Stefan T. Possony :
Lenin :  The Compulsive Revolutionary

The Sealed Car



In Zurich, Lenin knew nothing about these momentous changes.  The morning of March 15, as he was leaving for the library and Krupskaya had finished washing the breakfast dishes, a friend ran into their apartment and reported that the revolution had begun.  Lenin and Krupskaya proceeded to read the newspapers which were hung up in display boxes.  On March 16 the Tsar’s abdication was confirmed.

But Lenin belittled the event :  the bourgeoisie had legalized the political power that it already possessed de facto.  He did not expect that a labor party would be legalized.  If it were, the unification of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks would be unavoidable !

The news had been electrifying to the revolutionaries.  Some Bolsheviks living in Sweden had started for home already.  Lenin’s initial response was a strengthening of his belief that the Bolsheviks would have to continue existence as an independent party.  He did not consider returning to Russia.  Lenin wrote to one of the Bolshevik Duma deputies who had been arrested in 1914 that, upon his release, he was to go to Scandinavia in order to organize Lenin’s liaison with Russia.  On March 17 Lenin proposed the establishment of a communication point in Norway and called for the organization of revolutionary cells within the army.  This demand could not but curry favor with the Germans, who were reading Lenin’s mail.  On March 18 Lenin calmly traveled to western Switzerland, met Inessa, and gave his customary talk on the Paris Commune.

Lenin assumed that “it will not be possible to get away early from this damned Switzerland.”(1)  Yet German diplomats already were planning the return of Lenin to Russia.  A few weeks later, the German Chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, reported to the Emperor that “immediately” upon learning of the Russian revolution—he received this news during the afternoon of March 14—he instructed the German Minister to Switzerland to offer the Russian exiles passage through Germany.  It is not clear which channels were to be used ;  the Germans had a large number of contacts.  These included Dr. Kornblum who participated in the Bolshevik conference of 1915, and who at that time apparently was in contact with von Bismarck ;  Buchholz, whom Lenin had known from Samara and Berlin ;  Bagocki, who had been involved at Cracow and who soon became the executive secretary of a committee working for the return of the revolutionaries from Switzerland to Russia ;  Shklovsky, who during 1916 was one of the persons who transmitted money to Lenin.  Also of importance in such work were the correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung, Dr. Deinhard ;  the German left-socialist Paul Levi ;  the promotor of the Youth International and Lenin’s young German adherent, Willi Muenzenberg ;  the Polish socialist and former German journalist, Karl Radek ;  a Swiss socialist, Hermann von Boetticher ;  finally, the several contacts which the military attaché had among the international Mensheviks ;  and, of course, Kesküla and Moor.

It was indeed simple to plant the idea.  Already in 1915 Parvus had dispatched Russian revolutionaries through Germany.  The German military wanted Lenin to organize sabotage campaigns.  On December 29, 1916, Okhrana agent “Gretchen” reported that Lenin was still in Switzerland and would not leave via Germany :  even if he were able to obtain the visa he would not use it—to avoid giving for a second time the impression of collusion with the Central Powers.  It would be interesting to know the background of this perplexing “premature” document.

Financial support to Lenin was probably resumed before the overthrow of the Tsar :  the Germans knew through their intelligence service that major changes were impending.  On February 17, Lenin wrote that numbers three and four of Sbornik Sotsialdemokrata (a collection of theoretical articles) were ready, but “how sad—we have no money.”(2)  During that period, surviving witnesses have reported, Zinovyev often paid Lenin’s restaurant bill.  On March 10, however, the German Minister dispatched to Berlin the two previous Sbornik issues (which Kesküla secured and which the experts in the Foreign Office never read) and added, “I hear that publication of numbers three and four is assured.”  On March 17 money was available and was offered to the comrades in Scandinavia.

The Petrograd bureau of the Central Committee sent a telegram through Norway on March 18 which Lenin presumably received on March 19.  It stated :  “Ulyanov must come immediately.”  The revolution had been underway for more than a week and the Tsar had abdicated three days earlier, but only now did the Bolsheviks remember their leader who had not yet bestirred himself.  He had merely tried to establish contact through Alexandra Kollontai, a woman comrade in Stockholm, but she had returned to Russia without waiting for the leader’s advice.

Despite this invitation, and another to go at least to Finland, Lenin took no serious action.  Unlike other revolutionaries he did not go to the British and French consulates.  He asked Safarov to lend him his passport so that he could travel through France under a false name.  Yet Safarov had been disseminating defeatist propaganda to the French army.  With his passport Lenin would have met with more trouble with the French authorities than if he had been traveling under his own name ;  preparations for the trip were discontinued.

But presently, Lenin’s old enemy, Martov, suggested at a meeting at Geneva with Bolsheviks on March 19, that the revolutionaries be permitted to pass through Germany in exchange for Austrian and German prisoners of war.(3)  This proposal was contingent upon approval by the Petrograd government.

Martov made the unfounded assumption that France and Britain would deny passage.  It was not unreasonable to expect difficulties, but the proper course of action would have been to request in structions and diplomatic and consular assistance from Petrograd.  Yet Lenin and his temporary allies of Menshevik loyalty did not even consider applying for passage through allied territory, despite the fact that many Russian émigrés were returning home via the West, usually in allied ships.

The Bolsheviks and international Mensheviks, as well as the left Social Revolutionaries, the Jewish Bund, Polish socialists, and other defeatist groups had had dealings with the Central Powers.(4)  The key men in these groups, uncertain as to what extent their secret contacts had been detected, did not wish to risk indictment for espionage.  The German legation believed, however, that the revolutionaries feared the sea voyage with its peril of submarine attack.

The revolutionaries resolved to contact Berlin through the Swiss government and requested that the Swiss socialist deputy, Robert Grimm, act as negotiator in their behalf.  Grimm was leading the Zimmerwald movement.  The revolutionaries probably suspected that he maintained close contacts with the German legation.  In Lenin’s judgment (expressed in January, 1917), Grimm had gone over to the “social patriots” and was destroying the movement;(5)  Grimm was guilty of “complete treason.”  Yet he was now chosen to conceal the true nature of the transaction—or selected with the expectation that he would do nothing.

On March 20, Lenin resumed a rather desultory literary effort.  On March 21 Parvus saw in Copenhagen Brockdorff-Rantzau to whom he proposed mobilization of the more radical socialists against the new Russian government which was democratic, pro-Entente, and “defeatist.”  The next day Parvus transmitted to Adolf Müller, the Bavarian socialist who had excellent connections with the Berlin government, a program which was to be accomplished by their Russian “party friends.”  It called for the arming of workers, indictment of the Tsar, proclamation of a republic, confiscation of crown lands, convocation of a constituent assembly, partition of large land holdings, eight-hour workdays, and peace.  Parvus’ prodding forced Rantzau to formulate a new strategy of revolution which was to replace conventional warfare.  Parvus was sent to explain the concept to the German Chancellor shortly after March 21.  (Subsequently, Rantzau demanded that Parvus be received by the unsympathetic Secretary of State.)  Crucial was the return of Lenin to Russia.  Berlin approved and Parvus’ agents (notably Hanecki, who was then at Christiana) undertook the task of persuading Lenin.  A German apparatus in Scandinavia also accelerated its operations.

On either March 22 or 23, the Swiss Foreign Minister informed the German legation that “outstanding Russian revolutionaries desire to return to Russia via Germany since they are afraid to go through France on account of the submarine risk.”6  This was the first official communication.

Lenin knew that the revolutionaries in Denmark—Parvus and Hanecki—had established a close rapport with the Germans and were in possession of substantial financial resources.  On March 24 he wrote to Hanecki.(7)  There were earlier communications, perhaps through intermediaries, and it seems that this message to Hanecki was preceded by a receipt of money, but this is the earliest letter published.  With his customary caution, Lenin spoke mainly of better communications with Pravda, a problem of secondary importance.  But in Aesopian language he informed Hanecki that he was willing to cooperate :  he pointedly ended his letter by employing a slogan which Parvus had just expounded to the Germans :  “Long live the proletarian militia which is preparing peace and socialism.”(8)

Opposition still existed in Berlin.  But on March 24 Lenin acquired a new “ally” when the German Emperor let it be known that he intended to support the socialists against the new Russian government, and the High Command informed the Foreign Office(9) that they had no objections to the passage of Russian revolutionaries through Germany.

To this point, Lenin’s interest in returning to Russia had been weak.  Because many revolutionaries were on their way home and virtually all exiles were talking about their return, Lenin, who was supposed to be an active revolutionary leader, was forced to go through some motions, but he was play-acting.  On March 25, however, he informed his comrades in Copenhagen that he was unhappy about the delay.  Still, he found time for doing what he liked best—to attack other socialists :  as though it were a matter of the greatest urgency, he polemically argued against Gorky.

On March 27 Parvus’ emissary, who also was an agent of the German General Staff,(10) visited Lenin and suggested a solution.  Passage through Germany would pose no difficulties ;  the real task was to smuggle Lenin and Zinovyev through Denmark and Sweden into Russia.  The German Bolshevik organization in Scandinavia had been smuggling literature and merchandise into Russia for years.  Hence it undoubtedly was able to transport Lenin into the country without danger.  This project, it seems, had been suggested earlier and apparently Lenin had sent passport photos of himself and Zinovyev.  Now the false Swedish passports were being delivered by Parvus’ agent but Lenin was not willing to take the “risk.”  The risk was merely that the Swedish border officials might have noticed that these alleged citizens did not speak Swedish and they might not have believed the cover story that the bearers of these authentic-looking passports were deaf-mutes.  The risk actually involved was only detention for a few hours or days.(11)

Lenin telegraphed Hanecki that he could not agree to the plan.  Instead, Lenin wanted an entire Swiss railway carriage to transport him to Copenhagen, or an agreement about the exchange of Russian refugees for interned Germans.  The exchange agreement would have required lengthy negotiations between Berlin and Petrograd through a neutral power and would have entailed inordinate delays.  Hanecki, who was then in Stockholm, could do little to obtain a Swiss railroad carriage.  Lenin probably knew that the Swiss would not agree to such a transaction in order to preserve their neutrality.  In sum, Lenin was procrastinating.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen on March 28, 1917, Sazonov talked to Siegfried Goldberg, who was an agent of Matthias Erzberger and, as a German Reichstag member of the Catholic Center party who was amply supplied with funds, guided many psychological and political warfare campaigns outside the Foreign Office structure.  Sazonov and Goldberg discussed methods of achieving peace.  Sazonov, who was about to leave for Russia, told Goldberg that Lenin was the real revolutionary leader and promised to contact him.  It is believed that Erzberger then applied pressure on the Wilhelmstrasse to get Lenin underway.

On March 29 Lenin again changed his mind.  He wrote to Hanecki asking him to spare no costs and go to Petrograd, adding that the first bourgeois government to be eliminated was that of Russia.  An agent of the German military attaché assisted at a Bolshevik meeting and reported that Lenin now was willing to pass through Germany without the permission of the Russian government ;  Lenin’s comrades remained entirely unconvinced.

The Germans discussed the technicalities of the proposed trip.  The military, foolishly fearing that the Russians might agitate while passing through Germany, suggested that the revolutionaries travel under escort in a collective transport.  This notion was transmitted to the revolutionaries ;  whether it was a feedback from Lenin’s suggestion to Hanecki is difficult to determine.  On March 30 an agent of the General Staff, in a report to his superiors, suggested that the trip be authorized without delay.

Alleging that England would not allow him to pass through, Lenin wanted the soviet to arrange an exchange with interned Germans, a time-consuming project.  However, on March 30, Lenin again desired approval from Petrograd.(12)  On the same day, the German legation at Berne received an agent’s report which stated that Lenin had delivered a speech lasting two-and-a-half hours in which he called for the liberation of colonies and oppressed nations, opposition against bourgeois governments, notably in Russia, and revolutionary war.  This type of language conformed well with the supposed needs of German strategists.

On March 31 Lenin and Zinovyev wrote to Martov and Natanson (who then used the name of “Bobrov”).  They objected to the hesitancy shown by the other revolutionary groups ;  they affirmed that they wished to proceed.  It was the first forceful insistence on departure.  It also represented one time when Lenin did not want a split, for he needed support for purposes of self-justification.  Significantly, the letter added that Grimm’s proposal—to pass through Germany—was acceptable, but Grimm had insisted that Petrograd be contacted and permission secured.  Lenin, Zinovyev, and Krupskaya immediately wired Grimm from Zurich notifying him that they would assume no responsibility for further postponement :  “We absolutely cannot agree to further delay . . . Send us decision tomorrow.”(13)  They added that they numbered “over ten passengers” and would be traveling “alone,” that is, without waiting for the revolutionaries from other parties.

But the genuineness of the hurry seems doubtful.  On the previous day Grimm had informed the revolutionaries that he could not continue to negotiate.  Yet, after receiving the telegram, he spoke again with the Swiss Foreign Minister.  This time he advised against contacts with Petrograd.  The Minister told Grimm to stay out of the affair and informed the German legation that the revolutionaries would make contact the following day.(14)  Grimm telephoned (it is not known to whom) to say that his mission was terminated ;  he proposed finding another intermediary.  In the meantime, the legation waited.  It was as though Lenin became active at the moment he lacked an intermediary.  Yet two weeks after the Tsar’s abdication it was obvious that no serious risk was involved in a return to Russia.

On April 1 the Wilhelmstrasse requested five million marks for political use within Russia—a major decision had been made.

On April 2 the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries stated that without the approval of the Petrograd government, passage through Germany would be a mistake ;  they would not move before it was clear that proper authorization was unattainable.

If Lenin had been anticipating such a declaration in the hope that it would provide an excuse for his own inaction, he had miscalculated.  On the morning of April 2, the German Minister in Berne received a peremptory communication from Berlin ordering him to expedite the transport of Russian revolutionaries through Germany :(15) clearly Berlin thought that the deepening of the Russian Revolution should no longer be delayed.  The means were available but the actors were still wanting.

Romberg, seeking an excuse to explain the loss of tempo, answered that some émigrés were awaiting instructions from Russia and “others still seem uncertain as to whether or not they wish to avail themselves of our offer”(16) (which had not yet been made officially).  He recommended waiting, but sprung into action and contacted Lenin through Paul Levi.  Within a few hours, Lenin liquidated his household furnishings and proceeded to Bern.

In the evening of the same day, Anna (Lenin’s sister in Petrograd) received a telegram from her brother informing her that he would arrive on the evening of April 11.(17)  The telegram must have been dispatched on the morning of April 2, almost immediately after the German Minister had been told by Berlin that Lenin should depart without delay.  At that time the Bolsheviks had not even initiated formal negotiations with the Germans.  The telegram has been available for years :  if interpreted through the background of the German files, it proves that, far from acting like a tiger in a cage, Lenin started to move only after the Germans forced him.

Fritz Platten, a Swiss socialist who had participated in the Russian revolution of 1905 and who was married to a Russian, was the new intermediary recommended by Grimm.  Lenin had described Platten as a “good for nothing” in February, 1917.18  Now he found him acceptable, partly because his views were similar to Lenin’s and partly because he was a political weakling.  Platten may not have been a German agent, but he was a corrupt individual seeking personal gain and notoriety.19

On April 3, Lenin conferred with Platten who then went to the German legation for a preliminary contact.  Platten proposed to the Germans the establishment of an intelligence service in Stockholm.  His suggestion was not accepted, although the Germans later used him as an occasional communications channel.20

In the evening of April 3 Lenin wrote to the Bolshevik section in Zurich that he was in possession of “a fund of over 1,000 francs to cover the cost of the journey”;  he enclosed 100 francs to be loaned to an unnamed comrade.21  On April 4 Platten held a long conference with the German Minister.  On April 5 an “agreement” was worked out ;  it was approved by Berlin on April 7.  Also on April 5, the German Foreign Office had reported agreement among the General Staff and their promise that an “understanding officer” would accompany the train.  But there were further delays.  The Germans attempted to persuade a number of the unwilling revolutionaries to accompany Lenin ;  they also negotiated the transit through Sweden.

Lenin, on April 7, asked a few international socialists to compose a statement “approving” of the trip ;  this act, according to Russian law, constituted high treason.  He also requested the approval of the well-known writer Romain Rolland but failed to gain it.22  Finally on Monday, April 9, the revolutionaries and their friends consumed a farewell luncheon at the Zähringer Hof.  Lenin read the draft of a letter to the Swiss workers23 saying that while “the Russian proletariat has the great honor to commence a series of revolutions engendered by the imperialist war . . . socialism cannot win immediately” in Russia, “one of the most backward countries of Europe.”  The task was to give impetus to the bourgeois-democratic revolution and to make a “small step” toward the socialist revolution.  Lenin concluded :  “The German proletariat is the best and most reliable ally of the proletarian revolution in Russia and of the world revolution.”

The travelers left the restaurant at 2:30 P.M.  In the station, there were shouts and unrest.  Lenin, with Platten and Zinovyev, walked solemnly to the train through a cortège.24  Shortly after boarding, he bodily evicted Oscar Blum, a socialist from Riga, whom he suspected of being an Okhrana agent.  Thereupon the train with thirty-two revolutionaries and fifteen minutes delay, left Zurich at 15:10 o’clock.25

The Germans had expected sixty travelers.  According to Communist count there were nineteen Bolsheviks.  Actually, there were not more than about a dozen true Bolsheviks, almost all of them members of Lenin’s “enlarged” family :  Krupskaya, Inessa Armand (whom an Okhrana report of November 16, 1916, described as Lenin’s “right hand”), her former and perhaps current boyfriend, Georg Safarov, and his brother, Zinovyev, with his wife and child, and Olga Ravich, a friend of Krupskaya.26  There were two other reasonably prominent Bolsheviks present :  G.Y. Sokolnikov and the Caucasian, Mikha C. Tskhakaya,27 Chairman of the Third Congress and later President of the Central Executive Committee of Transcaucasus and finally of Georgia.  There were also two Russian workers who had joined the Bolsheviks in Zurich, a Bolshevik of the criminal type and one other revolutionary, “A. Linde,” who either was a German agent or the brother of one (or both).  The total is thus thirteen ;  Radek may be added to the list of Bolsheviks,28 but Radek’s relations with Lenin had not been close.  The rest of the group consisted of persons who then and now remain totally unknown.  Some, to judge from the signatures, were quite old.  It is apparent that the supposed number of the “revolutionaries” was padded to impress the Germans.

The trip was uneventful.  Krupskaya said that the “cook served up good square meals to which our emigrant fraternity was hardly accustomed.”29  Lenin, who disliked the odor of smoke, severely rationed cigarette smoking.  The train, incidentally, was not “sealed”; nor was it a box car, but rather a wagon.  The revolutionaries, however, were separated from the other passengers.

The train was given such high traffic priority that it delayed the train of the German Crown Prince for two hours.30  Yet a connection was missed at Frankfurt and a few hours delay resulted.  It was reported that a British spy was evicted from the train, but this probably occurred without loss of time, either after crossing the border or, according to interview information, at Celle.  The train was scheduled to arrive at the Baltic port of Sassnitz on April 11 at 1:00 P.M.31  Due to the delay the train was not expected to connect with the ferry to Sweden and plans were made to quarter the revolutionaries overnight in Sassnitz.  However, the train remained overnight in Berlin, departing on April 12 at 7:15 A.M.  It arrived at Sassnitz at 3:15 P.m.—a delay of twenty-six hours.  Apparently the train stood for at least twelve hours and possibly as many as twenty hours in Berlin.  Strangely enough, this fact is seldom noted.  Reports of other passengers state that the train stood for a “few hours” on a Berlin siding.  The official report of the escort officer, Cavalry Captain von der Planitz, was delivered to army intelligence.32  If there existed a copy, it has vanished from the files of the Foreign Office.

Time and again, the German documents refer to the need not to compromise the passengers.  Still, there are vague hints about chance conversations in Frankfurt.  It is said that in Berlin, Platten was not allowed to leave the platform “without permission”—implying that he did leave, even if only after obtaining approval.  Krupskaya reported that just before they came to Berlin, “several German Social Democrats” entered a special compartment but “none of us spoke to them.”(33)  Zinovyev told Fedor Raskolnikov that Scheidemann, the leading German Social Democrat, tried to see Lenin on the trip.  Platten disclosed that three representatives of the German government accompanied the train and that Jansson brought greetings from the trade unions but added that Lenin did not meet Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg or Scheidemann.(34)

The train would not have been delayed in Berlin without compelling reason.  The rumors that Lenin met Bethmann-Hollweg or even Scheidemann seem far-fetched indeed.  It is conceivable that Lenin, alleging upon disembarking from the platform that he was Platten, did confer with German officials.  If so, it is possible that he saw Kurt Riezler, Bethmann’s assistant for political warfare.  Riezler later told a friend that he had sent an emissary to the train but that the talk took place only on the ferry between Germany and Sweden.

The Germans, pretending to act upon a suggestion by Swiss trade unions, had insisted on Jansson joining the transport.  When Berlin accepted Platten’s “conditions” concerning the modalities of the trip, they added that Jansson would have to be among the passengers.  Whether Lenin and the others were told about this modification is not clear.  Jansson, a few days earlier, had returned from Sweden where he had spoke with Russian revolutionaries and, together with Parvus, had “briefed” the socialist leaders on the Russian problem.(35)  He entered the train, presumably at Stuttgart, but it is said that Lenin refused to talk to him.  Incidentally, the delay at Berlin violated Article Six of the agreement which Platten had negotiated with the Germans.  What happened on the siding at Berlin is one secret that may never be pierced.  As will appear presently, however, Lenin changed his mind about the Russian revolution after he left the Zähringer Hof, at Zürich, and before he arrived at the Finland Station at Petrograd.

Late on April 12 the revolutionaries passed into Sweden and were in Stockholm on April 14.  Parvus had planned to meet the party at Malmö ;  he had expected Axelrod and Martov to be accompanying Lenin.  The meeting did not occur.  Lenin refused to be seen with Parvus, and Parvus probably did not care to meet only Lenin.  Instead, the arrivals were met by Hanecki, who commented on the unexplained delays in his memoirs.  But Parvus did negotiate with “the Russian émigrés from Switzerland” and reported upon his conversations to the German Social Democratic party and to the Foreign Office.(36)

Upon his arrival in Stockholm, Lenin spoke with Swedish socialists, asking them to “approve” the passage through Germany ;  he also requested money to continue the trip.  The travelers had signed a statement confirming that Platten had “guaranteed” the trip only to Stockholm.  Money was granted by the Swedes but Lenin asked for an additional 1,000 kroners for himself.(37)  Thereupon he took time to buy himself shoes and pants which he needed badly, protesting all the while that he was not going to Russia to open a haberdashery.  He then made a public statement to the effect that he had negotiated with Social Democrats “of various countries” and that the German Social Democrats would send representatives to a peace conference in Stockholm.  Although the statement may have been based upon his conversations with Hanecki, it is likely that this declaration was preceded by contacts with German socialists.  Since he had not negotiated with German socialists in Switzerland, contacts must have taken place elsewhere.

Before leaving Sweden, Lenin appointed Hanecki to be the foreign representative of the Bolshevik Central Committee ;  thus, in essence, Hanecki inherited Lenin’s position.  Lenin knew full well, of course, that Hanecki was working closely with and through the Germans and that he belonged to Parvus’ organization.  Karl Radek, who as an Austrian citizen was not permitted to enter Russia, became Hanecki’s assistant.  V.V. Vorovsky also was in Sweden to help.38

Upon entering Finland at Torneo, Lenin completed a form in which he stated that he was a Russian Orthodox, a political refugee, and a journalist.  Furthermore, he stated that he was traveling on a certificate issued by the Russian Consulate General in Sweden.  Platten was turned back by the British officers who were then in control of the Russian border crossings.  The Germans made a feeble attempt to put the Danish socialist Borgbjerg on the train :  a contact of Parvus, he had been traveling to Russia but had just been turned back by the well-informed British.  Russian counter-intelligence later believed that a German military agent named “Müller” did get through with the transport.

Finally Lenin and his group arrive at Petrograd’s Finland Station, several hours late, at 10:30 P.M. on Monday, April 16, 1917.  They were greeted by a huge crowd of workers, soldiers and revolutionaries, an honor guard of Kronstadt sailors, and an official reception committee of the Petrograd soviet.  Accompanied by the sounds of the “Marseillaise,” Lenin was guided to an armored car which had been brought by the Bolshevik military organization.(39)  He mounted it and made a short speech of congratulations and of warnings about the possibility of becoming slaves of capitalism.  The crowd howled and carried him into the Tsar’s reception room where he was presented with a large bouquet of flowers.  He held the flowers clumsily in his hands as he listened to a speech by Menshevik N.S. Chkeidze, who spoke in the name of the soviet and expressed the “hope” that Lenin would not split the ranks of the revolutionary democracy.  Lenin turned away.  Pointedly ignoring Chkeidze, he made a sharply radical speech before exiting.  He stopped again to speak before the station and then stepped into an automobile.

The crowd, however, was so large that the car could not begin to move.  Lenin climbed upon the hood, spoke, and then tried again to get into the car, but Podvoisky asked him to mount upon a second armored car that the Bolsheviks had brought.  Clad in a dark suit, white shirt, blue tie, black hat and shining shoes, Lenin, standing on top of the tank and overcome by emotion, presented a fiery speech calling for action.  Then, illuminated by searchlights from the Peter and Paul Fortress, Lenin rode in the armored car to Kshezhinskaya Palace, formerly the home of the Tsar’s mistress,(40) and now headquarters of the Bolsheviks.  (They had secured the palace by tolerated expropriation.)  The rest of his party, including Krupskaya, presumably followed by car after the crowd had dispersed.  Lenin again addressed the “masses” from the balcony and talked to his friends inside.  To get a merry party underway, he proposed the singing of revolutionary songs.(41)  After 3:00 A.M. he and Krupskaya went to the rich bourgeois apartment of Yelizarov, where the Lenins were given a spacious room.(42)  A servant girl stood ready for their use.

To everybody’s surprise, Lenin, before he even reached the streets of Petrograd, had advocated a second revolution.  His listeners thought the job was to turn the first revolution into success.  It was this “second revolution” theme which induced one of the German political warfare managers to telegraph, on April 17, from Stockholm to Berlin :  “Lenin’s entry into Russia successful.  He is working exactly as we would wish.”(43)




1 Krupskaya, p. 337.

2 Letters of Lenin, p. 411 ;  also Werner Hahlweg, Lenin’s Rückkehr nach Russland 1917, die Deutschen Akten (Leiden :  Brill, 1957), p. 10.

3 Krupskaya, p. 338.

4 The leader of the left Social Revolutionaries was the veteran revolutionary Mark A. Natanson.  He was the subject of an Okhrana report of February 20, 1905, which stated that he was in close contact with police agents with whom he sometimes spoke quite candidly.  Victor Chernov, leader of the Social Revolutionaries and their foremost Zimmerwaldian defeatist, was in contact with the Austrians and later with the Germans through Alexander Evgenevich Zivin, whose role was partly confirmed by an Okhrana report of September 28, 1916.  Zivin also was known as “Pyatnitsky,” and was associated with Natanson.  There were several channels into the “international Mensheviks,” including Axelrod, probably via Moor.

5 See, for example, Letters of Lenin, p. 406. On Grimm, see Hahlweg, p. 51.

6 Text of this telegram in Hahlweg, p. 65.

7 Hanecki, after a short term of imprisonment, had been expelled from Denmark for smuggling and was now operating from Christiana (now Oslo), Malmö, and Stockholm.  On Hanecki’s trial in Denmark, see the fascinating account by Futrell, pp. 179-190.

8 Letters of Lenin, p. 417.

9 Zeman, p. 26.

10 This probably was Georg Sklarz, one of the financiers of Hanecki’s trade in contraceptives and after the war exposed as a racketeer (Futrell, p. 190 and Hahlweg, 15).

11 Hanecki found a way to utilize Lenin’s picture :  He inserted it in the Stockholm daily Poliliken, with the caption :  “The leader of the Russian revolution”  (Walter, p. 260).

12 Letters of Lenin, p. 421.

13 Ibid., p. 421.

14 Zeman, p. 29.

15 Ibid., p. 33.

16 Ibid., p. 34.

17 Letters of Lenin, p. 421.

18 On Platten, see Hahlweg, pp. 18 and 77.

19 There is no record that Platten was paid before this transaction, but on May 29, 1918, “Friedrich” informed the German legation at Berne that Platten was in financial trouble.  It appears that he was helped within five days, with Nasse acting as intermediary.

20 Platten’s expressed wish to die in Russia was fulfilled when he succumbed in one of Stalin’s slave labor camps.  He moved to Russia permanently in 1924, lectured at an agricultural school, was arrested in 1939, died in 1942 in a camp near Arkhangel, and was rehabilitated under Khrushchev.  He once made a speech to the effect that hundreds of thousands of corpses meant nothing if the happiness of the proletariat was at stake.  Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 9, 1956.

21 Letters of Lenin, p. 422.

22 Walter, p. 276f.

23 Ibid., p. 277f.

24 Communist writers stress the dignity of this departure, yet German eye-witnesses described an unruly scene, with the Leninists and their opponents calling each other dirty names (see Walter, p. 278;  Hahlweg, p. 96f. and contra p. 101).

25 Krupskaya (op. cit., p. 345), playing tricks with the two calendars, after she had given dates according to the Western calendar, suddenly switched to the Russian practice and put the departure date on March 27.  Even then she cut one day :  Lenin departed on March 28 (Old Style).  The effect of this manipulation is to advance Lenin’s return by fourteen days.

26 Krupskaya describes the little boy as the son of a Bundist woman, but from the list of signatures it is clear that it was the son of Zinovyev’s wife.  Yet the relations between the Lenins and the Zinovyevs supposedly were very close !

27 A Caucasian agent of the Germans, Keresselidze, informed Romberg that he wanted to ensure further contacts with the Georgian who was traveling with Lenin.  There also was a Soulichvili on the train but he apparently did not belong to the Bolshevik group.  Keresselidze participated in the German financial support to the Bolsheviks during the summer of 1917.  He and his brother, with the relative of another German agent, Dumbadze, had implicated the Russian Minister of War in an espionage charge.  The checkered career of Keresselidze cannot be detailed here, but one fact is noteworthy :  according to an Okhrana letter of May 21, 1907, it appears that the brothers Keresselidze were given money by the police to be paid to a revolutionary committee but that a portion of the amount was embezzled by them and banked in Switzerland.  “So are they all, all honorable men.”

28 During the purge trials, Sokolnikov, Radek, and Rakovsky, all of whom took part in the German-Bolshevik operation, were practically the only prominent Bolsheviks who received relatively light prison terms.

29 Krupskaya, p. 345.

30 Hahlweg, p. 23.

31 The scheduled travel time of thirty-two hours was quite long, an average speed of only twenty-two miles per hour for an express train.  However, wartime conditions may explain this schedule.

32 German military files, it seems, have not been preserved.

33 Krupskaya, p. 345.

34 Magdeburger Volkstimme, May 16, 1917.  Scheidemann had returned to Berlin from Scandinavia on April 10.

35 Philipp Scheidemann, Memoiren eines Sozialdemokraten (Dresden :  Reissner, 1928), I. 421.

36 Hahlweg, p. 22 ;  Zeman, pp. 42, 45f., 50.

37 Paul Olberg, Vorwärts, May 1, 1957.

38 Vorovsky was employed by the German industrial concern of Siemens-Schuckert ;  of that firm’s Petrograd branch, Krassin was then the managing director (Futrell, p. 156).

39 G.V. Yelin, the Bolshevik headquarters commander, had to be persuaded to release the armored cars for this social occasion.  He thought tanks were needed for other purposes.  The government did not bestir itself to disarm the private armies of the various parties.  See N.I. Podvoisky “V.I. Lenin v 1917 gody,”  Istoricheskii Arkhiv, 1956, V. 6.

40 This relation had occurred many years earlier.

41 Yelena Stassova reported that he asked for the singing of the “Internationale” but the comrades did not know this song and just mumbled something.

42 Yelizarov apparently had participated on the Russian end in the Parvus-Hanecki smuggle operation, largely in partnership with the left Social Revolutionary Spiro, who at one time had been connected with the Okhrana and who later served for a few weeks as Commissar of Post and Telegraph.  (General A. Niessel, Le triomphe des bolshéviks et la paix de Brest-Litovsk, souvenirs 1917-1918 (Paris :  Plon, 1940), p. 122).

43 Zeman, p. 51.


Lenin :  The Compulsive Revolutionary

Sudden Prominence



Lenin had expected to be arrested for treason.  Instead he received a hero’s welcome—except that his well-wishers did not know for which heroic deeds and social accomplishments he was to be praised.  He was acclaimed as the “leader of the Petrograd masses, workers, soldiers and sailors,” yet he had never led them.  Lenin’s mystique was born during those hours of darkness in the parade which started at the Finland station and which the Mensheviks of the soviet had helped to organize in the naive hope that a triumphal reception would soften the radicalism of the nostalgic homecomer.

But Lenin could not be bribed by flattery so transparent in purpose.  The entire Russian Bolshevik organization, at the time of the overthrow of the Tsar, had not numbered more than 5,000 members and 100 to 200 trained “cadres” and propagandists.  There were at first only thirty Bolsheviks in the Petrograd soviet and most of these had not been elected but were co-opted by the members of the soviet.  Such prominent leaders as Kamenev and Stalin arrived by the end of March from Siberia.  Though membership had climbed to about 25,000, and soon was to reach 40,000, the question of seizure of power was considered untimely, and was conceived, in the image of the American spoils system, as seizure of the state apparatus by the socialists.  There was some confusion, but most of the Bolsheviks, while debating within the soviet, gave qualified support to the government.  For a few days, though they asked for immediate peace negotiations, the Bolsheviks even advocated measures of defense.  One revolutionary asserted that the Bolsheviks had become “de-bolshevized.”(1)  Lenin’s first words at the Finland Station, so much at variance with his last public words in Switzerland, should have destroyed the illusion that he would support a moderate policy.  But it was thought he would soon learn more about the “situation.”(2)  In the meantime, his new views shocked even Krupskaya who reportedly exclaimed :  “I am afraid it looks as if Lenin has gone crazy.”(3)  Pravda described Lenin’s view as “unacceptable in that it starts from the assumption that the bourgeois democratic revolution is ended.”(4)

Still, sudden glory endowed Lenin with immunity.  On the day after his arrival, the Petrograd soviet, albeit by implication, sanctioned Lenin’s trip.  His case was ably defended by Zurabov, who for years had been connected with the Germans in Denmark.  He was on the allied “control list” but returned to Russia as soon as the new government cleared him.  Masquerading as a left Menshevik, Zurabov now functioned as a deputy in the soviet.

The soviet’s acquiescence to Lenin’s trip was not surprising.  All the delegates were socialists, and they were not about to oppose one of their prominent comrades, irrespective of his lack of loyalty.  The fear of helping the “counter-revolution” was an overriding consideration.  But there was another point :  the Germans had pumped money into several socialist groups and they had maintained contacts with others.  These transactions were secret, but the politicians on the Executive Committee—the soviet’s only functioning body—knew enough not to take chances.

Still, the government could and should have taken forceful action.  But it was composed of impractical “idealists” who had destroyed the counter-intelligence organization.  Hence they were not equipped to prepare a strong case.  The Minister of justice harbored sentiments of socialist solidarity.  He was Alexander F. Kerensky, son of the Simbirsk school principal who had helped young Lenin to graduate after his brother’s execution.  There also existed some reluctance to initiate an open fight with the soviet.  The moderates in the government expected Lenin to discredit radicalism.  Since he could be relied upon to resort to his favorite splitting tactics, he might weaken the soviet which prevented the cabinet from governing by functioning as a second government.

Lenin struck as soon as the soviet had accepted his explanations of the trip through enemy territory.  He vehemently opposed “defencism,” though he carefully avoided offending the “defencist” socialists.  The revolution had to be propelled immediately into its second phase :  the state was not to be simply “taken over” but demolished.  Lenin hinted, without making the point explicit, that the socialist revolution would mean seizure of power by the Bolsheviks.

Lenin proclaimed that Russia was under a regime of “dual power”—that of the government and of the soviet.(5)  The Bolsheviks must run the soviet, directly or indirectly.  The soviet would have to be developed primarily as an “organ of uprising.”  It would assume full political power and create a new form of state (a parliamentary republic would be “a step back”).  To begin with, agitation should be based upon the slogan “all power to the soviets” (i.e., destroy the government).  The Bolsheviks were to strengthen their positions within the soviet while agitating for power to the soviet as a whole.

The idea expressed tactical genius but it shocked the party.  The members thought that the notion of “smashing the state apparatus” constituted anarchism—which it was—and that Lenin’s tactics of “permanent revolution” were unrealistic—which they were not.  The Petrograd party committee voted down his proposals.  Against his opposition, a strong part of the Bolshevik Central Committee came out for reunification with the Mensheviks.(6)  Lenin was more or less isolated, but he remained unperturbed.  He called Sverdlov from the Urals to Petrograd and they combined with Zinovyev in using their excellent knowledge of pre-war party membership to rebuild an organization loyal to Lenin.  He did not neglect to establish “shock units” in Kronstadt, Petrograd, and Helsingfors, recruiting or hiring radical Social Revolutionaries, anarchists, and criminals.

After some delay Lenin succeeded in drawing Stalin to his side, gaining a majority of one with a five to four edge in the Central Committee.  This control enabled Lenin to select the delegates for the so-called April party conference and to gain a clear mandate for his policy.  Initially he achieved this victory through his tactical skill and his abuse of intra-party democracy, but by the end of April or early May money became available.(7)  This helped enormously, especially in the hurried recruiting of goon squads.

Lenin entered what might be considered the most satisfying three months of his life.  Shortly after his arrival he became editor of Pravda, which had started publication again on March 18.  Lenin could indulge in venting his hatreds against other socialists, and, he venomously attacked those who were accusing him of subversive dealings with the Germans.  Though a pedantic writer when discussing theoretical problems, Lenin was a gifted journalist.  Some of the fiery short articles he wrote were examples of prime polemic writing.

Lenin’s private life was quiet, however.  Inessa had gone to Moscow, which suggests that love had abated and that, perhaps, she took the initiative in terminating the affair.(8)  In any event, too obvious a relation was not advisable.  Since at long last Lenin was able to operate as he wished, politics was now of overriding and absolute importance.

By_ early May Lenin had acquired enormous authority and personal prestige.  He was treated as the formal and undisputed head of the Bolshevik party.  He opened and closed party conferences.  However interminably and rudely he spoke to the soviet of peasants and at the All-Russian soviet, he was listened to with respect.  Opposing the government, he incessantly called for “all power to the soviets.”  Indefatigably he agitated for national self-determination of the non-Russian peoples, the dissolution of the army, fraternization at the front,(9) the immediate termination of the war, and a de facto truce on the front ;  to keep face, he protested against separate peace with Germany.  At this point the Germans had adopted a strategy of virtual inaction but had increased propaganda at the battlefront.  Parvus was one of the instigators of this strategy.  Thus advanced the world revolution.

These exhortations and hopes had become meaningful to millions of Russians.  It so happened that Lenin’s slogans coincided with German interests except, of course, for his muted calls for a revolution in Germany.  Since the summer of 1915 the Germans had been particularly interested in defeatist “disorganizing” and “disintegrating” propaganda within the Russian army.  Now the tempo of this effort increased.  On April 28, a few days after Lenin’s arrival, Soldiers’ Pravda (shortly afterwards renamed Trench Pravda) began publication.  Lenin’s confidant during the publication period of the first Pravda, Podvoisky, took charge of the operation which gave fraternization at the front a clear political meaning.  The paper, which was officially issued by the Social Democratic military organizations in the Latvian region, rapidly achieved wide circulation at the front but, on June 17, the editor, a certain Khaustov, was arrested as a German spy.  (Even before Lenin’s return, a member of the Pravda staff had been arrested as an enemy agent.)  Little incidents like this passed unnoticed in the general enthusiasm for the new political life.  Lenin’s socialist comrades had decided that the opposition to Leninism should be based purely on ideological differences.(10)

Though Lenin was the formal leader of his party, there exists ample evidence that outside forces were agitating.  Lenin’s interests did not entirely coincide with those of the Germans.  The latter, vitally concerned about the military effort of Russia, were anxious to create unrest to as great a degree and as rapidly as possible.  Lenin, by contrast, was anxious to seize power, but for this very reason had to be careful not to undertake premature moves.  His timing had to be in harmony with the attitudes of the masses rather than with the interests of the Germans.  He later commented that the existing government, though it would eventually have to topple, could not be overthrown immediately.  “We are no Blanquists.  We do not want to rule with a minority . . . against the majority.”(11)

In April, 1917, Lenin favored peaceful demonstrations as a means to strengthen the party and spread his slogans.  Yet, early in May, the government announced its loyalty to the Allies and supported national defense.  This created a sore point with the Germans.  There was little spontaneous unrest, but German agents rapidly got busy.  On May 7 Riezler received a report from “Uno” (probably Jansson) advising means of aiding the “activists” in Petrograd.  On May 14 the Wilhelmstrasse was told that Jansson and Steinwachs had established contacts with all groups of the Social Democratic party.  Bolsheviks had built up cells in two or three regiments by incessantly delivering speeches to soldiers in their barracks.  A Bolshevik specialist in military work, F.F. Linde of the Finland Guard Reserve Regiment,(12) led the rebellious soldiers into the streets.(13)  Investigation showed that the demonstrations were prepared in advance :  there were banners and placards, many with expertly executed drawings.  The demonstrators were led by agitators and accompanied by armed men.  “Provocative shots” were fired and casualties resulted.(14)  The government’s palace was surrounded and the mutinous soldiers were preparing to arrest the government.  Such a step would have boomeranged.  After a few shots were fired, the soviet, which had full authority, called a halt to the operation.  The military wanted to suppress the demonstration, but the leaders of the democratic government, G.E. Lvov and A.F. Kerensky, decided to rely on “moral influence.”

An insurrection attempt would also have been a grave mistake from the Bolshevik point of view.  Later Lenin, who had been surprised, counseled moderation and admitted that this operation “was not organized by the party.”  He asserted that those who stood to the left of the Central Committee were “crazy.”  He reminisced later that this upsurge—“somewhat more than an armed demonstration and somewhat less than an armed uprising”—opened his eyes to the potentialities of a popular insurrection.(14a)

Lenin’s behavior was unusual and did not quite fit the legend.  It could not but disappoint the Germans who expected more than agitation for an international socialist conference.  Lenin turned to the land question and sometimes obliquely, other times vehemently, suggested to the peasants that they should set up committees and seize land :  there was no risk of prematurity in localized rural uprisings.  This tactic (which can be traced back to Bakunin) was well coordinated with the Germans who in their front propaganda were telling the Russian soldiers the same thing as Lenin and, to induce mass desertions, were spreading the rumor that the land was being grabbed by those who had stayed at home.  This propaganda technique had been suggested to the Germans, not by a revolutionary but, on April 17, 1917, by an otherwise unknown Count Corvin Milewsky, who during World War I was a resident of Holland.  This effort was most effective in revolutionizing Russia.

The Bolsheviks were flourishing.  Under Vyacheslav M. Molotov, a press bureau (byuro pechati) was established and with “special funds”(15) furnished by the Central Committee it financed and enlarged ten provincial party papers plus Trench Pravda and the chief organ, Pravda, in Petrograd.  The considerable source of the “special funds” which supported a dozen papers is unrecorded, but the historian of this effort was I.S. Sazonov, who participated in the labors of the bureau.  This fact suggests that Berlin was the main source of the funds.(16)  However, given Sazonov’s contacts with an agent of Erzberger rather than the Foreign Office, presumably these funds were funneled through Erzberger’s organization which did specialize in “press work.”  These funds would have been used in addition to those budgeted by the Foreign Office.  Incidentally, the first issue of the bureau’s Bulletin contained an article by Stalin.  It is open to speculation if he and Molotov knew or surmised the financing of the bureau’s farflung operations.(17)

When Shotman visited Lenin by the end of May or early June, Lenin proudly showed him a new and modern press which was capable of increasing the output of Pravda.  Lenin related that the printing press had been made available by the Finnish party, a most unlikely source of such supplies.(18)  In any event, on June 3, 1917, Berlin informed Romberg that Lenin’s peace propaganda was getting stronger and that the disorganization of the Russian army was progressing.

To disprove this kind of talk, the Russian government again felt the need to display its army’s power and the firmness of Russia’s alliance with France, Britain, and the United States.  They decided upon a military offensive.  This decision soon was known and openly debated in the press.  A victorious Russian offensive might have changed the entire military situation.  German propaganda outlets immediately became active.  Lenin, maintaining that an offensive would entail the slaughtering of Russian workers and peasants, demanded an immediate peace offer to the suppressed classes of all countries, a peace anchored to the destruction of capitalism.

At the beginning of June the Petrograd municipal elections were held on the basis of universal suffrage and the Bolsheviks polled one-sixth of the vote.  This percentage was still quite small, but on June 4, Lenin declared in the All-Russian soviet that the Bolsheviks were prepared to assume power, a declaration that was received with some applause and much laughter.  Pravda, the Germans reported, was selling 300,000 copies daily(19)—a large circulation, especially when one considers the other subsidiary organs.(20)  But trouble was brewing :  one of the Bolsheviks who had returned with Lenin through Germany was implicated in a criminal affair (theft of jewelry) and the Malinovsky story broke.  The debate about the offensive was an excellent diversion but the Germans, who had determined the approximate battle date through radio intelligence, desired action.

On June 19 the Bolshevik military organization of Petrograd, over which Lenin exercised little control, began preparations for an ostensibly peaceful—but actually armed—demonstration.  Austrian diplomats in Stockholm were told by one of their academic agents that Olof Aschberg, director of Nya Banken, had discovered that Lenin was preparing to strike within a few days.(21)  If successful he would take power, but it was likely that the attempt would fail.  On June 21 Lenin was prevailed upon to approve of the planned demonstration.  The plan envisaged that in case of popular support, the main government buildings were to be occupied, the government arrested, and power seized by the Central Committee.  A lengthy proclamation was issued, the substance of which was that the soldiers should join the workers in the streets and that not a single regiment or division should remain in the barracks.  It called for the control and organization of industry, for the concentration of all power in the soviet, and for “bread, peace, liberty.”  The text emphasized that there were to be no secret treaties with the allies and no separate peace with Germany.  This phrase was telegraphed by a Pravda editor, Bronislav Veselovski, to Hanecki and thereupon was published in the German press.(22)

The demonstration took place on June 23, but there was little support.  The All-Russian soviet, thirteen per cent of whose delegates were Bolsheviks, asked the Bolsheviks to end the operation.  The Bolsheviks rejected the request.  Thereupon the Petrograd soviet forbade demonstrations for three days.  The Bolshevik military leaders wanted a “test of strength” but Lenin interfered and cancelled the operation.  Chernov, a Social Revolutionary leader of strong Zimmerwald convictions who enjoyed direct or indirect Austrian and German support,(23) commented that Lenin was shrewd enough to avoid political suicide.

It was suggested in the soviet that the Bolsheviks be disarmed and the mutinous regiments disbanded.  Martov, who had recently arrived via Germany, protested that there was no enemy on the left and that the most important task was to prevent a counter-revolution.  The Menshevik Weinstein alleged that, lest the counter-revolution win, Bolshevik force should be subdued by non-violence.  Of course, Weinstein was in communication with German socialists in Stockholm.

On June 25 the soviet, surprisingly, announced open support of the offensive.  This meant that the Germans were forced to create unrest again.  A revolutionary center was formed inside the Bolshevik party to put pressure on Lenin.  However, countermoves were made and, on June 29, the Bolshevik military organization decided to restrain from demonstrating as yet.

On July 1 the Russian military offensive began.  The event rapidly swelled the Bolshevik ranks.  The Bolsheviks proposed a demonstration.  Partly to neutralize this effort and partly to bring about reconciliation, the Mensheviks decided to join with the Bolsheviks in this demonstration.  The Bolsheviks stole the show with greater numbers, large quantities of streamers and leaflets, and forceful slogans, but the demonstration had no national impact.  The Germans were so worried about Lenin’s failure to stop the offensive that they established relations with the anarchists, who attacked the main prison, liberating criminals and deserters.  Bolshevik and anarchist agitators, propagandizing military units, advocated rebellion and mutiny.  The Germans and Austrians increased their front propaganda and stepped up distribution of their own Russian language publications.  Fraternization was reoriented to conduct “peace negotiations” from regiment to regiment.

The Russian offensive soon weakened.  According to Lenin’s interpretation, a turning point in the revolution had been reached ;  but he feared a blood bath in which the groups which wanted to advance the revolution would be exterminated.  Kamenev and Stalin supported him against Raskolnikov, a lieutenant and Bolshevik leader of the Kronstadt naval base, and Ensign A.Y. Semashko,(24) both of whom were insisting on an uprising.  On July 5, Bolsheviks from the Central Committee, the Petrograd committee, and the military organizations resolved to begin the uprising.  Lenin undoubtedly disagreed with the decision.  Though the uprising was expected to spark a German counterblow at the front, it was politically premature.

By July 11 the Russian offensive had turned into defeat and a German counteroffensive was about to be initiated.  The next day Lenin went to Finland, accompanied by Demyan Bedny, the poet, to take a summer rest with his sister Maria in Bonch-Bruyevich’s dacha in the village of Naivola—a vacation “in a sea of trouble.”  He was completely exhausted and suffered from such insomnia that sleeping pills were prescribed.

The uprising started late on July 15.(25)  It was launched by a machine gun regiment following Semashko’s orders.  Other military units, notably a sailor detachment from Kronstadt, and a few civilian groups joined.(26)  There was a fair amount of popular unrest.  Yet to get large masses of demonstrators and soldiers into the streets, money was necessary.  And indeed, German agents were distributing money freely in 5, 10 and 25-ruble notes.(27)

The rising really got under way in the afternoon of July 16.  In the evening the soldiers and workers of Petrograd were called into the streets.  The soviet was surrounded and vainly was requested by the demonstrators to assume governmental power.  The Central Committee had very little control.  The insurgent troops (altogether five reserve regiments) were firmly in the hands of the Bolshevik military leaders.  Lenin returned early on July 17 and made an insipid speech but did not call a halt to the uprising.

By the evening of July 17, despite government counteractions, the Bolsheviks, for all practical purposes, still controlled Petrograd.  Yet there was no real mass support ;  the operation was in the nature of a putsch rather than an uprising.  The continuing lack of visible success, as well as food, water, and other bodily needs caused restlessness among the masses.

At this time, some enterprising souls disseminated information demonstrating “definite proof of Bolshevik treason.”  Yet before the insurgents were handed newspapers and leaflets accusing Lenin of being a German agent, an assistant of the Minister of Justice, N.S. Karinsky, secretly informed Bonch-Bruyevich that there was a plan underway to indict Lenin.  He warned that there was adequate evidence.  Between seven and eight o’clock that night, the Central Committee, with Lenin’s approval, called off the “manifestation.”  Lenin went into hiding.  The government deployed loyal military forces ;  many Bolshevik units, shocked by the disclosures, were easily disarmed.  Other Bolshevik troops inadvertently began to fire upon each other.  Panic ensued, and immediately thereafter a thunderstorm followed by a heavy downpour emptied the streets.  Within a few weeks the party was to lose half of its membership.  Bolshevism seemed to be crushed forever.




1 Walter, p. 286ff.

2 Shub, p. 190 ;  also Schapiro, p. 161f.

3 Raphael R. Abramovitch, The Soviet Revolution 1917-1939, (New York :  International Universities Press, 1962), p. 80.

4 Quoted from Schapiro, p. 164.

5 This was not original with him.  The formula was first expressed by Y.M. Steklov on March 17, 1917.  See The Russian Provisional Government 1917, documents, ed. Robert P. Browder and Alexander F. Kerensky (3 Vols., Hoover Institution, Stanford University Press, 1961), III, 1224.

6 Many local party organizations until the Bolshevik seizure of power remained, despite Lenin’s efforts, jointly Bolshevik-Menshevik in their composition (Schapiro, p. 164).

7 On April 25 Lenin wrote to Hanecki and Radek complaining that so far “exactly nothing” had been received ;  “no letters, no packages, no money from you.”  Letters of Lenin, p. 424.  On May 4, he confirmed receipt of “2000” from Kozlovsky (Proletarskaya Revolyutsiya, No. 9 (21), 1923, p. 231).

8 “During the war Lenin wrote more letters to Inessa Armand than to any other person, whether relative or disciple . . . Lenin wrote more frequently and at greater length to her than to anyone else.... From November 20, 1916, to ... the February revolution in 1917, he wrote . . . more to her than to all the rest put together.  In his letters to Inessa, as always, preoccupation with politics is uppermost.  But tone and depth reveal facets of his nature exhibited in no other letters.”  (Wolfe, “Lenin and Inessa Armand”, p. 104f.)  During January 1915, Inessa sent Lenin the outline for a pamphlet on the women’s question which elicited a critical reaction by Lenin on the subject of “free love” and “freedom of adultery.”  Inessa was deeply hurt (Wolfe, p. 109) but Lenin succeeded in explaining himself.  In his last letter to her written in Switzerland between March 25 and 31, 1917, he still assumed they would be unable to go to Russia (Sochineniya, 4th ed., Vol. 35, p. 248).  Although he chided her for being nervous, the relationship appears to have remained intact.  (In his wartime letters, Lenin no longer addressed her by ty but by vy;  Wolfe interprets this, correctly, as a conspiratorial move to deceive wartime censorship.)  There are no data to indicate the reasons why, upon arriving in Russia, the two separated.

9 Lenin’s first article on this subject appeared in Pravda on April 28.

10 For an example, see Browder-Kerensky, op. cit., 11, 1094.

11 Lenin mainly criticized Blanqui’s disregard for the importance of the masses.  His main statements on Blanqui appear in Sochineniya, 4th ed., Vols. 10, p. 360; 12, p. 88f.; 15, p. 337ff.; 17, p. 129f.; 24, pp. 21, 29, 119, 186f., 206, 233, 288f.; 25, pp. 282, 406; 26, pp. 4f., 181; 28, p. 281; 29, p. 132; 30, p. 458; and 31, pp. 48, 69.

12 Abramovitch, (p. 37) described “Fedor Linde” as a teacher of mathematics and philosophy, then serving as a private.

13 Linde poses an interesting puzzle.  On March 24, 1916, the Paris Okhrana agency reported to Petrograd on a German secret agent, von der Linde, who was working against Russia and was then in Switzerland.  A “Linde” returned with Lenin on the sealed train.  This may have been the same Linde whose archive Shotman in 1913 brought to Lenin in Poronin (Shotman, op. cit., p. 300f).  Another “Linde” sometimes also described as “F.F. Linde” was in Petrograd on March 14.  He was one of the first soldier delegates to the soviet, and apparently had a hand in drafting the soviet’s Order No. 1 which, by instituting soviets throughout the army, greatly weakened Russia’s military strength.  The above Linde was identified as a Social Democrat and left intellectual who was a member of the soviet’s executive committee by April, 1917, and later became a political commissar and was killed on the front in 1918.  A Fritz Linde, also known as Karl Y. Pechak, was arrested in November, 1914, together with several Bolshevik Duma members, and, was sent to Siberia because of “cooperation with German and Austrian military interests” (Tsiavlovsky, op. cit., p. 156).  One element of confusion is that “Fritz” also seems to have used “Alexander” as his first name.  The odds are, however, that there were two Lindes.  There were quite a few teams of brothers and cousins acting in unison.

14 Browder-Kerensky, op. cit., II, 1242.  The examining magistrate requested the soviet to make available the results of their finding on this unrest.  This request was complied with only after long delays.  Hence the organizers were not identified.  In September the prosecutor dropped the case.  This example of inefficiency, procrastination, and unwillingness to stop subversion was typical of the way “Russian democracy” handled the “internal threat.”

14a “Noviye dokumenty V.I. Lenina,” Voprosy Istorii KPSS, No. 5, Moscow, 1958, p. 16.

15 Istoricheskii Arkhiv (1955), No. 5, p. 200f.

16 See also Schapiro, p. 177.

17 It is not a foregone conclusion that all this financing was done with genuine money.  There are indications that forged rubles were used also, though apparently largely in connection with “demonstrations.”  It will be recalled that Parvus proposed an ambitious “strategic” scheme for money forging.  Perhaps the Germans followed up this suggestion, but only on a “tactical” level.  The Russian government had been informed to the effect that the Germans possessed plates for the printing of 10-ruble notes.  B.V. Nikitine, The Fatal Years (London :  Hodge, 1938), p. 114.

18 Shotman, p. 386.  The Finnish socialists did make available paper to Bolshevik and other socialist newspapers.  On two or three occasions they reportedly also gave the Bolsheviks several thousands of rubles (Futrell, p. 159f.).  This money, which came through Karl Wiik who in turn was tied in with Hanecki, may have been of German origin.  Naturally, small Finnish collections may have been used to cover up for the larger sums.

19 Austrian documents put this figure at 400,000.

20 On December 3, 1917, the German Secretary of State, Richard von Kuehlmann, stated in a report for the German military High Command, “It was not until the Bolsheviki had received from us a steady flow of funds through various channels and under varying labels that they were in a position to be able to build up their main organ, Pravda, . . . and appreciably to extend the originally narrow basis of their operation.”  (Zeman, p. 94)  Unfortunately, there are no exact figures.  From related data in the German file it would appear that a paper with a printing of 400,000 would run a deficit of at least 500,000 dollars annually.  This would be equivalent to close to 100,000 rubles per month (pre-war parity).

21 Austrian Archives, Politisches Archiv, Rot 834, Krieg 3, Russland, June-September, 1917.

22 Browder-Kerensky, op. cit., III, 1369.  The Russian government established that there was only one outgoing telegram discussing Bolshevik slogans.

23 Through Zivin, his intermediary with the Germans.

24 This was not Dr. Semashko, Lenin’s medical friend and party treasurer after Victor Taratuta, but presumably his cousin.  Semashko was ordered to go to the front in April but refused and concentrated on organizing Bolshevik cells in the Petrograd garrison.

25 The timing was in accord with German tactical requirements.  The Bolsheviks were well informed on events at the front because of their infiltration into the communication and telegraphic services.  Through these same infiltrators rumors were spread to the front that the Bolsheviks had assumed power in Petrograd and were calling off the war.

26 According to the London Times of July 19, 1917, there were also demonstrations by national groups clamoring for self-determination.

27 Nikitine, p. 111f.