Marxists Internet Archive: Subjects: Marxism and Art: Literature: Children's Literature
Nina Brown Baker
NADEZHDA AND HER MOTHER had followed Lenin to Russia, settling in St. Petersburg for the two years of the revolution. His own mother and sisters were there. In the early days it seemed that he could have some sort of permanent family life after the long years of wandering.
As the revolution flickered out, Nadezhda came under police suspicion. She moved into Finland before her husband, staying with friends until she heard that he had reached Stockholm safely. She joined him there. By slow stages, traveling third-class on the cheapest steamers and trains, they made their way back to Geneva. "I am returning to my coffin," Lenin said gloomily.
Never had the outlook been worse. Various party conferences held during the revolution had steadily deepened the split with the Mensheviks. Martov and his followers were for union with the middle-class liberals who believed that through an elected Duma they could bring about all necessary reforms. The interests of the workers, they argued, would be taken care of by the newly authorized trade-unions. Instead of violent revolution, there would be a steady, peaceful advance toward a better life for all.
It was a plausible argument. There is no reason to question the sincerity of the men who advanced it. Martov and his friends were tired of being constantly outside the law. The Duma was legal. Those who supported it would not need to skulk about in disguise, using false names and forged passports. They could give up the wearisome living abroad and come home, safe from arrest. These considerations, honorable enough, strongly influenced Martov.
They did not influence Lenin. At the party congresses he argued passionately that the new concessions were only a blind, made to keep the masses quiet. At their best they meant nothing. The tsar had granted them out of his absolute power. He could revoke them at any time. It was that power of the tsar, and not his gracious gifts, that Lenin demanded for the Russian workers. Anything less would be betrayal of their cause.
The final break came at the conference held in Prague in January, 1912. The Mensheviks refused to send delegates. Lenin and his followers passed a formal resolution expelling the Mensheviks and declaring that the so-called Bolsheviki--so-called because it was no longer a majority--represented the only genuine Social Democratic Party.
The Mensheviks, although anxious to rid themselves of the turbulent Bolshevik element, were not at all inclined to hand the party over to them. They met, and in their turn expelled the Bolsheviks. Martov and Trotsky were the leaders in this move.
There was now a Social Democratic Party led by Lenin, still working for a revolution, and a Martov-Trotsky Social Democratic Party seriously considering a policy of conciliation and peace. This was all very confusing to socialist well-wishers in other European countries. It was highly gratifying to the tsar's spies abroad, who reported that the "anarchists" were so busy squabbling among themselves that His Majesty need have no fear of them.
Through all these difficulties Lenin labored patiently, rebuilding his organization, writing and smuggling his writings into Russia, planning for another chance.
Although so many of the refugee leaders had turned against him, he had gained strength among the rank and file of Russian workers by his revolutionary activities. His efforts now were directed toward making new leaders, not of intellectuals, but of real workers.
The difficulties of communicating with Russian comrades were even worse than in the years before 1905. All mail was subject to censorship. Lenin was obliged to turn again to ciphers and secret ink.
His tremendous correspondence was a burden gladly shared by his family. Nadezhda learned bookbinding, so that she could conceal a forbidden pamphlet in the spine of a harmless book. Mother Elisaveta had her own way of helping. Hers was the job of writing interminable "legal" letters.
Nadezhda's mother wrote dozens of letters every day to names supplied her by Lenin. Her neat handwriting left wide spaces between the lines, spaces that her son-in-law filled in with lines of his own, written in invisible ink.
Elisaveta's letters were long and rambling, filled with grandmotherly advice. She kept careful records of them, and was proud of the skill with which she juggled her many fictitious families. If in one letter she gave directions for the treatment of little Ivan's mumps, she was careful not to inquire in the next whether Peter had recovered from the measles. Ivan with the mumps was one child, and poor measles-stricken Peter was quite another. All the letters were signed simply "Granny," or "Auntie," or sometimes, for the sake of variety, "your faithful old nurse."
Mother Elisaveta, whose gifted daughter and son-in-law lived in a world beyond her simple ken, was a lonely woman. The imaginary grandchildren with whom she peopled her letters were almost real to her. The tenderness she put into her letters gave them a ring of reality that completely deceived the postal inspectors. Other "legal" letters, business communications invented by her daughter, were sometimes seized, the recipients questioned. Not one of Mother Elisaveta's letters to her "family" was ever suspected.
The dark and difficult period from 1908 to 1914 was lightened for Lenin by two new friendships. At a conference held in Finland in 1905 he had first met a young comrade from Georgia, in the Caucasus. Josef Dzshugashvili was affectionately called Soso by his friends, but the world knows him under his revolutionary name of Stalin, the Russian word for steel.
Stalin was twenty-six when Lenin first met him, a tough and dangerous young man who had already seen the inside of tsarist prisons. He never joined the exile groups abroad, but stayed on in Russia, leaving it only when forced into Siberian exile. After the 1905 Revolution ended, he became a key figure in the organization of the party inside Russia. Lenin kept in touch with him by secret mail, relying increasingly upon his courage and loyalty.
The other new friend was the great Russian writer Maxim Pyeschkov, whose pen name was Maxim Gorky.
Gorky had been a baker's apprentice in Kazan at the same time that Lenin was briefly a student at Kazan University. One of his books gives an unforgettable picture of the slimy underground cellar where he toiled at making pretzels, himself starving and in rags.
Gorky's novels, showing the seamy side of Russian industry, were his contribution to the revolutionary cause. They were also the reason why he was forced to live in Italy, rather than in his native land. By 1908, when Lenin met him, he was already famous. At his villa on the Isle of Capri he was able to entertain visiting revolutionaries in a luxury to which few of them were accustomed.
If Stalin was steel, Gorky was silk. Stalin's watchword was "Action!" The more desperate and apparently hopeless the action, the better he liked it. Gorky, on the other hand, preferred to do his fighting with his pen. Two men could scarcely have been more unlike, yet Lenin delighted in them both. The hard circumstances of his life made personal friendships difficult. Plekhanov and Martov had been his friends, only to turn against him later. The steady, deep devotion that Stalin and Gorky gave him never wavered, nor did his affection for them.
Lenin had need of all the encouragement he could get. On every hand, vexations multiplied. First and worst was the ever-present question of money. The Mensheviks had managed to carry off the party treasury, so the Bolsheviks were literally penniless. Worse, they were in debt.
For one of the London conferences, the party had borrowed a fairly large sum of money from a British soap manufacturer. Joseph Fels was not a revolutionary, nor even a sympathizer with revolution. He was a sturdy Briton who believed in free speech and was willing to advance some money to make it possible. His loan had paid the rent for the conference hall and the fare of some of the delegates.
The party, which at the time of the loan still included the Mensheviks, had given Mr. Fels a note. The note was now due, and there was no money to pay it. Lenin had the painful task of explaining this to the benefactor, assuring him that the note would be paid as soon as funds were available. The kindly industrialist had long since written it off as a bad debt when, in 1923, he received payment in full, with accrued interest. Thereafter he startled his London friends with a new figure of speech. "As honest as a Bolshevik," was his way of commending an honest man.
Payment of the debt was postponed, but present expenses had to be met. A miserable salary was managed for Lenin as party chairman. On it he lived with his wife and mother-in-law in Switzerland, in Paris, and finally for some time in Cracow, in what was then Austrian Poland.
In Paris he wrote a long treatise, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. He hoped that its publication would bring some financial return, but it was years before he was able to find a publisher. In the meantime, the family lived in a way best illustrated by a story Nadezhda tells in her memoirs.
A Polish gentleman just come to Paris asked her about the price of geese and veal. Nadezhda was unable to tell him, "for during our stay in Paris we had eaten neither the one nor the other. He should have asked me the price of horseflesh and salad greens!"
One reason for the move to Cracow was that living was cheaper there. The town was also conveniently near the Russian border, so that workers inside Russia could report to Lenin more easily.
The Lenins rented a small house on the outskirts of Cracow, sharing it with a friend, Zinoviev, and his wife. In Paris they had lived among a circle of exiles who made the Lenin flat their headquarters. Nadezhda's head often ached from the night-long sessions of discussion, in close air, heavy with tobacco smoke. Cracow, where they had few acquaintances, seemed at first a haven of peace.
It did not long continue so. There was a constant stream Of visitors from across the Russian border. Some of them came to report progress of the movement at home, and to carry back pamphlets and instructions. Others, escaping from Siberia or from city prisons, needed food and shelter and forged passports and money.
These fugitives, who could seldom give notice of their coming, arrived at night. The kitchen door was left unlocked. Mother Elisaveta's last duty before going to bed was to leave a pile of blankets on the kitchen floor, a loaf of bread and a jug of milk on the table.
She complained a little, for milk was scarce and she did not consider it humane to "rob the cat." Quite often, when she went to light the stove for breakfast, she would find a weary traveler sleeping on the floor, wrapped in the blankets. If he had left the milk, the cat had breakfast.
ON GOOD FRIDAY Of 1914, the lamp burned all night in Lenin's study. He was completing the outline for a new book, to be called New Data on the Laws of Development of Capitalism in Agriculture.
The new data, which he intended to interpret in the light of socialist theory, consisted largely of statistics lately received from America. Under his direction, Nadezhda was preparing the statistics, sorting and correlating them into convenient tables.
Something of this sort had been her work all winter, for Lenin had turned out no fewer than forty articles on the farm question, all of them strongly fortified by statistics. Besides compiling the figures, she had looked up innumerable references, translated passages from the works of foreign writers, and copied out the final drafts in her clear schoolteacher's handwriting.
In the intervals of this exacting work, she had encoded and decoded hundreds of letters, listened to the woes of refugees, nursed her mother through an attack of pneumonia, and taken over the household laundry to spare Elisaveta's strength.
Tonight, as she worked on in the quiet room, Nadezhda was unwillingly conscious of the fact that she was tired. She had known headache for the first time in Paris. Now it was her constant companion. Her eyes burned. The figures on the endless sheets had a tiresome trick of seeming to move, as though they were marching solemnly off the page. She rubbed her eyes and they stood still, but the next minute they were on the march again.
She leaned back for a moment, closing her weary eyes. Ilyich wrote on, unheeding, his pen making a scratching sound. Through the thin wall the Zinoviev baby woke and cried. Nadezhda could hear the mother get up, and then the soft little crooning with which she soothed the small one back to sleep.
Nadezhda's head was nodding in time with the lullaby. Angrily she jerked herself erect. Resolutely she plunged back into the mass of figures. When, presently, her husband looked up to say, "Cotton, now. Wasn't there something about cotton production there?" she was able instantly to hand him the right notes. He thanked her absently and went on with his writing.
The black squares of the windows changed to gray. Slowly the dawn crept into the lighted room. Nadezhda sighed. Soon this endless night would be over. Ilyich would throw down his pen, good-naturedly suprised to find that he had worked the night through. Then she could creep away to her bed. How sweet, how heavenly sweet it would be, to drop her aching head on the pillow, pull the sheet over her, and rest, rest--!
The first ray of the sun struck the white paper on Lenin's desk. He looked up and laughed.
"Well, well--morning already? Where have the hours gone, Nadezhda? It seems only a minute since we finished supper." He reread his last paragraph and tossed the pen aside. "A good beginning. Yes, that is how I shall develop it."
He rose and stretched. "Tired, my dear?" he asked.
"A little." She smiled up at him. Her head was throbbing so she could scarcely hear her own voice. Her bed, in the nextroom, seemed hopelessly far away. Would she ever have the strength to get up and walk to it? Ilyich came over and stood looking down at her.
"You are tired," he said. "You should have stopped me before. You know I have no sense of time when I'm working. I'll tell you what we'll do!" His eyes danced. "We'll take a holiday. This is Eastertide, a very good time for holidays. We won't do a stroke of work from now till Monday morning. Yes, and, better still, we'll make it a real holiday! We'll go on a walking trip to the Volsky forest. You'll like that, won't you, my darling? Just you and me. The forest is glorious in the springtime. We'll walk and walk and let the fresh spring air blow the cobwebs out of our brains. Yes, that's what we'll do."
She looked up at him helplessly. The dozen steps between her and the bedroom yawned a weary, endless distance, only to be covered, if at all, by infinite exertion. Why couldn't she say, as any other woman would have said, "I don't feel well. I'm going to bed."
Why not? Ilyich was the soul of kindness. He had no idea that she was ill, that he had worked her to the point of exhaustion. One word from her, and he would have been all solicitude. He would have carried her to bed, roused her mother, called a doctor. One word. That was all she had to say.
She could never say it. In all the years of her marriage, not once had she put her own feelings or desires first. She would not begin now.
With an energy she had not dreamed was still hers, she got to her feet.
"That will be lovely, Ilyich. A walk in the woods will do us both good. I'll get our knapsacks."
They took the streetcar across Cracow, and from a suburb on the farther outskirts plunged into the forest. New green leaves were unfolding on the hoary old trees. The ground was carpeted with bright spring flowers. Beside a tiny brook they rested, refreshing themselves with bread and cheese and bottled beer. Lenin looked about him appreciatively.
"We've worked hard, Nadezhda, and now we reward ourselves by rest among the beauties of nature. That is how it must always be, in the new world that will come with the revolution. What have the factory slaves in the city to look forward to when their long day is done? Their crowded, filthy flats. An evening in a low beer hall, where their hard-earned coppers are taken away from them for cheap, poisonous spirits served in false-bottomed glasses. How many of them do you suppose have ever wandered, carefree and happy, beneath trees like these? For that matter, how many of them have ever seen a tree? Their children grow up in ugliness, and in ugliness they live and die. We must change all that, Nadezhda. We must have great, beautiful parks, flower-filled gardens, all the beauty that nature can give for man's delight. We must have--"
He talked on, waiting for no response.
Nadezhda leaned back against a tree trunk and watched a butterfly hovering over the stream. Drowsiness had left her. The pain in her head had dimmed to numbness. This was only the beginning of their two-day hike, but she had managed splendidly so far. From some undreamed-of source she had found the strength to move, to talk, to laugh. She had refused to give in to weakness, and the weakness had given in to her. Pleased and proud, the weakness had given In to her. Pleased and proud, she felt herself equal to whatever exertion lay ahead.
They walked all day, pausing often to gather flowers and wild mushrooms, or to listen to bird songs. The wellkept forest paths were easy to the feet. They spent the night at a rustic inn, and in the Easter dawn they roused themselves for the long walk back.
It was a bad moment for Nadezhda when she tried to get out of bed. She had slept badly, kept awake by the heavy pounding of her heart, which raced like some powerful engine out of control.
This pounding was no new thing. It had been going on for weeks now, night and day, although it was worst at night. There was no pain, and she had paid little attention to it. Now, all at once, it was intolerable. She felt as though she were being shaken to pieces.
When Ilyich called her she sat up, and the room seemed to spin in rapid circles, keeping time to the insane drum inside her chest. She fell back against the pillows, gasping a little.
"Well, sleepy head!" Ilyich was dressed and ready for the road. "Here's a glass of hot tea for you. Breakfast is waiting in the dining room."
"Thanks, dear. Go on and eat, won't you? I'll be with you in a minute."
He set the tea on the table and went out.
Slowly, cautiously she sat up again, and put out a hand to take it. Her hand was shaking uncontrollably. With both hands she managed to lift the glass to her lips.
The strong hot tea steadied her. She got up and fumbled into her clothes. Ilyich, eating a hearty breakfast, noticed nothing out of the way when she took her place across from him.
The walk home was a nightmare journey of which she bad little recollection afterward. She plodded doggedly along the path, answering when her husband spoke to her, welcoming every landmark that showed they were a little nearer the forest's edge.
When they were safely in the streetcar, she decided, she would tell Ilyich that she was ill. He would help her home, and Mother Elisaveta would take over. She had come so far, she had borne so much. It would never do to break down now, here in the lonely forest, with no help at hand. What would poor Ilyich do? No, she would force herself to keep on until they reached the trolley.
In midafternoon they emerged from the forest. A short walk brought them to the trolley station. Nadezhda's first anguished glance showed her that no car waited. She leaned against a pole, setting her teeth to endure this last ordeal.
The wait was long. Half an hour passed, and an hour. Still the tracks lay shining and empty.
"That's funny," Ilyich remarked. "I thought they had better service out here." He beckoned to a small boy who was playing in a vacant lot near by.
"Hey, sonny! How often do these cars run?"
The child looked up. "Every half hour. They're not running today, though. It's Easter Sunday."
Lenin turned back to his wife. "Stupid of me not to have remembered that," he said cheerfully. "No streetcars on a holiday. Well, dear, I guess we'll have to walk the rest of the way home."
To his amazement, the calm, self-controlled Nadezhda burst into tears.
"I can't, I can't!" She sobbed. "I'll die if I take another step. I'm sorry, Ilyich. I know I'm being a nuisance, but you don't understand. I cannot walk any more!"
"Then you shan't, my darling." He half led, half carried her to a patch of grass and lowered her tenderly upon it.
"There, there, don't you worry. You won't have to walk. Here, boy! Run and get a cab, or some sort of carriage, a cart--anything! Can't you see my wife is ill?"
He got her home and safely into Mother Elisaveta's arms. She lay in her bed, shaking so that the very bed posts rattled.
The doctor, hastily summoned, looked grave when he had concluded his examination.
"Exophthalmic goiter," he pronounced. "A very serious disorder of the thyroid gland in the throat. Why have you neglected it so long?" he asked the patient sternly. "Didn't you notice that your heart beat was accelerating?"
"I noticed it, but I didn't think it mattered," she murmured. "I had more important things to think about. I still have. You must give me some good medicine, Doctor. I can't waste time lying in bed."
"Oh, you can't!" he snorted. "Well, here's some medicine to go on with. Take it, and have a nice sleep."
He beckoned Lenin outside and closed the door.
"I can't save her," he said gruffly. "A year ago, six months ago, I might have been able to do something. What were you about, man, not to see the state she was in?"
"But I didn't see anything!" Ilyich protested. "She was the same as always. More easily tired than usual, perhaps, but she's had a hard winter. She never complained. I had no idea there was anything wrong. Doctor, you're not--you can't mean what you just said. You can't save her! Why, that sounds as if you thought she is going to--to--"
"To die," the doctor said bluntly. "That's exactly what I mean, sir. There is only one hope. Operation. The operation is a risky one. I wouldn't attempt it, and I don't think you'll find a surgeon in Cracow who would. But if you could take her to Berne, in Switzerland, there's a man there who has made his reputation in these cases. He might save her. I don't say he can, but it's your only chance."
INQUIRIES WERE MADE about the specialist in Berne. The reports were discouraging. The great surgeon's fee was high. There would be the hospital and other expenses. At the moment, Lenin did not even have the price of a railroad ticket to Switzerland.
Nadezhda, after a few days' rest in bed, felt much better. Some of the Cracow friends had a superstitious fear of operations. They crowded around her bed, assuring her that the doctor was an alarmist, that all she really needed was a change of air.
Nadezhda welcomed their suggestions eagerly. The very thought of spending so much money on herself--even if they had it--made her feel guilty. The same sum would pay for the printing of thousands of pamphlets or buy a comrade's escape from Siberia. She told her mother and husband that another climate would make her as well as ever.
Lenin was not reassured. One of the human rights on which he had long insisted was the right to adequate medical care, for the poor as well as the rich. That life should be dependent upon the possession of money had always seemed to him a monstrous thing. In the Soviet state he was to found, his first concern was the establishment of free medical and hospital service.
This, however, was a dream for the future. In Austria of 1914, or in any other civilized country in the world, those who required the doctor's care were expected to pay his bill. It is true there were pauper wards in most hospitals, but the Lenins were not paupers. He had a job, as secretary to the Bolshevik party. He had an income, such as it was. It was his misfortune that his wife required an expensive operation which the income would not cover. A pity, of course, but those things happen. They had been happening, to other men's wives, ever since the world began. Only Vladimir Lenin, and those who shared his views, both in Russia and in other countries, were determined that the world should be changed so that they might happen no longer.
Lenin never doubted that eventually he would change the world. His problem at the moment was to find the money that would preserve one woman alive long enough to see it.
He knew all too well that none of his Bolshevik friends had any money. But Gorky, the famous author, was both rich and generous. Lenin pocketed his pride and wrote him. It was the first and only time that he ever appealed for money for his personal use.
While he waited for an answer, he agreed to the move that Nadezhda and their friends were urging. Accompanied by Mother Elisaveta and the Zinovievs, they went Poronin, Austria, a beautiful town in the Tatra Mounus. They rented a cottage with an open veranda, where Nadezhda could lie all day breathing the sparkling, pine-scented mountain air.
She was sure that she would soon be well. But Lenin, hearing of a specialist in the neighboring town of Zakpane, brought him to see her. He confirmed the verdict of the Cracow doctor. Only an operation could save her. And only the Berne surgeon would undertake such an operation.
Lenin kept his talk with the Zakopane doctor to himself. He could do no work, and could scarcely be induced to leave Nadezhda's side. He may have married her to obtain the services of a secretary, but no one who saw him in those anxious days at Poronin could doubt his devotion. For her he kept a smiling face, pouring out all his anguish in letters to his mother in Russia. Lenin's enemies are fond of painting him as a machine, devoid of all human feelings. They cannot have read the letters--they have been preserved--that he wrote during Nadezhda's illness.
The mails were slow, but Gorky wrote as soon as he received his friend's appeal. He enclosed a generous check.
The family went at once to Berne, where the operation was performed. It was only partially successful. Nadezhda's life was saved, but the damage to her heart had been done. The doctors warned her that she must live as a semi-invalid, avoiding all exertion.
She returned immediately to her work at Lenin's side, exerting herself exactly as before. Both of them, absorbed in the cause that was greater than themselves, soon forgot the fright her illness had given them. She took her full share in the strenuous work of the revolution and the reconstruction that followed it. She outlived her husband by fifteen years.
Lenin and Nadezhda went back to Poronin, where plenty of work awaited them.
By this time, the Social Democratic Party had attained a legal standing in Russia. Their meetings were still subject to police raids, and their newspaper Pravda was frequently suppressed for short intervals. But in theory, at least, a man was safe in calling himself a Social Democrat inside the Russian borders.
This state of affairs had been brought about by the efforts of the Mensheviks. Although they and the Bolsheviks had taken turns in expelling each other at party congresses abroad, neither was anxious to split the rank and file inside Russia. The terms "Bolshevik" and "Menshevik" really applied only to leaders, the men who attended congresses. The thousands of workers who made up the party knew as little of these disputes as an army knows of disagreements in the general staff. They were Social Democrats, members of a party dedicated to bringing in a new day for the common man. That was enough for them.
The party was strong enough to elect thirteen deputies to the Duma, or parliament, set up by the tsar after the 1905 Revolution.
The Duma had no law-making powers. It was supposed to advise the tsar and his ministers. The first Duma had presumed to advise His Majesty to cease his persecution of the Jews. For this service the parliament was promptly dissolved, and a new one elected. By the time the Social Democratic Party was legalized, the Duma had become a gentlemen's club for retired government officials and the poor relations of landowners. The thirteen Social Democrats could accomplish nothing, but the elections provided a useful means of rallying party strength.
One of the Duma deputies was a man named Roman Malinovski. He was a St. Petersburg metal worker of Polish extraction who had been active in party work for years. Lenin knew him well, and trusted him absolutely. He had visited the Lenins in Cracow before Nadezhda's illness. When they returned from Berne in the early summer, they found Malinovski in Poronin.
The Malinovski affair is one of the strangest and saddest episodes in Lenin's life. For years rumors had been circulating that Malinovski was an agent prouocateur, or police spy. Lenin had steadfastly refused to believe the stories. He came home to find Malinovski, nervous and defiant, maintaining his good faith against new accusations.
Malinovski had just resigned his membership in the Duma, giving the excuse of "private affairs." At about the same time there had been a wave of arrests. A woman revolutionist insisted that no one but Malinovski could have known some of the facts with which the police confronted her. The newspaper Pravda had been confiscated, and its editor arrested. The editor was Stalin. With him was taken prisoner the man who was to be the first president of the U.S.S.R., Sverdlov.
The little colony at Poronin was convinced of Malinovski's guilt. They appointed a committee consisting of Lenin, Zinoviev, and a third man, to investigate.
Through the long hot summer days the committee patiently sifted what evidence was at hand. Malinovski submitted freely to their questioning, declaring that he was innocent and had nothing to hide.
He professed to be deeply grieved that his dear friends could suspect him. Lenin's own grief was deeper and more sincere, for the committee was unable to arrive at the truth. Someone had betrayed Stalin and Sverdlov, but whether or not that someone was Malinovski it was impossible to determine.
The wretched man hung about the town all summer, waylaying Lenin at every opportunity with weeping protestations that he was being "crucified." Nadezhda, who had never liked him, was impatient of these scenes, but they wrung her husband's heart. With his passion for justice, Lenin could not bear to think that he might be misjudging an innocent man. Yet, if he were truly a a traitor, it was equally intolerable to think of carrying on the old relationship.
Toward the end of the summer Malinovski disappeared. He is supposed to have spent several years in Germany as a prisoner of war. At any rate, he turned up in Moscow in 1917. He sought out Sverdlov and asked to he arrested.
His request was granted. At the public trial he made a full and dramatic confession, beginning with his employment by the secret police in 1906, detailing a hundred betrayals of which he had never been suspected. He was pronounced guilty and shot by order of the Soviet government.
The Malinovski case was still agitating the Poronin colony when on August 1, 1914, Austria declared herself at war with Russia. Poronin was an Austrian town. Just one week later, Lenin was denounced to the police as a Russian spy--by whom was never known. He spent several days in jail until the Austrian Socialist leader, Adler, convinced his government that Lenin was the last man to spy for imperial Russia.
War fever ran high in the little Austrian town. The Russians were soon made to feel that their presence was unwelcome. The Lenins and their friends decided to move on to neutral Switzerland. They settled in Berne, remaining there for nearly two years.
Again the money problem became acute. It was solved this time by a legacy which Mother Elisaveta inherited from a sister in Vienna. It amounted to a little over twelve hundred dollars. On this the family lived during all their stay in Switzerland.
In March, 1916, Mother Elisaveta died. She had been failing for months. Toward the end she spoke wistfully of going back to Russia, but only when it was safe for Nadezhda and Ilyich to go, too. She had always been homesick. She had spent twenty years in foreign lands, where the customs and the very languages were strange to her. Her girlhood and young married life had been passed in a comfortable middle-class home, with servants to wait upon her. She grew old in a succession of rented rooms, struggling with worn-out cookstoves, counting her pennies in the market and filling her basket with the cheapest foods, patching her own and her daughter's shabby dresses. For comfort she had her cat and the Russian "grandchildren" who existed only on paper.
It is not often that a great man's mother-in-law is credited with helping him to succeed. Yet Mother Elisaveta, cheerfully toiling at hard and unfamiliar tasks, making a pleasant home in the most unpromising surroundings, surely played her part.
THE OUTBREAK Of World War I was the golden opportunity for which European socialists had been waiting. Leaders in Germany, France, Austria, Russia, Poland, and England had been preaching the same doctrine. Wars were made by capitalists, in the interest of trade and profits. War meant simply that poor men were sent to die so that rich men might grow richer. So Karl Marx had written fifty years before. His followers might differ on many points, but they all accepted that one.
Since they accepted it, the next step was logical enough. When the ruling classes again armed them for war, the workers would unite in turning their weapons against their masters. "The transformation of the war into a civil war is the one good watchword for the proletariat," as Lenin put it. The revolutionary civil war, which would break out simultaneously in all belligerent countries, would overthrow the capitalist system and place the workers in control of their governments.
Before the war was a week old, this peacetime plan had broken down. In Germany, only Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg supported it, at the eventual cost of their lives. The great mass of the German Socialist Party, led by Kautsky, offered the kaiser their wholehearted aid. British socialism, never violently revolutionary, united behind Lloyd George's Liberal Government.
Russia's half-dozen liberal and socialist parties either supported the government or took a pacifist attitude. The Menshevik faction of the Social Democrats was cautiously neutral. Only the Bolsheviks boldly denounced the "capitalist war" and urged the workers to turn it to their own advantage. As a result, their five Duma members were arrested and sent to hard labor in Siberia.
The war brought the final break between Lenin and Plekhanov. For years the old master had wavered between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. In the winter of 1914 he made a speech, urging that all Russians put their revolutionary plans aside "in this hour of the fatherland's danger."
Lenin had never had full confidence in the fine international scheme, but he was amazed that it should collapse so quickly and so completely. He did his best to salvage the pieces, calling one international conference after another. The most important one was held at Zimmerwald, Switzerland, in September of 1915, at which some steps toward a new international organization were taken.
The discouraging truth was that international socialism was not to be relied upon while the war raged. Lenin came to see clearly that whatever hope for revolution he had must center around his own country. Once he realized that, discouragement vanished. He redoubled his efforts to spur action at home, and waited confidently for The Day.
There were plenty of signs that it could not be far off. Russia went to war in a fine patriotic frenzy, signalized by changing the German name of the capital, St. Petersburg, to the Russian form, Petrograd.
All too soon, however, the war effort bogged down in a swamp of graft, corruption, and bureaucratic bungling. Production lagged, and the front suffered in consequence. One third of the infantrymen in the front lines had no arms. "These unfortunates," wrote General Belayev, "wait patiently under the rain of shrapnel for the comrades next them to fall, that they may take over their rifles."
Those who had rifles were not much better off, for many did not know how to use them, Men were gathered up from farm and factory and rushed to the front with practically no training. In a Carpathian battle, 11,000 men died in six minutes under enemy artillery, without one of them having fired a single shot.
Their old-fashioned uniforms with the heavy dragging greatcoats were cheap and shoddy, their boots were papersoled, their food unspeakable. This was not due to any lack of money. The tsar's treasury was rich, and immense funds were poured out to finance the war. It went into the pockets of favored contractors, many of them great nobles and the tsar's dear friends. Fortunes were made overnight. Private soldiers fought on a diet of rotten cabbage, but in St. Petersburg the demand for caviar reached unprecedented heights.
Surely no modern army has gone into a great war so desperately handicapped. In spite of everything, the Russian armies fought well. In the early days they fought magnificently, administering stinging defeats to the Germans at Lvov and Przemysl. But as later battles showed the pitiful inadequacy of their equipment, morale began to flag. Sullen and uneasy, Russian soldiers huddled in muddy trenches and asked each other, "Why are we here?"
Their unrest was shared by their families at home. There was want on the farms, where horses and grain crops had been commandeered for war needs. In the cities, long lines stood patiently before food stores that were nearly empty. The unions had won shortened working hours for their members, but these concessions were now revoked. Men toiled fourteen, sixteen hours a day, turning out field guns that would rust on forgotten railway sidings while their soldier sons cowered defenseless against enemy fire. Freight trains bulged with supplies going nowhere.
Probably the whole hopeless muddle arose from sheer inefficiency, but some very ugly rumors began flying about. The tsaritsa, German born, was a cousin, through their grandmother Queen Victoria, of the German emperor. In peacetime, the tsar had shown great affection for "Cousin Willy." There were persons in Russia who began to whisper that the royal family was deliberately sabotaging the war in Germany's interest.
The suspicion took root and grew. The faith of the people in their Little Father had been sadly shaken by the events of 1905. In the years since then he had suppressed strikes by bloody violence. The 1912 strike of the Lena gold miners had brought death to two hundred and fifty men who had dared to protest against their living conditions. It was no longer possible to see Nicholas as a loving father. And it was not hard to believe that a man who would betray his trusting children might also betray his country.
Sir Bernard Fares, a British authority on tsarist Russia, has gone thoroughly into these charges of treason on the part of Nicholas and his wife. He finds no foundation for them. Nicholas was foolish and badly advised. He took his ancient role of Little Father literally, seeing himself as the head of a household of unruly children who must be punished when they were naughty. His famous ancestor, Peter the Great, had governed Russia in this patriarchal fashion and had made her strong and glorious. But poor Nicholas was no Peter, and his was not the Russia of Peter's day.
For her rapid industrialization, and for the added complication of a world war, Russia was unfortunate in having Nicholas on the throne. Nevertheless, it must be said for him that he loved his country. There is no proof that he intentionally gave aid to his country's enemies.
What he did do, according to the best evidence available, was to plot in secret to bring Russia's share in the war to a close by a separate peace with Germany. His ally, England, naturally regarded this as a betrayal. News of the secret negotiations reached England in the summer of 1916. Lord Kitchener set out on a secret mission, and lost :his life when his ship struck a mine in the North Sea. The nature of his mission has never been disclosed, but there is reason to think that its object was to hold Russia in the war.
The tsar was anxious for the war to end because he thought he needed his army more at home. Strikes and mass demonstrations were common, and they were not easily put down by the police. The children's naughtiness was passing all bounds. The Little Father needed a very big stick indeed. The entire Russian army seemed to him a stick of just about the right size.
Curiously enough, his court circle of war profiteers, grand dukes, and politicians did not share his anxiety to get the army home. They were a little more realistic than the tsar, and some of them were better informed. They were not at all sure that the Russian soldiers would support their royal master against their countrymen. There was discontent in the army as well as in the factories. If instead of putting down rebellion the soldiers chose to join it, then nothing under heaven could stave off revolution. The nobles felt it would be better to continue on good terms with the Allies, hoping that if revolution did come they could call on British and French bayonets to suppress it.
So, through the bleak winter of 1916-17, the imperial palace seethed with plots and counterplots. The atmosphere was not lightened by the growing power of the monk Rasputin. He now held the royal couple in cringing submission. Their anxiety for their delicate son gave him the whip hand. Only by his mystic powers, he declared, was the boy preserved from the little everyday accident, the scraped shin or the cut finger, which would mean his death.
Rasputin dictated everything, from the menu to be served on feast days to the appointment of high officials. In the gorgeous Petrograd palace, the real master was the sinister, black-bearded monk who was venerated by the tsaritsa as a living saint, but who was believed by many to serve the devil rather than his Heavenly Father.
Nobles who desired political appointments or army contracts found Rasputin barring their way, demanding outrageous bribes. If money was not forthcoming, or if they aroused his personal spite, he could ruin them by a word in the tsaritsa's ear. Many were ruined in that way. The aristocrats and profiteers began to mutter to each other, "Something must be done about this."
That same phrase was passing from mouth to mouth all over the troubled Russian empire. Starving peasants, downtrodden factory workers, disillusioned soldiers, all were grimly vowing that soon something must be done. The "something" they had in mind was revolution.
Revolution was in the minds of the rebellious nobles, too, although they called it by the politer name of coup d'etat.
These palace revolutions were an old tradition in Russian history. When a sovereign proved himself unsatisfactory to his courtiers, he could be quietly murdered and a more agreeable prince set on the throne. It had happened as recently as 1801, when Nicholas's great-great-grandfather Paul had been strangled by friends of the son who succeeded him. Certain gentlemen of the present court met and asked each other whether they might not prove themselves as daring as their ancestors.
So, under the surface of wartime Russian life, revolution was steadily, inexorably boiling up. It was not one revolution, but three. There was the revolution of the workers, and the revolution of the courtiers. In addition, there was the middle class, or bourgeoisie. These were the liberals who had believed that the Duma would bring about needed reforms in an orderly manner. They had seen the Duma laughed at and ignored. They, too, were beginning to feel that only by revolutionary action could Russian wrongs be righted.
Three revolutions, all aiming at the overthrow of the doomed Romanov dynasty. Their only connection was through the Mensheviks, whose followers included bourgeoisie and workers. But most of the working-class strength was in the Bolshevik faction, while the ablest of the middle-class intellectuals belonged to the two strongest liberal parties, the Constitutional Democrats and the Social Revolutionaries.
Three revolutions. Three volcanoes, with ominous smoke and rumblings coming from all of them. Which of them would erupt first was any man's guess.
Before any eruption came, there was to be a bloody curtain-raiser. Three men, united in their hatred of the baleful monk, decided to "save" the tsar by the murder of Rasputin.
THE INSTIGATOR Of the crime was Prince Felix Yusupov. This young man, son of a great noble house, was married to the tsar's niece. He had been educated at Oxford, in England, and was now enrolled in the tsar's Corps of Pages, a training school for officers. He seems to have been genuinely attached to Nicholas, although he disliked the tsaritsa.
Yusupov's close friend was a young man of his own age, the Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich. Dmitry was the tsar's cousin, and was being considered as a husband for Olga, the tsar's oldest daughter.
His presence in the conspiracy proves that it was in no sense a revolutionary affair. Both of these young men had the friendliest feelings toward Nicholas. They believed that the monk was holding the royal family in subjection by hypnotism or by the use of Oriental drugs. They seem to have felt sincerely that the death of Rasputin would be the greatest service they could offer to their sovereign.
The third conspirator, Purishkevich, was an older man, a member of the Duma. He belonged to the monarchist party. His motives are not so clear as those of the young princes, and he is reported to have said that after Rasputin was removed it would be necessary to dispose of the tsaritsa also. Just what he meant by this is not known. But he also professed complete loyalty to Tsar Nicholas.
The three held several meetings to work out their plan. Two other men were brought into the plot. One was a young officer named Sukhotin, and the other was a Dr. Lazavert. The doctor was included because he had easy access to poison.
Every detail was carefully gone over. They desired Rasputin's death, but they had no intention of being identified as his executioners. It was decided to lure him to Ilusupov's house and kill him there. The body would then be taken in Dmitry's closed car to a lonely spot on the River Neva, where it would be weighted with lead and thrown into the water. When it was found, if it ever was found, no one would know how it had gotten there.
The murder was set for the night of December 16, 1916. The first difficulty was to induce the monk to come to the Yusupov house. Rasputin had only a slight acquaintance with Yusupov, whom he referred to disdainfully as "The Little Fellow."
For all his piety, the holy man was known to have an eye for a pretty woman. Yusupov decided to issue the invitation in the name of his wife, the lovely Princess Irina. The princess was far away at the time, spending a winter vacation in the Crimea. Rasputin had no way of knowing that. He accepted the invitation.
Early in the evening of the sixteenth, the five conspirators gathered at the magnificent Yusupov home. With careful thoroughness they prepared the murder room. It was an unused wine cellar. They brought down rugs to cover the floor and tapestries to hide the stone walls. Armchairs and a tea table gave a pleasant homey touch. Beside the samovar stood plates holding chocolate and almond cakes. The chocolate cakes were harmless, but Dr. Lazavert had strengthened the flavor of the others with potassium cyanide, which smells of almond. The monk was very fond of sweet Madeira wine, so Yusupov had provided several bottles. Some were poisoned and some were not.
Prince Yusupov went in his own car to bring his distinguished guest. As they approached the Yusupov palace, they could see lights blazing in the drawing room and hear the strains of dance music. The prince, however, led the way past the closed drawing-room door and down the cellar stairs.
"Since my wife has not yet met Your Holiness," he explained, "she thought it would be more fitting if the meeting took place in private, that she may ask your blessing. She will come to us here. Afterward, we will join our guests if you wish. While we wait for the princess, may I offer you a little refreshment?"
He held out the plates of cakes. The monk disappointed him by taking a chocolate one first, but after eating it he took, and ate, two of the poisoned almond dainties. Cyanide of potassium is supposed to kill instantly, but Rasputin ate the two cakes with every sign of enjoyment. He washed them down with a cup of tea, which was unpoisoned, and then asked for wine. Yusupov poured him a glass of poisoned Madeira.
Since the hostess still did not appear, the guest noticed a guitar lying on the couch and asked Yusupov to give him a song. At the same time he accepted a second glass of wine.
The prince obliged with a song, and Rasputin asked for more. So the victim sat eating poisoned cakes and drinking poisoned wine, while the murderer-to-be sang one song after another.
Upstairs, the four other plotters changed phonograph records, shuffled about the room to give the impression that a dance was in progress, and impatiently waited for the murder to be accomplished.
Three times, between songs, Yusupov excused himself and went upstairs, "to see what is keeping my wife." In agitated whispers he told his friends the incredible news, that the poison was having no effect. On his third visit, the Grand Duke Dmitry impatiently thrust a revolver into his hand. Yusupov went back to the cellar, holding the revolver behind his back.
Rasputin, who had been invited to a party to meet a charming lady, was finding the evening dull. "Since the princess is evidently too busy to see me," he suggested, "let's go visit my friends the gypsies. They'll give us a merry time."
Without answering, Yusupov picked up a crystal crucifix and held it out. As Rasputin took it, Yusupov fired, hitting him near the heart. Rasputin gave a great cry and fell backward on the bearskin rug.
The sound of the shot brought Yusupov's friends to the cellar, which was now in darkness because of a mysterious failure of the electric light. The doctor, Lazavert, felt the body and declared it dead. Sukhotin, Dmitry, and the doctor went off to Dmitry's house for the grand duke's car. Purishkevich and Yusupov went upstairs to wait for them, leaving the victim alone in the dark cellar.
There was some delay. Yusupov, for some unknown reason, decided to go back to the cellar. As he entered, the murdered man stood up, tore an epaulette from Yusupov's shoulder, and fell to the ground again.
The frightened prince ran upstairs to tell Purishkevich of this supernatural happening. Even while he spoke through chattering teeth, Yusupov heard strange sounds on the cellar stairs. The two friends opened the door a crack and saw Rasputin climbing the stairs on all fours, "roaring like a wounded bear." He pushed against an outside door. Although the door was locked and chained, it gave at his touch. He crawled out into the snow-filled courtyard, still roaring.
Purishkevich dashed into the courtyard and fired four times. Rasputin fell again, and lay still.
This is the story that Prince Yusupov related at his trial. He was on oath, and he was a religious man who held his oath sacred. It is a story that common sense tells us simply cannot be true. Cyanide of potassium kills. Dead men do not climb stairs and pass through locked doors, nor do they roar like bears.
We can only suppose that the cakes and wine were not really poisoned, or that in his excitement Yusupov confused them and gave Rasputin the harmless cakes and the unpoisoned wine. In the darkness, the doctor must have mistaken unconsciousness for death. The outer door, always kept locked, was not locked this time. Although they denied it, it is possible that all the conspirators had been drinking. Drunken men have been known to imagine events that did not take place.
This part of the story, the exact way in which the murder was done, must remain forever a mystery. What followed after is supported by independent testimony.
The sound of the four shots in the open courtyard brought two soldiers running. Purishkevich told the soldiers that he had just killed Rasputin. The soldiers congratulated him, and offered to help dispose of the body. They wrapped it in a blue curtain torn from Yusupov's drawing-room window. When Dmitry and the others returned with the car, the soldiers loaded the body in it and drove off to the river. They threw it into the water from the first bridge they came to.
The murder, so carefully planned, had been badly bungled. The soldiers forgot to attach the weights, which were in the car. They threw the monk's fur coat and snow boots in after him, but one of the boots fell on the ice. The soldiers, handsomely paid to hold their tongues, dropped a hint here and there. Before many days had passed, everyone in town knew that Rasputin was dead, and rejoiced accordingly. A boy found the snow boot on the ice. The police dragged the river and brought up the body.
Only the tsaritsa mourned for Rasputin. Just as the whole city knew of the death even before the body was recovered, so the names of the assassins were common knowledge. They were hailed as heroes. The tsaritsa forced them to trial, but the trial was a farce. Yusupov was exiled to his country estate, the Grand Duke Dmitry was sent to the Russian army operating in Persia, and Purishkevich had to give up his seat in the Duma and join the army. The doctor and Sukhotin were not tried.
So ended one of the black chapters of Russian history. How much Rasputin's evil influence contributed to the fall of the house of Romanov can never be measured. With or without him, it was a tottering structure, eaten with dry rot and assailed by powerful forces. Those forces were now gathering themselves for the inevitable storm that would soon sweep the unlucky Romanovs into oblivion.
ON FEBRUARY 23, 1917, the women textile workers of several Petrograd factories went on strike.
These women workers formed the lowest and most oppressed class of industrial wage slaves. Many of them were soldiers' wives or widows, with small children to support. Their pay was wretched, their hours long. They came to their hard day's work after standing in line most of the night to buy food when the markets opened at dawn. More often than not, they reached the head of the line to find that the scanty food supply was exhausted.
Lenin's sister, Anyuta, had devoted herself especially to the organization of women workers. It was largely through her efforts that the textile women had held meetings and timidly drawn up their schedule of grievances.
The employers to whom they presented it were not impressed. Men workers might strike, but not these mothers of hungry children. The loss of even one day's miserable pay would mean suffering to the helpless little ones at home. There was no need to worry, the factory owners told each other. Mothers don't strike.
The women themselves were not blind to these considerations. It must have taken great courage to decide to strike. But their situation was already intolerable. Their children were half-fed, ragged, and neglected. The infant death rate was rising to frightening heights. When a child fell ill, the working mother had two choices. She could leave him to the care of another child, or she could stay home with him and lose her wages. If the mother chose to nurse him through the illness, she might well see him die of starvation, and her other children with him.
Faced with this bitter choice, the women nerved themselves to united action. On February 23, the first of the fateful "Five Days," they poured out of their factories and into the streets. They were soon joined by the men metal workers, striking in sympathy. By noon the streets of the Vyborg district, where the great factories were, were jammed with 90,000 striking workers.
Nothing much happened on the first day. The police and the factory owners agreed to treat the strike as a harmless blowing off of steam. They were confident that the women would not dare sacrifice more than one day's wages. If they wanted to spend a cold winter's day tramping around in the snow, waving banners, and singing silly songs, let them. Soon enough the poor fools would realize that you don't buy bread with songs about a better world in birth. They'd be back to work tomorrow, regretting their folly.
The morrow came, but it brought no penitent workers. Now not only the textile women and the machinists but men from the other factories joined in the demonstration. They swept out of the industrial district and across the bridges into the Nevsky Prospekt, Petrograd's Fifth Avenue. Housewives broke out of bread lines to join them. Students left their classrooms. As they passed a military hospital, wounded soldiers crowded the windows, cheering.
The police were unable to cope with the crowds. A detachment of mounted Cossacks was summoned. The Cossacks charged through them, scattering them for a moment, but the mass closed in behind the horses. Word ran through the crowd, "The Cossacks won't shoot." And in fact they did not. One trooper was seen to wink as he gestured ferociously with his rifle.
The fighting on this second of the Five Days of February was between the people and the police. There was no gunfire. The police used weighted clubs mercilessly, and the people responded with stones and chunks of ice. There were bruises and broken bones on both sides, but no deaths.
The first man was killed on the twenty-fifth, the third day. He was a mounted policeman.
By this time there were 240,000 people milling about the streets. Factories and shops were closed. The city's streetcars had stopped running. By the statue of Alexander III an orator attempted to address the crowd. The police opened fire, wounding him so that he toppled to the ground. From somewhere another shot cracked, and a policeman fell dead.
It is generally believed that the policeman was killed by a Cossack. This probably is only a guess, based on the fact that the Cossacks were the first military unit to show sympathy for the people's side. In the disorders that followed, the Cossacks did as little as possible to support the police. They did not, at first, actively assist the revolutionists. That role was left for several cavalry and infantry companies of the regular army.
The Petrograd garrison was swollen with new recruits and older men unfit for front-line service. When neither the police nor the Cossacks seemed able to put down the demonstrations, the governor of Petrograd called out the full garrison. Machine-gun nests were set up in the garrets of houses. What had begun as a feeble protest of a few hundred underpaid women was now a full-fledged revolution.
As revolutions go, it was not a very bloody one. Individual soldiers, particularly infantrymen, came over to add their rides and bayonets to the sticks and stones that were the crowd's first weapons. A company of the Volynsky Regiment refused to leave its barracks to act against the strikers. When disciplinary measures were threatened, most of the regiment marched out to join the crowd in the streets. They were followed by members of three other regiments. It was the soldiers who set fire to police headquarters.
The arrival of the soldiers put new heart into the people. They spent their sleepless nights making the homemade weapons as had taught them in 1905. Bottles of gasoline were hurled at mounted men, while wagon wheels were rolled between the legs of their horses. Overturned streetcars and ripped-up paving stones made barricades behind which the strikers crouched, using such arms as they had against cavalry and machinegun fire.
By the night of February 27 it was all over. Police headquarters and the district court building were in flames. The imperial arsenal had been captured, putting thousands of Browning rifles into the hands of the people. The general commanding the garrison was a prisoner, and of his 150,000 men all but a handful had joined their comrades in support of the revolution. The people had taken possession of the Taurida Palace, where the Duma sessions were held. The railroad stations and all public utilities were in their hands.
Neither Nicholas nor his wife was in Petrograd at the time of the insurrection. The tsar was with the army at the front. Alexandra was sixteen miles from the capital, in the pleasant palace of Tsarkoye Selo. One of her daughters bad the measles. She wrote her husband at some length about the child's illness. In a postscript she added that she had heard some boys and girls were running about the streets of Petrograd, making fools of themselves. She thought the mild weather was to blame and expected that last night's snowstorm would end the foolishness.
The foolishness of which she wrote so scornfully was the end of Alexandra's world. What sort of world was to replace it no one knew.
The three revolutions against tsardom had grown up side by side. The aristocrats' revolution, the bourgeois revolution, and the revolution of the proletariat. Of the three, the proletarian revolution was the first to break out. Undeniably, the February Revolution was the handiwork of the toiling masses. The soldiers who joined them were the sons of peasants and laborers.
The most amazing thing about this revolution is that it had no leaders. Lenin was in Switzerland, Plekhanov was abroad, Stalin was imprisoned in Siberia. Martov and Trotsky were not in Russia. No Social Democrats of prominence, whether Bolshevik or Menshevik, were in the country when the workers rose.
Leaders of the middle class and of the aristocrats were in Petrograd, but they took no part in the uprising. This was not their revolution.
It was the workers' revolution, for the workers made it. When it was over they buried their dead, fifty-six men who had fallen in the street fighting. The red coffins held the bodies of workingmen. There was not a Duma member among them. Nevertheless, when victory was assured, the Duma moved in.
The Duma, that national congress which the tsar had despised, was composed of educated men of the middle and upper classes. Many were hopelessly reactionary. But among them there were a few who hated autocracy as sincerely as any workingman. To these the revolution offered the opportunity they had been praying for. They had their own blueprint for a new world ready.
It was not Lenin's world that the gentlemen of the Duma planned. The last thing they wanted was the assumption of power by the masses. Their plan was far different, but it was by no means an ignoble one.
The middle class, and the more progressive among the nobility, conceived of a new government modeled after that of the western democracies. Some of them wanted a liberal monarchy similar to the British system. Others argued for a republic like the United States. They all advocated an elected congress or parliament, enlightened labor and housing laws, a reformed judicial system, and aid to education and agriculture. They promised to make land reforms also, breaking up the great estates and making more land available to small farmers.
These were the aims of the bourgeois revolution. Perhaps the men who advocated them would have fought to make them possible. By the lucky chance of the workers' uprising, they did not need to fight.
The Duma took over the revolution by the simple process of proclaiming itself the representative of the people. The workers, leaderless and dazed by success, had gone no farther than naming a Soviet, or council, of Workers and Soldiers.
The Duma professed itself cordially willing to work in co-operation with the Workers' and Soldiers' Soviet. However, the Provisional Government that it set up was drawn entirely from its own ranks. Its first head was Prince Lvov, a liberal nobleman. Of the ten ministers named, the best known is Kerensky, who soon became president of the Provisional Government.
Alexander Kerensky was the son of the high-school principal in Simbirsk, the one who had recommended young Ilyich Ulyanov for his studiousness and tremendous will power. Alexander was six years old when the Ulyanovs left Simbirsk, so the two leaders had no childhood memories in common.
Kerensky had practised law in the provinces, coming to the capital on his election to the Duma. He belonged to the Social Revolutionaries, the party of middle-class intellectuals who supported the claims of the peasants to land of their own. Kerensky was not the leader of the party, but he was a fair sample of the party at its best. He was a good speaker, persuasive and eloquent. He abhorred violence. He believed, to quote his own words, "in the creative power of love, in the power of mercy and forgiveness." Kerensky came into the government with the double backing of the Duma and the Soviet, the committee set up by workers and soldiers. The chairman of the Soviet, Tcheidze, was a Menshevik, and the Mensheviks were friendly toward the Social Revolutionaries.
The many parties, and their relationships with each other, are confusing, and of little consequence now. Only the Bolsheviks,'s wing of the Social Democrats, held firmly to the Marxian ideal of a socialist state. The time was soon to come when all the other parties would unite in a common front against the Bolsheviks.
The Provisional Government took upon itself the job of obtaining the abdication of the tsar. This was not difficult. Nicholas first resigned in favor of his son, and then changed his mind, naming his brother to succeed him. The brother promptly declined the honor.
Nicholas returned to Tsarkoye Selo, where he joined his family. They were requested to remain there, but were treated with the utmost courtesy. Mr. Kerensky, carrying out his policy of love and forgiveness, planned to send them to their royal relatives in England. The Soviet opposed this, so the royal family remained at Tsarkoye Selo until August. Kerensky visited them frequently, arranging for them to communicate with their friends abroad, urging them to complain if their guards were uncivil, and showing them, as he puts it, "that the revolution was humane and magnanimous to its enemies."
A SIMBIRSK SCHOOLTEACHER'S SON sat in the Winter Palace of the tsars, guiding the destinies of 120,000,000 Russians. A few hundred of these were die-hard aristocrats, a few thousand were well-to-do bourgeois, and the remainder a mass of workers, soldiers, and peasants who had just discovered that power was theirs if they dared to use it. That power had always existed, little as the tsars realized it. Whether the magnanimous Mr. Kerensky realized it any more clearly is an open question. If he did, it is hard to explain his serene optimism.
Far away in Zurich, Switzerland, another Simbirsk schoolmaster's son pondered that power, and the use to which it must be put. Ilyich Ulyanov, who now called himself Lenin, had no royal study for his meditations. Mother Elisaveta's little legacy was gone, and the Lenins were sunk in the deepest poverty. They lived in a wretched lodging house, where their one window overlooked a sausage factory. The smell from the factory was so sickening that the window could not be opened on the hottest days. Nadezhda found a job at the Emigrant Bureau to help pay the rent.
Communications with Russia were poor. The first word of the revolution came to Lenin on March 15, when the Swiss papers published the news. Mingled with his delight must have been the bitterest chagrin. The workers' revolution, for which he had hoped and toiled these twenty years, had come at last. It had come, and he was not there!
His only thought was to return to Russia as quickly as possible. This should have been easy. His crime in tsarist eyes was advocating the overthrow of the government. Now that government had been overthrown. Plekhanov, guilty of the same crime, had already received from the Provisional Government a warm invitation to return. No invitation came to Lenin.
The explanation was simple. One of Kerensky's first official acts was a pledge to the Allies that Russia would continue in the war, prosecuting it with new strength now that tsarist inefficiency was disposed of. Plekhanov ardently endorsed this pledge.
Lenin did not. He had opposed Russia's participation in the war from the start. Now, with the entire structure of the country to rebuild, he believed it would be utter folly to divert men and money to a foreign war. The war weariness of the army had been the deciding factor in the revolution's success. Soldiers defying their officers to join the revolutionary throngs carried home-made banners reading "Peace, bread, and land." To send them back to the trenches now seemed to Lenin a betrayal of the revolution's best friends.
He would never agree to a continuance of the war, and Kerensky knew it. The Allies, Britain and France--America had not yet entered the war--knew it also. The British sent Plekhanov home on one of their own torpedo boats. It is not strange that Russian gates remained barred to.
Barred gates or no, he had no intention of being kept on the outside. By some means he must get into Russia.
The little circle at Zurich spent anxious weeks in futile discussion. Lenin lay awake at night hatching a hundred schemes, all of them hopelessly impractical. The craziest of them was a suggestion that he get hold of an airplane and have himself flown over the border. "Such a thing," Nadezhda writes pityingly, "could only be thought of in the semi-delirium of the night." In the Europe of 1917, the plane was a useful war weapon, not a passenger-carrying medium. However, even had air service between Zurich and Petrograd existed, they had no money for such exotic devices.
For more ordinary travel, the route lay through France, an allied country whose friendship for Kerensky would not allow her to admit Lenin. It might be done on a forged passport. He was at the moment living in Switzerland under a false Bulgarian passport, but that would not do, for Bulgaria was at war with the Allies.
"What I need is a neutral passport," told his wife. "From Sweden, now, that would be easiest. A Swede can go anywhere. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll put on a wig to hide my bald forehead."
"Don't Swedes have bald foreheads?" Nadezhda asked mildly. "Never mind, dear, I know what you mean. The French police know you by sight. They'd be certain to stop you if they recognized you."
"Yes, but they'd never recognize me as a Swede in a wig. I'll be a Swedish professor returning from Switzerland and now on his way to further research in Petrograd. Why, that's perfect. I'll write the Stockholm comrades right away to apply for a passport for the professor. Wait, though, here's a difficulty. I'll have to cross Sweden on it, too, and I don't speak Swedish. Well, we can get around that. We'll say I'm deaf and dumb."
"A deaf and dumb professor?" Nadezhda shook her head. "I'm sorry, Ilyich, but it just won't work. You must see that yourself."
"I suppose not." He sighed heavily. "All right, then I'll think of something else. There must be a way!" There was a way, but it was a desperate one. Through two Swiss socialists, Grimm and Platten, negotiations were opened with the German ambassador in Switzerland. It was arranged that and his party should be sent across Germany to the Baltic coast. From there, by way of Sweden and Finland, they could reach Russia.
The Germans, in giving their consent to this arrangement, did a very good stroke of business for themselves, since opposition to the war was well known. The Germans also knew that he had considerable influence with the Russian working class. It was to the German interest to get him into Russia, where he could work to take his country out of the war.
Kerensky later called Lenin a traitor in the pay of the German government. This accusation was one that anticipated. "He knew they would throw mud at him," Nadezhda writes.
Lenin drew up a concise statement of his agreement with the German ambassador. He had asked nothing of Germany but permission for him and a number of friends to cross the country. He had promised nothing except that they would not leave the train en route, and that on arrival in Russia he would ask for the release of an equal number of German war prisoners. He and his party were to pay the full railroad fare.
Lenin submitted this statement to German, French, Polish, Swiss, Swedish, and Norwegian socialists, asking them to sign it if they approved it. Every one of them signed it. Among them were several members of their respective parliaments and the mayor of Stockholm. Romain Rolland, the famous French novelist, wrote a separate letter of approval.
A month later the Menshevik leader, Martov, returned home by the same route. No one denounced him as a traitor. Trotsky was at first detained in Canada, but demonstrations by his supporters in Petrograd induced the British to release him and allow him to proceed to Russia.
Lenin made his preparations, completely indifferent to harsh names. After twenty years of exile, he was going home.
On the day before Easter, 1911, a little crowd of poorly dressed people gathered at the Zurich station. They carried their own luggage, and they had provided themselves with food for the journey. Besides and Nadezhda there were the Zinovievs with their little son, some Jewish refugees, and several others. In all, the party numbered thirty.
The German railway officials had provided a third-class coach, attached to a regular train. The "sealed train" story is a myth. The coach was not sealed, except by the promise of the travelers not to leave it while on German soil. This promise they kept. The second promise, to ask for the release of German war prisoners, also kept, but the request was refused by the Provisional Government.
The German bargain ended when the train reached the coast. The party crossed on a small steamer to Sweden, went by train to Finland, and from there took a final train that brought them to Petrograd.
They were not at all sure what their reception would be. That they could expect no welcome from the Provisional Government they knew; whether that government would begin hostilities by arresting them on sight was an open question.
They hoped for a friendlier attitude on the part of the Soviet, which contained some Bolsheviks. But there were more Mensheviks among the Soviet membership, and the chairman, Tcheidze, as already mentioned, was a Menshevik.
As the train drew into the Finland station, uneasiness grew. Could it be that they had risked so much, and come so far, only to find the old Peter-Paul dungeons waiting for them?
Their anxiety did not last long. Even before the train could come to a stop, they could hear the blare of a brass band and voices calling "Lenin, Lenin,!"
Wondering and half fearful still, they gathered up their bags and bundles. Before they could leave the car, a welcoming committee came aboard. It was headed by the Soviet chairman, Tcheidze. Behind him his little daughter, dressed in white, carried a huge bouquet of red roses. She thrust them into Lenin's arms.
Lenin had time to note that Tcheidze and the others of the committee were well dressed, in business clothes, before the chairman seized his hands and began shaking them cordially.
"Welcome, comrade, a thousand welcomes!" he boomed. "If you will just step this way, I've arranged a reception for you in the tsar's own private waiting room. Make way, there! Let Comrade through!"
The great station was jammed. The band struck up the "Internationale." Tcheidze hurried Lenin and his friends through the crowd and into the luxurious waiting room formerly reserved for the tsar. A group of Soviet and Duma members, dignified and prosperous looking, waited there. The door was slammed, shutting out the roaring crowd.
Tcheidze had a speech all prepared. Lenin stood courteously, still holding the awkward bunch of roses, but after the first few words his face darkened. Tcheidze was explaining to this long-absent comrade the state of affairs now prevailing in Russia. The revolution was gloriously won, he declaimed. For the building of a new free state, all elements were working together. Princes and peasants, bankers and factory hands, all were uniting to prosecute the war to a victorious end and make new Russia a land of milk and honey. Unity, that was the watchword. Therefore--
There was more, much more, to the speech. Tcheidze, undertaking to bring Lenin safely into the fold of compromise, had prepared some telling arguments. They were never delivered. Lenin listened for only a few minutes. Then, with a violent gesture, he cast the roses upon the tsar's mother-of-pearl table. Without a word he turned and left the room.
He was recognized as he strode out of the station door. Outside, a group of sailors from Kronstadt let out a wild yell. Behind them the street was solidly packed. There were no starched collars and cutaway coats here. These were working men and women, wearing homespun blouses or shawls and patched shoes. Among them were many army men in uniform.
A squad of soldiers had brought their armored car. They reached down and hauled Lenin to the car's top, high above the crowd. From a near-by building someone turned a floodlight full on him.
They knew Lenin well through his writings, but only those who were old enough to remember 1905 had ever seen him before. He was not, as the floodlight revealed him, a very impressive sight. A bald little man in a shabby coat, somewhat paunchy, with a reddish beard. He was forty-seven years old, and looked older. He could scarcely have seemed more commonplace, until he smiled. Everyone who knew Lenin spoke of the way his smile transformed his homely features. "It warmed our hearts," as one old woman put it.
He smiled now, and the crowd was still. Then, lifting his hands, his voice quiet and serious, he spoke:
"Comrades, I greet you without knowing yet whether or not you believe all the promises of the Provisional Government. But I am convinced that when they talk sweetly to you, when they promise so much, they are deceiving you and the whole Russian people.
"The people need peace. The people need bread. The people need land. And they give you war, hunger, no bread. They leave the landlords on the land. ... We must fight for the social revolution, fight to the end, until the full victory of the proletariat. Long live the revolution!"
THE ARMORED CAR took Lenin to Bolshevik headquarters, the Kshesinskaya Mansion. Madame Kshesinskaya, star of the Russian ballet, had received the charming house as a gift from the tsar. The Bolsheviks had coolly turned her out, recommending that she get a job in a shoe factory and "learn to lead a useful life." The lady carried her furious protests to the Kerensky police and eventually regained her house, but for the time being the Bolsheviks were in possession, holding their grim sessions beneath the pink ceilings delightfully ornamented with plaster Cupids.
Cheering crowds followed Lenin all the way to the mansion. From the balcony he made a second speech, again warning them that their revolution was not yet won.
Then, exhausted by the journey and his tumultuous reception, he made his way to his sister's house. Anyuta and her husband, with the other sister Manyasha, were waiting there. They had sorrowful news. The staunch old mother, Marya Alexandrovna, had died the year before. Anyuta had written her brother in Switzerland, but the letter had never reached him.
The blow was a cruel one, the more so as Lenin had seen almost nothing of his beloved mother in the last few years. This was by her own choice. He had often urged her to join him abroad. But Marya Alexandrovna sturdily maintained that her place was with those of her children who needed her most.
The two sisters and the younger son, Dmitry, were all engaged in revolutionary activities, and all were subjected to frequent arrests. Marya Alexandrovna, who had been so proud of her pretty parlor in Simbirsk, who had so delighted to dispense polite hospitality to other officials' wives, spent her latter years in prison waiting rooms. Patiently she carried food and clean laundry to her children in their cells, waited long hours in dreary offices for "permission to visit," meekly bore the contemptuous rudeness of prison guards.
Like Nadezhda's mother, Marya Alexandrovna was interested in revolution only because it interested her children. Nevertheless, these two old ladies, devotedly serving those dearest to them, served the revolution as well. The people of the Soviet Union, when they name their great women, do not forget Elisaveta Krupskaya and Marya Alexandrovna Ulyanova.
Public affairs left Lenin little time for private grief. On the day after his arrival he made a speech to the Bolshevik delegates to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which was soon to meet. In this speech he outlined ten points that constituted his policy. His principal demands were for the cessation of the war and the abolition of the Provisional Government. "All power to the Soviets," was declared to be the Bolshevik aim.
Inside the Soviets the Bolsheviks were a minority. The Mensheviks and the other socialist parties were suspicious of the Provisional Government, but they were trying to work with it. There was no clear division of authority. The Provisional Government gave orders which the Soviets countermanded, and the Government habitually ignored Soviet recommendations, It was an impossible situation, but only Lenin advocated ending it by doing away with the Provisional Government. Everyone else thought some sort of compromise could be worked out.
His speech was cheered by the Bolshevik delegates, and the Menshevik delegates asked him to repeat it for their benefit. When he did so, they cheered, too, and promptly voted him down. Even the Bolsheviks, when it came to a vote, refused to endorse the ten points.
The chief difficulty was Lenin's insistence that Russia must quit the war. Kerensky had pledged Russia's continuance. Lenin, in touch with the common soldiers, saw with merciless common sense that the army simply would not go on with a struggle that had lost all meaning for them. At the front they were surrendering in droves. Behind the line there were wholesale desertions. The Provisional Government had promised land to the peasants. The ordinary soldiers were peasants, and they had only one thought, to go home and claim their land before it was gobbled up by non-combatants.
Kerensky, his vision dimmed by idealism, did not see as clearly as Lenin that the Russian army was no longer a dependable fighting force. But he must have had some conception of it, for he began raising new levies that were touching as well as a little ridiculous.
The Knights of St. George, an organization of disabled officers who had been decorated for battle wounds, were called back into service. These men were cripples, honorably discharged. Under Kerensky's urging they presented themselves to fight again.
A womens Battalion was raised, recruited mostly among the daughters of the well-to-do. It was common gossip that many of these young ladies, having entered their names on the Battalion roll, then bribed their maids to take their places. The Allied newspapers gave reams of rapturous publicity to the "Women's Battalion of Death," but it never reached the front. Its only recorded action was the attempted defense of the Winter Palace after Kerensky had fled.
Besides the women and the cripples, the Provisional Government called upon the boys in training at the military academies. Although they continued at school, their names were placed on the army rolls.
By adding all these "effectives" together, the Government arrived at an impressive figure. The Allies were assured that all Russia was throwing itself heart and soul into the prosecution of the war.
The French and British were pleased, but a little sceptical. They began to press for demonstration. Since Russia was so anxious to fight on, they argued, it would be logical to launch an offensive on the eastern front. They themselves, with their new ally, the United States, were desperately engaged in France and Flanders. It would relieve the pressure considerably if the long-dormant Russian army would bestir itself on the opposite side of Germany.
Kerensky, who was now Minister of War as well as Provisional President, responded gallantly. Certainly there should be an offensive, he declared. He himself would see to it.
He saw to it. Some of the Russian general staff approved, and others did not. Early in the summer the offensive began, on Kerensky's orders. He personally addressed the troops on the eve of battle, giving them, in his own words, "the last greeting before death." The speech must have been a very eloquent one, for the speaker tells us that although a near-by German battery started up, so that he had to talk under the music of flying shells, "no one moved, no one ventured to seek shelter, no one even bent his head."
Kerensky, in his book The Catastrophe, maintains that the offensive was a success in that it engaged a large German force. Most other writers refer to it as a failure.
Success or failure, it did not last long. Deserters began pouring back into Petrograd. Men not on active service, the city garrison, and the sailors from the near-by Kronstadt naval base, joined the workers in street demonstrations. Day and night the streets were jammed with shouting men, carrying homemade banners. "Give us peace!" was the commonest inscription.
These were spontaneous uprisings, not provoked by the Bolsheviks. Lenin, calmly certain that the Provisional Government must go, was content to wait while the will of the people made itself felt. Let Kerensky see for himself that workers would not make munitions for an unpopular war and that soldiers would not fight it. Sooner or later power must pass into the hands of the Soviets.
The Provisional Government put down the demonstrations by rifle fire. There were not many casualties. The Kronstadt sailors were disarmed and sent back to their station. The fiercest reprisals were taken against the Bolsheviks, who had been little more than spectators. The offices of their newspaper, Pravda, were wrecked, and a police dragnet was thrown out for their leaders.
At the same time the story of Lenin's alleged conspiracy with the Germans was revived. Ever since his arrival by way of Germany, the Provisional Government had been seeking proof that he was in the kaiser's pay.
They had found two men, a Pole and a Ukrainian, who were willing to testify that such was the case. Both men were spies who admitted having served Germany themselves, and in ordinary circumstances their word would scarcely have carried weight. But any testimony against Lenin was welcome.
The Ukrainian had nothing to offer except a remark of two German officers. When they dispatched him to spy for Germany in Russia, they said--or he reported that they said--that he would not be alone, for Lenin was working for Germany, too. In spite of Government pressure, the Ukrainian could add nothing to this statement.
The Pole, Ganetski, in trouble over black-market operations, was anxious to ingratiate himself with the authorities. He told them that if he were allowed to go to Sweden be could bring back documentary proof of Lenin's German connections. He was dispatched to Sweden, and very prudently stayed there. His "proof" was never forthcoming.
While Kerensky still awaited the Pole's return, someone in the Government gave an account of Lenin's "treachery" to the newspapers. Nadezhda, uneasily conscious that the addition of two more mouths to feed was straining her sister-in-law's slender resources, read with amazement that Lenin's wife had entered Russia with two great bags of German gold concealed under her petticoats.
Ridiculous though the charge was, its consequences were serious. Nadezhda, the sisters, and brother-in-law were arrested. Lenin was not in the flat at the time of the police raid. He had gone to visit an old Bolshevik, Alleluyev. A comrade brought the news to him there.
Quickly a few faithful friends gathered to discuss what should be done. Lenin, confident in his innocence, wanted to give himself up and stand trial. His friends, Stalin in particular, opposed this. The Provisional Government hated him. Could he be sure of a fair trial? He might be held in prison for months, in the end to be convicted on perjured testimony. He might, according to the old tsarist practice, be shot "while attempting to escape." Already General Kornilov of the Government forces had revived that handy device for illegal execution. No, it simply would not do. The time had not yet come when an innocent man could submit himself fearlessly to Pussian justice. Lenin's only hope was to escape capture.
The next night he went to the house of a comrade on a small farm just outside Petrograd. For the first week, while policemen and soldiers scoured the countryside for him, he hid in a barn loft, buried beneath a pile of hay. Later the farmer built a little hut of twigs with a hay roof, telling the neighbors that he had a new hired man for whom there was no room in the house.
The neighbors, noting a pale patch where a beard had recently been shaved off, and noting, too, that the new man wore a wig made of raveled black wool, drew their own conclusions. Fortunately they were the wrong ones. Deserting soldiers frequently sought employment in the country, where they hoped to escape notice. It was assumed that the new man at the Yemelyanov farm was one of these self-discharged veterans.
Lenin remained at the farm all during August, helping with the harvest, playing with the children, and patiently waiting. Messages from the city told him that his wife and sisters had been released, but most of the party leaders were in jail. Among those arrested was Trotsky, who had recently broken with Martov and the other Mensheviks. He joined the Bolshevik faction during his imprisonment at this time.
The Provisional Government had turned the Bolsheviks out of Madame Kshesinskaya's house, returning it to her with profuse apologies. The Bolshevik party was declared illegal. A formal charge of treason was pronounced against Lenin, believed to have left the country. Kerensky proclaimed that he had suppressed the Bolsheviki, and that no more trouble was to be expected from them.
For the time, it certainly seemed that the Bolsheviks were powerless to make trouble. Lenin, after a peaceful month on the farm, decided to go to Finland. With a scarf pulled up around his face, and a workman's cap jammed down on his wool wig, he made his way to the railroad. He had no passport, so a sympathetic engineer took him on as fireman. He rode into Helsinki in an engine cab, lustily shoveling logs of wood into the fire. He went straight to the socialist chief of police, who hid him in his own home.
This was the last escape, the last period of exile. Never again was Lenin to flee his native land. Once more he would return to Russia, this time to remain on the beloved soil until death claimed him.
MINISTER-PRESIDENT KERENSKY, joyously confident that he had crushed the Bolshevik menace forever, soon found that he had other troubles.
His great offensive had collapsed. The war was sagging into dispirited apathy. The kindly, humane Kerensky could see no other course but to issue orders calling for the merciless application of armed force to end insubordination at the front. The death penalty for desertion, abolished since the February Revolution, was restored. Commanders of the Petrograd garrison were authorized to send all trouble makers to the front. Kerensky declared his authority to suppress newspapers, prohibit meetings, make arrests without warrants, and expel from Russia "persons considered dangerous to the safety of the nation." The assumption of such power carried him a long way from the ideal democracy he advocated, but the Minister-President considered himself justified by the emergency.
In his repressive measures, Kerensky depended largely upon General Kornilov, commander-in-chief of the southwestern front. Kornilov had under his command the famous Savage Division, composed of Moslem Cossacks. The very name of this hard-hitting group struck terror into all hearts. Kerensky had found Kornilov and his Cossacks very useful in terrorizing striking workmen and defiant soldiers. He can scarcely have dreamed that the terror would now be directed against himself.
As nearly as one can reconstruct his motives, Kornilov wanted to replace the weak Provisional Government with a strong military dictatorship. He was dissatisfied with existing conditions, both in the army and at home.
So, to be candid, was everyone else, except the optimistic members of the Provisional Government. Nothing was working out as had been expected. Fiery patriots who wanted the war fought to a quick finish were angry because no news of victories came in. Soldiers heard from home that, in spite of all the talk, their families had as yet received none of the nobles' land. Transportation was disorganized, and food was not reaching the city. The bread lines were as long as in tsarist days. The people, who had revolted with a cry of peace, bread, and land, still had none of these things. They were growing sullen and restive. The Soviets and the Provisional Government wrangled interminably. Everybody talked, angrily or reasonably or foolishly, but nobody did anything.
To General Kornilov, with an army at his back, there was only one thing to do. A good firm military rule that put up with no nonsense was the answer. On September 7 he led his troops in a march upon the capital. He declared his intention of deposing the Provisional Government, arresting Kerensky, and putting the country under martial law.
Kornilov never reached the capital, and he himself was arrested by Kerensky's orders. The railway workers refused to transport his troops. The soldiers showed no enthusiasm for the undertaking.
The attempt, which had seemed so formidable, collapsed with no shots fired and no harm done. It was important only because it showed that the Russian people had reached the stage where they would no longer follow a leader unquestioningly. Soldiers as well as civilians had been told that this was now their country, to be governed according to their desires. They did not want Kornilov's dictatorship, and they did not want Kerensky's ideal democracy. They wanted the bread, peace, and land that had been promised them. They would settle for nothing less.
Lenin, from his hiding place in Finland, followed the news with satisfaction. He had given the best years of his life to teaching the Russian people that they had a right to fulfil their destiny. Not the selfish ambitions of tsar and nobles, not the beautiful dreams of well-fed liberals, but the stark needs and wants of the great silent common mass were to be realized now. For the first time in Russian history, power was in the hands of the peopie.
It was the hour for which Lenin had waited and planned all these years. Tsarism was dead. Its successor, liberal middle-class democracy, had failed to meet the needs of the people or to win their support. It was time for a change.
Dozens of books have been written to explain the failure of the Kerensky republic. It has been passionately argued that it did not fail; that, given a little more time, it would have succeeded. It has been argued also that Lenin was responsible for its failure. If he had thrown his great strength behind the Provisional Government, some British and American thinkers have written, Russia would now be a constitutional democracy on our own model.
This argument may be true enough, but it does not make sense. It is as foolish as to say that Lincoln might have averted our Civil War by supporting slavery. Abraham Lincoln did not hate the institution of slavery any more passionately than Lenin hated the institution of private capitalism.
This is difficult for us to understand here in America, where capitalism suits most of us very well. The fact simply has to be accepted that Lenin did hate capitalism, and dedicated his life to abolishing it. Whatever Kerensky and his associates thought, whatever the rest of the world thought, the plain truth is that Lenin, and the Russian workers behind him, did not want our kind of political and economic system. It is futile to argue that they might have wanted it, or should have wanted it. They did not want it, and they would not have it. Once this historical fact is clearly understood, there is nothing mysterious about the course of events in the autumn of 1917.
In the first week of October Lenin returned to Petrograd. The country was in turmoil. After the collapse of the Kornilov expedition, the Bolsheviks had come into the open again, gaining strength every day.
For their headquarters they had seized Smolny Institute, a huge Italian-style palace built for Catherine the Great and recently used as a boarding school for the daughters of the nobility.
The Bolsheviks had organized a Military Revolutionary Committee, designed to win over converts from the army and the fleet. In addition, they had their own military arm, the Red Guards, recruited from husky young factory workers. They made no secret of the fact that they were preparing to overthrow the ineffectual Provisional Government.
Kerensky's position was not a happy one. The Minister-President spent a great deal of time at the front, trying to inspire his weary army. At home he was constantly harassed by Allied diplomats, demanding that Russia prosecute the war more vigorously. The food situation inside the cities was desperate. Every day there were bread riots, in which food shops were looted and destroyed. Hungry workers were everywhere on strike.
The only hope Kerensky had was the Constituent Assembly, called for the first of the year. Theoretically this assembly was to give the Russian people a chance to choose their government in its final form. The convening of such a congress had been promised immediately after the February Revolution, but had been repeatedly postponed. Election of delegates was going on all through the autumn, accompanied by a great deal of disorder.
Kerensky believed that the assembly would ratify the republic he had set up. With this expression of the people's will, he hoped the opposition would die down, or at least that he would have more solid ground for suppressing it.
A large number of the delegates already elected by late October were either conservative or liberal, but there was an unexpectedly heavy Bolshevik vote. This fact, and their growing strength in the soviets, encouraged some Bolshevik leaders to believe that they could swing the convention to their program of Marxian socialism. If they could do this, they could accomplish their ends peaceably, without the need for further revolution.
Lenin never shared that hope. He regarded the assembly as a farce, its action determined in advance by agreement among the conservatives and liberals. He was as certain as Kerensky that the assembly would ratify the present government and make it permanent. In his view, to wait for the assembly would mean disaster. The time to strike was now!
In an article written soon after his return to Petrograd, Lenin makes plain his reason for insisting that the revolutionary hour had come. "Insurrection," he says, "must not operate on a conspiracy, nor on a party, but on an advanced class. Insurrection must operate on the revolutionary uprise of the people."
That revolutionary uprise was now at full tide. It had surged up in February to sweep away tsarist tyranny. Where were the fruits of that struggle? New masters had risen to take the place of the old. Kindly and well-meaning they might be, but so far as the man in the street could see they had changed nothing. Employers lived comfortably in their city homes while workers starved in the same wretched tenements. Peasant boys who had hoped by now to be tilling their own acres still bled and died in the far-distant Galician mud.
The people, mighty in their wrath, were ready to rise again. The opportunity must not be lost. To his hesitant friends Lenin quoted the maxim of Peter the Great, "The loss of time is like unto irretrievable death." He overrode all objections and set the date for the final rising. That date, reckoned upon the old Russian calendar, was October 25, 1911.
Other modern nations had long since adopted the reformed calendar of Pope Gregory, but Russia clung to the old style. All dates given in this book so far have conformed to the old calendar, which is thirteen days behind the Gregorian one. An early decree of the new Soviet Government proclaimed the adoption of the calendar used by other countries.
This change in the calendar creates some confusion in the chronicling of Russian history. The February Revolution, still so called by Soviet historians, occurred in early March by the present calendar. The October Revolution began on October 25, old style, but actually on November 7 as we reckon time. Since the change was so soon to be made, we will find it simpler to adopt the new dates from this point, and say that the October Revolution, the great and final struggle, began on November 7.
THE DATE CHOSEN by Lenin coincided with the first session of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets.
A soviet is a council, or committee. Ever since the February Revolution, local soviets had sprung up all over the country, carrying on a sort of rough and ready self-government. Every village had its soviet. So did every factory and mine. There were regimental soviets inside the army.
The Supreme Soviet, the only one functioning in national affairs, was the soviet of Petrograd. It was made up of members of the socialist parties, trying still to work in harmony with the Provisional Government. The Supreme Soviet was supposed to have control of the local soviets, but its authority was frequently ignored in the provinces. The congress had been called in an effort to reduce confusion and put the Soviet system on a workable basis.
Lenin had no intention of seizing power in his own name, or in that of the Bolshevik party. The soviets, however poorly they functioned, had been elected by popular vote. They represented a shaky, but genuine, foundation for a real people's government. On that foundation Lenin resolved to build his socialist state.
It was in the name of the soviets, therefore, that Lenin acted. Convinced that the inevitable hour had come, he acted first and reported to the Soviet Congress afterward.
The rising was carefully organized by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party. Stalin was a member of the committee. Trotsky headed the Military Revolutionary Committee. Both these men did splendid work in winning over the Petrograd garrison and in training the Red Guards.
Every member of the Central Committee had a specific job. One man kept in touch with the railroad workers, another with the postal and telegraph employees. Men were sent to Moscow, where revolt was to begin at the same hour. In other cities and the larger villages, local party leaders were told to stand by for orders.
All these preparations were made with no attempt at concealment. The Bolsheviks knew their strength, knew that it was greater than any strength the Provisional Government could muster. Secure in that strength, they were preparing to evict the Provisional Government. The day and hour were known only to Lenin's lieutenants, but everyone in Petrograd knew that the time was coming soon.
It is no wonder that Kerensky addressed his councilors on the morning of November 6, warning them that insurrection was at hand. He declared that the Government would resort without qualms to the use of force, but demanded the immediate co-operation of all parties and groups.
To his bitter disappointment, that co-operation was not forthcoming. A Menshevik, Dan, told him bluntly that he was exaggerating the danger, and that his repressive threats tended only to disturb the people.
Kerensky, justifiably alarmed, called in his Cossack officers. For nearly three centuries, Russian rulers had been able to depend upon the Cossacks in time of insurrection. But the Cossacks, like all Russians, were changing in these tumultuous days.
Kerensky found his officers evasive. Their men were lodged at some distance from the Winter Palace. They could be summoned, certainly, but would not the morning do as well? After all, it was a pity, on this cold rainy night, to call them out for nothing. Kerensky demanded that the troops be sent for at once, and turned his attention to a messenger with fresh news.
The Red Guards, it appeared, had seized the post-and telegraph-offices and the railroad stations. The employees, trade-union men and many of them Bolsheviks, had offered no resistance. A company of cadets from the military school had hurried to the telephone office, which they were prepared to defend with their lives.
In the end, the Government's defense fell almost entirely upon the shoulders of the young officer candidates. The three companies of Don Cossacks declared themselves neutral and remained in their barracks. Several armored car and machine-gun units of the Petrograd garrison came out openly on the rebels' side.
When day broke, Kerensky looked out of the Winter Palace to see the light cruiser Aurora making her way up the Neva, her guns trained on the palace.
The Minister-President had spent the night in frantic efforts to rally his defenses. The soldier guard at the palace had quietly melted away, leaving only a few cadets and the members of the Women's Battalion. Most of the cadets were at the telephone exchange, which the revolutionists did not approach until morning. Kerensky was therefore able to put through his calls to the front, receiving assurances that reinforcements would be sent at once. He spoke several times to the commandant at the Cossack barracks, who told him soothingly that his men would come as soon as they could saddle their horses.
Toward morning the telephone office was taken, cutting off communication between the palace and the outside world. The cadets put up a spirited fight, assisted by the "telephone young ladies," who hurled inkwells and ledgers at the attackers. The battle was soon over, with no serious casualties. The young ladies, ordered to remain at their posts, expressed their defiance by snarling wires and deliberately creating confusion. Their actions gave the revolutionists more trouble than all the death-defying heroics of the cadets.
Back in the Winter Palace, Kerensky was taking his final decision. Although the city regiments had failed him, he still had faith that a loyal army was on the way from the battle front. He decided to leave his beleaguered palace and go out to meet them.
Contemporary newspaper reports say that Kerensky fled under the protection of the American flag. In his own account of the flight, or departure, as he prefers to call it, Kerensky states that he drove openly through the streets in his own automobile. He tells us that the American ambassador insisted on providing a second car bearing the American flag, but that he never entered the second car or invoked the protection of our flag.
Whatever the circumstances, he did make his way out of the city unhindered. First at Gatchina and then at Pskov he found an indifferent army with no interest in his fate. Eventually he enlisted a single cavalry corps for a futile march on the capital. They were easily dispersed by a detachment of Red forces.
Kerensky himself escaped, disguised as a sailor, and fled abroad. It was the end of his public life, and the end also of the moderate liberalism he represented. For good or evil, Russia had chosen sterner leaders and a new, untried path.
The difficulties that were to beset the new path were not yet apparent. While Kerensky vainly sought aid from the army, the revolution was proceeding at breakneck speed. Of the 200,000 soldiers in and about the capital, not one voiced an objection when the red flag was run up over their barracks. The Winter Palace fell with the first shot--round of blanks--fired by the cruiser Aurora. Red Guards swarmed inside and forcibly removed the girl soldiers. Some of them were roughly handled, but there was only one death, a suicide. The young woman told her companions that her "ideals had been betrayed."
Some cadets and some workers were killed in street fighting, so that it is not quite true to say that the October Revolution was bloodless. But the ten days that saw the Soviet power firmly established witnessed far less bloodshed than any other major revolution in history.
Fantastic though it seems, eyewitnesses agree that the revolution took place so quietly that many Petrograd citizens knew nothing of it until they read their newspapers.
On the night of November 6, while Red sailors patroled the bridge leading to the Winter Palace, a moving picture theater near by drew its normal crowd. Cafes were open and doing business as usual. The worst inconvenience that many people suffered on historic November 7 was the interruption of telephone service.
On that first day, some of the conservative newspapers failed even to report the stirring events of the night. Only the little Bolshevik sheet, Worker and Soldier, carried Lenin's manifesto in full. It was his first message to the Russian people, and it was very brief.
"To the Citizens of Russia," he wrote. "The Provisional Government is overthrown. The cause for which the people have been fighting: the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of the squires' ownership of land, workers' control over production, the formation of a Soviet Government--this cause is guaranteed. Long live the revolution of the soldiers, workers, ahd peasants!"
Lenin scribbled the message in his bare room at Smolny Institute, snatching a moment here and there throughout the fateful night. There is nothing romantic about his part in the revolutionary activities. He carried no gun and stormed no barricades. He sat at a plain kitchen table with a mass of papers before him, receiving reports, dispatching armed men who came for orders, talking into the telephone and dictating to relays of exhausted secretaries.
He had no sleep. His only food was a can of fish shared with him by a soldier. Since he was soon to address the Congress of Soviets, his sister sent him a clean shirt. He gave it to a comrade whose own shirt had been torn from his back in a scuffle before the State Bank.
Late in the afternoon of November 7, Lenin went before the full Congress of Soviets.
The audience, drawn from the far corners of the old Russian empire, was a strange one. Well-dressed city men sat side by side with workers in coarse cotton blouses, soldiers in mud-caked uniforms, peasants with the dust of the fields still upon their birchbark sandals.
The delegates from distant parts had never seen Lenin, but all of them knew of him. On remote farms, in miners' barracks and village inns, they had passed his pamphlets from hand to hand, agreeing in their own slow stolid way with the theses he advanced.
How much these common men of Russia comprehended of Marxian doctrine is uncertain. In his lengthier writings Lenin is subtle and hard to follow without extensive preparation. But his revolutionary leaflets were couched in simpler language, designed to hammer home a few definite points. No man has a right to exploit the labor of another man. The man who toils has a right to the fruits of his toil. When the workers unite, they can cast off their chains. So Lenin wrote, and the people understood and agreed. Now they were to hear from his own lips that the long-promised goal had been reached.
He spoke simply, and without oratorical effects. "We shall now proceed," he began calmly, "to the construction of the socialist order."
He went on to a matter-of-fact outline of things to be done. Land was to be partitioned among the peasants. Factories and mines, banks and utilities were to be taken over by the government. Negotiations were to be opened for an immediate cessation of the war.
This was a practical program for securing the bread, peace, and land the Bolsheviks had promised. The revolution was not twenty-four hours old, but Lenin's only thought was to begin redeeming that promise at once.
The applause that followed, though deafening, was not unanimous. At mention of peace negotiations, most of the Social Revolutionary and Menshevik members rose and angrily stormed out of the meeting.
Tranquilly Lenin watched them go. The time for differences of opinion was past. Henceforward, those who were not the friends of the program must be counted its enemies. To those enemies, even though they called themselves brother socialists, Lenin was to show no mercy.
By the evening of the third day, triumph was assured. Kerensky had fled, the other ministers were under arrest, and the Soviet Congress had declared itself the lawful government.
Trotsky, after a masterful speech before the Congress, went home to bed, leaving Lenin still at his desk.
One by one the lights of Smolny went out. The corridors were deep in mud, where all day long workers had tramped, carrying their problems to the little man who never seemed to tire. Kerosene was needed for the watchmen's lanterns, the typewriters at the telegraph office were out of repair, the telephone girls refused to obey orders. Lenin found a solution to all except the problem of the telephone operators. Until new ones could be trained to take their places, the "telephone young ladies" fought a determined counter-revolution of their own.
Lenin had had no sleep except for brief naps snatched on a mattress on the floor. He had promised Trotsky and the others that tonight he would go home to his sister's house and sleep the night through. He had been making the promise all day, and no doubt he meant to keep it. But at the last minute, something new had come up.
The Winter Palace, once the home of the tsars and later of Minister-President Kerensky, belonged to the people now. After its surrender, the doors were opened to all comers. The curious citizens surged through, gaping at the heavy gilt-framed paintings, sinking their hobnailed boots in the thick French rugs, testing the comfort of the satin sofas. No one stopped them, for did not the people own everything?
This was well enough, but some of the citizens interpreted their ownership literally. By the end of the second day, the palace had been stripped of everything portable, Cakes of soap and embroidered towels, ash trays and small cushions went first. Then two stout housewives between them carried out the feather bed from the tsaritsa's own room. Inspired by their action, other visitors stripped the closets of linen and blankets. In all, articles to the value of $50,000 were carried away.
The news of the looting reached Lenin just as he was ready to go home for his first real rest. He took off his hat and sat down at his desk again. Patiently he drafted a notice for the morning papers. In mild but firm language it explained that the property of all the people was not the property of any one person. He ended with a brief request that "for the honor of the revolution," the articles be returned.
The next day a stream of shamefaced visitors came back to the palace, carrying their loot. More than half of it was returned. Russians say that most of the objects not restored left the country later in the baggage of foreign business men and minor diplomats.
THE REVOLUTION had been won, and the Soviet Government set up. The Mensheviks and other parties were not reconciled, but for the time at least they were powerless. A decree of the Soviet Council officially transformed the Bolsheviki into the Communist Party, a name originally favored by Marx. The other parties were not abolished, but all power was in the hands of the Communists.
Executive authority was vested in a Council of People's Commissars, with Lenin as president. Trotsky was Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Stalin was Commissar in charge of Nationalities. There were eleven other department heads. Two great problems faced the new government. It must end the war, and it must organize the administrative details of a socialist state. Pressing though both were, the securing of peace received first consideration.
On November 20 the commander-in-chief, General Dukhonin, was ordered to enter into peace negotiations with Germany. The general refused, and was replaced by Ensign Krylenko, of the Red Fleet. Krylenko obtained an armistice. On December 13 the peace conference opened at Brest Litovsk. General Hoffmann acted for the Germans, and Trotsky for Russia.
The negotiations dragged on for several months. The first terms offered by the Germans, involving a partial dismemberment of Russia, were fiercely opposed by Trotsky. The final terms were harsher still. By them Russia gave up Poland, Finland, the Baltic states, and the Ukraine. This meant the loss of a third of the country's population, eighty per cent of its iron and coal, and the Black Sea and Baltic ports.
Lenin signed the treaty without reading it. Unlike Trotsky, who sputtered in helpless indignation, he had resigned himself in advance to paying whatever price the conquerors asked. He had promised his people peace. However high the price, peace they should have.
The treaty of Brest Litovsk, ratified by the Soviet Congress on March 15, 1918, ended Russia's participation in WorldWar I. It was a humiliating end, but at least it brought the promised peace. The signing of the treaty left Lenin free for his gigantic task of reconstructing the nation along socialist lines.
The first and most urgent problem was the socializing of industry. Factories, banks, railroads, and every form of business enterprise were to be taken over by the state, with private capital abolished. The shoe factory would no longer operate to pay dividends to its stockholders. Its only purpose now would be to turn out shoes needed by the Russian people. "Production for use, and not for profit," was the new watchword. There would be no more profits to be divided among the owners. There would be, it was hoped, more and better shoes for workers. The stockholders, who sat at home and let their money work for them, could go barefoot or get a useful job.
This was the implacable doctrine Lenin undertook to enforce. "If a man does not work, neither shall he eat," was a favorite quotation of his. To the mass of his followers, born to hard labor and with some bitter experiences behind them, it was a reasonable doctrine. It did not appeal to the middle classes, who took their own way of showing disapproval.
Office and technical workers in the factories had always identified themselves with the employers rather than with the rank and file of labor. They showed their resentment by deliberately sabotaging the work on hand. Office records were lost or falsified. Safe keys were missing. Machinery was put out of action. In one factory, hundreds of men were thrown out of work because a foreman had removed a tiny but essential part from each machine. The less skilled workers, loyally trying to make repairs, did enough damage to prolong the period of idleness for a couple of weeks.
These were only a fraction of the difficulties. Food was scarce, and the black market flourished. Butchers and grocers, ordered to sell at prices fixed by the government, closed their shops. The Council of Commissars had forbidden the manufacture or sale of vodka as an emergency measure, so some of the dispossessed capitalists took up bootlegging.
To deal with all this opposition, the Soviet in December set up the Cheka, an organization modeled after the secret police of tsarist days. It was mild enough in the beginning, meting out fines and light jail sentences. Later, granted the authority for summary execution, it was to become the grim and dreaded arm of vengeance against all accused of counter-revolution.
While Petrograd, the capital, painfully adapted itself to the new way of life, the peasants of the countryside struggled with their own problems. Seizing the landed estates of the great nobles presented no difficulties. The real trouble arose when it came to a division of land. Naturally enough, every farmer wanted the best fields. Rich peasants who already owned land grasped greedily at more, crowding out the poor farm hands who had none.
Returning soldiers, who had brought their carbines with them, were very bitter toward the kulaks, or well-to-do farmers. There were frequent clashes ending in violence. The kulaks aggravated the situation by withholding their grain from local and city markets, preferring to deal with speculators who would pay black-market prices.
Village soviets struggled as best they could with the endless disputes, awarding land according to their own not-infallible judgment. Undoubtedly injustices were done. A constant stream of complaints poured into Petrograd, to be dealt with patiently and thoroughly by Lenin.
He settled some of them by establishing joint ownership, ordering the disputants to work together. This was the germ of the great collective farms which are now so important a feature of Soviet agriculture.
Since so many questions must be referred to the government, local soviets all over the far-flung realm were constantly under the necessity of sending representatives to Petrograd. This involved inconvenience and delay, for Petrograd was not easily accessible. Peter the Great had built his city on the Finnish Gulf as his "window to the west," more concerned with its value as a port than with the convenience of his subjects. It had never been a popular capital.
In March, 1918, the Council of People's Commissars decided to move the seat of government to Moscow. This ancient city, Russia's capital for eight hundred years before Peter, is more centrally located, and its many historical associations make it dear to the Russian people. The change met with universal approval. Petrograd, later renamed Leningrad, remains one of the country's important cities, but the heart of Russia beats behind the Kremlin walls.
ON AN AFTERNOON late in May, 1918, a visitor, laden with packages, entered the Kremlin. To the Red Guard who questioned him he announced himself as Maxim Gorky, calling to see his old friend Lenin.
He was directed through the maze of narrow streets inside the great wall, past ancient palaces and churches, to a tiny three-room flat in one of the rambling old buildings. The hallway was dark, and he did not immediately recognize the weary-faced woman who answered his knock.
"Yes?" she said inquiringly. "You will not find Vladimir Ilyich here, comrade. He is in his office."
Nadezhda had aged under the strain of the past few months, but her voice, unusually rich and sweet, was the same. Gorky set down the bundles that filled his arms and clasped her hands warmly.
"Don't you know me, Comrade Nadezhda? It's Gorky, come to see you both. Long live the revolution! Here, this is for you, and this, and this. I'll just carry them inside."
"It's good to see you, comrade," she said cordially. "Ilyich will be so happy. But what in the world have you brought?"
"Be careful of the bottles. That one is fine French champagne. And here's a ham, and Ilyich's favorite cheese, straight from Switzerland. I made sure of my welcome, you see."
"You would be welcome in any case,"' she told him. "Ilyich will be coming soon. Will you go across to his office or will you wait here?"
"I'll wait here, if I'm not disturbing you," Gorky answered. He glanced toward the big desk, overflowing with papers. "Busy as usual, comrade?"
"As usual," she agreed. She straightened the papers and put a weight on top of them. Then she came to sit on the threadbare sofa beside him.
"it's good to rest a little," she admitted. "I've been up since dawn."
Gorky glanced at her. "You don't look too well, my dear," he said. "I'm afraid that husband of yours is overworking you again. We'll have to put a stop to that."
Nadezhda smiled faintly. "If you can stop him from overworking himself, it will be more to the point. He is driving himself too hard, Maxim."
"He always did," Gorky said comfortably. "Don't worry about Ilyich, Nadezhda. He thrives on hard work. Tell me about yourself. What is this job that keeps you at your desk from dawn to dusk?"
"At the moment it's education." She sat up straight and spoke with more animation. "We had to do something about illiteracy, and do it quickly. How can you have self-government in a country where seventy per cent of the citizens cannot read or write? Our schools can't handle the problem. They're badly disorganized as it is, and they're not set up for adult education. And when would our workers get time to go to school? No, we had to find another way. Ilyich left it to me, and I think--I'm beginning to be sure--that I've found the way."
"Tell me about it."
"Well, it's really very simple." Her tired, rather heavy face sparkled with enthusiasm. "The thirty per cent of our people who can read must teach the others. Children must teach their parents and grandparents. Cripples and invalids can teach. Oh, it won't be scientific pedagogy, I know that. I've been a teacher myself; I know the difference between a trained teacher and an amateur. But we're only asking these volunteers to take the first simple step. By the time our people can read, we'll have our educational program ready. Until they can read, no program can help them. Don't you see? Of all the evils that have afflicted our country, illiteracy is not the least. We must liquidate it, as we are liquidating the other evils of capitalist oppression. We must--wait!"
She jumped up and ran to the desk. Seizing a pen, she made a hasty note.
"'Liquidate your illiteracy!' That's what I've been looking for, a good slogan that everyone can understand. I'll head all my bulletins with it. Well, that's my work at present, Comrade Maxim. I hope you approve of it."
"As a literary man, I'm bound to approve," he laughed. "It fills me with awe to think that from this very room you're creating millions of new readers. Seriously, though, I'm delighted with the idea. There's no reason why it shouldn't work out to everyone's benefit. Ilyich must be very proud of his brilliant wife."
"What's that about my wife?"
Gorky turned as Lenin came through the open door. Even as they shook hands, he was distressed to note how his friend's shoulders stooped, how unhealthily yellow his complexion was and how dull his eyes. Nadezhda's anxious comment, "He drives himself too hard," seemed fully justified.
He threw off his weariness, however, to welcome Gorky.
"It's time you were back! " he exclaimed heartily. "You missed a lot, Maxim, dashing off to London and the continent when we were just getting our Soviet Government in working order. Yes, yes, I know you had lecture commitments. How did your tour go?"
"Not so well," Gorky admitted. "We Russians are not too popular in Allied capitals these days, my friend."
"I suppose not. Well, they'll just have to make the best of us. You're home for good now, I hope? You'll see plenty of changes since you went away. Nadezhda, are you ready to go to dinner? Maxim will join us, of course."
Nadezhda glanced at the packages on the table.
"Our friend has brought us some delicacies from abroad, Ilyich. Ham, and wine, and the Swiss cheese you like. I thought we might have a quiet meal here by ourselves."
Lenin went to the table and delightedly fingered the packages.
'"That was kind of you, Maxim! Swiss cheese, eh? A fine source of nourishment. It will be very welcome at the Military Hospital. I thank you in the name of our wounded soldiers, comrade."
"But, Ilyich--" Nadezhda protested. "After all, these are gifts from a personal friend. Must they go to the hospital? Surely, just this once--"
His smile was gentle but firm. "You know the rule, my dear." He turned to Gorky. "I have my meals in the communal kitchen, with the other government employees. What is good enough for them is good enough for me. Every now and then some well-meaning person, not understanding this, brings me some special food. I deeply appreciate the comradely thought behind it, but I cannot accept it. Our boys in the hospital need it far worse, and to them it goes. You won't take offense, will you, Gorky? It's a rule I've had to make, for my own self-respect."
"Well, if it's your rule, I can say nothing," Gorky answered. "But if I may drop a hint, it's getting on to the dinner hour. This communal kitchen of yours--"
"Our dinner is waiting there. Wait till you see, Maxim! The efficiency, the time and laborsaving, you wouldn't believe. Come along and see it for yourself."
As the others followed him through the long dark passages, he talked enthusiastically of the kitchen's merits. No more wasteful home kitchens, with each family's food bought and prepared and served separately. Instead, by the application of mass-production methods, hundreds might be fed from a single kitchen, with half a dozen women doing the work for all.
Dusk was falling as they crossed a courtyard and entered the dining hall in what had once been a bishop's palace. The great vaulted chamber was impressive still, although it was furnished now with only two long bare tables flanked by rough wood benches. Most of the benches were filled with government clerks, pale young men and shabby young women. They looked up with friendly nods and smiles as Lenin and his party entered, shouting a greeting above the clash of heavy crockery.
Lenin found empty places and sat down, with Nadezhda on one side and Gorky on the other. An awkward boy on the far side sprang up, blushing violently.
"I'll bring your food, Comrade Commissar," he offered.
"No, no, boy, your soup will get cold," Lenin protested. "We'll get it ourselves in a minute. I wanted to present our friend to the company first. Comrades, this is Gorky. You all know his work."
They knew it well. The young faces blossomed into vivid interest as they crowded around him, asking eager questions about his old books and the new one.
While they talked, the first boy slipped off and returned with three bowls of soup. He made a second trip to bring back plates containing greasy hunks of underdone pork, surrounded by a helping of soggy turnips. Great leaves of black bread were already on the table, and a steaming samovar.
The young people went back to their seats, and Gorky took up his spoon. The soup, thin and watery, was lukewarm; the half-cooked beet slices floating in it were hard as wood. Gorky, after a few polite spoonfuls, turned to his plate. The pork, difficult to cut, was almost impossible to chew. The guest drank deeply of the excellent tea and stole a glance at his companions.
Nadezhda was eating her unpalatable soup in slow conscientious sips. Lenin, having finished his, was sawing vigorously at the tough meat. Looking up, he caught Gorky's eye.
"I'm afraid the meat's not so tender as it might be," he apologized.
"It could certainly be tenderer," Gorky said frankly. "And if we're to find fault, the soup could be hotter, too."
"I know, I know." Lenin's face clouded with distress. "It isn't very good, is it? The meal isn't very good. And it should be good. We can't allot the money for fancy dishes, but there's nothing wrong with beet soup and pork and turnips. It must be something they do to them in the kitchen."
Nadezhda laughed. "You've put your finger on it, Ilyich. It certainly is something they do, or don't do, in the kitchen."
"Well, but I can't understand it," Lenin insisted. "We give them good food, the best to be had. All they have to do is to cook it. Why do they want to ruin it? It's not--well, it's simply not efficient. I'm going to get to the bottom of this. Comrade Katya!"
He raised his voice, and a middle-aged woman at the far end of the table turned to him. She was the manager of the lunch room, now settling down to her own meal.
She looked at him with a smile. "Yes, Comrade Ilyich?"
With a glance at the closed kitchen door, Lenin lowered his voice. "Who are the cooks this week, can you tell me?"
"A group of women from the Putilov Iron Works," she answered promptly. "They have pledged their rest days for three months ahead, and donated them to service in the Kremlin kitchen."
"Oh. Well, thank you, Comrade Katya."
Lenin turned helplessly to Gorky. "You see? What can I do? How can I scold them? Day after day they stand at the forge, turning out the tools we need so desperately. The precious rest days they might give to their families they give to us. The soup is watery, the meat is tough. Can I tell them that? Can I say to them, 'Go away. We don't like your cooking. We don't want you.' You're a wise man, Gorky. Tell me what to say to them." Gorky laughed and picked up his knife. "If you say anything, Ilyich, you must thank them for their devotion. Come on, let's eat, and keep our ungrateful criticisms to ourselves."
The young people finished their dinners, carried away their dishes, and quietly returned to the table. Gorky, washing down the last morsel of his pork with strong tea, was conscious that a hush had fallen.
The boy who had served Lenin's party removed the dishes. When he came back, all the diners were on their feet. Lenin had time to whisper, "They like to finish off with a song," when the group burst into the crashing strains of the "Internationale."
Gorky, the tireless traveler, had heard the socialist anthem sung in French and in English and in German. He had heard it sung in trade-union halls, at street meetings, through the bars of prisons. Never, it seemed to him, had it rung more grandly than now, as it echoed through the old bishop's dining room.
The singers had worked all day long at the dull prosaic tasks that have neither glamour nor glory. In crowded airless rooms, bent over switchboards and typewriters and adding machines, they had played their inconsequential parts in the building of a greater Russia. Their day had ended with a tasteless, unsatisfying meal. But their thin, eager faces shone, their drooping shoulders lifted, they stood straight and proud to pour out the challenging words:
"Arise, ye prisoners of starvation,
On and on it swept, gathering strength to the breathtaking finale. Lenin, singing lustily in his unmusical baritone, nudged his friend.
The kitchen door stood open now. Sleeves rolled high on their bare brawny arms, fists clenched, the Amazons of the iron works were singing with their white-collar comrades. They were not good cooks, the Putilov women, but they could sing. Their voices, deep and true, formed almost a masculine bass against the lighter tones of the youngsters as they roared forth the mighty closing lines:
"'Tis the last final conflict,
THE YEARS 1918 and 1919 were crucial ones. Opposition to the Soviet Government, still strong in the other parties, was supported by high-ranking army officers who had large military units under their command. These forces, stationed far from Moscow on what had been the war fronts, received encouragement from Russia's late allies.
Britain, France, America, and Japan were still at war against Germany in 1918. Russia's separate peace treaty seemed to them an act of desertion. Kerensky had promised to continue the war, so naturally enough the Allies felt that the overthrow of his government was a catastrophe. When they realized that many Russians shared his view, they dreamed of another revolution which would bring the liberals back into power. They sent money and arms and, later, their own military forces, to bring about that revolution.
Some of the Russian generals were monarchists, so that there were plans afoot also for a restoration of the throne. The Allies preferred a republic, but they considered anything better than a socialist state. The monarchist generals were not discouraged in their aspirations.
Inside Russia there was a considerable number of Czechoslovak soldiers, taken prisoner while serving in the Austrian army. These men had professed themselves anxious to fight on the Allied side, with the promise that their country would be given its freedom from Austria. The tsarist government had rearmed them for this purpose, but had not yet sent them to the front.
When Lenin concluded peace with Germany, he ordered the Czechs to lay down their arms. Transportation out of Russia was to be arranged, by way of Siberia.
The Czechoslovaks did not disarm. Instead, they overthrew the Soviet governments in the Volga region and seized possession of the Trans-Siberian railroad. Some of the Czech officers in Siberia proclaimed their intention of rescuing Nicholas and his family and restoring the tsar to his throne.
Whether there was any serious intention behind this, or whether it was merely the idle boasting of a few young officers, can never be known. Granting that the threat was genuine, the rescue part at least would not have been difficult.
The imperial family, by Kerensky's orders, had been removed to Siberia. After the October Revolution they were sent to Ekaterinburg in the Urals, the point where the Siberian railway enters western Russia. There they were lodged comfortably in the country home of the merchant Ipatiev. Neither Kerensky nor Lenin had made any final plans for their fate, although Kerensky had hoped that eventually they might be sent to England. It is doubtful whether Lenin, with a million more pressing problems to decide, ever gave them a thought.
Ekaterinburg, gateway to Siberia, had many former prisoners and sons of prisoners among its citizens. These men had good reason to hate the Romanovs. Nevertheless, they accepted the presence of the captive family calmly enough. There had been no hostile demonstrations. Since the prisoners were not allowed to leave the house on the outskirts of Ekaterinburg, most of the townspeople had never seen them.
With the news of the planned rescue, the situation changed abruptly. Admiral Kolchak, presumed to be a monarchist, had set up an opposition government in the Siberian town of Omsk. The Czechoslovak legions were known to be in contact with him.
To the Ekaterinburg soviet, hurriedly assembled to take counsel together, it seemed that they faced a real danger, both grave and immediate. They had no forces to resist an armed raid. They were afraid to postpone action, when the raid might come at any moment.
The action they took was to pronounce a sentence of death upon the imperial family. It was carried out the same night by a few armed men. Nicholas and his wife, the four daughters, and the little boy were shot in the cellars of Ipatiev's house.
So perished the last of the tsars. The suddenness of the execution shocked the outside world, but it excited little comment in Russia. The news was brought to Lenin as he was presiding over a meeting of the People's Commissars. He read aloud, "Nicholas Romanov and his family have been executed by order of the Ekaterinburg soviet," laid the dispatch aside, and proceeded with the regular order of business.
No inquiry was made into the action of the provincial soviet, nor was its authority ever questioned. Lenin's great difficulty was to induce citizens, long barred from any participation in their government, to take responsibility. The Ekaterinburg soviet might have acted hastily, but at least it had acted, effectually removing the peril of a monarchist restoration. This development of initiative was more important in Lenin's eyes than the lives of the ill-starred Romanovs.
His insistence on the use of power by the people is a characteristic that sets Lenin apart from most of the world's great leaders. Unlike so many of them, he had absolutely no wish to wield power for his personal gratification. His whole philosophy was against one-man rule, however wise and beneficent.
He knew that in the use of power the people would make mistakes and commit injustices. This did not seem important to him, since a beginning has to be made, and beginners always make mistakes. In the Civil War that was now shaping up, in the difficult years of reconstruction that were to follow, mistakes piled themselves one upon the other. The outside world blamed Lenin for them, and he accepted the blame with indifference. He had shown the people how to take power in their own hands, and now he was teaching them to use it. In that, he was quietly confident, he made no mistake.
The Civil War, threatening from the early days of the revolution, broke out in earnest as World War I drew to its close. In Moscow and Petrograd young men of the middle classes formed themselves into White Guards, arming and drilling as the Red Guards had done before them. There were Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries among them, but the nucleus was the young aristocrats who had been cadets at the military schools. The old idea of revolution by the assassination of key figures was revived. Plots for Lenin's murder were hatched, and one of them narrowly escaped success.
On Friday, August 30, 1918, Lenin went alone to a meeting of workers at the Michelson factory. He was returning to his car when a girl stepped from the sidewalk and fired three shots. Two of them hit him.
He fell, but staggered to his feet. He was taken home, where it was found that one bullet had pierced his lung, while the other was imbedded in his throat. The surgeons removed the bullet from his lung, but could not extract the second one. They ordered a month's rest in bed. He went to bed for a week or two, but was up again for a meeting of the Central Committee on September 16.
The would-be assassin was Dora Kaplan, a young woman of the Social Revolutionary Party. The Cheka, the revolution's secret police, investigated and found that the plot was widespread, planning the murder of all the important Soviet officials. The Cheka crushed the conspiracy with ruthless severity. Hundreds of persons were arrested, and an unknown number of them were executed after a secret trial.
This was the beginning of the "Red Terror," which for years to come was to guard the new Soviet state with bloody efficiency. It showed no mercy to suspected counter-revolutionaries.
Again Lenin did not interfere. He had charged the Cheka with the duty of defending the government against its domestic enemies. Its members, chosen with great care and believed to be trustworthy, were assumed to know how to recognize guilt when they saw it. Undoubtedly, they made their mistakes, although the number of innocent persons who suffered at their hands is probably exaggerated. There were plenty of the boastfully defiant guilty to engage their attention. The ordinary citizen who stuck to his job and kept a reasonably quiet tongue had little to fear from the dreaded Cheka.
While the secret police dealt with enemies within, the menace of enemies without became even greater.
The end of World War I in November, 1918, left Russia's late allies free to deal with a situation which they considered a threat to civilization. The existence of a Marxian state in Europe seemed to them the gravest possible danger. It was well known that Karl Marx had advocated an international revolution of the working classes. Before the flames of revolution could spread to their own countries, they were anxious to put out the fire in Soviet Russia.
The Allies were in earnest about their fire-fighting. The British sent an expeditionary force to Murmansk. British and Americans together occupied Archangel. The Japanese seized Vladivostok. A second American force, transferred from the Philippines, established bases in four Siberian ports. The alleged purpose of these landings was to protect supplies sent to all these port cities earlier in the war, for the use of the tsarist army.
The leader of the American Siberian expedition, Major General Graves, carried with him a personal note from President Wilson. It instructed him to assist the Czechoslovakian forces in Siberia, to guard American supplies consigned to the former imperial government, to aid in keeping the Trans-Siberian railway open, and to maintain order, but to "take no part in Russian internal politics."
The foreign forces played a relatively small part in the Civil War that raged from May, 1918 to November, 1920. Except for the Czechoslovaks, most of the fighting was done by Russians making up the so-called White Armies and commanded by high officers of the old General Staff.
It is generally admitted, however, that the White Armies received munitions, money, guest officers, and some planes and tanks from the Allied strongholds. In the port cities occupied by the Allies, local governments were overthrown, commerce was destroyed, customs and taxes were collected by the Soviet's enemies. This assistance, while not military, strengthened the White side.
The White leaders were General Denikin and Admiral Kolchak, experienced men with good combat records. Baron Wrangel, with the help of the French, joined the struggle toward the end. No figures are available on the actual strength of the White Armies, but it was considerable.
Both Finland and Poland had broken their old ties with Russia. They had been recognized as independent nations by the Soviet Government shortly after the October Revolution. The treaty of Brest Litovsk gave the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to Germany, along with the Ukraine. Germany's defeat nullified the treaty, and the small states proclaimed their independence, with Allied backing.
The Civil War began on the fringes of the old empire, in the Baltic states and the Ukraine. The White Armies advanced inland, deposing local soviets as they came. At the same time the Czechs and Admiral Kolchak were occupying a large part of Siberia. From every direction, Moscow was hemmed in by encircling enemies.
To meet this danger, the Bolshevik Party began the creation of the Red Army in 1919. Thousands of young men answered the first call, but it soon became apparent that a horde of enthusiastic volunteers would be useless. Russia, looked upon with suspicion and distrust by the entire civilized world, must arm herself in such might that she could answer any challenge.
The volunteer system, therefore, was abolished and conscription ordered. The only skilled officers were holdovers from the tsarist days. Among those of higher rank, loyalty to the new regime was not to be taken for granted. Accordingly, it was necessary to institute a system of political commissars, men whose job it was to see that the officers faithfully carried out their duties.
The only dependable leaders from the old army were former junior or non-commissioned officers. Budyenny, who created the first cavalry corps and "put the revolution on horseback," was an ex-sergeant. Other officers were old Bolsheviks, veterans of street fighting, who brought courage and ingenuity to take the place of formal military training. Red-Guard officers from the factory units found themselves commanding divisions.
Lenin had hoped, with the ending of the German war, that the factories could be converted to peace-time uses, turning out the civilian goods so urgently needed. This was not to be, even for a brief breathing spell.
Again every effort must be concentrated on the grim necessities of war, with guns coming before butter and military boots taking precedence over baby shoes. Lenin went from factory to factory, patiently explaining that the revolution must still fight for its life. The weary workers, listening to the voice they trusted, obediently turned again to their machines.
By one of those miracles that history can never quite explain, the Red Army was victorious on every front. The peasants in the White Armies did not fight so furiously as their officers desired, and the Allied generals hesitated at large-scale participation. But Denikin, within striking distance of Moscow, commanded a force many times greater than that of ex-sergeant Budyenny and had tanks and machine guns to oppose to Soviet bayonets. Budyenny turned him back and scattered his army in wild disorder. The Allies, taking their time about it, withdrew from the ports and concentrated on building up anti-Communist sentiment in the world at large as a safeguard against the spread of revolutionary flames.
The Civil War ended in victory for the Soviets. It was followed without pause by another brief war in which Poland was the antagonist.
The Poles, secure in their new independence, were not satisfied with their Russian border. They undertook to take by force the sections they considered theirs. They moved into Kiev under Marshal Pilsudski. The Red Army attempted an ill-advised march on Warsaw and tasted the bitterness of defeat. The Peace of Riga thus gave Poland territory which again became a matter of dispute in later years.
By November, 1920, the Civil War and the Polish War were both at an end. Three years had passed since the setting up of the Soviet Government. The Western nations, still uneasily suspicious of the "Communist menace," had turned their backs on Russia, leaving her to work out her own destiny. With high hopes Lenin felt himself free at last to build the house whose foundation had been laid at such tremendous cost.
ONE OF THE SOCIALIST MEASURES that added to Russia's unpopularity abroad was the disestablishment of the state religion.
The Russian Orthodox Church, supported by taxation, had been a department of the tsarist government. All marriages were performed under its auspices, and although divorce was forbidden, the Church could grant annulment under certain circumstances. Births and deaths were recorded not by any civil authority, but on the baptismal and burial registers of the parish churches.
The Church, with its vast network of schools and monasteries, was a landowner on an immense scale. The wealth of the great city cathedrals, represented by jeweled sacramental vessels and priestly vestments, was tremendous. Lenin, when he conceived of turning the national wealth to the service of all the people, did not except the wealth of the Church.
One of the earliest decrees of the Council of People's Commissars provided for civil marriage and divorce, and for a government bureau of vital statistics. By making the citizen independent of the Church in these important matters, a serious blow was dealt to ecclesiastical power.
Greater blows were soon to follow. Landed estates belonging to religious orders were seized and divided among the peasants, in the same way that the land of the nobles was divided. It was proclaimed that no more tax money would be devoted to the upkeep of churches. In every parish, the local church would depend upon voluntary contributions. If the congregation did not support it, it would be closed.
To Lenin's mind there was ample justification for these harsh measures. The Orthodox Church was stoutly monarchist, devoted to the old order of almighty tsar, powerful noble, and submissive peasant. Long before the revolution the Metropolitan of Moscow had pronounced a decree of excommunication against all members of the Bolshevik party.
Even Kerensky's mild reforms had earned him the condemnation of churchly authorities. Kornilov had a bishop's blessing on his attempt to establish a military dictatorship, and General Denikin's White Army was similarly blessed. The Church was uncompromisingly against the revolution, or against any change that would take away its ancient powers and privileges.
Lenin saw no reason to give the Church any special consideration. His idol, Marx, was opposed to religion, but even without his influence the boy Ilyich is not likely to have grown into a religious man. Like a scar on his soul was always the memory of Father Stepan, the trusted family pastor back in Simbirsk who had failed his mother in her hour of need.
However, it is not true that he abolished the practice of religion in the Soviet Union. Wherever people valued their spiritual welfare enough to pay a pastor's salary and other expenses out of their own pockets, their church remained open to them.
European critics, falsely charging that Lenin had suppressed religion, made another charge which was true, and which seemed to them even more shocking. Granting to believers the right to believe as their consciences dictated, he also declared the right of others not to believe at all.
This right is guaranteed by our own American constitution, which provides that no religious qualification shall be demanded of any man aspiring to office. By implication, at least, it is a right guaranteed by all democratic governments that proclaim freedom of conscience. What the Russians did to horrify the world was to encourage the exercise of this right.
Anti-religious societies were organized. They were given quarters in closed churches. They were allowed to do "missionary work" among the younger generation, a privilege not given to the Church. Undoubtedly they received many favors denied to the religious organizations.
Lenin's "godlessness," sometimes denied or glossed over by Russia's foreign friends, is an undeniable fact. His own religion was the service of his fellow man. He did not feel the need of any other, and he did not see why anyone else should do so.
In this attitude it is clear now that he failed to take into account the deep religious impulse of the Russian people. The revival of religion in the Soviet Union, accelerated by the tragic events of World War II, proves that it has never truly died. The artificial structure of a domineering Church, rich and greedy for special privilege, has been swept away. In its place the ancient Orthodox faith stands as it was meant to stand, a beacon to light man's upward path. Those who will may travel by its gleam. Those who reject it may do so without blame. Surely Lenin, whose great heart asked only that every man should be free to fulfil the best that is in him, would be well content.
Lenin may have misjudged the spiritual needs of his people, but he was fully awake to their material plight. The situation, at the end of 1920, was fairly desperate. According to his plan, the finished products of the factories would flow to the farms, which in exchange would send food to the cities. The Civil War wrecked that plan. It kept the factories turning out weapons, not civilian goods. The peasants, unable to exchange their grain for the manufactured articles they needed, sold it to the black market or hoarded it against a better day.
Lenin's mind went back to his early days in Samara. Then, as now, famine swept the land. Then, as now, the wealthy farmers hoarded their grain and callously watched the poor starve. Ulyanov, the young lawyer of Samara, had not been able to do anything about it. People's Commissar Lenin was in a somewhat different position. He forbade all private trade in grain, restricting its sale to the government. Committees were sent into the countryside to buy up the hoarded stocks at fixed prices. If the peasants refused to sell, the grain was taken by force.
In spite of all efforts, millions died in the desperate famine years of 1920-21. It was a tragic period, when to many it must have seemed that their bright hopes had betrayed them. Yet through it all Lenin never lost confidence. There would be difficulties, he had written long ago. Now the difficulties were upon him, and with high-hearted courage he set himself to overcome them.
In 1921 he put into effect the New Economic Plan, as a means of obtaining better distribution of civilian goods. The plan restored private business, with its accompaniment of profit-making, to a rigidly limited extent. It did not apply to industry, the railroads, or foreign trade, but only to distribution of manufactured products at home. Some of Lenin's associates condemned the plan as a return to capitalism. Their condemnation left him unmoved. If non-socialist methods would benefit the socialist state, Lenin saw no reason not to avail himself of them.
The plan served its purpose. The corner was turned, and slowly but hearteningly the economic life of the country revived. The collective farms began to flourish, sending an ever-increasing flow of food to the cities. Foreign technical experts were imported to help bring factory methods up to date. The production of electric power was stepped up, and plans were drawn for huge dams to tap the energy of Russia's mighty rivers. Railroads and highways were repaired and extended. There was so much work to be done, so many willing hands to do it!
The Russian people, as their overlords had always known, are tireless workers. Now, for the first time, they were given a sense of pride in their work, some public acknowledgment of its value. The tsar had conferred ribboned medals upon his generals. The Soviet state decorated its workers, the man who turned out an unprecedented number of motor parts, or the woman who made her plot yield more sweet potatoes than ever before.
It was a new system, the foundation stone of which was the individual's self-respect. No matter how lowly the nature of a man's work, if he did it surpassingly well he was entitled to hold his head high.
Hand in hand with this new recognition of the dignity of labor went labor's newly acquired rights. A man who works has a right to health, to restful diversion, to the world's beauty. City palaces were turned into hospitals. Never again, Lenin had vowed, must a husband walk the streets, as he himself had done, wondering how to scrape together the doctor's fee to save his wife from certain death. The best doctors the Soviet Union could train were at the service of all the Soviet people.
Half the state-trained medical students were women. From the first Lenin was insistent that women take their place in the community life on terms of full equality. No occupation of any kind was barred to a girl if she chose it and had the capacity for it. This was contrary to the old custom, where only the direst poverty could send a woman out to work. By admitting women to all occupations, Lenin tapped a new reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. The women of the Soviet Union have played a proud part in the building of their country.
Provision was made also for rest and recreation. In and about the cities the great estates of the nobles, with their acres of private grounds, were turned into public parks. In the mild South Crimean climate, where the aristocrats had gone to benefit from the sea air, vacation resorts were opened. A grand duke's villa was turned into a home for tubercular children. A princess's private bathing beach swarmed with automobile mechanics and their families.
The best that nature could offer was not too good for the proletariat, and neither was the best in art. The tsars had assembled some very choice collections of books and paintings. These were now on display in dozens of museums and libraries, with guides to explain them. The Russian Ballet, long the pride of court circles, gave its performances now to work-worn men and women and eager children. Opera and the symphony orchestras played to enormous crowds.
This sudden flood of culture must have bewildered some of the older workers, but they responded gallantly. What if the symphony did not quite make sense to some tired old grandmother? It was pleasant to lean back in the red velvet seats of the nobles, and it was sheer delight to watch the faces of the young ones.
They knew what it was supposed to mean, this strange, violent music. They were taught about such things. They didn't have to go to work as apprentices when they were seven, beaten and kicked about till they grew up stupid and fearful. No, these children went to school, and not to work at all yet. They went to school, just as if they were lords' sons.
Such things they learned there, too! Even an old woman who couldn't be so stupid as people had always said, for hadn't she Liquidated her Illiteracy at the age of sixty-five? Even she couldn't begin to make sense of the books they brought home.
There was nothing they couldn't learn, these Soviet children. Well, look at the start they'd had! They'd never had to fight for the common things, decent food and shelter and not to be kicked around. They never would have to fight for those blessings, the revolution had seen to that. They could spend their lives, these children, in learning and making and doing all sorts of new things. Things the old ones couldn't even imagine.
It hadn't been easy, the revolution. No, say what you will, it hadn't been easy. Take a country with the tsar on fop, and the nobles up there with him, turn it upside down and put the common people on top--you don't do that with a wave of your hand. But whatever it cost, you only had to look around you, to look into the faces of the Soviet children as the music swelled, and you knew it was worth every tear and every drop of blood. Yes, and worth them all a hundred times over.
DORA KAPLAN'S SECOND BULLET, lodged in Lenin's throat and never removed, troubled him from time to time. In the spring of 1922 Nadezhda persuaded him to have it extracted. It was a fairly simple operation, performed in a Moscow hospital. For his convalescence he went to a state farm at the village of Gorky, not far from the capital.
The farm was the converted estate of Morosov, textile king of the late nineteenth century and reputed to have been a billionaire. He had hired an Italian architect to build his country home, a very handsome villa in the flowery Italian style.
Having made his billions by merciless exploitation of sweated labor, Mr. Morosov succumbed in later life to pangs of conscience and worked out a tentative plan for sharing some of his profits with the workers. His brothers, partners in the business, immediately concluded that he must be mad and took steps to have him shut up as a lunatic. The unhappy gentleman proved the theory to their satisfaction by shooting himself in his new country house.
The broad Morosov acres were now cultivated by ex-factory workers who had come from the land and wished to return to it. The little town was a model village. It was the first to have electric power; there was a good school, and the primitive huts were being replaced by modern cottages. Lenin delighted in the place. Some day, he hoped, all the rural villages would be like Gorky.
He recovered quickly from his operation, but a little later he suffered a slight apoplectic stroke. His doctors took a more serious view of it than he did. They told him he must not work, he must not even think. This seemed to him as silly as it was impossible.
He did consent to move permanently to the Gorky farm, where living conditions were pleasanter than in the crowded Kremlin. But more often than not, working late at the office, he slept in his old bed, going to the country home only for week ends.
A second stroke in December, 1922 paralyzed his right arm and leg. He was forced to slow down, but he still refused to give up his work. He dictated innumerable articles, in one of which he predicted World War II, called by Russians the Patriotic War. His mind was as keen, his decisions as firm as ever, but the responses of his worn-out body were a little slower and more painful every day.
On May 9, 1923 came another attack, at his office. This one deprived him of speech. Nadezhda and his sisters carried him off to Gorky. Through the long months that followed they nursed him with anguished tenderness. In painful left-handed scrawls he communicated with them, cheerful and hopeful as always. He was sure he would be better soon, sure that he would not die. Not yet, while there was so much work to be done.
In the summer he was better. Speech came back for a little while. He was able to see visitors, and even to spend a few hours at his desk in Moscow. Someone told him that Martov, his one-time friend and later enemy, was dying. He wept a little and spoke gently of the early days when Martov and he had dreamed young men's dreams together.
At Christmas of 1923 he helped trim a tree for the farm children. Hobbling on crutches, he went to meet the little guests, his kind smile taking the place of the greetings he could no longer speak. His sister Anyuta, sitting beside him as the gifts were given out, noticed how he watched the children, his eyes delighting in the straight strong limbs, the rosy faces and bright eyes. Lenin, who was childless, loved all children. These youngsters of the new era, born to a better life than their fathers had known, were Lenin's children, his heritage to the world.
The little ones of Gorky loved their Uncle Ilyich dearly. At the Christmas party they saw him in life for the last time.
On the morning of January 22, 1924 the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met in regular session with Kalinin presiding. Anxious whispers were already flying about the city, but no one knew anything for certain. The delegates looked gravely at each other as they took their places.
Kalinin was late. The assembly hour was long past, but still the dais remained empty. Another curious thing: the red banner that usually hung behind the speaker's desk was missing.
As the delegates waited, shuffling their feet, impatient and uneasy, the tones of the great organ pealed forth. The organist was not playing the "Internationale," with which the sessions usually opened. These were the sorrowful opening bars of the "Red Funeral Hymn."
The dearly-loved "Internationale" was, after all, of French origin. The "Red Hymn," written for early victims of tsarist tyranny, is thoroughly Russian in feeling and expression. The bitter, realistic words speak of horrible prisons, of exile in chains, yet they sound a high clear note of unquenchable hope and courage, of ultimate triumph. Such words, set to matchless music, are weapons. It had not been for nothing that the reactionary police tried to stop the "Red Hymn" when the martyrs of the February Revolution had been laid in their cold Brotherhood Grave.
In the hall of the Soviet Congress, the music, falteringly begun, died as President Kalinin stepped to the platform. Behind him two red-eyed boys carried the red flag, now deeply bordered in black. Kalinin motioned for silence, and they held their breaths.
"Comrades," he began, "I bring you terrible news. Yesterday afternoon our dear comrade Vladimir Ilyich suffered a fourth stroke and died in the arms of Comrade Nadezhda. Lenin is dead."
The music rang out suddenly, majestically. It drowned the gasps of dismay and the broken sobbing. A peasant woman from the Caucasus, sturdy and erect in her bright country costume, was first to take up the words. "You fell in the fatal fight," she chanted softly. "For the liberty of the people, for the honor of the people. You gave up your life and everything dear to you. ... Because you believed that justice is stronger than the sword." One by one breaking voices took it up.
"The time will come when your surrendered life will count!"
"That time is near. .. ."
"Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path."
"You are followed by the new and fresh army ready to suffer and to die. .. ."
"Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path!"
The last words died away in frenzied sobbing. Kalinin, tears running down his broad peasant face, his voice cracked and hoarse, gave the word for adjournment.
They brought Lenin to Moscow, to the House of Columns which had once been the Nobles' Club. There, in the great white hall, its walls decked with lilies and green fir branches, Lenin lay for four days and nights, that all Russia might come and take leave of him.
From the far corners of the wide land they came, bringing their offerings with them. It was winter, and flowers were hard to come by, but they brought him wreaths of golden wheat, and steel wreaths hammered out in Soviet factories. Day and night the long lines stood silently in the streets outside, waiting their turn to file past the casket, to look their last and whisper, "Comrade, good-by." The cold in the streets was fearful. On the first day the thermometer registered eighteen degrees below zero. On the fifth day, when Lenin was borne to his tomb by the Kremlin wall, it was thirty-eight below. Great piles of logs burned day and night on the street corners. A swirling wind piled snow drifts about the feet of the cavalry horses and coated the honor guard who sat motionless in their saddles. Well over a million mourners passed quietly into the House of Columns, to come out again white-faced and desolate.
The service at the red tomb was simple and soon over. A few chosen comrades bore the casket. Nadezhda, quiet and self-contained as always, carried a small black-bordered red flag her little niece had stitched for her.
She had looked her last on the beloved face the night before. All her tears were shed. Now, with the serene courage that never failed her, she looked into the faces of the people and squared her weary shoulders for new burdens. Ilyich was gone, but she was still here. And, as he would have been the first to remind her, there was work to be done.