‘The Death of Red Army Commissar Nicholas Tolmatchev’ by G. Safarov from Communist International. No. 6. October, 1919.

‘The Death of Red Army Commissar Nicholas Tolmatchev’ by G. Safarov from Communist International. No. 6. October, 1919.

Comrade Nicholas Tolmatchev met the death of a hero at the front, in the battle at the village of Red Hills, on the 28th of May, this year. After having used up all his cartridges he used his last bullet upon himself in order not to be taken prisoner.

He was only twenty-three years of age. He entered the ranks of the proletarian party in 1913 as a young student. Since that time he did not forsake the foremost positions of the class struggle for a single moment. He lived and grew up in the struggle, and transferred to it all the vitality of the rich nature with which he was endowed. He had a wonderful ability and was surprisingly apt in explaining the idea of this great struggle, of endearing it to those to whom he talked about it and invited to enter its thorny path. He came from a bourgeois family, but to the workers he was both nearer and dearer than many workers. He was always understood because he spoke only what be felt, was always ready to give up his life without murmuring, without reproach or regret, glad in the knowledge that he was sacrificing it for the cause of the workers.

All knew Comrade “Basil” in the “Workers Underground. He was always to be seen hurrying from one meeting place to another with his pockets crammed full of proclamations and manifestoes. In 1916 he had already become one of the chief workers of the Executive Collegiate of the Petrograd Commission, was agitator, organiser and editor of the illegal Proletarian Voice. The war did not take him unawares. He was one of the few who immediately went among the masses of the workers with a sober and encouraging word of revolutionary appeal and protest against the war.

Before the revolution and during the stormy days of February and March my young friend Kolia threw himself body and soul into the revolutionary storm. The streets were hamming with the rattle of rifle fire and the spitting of machine guns, and when the old order collapsed and the streets called, “Kolia” found his way about amid the firing as a man intoxicated with the new joy of a free life.

On the 21 of April the provocatory challenge of Milyukov was made. Prominent workers and soldiers demanded the Soviet power. The streets flowed with a human avalanche. Rows and rows of workers and soldiers, each factory with its own Red Guard. And somehow or other “Kolia” contrived to come forward and address the crowds almost every five minutes.

Tolmachev, Beloborodov, Safarov, Goloshchekin.

Alter the General Party Conference in April had taken place, Nicholas returned to his native Urals. He had already been at work there in the spring of 1916 at the Verkne-Isetzky factory near Ekaterinburg. Innumerable pilgrimages to the factory dispersed amongst the forests were undertaken by him. Everywhere he was the same, and every one believed him because all knew that he did not deceive. Later om he arrived at the populous centre of Perm. Here a desperate struggle took place between him and the social traitors. He rapidly made himself the most popular orator at the soldiers’ meetings. Together with A. G. Betoborodov he set to work at the newspaper, The Proletarian Standard. In Perm the October Revolution was also victorious. For a short time “Kolia” returned to Petrograd as a member of the Extraordinary Commission from the Urals. He again returned to the Urals, from where he left immediately as military commissar to the Orenburg steppes to fight against the counter revolutionary gangs of Dutov. No sooner did he return from this campaign than he again went to the front, this time against the Czecho-Slovaks.

It is a weary struggle. The Urals are flowing with blood. “Kolia” is everywhere; at the front and at the factories, “All forces to the front!” And the proletarian forces are drawn up to the front in masses. The days of this heroic struggle of the Ural workers will never be effaced from my memory. I lived through these days, which lasted many months, together with “Kolia,” and learned how to appreciate him. He used often to say:

“Do you know, we cannot help winning; the victory of our enemies means a death blow to the whole of humanity. A new society will be generated from this bloody struggle. It will be generated strong and powerful and will conquer death.”

The army grew, “Kolia” conducted its mobilization, and worked untiringly at turning the guerilla detachments into organised military regiments. He was to be found everywhere a word of encouragement, a firm hand and an unbending will were required.

He undertook the political work in the army. He worked in its ranks when it retreated before the superior forces of the enemy, and even the victory itself over Kolchak would not have been performed so unexpectedly quick had it not been for his work.

In March be attended the Eighth Party Conference as representative of the Third Army, from where the Central Committee dispatched him to Petrograd to conduct agitation work of enlightenment in the Red Army.

He was not destined to live on the “peace footing” for long and at the first news of Red Petrograd being in danger, he joyfully returned to the front.

He died like an honourable soldier of the revolution.

This beautiful life, so dear to the proletariat was plucked in its prime.

His blood beats in our veins.

His life was one of uninterrupted struggle.

His death, an ardent call to the struggle.

Monument to N. G. Tolmachev in the village of Tolmachevo, Leningrad Region.

The ECCI published the magazine ‘Communist International’ edited by Zinoviev and Karl Radek from 1919 until 1926 irregularly in German, French, Russian, and English. Unlike, Inprecorr, CI contained long-form articles by the leading figures of the International as well as proceedings, statements, and notices of the Comintern. No complete run of Communist International is available in English. Both were largely published outside of Soviet territory, with Communist International printed in London, to facilitate distribution and both were major contributors to the Communist press in the U.S. Communist International and Inprecorr are an invaluable English-language source on the history of the Communist International and its sections.

PDF of full issue: https://archive.org/download/communist-international-no.-1-17-1919-may-1921/Communist%20international%20no%2001-6%201919.pdf

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