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Thereafter, he led the life of a Russian professional revolutionary. He took part in a railroad strike in Tiflis. He was an organizer in Batum and Baku factories. He had something to do with the series of spectacular robberies that the "revolutionists" engineered. Once a Government-convoyed truck was bombed in the Tiflis main square, and 341,000 rubles ($170,000) in cash was taken from it. Maxim Litvinoff, incidentally, was later caught in Paris with some of this money on his person. "Soso" wandered from town to town in the Caucasus, using numerous aliases. Five times he was arrested and exiled; four times he escaped.
In this early life his colleagues sometimes suspected Koba or Ivanovich of buying leniency for himself by handing over their names to the police. Another strange coincidence they noted was that frequently when the comrades got into a tough spot with the police, and had to fight their way out, Koba was rarely on hand.
He joined Russia's radical movement in 1894 and aligned himself with the Social Democratic Party in 1898. He was astute enough to choose the Bolsheviks rather than the Mensheviks when the Party split in 1903. His first contact with revolutionary bigwigs came when he attended a Party powwow in Vienna. Leon Trotsky noticed him in passing; Nikolai Lenin, who had first met him in 1905 in Finland, set him to work writing an article on the Marxist theory of governing minorities. It was in signing this article that he first used the signature "J. Stalin." "We have here a wonderful Georgian," Lenin wrote of Stalin at that time. Thereafter the "wonderful Georgian" was to be the Party's recognized expert on the 174 different peoples that made up Soviet Russia.
One of Lenin's favorite ideas was that if 130,000 landlords could rule Tsarist Russia, 240,000 determined revolutionists could rule a Soviet Russia. Lenin's efforts before the revolution were to build up a professional revolutionary machine experienced in organizing workers and able to dodge the police. Almost all the big revolutionists of necessity lived abroad; Stalin and Molotov were the only two who were able to brag in later years that they stuck it out for the most part inside. At World War I's start Stalin was in a prison camp just below the Arctic Circle. He got out when a general amnesty was proclaimed at the Tsar's abdication in 1917.
In the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, he was a relatively unimportant member of the Party's steering committee whose greatest service had been as exiled Lenin's go-between with colleagues in the 1913 Duma and as an assistant on the Petrograd Pravda. In numerous reorganizations of the governing structure which took place after the Bolsheviks came to power, Comrade Stalin always had a high post, but his work was also invariably overshadowed by the spectacular showings of Lenin, the Party's chairman, and Trotsky, the War Commissar.
Since J. Stalin became the supreme power in Russia, much of the Revolution's history has been rewritten to magnify his part in those stirring events. Trotsky's part has been completely erased from Soviet textbooks. Meanwhile, Stalinists claim that their hero:
> Fought off the White Russian forces in Siberia.
> Defended Petrograd against White General Nikolai Yudenich in 1918.