Kote Tsintsadze was a Bolshevik from the age of 17 (1904), and joined the Left Opposition in its fight against Stalinist bureaucratism in 1923.
For his principled stand, he was jailed by Stalin in 1928, and died in prison, from tuberculosis, in 1930. Leon Trotsky wrote this memorial to Tsintsadze.
It took altogether extraordinary conditions like tsarism, illegality, prison, and deportation, many years of struggle against the Mensheviks, and especially the experience of three revolutions, to produce fighters like Kote Tsintsadze.
His life was entirely bound up with the history of the revolutionary movement for more than a quarter of a century. He participated in all the stages of the proletarian uprising, beginning with the first propaganda circles up to the barricades and the seizure of power.
He carried out the onerous work of illegal organization, and any time revolutionists were caught in the net of the police he devoted himself to freeing them. Later he was head of the special Cheka commission in Caucasia, the very centre of power during the most heroic period of the proletarian dictatorship.
When the reaction against October had changed the composition and the character of the party apparatus and its policies, Kote Tsintsadze was one of the first to begin a struggle against these new tendencies hostile to the spirit of Bolshevism. The first conflict occurred during Lenin’s illness. Stalin and Ordzhonikidze, with the help of Dzerzhinsky, had pulled off their coup in Georgia, replacing the core of Old Bolsheviks with careerist functionaries of the type of Eliava, Orakhelashvilli, and that ilk.
It was precisely on this issue that Lenin prepared to launch an implacable battle against the Stalin faction and the apparatus at the Twelfth Congress of the party.
On March 6, 1923, Lenin wrote to the Georgian group of Old Bolsheviks, of which Kote Tsintsadze was one of the founders: “I am following your case with all my heart. I am indignant over Ordzhonikidze’s rudeness and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. I am preparing for you notes and a speech...”
Kote was not a theoretician. But his clear thinking, his revolutionary passion, and his immense political experience — the living experience of three revolutions — armed him better, more seriously and firmly, than does the doctrine formally digested by those who lack the fortitude and perseverance of Tsintsadze. Like Shakespeare’s Lear, he was every inch a revolutionary. His character revealed itself perhaps even more strikingly during the last eight years — years of uninterrupted struggle against the advent and entrenchment of the unprincipled bureaucracy.
Tsintsadze instinctively fought against anything resembling treachery, capitulation, or disloyalty... In the summer of 1928, speaking of himself and his illness, Kote wrote to me from Bakhchi-Sarai: “... many of our comrades and friends have been forced to end their lives in prison or somewhere in deportation. Yet in the final analysis this will be an enrichment of revolutionary history: a new generation will learn the lesson. The Bolshevik youth, learning from the struggle of the Bolshevik Opposition against the opportunist wing of the party, will understand on whose side the truth lies...”
Tsintsadze could write these simple yet superb words only in an intimate letter to a friend. Now that he is no longer alive, it can and must be published. It summarizes the life and the morale of a revolutionist of high order. It must be made public because the youth must be instructed not only by theoretical formulas but also by examples of revolutionary tenacity.
The Communist parties in the West have not yet brought up fighters of Tsintsadze’s type. This is their besetting weakness, determined by historical reasons but nonetheless a weakness. The Left Opposition in the Western countries is not an exception in this respect and it must well take note of it.
Tsintsadze was the living negation of any kind of political careerism, that is, the inclination to sacrifice principles, ideas, and tasks of the cause for personal ends.