Here they lived largely on tea, porridge and boiled potatoes, paid their rent on time and made a fuss of Mrs Yeo’s cat. They kept themselves apart from the slovenly émigré commune at neaby Sidmouth Street where their friends Georgy Martov and Vera Zasulich lived in impoverished chaos.
Lenin was totally focused on his political work and spent much of his time either at the editorial office of his radical newspaper The Spark provided by the socialist 20th Century Press at their premises in Clerkenwell Green, or at the British Library, often saving the bus fare by walking there. There was little time and no funding for a social life in London but when they had the money, Lenin and Nadya took a sixpenny bus ride to Primrose Hill or went to Speakers Corner to listen to the speech-making and practice their English.
Lenin also attended socialist lectures at the settlement house, Toynbee Hall in the East End, where he took part in the debates in his somewhat strangulated English and was noticed for his vehement hatred of capitalist London and the English class system. He did however like English beer, and when he could he enjoyed a pint at the Crown Tavern opposite his office on Clerkenwell Green, or at the Pindar of Wakefield (now The Water Rats) on the Gray’s Inn Road, where he also enjoyed its regular English music hall evenings.
Within three months of leaving London in the spring of 1903 Lenin was back, under cover, for the second congress of the Russian Social and Democratic Labour Party at which the historic Bolshevik/Menshevik split in the party took place. So secretive were the delegates about it, that to this day we still don’t know the conference’s precise locations, though it is likely it was held in several hired rooms in pubs and clubs in and around Charlotte Street off the Tottenham Court Road and around the Gray’s Inn Road.
Lenin’s 2nd Visit to London: 25 April – 10 May 1905
After the events of Bloody Sunday in Russia in January 1905, when Cossack troops charged a peaceful protest march of workers demanding improved conditions and wages, London saw a large influx of Russian and Jewish political émigrés. Many of them settled in the East End, and so London was chosen once again as the location for the 3rd congress of the RSDLP. However, its numbers were severely limited because many delegates could not get out of Russia to attend, and because the Mensheviks boycotted it. During the conference – once again held in the back rooms of various pubs in the Kings Cross area – Lenin stayed at a safe house at no 16 Percy Circus, which still has a blue plaque to this day.