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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:34:28
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Chapter 8 My First Prisons

My former nurse Masha was a servant in the home of Uncle Abram. I frequently ran to her in the kitchen; she symbolized my bond with Yanovka. Masha had visitors, some times rather impatient ones, and then I would be gently ushered out. One bright morning I learned, together with the rest of the children in the colony, that Masha had given birth to a baby. With great relish we whispered about it secretly. A few days later my mother arrived from Yanovka and went to the kitchen to see Masha and the child. I sneaked in behind my mother. Masha was wearing a kerchief which came down to her eyes. On a wide bench was the tiny creature, lying on its side. My mother looked at Masha, then at the child, and then shook her head reproachfully, saying nothing. Masha continued silent, with eyes downcast; then she looked at the infant and said: Look how he puts his little hand under his cheek like a grown-up.

It was obvious that going on with the war was impossible. On this point, there was not even a shadow of disagreement between Lenin and me. We were both equally bewildered at Bukharin and the other apostles of a revolutionary war.” But there was another question, quite as important. How far could the Hohenzollern government go in their struggle against us? In a letter to one of his friends, Czernin wrote that if they had been strong enough, they would have sent their troops against Petrograd to establish order there, instead of negotiating with the Bolsheviks. There was certainly no lack of ill-will. But was there strength enough? Could Hohenzollern send his troops against revolutionaries who wanted peace? How had the February revolution, and, later on, the October revolution, affected the German army? How soon would any effect show itself? To these questions, no answer could as yet be given. We had to try to find it in the course of the negotiations. Accordingly we had to delay the negotiations as long as we could. It was necessary to give the European workers time to absorb properly the very fact of the Soviet revolution, including its policy of peace. And this was all the more important since the press of the Entente, like the Russian conciliatory” and bourgeois press, was portraying the peace negotiations in advance as a comedy with the roles ingeniously distributed.

Lenin’s room was the usual picture of order. Lenin did not smoke. The necessary newspapers, earmarked, lay close at hand. And above all, there was in his prosaic but extraordinary face that expression of indomitably biding his time. It was then not yet clear whether the tide of revolution had definitely turned back, or had only slowed down before rising again. But in either case, it was equally necessary to fight the sceptics, to review the experience of 1905 theoretically, to educate the rank-and-file for a new turn of the tide, or for a second revolution. Lenin spoke approvingly of my work in prison, but he taunted me for not drawing the necessary conclusions, in other words, for not going over to the Bolsheviks. He was right in this. As we parted, he gave me some addresses in Helsingfors which proved invaluable to me.

The details of this account, which is based on the entries I made at that time, may show some slight inaccuracies. But all the main facts are absolutely irrefutable. Besides, most of the people who had anything to do with the episode are still alive; many of them are in France now. There are documents as well. It would therefore be quite easy to establish the facts. For my part, I have no doubt that if Malvy’s order for my expulsion were resurrected from the police archives and if the document were subjected to a dactyloscopic examination, it would be found to bear somewhere in a corner the finger-prints of Monsieur Vining.


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