A. Badayev

The Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma


Chapter XXV
The Trial

In Prison – Question of a Court Martial – Preparations for a Workers’ Demonstration – The Trial – The Declaration of the Members of the Fraction – Speech of the Public Prosecutor – Speeches for the Defence – The Sentence

We were placed in solitary confinement under a strict prison regime and isolated from the outside world. Occasionally we heard scraps of news, official reports about the victories of the Russian armies and about the patriotism throughout the country.

A new agitator appeared in the St. Petersburg factories. Trying to realise his “union with the people,” Nicholas himself was touring the works, surrounded by a brilliant suite and carefully guarded by crowds of uniformed and plain-clothes police. He visited the Putilov and other establishments and the whole procedure was stage-managed with due observance of all the rules of patriotic demonstrations. Shouts of hurrah, the singing of national anthems, the presentation of ikons, all went off like a play.

But we were not, and could not be, informed What was really happening among the workers, how revolutionary propaganda was being conducted among them and what their genuine feelings were.

We were questioned for the first time two or three days after our arrest, and when we came together we had the opportunity of exchanging a few words. However, we were quickly separated and examined individually.

During the search at Ozyorky we agreed to do all we could to prevent the police being able to prove that we were holding a Party conference. We managed to destroy all important documents, minutes, agenda, etc., and we decided to say that we were on a friendly visit as guests of Mrs. Gavrilov. When questioned by the examining magistrate we followed this course and all pleaded not guilty. We pointed out that we had come to Mrs. Gavrilov as guests and took the occasion to discuss a number of questions about working-class organisations, insurance matters, the publication of a newspaper, etc., and that it was natural that we should take advantage of the opportunity to meet a few representatives of the workers since a visit to our fraction at once rendered a person suspect in the eyes of the police. The fact that some Party literature was found in our possession we explained by pointing out that as deputies we had to keep ourselves informed of the various political tendencies. When questioned about our attitude to the war we referred the magistrate to the declaration read by both Social-Democratic fractions at the Duma session of July 26.

Shagov stated that he had made Mrs. Gavrilov’s acquaintance when she came to the fraction on business and that later when she met him in the street she had invited him and the other deputies to call and see her. There was no conference at her apartment and no resolutions had been drafted there and the whole conversation had turned round insurance clubs and the publication of a newspaper.

I declared that I was there at the personal invitation of Mrs. Gavrilov. The nature of that invitation was immaterial to the case. We had had a simple conversation, as among friends, on the events of the day. No conference was held and no resolutions were discussed.

Attempting to pick up some revelation, the magistrate persistently questioned me about my connections with Antipov and Kozlov, the St. Petersburg delegates at the conference. They were both members of the St. Petersburg Committee and Antipov belonged to the Executive of the St. Petersburg Committee. I explained my acquaintance with Antipov by saying that when he was unemployed he called on me and asked me to help him find work. He came with the same object to see me at Gavrilov’s.

I said that Kozlov was invited in order to talk about the publication of a journal dealing with social insurance, and that I had met Kamenev at the office of Pravda, to which he contributed. The most difficult thing for me to explain away was how I came to be in possession of a passport in another name. I said that workmen often brought me their passports with a request that I should try to get them passes for the public gallery in the State Duma. And then sometimes these documents remained for a long time in my possession until their owners called for them. That was what had happened with the passport found on me. This explanation did not satisfy the magistrate, but he was unable to obtain anything further from me.

Petrovsky answered in a similar way. He had called as a guest for no particular reason and he refused to say who had given him the invitation. He did not know anybody in the Gavrilovs’ house except the deputies and Kamenev. All the documents which were taken away from him had been received through the post or through messengers from unknown persons. The corrections in the theses on war were made in his handwriting, but had been proposed by another person whom he did not wish to name and he had intended to make use of these alterations in his Duma work. Petrovsky added that it was impossible to judge his attitude to the war solely from documents which were found on him.

Samoylov stated that the people at Gavrilov’s house had met there accidentally and some had come to talk with their deputies. The list of questions found on him had served to aid his memory, as he wished to ask for information of what had happened while be had been abroad undergoing medical treatment.

Kamenev’s explanation was that he had come to the house in order to carry on negotiations with regard to the resumption of publication of a workers’ newspaper to which he had formerly contributed. He had chosen to meet in the house of a third person because he was afraid to visit Petrovsky’s apartment. The conversation had been confined to events of the day and there had been no conference or resolutions. In conclusion, Kamenev said that the contents of the documents found did not coincide with his views on the war.

The other comrades arrested with us, Antipov, Kozlov, Voronin, Yakovlev, Linde and Mrs. Gavrilov made approximately the same depositions. Each explained in his own way his reason for being in St. Petersburg and said that they had just chanced to meet in the house because they had come to see their deputies.

Muranov was in a more difficult position. In his note-book there were many remarks in his own handwriting on the illegal work of the Party. Muranov was unable to disown this book and therefore he resorted to complete silence and refused to give any evidence whatsoever.

We were all questioned separately and after the first occasion we were sent for individually by the magistrate. We had no opportunity of communicating with each other in the prison or of learning what the others had said. Only after the preliminary investigation had been completed, when we were allowed to inspect the material on which the charge was based, did we learn what answers had been made.

The preliminary examination proceeded rapidly, as the government was in a hurry to conclude the trial while the situation was favourable. Our arrest and trial had been planned beforehand so that there was no necessity for any thorough-going investigation. The magistrates and the prosecutor had merely to frame an accusation on the basis of the documents seized to enable the sentence decided on in advance to be pronounced.

By the end of December, after six weeks’ imprisonment, the preliminary investigation was completed and we were again called before the investigating magistrate to acquaint ourselves with the results of the investigation. After a long interval we again met each other and were able to come to an agreement as to our behaviour at the trial. The results of the preliminary investigation were set out at length and comprised the documents taken from us, our depositions, information lodged by the police, various proclamations issued in St. Petersburg during the war and various other documents intended to prove that the fraction was guilty of revolutionary work. The reading of all this took several days.

Everything pointed to the possibility of our being tried by court martial and a similar conviction prevailed among our friends outside. They were anxious and were endeavouring with the aid of lawyers to divert our case to the ordinary court.

Ozyorky, where the raid had taken place, was situated in a district where martial law had been declared. It was under a martial law regulation that the raid on the Gavrilovs’ house was carried out. Therefore, on formal grounds, we were liable to be tried by court martial. And this admirably suited the government, which wished to deal once and for all with the fraction on the charge of high treason.

Therefore the decision to turn the case over to an ordinary court came to us as a complete surprise. According to the law the accused had the right to inspect all the material on which the charge was based. We made use of this right in order to meet each other and work out a common line of defence. When we started to read the material for the second time, we found at the commencement a ukase in which Nicholas the Second “ordered” that the case be taken out of the hands of the court martial and handed over to an ordinary court. [I] The case was now taken by a special session of the Petrograd High Court.

How can this sudden change in the government plans be explained? Undoubtedly it reflected the change which was occurring in the country. A long list of military defeats and the increasing rumours of the catastrophic state of the army had began to dispel the chauvinist fog, while there was every sign that the working-class movement, although still weak, was recovering. Economic strikes became frequent and in January 1915, political strikes occurred in some districts. The government could no longer count on the news of the punishment of the workers’ deputies being received with patriotic shouts of joy.

These considerations led Nicholas the Second to sign his “gracious” ukase and the government to refrain from its original intention of having the workers’ deputies shot.

In a proclamation, published just before the trial, the St. Petersburg Committee explained to the workers the meaning of the government’s retreat:

The workers’ deputies are about to be tried. Originally the government proposed to accuse them of high treason and published this calumny in its newspapers. But they failed. They wanted to try them by court martial, but the supreme rulers and directors of the present wholesale murder, after calling the ministers fools, told them that to court-martial the representatives of the workers would mean sowing disaffection everywhere with their own hands.

By the time of the trial the atmosphere of “high treason,” “plot,” etc., carefully spread by the government, had to a large extent evaporated. The newspaper reports dealing with the trial could not hide the fact that it would be a trial of the workers’ deputies in the Duma for their political activities. In order to revive the original impression, the government unleashed its faithful watchdog, the Black Hundred press, which with loud barks tried to simulate public indignation. All the Black Hundred papers demanded the extreme penalty for the “criminals”; of the whole pack, none were more fierce and merciless than Svyet (Light).

Svyet accused the fraction of not following in the footsteps of West European socialists and, of course, it did not fail to refer to “German gold,” which subsequently became one of the most common accusations against the Bolsheviks. After pouring out as much abuse as it could, Svyet wrote:

These unworthy bearers of a high title – probably under the influence of German agents who are not sparing of their gold – played into the hands of Germany so obviously that there can be no question of any innocent error on their part while acting in conformity with the pernicious teaching of Socialism. Socialists exist in other countries too, but everywhere, in England, France and Belgium, the moment war was declared, they renounced their internal struggles and joined the national ranks against the formidable enemy, German militarism.

Even German Socialists renounced their Utopias for the duration of the war and are behaving like their bourgeois friends. It is only to Russian workers that the honourable Duma Socialists give their advice to act on theories of non-resistance to evil, peace at any price, etc., and it is only Russian Socialists who attempt to stir up internal disorders in war time.

The newspaper demanded the “severest possible sentence on the chiefs of the discovered plot, who had the effrontery to hide behind parliamentary immunity in order to perform their treachery.”

For two years the government and the Black Hundreds had been forced to tolerate the activity of the Bolshevik fraction. Although they perfectly understood its purpose, they had been afraid to act out of fear of a revolutionary outbreak. Now, having taken the plunge, they were determined to finish us off. The task of the Party was to rouse the working class and to demonstrate that no sentence, however drastic, could check the working-class movement, and that sooner or later the workers would face their enemies at the barricades.

Our Party organisations were feverishly preparing for the trial. Despite strict police surveillance and the many gaps in the Party ranks, the St. Petersburg Committee issued a number of leaflets dealing with the trial, of which the following is a specimen.

Remember the events of the last two years. Who defended the workers’ interests in the Duma? Who disturbed the ministers most with interpellations concerning the lawless actions of the authorities? Who demanded investigations into factory explosions, etc.? Who organised collections for victimised comrades? Who published Pravda and Proletarskaya Pravda? Who protested against the slaughter and mutilation of millions of people in the war? To these questions there is only one answer – the workers’ deputies. And for their activity, they are to be sent to hard labour. The defence of the workers’ deputies is the cause of the workers. The liberals share the pleasure of the government; the Trudoviks and Chkheidze’s fraction seem to have suddenly become deaf and dumb ...

Who then can defend the workers’ deputies? Only those who elected and supported them; only the proletariat can demonstrate that for them the trial is a serious matter and that they do not intend to allow it to pass off as quietly and as smoothly as the ministers, the liberals and the secret police would wish.

Prior to the publication of this proclamation, some leaflets were issued on the anniversary of January 9 (22), in which the slogan of a protest against the trial of the fraction was advanced: “The working class must protest against this outrageous insult to its representatives. It must strain all efforts so as to act with its ranks closed on that day ...”

The secret police prepared for the trial by further arrests of militant workers, but the Party committee conducted an intense agitation at factories and works. The day before the trial, the St. Petersburg Committee issued another proclamation calling for strikes and demonstrations:

Comrades! It is the working class which is in the dock, represented by deputies who were elected by the workers and who have acted in complete agreement with the workers ... Under the cover of the rumble of guns and the rattling of sabres, the government proposes to bury alive one more fraction of the working class.

Comrade workers! Let us prove that the enemy is mistaken in his calculations, let us prove at this critical moment, when our deputies are threatened with hard labour, that we are with them. Let us proclaim our solidarity with the accused and demonstrate that we are ready to fight to defend our chosen representatives.

Comrade workers! Strike on February 10, arrange meetings and demonstrations, protest against the tsarist mockery of the working class ...

The leaflet of the United Students’ Committee, issued on the same day, called on the revolutionary students “to support the proletariat in its protest by means of meetings, strikes and demonstrations.”

The proclamations of the St. Petersburg Committee were circulated among the workers, arousing their revolutionary spirit, and caused the secret police a great deal of anxiety. Invested with extensive powers under martial law, the police took preventive measures to stop any increase of revolutionary feeling among the workers. On the day of the trial strong police forces appeared at all the main factories and works and police detachments patrolled the streets surrounding the court.

Strangled by these precautionary measures, the strike movement could not assume large proportions, but several strikes occurred and the workers made many attempts to march to the court. Students held a number of meetings and passed resolutions of protest. In this atmosphere of fierce police repression, while the workers were seething with suppressed resentment, the trial of the Bolshevik Duma fraction opened.

The silence of the Liberal bourgeoisie betrayed their satisfaction at the trial of the workers’ deputies. Just before the trial the Cadets prohibited any member of their party from acting as counsel for the defence and based their decision on their disagreement with our views on the war. The Cadets endorsed in advance the drastic sentence which the tsarist government had prepared.

The trial started in the morning of February 10. By an inner passage we were brought into the High Court and placed in the dock opposite the lawyers. The public sections of the court were crowded and we could see here and there the faces of relatives and friends. Several deputies were present, including Rodichev, Milyukov, Efremov and members of the Trudovik and Menshevik fractions. Several tsarist dignitaries occupied specially reserved seats and behind the judges we could see Witte, the creator of the State Duma and the author of the law on parliamentary immunity. Representatives of all shades of the press were present, but the government took steps to suppress any speeches and evidence which might be used for agitational purposes. The military censorship ruthlessly cut out whole passages from the reports of the trial.

The most prominent judges were appointed to try our case. The president of the court was Senator Krasheninnikov, the public prosecutor was Nenarokomov [J]; both had had extensive experience in conducting political trials. In short, the court was packed in such a way that there was no doubt that it would do the will of the tsarist ministers.

The trial opened with the roll-call of the defendants and witnesses. One of the counsel petitioned for the calling of an additional witness, N.I. Jordansky [1], in order to elucidate Kamenev’s views on the war. The court rejected this petition and proceeded with the reading of the indictment.

The indictment started by enumerating the proclamations issued in St. Petersburg and attributing their publication to the fraction. It continued:

In order to intensify their revolutionary work, the State Duma members, who belong to the Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction, decided to call a party congress in St. Petersburg. This congress, known in Social-Democratic circles as the “conference,” was to discuss further measures of revolutionary struggle against the war. Representatives of Party organisations in various parts of Russia were invited to attend.

After mentioning the discovery of the delegates in Gavrilov’s house, the indictment gave detailed extracts from all the documents found on the accused or in the house; on the basis of the data obtained during the preliminary investigation, we were charged with:

Taking part in a criminal association which, subordinated to the control of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, aimed at the overthrow, by means of an armed insurrection, of the regime established in Russia under fundamental laws and its replacement by another on the basis of a democratic republic.

To this end, the indictment pointed out, the members of the fraction entered into communication with and assisted in the foundation of “secret organisations,” attended meetings and took part in the drafting of resolutions of these organisations, guided their work, kept in touch with the Central Committee of the RSDLP and organised money collections for party objects. Also, the fraction members “communicated with each other and with the members of secret organisations by means of secret codes,” arranged “secret mass meetings of workers, calling on them to form secret organisations for the purpose of armed insurrection,” drafted and distributed revolutionary anti-war leaflets, etc. The concluding part of the indictment dealt with the convocation of the conference at which there was a discussion concerning “the resolution deciding the programme for immediate action of the members of the association during the military operations against Germany and Austria.”

The indictment covered all aspects of Party life and all, except Mrs. Gavrilov, were charged under Article 102, part I, of the Criminal Code, which provided a penalty up to eight years’ hard labour. Mrs. Gavrilov was charged under Article 163 for aiding and abetting and failing to report to the authorities.

After reading the indictment, the president of the court asked us whether we pleaded guilty. In accordance with our original decision we all replied in the negative, as at the preliminary investigation.

When we were allowed to inspect the documents in the room of the investigating magistrate, we had worked out our general line of action in the court. We agreed on the substance of a declaration which was to be read by Petrovsky as president of the fraction. Following him, each of us was to endorse his statement and expound it more fully.

When the examination began, Petrovsky volunteered to give his explanations first. He spoke as follows:

Gentlemen judges, since it is the fraction that is being tried here I must refer to it in a few words. We were elected by the workers under the banner of Social Democracy. We entered the Duma and formed the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction supporting the Bolshevik tendency in the Party.

Stressing the fact that the entire activity of the fraction was in harmony with the sentiments of the workers, Petrovsky pointed to the support given by the fraction to the workers’ press, to trade union and educational organisations, the insurance campaign, etc.

Petrovsky acknowledged that a conference was held in the Gavrilovs’ house and stated that the conference was called to ascertain the sentiments of the workers, because now that the workers’ press had been suppressed, the fraction had to be informed of the opinions of the workers on political questions in order to pursue its work in the Duma. The delegates to the conference were not previously informed of the agenda. Kamenev had been invited to discuss the question of restarting the paper and this question stood first. Then it was proposed to discuss our attitude to Polish autonomy, our lending assistance to the families of workers called to the colours, etc. Finally we proposed to discuss a resolution consisting of seven points dealing with the War, but this was prevented by the intrusion of the police. Petrovsky stated that he had received this resolution, which represented the opinion of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party from a certain Social-Democrat who proposed that the fraction be guided by it in its activity in the Duma. The fraction considered that it was necessary first to discuss the resolution with representatives of the workers. He concluded his speech as follows:

We arc being tried for our staunch defence of the rights of the people. We are to be condemned because we earned the confidence of the working class and because we defended the workers’ interests to the best of our abilities. Therefore, we regard our trial as the greatest injustice.

Muranov spoke after Petrovsky. He confined himself to a few words in which he endorsed everything said by Petrovsky. He added that he belonged to the Party only in so far as he was a member of the fraction and under the existing law’s deputies were not liable to prosecution for belonging to a fraction; surely the members of the Social-Democratic fraction could not be tried for it?

In my turn, I said:

“I endorse the words spoken by Petrovsky. On all questions concerning our activity, we addressed ourselves to the workers, heard their opinions and told them ours. We had to introduce interpellations and bills into the Duma and for this purpose it was necessary to know the opinions of our constituents. The authorities refused to allow us to arrange talks with our constituents, therefore we had to find other means of communication. These means were meetings and conferences with delegates from the workers and the careful examination of material or documents sent to us, such as those which were taken from me at the time of the search. The fraction did all it could for the workers’ paper and the Ozyorky conference was mainly devoted to the question of founding a new paper. For this purpose we considered it essential that we should hear the opinions of delegates from various cities.”

The next to speak was Shagov. He stated that he shared the standpoint embodied in the joint declaration of the two Social-Democratic fractions read in the Duma.

Samoylov, who was the last of the fraction to address the court, referred to his illness which had forced him to spend several months abroad. When he returned to St. Petersburg at the beginning of November he wished to become acquainted with events that had taken place in his absence. He invited Voronin to come to see him because Voronin was a well-known figure in working-class circles.

At the trial we followed the same tactics that we had adopted during the preliminary investigation. We tried not to give the court any clues, any direct indications concerning the Party’s revolutionary work. The court had a number of suspicions, but these had to be proved, and it was not our intention to assist the court officials in this task. On the contrary, we did all we could to prevent it.

The other defendants followed the same line in giving their evidence, Kamenev emphasised, as he had done during the preliminary investigation, that he was a professional journalist who had worked for the workers’ press and was therefore interested in its existence. This had brought him to Ozyorky where the question of restarting the paper was to be discussed. Accused under his real name, Rosenfeld, he admitted that he used the pseudonym Kamenev for literary purposes.

The questioning of the other defendants was mingled with the examination of the witnesses. The main witnesses were policemen and secret service men who confirmed the circumstances of the arrest, the finding of the proclamations and any other facts necessary to the court to enable it to pronounce sentence. Special attention was paid to Muranov’s note-book and Petrovsky’s personal diary.

As I mentioned before, Muranov’s notes relating to his journey in the Urals clearly disclosed his participation in underground revolutionary activity. Therefore, in answer to questions put by the president of the court, he was forced to admit that he had been engaged in illegal work. He stated that he took part in meetings of local committees, arranged mass meetings of workers, etc, and:

“I called on them to organise. There were trade unions, co-operatives and educational societies, and I insisted that Social-Democrats must do all they could to gain influence in these organisations, I regarded it as my duty to set up such organisations.”

The hurried examination was concluded on the second day of the trial [K] and the court passed on to the next formality, the counsels’ speeches, as if these speeches could affect in the slightest the pre-arranged sentence.

The public prosecutor started by praising the leaders of West European Socialist parties, who at the commencement of the war had betrayed the International and become patriotic defenders of their respective fatherlands. Only the Russian Social-Democratic Party had not followed the “call to sanity.” He said that the Social-Democratic fraction in the Duma, in refusing to vote the war credits, had announced “an open break with the government at the moment when the latter was most in need of the union of all sections of the population.”

The public prosecutor argued that the fraction in its activity was directly under the control of the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party, and that following the instructions of the Central Committee, the fraction began to develop its anti-war revolutionary propaganda. He insisted that an important Party conference was held in Ozyorky to determine the subsequent tactics of the Party in its struggle against the war.

The public prosecutor concluded:

”The present case is extremely important both as regards the persons and the questions involved. We have to deal with a firmly welded organisation – the Russian Social-Democratic Fraction ... At a moment when the state is straining every nerve to fight the external foe, when at the frontiers the blood of the Fatherland’s sons is being shed unceasingly, the defendants, for the sake of a few paragraphs in their Party programme, stretch out their hands in friendship to the enemy behind the backs of our brave defenders. These people want to deal our gallant army a stab in the back, to bring disorganisation into its ranks. But now they find themselves in the dock, and when our heroes return from the battlefield we want to be able to face them and tell them how we treated those who wished to betray them.”

After the public prosecutor, the defending counsel began their speeches. They belonged to a definite group of political lawyers who had had considerable experience in trials of revolutionaries.

The counsel first of all made it their aim to reveal the political nature of the trial, to show that the trial of the workers’ deputies was an arbitrary act of the tsarist government and that such trials were only possible in a country’ where political liberty was trampled underfoot by the boots of the police. Demyanov said:

“This case is of immense historic importance. Do not forget that the five members of the State Duma are the chosen representatives of the peasants and workers who not only trust but love them, for they are flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone. How many other members of the Duma can assert that they are the genuine representatives of the people? ... The defendants need not fear condemnation. They will not remain long in exile but will soon return in triumph. The army – the people -when they return from the war, will ask sternly and insistently, ‘where are our chosen representatives? Where are our elected deputies? Where are our cherished friends …?’”

“The sentence will not remain a secret buried in this hall,” said another counsel, Pereverzev, “and it will not only be known in St. Petersburg; the news will spread like wildfire throughout the Russian land. It is possible to violate parliamentary immunity, but it is impossible to stamp out of the people’s memory the injustice and deep significance of this action. The deputies are condemned for being faithful to their duties, everyone knows that. When the prison gates shut behind them, let them remember – and these are not our feelings alone – that sorrow and respect accompany them there ...”

Sokolov emphasised that the members of our fraction were the only real representatives of the working class:

“Five deputies are in the dock. They were all sent to the State Duma by the votes of the working class and have the right to be regarded as the representatives of the workers. All of them are Social-Democrats; the working class has sent Social-Democrats to represent it in all four State Dumas. The Russian workers invariably choose Social-Democrats to represent them and Social-Democracy in Russia does not even enjoy freedom of the press to the extent that other political tendencies do ...”

Kuchin, Antipov’s counsel, described the social environment in Russia “where the people’s representatives are unable to meet their constituents openly, but in order to do so must steal about like thieves to a deserted house and sit there in hiding with the windows covered up by blankets,” where “agents of the secret police have the effrontery to shout insults at the people’s representatives whom they have arrested; it is this social environment,” declared the counsel, “that is responsible for the defendants being in the dock.”

The other defending counsel described the tremendous social importance of the trial in similar terms. Often they only hinted at this, but their hints made such an impression that the president of the court interrupted them and requested them to speak oh topics “more relevant to the issue.”

The second aim of the counsel was to do all they could to mitigate the punishment. For this purpose they analysed the incriminating material in a sense more favourable to the defendants. They devoted their main efforts to refuting the charge of “high treason” which had been alleged by the public prosecutor. Referring to the Ozyorky conference, they asserted that, in view of the few members who attended it, it could in no way be regarded as a Party congress, but that it was simply a consultation of the deputies with a few workers. Finally the counsel also advanced a number of legal points on the basis of which they objected to the formulation of the indictment.

The speeches for the defence closed the proceedings. Now there only remained the pronouncement of the sentence. This was the fourth day of the trial; the court-room was more crowded than at the commencement and everyone was waiting with tense interest for the final act of the drama.

Nearly a whole day was spent on formalities, the framing of questions for the court, amendments by counsel, objections by the public prosecutor, etc. The judges finally withdrew to consider the judgment at 8 p.m. The crowd in the court-room was expectant. Relatives and friends were anxious for those dear to them, and the others were conscious of the enormous historical significance of the trial and the sentence.

A strong police detachment entered the court, filled all the passages and watched the entire audience – the government was still afraid of demonstrations despite all their precautions.

Three hours passed. Our counsel, seated in front of us, advised us to be prepared for the worst. “The sentence,” they said, “may be extremely severe. What matters here is not the legal proof, but the orders which the court has received from the government. We must be prepared for anything.”

Finally the judges filed into the court, and in a tense silence Krasheninnikov read out the sentence.

Petrovsky, Muranov, Shagov, Samoylov and myself together with Kamenev, Yakovlev, Linde and Voronin were found guilty and sentenced under Article 102, part 2, to the loss of civil rights, exile to distant regions and confiscation of property. Mrs. Gavrilov and Antipov were found guilty under Article 136, part 2, for not informing the authorities and were condemned to imprisonment in a fortress, the former for one year and six months, the latter for eight months, the period of preliminary detention to be included. Kozlov was acquitted owing to lack of proof.

The trial ended about midnight. We were led through dark corridors which connected the court-room with the prison and parted from each other, realising that it might be a long time before we met again. Knowing the ways of tsarist officials, we expected to be sent to different places at different times. On the iron prison staircase, we embraced and kissed each other and cheerfully wished each other good luck and a store of patience during the term of exile.

On the next day we were introduced to the hard labour regime. We became convicts deprived of all property and civil rights. Needless to say, none of us had any “property” and the only things that could be confiscated were those which we had with us in prison, and this was promptly done. But the essence of “loss of rights” did not consist in this. Under tsarist laws, a convict was treated as an outlaw, a man who had no right to any protection. A convict was a man whom the most brutal of gaolers could treat as he liked.

We were taken to the depot and given the regulation convict’s outfit. These were the only clothes we had for every occasion during our prison life. The convicts’ garb was in a filthy condition; in addition to dirt there were traces of pus, mucus and dried blood. These clothes had done service for many a generation of prison inhabitants and every garment spoke more loudly than words of past suffering and at the same time acted as a warning for the future.

As we put on these clothes we felt acutely our new position as convicts; how the thoughts chased through our minds during those few moments! We had long felt that this moment would come sooner or later. The working class had sent us to the front of an unequal struggle and the government was bound to vanquish us as individuals. Our every step had brought us closer to this fate. Now it had come as a reward for our work during the preceding years.

But along with these thoughts there were others, of the future of the working-class movement and the new trials which it would have to face. How would the work of our Party be conducted now? It would be necessary to establish new links in the chain of organisation. How would this be achieved, how could the difficulties be overcome?

Along with the prison garb there came the regime of hard labour; rough treatment, harsh tones and shouts from the warders, etc. For all this there was no redress; we were outlaws and could not expect protection from any quarter.

As soon as I became a convict, I began to be prosecuted on a number of charges which had accumulated during my activities in the Duma. After almost every episode in the revolutionary struggle of the St. Petersburg workers, the authorities had laid charges against me, hoping sooner or later to land me in jail.

I was prosecuted several times for articles in Pravda, in connection with the case of the Putilov workers, for my speech at the funeral of one of the Parviainen workers, for addressing the workers at the railway shops, etc.

I was accused under various articles of the legal code and all these counts were now prepared for trial. Under the existing laws, however, the lesser punishment was merged into the bigger one. The investigating magistrates had the satisfaction of seeing me in convict’s garb and feeling that, at any rate, their “work” had not been wasted!

After several months in the St. Petersburg prison, we were transferred to a prison in distant Siberia. In the convict train, in boats, on foot, we were taken to the Turukhansk district, the worst district of Siberia both as regards climate and general living conditions. From the standpoint of exiles, Turukhansk was a blind alley, a trap from which there was no escape. It was no chance that practically the whole of the Russian Bureau of our Bolshevik Central Committee turned out to be there. [2]

At last the tsarist government had smashed the Bolshevik Duma fraction and completed its task of destroying all working-class organisations. Having put fetters on the workers’ deputies, tsarism proceeded to enchain the whole Russian proletariat.

But something went wrong in the calculations of the government. The government of Nicholas the Bloody, far from stifling the revolutionary movement, could not even force the prisoners to desist from their revolutionary work. Even as convicts in Siberia we continued to play our part in the revolutionary struggle.

The tsarist government prepared still further punishments for the workers’ deputies. Comrade Petrovsky, while in exile at Yenisseisk, was ordered to be taken to distant Yakutia. A fresh prosecution was commenced against me for “organising defeatist groups among-the exiles and the local population,” a prosecution which threatened dire punishment. The government, however, did not have time to complete this plan. The February Revolation intervened.

It was with joy that, in our distant Siberian exile, we listened to the revolutionary waves thundering ever louder and louder. The working class had again entered the arena of struggle. Each day its demands sounded louder and more insistent. When the workers again reformed their ranks, they did not forget our Bolshevik fraction. On the anniversary of our trial protest strikes occurred throughout Russia. Every meeting coupled the demand for the release of the deputies with the fundamental demands of the working class. And this demand was one of the slogans of the St. Petersburg workers when they took control of the streets in the historic days of February 1917.

The February Revolution opened wide the prison doors and broke the fetters of the prisoners of tsarism. Hundreds and thousands of liberated revolutionaries returned along the Siberian route. In villages, hamlets and at railway stations, crowds of people welcomed the workers’ deputies with revolutionary songs. Revolutionary meetings were held all along the route.

In the last days of March, 1917, we were back again in St. Petersburg among the revolutionary workers. After storming the strongholds of tsarist autocracy, these workers, under the well-tried leadership of the Bolsheviks, had already started their struggle for the complete abolition of capitalism.

The pre-war years, years of an exceptional growth and spread of the working-class movement, played a tremendous part in preparing for the great fights of October.

The 1905 Revolution, the pre-war years of revival and growth, the February Revolution and finally the October Revolution, are the four stages in the Russian workers’ revolutionary struggle, the four great steps which the working class took to reach the final victory of the proletarian revolution.



1. N.I. Jordansky was at that time a “defencist.” Subsequently he joined the Communist Party.

2. The following comrades were exiled in Turukhansk at that time: Comrades Sverdlov, Stalin, Spondaryan, Goloschokin and a number of other leading Party members.

Last updated on 14.9.2011