Twenty Years in Underground Russia: Memoirs of a Rank-and-File Bolshevik
In February 1907 I was at last permitted to do district work. I was sent to Ivanovo-Voznesensk--a real proletarian centre to which I had wanted to go for a long time. My very first entry into the town made a deep impression upon me. In all my wanderings about the world I had never seen a more striking contrast between luxury and poverty than I witnessed in Ivanovo.
In every "well-ordered" city the squalid workers habitations are decently hidden on the outskirts of the town, but in Ivanovo-Voznesensk the whole city looked like an outskirt, densely populated with textile workers, emaciated woman weavers and their ragged, rickety children--the future generation of weavers.
Amid the squalid hovels with their tiny window--shovels which in some amazing manner housed several families where there was hardly room for one--one would suddenly come upon a luxurious mansion, the palace of a mill owner, and the connecting links between hovel and palace were the huge buildings and tall smokestacks of the factories.
Along the streets, rooted up by swine and strewn with every imaginable form of garbage, one could often meet a fine carriage drawn by snow-white horses driven by a fat and sleek coachman. In the carriage sat some mill owners' family--his well-fed, well-dressed wife and children, accompanied by their governesses, nurses and other household menials. I often wondered how these people had the insolence to pass the windows of the workers who toiled for them, and how the workers had the patience to look calmly at these sparkling equipages.
Here in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, without the softening effect of any intermediate class, the two antagonistic sides--labour and capital--stood confronted. The issue was as clear as clear could be, and that is why it was so easy to carry on our Bolshevik propaganda there. Here we had no serious conflict with any organized groups of Mensheviks or Socialist-Revolutionaries. That is why the Ivanovo-Voznesensk proletariat, led by some of the most prominent comrades in our ranks, was always in the forefront of the proletarian revolution.
When I arrived in Ivanovo I had to settle in one of these huts, not with a workers' family, but with a nurse, named Nadezhda Stopani, who was employed at the Ivanovo hospital and provided our organization with premises.
This apartment consisted of a single room which was divided by a screen. It was incredibly cold and damp; water ran down in streamlets from the frozen windows into a pan placed on the floor for that purpose. Besides a narrow cot, a table and a few stools, there was no other furniture in the room. Behind the screen on the cot slept Nadezhda, while her friend, Marussya--now the wife of Comrade Bubnov--slept on the floor. On my arrival a bed was made up for me out of two broken boxes, This bed was placed behind the screen, for this "territory" was more "inviolable"--one could wash, undress, or change one's clothes without being surprised by some comrade coming on urgent business. During the day the room was usually filled with visiting comrades, while at night the floor was often covered with sleeping comrades.
Our principal part-time lodger was the "Chemist"--Andry Bubnov," an inhabitant of Ivanovo-Voznesensk who was constantly sought by the police. He, for reasons of secrecy, lived and worked eight versts away, in Kokhma, and frequently came to town on Party business. He always covered the distance on foot, clad in his grey felt boots for which he had paid a ruble and twenty kopeks. The "Chemist" valued these boots so highly that once, when he had to flee from Kokhma and in his haste had left these precious boots behind, we had difficulty in dissuading him from returning for them to Kokhma where the police had certainly laid a trap for him.
Comrades who came from Shuya on Party business also stayed with us overnight. Among them were Frunze, nicknamed Arseni, and his bosom friend, a Shuya worker named Gussev. Whenever this pair came, we had to scan the street corners with special care because the police were constantly at Arseni's heels; he had managed to keep out of jail thus far solely because of the care bestowed upon him by the Shuya workers who, despite the danger to themselves concealed their beloved friend Arseni. Both the "Chemist" and Arseni were very popular among the workers in Ivanovo-Voznesensk.
During district conferences, when comrades came from Teikovo, Kokhma and other towns, our little place would be crowded to the utmost with comrades staying over night. There was also a time when we actually had a permanent lodger, a young worker named Serezha who had to find refuge in Nadezhda's room--either because the police were after him, or because his parents turned him out of the house for "being a socialist" and he had no other place to go. We never had a regular meal, but we put up the samovar about ten times a day. On her days off from the hospital, Nadezhda would spend the entire day cooking to give the crowd of us a square meal. Her friend Marussya was not very neat in her habits and would always prefer to pin up a rent in her dress than mend it; this led to many a quarrel with the neat, housewifely Nadezhda. Ail of us newcomers brought disorder into the house, and poor Nadezhda suffered like a martyr, not to mention the fact that she stood in danger of arrest at any minute.
The problem of premises was one of the sorest spots in the Ivanovo organization. It was extremely necessary for us professional Party workers to find lodgings anywhere but with factory workers, so as not to be in the public eye; but among the intermediate classes there were no other apartments available except those of the teachers Taranov and Tarakanov. This made Ivanovo a very difficult place for us to work in; but this was the only drawback. In all other respects Ivanovo was splendid. There was livelier work to be done there than in Kostroma.
In the spring of 1907 there was not a shadow of despondency among the workers, even though the events of 1905 hit Ivanovo harder than they did Kostroma. At the time of which I am writing a few crumbs of the gains of 1905 still remained in the form of three legal trade-unions--the Metal Workers' Union, the Calico Printers' Union and the Weavers' Union. For some reason the last two were considered two separate unions instead of a single textile union, although they occupied the same premises. But these trade unions did not escape the vigilance of the Ivanovo Chief of Police, a short nimble little man who not only had the police at his disposal but the Cossacks as well.
These Cossacks in Ivanovo lived like lords; special funds were raised for them by the mill owners; they were given houses, gardens, cows, chickens, ducks, etc. In return for all this bounty the Cossacks' duty was to use their whips well on the workers whenever the mill owners and Chief of Police desired.
The Chief of Police often raided the trade union quarters, and the chairman and other officials were constantly called to police headquarters. Nevertheless, we carried on tremendous, well-planned work in spreading Bolshevik ideas among the great masses of workers. Our Party workers Nikhayev and Candurin, would often deliver big political speeches at public meetings. The unions carried on important work as trade unions and at the same time served as a screen for our illegal Party organization. The more active members of the unions were active workers in our organization as well--the chairman and most of the union officials were in the thick of all the Party work in the Ivanovo-Voznesensk district. They were members of the Ivanovo-Voznesensk Party Committee.
As soon as I arrived, I was appointed secretary of the committee because I was considered somewhat of a specialist in this line, having been a secretary in Baku, Kostroma, and of the Moscow Regional Bureau. I went to the Ivanovo organization when the Second State Duma election campaign was coming to an end--almost at the time of the very elections when, after lengthy negotiations with the Orekhovo-Zuevo comrades who were putting forward their own candidate, the Ivanovo workers succeeded in securing the adoption of their candidate, Comrade Zhidelev, as a deputy representing the workers of the Vladimir province.
As I have indicated above, the spirit of Ivanovo Voznesensk was high not only in Party circles, but also among the broad non-Party masses, a proof of which was the grand send-off which the workers gave their deputy, Zhidelev, when he left for St. Petersburg. There were almost forty thousand workers at the meeting on the station square. After the meeting a dense crowd of workers surrounded us members of the committee in order to conceal us and for greater safety the speakers of the meeting disguised themselves by changing their caps and coats with some of the workers. Thus we all returned home safely in spite of the fact that there were numerous policemen and detectives on the square, and a little distance off, were the mounted Cossacks who dared not attack the huge mass of workers who had gathered to give their deputy a send-off. After the election and the send-off arranged for our deputy, two very urgent and serious tasks had to be fulfilled: to make preparations for the Moscow regional textile strike, and to elect delegates to the Fifth Party Congress, later called the London Congress.
Our preparations for the regional strike had to be done through our work in the trade unions which, as I have already mentioned, were wholly under the influence and led by the members of our Party Committee.
A conference of the trade unions in the Moscow region was held in February at which the question of checking the growing capitalist offensive, which was a result of the general political reaction, came up for discussion. First consideration was given to the question of raising the workers' standard of living, and in April the idea of a general strike finally matured. After this conference a number of district trade union conferences were held at which the question of the possibility and expediency of calling a strike in the Ivanovo district was debated from every angle.
Of course, before each conference, these questions were first discussed at our Party committee meetings. Our committee was divided on the strike question--some comrades were whole-heartedly for it and stressed the political role it would play in the prevailing period of reaction. Others thought that the depression was too great, that the strike was doomed to failure and that a lost strike would still further intensify the depression among the workers and that our organization which was only just recuperating would be forced to emerge from underground and would be wrecked again immediately after the failure of the strike.
Both the advocates and the opponents of the strike agreed that it was necessary to gather our forces for the "decisive" struggle, for an armed uprising, which appeared to us to be nearer than it proved to be in reality; the disagreement centred around the tactics to be applied to achieve this aim. The advocates of the strike thought it wise to speed up the historic process a little, while the opponents feared that it would have the opposite effect.
The questions pertaining to the regional strike were thoroughly discussed at all the factory meetings, and it must be said, the idea of speeding up history pleased the inherently militant Ivanovo textile workers. But for the time being, we limited ourselves to merely talking about the strike.
Simultaneously with the strike campaign we made preparations for the election of delegates to the London Congress of our Party.
I remember that Afanassy came to us from the Regional Bureau and delivered a long speech, first at the Party committee meeting and later at a meeting of factory representatives, about our controversy with the Mensheviks and about the necessity for calling a special Party Congress.
But although all the members of the Ivanovo organization had become acquainted with the nature of the controversy, we could not have a real pre congress discussion, on which Lenin always insisted. for the simple reason that we had no Mensheviks to discuss with. We Bolsheviks had to convince the Bolshevik-minded workers in the factories about the difference between us and the Mensheviks, none of whom existed in Ivanovo-Voznesensk. One needs no special perspicacity to guess the degree of the impartiality of our discussions for which the menshevik god would have had every justifiation for casting the whole of the iniquitous Ivanovo-Voznesensk organization into the depths of hell, had it not been for the only righteous one among us, the exceptionally scrupulous Olga Vorontsova, who carefully and impartially expounded to, the workers in her district the principles and policies of both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
Towards the end of March after this "discussion" the elections were held. Here again one needed to be no prophet to guess at the fractional leanings of all the nine delegates--all of them were Bolsheviks, of course. Among the delegates elected were Comrades Bubnov and Frunze. The latter was caught by the Shuya police before the Congress took place and naturally could not attend it. In his stead he sent a member of the regional committee, Comrade Kvitkin. The thought of going abroad put the elected Ivanovo proletarians into an extraordinarily elated state of mind. They all began to prepare for their trip and constantly pestered me as one who had travelled through "the whole of Europe" with questions concerning their dress, how to ask for tea in German, what is the German for "station," whether one could hire on izvoshchik abroad and what would be the approximate price when translated into our currency, and so on and so forth.
The question of a respectable European outfit was solved brilliantly by one of the worker-delegates. He sewed himself a bright yellow blouse which he wore with a black patent leather belt bought especially for that purpose. In this costume he presented himself before me, deeply convinced that strutting about in this splendid fashion he would be able to merge with the European crowd.
Altogether we had great fun over preparations for the departure of our delegates to the Congress.
After they had left, I went to Nizhni-Novgorod, on private business, but the journey was so curious that I think it worth relating. At election meetings held during the Second State Duma elections in Nizhni, a certain individual who called himself Nikolai Shirayev, and whose passport confirmed that name, was arrested after delivering a Bolshevik speech. This seditious Shirayev, who was not really Shirayev but my brother, Lazar Zelikson, was placed in a cell with fraudulent bankrupts because the prison was overcrowded and there was no other vacant cell to put him in. During his first examination my brother insisted that he really was Shirayev, and he named a certain veterinary surgeon, Bobrovsky, who lived in Saratov as being able to confirm that fact. In order to obtain a speedy answer from Saratov, my brother was permitted to make the request by telegraph at his own expense. Bobrovsky's answer came immediately confirming that he knew Shirayev very well. But to my brother's misfortune a certain district attorney, Chernyavsky,who had been in Vladimir in 19005 where my brother had spoken at public meetings under his own name, visited the cell of the fraudulent bankrupts. The unfortunate arrival of the lawyer spoiled the whole game, because in the presence of the prison warder he asked the supposed Shirayev: "Mr. Zelikson, how did you get into the fraudulent bankrupts cell?"
After this my brother could do nothing but confess that he was not Shirayev, but Zelikson. But now the police would not believe that he was either, and assumed that he was a very dangerous "unknown" who should be exiled to Siberia. In this predicament my brother wrote to me in Ivanovo-Voznesensk telling me of the fix he was in. Hence, my decision to go to Nizhni. Having obtained a suitable passport, I went to Mizhni and claimed to be a distant relative of Zelikson. The police were extremely courteous to me, apparently overjoyed at the opportunity of unravelling the Shirayev-Zelikson mystery. They handed me a blank which I conscientiously filled out, enumerating all Zelikson's sisters and brothers. Comparing my information with that given by Shirayev-Zelikson, the gendarmes became convinced that we spoke the truth and apologized for their intention of placing Zelikson in the category of an "unknown". "You will agree that it was rather suspicious," they said apologetically, "He calls himself Shirayev, receives a telegram from a certain fictitious Bobrovsky saying that the latter knows him well, but makes public speeches in Vladimir in 1905 under the name of Zelikson!" It cost me an effort to refrain from laughing outright at the thought that I, an illegal worker sought by the police, was sitting before them playing the role of a well-meaning distant relative of my brother, and listening to their conjectures that Bobrovsky, my own husband, probably never existed.
My brother was immediately released on my recognizances, and I accompanied him to Moscow. On returning to Ivanovo, I related the adventure to my friends and they could scarcely control their hilarity.
From the first days of my work in Ivanovo I came into conflict with the remnants of the armed workers' units, the boyeviki, who, here, as well as in Kostroma and most probably in other cities, had become completely demoralized. In the autumn of 1906 the Ivanovo Committee issued a leaflet in which it disclaimed all connection with the boyeviki or their "expropriation" activities which had degenerated into mere robbery and even murder. In order to give a political colour to their misdeeds the boyeviki offered part of their spoils to our organization, but we refused to touch their money under any circumstances. As secretary of the organization the boyeviki came to me with their proffered gifts and I had to refuse them; for this reason they hated me wholeheartedly--particularly one of them, a certain Orlik, who later died as a result of an explosion caused by an experiment with a bomb which the boyeviki had been making outside the city. This Orlik often remarked that it would not be a bad thing to get rid of Olga as this would remove an obstacle in the negotiations with the committee.
Another worry was the business of establishing a secret printshop--a thing which Ivanovo needed very badly since there were no legal means of printing anything. We not only needed leaflets which, as a last resort could be set up and printed in somebody's house; but we urgently needed a newspaper, and to get this out we had to have a properly fitted printshop.
At first, I sent for Sonia Zagina who came from Kostroma. She rented a room in Ivanovo with a private entrance and planned to give private lessons. This was the first apartment, absolutely free of suspicion, to be used in connection with our future printshop. Then we began to collect the parts of the printing equipment which had been kept by workers in different hiding places, but these parts proved insufficient; we particularly lacked type. After some time a valise full of type was brought to us from Moscow by Vladimir Bobrovsky. I went to the town of Vladimir where Marussya Simonovskaya-Rastopchina worked at that time to get some more type and other essential parts. With Marrusya I went to the house of Stepan Nazarov who had a huge iron bound trunk loaded with ikons in his room. Underneath the ikons, at the bottom of the trunk, lay the type.
After a while Alexey Zagin came to us; and at my request the Regional Bureau sent me a certain Egor Ivanovich, and a girl, whose name I forget, from Moscow. With the help of all these people we managed to set up a printshop in a village not far from Ivanovo. But after printing several leaflets we noticed that we were being watched. Our comrades had to go into hiding. I don't remember how it all happened but the type, the machine and the other accessories, were hurriedly taken away in parts and concealed. This quick failure of our printshop drove me to the brink of despair, for it had cost so much effort to establish it. But there was no time to give way to grief--we had to think of how to set it up again.
Knowing all the details of the life of the Ivanovo workers, it became clear to me that if we wanted a more or less permanent printshop it was necessary to find a local inhabitant who could take care of it, since all newcomers who hired a whole apartment immediately attracted attention. It took us some time to discover such a person. At last I discovered a local worker who had given up working in the factory and was selling newspapers. His wife, a middle-aged woman named Darya, was a charwoman. They had no children and were a very suitable couple for our purposes.
We agreed with Darya and her husband that at the first opportunity she would rent a little house which they had in mind consisting of three rooms and a kitchen with a front and back garden. This was very convenient as the noise of the printing machine would not be heard in the street. Darya and her husband were to occupy the front room facing the street while the two back rooms were to be let to boarders--Egor with his wife in one room and Alexey in the other. Both these rooms would be used for our work. The garden gate was to be kept shut, while Darya was to sit near the window on the lookout for strangers. If anyone were to come, work was to stop, the lodgers were to go to their respective rooms which Darya was to lock from outside to prove they were not at home. The newspaper vendor was to continue his occupation in order to provide a cover for carrying paper into the house and printed matter out of it.
This plan was successfully carried out and for a while everything ran smoothly.
We obtained all the necessary machine parts, prepared the material for an illegal paper. which, I think, we called The Struggle. I cannot recall what material we were going to print, but I do remember that we had much more than we could get into the first issue. Our typesetters, Alexey and Egor, worked at full speed. But when they had used up all the type they found they had only set the first half of a page of our paper. As there was no other type to be obtained, they had to print the half page and then reset the type for the other half. All this caused considerable delay; the matter dragged on and we, the members of the committee as well as the comrades in the printshop, lived under a great strain until the first issue came out.
Then everything began to go wrong in the printshop. Egor who was a trying person in general, was seized with nervousness. Even Darya got nervous, particularly after a ridiculous incident had occurred.
Not far from our printshop there was a police box which we had regarded as an advantage when renting the house--it is always safer to act under the very noses of the police. Every day as I passed down the street to see if everything was safe, I invariably saw the policeman peacefully dozing in his box and Darya quietly knitting at the window of our little house. One day the policeman knocked at the gate and asked Darya to put a fish, which somebody had given him, into the cellar and keep it there until the evening because he was afraid it might spoil. Darya took the fish to keep until evening, then came running to me to advise her. What was she to do if the policeman came for the fish in the evening and asked to come into the house? The incident seemed to me to be quite trivial, it was not a trap but just an ordinary everyday occurrence, and I managed to calm Darya's fears.
We decided that the lodgers would go away for the day and that. Darya should lock up the rooms from the outside. When the policeman came she was to invite him in for a cup of tea and in the course of the conversation mention that her boarders, a clerk and a fitter were both looking for work, and that her own husband was doing fine in his newspaper business and that they had everything they wanted for the present. The policeman came in the evening, but refused to come in for a cup of tea, thus proving that he had no suspicions about what was going on in the house. Nevertheless, Egor who had been very nervous before, now insistently demanded that we move to another place. This mood soon communicated itself to Darya and to her husband, and things soon came to such a pass that it was impossible to get on with the work.
Bitterly as we felt about the whole matter, we had to destroy with our own hands everything we had created with so much trouble. Nothing else could be done, because the first condition for the successful accomplishment of such a task as ours is complete mutual confidence and belief in all those taking part in it. The disturbance of this calm ran counter to all the rules of secrecy and would inevitably lead to the discovery of the entire affair. That is why we hastened to dismantle the whole plant.
So our hopes of seeing the first issue of our own Ivanovo workers' paper were dashed to the ground, This disappointment hit me hardest for I was the organizer of the unlucky enterprise. It was made doubly hard by the fact that my searches for new people and new quarters proved futile. Thus our paper never saw the light.
As far as funds were concerned the Ivanovo-Voznesensk organization was fairly well off. From the very first days of my secretaryship I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was no need for me to run all over the place to seek for funds as I had had to do in other cities. The Ivanovo organization existed on membership dues which were regularly collected and carefully recorded by our treasurer, Olga Varontsova. Comrade Varontsova somehow managed to combine this tedious, unpleasant duty with her work as responsible organizer of one of the larger districts in the city and with the propaganda work which she carried on in the higher grade circles. It is true that our organization was not rich; expenditure on the maintenance of the printshop and party workers had to be kept down very strictly, nevertheless I do not recall any sharp financial crisis in the Ivanovo organization. It always managed to make ends meet. We professionals received eighteen rubles per month, which of course, never sufficed, because our mode of living was very unsettled and this entailed greater expenses than would be the case under ordinary circumstances.
In connection with this I remember that at one of our conferences, when all the items on the agenda had been dealt with and we began to discuss "other business" one of the delegates (not a professional) moved that the pay of the professionals be raised. To this an amendment was moved to the effect that the pay of the more skilled professionals be raised, while the weaker comrades continue to receive what they had been getting heretofore. This discussion seemed to me to be perfectly absurd and we hurriedly moved "next business".
The high spirits that prevailed among the Ivanovo workers since the send-off given to the Duma deputies caused us to anticipate a very fine May Day celebration. Our Party Conference which was held in a detached wing of a house in a suburb which, for some reason, was called the "Far East," decided to organize a First of May meeting in the woods along the Bolinsky road. On April 30 we distributed a First of May leaflet in all the factories. According to a previously arranged plan, the workers were to come to the woods singly; patrols, wearing small red badges, were placed along the road to indicate the way. It was the duty of the patrols also to warn us in a special manner of any approaching danger. We had made preparations for all contingencies. But as is the case with the most carefully laid plans something which we least expected occurred. The Cossacks proved to be more cunning than our patrols this time--their horses' hoofs rang out from the least expected quarter. The meeting had just been opened by the chairman, V. Bobrovsky, and the speaker, Comrade Maxim, had barely uttered a few introductory words, when out from the trees the Cossacks came galloping, spreading through the wood. The suddenness of the attack turned our orderly meeting into a mob which scattered pell mell in all directions, pursued by the yelling Cossacks with raised whips. Three of us--Bobrovsky, Maxim and I paused for a moment, but before we had time to think, a whip cracked sharply about our heads. Maxim and I were the first to fall while Bobrovsky, who still remained on his feet, seized the Cossack's horse by the bridle and tried to persuade the fellow to stop beating us, but he received another blow on the temple so that one eye immediately swelled up. After beating us, the Cossacks took our watches and purses and galloped off in pursuit of other comrades, evidently thinking that we had had our share. They did not arrest us probably because we were too badly beaten up.
Utterly shaken and covered with weals we managed to drag ourselves to the hospital which was situated along the road that led out of the wood where one of our own people, the nurse Cheikasova, worked. She bandaged us up and sent us home in the evening.
That was the sorry end of our First of May Celebration that seemed to have started so well. Next day, the police evidently decided to make a few arrests. They therefore put an announcement in the Police Gazette to the effect that a large number of hats and canes had been found in the woods along the Bolinsky road and that if the owners of this property wished to recover it they were to apply at the police headquarters. Obviously nobody answered this advertisement, preferring to leave their property to the police chief as a souvenir.
This unfortunate May First marked a turning point in the life of the Ivanovo-Voznesensk organization and in the spirit of the workers of Ivanovo. After May First, a marked depression set in and it was under these unfavourable circumstances that we had to finish our preparations for a regional strike which we had started in the early part of the spring.
Throughout May and June our organization was occupied exclusively with the strike question. We carried on tremendous organizational and agitational work. The disagreement on the committee about the expediency of calling the strike gradually disappeared. Both the advocates and the former opponents of the strike participated actively in the preparations; nevertheless we all laboured under a sense of uncertainty which was a reflection of the circumstances we were in.
The economic situation favoured a strike--the mills were loaded with orders and any considerable stoppage of work would have hit the pockets of the mill owners hard. But the political reaction was growing in intensity, it was obvious that the authorities would resort to every means in their power to crush the strike rather than to submit to the workers' demands. The interests of the capitalist mill owners were temporarily in conflict with those of the semifeudal autocratic government and the fate of the strike depended entirely upon whether or not the group interests of the textile barons would prevail over the interests of the governing classes as a whole.
We all realized this very clearly, hence our irresolution.
Nevertheless Ivanovo was getting ready for coming events; a strike committee was set up to formulate the workers' demands. The Ivanovo Party Committee deputed three comrades, Mikhaeyev, Olga Varontsova and myself, to help the strike committee. We and the strike committee held our first meeting in the Weavers' Union headquarters and formulated the following demands: 1) an eight hour day; 2) increase in wages; 3) the abolition of fines.
The door of the committee room was locked, but the union members in the other rooms knew what we were doing.
Suddenly somebody knocked at the door and informed us that the Chief of Police had entered the union premises with a squad of police who were stationed at all the exits. I managed to burn the document containing the demands which we had drawn up, and we all dispersed to different rooms. The police began the tedious procedure of registering all the workers who were in the building; all of us, even the strike committee, managed to pass off as rank and file union members who had come to headquarters "merely to see each other". But one of the policemen pointed at Mikhaeyev and said, "Your honour, this is the one that always speaks at their meetings." Our Konstantin was taken in charge right there and then.
In the pleasant anticipation of my turn, I began to wander "unconcernedly" from room to room and strolled quite nonchalantly into the kitchen. There on the bench lay a bright-coloured shawl which belonged to the housekeeper, who was not at home. I wrapped myself in the shawl, sat down on the bench and began to look about for a means of escape, when in walked the Chief of Police and asked me:
"How long have you been working here? How much do you get?" I answered that I received seven rubles a month and that I had been working in the place for two months. The Chief of Police found my answer satisfactory and, with a great show of importance, he began to inspect the premises, while I continued to sit on my kitchen bench, wrapping the shawl more closely about me. Soon the police left the building carrying off Konstantin as their only trophy. Comrade Varontsova also managed to get by the police unnoticed. Pretending to be a tenant in the house, she went downstairs to the apartment below to some acquaintances, with whom she stayed until the raid was over.
The loss of our best agitator at such a moment was a terrible blow to the Ivanovo organization; it would have been much better had I, the "housekeeper," been taken instead. But Konstantin was shipped off to prison while I went back to continue the preparations for the strike. Finally we decided to call the strike on July 6, but on the very eve of the appointed day Stanislav (Sokolov) who had been sent by the Regional Bureau to lead the strike in the Kostroma district, arrived and informed us that things in Kostroma were at low ebb. Besides, the Kostroma comrades condemned us severely for not supporting them in time.
On the morrow, Innokenty (Joseph Dubrovinsky) came from Moscow bringing bad tidings about Orekhovo-Zuevo where the strike was also subsiding. Innokenty came from the centre with instructions that we must not start our strike, because in the places where strikes had been called (Kostroma, Orekhovo) they were already coming to an end.
After Innokenty had reported to the committee, we decided to call a special conference to discuss the strike a second time. The conference was held in the woods; the principal speaker was Innokenty, who surprised us by his extraordinary ability to grasp the complicated situation in Ivanovo created by the fact that the Party Committee itself, which was so long in coming to a decision to call the strike, had now to propose calling off the strike before it had commenced. In his speech at our conference he made a profound analysis of the whole economic and political situation, from which it became clear that the moment was unfavourable for a strike, and that it would be wiser not to begin at all in those places where it had not yet been called.
Innokenty struck the right note at once, and no one would have believed that he was a stranger to our district. Returning with him through the woods from the conference late that night, I expressed my surprise at the extraordinary ease with which he analysed our purely local situation, but he only smiled sadly and said nothing.
The decision to call off the strike had a very depressing effect upon the workers. But in those places where the strike had been called (Orekhovo-Zuevo, Kostroma) the situation was still worse. These strikes only lasted a week or two and petered out. An article in No. 6 of The Struggle, the illegal organ of the Moscow Regional Party Committee, summed up the situation very well when it said:
"The workers could do nothing but return to work. The old conditions--inhuman labour, meagre wages, hungry children, stuffy cell-like living quarters--all this has remained as before, because the strike failed."
The article ended with an appeal to the workers to cheer up and continue to struggle. It said:
"This is not the time for either laughter or tears. It is the time to learn the lessons of the struggle as we have been taught to do by our great teacher, Karl Marx. We have been defeated, but we must not grieve over our defeat, rather must we grieve over the fact that we were not firm enough in our struggle, not united as we should have been. We must not give way to despair. We must prepare for a new struggle against the capitalists for our workers' demands. All history indicates that neither prayers nor humility, neither cringing nor servility will soften the heart of his majesty--international capital; only a stubborn and persistent struggle will help to wrest from it better conditions of life. Therefore join the ranks of the Party and the trade unions and by our stubborn struggle we will win victory in the end."
After the strike was called off, the Ivanovo police cheered up noticeably. The Cossacks began to ride about the streets with greater frequency and our work became infinitely harder. Things became particularly hard for us professionals. We could not do anything because of the vigilance of the police. For that reason, at the end of June, I left Ivanovo and once more turned towards Moscow.