"I CONSIDER IT BENEATH ME "
A fragment of a note on the conversation between J.V. Stalin and Emil Ludwig in 1931. Istoricheskii Arkhiv 3 (1998), 216-218.
On December 13, 1931 in the Kremlin there took place a meeting of almost two hours in length between J.V. Stalin and the German writer Emil Ludwig1, the biographer of biographies of significant historical persons2, famous throughout Europe. In April 1932 the transcript of their talk was published in the journal Bolshevik. It was published in 1938 as a separate pamphlet, and in 1951 was reprinted in the thirteenth volume of Stalins Collected Works. "Conversation with the German writer Emil Ludwig" is one of the well-known Stalin texts. Parts of it have been anthologized.
A search of the collection of Stalin documents in the Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History (RTsKhIDNI) has permitted me to determine that the published version of the text of this talk is not complete. On February 8, 1932 the typewritten copy of this document was distributed at Stalins request to the members and candidate members of the Politburo of the Centrla Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik "for your information."3 This text4 was edited by Stalin, was reprinted taking his corrections5 into account, and then printed.
The fragment of the original text of the transcript of this talk, unknown until today, was not only edited by Stalin but was moved from its original place in the transcript to the very end, and then deleted altogether from the copy sent to the printer. Below we publish this fragment. The phrases in the published text that mark the original location of the fragment are in italics.
Prepared for publication by M.A. Leushin.
STALIN . Yes, the Germans have changed a good deal recently
And now permit me in turn to ask you one immodest question. In fact this is a question not a proposal. You can choose not to answer my question. But if you answer it in the affirmative, no one, under any circumstances, should ever know that I asked you this question.
LUDWIG: I agree in advance.
STALIN: Wait a bit. Will you publish our talk?
LUDWIG: Not as an interview. But in any case I will use it in one or another form,when I write about you in the future.1
STALIN: Will you receive an honorarium for this?
STALIN: Would you be willing to donate some small part of this honorarium to a fund to aid children of unemployed German workers? But, of course, without mentioning at all the fact that I asked you to do this.
1. Cf. Istoricheskii Arkhiv 6 (1994), 43.
2. Emil Ludwig (1881-1948) was a German writer, a lawyer by education, who lived in Switzerland and the USA. Author of the books Goethe (1920), Napoleon (1925), Bismarck (1926), Roosevelt (1939).
3. RTsKhIDNI F. 558. Op. 1 d. 2989 l. 1.
4. Ibid., pp. 2 - 19.
5. Ibid., ll. 20 28.
LUDWIG: In a few weeks Mr. Umanskii2 will receive from me a check for one thousand marks. I will do this with pleasure. But would you not consider it possible all the same to tell what you have said to me about this? In the eyes of thousands of people, who now consider you either a cruel Tsar or a noble bandit, this would make an extremely positive impression about you.
STALIN: I know that the gentlemen in the enemy camp may think of me however they like. I consider it beneath me to try to change the minds of these gentlemen. They would think that I am seeking popularity. No, I would not want this proposal of mine made known to anyone.3
LUDWIG: In any case I deeply appreciate your proposal. Nothing like it has ever occurred to any of the dozens of political figures with whom I have met. I value your proposal not only because you have been thinking about German children, but because you have just now proven that you are a real internationalist.
Under what conditions is the final and complete unity of the working class under the leadership of a single party possible?...
RTsKhIDNI. F. 558. Op. 1 d. 2989. L. 17 18. Photocopy of a typescript with the authors corrections.
1. E. Ludwigs book about Stalin was published in 1945.
2. Umanskii, K. Soviet diplomat who took part in the talk as interpreter and stenographer.
3. Before Stalins editing his statement read as follows: "I know that they may think of me however they want. I consider it beneath me to try to change the minds of those who consider me "a cruel Tsar" or "a noble bandit." They will think that I am seeking popularity. No, I would not want anything printed about this."
Link to a transcript of the Russian original.