Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.
Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.
Below is the piece on Kote that is mentioned in the linked article.
Kote Tsintsadze- Leon Trotsky's Appreciation From His Book "Portraits-Political and Personal"
Alipi (Kote) M. Tsintsadze, born in Georgia in 1887, joined the Bolsheviks in 1903, doing party work in several Transcaucasian cities when he was not in tsarist prisons or exile. In the period of the 1905 revolution he organized, according to his own statement, "a fighting detachment of Bolsheviks for the purpose of robbing state treasuries." His closest co-worker in this activity was the legendary Kamo.
During the civil war he was chairman of first the Georgian and then the All-Caucasus Cheka, at a time when only the most incorruptible people were chosen for such posts. He was also a member of the Georgian Communist Party's Central Committee and the Georgian Soviet's Central Executive Committee, and one of the Communists in those committees who resisted Stalin's trampling on the national rights of the Georgian republic in 1922; in that dispute Lenin was on Tsintsadze's side and against Stalin's. Tsintsadze became a Left Oppositionist in 1923, was expelled from the Communist Party in 1927, was sent into exile despite his bad health in 1928, and died in 1930 an unrepentant enemy of Stalinism. Tsintsadze's Memoirs were printed in a Georgian periodical in 1923-24 but have not been translated into English.
The translation of Trotsky's article, dated January 7, 1931, was first published, under the title "At the Fresh Grave of Kote Tsintsadze," in The Militant, February 15, 1931. It has been revised here by George Saunders.
It took quite exceptional conditions—tsarism, the underground, prison and Siberian exile, the long years of struggle against Menshevism, and especially, the experience of three revolutions—to produce fighters like Kote Tsintsadze. His life was entirely bound up with the history of the revolutionary move¬ment for more than a quarter of a century. He took part in all the stages of the proletarian insurgency—from the first propa¬ganda circles to the barricades and seizure of power. For many years he carried on the painstaking work of the underground organizer, in which the revolutionists constantly tied threads together and the police constantly untied them. Later he stood at the head of the Transcaucasian Cheka, that is, at the very center of power, during the most heroic period of the proletarian dictatorship.
When the reaction against October had changed the composition and the character of the party apparatus and its policies, Kote Tsintsadze was one of the first to begin a struggle against these new tendencies hostile to the spirit of Bolshevism. The first conflict occurred during Lenin's illness. Stalin and Ordzhonikidze, with the help of Dzerzhinsky, had carried out their coup in Georgia, replacing the core of Old Bolsheviks with careerist functionaries of the type of Eliava, Orakhelashvili, and the like. It was precisely on this issue that Lenin prepared to launch an implacable battle against the Stalin faction and the apparatus at the Twelfth Congress of the party. On March 6, 1923, Lenin wrote to the Georgian group of Old Bolsheviks, of which Kote Tsintsadze was one of the founders: "I am following your case with all my heart. I am indignant over Ordzhonikidze's rudeness and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. I am preparing for you notes and a speech" [Collected Works, volume 45].
The subsequent course of events is sufficiently well known. The Stalin faction crushed the Lenin faction in the Caucasus. This was the initial victory for reaction in the party and opened up the second chapter of the revolution. Tsintsadze, suffering from tuberculosis, bearing the weight of decades of revolutionary work, persecuted by the apparatus at every step, did not desert his post of struggle for a moment. In 1928 he was deported to Bakhchisaray, where the wind and dust did their disastrous work on the remnants of his lungs. Later he was transferred to Alushta, where the chill and rainy winter completed the destruction.
Some friends tried to get Kote admitted to the Gulripshi Sanatorium at Sukhum, where Tsintsadze had succeeded in saving his life several times before during especially acute sieges of his illness. Of course, Ordzhonikidze "promised"; Ordzhonikidze "promises" a great deal to everyone. But the cowardliness of his character—rudeness does not exclude cowardice—always made him a blind instrument in the hands of Stalin. While Tsintsadze was literally struggling against death, Stalin fought all attempts to save the old militant. Send him to Gulripshi on the coast of the Black Sea? And if he recovers? Connections might be established between Batum and Constantinople. No, impossible!
With the death of Tsintsadze, one of the most attractive figures of early Bolshevism has disappeared. This fighter, who more than once risked his life and knew very well how to chastise the enemy, was a man of exceptional mildness in his personal relations. A good-natured sarcasm and a sly sense of humor were combined in this tempered terrorist with a gentleness one might almost call feminine.
The serious illness from which he was not free for a mo¬ment could neither break his moral resistance nor even succeed in overcoming his good spirits and gently attentive attitude toward people.
Kote was not a theoretician. But his clear thinking, his revolutionary passion, and his immense political experience—the living experience of three revolutions—armed him better, more seriously and firmly, than does the doctrine formally digested by those of less fortitude and perseverance. Just as Shakespeare's Lear was "every inch a king," Tsintsadze was every inch a revolutionary. His character revealed itself perhaps even more strik¬ingly during the last eight years—years of uninterrupted struggle against the advent and entrenchment of the unprincipled bureaucracy.
Tsintsadze instinctively fought against anything resembling treachery, capitulation, or disloyalty. He understood the significance of the bloc with Zinoviev and Kamenev. But morally he could not tolerate this group. His letters testify to the full force of his revulsion—there is no other word for it—against those Oppositionists who, in their eagerness to insure their for¬mal membership in the party, betray it by renouncing their ideas.
Number 11 of the Biulleten Oppozitsii published a letter from Tsintsadze to Okudzhava. It is an excellent document— of tenacity, clarity of thought, and conviction. Tsintsadze, as we said, was not a theoretician, and he willingly let others formulate the tasks of the revolution, the party, and the Opposition. But any time he detected a false note, he took pen in hand, and no "authority" could prevent him from expressing his suspicions and from making his replies. His letter written on May 2 last year and published in number 12-13 of the Biulleten testifies best to this. This practical man and organizer safeguarded the purity of doctrine more reliably and attentively than do many theoreticians.
We often encounter the following phrases in Kote's letters: "a bad 'institution/ these waverings"; "woe to the people who can't wait"; or, "in solitude weak people easily become subject to all kinds of contagion." Tsintsadze's unshakable courage buoyed up his dwindling physical energy. He even viewed his illness as a revolutionary duel. In one of his letters several months before he died he wrote that in his battle against death he was pursuing the question: "Who will conquer?" "In the meantime, the advantage remains on my side," he added, with the optimism that never abandoned him.
In the summer of 1928, referring indirectly to himself and his illness, Kote wrote to me from Bakhchisaray:"... for many, many of our comrades and friends the thankless fate lies in store of ending their lives somewhere in prison or deportation. Yet in the final analysis this will be an enrichment of revolutionary history, from which a new generation will learn. The proletarian youth, when they come to know about the struggle of the Bolshevik Opposition against the opportunist wing of the party, will understand on whose side was the truth."
Tsintsadze could write these simple yet superb lines only in an intimate letter to a friend. Now that he is no longer alive, these lines may and must be published. They summarize the life and morality of a revolutionist of the highest caliber. They must be made public precisely so that the youth can learn not only from theoretical formulas but also from this personal example of revolutionary tenacity.
The Communist parties in the West have not yet brought up fighters of Tsintsadze's type. This is their besetting weakness, determined by historical reasons but nonetheless a weakness. The Left Opposition in the Western countries is not an exception in this respect and it must well take note of it.
Especially for the Opposition youth, the example of Tsintsadze can and should serve as a lesson. Tsintsadze was the living negation and condemnation of any kind of political careerism, that is, the inclination to sacrifice principles, ideas, and tasks of the cause for personal ends. This does not in the least rule out justified revolutionary ambition. No, political ambition plays a very important part in the struggle. But the revolutionary begins where personal ambition is fully and wholly subordinated to the service of a great idea, voluntarily submitting to and merging with it. Flirtation with ideas, dilettante dabbling with revolutionary formulations, changing one's views out of personal career considerations—these things Tsintsadze pitilessly condemned through his life and his death. His was the ambition of unshakable revolutionary loyalty. This is what the proletarian youth should learn from him.