A New Face in the Snakepit (2)

II- Stalin was smart enough to know that half-measures wouldn’t do. If he had to be a traitor, he would be the most thorough traitor of them all. For that, he had to be a credible mole, and for that he would have to be the perfect revolutionary, the unimpeachable activist – therefore, in a few weeks of frenzied activity, he killed policemen, bombed dozy government offices and robbed enough funds to finance a year-supply of cigar, brandy and snacks for the central committee of the grandly named Social Democratic Labor Party.
The young, impressive provincial got a promotion, and the couple moved to the Imperial capital, Saint Petersburg. Ekaterina took a job as seamstress, and delivered a baby boy, Yakov, in 1903. Stalin briefly met party hotshots, such as the balding Vladimir Ilich, who incited him to keep up the good work and prepare for the upcoming revolution. “They are certain that the masses will raise and topple the tottering empire in a matter of months,” Stalin wrote Timowitz. “Are you?” Timowitz wrote back, teasingly.
Stalin did prepare for the times ahead: and when the revolution came, in 1905, his cell had amassed enough money, guns and ammunition to make its presence felt. There came some heady days: the Imperial Navy and the Far East Army had been destroyed by the mysterious Japanese, in a bizarre twist that Ekaterina found delightful, and full of good tidings; part of the masses indeed rose to protest defeat and incompetence; and the revolution quickly petered out when the army surrounded the meek demonstrations and fell on the most inexperienced party activists, who had been detailingly singled out by Stalin, in a long memorandum he sent Timowitz. In the whole of Saint Petersburg, only Stalin’s cell survived the crackdown and managed to cause trouble at the level expected by the party’s grandiose plans – and it didn’t need any help from Timowitz to do so.
Lenin was awed by Stalin’s success as organizer and men of action, and gave him the task or organizing revolutionary “fighting squads” to raise the money necessary to recover the party base: that is, to rob banks Georgian-style. Timowitz had no objection to his mole becoming the woe of the Russian banking class: he didn’t particularly like bankers, and he was rising in the secret police ranks thanks to the intelligence provided by Stalin. As far as he was concerned, Stalin might kill the Zar himself and crush the state, as long as he filed his reports along the way and kept Timowitz well informed about his every step. So Stalin and his men became the most ferocious band of gunmen in northern Russia, and the poorest – since they always handed every penny gained to the party’s treasure.
In 1906, Lenin absconced to London to join other leading agitators of the party, and work to ensure that his own Bolshevik wing got the upper hand on any decision regarding the future of mankind. When rival exiles pushed to organize a fifth Party congress there and then, he immediately understood that heavy weaponry would be necessary to succeed, and called Stalin to London.
Timowitz nodded agreement, but Stalin had other things in mind: Ekaterina had fallen ill with tuberculosis; she needed a good treatment and care; there was his four-year old son to think about, too. At that, Lenin became shrill: his presence in London was absolutely indispensable; he had been given an order to follow, not an argument to ponder. Timowitz acquiesced for a second time, and Stalin took the ship to London, in the full knowledge that neither the Russian nor the British police would cause any inconvenience along the way. He arrived in early 1907, he saw, and he won: with his support, Lenin turned the party congress into an astounding political coup for the Bolsheviks, perfectly represented by their can-do, bloodthirsty enforcer from Georgia. Few of the fumbling intellectuals and amateur soldiers in attendance dared to raise objections to Lenin’s plans for immediate Communist revolution back home; playing the strong and silent type all along, Stalin observed and took mental notes for his report to Timowitz: “Lenin is willing to fight for revolution to the last activist but himself,” he summarized.
Ekaterina was dead when he arrived back in Saint Petersburg. Yakov wasn’t in good health, either, and that gave him something to think about. That year, by sheer coincidence, a poem Stalin had written when he still lived in Georgia was published in a book – “A Georgian Chrestomathy, or collection of the best examples of Georgian literature,” edited by the Georgian clergyman M. Kelendzheridze – as signed by ‘Soselo.’ Timowitz found the poem unimpressive: “perhaps you did well by turning to robbery and murder,” he observed.

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About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
This entry was posted in A New Face in the Snakepit, Short Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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