Twenty Years in Underground Russia: Memoirs of a Rank-and-File Bolshevik
FROM Baku I went to recuperate a little at the estate in Zhiroslavka near Kostroma which I have already mentioned, whose mistress, Elizaveta Kolodeznikova, considered it her mission in life to provide a haven for all tired and homeless Party workers. About midsummer 1905, after I had had a short rest, I left for Moscow. According to the decision of the Moscow Committee I was to start work as district organizer. I was to take up my new duties after the city conference, at which I hoped to gain a better knowledge of Moscow Party work. The conference was to be held on a Sunday in the woods near Obiralovka on the Nizhnenovgorod line.
When our group of comrades alighted at the suburban terminus of Obiralovka, the station was crowded with gendarmes, detectives, spies, and other police department officials. The "splendour" of the scene petrified us for a moment. Then we began to pretend that we were all strangers to each other. But the police only laughed at us. One of the delegates to our conference had betrayed us, so that the police knew everything to a detail. Notwithstanding all the information they had, however, they arrested only fifteen comrades. The others, who had come by an earlier train, managed to escape the trap laid for us at the station. I was arrested with several workers employed at the Guzhon Works in Moscow. I particularly recollect one dark-haired young worker with squinting eyes, who kept us merry all the way from Obiralovka to Moscow whither the police were taking us. At every stop the holiday crowd tried to get into our car. The police zealously attempted to drive the crowd away, while the dark-haired Guzhon worker cried to the newcomers:
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is strictly forbidden to come into this carriage. The ambassadors from Portsmouth are here!" (This happened at the time of the peace negotiations with Japan.)
At the police headquarters we were closely crossexamined. But I could not say anything for myself. I had just recently arrived in Moscow and had had no time to obtain a passport. I lived without being registered, at the home of my husband's mother, Sophia Bobrovskaya, and avoided the janitor. This apartment was very convenient for secret work because the house had two exits, one of which was particularly useful because it led into a yard in which there was a postoffice. If anything happened one could always pretend to be going to the postoffice. These features were taken into consideration when Sophia and her younger daughter, Nina, rented the apartment. It often happened that mother and daughter, not having had time to consult each other, both offered the apartment for meeting purposes on the same day. Once, for example, a secret meeting of soldiers--representatives of the army--was held in one room, which Sophia had lent for the purpose, while in another room the girl cashiers of the Chichkin dairies met to discuss the forthcoming strike of the employees of that firm. Nina had consented to let them have the room without consulting her mother. The house was always used as a temporary hiding place for illegal literature and weapons. Furthermore, workers frequently made appointments at the house without telling the Bobrovskys beforehand because they knew that the latter would acquiesce.
Hence, when I was arrested I could not possibly give the Bobrovsky address. The only thing I could do was to refuse point blank to give any information about myself. I was immediately charged under Article 102 of the Criminal Code and sent to the Watch Tower in the Butirsky prison. Before me was the prospect of a quiet life (as a rest from my roving one) for a lengthy period, and I planned to take advantage of this to improve my theoretical knowledge. My deficiencies in this respect hindered me in my Party work. But this dream was not realized, owing to the breathless events that occurred on the other side of the prison bars. These events freed me from the Watch Tower--a freedom gained under strikingly happy circumstances. Each day the rumours which reached us in the Watch Tower as to the growing revolutionary spirit among the broad proletarian masses were more and more confirmed, particularly after we heard the singing of revolutionary songs in the main yard (the Watch Tower looked out into the hospital yard). They were sung by the arrested Philipov bakers. The crowds of workers in the neighbouring yard which we could see from our tower, and the snatches of speeches that were carried to us also helped confirm the fact. Besides these joyously disturbing signs, during the first days of October a group of Poles were imprisoned in the Watch Tower (because there was no room in the deportation prison) in the next flight above my cell. I learned from these comrades that they had been exiled from Warsaw to the Vyatka province and had been on their way there, but, owing to the strikes on the railroads, they had had to stop for an indefinite time in Moscow. Any day now, they predicted, Russia would be in the threes of a general strike; then we would not be in prison very much longer.
The Poles were in very high spirits and from the moment they arrived, our isolated yard in the Watch Tower changed as if by magic. For example, a few days before October 17 a very curious thing happened. It had snowed the previous night, and one of the Poles who was a sculptor made an excellent snow figure of Nicholas II. When the figure began to melt, another of the Poles approached my window and said audibly:
"Look, comrade, the autocracy is melting, let's give a cheer!"
The guard in the yard informed the governor of this. The assistant governor came, spoke briefly to the Poles and to me, then, apparently feeling the insecurity of the autocracy, limited himself to a mild lecture about our "disgraceful conduct" and returned to the office scratching his head. But not all the warders were so pessimistically inclined. The governor of the Butirsky prison still held aloft the banner of autocracy. My husband had been exiled to Siberia and I expected that he would stop at the Butirsky prison on his way there from the Caucasus. I asked the governor to permit me to see my husband if he came. The governor replied haughtily: "Prisoners are forbidden to talk to each other." A week later, after this haughty refusal, I met my husband in Moscow--both of us were free. He had been released on the road by the rebellious Rostov workers.
The last few days before October 17, the cream of the Moscow proletariat gathered about our Butirsky prison. There was not a workshop nor a trade that was not represented there. Prison life became unusually intense. The senior prison officials went about looking cross and gloomy. The middle ranks looked frightened and apologetic while the lower officials, warders and the rest went about gloatingly. They would forget to lock our cells (the corridors, of course, were locked), and we became so bold, that we not only carried on conversation with the Poles, but two of them even came to my cell for a few minutes. The prison officials visited us several times a day. Representatives of the public prosecutor often came to ask if we had "any complaints to make". At night our guardians had no rest. Lights flickered in the yard and in the corridors all night. It was apparent that they were profoundly disturbed. This filled us with fierce joy and, we were curious to know how it would all end. I was not very clear as to what was happening outside and things were still very vague to me even when a vast revolutionary Moscow crowd moved toward the Butirsky prison and demanded our release. The day before rumours had reached us that a royal manifesto would be issued granting us freedom. But we were indignant at the very suggestion of such a mark of the tsar's favour and would hear nothing of it.
On the morning of October 18 everything in the prison seemed as usual. Keys rattled in the corridor. The "hot water" was brought at the usual hour, but I could not think of drinking it--there was no time for such trifles. I made my morning survey from the window sill--endangering my ribs, because the sill was very high above the ground and there was nothing to grasp but the bars--and looked out into the yard; but I scarcely recognized it. It had changed into a military camp. Machine-guns, cannon and other death dealing instruments filled the yard. Gallant officers, ready for battle, shouted orders. They all looked as though they expected the enemy at any minute. It was not difficult to conjecture what enemy. Anyway, I was not kept guessing long, for very soon I saw a huge crowd moving down Dolgorukovskaya and Lesnaya streets towards our prison. But what agitated me most was the sea of red banners. A red banner meant a great deal to an underground professional. At that moment the sight of so many red banners seemed strange to me.
The exulting revolutionary crowd approached so near that I could actually see expressions on individual faces. In front of the crowd, threading his way toward my window, was my friend Makar. He was saying something to me that I could not quite understand. He was saying that he was afraid I might be kept in prison till the evening because no telegrams had yet been received from the Minister Witte, or something to that effect. His tone implied that it was the hardest thing in the world for me to have to stay in prison until the evening--I, who had been planning a bare week ago to stay in prison for more than a year!
The most inexplicable and surprising thing about Makar and all the others was their utter disregard for any consequences their conduct might entail--a disregard that was not the least shaken by my mentioning the cannon and machine-guns which awaited them on the other side of the prison. They simply laughed in reply, exclaiming, "They won't dare!"
When the crowd demanded the release of all political prisoners, the first to be freed were the Philipov strikers. These had been thrown into the prison in whole groups. A barrel was placed at the gates of the prison to serve as a platform for speakers. One of the released bakers mounted this barrel and delivered the following "speech": "Comrades, I am a Philipov baker! That is all I have to say!" This avowal was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm. After the baker, a few railroad workers spoke. No one tried to understand what they were saying. The speeches were not important in themselves--it was the circumstances in which they were delivered that were important.
I must admit that at that triumphant moment I was afraid of being released. I was afraid that I should have to make a speech from that barrel in my thin high-pitched voice. But the god of revolution preserved me--a voiceless underground worker--from this ordeal. I was released in the evening, when the crowd had dispersed, without being forced to deliver an agitational speech--a thing I never could, nor can do. I was permitted to leave the prison quietly. Although we had been freed by the revolutionary masses, we still had to pass through all the prison formalities at the prison office. That office had an unusual appearance. It was filled with tables at which officials sat who, apparently, had been hastily appointed. They rapidly checked us off the prisoners' list. The released comrades introduced themselves to each other, congratulated one another, laughed, and tied red ribbons on their arms. At the office I had a short but very characteristic talk with the prison officials. It seemed somewhat strange to go out of prison with a valise. The first thing I wanted to do in leaving the prison was to rush to a meeting, to be out in the street; a valise would only be a hindrance. So I asked permission to leave it in the office. The warder looked at me in surprise at my request and said: "Do you still have faith in us? To which I answered, "Of course, for most probably I will have to return to you very soon".
To tell the truth, I was not at all certain that this freedom would last very long. When I found myself at the University that evening, I became still more confused by the atmosphere. Going through the University corridors. I met many comrades, but none of them could explain to me what waS actually taking place. At last I saw Martin Lyadov (Mandelstamm), a member of the Moscow Committee. I showered questions upon him about the Moscow Committee and what I was to do with myself, but he merely answered:
"Tomorrow we are burying Bauman. You must come to the funeral; go to a meeting now and make a speech. All the comrades who were released today are doing that."
The news of our Comrade Bauman's death communicated to me in such a calm tone, was a great blow to me. I recalled his cheerful disposition in Geneva and was deeply distressed at the thought hat this brave, energetic revolutionary was no longer among the living. I met Zemlyachka, another member of the Moscow Committee, and began to question her. She also replied, "Tomorrow is Bauman's funeral," and then pushed me into a meeting saying, "You go and speak after that comrade. You're just out of prison, you know," whereupon she hurried off.
"That's a fine way for the Moscow Committee to get me to understand the situation," I thought, to myself. "To speak at a big meeting without the faintest gift of oratory and with my head still in a muddle." I pondered a while and decided not to become an "object of the celebrations," but instead to mingle with the crowd.
Next day, however, during Bauman's funeral, which was far more stirring and demonstrative than I had expected, I realized that Lyadov and Zemlyachka had been right. The organization of this funeral was a big Party task with which the Moscow Committee of our Party had coped admirably. I also understood that ones own individual sorrow at the loss of even such a dear comrade as Nikolai Bauman had to give precedence to the historical significance of the funeral.
I was unable to begin my work in the Moscow district for some time after the funeral. I was dreadfully unstrung by all that had happened and became ill and suffered from insomnia. In the moments of forgetfulness I still seemed to be walking from the Technical School to the Vagankovsky Cemetery with that solid mass of workers united by a single revolutionary aim. I could still see the coffin under its velvet pall sway on the shoulders of the men who carried it and the words of the funeral march still rang in my ears:
"Dying like soldiers, fighting for labour so did you fall ..."
My illness prevented me from working for three weeks--a very long time for that period.
On November 8, 1905, Lenin wrote in the paper Novaya Zhizn:
"The state that Russia is in at present is often expressed with the word 'anarchy'. This wrong and false term in reality expresses the fact that there is no established order in the country. The war of the new, free Russia against the old serf-autocratic Russia is being waged along the whole line; the autocracy is no longer capable of conquering the revolution, but the revolution is not yet capable of conquering tsarism. The old order is shattered, but it is not yet destroyed, and the new, free order is existing unrecognized, half hiding, often persecuted on all sides by the henchmen of the autocratic system."
Towards the end of November the scales definitely swung in favour of the revolution; deep in one's heart one felt that the great struggle between the working class and the tsarist autocracy would at any moment break out in open armed conflict on the Moscow streets.
In all save the most backward districts the atmosphere reached white heat. Proletarian Moscow was impregnated with the spirit of revolt.
Our Bolshevik organizations carried on feverish preparatory work, mustering the working masses, agitating the troops, and getting the workers' armed units which had been organizing since October into military shape.
The leading figure on the Moscow Committee at that time was Comrade Shantser, or "Marat," as we called him, but all the information I have is the meagre data found in the documents of the Moscow Secret Police obtained by Comrade Minitsky for a biographical dictionary of Moscow Committee members who had fallen in the revolution. From this data we learn that Comrade Shantser was born in 1867, that his father was a German and his mother a Frenchwoman, who had become Russian citizens and had settled in Odessa. He began doing cultural work among the workers while he was still a gymnasium student and, after finishing school, was arrested in 1887 for participating in the organization of a workers' library in Nikolayev. In 1895 he was arrested again, this time for conducting propaganda in workers' circles in Odessa and for making collections for political prisoners. Later, when he was a junior barrister, in Moscow, he maintained constant touch with workers who used to come to his home and among whom he distributed illegal literature. In September 1901 he was arrested at the home of Comrade Nikiforov, another old comrade now dead, for taking part in the preparations for a demonstration in Moscow; and he was exiled to Fast Siberia for three years where he was kept under the strict surveillance of the police. From there he returned to Moscow in November 1902 and worked with even greater energy in the Party, playing a leading role in the Moscow organization whose leader he was in the November-December days of 1905.
During the uprising he was arrested for the fourth and last time at his home where a meeting of the Federative Committee--a body organized to co-ordinate the activities of all the revolutionary organizations and on which Comrade Shantser represented the Bolsheviks--was to have been held. Since all evidence about this case was lost during the days of the rebellion, he got off with administrative exile to the Turukhansk region.
Here he suffered a nervous breakdown but, ill as he was, he nevertheless managed to escape abroad where the nervous disease developed into an incurable mental disorder. Due to his hopeless condition Shantsers wife, Natalia, managed to get permission to return to Russia with her sick husband in 1910. But the tsarist officials loved to spite their disarmed foes. When he returned to his native land, this hopelessly sick and emaciated comrade was not allowed to be placed in a private hospital, but was sent to the central police lunatic asylum. Comrade Shantser, whose memory should be preserved by the Moscow workers, died on January 29, 1911.
I personally worked as the organizer of the Lefortovo district where I met many comrades, some of whom, like myself, had been sent by the Moscow Committee, while others were local workers--representatives from the mills and factories.
The Moscow Committee regarded the Lefortovo district as one of the backward ones. And in truth, as the December days drew nearer, one could witness in Lefortovo more than in any other district the heartbreaking sight of individual workers, and even whole groups of them, with bundles on their backs--turning their faces towards the village--and their backs upon the revolution.
To make the Lefortovo workers fall into step with the more militant districts (Presnya, Zamoskvorechye) we had to carry on intensive agitational work. We organized meetings from morn till night at the Vedensky People's Palace to which the workers came in crowds. Before we could clear the hall of one group, another group would pour in, while crowds of workers would be waiting their turn on the Vedensky Square.
We organizers found it very difficult to provide agitators for all these meetings. In 1905 the Party in general, and the Moscow organization in particular, had an extremely limited number of agitators at their disposal. Not every underground Party worker who was accustomed to speaking at small workers' meetings held in the woods or on a boat, or in some out of way barn, could get up before a mass meeting of several thousand and speak from a high platform in a brilliantly lit hall.
We had to resort to all sorts of ruses to get an extra agitator from the centre. Thus, for example, early in the morning I would go to Fidler's house, the headquarters of the Central Board of Agitators of the Moscow Committee led by Comrade Stanislav. There I would catch one of the agitators and earnestly plead that today was the decisive day, that the Lefortovo district was not stable, that if we managed to carry off one or two successful meetings the Lefortovites would be roused, etc.
Having played upon the feelings of my agitator in this fashion, I would obtain his promise to come to Lefortovo, knowing all the while that he could only go where the centre sent him, and not where each district organizer wanted him to go. But such is the mentality of a district worker that it always seems to him that his district is more important than any other. These difficulties were eased somewhat in the days that followed, when, besides the official agitators, speakers appeared from among the masses themselves. At our meetings in the Vedensky People's Palace, workers would get up from the audience to address the meeting. I remember a worker from the Rontaller factory who once came over to me and said timidly that he would like to speak. He wound up his long and fairly able speech with the following words: "We button makers are a big power. If we choose we can leave all Moscow without a button."
A middle-aged working woman agitator in the audience spoke about the low wages paid to women, and to illustrate the point she said: "When I, a woman, am hungry and go to buy a cucumber, do I pay half a kopek, or do they charge me a kopek the same as they charge a man?" Her speech created a tremendous impression upon the audience. It was a rare thing for a woman worker, and an old one at that, to get up on a platform and speak before a big audience.
Our Party headquarters were located in the Vedensky People's Palace and we members of the District Committee were in the office day and night: from early morning till late at night we received delegations from factories and mills who came to us with all kinds of problems.
I vividly recall a group of workers from the Dufurmantel factory, five of them, led by a middle-aged, red-bearded worker. They were sent by the illiterate workers who had organized themselves and demanded that we immediately teach them to read and to write. "It's a crime not to be able to read at such times," they declared to us. This "illiterate" delegation made a deep impression upon us. We explained to them that we could not possibly teach them to read and write in so short a time as they desired, but that we would organize a school for this purpose without delay. And indeed we organized such a school for the workers in our district, using the nearest public school for this purpose and mobilizing teachers--our own people--to help. Despite the disturbed time, regardless of the fact that towards the end of November we had reached the verge of an armed uprising, our Party organization continued, as it had done in times of peace, to organize schools, lectures, clubs, in short, all sorts of cultural work. This work was carried on "under fire," so to speak, and was often intermingled with purely military work.
For example, during the barricade fighting in the Zamoskvorechye District, furniture which was being delivered to the club was seized and used for building barricades. The club organizers began to protest against the misuse of club property, but later, realizing the urgent necessity, they not only helped to pile up the furniture on the barricade but even removed the gate of the house where the club was situated and piled that on also.
Our Lefortovo unit of armed workers, with Comrade Rublevkin at its head, was a small, poorly equipped, but extremely militant group, which together with the District Committee members was very keen on getting the backward Lefortovo district to catch up with the other districts. Later, during the uprising, when fighting was taking place in the centre in the Presnya District, and in Zamoskvoretsky District, and when we Lefortovites were still holding meetings, our armed workers went off to help the other districts.
Towards the end of November the first Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies, uniting 134 industries with about 100,000 workers, was organized. On December 14 this Soviet passed a resolution to the effect that: "Moscow workers must hold themselves ready at any moment for a general political strike and for an armed uprising."
In accordance with the decision of the Soviet on the morning of the fifth, meetings were held in all the factories and mills where the question of the strike and the uprising were discussed and put to a vote; and in the evening of the same day the Lefortovites went to the Bolshevik Moscow City Conference where the question was to be decided.
At this time even the Lefortovo district had become aroused and the referendum we took in all the factories on the question of the strike and uprising gave positive results. But we all realized that when the forces were counted up at the Conference, the Lefortovo district would be found to be the weakest. This knowledge filled our hearts with bitterness.
Those who were present at the conference on the night of December 5, 1905, will remember what a militant spirit reigned there, with what eagerness the factory delegates were listened to, and how they all in one voice declared that the workers were ready to revolt. The deep conviction of the inevitability of the uprising was not shaken even when the military organizer, Comrade Andrey, in his report on the conditions of the Moscow garrison announced that though the soldiers would not go against us, he was not certain that they would go with us. A few comrades urged restraint on the grounds that the workers were almost unarmed, but all their arguments were unavailing, for everybody was convinced that the uprising was inevitable.
On December 7, the first issue of the Izvestia of the Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies was published containing a manifesto signed by all the revolutionary organizations in Moscow calling for "a general political strike on Thursday, December 7, at It o'clock noon" and for every effort to be made to "convert it into an armed uprising".
The Moscow Committee of our Party elected an Executive Committee which was entrusted with all authority; the rest of the committee members had to go back to work in their districts. From the very first days of the uprising reliable means of communication were established between the centre and the districts through the medium of comrades who were called couriers. At first the couriers were able to penetrate into the districts despite the difficulties, but later on they were unable to do so. Thus all communication between the centre and the districts was cut off and the latter were left to their own devices. At Presnya, fighting was going on under the leadership of Comrade Sedoy (Litvin), the Zamoskvoretsky District lived its own revolutionary life....
Our first Lefortovo courier was an old comrade, Alexander Blagonravov, who later worked in the Vladimir organization and died of typhus in 1919. I can clearly recall Blagonravov with his sad smile reporting about the affairs in other districts and delivering the instructions of the centre for the coming day. The proletariat must not forget its couriers who selflessly devoted their lives to maintaining communication between the various sections of the city during the memorable days of struggle.
But soon even Comrade Blagonravov was unable to reach us, and our district was completely isolated. We, however, continued to hold meetings and to organize demonstrations. Once we marched by the Spassky barracks from which some disarmed and imprisoned soldiers cheered us. Our armed workers' units had several clashes with the Black Hundreds who were numerous in Lefortovo, but the latter were not remarkable for their bravery even though they were armed as well as, if not better, than the police.
One morning, while the insurrection was still in progress, we were waiting for the workers to come to a meeting in the People's Palace. There were only about five or six of us District Committee members in the hall. Suddenly we saw a crowd of the Black Hundreds approaching and it looked as if we were going to be lynched. Fortunately, one of our comrades had a revolver. He fired one shot over the heads of the mob and this was enough to set the whole gang running.
We began to feel that we were really taking part in the insurrection only when barricades were put up in our district, but this was very belated, when the beginning of the end had set in the rest of the city.
That day, we commenced the usual round of meetings, but we all felt that there was nothing more to be said. I remember that I was particularly irritated by the "rational" appeals of the Menshevik Semyon who continued to shout, "comrades, build up the trade unions!" The answer to this trivial appeal came from someone in the audience. It was an appeal to us all to go out into the streets and build barricades. The whole audience responded to a man and the whole mass hurried out into the street. On the square it was joined by those who had been awaiting their turn to come into the hall, and all of us moved in close ranks to the Pokrovskaya Zastava where we overturned the tram cars that were standing as they had been left in the street when the general strike was declared. We erected a huge barricade--our own Lefortovo barricade. Our armed workers' units remained to guard it, although no one threatened to attack it that night, while the rest of the workers dispersed to their homes.
That evening, a comrade from the committee, who went by the name of Alexey, and I planned to make our way to the city without fail; it was a long time since our courier had visited us and we were completely cut off from the centre. We did not know what was happening there and had no means of keeping the centre informed of events in our district-we wanted to boast about our tardy barricade. Such a trip at night was risky, it being particularly dangerous to pass the posts of the so-called Committees of Residents set up by the Black Hundreds ostensibly for the purpose of protecting property, but in reality to catch, insult and beat up every passerby who had the least resemblance to a revolutionary.
We passed several streets in comparative safety, although we frequently got entangled in the telegraph wires which had been torn down and were scattered everywhere. Not far from Basmannaya we encountered a group of civilians who stopped us. They declared themselves members of the Residents' Committee, and demanded to know who we were and where we were going. I invented a story on the spur of the moment about my husband and myself trying to go from Cherkozovo into the city to Zhivoderka to visit our daughter-in-law who was seriously ill and needed immediate help. Because of the wires and the darkness we could not find our way to Krasnye Vorota. Alexey, "my husband," beside me also muttered something about a daughter-in-law and Zhivoderka. They believed us. It was our outward appearance that saved us. I was dressed like an old woman in a wide blouse and with a shawl over my head, while Alexey was also very poorly clad.
The Black Hundreds had so little suspicion of who we were that they even warned us not to fall into the hands of the workers' units who would be sure to shoot us at the first sight. We proceeded on our journey until we had almost reached Krasnye Vorota, where we saw a group of soldiers sitting around a bonfire and were obliged to turn aside and step into the Olkhov school where we were sure to find our own people.
The school resembled a dosshouse that night--on all the desks, tables, chairs and floors sprawled comrades who had been unable to get home and were obliged to remain at the school. We too decided that it would be wiser to stop at the school. I cannot refrain from mentioning a little incident in that night's adventure. One of the teachers, whom I had never seen before, called me into the kitchen, took a pot of broth from the stove, placed me on a stool, and, without even asking my name, declared: "You have eaten nothing all day; eat this broth!" And indeed, I had had absolutely no time for eating or drinking and was feeling very weak until the broth revived me.
Early next morning the bonfire at Krasnye Vorota burned out, the soldiers were withdrawn, probably for some strategic purposes, and we began cautiously to creep out one by one from our school dosshouse. I wanted to change my clothes and wash myself before going into the city. I went to my sister Rose who lived nearby on Kalanchovsky Street, but whose house I had been unable to reach the night before. She had rented a room among our own people, at the home of the worker Polumordvinov. When I reached her room I found her table, bed and bookshelves loaded with weapons. These had been taken from Torbek, the gunsmith, whose shop our unit had raided. A group of our men were lovingly handling these revolvers, parts of guns, sabres and cartridges and they were so merry that despite my weariness, I was cheered by the mere sight of them.
On the other hand, when at last I got to the Moscow committee, the mood prevailing was anything but cheerful. I learned that our affairs were in a very precarious condition, that St. Petersburg, exhausted by the November strike, was not in a position to support us. I also learned that the promises of the railroad union leaders had proved to be empty phrases, that the Nikolayev railway was in the hands of the government, that hostile troops from Tver and the Semyonovsky regiment from St. Petersburg had either already arrived or were on their way, I cannot recall which.
I hated to return to my district with such news--a district which had only just risen to the level of insurrection and whose active workers had been exulting over their "own" barricade the evening before. I decided to spend the night at my sister's as I needed a good night's rest; but I was not destined to get any sleep. When I returned to her apartment, the weapons were no longer there, the workers having cleared them away during the day. But the police had now got wind of the fact that the weapons seized at Torbek's had been taken to this apartment. So we were subjected to a raid which was carried off with great pomp--a squad of armed policemen with a police officer at their head broke into the room. The police were obviously afraid, thinking that we were armed to the teeth. They were extremely nervous and threatened to shoot us on the spot if we did not surrender our weapons. They bullied my sister and me because we were women, but they were unmistakably afraid of the worker, Glotov, who rented the corner of the room near the stove, especially when they stumbled over a pile of coal in his dark corner. With extreme caution the officer flashed his searchlight on Glotov's "dwelling place." To the officer's tremulous "What's there?" Comrade Glotov rolled out sonorously: "This is the study of his proletarian highness!"
Finding no weapons, the police left the place without arresting any of us, even though we were all in some way connected with the insurrection.
When on the morrow I reached our district headquarters--the People's Palace--I found Alexey had been there since the previous night. He had already communicated the bad news to the other comrades; but they were surprisingly little depressed by it. Indeed, it was difficult, after yesterday's enthusiasm, to take that sharp psychological jump and become immediately conscious of the fact that our struggle was weakening, that a temporary defeat was inevitable. But we, the backward Lefortovites, were not long comforted by our illusions. The defeat of the uprising approached, and when our last stronghold fell, when our heroic Presnya--the pride of the Moscow uprising of 1905--was wrecked and burned by the Semyonovsky regiment, the Soviet of Workers' Deputies had to declare an end to the strike and uprising, and temporarily haul down the scarlet banner which, after twelve more years of stubborn struggle, was again unfurled to blaze victoriously over Red Moscow in 1917.
When the revolt had been crushed, an orgy of the Black Hundred reaction broke loose, the Moscow prisons and police headquarters were overcrowded with arrested revolutionaries. Hideous rumours were abroad that the police headquarters had been turned into torture chambers by the brutalized victors and that our comrades were being subjected to unheard of torments; and along the Moscow suburban railroads the brutal gangs of the tsarist hangman, Riman, ran riot. The spirits of the workers in the district were extremely low, and it was under these unfavourable circumstances that the Moscow comrades who had survived the defeat were obliged to renew their Party work. Once more began the painful process of returning underground. At the first meeting of the Moscow Committee held in the early days of January 1906, it was decided to send the more "notorious" comrades to other cities, while the less prominent ones were to be transferred from one district to another. Thus it happened that I was sent from the Lefortovo District to the Zamoskvoretsky District where I had many comrades even before the uprising, both among the professionals and the factory workers.
During my first days in the Zamoskvoretsky District I set myself a very concrete though modest organizational task, namely, to re-establish at least in the larger factories our former illegal factory committees. But this proved to be an incredibly difficult task. I still remember the endless visits to individual workers' homes, the arrangement of a few small meetings with the representatives of the various factories, meetings which hardly ever took place, either because our meeting place was being watched, or because the landlady who had promised us the use of her room had funked it and refused to let us in when we arrived, or because only one or two of half a dozen who were expected, arrived. It is difficult to imagine anything more trying than the knowledge that the work was constantly slipping out of our hands, that the eyes of our comrades which had burned with such revolutionary courage, with such faith in the imminent victory of their cause not so very long ago, were now utterly weary and hopeless.
However, not all our efforts were in vain. The Moscow Bolshevik organization continued to work intensively, adapting itself to the new methods of struggle even though it often had to deal with extremely dejected and morbid moods among the district comrades. I recall several of the more poignant moments which I personally had to undergo, as characteristic of these moods.
I went to visit the family of a worker in the Danilov factory, with whom I had been formerly acquainted, hoping to renew connections with the Danilov factory through them. Both husband and wife greeted me joyously and promised to assist me, but as the attempts to resuscitate the organization grew more and more futile, the worker (I cannot remember his name) became gloomier and less frank with me. Once I arrived at dinner time when their little ten-year old daughter was bustling about prettily and setting the table for her parents who were due any minute. She placed four wooden spoons on the table--one for "auntie". When my hosts returned from the factory, both the mother and the daughter insisted that I stay for dinner.
We sat around the table eating cabbage soup out of a common bowl, fishing up bits of meat from the bottom of the dish with our spoons and conversing peacefully at first about the necessity of starting Party work in the district. But towards the end of the meal, the worker became agitated, suddenly banged on the table with his clenched fist and, raising his voice, exclaimed:
"Why in the world do you come here to disturb us? I am tired, do you understand--tired, and I can't do any more!"
The little girl became frightened and started to cry. Her mother begged me not to take offence, while I in the most unexpected and ignominious fashion burst into tears and left the place.
Some time later a similar incident occurred in the tiny room, or rather the cubicle, of a young worker who was employed in the Jako factory. He had displayed a splendid fighting spirit before the uprising, had participated in many battles during the barricade days and, did not appear to be particularly depressed after the defeat. I called on him towards the end of February, or in the early days of March, I don't quite remember which. It was about ten o'clock in the evening, I believe. The apartment was used as a sort of lodging house, the lodgers living in tiny cubicles. The stairs were indescribably filthy and from the rooms emerged a veritable Sodom of drunken voices, smoke and stench. But the cubicle to which I went was very neatly kept, almost pretentiously--the bed was covered with a pink cotton blanket, the walls were decorated with pictures and embroidered towels, and there was a canary in a cage suspended from the ceiling. Near the bed hung a guitar tied with a pink bow. I surprised my acquaintance while he sat on a bench holding a pocket mirror to his face; on the table before him stood a jar of cream for sunburn and freckles with which he was diligently smearing his face. He did not cease his occupation as I entered, but motioning me to a seat, continued to rub his cheeks with greater vigour than ever, casually remarking, "My respects, Olga Petrovna, what news have you? I bet you're here about what I have already long forgotten because I've lost all my faith in it". When I suggested that he stop playing the fool, wipe his face, and talk sensibly, the fellow answered: "You shouldn't talk that way about the cream because it's wonderful for getting rid of freckles. It is called 'metamorphosis' and costs a ruble and a half. I strongly recommend it to you, Olga Petrovna, for you, too, have a lot of freckles. Now's the time to think about yourself a little. You're still harping on old days that will never return; and if they do, we won't be there to see them." I wonder whether this comrade lived to see the great October Revolution and, if he did, whether he recalled the words he uttered in 1906?
The metamorphosis of this Jako worker, who so recently had been a brave comrade in our ranks, had a most depressing effect on me. I left his room at about eleven o'clock with such a crushed feeling that it mattered little to me where I went. There were moments when I felt that there was no place for me to go and I wandered aimlessly about the streets in the Zamoskvoretsky District.
These difficulties were not merely characteristic of Moscow. The disillusionment not only spread among the working masses, but was communicated to many of our individual active comrades, both workers and intellectuals.
As for the Mensheviks, who during the heroic October-December days of 1905 were forced to go against their Menshevism and temporarily join us, the defeat immediately restored them to their natural shape and gave them many opportunities to expiate their short-lived iniquity by bitter criticism of our revolutionary Bolshevik tactics.
At the beginning of 1906 the conditions in the Party organization were complicated. The split in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, which took definite shape at the Third Bolshevik Congress in May 1905 and the Conference of the Mensheviks, that was held concurrentiy with the latter, did not hinder but helped the formation of a united proletarian front during the heroic last months of 1905. To co-ordinate activities, the Mensheviks were forced to join the Federative Committees.
What was happening in the districts was beginning to take place in the centre. Preparations for a Unity Congress of the Party were being made, but these preparations coincided with the defeat of the uprising and with the weariness of the proletariat who had been pressing for a united front before the uprising. Thus, a twofold process could be observed at the beginning of 1906--preparations for a Unity Congress were continued by inertia, while at the same time new disagreements with the Mensheviks on the cardinal questions of party tactics were constantly cropping up and becoming more sharply defined (estimation of the uprising, attitude towards the State Duma, etc).
In March we Muscovites were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Lenin who was to acquaint us with the resolutions he had drafted for the forthcoming Unity Congress of the Party, which was to be held in April.
Besides the natural interest in Lenin's report, the prospect of meeting Lenin in Moscow, on Russian soil, was particularly alluring. Imagine my distress when, a few days before his arrival, while walking about in the sleet and mud, I caught a severe cold, and was not in a condition to go to the meeting of the Moscow active workers at which Lenin was to speak. I was lying in bed grieving over my disappointment when a comrade burst into the room and told me for reasons of secrecy the meeting had to be transferred to other premises and that Lenin had expressed a desire to see me during the enforced intermission.
My joy knew no bounds when in half an hour Ilyich himself appeared, filling the room with his jests and laughter and with that comradely simplicity so characteristic of him when talking with the most insignificant Party workers if he felt that the latter were connected with the actual life of the Party.
The joy I felt that Lenin was sitting in my room prevented me from studying his mood, the more so that as I was ill he spoke to me only about pleasant trifles. But I clearly recall that he was very cheerful "as if nothing had happened," although what had happened was nothing more nor less than the defeat of the 1905 uprising!