THE FIRST Russian Revolution ended in defeat. Between the first and the second revolutions there intervened a period of ten years, during which the Bolsheviks worked perseveringly rind indefatigably, with heroism and self-sacrifice to organize the masses, to foster in there the revolutionary spirit, to guide their struggles and to prepare the ground for the future victory of the revolution.
For Lenin and Stalin these were years of relentless struggle for the preservation and consolidation of the underground revolutionary Party, for the application of the Bolshevik line in the new conditions; they were years of strenuous effort to organize and educate the masses of the working class, and of unusually stubborn conflict with the tsarist police. The tsarist authorities sensed in Stalin an outstanding revolutionary, and were at great pains to deprive him of all opportunities of carrying on revolutionary work. Arrest, imprisonment and exile followed each other in swift succession. Between 1902 and 1913, Stalin was arrested seven times and exiled six times. Five times he escaped from exile. Scarcely had the tsarist authorities convoyed him to a new place of exile than he would again be “at large,” to resume his work of mustering the revolutionary energies of the masses. His last term of exile was the only one that was not cut short in this way; from that he was released by the revolution of February 1917.
In July 1907 began the Baku period of Stalin’s revolutionary career. Can his return from the Fifth London) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., he left Tiflis and on the instructions of the Party settled in Baku, the largest industrial area in Transcaucasia and one of the most important centres of the working-class movement in Russia. Here he threw himself into the work of winning the Baku organization for Lenin’s slogans and of rallying the working masses under the banner of Bolshevism. He organized the fight to oust the Mensheviks from the working-class districts of Baku (Balakhani, Bibi-Eibat, Chorny Gorod and Byely Gorod). He directed the Bolshevik publications, illegal and legal (Bakinsky Proletary, Gudok and Bakinsky Rabocky). He directed the campaign in the elections to the Third Duma. The “Mandate to the Social-Democratic Deputies of the Third State Duma,” written by Stalin was adopted at a meeting of representatives of the workers’ curiae in Baku on September 22. Stalin guided the struggle of the Baku workers. The big campaign he organized in connection with the negotiations for a collective agreement between the oil workers and the operators was a brilliant application of Lenin’s policy of flexibly combining illegal and legal activities in the period of reaction. He secured the victory of the Bolsheviks in this campaign by skilfully applying Lenin’s tactics of rallying the workers for a political struggle against the tsarist monarchy. Baku, where the proletarian struggle seethed, and whence the voice of Stalin’s fosterlings, the legal Bolshevik newspapers, reverberated throughout Russia, presented an unusual spectacle amid the gloomy night of the Stolypin reaction. “The last of the Mohicans of the mass political strike!”1 was Lenin’s comment on the heroic struggle of the Baku workers in 1908.
Around Stalin rallied a sturdy band of tried Bolsheviks and Leninists—Fioletov, Saratovets (Efimov), Vatsek, Bokov, Malygin, Orjonikidze, Djaparidze, Shaumyan, Spandaryan, Khanlar, Memedov, Azizbekov, Kiazi-Mamed and others—and finally he secured the complete triumph of Bolshevism in the Baku Party organization. Baku became a stronghold of Bolshevism. Under Stalin’s leadership, the Baku proletariat waged a heroic struggle in the front ranks of the Russian revolutionary movement.
The Baku period was of major importance in Stalin’s life. This is what he himself says of it:
“Two years of revolutionary activity among the workers in the oil industry steeled me as a practical fighter and as one of the practical leaders. Contact with advanced workers in Baku, with men like Vatsek and Saratovets, on the one hand, and the storm of acute conflicts between the workers and oil owners, on the other, first taught me what leading large masses of workers meant. It was in Baku that I thus received my second revolutionary baptism of fire.”2
On March 25, 1908, Stalin was arrested and, after spending nearly eight months in prison, was exiled to Solvychegodsk, in the Province of Vologda, for a term of two years. But on June 24, 1909, he escaped and made his way back to Baku, to continue his illegal work. He vigorously and unreservedly supported Lenin in his stand against the Liquidators and Otzovists. His historic “Letters from the Caucasus” appeared in the central Party press, and for the newspaper Bakinsky Proletary he wrote “The Party Crisis and Our Tasks,” “From the Party” and other articles in which he boldly criticized the state of the Party organizations and outlined a plan to put an end to the crisis in the Party. In these writings Stalin subjected the Liquidators to withering criticism, using the example of the Tiflis Mensheviks to illustrate the renegacy of the Liquidators on questions of program and tactics. He severely condemned the treacherous conduct of the accomplices of Trotskyism, and formulated the immediate tasks of the Party, to which the Prague Party Conference subsequently gave effect, namely, the convocation of a general Party conference, the publication of a legal Party newspaper and the formation of an illegal Party centre to conduct the practical work in Russia.
On March 23, 1910, Stalin was again arrested in Baku, and, after spending six months in prison, was convoyed back to Solvychegodsk. He established contact with Lenin from exile, and towards the end of 1910, wrote him a letter in which he expressed full solidarity with Lenin’s tactic of forming a Party bloc of all who favoured the preservation and consolidation of the illegal proletarian party. In this same letter he castigated the “rank unprincipledness” of Trotsky and outlined a plan for the organization of Party work in Russia.
In the latter half of 1911 began the St. Petersburg period of Stalin’s revolutionary career. On September 6 he secretly left Vologda for St. Petersburg. He established, contact with the Party organization there, organized and gave directions for the fight against the Liquidators—Mensheviks and Trotskyites—and took measures to rally and strengthen the Bolshevik organizations. He was arrested on September 9, 1911, and sent back to the Vologda Province, whence he again managed to escape in February 1912.
Meanwhile, in January 1912, a momentous event had taken place in the life of the Party. The Prague Conference, having expelled the Mensheviks from the Party, inaugurated a party of a new type, a Leninist Party—the Bolshevik Party.
Far this new type of party the Bolsheviks had been working ever since the days of the old Iskra working persistently and perseveringly, regardless of all obstacles. The whole history of the fight against the “Economists,” the Mensheviks, the Trotskyites, the Otzovists and the idealists of all shades, down to the empirio-criticists, had been paving the way for the formation of such a party. Of exclusive and decisive importance in this preparatory work were Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Stalin fought side by side with Lenin in the struggle against innumerable enemies, and was his staunch support in the fight for a revolutionary Marxist party, a Bolshevik Party.
1. V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. Ed., Vol. XV, p. 33.
2. Pravda, No. 136, June 16, 1926.
Next: Chapter IV