I. The Ulyanov Family
II With the Working Masses
III Siberian Exile
V. The Formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party
VI. The Revolution of 1905
VII Armed Insurrection
VIII. The Revolution Goes On
IX. The Years of Reaction
X Lenin Rallies the Bolshevik Forces
XI. The World War
XII. In Petrograd
XIII Preparing for Victory
XIV At the Helm of the Great Proletarian Revolution
XV. The First Weeks of Soviet Power
XVI. The Struggle for Peace
XVII. Civil War
XVIII Encircled by Enemies
XIX. The War with Poland and the Rout of Wrangel
XX. The New Economic Policy
XXI Lenin at Work
XXII Last Years
XXIII. The Man, the Revolutionary, the Leader
THE ULYANOV FAMILY
LENIN WAS BORN ON APRIL 22, 1870, in ULYANOVSK (Formerly Simbirsk) on the Volga. His father, Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov, was a public-school inspector, who came of a poor, lower middle-class family, and had worked his way through school. He was a hard-working man with a strong character, who devoted his whole life to the cause of public education.
Lenin’s mother was the daughter of a physician. She was well versed in foreign languages and music, and had read a great deal. She was tactful and considerate in her relations with others, and was distinguished for her great will-power.
Lenin’s sister, M. Ulyanova, gives the following description of him.
“Physically, Vladimir Ilyich greatly resembled his father. He had inherited his father’s stature, his high cheekbones, his features, the slightly Mongolian slant of his eyes and large forehead. He had his father’s lively disposition and the same hearty, infectious laugh. They had a great many traits and habits in common—will-power, energy, the ability to devote themselves wholly and ardently to their work, the utmost conscientiousness with regard to their obligations, a wide democratic outlook and consideration for others. Vladimir Ilyich even inherited the slight burr with which his father pronounced the letter r.”
Vladimir Ulyanov grew up in a happy family, in an atmosphere of work. His father was one of those democratic Russian intellectuals of the ’sixties, who, though they themselves were not revolutionaries, had great respect for those who fought against the tsarist autocracy, Chernyshevsky in particular. They considered it their duty to help the people, to teach them to read and write, and to educate them Winter and summer, in all kinds of weather, Ilya Nikolayevich traveled about the whole gubernia, organizing the work of schools Lenin’s sister, Anna Ilyinichna, says:
“His children, who often did not see him for weeks at a time during his rounds, realized at an early age that the cause is something higher, to which all else is sacrificed. His animated accounts of the progress made in his sphere of activity, of the new schools which had sprung up in the villages, of the struggle this had entailed both at the top (with those in power, with the landowners) and at the bottom (with the ignorance and the prejudices of the people)—were eagerly absorbed by his children.”
All the Ulyanov children became revolutionaries
Vladimir Ulyanov was a healthy, high-spirited child, fond of noisy games and romping. By the time he was five, his mother had already taught him to read, and he was very fond of reading. Whenever he was in the country, he joined wholeheartedly in all the children’s games. It was here that he first came in contact with the impoverished Russian countryside. At the age of nine he entered the gymnasium, where he was a good student. He was a clever child and learning came easy to him. He was always ready to help his comrades in their studies
Even in his school years he was distinguished by his ability to work systematically and thoroughly Take, for example, his method of writing a school composition First he drew up a brief outline, containing the introduction and conclusion, next he took a sheet of paper, folded it in two, and on the left side wrote a rough draft with figures and letters corresponding to the plan. On the following days he made additions, corrections, interpolations, references to books, etc., on the right side of the page. On the basis of this draft, he then wrote the composition itself—usually in rough first, and then the clean copy.
This careful preparation of all his work characterized Lenin throughout his life Later on he used to draw up a brief outline for every one of his newspaper articles and speeches. When he was preparing to write a pamphlet or a book, he would makeseveral drafts, each draft being more detailed and elaborate than the preceding one. In the same careful way, he compiled the necessary quotations, figures, and material. Vladimir Ulyanov took great pains to acquire the necessary assiduity and capacity for work.
His character and views were formed in the dark years of Russian reaction, at a time when the autocracy had smashed all the revolutionary organizations. The tsarist officials, the police and the gendarmes, domineered over the country. The workers were compelled to work from twelve to fourteen hours a day for a mere pittance. In the countryside the landowner was supreme lord and master and possessed most of the best land Thirty thousand landowners owned seventy million dessiatins of land, i.e , as much as belonged to ten and a half million peasant households. The peasants were considered “free,” but in reality, they were in complete bondage to the landowners and were obliged to work for them, they were, in addition, burdened down with heavy taxes. All books and newspapers were subject to strict censorship. It was forbidden to write about the real conditions of the country.
While still a schoolboy Vladimir Ulyanov began to realize how terribly oppressed the workers and peasants in Russia were. He was greatly influenced by his elder brother, Alexander, a young man with a strong will, firm, calm and thoughtful. Alexander Ulyanov was an excellent student, who was preparing himself for scientific research work. He was a member of a revolutionary circle and belonged to the “Narodnaya Volya” (People’s Will) organization. Alexander Ulyanov also carried on propaganda among the workers, he studied Marx’s Capital, occupying a position half-way, as it were, between the “Narodnaya Volya” and Marxism.
In 1886 Vladimir Ilyich lost his father, this was a severe blow to the whole Ulyanov family. At that time Vladimir Ilyich was in his last year at the gymnasium. In 1887 Alexander Ilyich was arrested and executed, on the charge of plotting the assassination of Alexander III His brother’s execution made an indelible impression-on Vladimir Ilyich.
After the arrest and execution of Alexander Ulyanov his family was deserted by many of their former acquaintances for it was dangerous to be on friendly terms with the family of a revolutionary. His brother’s death strengthened Vladimir Ilyich’s revolutionary inclinations, but he sought a different path of struggle with the autocracy from that taken by his elder brother.
His brother’s execution brought Vladimir Ilyich face to face with the question of his life’s work. He realized clearly that the enemy who had to be fought was the autocracy, the landowners, the bourgeoisie and all the exploiters. He saw that purely cultural, educational work (to which his father had devoted his life) would not lead to the overthrow of the exploiters and the liberation of the people. But he also realized that the path of terror did not lead to victory, but only hindered it. The members of the “Narodnaya Volya” had succeeded in assassinating Alexander II, but another tsar took his place. The tsarist regime continued. Many high officials of the police and gendarmerie were killed, but this did not destroy the power of the tsar, the landowners, and the factory owners. And most important, this method of struggle could in no way help the organization of the working masses and the growth of their class consciousness. On the contrary it impaired the work, since all the energies of the revolutionaries were absorbed in terrorist activity. It destroyed the bond between the revolutionaries and the masses, and fostered among the revolutionaries and the whole population the most erroneous ideas as to the tasks and methods of struggle with the autocracy.
Vladimir Ilyich had seen the works of Marx and Engels in his brother’s possession and he turned to them for instruction as to how the revolutionary struggle of the toilers for emancipation should be waged.
He eagerly applied himself to the study of the history of the revolutionary struggle in other countries, and the experience ofthe struggle of peoples in the past against autocracy and landowners.
In the autumn of 1887, Vladimir Ilyich entered the university of Kazan Here he associated with the revolutionary-minded section of the students.
In December of the same year, he took part in student protest meetings against the police regime in the universities. For thishe was arrested, expelled from the university and banished to the village of Kokushfano, near Kazan.
Later Vladimir Ilyich related his conversation with the police officer who took him away after his arrest.
“What’s the good of rebelling, young man? You’re up against a stone wall,” said the officer to him.
“Yes, but it’s a rotten wall. Kick it and it will crumble,” answered Vladimir Ilyich.
In Kokushkino Lenin closely observed the conditions of the peasantry. Only after a year was, he allowed to return to Kazan, but he was not readmitted to the university. Lenin seriously applied himself to the task of self-education and to the study of Marxism. He spent the summer in the country, first in Kokushkino and then in Alakayevka in the Samara Gubernia.
At that time a Marxist group already existed in Kazan, and Vladimir Ilyich became an active member. It was in Kazan that Lenin began to study the first volume of Marx’s Capital.
A I Ulyanova-Elizarova writes of this period.
“I remember how, in the evenings, when I would go down to have a chat with him, he would tell me with great ardour and enthusiasm of the foundations of Marx’s theory and all the new horizons which it opened up I remember him, as though it were now, sitting on the newspaper-covered stove in his room, gesticulating violently. He seemed to exude a lively confidence which communicated itself to everyone who talked with him. Even then he was able to convince and enthrall one by what he said. And when he had learned something new, he could never refrain from sharing his discovery with others, and recruiting supporters. He was not long in finding adherents in Kazan, young people who had also studied Marxism and who were revolutionary-minded”
In 1889 Vlad mir Ilyich moved to Samara (now Kuibyshev). The four and a half years he spent there were years of persistent study. Lenin studied foreign languages, especially German, in order to read the works of Marx and Engels, the greater part of which had not yet been translated into Russian.
At the same time Vladimir Ilyich carefully read underground Russian revolutionary literature, especially the publications of the Social-Democratic “Emancipation of Labour” group. This group was formed abroad in 1883 by Plekhanov, Axelrod and others. It earned on extensive Marxist propaganda in Russia.
In Samara Vladimir Ilyich prepared for the state university examination and in 1891 he made his first trip to the capital, St. Petersburg, where he passed his examination brilliantly and obtained a diploma which enabled him to register as a junior barrister. His practice gave him an independent though meagre income.
Those who met him at this time were amazed that he, a young man of only twenty-one, was able to read German and French, knew English, had made a thorough study of Marx’s Capital, and was well acquainted with Marxian literature.
At this time Vladimir Ilyich translated. The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels from the German, and the translation circulated for a long time among the revolutionary youth of Samara, where Lenin together with. A Sklyarenko and I. Lala- yantz had organized a Marxist circle.
In the summer, while living in the country near Samara, he continued to devote himself to study. He made himself a secluded den in a thick grove of linden trees, where there was a hench and a table Immediately after breakfast he would go there with a stack of books and would work till three o’clock— dinner time.
After dinner he would again go off to the same spot with some book on social problems. In the evening, after a walk and a swim, Vladimir Ilyich would again sit down with his book on the porch, by a lamp-lit table, where the Ulyanov family was gathered. In his spare time, at dinner or on walks, he joked and conversed animatedly, infecting everyone with his laughter and vitality.
Vladimir Ilyich knew how to work and how to rest. Besides going for long walks he also went in for gymnastics. In his corner in the garden, near the table, he had constructed a “rack,” a cross-bar on two uprights, seven feet high. Here he exercised regularly.
Another of his hobbies was chess. He had begun playing chess with his father when he was only eight or nine years old. He played a serious game and demanded strict observance of rules no taking back of moves—if you touch a piece, you must move it Winning the game interested him less than the intensity of the struggle, the ability to get out of a difficult position. He played chess only in the evenings or after dinner. The forenoon was always devoted to serious reading.
A hard worker himself, Vladimir Ulyanov was always willing to help others. He helped his comrades in their studies, and helped his............................[.........]