Leon Trotsky

My Life


When Lenin went abroad at the age of thirty, he was already fully mature. In Russia, in the students’ circles, in the Social Democratic groups, and in the exile colonies, he held first place. He could not fail to realize his power, if only because everyone he met or worked with so clearly did. When he left Russia, he was already in possession of a full theoretical equipment and of a solid store of revolutionary experience. Abroad, there were collaborators waiting for him: “The Group of Liberation of Labor,” and chief among them, Plekhanov, the brilliant Marxist interpreter, teacher of several generations, theorist, politician, publicist, and orator, with a European reputation and European connections. Side by side with Plekhanov were two other prominent authorities, Zasulitch and Axelrod. It was not only her heroic past that had placed Vera Zasulitch in the front ranks: she had an exceedingly sharp mind, an extensive background, chiefly historical, and a rare psychological insight. It was through Zasulitch that the “Group” in its day became connected with old Engels.

Unlike Plekhanov and Zasulitch, who were more closely bound to Latin socialism, Axelrod represented in the “Group” the ideas and experience of the German Social Democracy. In that period, however, Plekhanov was already beginning to enter upon a state of decline. His strength was being undermined by the very thing that was giving strength to Lenin – the approach of the revolution. All of Plekhanov’s activity took place during the preparatory, theoretical days. He was Marxian propagandist and polemist-in-chief, but not a revolutionary politician of the proletariat. The nearer the shadow of the revolution crept, the more evident it became that Plekhanov was losing ground. He couldn’t help seeing it himself, and that was the cause of his irritability toward the younger men.

The political leader of the Iskra was Lenin. Martov was the literary power; he wrote as easily and as continuously as he spoke. Working side by side with Lenin, Martov, his closest companion in arms, was already beginning to feel not quite at his ease. They were still addressing each other as “ty” (thou), but a certain coldness was beginning to creep into their mutual relations. Martov lived much more in the present, in its events, in his current literary work, in the political problems of the day, in the news and conversations; Lenin, on the other hand, although he was firmly entrenched in the present, was always trying to pierce the veil of the future. Martov evolved innumerable and often ingenious guesses, hypotheses, and propositions which even he promptly forgot; whereas Lenin waited until the moment when he needed them. The elaborate subtlety of Martov’s ideas some times made Lenin shake his head in alarm. The different political lines had not yet had time to form; in fact, they had not even begun to make themselves felt. Later on, through the split at the Second Congress of the party, the Iskra adherents were divided into two groups, the “hard” and the “soft.” These names were much in vogue at first. They indicated that, although no marked divisions really existed, there was a difference in point of view, in resoluteness and readiness to go on to the end.

One can say of Lenin and Martov that even before the split, even before the congress, Lenin was “hard” and Martov “soft.” And they both knew it. Lenin would glance at Martov, whom he estimated highly, with a critical and somewhat suspicious look, and Martov, feeling his glance, would look down and move his thin shoulders nervously. When they met or conversed afterward, at least when I was present, one missed the friendly inflection and the jests. Lenin would look beyond Martov as he talked, while Martov’s eyes would grow glassy under his drooping and never quite clean pince-nez. And when Lenin spoke to me of Martov, there was a peculiar intonation in his voice: “Who said that? Julius?” – and the name Julius was pronounced in a special way, with a slight emphasis, as if to give warning: “A good man, no question about it, even a remarkable one, but much too soft.” At the same time, Martov was also coming under the influence of Vera Ivanovna Zasulitch, who was drawing him away from Lenin, not so much politically as psychologically.

Lenin concentrated all connections with Russia in his own hands. The secretary of the editorial board was his wife, Nadyezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya. She was at the very centre of all the organization work; she received comrades when they arrived, instructed them when they left, established connections, supplied secret addresses, wrote letters, and coded and decoded correspondence. In her room there was always a smell of burned paper from the secret letters she heated over the fire to read. She often complained, in her gently insistent way, that people did not write enough, or that they got the code all mixed up, or wrote in chemical ink in such a way that one line covered another, and so forth.

Lenin was trying, in the every-day work of political organization, to achieve a maximum of independence from the older members and above all from Plekhanov, with whom he had had many bitter struggles, especially in the drafting of the party programme. Lenin’s original draft, submitted as a counter-proposal to Plekhanov’s, received from the latter a sharply unfavorable estimate, in the jesting and superior manner characteristic of Georgy Valentinovitch on such occasions. But of course Lenin could not be confused or intimidated by such methods. The struggle took on a very dramatic aspect. Zasulitch and Martov acted as intermediaries; the former on behalf of Plekhanov, the latter of Lenin. Both intermediaries were in a most conciliatory mood, and besides this, they were friends. Vera Ivanovna, according to her own account, once said to Lenin: “George [Plekhanov] is a hound – he will shake a thing for a while, and then drop it; whereas you are a bulldog – yours is the death-grip.” When she repeated this conversation to me later, Vera Ivanovna added: “This appealed to Lenin very much – ‘a death-grip,’ he repeated, with obvious delight.” As she said this, she good-naturedly mimicked Lenin’s intonation and accent. (He could not pronounce the sound of “r” clearly.)

All these disagreements took place before I arrived from Russia. I never suspected them. Nor did I know that the relations among the editors of the Iskra had been aggravated even more by my coming. Four months after my arrival, Lenin wrote to Plekhanov:

“March 2, 1903. PARIS.

“I suggest to all the members of the editorial board that they co-optate ’Pero’ as a member of the board on the same basis as other members. I believe co-optation demands not merely a majority of votes, but a unanimous decision. We very much need a seventh member, both as a convenience in voting (six being an even number), and as an addition to our forces. ’Pero’ has been contributing to every issue for several months now; he works in general most energetically for the Iskra; he gives lectures (in which he has been very successful). In the section of articles and notes on the events of the day, he will not only be very useful, but absolutely necessary. Unquestionably a man of rare abilities, he has conviction and energy, and he will go much farther. Furthermore, in the field of translations and of popular literature, he will be able to do a great deal. Possible objections: (1) His youth; (2) his leaving for Russia, possibly in a short time; (3) his pen [pero], this time without the quotation, which shows traces of the feuilleton style, and is excessively florid, etc.

“Re (1) ’Pero’ is proposed not for any independent post, but only as a member of the board. There he will acquire his experience. He has unquestionably the ’sense’ of a party man, of a man of faction, and knowledge and experience are a matter of time. The co-optation is necessary in order to tie him down and encourage him.

“Re (2) If ‘Pero’ does enter into an intimate contact with all of our work, he will probably not leave so early. If he does leave, his organized connection with the board and his working under its instruction will not constitute a minus, but an enormous plus.

“Re (3) The defects of style are not a matter of importance. He will outgrow them. At present, he accepts ‘corrections’ in silence (and not very readily). On the board there will be discussions, votings, and the ‘instructions’ will have a more definite and obligatory character.

“To sum up, I propose: (1) to pass a vote by all the six members of the board for a full co-optation of ‘Pero’; (2) to start, if he is accepted, on the definite formulation of the relations among the editors, of the rules of voting, and on the drafting of a precise constitution. This is necessary for ourselves, as well as for the congress.

“P.S. I consider that it would be very inconvenient and awkward to put off the co-optation, as it has been made clear to me that ‘Pero’ is considerably annoyed – though of course he does not show it openly – about his being still up in the air, and about his being treated, as it seems to him, as a ‘youth.’ If we do not accept ‘Pero’ at once, and he goes away, say, a month from now, to Russia, I am convinced that he will interpret this as our direct unwillingness to accept him on the board. He will slip away and this will be very undesirable.”

I quote this letter, which I discovered only recently, almost in its entirety (excepting only technical details) because it is extremely characteristic of the situation within the editorial board, characteristic of Lenin himself, and of his attitude toward me. As I have already said, I was completely ignorant of the struggle that was going on behind the scenes with regard to my joining the board. Lenin’s idea that I was “considerably annoyed” about my not being included on the board is incorrect and not in the least characteristic of my mood at that time. In point of fact, it never entered my mind. My attitude toward the board was that of a pupil toward his masters. I was only twenty-three years old. The youngest of the editors was Martov, who was seven years older than I, and Lenin himself was ten years my senior. I was much pleased with the fate that had placed me so close to this remarkable group of people. I could learn much from each of them, and I did, most diligently.

Where did Lenin get the idea that I was annoyed? I think it was simply a tactical trick. The entire letter is imbued with the desire to prove, to convince, and to get what he wanted. Lenin purposely tried to scare the other editors with my sup posed annoyance and possible estrangement from the Iskra. He used this merely as an additional argument, and nothing more. The same also applies to his argument about my being referred to as a “youth.” This was the name by which old Deutsch frequently addressed me, but no one else did. And to Deutsch, who never had and never could have any political influence over me, I was only bound by genuine friendship. Lenin used the argument merely to impress on the older ones the necessity of reckoning with me, as with a man who was politically mature.

Ten days after Lenin’s letter had been sent, Martov wrote to Axelrod:

“March 10, 1903. LONDON.

“Vladimir Ilyich has proposed to us that we admit ‘Pero,’ whom you know, to the board of editors, with full rights. His literary work shows undeniable talent, he is quite ‘ours’ in thought, he has wholly identified himself with the interests of the Iskra, and here, abroad, he wields considerable influence, thanks to his exceptional eloquence. He speaks magnificently; he could not do better. Of this, both Vladimir Ilyich and I have had occasion to convince ourselves. He has knowledge and works hard to increase it. I unreservedly subscribe to Vladimir Ilyich’s proposal.”

In this letter, Martov shows himself only as a true echo of Lenin. But he does not repeat the argument about my annoyance. I lived with Martov, side by side in the same house. He had observed me too closely to suspect any impatient desire on my part to become a member of the board.

Why did Lenin insist so eagerly on the necessity of my joining the board? He wanted to obtain a stable majority. On a number of important questions, the editors were divided into two equal groups: the older ones (Plekhanov, Zasulitch, Axelrod), and the younger generation (Lenin, Martov, Potresov). Lenin felt sure that on the most critical questions I would be with him. On one occasion, when it was necessary to oppose Plekhanov, Lenin called me aside and said slyly: “Let Martov speak. He will smooth it over, whereas you will hit straight from the shoulder.” Observing an expression of surprise on my face, he added immediately: “For my part, I prefer to hit from the shoulder, but with Plekhanov it would be better this time to smooth things over.”

Lenin’s proposal that I be put on the board was wrecked by Plekhanov’s opposition. Worse still, this proposal became the chief cause of an extremely unfriendly attitude on Plekhanov’s part toward me, because he guessed that Lenin was looking for a firm majority against him. The question of reorganizing the editorial board was deferred until the congress. The board decided, however, without waiting for the congress, to invite me to the editorial meetings in an advisory capacity. Plekhanov resolutely opposed even this. But Vera Ivanovna said to him, “I’ll bring him, no matter what you say.” And she did actually “bring” me to the next meeting. As I knew nothing about what had happened behind the scenes, I was much put out by the studied coldness with which Georgy Valentinovitch shook hands with me, a thing at which he was past-master. Plekhanov’s dislike of me lasted for a long time; in fact, it never disappeared. In April, 1904, Martov, in writing to Axelrod, referred to “his [Plekhanov’s] personal hatred of the said person [myself] – a hatred that is degrading to himself and ignoble.”

The reference in Lenin’s letter to my literary style at that time is interesting. It is true in both respects, that is, regarding my tendency to florid writing, and also my disinclination to accept corrections. My writing was an affair of only about two years’ standing at that time, and the question of style held an important and independent place with me. I was just be ginning to appreciate the flavor of words. Just as children rub their gums when they are teething, sometimes with quite inappropriate objects, I would pursue words, formulas, or an image in my literary teething-stage. Only time would purify my style. And as the struggle for form was neither an accidental nor an external thing, but a reflection of my intellectual processes, it is no wonder that, with all my respect for editors, I instinctively protected my still shaping individuality as a writer against the inroads of men who were already mature but differently constituted.

Meanwhile, the day set for the congress was drawing near, and eventually it was decided to transfer the editorial board to Geneva, in Switzerland, where living was cheaper and contact with Russia easier. Lenin agreed to this with a heavy heart. “In Geneva, we were put up in two tiny attic rooms,” writes Sedova. “L.D. was engrossed in the work for the congress, while I was getting ready to leave for party work in Russia.” The first delegates to the congress began to arrive, and there were continuous conferences. In this preparatory work, the leadership unquestionably belonged to Lenin, although the fact was not always obvious. Some delegates arrived with doubts or with pretensions. The work of preparation took a great deal of time. Much time was given to the consideration of the proposed constitution, since one of the important points in the scheme of organization was the relationship to be established between the central organ (the Iskra), and the Central Committee which was to function in Russia. I arrived abroad with the belief that the editorial board should be made subordinate to the Central Committee. That was the prevailing attitude of the majority of the Iskra followers.

“It can’t be done,” objected Lenin. “The correlation of forces is different. How can they guide us from Russia? No, it can’t be done. We are the stable centre, we are stronger in ideas, and we must exercise the guidance from here.”

“Then this will mean a complete dictatorship of the editorial board?” I asked.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” retorted Lenin. “In the present situation, it must be so.”

Lenin’s schemes of organization aroused certain doubts in me. But nothing was farther from my mind than the thought that the congress would blow up on those very questions.

I was made the delegate of the Siberian Union, with which I had been closely associated during my exile. To avoid spies, I set out for the congress with the Tula delegate, Dr. Ulyanov, who was Lenin’s younger brother, not from Geneva but from the adjoining quiet little station of Nion where the express-train stopped for only half a minute. Like good Russian provincials, we waited for the train on the wrong side of the track, and when the express pulled in we dashed to our carriage over the buffers. Before we could climb inside, the train started. The station-master saw two passengers between the buffers, blew his whistle, and the train stopped. As soon as we had been conducted to our car, the guard told us that it was the first time he had ever seen such stupid fellows, and that we would have to pay fifty francs for stopping the train. And we, in turn, told him that we didn’t understand a word of French. As a matter of fact, this was not strictly true, but it answered our purpose. After shouting at us for another three minutes, the fat Swiss left us in peace, and that was all the more sensible because we didn’t have fifty francs between us. Later on, when he was checking the tickets, he again aired, to the rest of the train, his contemptuous opinion of the two travellers who had to be taken off the buffers. The poor fellow did not know that we were travelling to create a party.

The congress opened in Brussels at the headquarters of a labor co-operative society in the Maison du Peuple. The store room, which had been assigned for our work, and which was sufficiently hidden away from alien eyes, contained bales of wool; as a result, we were constantly being attacked by huge numbers of fleas. We referred to them as “Ansele’s army,” [1] mobilized for its attack on bourgeois society. The meetings were an actual physical torture. Still worse was the persistent dogging of the delegates’ steps, from the very first day of their stay.

I lived on the strength of a passport issued to Samokovliyev, a Bulgarian about whom I knew nothing. One night during the second week I came out of a little restaurant, The Golden Pheasant, with Zasulitch. A delegate from Odessa, Z., crossed our path, and without even looking at us, hissed between his teeth: “There’s a detective behind you. Separate, and he will follow the man.” Z. was an expert on detectives, and possessed an eye as precise as an astronomical instrument. He lived near the Pheasant, on the top floor, and made his win dow an observation tower.

I immediately said good-by to Zasulitch, and walked straight ahead. In my pocket there were my Bulgarian passport and five francs. The sleuth, a tall slim Fleming with a nose like a duck’s bill, followed me. It was after midnight, and there was not a soul on the street. I turned back sharply.

“M’sieu, what’s the name of this street?” The Fleming seemed frightened, and pressed back against the wall.

“Je ne sais pas.” He no doubt expected a revolver-shot. I walked on, straight along the boulevard. A clock struck one. At the first side street, I turned and ran for all I was worth, the Fleming after me. So there we were, two strangers, racing after each other in the streets of Brussels after midnight. Even now I can hear the clatter of feet. After I had run around the three sides of the block, I came to the boulevard again, with the Fleming. We were both tired and furious. We kept on walking. We passed a few cabs standing at the curb. It would have been useless to take one of them, because the detective would have followed in another. We continued to walk. The

interminable boulevard seemed to be approaching what looked like an end, and we were going out of town. I saw a solitary cab near a bar that was open all night. With a swift push, I was in the cab.

“Go, I’m in a hurry!”

“Where do you want to go?” The detective was listening intently. I gave the name of a park a few minutes’ walk from my place.

“A hundred sous.”


The driver pulled in the reins. The detective rushed into the bar and caine out again with a garçon, pointing his finger at his disappearing enemy.

Half an hour later I was in my own room. As soon as I lit the candle I noticed a letter on the dressing-table, addressed to me under my Bulgarian name. Who could have written me here? It turned out to be an invitation to “Sieur Samokovliyev” to appear with his passport the next morning at ten at the police station. So another detective must have tracked me there the day before, and all that night-chase on the boulevard was nothing but a little disinterested exercise for both parties. Similar invitations were extended to other delegates that night, too. Those who visited the police were ordered to leave Belgium in twenty-four hours. I did not go to the police station but simply left for London, to which the congress was transferred.

The head of the Russian secret service in Berlin, a man named Harting, afterward reported to the Police Department that “the Brussels police were surprised to see such an influx of foreigners, and suspected ten men of an anarchist conspiracy.” As a matter of fact, the Brussels police were surprised by Harting himself. His real name was Hekkelmann, a bombist agen -provocateur sentenced in a state of contumacy to hard-labor by the French courts, who later became a general of the Czar’s secret police, and, under a false name, a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur in France. Harting, in turn, obtained his information though another. agent-provocateur, Dr. Zhitomirsky, who, working from Berlin, had taken an active part in the organization of the congress. But all this came out several years later. It would seem as if Czarism held all the strings. And yet even this did not save it.

As the congress progressed, the differences between the foremost adherents of the Iskra came to a head. The division between the “hard” and the “soft” was apparent. At first, the disagreements centred about the first paragraph of the constitution: the question of who was to be considered a member of the party. Lenin insisted on identifying the party with the underground organization. Martov wanted to consider as members also those who worked under the direction of the underground organization. The difference was of no immediate practical importance, as both formulas conferred the right of voting only on members of the underground organizations. Nevertheless, the two divergent tendencies were unmistakable. Lenin wanted clear-cut, perfectly definite relationships within the party. Martov tended toward diffuse forms. The grouping of the members determined the whole subsequent course of the congress, and, among other things, the composition of the directing centres of the party.

Behind the scenes, there was a struggle for the support of every individual delegate. Lenin lost no opportunity to win me over to his side. He, another delegate, Krasikov, and I all three had a long walk together, during which they both tried to persuade me that Martov and I could not follow the same road, for Martov was a “soft” one. Krasikov’s descriptions of the other editors of the Iskra were so unceremonious that they made Lenin frown, while I shivered. My attitude toward the editors of the Iskra was still touched with the sentimentality of youth.

That conversation repelled rather than attracted me. The differences were still intangible; everybody was merely groping about and working with impalpable things. We decided to hold a meeting of the proved Iskra men to clear the whole business up. But even the selection of the chairman was full of difficulties. “I suggest electing your Benjamin,” said Deutsch, in an attempt to find a way out. So I had to occupy the chair at the very meeting of the Iskra followers in which the future split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks first took shape. Everybody’s nerves were strained to the breaking-point.

Lenin left the meeting, banging the door behind him. That was the only time I ever saw him lose his self-control during the bitter struggle inside the party. The situation became even more aggravated. The differences all came to the surface at the congress itself. Lenin made another attempt to win me over to the “hard” faction by sending to me a woman delegate, as well as his younger brother, Dmitry. My conversation with them, which was carried on in the park, lasted for several hours. The emissaries would not let me go. “We have orders,” they said, “to bring you with us at any cost.” In the end, I flatly refused to follow them.

The split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events. After the congress, Lenin was sick for several weeks with a nervous illness. “From Lon don, L.D. wrote almost daily,” writes Sedova in her memoirs. “His letters were expressive of a growing alarm, and finally there was a letter reporting the split, that said with despair that the Iskra was no more, that it was dead ... The split in the Iskra upset us dreadfully. After L.D.’s return from the congress, I soon left for St. Petersburg with reports of the congress written in a microscopic hand on thin paper, and inserted inside of the binding of a Larousse French dictionary.”

How did I come to be with the “softs” at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulitch and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable. Before the congress there were various shades of opinion on the editorial board, but no sharp differences. I stood farthest from Plekhanov, who, after the first really trivial encounters, had taken an intense dislike to me. Lenin’s attitude toward me was unexceptionally kind. But now it was he who, in my eyes, was attacking the editorial board, a body which was, in my opinion, a single unit, and which bore the exciting name of Iskra. The idea of a split within the board seemed nothing short of sacrilegious to me.

Revolutionary centralism is a harsh, imperative and exacting principle. It often takes the guise of absolute ruthlessness in its relation to individual members, to whole groups of former associates. It is not without significance that the words “irreconcilable” and “relentless” are among Lenin’s favorites. It is only the most impassioned, revolutionary striving for a definite end – a striving that is utterly free from anything base or personal – that can justify such a personal ruthlessness. In 1903, the whole point at issue was nothing more than Lenin’s desire to get Axelrod and Zasulitch off the editorial board. My attitude toward them was full of respect, and there was an element of personal affection as well. Lenin also thought highly of them for what they had done in the past. But he believed that they were becoming an impediment for the future. This led him to conclude that they must be removed from their position of leadership. I could not agree. My whole being seemed to protest against this merciless cutting off of the older ones when they were at last on the threshold of an organized party. It was my indignation at his attitude that really led to my parting with him at the second congress. His behavior seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organization. The break with the older ones, who remained in the preparatory stages, was in evitable in any case. Lenin understood this before any one else did. He made an attempt to keep Plekhanov by separating him from Zasulitch and Axelrod. But this, too, was quite futile, as subsequent events soon proved.

My break with Lenin occurred on what might be considered “moral” or even personal grounds. But this was merely on the surface. At bottom, the separation was of a political nature and merely expressed itself in the realm of organization methods. I thought of myself as a centralist. But there is no doubt that at that time I did not fully realize what an intense and imperious centralism the revolutionary party would need to lead millions of people in a war against the old order. My early years were passed in the dismal atmosphere of a reaction which prolonged its stay in Odessa for an extra five years. Lenin’s youthful years dated back to the “Narodnaya Volya.” Those who came a few years after me were brought up in an environment that was influenced by the new political upheaval. At the time of the London Congress in 1903, revolution was still largely a theoretical abstraction to me. Independently I still could not see Lenin’s centralism as the logical conclusion of a clear revolutionary concept. And the desire to see a problem independently, and to draw all the necessary conclusions from it, has always been my most imperious intellectual necessity.

The seriousness of the conflict which blazed up at the congress, apart from the impact of principles, which was still very incipient, was also caused by the failure of the older ones to recognize the stature and importance of Lenin. During the congress and immediately after, the indignation of Axelrod and others on the board at Lenin’s conduct was coupled with amazement: “How could he have the nerve to do it?”

“Was it so long ago that he came abroad as a mere pupil and behaved as a pupil?” the older ones argued. “Where, then, did he get that supreme self-confidence? Where did he get the nerve

But Lenin had the nerve. All he needed was to be convinced that the older ones were incapable of assuming direct leader ship of the militant organization of the proletarian vanguard in the revolution which was clearly approaching. The older ones – and they were not alone – erred in their judgment; Lenin was not merely a remarkable party worker, but a leader, a man with every fibre of his being bent on one particular end, one who finally realized that he was himself a leader after he had stood side by side with the elders and had been convinced that he was stronger and more necessary than they. In the midst of the still vague moods that were common in the group that upheld the Iskra banner, Lenin alone, and with finality, envis aged “tomorrow,” with all its stern tasks, its cruel conflicts and countless victims.

At the congress, Lenin won Plekhanov over, although only for a time. At the same time, he lost Martov; this loss was for ever. Plekhanov apparently sensed something at the congress. At least he told Axelrod, in discussing Lenin: “Of such stuff Robespierres are made.” Plekhanov himself did not play an enviable part at the congress. Only once did I see and hear Plekhanov in all his power. That was on the programme committee of the congress. With a clear, scientifically exact scheme of the programme in mind, sure of himself, of his knowledge and superiority, with a gay ironic sparkle in his eyes, his gray ing mustache alert and bristling, with slightly theatrical but lively and expressive gestures, Plekhanov as chairman illumined the entire large gathering with his personality, like a live fire works of erudition and wit.

The leader of the Mensheviks [2], Martov, must be counted as one of the most tragic figures of the revolutionary movement. A gifted writer, an ingenious politician, a penetrating thinker, Martov stood far above the intellectual movement of which he became the leader. But his thought lacked courage; his in sight was devoid of will. Sheer doggedness was no substitute. Martov’s initial reaction to events always showed a revolutionary trend of thought. Immediately, however, his thought, which lacked the support of a live will, died down. My friend ship with him did not survive the test of the first important events precipitated by the approaching revolution.

Whatever I may say about it, however, the second congress was a landmark in my life, if only because it separated me from Lenin for several years. As I look back now on the past, I am not sorry. I came to Lenin for the second time later than many others, but I came in my own way, after I had gone through and had weighed the experience of the revolution, the counter-revolution and the Imperialist war. I came, as a result, more surely and seriously than those “disciples” who, during the master’s life, repeated his words and gestures – not always at the right moment – but, after his death, proved to be nothing but helpless epigones and unconscious tools in the hands of hostile forces.


1. Ansele was one of the leaders of the Socialist party in Belgium, particularly prominent in the co-operative movement. – Trans.

2. As the result of the spilt at the Second Congress of the Russian Social Demo cratic Party, the two factions came to be known as “Bolsheviks,” meaning “of the majority,” and “Mensheviks,” meaning “of the minority.” – Trans.

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Last updated on: 1.2.2007