Vladimir Ilyich came to St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1893, but I did not get to know him until some time later. Comrades told me that a very erudite Marxist had arrived from the Volga. Afterwards I was given a pretty well-thumbed copy-book "On Markets" to read. The manuscript set forth the views of technologist Herman Krasin, our St. Petersburg Marxist, on the one hand, and those of the newcomer from the Volga on the other. The copy-book was folded down the middle, and on one side H. B. Krasin had set forth his views in a scrawly hand with many crossings out and insertions, while on the other side the newcomer had written his own remarks and objections in a neat hand without any alterations.
The question of markets interested all of us young Marxists very much at the time.
A definite trend had begun to crystallize among St. Petersburg Marxist study-circles at that time. The gist of it was this: the processes of social development appeared to the representatives of this trend as something mechanical and schematic. Such an interpretation of social development dismissed completely the role of the masses, the role of the proletariat. Marxism was stripped of its revolutionary dialectics, and only the bare "phases of development" remained. Today, of course, any Marxist would be able to refute that mechanistic conception, but at that time it was a cause of grave concern to our St. Petersburg Marxist circles. We were still poorly grounded theoretically and all that many of us knew of Marx was the first volume of Capital; as for The Communist Manifesto, we had never even set eyes on it. So it was more by instinct than anything else that we felt this mechanistic view to be the direct opposite of real Marxism.
The question of markets had a close bearing on the general question of the understanding of Marxism.
Exponents of the mechanistic view usually approached the question in a very abstract way.
Since then more than thirty years have passed. Unfortunately, the copy-book has not survived, and I can only speak about the impression which it made on us.
The question of markets was treated with ultra-concreteness by our new Marxist friend. He linked it up with the interests of the masses, and in his whole approach once sensed just that live Marxism which takes phenomena in their concrete surroundings and in their development.
One wanted to make the closer acquaintance of this newcomer, to learn his views at first hand.
I did not meet Vladimir Ilyich until Shrovetide. It was decided to arrange a conference between certain St. Petersburg Marxists and the man from the Volga at the flat of engineer Klasson, a prominent St. Petersburg Marxist with whom I had attended the same study-circle two years before. The conference was disguised as a pancake party. Besides Vladimir Ilyich, there were Klasson, Y. P. Korobko, Serebrovsky, S. I. Radchenko and others. Potresov and Struve were to have been there, too, but I don't think they turned up. I particularly remember one moment. The question came up as to what ways we should take. Somehow general agreement was lacking. Someone (I believe It was Shevlyagin) said that work on the Illiteracy Committee was of great importance Vladimir Ilyich laughed, and his laughter sounded rather harsh (I never heard him laugh that way again).
"Well, if anyone wants to save the country by working In the Illiteracy Committee," he said, "let him go ahead." It should be said that our generation had witnessed in its youth the fight between the Narodovoltsi and tsarism. We had seen how the liberals, at first "sympathetic" about everything, had been scared into sticking their tail between their legs after the suppression of the Narodnaya Volya Party, and had begun to preach the doing of "little things."
Lenin's sarcastic remark was quite understandable. He had come to discuss ways of fighting together, and had had to listen instead to an appeal for the distribution or the Illiteracy Committee's pamphlets.
Later, when we got to know each other better, Vladimir Ilyich told me one day how this liberal "society" had reacted to the arrest of his elder brother Alexander Ulyanov. All acquaintances had shunned the Ulyanov family, and even an old teacher, who until then had come almost every evening to play chess, had left off calling. Simbirsk had no railway at the time, and Vladimir Ilyich's mother had had to travel to Syzran by horse-drawn vehicle in order to catch the train to St. Petersburg, where her son was imprisoned. Vladimir Ilyich was sent to find a way companion for her, but no one wanted to be seen with the mother of an arrested man.
This general cowardice, Vladimir Ilyich told me, had shocked him profoundly at the time.
This youthful experience undoubtedly affected his attitude towards so-called liberal society. He true worth of all liberal rant at an early age.
No agreement was reached at the "pancake party," of course. Vladimir Ilyich spoke little, and was more occupied in studying the company. People who called themselves Marxists felt uncomfortable under his steady gaze.
I remember, as we were returning home from the Okhta District along the banks of the Neva, I first heard the story of Vladimir Ilyich's brother, a member of the Narodnaya Volya, who took part in the attempt on the life of Alexander III in 1887 and died at the hands of the tsarist executioners before he had even came of age.
Vladimir Ilyich had been very fond of his brother. They had had many tastes in common, and both liked to be left alone for long periods of time to be able to concentrate. They usually lived together and at one time shared a separate wing of the house, and when any of the young crowd dropped in (they had numerous cousins, boys and girls), the brothers would greet them with their pet phrase: "Honour us with your absence." They were both hard workers and revolutionary-minded. The difference in their age, though, made itself felt in various ways. There were certain things that Alexander did not tell Vladimir. This is what Vladimir Ilyich told me:
His brother was a naturalist. On his last summer vacation at home he was preparing a dissertation on the Annelida, and was busy all the time with his microscope. To get all the light he could he got up at daybreak and started work at once. "No, my brother won't make a revolutionary, I thought at the time," Vladimir Ilyich related. "A revolutionary can't give so much time to the study of worms. It was not long before he saw his mistake.
The fate of his brother undoubtedly influenced Vladimir Ilyich profoundly. Another important factor was that he had begun to think for himself on many questions and had decided in his own mind the necessity of revolutionary struggle.
Had this not been so, his brother's fate would probably have caused him deep sorrow only, or at most, aroused in him a resolve and striving to follow in his brother's footsteps. As it was, the fate of his brother gave his mind a keener edge, developed in him an extraordinary soberness of thought, an ability to face the truth without letting himself for a minute be carried away by a phrase or an illusion. It developed in him a scrupulously honest approach to all questions.
In the autumn of 1894 Vladimir Ilyich read his The "Friends of the People" to our circle. I remember how it had thrilled us all. The aims of the struggle were set forth in the pamphlet with admirable clarity. Hectographed copies of it circulated afterwards from hand to hand under the name of "The Yellow Copy-Books." They were unsigned. Fairly widely read, they undoubtedly had a strong influence on the Marxist youth at the time. When I was in Poltava in 1896, P. P. Rumyantsev, who was then an active Social-Democrat just released from prison, described The "Friends of the People" as the best, the most powerful and complete formulation of the standpoint of the revolutionary Social-Democracy.
In the winter of 1894-95 I got more closely acquainted with Vladimir Ilyich. He was lecturing to workers' study- circles in the Nevskaya Zastava District, where I had been working for over three years as a teacher in the Smolenskaya Sunday Evening School for Adults and was therefore pretty familiar with life on the Schlusselburg Post Road. Quite a number of the workers who attended Vladimir Ilyich's circles were pupils of my Sunday School, among them Babushkin, Borovkov, Gribakin, the Bodrovs (Arseny and Philip) and Zhukov. In those days the Sunday Evening School offered an excellent opportunity for studying everyday working-class life, labour conditions and the temper of the masses. The Smolenskaya School had six hundred pupils, not counting the evening technical classes and the Women's and Obukhov schools attached to it. The workers, I must say, had full trust in their "school-mistresses." The dour-looking watchman of the Gromov timber-yards, for instance, told his teacher with a beaming face that a son had been born to him; a consumptive mill worker wished his teacher a bonny fiance for having taught him to read and write; another workman, a member of a religious sect, who had been seeking God all his life, wrote with satisfaction that not until last Holy Week had he learned from Rudakov (another pupil) that there wasn't any God at all, and this made him feel so good, because the worst thing in the world, was being a slave of God – you just had to grin and bear it-whereas being a slave of man was much easier – at least you could fight back; then there was a tobacco-worker, who used to get dead-drunk every Sunday and was so saturated with the smell of tobacco that it made you dizzy to stand near him. He wrote in a scrawl (leaving out most of the vowels) that they had picked up a girl of three in the street; she was living in their artel, but they would have to give her up to the police, which was a shame. A one-legged soldier came saying that "Mikhail – the chap you taught last year – has gone and done himself in with overwork, and before he died he asked to be remembered to you and to wish you long life." A textile worker, who stood up fiercely for the tsar and the priests, gave warning "to beware of that dark chap over there – he's always hanging about Gorokhovaya Street." An elderly workman argued that he just could not chuck up his churchwarden's job "because it makes me sick to see the way the priests are fooling the people, and somebody's got to show them up." As for the church, he wasn't struck on it a bit, and he'd cottoned to that phases-of-development stuff perfectly well, and so on and so forth.
Workers who belonged to the organization went to the school to get to know people and single out those who could be drawn into the circles and the organization. As far as these workers were concerned the teachers were no longer just a featureless set of women. They were already able to distinguish the extent to which this or that teacher was politically well-grounded. if they recognized a schoolteacher to be "one of us" they let her know it by some phrase or word. For instance, in discussing the handicraft industry a man would say: "A handicraft worker cannot compete with large-scale production," or else he would ask a poser, like "What is the difference between a St. Petersburg worker and an Arkhangelsk peasant?" And after that he would have a special look for that teacher and would greet her in a special way, as much as to say, "You're one of us, we know."
If anything was doing locally they immediately told the teacher about it, knowing that it would be passed on to the organization. It was a sort of tacit understanding.
As a matter of fact we could talk almost about anything at school, although there was hardly a class that did not have a police spy in it. If only you avoided such dreadful words as "tsar," "strike," and so on, you could touch on fundamental issues. Officially, of course, we were forbidden to talk about anything whatever. One day the Recapitulation Group was shut down because an inspector, on a surprise visit, had discovered that decimals were being taught there whereas the syllabus only allowed for the four rules of arithmetic.
I lived in Staro-Nevsky Street at the time, in a building that had a through courtyard, and Vladimir Ilyich used to drop in on Sundays after his circle work, when we would start endless conversations. I was in love with my school work and could talk about it for hours if you did not stop me – talk about the school, the pupils, the Semyannikov, Thornton, Maxwell and other factories and mills in the neighbourhood. Vladimir Ilyich was interested in every little detail that could help him to piece together a picture of the life and conditions of the workers, to find some sort of avenue of approach to them in the matter of revolutionary propaganda. Most of the intellectuals those days did not know the workers well. An intellectual would come to one of the study-circles and read the workers a kind of lecture. A manuscript translation of Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State circulated among the circles for a long time. Vladimir Ilyich read Marx's Capital to the workers and explained it to them. He devoted the second half of the lesson to questioning the workers about their work and conditions of labour, showing them the bearing which their life had on the whole structure of society, and telling them in what way the existing order could be changed. This linking of theory with practice was a feature of Vladimir Ilyich's work in the study-circles. Gradually other members of our circle adopted the same method.
When the hectographed Vilna pamphlet On Agitation appeared the following year, the soil had been fully prepared for agitation by leaflets. The thing was to make a start. The method of agitation based on the workers' everyday needs struck deep root in our Party work. I did not fully appreciate how efficacious this method was until years later, when, living In France as a political emigrant, I observed how, during the great strike of the postal workers in Paris, the French Socialist Party stood completely aloof from it. It was the business of the trade unions, they said. In their opinion the business of a party was only political struggle. They had no clear idea whatever about the necessity of combining the economic with the political struggle.
Many of the comrades who worked in St. Petersburg at the time, seeing the effect this leaflet agitation had, were so carried away by the work that they entirely forgot that this was one of the forms, but not the only form of work among the masses, and took the path of notorious "Economism."
Vladimir Ilyich never forgot that there were other forms of work. In 1895 he wrote the pamphlet An Explanation of the Law Concerning Fines Levied on the Workers in the Factories, in which he set a brilliant example of how to approach the average worker of that time, and, proceeding from the workers' needs, to lead them step by step to the question of the necessity of political struggle. Many intellectuals thought the pamphlet dull and prolix, but the workers read it avidly, for it was something clear and familiar to them. (It was printed at the Narodnaya Volya printing plant and distributed among the workers.) At that time Vladimir Ilyich had made a thorough study of factory legislation. He believed that explaining these laws to the workers made it much easier to show them the connection that existed between their position and the political regime. Evidences of this study are traceable in quite a number of articles and pamphlets which Ilyich wrote at the time for workers, notably in the pamphlet The New Factory Act, and the articles "On Strikes," "On Industrial Courts" and others.
A result of this going about round the workers' circles was that the police kept a close watch on us. Of all our group Vladimir Ilyich was the most experienced in secrecy methods of work. He knew the through yards, and was a master hand at giving sleuths the slip. He taught us how to use invisible ink and to write messages in books by a dotted code and secret ciphers, and invented all kinds of aliases. One felt that he had been well-schooled in Narodnaya Volya methods. Indeed, he had good reason to speak with the great respect he did for the old Narodovolets Mikhailov, nicknamed "Dvornik" (Janitor) on account of his first-rate secrecy technique. Meanwhile, police surveillance kept growing stricter, and Vladimir Ilyich insisted that a "successor" should be appointed, someone who was not being shadowed and who would take over all contacts. As I was the "cleanest" of them in the eyes of the police, it was decided to appoint me "successor." On Easter Sunday five or six of us went to Tsarskoye Selo to "celebrate the holiday" with Silvin, a member of our group, who lived there as a coach. In the train going down we pretended not to know each other. We sat nearly all discussing which contacts had to be kept going. Vladimir Ilyich taught us the use of cipher, and we coded almost half a book. Afterwards I am sorry to say, I was unable to decipher this first attempt at collective coding. There was one consolation, though – by the time it had to be deciphered most of the "contacts" no longer existed.
Vladimir Ilyich carefully built up these "contacts" by searching everywhere for people who were likely, in one way or another, to be of use in revolutionary work. I remember a conference that was held on Vladimir Ilyich's initiative between representatives of our group (Vladimir Ilyich and Krzhizhanovsky, if I am not mistaken) and a group of women teachers of the Sunday School. Nearly all of them afterwards became Social-Democrats. Among them was Lydia Knipovich, an old member of the Narodnaya Volya, who afterwards joined the Social-Democrats. Old Party workers remember her. A woman of great revolutionary self-discipline, exacting both to herself and others, a splendid comrade, an excellent judge of people, who surrounded those she worked with with love and solicitude, Lydia was quick to appreciate the revolutionary in Vladimir Ilyich.
Lydia undertook to handle all contacts with the Narodnaya Volya printing plant. She made all the arrangements for printing, passed over the MSS, took delivery of the printed pamphlets, carried them round to her friends in baskets, and organized the distribution of the literature among the workers. When she was arrested – betrayed by a compositor at the plant – twelve baskets with illegal pamphlets were confiscated from various friends of hers. The Narodovoltsi printed mass editions of pamphlets for the workers at the time, such as The Working Day, Lives and Interests, Vladimir Ilyich's pamphlet On Fines, King Hunger, etc. Two of the Narodovoltsi-Shapovalov and Ratanskaya – who worked at the Lakhtinsky print-shop, are now in the ranks of the Communist Party. Lydia Knipovich is no longer among the living. She died in 1920, when the Crimea, where she had been living for the last few years, was under the Whites. On her death-bed her soul yearned towards the Communists and she died with the name of the Communist Party on her lips.
Among the other participants of the conference were, I belive, the school-teachers P. F. Kudeli and A. I. Mesheheryakova (both at present members of the Party). One of the Nevskaya Zastava teachers was Alexandra Kalmykova – an excellent lecturer (I remember her lecture for workers on the state budget). She kept a bookstore in Liteiny St. Vladimir Ilyich became closely acquainted with her at the time. Struve was one of her pupils, and Potresov, an old school-mate of Struve's, was a frequent visitor at her place. Later Alexandra Kalmykova financed the old Iskra right up to the time of the Second Congress. She did not join Struve when he went over to the liberals, but definitely associated herself with the Iskraist organization. Her sobriquet was Auntie. She was very friendly with Vladimir Ilyich. Now she is dead, alter having been bedridden for two years in a nursing home at Detskoye Selo. The children of the local orphanages used to visit her occasionally, and she told them about Ilyich. She had written to me in the spring of 1924 saying that Vladimir Ilyich's 1917 articles containing ardent appeals which had had such a powerful effect on the masses, ought to be published as a separate book. Vladimir Ilyich had written her in 1922 a few warm lines of greeting, such as only he could write.
Alexandra Kalmykova was closely associated with the "Emancipation of Labour" group. At one time (in 1899, I believe), when Vera Zasulich came to Russia, Kalmykova arranged her illegal sojourn in the country and saw her very often. Influenced by the rising tide of the workers movement, by the articles and books of the "Emancipation of Labour" group, and by the Petersburg Social-Democrats, Potresov, and for a time Struve, went Left. After a number of preliminary meetings, soundings were taken for joint work. It was decided to publish jointly a symposium Materials Characterizing Our Economic Development. Our group was represented on the editorial board by Vladimir Ilyich, Starkov, and Stepan Radchenko, theirs – by Struve, Potresov and Klasson. The fate of that publication is common knowledge. It was consigned to the flames by the tsarist censor. In the spring of 1895, before going abroad, Vladimir Ilyich kept going more and more often to Ozernoy Street, where Potresov then lived, to speed up the work.
Vladimir Ilyich spent the summer of 1895 abroad, living part of the time in Berlin, where he attended workers' meetings, and partly in Switzerland, where he first met Plekhanov, Axelrod and Zasulich. He came back full of impressions, and brought with him a double lined suitcase crammed with illegal literature.
The police started shadowing him the moment he arrived. They had an eye on him and his suitcase. I had a cousin working at the time at the Address Bureau. Two days after Vladimir Ilyich had arrived she told me that a detective had come when she was on night duty, and had gone through the files (which were arranged in alphabetical order), saying boastfully: "There, we've tracked an important state criminal – Ulyanov, his name is. His brother was hanged, and this one's come from abroad. He won't get away now." Knowing that I was acquainted with Vladimir Ilyich, my cousin lost no time reporting this to me. Naturally, I warned Vladimir Ilyich at once. Extreme caution was necessary. But the work could not wait. We got busy. A division of labour was organized, and the work was divided by districts. We started to draw up and circulate leaflets. I remember Vladimir Ilyich drawing up the first leaflet to the workers of the Semyannikov Works. We had no printing facilities at the time. The leaflet was copied out in print hand and distributed by Babushkin. Two of the four copies were picked up by the watchmen, the other two, circulated from hand to hand. Leaflets were distributed in other districts as well. One was got out on Vasilyevsky Island for the women workers of the Laferme Tobacco Factory. A.A. Yakubova and Z. P. Nevzorova (Krzhizhanovskaya) resorted to the following method of distribution: they rolled the leaflets up so that they could conveniently be peeled off one by one, and arranged their aprons in a suitable manner. Then, as soon as the whistle blew, they walked swiftly towards the women workers, who came pouring out of the factory gates, and thrust the leaflets into the hands of the puzzled women almost at a run. The leaflet was a great success.
Our leaflets and pamphlets roused the workers. It was decided – seeing that we had an illegal print-shop to do it in – to publish also a popular journal Rabocheye Deto (Workers' Cause). Vladimir Ilyich prepared the material for it with great thoroughness. Every line of copy passed through his hands. I remember a meeting at my place when Zaporozhets waxed very enthusiastic about the material which he had succeeded in collecting at a boot factory in the Moskovskaya Zastava neighborhood. "They fine you there for everything," he said. "If you set a heel on crooked you get fined right away." Vladimir Ilyich laughed. "Well, if you set a heel on crooked," he said, "then you're asking to be fined." He collected and checked all the material very carefully, I remember, for instance, how the material about the Thornton Mills was collected. I was to call out my pupil Krolikov, who worked at the mills as a sorter (he had been deported from St. Petersburg once), and collect all the information from him according to the plan outlined by Vladimir Ilyich. Krolikov arrived in a posh fur coat which he had borrowed from somebody, and brought a bookful of notes which he supplemented verbally. His information was very valuable. Vladimir Ilyich fairly pounced on it. Afterwards A. A. Yabkubova and I, with shawls over our heads to make us look like mill workers, went to the Thornton hostel, where we visited both the single and married quarters. Conditions there were appalling. It was only from information gathered in this way that Vladimir Ilyich wrote his correspondence and leaflets. Look at his leaflet to the men and women employees of the Thornton Mills. What a thorough knowledge of the subject it shows. And what a schooling this was for all the comrades who worked at that time. That was when we really learnt "to give attention to detail." And how deeply those details have engraved themselves in our minds.
Our Rabocheye Deto did not see the light of day. A meeting was held in my rooms on December 8, at which a final reading of the copy for the press was held. Vaneyev took the duplicate for a last look through, while the other copy remained with me. I went to Vaneyev the next morning to pick up the corrected copy, but the servant told me that he had moved out the night before. We had previously arranged with Vladimir Ilyich that in case anything went wrong I was to make enquiries of his friend Chebotaryov, who was a colleague of mine on the staff of the Central Railway Administration where I was employed. Vladimir Ilyich went there every day to dine. Chebotaryov was not in his office. I went to his house. Vladimir Ilyich had not been to dinner. Obviously, he had been arrested. Later in the day we found out that a good many of our group had been arrested. The copy of Rabocheye Deto left on my hands I gave to Nina Gerd for safe-keeping. Nina was an old school friend of mine, the future wife of Struve. Not to have any more of us arrested it was decided for the time being not to print Rabocheye Deto.
This St. Petersburg period of Vladimir Ilyich's work was of great importance, although the work itself was not noteworthy and hardly noticeable. He had described it so himself. It did not show. It was a matter not of heroic deeds but of establishing close contact with the masses, getting closer to them, learning to be the vehicle of their finest aspirations, learning how to win their confidence, and rally them behind us. But it was during this period of, his St. Petersburg work that Vladimir Ilyich was moulded as a leader of the working masses.
When I first came to the school after these arrests, Babushkin called me aside under the stairs and handed me a leaflet concerning these arrests written by the workers. The leaflet was of a purely political character. Babushkin asked me to get it printed and to let them have copies for distribution. Till then neither of us had ever directly mentioned my being connected with the organization. I passed the leaflet on to our group. I remember that meeting – it was at S. I. Radchenko's flat. All that remained of our group had gathered there. Lyakhovsky read the leaflet and exclaimed: "We can't print this leaflet – why, it's on a purely political subject." But since the leaflet had undoubtedly been written by the workers on their own initiative, and since they insisted on its being printed, it was decided, to print it.
It wasn't very long before we got in touch with Vladimir Ilyich. In those days people committed for trial were freely permitted to receive books. They were given only a perfunctory examination, during which the tiny dots in the middle of the letters and the slightly changed colour of the paper where milk had been used for ink, escaped notice. The technique of secret correspondence had made swift progress with us. Vladimir Ilyich's concern for his imprisoned comrades was characteristic of him. There was not a letter he sent out that did not contain some request concerning a fellow prisoner. So-and-so had no one coming to visit him – it was necessary to get him a "fiancee": or so-and-so had to be told through visiting relatives to look for letters in such-and-such a book in the prison library, on such-and-such a page; another needed warm boots, and so on. He corresponded with many of his imprisoned comrades, to whom his letters meant a great deal. His letters dealing with work had a cheering effect. The man who received them forgot that he was in prison, and got down to work himself I remember the impression those letters made (I was arrested myself in August 1896). They came written in milk every Saturday, which was book-receiving day. A glance at the secret mark would tell you that the book contained a message. Hot water for tea would be handed round at six o'clock, and then the wardress would conduct the non-political criminals to church. By that time you bad the letter cut up in strips, and your tea brewed, and the moment the wardress went away you would begin dipping the strips in the hot tea to develop the text. (We couldn't very well use a candle for this in prison, and so Vladimir Ilyich hit on the hot water idea.) These letters were wonderfully cheering and so absorbingly interesting to read! The centre of all our work outside, Vladimir Ilyich even in prison was the centre of contact with the outside world.
Moreover, he worked a great deal in prison. It was there that he prepared The Development of Capitalism in Russia. He ordered all the necessary material and statistical handbooks in his legal letters. "I am sorry they have let me out so soon," Vladimir Ilyich said jokingly when he was released for deportation. "I haven't quite finished the book, and it will be difficult to get books in Siberia." Besides The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Vladimir Ilyich wrote leaflets and illegal pamphlets, and a draft programme for the First Congress (which did not take place until 1898, although it was planned for an earlier date), and gave his views on questions under discussion In the organization. To avoid being caught in the act of writing with milk, he kneaded little inkpots out of bread, which he promptly popped into his mouth whenever he heard the peep hole being opened. "Today I have eaten six inkpots," he would add to his letter by way of humorous remark.
But for all his self-discipline and restraint, Vladimir Ilyich could not help succumbing to the prison dumps. In one of his letters he suggested the following plan. When they were taken out for exercise one of the windows in the corridor afforded a momentary glimpse of the street pavement in Shpalernaya. His idea was that I and Appolinaria Yakubova, at a definite time, should come and stand on that bit of pavement so that he could see us. Appolinaria was unable to go for some reason, and so I went alone and stood on the pavement for a long time several days running. Only the plan did not work, I don't remember exactly why.
While Vladimir Ilyich was in prison, our work outside kept expanding, and the workers' movement grew spontaneously. With the arrest of Martov, Lyakhovsky and others, our group was weakened still further. True, new comrades joined the group, but these people were not so well up in theory and experience. There was no time for them to learn, as the movement had to be taken care of and demanded a lot of energy. Agitation was the order of the day. We simply had no time to think of propaganda. Our leaflet agitation was a great success. The strike of the thirty thousand textile workers of St. Petersburg, which broke out in the summer of 1896 and was influenced by the Social-Democrats, had turned many heads.
I remember Silvin reading out the draft of a leaflet at a secret meeting in the woods at Pavlovsk (at the beginning of August, I think it was). There was a phrase in it that definitely limited the workers' movement to the sphere of economic struggle. After reading it out, Silvin stopped and said laughingly: "Well I never, what on earth made me say that!" The phrase was crossed out. In the summer of 1896 our Lakhtinsky printing plant was suppressed, and we were no longer able to print our pamphlets. Arrangements for putting out the journal had to be postponed indefinitely.
During the strike of 1896 our group was joined by Takhtarev's group, known as "The Monkeys," and by Chernyshev's group, known as "The Cocks." But so long as the "Decembrists" were in prison and kept in touch with the organization outside, the work ran its usual course. When Vladimir Ilyich was released, I was still in prison. Despite the dazed state of joy a man finds himself in on coming out of prison, Vladimir Ilyich nevertheless contrived to write me a short note on Party affairs. My mother told me that he had even put on weight in prison and was as cheerful as ever.
I was released soon after the Vetrova affair (a prisoner named Vetrova had burned herself alive in the Peter and Paul Fortres). The gendarmes released quite a number of women prisoners, including myself. I was to remain in St. Petersburg until my case was finished, and two detectives were employed to shadow me. I found the organization in a very sad state. Stepan Radchenko and his wife were all that remained of the active members of our group. He could not carry on with the work for reasons of secrecy, but he continued to act as centre and maintained contacts. He was in touch with Struve too. Struve shortly afterwards married N. A. Gerd, the Social-Democrat – he was himself a Social-Democrat of a sort at that time. He was quite incapable of doing any work in the organization, leave alone underground work, but it flattered him, no doubt to be called on for advice. He even wrote a manifesto for the First Congress of the Social-Democratic Labour Party. In the winter of 1897-98 I went to see Struve fairly often on behalf of Vladimir Ilyich. Struve was then publishing the Novoye Slovo (New Word) magazine, and besides, his wife was an old friend of mine. I studied Struve at the time. He was a Social-Democrat then, but what surprised me was his bookishness and his almost complete lack of interest in "the living tree of life," an interest which Vladimir Ilyich had so much of. Struve got a translation job for me and undertook to edit it. He found the work irksome, though, and quickly tired. (Vladimir Ilyich would sit with me for hours over similar work. But then his style of work was quite different; with him even such a job as translation was a labour of love.) Struve read Fet for relaxation. Someone has written of Lenin that he was fond of reading Fet. That isn't true. Fet was an out-and-out advocate of serfdom, with nothing in him you could get your teeth into. If anyone was fond of Fet, it was Struve.
I also knew Tugan-Baranovsky, I went to school with his wife, Lydia Davydova (whose mother was the publisher of the magazine Mir Bozhy (God's World) and I used to call on them at one time. Lydia was a very good and clever woman, although weak-willed. She was cleverer than her husband. You always felt in talking to him that he was not one of us. I once went to him with a collecting list to support a strike (the Kostroma strike, I believe it was). He gave me something – I don't remember how many rubles-but I was obliged to listen to a little lecture on the subject of "I don't understand why strikes should be supported – a strike is an inadequate method of fighting the employers." I took the money and hurried away.
I wrote to Vladimir Ilyich in exile about everything I saw and heard. There was little I could write about the work of the organization, however. At the time of the First Congress it consisted only of four people: S. I. Radchenko, his wife Lyubov, Sammer, and I. Our delegate was Radchenko. On his return from the Congress, however, he hardly told us anything about it. He took out the already familiar "Manifesto" by Struve, which was hidden between the covers of a book, and burst out crying. Nearly all the Congress delegates had been arrested.
I was banished to the Ufa Gubernia for three years, but obtained a transfer to the village of Shushenskoye in the Minusinsk Uyezd, where Vladimir Ilyich lived, by describing myself as his fiancee.