Preparations for the conference were energetically being made. Vladimir Ilyich got in touch with Nemec, the Czech representative on the International Socialist Bureau, on the question of arranging the conference in Prague. The advantage of holding it in Prague was that there was no Russian colony there, and, besides, Ilyich knew Prague, where he had lived during his first emigration at Modracek's.
Two incidents connected with the Prague Conference stand out in my memory (I was not present at the conference itself). One was the dispute between Savva (Zevin), the Ekaterinoslav delegate and former student of the Longjumeau school, and the Kiev delegate David (Schwartzman) and also, I believe, Sergo. I remember Savva's excited face. I forget exactly what the dispute was about, but Savva was a Plekhanovite. Plekhanov had not come to the conference. "The make-up of your conference," he had written in reply to the invitation, "is so uniform that it would be better, that is, more in the interests of Party unity, if I took no part in it." He worked Savva up accordingly, and the latter moved protest after protest at the conference in the Plekhanov spirit. Later, as we know, Savva became a Bolshevik. The other Plekhanovite, David, sided with the Bolsheviks. The talk, as far as I remember, was about whether Savva should go to the conference or not. In Longjumeau Savva had always been a cheerful steady man, and this excitement of his surprised me.
Another incident. Vladimir Ilyich had already gone to Prague, when Philip (Goloshchokin) and Brendinsky arrived to go together to the Party conference. I had known Brendinsky only by name as a transport man. He lived in Dvinsk. His main duty was to forward the literature on to the organizations, chiefly to Moscow. Philip began to have his doubts about Brendinsky. He had a father and sister living in Dvinsk. Before going abroad Philip went to see his father. Brendinsky lived in rooms at the home of Philip's sister. The old man warned Philip not to trust Brendinsky, who, he said, was behaving strangely and lived above his means, throwing money about. A fortnight before the conference took place Brendinsky was arrested and released within a few days. While he was in custody however, several people came to see him. These people were arrested. Who they were is unknown. Crossing the frontier together was another suspicious circumstance in Philip's mind. Philip came to our house together with Brendinsky and I was very glad to see them, but Philip squeezed my hand meaningly and looked at me in a way that told me he had something to say to me about Brendinsky. Afterwards, in the passage, he told me about his suspicions. We arranged that he would go away and we would see each other later. Meanwhile I was to have a talk with Brendinsky to sound him out, and we would decide what to do afterwards.
My talk with Brendinsky was a very odd one. We had been receiving information from Pyatnitsky that the literature was being safely transported and delivered in Moscow, but the Muscovites complained that they were not getting anything. I began asking Brendinsky to whom he was sending the literature, to what address. He looked embarrassed and said that he was not forwarding it to the organization as that was dangerous now. He was handing it to workers of his acquaintance. I asked their names. He gave them obviously at random, saying that he did not remember their addresses. The man was clearly lying. I began to question him about his round of the towns, and asked him about the town – Yaroslavl, I believe. He said he could not go there because he had been arrested there once. "On what charge?" I asked him. And he answered: "On a criminal charge." I was taken aback. His answers became more and more confused. I told him a story about the conference being held in Brittany and about Ilyich and Zinoviev having already left for that place. Afterwards I arranged with Philip that he and Grigory were to leave for Prague in the night and leave a note for Brendinsky saying that they had gone to Brittany. That is what they did. After that I called on Burtsev, who, at that time, had specialized in detecting agent provocateurs. "He's obviously an agent provocateur," I told him. Burtsev heard me out and said: "Send him to me." But there was no need to. A telegram was received from Pyatnitsky, whose suspicions had been aroused, too, saying that Brendinsky should be kept away from the conference. It was followed by a detailed letter. Brendinsky was thus prevented from attending the conference. He never returned to Russia. The tsarist government bought him a villa outside Paris for forty thousand francs.
I was very proud of the fact that I had been responsible for keeping an agent provocateur away from the conference. Little did I know that two other provocateurs were present at the Prague Conference – Roman Malinovsky and Romanov (Alya Alexinsky), a former Capri student.
The Prague Conference was the first conference with Party workers from Russia which we succeeded in calling after 1908 and at which we were able in a business-like manner to discuss questions relating to the work in Russia and frame a clear line for this work. Resolutions were adopted on the issues of the moment and the tasks of the Party, on the elections to the Fourth Duma, on the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, on the character and organizational forms of Party work, on the tasks of the Social-Democrats in the anti-famine campaign, on the attitude towards the State Insurance for Workers bill before the Duma, and on the petition campaign.
The results of the Prague Conference were a clearly defined Party line on questions of work in Russia, and real leadership of practical work.
Therein lay its tremendous significance. A Central Committee was elected at the conference, of which Lenin, Zinoviev, Orjonikidze (Serge), Schwartzman (David) Goloshchokin (Philip), Spandaryan and Malinovsky were members. Candidates were nominated to replace arrested members, if any. Soon after the conference Stalin and Belostotsky (a student of the Longjumeau school) were co-opted to the C.C. A unity was achieved on the C.C. without which it would have been impossible to carry on the work at such a difficult time. Undoubtedly the conference was a big step forward in that it put a stop to the disintegration of the work in Russia. Although the acrimonious abuse of the Liquidators and Trotsky, and the diplomacy of Plekhanov and the Bundists called for a stern rebuff and exposure, these disputes did not loom large at the conference, where attention was focussed on the work in Russia. The fact that Malinovsky was a member of the C.C., the fact that the meeting with the representatives of the Third Duma, Poletayev and Shurkanov, held in Leipzig after the conference, had also become known to the police (Shurkanov turned out to be an agent provocateur too) – all this was no great harm. Undoubtedly, the agent provocateurs got Party workers into trouble and weakened the organization, but the police were powerless to stem the rising tide of the working-class movement. On the other hand the framing of a correct policy guided the movement into the right channel and stimulated the steady growth of new forces.
From Leipzig, where he had gone to confer with Poletayev and Shurkanov, Vladimir Ilyich went to Berlin to make arrangements with the "trustees" for refunding the money, which was now needed more than ever for the work. Meanwhile Shotman arrived in Paris to see us. He had been working lately in Finland. The Prague Conference had adopted a resolution strongly condemning the policy of tsarism and the Third Duma towards Finland, and emphasizing the common aims of the workers of Finland and Russia in the struggle against tsarism and the Russian counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. Our organization was working illegally in Finland at the time. Work was being carried on among the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, and Shotman had come to report that all was set for the rebellion in Finland. The illegal organization working among the Russian troops was ready for action (they had planned to seize the Sveaborg and Kronstadt forts). Ilyich was still away. When he returned he questioned Shotman closely about the organization, the very existence of which was an interesting fact (Rahja, S. Vorobyov and Kokko were working in it), but he pointed out that such action at the present moment was inadvisable. It was doubtful whether the St. Petersburg workers would support the rebellion at this moment. Things never reached the rebellion stage, however. The organization was discovered, and presently wholesale arrests were made, fifty-two persons being committed for trial on a charge of conspiring to insurrection. The uprising was still a long way off, of course, but the Lena gold-fields shootings in the middle of April and the widespread protest strikes vividly revealed the extent to which the proletariat had developed in recent years, and showed that they had forgotten nothing, that the movement was rising to a higher stage, and that quite new conditions of work were being created.
Ilyich became another man. His nerves were steadier, he became more concentrated, and gave more thought to the tasks that now confronted the Russian working-class movement. His mood was perhaps best expressed in his article on Herzen, written in the beginning of May. There was so much of Ilyich in that article, so much of the Ilyich ardour that gripped one and swept one off one's feet.
"In commemorating Herzen we clearly see the three generations, the three classes that were active in the Russian revolution," he wrote. "At first – nobles and landlords, the Decembrists and Herzen. The circle of these revolutionaries was a narrow one. They were very far removed from the people. But their work was not in vain. The Decembrists awakened Herzen. Herzen launched revolutionary agitation.
"This agitation was taken up, extended, strengthened, and tempered by the revolutionary commoners, beginning with Chernyshevsky and ending with the heroes of the Narodnaya Volya. The circle of fighters widened, their contacts with the people became closer. 'The young helmsmen of the impending storm', Herzen said of them. But as yet it was not the storm itself.
"The storm is the movement of the masses themselves. The proletariat, the only class that is revolutionary to the end, rose at the head of the masses and for the first time aroused millions of peasants to open revolutionary struggle. The first onslaught in this storm took place in 1905. The next is beginning to develop before our very eyes."
Only a few months before this Vladimir Ilyich had said with a touch of sadness to Anna Ilyinichna, who had arrived in Paris: "I do not know whether I'll live to see the next rise of the tide," and now he felt the gathering storm, the movement of the masses themselves, with all his being.
When the first number of Pravda came out we were preparing to move to Cracow. In many ways Cracow was more convenient than Paris. It was more convenient in regard to the police. The French police cooperated closely with the Russian, whereas the Polish police were hostile to the Russian police, as they were to the Russian Government as a whole. In Cracow we could rest assured that our letters would not be tampered with and that new arrivals would not be spied on. Another advantage was the proximity of the Russian frontier. People could cross it very often. The mail to Russia was not held up. We made hasty preparations for departure. Vladimir Ilyich cheered up and became more than usually solicitous of the comrades who were remaining behind. Our flat was crowded with comers and goers.
I remember Kurnatovsky came too. We had known Kurnatovsky in Siberian exile in Shushenskoye. This was his third term of exile. He had graduated the Zurich University, was a chemical engineer by trade, and worked in a sugar refinery near Minusinsk. On returning to Russia he was arrested again in Tiflis. He spent two years in prison in the Metekh fortsess, and was then deported to Yakutsk. On the way there he got mixed up in the "Ramanov affair"* and was sentenced in 1904 to twelve years' penal servitude. He was amnestied in 1905, organized the "Chita Republic," was seized by Meller-Zakomelsky and handed over to General Rennenkampf. He was sentenced to death and taken by train to see the revolutionaries shot. Afterwards, his sentence was commuted to exile for life. Kurnatovsky succeeded in making his escape from Nerchinsk to Japan in 1906. He made his way to Australia, where he had a very tough time. He worked for a while as a lumber-jack, caught a cold, got an inflammation or something in his ear, and seriously impaired his health. He barely managed to make his way to Paris.
His hard life had taken it out of him. On his arrival in the autumn of 1910 Ilyich and I went to see him in the hospital. He suffered from terrible headaches. Ekaterina Okulova visited him with her little daughter Irina, who used to write him notes in her childish scrawl, as he was half deaf. He recovered slightly, then fell in with the conciliators and began to talk their way. After that our friendship cooled off a bit. We were all highly strung. In the autumn of 1911 I dropped in to see him once – he lived in a small room on the Boulevard Montparnasse. I brought him some of our newspapers, told him about the school in Longjumeau, and had a good long talk with him. He agreed unreservedly with the line of the Central Committee. Ilyich was pleased, and began to visit him frequently. Kurnatovsky looked at us packing our things; and watching my mother's cheerful activity, he said: "Some people have got energy." In the autumn of 1912, when we were already in Cracow, Kurnatovsky died.
We gave our flat over to a Pole, a Cracow precentor, who took it furnished. He kept asking Ilyich all kinds of domestic questions: "What's the price of geese? How much is veal?" Ilyich was at a loss. "Geese? Veal?" He had had very little to do with the housekeeping, and I was not helpful either, because we had never eaten goose or veal during our stay in Paris. I could have told the precentor the price of horse-flesh and lettuce, but he was not interested in them.
Our people in Paris felt strongly drawn towards Russia at the time. Inessa, Safarov, and others were preparing to go there. As for us, we decided to move a little nearer to Russia for the time being.