A Point of History

A Point of History

The celebrated episode of the trip of the `Bolshevik leaders” across Germany within a “sealed train” has caused as much ink to run as the accusation of being in the pay of the Kaiser, examined below.

But the episode is as famous as deformed; focusing on it then will not be useless at a time when some brassy publications abuse the credulity of the public and propagate the most vulgar historical popularizations under the false pretext of revealing something new about the Russian Revolution.

The “sealed train,” more readily designated the “leaded car,” often turned into the “armored train” [sic] has never involved the least mystery and does not offer a subject for any socalled revelations. A phrase of Ludendorff cited a thousand times, very vague and written after the event, does not prove any connivance between Germany and the travelers in the railway car: “In sending Lenin to Russia, our government assumed a heavy responsibility, but it was justified from a military point of view, for it was necessary at all costs to hasten the defeat of Russia” (General Ludendorff: Souvenirs de guerre). Later, Ludendorff wrote that he had “no ideas about Lenin or Kienthal” and that he was restricted “to follow solely the directions of the government” (letter to R. Fester, 20 October 1937). General von Hoffman in The War of Lost Opportunities, justified also as a “propaganda weapon” what he believed, wrongly, to be German initiative.

In fact, it is not true that the German government (some say the staff, others, the Kaiser) “sent” Lenin and his comrades to Russia, and it is false that Lenin had concluded a political pact (do ut des) with German imperialism, as so many authors repeat without knowing the facts. The truth, known at the time, suffices in itself and the legend does not serve in any way the criticism of the Bolshevism.

Soon after the fall of Czarism, the question of the return to Russia was posed for political emigres of all shades; among them, “social-patriots” and “defensists” were much more numerous than the small Leninist group. The British authorities refused to Russians living in Switzerland authorization to pass through England. A committee for the evacuation of the emigres, brought together in Zurich, and where 23 groups of different political labels were represented, unanimously took note of the English government’s refusal to let the Russian socialists enter their country. On March 19, 1917, in Geneva, a meeting was held in which there participated Natanson-Bobrov (representing the Socialists), L. Martov (the Mensheviks), G. Zinoviev (the Bolsheviks), Kossovski (the Bund), and it was then that Martov suggested that passage through Germany be negotiated in exchange for the Germans and Austrians interned within Russia. This plan was unanimously adopted.

The initi...