"I FIRST made Lenin's acquaintance in 1903. The acquaintance, it is true, was not personal but by correspondence, but there remained with me an indelible impression which has never left me during the whole of my work for the Party. I was then in Siberia, an exile." These words, spoken after the death of Lenin, are Stalin's only personal allusion to his first period of exile.
There seems to be no documentation on this first short stage of his adventurous life; the person most interested has taken pains that it should disappear. Nothing about it is to be found in the prolix memoirs of former prisoners or political exiles, nor in the voluminous accounts of the Social-Democratic Parry. In the police archives, where valuable material on revolutionary history is preserved, all traces of Stalin have been removed, though various reviews have published all that can be found about the more or less remarkable or noteworthy Bolsheviks. Are we to conclude, with Trotsky, that the writings of the Stalin of that period, of "Koba," would compromise his reputation? The reply is to be found in the statement of the facts and analysis of documents.
The rest of Stalin's speech gives the measure of its veracity:
Knowledge of Lenin's revolutionary activity from the end of the nineties, and especially after 1901, after the publication of Iskra, had led me to the conviction that we possessed an extraordinary man in Lenin. He was not then merely a director of the Party in my eyes; he was its effective creator, for he alone understood its internal substance and its urgent needs. When I compare him with other Party leaders, it always seems to me that his companions in armsPlekhanov, Martov, Axelrod and othersall of them a head below Lenin, were such that in comparison with them Lenin was not simply one of the directors, but a director of a higher type, a mountain eagle, knowing no fear in the struggle and boldly leading the Party forward by the unexplored paths of the Russian revolutionary movement. I was so profoundly moved by this conviction that I felt I must write on the subject to one of my nearest friends, then an emigre, asking him for a reply.
This is obviously a version prepared after the event for a special purpose. In fact the writings of Lenin in the 'nineties were anonymous or signed by names still unknown. In Iskra the articles were unsigned; no one except a few of the initiated in London and in Switzerland, no one in Russia except very close friends, and certainly no one in the Caucasus, knew exactly Lenin's share in the paper. Martov was the principal stand-by of the paper because of his prolific output, Plekhanov for the extent of his knowledge and his authority in the International. In Zarya, except for a refutation of the criticisms of Marx on the agrarian question, Lenin used various initials, but never his own. His book on the development of capitalism in Russia, inaccessible to a young seminarist ignorant of the alphabet of economics, revealed the author's learning and powers of analysis, but not the foresight and audacity of the future leader. Nothing but immediate contact with Lenin in his daily work could give an idea of his quality or reveal his importance, and that is why it was possible for a thoroughly experienced revolutionary, Alexeyev, visiting Lenin in London, to say to Trotsky: "I think that as far as the revolution is concerned, Lenin is more important than Plekhanov." In order to appreciateand that after twenty years' delayLenin's personal contribution to the anonymous Social-Democratic press, the complete edition of his works was required, and even then it was impossible for his wife, his sisters, and his closest fellow-workers to attribute with certainty the paternity of certain articles. The clairvoyance of which Stalin boasts ought not therefore to create any illusions, but rather to be taken as an indication of the intention by which it was inspired.
Some time afterwards [continued Stalin] while I was an exile in Siberiait was at the end of 1903-I received an enthusiastic reply from my friend, and a letter, simple but profound in substance, from Lenin, who had been informed of my letter by my friend. Lenin's note was relatively short, but contained a bold and fearless criticism of the tactics of our Party and a remarkably clear, brief exposition of the work of our Party in the immediate future. Lenin alone could write about the most complicated matters so simply and clearly, so briefly and boldly, that each phrase hit the bull's eye. This simple, courageous letter strengthened my conviction that we had in Lenin the mountain eagle of our Party. I cannot forgive myself for having burned this letter of Lenin's, with many other letters, in accordance with the instinct of an old conspirator.
(A literal translation leaves to Stalin the responsibility for the metaphors as well as for the thought.)
The improbability of this account becomes clear from the statement, in his official biography, that Stalin remained only one month in Siberia at the time of his first exile. The exchange of correspondence by clandestine ways between the West and Baikal would have taken much more time. Furthermore, he escaped before arriving at his destination, at least if one can trust Nevsky's dictionary; he could therefore neither give any address nor receive any letter. As to the pretended instinct of the old conspirator, it has not deprived the Lenin Institute of thousands of manuscripts, letters, copies, drafts, fragments, etc. an inheritance jealously guarded. What emerges is that Stalin thought it necessary to antedate his relations with Lenin as if to parry an expected attack.
Though it may seem pedantic, outside a small circle of experts, to examine a detail apparently so unimportant, it is really necessary, for it concerns one of the pretexts which have served as an excuse for the bitterest internal quarrels at Moscow. Besides, the by no means fortuitous disappearance of essential biographical material about Stalin, the absolute impossibility for those living in Russia of supplying information and of establishing the facts in a sense contradictory to Stalin, compel the biographer to put scraps together and to interpret them in the light of knowledge. Stalin, like many other people discussed by their contemporaries or by posterity, cannot be believed on his word alone, nor invariably contradicted. Historical accuracy demands the verification of his statements and, in case of need, the motives for his modifications.
Social-Democracy did not really exist in Russia at the moment when Koba underwent his first months of imprisonment. Its formal foundation by the little committee at Minsk, five years before, was necessarily only a pioneers' gesture, whose symbolic value did not supply the realities of a party. But steady progress in industry, the development of the proletariat, repeated strikes, and the multiplication of clubs, emphasised the necessity of a central organisation which should embrace all the isolated groups and co-ordinate their scattered efforta party able to draw the masses after it, and to mould their elemental action. Such a party was about to appear.
THE real Constituent Congress of the "Workers Social-Democratic Party of Russia," preceded by long preparatory conversations, opened at Brussels in July 1903, but, owing to the action of the police, was compelled to move to London. Of fifty-eight delegates, fourteen of them with consultative voice, there were only four workmen and there was some difficulty in arranging for their presence. The fact is important, for, as the principal leaders afterwards admitted, the plethora of intellectuals largely explains the exhausting subtlety of the interminable discussions of the Social-Democratic emigres.
The Congress held no less than thirty-seven sessions, as well as innumerable supplementary meetings. Twenty subjects were on the agenda, several of themsuch as the Party programme, for exampleinvolving many others and requiring; different votes, without counting the votes on procedure. The infinite complexity of these controversiessometimes on a high planeand the often transitory classifications, make it difficult even for the initiated to comprehend the situation. A subsequent historico-polemical literature, considerable (in quantity), has still further confused and obscured it by a thousand variants, errors or omissions. The lack of an accurate stenographic report and the abundance of hidden meanings and unavowed motives increase the difficulty. Nevertheless, we must try to disentangle the bare essentials in order to understand the sequel.
The Iskraists were in a majority and at first formed a bloc directed particularly against the Bund which wished to preserve its independence in a federative organisation. But in voting on the first article of the Statutes, they divided into almost equal sections, 28 supporting Martov, and 23 Lenin. For want of an available definition, the latter were called "hards" and the former "softs," as characteristic of the two temperaments. The majority oscillated by the margin of a few Votes between Left and Right. Finally when the personal question arose over the election of central organs, Lenin, thanks to the departure of the more moderate members of the Congress, secured 19 votes against 17 and 3 abstentions; but the minority declined to give way. There was a virtual schism in the Party. Henceforward Social-Democracy was divided into two main sections, that of the majority, the "Bolsheviks," and that of the minority, the "Mensheviks," without counting those who, like Riazanov, stood outside both.
Although Lenin was to play the decisive role in the issue of the Congress and its consequences, Plekhanov dominated its debates from the intellectual standpoint. In the Party Programme Committee, over which he presided, he "illuminated the big meeting like a burning, blazing firework of knowledge and wit," says Trotsky in My Life. "The safety of the revolution is the supreme law" he said in plenary session, commenting on the Party programme, in which were included such essential demands as a Constituent Assembly elected by universal suffrage, liberty of conscience, of speech, of the press, of meeting, the right to strike, and inviolability of the person. "If the safety of the revolution demanded the temporary limitation of such and such a democratic principle, it would be criminal to hesitate... . It is an admissible hypothesis that we, Social-Democrats, might be against universal suffrage.... The revolutionary proletariat might limit the political powers of the upper class just as they limited ours in the past." As though he foresaw the fate of the future Constituent Assembly, he declared: "If the people, in a moment of revolutionary enthusiasm, elected a very good parliament, we should try to make it a Long Parliament, but if the elections should turn out ill, we should have to try to dissolve it, not at the end of two years, but, if possible, at the end of two weeks." These words engraved themselves on Lenin's memory. On the question of the death penalty, Plekhanov warned the Congress against taking up too absolute a position, suggesting the possibility that the revolution might have to get rid of the Tsar and some of the nobility.
At one of the first meetings Trotsky had made a very successful speech, following the general policy of Iskra; Riazanov called him "Lenin's big stick." Later on, though temperamentally one of the real "hards," he inclined more and more to the side of the "softs." Probably Plekhanov's instinctive dislike of him had something to do with this. His attachment to the old staff of the journal, especially to Axelrod and Vera Zasulich, kept him on the side of the minority. But the simple explanation is no doubt that a politician of twenty-four cannot be what he will be when he reaches maturity. Plekhanov was then forty-seven; Lenin thirty-three. Wisdom and experience strengthened the ascendancy of their distinguished personalities. It was no small thing to be able to meet them in argument with original views.
The Party programme already envisaged the dictatorship of the proletariat, thus defined: "The dictatorship of the proletariat is the pre-requisite of the social revolution, that is to say the conquest by the proletariat of power which will permit them to crush all resistance on the part of the exploiting class." For Trotsky this dictatorship would only become possible if Social-Democracy and the working classes were ready to unite. "It will not be a case of the seizure of power by conspirators, but the political reign of the organised working class, forming the majority of the nation"a conception evidently inacceptable to the "hards." In looking forward to tactical co-operation with the liberals, Trotsky was opposed to Lenin, and supported the wider formula of Potressov.
When the line of demarcation between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was drawn, Trotsky gave energetic support to the latter. The first article of the Statutes proposed by Lenin admitted as Party members "all who profess its programme and support the Party not only with money but by personal participation in its organisations." Martov put forward a text with the modification: "and give regular personal assistance under the direction of one of the organisations." Controversy grew round these formulae. Axelrod referred to the example of the People's Will in support of the argument that the most devoted elements of the Party should be surrounded by a category of less active members. That is to say the Party might include sympathisers not formally affiliated to the organisation. "We are the conscious interpreters of an unconscious process," said Martov in defining the Party. "The more people there are called Party members, the better it will be. We shall have reason for rejoicing if every striker and every demonstrator pleading his case can call himself a member of the Party."
Plekhanov took the side of Lenin. "I have no preconceived idea," he said in substance, "but the more I reflect on what has been said here, the stronger is my conviction that 'the truth lies with Lenin.' There is no insurmountable obstacle to the entry into the Party of a real revolutionary. 'As for the gentlemen who do not want to join, we have no need of them.' The intellectuals alone will hesitate for individualistic reasons to join the Party, but so much the better, for they are generally opportunists." Trotsky, in agreement with Martov, replied: "I don't know that you can put a statutory exorcism on opportunismI do not give the statutes any sort of mystical interpretation."
In replying to his opponents, Lenin began by reassuring them: "I do not consider our differences to be so vital as to be a matter of life or death for the Party. We certainly will not perish because of a bad clause in the rules!" But nevertheless he stuck firmly to his text. "Trotsky has completely misunderstood the fundamental idea advanced by Comrade Plekhanov," he said, giving further precision to his ideas: "Does my formula restrict or broaden the term, member of the Party? My formula restricts this conception while Martov's broadens it." In the same way Trotsky "completely misinterpreted the main idea of my book What is to be Done? when he said that the Party is not a conspirative organisation.... He forgot that in my book I propose a number of types of organisations; from the most secret and the most exclusive to the comparatively broad and 'free' (loose) organisations." The working class, he added, should work "under the control and direction" of the Party and not identify itself with it. "Our task is to form a clandestine group of leaders and to set the largest possible mass in motion."
To Axelrod and Martov he replied: "It is exceedingly difficult, and almost impossible, for us to distinguish talkers from workers. And there is hardly another country in the world in which the confusion of these two categories is as common, causes such boundless confusion and does so much damage as in Russia. We suffer severely from the presence of this evil, not only among the intelligentsia, but also in the ranks of the working class; and Martov's formula legitimatises it." In conclusion he said: "Each member of the Party is responsible for the Party, and the Party for each member."
Defeated by five votes, Lenin was not discouraged for a moment; he pursued his plan tenaciously and at last succeeded in obtaining a majority of two votes for the reduction of the Iskra editorial board to three members. Martov refused to join Plekhanov and Lenin in this triumvirate; the minority took no part in the election of the Central Committee; the breach was irreparable. Lenin was reluctant to acquiesce in it. For him, as for all, the schism was a surprise and a disaster. But his intransigence, really fundamental, left no hope of reconciliation. People began to talk of a state of siege in the Party, of seizure of the leadership, of dictatorship. To which Lenin coldly replied that he was not afraid of big words: "In regard to unstable and wavering elements, it is not only our right but our duty to create 'a state of siege.' " To the elders of the Party, astounded and indignant at the audacity of their emancipated disciple, Plekhanov said: "It is of such stuff that Robespierres are made."
How did Koba react in his prison at Batoum to the news of the rupture in London? The police note quoted above from Zarya Vostoka placed him among the original Mensheviks; Stalin having never denied it, Trotsky used it against him. The supposition does not at first seem very plausible, for the three delegates of the Caucasus at the Congress, Topuridze (Tiflis), Zurabov (Batoum), Knuniantz (Baku) were ranged on the Bolshevik side. Jordania, one of the original Mensheviks, was present at the London Conference, with consultative powers, but stayed for two years abroad. But Koba, with his slow and prudent temperament, may possibly have been influenced by Kandelaki, his close companion, who was always a Menshevik, or he may have hesitated momentarily before joining the camp of the "hards" to which his character predestined him. In any case ordinary militants were very slightly informed. And perhaps the doubtful story of the letter from Lenin may have been an unverifiable fiction chosen to cover up a difficulty. In any case the hesitation was of very short duration.
Extraordinary stress, for no real reason, is laid by the Bolsheviks on details of this kind. In 1903 no one understood the exact nature of the conflict, and Lenin himself, in striving to reunite the divergent sections, in seeking to associate them with himself in work and in action, showed plainly enough that he did not regard the rupture as definitive, or the positions taken up as irremediable. The history of the Party, indeed, saw numerous reconstructions of the directing personnel, unexpected separations, and unforeseeable rapprochements. The controversies among the emigres seemed confused and meaningless in Russia. In the Caucasus especially the schism was for a long time incomprehensible. Everywhere an external unity concealed the truth from the average Social-Democrat. The real touchstonerevolutionwas not there to try men, to test ideas. Is it not an arbitrary proceeding, in any case, to pretend to compare individuals without taking account of their age, origin, environment, acquired education, and the divers influences to which they are submitted?
Historical examples show the meaninglessness of these retrospective criteria, especially among those precedents which the Bolsheviks claim as their own. Marat did not enter the French Revolution as a Republican; before the fall of the Bastille, he shared the general illusions, and hoped for an enlightened, limited despotism; the first numbers of the Ami du Peuple advocated a liberal monarchy; up to the middle of 1790 he still had confidence in the King; then he denounced the hereditary principle, and in 1791 advocated a restriction of the prerogatives of the Crown; on the 10th August, he still favoured an elective monarchy; finally he accepted the Republic as an accomplished fact. Robespierre, also, admitted in 1792 different forms of sovereignty: "I should prefer to see a popular representative assembly, and citizens free and respected under a king, than a nation enslaved and degraded under the rod of an aristocratic senate and a dictator. I do not like Cromwell any better than Charles I, and I could not endure the yoke of the Decemvirs any better than that of Tarquin." A year before the armed rising in North America against England and the War of Independence, Washington wrote (1774): "Independence is neither desired, nor is it in the interest of this colony, or of any other on the Continent...." And Jefferson (1775) Said: "There is not in the whole of the British Empire a man who esteems more warmly than I do the union with Great Britain." Cromwell, before the second Civil War, was still an advocate of constitutional monarchy with Charles as sovereign. It is the course of events, the endless chain of cause and effect, which determines the solutions of problems that have to be resolved, and reveals men of a stature to deal with them. Lenin knew this and was fond of quoting the Napoleonic formula, "First engage, then see."
It matters very little then, whether Stalin was a Menshevik at first or whether Trotsky was always a Bolshevik. Both undertook responsibilities later on by which they can be better appreciated than by the hesitations of their youth. Moreover there are many ways of taking sides: as master or disciple, for practical reasons or by conviction. Koba could only be a disciple. Everything points to the conclusion that he took a decision not for something but against someone. When he followed Lenin it would have been difficult for him to give straightforward reasons for his position.
IN JANUARY 1904, Stalin escaped from Siberia and returned to Tiflis. He lay low and spent a long time there unobserved, working in the provincial organisation of Transcaucasia. A whole series of panegyrists now give him credit during this period for a "bitter struggle against Menshevism." In fact, Menshevism was then non-existent, and the Georgian Social-Democracy "maintained its unity and had neither internal quarrels nor splits," so writes P. Makharadze the communist historian of the revolution in the Caucasus. The assertion is very imprudent for other reasons, for, if judged by its results, Koba's effort had purely negative results. The Mensheviks obtained their greatest successes in Georgia; they won over without a contest the greater part of the population.
In any case it is only necessary to consult the memoirs, narratives and documents concerning socialism in Transcaucacsia to ascertain that Stalin, whether present or absent, never exercised any influence at all on the course of events. Never at any time did he play a part of the slightest importance. Especially significant is the detailed "report" of A. Yenukidze to the Old Bolsheviks' Club in 1923 on the illegal printing presses in the Caucasus. Stalin is mentioned once in sixty pages and without eulogy. Six years later, the same Yenukidze was to write Fragmentary Recollections, especially intended to affirm that his superior in the hierarchy "literally carried on his shoulders the whole struggle against the Mensheviks in the Caucasus from 1904 to 1908." The Recollections of S. Alliluyev, a militant workman active in Transcaucasia and Stalin's future father-in-law, mention him incidentally only once and that in a list. Many of Stalin's subordinates, in their Memoirs, hardly mention the name of their chief, and cannot impute to him a single original idea, a single notable act; one would seek in vain any characteristic statement about him. The copious Histories of the Party, each more official than the: last, relating to this time and place, are absolutely silent about him.
At that time there were Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, in many ways comparable to the "chartists of physical force" and to the "chartists of moral force," but there was neither Bolshevism nor Menshevism as yet. A disagreement, even an insoluble one, on the editorial board of a paper, was not sufficient to establish incompatible doctrines. Principles were held in common, and the programme had just been adopted in common. But the antagonism would soon become envenomed, the divergences deeper, and the respective ideas of the two sides more differentiated.
The Congress had been the starting-point of infinitely complicated dissensions and disputes. For more than fifteen years, ruptures, unions, resignations and combinations criss-crossed one another. A specialised work would be required to relate the changes, if only to indicate them in their main outlines. Only real experts can disentangle the committees, councils, sectional bureaux, dissident groups, leagues, unions, co-optations, conferences where the Minority Party were in a majority, subdivisions of sections, Bolsheviks of the Right, Mensheviks of the Left, advocates of unity, conciliators, extreme Right, extreme Left, adhesion or defection of national parties (Polish, Lett, Jewish), birth and disappearance of journals of various shades and similar titles, and innumerable sobriquets. For the purposes of this study we must deliberately put aside detail for the main essential outlines.
At first sight the subdivision of the Party into so many sections seemed to condemn it to impotence. But this subdivision was an effect rather than a cause, and could be terminated under new circumstances. "A party declares itself a victorious party by subdivision, and by its ability to survive it," wrote Engels thirty years earlier, in explaining how "the solidarity of the proletariat is realised everywhere by groupings of different parties which are waging a life and death conflict, like the Christian sects in the Roman Empire during the worst persecutions." No section of the Socialist International suffered so many fratricidal struggles as the Russian section, doubtless because no other was so ripe for passing from theory to practice.
This internal struggle was not undertaken light-heartedly, and its champions, moved by an impersonal force, were the first to suffer from it. Lenin, especially, was profoundly affected by the results of his tactics. The end of his friendship with Martov was very painful, and the subsequent breach with Plekhanov caused him real grief. His wife, Krupskaya, says that even his health was undermined. He persisted, however, certain of the rightness of his case, and faced the adversary, consenting occasionally to political compromises to gain time without giving way on essentials. He had his hours of discouragement, and even thought at one time of leaving for America. To-day Bolsheviks never allude to episodes of this kind, as if Lenin's reputation would suffer thereby. It is unnecessary to seek historical justification for individual weariness, but, if it were necessary, two precedents at least come to mind. Marat, in the full tide of revolution, thought the cause was lost, and left France, and nearly left a second time. Cromwell intended, if the Grand Remonstrance had not been voted, to leave England.
How the majority became a minority and vice versa, is easy to explain. The Mensheviks were more numerous among the emigres; the Bolsheviks had more supporters in Russia. The proportions were to be modified later on. Lenin had to live through many difficult moments at Geneva in the committees where he soon stood alone in his opinion. He had wished to re-establish an understanding between the two parties. Plekhanov was eager for the same thing, as were Martov and Trotsky. But, as each understood the peace after his own fashion, their attempts merely widened the breach: and Lenin, weary of the affair, resigned from Iskra, which passed into the hands of the Mensheviks, temporarily reinforced by Plekhanov. "Robespierre has fallen," said the latter. Between the old and the new Iskra, there is an "abyss," wrote Trotsky. Plekhanov left the Bolsheviks, as Trotsky was to separate himself from the Mensheviks a year later. This was the attitude of Riazanov and other less known men, called simply Social-Democrats. Plekhanov considered himself "above the divisions," and Trotsky, more modest, "outside" them.
Martov wanted a party "strictly centralised" but not composed of men who had "resigned, whether of their own free will or not, the right to think." He thought Lassalle's ideas on organisation were implicit in Lenin's and would lead to an occult dictatorship of theorists, he denounced "mechanical obedience" in his pamphlets, the state of terror and of siege in the Party and accused Lenin of bureaucratic formalism, of absolutism, of Jacobinism, of Bonapartism. Axelrod, in his articles in Iskra and elsewhere, rehearsed these arguments, spoke of autocratic centralism, and imputed to Lenin "the systematic stifling of individual initiative," reproaching him with turning men into the "cogs and screws" of a machine. Lenin replied in his pamphlet One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward, in which he defends himself by taking the offensive.
According to him, the bureaucratic method as opposed to the democratic is centralism against autonomy, it is the principle of revolutionary organisation as opposed to opportunist organisation; all the accusations of the Mensheviks were so much cover for anarchist and opportunist degeneration. For, he said, quoting Kautsky, his favourite author after Marx and Engels: "Democracy by no means connotes the absence of power; it is not anarchy; it is the supremacy of the mass of the electorate over its representatives, while under other forms of power, the so-called servants of the people are really its masters." Jacobinism? "If Axelrod assails the Jacobins, is it not because he has been consorting with Girondins?" And Lenin is not afraid of the epithet, for he is ready to give it content: "The Jacobin, bound indissolubly to the organised proletariat, and class-consciousthat is the revolutionary Social-Democrat."
This definition provided food for controversy for a long time, and that beyond the national field. Rosa Luxemburg, one of the strongest personalities of the socialist movement, wrote a refutation which appeared in the new Iskra (No. 69). Rosa Luxemburg took an active part in the workers' movement in Germany and Russia, and she was also the inspiring force in the Polish and Lithuanian movements. The importance of her works on political economy, historical criticism, and revolutionary strategy and tactics, her strength of purpose, her ability as a writer and propagandist, gave her weight as a controversialist. In criticising Lenin's formula, she accused him of entertaining a conception of the Jacobin Social-Democrat outside the proletarian organisation, whereas "Social-Democracy is itself the working-class movement." Opportunism cannot be routed by a regulation however severe: "Nothing so surely and easily puts a workers' movement in its early stages at the mercy of the intellectuals as its imprisonment in the strait-jacket of bureaucratic centralisation." Kautsky, always keenly interested in Russian questions, supported Rosa Luxemburg's view, as did Parvus, one of the most distinguished Marxists of the time.
But the most violent, if not the most effective blows, were dealt by Trotsky in the pamphlet, Our Political Tasks, in which he described Lenin as "head of the reactionary wing of our Party" and the "dull caricature of the tragic intransigence of Jacobinism." Leninist methods, said Trotsky, would lead to a situation in which "the organisation of the Party takes the place of the Party itself, the Central Committee takes the place of the organisation, and finally the dictator takes the place of the Central Committee." They would in the end impose on the Party the discipline first of the barracks, and then of the factory. "Rigour of organisation as opposed to our opportunism is simply another form of political stupidity." Lenin's ex-"big stick" struck with vigour him who had formerly guided it.
According to Trotsky all questions of the organisation of the proletariat find their own solution in the course of the political struggle. "The Jacobins," he wrote, "were Utopians, and we mean to be exponents of objective tendencies. They were thoroughgoing idealists; we are thoroughgoing materialists. They were rationalists; we are dialecticians.... They cut off people's headswe illuminate them with class-consciousness." Lenin would guillotine instead of convince. "Under Jacobin-Bolshevik tactics, the whole international proletarian movement would be accused of moderatism before the revolutionary tribunal, and the lion head of Marx would be the first to fall under the knife of the guillotine." Trotsky protests against intimidation in matters of theory, against any preconceived idea of orthodoxy: "Those who deny it are to be rejected. Those who doubt are near rejecting it. Those who question are near doubting...." As for the dictatorship of the proletariat, "Maximilian Lenin" and the Bolsheviks represent "a dictatorship over the proletariat."
This controversy, in which Koba would have been embarrassed at having to take pan, and of which Lenin took charge alone against a galaxy of brilliant doctrinaires and writers, is just as pertinent to-day; the same arguments have been exchanged and developed for a quarter of a century and recur in recent discussions, many controversialists having changed camps. From the very beginning the Bolsheviks were obsessed by the French Revolution to which they have continued to refer, whether as an example to be followed or a precedent to be avoided. The germ of the tendency which constituted at once the strength and the weakness of Lenin's party was already discerniblethe ability to organise and to act as a disciplined army capable of carrying out orders, but always at the mercy of an error on the part of their leader and in danger of sinking into an intellectual passivity contrary to their theoretical mission as vanguard and model.
Plekhanov in the end definitely took sides against Lenin. Not that he would have chosen to be the spokesman of a Menshevik section; the choice did not take shape as a dilemma; the difference being between generals without troops, so that there was no open schism, though the two principal groupswhose distinctive ideas were still ill-defined and the result mainly of personal affinitieswere already acting in complete independence of one another. But he thought he saw in Lenin a theorist vowed to isolation, dangerous because of his narrow and rigid interpretation of Marxism. Looking beyond their agreement at the recent Congress, he foresaw an extreme accentuation of centralisation by the Bolsheviks, as disastrous as the contrary excesses on the Menshevik side. After having shared the direction of Iskra, first with Lenin, then with Martov, he proceeded to edit alone his Journal of a Social-Democrat, and to criticise severely both the rival factions, the "enemy brothers." In that Journal he predicted the evolution of Bolshevism to the "final end, when everything would revolve around one man who will, ex providentia, unite all power in himself."
LENIN, sorely tried by a separation which he did not think definitive, had gained fresh confidence after securing fresh support. The most important new supporter was Alexander Bogdanov, writer and scholar, a highly cultured and scrupulous economist and philosopher, who brought with him his friends Bazarov, Stepanov and Lunacharsky. Among the faithful were also Leonid Krassin, brilliant organiser of illegal action and audacious conspirator under the mask of his profession of engineer, and valuable for many reasons, especially for his connections among the liberal bourgeoisie, from whom he extracted subscriptions for the Party; also Vorovsky, Olminsky, and Litvinov, less brilliant but devoted auxiliaries. With their assistance Lenin decided on a prolonged struggle. He created the periodical Vperyod, appealed to the humble militant workers in Russia against the brilliant emigre leaders, and demanded a new Congress. He had already seen former Marxists notably Peter Struve, author of the first Manifesto, leave socialism; he had seen the Bund, the first Social-Democratic organisation in Russia, detach itself from the body of the Party; he had seen the whole staff of Iskra turn against him. He felt that he was not understood in the International. But he could and must get back to work; there were immense reserves among the people, there were incalculable possibilities for the future; symptoms of the coming storm recurred in Russia, where the proletariat, regardless of the laboratories of social science, passed from resistance to the offensive, and demonstrated more and more frequently in the streets.
The strike at Batoum, in which Koba took part in 1902, and its violent sequels of demonstrations and repressions, had had reverberations in many towns as far north as Nizhni-Novgorod. A serious industrial and commercial crisis accompanied by severe unemployment fanned the fire of revolution. Every economic event took on a political aspect, and aroused republican and socialist demands. At the end of the year a strike of unprecedented dimensions broke out at Kostov, involving all the workers. In the summer of 1903 the petroleum workers at Baku left work, and their example was followed by all the workers from Tiflis to Batoum; there were strikes at Odessa, at Kiev, and in all the southern centres. Everywhere there were conflicts with police, soldiers and Cossacks. The workmen's societies, formed by the police agent Zubatov for the purpose of turning the movement away from opposition to the existing regime, broke their leading strings and rushed to join in the struggle, as Lenin had predicted in What is to be Done? Social-Democrats of the rank and file, in spite of the quarrels among the leaders and ignoring Article I of the Statutes of the Party, began to take part in social conflicts; sometimes they gained control and gave them a political orientation. In the rural districts arson threw its tragic light on the increasing distress of the peasants, weighed down with taxes and imposts, condemned to permanent undernutrition and periodically decimated by famine. The emancipation of the serfs had been carried out by methods which in practice retained the dependence of the freed serfs on the great landowners; a special kind of feudal system still existed. There was periodical rioting by the despairing peasants, savagely repressed by the army. Corporal punishment was still practised in the villages as in the army. The level of agricultural technique allowed no hope of better crops without the restoration to the peasantry of the lands owned by the privileged classes. The extreme poverty of this mass of consumers and their low purchasing capacity restricted the home market and was a further obstacle to the expansion of an industry already hampered by heavy fiscal burdens.
In this way Tsarism paralysed the productive power of the nation and, with the exception of the small castes dependent on the Crown, all classes had an interest in its overthrow. The State, which with its banks, its railways and its vodka monopoly, was the chief employer of labour, was in constant need of foreign loans and new sources of revenue. Interest on the debt and military expenditure absorbed more than half the Imperial revenue. Torn by contradictions, Russian economy, backward in spite of superiority of plant due to its recent origin, and more concentrated than in any other country, could advance no further without a new impulse. Hence the Russo-Japanese War.
In the past the autocracy had solved many difficulties by conquest. But after having encountered the English in Central Asia, in the Far East it ran up against the Japanese, who were, moreover, allied with England. The war imposed a short respite on the revolutionary movement, but it soon exposed the barbarism of the old regime, its impotence and its corruption. Defeatism, which had already shown its head in the Crimean War, asserted itself this time on a large scale among the liberal bourgeoise, the oppressed nationalities, and the socialist parties, and among the workers and peasants. By comparison with Imperial Russia, suffering one defeat after another, Japan appeared almost as a champion of civilisation. This view, widespread in Europe, found singular expression in the International in articles by the Englishman, H. M. Hyndman, who described the Japanese victory as one of the greatest events in history and as an event decisive for the future of socialism....
The Manchurian disaster shook Russian "society," that is the bourgeoise. to its foundations. The democratic movement, emboldened by great workmen's demonstrations, sought expression in the Zemstvos (consultative provincial councils), in congesses and banquets. The powerful evangelical criticism of Tolstoy threatened the ancient despotism. But liberalism in Russia, lacking a solid social basis and represented by an intelligentsia that had lost its courage, confessed defeat before going into action. The radical intellectuals and courageous students rallied to the workers' movement, the one real coherent force with which Tsarism had to reckon.
Social-Democracy was not alone in claiming the organisation of the people. A party known as the Social Revolutionaries, constituted abroad in 1901, and composed of various groups, leagues and autonomous unions, was about to hold its first congress. Its general tendency was that of the earlier Populism brought up to date by Lavrov and Mikhailovsky, somewhat influenced by western socialism, and its characteristic feature was terrorism. In 1902, its "Fighting Brigade" had begun a series of individual assassinations, decried in principle by the Social-Democrats, advocates of mass action, but which nevertheless maintained the revolutionary atmosphere, and stimulated opposition against the Tsarist regime. Michael Gotz, Gershuni, Natanson, among its representative figures, and terrorists like Karpovich, Balmashev, Sazonov and Kalyayev, were worthy exemplars of the resuscitated narodovobtsy tradition. Marxists looked on these Social-Revolutionaries as disgruntled liberals, democrats armed with bombs. The most energetic of them developed in opposite directions, a Savinkov to the Right, a Spiridonova to the Left.
In Poland, a "Polish Socialist Party" of national struggle grew more rapidly than the Social-Democratic Party of the class struggle; it was closely akin to the Russian Social Revolutionaries in the vagueness of its philosophy and its terrorist methods. In the different nationalities subject to the Empire, nationalist revolutionary groups supported the workers' and peasants' movement. These were activists in Finland, federal socialists in Georgia, as later on there were dachnakists in Armenia and mussavatists in Azerbaijan. The Japanese Government offered money and arms to all the subversive parties in order to weaken Russia in the rear of the armies by domestic disturbances. The only ones who accepted were the Finnish Activists, the Georgian Federal Socialists and the most nationalist section of the Polish Socialist Party, whose leader, Pilsudski, even went to Japan to ally himself with the enemies of the Russian oppressor.
In December 1904, again at Baku, a strike broke out which made the Social-Democrats masters of the situation for several weeks and caused a recrudescence of the workers' militancy. In January 1905, an incident at the Putilov works led to a sympathetic strike of the whole of the workers in St. Petersburg. There again Zubatov's legal association had gone further than its founder intended. On January 22nd, 2oo,ooo workmen followed Father Gapon to lay before the Tsar a petition stating their demands. This loyalist and peaceful demonstration, met by machine-gun fire and Cossack cavalry charges, ended in a massacre, and turned to revolt. There were thousands of victims. "Bloody Sunday" provoked a general rising, a great strike in over a hundred towns. The revolution hoped for by many generations, so often prophesied, on the altar of which so many lives had been sacrificed, had begun without waiting for a signal from the professional revolutionaries.
SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY was caught unawares, and the learned calculations of its adepts were upset by the spontaneity of the popular explosion. The Russian militants, without distinction of creed, threw themselves into the movement, seeking to organise it and to instil into it a socialist programme. The theorists of the emigration embarked more vigorously on their controversies.
Lenin said that the immediate objective was the preparation of an armed insurrection, even the date of which was to be fixed. Martov's reply in substance was that a man may prepare himself for insurrection, but an insurrection is not prepared. For Lenin the revolution could not be prepared beforehand, but the insurrection could, "if those who arranged it had influence on the masses and knew how to choose the right moment." To the abstract reasoning of the Mensheviks he opposed a concrete slogan, "Arms!" His paper, Vperyod, published practical advice for the insurgents, by Cluseret, General of the Paris Commune of 1871, giving technical instructions for the erection of barricades. By his reading and his thorough studies Lenin was well-versed in the art of war, in the strategy of insurrections and the tactics of street fighting. Even before him, Plekhanov, who had studied at the Military College of Voronezh and then at the Cadet School at St. Petersburg, had published an article on the subject. Both were indebted to Marx, and especially to Engels, for their ideas on civil war. The Mensheviks also, thanks to the assistance of Mikhail Pavlovich, printed in the Iskra plans for barricades and trenches, supplemented by full explanations. Trotsky bidding good-bye to theory and conjecture, had crossed the frontier to be in the fighting.
At that time, when unknown socialists were lavishly expending their energies in Russia, in strikes, meetings and demonstrations of protest, the general staff beyond the frontier continued their battles. In April and May, 1905, the Bolsheviks held a little congress in London attended by twenty qualified delegates of the "hards"; the Mensheviks had a conference at Geneva. Both assemblies attacked each other and claimed the right to represent the Party. "There was not a single worker at the Third Congress, at any rate not one in any way remarkable," says Krupskaya, in her Recollections of Lenin. Krassin made a move in consort with Trotsky, which shows how arbitrary the lines of demarcation still were. Koba was not a member of the Caucasus delegation, which included Kamenev and Nevsky, and the Georgians Tskhakaya and Djaparidze; if he had played the part that is belatedly attributed to him by Yenukidze, his absence would be inexplicable. The Congress, under Lenin's influence, adopted the project of the general strike transformed into armed insurrection, and the installation of a democratic revolutionary government in which the Bolsheviks might take part. It recognised implicitly the factitious, or at all events the premature, nature of the schism by its conclusion as to the necessity of uniting the Social-Democratic sections and groups into a single party.
The reunion of the fragments of the Party would have been all the easier, in that Lenin had never abandoned his uncompromising democracy. In 1904 he wrote: "We are prepared to support even a bourgeois democrat in the degree that he conforms to democracy; we are prepared to expose any democrat, even a Social-Revolutionary, who abandons democracy." One reads in his pamphlet, Two Tactics, which was dated 1905: "Anyone who attempts to achieve socialism by any other route than that of political democracy, will inevitably arrive at the most absurd and reactionary deductions, both political and economic." In the same year he defined his conception thus: "Everyone is free to say and to write what he believes without the slightest restriction.... Liberty of speech and of the press should be complete." Even the Mensheviks could not have gone further; but the divergence over ways and means was stronger than the agreement on principles.
The immense reserves of revolutionary energy long suppressed in Russia broke out everywhere without plan or system. Strike after strike in the towns, rioting and pillage in the country, mutinies in the Army and Navy, small armed outbreaks everywhere. The workmen organised defensive and offensive detachments against the reaction and its patriotic unions, nationalist bands, and anti-Semitic Black Hundreds, who incited pogroms and massacred women and children. Among the mass of revolutionaries who bore no label, Social-Democrats, Social-Revolutionaries, Bundists and Anarchists preached by their example without any opportunity of concerting their activities, and helped one another in spite of differences in principle, in chance encounters and in the instinct of defence against the common enemy. The Social-Democrats formed mixed or federative committees without asking permission of their fraction leaders.
The Government, powerless to deal with all the attacks against it, concentrated its forces on fortifying the main positions of the existing regime. The Army on the Far Eastern front, though defeated there, was still strong enough to crush an unarmed people. Strikes ceased in some industrial centres, only to break out in others. Spread over an unlimited field, the peasants did not take action beyond their own village. A military mutiny at the Nova Alexandria camp, in which the Menshevik Antonov-Ovseenko came into prominence, was quickly crushed, as were the mutinies at Sebastopol, where a leader chosen on the spot, Lieutenant Schmidt, a moderate socialist, paid the penalty with his life. The revolt on the cruiser Potemkin in the Black Sea, organised by the Mensheviks, remained an isolated action, and was quelled, as was the later outbreak at Kronstadt. The revolution allowed itself to be beaten in detail.
The insurrection stimulated by the sentiment of oppressed nationality reached its highest point in Poland at the beginning and the Caucasus at the end of the movement. The Warsaw strike, which was a reply to the shootings in January at St. Petersburg, cost more than a hundred dead on the barricades, and about a thousand wounded and prisoners. At Lodz, later on, five hundred were killed in street fighting. Pilsudski's Bojowka (fighting organisation), consisting of squads of five determined men, harried police and Cossacks, and carried out assassinations.
In Georgia the general strike organised as a reply to "Bloody Sunday" dragged in all classes of people, and developed into revolt in the villages. The Tsarist authorities only held their own in the garrison towns and along the railway line. There the Social-Democratic Party guided the movement. Under the direction of its committees, the peasants were able to create their local committees, confiscate land, replace the officials, organise a police force and arm their militia, the "Red Hundreds." At Tiflis, the workers met the provocation of Cossack violence by organised bomb-throwing on dates fixed by the Party. In December the whole of the province of Guria, Stalin's small fatherland, was in the power of the revolutionaries. Social-Democracy, the only force enjoying popular confidence, was able to intervene between the fanatical Armenians and Tartars, incited to mutual destruction by the Russians, and to prevent carnage at Tiflis as the Party had done at Baku in February.
In these memorable events of the revolution in Transcaucasia there is always difficulty in finding any trace of Koba. There is no mention of him in most of the specialised works on the subject. In the rare cases where his name occurs it is in lists, where there is nothing to distinguish him from the other names. From the monograph by P. Makharadze, for instance, published by the State Georgian press in 1927, where the Bolshevik historian had at his disposal the Revoliutsiis Matiane (Revolutionary Annals) of Tiflis and the unpublished State archives, it appears that in 1927 Koba was still in the background. His pamphlet, Sketch of the Divergences within the Party, a mere paraphrase in Georgian of Lenin's formulas, passed unnoticed and has not since been reprinted. This fact, in a country where those in power are fond of collecting their most insignificant writings, leaves no doubt of the author's own opinion.
Moreover, the Mensheviks, for lack of opponents of any mark, dominated Georgia. Makharadze admits it in bitter terms. "At the beginning of 1905 the Social-Democratic organisation, united up to that time, underwent a schism as it did in Russia. But that was only half the evil, for the directing organs of the Party passed entirely into Menshevik hands. This circumstance made the rally of the masses to the Menshevik position inevitable. And that is what happened." The pro-Lenin attitude of the Caucasus delegates at the 1903 Congress had no result. Following the example of Topuridze, the "hards" Zurabov and Knuniantz became Mensheviks one after the other. Stalin had nothing to show for his time and his trouble. When Jordania returned the whole of the Party adopted his course.
Before the schism in the Party, Lenin had sent to the Caucasus a fellow-exile named Kurnatovsky, a good propagandist whose useful work was stopped by a fresh sentence of exile. Kurnatovsky escaped, crossed the frontier, and died abroad. Contemporaries are unanimous in his praise, but in the recollections we have quoted, Stalin does not mention him, as if he never knew him. Neither does he mention Ketzkhoveli, an energetic militant killed in the Baku prison by a sentinel, nor Postalovsky of Tiflis. He never alludes to Krassin, who however spent several years at Baku, where he rendered valuable service, maintained the principal clandestine press, and fostered the Bolshevik "cell" with literature and money. As at Tiflis and Baltu, so at Kontars and Batoum he pretends not to know most of the Social-Democrats who personified the movement. Stalin's silences have their significance.
In 1905 the Mensheviks were in a majority in the Social-Democratic organisation throughout the Empire. According to Nevsky they numbered about 15,ooo, a third of whom were in the Caucasus, as against 12,ooo Bolsheviks. Martov (History of Russian Social-Democracy) puts Lenin's followers at a substantially lower figure, and Bubnov, the most recent and perhaps the most official of the Bolshevik historians, puts them at 8,000. In an industrial proletariat of about three millions the Social-Democrats according to the most favourable calculations were about one per cent, if the intellectuals are left out of account.
Nevertheless, Bolshevism and Menshevism began to develop divergence in politics and tactics, if not yet in theory. New problems in an extraordinarily rapidly-changing situation demanded solutions. Parties and groups were judged by deeds, not words.
Confusion in the Russian administration gave opportunity for a relatively free press. Liberal and socialist pamphlets abounded, and there were many popular meetings in the universities. Conspirators of all sorts emerged from their subterranean hiding-places to make use of the possibility of open agitation, now tolerated in fact though not in law. Trade unions were openly organized for the first time. An effervescent public opinion gave opportunity for all sorts of efforts and discussion outside the small traditional clandestine clubs.
In September a printers' strike at Moscow inspired sympathetic action in other organisations, and new revolutionary potentialities were opened up. By October the strike had extended to the railways, then to the whole country, and developed into a general strike such as the world had never seen. In many towns the proletariat erected barricades, and defied police and soldiers. It was the culminating point of the revolution. Under this enormous pressure, the Tsar finally retreated and promulgated the Constitution of October 1905. Plekhanov's prediction was realised; the first victory over the autocracy had been won by the working class.
IN THE course of the St. Petersburg strike the Mensheviks had proposed the constitution of a body representing the fighting forces of the workers and had invited them to elect one delegate for every 500 workers. In the June and July numbers of Iskra, the idea of the formation of "representative organs of revolutionary autonomy" was put forward, especially by Dan. The Bolsheviks were hostile, opposing the notion of a "revolutionary Government" to that of "revolutionary municipalities." Local organs of that kind, said Lenin, might prove to be the epilogue and not the prologue of revolt. But the Menshevik suggestion satisfied the latent desire for a "large class organisation independent of party," the Iskra formula. The strikers hastened to nominate their representatives, who formed the "Soviet of Workers' Deputies." its first President was the Menshevik Zborovsky. After him Khrustalev-Nosar, a non-party socialist who afterwards joined the Mensheviks, held the position until he was arrested. A bureau of three members, of whom Trotsky was one, was then nominated. There were similar bodies of soviets in the provinces, usually ordinary strike committees enlarged, but these were of less importance.
In the absence of Lenin, who all this time was in exile, the Bolshevik organisations in St. Petersburg failed to grasp the significance of the political and social phenomenon which was being accomplished under their eyes. Their one-track mind admitted no virtue outside the "Party," that is to say, outside their narrow group, and every workmen's organisation appeared to them as a revolutionary competitor. Also they regarded the trade unions with indifference, if not with disdain. They demanded from the St. Petersburg Soviet an explicit adhesion to Social-Democracy which would have deprived it of any reason for existence. The Mensheviks, clearer-sighted on this point and in closer touch with the masses, worked zealously in the soviets and in the trade unions, and acquired Incontestable influence in both. It needed Lenin's return to induce his followers to change their attitude. His polemic with Iskra did not prevent Lenin from renouncing his formula in order to seize a new chance in the changing situation.
It is a remarkable illustration of the fundamental vice of the Bolshevik Party: without Lenin there would have been no Bolshevism. Not that his section had never attracted eminent men, but the Bogdanovs and Krassins were in turn to detach themselves from it as Trotsky and Plekhanov had done in the past, leaving Lenin with comrades incapable of meeting an unforeseen situation unaided.
Lenin's isolation reminds one to some extent of that of Washington, who also had to rely exclusively on himself, and whose lieutenants, left to their own initiative, would have compromised the common task.
Before returning to Russia, in October 1905, Lenin had written to Plekhanov: "Our revolution sweeps away tactical divergences with surprising rapidity. Here is a field in which forgetfulness of the past and a mutual understanding in face of a piece of live work will always be made easy." At St. Petersburg he founded, with Bogdanov and Kamenev, a new paper, Novaya Zhizn, edited by an actress, Marie Andreyeva, with the collaboration of well-known writers, Gorky, Balmont, Leonid Andreyev. On their side the Mensheviks published Nachalo, in which Trotsky and Parvus defended a special ideathe "permanent revolution." "We have always said that a revolution would strengthen and not weaken the bourgeoisie, and would provide the indespensible conditions for a victorious struggle for socialism," Lenin had declared at a recent Congress of his fraction. In Two Tactics he speaks of the same idea:
Marxists are absolutely convinced of the bourgeois character of the Russian Revolution. What does this mean? That the democratic changes in the political system and the economic and social changes which have become indispensable in Russia, do not of themselves signify the destruction of capitalism or the downfall of the reign of the bourgeoise. On the contrary they will, for the first time, really throw open the field to the development of a European, not an Asiatic capitalism, thus making possible for the first time, the reign of the bourgeoise as a class.
All the Social-Democrats agreed on the general definition. But disagreements soon arose. Trotsky and Parvus thought the working class to be the only one capable of seizing and holding power, with the more or less active support of the peasants. Social-Democracy must then claim the succession to Tsarism; but in the exercise of power it would necessarily engage in socialist enterprises which could only be consolidated by an international revolution; therefore revolution must be uninterrupted, permanent and universal, and must be maintained by the dictatorship of the proletariat.
But for the Mensheviks, haunted by the scheme of European revolutions, the bourgeoisie alone could and must seize power. If the Social-Democracy attempted it, it would meet with the fate of the Paris Commune, Russia being as yet insufficiently developed for transformation into a socialist State. The proletariat would therefore have to support from outside the party of the advanced bourgeoisie, that of the Constitutional Democrats or Kadets, created in 1905. The Mensheviks quoted Engels in support of this proposal. "The worst possible thing for the leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to assume power at a time when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which it represents and for the measures required for that domination." Lenin's view was that it was the autocracy, not the bourgeoisie, that had to be overturned, and that they had to establish, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, but "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasants." For there was in Russia "an enormous peasant and lower middle class population capable of supporting the democratic but not yet the socialist revolution." Lenin reproved "the absurd half-anarchist conceptions on the immediate realisation of the maximum programme and the conquest of power for the socialist transformation." A revolutionary dictatorship could only endure if it had the support of the overwhelming majority of the people; the proletariat being in a minority in Russia, Trotsky and Parvus were merely phrase-making when they foretold its accession to political power. The true perspective was the foundation of "a democratic republic as the last form of bourgeois domination, and the most appropriate for the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie." With this end in view, the Bolsheviks should participate with the liberal bourgeoisie in a provisional revolutionary government.
Martov said he differed very little from this general point of view, and he praises its "realism" in his History, but he repelled, on grounds of theoretical orthodoxy, the suggestion of "participation in a bourgeois government" as compromising. Thus Lenin figured as an opportunist, Martov as an intransigent, and Trotsky as a utopian of the extreme Left.... Rosa Luxemburg inclined towards the thesis of the "permanent revolution," which was severely criticised by Franz Mehring, the historian and theoretician of German socialism. Twenty years later A. Joffe, a former Menshevik who had joined hands with Lenin, wrote to Trotsky from his death-bed: "I have often declared that I heard with my own ears Lenin say that you, not he, were right in 1905. A man face to face with death does not lie, and I repeat the statement now...." History will give the deciding vote to the survivors of a debate which still continues in the logomachy engendered by deceptive appearances.
The Government of Nicholas II interrupted brutally for a time the dissertations and speculations on the "motive forces" of the revolution by exercising the power it still retained in December, when the workers' movement declined after a year of civil war in which the front ranks were always occupied by the same vanguard. At St. Petersburg the Soviet, of which Trotsky had been the indefatigable mouthpiece, was suppressed after an existence of fifty-two days, and its members imprisoned. Before his disappearance Trotsky had launched his Financial Manifesto repudiating in advance the loans made to the Tsar "then at open war with his people." At Moscow an insurrection begun, organised and inspired this time by the Bolsheviks, was crushed after nine days of fighting in which less than 2,ooo workmen, 500 of whom were Social-Democrats, resisted the garrison which had received strong reinforcements. In the Caucasus strong reinforcements of all arms vanquished the insurgents, and artillery put an end to the "Guria Republic." Such were the main stages of a defeat presaging a victory to come. "Without the general rehearsal of 1905," wrote Lenin, "our victory in 1917 would have been impossible."
The revolution died down without being able to strike the decisive blow because attack was not simultaneous everywhere, because there was no conciousness of solidarity between town and country, no co-ordination of the elemental forces unchained, because there was no general organisation or direction. Its scattered efforts were broken by an army in the main faithful to the old regime. But absolutism had tottered under the shock. An embryo constitution, a sort of parliament had been gained. The political impotence of the bourgeoisie as a class had been revealed. Its revolutionary intellectuals had thrown in their lot with the proletariat in the course of the struggle. All the socialist parties emerged from the fight greater in prestige if not in numbers. Anarchism had failed under the test of experience. Finally, the October strike left a great example, the unforgettable lesson of the St. Petersburg Soviet.
No theorist had foreseen the Soviets or the role they were to play in the future. The Mensheviks could claim the largest share in their creation, but did not make use of them to the full extent. The Bolsheviks found difficulty in adapting themselves to the accomplished fact, with the exception of Lenin, who, on reflection, glimpsed the possibilities of the future. "The transfer of the leadership of the Soviet from Khrustalev to Trotsky will be an immense step forward," he said, not stinting his admiration of an adversary who had shown his real stature. The provincial Soviets of Moscow, Rostov, Novorossiisk, Baku, Odessa, etc., were most of them under Menshevik influence. That of Novorossiisk deserves special mention for having put itself at the head of a short-lived local republic. (Similar local republics were formed in Latvia.) Only one, the Bielostok Soviet, was in the hands of Social Revolutionaries and Anarchists. The forces of reaction swept away the soviets, but their memory remained vivid in the consciousness of the working class.
Lenin kept in the background during the 1905 revolution. He was not the man for showy achievements; his business was persevering, effective work for the future settlement. Moreover, the Bolsheviks in general lagged behind except in the final episode at Moscow. The Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks showed themselves quicker and more energetic, more supple and more enterprising, perhaps because less encumbered with dogmatic theory. Plekhanov, who had become a Western European, removed from the actual struggle, did not know what to, make of the revolutionary happenings in Russia. The fact that he did not return to Russia and his remark after the Moscow insurrection, "that Moscow should not have taken up arms," are sufficient indication of his attitude of detachment from "living work," to which Lenin had invited him. One may say, with Lunacharsky, that of all the Social-Democratic leaders "Trotsky undeniably showed himself, in spite of his youth, the best prepared, the most exempt from a certain emigre narrowness, which affected even Lenin at that time. He advanced in popularity during the revolution, when neither Lenin nor Martov did. Plekhanov lost much ground.... From that time Trotsky was in the foreground." In Georgia traditional Social-Democracy had acquired and exercised an authority everywhere acknowledged, and a new generation, among them I. Tseretelli, had arisen to carry on the work of the group founded by Jordania.
Of Stalin there would be nothing to say if he had not been summoned, for the first time, to a Bolshevik Conference at Tammerfors. "Summoned," for he could not be strictly speaking the delegate of a Menshevik organisation. It was then that he really made acquaintance with Lenin. No minutes of the Conference exist, and there is no mention of any part, or any speech of his. In his recollections on Lenin he makes some characteristic comments.
I met Lenin for the first time in December 1905 at the Bolshevik Conference at Tammerfors, in Finland. I expected to see the mountain eagle of our Party a great man, not only politically but physically, for I had formed for myself a picture of Lenin as a giant, a fine figure of a man. What was my disappointment when I saw the most ordinary looking individual, below middle height, distinguished from ordinary mortals by nothing, literally nothing. A great man is permitted to be generally late at meetings so that those present may be apprehensive at his non-arrival, and so that before the great man's appearance there may be cries of "Hushsilencehe is coming." This ceremony seemed to me useful for it creates respect. What was my disappointment to find that Lenin had arrived before the delegates and was carrying on the most ordinary conversation, with the most ordinary delegate, in a corner.
He continues in the same tone, on the same level, in the same sense. The reader is none the wiser for it. The matter, worthy of the style, requires no comment. One wonders how Koba could have won Lenin's esteem but for the fact that he was able to render remarkable service and to show his real capacity during the years following the 1905 Revolution, years of political reaction and socialist retrogression.