The so-called ‘Lenin Testament’

VI Lenin and JV Stalin in Gorki, 1922

VI Lenin and JV Stalin in Gorki, 1922

The so-called ‘Lenin Testament’

‘Left Side of the Road’ Introduction

The basis of the article below was first used as a presentation made by Bill Bland (then of the Communist League (UK)) to the Stalin Society in London in 1991. It was later published, the same year, as a pamphlet.

It’s quite a long document as Bland has used extensive quotes from the published works of VI Lenin and JV Stalin as well as various biographies and commentaries that have been written about the individuals concerned and the whole crazy idea that a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party could even countenance the idea that the leadership of the movement can be bequeathed to or by anyone. (Where digital versions of the works quoted are known to be available a link has been added in the text.)

Although the presentation provides a full and detailed analysis of the issue it really shouldn’t have been necessary. The Communist Party established in Russia under the leadership of Comrade Lenin was a ‘party of a new type’, a party which existed for the benefit of the workers and peasants and which, in order to be effective, had to work in a new manner. It wasn’t a club of a privileged few, it had to be a dynamic force, constantly reviewing its work to be able to effectively deal with ever changing circumstances.

Before any Socialist Revolution, in any country and at any time, the participants are contaminated by the old ideas of capitalism. Many hundreds of thousands of Communists in those countries where the proletarian revolution has been successful (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – now all tragically lost to the Socialist cause) were able, and capable, of rejecting the poison of their capitalist past and fight for the Socialist future.

Others, and in the context of this document the Trotskyites, were so steeped in capitalist thought that they were incapable of thinking in a new way. When they lost the political argument they attempted to get their own way by nefarious means. If they were children playing football in the street they would have walked away with their ball if a decision was made against them. Fortunately they failed in their endeavours – although modern day Trotskyites (and revisionists) continue to do everything they can to undermine revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Parties.

The text of this document has been made available by comrades of Marxism-Leninism Currents Today to whom we offer our thanks.

‘Lenin’s Testament – (1922-1923)

By W. B. Bland for the Communist League (UK)

The Charge

That in 1922 Lenin Advised the Russian Communist Party to Remove Stalin from the Top Post of General Secretary.

‘In December 1922 in a letter to the Party Congress Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin – Ed.) wrote . . a political document of tremendous importance, known in the Party history as Lenin’s Testament. Vladimir Ilyich said; ‘I propose that the comrades consider the method by which Stalin would be removed from this position (of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). ‘ N.S. Khrushchev, Secret Speech to 20th Congress CPSU, in Russian Institute, Columbia University (Ed.), ‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism; A Selection of Documents’, New York, 1956, p6, 7.

Introduction

Khrushchev’s charge – as above – is inaccurate in only one detail. Lenin did not write the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’, it was in fact dictated by Lenin to one of his secretaries, Lidya Fotieva*. However its authenticity has never been challenged. The passage concerned in Lenin’s letter reads;

‘Stalin is too rude, and this defect becomes intolerable in a Secretary General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to the Congress’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p596.

However, there are some puzzling features about Lenin’s action in dictating this and some other passages in the letter.

Lenin’s Assessment of Stalin

One puzzling feature about the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ is that throughout Lenin’s political life until late 1922, his assessment of Stalin was extremely high.

For example, as long ago as February 1913 Lenin was describing Stalin, in a letter to the writer Maksim Gorky*, as ‘a marvellous Georgian’;

‘We have a marvellous Georgian who has sat down to write a big article for ‘Prosveshcheniye’, for which he has collected all the Austrian and other materials’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Maksim Gorky’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p84.

A little later, in December 1913 Lenin was characterising Stalin as the Party’s leading Marxist analyst of the national question;

‘The situation and the fundamentals of a national programme for Social-Democracy have recently been dealt with in Marxist theoretical literature (the most prominent place being taken by Stalin’s article)’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The National Programme of the RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 19, Moscow, 1963, p539.

And as late as March 1922, at the 11th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, Lenin was defending Stalin against criticism from Yevgeny Preobrazhensky* over the fact that Stalin held the posts of both People’s Commissar of Nationalities and People’s Commissar of State Control;

‘The ‘Turkestan, Caucasian and other questions . . are all political questions! They have to be settled. These are questions that have engaged the attention of European states for hundreds of years. . We are settling them; and we need a man to whom the representatives of any of these nations can go and discuss their difficulties in all detail. Where can we find such a man? I don’t think Comrade Preobrazhensky could suggest any better candidate than Comrade Stalin… The same thing applies to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is a vast business; but to be able to handle investigations we must have at the head of it a man who enjoys high prestige, otherwise we shall become submerged in and overwhelmed by petty intrigue’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The National Programme of the RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 19, Moscow, 1963, p539.

Indeed, it was on Lenin’s proposal that in April 1922, after the Congress, the Central Committee elected Stalin to the highest post in the Party – that of General Secretary;

‘On Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the Central Committee, on April 3 1922, elected Stalin . . . General Secretary of the Central Committee’. G. F. Aleksandrov et al (Eds.); ‘Joseph Stalin, A Short Biography’, Moscow, 1949, p75.

‘After the congress, the Central Committee, on Lenin’s proposal, elected Stalin . . as General Secretary of the Central Committee’. Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, ‘Lenin’, London, 1943, p183

‘A new Central Committee.. voted to establish the post of General Secretary to run the Secretariat and named Stalin to this office. It is highly probable that Lenin initiated this decision’. R. H. McNeal, ‘Stalin; Man and Ruler’ (hereafter listed as ‘R. H. McNeal, 1988’), Basingstoke, 1988, p67.

‘It is.. fanciful for some Soviet historians, official and unofficial, to suggest that Stalin was not Lenin’s personal choice for the post of General Secretary of the Central Committee to which he was elevated in April 1922’. A. B. Ulam, ‘Stalin; The Man and his Era’, London, 1989, p205.

‘The obvious and indeed the only man with the knowledge, efficiency and authority for this key post (of General Secretary – Ed.) was Stalin. There can be no doubt that Lenin supported the nomination, which he probably initiated’. I. Grey, ‘Stalin; Man of History’, London, 1979, p159.

Clearly, something occurred in late 1922 to cause Lenin radically to alter the opinion of Stalin he had held until that date.

Lenin’s Assessment of Trotsky

There is a similar puzzling feature about references to Trotsky in the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’. In it Lenin says;

‘Comrade Trotsky . . is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present CC’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to the Congress’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p595.

It is, indeed, an important feature of Trotskyist mythology that during the period of Lenin’s leadership of the Russian Communist Party Trotsky’s relations with Lenin and the Party were relations of ‘mutual confidence’, and that Trotsky’s conflict with the Party only began following Stalin’s accession to the Party leadership. This picture, however, is quite false. In brief the following major policy disagreements and violent differences between Lenin and Trotsky are traced by dates.

In 1903;

At the 2nd Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in July-August. 1903, Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer, Isaac Deutscher*, records that;

‘Trotsky was one of Lenin’s most vocal opponents. He charged Lenin with the attempt to build up a closed organisation of conspiracy not a party of the working class.. . . Lenin . . mildly and persuasively appealed to Trotsky. All was in vain. Trotsky was stiffening in hostility’. I. Deutscher, ‘Prophet Armed; Trotsky; 1879-1921’ (hereafter ‘I. Deutscher,1989 1’), Oxford, 1989, p80-81.

Shortly after the Congress, Trotsky wrote the ‘Report of the Siberian Delegation’ (of which he was a member). In this report he charged that Lenin ‘resembles Maximilian Robespierre’*, although only as;

‘a vulgar farce resembles historic tragedy’’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Vtoroi Syezd RSDRP (Otchet Sibirskoi Delegatsy)’, Geneva, 1903, p33.

Deutscher comments;

‘Once he had made up his mind against Lenin, he did not mince his words. He attacked with all his intensity of feeling and with all the sweep to his invective’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Vtoroi Syezd RSDRP (Otchet Sibirskoi Delegatsy)’, Geneva, 1903, p33.

In 1904;

In August 1904 Trotsky published his pamphlet ‘Our Political Tasks’, in which he strongly attacked as ‘Jacobinism’** Lenin’s concept that a disciplined party was essential to lead the working people to carry through a socialist revolution and supported the idea of a ‘workers’ party’ modelled on the lines of the social-democratic parties of Western Europe;

‘Lenin’s methods lead to this; the party organisation at first substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organisation; and finally a single ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the Central Committee. …. Is it so difficult to see that any serious group . . when it is confronted by the dilemma whether it should, from a sense of discipline, silently efface itself, or, regardless of discipline struggle for survival – will undoubtedly choose the latter course . and say; perish that ‘discipline’ which suppresses the vital interests of the movement. This evil-minded and morally repugnant suspicion of Lenin, this shallow caricature of the tragic intolerance of Jacobinism. . must be liquidated at the present time at all costs, otherwise the party is threatened by complete political, moral and theoretical decay’. L. D. Trotsky, ‘Nos Taches Politiques’, Paris, 1970, p192.

Trotsky’s biographer Deutscher comments on this book;

‘Hardly any Menshevik* writer attacked Lenin with so much personal venom. ‘Hideous’, ‘dissolute’, ‘demagogical’, ‘slovenly attorney’, ‘malicious and morally repulsive’, these were the epithets which Trotsky threw at the man who had so recently held out to him the hand of fellowship, who had brought him to Western Europe, who had promoted him’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p93.

However, Lenin was equally scathing about Trotsky. In October 1904 Lenin wrote;

‘A new pamphlet by Trotsky came out recently. . . The pamphlet is a pack of brazen lies’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Yelena Stasova and Others’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 43, Moscow, 1969, p129.

In 1909;

By August 1909 Lenin was writing;

‘Trotsky behaves like a despicable careerist and factionalist. He pays lip-service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Grigory Zinoviev’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 34, Moscow, 1966, p399-400.

In 1910;

In March-June 1910 Lenin was writing;

‘Trotsky expressed the full spirit of the worst kind of conciliation, ‘conciliation’ in inverted commas . . . which actually renders the most faithful service to the liquidators** and Otzovists**. . This position of . . Trotsky is wrong’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Notes of a Publicist’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 16, Moscow, 1963, p211, 251.

In December 1910, Lenin was no kinder to Trotsky, whose resolution said Lenin;

‘Expresses the very aim of the ‘Golos’** group – to destroy the central bodies . . . and with them the Party as an organisation’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The State of Affairs in the Party’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1968, p23.

‘Trotsky’s call for ‘friendly’ collaboration by the Party with the ‘Gobs’ and ‘Vpered’** is disgusting hypocrisy and phrase-mongering. Trotsky groups all the enemies of Marxism. .. Trotsky unites all to whom ideological decay is dear, all who are not concerned with the defence of Marxism. struggle against the splitting tactics and the unprincipled adventurism of Trotsky!’ V.I. Lenin, ‘To Russian Collegium of the CC of RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1963, p20, 21, 22.

And at the end of 1910 Lenin was speaking of;

‘The resonant but empty phrases of which our Trotsky is a master…Trotsky distorts Bolshevism, because he has never been able to form any definite views on the role of the proletariat in the Russian bourgeois revolution. That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is obvious to all. Trotsky . . .represents only his own personal vacillations and nothing more. In 1903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases.

One day Trotsky plagiarises from the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; the next day he plagiarises that of another, and therefore declares himself to be standing above both factions. I am obliged to declare that Trotsky represents only his own faction and enjoys a certain amount of confidence exclusively among the Otzovists and the liquidators.’ V.I. Lenin, ‘Historical Meaning of Inner-Party Struggle in Russia’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 16, p375, 380, 389, 391.

In 1911;

In January 1911 Lenin was referring to Trotsky as;

‘Judas Trotsky’. V. I . Lenin, ‘Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1968, p45.

In September 1911 Lenin declared;

‘The ‘Trotskyites . . .’ are more pernicious than any liquidator. The Trotsky’s deceive the workers’. V.I. Lenin, ‘From the Camp of Stolypin Labour Party’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 17, Moscow, 1968, p243.

In October 1911;

‘Trotsky expressed conciliationism ** more consistently than anyone else. He was probably the only one who attempted to give the trend a theoretical foundation. Ever since the spring of 1910 Trotsky has been deceiving the workers in a most unprincipled and shameless manner by assuring them that the obstacles to unity were principally (if not wholly) of an organisational nature.

The only difference between Trotsky and the conciliators in Paris is that the latter regard Trotsky as a factionalist and themselves as non-factional, whereas Trotsky holds the opposite view. .Trotsky provides us with an abundance of instances of scheming to establish unprincipled ‘unity”. V.I. Lenin, ‘The New Faction of Conciliators, or the Virtuous’, ‘Works’, Volume 17, 1968, p258, 260, 264, 270.

And in December 1911;

‘It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue because Trotsky holds no views whatever. . In his case the thing to do is to expose him as a diplomat of the smallest calibre’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Trotsky’s Diplomacy and a Certain Party Platform’, ‘Works’, Volume 17, 1968, p362.

In 1912;

The Prague conference in January 1912 proclaimed the Bolsheviks alone to be the Party. In his paper ‘Pravda’**;

‘Trotsky denounced Lenin’s venture with much sound and fury. His anger rose to highest pitch in April, when the Bolsheviks began to publish in Petersburg a daily called ‘Pravda’. . He thundered against the ‘theft’ and ‘usurpation’ . . committed by . . ‘the circle which lives and thrives only through chaos and confusion’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p198-99.

Lenin wrote in July 1912 to the editor of the paper;

‘I advise you to reply to Trotsky through the post; ‘To Trotsky’. (Vienna). We shall not reply to disruptive and slanderous letters. Trotsky’s dirty campaign against ‘Pravda’ is one mass of lies and slander’. V.I. Lenin, Letter to the Editor of ‘Pravda’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p41.

In August 1912 Trotsky’s group got together with the Mensheviks, Jewish Bund** and others to form an anti-Bolshevik coalition known as the ‘August Bloc’. Trotsky’s biographer Deutscher comments;

‘Trotsky was that bloc’s chief mouthpiece, indefatigable at castigating Lenin’s ‘disruptive work’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p200.

In November 1912 Lenin was writing;

‘Look at the platform of the liquidators. Its liquidationist essence is artfully concealed by Trotsky’s revolutionary phrases’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Platform of the Reformists and the Platform of Revolutionary Social-Democrats’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18, Moscow, 1968, p380.

In 1914;

Between February and May 1914 Lenin wrote;

‘Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism.. At the present moment he is in the company of the Bundists and the liquidators’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20, Moscow, 1964, p447-48.

In May, 1914;

‘Trotsky is fond of high-sounding and empty phrases. We were right in calling Trotsky a representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’. Trotsky. . possesses no ideological and political definiteness. Under cover of ‘non-factionalism’ Trotsky is championing the interest of a group abroad which particularly lacks definite principles and has no basis in the working-class movement in Russia. There is much glitter and sound in Trotsky’s phrases, but they are meaningless. Joking is the only way of retorting mildly to Trotsky’s insufferable phrase-mongering. Trotsky is very fond of using with the learned air of the expert pompous and high-sounding phrases, to explain historical phenomena in a way that is flattering to Trotsky. .

Trotsky is trying to disrupt the movement and cause a split…

Trotsky avoids facts and concrete references .. because they relentlessly refute all his angry outcries and pompous phrases.

At the end of 1903 Trotsky was an ardent Menshevik. . . In 1904’s he deserted the Mensheviks and occupied a vacillating position, now proclaiming his absurdly Left ‘permanent revolution’ theory. In the period of disintegration. . he again went to the right, and in August 1912 he entered into a bloc with the liquidators. He has now deserted them again, although in substance he reiterates their shoddy ideas’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Disruption of Unity under Cover of Outcries for Unity’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20, Moscow, 1964, p329, 331, 332, 333-334, 345, 346-7.

In 1915;

In July 1915 Lenin was declaring;

‘Trotsky… as always entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists** in principle, but agrees as always, entirely disagrees with the social-in principle, but agrees with them’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The State of Affairs in Russian Social-Democracy’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p284.

In the same month he was referring to;

‘high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism. The phrase-banding Trotsky has completely lost his bearings on a simple issue’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 15, Moscow, 1964, p275

And Lenin was denouncing Trotsky’s support for the ‘neither-victory-nor-defeat’ slogan.

‘Whoever is in favour of the slogan of ‘neither victory nor defeat’ is consciously or unconsciously a chauvinist; he is an enemy to proletarian policy… a partisan of the existing governments, of the present ruling classes. Those who stand for the ‘neither-victory-nor-defeat’ slogan are in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, for they do not believe in the possibility of international revolutionary action by the working class against their own governments’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p278, 279, 280.

Between July and August 1915 we find Lenin saying that;

‘Phrase-lovers . . like Trotsky defend – in opposition to us – the peace slogan’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The ‘Peace’ Slogan Appraised’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p288.

and Lenin was asserting that;

‘In Russia, Trotsky. . . defends unity with the opportunist and chauvinist ‘Nashe Zarya’** group’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Socialism and War’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 29, Moscow, 1964, p312.

In November 1915 Lenin was saying;

‘Trotsky . . is repeating his ‘original’ 1905 theory and refuses to give some thought to the reason why, in the course of ten years, life has been by-passing this splendid theory. From the Bolsheviks Trotsky’s original theory has borrowed their call for a decisive proletarian revolutionary struggle and the conquest of political power by the proletariat, while from the Mensheviks it has borrowed ‘repudiation of the peasantry’s role. .Trotsky is, in fact, helping the liberal-labour politicians in Russia who by ‘repudiation’ of the role of the peasantry understand a refusal to raise up the peasants’.V.I. Lenin, ‘On the Two Lines in the Revolution’, in ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Moscow, 1964, p419, 420.

In 1916;

In March 1916 Lenin wrote to Henriette Roland-Holst*;

‘What are our differences with Trotsky? . In brief – he is a Kautskyite** V.I. Lenin, Letter to Henriette Roland-Holst, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 43, Moscow 1969, p515-16.

and in the same month was declaring;

‘Trotsky . . is body and soul for self-determination, but in his case it is an empty phrase’.V.I. Lenin, ‘The Peace Programme’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 22, Moscow, 1964, p167.

In June 1916 Lenin declared;

‘No matter what the subjective ‘good’ intentions of Trotsky and Martov* may be, their evasiveness objectively supports Russian social-imperialism’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 22, Moscow, 1964, p360

In 1917;

In February 1917 Lenin was writing respectively to Aleksandra Kollontai* and Inessa Armand*;

‘What a swine this Trotsky is – Left phrases and a bloc with the Right . !!. He ought to be exposed’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to Aleksandra Kollontai’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p285.

‘Trotsky arrived, and this scoundrel at once ganged up with the Right wing of ‘Novy Mir’**. . . That’s Trotsky for you!! Always true to himself ‘ twists, swindles, poses as a Left, helps the Right’. V.I Lenin, ‘Letter to Inessa Armand’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35, Moscow, 1966, p288.

In April 1917 Lenin reported to the Petrograd City Conference of the RSDLP;

‘Trotskyism; ‘No Tsar but a workers’ government’. This is wrong’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Concluding Remarks, Debate on the Present Situation, Petrograd City Conference of RSDLP’, ‘Collected Works’ Volume 24, Moscow, 1966, p150.

In May 1917 the Bolsheviks met the ‘Inter-Borough Organisation’, of which Trotsky was a member, to consider the possibility of a merger. At the meeting Trotsky declared;

‘I cannot call myself a Bolshevik. We cannot be asked to recognise Bolshevism. The old factional name is undesirable’ L.D. Trotsky, Speech at the Mezhraiontsji** Conference, Institute of Marxism-Leninism, ‘Against Trotskyism; Struggle of Lenin & CPSU against Trotskyism; Collection of Documents’, Moscow, 1972, p122.

On 15 December 1917, the new revolutionary government of Soviet Russia signed an armistice with Germany, and on 22 December negotiations for a peace treaty began at Brest-Litovsk. The plan of Trotsky, who led the Russia Soviet delegation, was as follows;

‘We interrupt the war and do not sign the peace – we demobilise the army’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p175.

Lenin was strongly opposed to Trotsky’s plan;

‘Lenin opposed . . . my plan discreetly and calmly’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Lenin’, New York, 1925, p135.

And so;

‘Trotsky made a private arrangement with Lenin. . . What would happen, Lenin anxiously asked, if they (the Germans – Ed.) chose to resume hostilities? Lenin was rightly convinced that this was bound to happen. Trotsky treated this danger lightly. but he agreed to sign the peace if Lenin’s fears proved justified’. I.Deutscher, 1989 (1), p375.

On 9 February Trotsky announced to the peace conference that;

‘While Russia was desisting from signing a formal Peace Treaty, it declared the state of war ended with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria simultaneously, giving orders for the complete demobilisation of Russian forces on all fronts’. I. Deutscher, 1989 (1), p375.

Trotsky’s delegation then walked out of the peace conference and returned to Petrograd.

On 15 February 1918, as Lenin had foreseen, Germany resumed military operations against Soviet Russia. On 18 February 1918, the Central Committee instructed its delegation to sign a peace treaty immediately. On 23 February 1918 the German government presented new peace terms, significantly harsher than the earlier ones. The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was formally signed on 23 March 1918.

Lenin commented at the 7th Congress of the RCP in March 1918;

‘That I predicted, has come to pass; instead of the Brest peace we have a much more humiliating peace, and the blame for this rests upon those who refused to accept the former peace’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Political Report of the Central Committee, Extraordinary 7th Congress of the RCP’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27, Moscow, 1965, p102.

As the Foreword to ‘Against Trotskyism’, issued by the Soviet revisionists in power in 1972, correctly expresses it;

‘On the question of the Brest Peace Treaty, Trotsky maintained an anti-Leninist stand, criminally exposing the newly emerged Soviet Republic to mortal danger. As head of the Soviet delegation to the peace talks, he ignored the instructions of the Party Central Committee and the Soviet Government. At a crucial moment of the talks he declared that the Soviet Republic was unilaterally withdrawing from the war, announced that the Russian Army was being demobilised, and left Brest-Litovsk.

The German Army mounted an offensive and occupied considerable territory. As a result, much harsher peace terms were put forward by the German Government’. V.I. Lenin, Political Report of the Central Committee, Extraordinary 7th Congress of the RCP, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27, Moscow, 1965, p102.

And ‘The ‘Great Soviet Encyclopedia’, issued by the Soviet revisionists 1974, comments similarly;

‘No less adventuristic and demagogic was the position of L. D.Trotsky (People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR at the time) who proposed to declare the war terminated and to demobilise the army but not to sign the treaty. . As Trotsky, the head of the Soviet delegation was leaving for Brest, it was agreed between him and Lenin, the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, that the negotiations were to be prolonged by all possible means until the presentation of an ultimatum, after which the peace treaty should be signed immediately. On January 28 Trotsky presented the adventuristic declaration that Soviet Russia would terminate the war and demobilise its army but not sign the peace. Trotsky refused further negotiations, and the Soviet delegation left Brest-Litovsk’. Great Soviet Encyclopedia’, Volume 4, New York, 1974, p66, 67.

In 1920;

In December 1920 Lenin wrote;

‘I have had to enumerate my ‘differences’ with Comrade Trotsky because, with such a broad theme as ‘The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions’, he has, I am quite sure, made a number of mistakes bearing on the very essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Trade Unions, the Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 32, Moscow, 1965, p22.

In 1921;

In January 1921 Lenin severely criticised Trotsky for dereliction of Party duty and factionalism;

‘The Central Committee sets up a trade union commission and elects Comrade Trotsky to it. Trotsky refuses to work on the commission, magnifying by this step alone his original mistake, which subsequently leads to factionalism, becomes magnified and later leads to factionalism”. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Party Crisis’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 32, Moscow, 1965, p45.

and in the same month, Lenin criticised him for his proposal to ‘militarise’ the trade unions;

‘Comrade Trotsky’s theses have landed him in a mess. That part of them which is correct is not new, and what is more, turns against him. That which is new is all wrong. .Comrade Trotsky’s political mistakes distract our party’s attention from economic tasks. .All his theses, his entire pamphlet, are so wrong’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Once Again on the Trade Unions, the Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 32, Moscow, 1965, p74, 85, 90.

Even as late as in 1922;

There were serious differences between Lenin and Trotsky. Trotsky’s biographer Deutscher describes a further rift between Lenin and Trotsky in 1922 over Trotsky’s refusal to accept the post of Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars;

‘In April 1922 an incident occurred which did much to cloud relations between Lenin and Trotsky. On 11 April . . . categorically and somewhat haughtily Trotsky declined to fill this office. The refusal and the manner in which it was made annoyed Lenin. Throughout the summer of 1922 . . the dissension between Lenin and Trotsky persisted. On 11 September . . Trotsky once again refused the post. . On 14 September the Politburo met and Stalin put before it a resolution which was highly damaging to Trotsky; it censured him in effect for dereliction of duty’.. The circumstances of the case indicated that Lenin must have prompted Stalin to frame this resolution or that Stalin at least had his consent for it’. I.Deutscher, ‘The Prophet Unarmed, Trotsky, 1921-1929 (hereafter listed as ‘I. Deutscher, 1989 (2)), Oxford, 1989, p35, 65-66.

Clearly, something occurred in late 1922 to cause Lenin radically to alter the opinion of Trotsky he had held until that date.

The ‘Georgian Deviation’

In July 1921 Stalin, speaking to the Tiflis Organisation of the Communist Party of Georgia, referred to the rise of nationalism in Transcaucasia;

‘Nationalism Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijanian – has shockingly increased in the Transcaucasian republics during the past few years and is an obstacle to joint effort. Evidently, the three years of existence of nationalist governments in Georgia (Mensheviks), in Azerbaijan (Mussavatists**) and in Armenia (Dashnaks**) have left their mark’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Immediate Tasks of Communism in Georgia & Transcaucasia’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, 1953, p97

For this reason. Lenin proposed that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia should, as a temporary measure, be united in a Federation. On 28 November 1921 Lenin wrote to Stalin stating that;

‘A federation of the Transcaucasian republics is absolutely correct in principle, and should be implemented without fail’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Memo to J. V. Stalin, 28 November 1921’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 33, Moscow, 1973, p127.

‘This unification (in the Transcaucasian Federation – Ed.) was proposed by Lenin’. Great Soviet Encyclopedia’, Volume 9, New York, 1975, p495.

On 29 November 1921;

‘That proposal . . . was adopted by the Political Bureau unanimously’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to Discussion on CC’s Organizational Report, 12th Congress RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, 1953, p234.

And it was confirmed by three subsequent decisions of the Central Committee;

‘The Central Committee has on three occasions affirmed the necessity of preserving the Transcaucasian Federation’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Works’, Volume 5, 1953, p257.

As a result;

‘The Transcaucasian Federation – the Federative Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of Transcaucasia – was founded on March 12, 1922.. . . In December 1922, the Federative Union was transformed into the Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Republic. The Transcaucasian Federation existed until 1936. In conformity with the Constitution of the USSR adopted in 1936, the Armenian, Azerbaijanian and Georgian Soviet Socialist Republics entered the USSR as Union Republics’. J. V. Stalin; ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p421.

Stalin reminded the 12th Congress of the RCP in April 1923 why the formation of the Transcaucasian Federation had been considered essential;

‘In a place like Transcaucasia . . it is impossible to dispense with a special organ of national peace. As you know, Transcaucasia is a country where there were Tatar-Armenian massacres while still under the tsar, and war under the Mussavatists, Dashnaks and Mensheviks. To put a stop to that strife an organ of national peace was needed, i.e., a supreme authority. . . And so . . . a federation of republics, and a year after that.. a Union of Republics was formed’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to Discussion on CC’s Organizational Report, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, p232

‘From very early times Transcaucasia has been an arena of massacre and strife and, under the Mensheviks and Dashnaks, it was an arena of war. That is why the Central Committee has on three occasions affirmed the necessity of preserving the Transcaucasian Federation as an organ of national peace. . The point is that the bonds of the Transcaucasian Federation deprive Georgia of that somewhat privileged position which she could assume by virtue of her geographical position. . Georgia has her own port – Batum – through which goods must flow from the West; Georgia has a railway junction like Tiflis, which the Armenians cannot avoid, nor can Azerbaijan avoid it. . If Georgia were a separate republic, if she were not part of the Transcaucasian Federation, she could present something in the nature of a little ultimatum both to Armenia, which cannot do without Tiflis, and to Azerbaijan, which cannot do without Batum.

There is yet another reason. Tiflis is the capital of Georgia, but the Georgians there are not more than 30% of the population, the Armenians not less than 35%, and then come all the other nationalities. . If Georgia were a separate republic, the population could be reshifted somewhat.. . Was not a well-known decree adopted in Georgia to reshift the population so as to reduce the number of Armenians in Tiflis from year to year, making them fewer than the Georgians, and thus convert Tiflis into a real Georgian capital?’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Report on National Factors in Party and State Affairs, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p256, 257, 258-59.

However, both before and after its formation, the existence of the Transcaucasian Federation was opposed by a group of Georgian nationalists within the Communist Party of Georgia, headed by Polikarp (‘Budu’) Mdivani and Filipp Makharadze* and known as the ‘Georgian Deviators’;

‘The struggle which the group of Georgian Communists headed by Mdivani is waging against the Central Committee’s directive concerning federation dates back to that time (the end of 1921 – Ed.)’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to the Discussion on the Central Committee’s Organisational Report, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p234.

‘The national-deviationist opposition in the ranks of the Communist Party of Georgia arose and took shape in 1921. During the entire period of 1921-24 the Georgian national-deviationists carried on a fierce struggle against the Leninist and Stalinist national policy of our Party’. L. P. Beria, ‘On the History of Bolshevik Organisations in Transcaucasia’, London, 1939, p167.

Later, many of the ‘Georgian deviators’ joined the Trotskyist opposition;

‘In 1924 a considerable number of the national-deviationists joined what was then the Trotskyite anti-Party opposition’. L. P. Beria, ibid., p167.

Stalin pointed out to the 12th Congress that fear of Great Russian chauvinism was obviously not the cause of the ‘Georgian Deviation’, since the ‘Georgian Deviators’ supported the entry of Georgia into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as an independent state;

‘There has been and still is a group of Georgian Communists who do not object to Georgia uniting with the Union of Republics, but who do object to this union being effected through the Transcaucasian Federation. These statements indicate that on the national question the attitude towards the Russians is of secondary importance in Georgia, for these comrades, the deviators (that is what they are called), have no objection to Georgia joining the Union directly; that is, they do not fear Great-Russian chauvinism, believing that its roots have been cut in one way or another or at any rate, that it is not of decisive importance’. J. V. Stalin, ‘Report on National Factors in Party and State Affairs, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p257.

He assessed the cause of the ‘Georgian deviation’ as the desire of the Georgian nationalists not to lose the geographical advantages which an independent Georgia would possess, advantages of which they wished to take advantage;

‘It is these geographical advantages that the Georgian deviators do not lose.. that are causing our deviators to oppose federation. They want to leave the federation, and this will create legal opportunities for independently performing certain operations which will result in the advantageous position enjoyed by the Georgians being fully utilised against Azerbaijan and Armenia. And all this would create a privileged position for the Georgians in Transcaucasia. Therein lies the whole danger. The Georgian deviators . . . are pushing us on to the path of granting them certain privileges at the expense of the Armenian and Azerbaijanian Republics. But that is a path we cannot take, for it means certain death to . . Soviet power in the Caucasus’. J. V. Stalin, ‘Report on National Factors in Party and State Affairs, 12th Congress of RCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p258, 261.

The ‘Georgian Deviators’, while dominating the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, formed only a small minority within the Communist Party of Georgia as a whole;

‘The Mdivani group has no influence in its own Georgian Communist Party. . The Party has held two congresses; the first congress was held at the beginning of 1922, and the second was held at the beginning of 1923. At both congresses the Mdivani group, and its idea of rejecting federation, was emphatically opposed by its own Party. At the first congress, I think, out of a total of 122 votes he obtained somewhere about 18; and at the second congress, out of a total of 144 votes he obtained about 20’. J. V. Stalin, ‘Reply to the Discussion on the Central Committee’s Organisational Report, 12th Congress of PCP’, ‘Works’, Volume 5, Moscow, 1953, p234-35.

Nevertheless, even after the Transcaucasian Federation had been formed against the objections of the ‘Georgian Deviators’, the latter did all they could to sabotage the functioning of the federation;

‘Mdivani and his supporters, constituting a majority on the Georgian Communist Party Central Committee, virtually slowed down the economic and political union of the Transcaucasian Republics and were intent, in essence, on keeping Georgia isolated’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p750.

‘The Mdivani group, now joined by Makharadze and his followers, protested the infringement on Georgian sovereignty and did everything in its power to prevent implementation of the federal union’s directives’. P. G. Suny, ‘The Making of the Georgian Nation’, London, 1989, p215.

‘The Georgians sabotaged as best they could the measures taken to bring about the economic integration of the three republics. They installed military guards on the frontiers of the Georgian republic, demanded residence permits, etc.’ M. Lewin, ‘Lenin’s Last Struggle’, London, 1969, p45.

At the 12th Congress of the RCP in April 1923 Grigory (‘Sergo’) Ordzhonikidze*, First Secretary of the Transcaucasian Territorial Party Committee’;

‘accused the ‘deviationists’, Mdivani and Makharadze, of a series of improper activities – refusing to take down customs barriers, selling a Soviet ship to foreigners, negotiating with the Ottoman Bank, and closing the frontiers of Georgia to hungry refugees from the North Caucasus and the Volga region… More important, he condemned the Georgian government’s failure to implement a radical land reform and eliminate once and for all the noble landlords’. R. G. Suny, op. cit., p218.

The policy of maintaining the Transcaucasian Federation was continued as preparations were made to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On 6 October 1922 the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party decided;

‘To have Transcaucasia enter the union as one unit’. R. G. Suny, op. cit., p216.

However;

‘the Georgian leadership in Tiflis insisted on Georgia’s separate entry.. . From Tiflis the Georgian leaders wired Moscow in protest and heatedly criticised the authoritarianism of the Transcaucasian Territory Party Committee’.R. G. Suny, op. cit., p216.

‘The Georgians. . protested to Moscow, demanding the disbandment of the projected federation. To this request Stalin replied on October 16 in the name of the Central Committee, stating that it was unanimously rejected’. R. Pipes, ‘The Formation of the Soviet Union’, Cambridge (USA), 1964, p274

A group of the ‘Georgian Deviators’, headed by Kate Tsintsadze* and Sergey Kavtaradze* then telegraphed a protest, making a strong attack on Ordzhonikidze, directly to Lenin, who rebuked them sharply and defended Ordzhonikidze in a telegram of reply dated 21 October 1922;

‘I am surprised at the indecent tone of the direct wire message sent by Tsintsadze and others. . . I was sure that all the diffferences had been ironed out by the CC Plenum resolutions with my indirect participation and with the direct participation of Midivani. That is why I resolutely condemn the abuse against Ordzhonikidze and insist that your conflict should be referred in a decent and loyal tone for settlement by the RCP CC Secretariat’. V.I. Lenin, Telegram to K.M. Tsintsadze and S. I. Kavtarddze, 21 October 1922, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45,

On receiving Lenin’s rebuke, the bloc of ‘Georgian Deviators’, who formed nine of the eleven members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, resigned in protest;

‘Faced with Lenin’s fury and isolated from the central leaders, the Georgian Central Committee took an unprecedented step; on October 22 they resigned en masse. Ordzhonikidze quickly appointed a new Central Committee of people who agreed with the positions taken up in Moscow, but the Mdivani-Makharadze stepped up their protests’. R. C. Suny, op. cit., p216.

On 25 November the Politburo of the Central Committee decided to send a commission to Georgia, headed by People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs Feliks Dzerzhinsky*;

‘To examine urgently the statements by members of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party who had resigned, and to work out measures to establish tranquillity in the Georgian Communist Party’. Note to; V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, l970, p656-57.

Dzerzhinsky reported the findings of his commission to Lenin on 12 December 1922, including the fact that;

‘The commission had decided to recall to Moscow the leaders of the former Georgian Central Committee, who were held responsible for everything’. M. Lewin, op. cit., p68.

Then, at the very end of December 1922, Lenin, who had initiated the concept of the Transcaucasian Federation, who had denounced the ‘Georgian Deviators’ and defended Ordzhonikidze against their attacks, suddenly reversed his position on these questions. In the document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ he dictated to his secretary Maria Volodicheva on 30 December 1922, he implied that the charges of ‘Georgian nationalism’ levelled against the ‘Georgian deviators’ were ‘imaginary’ (and the product of ‘Great Russian chauvinism on the part of Dzerzhinsky’;

‘Comrade Dzerzhinsky, who went to the Caucasus to investigate the ‘crime’ of those ‘nationalist-socialists’, distinguished himself there by his truly Russian frame of mind (it is common knowledge that people of other nationalities who have become Russified overdo this Russian frame of mind)’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Question of ‘Nationalities, or ‘Autonomisation”, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p606.

However, Lenin placed the main blame for this ‘erroneous policy of Great Russian chauvinism’ on Stalin. He declared that it was necessary;

‘To defend the non-Russian from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant… I think that Stalin’s . . spite against the notorious ‘nationalist-socialism’ played a fatal role here. In politics spite generally plays the basest of roles’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Question of Nationalities, or ‘Autonomisation”, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p606.

On the following day, 31 December 1922, Lenin dictated a postscript on the same lines, referring to Stalin as;

‘The Georgian who. . casually flings about accusations of ‘nationalist-socialist’, whereas he himself is a real and true nationalist-socialist’ and even a vulgar Great-Russian bully)…The political responsibility for all this truly Great-Russian nationalist campaign must, of course, be laid on Stalin and Dzerzhinsky’. V.I. Lenin, ‘The Question of Nationalities, or ‘Autononisation”, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p606

By March 1923 Lenin was dictating a letter to Trotsky asking him to defend the case of the ‘Georgian Deviators’ in the Central Committee;

‘It is my earnest request that you should undertake the defence of the Georgian case in the Party CC. The case is now under ‘persecution’ by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, and I cannot rely on their impartiality. Quite the contrary, I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake this defence’.V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to L. D. Trotsky, 5 March 1923’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p607

Trotsky declined to intervene in the affair;

‘On the plea of ill health’. Note to.  V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works,’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p757.

On the following day, Lenin dictated a letter to the leading ‘Georgian deviators’, giving them his whole-hearted support to their case and offering to assist it with notes and a speech;

‘I am following your case with all my heart. I am indignant over Ordzhonikidze’s rudeness and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. I am preparing for you notes and a speech’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to P. G. Mdivani, F. Y. Makharadze and Others, 6 March 1923’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p608.

In conclusion it may be added that Trotsky’s efforts in 1923 to persuade the Central Committee to adopt the line of the ‘Georgian deviators’ and abolish the Transcaucasian Federation were heavily defeated;

‘Trotsky’s motion in the Politburo on March 26 to recall Ordzhomikidze, decentralise the Transcaucasian Federation and recognise that the minority in the Communist Party of Georgia had not been ‘deviationists’, failed by six to one’. R.G.Suny, op. cit., p218.

Clearly, something occurred in late 1922 to cause Lenin radically to alter the opinion on Transcaucasia he had held until that date. And this was the same time at which something occurred to cause him radically to alter the opinions he had held of Stalin and Trotsky until that date.

Lenin’s Illness

Lenin fell seriously ill in 1921;

‘Lenin fell seriously ill towards the end of 1921 and was forced to rest for several weeks’. M.Lewin, op. cit., p33.

‘On 23 April 1922 Lenin underwent surgery to remove one of the bullets fired at him in an assassination attempt by the Socialist Revolutionary Fanya Kaplan on 30 August 1918.’ Note to; V.I. Lenin; ‘Collected Works’, Volume 33, Moscow, 1966, p527.

Then, on 26 May 1922;

‘Catastrophe struck; his right hand and leg became paralysed and his speech was impaired, sometimes completely so. . his convalescence was slow and tedious. . . He never fully regained his health. The return to public life was not to last long’. M. Lewin, op. cit., p33, 34.

and on 16 December, Lenin suffered;

‘Two dangerous strokes’. M. Lewin, ibid., pxxii.

and furthermore;

‘On December 23 he . . . suffered another attack of his illness… He realised next morning that once again a part of his body, his right hand and leg, was paralysed’. M. Lewin, op. cit., p73.

On 10 March 1923;

‘A new stroke paralyses half of Lenin’s body and deprives him of his capacity to speak. Lenin’s political activity is finished’. M. Lewin, op. cit., pxxiv.

Lenin died on 21 January 1924. The doctors who performed the autopsy on Lenin on 22 January found that;

‘The basic disease of the deceased was disseminated vascular arteriosclerosis based on premature wearing out of the vessels. The narrowing of the lumen of the cerebral arteries and the disturbances of the cerebral blood supply brought about focal softening of the brain tissue which can account for all symptoms of the disease (paralysis, disturbance of speech)’. R. Payne, ‘Report on the Pathological-Anatomical Examination of the Body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’, ‘The Life and Death of Lenin’, London, 1967, p632.

The controversial document known as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ was dictated between 23 and 31 December 1922, with a supplement dated 4 January 1923, after Lenin had already suffered four severe strokes which had adversely affected his brain function. Thus Lenin’s radical changes of opinion on Stalin, on Trotsky and on Transcaucasia are partly explicable by psycho-pathologica1 factors.

The Role of Krupskaya

However, the puzzles of Lenin’s remarkable changes of opinion up on Stalin, on Trotsky and on Transcaucasia are not explicable on psycho-pathological grounds alone. The political role of Krupskaya must be examined to unravel the puzzle further. Although on 18 December 1922 a Plenum of the Central Committee, had;

‘Made Stalin personally responsible for the observance of the regime prescribed for Lenin by the doctors,’ R.H. McNeal (1988), p73.

Nevertheless, Stalin was prevented from seeing Lenin;

‘Though virtually Lenin’s legal guardian, Stalin never saw his charge in person’, R.H. McNeal (1988), p73.

In fact after 13 December, Stalin never saw Lenin alive at all;

‘The last time Stalin saw Lenin alive.. was 13 December’, R.H. McNeal (1988), p73.

This was supposedly for strict medical rules, since;

‘Strict rules were established, and it was agreed that no visitors should be allowed.. Except for the doctors immediate family, he was permitted to see only his secretaries. .. He was to be isolated almost as completely as a prisoner in the Peter Paul fortress’. R. Payne, op. cit., p555.

In these conditions of isolation, an extremely important role was played by Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya*. Her biographer Robert McNeal* speaks of Krupskaya’s;

‘Long personal antipathy to Stalin’. R.H. McNeal, ‘Bride of the Revolution; Krupskaya and Lenin (hereafter referred to as ‘R. H. McNeal (1973)’, London, 1973, p254.

After Lenin’s death in 1924, Krupskaya participated in the Opposition. McNeal speaks of her;

‘Readiness to lean towards the opposition. Krupskaya . . . really stood with the opposition. It date on her entry into this status. Krupskaya was in reality coming round to . . signing a manifesto of protest against official policy. This document was the work of Zinoviev*. … Kamenev*, Krupskaya and Sokolnikov* (the Commissar of Finance) jointly signed a ‘platform’ attacking the leadership. . . It was circulated among members of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission.The 14th Party Congress (in December 1925) was the pinnacle of Krupskaya’s career in the opposition. It was left to her to begin the opposition’s critique. Krupskaya remained in the opposition . . until October 1926. She signed the major political manifesto that the Trotsky-Zinoviev opposition produced in this period, the ‘Declaration of the Thirteen’ … along with another protest against Soviet policy in the English General Strike of 1926’. R.H. McNeal (1973), ibid., p250, 251. 252, 253, 256.

‘Krupskaya stood firmly behind Zinoviev and Kamenev.. . She was now eager to testify in favour of Zinoviev’s interpretation of Leninism and against socialism in one country’. I.Deutscher (1989, 2), p247.

At the 15th Conference of the CPSU in November 1926, Stalin hinted that Krupskaya had broken with the opposition;

‘Is it not a fact that Comrade Krupskaya, for instance, is leaving the opposition bloc? (Stormy applause)’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Reply to the Discussion on the Report on ‘The Social Democratic Deviation in our Party”, ‘Works’, Volume 8, Moscow, 1954, p371.

But not until six months later, in May 1927, did Krupskaya herself confirm this;

‘On May 20 1927, ‘Pravda’ carried a short, undated note from Krupskaya to the editor. In it she gave the Party and the public at large the first confirmation that she had left the opposition. . . There was no word of repentance on any specific issue’. R. H. McNeal (1973), p261-62.

Afterwards,

‘She even explained her membership of the opposition as if it had been quite correct’. R.H. McNeal (1973), p262-63.

Robert Payne* – a biographer of Lenin who is violently antagonistic to Stalin – admits that Krupskaya took advantage of her role during Lenin’s illness to feed selected items of ‘information’ to him;

‘Krupskaya . showed not the slightest intention of carrying out the orders of the doctors and the Politburo; and so small scraps of information were fed to Lenin. . . While he lay ill, she was his ears and eyes, his sole powerful contact with the outside world’. R.Payne, op. cit., p555-56.

These selected items of ‘information’ were naturally hostile to Stalin, and favourable to Trotsky and to the ‘Georgian deviators’ and Krupskaya’s biographer agrees that Stalin was justified in suspecting her of having influenced Lenin’s attitude towards him in 1923-24;

‘She (Krupskaya – Ed.) may have influenced Lenin’s attitude toward Stalin, intentionally or otherwise. . Stalin is justified in suspecting that she had, as he later intimated’. R.H. McNeal (1973), p223.

while Payne is even more frank;

‘Krupskaya did what she had to do; she waged war against Stalin’. R.Payne, op. cit., p563.

On 22 December Stalin rebuked Krupskaya on the telephone for her role in feeding selective items of ‘information’ to Lenin and threatened to bring the matter before the Central Control Commission of the CPSU. On the following day she wrote to a letter of complaint to Lev Kamenev* on Stalin’s ‘rudeness’;

‘Stalin subjected me to a storm of the coarsest abuse yesterday about a brief note that Lenin dictated to me. . I know better than all the doctors what can and what cannot be said to Ilyich, for I know what disturbs him and what doesn’t. And in any case I know better than Stalin. I have no doubt as to the unanimous decision of the Control Cormission with which Stalin takes it upon himself to threaten me, but I have neither the time nor the energy to lose in such a stupid farce’. N. K. Krupskaya, ‘Letter to Lev Kamenev, 23 December 1922’, M. Lewin, op.cit., p152-53.

When this incident came to Lenin’s knowledge, on 5 March 1923 he wrote to Stalin saying;

‘You have been so rude as to summon my wife to the telephone and use bad language. . . . Wbat has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well. I ask you, therefore, to think it over whether you are prepared to . . make your apologies, or whether you prefer that relations between us should be broken off’. V.I. Lenin, ‘Letter to J. V. Stalin, 5 March 1923’, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p607-08.

Lenin’s sister, Maria Ullyanova*, wrote to the Presidium of the 1926 Joint Plenum of the CC and CCC, stating that;

‘Stalin offered to apologise’. Note to; V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p75

The Subsequent History of the ‘Testament’

On 18 May 1924 Krupskaya sent the ‘Testament’ to Lev Kamenev, who passed it on to Stalin, as General Secretary. On 19 May Stalin passed the documents to the steering committee for the next (13th) Congress, which was due to begin on 23 May 1924.

By a vote of 30-10, the steering conmittee resolved not to publish the document, but to read it to a closed session of delegates;

‘With explanations that Lenin had been ill’. R.H. McNeal (1988), p110.

‘As regards publishing the ‘will’, the congress decided not to publish it, since it was addressed to the congress and was not intended for publication’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech to Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’, Volume 10, Moscow, 1954, p181.

First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, in his secret speech to the 20th Congress of the CPSU(B) in February 1956, confirmed that Lenin’s ‘Testament’;

‘Was made known to the delegates at the 13th Party Congress who discussed the question of transferring Stalin from the position of Secretary General’. N.S. Khrushchev, op. cit., p7.

At the Congress itself, in view of the criticism of him made in ‘Lenin’s Testament’, Stalin offered his resignation as General Secretary;

‘This question. was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev*, obliged Stalin to remain at his post. What could I do? Desert my post? That is not in my nature. I have never deserted any post, and I have no right to do so. . When the Party imposes an obligation upon ne, I must obey.’ J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech to Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’,Volume 10, Moscow, 1954, p181.

Krushchev confirms that;

‘The delegates (to the 13th Party Congress – Ed.) declared themselves in favour of retaining Stalin in this post’. N.S. Krushchev, op. cit., p7.

At the first meeting of the Central Committee elected at the 13th Congress of the Party, and again a year later, Stalin offered his resignation, and each time it was rejected;

‘At the very first plenum of the Central Committee after the 13th Congress, I asked the plenum to release me from my duties as General Secretary.. A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was again obliged to remain at my post. What else could I do?’ J.V. Stalin, ‘Works’,Volume 10, Moscow, 1954, p181

In 1925 the Trotskyist Max Eastman* published the book ‘Since Lenin Died’ which included excerpts from ‘Lenin’s Testament. As Stalin said in October 1927;

‘There is a certain Eastman, a former American Communist who was later expelled from the Party. This gentleman, who mixed with the Trotskyists in Moscow, picked up some rumours and gossip about Lenin’s ‘will’, went abroad and published a book entitled ‘Since Lenin Died’, in which he did his best to blacken the Party, the Central Committee and the Soviet regime, and the gist of which was that the Central Committee of our Party was ‘concealing’ Lenin’s ‘will’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech to Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’, Volume 10, 1954, p178-79.

In September 1925, in a statement published in ‘Bolshevik’, Trotsky publicly dissociated himself from Eastman and denied that Lenin’s letter to the Congress constituted any form of ‘testament’, which would have been quite alien to Party practice;

‘In several parts of his book Eastman says that the Central Committee concealed’ from the Party a number of exceptionally important documents written by Lenin in the last period of his life (it is a matter of letters on the national question, the so-called 1will’, and others); there can be no other name for this than slander against the Central Committee of our Party. From what Eastman says it may be inferred that Vladimir Ilyich intended those letters, which bore the character of advice on internal organisation, for the press. In point of fact, that is absolutely untrue. . It goes without saying that all those letters and proposals . . were brought to the knowledge of the delegates at the 12th and 13th Congresses, and always, of course, exercised due influence upon the Party’s decisions; and if not all of those letters were published, it was because the author did not intend them for the press. Vladimir Ilyich did not leave any ‘will’, and the very character of his attitude towards the Party, as well as the character of the Party itself, precluded any possibility of such a ‘will’. What is usually referred to as a ‘will’ in the emigre’ and foreign bourgeois and Menshevik press (in a manner garbled beyond recognition) is one of Vladimir Ilyich’s letters containing advice on organisational matters. The 13th Congress of the Party paid the closest attention to that letter, as to all of the others, and drew from it the conclusions appropriate to the conditions and circumstances of the time. All talk about concealing or violating a ‘will’ is a malicious invention’. L.D. Trotsky, ‘Concerning Eastman’s Book ‘Since Lenin Died”, ‘Bolshevik’, 16, 1 September, 1925, p68.

At a Joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the CPSU in October 1927, the opposition raised the question of ‘Lenin’s Testament’. Stalin replied;

‘The oppositionists shouted here – you heard them – that the Central Committee of the Party ‘concealed’ Lenin’s ‘will’. It has been proved and proved again that nobody has concealed anything, that Lenin’s ‘will’ was addressed to the 13th Party Congress, that this ‘will’ was read out at the Congress (Voices; That’s right!), that the congress unanimously decided not to publish it because, among other things, Lenin himself did not want it to be published and did not ask that it should be published’. J.V. Stalin, ‘Speech at Joint Plenum of CC & CCC of CPSU’, ‘Works’, Volume 10, p173.

At this point Stalin publicly confirmed and commented upon the reference in the ‘Testament’ to his ‘rudeness’ and on Lenin’s proposal that he should be removed as General Secretary;

‘It is said that in that ‘will’ Comrade Lenin suggests to the congress that in view of Stalin’s ‘rudeness’ it should consider the question of putting other comrade in Stalin’s place as General Secretary. That is quite true. Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have not concealed this and do not conceal it now. Perhaps some mildness is needed in the treatment of splitters, but I am a bad hand at that. But rudeness is not and cannot be counted as a defect in Stalin’s political line or position.’ J.V. Stalin, ‘Works’, Volume 10, Moscow, 1927, p180-81, 182.

The 15th Congress of the CPSU in December 1927 decided to publish ‘Testament’ in the Congress Bulletin, so that;

‘After the 15th Congress of 1927 Lenin’s ‘Testament’ became somewhat more widely known among the Party aktiv’. R.A. Medvedev, ‘Let History Judge’, London, 1972, p29.

Finally, after the victory of revisionism in the CPSU following the death of Stalin in 1953, First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev quoted extensively from ‘Lenin’s Testament in his secret speech to the 20th Congress in February 1956, and copies were;

‘Distributed among the delegates’. N. S. Khrushchev, op. cit., p6.

Later, the ‘Testament’ was published in Lenin’s ‘Collected Works’.

Conclusion

The fact that, despite Lenin’s reputation as the world’s leading Marxist, his call, in his ‘Testament’, for the removal of Stalin from the post of General Secretary was rejected by 13th Congress of the CPSU, says much about the circumstances in which the document came to be issued.

BUT IT SAYS EVEN MORE ABOUT THE HIGH ESTEEM IN WHICH STALIN WAS HELD BY THE PARTY.

Biographical Notes

*ARMAND, Yelizaveta (‘Inessa’) F., French-born Soviet women’s movement worker (1875-1920); head of Women’s Department of CC, RCP (1918-20).

*DEUTSCHER, Isaac, Polish-born British Trotskyist historian and journalist (1907-67); emigrated to Britain (1939).

*DZERZHINSKY, Feliks E., Polish-born Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1877-1926); Chairman, CHEKA, later OGPU (1917-26); Commissar of Communications and Internal Affairs (1921-24); Chairman, Supreme Economic Council (1924-26).

*EASTMAN, Max, American Trotskyist author and poet (1883-1969).

*FOTIEVA, Lidya A., (1881- ), one of Lenin’s secretaries (1918-22).

*’GORKY, Maksim’ (pseudonym of Aleksey I. Peshkov), Soviet Marxist-Leninist writer (1868-1936); President, Soviet Writers’ Union (1934-36); murdered by revisionist conspirators (1936).

*KAMENEV, Lev B., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); USSR Commissar of Trade (1926-27); Minister to Italy (1927); leader of Trotskyist opposition (1926-28); expelled fron CPSU (1927); readmitted (1928); Chairman, Main Concessions Committee (1929); again expelled from Party (1932); again readmitted (1933); expelled from Party for third time (1934); sentenced to imprisonment for terrorism (1935); sentenced to death for treason and executed (1936).

*KAUTSKY, Karl J., German revisionist politician (1854-1938).

*KAVTARADZF, Sergey I., Georgian nationalist politician (1885-1971); Georgian Commisar of Justice (1921-22); Georgian Premier (1922-23); 1st Deputy Procrator, USSR Supreme Court (1924-28); expelled from Party (1927); reinstated (1934); USSR Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (l941-5); Ambassador to Romania (1945-52).

*KOLLONTAY, Aleksandra H., Soviet Marxist-Leninist diplomat (1872-1952); Minister to Norway (1923-26, 1927-30); Minister to Mexico (1926-27); Minister, then Ambassador, to Sweden (1930-45); counsellor, USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1945-52).

*KRUPSKAYA, Nadezhda K., Lenin’s wife (1869-1939).

*McNEIL, Robert H., American historian (1930- ); Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto (1964-69); Professor of History, University of Massachusetts (1969- ).

*MAKHARADZE, Filipp I., Georgian nationalist historian and politician (1868-1941); President, Georgia (1922-41).

*’MARTOV, L. (pseudonym of Yuly 0. Tsederbauw), Russian Menshevik leader and journalist (1873-1923); emigrated to Germany (1920).

*MDIVANI, Polykarp (‘Budu’) C., Georgian nationalist politician (1877-1937); Georgian Commissar of Light Industry and Deputy Premier (1931-36); expelled from Party for Trotskyism (1928); reinstated (1931); again expelled (1936); sentenced to death for treason and executed (1937).

*PAYNE, Robert, British-born American historian (1911-83).

*ORDZHONIKIDZE, Grigory (‘Sergo’) K., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1937); 1st Secretary, Transcaucasian Party Committee (1922-26); Chairman, CPSU Central Control Commission and USSR Commissar of Workers’ and Peasants Inspect-on (1926-30); Chairman, USSR Council of National Economy (1930-32); member, Politburo, CC, CPSU (1930-37); USSR Commissar of Heavy Industry (l932)

*PREOBRAZHENSKY Yevgeny A., Soviet revisionist economist (1886-1937); member, Politburo, Secretary of Central Committee, Commissar of Finance (1921-27) expelled from party (1927); tried for treason; died in prison (1937).

*ROBESPIERRE, Maximilien P-M-I. de, French revolutionary leader (1758-94); leader of Jacobin Club (1791-92); leader of Committee of Public Safety (1793-94); guillotined (1794).

*ROLAND-HOLST, Henriette, Dutch ‘Christian socialist’, later Trotskyist; poet (1869-1952).

*SOKOLNIKOV, Grigory Y., Soviet revisionist lawyer and economist (1888-1939); USSR Commissar of Finance (1921-26); Chairman, Oil Syndicate (1926-28); Ambassador to Britain and USSR Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1929-34); USSR Deputy Commissar of Forestry Industry (1934-36); expelled from Party (1936); admitted to treason at public trial and sentenced to imprisonment (1937); died in prison (1939).

*TSINTSADZE, Kate H., Georgian nationalist politician (1887-1930).

*ULYANOVA, Marya I. (1878-1937); Lenin’s sister.

*ZINOVIEV. Grigory Y., Soviet revisionist politician (l883-l936~; Member, Politburo, CC, CPSU (1925); headed Leningrad opposition (1926); expelled from CPSU (1927); readmitted (1928); again expelled from Party (1932); again readmitted (1933); imprisoned for terrorism (1935); sentenced to death and executed for treason (1936).

Notes

**BUND (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia). A Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organisation formed in 1897 which functioned as a centre of Jewish nationalism in the Russian working class movement.

**CONCILIATIONISM A political trend advocating collaboration, and even unitybetween Marxist-Leninists and opponents of Marxism.

**DASHNAKS. Members of the ‘Dashnaktsutyun Party, a nationalist party of the landlords and bourgeoisie in Armenia, formed in the 1890s.

**’GOLOS (The Voice). A Menshevik daily newspaper published in Paris between 1908 and 1911.

**JACOBINISM. The policies of the Jacobin Club, representing the left-wing of the French Revolution.

**KAUTSKYITE. A follower of Kautsky.

**LIQUIDATORS. Followers of ‘Liquidationism’, a reactionary trend within the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1907-10 which advocated the liquidation of the disciplined revolutionary Party of the working class and its replacement by a legal reformist party of the West European social-democratic type.

**MENSHEVIK. Member of the right (social-democratic) minority wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

**MEZHRAIONTSYI. Members of the ‘Mezhraionnaia’ (Inter-borough Organisation), formed in 1913 in St. Petersburg. The organisation joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917.

**MUSSAVATISTS. Members of the ‘Mussavat Party’, a nationalist party of the landlords and bourgeoisie in Azerbaijan, formed in 1912.

**NASHE ZARYA’ (Our Dawn). A monthly magazine published by the Menshevik ‘Liquidators’ in St. Petersburg between between 1910 and 1914, when it was suppressed and replaced by ‘Nashe Delo’ (Our Cause).

**’NOVY MIR’ (New World). A pro-Menshevik newspaper published by Russian emigres in New York in 1911-17.

**OTZOVISTS (Recallers). Supporters within the Bolshevik Party of an opportunist trend which oppposed legal forms of activity and called for the recall of Social-Democratic Party deputies from the State Duma.

**SOCIAL-CHAUVINISM. ‘Chauvinism’ (‘Jingoism’) takes its name from a French jingoistic soldier, Nicolas Chauvin (b. 1815). ‘Social-chauvinism’ is jingoism within the socialist movement.

**VPERED (Forward). An anti-Party group formed outside Russia which opposed the use of legal tactics; it operated from 1909 to 1913.

Spring No. 6 – Tskaltubo

Spring No 6 - Entrance

Spring No 6 – Entrance

Spring No. 6 – Tskaltubo

There’s no shadow of a doubt that Spring No. 6 is the most impressive of the Soviet era bath houses in the Central Park of Tskaltubo – the spa town less than 10km from the second largest (now) city of Kutaisi. This was the particular spa Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, used to visit on regular occasions both before and after the Great Patriotic War. Up to the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s there were more than 20 spa locations and/or hotels with spa facilities in and around the central park. Fortunately, to this day – after a recent restoration (by a private company called Balneoresort) – it still stands out as a special building.

Its neoclassical frontage and the entrance hall is what makes it so special. Corinthian columns support a classic Greek inspired portico but what makes it really special is the frieze high above the entrance on the interior of the portico. By the age of Uncle Joe and the other images included in this bas relief it would indicate it was created after the Great Patriotic War when the buildings in Tskaltubo reverted from being hospitals to their original use as health spas for Soviet workers and peasants.

The ‘Welcoming Uncle Joe’ frieze

This frieze is in three parts and depicts the arrival of Joseph Stalin in the town and the welcome he is being given by either local people or other visitors, like himself, from the rest of the Soviet Union.

Spring No 6 - Welcoming Comrade Stalin

Spring No 6 – Welcoming Comrade Stalin

The central panel

In the central panel an avuncular Joe (in the last ten years of his life) is shown in a left profile. He is dressed in what was becoming his normal garb of a dress suit of a Marshal of the Soviet Union following his role in the defeat of the Nazi invaders, murderers and aggressors. (I accept there’s a problem with the development of ranks and medals/honours within the Red Army and would like to address this issue at some time in the future – but time is limited here.)

Over his left arm is his (again) traditional overcoat and in his left hand he holds a bouquet of flowers which have just been presented to him. He is smiling and looking towards a woman with whom he is shaking hands. She is probably part of an official welcoming committee. Whilst she shakes Joe’s right hand with hers’ she cradles a young child (can’t determine the gender) in the crook of her left arm. The child is facing us and s/he extends his/her right arm around the neck of the woman – presumably the mother. The child’s left arm is extended towards the General Secretary, thereby acting as a conduit, establishing a unity between the woman and Joe. The child is relaxed and smiling, as are the two central characters.

Between Joe and the woman, and underneath their clasped hands, is a drinking fountain – suggesting the healing quality of the local waters of Tskaltubo. On each of the two sides visible of the pillar are a face and a cup of a fountain.

Behind Comrade Stalin are two young people, a girl and a boy. She is closest to Joe and holds another, larger bouquet of flowers in her right hand. The boy, slightly further back, is carefully cradling in both his hands something that looks like a ceramic tower (perhaps to be presented to the visitor) This is, perhaps, a symbol of the town (but it’s difficult to say as it’s indistinct from ground level). The girl has her left arm behind the boy and seems to be encouraging him to come forward and meet the great leader of the working class.

Behind these two younger children is an older girl holding a large basket of fruit, at shoulder height, which she is bringing to present to the honoured visitor. The three children are in contemporary dress. i.e., late 1940s early 1950s and are in left profile.

Behind the woman and child greeting the General Secretary is a man and a woman. He seems to be dressed in more traditional clothing from Georgia and holds high another gift to the visitor from Moscow. This looks like a cornucopia of grapes, representing the grape and wine culture of the region/state. I can’ make out what the woman at the rear is bringing. She seems to be clutching a couple of items to her chest. They are in right profile and they seem to be wearing traditional peasant dress of the region.

On the wall behind Joe, and appearing in a couple of other places behind the other characters, are white/cream markings. These perhaps represent a fluttering flag but the overall impression is somewhat confusing. The more I look at it the more I get the impression it’s a disintegrating halo – which is a little disturbing if that was the intention.

Spring 6 - Welcoming Comrade Stalin - right hand panel

Spring 6 – Welcoming Comrade Stalin – right hand panel

The right hand panel

On the right hand panel we have a continuation of the procession wanting to meet the leader. At the front is an older couple. She seems to be holding another bunch of flowers and he, much more frail and needing support, has his left on her left shoulder and in his right hand (which we can’t see) he is holding a walking stick – part of which we can see. This would seem to reference the healing claims of the spa resort.

Next is a young sailor – and I don’t really understand this reference. We are talking about only a few years after the most devastating war the country had ever had to encounter. Yet he looks young and healthy. Therefore, why is he depicted? Beside him is a very young girl, five or six, who has another bouquet of flowers but seems to be pleading with the sailor, presumably her father, for something. She is really close to him, pressing against his leg, and he has his left arm protectively resting on the top of her back.

The final individuals in this panel are a couple of newly weds. They are hand in hand and rushing to meet Stalin. He is dressed in a formal suit and she seems to be dressed in the traditional attire of a Georgian bride of the time. (Now you can’t move in present day Georgia for ‘desirable’ western style wedding dress shops – almost certainly with a price tag which inversely matches the lack of sophistication of the design.) He holds high, in his right hand the certificate of their marriage and he seems to be asking for some sort of blessing from the leader of the Communist Party. It takes a long time to eliminate these practices of getting some sort of secondary justification from a ‘superior’ entity. I don’t like the depiction of this in a Socialist Realist piece of art work but it probably represented the feeling of the time and its depiction confirms a reality without providing a way forward. In her left hand the bride is carrying what looks like a book, what and why I have no idea

Above the couple are vine stems/leaves as a sign of fertility. Yet again, another throw back to feudal superstition. As I’ve suggested in other posts on Socialist Realist Art we are still a long way from throwing off the old traditions and thinking and that comes across in the art produced – even during those few years of Socialist construction.

Spring No 6 - Welcoming Comrade Stalin - left hand panel

Spring No 6 – Welcoming Comrade Stalin – left hand panel

The left hand panel

The left hand panel contains five characters. Closest to the centre is a young, wounded Red Army man, in uniform. He has no obvious disability but he does have a walking stick in his left had to provide him with some sort of support. An interesting little bit of detail is that he has a camera on a strap over his left shoulder, his right hand under the strap at his chest with the camera resting on his right hip. This is possibly a Zenit or a Zorki, 35mm SLR, a huge number of which were produced after the Great Patriotic War.

Behind him is a young woman with her left hand on his right shoulder. She seems to be looking beyond him as if she were in a crowd of people wanting to get a glimpse of the visiting hero. Perhaps she is using his shoulder to allow her to get a slightly higher view of the proceedings. She is dressed in late 1940s clothing and her hair style is also from that period. She is also carrying a book in her right hand so a pattern seems to be developing here. Both of them are in right profile.

Behind the heads of this couple are what look like palm branches coming from above. They are similar to what we find in the central panel but there the leaves are totally chaotic, here more recognisable.

Next is an older man, dressed in contemporary 1940s semi-casual dress – he wears a tie but not a jacket. Unlike all the other characters in this story he is not looking in the direction of Uncle Joe. He is in left profile as he is looking back to others of his family who have come to greet the visitor from Moscow. His left arm is high above his head as if pointing in the direction of all the activity. He seems to be encouraging those behind him to hurry up and is pointing to where everything is happening.

His right hand is supporting the left elbow of a young girl who holds yet another large bouquet of flowers. She has her long hair tied back over the nape of her neck, her right hand on her hip and around her neck is a scarf which indicates that she is a Young Pioneer and is dressed in the uniform of the organisation. Her stance is as if she were running. In fact there is a feeling of movement in the depiction of this small family group which is completed by the presence of an older woman who is holding a banner, which is billowing out behind her, in both her hands. This presumably is the banner of the Georgian People’s Republic but any such detail is impossible to make out.

Above the heads of this last group a couple of branches of a vine come down from above, indicating the production of wine in the area.

I’m sure that many of those who enter the building are not really aware of the decoration that sits above their heads. With perhaps a few exceptions (those part of the building that have not yet had a major make-over) the only other part of the building that is interesting for its Soviet past is the main entrance hall.

The entrance hall of Spring No 6

In the renovation of the building it was fortunately decided to try to maintain the impression those thousands that had entered the building over the years would have experienced.

The impression of space;

Spring No. 6 - Entrance Hall

Spring No. 6 – Entrance Hall

the high ceiling;

Spring No. 6 - Entrance Hall ceiling

Spring No. 6 – Entrance Hall ceiling

the magnificent commemorative urn (more details of which will be published shortly) in the middle of the floor – with an interesting clock on the wall behind;

Spring No 6 - Commemorative Urn and clock

Spring No 6 – Commemorative Urn and clock

The tall ceramic lamp standards;

Spring No 6 - Ceramic light

Spring No 6 – Ceramic light

and the two, small stained glass windows;

Spring No. 6 - stained glass 01

Spring No. 6 – stained glass 01

Spring No. 6 - stained glass 02

Spring No. 6 – stained glass 02

The rest of the building

Spring No 6 is a huge building and won’t be getting anything like the number of visitors that it used to receive in the heydays of the 1980s and before. On my visits there were only a handful of people and that would indicate that the renovation that has taken place would not have covered the whole of the building – there would have been no chance to make any significant return on the investment – unless it was all part of a money laundering exercise.

The ‘renovation’ I saw was basically a total destruction of the original interior and the replacement by what would be found in a new build for the same purpose. That’s a shame as I’m sure the baths and rooms used for all the other services would have been tiled and decorated in an even more ornate manner that what can be seen in the abandoned and derelict spas that lie in ruins in the Central Park and surrounds.

So far I have been able to visit one very small part of the building that has undergone minimal ‘restoration/renovation’. That was the room I was told was ‘Stalin’s private bath house’.

But it is a working spa and there are a number of treatments that can be tried. One of the reasons there are few visitors now is that, for Georgians, any visit to the spas are very much a luxury and the foreign tourists who visit the country (and could afford it) might not be prepared to spend a couple of hours getting cleansed, pummelled and covered in mud.

An introduction to some of the treatments available will appear soon.

The driveway into Spring No 6

The main entrance to Spring No 6 is part of the public Central Park in Tskaltubo and there’s no strict dividing line between where the private and public meet. However, as part of the original project of Spring no 6 a large fountain – with a statue from Georgian mythology – was included. This is also worthy of a look.

Spring No. 6 - Fountain

Spring No. 6 – Fountain

Location

Spring No. 6 is in the northern part of Tskaltubo’s Central Park, about a ten minute walk from the present day market in the centre of town.

GPS

42.3223

42.5989

How to get to Tskaltubo

Marshrutka number 30 leaves from its terminus on the western side of the Red Bridge, which crosses the Rioni River beside the main Kutaisi market. Closer to the market is the stop for a number of buses but you walk through that area (passing a cheap out door bar on the right) to cross the red painted iron bridge. The marshrutka will be on the left once on the other side. They leave roughly every 20 minutes. Cost GEL 1.20 (not the GEL 2 as in some guide books – although some of the drivers will take the GEL 2 and say nothing although others are honest). The price will be on a piece of paper somewhere, normally at the front of the vehicle.

Journey takes about 30 minutes to get to the centre of Tskaltubo. Once you cross the railway track (after 20 or so minutes) you are at the bottom end of Central Park. The marshrutka then follows Rustaveli Street on the eastern edge of the park passing the railway station and information office, the Municipality, Court and Police buildings, and then the entrance to the huge (now luxury 5 star) Tskaltubo Spa Resort all on the right. (The marshrutka takes the same route when going back to Kutaisi and can just be flagged down anywhere along this road.)

When you get to the northern edge of the park the road widens out and after passing the Sports Palace on the left and the now being renovated (although seemed stalled to me) huge Shakhtar Sanatorium on the right the marshrutka heads up to the main market. Get off when the bus turns right at the corner by the ugly, modern Sataplia Hotel. This is where you would look for another marshrutka if you wanted to go to the Prometheus Cave.

To get to Central Park go back along Tseretseli Street (not the road you came up), pass the mural of the telecommunication workers on your left and head down to a very wide road junction. Cross this wide expanse of tarmac towards an arch and at the open space at the top end of the park head south and pass by the right hand side of Spring No. 3. Continue south until you reach the white, side wall of Spring No. 6. The entrance is on the west side of the building.

Alternatively (if arriving by marshrutka) you could get off at the main entrance to the Tskaltubo Spa Resort and walk towards the back of Spring No. 6 through the park.

Bolshevik Illegal Printing Press – Tbilisi

House at Kaspi Street 7

House at Kaspi Street 7

Bolshevik Illegal Printing Press – Tbilisi

You have to admire the work that was expended and the organisation needed to construct the room and infrastructure for the illegal printing press that the Tbilisi (Tiflis) branch of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (which, after the October Revolution of 1917, eventually became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik)) created in the first years of the 20th century.

There’s a number of things to admire about this project that was in revolutionary use between November 1903 and April 1906.

First it was obviously a well thought through and planned project. The Georgian revolutionaries needed a printing press, they needed it well hidden from the Okhrana – the Tsarist ‘secret’ police – and they needed it to be open enough to allow the constant comings and goings that would be necessary for the printing and distribution of thousands of leaflets and pamphlets needed to spread the word of the young, revolutionary Marxist organisation in Georgia.

One remarkably bold enterprise of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P., and an outstanding example of the Bolshevik technique of underground work, was the Avlabar secret printing press, which functioned in Tiflis from November 1903 to April 1906. On this press were printed Lenin’s ‘The Revolutionary Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry’ and ‘To the Rural Poor’, Stalin’s ‘Briefly About the Disagreements in the Party’, ‘Two Clashes’ and other pamphlets, the Party program and rules, and scores of leaflets, many of which were written by Stalin. On it, too, were printed the newspapers Proletariatis Brdzola (The Proletarian Struggle) and Proletariaiis Brdzolis Purtseli (Herald of the Proletarian Struggle). Books, pamphlets, newspapers and leaflets were published in three languages and were printed in several thousands of copies.

A decisive role in the defence of the principles of Bolshevism in the Caucasus and in the propagation and development of Lenin’s ideas was played by the newspaper Proletariatis Brdzola, edited by Stalin, the organ of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P. and a worthy successor of Brdzola. For its size and its quality as a Bolshevik newspaper, Proletariatis Brdzola was second only to Proletary, the Central Organ of the Party, edited by Lenin. Practically every issue carried articles by Lenin, reprinted from the Proletary. Many highly important articles were written by Stalin. In them he stands forth as a talented controversialist, eminent Party writer and theoretician, political leader of the proletariat, and faithful follower of Lenin. In his articles and pamphlets, Stalin worked out a number of theoretical and political problems. He disclosed the ideological fallacies of the anti-Bolshevik trends and factions, their opportunism and treachery. Every blow at the enemy struck with telling effect. Lenin paid glowing tribute to Proletariotis Brdzola, to its Marxian consistency and high literary merit.

(Joseph Stalin – a short biography, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1949, pp20-21.)

Second it needed meticulous organisation, the involvement of many people with different skills and abilities and – perhaps most important of all – a revolutionary unity and confidence which kept the real intention of the project away from an all pervasive and vicious secret police known to depend upon traitors, collaborators and agent-provocateurs to achieve their aims. And that’s just for the building of the structure.

There’s no way that the press could have been installed after the construction of the building itself – a large house that would have been on the edge of the town of Tiflis (now Tbilisi). The very complicated nature of access and also the size and location of the room with the printing press (as well as the printing press itself) meant that the space had to have been excavated under the cover of constructing the building’s cellar.

The extra work needed for the illegal aspects of the construction site would have needed to be monitored carefully. The building workers were almost building two buildings under the pretence of one but they would have had to have completed the work in the normal time it would have taken to construct one such house – otherwise people would have started to ask questions and suspicion would have been aroused, especially in a predominantly peasant society.

Third, there would have been the need for an not inconsiderable amount of money for such a large and complicated project – as well as a state of the art lithographic printing press, plus all the paper and materials needed once in operation. We must remember that we are here talking about industrial workers who were barely earning enough to feed themselves and their families. The finances for such a major enterprise would have never have been available without the introduction of finances from other sources. Banks had those finances and they assisted in the development of the revolutionary movement by contributing to the coffers by way of the intermediaries, Comrades Kamo (Simon Petrosian, whose bones you might walk over – between the fountain and the Pushkin bust – on the way to the Tourist Information Centre in Pushkin Park) and Koba (who used to share a room with VI Lenin in Red Square, Moscow, but who now has a niche in the wall of the Kremlin.

An idea of the complex project

Plan of the project

Plan of the project

As can be seen by the plan above there was no direct access to the room of the press from the house. Looking at the diagram it would seem to me that much of the construction of the vaulted room of the press and the tunnels and shafts leading to the well shaft would have used access to what became the cellar/kitchen of the house itself. This would then have been filled in to give the impression of ground level. It’s possible that the present day access to the underground room would have been the place of access at the time of construction. So much soil and rock would have to have been removed that any other manner of excavation seems to hard to make sense.

The well and access to the room

The 'access' well

The ‘access’ well

Once the building was finished and the press installed the only way to get to it was via the well, covered by a small hut a few metres south-east of the main building. This is a deep well as the builders had to go down more than 18m before reaching the water level. Access down this well would have been by a removable rope, I’m assuming, anything more substantial would have raised suspicions in the event of a raid by the Okhrana.

Just before the water level (at 17.5m) a tunnel was constructed at right angles to the shaft, 8m long back towards the building. Then a shaft 15m high was built up towards ground level. At 8m another, short tunnel was constructed to provide access to the underground room itself. (This shaft goes up another 7 or so metres after the tunnel – but I can’t work out why.) Along the whole length of this shaft a ladder was fixed to the wall. Both the tunnels at the top and bottom were high enough for a person to walk through if bent double. Now electric lighting has been installed but, presumably, in the early 20th century the only lighting would have been oil lamps or candles.

All the tunnels and shafts are brick lined and the tunnels are arched.

The underground room

The underground room - looking towards present day entrance

The underground room – looking towards present day entrance

It’s a surprisingly large room if you think of the relatively narrow shafts and tunnels the Georgian Communists would have needed to negotiate to get there before starting work. I estimate the vaulted room to measure, roughly, 11m long, by 4m wide and 4m high – to the apex of the vaulted ceiling. This is large enough not to feel too claustrophobic to someone down there for a few hours.

But this isn’t the result of a group of amateurs. This is a well-made, professional construction. The floor is brick lined and the walls alternate with layers of brick and then large stone blocks cemented in place. The ceiling is a brick lined, barrel vault.

All that’s in the room now is a rusting-away, manually operated, lithographic printing press.

The press with the clandestine entrance

The press with the clandestine entrance

At the height of its use there would have been benches for the preparation of the plates, places for cutting the sheets for leaflets and folding and collating areas for pamphlets. I wouldn’t have thought it would have been possible to produce substantial books given the confines of the location but at the same time this location was constructed for the production of large scale, immediate propaganda and the aim would be to write the text, print and distribute in a relatively short time. More substantial books, such as some of the works of VI Lenin, would have been produced in commercial printing establishments outside of the country and then brought in illegally.

I can’t imagine this would have been the most healthy of places to have worked. Printing inks are, and have always been, quite toxic and there wouldn’t have been a great deal of ventilation in the cellar. I’m not aware of any through draft which could have taken the stale and chemical air out and bring fresh air in. The construction of a shaft to the ground above would have created a security threat as if stale air had a way to escape then so would noise.

Structurally, the tunnels, shafts and the room itself seem to be in remarkably good condition considering they have been neglected for most of the 117 years of their existence.

The Printing Press

The printing press

The printing press

I wasn’t able to make out any manufacturers marks but I understand it is of a German make and was smuggled into the country in pieces. By all accounts it was state of the art machine at the time of its installation. Yet another expense that was ‘donated’ by the Tsarist state. By the beginning of the 20th century these presses could turn out thousands of copies relatively cheaply and from one plate.

The house

The house

The house

The house above would have been a relatively wealthy but basic house at the time. The living area is up a few steps and on to a veranda which leads to two reasonably sized rooms. Now they are quite dirty, unorganized and nothing like they would have been at the time they were the cover for illegal revolutionary activity.

There are a number of pictures, plaques and the like of the revolutionary Marxist leaders, Marx, Lenin and Stalin as well as piled up books by those same leaders.

There’s also an interesting picture that gives the modern viewer an idea of how the underground room would have looked like when it was being used. No idea of when the picture was created but certainly long after the 1917 October Revolution and decades since the press printed in anger.

The press in operation

The press in operation

In the corner of one room (the one on the left) is an old, single bed – with a very lumpy mattress. Above this bed is a photo of Uncle Joe at about the age when the press was functioning. The guide will encourage you to have your picture taken, by him if you are alone, lying in ‘Stalin’s bed’. Here is another example of where tourism distorts history.

Any revolutionary who came to work on the press would not have stayed overnight in the house. That would have compromised security and put the whole of the project in jeopardy. And even though many of the leaflets and pamphlets would have been written by Uncle Joe he was not a printer and would have been in the way. Revolutionaries don’t always have to be able to carry out all tasks.

After April 1906

I haven’t been able to find out exactly why the press was abandoned in 1906. I can’t see that it was discovered by the Okhrana as I’m sure they would have destroyed the access shafts and tunnels – if not the whole of the building above. In the revolutionary movement there are always changes in trajectory, reaction becomes powerful for a period of time curtailing certain activities and then when circumstances become more favourable the revolution has moved on to other areas. The main focus of the Georgian Communists might have moved to other areas, for example Baku. Whatever the reason it wasn’t ever used again for its original purpose.

I’ve picked up a bit of information to indicate that it was opened as a museum in 1937 – probably at the time that Lavrenty Beria was in command of the Georgian Communist Party. That might have been when the present spiral metal staircase and new entrance to the underground room were created. Then the Great Patriotic War would have intervened.

Whatever might have been the fate of the building in subsequent years it now has no ‘legal’ status as a state museum and is showing serious signs of decay. The spiral staircase is a bit dodgy and the ladder that allowed access to the print room is rusting away in sympathy with the press itself.

Next to the house, on the right as the gates to the grounds are on the left, there’s a relatively modern, red brick building. This has a couple of ‘Hammer and Sickle’ images on the doors. This looks like it was, at some time in the past, a small museum to accompany the visit to the cellar. It looks derelict but I have no information if it is possible to enter. Having someone with Georgian/Russian language skills could possibly solve the problem.

Stalin Museum

For those who have visited the Stalin Museum in Gori you might have noticed the maquette of the house and underground press in a glass case in Room No 1, close to the entrance to Room No 2. For those who are about to go there look out for it as it gives an interesting 3D impression of the site.

Visiting the Underground Press

There don’t seem to be any official opening times. The Guardian of the space seems to be there all the time during the day (and night). He doesn’t speak English but takes you to all the places and you can work out how matters stood over a hundred years ago.

There’s no entry charge as such but a tip of GEL10 seemed to be reasonably well received.

Location and how to get there by public transport

Arrive at 300 Argel Metro station. Leave the station and take the left, uphill. Take the second road right, towards the hospital, on Tsinandali Street (there’s a small bakery on the right, at the end of the street as you enter from the main road). Continue along this road, with the hospital on your left, to the end to arrive at a junction, going through two pillars of an entrance gate. Turn left, again uphill. This is Kaspi Street. Continue uphill, keeping to the left at another junction, and you will soon see a red brick building on the right. In the garden of the house with the press there are a couple of large plane trees. This is Kaspi Street 7.

GPS

N 41º 41.445′

E 44º 49.795′