At such times true leaders are recognised for what they are worth. Lenin was at that time (as throughout his exile) suffering great personal privations and living in poverty; was ill, undernourished-particularly during his stay in Paris; but he remained as cheerful as anybody could be. He stood steadfastly and bravely at his glorious post. He alone contrived to collect a close and intimate circle of fighters, whom he would cheer up by saying: ‘Don’t be disheartened; these dark days will pass, the muddy wave will ebb away; a few years will pass and we shall be borne on the crest of the wave, and the proletarian revolution will be born again.’ The emigrès of that time, more particularly the Menshevik intellectuals, who formed the prevailing element, treated us with marked hostility, declaring that we were a small sect, the members of which could be counted on the five fingers of one hand. There was a special comic paper published in Paris, which jeered at Bolshevism and exercised its humor on such subjects as that ‘a reward would be offered of half a kingdom to the person who could name a fourth Bolshevik in addition to Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.’ The Bolsheviks were, forsooth, a set of bears sucking their own paws while life was moving past them. The co-operatives, the trade unions, the legal press, were all opposed to the Bolsheviks, while Lenin and his disciples were sitting in a contemplative mood, attaching their faith to the advent of a new Messiah and a new revolution which would never arrive.
In those difficult years Lenin rendered to the working class services perhaps even greater than ever before. At present, in our own days, a tremendous flood had risen and borne millions of individuals, ready to fight and to die. In those days everything was asleep, like in a cemetery. Stolypin’s regime was weighing upon the working class like the lid of a coffin. The ‘elder statesmen’, like Axelrod and Co., were chanting the dirges of the revolution and of the old illegal workers’ party. It was, indeed, a great merit to have raised the banner of the revolution in such times, to have fought all revisionism and opportunism, to have preserved his faith in triumph, and awaited its moment; to have worked and worked without rest or haste.
Lenin was fighting for the party, but at the same time he secluded himself in the library. It is needless to say that Marx is the favourite writer of Lenin, just as his favourite Russian author is Chernyshevsky. Lenin knows his Marx and Engels from the first to the last letter. He knows them in a way as only two or three persons, I think, know them in the world. And Lenin is one of the very few who have advanced the theory of Marx and have been able to fructify it by some new elements and to apply it under the conditions of a new era fraught with the greatest consequences. How proud Marx would have been of Lenin, if he lived today! Lenin never allowed Marx to be insulted by anybody. The Russian so-called ‘critics’ as Marx invariably came up in their literary exercises against the impregnable fortress called Lenin, and would invariably suffer damage from his guns. Lenin fully sustained his reputation even when the philosophical views of Marx began to be subjected to ‘criticism’.
In those days Comrade Lenin carried out a tremendous piece of theoretical work. Those days were marked by a sort of literary spoliation of the dead, by an unprecedented literary demoralisation. Attempts were made to smuggle, under the flag of Marxism, the rotted ideas of bourgeois philosophy into working class audiences. Lenin spent two years in the Paris National Library, and carried out such a mass of work that even bourgeois professors who attempted to sneer at the philosophical studies of Lenin, themselves admitted that they could not understand how one man contrived to read such a mass of books in the course of two years. How, indeed, could Lenin succeed in this domain when ‘we’, who had studied at our fathers’ expense, who had spent thirty years in our scientific careers, who had worn out so many armchairs, who had perused such truck-loads of books, had understood nothing at all in them?
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