Krupskaya's “Reminiscences of Lenin”

The Years of New Revolutionary Upsurge 1911-1914



The end of 1910 was marked by a revolutionary upsurge. Between 1911 and 1914 every month, right up to the outbreak of the war in August 1914, saw symptoms of the rising working-class movement. This movement, however, was now developing under conditions different from those that prevailed before 1905. It now had the experience of the 1905 Revolution to go by. The proletariat was not what it had been. It had behind it an experience of strikes, of a number of armed uprisings, of a sweeping mass movement, and years of defeat. That was the crux of the matter. This made itself evident in all ways, and Ilyich, who threw himself into the living vortex with all his ardour, who was always able to decipher the meaning and significance of every phrase uttered by the worker, felt this growth of the proletariat in every fibre of his being. On the other hand, he knew that not only the proletariat but the whole situation was not what it had been. The intelligentsia had changed too. In 1905 the broad sections of the intelligentsia had supported the workers. Not so now. The nature of the struggle which the proletariat was going to wage was now clear. It was going to be a fierce grim struggle, in which the proletariat would overthrow everything that stood in its way. There was to be no more using the proletariat to fight for a meagre constitution, the way the liberal bourgeoisie wanted. The working class would not have it. It would lead now, and not be led. The conditions of the struggle were different too. The tsarist government had the experience of the 1905 Revolution behind it too. It now had the whole workers organization enmeshed in its network of spies and agent provocateurs. They were not the old type of spies who used to hang around the street corners and whom it was possible to evade. There were now the Malinovskys, the Romanovs, the Brendinskys and the Chernomazovs, who held high Party posts. The business of spying and making arrests was no longer done haphazardly. It was carefully planned.

These conditions served as a regular breeding-ground for opportunists of the worst kind. The striving of the Liquidators to dissolve the Party – the vanguard of the working class – was supported by the wide sections of the intelligentsia. The Liquidators sprang up right and left like mushrooms. Every other Cadet tried to take a smack at the illegal Party. It was impossible not to fight them tooth and nail. The struggle was unequal though.The Liquidators had a strong legal centre in Russia and facilities for carrying on broad activities among the masses, whereas the Bolsheviks had to fight for every inch of ground under the most difficult conditions of illegal work which then prevailed.

The year 1911 started with a break-through of the censorship barriers on the one hand, and a vigorous struggle for strengthening the illegal Party organization on the other. The struggle started inside the united organization abroad, set up at the January Plenary Meeting in 1910, but soon broke banks and got out of control.

The publication of Zvezda in St. Petersburg and Mysl in Moscow delighted Ilyich. The smuggling into Russia of illegal newspapers published abroad was very badly organized, worse than in 1905. The police had agent provocateurs everywhere, both in Russia and abroad, and things were always going wrong because of them. That is why Ilyich was so pleased at the publication of legal newspapers and magazines in Russia to which the Bolsheviks could contribute.

The editorial board of Zvezda consisted of V. Bonch-Bruyevich (Bolshevik), N. Iordansky (a Plekhanovite at the time), and I. Pokrovsky (a deputy of the Duma who sympathized with the Bolsheviks). The newspaper was considered the mouthpiece of the Duma group. The first issue contained an article by Plekhanov. Vladimir Ilyich was not very pleased with the first issue – he thought it rather dull. But then he was delighted with the first issue of the Moscow Mysl.

"All ours, and it pleases me immensely," Ilyich wrote to Maxim Corky about it. He started writing a lot for Zvezda and Mysl. Publishing legal newspapers at that time was no easy matter. In February Skvortsov-Stepanov was arrested in Moscow, and Bonch-Bruyevich and Lydia Knipovich in St. Petersburg. The latter worked together with Poletayev and others. In April Mysl was closed down, and in June Zvesda ceased publication as the organ of the Duma group after putting out twenty-five issues. Zvezda did not resume Publication until November (No. 26 came out on November 5). By that time it had become definitely Bolshevik. Another Bolshevik paper Sovremennaya Zhizn (Contemporary Life) began to appear in Baku.

In July talks were held with Savelyev about the publication of a legal journal called Provoeshchenie (Enlightenment) in St. Petersburg. Publication of this magazine was not started until the end of 1911.

Ilyich closely followed these publications and wrote for them.

As regards contact with the workers, an attempt was first made to repeat the Capri experiment with the students of the Bologna school, but nothing came of it.

The Otzovists had organized a school in Bologna, Italy, in November 1910, and the students had invited down various lecturers including Dan, Plekhanov and Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich refused the invitation and asked the pupils to come to Paris. Grown wise with the experience of the Capri school, however, the Vperyod-ists began to fence and demanded an official invitation from the Bureau of the Central Committee Abroad, in which the Mensheviks predominated at the time. And when they arrived in Paris together with the students, who were to counteract Lenin's influence, they demanded autonomy. In the long run, no studies were held, and the B.C.C.A. sent the students back to Russia.

In the spring of 1911 we succeeded at last in setting up a Party school of our own near Paris. It was open to workers and pro-Party-Mensheviks and Vperyod-ist workers (Otzovists), but the two latter elements were a small minority. The first to arrive at the school were St. Petersburg comrades – two metal-workers Belostotsky (Vladimir) and Georgi (I do not remember his surname), a Vperyod-ist and Vera Vasilyeva, a woman worker. They were an advanced intelligent group of people. The first evening they arrived Ilyich invited them to supper in a cafe, and I remember how earnestly he talked to them all the evening, asking them about St. Petersburg and their work, fishing eagerly for details and symptoms of the upswing of the workers' movement in Russia. Nikolai Semashko fixed them up for the time being in Fontenay-aux-Roses, a suburb of Paris not far from where he lived, and they spent their time reading up while waiting for the others to arrive. Then came two Muscovites, one a tanner named Prisyagin, the other a mill worker whose name I forget. The St. Petersburg comrades soon made friends with Prisyagin. He was no ordinary worker, and had edited the illegal paper of the leather workers Posadchik. He wrote well, but was terribly shy. He got so nervous when he spoke that his hands would tremble. Belostotsky chaffed him.

During the Civil War in Russia, Prisyagin was shot by Kolchak. He was then chairman of the Gubernia Trade-Union Council in Barnaul.

Belostotsky poked fun at the Moscow mill worker, too, but in anything but a kindly way. The man was intellectually undeveloped and self-opinionated. He wrote poetry and expressed himself in a high-flown style. I remember once visiting the students in their rooms, and this Muscovite met me, and called the students together, saying: "Mister Krupskaya has come." This "Mister Krupskaya" made him the butt of Belostotsky's merciless jests. They were constantly at loggerheads. The end of it was that the St. Petersburgers insisted on his removal from the school. "The fellow does not know a thing, and the nonsense he talks about prostitution!" they said. We tried to argue that the lad would learn better in time, but the St. Petersburgers insisted on his being sent back to Russia. We fixed him up temporarily with a job in Germany.

It was decided to organize the school in the village of Longjumeau, fifteen kilometres from Paris, a locality in which there were no Russians or summer residents. Longjumeau was a straggling French village stretching along the highroad along which carts with farmers' produce for le ventre de Paris rolled endlessly all through the night. There was a small tannery there, and all around lay fields and orchards. The arrangements were these: the students rented rooms in the village, while Inessa Armand rented a house, in which a canteen for the students was organized. We and the Zinovievs moved to Longjumeau too. All the housekeeping was done by Katya Mazanova, the wife of a worker who had been in Siberian exile together with Martov (in Turukhansk) and later had worked illegally in the Urals. Katya was a good housekeeper and a good comrade. Things went swimmingly. Some of the students lodged in Inessa's house. These were Serge (Orjonikidze), Semyon (Schwartz) and Zakhar (Breslav). Serge had only recently arrived in Paris. Until then he had lived for a time in Persia, and I remember the long correspondence we had had with him in clarifying the line which Ilyich had taken in regard to the Plekhanovites, the Liquidators and the Vperyod-ists. We had always conducted a lively correspondence with the group of Caucasian Bolsheviks. For a long time we had received no reply to our letter concerning the struggle that was going on abroad, and one day the concierge came in and said: "There's a man downstairs who doesn't speak a word of French. I suppose he's come to see you." I went down and saw a Caucasian-looking man standing there and smiling. He was Sergo. From that time on he became one of our most intimate comrades. Semyon Schwartz we had known for a long time. He was a particular favourite of my mother's, in whose presence he had once related how, at the age of nineteen, he had first distributed leaflets in a factory by pretending to be drunk. He was a worker from Nikolayev. We had known Breslav too since 1905 in St. Petersburg, where he had worked in the Moskovsky District.

Inessa's house was thus occupied entirely by our own crowd. We lived at the other end of the village and took our meals in the common dining room, where it was pleasant to chat with the students, ask them about all kinds of things, and discuss current topics with them.

We took two rooms in a small two-storey brick house (all the houses in Longjumeau were brick-built) tenanted by a tannery worker, and were able to observe at firsthand the life of a small-factory employee. We went to work early in the morning and came home in the evening dog tired. The house did not have a bit of garden round it. Sometimes a table and chair would be carried outside, and he would sit there for hours, resting his tired head on his toil-worn arms. None of his work-mates ever dropped in. On Sundays he went to the church, which towered across the road. Music had him spellbound. Nuns with lovely operatic voices came to the church to sing. They sang Beethoven, etc., and it was no wonder that it captivated this tanner, whose life was so drab and hard. One could not help comparing him with Prisyagin, who was also a tanner by trade. Prisyagin's life was no easier, but he was an intelligent fighter for the cause, a general favourite among his comrades. The French tanner's wife put on her clogs every morning, took a broom, and went to work in the neighbouring chateau where she was employed as a charwoman. The house was left on the hands of her daughter, no more than a child, who was busy all day in the damp gloomy kitchen and looked after her younger brothers and sisters. No play-mates came to see her either, and her life, too, was just a round of drudgery on weekdays and visits to the church on Sundays. It never entered anyone's mind in the home of the tanner that it would be a good thing to change the existing social system. "Was it not God who created the rich and the poor – and everything was as it should be," the tanner argued.

The French nurse whom the Zinovievs employed for their three-year-old son held similar views, and when her charge tried to get into the chateau park adjoining the village, she told him: "This is not for us, it is for the masters." We were highly amused when the child repeated his nurse's phrase to us with an air of wisdom.

At last all the students were assembled: Andreyev, a Nikolayev worker, who while in exile (in Vologda, I believe) had taken a peculiar course of training (Ilyich jestingly called him the best pupil), Dogadov from Baku (Pavel) and Sema (Semkov); two came from Kiev-Andrei Malinovsky and Chugurin, the latter a Plekhanovite. Andrei Malinovsky afterwards turned out to be an agent provocateur. He was not distinguished in any way except that he had a fine voice. He was quite a young man and not very observant. He told me how he had eluded the police spies on his way to Paris, and although his story did not sound very plausible to me at the time, it did not arouse any suspicions in my mind. The other man, Chugurin, considered himself a Plekhanovite. He was a Sormovo worker, who had spent a long time in prison. He was very intelligent, but highly strung. Before long he became a Bolshevik. Another Plekhanovite was Savva (Zevin) who came from Ekaterinoslav. When renting rooms for the students we said that they were Russian country teachers. Savva contracted typhus during his stay in Longjumeau, and the French doctor who attended him afterwards remarked with a smile: "What odd teachers you have." What surprised the French most of all was the fact that our "teachers" went about barefooted (the heat that summer was terrific).

Six months later Zevin took part in the Prague Party Conference and fought for a long time in the ranks of the Bolsheviks until he was killed by the White Guards. He was one of the twenty-six Baku commissars.

Vasily (S. Iskryanistov) arrived from Ivanovo-Voznesensk. He studied well, but behaved rather strangely. He shunned everybody and locked himself up in his room. When he went back to Russia he flatly refused to deliver any messages. He was an able Party worker, and for some years occupied executive posts. He was refused employment at the factories because he was considered "unreliable," and he could not find a job anywhere. He, his wife, and their two children lived for a long time on the meagre earnings of his wife, who was a mill hand. As we learned afterwards, Iskryanistov was unable to keep it up and became an agent provocateur. He began to drink heavily. In Longjumeau he did not drink, but when he returned to Russia he committed suicide. He drove his wife and children out of the house one evening, heated up the stove, and shut the flue. In the morning he was found dead. He received a miserable pay for his "job" – about ten rubles. He was a provocateur for less than a year.

The Poles were represented by Oleg (Próchniak). Half way through the term Mantsev arrived.

The lessons were held with strict regularity. Vladimir Ilyich read lectures on political economy (thirty lectures), on the agrarian question (ten lectures) and on the theory and practice of socialism (five lectures). The seminars on political economy were conducted by Inessa. Zinoviev and Kamenev lectured on the history of the Party, and Semashko delivered a couple of lectures too. Other lecturers were Ryazanov, who lectured on the history of the West-European labour movement, Charles Rappoport, who lectured on the French movement, Steklov and Finn-Yenotayevsky, who lectured on public law and finance, Lunacharsky – on literature, and Stanislaw Wolski on newspaper printing.

The students studied hard and diligently. In the evenings they sometimes went out into the fields, where they would sing a lot of songs, or lie about under the haystacks, talking about this and that. Ilyich sometimes joined them.

Kamenev did not live in Longjumeau, and he only came there to deliver his lectures. He was writing his book Two Parties at the time. He discussed it with Ilyich. I remember them lying in the grass in a ravine outside the village, while Ilyich expounded his view to Kamenev. He wrote a preface to the book.

I often went to Paris, where I saw our comrades or, business. This was necessary in order to keep them from coming to Longjumeau. All the students intended going back to Russia to work as soon as the course was over, and their stay in Paris had to be kept as secret as possible. Ilyich was very pleased with the work of the school. In our spare time we went out cycling together as usual, going up the hill and riding out fifteen kilometres to a place where there was an aerodrome. Being further inland, this was much less frequented than the aerodrome at Juvisy. We were often the only spectators, and Ilyich was able to watch the evolutions of the aeroplanes to his heart's content.

In the middle of August we moved back to Paris.

The unity of all the groups, achieved with such difficulty in January 1910, swiftly began to break up. As the practical problems of the work in Russia began to crop up it became ever more clear that cooperation was impossible. The exigencies of practical work tore away the mask of Party principle that some of the Mensheviks wore. The meaning of Trotsky's "loyalty" – under the mask of loyalty he had been trying to unite the Liquidators and Vperyod-ists – stood forth in its true colours. As soon as the necessity of better organization for work in Russia made itself felt the artificiality of this unity became at once apparent. Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, already at the end of December 1910, had submitted a proposal to the B.C.C.A. urging that a plenary meeting of the Central Committee should be convened abroad. The reply to this proposal did not come until a month later. The Menshevik B.C.C.A. rejected it. Negotiations on the subject dragged on until the end of May 1911. It was clear that all talk with the B.C.C.A. was a waste of time. The Bolshevik representative on the Bureau, Semashko, resigned, and the Bolsheviks began to convene a conference of members of the Central Committee who were abroad at the time. There were nine such members in June 1911. The Bundist Ionov being ill, the others assembled on June 10, but the Menshevik Gorev and the Bundist Liber walked out. The rest discussed the most pressing problems, debated the question of convening a Party conference, and decided to set up in Russia an Organizing Committee for convening the Party conference. In August several comrades left for Russia – Breslav (Zakhar) went to St. Petersburg and Moscow, Semyon Schwartz to the Urals and Ekaterinoslav, and Serge Orjonikidze to the south. Rykov went to Russia too, but was arrested in the street as soon as he arrived. The newspapers reported that many addresses had been found on him. That was not true. A number of Bolsheviks had been arrested at the same time as Rykov, but afterwards we learned that in Leipzig, where Pyatnitsky was then working on the shipping of literature to Russia and where Rykov had called on his way to Russia, there lived a man named Brendinsky, our shipping agent, who turned out to be an agent provocateur. He coded the addresses for Rykov. Therefore, although the police found nothing on Rykov when they arrested him, all the addresses became unusable.

A conference was called in Baku. Its members escaped arrest by a mere accident, as one of its most prominent members – Stepan Shaumyan, and a number of other Baku Party workers had been arrested. The conference was transferred to Tiflis and held there. Representatives of five organizations were present. Schwartz, Sergo and others were there. Bolsheviks and Plekhanovites were represented. Chernomazov was there too – he proved later to be an agent provocateur. The Russian Organizing Committee, however, had done its work – a Party conference was convened in January 1912.

The Bolshevik group in Paris in 1911 was a fairly strong organization. Among its members were Semashko, Vladimirsky, Antonov (Britman), Kuznetsov (Sapozhkov), the Belenkys (Abram, and later his brother Grisha), Inessa Armand, Stael, Natasha Gopner, Kotlyarenko, Chernov (whose real name I do not remember), Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Lilina, Taratuta, Mark (Lyubimov) and Lyova (Vladimirov). There were over forty people all told. On the whole this group had fairly large contacts with Russia and considerable revolutionary experience. The struggle with the Liquidators, Trotskyites and others had steeled it. The group had done a great deal towards helping the work in Russia and carried on a certain amount of work among the French workers and the Russian emigrant public at large. This public in Paris was fairly numerous. At one time Staël and I had tried to do some work among the mass of emigrant women, such as milliners, dressmakers, etc. We organized a number of meetings, but underestimation of this work was a hindrance. At every meeting someone was bound to kick up a row, and raise the question: "What's the idea of a women's meeting, anyway?" And so the thing petered out, although it might have done some good. Ilyich thought it a useful job.

At the end of September Vladimir Ilyich went to Zurich to attend a meeting of the International Socialist Bureau. Molkenburg's letter to the Central Committee of the German Social-Democratic Party was discussed. The letter urged that criticism of the colonial policy in connection with the Morocco incidents should not be stressed too hard owing to the forthcoming elections. Rosa Luxemburg had published that letter. Bebel resented it. Vladimir Ilyich defended Rosa. The opportunist policy of the German Social-Democrats was strikingly revealed already at this meeting.

On this trip Ilyich read a number of papers in Switzerland.

In October the Lafargues committed suicide. Their death was a great shock to Ilyich. We recalled our visit to them. Ilyich said: "If you can't do any more work for the Party you must be able to face the truth and die like the Lafargues." And he wanted to say over their graves that their work had not been in vain, that the cause which they had launched, the cause of Marx, with whom both Paul and Laura Lafargue had been so closely associated, was growing and spreading to distant Asia. At that time the tide of the mass revolutionary movement was rising in China. Vladimir Ilyich wrote the speech and Inessa translated it. I remember with what deep emotion he delivered it at the funeral on behalf of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

On the eve of the New Year the Bolsheviks called a conference of the Bolshevik groups abroad. The temper of the conference was a cheerful one, although life in foreign exile had frayed people's nerves pretty badly.