A New Face in the Snakepit (4)

IV- The Austrian secret service helped Stalin into Finland, and then vanished without giving him any particular instruction. Stalin arrived alone at Saint Petersburg, and found a stoic city, weakened by two years and a half of unrelenting, rather useless war, but still patriotic to the core, and definitely unprepared for any sort of Socialist coup. Two weeks after he wrote Lenin a letter stating this view precisely, the February Revolution erupted, the Czar lost all power, and the Provisional Government inaugurated the first democratic era in Russian history. Months later, Stalin realised that the letter containing all his misguided predictions had never reached Lenin, most likely because the courier got killed somewhere along the way.
In the midst of the revolutionary confusion, Stalin made a tentative, hurried attempt to contact the secret police, but it was all to no avail. Timowitz was nowhere to be found, and the reactionary authorities interested in paying double agents for use against the Bolsheviks had vanished; they had been replaced by men of peace who intended to make things right, and threw hopeful smiles at their political opponents. Soldiers kissed small children in the streets of Saint Petersburg; the government, containing all sorts of improbable factions, was a cacophony of indecision, and both the German and the Austrian armies advanced on all fronts, slaughtering thousands every day.
When Lenin showed up in the midst of the amiable chaos at the capital, Stalin sincerely expected him to be delighted by the turn things had taken for the Bolsheviks – there they were, after all, free to take part in parliament and help decide future policies; and, judging by the support they garnered from disaffected, impatient industrial workers in both Saint Petersburg and Moscow, close to secure enough votes to become one of the top political parties at the national level. He was thus surprised when Lenin started to glare and sneer in all directions, claiming that things were worse than ever: the burgeois had taken power, and would try to fool the workers into acquiescence, buy some time by giving them a small share of the government booty. It was a new, interesting phase of the proletarian revolution, Lenin conceded, but one that had to be hurried up and finished off by decisive action on the part of the Bolsheviks, least the burgeois state managed to consolidate its foothold, and create a stronger, harder-to-replace state than the Czarist tottering structure.
“All power to the Soviets” immediately became the unsubtle, aggressive rallying cry of the Bolsheviks, and Stalin found himself conflicted: on the one hand, he didn’t really have any need to betray his party as he had been done – there was no Timowitz to continue the blackmail that had turned him into a double agent; on the other hand, he felt that his party had become the biggest possible danger for the country at the worst possible time, by working to sabotage the unity government just when some measure of stability was needed to avoid the military collapse, by replacing thought with mindless slogans that promised butchery to all those who wouldn’t strictly adhere to the Lenin line.
On top of all that mental confusion, Stalin felt slightly paranoid. One day, just after a large rally were fists were raised and rifles were pointed towards the faraway seat of government, he came across a young, bearded man who grabbed him by forearm and smiled intensely at him.
“Why, comrade Stalin, the best-informed man in the whole of the Bolshevik party!” the man cried.
Before Stalin could think of a suitable response – Perhaps coded? Perhaps in German? – the man let go and disappeared into the multitude of enthusiastic faces surrounding the party leader. Stalin sank into despair – Should he leave the Bolsheviks? Was he expected to remain a double agent or not? Was he expected to look for someone to report to?

About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
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