J. V. Stalin

Speech delivered at a meeting called by the Moscow Committee, R.C.P. (B.) on the occasion of V. I. Lenin's Fiftieth Birthday

April 23, 1920

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

After the speeches and reminiscences we have heard here, very little remains for me to say. I should like only to mention one feature of Comrade Lenin's of which nobody has yet spoken, namely, his modesty and his courage in acknowledging mistakes.

I recall two occasions when Lenin, that giant, admitted that he had been in the wrong.

The first episode relates to the decision on boycotting the Witte Duma, taken in Tammerfors, Finland, in December 1905, at the All-Russian Bolshevik Conference. 1 The question of boycotting the Witte Duma had then to be decided. A group of seven, closely associated with Comrade Lenin, and on whom we provincial delegates used to bestow all kinds of epithets, had assured us that Ilyich was opposed to boycotting the Duma and in favour of taking part in the elections. This, as it turned out later, was actually so. But the debate opened, and the pro-boycotters from the provinces, from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Siberia and the Caucasus went into the attack, and what was our surprise when, after we had spoken, Lenin got up and declared that he had been in favour of taking part in the elections, but he saw now that he had been wrong and associated himself with the delegates from the provinces. We were astounded. It had the effect of an electric shock. We cheered him to the echo.

Here is another episode of a similar character. In September 1911, under Kerensky, at the time when the Democratic Conference had been convened and the Men-sheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries were contriving a new institution, the Pre-parliament, which was to pave the way for a transition from the Soviets to a Constituent Assembly, at that moment we in the Central Committee in Petrograd decided not to disperse the Democratic Conference, and to go ahead strengthening the Soviets, to convene a Congress of Soviets, start an uprising and proclaim the Congress of Soviets the organ of state power. Ilyich, who at that time was living in hiding outside Petrograd, did not agree with the Central Committee and wrote that the scum (meaning the Democratic Conference) should be dispersed and arrested right away.

It seemed to us that the matter was not quite so simple, for we knew that a half, or at least a third, of the members of the Democratic Conference were delegates from the front, and that by arresting and dispersing the Conference we might only spoil matters and damage our relations with the front. We considered that all the bumps and pitfalls on our path were clearer to us, the practical workers. But Ilyich was a great man; he was not afraid of bumps and pitfalls, he did not fear danger, and said: "Rise and march straight to the goal!" We, the practical workers, on the other hand, believed that no good could come of acting in this way at that time, that the thing to do was to skirt around the obstacles in order to take the bull by the horns later. And despite all Ilyich's insistence, we did not listen to him and went on strengthening the Soviets, and to such effect as to end up with the Congress of Soviets of October 25 and the successful uprising. Ilyich was already in Petrograd by then. Smiling and glancing at us slyly, he said: "Yes, it seems you were right." Again we were astounded.

Comrade Lenin was not afraid of acknowledging his mistakes.

It was this modesty and courage that particularly captivated us. (Applause.)

First published in the symposium, The Fiftieth Birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov-Lenin, Moscow, 1920


1.The Tammerfors Conference—the first conference of the Bolsheviks, held December 12-17, 1905. It was at this conference that V. I. Lenin and J. V. Stalin met for the first time; until then they had maintained contact by correspondence or through comrades.

The agenda of the conference was as follows: 1) Reports from the local organizations; 2) Report on the current situation; 3) Organizational report of the C.C.; 4) Merging of the two sections of the R.S.D.L.P.; 5) Re-organization of the Party; 6) The agrarian question; 7) The State Duma.

The reports on the current situation and on the agrarian question were delivered by V. I. Lenin, who also spoke on the attitude towards the Witte Duma. J. V. Stalin reported on the activities of the Transcaucasian Bolshevik organization and spoke in support of Lenin's tactics of actively boycotting the Duma. The conference adopted a decision on the re-unification of the Party, which was virtually split into two separate parties, and approved V. I. Lenin's resolution on the agrarian question. J. V. Stalin and V. I. Lenin were members of the commission which drafted the resolution on the attitude towards the Duma. The resolution called upon the Party and the working class to boycott the Duma and recommended all the Party organizations to make wide use of the election meetings for the purpose of extending the revolutionary organization of the proletariat and for conducting agitation among all sections of the people in favour of an armed uprising.