Leon Trotsky


Lenin and
the Old Iskra
Part I

“The split of 1903 was, so to speak, an anticipation ...”
(Lenin’s words in a speech in 1910.)

Undoubtedly the period of the old Iskra (1900 to 1903) will be of exceptional psychological interest to the future great biographer of Lenin, but at the same time will present great difficulties: for in just these short years Lenin was precisely Lenin. That does not mean that he did not grow more. On the contrary he grew—and in what proportions!—just as much before “October” as after October. But it is a more organic growth. Great indeed was the leap from illegality to power on October 25th, 1917; but this was the outward so-called material leap of a man who had weighed and measured all that a man can weigh and measure. But in the growth that preceded the split at the Second Party Congress lies an inner leap, imperceptible to the outer eye, but so much the more definite.

These recollections offer the future biographer material about this extraordinarily noteworthy and significant period in the mental development of Vladimir Ilyich. From that time to the moment these lines were written more than two decades have passed, and decades moreover that are an unusual burden to human memory. That may evoke the natural anxiety as to what degree what is told here presents correctly the events of the past. I confess that I am not free from this anxiety myself and shall not be so long as I am at work at this book; besides, there are more than enough of incorrect recollections and inexact testimony! While writing this sketch I had no documents, memoranda, nor material of any kind at band. However, I believe this was an advantage. I had to depend entirely on my memory and hope that its independent work in these conditions is spared from involuntary retrospective touchings-up that are so difficult to avoid even in the most critical self-examination. The future investigator too will find the work easier when he takes up this book after he has had in his hand the documents and all the material connected with this period.

In some places I present the conversations and discussions of the time in dialogue form. As a matter of course, after more than two decades, one can scarcely claim to give an exact repetition of the dialogues. 'But I believe that I present the substance of them correctly and many particularly impressive expressions word for word.

As it is a question of material for a life of Lenin, consequently a matter of exceeding importance, I may be permitted to say a few words about certain peculiarities of my faculty of remembrance. I have a very bad memory for the topography of cities and even of houses. In London, for example, I have lost my way more than once on the comparatively short stretch between Lenin’s home and my own. For a long time I had a very bad memory for faces but in this respect I have made important progress. But I used to have, and still have today, a particularly good memory for ideas, their combination, and for conversations about ideological themes. I could often prove that this estimation is not subjective: other people, who heard the same conversations as I, often repeated them less accurately than I and acknowledged my corrections to be right. Moreover, I had come to London as a young provincial with the most ardent desire to understand everything as quickly as possible. Therefore it is natural if the conversations with Lenin and the other members of the Iskra staff are firmly impressed on my memory. These are considerations that the biographer cannot disregard in estimating the trustworthiness of the recollections that follow.

I arrived in London in the autumn of 1902. It must have been in October and early in the morning. A cab that I engaged because I saw others doing so took me to an address jotted down on a scrap of paper, my destination. This was Vladimir Ilyich’s home. Before this (it must have been in Zurich) I had been taught to knock at a door in a certain definite way. As far as I remember Nadezda Constantinovna opened the door for me; I had gotten her out of bed with my knocking, as one can imagine. It was early in the morning, and any sensible man, more familiar with the ordinary conventions of life, would have waited an hour or two at the station, instead of knocking at strange doors at dawn. But I was still completely under the influence of my flight from Vercholensk. [1] I had already roused Axelrod’s household in Zurich in the same way, only not at dawn but in the middle of the night.

Vladimir Ilyich was still in bed and he greeted me with justifiable surprise. Under such conditions our first meeting and our first conversation took place. Vladimir Ilyich and Nadezda Constantinovna knew me already through a letter from Claire (M.G. Krchichanovsky), who had officially introduced me in Samara to the organization of Iskra under the name of “Pen.” So I was greeted thus: “Hello, ‘Pen’ has come ...“

They gave me tea in the kitchen, I believe. In the meantime Lenin dressed. I told them about my flight and cqmplained about the bad condition of “Iskra’s” frontier organization: it was in the hands of a social revolutionary grammar-school teacher who was not in great sympathy with the Iskra people on account of a highly inflamed polemic; besides the smugglers had plundered me mercilessly and had raised all the tariffs and rates. [2]

I gave to Nadezda Constantinovna my modest pack of addresses and news or, to be more exact, data about the necessary liquidation of some useless publications. By order of the Samara group (Claire and others) I had visited Kharkof, Poltava, and Kief and had to establish everywhere, at any rate in Kharkof and Poltava, very weak organizing connections.

I no longer remember whether it was this morning or another day that I took a long walk with Vladimir Ilyich through London. He showed me Westminster Abbey (from outside) and some other famous buildings. I no longer know how he expressed himself but the meaning was: that is “their famous Westminster.” The “their” meant, naturally, not the English, but the enemy. Not emphatic at all, rather deeply organic and revealed by the pitch of his voice, this meaning was always obvious when he spoke of any kind of cultural values or new conquests, whether it were about the edification of the British Museum or the richness of information of the Times or, many years later, German artillery or French aviation: They understand or they have, they have accomplished or succeeded—but always as enemies! The invisible shadow of the shareholders of society lay, as it were, in his eyes on all human culture, and this shadow he felt as incontestably as the daylight.

As far as I remember I paid little attention then to the architecture of London. Transported from Vercholensk abroad for the very first time, I accepted Vienna, Paris, and London rather summarily, and did not care for “details” such as Westminster. And naturally Vladimir Ilyich had not invited me to take that long walk for that reason. His purpose was to get to know me and examine me. And the examination in reality covered “the whole course.” In answer to his questions I gave him details of exile on the Lena and its inner groupings. The attitude towards active political struggle, to the central organization and to the terror, formed the chief line of division at that time.

“Well, but were there not differences of opinion in connection with Bernstein’s policy?” asked Vladimir Ilyich.

I told him how we had read Bernstein’s book and Kautsky’s in the Moscow prison and then in exile. Not one of the Marxists among us raised his voice for Bernstein. We looked upon it as a matter of course, so to speak, that Kautaky was right. But we did not draw any lines of communication between the theoretical struggle that was developing on an international scale and our own organizing political discussions, did not even think of them, not at least before we had read on the Lena the first numbers of Iskra and Lenin’s pamphlet: What Is to Be Done? I told him, moreover, how we had read with great interest Bogdanof’s philosophical pamphlets and I remember very clearly the import of Vladimir Ilyich’s remark: to him too the pamphlet about the historical way of contemplation of nature seemed very valuable, but Plechanof did not agree with it, and declared it was not materialistic. Vladimir Ilyich had then no views of his own about this question and only repeated Plechanof’s opinion, with esteem for his philosophical authority, but also with uneasiness. Plechanof’s views amazed me then very much.

Lenin examined me also on economics. I told him how we had studied in common in the Moscow prison his book The Development of Capitalism in Russia and in exile were working through Capital but had stopped at the second volume. I mentioned the enormous amount of statistical material worked out in The Development of Capitalism.

“In the Moscow prison we have often spoken with astonishment of this colossal work.”

“Yes, indeed, it was not done all at once,” Lenin answered.

It evidently pleased him that the young comrades studied carefully his most important economic work.

We spoke then of Michailisky’s appearance, of the impression that he had made on us in exile and to which many succumbed. I told him that the first hectographed number of Michailisky that reached us “up there” on the Lena made a strong impression on the majority of us as a sharp critique of social democratic opportunism and in this sense corresponded with the train of thought aroused by the polemic between Kautsky and Bernstein. The second number in which Michailisky “tears away the mask” from the Marxist formulas of reproduction and presents it as a theoretical justification of profit-sharing of the proletariat through the intelligence, aroused theoretical indignation in us. The third number, finally, which we received later, with its positive program in which the residue of economics is connected with the germ of syndicalism had the effect upon us of complete bankruptcy.

My further work was only touched upon in general in this conversation. I wanted to familiarize myself first of all with the literature that had appeared, and then I suggested going back to Russia illegally. It was decided that I should first “look round” a little.

Nadezda Constantinovna found me lodgings some distance away in the house where Sasulich, Martof and Blumenfeld lived, the latter the man who published Iskra. There was a vacant room there for me. The house was of the usual English form of construction and did not spread out horizontally but vertically: on the lower floor the owner lived, and then came the tenants one above the other. The common room, that Plechanof had named “the den” on his first visit, was still free. Not without fault on the part of Vera Ivanovna Sasulich, but also not without Martof’s assistance, great disorder reigned in this room. Here we drank coffee, had long talks here, smoked, etc. Hence the name.

Thus began the short London period of my life. I devoured hungrily the back numbers of Iskra and the pamphlets of Saria [3] (Dawn). At this time also I began my work on the Iskra.

I wrote a short article on the 200 years jubilee of the Schlüsselburg fortress. I believe it was my first work for the Iskra. The article closed. with the words of Homer, or, to be exact, the words of Homer’s translator, Gnedich. I quoted the “invincible hands” that the revolution was laying on Czarism. (On the journey from Siberia I had read the Iliad in the train.) The article pleased Lenin. But he had justifiable doubts about “invincible hands” and expressed them to me with good natured banter. “But that is a verse of Homer,” I said to justify myself, but admitted gladly that the classical quotation was not necessary. The article is to be found in Iskra, but without the “invincible hands.”

I then went with my first reports to Whitechapel where I went about with the “old” Tchaikovsky (he was already an old man) and with the anarchist Tcherkesof, who was also no longer young. Finally I was genuinely astonished that well-known, gray-bearded exiles could utter such downright nonsense ... London’s “old citizen,” Alexief, was the go-between with Whitechapel, an exile and Marxist, who was connected with the Iskra. He initiated me into English life and was in general the source of all my knowledge. I remember that after a detailed conversation with him on the way to Whitechapel and back I told Vladimir Ilyich of two of Alexief’s opinions. The one concerned the breaking up of the political regime in Russia, the other Kautsky’s last pamphlet. “This breaking up will not come gradually,” said Alexief, “but very abruptly, on account of the crudity of the autocracy.” The word crudity (cruelty, severity, obstinacy) I noticed particularly.

“Well, he may be right,” said Lenin when he had heard my story to the end.

Alexief’s second declaration of opinion was about Kautsky’s pamphlet: The Day after the Social Revolution. I knew Lenin was much interested in the little book, that, in his own words, he had read it twice, and was reading it for the third time; I believe also that he edited the Russian translation. I had just studied the pamphlet carefully at Vladimir Ilyich’s suggestion. Alexief thought the work opportunist.

“Blockhead,” said Lenin unexpectedly, and puckered his lips angrily, which was always a sign of dissatisfaction in him.

Alexief himself had the greatest regard for Lenin: “I believe he is more important for the revolution than Plechanof.” Naturally I said nothing about this to Lenin, but I told it to Martof. He made no reply.

The editorial staff of Iskra and Saria consisted of six persons: three “old” people, Plechanof, Sasulich, and Axelrod, and three young ones: Lenin, Martof, and Potresof. Plechanof and Axelrod lived in Switzerland, Sasulich in London with the young people. Potresof was then somewhere on the continent. This local separation involved many technical inconveniences which, however, did not trouble Lenin, but rather the contrary. Before my journey to the continent he initiated me cautiously in the internal relations of the staff and said that Plechanof urged the removal of the entire staff to Switzerland, but that he, Lenin, was opposed to it as it would make the work more difficult. Then I understood for the first time, but still quite dimly, that the staff’s remaining in London did not depend only on police regulations but also on the organizing personnel.

In the organizing political work Lenin wanted to be as independent as possible of the old men, of Plechanof above all, with whom he had already had sharp conflicts, especially in perfecting the draft of the party program. Sasulich and Martof were the mediators in such cases: Sasulich as Plechanof’s second, Martof in the same position for Lenin. The two mediators were of a very forgiving nature and, besides, very friendly with each other. I only learned gradually of the sharp clashes between Lenin and Plechanof in the management of the theoretical part of the program. I remember that Vladimir Ilyich asked me what I thought of the program that had just appeared in Iskra, in Number 25, I believe. I had, however, taken in the program too much as a whole to be able to answer the internal questions that interested Lenin. The differences of opinion concerned the policy of greater sharpness and exactitude in characterizing the chief tendencies of capitalism, the concentration of production, the disintegration of the intermediate ranks, the class differences, etc.—on Lenin’s side, and on greater consideration of conditions and caution on the part of Plechanof.

The program, as is well known, abounds in the words “more or less”: that is due to Plechanof. As far as I remember Martof’s and Sasulich’s accounts, Lenin’s original draft, which he offered in contrast with Plechanof’s, met with very sharp criticism on the part of the latter, in that haughty ironical tone that marked George Valentinovich in such cases. But Lenin was naturally neither intimidated nor discouraged by that. The struggle assumed a very dramatic form.

Vera Ivanovna said to Lenin, as she told the story: “George (Plechanof) is a greyhound. He shakes and shakes the adversary and lets him go, but you are a bulldog: you have a deadly bite.”

I remember this sentence very exactly as also Sasulich’s final remark: “That pleased him (Lenin) greatly. ‘The deadly bite?’ he repeated with delight.” And Vera Ivanovna imitated good-naturedly the tone of the question.

During my stay in London Plechanof came for a short Visit, I saw him then for the first time. He came to our common lodgings, was in the “den,” too, but I was not at home.

“George has arrived,” said Vera Ivanovna. “He wants to see you. Go to him.”

“What George is that?” I asked in surprise, for I took for granted it was a famous name that I did not know.

“Plechanof ... we call him George.”

I went to him that evening. In the little room, besides Plechanof, sat the fairly well-known German writer and Social Democrat, Bar, and the Englishman Askew. As there were no more chairs I did not know where I ought to sit down and Plechanof suggested—not without hesitation—that I sit on the bed. I found this quite natural, and had no idea that a European from head to toe like Plechanof resorted to such an unusual measure only in extreme necessity. The conversation was in German which Plechanof knew but slightly; so he limited himself to very short remarks. Bar spoke first of how the English bourgeoisie had understood how to ensnare the progressive workmen and then the conversation changed to the English forerunners of French materialism. Bar and Askew soon went away. George Valentinovich expected, and with reason, that I would go with them, as it was late, and in order not to disturb the landlady by talking. But I, on the contrary, was of the opinion that it was only really beginning now.

“Bar said some very interesting things,” I said.

“Yes, what he said about English politics is interesting, but what he said about philosophy is nonsense,” Plechanof answered.

When he saw that I made no preparations to go he suggested that we go to drink beer in the neighborhood. He asked me some casual questions and was gracious, but back of this graciousness was a tinge of hidden impatience. I felt that he was absent-minded. Possibly he was only tired from his day, but I went away with a dissatisfied and irritated feeling.

In the London period, as in Geneva later, I met Sasulich and Martof more frequently than Lenin. In London I lived in the same house with them, and in Geneva we generally ate dinner and supper in the same restaurant, so that I met Martof and Sasulich several times a day, while every encounter with Lenin, who lived with his family, with the exception of official meetings, was a little event.

Sasulich was a curious person and a curiously attractive one. She wrote very slowly and suffered actual tortures of creation. “Vera Ivanovna does —not write, she puts mosaic together,” Vladimir Ilyich said tome at that time, And in fact she put down each sentence separately, walked up and down the room slowly, shuffled about in her slippers, smoked constantly hand-made cigarettes and threw the stubs and half-smoked cigarettes in every direction on all the window seats and tables, and scattered ashes over her jacket, hands, manuscripts, tea in the glass, and incidentally her visitor. She remained to the end the old radical intellectual on whom fate grafted Marxism. Sasulich’s articles show that she had adopted to a remarkable degree the theoretic elements of Marxism. But the moral political foundations of the Russian radicals of the ’70’s remained untouched in her until her death. In intimate conversations she permitted herself to rail against recognized methods or deductions of Marxism. The idea #8220;revolutionary” had for her an independent meaning, apart from its class purport. I recall a conversation with her about her Revolutionaries from a Bourgeois Milieu. I used the expression bourgeois democratic revolutionaries. “But no,” Vera Ivanovna interrupted with a touch of annoyance or rather of vexation. “Not bourgeois and not proletarian, but simply revolutionary. Naturally one can say small bourgeois revolutionaries,” she added, if you attribute to the small bourgeoisie everything you cannot otherwise dispose of ...”

The ideological rallying-point of Social Democracy was then Germany and we followed with close attention the struggle of the orthodox with the revisionists in German Social Democracy. Vera Ivanovna did not do this, she even said: “It is always the same. They will also finish with revision, will restore Marx, obtain the majority and still get along with the Kaiser.”

“Whom do you mean by ‘they,’ Vera Ivanovna?”

“The German Social Democrats.”

In this connection Vera Ivanovna was not so wrong as it then seemed, even though everything took a different course and for different reasons than she thought ... Sasulich looked with skepticism at the program of the division of land; she did not turn it aside but she joked good-naturedly about it. I recall an episode of this kind. Shortly before the Congress Constantin Constantinovich Bauer came to Geneva. He was an old Marxist but an extremely unbalanced and changeable man who was friendly with Struve for a time and then hesitated between the Iskra and Osvobochdenje [4] (Liberation). In Geneva he began to turn towards the Iskra but he did not want to recognize the division of land. He went to Lenin, with whom he had evidently been acquainted in the past. He came away from him without having been convinced, no doubt because Vladimir Ilyich, who knew his Hamlet nature, had not taken the trouble to convince him. I had a long conversation with Bauer, whom I had known in exile, about the unlucky divisions of land. In the sweat of my brow I set forth all the arguments I had gathered together in six months of endless debates with Social Revolutionaries and all the other adversaries of the agrarian program of Iskra. And actually, the evening of that very day, Martof (at least I believe it was he) told us at an editorial meeting at which I was present, that Bauer had come to him and had finally declared himself an “Iskraer.” Trotzky had scattered all his doubts.

“About the divisions too?” Sasulich asked frightened.

“Yes, especially that.”

“The p-o-or fellow,” Ivanovna exclaimed with such an inimitable expression that we all laughed in a friendly way.

“In Vera Ivanovna much is based on ethics and feeling,” Lenin once said to me, and told me how she and Martof had been inclined to individual terror on account of the flogging by Wal, the governor of Vilna, of workmen who were making a demonstration. The traces of this temporary “tendency,” as we then called it, can be found in one of the numbers of Iskra. It seems to me the matter stands thus: Martof and Sasulich published the number in question without Lenin who was on the continent. The news of the floggings in Vilna reached London through a telegraph agency. In Vera Ivanovna there awoke the heroic radical who had shot at Trepof on account of the scourging of political prisoners. Martof supported her. When Lenin received the new number of Iskra he was greatly excited: “That is the first step towards capitulation to the social revolutionary doctrine.” At the same time there came a letter of protest from Plechanof. This episode had occurred before my arrival in London and so my description may contain a few inaccuracies about the course of events but I remember very well the essence of the affair. “Naturally,” Vera Ivanovna declared in a conversation with me, “it is not a question here of the terror, but of the system, and I believe that one can wean them away from scourging by the terror ...”

Sasulich could not carry on a real discussion, still less did she understand how to come forward openly. She never answered directly the arguments of her opponents, but pondered over them quietly until finally she burst forth in a whole train of sentences in which she turned, not to the one whom the reply concerned, but to the one she thought would understand her. When the debates were formal, with a president, Vera Ivanovna never entered the list of speakers, as, to say anything, she would have had to burst forth explosively. In such a case, she entirely ignored the list of speakers, treated them with absolute disrespect, interrupted constantly the speaker and the president, and said to the very end what she wanted to say. To understand her you had to follow her train of thought closely. And her thoughts were—whether they were false or right—always interesting and exclusively her own. It is not difficult to imagine what a contrast, Vera Ivanovna, with her indefinite radicalism, her subjectivity, and her confusion presented to Vladimir Ilyich. Not only was there no sympathy between them but they had the feeling of deep organic difference. But as a clever psychologist Sasulich felt Lenin’s force, perhaps also not without a touch of envy. She showed this also in her expression about the deadly bite.

The complicated relations that existed among the members of the staff were gradually made clear to me, but not without some difficulty. As I have already said I came to London a real provincial. This was true in every respect; at that time I had not only not been abroad, but had not been in Petersburg. In Moscow as well as in Kiev I had only been in political prisons. The Marxist publicists I knew exclusively from their articles. In Siberia I had read a few numbers of Iskra and Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? I had heard obscurely of Ilin, the author of The Development of Capitalism in the Moscow prison (I believe from Vanovsky) as the rising star of Social Democracy. I knew little of Martof, nothing of Potresof. In London I studied with zeal Iskra and Saria and especially what had happened abroad, and thus in one of the numbers of Saria I came upon a brilliant article aimed at Propokovich about the rôle and the meaning of the mining-Companies unions.

“Who is this Molotof?” I asked Martof.


But I knew nothing of Parvus. I accepted Iskra as a whole and in those months I had no desire, indeed I had even a kind of inner aversion, to look in it or its staff for any weakening tendencies, shades of feeling, influences, or similar things.

I recall that I noticed that many editorials and feuilletons in Iskra although not signed, contained the pronoun “I”: “In such and such a number I said,” “I have already written such and such a thing,” etc. I asked who wrote these articles. It turned out that they were all by Lenin. In talking with him I remarked that I thought it wrong to use the pronoun “I” in unsigned articles. “Why wrong?” he asked interestedly, assuming that I was saying something here that was not casual and not only my personal opinion.

“Because it is,” I answered vaguely, for I had no particular views about it.

“I don’t think so,” said Lenin and laughed ambiguously.

At that time one might have perceived a breath of “egotism” in this literary custom. In fact1 however, the prominence given his articles, even when they were not signed, gives a strong position to his policy because of his mistrust of the firm policy of his nearest colleagues. Here we see already on a small scale that persistent, stubborn directness of purpose, that made use of all circumstances, stopped at no formality, and was the characteristic of Lenin as a leader.

Lenin was the political guide of Iskra but as a publicist Martof was its head. He wrote easily and unceasingly, exactly as he spoke. Lenin passed much time in the library of the British Museum, where he was busy with theoretical studies. I remember that Lenin wrote an article in the library against Nadjeschdin, who at that time had his own little publication in Switzerland, and chanced to be hesitating between the Social Democrats and the Social Revolutionaries. But the night before (he usually worked at night), Martof had already written a long article about Nadjeschdin and given it to Lenin.

“Have you read Julian’s article?” Vladimir Ilyich asked me in the Museum.

“Yes, I have read it.”

“What do you think of it?”

“I think it is good.”

“Yes, it is very good, but not definite enough.

The results are lacking. Here I have written out something, but I do not know yet what ought to be done with it; perhaps add it to Julian’s article as a supplementary note.”

He gave me a small sheet of paper written closely with pencil, and in the next number of Iskra Martof’s article appeared with Lenin’s note added. I do not know if this note is used in the collected works of Lenin. But I can vouch that he wrote it.

Some months later, it was in the weeks before the Congress, a new difference of opinion flared up in passing between Lenin and Martof and that about a tactical question in connection with the street demonstrations, that is, to be more exact, about the armed struggle with the police. Lenin said we must form small armed groups and instruct the workmen accustomed to fight to struggle with the police. Martof was against it. The strike reached the editorial office.

“Won’t this cause something like a group terror?” I said in regard to Lenin’s proposal. (I remember that at this time the struggle with the terrorist tactics of the Social Revolutionaries played a large rôle in our work.) Martof took up the discussion and developed the idea that we must give instructions to protect the mass demonstrations from the police, but without training separate groups to struggle with them. Plechanof, to whom the others and I looked expectantly, avoided the answer and suggested to Martof to put the resolution in writing so that we could consider the points of controversy with the text in hand. The episode, however, was swallowed up in the events connected with the Congress.

Not only in assemblies and meetings, but in private conversations, I had very little opportunity to observe Lenin and Martof together. Long discussions, formless conversations, which generally changed to exiles’ chat and disputes, to which Martof was much inclined, Lenin did not care for at all. This most powerful machinist of the revolution, not only in politics but also in his theoretical works, in his philosophical and linguistic studies, was irrevocably controlled by one and the same idea, the goal. He was probably the most extreme utilitarian whom the laboratory of history has produced. But his utilitarianism was of the broadest historical scope. His personality did not grow flat or poor thereby, but on the contrary developed and enriched itself in extent, as his experience of life and sphere of activity grew ...

Side by side with Lenin, Martof, who was then his closest comrade in the struggle, did not feel very comfortable. They still used the familiar “thou” but there was already a certain coolness noticeable in their relations. Martof lived far more for today, and its concerns, for the current literary work, publicist writings, polemics, for news and conversation. Lenin left today behind him and forced himself into tomorrow in his thoughts. Martof had numberless and often brilliant combinations, hypotheses, propositions, which he himself quickly forgot, while Lenin found what he needed and when he needed it. The venturesomeness and brittleness of Martof’s thoughts made Lenin frequently shake his head in alarm. Any differences in the political policy were not yet fixed, and had not yet made their appearance; only subsequently they could be detected by intimations.

Later at the time of the split at the Second Congress the Iskra people were divided into hard and soft. This designation was naturally very useful at first, and demonstrates that when there was no exact line of division, the difference lay in comprehension, resolution, and readiness to go to the end. When we turn to the relations between Lenin and Martof it must be said that, before the split and before the Congress, Lenin was “hard” and Martof “soft.” And both knew this. Lenin looked critically and almost mistrustfully at Martof, whom otherwise he valued very highly, and Martof, who was conscious of that, felt oppressed and nervously shrugged his thin shoulders. When they talked with each other on meeting, the lack of the friendly tone and of any joking was noticeable, at least as far as I could see. When Lenin spoke he looked past Martof, and Martof’s eyes on the other hand looked out rigidly from behind the drooping glasses that were never cleaned. Even when Vladimir Ilyich spoke with me about Martof his voice had a peculiar tinge: “Did Julian say that?” in which he laid special stress on the name, slightly emphasized and at the same time warning: “Fine and good, even noteworthy, but very weak.” Martof was doubtless also influenced by Vera Ivanovna, who forced him away from Lenin, not politically to be sure, but psychologically. Naturally all this is more of a general psychological characterization than data material, and it is in addition a characterization that is made twenty-one years later. Since this time my memory has been much burdened and in the presentation of imponderable motives in the sphere of personal relations, mistakes as well as changes in perspective may indeed be mingled. What is here recollection and what unconscious supplementary reconstruction? I believe, however, that my memory brings back to me that which then was, and as it was.

After my so-called “trial appearance” in Whitechapel, which Alexief reported to the staff, I was sent with an official report to the continent—to Brussels, Lüttich, Paris. The theme was: “What is historical materialism and how do the Social Revolutionaries comprehend it?” Vladimir Ilyich was very much interested in this theme. I gave him a full draft of it with quotations, etc., to look through. He advised me to work up the report into an article for the next number of “Saria,” but I did not attempt it.

From Paris a telegram soon called me back to London. They were considering sending me to Russia illegally. Vladimir Ilyich’s train of thought was: complaints came from there about the break-up of the organization, the lack of people, and, I believe, Claire had demanded my return. But I had not yet reached London when the plan was abandoned. L. G. Deutsch, who then lived in London and was very friendly with me, told me subsequently how he had “stood up” for me by pointing out that the “youth”—he never called me anything else—ought to live and study abroad for some time yet, and that, after some discussion, Lenin agreed with him. It would have been very interesting to work in the Russian organization of Iskra, but nevertheless I was glad to remain abroad for some time.

One Sunday I went with Vladimir Ilyich and Nadezda Constantinovna to a London Socialist Church, where a Social Democratic meeting alternated with the singing of God-fearing, revolutionary psalms. The speaker was, I think, a printer,, who had come back to his home from Australia. Vladimir translated his speech for us in a whisper, a speech that sounded quite revolutionary for that period at least. Then everybody stood up and sang: “Almighty God, put an end to kings and rich men ...“ or something similar. “Among the English proletariat there are many revolutionary and socialist elements,” said Vladimir Ilyich, as we left the church, “but it is all so intertwined with conservatism, religion, and prejudices, that it cannot reach the surface and become the property of all ...“ It is not without interest to state here that Sasulich and Martof lived quite apart from the English workingmen’s activity and were completely absorbed in the Iskra and what surrounded it. Lenin occasionally made independent excursions in the field of the English workingmen’s activity.

It remains to be said that Vladimir Ilyich and Nadezda Constantinovna and her mother lived more than simply. On our return from the Social Democratic church we ate together in the little kitchen of their two-room dwelling. I remember as though it were yesterday the roast meat served in a casserole. Then we drank tea and joked as usual as to whether I could find my way home alone; it was difficult for me to find my way in the streets, and as I was inclined to systematize I called this peculiarity “topographical cretinism.” The date of the Congress approached and finally it was decided to transfer the headquarters of Iskra to Switzerland, to Geneva; living there was much cheaper and the connection with Russia easier. Lenin concealed his annoyance and agreed. I was sent to Paris in order to go to Geneva with Martof. The preparatory work for the Congress went on with more vigor.


1. The district on the upper Lena to which Trotzky had been banished.

2. For the illegal forwarding of Iskra to Russia. – Translator.

3. Saria was the theoretical organ of the Iskra erganization. – Translator.

4. The organ of The Union of Liberation, to which Miliukof, Struve, and Propokovich belonged, who first “undertood with one foot in the camp of Social Democracy and with the other in the camp of the Liberals.” Sinovief: “History of the Communist Party,” page 70. – Translator.

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Last updated on: 14.4.2007