Leon Trotsky

Stalin –
An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence

Chapter III: The First Revolution

ACCORDING to our surmise, Koba did not join the Bolsheviks until some time after the November Conference, which met at Tiflis. That conference resolved to take an active part in preparations, already under way, for a new congress of the Social-Democratic Labor Party. Without any objection, we accepted Beriya’s bare assertion that Koba had left Baku in December on a propaganda tour in favor of that congress. That much is not improbable. It was clear to all that the Party was split in two. By that time the Bolshevik faction had already gained such strength that organizationally it was superior to its Menshevik opponent. Forced to choose between the two, it is not unlikely that Koba joined the Bolshevik faction. But we would be hard put to it, if we had to offer positive proof that Koba was already a member of the Bolshevik faction by the end of 1904. Beriya goes so far as to marshal a number of quotations from leaflets published at the time, yet he does not venture to say that Koba wrote any of them. That shy reticence about the authorship of these leaflets speaks louder than words. Beriya’s quotations from leaflets written by others than Koba serve, of course, the obvious purpose of filling in the gaping lacunae in Stalin’s biography.

Meantime, the differences of opinion between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks passed from the domain of party regulations to the domain of revolutionary strategy. The campaign of banquets—launched by zemstvo [1] workers and other liberals, and which grew apace during the autumn of 1904, largely because the distracted Tsarist authorities were too negligent to do anything about it—posed point-blank the question of relations between the Social-Democracy and the oppositionist bourgeoisie. The Menshevik plan called for an attempt to transform the workers into a democratic chorus supporting liberal soloists, a chorus sufficiently considerate and circumspect not only to “refrain from frightening” the liberals, but, more than that, one dedicated to bolstering the liberals’ faith in themselves. Lenin immediately launched his offensive. He derided the very idea of this plan—to substitute diplomatic support of a helpless opposition for the revolutionary struggle against Tsarism. The victory of the revolution can be secured only under pressure of the masses! Only a bold social program can rouse the masses to action: yet that is precisely what liberals fear. “We would have been fools had we taken their panic into consideration.” A smallish pamphlet by Lenin, which appeared in November, 1904, after a long silence, raised the spirits of his comrades and played an important part in developing Bolshevism’s tactical ideas. Was it not perhaps this pamphlet that had won Koba over? We do not venture to answer in the affirmative. In years to come, whenever he had occasion to exercise his own discretion in assuming a position with reference to the liberals, he invariably floundered toward the Menshevist notion of the importance of “refraining from frightening” the liberals. (Witness the revolutions in Russia in 1917, in China, in Spain and elsewhere.) The possibility is not excluded, however, that on the eve of the First Revolution, the plebeian Democrat appeared to be sincerely indignant with the opportunistic plan, which evoked great dissatisfaction even among rank and file Mensheviks. It must be said that, on the whole, among the radical intelligentsia, the tradition of maintaining a contemptuous attitude toward liberalism had not yet had time to fade away. It is also possible, however, that only Bloody Sunday[2] in Petersburg and the wave of strikes that swept the country in its wake had nudged the cautious and suspicious Caucasian to the path of Bolshevism. In any event, the milestone of that turn remained unrecorded in the annals of history.

[1] Zemstvo —semi-official local self-government principally in the provinces of Central Russia (there were no zemstvo s in the Western Russian provinces, in Poland, in the Baltic provinces, in the Cossack districts, in the Caucasus, Turkestan, and Siberia), administered under the supervision of the landed gentry ostensibly for public benefit. The institution was introduced by the Tsar-Liberator Alexander II (edict of January 1, 1864) shortly after the liberation of the serfs, liberalizing the police régime of the autocracy and representing a progressive step toward a constitutional régime. From its very inception the zemstvo had no real political authority, being dependent on the good will of the provincial governor and other appointees of the tsarist autocracy. Under Alexander III the self-governing ambit of the zemstvo was further limited! introducing in 1889 the office of zemski nachalnik, or Lands Administrator, a nobleman who functioned as judge over the peasantry, and who tightened his reins over the zemstvo ’s administrative power in local affairs. Barring these important limitations, the zemstvo outwardly resembled a county council. It took care of the roads, public health, fire-insurance, relief of the indigent, public education and other cultural and economic functions. In an extremely limited and rather timid way, the zemstvo was likewise a sounding board for liberal political sentiments. Always loyal to the Tsar, zemstvo leaders as a class were in favor of a constitutional régime in Russia. The Tsar used the zemstvo as a tool of the autocracy; whereas, from time to time, the revolutionists attempted to utilize individual zemstvo members, at least, as an auxiliary force in their struggle against the autocracy. Zemstvo physicians, engineers, statisticians, clerks and other employees came to be with increasing frequency revolutionists or sympathizers of the revolutionary parties.—C. M.

[2] January 22, 1905 (commonly known in Russia as The Ninth of January) went down into the annals of Russian history as “Bloody Sunday” after Tsar Nicholas II met a procession of loyal and unarmed Petersburg workingmen, come to petition him for redress of grievances under the leadership of Priest Gapon, with volleys of gunfire that killed hundreds of them. More than any other single factor, that act of monumental brutality undermined the faith of the average Russian in the good intentions of their “Little Father” and swept Russian workingmen in droves toward the revolutionary parties. That day marked the beginning of Russia’s first revolutionary year, 1905.—C. M.


The two old Bolsheviks, Stopani and Lehman, in their elaborately detailed reminiscences list all the revolutionists with whom they had occasion to deal at Baku and Tiflis toward the end of 1904 and the beginning of 1905: Koba is not on that list. Lehman names the people “who were at the head” of the Caucasian Union: Koba is not one of them. Stopani names the Bolsheviks who, jointly with the Mensheviks, led the famous Baku strike in December, 1904: again Koba’s name is among the missing. Yet Stopani should know whereof he writes, since he was himself a member of that strike committee. The reminiscences of both authors were published in the official Communist historical journal, and both memoirists, far from being “enemies of the people,” were good Stalinists; but they wrote their pieces in 1925, before planned falsification on assignment from above was developed into a system. In an article written as recently as 1926, Taratuta, a former member of the Bolshevik Central Committee, discussing “The Eve of the Revolution of 1905 in the Caucasus,” makes no mention whatever of Stalin. In the commentaries to the correspondence of Lenin and Krupskaya with the Caucasian organization Stalin’s name does not appear so much as once throughout the entire fifty pages. It is simply impossible to find around the latter part of 1904 and the beginning of 1905 any trace of activity by him who is nowadays portrayed as the founding father of Caucasian Bolshevism.

Nor does this conclusion run counter to the very latest of the interminable asseverations about Stalin’s implacable campaigning against the Mensheviks. All that is needed to reconcile these apparent contradictions is to push his campaigning some two years back, which is not hard, since there is no need to cite documents and no occasion to apprehend disproof. On the other hand, there is no reason to doubt that, having once made his choice, Koba waged his fight against the Mensheviks in the harshest, crudest and most unscrupulous manner That penchant for underhand ways and intrigues, which had been charged against him while he was a participant in the seminarist circles, a propagandist of the Tiflis Committee and a member of the Batum group, now found a far wider and bolder expression in the factional struggle.

Beriya names Tiflis, Batum, Chituary, Kutais and Poti as the places at which Stalin had engaged in debates against Noah Jordania, Irakli Tsereteli, Noah Ramishvili and other Menshevik leaders, as well as against the Anarchists and the Federalists. But Beriya cavalierly ignores all dates—an omission far from unintentional. As a matter of fact, the first of these discussions, which he fixes with some semblance of exactitude, took place in May, 1905. The situation is exactly the same in the case of Koba’s published writings. His first Bolshevik composition, a thin little pamphlet, was issued in May, 1905, under the rather odd title, “Slightly About Party Differences.”[3] Beriya deems it necessary to remark, without revealing on what grounds, that this pamphlet was written “at the beginning of 1905,” thereby disclosing more flagrantly than ever his attempt to shorten the two-year gap. One of the correspondents, evidently the future Litvinov, who did not know any Georgian, reported abroad the appearance in Tiflis of a pamphlet “which created a sensation”. This “sensation” can be explained only by the circumstance that the Georgian audience had heretofore heard nothing but the voice of the Mensheviks. In substance, this pamphlet amounts to no more than a sophomoric summary of Lenin’s writings. No wonder that it has never been reprinted. Beriya cites from it painstakingly culled quotations, which easily explain why the author himself was content to east over that pamphlet, as over his other literary works of that period, the pall of oblivion.

[3] Officially translated in English as “A Glance at the Disagreements in the Party.”—C. M.


In August, 1905, Stalin restated that chapter of Lenin’s book, “What Is To Be Done?”, which attempted to explain the correlation of the elemental labor movement and socialistic class-consciousness. According to Lenin’s representations, the labor movement, when left to its own devices, was inclined irrevocably toward opportunism; revolutionary class-consciousness was brought to the proletariat from the outside, by Marxist intellectuals. This is not the place for a criticism of that concept, which in its entirety belongs in a biography of Lenin rather than of Stalin. The author of “What Is To Be Done?” himself subsequently acknowledged the biased nature, and therewith the erroneousness, of his theory, which he had parenthetically interjected as a battery in the battle against “Economism” and its deference to the elemental nature of the labor movement. After his break with Lenin, Plekhanov came out with a belated, but all the more severe, criticism of “What Is To Be Done?”. The question of introducing revolutionary classconsciousness into the proletariat “from the outside” became timely again. The central organ of the Bolshevik Party recorded “the splendid posing of the question” concerning the introduction of class-consciousness “from the outside” in an anonymous article in a Georgian newspaper. That praise is cited nowadays as a kind of testimonial of Koba’s maturity as a theorist. As a matter of fact, it was nothing more than one of the customary encouraging remarks usually made by the foreign center whenever some provincial publication placed itself on record in defense of the ideas or the leaders of its own f action. As to the quality of the article, a sufficiently clear idea of it may be obtained from the following quotation in Beriya’s Russian translation:

Contemporary Life is arranged capitalistically. In it exist two great classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; a life or death struggle is waged between them. The circumstances of life compel the former to uphold the capitalistic order. The same circumstances compel the latter to undermine and to destroy the capitalistic order. Corresponding to these two classes, a two-f old class-consciousness, bourgeois and socialistic, is likewise created. Socialistic class-consciousness corresponds to the situation of the proletariat . .. But what significance can socialistic class-consciousness alone have, when it is not disseminated in the proletariat? It remains merely an empty phrase, and no more! Matters will take quite a different turn when that class-consciousness finds circulation in the proletariat: the proletariat will then realize its situation and will strive at an increasing pace to achieve the socialist way of Life …

and so forth. Such articles were rescued from duly merited oblivion only by the subsequent fate of their author. Yet, it is quite self-evident that the articles in themselves do not explain that fate; rather, they render it even more enigmatic.

Throughout 1905 Koba did not figure at all among Lenin’s and Krupskaya’s Caucasian correspondents, even as he had not figured prior to that. On the eighth of March a certain Tari, writing from Tiflis, summarized the reactions of certain Caucasian Mensheviks in the following words: “Lenin grasped the meaning of our times before anyone else and better than anyone else.” The same Tari wrote: “Lenin is referred to as a kind of Bazarov among these Arcady Nikolayeviches.” The reference is, of course, to Turgenev’s heroes: Bazarov, the practical realist type; and Arcady Nikolayevich, the idealist and phrasemonger. Under the name of Tari the editors of the historical journal indited the footnote, “Author unknown”. But the pointed literary reference alone suffices to show that Stalin could not have been the author of that letter. In Lenin’s articles and letters for the second half of 1905—at least in those published to date—are mentioned more than thirty Social-Democrats who had worked in Russia; of these, nineteen are closest in age to Lenin and twelve to Stalin. Stalin himself does not figure in that correspondence, either as a direct participant or as a third person. We are therefore obliged to adhere as firmly as ever to the conclusion we have already enunciated—that Stalin’s tale of having received a letter from Lenin in 1903 is simply a fabrication.

After his break with the editorial board of Iskra, Lenin, who was then about thirty-four years old, lived through months of wavering—a condition doubly difficult for him because so flagrantly at variance with his character—before he became convinced that his followers were comparatively numerous and his young authority sufficiently strong. The successful culmination of the arrangements for the new congress made plain beyond a doubt that the Social-Democratic organizations were preponderantly Bolshevik. The conciliatory Central Committee, led by Krassin, finally capitulated to the “illegal” Bureau of the Committees of the Majority and participated in the congress it could not prevent. Thus, the Third Congress—which convened in April, 1905, in London, and from which the Mensheviks deliberately stayed away, satisfying themselves with a conference in Geneva—became the constituent congress of Bolshevism. The twenty-four voting and fourteen advisory delegates were all, almost without exception, those Bolsheviks who had been faithful to Lenin from the moment of the split at the Second Congress and had aroused the Committees of the Party against the combined authority of Plekhanov, Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Martov, and Potresov. At this Congress was legitimatized that view on the moving forces of the Russian Revolution which Lenin developed in the course of his forthright fight against his former teachers and closest collaborators on the Iskra, and which thenceforth acquired greater practical significance than the Party’s official program worked out in common with the Mensheviks.

The ill-starred and inglorious war with Japan was hastening the disintegration of the Tsarist régime. Coming after the first great wave of strikes and demonstrations, the Third Congress reflected the approach of the revolutionary denouement. “The entire history of the past year has shown,” Lenin said in his report to the assembled delegates, “that we had underestimated the significance and the inevitability of insurrection.” The Congress took a resolute step forward on the agrarian question by acknowledging the necessity of supporting the peasant movement then current even to the extent of confiscating the lands of the landed gentry. More concretely than heretofore, it outlined the general perspective of the revolutionary struggle and the conquest of power, particularly on the question of the provisional revolutionary government as the organizer of civil war. As Lenin put it, “Even if we were to take possession of Petersburg and guillotine Nicholas, we would still be confronted with several Vendées.” The Congress undertook, with greater boldness than ever, the technical preparation of the insurrection. “On the question of creating special fighting groups,” said Lenin, “I must say that I deem them indispensable.”

The greater one’s regard for the significance of the Third Congress, the more noteworthy is Koba’s absence from it. By that time he had to his credit nearly seven years of revolutionary activity, including prison, exile and escape. Had he been a person of any consequence at all among the Bolsheviks, surely that record would have assured at least his candidacy as a delegate. Koba was moreover at liberty all through the year 1905, and according to Beriya, “took the most active part in the matter of organizing the Third Congress of the Bolsheviks.” If that is true, surely he should have been the chief of the Caucasian delegation. Why, then, wasn’t he? Had illness or any other exceptional cause prevented his journeying abroad, the official biographers would surely not have failed to tell us about it. Their uncommunicativeness is explicable only on the grounds of their not having at their disposal a single credible explanation for the absence of the “leader of the Caucasian Bolsheviks” from that historically important congress. Beriya’s assertions about “the most active” participation of Koba in organizing the Congress is one of those meaningless phrases with which official Soviet historiography is replete. In an article devoted to the thirtieth anniversary of the Third Congress, the well-informed Osip Pyatnitsky says nothing whatsoever about Stalin’s participation in the arrangements for the Congress, while the court historian Yaroslavsky limits himself to a vague remark, the substance of which is that Stalin’s work in the Caucasus “had undoubtedly tremendous significance” for the Congress, without elucidating the precise nature of that significance. Yet, from all we have so far managed to learn, the situation appears to be quite clear after hesitating for a considerable period of time, Koba joined the Bolsheviks shortly before the Third Congress; he took no part in the November Conference in the Caucasus; he was never a member of the bureau established by it; and being a newcomer, he could not have even hoped for a delegate’s mandate. The delegation consisted of Kamenev, Nevsky, Tskhakaya, and Dzhaparidze; these were the leaders of Caucasian Bolshevism at that time. Their subsequent fate is not irrelevant to our narrative: Dzhaparidze was shot by the English in 1918; Kamenev was shot eighteen years later by Stalin; Nevsky was proclaimed an “enemy of the people” by Stalin’s fiat and vanished without a trace; and only the aged Tskhakaya has survived, having managed to outlive himself.

The negative aspect of Bolshevism’s centripetal tendencies first became apparent at the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democracy. The habits peculiar to a political machine were already forming in the underground. The young revolutionary bureaucrat was already emerging as a type. The conditions of conspiracy, true enough, offered rather meager scope for such of the formalities of democracy as electiveness, accountability and control. Yet, undoubtedly the committeemen narrowed these limitations considerably more than necessity demanded and were far more intransigent and severe with the revolutionary workingmen than with themselves, preferring to domineer even on occasions that called imperatively for lending an attentive ear to the voice of the masses. Krupskaya notes that, just as in the Bolshevik committees, so at the Congress itself, there were almost no workingmen. The intellectuals predominated. “The ‘committeeman,’ “ writes Krupskaya, “was usually quite a self-confident person; he was fully aware of the tremendous influence wielded by the Committee’s activities on the masses; the ‘committeeman; as a rule, did not recognize any internal party democracy; inherently the ‘committeeman’ was contemptuous of the ’foreign center,’ which raged and ranted and started squabbles ‘they ought to try Russian conditions for a change’ … At the same time, he did not want any innovations. The ‘committeeman’ did not desire, and did not know how, to adapt himself to rapidly changing conditions.” That restrained yet very pithy characterization is most helpful to an understanding of Koba’s political psychology, for he was the “committeeman” par excellence . As early as 1901, at the outset of his revolutionary career at Tiflis he opposed drafting workingmen into his Committee. As a “practico”—that is, as a political empiricist—he reacted with indifference, and subsequently with contempt, toward the émigrés, toward the “foreign center”. Devoid of personal qualifications for directly influencing the masses, he clung with redoubled tenacity to the political machine. The axis of his universe was his Committee—the Tiflis, the Baku, the Caucasian, before it became the Central Committee. In time to come his blind loyalty to the Party machine was to develop with extraordinary force; the committeeman became the super-machine man, the Party’s General Secretary, the very personification of the bureaucracy and its peerless leader.

In this connection it is rather tempting to draw the inference that future Stalinism was already rooted in Bolshevik centralism or, more sweepingly, in the underground hierarchy of professional revolutionists. But upon analysis that inference crumbles to dust, disclosing an astounding paucity of historical content. Of course, there are dangers of one kind or another in the very process of stringently picking and choosing persons of advanced views and welding them into a tightly centralized organization. But the roots of such dangers will never be found in the so-called “principle” of centralism; rather they should be sought in the lack of homogeneity and the backwardness of the toilers—that is, in the general social conditions which make imperative that very centripetal leadership of the class by its vanguard. The key to the dynamic problem of leadership is in the actual interrelationships between the political machine and its party, between the vanguard and its Glass, between centralism and democracy. Those interrelationships cannot, of their nature, be established a priori and remain immutable. They are dependent on concrete historical conditions; their mobile balance is regulated by the vital struggle of tendencies, which, as represented by their extreme wings, oscillate between the despotism of the political machine and the impotence of phrasemongering.

In the pamphlet, “Our Political Problems,” written by me in 1904, which contains not a little that is immature and erroneous in my criticism of Lenin, there are, however, pages which present a fairly accurate characterization of the east of thought of the “committeemen” of those days, who “have foregone the need to rely upon the workers after they had found support in the ’principles’ of centralism.” The fight Lenin was obliged to wage the following year at the Congress against the high and mighty “committeemen” completely confirmed the justice of my criticism. “The debates assumed a more passionate character,” recounts Lyadov, one of the delegates. “There began to emerge definite groupings into theoreticians and practicos, literaries’ and committeemen … In the course of these disputes the rather youngish worker Rykov came most prominently to the forefront. He succeeded in grouping around himself a majority of the committeemen.” Lyadov’s sympathies were with Rykov. “I could not contain myself,” Lenin exclaimed in his concluding remarks, “when I heard it said that there were no workingmen fit for committee membership.” Let us recall how insistently Koba had challenged the Tiflis workingmen to acknowledge—”placing your hand on your heart”—that among them there were none fit for taking the holy orders of the priestly caste. “The question is being put off,” Lenin persisted. “There is evidently an illness in the Party.” That illness was the high-handedness of the political machine, the beginning of bureaucracy.

Lenin understood better than anyone else the need for a centralized organization; but he saw in it, above all, a lever for enhancing the activity of the advanced workingmen. The idea of making a fetish of the political machine was not only alien but repugnant to his nature. At the Congress he spotted the caste tendency of the committeemen at once and opened an impassioned fight against it. “Vladimir Ilyich was very much excited,” confirms Krupskaya, “and the committeemen were very much excited.” On that occasion the victory was with the committeemen, whose leader was Rykov, Lenin’s future successor in the post of Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. Lenin’s resolution, proposing that each Committee should necessarily contain a majority of workingmen, failed to pass. Again against the will of Lenin, the committeemen resolved to place the editorial board abroad under the control of the Central Committee. A year earlier Lenin would have chosen to split rather than consent to have the direction of the Party dependent upon the Russian Center, which was subjected to raids by the police and was, therefore, unstable in its composition. But now he firmly reckoned that the decisive word would be his. Having Brown strong in his fight against the old authoritative leaders of the Russian Social-Democracy, he felt much more self-confident than at the Second Congress and, therefore, calmer. If, as Krupskaya states, he was indeed “excited” during the debates or rather, seemed excited, he was all the more circumspect about the organizational steps he undertook. He not only accepted his defeat on two exceedingly important questions in silence, but even helped to include Rykov in the Central Committee. He did not doubt for a moment that the Revolution, that great teacher of the masses in matters of initiative and enterprise, would be able, simultaneously and without great difficulty, to demolish the youthful and as yet unstable conservatism of the Party’s political machine.

In addition to Lenin, to the Central Committee were elected the engineer Leonid Krassin and the naturalist, physician and philosopher A. A. Bogdanov, both coevals of Lenin; Postolovsky, who soon after abandoned the Party, and Rykov. The alternates were the “literary,” Rumyantsev and the two practicos Gussev and Bour. Needless to say, no one thought of proposing Koba for the first Bolshevik Central Committee.

In 1934, the Congress of the Communist Party of Georgia, using as a basis Beriya’s report, declared that “nothing so far written reflects the real and authentic role of Comrade Stalin, who had actually led the struggle of the Bolsheviks in the Caucasus for a good many years.” How that happened, the Congress did not explain. But all the old memoirists and historians were forthwith proscribed, and some of them were eventually shot. Then, to correct all the iniquities of the past, it was decided to establish a special “Stalin Institute”. With that was launched a sweeping purge of all the old parchments, which were instanter covered with new characters. Never before under the vault of heaven had there been such large-scale invention of falsehoods. Yet, the situation of the biographer is not utterly hopeless.

[We know that] Koba returned from exile to Tiflis in February, 1904, always invariably and triumphantly “directing the activity of the Bolsheviks”. With the exception of brief departures, he spent the major part of the years 1904 and 1905 at Tiflis. According to the latest memoirs, the workers were wont to say, “Koba is skinning the Mensheviks alive.” Yet it would seem that the Georgian Mensheviks hardly suffered from that surgical operation. It was only as late as the latter half of 1905 that the Tiflis Bolsheviks entered the “period of lining up together” and “considered” issuing news sheets. What then was the nature of the organization to which Koba belonged during most of 1904 and during the first half of 1905? If he did not stay out of the labor movement altogether, which is unlikely, everything we have heard from Beriya notwithstanding, he must have been a member of the Menshevik organization. By the beginning of 1906 the number of Lenin’s followers at Tiflis had increased to three hundred. But the Mensheviks numbered about three thousand. The mere correlation of forces doomed Koba to literary opposition at the very climax of revolutionary development.

”Two years (1905-1907) of revolutionary work among the workers of the oil industry,” Stalin testifies, “hardened me”. It is decidedly improbable that in a painstakingly edited and re-edited text of his own speech the orator merely

happened to be muddled as to where exactly he had been during the year when the nation underwent its revolutionary baptism by fire, as well as the following year, 1906, when the entire country was still in the throes of convulsions and was living in constant apprehension of the dénouement. Such events cannot be forgotten! It is impossible to be rid of the impression that Stalin deliberately avoided mention of the First Revolution because he simply had nothing at all to say about it. Since Baku conjured a more heroic background than Tiflis, he retrospectively moved himself to Baku two and a half years earlier than he had a right to. True, he has no reason to fear objections by Soviet historians. Yet the question, “What did Koba really do in 1905?” remains unanswered.

The first year of the Revolution opened with the shooting of the Petersburg workers who had marched with a petition to the Tsar. The appeal written by

Koba on the occasion of the events of January the twenty-second is crowned with this adjuration:

Let us hold out our hands to each other and rally around our Party’s committees. We must not forget even for a minute that only the Party committees can worthily lead us, only they will light our way to the Promised Land …

and the like. What self-assurance in the voice of this “committeeman”! During those very days, or perchance hours, in far-off Geneva, Lenin was writing into an article by one of his collaborators the following adjuration to the insurgent masses:

Make way for the anger and hatred that have accumulated in your hearts throughout the centuries of exploitation, suffering and grief!

All of Lenin is in that phrase. He hates and rebels together with the masses, feels the rebellion in his bones, and does not ask of those in revolt that they act only with the permission of the “committees”. The contrast between these two personalities in their attitude toward the one thing that united them politically—toward the Revolution—could not be expressed more concisely or more cogently.

The establishment of the Soviets[4] began five months after the Third Congress, at which no place had been found for Koba. The initiative was that of the Mensheviks, who, however, had never dreamed whither their handiwork would lead. The Menshevik faction predominated in the Soviets. The rank and file Mensheviks were carried away by the revolutionary developments; the leaders mused in perplexity over the sudden leftward swing of their own faction. The Petersburg Committee of the Bolsheviks was frightened at first by such an innovation as a non-partisan representation of the embattled masses, and could find nothing better to do than to present the Soviet with an ultimatum: immediately adopt a Social-Democratic program or disband. The Petersburg Soviet as a whole, including the contingent of Bolshevik workingmen as well, ignored this ultimatum without batting an eyelash. Only after Lenin’s arrival in November did a radical turn take place in the policy of the “committeemen” toward the Soviet. But the ultimatum had wreaked its havoc by decidedly weakening the Bolshevik position. On that issue, as on the others, the provinces followed the lead of the capital. By that time the profound differences of opinion in the estimation of the historical significance of the Soviets had already begun. The Mensheviks attempted to evaluate the Soviet as no more than a fortuitous form of labor representation—a “proletarian parliament,” an “organ of revolutionary self-administration,” and the like. All of that was exceedingly vague. Lenin, on the contrary, knew how to eavesdrop thoroughly on the Petersburg masses who called the Soviet “the proletarian government,” and at once evaluated that new form of organization as the lever of the struggle for power.

[4] See Glossary.


In the writings of Koba for the year 1905, sparse in both form and content, we find nothing at all about the Soviets. This is not only because there were not any in Georgia, but because he simply did not pay any attention to them, passed them by. Is it not astounding? The Soviet as a powerful political machine should have impressed the future General Secretary at first glance. But he regarded it as an alien political machine which directly represented the masses. The Soviet did not submit to the discipline of the Committee, requiring more complex and more resilient methods of leadership. In a certain sense, the Soviet was a mighty competitor of the Committee. So, during the Revolution of 1905, Koba stood with his back to the Soviets. Essentially, he stood with his back to the Revolution itself, as though taking umbrage at it.

The reason for his resentment was his inability to see his own way to the Revolution. Muscovite biographers and artists constantly endeavor to represent Koba at the head of one or another demonstration, “as a target,” as a fiery orator, as a tribune. All of that is a lie. Even in his later years Stalin did not become an orator; no one ever heard him deliver “fiery” speeches. Throughout 1917, when all the agitators of the Party, beginning with Lenin, went around with cracked voices, Stalin did not address any public meetings at all. It could not have been otherwise in 1905. Koba was not even an orator on the modest scale that other young Caucasian revolutionists were; such as, Knunyants, Zurabov, Kamenev, Tseretelli. At a closed session of the Party he was able to expound fairly well thoughts he had firmly made his own. But there was nothing of the agitator in him. He would force himself to utter sentences with great difficulty, without tonality, without warmth, without emphasis. The organic weakness of his nature, the reverse side of his strength, consisted in his complete inability to catch fire, to rise above the humdrum level of trivialities, to conjure a vital bond between himself and his audience, to arouse in an audience its better self. Unable to catch fire himself, he was incapable of inflaming others. Cold spite is not enough for mastering the soul of the masses.

1905 unsealed the lips of all. The country that had been silent for a thousand years began to speak for the first time. Anyone who was at all capable of expressing his detestation of the bureaucracy and of the Tsar found tireless and grateful listeners. Undoubtedly, Koba, too, tried himself out. But comparison with other extempore orators proved altogether too disadvantageous to him. He could not bear that. Although insensitive to the feelings of others, Koba is extremely easily hurt, exceedingly sensitive about his own feelings, and, although it may seem startling, he is moody to the point of capriciousness. His reactions are primitive. Whenever he feels himself ignored or neglected, he is inclined to turn his back upon developments as well as upon people, creep into a comer, moodily pull on his pipe and dream of revenge. That was why in 1905 he walked into the shadows with hidden resentment and became something in the nature of an editor.

But Koba was far from a born journalist. His thinking is too slow, his associations too single-tracked, his style too plodding and barren. When he desires to produce a forceful effect he resorts to vile expressions. Not a single one of the articles he then wrote would have been accepted by an editorial board in the slightest degree thoughtful or exacting. True enough, underground publications were not, as a rule, notable for their literary excellence, since they were, for the most part, written by people who took to the pen of necessity and not because it was their calling. Koba, at any rate, did not rise above that level. His writing revealed an attempt to attain a systematic exposition of the theme; but that effort usually expressed itself in schematic arrangement of material, the enumeration of arguments, artificial rhetorical questions, and in unwieldy repetitions heavily on the didactic side. The absence of his own thought, of original form, of vivid imagery—these mark every line of his with the brand of banality. Here is an author who never freely expresses his own thoughts, but diffidently restates the thoughts of others. The word “diffidently” may seem startling when applied to Stalin; it nevertheless characterizes his groping manner as a writer most adequately, from his Caucasian period to this very day.

It would, of course, be erroneous to assume that such articles did not lead to action. There was great need for them. They answered a pressing demand. They drew their strength from that need, for they expressed the ideas and slogans of the Revolution. To the mass reader, who could not find anything of the kind in the bourgeois press, they were new and fresh. But their passing influence was limited to the circle for which they were written. Now it is impossible to read these dryly, clumsily, and not always grammatically, formulated phrases, startlingly decorated with the paper flowers of rhetoric, without a sense of constraint, embarrassment, annoyance, and at times laughter over lapses into unconscious humor. And no wonder: even at that time no one looked upon Koba as a journalist. All the Bolshevik writers, prominent and obscure, from the capital and from the provinces, contributed to the first legal Bolshevik daily newspaper Novaya Zhizn (New Life), which began publication in October, 1905, at Petersburg under Lenin’s guidance. Yet Stalin’s name is not among them. It was Kamenev, not Stalin, who was called upon to represent the Caucasus on that newspaper in an editorial capacity. Koba was no born writer and never became a writer. That he plied the pen with greater than usual diligence in 1905 merely emphasizes the fact that the alternate method of communicating with the masses was even less native to him.

Many of the committeemen proved themselves not big enough for the period of endless meetings, of stormy strikes, of street demonstrations. Revolutionists must harangue crowds in the public square, must write on the spur of the moment, make grave decisions instantaneously. Neither the first nor the second nor the third is a gift of Stalin’s: his voice is as weak as his imagination; the gift of improvisation is alien to this plodding thinker, who ever gropes his way. Far brighter luminaries outshone him on the Caucasian firmament. He watched the Revolution with envious alarm, and almost with hostility: it was not his element. “Right along,” writes Yenukidze, “in addition to going to meetings and attending to a lot of business in the Party locals, he sat in his little cubbyhole filled with books and newspapers or in the similarly ‘roomy’ editorial office of the Bolshevik newspaper.” One need but visualize for a moment the maelstrom of “the mad year” and recall the grandeur of its pathos, in order fully to appreciate this portrait of a lonely and ambitious young man, who buried himself, pen in hand, in a tiny room—which most likely was not any too neat, either –bound on the fruitless quest of the unyielding phrase that might in some small measure be in tune with the epoch.

Developments followed upon developments. Koba remained on the sidelines, dissatisfied with everybody and with himself. All the prominent Bolsheviks, among them many who in those years were the leaders of the movement in the Caucasus—Krassin, Postolovsky, Stopani, Lehman, Halperin, Kamenev, Taratuta, and others—passed Stalin by, did not mention him in their memoirs, and he himself has nothing to say about them. Some, like Kurnatovsky and Kamenev, undoubtedly came in contact with him in the course of their revolutionary activities. Others might have met him, but did not deem him different from the average run of “committeemen”. Not one of them singled him out with so much as a word of appreciation or fellow-feeling, nor did any of them give the future official biographers the slenderest foothold in the way of a sympathetic reference.

In 1926 the official commission on Party history issued a revised edition –that is, one adapted to the new post-Leninist tendency— of source materials about the year 1905. Of the more than a hundred documents nearly thirty were Lenin’s articles; there were approximately as many articles by various other authors. Despite the fact that the campaign against Trotskyism was already approaching its paroxysm of rage, the editorial board of true believers could not avoid including in the anthology four of my articles. Yet throughout the four hundred and fifty-five pages there was not a single line by Stalin. In the alphabetical index, which included several hundred names, listing anyone at all who was in the slightest way prominent during the revolutionary years, Stalin’s name did not appear even once; only Ivanovich is mentioned as one who had attended the Tammerfors Conference of the Party in December, 1905. Remarkable is the f act that as recently as 1926 the editorial board was still ignorant of the f act that Ivanovich and Stalin were one and the same person. These impartial details are far more convincing than all the retrospective panegyrics.

Stalin seems to stand apart from the revolutionary year, 1905. His “pupilage” had come during the pre-revolutionary years, which he spent at Tiflis, Batum and subsequently in prison and exile. According to his own avowal, he had turned “apprentice” at Baku—that is, in 1907-1908. The period of the First Revolution is thus totally eliminated as a training period in the development of the future “craftsman”. Whenever he waxes autobiographic, Stalin does not mention that great year, which brought out into the world and molded the most distinguished revolutionary leaders of the older generation. That should be firmly kept in mind, for it is far from accidental. In his autobiography, the very next revolutionary year, 1917, was to become almost as misty a spot as 1905. Again we shall find Koba, now become Stalin, in an unpretentious editorial office, this time of the Petersburg Pravda, unhurriedly writing dull comments on brilliant events. Here is a revolutionist so constituted that a real revolution of the masses upsets him by throwing him out of his rut and kicks him aside. Never a tribune, never the strategist or leader of a rebellion, he has ever been only a bureaucrat of revolution. That was why, in order to find full play for his peculiar talents, he was condemned to hide his time in a semi-comatose condition until the revolution’s raging torrents had subsided.

The split into the Majority and Minority had been ratified at the Third Congress, which declared the Mensheviks “a seceded portion of the Party”. The Party was in a state of utter disunion, when the developments transpiring in the autumn of 1905 exerted their beneficent pressure and somewhat softened factional hostility. On the eve of his long-awaited departure from exile in Switzerland to revolutionary Russia in October of that year, Lenin wrote Plekhanov a warm and conciliatory letter, in which he ref erred to his erstwhile teacher and opponent as “the finest influence among Russian Social-Democrats” and appealed to him for co-operation, declaring, “Our tactical differences of opinion are being swept aside at an astounding rate by the revolution itself …” That was true. But not for long, because the revolution itself did not long endure.

There is no doubt that in the beginning the Mensheviks were more resourceful than the Bolsheviks in establishing and utilizing mass organizations. But as a political party they merely floated with the current and almost drowned in it. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, adjusted themselves more slowly to the sweep of the movement. But they enriched it with their ringing slogans—the product of their realistic estimation of the Revolution’s forces. The Mensheviks were preponderant in the Soviet; yet the general direction of the Soviet’s policy proceeded in the main along Bolshevik lines. Opportunists to the very marrow of their bones, the Mensheviks were temporarily able to adapt themselves even to the revolutionary upsurge; yet they were incapable either of guiding it or of remaining faithful to its historic tasks during the Revolution’s ebb-tide.

After the October General Strike—which snatched the constitutional manifesto from the Tsar, while generating in the workers’ districts a mood of optimism and daring—unification tendencies assumed irresistible force in both factions. Unifying or federative committees of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks sprang up in all sorts of places. The leaders succumbed to this tendency. As a step toward complete fusion, each f action convoked its preliminary conference. The Mensheviks convened at Petersburg toward the end of November. In that city the new-fangled “liberties” were still respected. But the Bolsheviks met in December, when the reaction was already in full swing, and they were therefore obliged to hold their conclave on Finnish soil, at Tammerfors.

Initially the Bolshevik conference was conceived as an extraordinary congress of the Party. But the railway strike, the uprising in Moscow and a number of other exceptional developments in the provinces made it imperative for many delegates to remain at home, rendering the representation exceedingly unrepresentative. The forty-one delegates that arrived represented twenty-six organizations with a total voting strength of approximately four thousand. The figure seems insignificant for a revolutionary party contemplating the overthrow of Tsarism and the assumption of its place in the impending revolutionary government. Yet these four thousand had already learned to express the will of hundreds of thousands. Still, because of its numerical inadequacy, the congress transformed itself into a mere conference. Koba, using the pseudonym Ivanovich, and the workingman, Teliya, came as representatives of the Transcaucasian Bolshevik organizations. The stirring events then transpiring in Titus did not deter Koba from abandoning his editorial office.

The minutes of the Tammerfors discussions, which proceeded while Moscow was being cannonaded, have not yet been found. The memory of the delegates, overwhelmed by the grandeur of the events then taking place, has retained very little. “What a pity that the minutes of that conference have not been preserved,” Krupskaya wrote thirty years later. “It was such an enthusiastic gathering! It took place at the very climax of the Revolution, when every comrade was spoiling for a fight. They practiced shooting between sessions … None of the delegates at the conference could have forgotten that. There were Lozovsky, Baransky, Yaroslovsky, and many others. I remember these comrades because their reports of local conditions were exceptionally interesting.” Krupskaya did not name Ivanovich: she did not remember him. In the memoirs of Gorev, a member of the conference’s praesidium, we read in part: “Among the delegates were Sverdlov, Lozovsky, Stalin, Nevsky and others.” Not devoid of interest is the order of these names. It is also known that Ivanovich, who spoke in favor of boycotting the elections to the State Duma, was chosen a member of the committee concerned with that question.

The waves of the surf still beat so high that even the Mensheviks, frightened by their own recent opportunistic mistakes, did not dare to place both their feet on the uncertain board of parliamentarism. In the interests of agitation they proposed to take part only in the preliminary stage of the elections, but not to take their seats in the Duma. The predominant mood among the Bolsheviks was for an “active boycott”. In his own peculiar way Stalin described Lenin’s position of those days at the unpretentious celebration of Lenin’s fiftieth birthday in 1920, as follows:

I remember how that giant, Lenin, twice admitted the errors of his ways. The first episode was in Finland, in 1905, in December, at the All-Russian Bolshevik Conference. At that time the question was posed concerning the advisability to boycott the Witte Duma[5]. The discussion opened, the attack was begun by the provincials, the Siberians, the Caucasians. But what was our surprise, when at the end of our speeches, Lenin stepped forward and declared that he had been in favor of participating in the elections, but that now he saw that he had been mistaken and was ready to support our faction. We were amazed. That produced the impression of an electric shock. We gave him a thunderous ovation.

[5] On October 30, 1905, on the initiative of S. Y. Witte, the Tsarist Government issued a manifesto (popularly known from its old style date as the “Manifesto of the Seventeenth of October”), which, in addition to granting formally a democratic franchise and the fundamental civil liberties, enunciated the principle that no law could henceforth be promulgated in Russia without the consent of the Duma. That virtual capitulation of the autocracy, instigated by Witte, was a maneuver for winning the Liberal groups to the side of the Government and gaining their support against the imminent revolution. Witte was appointed Prime Minister and granted the privilege of choosing his cabinet even from among Oppositionist groupings. It was thus during his administration that the elections to the First Duma took place in March, 1906. At the polis the autocracy sustained a crushing defeat, for, while the Government parties secured but a handful of seats, the majority of the Duma consisted of Opposition deputies, with the Constitutional Democrats (popularly known as the Kadets), led by the prominent Zemstvo leader I. I. Petrunkevich, as the strongest party in the Duma. Whereupon the Tsar dismissed Witte and replaced him with the reactionary and obedient Goremykin. The First Duma was opened by the Tsar on May to and was dissolved by his ukase on July 21, with the agrarian problem as the chief bone of contention between the Government and the Opposition. The stormy debates were around a bill, sponsored by the Kadets, which provided for the expropriation of large estates, with compensation to the owners, and distribution of the expropriated lands among the peasants. Having catered to the nobility by dissolving this Duma, Nicholas II made a concession to the Liberals by dismissing Goremykin and appointing Stolypin Prime Minister. The “Witte Duma” was thus the First Duma, which Witte had initiated but which he was denied the opportunity either to guide or to manage.

The Second Duma, elections to which were not boycotted by the Socialist parties, was even more strongly Oppositionist than the First, with a stronger Left Wing (180 Socialists, including the Bolsheviks, as against 85 moderate Laborites in the First Duma), and its conflict with the Government was even sharper than that of the First Duma. Its climax carne when the Government charged 55 Socialist deputies with a plot against the Tsar, who forthwith dissolved the Second Duma June 15, 1907, after a three-months session that had begun on March 5.

The Third Duma opened November 14, 1907, after the Government had meantime so altered the electoral law that it secured a majority of reactionary and conservative deputies, with the Liberals and Socialists in a minority. That Duma sat through its legal tenure of office until 1912. It was followed the same year by the Fourth Duma, which continued until 1917.—C. M.


No one else mentioned that “electric shock” nor the “thunderous ovation” given by fifty pairs of hands. It is nevertheless possible that Stalin’s version of the occurrence is substantially correct. In those days Bolshevik “firmness” had not yet become associated with tactical resilience, especially among the “practico,” who were devoid of both background and mental outlook. Lenin himself might have wavered; the pressure of the provincials might have seemed to him the pressure of the revolutionary elements themselves. But regardless of whether it was so or not, the conference resolved “to attempt to undermine this police Duma, rejecting all participation in it.” The only strange thing about it is that Stalin in 1920 continued to see Lenin’s “mistake” in his initial readiness to take part in the elections; by that time Lenin himself had come to acknowledge his yielding in favor of the boycott as his real mistake.

Concerning Ivanovich’s participation in the debates on the question of boycotting the Duma elections, there is the colorful tale of a certain Dmitrievsky, which seems to be a pure and simple fabrication. He writes:

Stalin was at first excited. This was the first time he spoke before a meeting of the Party’s leading group. This was the first time he spoke before Lenin. But Lenin regarded him with interested eyes, nodding his head approvingly. Stalin’s voice grew stronger. When he finished, everybody approved of him. His point of view was accepted.

Whence this information of the author, who had nothing at all to do with the conference? Dmitrievsky is a former Soviet diplomat, a chauvinist and anti-Semite, who temporarily joined Stalin’s faction during its struggle against Trotskyism and later, while abroad, deserted to the camp of the Right Wing of the White emigration. It is significant that even as a functioning outright Fascist Dmitrievsky continues to regard Stalin highly, to detest all of his opponents, and to repeat all the legends of the Kremlin. But let us hear more of his tale. After the session at which the boycott of the Duma was considered, Lenin and Stalin

together walked out of the People’s House, where the conference was being held. It was cold. A sharp wind blew. For a long time they continued to walk through the streets of Tammerfors. Lenin was interested in that man, who he had heard was one of the most resolute and hard-headed revolutionists of Transcaucasia. He wanted to take a good look at him at close range. Attentively, for a long time and in great detail he questioned him about his work, about his life, about the people he had met, about the books he had read. From time to time, Lenin would drop brief comments … and their tone was satisfactory, approving. That man was precisely the kind he needed.

Dmitrievsky was not at Tammerfors, he could not have eavesdropped on Lenin’s conversation with Stalin in the street at night and, as is evident from his book, he had never talked with Stalin himself, to whose authority he does not refer. Yet in that story of his one senses something vivid and … familiar. After some tugs on my memory, I realized that Dmitrievsky had simply adapted to the Finnish climate my own account of my first meeting with Lenin and of our walk in the streets of London in the autumn of 1902. Folklore is rich with the transposition of brilliant episodes from one mythological person to another. The bureaucracy pursues the very same methods in creating its own myths.

Koba was exactly twenty-six years old when he finally pecked his way out of his provincial shell and emerged into the orbit of the Party as a whole. True, that emergence of his was hardly noticed, and seven additional years were to pass before he became a Central Committee member. The Tammerfors conference was nonetheless an important milestone in his life. He visited Petersburg, met the staff of the Party, observed its mechanism, compared himself with other delegates, took part in discussions, was elected to a committee and (as his official biography has it) “definitely connected himself with Lenin.” To our regret, very little is known about all of that.

It was possible to convene the unification congress only in April of 1936, at Stockholm. By that time the Petersburg Soviet had been arrested, the Moscow uprising crushed, the Juggernaut of repression had rolled over the entire country. The Mensheviks scattered to the Right. Plekhanov expressed their state of mind in his winged phrase, “We should not have taken up arms!” The Bolsheviks continued to hold true to their course of insurrection. Over the hones of the revolution, the Tsar was convoking the First Duma, in which, from the very beginning of the elections, the victory of the Liberals over the frank monarchical reaction was clearly apparent. The Mensheviks, who a mere few weeks back had stood for a semi-boycott of the Duma, now transferred their hopes from the revolutionary struggle to constitutional conquests. At the time of the Stockholm Congress, the support of the Liberals seemed to them the most important task of the Social-Democracy. The Bolsheviks awaited the further development of the peasant uprisings, which were expected to help the proletarian struggle to resume the offensive, at the same time sweeping aside the Tsarist Duma. Counterposing the Mensheviks, they continued to support the boycott. As always after a defeat, the differences of opinion at once assumed an acute character. It was under such bad auspices that the unifying Congress began its session.

The number of voting delegates at the Congress was 113, consisting of 62 Mensheviks and 42 Bolsheviks. Since theoretically each delegate represented 300 organized Social-Democrats, it might be said that the entire Party had about 34,000 members, of whom 19,000 were Mensheviks and 14,000 Bolsheviks. Considering the vehemence of electioneering, these figures are undoubtedly considerably exaggerated. In any event, at the time the Congress convened the Party was no longer growing, but shrinking. Of the 113 delegates, Tiflis had eleven. Of these eleven, ten were Mensheviks, one was a Bolshevik. That single Bolshevik was Koba, under the pseudonym of Ivanovich. The relationship of forces is herewith expressed in the exact terminology of plain arithmetic. Beriya had the temerity to state that “under the leadership of Stalin” the Caucasian Bolsheviks had isolated the Mensheviks from the masses. These figures hardly bear him out. And besides, the closely-knit Caucasian Mensheviks played a tremendous role in their own fraction[6] at the Congress.

[6] See Glossary.


Ivanovich’s rather active participation in the work of the Congress was recorded in the minutes. Yet unless one knew while reading the record that Ivanovich was Stalin, one would not pay the slightest heed to his speeches and remarks. As recently as ten years ago no one quoted those speeches, and even Party historians had not noticed the circumstance that Ivanovich and the General Secretary of the Party were one and the same person. Ivanovich was placed on one of the technical committees set up to find out how the delegates had been elected to the Congress. For all its insignificance, that appointment was symptomatic: Koba was quite in his element when it came to machine technicalities. Incidentally, the Mensheviks twice accused him of lying in the course of his report. It is impossible to vouch for the objectivity of the accusers themselves. Yet it is likewise impossible not to note again that such incidents were always connected with Koba’s name.

At the heart of the Congress’s business was the agrarian question. The peasant movement had caught the Party virtually napping. The old agrarian program, which had made almost no encroachments on the large land holdings, simply collapsed. Confiscation of the lands of the landed gentry became imminent. The Mensheviks were fighting for the program of “municipalization”— that is, the transference of the land into the hands of the democratic organs of local self-administration. Lenin stood for nationalization, on condition of the passing of all power to the people. Plekhanov, the chief theoretician of Menshevism, recommended not trusting the future central government and not arming it with the land funds of the country. “That republic,” said he, “of which Lenin has dreamed, once established would not maintain itself forever. We cannot proceed on the basis that in the near future there will be established in Russia the same sort of democratic order as in Switzerland, in England or in the United States. Considering the possibilities of restoration, nationalization is dangerous …” This is how circumspect and modest were the expectations of the founder of Russian Marxism! In his opinion, the transference of land into the hands of the State would have been admissible only in the event that the State itself belonged to the workers. “… The seizure of power is compulsory for us,” Plekhanov was saying, “when we are making a proletarian revolution. But since the revolution now impending can be only petty bourgeois, we are duty-bound to refuse to seize power.” Plekhanov subordinated the question of the struggle for power—and that was the Achilles’ heel of his entire doctrinaire strategy—to the a priori sociological definition, or rather, nomenclature, of the revolution, and not to the real interrelationship of its inherent forces.

Lenin fought for the seizure of the land of the landed gentry by revolutionary peasant committees and for the sanction of that seizure by the constituent assembly through a law on nationalization. “My agrarian program,” he wrote and said, “is entirely a program of peasant insurrection and the complete fulfillment of the bourgeois democratic revolution.” On the basic point he remained in agreement with Plekhanov: the Revolution would not only begin, but would also culminate, as a bourgeois revolution. The leader of Bolshevism not only considered Russia unable to establish Socialism independently—it had not even entered anyone’s head to pose that question prior to 1924—but he believed that it was impossible to retain even the forthcoming democratic conquests in Russia without a Socialist revolution in the West. It was at that very Stockholm Congress that he expressed this view most unequivocally. “The Russian (bourgeois democratic) Revolution can win with its own forces,” he said, “but under no circumstances can it retain and strengthen its conquests with its own hand. It cannot attain that unless there is a Socialist upheaval in the West.” It would be erroneous to think that, in tune with Stalin’s latter-day interpretation, Lenin had in mind the danger of outside military intervention. No, he spoke of the inevitability of an internal restoration, in consequence of the peasant, as a petty proprietor, turning against the revolution after the agrarian upheaval. “Restoration is equally inescapable in the event of municipalization or nationalization or land division, because the petty little proprietor, under any and all forms of possession and ownership, remains the mainstay of the restoration. After the complete victory of the democratic revolution,” Lenin insisted, “the petty little proprietor will inevitably turn against the proletariat, and the sooner the common enemy of the proletariat and the petty proprietor will be overthrown, the sooner will he turn … Our democratic revolution has no reserve force other than the Socialist proletariat in the West.”

But to Lenin, who placed the fate of Russian Democracy in direct dependence on the fate of European Socialism, the so-called “final aim” was not separated from the democratic upheaval by some boundless historical epoch. As early as during the period of the struggle for democracy, he aspired to marshal the points of support for the swiftest advancement toward the Socialist goal. The sense of land nationalization lay in the fact that it opened a window into the future: “In the epoch of the democratic revolution and the peasant uprising,” he said, “one cannot limit oneself to mere confiscation of the land of the landed gentry. It is necessary to go beyond that—to strike the fatal blow at the private ownership of land, in order to clear the way for the further struggle for Socialism.”

Ivanovich disagreed with Lenin on this crucial question of the Revolution. At this congress he expressed himself resolutely against nationalization and in favor of distributing the confiscated lands among the peasants. To this very day few people in the Soviet Union know of this difference of opinion, which is fully recorded on the pages of the minutes, because no one is permitted either to quote, or to comment upon, Ivanovich’s speech during the debate on the agrarian program. Yet, surely it is worthy of notice. “Since we are concluding a temporary revolutionary union with the struggling peasantry,” Stalin said, “since we cannot on that account ignore the demands of that peasantry, we must support those demands, if, as a whole and in general, they do not conflict with the tendencies of economic development and with the progress of the revolution. The peasants demand division; division is not inconsistent with the above-mentioned phenomena (?); therefore, we must support complete confiscation and division. From that point of view, both nationalization and municipalization are equally unacceptable.” [Years later] Stalin [was to say] that in Tammerfors Lenin had delivered an insuperable speech on the agrarian question which had evoked general enthusiasm [without revealing that] he had not only spoken against Lenin’s agrarian program, but had declared it “equally” unacceptable with Plekhanov’s. [Moreover, in 1924, he pretended to have been strongly impressed by it in 1906.]

In the first place, the very fact that a young Caucasian who did not know Russia at all dared to come out so uncompromisingly against the leader of his faction on the agrarian question, in which field Lenin’s authority was considered particularly formidable, cannot but evoke surprise. The cautious Koba, as a rule, did not relish either stepping on unfamiliar ice or remaining in a minority. He usually engaged in debate only when he felt that the majority was behind him, or, as in later years, when the machine assured his victory, irrespective of the majority. All the more compelling should have been the motives that induced him to speak on that occasion in defense of the not so popular land division. These motives, insofar as it is possible to decipher them some thirty odd years later, were two, and both of them very characteristic of Stalin.

Koba came to revolution as a plebeian democrat, a provincial and an empiricist. Lenin’s ideas about the international nature of the revolution were both remote and alien to him. He sought “guarantees” closer at hand. The individualistic approach to land ownership asserted itself more acutely and found a far more spontaneous expression among the Georgian than among the Russian peasants, because the former had no direct experience with communal land holdings. Wherefore the peasant’s son from the village of Didi-Lilo decided that investing these small proprietors with additional parcels of land would be the most reliable guarantee against counter-revolution. It is thus clear that in his case “divisionism” was no doctrinaire conviction—he was, indeed, inclined to reject convictions derived from doctrines with the greatest of ease—but rather his organic program, in perfect harmony with the most fundamental inclinations of his nature, his upbringing, his social milieu. Indeed, twenty years later we shall rediscover in him an atavistic reversion to “divisionism”.

Almost as unmistakable seems Koba’s second motive. In his eyes, Lenin’s prestige was decidedly lowered by the December defeat: he always attached greater significance to the fact than to the idea. At this congress Lenin was in a minority. Koba could not win with Lenin. That alone considerably diminished his interest in the nationalization program. Both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks looked upon division as the lesser evil by comparison with the program of the opposing faction. Koba had therefore reason to hope that the majority of the congress would in the final reckoning come to terms on the lesser evil. Thus, the organic inclinations of the radical democrat coincided with the tactical calculations of the schemer. But Koba figured wrongly: the Mensheviks had a good majority, so there was no need for them to choose the lesser when they preferred the greater evil.

It is important to note for future reference that during the Stockholm Congress, following in Lenin’s footsteps, Stalin regarded the union of the proletariat with the peasantry as “temporary,” that is, limited merely to common democratic tasks. It did not even occur to him to maintain that the peasantry as such could ever become an ally of the proletariat in the cause of the Socialist revolution. Twenty years later that “disbelief” in the peasantry was to be proclaimed as the principal heresy of “Trotskyism”. Indeed, much was to reappear in an altered aspect twenty years later. Declaring the agrarian program of the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks “equally unacceptable” in 1906, Stalin deemed land division “not in conflict with the tendencies of economic development”. What he really had in mind were the tendencies of capitalistic development. As for the impending socialist revolution, to which he did not devote so much as a single serious thought in those days, he was quite certain that scores of years would elapse before it was likely to come about, and in the interim capitalism’s natural laws would perform the task of concentration and proletarianization in the economic structure of the village. Not without reason did Koba refer in his leaflets to the remote Socialist goal with the biblical words, “the Promised Land”.

The chief report on behalf of the adherents of division was, of course, not by the virtually unknown Ivanovich, but the more authoritative Bolshevik, Suvorov, who developed the point of view of his group with sufficient amplitude. “It is said that this is a bourgeois measure; but the peasant movement itself is petty bourgeois,” Suvorov argued, “and if it is possible for us to support the peasantry, then it must be only in that direction. By comparison with serfdom, the independent economy of the peasants represents a step forward; yet, later it will be outstripped by further developments.” The Socialist transformation of society will be able to take its turn only when capitalist development will have “outstripped”—that is, will have ruined and expropriated—the independent farmer created by the bourgeois revolution.

The original author of the land division program was, of course, not Suvorov, but the radical historian Rozhkov, who had joined the Bolsheviks shortly before the revolution. He did not appear as a reporter at the Congress only because he was then in prison. According to Rozhkov’s view, which was developed in his polemic against the author of this book, not only Russia, but even the most advanced countries were far from prepared for a socialist revolution. World-wide capitalism still had the prospect of a long epoch of progressive work, the completion of which was lost in the mists of the future. In order to subvert the obstacles in the way of the creative endeavor of Russian capitalism, the most backward of all capitalist systems, the proletariat was bound to pay the price of land division for its union with the peasantry. Capitalism would then make short shrift of such illusions as agrarian leveling by gradually concentrating the land in the hands of the more powerful and progressive landowners. Lenin had named the adherents of this program, which directly preached reliance on the bourgeois farmer, “Rozhkovists,” after their leader. It is not superfluous to note that Rozhkov himself, whose attitude was serious in matters of doctrine, passed during the years of reaction to the side of the Mensheviks.

On the first ballot Lenin joined the partisans of division, in order, according to his own explanation “not to break up the votes against municipalization”. He regarded the program of division as the lesser evil, adding, however, that although division presented a certain defense against the restoration of the landed gentry and the Tsar, unfortunately it could also create the basis for a Bonapartist dictatorship. He accused the adherents of division of being “one-sided in regarding the peasant movement only from the point of view of the past and the present, without taking into consideration the point of view of the future,” of socialism. There was a lot of confusion and not a little of individualism glossed over with mysticism in the peasant view of the land as “God’s” or “nobody’s;” yet, inherent in that view was a progressive tendency, and it was therefore necessary to discover how to seize upon it and utilize it against the bourgeois social order. The partisans of division did not know how to do that. “The practicos … will vulgarize the present program .: . will expand a small error into a large one … They will cry to the peasant crowd that the land is nobody’s, God’s, the government’s, will argue for the advantages of division, and in that way they will defame and vulgarize Marxism.” On Lenin’s lips the word “practicos” signified in this case revolutionists with a narrow outlook, propagandists of the neat little formulae. That blow strikes the nail on the head all the more accurately when we consider that in the course of the next quarter of a century Stalin was to call himself proudly nothing other than a “practico,” in distinction from “literaries” and “émigrés”. He was to proclaim himself a theoretician only after the political machine secured his practical victory and sheltered him from criticism.

Plekhanov was, of course, right when he placed the agrarian question in unseverable conjunction with the question of power. But Lenin, too, understood the nature of that conjuncture, and rather more deeply than Plekhanov. According to his formulation, in order to make nationalization possible, the revolution must perforce establish “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry,” which he strictly distinguished from the socialistic dictatorship of the proletariat. In distinction from Plekhanov, Lenin thought that the agrarian revolution would be consummated, not by liberal, but by plebeian hands, or it would not be consummated at all. However, the nature of the “democratic dictatorship” he preached remained hazy and paradoxical. According to Lenin, should the representatives of the small property holders obtain a dominant position in a revolutionary government—an unlikely eventuality in a bourgeois revolution occurring in the twentieth century—that very government would threaten to become a tool of reactionary forces. Yet acceptance of the proposition that the proletariat was bound to take possession of the government in the wake of the agrarian revolution removes the fences between the democratic revolution and the socialistic revolution, for the one would naturally pass into the other, the revolution thus becoming “permanent”. Lenin had no ready answer for that argument. But needless to say, Koba the “practico” and “divisionist” regarded the perspective of permanent revolution with sovereign contempt.

Arguing against the Mensheviks in defense of the revolutionary peasant committees as instrumentalities for the seizure of the landed gentry’s lands, Ivanovich said, “If the liberation of the proletariat can be the act of the proletariat itself, then the liberation of the peasantry can likewise be the act of the peasants themselves.” As a matter of fact, that symmetrical formula is a parody on Marxism. The historical mission of the proletariat grows to considerable extent precisely out of the inability of the petty bourgeoisie to liberate itself by means of its own forces. The peasant revolution is impossible, of course, without the active participation of the peasants in the form of armed detachments, local committees, and the like. Yet the fate of the peasant revolution is decided, not in the village, but in the city. A shapeless remnant of medievalism in contemporary society, the peasantry cannot have an independent policy; it needs an outside leader. Two new classes vie for that leadership. Should the peasantry follow the liberal bourgeoisie, the revolution would stop halfway, in order subsequently to roll back. Should the peasantry find its leader in the proletariat, the revolution must inevitably pass beyond bourgeois limits. It was precisely on that peculiar correlation of classes in a historically belated bourgeois society that the perspective of permanent revolution was founded.

No one, however, at the Stockholm Congress defended that perspective, which I again attempted to expound while lodged in a Petersburg prison cell. The uprising had already been repulsed. The revolution was in retreat. The Mensheviks longed for a bloc with the Liberals. The Bolsheviks were in a minority; besides, they were split. The perspective of permanent revolution seemed compromised. It would have to await its return match for eleven years. By a vote of sixty-two against forty-two with seven abstaining, the Congress adopted the Menshevik program of municipalization. That played no role whatsoever in the future course of events. The peasants remained deaf to it, while the Liberals were hostile. In 1917 the peasants accepted land nationalization as they accepted the Soviet Government and the leadership of the Bolsheviks.

Ivanovich’s two other speeches at the Congress were no more than a paraphrased digest of Lenin’s speeches and articles. On the question of the general political situation, he justly attacked the endeavor of the Mensheviks to abate the movement of the masses by adapting it to the political course of the Liberal bourgeoisie. “Either the hegemony of the proletariat,” he reiterated the widespread formula, “or the hegemony of the democratic bourgeoisie—that is how the question stands in the Party, and therein are our differences.” But the orator was very far from understanding all the historical implications of that alternative. The “hegemony of the proletariat” means its political supremacy over all the revolutionary forces of the country, and above all, over the peasantry. In the event of the complete victory of the revolution, that “hegemony” must naturally lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat, with all its implied consequences. Yet Ivanovich firmly held on to the view that the Russian Revolution was capable of no more than merely clearing the way for the bourgeois regime. In some incomprehensible way he connected the idea of the proletariat’s hegemony with the notion of an independent policy by the peasantry, which would liberate itself by dividing the land into small parcels.

This so-called “unifying” congress did attain the unification of the Party’s two main factions as well as of the national organizations—the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania, the Latvian Social-Democracy and the Jewish Bund. The congress thus justified its name. But its real significance, as Lenin put it, was rather in the fact that it “helped to make more distinct the cleavage between the Social-Democracy’s Right and Left Wings.” If the split at the Second Congress was no more than an “anticipation” and was subsequently overcome, the “unification” at the Stockholm Congress became merely a milestone on the road to the final and definitive split that occurred six years later. Yet during the Congress Lenin was far from thinking that a split was inevitable. The experience of the turbulent months of 1905, when the Mensheviks had made a sharp turn to the left, was altogether too fresh. Despite the fact that thereafter, as Krupskaya writes, they “showed their hand plainly enough,” Lenin, according to her testimony, still continued to hope “that the new rise of the revolutionary wave, of which he had no doubt, would overwhelm them and reconcile them to the Bolshevik line.” But the new rise of the revolution did not come.

Immediately after the Congress Lenin wrote an appeal to the Party which contained a restrained yet in no way ambiguous criticism of the resolutions adopted. The appeal was signed by delegates from among “the former faction of Bolsheviks,” which was considered dissolved on paper. The remarkable thing is that of the forty-two Bolshevik participants of the congress, only twenty-six signed that appeal. Ivanovich’s signature is lacking, even as the signature of the leader of his group, Suvorov. Apparently the adherents of division regarded their differences of opinion with Lenin’s group so important that they declined to appear jointly with them before the Party, despite the very circumspect formulation of the appeal on the question of land. It would be useless to seek commentaries on that fact in the Party’s official publications of today. Yet neither did Lenin refer so much as once to any of Ivanovich’s speeches in his extensive printed report about the Stockholm Congress, in which he gave a detailed account of the debates, mentioning all the important speakers, Mensheviks as well as Bolsheviks: evidently Lenin did not deem Ivanovich’s speeches as essential to these debates as it has been attempted to represent them thirty years later. Stalin’s position inside the Party—outwardly, at any rate—had not altered. No one proposed him for the Central Committee, which was composed of seven Mensheviks and the three Bolsheviks, Krassin, Rykov, and Desnitsky. After the Stockholm Congress, even as prior to it, Koba remained a Party worker of merely “Caucasian caliber”.

During the last two months of the revolutionary years the Caucasus was a seething caldron. In December, 1905, the strike committee, having assumed the management of the Transcaucasian railway and telegraph, began to regulate the transport movement and the economic life of Tiflis. The suburbs were in the hands of the armed workers. But not for long. The armed authorities quickly repulsed their enemies. Tiflis Government was declared under martial law. Armed conflicts raged on at Kutais, Chituary and other places. Western Georgia was in the throes of a peasant uprising. On the tenth of December Chief of Police Shirinkin, of the Caucasus, reported to the director of his department at Petersburg: “The Kutais Government is in a state of emergency … the gendarmes have been disarmed, the rebels have taken possession of the western sector of the railroad and are themselves selling tickets and looking after public order … I have received no reports from Kutais. The gendarmes have been removed from the line and are concentrated in Tiflis. Couriers sent with reports are searched by the revolutionists and their documents confiscated; the situation there is insufferable … The Governor-General is ill from nervous exhaustion … I shall send details by mail, or, if that is not possible, by courier …”

All these developments did not take place of their own free will. The collective initiative of the aroused masses was, of course, chiefly responsible for it; and at every step it had to have individuals as its agents, organizers, leaders. Koba was not among them. Unhurriedly, he commented on the developments after they had transpired. Only that had made it possible for him to go away to Tammerfors during the most stirring of times. No one noticed his absence and no one noticed his return.

Matters were brought to a head by the suppression of the uprising in Moscow. By that time the Petersburg workers, exhausted by preceding battles and lockouts, were already passive. The suppression of rebellions in Transcaucasia, the Transbaltic Region and Siberia came after the pacification of Moscow. Reaction was beginning to come into its own. The Bolsheviks were all the more reluctant to acknowledge this because the surf’s belated waves were still running counter to the all-encompassing ebb-tide. All the revolutionary parties were determined to believe that the ninth wave was on the verge of breaking. When some of Lenin’s more skeptical followers suggested to him the possibility that the reaction had already set in, he responded, “I’11 be the last to admit it!” The pulse heats of the Russian Revolution were still finding their most emphatic expression in labor strikes, ever the basic way of mobilizing the masses. There were two and three quarter million strikers in 1905; nearly a million in 1906: that figure, tremendous in itself, was indicative of acute regression.

According to Koba’s explanation, the proletariat had suffered an episodic defeat, “first of all, because it did not have, or had too few, weapons; no matter how class-conscious you might be, you cannot oppose bullets with your bare hands!” Obviously, that explanation oversimplified the problem. Naturally, it is rather hard to “oppose” bullets with bare hands. But there were also more profound causes for the defeat. The peasantry did not rise in its entire mass; it rose less in the center of the country than on the outskirts. The army was only partially won over. The proletariat did not yet really know its own strength or the strength of its opponent. The year 1905 went down into history—and therein is its immeasurable significance—as “the general rehearsal”. But Lenin was able to characterize it thus only after the fact. In 1906 he himself awaited a quick showdown. In January, Koba, paraphrasing Lenin, wrote, with oversimplification, as usual: “We must once and for all reject all wavering, cast aside all indefiniteness, and irrevocably assume the point of view of attack … A united party, an armed uprising organized by the Party, and the policy of attack— this is what is demanded of us by the victory of the uprising.” Even the Mensheviks did not yet dare to say aloud that the Revolution had ended. At the congress in Stockholm Ivanovich had the opportunity to declare without fear of contradiction: “And so, we are on the eve of a new explosion … On that all of us are agreed.” As a matter of fact, at that time, the “explosion” was already in• the past. The “policy of attack” became increasingly the policy of guerrilla clashes and scattered blows. The land was widely inundated with so-called “expropriations”—armed raids on banks, treasuries, and other repositories of money.

The disintegration of the Revolution was relinquishing the initiative of attack, which was passing into the hands of the government, and by that time the government was managing to cope with its own shattered nerves. In the Autumn and Winter the revolutionary parties began to emerge from the underground. The jousts continued, with visors open. The Tsarist police agents came to know the enemy by its face, as a whole and individually. The reign of terror began on the third of December, 19o5, with the arrest of the Petersburg Soviet. All those who had compromised themselves and had not managed to hide were in due course arrested. Admiral Dubassov’s victory over the Moscow warriors merely added more viciousness to the current acts of repression. Between January, 1905, and the convocation of the First Duma on the Twenty-seventh of April [May 10th], 1906, the Tsarist government, according to approximate calculations, had killed more than fourteen thousand people, had executed more than a thousand, had wounded twenty thousand, had arrested, exiled and imprisoned about seventy thousand. The principal number of victims fell in December, 1905, and during the first months of 1906. Koba did not offer himself “as a target”. He was neither wounded nor exiled nor arrested. It was not even necessary for him to go into hiding. He remained, as formerly, in Tiflis. That can in nowise be explained by his personal skill or by a happy accident. It was possible for him to go to the Tammerfors Conference secretly, by stealth. But it was quite impossible to lead the mass movement of 1905 by stealth. No “happy accident” could have possibly shielded an active revolutionist in small Tiflis. As a matter of fact, Koba kept aloof from important developments to such an extent that the police paid no attention to him. In the middle of 1906 he continued to vegetate in the editorial office of a legal Bolshevik newspaper.

In the meantime, Lenin was in hiding in Finland, at Kuokalla, in constant contact with Petersburg and the entire country. The other members of the Bolshevik Center were also there. That was where the torn threads of the illegal organization were picked up and rewoven. “From all the ends of Russia,” writes Krupskaya, “came comrades with whom we discussed our work”. Krupskaya mentions a number of names, including that of Sverdlov, who in the Urals “enjoyed tremendous influence,” mentions, by the way, Voroshilov, and others. But, despite the ominous reproofs of official criticism, she does not mention Stalin even once during that period. And not because she avoids the mention of his name; on the contrary, wherever she has the slightest foundation in fact, she tries to push him forward. She simply could find no trace of him in her memory.

The First Duma was dissolved on the eighth of July, 1906. The strike of protest, for which the Left Wing parties had appealed, did not materialize: the workers had learned to understand that a strike alone was not enough, and there was no strength left for anything more than that. The attempt by the revolutionists to hamper the mobilization of army recruits failed pitifully. The uprising at the Sveaborg fortress, with the participation of the Bolsheviks, proved to be an isolated flare-up, and was quickly suppressed. The reaction gained strength. The Party went deeper and deeper into the underground. “From Kuokalla, Ilyitch actually guided the entire activity of the Bolsheviks,” Krupskaya wrote. Again a number of names and episodes, but no mention of Stalin. Nor is he mentioned in connection with the November session of the Party at Terioki, where the question of elections to the Second Duma was being decided. Koba did not journey to Kuokalla. Not the slightest trace of the alleged correspondence between him and Lenin for the year 1906 has been preserved. No personal contact between them was established, despite the meeting at Tammerfors. Nor did the second meeting, at Stockholm, bring them any closer together. Krupskaya, telling about a walk through the Swedish capital in which Lenin, Rykov, Stroyev, Alexinsky, and others took part, does not name Stalin as being among them. It is also possible that the personal relations, having scarcely arisen, became strained because of the differences of opinion on the agrarian question: Ivanovich did not sign the appeal, so Lenin did not mention Ivanovich in his report.

In accordance with the resolutions adopted at Tammerfors and Stockholm, the Caucasian Bolsheviks united with the Mensheviks. Koba did not become a member of the United Regional Committee. But then, if one is to trust Beriya, he did become a member of the Caucasian Bolshevik Bureau, which existed secretly in 1906 parallel to the Party’s official committee. Yet there is no evidence about the activity of that Bureau and about Koba’s role in it. One thing is certain: the organizational views of the “committeeman” of the days of the Tiflis-Batum period underwent a change—if not in their essence, at least, in the form of their expression. Koba no longer dared to urge workingmen to confess that they were not yet sufficiently mature to serve on committees. The soviets and the trade unions advanced revolutionary workingmen to the first plane of importance, and they usually proved to he far better prepared to lead the masses than the majority of underground intellectuals. As Lenin had foreseen, the “committeemen” were forced to change their views rather suddenly, or at least, their arguments. Now Koba defended in the press the need for party democracy; more than that, the kind of democracy in which “the mass itself decides the issues and acts by itself.” Mere elective democracy was insufficient: “Napoleon III was elected by universal suffrage; yet, who does not know that this elected emperor was the greatest enslaver of the people?” Could Besoshvili (Koba’s pseudonym at the time) have foreseen his own future, he would have refrained from referring to a Bonapartistic plebiscite. But there was much that he did not foresee. His gift of foresight was good for short distances only. Therein, as we shall see, was not only his weakness but also his strength—at least, for a certain epoch.

The defeats of the proletariat forced Marxism to retreat to defensive positions. Enemies and opponents silenced during the stormy months again raised their heads. The Left as well as the Right held materialism and dialectics responsible for the rage of the reaction. On the Right, the Liberals, Democrats, Populists; on the Left, the Anarchists. Anarchism played no part at all in the 1905 movement. There were only three factions in the Petersburg Soviet—the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks, and the Essars. The Anarchists found a more reverberating sounding board in the atmosphere of disillusionment after the downfall of the Soviets. The ebb-tide also left its imprint in backward Caucasus, where in many respects the conditions were more favorable for Anarchism than elsewhere in the country. As part of his defense of Marxist positions then under attack, Koba wrote in his native Georgian a series of newspaper articles on the theme of “Anarchism and Socialism”. These articles, which testify to their author’s good intentions, do not lend themselves to restatement because they are in themselves no more than a restatement of the works of others. Nor is it easy to tull quotations from them, for they are smoothly stained an even gray that renders the selection of any individualistic expressions even more difficult. It is sufficient to say that this work of his was never republished.

To the right of the Georgian Mensheviks, who continued to regard themselves as Marxist, arose the party of Federalists—a local parody, partly of the Essars and partly of the Kadets. Besoshvili quite justly denounced that Party’s penchant for cowardly maneuvers and compromises, but in doing so, he resorted to rather venturesome figures of speech. “As is well known,” he wrote, “every animal has its definite coloration. But the nature of the chameleon is not satisfied with that; with a lion, he assumes the coloration of a lion; with a wolf, that of a wolf; with a frog, that of a frog, depending on when which coloration is most advantageous to him …” A zoologist would be rather likely to protest against such slander of the chameleon. But since the Bolshevik critic was essentially right, he may be forgiven the style of one who failed to become a village priest.

That is all there is to say about the doings of Koba-Ivanovich-Besoshvili during the First Revolution. It is not much, even in the purely quantitative sense. Yet the author has tried very hard not to omit anything at all worthy of notice. The point is that Koba’s intellect, devoid of imagination, was not very productive. The discipline of intellectual labor was alien to him. An overpowering personal motivation was required to stir him to prolonged and systematic application. He did not find that stirring motivation in the Revolution, which brushed him aside. That is why his contributions to the Revolution appear so pitifully meager by comparison with the Revolution’s gift to his personal fortunes.

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Last updated on: 7 September 2009