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Russian History: XX century

Russian History: XIX entury

Krupskaya's Reminiscences of Lenin

Not until the Germans, on February 23, had presented their terms and demanded a reply within forty-eight hours, while their troops began to advance and take town after town, did the situation change. Lenin declared that if this policy of revolutionary phrasemongery continued he would resign from the Central Committee and the government. Voting on the question of whether to accept the German terms or not gave the following result: seven in favour and four against, with four abstentions including Trotsky, who shrank from taking upon himself responsibility on such a momentous issue at such an important time. The leading five who voted for concluding peace even on the Germans' terms (Lenin, Sverdlov, Stalin, Sokolnikov and Smilga) were joined by Zinoviev and Stasova. The opponents of peace were allowed freedom of agitation.

The advance of the Germans, however, had had an instantaneous sobering effect. By the time the Seventh Congress of the Party took place Lenin's standpoint had won over the vast majority. On March 8 the congress adopted a resolution in favour of endorsing the peace treaty signed at Brest-Litovsk by thirty votes against twelve, with four abstentions. On March 16 the Fourth Congress of Soviets, held in Moscow, ratified the Brest treaty by 704 votes against 285 with 115 abstentions.

Of this period of struggle for the peace of Brest two moments stand out in my memory. An extended meeting of the Party Central Committee was held on January 21, 1918. Winding up the debates, Ilyich felt the hostile glances of his comrades upon him. He had set forth his view with apparently little hope of being able to convince those present. I can almost hear the unutterably weary and bitter tone in which he said to me, when his speech was over: "Ah, well, let's go!" No one would have been more pleased than Ilyich if our army had been able to fight back, or if a revolution had broken out in Germany, which would have put an end to the war. He would have been glad to know that he had been wrong. But the more optimistic his comrades were, the more wary and guarded did Ilyich become. I remember another moment. During the very difficult time between the middle of January and the end of February Ilyich and I often went for walks together along the Neva around Smolny. Ilyich was worried, and at such moments he felt a need to unburden his mind to someone who stood close to him. I do not remember now exactly what he said, but it was in the same vein as his speech at the Seventh Congress of the Party. Even today I cannot read that speech without emotion. I hear Ilyich's voice and all his intonations in the words: "It will be a good thing if the German proletariat will be able to come out. But have you measured, have you discovered such an instrument that will determine that the German revolution will break out on such and such a day? No, that you do not know, and neither do we. You are staking everything on this card. If the revolution breaks out, everything is saved. Of course! But if it does not turn out as we desire, supposing it does not achieve victory tomorrowwhat then? Then the masses will say to you: you acted like gamblersyou staked everything on a fortunate turn of events that did not take place, you proved unfit for the situation that actually arose in place of an international revolution, which will inevitably come, but which has not ripened yet." (Works, Vol. 27, pp. 79-80.)

Reading this, memory takes me back to the Neva, to our stroll there along the embankment in the dusk. The western sky over the river is flooded with the crimson glow of Petrograd's winter sunset. That sunset reminds me of my first meeting with Ilyich at the pancake party at Klasson's in 1894. Going back from the Okhta District along the Neva my comrades told me about Ilyich's brother. And here we were, Ilyich and I, walking down the Neva again, while he kept repeating over and over again the reasons why the standpoint of "no peace, no war" was fundamentally wrong. On our way back, Ilyich suddenly stops, and his tired face lights up as he lets fall: "You never know!"meaning, a revolution may have started in Germany for all we know. In Smolny he reads the latest telegrams reporting that the Germans are advancing. His face becomes clouded and drawn, and he goes into his office to ring up. The revolution in Germany did not start until November 9, 1918. On November 13, 1918, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee annulled the treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

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