyes.

[1] Bukharin’s name is missing from this list—C. M.

”The reptilian_ hissing of the counter-revolution,” wrote Stalin on August thirteenth about the calumny against Kamenev, “is again becoming louder. The disgusting serpent of reaction thrusts its poisonous fang from round the corner. It will sting and slink back into its dark lair …” and so forth in the typical style of his Tiflis “chameleons”. But the article is interesting not only stylistically. “The infamous baiting, the bacchanal of lies and calumnies, the shameless deception, the low-grade forgery and falsification,” the author continued, “assume proportions hitherto unknown in history … At first they tried to smear the tested revolutionary fighters as German spies, and that having failed, they want to make them out Tsarist spies. Thus they are trying to brand those who have devoted their entire conscious life to the cause of the revolutionary struggle against the Tsarist regime as … Tsarist varlets … The political meaning of all this is self-evident: the masters of the counter-revolution are intent at all cost to render Kamenev harmless and to extirpate him as one of the recognized leaders of the revolutionary proletariat.” It is a pity that this article did not figure in Prosecutor Vyshinsky’s material during Kamenev’s trial in 1936.

On August 30, Stalin published without a word of reservation an unsigned article by Zinoviev, “What Not To Do,” which was obviously directed against preparations for the insurrection. “It is necessary to face the truth: in Petrograd there are now many circumstances favorable to the emergence of an insurrection typified by the Paris Commune of 1871.” Without mentioning Zinoviev, Lenin wrote on September third: “The reference to the Commune is very superficial and even foolish … The Commune could not at once offer to the people all that the Bolsheviks can offer them when they become the government: namely, land to the peasants, immediate peace proposals.” The blow at Zinoviev rebounded at the editor of the newspaper. But Stalin kept silent. Anonymously, he was ready to support any Right Wing polemic against Lenin. But he was careful not to involve himself in it. At the first sign of danger he stepped aside.

There is practically nothing to say about Stalin’s newspaper work during that period. He was the editor of the central organ, not because he was a writer by nature, but because he was not an orator and simply did not fit into any public activity. He did not write a single notable article; did not pose a single new question for discussion; did not introduce a single slogan into general circulation. His comments on events were impersonal, and strictly within the framework of current Party views. He was a Party functionary assigned to a newspaper, not a revolutionary publicist.

The revival of the mass movement and the return to activity of the Central Committee members who had been temporarily severed from it, naturally threw Stalin out of the position of prominence he held during the July congress. From then on, his activities were carried on in obscurity, unknown to the masses, unnoted by the enemy. In 1924 the Commission on Party History published a copious chronicle of the revolution in several volumes. The 422 pages of the fourth volume, dealing with August and September, record all the happenings, occurrences, brawls, resolutions, speeches, articles in any way deserving of notice. Sverdlov, then practically unknown, was mentioned three times in that volume; Kamenev, 46 times; I, who spent August and the beginning of September in prison, 31 times; Lenin, who was in the underground, 16 times; Zinoviev, who shared Lenin’s fate, 6 times; Stalin was not mentioned even once. Stalin’s name is not even in the index of approximately 50o proper names. In other words, throughout those two months the press did not take cognizance of anything he did or of a single speech he spoke and not one of the more or less prominent participants in the events of those days mentioned his name even once.

Fortunately, it is possible to trace Stalin’s role in the life of the Party, or rather of its headquarters staff, more or less closely through the protocols of the Central Committee for seven months (August, 1917 to February, 1918), which have been preserved but which, true enough, are incomplete. During the absence of the political leaders, Milutin, Smilga, Glebov, figures of little influence but better fit for public appearances than Stalin, were delegated to the various conferences and congresses. Stalin’s name seldom occurs in Party decisions. Uritsky, Sokolnikov and Stalin were delegated to organize a committee for elections to the Constituent Assembly. The same three were delegated to draft the resolution on the Stockholm Conference. Stalin was delegated to negotiate with a printshop about re-establishing the central organ. He was on still another committee for drafting a resolution, and the like. After the July congress Stalin’s motion to organize the work of the Central Committee on the principle of “strict allocation of functions” was passed. However, that motion was easier to write than to execute: the course of events was to continue for some time to confound functions and to upset decisions. On the second of September the Central Committee designated editorial boards for the weekly and monthly journals, in both of which Stalin participated. On the sixth of September—after my liberation from prison—Stalin and Ryazanov were replaced on the editorial board of the theoretical journal by Kamenev and me. But that decision, too, remained only in the protocol. As a matter of fact, both journals published only one issue each, and the actual editorial board was quite different from the one designated.

On the fifth of October the Central Committee appointed a committee to prepare a Draft Party Program for the forthcoming convention. That committee was made up of Lenin, Bukharin, myself, Kamenev, Sokolnikov and Kollontai. Stalin was not included in it, not because there was any opposition to his candidature, but simply because his name never occurred to anyone when it was a matter of drafting a theoretical Party document of prime importance. But the program committee never met—not even once. Quite different tasks were on the order of the day. The Party won the insurrection and came to power without having a finished program. Even in purely Party matters, events did not always dispose of people in correspondence with the foresight and plans of the Party hierarchy. The Central Committee designated editorial boards, committees, groups of three, of five, of seven, which, before they could meet, were upset by new events, and everybody forgot yesterday’s decision. Besides, for reasons of conspiracy, the protocols were securely hidden away, and no one ever referred to them.

Rather strange was Stalin’s comparatively frequent absence. He was absent six times from 24 sessions of the Central Committee for August, September and the first week of October. The list of participants for the other six sessions is not available. This lack of punctuality is all the more inexcusable in Stalin’s case, because he took no part in the work of the Soviet and its Central Executive Committee and never spoke at public meetings. He himself evidently did not attach the importance to his own participation in the sessions of the Central Committee which is ascribed to him nowadays. In a number of cases his absence was undoubtedly explained by hurt feelings and irritation: whenever he cannot carry his point he is inclined to sulk in hiding and dream of revenge. Noteworthy is the order in which the presence of Central Committee members at its sessions was recorded in the protocol: September 13th: Trotsky, Kamenev, Stalin, Sverdlov and others; September i 5th: Trotsky, Kamenev, Rykov, Nogin, Stalin, Sverdlov, and others; September 10th: Trotsky, Uritsky, Bubnov, Bukharin, and others (Stalin and Kamenev absent); September 21st: Trotsky, Kamenev, Stalin, Sokolnikov, and others; September 23rd: Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, and so forth (Stalin absent). The order of the names was not of course regulated and was sometimes violated. Yet it was not accidental, especially when we consider that in the preceding period, when Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev were absent, Stalin’s name was occasionally listed in first place. These are, of course, trifling matters. But there is nothing bigger to be found with reference to Stalin; besides, these trifles mirror impartially the Party’s life from day to day and Stalin’s place in it.

The greater the sweep of the movement, the smaller is Stalin’s place in it and the harder it is for him to stand out among the ordinary members of the Central Committee. In October, the decisive month of the decisive year, Stalin was less noticeable than ever. The truncated Central Committee, his only substantial base, was itself devoid of innate self-confidence during those months. Its decisions were too often nullified through outside initiative. On the whole, the Party machine never felt itself firmly grounded in the revolutionary turmoil. The broader and deeper the influence of Bolshevism’s slogans, the harder it was for the committeemen to grasp the movement. The more the Soviets fell under the influence of the Party, the less of a place did the machine find for itself. Such is one of the paradoxes of revolution.

Transferring to 1917 conditions that crystallized considerably later, when the waters of the floodtide had receded inside the banks, many historians, even quite conscientious ones, tell the story as if the Central Committee had directly guided the policy of the Petrograd Soviet, which became Bolshevik about the beginning of September. As a matter of fact, that was not the case. The protocols undoubtedly show that, with the exception of several plenary sessions in which Lenin, Zinoviev and I participated, the Central Committee did not play a political role. It did not assume the initiative in a single important issue. Many of the Central Committee decisions for that period remained hanging in the air, having clashed with the decisions of the Soviet. The most important resolutions of the Soviet were transformed into action before the Central Committee had the time to consider them. Only after the conquest of power, the end of the civil war, and the establishment of a stable regime, would the Central Committee little by little begin to concentrate the leadership of Soviet activity in its hands. Then would come Stalin’s turn.

On the eighth of August the Central Committee launched a vigorous campaign against the Government Conference convoked by Kerensky in Moscow, which was crudely manipulated in the interests of the bourgeoisie. The conference opened on the twelfth of August under the stress of the general strike of protest by the Moscow workers. Not admitted to the conference, the Bolsheviks found a more effective expression for their power. The bourgeoisie was frightened and furious. Having surrendered Riga to the Germans on the twenty- first, Commander-in-Chief Kornilov started his march on Petrograd on the twenty-fifth, intent on a personal dictatorship. Kerensky, who had been deceived in his calculations about Kornilov, declared the Commander-in-Chief “a traitor to the fatherland”. Even at that crucial moment, on the twenty-seventh of August, Stalin did not show up at the Soviet Central Executive Committee. Sokolnikov appeared there in the name of the Bolsheviks. He proclaimed the readiness of the Bolsheviks to come to terms about military measures with the organs of the Soviet majority. The Mensheviks and the Essars accepted the offer with thanks and with gritting of teeth, for the soldiers and workers were now following the Bolsheviks. The rapid and bloodless liquidation of the Kornilov mutiny completely restored the power the Soviets had partly lost in July. The Bolsheviks revived the slogan, “All Power to the Soviets!” In the press Lenin proposed a compromise to the Compromisers: let the Soviets take power and guarantee complete freedom of propaganda, and the Bolsheviks would take their stand entirely on the ground of Soviet legality. The Compromisers bellicosely rejected a compromise with the Bolsheviks. They continued to seek their allies on the Right.

The high-handed refusal of the Compromisers only strengthened the Bolsheviks. As in 1905, the preponderance which the first wave of revolution brought to the Mensheviks soon melted in the atmosphere of the sharpening class struggle. But unlike its tendency in the First Revolution, the growth of Bolshevism now corresponded to the rise rather than the decline of the mass movement. The same essential process assumed a different form in the villages: a Left Wing split off from the Essar Party, which was dominant among the peasantry, and tried to march in step with the Bolsheviks. The garrisons of the large cities were almost entirely with the workingmen. “Indeed, the Bolsheviks worked hard and tirelessly,” testified Sukhanov, a Left Wing Menshevik. “They were among the masses at the lathe, daily, constantly … The mass lived and breathed with the Bolsheviks. It was in the hands of the Party of Lenin and Trotsky.” It was in the hands of the Party, but not in the hands of the Party’s machine.

On the thirty-first of August the Petrograd Soviet for the first time passed a political resolution of the Bolsheviks. Trying hard not to yield, the Compromisers decided on a new test of strength. Nine days later the question was put point-blank in the Soviet. The old praesidium and the coalition policy received 414 votes with 519 opposed and 67 not voting. The Mensheviks and the Essars reaped the harvest of their policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie. The Soviets greeted the new coalition government they organized with a resolution which I, as its new president, introduced. “The new government .. . will enter the history of the revolution as the government of civil war … The All-Russian Congress of Soviets will organize a genuinely revolutionary government.” That was an outright declaration of war against the Compromisers who had rejected our “compromise”.

The so-called Democratic Conference, convoked by the Soviet Central Executive Committee, ostensibly to offset the Government Conference but actually to sanction the same old thoroughly rotten coalition, opened in Petrograd on the fourteenth of September. The Compromisers were getting frantic. A few days earlier Krupskaya had gone on a secret trip to Lenin in Finland. In a railroad coach full of soldiers the talk was not about coalition but about insurrection. “When I told Ilyich about this talk of the soldiers, his face became thoughtful; later, no matter what was under discussion, that thoughtfulness did not leave his face. It was clear that he was saying one thing and thinking of something else—the insurrection and how best to prepare for it.”

On the day the Democratic Conference opened—(the silliest of all the pseudo- parliaments of democracy)—Lenin wrote to the Party Central Committee his famous letters, “The Bolsheviks Must Take Power” and “Marxism and the Insurrection”. This time he demanded immediate action: the rousing of regiments and factories, the arrest of the government and the Democratic Conference, the seizure of power. Obviously the plan could not be carried out that very day; but it did direct the thinking and activity of the Central Committee into new channels. Kamenev insisted on a categorical rejection of Lenin’s proposal —as disastrous! Fearing that these letters might circulate through the Party as well as in the Central Committee, Kamenev gathered six votes in favor of destroying all copies except the one intended for the archives. Stalin proposed “to send the letters to the most important organizations and to suggest their discussion”. The latest commentary declares that the purpose of Stalin’s proposal was “to organize the influence of local Party Committees on the Central Committee and to urge it to carry out Lenin’s directives”. Had such been the case, Stalin would have come right out in defense of Lenin’s proposals and would have countered Kamenev’s resolution with—his own! But that was far from his thought. Most of the committeemen in the provinces were more Rightist than the Central Committee. To send them Lenin’s letters without the Central Committee’s endorsement was tantamount to expressing disapproval of them. Stalin’s proposal was made to gain time and in the event of a conflict to secure the possibility of pleading that the local Committees were balking. The Central Committee was paralyzed by vacillation. It was decided to defer the question of Lenin’s letters to the next session. Lenin was awaiting the answer in frenzied impatience. But Stalin did not even put in an appearance at the next session, which met no sooner than five days later, and the question of the letters was not even included in the order of the day. The hotter the atmosphere, the colder are Stalin’s maneuverings.

The Democratic Conference resolved to organize in agreement with the bourgeoisie some semblance of a representative institution, to which Kerensky promised to grant consultative rights. What should be the Bolshevik attitude toward this Council of the Republic or Pre-Parliament, became at once a crucial issue of tactics among the Bolsheviks: should they participate in it, or should they ignore it on their way to the insurrection? As reporter of the Central Committee at the forthcoming Party Fraction of the Democratic Conference, I proposed the idea of a boycott. The Central Committee, which divided almost in half on this debatable question (nine for the boycott and eight against), referred the question for decision to the Fraction. To expound the contradictory points of view “two reports were proposed: Trotsky’s and Rykov’s.” “As a matter of fact,” Stalin insisted in 1925, “there were four reporters: two for the boycott of the Pre-Parliament (Trotsky and Stalin) and two for participation (Kamenev and Nogin).” This is almost right: when the Fraction decided to terminate the debates, it decided to allow one more representative to speak for each side: Stalin on behalf of the boycottists and Kamenev (but not Nogin) for those favoring participation. Rykov and Kamenev received 77 votes; Stalin and 1-50. The defeat of the tactic of the boycott was delivered by the provincials, whose separation from the Mensheviks was quite recent in many parts of the country.

Superficially it might seem that the differences were of minor importance. As a matter of fact, the underlying issue was whether the Party was to prepare to play the part of the Opposition in a bourgeois republic or whether it was to set itself the task of taking power by storm. Stalin later recalled his role as a reporter because of the importance this episode had assumed in the official historiography. The obliging editor added of his own accord that I had come out for “a middle of the road position.” In subsequent editing my name has been entirely deleted. The new history proclaims: “Stalin came out resolutely against participation in the Pre-Parliament.” But in addition to the testimony of the protocols, there is also Lenin’s testimony. “We must boycott the Pre-Parliament,” he wrote on the twenty-third of September. “We must go … to the masses. We must give them a clear and correct slogan: kick out the Bonapartist Kerensky gang and his fake Pre-Parliament.” Then a footnote: “Trotsky was for the boycott. Bravo, Comrade Trotsky!” But, of course, the Kremlin has officially prescribed the elimination of all such sins from the new edition of Lenin’s Works.

On the seventh of October the Bolshevik Fraction demonstratively walked out of the Pre-Parliament. “We appeal to the people. All Power to the Soviets!” This was tantamount to calling for insurrection. That very day at the Central Committee session it was decreed to organize an Information Bureau on Fighting the Counter-Revolution. The deliberately foggy name covered a concrete task: reconnaissance and preparation of the insurrection. Sverdlov, Bubnov and I were delegated to organize that Bureau. In view of the laconic nature of the protocol and the absence of other documents, the author is compelled to resort to his own memory at this point. Stalin declined to participate in the Bureau, suggesting Bubnov, a man of little authority, in place of himself. His attitude was one of reserve, if not of skepticism, toward the idea itself. He was in favor of an insurrection. But he did not believe that the workers and soldiers were ready for action. He lived isolated not only from the masses, but even from their Soviet representation, and was content with the refracted impressions of the Party machine. So far as the masses were concerned, the July experiences had not passed without a trace. Actually blind pressure had disappeared; cautiousness had replaced it. On the other hand, confidence in the Bolsheviks was already colored with misgivings: will they be able to do what they promised? The Bolshevik agitators were complaining at times that they were being somewhat cold- shouldered by the masses. As a matter of fact, the masses were getting tired of waiting, of indecisiveness, of mere words. But in the machine this tiredness was frequently described as “absence of fighting mood”. Hence the tarnish of skepticism on many committeemen. Besides, even the bravest of men is bound to feel a little chill in the pit of the stomach just before an insurrection. This is not always acknowledged, but it is so. Stalin himself was in an equivocal frame of mind. He never forgot April, when his wisdom of a “practico” was so cruelly disgraced. On the other hand, Stalin trusted the machine far more than the masses. On all the most important occasions he insured himself by voting with Lenin. But he showed no initiative in support of the resolutions passed, refrained from directly tackling any decisive action, protected the bridges of retreat, influenced others as a dampener, and in the end missed the October Revolution because he was off on a tangent.

True, nothing came of the Bureau on Fighting the Counter-Revolution, but it was not the fault of the masses. On the ninth, Smolny got into a new sharp conflict with the Government, which had decreed the transfer of the revolutionary troops from the capital to the front. The garrison rallied more closely than ever around its protector, the Soviet. At once the preparation of the insurrection acquired a concrete basis. Yesterday’s initiator of the Bureau transferred all his attention to the creation of a military staff in the Soviet itself. The first step was taken that very day, on the ninth of October. “For counter-action against the attempts of the General Staff to lead the revolutionary troops out of Petrograd,” the Executive Committee decided to launch the Military Revolutionary Committee. Thus, by the logic of things, without any discussion in the Central Committee, almost unexpectedly, the insurrection was started in the Soviet arena and began to recruit its Soviet general staff, which was far more effective than the Bureau of the Seventh of October.

The next session of the Central Committee, with the participation of Lenin in a wig, took place on the tenth of October. It achieved historical significance. The crux of the discussion was Lenin’s motion, which proposed armed insurrection as the pressing practical task. The difficulty, even for the most convinced supporter of insurrection, was the question of time. As far back as the days of the Democratic Conference the compromisist Central Executive Committee, under the pressure of the Bolsheviks, had set the twentieth of October as the date for the Congress of the Soviets. Now there was complete assurance of a Bolshevik majority at that congress. At least in Petrograd, the insurrection had to take place before the twentieth; otherwise, the Congress would not be in position to seize the reins of government and would risk being dispersed. It was decided at the Central Committee session, without recording it on paper, to begin the insurrection in Petrograd about the fifteenth. There was, therefore, something like five days left for preparations. Everybody felt that this was not enough. But the Party was a prisoner of the date it had itself imposed upon the compromisers on a different occasion. My announcement that the Executive Committee had decided to organize a military staff of its own did not produce a great impression, because it was more a matter of plan than of fact. Everybody’s attention was concentrated on polemics with Zinoviev and Kamenev, who resolutely argued against the insurrection. It seems that Stalin either did not speak at all at this session, or limited himself to a brief remark; at any rate, in the protocols there is no trace of anything he might have said. The motion was passed by ten votes against two. But misgivings about the date remained with all who took part.

Toward the very end of that session, which lasted until way past midnight, on the rather fortuitous initiative of Dzerzhinsky, it was decreed “to organize for the political guidance of the insurrection a bureau consisting of Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky, Stalin, Sokolnikov and Bubnov.” This important decision, however, led nowhere: Lenin and Zinoviev continued in hiding, Zinoviev and Kamenev became irreconcilably opposed to the decision of October tenth. “The Bureau for the Political Guidance of the Insurrection” did not meet even once. Only its name has been preserved in a pen and ink postscript to the desultory protocol written in pencil. Under the abbreviated name of “the seven” this phantom bureau entered into the official science of history.

The job of organizing the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Soviet went on apace. Of course, the lumbering machinery of Soviet democracy precluded any decided spurt. Yet very little time was left before the Congress. Not without reason did Lenin fear delay. At his request another session of the Central Committee was convoked on the sixteenth of October, with the most important Petrograd organizers present. Zinoviev and Kamenev persisted in their opposition. Formally their position had become stronger than ever:.six days had passed and the insurrection had not begun. Zinoviev demanded that the decision be postponed until the Congress of the Soviets met, in order “to confer” with the delegates from the provinces: deep in his heart he was hoping for their support. Passions ran high during the debate. For the first time Stalin took part in this discussion. “Expediency must decide the day of the insurrection,” he said, “That alone is the sense of the resolution … What Kamenev and Zinoviev propose leads objectively to opportunity for the counter-revolution to organize itself; if we continue to retreat without end, we shall lose the revolution. Why not ourselves name the day and the circumstances, so as not to give the counter-revolution an opportunity to organize itself?” He was defending the Party’s abstract right to choose its moment for the blow—when the problem was to set a definite date. Had the Bolshevik Congress of Soviets proved incapable of seizing the reins of government there and then, it would have merely compromised the slogan, “All Power to the Soviets!” by turning it into a hollow phrase. Zinoviev insisted: “We must tell ourselves frankly that we will not attempt an insurrection during the next five days.” Kamenev was driving at the same point. Stalin did not meet this issue directly; instead, he wound up with the startling words: “The Petrograd Soviet has already taken the road to insurrection by refusing to sanction the removal of the troops.” He was simply reiterating the formula, which had nothing to do with his own abstract speech, that had been recently advocated by the leaders of the Military Revolutionary Committee. But what was the meaning of “being already on the road to insurrection”? Was it a matter of days or of weeks? Stalin cautiously refrained from making that specific. He was not clear in his own mind about the situation.

The resolution of October tenth was indorsed by a majority of twenty votes to two, with three abstaining. However, nobody had answered the crucial question of whether the decision that the insurrection in Petrograd had to take place prior to the twentieth of October was still valid. It was hard to find that answer. Politically the resolve to have the insurrection before the Congress was absolutely right. But too little time was left for carrying it out. The session of October sixteenth never did manage to reconcile that contradiction. But at this point the compromisers came to the rescue: the very next day, for reasons of their own, they decided to postpone the opening of the Congress, which they hadn’t wanted anyway, to the twenty-fifth of October. The Bolsheviks received this unexpected postponement with an open protest but with secret gratitude. Five additional days completely solved the difficulties of the Military Revolutionary Committee.

The Central Committee protocol and the issues of Pravda for the last few weeks prior to the insurrection trace Stalin’s political career against the background of the insurrection fully enough. Just as before the war he had formally sided with Lenin while at the same time seeking the support of the conciliators against the émigré “crawling on the wall,” so now too he aligned himself with the official majority of the Central Committee while simultaneously supporting the Right opposition. As always, he acted cautiously; however, the sweep of events and the acuteness of the conflicts compelled him from time to time to venture farther than he would have liked.

On the eleventh of October, Zinoviev and Kamenev published in Maxim Gorky’s newspaper a letter against the insurrection. At once the situation among the leaders of the Party became exceedingly acute. Lenin stormed and fumed in the underground. In order to be free to spread his views about the insurrection, Kamenev resigned from the Central Committee. The question was discussed at the session of October twentieth. Sverdlov made public Lenin’s letter which castigated Zinoviev and Kamenev as strikebreakers and demanded their expulsion from the Party. The crisis was unexpectedly complicated by the fact that on that very morning Pravda published a declaration by the editorial board in defense of Zinoviev and Kamenev: “The sharpness of the tone of Comrade Lenin’s article does not alter the fact that in the main we continue to share his opinion.” The central organ deemed it proper to find fault with “the sharpness” of Lenin’s protest rather than with the public stand of two Central Committee members against the Party decision on the insurrection and moreover expressed its solidarity with Zinoviev and Kamenev “on fundamentals”. As if at that moment there was anything more fundamental than the question of the uprising! The Central Committee members rubbed their eyes with amazement.

Stalin’s only associate on the editorial board was Sokolnikov, the future Soviet diplomat and subsequently a victim of the “purge”. However, Sokolnikov declared that he had nothing whatever to do with writing the editorial rebuke of Lenin and considered it erroneous. Thus Stalin alone—in opposition to the Central Committee and his own editorial colleague—supported Kamenev and Zinoviev as late as four days before the insurrection. The Central Committee restrained its indignation only because it was apprehensive about extending the crisis.

Continuing to maneuver between the protagonists and opponents of insurrection, Stalin went on record against accepting Kamenev’s resignation, arguing that “our entire situation is inconsistent”. By five votes, against Stalin’s and two others, Kamenev’s resignation was accepted. By six votes, again against Stalin’s, a resolution was passed, forbidding Kamenev and Zinoviev to wage their fight against the Central Committee. The protocol states: “Stalin declared that he was leaving the editorial board.” In his case it meant abandoning the only post he was capable of filling in the circumstances of revolution. But the Central Committee refused to accept Stalin’s resignation, thus precluding the development of another rift.

Stalin’s behavior might seem inexplicable in the light of the legend that has been created around him; but as a matter of fact, it is quite in line with his inner make-up. Distrust of the masses and suspicious cautiousness force him, in moments of historical decisions to retreat into the shadows, bide his time and, if possible, insure himself coming and going. His defense of Zinoviev and Kamenev was certainly not motivated by sentimental considerations. In April Stalin had changed his official position but not his mental make-up. Although he voted with Lenin, he was far closer in his feelings to Kamenev. Moreover, dissatisfaction with his own role naturally inclined him to align himself with others who were dissatisfied, even if politically he was not in complete accord with them.

All of the last week preceding the insurrection Stalin maneuvered between Lenin, Sverdlov and me on the one hand, and Kamenev and Zinoviev, on the other. At the Central Committee session of October twenty-first he restored the recently upset balance by proposing that Lenin be appointed to prepare the theses for the forthcoming Congress of Soviets and that I be appointed to prepare the political report. Both of these motions passed unanimously. Had there been then any disagreements at all between me and the Central Committee—a canard invented several years later—would the Central Committee upon Stalin’s initiative have entrusted me with the most important report at the most crucial moment? Having thus insured himself on the Left, Stalin again retreated into the shadows and bided his time.

The biographer, no matter how willing, can have nothing to say about Stalin’s participation in the October Revolution. Nowhere does one find mention of his name—neither in documents nor the numerous memoirs. In order somehow to fill in this yawning gap, the official historiographer implies his participation in the insurrection by connecting the insurrection with some mysterious party “center” that had presumably prepared it. However, no one tells us anything about the activity of that “center,” the place and the time of its sessions, the means it employed in directing the insurrection. And no wonder: there never was any such “center”. But the story of this legend is noteworthy.

At the October sixteenth conference of the Central Committee with some of the leading Petrograd Party organizers it was decided to organize “a military revolutionary center” of five Central Committee members. “This center,” states the resolution hastily written by Lenin in a corner of the hall, “will become a part of the Revolutionary Soviet Committee”. Thus, in the direct sense of the decision, “the center” was not designed for independent leadership of the insurrection but to complement the Soviet staff. However, like many other improvisations of those feverish days this idea was fated never to be realized. During the very hours when, in my absence, the Central Committee was organizing a new “center” on a piece of paper, the Petrograd Soviet, under my chairmanship, definitely launched the Military Revolutionary Committee, which from the moment of its origin was in complete charge of all the preparations for the insurrection. Sverdlov, whose name appeared first (and not Stalin’s name, as is falsely recorded in recent Soviet publications) on the list of the “center” members, worked before and after the resolution of October sixteenth in close contact with the Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Three other members of the “center,” Uritsky, Dzerzhinsky and Bubnov, were drawn into work for the Military Revolutionary Committee, each of them individually, as late as October twenty-fourth, as if the resolution of October sixteenth had never been passed. As for Stalin, in line with his entire policy of behavior at that period, he stubbornly kept from joining either the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet or the Military Revolutionary Committee, and did not appear at any of its sessions. All of these circumstances are easily established on the basis of officially published protocols.

At the Central Committee session of October twentieth the “center” created four days before was supposed to make a report about its work or at least mention that it had begun working: only five days remained before the Congress of Soviets, and the insurrection was supposed to precede the opening of the Congress. Stalin was too busy for that. Defending Zinoviev and Kamenev, he submitted his resignation from the editorial board of Pravda at that very session. But not one of the other members of the “center” present at the session—Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky, Uritsky—bothered to drop even a hint about it. The protocol record of the October sixteenth session had evidently been carefully put away, in order to hide all traces of Lenin’s “illegal” participation in it, and during the ensuing four dramatic days the “center” was all the easier forgotten because the very need of any such supplementary institution was absolutely excluded by the intense activity of the Military Revolutionary Committee.

At the very next session, on October twenty-first, with Stalin, Sverdlov and Dzerzhinsky present, there was again no report about the “center” and not even any mention of it. The Central Committee carried on as if there had never been any resolution whatever passed about a “center”. Incidentally, it was at this session that it was decided to put ten more prominent Bolsheviks, among them Stalin, onto the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet for the purpose of improving its activity. But that was just another resolution that remained on paper.

Preparations for the insurrection proceeded apace, but along an entirely different channel. The actual master of the capital’s garrison, the Military Revolutionary Committee, was seeking an excuse for openly breaking with the Government. That pretext was provided on October twenty-second by the officer commanding the troops of the district when he refused to let the Committee’s commissars control his staff. We had to strike while the iron was hot. The Bureau of the Military Revolutionary Committee, Sverdlov and I participating, decided to recognize the break with the garrison staff as an accomplished fact and to take the offensive. Stalin was not at this conference. It never occurred to anyone to call him. Whenever the burning of all bridges was at stake, no one mentioned the existence of the so-called “center”.

The Central Committee session that directly launched the insurrection was held at Smolny, now transformed into a fortress, on the morning of October twenty- fourth. At the very outset a motion of Kamenev’s[2] was passed: “No member of the Central Committee may absent himself from Smolny today without special dispensation.” The report of the Military Revolutionary Committee was on the agenda. At that very moment when the insurrection began there was no mention of the so-called “center”. The protocol states: “Trotsky proposed that two members of the Central Committee be placed at the disposal of the Military Revolutionary Committee for maintaining contact with the post and telegraph operators and the railway men; a third member to keep an eye on the Provisional Government.” Dzerzhinsky was assigned to the post and telegraph operators, Bubnov to the railwaymen. Sverdlov was delegated to keep a watchful eye over the Provisional Government. Further: “Trotsky proposed the establishment of a reserve staff in the Peter and Paul Fortress and the assignment of one member of the Central Committee there for that purpose. Resolved: ‘Sverdlov delegated to maintain constant contact with the Fortress.’ “ Thus three members of the “center” were for the first time placed at the direct disposal of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Naturally, that would not have been necessary had the “center” existed and been occupied with preparing the insurrection. The protocol records that a fourth member of the “center,” Uritsky, made some practical suggestions. But where was the fifth member, Stalin?

[2] Kamenev had meantime been reinstated as a member of the Central Committee.—L. T.

Most amazing of all is the fact that Stalin was not even present at this decisive session. Central Committee members obligated themselves not to leave Smolny. But Stalin did not even show up in the first place. This is irrefutably attested to by the protocols published in 1929. Stalin never explained his absence, either orally or in writing. No one made any issue of it, probably in order not to provoke unnecessary trouble. All the most important decisions on conducting the insurrection were made without Stalin, without even the slightest indirect participation by him. When the parts were being assigned to the various actors in that drama, no one mentioned Stalin or proposed any sort of appointment for him. He simply dropped out of the game. Did he perhaps run his “center” from some secret hiding place? But all the other members of the “center” stayed continually at Smolny.

During the hours when the open insurrection had already begun Lenin, who was aflame with impatience in his isolation, appealed to the district leaders: “Comrades! I am writing these lines on the evening of the twenty-fourth … I assure you with all my strength that now everything hangs by a thread, that we are confronted with issues which cannot be decided by conferences or by congresses (not even by Soviet Congresses), but exclusively by the struggle of the armed masses …” It is perfectly clear from this letter that until the very evening of October twenty-fourth Lenin knew nothing about the launching of the offensive by the Military Revolutionary Committee. Contact with Lenin was chiefly maintained through Stalin, because he was one of those in whom the police showed not the slightest interest. Unavoidable is the inference that having failed to come to the Central Committee session in the morning and having stayed away from Smolny throughout the rest of the day, Stalin did not find out that the insurrection had already begun and was in full swing until rather late that evening. Not that he was a coward. There is no basis for accusing Stalin of cowardice. He was simply politically non-committal. The cautious schemer preferred to stay on the fence at the crucial moment. He was waiting to see how the insurrection turned out before committing himself to a position. In the event of failure he could tell Lenin, and me and our adherents: “It’s all your fault!” One must clearly recapture the red-hot temper of those days in order to appreciate according to its deserts the man’s cool grit or, if you like, his insidiousness.

No, Stalin did not lead the insurrection—either personally or by means of some “center”. In the protocols, reminiscences, countless documents, works of reference, history textbooks published while Lenin was alive, and even later, the so- called “center” was never mentioned and Stalin’s name either as its leader or as a prominent participant in the insurrection in some other capacity was not mentioned by anyone. The Party’s memory passed him by. It was only in 1924 that the Committee on Party History, in the course of collecting all sorts of data, dug up the minutes of the session of October sixteenth with the text of the resolution to organize a practical “center”. The fight against the Left Opposition and against me personally which was then raging called for a new version of Party history and the history of the Revolution. I remember that Serebryakov, who had friends and contacts everywhere, told me once that there was great rejoicing in Stalin’s secretariat over the discovery of the “center”.

”Of what significance could that possibly be?” I asked in astonishment. “They are going to wind something around that bobbin,” the shrewd Serebryakov replied.

Yet even then the matter of the “center” did not go beyond a repeat reprint of the protocol and vague references to it. The events of 1917 were still too fresh in everybody’s memory. The participants of the Revolution had not yet been liquidated. Dzerzhinsky and Bubnov, who were listed as members of the “center,” were still alive. Out of sheer factional fanaticism Dzerzhinsky was, of course, quite capable of agreeing to ascribe to Stalin achievements which the latter did not have to his credit; but he was not capable of ascribing such achievements to himself: that was beyond his power. Dzerzhinsky died in due time. One of the causes of Bubnov’s fall from grace and his liquidation was undoubtedly his refusal to bear false witness. No one else remembered anything about the “center’s” existence. The phantom of the protocol continued to lead its protocolish existence—sans bones or flesh, sans ears or eyes.

That did not preclude it from being turned into the nucleus of a new version of the October Revolution. In 1925 Stalin was already arguing, “It is strange that Comrade Trotsky, the ‘inspirer,’ ‘chief figure,’ and ‘sole leader’ of the insurrection was not a member of the practical center which was called upon to lead the insurrection. How is it possible to reconcile that with the current opinion about Comrade Trotsky’s special role?” The argument was patently illogical: according to the precise sense of the resolution, the “center” was to have become a part of the very same Military Revolutionary Committee of which I was Chairman. Stalin fully exposed his intention of “winding” a new history of the insurrection around that protocol. What he failed to explain was the source of “the current opinion about Trotsky’s special role”. Yet that might be worth considering.

The following is contained under my name in the notes to the first edition of Lenin’s Works: “After the Petersburg Soviet passed into the hands of the Bolsheviks [Trotsky] was elected its President and as such organized and led the insurrection of the 25th of October.” The “legend” thus found a place for itself in Lenin’s Works during their author’s lifetime. It never occurred to anyone to challenge it until 1925. Moreover, Stalin himself at one time paid his tribute to this “current opinion”. In the first anniversary article, in 1918, he wrote: “All the work of practical organization of the insurrection was conducted under the direct leadership of the President of the Petrograd Soviet, Comrade Trotsky. It may be said with certainty that the swift passing of the garrison to the side of the Soviet, and the bold execution of the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the Party owes principally and above all to Comrade Trotsky. Comrades Antonov and Podvoisky were Comrade Trotsky’s chief assistants.” Today these words sound like a panegyric. As a matter of fact, what the author had in the back of his mind was to remind the Party that during the days of the insurrection, in addition to Trotsky, there existed also the Central Committee, of which Stalin was a member. But forced to invest his article with at least a semblance of objectivity, Stalin could not have avoided saying in 1918 what he did say. Anyway, on the first anniversary of the Soviet Government he ascribed “the practical organization of the insurrection” to Trotsky. What then was the mysterious role of the “center”? Stalin did not even mention it; it was then still six years before the discovery of the protocol of October sixteenth.

In 1920, no longer mentioning Trotsky, Stalin advanced Lenin against the Central Committee as the author of the erroneous plan for insurrection. He repeated this in 1922, but substituted for Lenin, “one part of the comrades,” and cautiously intimated that he (Stalin) had something to do with saving the insurrection from the erroneous plan. Another two years passed, and it seems that Trotsky was the one who had maliciously invented the canard about Lenin’s erroneous plan; indeed, Trotsky himself proposed the erroneous plan, which was fortunately rejected by the Central Committee. Finally, the “History” of the Party, published in 1938, represented Trotsky as a rabid opponent of the October Revolution, which had really been conducted by Stalin. Parallel to all this occurred the mobilization of all the arts: poetry, painting, the theater, the cinema, suddenly discovered the urge to invest the mythical “center” with the breath of life, although the most assiduous historians were unable to find any trace of it with a magnifying glass. Today Stalin figures as the leader of the October Revolution on the screens of the world, not to mention the publications of the Comintern.

The facts of history were revised in the same way, although perhaps not quite so flagrantly, with regard to all the Old Bolsheviks, time and time again, depending on changing political combinations. In 1917 Stalin defended Zinoviev and Kamenev, in an attempt to use them against Lenin and me and in preparation for his future “triumvirate”. In 1924, when the “triumvirate” already controlled the political machine, Stalin argued in the press that the differences of opinion with Zinoviev and Kamenev prior to October were of a fleeting and secondary character. “The differences lasted only a few days because, and only because, in the person of Kamenev and Zinoviev we had Leninists, Bolsheviks.” After the “triumvirate” fell apart, Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s behavior in 1917 figured for a number of years as the chief reason for denouncing them as “agents of the bourgeoisie,” until finally it was included in the fatal indictment which brought both of them to the firing squad.

One is forced to pause in sheer amazement before the cold, patient and at the same time cruel persistence directed toward one invariably personal goal. Just as at one time in Batum the youthful Koba had persistently undermined the members of the Tiflis Committee who were his superiors; just as in prison and in exile he had incited simpletons against his rivals, so now in Petrograd he tirelessly schemed with people and circumstances, in order to push aside, derogate, blacken, belittle anyone who in one way or another eclipsed him or interfered with his ambition.

Naturally the October Revolution, as the source of the new régime, has assumed the central position in the ideology of the new ruling circles. How did it all happen? Who led at the center and in the branches? Stalin had to have practically twenty years to impose upon the country a historical panorama, in which he replaced the actual organizers of the insurrection and ascribed to them roles as the Revolution’s betrayers. It would be incorrect to think that he started out with a finished plan of action for personal aggrandizement. Extraordinary historical circumstances invested his ambition with a sweep startling even to himself. In one way he remained invariably consistent: regardless of all other considerations, he used each concrete situation to entrench his own position at the expense of his comrades—step by step, stone by stone, patiently, without passion, but also without mercy! It is in the uninterrupted weaving of intrigues, in the cautious doling out of truth and falsehood, in the organic rhythm of his falsifications that Stalin is best reflected as a human personality and as the leader of the new privileged stratum, which, by and large, has to concoct fresh biographies for itself.

Having made a bad beginning in March, which was not improved in April, Stalin stayed behind the scenes throughout the year of the Revolution. He never knew direct association with the masses and never felt responsible for the fate of the Revolution. At certain moments he was chief of staff, never the commander-in-chief. Preferring to keep his peace, he waited for others to take the initiative, took note of their weaknesses and mistakes, and himself lagged behind developments. He had to have a certain stability of relations and a lot of time at his disposal in order to succeed. The Revolution deprived him of both.

Never forced to analyze the problems of revolution under that mental pressure which is generated only by the feeling of immediate responsibility, Stalin never acquired an intimate understanding of the October Revolution’s inherent logic. That is why his recollections of it are so empirical, scattered and incoordinate, his latter-day judgments on the strategy of the insurrection so contradictory, his mistakes in a number of latter-day revolutions (Germany, China, Spain) so monstrous. Truly, revolution is not the element of this former “professional revolutionist”.

Nevertheless, 1917 was a most important stage in the growth of the future dictator. He himself said later that at Tiflis he was a schoolboy, at Baku he turned an apprentice, in Petrograd he became a craftsman. After four years of political and intellectual hibernation in Siberia, where he descended to the level of the Left Mensheviks, the year of the Revolution, during which he was under the direct leadership of Lenin, in the circle of highly qualified comrades, had immeasurable significance in his political development. For the first time he had the opportunity to learn much that hitherto had been beyond the range of his experience. He listened and observed with malevolence, but sharply and vigilantly. At the core of political life was the problem of power. The Provisional Government, supported by the Mensheviks and the Populists, yesterday’s comrades of the underground, prison and exile, enabled him to look more closely into that mysterious laboratory where, as everybody knows, it is not gods that glaze the pots. The unspannable distance, which in the epoch of Tsarism separated the underground revolutionists from the government, shrank into nothing. The government became something close, a familiar concept. Koba threw off much of his provincialism, if not in habits and customs, at least in the measure of his political thinking. He sensed—keenly, resentfully—what he lacked as an individual, but at the same time he tested the power of a closely knit collection of gifted and experienced revolutionists ready to fight to the bitter end. He became a recognized member of the general staff of the party the masses were bearing to power. He stopped being Koba. He definitely became Stalin.