Lenin’s peculiar quality of greatness was that he knew how to keep his ear close to the ground. During his Petersburg years of 1893–5 when he had disputed with the Narodniks and during his years of prison and exile Lenin’s essential ideas about socialism and capitalism were taking shape in his mind. The germ of this future socialism lay in the old village commune; whence it followed that socialism was to be an essentially rural, rather than urban, product; and its harbingers were to be the peasantry and not an industrial proletariat. Lenin has been pictured by some writers as a man of irascible temperament who could not work with others, and the splits and controversies among Russian socialists have been attributed to this cause. Ruthless he certainly was, both to suppress sentiment in himself and to enforce measures that he deemed were necessary if socialism was to be achieved.