The capture of power by Lenin'sBolshevik Party in Russia in October/November 1917 was an important turning point in the history of Marxism. The credit goes to the genius of Lenin for projecting this military coup as an ideological revolution committed to Marx'stheory of scientific socialism. With the help of a state sponsored powerful propaganda machinery, Lenin was successful in creating an impression all over the world that a new state determined to translate Marxian theory into a practical reality had come into being and for the first time the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established in any country. In 1918, at its seventh Congress, the Bolshevik Party changed its name to the Communist Party; in 1919 under Lenin'sleadership the Communist International came into being and in 1922 the vast Russian empire created by the Czars was renamed as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). An impression was sought to be created that a new power centre controlled by the proletariat, for the proletariat had emerged as a challenge to the western imperialism and capitalism.
Lenin decided to make Moscow the holy Mecca for the Marxists world over and for that purpose it was necessary to create a repository of all the correspondence, writings and other documents related to Marx and Engels at Moscow. Who could be a better person than D.B. Ryazanov (1870-1938) to do it and fortunately he was readily available to Lenin. Though born in the same year 1870, Ryazanov as a Marxist was senior to Lenin. During a long period of exile, Ryazanov had established intimate relations with German socialists. Devoting himself mainly to academic work, he became the foremost Russian authority on the lives and works of Marx and Engels. Lunacharsky hardly exaggerated when in 1919 he described Ryazanov as ?incontestably, the most learned man in the party.? (John Barber, Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1936, Macmillan, 1981 p. 271). Ryazanov had an inborn archival interest. While in Germany, he had dug deep into the signed and unsigned articles contributed by Marx and Engels to various journals including NYDT, (USA) The People'sPaper (UK) etc. and had published them from Dietz, Stuttgart Germany in 1917, before he had returned to Russia on the eve of Lenin'scoup. Ryazanov willingly undertook the job of establishing an archive of Marx-Engels in 1919 at Moscow, and became its founder-director. Lenin'stwo letters to Ryazanov written around February 2, 1921 and on September 23, 1921 show that he was very keen to collect all the correspondence of Marx-Engels in the archives. Lenin wrote, ?It is important to collect all the letters of Marx and Engels, and no one will do this better than you.? (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 45, p. 80 and 309). Consequently Ryazanov visited Germany to collect all the published letters of Marx and Engels and sent them to Russia. The collection was published in 1922 under the title Pisma-Teoria i politika, v perepiske Marx and Engels (ibid, note 340, p. 674). During the 1920s he acquired numerous library collections from abroad, including the documents related to Marx and Engels from the German Social Democratic Archives.
Marx-Engels Institute, under the direction of Ryazanov, amassed one of the richest collections of socialist literature in the world. By 1930 the Institute'sarchives contained 15,000 manuscripts and 176,000 photocopies of documents, 55,000 of them by Marx and Engels alone. Its total holding of books and journals numbered 400,000. (John Barber, op. cit, p. 15).
Ryazanov initiated the selection and editing of important historical writings as well as of the collected works of Marx and Engels. But his academic work could not escape the lengthening shadow of the personal power-politics of Stalin. In order, to prove himself the only true and the best disciple of Lenin, Stalin ?two months after Lenin'sdeath? started lecturing on the foundation of Leninism and a month later he published a plan for seminars on Leninism. In January 1925, the Central Committee Secretariat instructed all the ?big pedagogical and social economic universities to establish chairs of party history and Leninism?, (Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Cultural Front: Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia, Cornell University Press, 1992. p. 49).
This politics of personality cult was reflected also in the changing nomenclature of the Marx-Engels Institute. Stalin was very keen to have his own name added to the Institute. He insisted for the addition of Lenin'sname to the Institute to be followed by his own name. But how to persuade Ryazanov to agree to these changes? Ryazanov'sprestige and influence was at its peak. As the most knowledgeable Marxist, he was seen as a father figure by the intellectuals as well as party cadres. His 60th birthday in March 1930 was marked by tributes of every kind. Kalinin, the head of state, came in person to a special ?jubilee? meeting to decorate Ryzanov with the ?Order of the Red Banner of Labour?. The Central Committee in a congratulatory message wrote, ?The CC is sure that for many years longer your work will serve the work of the world proletariat'sstruggle for the victory of communism? (Barber, of cit p. 121-122)
(To be continued)…