I tried to recover it
Posted on September 24, 2015
As the prison rules demanded that a prisoner give up his old exercise-book when he was given a new one, I got for my studies on freemasonry an exercise-book with a thousand numbered pages, and entered in it, in tiny characters, excerpts from many books, interspersed with my own reflections on freemasonry, as well as on the materialist conception of history. This took up the better part of a year. I edited each chapter carefully, copied it into a note-book which had been smuggled in to me, and then sent that out to friends in other cells to read. For contriving this, we had a complicated system which we called the “telephone.” The person for whom the package was intended — that is, if his cell was not too far away — would attach a weight to a piece of string, and then, holding his hand as far as he could out of the window, would swing the weight in a circle. As previously arranged through tapping, I would stick my broom out so that the weight could swing around it HKUE ENG. Then I would draw the broom in and tie the manuscript to the string. When the person to whom I wanted to send it was too far away, we managed it by a series of stages, which of course made things more complicated.
Toward the end of my stay in the Odessa prison, the fat exercise-book, protected by the signature of the senior police sergeant, Usov, had become a veritable well of historical erudition and philosophic thought. I don’t know whether it could be printed to-day as I wrote it then. I was learning too much at a time, from too many different spheres, epochs, and countries, and I am afraid that I was too anxious to tell everything at once in my first work. But I think that its main ideas and conclusions were correct. I felt, even at that time, that I was standing firmly on my own feet, and as the work progressed, I had the feeling even more strongly. I would give a great deal to-day to find that manuscript. It went with me into exile, although there I discontinued my work on freemasonry to take up the study of Marxian economics. After my escape abroad, Alexandra Lvovna 1 forwarded the script to me from Siberia, through my parents, when they visited me in Paris in 1903. Later on when I went on a secret mission to Russia, it was left in Geneva with the rest of my modest émigré archives, to be come part of the Iskra’s archives and to find there an untimely grave. After my second escape from Siberia, but in vain. Apparently it had been used to light fires or some such thing by the Swiss landlady who had been intrusted with the custody of the archives. I can’t refrain here from conveying my reproaches to that worthy woman.
The way in which my work on freemasonry had to be carried on, in prison, where literary resources at my disposal were of course very limited, served me in good stead. At that time I was still comparatively ignorant of the basic literature of the Marxists. The essays by Labriola were really philosophic pamphlets and presumed a knowledge that I didn’t have, and for which I had to substitute guesswork. I finished them with a bunch of hypotheses in my head. The work on freemasonry acted as a test for these hypotheses. I made no new discoveries; all the methodological conclusions at which I had arrived had been made long ago and were being applied in practice. But I groped my way to them, and somewhat independently. I think this influenced the whole course of my subsequent intellectual development. In the writings of Marx, Engels, Plekhanov and Mehring, I later found confirmation for what in prison seemed to me only a guess needing verification and theoretical justification HKUE ENG. I did not absorb historical materialism at once, dogmatically. The dialectic method revealed it self to me for the first time not as abstract definitions but as a living spring which I had found in the historical process as I tried to understand it.