The seizure of power in October had been carefully thought out and prepared by the Party of the proletariat–the Bolshevik Party. The uprising during the July days had started spontaneously, but the Party, keeping a sober mind, had considered it premature. The truth had to be faced, and that truth was that the masses were still unprepared for an uprising. The Central Committee therefore decided to postpone it. It was no easy thing to restrain the insurgents whose fighting blood was up. But the Bolsheviks did their duty, painful though it was, for they appreciated the vital importance of choosing the right moment for the insurrection.
A couple of months later the situation had changed, and Ilyich, who was compelled to hide in Finland, wrote a letter to the Central Committee and to the Petrograd and Moscow committees between the 12th and 14th September, in which he said: "Having obtained a majority in the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies in both capitals, the Bolsheviks can and must take power into their hands." He then proceeds to show why the power had to be seized precisely at that of all times. The surrender of Petrograd would lessen the chances of success. There was talk of a separate peace between the British and German imperialists. "To offer peace to the nations precisely now is to win," wrote Ilyich.
In his letter to the Central Committee he deals at length with the question of how to determine the moment for the insurrection and how to prepare it. "To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon such a crucial moment in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point."
At the end of his letter Ilyich indicated what had to be done in order to treat the insurrection in a Marxist way, i.e., as an art. "And in order to treat insurrection in a Marxist way, i.e., as an art, we must at the same time, without losing a single moment, organize a headquarter staff of the insurgent detachments, distribute our forces, move the reliable regiments to the most important points, surround the Alexandrinsky Theatre," occupy the Peter and Paul Fortress, arrest the general staff and the government, and move against the cadets and the Savage Division such detachments as will rather die than allow the enemy to approach the centres of the city, we must mobilize the armed workers and call them to fight the last desperate fight, occupy the telegraph and the telephone exchange at once, place our headquarter staff of the insurrection at the central telephone exchange and connect it by telephone with all the factories, all the regiments, all the points of armed fighting, etc.
"Of course, this is all by way of example, only to illustrate the fact that at the present moment it is impossible to remain loyal to Marxism, to remain loyal to the revolution, without treating insurrection as an art." (Works, Vol.26, pp. 4, 8-9.)
Living in Finland, removed from the actual scene, Ilyich was terribly worried lest the opportune moment for the insurrection should be missed. On October 7 he wrote to the Petrograd City Conference, as well as to the Central Committee, the Moscow Committee the Petrograd Committee and the Bolshevik members of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. On the 8th he wrote a letter to the Bolshevik delegates to the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region, and worried about whether his letter would reach them. On the 9th he came to Petrograd himself and put up illegally in the Vyborg District, whence he directed preparations for the insurrection.
That last month Ilyich thought of nothing else, lived for nothing else but the insurrection. His mood and his deep conviction communicated themselves to his comrades.
His last letter from Finland to the Bolshevik delegates to the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region is a document of the utmost importance. Here it is":
"...Armed insurrection is a special form of political struggle, one subject to special laws which must be attentively pondered over. Karl Marx expressed this truth with remarkable saliency when he wrote that armed 'insurrection is an art quite as much as war.'
"Of the principal rules of this art, Marx noted the following:
"1) Never play with insurrection, but when beginning it firmly realize that you must go to the end.
"2) Concentrate a great superiority of forces at the decisive point, at the decisive moment, otherwise the enemy, who has the advantage of better preparation and organization, will destroy the insurgents.
"3) Once the insurrection has begun, you must act with the greatest determination, and by all means, without fail, take the offensive. The defensive is the death of every armed rising.'
"4) You must try to take the enemy by surprise and seize the moment when his forces are scattered.
"5) You must strive for daily successes, even if small (one might say hourly, if it is the case of one town), and at all costs retain the 'moral ascendancy.'
"Marx summed up the lessons of all revolutions in respect to armed insurrection in the words of 'Danton, the greatest master of revolutionary policy yet known: de l'audace, de l'audace, encore de l'audace.
"Applied to Russia and to October 1917, this means: a simultaneous offensive on Petrograd, as sudden and as rapid as possible, which must without fail be carried out from within and front without, from the working-class quarters and from Finland, from Revel and from Kronstadt, an offensive of the whole fleet, the concentration of a gigantic superiority of forces over the 15,000 or 20,000 (perhaps more) of our 'bourgeois guard' (the officers schools), our 'Vendean troops' (part of the Cossacks), etc.
"Our three main forces–the navy, the workers and the army units–must be so combined as to occupy without fail and to hold at the cost of any sacrifice: a) the telephone exchange; b) the telegraph office; c) the railway stations; d) above all, the bridges.
"The most determined elements (our "shock forces" and young workers, as well as the best of the sailors) must be formed into small detachments to occupy all the more important points and to take part everywhere in all important operations, for example:
"To encircle and cut off Petrograd; to seize it by combined attack of the navy, the workers, and the troops–a task which requires art and triple audacity.
"To form detachments composed of the best workers, armed with rifles and bombs, for the purpose of attacking and surrounding the enemy's 'centres' (the military cadets' schools, the telegraph office, the telephone exchange, etc.). Their watchword must be: 'Rather perish to man than let the enemy pass!'
"Let us hope that if action is decided on, the leaders will successfully apply the great precepts of Danton and Marx.
"The success of both the Russian and the world revolution depends on two or three days of fighting." (Works, Vol. 26, pp. 151-53.)
This letter was written on the 21st, and the 22nd already found Ilyich in Petrograd. The next day there was a meeting of the Central Committee, at which a resolution was carried on his motion calling for an armed uprising. Zinoviev and Kamenev voted against it and demanded that a special plenary meeting of the Central Committee should be called. Kamenev demonstratively announced his resignation from the Central Committee. Lenin demanded that the severest measures of Party penalty should be imposed upon them.
Intensive preparations for the uprising were going forward and breaking down all opportunist resistance. On October 26 the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet passed a resolution to set up a Military Revolutionary Committee. On October 29 an enlarged meeting of the Central Committee was held together with representatives of the Party organizations. The same day, at a meeting of the Central Committee, a Military Revolutionary Centre was set up to direct the uprising, consisting of Stalin, Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky and others.
On the 30th the proposed organization of a Military Revolutionary Committee was endorsed by the Petrograd Soviet as a whole and not only its Executive Committee. Five days after this a meeting of the regimental committees acknowledged the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee as the leading organ of the military units in Petrograd, and passed a resolution not to obey the orders of the Staff unless they were endorsed by the Military Revolutionary Committee.
Already on November 5 the Military Revolutionary Committee had appointed commissars to the military units. The next day, November 6, the Provisional Government decided to prosecute the members of the M.R.C., and arrest the commissars appointed to the military units. The military cadets were called out to the Winter Palace. But it was too late. The military units stood for the Bolsheviks. The workers stood for the transfer of power to the Soviets. The M.R.C. was working under the direct guidance of the Central Committee, most of whose members, including Stalin, Sverdlov, Molotov, Dzerzhinsky and Bubnov, were members of the M.R.C. The uprising had begun.
On November 6 Ilyich was still in hiding at the flat of our Party member Marguerite Fofanova in the Vyborg District (House No. 92/1, Flat No. 42 on the corner of Bolshoi Sampsonievsky and Serdobolskaya streets). He knew that the uprising was about to take place, and fretted because he was not in the thick of it at such a crucial moment. He sent two messages through Marguerite saying that the uprising could not be delayed a moment more. That evening, at last, Eino Rahja, a Finnish comrade, came to see him. Eino, who was in close touch with the factories and the Party organization and served as a medium through whom Ilyich maintained contact with the organization, told Ilyich that the guards patrolling the city had been doubled, that the Provisional Government had given orders to raise the bridges across the Neva in order to cut off communication between the working-class quarters, and that the bridges were being guarded by detachments of soldiers. Obviously, the uprising was starting. Ilyich had intended asking Eino to send for Stalin, but had gathered from what Eino had told him that that was almost impossible. Stalin was probably at the M.R.C. in Smolny, the tramcars were probably not running, and it would take him a long time to get there. Ilyich decided to go to Smolny himself at once. He hurried away, leaving Marguerite a note, saying: "I am going where you did not want me to go. Good-bye. Ilyich."
That night the Vyborg District was arming in preparation for the uprising. One group of workers after another came to the District Committee to receive weapons and instructions. That night I went to see Ilyich at Fofanova's flat, only to learn that he had gone to Smolny. Zhenya Yegorova (Secretary of the Vyborg District Party Committee) and I tacked on to a lorry that our people were sending to Smolny. I was anxious to know whether Ilyich had reached Smolny in safety or not. I do not remember now whether I actually saw Ilyich in Smolny or only learned that he was there. At any rate, I know I did not talk to him, because he was completely absorbed in the business of directing the uprising, and when he did a thing he never did it by halves.
Smolny was brilliantly lit up, a scene of intense activity. Red Guards, representatives from the factories, and soldiers came from all over to receive instructions. Typewriters rattled away, telephones rang, our girls sat sorting out piles of telegrams, and on the second floor the M.R.C. was in continuous session. Armoured cars stood throbbing on the square outside, a held gun stood ready for action, and stacks of firewood had been built up in case barricades were needed. Guns and machine-guns stood at the entrance, sentries at the doors.
By 10 a.m. on October 25 (November 7, New Style), a manifesto "To the Citizens of Russia" issued by the M.R.C. of the Petrograd Soviet came off the press. It said:
"The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The power of state has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the Military Revolutionary Committee, which stands at the head of the Petrograd proletariat and garrison.
"The cause for which the people have fought–the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of landlord ownership of the land, workers' control over production and the creation of a Soviet Government–is assured.
"Long live the revolution of the workers, soldiers and peasants!" (Works, Vol. 26, p. 207.)
Although it was obvious that the revolution was victorious, the M.R.C. continued its activities as intensively as ever, occupying the government offices one after another, organizing guard duty, etc.
At 2.30 p.m. a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was held. The Soviet hailed with acclamation the report that the Provisional Government no longer existed, that some of its ministers had been arrested and the rest were awaiting their turn, that the Pre-parliament had been dismissed, and the railway stations, the general post and telegraph offices and the State Bank occupied. The Winter Palace was being stormed. It had not been captured yet, but its fate was sealed, and the soldiers were displaying wonderful heroism. The uprising had been a bloodless one.
Lenin's appearance at the meeting of the Soviet was greeted with a tumultuous ovation. It was characteristic of Ilyich that he made no big speeches in connection with the victory. He spoke instead about the tasks confronting the Soviet power, which had to be tackled in real earnest. He said that a new period in the history of Russia had been ushered in. The Soviet Government would carry on without the bourgeoisie. A decree would be issued abolishing private ownership of the land. A real workers' control would be established over industry. The struggle for socialism would be launched. The old machinery of state would be broken up and scrapped, and a new authority, the authority of the Soviet organizations, would be set up. We had the force of a mass organization which would carry all before it. The task of the day was to conclude peace. To do that Capital had to be defeated. The international proletariat, among whom signs of revolutionary unrest were beginning to appear, would help us to secure peace.
This speech struck home with the members of the Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers' and Workers' Deputies. Yes, a new period in our history was beginning. The strength of the mass organizations was invincible. The masses had risen, and the power of the bourgeoisie had fallen. We shall take the land from the landowners, and give the law to the factory owners, and, most important of all, we shall secure peace. The world revolution will come to our assistance. Ilyich was right. His speech was greeted with a storm of applause.
The Second Congress of the Soviets was to be opened that evening. It was to proclaim the power of the Soviets and give official recognition to the victory of the revolution.
Agitation was carried on among the delegates when they began to arrive. The government of the workers was to lean upon the peasantry, rally it behind them. The party that was supposed to express the views of the peasantry were the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The rich peasantry, the kulaks had their ideologists in the person of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. The ideologists of the peasant masses, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were typical representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, which wavered between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The leaders of the Petrograd Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionaries were Natanson, Spiridonova and Kamkov. Ilyich had met Natanson during his first emigration. At that time–in 1904–Natanson had stood fairly close to the Marxists, except that he had believed the Social-Democrats to be underestimating the role of the peasantry. Spiridonova was a popular figure at that time. During the first revolution, in 1906, she, then a girl of seventeen, had assassinated Luzhenovsky, the suppressor of the peasant movement in the Tambov Gubernia. After being brutally tortured, she was condemned to penal servitude in Siberia, where she remained until the February Revolution. The Left Socialist-ReVolutionaries of Petrograd were strongly influenced by the Bolshevik temper of the masses. They were more favourably inclined towards the Bolsheviks than any of the others. They saw that the Bolsheviks were out in all earnest to confiscate all the lands of the landowners and hand them over to the peasants. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries believed in introducing a system of equalized land-tenure; the Bolsheviks realized that a complete reconstruction of agriculture on socialist lines was necessary. However, Ilyich considered that the most important thing at the moment was to confiscate the landowners' lands. As to what turn further reconstruction would take, experience itself would show. And he gave his thoughts to the drafting of a decree on the land.
The reminiscences of M. V. Fofanova contain a very interesting item. "I remember," she writes, "Vladimir Ilyich asking me to get him all the back numbers of Izvestia, the organ of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants' Deputies, which I did, of course. I do not remember exactly how many numbers there were, but they made a solid batch of material for study. Vladimir Ilyich spent two days over it, working even at night. In the morning he says to me: 'Well, I think I've studied these S.-R.'s inside out. All that remains is for me to read the mandate of their peasant electors.' Two hours later he called me in and said cheerfully, slapping one of the newspapers (I saw it to be the August 19 issue of the Peasant Izvestia): 'Here's a ready-made agreement with the Left S.-R.'s. It's no joke–this mandate has been signed by 242 local deputies. We shall use it as the basis for our law concerning the land and see if the Left S.-R.'s dare to reject it.' He showed me the paper with blue pencil markings all over it and added: 'The thing is to find a means by which we could afterwards reshape their socialization idea after our own pattern.' "
Marguerite was an agronomist by profession and she came up against these problems in her work. It was, therefore, a subject on which Ilyich willingly spoke to her.
Would the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries quit the congress or not?
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened at 10.45 p.m. on October 25 (November 7, New Style). That evening the congress was to be constituted, was to elect a presidium and define its powers. Of the 670 delegates only 300 were Bolsheviks; 193 were Socialist-Revolutionaries and 68 Mensheviks. The Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Bundists foamed at the mouth and thundered denunciations at the Bolsheviks. They read out a declaration of protest against the "military plot and seizure of power engineered by the Bolsheviks behind the backs of the other parties and factions represented on the Soviet" and walked out. Some of the Menshevik-Internationalists quitted too. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who formed the overwhelming majority of the S.-R. delegates (169 out of 193), remained. Altogether fifty delegates quitted the congress. Vladimir Ilyich was not present at the opening night.
While the Second Congress of Soviets was being opened the Winter Palace was being stormed. Kerensky had escaped the day before, disguised as a sailor, and was rushed off to Pskov in a motor-car. The Military Revolutionary Committee of Pskov did not arrest him, although it had direct orders signed by Dybenko and Krylenko to do so, and Kerensky left for Moscow to organize a crusade against Petrograd, where the soldiers and workers had taken the power into their own hands. The other ministers, headed by Kishkin, entrenched themselves in the Winter Palace under the protection of the military cadets and the women's shock battalion, which had been drawn up there for the purpose. The Mensheviks, Right S.-R.'s and Bundists were frantic with rage over the siege of the Winter Palace and went into hysterics at the congress. Erlich declared that some of the town-councillors had decided to go unarmed to the Palace Square and risk being shot down because the palace was being shelled. The Executive Committee of the Soviet of Peasants Deputies, and the Menshevik and S.-R. groups decided to join them. After the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had walked out an interval was called. When the proceedings were resumed at 3.10 a.m. the congress was informed that the Winter Palace had been taken, the ministers arrested, the officers and cadets disarmed, and the Third Bicycle Battalion, which Kerensky had sent against Petrograd, had gone over to the revolutionary people.
When there was no doubt left that victory had been won and that the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries would not quit the congress, Vladimir Ilyich, who had hardly slept the previous night and had taken an active part all the time in directing the uprising, left Smolny and went to sleep at the Bonch-Bruyeviches', who lived in Peski, not far from Smolny. He was given a room to himself, but he could not fall asleep for a long time. He got up quietly so as not to wake anybody and began to write the Decree on Land, which he had already thought out in every detail.
Addressing the congress on the evening of October 26 (November 8, New Style) in support of the Decree on Land, Ilyich said:
"Voices are being raised here that the decree itself and the mandate were drawn up by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. What of it? Does it matter who drew them up? As a democratic government, we cannot ignore the decision of the rank and file of the people, even though we may disagree with it. In the fire of experience, applying the decree in practice, and carrying it out locally, the peasants will themselves realize where the truth lies.... Life is the best teacher and it will show who is right. Let the peasants solve this problem from one end and we shall solve it from the other. Life will oblige us to draw together in the general stream of revolutionary creative work, in the elaboration of new state forms.... The peasants have learnt something during the eight months of our revolution; they want to settle all land questions themselves. We are therefore opposed to all amendments to this draft law. We want no details in it, for we are writing a decree, not a programme of action." (Works, Vol. 26, pp. 228-29.) We have all of Ilyich in those words–an Ilyich free from petty conceit (it does not matter who said it, so long as it says the right thing), taking into consideration the opinion of the rank and file, appreciating the power of revolutionary creative work, clearly understanding that the masses are best convinced by practice and experience, and that the hard facts of life would show them that the Bolsheviks' point of view had been correct. The Decree on Land submitted by Lenin was adopted. Sixteen years have passed since then. Landlord ownership has been abolished, and step by step, in a struggle against the old proprietary habits and views, new forms of farming have been created –collective farming, which now embraces the bulk of peasant households. The old small-farm methods and small-owner mentality are becoming a thing of the past. A strong and powerful basis for socialist farming has been created.
The decrees on Peace and Land were passed at the evening session on October 26 (November 8). On these points agreement was reached with the S.-R.'s. On the question of forming a government, however, the position was worse. The Left S.-R.'s had not quitted the congress because they had realized that such an action would have cost them their influence among the peasant masses, but the withdrawal on October 25 of the Right S.-R.'s and the Mensheviks, and their outcries against the adventurism of the Bolsheviks, the seizure of power, etc., etc., had deeply affected them. After the Right S.-R.'s and the others had left the congress, Kamkov, one of the leaders of the Left S.-R.'s, declared that they stood for a united democratic government, and that the Left S.-R.'s would do everything they could to have such a government set up. The Left S.-R.'s said they wanted to act as mediators between the Bolsheviks and the parties who had left the congress. The Bolsheviks did not refuse to negotiate, but Ilyich understood perfectly well that nothing would come of such talks. The Bolsheviks had not seized the power and made the revolution in order to hitch a swan, a pike and a crab to the Soviet cart, to form a government that would be incapable of pulling together and getting things done. Cooperation with the Left S.-R.'s, in Ilyich's opinion, was possible.
A talk on this question with representatives of the Left S.-R.'s was held a couple of hours before the congress opened on October 26. I remember the surroundings in which that conference was held. It was a room in Smolny with small settees upholstered in dark red. On one settee sat Spiridonova, and next to her stood Ilyich, arguing with her in a sort of gentle earnest manner. No agreement was reached with the Left S.-R.'s. They did not want to join the government. Ilyich proposed the appointment of Bolsheviks alone to the posts of socialist ministers.
The congress session of October 26 (November 8) opened at 9 p.m. I was present. I remember the speech Ilyich made in submitting his draft Decree on Land. He spoke calmly. The audience listened with rapt attention. During the reading of the Decree I was struck by the expression of one of the delegates who sat a little way off. He was an elderly looking peasant, and under the stress of powerful emotion his face had assumed a wax-like appearance and his eyes shone with a peculiar light.
The death sentence, introduced by Kerensky at the front, was repealed, decrees on Peace, on Land and on Workers' Control were passed, and a Bolshevik Council of People's Commissars was formed as follows: Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin)–Chairman of the Council; A. I. Rykov-People's Commissar for Internal Affairs; V. P. Milyutin –Agriculture; A. G. Shyapnikov–Labour; V. A. Ovseyenko (Antonov), N. V. Krylenko and P. Y. Dybenko–Committee of Military and Naval Affairs; V. P. Nogin–Trade and Industry; A. V. Lunacharsky-Education; I. I. Skvortsov (Stepanov) –Finance; L. D. Bronstein (Trotsky)–Foreign Affairs; G. I. Oppokov (Lomov)–Justice; I. A. Teodorovich–Food Supply; N. P. Avilov (Glebov)–Post and Telegraph; and J. V. Djugashvili (Stalin)–Chairman of the People's Commissariat for the Affairs of Nationalities. The post of Commissar of Ways of Communication was left open.
Eino Rahja relates that when the list of first People's Commissars was being discussed at a meeting of the Bolshevik group, he had been sitting in a corner listening. One of the nominees had protested that he had no experience in that kind of work. Vladimir Ilyich had burst out laughing and said: "Do you think any of us has had such experience?" None had any experience, of course. But Vladimir Ilyich envisaged the People's Commissar as a new type of minister, an organizer and manager of one or another branch of state activity, who was linked closely with the masses.
Vladimir Ilyich's mind was hard at work all the time on the problem of new forms of administration. He was thinking of how to organize a machinery of government that would be free from the taint of bureaucratism, that would lean on the masses, organize their cooperation and assistance, and show itself capable of training a new type of administrative worker on this job. In the resolution of the Second Congress of Soviets concerning the formation of a workers' and peasants' government, this is expressed in the following words:
"The management of the different branches of state activity is entrusted to commissions whose make-up should ensure the implementation of the programme proclaimed by the congress in close unity with the mass organizations of the workers, sailors, soldiers, peasants and employees. The government power is vested in a collegium of chairmen of the said commissions, i.e., the Council of People's Commissars." (Works, Vol. 26, p. 230.)
I recall the talks I had with Ilyich on this subject during the few weeks he lived at Fofanova's. I was working at the time with tremendous enthusiasm in the Vyborg District, keenly observing the revolutionary activities of the masses and the radical changes that were taking place in the whole pattern of life. On meeting Vladimir Ilyich I would tell him about life in the district. I remember telling him about an interesting sitting of a People's Court which I had attended. Such courts had been held in some places during the Revolution of 1905–in Sormovo for one thing. Chugurin, a worker, whom I had met as a student of the Longjumeau Party school near Paris and with whom I was now working at the Vyborg District Council, was a native of Sormovo. It was his suggestion to start organizing such courts in the Vyborg District. The first court sat at the People's House. The place was packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder on the floor, benches and window sills. I do not remember now exactly what cases came before the court. They were not really offences in the strict sense of the word, but incidents of everyday life. Two suspicious characters were tried for attempting to arrest Chugurin. A tall swarthy watchman was "tried" for beating his young son, exploiting him and keeping him away from school. Many working men and women from among the public made warm speeches, The "defendant" kept wiping the sweat from his brow, and then, with the tears streaming down his face, promised not to ill-treat his son any more. Strictly speaking, it was not a court, but a public control of citizens' behaviour; we were witnessing proletarian ethics in the making. Vladimir Ilyich was greatly interested in this "court" and questioned me about it in detail.
Mostly I told him about the new forms of educational work. I was in charge of the Department of Education at the District Council. The children's school did not function in the summer, and most of the time I was busy with political education. In this respect my five years' experience at the Sunday Evening School in the Nevskaya Zastava District in the nineties came in very useful to me. These were different times, of course, and we could go ahead with the job unhampered.
Delegates from some forty factories got together every week and we discussed ways and means of carrying out one or another measure. Whatever we decided was immediately carried out. For example, we decided to do away with illiteracy, and the factory delegates, each at his own place of employment, organized the registration of illiterates, secured school premises and raised the necessary funds by bearing down upon the factory managements. A representative of the workers was attached to each such school and he saw to it that the school was supplied with all that it needed in the way of blackboards, chalk, ABC books, etc. Special representatives were appointed to see that right teaching methods were used and to find out what the workers had to say about it. We briefed these representatives and had them report back to us. We got together delegates of the soldiers' wives and discussed conditions in the children's homes, organized their inspection over the children's homes, gave them instructions, and carried out extensive explanatory work among them. We got together the librarians of the district, and together with them and the workers discussed the forms of work of the public libraries. A powerful impulse was given to the initiative of the workers, and the Department of Education rallied around itself considerable forces. Ilyich said at the time that this was just the style of work that our government offices and future ministers would have to adopt, a style of work modelled after these committees of working men and women, who were in the thick of things and were familiar with the conditions of life and work of the masses and with everything that agitated their minds at the moment. Vladimir Ilyich was all the more keen to draw me out on these subjects in that he believed I understood how to enlist the masses on the job of running the government. He had some strong things to say afterwards about the "rotten" bureaucratism that had wormed its way in everywhere. Eventually, when the question came up of raising the responsibility of the People's Commissars and the Commissariats' department managers, who often shuffled it off on to the boards and commissions, the question of oneman management arose. Ilyich unexpectedly got me appointed a member of the commission under the Council of People's Commissars which was set up to investigate this question. He said we must be careful that one-man management should in no way override the initiative and independent activity of the commissions, or weaken the ties with the masses; one-man management had to be combined with an ability to work with the masses. Ilyich tried to make use of everyone's experience for building up a state of a new type. The Soviet Government, at the head of which Ilyich now stood, was faced with the task of setting up a type of state machinery such as the world had never yet seen, a machinery that relied on the support of the broad masses; the task was to remodel the whole social fabric and all human relations along new socialist lines.
But first of all the Soviet power had to be defended against the enemy's attempts to overthrow it by force and disrupt it from within. Our ranks had to be strengthened.
November 9-15 were days of struggle for the very existence of the Soviet power.
As a result of a thorough study of the experience of the Paris Commune, the world's first proletarian state, Ilyich noted what a ruinous effect the lenity which the working masses and the workers' government had shown towards their avowed enemies had had upon the fate of the Paris Commune. In speaking of the fight against the enemies, therefore, Ilyich was always inclined to put the case strongly for fear of the masses and himself showing too great lenity.
At the beginning of the October Revolution there had been far too much forbearance of this kind. Kerensky and a number of ministers had been allowed to escape, the cadets who had defended the Winter Palace had been set free on parole, and General Krasnov, who commanded Kerensky's advancing troops, had been left under domiciliary arrest. One day, while sitting in one of the waiting rooms at Smolny on a heap of army coats, I heard a conversation between Krylenko and General Krasnov, who had been brought to Petrograd under arrest. They had come in together, sat down at a small table standing all by itself in the middle of the large room, and dropped into a calm easy conversation. I remember being surprised at the peaceful nature of their talk. Speaking at a meeting of the Central Executive Committee on November 17, Ilyich had said: "Krasnov was treated leniently. He was merely put under domiciliary arrest. We are against civil war. But if, nevertheless, it continues, what are we to do?" (Works, Vol. 26, p. 252.)
Released by the Pskov comrades, Kerensky had engineered an attack on Petrograd; set free on parole, the cadets had revolted on November 11, and Krasnov, escaping from under domiciliary arrest, had organized a hundred-thousand-strong White army in the Don with aid of the German Government.
The people were tired of the imperialist carnage and wanted a bloodless revolution, but the enemies compelled them to fight. Engrossed completely in the problems of socialist reconstruction of the entire social system, Ilyich was compelled to turn his attention to the defence of the cause of the revolution.
On November 9 Kerensky succeeded in capturing Gatchina. In an article "Lenin During the Days of the Uprising" (Krasnaya Gazeta, November 6, 1927) Podvoisky gives a vivid description of the tremendous work Lenin did during the days of Petrograd's defence. He describes how Lenin came to the Area Staff Headquarters and demanded a report on the situation. Antonov Ovseyenko began to explain the general plan of operations, pointing out on the map the disposition of our forces and the probable disposition and strength of the enemy's forces. "Lenin examined the map closely. With the keenness of a profound and attentive strategist and general, he demanded explanations–why this point was not being guarded, why that point was undefended, why such a step was being contemplated instead of another, why Kronstadt, Vyborg, Helsingfors had not been called on for support, and so on. After comparing notes, it became clear that we had really made quite a number of blunders and not acted with the prompt urgency which the menacing situation in Petrograd called for in the matter of organizing the means and forces for its defence."
On the evening of the 9th Ilyich spoke with Helsingfors on the private line and arranged for two destroyers and the battleship Respublika to be sent to guard the approaches to Petrograd.
Vladimir Ilyich went to the Putilov Works with Antonov-Ovseyenko to check up whether the armoured train, which was so badly needed, was being built quickly enough. He talked with the workers there. Staff Headquarters was transferred to Smolny, and Lenin took a close interest in all its work, and helped it to mobilize the activity of the masses. Podvoisky writes that he began to appreciate Lenin's work after a delegate conference of workers' organizations, district Soviets, factory committees, trade unions and military units, which Lenin had called. "I saw here wherein Lenin's power lay," he writes. "During an emergency, he kept the concentration of our forces and means at its highest pitch of intensity. We squandered our energies, mustered and used our forces without plan, as a result of which our efforts lost much of their impact, and blunted the edge of the masses' activity, initiative and determination. The masses had not felt that iron will and iron plan which keeps all parts together as in a finely adjusted machine. Lenin kept driving home the idea that it was essential to make the utmost concentrated efforts for defence. Elaborating on this idea he unfolded to the conference an intelligible plan in which, as in an integral machine, everyone found a place for himself, for his factory or his unit. Right there, at the conference, every man was able to envisage concretely the plan of further work, and to feel his work to be linked with that of the whole collective body of the republic. As a result, he felt the responsibility which, from that moment, the dictatorship of the proletariat was imposing upon him. To attract the masses and bring it home to them that no leaders would do their job for them, but that they themselves would have to get down to work with their own hands if they wanted to arrange their lives on new lines and defend their state–this is what Lenin constantly strove to achieve,this is where he showed himself to be a true leader of the people, a leader who was able to make the masses face up to vital and essential issues and take the step towards their solution themselves, not by unconsciously following a leader, but by being profoundly conscious themselves of what they were doing."
In this Podvoisky was absolutely right. Ilyich was able to alert the masses, was able always to set concrete aims before them.
The workers of Petrograd rose in defence of their city. Old and young went off to the front to meet the troops of Kerensky. The Cossacks and the units that had been called up from the provinces were none too keen on fighting, and the Petrograd workers carried on agitation among them, argued with them. The Cossacks and soldiers whom Kerensky had mobilized simply quitted the front, taking guns and rifles with them. Kerensky's front was disintegrating. Nevertheless, many Petrograd workers lost their lives in defending the city. Among them was Vera Slutskaya, who had been an active Party worker in the Vasileostrovsky District. She went out to the front in a lorry and had her head blown off by a shell. Quite a number of our Vyborg District comrades were killed too. The whole district turned out to attend the funeral.
On November 11, when Kerensky was marching on Petrograd in full force, the military cadets, who had been released from the Winter Palace on parole, decided to help Kerensky and engineered a revolt. I was still living in Petrograd District at the time with Ilyich's relatives–this was before I moved to Smolny. Early in the morning fighting started near the Pavlovskoye Military School not far from where we lived. On hearing of the revolt of the cadets, the Red Guards and workers from the factories in the Vyborg District came to suppress it. Guns were used in the fighting, and our house shook. The people around us were scared to death. Early in the morning of that day, when I was leaving the house to go to the District Council, a housemaid from next door had come running towards me crying horrified: "You ought to see what they're doing! I just saw them bayonet a cadet just like a fly on a pin!" On the way I had met a fresh force of the Vyborg Red Guards coming up with another cannon. The revolt of the cadets was quickly suppressed.
The same day Ilyich addressed a conference of regimental representatives of the Petrograd garrison. In the course of his speech he said: "Kerensky's attempt was as pitiful an adventure as Kornilov's. It is a difficult moment, though. Energetic measures are needed to improve the food supply and put an end to the hardships of war. We cannot wait, and we cannot tolerate a revolt of Kerensky's for a single day. If the Kornilovites organize a new offensive they will get the same answer as the cadet revolt received today. The cadets have themselves to blame. We have taken the power almost without any bloodshed. If there were any casualties they were on our side alone.... The government created by the will of the workers', soldiers' and peasants' deputies, will not tolerate any insults on the part of the Kornilovites." (Works, Vol. 26, p. 236.)
On November 14 Kerensky's revolt was suppressed. Gatchina was recaptured. Kerensky escaped. In Petrograd victory was complete. But in the country at large civil war was breaking out. On November 8 General Kaledin had proclaimed martial law in the Don Region and began to organize the Cossacks against the Soviet power. On November 9 the Cossack ataman Dutov had captured Orenburg. In Moscow things were dragging. The Whites had seized the Kremlin there. The fight was fiercer than in Petrograd.
The Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks and other factions, who had quitted the Second Congress of Soviets on November 8, organized a Committee for the Salvation of the Motherland and the Revolution, around which they thought to rally all the opponents of the Soviet power. The committee had on it nine representatives of the Central Town Council, the whole presidium of the Pre-parliament, three representatives from each of the executive committees of the All-Russian Soviet of Workers and Soldiers' Deputies, the Soviet of Peasants' Deputies, and of the S.-R. and Menshevik factions, representatives of the Unity-Mensheviks, the Centroflot and two representatives of Plekhanov's Unity group. They were out to save the country and the revolution from the Bolshevik "adventurers" who had seized the power behind their backs. But they could not do much. The slogans "For Peace," "For Land" were so popular among the masses that the latter rallied unhesitatingly around the Bolsheviks with tremendous enthusiasm. The Committee of Public Security, which had been formed in Moscow, joined the Petrograd Committee for the Salvation of the Motherland and the Revolution. It had been formed on the initiative of the Moscow Town Council, at the head of which stood the Right Socialist-Revolutionary Rudnev. The Moscow Committee of Public Security openly sided with the counter-revolution.
Troops had to be sent to Moscow to give a helping hand, but this could not be done on account of the stand which the All-Russian Executive Committee of Railway Employees had taken. The Railwaymen's Executive backed the dissentient factions that had quitted the congress, and the workers had no influence there. The Railwaymen's Executive declared that it took a "neutral stand" in the civil war that had started, and would not allow the troops of either side to pass. Actually, this "neutrality" hit the Bolsheviks and prevented them from sending troops to the assistance of Moscow. The sabotage of the Railwaymen's Executive was broken by the railway workers, who undertook to transport the troops themselves. On November 16 the Military Revolutionary Committee in Petrograd sent a force to Moscow. The resistance of the Whites, however, was overcome in Moscow before those troops arrived.
At the most difficult moment, when the revolt of the military cadets had only just been suppressed in Petrograd, when Kerensky was still advancing, and fighting in Moscow was still in progress, a number of members of the Party Central Committee began to vacillate. They believed that concessions ought to be made, that the situation was desperate. These vacillations were most strikingly revealed in the negotiations with the Railwaymen's Executive. On November 9, the latter passed a resolution calling for the formation of a government of all the Socialist parties, from the Bolsheviks to the Popular Socialists, and offering to act as mediators. At first only the Left wing of the Railwaymen's Executive entered into negotiations with the Central Committee, who authorized L. B. Ramenev and G. Y. Sokolnikov to represent it. The Mensheviks and the Right S.-R.'s took no part in the talks at first, but when they saw, as they thought, that the Bolsheviks had been driven into a corner as a result of Kerensky's attack and the state of affairs in Moscow, and learned that vacillations had started within the Central Committee, they became brazen to a degree. They came to the meeting of the Railwaymen's Executive on November 12-13 and demanded the repudiation of the power of the Soviets, the exclusion from participation in the government of those guilty of the October uprising, the removal, first and foremost, of Lenin, and the setting up of a new government headed by Chernov or Avksentyev. The Bolshevik delegation led by Kamenev did not withdraw from the meeting, thereby permitting discussion of the proposals submitted by the Mensheviks and the Right S.-R.'s. The next day, on November 14, a meeting of the Central Committee was called, at which Lenin demanded that the talks with the Railwaymen's Executive, who had gone over to the side of the Kaledins and Kornilovs, should be broken off immediately. A resolution to that effect was adopted by the Central Committee. On the 17th, Nogin, Rykov, V. Milyutin and Teodorovich announced their resignation from the Council of People's Commissars on the grounds that they considered it necessary to form a socialist government of all the Socialist parties. They were joined by a number of other Commissars. Kamenev, Rykov, Zinoviev, Nogin and Milyutin announced their resignation from the Central Committee. All of them had stood for the formation of an all-party coalition government right after the victory of the October Revolution. The Central Committee demanded that they should submit to Party discipline. Ilyich was indignant and fought hard on this point. Zinoviev published a statement announcing his return to the Central Committee.
The further victories of the Bolsheviks and the Petrograd and Moscow organizations' sharp disapproval of these comrades' conduct (their resignation from the Central Committee and their official posts) enabled the Party to liquidate this incident fairly quickly. It took one's thoughts back to the past–to the Second Congress of the Party fourteen years earlier, in 1903. The Party then had only just begun to form, and Martov's refusal to join the editorial board of Iskra had provoked a serious crisis in the Party, which had caused Ilyich great distress. The present resignation of a number of comrades from the Central Committee and from their posts of Commissars merely created temporary difficulties. The uplift of the revolutionary movement had helped to quickly liquidate this incident, and Ilyich, who always spoke about what was on his mind at the moment during our walks together, never once mentioned this incident. His mind was set entirely on the problem of how to begin building up the socialist system of life, how to put into effect the resolutions passed at the Second Congress of Soviets.
On November 17, Ilyich spoke at the meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies held jointly with army delegates from the front. His speeches breathed absolute confidence in victory, confidence in the correctness of the line which the Bolsheviks had taken, confidence in the support of the masses.
"The criminal inertia of the Kerensky Government brought the country and the revolution to the brink of disaster; truly, delay spells death, and in issuing laws that meet the hopes and wishes of the broad masses of the people, the new government is setting landmarks upon the path of development of new forms of life. The local Soviets, in keeping with local conditions, may modify, extend or supplement the basic principles which the government establishes. The basic factor of the new public life is the live creative effort of the masses. Let the workers set up a workers' control of their factories, let them supply the countryside with manufactures, barter them for grain. Every single commodity, every pound of bread should he accounted for, for socialism, above all, means accounting. Socialism cannot be built up by decrees from above. Official bureaucratic automatism is alien to its spirit; living constructive socialism is the creation of the masses of the people themselves." (My italics.–N.K.) (Works, Vol. 26, pp. 254-55.)
"The power belongs to our Party, which has the support and trust of the broad masses of the people. Some of our comrades may have taken a stand that has nothing in common with Bolshevism. But the working masses of Moscow will not follow the lead of Rykov and Nogin," said Ilyich. (Ibid., p. 256.)
He concluded his speech with the following words:
"The Central Executive Committee charges the Council of People's Commissars to nominate candidates for the posts of People's Commissars for Internal Affairs and Trade and Industry for the next meeting, and offers Kolegayev the post of People's Commissar of Agriculture." (Ibid., p. 259.) Kolegayev was a Left Socialist-Revolutionary. He did not accept the proffered post. The party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries still shirked responsibility.
The Mensheviks, Right S.-R.'s and others agitated for sabotage. The old government officials refused to work under the Bolsheviks, and did not come to their offices. Addressing the Petrograd Soviet on November 17, Lenin said: "They say we are isolated. The bourgeoisie has created an atmosphere of lies and slander around us, but I have not seen a soldier yet who has not hailed the passing of power into the hands of the Soviets with enthusiasm. I have not seen a peasant who was against the Soviets." (Works, Vol. 26, p. 262.)
And this gave Lenin confidence in victory.
On November 21, 1917, Yakov Sverdlov was elected Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee in place of L.B. Kamenev. He was nominated by Ilyich. The choice was an exceedingly happy one. Sverdlov was a man of great firmness. In the struggle for the Soviet power, in the struggle against the counter-revolution, he was indispensable. Moreover, there was a tremendous job to be done in organizing a state of a new type, and this job called for an organizer of exceptional ability. Sverdlov was just that kind of organizer.
Two years later, on March 18, 1919, after having accomplished a tremendous organizing job for the good of the country at a time of its greatest need, Sverdlov died. Lenin's speech at the special meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee held in connection with his death, has gone down in history as a splendid memorial to that devoted champion of the working-class cause. "In the course of our revolution and its victories," said Lenin, "Comrade Sverdlov has succeeded, more fully and wholly than anyone else, in expressing the most important and essential features of the proletarian revolution...." The most "profound and constant feature of this revolution and the condition for its victory," Ilyich continued, "has always been the organization of the proletarian masses, the organization of the working people. It is this organization of the millions of the working people that constitutes the finest conditions for the revolution, the deepest source of its victories.... It was this feature of the revolution that advanced to the fore such a man as Y. M. Sverdlov, who was an organizer par excellence." Ilyich described Sverdlov as "a most clear-cut type of professional revolutionary," wholeheartedly devoted to the cause of the revolution, steeled by long years of underground illegal activity, a man who never lost touch with the masses, never left Russia, a revolutionary who "succeeded in becoming not only a leader beloved of the workers, not only a leader who was best and most widely familiar with the practical work, but also an organizer of the advanced proletarians.... It is to the remarkable organizing ability of this man that we owe whatever we have so far taken such pride in. He has secured for us the full opportunity for really organized, rational teamwork, worthy of the organized proletarian masses and fitting the needs of the proletarian revolution–organized teamwork without which we could not have achieved a single success, without which we could not have overcome a single one of those innumerable difficulties, a single one of those hardships which we have had to face till now and are compelled to face at the present moment." Ilyich characterized Sverdlov as an organizer who had won for himself an "unassailable reputation," an organizer of "the whole Soviet power in Russia" and "the most experienced" organizer of "the work of the Party, which created these Soviets and practically implemented the Soviet power." (Works, Vol. 29, pp. 70-74.)
The October Revolution altered the conditions of the revolutionary struggle. These new conditions of struggle demanded of a man greater determination, greater pertinacity, greater "stamina," to use a favourite word of Vladimir Ilyich, greater organizing scope. "The essence of socialism in the making is organization," Ilyich often said. It was no accident that the course of events brought to the fore men who were not afraid to shoulder responsibility, men whose abilities had been cramped by the conditions of the old underground; constant arrests and deportations had brought their organizing efforts to naught, while the need for secrecy had kept them in the background. One such man was Stalin, an outstanding organizer of the Party and of the victory of October. It was not for nothing that when candidates for People's Commissars were being nominated at the Second Congress of Soviets Ilyich proposed that Stalin should be appointed Chairman of the Commissariat for the Affairs of Nationalities. Ilyich had striven for years to bring about the liberation of the non-Russian nationalities and give them an opportunity for all-round development; during the last few years he had fought harder than ever for the right of nations to self-determination. I remember how closely he took to heart every little thing that had any bearing on this question, and how furious he got one day when I told him that there was some hesitation at the People's Commissariat of Education on the question as to whether historical monuments of value to the Poles should be restored to them or not. Ilyich hated great-power chauvinism with all his soul, and there was nothing he desired more passionately than that the Republic of the Soviets should offset the imperialist policy of oppressing the weaker nationalities by its own policy of complete liberation for those nationalities, a policy of comradely solicitude for their welfare. He knew Stalin's views on the national question very well, as they had often discussed the subject in Cracow. He was confident that Stalin would consider himself in honour bound to carry out in deed and not in word all that had been so carefully thought out and discussed on this subject during previous years. The nationalities had to be given the right to self-determination. The task was complicated by the fact that this right had to be enforced under conditions of acute class struggle. The work of putting into effect the nations' right to self-determination had to be combined with the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the implementation of the power of the Soviets. This question was closely linked, with the question of the international struggle of the proletariat and the questions of the civil war. A broad mind, profound conviction and practical organizing ability were required of the person in charge of affairs on the national front. That is why Ilyich proposed Stalin for the job.
The problem of learning how to work the new way, learning new habits of mind, the problem of making leading, capable and tenacious builders of the socialist system out of yesterday's revolutionary opposition, loomed large before all Party workers.
Ilyich and I moved into Smolny. We were given a room there formerly occupied by a dame de class. It was partitioned off to make room for a bed. Admission to it was through the wash-room. A lift took you upstairs where Ilyich had his private office. Facing this was a small outer office used as a waiting room. Delegation after delegation came to see him. Most of them were from the front. Often, when going up to him, I would find him in the outer office. The room would be crowded with soldiers, all standing up and listening to Ilyich, who was talking to them by the window. Ilyich worked in the bustling atmosphere of Smolny, which was always crowded with people. Everyone came there, as if drawn by a magnet. Smolny was guarded by soldiers of the machine-gun regiment, the same regiment that had been quartered in the Vyborg District in the summer of 1917 and was completely under the influence of the workers there. It had been the first to come out in July 3, 1917, eager to join the fray. Kerensky had decided to make an example of the rebels. They were disarmed and marched out on to the square where they were publicly degraded. After that the machine-gunners hated the Provisional Government worse than ever. In October they fought for the Soviet power and afterwards took over guard duty at Smolny. One machine-gunner by the name of Zheltishev, an Ufa peasant, was told off to look after Ilyich. He was greatly attached to Ilyich and took care of him, attending to his wants and bringing him his meals from the canteen, which was then housed in Smolny. Zheltishev was naive to a degree. He was for ever wondering at things. Even the spirit-lamp set him wondering. I came into the room once and found him sitting on his haunches pouring spirits on the burning lamp that stood before him on the floor. Even the taps and the crockery set him wondering. The machine-gunners who were guarding Smolny once came upon a pile of caskets used by the young ladies of the former Smolny Institute. Curious to know what was in them, they prized them open with their bayonets. They found them to contain diaries, all kinds or knick-knacks and ribbons. The men gave them away to the children of the neighbourhood. Zheltishev brought me a trinket–a round little mirror with carving on it and the word "Niagara" in English letters. I still have it. Ilyich sometimes exchanged a word with Zheltishev, and the latter was prepared to do anything in the world for him. Zheltishev was supposed to attend on Trotsky, too, who lived opposite us with his family in the rooms formerly occupied by the head mistress of the Institute. But he did not like Trotsky. "He was much too bossy," he once wrote to me.
He is now living in a collective farm in the Bashkir Republic. He has a large family, is ailing, goes in for bee-keeping, and writes to me occasionally, recollecting things about Ilyich.
I was at work all day, first in the Vyborg District Council, then in the Commissariat of Education. Ilyich was left pretty much to shift for himself. Zheltishev brought him his meals and bread-the usual rations. Maria Ilyinichna sometimes brought him some food from home, but he had no one to take regular care of his meals, as I was hardly ever at home. A young fellow named Korotkov recently told me of an incident connected with Lenin. He was a boy of twelve at the time, living with his mother, who was an office cleaner at Smolny. Once she heard someone walking about in the canteen. She looked in, and there was Ilyich standing at a table eating a piece of black bread and herring to which he had helped himself. He was somewhat taken aback at the sight of the office cleaner, and said with a smile: "I felt very hungry, you know." Korotkova knew Vladimir Ilyich. Once, during the days immediately following the revolution, Ilyich was coming down the stairs, which she was washing. She stood leaning on the banister, resting. Ilyich stopped and talked to her. She did not know who he was at the time. He said to her: "Well, Comrade, don't you find things better now under the Soviet power than under the old government?" And she answered: "Oh, I don't care, so long as I get paid for my work." Afterwards, when she got to know it had been Lenin, she could not get over it. She told that story of how she had answered Lenin as long as she lived. She is now an old-age pensioner, and her son, who had then been employed in the Forwarding Department of Smolny has taken his degree as artist at the State Art and Crafts Workshops.
And then, at last, Shotman's mother, a Finn, took matters in hand. She was very fond of her son and proud of the fact that he had been a delegate to the Second Party Congress and helped Ilyich to hide himself during the July days. Soon she had everything in the house ship-shape, the way Ilyich liked it, and put Zheltishev, and the cleaners, and the waitresses in the canteen through their paces. I could rest assured now, when going away, that Ilyich would be properly looked after and given his meals.
Late in the afternoon, when I came home from work, Ilyich (if he was disengaged) and I would go for a stroll round Smolny and have a chat. Few people knew Ilyich by sight in those days, and he used to go about unattended. True, the machine-gunners, seeing him go out, used to worry about it, and they saw to it that the Smolny area alas kept clear of hostile elements. Once they ran in a dozen or so housewives who had collected on the corner and were railing loudly at Lenin. Malkov, the commandant of Smolny, sent for me the next morning and said: "We ran some women in yesterday–they were kicking up a row. What am I to do with them? Will you have a look at them?" For one thing it turned out that most of the women had slipped away, and the rest were such an ignorant lot far removed from politics that I laughingly advised Malkov to let them go. One of the women, on being released, came back and asked me in a whisper, pointing to Malkov: "Is that Lenin?" I dismissed her with a smile.
We lived in Smolny up to March 1918, when we moved to Moscow.