Friday, August 12, 2005

Trotsky's 'Stalin' Chap 12 The Road to Power

Chapter 12
The Road to Power.

Part One: Lenin moves to remove Stalin

[Early in 1923 it6 had become clear to the top leaders cognizant of the political situation that Stalin was literally packing the forthcoming Twelfth Congress, the highest authority in the Party, with delegates unswervingly loyal to him personally. Lenin became so alarmed by this trend of affairs that he] summoned me to his room in the Kremlin, spoke of the frightful growth of bureaucratism in our Soviet apparat [Note: The Communist word for political machine – C.M.] and of the need to find a solution for the problem. He suggested a special commission of the Central Committee and asked me to take an active part in it. I replied:

“Vladimir Ilyich, I am convinced that in the present fight against bureaucratism in the Soviet apparat we must no lose sight of what is going on: a very special selection of officials and specialists, Party members and non-partisans, in the Center and in the provinces, even for district and local Party offices, is taking place on the basis of loyalty to certain dominant Party personalities and ruling groups inside the Central Committee itself. Every time you attack a minor official, you run up against an important Party leader . . . I could not undertake the work under present circumstances.”

Lenin was thoughtful for a moment and –I am quoting him literally –said: “In other words, I am proposing a campaign against bureaucratism in the Soviet apparat and you are proposing to extend the fight to include the bureaucratism of the Party’s Orgburo?”

I laughed at the very unexpectedness of this, because no such finished formulation of the idea was in my mind at the time. I replied: “I suppose that’s it.”

“Very well, then,” Lenin retorted, “I propose a bloc.”

“It is a pleasure to form a bloc with a good man,” I said.

It was agreed that Lenin would initiate the proposal for this commission of the Central Committee to fight bureaucratism “in general” and in the Orgburo in particular. He promised to think over “further” organizational details of the matter. On that we parted. Two weeks passed. Lenin’s health became worse. Then his secretaries brought me his notes and letter on the national question. For months he was prostrate with arteriosclerosis and nothing could be done about our bloc against the bureaucratism of the Orgburo. Obviously, Lenin’s plan was directed against Stalin, although his name was not mentioned; it was in line with the train of thought Lenin expressed explicitly in his Testament.

[If by that time Stalin had the Central Control Commission, the Orgburo and the Secretariat in his grip, Zinoviev still held the plurality in the Politburo and in the Central Committee, by virtue of which he was the leading member of the triumvirate. The contest between him and Stalin, tacit and hidden by nonetheless vehement, was for the majority at the forthcoming Congress. Zinoviev had complete control of the Leningrad organization and his part Kamenev of the Moscow organization. These two most important Party centers needed only the support of a few other large Party centers to secure a majority of the Congress. This majority was necessary for the election of a Central Committee and the ratification of resolutions favorable to Zinoviev. But Zinoviev failed to secure that majority; most of the Party organizations outside of Leningrad and Moscow proved to be under the firm control of the General Secretary.

[Nevertheless Zinoviev was foolhardy enough to insist on taking Lenin’s place at the Twelfth Congress and assumed the role of Lenin’s successor by delivering the Political Report at its opening session. During the preparations for the Congress, with Lenin ill and unable to attend,] the most ticklish question was who should deliver this keynote address, which since the founding of the Party had always been Lenin’s prerogative. When the subject was broached in the Politburo, Stalin was the first to say, “The Political Report will of course be made by Comrade Trotsky.”

I did not want that, since it seemed to me equivalent to announcing my candidacy for the role of Lenin’s successor at a time when Lenin was fighting a grave illness. I replied approximately as follows: “This is an interim. Let us hope that Lenin will soon get well. In the meantime the report should be made, in keeping with his office, by the General Secretary. That will eliminate all grounds for idle speculations. Besides, you and I have serious differences on economic questions, and I am in the minority.”

“But suppose there were to be no differences?” Stalin asked, letting me understand that he was ready to go far I making concessions, i.e., to conclude a rotten compromise.

Kalenin intervened in this dialogue. “What differences?” he asked. “Your proposals always pass through the Politburo.”

I continued to insist on Stalin making the report.

“Under no circumstances,” he replied with demonstrative modesty. “The Party will not understand it. The report must be made by the most popular member of the Central Committee.”

[The matter was finally decided by Zinoviev’s majority in the Central Committee. That made it clearer to every Party member that Zinoviev was Lenin’s successor as head of the Party. With the delegates he controlled and the majority controlled by his junior partner in the triumvirate, he had every reason to expect an ovation the moment he appeared on the rostrum in the role of Number One Bolshevik to deliver the Political Report. But the General Secretary double-crossed his fellow-triumvir: Zinoviev was not greeted by the customary applause. He delivered his keynote address in virtually oppressive silence. The verdict of the delegates was clear: in this new role Zinoviev was an usurper.

[The Twelfth Congress, which lasted for the week between April 17 and 25, 1923 raised Stalin from junior to senior partnership of the triumvirate. Zinoviev’s plurality in the Central Committee and the Politburo were destroyed. Stalin gained control of both. But his most important achievement at the Twelfth Congress was I the Central Control Commission and the network of provincial control commissions. At the Eleventh Congress Stalin had become the secret boss of the Central Control Commission; the majority of its members were his men. But the provincial, county and local control commissions, many of them elected before he became General Secretary, were beyond his control. Stalin tackled the problem in characteristic fashion. On one pretext or another, cases subject to the jurisdiction of hostile control commissions and involving the interests of Stalin’s political machine were transferred for hearing wherever possible to the Central Control Commission; moreover, whenever it could be done without attracting too much notice, on one or another pretext, a number of hostile control commissions were simply abolished by the Central Control Commission. This, supplemented by organized conniving at provincial and regional conferences of the control commissions, produced fruitful results.

[The Party Collegium, made up of Central Control Commission members and especially created at this Congress to “try” and “liquidate” oppositionists, was made up entirely of Stalinists. The membership of the Central Control Commission itself was raised from 7 to 50, with 10 alternates –more high-placed offices with which to reward the faithful. Moreover, the new definitions of its functions and its actual activities transformed the Central Control Commission into a special OGPU for Communist Party members.

[Having suffered defeat at the Twelfth Congress, Zinoviev tried to recoup his political fortunes by a deal with the top leaders. He wavered between two plans: (1) to reduce the Secretariat to its former status as a subsidiary of the Politburo, by depriving it of its self-aggrandized appointive powers; and (2) to “politicize” it, which meant establishing a special collegium of three members of the Politburo within it as its highest authority, these three to be Stalin, Trotsky and either Kamenev, Bukharin or Zinoviev. Some such combination, he felt, was indispensable to offset Stalin’s undue influence.

[He initiated his conferences on the matter in a cave new Kislovodsk, a famous Caucasian watering place, in September, 1923. Voroshilov, who was in Rostov at the time, received a telegraphic invitation form Zinoviev to attend. So did Stalin’s friend Ordzhonikidze. The others present were Zinoviev, Bukharin, Lachevich and Evdokimov. Zinoviev, who wrote down a summary of the views expressed at that conference in a letter addressed to Stalin and personally given by him to his best friend Ordzhonikidze for delivery to the addressee, revealed that:

Comrade Stalin . . . replied with a telegram in a coarse but friendly tone . . . Some time later he arrived and . . . we had several conversations. Finally it was decided that we would not touch the Secretariat, but, in order to coordinate organizational work with political activities, we wou8ld place three members of the Politburo in the Orgburo. This not very practical suggestion was made by Comrade Stalin, and we agreed to it . . . The three members of the Politburo were Comrades Trotsky, Bukharin and I. I attended the sessions of the Orgburo, I think, once or twice, Comrades Bukharin and Trotsky did not come even once. Nothing came of it all . . .

[Actually, all the hopeful Zinoviev had to do was to attend one or two meetings of the Orgburo, to realize the hopelessness of anyone not a member of the Stalin machine trying to “crash the gate” there; Trotsky and Bukharin had at least the foresight and imagination to stay away.

[Meantime, the revolutionary situation in Germany had come to a head. But the triumvirs and their allies in the Politburo were still too busy undermining the prestige of the over-popular Comrade Trotsky and knifing each other, to give more than an occasional perfunctory glance to the paramount problem of world revolution. The German comrades had standing order to work the level of the United Front tactic to the limit. Then Zinoviev convoked the enlarged Executive of the Comintern in Moscow, and from June 12th to the 24th the leaders of World Communism talked revolution.

[The desperate German masses –fifteen million of them in the towns, seven million of them in the country – backed the German section of the Comintern. But with Lenin paralyzed and speechless, with Trotsky hamstrung by Party discipline and rendered politically impotent by his isolation in the Politburo, the Comintern leaders in Moscow had nothing to say to the Communist leaders of Germany. No orders came through and nothing happened. During the fateful August of 1923, Stalin wrote the following lines to Zinoviev (the head of the Communist International) and Bukharin (the officially-acknowledged “chief theoretician of Communist after Lenin”)]:

Should the Communists at the present stage try to seize power without the Social-Democrats? Are they sufficiently ripe for that? That, in my opinion, is the question. When we seized power, we had in Russia such resources in reserve as (a) the promise of peace; (b) the slogan: the land to the peasants; (c) the support of the great majority of the working class; and (d) the sympathy of the peasantry. At the moment the German Communists have nothing of the kind. They have of course a Soviet country as neighbor, which we did not have; but what can we offer them? . . . Should the government in Germany topple over now, in a manner of speaking, and the Communists were to seize hold of it, they would end up in a crash. That is the “best” case. While at worst, they will be smashed to smithereens and thrown away back. The whole point is not that Brandler wants to “educate the masses” but that the bourgeoisie plus the Right Wing Social-Democrats is bound to turn such lessons –the demonstration – into a general battle (at present the odds are on their side) and exterminate them [the German Communists]. Of course the Fascists are not asleep; but it is to our advantage to let them attack first: that will rally the entire working class around the Communists (Germany is not Bulgaria). Besides, all our information indicates that in Germany Fascism is weak. In my opinion the Germans should be restrained and not spurred on.

[This opinion of the senior member of the triumvirate and secret boss of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was virtually an order to the head of the Communist International, who formulated his instruction to the German Communist Party accordingly. Like all such pronouncements, it was “secret” and “confidential” and not generally known at the time. Trotsky, unaware of Stalin’s secret “opinion” but very much aware of the seriousness of the German situation, urged that a flexible provisional date eight to ten weeks ahead be set at once for the German Insurrection and corresponding preparations be launched at once. But the majority of the Central Committee was in Stalin’s pocket.

[Brandler, who came to Moscow early in September for guidance and help, could not even get an interview with the leaders of the world revolution. After being shunted from office to office day after day and week after week, he finally secured an opportunity to air his knowledge and his views of the German situation in the presence of Stalin as well as Zinoviev. Their advice to Brandler was the same as the decision of the Comintern Executive of the previous June –form a workers’ government by entering the Social-Democratic government of Saxony. When Brandler balked he was told the purpose of th4e maneuver was the better to prepare for insurrection. Stalin countered further arguments with a peremptory order for immediate entry, and Zinoviev as head of the Comintern sent telegraphic orders to the Communist Party of Saxony to ente4r the Social-Democratic government at once. Moreover, Brandler himself was instructed to enter that government. He was thus confronted with the alternative of relinquishing leadership of the German Communist Party, if he did not obey. He bowed his head.

[The hasty preparations begun at the end of September were woefully inadequate and badly mismanaged. The German Communist Party had organized fighting detachments, the so-called Red Hundreds, in each Communist center, and held them in readiness for the signal to be given as a result of a conference to be held in Chemnitz on October 21st. The insurrection was to begin in Saxony. If it developed according to plan the Communist Party would lead it; if it did not, the Communist Party would disclaim any responsibility and hide behind the protective coloration of coalition with the Social Democrats, with whose aid it would attempt to stave off the inevitable reaction.

[It was a typical Stalinist maneuver. He had behaved thus in October, 1917, in Russia, during the debates in the Bolshevik Central Committee, clandestinely supporting Zinoviev and Kamenev who were openly opposed to Lenin’s insistence on the insurrection, while keeping a sharp lookout to see which side was actually winning. In Russia it was of no importance where he stood on the issue of insurrection because he was not entrusted with preparing it. But in the German situation of 1923 he was the supreme boss.

[When at the Chemnitz Conference on October 21st the Saxon Social-Democrats turned down Brandler’s proposal for a general strike and an armed insurrection, Brandler gave the only signal he could give in keeping with his instructions from Stalin and Zinoviev; he called the revolution off. But this was not the first time that a revolution in Germany had been scheduled, called off and scheduled again. A revolutionary party straining at the leash for action cannot be expected to respond indefinitely with the regularity of a water faucet. Two days after the off signal from Chemnitz, the insurrection was on in Hamburg. All to no purpose. The fighters were leaderless and without an objective. The uprising petered out. What might have been a revolution became a senseless and criminal adventure. It was the first of a progressive series under Stalin’s leadership in the international arena, his first great rehearsal for his first capitulation to Hitler in 1933.

[The German failure found immediate repercussion in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The sincere Bolsheviks were perturbed; many of them insisted on more than the perfunctory accounting of performance by the Party leaders. They wanted to thrash the problems out in open debate. Their first demand therefore was the restoration of the right to form groupings within the Party, abolished by the Tenth Congress in 1921 during the crucial days of the Kronstadt Rebellion. The dissatisfaction with the rule of the triumvirate had been brewing ever since the Twelfth Congress, nor was it confined to the triumvirs; it was directed against the Central Committee as a whole. Forty-six prominent Bolsheviks, among them Pyatakov, Sapronov, Serebryakov, Preobrazhensky, Ossinky, Drobnis, Alsky, V.M. Smirnov, issued a statement in which they declared in part:

The regime which has been set up in the Party is utterly intolerable. It is destructive of initiative within the Party. It is replacing the Party with a political machine . . . which functions well enough when all goes well but which I inevitably misfires at moments of crisis and which threatens to prove its absolute bankruptcy in the face of the grave developments now impending. The present situation is due to the fact that the regime of factional dictatorship which developed objectively after the Tenth Congress has outlived its usefulness.

[The Forty-Six were not satisfied with the empty gestures of the September Plenum on “extending democracy” in the Party. Meetings of protest were organized and public agitation against the bureaucratic regime was carried on not only in Soviet institutions but even in Party organizations.

[In an effort to catalyze this growing movement of protest, which threatened to develop into a united opposition from the Left, Zinoviev on behalf of the triumvirate published an article in the November 7th issue of Pravda, on the sixth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which legalized the discussion by announcing the existence of “workers’ democracy” within the Party. At the same time, negotiations among the top leaders led finally to a resolution drafted in the Politburo and adopted by the Central Committee on December 5th, 1923, in which all such evils as bureaucracy, special privileges, and the like were condemned and the restoration of the rights to criticize and investigate and to have all offices filled through honest elections was solemnly promised. Trotsky, who had been ill since the beginning of November and therefore unable to participate in the general discussion, attached his signature to it along with all the other members of the Politburo and the Central Committee.

[The struggle at the top had been going on for well-nigh two years in such tight-lipped secrecy that the Party as a whole knew nothing about it and all but a handful of trusted initiates regarded Trotsky by and large as a loyal supporter of the reigning regime. He decided therefore to supplement his signature to the Central Committee Resolution of December 5th with a statement of his own position in which he frankly explained his misgivings about the dangers of bureaucracy, the possibilities of the political degeneration of the Bolshevik movement, called upon the youth to spurn passive obedience, careerism and servility, and drew the explicit inference that the new course outline in the Central Committee Resolution of December 5th should lead first of all to clear understanding by everyone “that henceforth no one should terrorize the Party.”

[The letter aroused a storm of indignation among the top leaders. Most bitter of all was Zinoviev, who, as Bukharin revealed in the course of a factional fight four years later, insisted on Trotsky’s arrest for the “treason” implicit in his “New Course” letter. Moreover, although the discussion had been sanctioned officially, the Central Control Commission worked full blast. So did the entire political machine of the General Secretary and the senior triumvir. The Thirteenth Party Congress, which met January 16th to 18th, 1924, to lay the groundwork for the forthcoming Thirteenth Party Congress, to be held in May, adopted a resolution on the basis of Stalin’s report which condemned the pro-democracy discussion and Trotsky’s role in the following words:

The opposition headed by Trotsky put forward the slogan of breaking up the Party apparat and attempted to transfer the center of gravity from the struggle against bureaucracy in the State apparat to the struggle against “bureaucracy” in the Party apparat. Such utterly baseless criticism and the downright attempt to discredit the Party apparat cannot, objectively speaking, lead to anything but the emancipation of the State apparat from Party influence . . .

and that was of course a “petty-bourgeois deviation.” Finally, the Politburo ordered the ailing Trotsky to take a cure in the Caucasus. It was a polite way –(in view of his popularity they were constrained to go easy with him) –of exiling him from the political center for the time being. The sick Trotsky hardly reached the Caucasus, when he received a telegram from Stalin that Lenin, whose health had been improving lately, had suddenly died.]

Politically, Stalin and I have long been in opposite and irreconcilable camps. But in certain circles it has become the rule to speak of my “hatred” of Stalin and to assume a priori that everything I write, not only about the Moscow dictator but about the U.S.S.R. as well, is inspired by that feeling. During the more than ten years of my present exile the Kremlin’s literary agents have systematically relieved themselves of the need to answer pertinently anything I write about the U.S.S.R. by conveniently alluding to my “hatred” of Stalin. The late Freud regarded this cheap sort of psychoanalysis most disapprovingly. Hatred is, after al l, a kind of personal bond. Yet Stalin and I have been separated by such fiery events as have consumed in flames and reduced to ashes anything personal, without leaving any residue whatever. In hatred there is an element of envy. Yet to me, in mind and feeling, Stalin’s unprecedented elevation represents the very deepest fall. Stalin is my enemy. But Hitler, too, is my enemy, and so is Mussolini, and so are many others. Today I bear as little “hatred” toward Stalin as toward Hitler, Franco, or the Mikado. Above all, I try to understand them, so that I may be better equipped to fight them. Generally speaking, in matters of historic import, personal hatred is a petty and contemptible feeling. It is not only degrading but blinding. Yet in the light of recent events on the world arena, as well as in the U.S.S.R., even many of my opponents have now become convinced that I was not so very blind: those very predictions of mine which seemed least likely have proved to be true.

These introductory lines pro domo sua are all the more necessary, since I am about to broach a particularly trying theme. I have endeavored to give a general characterization of Stalin on the basis of close observation of him and a painstaking study of his biography. I do not deny that the portrait which emerges from that is somber and even sinister. But I challenge anyone else to try to substitute another, more human figure back of these facts that have shocked the imagination of mankind during the last few years –the mass “purges,” the unprecedented accusations, the fantastic trials, the extermination of a whole revolutionary generation, and finally, the latest maneuvers on the international arena. Now I am about to adduce a few rather unusual facts, supplemented by certain thoughts and suspicions, from the story of how a provincial revolutionist became the dictator of a great country. These thoughts and suspicions have not come to me full-blown. They matured slowly, and whenever they occurred to me in the past, brushed them aside as the product of an excessive mistrustfulness. But the Moscow trials –which revealed an infernal hive of intrigues, forgeries, falsifications, surreptitious poisonings and murders back of the Kremlin dictator –have cast a sinister light on the preceding years. I began to ask myself with growing insistency: What was Stalin’s actual role at the time of Lenin’s illness? Did not the disciple do something to expedite his master’s death?

I realize more than anyone else the monstrosity of such suspicion. But that cannot be helped, when it follows from the circumstances, the facts and Stalin’s very character. In 1922, the apprehensive Lenin had warned: “That cook will prepared nothing but peppery dishes.” They proved to be not only peppery but poisoned, and not only figuratively but literally so. Two years ago [probably 1937 C.M.] I wrote down for the first time the facts which in their day (1923-24) were known to no more than seven or eight persons, and then only in part. Of that number, besides myself, only Stalin and Molotov are still among the living. But these two –even allowing that Molotov was among the initiated, of which I am not certain –have no motives for confessing that which I am now about to tell. I should add that every fact I mention, every reference and quotation, can be substantiated either by official Soviet publications or by documents preserved in my archives. I had occasion to give oral and written explanations before Dr. John Dewey’s commission investigating the Moscow trials, and not a single one of the hundreds of documents what I presented was ever impugned.

The iconography, rich in quantity (we say nothing about quality), produced in the last few years, invariably portrays Lenin in Stalin’s company. They sit side by side, take counsel together, gaze upon each other in friendly fashion. The obtrusiveness of this motif, reiterated in paintings, in sculpture, on the screen, is dictated by the desire to make the people forget the fact that the last period of Lenin’s life was filled with intense conflict between him and Stalin, which culminated in a complete break between them. As always, there was nothing in any way personal about Lenin’s hostility toward Stalin. Undoubtedly he valued certain of Stalin’s traits very highly, his firmness of character, his persistence, even his ruthlessness and conniving, attributes indispensable in struggle and consequently at Party Headquarters. But as time went on, Stalin took increasing advantage of the opportunities his post presented for recruiting people personally devoted to him and for revenging himself upon his opponents. Having become in 1919 the head of the People’s Commissariat of Inspection, [Note: Another name for the Commissariat of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, for which Rabkrin is the Russian portmanteau word – C.M.] Stalin gradually transformed it into an instrument of favoritism and intrigues. He turned the Party’s General Secretariat into an inexhaustible fountainhead of favors and dispensations. He had likewise misused for personal ends his position as member of the Orgburo and the Politburo. A personal motive could be discerned in all of his actions. Little by little Lenin became convinced that certain of Stalin’s traits, multiplied by the political machine, were directly harmful to the Party. From that matured his decision to remove Stalin from the machine and thereby transform him into a rank and file member of the Central Committee. In present-day U.S.S.R. Lenin’s letters of that time constitute the most tabu of all writings. Fortunately, copies and photostats of a number of them are in my archives, and some of them I have already published.

Lenin’s health took a sudden turn for the worse towards the end of 1921. The first stroke came in May of the following year. For two months he was unable either to move, to speak or to write. Beginning with July, he began to convalesce slowly. In October he returned from the country to the Kremlin and took up his work again. He was literally shaken by the spread of bureaucracy, arbitrariness and intrigues in the institutions of the Party and the Government. In December he opened fire against Stalin’s persecutions along the line of the nationalities policy, especially as enforced by him in Georgia, where the authority of the General Secretary was openly defied. He came out against Stalin on the question of foreign trade monopoly and was preparing for the forthcoming Party Congress an address which Lenin’s secretaries, quoting his own words, called ‘a bombshell against Stalin.” On January 23rd, to the great trepidation of the General Secretary, he proposed a project for organizing a control commission of workers [Note: Not to be confused with the Central Control Commission, already functioning then. – C.M.] that would check the power of the bureaucracy. “Let us speak frankly,” wrote Lenin on March 2nd, “the Commissariat of Inspection does not today enjoy the slightest authority . . . There is no worse institution among us than our People’s Commissariat of Inspection . . .” and the like. At the head of the Inspection was Stalin. He well understood the implications of such language.

Part 2: Lenin dies, Stalin wins

In the middle of December, 1922, Lenin’s health again took a turn for the worse. He was obliged to absent himself from conferences, keeping in touch with the Central Committee by means of notes and telephonograms. Stalin at once tried to capitalize on this situation, hiding from Lenin much of the information which was concentrating in the Party Secretariat. Measures of blockade were instituted against persons closest to Lenin. Krupskaya did whatever she could to shield the sick man from hostile jolts by the Secretariat. But Lenin knew how to piece together a complete picture of the situation from stray and scarcely perceptible indications. “Shield him from worries!” the doctors insisted. It was easier said than done. Chained to his bed, isolated from the outside world, Lenin was aflame with alarm and indignation. His chief course of worry was Stalin. The behavior of the General Secretary became bolder as the reports of physicians about Lenin’s health became less favorable. In those days Stalin was morose, his pipe firmly clenched between his teeth, a sinister gleam in his jaundiced eyes, snarling back instead of answering. His fate was at stake. He had made up his mind to overcome all obstacles. That was when the final break between him and Lenin took place.

The former Soviet diplomat Dmitrievsky, who is very friendly toward Stalin, tells about this dramatic episode as it was bandied about in the General Secretary’s entourage:

When Krupskaya, of whom he was thoroughly sick because of her constant annoyances, telephoned him in the country once more for some information, Stalin . . . upbraided her in the most outrageous language. Krupskaya, all in tears, immediately ran to complain to Lenin. Lenin’s nerves, already strained to the breaking point by the intrigues, could not hold out any longer. Krupskaya hastened to send Lenin’s letter to Stalin . . . “But you know Vladimir Ilyich,” Krupskaya said triumphally to Kamenev. “He would never have ventured to break off personal relations, if he had not thought it necessary to crush Stalin politically.”

Krupskaya did really say that, but far from “triumphantly”; on the contrary, t5hat thoroughly sincere and sensitive woman was frightfully apprehensive and worried by what had taken place. It is not true that she “complained” about Stalin: on the contrary, as far as she was able, she played the part of a shock-absorber. But in reply to Lenin’s persistent questioning, she could not tell him more than she had been told by the Secretariat, and Stalin concealed the most important matters. The letter about the break, or rather the note of several lines dictated on the 6th of March to a trusted stenographer, announced dryly the severance of “all personal and comradely relations with Stalin.” That note, the last surviving Lenin document, is at the same time the final summation of his relation with Stalin. Then came the hardest stroke of all and loss of speech.

A year later, when Lenin was already embalmed in his mausoleum, the responsibility for the break, as is clearly apparent in Dmitrievsky’s story, was openly placed on Krupskaya. Stalin accused her of “intrigues” against himself. The notorious Yaroslavsky, who usually carried on Stalin’s dubious errands, said in July, 1026, at a session of the Central Committee: “They sank so low that they dared to come to the sick Lenin with their complaints of having been hurt by Stalin. How disgraceful –to complicate policy on such major issues with personal matters!” Now “they” was Krupskaya. She was being vengefully punished for Lenin’s affronts against Stalin. Krupskaya, for her part, told me about Lenin’s deep distrust of Stalin during the last period of his life. “Volodya was saying: ‘He’ (Krupskaya did not call him by name, but nodded her head in the direction of Stalin’s apartment) “ ‘is devoid of the most elementary honesty, the most simply human honesty . . .’”

The so-called Lenin “Testament” –that is, his last advice on how to organize the Party leadership –was written in two installments during his second illness; on December 25th, 1922, and on January 4th, 1923. “Stalin, having become General Secretary,” declares the Testament, “has concentrated enormous power in his hands, and I am not sure that he always knows how to use that power with sufficient caution.” Ten days later this restrained formula seemed insufficient to Lenin, and he added a postscript: “I propose to the comrades to find a way to remove Stalin from that position and appoint to it another man,” who would be, “more loyal, more courteous and more considerate to comrades, less capricious, etc.” Lenin tried to express his estimate of Stalin in as inoffensive language as possible. Yet he did broach the subject of removing Stalin from the one post that could give him power.

After all that had taken place during the preceding months, the Testament could not have been a surprise to Stalin. Nevertheless he took it as a cruel blow. When he first read the text –which Krupskaya had transmitted to him for the forthcoming Party Congress –in the presence of his secretary Mekhlia, later the political chief of the Red Army, and of the prominent Soviet politician Syrtsov, who has since disappeared from the scene, he broke out into billingsgate against Lenin that gave vent to his true feelings about his “master” in those days. Bazhanov, another former secretary of Stalin’s, has described the session of the Central Committee at which Kamenev first made the Testament known.
“Terrible embarrassment paralyzed all those present. Stalin sitting on the steps of the praesidium’s rostrum, felt small and miserable. I studied him closely: notwithstanding his self-possession and show of calm, it was clearly evident that his fate was at stake . . .” Radek, who sat beside me at that memorable session, leaned over with the words: “Now they won’t dare to go against you.” He had in mind two places in the letter: one, which characterized me as “the most gifted man in the present Central Committee,” and the other, which demanded Stalin’s removal in view of his rudeness disloyalty and tendency to misuse power. I told Radek: “On the contrary, now they will have to see it through to the bitter end, and moreover as quickly as possible.” Actually, the Testament not only failed to terminate the internal struggle, which was what Lenin wanted, but, on the contrary, intensified it to a feverish pitch. Stalin could no longer doubt that Lenin’s return to activity would mean the political death of the General Secretary. And conversely: only Lenin’s death could clear the way for Stalin.

During Lenin’s second illness, toward the end of February, 1923, at a meeting of the Politburo members Zinoviev, Kamenev and the author of these lines, Stalin informed us, after the departure of the secretary, that Lenin had suddenly called him in and had asked him for poison. Lenin was again losing the faculty of speech, considered his situation hopeless, foresaw the approach of a new stroke, did not trust his physicians, whom he had no difficulty catching in contradictions. His mind was perfectly clear and he suffered unendurably. I was able to follow the course of Lenin’s illness day by day through the physician we had in common, Doctor Guetier, who was also a family friend of ours.

“Is it possible, Fedor Alexandrovich, that this is the end?” my wife and I would ask him time and again.
“That cannot be said at all. Vladimir Ilyich can get on his feet again, He has a powerful constitution.”
“And his mental faculties?”
“Basically, they will remain untouched. Not every note, perhaps, will keep its former purity, but the virtuoso will remain a virtuoso.”

We continued to hope. Yet here I was unexpectedly confronted with the disclosure that Lenin, who seemed the very incarnation of the will to live, was seeking poison for himself. What must have been his inward state!

I recall how extraordinary, enigmatic and out of tune with the circumstances Stalin’s face seemed to me. The request he was transmitting to us was tragic; yet a sickly smile was transfixed on his face, as on a mask. We were not unfamiliar with the discrepancy between his facial expression and his speech. But this time it was utterly unsufferable. The horror of it was enhanced by Stalin’s failure to express any opinion about Lenin’s request, as if he were waiting to see what others would say: did he want to catch the overtones of our reaction to it, without committing himself? Or did he have some hidden thoughts of his own? . . . I see before me the pale and silent Kamenev, who sincerely loved Lenin, and Zinoviev, bewildered, as always at difficult moments. Had they known about Lenin’s request even before the session? Or had Stalin sprung this as a surprise on his allies in the triumvirate as well as on me?

“Naturally, we cannot even consider carrying out this request!” I exclaimed. “Guetier has not lost hope. Lenin can still recover.”
“I told him all that,” Stalin replied, not without a touch of annoyance. “But he wouldn’t listen to reason. The Old Man is suffering. He says he want to have the poison at hand . . . he’ll use it only when he is convinced that his condition is hopeless.”
“Anyway, it’s out of the question,” I insisted –this time, I think, with Zinoviev’s support. “He might succumb to a passing mood and take the irrevocable step.”
“The Old Man is suffering.” Stalin repeated, staring vaguely past us and, as before, saying nothing one way or the other. A line of thought parallel to the conversation but not quite in consonance with it must have been running through his mind.

It is possible of course, that subsequent events have influenced certain details of my recollection, though, as a general rule, I have learned to trust my memory. However, this episode is one of those that leave an indelible imprint on one’s consciousness for all time. Moreover, upon my return home, I told it in detail to my wife. And ever since, each time I mentally review this scene, I cannot help repeating to myself: Stalin’s behavior, his whole manner, was baffling and sinister. What does the man want? And why doesn’t he take that insidious smile off his mask? . . . No vote was taken, since this was not a formal conference, but we parted with the implicit understanding that we could not even consider sending poison to Lenin.

Here naturally arises the question: how and why did Lenin, who at the time was extremely suspicious of Stalin, turn to him with such a request, which on the face of it, presupposed the highest degree of personal confidence? A mere month before he made this request to Stalin, Lenin had written his pitiless postscript to the Testament. Several days after making this request, he broke off all personal relations with him. Stalin himself could not have failed to ask himself the question: why did Lenin turn to him of all people? The answer is simple: Lenin saw in Stalin the only man who would grant his tragic request, since he was directly interested in doing so. With his faultless instinct, the sick man guessed what was going on in the Kremlin and outside its walls and how Stalin really felt about him. Lenin did even have to review the list of his closest comrades in order to say to himself that no one except Stalin would do him this “favor.” At the same time, it is possible that he wanted to test Stalin: just how eager would the chef of the peppery dishes be to take advantage of this opportunity? In those days Lenin thought not only of death but of the fate of the Party. Lenin’s revolutionary nerve was undoubtedly the last of his nerves to surrender to death.

When still a very young man in prison, Koba would surreptitiously incite hotheaded Caucasians against his opponents, which usually ended in a beating and on one occasion even a murder. As the years passed by, he perfected his technique. The monopolistic political machine of the Party, combined with the totalitarian machine of the Sate, opened to him possibilities which even such of his predecessors as Caesar Borgia could not have imagined. The office in which the investigators of the OGPU carry on their super-inquisitorial questioning is connected by a microphone with Stalin’s office. The unseen Joseph Djugashvili, a pipe in his teeth, listens greedily to the dialogue outlined by himself, rubs his hands and laughs soundlessly. More than ten years before the notorious Moscow trials he had confessed to Kamenev and Dzerzhinsky over a bottle of wine one summer night on the balcony of a summer resort that his highest delight in life was to keep a keen eye on an enemy, prepare everything painstakingly, mercilessly revenge himself, and then go to sleep. Later he avenged himself on a whole generation of Bolsheviks! There is no reason here to return to the Moscow judicial frame-ups. The judgement they were accorded in their day was both authoritative and exhaustive.
[Note: The Case of Leon Trotsky: Report of the Hearings on The Charges Made Against Him In The Moscow Trials: By the Preliminary Commission of Inquiry, John Dewey, Chairman, and others: Harper & Brothers: New York & London” 1937, 617 pp. Not Guilty: Report of the Commission of Inquiry Into the Charges Made Against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials: By John Dewey, Chairman, and others: Harper & Brothers: New York & London: 1938: 422 pp.]

But in order to understand the real Stalin and the manner of his behavior during the days of Lenin’s illness and death, it is necessary to shed light on certain episodes of the last big trial staged in March, 1938.

A special place in the prisoner’s dock was occupied by Henry Yagoda, who had worked in the Cheka and the OGPU for sixteen years, at first as an assistant chief, later as the head, and all the time in close contact with the General Secretary as his most trusted aid in the fight against the Opposition. The system of confessions to crimes that had never been committed is Yagoda’s handiwork, if not his brainchild. In 1933 Stalin rewarded Yagoda with the Order of Lenin, in 1935 elevated him to the rank of General Commissar of State Defense, that is, Marshal of the Political Police, only two days after the talented Tukhachevsky was elevated to the rank of Marshal of the Red Army. In Yagoda’s person a nonentity was elevated, known as such to all land held in contempt by all. The old revolutionists must have exchanged looks of indignation. Even in the submissive Politburo an attempt was made to oppose this. But some secret bound Stalin to Yagoda –apparently, forever. Yet the mysterious bond was mysteriously broken. During the great “purge” Stalin decided to liquidate at the same time his fellow-culprit who knew too much. In April, 1927, Yagoda was arrested. As always, Stalin thus achieved several supplementary advantages: for the promise of a pardon, Yagoda assumed at the trial personal guilt for crimes rumor has ascribed to Stalin. Of course, the promise was not kept: Yagoda was executed, in order the better to prove Stalin’s irreconcilability in matters of law and morals.

But exceedingly illuminating circumstances were made public at that trial.
According to the testimony of his secretary and confidant, Bulanov, Yagoda had a special poison chest, form which, as the need arose, he would obtain precious vials and entrust them to his agents with appropriate instructions. The chief of the AGPU, a former pharmacist, displayed exceptional interest in poisons. He had at his disposal several toxicologists for whom he organized a special laboratory, providing it with means without stint and without control. It is, of course, out of the question that Yagoda might have established such an enterprise for his own personal needs. Far from it. In this case, as in others, he was discharging his official functions. As a poisoner, he was merely instrumentum regni, even as old Locusta at Nero’s court –with this difference, that he had far outstripped his ignorant predecessor in matters of technique!

At Yagoda’s side in the prisoner’s dock sat four Kremlin physicians, charged with the murder of Maxim Gorky and of two Soviet cabinet ministers. “I confess that . . . I prescribed medicines unsuited to the given illness . . .” Thus “I was responsible for the untimely death of Maxim Gorky and Kuibyshev.” During the days of the trial, the basic background of which consisted of falsehood, the accusations, like the confessions of poisoning the aged and ailing writer, seemed phantasmagoric to me. Subsequent information and a more attentive analysis of he circumstances forced me to alter that judgment. Not everything in the trials was a lie. There were the poisoned and the poisoners. Not all the poisoners were sitting in the prisoners’ dock. The principal poisoner was conducting the trial by telephone.

Gorky was neither a conspirator nor a politician. He was a softhearted old man, a defender of the injured, a sentimental protester. Such had been his role during the early days of the October Revolution. During the first and second five-year plans famine, discontent and repressions reached the utmost limit. The courtiers protested. Even Stalin’s wife, Alliluyeva, protested. In that atmosphere Gorky constituted a serious menace. He corresponded with European writers, he was visited by foreigners, the injured complained to him, he molded public opinion. But, most important, it would have been impossible for him to acquiesce in the extermination, then being prepared, of the Old Bolsheviks, whom he had known intimately for many years. Gorky’s public protest against the frame-ups would have immediately broken the hypnotic spell of Stalin’s justice before the eyes of the world.

In no way was it possible to make him keep still. To arrest him, to exile him, not to say to shoot hi, was even less possible. The thought of hastening the liquidation of the sick Gorky through Yagoda “without bloodshed” must have seemed to the boss of the Kremlin as the only way out under the circumstances. Stalin’s mind is so constituted that such decisions occur to him with the impact of reflexes. Having accepted the assignment, Yagoda turned to his “own” physicians. He did not risk anything. Refusal, according to Dr. Levin’s own words, “would spell ruin for me and my family.” Moreover, “you will not excapte Yagoda anyhow. Yagoda is a man who does not stop at anything. He would get you even if you were underground.”

But why did not the authoritative and respected Kremlin physicians complain to members of the government, whom they knew well as their own patients? On Dr. Levin’s list of patients alone were twenty-four high-ranking officials, including members of the Politburo and of the council of People’s Commissars. The answer is, that Dr. Levin, like everyone else in and around the Kremlin, knew perfectly well whose agent Yagoda was. Dr. Levin submitted to Yagoda because he was powerless to oppose Stalin.

As for Gorky’s discontent, his efforts to go abroad, Stalin’s refusal to grant him a foreign passport –that was common knowledge in Moscow and was discussed in whispers. Suspicions that Stalin had somehow aided the destructive force of nature sprang up directly after the great writer’s death. A concomitant task of Yagoda’s trial was to clear Stalin of that suspicion. Hence, the repeated declarations by Yagoda, the physicians and the other accused that Gorky was “a close friend of Stalin’s,” “a trusted persons,” “a Stalinist,” fully approved of the “Leader’s” policy, spoke “with exceptional enthusiasm” of Stalin’s role. If only half of this were true, Yagoda would not have taken it upon himself to kill Gorky, and still less would have dared to entrust such a plot to a Kremlin physician, who could have destroyed him by simply telephoning Stalin.

Here is a single “detail” taken from a single trial. There were many trials, and no end of “details.” All of them bear Stalin’s ineradicable imprint. The work is basically his. Pacing up and down his office, he painstakingly considers sundry schemes wherewith he might reduce anyone who displeases him to the utmost degree of humiliation, to lying denunciations of his dearest intimates, to the most horrible betrayal of his own self. For him who fights back, in spite of everything, there is always a little vial. It is only Yagoda who has disappeared; his poison chest remains.

At the 1938 trial Stalin charged Bukharin, as if incidentally, with having prepared in 19118 an attempt on Lenin’s life. The naïve and ardent Bukharin venerated Lenin, loved him with the love of a child for its mother and, when he pertly opposed him in polemics, it was not otherwise than on his knees. Bukharin, “soft as wax,” to use Lenin’s expression, did not have and could not have had personal ambitious designs. If in the old days anyone had predicted that the time would come when Bukharin would be accused of an attempt on Lenin’s life, each of us, and above all Lenin, would have laughed and advised putting such a prophet in an insane asylum. Why then did Stalin resort to such a patently absurd accusation? Most likely this was his answer to Bukharin’s suspicions, carelessly expressed, with reference to Stalin himself. Generally, all the accusations are cut to this pattern. The basic elements of Stalin’s frame-ups are not the products of pure fantasy; they are derived from reality –for the most part, from either the deeds or designs of the chef of the peppery dishes himself. The same defensive-offensive “Stalin reflex,” which was so clearly revealed in the instance of Gorky’s death, disclosed its full force in the matter of Lenin’s death as well. In the first case, Yagoda paid with his life; in the second –Bukharin.

I imagine the course of affairs somewhat like this. Lenin asked for poison at the end of February, 1923. In the beginning of March he was again paralyzed. The medical prognosis at the time was cautiously unfavorable. Feeling more sure of himself, Stalin began to act as if Lenin were already dead. But the sick man fooled him. His powerful organism, supported by an inflexible will, reasserted itself. Toward winter Lenin began to improve slowly, to move around more freely; listened to reading and read himself; his faculty of speech began to come back to him. The findings of the physicians became increasingly more hopeful. Lenin’s recovery could not, of course, have prevented the supersedure of the Revolution by the bureaucratic reaction. Krupskaya had sound reasons for observing in 1926, “if Volodya were alive, he would now be in prison.”

For Stalin himself it was not a question of the general course of development, but rather of his own fate: either he could manage at once, this very day, to become the boss of the political machine and hence of the Party and of the country, or he would be relegated to a third-rate role for the rest of his life. Stalin was after power, all of it, come what may. He already had a firm grip on it. His goal was near, but the danger emanating from Lenin was even nearer. At this time Stalin must have made up his mind that it was imperative to act without delay. Everywhere he had accomplices whose fate was completely bound to his. At his side was the pharmacist Yagoda. Whether Stalin sent the poison to Lenin with the hint that the physicians had left no hope for his recovery or whether he resorted to more direct means I do not know. But I am firmly convinced that Stalin could not have waited passively when his fate hung by a thread and the decision depended on a small, very small motion of his hand.

Some time after the middle of January, 1924, I left for Sukhum, in the Caucasus, to try to get rid of a dogged, mysterious infection, the nature of which still remains a mystery to my physicians. The news of Lenin’s death reached me en route. According to a widely disseminated version, I lost power because I was not present at Lenin’s funeral. This explanation can hardly be taken seriously. But the fact of my absence at the mourning ceremonies caused many of my friends serious misgivings. In a letter from my oldest son, who was then nearing eighteen, there was a note of youthful despair: I should have come at any price! Such were my intentions, too. The coded telegram about Lenin’s death found my wife and me at the railway station in Tiflis. I immediately sent a coded note by direct wire to the Kremlin: “I deem it necessary to return to Moscow. When is the funeral?” The reply came from Moscow in about an hour: “The funeral will take place on Saturday. You will not be able to return in time. The Politburo thinks that because of the state of your health you must proceed to Sukhum. Stalin.” I did not feel that I should request postponement of the funeral for my sake alone. Only in Sukhum, lying under blankets on the verandah of a sanatorium, did I learn that the funeral had been changed to Sunday. The circumstances connected with the previous setting and ultimate changing of the date of the funeral are so involved that they cannot be clarified in a few lines. Stalin maneuvered, deceiving not only me but, so it appears, also his allies in the triumvirate. In distinction from Zinoviev, who approach every question from the standpoint of its immediate effectiveness as agitation, Stalin was guided in his risky maneuvers by more tangible considerations. He might have feared that I would connect Lenin’s death with last year’s conversation about poison, would ask the doctors whether poisoning was involved, and demand a special autopsy. It was, therefore, safer in all respects to keep me away until after the body had been embalmed, the viscera cremated and a post- mortem examination inspired by such suspicions no longer feasible.

When I asked the physicians in Moscow about the immediate cause of Lenin’s death, which they had not expected, they were at a loss to account for it. I did not bother to question Krupskaya, who had written a very warm letter to me at Sukhum, which questions on that theme. I did not renew personal relations with Zinoviev and Kamenev until two years later, after they had broken with Stalin. They obviously avoided all discussion concerning the circumstances of Lenin’s death, answering in monosyllables and avoiding my eyes. Did they know anything or were they merely suspicious? Anyway, they had been so closely involved with Stalin during the preceding three years that they could not help being apprehensive lest the shadow of suspicion should fall on them as well.

Over Lenin’s bier Stalin read from a scrap of paper his oath of fealty to his master’s legacy, couched in the style of the homilectics he had studied at the Tiflis theological seminary. In those days that oath was scarcely noticed. Today it is in all the textbooks, having superseded the Ten Commandments.

[In Leaving us, Comrade Lenin commanded us to hold high and pure the great calling of Party Member. We swear to Thee, Comrade Lenin, to honor Thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin commanded us to keep the unity of our Party as the apple of our eye. We swear to Thee, Comrade Lenin, to honor Thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to maintain and strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat. We swear to Thee, Comrade Lenin, to exert our full strength in honoring Thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to strengthen with all our might the union of workers and peasants. We swear to Thee, Comrade Lenin, to honor Thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to strengthen and expand the Union of the Republics. We swear to Thee, Comrade Lenin, to honor Thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin enjoined us to be faithful to the Communist International. We swear to Thee, Comrade Lenin, that we shall dedicate our lives to the enlargement and reinforcement of the union of the workers of the whole world, the Communist International.]

The names of Nero and Caesar Borgia have been mentioned more than once with reference to the Moscow trials and the latest developments on the international scene. Since these old ghosts are being invoked, it is fitting, it seems to me, to speak of a super-Nero and a super-Borgia, so modest, almost naïve, seem the crimes of that era in comparison with the exploits of our own times. It is possible however to discern a more profound historical significance in purely personal analogies. The customs of the declining Roman Empire were formed during the transition from slavery to feudalism, from paganism to Christianity. The epoch of the Renaissance marked the transition from feudal to bourgeois society, from Catholicism to Protestantism and Liberalism. In both instances the old morality had managed to spend itself before the new one was formed.

Now again we are living during the transition from one system to another, in an epoch of the greatest social crisis, which, as always, is accompanied by the crisis in morals. The old has been shaken to its foundations. The new has scarcely begun to emerge. When the roof has collapsed, the doors and windows fallen off their hinges, the house is bleak and hard to live in. Today gusty draughts are blowing across our entire planet. All the traditional principles of morality are increasingly worse off, not only those emanating from Stalin.

But historical explanation is not a justification. Nero, too, was a product of his epoch. Yet after he perished his statues were smashed and his name was scraped off everything. The vengeance of history is more terrible than the vengeance of the most powerful General Secretary. I venture to think, that this is consoling.


Trotsky's 'Stalin' Chap 11 From Obscurity to the Triumvirate

Chapter 11

Part One: Beginnings of centralization in Party and State

[The end of the Civil War found Stalin still in the shadows politically. The Party wheelhorses knew him, of course, but did not regard him as one of the important leaders. To the rank and file of the Party he was one of the least known members of the Central Committee, notwithstanding his membership in the all-powerful Politburo. The country at large had scarcely heard of him. The non-Soviet world did not even suspect his existence. Yet within less than two years his hold on the Party’s political machine had become so formidable and his influence was deemed so injurious by Lenin that in early March, 1923, Lenin broke all “comradely relations” with him. Another two years passed, and Trotsky, next in eminence only to Lenin in the leadership in the October Revolution and the Soviet government, had been relegated by Stalin’s machine to a recarious political position. Not only did Stalin become a member of the triumvirate that led the Party in place of the sick Lenin, but the most powerful of the triumvirs and subsequently Lenin’s sole successor. Moreover, with the years he acquired far greater power than Lenin had ever enjoyed –indeed, more abolute than any Tsar in Russia’s long history of absolutist rule.

[How did this come about? What were the causes and steps in Stalin’s rise from political obscurity to political pre-eminence?]

Every stage pf development, even such catastrophic stages as revolution and counter-revolution, is an outgrowth of the preceeding stage, is rooted in it, bears a resemblance to it. After the victory of October, there were writers who argued that the dictatorship of Bolshevism was merely a new version of Tsarism, refused ostrich-like to take into consideration the abolition of the monarchy and the nobility, the uprooting of capitalism and the in troduction of planned economy, the abolition of the State Church and the education of the masses in the principles of atheism, the abolution of landlordism and the distribution of the land to the actual tillers of the soil. Similarly, after Stalin’s truimph over Bolshevism many of the same writers –such as the Webbs, the Wellses and the Laskis, who have previously been critical of Bolshevism and had now become fellow-travelers of Stalinism –closed their eyes to the cardinal and stubborn fact thatm, notwithstanding the measures of repression resorted to under the duress of extraordinary circumstances, the October Revolution brought about an upheaval of social relations in the interests of the toiling masses; whereas, the Stalinist counter-revolution has initiated social upheavals that are steadily transforming the Soviet social order in the interests of a privileged minority of thermidorian bureaucrats. Equally immune to elementary facts are certain renegadesof Communism, many of them erstwhile henchmen of Stalin’s who, their heads buried deep in the sands of their bitter disillusion, fail to see that, notwithstanding the survace similarities, the counter-revolution led by Stalin varies in certain definitigve fundamental essentials from the counter-revolutions of the Fascist leaders; they fail to see that the difference is rooted in the dissimilarity between the social base of Stalin’s counter-revolution and the social base of the reactionary movements headed by Mussolini and Hitler, that it runs parallel to the difference between the dictatorships of the proletariat, however distorted by thermidorian bureaucratism, and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the difference between a workers’ state and a capitalist state.

Moreover this fundamental dissimilarity is illustrated –and in a certain sense, even epitomized –by the uniqueness of Stalin’s career by comparison with the careers of the other two dictators, Mussolini and Hitler, each the initiator of a movement, each an exceptional agitator, a popular tribune. Their political rise, fantastic though it seems, preceeded on its own momentum in full view of all, in unbreakable connection with the growth of the movements they headed from their very inception. Altogether different was the nature of Stalin’s rise. It is not comparable with anything in the past. He seems to have no pre-history. The process of his rise took place somewhere gehind an impenetrable political curtain. At a certain moment his figure, in the full panoply of power, suddenly stepped away from the Kremlin wall, and for the first time the world became aware ofr Stalin as a ready-made dictator. All the keener is the interest with which thinking humanity examines the nature of Stalin, personally as well as politically. In the peculiarities of his personality it seeks the key to his political fate.

It is impossible to understand Stalin and his latter-day success without understanding the mainspring of his personality: love of power, ambition, envy –active, never-slumbering envy of all who are more gifted, more powerful, rank higher than he. With that characteristic braggadocio which is the essence of Mussolini, he told one of his friends: “I have never met my equal.” Stalin could never have uttered this phrase, even to his most intimate friends, because it would have sounded too crude, too absurd, too ridiculous. There were amy number of men on the Bolshevik staff alone who excelled Stalin in all respects but one –his concentrated ambition. Lenin highly valued power as a tool of action. But pure love of power was utterly alien to him. Not so with Stalin. Psychologically, power to him was always something apart from the purposes which it was supposed to serve. The desire to exert his will as the athlete exerts his muscles, to lord it over others –that was the mainspring of his personality. His will thus acquired an ever-increasing concentration of force, swelling in aggresiveness, activity, ranke of expression, stopping at nothing. The more often Stalin had occasion to convince himself that he was lacking in very many attributes for the aquisition of power, the more intensely did he compensate for each deficiency of character, the more subtely did he transform each lack into an advantage under certain conditions.

The current official comparisons of Stalin to Lenin are simply indecent. If the basis of comparison is sweep of personality, it is impossible to place Stalin even alongside Mussolini or Hitler. However, meager the “ideas” of Fascism, both of the victorious leaders of reaction, the Italian and the German, from the very beginning of their respective movements displayed initiative, roused the masses to action, pioneered new paths through the political jungle. Nothing of the kind can be said about Stalin. The Bolshevik Party was created by Lenin. Stalin grew out of its politicla machine and remained inseparable from it. He has never had any other apprioach to the masses or to the events of history than thriough this machine. In the fist period of his rise to power he was himself caught unawares by his own success. He took his steps withiout certainty, looking to right and left and over his shoulder, aways ready to slink back and run for cover. Used as a counterweight against me, he was bolstered and encouraged by Zinoviev and Kamenev, and to a lesser extent by Rykov, Bukharin and Tomsky. No one thought at the time that Stalin would some day loom away above their heads. In the first triumvirate Zinoviev treated Stalin in a circumspectly patronizing manner; Kamenev with a touch of irony. But more of this later.

The Stalinist school of falsification is not the only one that flourishes today in the field of Russian history. Indeed, it derives a measure of its sustenance from certain legends built on ignorance and sentimentalism; such as the lurid tales concerning Kronstadt, Makhno and other episodes of the Revolution. Suffice it to say that what the Soviet government did reuctantly at Kronstadt was a tragic necessity; naturally, the revolutionary government could not have “presented” a fortress that protected Petrograd to the insurgent sailors only because a few dubious Anarchists and Essars were sponsoring a handful of reactionary peasants and soldiers in rebellion. Similar considerations were involved in the case of Makhno and other potentially revolutionary elements that were perhaps well-meaning but definitely ill-acting.

Far from sprning the co-operation of revolutionists of all the currents of Socialism, the Bolsheviks of the heroic era of the revolution eagerly sought it on every occasion and made every possible concession to secure it. For eample, Lenin and I seriously considered at one time allotting certain territories to the Anarchists, naturally with the consent of the local population, and letting them carry on their experiment of a stateless social order there. That project died in the discussion stage through no fault of ours. The Anarchist movement itself failed to pass the test of actual events on the proving ground of the Russian Revolution. Many of the ablest and sanest of the Anarchists decided that they could serve their cause best by joining the ranks of our Party.

Although we alone seized power in October, we demonstrated our willingness to co-operate with other Soviet parties by engaging in negotiations with them. But their demands were fantastically outrageous; they wanted no less than the decapitation of our Party. We then formed a coalition government with the only other Soviet party with which co-operation seemed possible at the time, the Party of the Left Essars. But the Left Essars resigned from the government in protest against the Peace of Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918, and in July they stabged the Soviet government in the back by confronting it with the fait accompli of the assassination of the German Ambassador Mirbach and an attempted coup d’etat. What would the Messieurs Liberals have had us do under the circumstances: let the October Revolution, the country and ourselves be devastated by our treacherous former partners in the coalition government and be trampled under the marching boots of the German Imperial Army? Facts are stubborn things. History records that the Party of the Left Essars crumbled to dust under the impact of impending events and many of its bravest members became stalwart Bolsheviks, among them Blumkin, the assassin of Count von Mirbach. Were the Bolsheviks merely vengeful or were they “liberal” when they perceived the revolutionary motivations behind Blumkin’s studidly disastrous act of provocation and admitted him to full-fledged membership of the Party and to highly responsible work? (Blumkin was far from the only one. His case is merely better known than others.) Far from hurting us, the rebellion of the Left Essars, which deprived us of an ally and a fellow-traveler, strengthened us in the final reckoning. It put an end to the defection of the Left Communists. The Party closed its ranks tighter than ever. The influence of Communist cells in the Army and in the Soviet institutions rose tremendously. The policy of the government became considerably firmer/

The Bolsheviks began the heroic period of revolution by erring on the side of tolerance and forbearance in the treatment of all non-Bolshevik political parties. The bourgeois, Essar and Menshevik newspapers turned from the first days of October into a harmonizing chorus of howling wolves, prowling jackals and baying mad dogs. Only Novoye Vremya [The New Times], the shameless organ of darkest Tsarist reaction. Attempted super-subtle maneuvering by trying to maintin a “loyal” tone, wagging its tail. Lenin saw through them all and saw the danger of tolerating the whole pack of them. “Are we going to let this rabble get away with it?” Vladimir Ilyich demanded on every occasion. “Good Lord! What kind of dictatorship have we!” The newspapers of these hyenas pounced upon the phrase “plunder the plunderers” and made the most of it in editorials, in verse, in special articles. “What aren’t they doing to that ‘plunder the plunderers,’” Lenin exclaimed once in jocular despair. “Who really said it?” I asked, “Or is it pure fabrication?” –“Not aat all!” Lenin retorted. “I did actually use those words. Said them and then forgot about them. And here they’ve made a whole program of them!” He waved his hand humorously.

Yet we did not interfere with public expression of dissident views, although the Mensheviks deliberately sabotaged vital defense activity through their hold on the railway unions, and others elswhere –until the assassination of Volodarsky and Uritsky and the murderous attempt on the life of Lenin, August 30th, 1918. It was in those tragic days that something snapped in the heart of the revolution. It began to lose its “kindness” and forbearance. The sword of the Party received its final tempering. Resolution increased and, where necessary, ruthlessness, too. At the front the Army’s political departments, hand in hand with the shock troops and the revolutionary tribunals, put a backbone into the immature body of the Army. The same process was in time reflected behind the lines. At the front we then recaptured Kazan and Simbirsk. Throughout the country we sefured a new lease of life. When Sverdlov and I went to visit Lenin in Gorki, where he was convalexceing from his wounds, he showered us with detailed inquiries about the organization of the Army, its morale, the role of the Communists in it, the growth of discipline, interjecting happily, “Now, that’s good, that’s fine! The strengthening of the Army will be immediately reflefted throughout the country in the growth of discipline, the growth of a sense of responsibility . . .” And indeed, by autumn the effects of a great change were evident on every hand. The hslplessness we had sensed during the spring months was definitely a thing of the past. Something had happened. It was no longer a respite, a breathing spell, that had saved the Revolution, but the imminence of a new and great danger which had opened in the proletariat hitherto unplumbed subterranean springs of revolutionary energy.

Having deprived the parties of the Mensheviks and the Essars of the Right and Cventre of Soviet legality in June, 1918, after their direct participation in the Civil War against the Soviet government had been established not only through acts of individual terrorm, but sabotage, diversion, conspiracy and other overt acts of war, the Bolsheviks were compelled to add the Left Essars to the proscription list after the latter attempted their treacherous coup d’etat in July. But the June 14th decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet, which expelled the Mensheviks and Essars from that body and recommended similar action to other Soviet institutions, was reconsidered five months later, after those parties returned to the class-struggle position axiomatic for professing Socialists. In October, 1918, the Central Committee of the Mensheviks acknowledged in a resolution that the Bolshevik Revolution of October, 1917, was “historically necessary,” and repudiating “every kind of political collaboration with classes hostile to the Democracy,” refused “to participate in any governmental combinations, even those covered by the democratic flag, that are based on ‘general national’ coalitions of the democracy with the capitalistic bourgeoisie or which depend on foreign imperialism or militarism.” In view of these declarations by the Mensheviks, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee at ist session of Noevember 30th, 1918, decreed to regard as void its resolution of 14th of June “insofar as it refers to the party of the Mensheviks.” Several months later the process of “going left” began among a section of the Essars. The conference of the representatives of the various organizations of the Essar parties on the territory of Soviet Russia, which took place on the 8th of February, 1919, in Petrograd, “resolutely repudiated the attempt to overthrow the Soviet Government by way of armed struggle.” Whereupon, the All-Russian Central Exective Committee on the 25th of February, 1919, decreeed to void its decree of 14th of June, 1918, “with reference to all groups of the party of the Essars which consider obligatory upon themselves the above-mentioned resolution of the conference of the parties of the Essars.”

But in the spring the outbreak of Kulak uprisings in a number of provinces and the successful advance of Kolchak induced these parties, with the exceptiohn of a few of their representatives, to return to their old positions. In view of that the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks in May 1919, issued a directive “concerning the arrest of all prominent Mensheviks and Essars about whom it is not personally known that they were ready actively to support the Soviet Government in its struggle against Kolchak.” It thus became obvious that the earlier professions of loyalty to the Soviet “democracy” were mere maneuvers by the Mensheviks and the Essar parties. Their constant agitation for the abolition of the Cheka and the death penalty even for spies and counter-revolutionists played into the hands of the White Guards and spread demoralization in the rear of the Red Army.

[Between the arrests by the Soviet government and defections from the ranks of party members sympathetic to the Bolshevik regime, the parties of the Mensheviks and the Essars were reduced to mere skeletons by the end of 1919. Their leaders we4re either under the constant threat of arrest, imprisoned or in exile. The vounted democracy of the Soviets –which gegan as the popular assemblies of the anti-Tsarist and anti-capitalist elements of the country, purporting to represent the vast majority of the common people, and which assumed at first dual and then sole authority over the country – succumbed a year before the end of the Civil War to the absolute rule of the one-party State.

[But meantime the trend toward centralization, that sure precursor of totalitarianism, went on within the Bolshevik Party itself. Although, true enough, it was due in a measure to the ante-Bolshevik activities of the other Socialist parties, which in their effort to become effective were actually anti-Soviet by virtue of the overpowering control of the Soviets by the Bolsheviks, no less important as contributing factors were the disastous economic condition of the country, aggravated by the devastation of War Communism and the Civil War, and the “rule or ruin” attitude of the Bolsheviks. The line of development of Soveit democracy and democratic centralism withih the Bolshevik Party itself to totalitarianism in both sphere is not always clearly traceable. But it is sufficiently clear thyat after t6he seizure of power in October, 1917, in the name of the All-Russian Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, by the Bolshevik Party machine, the Party Central Committee and provincial committees, which had prepared and co-ordinated the coup d’etat, yielded priority to the Soviet, in whose name and under whose ostensible auspices the insurrection had been carried out. Within the Soviet itself, the Council of People’s Commissars asumed immediate priority of actual power over the Soviet Central Executive Committee, from which it derived its authority. Within the Council itself the Bolshevik majority held the dominant power. When, furthermore, early I March 1918, the Seventh Party Congress officially apparoved the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the Left Essar members of the coalition government withdrew in protest from the Council of Peoples’ Commissars, while the Left Communists for the same reason became an organized oppostion within the Party and boycotted its Central Committee, the ideal of “democratic centralism” suffered further reverses, for in effect the power within both the government and the Party became concentrated in the hands of Lenin and the immediate retinue of Bolshevik leaders who did not openly disagree with him and carried out his wishes.

[An unfortunate precedent had been set in November, 1917, when Sverdlow, already Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, and an outstanding organizer, succeeded L.B. Kamenev as Cheirman of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet. Thus, in the person of Sverdlov the Party-State machine found its initial expression in post-October Europe. Unwittingly –and only potentially, of course –the political administration Sverdlov headed was the precursor of the contemporary one-party State.

[Note: Cf. The resolution adopted in 1904 by the Amsterdam Congress of the Second International, which reads in part: “In order that the working class may put forth all its strength in the struggle against capitalism, it is necssary that in egery country there exist vis-à-vis the bourgeois parties only one socialist pasrty, as there exists only one proletariat . . .” Experience, particularly the coalitionwith the Left Essars, convinced the Bolsheviks of the validity of this ideal. Speaking on behalf of the routed Opposition at the Fifteenth Party Congress (Dec. 2019, 1927), Kamenev declared: “We have to choose between two roads. One of these roads is that of a scond party. That road, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, is fatal for the revolution. It is the road of political degeneration and class deviation. This road is closed to us, forbidden by the whole system of our ideas, by all the teachings of Lenin on the dictatorship of the proletariat . . . There remains, consequently, the second road. This road means . . . that we submit completely to the Party. We chose that road, for we are profoundly convinced of the fact that a correct Leninist policy can be realized only inside our Party, not outside the Party and against it . . . But if in addition we are to renounce our point of view (which is what this Congress demands), that would not be . . . Bolshevik. This demand for the renunciation of one’s own opinions has never before been posed in our Party. If we were to declare that we had renounced opinions which we defended only a week or two ago, it would be hypocrisy, and we would not deserve your confidence . . . you would not believe it . . . it would merely introduce decay into the very foundation of the reconciliation . . .” and so forth. The key to the difference between the Leninist and Stalinist views on party discipline us in the sentence italicized by me. The Stalinist Congress replied to Kamenev by expelling the Oppositionists and by demanding of them “complete ideological disarmament, the firm condemnation of the views of the Opposition as anti-Leninist and Menshevik.” The very next day the same Kamenev and Zinoviev led a procession of twenty-three converts from Leninism to Stalinism up to the praesidium of the Congress with the following words of contrition and moral suicide: “ . . . harsh as may be for us the demands of the Congress . . . we . . . bow our will and our ideas to the will and the ideas of the Party . . . the sole supreme judge of what is useful or harmful to the victorious progress of the revolution.” They then accepted the ultimatum of the Congress and petitioned for readmission into the Party. This was the beginning of their end. – C.M ]

[Lenin’s prestige was so overwhelming that he had to resort to an exaggeratedely meticulous observance of the forms of collegialism to avoid becoming a personal dictator. Notwithstanding his unaccommodating disposition and bulldog tenacity in defense of his ideas, and his passion for getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, he was strongly inclined to be patient with oppositionists in the Party and in the Soviet. He made an earnest effort to meet his opponents on parliamentary grounds. Had it not been for the withdrawal of the Trotsky faction from the contest, Lenin would have gone down in defeat at the hands of Bukharin in the Central Committee debates on the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Nor did he bear a grudge against Bukharin and the other Left Communists for waging a vigorous campaign against him and the Party majority in the press and from the resotrrum during the exeedingly critical months of 1918. And on the very day that the Left Essars staged their abortive coup d’etat Lenin was answering arguments of their leader, Maria Spiridonova, on the floor of the Fifth Soviet Congress. But he was no fetishist about parliamentarism. He had written in 1915: “The slogan ‘Constituent Assembly’ as an independent slogan is incorrect, since the question is, who is to call it.” Accordingly, in 1918 he made short shrift of it.}

During the very first days, if not hours, after the Insurrection Lenin posed the question of the Constituent Assembly. “We must postpone it,” he insisted, “w must postpone the elections. We must broaden our electoral rights by diving them to the eighteen-year olds. We must make it possible to revamp the lists of candidates. Our own are no good: too many untried intellectuals, when what we need are workers and peasants. The Kornilovites and the Kadets [Constitutional Democrats] must be deprived of legal status.” Tot hose who argued: “It is not politic to postpone it now; it will be construed as liquidation of the Constituent Assembly, especially since we ouselves had accused the Provisional Government of putting it off,” Lenin replied: “Nonsense! Facts are important not words. As against the Provisional Government, the Constituent Assembly was or could have been a step forward, but in relation to the Soviet Government, it can only be a step backward. Why is it not politic to postpone it? And if the Constituent Assembly will prove to bge Kadet-Menshevik-Essar,will that be politic?”

“But by that time we shall be stronger,” others argued, “while now we are weak. The Soviet Government is practically unknown in the provinces. And should it become known there that we postponed the Constituent Assembly, our position would become even weaker than it is.” Sverdlov was particularly energetic in his opposition to postponing it, and he was more closely connected with the provinces than any of us. Lenin proved to be alone in his position. He would shake his head in disapproval and reiterate: “It’s a mistake, and obvious mistake, that may cost us dear! I hope that this mistake will not cost the revolution its head . . .” Yet once the decision was made against postponement, Lenin concentrated his entire attention on measures for bringing about the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.

Meantime it became clear that we sould be in a minority, even with the Left Essars, who ran on the same ticket with the Right Essars and were fooled at every turn. “Of course, we shall have to disperse the Constituent Assembly,” Lenin said. “But what about the left Essars?” However, old man Natanson
[Note: Mark Andreyevich Natanson, alias Bobrov (1849-1919), one of Russia’s great revolutionists and a leading Populist, was one of the organizers of te4h Chaikovsky Circle, which played a very important revolutionary party in the “khozheniye v narod” (“going to the people”) movement. Afer exile in Archangel Province, he organized the stongly conspirative Obshchestvo Severnykh Norodnikov (Society of Northern Populists) in 1876 and that summer initiated and managed a group which effected the escape of Kropotkin. One of the founders of the Zemlya I Volya (Land and Freedom) Party, he became a leader of the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) after the split and a leading protagonist of its terrorist policy. Arrested in 1881, in connection with the assassination of Tsar Alexander 11, he was sentenced to 10 years’ exile in Siberia. In 1891 he organized with Victor Chernov the Noradnoye Pravo (People’s Rights) Party. Arrested in 1894, he served his sentence in Peter and Paul Fortress and Eastern Siberia. He was one of the founders of the Essar (Social-Revolutionary) Party, member of its Central Committee, leader of its Left Wing since 1905. During World War 1 he was a consistent internationalist and one of the leading spirits of the Zimmerwald Conference. He became a leader of the Left Essars after the split in 19178, and in July, 1918, after the abortive Left Essar coup against the Bolsheviks, headed a group of Left Essars opposed to the coup and known as the Revolutionary Communists. He was a member of the praesidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet. He died abroad in 1919. ]
reassured us on that score. He dropped in to “consult” us, but his very first words were, “I daresay we’ll have to disperse the Constituent Assembly forcibly.” Lenin exclaimed: “Bravo! What’s right is right! But will your people go that far?” Natanson replied: “Some of us are wavering, but I think that in the end they’ll all agree to it.” The Left Essars were then going through the honeymoon of their extreme radicalism: they actually did consent to it. Lenin devoted himself passionately to the problem of the Constituent Assembly. He was thoroughgoing in all preparations, thining through all the details and subjecting Uritsky, who to his great distress had been appointed Commissar of the Constituent Assembly, to the rack of pitiless cross-examination. Incidentally, Lenin attended personally to the transfer of one of the Latvian regiments, preponderantly proletarian in complexion, to Petrograd. “The muzhik might waver in case of something or other,” he observed, “And here we must have proletarian decisiveness.”

The Bolshevik delegates to the Constituent Assembly who foregathered from all parts of Russia were –under Lenin’s pressure and Sverdlov’s management –distributed through all the factories, plants and military units. They were an important element in the organizational machine of the “supplementary revolution” of January 5th. As for the Right Essar delegates, they deemed it incompatible with their high calling to engage in a fight: “The people elected us, let the people defend us.” Essentially, these provincial burghers had not the slightest idea what to do with themselves, and most of them had a yellow streak. But to make up for that, they worked out the ritual of the first session most meticulously. They brought alohg candles, in case the Bolsheviks were to turn out the electric lights, and a large quantity of sandwiches, in the event they were deprived of food. Thus, Democracy came to do battle against Dictatorship – fully armed with sandwiches and candles. It did not even occur to the people to defend those who considered themselves the elect of the people but actuallky were mere shadows of a period of the revolution gone beyond recall.

I was in Brest-Litovsk during the liquidation of the Constituent Assembly. But as soon as I came for a conference to Petrograd, Lenin told me concerning the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly: “It was of course very risky of us not to have postponed its convocation –very, very incautious of us. But in the final reckoning it was better that it turned out that way. The dispersal of the Constituent Assembly by the Soviet government is a frank and complete liquidation of the formal democracy in the name of the revolutionary dictatorship. Henceforth the lesson will be clear-cut.” Thus, theoretical generalization went hand in hand with the utilization of the Latvian Rifle Regiment. It was undoubtedly then that Lenin must have become consciously aware of the ideas he later formulated at the First Congress of the Comintern in his remarkable theses on democracy.

As is generally known, the criticism of formal democracy has its own long history. Both we and our predcessors explained the transitional nature of the Revolution of 1848 by the collapse of political democracy. “Social” democracy had come to replace it. But the bourgeois social order was able to force the latter to taketh4e place which pure democracy was no longer able to hold. Political history then passed through a prolonged period during which social democracy, battening upon its criticism of pure democracy, actually carried out the functions of the latter and became thoroughly permeated with the latter’s vices. What happened had occurred more than once in history: the opposition was called upon to solve conservatively the very tasks with which the compromised forces of yesterday were no longer able to cope. Beginning as the provisional state of preparation for proletarian dictatorship, democracy became the supreme criterion, the last controlling resort, the inviolable holy of holies, i.e., the ultimate hypocrisy of the bourgeois social order. It was even so with us. After receiving a moral knock=out in October, the bourgeoisie attempted its own resurrection in January in the phantom sacrosanct form of the Constituent Assembly. The subsequent victorious development of the proletarian revolution after the frank, manifest, blunt dispersal of the Constituent Assembly struck formal democracy the beneficient blow from which it will never again recover. That is why Lenin was right when he said: “In the final reckoning, it was better that it turned out this way!” In the person of he Essarist Constituent Assembly the February Republic had merely achieved the opportunity to die a second time.

[When, during Kamenev’s brief tenure as the First President of the Republic –in his capacity as Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet – and upon his initiative] the death penalty law against soldiers introduced by Kerensky was repealed, there was no end to Lenin’s indignation. “Tommy rot!” he stormed. “How can you expect to conduct a revolution without executions? Do you really think you can deal with all these enemies after disarming yourself? What other measures of repression are there? Imprisonment? Who attaches any significance to it during civil war, when each side hopes to win?” Kamenev tried to argue that it was only a matter of repealing the death penalty which Kerensky had intended especially for deserting soldiers. But Lenin was irreconcilable. It was clear to him that behind this decree was a frivolous attitude toward the unprecedented difficulties we wer facing. “A mistake,” he reiterated, “unpardonable weakness, pacifist illusions,” and the like. He proposed an immediate repeal of the decree. It was objected that this would produce an unfavorable impression. Someone suggested hat it would be better to rsort to executions when it became clear that there was no other way out. Finally, we let the matter rest there.

“And what,” Vladimir Ilyich asked me once quite unexpectedly, “if the White Guards should kill both of us? Will Bukharin and Sverdlov be able to cope with the situation?” [At first, it was Sverdlov rather than Stalin on whom Lenin relied for centarlization with a firm hand. Sverdlov it was who first attempted to define the division of functions between the Party and the Soviet political machines. It was Sverdlov who was elected chairman of the first constitutional committee (of which Stalin was a member). It was Sverdlov who incorporated in that first Soviet Constitution not only the theoretical principles of Leninism but the initial practical experience of administration in such matters as the inter-relation of central and local organs of the Soviet government, the Committees of the Poor and the Soviets of the villages, the borders and functions of the constituent republics and autonomous regions, and numerous other specific matters that no amount of theorizing could encompass concretely. “Sverdlov,” according to an aulogy by Stalin, “was one of the first, if not the first, who skillfully and painlessly solved . . . the complex organizational task . . . of building the new Russia . . . the government of Soviets, the government of workers and peasants,” which arose “for the first time in the history of mankindm,” the task of effefcting the transition of “the party, hitherto illegal, to new tracks, creating the organizational forms of interrelation between the Party and the Soviets, securing the leadership of the Party and the normal development of the Soviets . . .”] Sverdlov was truly irreplaceable: confident, courageous, firm, resourceful, he was the finest type of Bolshevik. Lenin came to know and appreciate Sverdlov fully in those troubled months. How many times was it that Vladimir Ilyich would telephone Sverdlov to suggest one or another urgent measure, and in most cases would receive the reply, “Already!” This meant that the measure had already been undertaken. We often joked about it, sayingm “With Sverdlov it is no doubt –already!”

[The process of centralization gained such momentum by the spring of 1919 that the Soviet Central Executive Committee had lost all of its actual power to the Cental Committee of the Party, the transfer having been made as it were from Sverdlov’s Government office to his Party office, while locally the Soviet committees were entirely subservient to the corresponding Party committees. The latter in turn were under the thumb of the Central Committee in Moscow, which was dominated by Lenin. However, this process had not yet crytallized and was not to achieve completion until years later during Stalin’s incumbency.


Part Two: From Politburo to General-Secretary

[At the eighth Party Congress this process of increasing centralization at the expense of the Party democracy was further stimulated by certain formal proposals of Zinoviev’s, who acted ostensibly upon his own inititiative but actually as Lenin’s instrument. Zinoviev proposed on the one hand that for the sake of efficiency the Central Committee should delegate certain of its functions to three other bodies appointed by it –the Political Bureau, the Organizational Bureau and the Secretariat; on the other hand, that a new Commissariat be organized, to be known as the People’s Commissariat of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. The oppositionists at the congress did not take kindly to these proposals. Ossinsky objected most vehemently to the institution of the Political Bureau:

Permit me to refer to Comrade Zinoviev’s theses, according to which . . . the Politburo . . . is to decide all urgent questions. The plenary session of the Central Committee is to meet only twice a month and , as Comrade Zinoviev put it circumspectly, is to discuss questions of general policy . . . In other words, the plenum of the Central Committee merely discusses. What it all comes down to, is that the Political Bureau of five people decides all the important questions, while the plenary session meets for general conversation, for discussion. All the other fourteen members are thus reduced to the status of second-rate members.

[Ossinsky was right of course. That was precisely that eventually did happen. The Politburo came to pass not only on urgent questions but on all questions and merely informed the Central Committee of its decisions. In 1919 the Politburo consisted of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Kamenev and Bukharin. The following year at the Ninth Party Congress it was expanded to seven members –the five of 1919 plus Preobrazhensky and Serebryakov. Moreover, after the Tenth Congress in 1921, the relative share of the Central Committee in the function of governing was further limited by statute: that Congress decreed that the Central Committee was to meet no longer semi-monthly but bi-monthly; moreover, the All-Russian Party Conferences, instead of meeting quarterly were to meet semi-annually. This made the Politburo the actual governing body of the Party and ipso facto of the Soviet government and the Communist International.

[At the same Eighth Congress the Organizational Bureau, likewise of five members was created. Its function was personnel work –the appointment and removal of Party members to and from jobs –with the approval of the Politburo. However, at the Party Congress, upon Kamenev’s motion, its functions were broadened: the Orgburo was accorded the right “independently without the sanction of the Politburo to decide questions of an organizational character and questions of personnel with reference to workers not above provincial status . . .” Stalin was the only original member of the Politburo who was likewise a member of the Orgburo. Preobrazhensky and Serebryakov, who also became members of both bureaus in 1920, were both too ethical to stoop to the garden variety of machine politics. Thus, after the Ninth Party Congress, i.e., beginning in 1920, Stalin secured practically a free hand in appointing his own candidates to the key posts of provincial Party secretaries without any interference from the other members of the Politburo. Potentially he became the most powerful member of the most powerful governing body in the Party and the country, the Politburo.

[When, moreover, the People’s Commissariat of Workers’ and Peasants’ Instpection was originated, Stalin was appointed its head. In proposing the creation of this new commissariat at the Eighth Party Congress in 1919, Zinoviev described it as “a commissariat of socialist control that will control all the units of our Soviet mechanism, sinking its feelers into all branches of Soviet constructive effort.” Lenin made no bones about his support of Stalin in that ministry of the ministries, when, replying to the objections of oppositionists, he said:

. . . Now about Workers’-Peasants’ Inspection. It’s a gigantic undertaking . . . It is necessary to have at the head of it a man of authority, otherwise we shall sink in a morass, drown in petty intrigues. I think that even Preobrazhansky could not name any other candidature thatn that of Comrade Stalin.

[The function of this new commissariat was to root out bureaucracy and red tape in all Soviet institutions. However, under Stalin it seen became a hotbed of political intrigue and one of the chief instruments with which he built his political machine. In a secret memorandum dated April 18, 1922, Trotsky wrote about it:

It is impossible to shut one’s eyes to the fact that the Rabkrin [Note: A Russian portmanteau word for the Commissariat of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection/ -C.M.] is filled chiefly with persons who had failed in various other spheres.Hence incidentally the extraordinary development of intrigue in the . . . Rabkrin, which has long ago become a by-word throughout the country. There is no reason to assume that this institution (not its small ruling circles only, but the entire organization) can be restored to health and strengthened, because in the future the efficient workers will continue to be assigned to the actual job itself, not to its inspection. Hence, the fantastic nature of the plan to improve the machinery of the Soviet State through the leverage of the Rabkrin is obvious.

[To this criticism Lenin replied on May 6th”

Comrade Trotsky is radically wrong about the Radkrin. With our outrageous “departmentalism” even among the best Communists, the low cultural level of our functionaries, the intra-departmental intrigues . . . it is impossible to get along now without the Rabkrin. We can and must work on it systematically and persistently, in order to make of it the machinery for the inspection and improvement of all government activities.

[But before long Lenin was to change his opinion on this subject and to grow even more alarmed than Trotsky about the bureaucratization and political corruption of this commissariat especially designed by him to fight bureaucracy.

[The creation of eh Secretariat by decision of the Eighth Congress as the third sub-committee of the Central Committee proved far more portentous than anyone at the time had foreseen. It was in that office that Stalin was later to entrench himself. In time the Secretariat was to supersede the Politburo as the seat of power. The Central Committee had a Secretary in Sverdlov but no Secretariat. Between his appointment as President of the Soviet Republic in November, 1917, and the split between the Bukharinists and the Leninists at the Seventh Party Congress in March, 1918, Sverdlov had been more concerned with his governmental duties than his secretaryship of the Party, so that the function of appointing members to jobs was shared indiscriminately by him with other members of the Central Committee and Central Executive Committee and with the various members of the Council of People’s Commissars acting both individually and as a body. As for the technical work, it was actually performed by persons who were not members of the Central Committee. The records of the officer were kept largely in Sverdlov’s personal notebook and in his head. The man had a phenomenal memory. Although with the emergence of the Party crisis at the Seventh Congress, Sverdlov shifted the emphasis of his attention from the Presidency of the Republic to the Secretaryship of the Party, he continued to conduct his Party office in much the same manner as hitherto, so that he was literally the indispensable hub of the political machine. His death, soon after the opening of the Eighth Congress, placed the Party machine in jeopardy. When the Secretariat was created in March, 1919, Krestinsky was placed at the head of it. He, too, was a man with a phenomenal memory, but he was not allowed to rely on it, and he proceeded to deparmentalize his office and to institute the keeping of records. However, the new Secretariat proved ineffectual to the double task of ferreting out oppositionists from important Party and Soviet positions and replacing them with members willing and able to carry through the official policy of centralization. The Ninth Party Congress, held in 1920, therefore carried out a reform of the Secretariat itself. It decreed:

. . . 1.) to reinforce the Secretariat by enlarging it to three members of the Central Committee constantly employed therein; 2.) to transfer to the jurisdiction of the Secretariat . . . the current organizational and executive problems, reserving for the Orgburo . . . the general management of the Central Committee’s organizational activities . . .

[The object was to increase the authority and prestige of the Secretariat, the better to enable it to cope with oppositionists and forestall the airing of their heretical views at Party congresses, conferences and meetings.

[But the three leading Bolsheviks (Krestinsky, Serebryakov and Preobrazhensky) selected for this high office proved too humane and tolerant of Party police work. Under their administration, oppositionist activities increased instead of subsiding. The three members of the Secretariat became themselves suspected of sympathy for the advocates of democracy. At the Tenth Party Congress, held in March, 1921, they were not only removed from the Secretariat but from the Orgburo, the Politburo and even the Central Committee. Their places were taken by second-raters destined to figure as the rising luminaries of neo-Bolshevik leadership: Molotov, Yaroslavsky, Mikhailov. It is not hard to deduce whose influence figured most potently beind the new “election”, when you consider that of the five members of the Orgburo, three were the aforementioned members of the Secretariat disqualilfied in the eyes of Lenin, the fourth was Rykov, until recently in obloquy for his stubborn opposition to Lenin immediately before and after the October Revolution, and the fifth was thast mastser of political wire-pulling and intrigue, Stalin.

[Nor were these three the only rising stars of what was later to become Stalinism. Yoroslavlsky was elected alternate member of the Central Committee as early as the Eighth Congress in 1919, Molotiv and Petrovsky at the Ninth in 1920. These three plus Mikhailov and Ordzhonikidze were elected full-fledged members of the Central Committee at the Tenth Congress in 1921. Gussev, Andreyev, Kirov, Kuibyshev, Uglanov and Chubar’ were other local leaders or minor officials at the Center whom Stalin pushed into political limelight. On the surface relatively a second-rater himself among the Bolshevik leaders, he had already begun convincing a growing group of Bolshevik politicians eager or advancement that he was able to reward the faithfull with political plums. At least that attribute of leadership was his].

Stalin found the most loyal of his first collaborators in Ordzhonikidze and Dzerzhinsky, both of whom were at the time in disvaor with Lenin. Ordzhinikidze, who was decidedly gifted with forcefulness, courage and firmness of character, was essentially a man of little culture, irascible and utterly incapable of self-conrol. As long as he was a revolutionist, his daring and his resolut self-sacrific predominated. But when he became a high official, his uncouthness and crudity overshadowed his other qualities. Lenin, who had ha a warm feeling for him in the past, avoided him more and more. Ordzhonikidze felt it. Their unsatisfactory relationship came to a head when Lenin proposed that Ordzhonikidze be excluded form the Party for a year or two, for misusing his power.

Similarly, Lenin’s friendly regard for Dzerzhinsky cooled off. Dzershinsky was distinguished by profound inherent honesty, a passionate character and impulsivness. He reamined uncorrputed by power. But he did not always measure up in ability to the tasks imposed on him. He was invariably re-elected to the Central Committee. But as long as Lenin lived, it was out of the question to include him in the Politburo. In 1921, or it may have been in 1922, Dzerzhinsky, an exceedingly proud man, complained to me, with a note of resignation in his voice, that Lenin did not consider him a political figure. Of course, I tried as best I could to dispel that impression. “He doesnot consider me an organizer, a statesman,” Dzerzhinsky insisted.
“What makes you think so?”
“He stubbornly refuses to accept my report as People’s Commissar of Ways of Communication.”

Lenin was apparently not enthusiastic about Dzerzhinsky’s record in that position. As a matter of fact, Dzerzhinsky was not an organizer in the broad sense of the word. He would call his collaborators together and organize them around his personality, not according to his method. This was obviously no way to bring order into the Commissariat of Ways of Communication. By 1922 Ordzhonikidze and Dzerzhinsky felt thoroughly dissatisfied withi their position and in considerable measure hurt. Stalin immediately recruited both of them.

[Another Party institution which played a prominent role in establishing the ascendancy of Stalin was the so-called Control Commissions, first proposed at the All-Russian Party Conference of September, 1920. According to the text of the resolution, the Control Commission was established “in addition to” the Central Committee, not as part of the latter, like the Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat. It was invested with the right to consider all complaints and to adjudicate them “by agreement with the Central Committee,” arranging “whenever necessary, joint sessions” with the latter or appealing to the Party congress for solution of certain knotty problems. Similar control commissions, independent of the one elected at the All-Russian Party Conference of September, 1920, were elected at provincial Party congresses. Eventually, but not in the beginning, they were to become merely branches subsidiary to the former, which became known as the Central Control Commission.

[At the Tenth Congress, in March 1921, the objectives of the control commissions were defined as follows:

For the purpose of reinforcing the unity and authority of the Party, Control Commissions are established, within whose competence are the task of extirpating the insinuating evils of bureaucratism, careerism, misuse by Party members of their Party and Soviet positions, the violation of comradely relations within the Party, the spread of unfounded and unverified rumors and insinusations and similar information that reflect upon the honor of the Party and any of its members, damaging the unity and authority of the Party.

[This was sufficiently broad to make any member of the Party in disfavor with the ruling group liable to investigation by a control commission. It is no mere coincidence that at the same Party congress the rescript against factions was promulgated. Both were obviously weapons for getting rid of oppositionists. And so was a third resolution –to institute a Party purge.

[At the Eleventh Party Congress in the spring of 1922, the original Control Commission was officially designated as the Central Control Commission and empowered to centralize the activities of the local Control Commissions, which in turn definitely took over punitive functions over recalcitrant Party members from the local and provincial Party committees. Moreover, each constituent republic acquired its own Central Control Commission directly responsible to the one in Moscow. A further proposal to reinforce each Control Commission with a department of investigation and a staff of Party sleuths was also approved. Of the seven members of the top Central Control Commission elected at the Tenth Congress, only Soltz, an Old Bolshevik, was re-elected bgy the Eleventh Congress. Three of the new members of that body elected along with him –Shkiryatov, Korostelev and Muranov –were, like Soltz, political allies of Stalin, who was elected General Secretary for the first time at the same Party Congress. Thus, in the spring of 1922 Stalin secured the support of four out of seven members of the collegium of the supreme Central Control Commission.

[Meantime a subtle but deep-running change had taken place in the Party itself. The struggle for inner-party democracy had been open on the floor of the Tenth Congress. It had revolved principally around the subject of proper relations between the State, the Party and the Trade Unions. The so-called Workers’ Opposition, led by Shlyapnikov and Kollontai, proposed a program which the ruling circles had denounced as “an anarcho-syndicalist deviation.” Accoring to official historians, this program called for the trade unions as the organizers of production to take over not only the functions of the State but of the Party as well. Trotsky, on the other hand, contended that while it was essential to pursue a policy of equalitarianism in the field of consumption, it was still necessary to some time to come to insist on “shock methods” in the field of production, which according to Trotsky meant “harnessing the trade union machinery to the administrative system of economic management” and according to his opponents, the conversion of trade unions into State institutions. Lenin maintained that the trade unions should remain under Party control and should become more than ever a vast “school of Communism.” In this controversy Stalin supported Lenin’s position. There were also other opinions of the subject expressed on the floor of the Congress, but the matter was reduced principally to a three-cornered controversy between the groups whose chief spokesmen were Lenin, Trotsky and Kollontai. The discussion was moreover not confined to the floor of the Party congress. It was carried out publicly and invaded all sorts of Soviet institutions.

[This atmosphere of free discussion had changed radically by the time the Party met for its Eleventh Congress, held between March 27th and April 2nd, 1922. During the intervening year, factions having been officially proscribed at the Tenth Party Congress, the oppositionists had gone “underground” and had organized clandestinely so well that a number of the resolutions sponsored by the ruling group at the Eleventh Congress were voted down overwhelmingly enough to preclude any fraudulent “revisions” of the ballot.

[Not only did the oppositionists show their mettle secretly, but there were turbulent expressions of approval when the oppositionist Ryazanov upbraided the ruling group openly in one of his speeches and when the delegates stubbornly refused to expel from the Party the leaders of the Workers’ Opposition, Shlyapnikov, Medvedev and Kollontai, in open defiance of Lenin’s demand for their expulsion. This open opposition was, moreover, symptomatic of a far more widespread secret opposition. The ruling group refarded the secret dissenters as the more dangerous of the two because their machinations were pregnant with painful surprises. It was clear that the system of divided responsibility between three equal members of the Secretariat, each disclaiming full responsibility, was inadequate to cope with the Secretariat’s function of appointing “loyal” comrades to key positions and of selecting “loyal” delegates to Party congresses. Lenin and his entourage therefore decided to reinforce the Secretariat in two ways –by establishing the office of General Secretary, with the other two members acting as his assistants rather than equal colleagues, and by selecting for the position of General Secretary the man most capable of strong-arm work, Joseph Stalin. Two of his most loyal henchmen, Molotov and Kuibyshev, were elected as his assistants.

[Stalin was elected General Secretary on the second of April, 1922. Two months later Lenin fell seriously ill. By that time, through a lucky combination of circumstances as much as his own conniving, Stalin was already in a potentially strategic position. Had Lenin recovered rapidly, the chances are that Stalin would have slunk back into obscurity –the chances, not absolute certainty. But Lenin’s illness went from bad to worse.]

Lenin’s relations with Stalin are officially characterized as a close friendship. As a matter of fact, these two political figures were widely separated not only by the ten year’s difference in their ages, but by the very size of their respective personalities. There could be no such thing as friendship between the two. No doubt, Lenin came to appreciate Stalin’s ability as a practical organizer during the parlous times of the reaction of 1907-1913. But during the years of the Soviet regime Stalin’s coarseness repelled him again and again, and increasingly militated against smooth collaboration between them. Owing largely to that, Stalin continued his clandestine opposition to Lenin. Envious and ambitious, Stalin could not help growing restive as he sensed at every step Lenin’s crushing intellectual and moral superiority. [In constantly varying degree, this unstable] relationship persisted [satisfactorily enough for all practical purposes] until Lenin fell so seriously ill [that he retired from active participation in affairs of State], when it became transformed into an outright struggle that culminated in the final break.

[As early as the spring of 1920] at the celebration in honor of Lenin’s fiftieth birthday Stalin went to the length of delivering a speech about Lenin’s errors. It is hard to say what impelled him to do it. In any event, the speech seemed so incongrous to all that on the following day, the 24th of April, [in their report of the celebration] both Pravda and Izvestiya stated merely that “Comrade Stalin spoke of several episodes of their work together before the revolution,” and that was all.
But at about the same time Stalin also put himself on record in print as to what he had learned and wanted to learn from Lenin, in his general article written for the same occasion under the title, “Lenin as Organizer and Leader of the Russian Communist Party.” It would be hardly worth the effort to examine this piece because of its theoretical and literary value. Suffice it to say that the article opens with the assertion:

While in the West –in France, in Germany –the labor party grew out of the trade-unions under conditions permitting the existenc of unions and parties . . . in Russia on the contrary the formation of a proletarian party took place under the cruelest absolutism . . .

His assertion is, of course, true of Great Britain, which he fails to mention as an example, but it is not true of France and monstrously untrue of Germany, where the party had built the trade-unions practically from scratch. To this day, as in 1920, the history of the European labor movement is a closed book to Stalin, and hence it is still useless to expect theoretical guidance from him in that sphere.

The article is interesting because not only in the title but in his whole conception of him, Stalin acclaims Lenin primarily as an organizer, and only secondarily as a political leader. “The greates credit to Comrade Leninm,” which Stalin puts first, was “his furious assault upon the organizational formlessness of the Mensheviks.” Lenin is accorded credit for his organizational plan because he “generalized like a master the organizational experience of the best practical workers.” Furthermore:

Only in consequence if such organizational policy could the Party have achieved that internal unity and amazing solidarity which enabled it to emerge effortlessly from the July Crisis and Kerensky, bear on its shoulders the October Revolution, live through the crisis of the Brest period without cracking, and organized the victory over the Entente . . .

Only after that did Stalin add: “But the organizational value of the Russian Communist Party represents only one side of the matter,” and turn to the political content of Party work, its program and tactics. It is no exaggeration to say that no other Marxist, certainly no other Russian Marxist, would have so constructed an appraisal of Lenin. Surely, organizational questions are not the basis of policy but rather the inferences that follow from the crystallization of the theory, program and practice. Yet it is no accident that Stalin looked upon the organizational lever as basic; whatever deals with programs and policies was for him always essentially an ornament of the organizational foundation.

In the same article Stalin formulated for the last time, more or less correctly, the Bolshevik ivew, rather new at the time, of the role of the proletarian paty under the conditions of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions of our epoch. Ridiculing the Mensheviks, Stalin wrote that to those who had poorly digested the history of the old revolutions it seemed that

. . . the proletariat cannot have the hegemony of the Russian Revolution; the leadership must be offered to the Russian bourgeoisie, the very same bourgeoisie that was opposed to the revolution. The peasantry must likewise be placed under the patronage of the bourgeoisie, while the proletariat should be relegated to the position of an extreme left opposition. These disgusting echoes of bad liberalism were offered by the Mensheviks as the latest workd of genuine Marxism . . .

It is remarkable that a mere three years later Stalin applied this very conception of the Mensheviks, word for work, letter for letter, to the Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution, and subsequently, with incomparably greater cynicism, to the Spanish Revolution of 1931-1939. Such a monstrous reversal would have been utterly imposible lif at the time Stalin had really assimilated and thoroughly understood the Leninist conception of revolution. But what Stalin had assimilated was merely the Leninist conception of the centralized Party machine. The moment he got hold of that, he lost sight of its roots in theoretical considerations, its programmatic base became essentialy unimportant, and it consonance with his own past, his own socila origin, training and education, he was naturally inclined toward a petty-bourgeois conception, toward opportunism, toward compromise. In 1917 he had failed to realize fusion with the Mensheviks only because Lenin would not let him; in the Chinese revolution he fully achieved tha Menshevik conception under the banner of Bolshevism. Far more expertly, with a prefected efficiency truly deadly, he carried out the same policy in the Spanish Revolution.

Thus, in Stalin’s article on Lenin, which has been republished since them innumerable times in innumerable quantities and in innumerable languages, was a rather simple-minded characterization of its subject, it does give us the key to the political nature of its author. It even contains lines which in a certain sense are auto-biographic:

Not infrequently our own comrades (not only the Mensheviks) accused Comrade Lenin of being unduly inclined towards polemics and toward splits in his irrreconcilable struggle against the compromisers . . . There is no doubt that both took place in their time . . .

In 1920 Stalin still considered Lenin unduly inclined to polemics and splits, as he had deemed him in 1913. Furthermore, he justified this tendency in Lenin without removing the stigma of the accusations that Lenin was given to exaggerations and to extremism.

[Lenin guarded every useful official as the apple of his eye. He was tender with all of them. We find him chatting “for 10-15 minutes” at the bedside of Sverdlov dying from Spanish influenza, notwithstanding the danger of infection; we find him chiding Tsuryupa, “Dear A.D.! You are becoming utterly insufferable in yoiur treatment of government property. Your orders: three weeks’ cure! And you must obey the medical authoriteis who will send you to the sanatorium. So help me, it’s unproductive to be careless with poor health. You must get well!” Similarly, when Stalin was laid up with an operation at the Soldatenkovsky Hospital in Moscow in December of 1920, Lenin, according to the testimony of Stalin’s attending physician, Dr. Rosanov],

* Called me by telephone every day, twice a day, morning and evening, and not merely inquired about his health but insisted upon the most thoroughgoing and extensive report. Comrade Stalin’s operation was a very difficult one. A wide incision had to be made around the appendix at that time of the appendectomy, and we found it hard to guarantee results. It was obvious that Vladimir Ilyich was worried. “If anything should happen,” he said to me, “telephone at once –and time, night or day.” When on the fourth of fifth day after the operation it became clear that there was no longer any danger and I told him about it, he exclaimed straight from his heart, “Thank you ever so much! . . .But I am going to pester you with my daily phone calls anyway.”
Once while calling at Comrade Stalin’s apartment, I happened to run into Vladimir Ilyich there. He greeted me cordially, took me aside and again plied me with innumerable questions about Comrade Stalin’s illness and cure. I said that it was necessasry to send him away for a rest, so that he might properly recuperate from the difficult operation. He chimed in: “That’s just what I told him! But he won’t listen to me! However, I’ll take care of that. But not in one of the sanitoriums. I am told they are good now, but I haven’t seen anything good about them yet.” I suggested: “Why doesn’t he go straight into his native hills?” To which Vladimir Ilyich resplied: “You’re right! There he’ll be further away from everything and no one will bother him. We’ll have to see to that.”

[But Stalin deferred his visit to his native Georgia until the following July. In the midst of that re-entry of Georgia, where he was confronted with militant opposition, Stalin fell ill again. On July 25, 1921, Lenin telegraphed Ordzhonikidze, Stalin’s lieutenant and chief executor of the policy and program of “pacification” in Georgia:

Received your 2064. Send name and address of doctor attending Stalin, also how many days Stalin kept from work. Awaiting your reply to coded telegram. Will you attend plenum of August 7? #835 Lenin

[And on December 28, 1921, Lenin jotted down the following note to one of his secretaries:
Remind me tomorrow, I must see Stalin and before that (exec. 29/xii 21) connect me by telephone with OBUKH (Dr.) about Stalin.


Part 3: Stalin crosses Lenin in Georgia

[Less than three months later Lenin himself was too ill to attend a Central Committee plenum, but rallied for the Eleventh Party Congress. Two months later, Lenin’s speech was impaired as well as the functioning of his right arm and leg, in consequence of his first acute attack of arteriosclerosis on May 26, 1922, news of which was not made public until June 4th. After recurrent inmprovements and relapses throughout the summer, Lenin returned to his duties in October, and the following month even addressed the Fourth Congress of the Communist International on the fifth anniversary of the October Revolution. He was, however, too ill to attend the Tenth Soviet Congress of the Russian Republic and the First Soviet Congress of the newly-constituted Soviet Union at the end of December, for he suffered his second stroke, which paralyized his entire right side, on December 16. His active participation in the affairs of the U.S.S.R. was over. Like Moses on Mt. Nebo, he viewd the promised land of the world proletariat from afar, and during intervals of improvement between recurrent attacks dictated his last commandments –his Testament, which he completed on January 4th, 1923; his essays On Cooperation; Our Revolution; How the Workers’-Peasants’ Inspection Should be Reorganised; Better les, But Better; and Pages From a Diary. These months encompassed the last of Lenin’s creative effort. It culminated on the night of March 5th-6th, when he dictated his last letter to Stalin, breaking off all comradely relations with him. On March 9th he suffered his third and most devastating stroke, which flung him into an agony of frightful suffereing, aggravated by insomnia and nervous excitement. His power of speech was gone, one half of his body in the vice of complete paralysis. But his will to live and function was indomitable.

[Toward the end of the following summer his health improved slightly, the continual nightmare of insomnia came to an end, he began to walk, learning all over again, like a child, and in the autumn he began to learn to speak again. In October, able already to walk by himself with the aid of a cane, he had himself driven to Moscow, where he revisited the Kremlin office, and on the return trip to Gorki stopped at the agricultural exibition then under way. Daily he chose books and articles he wanted read to him. His speech was gradually returning. The day of his recovery seemed not too far off. And then, awaking out of sorts on January 20th, 1924, he complained of a headache, loss of appetite and of feeling generally unwell. The following day he was again out of sorts and ate a little breakfast and dinner under the persuasion of his entourage. After dinner he lay down to sleep. At six in the afternoon a severe attack set in, his breathing became increasingly more labored, his face blanched, his temperature mounted by leaps and bounds, he lay unsconscious, dead within fifty minutes. Hemorrhage of the brain paralyzed his respiratory organs and life burned out of him. Fifteen years and seven months later to the hour, the life of his partner in what the world know as the Lenin-Trotsky Government was to be also snuffed out by hemorrhage of the brain, induced less subtly this time by the blow of an assassin’s pickaxe. Lenin was three months short of fifty-four when he died; Trotsky seven years older. Stalin, whom his most devoted apologists among American journalists, after seventeen years of patient service, was to describe as, “an animal of prey which first paws its victim to feel out its strength, then strikes to cripple and steps back to watch the effect and finally kills,” had survived both of them/ He had planted the means of that survival during Lenin’s illness.

[When Lenin suffered his fist stroke, the public the world over, including Soviet Russia, was led to believe that his illness was not serious and he would soon return to his duties. He was a man of bulldog tenacity in body and spirit, and only in his early ‘fifties. At first the members of the Politburo sincerely shared that conviction. They merely did not bother to disabuse the public –not even the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union or the rank-and-file comrades in the Party –when later it became clear to them that the contrary was true. With Lenin temporarily ill, it was taken for granted that the Politburo would carry on. Although to the public at large Trotsky seemed the most likely successor to Lenin, and although the younger Party members shared that view, the political wheelhorses of the Party machine did not see a fitting successor to Ilyich either in Trotsky, who not so many years ago had been a factional opponent, or in any other member of the Politburo, all of whom seemed mere armor-bearers by comparison. The only conceivable successor to Lenin, temporarily ill or definitely removed, was a Directory of the top Party leaders, members and alternates of the Politburo and the Central Committee. This was assumed to have happened as soon as Lenin fell ill.

[But actually a variant of this took place. The succession passed to a triumvirate, of which Zinoviev was the leader, Kamenev his alternate and Stalin the junior partner. Zinoviev thus became, for better or for worse, Lenin’s successor by virture of his plurality inside the Politburo, and he secured that plurality not because his fellow-members deemed him the ablest and most deserving, but on the contrary, because they considered him the least capable of leadership and politically the most vulnerable. Of the seven members of the Politburo, Lenin was ill; Trotsky was alone in his opinion that he was the natural successor to Lenin, a widespread opinion outside the Party machine that med him the most feared and hated fellow-member inside the Politburo and among the Party wheelhorses; Zinoviev had the solid support of Kamenev and Bukharin, who felt freest in expression and action and in the opportunity to extend their sphere of influence under his nominal leadership, the grudging support of Stalin, who was not yet ready to assert himself, and the passive support of Tomsky. It was tacitly understood by all but Zinoviev, not only in the Politburo, but on the Central Committee as well, where he likewise enjoyed a plurality, that he was merely a dummy in place of a leader, and that only for as long as he behaved himself in accordance with the secret expectation of each of the others, which was to let him enjoy the glory until the real leader felt ready to reach out for it.

[Whom did Lenin favor as his successor? Until his second stroke, which telled him on December 16, 1922, he had not given the matter serious consideration, fully expecting to recover and resume the leadership. His Testament, written several days later, was patently an effort to offer his own frank opinion of the various candidates rather than to dictate his decision. Precisely because of tha power at his command due to his overwhelming prestige,he was reluctant to impose his will. He state his preferences and his objections, he made recommendations, particularly about the removal of Stalin from the post of General-Secretary because of “rudeness” and “disloyalty,” but he did not venture beyond advice on how his successors could work best together and beyond the warning that a serious contest between Trotsky and Stalin would be calamitous for the Party and for the Bolshevik cause. However, within two months he found it necessary to take the very definite and irrevocable step of formally severing comradely relations –which meant breaking off all political as well as personal ties –with only one of his lieutenants, Stalin. This “excommunication” took place during preparations for the Twelth Party Congress, which Lenin, prostrated by his third serious stroke, was unable to attend. It was the first congress without Lenin and the first one packed with delegates hand-picked by the General-Secretary. It marked the beginning of the end of the Leninist regime and the dawn of Stalinism as a new political orientation.

[The break between Lenin and Stalin came to a head after patient efforts by Lenin to avert it. When] at the Eleventh Congress, toward the end of March, 1922, Zinoviev and his closest allies were backing Stalin for the post of General-Secretary, in the hope of utilizing the latter’s hostility toward me for their own ends, Lenin demurred to the candidacy [in an off-the-record discussion among his intimates] with the observation,”That cook will concoct nothing but peppery dishes.” Lenin was apprehensive about the recurrence of his illness and was anxious to utilize the period until his next attack, which might prove fatal, to establish a harmonious collective leadership by common agreement and particularly his own agreement with Stalin. [Hence the earnest effort he made to co-ordinate his own work with that of the Secretariat. He was most meticulous about upholdinig Stalin’s authority. As late as October 21, 1922, Lenin rebuffed the highly indignant protest fot he Georgian opposition against Stalin and Ordzhonikidze with a scathing telegram. Similarly, he contined to tuphold h9im or to tonoe down criticism of him to mild reproof on other issues. Matters came to a head only when Lenin became convinced that Stalin was inncorrigible. The Georgian question was only one of the issues which led to the final break.]

The only piece of serious Marxist writing Stalin had ever contributed to the arsenal of Bolshevik theory had been on the national question. That was back in 1913. It contained presumably the summa summarum of his own observations in the Caucasus, the results of conclusions from practical revolutionary work, and a number of broad historical generalizations, whichm, as we had earlier indicated, he had cribbed from Lenin. Stalin had made them his own in a literary sense, i.e., by tying them up with his own conclusions, but without completely completely digesting them as certainly without assimilating them. This was fully exposed during the Soviet period, when the problems resolved in black and white reappeared as administrative tasks of paramount importance, and as such determined all the other aspects of policy. It was then that the the vaunted agreement of Stalin with Lenin in all things and especially their slidarity of principles on the national question, the guarantee of which was Stalin’s essay of 1913, proved in large measure to be fictitious.

At the Tenth Congress in March, 1921, Stalin had again read his inevitable report on the national question. As often happens with him because of his empiricism, he proceeded to draw his generalizations not from the living material, not from experience of the Soviet Government, but from unrelated and unco-ordinated abstractions. In 1921, as in 1917, he still repeated the general argument that the bourgeois contries could not solve their national questions while the land of t4he Soviets had every possibility of doing so. The report aroused dissatisfaction, even perplexity. In the course of the ensuing debate the delegates most interested in the question, chiefly representatives of the national minority parties, expressed their dissatisfaction with it. Even Mikoyan, alread one of Stalin’s close political allies and subsequently one of hismot devoted armor-bearers, complained that the Party was in need of instructions as to “what changes should be made in the system, what type of Soviet system should be established in the borderlands . . . Comrade Stalin failed to point that out.”

Principles never exerted any influence over Stalin –and on the national question perphaps less than on any other. The immediate administrative task allways loomed before him as greater than all the laws of history. In 1905 he came to notice the swelling mass movement only with the permission of his Party Committee. In the years of reaction he defended the underground movement because his nature craved a centralized political machine. After the February Revolution, when that machine was smashed along with illegality, Stalin lost sight of the difference between Menshevism and Bolshevism and was getting ready to unite with Tseretelli’s party. Finally, after the conquest of power in October, 1917, all tasks, all problems, all perspectives were subordinated to the needs of that apparatus of apparatuses, the State. As Commissar of Nationalities, Stalin no longer approached the national question from the point of view of the laws of history, to which he had paid his full tribute in 1913, but from the point of view of the convenience of the adminisrative office. Thus he necessarily found himself at loggerheads with the needs of the mopst backward and most oppressed nationalities and secured undue advantages for Great-Russian bureaucratic imperialism.

The Georgian people, almost entirely peasant or petty bourgeois in composition, resisted vigorously the sovietization of their country. But the great difficulties thus engendered were considerably aggravated by the manner and method of militaristic arbitrariness wherewith Georgia was sugjected to sovietization. Under these conditions a double cautiousness toward the Georgian masses was required of the ruling party. It was on precisely this that the sharp disagreement developed between Lenkin, who insisted on an especially resilient, circumspect, patient policy toward Georgia and in Transcaucasia generally, and Stalin, who felt that, since the machinery of the State was in our hands, our position was secure. Stalin’s agent in the Caucasus was Ordzhonikidze, the hot-headed, impatient conqueror of Georgia, who regarded every manifestaion of resistance as a personal affront. [Stalin seemed to have forgotten that not so long ago] we had recognized the independence of Georgia and had concluded a treaty with her. [That was on May 7th, 1920. But on February 11th, 1921,] detachments of the Red Army had invaded Georgia upon Stalin’s orders and had confronted us with a fait accompli. Stalin’s boyhood friend, Iremashvili writes”

Stalin was opposed to the treaty. He did not want to let his native land remain outside the Russian State and live under the free rule of the Mensheviks he detested. His ambition pushed him toward rulership over Georgia, where the peaceable, sensible population resisted his destructive propaganda withi icy stubbornness . . . Revenge against the Menshevik leaders, who had persistently refused to countenance his utopian plans and expelled him from their ranks, would not let him rest. Against Lenin’s will, upon his own egotistical initiative, Stalin achieved the Bolshevization or Stalinization of his native land . . . Stalin organized the expedition to Georgia from Moscow and led it from there. In the middle of July, 1921, he himself entered Tiflis as a conqueror.

In 1921 Stalin visited Georgia in quite a different capacity from the one in which they had been accustomed to see him in his native land when he was still Soso and Later Koba. Now he was the representative of the government, of the omnipotent Politburo, of the Central Committee.Yet no one in Georgia saw in him a leader, especially in the upper tiers of the Party, where he was accorded recognition not as Stalin but as a member of the highest leadership of the Party, i.e., not on the basis of his personality, but on the basis of his office. His former comrades inillegal work regarded themselves at least as competent in the affairs of Georgia as he, freely disagreed with him, and wshen they were compelled to submit, did it reluctantly, offering sharp criticism and threatening to demand a review of the entire question in the Politburo of the Central Committee. Stalin was not yet a leader even in his own [native haunts. That touched him to the quick. He would never forgive such an affront to his authority] as a representative of the Central Committee of the Party and of the Soviet Government, as People’s Commissar of Nationalities. He considerred himself with full justification more competent than all other members of the Party Central Committee on all matters pertaining to Georgia. If in Moscow he rested his authority on the fact that he was a Georgian familiar with local conditions, in Georgia, where he appeared as the representative of Moscow independent of local national sympathies and preconceptions, he tried to behave as if he were not a Georgian but a Bolshevik delegated by Moscow, the Commissar of Nationalities, and as if to him the Georgians were just one of many nationalities. He assumed a know-nothng attitude about the national conditions of Georgia –an obvious bit of overcompenstaion for the strong national feelings of his youth. [He behaved like a Great-Russian Russifier, riding roughshod over the rights of his own people as a nation]. That was what Lenin meant by Russifying foreigners. This referred as mucn to Stalin as to Dzerzhinsky, [a Pole turned Russifier. According to Iremashvili, who obviously overstates the case]:

* The Georgian Bolsheviks, who in the bgeginning were included in the Russian Stalinist invasion, pursued as their aim the independence of the Georgian Soviet Republic, which should have had nothing in common with Russia except the Bolshevik point of view and political friendship. They were stilll Georgians to whom the independence of their country was more important than anything else . . . But then came the declaration of war by Stalin, who found loyal assistance among the Russian Red Guardsmen and the Cheka he sent there.

Iremashvili tells us that Stalin met with general hostility in Tiflis. At a meeting in a theater convoked by Tiflis Socialists Stalin became the object of a hostile demonstration. Presumably, the old Menshevik Iremashvili himself seized control of the meeting and flung accusations in Stalin’s face. Other orators denounced Stalin similarly, we are told. Unfortunately, no stenographic record of these proceedings has been preserved and no one is obliged to accept this part of Iremashvili’s recollections too literally:

For hours Stalin was forced to listen in silence to his opponents and to admit the accusations. Never before and never after did Stalin have to endure such open courageous indignation.

[Following developments can be told briefly.] Stalin again betrayed Lenin’s confidence. In order to build solid political support for himself in Georgia he instigated there behyind the back of Lenin and the entire Central Committee, with the aid of Ordzhonikidze and not without the support of Dzerzhinsky, a vertiable “revolution” against the finest members of the Party, while perfidiously covering himself with the authority of the Central Committee. Taking advantage of the fact that meetings with the Georgian comrades were not accessible to Lenin, Stalin attempted to surround him with false information. Lenin smelled a rat and instructed his private secretariat to collect complete data on the Georgian question; after studying it, he decided to come out into the open. It is hared to say what shocked Lenin most: Stalin’s personal disloyalty or his chronic inability to grasp the gist of Bolshevik policy on the national question; most likely a combination of both.

[Gropingfor the truth, the bedridden Lenin undertook to dictate a programmatic letter that would outline his fundamental position on the national question, so that there would be no misunderstanding among his comrades as to where he stood on the issues currently under dispute. On December 30th he dictated the following note:

I think that here the hastiness and adminnistrative impulsiveness of Stalin played a fatal role, and also his spitefulness against the notorious “social nationalism.” As a rule, spitefulness plays the worst possible role in politics.

[And the following day he dictated in the programmatic letter itself]:

* It is of course necessary to hold Stalin and Dzerzhinsky responsible for all this out-and-out Great-Russian nationalistic campaign.

[Lenin was on the right track. If he realized the full seriousness of the situation, his understatement of it was monstrous, for what had actually taken place behind his back, as Trotsky characterized it eight years later, was that] Stalin’s faction routed Lenin’s faction in the Caucasus. This was the first victory of the reactionaries in the Party. It opened the second chapter of the Revolution [ -the Stalinist counter-revolution.

[Lenin was finally constrained to write to the Georgian oppositionists on March 6, 1923]:

* To Comrades Mdivani, Makharadze and others: (Copes to Comrades Trotsky and Kamenev).
Esteemed Comrades,
I am with you in this matter with all my heart. I am outraged by the arrogance of Ordzhonikidze and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. On your behalf I am now preparing notes and a speech.
With esteem, Lenin

The day before he had dictated the following note to me:
* Strictly Confidential. Personal
Esteemed Comrade Trotsky,
I earnestly ask you to undertake the defense of the Georgian matter in the Party Central Committee. It is now being “persecuted” by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, so that I cannot rely on their impartiality. Indeed, quite the contrary! Should you agree to undertake its defense, I would rest easy. If for some reason you do not agree, please return all the papers. I shall consider that a sign of your disagreement.
With the very best comradely greetings, Lenin

[He also sent word by two of his personal secretaries that he wanted Trotsky to see it through at the forthcoming Twelfth Congress as well. Lenin’s request was sent by telephone, and the papers –the letter on the national question and the notes –were brought to Trotsky by Misses Glyasser and Fotieva along with a note from Misws Volodicheva, who had taken the dictation, informing him that Kamenev, who substituted for Lenin as Chairman of the Politburo as well as in the Soviet cabinet, was “going to Georgia on Wednesday, and Vladimir Ilyich asked me to find out whether you have any message of your own for him.” Lenin’s secretaries has called on Trotsky on Wednesday, March 7, 1923].

“Having read our correspondence with you,” Glyasser told me, “Vladimir Ilyich brightened up. That makes things different. He instructed me to transmit to you the manuscript material which was supposed to have made up his bombshell for the Twelfth Congress.” Kamenev had informed me that Lenin had just written a letter breaking off all comradely relations with Stalin, so I suggested that since Kamenev was leaving that day for Georgia to attend a Party congress, it might be advisable to show him the letter on the national question so that he might do whatever was necessary. Fotieva replied: “I don’t know. Vladimir Ilyich did not instruct me to transmit the letter to Comrade Kamenev, but I can ask him.” A few minutes later she returned with the following message: “Absolutely not. Vladimir Ilyich says that Kamenev would show the letter to Stalin, who would make a rotten compromise, in order later to double-cross us.”

“In other words, the matter has gone so far that Ilyich does not deem it possible to conclude a compromise with Stalin even along correct lines?” I inquired.
“Yes,” she confirmed, “Ilyich does not trust Stalin. He wants to come out openly against him before the whole Party. He is preparing a bombshell.”

Lenin’s intention now became utterly clear. Using Stalin’s policy as an example, he wanted to expose before the Party (and to do so ruthlessly) the danger of the bureaucratic transformation of the dictatorship. But almost immediately after that, possibly within half an hour, Fotieva returned with another message from Vladimir Ilyich, who, she said, had decided to act immediately and had written the [previously-quoted] note to Mdivani and Makharadze, with instructions to transmit copies to Kamenev as well as to me.

“How do you explain that change?” I asked Fotieva.
“Evidently,” she replied, “Vladimir Ilyich is feeling worse and is in a hurry to do everything he can.”
[Two days later Lenin had his third stroke.

[On the eve of the Congress, at the April 16th session of the Central Committee, Stalin apparently tried to protect himself with an undercover attack on Trotsky in connection with Lenin’s notes and letter on the national question and particularly the Georgian issue. The following two documents by Trotsky shed some light on the situation]:

* 1. Secret #200T
To the Members of the Central Committee
Re: Comrade Stalin’s Declaration of April 16th
1) Comrade Lenin’s article was sent to me secretly and personally by Comrade Lenin through Comrade Fotieva and, notwithstanding my expressed intention to acquaint the members of the Politburo with the article, Comrade Lenin categorically expressed himself against this through Comrade Fotieva.
2) Since two days after I received that article Comrade Lenin’s condition became worse, further communication with him on this question naturally terminated.
3) After some time Comrade Glyasser asked me for the article and I returned it.
4) I made a copy of it for my own use (for formulating corrections to Comrade Stalin’s thesis, for writing an article, and the like).
5) I know nothing abgout the instructions Comrade Lenin gave with regard to his article and other documents on the Georgian matter (“I am preparing speeches and articles”); I suppose that the proper instructions are in the possession of Nadezhda Konstantinova [Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife]. Maria Ilyinishna (Ulyanova, Lenin’s sister], or Comrade Lenin’s secretaries. I did not deem it proper to question anyone about it for reasons that do not require clarification.
6) Only from Comrade Fotieva’s communciation to me yesterday by telephone and from her note to Comrade Kamenev did I learn that Comrade Lenin had made no arrangements about the article. Since Comrade Lenin had not formally expressed his wishes on this matter, it had to be decided on the principle of political feasibility. It stand to reason that I could not personally assume responsibility for such a decision and therefore I referred the matter to the Central Committee. I did it without wasting a minute after I learned that Comrade Lenin had not given any direct and formal instructions as to the future fate of his article, and original of which is kept by his secretaries.
7) If anyone thinks that I acted improperly in this matter I for my part propose that this matter by investigated by the conflict commission of the congress or by some special commission. I see no other way.

* 2. Personal, written without a copy
Comrade Stalin:
Yesterday in personal conversation with me you said it was perfectly clear to you that in the matter of Comrade Lenin’s article I did not act improperly and that you will formulate a written declaration in that sense.
Until this morning (11 o’clock) I have not received such a declaration. It is possible that you were delayed by your report of yesterday.
In any event, your first declaration remains until the present moment unrepudiated by you and gives certain comrades a justification for spreading a corresponding version among certain of the delegates.
Since I cannot permet even the shadow of vagueness in this matter –for reasons which, of course, you have no difficulty in understanding –I deem it necessary to expedite its termination. If in reply to this note I do not receive from you a communication to the effect that in the course of today you will send to all members of the Central Committee a declaration that would exclude the possibility of any sort of equivocalness in this matter, then I shall conclude that you have changed your intention of yesterday and will appeal to the conflict commission, requesting an investigation from beginning to end.
You can understand and appreciate better than anyone else that if I have not done this so far, it was not because it could have hurt my interests in any way.
April 18, 1923. Number 201.

Addressing the Congress on the 23rd of April, Stalin said in his concluding remarks on the national question:

Here very many referred to the notes and articles of Vladimir Ilyich. I shouldn’t like to quote my master, Comrade Lenin, since he is not here, for IO fear that I may be referring to him incorrectly and not to the point . . .

These words undoubtedly are a model of the most extraordinary Jesuitism on record. Stalin well knew how indignantly Lenin was opposed to his national policy, how his “master” was pregvented from blowing his “disciple” sky-high on this very issue only because of grave illness.