My Life, by Leon Trotsky

Chapter 36

The Military Opposition

The foundation for the successful upbuilding of the Red army was the proper relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry throughout the country. Later, in 1923, a stupid legend was invented to the effect that I “underestimated” the peasantry. As a matter of fact, from 1918 to 1921, I had to deal with the problems of rural life more closely and directly than anyone else, because the army was being raised chiefly from among the peasants, and carried on its work in constant touch with peasant life. The question is too large to be discussed here at length. So I shall confine myself to two or three sufficiently outstanding examples.

On March 22, 1919, I demanded over the direct wire that the Central Committee “decide the question of an official inquiry by the Central Executive Committee in the Volga region, and of the appointment of an authoritative commission from the Central Committee and the Central Executive Committee. The commission’s job should be to strengthen the faith of the Volga peasantry in the central Soviet power, to correct the most conspicuous local illegalities, and punish the guilty representatives of the Soviet power; to gather complaints and materials to be used as the basis of demonstrative decrees in favor of the ‘middle’ peasant.”

It is interesting to note that I held this conversation over the direct wire with no one other than Stalin; and it was to him that I explained the importance of the question of the middle peasant. In the same year Kalinin, at my instigation, was elected chairman of the Central Executive Committee as a man who was close to the middle peasants and familiar with their peculiar needs. But more important is the fact that as early as February, 1920, influenced by my own observation of the lives of the Ural peasants, I insistently advocated a change in the new economic policy. In the Central Committee I mustered only four votes against an opposing eleven. At that time Lenin was irreconcilably against abolishing the food levy. Of course Stalin voted against me. The change to the new economic policy went into effect just a year later, unanimously, but to the tune of the rumblings of the Kronstadt rebellion and in an atmosphere of threatening moods in the entire army.

Most of the questions of principle and the difficulties in connection with the constructive work of the Soviets during the years that followed were encountered first of all in the military sphere, and in most concentrated form at that. As a rule, solutions had to be found on the spur of the moment, and mistakes were followed by immediate retribution. Whatever opposition there might be was tested in action, right on the spot. Hence, by and large, the inner logic of the development of the Red army, and the absence of wild leaps from one system to another. If we had had more time for discussion, we should probably have made a great many more mistakes.

And yet there was fighting within the party, often very bitter. Things could not have been otherwise. The work was too new, the difficulties much too great. The old army was still breaking up and sowing hatred of war over the country at the time when we were obliged to raise new regiments. The Czar’s officers were being driven out of the old army, sometimes quite ruthlessly; we had to enroll these very officers as instructors for the Red army. Committees came into existence in the old regiments as the very embodiment of the revolution, at least during its first period. In the new regiments the committee system was not to be tolerated; it stood for disintegration. The curses against the old discipline were still ringing in our ears when we began to introduce the new. In a short time, we had to go from voluntary enlistment to conscription, from detachments of irregulars to a proper military organization. We had continuously to fight the methods of the irregulars — a fight that demanded the utmost persistence and unwillingness to compromise, sometimes even the sternest measures. The chaos of irregular warfare expressed the peasant element that lay beneath the revolution, whereas the struggle against it was also a struggle in favor of the proletarian state organization’s opposed to the elemental, petty-bourgeois anarchy that was undermining it. But the methods and ways of the irregular fighting found an echo in the ranks of the party, as well.

On the military question, the opposition assumed a more or less definite form during the first months of the organizing of the Red army. Its fundamental ideas found expression in a defense of the electoral method and in protests against the enlistment of experts, the introduction of military discipline, the centralizing of the army, and so on. The opposition tried to find some general theoretical formula for their stand. They insisted that a centralized army was characteristic of a capitalist state; revolution had to blot out not only positional war, but a centralized army as well. The very essence of revolution was its ability to move about, to deliver swift attacks, and to carry out maneuvers; its fighting force was embodied in a small, independent detachment made up of various arms; it was not bound to a base; in its operations it relied wholly on the support of a sympathetic populace; it could emerge freely in the enemy’s rear, etc. In short, the tactics of a small war were proclaimed the tactics of revolution. This was all very abstract and was really nothing but an idealization of our weakness. The serious experience of the civil war very soon disproved these prejudices. The superiority of central organization and strategy over local improvisations, military separatism and federalism, revealed itself only too soon and too clearly in the experiences of the struggle.

The Red army had in its service thousands, and, later on, tens of thousands of old officers. In their own words, many of them only two years before had thought of moderate liberals as extreme revolutionaries, while the Bolsheviks, in their eyes, belonged to the fourth dimension. “We should indeed have a low opinion of ourselves and of our party,” I wrote against the opposition at that time, “of the moral force of our idea, of the drawing power of our revolutionary morale, if we thought ourselves incapable of winning over thousands and thousands of ‘specialists,’ including military ones.” We certainly achieved our end, but not without difficulty and friction.

The communists adapted themselves to the military work with some difficulty. Here selection and training were essential. Even when we were before Kazan, in August, 1918, I telegraphed Lenin: “Only communists who know how to obey should be sent here, the ones who are ready to suffer hardships and are prepared to die. Featherweight agitators are not wanted here.” A year later, in the Ukraine, where anarchy was rampant even in the party ranks, I wrote in an order to the fourteenth army: “I give warning that every communist delegated by the party to join the ranks of the army becomes thereby a part of the Red army and has the same rights and duties as every other soldier of the Red army. Communists found guilty of misdemeanors and crimes against the revolutionary military duty will be doubly punished, for offenses that may be condoned in a benighted, uneducated man cannot be condoned in a member of the party that leads the working classes of the world.” Obviously, much friction arose on this score, and there was no dearth of malcontents.

The military oppositionists included, for example, Pyatakov, the present director of the State Bank. He usually joined every opposition, only to wind up as a government official. Three or four years ago, when Pyatakov belonged to the same group as I did, I prophesied in jest that in the event of a Bonapartist coup d’état, Pyatakov would go to the office the next day with his briefcase. Now I can add more earnestly that if this fails to come about, it will be only through lack of a Bonapartist coup d’état, and not through any fault of Pyatakov’s. In the Ukraine, he enjoyed considerable influence, not by accident but because he is a fairly well-educated Marxist, especially in the realm of economics, and is undoubtedly a good administrator, with a reserve of will. In the early years, Pyatakov showed revolutionary energy, but it later changed to a bureaucratic conservatism. In fighting his semi-anarchist views, I resorted to giving him an important post from the very outset, so that he would have to change from words to deeds. This method is not new, but often is very efficacious. His administrative sense soon prompted him to apply the very methods against which he had been waging his war of words. Such changes were common.

All the best elements of the military opposition were soon drawn into the work. At the same time I offered the most implacable an opportunity to organize a few regiments according to their own principles, promising for my part to give them all the necessary resources. Only one district group on the Volga accepted the challenge, and organized a regiment that was in no way different from the rest. The Red army was winning on all the fronts, and the opposition eventually melted away.

Tsaritsin, where the military workers were grouped around Voroshiov, held a special place in the Red army and in the military opposition. There revolutionary detachments were headed chiefly by former non-commissioned officers from among the peasants of the northern Caucasus. The deep antagonism between the Cossacks and the peasants of the southern steppes imparted a vicious ferocity to the civil war in that region; it penetrated far into the villages and led to the wholesale extermination of entire families. This was a peasant war with its roots deep in local soil, and, in its mouzhik ferocity, it far surpassed the revolutionary struggle in all other parts of the country. This war brought forward a good many stalwart irregulars who excelled in local skirmishing but usually failed when they had to undertake military tasks of larger scope.

The life of Voroshilov illustrates the career of a worker-revolutionist, with its leadership in strikes, underground work, imprisonment, and exile. Like many of the other rulers of to-day, Voroshilov was merely a national revolutionary democrat from among the workers, nothing more; this was most apparent in the imperialist Great War, and later on in the February revolution. In the official biographies of Voroshilov, the years 1914-17 are a great blank, as is true of most of the present leaders. The secret of this blank is that during the war most of these men were patriots, and discontinued their revolutionary work. In the February revolution, Voroshilov, like Stalin, supported the government of Guchkov and Miiukoff from the left. They were extreme revolutionary democrats, but in no sense internationalists. As a rule, the Bolsheviks who were patriots during the war were democrats after the February revolution, and are to-day followers of Stalin’s national socialism. Voroshilov is no exception.

Although he was one of the Lugansk workers, from their privileged top section, in his habits and tastes Voroshilov always resembled a small proprietor more than he did a proletarian. After the October revolution, he became the natural centre of the opposition of non-commissioned officers and irregulars against a centralized military organization demanding military knowledge and a wider outlook. Such was the origin of the Tsaritsin opposition.

In Voroshilov’s circles, “specialists,” graduates of the military academy, high staffs, and Moscow were mentioned with hatred. But since the chiefs of the irregulars had no military knowledge of their own, every one had close at hand his own “specialist” who, being naturally of the second order, held tenaciously to his post against the more capable and better informed. The attitude of the Tsaritsin military heads toward the command of the southern military front scarcely differed from their attitude toward the Whites. Their contact with the Moscow centre did not go beyond a constant demand for munitions. Our resources were very slight; everything produced by the factories was immediately sent to the armies. Not one of them, however, absorbed as many rifles or cartridges as the Tsaritsin army. Whenever its demands were refused, Tsaritsin would raise the cry of “treason by the Moscow specialists.” It kept a special representative in Moscow, a sailor named Zhivodyor, to extort supplies for its army. When we tightened up on the discipline, Zhivodyor turned bandit. I believe that later he was caught and shot.

Stalin stayed in Tsaritsin for a few months, shaping his intrigue against me with the aid of the home-bred opposition of Voroshilov and his closest associates; even then it was assuming a very prominent place in his activities. He so conducted himself, however, as to be able to withdraw at any moment.

Every day I would receive from the high command or the front commands such complaints against Tsaritsin as: it is impossible to get executions of an order, it is impossible to find out what is going on there, it is even impossible to get an answer to an inquiry. Lenin watched the conflict develop with alarm. He knew Stalin better than I did, and obviously suspected that the stubbornness of Tsaritsin was being secretly staged by Stalin. The situation became intolerable; I decided to enforce order in Tsaritsin. After a new clash between the high command and Tsaritsin, I obtained Stalin’s recall. It was done through the medium of Svyerdlov, who went in a special train to bring Stalin back. Lenin was anxious to reduce the conflict to its minimum, and in this he of course was right. I, for my part, scarcely ever gave Stalin a thought. In 1917 he flashed before me as a barely perceptible shadow. In the heat of the fight I usually forgot his existence. I thought of the Tsaritsin army because I needed a dependable left flank on the southern front, and I set out for Tsaritsin to arrange it at any cost. On my way there I met Svyerdlov. He inquired cautiously about my intentions, and then suggested that I have a talk with Stalin, who, as it happened, was returning in the same car with Svyerdlov.

“Do you really wish to dismiss them all?” Stalin asked me, in a tone of exaggerated humility. “They are fine boys!”

“Those fine boys will ruin the revolution, which can’t wait for them to grow out of their adolescence,” I answered him. “All I want is to draw Tsaritsin into Soviet Russia.”

A few hours later I met Voroshilov. The staff was in a state of alarm. The rumor was that Trotsky was coming with a big broom and his score of Czarist generals to replace the irregular chiefs, who, I must add, had all hurriedly renamed themselves as commanders of regiments, brigades, and divisions by the time I arrived there. I put the question to Voroshilov: how did he regard the orders from the front and the high command? He opened his heart to me: Tsaritsin thought it necessary to execute only such orders as it considered right. That was too much. I retorted that if he did not undertake to carry out the orders and military tasks exactly and absolutely as they were given to him, I would immediately send him under convoy to Moscow for committal before the revolutionary tribunal. I dismissed no one, satisfied with the formal assurance of obedience. Most of the communists in the Tsaritsin army supported me with utter sincerity, not merely out of fear. I visited all the units and encouraged the irregulars, among whom there were many excellent soldiers who needed only proper leadership. With this, I returned to Moscow.

In all this affair, I had no feeling of personal prejudice or ill will. I think I can rightfully say that in all my political activity personal considerations have never played a part. But in the great struggle that we were carrying on, the stakes were too big to permit me to consider side issues. As a result, I frequently trod on the toes of personal prejudice, friendly favoritism, or vanity. Stalin carefully picked up the men whose toes had been trodden on; he had the time and the personal interest to do it. From that time on, the Tsaritsin ruling circle became one of his chief weapons. As soon as Lenin fell ill, Stalin with the help of his allies had Tsaritsin renamed Stalingrad. The mass of the people had not the ghost of an idea what the name meant. And if Voroshilov is today a member of the Politbureau, the only reason — I see no other — is that in 1918 I forced his submission by the threat of sending him under convoy to Moscow.

I feel that it will be interesting to illustrate the chapter on our military work, or rather on the struggle connected with it with in the party, by a few excerpts from the party correspondence of that time, hitherto unpublished anywhere. On October 4, 1918, I said to Lenin and Svyerdiov over a direct wire from Tambov:

“I insist categorically on Stalin’s recall. The Tsaritsin front is in a bad way, despite the abundance of troops. I leave him (Voroshilov) as commander of the Tenth (Tsaritsin) army on condition of obedience to the commander of the southern front. Until now the men there have not even sent reports of operations to Kozlov. I made them undertake to send in reports of operations and reconnoitring twice a day. If this is not done tomorrow, I will commit Voroshilov to trial and announce this in an order to the army. There is only a short time left for an offensive before the roads become impassable either by foot or by horse. We have no time for diplomatic negotiations.

Stalin was recalled. Lenin understood that I was guided only by military considerations. At the same time, he was naturally disturbed by the disagreement and tried to smooth out our relations. On October 23 he wrote to me at Balashov:

“Today, Stalin returned bringing with him news of three big victories by our troops before Tsaritsin. 1 Stalin has persuaded Voroshilov and Minin, whom he considers very valuable and quite irreplaceable workers, not to leave, and to obey in full the orders of the centre. The only cause of their dissatisfaction, according to him, is the extreme delay or even failure in sending them shells and cartridges, for lack of which the two hundred thousand strong of the Caucasian army, which is in fine fettle, are also perishing. 2 Stalin is anxious to work on the southern front.

He hopes that in actual work he will be able to demonstrate the correctness of his view . . . In informing you, Lev Davydovich, of all these statements of Stalin’s, I request that you consider them and reply, first, as to your willingness to talk the matter over with Stalin personally — for this he agrees to visit you — and second, if you think it possible to remove the friction by certain concrete terms and to arrange for the joint work which Stalin so much desires. As for me, I think it necessary to make every effort to arrange to work in conjunction with Stalin.
LENIN.”

I replied stating my complete accord, and Stalin was appointed a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the southern front. Alas, the compromise brought no results. In Tsaritsin things did not improve a bit. On December 14 I telegraphed Lenin from Kursk: “It is impossible to leave Voroshilov at his post after he has nullified all attempts at compromise. It is necessary to send a new Revolutionary Military Council with a new commander to Tsaritsin, and to transfer Voroshilov to the Ukraine.”

This proposal was accepted without opposition. But matters in the Ukraine did not improve either. Even as it was, the anarchy that reigned there had made regular military work very difficult, and now Voroshilov’s opposition, with Stalin again behind him, made the work quite impossible.

On January 10, 1919, I transmitted the following message to Svyerdlov, then chairman of the Central Executive Committee, from the station of Gryazi: “I must categorically state that the Tsaritsin policy, which led to the complete disintegration of the Tsaritsin army, cannot be tolerated in the Ukraine . . . The line pursued by Stalin, Voroshilov and Co. means the ruin of the entire enterprise. TROTSKY.”

Lenin and Svyerdlov, who were watching the work of the Tsaritsin group from a distance, were still trying to achieve a compromise. Unfortunately I haven’t their telegram, but on January 11 I answered Lenin: “A compromise is of course necessary, but not one that is rotten. In point of actual fact, all the Tsaritsin men are gathered now at Kharkoff . . . I consider Stalin’s patronage of the Tsaritsin policy a most dangerous ulcer, worse than any treason or betrayal by military specialists.
. . . TROTSKY.”

A compromise is necessary, but not one that is rotten.” Four years later, Lenin returned this phrase, almost word for word, apropos of the same Stalin. It was before the twelfth party congress. Lenin was getting ready to rout the Stalin group, and opened his attack on the line of the question of nationality. When I suggested a compromise, Lenin answered: ”Stalin will make a rotten compromise and then he will deceive us.”

In a letter to the Central Committee in March, 1919, I replied to Zinoviev, who was flirting equivocally with the military opposition: “I cannot engage in investigations of individual psychology to determine which group of the military opposition Voroshilov should be included in, but I will say that the only thing I can blame myself for, in regard to him, is my protracted attempt, extending over two or three months, to proceed by means of negotiations, persuasions, and personal combinations, when the interests of the work demanded instead a firm, administrative decision. For, after all, the problem of the Tenth army was not one of changing Voroshilov’s views, but of securing military success in the shortest possible time.”

On May 30, an insistent demand reached Lenin from Kharkoff to form a separate Ukrainian group of armies under Voroshilov’s command. Lenin communicated this to me at the station of Kantemirovka, over the direct wire. On June 1, I replied to him: “The insistent demands of certain Ukrainians to merge the Second, Eighth and Thirteenth armies under Voroshilov are utterly indefensible. What we need is not an operative unity in the. Donyetzk district but a general unity against Denikin The idea of a military and food dictatorship by Voroshilov (in the Ukraine) is the result of the Donyetzk separatism directed against Kiev (i.e., against the Ukrainian government) and the southern front. I have no doubt that the realization of this plan would only increase the chaos and would utterly kill the direction of operations. Please demand that Voroshilov and Mezhlauk carry out the real task that has been given them.
TROTSKY.”

On June 1, Lenin telegraphed Voroshilov: “It is absolutely imperative that all agitation be stopped immediately, and that all work be placed on a military basis; that no more time be wasted on all the fine projects about separate groups and similar attempts at restoring the Ukrainian front.
LENIN.”

Having learned from experience how difficult it was to manage the undisciplined separatists, Lenin called a meeting of the Politbureau the same day and got the following decision adopted; it was sent immediately to Voroshilov and to all interested persons: “The Politbureau of the Central Committee met on June ’, and in complete agreement with Trotsky rejected decisively the Ukrainian plan to create a separate Donyetzk unity. We demand that Voroshilov and Mezhiauk carry out their immediate work . . . or the day after to-morrow Trotsky will call you to Izyum and make his decisions more detailed . . . By the instruction of the Bureau of the Central Committee.
LENIN.”

Next day, the Central Committee took up the question of the army commander, Voroshilov, who had arbitrarily taken for the use of his army the greater part of the military supplies captured from the enemy. The Central Committee resolved: “To instruct Comrade Rakovsky to telegraph this to Comrade Trotsky at Izyum and ask him to take the most energetic measures to transfer these supplies for the disposal of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic.” On the same day, Lenin informed me by direct wire: “Dybenko and Voroshilov making free with military property. Complete chaos, no serious help given the Donyetzk base.
LENIN.”

In other words, what was going on in the Ukraine was simply a repetition of the practices against which I had fought in Tsaritsin.

It is no wonder that my military work created so many enemies for me. I did not look to the side, I elbowed away those who interfered with military success, or in the haste of the work trod on the toes of the unheeding and was too busy even to apologize. Some people remember such things. The dissatisfied and those whose feelings had been hurt found their way to Stalin or Zinoviev, for these two also nourished hurts. Every reverse at the front led the malcontents to increase their pressure on Lenin. Behind the scenes, these machinations were even then being managed by Stalin. Memoranda were submitted criticising our military policy, my patronage of the “specialists,” the harsh treatment of the communists, and so on. Commanders who had been compelled to resign or frustrated Red “marshals” sent in one report after another pointing out the precariousness of our strategy, the sabotage by the high command, and much else besides.

Lenin was too much absorbed in the general question of direction to make trips to the fronts or to enter into the every-day work of the military department. I stayed at the fronts most of the time, which facilitated the activities of the Moscow whisperers. Their insistent criticisms could not but occasionally disturb Lenin. By the time I paid my visit to Moscow, he had accumulated many doubts and questions. But after half an hour’s talk with me our mutual understanding and complete solidarity were again restored. During our reverses in the East, when Kolchak was approaching the Volga, at one of the meetings of the Soviet of Commissaries to which I had come straight from the train, Lenin wrote me a note: “What if we fire all the specialists and appoint Lashevich as commander-in-chief?” Lashevich was an old Bolshevik who had earned his promotion to the rank of a sergeant in the “German” war. I replied on the same note: “Child’s play!” Lenin looked slyly at me from under his heavy brows, with a very expressive grimace that seemed to say: “You are very harsh with me.” But, deep down, he really liked abrupt answers that left no room for doubt. We came together after the meeting. Lenin asked me various things about the front.

“You ask me,” I said, “if it would not be better to kick out all the old officers? But do you know how many of them we have in the army now?”

“Not even approximately?”

“I don’t know.”

“Not less than thirty thousand.”

“What?”

“Not less than thirty thousand. For every traitor, there are a hundred who are dependable; for every one who deserts, there are two or three who get killed. How are we to replace them all?”

A few days later, Lenin was making a speech on the problems of constructing the socialist commonwealth. This is what he said: “When Comrade Trotsky recently informed me that in our military department the officers are numbered in tens of thousands, I gained a concrete conception of what constitutes the secret of making proper use of our enemy . . ., of how to build communism out of the bricks that the capitalists had gathered to use against us.”

At the party congress held about the same time, Lenin in my absence — I was at the front — came forward with an impassioned defense of the military policy that I was carrying out, against the criticisms of the opposition. For this reason the minutes of the military section of the eighth congress of the party have never to this day been published.

At the front I was once visited by Menzhinsky. I had known him for a long time. In the years of the reaction, he belonged to the group of the extreme left, or the Vperyodovists, as they were called from the name of their paper (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, and others). Menzhinsky himself inclined to French Syndicalism. The Vperyodovists organized a Marxist school in Bologna for ten to fifteen Russian workers who had come over, in the “illegal” revolutionary fashion, from Russia. This was in 1910. For about two weeks I gave a course there on the press, and also conducted conferences on questions of party tactics. There I met Menzhinsky, who had come from Paris. The impression he made on me could best be described by saying that he made none at all. He seemed more like the shadow of some other unrealized man, or rather like a poor sketch for an unfinished portrait. There are such people. Only now and then would an ingratiating smile or a secret play of the eyes betray his eagerness to emerge from his insignificance. I do not know what his conduct was during the October days, or whether he had any at all. But after the seizure of power, in the hustle-bustle of the period he was sent to the ministry of finance. He showed no active enterprise of his own, or rather only enough to reveal his incompetence. Later on, Dzerzhinsky took him over. Dzerzhinsky was a man of tremendous will, passion, and high moral tension. His figure dominated the Che-Ka. 3 No one took any notice of Menzhinsky, so quietly toiling away over his papers. It was not until Dzerzhinsky, toward the end of his life, parted company with his deputy Unschiicht that he suggested appointing Menzhinsky to the vacant post, not being able to find anyone else. The proposal caused general surprise. “But who else?” Dzerzhinsky said, in excuse. “There is no one.” But Stalin supported Menzhinsky. Stalin generally gave his support to people who existed politically only through the grace of the government apparatus. And so Menzhinsky became the true shadow of Stalin in the GPU. After Dzerzhinsky’s death, Menzhinsky became not only the head of the GPU but a member of the Central Committee as well. Thus may the shadow of an unrealized man pass on the bureaucratic screen for that of a real one.

Ten years ago, however, Menzhinsky tried to find a different orbit for himself. He came to me in the train with a report about the special departments of the army. After he had finished the official visit, he began to stammer and shuffle about, with that ingratiating smile of his that makes one feel alarmed and puzzled at the same time. He ended by putting a question to me: Was I aware that Stalin was conducting a very complicated intrigue against me?

“What!” I said in sheer bewilderment — I was so far from thoughts or apprehensions of anything of the sort.

“Yes, he is insinuating to Lenin and some others that you are grouping men about you who are especially hostile to Lenin.”

“You must be mad, Menzhinsky. Please wake up. And as for me, I don’t even want to talk about it.” Menzhinsky left coughing, with shoulders hunched in embarrassment. After that very day I think he began to look for other fields.

After an hour or so of work, I began to feel as if something were the matter with me. This man, with his indistinct speech, had disquieted me as surely as if I had swallowed a piece of glass with my food. I began to recall definite incidents, coupling them together, and there, before my eyes, Stalin emerged in a new light. Considerably later, Krestinsky said to me of Stalin: “He is a bad man, with yellow eyes.” It was this moral yellowness of his that flashed through my mind for the first time after Menzhinsky’s call. When I went to Moscow later for a short visit, I went as usual first to Lenin. We talked about the front. Lenin liked concrete details of life, little facts and casual observations which conducted him, without any beating around the bush, to the heart of things. He couldn’t bear approaching real life at a tangent. Leaping over all intermediate steps, he would put his own particular questions, and I would answer him, all the time admiring the skill with which he drilled through to the facts. We laughed. Lenin was usually in a gay mood. Nor would I describe myself as a gloomy person. In the end I told him about Menzhinsky’s visit at the southern front: “Is it really possible that there is any truth in it?” I asked. I noticed that Lenin immediately became excited, and that the blood rushed to his face. “All trifles,” he kept repeating, although not in a very convincing way.

“I am interested in knowing only one thing,” I said. “Could you possibly entertain, if only for a moment, such a horrible thought as that I was picking up men to oppose you?”

“Trifles,” replied Lenin, but this time with a firmness that instantly reassured me. The little cloud that had hung over us seemed to melt away, and our parting was unusually friendly. But I realized that Menzhinsky was not talking through his hat. If Lenin denied it without telling me everything, it was only because he wanted to avoid a conflict, a personal quarrel.

In this I was fully in accord with him.

But Stalin was obviously sowing trouble. Not until much later did I realize how systematically he had been doing that — almost nothing but that. For Stalin never did any serious work. “Stalin’s first quality is laziness,” Bukharin had once told me, “and his second is an implacable jealousy of any one who knows more or does things better than he. He even tried to dig under Ilyich.”

1. The ’victories’ actually had merely episodic importance. — L.T.

2. This army of irregulars crumbled away at a single blow shortly after, and revealed its complete incompetence. — L.T.

3. The “Chrezvychaynaya Komissia” (the Extraordinary Commission), known in short as the Che-Ka, performed police and judicial duties, chiefly in connection with the defense of the revolution. The functions of the Che-Ka, after its reorganization, have been taken over by the GPU (the State Political Board). — Trans.

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