A play for radio
©Roy Bainton 2014
NOVEMBER 10 1989: WITH HIS GRANDAUGHTER SVETLANA,IN THEIR LENINGRAD APARTMENT, 89 YEAR OLD IVAN BORCHOV WATCHES A NEWSCAST ON TV. IT HAS THE BACKGROUND NOISE OF CROWDS CHEERING.
NEWS REPORTER Here in Berlin, it seems that this is an unstoppable event. The Berlin Wall has been breached. Thousands of East Germans are now being re-united with their West Berlin relatives. Even the soldiers and guards of our own forces are helping in the destruction of the wall. This could be simply the end of an era for us in the USSR, yet it may well signify something more cataclysmic.
THE TV IS SWITCHED OFF. A CLOCK TICKS IN THE BACKGROUND AND IVAN SIGHS.
SVENTLANA: What’s the matter, Grandpa? You’ve turned the TV off. You’re always watching television. What’s wrong?
IVAN: I can’t watch that. It’s all over now. All gone.
SVETLANA: It’s only the Berlin Wall, Grandpa. It had to come down eventually. It was wrong.
IVAN: Svetlana, remember the thing you most hated about being a school teacher here in Leningrad?
SVETLANA You know full well what it was. Kalashnikov drill.
IVAN: What was the school record?
SVETLANA: We had a girl called Tatiana from Vyborg. She was 14. She could break the gun down and re-assemble it in 38 seconds.
IVAN: All that gun practice, drilling. What was it all for?
SVETLANA: It was so that we didn’t have to go through what you went through with the Germans. But I never liked it. Guns in schools. It made me sick.
IVAN: So that’s it. It has all been for nothing. 72 years wasted. Huh. Did you hear what the man said? Something ‘cataclysmic’. They celebrate in Berlin so what shall we do here in Leningrad? Bring the Tsar back?
SVETLANA: Who needs the Tsar? We’ve already got Yeltsin and Gorbachov. Cheer up, Grandpa.
You can’t change the course of history.
IVAN: You’re wrong. Svetlana. Once upon a time we did change it. If only I’d known that night back in 1917. I should have stayed at my workbench, ignored the revolution and gone home to my mother …
RUSSIAN CHOIR SINGING THE INTERNATIONALE: FADES TO:
FOOTSTEPS MAKE THEIR WAY ALONG A CORRIDOR,
IN THE BACKGROUND CAN BE HEARD SPORADIC CHEERS AND APPLAUSE: A BIG POLITICAL DEBATE IS IN PROGRESS. FOOTSTEPS
THEN HALT: THE DEBATE CONTINUES FAINTLY IN THE BACKGROUND.
YOUNG IVAN AS
TEENAGE RED GUARD: Halt! State your business!
TROTSKY: How old are you, son?
IVAN: Show me your pass!
TROTSKY: Comrade, How long have you been a Red Guard?
IVAN: I ask the questions here.
Who are you, and show me your pass.
TROTSKY: You don’t recognise me?
MORE BOOTS ECHO ALONG THE CORRIDOR
KAMENEV: Lev! Hurry! We’ve been waiting for you –
The debate’s in full swing!
TROTSKY: Apparently I’m a security risk.
IVAN: Comrade Kamenev, this man refuses
to answer my questions and show his pass.
KAMENEV (LAUGHING) How long have you been at the Smolny, son?
RED GUARD: It’s my first day, comrade.
I came over from Vyborg this morning.
TROTSKY: What’s your name, son? How old are you? Do you have a day job?
IVAN: Do I have to answer to this man?
KAMENEV: Son, you should look at a few Bolshevik photographs and learn who’s who. This is only Comrade Trotsky.
IVAN: Oh. I’ve heard that name. I am Ivan Borchov. I’m 17 and I’m an apprentice lathe operator at the Putilov works.
TROTSKY: Well, young Ivan, if you’re as dedicated at your lathe as you are as a red guard,
we can look forward to some good tanks and artillery. Can I come in now?
IN LENIN’S SAFE HOUSE: DISTANT TRAFFIC AND CROWD NOISE SEEPS IN FROM THE STREET.
EINO RAHJA: It’s looking bad out there. Kerensky’s
raised the bridges on the Neva – the workers can’t get across.
LENIN: Don’t panic, Rahja.
RAHJA: With great respect, Comrade Lenin –
LENIN: Respect, respect! ‘Comrade Lenin’? Stop being sarcastic Rahja!. Just say what’s on your mind.
RAHJA: Well, it’s all kicking off out there.
We’ve no idea if the Army or the Cossacks are planning anything – the congress are debating in a few hours at the Smolny – you have to be there.
LENIN: I’m an exile, Rahja – I’m not even supposed to be in Petrograd. I could be recognised.
RAHJA: Well, use your disguise again. It worked well last week when you met the Central Committee.
LENIN: I looked stupid.
RAHJA: What? Dressed as a Lutheran Minister?
It fooled me – apart from the fact that you kept fiddling with your toupee.
LENIN: Those bastards. They were laughing at me.
LENIN: Trotsky, Zinoviev – and that bloody bumpkin, Stalin.
RAHJA: Well, come on, you have to admit it was funny. The great Lenin in a dog collar and a ginger wig. I thought Kamenev was going to wet himself. Even I laughed when the wind blew it off on the way back here.
LENIN (Sighs): Oh, well. I suppose you’re right.
We ought to make a move. But no Lutheran Minister this time.
RAHJA: Well, your wig’s nice and clean. I washed
all the mud off it. Tell you what – how about the wig and a bandage?
LENIN: A bandage?
RAHJA: Yes. Wrap this old towel around your jaw; we’ll go by tram – you’ll look like a worker who’s been to the dentist. Here – you can wear my cap.
LENIN: Once again I’m to look like a clown.
THERE IS A METALLIC CLINK AS RAHJA FASTENS HIS GUN BELT.
LENIN: What the hell are you strapping on there?
RAHJA: Beauties, aren’t they? Colt 45s. I pinched them from an American in Helsinki.
LENIN: For god’s sake, Eino – who do you think you are – Wyatt Earp? If we get stopped and searched –
RAHJA: Then I’ll shoot the bastards! There’s no point in my being your bodyguard if I’m not armed.
THERE IS A FURTHER CLINK, THIS TIME OF BOTTLES:
LENIN: Vodka? How much more can you conceal under that greatcoat? You’re going to look like Falstaff waddling down the street!
RAHJA: What does a man need on the eve of a revolution? I’ve got it all – two loaded revolvers and two bottles of vodka.
If we go down fighting, we can at least have a drink.
SCENE 4: THE NOISY DEBATING HALL AT THE SMOLNY INSTITUTE: TROTSKY IS ADDRESSING THE ROWDY CROWD:
TROTSKY: Comrades! Workers, soldiers, sailors – this is the day and the night we’ve waited for. In 1905 we learned a bitter lesson – but this is 1917. Our time has finally come. We shall end Russia’s capitalist war and soon be at peace.
Look at the front now – the Germans are confused. Today there is not one single Russian Army unit … which is not in the control of the Bolsheviks!
(CHEERS ARE INTERSPERSED WITH BOOING AND THE ODD CRY OF ‘RUBBISH’)
Yes, I see you’re all here – the Mensheviks, social revolutionaries, I can even smell a few miserable democrats and Kerensky supporters in the room. But in a couple of hours we shall open the Congress of the Soviets. Only they – the workers and soldiers organised by the Bolsheviks will transform theory into action. The provisional government will be arrested! So when we re-assemble, remember these words – All power to the Soviets!
OUT ON THE STREET,RAHJA AND LENIN ARE MAKING THEIR WAY TO THE TRAM STOP: THE ODD VEHICLE RUMBLES BY.
RAHJA: Come on, wait over here by the wall. Stay out of the street lamps. There should be a tram along soon.
LENIN: It seems quieter than I imagined. Are you sure the trams are running?
RAHJA: Trust me. There’ll be a tram. Just relax.
THERE IS THE DISTANT CLATTER OF HORSE’S HOOFS; IT DRAWS CLOSER:
LENIN: Shit! That’s all we need. Cossacks!
RAHJA: Don’t panic. Pretend to be drunk. Sway around a bit. We’re pissed. Stagger!
THE HORSES SURROUND THEM AND STOP:
COSSACK 1: You there – you pair of shitheads!
Where do you think you’re off this time of night?
RAHJA (slurring) Hello, Captain .. lovely horsies … does your gee-gee want a lickle drinkie?
SECOND COSSACK: Leave them, Dubrovsky. They’re drunk.
COSSACK 1: They look like Bolsheviks to me. Step forward into the light where we can see you!
LENIN AND RAHJA SHUFFLE FORWARD
SECOND COSSACK: Are you Bolsheviks? Speak up!
RAHJA: Boshy what? Boshy wiks? Here. Lickle horsey … lovely horsey… we love gee-gees ..
COSSACK 1: Bloody state. No wonder we’re losing the war. Why aren’t you at the front, you useless turds!
RAHJA: We were wounded, comrade. Does horsey want a drink?
COSSACK 1: Stay away from my horse, arsehole!
COSSACK 2: We’re not your ‘comrades’ you lazy, idle bastards! You there! What have you got under your coat?
LENIN: (whispers) For Christ’s sake, Rahja …
COSSACK 1: What’s that, shitface?
RAHJA DELVES INTO HIS COAT AND THE VODKA BOTTLES CLINK:
RAHJA: Wahey! Good Petrograd vodka! Come on you Cossacks – have a drink with us! And the gee-gees!
COSSACK 2: Leave them Dubrovsky – they’re just a pair of pissheads.
THE HORSES BEGIN TO CLATTER OFF:
LENIN: Good god, Eino – that was close!
A SINGLE HORSE TROTS BACK TO THEM:
RAHJA: Damn it! It’s that mouthy one – he’s coming back.
LENIN: Be careful, Rahja – he’s got his whip out.
THE HORSE HALTS IN FRONT OF THEM:
COSSACK 1: You! You in the greatcoat – come here!
RAHJA STAGGERS FORWARD AND THERE IS A CRACK OF THE WHIP. RAHJA YELPS.
COSSACK 1: That’ll sober you up, dungheap!
THE HORSE CLATTERS AWAY
LENIN: Bastards! Eino – your head’s bleeding.
RAHJA: Oh, well. I’ll have a nice duelling scar to remind me of the revolution.
A TRAM APPROACHES, ITS BELL RINGING.
LENIN: How do I look?
RAHJA: Stop worrying comrade. We both look just as we’re supposed to look. Bloody awful.
Just get on the tram and stay quiet.
THE TRAM DRAWS TO A HALT AND THEY CLIMB ON BOARD. THE TRAM ACCELERATES
CONDUCTRESS: Where to?
RAHJA: Two to Suvoroskiy Prospekt please.
CONDUCTRESS: Your head’s bleeding.
RAHJA: Yes. I had a run-in with the Cossacks.
CONDUCTRESS: Murdering swine, the lot of ‘em.
LENIN: It’s quiet tonight – we’ve had to wait ages for this tram.
CONDUCTRESS: Huh! Think yourself lucky there are any trams! I nearly stayed at home. It’s going to be a big night.
LENIN: Why – what’s happening?
CONDUCTRESS: God, you need a tram conductor to tell you?
RAHJA: Oh, take no notice of him. He’s been to the dentist.
CONDUCTRESS: Well, what kind of workers are you if you don’t know what’s going on? The revolution starts tonight.
LENIN: Is that a fact?
CONDUCTRESS: Hah – you’re obviously not a Bolshevik. Tonight the workers are going to stuff it to the bosses, and about bloody time.
SHORT PAUSE: THE TRAM RUMBLES ON: THERE IS BACKGROUND CHATTERING.
THERE IS THE CLINK OF A BOTTLE
LENIN: Hell, Eino -what are you doing now?
RAHJA: What does it look like? I’m having a drink. That whiplash really stung.
LENIN: Even the tram conductress seems to know what’s happening. I hope Trotsky’s worked everything out.
RAHJA: Of course he has! You know what Comrade Lev’s like. No stone unturned. Look – out there …
RAHJA: Soldiers and workers warming their hands around a fire. They’re our soldiers. Not the Tsar’s, not Kerensky’s or Kornilov’s.
They’re Bolshevik soldiers. And they’re ready.
THE SMOLNY:THE CHEERING AND DEBATING CARRY ON IN THE BACKGROUND. TROTSKY HAS LEFT THE HALL AND IS OUT IN THE CORRIDOR AGAIN.
KAMENEV: I think you’ve kept them happy for the time being, Lev.
TROTSKY: My job’s not to make them happy, Kamenev.
My job’s to keep them angry. Do you have a cigarette?
KAMENEV: Yes, here. Not nervous are you?
THE CIGARETTE IS LIT AND TROTSKY INHALES AND EXHALES AND COUGHS.
TROTSKY: Where the hell is Lenin? He should be here. He’s needed.
KAMENEV: He’ll get here, I know he’s coming.
TROTSKY COUGHS VIOLENTLY, EXHALES AND COLLAPSES NOISILY TO THE FLOOR.
KAMENEV: Bloody hell! Lev! Guard! Over here, quick!
IVAN: What’s wrong, comrade – is he ill?
KAMENEV: What does it look like? He’s bloody fainted – here, help me get him to his feet!
KAMENEV IS SLAPPING TROTSKY’S FACE:
KAMENEV: Come on, Lev – what’s up here? Wake up!
TROTSKY (COUGHS) It’s that Balkan tobacco, Kamenev. It would fell a rhinoceros.
KAMENEV: Bollocks. You’ve smoked plenty before. When did you last eat anything?
TROTSKY: Oh … I can’t remember. Perhaps three days ago.
KAMENEV: And when did you last sleep?
TROTSKY: The day before yesterday.
KAMENEV: Well no wonder you’re collapsing. You need to get some shuteye for a couple of hours.
TROTSKY: I’m alright now. Give me a light again. We’ll wait for Lenin.
THE TRAM PULLS AWAY;LENIN AND RAHJA ARE WALKING ALONG THE STREET
LENIN: Couldn’t we have arranged a car, Rahja?
RAHJA: We need all the cars tonight. In any case, there will be more Cossacks around and they’re stopping cars.
LENIN: How much further do we have to walk then?
RAHJA: Stop grumbling. Just around the next corner.
THEIR FOOTSTEPS CONTINUE; THERE IS INCREASING NOISE OF CARS, MARCHING, MEN CHATTERING.
RAHJA: There you are. The Smolny Institute. It’s a shame you haven’t been here before.
LENIN: Yes. It seems exile has deprived me. It’s a fine base for a revolution.
RAHJA: We had great fun taking it over from all those rich Bourgeois tarts and prissy princesses.
LENIN: What a hive of activity. I never expected to see soldiers drilling at this time of night.
RAHJA: You see, comrade, that’s your trouble. You’re just the brains behind all this.
They’re the action. These lads drilled for the Tsar. Now they’re drilling for the workers – and Trotsky.
GUARD: Halt! What’s your business? Oh, it’s you, comrade Rahja. ‘ere – your head’s bleeding.
RAHJA: I got a whipping from some Cossacks.
GUARD: Bastards. Better get yourself to the first aid post – that’s a nasty slash.
Who’s this ragamuffin you’ve brought us?
RAHJA: For god’s sake, you can take the towel and the wig off now.
GUARD: Christ! If he had a beard he’d be a dead ringer for Lenin.
RAHJA: It is Lenin, you twerp. Now get out of the way!
INSIDE THE SMOLNY LENIN AND RAHJA ARE MET BY KAMENEV AND TROTSKY
KAMENEV: Vladimir Illyich! Here at last.
LENIN: My god, it stinks in here!
TROTSKY: It’s the smell of revolution, comrade.
It’s good to see you. Has Rahja been looking after you well?
LENIN: Yes, he’s gone off to get his wound dressed and probably drink more vodka.
THERE ARE FURTHER ROARS FROM THE CROWD
IN THE NEARBY HALL.
LENIN: Never mind the small talk, Lev. What’s happening? Have the Soviets convened?
TROTSKY: No, we’ve a couple of hours yet.
KAMENEV: Unfortunately we’ve got a mixed bag in there. Everybody’s after a slice of the pie.
TROTSKY: But it’s a Soviet pie and I don’t think some of them enjoy the taste.
LENIN: Well, they’d better get used to it. You look exhausted Lev. Can we find somewhere to sit for a while?
KAMENEV: Your sister’s here, Vladimir Illych. She’s sorted a room out for you and Lev to take a rest for a couple of hours. She’s even found a blanket and some pillows. Maybe you should both grab some sleep.
LENIN AND TROTSKY ENTER THE ROOM. THE SOUND OF THE DEBATING HALL RECEDES AND IS REPLACED BY THE DISTANT NOISE OF VEHICLES AND MARCHING OUT ON THE STREET.
LENIN: Well, I’ve slept in some Spartan beds before, but one blanket on a bare floor and two filthy pillows –
TROTSKY SIGHS HEAVILY AS HE LIES DOWN ON THE FLOOR.
TROTSKY: Don’t just stand there. I’m worn out. You may as well come and lie beside me.
LENIN: You’re a tough bird, Lev Davidovich. How the hell can you get comfortable lying down there? Anyway, it’s too damned cold in here.
TROTSKY: Look – there’s a roll of carpet over there by the wall. Pull it over here. It’ll make a good eiderdown.
LENIN PANTS AND STRUGGLES WITH THE CARPET.
LENIN: God. I bet the Tsar never had to do this.
TROTSKY: Well if he had, he might realise how his subjects suffer. That’s right – get it unrolled … now lie down here. At least you’ve got a pillow.
LENIN: Christ. This floor is so bloody hard.
TROTSKY: Oh, relax and stop chivvying. Think of those poor lads out there. They’d be happy to be here under an imperial carpet.
THERE IS A PAUSE. THE STREET NOISES FILTER THROUGH. LENIN SIGHS THEN BEGINS TO CHUCKLE.
TROTSKY: That’s a first, the great Lenin giggling. What’s tickling you?
LENIN: Oh, just a thought. We’re about to make history and already we’ve been swept under the carpet.
TROTSKY; Well, at least the rug’s not been pulled from under us. Now, for god’s sake, just lie back and try to sleep.
THEY LISTEN FOR A WHILE: THERE IS DISTANT GUNFIRE AND THE BOOM OF A LARGER GUN FAR AWAY.
LENIN: I hope those are our guns.
TROTSKY(yawning) Yes, they probably are.
LENIN: Probably? You’re in charge of the Military committee –
TROTSKY: Yes, but that doesn’t make me a psychic!
LENIN: So you’ve done everything that needs doing?
TROTSKY: Yes, yes, yes! That’s why I haven’t slept for three bloody days, that’s why I’m lying here trying to!
LENIN: The railway stations?
TROTSKY: Oh, God give me strength … yes, the railway stations, the post office and telegraph offices, even the Winter Palace.
In fact, that big gun you heard is probably the cruiser Aurora. The sailors moved her up river to be in range of the Winter Palace.
THE CRACKLE OF GUNFIRE CONTINUES: MEN’S VOICES AND VEHICLES.
LENIN: So much has happened. It’s hard to believe that just five months ago I was living above that cobbler’s shop in Zurich.
TROTSKY: I’d heard it was a butcher’s shop.
LENIN: No, that was next door.
TROTSKY: Was his meat any good?
LENIN: He made a fine sausage.
TROTSKY: Well, in a few months’ time we’ll all be eating good sausages. Now go to sleep.
LENIN: What about the army, the Cossacks?
TROTSKY: They can get their own sausages.
LENIN; I’m talking about our enemies. Surely they’re prepared. What we planned for tonight is no secret.
TROTSKY: Illych, war is war. It’s like football.
Two teams. Look – you were there last week at the Central Committee meeting.
LENIN: Yes, and?
TROTSKY: You heard what Kamenev and Zinoviev said.
LENIN: Yes, bloody Zinoviev. His pessimism … at least Kamenev has changed his mind and come on board.
TROTSKY: Well, Kamenev might be my brother in law, but just like him you can be annoying at times. You confuse pessimism with caution. Zinoviev and Kamenev both did the necessary homework. What can the enemy bring out to oppose us? You want me to frighten you? Well, seeing as we’re laid here in the dark under a shitty old carpet, here’s a suitable horror story;
5,000 Junkers, magnificently armed and knowing how to fight, troops at the army headquarters, and then the shock troops, and then the Cossacks, and then a considerable part of the garrison, and then a very considerable quantity of artillery fanned out across Petrograd.
LENIN: My god. It could be a blood bath.
TROTSKY: Or it could be a picnic with a few firecrackers. Listen comrade. We have 40,000 bayonets on our side out there and the Kronstadt Sailors. Illych, you’re the great theorist. So think about the army of the enemy. It contains the wormholes of isolation and decay.
LENIN: And a hard core of fanatics and a lot of heavy artillery.
TROTSKY: Now who’s being a pessimist?
LENIN: I’m sorry, Lev. I was thinking back to that Central Committee meeting. Kamenev and Zinoviev were against tonight’s insurrection. They said it was too early. What if they were right?
TROTSKY: Alright, misery guts. Then we’ll fail, a lot of blood will flow, the Tsar will crow like a rooster, capitalism will triumph and the Germans will keep killing our men on the front.
LENIN: And it won’t be exile for us this time.
It’ll be the firing squad.
TROTSKY: Well, at least it would shut you up.
LENIN: Yes … I am being pessimistic. This is what we’ve devoted the past thirty years to. It’s just … well, lying here, listening to the physical outcome of millions of words and thousands of speeches; it’s breath-taking.
TROTSKY: Oooh! Be careful, Illych. I smell creeping romanticism. You’re the philosopher, remember your Karl Marx.
LENIN: Which chapter, which verse?
TROTSKY: The philosophers have only interpreted the world –
LENIN: – the thing, however, is to change it.
TROTSKY: And now we’re doing it.
LENIN: Yes. I remember Kamenev telling me something Stalin said to him one night when they were exiled to Siberia.
TROTSKY: Another of Josef’s malodourous farmyard homilies, no doubt.
LENIN: No, considering tonight, it was very apt.
He said something about …let me recall – yes; ‘to choose one’s victims, to prepare one’s plan minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance …and then go to bed … there is nothing sweeter in the world.’
TROTSKY: Mmm. That’s Stalin to a tee.
LENIN: Well, isn’t that us? Slaking an impeccable vengeance and going to bed?
TROTSKY: There is a difference.
LENIN: How so?
TROTSKY: When Stalin goes to bed he goes to bloody sleep! Fat chance of that with you around!
THE DISTANT ACTIVITY CONTINUES OUTSIDE. THERE IS ANOTHER ‘BOOM’ FROM THE DISTANT GUN ACROSS THE RIVER.
TROTSKY IS NOW SNORING.
LENIN: Lev. Are you awake?
THE SNORING CONTINUES:
LENIN: Lev! Lev! Wake up!
TROTSKY IS DISTURBED FROM HIS SLUMBER WITH MUCH GRUNTING, COUGHING AND GRUMBLING.
TROTSKY: For God’s sake, Illych! I’m buggered here – can’t a man have a bit of sleep?
LENIN: I think the Aurora fired another salvo.
TROTSKY (yawning) Oh, well, all power to the sailors. This is purgatory. You’re like a kid on Christmas Eve.
LENIN: And that’s our role – Saint Nicholas.
TROTSKY: It’s not Father Christmas you need. It’s St. Raphael the Archangel, patron saint of people suffering from nightmares and mental problems.
LENIN: I’m impressed. For a Jew, you certainly know your Catholic Saints.
TROTSKY: Know your enemy. But don’t expect me to quote the Talmud. Are we done now?
TROTSKY: Yes. Can we get to sleep?
LENIN: I just wanted to say something else.
TROTSKY: Huh. Go on then, spit it out.
LENIN: Well, when Eino Rahja and I were travelling here on the tram tonight, I felt very proud.
TROTSKY: Whoa! Steady on comrade… the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins.
LENIN: I saw workers, soldiers, armed, guns and bayonets, warming their hands around a brazier, their faces illuminated in the darkness. I felt proud that we’d brought them all together at last.
TROTSKY: Well it isn’t as easy as you make it sound. Propaganda and written theory are one thing – practical organisation is something else. Books versus artillery doesn’t work.
LENIN: Touché… I’ve relied heavily on your mathematical brain, Lev. I’m interested, from a military point of view. How have you organised all this?
AS TROTSKY SPEAKS, HIS WORDS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THE SOUNDS OF MARCHING BOOTS OUTSIDE.
TROTSKY: Keep this in mind; we’re not an attacking force. We’re a defending force, defending our revolution. If they shoot, we’ll shoot back. If Kerensky and his men accept reality and surrender, we save bullets.
We need people to live for the revolution, not die for it. There’s already enough corpses piled up at the front.
LENIN: So – the military aspect – how have you planned it?
TROTSKY: Our basic military unit is ten; four tens make a squad, three squads, a company; three companies, a battalion. With its commanding staff and special units, a battalion numbers over 500 men. The battalions of each district constitute a division. Big factories like the Putilov have their own divisions. Special technical commands – sappers, bicycles, telegraphers, machine-gunners and artillery men – were recruited in the corresponding factories, and attached to the riflemen – or else act independently according to the nature of the given task. The entire commanding staff has been elective. There was no risk in this: all are volunteers here and know each other well.
LENIN: Well, there we are. An incredible achievement. Now will you allow me to be proud?
TROTSKY: Only if it all works. Huh! Pride. Dante’s definition was “love of self, perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour.”
LENIN: Well, maybe we can allow ourselves that luxury. Aren’t you proud of what we’ve achieved – especially what you’ve accomplished – after the entire struggle?
TROTSKY: I remember the first morning after I’d slept with Natalia. She said you never know the full measure of a man until you’ve shared a bed with him.
LENIN: What’s that supposed to mean?
TROTSKY: I’m getting a new measure on you, Illych.
LENIN: Well, maybe your Christmas analogy isn’t far off the mark. We’re a couple of kids tonight. Wasn’t it John Locke who said ‘Children are travellers newly arrived in a strange country of which they know nothing?’
TROTSKY: I’m sure he did. But kids go to sleep at night. Even on Christmas Eve.
LENIN: Point taken. I usually sleep like a baby.
TROTSKY: People who say they ‘sleep like a baby’ usually don’t have one alongside them in bed!
TROTSKY BEGINS TO SNORE AGAIN. VEHICLES RUMBLE OUTSIDE MIXED WITH GUNFIRE: ABOVE THIS RISES TROOPS SINGING THE SOVIET SONG ‘OVER THE HILLS AND DALES’.LENIN GETS UP, RACES OVER TO THE WINDOW AND OPENS IT.
LENIN: Lev – listen!
TROTSKY CONTINUES TO SNORE; THE SINGING FROM OUTSIDE HAS GROWN LOUDER. LENIN SHAKES TROTSKY AWAKE:
LENIN: Lev – Lev! You can’t miss this!
ONCE AGAIN, A GRUMBLING TROTSKY SPLUTTERS AWAKE.
TROTSKY: Oh, now what? Sod me – you’ve got the bloody window open!
THE SINGING CONTINUES:
LENIN: Oh, Come on Lev! Listen to that.
You know that song, surely?
TROTSKY: Yes, it’s something to do with over the hills or something – a forest song from the Taiga.
LENIN: It’s called ‘The Soldiers’. Listen at them
out there. Magnificent. What a night, eh?
TROTSKY: Yes, and I’m about to catch pneumonia.
LENIN: How can we think of sleeping with this going on?
TROTSKY (yawning) It’s easy, comrade. Anyway, I thought you didn’t like music…
LENIN: I never said that. I said it was a distraction from revolutionary work.
TROTSKY: Well it’s certainly a distraction from sleep.
LENIN: I used to play the guitar when I was younger.
TROTSKY: Well thank God you gave it up. Shut that damned window and come to bed.
THE MUSIC GROWS THEN FADES: WE RETURN TO THE DISTANT SOUND OF ACTIVITY OUTSIDE.
TROTSKY: What time is it?
LENIN: Oh, I thought you’d gone back to sleep.
TROTSKY: I should be so lucky.
LENIN: It’s too dark. I can’t see my watch.
TROTSKY: Ah well, Kamenev said he’d wake us when the congress starts.
LENIN: I’ve been thinking.
TROTSKY: No change there, then.
LENIN: If it’s all worked out tonight – if we’ve taken power, if we can disband and arrest the Provisional Government, put Kerensky on trial –
TROTSKY: Slow down, take it easy. Stuffing the provisional government shouldn’t be too hard. They’re a mamby-pamby bunch OF lickspittles with no sense of direction.
But the only sense of direction that slippery slug Kerensky has is the road out of Petrograd.
LENIN: Yes, well all this begs a question. We’re to form a new government, right?
TROTSKY: You’re working well tonight, comrade. That is the general idea.
LENIN: But it needs to be something new, something totally different.
TROTSKY: I think ‘revolutionary’ is the word you’re looking for.
LENIN: Exactly. So – will we have ministers?
TROTSKY: Mmmm. Nasty.
LENIN: So what shall we call them?
TROTSKY: Anything but ‘ministers’. That’s such a vile, hackneyed term. We might call them commissaries … but there are too many commissaries just now. Perhaps ‘supreme commissaries’? No. That doesn’t sound well, either. What about ‘People’s Commissars?’
LENIN: People’s Commissars? Well, that might do, I think. And the government as a whole?
TROTSKY: A Soviet, of course. The Soviet of People’s Commissars, eh?
LENIN: Mmmm … yes. The Soviet of People’s Commissars. That’s splendid; smells terribly of revolution! You can go back to sleep now.
TROTSKY: I don’t think I’ll bother. Your incessant worrying has infected me.
LENIN: In what way?
TROTSKY: Well, I’m the chair of the military revolutionary committee, and here I am dozing under a carpet whilst god knows what I’ve set in motion out there is going on.
LENIN: Well, don’t the Africans say that sleep is the cousin of death?
TROTSKY: Now he tells me! So that’s what you’ve been up to under this carpet – keeping me alive?
LENIN LAUGHS QUIETLY.
TROTSKY: That’s the second time you’ve laughed tonight. This is looking serious.
LENIN: I don’t see the funny side of life as often as you do, Lev.
TROTSKY: Well you should dress as a Lutheran Minister more often. That was a laugh a minute.
LENIN: Yes, Rahja brought that up. I have to admit I was annoyed. There we were planning an insurrection and you all kept bursting out sniggering.
TROTSKY: We’re not going to issue a decree on humour, are we? You should take a leaf out of my brother in law’s book, and even Zinoviev’s. They may be serious most of the time, but they like a good laugh.
LENIN: Sometimes it’s bad manners and ignorance.
TROTSKY: Oh – let me guess – Stalin.
LENIN: I’ve every respect for him as a revolutionary, but he has the manners of a pig.
TROTSKY: Well, we wanted a revolution by workers and peasants, Illych. We’ve had enough bourgeois chatter over the coffee cups to last a lifetime. A bit of crudity livens things up.
LENIN: I’ll admit Josef has firmness of character, tenacity, stubbornness, even ruthlessness and craftiness – qualities necessary in a war. But if the rest of the world is going to take us seriously, we still need a bit of sophistication.
TROTSKY: If you’re talking about diplomacy, it’s a lot of twaddle. Jobs for the boys, upper class chinless wonders talking in riddles.
LENIN: Perhaps. But if we have to negotiate with governments –
TROTSKY: Negotiate?! As we’ve discussed, Illych – the revolution might start here, but it won’t finish in Russia. When the Germans lose the war –
LENIN: If –
TROTSKY: When the Germans lose the war the comrades in Germany will follow our lead. We’re lighting a forest fire here. The French and the British workers will follow suit. It may take time, but it’s inevitable.
LENIN: In the meantime, when we do appoint ministers –
TROTSKY: Ah-ah! Commissars, remember?
LENIN: Then we need commissars of quality.
TROTSKY: I don’t like the implications of the term.
Any one of those lads out there on the street tonight has more ‘quality’ than a dozen Kerenskys or Rodziankos. You could send that hulking great sailor, Dybenko to deal with that windbag Lloyd George.
LENIN: All right, Lev. So whilst we’re at it, as a judge of character, give me your assessment of our team.
TROTSKY: An ‘assessment of our team?’ You know them as well as I do. Assess them yourself. Assess me if you want – I don’t care.
LENIN: Don’t be flippant, Lev. I value your judgment. We’ll have to build some kind of a cabinet.
TROTSKY: Oh, of course. We need something to keep the drinks in.
LENIN: Be serious. It doesn’t go beyond this room.
TROTSKY: If you think in my exhausted state that I’m going to go through about twenty personalities then you’re mistaken. Just give me a couple of names and we’ll call it quits.
LENIN: Zinoviev and Kamenev.
TROTSKY: Don’t think I’m going easy on Kamenev because he’s my brother in law.
LENIN: Why should you? Family ties are the first thing to be severed for a revolutionary.
TROTSKY: Zinoviev and Kamenev are two profoundly different types. Zinoviev is an agitator. Kamenev a propagandist. Zinoviev is guided in the main by a subtle political instinct. Kamenev is given to reason and analysis. Zinoviev is forever inclined to fly off at a tangent. Kamenev, on the contrary, errs on the side of excessive caution. Zinoviev is entirely absorbed by politics. He has no other interests or appetites. Kamenev’s a sybarite and a aesthete. Zinoviev? He’s vindictive. Kamenev, yes, alright, he married my sister, but he’s good nature personified.
LENIN: Mmm. Interesting.
TROTSKY: ‘Interesting’? That’s a bit nebulous for you, isn’t it?
LENIN: What about Stalin?
TROTSKY: You’ve already summed him up. What was it again? ‘tenacity, stubbornness, even ruthlessness’.
LENIN: What kind of commissar would he make?
TROTSKY: The People’s Commissar for spittoons.
LENIN: You know, Lev, there’s still a bourgeois streak in you.
LENIN: Now you’re sounding just like Josef.
TROTSKY: Oh, come off it with the hypocrisy, Illych. If I’m a bourgeois then you’re the Tsar’s arsewipe. I know deep down what you think of Stalin.
TROTSKY: Yes. Go on – remind me. I’ve given you Zinoviev and Kamenev. You give me Stalin.
LENIN: Oh, I’ll tell you about Stalin, but I’ve another question first. We spend as much time apart, you and I, as we do together.
TROTSKY: Such is the curse of exile.
LENIN: Yes, quite. But in the various scattered enclaves of the party, other opinions must arise. This is a good night for me to wonder; what do they think of me?
TROTSKY: What does who think of you?
LENIN: Well, everyone – they must talk. You, yourself, for example?
TROTSKY: Oh, I can quote chapter and verse the utterances you’ve made about me – both verbally and in print.
LENIN: Dialectics demand fearless honesty, Lev.
You’ve kicked me around too.
TROTSKY: Oh, well, how about 1909 – “Trotsky’s major mistake is that he ignores the bourgeois character of the revolution and has no clear conception of the transition from this revolution to the socialist revolution”. Utter bullshit.
LENIN: Well, much has happened in six years.
TROTSKY: Perhaps. However, wounds heal but there are scars. Take your 1911 attack for example: “We resume our freedom of struggle against the liberals and anarchists, who are being encouraged by the leader of the ‘conciliators,’ Trotsky.”
LENIN: I had a point. You’ve always been a fluctuating character, Lev. It takes time for you to see sense…. Yet here we are, after all the arguments, under this carpet. What about the others?
TROTSKY: What ‘others’?
LENIN: You needn’t name names. What’s the general opinion of me among the comrades?
TROTSKY: Fearless honesty?
LENIN: I can take it.
TROTSKY: Your writings, your dedication, your discipline, without these the engine in our ship would be several pistons short.
LENIN: That’s a compliment.
TROTSKY: I haven’t finished. As Zinoviev is always saying, revolutionaries have neither the time nor space for sentimentality, or personal and familial relationships. Yet on occasion, men can’t help but to succumb to human emotion.
LENIN: You can skip the biology lesson.
TROTSKY: Oh, I intend to. Cold, mechanical, aloof,
intolerant, humourless, implacable. How does that sound?
LENIN: You’re still issuing compliments.
TROTSKY: I remember once talking with Martov –
LENIN: That sad bastard. He was anti-Bolshevik even in 1911, criticising us for expropriating the capitalists by robbing their banks! He’s finished.
TROTSKY: Yes, I agree, but he’ll be at the congress tonight. As I was saying – he once expressed his opinion that if Lenin was sitting at his desk and Marx and Engels walked in, your arrogance would drive them both out of the room.
LENIN: Shows how little Martov knows. Why would I ever do such a thing?
TROTSKY: Martov cited your philosophical conceit and over confidence. He said even when Lenin is wrong, he’s right.
LENIN: (laughs) There you go, Lev. Three laughs in one night from your cold, mechanical and implacably humourless party leader.
Anything further you’d like to reveal?
TROTSKY: No – we had a deal, remember? Stalin. Is it true you wrote a letter to Gorky in 1913 calling Josef ‘a marvellous Georgian?’
LENIN: Yes, I probably did. Fair enough. He’s a good revolutionist. He’s tough and he’s brave. He’s a lousy orator and a poor writer.
TROTSKY: And you let him edit Pravda.
LENIN: Yes, but he got the message across to the workers. But he’s certainly no theoretician. Stalin’s value lies wholly in the sphere of party administration and machine manoeuvring. Have I left anything out?
TROTSKY: His brutish manners. I was with him when we went around the Putilov works introducing ourselves to the women workers. He actually farted. Not quietly, either, and certainly not odourless.
LENIN: Well, you can’t get less bourgeois than that. Maybe our first decree ought to be the freedom to break wind wherever we like.
TROTSKY: If you don’t mind me saying, this is a facile and pointless discussion. We’re a revolutionary body. We’ve got more farters, belchers, boozers and smokers than half the governments of Europe. It hasn’t held us back.
LENIN (Yawns) No. We may be a disparate gang, but the aims and objectives weld us together.
I’m tired now.
TROTSKY: Oh, you’re tired now. That’s rich.
LENIN: I think I may snooze for a while.
TROTSKY: The hell you will. If we fall asleep now even a shell from the Aurora won’t wake us up. Anyway, you’ve kept me awake.
LENIN: I wonder what history will make of us?
TROTSKY: Mincemeat, if we make a hash of tonight.
Think on what Hegel said; ‘What experience and history teach is this – that people and governments have never learned anything from the study of history, or acted on the principles deduced from it.’
LENIN: Until now.
TROTSKY: One hopes, therefore, that we’ll be remembered for our nature rather than for our deeds.
LENIN: I doubt it. Remember Goethe? ‘Sin writes histories – goodness is silent’.
TROTSKY: You should have stuck with the guitar, and I ought to have become a mathematician. We’d both be silent goodies then.
LENIN: I suppose a century from now they’ll see us like all other governments; we had to use violence to get our own way.
TROTSKY: We’re animals, comrade. Ants, spiders, rats, foxes, tigers … violence is part of life. We’re no different except for our politics. The best revenge we’ll have on history is that we avoided imitation. Whatever else they’ll say about us, at least we were original.
THERE IS A PAUSE; THE BUSTLE OUTSIDE THE BUILDING CONTINUES AND THEY BOTH BEGIN TO SNORE. THIS FADES AND IS REPLACED BY THE CHOIR SINGING BOLDLY, COMRADES, IN STEP. THIS CONTINUES BUT IS BROKEN BY LOUD KNOCKING ON THE DOOR; THE DOOR IS THEN OPENED: KAMENEV ENTERS
KAMANEV: (quietly) Glory be … look at this …babes in the wood …
(Shouts) Comrades! Wakey wakey! Up! Up!
LENIN & TROTSKY BOTH SPLUTTER AWAKE, GROANING AND YAWNING
LENIN: What is it Kamenev? Has the Congress begun?
KAMENEV: The Soviets are assembling. I thought I’d call you as soon as possible. You’ve got about half an hour. One of the comrades is bringing you some tea and some bread. Give you chance to liven yourselves up.
TROTSKY: Get me some cigarettes, Kamenev.
KAMENEV: Here. Take these – but for god’s sake don’t faint this time!
KAMENEV LEAVES AND THE DOOR CLOSES. TROTSKY LIGHTS A CIGARETTE. LENIN COUGHS.
LENIN: You damned smokers. Is there any wonder this place stinks so much. We should issue a decree against tobacco.
TROTSKY: You do and you’ll end up talking to an empty hall.
THERE IS A FURTHER KNOCK ON THE DOOR: IT OPENS, AND YOUNG IVAN ENTERS WITH A TEA TRAY:
LENIN: Hah-ha! Room service, no less.
IVAN: Comrade Kamenev has sent this tea and bread for you, gentlemen.
LENIN: Spoken like a true waiter. Gentlemen, eh?
TROTSKY: Yes, it’s a while since we’ve been called that. Put the tray down here, son, on the floor.
THE TRAY RATTLES AND THERE IS THE CLINK OF A BOTTLE:
TROTSKY: Hello, hello … vodka as well?
IVAN: Yes, Comrade Trotsky – compliments of Comrade Rahja.
LENIN: Typical Rahja – he’s bloody incorrigible.
TROTSKY: And all the better for it.
TROTSKY SWIGS VODKA AND EXHALES.
TROTSKY: Ah! Mother Russia’s milk!
LENIN: Well, thanks son – you can go now.
IVAN: Er … excuse me, comrade …
LENIN: Yes, what is it?
IVAN: Are you – are you really … Lenin?
LENIN: Yes – that’s me, lad. Don’t look so surprised, I’m not the Tsar.
IVAN: May I … could I …
LENIN: Could you what?
IVAN: Sir, could I shake your hand?
TROTSKY (laughs) Hey, kid – he’s not Chaliapin either –
He’s only a politician.
IVAN: I apologise, but my father has read all of your works comrade Lenin, your books and pamphlets. If I can tell him that I’ve shaken hands with you, I think he’ll be very impressed.
TROTSKY (laughs) Hey – you’re making me jealous Ivan Borchov. Don’t you wish to shake my hand too?
SOVIET CHOIR SINGING ‘THE ENGINE’ FADES TO 1989 IVAN BORCHOV’S LENINGRAD APARTMENT
SVETLANA: Grandpa, here, Come away from the window. I’ve made you some tea. Either cheer yourself up or go to bed.
IVAN: I should have shaken his hand.
IVAN: Leon Trotsky.
SVETLANA: I knew you met Lenin once – you never mentioned Trotsky.
IVAN: No-one mentioned Trotsky.
SVETLANA: Will you come away from the window, sit down and drink your tea!
IVAN: They told us he was a criminal and a counter-revolutionary.
SVETLANA: Forget Trotsky. Think about Pushkin; “Ecstasy is a glassful of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.” Despite the Berlin Wall, we have both, so come and sit down and enjoy it.
IVAN: Criminals and counter revolutionaries. Huh. I wonder what they’ll call Gorbachov and Yeltsin.
SVETLANA: You still believe in it all, don’t you?
What are you staring at out there?
IVAN: My city. St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad. Fancy a city having three names in less than a century. Come over here, Svetlana. I want to show you something.
SVETLANA: Well, what is it? Show me.
IVAN: You can just see the lights from here around the Winter Palace. Do you remember when you were a little girl, during the siege?
SVETLANA: I don’t want to talk about it. Those were horrible times, and best forgotten.
IVAN: You know, the week before the Nazis attacked us there was an exhibition over there at the Hermitage. I’d bought a newspaper – the Leningradskaya Pravda. It had a big advert for the exhibition. It was all to do with Tamerlane. There’d been an expedition to Gur Emir at Samarkand and they’d opened his tomb. When they found his skeleton, one leg was shorter than the other.
SVETLANA: Well, that’s all very fascinating, but why don’t you go and sit down, drink your tea before it gets cold.
IVAN: It even snowed on May Day in 1941. But one thing I remember reading in that newspaper was about Tamerlane’s tomb. There was a legend that if anyone opened it – and they did – they removed the lid – it was a big block of green nephrite – if they opened it then a great war would be released.
SVETLANA: Coincidence and superstition. So there was a great war, and we won. Now take things easy and stop torturing yourself. Good, hot tea, Grandpa. That’s what you need, not bad cold memories.
IVAN: Just let me stand here for a few more moments.(PAUSE)
Lenin didn’t appreciate Petrograd. To him it was just a sweated slum, a place of intrigue and agitation.
SVETLANA: Well forget Lenin. Pushkin loved it – “Show your colours, City of Peter, and stand steadfast like Russia.” Now come and sit down.
THEY SIT DOWN, IVAN SIGHS AND TEA IS POURED.
IVAN: Mmm. ‘Stand steadfast like Russia’. We certainly did that night.
SOVIET CHOIR SINGS BOLDLY COMRADES, IN STEP: FADES TO LENIN AND TROTSKY IN THEIR SMOLNY ROOM: THERE IS THE SOUND OF MUCH ACTIVITY FILTERING IN FROM OUTSIDE, AND CROWD NOISES SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE BUILDING.
LENIN: Well, it wasn’t much of a sleep, but it’ll have to do.
TROTSKY: We would have been better off with separate rooms. I’m still tired.
LENIN: We have work to do.
TROTSKY: Yes. If everything’s gone to plan, we have that damned rabble in the hall to sort out.
LENIN: Are you ready then?
TROTSKY: Yes. Those baying dogs out there.
What shall we tell them all?
LENIN: It depends. Either there is a revolution or there isn’t. Let’s go and find out.
THEY LEAVE THE ROOM AND ENTER THE NOISY,
LENIN: Kamenev! You look happy – is this a good sign?
KAMENEV: Damn right it is!
TROTSKY: Have we pulled it off?
KAMENEV: Clockwork, Lev, clockwork. Telegraph offices, railway stations, and governmental buildings- all occupied without any noteworthy resistance.
TROTSKY: What about Kerensky – the Provisional Government?
KAMENEV: Troops of the Military Revolutionary Committee surrounded the Winter Palace. The Provisional Government were in session, but we put a stop to that.
LENIN: Has there been much bloodshed?
KAMENEV: Some, but Kerensky’s Cadets asked ministers if they should fight to the last man. The ministers backed down. They sent us a message; ‘No bloodshed – we surrender’.
TROTSKY: What medical facilities do we have in place?
KAMENEV: Yesterday the Vyborg district soviet issued the following order: “Immediately requisition all automobiles … Take an inventory of all first-aid supplies, and have nurses on duty in all clinics.” That’s been done.
TROTSKY: Brilliant. Did we arrest Kerensky?
KAMENEV: The bastard’s as slippery as ever. He’s escaped. But everyone else has been arrested. We’ve locked them up in the Peter and Paul fortress.
Comrades – we are victorious.
LENIN: Curb your passion, Kamenev. We’ve won a few skirmishes, not a war. We still have to sell this to that crowd of spineless procrastinators in the hall.
TROTSKY: Well, now is as good a time as any.
KAMENEV: Comrades, there’s 650 overheated delegates in there – but we’ve got wall to wall Bolshevik support – the Kronstadt Sailors are all around the room.
SCENE 12: LENIN AND TROTSKY ENTER THE DEBATING HALL TO A MIXTURE OF CHEERS AND CATCALLS. FADE TO TROTSKY IN MID-SPEECH:
TROTSKY: Yes, comrades, as comrade Lenin has announced, now we shall have peace, bread and land. Our troops are already being told about our success. Think back to March this year when those same soldiers kissed the hands and feet of liberal priests, carried ministers on their shoulders, got drunk on the speeches of Kerensky, and believed that the Bolsheviks were German agents – of that filthy propaganda there is nothing left! No, comrades. Those rosy illusions have been drowned in the mud of the trenches, which the soldiers refused to go on treading in their leaky boots.
LOUD CHEERS DIE AWAY AS AN ARMY OFFICER RISES TO SPEAK:
ARMY OFFICER: The Bolshevik hypocrites who now control this congress told us we were to settle the question of power – and now it is being settled behind our backs, before the congress opens!
HE IS INTERRUPTED BY BOOING AND HISSING. THIS SUBSIDES AND HE CONTINUES:
Blows have been struck against the Winter Palace, and it is by such blows that the nails are being driven into the coffin of the political party which has risked such an adventure!
THERE IS COMMOTION IN THE HALL AS SEVERAL DELEGATES STORM ANGRILY OUT: TROTSKY’S VOICE RISES OVER THIS:
TROTSKY: Yes, off you go, Mensheviks, stamp out of your antiquity like petulant children. Go to your provisional government – it’s finished. But don’t look for Kerensky – he’s cleared off. Go and join him!
What has taken place is an uprising – not a conspiracy. An uprising of the masses of the people needs no justification. We have been strengthening the revolutionary energy of the workers and soldiers. We have been forging, openly, the will of the masses for an uprising. Our uprising has won!
HUGE CHEERS: TROTSKY CONTINUES:
And now we are being asked to give up our victory, to come to an agreement? With whom? You are wretched, disunited individuals; you are bankrupts; your part is over. Go to the place where you belong from now on – the dust-bin of history!
GREAT CHEERING, GUNS AND FIREWORKS FADE INTO THE SOVIET CHOIR SINGING WE RENOUNCE THE OLD WORLD: RETURNING TO IVAN & SVETLANA IN LENINGRAD, DRINKING TEA.
SVETLANA: You’ve gone all quiet on me, grandpa. Do you want some more tea?
IVAN: Leave it, Svetlana. I’ll be up all night peeing.
SVETLANA: Mr. Grumpy! Well, why don’t you get an early night? I can’t be doing with you sitting here all silent. It’s not like you.
IVAN: It’s only ten o’clock. I’m 89, for God’s sake. What does it matter when I go to bed. There’s no peace in sleep and little to get up for.
SVETLANA: Oh dear, oh dear. Even I’m beginning to wish they’d left the Berlin Wall alone now.
IVAN: Did you know two months ago that British woman was in Moscow – what’s her name again – some minister –
SVETLANA: Margaret Thatcher.
IVAN: Hatchet faced old biddy.
SVTELANA: Grandpa! That’s not nice. When did we ever have a female premier? She’s got some good ideas. People admire her. We’ll have a market economy like the British. No more waiting in queues for rubbish products.
IVAN: She met Gorbachov.
SVETLANA: Yes, I know. I watch TV sometimes too, when you’re not hogging the set.
IVAN: Do you remember what she said to Gorbachov?
SVETLANA: No. What?
IVAN: She was against the break-up of East Germany. She wanted the wall to stay.
IVAN: Yes, and that French clown – Mitterrand. Know what he said? He said “I like Germany so much I would prefer to have two of them.”
SVETLANA: Well, that’s all water under the bridge now. It’s a good job poor Grandma isn’t alive to see you sitting here moping like this. Think on – you’ve got your pension, and Germany can look after itself. There’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve still got the Soviet Union.
IVAN: We haven’t had the Soviet Union since 1924. My seven years in Siberia taught me that much. What we have now has been constantly whittled away by the western nations.
SVETLANA: For heaven’s sake, don’t exaggerate.
IVAN: When you were a schoolteacher what did Leningrad kids want?
SVETLANA: Oh, I suppose … well, the same things they’re wanting today. Jeans, rock and roll, Coca Cola.
IVAN: Not in my day they didn’t. We wanted our own Russian culture. The classics, good music, radical art. We had good sportsmen and women, the finest doctors. What are the next generation going to be? Pizza cooks and hamburger flippers?
SVETLANA: Oh, I don’t know what’s got into you Grandpa. If you’re not going to bed, then I am. You can sit here and stew in your own miserable nostalgia.
SVETLANA LEAVES THE ROOM: THE DOOR SLAMS AND THE CLOCK TICKS. FAINTLY IN THE BACKGROUND AS IVAN SPEAKS, THE CHOIR SING YOU FELL VICTIMS:
IVAN: Yes. Go to bed … switch off the lights, pull the sheets up over your head. Go to sleep. History is simply a pageant, not a philosophy. I can’t hang it all on my memories. They’re too frail to take the weight. They are recollections of hope, enthusiasm, sadness, death, struggle, a remembrance of seven pointless decades. They’re all sleeping now: the just and the unjust, the sinners, the saints and the murderers. And yet I’m still awake, thinking about you all. But none of it seemed pointless back then. I know; I was there, it all happened, and for a brief moment, I, Ivan Borchov, full of fire, young, idealistic, played his part.
THE SOVIET CHOIR SINGS THE RED FLAG: RETURN TO THE SMOLNY INSTITUTE, OCTOBER 1917: TROTSKY LEAVES THE NOISE OF THE HALL AND STEPS INTO THE CORRIDOR.
KAMENEV: That told them, Lev!
TROTSKY: They needed telling.
LENIN: You’re smoking again, Lev.
KAMENEV: You ought to try it, Illych.
It calms the nerves.
LENIN: My nerves are calm enough.
FOOTSTEPS APPROACH ALONG THE CORRIDOR:
TROTSKY: Ah-ha! It’s the lathe operator from Vyborg. Don’t tell me you’re going to speak to that rabble too!
KAMENEV: You’ve deserted your post lad! You should be on the door!
LENIN: Oh, leave him, Kamenev. He’s done no harm.
IVAN: I apologise, comrades. But I heard the cheering. Have you spoken yet, Comrade Lenin?
TROTSKY: No it was me.
IVAN: Oh. When will you go in there and speak, Comrade Lenin?
LENIN: I am about to. Any second now. Why?
IVAN: Will it be alright for me to go into the hall?
KAMENEV: No it will not – you’re not a delegate!
TROTSKY: Don’t be hard on the lad, Kamenev. Let him have something to tell his grandchildren.
LENIN: Well, young comrade Burchov, what are you waiting for; follow me.
LENIN ENTERS THE HALL TO MASSIVE CHEERING WHICH EVENTUALLY SETTLES DOWN TO A FEW COUGHS AND SHUFFLES.
LENIN: All power has passed to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers and Peasants’ Deputies.
A new phase has opened up not just in Russia, but throughout the entire world. We will announce decrees on peace and land. And this new phase will inevitably lead to the victory of socialism.
Without this, it is not possible to resolve all the problems that are posed before us by life and war…. We shall now proceed to construct the socialist order!
THE HALL ERUPTS INTO CHEERING WHICH FADES INTO THE SOVIET CHOIR SINGING
T h e E n d