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Russian History: XX century

Russian History: XIX entury

Krupskaya's Reminiscences of Lenin

The land questions were making slow progress. Teodorovich, the first Commissar of Agriculture, resigned in connection with the affair of the Railwaymen's Executive and went to Siberia. Schlichter had been nominated for the post, but he was living in Moscow and had not been told that his presence was required immediately in Petrograd, where Vladimir Ilyich, meanwhile, was besieged by peasants asking what was to be done with the land. On November 18 Vladimir Ilyich wrote "Reply to Peasants' Questions" and "To the Population." (Works, Vol. 26, pp. 263-67.) In his "Reply" he confirms the decree abolishing landlord ownership and calls upon the rural committees to take over the landowners' land themselves. In his "To the Population" he calls upon the population to "be watchful and guard like the apple of the eye your land, grain, factories, equipment, products, transportall that henceforth will be wholly your property, public property." The same aim was pursued here as in the decree on workers' control, namely, to stir the masses to activity and build up their consciousness in the struggle. When Schlichter arrived Ilyich instructed him to proceed without delay to organize the reception of local peasant delegates and to give them concrete directions in connection with the land confiscation law. The next thing to do, said Ilyich, was to take over the ministerial machinery, to break down the sabotage and urgently draw up regulations concerning the land.

A special congress of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies opened on November 23. Vladimir Ilyich spoke twice at this congress, to which he attached great importance. Of the 330 delegates 195 were Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who formed the decisive group; there was a struggle at the congress with the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries (of whom there were 65 delegates). After Lenin's second speech a resolution was carried, approving the work of the Council of People's Commissars and the terms of the agreement with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Left S.-R.'s consented to participate in the government and after some delay, they sent their representatives to the People's Commissariats. Kolegayev, a Left S.-R., became People's Commissar of Agriculture, but some time passed before he started work.

I saw very little of Ilyich during our stay in Petrograd. He was busy all the time interviewing soldiers', workers and peasants' delegates, holding numerous conferences and working hard on the decrees that became the basis of the newly organized Soviet state. Sometimes, in the evening, or late at night, we would go for a little walk together around Smolny; more than ever before Ilyich felt a need to unburden his mind. He had little time to spare however. I got to know how things were going not so much from him as from outside. There were always lots of Party people to be met with in the corridors of Smolny. Comrades whom we had met abroad, during the events of 1905, or in Vyborg District work, discussed their affairs with me through old habit, and so I was kept in close touch with all that was doing. I had also many visitors at the Extra-School Department of the Commissariat of Education in which I was working. We had no Army Political Departments or tradeunion culture departments in those days, and everyone used to come to the Commissariat of Education. Incidentally, I got to know many interesting details about the temper of the masses. I particularly remember the story of a comrade who had come from the front to get advice on how to organize educational work among the troops there. He spoke about the deep hatred which the mass of the soldiers bore towards the gymnasium schools and all the old culture of the master class. Soldiers were put up for the night in a high-school building, and they tore up and stamped on all the books, maps and copy-books which they could find in the desks and book-cases, and smashed up all the school supplies and appliances. "The damned masters taught their children here." I was reminded of the nineties, when a worker attending the Sunday School, after giving a detailed account proving the Earth to be a globe, wound up with a mocking sceptical smile: "Only you can't believe that, the masters made it up." Ilyich and I often spoke about this distrust towards the old science and learning on the part of the masses. Later on, at the Third Congress of the Soviets, Ilyich said:

"Previously the human mind and all its genius created solely for the purpose of providing some with all the blessings of technics and culture while denying to others the bare necessitieseducation and development. Now all the marvels of technics, all the conquests of culture will belong to all the people, and from now on the human mind and genius will never be used as a means of oppression, a means of exploitation. We know thatand is not that great historical task worth working for, worth giving all our energies to? The working people will perform that titanic historic job, for within them dwell the great slumbering forces of revolution, regeneration and renewal." (Works, Vol. 26, p. 436-37.) These words of Ilyich's showed the backward masses that the old hateful science was becoming a thing of the past, and that the new science would work only for the benefit of the masses. The masses had to master it.

The Extra-School Department worked in close contact with the workers, first and foremost those of the Vyborg District. I remember how we cooperated with them in drafting "The ABC of a Citizen"a course of training which every worker had to master if he wished to take part in social work and in the activities of the Soviets and the various organizations that would grow up around them more and more as time went on. The workers for their part kept us informed of what was going on in the district. Production was being cut down, young workers were being laid off at the factories, and food shortages were becoming acute. On December 10 the Council of People's Commissars, on Lenin's motion, set up a special committee to elaborate the basic questions of the government's economic policy and organize a conference of food supply workers to discuss practical measures for combatting acts of pillage and improving the conditions of the workers. Two days after this the Council of People's Commissars adopted a number of resolutions drafted by Ilyich under which factories handling naval orders were to be switched over to productive work more needful to the people. It was no good simply closing down war production, as this would only create unemployment.

Ilyich pressed for the speedy organization of work at the Commissariat of Food Supply, which was to replace the Ministry of Provisions. The resistance of the old staff here was very strong. Besides, new ways had to be sought for drawing the mass of the workers into this activity, forms had to be discovered for organizing this cooperation.

In this wise the Soviet machinery of state was built up soon after the October Revolution; the old ministerial machinery of administration was scrapped, and Soviet organs of government were built up in its stead by hands that were as yet inexperienced and unskilful. There was still a lot left to do, but judging from what had been done in this respect by the beginning of 1918, tremendous progress had been made.

The Vyborg District arranged a New Year's Eve rally as a send-off for the Red Guards of the district who were leaving for the front. Many of these comrades had taken part in the fighting against the troops of Kerensky during their march on Petrograd. They were now going to the front to carry on propaganda for the Soviet Government, to rouse the activity of the soldiers, put a revolutionary spirit into the whole struggle. The New Year's Eve rally was organized in the spacious premises of the Mikhailovskoye Military Cadet School. The comrades who were going to the front were keen to see Ilyich, as was everyone else in the Vyborg District, and I suggested that he go there to celebrate the First Soviet New Year together with the workers. The idea appealed to Ilyich. We started out. We had a job getting out of the square. What with the janitors having been done away with and there being no one to clear the snow away, it required great skill on the part of the chauffeur to steer a passage through the piled up snow. We arrived at 11.30 p.m. The big "white" hall of the Mikhailovskoye School resembled a manege. Greeted warmly by the workers, Ilyich stepped up on the platform. Stimulated by the enthusiastic reception, he made a speech, which, although simple and unadorned, touched upon everything that had been uppermost in his mind of late. He spoke about what the workers had to do in order to organize their life anew through the medium of the Soviets. He spoke about how the comrades who were going to the front had to carry on their work there among the soldiers. When Ilyich finished he was given an ovation. Four workers grasped the legs of the chair on which he was sitting and raised it aloft amid loud cheers. I underwent the same treatment. After that a concert was given in the hall, then Ilyich had some tea in the staff room and chatted with the people there, and then we contrived to slip away unnoticed. Ilyich preserved a very pleasant memory of that evening. In 1920 he made me go with him to the workers' districtsthat was already in Moscowwhere he was eager to meet the workers again on New Year's Eve. We visited three districts that time.

At Christmas (Jan. 6-11, New Style) Ilyich and I and Maria Ilyinichna went to some place in Finland. Rosyura, who was working then in Smolny, fixed us up at some Finnish rest home, where Berzins happened to be taking his holiday. That spotless Finnish cleanliness with its white curtains everywhere reminded Ilyich of the days of his secret residence in Helsingfors in 1907 and again in 1917 on the eve of the October Revolution, when he had been writing his book The State and Revolution there. As a holiday, it wasn't much of a success. Ilyich sometimes even dropped his voice when speaking, the way we used to do when we were in hiding, and although we went for walks every day, there was no real zest in them. Ilyich's mind was occupied and he spent most of his time writing. The things he wrote during those four days, however, were not made use of, as he considered them unfinished. The articles that he then wrote, namely, "Those Scared by the Collapse of the Old and Those Fighting for the New," "How To Organize Competition," and "Draft Decree on Consumers Communes," were not published until five years after his death, but they best show what problems his mind was wrestling with at the time. The questions that engrossed him most of all were how best to organize the everyday economic life, how best to arrange the workers' lives and improve the hard conditions they were living under at the time; how to organize consumers' communes, the supply of milk for the children, the removal of the workers to better apartments, and the organization of proper accounting and control which this involved; how to organize things in such a way as to draw the masses themselves into this work, to stir their initiative. Ilyich thought of ways for advancing the most gifted organizers from the midst of the workers. He wrote about emulation, and the organizing role it was destined to play.

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