First Published: International Publishers, 1970
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan
The masses of Petrograd – workers, soldiers and sailors – came to welcome their leader. Many of our close comrades were there, too, among them Chugurin, a student of the Longjumeau school, with a broad crimson sash across his shoulder and his face wet with tears. We were in the midst of a surging sea of people.
No one who has not lived through the revolution can have any idea of its solemn grandeur. Red banners, a guard of honour of Kronstadt sailors, searchlights from the Peter and Paul Fortress lighting up the way from the Finland Station to the Krzesinska Mansion, armoured cars, files of working men and women guarding the road.
Chkheidze and Skobelev met us at the station in the capacity of official representatives of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. Comrades conducted Ilyich to the royal waiting room where Chkheidze and Skobelev met us. When Ilyich stepped out on to the platform, a captain came up to him, stood at attention and reported. Taken by surprise, Ilyich returned the salute. A guard of honour was lined up on the platform, and Ilyich was led past it with all the rest of the emigrant fraternity following. Then we were seated in motor-cars, while Ilyich was placed on an armoured car, and all of us were driven to the Krzesinska Mansion. "Long live the socialist world revolution!" Ilyich shouted into the vast crowd swarming around us.
Ilyich already felt the beginning of that revolution in every fibre of his being.
We were taken to the Krzesinska Mansion, which then housed the Central Committee and Petrograd Committee of the Party. The comrades arranged a tea party upstairs and wanted to organize speeches of welcome, but Ilyich switched the talk over to a subject that interested him now most of all – the tactics that had to be pursued. Crowds of workers and soldiers stood outside the Krzesinska Mansion, and Ilyich was obliged to address them from the balcony. The impressions of this meeting, and the tremendous revolutionary enthusiasm threw everything else into the shade.
We then went home to Lenin's sister, Anna Ilyinichna and her husband Mark Yelizarov. Maria Ilyinichna was living with them too. They lived in Shirokaya Street, on Petrograd Side. We were given a separate room. Little Gora, Anna Ilyinichna's foster son, had hung a slogan over our beds in honour of our arrival, reading: "Workers of All Countries, Unite!" Ilyich and I hardly spoke a word that night – no words could express what we felt that day; things were clear enough without words.
We were living at a time when every moment was precious. Ilyich had scarcely got up when comrades called for him to go to a meeting of Bolshevik members of the All-Russian Conference of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. It was on an upper floor of the Taurida Palace. Lenin expounded his views as to what had to be done in a number of theses [Lenin's April Theses]. In these theses he weighed the situation, and clearly set forth the aims that had to be striven for and the ways that had to be followed to attain them. The comrades were somewhat taken aback for the moment. Many of them thought that Ilyich was presenting the case in much too blunt a manner, and that it was too early yet to speak of a socialist revolution.
Downstairs a meeting of the Mensheviks was in progress. A comrade came from there insisting that Ilyich should make a similar report at a joint meeting of Menshevik and Bolshevik delegates. The Bolshevik meeting decided that Ilyich was to repeat his report at a general meeting of all the Social-Democrats. Ilyich did so. The meeting took place downstairs in the large hall of the palace. The first thing that struck me, I remember, was Goldenberg (Meshkovsky) sitting in the presiding committee. During the Revolution of 1905 he had been a staunch Bolshevik, one of our closest comrades in the struggle. Now he sided with Plekhanov and had become a defencist. Lenin spoke for about two hours. Goldenberg took the floor against him. He spoke very sharply, saying that Lenin had raised the banner of civil war in the midst of the revolutionary democrats. We could see now how far apart we had drifted. I also remember Kollontai's speech, in which she warmly defended Lenin's theses.
In his newspaper Yedinstvo, Plekhanov called Lenin's theses "ravings."
Three days later, on April 7, Lenin's theses were printed in Pravda. This was followed the next day by an article in Pravda by Kamenev "Our Disagreements," in which he dissociated himself from these theses. Kamenev's article stated that they were the expression of Lenin's private views, which neither Pravda nor the Bureau of the Central Committee shared. It was not these theses of Lenin's that the Bolshevik delegates had accepted, but those of the Central Committee Bureau, Kamenev alleged. Pravda stood on its former positions, he declared.
A struggle started within the Bolshevik organization. It did not last long. A week later a general city conference of the Bolsheviks of Petrograd took place, at which Ilyich's point of view was upheld. The conference lasted eight days (from April 14 to 22), during which time a number of important events took place which showed that Lenin had been right.
On April 7, the day Lenin's theses were first published, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet voted in favour of the "Liberty Loan."
The bourgeois and defencist newspapers started a furious hounding campaign against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Kamenev's opinion meant nothing – everyone knew that Lenin's point of view would win the backing of the Bolshevik organization. The campaign against Lenin was the most effective way of popularizing his theses. Lenin had called the war an imperialist war of plunder, and everyone saw that he stood for peace in real earnest. This stirred the sailors and soldiers, stirred all those for whom the war was a life-and-death issue. On April 10 Ilyich addressed the soldiers of the Izmailovsky Regiment; on the 15th Soldatskaya Pravda (Soldiers' Truth) began to appear, and on the 16th the soldiers and sailors of Petrograd held a demonstration of protest against the campaign that was against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. On April 18 (May 1, New Style) a great May Day demonstration was held throughout Russia such as had never been seen before.
On the same day Milyukov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement in the name of the Provisional Government to the effect that it would continue the war to a victorious end and would fulfil all its obligations to the Allies. What did the Bolsheviks do? They showed up in the press what those obligations were. The Provisional Government, they pointed out, had pledged itself to fulfil the obligations incurred by the government of Nicholas II and the whole tsarist clique. They showed that those obligations had been incurred on behalf of the bourgeoisie.
When this became clear to the masses, they came out on the streets. On April 21 they demonstrated on Nevsky Prospekt. A counter-demonstration was held there by supporters of the Provisional Government.
These events united the Bolshevik ranks. The Petrograd organization of the Bolsheviks passed resolutions in the spirit of Lenin's views.
On April 21 and 22 the Central Committee passed resolutions clearly admitting the necessity of exposing the Provisional Government; it condemned the conciliatory tactics of the Petrograd Soviet, called for a re-election of workers' and soldiers' deputies, urged the strengthening of the Soviets, and the conduct of a wide explanatory campaign, while at the same time pointing out that attempts to immediately overthrow the Provisional Government were premature.
By the time the All-Russian Conference opened on April 24, three weeks after Lenin made public his theses, unity among the Bolsheviks had already been achieved.
After our arrival in Petrograd I saw little of Ilyich. He was working at the Central Committee and in Pravda, and addressing meetings. I went to work at the Secretariat of the Central Committee in the Krzesinska Mansion, but it was nothing like the secretarial job I had done abroad or that of 1905-1907, when I had done rather important work on my own under Ilyich's direction. Stasova was the secretary, and she had a staff of assistants to do the clerical work. My job involved talking to the Party workers who visited us, but I knew little about local activities at that time. Central Committee members came often, especially Sverdlov. I was a bit out of touch, though, and the absence of any definite duties was irksome. But then I drank in the life around me. The streets in those days presented a curious spectacle: everywhere people stood about in knots, arguing heatedly and discussing the latest events. I used to mingle with the crowd and listen. These street meetings were so interesting, that it once took me three hours to walk from Shirokaya Street to the Krzesinska Mansion. The house in which we lived overlooked a courtyard, and even here, if you opened the window at night, you could hear a heated dispute. A soldier would be sitting there, and he always had an audience – usually some of the cooks, or housemaids from next door, or some young people. An hour after midnight you could catch snatches of talk – "Bolsheviks, Mensheviks...." At three in the morning "Milyukov, Bolsheviks...." At five – still the same street-corner-meeting talk, politics, etc. Petrograd's white nights are always associated in my mind now with those all-night political disputes.
At the Secretariat of the Central Committee I had occasion to meet lots of people. Besides the Central Committee, the Krzesinska Mansion housed the military organization and Soldatskaya Pravda offices. Sometimes I attended the meetings of the Central Committee, where I got to know the people more closely, and followed the work of the Petrograd Committee. The youngsters and working-class youth interested me greatly too. The movement had taken hold of them. They represented different trends of opinion – Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists. There were up to fifty thousand young people in the organization, but at the beginning the movement was left pretty much to itself. I did some work among them. A direct contrast to this working-class youth were the senior pupils of the high schools. They often came in a crowd to the Krzesinska Mansion and shouted abuse at the Bolsheviks. They were obviously being thoroughly indoctrinated.
Shortly after our arrival – I do not remember the exact date – I attended a teachers congress. There was a big crowd there. The teachers were completely under the influence of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Prominent defencists spoke at the congress. On the day I went there, Alexinsky had addressed it in the morning before my arrival. There were altogether fifteen to twenty Social-Democrats there, including Bolsheviks and Menshevik-Internationalists. They gathered in a small separate room where they compared notes as to the kind of school to be aimed at. Many of those present at that meeting afterwards worked in the district councils. The mass of the teachers were drunk with the fumes of chauvinism.
On April 18 (May 1, New Style) Ilyich took part in the May Day demonstration. He spoke in the Okhta District and the Field of Mars. I did not hear him, as I was ill in bed that day. When Ilyich came home I was struck by his excited face. We usually attended May Day meetings when we lived abroad, but it was one thing to go to a May Day meeting sanctioned by the police, and quite another to follow a May Day procession of the revolutionary people, a people who had overthrown tsarism.
On April 21 I was to meet Ilyich at Danskoi's. The address given to me was No. 3 Staro-Nevsky and I walked all the way down Nevsky Prospekt. A big workers' demonstration was marching from the Nevskaya Zastava. Working people crowding the pavements greeted it as it passed. "Come along!" one young woman worker shouted to another standing on the pavement. "We're going to march all night!" Another crowd wearing hats and bowlers was coming from the other direction; it was greeted by hats and bowlers on the pavements. In the Nevskaya Zastava area workers predominated, but round about Morskaya Street and Politseisky Most the bowlers outnumbered them. Among this crowd the story passed from mouth to mouth about how Lenin had bribed the workers with German gold, and now they were all for him. "We must beat Lenin!" screamed a stylishly dressed young woman. "All those scoundrels ought to be killed!" shouted a man in a bowler. Class against class! The working class was for Lenin.
The All-Russian Party Conference, known as the April Conference, was held from April 24th to 29th. A hundred and fifty-one delegates attended. The conference elected a new Central Committee, and very important issues were discussed at it, namely, the political situation, the war, the inauguration of a Third International, the national question, the agrarian question and the Party programme.
I particularly remember Lenin's speech on the political situation. It brought out most strikingly Ilyich's attitude towards the masses, and showed how closely he followed their lives and interests. "There is no doubt that, as a class, the proletariat and semi-proletariat are not interested in the war. They are influenced by tradition and deception. They still lack political experience. Therefore, our task is that of patiently explaining. Our principles remain intact, we do not make the slightest compromise; yet we cannot approach those masses as we approach the social-chauvinists. Those elements of our population have never been Socialists, they have not the slightest conception of socialism, they are just awakening to political life. But their class-consciousness is growing and broadening with extraordinary rapidity. One must know how to approach them with explanations, and this is now the most difficult task, particularly for a party that but yesterday was underground."
"Many of us, myself included," said Ilyich in his speech, "have had occasion to address the people, particularly the soldiers, and it seems to me that even when everything is explained to them from the point of view of class interests, there is still one thing in our position that they cannot fully grasp, namely, in what way we intend to finish the war, in what way we think it possible to bring the war to an end. The masses are in a maze of misapprehension, there is an absolute lack of understanding as to our position, that is why we must be particularly clear in this case.
"In approaching the masses, we must offer concrete answers to all questions."
We must be able, said Ilyich, to carry on the work of explanation not only among the proletariat, but also among wide sections of the petty bourgeoisie.
Speaking of control, Vladimir Ilyich said: "To control, one must have power. If the broad masses of the petty-bourgeois bloc do not understand this, we must have the patience to explain it to them, but under no circumstances must we tell them an untruth." Ilyich never stooped to demagogy, and this the soldiers and peasants who spoke to him always felt. Confidence, however, is not won off-hand. Even in those stirring times Ilyich kept a level head. "So far we are in the minority; the masses do not trust us yet. We can wait; they will side with us when the government reveals its true nature." Ilyich had many talks with soldiers and peasants, and had already seen no few evidences of trust, yet he entertained no illusions. "The proletarian party would be guilty of the most grievous error if it shaped its policy on the basis of subjective desires where organization is required. We cannot assert that the majority is with us: in this case our motto should be caution, caution, caution. To base our proletarian policy on over-confidence means to condemn it to failure."
In concluding his speech on the political situation, Ilyich said: "The Russian Revolution has created the Soviets. No bourgeois country in the world has or can have such state institutions. No socialist revolution can function with any other state power. The Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies must seize power not for the purpose of building an ordinary bourgeois republic, nor for the purpose of direct transition to socialism. The latter could not be accomplished. What, then, is the purpose? They must seize power in order to take the first concrete steps towards this transition, steps that can and should be made. In this case fear is the greatest enemy. The masses should be convinced that these steps must be taken immediately, that otherwise the power of the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies would be devoid of meaning, and would offer nothing to the people."
Ilyich went on to speak about the immediate tasks confronting the Soviets. "Private ownership of land must be abolished. This is our first task, because the majority of the people are for it. To accomplish this we need the Soviets. This measure cannot be carried out by means of the old government bureaucracy." He wound up his speech with an example showing what the struggle for power locally means. "I shall conclude by referring to the speech that made the strongest impression on me. I heard a coal-miner deliver a remarkable speech. Without using a single bookish word, he told how they had made the revolution. Those miners were not concerned with the question as to whether or not they should have a president. They seized the mine, and the important question to them was how to keep the cables intact so that production might not be interrupted. Then came the question of bread, of which there was a scarcity. And the miners again agreed on the method of obtaining it. Now this is a real programme of the revolution, not derived from books. This is a real seizure of power locally."
Zinaida Krzhizhanovskaya once recalled my having told her about this miner's speech, and said: "What the miners need now is their own engineers. Vladimir Ilyich thinks it would be fine if Gleb went down there."
We met lots of people we knew at the conference. I remember, among others, meeting Prisyagin, a former student of the Longjumeau school, and how his eyes shone as he listened to Ilyich's speech. Prisyagin is no longer among the living. He was shot by the Whites in Siberia in 1918.
Early in May 1917 Ilyich drafted amendments to the Party programme. The imperialist war and the revolution had brought about tremendous changes in social life, and this necessitated new evaluations and a new approach. The old programme was terribly outdated.
The outline of the new minimum-programme was imbued with a striving to improve, to raise the standard of living of the masses, and give greater scope to their activity.
I was becoming tired of my job at the Secretariat, and wanted to get into real work among the masses. I also wanted to see more of Ilyich, about whom I was getting very anxious. He was being hounded more and more. Going down the street in the Petrograd District you could hear the women saying to each other: "What's to be done with this Lenin fellow who's come from Germany? He ought to be drowned in a well, if you ask me." There was no doubt as to the source from which all those rumours about bribery and treachery came, but they did not make pleasant hearing nevertheless. It was one thing to hear the bourgeoisie talk like that, but quite another to hear it from the masses. I wrote an article for Soldatskaya Pravda about Lenin under the title "A Page from the History of the Party." Vladimir Ilyich looked through the manuscript and made some corrections, and the article was published in No. 21 of Soldatskaya Pravda for May 13, 1917.
Vladimir Ilyich used to come home tired, and I did not have the heart to question him about affairs. But both of us felt a need to talk things over the way we were used to doing – during a walk. We sometimes managed to go for a walk along the quieter streets of the Petrograd District. I remember once our taking such a walk together with Shaumyan and Yenukidze, and Shaumyan gave Ilyich some red badges, which his sons had asked him to give Lenin. Ilyich smiled.
We had known Stepan Shaumyan for a long time. He was tremendously popular with the Baku proletariat. He joined the Bolsheviks immediately after the Second Congress, and attended the Stockholm and London congresses. At the Stockholm Congress he was a member of the Mandate Commission. This congress was numerically much bigger than either the Second or the Third congresses. At those congresses we had known what every delegate stood for, but here there were many delegates whom we hardly knew. A sharp struggle was fought in the Mandate Commission over every delegate. I remember the tough time Shaumyan had on this commission. I was not present at the London Congress. Afterwards, during our second period of emigration, we carried on a lively correspondence with the Baku comrades. I remember them enquiring of me the reasons for the split with the Vperyod-ists, and me having to give them a full account of what it was all about.
In 1913 Ilyich carried on a lively correspondence with Shaumyan on the national question. A very interesting letter was that of May 1914 in which Ilyich propounded the idea that the Marxists of all or most of the nationalities of Russia should submit to the Stale Duma the draft of a bill on the equal rights of nations and the defence of the rights of the national minorities. This draft, according to Lenin's idea, was to contain a complete interpretation of what we understand by equality of rights, including the question of language, the school and culture in general, in all its aspects. "It seems to me," wrote Ilyich, "that in this way we could popularly explain the folly of cultural national autonomy and quash the adherents of that folly once and for all." Ilyich even outlined such a draft.
In 1917, therefore, Ilyich was glad to see Stepan and discuss with him at first hand all the questions that then confronted the Bolsheviks in all their urgency.
I remember Ilyich's speech at the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers' Deputies, which took place at the military school on Vasilyevsky Island. We walked down long corridors. The classrooms had been turned into dormitories for the delegates. The hall was crowded, and the Bolsheviks sat at the back in a small group. Lenin's speech was applauded only by the Bolsheviks, but there was no doubt about the strong impression it had made. Kerensky was said to have lain in a faint for three hours after that speech. I do not vouch for the truth of that story, though.
In June elections to the district councils were held. I went to Vasilyevsky Island to see how the election campaign was going. The streets were flooded with working people, most of them employees of the Tube Factory. There were also a lot of women workers from the Laferme Factory. This factory voted for the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Disputes raged all round; people were not discussing candidates or personalities, but the activities of the different parties and what they stood for. I was reminded of the municipal elections in Paris when we were there: we had been struck by the absence of political issues and by the extent to which the personal element predominated everywhere. Here the picture was just the reverse. Another thing that struck one was the extent to which the masses had politically matured since 1905-1907. It was obvious that all read the newspapers of the different political trends. One group was discussing the question whether Bonapartism was possible in this country or not. A squat figure, suspiciously spy-like in its snooping activity, looked oddly out of place among this crowd of workers, who had become so class-conscious during the last few years.
Revolutionary feeling among the masses was mounting.
The Bolsheviks had decided to hold a demonstration on June 10. The Congress of Soviets banned it by a ruling that no demonstrations were to be held in the course of three days. Thereupon Ilyich insisted that the demonstration arranged by the Petrograd Party Committee should be called off. He held that since we recognized the power of the Soviets we were bound to submit to the rulings of the Congress if we did not wish to play into the hands of our opponents. Yielding to the temper of the masses, however, the Congress of Soviets itself called a demonstration for June 18 (Old Style). It was scarcely prepared, however, for what happened. Nearly four hundred thousand workers and soldiers took part in the demonstration. Ninety per cent of the banners and posters bore the slogans of the Bolshevik Central Committee: "All Power to the Soviets!" "Down with the Ten Capitalist Ministers!" Only three posters supported the Provisional Government (one was the Bund's, the other the Plekhanov group's, and the third the Cossack Regiment's). Ilyich referred to the 18th of June as one of the days of the turning point. "The demonstration of June 18th," (July 1st, New Style) he wrote, "became a demonstration of the strength and the policies of the revolutionary proletariat which is giving direction to the revolution, and is showing the way out of the blind alley. Therein lies the colossal historical significance of the Sunday demonstration, and therein does it differ in principle from the demonstration which took place on the day of the funeral of the victims of the revolution, or from that held on the First of May. Then it was a universal tribute to the first victory of the revolution and its heroes, a glance backward, cast by the people over the first lap of the road to freedom and passed by them most quickly and most successfully. The First of May was a holiday of good wishes and hopes bound up with the history of the labour movement of the world, with its ideal of peace and socialism.
"Neither of the demonstrations aimed at pointing out the direction of the further advance of the revolution. Neither could point out that direction. Neither the first nor the second demonstration had placed before the masses, and in the name of the masses, any concrete and definite questions of the hour, questions as to whither and how the revolution must proceed.
"In this sense the 18th of June was the first political demonstration of action; it was an exposition of issues not in a book or in a newspaper, but in the street; not through leaders, but through the masses. It showed how the various classes act, wish to act, and should act, to further the revolution. The bourgeoisie had hidden itself."
The elections to the district councils were over. I was elected to the Vyborg District Council. Only Bolshevik candidates were returned here, and a few Menshevik-Internationalists. The latter refused to work on the council. Those who worked on it were all Bolsheviks – L. M. Mikhailov, Kuchmenko, Chugurin, another comrade and I. Our council was housed at first in the same building as the Party local, the secretary of which was Zhenya Yegorova. Lacis worked there too. Our council and the Party organization worked in close contact. This work in the Vyborg District taught me a great deal. It was an excellent school of Party and Soviet work. To me, who had lived abroad for so many years and had never had the pluck to address even a small meeting or write a single line for Pravda, such a school was very necessary.
The Vyborg District had a strong and active Bolshevik membership, who enjoyed the confidence of the masses of workers. Shortly after assuming office I took over the business of the Vyborg District branch of the Committee for Relief of Soldiers' Wives from my old friend and school chum Nina Gerd (Struve's wife), with whom we had taught together at the Sunday School, and, who, in the early years of the working-class movement, had been a Social-Democrat. Now we held opposing points of view on political matters. In handing over to me, she said: "The soldiers' wives don't trust us. No matter what we do they are never satisfied. They believe only in the Bolsheviks. Well then, take things into your own hands, perhaps you'll make a better job of it." We were not afraid to tackle the job, believing, that with the active cooperation of the workers, we would succeed in getting things going with a swing.
The mass of the workers displayed an amazing activity in the cultural as well as the political fields. Very soon we set up an Education Council on which all the factories and mills of the Vyborg District were represented. Of the various factory representatives I remember Purishev, Kayurov, Yurkin and Gordienko. We met every week and discussed practical measures. When the question of general literacy came up, the workers at the factories very quickly drew up a registry of all the illiterates. The employers were asked to provide premises for reading and writing classes, and when one of them refused to comply, the women workers kicked up a terrific row in the course of which it came to light that one of the rooms at the factory was occupied by a special squad of soldiers picked from the most chauvinistic battalions. In the end the employer was obliged to rent outside premises for the school. Class attendance and the teachers work were supervised by the workers. A machine-gun regiment was quartered not far from the District Council. It was considered highly reliable at first, but this "reliability" quickly melted away. The moment the regiment was quartered in the Vyborg District agitation was started among the soldiers. The first to agitate in favour of the Bolsheviks were the women vendors of sunflower seeds, kvass, etc. Many of them were women workers whom I had known in the nineties and even during the Revolution of 1905. They were well-dressed, active at meetings, and politically alert. One of them told me: "My husband's at the front. We got on well together, but I don't know how things will be when he gets back. I'm for the Bolsheviks now, I'm going with them, but I don't know about him there at the front – whether he realizes that we've got to go with the Bolsheviks. I often lie thinking at night – what if he hasn't grasped it yet? I don't know whether I'll see him again, though. He may be killed, and I'm spitting blood, you know – I am going to the hospital." I shall never forget the thin face of that woman worker with the hectic flush in her cheeks, and her worrying about her and her husband possibly having to part because of differing views. But it was the working men and not the women who then took the lead in educational activities. They went deep into every detail. Gordienko, for instance, gave a good deal of his time to kindergarten work. Kuklin closely followed the work of the young people.
I, too, closely tackled the work among the youth. The Light and Knowledge League had worked out a programme of its own. Its members consisted of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Anarchists and non-Party people. The programme was naive and primitive to a degree, but the dispute it gave rise to was very interesting. One of the clauses, for example, said that all members must learn to sew. One lad – a Bolshevik – remarked: "Why should we all learn to sew? I can understand if it's a girl having to learn it, because otherwise she won't be able to sew a button on her husband's trousers when the time comes, but why should we all learn!" This remark raised a storm of indignation. The boys as well as the girls protested, and jumped up from their seats. "Who said the wife must sew buttons on trousers? What do you mean? So you stand for the old domestic slavery of women? A wife is her husband's comrade, not his servant!" The unfortunate mover of the women-only-learning-to-sew resolution was obliged to climb down. I remember a conversation with Murashov, another young man, who was a warm supporter of the Bolsheviks. "Why don't you join the Bolshevik organization?" I asked him. "Well, you see," he said, "there were several of us young people in the organization. But why did we join? Do you think it was because we understood that the Bolsheviks were right? No, the reason was that the Bolsheviks were distributing revolvers to their people. That's no good at all. You've got to have an intelligent reason for joining. So I returned my Party card until I got the thing straight in my own mind." I must say, though, that only revolutionary-minded young people belonged to the Light and Knowledge League; they would not have tolerated anyone in their midst who upheld Right views. They were all active members, who spoke at meetings at their factories. Their trouble was that they were much too credulous. This credulity had to be combatted.
I had a lot of work to do among the women too. I had got over my former shyness and spoke wherever I had to.
I threw myself into the job with enthusiasm. I wanted to draw all the masses into social work, make possible that "people's militia" of which Vladimir Ilyich had spoken.
I saw still less of Ilyich when I started work in the Vyborg District. Those were crucial days and the struggle was mounting high. June 18 was not only a day when four hundred thousand workers and soldiers demonstrated under Bolshevik slogans, it was a day when the Provisional Government, after three months of vacillation, gave way at last to pressure from the Allies and launched an offensive at the front. The Bolsheviks had already started to agitate in the press and at meetings. The Provisional Government felt that the ground was slipping from under its feet. June 28 saw the beginning of the rout of the Russian army at the front; this greatly disturbed the soldiers.
At the end of June Ilyich went to the country for a few days' rest with Maria Ilyinichna. They stayed with the Bonch-Bruyeviches in the village of Neivola, near station Mustamaki (not far from Petrograd). Meanwhile the following events took place in Petrograd. The machine-gun regiment quartered in the Vyborg District decided to start an armed uprising. Two days before this, our Education Committee had arranged to meet the regimental Education Committee on Monday to discuss certain questions of cultural work. Naturally, no one came from the regiment. The whole machine-gun regiment had turned out. I went to the Krzesinska Mansion. On my way there I caught up with the machine-gunners. They were marching down Sampsonievsky Prospekt in orderly ranks. One incident impressed itself on my mind. An old workman stepped off the kerb and went towards the soldiers, bowing low to them and saying in a loud voice: "That's it, boys, stand up for us working folks." Among those present at the headquarters of the Central Committee were Stalin and Lashevich. The machine-gunners halted under the balcony of the Krzesinska Mansion, saluted, then marched on. Two more regiments marched up to the C.C. headquarters. followed by a workers' demonstration. That evening a comrade was sent to Mustamaki for Ilyich. The Central Committee had given the slogan to keep the demonstration a peaceful one, but the machine-gun regiment was already throwing up barricades. I remember Lashevich, who was in charge of Party work in this regiment, lying on the sofa in the office of the Vyborg District Council and staring up at the ceiling for a long time before going out to the machine-gunners to dissuade them from taking revolutionary action. It was hard on him, but such was the decision of the Central Committee. The factory workers had walked out. Sailors had arrived from Kronstadt. A huge demonstration of armed workers and soldiers was marching to the Taurida Palace. Ilyich spoke from the balcony of the Krzesinska Mansion. The Central Committee issued an appeal to stop the demonstration. The Provisional Government called out the military cadets and Cossacks. Fire was opened on the demonstrators in Sadovaya Street.