A reader writes to ask about the photo we’ve been using in our subscription ads (see the back cover of this week’s edition, or last week’s, for that matter). Is it real, he wonders, or Photoshopped to show the three men together? “If it is an actual photo, it certainly is very interesting: three young men with impressive careers before them. All three were warmly dressed and their shoulders appear to touch one another. All three were staring directly toward the camera. . . . Stalin is almost smiling, the other two not quite so much.”
The photo in question—of Stalin, Lenin, and Kalinin—is real, and honestly cropped. No Stalinist air-brush manipulation in these pages! The Scrapbook reached out to our friend (and occasional contributor) Ken Jensen for a few more details on the larger original. “It was taken,” he told us, “at the 8th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) on March 18-23, 1919.” The three men in front of the Big Three “were non-entities, Smigla, Schmidt, and Zorin.” The men in the middle were the most important. “Soviet president Yakov Sverdlov had died on March 16, and Lenin appointed Mikhail Kalinin in his place on March 18.” The larger photo “contains a sort of random sampling of the 312 delegates at the Congress. Among them, only one lived until 1950 and another died of natural causes. The rest were eventually purged. (Not to worry: several of them were rehabilitated later.)”
The 8th Party Congress was held in the midst of the Russian Civil War, which, Ken added, “explains why Trotsky wasn’t in the picture. He was off fighting. The agenda focused on the war and doctrinal and economic matters. Lenin, apparently, was concerned about gaining the support of the ‘middle peasants.’ Also under discussion was the new Communist International.”
The International (“Comintern,” “Third International”) had been established shortly before, at the March 2-6 Congress, in which Trotsky did participate. “The principal topic of discussion,” Ken said, “was the difference between bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Sometime after the Comintern Congress, Lenin, Trotsky, and Rakovsky turned the management of the new International over to Grigory Zinoviev. Stalin pushed Zinoviev out of the RCP leadership in 1925 and had him purged in 1936.”
Happily, these evil men are posthumously helping to sell subscriptions to this journal—a better deed than any of them ever did while alive.