In his pamphlet The Zemstvo Campaign and "Iskra's" Plan, written as far back as November 1904, and in his subsequent articles written in December in Nos. 1-3 of Vperyod, Ilyich had said that the hour of the masses' real open fight for freedom was approaching. He had clearly felt the gathering of the revolutionary storm. But it was one thing to feel it coming and another to learn that the revolution had already started. Therefore, when the news of January 9 reached Geneva, news telling of the concrete form in which the revolution had started, everything around us seemed to change, as if everything that had existed until then had suddenly receded into the distant past. The news of the events of January 9 reached Geneva the next morning. Vladimir Ilyich and I were going to the library when we met the Lunacharskys, who were on their way to us. I remember the figure of Anna Lunacharskaya, who waved her muff at us, too excited to speak. Instinct drew us, together with all the other Bolsheviks who had heard the news, to the emigrants' restaurant kept by the Lepeshinskys. We sought each other's company. But hardly a word was spoken – we were all so excited. We sang the revolutionary funeral march You Have Fallen in the Struggle... with grim set faces. The realization came over everyone in a wave that the revolution had begun, that the shackles of faith in the tsar had been torn apart, and the hour was near when "tyranny shall fall, and the people shall rise up, great, powerful and free...."
We lived at one with all the Russian political emigrants in Geneva – from one number of the Tribune to the next. All Ilyich's thoughts were centred in Russia.
Presently Gapon arrived in Geneva. He was taken up first by the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who tried to make out that Gapon was their man, and that the whole labour movement in St. Petersburg was their handiwork, too. They boosted Gapon and made a terrible fuss of him. Gapon was in the limelight at that time and the London Times paid him fabulous sums for every line he wrote.
Some time after Gapon's arrival in Geneva a Socialist-Revolutionary lady called one evening and told Vladimir Ilyich that Gapon wished to meet him. A rendezvous was arranged on "neutral" ground in a cafe. That evening Vladimir Ilyich paced up and down his room without lighting the lamp.
Gapon was a living part of the growing revolution in Russia, a man closely bound up with the working-class masses who implicitly believed in him. Ilyich was excited at the prospect of meeting that man.
One comrade was recently shocked to learn that Vladimir Ilyich had had to do with Gapon.
Of course, one could simply have dismissed Gapon by deciding beforehand that nothing good could ever be expected of a priest. That is what Plekhanov did. He gave Gapon a very cool reception. But Lenin's strength lay in the fact that to him the revolution was a living thing, like a face that one could study in all its varied features, because he knew and understood what the masses wanted. And a knowledge of the masses can only be obtained by contact with them. Ilyich was curious to know what influence Gapon could have had upon the masses.
Vladimir Ilyich related his impressions of Gapon after returning from the meeting. Gapon was still red-hot from the breath of the revolution. Speaking about the St. Petersburg workers, he stormed against the Tsar and his myrmidons. Naive though his indignation was in many ways, it was none the less honest. It was in keeping with the mood of the working-class masses. "He has a lot to learn, though," Vladimir Ilyich said. "I told him:'Don't you listen to flattery, my dear man. If you don't study, that is where you'll be' – and I pointed under the table."
On February 8 Vladimir Ilyich wrote in No. 7 of Vperyod: "Let us hope that G. Gapon, who has had such acute personal experience of the change-over from views of a politically unconscious people to revolutionary views, will succeed in achieving that clarity of revolutionary outlook which is essential in a political leader."
Gapon never achieved that clarity. He was the son of a rich Ukrainian peasant, and never lost touch with his family and his village. He knew the peasants' needs, and his speech was simple and familiar to the uneducated working masses. Very likely it was this origin of his, these links with the countryside, that accounted for his success; but it would be difficult to imagine anyone more thoroughly imbued with the priest psychology than Gapon was. He had never had any contact with revolutionary circles before, and was by nature not a revolutionary, but a sly priest, who was ready to accept any compromises Once he related: "At one time I started having doubts, and my faith was shaken. I got quite ill and went to the Crimea. There was an old man there who was said to live a holy life. I went to see him so's to strengthen my faith. I came to the old man. People were gathered by a stream, pad the old man was conducting a service. There was a little dent in that stream where St. George's steed was supposed to have stepped. That's nonsense, of course. The point is, I said to myself, this old man has profound faith. I went up to him after the service to get his blessing, and he slips out of his vestment and says: 'We've opened a candle-shop here and are doing a good trade!' There's faith for you! I got home more dead than alive. I had a friend then, the artist Vereshchagin. He says: 'Why don't you chuck up this priest business!' I thought – well, at home my parents are looked up to, my father is the village elder, everyone respects him, and then everyone will point and say – your sons unfrocked. No, I didn't do it."
That was Gapon all over.
He was no good at studying. He spent a lot of time learning target shooting and horseback riding, but when it came to books it did not work. True, on Ilyich's advice, he started to read Plekhanov's works, but did so as a matter of duty. He was unable to study from books. He was unable to learn from life either. The priest mentality blinded him. On his return to Russia he backslid into the mire of agent provocateur activities.
From the very first days of the revolution Ilyich had seen the whole thing in clear perspective. He realized that the movement would now grow like an avalanche, that the revolutionary people would not stop half-way, and that the workers would throw themselves into the fight against the autocracy. Whether they would win or lose, the outcome of that fight would show. In order to win they would have to be well armed.
Ilyich always had a remarkable flair for deeply sensing the moods of the working class at a given moment.
Taking their cue from the liberal bourgeoisie, who had not got moving yet, the Mensheviks talked about "untying" the revolution, whereas Ilyich knew that the workers were already determined to fight to the bitter end. And he was with them. He knew that there could be no stopping half. way, that this would so demoralize the working class, so weaken the impetus of their struggle and do such tremendous damage to the cause, that it was not to be thought of under any circumstances. History showed that in the Revolution of 1905 the working class was defeated but not vanquished. Its will to fight was not broken. This is what some people failed to understand, people who had attacked Lenin for his "downright views" and who had had nothing better to say after the defeat than that "they should not have taken to arms." If one was to remain true to one's class, it was impossible not to take to arms, it was impossible for the vanguard to leave its fighting class in the lurch.
And Ilyich was constantly calling upon the working-class vanguard – the Party – to fight, to organize, to work for the arming of the masses. He wrote of this in Vperyod, and in his letters to Russia.
"January 9, 1905 revealed all the gigantic reserves of revolutionary proletarian energy, and at the same time the utter inadequacy of the Social-Democratic organization," Vladimir Ilyich wrote at the beginning of February in his article Should We Organize the Revolution?, every line of which is a clarion call to pass from words to deeds.
Ilyich had not only reread and very carefully studied and thought over all that Marx and Engels had written about revolution and insurrection, but had read many books dealing with the art of warfare, made a thorough study of the technique and organization of armed insurrection. He had given more thought to this than people know, and his talk about fighting squads in partisan war, about the squads of "five and ten," was not just the idle talk of a layman, but a well-thought-out plan.
The librarian at the Societe de lecture was a witness of how a Russian revolutionary in cheap trousers with the bottoms turned up against the mud in Swiss style (he had forgotten to turn them down) would come early every morning, take the book on barricade fighting or the technique of attack left over from the day before, sit down with it at his customary place by the window, pat the sparse hair on his bald head with an habitual gesture, and become deeply absorbed in reading. Sometimes he would get up to take down a big dictionary to look up some unfamiliar term, then pace up and down a bit, and resume his seat at the desk, where he would start writing swiftly in a small hand on quarter sheets of paper with an air of deep absorption.
The Bolsheviks sought all possible means of sending weapons to Russia, but all this was a mere drop in the ocean. A Fighting Committee was set up in Russia (in St. Petersburg), but it worked too slow. Ilyich wrote to St. Petersburg:
"In an affair of this kind the last thing we need are schemes, and discussions and talk about the functions of the Fighting Committee and its rights. What we need is furious energy, and still more energy. I am horrified, absolutely horrified, to see people talking bombs for over six months and not a single bomb made yet. And those who do the talking are most learned people.... Go to the youth, gentlemen! That is the only saving remedy. Otherwise, take my word, you will be late (I can see this plainly), and will find yourselves with 'scientific' transactions, plans, drawings, schemes and excellent recipes, but without an organization, without anything to do.... For God's sake, never mind all the formalities and schemes, send all those 'functions, rights and privileges' to the devil."
The Bolsheviks, in fact, did a great deal in the way of preparing the armed uprising. They often displayed wonderful heroism, and risked their lives every minute. Preparation of the armed uprising – such was the slogan of the Bolsheviks. Gapon, too, spoke about an armed uprising.
Shortly after his arrival he submitted a proposal for a militant agreement between the revolutionary parties. An appraisal of Gapon's proposal and a full examination of the whole question of militant agreements were given by Vladimir Ilyich in No. 7 of Vperyod for February 8, 1905.
Gapon undertook to supply arms to the St. Petersburg workers. All kinds of donations had been put at his disposal, and he used the money to buy weapons in England. All arrangements had been made at last. A ship was found – the John Grafton – whose skipper agreed to take a cargo of arms and discharge it on one of the islands near the Russian frontier. Gapon had no idea how illegal shipments were made, and thought it much simpler than it really was. He received an illegal passport from us and secret addresses and left for St. Petersburg to organize the business. To Vladimir Ilyich this whole enterprise was a passing from words to deeds. The workers had to receive arms at all costs. Nothing came of the enterprise, however. The Grafton ran aground, and in any case, approach to the island proved to be impossible. Gapon was unable to do anything in St. Petersburg either. He had to hide in the working-class slums and live under an assumed name. It was terribly difficult to contact people, and the addresses of the Socialist-Revolutionaries with whom arrangements had to be made for taking delivery of the consignments proved to be mythical. The Bolsheviks had been the only ones to send their people out to the island. All this had a stunning effect on Gapon. It was one thing to address crowded meetings without running any risks, and quite another thing to live underground, half-starving and not daring to show one's face anywhere. It needed people of quite a different revolutionary mould to organize illegal shipments of arms, people who were prepared to make any sacrifice in utter obscurity.
Another slogan advanced by Ilyich was that of support to the peasants' struggle for land. It would enable the working class to lean on the peasantry in their struggle Vladimir Ilyich always gave a great deal of attention to the peasant question. During the discussion of the Party programme at the Second Congress Vladimir Ilyich had put forward and strongly advocated the slogan of restoring to the peasants the otrezki of which they had been deprived during the Reform of 1861.
He believed that in order to win over the peasantry a concrete demand that would meet the peasantry's most urgent need had to be put forward. The peasantry had to be rallied around a concrete slogan as had been done in the case of the workers, when the Social-Democrats had launched their agitation among them with a campaign for tea service, for reducing working hours, and paying wages punctually.
The events of 1905 induced Ilyich to re-examine this question. His talks with Gapon (a peasant by origin, who had not lost touch with the village), with Matyushenko, a sailor off the Potemkin, and with a number of workers who had arrived from Russia and had first-hand knowledge of what was going on in the countryside, showed Ilyich that the otrezki slogan was no longer adequate, that a wider slogan than that was needed – one calling for the confiscation of the landowners' estates, and all the crown and church lands. Not for nothing had Vladimir Ilyich once delved into statistical reference books and fully established the economic connection between town and country, between big and small industry, between the working class and the peasantry. He saw that the time had come when this economic connection would serve the Proletariat as a lever of powerful political influence upon the peasantry. He held the proletariat to be the only consistently revolutionary class.
I remember an amusing incident, when Gapon once asked Vladimir Ilyich to listen to an appeal which he had written. He began to read it out with great fervour. The appeal was full of abusive terms against the Tsar. "We want no tsar," it ran, "let there be one master over the land – God, with all of you his tenants!" (At that time the peasant movement still had as its main objective a reduction in land rents.) Vladimir Ilyich burst out laughing. Naive though the figure of speech was, it revealed most strikingly the very traits that made Gapon stand so close to the masses: himself a peasant, he had stirred up in the workers, who were still half connected with the village, their age-old hunger for the land.
Gapon was put out by Vladimir Ilyich's laughter. "If it isn't right, tell me and I'll alter it," he said. Vladimir Ilyich became grave at once. "I'm afraid that wouldn't be of any use," he said. "My whole train of thought is different. Write it in your own way, in your own style." I remember another scene. It was after the Third Congress, after the mutiny on the Potemkin. The crew had been interned in Rumania and were having a very hard time. Gapon had received a lot of money for his memoirs and by way of donations for the cause of the revolution, and he spent days on end running about buying clothes for the men of the Potemkin. The sailor Matyushenko, one of the most prominent participants in the mutiny, arrived in Geneva. He made friends with Gapon right away and the two of them were inseparable.
A young fellow came from Moscow about the same time (I forget his name now), a red-cheeked young salesman in a bookshop, who had recently joined the Social-Democrats. He had come on a Party errand from Moscow. He told us how and why he had become a Social-Democrat, and then began to enlarge on the subject of why he thought the programme of the Social-Democratic Party to be correct, expounding it point by point with the fervour of the convert. Vladimir Ilyich found it boring and went out to the library, leaving me to give the young man tea and get what I could out of him. The young man continued expounding the programme. Just then Gapon and Matyushenko arrived. I was about to offer them some tea, too, when the young man got to the clause dealing with the otrezki. On hearing this and the young man's argument that the peasants should not go beyond fighting for the recovery of the otrezki, Matyushenko flared up and shouted: "All the land to the people!"
I do not know how far things would have gone if Ilyich had not returned just then. He immediately grasped what the argument was about, but instead of going into the matter, he bore Gapon and Matyushenko off to his room. I got rid of the young man as quickly as I could.
A sweeping revolutionary movement was rising among the peasantry. At the December Conference in Tammerfors Ilyich had moved that the clause concerning the otrezki should be struck out of the programme altogether. A clause was inserted instead calling for support to the revolutionary measures of the peasantry, including confiscation of landowners', government, church, monastic and crown lands.
The German Social-Democrat Kautsky, who was then a very influential figure, took a different view of the case. He wrote in Neue Zeit at the time that the urban revolutionary movement in Russia should remain neutral on the question of the relations between the peasantry and the landowners.
Kautsky is now one of the most outstanding betrayers of the workers' cause, but at that time he was considered to be a revolutionary Social-Democrat, When Bernstein, another German Social-Democrat, raised the banner against Marxism at the end of the nineties by trying to prove that Marx's teaching needed revising, that much of it was out of date, and that the aim (socialism) was nothing, and the movement everything, Kautsky then came out against him in defence of Marx's teachings. As a result, Kautsky in those days enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most revolutionary and consistent of Marx's disciples. Kautsky's assertion, however, did not shake Ilyich's conviction that the Russian revolution could win only if it had the backing of the peasantry.
Kautsky's statement induced Ilyich to check up whether Kautsky was correctly presenting the case for Marx and Engels. He began to study Marx's views on the agrarian movement in America in 1848, and Engels views on Henry George in 1885. April already saw the publication of Vladimir Ilyich's article "Marx on the American 'Redistribution.' "
He ends this article with the words: "There is hardly another country in the world where the peasantry is experiencing such suffering, such oppression and degradation as in Russia. The more dismal this oppression of the peasantry has been, the more powerful will now be its awakening, the more invincible its revolutionary onslaught. It is the business of the class conscious revolutionary proletariat to support this onslaught with all its might, so that it may leave no stone standing of this old, accursed, feudal and autocratic slavish Russia, so that it may create a new generation of bold and free people, a new republican country in which our proletarian struggle for socialism will have room to expand."
The Bolshevik centre in Geneva stood on the corner of the famous Rue de Carouge – a street inhabited by Russian political emigrants – and the Arve embankment. The Vperyod editorial and dispatch offices, the Lepeshinskys' Bolshevik restaurant, and the apartments of the Bonch-Bruyeviches, the Lyadovs (Mandelstams) and the Ilyins were in the same building. Regular visitors at Bonch-Bruyeviches' were Orlovsky, Olminsky and others. Bogdanov, who returned from Russia, had made arrangements for Lunacharsky to come to Geneva to join the editorial staff of Vperyod. Lunacharsky proved to be a brilliant speaker, and did much towards strengthening the Bolshevik positions. Vladimir Ilyich became very friendly with him from then on and enjoyed his company. He was rather partial to him during his differences with the Vperyod-ists. As a matter of fact, Lunacharsky was always more than usually gay and witty in his presence. I remember an occasion – it was in 1919 or 1920, I believe – when Lunacharsky, who had returned from a visit to the front, described his impressions to Vladimir Ilyich, and the latter's eyes shone as he listened to him.
Lunacharsky, Vorovsky, Olminsky – the Vperyod had fine reinforcements there. Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, who was the business manager, went about beaming, full of grandiose schemes, for ever busy with the printing plant.
The Bolsheviks gathered almost every evening at the Cafe Landolt, and sat there for hours over a glass of beer, discussing events in Russia and making plans.
Many comrades had left for Russia, and many more were preparing to leave.
There was an agitation in Russia for a Third Congress. Many changes had taken place there since the Second Congress, and the new questions that had come up in the course of the daily struggle made a congress absolutely essential. Most of the committees were in favour of a congress. A Bureau of Majority Committees was formed. The Central Committee had co-opted a host of new members, including Mensheviks. It was in the main a conciliatory body, and hindered the convocation of the Third Congress in every way it could. After the raid on the Central Committee at the Moscow flat of Leonid Andreyev, the author, the unarrested members of the C.C. consented to the convocation of the congress.
The congress was held in London. The Bolsheviks had an obvious majority there, and so the Mensheviks kept away. Their delegates gathered at a conference of their own in Geneva.
The C.C. delegates from Russia were Sommer (alias Mark – Lyubimov) and Winter (Krasin). Mark was very gloomy, but Krasin looked just as if nothing had happened. The delegates furiously attacked the C.C. for its conciliatory stand. Mark sat as black as a thundercloud and said nothing. Krasin was silent, too, chin in hand, looking entirely unperturbed, as though all those vitriolic speeches did not concern him in the least. When his turn came, he made his report in a calm voice without even mentioning the attacks. Everyone understood that he had had a conciliatory bias, but that that had now passed, and from now on he had taken his stand with the Bolsheviks in whose ranks he would march to the end.
Party members now know the big and responsible job which Krasin did during the Revolution of 1905, when he had helped to arm the fighting ranks, directed the training of the fighting squads, and so forth. All this had been done in secret, without any fuss, but the amount of energy that had gone into its doing was tremendous. Vladimir Ilyich knew more about this work than anybody else, and since then had always had a very high opinion of Krasin.
Four men came from the Caucasus – Mikha Tskhakaya, Alyosha Japaridze, Leman and Kamenev. There were only three mandates. Vladimir Ilyich wanted to know whose they were and how it was that four delegates had come on three mandates. Who had received the majority of votes? Mikha protested: "Whoever heard of anyone voting in the Caucasus! We settle all our business in a comradely way. Four of us have been sent, and the number of man dates doesn't matter." Mikha was the oldest member at the congress, and it was he who opened it. The Polesye Committee was represented by Lyova Vladimirov. We had often written to him in Russia about the split and never received any reply. In response to our letters describing the tricks the Martovists were up to we had received letters telling us what leaflets had been distributed and how many, and what strikes and demonstrations there had been in Polesye. At the congress he showed himself a staunch Bolshevik.
Other delegates from Russia included Bogdanov, Postolovsky (Vadim), P. P. Rumyantsev, Rykov, Sammer, Zemlyachka, Litvinov, Skrypnik, Bur (A. E. Essen), Shklovsky and Kramolnikov.
Everything at the congress pointed to the fact that the workers' movement in Russia was in full swing. Resolutions were passed on various questions, such as the armed uprising, a provisional revolutionary government, the attitude towards the government's tactics on the eve of the uprising, the question of open action by the R.S.D.L.P., the attitude towards the peasant movement, the attitude towards the liberals and the Social-Democratic organizations of the non-Russian nationalities, propaganda and agitation, the breakaway Party group, and so on.
The report on the agrarian question was made by Vladimir Ilyich, and on his motion the clause on otrezki was referred to the commentaries, while first-place prominence was given to the question of confiscating the lands of the landowners, the church and the crown.
Two other issues characteristic of the Third Congress were the question of two centres and the question of the relations between the workers and the intellectuals.
The predominating element at the Second Congress had been the literary intellectuals and practical Party workers, who had done a good deal for the Party one way or another but who had very weak ties with the organizations in Russia, which were then only just beginning to take shape.
The Third Congress was of quite a different character. The organizations in Russia definitely existed already in the shape of illegal local committees, which were obliged to work under extremely difficult conditions of secrecy. As a result, these committees everywhere practically had no workers among their membership, although they had a great influence on the workers' movement. The committees' leaflets and instructions reflected the mood of the working-class masses, who felt that they now had a leadership. The committees therefore were very popular with them, and for most of the workers their activities were cloaked in a veil of mystery. The workers often got together on their own apart from the intellectuals to discuss the fundamental issues of the movement. The Third Congress received a statement by fifty Odessa workers setting forth the main points of difference between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, and mentioning that not a single intellectual had been present at the meeting where this question was discussed.
The "committeeman" was usually a rather self-assured person. He saw what a tremendous influence the work of the committee had on the masses, and as a rule he recognized no inner-Party democracy. "Inner-Party democracy only leads to trouble with the police. We are connected with the movement as it is," the "committeemen" would say. Inwardly they rather despised the Party workers abroad, who, in their opinion, had nothing better to do than squabble among themselves – "they ought to be made to work under Russian conditions." The "committeemen" objected to the overruling influence of the Centre abroad. At the same time they did not want innovations. They were neither desirous nor capable of adjusting themselves to the quickly changing conditions.
The "committeemen" had done a tremendous job during the period of 1904-1905, but many of them found it extremely difficult to adjust themselves to the conditions of increasing legal facilities and methods of open struggle.
There were no workers at the Third Congress – at least, none of any mark. The Babushkin who attended the congress was not the worker of that name, who was in Siberia at the time, but was the alias used by Shklovsky, as far as I remember. There was no scarcity of "committeemen" though. Unless this make-up of the congress is borne in mind a great deal of what the congress records contain will not be properly understood.
The question of "bringing to heel the Centre abroad" was raised by prominent Party workers besides the "committeemen." The opposition to this Centre was headed by Bogdanov.
A lot was said that were better left unsaid, but Vladimir Ilyich did not take it much to heart. He considered that the significance of the emigrants' Centre was diminishing hourly with the developing revolution. He knew that his own days abroad were "numbered," and his principal concern was that the Central Committee (in Russia) should promptly inform the Central Organ as to what was going on (the Central Organ was henceforth to be called Proletary and to be published abroad for the time being). He also urged that regular meetings should be arranged between the sections of the Central Committee in Russia and abroad.
The question of drawing workers into the committees was a sharper issue. Vladimir Ilyich warmly supported the idea. Bogdanov, the emigrants' Centre members and the writers were also in favour of it. The "committeemen" were against it. Both Vladimir Ilyich and the "committeemen" argued heatedly. The "committeemen" insisted that no resolution should be passed on this question – one could not very well carry a resolution to the effect that workers were not to be drawn into the committees!
Speaking in the debates, Vladimir Ilyich said:
"I think we ought to take a wider view of the matter. Drawing workers into the committees is not only a pedagogical but a political task. The workers have a class instinct, and given a little political experience they fairly quickly become staunch Social-Democrats. I would be strongly in favour of having eight workers on our committees to every two intellectuals. Since the advice given in literature – that workers were to be drawn into the committees wherever possible – proved to be insufficient, then it would be expedient for such advice to be given in the name of the congress. If you have a clear and definite directive of the congress you will have a radical means for combatting demagogy: that is the clear will of the congress."
Vladimir Ilyich had repeatedly urged the necessity of drawing as many workers as possible into the committees. He had written about it as far back as 1903 in his Letter to a Comrade. And now, defending the same view at the congress, he became terribly excited and heckled his opponents. When Mikhailov (Postolovsky) said: "In practice, then, very little is required of intellectuals, and far too much of workers," Vladimir Ilyich cried out: "Quite right! This was greeted by the "committeemen" with a chorussed "It's wrong!"
When Rumyantsev said: "The St. Petersburg Committee has only one worker on it, despite the fact that it has been working for fifteen years," Vladimir Ilyich shouted, Shame!"
Afterwards, at the close of the debates, Ilyich said: "I could not sit calmly listening to people saying there were no workers fit to be members of the committees. It's just dodging the issue; obviously, this is an unhealthy symptom. The workers must be drawn into the committees." The only reason why Ilyich was not greatly upset st his point of view receiving such a severe rebuff at the congress was because he realized that the approaching revolution was bound to radically cure the Party of this incapacity to give the committees a more pronounced worker make-up.
Another important question before the congress was that of propaganda and agitation.
I remember a girl coming from Odessa who complained that "The workers are demanding the impossible of the focal committee – they want us to give them propaganda. Wow can we? We can only give them agitation!"
The girl's statement made quite an impression on Ilyich. It served, as it were, as an introduction to the debate on propaganda. The old forms of propaganda – as could be gathered from the speeches of Zemlyachka, Mikha Tskhakaya and Desnitsky – were dead, and propaganda bed turned into agitation. With the colossal growth of the working-class movement verbal propaganda and even agitation as a whole could not meet the needs of the movement. What was wanted was popular literature, a popular newspaper, literature for the peasants and for the non-Russian nationalities.
Life raised a hundred and one new questions which could not be decided within the limits of the old illegal organizations. They could only be dealt with by setting up a daily newspaper in Russia and wide facilities for legal publishing. Freedom of the press, however, had still to be won. It was decided to publish an illegal newspaper in Russia and form a group of writers there whose duty it would be to take care of the publication of a popular paper. It was clear nevertheless that all these measures were mere palliatives.
A good deal was said at the congress about the rising revolutionary struggle. Resolutions were adopted concerning the events in Poland and the Caucasus. "The movement is steadily spreading," said the delegate from the Urals. "It's high time we left off regarding the Urals as a backward sleepy region that was incapable of moving. The political strike in Lysva, the numerous strikes at the factories, and a variety of signs indicative of a revolutionary mood, which even goes to the extent of agrarian and factory terror in the form of all kinds of small spontaneous demonstrations – all these go to show that the Urals is on the verge of a big revolutionary movement. It is highly probable that this movement in the Urals will take the form of an armed uprising. The Urals was the first place where the workers used bombs and even brought out guns (at the Votkinsk Works). Comrades, don't forget the Urals!"
It goes without saying, Vladimir Ilyich had long talks with the Urals delegate.
On the whole the Third Congress correctly laid down the line of struggle. The same questions were decided by the Mensheviks quite differently. The fundamental differences between the resolutions of the Third Congress and those of the Menshevik Conference were dealt with by Vladimir Ilyich in his pamphlet Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.
We returned to Geneva. I had been elected to the committee for editing the congress minutes together with Kamsky and Orlovsky. Kamsky went away, and Orlovsky was very busy. Verification of the congress minutes was organized in Geneva, where quite a number of delegates had come after the congress. There were no stenographers in those days nor special secretaries, and the minutes were taken down in turn by two members of the congress, and afterwards handed to me. Not all the delegates were good secretaries. It goes without saying, there was no time to report the minutes at the congress. We went over them together with the delegates in Geneva at the Lepeshinskys' restaurant. Naturally, every delegate found that his thoughts had not been recorded correctly and wished to make insertions in the text. This was not allowed, however. Amendments could only be made if the other delegates agreed that they were warranted. It was very hard work, and not without the usual element of friction. Skrypnik (Shchensky) wanted to take the minutes home with him, and when I pointed out that in that case they would have to be given to everybody else and that there would be nothing left of them, he got angry and wrote a print-hand protest to the Central Committee.
When this work was finished in the rough Orlovsky, too, spent a good deal more time, editing the minutes.
In July we received the first minutes of the meetings of the new Central Committee. They reported that the Mensheviks in Russia disagreed with Iskra, and would also conduct a boycott, and that although the C.C. had discussed the question of support to the peasant movement it had not done anything yet as it wanted to consult the agronomists.
The letter struck us as being vexatiously laconic. The next letter about the work of the C.C. was more meagre still. Ilyich fretted very much. After that whiff of Russian air at the congress, it was more painful than ever to feel oneself cut off from the work in Russia.
In a letter written in the middle of August Ilyich urged the C.C. to "stop being dumb" and not confine themselves to discussing questions among themselves. "The C.C. has some kind of internal defect," he wrote to the C.C. members in Russia.
In subsequent letters he took them severely to task for not carrying out the decision to keep the C.O. regularly informed.
In his September letter addressed to August, Ilyich wrote: "To wait for complete solidarity in the C.C. or among its agents is sheer utopia. This is not a coterie but a Party, my dear fellow!"
In a letter to Gusev dated October 13, 1905, he pointed out the necessity of conducting a trade-union struggle simultaneously with preparations for an armed uprising. This struggle, however, had to be waged in a Bolshevik spirit and the Mensheviks would have to be challenged here too.
The harbingers of freedom of the press began to loom on the Geneva horizon. Publishers appeared who vied with each other in offering to legally publish pamphlets issued illegally abroad. The Odessa Burevestnik, the Malikh and other publishing houses all offered their services.
The C.C. asked us to abstain from signing any contracts as they were planning to set up publishing machinery of their own.
The question of Ilyich going to Finland for a meeting with the C.C. cropped up in the beginning of October, but the development of events caused a change of plan. Vladimir Ilyich intended to go to Russia. I was to remain in Geneva a fortnight longer to wind things up. I helped Ilyich to sort out his papers and correspondence, and laid them out in envelopes. Ilyich made a note of the contents on each envelope. All this was packed up in a suitcase and handed over, I believe, to Karpinsky for safekeeping. This suitcase was preserved and forwarded to the Lenin Institute after Ilyich's death. It contained a mass of documents and letters which throw a vivid light on the history of the Party.
In September Ilyich wrote to the C.C.:
"As regards Plekhanov, I am giving you the local rumours for your information. He is obviously incensed against us for exposing him before the International Bureau. He swears like a trooper in No. 2 of the Diary of a Social-Democrat. Some rumours say he is planning a paper of his own, others that he is returning to Iskra. The inference is – growing mistrust of him on our part."
And on October 8 Ilyich continued: "I ask you earnestly – please drop the idea of Plekhanov and appoint your own delegate from the majority.... It would be good to appoint Orlovsky."
But when, just as Ilyich was about to leave, news came that there was a possibility of setting up a daily paper in Russia, he wrote a warm letter to Plekhanov urging him to collaborate. "The revolution will itself sweep away our tactical differences with amazing rapidity...." "....All this will create new ground, upon which it will be easier to forget the past and work together for a real live cause." Ilyich ended up by asking Plekhanov to meet him. I do not remember whether that meeting took place or not. Probably it did not, otherwise I would hardly have forgotten such an episode.
Plekhanov did not go to Russia in 1905.
Ilyich made detailed arrangements for his return to Russia in his letter of October 26. "Upon my word, our revolution in Russia is a jolly good thing!" he wrote. In reply to a question about the timing of the uprising, he says: "I would put off the uprising till the spring. But we shan't be asked anyway."