The year 1919 was a year of sharp civil war against Kolchak, Denikin and Yudenich. The fight was conducted under extremely difficult conditions of famine and widespread economic ruin. Factories and mills were at a standstill, and the railways were completely disorganized. The Red Army was not properly organized yet and was poorly armed. In many places the Soviet power was not properly established yet, and had not identified itself with the population. Parties hostile to the Soviet power, all those elements who had lived in clover under the old regime—the servants of the landowners and capitalists, the kulaks, tradesmen, etc.—carried on a furious agitation against the Bolsheviks, and played on the ignorance and lack of information among the peasant mass to spread all kinds of cock-and-bull stories among them.
Lenin's name, however, already enjoyed great prestige everywhere. Lenin was against the landowners and the capitalists. Lenin stood for the land, for peace. Everyone knew that Lenin was the leader of the struggle for the power of the Soviets. The masses knew that in every out-of-the-way corner of the country. But Lenin took no direct part in the fighting, he was not at the fronts, and it was difficult for illiterate people in those days, people whose outlook was limited by the secluded life they led, to imagine how anyone could effect leadership at a distance. And so legends grew up around the name of Lenin. The fishermen of Lake Baikal in far-away Siberia, for instance, related about ten years ago, how at the height of a battle with the Whites, Ilyich had come flying up in an airplane and helped them to overcome the enemy. In the North Caucasus people said that although they had not seen Lenin, they knew for certain that he had fought there in the ranks of the Red Army, only he had done so secretly, so that nobody knew, and had helped them to gain a victory.
Today the workers and collective farmers know that although Ilyich had not been at the fronts, he had been with the Red Army all the time heart and soul, he had always been thinking about it, caring for it. They know how hard he had been working to direct the policy into the right channels. He was Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars; his activities were varied, but whatever form they took, they were intimately bound up with the questions of the civil war, the questions of the struggle for the power of the Soviets. On March 13, 1919, Ilyich addressed a meeting in Petrograd at which he spoke about the successes and difficulties facing the Soviet power.
"For the first time in history an army is being built on closeness, on inseparable closeness, one might say, inseparable unity between the Soviets and the army. (My italics.-N.K.) The Soviets unite all the working people and the exploited—and the army is built up on the principle of socialist defence and class-consciousness." (Works, Vol. 29, p. 47.)
This unity of interests was expressed in a thousand little ways. The Soviet Government was the Red Army man's own familiar government.
Ilyich liked to sleep with the windows open. Every morning the singing of the Red Army men, who lived in the Kremlin, would burst into the room from outside. "We shall die to a man for the power of the Soviets," sang the young voices.
Ilyich knew perfectly well what was going on at the fronts. He was in direct touch with the fronts and headed the whole struggle, while at the same time he lent an attentive ear to what the masses were saying about the war. I was sometimes present during Ilyich's talks with different people, and I noticed how good he was at drawing them out on subjects that interested him. And he was interested in the whole situation, in everything that went on at the fronts.
I remember being present at a report made to Ilyich concerning the mistrust towards the old military specialists on the part of the Red Army men. At the beginning we had been obliged to take lessons from the old military specialists—that much, the Red Army men understood, but they regarded them nevertheless with suspicion and were intolerant of even their petty faults. This was understandable when one remembers what a gulf there had been between the commanding officers and the soldiers under the old regime. After the man who had made the report had gone, Ilyich spoke to me about the strength of the Red Army lying in the fact that its commanders stood so close to the mass of the soldiers. We were reminded of Vereshchagin's pictures portraying the war with Turkey in 1877- 1878. They were fine paintings. He has one battle scene in which the commanding officers are shown standing on a mound, watching the battle from afar. Spruce officers in gloves watch the soldiers dying in battle through binoculars, themselves standing at a safe distance. I first saw this picture when I was ten. My father had taken me to the exhibition of Vereshchagin's paintings, and his pictures had burned themselves into my memory for a lifetime.
Ilyich once received a letter from Professor Dukelsky, in Voronezh, who demanded comradely treatment of specialists on the part of the Red Army men. Ilyich answered him with an article in Pravda, in which he said:
"Show a comradely attitude towards the exhausted soldiers, the tired-out workers, embittered by centuries of exploitation, and then the rapprochement between the workers of physical and mental work will advance in gigantic strides." (Ibid., p. 207.)
I was once present during Lunacharsky's report to Ilyich after a visit of his to the front. Lunacharsky, of course, was no great specialist in military matters, but Ilyich kept asking him such questions, kept linking together a number of seemingly unrelated facts and steered the speaker skilfully into such channels, that it turned out to be a report of absorbing interest. Ilyich always knew what to ask this or that person and how to get the information he wanted from him. He talked with many workers going to or coming from the front. Ilyich had a good idea of the face of the Red Army, he knew that most of the Red Army men were peasants. He knew the peasantry well, knew how the toiling peasantry had been exploited by the landowners, how they hated the landowners, and what a tremendous motive force it was in the civil war. He did not idealize the individual farmer, though (and the peasants in those days were all individual farmers); he knew how strong and tenacious the petty-bourgeois mentality was among the peasantry, how difficult it was for the peasants to organize, how helpless, in fact, the peasant was in those days in the matter of organization.
The crux of socialist construction is organization, Ilyich never tired of repeating. He attached tremendous importance to questions of organization, and set his hopes on the working class, on its organizing experience, its close ties with the peasantry. Ilyich demanded that the entire experience of the old army and the old specialists should be mastered, he demanded that knowledge and science should be placed at the service of the working people of the Soviet Republic.
The policy of the Soviet Government was directed the right way.
In his interview with the first American labour delegation in September 1927, Stalin said:
"Is it not known that the outcome of the civil war was that the armies of occupation were driven from Russia and the counter-revolutionary generals were wiped out by the Red Army?
"It turned out that the fate of a war is decided in the last analysis not by technical equipment, with which Kolchak and Denikin were plentifully supplied by the enemies of the U.S.S.R., but by a correct policy, by the sympathy and support of the vast masses of the population. (My italics.—N.K.)
"Was it an accident that the Bolshevik Party proved victorious then? Of course not."
The policy of the Soviet Government in 1919 was directed towards strengthening the ties with the masses.
"If we call ourselves a Party of Communists, said Ilyich, "we should realize that only now, when we have finished with external obstacles and scrapped the old institutions does the first task of a real proletarian revolution-that of organizing dozens and hundreds of millions of people—face us actually and fully for the first time." (Works, Vol. 29, p. 310.)
At the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in October 1917 Ilyich said that the crux of socialist construction was organization, and seventeen months later, in March 1919, at the time of the Eighth Congress of the Party, when the Soviet power was securely on its feet, the problems of organization loomed large. All the questions which Ilyich dealt with at the Eighth Congress were closely linked with the problems of organization. He spoke about office staffs, about bureaucracy and culture, about how the lack of culture stood in the way of socialist construction, prevented the broad masses from being drawn into socialist construction, hampered the fight against survivals of the past and interfered with the rooting up of bureaucracy; he spoke about the village, about strengthening the influence of the proletariat not only upon the rural workers and the poor, but upon the broadest sections of the peasantry, the middle peasants, who lived by their own labour without exploiting hired labour; he said that they had to be made the mainstay of the Soviet power, that they had to be catered to in the matter of supply; he spoke about the cooperative movement, and said that communism should be built out of what capitalism had left us as a legacy, that communism could not be built up with the hands of the Communists alone, that the old specialists, science, the whole experience of bourgeois construction had to be made use of for our own purposes.
The important thing in all this work was for people to know not only what link had to be grasped in order to pull out the whole chain, but how that link had to be grasped, how the chain was to be pulled out.
Two days before the congress Yakov Sverdlov, the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, died. In his speech at Sverdlov's funeral, Ilyich spoke about his ability to link theory with practice, about his moral prestige and organizing talent, laying special stress on the value of his work as an organizer of the broad proletarian masses:
"...This professional revolutionary never for a moment lost touch with the masses. Although the conditions of tsarism necessitated his working chiefly underground, illegally, as did most of the revolutionaries at that time, Comrade Sverdlov managed even then, in his underground and illegal activity, to march shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with the advanced workers, who already from the beginning of the twentieth century began to take the place of the previous generation of revolutionaries from amongst the intelligentsia.
"It was at that time that the advanced workers came into the job by the dozen and the hundred and cultivated in themselves that hard tempering in the revolutionary struggle combined with the closest contact with the masses without which the revolution of the proletariat in Russia could not have succeeded." (Works, Vol. 29, p. 72.)
At the Eighth Congress of the Party Sverdlov was to have made a report on the organizational work of the Central Committee. This report was made instead by Lenin.
Speaking of Sverdlov, Ilyich said:
"Possessing as he did a vast, an incredibly vast memory, he kept in it the greater part of his report, and his personal acquaintance with the work of organization locally (my italics—N.K.) would have enabled him to make this report. I am unable to replace him even in one-hundredth degree ... dozens of delegates were received by Comrade Sverdlov daily and more than half of them were probably not Soviet officials but Party workers." (Ibid., p. 140.)
Ilyich spoke about Sverdlov having been an excellent judge of people with a remarkable flair for practical matters:
"It is to the remarkable organizing talent of this man that we owe what we have so far taken such legitimate pride in. It is to him we owe the possibility of efficient, expedient and really organized teamwork, the kind of work that would be worthy of the organized proletarian masses and meet the needs of the proletarian revolution—that organized teamwork without which we could not have scored a single success, without which we would not have overcome a single one of those innumerable difficulties, a single one of those painful trials through which we have already passed and are now obliged to pass.
"...We are profoundly convinced that the proletarian revolution in Russia and throughout the world will bring to the fore groups and groups of people, numerous layers of the proletarians and the toiling peasantry, who will provide that practical experience, that collective, if not individual, organizing talent (my italics—N.K.) without which the many-millioned armies of proletarians would not be able to achieve victory." (Ibid., pp. 73, 75.)
In recent years, especially in 1935-1936, we are witnessing a remarkable and rapid growth in the organizing talent of the masses. The conferences of Stakhanovites, combine operators, tractor drivers, Soviet land workers, and workers of the Soviet republics afford us an example of this collective organizing genius which has been developed during the period of Soviet Government.
We are not mere units, we are thousands....
None but a blind man could fail to grasp what .a tremendous power the collective organizing genius of the proletarian masses represents.
The mentality of the petty proprietor was a special obstacle to the organization of administrative and army work during the early years of the Soviet Government's existence.
At the First All-Russian Congress on Extra-School Education in May 1919 Ilyich spoke at some length on the question of this petty-proprietor anarchic mentality, which hampered the proper organization of work.
"The broad masses of the petty-bourgeois working population, while striving towards knowledge and smashing up the old, could introduce nothing of organized or organizing value." (My italics—N.K.)
"We are still suffering in this respect from muzhik naivete and muzhik helplessness, like that peasant, who, after robbing the master's library, ran home, fearing that someone would take it away from him, because the idea that there could be a correct distribution, that the public chest is not something hateful, but the common property of the workers and the toiling population—that consciousness was still lacking in him. The undeveloped peasant mass is not to blame for this, and from the point of view of the development of the revolution this is quite legitimateit is an inevitable phase, and when the peasant took the library home and kept it there in secret, he could not act otherwise, because he did not understand that the libraries of Russia could be joined together, that there would be enough books to gratify the thirst of the literate and teach the illiterate. Now we must combat the survivals of disorganization, chaos and ridiculous departmental disputes ... not set up parallel organizations, but create a single planned organization. In this small job is reflected the basic task of our revolution. If it fails to solve this task, if it will not emerge upon the path of creating a really planned united organization in place of Russian muddle-headed chaos and absurdity, that revolution will then remain a bourgeois revolution, for the basic characteristic of a proletarian revolution heading for communism consists precisely in this." (Works, Vol. 29, pp. 308, 309-10.)
Ilyich here revealed the roots of anarchism, which denies all planned collective effort, all forms of state organization, on the principle of "I do as I please."
Ilyich and I often talked about anarchism. I remember our first conversation on that subject at Shushenskoye. On joining Ilyich in Siberian exile, I examined with interest his album containing photographs of political convicts. Between two photographs of Chernyshevsky, I saw one of Zola. I asked him why he kept a photograph of Zola in his album. He began telling me about Dreyfus, whom Zola had defended, then we began comparing notes about Zola's books, and I told him what a deep impression his novel Germinal had made upon me—I had first read it when I was deep in study of the first volume of Marx's Capital. Germinal describes the French labour movement and contains, among others, the figure of a Russian Anarchist t Suvarine, who strokes a pet rabbit while at the same time repeating that everything should be "smashed and destroyed" (tout rompre, tout detruire). Ilyich had spoken warmly about the differences between an organized socialist labour movement and anarchism. I dimly recollect another talk with Ilyich on the same subject of the Anarchists on the eve of his departure to attend the Tammerfors Conference in 1905. I have recently reread Ilyich's article "Socialism and Anarchism," relating to that period, in which he gives an excellent characterization of anarchism: "The philosophy of the Anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideals are the very antithesis of socialism. Their views express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is irresistibly heading towards the socialization of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered, isolated small producer. Their tactics, which amount to the negation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and in fact convert them into passive participants of one or another set of bourgeois politics; because it is impossible for the workers really to detach themselves from politics." (Works, Vol. 10, p. 55.)
This was what Ilyich and I had talked about in 1905.
In May 1919 the First All-Russian Congress on Extra-School Education was held. It was greeted by Ilyich. The congress was attended by eight hundred delegates, among whom there were many non-Party people. The general atmosphere was one of enthusiasm—many of the delegates were preparing to go to the frontbut we, Bolsheviks, who had organized the congress, saw that on many questions the delegates lacked a clear understanding of Soviet democracy, of that which distinguished our Soviet democracy from bourgeois democracy, and we asked Ilyich to make another speech at the congress. He consented and delivered a long speech on May 19 on the subject of "The Deception of the People by the Slogans of Freedom and Equality." He spoke about how the people were deceived by these slogans in the capitalist states, said that the Soviet powerthe dictatorship of the proletariatwould now lead the masses to socialism, and spoke about the difficulties that still confronted the Soviet Government.
"This new organization of the state is being born with the greatest difficulty because to overcome disorganizing, petty-bourgeois lack of discipline is the most difficult thing, is a million times more difficult than overcoming the landlord violator or the capitalist violator, but it is a million times more fruitful for the creation of a new organization free from exploitation. When proletarian organization solves this task, then socialism has won finally. The whole of the activity of both extra-school and school education must be devoted to this." (Works, Vol. 29, pp. 345-46.)
But if a struggle was needed against anarchist moods in the business of building up the Soviet power, all the more necessary was it in the Red Army. Anarchist moods there took the form of sheer insubordination. The experience of the civil war in the Ukraine best illustrates these difficulties in organizing the Red Army. Ilyich spoke about this on July 4, 1919, when he addressed a joint meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies, the Moscow Council of Trade Unions and delegates of Moscow's factory committees.
Ilyich spoke about the difficulties of the first year of civil war, when we were obliged to form our detachments hastily one after another.
"The extremely low level of proletarian political consciousness in the Ukraine," Ilyich said, "combined with weakness and poor organization, Petlura disorganization, and the pressure of German imperialism, provided fruitful soil for enmity and guerrilla methods. In every detachment the peasants snatched up arms, elected their ataman or headman in order to set up a local authority. They ignored the central authorities completely, and every headman imagined himself to be a local ataman who could settle all Ukrainian questions himself regardless of what was being undertaken in the centre." (Ibid., pp. 424-25.)
Ilyich went on to say that this lack of organization, these guerrilla methods and chaos, were having a disastrous effect on the Ukraine. It was an experience that would leave its mark upon the country.
"This lesson of disorganization and chaos has been realized in the Ukraine," Ilyich said. "I will be a turning point for the whole Ukrainian revolution, and will affect the whole development of the Ukraine. It is a turning point which we, too, have passed, a change from guerrilla methods and the throwing about of revolutionary phrases—we can do anything!to a realization of the necessity of long, hard, dogged organizational work. It was the path we entered upon many months after October and achieved considerable success in. W'e look to the future absolutely confident that we shall overcome all difficulties." (Ibid., p. 426.)
Ilyich's hopes were fulfilled. Our Red Army became a model of socialist organization.
At that time, in 1919, most of the Red Army men were individual peasant farmers, who were not afraid of hard work, but in whom the mentality of the petty proprietor was still strong. Ilyich therefore considered it very important to have all the fronts strengthened by proletarian elements. He wrote a letter to the Petrograd workers about rendering aid to the Eastern Front, when the situation there became critical; he made a speech at a meeting of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, addressed the railway workers of the Moscow terminus, spoke about fighting Yolchak at a conference of Moscow factory committees and trade unions, wrote to the workers and peasants concerning the victory over Kolchak, spoke about the role of the Petrograd workers, delivered a speech to the mobilized workers of the Yaroslavl and Vladimir gubernias, who were going out to the Denikin front and to help defend Petrograd against Yudenich, wrote an appeal to the workers and Red Army men of Petrograd in connection with the Yudenich threat, and wrote a letter to the workers and peasants of the Ukraine about the victory over Denikin.
The organization of the Red Army was steadily improving.
In proportion as the Soviet power struck root and the civil war opened the eyes of the masses as to who was their real friend and their real enemy, the influence of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries weakened. Feeling the ground slipping from under their feet, they banded with the Anarchists with whom they organized a bomb outrage in Leontyevsky Street on September 25, where the Moscow Committee of the Party was discussing questions of agitation and propaganda. Twelve were killed, including the Secretary of the Moscow Committee Zagorsky, and fifty-five were wounded. We first heard the news of the outrage from Inessa Armand, who came to see us. Her daughter had been at that meeting.
While pointing out the scattered isolated character of small peasant economy and the adverse effect it had upon the lives and outlook of the peasants, Ilyich from the very outset stressed the need for passing over to collective forms of husbandry. He said that large-scale collective associations had to be set up for the common cultivation of the land in the form of agricultural communes and artels. He considered that the urban and agricultural workers would be the initiators in this matter, and supported all and every initiative by the workers in this respect. We know that as early as in the spring of 1918 he supported the initiative of the Obukhov and Semyannikov workers who went out to Semipalatinsk in Siberia to organize agricultural artels. He supported all efforts on a more modest scale to organize the collective cultivation of the land.
Ilyich, of course, had no illusions. He constantly spoke about the conditions that had to be created before mass collectivization of agriculture could be made practicable. At the Thirteenth Congress of the Party he spoke about tractors, about mechanized land cultivation, and the necessity of rousing the peasants, without which collectivization would make no real headway, while at the same time he believed that every initiative in the setting up of collective farms should be supported.
In the spring of 1919 Ilyich posed the question of organizing a collective farm of a new type to the workers of Gorki, where he lived. However, most of the workers there were unprepared for it. Reinbot, the former owner of Gorki, had picked Lettish workers for his estate, whom lie had tried to keep apart, isolated from the rest of the population. The workers of Gorki, like all the Lettish workers, hated the landowners, but they were ill fitted at the time for collective work, for organizing the estate along state-farm lines.
I remember, how, at a meeting at the manor, Ilyich earnestly tried to talk them over. But nothing came of his persuasive efforts. The Reinbot property was shared out, and Gorki turned into an ordinary state-run farm. Ilyich wanted the state farms to serve as a model of efficient large-scale farming to the peasants; the latter knew how to run a small farm, but they still had to learn how to run a large one.
The manager of Gorki at the time—Veverdid not grasp Ilyich's ideas in regard to the state farm. One day, when Ilyich was out walking, he met Vever and asked him how the state farm was helping the local peasants. Vever looked puzzled and answered: "We sell seedlings to the peasants." Ilyich asked him no more questions, and when he had gone, looked at me ruefully and said, "He doesn't understand the very question." He afterwards became rather exacting towards Vever, who did not understand that the state farm had to serve as a model of efficient large-scale farming for the peasants.
One day, early in 1919, I received a visit at the Extra-School Education Department from Balashov, an old pupil of mine at the Sunday Evening School. He had worked in Nevskaya Zastava, and later, during the period of reaction, had served two years in prison. He told me that he had studied agriculture, especially market-gardening, and now wanted to tackle the job. He united seven peasant households (relatives) and organized a social kitchen-garden, which they decided to work together without hired labour. They organized an agricultural artel and grew fine cabbages on it under contract with the Red Army. This undertaking though did not survive. The Committee of Poor Peasants took all the cabbages for themselves, and Balashov was jailed. He wrote to me from prison. At Ilyich's request Dzerzhinsky sent men down to investigate the affair. It turned out that former detectives had wormed their way into the committee. Balashov was released, but the undertaking was dropped.
Those market-gardening artels—they were fairly popular at the time—came up against stiff resistance due to underestimation of their significance. At Blagusha, for instance, there were market-gardening courses organized by A. S. Butkevich with an allotment garden attached to them. Our Education Department supported those courses. In February 1919, Butkevich's son, himself an agronomist and specialist on market-gardening, organized on this allotment a sort of cooperative society of trainees (most of them workers of the Gnome & Rom Factory and the Semyonov Mills) under whose rules the crop was shared proportionately to the number of work hours put in. Young Butkevich experimented with fertilizers, new varieties and new methods of planting. The crop of vegetables was higher than at any of the other common allotments in the neighbourhood, and forty-five working-class families were provided with vegetables all the year round.
The Extra-School Department supported this undertaking, but the Moscow Education Department, which had a big say in things those days, took the courses' allotment away on the grounds that "providing some 45 or 50 families with vegetables was a matter of trivial social significance compared with work organization in the school." It failed at the time to appreciate the propaganda value of collective forms of husbandry. The school farm for the sake of which the Moscow Education Department had appropriated this allotment was itself a failure.
It is difficult today to imagine the obstacles which such undertakings found themselves up against in 1919. Those obstacles—and there were many of themare now forgotten, but the people who took part in those undertakings have hardly forgotten them. Vladimir Ilyich was particularly interested in such undertakings.
To bring the peasant masses to identify themselves with the organization of farms on collective lines required a long period of preparatory work among the bulk of the peasantry. Ilyich was being constantly made aware of this when he read letters from peasants. One such letter concerning the situation in the countryside (the letter is dated February-March 1919) has a marginal note by Ilyich: "A cry far the middle peasant."
The question of the attitude towards the middle peasant loomed large at the Eighth Congress of the Party (March 18-23, 1919). In his speech at the opening of the congress Ilyich formulated the issue with unmistakable clarity:
"Implacable war against the rural bourgeoisie and the kulaks brings to the forefront the task of organizing the proletariat and semi-proletariat of the countryside. But for a party that wishes to lay the solid foundations of a communist society the next step is to correctly solve the question of our attitude towards the middle peasants. This is a task of a higher order. We were not able to deal with it on a broad basis until the essential conditions of the Soviet Republic's existence were assured."
And further on:
"We have entered such a phase of socialist construction when it is necessary, on the basis of our experience in rural work, to draw up concretely and in detail the basic rules and directions by which we should be guided in order to fake a firm stand for alliance in regard to our attitude towards the middle peasants." (Works, Vol. 29, pp. 124-125.)
At this congress Ilyich spoke about the necessity of a comradely approach to the middle peasant, about the impermissibility of using coercion, and about the necessity of assisting him, first and foremost in the matter of mechanizing farming processes, relieving and improving his economic position, and raising his standard of living and culture. Ilyich spoke a lot about raising the cultural level of the village, and about how we were constantly coming up against the stumbling block of insufficient culture among the masses. He spoke about the enforcement of Soviet laws being hampered by the low cultural level: "...Besides the law, there is a cultural level, which is subject to no laws." Remarking on certain limitations in the electoral rights of the peasantry, he said:
"...As we point out, our Constitution was obliged to introduce this inequality because the cultural level was low and because with us organization was weak. But we do not make this an ideal; on the contrary, in the programme the Party undertakes to work systematically for the abolition of this inequality between the more organized proletariat and the peasantry, an inequality we shall have to abandon as soon as we succeed in raising the cultural level. We shall then be able to get along without these limitations." (Ibid., p. 163.)
Now, when the countryside is collectivized, when the mechanization of agriculture has become a reality, when the village has reached a much higher level of education and culture, this directive of Ilyich's has become attainable. The new Constitution of the Soviet Union gives full and equal suffrage to both the workers and the peasants. Reading this Constitution makes one's heart beat faster; it is the fruit of long years of work, guided by the Party into the proper channels.
A week after the Eighth Party Congress, at a meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on March 30, 1919, during which he proposed M.I. Kalinin as a candidate for the post of Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee in place of the late Y. Sverdlov, Ilyich said that Kalinin had a record of twenty years' Party work, that this St. Petersburg worker, who was at the same time a peasant by origin from the Tver Gubernia, had preserved close ties with peasant economy and was constantly renewing and refreshing those ties, that he showed a comradely approach to the broad masses of the working people. The middle peasants would see in the person of the highest representative of the Soviet Republic one of their own people. The nomination of Kalinin would serve as a practical means of organizing a number of direct contacts between the highest representative of the Soviet power and the middle peasants, would tend to bring them closer together.
Ilyich's hopes, as we know, were completely fulfilled. Kalinin is extremely popular with the peasant masses, who love him.
Ilyich's daily work showed what careful attention had to be given to all questions that concerned the interests of the middle peasant.
The Skopin Uyezd Consultative Congress sent a delegation of three peasants to Ilyich on March 31, 1919, with instructions "to petition for the middle and lower-than-middle peasants to be relieved of the air tax," "to petition for the complete repeal of the milch cow mobilization, because there is only one milch cow left among our population per 8 to 10 persons, besides which we are suffering from violent epidemics of typhus, the Spanish flu and other such diseases, and milk is the only food product for the sick. As to other products, such as butter and fats, these are completely lacking and unobtainable anywhere." The instructions also said something about horses and contained details of the tax collection.
Ilyich booked through the "mandate," and without asking any questions as to what the "air tax" could mean, he immediately answered the peasants of the Skopin Uyezd to the point:
"The imposition of a special tax on the peasants with incomes below the average is unlawful," he wrote. "Steps have been taken to lighten the burden of taxation for the middle peasants. A decree will be issued in a day or two. On the other questions I shall immediately demand information from the People's Commissars. You will be duly informed.
April 5. 1919
(Lenin Miscellany, XXIV, p. 44).
He made a note for his Secretary on the peasants' letter: "Remind me at C.P.C. to speak to Sereda and (Frumkin) Svidersky. To be drafted by arrangement between P.C. of Agriculture and P.C. of Food Supply."
Ilyich demanded attention to the needs of the population on the part of all the administrative bodies.
Lenin's solicitude for the children was strikingly manifested during the famine that prevailed in 1919. The food situation became critical in May. At the second meeting of the Economic Commissium Ilyich raised the question of rendering relief in kind to the children of the workers.
Towards the end of May 1919 the situation got worse. There were lots of grain, thousands of tons of it, in the Ukraine, the Caucasus and in the East, but the civil war had cut off all communications, the central industrial districts were starving. The Commissariat of Education was swamped with complaints about there being nothing to feed the children with.
On May 14, 1919, the army of the North-Western Government launched an offensive against Petrograd. On May 15 General Rodzyaako had taken Gdov, the Estonian and Finnish White Guard troops started to advance, and fighting began at Koporskaya Bay. Ilyich was concerned about Petrograd. It was characteristic of him that at this very same time, on May 17, he put through a decree for children to be fed free of charge. This decree provided for the improvement of the food supply for children and the welfare of the working people, and ordered that such supplies should be issued free of charge to all children up to 14 irrespective of their parents' ration class. The decree applied to the large industrial centres of sixteen non-agricultural gubernias.
June 12 brought news of the treachery of the Krasnaya Gorka garrison. On the same day Ilyich signed an order of the Council of People's Commissars extending the decree of May 17 concerning free food supplies for children to a number of other localities. The age limit was raised to 16 years.
Red tape in the matter of rendering relief to the needy was particularly hateful to Ilyich. On January 6, 1919, he wired to the Cheka in Kursk:
"Immediately arrest Kogan, member of the Yursk Central Purchasing Board, for not having helped 120 starving workers of Moscow and sent them away empty-handed. Publish it in newspapers and leaflets so that all employees of purchasing agencies and food supply authorities should know that formal and bureaucratic attitude and failure to help the starving workers will be severely punished, if need be—shot. Chairman of Council of People's Commissars LENIN." (Ibid., p. 168.)
Ilyich took special care to have the People's Commissariats stand as close to the worker and peasant masses and the Red Army as possible.
I was working at the Commissariat of Education, and saw evidences of Ilyich's keen interest in this matter at every step. Our Extra-School Department was visited by a mass of people—men and women workers, peasants, soldiers from the front, teachers and Party workers. Our Department became a sort of rendezvous to which Party people came to enquire about Ilyich and tell about their own work, to which workers came for advice as to how best to organize propaganda and agitation work, to which Red Army soldiers and commanders came, as well as workers who were closely ,associated with the village.
I remember a young Red Army man complaining that the wrong books were being sent them, that the newspapers did not reach them and that they had no propagandists. He demanded that more propagandists should go out. He was not the only one who came, of course, but that young fellow was so desperately earnest about it that he sticks in my memory.
A young commander, newly arrived from the front, told us agitatedly how his company, billetted in a real school somewhere out west, had made short work of "masterclass" culture. The real schools were privileged institutions. The Red Army men had smashed up all the appliances and torn the textbooks and exercise books to bits. "This is master-class property," they said. On the other hand, their thirst for knowledge was stronger than ever. There were no textbooks to be had. The old textbooks with their prayers for the Tsar and the Fatherland were destroyed by the Red Army men. They demanded textbooks that had a bearing on real life and on their own experiences.
At the Extra-School Education Congress which Ilyich addressed a resolution was passed calling on the delegates to go out to the front. Many of them went along them was Elkina, an experienced school-teacher. She went to the Southern Front. The Red Army men asked to be taught to read and write. Elkina started giving them lessons based on the analytic-synthetic method of the textbooks then in use: "Masha ate kasha (porridge)," "Masha made butter," etc. "What are you teaching us!" the Red Army men started protesting. "Who the dickens is Masha? We don't want to read that stuff!" And Elkina constructed her ABC lessons on different lines: "We are not slaves, no slaves are we."
It was a success. The Red Army men quickly learned to read and write. This was the very method of combining instruction with real life that Ilyich had been urging all the time. There was no paper to print new textbooks on. Elkina's textbook was printed on yellow wrapping paper, and in a note explaining her method Elkina described how to learn to write without using pen and ink. One has merely to recollect what paper the notice announcing the First Congress of the Third International was printed on to understand why Elkina wrote about this. It was not a case of failure to appreciate the role of the textbook. The Red Army men quickly learned to read and write by Elkina's ABC book.
"...There cannot be the slightest doubt of the existence of a tremendous thirst for knowledge and of tremendous progress in education—mostly attained by means of extraschool methods—of tremendous progress in educating the toiling masses. This progress cannot be confined within any school framework, but it is tremendous," Ilyich said at the Eighth Party Congress. (Works, Vol. 29, p. 161.)
Our political-education workers Sergievskaya, Ragozinsky and others visited the fronts. We received numerous letters from the fronts. Here is an extract from the letter of a front-line comrade, a Petrograd worker, who had cooperated with us in organizing political-educational work in the district. "I have just read the newspaper for the 7th reporting the opening of the Congress on Extra-School Education," he wrote. "Yes, Nadezhda Konstantinovna, when you travel the length and breadth of Soviet Russia you see what a lot our Department has to do and how needful this extra-school work is. I'm afraid I won't be able to follow all the congress proceedings. I am waiting for a train at station Inza to take me to station Nurlat. I have been appointed inspector-instructor, and I am going to inspect the 27th Division. It's a big job, and the main thing, a new one both in general and for me in particular. The recommendation which Vladimir Ilyich has given me obliges me to fulfil the trust in the best way I possibly can. Referring to that recommendation, one comrade said: 'I'd give my life for such a letter.' I'll write you when I've done the job. Give Vladimir Ilyich and all my acquaintances my sincere regards. Army in the Field. Political Department."
We had visitors from the front as well as letters. Ilyich asked for the more interesting visitors to be directed to him.
Our Department devoted no less attention to explanatory work among the peasantry.
The question of propaganda among the peasantry had long been receiving the attention of Ilyich. We know what trouble he had gone to in building up a popular literature and symposiums of collected articles, and having a popular newspaper published for the village (Bednota).
On December 12, 1918, the Council of People's Commissar had issued a decree "On the Mobilization of Literate People and the Organization of Propaganda of the Soviet System." This decree called for the organization of readings of decrees and the most important articles and pamphlets in working-class districts, and especially in the villages. These readings were to have been organized first and foremost by our Department. Ilyich was a hard task-master. These readings were held; they awoke a desire for knowledge. "We're not going to take sides or join any party," the peasants of the Arzamas Uyezd told our agitator who went down there. "When we've learnt to read we'll read everything for ourselves, and then no one will be able to take us in."
A section for work in the village was set up at the Eighth Congress of the Party, in the name of which Ilyich made his report. The section consisted of sixty-six delegates. Sereda, Lunacharsky, Mitrofanov, Milyutin, Ivanov, Pakhomov, Vareikis, Borisov and others were elected to the committee for drafting the theses.
All this goes to show what tremendous attention the Party and Ilyich devoted to this question.
I remember with what interest Ilyich used to listen to everything our Department succeeded in learning about the life of the peasants and what their attitude was to one or another question.
A peasant of the Moscow Gubernia, who was working at some building site, once called on us for some books. He told us about the profiteering practised before the revolution among the army contractors, who had made fortunes out of the business. We directed him to Lunacharsky. He came back and told us: "He was very nice. He made me sit down on the sofa, while he walked up and down, up and down, speaking ever so well. He gave me some books. Promised to give me some vizool gadgets as well (visual aids.—N.R.). I'm afraid to take 'em, though. He says they won't cost anything, but I'm afraid I'll be taxed for those vizool things afterwards." Nevertheless he took away a collection of all kinds of placards and school aids. He became a frequent visitor at our Department. We called him the Vizool Gadget man. It is characteristic that Ilyich gave more attention to another incident related by this builder. It was about the school-teacher who lived in their village. She did not receive any salary, yet she did not give up her work at the school, and in the evenings gave lessons to the adults, whom she taught to read and write. The Vizool Gadget man told us that he had bought her a pair of boots, as her old ones were completely worn out.
In 1919, many villages were still cut off from the rest of the world. There was no radio in those days. The illiterate population (in the Simbirsk Gubernia, where Ilyich was born, eighty per cent of the population in 1919 was still illiterate) did not read the newspapers—in fact, there weren't any newspapers owing to the shortage of paper; the central newspapers had a very restricted circulation for the same reason, and never reached the villages. Book deliveries had not been organized properly and the bookshops sent out unbelievable stuff. The village was all agog for news of what was going on in the world, but its only source of information were rumours.
Ilyich listened attentively to my stories about how the peasants called on us with naive questions, how monstrously ill-informed they were in regard to the practical measures of the Soviet Government, its structure, their own rights and obligations, what ignorance there was in the countryside, how naive their illiterate letters were, letters penned for them by the village "scholars" in a clerkly flourishing hand full of curlicues, and how those free-lance scribes made them pay through the nose for those letters.
I showed the letters to Ilyich. He used to read them with interest. He advised me to give more attention to the organization of enquiry desks at our reading rooms and village recreation halls. He had experience in consultation service in exile in the village of Shushenskoye, where the peasants from the neighbouring villages used to come to him every Sunday for advice. In December 1918 he drafted rules of management for the government offices, in which he urged the setting up of similar local enquiry offices by the various government departments. "These enquiry offices must not only give the required information, both oral and in writing, but draw up applications free of charge for the illiterate and those who are unable to do so clearly," Ilyich wrote in his "Draft Rules of Management for Soviet Institutions." (Works, Vol. 28, p. 327.)
"Rules concerning the days and hours of reception should be posted up in every Soviet institution both inside and outside in a manner accessible to all without passes. The reception room should be so arranged that everyone should have free and easy access to it without passes.
"A book should be kept in every Soviet institution containing a brief record of the applicant's name, the gist of his request and to whom the matter has been directed.
"On Sundays and holidays reception hours should be observed." (Ibid.)
These draft rules were not published until 1928—ten years later, but Ilyich's directives were known to the Extra-School Department, and it was on his insistence that we began to pay greater attention to the organization of enquiry services at the reading rooms. The village librarians gained prestige as a result of this work, and in 1919 they were a definite influence in the countryside. Enquiry-desk work was linked with propaganda of the Soviet power, propaganda of the decrees issued by the Soviet Government.
Enquiry service was only one of the things Ilyich thought about. On April 12, 1919, a decree was published over the signatures of Kalinin, Lenh and Stalin, providing for the reorganization of the State Control (Stalin was then People's Commissar of State Control). This decree said:
"The old bureaucracy has been destroyed, but the bureaucrats remain. They have brought with them into the Soviet institutions the spirit of conservatism and red tapery, inefficiency and loose discipline.
"The Soviet Government declares that it will not tolerate bureaucratism in whatever form, that it will banish it from Soviet offices by determined measures.
"The Soviet Government declares that only the participation of the broad masses of the workers and peasants in the administration of the country and extensive controlovr the organs of government' will eliminate the faults in the machinery of state, will rid the Soviet institutions of the bureaucratic evil and decidedly advance the cause of socialist construction."
On May 4, 1919, a decree was issued instituting a Central Bureau of Applications under the People's Commissariat of State Control, followed on ~May 24 by a decree instituting local branches of the Central Bureau.
Ilyich urged an unremitting struggle against bureaucratism in Soviet offices.
Bureaucratism with us in Russia was held up to ridicule in the literature of the sixties, especially by the Iskra (Chernyshevsky-ist) Poets. These poets (Kurochkin, Zhulev and others) had a strong influence on our generation. They branded all the numerous manifestations of bureaucratism, red tape and corruption. Verses by the Iskra poets and all kinds of anecdotes concerning red tape were a sort of folklore of the intellectuals during the sixties. Anna Ilyinichna and I were often reminded of that literature in recent years; she had an excellent memory. That literature was very popular in the Ulyanov family. Satire had done its work at the time by enabling our generation to suck in with their mother's milk, so to speak, a healthy hatred of bureaucratism. It was Ilyich's cherished desire to wipe that blemish off the face of the Soviet land.
Ilyich himself was extraordinarily considerate towards people and the letters that he received. This is borne out by the documents published in Lenin Miscellany,;XXIV.
Ilyich received a mass of complaints and he dealt with them himself.
On February 22, 1919, he sent the following telegram to the Yaroslavl Gubennia Executive Committee:
"Soviet employee Danilov complains that the Cheka has confiscated from him three poods of flour and other products purchased during eighteen months on his work earnings for a family of four. Check most carefully. Wire me results.
"Chairman, Council of People's Commissars
(Lenin Miscellany, XXIV, pp. 171-72)
Another telegram to the Gubernia Executive Committee of Gherepovets ran:
"Check complaint Yefrosinia Yefimova, soldier's wife of village Novoselo, Pokrovsk Volost, Belozersk Uyezd, concerning confiscation of grain for common barn, although her husband has been prisoner of war over four years and she has family of three without a farm help. Report to me results investigation and your measures.
"Chairman, Council of People's Commissars
(Ibid., p. 173).
Such instances could be cited by the hundred. I refer to those kept in the Archives of the Lenin Institute, but how many more are there that have not survived! In June 1919, when I went away for a two months' trip on the Volga and the Kama on the agitation steamboat Krasnaya Zvezda, Ilyich wrote to me: "I read the letters addressed to you asking for assistance and try to do what I can about it." When a person's mind is engaged on some important problem, it is extremely difficult and exhausting for him to switch over twenty times a day to all kinds of petty affairs. The only time Ilyich could give his mind up completely to any problem was when he took walks or went out shooting. Comrades recollect how, in such cases, Ilyich would unexpectedly utter some word or phrase which showed what his mind was working on at the moment.
Recollecting how Ilyich used to deal with "trifles," some comrades say: "We did not look after him properly, he was swamped by trivial affairs; we should not have troubled him with all those piddling affairs." That may be so, but Ilyich considered that attention to trivial details was extremely important, and that only such attention could make the Soviet administrative apparatus really democratic, not in a formal way, but in a proletarian democratic way.
And, as he had previously done in the building up of the Party, when he had tried, by personal example, to teach the comrades a correct approach to the problems of agitation, propaganda and organization so did he now, as head of the Soviet state, endeavour to show how work should be carried on in the government offices, how bureaucratism in every shape and form should be banished from the machinery of the state, and that machinery brought closer to the masses. His telegram to the Novgorod Gubernia Executive Committee in June 1919 is characteristic of him:
"Apparently Bulatov has been arrested for complaining to me. I warn you that I shall have the chairmen of the gubernia executive committees, the Cheka and members of the executive committee arrested for this and see that they are shot. Why did you not answer my question immediately?
"Chairman, Council of People's Commissars
(Lenin Miscellany, XXIV, p. 179).
Ilyich tried to purge the machinery of the state of bureaucratism; he demanded a considerate attitude towards every person on the staff, demanded that those in charge should know their staffs, help them in their work and create the necessary facilities for efficient work. Ilyich constantly questioned me about the members of my own staff and got to know them; he advised me how to make better use of one or another worker. He constantly enquired what I was doing for them, how they were off for food, and how their children were faring. He studied the members of my staff, whelm he had never set eyes on, and I was sometimes surprised to find that he knew them better than I did.
There are numerous records showing Ilyich's solicitude for the members of his own staff.
At a meeting of the C.P.C. on March 8 Ilyich wrote the following note to his secretary concerning Khryashchova, a member of the Board of the Central Statistical Department:
"If Khryashchova lives a long way and walks home, it's a shame. Explain to her tactfully when opportunity offers that she can leave earlier on the days when statistical questions do not come up, or not come at all." (Ibid., p. 287.)
Ilyich showed particular concern for the living conditions of staff workers. It was a time when even high-ranking officials and their families did not have enough to eat. It transpired that A. D. Tsyurupa, Markov of the Commissariat of Transport, and others were starving.
On August 8, 1919, Ilyich wrote the following letter to the Organizing Bureau of the Central Committee:
"I have just received additional information from a reliable source that Board members are starving (for instance, Markov of the Commissariat of Transport). I insist most energetically that the C. C. should: 1) order the Central Executive Committee to issue a grant of 5,000 rubles by way of relief to all Board members (and those of equal position); 2) put them all permanently on maximum quotas for specialists.
"It is a shame, really—they are starving and their families are starving!!
"100 to 200 people should be better fed." (Ibid., p. 317.)
At the end of April a turning point was reached on the Eastern Front. The Red Army began to score victories. Ufa and a number of other towns were recaptured from the Whites. The offensive against Ekaterinburg and Perm was developing successfully. At the end of June the agitation steamboat Krasnaya Zvezda was fitted out for a trip of the Volga as far as the Kama, then up the Kama as far as possible, then dawn the Volga to the last navigable place of safety. The task of the Krasnaya Zvezda was to follow in the wake of the Whites land agitate for the line adopted at the Eighth Party Congress, and consolidate the Soviet power everywhere. The Political Commissar on the Krasnaya Zvezda was V. Molotov. The boat was equipped with a cinema and a printing plant and had radio and a large stock of books. It was staffed by representatives of various Commissariats (I represented the Commissariat of Education) and the trade unions.
Before sailing I had a long talk with Ilyich about what we had to do, how to assist the population, what questions had to be focussed on, and what things we had to study more carefully. Ilyich would have liked to go himself but he could not give up his work for a minute. On the eve of my departure we talked all through the night. Ilyich went to the station to see me off, and made me promise to write him regularly and talk with him on the private line. I went up the Volga and the Kama as far as Perm.
Molotov was in charge of all the work. He got us together before each stop, and we discussed what we were going to do, what we were going to bay special stress on. After each stop we reported back on what we had done and compared notes. That trip was extremely useful to me. I had lots of things to talk to Ilyich about after that trip, and he listened to me with tremendous interest, going into every little detail.
We held endless meetings during the trip, and addressed mass meetings at the Bondyuzhsky Works, in Votkinsk, Motovilikha, Kazan, Perm, Chistopol, Verkhniye Polyany, and so on. Our ship's newspaper reckoned that I had addressed 34 meetings. I am no orator, but the things I spoke to the men and women workers about, to the Red Army men and the peasants, were things that deeply agitated them and intimately concerned them. Wherever the Whites had been, the hatred of the population towards them was intense. I shall never forget the meeting at the Votkinsk Works, where the Whites had shot almost all the teenagers—those "accursed Bolshevik spawn" as they called them. The crowded mass meeting sobbed to a man when we started singing the revolutionary funeral march. There was hardly a family there that had not had a son or daughter killed. Never shall I forget the story of how partisan girls and school-teachers were flogged to death, never shall I forget the countless outrages and acts of violence which the peasants—mostly middle peasants—living around the Kama told us about.
The ignorance among the population was very great. Peasant women were still afraid to send their children to the nurseries. A furious agitation against the Soviet power was being conducted among the school-teachers. I saw an instance of that agitation at Chistopol. However, the close contact which the rural teachers had with the peasant and working-class masses induced many of them to side with the peasants and the workers. At the Izhevsk Works 95 out of 96 engineers had run away with Kolchak, but the wife of one of them, a school-teacher in Izhevsk and a former class-mate of mine at the high school, did not run away with her husband but remained with the Reds. "How could I leave the workers?" she said to me when we met.
The privileged intellectuals sided with Kolchak at the time, and went away with the Whites; our chief agitators were men and women workers, and Red Army men. They stood close to the masses. The Second Army had a rather peculiar agitator; he had been a priest before the October Revolution, but after October he became an agitator for the Bolsheviks. At a meeting of five thousand Red Army men in Perm he spoke of the Soviet power's intimate link with the masses. "The Bolsheviks," he said, "are today's apostles." When asked by a Red Army man in the audience: "What about baptism?" he answered: "That would take a couple of hours to explain, but briefly it's pure eyewash!" The speeches of the army commanders from among the workers were very convincing. I told Ilyich about this meeting and how one commander had said: "Soviet Russia is unconquerable on account of its squarity and sizability." We laughed, but afterwards, with the fall of the Hungarian Republic, Ilyich said that, strictly speaking, that commander had been right—we had room to manoeuvre in during the civil war.
Azin, a Red Army commander, came to see me on the boat at Yelabug. He was a Cossack, ruthless to the Whites and deserters, a man of reckless daring. He spoke to me chiefly about the care he was taking of the Red Army men. His men loved him. I received a letter this year from a Red Army man who had fought Kolchak under him. Every line of the letter breathes of warm love for Azin. Recently Pastukhov, a member of the Central Executive Committee, related how a detachment of the Red Army under the command of Azin had suddenly burst into Izhevsk, which was still occupied by the Whites, riding horses whose manes were plaited with red ribbons, and captured the jail in which prisoners under sentence of death were kept (including Pastukhov's seventy-year-old father and his youngest eleven-year-old brother; Pastukhov's two other brothers had been killed at the front). Azin afterwards fell into the hands of the Whites on the Lower Volga and was tortured to death.
The agitation of the Krasnaya Zvezda was very effective in Tataria, where the population gave their fullest support to the Soviet power.
Vladimir Ilyich asked me about everything in full detail; he was particularly interested in what I told him about the Red Army, the temper of the peasants, of the Chuvashes and the Tatars, and about the growing trust towards the Soviet power among the masses.
The latter half of 1919 was much more difficult than the first. This especially applied to September, October and the beginning of November. The civil war was spreading. Kolchak had been defeated, but the Whites were bent on capturing the centres of the Soviet power—Moscow and Petrograd. Denikin started to advance from the south, where he had seized a number of important points in the Ukraine, and Yudenich began to advance from the west, and already stood at the approaches to Petrograd. The victories of the Whites encouraged the enemies who had been lying in hiding. At the end of November a counter-revolutionary organization connected with Yudenich and subsidized by the Entente was discovered in Petrograd.
All the time that Denikin and Yudenich were winning Vladimir Ilyich received a lot of anonymous letters of a threatening character, some of them with caricatures. The intelligentsia was still vacillating, and only the more progressive sections of it headed by Timiryazev had gone over to the Soviets. The Anarchists, supported by the Socialist-Revolutionaries, had engineered a bomb explosion on the premises of the Moscow Committee of the Party in Leontyevsky Street on September 25, in which a number of our comrades were killed.
Famine and poverty were rife. The Red Army had to be strengthened, its fighting spirit sustained, and plans for conducting the struggle at the battle fronts had to be thought out. The Red Army, the population and working class centres in the rear had to be supplied with grain, explanatory and agitation work had to be launched on a wide scale, and the whole administrative machinery had to be built up on new lines—not on the old bureaucratic lines, but along new Soviet lines, new cadres had to be selected and trained, one had to go into a mass of petty details.
Although Ilyich's confidence in victory never weakened for a moment, he worked from morning till night, and the tremendous burden of all those cares gave him no sleep. He would get up in the night and start ringing up on the telephone to check whether this or that order of his had been carried out, or to send another telegram somewhere. He spent most of his time in his office, receiving people, and hardly stayed at home during the day. I saw still less of him during those hectic months; we almost stopped going out for walks together, and I did not like going into his office on private matters for fear of interrupting his work.
The most acute problem was that of grain. The simple purchase of the required amount of grain under the existing conditions of small peasant holdings and wild speculation was simply unthinkable. Some kind of planning and system had to be introduced here, a number of laws enforced and suitable people mobilized for the purpose. It was not mere accident, therefore, that Alexander Tsyurupa was appointed People's Commissar of Food Supply on January 17, 1919. We had known him for a long time; I had bean in exile with him in Ufa.
His father was a petty employee (secretary of the Town Council) in Aleshki, Tavrida Gubernia. Alexander was born in 1870, the same year as Ilyich. Theirs had been a large family of eight; his father died early, his mother made a living by sewing, and Alexander started giving lessons at an early age. He went to a primary school, then the town school and the secondary agricultural school. By profession he was an agronomist, and was familiar with rural economy and peasant life. He was first imprisoned for being a revolutionary in 1893, and was arrested again in 1895. Beginning from 1897 he worked as a statistician in Ufa. There he belonged to a group of Social-Democrats who did active work among the railway workers and the workers of the neighbouring factories. We had worked together there. He met Ilyich once or twice in Ufa when Ilyich came to see me, and afterwards we regularly corresponded. He wrote for Iskra. We knew him as a convinced ardent revolutionary. In 1901 he had organized a May Day strike in Kharkov, and in 1902 had worked in Tula in a group of which Sophia Smidovich, Weresayev and Lunacharsky's brother had been members. In 1902 he was arrested in Samara, and 1905 found him working again in Ufa.
Beginning from 1914 Tsyurupa began to take an active part again in revolutionary Bolshevik work. Ilyich, who was an excellent judge of people, thought very highly of him. He was an extremely modest man, neither orator nor writer, but a splendid organizer, a practical man who knew his business and was familiar with the village. At the same time he was a splendid revolutionary, who was not afraid of difficulties, and threw himself wholeheartedly into the job of whose significance he was fully aware. He worked under the direction of Ilyich, who appreciated him, took care of his health. Seeing him tired and overworked Ilyich, half in jest, half in earnest, reprimanded him for not taking proper care of "state property" (our domestic slang term for devoted Communists). Ilyich liked Alexander Tsyurupa as a comrade too.
The Soviet Government's food policy at the time consisted in the organization of a grain monopoly, that is, prohibition of all private trade in grain, compulsory deliveries of surplus grain to the state at fixed prices, the prohibition of hoarding, strict stock-taking of all surpluses of grain, the proper transportation of grain from places where there was a surplus to places where there was a shortage, and the laying in of stocks for consumption and sowing. Strictly speaking, this was a section of planned economy, socialist economy, but it had to be practised under conditions when the very foundations of that economy had not yet been reorganized, when peasant farming still remained uncollectivized.
On July 29-30, 1919, the Moscow Soviet and the Moscow Trade-Union Council called a conference of factory committees, representatives of trade-union head offices, delegates of the Moscow Central Workers' Cooperative Society, and the "Kooperatsia" Society Council to organize a united consumers' society in Moscow. The conference was attended also by Mensheviks and supporters of the independent cooperative movement. Vladimir Ilyich spoke at this conference on July 30; he wished the conference success in its work, but stressed that everything depended upon whether we would win the civil war and remodel the social system on new lines, as only this could give the cooperative movement the right direction.
He said that it was only twenty months since the October Socialist Revolution had taken place, and, naturally, that was too short a time in which to remodel the whole social system. Ilyich said that it was necessary to get the better not only of the old institutions, not only of the landowners and the capitalists, but also of the old habits bred by capitalism and the conditions of small peasant economy, habits which had grown into the very bones of the petty proprietor in the course of centuries.
Today, when collective farming has become the predominant form of agriculture in our country, everyone understands what Lenin had been driving at. He had talked about replacing individual farming by collective farming. He said that a last and decisive battle was being waged between capitalism and socialism, that only the victory of socialism could help once and for all do away with hunger, exploitation, and the profiting of one from the labour of another. He spoke about the Bolsheviks having started on the path of socialist grain collection for supplying the Red Army and the working-class population. These grain purchases during the first year amounted to only thirty million poods.
"The next year," said Ilyich, "we laid in over 107 million poods, despite the fact that we had been much worse off in a military respect and in respect of free access to the richer grain-producing territories, as we were cut off effectively from the Ukraine and the greater part of the south as well as Siberia. Nevertheless, as you see, our grain purchases have trebled. From the point of view of the work of our food supply organizations this is a great success, but from the point of view of providing the nonagricultural areas with grain this is very little, because when a careful check-up of food conditions among the nonagricultural population and, especially, the working-class population in the towns, was made, it was discovered that in the spring and summer of this year the worker in the towns received approximately only half his food from the People's Commissariat of Food Supply and was obliged to get the rest on the free market and from profiteers, paying in the first case only a tenth of all his expenses, and in the latter case nine-tenths. The profiteers, as may have been expected, are making the worker pay nine times more than the price the state charges for this bread. Considering these exact data showing our food situation, we must admit that we are still half in old capitalism, with one foot there, and have only half climbed out of this morass, this quagmire of profiteering and taken the path of really socialist collections of grain, when grain has ceased to be a commodity, an object of profiteering and an object and cause for squabbling, for fighting, and for the impoverishment of many."
Ilyich went on to say:
"A decisive and final struggle is now going on against capitalism and free trade, and for us it is now a battle royal between capitalism and socialism. If we win this fight there will be no return any more to capitalism and the old order, to all that has been." (My italics.-N.K.) (Works, Vol. 29, pp. 481-82, 487.)
In a number of speeches made in 1919 Ilyich explained to the working men and women, the peasants and Red Army men the meaning and significance of the Soviet Government's food policy and spoke about collective farming. Experience has confirmed the correctness of the policy that was then pursued.
Besides his concern for providing grain for the Red Army Ilyich was constantly thinking how to strengthen the ranks of the Red Army and raise its discipline. He believed that the best way of doing this was to reinforce the ranks of the Red Army, made up mostly of peasants, with workers. That is why he so warmly greeted the Petrograd workers who were going to the front, into the thick of the fight, and he greeted the Moscow workers for the same reason. He relied upon the workers, attached tremendous importance to their advancement to posts of authority in the capacity of commissars and army commanders. He called upon the Red Army men to be unremittingly vigilant. In a letter to the workers and peasants in connection with the victory over Kolchak, Ilyich warned:
"...The landlords and capitalists have not been destroyed and do not consider themselves vanquished; every intelligent worker and peasant sees, knows and realizes that they have only been beaten and have gone into hiding, are lying low, very often disguising themselves by a 'Soviet' ',protective' colouring. Many landlords have wormed their way into state farms, and capitalists into various 'chief administrations' and 'centres,' acting the part of Soviet officials; they are watching every step of the Soviet Government for it to make a mistake or show weakness, so as to overthrow it, to help the Czechoslovaks today and Denikin tomorrow.
"Everything must be done to track down these bandits, these landlords and capitalists who are lying low, and to ferret them out, no matter what guise they take, to expose them and punish them ruthlessly, for they are the worst foes of the working people, skilful, shrewd and experienced, who are patiently waiting for an opportune moment to set a conspiracy going; they are saboteurs, who stop at no crime to injure the Soviet power. We must be merciless towards these enemies of the working people, towards the landlords, capitalists, saboteurs and Whites.
"And in order to be able to catch them we must be skilful, careful and class-conscious, we must watch out most attentively for the least disorder, for the slightest deviation from the conscientious observance of the laws of the Soviet power. The landlords and capitalists are strong not only because of their knowledge and experience and the assistance they get from the richest countries in the world, but also because of the force of habit and the ignorance of the broad masses, who want to live in the 'good old way' and do not realize how essential it is that the laws of the Soviet power be strictly and conscientiously observed." (Works, Vol. 29, pp. 514-15.)
This call for vigilance frightened many people. Many a story was told to Ilyich of how the Red Army men sometimes dealt with one or another capable commander only because he was "one of the gentry," or because some order of his was not to their liking, or on some other trivial excuse. All this was told to Ilyich with a sneer, as much as to say: "There are your fine Red Army men for you!"
Of course, there were many cases of men being blamed not for what they ought to be blamed, or blamed for something someone else had done; people were prevented from seeing things right by lack of knowledge, by the small-proprietor criterion of what was good and what was bad, by an anarchic approach to a number of questions. Ilyich kept hard at us educational workers, demanding that we should develop wider educational activities among the adult workers, peasants and Red Army men, that we should not handle this business in a formal official manner, but should broaden the horizon of our adult pupils, infuse the spirit of Party into all our teaching. He demanded that we should by every means in our power open the door to higher education to those for whom it had been previously closed.
It was in 1919 that a number of decrees were issued throwing open for all the door to the higher educational institutions. Workers' Faculties were organized, numerous workers' courses were set up, and the first Soviet-Party School was organized in 1919.
I would come to Ilyich—at the end of 1919 he looked very bad (there is a photo of him going to the courses, which shows how bad he looked—worn out and harassed) and he would sit there silent. I knew that all I had to do to take him out of himself was to tell him something about the life of the Workers' Faculty students or the Soviet-Party School. And there was plenty to tell him about. He was interested in hearing how people were becoming more socially alert, how they were increasingly becoming aware of the tasks that faced them. We discussed the subject a good deal.
A Party Week was organized in Petrograd between August 10 and 17; at the same time, in accordance with the ruling of the Eighth Party Congress, a re-registration of Party members was carried out, which lasted till the end of September. Between October 8 and 15 a Party Week was held in Moscow.
On October 11 Ilyich wrote his article "The Workers' State and Party Week" which gave a forceful expression of his views on the Party, on what the new government apparatus should be, and how important it was to staff it with as many workers and peasants as possible.
"Party Week in Moscow falls at a difficult time for the Soviet power," Ilyich wrote in that article. "Denikin's successes have given rise to a frenzied increase of plotting on the part of the landlords, capitalists and their friends, and increased efforts on the part of the bourgeoisie to sow panic and undermine the strength of the Soviet system by every means in their power. The vacillating, wavering, ignorant petty bourgeois, and with them the intelligentsia, the Socialist-Revolution aries and Mensheviks, have, as is usually the case, become more wobbly than ever and were the first to allow themselves to be intimidated by the capitalists.
"But the fact that Party Week in Moscow falls at such a difficult time is, I think, rather an advantage to us, for it is much better for the cause. We do not need Party Week for show purposes. We do not need fictitious Party members even as a gift. Our Party, the party of the revolutionary working class, is the only government party in the world which is concerned not in increasing its membership but in improving its quality, and in purging itself of 'self-seekers.' We have more than once carried out re-registration of Party members in order to get rid of these 'self-seekers' and to leave in the Party only politically enlightened elements who are sincerely devoted to communism. We have taken advantage of the mobilizations for the front and of the subbotniks to purge the Party of those who are only 'out for' the benefits accruing to membership of a government party and do not want to bear the burden of self-sacrificing work for communism.
"And at this juncture, when intensified mobilization for the front is in progress, Party Week is a good thing because it offers no temptation to the self-seekers. We extend a broad invitation into the Party only to the rank-and-file workers and to the poor peasants, to the labouring peasants, but not to the peasant profiteers. We do not promise and do not give these rank-and-file members any advantages from joining the Party. On the contrary, just now harder and more dangerous work than usual falls to the lot of Party members.
"All the better. Only sincere supporters of communism, only persons who are conscientiously devoted to the workers' state, only honest working people, only genuine representatives of the masses that were oppressed under capitalism, will join the Party.
"And it is only such members that we need in the Party.
"We need new Party members not for advertisement purposes but for serious work. These are the people we invite into the Party. To the working people we throw its doors wide open." (Works, Vol. 30, pp. 45-46.)
Further Ilyich repeated what he had said at the funeral of Sverdlov—that there were many talented organizers and administrative workers among the working class and the peasantry. It was to these that he appealed to tackle socialist construction.
"If you are sincere supporters of communism, set about this work boldly, do not fear its novelty and the difficulty it entails, do not be put off by the old prejudice that only those who have received a formal training are capable of this work." (Ibid., pp. 46-47.)
The article ended with the words: "The mass of the working people are with us. That is where our strength lies. That is the source of the invincibility of world communism." Ilyich, in those difficult times, ceaselessly appealed to the workers and the Red Army men in speeches and articles. His words roused them. The workers of Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Ivanovo-Voznesensk went to the front en masse.
"The power of the workers' and peasants' sympathy for their vanguard," wrote Ilyich, "was itself sufficient to work wonders.
"It is indeed a miracle: the workers who have experienced the untold torments of hunger, cold and economic ruin have not only kept their spirit up, preserved all their devotion to the Soviet power, all their energy of self-sacrifice and heroism, but are taking upon themselves, despite their unpreparedness and inexperience, the burden of steering the ship of state! And this at a time when the storm has reached a furious pitch.
"The history of our proletarian revolution is full of such miracles. Such miracles will lead certainly and positively—whatever the separate painful ordeals may be—to the complete victory of the world Soviet Republic." (Works, Vol. 30, pp. 53-54.)
The young people, too, were eager to go to the front. We political-education workers were busy at the time with the first Soviet-Party School, at which we tried to give the young people not a "formal" training, of which Ilyich so sharply disapproved, but knowledge that would equip them to grasp and meet the events they were living through. We were awfully glad when Ilyich came to address the graduates of the first Soviet-Party School on October 24, 1919.
"Comrades," he began. "You know that what has brought us here together today is not only a desire to celebrate the graduation by most of you at the course at the Soviet school but also the fact that about half of all the graduates have decided to go to the front in order to give fresh, extraordinary and substantial aid to the troops who are fighting there."
After describing the difficult situation at the fronts without any attempt to gloss it over, Ilyich went on: "That is why, hard though this sacrifice is—the sending to the front of hundreds of graduates who are so badly needed for work in Russiawe have nevertheless consented to grant your wish." (Ibid., pp. 57, 62.)
Ilyich then went on to describe the work that confronted the Soviet-Party School graduates:
"To those who are going to the front as representatives of the workers and peasants there can be no choice. Their slogan should be—death or victory. Each of you should be able to approach the most backward and undeveloped Red Army men in order to explain the situation to them in the plainest language from the standpoint of the working man, help them at a time of difficulty, remove all vacillations, teach them to combat the numerous manifestations of sabotage, inertia, deceit or treachery. You know that there are still many such manifestations in our ranks and among the commanders. This is where we need men who have gone through a course of training, who understand the political situation and are in a position to help the broad masses of the workers and peasants in their fight with treachery or sabotage. Besides personal bravery, the Soviet power looks to you to render the utmost assistance to the masses, to put a stop to all vacillations among them, and prove to them that the Soviet power has forces to which it resorts whenever it is in difficulties." (Ibid.,pp. 63-64.)
The Soviet-Party School graduates justified the confidence placed in them.
Ilyich's speech was also a programme for all our political-education workers.
It was not only at public meetings that Ilyich spoke about what was uppermost in his mind. He spoke about it at home, too, especially when close comrades visited us. At the end of 1919 a frequent visitor was Inessa Armand, with whom Ilyich liked to discuss the prospects of the movement. Inessa's daughter had been at the front, and had narrowly escaped being killed during the bomb outrage in Leontyevsky Street on September 25. I remember Inessa coming to us once with her youngest daughter, Varya, who was quite a young girl at the time and afterwards became a staunch member of the Party. Ilyich liked to indulge in day-dreaming in their presence; I remember how Varya's eyes used to sparkle. He liked to chat with our domestic help Olimpiada Zhuravlyova, mother of the woman writer Boretskaya. Zhuravlyova had previously worked in the Urals as an unskilled worker at an ironworks and afterwards as office cleaner at Pravda. Ilyich thought she had a strong proletarian instinct. Sitting in the kitchen (by force of old habit he liked to have his meals in the kitchen), Ilyich liked to talk with her about the future victories.
Ilyich was not mistaken—we celebrated the second anniversary of the Soviet power with victories.
When Denikin at the beginning of October threatened Orel, the Central Committee of the Party sent Stalin to the Southern Front as a member of the Revolutionary Military Council. Stalin proposed a new plan for an offensive, which was adopted by the Central Committee. Vladimir Ilyich fully supported it. Things at the Southern Front quickly took a turn for the better. On October 19 our troops dealt a crushing blow to generals Shkuro and Mamontov at Voronezh. On the 20th Orel was recaptured, and on October 21 the Pulkovo battles inaugurated the defeat of Yudenich, who had been advancing on Petrograd.
On the anniversary of the October Revolution Ilyich sent ardent greetings to the workers of Petrograd, wrote an article in Pravda "The Soviet Power and Women's Position", and an article for the peasants in Bednota "Two Years of Soviet Power."
On November 7, Ilyich addressed a joint meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet, the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, and factory-committee delegates on the subject of "Two Years of Soviet Power." Ilyich did not like speaking at ceremonial meetings, and his speech at this one was a purely business-like speech without any propaganda. It was none the less a stirring speech, which roused enthusiasm and a storm of applause.
Ilyich said that the most important achievement of the Soviet power during the past two years had been "the lesson at building up the workers' state ... the workers' participation in running the state." "...The most important job that we did was that of remodelling the old machinery of state, and hard though this work was, we see the results of the efforts of the working class in the course of two years and can say that in this field we have thousands of representatives of the workers who have been through the whole fire of struggle, ousting the representatives of the bourgeois state step by step. We see workers not only at the state apparatus, we see their representatives in the food supply business, a sphere that was dominated almost exclusively by representatives of the old bourgeois government, the old bourgeois state. The workers have created a food supply apparatus."
The percentage of workers on the government staffs rose from thirty to eighty in 1919.
The most important task of all that was being handled, Ilyich said, was that of making leaders of the proletariat. They were being made at the front, in all fields of administrative activity. Ilyich stressed the role of the subbotniks, the importance of enrolling workers into the Party. In Moscow alone as many as over fourteen thousand new members of the Party were enrolled during Party Week. Ilyich spoke about the reserves we had in the person of the worker and peasant youth, who had been reared under the conditions of active struggle. But the main thing to which attention had to be paid, Ilyich said, was the building up of proper relations with the peasant millions, the necessity of conducting a wide explanatory campaign among the peasantry. He spoke about how the civil war was opening the eyes of the peasantry to the true state of affairs. Ilyich spoke calmly. The general mood was one of elation.
Mayakovsky, who was then popular with the political-education workers, expressed this mood in his poem dedicated to the second anniversary of the October Revolution:
Let it be by a drop,
merge your spirits in world-wide fusion
by everything each can do
the workers' exploit
don't knock at the door?
What the hell do we need them for?
to our hundredth year.
When we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the October Revolution, and summed up the achievements on the front of socialist construction as recorded in the new Constitution of the Soviet Union, we all thought of Ilyich, of Ilyich's words and directives.