A man was to meet Vladimir Ilyich in Stockholm and provide him with documents under another name so that he could enter the country and take up residence in St. Petersburg. Days passed and the man did not turn up. Vladimir Ilyich had to sit doing nothing while revolutionary events in Russia were assuming a more and more sweeping character. After a fortnight's wait in Stockholm, he arrived in Russia at the beginning of November. Ten days later I followed him out, after having settled all affairs in Geneva. A detective got on the boat with me at Stockholm and never let me out of his sight in the train all the way from Hango to Helsingfors. In Finland the revolution was already in full swing. I wanted to send a wire to St. Petersburg, but the smiling cheerful Finnish girl told me she could not accept any telegrams because there was a strike of the post and telegraph workers. Conversation in the railway coaches was loud and excited. I got into conversation with a Finnish Activist, who, for some reason, was speaking in German. He was describing the successes of the revolution. "We have arrested all the sleuths and put them in prison," he said. My glance fell on the one who was travelling with me. "Yes, but others may come in their place," I said with a laugh, looking meaningly at my detective. The Finn grasped the situation. "Oh, you just say the word if you notice anybody," he cried. "We'll have him arrested at once." At the next wayside station my spy got up and went out, although the train only stopped there for a minute. And that was the last I saw of him.
I had been living abroad for close on four years and was just dying to be back in St. Petersburg. The city was seething, I knew, but the quietness of the Finland Station, where I got off the train, was so completely at variance with what I had imagined St. Petersburg and the revolution to be like, that I suddenly thought I had made a mistake and got off at Pargolovo instead of St. Petersburg. Puzzled, I asked a cabby standing there, "What stop is this?" The man was so surprised that he actually stepped back. Then, with arms akimbo he looked me over ironically, and said: "This isn't a stop, it's the city of Saint Petersburg."
Outside the station I was met by Pyotr Rumyantsev. He told me that Vladimir Ilyich was staying with them in the neighbourhood of Peski, and we drove down there together. I had first met Rumyantsev at Shelgunov's funeral. He had then been a youngster with a curly mop, and had walked in front of the demonstration, singing. I met him again in Poltava in 1896 where he was at the centre of the Social-Democrats. He had just come out of prison, and was pale and nervous. An intelligent man, he had enjoyed great influence and seemed a good comrade.
In 1900 I saw him in Ufa, where he had arrived from Samara, and he had had a sort of disillusioned languid look about him.
He appeared on the scene again in 1905, this time as a literary man with a social position and a paunch, something of the bon vivant, but a clever and effective speaker.He had conducted the campaign for boycotting the Shidlovsky Commission splendidly, and had acquitted himself like a staunch Bolshevik. Shortly after the Third Congress he was co-opted to the Central Committee.
He had a pleasant well-furnished flat, and Vladimir Ilyich stayed there for the time being without registering.
Vladimir Ilyich always felt very uncomfortable living in strange homes. He could not work so well either. When I arrived he became urgent about taking lodgings together, and we moved into furnished apartments in Nevsky Prospekt without registering. I remember getting into conversation there with the servant girls, who told me lots of things about what was happening in St. Petersburg with a mass of intimate and revealing details. Of course, I retold it all to Vladimir Ilyich at once. He complimented me on my ability to find things out, and from then on I became his sedulous reporter. Usually, when we lived in Russia, I could move about much more freely than he could, and speak with a much larger number of people. Two or three questions by Ilyich were enough to tell me exactly what he wanted to know, and I would keep my eyes open. I have still retained that habit of mentally formulating my every impression for Ilyich.
The very next day I managed to make a fairly rich haul in this respect. I went room hunting, and while looking over an empty flat in Troitskaya Street, I fell into conversation with the janitor. He told me quite a lot about the countryside and the landowner, and about how the land had to be taken away from the gentry and given to the peasants.
Meanwhile we had decided to take up legal residence. Maria Ilyinichna fixed us up with some friends in Grechesky Prospekt. The moment we registered our house was surrounded by a swarm of police spies. Our host was so scared that he did not sleep all night and walked about with a revolver in his pocket, determined to meet the police arms in hand. "Drat the man, he'll only get us into trouble," said Ilyich. We took separate rooms and lived illegally. I was given a passport in the name of Praskovia Onegina and lived with that document all the time. Vladimir Ilyich changed his passport several times.
When Vladimir Ilyich arrived in Russia the legal daily newspaper Novaya Zhizn (New Life) was already appearing. Its publisher was Maria Andreyevz (Corky's wife), the editor was the poet Minsky, and contributors were Corky, Leonid Andreyev, Chirikov, Balmont, Teffi and others. The Bolshevik collaborators on the paper were Bogdanov, Rumyantsev, Rozhkov, Goldenberg, Orlovsky, Lunacharsky, Bazarov, Kamenev and others. The secretary of Novaya Zhizn and of all subsequent Bolshevik newspapers at that period was Dmitry Leshchenko, who also acted as news editor, Duma reporter, copyman, etc.
Vladimir Ilyich's first article appeared on November 10. It began with the words: "The conditions of activity of our Party are undergoing a radical change. Freedom of assembly, of association and of the press has been seized." And Ilyich hastened to make the most of these changed conditions by promptly dashing off with a bold stroke the main outlines of the "new course." The secret machinery of the Party was to be preserved. At the same time it was absolutely essential to set up more and more legal and semi-legal Party and affiliated organizations. More and more cadres of workers had to be enlisted in the Party. The working class was spontaneously and instinctively Social-Democratic, but ten odd years of Social-Democratic work had done quite a lot to turn this spontaneity into consciousness. "At the Third Congress of the Party," Vladimir Ilyich wrote in a footnote to this article, "I expressed the wish that the Party committees be formed in the proportion of about eight workers to two intellectuals. How obsolete this wish appears at the present time!
"Now we must wish for the new Party organizations to have one Social-Democratic intellectual to several hundred Social-Democratic workers."
Addressing himself to the "committeemen" who feared that the Party would be swamped by the mass, Vladimir Ilyich wrote: "Do not invent bogies, comrades!" The Social-Democratic intellectuals now had to "go to the people." "The initiative of the workers themselves will now display itself on a scale that we, the under. grounders and circle-ists of yesterday, did not even dare dream of."
"Our task now is not so much to invent norms for the organizations on a new basis as to develop the most farreaching and boldest work."
"In order to put the organization on a new basis, another Party congress must be called."
Such was the gist of Ilyich's first "legal" article. The methods of the study-circle stage, which were still in evidence everywhere, had to be combatted.
Naturally, one of the first things I did on my arrival was to go to the Nevskaya Zastava to visit the old Smolenskaya Sunday Evening School. No "geography" and natural history were being taught there now. Propagandist work was being conducted in the classrooms, which were packed with working men and women. The Party propagandists were reading lectures. I remember one of them, a young propagandist, who was dealing with a theme of Engels' Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. The workers sat without stirring, trying their hardest to grasp what the lecturer was telling them. No one asked any questions. Downstairs, our Party girls were arranging a club for the workers, setting out glasses which they had brought from town.
When I told Ilyich my impressions of what I had seen he became thoughtfully silent. It was not this he wanted to see, but the activity of the workers themselves. Not that such activity did not exist. It did, but it was not in evidence at Party meetings. The channels through which Party work and the workers' activity flowed somehow did not seem to meet. The workers had grown tremendously in stature during those years. I felt it more than ever when I met my former Sunday School "pupils." Once I was hailed in the street by a baker. He turned out to be a former pupil of mine – "Socialist Bakin," who had been deported to his home village ten years before as a result of a naive argument with the manager of the Maxwell Mills, to whom he had tried to prove that in changing over from two mule-jennies to three he would be increasing the "intensity of labour." He was now a fully conscious Social-Democrat, and we had a long talk about the growing revolution and the organization of the working-class masses. He told me all about the bakers strike.
That first article of Ilyich's, in which he wrote openly about the Party congress and the Party's secret organization, turned Novaya Zhizn into a legal Party organ. It goes without saying that the presence on the paper of such men as Minsky, Balmont and their like was no longer conceivable. A dissociation took place and the newspaper passed completely into the hands of the Bolsheviks. It became a Party paper organizationally, too, and began to work under the control and guidance of the Party.
Ilyich's next article in Novaya Zhizn dealt with a fundamental issue of the Russian revolution – the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry. The Mensheviks were not the only ones to misinterpret these relations; even among the Bolsheviks certain comrades still had an "otrezki deviation." Instead of being a starting-point for agitation, this question of otrezki became for them an end in itself. They continued to uphold it even when the facts of reality had made it possible and necessary to conduct agitation and struggle on quite a different basis.
Ilyich's article "The Proletariat and the Peasantry" was a guiding article which supplied a clear Party slogan: The proletariat of Russia together with the peasantry is fighting for the land and freedom, together with the international proletariat and the agricultural workers it is fighting for socialism.
The Bolshevik representatives also began to defend this standpoint in the Soviet of Workers' Deputies. This Soviet came into being as a militant organ of the fighting proletariat on October 13, when Vladimir Ilyich was still abroad. I do not remember Ilyich's speech at the Soviet of Workers' Deputies. I remember a meeting at the Free Economic Society, where a large number of Party people had gathered to hear Vladimir Ilyich speak. Ilyich read a lecture on the agrarian question. It was there that he first met Alexinsky. Almost everything connected with that meeting has faded from my memory. I have a dim recollection of a grey door and Vladimir Ilyich making for the exit through the crowd. Other comrades will probably recollect it more clearly. All I remember is that the meeting was held in November and that Vladimir Nevsky was there.
Vladimir Ilyich was quick to note the fact in his November articles that the Soviets of Workers' Deputies were militant organizations of the people in revolt. He expounded the idea that a provisional revolutionary government could only be forged in the crucible of revolutionary struggle on the one hand, and that the Social-Democratic Party, on the other, should strive its hardest to win influence in the Soviets of Workers' Deputies.
For reasons of secrecy Vladimir Ilyich and I lived apart. All day long he worked on the editorial board, which met not only at the Novaya Zhizn offices, but in a secret apartment or at the flat of Dmitry Leshchenko in Glazovskaya Street. It was not very convenient for me to go there for reasons of secrecy. More often than not we met at the Novaya Zhizn offices. Vladimir Ilyich was always busy there, however. It was not until he received a very good passport and moved to a place on the corner of Basseinaya and Nadezhdinskaya that I was able to visit him at home. I had to go in through the back entrance and speak in an undertone, but nevertheless we could have a good long talk about everything.
Vladimir Ilyich took a trip to Moscow from this flat. I went to see him as soon as he returned. I was struck by the number of spies lurking round every corner. "Why have they started shadowing you like this?" I asked Vladimir Ilyich. He had not been out of the house since his arrival and was unaware of it. I began to unpack his suitcase and suddenly came upon a pair of large blue spectecles. "What's this?" I asked. It appeared that the comrades in Moscow had rigged him out in those spectacles as a disguise, supplied him with a yellow Finnish box and put him on a non-stop train at the last minute. The sleuths were after him at once, evidently taking him for an expropriator. We had to get out as quickly as possible. We left the house arm-in-arm as if nothing had happened and walked in the opposite direction to the one we needed. We changed cabs three times, slipped through courtyards that had double entrances and arrived at Rumyantsev's after having shaken off our shadowers. We spent the night, I believe, with the Witmers, old friends of mine. We went there in a cab and drove past the house where Vladimir Ilyich had been living. The sleuths were still hanging about. Vladimir Ilyich did not return to those rooms. A fortnight or so later we sent a girl to fetch his things away and settle up with the landlady.
At that time I was a secretary of the Central Committee, and I got into full harness straightaway. The other secretary was Mikhail Sergeyevich (M. Y. Weinstein). My assistant was Vera Menzhinskaya. This constituted our secretariat. Mikhail Sergeyevich was engaged most of the time on the fighting organization, and was always busy carrying out the instructions of Nikitich (L. B. Krasin). I was in charge of the secret meeting places, contact with the local committees and individuals. It is difficult today to imagine what makeshift methods of work the secretariat of the C.C. employed in those days. We never attended the meetings of the C.C., no one was "in charge" of us, no minutes were taken, and ciphered addresses were kept in matchboxes, book covers and similar places. We had to rely on our memories. Crowds of people besieged us, and we gave them every possible attention, supplied them with whatever they needed – literature, passports, instructions and advice. It is inconceivable now how we ever managed to cope with such a rush of work, and how we had the complete and uncontrolled run of the whole business. Usually, on meeting Ilyich, I gave him a lull account of everything. The most interesting comrades on the most interesting business we referred direct to the C.C. members.
The pitched battle with the government was drawing near. Ilyich wrote openly in Novaya Zhizn that the army could not and should not be neutral; he wrote about the nation-wide arming of the people. On November 26 Khrustalev-Nosar was arrested. His place was taken by Trotsky. On December 2 the Soviet of Workers Deputies issued a manifesto urging nonpayment of government dues On December 3 eight newspapers including Novaya Zhizn for having printed this manifesto. When I went to the editorial office that day to keep a "secret appointment," loaded up with all kinds of illegal literature, I was intercepted outside by a newsman. "Novoye Vremya!" he shouted, muttering to me in an "aside" to be careful – "the police are on the premises." Vladimir Ilyich remarked in this connection, "The people are with us.
The Tammerfors Conference was held in the middle of December. What a pity the minutes of this conference have been lost! The enthusiasm that reigned there! The revolution was in full swing, and the enthusiasm was tremendous. Every comrade was ready for the fight. In the intervals we learned to shoot. One evening we attended a Finnish mass torchlight meeting, and the solemnity of it fully harmonized with the temper of the delegates. I doubt whether anyone who was at that conference could ever forget it. Lozovsky, Baransky, Yaroslavsky and many others were there. I remember these comrades because of the keen interest which their "local reports" aroused.
The Tammerfors Conference, which was attended only by Bolsheviks, passed a resolution calling for the immediate preparation and organization of an armed uprising.
The uprising in Moscow was developing apace, and so the conference had to be cut short. If I am not mistaken, we returned on the very eve the Semyonovsky Regiment was despatched to Moscow. One incident, at any rate, is fresh in my memory. Not far from the Trinity Church a soldier of the Semyonovsky Regiment was walking along with a sullen look. By his side walked a young worker, who, with his cap in his hand, was arguing warmly with the soldier and pleading with him. Their faces were so expressive that one could guess unerringly what the worker was pleading about – that the soldiers should not come out against the workers. It was equally clear that the Semyonovsky soldier did not agree.
The Central Committee called upon the proletariat of St. Petersburg to support the uprising of the Moscow workers, but no concerted action was achieved. A comparatively raw district like the Moskovsky responded to the appeal, but an advanced district like the Nevsky did not. I remember how furious Stanislaw Wolski was – he had been agitating in that very district. He lost heart at once, and all but doubted whether the proletariat was as revolutionary as he had thought it to be. He failed to take into account that the St. Petersburg workers were worn out by previous strikes, and most important of all, they realized how badly organized and poorly armed they were for a decisive struggle with tsarism. And that it would be a struggle to the death, they had the example of Moscow to tell them.