As part of our build up to the 93rd anniversary of the Russian Revolution of Nov 1917, we reproduce the first of two extracts from Lenin's widow Krupskaya's book 'Reminiscences of Lenin." Dealing wth the October events and the build up to the revolution itself, this account provides a marvelous picture of the unfolding struggle.
One note of caution however. This book (currently out of print but available to read online at www.marxists.org) was published in 1933, by which time Stalin had seized control of the Bolshevik party and the machinery of state. To even mention Trotsky (or for that matter any other Old Bolshevik who had fallen foul of Stalin anf his cohorts) let alone give praise, was a virtual sentence of death. As such, the book was shaped by a need to emphasize the role of certain people. not least Stalin, and eliminate others e.g Trotsky. Krupskaya's actual feelings about Stalin are now well known but at the time to have written openly, or even 'in code,' would have quickly resulted in only one outcome, even for a widow of Lenin.
Krupskaya's “Reminiscences of Lenin”:
The October Days (Part One)
The seizure of power in October had been carefully thought out and prepared by the Party of the proletariat–the Bolshevik Party. The uprising during the July days had started spontaneously, but the Party, keeping a sober mind, had considered it premature. The truth had to be faced, and that truth was that the masses were still unprepared for an uprising. The Central Committee therefore decided to postpone it. It was no easy thing to restrain the insurgents whose fighting blood was up. But the Bolsheviks did their duty, painful though it was, for they appreciated the vital importance of choosing the right moment for the insurrection.
A couple of months later the situation had changed, and Ilyich, who was compelled to hide in Finland, wrote a letter to the Central Committee and to the Petrograd and Moscow committees between the 12th and 14th September, in which he said: "Having obtained a majority in the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies in both capitals, the Bolsheviks can and must take power into their hands." He then proceeds to show why the power had to be seized precisely at that of all times. The surrender of Petrograd would lessen the chances of success. There was talk of a separate peace between the British and German imperialists. "To offer peace to the nations precisely now is to win," wrote Ilyich.
In his letter to the Central Committee he deals at length with the question of how to determine the moment for the insurrection and how to prepare it. "To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon such a crucial moment in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point."
At the end of his letter Ilyich indicated what had to be done in order to treat the insurrection in a Marxist way, i.e., as an art. "And in order to treat insurrection in a Marxist way, i.e., as an art, we must at the same time, without losing a single moment, organize a headquarter staff of the insurgent detachments, distribute our forces, move the reliable regiments to the most important points, surround the Alexandrinsky Theatre," occupy the Peter and Paul Fortress, arrest the general staff and the government, and move against the cadets and the Savage Division such detachments as will rather die than allow the enemy to approach the centres of the city, we must mobilize the armed workers and call them to fight the last desperate fight, occupy the telegraph and the telephone exchange at once, place our headquarter staff of the insurrection at the central telephone exchange and connect it by telephone with all the factories, all the regiments, all the points of armed fighting, etc.
"Of course, this is all by way of example, only to illustrate the fact that at the present moment it is impossible to remain loyal to Marxism, to remain loyal to the revolution, without treating insurrection as an art." (Works, Vol.26, pp. 4, 8-9.)
Living in Finland, removed from the actual scene, Ilyich was terribly worried lest the opportune moment for the insurrection should be missed. On October 7 he wrote to the Petrograd City Conference, as well as to the Central Committee, the Moscow Committee the Petrograd Committee and the Bolshevik members of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. On the 8th he wrote a letter to the Bolshevik delegates to the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region, and worried about whether his letter would reach them. On the 9th he came to Petrograd himself and put up illegally in the Vyborg District, whence he directed preparations for the insurrection.
That last month Ilyich thought of nothing else, lived for nothing else but the insurrection. His mood and his deep conviction communicated themselves to his comrades.
His last letter from Finland to the Bolshevik delegates to the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region is a document of the utmost importance. Here it is":
"...Armed insurrection is a special form of political struggle, one subject to special laws which must be attentively pondered over. Karl Marx expressed this truth with remarkable saliency when he wrote that armed 'insurrection is an art quite as much as war.'
"Of the principal rules of this art, Marx noted the following:
"1) Never play with insurrection, but when beginning it firmly realize that you must go to the end.
"2) Concentrate a great superiority of forces at the decisive point, at the decisive moment, otherwise the enemy, who has the advantage of better preparation and organization, will destroy the insurgents.
"3) Once the insurrection has begun, you must act with the greatest determination, and by all means, without fail, take the offensive. The defensive is the death of every armed rising.'
"4) You must try to take the enemy by surprise and seize the moment when his forces are scattered.
"5) You must strive for daily successes, even if small (one might say hourly, if it is the case of one town), and at all costs retain the 'moral ascendancy.'
"Marx summed up the lessons of all revolutions in respect to armed insurrection in the words of 'Danton, the greatest master of revolutionary policy yet known: de l'audace, de l'audace, encore de l'audace.
"Applied to Russia and to October 1917, this means: a simultaneous offensive on Petrograd, as sudden and as rapid as possible, which must without fail be carried out from within and front without, from the working-class quarters and from Finland, from Revel and from Kronstadt, an offensive of the whole fleet, the concentration of a gigantic superiority of forces over the 15,000 or 20,000 (perhaps more) of our 'bourgeois guard' (the officers schools), our 'Vendean troops' (part of the Cossacks), etc.
"Our three main forces–the navy, the workers and the army units–must be so combined as to occupy without fail and to hold at the cost of any sacrifice: a) the telephone exchange; b) the telegraph office; c) the railway stations; d) above all, the bridges.
"The most determined elements (our "shock forces" and young workers, as well as the best of the sailors) must be formed into small detachments to occupy all the more important points and to take part everywhere in all important operations, for example:
"To encircle and cut off Petrograd; to seize it by combined attack of the navy, the workers, and the troops–a task which requires art and triple audacity.
"To form detachments composed of the best workers, armed with rifles and bombs, for the purpose of attacking and surrounding the enemy's 'centres' (the military cadets' schools, the telegraph office, the telephone exchange, etc.). Their watchword must be: 'Rather perish to man than let the enemy pass!'
"Let us hope that if action is decided on, the leaders will successfully apply the great precepts of Danton and Marx.
"The success of both the Russian and the world revolution depends on two or three days of fighting." (Works, Vol. 26, pp. 151-53.)
This letter was written on the 21st, and the 22nd already found Ilyich in Petrograd. The next day there was a meeting of the Central Committee, at which a resolution was carried on his motion calling for an armed uprising. Zinoviev and Kamenev voted against it and demanded that a special plenary meeting of the Central Committee should be called. Kamenev demonstratively announced his resignation from the Central Committee. Lenin demanded that the severest measures of Party penalty should be imposed upon them.
Intensive preparations for the uprising were going forward and breaking down all opportunist resistance. On October 26 the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet passed a resolution to set up a Military Revolutionary Committee. On October 29 an enlarged meeting of the Central Committee was held together with representatives of the Party organizations. The same day, at a meeting of the Central Committee, a Military Revolutionary Centre was set up to direct the uprising, consisting of Stalin, Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky and others.
On the 30th the proposed organization of a Military Revolutionary Committee was endorsed by the Petrograd Soviet as a whole and not only its Executive Committee. Five days after this a meeting of the regimental committees acknowledged the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee as the leading organ of the military units in Petrograd, and passed a resolution not to obey the orders of the Staff unless they were endorsed by the Military Revolutionary Committee.
Already on November 5 the Military Revolutionary Committee had appointed commissars to the military units. The next day, November 6, the Provisional Government decided to prosecute the members of the M.R.C., and arrest the commissars appointed to the military units. The military cadets were called out to the Winter Palace. But it was too late. The military units stood for the Bolsheviks. The workers stood for the transfer of power to the Soviets. The M.R.C. was working under the direct guidance of the Central Committee, most of whose members, including Stalin, Sverdlov, Molotov, Dzerzhinsky and Bubnov, were members of the M.R.C. The uprising had begun.
On November 6 Ilyich was still in hiding at the flat of our Party member Marguerite Fofanova in the Vyborg District (House No. 92/1, Flat No. 42 on the corner of Bolshoi Sampsonievsky and Serdobolskaya streets). He knew that the uprising was about to take place, and fretted because he was not in the thick of it at such a crucial moment. He sent two messages through Marguerite saying that the uprising could not be delayed a moment more. That evening, at last, Eino Rahja, a Finnish comrade, came to see him. Eino, who was in close touch with the factories and the Party organization and served as a medium through whom Ilyich maintained contact with the organization, told Ilyich that the guards patrolling the city had been doubled, that the Provisional Government had given orders to raise the bridges across the Neva in order to cut off communication between the working-class quarters, and that the bridges were being guarded by detachments of soldiers. Obviously, the uprising was starting. Ilyich had intended asking Eino to send for Stalin, but had gathered from what Eino had told him that that was almost impossible. Stalin was probably at the M.R.C. in Smolny, the tramcars were probably not running, and it would take him a long time to get there. Ilyich decided to go to Smolny himself at once. He hurried away, leaving Marguerite a note, saying: "I am going where you did not want me to go. Good-bye. Ilyich."
That night the Vyborg District was arming in preparation for the uprising. One group of workers after another came to the District Committee to receive weapons and instructions. That night I went to see Ilyich at Fofanova's flat, only to learn that he had gone to Smolny. Zhenya Yegorova (Secretary of the Vyborg District Party Committee) and I tacked on to a lorry that our people were sending to Smolny. I was anxious to know whether Ilyich had reached Smolny in safety or not. I do not remember now whether I actually saw Ilyich in Smolny or only learned that he was there. At any rate, I know I did not talk to him, because he was completely absorbed in the business of directing the uprising, and when he did a thing he never did it by halves.
Smolny was brilliantly lit up, a scene of intense activity. Red Guards, representatives from the factories, and soldiers came from all over to receive instructions. Typewriters rattled away, telephones rang, our girls sat sorting out piles of telegrams, and on the second floor the M.R.C. was in continuous session. Armoured cars stood throbbing on the square outside, a held gun stood ready for action, and stacks of firewood had been built up in case barricades were needed. Guns and machine-guns stood at the entrance, sentries at the doors.
By 10 a.m. on October 25 (November 7, New Style), a manifesto "To the Citizens of Russia" issued by the M.R.C. of the Petrograd Soviet came off the press. It said:
"The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The power of state has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the Military Revolutionary Committee, which stands at the head of the Petrograd proletariat and garrison.
"The cause for which the people have fought–the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of landlord ownership of the land, workers' control over production and the creation of a Soviet Government–is assured.
"Long live the revolution of the workers, soldiers and peasants!" (Works, Vol. 26, p. 207.)
Although it was obvious that the revolution was victorious, the M.R.C. continued its activities as intensively as ever, occupying the government offices one after another, organizing guard duty, etc.
At 2.30 p.m. a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was held. The Soviet hailed with acclamation the report that the Provisional Government no longer existed, that some of its ministers had been arrested and the rest were awaiting their turn, that the Pre-parliament had been dismissed, and the railway stations, the general post and telegraph offices and the State Bank occupied. The Winter Palace was being stormed. It had not been captured yet, but its fate was sealed, and the soldiers were displaying wonderful heroism. The uprising had been a bloodless one.
Lenin's appearance at the meeting of the Soviet was greeted with a tumultuous ovation. It was characteristic of Ilyich that he made no big speeches in connection with the victory. He spoke instead about the tasks confronting the Soviet power, which had to be tackled in real earnest. He said that a new period in the history of Russia had been ushered in. The Soviet Government would carry on without the bourgeoisie. A decree would be issued abolishing private ownership of the land. A real workers' control would be established over industry. The struggle for socialism would be launched. The old machinery of state would be broken up and scrapped, and a new authority, the authority of the Soviet organizations, would be set up. We had the force of a mass organization which would carry all before it. The task of the day was to conclude peace. To do that Capital had to be defeated. The international proletariat, among whom signs of revolutionary unrest were beginning to appear, would help us to secure peace.
This speech struck home with the members of the Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers' and Workers' Deputies. Yes, a new period in our history was beginning. The strength of the mass organizations was invincible. The masses had risen, and the power of the bourgeoisie had fallen. We shall take the land from the landowners, and give the law to the factory owners, and, most important of all, we shall secure peace. The world revolution will come to our assistance. Ilyich was right. His speech was greeted with a storm of applause.
The Second Congress of the Soviets was to be opened that evening. It was to proclaim the power of the Soviets and give official recognition to the victory of the revolution.
Agitation was carried on among the delegates when they began to arrive. The government of the workers was to lean upon the peasantry, rally it behind them. The party that was supposed to express the views of the peasantry were the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The rich peasantry, the kulaks had their ideologists in the person of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. The ideologists of the peasant masses, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were typical representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, which wavered between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The leaders of the Petrograd Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionaries were Natanson, Spiridonova and Kamkov. Ilyich had met Natanson during his first emigration. At that time–in 1904–Natanson had stood fairly close to the Marxists, except that he had believed the Social-Democrats to be underestimating the role of the peasantry. Spiridonova was a popular figure at that time. During the first revolution, in 1906, she, then a girl of seventeen, had assassinated Luzhenovsky, the suppressor of the peasant movement in the Tambov Gubernia. After being brutally tortured, she was condemned to penal servitude in Siberia, where she remained until the February Revolution. The Left Socialist-ReVolutionaries of Petrograd were strongly influenced by the Bolshevik temper of the masses. They were more favourably inclined towards the Bolsheviks than any of the others. They saw that the Bolsheviks were out in all earnest to confiscate all the lands of the landowners and hand them over to the peasants. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries believed in introducing a system of equalized land-tenure; the Bolsheviks realized that a complete reconstruction of agriculture on socialist lines was necessary. However, Ilyich considered that the most important thing at the moment was to confiscate the landowners' lands. As to what turn further reconstruction would take, experience itself would show. And he gave his thoughts to the drafting of a decree on the land.
The reminiscences of M. V. Fofanova contain a very interesting item. "I remember," she writes, "Vladimir Ilyich asking me to get him all the back numbers of Izvestia, the organ of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants' Deputies, which I did, of course. I do not remember exactly how many numbers there were, but they made a solid batch of material for study. Vladimir Ilyich spent two days over it, working even at night. In the morning he says to me: 'Well, I think I've studied these S.-R.'s inside out. All that remains is for me to read the mandate of their peasant electors.' Two hours later he called me in and said cheerfully, slapping one of the newspapers (I saw it to be the August 19 issue of the Peasant Izvestia): 'Here's a ready-made agreement with the Left S.-R.'s. It's no joke–this mandate has been signed by 242 local deputies. We shall use it as the basis for our law concerning the land and see if the Left S.-R.'s dare to reject it.' He showed me the paper with blue pencil markings all over it and added: 'The thing is to find a means by which we could afterwards reshape their socialization idea after our own pattern.' "
Marguerite was an agronomist by profession and she came up against these problems in her work. It was, therefore, a subject on which Ilyich willingly spoke to her.
Would the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries quit the congress or not?
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened at 10.45 p.m. on October 25 (November 7, New Style). That evening the congress was to be constituted, was to elect a presidium and define its powers. Of the 670 delegates only 300 were Bolsheviks; 193 were Socialist-Revolutionaries and 68 Mensheviks. The Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Bundists foamed at the mouth and thundered denunciations at the Bolsheviks. They read out a declaration of protest against the "military plot and seizure of power engineered by the Bolsheviks behind the backs of the other parties and factions represented on the Soviet" and walked out. Some of the Menshevik-Internationalists quitted too. The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who formed the overwhelming majority of the S.-R. delegates (169 out of 193), remained. Altogether fifty delegates quitted the congress. Vladimir Ilyich was not present at the opening night.
While the Second Congress of Soviets was being opened the Winter Palace was being stormed. Kerensky had escaped the day before, disguised as a sailor, and was rushed off to Pskov in a motor-car. The Military Revolutionary Committee of Pskov did not arrest him, although it had direct orders signed by Dybenko and Krylenko to do so, and Kerensky left for Moscow to organize a crusade against Petrograd, where the soldiers and workers had taken the power into their own hands. The other ministers, headed by Kishkin, entrenched themselves in the Winter Palace under the protection of the military cadets and the women's shock battalion, which had been drawn up there for the purpose. The Mensheviks, Right S.-R.'s and Bundists were frantic with rage over the siege of the Winter Palace and went into hysterics at the congress. Erlich declared that some of the town-councillors had decided to go unarmed to the Palace Square and risk being shot down because the palace was being shelled. The Executive Committee of the Soviet of Peasants Deputies, and the Menshevik and S.-R. groups decided to join them. After the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had walked out an interval was called. When the proceedings were resumed at 3.10 a.m. the congress was informed that the Winter Palace had been taken, the ministers arrested, the officers and cadets disarmed, and the Third Bicycle Battalion, which Kerensky had sent against Petrograd, had gone over to the revolutionary people.
When there was no doubt left that victory had been won and that the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries would not quit the congress, Vladimir Ilyich, who had hardly slept the previous night and had taken an active part all the time in directing the uprising, left Smolny and went to sleep at the Bonch-Bruyeviches', who lived in Peski, not far from Smolny. He was given a room to himself, but he could not fall asleep for a long time. He got up quietly so as not to wake anybody and began to write the Decree on Land, which he had already thought out in every detail.
Addressing the congress on the evening of October 26 (November 8, New Style) in support of the Decree on Land, Ilyich said:
"Voices are being raised here that the decree itself and the mandate were drawn up by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. What of it? Does it matter who drew them up? As a democratic government, we cannot ignore the decision of the rank and file of the people, even though we may disagree with it. In the fire of experience, applying the decree in practice, and carrying it out locally, the peasants will themselves realize where the truth lies.... Life is the best teacher and it will show who is right. Let the peasants solve this problem from one end and we shall solve it from the other. Life will oblige us to draw together in the general stream of revolutionary creative work, in the elaboration of new state forms.... The peasants have learnt something during the eight months of our revolution; they want to settle all land questions themselves. We are therefore opposed to all amendments to this draft law. We want no details in it, for we are writing a decree, not a programme of action." (Works, Vol. 26, pp. 228-29.) We have all of Ilyich in those words–an Ilyich free from petty conceit (it does not matter who said it, so long as it says the right thing), taking into consideration the opinion of the rank and file, appreciating the power of revolutionary creative work, clearly understanding that the masses are best convinced by practice and experience, and that the hard facts of life would show them that the Bolsheviks' point of view had been correct. The Decree on Land submitted by Lenin was adopted. Sixteen years have passed since then. Landlord ownership has been abolished, and step by step, in a struggle against the old proprietary habits and views, new forms of farming have been created –collective farming, which now embraces the bulk of peasant households. The old small-farm methods and small-owner mentality are becoming a thing of the past. A strong and powerful basis for socialist farming has been created.
The decrees on Peace and Land were passed at the evening session on October 26 (November 8). On these points agreement was reached with the S.-R.'s. On the question of forming a government, however, the position was worse. The Left S.-R.'s had not quitted the congress because they had realized that such an action would have cost them their influence among the peasant masses, but the withdrawal on October 25 of the Right S.-R.'s and the Mensheviks, and their outcries against the adventurism of the Bolsheviks, the seizure of power, etc., etc., had deeply affected them. After the Right S.-R.'s and the others had left the congress, Kamkov, one of the leaders of the Left S.-R.'s, declared that they stood for a united democratic government, and that the Left S.-R.'s would do everything they could to have such a government set up. The Left S.-R.'s said they wanted to act as mediators between the Bolsheviks and the parties who had left the congress. The Bolsheviks did not refuse to negotiate, but Ilyich understood perfectly well that nothing would come of such talks. The Bolsheviks had not seized the power and made the revolution in order to hitch a swan, a pike and a crab to the Soviet cart, to form a government that would be incapable of pulling together and getting things done. Cooperation with the Left S.-R.'s, in Ilyich's opinion, was possible.
A talk on this question with representatives of the Left S.-R.'s was held a couple of hours before the congress opened on October 26. I remember the surroundings in which that conference was held. It was a room in Smolny with small settees upholstered in dark red. On one settee sat Spiridonova, and next to her stood Ilyich, arguing with her in a sort of gentle earnest manner. No agreement was reached with the Left S.-R.'s. They did not want to join the government. Ilyich proposed the appointment of Bolsheviks alone to the posts of socialist ministers.
The congress session of October 26 (November 8) opened at 9 p.m. I was present. I remember the speech Ilyich made in submitting his draft Decree on Land. He spoke calmly. The audience listened with rapt attention. During the reading of the Decree I was struck by the expression of one of the delegates who sat a little way off. He was an elderly looking peasant, and under the stress of powerful emotion his face had assumed a wax-like appearance and his eyes shone with a peculiar light.
The death sentence, introduced by Kerensky at the front, was repealed, decrees on Peace, on Land and on Workers' Control were passed, and a Bolshevik Council of People's Commissars was formed as follows: Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin)–Chairman of the Council; A. I. Rykov-People's Commissar for Internal Affairs; V. P. Milyutin –Agriculture; A. G. Shyapnikov–Labour; V. A. Ovseyenko (Antonov), N. V. Krylenko and P. Y. Dybenko–Committee of Military and Naval Affairs; V. P. Nogin–Trade and Industry; A. V. Lunacharsky-Education; I. I. Skvortsov (Stepanov) –Finance; L. D. Bronstein (Trotsky)–Foreign Affairs; G. I. Oppokov (Lomov)–Justice; I. A. Teodorovich–Food Supply; N. P. Avilov (Glebov)–Post and Telegraph; and J. V. Djugashvili (Stalin)–Chairman of the People's Commissariat for the Affairs of Nationalities. The post of Commissar of Ways of Communication was left open.
Eino Rahja relates that when the list of first People's Commissars was being discussed at a meeting of the Bolshevik group, he had been sitting in a corner listening. One of the nominees had protested that he had no experience in that kind of work. Vladimir Ilyich had burst out laughing and said: "Do you think any of us has had such experience?" None had any experience, of course. But Vladimir Ilyich envisaged the People's Commissar as a new type of minister, an organizer and manager of one or another branch of state activity, who was linked closely with the masses.
Vladimir Ilyich's mind was hard at work all the time on the problem of new forms of administration. He was thinking of how to organize a machinery of government that would be free from the taint of bureaucratism, that would lean on the masses, organize their cooperation and assistance, and show itself capable of training a new type of administrative worker on this job. In the resolution of the Second Congress of Soviets concerning the formation of a workers' and peasants' government, this is expressed in the following words:
"The management of the different branches of state activity is entrusted to commissions whose make-up should ensure the implementation of the programme proclaimed by the congress in close unity with the mass organizations of the workers, sailors, soldiers, peasants and employees. The government power is vested in a collegium of chairmen of the said commissions, i.e., the Council of People's Commissars." (Works, Vol. 26, p. 230.)
I recall the talks I had with Ilyich on this subject during the few weeks he lived at Fofanova's. I was working at the time with tremendous enthusiasm in the Vyborg District, keenly observing the revolutionary activities of the masses and the radical changes that were taking place in the whole pattern of life. On meeting Vladimir Ilyich I would tell him about life in the district. I remember telling him about an interesting sitting of a People's Court which I had attended. Such courts had been held in some places during the Revolution of 1905–in Sormovo for one thing. Chugurin, a worker, whom I had met as a student of the Longjumeau Party school near Paris and with whom I was now working at the Vyborg District Council, was a native of Sormovo. It was his suggestion to start organizing such courts in the Vyborg District. The first court sat at the People's House. The place was packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder on the floor, benches and window sills. I do not remember now exactly what cases came before the court. They were not really offences in the strict sense of the word, but incidents of everyday life. Two suspicious characters were tried for attempting to arrest Chugurin. A tall swarthy watchman was "tried" for beating his young son, exploiting him and keeping him away from school. Many working men and women from among the public made warm speeches, The "defendant" kept wiping the sweat from his brow, and then, with the tears streaming down his face, promised not to ill-treat his son any more. Strictly speaking, it was not a court, but a public control of citizens' behaviour; we were witnessing proletarian ethics in the making. Vladimir Ilyich was greatly interested in this "court" and questioned me about it in detail.
Mostly I told him about the new forms of educational work. I was in charge of the Department of Education at the District Council. The children's school did not function in the summer, and most of the time I was busy with political education. In this respect my five years' experience at the Sunday Evening School in the Nevskaya Zastava District in the nineties came in very useful to me. These were different times, of course, and we could go ahead with the job unhampered.
Delegates from some forty factories got together every week and we discussed ways and means of carrying out one or another measure. Whatever we decided was immediately carried out. For example, we decided to do away with illiteracy, and the factory delegates, each at his own place of employment, organized the registration of illiterates, secured school premises and raised the necessary funds by bearing down upon the factory managements. A representative of the workers was attached to each such school and he saw to it that the school was supplied with all that it needed in the way of blackboards, chalk, ABC books, etc. Special representatives were appointed to see that right teaching methods were used and to find out what the workers had to say about it. We briefed these representatives and had them report back to us. We got together delegates of the soldiers' wives and discussed conditions in the children's homes, organized their inspection over the children's homes, gave them instructions, and carried out extensive explanatory work among them. We got together the librarians of the district, and together with them and the workers discussed the forms of work of the public libraries. A powerful impulse was given to the initiative of the workers, and the Department of Education rallied around itself considerable forces. Ilyich said at the time that this was just the style of work that our government offices and future ministers would have to adopt, a style of work modelled after these committees of working men and women, who were in the thick of things and were familiar with the conditions of life and work of the masses and with everything that agitated their minds at the moment. Vladimir Ilyich was all the more keen to draw me out on these subjects in that he believed I understood how to enlist the masses on the job of running the government.
He had some strong things to say afterwards about the "rotten" bureaucratism that had wormed its way in everywhere. Eventually, when the question came up of raising the responsibility of the People's Commissars and the Commissariats' department managers, who often shuffled it off on to the boards and commissions, the question of oneman management arose. Ilyich unexpectedly got me appointed a member of the commission under the Council of People's Commissars which was set up to investigate this question. He said we must be careful that one-man management should in no way override the initiative and independent activity of the commissions, or weaken the ties with the masses; one-man management had to be combined with an ability to work with the masses. Ilyich tried to make use of everyone's experience for building up a state of a new type. The Soviet Government, at the head of which Ilyich now stood, was faced with the task of setting up a type of state machinery such as the world had never yet seen, a machinery that relied on the support of the broad masses; the task was to remodel the whole social fabric and all human relations along new socialist lines.
But first of all the Soviet power had to be defended against the enemy's attempts to overthrow it by force and disrupt it from within. Our ranks had to be strengthened.