Although Vladimir Ilyich, Martov and Potresov went abroad with legal passports, they decided in Munich to live under false passports, and keep away from the Russian colony in order not to compromise our associates arriving from Russia and the better to be able to send illegal literature to Russia in suitcases, letters, and so on.
When I came to Munich Vladimir Ilyich was living unregistered with this Rittmeyer under the name of Meyer. Although Rittmeyer kept a beer-house, he was a Social-Democrat and sheltered Vladimir Ilyich in his flat. Vladimir Ilyich had a poor room, and lived in bachelor style, having his meals at a German woman's, who kept him on a Mehlspeise diet. In the morning and the evening he drank tea out of a tin cup, which he carefully washed himself and hung up on a nail by the sink.
He looked worried. Things were going slower than he wanted. Besides Vladimir Ilyich, there lived in Munich at the time Martov, Potresov and Vera Zasulich. Plekhanov and Axelrod wanted the paper to be published somewhere in Switzerland under their direct control. They – and at first Zasulich too – did not attach great significance to Iskra, and failed completely to appreciate the organizing role which it could and eventually did play. They were much more interested in Zarya.
"That Iskra of yours is silly," Vera Zasulich said at the beginning. Spoken in jest, it nevertheless betrayed a certain underestimation of the whole enterprise. Vladimir Ilyich thought Iskra ought to be kept apart from the political emigrant centre, and run on secret lines. This was vitally important as a means of facilitating contact with Russia, correspondence and the arrival of agents. The Old Men were inclined to construe this as unwillingness to have the paper transferred to Switzerland, unwillingness to accept their leadership, a desire to pursue an independent course of action, and so they were in no particular hurry to help. Vladimir Ilyich sensed this and was worried about it. He had a soft spot for the "Emancipation of Labour" group, a great affection for both Axelrod and Vera Zasulich, not to mention Plekhanov. "Wait till you see Zasulich," he told me the first evening I arrived in Munich. "She is true to the core." And he was right.
Vera Zasulich was the only one of the "Emancipation of Labour" group to identify herself closely with Iskra. She lived with us in Munich and London, and Iskra and its editorial board were all she had in the world. Their joys and sorrows were hers, and tidings from Russia were the air she breathed.
"Iskra is coming along, you know," she said as the influence of the paper grew and extended. Vera Zasulich often spoke about the long bleak years she had lived in emigration.
We never experienced the kind of life in emigration that the "Emancipation of Labour" group had known. We were constantly and closely in touch with Russia and always had people from there coming to see us. We were better informed than if we had lived in some provincial town in Russia itself. We had no life outside the interests of our Russian work. Things in Russia were on the upgrade, the working-class movement was rising. The "Emancipation of Labour" group had been cut off from Russia, living abroad during the worst period of reaction, when a student arriving from Russia had been an event. Travellers had been afraid to call on them. When Klasson and Korobko visited them at the beginning of the nineties, they were summoned to the police as soon as they returned and asked why they had gone to see Plekhanov. Police detection was well organized.
Of all the "Emancipation of Labour" group Vera Zasulich lived the loneliest life. Plekhanov and Axelrod both had families. Vera Zasulich often spoke about how lonely she felt. "I have no one," she would say, then hasten to cover up her feelings with a joke: "You love me, I know, but when I die the most you'll do will be to drink one cup of tea less perhaps."
Her yearning for a home and family was all the more poignant for her having been brought up herself in a strange home as a ward. How lovingly she dandled Dimka's baby boy (Dimka was P. G. Smidovich's sister). She even displayed unsuspected gifts for housewifery and did the shopping when it was her turn to cook dinner for the "commune" (Vera, Martov and Alexeyev ran a communal household in London). Few people would have suspected such domestic inclinations in her, however. She always lived in nihilist style – dressed carelessly and smoked without a stop; her room was shockingly untidy, and she never allowed anyone to do it. Her eating, too, was rather fantastic. I remember her stewing some meat on an oil-stove and snipping pieces off it with a scissors and putting them into her mouth.
"When I lived in England," she told me, "the English ladies tried to be sociable, and asked: 'How long do you stew your meat?' 'All depends,' I said.'II you're hungry ten minutes will do, if not – three hours or so.' That stopped them."
When Vera had any writing to do, she would shut herself up in her room and subsist on strong black coffee.
She was terribly homesick. In 1899, I believe, she went to Russia illegally – not to do any work, but just like that, "to have a look at the muzhik and see what kind of nose he has." And when Iskra began to appear, she felt that this was a piece of real Russian work, and clung to it desperately. For her to leave Iskra would have meant cutting herself off from Russia again, sinking back into the slough of emigrant life abroad.
That is why, when the question of Iskra editorship was brought up at the Second Congress, she was filled with indignation. For her it was not a question of ambition, but a matter of life and death.
In 1905 she went to Russia and stayed there.
Vera Zasulich, for the first time in her life, opposed Plekhanov at the Second Congress. She had been associated with him by years of joint struggle, she saw what a tremendous role he played in having the revolutionary movement guided into the proper channel, and appreciated him as the founder of Russian Social-Democracy, appreciated his intellect, his brilliant talent. The slightest disagreement with Plekhanov distressed her terribly. Yet in this case she went against him.
Plekhanov's was a tragic fate. In the theoretical field his services to the workers' movement are almost inestimable. Long years of life as a political emigrant, however, told on him – -they isolated him from Russian realities. The broad mass movement of the workers started after he had gone abroad. He saw the representatives of different parties, writers, students, even individual workers, but he had not seen the Russian working-class mass, had not worked with it, nor felt it. Sometimes, when letters came from Russia that lifted the veil over new forms of the movement and revealed new vistas, Vladimir Ilyich, Martov and even Vera Zasulich would read them over and over again. Vladimir Ilyich would then pace the room for a long time and not be able to fall asleep afterwards. I tried to show those letters to Plekhanov when we moved to Geneva and was surprised at the way he reacted. He seemed to be staggered, then looked incredulous, and never spoke about them again.
His attitude towards those letters from Russia became more sceptical than ever after the Second Congress.
I felt hurt at this at first, and then I thought I began to see the reason. He had been away from Russia for such a long time that he had lost that capacity, developed by experience, which enables one to gauge the value of each letter and read between the lines.
Workers from Russia often came to Iskra, and all of them, of course, wanted to see Plekhanov. Seeing him was much more difficult than seeing us or Martov, and even when a worker did get to see him, he would come away feeling baffled. Plekhanov's brilliant intellect, knowledge, and wit would impress the worker, but all that the latter felt on leaving him would be the vast gulf between him self and that brilliant theoretician. The things that had lain uppermost in his mind, the things he had been so eager to talk to him about and ask his advice on, had remained unuttered.
And if a worker differed with Plekhanov and tried to express his own opinion, Plekhanov would get angry and say: "Your daddies and mummies were knee-high when I...."
I daresay he was not like that at the beginning of his emigration, but by the turn of the century he no longer had the live feel of Russia. He did not go to Russia in 1905.
Axelrod was much more of an organizer than either Plekhanov or Zasulich. He saw much more of the new arrivals, who spent most of their time with him, and had their meals at his lodgings. He questioned them closely about everything.
He carried on a correspondence with comrades in Russia and was well up in secrecy techniques. One can well imagine how a Russian revolutionary organizer must have felt, living for years in Switzerland as a political emigrant! Axelrod worked at only a quarter of his former capacity; he did not sleep for nights at a stretch, and writing was a tremendous strain on him – it took him months to finish an article he had started, and his handwriting was almost illegible owing to the nervous way he wrote.
His handwriting always upset Vladimir Ilyich. "It's terrible to think of one reaching such a state as Axelrod," he would often say. He often spoke about Axelrod's handwriting to Dr. Kramer, who attended Ilyich during his last illness. When Vladimir Ilyich first went abroad in 1895 he had discussed organizational questions mostly with Axelrod. He told me a lot about him when I arrived in Munich. He asked me what Axelrod was now doing by pointing to his name in the newspaper when he himself could no longer write or even speak a word.
Axelrod reacted rather painfully to the fact that Iskra was not being published in Switzerland and that the flow of communications with Russia did not pass through him. That accounts for his bitter attitude on the question of an editorial trio at the Second Congress. Iskra to be the organizing centre, while he was removed from the editorial hoard! And this at a time when the breath of Russia made itself felt more strongly than ever at the Second Congress.
When I arrived in Munich the only member of the "Emancipation of Labour" group living there was Vera Zasulich. She had a Bulgarian passport and lived under the name of Velika Dmitriyevna.
All the others had Bulgarian passports too. Until my arrival Vladimir Ilyich had been living without any passport at all. When I came we took a passport in the name of Dr. Yordanov, a Bulgarian, with his wife Marica, and rented a room we saw advertised in a working-class home. The secretary of Iskra before me had been Inna Smidovich-Leman. She, too, had a Bulgarian passport, and her Party sobriquet was Dimka. Vladimir Ilyich told me when I arrived that he had arranged for me to be the secretary of Iskra on my arrival. This, of course, meant that all intercourse with Russia would be closely controlled by Vladimir Ilyich. Martov and Potresov had had nothing against this at the time, and the "Emancipation of Labour" group had put up no candidate of their own, as they had not attached any particular importance to Iskra at the time. Vladimir Ilyich told me he had felt very awkward about doing this, but had thought it necessary I in the interests of the cause. I had my hands full at once. Things were organized in this way: letters from Russia were addressed to German comrades in various towns in Germany, and they readdressed them to Dr. Leman, who forwarded them on to us.
Shortly before this there had been quite a scare. Our comrades in Russia had succeeded at last in setting up a printing plant in Kishinev. The manager Akim (brother of Lieber – Leon Goldman) sent to Leman's address by post a cushion with copies of pamphlets published in Russia sewn up in it. Leman refused delivery of the parcel, thinking it a mistake, but when our people got to know about it and raised an alarm, he took the cushion from the post office and said that he would henceforth accept delivery of everything that was addressed to him, even if it was a trainload.
We had no transport facilities yet for smuggling Iskra into Russia. It was sent in mainly in double-bottom suit cases through various travellers, who delivered them at secret addresses in Russia.
One such secret rendezvous was the Lepeshinskys' in Pskov. Another was in Kiev and some other town. The comrades in Russia took the literature out of the suitcases and handed it over to the organization. Shipments had only just begun to be arranged through the Letts Rolau and Skubik.
All this took up a lot of our time. A good deal of time was also wasted on all kinds of negotiations, which led to nothing.
I remember wasting a week negotiating with a fellow who planned to get in touch with smugglers by travelling along the frontier with a camera, which he wanted us to buy for him.
We corresponded with Iskra agents in Berlin, Paris, Switzerland and Belgium. They tried to help as best they could by raising money and finding willing travellers, connections, addresses, and so on.
An organization called the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democrats Abroad was formed out of the sympathizing groups in October 1901.
Connections with Russia grew apace. One of the most active correspondents of Iskra was the St. Petersburg worker Babushkin. Vladimir Ilyich had seen him before leaving Russia and made arrangements with him to send in correspondence. He sent in a mass of reports from Orekhovo-Zuvevo Vladimir, Gus-Khrustalny, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Kokhma and Kineshma. He made a regular round of these towns and strengthened contacts with them. Letters also came from St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Urals and the South. We corresponded with the Northern Union. Noskov, a representative of the Union, arrived from Ivanovo-Voznesensk. A more Russian type it is difficult to imagine. Fair-skinned and blue-eyed, with a slight stoop, he spoke with a broad country accent, and had arrived abroad with a small bundle to make all the necessary arrangements. His uncle, the owner of a small mill in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, had given him the money for the trip in order to get rid of his troublesome nephew, who was for ever being run in and having his room searched by the police. Boris Nikolayevich Noskov (Babushkin's alias, his real name and patronymic being Vladimir Alexandrovich) was an experienced practical worker. I had met him in Ufa where he had stopped over on his way to Ekaterinburg. He came abroad for contacts. Making contacts was his profession. I remember him sitting on the stove in our Munich kitchen, telling us with shining eyes about the work of the Northern Union. He was terribly enthusiastic, and Vladimir Ilyich's questions only added fuel to the flames. Boris kept a note-book while he lived abroad, in which he meticulously wrote down all contacts: where this or that one lived, what he did, and how he could be useful. He left us that note-hook afterwards. His work as an organizer had a poetic sort of quality. He overidealized his work and people, however, and lacked the ability to face up to reality. After the Second Congress he became a conciliator, and later disappeared from the political scene. He died during the years of reaction.
Other people came to Munich too. Struve had been there before my arrival. Things were already heading for a break with him. He was passing over from the Social-Democratic to the liberal camp. On the occasion of his last visit there had been a serious clash. Vera Zasulich had nicknamed him "the book-fed calf." Both Vladimir Ilyich and Plekhanov had given him up, but Vera Zasulich still thought there was hope for him. We jokingly called her and Potresov the "Struve-freundliche Partei." Struve visited Munich again when I was there. Vladimir Ilyich refused to see him. I went to see Struve at Vera's rooms. The interview was a very painful one. Struve felt terribly hurt. There was a Dostoyevsky sort of touch about it all. He spoke about his being regarded as a renegade and other things in a similar strain, and acted the self-tormentor. I do not remember everything he said, but I do remember the heavy feeling with which I came away from that meeting. Plainly, he was a stranger, a man hostile to our Party. Vladimir Ilyich had been right. Afterwards Struve's wife, Nina Alexandrovna, sent us her regards and a box of sweets through somebody – I don't remember who now. She was powerless, and I doubt whether she realized where her husband was heading. He knew, though.
After my arrival we lived in rooms at a German working-class home. They were a family of six, and all lived in the kitchen and a tiny room, but everything was spotlessly clean. The children, too, were tidy and polite. I decided to put Vladimir Ilyich on home-cooked food and tackled the pots and pans. I did the cooking in the landlady's kitchen, but prepared everything in our own room. I tried to make as little noise as possible, because Vladimir Ilyich had then begun to write What Is To Be Done? When writing, he would usually pace swiftly up and down the room, whispering what he was going to write. I had already adapted myself to his mode of working, and when he was writing I never spoke to him or asked him any questions. Afterwards, when we went out for a walk, he would tell me what he had written and what he was thinking about. This became as much a necessity to him as whispering his article over to himself before putting it down in writing. We went for long rambles on the outskirts of Munich, choosing the loneliest spots where there were fewer people about.
A month later we moved into a flat of our own in Schwabing, a suburb of Munich, in one of the numerous newly erected buildings, and got ourselves some furniture (we sold it all for twelve marks when we left). We now Settled down to real home life.
After lunch – which was at twelve – Martov and others came to attend the so-called editorial meeting. Martov Spoke without a stop, jumping from one subject to anOther. He read a lot and was always chock-full of news. He knew everything and everybody. "Martov is a typical journalist," Vladimir Ilyich often said about him. "He is remarkably talented, quick at grasping things, terribly impressionable and easy-going." Martov was an indispensable man for Iskra. Those five-to-six-hour talks every day were very tiring for Vladimir Ilyich. He used to feel quite ill after them and was unfit for work. He asked me once to go and see Martov and tell him not to come to us. We arranged that I would call on him myself, and tell him what letters we had received and arrange everything with him. But nothing came of it. Two days later we were back again where we were. Martov could not live without these talks. From us he would go to a cafe with Vera Zasulich, Dimka and Blumenfeld and sit there talking for hours.
Afterwards Dan arrived with his wife and children, and Martov spent most of his time with them.
We went to Zurich in October to amalgamate with Rabocheye Delo. Nothing came of it, though. Akimov, Krichevsky and others talked themselves silly. Martov worked himself up to such a pitch in his attack on the Rabocheye Delo adherents that he even tore his tie off. I had never seen him like that before. Plekhanov scintillated. A resolution was drawn up to the effect that amalgamation was impossible. Dan read it out at the conference in a wooden voice. "Papal nuncio," his opponents shouted at him.
This split was a painless one. Martov and Lenin had not collaborated with Rabocheye Delo, and strictly speaking no break had occurred since there had never been any cooperation. On the other hand, Plekhanov was in high feather. The opponent he had been grappling with for so long was at last worsted. Plekhanov was cheerful and chatty.
We lived in the same hotel, and had our meals together, and everything seemed to be going well. Only occasionally did a very slight difference ill the approach to certain questions make itself felt.
One conversation sticks in my memory. We were sitting in a cafe, and in the room next to ours there was a gymnasium where fencing was in progress. Workers armed with shields and cardboard swords were engaged there in a sham battle. Plekhanov laughed, saying: "That's how we shall fight under the new order." Going home – I walked with Axelrod – he developed the theme touched on by Plekhanov. "Under the new order everything will be a deadly bore," he said. "There will be no struggle."
I was still painfully shy then and said nothing, but I remember being surprised at such an argument.
After we returned from Zurich Vladimir Ilyich sat down to finish his What Is To Be Done? Later the Mensheviks vehemently attacked that pamphlet, but at that time it gripped everybody, especially those who were more closely associated with Russian work. The pamphlet was an ardent appeal for organization. It outlined a broad plan of organization in which everyone would find a place for himself, become a cog in the revolutionary machine, a cog, which, no matter how small, was vital to the working of the machine. The pamphlet urged the necessity of intensive and tireless efforts to build the foundation that had to be built if the Party was to exist in deeds and not in words under the conditions then prevailing in Russia. A Social-Democrat should not be afraid of long, hard work. He must work and work unremittingly, and be ever ready "for everything, from upholding the honour, the prestige and continuity of the Party in periods of acute 'evolutionary 'depression,' to preparing for, fixing the time for and carrying out the nation-wide armed insurrection," Vladimir Ilyich wrote in What Is To Be Done?
Twenty seven years have passed since that pamphlet was written, and what years! The conditions of work for the Party have changed completely and entirely new tasks confront the workers' movement, yet the revolutionary passion of this pamphlet is irresistible even today, and it should be studied by everyone who wants to be a Leninist in deeds and not in words.
Whereas The "Friends of the People" was of tremendous significance in defining the path which the revolutionary movement had to take, What Is To Be Done? can be said to have defined a plan for extensive revolutionary activities. It pointed out a definite task.
It was clear that a Party congress was still premature, that the conditions capable of preventing it from coming to nothing as the First Congress had done were lacking, and that long preparatory work was necessary. The attempt by the Bund, therefore, to convene a congress in Belostok was not taken seriously by anybody. Dan went there from Iskra, taking with him a suitcase whose false lining was crammed with copies of What Is To Be Done? The Belostok Congress turned into a conference.
Vladimir Ilyich was particularly interested in the attitude of the workers to that pamphlet. He wrote to I. I. Radchenko on July 16, 1902: "I was ever so glad to read your report about the talk with the workers. We receive such letters much too rarely. They are really tremendously cheering. Be sure and convey this to your workers with our request that they should write to us themselves, not just for the press, but to exchange ideas, so that we do not lose touch with one another and for mutual understanding. Personally I am particularly interested to know what the workers think of What Is To Be Done? So far I have received no comments from the workers."
Iskra was going strong. Its influence was increasing. The Party programme was being prepared for the congress. Plekhanov and Axelrod came to Munich to discuss it. Plekhanov attacked parts of the draft programme which Lenin had drawn up. Vera Zasulich did not agree with Lenin on all points, but neither did she agree entirely with Plekhanov. Axelrod also agreed with Lenin on some points. The meeting was a painful one. Vera Zasulich wanted to argue with Plekhanov, but he looked so forbidding, staring at her with his arms folded on his chest, that she was thrown off her balance. The discussion had reached the voting stage. Before the voting took place, Axelrod, who agreed with Lenin on this point, said he had a headache and wanted to go for a walk.
Vladimir Ilyich was terribly upset. To work like that was impossible. The discussion was so unbusiness-like.
Organizing the work on a business-like footing without introducing any personal element into it, and thus ensuring that caprice or personal relations associated with the past would not influence decisions, had now become an obvious need.
All differences with Plekhanov distressed Vladimir Ilyich greatly. He fretted and did not sleep at night. Plekhanov on the other hand was sulky and resentful.
After reading through Vladimir Ilyich's article for the fourth number of Zarya, Plekhanov returned it to Vera Zasulich with marginal notes in which he gave full vent to his annoyance. When Vladimir Ilyich saw them he was greatly upset.
By this time it became known that Iskra could no longer be printed in Munich. The owner of the print-shop did not want to run the risk. We had to move. But where? Plekhanov and Axelrod were for Switzerland, the rest – after that whiff of the atmosphere that had prevailed during the discussion of the programme – voted for London.
We looked back on this Munich period afterwards as a bright memory. Our later years of life in emigration were a much more distressing experience. During the Munich days the rift in the personal relations between Vladimir Ilyich, Martov, Potresov and Zasulich had not been so deep. All energies had been concentrated upon a single object – the building up of an all-Russian newspaper. There had been an intensive rallying of forces around Iskra. All had had the feel of the organization's growth, a sense that the path for creating the Party had been rightly chosen. That explains the genuine spirit of jollification with which we had enjoyed the carnivals, the universal good humour that had prevailed during our trip to Zurich, and so on.
Local life held no great attraction for us. We observed it merely as bystanders. We went to meetings sometimes, but on the whole they were of little interest. I remember the May Day celebrations. For the first time that year the German Social-Democrats had been permitted to organize a procession, on condition that the celebrations were held outside the town and no crowds collected within the town.
Fairly large columns of German Social-Democrats with their wives and children, their pockets stuffed with horseradishes, marched swiftly through the town in silence to drink beer in a suburban beer garden. There were no flags, no placards. That Maifeier bore very little resemblance to a demonstration of working-class triumph throughout the world.
We did not follow the procession to the suburban beer garden, but dropped behind and roamed the streets of Munich as was our habit, in order to let the feeling of disappointment that had crept into our hearts wear off. We wanted to take part in a real militant demonstration, and not a procession sanctioned by the police.
As we were working in strict secrecy, we never met any of the German comrades except Parvus, who lived near us in Schwabing with his wife and little son. Rosa Luxemburg came to see him once, and Vladimir Ilyich went there to meet her. Parvus was then an extreme Left-winger. He contributed to Iskra and was interested in Russian affairs.
We travelled to London via Liege. Nikolai Meshcheryakov was living in Liege at the time with his wife – both old Sunday School friends of mine. I had known him as a Narodovolets, but he had been the first to initiate me into illegal work, the first to teach me secrecy technique and help me to become a Social-Democrat by keeping me well supplied with the foreign publications of the "Emancipation of Labour" group.
Now he was a Social-Democrat. He had been living in Belgium for a long time and was familiar with the local movement. We decided to call on him en route.
There was tremendous excitement in Liege at that time. A few days previously the troops had fired on the strikers. The ferment in the working-class districts could be read in the faces of the workers and the people, who stood about in knots. We went to see the People's House. It was very inconveniently situated, and any crowd standing in front of the building could easily be cooped up and trapped. The workers were flocking to it. To avoid a crowd gathering there, the Party leaders had arranged meetings in all the working-class districts. This gave rise to a vague mistrust of the Belgian Social-Democratic leaders. It was very much like a division of labour, some shooting at the crowd, others seeking an excuse to pacify it....