Cecilia Bobrovskaya
Twenty Years in Underground Russia: Memoirs of a Rank-and-File Bolshevik

XI. My Brief Secretaryship

FROM Kostroma I went to Moscow where our regional Party centre-the Regional Bureau-was located. At that time--the end of 1906 and the beginning of 1907--the Bureau consisted of three members who had so far escaped arrest. They were Boris Posern, known as Stepan Zlobin, Olympus Kvitkin, called Afanassy, who had left the Kostroma organization in the summer for regional work, and Sergey Modestov--Danilo.

When I went to Afanassy's apartment on Bozhedonka, I learned that his room served as a place of contact for the Regional Bureau--which was a violation of the elementary principles of secrecy. In the course of the conversation I further learned that the Regional Bureau suffered from lack of workers, premises, funds and printing facilities and that it had fallen to my lot to take over the secretaryship of this Regional Bureau.

Despite my constant desire to be in Moscow, the prospect of settling down in the Regional Bureau was not at all a happy one. I begged to be sent to work in the district or, if that was not possible, to be given local work in Moscow, or to be sent to the provinces. But my request was absolutely refused and I had to remain with the Regional Committee.

I remember remarkably little about this period of my work. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that instead of doing revolutionary work I was constantly going after sympathizers, begging them to lend us their rooms, to give us money, which they did so reluctantly--going after sympathizers who had partly ceased to sympathize.

I recollect that for a month at a time we could not get premises or funds for a regional conference. Our attempts to set up a printshop also proved futile. Our principle work was to agitate for the convening of a special Party Congress, the necessity for which was already felt in our local work. This was due to the fact that the tactics of the Central Committee that was elected at the so-called "Unity" Congress at which Mensheviks were in the majority, were naturally half-hearted and could not possibly satisfy the more revolutionary section of the Party--the Bolsheviks.

The preparations for the Congress that were made in the Moscow industrial centres were very successful. In all the fourteen provinces that made up this region the Bolsheviks predominated.

Nevertheless, it was very difficult to carry on the work. The Regional Bureau did not have enough comrades at its disposal to send to the various districts. I remember only two comrades whom we sent to the districts--Ivan Stavsky and Nikolai Rastopchin. Instead of people we had to send papers--letters in code. We had to content ourselves with bureaucratic methods of work instead of lively connections with the various localities.

We worked bureaucratically because we were unable at that time to build up a proper apparatus. It was even difficult for me to get a room to live in and in my despair I decided to advertise for one and take the risk of registering on my very doubtful passport. But just at this time a Kostroma acquaintance, Marussya Simonovskaya, who had also recently arrived in Moscow, came to my rescue. We rented a room in Obukhovsky Street, and she sent both her real passport and my borrowed one to be registered. Marussya lived in our room awaiting the return of the passports from the police office. I stayed there only during the day spending the night wherever I could.

Getting some sleep was also a problem. Naturally I had to stay overnight at the homes of sympathetic intellectuals, who lived in comfortably furnished apartments, and to all outward appearances were quite cultured people. But it was not often that these outwardly cultured people seemed to realize that the illegal Party worker who was seeking their hospitality was tired, and that what he needed more than anything else was rest. In most cases the hosts would weary one to death with tedious questions and arguments about "principles" which are characteristic of the intelligentsia--and these arguments would drag on until two or three o'clock in the morning.

This lack of consideration on the part of my intellectual friends irritated me beyond endurance. But soon our passports returned safely from the police office and I began to sleep at home.

I used to spend the whole day running about Moscow, and when I did have a free evening to do some work in the district or in the factory, I could not do it because of my position--the possibility of my continuing my work as secretary for any length of time in safety depended upon my keeping away from direct work among the workers.

In general I look back upon my temporary secretaryship of the Moscow Regional Bureau with sadness. I fulfilled this function merely from a sense of duty to the Party, but my heart was not in the work. I yearned to be among the masses. And so, at the very first opportunity that offered I left for the provinces.