Michael PearsonThe Sealed Train
LENIN, TOGETHER WITH THE OTHERS in the Bonch-Bruevich dacha, caught the six forty-five train from Mustiamiaki. As they studied the morning papers in the train, they heard the other passengers angrily blaming the Bolsheviks for the riots.1
The Finland Station bore all the signs of crisis. The trams had stopped running. On the far side of the square, a big procession of workers was moving toward the Liteiny Bridge.
There was a lone waiting droshky which Lenin and Maria took to the Kshesinskaya Mansion, leaving Bonch to walk to his apartment on Khersonskaya. They had agreed to meet later at the Tauride Palace. Gloomily, Lenin peered out of the droshky. It was a heavy, overcast day, dampened by drizzle. The streets were crowded with marching groups of both troops and workers. From the sidewalks, groups of people eyed the marchers with hostility.
At the mansion the military leaders of the party were directing the final stages of a massive military operation. Podvoisky and Nevsky had anticipated the Central Committee's decision to back the demonstration and had sent preparatory orders the previous day to the party cells at all the barracks. Bolshevik committees were to be appointed to lead each battalion. A party leader was to be selected for each company.
By nine o'clock in the morning seven regiments were already on the march under Bolshevik control. Armored cars, their noisy engines throbbing, waited at all the main street intersections to be on hand in the event of attacks by counterrevolutionaries.
The operations room was a master bedroom on the third floor. As Lenin joined the party leaders there, the 10,000 sailors from Kronstadt were disembarking at the quays on Vasilevsky Island a mile downriver. As their fleet of boats had approached the mouth of the Neva from Kotlin Island, a Soviet delegate had gone out by tug in an effort to persuade them to turn back. But the vessels from Kronstadt had not even eased speed. Soon the first of the black columns of seamen were crossing the Malaya Neva, one of the strands of the river that divided Vasilevsky Island from Old Petersburg, on their way to the Kshesinskaya Mansion.
As always, Lenin stayed out of the mainstream of the action, leaving the implementing of his strategy to others. He was only too conscious that although the MO leaders had established some control over the marching units, they were all being swept along by events.
Do you think the movement can be the beginning of the seizure of power, Vladimir Ilyich? asked Michael Kalinin, a Petersburg Committee member, according to his account of the scene.
We shall see, answered Lenin. At present it is impossible to say.
Lenin was doing his best to keep his options open, hoping that a situation would emerge that he could exploit to Bolshevik advantage. But in truth nothing could alter the fact that the timing was tragically premature. If the party took over Petersburg, which it probably could do since even those regiments that were not marching with the party were staying neutral, it could never hold it.
On the other hand, if Lenin declined to use the troops and the masses that were now responding to the orders of his military commanders, there would be a severe reaction against the party leadership.
Either way, much of the national opinion that would have swung to the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of Kerensky's failure would now be lost. The party might even be declared illegal.
His only hope, and it was a very slim one, was that the massive pressure that would be generated that day would persuade the Soviet to assume power.
According to Sukhanov, quoting Lunacharsky who was present in the mansion, a plan to take power was agreed on at that morning meeting. Later Lunacharsky formally denied this, but Sukhanov insisted that he had not misquoted him.
There can be no doubt that such a course of action was considered. For the German counterattack was discrediting Kerensky's claims of military triumph. But it was too soon for a reaction to a new national humiliation to have set in. All the evidence and subsequent events indicate that no decision was madeno decision, that is, other than to lead the demonstration demanding that all power be given to the Soviet.2
The thousands of Kronstadt sailors massed in the Alexandrovsky Park beside the mansion. Sverdlov had gone out onto the balcony to greet them, and as the discussion progressed in the master bedroom, Lenin heard the party secretary's booming voice. Comrade Raskolnikov, Sverdlov shouted, would you invite the front ranks to move closer to the mansion?
After a few minutes, Raskolnikov entered the room and shook hands with Lenin. He asked his leader if he would address the sailors.
But Lenin's thoughts were concentrated on his defense when the day was over. He shook his head. Fedor Fedorovich, he said, I am opposed to this demonstration. If I refuse to make a speech to the comrades, this will be clear.
Podvoisky urged him to change his mind. I'm not well, Nikolai Ilyich, Lenin insisted, changing the tack of his argument. But outside the mansion, thousands of sailors were chanting, Lenin ! Lenin ! We want Lenin !
At last, he stepped out onto the little balcony with the black wrought-iron railing and looked out across the sea of seamen's hats that stretched far back among the treesa small figure in his shapeless suit.
An irresistible wave of ecstasy, recorded Trotsky, a genuine Kronstadt wave, greeted the leader's appearance on the balcony. Impatientlyand as always with some embarrassmentawaiting the end of the greeting, Lenin began speaking before the voices died down.
Comrades, he declared hoarsely, you must excuse me if I limit myself to a few words. I have been ill. I greet you in the name of the workers of Petersburg. . . . In spite of temporary difficulties I am certain that our slogan All power to the Soviets' will be finally victorious though this demands from us restraint, determination and constant alertness.
It was not the fiery speech the sailors expected, and one of them recorded later that some of the sailors could not see how a column of armed men, craving to rush into battle, could limit itself to an armed demonstration.
But Lenin was certainly not trying to rouse them, and in this his instincts were sound for even though his speech was innocuous in the extreme, it was exploited later as a strident call to revolution.
Then Sverdlov took over once more, his big voice as always seeming strangely out of keeping with his dark, narrow face and his frail figure. He gave the sailors firm instructions. They were to demand that the capitalist ministers should resign. If the Soviets refuse power, the situation will become clear. . . . In this event you should wait for further instructions.
The sailors formed. The bands struck up, and once more the column began marchingthis time toward the Troitsky Bridge and the city center. With them went a big column of workers who had crossed the Malaya Neva from the factories on Vasilevsky Island to join them. Armored cars positioned at strategic intervals moved with the long column. In one of the vehicles traveled Nevsky and Podvoisky, Lenin's field commanders.
The military leaders had designed a strategy to seize power, deploying their forces into battle positions. All they lacked was the order to attack. It was a rough strategy, not thought through, planned only in the broadest terms.
At its core were the sailorsthe center of the line. But there were two powerful wings. As the stream of seamen was crossing the Neva by the Troitsky Bridge, the machine gunners, backed by workers from the Vyborg, were moving over the Liteiny Bridge, three-quarters of a mile upriver. At the same time the thousands of Putilov workers were approaching from the Narva District on the far side of the city along Sadovaya Prospect.
All three columns and many smaller ones from other districts were heading for the Tauride Palace. All bore banners demanding ALL POWER TO THE SOVIET ! and DOWN WITH THE CAPITALIST MINISTERS !
To oppose them in the Tauride Palace were fourteen soldiers of the Pavlovsky Regiment and eighteen men of the Armored Car Divisionthirty-two men against the tens of thousands that were converging from all sides of the city. Their commander, strangely enough, was Colonel B.V. Nikitin of counterintelligence, the man who had worked so assiduously to help gather the dossier of evidence against Lenin. He had been given the command by chance. He had just happened to be in Military Staff Headquarters the previous day. No one else could be spared for the task of defending the Sovietwhich was more than a little ironical since no one in Petersburg could have disapproved of the Soviet and all it stood for more than the reactionary colonel.
In addition to Nikitin's little band of defenders at the palace, four squadrons of Cossacks were available as a reserve in their barracks, but even they could not be expected to make much impact against thousands of armed troops.
Cautiously, the government ministers had forsaken the Mariinsky Palace for the greater security of the Military District Headquarters in the square in front of the Winter Palacewithin the triumphal arch that Nicholas I had erected to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. But, with even the most reactionary regiments, such as the Preobrazhensky, staying neutral in their barracks, the situation for the government was clearly critical. They could call in troops from the front, but so far the Soviet had not approved this extreme coursewhich, although it might reestablish control, could have overwhelming repercussions and produce far more bloodshed, and martyrs, than the March Revolution.
Like Lenin, the ministers in the triumphal arch were waiting to see how the crisis developed before making any final decisions.
Lenin, of course, had not accompanied the column of sailors with Nevsky and Podvoisky since spectacular leadership was not his style. He had traveled quietly by car to the Tauride Palace. As he passed the continuous columns of marchers, he must have recalled his journey in the Sealed Train. For this is precisely what he had planned in the swaying rail coachthousands demanding that the Soviet should take power.
It was strange that on this damp, cloudy day, if he could have stopped them, he would surely have done so.
Through most of the afternoon, Lenin stayed within the party rooms in the Tauride Palace. When necessary, he gave orders and even made decisions, but he was not seen by anyone except the Bolshevik leaders. Always it was othersusually Zinovievwho made contact with other parties, delivered speeches in the Soviet, addressed the masses outside the palace. Indeed, seen from outside the party room, Zinoviev was the Bolshevik star of these crucial hours.
The crisis had brought Lenin and Zinoviev closer togetheralmost in the same team relationship that they had enjoyed in exile. Now there were none of the conflicts over policy with Kamenev which always tore at Zinoviev. The three men were working as one, trying to extricate the party from the morass into which the left wing had thrust it.
When Lenin arrived in the Tauride Palace, he had a quick private meeting with Zinoviev and Trotsky in the gallery of the main hall near the buffetalmost certainly drinking tea in lieu of lunch. He was still undecided exactly what to do, but clearly the sight of the marching thousands had been tempting. Shall we try now? he mused, according to Zinoviev; then added quickly the fact that they all knew so well : No, we can't take power because the troops at the front are not with us yet.
He returned to the party room on the second floor to hear reports of the up-to-date situation regarding the approaching processions. No major trouble had yet been reportedonly incidents. There would be, though, as he well knew. There was certain to be the same kind of provocation that had occurred the previous night and even in Maythe same sniping from attics and doorways designed to spark off a major bloody conflagration for which the party could be blamed.
Lenin walked up and down the room deep in thought. To Bonch-Bruevich, watching him, he seemed at that moment a lonely figure. The situation he faced was truly impossible. If he could not lead an uprising, all he could do was to wait for the crisis to peak and then hope the participants would all go home. Had Lenin known of the plans that were being discussed at that very moment in Military Staff Headquarters he would have been far more anxious even than he was.
It was just after 3 P.M. in the Sadovaya Prospect. The truck leading the enormous column of Putilov workers, was just passing the intersection of Apraxin Street when the bell of the Church of the Assumption, two blocks back, began to toll. It was the signal for the shooting to start. The demonstrators ran for cover as bullets struck into the column. Women screamed. People fell in the road, some killed, some wounded.
The Red Guards swarmed into the houses where the gunmen were hidden and shot them to death.
The long column of sailors now stretched most of the way along the Nevsky from the Liteiny Prospect. Raskolnikov and the other leaders at the head of the marching men were not far from the Tauride Palace.
The sound of the band could barely be heard, recorded one of the Kronstadt leaders. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds . . . and suddenly there was the sound of gunfire behind us.
At points all the way back along the Liteiny and the Nevsky, machine guns and rifles were firing. The sailors panicked, for they could not see their assailants, who were shooting from rooftops and high windows. They broke ranks and began firing at random. Some lay down in the road. Others scattered to seek cover in the doorways. Many of the seamen were shot down in the road.
As the buildings where the shooting was coming from were pinpointed, Bolshevik armored cars lumbered along the big avenues spraying the windows with machine-gun fire.
At last, after more than an hour, the shooting stopped, and Raskolnikov and the other leaders persuaded the men to re-form and continue the march. But they were angry menthousands of angry menwhen they arrived at last at the Tauride Palace, to be greeted with cheers by the Machine Gun Regiment.
Raskolnikov left his furious sailors and went into the palace to report to the Bolshevik leaders. In the hall he met Trotsky, but they had hardly exchanged greetings when someone ran up excitedly. The sailors have arrested Chernov.
Victor Chernov, a leader of the Social Revolutionary Party which had many members among the sailors, was Minister of Agriculture and concerned with the delicate question of land. When he had stood up to speak to the angry sailors, he had been howled down. One of them had shaken his fist in his face. Then the seamen had grabbed the minister and manhandled him into a car.
Trotsky was well known to the sailors, for he often traveled down to Kronstadt to address them and defended them frequently in the Soviet. He was confident he could rescue Chernov without trouble. But he had never seen the seamen in this mood. One man, to whom he offered his hand, refused to take it. When Trotsky clambered onto the hood of the car in which Chernov was imprisoned to address the mob of yelling men, he could not make himself heard.
At last, with the help of a naval bugler who was nearby, Trotsky managed to curb the noise of the yelling enough to appeal to them. Comrades . . . he pleaded. Why hurt your cause by petty acts of violence. . . . Whoever is for violence, let him raise his hand.
Evidently, no one among those thousands of furious men packed in front of the palace was for violenceeven though moments before they had been howling for itfor no one raised his hand. The badly shaken Chernov was released from the car and hustled into the palacewatched by a pale and anxious Colonel Nikitin.
The Bolsheviks had now taken over a room on the ground floor as an operations center, and it was here that Raskolnikov now reported for further orders. On the way he met Lenin, who smiled at him pleasantly, but it was Zinoviev who took command. When the midshipman asked for instructions, Zinoviev said, We must discuss it immediately, and convened a meeting.
Since Lenin and the leaders were not prepared to make an actual bid for power, the thousands of armed and angry sailors in the small square in front of the palace were an embarrassment. At last, it was proposed that the demonstration should be formally declared to be over. Simon Roshal was ordered to march them to quarters which had been allocated them for the nightsome were to sleep in the basement of the Kshesinskaya Mansion, others in Peter and Paul and various halls on the north of the river.
Lenin was still keeping his forces at hand. The sailors would be available to him should the situation change.
Slowly, reluctantly, the sailors consented to march from the palace, but their place was taken by the thousands of Putilov workers, also angry from the mauling they had encountered on Sadovaya.
They were even more aggressive than the sailors. A group of some forty workers forced their way into the palace, and one man strode into the hall where the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet was in session. He leaped onto the platform. He was a classical sans-culotte, recorded Sukhanov, in a cap and a short blue blouse without a belt, with a rifle in his hand. . . . He was quivering with excitement and rage. . . .
' Comrades, how long must we put up with treachery ? You're all here debating and making deals with the bourgeoisie and the landlords. . . . You're busy betraying the working class. Well, just understand that the working class won't put up with it. . . . We have a firm grip on our rifles.
Chkheidze, always adept at handling angry workers, thrust into his hand a copy of the Soviet manifesto. Here, please take this, Comrade, he said. It says what you and your Putilov comrades should do.
Outside, though, the crowd was chanting ominously for Tseretelli. Tseretelli, they yelled. We want Tseretelli. More workers broke the doors. One man in the crowd yelled, If he won't come out, bring him out!
In the ground-floor operations room, Lenin told Zinoviev to go out and calm them. Zinoviev went almost jauntily, confident in his capacity, as Trotsky put it, to infect himself with the mood of the masses. . . . He stood in front of the palace between the tall white pillars and surveyed the sea of heads such as I have never seen before. Tens of thousands of men were solidly packed together, shouting, Tseretelli! Tseretelli !' ;
Tseretelli was tall and elegant. Zinoviev was short and fat. So when Zinoviev held up his arms for quiet, grinned and said, In the place of Tseretelli, it is I who have come out to you, the contrast caused a ripple of laughter through the listening mass of people. It broke the tension and enabled him to manipulate the mood of the crowdwhich he proceeded to do brilliantly.
Zinoviev's purpose, of course, was to persuade them to leave. But Colonel Nikitin did not have the same faith in the Bolshevik leader with the high tenor voice as Lenin and the party leadersor in his motives. The colonel was alarmed. The thin line of sentries he had posted to keep the crowds from the immediate approaches to the palace had long since been forced to retire within the building so that we were, as he wrote, literally surrounded by an impenetrable wall of humanity.
The urgent cries for Tseretelli and the breakin of the Putilov workers had decided him that the situation demanded extreme measures. He made an emergency call to Military District Headquarters, and two squadrons of Cossacks, together with a couple of field guns, set off from Palace Square.
The mounted troops clashed with the sailors in Suvorovskaya Place by the Troitsky Bridge as the seamen were on their way across the river and broke the column. From every point of view, it was an unhappy day for the sailors.
Then the Cossacks encountered the First Reserve Regiment by a barricade at the Liteiny Bridge. The confrontation developed into a battle in which the Cossacks were badly savaged.
The gunfire could be heard clearly in the Tauride Palace, and the delegates were alarmed. Was this the expected Bolshevik attack? It broke the remaining resistance in the Central Executive Committee to the proposal to summon troops from the front.
On telephoned approval from the Soviet, the officers in the Military District HQ wired a call for help to the northern front. Kerensky, too, had been informed by wire. He telegraphed back orders to suppress the revolt with the severest measures and to arrest the Bolshevik leaders.
The crowd milling outside the palace suddenly heard the sound of galloping horses. In fact, they were riderless horses fearfully escaping down the Liteiny Prospect from the battle by the bridge. The mob, however, believed the Cossacks were charging them. Shooting broke out in front of the palace, though no one was quite sure what he was shooting at. Panic swept the tight-packed mass as those at the front tried to claw their way to safety through the dense ranks behind them. Others shattered the ground-floor windows of the building and clambered inside for cover.
It was the climax of the demonstration. At last, as everyone realized that there were no Cossacks, the tension eased. Then heavy rain began to fall, and the downpour cleared the crowd, which had begun in any case to disperse. Soon the anxious Soviet delegates could look through the broken windows of the ground floor onto an almost empty square. For the Soviet the crisis was almost over, but for Lenin it was just beginning.
Bonch-Bruevich had left the palace and gone home to Khersonskaya. He was in the apartment when the telephone rang. A male voice greeted him by name. Who is it? asked Bonch.
The caller would not say. Don't you recognize my voice? he asked.
For a moment, Bonch was puzzled, and then he realized who was speakingand why he was being so cautious. Nicholas Kransky was a radical lawyer he knew who was assistant to Pereverzev, the Minister of Justice.
I'm ringing you to warn you, said Kransky urgently, so Bonch recorded with his usual elaborate use of dialogue. A mass of documents are being assembled against Lenin. . . . It's serious.
What's it all about? queried Bonch.
They're accusing him of espionage for the Germans . . .they're going to prosecute himand all his friends. . . . I can't tell you any more . . . take action. And he hung up.
Immediately, Bonch phoned the Bolshevik room in the Tauride Palace. Quickly, he told Lenin what he had just heard, insisting that he could not give the name of his caller on the phone.
Is your source really reliable? asked Lenin.
He holds a high official post.
Was he informing you of a rumor or on the basis of documents?
He told me he himself had read the documents. . . . You'll leave the palace at once, won't you, Vladimir Ilyich?
Nichevodon't worry, answered Lenin lightly.
It's impossible not to be worried.
Nichevo. Nichevo. I'll be leaving here soon.
In fact, the rumor of prosecution had already been reported to Lenin, for by then it was an open secret within the Tauride Palace. Lenin was slow to take the action that Bonch had urgedpossibly because at this stage it would make him look as though he were guilty or possibly because he did not believe that all his options had been exhausted.
It soon emerged that the government was not just mounting prosecution. They were exploiting the evidence in the dossier on Lenin as a political weapon. On the orders of Pereverzev, the Minister of Justice, a letter had been handed to the press listing the facts in the case against Lenin : the huge funds handled by Eugenia Sumenson; her links with the Bolshevik lawyer Mecheslav Kozlovsky; her coded communications with Jacob Fürstenberg and his association with Parvus; the letters seized from the searched Bolshevik couriers at Beloostrov; and the evidence of Lieutenant Ermolenko.
Lenin was appalled, for promoted in this way without a trial, the evidence was clear persecution. And the news was not made any less painful by the fact that the damaging official letter was signed by a man who had once been nearly as close to Lenin as ZinovievGregory Alexinsky, the leader of the Bolshevik faction in the Duma. The two men had clashed over Lenin's war policy, and their relationship had since deteriorated into bitter enmity. Now Alexinsky was scoringand scoring well.
Lenin acted immediately. He dispatched the Georgian Stalin to see Chkheidze, also a Georgian, who was at a meeting of the Central Executive Committee. Stalin demanded that the Soviet should intervene to prevent publication of the letter by newspapers until there had at least been an investigation in which Lenin could answer the charges against him.
Chkheidze, who was no friend of the Bolsheviks, was outraged by the government action. The entire Soviet leadership responded with a speed that Lenin could not fault. They telephoned editors throughout the city with a formal request from the Soviet not to publish the story. It goes without saying, wrote Sukhanov, that not one of the people really connected with the revolution doubted for a moment the absurdity of these rumors.
The Soviet leaders were violently opposed to Lenin's theories, even frightened by his tactics, but years laterwhen the proof of the German Foreign Office papers was published they still refused to believe that he could have acted in collusion with the Kaiser. They still did not realize or would not accept that for Lenin it was the end that countednot the means. He was working to create the world socialist revolution. With an aim of such global and historical importance, the source of the funds was barely relevant.
This support by the Soviet was one reason why Lenin was in no hurry to go into hidingeven temporarily while the party considered what policy they should adopt in the new conditions. But Pereverzev had been more skillful than Lenin realized. He had also summoned representatives of the Preobrazhenskythe most reactionary of the neutral regiments in the cityand shown them his proof. The soldiers were appalled. All the resentment that had followed the Sealed Train revelations in April was revived, but now the emotional shock was far more intense. The news spread quickly to other neutral barracks, where it drew the same response of violent anger.
The Soviet was still in session when suddenly a noise was heard in the distance, Sukhanov wrote. It came nearer and nearer. The measured tramping of thousands of feet. . . . It was a key moment of history. The Izmailovsky, which had arrested the leaders of the Soviet in 1905, had come to protect them in 1917. They were a bit late, of course, for the thousands who had been surging around the palace for most of the day had long dispersed. But the arrival of the famous regiment was symbolic of the end of the crisis. The government was once more in control. The delegates in the Soviet began to sing the Marseillaise. A classic sign of the counterrevolution, snapped Julius Martov to Sukhanov.
As soon as the news spread throughout the city, the bourgeoisie went on the offensive. Everywhere Bolsheviks were attacked and even killed. Groups of Junkers, the officer cadet corps, militant Kadet Party members and patrolling Cossacks, incensed by the casualties among their comrades in the battle at the Liteiny Bridge, began to take their vengeance.
Now is their moment, Lenin confided to Trotsky. They can overthrow us.
No order, however, had yet been issued for his arrest, and even after the Izmailovsky had arrived at the Tauride Palace, Lenin presided at a meeting in the Bolshevik operations room. Astonishingly, its ostensible purpose was to consider the possibility of a militant call to arms by the Military Organization. Podvoisky and Nevsky were not there, but K. Mekhonoshin, one of their senior comrades, urged action before it was too late. They still had large forces availablesome regiments, many of the workers, the sailors.
Lenin went through the motions of listening to Mekhonoshin, who, like many of his colleagues, had no idea of the political realities of the situation. Most of these passionate revolutionaries thought in terms of dying on the barricades for the cause instead, like Lenin, of winning.
Coldly, Lenin rapped out a string of questions at the man who was urging him to fight on. Give me an account of your strength. Name the units that will definitely follow us. Who is against us? Where are the armories of weapons . . .? Where are the food supplies concentrated . . .? Has the security of the Neva bridges [drawbridges] been provided for? Has the rear been prepared for retreat in the event of failure?
Mekhonoshin was crushed. Like Nevsky, he believed that to succeed they had only to get the people onto the streetsas they had in March. As Lenin's acid questions made evident, they had got the people onto the streets again now in Julyand what had this achieved?
Lenin and Zinoviev drove to the Pravda office on Moika Street. A bodyguard of armed sailors rode on the fenders and running boards of the car.
On Liteiny a long line of carriages moved slowly through the congestion toward the bridge over the Neva that led to the Finland Station. As they passed, the sailor bodyguards yelled mocking insults at the passengers within them. The bourgeois are running to Finland, remarked Lenin wryly. For they did not know, as Lenin knew, that there was no need for them to fleenot yet anyway.
At the Pravda office Lenin approved the final makeup of the paper. A short statement on the back page declared that the demonstrations had been ended because their goal of presenting the slogans of the leading elements of the working class and the army had been achieved.
Then Lenin and Zinoviev left the office for their homes. As Lenin crossed the Neva on his way to Shirokaya, the sun was glistening on the golden spire of Peter and Paul. The day was going to be fine.
Lenin had not been asleep long when Jacob Sverdlov arrived in the apartment and awoke him. Government troops had raided Pravda, broken the press and searched the offices for documents. More serious still, one small right-wing newspaper Zhivoe Slovo (The Living Word) had ignored the request from the Soviet, which even Miliukov's Rech had observed, not to publish the German agent allegations until they had been investigated. The headline was unequivocal : LENIN, GANETSKY AND KOZLOVSKY GERMAN SPIES ! Ganetsky, of course, was Jacob Fürstenberg. Zhivoe Slovo had only a tiny circulation, but it was enough. The story had been broken. Now the other newspapers would surely publish it.
Clearly there was imminent danger of a police raid on the apartment, and Sverdlov insisted that Lenin should leave immediately. The two men hurried through the streets to the Kshesinskaya Mansion.
At the mansion the debate with the militants was still continuingeven though the party now knew for certain that the crisis in the city had won little sympathy in the provinces and that the troops summoned on the previous day were on their way to the capital. There was angry talk of a mass march and a strike, but Lenin knew this would be pointless. It was time to cut their losses, to ride out the storm that was now inevitable and to concentrate on organizing for the future.
All the party leaders were in danger of arrest, though Lenin himself was clearly the prize. A show trial for treason could be of great propaganda value to Kerensky. There were arguments in favor of Lenin's standing trial, but in those early hours of crisis it seemed wise for him to remain out of sight for the time being. It was agreed that Lenin should stay in the apartment of the secretary of the Military Organization, Sulimov, in the Vyborg. He was not, therefore, in the Elizarov flat when Colonel Nikitin personally led a raid on it.
Early the next morning government troops deployed to attack the Kshesinskaya Mansion. Reluctantly, since it would be hard to hold, the party military leaders withdrew their force of some 500 troops and sailors and fell back on the Fortress of Peter and Paul, whose garrison was still friendly to the Bolsheviks.
When Zinoviev reported the latest events to Lenin before breakfast in the Sulimov apartment in the Vyborg, Lenin sighed. His militants still had not learned their lesson. They're going to have to surrender in the end, he said. To delay matters only means increasing the defeat. Go and explain to them, Gregory.
Lenin knew he could not stay where he was, for his host's signature was on many documents, and now that the Kshesinskaya Mansion had been taken, these would be found. The apartment was sure to be raided.
It was hard to find premises that would not draw police attention, and all that day Lenin, in disguise, moved from place to place in the Vyborg.
All day, too, troops from the Northern Front were arriving in Petersburg and forming in the vast square in front of the Winter Palace.
That evening Kerensky himself reached the city. Furious that his telegraphed orders to arrest the Bolshevik leaders had not been obeyed, he dismissed the commander of the Petersburg garrison who came to meet his train at Tsarskoe Selo Station. He was even angrier to learn of Pereverzev's release of the Lenin dossier, for this actionwhich Kerensky attributed to panichad lost them the big fish they had been waiting to catch. Jacob Fürstenberg, Kerensky learned, had indeed been on his way to Russia when he had been alerted by the news of the scandal. He had turned back and returned to Stockholm. Later Kerensky would insist in the Cabinet that Pereverzev also be dismissed from his post.
On the way by car to the Military District HQ in Palace Square, the garrison commander explained why it had not been possible to arrest the Bolshevik leaders. Even now there was delegation from the Soviet at headquarters insisting that it would be premature to arrest the Bolshevik leaders, pending an investigation of the facts. . . .
Kerensky received the delegation as soon as he arrived. He had only begun to discuss the issue with them when an aide brought a telegram from the front. The Germans had attacked and achieved a major breakthrough near Tarnopol. Dramatically, the War Minister read it aloud to the Soviet delegates. I trust, he said coolly, that now you will no longer object to the arrests.
Even though they had received no more facts about the Bolshevik ties with the Germans, the Soviet delegates no longer objected. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
That night the party leaders met Lenin in the apartment of Marguerite Fofanova, a friend of Nadya's, in an old red-brick tenement in the Vyborg. They now knew of the arrest orders. They had also been able to test the mood in the Soviet, for, at Lenin's request, Zinoviev had courageously appeared before the Central Executive Committee to demand that it refute the monstrous slander staged by the Black Hundreds. His reception had been frigid. So it seemed wise for Lenin and the other two under indictment to remain in hidingat least until the picture was clearer.
After the meeting, Lenin and Zinoviev, both in disguise, crossed the Neva to the Rozhdestvensky District and moved into the apartment of Sergei Alliluyev, a friend and later father-in-law of Stalin. It was chosen because there were several exits from the buildingvital for a quick getawayand for the fact that the Alliluyevs were newcomers to the area and were not yet known to the police.
By the next morning, Lenin had decided to stand trialas he told Maria and Nadya when they visited him. Gregory and I have decided to appear, he told his wife. Go and tell Kamenev.
Maria tried to argue with him, but Nadya had been with him in too many crises. She got up without a word to carry out her orders. Let's say good-bye,' Ilyich checked me, Nadya recorded. We may not see each other again.' We embraced. I went to Kamenev and gave him Ilyich's message.
That night, however, at yet another meeting of some of the party leaders in the Alliluyev apartment, the decision was changed. Sverdlov, in particular, was violently opposed to Lenin's standing trial.
This decision struck many of Lenin's contemporaries as strangeas indeed did his total reaction to the charges against him. Sukhanov described it as incomprehensible given the situation at the time. Any other mortal, he wrote, would have demanded an investigation and trial even in the most unfavorable conditions. Any other mortal would personally and publicly have done everything possible to rehabilitate himself.
The official Soviet line is that Lenin believed his life was in danger. When he learned that the Kshesinskaya Mansion had been raided, he told Sulimova, At worst, they'll arrest you, but I'll swing. Every action he took over the next few weeks supported this contention that he would face a death sentence if he were found guilty, that a fair trial was impossible. There are no guarantees of justice in Russia at present, he wrote.
Like so many aspects of Lenin's relations with the Germans, this appears reasonable in theory but does not stand up to scrutiny. Treason was a serious charge, but the evidence at hand was clearly inadequate. More significant was the political background. The idea, set forth by Trotsky and other Bolsheviks, that Lenin was in real danger was mocked by Sukhanov. In the summer of 1917, there could be no question of lynch law, of the death penalty, or of hard labor . . . he wrote. Lenin risked absolutely nothing but imprisonment. The example of his comrades completely confirms all this. Many of them were arrested and put on trial for the same crimes. They safely sat out six weeks or two months in prison. . . . Then . . .they returned to their posts.
The point, however, was whether Lenin could afford a thorough investigation into the German association. When Sukhanov asserted that anyone else would have welcomed a full inquiry, he was assuming that Lenin was innocent. But the fact that Lenin did receive funds from the Germans, which cannot seriously be challenged in view of the German evidence, unless the Secretary of State lied to the Kaiser, placed him in a very different position. Further inquiry would almost certainly lead to the uncovering of more facts which could only be more damaging. If Lenin did not stand trial, on the other hand, the Bolsheviks could accuse the government of employing smear tactics, of political persecution.
The fact that Sverdlov was the leader who most adamantly opposed a trial could be highly relevant. For even if other party leaders were in doubt about Lenin's deal with the Germans, Sverdlov could not have been. As secretary he ran the party. He organized the distribution of all party funds. He was completely and utterly behind Lenin in every action he tookthe only man Lenin could rely on without question in the most crucial Central Committee meetings and his partner in whatever tactics were necessary to persuade the others to a certain decision. Sverdlov knew the situation exactly and was fully aware what evidence a full investigation could reveal.
So the issue was decided. Lenin and Zinoviev would stay in hiding.
For a couple of days, the fugitives remained in the Alliluyev apartment. Lenin worked hard, writing passionate articles asserting his innocence and attacking the government. These appeared mainly in the Pravda Bulletin, a rough illegal two-page sheet that replaced its banned parent newspaper, or in Maxim Gorky's Novaya Zhizn, of which Sukhanov was now an editor. Under emotive headlines such as CALUMNY AND FACTS ! and DREYFUSADE !in which he compared his own persecution with that of the famous Dreyfus CaseLenin attacked the evidence. Lieutenant Ermolenko had lied, he asserted. There had been no contact whatsoever with Parvus, whom he had condemned two years before as a renegade and had refused even to speak to in Stockholm. No money had ever been received by the Bolsheviks from either Hanecki [Fürstenberg] or Kozlovsky. Further, neither was a member of the party. Naturally, Lenin made no reference to the Bolshevik Foreign Bureau that Fürstenberg ran with Karl Radek's help in Stockholm.
In fact, among the papers that had been seized by Nikitin in the raids of the past few days were several copies of letters that indicated clearly that the party had received money from both Fürstenberg and Kozlovsky. Later both Fürstenberg and Radek confirmed that the Foreign Bureau had channeled funds into Russia. And, Lenin's assertion that the two key figures were not members of the party was only narrowly true. They were Polish Bolsheviks, not Russian Bolsheviks.
No prosecutor, however, ever brought the case to trial. Under interrogation Eugenia Sumenson admitted to Nikitin that she had been instructed by Jacob Fürstenberg to hand over to Kozlovsky any sums he requested without requiring a receipt. But the case was still not solid. A prosecutor could show that the party received money, but he could not prove it came from the Germans.
Eventually , as Trotsky wrote, all that was left in the way of hard incriminating evidence was Lenin's trip through Germany . . . the very fact, advanced most often before inexperienced audiences as proof of Lenin's friendship with the German Government. . . . And the trouble with this, for a prosecutor's purpose, was that the Sealed Train journey had never been a secret.
In Berlin the news of the July crisis caused deep concern and drew denials that Lenin was a German agent or linked in any way to Parvus. Even before the crisis, a drop in the surge of public support for Lenin had been notedand exaggerated. The waning of the Bolshevik influence, reported the counselor to the German Legation in Stockholm, must be seen as the result partly of the offensive and partly of the inordinate demands made by Lenin's group.
Parvus thought it politic to soothe the anxieties in the Wilhelmstrasse. On July 17, the day when the crisis in Petersburg reached its climax, he called on Arthur Zimmermann and assured him that Lenin's influence was continuing to grow, in spite of all claims to the contrary made in the press of the Entente countries. . . . Disappointment had already set in [among the soldiers] and would result in a further softening up of the army.
Meanwhile, in Petersburg, a massive hunt was launched within the city for Lenin and Zinoviev. Militia, troops, dogsincluding one celebrated animal named Trefwere aided by hundreds of civilian volunteers. Fifty officers of one of Kerensky's Shock Battalions vowed to track down Lenin or die. Already Kamenev had been arrested.
There were signs, according to Zinoviev, that the apartment was being watched. Clearly it was becoming too dangerous to stay in the city. At night on July 22, Lenin and Zinoviev left the apartment with Sergei Alliluyev and Stalin. Their new hiding place was to be in heavily wooded country near the Finnish bordernot far from the Sestroretsk plant, from which the workers had crowded on the Beloostrov Station to give him his first welcome on his return to Russia.
Because the Finland Station was heavily policed, it had been planned that they should go on foot to the suburb of Novaya Derevnya and board a train there. Walking was considered safer than traveling by car or cab, for vehicles were constantly being stopped by the patrols.
Lenin shaved off his beard and donned a brown coat and cap of the sort worn by the Finnish peasants who traveled into the city every day from the border.
The four men did not depart from the building until eleven o'clock, leaving as late as possible to take advantage of the very short period of mid-July darkness in Petersburg, but they encountered no trouble. Near Novaya Derevnya, a veteran Bolshevik named Nicholas Emelyanov was waiting by the Stroganov Bridge over one of the tributaries of the Neva.
While Alliluyev and Stalin returned to the center of the city, Emelyanov led Lenin and Zinoviev to the station on the outskirts. To avoid having to stand on the platform, they crossed the tracks, crawling under a line of waiting freight cars, and clambered onto the last coach of their train as it moved out of the station.
Lenin, recorded Emelyanov, insisted on sitting on the footplate of the coach so that, if necessary, he could jump off. It's dangerous, the escort warned.
Never mind, answered Lenin, smiling. I'm good at holding on.
At one of the stations where the train stopped, a group of boisterous officers emerged from the buffet where they had obviously been drinking and got into the next coach. They sang obscene army songs, talked politics and abused Lenin.
After the train was in motion, one of them left the compartment and moved along the corridor to the end of the coach, where the three men, sprawled across the steps and platform, were pretending to be drunk. The officer became interested, wondering who they were, and peered closely at Lenin, who was sitting on the step, his shoulders hunched and his head dropping forward. In time with the train wheels, Emelyanov wrote later, he swayed from side to side bending his head lower and lower. When the officer tried to catch a glimpse from the right, Ilyich swayed left and vice versa.
At last, the officer tired of the investigation and went back to his boisterous companions in the next coach. And Lenin, in disguise, feigning drunkenness, clinging to the footplate of the train, went furtively back up the same stretch of track along which three months before he had traveled to his triumphal welcome.
At a small station a few miles from Beloostrov, Lenin and his companions slipped from the train and made their way to a new hiding placeat first in the loft of a shed near Emelyanov's cottage and then in a shack deep in the woods.
Meanwhile, the status of the other political leader from Simbirsk had risen sharply. Prince Lvov resigned, and Alexander Kerensky replaced him as Premier, determined to give the nation the strong leadership necessary to raise it from the chaos in which it was floundering. His offensive, of course, had been transformed into a disaster as the Germans thrust deep behind Russian lines, taking thousands of prisoners and provoking mass desertions of entire unitsbut this was blamed on Lenin and his German agents.
The new Premier took firm steps to stamp out the revoltwith the full support of the Soviet. The sailors were sent back to Kronstadt in disgrace without their arms. All regiments which took part in the rising were disbanded, their men divided among other more reliable corps. The volatile machine gunners were forced to pile their weapons in Palace Square.
Many of the party leaders were arrestedas well as militants such as Raskolnikov at Kronstadt. Unofficial repercussions were savage. Bolsheviks, even sympathizers of the party, were beaten up. Groups of right-wing officers toured the city seeking victims.
It was symbolic of the changed conditions that the Cossacks who died in the battle on Liteiny were buried with all the ritual of the March martyrs, but the dead workers were interred quietly with only private ceremonies.
The Bolsheviks had no legal headquarters, and their press was once more forced underground. Ironically, in view of its antireligious bias, the Central Committee met in the premises of the St. Sergius Brotherhood on Furshtadtskaya Street. For all practical purposes, the party was in ruins. If its hopes of achieving power had been absurdly small in March, they had been greater then than most people would rate them nowmost people, that is, other than Lenin.
1 Main sources : As for Chapters 9 onward, but in particular the highly detailed Rabinowitch's Prelude to Revolution. Also, G. Zinoviev, Lenin in the July Days and Nicolai LeninHis Life and Work ; N. Emelyanov, Ilyich at Razliv, The Banner, No. 2 (1957).
2 Several eminent historiansnotably Harvards's Professor Adam B. Ulam and St. Anthony's Dr. Harold Shukman at Oxfordhave taken the view that Lenin organized the July uprising. In my view, the whole pattern of the party protocol and personal accountsand Lenin's declared policy over several weeksreveals a clear picture of a party out of control, of a mutiny against Lenin's orders.