‘I was one of the first political emigrants who came back to the liberated homeland’

I had already been in Norway for several weeks, when the Russian people rose up against absolutism and dethroned the Czar. A festive mood reigned among all our political friends. But I harbored no illusions because I knew that the overthrow of the Czar would be only the beginning of even more momentous events and difficult social struggles so I hastened back to Russia in March 1917. I was one of the first political emigrants who came back to the liberated homeland. Torneo, the tiny frontier town lying north of the Swedish-Finnish frontiers, through which I had to pass, was still in the grip of a cruel winter. A sleigh carried me across the river which marks the frontier. On Russian soil stood a soldier. A bright red ribbon fluttered on his chest. “Your identity papers, please, citizenness!” “I have none. I am a political refugee.” “Your name?” I identified myself. A young officer was summoned. Yes, my name was on the list of political refugees who were to be freely admitted into the country by order of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet. The young officer helped me out of the sleigh and kissed my hand, almost reverently. I was standing on the republican soil of liberated Russia! Could that be possible? It was one of the happiest hours of my whole life. Four months later, by order of the Kerensky regime (the Provisional Government), the same charming young officer placed me under arrest as a dangerous Bolshevik at the Torneo frontier station …Such is life’s irony.

So overwhelming was the rush of subsequent events that to this very day I really do not know what I should describe and emphasize: what have I accomplished, desired, achieved? Was there altogether an individual will at that time? Was it not only the omnipotent storm of the Revolution, the command of the active, awakened masses that determined our will and action? Was there altogether a single human being who would not have bowed to the general will? There were only masses of people, bound together in a bipartite will, which operated either for or against the Revolution, for or against ending the war, and which sided for or against the power of the Soviets. Looking back one perceives only a massive operation, struggle, and action. In reality there were no heroes or leaders. It was the people, the working people, in soldiers’ uniform or in civilian attire, who controlled the situation and who recorded its will indelibly in the history of the country and mankind. It was a sultry summer, a crucial summer of the revolutionary flood-tide in 1917! At first the social storm raged only in the countryside, the peasants set fire to the “nests of gentle folk.” In the cities the struggle that raged was between the advocates of a republican-bourgeois Russia and the socialist aspirations of the Bolsheviks …

As I have previously stated, I belonged to the Bolsheviks. Thus immediately, from the first days onwards, I found an absolute enormous pile of work waiting for me. Once more the issue was to wage a struggle against the war, against coalescence with the liberal bourgeoisie, and for the power of the workers’ councils, the Soviets. The natural consequence of this stand was that the bourgeois newspapers branded me as a “mad female Bolshevik.” But this bothered me not at all. My field of activity was immense, and my followers, factory workers and women-soldiers, numbered thousands. At this time I was very popular, especially as an orator, and, at the same time, hated and viciously attacked by the bourgeois press. Thus it was a stroke of luck that I was so weighed down with current work that I found hardly any time to read the attacks and slanders against me. The hate directed against me, allegedly because I had been in the pay of the German Kaiser for the purpose of weakening the Russian front, grew to monstrous proportions.

Alexandra Kollantai, The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman

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