Marking the centenary of the October Revolution, I am publishing translations of three articles from “Argumenty i Fakty”. The first article in a series of two from 11.04.2012, taking a look at who was Valdimir Uljanov / Lenin. The article is by a reputable historian and writer Nikolai Starikov.
Vladimir Lenin’s journey with a group of friends in a “sealed train” starting from a quiet and well-to-do Switzerland, through Germany and into the revolutionary Russia, that took place exactly 95 years ago (the article is from 2012), gave rise to the rumours that Lenin was a German spy.
This trip that changed the course of the world history, still raises many questions. Chief among them: who helped Lenin to return home? In the spring of 1917 Germany was at war with Russia, and it would have benefited Germans to drop at the heart of the enemy a handful of Bolsheviks who preached the defeat of their government in the imperialist war. But not all is that simple, says the writer and historian Nikolai Starikov, author of the books “Chaos and revolution – weapon of the dollar”, “1917. The answer to “Russian” revolution,” etc.
– If Lenin was a German spy, he would have immediately begun to seek the return to Petrograd through Germany. And would, of course, immediately get a go-ahead. But reality was different. Let’s remember: tiny Switzerland, where Iljich lived, was surrounded by France, Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary, locked in mortal combat.
There were two ways to leave Switzerland: through an Entente member country or through the territory of its opponents. Lenin initially selects the first option. On the 5th (18th) March (here and further the date in bracket is according to the new style. – Ed.) Inessa Armand receives from him the following telegram: “My Dear friend! We are dreaming about the trip… I would love to give You an assignment in England to learn quietly and surely, if I could pass through. I shake your hand. Yours V.U.”. Between the 2nd (15th) and 6th (19th) of March of 1917, Lenin telegraphs to his colleague Ganetsky in Stockholm, presenting a different plan: to travel to Russia under the guise of… a deaf-mute Swede. While on March the 6th, in a letter to V. A. Karpinsky he suggests: “Buy in your name papers for a journey to France and England, and I will use them to go through England (and Holland) to Russia. I can wear a wig”.
The first mention of Germany as a route appears in a telegram to Karpinsku from Lenin on the 7th (20th) of March – on the 4th day of the search for options. But soon he confesses in a letter to I. Armand: “It does not work out with Germany”. Isn’t it strange? Lenin could not agree with the “accomplices” – the Germans – on the passage through their territory and was for a long time inventing workarounds: either to “quietly” go through England, or in a wig with false documents through France, or to pretend to be deaf and dumb Swede…
Conspiracy of the “allies”
I am convinced that even if there had been some secret agreements between Lenin and the German authorities at that point, they were very vague. Otherwise there would initially be no difficulties with his delivery to Russia. The Germans did not expect a successful February revolution, they did not expect any revolution at all! Because, apparently, they were not preparing any revolution. Then who prepared the February of 1917? For me the answer is obvious: Western “allies” of Russia in the Entente. It is their agents who brought first the workers and then the soldiers out on the streets of Petrograd, while the British and French ambassadors were in charge of these events. It happened unexpectedly, not only for the Germans, but also for the Bolsheviks. Lenin and his comrades were not required until February, the “allied” intelligence agencies were able to organize labour unrest and military rebellion without their aid. But so as to bring the revolutionary process to fulfilment (i.e., the collapse of Russia, which would fully subordinate her to the will of the Atlantic powers), it was required to add fresh yeast to the boiler – in the form of Lenin.
There is every reason to believe that in March 1917 it was the “allied” intelligence that in separate negotiations with the Germans convinced them not to hinder the movement of the Russians-Bolsheviks (i.e. representatives of the enemy country, who, according to the law of war, should have been arrested and put in jail until the end of the war). And the Germans agreed to that.
General Erich Ludendorff wrote in his memoirs: “By sending Lenin to Russia our government assumed a special responsibility. From a military point of view his journey through Germany had its justification: Russia had to collapse into the abyss.” After learning the good news, Lenin was delighted. “You will maybe say that the Germans will not provide a carriage. Let’s bet that they will!” he writes on March the 19th (April 1st) to Inessa Armand. And later, also to her: “We have more money for the trip, than what I anticipated… our comrades in Stockholm helped a lot”. Less than two weeks passed between the two letters to his beloved (“Germany won’t let us pass” and “they’ll give [a carriage]”), and during that time, the United States, Britain and Germany decided the fate of Russia. The Americans provided the necessary for Russian radicals money (indirectly, through the selfsame Germans and Swedes), while the British provided the non-interference from the Provisional Government, which they controlled. In Stockholm – where Lenin and his companions arrived after a long journey by train through Germany, and then by a ferry to Sweden – they easily got a group visa to Russia at the Russian Consulate. Moreover, the Provisional Government even paid for their tickets home from Stockholm! The revolutionaries were met by a guard of honour at the Finland railway station in Petrograd on the 3rd (16th) of April. Lenin gave a speech, which concluded with the words: “Long live the socialist revolution!” But the new government of Russia did not even think of arresting him…
The bucks at his bosom
Another fiery revolutionary, Leon Trotsky (Bronstein), was preparing for a journey home from the United States during those same March days. Like Vladimir Lenin, Lev Davidovich received all the documents from the Russian Consul in New York. On the 14th (27th) of March Trotsky departed with his family from New York on the ship “Kristianiafjord”. However, upon arrival to Canada, he and several of his associates were briefly taken ashore. But soon they were allowed to continue – at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Government, Pavel Miliukov. An amazing request, isn’t it? Not in the least, if you consider that Milyukov was a personal friend of Jacob Schiff, an American magnate, “chief sponsor” of several Russian revolutions. During the arrest, by the way, it turned out that Trotsky was a U.S. citizen travelling on British transit visa and a visa for entry to Russia.
Additionally, ten thousand dollars were found in his possession – a huge amount at that time, which he could hardly have earned only from the fees for newspaper articles. If that, however, was money for the Russian revolution, then it was only a negligible part. Principal amounts from the American bankers were transferred to the correct accounts of verified people. This was nothing new for Schiff and other financiers of the United States. They allocated funds to the Social Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats in 1905, and also helped those who prepared the February. And now came the time to help the most “hard core” revolutionaries. By the way, in the case of Trotsky, this assistance was almost a family affair: the wife of Lev Davidovich, nee Sedova, was the daughter of a wealthy banker Zhivotovsky – companion of Warburg bankers, and those in turn were companions and relatives of Jacob Schiff.