Michael Pearson :
The Sealed Train

Chapter 7

 

As The Train Steamed into the Frankfurt Station, it was the evening rush hour.  Men and women workers were streaming along the platforms toward their homebound trains.  “Thin tired people with weary eyes were moving in a long procession past our train,” recorded Fritz Platten.  “We did not see a single smile.  The depressing scene from the train gave the exiles high hopes that the German hour for revolution against the ruling class could not be far away.”[1]

Platten—interpreting rather liberally his right to freedom of movement—left the train to visit a girlfriend in the town.  The two German officers also departed from the carriage—presumably to have a drink

The station was full of German troops, some of whom were drawn up in ranks at the head of the platform.

On his way out of the station, Platten dropped in to the buffet, ordered some beer and sandwiches and newspapers for his party—and tipped some soldiers to take them to the carriage.

Presumably, he told them that in the carriage was a party of Russian revolutionaries who were determined to stop the war, for Radek—who had refused to stay in the baggage wagon any longer—saw the troops suddenly break ranks and coming running toward the train.  “Each one held in both hands a mug of beer.  They flung themselves on us . . . asking would there be peace and when.”  Radek, always eager for converts, harangued them until their alarmed officers hurried them off the train.  Still, the attitude of the soldiers encouraged the revolutionaries—especially since they were all “patriots” and could be expected to be nationalistic and belligerent.

The journey to Frankfurt had taken longer than expected, and by the time they arrived at the city they had missed their scheduled connection to Berlin.  The sealed carriage and its baggage wagon were shunted onto a siding for the night.  Early the next morning, Wednesday, they were on the move again— for Berlin.

Meanwhile, that day at Trelleborg, the port in southern Sweden where the ferryboats arrived from Sassnitz, Jacob Fürstenberg was waiting.  After the stream of telegrams from Lenin in Zurich, he had checked into an hotel in nearby Malmö the day before, Tuesday, and had met the afternoon ferry from Germany.  There was, of course, no sign of Lenin and his party.  On Wednesday, when the train was still between Frankfurt and Berlin, Fürstenberg returned to Trelleborg and once more watched the passengers descend the gangway from the ferry from Sassnitz.

The sinister Pole was a strange character for Lenin to rely on to the extent that he did—though Lenin was to do so to a far greater extent during the coming months.  For in theory Fürstenberg was everything that the Bolshevik leader abhorred. The organization he managed for Parvus was engaged in war profiteering—and the worst kind at that.  For it prospered by dealing in the basic necessities that were in short supply:  medicines and drugs for the wounded, contraceptives for troops in need of women.  Hospitals and brothels were his customers. His business methods, too, were disreputable, much of his trading being in smuggled goods—and indeed he was now living in Sweden because he had been deported from Denmark.

Even in his tastes, Fürstenberg seemed the last type of man to appeal to Lenin.  He was elegant and debonair and never without a flower in his buttonhole—the traces perhaps of his upbringing in the bourgeois home of his wealthy parents in Warsaw.

At one time he had been among the leading Polish Social Democrats, but like the Russians, the Polish Social Democrat Party had been splintered by dissension.  Because of the distrust of him by the top Bolshevik hierarchy, Lenin later had to fight very hard for his friend, who, as he insisted to the Central Committee in December that year, “has worked for the party for over ten years.”

Even though Fürstenberg was still not technically a Bolshevik—as Lenin was quick to point out in July, when he was dissociating himself from him as far as possible—the two men had known each other for a very long time since they had met at the traumatic 1903 conference in London when Lenin split the party.  Even without being Bolshevik, Fürstenberg had been one of the tribunal in 1913 with Lenin and Zinoviev that had “tried one of the leading Bolsheviks, Roman Malinovsky, on charge that he was an Okhrana agent—and acquitted him, wrongly it transpired

On that Wednesday afternoon, when he realized that once again Lenin and his companions were not among the passengers on the ferry from Sassnitz, Fürstenberg began to fear that they had encountered trouble within Germany.  Anxiously, he wired Switzerland for information.

All Wednesday morning the train drawing the sealed carriage and its baggage wagon sped toward Berlin.  At first, it seemed, the men in the Wilhelmstrasse hoped that the travelers could make up the delay at Frankfurt and still reach Sassnitz in time to catch the afternoon ferry to Trelleborg, for the train was given top priority over all other traffic.  At Halle, where it was diverted from the Saxony Line to the Prussian Line, even the private train of the German crown prince was held up for two hours to allow it to pass.  But soon it became clear that the carriage would not reach the coast before the ferry sailed and the Foreign Office officials began replanning the schedule for the party to leave Sassnitz on Thursday, the following day.

As the train traveled through the Berlin suburbs, the exiles were appalled by the signs of war in the city, which had been the target of Allied air raids.  Radek commented on the barbed wire on the platform of the Potsdam Station.  To Zinoviev, Berlin seemed “like a cemetery,” and the usually buoyant Olga found it “deathly still.”

The restrictions at the station were the most rigorous they had encountered so far.  Even Platten was not permitted to leave the carriage.  A staff officer from the Wilhelmstrasse, clad tactfully in civilian clothes, arrived to inquire if their journey had been satisfactory so far, and Platten was warm in his appreciation of German cooperation.  The travelers had been served a good lunch—presumably from a restaurant car on the train—of cutlets and peas with milk for the children.

They discovered that more German Social Democrats had boarded the train, but according to Nadya, the only contact the visitors managed to establish with the Russian revolutionaries was young Robert, who asked them in French what the train guard did.  Nadya did not explain how Robert obtained access to them, but presumably the rules about not leaving the coach were not applied too strictly to four-year-old boys—possibly on the platforms of stations when the train stopped or even perhaps when the door linking the carriage to the rest of the train was unlocked to allow lunch to be passed through to the revolutionaries from the dining car.

The sealed carriage remained in Berlin for a considerable time—possibly some twenty hours—and the reason for the stay is both obscure and tantalizing.  German Foreign Office records indicate clearly that the revised plan, made when it was obvious that the travelers could not reach the coast in time to catch the ferry, provided for them to travel on to Sassnitz that afternoon. Arrangements were made for them to spend the night there in a locked room.

Almost certainly the plan was never executed, and the train stayed overnight in Berlin.  None of the personal accounts refer to a stopover in Sassnitz, as could be expected if it had happened.  Several mention their arrival in the port.  There are other indications that the train was in Berlin at least until late in the evening

If the train did not proceed as scheduled, what was the reason for yet another change of plan ?  The question has to be posed in a setting of two important facts:  first, the Wilhelmstrasse was only a few minutes from Potsdam Station.  Secondly, Lenin was so crucial to German war policy that the German government would shortly invest more than 40,000,000 gold marks in him—by modern standards hundreds of millions of dollars.*

Under these circumstances, it is hardly conceivable that the opportunity for a meeting between Lenin and top German officials, possibly even Arthur Zimmermann himself, should have been missed when it could be arranged so easily.  Fritz Platten specifically denied that any such meeting took place in Berlin—as indeed Lenin did himself in more general terms covering the whole journey.  Yet clearly it was vital that no suspicion of such a meeting should leak out, for this truly would have compromised Lenin fatally.  But was this a real danger ?  A carriage waiting in a siding in darkness, with military guards and barbed-wire barriers to keep away outsiders, provided the possibility of the utmost security.

The most intriguing question of all centers on the result of any discussion that may have occurred, for this places it in a context of immense historical importance :  Was information obtained at a secret meeting the reason that Lenin changed his mind on the strategy of the revolution ?

For although the events of that night in Berlin can only be the object of speculation, there is no doubt whatever that on the journey from Zürich to Petersburg, Lenin altered his whole tactical plan.[2]  The scheme he was to outline within hours of arriving in the Russian capital was quite different from that he described at lunch at the Zahringerhof in Zürich just before boarding the train to Gottmadingen and which he had previously detailed in his long policy letters.

No historian—Soviet or Western—has yet been able to give an adequate explanation of his change of plan.  Lenin had been thinking and reading of revolution all his life.  He was a confirmed and avid Marxist, yet his new tactics were to trample on a Marxian precept that was accepted by all Russian Social Democrats—including Lenin himself until he boarded the Sealed Train.  He was not a man to change his mind on so basic an issue unless changed conditions demanded it.  And there is no doubt at all that his altered tactics conformed completely with Arthur Zimmermann’s policies.

This is not to suggest that Lenin was a German agent in the sense that he was carrying out the Kaiser’s policy for money or even for personal power.  Without question, as a revolutionary, Lenin had great integrity.  His aim never changed for one moment.  He sought world socialist revolution on the lines predicted by Marx.  But Lenin was always practical.  As Nadya emphasized, he would patch up quarrels with men who had been his enemies for years if political considerations demanded this.  Equally, he would break with friends if he thought it necessary.  When he said in Zurich that he would make a deal with the devil to get back to Russia, he truly meant it.  It is clearly possible, even probable, that he did make a deal with the devil in a Berlin siding for something far bigger even than his return to Russia.

For one factor existed after the journey across Germany in the Sealed Train that was not present when Lenin was in Switzerland :  massive German financing, enough to publish party newspapers throughout Russia, to spread propaganda on a scale that Lenin had never conceived before.

An indication during a secret meeting of the sheer size of the funds that were available to him would have made possible goals that might have seemed impossible before he left Zurich.

The key aspect in Lenin’s change of strategy was in the timing.  One Marxist theory that was accepted by virtually all revolutionaries except the anarchists was his concept of two stages of revolution :  Because Russia was so backward, by comparison with the Western nations, it must go through a period of capitalist Western-style government before progressing eventually to the second stage of socialism.

In his speech during lunch at the Zahringerhof in Zurich on the day of departure, Lenin had confirmed that he was still thinking on these lines.  Yet by the end of his journey to Russia, only one week later, he had abandoned this concept.  He had conceived a new program to propel Russia into an immediate gigantic leap into the second stage.  The means he selected to accomplish this was a campaign demanding the placing of all power in the hands of the Petersburg Soviet which would be linked to other Soviets throughout the nation.  And now, not later.

From Switzerland, he had urged the arming of the people, demanded a kind of controlled mob rule by the masses.  He had associated this with the Soviet, but he had not proposed that the Soviet should rule as a government.  This new proposal, crystallized on the rail coach as it traveled north—probably after the long stay over in Berlin—was to astonish everyone in Russia, not least of all his own followers, because it seemed utterly impractical.

His new time schedule seemed to ignore the fact that Russian industry was not developed enough to serve as a springboard for the workers to grasp power.  And the whole proposal for the Soviet—an institution that resembled a federation of labor unions and was completely unequipped to govern—was to seem absurd

It would lead to chaos—but then chaos was almost certainly Lenin’s aim, a kind of controlled chaos that would not reach its ultimate stage until the masses were sufficiently educated to see the Bolshevik program for a new society as the answer to all their problems.  Chaos, of course, was also the German aim.

In April, as Lenin was traveling toward Russia, the Russian masses did not rate the Bolsheviks very highly—as was reflected in their minority within the Soviet.  But Lenin planned to change this with a propaganda campaign that would put the masses behind him.  He intended to do this, partly by keeping the Bolsheviks independent from all other parties whom he could charge with compromising with capitalists, but mainly by promoting his program to the people on a platform of a very few, very simple, very attractive party aims that anyone could understand, that his agitators could repeat and repeat.

This would have been Lenin’s plan without any help from the Germans.  But a secret meeting in Berlin could have revealed to him an entirely new capacity for impact.  It could have shown him the difference between a relatively limited promotional effort and an enormous nationwide campaign.  For one thing was certain:  The Bolsheviks could not gain power until the majority of the Russian masses supported them.  What German finance on a large scale could do in hands as capable as Lenin’s was to bring forward the time when that situation could exist.

Although the train remained in Berlin for a long time, it did not remain at the Potsdam Station, for this was not the terminal for the line north to Sassnitz.  The two German officers—singing sentimental songs, according to the Soviet historian A. Ivanov—left the carriage to have dinner.  To their surprise, when they returned, it had gone—which would suggest that the decision to move it was sudden, the result possibly of top-level orders.  Perhaps Stettin Station, where eventually the anxious escort caught up with it, was a more convenient or more suitable venue for a meeting than the Potsdam.

People traveled between these two mainline stations under normal circumstances by cab—impossible for the revolutionaries since it would mean leaving the carriage.  However, the rail journey gave them a fascinating glimpse of the imperial German capital.  “We passed along a circular track through the whole city,” wrote Zina.  “Berlin produced a more shocking impression on us than the villages.  Ilyich lifted up the blind by a corner and ... studied the destruction of war.”

The next day, Thursday April 12, they arrived at Sassnitz and boarded the Swedish ferry Queen Victoria.  The Germans, who checked them off the train at the port, were content with no more formalities than the numbered tickets provided at the Swiss border.  But the Swedish authorities insisted on a passenger list before they could pass up the gangway onto the ship.  Almost by habit, for there could be little to fear from the Swedes, they all gave false names.

For the third day running, Fürstenberg was waiting at Trelleborg to meet the ferry.  This time, knowing he had to book tickets for them on the night train to Stockholm, he persuaded the harbor master to radio the ship to inquire if the party was aboard.

Meanwhile, in the Wilhelmstrasse, a telegram had arrived from the Kaiser in headquarters at Pless.  At breakfast he had suggested to his officers that the Russian socialists should be given literature, such as his Easter Message and the Chancellor’s recent speech in the Reichstag (in which, with an eye on the revolution, Bethmann-Hollweg had promised to extend the franchise), “so that they may be able to enlighten others in their own country.”  His Majesty had also made the point that if Sweden refused transit, “the High Command would be prepared to get them into Russia through the German lines.” It was an interesting thought but, by now, academic.

The Baltic, as the Queen Victoria headed for Trelleborg, was rough.  At first, most of the party stayed on deck but many of them, upset by the rolling and heaving of the ship, went below.  Others, to keep their minds occupied, stood together in the bows singing songs—such songs, according to Soviet historians P.V. Moskovsky and V.G. Semenov, as “Don’t cry over the bodies of fallen fighters” and Lenin’s favorite, “They didn’t marry us in church.”  One, in particular, is quoted :

Our song can be heard far away;
It will spread and spread;
Our banner is flying throughout the world

Once a wave broke onto the bows and splashed Lenin.  “The first revolutionary wave from the shores of Russia,” said someone, laughing.  Lenin smiled, so David Souliashvili reported, and dried himself with his handkerchief.

Lenin walked the deck with Mikha Tskhakaya, the old Caucasian.  Mikha had attended the London Conference of Social Democrats in 1905.  Together, they had visited the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery.

“At the gateway ...” Mikha recalled, “stood a senior official wearing a tall top hat.  The cemetery was an enormous park with narrow alleyways with a mass of ... expensive monuments—even down to the memorial to a little dog belonging to some lord or lady.

“But the grave of the great thinker of the 19th century, the creator of scientific communism ... could not be found without the help of stonemasons working in the cemetery. . .

“For a long time, we sat round the grave in no hurry to leave.  Ilyich remarked sarcastically that the official [at the gate] was probably getting worried that we were staying so long here by the grave of, to him, an unknown person.

“That unfortunate bourgeois cannot guess that we are carrying away with us everything that is immortal and deathless in Marx and Engels and are going to embody them even in backward Tsarist Russia to the horror of the bourgeoisie of all countries.”  It was a prediction that seemed far more possible that afternoon on the ferryboat crossing the Baltic than it had then, twelve years ago, in London.

Once an officer approached the two men on deck.  “Which one is Mr. Ulyanov?” he inquired.  There was, of course, no “Ulyanov” on the passenger list.  “Ilyich and I exchanged glances,” reported Mikha.

After a pause, Lenin answered carefully, “It’s me.”  The officer gave him Fürstenberg’s radio message from Trelleborg. Relieved, Lenin requested that a reply be sent:  “Mr. Ulyanov greets Mr. Ganetsky [one of Fürstenberg’s names] and asks him to prepare the tickets.”[3]

It was already dark as the Queen victoria steamed past Trelleborg’s flashing lighthouse.  On the quay a warm welcome awaited the revolutionaries—not only from Fürstenberg but also from Swedish socialists and the mayor of Trelleborg.  “There were warm welcomes, questions, noise, shouting of children,” recorded Fürstenberg, “but there was no time to lose.  In a quarter of an hour the train would be leaving for Malmö.”

In a Malmö hotel a table was laden with smorgasbord— or zakuski as the Russians call it.  “We who in Switzerland had got used to being satisfied with a herring for dinner,” wrote Karl Radek, “saw this tremendous table laid with endless zakuski and threw ourselves on it like locusts. ...  Vladimir Ilyich did not eat anything.  He ‘dragged the soul’ from Ganetsky, trying to discover from him everything about the Russian Revolution. ...” They caught the night train to Stockholm, with Lenin sharing a compartment with Fürstenberg, Zinoviev and Radek and talking endlessly about the “hard battle of the proletariat that lay before us ...” so the Pole reported, “about the future dangers that were threatening from Kerensky although, at that time, this latter figure was not yet playing much of a part. ...  Vladimir Ilyich pointed out the necessity of setting up party cells abroad ... ‘just to be on the safe side.’”

Lenin planned that an overseas Bureau of the Central Committee should be set up in Stockholm.  Fürstenberg and Radek, who, being Austrian, would not yet be permitted into Russia, should be members.  Important though they were to be, neither of them was a member of the party.

They did not stop talking until four o’clock in the morning only to be awakened at eight by a crowd of newspaper reporters, alerted from Malmö, who boarded the train at a country station.  Lenin refused to see them—he would have problems enough in Russia without any misreporting—and said that a communiqué would be issued in Stockholm.

An hour later they arrived at Stockholm to be met by the mayor and other Socialist leaders.  Reporters, photographers; joined the melee on the platform.  There was even a newsreel camera.

It was a hectic day for Lenin:  meetings with Swedish socialists, finalizing plans for the Foreign Bureau that he had discussed on the train and allocating to it the funds that the Bolsheviks had long held in Sweden—and even some shopping.

“Probably,” wrote Radek, “the formal look of the Swedish comrades developed in us a strong desire that Ilyich should look more like an ordinary person.  We tried to persuade him at least to buy a new pair of boots.  He had been traveling in mountain boots with enormous studs.”

Lenin was cajoled into a trip to the Stockholm stores where he met demands that he should buy a lot more clothes than boots.  “He defended himself as best he could, asking us whether we thought that on his arrival in Petersburg he was going to open a ready-to-wear shop, but all the same we managed to persuade him to buy a pair of trousers. ...”

That day Parvus was in Stockholm.  He had asked Jacob Fürstenberg to set up a meeting with Lenin.  But whatever may have transpired in Berlin, Lenin was far too conscious of the dangers of compromise to risk a meeting with a man who was not only discredited by the whole socialist movement, but was also known to have financial links with the Germans.  He refused the invitation—and carefully ordered Radek to record his refusal.  His caution was to be rewarded later

A frigid exchange of messages through Fürstenberg, acting as go-between, followed Lenin’s answer.  Parvus inquired about Lenin’s political plans.  Lenin sent back a message that he “was not concerned with diplomacy;  his task was social revolutionary agitation.”  He told Fürstenberg to tell Lenin that he “may go on agitating;  but if he is not interested in statesmanship, then he will become a tool in my hands.”

Parvus was offended by Lenin’s rebuff, but he could not operate without him, for Lenin was central to his whole plan.  Also, he was aware that it was not vital for them to meet.  Instead, he had a long session with Karl Radek, whom he knew well from the past.  And it is certain that this meeting would not have taken place without Lenin’s permission.  In any event, it was enough to allow Parvus to report to Berlin that he had negotiated with “the Russian émigrés from Switzerland.”

Almost certainly, at that long meeting between Parvus and Karl Radek, the details of the financing operation that was to help Lenin seize power were worked out.  For Parvus left Stockholm immediately, returned to Copenhagen for a brief meeting with his friend, Count von Brockdorff-Rantzau, the German minister there, then traveled quickly on to Berlin for a personal conference with Arthur Zimmermann which was so secret apparently that no notes or minutes of the meeting were taken.

Then he returned to Stockholm where he was constantly in the company of the only Bolshevik Bureau outside Russia.  Fürstenberg had large cash resources in Petersburg—as Colonel Nikitin of counterintelligence discovered by checking the bank accounts of one of his agents.  Almost certainly, some of this came from the Germans through Parvus, who owned half the business that Fürstenberg directed, but this has never been adequately proved, and since the firm did trade in Russia, there could be a commercial reason for at least some of the cash.

Astonishingly, through contacts in the Russian Mission in Stockholm, Fürstenberg also used the Russian diplomatic bag.  He had established this communication route in April when he wrote to Alexander Shlyapnikov:  “On the 4th of this month was dispatched through the mission packet no. 6839 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. . . . Confirm without fail by telegraph— though cautiously—the receipt of my packets.  The mission [in Stockholm] does not examine packets, I hand them over sealed.  If you collect them in time, that is, at the same time as they arrive at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I hope you will receive them unopened.”  According to Fürstenberg himself, he continued using this communication route among others until July.

Parvus was almost certainly the main source, though not the only one, of the funds that the Germans supplied to the Bolsheviks—“almost certainly” because the routes by which German funds reached Lenin’s party are far more difficult to establish with any certainty than the basic fact that they did.

The Soviet authorities have always denied the allegations of the “Kaiser millions,” and even to this day Communist historians insist that it is all a bourgeois smear.  Presumably their reason is that they feel it reflects on Lenin’s integrity.  Actually, though, Lenin’s acceptance of these German funds did not conflict with his ideals as a revolutionary.  They did not cause him to change his goals—merely the tactics he employed in achieving those goals.  In fact, it can be argued that, since timing was vital during those few months of 1917, he would never have achieved it without this finance.

Lenin’s attitude toward his benefactors was very similar to their attitude toward him.  To them he would be expendable once he had served his purpose.  Lenin did not believe they would exist once they had served theirs.  For he believed implicitly in Marx’s concept of world revolution, was convinced that a proletarian revolution in Russia would roar like fire through Europe—consuming Germany at a very early stage.  The war would end by the transformation of the imperialist conflict into a class civil war, with the workers and soldiers of all the belligerent nations on the same side.  So the fact that he had used German money to create this movement—which was inevitable in due course anyway—was truly irrelevant.  Just as the Germans believed that Lenin had no hope of retaining the power they might help him to win, equally he was convinced that the Kaiser was merely contributing to his own downfall.

There can, however, be no doubt about this vast financing of the Bolsheviks by the Germans unless it is assumed that their Foreign Secretary lied in secret communications to his monarch—which truly does not seem to be a supportable hypothesis, especially considered in the setting of other evidence.

On December 3, 1917, Richard von Kühlmann, who had replaced Zimmermann as Foreign Secretary, sent a telegram to his liaison officer at General Headquarters for the attention of the Kaiser, stating that “it was not until the Bolsheviks had received from us a steady flow of funds through various channels that they were in a position to build up their main organ Pravda, to conduct energetic propaganda and appreciably to extend the originally narrow basis of their party.”

Three months earlier, in September, he had asserted in another telegram that “the Bolshevik movement could never have attained the scale or the influence which it has today without our continual support.”

The extent of the funds that the Germans invested in Russia during these critical months is revealed clearly in an analysis of the Foreign Office budget for propaganda and special purposes in various countries that is among the department’s secret files that were opened after the Second World War.  Under a covering note dated February 5, 1918, it indicates that the funds allocated for use in Russia amounted to 40,580,997 marks, of which 26,566,122 marks had actually been spent by January 31, 1918.

Of this, according to other documents in the files, 15,000,000 marks were released by the Treasury the day after Lenin assumed power in November.  This means that 11,500,000 were invested in Russia before November.

By any standard, this 11,500,000 was a colossal outlay for propaganda.  In 1917, at current exchange rates, it was the equivalent of more than $2,000,000 or nearly 600,000 sterling.  It would be useful for comparison purposes to convert these sums to modern values but it is hard to find an adequate basis.  One writer,[4] after discussion with a German currency expert, has valued 1 mark in 1917 at 40 modern Deutschmarks—which would put the expenditure at a fantastic $130,000,000 or £60,000,000 sterling.  But even if a more conservative estimate is used, one that assumed, for example, that $10 today would buy what $1 could purchase in 1917, it would still reflect an enormous expenditure for promotion.

When it is considered that a budget of nearly four times this 1918 may have been nearly eight times as great, the full extent of Lenin’s financial backing can be appreciated.  Almost certainly, by the time he reached Russia, he knew that whatever finance he needed was available—an astonishing situation for the leader of a relatively small party to find himself in.

There is, however, nothing in the Foreign Office cost analysis of overseas propaganda to indicate that these funds were passed to Lenin and his party—and certainly every Bolshevik source has always rigorously denied it.  Could it not therefore have been supplied for propaganda in other ways or to other organizations?  Although some minor funds may have been passed elsewhere, the broad answer is no.  For the Secretary of State’s secret telegrams to headquarters—the crux of the mosaic of evidence—assert definitely that the Bolsheviks were recipients of German finance, and his use of such words as “a steady flow of funds” and “continual support” indicates a substantial volume.  Provided the Secretary of State is regarded as a reliable source of the expenditure by his own department, then this is proof that Lenin’s party received a large part of the German funds invested in Russia.

In fact, of course, the Bolsheviks were the logical organization for the Germans to support, for apart from the anarchists, whose lack of discipline and structure made them less reliable, theirs was the only party that campaigned consistently and unequivocally for peace as a prime aim.

Furthermore, when seen from the receiving end, the fact is clear that the Bolshevik operation during the spring and summer of 1917 was so massive that, as Professor Leonard Schapiro put it in The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the funds “could not have come from the official source of party revenue—the ten per cent of their income which local organizations were bound to forward to the Central Committee, since revenue from this source was admittedly negligible.”  Nor could public subscription have accounted for more than a fraction, for many of the party journals were given away free.  Certainly, during the early weeks after the March Revolution, Pravda was so short of money that it was running emotional appeals for funds.  It was soon to have all the money it needed.

In two dramatic articles, published in the Berlin journal Vorwärts, Eduard Bernstein, a prominent German Social Democrat who had actually served in the Treasury, put the sum supplied to the Bolsheviks at “more than 50 million marks” though, in fact, if the German investment in maintaining Lenin in power is added to the cost of helping him win it, the Bernstein’s sensational assessment can now be seen from the Foreign Office papers to be conservative.  By then, of course, the support had to be very major indeed, for the Allies were pouring money into the White Russian opposition.

At any rate, there are grounds to believe, though little hard proof, that Parvus provided the channel through Fürstenberg by which most of the funds in the spring and summer of 1917 were passed to the Bolsheviks.  Despite the personal conflict between Parvus and Lenin, it would seem that neither permitted this to interfere with the aims of the socialist revolution.

At 6:30 P.M. on Easter Friday, the travelers boarded yet another train that would take them north 600 miles to the Swedish-Finnish border.  The platform in Stockholm Station was crowded with more than 100 people who had assembled to dispatch the revolutionaries on their way.  “There was a wonderful mood everywhere,” reported the Swedish newspapers Politiken.  “Everyone wore red revolutionary emblems. ...  In one of the windows was seen the distinctive head of Lenin.”

Poor Karl Radek, condemned to be left behind for his “sinful Austrian nationality,” watched the scene sadly.  One man, whom Radek did not know, stepped forward to make a speech.  “Dear leader,” he said, “take care that in Petersburg they do not do any terrible things.”  Lenin responded with an enigmatic smile.

Dramatic as ever, Radek recorded:  “The train moved off and for a moment longer we continued to see that smile.”

David Souliashvili had helped Lenin with his baggage on the Stockholm Station platform and had been invited to share his compartment with Nadya and Inessa Armand.[5]  It was a sleeper, evidently already prepared for the night, for Lenin and Souliashvili took the top bunks, leaving the lower ones for the two women.

Lenin removed his jacket—despite reproaches from Nadya that he would be cold—and pulled from his pocket some Russian newspapers, which he had obtained in Sweden, and began to read intently.  Every now and then, he would let out a loud and angry exclamation:  “Oh the swine !  The traitors !”

Souliashvili presumed that Lenin was reading about the Menshevik leaders in the Soviet—especially Chkheidze—who were cooperating with the Provisional Government.

“Social Democrats!” sneered Lenin suddenly.  “That title has become idiotic.  It’s shameful to carry such a name now.  We must call ourselves Communists. ...”[6]

The next morning, as the train sped north through the pine forest, the four breakfasted in the compartment on sandwiches and tea brewed by Nadya on her kerosene stove.  Then Lenin asked Souliashvili to tell everyone to gather in the corridor since he wanted to speak to them.

When the party was crowded in the corridor, Lenin briefed them on what they should do if they were arrested at the border on the orders of the Provisional Government.  On no account were they to offer any kind of defense for traveling through Germany.  Instead, they must attack the government for not helping them return from exile and, in particular, for not bringing pressure on the Allied powers on this point.

It was mid-April, but Haparanda, the Swedish border town which they reached on Saturday evening, was still snowbound.  Wearily, for they had been on the move now for five days, the travelers clambered down onto the platform and unloaded their baggage.

Tornio, the Finnish border town was across the broad frozen mouth of the Torniojoki River, which marked the frontier.

To reach the town, the revolutionaries had to travel over the ice in horse-drawn sledges called veiki.

“I remember that it was night,” recorded Zinoviev.  “There was a long thin ribbon of sledges .  On each sledge there were two people.  Tension as they approached the Finnish border reached its maximum.  The most uninhibited of the young people—Ussievich—was unusually taut.  Vladimir Ilyich was outwardly calm.  He was most of all interested in what was happening in far-off Petersburg. ...  Across the frozen bay with its deep snowdrifts ... fifteen hundred versts ahead. ...”

When they reached Tornio, “the young people threw themselves on the frontier guards” and began to bombard them with questions.

The fear that they might be arrested at the border was eased by the warm greetings of the Russian soldiers on duty—but the British officers, present under the Allied Command arrangements, were so hostile that the travelers’ fears were immediately renewed.  Officiously, in the wooden frontier hut, the officers conducted a rigorous and lengthy investigation of each member of the party.  One of them, it would seem from Lord Howard’s report to London, could even have been the British vice-consul from Haparanda.

“ ‘Our Allies,’ someone groaned,” according to Olga Ravich, ‘are making themselves at home.’ ”

“We were undressed to the skin,” recorded Mikha Tskhakaya.  “My son and I were forced to take off our stockings.  I don’t know what they were looking for.  All the documents and even the children’s books and toys my son had brought with him were taken.”

Lenin himself was closely questioned.  Why had he left Russia?  What was he going to do in Finland?  What was his profession?  Tautly, he told the investigating officer that he had left Russia illegally as a political refugee.  His religion, he said presumably because he thought they expected him to have a religion, was Russian Orthodox.  He did not propose to remain in Finland.  In Petersburg he would be staying in his sister’s apartment on Shirokaya Street.  By profession, he declared, he was a journalist.

He was searched, and his baggage was combed.  But although the British officers could make trouble, they could not prevent Russians from entering a Russian province.

Emerging after his vigorous examination, Lenin “observed that the officers were disappointed at having found nothing,” recorded Mikha Tskhaya.  “Ilyich broke into happy laughter and, embracing me, he said:  ‘Our trials, Comrade Mikha, have ended.  We’re on native land and we’ll show them’—and he clenched his fist—‘that we are worthy masters of the future.’ ”

This must have been a spontaneous reaction at having surmounted the first hurdle, for Lenin still feared they might be arrested on arrival in Petersburg.  When he discovered that a military guard had been sent up from the capital to accompany the train, he queried Zinoviev, “To take us to jail?”

Nadya, however, was not worrying.  She was too pleased to be on Russian soil:  “The awful third-class carriages, the Russian soldiers, everything was terribly good.”  Quite apart from the escort, the train was full of soldiers on their way south.

The only casualty was Fritz Platten, who, despite Lenin’s strong support, was refused entry on the grounds that he was not Russian.

Most of that Easter Sunday must have been spent at Tornio, for it was after six in the evening that Lenin’s telegram to his sisters was dispatched from the town:  “Arriving Monday 11 P.M.  Inform Pravda—Ulyanov.”

In Stockholm, Lord Esme Howard, the British ambassador, had watched Lenin’s progress through Sweden with angry frustration.  On Saturday, when Lenin was on the train to Haparanda, he wired home that “a Russian socialist, Lenin, with some others has been allowed by the German Government to pass through Germany on the way to Russia.”

Dagens Nyheter, a Stockholm newspaper, Howard reported, had published a bitter attack by Lenin on Britain in which he emphasized that the British government had refused them right of passage while the German government had given them special facilities.

In London, however, as Lenin’s journey was watched from the Foreign Office in Whitehall, the situation in Russia seemed better.  On Tuesday, while the Sealed Train was on its way from Singen to Frankfurt, Sir George Buchanan had reported cheerfully that the Petersburg garrison had declared the need to continue the war “until the new won freedom is secured,” adding that this was “the most hopeful sign since the first days of the revolution.”

Five days later, when Lenin and his party were at Tornio, Buchanan wrote that order and discipline had been reestablished in the Baltic Fleet, where the revolutionary fervor had been most violent, and followed this up the next day with a telegram recording that General Michael Alexeyev, the Russian Chief of Staff, was “far more optimistic about the military situation.  A conference at headquarters have unanimously decided that the state of the army admits of its taking the offensive.”

It was a swing to the right—part of the erratic moods that characterized Petersburg and other major Russian cities during these critical months, that made an instinctive sense of timing vital to any politician with ideas of achieving power.

Across the Neva in Old Petersburg, news of Lenin’s imminent arrival reached Bolshevik headquarters in the Kshesinskaya Mansion only after the train had been traveling for some hours along the rail track that led down the long reach of the west coast of Finland toward Helsinki.

According to Shlyapnikov, a telegram dispatched by Jacob Fürstenberg from Malmö on Friday did not reach him until Easter Sunday.  It asked him to take steps to ensure that frontier difficulties were reduced to a minimum—which he did, but by then, of course, Lenin was through the border.  Still, the Central Committee did not know his time of arrival.

Late on Sunday night, Nicholas Podvoisky, one of the commanders of the Bolshevik Military Organization, was on duty in the Kshesinskaya Mansion when Lenin’s sister Maria brought in the wire that he had sent from Tornio.

Promptly, Podvoisky awoke the members of the Central Committee to plan how they could give their leader a suitable welcome.  There were only a few hours to plan it—and the fact that it was Easter, with no one in the factories and no newspapers published, made the task of communication more difficult.  However, clearly it was vital for the party to present Lenin with a massive demonstration of working-class support on his homecoming—and make it visible to the Soviet leaders.




1 Main sources :  See sources for Chapter 4. Also, A. Lunacharsky, Revolutionary Silhouettes;  Leonard Schapiro, The Communist Autocracy, and The Communist Party of the Soviet Union;  R.H. McNeal, Bride of the Revolution;  John P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (on Radek and Furstenberg);  Viktor Mushtukov, and Vadim Kruchina Bogdanov, Lenin and the Revolution.

* For elaboration of sources of this fact, see page 290 (Afterword).

2 The fact that Lenin changed his mind on the journey from Switzerland to Russia can be seen by comparing his writings in Switzerland after he knew of the revolution (notably two letters to Alexandra Kollontai, his five famous Letters from Afar and, in particular, since this ties it down to a date, his Farewell Letter to Swiss Workers which he read at lunch at the Zahringerhof on the date of his departure from Zurich) and the notes and descriptions of his speeches on the night of his arrival in Petersburg and the following day in the Tauride Palace when he presented his April Theses.  See V.I. Lenin, The Revolution of 1917, Vol. I;  N.N. Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution 1917;  F. Raskolnikov, The Proletarian Revolution, 1923, No. I (R);  Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution.
    There is little doubt that his decision for the immediate leap into the second stage of revolution was made after leaving Switzerland and before arriving in Russia.  All sources are agreed on the astonishment this caused, and the change is clear from his writings.
    The fact that he altered his view about the role of the Soviet is more open to challenge because he did write about preparing for the Soviets to take power before leaving Switzerland, and the question is exactly what he meant by this.
    Nadya Krupskaya in her Memories of Lenin wrote that he did not in Switzerland "write of the seizure of power by the Soviets of workers’ deputies as a perspective, but urged that concrete measures be taken for the seizure of power, for the arming of the masses, for the fight for bread, peace and freedom."  From this it would seem that he was thinking in terms of the Soviets as a method of organizing the workers rather than as an actual organ of government.
    Professor Leonard Schapiro of the London School of Politics and Economics (London University) in The Origin of the Communist Autocracy wrote :  "He did not while in Switzerland propound the doctrine that the Middle Class phase of the revolution should be cut short at birth. ... There is nothing in his writings during the weeks of waiting in Switzerland to suggest that the soviet as opposed to the armed proletariat should assume power."  In a letter to the author he has added subsequently his view that "whenever he [Lenin] talks about soviets seizing power in Switzerland, he seems to identify them in his own mind with some form of armed or insurrectionary mob.  The change when he gets to Russia is quite clear—he then begins to talk about the actual Petrograd Soviet. ..."
    Professor Robert H. McNeal, chairman of the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts, writes in his biography of Krupskaya, Bride of the Revolution :  Lenin’s "April Theses probably came as a shock to her because Lenin’s expressed opinions shortly before they left Switzerland ... did not include the slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets !’  If Lenin came round to this stance during his trip to Russia, he told nobody. ...."
    Finally, it is a fact that by the time Lenin reached Russia the party had had more than two weeks to digest his two letters on policy to Alexandra Kollontai and his first two Letters from Afar.  Yet there is no doubt whatever that they were astonished when he outlined his new policy on arrival.  So clearly, they at any rate understood a different meaning to his new call for power to be given to the Soviets from that which he had written from Switzerland.

3 Jacob Fürstenberg was known by three identities :  (1) Hanecki, his real Polish name ;  (2) Ganetsky, which is the Russian for Hanecki transliterated back into English ;  (3) Fürstenberg, which was cover name.

4 Joel Carmichael, "German Money and Bolshevik Honour," Encounter (March. 1974).

5 Although Souliashvili must be regarded as a prime source since he was there on the journey from Zurich to Petersburg, the way he writes is very suspect—both politically and emotionally. It seems astonishing that Lenin, who barely knew him, should ask him to share his compartment for a 600-mile journey when he had other far closer friends on the train—such as Kharitonov.  It is interesting that Inessa, whom we know from several sources was in a separate compartment on the Sealed Train, should be with Lenin and Nadya now.
    Certainly parts of Souliashvili’s account—such as a vivid account later of how Stalin met the travelers, as the sole representative of the party, at Beloostrov—is quite clearly fabricated with many imaginative trimmings.
    However, for lack of any other source about this particular train, I have written these paragraphs on the assumption that here, at least, Souliashvili was not lying.

6 Lenin did propose this change of name in a speech on his first day in Petersburg—as Souliashvili, writing years later, well knew. It rings a little false as written but is clearly a probability.