Breaking Stalin

Breaking Stalin

Chapter V-SR withdrawals

“Yes, Comrade Spiridinova.”  A sinister looking woman had just entered the room flanked by six other members of the Sovnarkom.
“Comrades we have had enough of this.  We Socialist Revolutionaries have supported your party through some of the most difficult stages of the revolution.  We supported your seizures of anarchist holdings, we were even there to push through the reforms of grain requisitioning among the peasants.  But we cannot stand for this.  Comrade Lenin has just signed into effect a peace treaty with the Germans that cedes many of our western territories to their control.  We are leaving our peasant populace completely to the whims of the German menace.  We find ourselves no longer able to participate in this coalition government.  You are completely alone now.”
Without another word she turned and walked out with the other members of the Left SR’s.  Lenin turned and looked exasperatedly at Trotsky.
“See, no commitment.”  Trotsky looked at the rest of the commissioners.

“We are alone, gentlemen.”

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Chapters II, III, and IV-Disappearing the opposition

“Shall we put it to a vote?”  There was a loud murmur of consent from the left side of the room.  The smaller right side was silent.
“All in favor of our new resolution on the distribution of land?”  The left side raised their hands.  “Any opposed?”  The men on the right side sat motionlessly staring at their counterparts.  The secretary raised his voice again.
“Very well, the motion passes 302 votes to none.  And the chair recognizes Mr. Lenin.”  Lenin had stood up from his place on the right side.
“Comrade Chernov, We ask again that the Constituent assembly recognize the Council of People’s Commissars or Sovnarkom as the leading government body.  We ask again that we put the Soviet government to a vote.”  The room was still, but for the few copyists’ quills scratching in the room.  Again the chairman spoke, but this time he sounded frightened.
“Very well, all in favor of voting on the Sovnarkom?”  The small side on the right raised their hands.  “All opposed?”  In unison, the entire left side raised their hands.  “The resolution fails to pass in a vote again.”  A tall man on the left side rose to his feet.
“Now that we’ve approved the distribution of land, let us continue with our alliances.”  His voice droned on, but Lenin remained standing, staring at his enemy.  He stood for what seemed like hours as the Constituent Assembly passed another law without even considering the Bolsheviks on the far side of the hall.  Finally Lenin beckoned to the others and without a word they filed out of the hall onto the dark wintery streets outside.
Chernov and the rest continued without stop, passing resolution after resolution.  Finally, at around 4:30 in the morning a sailor entered and whispered to Chernov that the guards were tired.  It was time to end for the day.  Chernov stood up and a grave silence fell on the assembly.  “We must end for the night, but the people are with us!  Remember that my friends.  We will meet again in the morning.”  Chairs scraped as men rose, congratulating each other on the amount they had accomplished, but there were a sober few, who got up and left without a word.  They were those who had come late and had seen the Latvian regiment violently disperse the crowd.  Yes, the people were with them, but the army was with the Bolsheviks, and they were unsurprised when they arrived the next morning to find the doors to the Tauride Palace bolted shut.
“So much for democracy.” One delegate said in disgust.  No one knew just how right he was.

Lenin swung around in his chair shunning the back of his bald head to the dark window behind him.  A dimly lit figure, his freshly pressed gray suit silhouetted by the light outside the room, stepped inside the room and closed the door.
“Ach, Leva, won’t you come in and sit down.”  Came Lenin’s cordial high-pitched voice.  Trotsky sat down near Lenin taking off his spectacles and wiping them with his jacket.
“Volodya, it’s starting to get messy out there.”  Lenin turned back to look outside his dark window.
“You know…it’s dirty in here too.”  Trotsky nodded.
“And what…are we planning to do about it?”  Lenin turned back and gazed apprehensively at his friend.  He stood up, pulling a large sheet of paper out of his cabinet, and beckoning Trotsky to him.
“Do you know what this is, Leva?”  Trotsky looked down at the paper taking in every detail.
“Is that Dzerzhinski’s signature?”
“Yes.  I had the Cheka (Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage) sign off on it.  It’s a report of all anarchist groups and any counter-revolutionary groups.”  He gave Trotsky a sinister smile.  “Just to be safe.”  Trotsky laughed sarcastically.
“Do you intend to raid them?  Attack them?  Just keep tabs on them?  I mean the pacifists just managed to outlaw the death penalty.  That’s a mighty big list, and we have no means of controlling them.”  Lenin looked back outside his window.
“You and I both know that in order for the revolution to survive, the people have to be coerced.  The list is long because we are notoriously without any means to suppress them.  We are in power because the workers in cities like us, but if we are to remain in power, we must either form coalitions with those the peasants like, or the peasants must come to fear our power.  But we must wait for our opportunity.  You and I are militant warlords, something the other parties lack.  The more we fail to reach consensus with them the angrier they will become, until they walk out, and it will be then that we must establish total control.  Can I count on you comrade?”  Trotsky’s chin quivered with excitement.
“I’ve always said, we wouldn’t enter into the kingdom of socialism in white gloves on a polished floor.”

“Read the decree boy!”  A young man in his tattered brown clothes stood in front of the large house on the outskirts of Moscow.  His hysterical breathing was nothing compared to the terror on his face.  “I said read!”  The man gulped looking around at the men in their brown uniforms machine guns and artillery pointed at the house.  He began with a squeak.
“I-it is the mandate of the Council of People’s Commissars that all anarchist organizations cease their current activities of counter-revolution and are h-hereby disbanded.  Any continued meeting of such organizations or rhetoric in the streets is hereby prohibited by force of law.  The anarchist newspaper will cease printing and will hereby become state property.  Any who give themselves up willingly will be granted amnesty and will not be persecuted for their prior crimes.”  The policeman took back the decree.
“Well, you heard him, one of your own, if you come out now, we will let you go unharmed.”  A voice rang out from the dark house.
“Yeah, and what if we don’t?”  The police officer smiled.
“Well, then it will be the pleasure of my men to escort you from the premises.”  A few moments of agitated silence ensued.  A horse whinnied, the soft breeze brushed a tree against a fence in the distance.

“Come now, we haven’t got all night.”  The dark house was silent.  Suddenly a shot was fired from the side of the house.  Another rang from behind the policemen themselves.  The men turned and fired haphazardly into the darkness.  The artillery and machine guns roared, blowing holes into the sides of what had once been the home of the Club of Anarchists in Moscow.  The brutal repression of anti-communist forces had begun.

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Part IV; Chapter I-Two worlds collide in peace

“I have to admit, this delegation Mr. Joffe is not at all what we were expecting, but it is rather fascinating.”  Adolf looked quietly down the table of his fellow Soviets.
“Well yes, I will admit that I have never talked politics with such a distinguished…ummmm…delegation.”  It was a compliment, but Adolf couldn’t help but notice the emphasis he put on the word distinguished.  “As I was saying,” General Hoffman turned to the woman to his left, “it is an honor to be speaking to such a lovely assassin.  I hope you won’t be attempting to take any of our esteemed generals’ lives, although none of us could dream for a gentler, more trained hand.”  The woman blushed at the perspicacious wit apparent in the grand array of diplomats and generals before her.
It was an odd meeting indeed.  It was as if both sides were meeting a world they had only dreamed of.  For the poor Russian delegation, which included workers, soldiers, sailors, women, and a peasant, it was a world of dream and fancy.  For the diplomats and generals of the Germans, Austrians, Turks, and Bulgars, it was a scene of poverty and chaos, the scene of a new world bereft of monarchical authority, the stuff of nightmares.  The longer the Germans ate with the Russians, the more they realized how little they wanted part in this new anarchical society.  Russia, it seemed, was a mud squalor.
At the far end of the table the worker was picking his teeth with a fork, and a server asked the peasant in his rough muzhik garb what type of wine he would have.  His reply was followed by raucous laughter from the undisciplined Russians.  General Hoffman stopped the server on his way out.
“What exactly did the peasant say?”  The server smiled bemusedly.

“I think he asked for whichever is the strongest.”

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Chapter XIV-The parting

“Bukharin, we need you.”  Kolya looked up from his walk at his friend who had gone through nearly everything with him, while sharing the same name as he.  He marveled at how the wet spring weather seemed to do nothing at all to his friend’s well slicked black hair.  His overly large spectacles reminded Kolya of the bug eyes he used to look at with a magnifying glass as a young boy.
Kolya smiled and shook his head.  “You flatter me, Osinskii.  You have never needed me.  You have always been one of our brightest intellectuals.  You, Smirnov, Stukov, you would’ve changed the face of Russia without me.”  Osinskii let out a sickly laugh as if his lungs could just manage to push it out before devolving into a cough.
“Now it is my turn to be flattered, but you and I both know that no one would have taken us seriously had we not all been together.  We need each other.  We need you as much as you need us.”  Kolya turned off the street down a concrete staircase leading down to the river’s edge looking towards what Osinskii thought looked like a rather bleak and wet Kremlin.  He watched as Kolya stooped down near the river’s edge and placed his hand in the river.  A second later, he pulled it out holding what looked like a small beetle.  Osinskii took a step back, surprised at his friend’s spontaneous find.
“Do you know what this is Osinskii?”
“Well it looks like a beetle.”  Kolya laughed at his friend’s face as he put it back in the water.
“Haha, it’s a crawling water beetle, otherwise known as a Haliplidae.  Come here comrade.”  His friend stooped down hesitantly next to him.
“Now I want you to reach down in the water, touching the concrete right here, and I want you to tell me what your hand touches.”  Osinskii was reminded of their college days, when Bukharin would point out seemingly every insect known to man.  He didn’t like the creeping crawlers that much, but he knew his friend would not let him leave without doing it.  So he reached down slowly, feeling the oily touch of the underwater cement, the seaweed stuck to it, and then he found it.  Bukharin could tell by his face he had found something.
“What’d you find?”
“Well, it seems like there’s a large crack in the cement.”
“Large enough for a creature to hide in?”
“Well I suppose so.”
“Beetles are interesting creatures.  They manage to survive in some of the harshest conditions on earth and some of the friendliest.  Sometimes they hide unsuspectingly underneath the leaves of a tree, and sometimes they hide in cracks of cement like this one.”  Osinskii was beginning to wonder where he was going with this.
“You’re saying we…hide, we hide from the new economic policies because we lost the fight on the war.”  Kolya stood up and sighed before helping his friend up.
“I’m not saying we hide completely, but we should be like the beetle.”
“Be like the beetle?  Are you hearing yourself Bukharin?”  Kolya laughed waving off his friend.
“Yes, I know it sounds stupid, but the water beetle doesn’t just hide because he is afraid.  He hides because he tires of fighting the current.  He hides because…because the crack is his home.”  Osinskii stared dumbfounded at Kolya.  “You know I agree with you on the economic policies, but I also agree with Lenin.  Yes, I know his policies are moderate at best; the creation of an 8 hour week, and abolishment of property, only to reprivatize industry doesn’t seem to be the revolution we envisioned.  But it doesn’t mean it’s not the revolution we envisioned either.  My name will be with yours on all publications, but I am confused comrade.  The current is strong, and for a time I must stay in the crack.”  Osinskii peered at the wall on the far side of the river.

“If that’s how you feel…but don’t wait there too long, comrade.  You know we came to power because everyone else was still ‘figuring things out’.”  Kolya nodded sadly as they looked at the red walls across the river, neither daring to speak what was on their mind.  But deep down they knew the deplorable truth.  Their paths were parting, and without each other, neither would succeed.

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Chapter XIII-Defeated

“Ah, Stukov, Bukharin, I’m glad you could make it.”  Lenin’s raspy voice rang out clearly as eyes rose to follow the two Muscovian leaders.  “As I was saying, we need a respite.  I don’t think we should wholly give up on revolutionary war, but we can’t fight it like this.  Our troops are disordered, supply lines are short.  We need time if we are to fight the capitalist camp.  We need out of the war.  Either that or there has been a new development, the Entente want us on to continue fighting with them.  They will send us weapons if we continue.”  Mixed responses echoed through the large chamber.  Murmurs of agreement were covered by angry voices and eyes flashing towards Bukharin and Stukov.  Lenin too couldn’t help but glancing up at his friend.  Bukharin was furiously shaking his head.
“Comrade Lenin would have us believe that we can somehow isolate the capitalist camps.  That if we agree with some of them, we can then call upon the international proletariat to rise up against them.  However, I do think he is right on one issue, we cannot continue to fight this war alone.  We are weak, we cannot defeat the Germans.  We can merely stall them, and if we continue the war perhaps they will arrive at our very gates.  Perhaps they will take Petrograd and Moscow.  But is the war lost comrades?  If our cities fall, if our armies collapse and run, is the war lost?”  Kolya’s quick voice silenced the room like a barrage of cannon fire.  “I tell you no!  This war, the war of revolution, the war on which all our hopes and dreams rest.  It is not to be fought by raging swaths of gargantuan armies.  It is not fought in the muddy trenches on the edge of marshlands.  No, the war we fight is in the heart of the nation-state as we know it.  A complete and utter victory can only be achieved in the factories, in the hearts of workers round the world.  What unites us is our hate of the capitalist camp!  If we compromise we confuse the very idea that will build a proletarian state.”
“State!  Careful boy.”  A gruff old voice growled out, breaking Kolya’s thoughts just long enough for Stalin to rise to his feet.
“Comrade Bukharin says the battle can be carried on if we lose our cities, but I ask him how?  He himself wrote of the overpowering strength of the new menace of state capitalism.  How are we to carry on a war if we have lost the war?”  There was a loud roar of agreement as Stalin returned to his seat, flashing a glance up at his friend.  Kolya could hear Ivan’s deep seething breaths in the background.  Kolya held up his hand to relax his friend before putting them together and placing them to his lips.
“Comrade Stalin is correct in questioning my theory.  It is, indeed, inherently flawed.  And quite honestly I do not know how we are to continue the war.  But this much I do know, with the creation of the new state capitalism, we need a world at war to weaken them enough to stand a chance.  And I ask you, if the war ends, if we fight on the side of capitalists, how does Marx’s dream survive?  Yes, we survive, but does it come at too high of a price?”  Kolya sat down to complete silence.  Not even Lenin moved.  The room was frozen in time, but it would soon become a hive of activity again as the debate raged on, until finally, they ratified Lenin’s motion.  Bukharin had been defeated.

But only just.

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Chapter XII-Where does the revolution end?

“Kolya, it’s another telegram from Lenin.”
“I don’t care, I don’t want to read another one of his blasted telegrams!  I already know he’s given up on the revolution.  You know it as well as I do!”
“But, Kolya, we have a following, we can stop him if we try.  We can stop this peace armistice from happening!”  Kolya looked pensively at Ivan.  The revolution in Russia was over, but the rest of Europe had failed to follow suit, and now the Bolsheviks were left with an impoverished country pushed to the brink of collapse by the most costly war the world had ever known.
“Lenin has always been a na├»ve candidate for peace.  He honestly thinks Capitalism will just fall into our hands peacefully, and it’s a downright ridiculous notion that has only been reinforced by the revolution in Petrograd.  Here it was different, if only he had been here…”
“But he wasn’t, Kolya, you know he can never experience what we experienced out there.  He didn’t feel the beating heart of the proletariat casting off the yoke of centuries of captivity.  It was here in Moscow that men bled and died for the revolution, and we fought for it, Kolya, it was us, not him!  People are willing to follow that.  They’re willing to follow us.”  Silence accompanied his words as Kolya looked out over the ominously dark, snowy river in front of the two of them.  It was a cold night, and the black river pulled his gaze into the gaping chasm, stealing away his heat.
“Ivan, you know what you’re asking for?”  Ivan looked away before looking back and nodding apprehensively, but Bukharin continued.  “You’re calling for us to take control of the Bolshevik party, and you’re right, we do have a large part of the populace behind us.  Few want to see the war end where so many lives have been lost, and if it ends now, it will end in vain.  But I fear you ask too much.”
“Why?  Because you’re afraid of old man Lenin?”
“Haha, you know better than that.  Lenin and I have always had our differences, but we have also seen many things eye-to-eye.  And we have seen them because we have shared a vision.  The vision that one day the worker would be free, that the tragic inequality that encompassed the existence of our ancestors would not control the lives of our seed.  We see a world of equality.  It’s a world of hope, Ivan.  And I know you see it too.”
“But you see a world of hope, not just a country, and there cannot be hope if we are isolated from the world.  You know this.”  Kolya nodded dejectedly.
“Yes, Ivan, you are right.  It saddens me, if Lenin wins, perhaps my dream will always remain that, it will remain just a dream.”
“Then why don’t we challenge him, take control?”
“Because with Lenin the dream has hope, it has a possibility.  If the February Revolution taught us anything, it should have taught us that Russia is fragmented, it’s anarchic, but the people bonded to join us.  Yes, we are the opposition, but should we raise too strong of an opposition this bond will crack and eventually break, and with it breaks any dream of proletarian rule in Russia or the world.  I agree with you, we should not sign an armistice, but we cannot split the party now, to do so would destroy us all.  We must convince Lenin or not at all.  We are the leaders of the left, of Moscow.  Lenin is the leader of the right and Petrograd.  With him, the dream has a hope of realization, perhaps not now, but there is still a dream.  Without him, even if we take command, the party fractures and disintegrates, and Russia will be snatched up by bickering capitalist powers.  And that proletariat, those who were on the verge of freedom, will be enslaved, forgotten, and plunged back into the drab inhumane factory, from which he will never return.”
Ivan looked sadly at his friend.  “I’m sorry you feel that way, Kolya but think on it.  If we are to win, we need you.”

“Yes, I know my friend.”  And he looked down at his watch.  “It’s time to begin.”  And with that they turned and walked into the large gaping doors, into the lair of the Bolsheviks.

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Chapter XI-Help arrives

“Kolya!  We need to get out of the street!  Kolya!”  The voice fell like a brush of warm air amidst the loud popping of guns on the sobbing Bukharin, holding the dying man in his arms.  In the blink of an eye, Ivan was there, prying his friend away, pulling him back to the safety of the rough blockade of boxes and stones about 50 yards away.
They reached the blockade, and both collapsed on the ground.  Ivan looked around distractedly at the remnants of the Red Guard that had returned.  He reached for a young messenger.
“Go, tell Usievich that we need a redirect from as many forces as he can muster, we need them here as fast as he can get them.”  As he spoke he realized how tight of a grip he had on the boy, he was turning pale from fear.  He released his grip and the boy shot away like a bullet; Ivan knew at least part of it was from fear.  He looked around.  They were all afraid now.  The Kremlin had fallen, just like Usievich had predicted, and then Ryabstev had turned his attention to breaking the siege.  He had hit the bridge first, the stormy tirade of the organized men against the make-shift militia was terrifying, but the Red Guards had held their ground.  It helped that they controlled the high ground and many shot from the protection of the buildings as the Provisional Government’s regiment advanced to the end of the bridge.
For hours the battle had reigned, bullets roamed the air as plentiful as raindrops in a spring storm.  Many had fallen, but the Guards had held their ground.  The regiment had retreated back into the haze and smoke, but for how long Ivan didn’t know.  Kolya grasped his friend’s hand, trying to regain his breath.  They waited hand in hand for what seemed like hours.
The sound of running feet brought them both back to their senses.  The boy was coming back with a message for Ivan.  He opened it gingerly.
“Well, what’s it say?”  Kolya asked not knowing whether to be excited or despondent.
“It says Red Guards are on their way and will be here within an hour.  Troops from Petrograd have just arrived in the city.”  He let out a sigh.

“Do ya hear that Comrades?  Our Red Guards from Petrograd are here to join the fight!  We’re going to win boys!”  Loud cheers and shouts reverberated eerily off the walls around them, reminding them the battle wasn’t over.  It would take nearly two weeks for the Bolsheviks to take Moscow.  But they were going to win.  The October Revolution was a success.

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Chapter X-The Kremlin is taken and lost

It was October 26th, Kolya and Ivan stood silently among the others on the newly formed Military Revolutionary Committee.  Kolya couldn’t help but feel uneasy, standing safely in their new headquarters at the hotel Dresden.  He wanted to be out on the streets with the other revolutionary forces.  They were just hearing the report of the day’s activities from the newly elected military leader Usievich.
“We have taken Marx’s advice, “Defense is the death of an uprising.”  Some of our MRC forces have infiltrated the Kremlin.  They have taken up watch on the walls, but have since been surrounded by Ryabtsev’s men.  On the other hand, our red guards have blockaded bridges and streets surrounding the Garden Circle, preventing Ryabtsev and his men from receiving aid from the outside.  We just received a message from Colonel Ryabtsev calling on our total surrender and disbandment of our troops or he will attack the Kremlin.”
Many of the committee shook their heads sadly.  “But his cause is lost, he cannot carry on this battle, surely he must know that Petrograd has fallen.”
“I don’t know what he knows, but he is still in command of the strongest troops in Moscow.  Our contingencies are a trained militia of peasants at best, not a crack force of highly trained veterans.”
“But we hold the numbers.”  One committee man blurted out.  Another committeeman, a Menshevik, quickly silenced him.
“And how many socialists must die for our victory to be assured?  Yes we outnumber them, and yes we have the Kremlin, but our force in the Kremlin stands little to no chance.  It was built with secret tunnels known only to those crack troops that protect it.  Our men would be slaughtered in a matter of hours.  And yes we have them surrounded, but we cannot attack them, we have to wait for them to be drawn out to attack us, crossing the bridge into Zamoskvorechye is suicide, and if we wait too long, who knows if we will receive reinforcements or if they will?”
His last words cast a brooding silence over the room.  Ivan glanced at his friend, who was deep in thought.  A door burst to the right of the committee and a man came running in holding out a letter to the elderly Usievich.  He opened it scrutinously and looked up with a defiant yet empty look on his face.
“They’ve broken off negotiations and declared martial law.”  He shook his head sadly as the door opened again and the same messenger entered carrying another message.
“And they’ve opened fire on the Kremlin.”  The room was dreadfully silent as if each man contemplated the failure of one thing together.

“Well what are you waiting for?  Battle stations, prepare for the worst, we must hold them!”  A few moments later the room was empty, and Kolya and Ivan found themselves jogging towards the city center, towards Krymsky Bridge, where some of the bloodiest fighting would soon take place.

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Chapter IX-Blood in the streets

Kolya flung himself down onto the rough cobblestone street, covering the bloody man dying on the street.  A terrifying scene of crimson carnage surrounded Ivan and Nikolai.  Kolya unbuttoned the man’s shirt, struggling to rip a piece of cloth from the material to somehow stem the incessant bleeding from a wound in his throat.  The man was sobbing uncontrollably, trying to speak, but unable.  Kolya reached around hugging him with one arm while holding the cloth to his neck with the other, painfully unaware of the blood now slowly oozing down his arm.  He looked back desperately at Ivan, looking for advice, for hope, anything to save him, but they both knew the man’s death was out of their hands.  Kolya looked back woefully into the man’s eyes as he shuddered in pain.  The man was one of many to die in the dreadful revolution of Moscow.

Kolya wondered what had happened.  It had been so well planned out.  Petrograd had fallen, almost without a fight, but not Moscow.  Hundreds had lost their lives for his cause.  Marx’s bloody revolution had begun.

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Chapter VIII-Economics

“Correspondence from Lenin, Comrade Bukharin.”  Kolya looked up from the paper he was writing on his desk and beckoned to the young man, who had just walked into the room to bring it to him.  He gave an abrupt salute before exiting.  Kolya smiled, the man was barely younger than himself, and yet he was being saluted.  He shook his head again as he opened the folded letter.
He stared at it for what seemed like minutes before the voice of Ivan in the corner interrupted his thoughts.  “Well, what does it say?”
Bukharin sighed, “It says the revolution is near, and we have no bloody economic plan.  He says we…are to come up with one.”
“But we have one,”  Ivan interjected elatedly, “the revolution of the proletariat in the modern capitalist nations…”
“Yes, I know, but he wants a backup plan.”
“A backup plan?  You mean completely give up on the whole concept of Marxism and just have a revolution here in Russia?”  Kolya shook his head in confusion, but still smiled back at his friend’s incredulous face hopefully.
“Well…it is just a backup plan.”  Ivan gave a slightly relieved smirk.
“At least the revolution is close, it’s already October.”

“Yes, the leaves have changed, one would think the government should too, don’t you think?”  They both smiled naively at each other, not knowing what the end of October would really bring.

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Chapter VII-Congress compromises

“Comrade Bukharin is right, and he has made a fine speech today, but he is confused about one issue.  That issue comes in regards to the petty bourgeois (the peasants).  He says we can look to the rest of Europe during the revolution, that we can look to the more advanced countries’ working classes to help us through off the bourgeois yoke.  But he mistakenly believes this help will come now.  The unfortunate reality of the revolution is that we must begin it!  The world will not follow UNTIL we have succeeded in this country.  And if we are to succeed we need to combine the might of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisies.  We need their strength in the countryside, and we need their strength in the army.  If they are with us, no one can be against us!”  Kolya looked up dismissively at his old friend Soso, standing there so proudly.  The great leader of the Bolsheviks while Lenin was in hiding.

It was the Sixth Party Congress in 1917, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.  Many of the party were in hiding from earlier mistakes.  Few had even made the journey to the party congress this year.  Kolya looked around sadly.  Perhaps his old friend was right and now was the time to compromise.  But he couldn’t help but feel that by doing so, they would betray Marx, and the theory to which he had committed his life.  And he couldn’t shake the feeling that by betraying Marx, the theory would eventually betray them.

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Chapter VI-A youthful revolution

Kolya stood silently heaving in the vast room.  He was used to getting lost in the vastness of the room; its tidy, tattered desks seemed to create space, absolving those in it into their own worlds.  But today was different.  The room appeared strangely small to Kolya.  Still immaculately tidy, it carried a charged pulse.  Fiery eyes bore down on him as though he were a piece of hot metal heated and placed on the cold anvil waiting for the strike.
“But his thesis is insane.  He is literally calling for all of us to abandon our fellow workers.  He wants us to completely part ways with the Provisional Government.”  Kolya peered back at the elderly set of eyes steaming at him from afar.
“He’s not calling for us to abandon our fellow workers.  Instead, he calls on us to be strong and resist the temptation to join a weak Provisional Government that has failed to do anything of value.  You want to talk about literals?  It is literally political suicide for the party to join the Provisional Government!”  Ivan standing off in the distance smiled as his friend hit his stride like a horse finding the right lead, stomping quickly but firmly.  “We already missed our opportunity to join the government, why?  Because those most willing to take the reins of the new government were still in exile.  And now that they have returned, we’ve realized that we were the luckiest of any of the socialist parties.  We avoided becoming part of the watchdog that tries to limit the bourgeois from gaining complete control, but has limited control itself.  Don’t you see?  The Provisional Government is paralyzed, and people are beginning to realize it!  And who will they look to when their government fails them?  They’ll look to us-to the Bolsheviks!”  There were many nods and general murmurs of approval from the onlookers, but another of the older Bolsheviks raised his voice.
“But how are we supposed to take power?  The people aren’t just going to give it to us.  We’ve all seen what’s happening in the countryside.  The peasants are seizing land of their own accord; the government has failed to decree anything, and as such, the country is slowly descending into mass anarchy, a country like that cannot be ruled.  They won’t democratically elect us.  And eventually those in power will just have to use their power, and we, the Bolsheviks will be left out.  Why?  Because we were too afraid to join them, and because we were too weak to seize power from them.”  The men fell silent again at the old man’s wisdom, and all eyes returned to Kolya.
He looked over at Ivan and beckoned him to come next to him.  “Comrades, they say we are too weak.  They say we are too few in numbers to hold this revolution that Lenin wants.  And they are sadly right.  At the moment, we are too weak.”  He lifted Ivan’s arm revealing the beggarly holes in his suit coat, and he did the same with his own.  “For years we have struggled, we have patiently waited, and it seemed like we waited in vain for this great revolution Marx promised us.  And just when we thought the capitalist camps were going to win, the world changed, and like the Phoenix we rose from the ashes of exile and imprisonment.
They say we are weak, pfff!  We are few!  But that does not imply weakness!  Nay, the government is weak!  And it is weak because it is too moderate.  Russia is changing, people are ready for change, the revolution is coming, and radicalization is the norm.  Radicalization will draw Russians to us like nothing else could.  Yes, now we are few.  But men will flock to us like sheep seeking shelter from the storm of Capitalism.  Mark my words; and Comrade Lenin’s truth, no compromise, no participation.  We will be our own beacon of hope, and Russians will follow.”

Ivan embraced Kolya tightly as a loud storm of approval followed the speech.  He knew Kolya was right.  The world had changed, and it would be radicals, not conservatives, who would lead this new glorious revolution.  The people were ready for an upending of the roots.  Moscow needed their young patriots.

© A River Runs Through It Photography

Chapter V-GULag historicity

A few years back, I visited the GULag Museum in Moscow.  Perhaps from a westerner’s point of view, this museum is a how a Russian museum is supposed to look.  It was cold, damp, and enclosed in a tight concrete prison, lost in the middle of the labyrinth of Muscovian streets.  It tells the story of some of the darkest secrets of Stalinism.
For those who are unfamiliar, between the years of 1934 and 1940 Stalin held what became known as the Great Purge.  For those six years party members liquidated each other in an attempt to survive the purge themselves.  These were Communist party members themselves turning each other over to the government.  Now in the USSR, contrary to popular belief, not everyone was a member of the Communist party, so those who were not, were ironically exempt from this great purge.  By the end, nearly 1.7 million communists were sent to the GULag, of which 700,000 never returned.  This is only a brief introduction, but we will revisit the Great Purge.
But part of the museum is dedicated to the memory of high ranking party leaders that disappeared after the great purge.  They disappeared because after they were sent away or killed, Stalin had important photos retouched without them, he had their names removed from records, and in many cases he vindicated them in events, in which they took no part.
Bukharin is a great example of this.  After his death in the purge, records were changed vindicating him as a traitor to the Bolshevik cause.  I was recently reading an old USSR publication from 1939, where he and Trotsky were accused of fighting on the side of the Whites during the civil war, something that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
But my novel is about the truth of the revolution, and while great scholarship has been done on Bukharin since his name was exonerated by later Secretaries, like Khrushchev, the problem remains that those closest to him, friends like Osinskii, Stukov, and Piatakov, have all but disappeared into the vast chasm of history.  Unfortunately for the historian in me, there is a void in the historicity of adding his friends, but there is also potential for the writer in me.

For example, with Stukov, I found a picture of the leaders in the Left Opposition in the Communist party, which definitely contains Stukov.  A picture of 10 leaders, of which only three are known, so I picked one and named him Stukov.  Also a small biography exists of him, just a paragraph long, but not much more besides his name popping in and out of various records.  So I will attempt to fill the void, and whether I’m wrong or right, hopefully, I will be close.

© A River Runs Through It Photography

Chapter IV-Friends reunited

It was a hot day in Moscow.  Kolya reached up to wipe away a bead of perspiration from his face.  The searing sun did nothing to eradicate the dirt and grime on the old streets of Moscow.  The buildings themselves had a black grimy discoloration from the coal in the factories.  Kolya took no heed of it though.  His object was at the end of the street.  It was a relatively tall three story building that belonged to the corner of two streets.  It was the Bolshevik headquarters in Moscow, and he was going to see his friend Ivan Stukov.
When he first arrived in Moscow, he had spent days trying to find remnants of his friends like Osinskii, and Stukov, maybe even Piatakov, and a few days ago he had finally succeeded.  It turned out the headquarters had been moved now that the Bolsheviks didn’t have to hide out underground, and the new building in Moscow had become a rallying point for old Bolsheviks returning from exile.
The street was quiet except for the occasional passerby.  The sun ensured that many would do their day to day tasks at a more enjoyable hour in the evening or morning.  Far off in the distance, however, Bukharin could spot his old friend sitting with his back propped against the wall, having a smoke.
Kolya strode happily to his friend and plopped down next to him.  The haze of smoke from the cigarette blended nicely with the haze rising from the sun’s rays impacting the earth.  Ivan offered Kolya a drag, which he accepted willingly.  It had been a long time since he’d had a smoke.  It reminded him of his old school days back in the University.  Those days seemed so long ago, so much had changed, they had been through so much.  And yet, here he was, sitting with Stukov, having a drag, and it seemed as though nothing had changed at all.  But everything had changed.  He could tell something in those eyes had changed.  There was an air of defiance or a coldness that had replaced the old geniality in his friend.  His puffy dark hair had gained a couple small strands of white.  Bukharin was glad to see they were still the same height, captivity hadn’t changed that, and it looked as though his friend was still unable to grow a mustache.
Bukharin smiled at his friend as he passed the cigarette back.  It reminded him of back when Ivan had been the only one able to procure cigarettes and other desirables.  His father had been a priest, and he had gone through school in psychoneuralosis before entering the University.  He had been part of the privileged class before the war, and it was unlike many in the upper strata to join the cause of the Marxists, but Ivan had joined.  He had a strong voice for someone so small, just like Kolya.  But whereas Kolya ruled deliberations with his energy, Ivan had a tinge of calmness about him.  He was energetic when he spoke, but there was a calming nature about it.  It was as if he could reassure the loudest heart with his voice alone.
Together they had led the new Bolsheviks after 1905.  And they were back again.  They had both suffered much.  It had pained Kolya to know how much his friend had suffered.  He had been cast into exile in the Tomsk region from 1911-1917, he returned to find his family had disappeared during the course of those years.  He guessed the Tsar had them exiled somewhere as well, but to where, he could only guess.
No, he had no family anymore, nor did Kolya.  Their family was the Bolshevik party now.  And words failed to express what it meant to have each other again.

“Where’d you get the cigarette?”  Kolya asked with a wink.  Ivan just grinned back blowing smoke at his grinning old friend.  Kolya sputtered in the haze, but for a moment in time, he was back.  Back to 1908, back to his carefree revolutionary self, unmarred by repression, the dust, the grime of time, they all faded away in that hazy smoke.  Ivan laughed at the satisfied look on Kolya’s face, but he too knew the feeling.  This time would be different.  This time they could win.

© A River Runs Through It Photography

Chapter III-Moscow!

Days turned into weeks as Kolya slept fitfully on his small straw bale.  He spoke furtively with the natives as people hopped on at their small villages and off at the larger cities like Omsk.  He learned what he could about local opinion of the new government.  In the villages it seemed as though nothing had changed.  The peasants got along well enough, but were disgruntled with the war.  Few in the countryside had been untouched by the war.  There were rumors of the government taking food, and of forced conscription.  Even now with the new government the peasants bled themselves dry, and the promises for the reconstitution of land were unfulfilled.
But what was more disconcerting to Kolya was the fact that the workers seemed to hate the new government.  Every single worker he talked to complained about the shortage of supplies in cities and how food and manpower were being requisitioned to the front to support the troops, in a war they had all thought would be over by now.  There was a rumor of mass agitation and frustration with the government at large.  Revolution had carried the promise of self-government, but everyone had soon found this to be nothing but empty promises.
Kolya was disturbed by the news.  The more and more he heard of the reception of the revolution the more he realized it seemed to be the foreshock.  The earthquake had yet to come.  Not enough had changed.  The proletariat had yet to take complete control.
After weeks of travel he heard the final whistle of the train.  They were approaching the central station in Moscow.  He was home.  The door slid open, and Kolya slid nimbly out onto the platform below.  He looked around at the familiar old train station.  But it was empty this time.  No one was there to greet his return to Russia.  After years of travel and exile for the cause he would die for, he found himself alone again.  He looked forward at the long black smokestack in the train that had carried him across the country, and he realized he was no longer an outlaw.  He was back in Moscow.  He was a leader again, a writer, and inciter.  The big old leaders of the Bolsheviks: Lenin, Stalin, Kamenev, they were all in Petrograd.  Moscow was his playground now, and with any luck at finding his old school buddies, his generation would lead the party in Moscow.

He straightened his coat jacket and began walking out of the station.  A hardened, veteran, Bolshevik exile had finally reached his threshold of opportunity.

© A River Runs Through It Photography