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Angelica Balabanoff

John Simkin

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Angelica Balabanoff is one of the more interesting Bolsheviks. In 1919 Balabanoff was appointed secretary of the Comintern. The following year she was the main translator at the the Second Congress of the Communist International in Moscow. According to the author of Strange Communists I Have Known (1966): "The order of business for the Second Congress had been determined by Lenin. Having concluded that the great push for world revolution had failed, and with it the attempt to smash the old socialist parties and trade unions, Lenin set it as the task of all revolutionaries to return to or infiltrate the old trade unions. As always, Lenin took it for granted that whatever conclusion he had come to in evaluation and in strategy and tactics was infallibly right. In the Comintern, as in his own party, his word was law."

John Reed and other members of the Communist Party of the United States and the Communist Party of Great Britain disagreed with this policy and tried to start a debate on the subject. To do so, they needed to add English to the already adopted German, French and Russian, as an official language of debate. This idea was rejected. Reed became disillusioned with the way Lenin had become a virtual dictator of Russia. Balabanoff later recalled: "When he came to see me after the Congress, he was in a terrible state of depression. He looked old and exhausted. The experience had been a terrible blow."

Balabanoff found working with Lenin very difficult. According to Bertram D. Wolfe: "He (Lenin) tried in vain to accustom her to his single moral, or amoral, principle, that the means justifies the end, the end for the moment being the seizing, holding, and extension of power in width and depth. She watched with horror old socialists who had given their lives for "the cause" slandered, put back into the same jails the tsar had used, censored more ruthlessly and efficiently, silenced, destroyed."

Balabanoff was especially upset by the way the rebelling sailors were dealt with at Kronstadt. In 1922 she left the Communist International.


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