Leon Trotsky

Stalin –
An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence

Chapter V: The New Resurgence

FOR about five years (1906-1911) Stolypin lorded it over the country. He exhausted all of the reaction’s resources. The Third of June Regime managed to disclose its worthlessness in all spheres, but above all in the domain of the agrarian problem. Stolypin was obliged to descend from political combinations to the police club. And, as if the better to expose the utter bankruptcy of his system, Stolypin’s assassin came from the ranks of his own secret police.

By 1910 the industrial revival became an indisputable fact. The revolutionary parties were confronted with the question: What effect will this break in the situation have on the political condition of the country? The majority of Social-Democrats maintained their schematic position: the crisis revolutionizes the masses, the industrial resurgence pacifies them. Both factions, Bolshevik as well as Menshevik, tended, therefore, to disparage or flatly deny the revival that had actually begun. The exception was the Vienna newspaper Pravda, which, notwithstanding its Conciliationist illusions, defended the very correct thought that the political consequences of the revival, as well as of the crisis, far from being automatic in character, are each time determined anew, depending on the preceding course of the struggle and on the entire situation in the country. Thus, following the industrial resurgence, in the course of which a very wide-spread strike struggle had managed to develop, a sudden decline in the situation might call forth a direct revolutionary resurgence, provided the other necessary conditions were present. On the other hand, after a long period of revolutionary struggle which ended in defeat, an industrial crisis, dividing and weakening the proletariat, might destroy its fighting spirit altogether. Or again, an industrial resurgence, coming after a long period of reaction, is capable of reviving the labor movement, largely in the form of an economic struggle, after which the new crisis might switch the energy of the masses onto political rails.

The Russo-Japanese War and the shocks of the revolution prevented Russian capitalism from sharing the world-wide industrial resurgence of 1903-1907. In the meantime, the uninterrupted revolutionary battles, defeats, and repressions, had exhausted the strength of the masses. The world industrial crisis, which broke out in 1907, extended the prolonged depression in Russia for three additional years, and far from inspiring the workers to engage in a new fight, dispersed them and weakened them more than ever. Under the blows of lockouts, unemployment and poverty, the weary masses became definitely discouraged. Such was the material basis for the “achievements” of Stolypin’s reaction. The proletariat needed the resuscitative font of a new industrial resurgence to revive its strength, fill its ranks, again feel itself the indispensable factor in production and plunge into a new fight.

At the end of 1910, street demonstrations—a sight long unseen—took place in connection with the deaths of the liberal Muromtsev, the erstwhile First Duma president, and of Leo Tolstoy. The student movement entered a new phase. Superficially—such is the customary aberration of historical idealism—it might have seemed that the thin layer of the intellectuals was the breeding place of the political revival and that by the force of its own example it was beginning to attract the upper layer of the workers. As a matter of fact, the wave of revival was not proceeding from the top down but from the bottom up. Thanks to the industrial resurgence, the working class was gradually emerging from its torpor. But before the chemical changes that had transformed the masses became apparent, they were transmitted to the students through the intervening social groups. Since the university youth was easier to set in motion, the revival manifested itself first of all in the form of student disturbances. But to the properly prepared observer it was clear beforehand that the demonstrations of the intellectuals were no more than a symptom of much more profound and significant processes within the proletariat itself.

Indeed, the graph of the strike movement soon began to climb. True, the number of strikers in 1911 amounted to a mere hundred thousand (the previous year it had not reached even half of that), but the slowness of the resurgence showed how strong was the torpor that had to he overcome. At any rate, by the end of the year the workers’ districts looked quite different than at the beginning of the year. After the plentiful harvests of 1909 and 1910, which gave the impetus to the industrial resurgence, came a disastrous failure of crops in 1911, which, without stopping the resurgence, doomed twenty million peasants to starvation. The unrest, starting in the villages, again placed the agrarian question on the order of the day. The Bolshevik conference of January, 1912, had every right to refer to “the beginning of political revival”. But the sudden break did not take place until the spring of 1912, after the famous massacre of the workers on the Lena River. In the deep taiga, more than five thousand miles from Petersburg and over fourteen hundred miles from the nearest railway, the pariahs of the gold mines, who each year provided millions of rubles in profit to English and Russian stockholders, demanded an eight-hour day, an increase in wages and abolition of fines. The soldiers, called out from Irkutsk, fired on the unarmed crowd. 150 killed, 250 wounded; deprived of medical aid, scores of the wounded died.

During the debate on the Lena events in the Duma, Minister of the Interior Makarov, a stupid official, no worse and no better than other of his contemporaries, declared, to the applause of the Rightist deputies, “This is what happened and this is what will happen again!” These amazingly brazen words produced an electric shock. At first from the factories of Petersburg, then from all over the country news about declarations and demonstrations of protest began to come in by telephone and telegraph. The repercussion of the Lena events was comparable only to the wave of indignation that had swept the toiling masses seven years before, following Bloody Sunday. “Perhaps never since the days of 1905,” wrote a liberal newspaper, “have the streets of the capital been so alive”.

In those days Stalin was in Petersburg, at liberty between two exiles. “The Lena shots broke the ice of silence,” he wrote in the newspaper Zvezda [The Star], to which we shall have occasion to refer again, “and the river of popular resentment was set in motion. It has begun! … All that was evil and destructive in the contemporary régime, all that had ailed long-suffering Russia— all of it has merged into the one fact of the events on the Lena. That is why the Lena shots were the signal for strikes and demonstrations.”

The strikes affected about three hundred thousand workers. The First of May strike set four hundred thousand marching. According to official data, a total of seven hundred and twenty-five thousand struck in 1912. The total number of workers increased by no less than twenty per cent during the years of industrial resurgence, while, because of the feverish concentration of production, their economic role assumed even greater importance. The revival in the working class affected all the other strata of the population. The hungry village stirred portentously. Flare-ups of dissatisfaction were observed in the army and navy. “In Russia the revolutionary resurgence,” Lenin wrote to Gorky in August, 1912, “is not any other kind, but definitely revolutionary”.

The new movement was not a repetition of the past, but its continuation. In 1905 the mighty January strike had been accompanied by a naive petition to the Tsar. In 1912 the workers at once advanced the slogan of a democratic republic. The ideas, traditions and organizational experience of 1905, enriched by the hard lessons learned during the years of reaction, fertilized the new revolutionary period. From the very beginning the leading role belonged to the workers. Inside the proletarian vanguard the leadership belonged to the Bolsheviks. That, in essence, predetermined the character of the future revolution, although the Bolsheviks themselves were not as yet clearly aware of that. By strengthening the proletariat and securing for it a tremendously important role in the economic and political life of the country, the industrial resurgence reinforced the foundation for the perspective of permanent revolution. The cleansing of the stables of the old regime could not be accomplished otherwise than with the broom of the proletarian dictatorship. The democratic revolution could conquer only by transforming itself into the socialist revolution and thus, only by overcoming its own self.

Such continued to be the position of “Trotskyism”. But it had its Achilles’ heel: Conciliationism, associated with the hope for the revolutionary resurrection of Menshevism. The new resurgence—”not any other kind, but definitely revolutionary”—struck an irreparable blow at Conciliationism. Bolshevism relied on the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat and taught it to lead the peasant poor behind it. Menshevism relied on the labor aristocracy and inclined toward the liberal bourgeoisie. The moment the masses again entered the arena of open conflict, there could have been no talk of “conciliation” between these two factions. The Conciliators were forced into new positions: the revolutionists among them—with the Bolsheviks, the opportunists—with the Mensheviks.

[Koba’s third deportation lasted from September 23, 1910, to July 6, 1911, when he was released upon completing the remainder of his two-year term. About two months of this was spent en route from Baku to Solvychegodsk, with stops in various transfer prisons. Hence,] this time Koba spent more than eight months in [residence as an] exile. Virtually nothing is known about his life at Solvychegodsk, the exiles with whom he maintained contact, the books he read, the problems that interested him. From two of his letters of that period it appears that he received publications from abroad and was able to follow the life of the Party or rather of the emigrants where the conflict between the factions had reached an acute phase. Plekhanov, plus an inconsequential group of his followers, again broke with his closest friends and carne to the defense of the illegal Party against the Liquidators. That was the last flare of radicalism in the life of this remarkable man who was rapidly verging toward his decline. Thus arose the startling, paradoxical and short-lived bloc of Lenin with Plekhanov. On the other hand, there was the rapprochement of the Liquidators (Martov and others) the Forwardists (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky) and the Conciliators (Trotsky). This second bloc, utterly devoid of any basis in principles, was formed, in a measure, to the surprise of the participants themselves. The Conciliators still aimed at “conciliating” the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks; and since Bolshevism, in the person of Lenin, ruthlessly rejected the very idea of any sort of agreement with the Liquidators, the Conciliators naturally shifted to the position of a union or a semi-union with the Mensheviks and the Forwardists. The cement of that episodical bloc, as Lenin wrote to Gorky, was “detestation of the Bolshevik Center for its merciless struggle in defense of its ideas.” The question of the two blocs was subjected to a lively discussion in the thinned Party ranks of those days.

On the thirty-first of December, 1910, Stalin wrote abroad to Paris: “Comrade Simeon! Yesterday I received from comrades your letter. First of all, ardent greetings to Lenin, Kamenev and others.” This salutation is no longer reprinted because of Kamenev’s name. Then follows his estimate of the situation in the Party. “In my opinion the line of the bloc (Lenin-Plekhanov) is the only normal one … Lenin’s hand is apparent in the plan of the bloc—he is a smart peasant and knows on which side his bread is buttered. But that does not mean yet that any old bloc is good. The Trotskyist bloc (he would have said—’synthesis’)—that’s putrid unscrupulousness … The Lenin-Plekhanov bloc is vital because it is profoundly principled, is grounded in unity of views on the question of the ways to revive the Party. But precisely because it is a bloc, and not a fusion, precisely for that reason the Bolsheviks need their own faction.” All this was quite in line with Lenin’s views, was essentially a mere paraphrasing of his articles, and was in the nature of a self-recommendation as to principles. Having further proclaimed, as if en passant, that “the main thing” was, after all, not the emigration, but the practical work in Russia, Stalin forthwith hastened to explain that the practical work means “the application of principles”. Having thus reinforced his position by repeating the magic word, “principle,” Koba carne doser to the point. “… In my opinion,” he writes, “our next task, which must not be postponed, is the organization of a central (Russian) group, which would co-ordinate the illegal, semi-legal and legal work … Such a group is as necessary as air, as bread.” There was nothing new in the plan itself. Attempts to re-establish the Russian nucleus of the Central Committee had been made by Lenin more than once since the London Congress, but hitherto the dispersion of the Party had doomed them all to failure. Koba proposed the convocation of a conference of Party workers. “It is quite possible that this very conference would bring forth the suitable people for the above-mentioned central group.” Having exposed his aim to switch the center of Party gravity from abroad to Russia, Koba again hastened to allay any possible apprehensions of Lenin’s: “It will be necessary to act steadfastly and mercilessly, braving the reproaches of the Liquidators, the Trotskyists and the Forwardists …” With calculated modesty, he wrote about the central group of his project: “Call it what you like—‘the Russian section of the Central Committee’ or ’the assistance group of the Central Committee’—that is of no moment.” The pretended indifference was supposed to cover Koba’s personal ambition. “Now about myself. I have six months left. At the end of the term I am at your service. If the need of organizers is really acute, I can fly the coop at once.” The purpose of the letter was clear: Koba advanced his own candidacy. He wanted to become, at last, a member of the Central Committee.

Koba’s ambition, in no wise reprehensible, was unexpectedly illuminated by his other letter, addressed to the Moscow Bolsheviks. “The Caucasian Soso is writing to you.” (This is the way the letter began.) “You remember in ’04 [1904] at Tiflis and Baku. First of all, my ardent greetings to Olga, to you, to Germanov. I. M. Golubev, with whom I am beguiling my days in exile, told me about all of you. Germanov knows me as K … b … a (he’ll understand).” It is curious that as late as 1911 Koba was obliged to remind the old party members about himself by resorting to indirect and purely accidental indications: he was still unknown or in danger of being easily forgotten. “I am ending (exile) in July of this year,” he continued. “Ilyich and Co. are calling me to one of two centers, without waiting for the end of the term. However, I should like to finish my term (a legal person has more opportunities) … But if the need is great (I am awaiting their answer), then, of course, I’ll fly the coop… . We here are stifling without anything to do, I am literally choking.”

From the point of view of elementary circumspection, that part of the letter seems astounding. An exile, whose letters always run the risk of falling into the hands of the police, for no apparent practical reason sends by mail to members of the Party with whom he is scarcely acquainted, information about his conspiratorial correspondence with Lenin, about the fact that he is being urged to flee from exile and that in case of need he would “of course, fly the coop”. As we shall see, the letter actually did fall into the hands of the gendarmes, who without much ado established the identity of the sender and of all the persons mentioned by him. One explanation of this carelessness is inescapable: impatient boastfulness! “The Caucasian Soso,” who may not have been sufficiently noticed in 1904, cannot resist the temptation to inform the Moscow Bolsheviks that Lenin himself had included him among the central workers of the Party. However, the motive of boastfulness plays only a subsidiary role. The key to this mysterious letter is in its last part:

about the “tempest in the teapot” abroad we have heard, of course: the blocs of Lenin-Plekhanov on the one hand and of Trotsky-Martov-Bogdanov on the other. The attitude of the workers to the first bloc, as far as I know, is favorable. But in general the workers are beginning to look disdainfully at the emigration: “let them crawl on the wall as much as their hearts desire; but as for us, whoever values the interests of the movement —work, the rest will take care of itself.” That I think is for the best.

Amazing lines! Lenin’s struggle against the Liquidators and the Conciliators Stalin regarded as a “tempest in a teapot”. “The workers”—and Stalin with them—”are beginning to look disdainfully” at the emigration (including also the general staff of the Bolsheviks). “Whoever values the interests of the movement—work, the rest will take care of itself.” The interests of the movement appeared to have no connection with the theoretical struggle which was working out the program of the movement.

A year and a half later, when, under the influence of the beginning of the swing, the struggle among the émigrés became more acute than ever, the sentimental semi-Bolshevik Gorky bemoaned in a letter to Lenin the “squabbles” abroad—the tempest in a teapot. “As to the squabbles among Social-Democrats,” Lenin answered him reprovingly, “it is a favorite complaint of the bourgeois, the liberals, the Essars, whose attitude toward trying questions is far from serious, who lag behind others, play at diplomacy, sustain themselves with eclecticism …” “The business of those who understand the roots these squabbles have in ideas …,” he insisted in a subsequent letter, “is to aid the mass in seeking out these roots and not to justify the mass in its attitude toward these debates as the ’personal affair of the generals.’” “In Russia now,” Gorky persisted for his part, “among the workers there is a lot of good … youth, but it is so fiercely set against the emigration …” Lenin replied: “This is actually true. But it is not the leaders” fault … That which is torn should be bound together; while it is cheap, popular, but of little use, to scold the leaders …” It seems as if in his restrained rebuttals to Gorky, Lenin was indignantly refuting Stalin.

A careful comparison of Stalin’s two letters, which their author never intended should be compared, is exceedingly valuable for an insight into his character and his ways. His real attitude toward “principles” is far more truthfully expressed in the second letter: “work, the rest will take care of itself”. Such essentially was the attitude of many a not over-sapient Conciliator. Stalin resorted to the crudely contemptuous expressions about the “emigration” not only because rudeness is an integral part of his nature, but chiefly because he counted on the sympathy of the practicos, especially Germanov. He knew all about their moods from Golubev, who had recently been banished from Moscow. Activities in Russia were in a bad way, the underground organization had declined to the lowest point, and the practicos were very apt to take it out on the émigrés for raising much ado about trifles.

To understand the practical aim behind Stalin’s double dealing, remember that Germanov, who several months before had proposed Koba’s candidacy for the Central Committee, was himself closely connected with other Conciliators influential among the higher-ups of the Party. Koba deemed it useful to show that group his solidarity with it. But he was clearly aware of the strength of Lenin’s influence and therefore began with a declaration of his loyalty to “principles”. In his letter to Paris he humored Lenin’s irreconcilability, for Stalin was afraid of Lenin; in his letter to the Muscovites, he set them against Lenin, who for no good reason “crawls on the wall”. The first letter was a crude restatement of Lenin’s articles against the Conciliators. The second letter repeated the arguments of the Conciliators against Lenin. All this within twenty-four days.

True, the letter to “Comrade Simeon” contains the cautious phrase: the center abroad “is not everything and not even the main thing. The main thing is to organize activities in Russia.” On the other hand, in the letter to the Muscovites there was what appears to be an inadvertently dropped innuendo: the attitude of the workers toward the Lenin-Plekhanov bloc, “as far as I know, is favorable”. But what in one letter is a subsidiary correction, serves in the other letter as the starting point for developing the contrary line of thought. The task of the vague asides, which are almost mental reservations, is to soften the contradiction between both letters. But, as a matter of fact, they merely betray the author’s guilty conscience.

The technique of any intrigue, however primitive, is sufficient unto its goal. Koba purposely did not write directly to Lenin, preferring to address himself to “Simeon”. That made it possible for him to refer to Lenin in a tone of admiring intimacy, without making it incumbent upon him to probe into the substance of the question. Doubtless, Koba’s actual motivations were no mystery to Lenin. But his was the approach of the politician. A professional revolutionist who in the past had demonstrated will power and resoluteness was now eager to advance himself in the Party machine. Lenin took note of that. On the other hand, Germanov, too, remembered that in Koba’s person the Conciliators would have an ally. His goal was thus achieved; at any rate, for the present. Koba had many qualifications for becoming an outstanding member of the Central Committee. His ambition was well-founded. But amazing were the ways by which the young revolutionist approached his goal—the ways of duplicity, deceit, deliberate cynicism!

In conspiratorial life, compromising letters were destroyed; personal contacts with people abroad were rare, so Koba had no fear that his two letters might be compared. The credit for saving these invaluable human documents for the future goes entirely to the censors of the Tsarist post office. On the twenty-third of December, 1925, when the totalitarian regime was still very far from having attained its present automatism, the Tiflis newspaper, Zarya Vostoka, was heedless enough to have published a copy of Koba’s letter to the Muscovites, taken from the police archives. It is not hard to imagine the drubbing the ill-starred editorial board got for that! The letter was subsequently never reprinted, and not a single one of the official biographers ever refers to it.

Notwithstanding the dire need of organizers, Koba did not “fly the coop at once,”—that is, he did not escape, but this time served his sentence to the end. The newspapers brought information about student meetings and street demonstrations. No less than ten thousand people crowded into Nevsky Prospect.[1] Workers began to join in with the students. “Is this not the beginning of the change?” Lenin asked in an article several weeks before he received Koba’s letter from exile. During the first months of 1911 the revival became indisputable, yet Koba, who already had three escapes to his credit, was this time calmly awaiting the end of his term of exile. The awakening of the new spring seemed to have left him cold. Remembering his experiences of 1905, was he fearful of the new resurgence?

All biographers without exception refer to Koba’s new escape. As a matter of fact, there was no need of escape; the term of his exile ended in July, 1911. The Moscow Okhrana, mentioning in passing Joseph Djugashvili, referred to him this time as one who “completed his term of administrative exile in the city of Solvychegodsk.” The conference of the Bolshevik members of the Central Committee, which meantime took place abroad, appointed a special commission to arrange a Party conference, and it appears that Koba, along with four others, was appointed to that commission. After exile, he went to Baku and Tiflis, in order to stir up the local Bolsheviks and to induce them to participate in the conference. There were no formal organizations in the Caucasus, so it was necessary to begin building almost from scratch. The Titus Bolsheviks approved the appeal Koba wrote on the need for a revolutionary party:

Unfortunately, in addition to political adventurers, provocateurs and other riff-raff, the advanced workers in our very own cause of strengthening our own Social-Democratic Party, are obliged to meet a new obstacle in our ranks—namely, people of bourgeois mentality.

[1] The principal street of Petersburg (Leningrad).—C. M.


The reference was to the Liquidators. The appeal was rounded out with a metaphor characteristic of our author:

The sombre sanguine clouds of black reaction hanging over the country are beginning to disperse, are beginning to he superseded by the stormy clouds of the people’s rage and indignation. The black background of our life is slashed by lightning, while in the distance the dawn is flaring, the storm is approaching …

The object of the appeal was to proclaim the emergence of the Tiflis group and thus secure for the few local Bolsheviks participation in the forthcoming conference.

Koba left Vologda Province lawfully. It is doubtful that he went lawfully from the Caucasus to Petersburg: former exiles were usually forbidden for a definite period of time to live in the important cities. But whether with or without permission, the provincial finally set forth to the territory of the capital. The Party was just emerging from its torpor. The best forces were in prison, exile, or had emigrated. It was precisely for that reason that Koba was needed in Petersburg. But his first appearance in the capital was brief. Only two months elapsed between the end of his banishment and his next arrest, and of this from three to four weeks must have been consumed by his journey to the Caucasus. Nothing is known to us about Koba’s adjustment to his new environment or how he began to work in the new setting.

The only memento of that period is the very brief news item Koba sent abroad concerning the secret meeting of the forty-six Social-Democrats of the Vyborg district. The main thought of a speech delivered by a prominent Liquidator consisted in this: that “in a party sense no organizations are needed,” since for activity in the open it was sufficient to have “initiating groups” that would concern themselves with arranging public speeches and legal meetings on questions of state insurance, municipal politics and the like. According to Koba’s news item, this plan of the Liquidators for adaptation to the pseudo-constitutional monarchy was met with the wholehearted resistance of all workers, including the Mensheviks as well. At the end of the meeting, all, with the exception of the principal speaker, voted in favor of an illegal revolutionary party.

Either Lenin or Zinoviev provided this letter from Petersburg with the following editorial note:

Comrade K’s correspondence merits the greatest attention of all to whom the Party is dear … One could hardly imagine a better rebuttal to the views and hopes of our peacemakers and Conciliators. Is the incident described by Comrade K exceptional? No, it is typical …

Yet it is very rarely that “the Party receives such definite information, for which we are grateful to Comrade K.” Referring to this newspaper episode, the Soviet Encyclopaedia writes:

Stalin’s letters and articles testify to the unshakable unity of fighting effort and political line that bound Lenin and the genius who was his companion in arms.

In order to achieve this appreciation it was necessary to issue one after another several editions of the encyclopedia, liquidating along the way no mean number of editors.

Alliluyev tells how one day early in September, on his way home, he noticed spies at the gate of his house, and, going upstairs to his flat, he found Stalin and another Georgian Bolshevik there. When Alliluyev told him about the “tail” he left downstairs, Stalin retorted, not any too courteously: “What the devil is the matter with you? … Some comrades are turning into scared Philistines and yokels!” But the spies proved real enough: on the ninth of September Koba was arrested and by the twenty-second of December he was already in his place of exile, this time in the provincial capital of Vologda—that is, in more favorable circumstances than heretofore. It is likely that this exile was simply punishment for unlawful residence in Petersburg.

The Bolshevik center abroad continued to send emissaries to Russia, to prepare the conference. The contact between local Social-Democratic groups was established slowly and was frequently broken. Provocation raged, the arrests were devastating. However, the sympathy with which the idea of a conference was met by the advanced workers showed at once, according to Olminsky, that “the workers merely tolerated liquidationism, and inwardly were far from desiring it.” Extremely difficult conditions notwithstanding, the emissaries managed to establish contact with a great many local illegal groups. “It was like a gust of fresh air,” wrote the same Olminsky.

At the conference convoked in Prague on the fifth of January, 1912, were fifteen delegates from a score of underground organizations—for the most part very weak ones. The reports of the delegates drew a sufficiently clear picture of the state of the Party: the few local organizations were composed almost exclusively of Bolsheviks, with a large percentage of provocateurs, who betrayed the organization as soon as it began to get on its feet. Particularly sad was the situation in the Caucasus. “There is no organization of any kind at Chiatury,” reported Ordzhonikidze about the only industrial spot in Georgia. “Nor is there any organization in Batum.” In Tiflis—”the same picture. During the last few years there was not a single leaflet and no illegal work of any kind …” In spite of the obvious weakness of local groups, the conference reflected the new spirit of optimism. The masses were getting into motion, the Party sensed the trade wind in its sails.

The decisions reached at Prague determined the Party’s course for a long time to come. In the first place, the conference recognized as necessary the creation of Social-Democratic nuclei surrounded by as extensive a network as possible of all sorts of legal workers’ societies. The poor harvest, which led to the famine of twenty million peasants, confirmed once more, according to the conference, “the impossibility of securing any sort of normal bourgeois development in Russia as long as its policy is directed … by the class of serfdom-minded landlords.” “The task of the conquest of power by the proletariat, leading the peasantry, remains as ever the task of the democratic revolution in Russia.” The conference declared the faction of Liquidators outside the Party’s ranks and appealed to all Social-Democrats, “regardless of tendencies and shadings,” to wage war on the Liquidators in the name of reconstituting the illegal Party. Having thus gone all the way in breaking with the Mensheviks, the Prague Conference opened the era of the independent existence of the Bolshevik Party, with its own Central Committee.

The newest “History” of the Party, published in 1938 under Stalin’s editorial guidance, states:

The members of that Central Committee were Lenin, Stalin, Ordzhonikidze, Sverdlov, Goloshchekin, and others. Stalin and Sverdlov were elected to the Central Committee in absentio, since at the time they were in exile.

But in the official collection of party documents (1926) we read:

The conference elected a new Central Committee composed of Lenin, Zinoviev, Ordzhonikidze, Spandaryan, Victor (Ordynsky), Malinovsky and Goloshchekin.

The “History” does not include in the Central Committee either Zinoviev, or the provocateur Malinovsky; but it does include Stalin, who was not on the old list. The explanation of this riddle can throw some light on Stalin’s position in the Party of those days as well as on the present methods of Muscovite historiography. As a matter of fact, Stalin was not elected at the conference, but was made a member of the Central Committee soon after the conference by way of what was called co-optation. The above-mentioned official source states that quite definitely:

Later Comrade Koba (Djugashvili-Stalin) and Vladimir (Belostostky, former worker of the Putilov plant) were co-opted into the Central Committee.

Likewise according to the materials of the Moscow Okhrana, Djugashvili was made a member of the Central Committee after the conference on the basis of the right of co-optation reserved for members of the Central Committee. The same information is given by all Soviet reference books, without exception, until the year 1929, when Stalin’s instruction, which revolutionized historical scholarship, was published. In the jubilee publication of 1937 devoted to the conference we read:

Stalin could not participate in the work of the Prague Conference because at the time he was in banishment at Solvychegodsk. At the time Lenin and the Party already knew Stalin as an important leader… . Therefore, in accordance with Lenin’s proposal, the delegates to the conference elected Stalin to the Central Committee in absentio.

The question whether Stalin was elected at the conference or co-opted later by the Central Committee may seem of minor importance. As a matter of fact, that is not the case. Stalin wanted to become a member of the Central Committee. Lenin deemed it necessary to have him elected to the Central Committee. The choice of available candidates was so limited that second-rate figures became members of the Central Committee. Yet Koba was not elected. Why? Lenin was far from being a dictator in his Party. Besides, a revolutionary party would not brook any dictatorship over itself! After preliminary negotiations with delegates, Lenin apparently deemed it wiser not to advance Koba’s candidacy. “When in 1912 Lenin brought Stalin into the Central Committee of the Party,” writes Dmitrievsky, “it was met with indignation. Openly no one opposed it. But they gave vent to their indignation among themselves.” The information of the former diplomat, which as a rule does not merit confidence, is nevertheless of interest in so far as it reflects bureaucratic recollections and gossip. Lenin undoubtedly met with serious opposition. There was but one thing he could do: wait until the conference carne to an end and then appeal to the small leading circle, which either relied on Lenin’s recommendation or shared his estimate of the candidate. Thus, Stalin for the first time carne into the Central Committee through the hack door.

The story about the internal organization of the Central Committee underwent similar metamorphoses.

The Central Committee … upon Lenin’s motion, created a Bureau of the Central Committee, headed by Comrade Stalin, for guiding Party activity in Russia. In addition to Stalin, the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee was composed of Sverdlov, Spandaryan, Ordzhonikidze, Kalinin.

So states Beriya, who, while I was at work on this chapter, was appointed chief of Stalin’s secret police; his scholarly endeavors did not remain unrewarded. In vain, however, would we look for any documentary support of this version, which is repeated in the latest “History”. In the first place, no one was ever placed “at the head” of Party institutions: such a method of \election did not exist at all. According to the old official reference books, the Central Committee elected “a bureau composed of: Ordzhonikidze, Spandaryan, Stalin, and Goloshchekin”. The same list is given also in the notes to Lenin’s works. Arriong the papers of the Moscow Okhrana the first three—”Timofei, Sergo, and Koba”—are named as members of the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee under their aliases. It is not devoid of interest that in all the old lists Stalin occupies invariably either the last or the next to the last place, which could not have been the case, of course, had he been placed “at the head”. Goloshchekin, having been expelled from the Party machine in the course of one of the later purges, was likewise crowded out of the 1912 bureau; his place was taken by the fortunate Kalinin. History is becoming day in the hands of the potter.

On the twenty-fourth of Fehruary, Ordzhonikidze informed Lenin that at Vologda he had visited Ivanovich [ Stalin]: “Carne to a definite understanding with him. He is satisfied with the way things turned out.” The reference is to the decision of the Prague Conference. Koba learned that, at last, he had been co-opted into the recently created “center”. On the twenty-eighth of February he escaped from exile, in his new capacity as member of the Central Committee. After a brief sojourn at Baku, he proceeded to Petersburg. Two months earlier he had turned thirty-two.

Koba’s advancement from the provincial arena to the national one coincided with the resurgence of the labor movement and the comparatively widespread development of the labor press. Under the pressure of the underground forces, the Tsarist authorities lost their erstwhile self-assurance. The hand of the censor weakened. Lawful possibilities became more extensive. Bolshevism broke through into the open, at first with a weekly, later with a daily newspaper. At once the possibilities for exerting influence on the workers increased. The Party continued in the underground, but the editorial boards of its newspapers became for the time being the legal stalls of the revolution. The name of the Petersburg Pravda colored an entire period of the labor movement, when the Bolsheviks began to be called “Pravdists”. During the two and a half years of the newspaper’s existence, the government closed it eight times, but each time it reappeared under some similar name. On some of the most crucial questions the Pravda was often forced to limit itself to understatements and hints. But its underground agitators and proclamations said for it what it itself could not say openly. Besides, the advanced workers had meantime learned to read between the lines. A circulation of forty thousand may seem all too modest by comparison with Western European or American standards. But under the oversensitive political acoustics of Tsarist Russia, the Bolshevik newspaper, through its direct subscribers and readers, found a responsive echo among hundreds of thousands. Thus, the young revolutionary generation rallied around Pravda under the leadership of those veterans who had withstood the years of reaction. “The Pravda of 1912 was laying the foundation for the victory of Bolshevism in 1917,” Stalin wrote subsequently, hinting at his own participation in that activity.

Lenin, whom the news of Stalin’s escape had not yet reached, complained on March fifteenth: “Nothing from Ivanovich—what’s the matter with him? Where is he? How is he? …” Men were scarce. There were no suitable people even at the capital. In the same letter Lenin wrote that an illegal person was “damnably” needed at Petersburg, “since things are in a had way there. It’s a hard and furious war. We have no information, no leadership, no supervision of the newspaper.” Lenin was waging “a hard and furious war” with the editorial board of Zvezda [The Star] which balked about waging war with the Liquidators. “Hurry up and fight with Zhivoye Dyelo [The Living Cause, a journal of the Liquidators]—then victory is assured. Otherwise, it will go badly with us. Don’t he afraid of polemics …” Lenin insisted again in March, 1912. Such was the leitmotif of all his letters in those days.

”What’s the matter with him? Where is he? How is he?” we might well repeat after Lenin. Stalin’s actual role—as usual, behind the scenes—is not easy to determine: a thorough appraisal of facts and documents is needed. His duties as a member of the Central Committee in Petersburg—that is, as one of the official leaders of the Party—extended, of course, to the illegal press as well. Yet prior to the instructions to the “historians” that circumstance was relegated to utter oblivion. Collective memory has its own laws, which do not always coincide with Party regulations. Zvezda was founded in December, 1910, when the first signs of revival became evident. “Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev,” states the official notice, “were most closely associated in making arrangements for the publication and in editing it from abroad.” The editorial board of Lenin’s works names eleven persons among its chief collaborators in Russia, forgetting to mention Stalin among them. Yet there is no doubt that he was a member of this newspaper’s staff and by virtue of his position an influential one. The same forgetfulness—nowadays it might be called sabotage of memory—is characteristic of all the old memoirs and reference books. Even in a special issue which in 1927 Pravda devoted to its own fifteenth anniversary, not a single article, not even the editorial, mentions the name of Stalin. Studying the old publications, one refuses at times to credit his own eyes!

The only exception is found in the valuable memoirs of Olminsky, one of those most closely associated with Zvezda and Pravda, who describes Stalin’s role in the following words:

Stalin and Sverdlov appeared in Petersburg at various times after their flight from exile … The presence of both at Petershurg (until their new arrest) was brie f, but each time managed to produce considerable effect on the work of the newspaper, the f action, and the like.

This bare statement, incorporated, moreover, not in the main text, but as a footnote, probably characterizes the situation most accurately. Stalin would show up in Petersburg for short periods from time to time, bring pressure to bear on the organization, on the Duma faction, on the newspaper, and would again disappear. His appearances were too transitory, his influence too much of the Party machine kind, his ideas and articles too commonplace to have left a lasting impression on anyone’s memory. When people write memoirs otherwise than under duress, they do not remember the official functions of bureaucrats but the vital activity of vital people, vivid facts, clear-cut formulae, original proposals. Stalin did not distinguish himself with anything of the kind. No wonder then that the gray copy was not remembered alongside the vivid original. True, Stalin did not merely paraphrase Lenin. Bound by his support of the Conciliators, he continued to ply simultaneously the two lines with which we are already familiar from his Solvychegodsk letters—with Lenin, against the Liquidators; with the Conciliators, against Lenin. The first policy was in the open, the second was masked. Neither did Stalin’s fight against the émigré center inspire the memoirists, although for a different reason: all of them, actively or passively, took part in the “conspiracy” of the Conciliators against Lenin and hence preferred to turn away from that page of the Party’s past. Only subsequent to 1929 did Stalin’s official position as a representative of the Central Committee become the basis for the new interpretation of the historical period preceding the war.

Stalin could not have left the impress of his personality on the newspaper for the simple reason that he is not by nature a newspaperman. From April, 1912, through February, 1913, according to the calculations of one of his intimate associates, he published in the Bolshevik press “no less than a score of articles,” which is an average of about two articles a month. And that at the high tide of events when life posed new problems each exciting day! True, in the course of that year Stalin spent nearly six months in exile. But it was much easier to contribute to Pravda from Solvychegodsk or Vologda than from Cracow, from where Lenin and Zinoviev sent articles and letters every single day. Sluggishness and inordinate cautiousness, utter lack of literary resourcefulness, and, finally, extreme Oriental laziness combined to make Stalin’s pen rather unproductive. His articles, more self-assured in tone than during the years of the First Revolution, continued to bear the indelible imprint of mediocrity.

”Following the economic demonstrations of the workers,” he wrote in Zvezda of April fifteenth, “came their political demonstrations. Following strikes for increase in pay, carne protests, meetings, political strikes occasioned by the Lena shooting … There is no doubt that the underground forces of the liberation movement have begun to work. Greetings to you, first swallows!”

The image of “swallows” as a symbol of “the underground forces” is typical of our author’s style. But, after all, it is clear what he is trying to say. Drawing “conclusions” from the so-called “Lena events,” Stalin analyzes—as always, schematically, without regard for living reality—the behavior of the government and of the political parties, accuses the bourgeoisie of shedding “crocodile tears” over the shooting of the workers and concludes with the admonition: “Now that the first wave of the upswing is passing, the dark forces, which had attempted to hide behind a screen of crocodile tears, are again beginning to appear.” Notwithstanding the startling effect of his image, “the screen of crocodile tears,” which seems particularly whimsical against the otherwise neutral background of the text, the article does state, by and large, what, roughly, should have been said and what scores of others would have said. But it is precisely the “roughness” of his exposition—not only of his style, hut of the analysis itself—which makes the reading of Stalin’s writings as unendurable as discordant music to a sensitive ear. He wrote in an illegal proclamation:

It is today, on the day of the First of May, when nature awakens from the slumber of winter, the woods and mountains are covered with greensward, the fields and meadows are decorated with flowers, the sun begins to warm more warmly, the joy of renewal is sensed in the air, while nature indulges in dancing and exultation—it is precisely today that the workers decided to proclaim to the world that they bring to humanity spring and liberation from the gyves of capitalism … The ocean of the labor movement spreads ever wider … The sea of proletarian anger rises in mounting waves … Certain of victory, calm and strong, they march proudly on the road to the promised land, on the road to effulgent socialism.

Here is the Petersburg revolution speaking the language of Tiflis homiletics.

The strike wave swelled, contacts with the workers multiplied. The weekly could no longer fill the needs of the movement. Zvezda began to collect money or a daily newspaper. “At the end of the winter of 1912,” writes the former deputy Poletayev, “Stalin, who had fled from exile, came to Petersburg. The work of establishing a labor newspaper gained momentum.” In his 1922 article on the tenth anniversary of Pravda Stalin himself wrote:

It was in the middle of April, 1912, in the evening, at the apartment of Poletayev, that two Duma deputies (Pokrovsky and Poletayev), two literaries (Olminsky and Baturin) and I, a member of the Central Committee … came to agreement on the platform of Pravda and made up the newspaper’s first issue.

Stalin’s responsibility for the Pravda platform was thus established by Stalin himself. The essence of that platform may be summarized in the words, “work, the rest will take care of itself”. True, Stalin himself was arrested on the twenty-second of April, the very day the first issue of Pravda carne out. But for almost three months Pravda was true to the platform worked out jointly with him. The word “liquidator” was expunged from the newspaper’s vocabulary.

”Irreconcilable war with liquidationism was indispensable,” writes Krupskaya. “That is why Vladimir Ilyich was so disturbed when from the very start the Pravda persistently deleted from his articles all polemics with the Liquidators. He wrote irate letters to Pravda .” A part of them--evidently, only a small part —has managed to see the light. “At times, although that was rare,” she further complains, “Ilyich’s articles would be lost without a trace. At other times, his articles were held up, were not published at once. It was then that Ilyich became nervous, wrote irate letters to Pravda, but it didn’t do much good.”

The fight with the editorial board of Pravda was a direct continuation of the fight with the editorial board of Zvezda . “It is harmful, disastrous, ridiculous to hide differences of opinion from the workers,” wrote Lenin on the eleventh of July, 1912. Several days later he demanded that the secretary of the editorial board, Molotov, the present [Vice-] Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars and People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, explain why the newspaper “persistently and systematically strikes out of my articles and out of the articles of other colleagues any mention of the Liquidators?” Meantime, elections to the Fourth Duma were approaching. Lenin warned: “The elections in the workers’ curiae of Petersburg will undoubtedly be accompanied by a fight all along the line with the Liquidators. This will prove the most vital issue for the advanced workers. Yet their newspaper will be silent, will avoid the word, liquidator!’ … To dodge these questions is to commit suicide.”

Sitting in Cracow, Lenin discerned sharply enough the tacit yet persistent conspiracy of the conciliatory higher-ups of the Party. But he was thoroughly convinced that he was right. The rapid revitalization of the labor movement was bound to pose sharply the fundamental problems of the revolution, sweeping away the ground not only from under the feet of the Liquidators but of the Conciliators as well. Lenin’s strength did not lie so much in his ability to build a machine—he knew how to do that, too—as in his ability at all critical moments to utilize the living energy of the masses for overcoming the limitations and the conservatism characteristic of any political machine. It was so in this instance, too. Under the growing pressure of the workers and under the lash from Cracow, Pravda, reluctantly and constantly balking, began to abandon its position of dilatory neutrality.

Stalin spent a little more than two months in the Petersburg prison. On the second of July he left for his new exile of four years, this time across the Urals, in the northern part of Tomsk Province—in Narym Region, famous for its forests, lakes and swamps. Vereshchak, already known to us, again met Koba in the village of Kolpashevo, where the latter spent several days en route to his destination. Here were Sverdlov, I. Smirnov, Lashevich, classic old Bolsheviks. It was not easy to predict then that Lashevich would die in Stalin’s exile, that Smirnov would be shot by him and that only premature death would save Sverdlov from a similar fate. “Stalin’s arrival at the Narym Region,” wrote Vereshchak, “enlivened the activity of the Bolsheviks and was marked by quite a few escapes”. After several others, Stalin himself escaped: “He went away almost openly with the first spring steamer …” As a matter of fact, Stalin escaped at the end of summer. This was his fourth escape.

Upon his return to Petersburg on September twelfth, he found a considerably altered situation there. Stormy strikes were going on. The workers again poured into the streets with revolutionary slogans. The policy of the Mensheviks was obviously discredited. Pravda ’s influence grew apace. Besides, Duma elections were near. The tone for the election campaign had already been set by Cracow. The grounds of argument were chosen. The Bolsheviks engaged in the election fight apart from the Liquidators and against them. The workers were to be welded together under the banner of the three main slogans of the democratic revolution: the republic, the eight-hour day, and confiscation of landed estates. Liberate the petty bourgeois democrats from the influence of the liberals, draw the peasants to the side of the workers—such were the leading ideas of Lenin’s election platform. Combining painstaking attention to details with audacious sweep of thought, Lenin was practically the only Marxist who had thoroughly studied all the possibilities and pitfalls of Stolypin’s election law. Having politically inspired the election campaign, he guided it technically day by day. To help Petersburg, he sent in from abroad articles and instructions and thoroughly prepared emissaries.

Safarov, now among the missing, on his way from Switzerland to Petersburg in the spring of 1912, stopped at Cracow, where he learned that Inessa, a leading Party activist who was close to Lenin, was also going there to help in the election campaign. “For at least a couple of days on end Ilyich pumped us full of instructions.” The election of the workers’ curiae representatives in Petersburg was set for the sixteenth of September. Inessa and Safarov were arrested on the fourteenth. “But the police did not yet know,” wrote Krupskaya, “that on the twelfth Stalin, who had escaped from exile, had arrived. The elections to the workers’ curiae were a great success.” Krupskaya did not say: “Thanks to Stalin”. She merely placed two sentences side by side. That was a measure of passive self-defense. “At extempore meetings in a number of factories,” we read in a new edition of the reminiscences of the former Duma deputy Badayev (this was not in the first edition), “Stalin, who had recently escaped from Narym, spoke.” According to Alliluyev, who wrote his reminiscences as late as 1937, “Stalin directly managed the entire tremendous Fourth Duma election campaign … Living illegally in Petersburg, without a definite permanent haven, and not wishing to disturb any of his close comrades during the late hours of the night, after a workers’ meeting that had dragged on and also because of conspiratorial considerations, Stalin would often spend the remainder of the night in some tavern over a glass of tea.” Here he also managed occasionally “to take a short nap, sitting in the tavern that reeked of makhorka smoke.”

Stalin could not have exerted great influence on the issue of the elections in the earlier stages, when it was necessary to come in direct contact with the voters, not only because he was a poor speaker, but because he had no more than four days at his disposal. He made up for that by playing an important part throughout the subsequent stages of the many-storied electoral system, whenever it was necessary to muster the curiae representatives and manage them by pulling wires from behind the scenes, relying on the illegal apparatus. In that activity Stalin undoubtedly proved himself more apt than anyone else.

An important document of the election campaign was, “The Instruction Of The Petersburg Workers To Their Deputy.” In the first edition of his memoirs Badayev states that this instruction was composed by the Central Committee, but in the new edition its authorship is ascribed personally to Stalin. In all likelihood the instruction was the product of collective effort, in which the final say might have been Stalin’s, as the representative of the Central Committee.

”… We think,” it is stated in the Instruction, “that Russia lives on the eve of impending mass movements probably far more fundamental than in mos … As in 1905, the initiator of these movements will be the most progressive class of Russian society, the Russian proletariat. Its ally can be only the longsuffering peasantry, which is deeply concerned with the liberation of Russia.” Lenin wrote to the Pravda editorial board: “Publish without fail … this Instruction … in large type and in a prominent place.” The convention of provincial representatives adopted the Bolshevik Instruction by an overwhelming majority. In those stirring days Stalin also figured more actively as a publicist; I counted four of his articles in Pravda within one week.

The election results in Petersburg, as in all the industrial regions generally, were quite favorable. Bolshevik candidates were elected in six of the most important provinces, which altogether comprised about four-fifths of the working class. The seven Liquidators were elected chiefly by the votes of the city petty bourgeoisie. “In contradistinction to the elections of 1907,” wrote Stalin in his correspondence to the central organ published abroad, “the elections of 1912 coincided with the revolutionary revival among the workers.” Precisely for that reason the workers, who were quite remote from the boycottist tendency, fought actively for their rights of suffrage. The government commission made an attempt to invalidate the elections in some of the largest Petersburg factories. The workers countered that with a unanimous strike of protest, which achieved its purpose. “It is not superfluous to add,” the author of this correspondence continues, “that the initiative in this election campaign was that of the Central Committee representative.” The reference here is to Stalin himself. His political conclusions on the election campaign were: “The revolutionary Social-Democracy is alive and powerful—such is the first conclusion. The Liquidators are political bankrupts—such is the second conclusion.” And that was right.

The seven Mensheviks, largely intellectuals, tried to place the six Bolsheviks, workers with little political experience, under their own control. At the end of November Lenin wrote personally to Vassilyev [Stalin]: “If all of our six are from the workers’ curiae, they must not submit in silence to a lot of Siberians.2 The six must come out with a very clear-cut protest, if they are being lorded over …” Stalin’s reply to that letter, as to others, remains under lock and key. But Lenin’s appeal did not meet with sympathy: the six themselves rated unity with the Liquidators, who had been read “out of the Party,” above their own political independence. In a special resolution published in Pravda, the united faction acknowledged that “the unity of the Social-Democracy is a pressing need,” expressed itself in favor of merging Pravda with the Liquidators’ newspaper Lootch’ [The Ray] and, as a step in that direction, recommended that all of its members become contributors to both newspapers. On the eighteenth of December the Menshevik Lootch’ triumphantly published the names of four of the Bolshevik deputies (two having declined) on its list of contributors; the names of the members of the Menshevik faction appeared simultaneously on the Pravda masthead. Conciliationism had won again, which in essence meant a defeat for the spirit and the letter of the Prague Conference.

Soon on the list of the Lootch’ contributors appeared still another name— Gorky’s. That smelled of a plot. “And how did you happen to get mixed up with Lootch’ ???” Lenin wrote to Gorky with three question marks. “Is it possible that you are following in the footsteps of the deputies? But they have simply fallen into a trap!” Stalin was in Petersburg during this ephemeral triumph of the Conciliators, effecting the Central Committee’s control over the fraction and over Pravda . No one has disclosed anything concerning a protest from him against decisions that struck a cruel blow at Lenin’s policy—a sure sign that behind the scenes of the Conciliationist maneuvers stood Stalin himself. Justifying subsequently his sinful behavior, Deputy Badayev wrote: “As on all other occasions, our decision … was in agreement with the attitude of those Party circles in which we had then occasion to discuss our activities …” This roundabout excuse hints at the Petersburg Bureau of the Central Committee and first of all at Stalin. Badayev is circumspectly pleading that the blame should not be shifted from the leaders to the led.

2 Referring to political exiles in Siberia, most of whom were intellectuals.—C. M.


Several years ago it was observed in the Soviet press that not enough light has been shed on the history of Lenin’s internal struggle with the Duma fraction and with the editorial board of Pravda . In recent years everything has been done to make such enlightenment more difficult than ever. Lenin’s correspondence of that critical period has not yet been published in full. At the historians’ disposal are only such documents as for one reason or another had been taken out of the archives prior to the institution of totalitarian control. However, even from these scattered fragments a faultless picture emerges. Lenin’s intractability was only the other side of his realistic farsightedness. He insisted on division along the line which in the final reckoning was bound to become the battle-line of the civil war. The empiricist Stalin was constitutionally incapable of taking a long-range point of view. He energetically fought the Liquidators during the campaign, in order to have his own deputies: it was a matter of securing an important point of support. But once this organizational task had been performed, he did not deem it necessary to raise a new “tempest in a teapot,” especially since even the Mensheviks, under the influence of the revolutionary wave, seemed to be inclined to talk a different language. Truly, there was no reason for “crawling on the wall”! As far as Lenin was concerned, his whole policy came down to the revolutionary education of the masses. The struggle of the election campaign meant nothing to him as long as after the election the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma remained united. He deemed it necessary to give the workers every opportunity—at each step, with each act—to convince themselves that in all fundamental questions the Bolsheviks were clearly distinguishable from all other political groups. This was the most important point of conflict between Cracow and Petersburg.

The waverings of the Duma fraction were closely connected with Pravda ’s policy. “During that period,” wrote Badayev in 1930, “Stalin, whose status was illegal, ran Pravda “. The well-informed Savelyev wrote likewise: “Remaining in illegal status, Stalin actually ran the newspaper during the autumn of 1912 and the winter of 1912-13. Only for a short while did he leave during that time, going abroad, to Moscow, and other places.” These eye-witness accounts, consistent with all the factual circumstances, cannot be questioned. Yet it was not true that Stalin ran the paper in the real sense of the word. The man who really ran the newspaper was Lenin. Every day he sent articles, criticisms of the articles of others, proposals, instructions, corrections. Stalin, a sluggish thinker, could not possibly keep up with this active stream of suggestions and ideas, nine-tenths of which seemed to him superfluous or exaggerated. Essentially the editorial board maintained a defensive position. It had no political ideas of its own, and tried merely to dull the sharp edges of the Cracow policy. Lenin not only knew how to shield these sharp edges, but also how to sharpen them anew. Under these conditions, Stalin naturally became the secret inspirer of the Conciliators’ opposition to Lenin’s pressure.

”New conflicts,” states the editorial board of Lenin’s Works (Bukharin, Molotov, Savelyev), “arose in consequence of the weakness of the stand taken against the Liquidators at the end of the election campaign and also in connection with the invitation extended to the Forwardists to contribute to Pravda . These relations became still worse in January, 1913, after the departure from Petersburg of J. Stalin …” The thoroughly considered expression, “became still worse,” testifies that even prior to Stalin’s departure Lenin’s relations with the editorial board were not marked by friendliness. But Stalin avoided in every way making “a target” of himself.

The members of the editorial staff were figures of little influence in a Party sense and some of them chance figures. It would not have been hard for Lenin to have secured their replacement. But they had support in the attitude of the Party’s higher-ups and in the person of the Central Committee’s representative. A violent conflict with Stalin, who was closely connected with the editorial board and the fraction, would have meant a shakeup of the Party staff. That is why, for all its persistence, Lenin’s policy was circumspect. On November thirteenth he was “deeply grieved” to reproach the editorial board for having failed to have an article on the opening of the International Socialist Congress at Basle: “It would not have been very hard to write such an article, and the Pravda editorial board knew that the Congress was opening on Sunday.” Stalin, no doubt, was genuinely surprised. An international congress? In Basle? That was utterly remote from him. Yet the chief source of friction were not the incidental, although continually recurring errors, but rather the fundamental divergence in views on the Party’s course of development. Lenin’s policy made sense only to one with an audacious revolutionary perspective; from the point of view of newspaper circulation or the building of a machine, it could not seem other than highly extravagant. In the depth of his heart Stalin continued to regard the “émigré” Lenin as a sectarian.

We cannot avoid noting a delicate episode that occurred at that time. During those years Lenin was in dire need. When Pravda got on its feet, the editorial board designated for its inspirer and chief contributor an honorarium, which, its very modest size notwithstanding, was his financial mainstay. Just when the conflict waxed sharpest, the money stopped coming. Although he was exceptionally sensitive about matters of that sort, Lenin was compelled to remind them rather insistently about himself. “Why don’t you send the money due me? The delay causes us considerable embarrassment. Don’t be late, please.” The holding up of the money can hardly be looked upon as a kind of financial punishment (although subsequently, when he was in power, Stalin did not hesitate to resort to such methods time and again). But even if it was all a matter of simple inattentiveness, it casts a sufficient light on the relations between Petersburg and Cracow. Indeed, they were very far from friendly.

Indignation with Pravda breaks through into the open in Lenin’s letters immediately after Stalin’s departure for Cracow to attend the conference at the Party headquarters. The irresistible impression is created that Lenin was only waiting for that departure in order to break up the Petersburg nest of Conciliators, preserving at the same time the possibility of a peaceful understanding with Stalin. The moment the most influential enemy was neutralized, Lenin launched a devastating attack on the Petersburg editorial board. In his letter of January twelfth, addressed to a trusted person in Petersburg, he refers to “the unpardonable stupidity” committed by Pravda in regard to the newspaper of the textile workers, insists on the correction of “your stupidity” and the like. The letter in its entirety was written in Krupskaya’s hand. Further, in Lenin’s handwriting: “We received a stupid and impudent letter from the editorial board. We will not reply. They must be got rid of … We are exceedingly disturbed by the absence of news about the plan for reorganizing the editorial board … Reorganization; but better yet, the complete expulsion of all the old timers, is extremely necessary. It’s managed absurdly. They praise the Bund[3] and Zeit (an opportunist Jewish publication), which is simply despicable. They don’t know how to proceed against Lootch’, and their attitude toward the articles [that is, the articles of Lenin himself] is monstrous. I’ve simply lost patience …” The tone of the letter shows that Lenin’s indignation—and he knew how to contain himself when necessary—had reached the limit. The devastating criticism of the newspaper referred to the entire period when the responsibility for its direct supervision was Stalin’s. The identity of the person who wrote the “stupid and impudent letter from the editorial board” has not yet been disclosed, and, of course, not by chance. It could hardly have been written by Stalin: he was too cautious for that; besides, he was most likely already away from Petersburg at the time. It is more likely that the letter was written by Molotov, the official secretary of the editorial board, who is just as inclined to rudeness as Stalin but is devoid of the latter’s flexibility.

[3] See Glossary.


How resolutely Lenin now tackled the chronic conflict is evident from further lines in his letter: “What has been done about the control of money? Who got the subscription money? In whose possession is it? How much does it amount to?” Lenin apparently did not exclude the possibility of a break and was concerned with keeping the financial resources in his own hands. But it did not come to a break; the disconcerted Conciliators could scarcely have dared to think of it. Passive resistance was their sole weapon. Now even that would be knocked out of their hands.

Replying to Shklovsky’s pessimistic letter from Bern and arguing that the affairs of the Bolsheviks were not so bad as they seemed, Krupskaya began with the acknowledgment, “of course, Pravda is badly managed.” That phrase sounds like common ground, like something beyond dispute. “Every Tom, Dick and Harry[4] is on that editorial staff, and most of them are not literaries … The workers’ protests against Lootch’ are not published, in order to avoid polemics.” However, Krupskaya promises “substantial reforms” in the near future. This letter was written on January nineteenth. The next day Lenin wrote to Petersburg, through Krupskaya: “… we must plant our own editorial staff in Pravda and kick the present one out. Things are now in a very bad way. The absence of a campaign for unity from below is stupid and despicable … Would you call such people editors? They are not men but pitiful dishrags and they are ruining the cause.” This was the style to which Lenin resorted when he wanted to show that he would fight it out to the bitter end.

[4] Literally: “s bong da s sosenkt “—”[everyone] from the pine woods and from the small pines.”—C. M.


He opened a parallel fire from carefully placed batteries against the conciliationism of the Duma fraction. As early as the third of January he wrote to Petersburg: “See to it unconditionally that the letter of the Baku workers which we are sending you is published …” The letter demands that the Bolshevik deputies break with Lootch’ . Pointing to the fact that in the course of five years, the Liquidators “have been reiterating in every way that the party has died,” the Baku workers asked: “Wherefore now their present urge to unite with a corpse?” The question hits the mark rather neatly. “When will the four [deputies] resign from Lootch’ ?” Lenin persisted for his part. “Must we wait much longer? … Even from distant Baku twenty workers are protesting.” It would not be amiss to presume that, having failed to obtain through letterwriting the break of the deputies with Lootch’, Lenin discreetly began to mobilize the lower ranks while Stalin was still in Petersburg. No doubt it was upon his initiative that the Baku workers protested—not by chance did Lenin choose Baku!—and besides, they sent their protest not to the editorial office of Pravda, where the Baku leader Koba was in charge, but to Lenin in Cracow. The complex threads of the conflict become flagrantly apparent. Lenin advances. Stalin maneuvers. With the Conciliators balking, though not without the unwitting aid of the Liquidators, who more and more exposed their opportunism, Lenin managed before long to induce the Bolshevik deputies to resign under protest as contributors to Lootch’ . But they continued to be bound by the discipline of the liquidationist majority of the Duma fraction.

Preparing for the worst, even for a split, Lenin, as always, did all he could to achieve his political goal with the least disturbance and fewest victims possible. This was exactly why he first asked Stalin to come abroad and then was able to make him understand that it would be best for him to stay away from Pravda during the forthcoming “reforms”. Meantime another member of the Central Committee was sent to Petersburg—Sverdlov, the future First President of the Soviet Republic. That significant fact has been officially attested. “For the purpose of reorganizing the editorial board,” proclaims a footnote in the sixteenth volume of Lenin’s Works, “the Central Committee sent Sverdlov to Petersburg”. Lenin wrote him: “Today we learned about the beginning of reforms on Pravda . A thousand greetings, congratulations and wishes for success … You cannot imagine how tired we are of working with an utterly hostile editorial staff.” With these words, in which accumulated bitterness mingled with a sigh of relief, Lenin settled scores with the editorial board for the whole period of difficulties during which, as we have been told, “Stalin actually ran the newspaper.”

”The author of these lines vividly remembers,” wrote Zinoviev in 1934, when the sword of Damocles was already hanging over his head, “what an event was Stalin’s arrival in Cracow …” Lenin was doubly glad—because during Stalin’s absence from Petersburg he would be able to carry out his delicate operation there and because he would probably be able to do it without any shakeup inside the Central Committee. In her sparing and wary account of Stalin’s sojourn in Cracow Krupskaya, as if slipping it in, observed “Ilyich was then very nervous about Pravda ; Stalin was also nervous. They were parleying as to how to adjust matters.” These very significant lines, for all their intentional obscurity, is all that apparently remains from franker text set aside upon the censor’s demand. In connection with circumstances already known to us, it is hardly possible to doubt that Lenin and Stalin “were nervous” for different reasons, each trying to defend his policy. However, the struggle was too unequal: Stalin had to retreat.

The conference for which he was called lasted from December twenty-eighth to January first, 1913, and was attended by eleven persons—members of the Central Committee and the Duma fraction and prominent local leaders. In addition to general political problems arising from the revolutionary resurgence, the conference considered the acute questions of internal Party life—the Duma fraction, the Party press, the attitude toward the Liquidators and toward the slogan of “unity”. The principal reports were made by Lenin. It must be supposed that the Duma deputies and their leader, Stalin, were obliged to listen to not a few bitter truths, although these were expressed in a friendly tone. It seems that Stalin kept his peace at the conference; only that can explain the fact that in the first edition of his memoirs (1929), the deferential Badayev failed even to list him among the participants. To keep silent under critical conditions is, moreover, Stalin’s favorite method. The protocols and other documents of the conference “have not yet been found.” Very likely special measures were taken to make sure that they should not be found. In one of Krupskaya’s letters of that period to Russia it is stated: “At this conference the reports from locals were very interesting. Everybody was saying that the masses have now grown up … During the elections it had become apparent that there were self-made workers’ organizations everywhere … For the most part they are not connected with the Party, but they are of the Party in spirit.” As for Lenin, he noted in a letter to Gorky that the conference “was very successful” and “will play its part”. Above all, he had in mind the straightening out of the Party’s policy.

Not without a touch of irony, the Police Department informed the man in charge of its agency abroad that, his last report notwithstanding, deputy Poletayev was not present at the conference, while the following persons were: Lenin, Zinoviev, Krupskaya; deputies Malinovsky, Petrovsky, Badayev; Lobov, the worker Medvedev, the Lieutenant of Russian Artillery Troyanovsky,[5] Troyanovsky’s wife[6] and Koba. Not devoid of interest is the order of the names: on the Department’s list Koba’s name is last. In the notes to Lenin’s Works (1929) he is named fifth, after Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Krupskaya, although Zinoviev, Kamenev and Krupskaya had already been long in disfavor at the time. In the listing of the newest era Stalin invariably occupies the second place, directly after Lenin. These shufflings reflect rather aptly the nature of his historical career.

[5] Alexander A. Troyanovsky, subsequently Soviet Ambassador to Japan and later to the United States.—C. M.

[6] Not the Mrs. Troyanovsky Washington diplomatic circles knew, but Elena Rozmirovich, an Old Bolshevik.—C. M.


With this letter the Police Department wanted to show that Petersburg was better informed about what was going on in Cracow than its agent abroad. No wonder one of the important roles at the conference was played by Malinovsky, whose real character as a provocateur was known only to the most exalted on the police Olympus. True, certain Social-Democrats who had come in contact with him became suspicious of him as far back as the years of reaction, hut they could not substantiate their misgivings with proofs, and their suspicions relaxed. In January, 1912, Malinovsky was delegated by the Moscow Bolsheviks to attend the conference in Prague. Lenin greedily seized upon this capable and energetic worker and helped to advance his candidacy at the duma elections. The police, for its part, also supported its agent by arresting all his possible rivals. This representative of the Moscow workers at once established his authority in the Duma fraction. Upon receiving from Lenin the ready-made texts of his parliamentary speeches, Malinovsky would transmit the manuscripts for review to the director of the Police Department. The latter attempted at first to introduce emendations; but the régime of the Bolshevik fraction confined the autonomy of the individual deputy within very narrow limits. Consequently, although the Social-Democratic deputy was the best informer of the Okhrana, the Okhrana agent became the most militant orator of the Social-Democratic fraction.

Suspicions of Malinovsky cropped up again in the summer of 1913 among a number of prominent Bolsheviks; but because of lack of proof, the matter was again dropped. But then the government itself became frightened of possible exposure and of an accompanying political scandal. By order of his superiors, in May of 1914, Malinovsky filed with the President of the Duma a declaration of intention to resign his mandate as a deputy. Rumors of his role spread again and with renewed force, and this time got into the press. Malinovsky went abroad, called on Lenin and demanded an investigation. He had apparently carefully laid out his line of behavior in collaboration with his police superiors. Two weeks later the Party’s Petersburg newspaper published a telegram which indirectly declared that the Central Committee, having investigated the Malinovsky affair, was convinced of his personal integrity. After another few days a resolution was published to the effect that by the willful resignation of his mandate Malinovsky “placed himself outside the ranks of organized Marxists”. In the language of the legal newspaper that meant expulsion from the Party.

Lenin’s opponents subjected him to a prolonged and cruel barrage for “sheltering” Malinovsky. The participation of a police agent in the Duma fraction, and especially in the Central Committee, was, of course, a great calamity to the Party. As a matter of fact, Stalin had gone to his last exile because of Malinovsky’s betrayal. But in those days suspicions, complicated at times by factional hostility, poisoned the atmosphere of the underground. No one presented any direct evidence against Malinovsky. After all, it was impossible to condemn a member of the Party to political—and perhaps even physical—death on the basis of vague suspicion. And since Malinovsky occupied a responsible position and the reputation of the Party depended to a certain extent on his reputation, Lenin deemed it his duty to defend Malinovsky with the energy which always distinguished him. After the overthrow of the monarchy the fact that Malinovsky had served in the Police Department was fully substantiated. After the October Revolution the provocateur, who returned to Moscow from a German war prisoners’ camp, was shot by order of the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding the lack of men, Lenin was in no hurry to send Stalin back to Russia. It was necessary to complete “the essential reforms” in Petersburg before he returned. On the other hand, Stalin himself was hardly eager to return to the place of his former labors after the Cracow conference, which, however indirectly, had unmistakably condemned his policy. As usual, Lenin did all he could to obtain an honorable retreat for the vanquished man. Vengeance was altogether alien to his nature. In order to keep Stalin abroad during the crucial period, Lenin got him interested in working on the problem of minor nationalities—an arrangement thoroughly in the spirit of Lenin!

A native of the Caucasus, with its scores of semi-cultured and primitive yet rapidly awakening nationalities, he did not have to have proved to him the importance of the nationalities problem. The tradition of national independence continued to flourish in Georgia. It was from that that Koba himself had received his first revolutionary impulse. His very pseudonym harked back to his own nationality’s struggle for national independence. True, according to Iremashvili, during the years of the First Revolution he had grown cool to the Georgian problem. “National liberation … no longer meant anything to him. He did not want to set any limitations upon his will to power. Russia and the whole world must henceforth be his prize.” Iremashvili obviously anticipates the facts and attitudes of a much later time. The one thing beyond doubt is that, having become a Bolshevik, Koba forsook the nationalistic romanticism that continued to live in peace and harmony with the nerveless socialism of the Georgian Mensheviks. But after repudiating the idea of Georgian independence, Koba could not, like many Great-Russians, remain wholly indifferent to the nationalities problem, because relations between Georgians, Armenians, Tatars, Russians and others constantly complicated revolutionary activities in the Caucasus.

In his views Koba became an internationalist. But did he ever become one in his feelings? The Great-Russian Lenin could not endure any jests or anecdotes that were likely to hurt the sensibilities of an oppressed nationality. Stalin had in him too much of the peasant from the village of Didi-Lilo. During the prerevolutionary years he did not dare, of course, to trifle with national prejudices, as he did later, when be was already in power. But that disposition disclosed itself in small matters even then. Referring to the preponderance of Jews in the Menshevik faction at the London Congress of 1907, Koba wrote:

Apropos of that, one of the Bolsheviks jestingly remarked (I think it was Comrade Alexinsky) that the Mensheviks were a Jewish f action while the Bolsheviks were truly Russian, and hence it would not be amiss for us Bolsheviks to instigate a pogrom in the Party.

It is impossible not to be astonished even now that in an article intended for the workers of the Caucasus, where the air was rife with nationalistic animosities, Stalin ventured to quote a jest of such suspicious odor. It was, moreover, no mere matter of accidental tactlessness but of conscious calculation. In the very same article, the author jauntily “jested” about the congressional resolution on expropriations, for the purpose of dispelling the doubts of the Caucasian fighters. One may confidently assume that the Menshevik faction in Baku was then headed by Jews and that with his “jest” anent a pogrom the author intended to discredit his factional opponents in the eyes of the backward workers. That was easier than to win them through persuasion and education, and Stalin always and in everything sought the line of least resistance. It might be added that neither was Alexinsky’s “jest” accidental: that ultra-left Bolshevik subsequently became a downright reactionary and anti-Semite.

Naturally, in his political activities Koba upheld the Party’s official position. Yet prior to his journey abroad, his political articles had never been above the level of daily propaganda. Only now, upon Lenin’s initiative, did he approach the problem of nationalities from a broader theoretical and political point of view. First-hand knowledge of the intricate national relations in the Caucasus undoubtedly made it easier for him to orient himself in that complicated field, in which abstract theorizing was particularly dangerous.

In two countries of pre-war Europe the national question was of exceptional political significance: in Tsarist Russia and in Hapsburg Austria-Hungary. In each of these the workers’ party created its own school. In the sphere of theory, the Austrian Social-Democracy, in the persons of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner, considered nationality independent of territory, economy and class, transforming it into a species of abstraction limited by so-called “national character.” In the field of national policy, as for that matter in all other fields, it did not venture beyond a corrective of the status quo. Fearing the very thought of dismembering the monarchy, the Austrian Social-Democracy strove to adapt its national program to the borders of the patchwork state. The program of so-called “national cultural economy” required that the citizens of one and the same nationality, irrespective of their dispersal over the territory of Austria-Hungary and irrespective of the administrative divisions of the state, should be united, on the basis of purely personal attributes, into one community for the solution of their “cultural” tasks (the theater, the church, the school, and the like). That program was artificial and utopian, in so far as it attempted to separate culture from territory and economy in a society torn apart by social contradictions; it was at the same time reactionary, in so far as it led to a forced disunion into various nationalities of the workers of one and the same state, undermining their class strength.

Lenin’s position was the direct opposite. Regarding nationality as unseverably connected with territory, economy and class structure, he refused at the same time to regard the historical state, the borders of which cut across the living body of the nations, as a sacrosanct and inviolate category. He demanded recognition of the right to secession and independent existence for each national portion of the state. In so far as the various nationalities, voluntarily or through force of necessity, coexist within the borders of one state, their cultural interests must find the highest possible satisfaction within the framework of the broadest regional (and consequently, territorial) autonomy, including statutory guarantees of the rights of each minority. At the same time, Lenin deemed it the incontrovertible duty of all the workers of a given state, irrespective of nationality, to unite in one and the same class organizations.

The national problem was particularly acute in Poland, aggravated by the historical fate of that country. The so-called P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Party), headed by Josef Pilsudski, carne out ardently for Polish independence; the “socialism” of the P.P.S. was no more than a vague appendage of its militant nationalism. On the other hand, the Polish Social-Democracy, whose leader was Rosa Luxembourg, counterposed to the slogan of Polish independence the demand for the autonomy of the Polish region as a constituent part of democratic Russia. Luxembourg proceeded from the consideration that in the epoch of imperialism the separation of Poland from Russia was economically infeasible and in the epoch of socialism—unnecessary. She looked upon “the right of self-determination” as an empty abstraction. The polemic on that question lasted for years. Lenin insisted that imperialism did not reign similarly or equably in all countries, regions and spheres of life; that the heritage of the past represented an accumulation and interpenetration of various historical epochs; that although monopolistic capitalism towers above everything, it does not supersede everything; that, notwithstanding the domination of imperialism, the numerous national problems retained their full force and that, contingent upon the internal and world conjunctures, Poland might become independent even in the epoch of imperialism.

It was Lenin’s view that the right of self-determination was merely an application of the principles of bourgeois democracy in the sphere of national relations. A real, full-bodied, all-sided democracy under capitalism was unrealizable; in that sense the national independence of small and weak peoples was likewise “unrealizable”. However, even under imperialism, the working class did not refuse to fight for democratic rights, including among them the right of each nation to its independent existence. Moreover, in certain portions of our planet it was imperialism itself that invested the slogan of national self-determination with extraordinary significance. Although Western and Central Europe have somehow managed to solve their national problems in the course of the nineteenth century, in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America the epoch of national democratic movements had not really begun to unfold until the twentieth century. To deny the right of nations to self-determination is tantamount in effect to offering aid and comfort to the imperialists against their colonies and generally against all oppressed nationalities.

The problem of nationalities was considerably aggravated in Russia during the period of reaction. “The wave of militant nationalism,” wrote Stalin, “called attention from above to numerous acts of repressions by those in power, who wreaked their vengeance upon the border states for their love of freedom, calling forth in response a wave of nationalism from below, which at times passed into crude chauvinism.” This was the time of the ritual murder trial of the Kiev Jew Bayliss. Retrospectively, in the light of civilization’s latest achievements, especially in Germany and in the U.S.S.R., that trial today seems almost a humanitarian experiment. But in 1913 it shocked the whole world. The poison of nationalism began to affect many sections of the working class as well. Alarmed, Gorky wrote to Lenin about the need for counteracting this chauvinistic rabidness. “As for nationalism, I quite agree with you,” replied Lenin, “that we must cope with it more earnestly than ever. We have a splendid Georgian staying with us here who is writing a long article for Prosveshcheniye [Enlightenment], after garnering all the Austrian and other material. We will bear down on it.” The reference was to Stalin. Gorky, long connected with the party, knew all its leading cadres well. But Stalin evidently was utterly unknown to him, since Lenin had to resort to such an impersonal, although flattering, expression as “a splendid Georgian.” This is, by the way, the only occasion when Lenin characterized a prominent Russian revolutionist by the token of his nationality. He had in mind, of course, not a Georgian, but a Caucasian: the element of primitiveness undoubtedly attracted Lenin; small wonder that he treated Kamo with such tenderness.

During his two months’ sojourn abroad Stalin wrote a brief but very trenchant piece of research entitled “Marxism and the National Problem”. Since it was intended for a lawful magazine, the article resorted to a discreet vocabulary. Its revolutionary tendencies were nonetheless distinctly apparent. The author set out by counterposing the historico-materialistic definition of nation to the abstracto-psychological, in the spirit of the Austrian school. “The nation,” he wrote, “is a historically-formed enduring community of language, territory, economic life and psychological composition, asserting itself in the community of culture.” This combined definition, compounding the psychological attributes of a nation with the geographic and economic conditions of its development, is not only correct theoretically but also practically fruitful, for then the solution to the problem of each nation’s fate must perforce be sought along the lines of changing the material conditions of its existence, beginning with territory. Bolshevism was never addicted to the fetishistic worship of a state’s borders. Politically the point was to reconstruct the Tsarist empire, that prison of nations, territorially, politically, and administratively, in line with the needs and wishes of the nations themselves.

The party of the proletariat does not enjoin the various nationalities either to remain within the bounds of a given state or to separate from it: that is their own affair. But it does obligate itself to help each of them to realize its actual national will. As for the possibility of separating from a state, that is a matter of concrete historical circumstances and the relation of forces. “No one can say,” wrote Stalin, “that the Balkan War is the end and not the beginning of complications. Quite possible is such a combination of internal and external circumstances that one or another nationality in Russia will deem it necessary to postulate and to solve the problem of its own independence. And, of course, it is no business of the Marxists to place barriers in such cases. But for that very reason Russian Marxists cannot get along without the right of nations to self-determination.”

The interests of the nations which voluntarily remain within the bounds of democratic Russia would be fenced off by means of “the autonomies of such self-determined units as Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the like. Regional autonomy is conducive to a better utilization of the natural wealth of the region; it does not divide citizens along national lines and makes it possible for them to group themselves in class parties.” The territorial self-administration of regions in all spheres of social life is counterposed to the extra-territorial—that is, platonic—self-administration of nationalities in matters of “culture” only.

However, most directly and acutely significant, from the point of view of the proletariat’s struggle, was the problem of the relations between workers of various nationalities inside the same state. Bolshevism stood for a compact and indivisible unification of workers of all nationalities in the party and in the trade unions on the basis of democratic centralism. “The type of organization does not exert its influence on practical work alone. It places an indelible stamp on the worker’s whole spiritual life. The worker lives the life of his organization, within which he develops spiritually and is educated … The international type of organization is a school of comradely feelings, of the greatest agitation in favor of internationalism.”

One of the aims of the Austrian program of “cultural autonomy” was “the preservation and development of the national idiosyncrasies of peoples.” Why and for what purpose? asked Bolshevism in amazement. Segregating the various nationalistic portions of mankind was never our concern. True, Bolshevism insisted that each nation should have the right to secede—the right, but not the duty—as the ultimate, most effective guarantee against oppression. But the thought of artificially preserving national idiosyncrasies was profoundly alien to Bolshevism. The removal of any, even disguised, even the most refined and practically “imponderable” national oppression or indignity, must be used for the revolutionary unification rather than the segregation of the workers of various nationalities. Wherever national privileges and injuries exist, nations must have the possibility to separate from each other, that thus they may facilitate the free unification of the workers, in the name of a close rapprochement of nations, with the distant perspective of the eventual complete fusion of all. Such was the basic tendency of Bolshevism, which revealed the full measure of its force in the October Revolution.

The Austrian program disclosed nothing but its own weaknesses: it saved neither the Empire of the Hapsburgs nor the Austrian Social-Democracy itself. Cultivating the idiosyncrasies of proletarian national groups, while at the same time failing really to satisfy the oppressed nationalities, the Austrian program merely camouflaged the dominance of the Germans and the Magyars, and was, as Stalin justly pointed out, “a refined form of nationalism.” However, it should be pointed out in all fairness that while criticizing their concern about “national idiosyncrasies,” the author invested his opponents’ thoughts with a patently oversimplified interpretation. “Only think,” he exclaims, “of preserving such national idiosyncrasies of the Transcaucasian Tatars as self-flagellation during the Shakhsey-Vakhsey festival! To develop such national idiosyncrasies of Georgia as the law of retaliation!” As a matter of fact, the Austro-Marxists did not have in mind, of course, the preservation of any such patently reactionary survivals. As for such “national idiosyncrasies of Georgia as the law of retaliation,” it was none other than Stalin who subsequently “developed” it to such an extent as perhaps no one else in human history. But that belongs in another sequence of ideas.

A prominent place in this study was allotted to a polemic against his old opponent Noah Jordania, who during the years of reaction began to lean toward the Austrian program. By example after example, Stalin showed that cultural-national economy, “generally … becomes even more senseless and ridiculous from the point of view of Caucasian conditions.” No less resolute was his criticism of the policy of the Jewish Bund, which was organized not on the territorial but on the national principle and attempted to impose that system upon the whole party. “One of two things: either the federalism of the Bund, and then the Russian Social-Democracy must be reconstructed on the principle of ’dividing’ the workers by nationalities; or an international type of organization, and then the Bund would have to be reconstructed on the principle of territorial economy … There is no middle ground: principles conquer, they never become reconciled.”

”Marxism And The National Problem” is undoubtedly Stalin’s most important—rather, his one and only—theoretical work. On the basis of that single article, which was forty printed pages long, its author is entitled to recognition as an outstanding theoretician. What is rather mystifying is why he did not write anything else of even remotely comparable quality either before or after. The key to the mystery is hidden away in this, that Stalin’s work was wholly inspired by Lenin, written under his unremitting supervision and edited by him line by line.

Twice in his life Lenin broke with close collaborators who were high-grade theoreticians. The first time in 1903-1904, when he broke with all of the old authorities of the Russian Social-Democracy—Plekbanov, Axelrod, Zasulich— and with the outstanding young Marxists, Martov and Potressov; the second time—during the years of reaction—when Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Pokrovsky, Rozhkov, all highly qualified writers, left him. Zinoviev and Kamenev, his closest collaborators, were not theoreticians. In that sense, the new revolutionary resurgence found Lenin stranded. No wonder then that he greedily pounced upon any young comrade who might be useful in working out one or another problem of the party program.

”This time,” recalls Krupskaya, “Ilyich talked a lot with Stalin about the national problem, was glad to find a man who was seriously interested in this problem and knew his way about in it. Prior to that Stalin lived approximately two months in Vienna, studying the national problem there, became well acquainted with our Viennese public, with Bukbarin, with Troyanovsky.” Some things were left unsaid. “Ilyich talked a lot with Stalin”—that means: he gave him the key ideas, shed light on all their aspects, explained misconceptions, suggested the literature, looked over the first drafts and made corrections … “I recall,” relates the same Krupskaya, “Ilyich’s attitude toward authors of little experience. He looked for the substance, for fundamentals, he thought in every way bow best to help, how to set them straight. But he did it all somehow with very great care, so that the author in question did not realize that he was being corrected. And Ilyich certainly knew how to help people in their work. If, for example, he wanted to assign the writing of an article to someone but was not certain whether that person would write it properly, he would first start a detailed conversation with him on the theme, develop his own thoughts, get the person interested, sound him out thoroughly, and then he would suggest: ‘Won’t you write an article on that theme?’ And the author did not even notice how the preliminary conversation with Ilyich had helped him, would not realize that he was incorporating in his article even Ilyich’s favorite words and expressions.” Krupskaya, of course, does not name Stalin. But this characterization of Lenin as coach of young authors is included in that chapter of her memoirs in which she tells about Stalin’s work on the problem of nationalities: Krupskaya was not infrequently compelled to resort to roundabout devices, so as to protect at least a portion of Lenin’s intellectual rights from usurpation.

Stalin’s progress on his article is pictured for us with sufficient clarity. At first, leading conversations with Lenin in Cracow, the outlining of the dominating ideas and of the research material. Later Stalin’s journey to Vienna, into the heart of the “Austrian school”. Since he did not know German, Stalin could not cope with his source material. But there was Bukharin, who unquestionably had a head for theory, knew languages, knew the literature of the subject, knew how to use documents. Bukharin, like Troyanovsky, was under instructions from Lenin to help the “splendid” but poorly educated Georgian. Evidently, the selection of the most important quotations was their handiwork. The logical construction of the article, not devoid of pedantry, is due most likely to the influence of Bukharin, who inclined toward professorial ways, in distinction from Lenin, for whom the structure of a composition was determined by its political or polemical interest. Bukharin’s influence did not go beyond that, since on the problem of nationalities he was much closer to Rosa Luxembourg than to Lenin. Just what was the amount of Troyanovsky’s participation, we do not know. But from that time dates the beginning of his contact with Stalin, which several years later, after circumstances had changed, secured for the insignificant and unstable Troyanovsky one of the most responsible of diplomatic posts.

From Vienna Stalin returned with his material to Cracow. Here again carne Lenin’s turn, the turn of the attentive and tireless editor. The stamp of his thought and the traces of his pen are readily discoverable on every page. Certain phrases, mechanically incorporated by the author, or certain lines, obviously written in by the editor, seem unexpected or incomprehensible without reference to the corresponding works of Lenin. “Not the national but the agrarian problem decides the fate of progress in Russia,” writes Stalin without any explanations. “The national problem is subsidiary to it.” This correct and profound thought about the relative effect of the agrarian and national problems on the course of the Russian Revolution is entirely Lenin’s and was expounded by him innumerable times during the years of reaction. In Italy and in Germany the struggle for national liberation and unification was at one time the crux of the bourgeois revolution. It was otherwise in Russia, where the dominating nationality, the Great-Russians, did not experience national oppression, but, on the contrary, oppressed others; yet it was none other than the vast peasant mass of the Great-Russians themselves that had experienced the profound oppression of serfdom. Such complex and seriously considered thoughts would never have been expressed by their real author as if in passing, as a generality, without proofs and commentaries.

Zinoviev and Kamenev, who long lived side by side with Lenin, acquired not only his ideas but even his turns of phrase, even his handwriting. That cannot be said about Stalin. Of course, he too lived by Lenin’s ideas, but at a distance, away from him, and he used them only as he needed them for his own independent purposes. He was too sturdy, too stubborn, too dull and too organic, to acquire the literary methods of his teacher. That is why Lenin’s corrections of his text, to quote the poet, look “like bright patches on dilapidated tatters”. The exposure of the Austrian school as “a refined form of nationalism” is undoubtedly Lenin’s, as are a number of other simple but pertinent formulae. Stalin did not write like that. With reference to Otto Bauer’s definition of the nation as “a relative community of character,” we read in the article: “Wherein then does Bauer’s nation differ from the mystical and self-sufficient ’national spirit’ of the spiritualists?” That sentence was written by Lenin. Neither before nor after this did Stalin express himself like that. And further, when, referring to Bauer’s own eclectic corrections of his own definition of a nation, the article comments, “thus, the theory sewn with idealistic threads refutes itself,” one cannot help but recognize Lenin’s pen. The same is true of the characterization of the national type of labor organization as “a school of comradely feelings.” Stalin did not write like that. On the other hand, throughout the entire work, notwithstanding its numerous angularities, we find no chameleons assuming the hue of rabbits, no underground swallows, no screens made of tears: Lenin had expunged all these seminarist embellishments. The original manuscript with its corrections can, of course, be hidden. But it is impossible, in any way, to hide the hand of Lenin, as it is impossible to hide the fact that throughout all the years of his imprisonment and exile Stalin produced nothing which even remotely resembles the work he wrote in the course of a few weeks in Vienna and Cracow.

On the eighth of February, when Stalin was still abroad, Lenin congratulated the editorial board of Pravda “on the tremendous improvement in all phases of managing the newspaper, which has been noticeable during recent days.” The improvement was in the matter of principles, and expressed itself chiefly in intensified fighting against the Liquidators. According to Samoilov, Sverdlov was then carrying out the duties of the actual editor; living in illegal status and never emerging from the apartment of an “immune” deputy, he busied himself all day long with newspaper manuscripts. “He was, besides all that, a very fine comrade in all personal matters as well.” This is correct. Samoilov does not say anything of the kind about Stalin, with whom he came in close contact and toward whom he is very respectful. On the tenth of February the police entered the “immune” apartment, arrested Sverdlov, and soon banished him to Siberia, undoubtedly because of Malinovsky’s denunciation. Toward the end of February, Stalin, who had returned from abroad, made his home with the same deputies: “He played the leading role in the life of our [Duma] faction[7] and of the newspaper Pravda,” relates Samoilov, “and he attended not only all the conferences, which we arranged in our apartment, but not infrequently, with great risk to himself, visited also the sessions of the Social-Democratic faction, where, by upholding our position in arguments against the Mensheviks and on various other questions, he rendered us great service.”

[7] See Glossary.


Stalin found the situation in Petersburg considerably changed. The advanced workers firmly supported Sverdlov’s reforms, inspired by Lenin. Pravda had a new staff. The Conciliators had been set back. Stalin did not even think of really defending the positions from which he had been torn away two months before. That was not in his spirit. He was now concerned only with saving his face. On the twenty-sixth of February he published in Pravda an article, in which he called upon the workers “to raise their voice against the separatist efforts inside the fraction, no matter where they come from”. In substance, the article was part of the campaign to prepare the split of the Duma fraction, at the same time to place the responsibility on the opponents. No longer bound by his own past record, Stalin attempted to express his new purpose in the old phraseology. Hence, his misleading expression about attempts to split the fraction, “no matter where they come from”. In any event, it is evident from the article that, after attending school in Cracow, the author tried to change his line and start off on the new policy as inconspicuously as possible. But he had practically no opportunity to do that, for he was soon arrested.

In March the Bolshevik organization, under the lawful sponsorship of Pravda, arranged for a concert and evening of entertainment. Stalin “wanted to go there,” relates Samoilov: there one could see many comrades. He asked Malinovsky’s advice: was it safe to go, was it not dangerous? The perfidious adviser replied that, in his opinion, there was no danger. However, the danger was prepared by Malinovsky himself. As soon as Stalin carne, the hall filled with spies. Comrades attempted to lead him through the stage entrance, having previously dressed him up in a woman’s mantle. But he was arrested. This time he was fated to disappear from circulation for exactly four years.

Two months after that arrest Lenin wrote to Pravda : “I congratulate you heartily upon your success … the improvement is tremendous and important. Let us hope it is permanent and definite and final … if only no evil spell is cast on it!” In the interest of completeness, we cannot ref rain from quoting also the letter which Lenin sent to Petersburg in October, 1913, when Stalin was already in distant exile and Kamenev was in charge of the editorial board: “Here everybody is satisfied with the newspaper and its editor. In all this time I haven’t heard a single word of criticism … everybody is satisfied and myself especially, for I have proved to be a prophet. Do you remember?” And at the end of the letter: “Dear Friend, all attention is now devoted to the fight of the six for their rights. I beg you to bear down with all your strength, so as not to let either the newspaper or Marxist public opinion waver even once.”

All the cited evidence leads to one inescapable conclusion: in Lenin’s opinion, the newspaper was very badly conducted when Stalin was in charge. During that same period the Duma fraction wavered toward conciliationism. The newspaper began to straighten out politically, only after Sverdlov, with Stalin away, brought about “substantial reforms.” The newspaper improved and became satisfactory when Kamenev took charge of it. Likewise, under his leadership, the Bolshevik deputies of the Duma won their political independence.

Malinovsky played an active role, even two roles at the same time, in splitting the fraction. The gendarme General Spiridovich wrote apropos of that: “Malinovsky, carrying out the directives of Lenin and of the Police Department, achieved in October, 1913 … the final quarrel between the ‘seven’ and the ’six.’” Then Mensheviks, for their part, gloated repeatedly over the “co-incidence” of Lenin’s policy with that of the Police Department. Now that the course of events has rendered its own verdict, the old argument has lost its significance. The Police Department hoped that the split of the Social-Democracy would weaken the labor movement. On the contrary, Lenin reckoned that only a split would secure for the workers the needed revolutionary leadership. The police Machiavellis obviously figured wrong. The Mensheviks were doomed to insignificance. The Bolsheviks won all along the line.

Stalin devoted himself to intensive work in Petersburg and abroad for more than six months prior to his last arrest. He helped to conduct the Duma election campaign, managed Pravda, participated in an important conference of the Party staff abroad, and wrote his essay on the national problem. That half year was undoubtedly of great importance to his personal development. For the first time he bore responsibility for activities on the soil of the capital, for the first time he carne in contact with major politics, for the first time he carne in close touch with Lenin. That feeling of supposed superiority which was so much a part of him as a realistic “practico” could not help having been shaken by personal contact with the great émigré. His estimation of himself had to become more critical and sober, his ambition more secretive, guarded. His hurt provincial self-satisfaction must inevitably have been colored with envy, mitigated only by cautiousness.

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Last updated on: 7 September 2009