Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 15, 2012

Roman Malinovsky biography, conclusion

Filed under: Malinovsky — louisproyect @ 3:43 pm

This is chapter 3 and the epilogue of Roman Malinovsky: A Life without a Cause by Ralph Carter Elwood, the footnotes for which can be seen here: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/chapter3_epilogue.htm. For those who remain mystified by Richard Aoki, I would suggest that a study of Elwood’s book might help clarify things, especially considering the turn of events described in chapter 3, when Malinovsky no longer had any connection to the Czarist police:

He, in fact, lived to fight in some eleven battles during the course of the next year114 until he was finally wounded on Russia’s western front, captured and put into a German prisoner-of-war camp at Altengrabow near Magdeburg. In these unusual surroundings, as Malinovsky confessed in 1918, “socialism for the first time became my religion.”115 It is impossible to determine from the available evidence116 whether this belated conversion was a result of ideological conviction, boredom, remorse, or simply a search for an outlet for his considerable energy and organizational talent. In any case, he contacted the “Commission to Help Russian War Prisoners” which the Bolsheviks had established in Bern during 1915 under the direction of Shklovsky and Krupskaya. The Commission had ties with Russian prisoners in 21 camps in Germany and Austria to whom, with German acquiescence, it dispatched some 5,000 pounds of defeatist and revolutionary literature. Krupskaya “took pity on the fallen eagle, sent him linen and food parcels”117 along with agitational material. Malinovsky reciprocated by becoming one of the Commission’s most zealous and active agents. During the first half of 1916 he sent Lenin five letters describing the mood and conditions of the soldiers at Alten-grabow and with his help established a prison library of some 1,011 books. He also circulated the Commission’s newspaper, V plenu, read lectures on political economy, and discussed the Erfurt Program with the Russian prisoners of war.118 “Very enthusiastic reports” about Malinovsky’s work began reaching Lenin119 who once again sought his advice on political matters.120 Malinovsky himself later remarked that “the best period of my life was the two and a half years which I devoted to propaganda among Russian prisoners in Germany. I have done a great deal during that time for the spread of the ideas of Bolshevism.”121


During the last half of 1913 and especially after his meeting with Burtsev in Paris, Malinovsky started to show the strain of living a dual life. To his colleagues in the Duma fraction it seemed that he was more “hot-headed” than usual, that “during discussions he often became hysterical and lost his temper over quite unimportant questions.”1 When Cecilia Bobrovskaya objected to some of his suggestions on party matters, “Malinovsky made an awful fuss, got very angry, used strong language about the Moscow Party organization and about me personally.”2 He also began to drink more heavily, allegedly taking vodka by the tea cup before giving Duma addresses3 or “getting drunk night after night” when visiting Lenin in Galicia.4

Lenin felt this strange conduct was a result of the very heavy work load and the growing responsibilities Malinovsky had had to assume within both the Duma and the Central Committee. “This unsettled him, deprived him of his even temper, made enemies for him. And this undoubtedly also contributed to the acceleration of his personal crisis which broke Malinovsky and forced him to commit political suicide” by resigning from the Duma in May 1914.5 It has also been suggested that Malinovsky, after three years as a police informer, was suddenly “tortured by his double agent status” and that he “had not made up his mind where his loyalty or future lay.”6 Plausible as this suggestion may seem, Malinovsky continued to file reports with the police and made no move to sever his connections with them.

The real cause of Malinovsky’s growing unease was his fear of exposure either by members of his own party or by the police themselves. Several party members had already expressed their doubts about Malinovsky’s past to Lenin. Despite the fact that the Bolshevik leader had bluntly rejected these allegations, “Malinovsky worried more and more. He . . . became maudlin and complained that he was being treated with suspicion.”7 Some of these fears might have been alleviated when Chernomazov was removed in February 1914 and inferentially blamed for past police coups, but Malinovsky was well aware that Burtsev had good contacts within the Okhrana and would like nothing better than to expose another Azef.

Malinovsky also had to worry about the attitude of his new superiors within the Department of Police. By the time he had returned from Paris, Beletsky and Vissarionov had been replaced as Director and Vice-Director of the Department by V.A. Briun-de-Sent-Ippolit and A.T. Vasiliev respectively. Perhaps more importantly, V. F. Dzhunkovsky (Junkovsky) had taken over as Deputy Minister of Interior. Under his leadership the Department’s relationship with Malinovsky was being reexamined. While the police appointments book for this period has been lost, it is safe to assume that the intimate dinners between provocateur and Director were at an end. Malinovsky must have sensed that changes were in the offing for he asked Beletsky to intercede in his behalf with Vasiliev.8 These overtures were made but they were to no avail.

Why, if Malinovsky were the “pride of the Okhrana,” should Dzhunkovsky decide to dispense with his services and force his resignation from the Duma? Vissarionov claimed that he personally had increasing doubts about Malinovsky’s loyalty to the police but when he expressed these fears to Beletsky, the then Director had assured him that the Duma deputy was a “serious agent.”9 Vissarionov had a different reaction, however, when he later discussed his reservations with Dzhunkovsky who concluded that “it is necessary to end affairs with this man.”10 Dzhunkovsky’s own explanation of his conduct was not that he feared Malinovsky was too revolutionary but rather that the whole affair of a “spy in the Duma . . . .sickened me” and that he sought to avoid possible scandal by eliminating its cause.11 According to one police official, Dzhunkovsky was acutely afraid that Burtsev’s e’migre journal Budushschee was about to break the scandal wide open.12 It has also been suggested that some “liberal-minded police officers,”  who did  not approve of their superiors compromising the nation’s leading parliamentary body, deliberately spread rumors which led to Malinovsky’s downfall.13 And it is possible that there were bureaucratic jealousies between the Dzhunkovsky regime and the Beletsky administration which led the former to wish to minimize the accomplishments of the latter by removing their star performer.14 All of these explanations, however, assume a certain idealism on the part of the police, which is difficult to prove existed, and a willingness to give up an extremely valuable source of information15 without apparently gaining anything in return.

Perhaps a better explanation for Malinovsky’s disgrace is that Dzhunkovsky, upon taking office, re-evaluated the social and political conditions in Russia and came to different conclusions than had Beletsky two years earlier. During the course of 1912 labor unrest, which had been more or less dormant since the dying gasps of revolution in 1907, revived with a vengeance. The total number of strikers jumped by almost 700 per cent over the year previous. Reaction throughout Russia to the senseless shooting of several hundred strikers in the Lena gold fields during April 1912 had been spontaneous, sometimes violent, and ominously reminiscent of the earlier reaction to Bloody Sunday. By 1914 the strike movement was approaching 1905 proportions; May Day demonstrations were once again a common occurrence. The legal workers press, in the form of the Mensheviks’ Luch and the Bolsheviks’ Pravda which had sprung to life in 1912, was kindling this unrest and rapidly gaining a receptive national audience. The new worker insurance councils and the revived trade unions had given the workers’ movement a legal and organized focus which it had lacked during “the years of Stolypinist reaction.” And at the apex of this unrest stood the Social Democratic delegation to the Fourth Duma. No larger than its predecessor to the Third Duma, it was far more articulate, vocal and energetic in its attempts to embarrass the government and to incite the masses.

Dzhunkovsky surely reflected on the fact that the Bolsheviks were far more militant than their Menshevik rivals both within the Duma and within the broader labor movement. They also were increasingly more successful. Back in  1912, when  Malinovsky first joined  Lenin’s Central Committee, the Bolsheviks could attract only fourteen local delegates and none of the prestigious emigre leaders outside of Lenin himself to their Prague Conference. The Mensheviks were then clearly more numerous, more influential and the best bet to unify and lead the entire Social Democratic movement. Beletsky’s policy of divide and rule by strengthening the schismatic tendencies within the Bolshevik faction had therefore been correct in January 1912. But by 1914 the situation had changed. The Bolsheviks had seized the initiative and were riding the wave of worker discontent. Their Pravda had many more subscribers than Luch; their followers had captured control of 75 per cent of the trade union directorates in Moscow and St. Petersburg; the insurance councils were increasingly coming under their control.16 Standing on the legal tip of the Bolshevik iceberg was their popular Duma leader — the Russian Bebel and the Bolshevik Azef, Roman Malinovsky.

Through him the Okhrana did indeed know about future party plans, the whereabouts of local Social Democratic leaders, and the various subterfuges used to exploit legal organizations. With this information they could and did arrest Lenin’s agents and periodically close down his newspapers. But these moves seemingly had little effect on the Bolsheviks’ growing influence among the discontented and alienated urban workers. What was needed was a psychological rather than an organizational blow; a blow which would discredit the revitalized Bolshevik leadership in the eyes of both the party rank-and-file and the resurgent masses which were following them. What better means of achieving this goal than by removing their most eloquent speaker from the Duma and by allowing it to be discreetly known that a leading member of their Central Committee was in fact an agent provocateur? Not only would the Bolsheviks be discredited but a radical and increasingly vocal segment of the Duma would lose its credibility. Perhaps the liberal intelligentsia would think twice about contributing money to supposedly revolutionary causes. Perhaps the confused workers would look elsewhere for more reliable leadership and more peaceful guidance. Surely the Mensheviks would take advantage of this opportunity to right the factional balance which had shifted against them since 1912.

In the ensuing internecine struggle, only the tsarist regime and the police could profit. Thus, rather than strengthening the Bolsheviks, as Beletsky had done by planting Malinovsky in their midst in January 1912, the time had come to weaken them by removing the “pride of the Okhrana.”If this was indeed Dzhunkovsky’s reasoning, he very nearly achieved his objective.17

Malinovsky’s downfall began on 22 April 1914. On that morning Duma chairman Rodzianko received an anonymous telephone call from a woman claiming to be his well-wisher who said that the left-wing of the Duma on Malinovsky’s initiative was planning to demonstrate when Prime Minister Goremykin spoke to the Duma later that day. Rodzianko promptly called Dzhunkovsky who “was extremely surprised to hear about the planned demonstration” and who during the course of their conversation implied that Malinovsky was in fact his agent. This call probably precipitated the action Dzhunkovsky had been contemplating for some time. In return for the chairman’s word not to reveal their conversation, he promised that Malinovsky would soon leave the Duma and the country.18

The cause of the demonstration lay in government attempts to make deputies criminally responsible for statements made in the Duma and subsequently published in the workers’ press. The Social Democrats and their Trudovik allies responded with a resolution to postpone all Duma work until immunity and freedom of speech were guaranteed. Shortly after this was defeated by a vote of 140 to 76, Goremykin made one of his rare visits before the Duma to introduce the new state budget. No sooner had he begun speaking than the left-wing deputies started pounding their desks and shouting. Rodzianko was ready. He promptly warned the offending deputies and then, when the noise continued, he asked Goremykin to step down temporarily so that he could suspend for fifteen days Malinovsky and ten other left-wing deputies. Three of them — A. F. Kerensky, I. I. Chkhenkeli and Petrovsky but not Malinovsky — refused to relinquish the floor when ordered to do so by the chairman and had to be removed by the police. Goremykin began again a second and a third time only to be interrupted by the diminished left-wing contingent. After ten more Social Democrats and Trudoviks had been given the maximum suspension allowed under article 154, Goremykin was able to make his remarks in relative peace.19

Sometime during the fifteen-day cooling-off period Malinovsky was contacted by P. Kr Popov, the head of the St. Petersburg Okhrana section, who informed him of Dzhunkovsky’s decision that he was to leave the Duma and gave him 6,000 rubles with which to start a new life outside the country.20 He left it to Malinovsky to figure out how he was going to accomplish his withdrawal. In private conversations with friends, the deputy began to prepare the ground by saying that he was tired and disillusioned with Duma work. He also suggested to his colleagues that “a more active method of struggle” was called for, that the fraction should refuse to return to the Duma but should instead go out into the streets to call the masses to revolutionary action.21 When this was turned down, he took militant action of his own. The Social Democratic and Trudovik deputies decided that Kerensky should make a joint and uncompromising declaration upon their return to the Duma on 7 May. Perhaps as a result of Malinovsky’s last report, the Okhrana was able to inform Rodzianko of its content and the chairman was thus once again prepared for a hard day.22 Kerensky was warned nine times by Rodzianko concerning the tone of his declaration and then told to sit down for “insulting the Duma.” He was followed by V. I. Khaustov who delivered two sentences before being deprived of the right to speak. Then came Malinovsky. He spoke three words, was warned by Rodzianko, spoke five more and then was told to sit down. This time, unlike on 22 April, he kept speaking despite shouts from the right and threats of expulsion from the chair. Finally, the police were called to remove him by force but probably contrary to Malinovsky’s hopes he was neither suspended nor permanently expelled from the Duma.23

Time ran out on Malinovsky the next day. The Bolshevik fraction met in the late morning of 8 May but then dispersed with only Muranov and Malinovsky remaining for the afternoon debate. Malinovsky had seemed nervous but said nothing about his plans to his colleagues. At around 3 p.m., however, he marched into Rodzianko’s office and threw his resignation on the chairman’s desk. “What is this?” asked Rodzianko. “Excuse me,” answered Malinovsky, “I am leaving the Duma. I have no time. Excuse me.”24 And he left. Rumors of what had happened swept through the Duma hall much to the consternation of the perplexed Muranov. Sometime after 5 p.m. Muranov started telephoning the other fraction members to suggest that they return to the Duma immediately. They had just arrived when the vice-chairman announced from the rostrum ” ‘that a statement from member of the Duma Malinovsky has been received by the chairman of the Duma to the effect that he is resigning from the Duma’ (Markov II: ‘It would be interesting to know why’) Vice-chairman: ‘the reasons are not given . . .’.”25

That evening the reduced fraction twice sent Petrovsky to Malinovsky’s apartment to demand an explanation. None was forthcoming, nor would he meet with his former colleagues. Indeed, on Petrovsky’s second visit Malinovsky appeared in what Pravda euphemistically called “an unhealthy condition.”26 Samoilov was more candid: Malinovsky was drunk ;27 he produced a foreign passport and a revolver, said he was going to Moscow that evening, and that he had no time for explanations.28 Petrovsky’s threat of a party court-martial had no effect on the near-hysterical ex-deputy. Later that evening, before catching the 11 p.m. train, Malinovsky sent Kamenev a letter which the Pravda editor noted was “obviously written in a state of unhealthy agitation.”29 He said that after the suspensions and the limitations on the right to speak freely, he saw “no reason to be in the Duma. The refusal of our comrades to use non-parliamentary means of struggle … killed for me all possibility of remaining in … this accursed Duma.”30 Kamenev immediately replied by messenger suggesting that only “extreme nervous disorder could explain his conduct” and that he should telegraph Rodzianko requesting that his resignation be withdrawn.31 This reached Malinovsky just as he was getting into a cab and had no effect. Comrades who tried to intercept him at the Nikolaevskii Station, the departure point for Moscow-bound trains, were unable even to locate the ex-deputy.

Malinovsky dropped out of sight for the next week. The only news from him was a telegram received from a “border town” on the night of 10-11 May stating “I am going abroad, Open-letter in two days.”32 There were rumors that he had gone to Berlin where he had obtained a job as a lathe operator33 or to Lenin in Galicia. Lenin, however, wrote Inessa Armand on the 12th that the Malinovsky affair is warming up. He is not here. It looks like ‘flight.’ This, of course, gives food for the worst thoughts. Aleksei telegraphs from Paris that the Russian newspapers are wiring Burtsev that Malinovsky is accused of being a provocateur. You can imagine what it means!! Very improbable but … you can easily imagine how much Fam [sic] worried34

Pravda and the Duma deputies were faced with the difficult task of explaining Malinovsky’s totally unexpected resignation and disappearance to the St. Petersburg workers. They began by dismissing out of hand a written statement received from a man named Tsioglinsky who claimed that Malinovsky was a provocateur.35 They also denied disingenuously the Kadet assertion that political disagreements within the fraction over Duma tactics had contributed to his resignation as well as the rumor that he had absconded with a large amount of money from a strike fund.36On Monday, 12 May, Put’ pravdy came out with a special one-page edition that was distributed free of charge in which the remaining deputies “sharply condemned both the departure of Malinovsky and especially the form which this departure took; we have come to the conclusion that . . . these actions can only be explained by extreme nervous fatigue and loss of emotional balance.” Malinovsky’s continued silence put his colleagues in an embarrassing position. On the 16th they received a second telegram in which he acknowledged that “my step was irregular”37 — an explanation which the editors found a bit weak for what they considered to be a “criminal breach of discipline.”38 Finally, on the 19th the long-promised “open-letter” arrived in which Malinovsky stated he had not realized the gravity of his action at the time, that it was impossible “to justify now this politically unpardonable step. But I ask comrades when censoring me to think a moment about those conditions in which I worked and about the fact I am only a man.” The Bolshevik deputies found this explanation unacceptable and came to the conclusion that by his conduct Malinovsky “had put himself outside our ranks,” i.e., that he was expelled from the party.39

What made the position of the editors particularly difficult was that, despite the constant stream of resolutions of support from Bolshevik groups throughout Russia, their political opponents had seized the initiative and were asking embarrassing questions. Every time a Bolshevik spoke in the Duma, N. E. Markov asked “But where is Malinovsky?”40 It seemed to Chkheidze that “dark rumors” started to spread in the Duma corridors immediately after Malinovsky’s hurried exit.41 Right-wing newspapers brought these into the open with blatant queries about the deputy’s connections with the police.42 Indeed, the rapidity with which these rumors spread through both the Duma and conservative society would suggest that the police were deliberately intensifying the Bolsheviks’ crisis by selected leaks to their friends. The Mensheviks inadvertently cooperated by picking up and repeating these “dark rumors” in Nasha rabochaia gazeta thereby lending credence to the suspicions. On 11 May the paper suggested that “the events of the last few days throw a new and strange light on the political activity of the former Moscow deputy;”43 on the 13th it expressed “curiosity” about the Bolshevik response to right-wing “rumors of Azefovshchina;”44 on the 17th the Mensheviks were more specific but still cited conservative papers to the effect that Malinovsky had “served the Okhrana;”45 and on the 21st they openly challenged the Bolsheviks to deny that their deputy was a “provocateur.”46 Two days later Nasha rabochaia gazeta asserted that “rumors of provocation” had in fact been circulating long before Malinovsky left the Duma but that because of his position and factional considerations no one could call for an investigation. Since “the mysterious flight of Malinovsky . . . has allowed these rumors to surface,” the editors now demanded that this impartial all-party investigation be held.47

An investigation was held in May 1914 but it was to be neither impartial nor all-party. On 15 May, one week after the confrontation in Rodzianko’s office, the editors of Pravda received a telegram from Lenin in Poronin stating simply that “Malinovsky has arrived.”48 It would appear that the ex-deputy, fearing his police ties would inevitably be discovered, had initially sought refuge  with relatives in Warsaw.49 After a week in hiding, when it became apparent that the Mensheviks could not substantiate their charges and that the Bolsheviks were prepared to go part way in his defense, he decided to brazen it out and to deny his guilt. At his last trial in 1918, he claimed that he had intended to “confess all” to Lenin but changed his mind upon reaching Galicia and seeing the great faith the Bolshevik leader had in him.5″Shortly after he arrived, Pravda was informed that a three-man tribunal had been established at Malinovsky’s request to investigate the rumors about him. The panel was to consist of Lenin and Zinoviev with their Polish Social Democratic ally J. S. Haniecki (Furstenberg) serving as chairman. The investigation, moreover, was to be strictly internal rather than “all-party” as the Mensheviks had demanded in that the tribunal did not seek information from the Mensheviks, Trotsky or even the Social Democratic Duma fraction.51 And despite the fact that potential Bolshevik witnesses were scattered across Europe, the tribunal met formally for less than a week.52 While neither the names of the witnesses nor the nature of their accusations have been made public, it is possible to construct from other evidence the substance of the charges and Malinovsky’s probable response.

Rumors about Malinovsky’s dual employment first began circulating in 1910 and 1911 while he was still active in the Moscow organization.53 Lenin acknowledged in 1917 that he had “heard that suspicions had cropped up in Moscow around 1911 about Malinovsky’s political honesty but that these suspicions were communicated to us in more definite terms only after his sudden departure from the Duma in the spring of 1914.” He went on to say that he had never received “a single verifiable fact” concerning these Moscow rumors.54 While the facts might not have been “verifiable,” Lenin certainly heard about them in “definite terms” as early as September 1912 when Bukharin, one of those arrested in Moscow, came to Galicia specifically to warn him about Malinovsky. Lenin rejected Bukharin’s arguments, the nature of which have not been revealed,55 as did many people actively associated with the Moscow organization who saw Malinovsky as their “rising star” in 1912.56 Shortly after the deputy’s inexplicable disappearance in May 1914 Bukharin, whose relations with Lenin had cooled over the Malinovsky affair, received a letter from the Bolshevik leader seeking additional information. Bukharin replied57 and then, with his wife, journeyed to Poronin to repeat his charges before the hand-picked tribunal.

Another of Malinovsky’s principal accusers was A. A. Troyanovsky. In the spring of 1913 Troyanovsky’s common-law wife, Elena Rozmirovich, returned to Russia under the partial amnesty of 21 February as an agent of the Central Committee with the specific responsibility of finding students for the proposed Galician party school.58 She was soon arrested with compromising documents in her possession. According to one emigre account, Troyanovsky, who was a friend of Bukharin and shared his suspicions of Malinovsky, then sent a registered letter from abroad to Rozmirovich’s family in Kiev: “Elena has been arrested under obscure circumstances. If she is not immediately freed, then this is for me incontestable proof of provocation by one of the leading party activists whom I shall then call to account.” This letter, as he expected, was intercepted by the police, taken to Beletsky and supposedly shown to Malinovsky who “turned pale, started to shake, and began to shout: ‘free her, free her quickly.’ “59 A month later she was in fact released. This sequence of events confirmed Troyanovsky’s suspicions and together with Bukharin he demanded a party investigation of Malinovsky in the summer of 1913.60 “These doubts,” according to Soviet authorities, “were so nebulous that these comrades did not do anything further about them”6′ after Lenin turned down their request. If Troyanovsky’s proof was so conclusive, he should have published it in the party press rather than allowing a provocateur to continue to function for another ten months. If he was so convinced of Malinovsky’s guilt, it is curious that he attended Central Committee meetings with him in July and September 1913 and that he chose to write Malinovsky a cordial letter in March 1914 concerning Rozmirovich’s subsequent arrest.62 Rozmirovich had in the meantime returned to St. Petersburg where for a period of four months she served as secretary to the Duma fraction headed by her supposed betrayer. When the issue was raised again with Malinovsky’s sudden resignation, Troyanovsky chose to take his complaints to the Mensheviks63 while Rozmirovich rather belatedly testified in Poronin.

No investigation of suspected provocation would be complete without the testimony of Burtsev. Lenin immediately cabled him for advice on Malinovsky and for assistance in combatting Menshevik rumors.64 Burtsev responded that while Malinovsky might be an “unsavory individual” and a “scoundrel who did not fulfill his obligations,” he was not a provocateur.65 “Before Malinovsky’s departure from the Duma,” wrote Burtsev in the summer of 1914, “I had not heard even a hint of any kind of an accusation against him. The thought never entered my mind that someone someday would be able to accuse [him] on these grounds.”66 He continued in the same vein to Trudovaia pravda: “knowing Malinovsky personally, I cannot conceive even of the possibility that such an accusation could have some validity.”67 When Russkoe slovo misrepresented his position, Burtsev quickly reiterated that there was no firm evidence against Malinovsky.68

One of the things that bothered Burtsev was that he was unable to obtain precise information from the Mensheviks concerning the nature of their evidence against Malinovsky.69 The fact is that the Mensheviks did not have much in the way of precise information. As Martov wrote to Aksel’rod on 2 June: “All of our affairs revolve around one thing — the Malinovsky affair. … We are all certain without the slightest doubt that he is a provocateur . . . but whether we will be able to prove it is another matter.”70 Their evidence consisted of general rumors spread by the conservative press which even some of their own supporters were forced to deny; 7i anonymous tips, supposedly from someone inside the Okhrana, received by Luch in 1912 and Lydia Dan in 1913; and the accusations of Troyanovsky and Tsioglinsky.72 Lenin consistently taunted Martov and Dan to make specific, signed accusations so that they could be sued for libel “in an official court of a free country” but this they refused to do.73

In reaching a decision, Lenin and his fellow tribunalists therefore had to take into account the nebulous accusations of the Mensheviks in general and of Bukharin and Troyanovsky in particular; the fact that all signs since 1913 pointed to the presence of a provocateur high in the Bolshevik ranks; and the circumstances surrounding Malinovsky’s sudden departure from the Duma. In Malinovsky’s defense were his own plausible explanation that the Okhrana used his criminal record to blackmail him into resigning; the fact that the Okhrana had been known in the past to spread false rumors of provocation to further its own ends;74 and that the source of most of the rumors wastheMensheviks who stood to gain the most from the resulting scandal.

Bukharin tells of hearing Lenin pace back and forth one night in Poronin, apparently trying to weigh the evidence in his own mind.75 It has been left to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, however, to speculate on the precise nature of the Bolshevik leader’s thoughts.

Malinovsky, Malinovsky! The would-be Russian Bebel. How he worked! How he aroused the masses! What a remarkable type, what a remarkable person! A born workers’ leader, a symbol of the Russian proletariat. Lenin had sought in the party just such a working class leader — a right-hand man to complement him, to convert his ideas into mass action. What Lenin especially liked in him was that he carried out assigned jobs willingly, without questioning, but also brilliantly and efficiently. In bourgeois terms he had a so-called criminal record — several thefts — but this only high¬lighted his proletarian incompatability with private property and his colorful character. . . . Imagine him a provocateur? Impossible! . . . Who could believe the silly story that the Okhrana themselves had found it ”awkward’ to have an informer among the best orators in the Duma and had ordered him to leave? What nonsense! Was the Okhrana stupid enough to work against itself?76

It was inconceivable to Lenin that a Bolshevik Azef could have presided over the revival of labor unrest in Russia and that all of the gains his party had made since 1912 could have been with police acquiescence. As he told the Investigatory Commission in 1917, “I did not believe that this was a case of provocation, not only because I could see neither proof nor evidence, but also because the Okhrana would not gain as much as the party” as a result of Malinovsky’s winning new converts through his articles in Pravda and his speeches in the Duma.77 If Malinovsky had in fact been a spy, it would mean that current plans for a special group of “secret agents” to coordinate underground activity, plans for the establish¬ment of much-needed regional party organizations, and for the convocation of the long overdue sixth party congress in August, would all be compromised. Lenin preferred not to think of the consequences that would accrue. He preferred instead to trust his own initial and favorable impression of the man.

Only once did a fleeting suspicion cross his mind [wrote Krupskaya]. I remember once in Poronino, as we were returning from the Zinovievs and talking about these sinister rumours, Ilyich suddenly stopped on the bridge we were crossing and said: ‘What if they are true!’ A look of dismay showed on his face. ‘That’s impossible,’ I answered. Reassured, Ilyich fell to cursing the Mensheviks, who had no scruples as to the means they used in fighting the Bolsheviks.

Like Bukharin, who sensed when he came down the next morning that Lenin had regained his old confidence, Krupskaya concludes that her husband “had no further doubts” about Malinovsky.78

On the basis of these considerations, the tribunal announced on 25 May that it was “convinced without a doubt of Malinovsky’s political honesty.” It reiterated that his “conduct [in leaving the Duma] did not have political overtones but was entirely the result of nervous agitation, mental fatigue, and a temporary lapse.” Nevertheless, he had committed a “scandalous breach of discipline” and had accordingly “placed himself outside the ranks of organized Marxists.”79 Two weeks later the Central Committee reaffirmed its belief that Malinovsky “was an honest man” but on the basis of the tribunal decision “was no longer taking part in the work of organized Marxists.”80 By this time, Malinovsky had, in fact, been stripped of all his positions in the party. On 11 May Lenin instructed the Duma fraction to elect a new chairman.81 On the 15th the Moscow electorate was told to prepare to elect a new Bolshevik deputy. On the 17th Malinovsky’s wife, Stefania A. Malinovskaya, was removed as publisher of Put’ pravdy, 82 a position she had held for almost four months. On 16 June Lenin informed C. Huysmans that M. M. Litvinov would henceforth represent the party inside the International Socialist Bureau.83 And in early July Malinovsky was replaced on the Central Committee by the new chairman of his old Metalworkers Union, A. S. Kiselev.

Lenin also cracked down on the bewildered Duma fraction and on the legalistic editors of Pravda. Petrovsky, the fraction’s new chairman, was told to “bear the irresponsible departure of Malinovsky more firmly, stop worrying. … [He has committed] political suicide. What other penalty can there be . . . ? The Liquidators are not branded enough for their mud-slinging and dirt. … To work, down with the muck-rakers!”84 Kamenev was scolded for Pravda’s defensive attitude and, judging from later issues,8S soon fell into line. Many other Bolsheviks followed Pravda’s example, though with reluctance. As one trade unionist noted, “many people, and not just rank-and-file party members but also active party figures, were greatly puzzled by [Malinovsky’s departure]. The documents printed in Pravda at this time did not satisfy us even though they were very cate¬gorical.”86 V. Degot, a Social Democrat then living in Paris, wrote that “when Malinovsky resigned his mandate, accusations were heard from the Mensheviks about his being a provocateur. Deep down I felt that they were right but spoke in his defense, as did other [Bolsheviks], since I thought that these attacks were made by the Mensheviks to discredit our party.”87

There were many non-Bolsheviks who shared Degot’s opinion. Two trade union journals, Vestnik prikazchika and the Metallist which had heaped praise on Malinovsky at the time of his election, both “categorically condemned” “the very fact and especially the form of Malinovsky’s departure.”88 G. V. Plekhanov’s Edinstvo felt that the Bolshevik deputy had “betrayed the trust of the proletariat”89 while Trotsky’s Bor’ba saw his action as a “most serious blow to the workers’ party.”90 None of these papers, however, followed the Mensheviks in accusing Malinovsky of provocation or in repeating right-wing rumors. Indeed, Plekhanov found the Mensheviks’ handling of the issue to be “scandalous and disgusting”91 while the Metalworkers  Union  passed  a  “whole  series  of resolutions protesting against the unequivocal slander of Nasha rabochaia gazeta.92 The editors of Bor’ba and Tsait, a Jewish socialist organ, joined in condemning the Mensheviks’ tactics.93

Despite the fact that the Mensheviks were right about Malinovsky, they hurt their own cause by engaging in vindictive overkill. A sense of frustration permeates much of their writing in 1914. Eight years previously they had been far stronger than the Bolsheviks in terms of membership and international prestige. In 1906 they controlled the party machinery abroad and most of the newly emerging trade unions in Russia. Now, however, the situation was reversed: the Bolsheviks were steadily taking over their trade unions as well as the new insurance councils; Trudovaia pravda was far more popular than Nasha rabochaia gazeta. Lenin had seized the initiative and the resurgent labor movement was apparently heeding his militant appeals rather than the reasoned arguments of Menshevism. It seemed to Martov and Dan that no one cared if the Bolshevik leader violated party resolutions condemning expropriations, broke promises concerning party unity, and with the aid of a provocateur tore the Duma fraction asunder. Three years earlier Martov had responded to continued Bolshevik expropriations and shady financial dealings with a vitriolic pamphlet, Saviors or Destroyers? He responded to the Malinovsky affair in the same fashion in a final attempt to “destroy the grounds on which unprincipled demagogues prosper and disorganize the workers’movement.”94 If Dzhunkovsky’s intention in firing Malinovsky had indeed been to discredit the Bolsheviks and to divide the workers’ opposition, then he succeeded admirably. As the editors of Bor’ba later observed, Malinovsky’s curious departure and the charges and counter-charges which followed “dealt a most serious blow to the workers’ party . . . and threatens for a long time to come to poison the atmosphere of the workers’ movement and to do very grave damage to the political and moral authority of Social Democracy.”95

Lenin personally went on a counteroffensive against the Mensheviks. Rejecting their proposal for an inter-factional investigation of Malinovsky, he demanded instead that they be taken before a court of the International Socialist Bureau on charges of rumor-mongering and asked Plekhanov to put the Bolshevik case before the Bureau.96 The “father of Russian Marxism” refused, however, because he learned of this request only through the press and felt moreover that the dispute was merely a reflection of the root problem — the split in the party — to which all attention should be devoted.97 When the Bureau itself tried to mediate general factional differences, Lenin stated that one of the Bolshevik conditions for unity was that the Menshevik “Organizing Committee and their friends should . . . retract their accusations and slander” with regard to Malinovsky.98 And he planned to make a report on their “slanderous campaign” to the forthcoming Tenth Congress of the Socialist International in Vienna.99

One of the consequences of Malinovsky’s departure from the Duma was Lenin’s almost total absorption with the resulting scandal to the detriment of all other party business. His journalistic output declined drastically during May and June and almost everything he did write dealt in one way or another with the affair. Because of it he had to cancel temporarily the writing of an encyclopedic article on Marx which would have brought in a much-needed honorarium.100 In part because of its repercussions, he chose not to attend the special “unity conference” called by the International Socialist Bureau to discuss Russian problems. Planning for the all-important sixth party congress, which was to have finalized the gains made since the Prague Conference, went into abeyance. Perhaps even more significantly, Lenin lost touch with the rapidly changing situation in Russia and thus was caught unaware and unprepared when barricades went up again in the streets of St. Petersburg during July 1914. Bolshevik agitation, much of it by Malinovsky himself, had laid the groundwork for this near-insurrection. But Malinovsky was also indirectly responsible for the party’s inability to perceive that the situation had reached revolutionary proportions and to provide desperately needed organizational direction and coordination.

Lenin had written optimistically in June: “We have judged and ruthlessly condemned the deserter. There is nothing more to be said. The case is closed.”101 The “case” was not “closed,” however, for the Mensheviks. Frustrated in their attempts to bring Malinovsky before an inter-factional body or a court of the Second International102 and rejecting outright the findings of Lenin’s own tribunal,103 they decided to institute a “Commission of Inquiry” of their own in western Europe on the eve of the war. This commission collected evidence which indicated that Malinovsky had been frequently arrested along with other Bolsheviks in Moscow during 1910 but he alone was freed; that when some former Moscow Social Democrats living abroad reminded their comrades of these events at the time of Malinovsky’s nomination to the Duma, these warnings were ignored; that arrests in Moscow during subsequent years always followed Malinovsky’s visits; that the Okhrana seemed to know of the Duma fraction’s decisions whenever Malinovsky was present; that Rodzianko appeared to have prior knowledge of Social Democratic Duma addresses; and that Malinovsky refused to give his associates any explanation for his resignation. The commission came to the conclusion that Malinovsky had threatened Petrovsky with his revolver on the night of 8 May because he feared he had been exposed; that he went to Lenin only when it was clear his colleagues were willing to come to his defense; and that he had gone into hiding after the Galician tribunal so as to avoid further questioning by either the commission or Burtsev.104

The Mensheviks were probably correct in each of these assumptions. Malinovsky did indeed conveniently drop out of sight after his trial. Burtsev, who had been conducting a private investigation of his own, was convinced that Lenin had “concealed him in Germany . . . out of contact with the rest of the world.”105 There also was an erroneous report that he had gone to Paris.106 In fact, “Malinovsky hung around Poronin, feeling utterly miserable and lonely,”107 until at least the second week of July. Early in that month A. S. Kiselev attended his first Central Committee meeting in Galicia. On one of his walks around Poronin, he was surprised to see Malinovsky sitting in a cart with a group of peasants. “As if by command all three of us turned away from him as if he were completely unknown to us. After the cart had gone a short distance we, out of curiosity, turned around as did Malinovsky. His face reflected great fright. . . . We came to the conclusion that Malinovsky thought that he had been exposed as a provocateur and that we had come to report on this to the Central Committee. In all likelihood he assumed that we had come to liquidate him as a provocateur.”108

Shortly after this unexpected meeting took place, a disastrous war broke out which ultimately spelled the downfall for the inept, oppressive and unpopular tsarist regime. Malinovsky, if he still was in Poronin at the time, did not follow Lenin and Zinoviev on the path which eventually took them to neutral Switzerland but rather returned once again to Warsaw. Because he had resigned from the Duma, he no longer had immunity from military service and therefore as a reservist was called up during the general mobilization.109 Less than two months later it was announced that he had died fighting in a guards regiment on the Galician front.110 The Bolsheviks’ emigre journal, Sotsial-demokrat, marked the occasion with a black box around Malinovsky’s name followed by a long and laudatory obituary. Its author, who was probably Lenin,111 noted both the “cruel irony” of a Pole dying in a Russian army seeking to conquer Galicia and the “necessity of preserving [Malinovsky’s] memory from malicious rumors, of cleansing his name and his honor of disgraceful slander.”

Roman Malinovsky . . . was an honest man and accusations of political dishonesty were filthy fabrications. Malinovsky was not only an honest man, he was also a talented worker in proletarian affairs. He was no stranger to thousands of human weaknesses but he was noted for sparkling ability. He gave his talent — the important talent of agitator and orator — to the service of our great proletarian cause. … He was deeply dejected [at the time he resigned from the Duma]; he completely lost faith in himself and committed [political] suicide. . . . But the old Malinovsky awoke when he said: ‘I shall find myself again. I shall find in myself the strength to serve the workers cause and in ten or twenty years I shall make amends for my sins against the party.’ And looking at this remarkable, talented worker, one hoped that this would be so.112

No sooner had this”posthumous” rehabilitation been published than Lenin “received word from Petrograd that information about the death  of R.  V.  Malinovsky appearing in all Russian and many emigre newspapers is false. Malinovsky is alive and active in one of the theaters of military operations. They say that people who are erroneously declared dead live a long time thereafter. We hope this is the case with R..V. Malinovsky.”113

He, in fact, lived to fight in some eleven battles during the course of the next year114 until he was finally wounded on Russia’s western front, captured and put into a German prisoner-of-war camp at Altengrabow near Magdeburg. In these unusual surroundings, as Malinovsky confessed in 1918, “socialism for the first time became my religion.”115 It is impossible to determine from the available evidence116 whether this belated conversion was a result of ideological conviction, boredom, remorse, or simply a search for an outlet for his considerable energy and organizational talent. In any case, he contacted the “Commission to Help Russian War Prisoners” which the Bolsheviks had established in Bern during 1915 under the direction of Shklovsky and Krupskaya. The Commission had ties with Russian prisoners in 21 camps in Germany and Austria to whom, with German acquiescence, it dispatched some 5,000 pounds of defeatist and revolutionary literature. Krupskaya “took pity on the fallen eagle, sent him linen and food parcels”117 along with agitational material. Malinovsky reciprocated by becoming one of the Commission’s most zealous and active agents. During the first half of 1916 he sent Lenin five letters describing the mood and conditions of the soldiers at Alten-grabow and with his help established a prison library of some 1,011 books. He also circulated the Commission’s newspaper, V plenu, read lectures on political economy, and discussed the Erfurt Program with the Russian prisoners of war.118 “Very enthusiastic reports” about Malinovsky’s work began reaching Lenin119 who once again sought his advice on political matters.120 Malinovsky himself later remarked that “the best period of my life was the two and a half years which I devoted to propaganda among Russian prisoners in Germany. I have done a great deal during that time for the spread of the ideas of Bolshevism.”121

Meanwhile, the skeletons in Malinovsky’s closet started rattling once again. During the summer of 1916 Burtsev, who had defended him two years earlier but had never given up interest in the case, received new information “from persons close to the police” which raised strong doubts in his mind. In an article which the censor refused to approve, he suggested that the affair needed to be closely re-examined.122 Then on 4 November Markov stated categorically from the Duma rostrum that Malinovsky had been an agent provocateur and that he had run off with strike funds in 1914.123 His speech was promptly given wide circulation by a number of liberal newspapers. Using these as his sources, Burtsev wrote another article entitled “The Question that Demands an Answer” in which he said the burden of proving Malinovsky’s innocence now rested on the Bolsheviks and that silence would imply acceptance on their part of his guilt.124 Lenin again came to Malinovsky’s defense. “Malinovsky is presently in a German prisoner-of-war camp and therefore unable to defend himself,” wrote the Bolshevik leader in January 1917. He repeated the circumstances surrounding Malinovsky’s resignation and subsequent trial in Galicia, concluding that the tribunal “unanimously confirmed the charges of provocation [against him] were absolute nonsense. “12S

Five weeks later revolution broke out in Petrograd.



One of the first targets of the victorious revolution was the offices of the Okhrana. Vengeful crowds, sometimes incited by former police officials hoping to destroy incriminating evidence, sacked the Moscow and Petrograd offices before a systematic check could be made of police records.1 Enough evidence remained, however, for the new Provisional Government to begin printing lists of recently discovered provocateurs who had penetrated socialist ranks.2 Surprisingly, Malinovsky’s name did not appear on these lists. It remained for Burtsev to answer the question which he had raised the previous December. With remarkable perseverance, he tracked down Vissarionov and Popov who confirmed his earlier suspicions and provided some new details of their own.3 This became the basis for an expose published in Russkoe slovo on 25 March, which presented a very convincing case that Malinovsky “had for many years been an agent of the Okhrana and the Department of Police.”4 Burtsev’s argument was immediately picked up by Plekhanov’s Edinstvo and the Mensheviks’ Rabochaia gazeta.5 Victory must have been particularly sweet for the Mensheviks, after years of being accused of “malicious slander,” and not surprisingly they chose to rub some salt in Bolshevik wounds. Boris Nicolaevsky wrote a revealing five-part article on the “Malinovsky Affair” for Rabochaia gazeta6 and the paper copiously excerpted documents and testimony presented to the Extraordinary Investigatory Commission whenever they pertained to the “Bolshevik Azef.”7

Pravda, on the other hand, remained prudently silent in the absence of Lenin. The Bolshevik leader was indeed caught in an embarrassing, if not a compromising, position. He had vehemently defended Malinovsky’s “political honesty” in 1914, used his services again during the war, and only recently “rehabilitated” him in the emigre press. As late as March 1917, he did not seem to recognize Malinovsky’s guilt8 and in fact was complaining to his fellow tribunalist Haniecki that his political opponents were using the provocateur issue “in an attempt to drown our party in slander and filth.”9 Lenin could no longer deny the incontrovertible, however, after he returned to Petrograd in April but this did not mean he would eat humble pie off Menshevik plates. In May he noted that the Socialist Revolutionaries, members of the Jewish Bund, and the Mensheviks themselves had at one time or another defended police agents in their ranks — “all parties without exception have made mistakes in failing to detect provocateurs” — so why blame us alone?10 In June he called Rodzianko “a criminal” and urged that he and Dzhunkovsky be brought to trial for not having informed the Bolshevik fraction of Malinovsky’s dual employment in May 1914?11 Even in his testimony before the Investigatory Commission, while admitting that he had been wrong about Malinovsky, Lenin nevertheless stressed the ways the party benefited from his agitational work and the means it used to minimize the inherent dangers of police penetration.12

Although the Investigatory Commission produced considerable collateral documentation on Malinovsky, it was primarily interested in the culpability of former government officials and how they, rather than their agents, broke the law. It questioned Beletsky, Dzhunkovsky and Vissarionov but not Martov, Dan, Troyanovsky, Bukharin and other Social Democrats who could have provided information on the broader aspects of Malinovsky’s activity. At the conclusion of its deliberations, the Commission charged six police officials with offenses related to Malinovsky’s penetration of the Duma. Malinovsky himself, who was still in a German prisoner-of-war camp, was not indicted.13 This, needless to say, did not please the Mensheviks who once again called for a broadly based socialist court to look into all the ramifications of the affair.14

Malinovsky also wanted another investigation. In August 1917 he wrote A. S. Zarudny, the Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government: “I have the honor to bring to your attention that I wish to appear before this court and [therefore] petition for my return to Russia before the end of the war.” He went on to say that he had reason to believe that the German authorities would not prevent his return.15 Malinovsky had in fact written the German Minister of War in June 1917 and again on 18 November seeking his release. In the latter instance he noted that “because the party to which I belong has taken power in Russia, my presence in Russia at this time could bring great benefits.”16 The German Foreign Office and the War Ministry, however, felt that his disabilities were not sufficient to warrant his inclusion in the formal exchange of wounded prisoners but discussed at some length the possibility of engineering his escape.17 When this did not materialize, Malinovsky wrote to the newly triumphant Bolshevik Central Committee requesting that it formally try him on charges of provocation only to receive the blunt reply that this was now a state rather than a party matter.18

Malinovsky was freed only after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. He asked for and received, according to one undocumented source,19 Lenin’s promise of personal safety before returning to Petrograd on 20 October 1918 to seek a final determination of his case. For three days he wandered around “unable to get himself arrested” since, it seemed to him, “no one knew and no one remembered the name of R. Malinovsky.”20 On the 23rd he presented himself at the Smolny Institute to inquire about his fate. “‘Malinovsky? Don’t know the name!’ replied the commandant of the guard, ‘Go and explain yourself to the Party Committee.’ “21 Malinovsky did so, whereupon the secretary of the Petersburg Committee, S.M. Gessen, accommodated the ex-deputy by turning him over to the CHEKA.

Forty-eight hours later he was transferred to Moscow where he underwent nine days of interrogation. During this time he tended to downplay his significance, both as a revolutionary and as a police agent. When asked why he returned to Russia, Malinovsky replied that “he could not live outside the revolution”22 and that he wanted to “wash away the sins of his life with blood.”23 His interrogator found it difficult to accept the sincerity of this argument and came to the conclusion that Malinovsky was prepared to use “all of his remarkable talents in order to rehabilitate himself.”24

On 5 November 1918, one day behind schedule, Roman Malinovsky finally stood trial before the High Revolutionary Tribunal of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet meeting within the walls of the Kremlin. The case against him was presented to seven Old Bolshevik jurists by N.V. Krylenko who had worked with the Social Democratic Duma fraction until Malinovsky had caused his arrest in December 1913. Krylenko charged his former boss with ten specific crimes beginning with the mass arrests of 1910-1911 in Moscow and ending with his “injuring and discrediting of the revolution and its leaders in the eyes of the working masses by his supposedly revolutionary activity abroad and in captivity” before and during the war.25 He said that Malinovsky was initially motivated solely by financial considerations but that adventurism and ambition played an increasing role as he rose in the party and the police. As witnesses for the prosecution he called three former police officials—Dzhun-kovsky, Vissarionov, Beletsky-Malinovsky’s wife, and one suspects several other of his earlier accusers from inside the party. Lenin, who attended the trial, apparently did not testify.26 Krylenko concluded by calling for the death penalty.

While Malinovsky had a defense lawyer named Otsep, his defense consisted mostly of a six-hour speech in his own behalf. He did not deny the charges against him though he claimed that police blackmail was the reason for his provocation. He also asserted that few arrests were made on the basis of his information, that he left the Duma of his own free will, that Lenin must have known of his dual role, and that he proved his worth to the party during the war. He concluded by repenting and by acknowledging that he expected the death penalty for his crimes.27 He was not mistaken.

Malinovsky’s strange conduct in fleeing to Lenin in May 1914, in serving the Bolsheviks again during the war, and in voluntarily returning to Russia in 1918, raise numerous questions which are not adequately answered by the very limited information filtering out of his final trial. These actions have also led to speculation that Lenin in fact knew of Malinovsky’s dual role as early as 1913, that he accepted Malinovsky as a sincere Bolshevik and a valuable double agent, and that Malinovsky therefore expected a full pardon upon his return only to be sacrificed at the altar of Bolshevik expediency and revolutionary reputation.

Many Mensheviks and some Western historians have agreed with Burtsev and Malinovsky himself that in 1914 “Lenin understood and could not help understanding that [Malinovsky’s] past concealed not merely ordinary criminality but that he was in the hands of the gendarmes — a provocateur.”28 According to this argument, Lenin “had already decided long ago, under the pressure of the evidence (circumstantial, if not direct), that Malinovsky was an agent of the Okhrana. He was hardly troubled … by the amorality of such an act, for Lenin worked from the point of view of usefulness, not morality.”29 The Bolshevik leader came to the cynical conclusion that it would do more harm to the faction than good to admit this mistake; thus the cover-up from 1914 to 1917. It might be argued, however, that Lenin was not the best judge of men and that he had made a very strong personal commitment to Malinovsky in 1912 which would be difficult for a few Menshevik-inspired rumors to destroy. It is hard to believe that Lenin would employ a known provocateur during the war and would continue to sing his praises right up to the revolution. It is important to note the abrupt change in Lenin’s tone toward Malinovsky once his provocation was undeniably proven in the spring of 1917. Malinovsky’s actions suggest that he thought Lenin knew and that he had been forgiven. Lenin’s actions suggest the contrary—that he stubbornly chose to believe the best about Malinovsky. As he later confessed to Maxim Gorky: “I couldn’t see through that scoundrel Malinovsky. It was a very fishy affair, that Malinovsky business. . . .”30

Stefan Possony has carried the “Lenin knew” argument one step further to suggest that Malinovsky was a double agent from 1913 on with his first loyalty being to the party. He argues that only this explains Malinovsky’s insistence on returning to Russia to prove his innocence, that Lenin tried to defend him in 1918, but that in the end he was “sacrificed to protect the inner secrets of the organization.”31 There are several problems with this interpretation. First, there is no indication that the party ever derived any inside information on police activities as a result of Malinovsky’s double role or that he purposefully sowed “disinformation”in his reports to Beletsky and Vissarionov. To the contrary, the Bolsheviks had virtually no knowledge about other agents in their midst whereas the police knew almost all the party secrets from Malinovsky and used this information to excellent advantage in the year before the war. As has been shown, the provocation commission, the Russian Bureau and numerous party publishing ventures were hamstrung precisely because of Malinovsky’s participation. Moreover, if he had in fact been a double agent working for the Bolsheviks, it is logical that he would have advanced this argument in his own defense in 1918 and that the party would have welcomed him as a hero, as happened in at least one other case of a true double agent,32 rather than treating him as a traitor. This would have relieved much of the obvious embarrassment over the party’s misplaced confidence in him from 1912 to 1914. Malinovsky, however, never claimed that he was a true double agent nor is there any evidence that Lenin in fact came to his defense in 1918 other than by attending his trial.

If Lenin did not know of his double role prior to 1917 and if Malinovsky was not a true double agent, why then did he return to almost certain death in 1918? Soviet observers have sought an answer to this question in Malinovsky’s rather complex and unstable psychological make-up rather than in devious political understandings or misunderstandings of the past.33 They stress that he was an adventurer to the end; that he was willing to take his chances with revolutionary forgiveness, especially since Lenin had been kind-hearted or gullible in 1914; and that at the age of 42 he was unwilling to live a life of poverty, loneliness and obscurity which emigration to Canada or Argentina would bring. Malinovsky had grown accustomed to the limelight which, at the very least, his last trial would once again focus upon him. He was also a recent convert to Bolshevism and for the first time in his life was committed to a cause other than his own personal or pecuniary interests. Naively, optimistically, perhaps even fatalistically, he sought rehabilitation and a chance to serve the new Soviet state. “Many indications,” wrote Victor Serge, “led me to believe that he was absolutely sincere and that if he had been allowed to live, he would have served as faithfully as the others. But what confidence could the others have in him?”34 Not surprisingly, they had none. In the early morning hours of 6 November 1918, immediately after the Revolutionary Tribunal had found him guilty as charged, the friendless and vainglorious adventurer was shot in the gardens of the Kremlin.


October 5, 2012

Roman Malinovsky biography, part two

Filed under: Malinovsky — louisproyect @ 10:04 pm

How the Social Democratic fraction in the Duma came to split.

Excerpted from chapter two of the Roman Malinovsky biography by Ralph Carter Elwood immediately below:

As leader of the Bolshevik group in the Duma, Malinovsky was the prime mover in the splitting of the united Social Democratic fraction despite the fact that this action clearly violated the mandate given him by his Moscow electors.77 Throughout 1913 he led the six Bolshevik deputies in a constant fight with their seven Menshevik counterparts over such issues as representation on Duma commissions, equal speaking rights before the house, appointment of fractional secretaries, and the choice of agitational slogans. Relations became so strained that the two groups had to meet at 7 a.m. in order to have enough time to hammer out the day’s assignments.78 In the early fall of 1913 the Bolshevik Central Committee agreed that a formal split was essential;79 this policy was duly approved by the police80 and executed by Malinovsky in November 1913. In addition to engineering the split, he provided the police with all the fraction’s files for overnight perusal,81 allowed them to listen in on private meetings of the Bolshevik caucus,82 and probably told them about planned demonstrations by the fraction.83 But Malinovsky’s Duma activities also posed difficulties for the police. As the fraction’s leader and best orator, he was expected to deliver militant speeches denouncing the government from texts often sent from abroad or composed by the combined fraction. When the police saw these texts they frequently demanded that he “change, shorten or soften”84 them in actual delivery. Thus he was forced to skip over passages concerning the “peoples’ sovereignty” in his inaugural address to the Duma and to omit entirely fifteen lines from a joint declaration in 1914. In the first instance he pleaded “nervousness” and in the second he tried to provoke the chairman’s intervention so as to escape suspicion by his colleagues.85

Prologue and chapter one are here: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/roman-malinovsky-biography-part-one/

Footnotes to prologue and chapter 1 are here: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/prologue_chapter1.htm

Footnotes to chapter 2 are here: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/chapter2.htm

Chapter two of “Roman Malinovsky: a Life Without a Cause”


The personal and professional doldrums which Malinovsky had passed through in 1910 and 1911 were forgotten by the time he reached Prague in January 1912. He arrived late for the Sixth All-Russian Conference of the RSDRP and he did not possess a proper mandate from the nearly defunct Moscow organization.1 But it did not matter. At the age of 35 he was at last in the company of such luminaries of Russian Social Democracy as Lenin and Zinoviev. “His outward appearance,” wrote one of the delegates, “was quite remarkable. He was tall, strongly built, and dressed almost fashionably. Deep, numerous pockmarks gave his face a fierce expression, as if it had been through a fire. He had thick, coarse, reddish hair, and his yellow eyes slid and jumped quickly from one object to another.” Voronsky went on to note, however, that Malinovsky “seemed too loud and fussy. Talking to him made me feel tired immediately. The [other] delegates [from Russia] gave him a cold and guarded reception.”2

Lenin’s reaction was different. He was at once impressed with this Moscow worker about whom he had heard so much, especially after Malinovsky announced that as a result of “serious reflection and observation” he had at last become a convinced Bolshevik.3 Malinovsky, seemingly, was precisely the type of person Lenin had expected to emerge from the underground in great numbers but which was in fact very rare: a true worker, a man with solid trade union experience, a commanding presence, a proven orator, an energetic organizer, and a convert to Bolshevism. Lenin’s attraction to rough and uncultured individuals, like Malinovsky and Stalin, so alien to the world of the emigre intelligentsia, has been seen as “reverse snobbery.”4 He was soon singing Malinovsky’s praises, just as he was those of the “marvelous Georgian,” in letters to his friends. He wrote Kamenev that “so far we have met two of the ‘six’: Malinovsky and Muranov. They make an excellent impression . . . the soil is rich.”5 He continued in the same vein to Maxim Gorky: “Malinovsky, Petrovsky and Badaev send you warm greetings and best wishes. They are good men, especially the first. It is really possible to build a workers’ party with such people, though the difficulties will be incredibly great”!6

Lenin was insistent that his new protege be elected to the Central Committee, as Vera Lobova had proposed, despite the reservations of some of the Prague delegates. O. A. Piatnitsky quite correctly pointed out that Malinovsky had been “remote from party work, that he had not been elected by the illegal Moscow organization, that he had come to the conference accidentally, and finally that we knew very little about him.”7 “Lenin insisted on the inclusion of Malinovsky,” recalled Voronsky, but the Russian delegates objected. Learning of the decision we had come to, Lenin coaxed us, in his own words, ‘to give a little vote to Malinovsky … he has connections, and he is a workman.’ Lenin succeeded in winning over some of us, but the majority of the delegates were against Malinovsky, and we had our own candidate. The votes were counted; it was evident that Malinovsky could not secure the necessary majority. The voting was by ballot. The names of the successful candidates were not, for obvious reasons, announced publicly. It happened that neither our candidate nor Malinovsky had the requisite majority. A second vote was decided on. Lenin moved among the delegates whispering candidates’ names to them and taking the voting slips. In the evening ‘confidential’ news leaked out that Malinovsky was elected. Everyone was astonished. The ‘betrayal’ was considered by some the work of Sergo [G.K. Ordzhonikidze], by others that of Filip [F.I. Goloshchekin]. Both of them, however, swore that they were innocent.8

Lenin had even bigger plans for Malinovsky. With the elections to the Fourth Duma coming up in the fall, he persuaded the Prague delegates to approve Malinovsky’s candidature as the Bolshevik representative from the large and prestigious Moscow Guberniia.9 Because of his background in the trade union movement and his reputation for conciliationism in factional matters, he also received Menshevik support.10 “Thus, backed by both of the major factions as well as by the police, Malinovsky was able to capitalize on his popularity in the factory districts to be nominated from the workers curia on 30 September and elected by the guberniia electoral assembly on 26 October. Lenin was ecstatic. Soon after the election he wrote G. L. Shklovsky: “For the first time we have an outstanding leader (Malinovsky) from among the workers representing us in the Duma.”11 Pravda echoed this sentiment by proclaiming that Malinovsky “deservedly enjoys the warm respect arid esteem of the workers. We wish him courage and strength in his new and responsible post where this best representative of the workers will be able to display to the utmost his abundantly gifted nature.”12His former colleagues in the Metalworkers Union also sent him greetings and expressed the hope that his work in the political field would be as “fruitful” as it had been in the economic.13 Even the Mensheviks hailed the election “for the first time of a leading ‘practical’ from the trade union movement.”14 In early November 1912 some 2,000 Moscow workers saw their new deputy off from the Nikolaevskii Station as he left for the opening session of the Fourth Duma.15

Malinovsky stood head and shoulders above the other five Bolshevik deputies in terms of political acumen, organizational ability and oratorical skill. He alone of all the deputies thought to thank his constituents for their support and their greetings.16 He was forced to answer the other deputies’ mail17 and to make their travel arrangements abroad.18 Some Polish workers even wrote him asking that he, rather than their elected deputy, represent them in the Duma.19 In recognition of these abilities he was unanimously elected vice-chairman of the united Social Democratic fraction and a year later, after the split, became chairman of the Bolshevik Duma group as well as the fraction’s representative-designate to the International Socialist Bureau.20

Duma rules were quite explicit that speeches before the house had to be given within a specified period of time; that they had to keep to the question and avoid abusive language; and that they had to be delivered rather than read verbatim from a manuscript. This was no problem for a Menshevik intelligent such asN. S. Chkheidze orM. I. Skobelev but it was for poorly educated, ill-at-ease Bolshevik worker-deputies such as Badaev, Muranov, N. R. Shagov or F. I. Samoilov. Krupskaya noted that Badaev, for instance, was a “shy” but “dependable proletarian.” 21 One leading Menshevik was more blunt: “he was elected simply because . . . the right-wing electors picked the least cultured, the most ignorant of all the worker electors since they decided that such a deputy represented the least danger for them …. He played no role in the external life of the fraction. He was not an orator …. At fractional meetings he did not participate, that is, he did not have opinions of his own.”22 On the few occasions he tried to deliver a speech, he was constantly interrupted by the Duma chairman for one violation or another of Duma rules.23 Lenin tried to compensate for these deficiencies not only by writing speeches for the deputies himself and by urging his well-educated friends to do likewise but also by summoning the deputies periodically to Galicia to give them first-hand instructions and by planning a party school in the Polish mountain town of Poronin for their edification.24

Increasingly, however, the burden of speaking before the Duma fell to Malinovsky whose “oratorical powers made him one of the most frequent speakers of [the Bolshevik] fraction.”25 Even the Mensheviks asked him to deliver the party’s key opening address.26 During the first session of the Fourth Duma he spoke before the house 22 times, which is more than the rest of the Bolshevik fraction combined, and during his brief stay in the second session he spoke an additional 38 times. He also signed 54 interpellations and made five legislative proposals.27 Rodzianko, the conservative Duma chairman, found these “performances” “harsh” but “extremely clever.” “His speeches were very interesting, very absorbing, soundly based and moreover so cautiously constructed that I did not have recourse to censorship.”28 Rodzianko felt compelled to ask Malinovsky where he had been educated and must have been surprised to find that he had had no formal education whatsoever. Chkheidze, the head of the Menshevik fraction and Malinovsky’s frequent opponent in the Social Democratic caucus, reflected the common opinion that he was “an extremely active and energetic man” who had the ability to “capture the mood of the Duma.”29

Since party newspapers were allowed to print Duma speeches, Malinovsky received considerable publicity in the daily press. Pravda alone reprinted some thirty of his addresses and as a result his popularity outside the Duma grew. From all sides, he began to be referred to as the “Russian Bebel” – a somewhat premature comparison with the great German socialist August Bebel who also rose from humble origins to become an outstanding orator in the Reichstag.30

The Bolsheviks’ other big venture during 1912 was the creation of a daily workers’ newspaper which could exploit the agitational possibilities presented by the Duma. Immediately after the Prague Conference, Malinovsky had journeyed to Leipzig with Lenin and S. S. Spandarian to discuss the project with two more experienced journalists, N. G. Polataev and V. E. Shurkanov. Soon after this meeting, however, Malinovsky was told to divorce himself from all party work because of the importance of his own election campaign and the necessity of not compromising himself before it was over. As a result, he had nothing to do with the formation of Pravda in St. Petersburg during April 1912. Even after his successful election in October, he played a far less significant role in Pravda than is often assumed. Outside of soliciting subscriptions and arranging for distribution outlets in Moscow,31 he had little contact with the paper’s daily operations. Contrary to many Western accounts, he never served as Pravda’s publisher, editor-in-chief or treasurer.32 During the early months of 1913, when the editorial board was being reformed and brought under Lenin’s control, he had some limited financial and perhaps editorial responsibilities33 but even these were terminated by the Central Committee in September 1913.34Malinovsky was, however, connected with other publishing ventures. During the spring and summer of 1913 he helped establish a daily Moscow version of Pravda, Nash put’, and at Lenin’s insistence was to have been its publisher.35 When Nash put’ folded after sixteen issues in October 1913, Malinovsky started agitating for a weekly Moscow paper for which he would again serve as publisher.36He also at various times in 1913 was associated with Priboi, the party’s legal publishing house, with the workers’ insurance journal Voprosy strakhovaniia, and with the establishment of an underground printing press in Finland.37 While Malinovsky was neither a proficient nor a particularly productive writer, at least by the standards of the emigre intelligentsia, his fourteen contributions to Pravda and Metallist38 represent a greater journalistic output than that of any of the other Bolshevik deputies.

Besides his parliamentary and journalistic work for the party, Malinovsky also served as chairman of the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee. What little of Lenin’s and Krupskaya’s correspondence with Malinovsky that has been published clearly shows that he was considered the key individual in St. Petersburg.39 During his year and a half in the Duma, he used his parliamentary immunities to make at least eight trips to Galicia to see Lenin and to attend Central Committee meetings. When arrests reduced the size of the Bureau to two members, Malinovsky and his fellow Duma deputy Petrovsky, the Central Committee empowered them to arrange the escape of two exiled members of the Bureau, Stalin and I. M. Sverdlov. If the Bureau needed further replenishing, they were either to coopt new members or to name “agents of the Central Committee” to carry out its functions.

The Committee also told Malinovsky to seek additional students for the proposed Galician school.40 Since the school would be expensive to operate, Malinovsky was instructed to contact sympathetic and wealthy liberals in Moscow and St. Petersburg.41 Lenin, in fact, had considerable confidence in Malinovsky’s financial honesty and fund-raising abilities. On several occasions he insisted that party funds in Russia be put in the hands of the “Russian Bebel.”42 In March 1914 he instructed Malinovsky to approach some Moscow Progressivists, who had earlier given the deputy 2,000 rubles for the legal party press, for an additional donation of 20,000 to 25,000 rubles to be used for the calling of the next party congress.43

Lenin’s relationship with Malinovsky is perhaps best shown by the fact that he chose his Duma chairman as his travelling companion for three weeks in western Europe during January 1914. In Brussels they attended a congress of the Latvian Social Democratic Party. In Paris, Malinovsky gave an emotional two-hour address on Duma affairs to a large audience of Russian emigres44 besides engaging in his hobby of collecting picture postcards. While in Paris, Malinovsky also went to see Vladimir Burtsev to discuss the problem of provocation in Bolshevik ranks with Russian socialism’s chief counter-spy.

Lenin had been concerned about the problem of police penetration ever since the Prague Conference when, at his instruction, the new Central Committee decided to set up a three-man “provocation commission” and to enlist Burtsev’s services.45 One of the members of this commission was Malinovsky. After the arrest of Stalin and Sverdlov in February 1913, Lenin wrote Kamenev that “he had discussed with Malinovsky what measures ought to be taken” to forestall further arrests.46 The Central Committee concluded later that spring that “in view of continued arrests showing with certitude the presence of a provocateur, it was resolved to take all measures to eradicate the threat, sparing neither money nor effort.”47 In late July Lenin hastened home from Switzerland for yet another discussion of the problem with Zinoviev, Kamenev and Malinovsky. The latter told of a conversation he had had with the new editor of Pravda, M. E. Chernomazov, who related how during his interrogation following arrest in St. Petersburg in June the police had “demonstrated a thorough knowledge of recent party developments.” The meeting could only conclude that “all these circumstances merely confirm the fact that near to the ‘six’ [Bolshevik Duma deputies] there is still a person tied to the investigatory branch of the government.” Malinovsky was instructed to be “as conspiratorial as possible in relations with those surrounding” the fraction.48 Two months later the hypersensitive Central Committee, probably at the suggestion of its “provocation commission,” diverted a would-be delegate to one of its meetings from Poronin to Vienna because of vague suspicions which Malinovsky was told to investigate further.49 Burtsev, in the meantime, had been investigating at Lenin’s request the evidence against Dr. A.A. Zhitomirsky, a sometime courier of illegal literature, who was suspected with more cause of provocation. Thus, it is not surprising that the two counter-spies, Burtsev and Malinovsky, should get together when the latter visited Paris in January 1914. They talked about the Zhitomirsky case in particular and about means of combatting provocation in general. Malinovsky was especially interested in the extent of Burtsev’s knowledge of provocation within the RSDRP as well as the Socialist Revolutionary Party and the sources of his information within the Okhrana. As Burtsev later recalled, “fortunately, despite his lively interest in the matter, I did not disclose” this infor¬mation.50 Burtsev did, however, ask Malinovsky to verify cer¬tain facts concerning Zhitomirsky and was both annoyed and vaguely suspicious when he did not get a reply .51

There were, of course, very good reasons both for Burtsev’s suspicions of his Bolshevik counterpart and for the failure of the “provocation commission” to achieve any constructive results. For more than three and a half years the “Russian Bebel” had been supplying detailed information, first to the Moscow Okhrana and then to the Department of Police in St. Petersburg, on all aspects of party life. In his police work Malinovsky showed the same diligence and thoroughness that he previously revealed as the secretary of the Metalworkers Union and which he was concurrently demonstrating as a member of the Bolshevik Central Committee. At first, his schizophrenic life caused him surprisingly little difficulty; indeed, he seemed to relish the simultaneous prestige of his party role, the power of a police agent, and the adventure of playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There was, however, no question where his loyalty lay: it was strictly a case of ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ and in this case the piper was receiving 100 rubles a month from the police.

The Okhrana got its money’s worth out of Malinovsky even before he joined the Central Committee. His first report was filed on 5 July 1910, six weeks after he had been released from jail,52 and it was followed by 56 more in the next year and a half.53 Malinovsky used his broad contacts and good reputation to advantage. His information concerned legal activity in trade unions and worker cooperatives as well as illegal activity carried out by both factions of the Social Democratic Party. He provided the police with lists of pseudonyms, numbers of forged passports, locations of party meetings and storage places for illegal literature. The police used this to raid a Bolshevik group in Tula and to arrest such leading Bolsheviks as N. I. Bukharin, F. I. Goloshchekin and B. A. Breslav. The Mensheviks also suffered with the arrest of V. V. Shur and V. G. Cherkin and the raid on a Liquidator group preparing a conference in 1911.54 The Moscow organization, as a result of the information provided by Malinovsky and other provocateurs in that city,55 was com-pletely demoralized and almost non-existent by the end of 1911. But even more damaging to the party’s cause than these raids in Moscow were the blows directed against the conciliator Bolsheviks at the national level who were seeking to reunify the RSDRP on the basis of the decisions of the January 1910 Plenum of the Central Committee. Crucial in this regard were the efforts of Nogin and other conciliators to re-establish an inter-factional Russian Bureau of the Central Committee which would coordinate all underground activity. The police, however, felt that their own objectives were best furthered by continued party division and factional animosity. The conciliators’ flirtation with Malinovsky in 1910 was therefore a godsend. They used information he provided to arrest some of its leading adherents such as I. F. Dubrovinsky, G. D. Lindov and V. P. Miliutin, as well as Nogin himself, thereby frustrating all attempts at reviving the Bureau and at establishing viable unified leadership at the national level.56

Lenin, for different reasons, shared the Okhrana’s dislike of conciliationism and party unity. The Prague Conference, which he called in January 1912, was intended to finalize the division that had been developing ever since the Second Congress in 1903. It would therefore be in the Okhrana’s interests to allow the Conference to proceed and to reinforce the ranks of the staunch Leninists. It is this which perhaps best explains Malinovsky’s sudden conversion to Bolshevism and his appearance at the Sixth Conference. The Moscow Okhrana readily approved Bolshevik suggestions that he go to Prague; indeed, they paid his way and gave him a bonus of 100 rubles.57 Malinovsky returned home in triumph as a member of Lenin’s new Central Committee and as the Bolshevik deputy-designate from the Moscow Guberniia to the Fourth State Duma. He gave his superiors “very detailed information on the composition of the conference, the results of its work, its proposed plans, the make-up of the newly elected Central Committee, the names of the Committee’s agents, and general information” about other Social Democratic groups which the “investigatory organs quickly put to use.”58

The decision to approve the infiltration of an agent into the State Duma was not an easy one to make, even for the Russian police. After learning from Zavarzin of the Bolshevik intention to run Malinovsky, the Vice-Director of the Department of Police, S. E. Vissarionov, travelled to Moscow to review the situation with the candidate and his Okhrana overseers. Vissarionov later claimed that he went along with the idea solely because it would give Malinovsky greater access to party information.59 At the time, however, the only police official to object was A. M. Eremin who feared a scandal would erupt should Malinovsky’s dual role be uncovered.60 No one apparently raised ethical objections to a police agent penetrating the nation’s highest legislative body in the guise of a revolutionary. The plan was duly approved by the Director of Police, S. P. Beletsky, after consultation with his superiors in the Ministry of Interior.61

Malinovsky needed police support more than he realized. After returning from Prague, Leipzig and several Russian cities where he gave reports on the Sixth Conference, he obtained a job at the Ferman plant, a small textile factory near Moscow. According to Duma regulations, a person needed six months uninterrupted employment in one place in order to participate in the election. In April, however, Malinovsky quarrelled with his factory foreman, M. S. Krivov, who threatened to fire him. Malinovsky took his problem to the Moscow Okhrana which in turn cabled the Ministry of Interior in St. Petersburg for instructions. Beletsky replied that Malinovsky was “not to be deprived of his full rights which are extremely important to him at the present moment.”62 On 25 April the surprised foreman was arrested and held in custody until 10 September. Matters proceeded more smoothly during the summer. On 17 September Malinovsky reported that the Social Democratic election committee had definitely decided to support his candidature and on the 30th he informed the police that he had been duly chosen as one of the electors from the workers curia.63

In early October, however, a second problem arose which required police assistance. Vissarionov, while reviewing the records of the various electors, noted that Malinovsky’s criminal record would prevent him from acquiring a “Certificate of Good Standing” which was required under Article 9 of the Election Code for all Duma deputies. Beletsky took the problem to the Minister of Interior and on his approval cabled A. P. Martynov on 17 October that Malinovsky’s election “should be allowed to take its natural course.” Martynov, the new head of the Moscow Okhrana section, replied that “success is guaranteed.”64 With his help “these lines in Malinovsky’s biography were erased.”65 The would-be deputy apparently bribed the bookkeeper at the Ferman Factory to give him a short leave of absence so that he could travel to Poland where he this time bribed a district clerk to provide him with the necessary certificate.66 Upon his return to Moscow “success” was achieved. On 24 October Malinovsky was chosen by his fellow electors as their choice for deputy and two days later the Moscow Guberniia Electoral Assembly made it official.67

Malinovsky’s rewards were immediate. In addition to a congratulatory telegram from Krupskaya,68 front-page praise from the Social Democratic press, and a relatively lucrative salary from the Duma,69 he also received preferential treatment from the police. In part at his request, he was transferred from the Moscow Okhrana to the Special Section of the Department of Police in St. Petersburg. Henceforth, under the name of “Iks” he would report on a weekly basis to either Vissarionov or Beletsky by means of a special telephone which the police installed in his apartment or over intimate dinners in the private rooms of fashionable restaurants.70 In recognition of his increased importance, his salary was raised from 100 to 500 and then to 700 rubles a month. This did not prevent him, however, from continuing to sell odd bits of information to his former Okhrana employers at the old piece rate of 25 to 50 rubles.71

Beletsky’s principal purpose was to use Malinovsky as a source of information concerning the personalities and policies of the Bolshevik leadership both in the Central Committee abroad and in the Duma fraction and as a means of influencing these policies in the direction which the police desired.72This meant protecting and perpetuating the split achieved at Prague. “I confess,” admitted Beletsky in 1917, “that the whole purpose of my guidance consisted in not giving any possibility for party unification.”73 Malinovsky was therefore “given instructions, whenever possible, to deepen the split in the party.”74 The first chance to implement these instructions came in December 1912 when eleven of the thirteen deputies voted to work for the merger of the Menshevik Luch with the Bolshevik Pravda and to contribute to each others’ newspapers until this union was achieved. Only Malinovsky and Muranov voted against the resolution and refused to allow their names to appear on Luch’ masthead.75 Lenin promptly summoned the other Bolshevik deputies abroad for a dressing down and with the help of Malinovsky and Sverdlov succeeded in restoring Pravda’s militant independence. To make sure that Pravda did not become too militant, Malinovsky also supplied the Okhrana with lists of the paper’s subscribers and contributors, manuscripts of articles submitted, and on at least one occasion wrote a provocative article of his own which justified Pravda’s temporary suppression.76

As leader of the Bolshevik group in the Duma, Malinovsky was the prime mover in the splitting of the united Social Democratic fraction despite the fact that this action clearly violated the mandate given him by his Moscow electors.77 Throughout 1913 he led the six Bolshevik deputies in a constant fight with their seven Menshevik counterparts over such issues as representation on Duma commissions, equal speaking rights before the house, appointment of fractional secretaries, and the choice of agitational slogans. Relations became so strained that the two groups had to meet at 7 a.m. in order to have enough time to hammer out the day’s assignments.78 In the early fall of 1913 the Bolshevik Central Committee agreed that a formal split was essential;79 this policy was duly approved by the police80 and executed by Malinovsky in November 1913. In addition to engineering the split, he provided the police with all the fraction’s files for overnight perusal,81 allowed them to listen in on private meetings of the Bolshevik caucus,82 and probably told them about planned demonstrations by the fraction.83 But Malinovsky’s Duma activities also posed difficulties for the police. As the fraction’s leader and best orator, he was expected to deliver militant speeches denouncing the government from texts often sent from abroad or composed by the combined fraction. When the police saw these texts they frequently demanded that he “change, shorten or soften”84 them in actual delivery. Thus he was forced to skip over passages concerning the “peoples’ sovereignty” in his inaugural address to the Duma and to omit entirely fifteen lines from a joint declaration in 1914. In the first instance he pleaded “nervousness” and in the second he tried to provoke the chairman’s intervention so as to escape suspicion by his colleagues.85

Beletsky, in fact, sought to protect his prize agent once he entered the Duma by relieving him of pedestrian intelligence work concerning code names, localities of party meetings, etc., and by keeping arrests in which Malinovsky might be implicated to a minimum.86 While Lenin later claimed that Malinovsky “betrayed scores upon scores of the best and most loyal comrades, caused them to be sent into penal servitude and hastened the death of many of them,”87 most of these arrests took place before 1912. There were, however, two notable arrests during February 1913 — that of Stalin and Sverdlov— which were directly attributable to information Malinovsky provided as to their whereabouts in St. Petersburg. It has been suggested that Stalin’s arrest was a result either of personal enmity between the two men or of rival ambitions they had within the party or perhaps the police hierarchy.88 More to the point was the fact that Stalin himself tended to be a conciliator during his brief stays in St. Petersburg. His articles in Pravda, his slowness in bringing the paper under Lenin’s control, and his lack of determination in enforcing the Duma split all indicated that he was following a unitary policy contrary to the Okhrana’s intentions. Sverdlov, on the other hand, was a militant Bolshevik who succeeded where Stalin had failed in bringing Pravda and the fraction under Lenin’s control. Sverdlov, however, apparently opposed plans for Malinovsky to become the publisher of a Bolshevik daily in Moscow89 and perhaps even began to suspect the true loyalties of his esteemed colleague. On two occasions in 1913 and 1914 Malinovsky helped to frustrate the party’s plans to free Stalin and Sverdlov from their Siberian imprisonment.90

He also aided his employers by diverting illegal literature and Bolshevik correspondence into their hands, by turning over forBeletsky’suse the secret printing press he was to have established in Finland, by making militant speeches so as to justify closure of legal worker congresses, and perhaps by betraying Burtsev’s source of information inside the Okhrana.91

Malinovsky’s value to the police was enormous. The information which he provided first as “Portnoi” and then as “Iks” allowed the police to keep the leading underground bodies in a state of enervation, to remain abreast of all party plans, and to perpetuate the ruinous party schism. Beletsky, like many who knew Malinovsky as a trade unionist or a professional revolutionary, recognized that “he was a gifted and able man.”92 To the police director, he was the “pride of the Okhrana.”93 Little did he know that the time was not far off when many who had formerly spoken highly of the “Russian Bebel” would instead refer disparagingly of the “Bolshevik Azef’ — a more apt parallel with the greatest of the tsarist police spies who penetrated the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionaries a decade earlier and like Malinovsky ultimately was sentenced to death by a party court.

October 2, 2012

Roman Malinovsky biography: part one

Filed under: Malinovsky — louisproyect @ 4:45 pm

Roman Malinovsky

Not long after the Richard Aoki controversy erupted, I got a note from John Plant, a long-time editor of the very fine British journal Revolutionary History, reminding me of a suggestion he had made to the Marxism list that preceded Marxmail. During the course of a flame war in which accusations of being a police agent were being hurled back and forth (ah, the bad old days of Marxism on the Internet), he urged that Ralph Carter Elwood’s short biography of Roman Malinovsky be consulted. Malinovsky was the Bolshevik deputy in the Duma and highly regarded by Lenin. Even after the revolutionaries arrested him, Lenin continued to insist that he did more good than harm.

I thought that this biography was worth scanning and posting, so today begins part one—the prologue and chapter one. If anybody needs information on the footnotes, please check with me privately at lnp3@panix.com.

Roman Malinovsky: A life without a cause
Oriental Research Partners
Newtonville, Mass. 1977


In the late afternoon of 8 May 19141 R.V. Malinovsky, the leader of the Bolshevik fraction in the Fourth State Duma, walked into the office of M. V. Rodzianko and abruptly handed in his resignation to the Duma chairman. That evening, armed with a foreign passport and a revolver, he disappeared abroad without giving any explanation for his unexpected action. In doing so, he precipitated the greatest political crisis the Bolsheviks were to face between January 1910 and the July Days of 1917. Not only was Malinovsky the leading Bolshevik in the Duma, he was also a member of V. I. Lenin’s Central Committee, the head of the Committee’s Russian Bureau, its representative-designate to the International Socialist Bureau, and the party’s watchdog on police penetration into revolutionary ranks. Next to G. E. Zinoviev and L. B. Kamenev, he was Lenin’s closest political confidant between 1912 and 1914, his frequent visitor in Galicia, and his travelling companion on several trips to western Europe. Malinovsky’s principal loyalty, however, was not to Lenin but rather to the tsarist secret police to whom he supplied information on all aspects of party life. Rumors of Malinovsky’s dual employment, which had circulated privately as early as 1910, appeared in the Menshevik and right-wing press after his disappearance in 1914 as well as in the Duma chambers during the war.

While acknowledging that Malinovsky’s unauthorized resignation had “put him outside the ranks of organized Marxists,” Lenin nevertheless chose to defend the “political honesty” of his colleague and to attack his Menshevik detractors on the basis of information given before a mock tribunal in 19142 even though these actions cost him the support of less credulous Bolsheviks and called his own honesty   into   question.  Less than five weeks before  the February Revolution, the Bolshevik leader rehabilitated Malinovsky on the pages of Sotsial-demokrat for services rendered the party’s cause during the war.3 It was thus with no little embarrassment that he and Zinoviev acknowledged their mistaken judgment before the Extraordinary Investi-gatory Commission of the Provisional Government which in May and June of 1917 presented the Russian public with incontrovertible evidence of Malinovsky’s provocation. The final act of this strange drama was played out in October 1918 when Malinovsky returned voluntarily to Soviet Russia, requested that he be tried for his past conduct, and was duly executed in the early hours of 6 November.

The story of Roman Malinovsky is not new. It dominated the Social Democratic press in May and June 19144 and it received considerable attention again when the tsarist police archives were opened in 1917.5 Vladimir Burtsev, the self-appointed socialist counter-espionage specialist before the revolution, told varying accounts of Malinovsky’s career on at least nine occasions in the Russian and emigre press during and after the war.6 Bertram Wolfe, using Burtsev and the Investigatory Commission as his chief sources, made the story accessible to English readers in 19457 and Grigorii Aronson reviewed much of the evidence in 1962.8 Recently David Anin has given cursory attention to Malinovsky’s curious relations with Lenin.9 These accounts, however, err occasionally in detail and differ considerably in interpretation. Moreover, many of the most intriguing questions, both of a personal and a political nature, remain inconclusively answered. What was Malinovsky’s family and educational background? What were the circumstances which led him to become an agent provocateur? Why did Lenin place so much confidence in him in 1912 and defend him so strenuously in 1914? Why did the Russian secret police (the “Okhrana”) choose to fire their most successful agent in 1914? Why did Malinovsky return voluntarily to Russia in 1918? Can some of the answers to these questions be found in the recent assertion1 ° that Malinovsky was allegedly a double agent working in the first instance and with Lenin’s prior knowledge for the Bolsheviks rather than the police and then found expendable after the revolution? Quite obviously these answers are of considerable significance to anyone seeking to understand the psychology of a provocateur and the modus operandi of the Russian secret police. They also cast interesting light on the Bolsheviks success in surpassing their Menshevik rivals and in intensifying unrest in Russia on the eve of the war. Above all, an elucidation of Lenin’s relationship with Malinovsky provides valuable clues as to the personality and motives of the first Soviet leader as well as of his one-time protege.

Despite four formal investigations into the “Malinovsky Affair,” much of the crucial evidence needed to answer these questions is not and probably never will be available. The records of Lenin’s 1914 tribunal, which supposedly ran “many hundreds of pages” and which he promised to publish,11 were left behind in Galicia when the war broke out and presumably lost.12 The work of the Mensheviks’ “Commission of Inquiry” formed on the eve of the war was soon overtaken by greater events and is known only through a four-page police report of its deliberations.13 Much of the hastily collected material from police archives and the testimony of former tsarist officials presented to the Provisional Government’s Extraordinary Investigatory Commission in 1917 is incomplete, self-protective or contradictory. Lenin’s own testimony, as well as that of Zinoviev, has never been printed in full 14 and several key witnesses were not called before the Commission. And finally, only the charges against Malinovsky, a resume of his alleged confession, and the prosecutor’s concluding speech to the High Revolutionary Tribunal which condemned the provocateur to death in 1918 have been published by the Soviet authorities. 15

Nevertheless, largely overlooked sources of information also exist which complement the sketchy reports of these investigations and cast interesting light on the rise and fall of Roman Malinovsky. The journals of the Metalworkers Union16 provide otherwise unobtainable details about his rise to prominence in St. Petersburg before 1910. The pages of the contemporary party press,17 which initially whetted my appetite for Malinovsky, contain the fullest picture of his fall from power in 1914. In recent years the Hoover Institution has made available the vast holdings of the Paris office of the Okhrana which is a rich lode for nuggets of information concerning Russian police operations in general.18 Hoover moreover houses the papers of the late B.I. Nicolaevsky, the biographer of the great spy Evno Azef, who also was deeply interested in Malinovsky19 And even Soviet scholars, who for more than forty years sought to ignore the inherent problems of Lenin’s close relationship with a police agent, have shown a new interest in Malinovsky. Concerned that their Western counterparts, “skilled in the falsification of the history of the CPSU, have popularized the mendacious version that the Bolsheviks knew about Malinovsky’s police activities” before 1917, 20 Soviet authorities have allowed the publication for the first time of a number of Lenin’s letters 21 as well as a few secondary accounts dealing with the affair.22

The following biography then is a re-examination of Malinovsky’s life and times in light of these newspaper reports, archival collections, and recent Soviet scholarship. It is left to the reader to decide whether I, like Lenin, have in any way “rehabilitated” Russia’s “greatest agent provocateur since Azef.”23 It is hoped that at least his background, motives and talents as well as his abundant weaknesses will be made more comprehensible.



Roman Vatslavovich Malinovsky was born in the village of Gladova in Plock Guberniia of Russian Poland on 18 March 1876. His parents were Polish by nationality, Roman Catholic by religion, and peasants by occupation. Or so it seems to the historian culling through the records of a century ago. Unfortunately, these basic facts about Malinovsky’s origins, like so much else concerning the first thirty years of his life, are in dispute. This confusion was in part caused by Malinovsky himself who, in an attempt to hide unattractive aspects of his past or to improve upon his humble origins, altered on occasion his biographical data to suit the circumstances.1

That he was Polish, there is no doubt. Many observers in later years commented on the fact that he spoke with a Polish accent and wrote Russian with a disdain for the usual rules of spelling and grammar.2 On at least two occasions, when his Russian house of cards was collapsing around him, he sought safety and obscurity in familiar Polish cities. His nationality, however, never affected his political outlook and he never championed Polish causes. Nor did his religion have a lasting impact since, as an adult, he professed to be a militant atheist. This creed, which might have been appropriate for a confirmed Marxist, did not sit well with his staunchly Roman Catholic wife Stefania. According to one account, it put her under “great emotional stress” even to the point of attempting suicide.3

Malinovsky was later to claim that his parents were in fact szlachta-members of the Polish landed gentry—rather than poor peasants.4 Even Pravda, commenting on his election to the Duma in 1912, noted that he came from a “comparatively prosperous Polish family.”5 If this assertion were indeed true (it is in fact contradicted by all Duma, police and Soviet biographical notes on Malinovsky6), then he was the black sheep of the family and one who did not follow the usual educational, vocational and social paths of the gentry. Malinovsky was closer to the truth when he appealed to the class consciousness of his Soviet jurors in 1918 by asserting that he was orphaned at an early age by the death of his peasant parents and thus spent much of his youth wandering from place to place? Like many of this era before the advent of vaccines, he was struck during childhood by smallpox which left his face badly scarred and gave him a rather fierce visage. As an orphan, his education was limited to what he could pick up in the various houses in which he lived. Forced to earn a livelihood, he became a tinker, a jack of all trades who earned what he could where he could without possessing any particular skill. For several years he worked in Germany and then returned to Poland where he finally became a tailor’s apprentice.

Such an existence was not easy and Malinovsky, who was never very scrupulous about where he obtained his funds, sometimes resorted to theft to supplement his income. On one occasion, as he later admitted, he and several friends broke into a house and stole some food and a small amount of money.8 These activities in due course came to the attention of the police and in 1894, 1896 and again in 1899 he had to answer for his actions in court.9 Almost all Western historians maintain that he was also found guilty of rape, attempted rape or “abuse of a minor” during this period. The only confirmation of this charge in contemporary or police accounts, however, is Lenin’s testimony in 1917 that Malinovsky felt in 1914 he “could no longer hide his personal history” and had thus left the Duma. “This personal history was connected with a woman’s honor and took place long before his marriage.”10 This story, which perhaps was itself a figment of Malinovsky’s fertile imagination so as to hide his common crimes from Lenin, was picked up by a Russian emigr6 during the 1930’s and transformed into a case of rape and made part of the Malinovsky legend.11

For his more ordinary crimes Malinovsky was sentenced to three years imprisonment in 1899. Upon completing his term in 1902 and in an attempt to start a new life, he enlisted in the Izmailovsky Guards Regiment. But to do so he had to use an assumed name and a relative’s passport.12   It is this attempt to wipe out his questionable past which undoubtedly explains the differences often encountered in the date and place of Malinovsky’s birth as well as in some of the facts of his early years. Details about his military service are singularly lacking other than that he rose to the rank of lance corporal and volunteered for Far Eastern duty during the Russo-Japanese War.13

In 1906 Malinovsky showed up as a civilian in St. Petersburg. He was out-of-work but it was reassuring to him that few people in the Russian capital knew of his Polish past. St. Petersburg was then a city in turmoil. The revolution of the preceding year, while ultimately unsuccessful, had badly shaken the economic and political establishment of old Russia. Reluctantly and only under pressure of revolutionary events, the tsar had had to approve the convening of Russia’s first parliament or Duma and to permit the formation of trade unions to protect the economic interests of the industrial workers. Even though he eventually made his name inside the Duma, it was the latter concession which first offered Roman Malinovsky a chance to display his manifold talents.

After some hunting, he finally found a job as a lathe operator at the Langenzipen Factory. His real interests, however, lay in helping to unionize the steelworkers in the capital. These workers, employed at large industrial plants such as the Putilov Works and the Lessner Factory, had a reputation of being the most politically conscious and militant of the Petersburg proletariat. They had reason to be: their hours of work were long, their pay was low, their living conditions were unsanitary and working conditions unsafe. These men who were often embittered, lonely and dis¬illusioned ex-peasants — had been active in the great general strike of October 1905 and were to play a crucial role in the revolutions of 1917. The group which unified them was the Metalworkers Union which had grown up spontaneously and illegally in 1905.

Malinovsky soon found himself on the workers committee at Langenzipen and on 30 April 1906 was delegated to attend the constituent meeting of the city-wide union. By mid¬summer he had become the secretary of the union’s Petersburg raion (district) section where “he quickly familiarized himself with the tasks at hand, worked his way up and soon entered the central Directorate” of the Metalworkers Union.14 There he showed himself to be “a capable and forceful worker . . . with the power to gain the confidence of the workers.”15 Early in 1907 he was elected secretary of the sixteen-man Directorate, one of the two most important positions in the entire union and one which brought with it a monthly salary of 50 rubles plus expenses.16 As full-time secretary of the Directorate, it was his job “to support relations with all raions, to be in charge of the protocols of the Directorate and [meetings of] the all-city council of delegates, and to make reports on the activity of the Directorate.”17 He also served on the union’s financial, organizational and judicial commissions and for a short time took over the onerous job of union treasurer after five other men had declined the position.18

Almost all who came into contact with Malinovsky during these years were impressed by his enthusiasm and capacity for hard work. “His energy, seemingly, was inexhaustible. With the same fervor he took over the responsibility of leading strikes and the tedious work of building the [trade union] organization. One day he would hurry to a distant raion to attend a delegates council, the day following he would take part in a discussion of a commission of the Directorate on some detailed organizational plan.”19 “Malinovsky was the soul of the union,” wrote one former Menshevik, “and did much to develop and strengthen the union. To a remarkable degree the union was obliged to him for its solidarity and the growth of its central apparatus. Under his leadership, the first cadre of young union workers was trained.”20

Malinovsky even tried his hand at journalism. For a while during 1906 and 1907 he was on the editorial board of the union’s bi-weekly organ, Rabochii po metallu, and he helped to organize a short-lived national trade union journal, Vestnik professional’nogo dvizheniia.21 It is difficult to gauge either the quantity or the quality of his writing since most of his articles appeared unsigned.22 One editorial colleague noted, however, that “his stories weren’t all that bad” even though they showed distinct signs of his Polish origins.23

In 1908 Malinovsky began to expand his activities outside the Metalworkers Union. He became an active member of the “Commission on Workers’ Questions” set up by the Social Democratic fraction in the Third Duma to prepare draft labor legislation24 and he represented his union at the First Congress of Cooperative Institutions in Moscow. In April 1909 he served in the same capacity at the First Congress of Factory Doctors. By then his abilities were sufficiently recognized that he was named to the presidium of the workers delegation and nominated for the chairmanship of the delegation.25 He also delivered reports at the congress on “Medical Help in St. Petersburg Factories” and “Insurance for Invalids and the Elderly.”26 “He made a strong impression even on those [delegates] not of his own political persuasion with his oratorical skill and also with his solid preparation. He was the first of the trade unionists to study the insurance problem and had circumstances been different he probably would have become one of the leading ‘practicals’ in this area.”27

But by 1909 the situation within the Metalworkers Union was deteriorating rapidly. Much of the blame rested with the government which sought to curtail the rights it had been forced to grant four years earlier. The “period of Stolypinist reaction,” as Stalinist historians christened the era from mid-1907 to 1912, witnessed the repression of all forms of worker organizations. Membership in the Metal-workers Union, which had once stood at more than 11,300, declined to less than 3,700 by the second half of 1909 and only a sixth of these paid their dues.28 Total income, Malinovsky reported on 27 September, was down by 40 per cent from a year previous.29 Metalworkers participated in only fifteen strikes between 1908 and 1910 and only one of these was even partially successful.30 May Day went unobserved and the union’s journal, which had already been suppressed four times by the authorities, now came out only once a month. Worker apathy inevitably increased as the union became less visible and more inactive.

This decline cannot be attributed to Malinovsky. He continued to work as hard as ever and, by personal example, served as a strong counterforce to the apathy of others.31 But inside the Directorate relations had become strained. Embezzlement complicated an already difficult financial situation.32 Malinovsky was accused of trying to undermine the chairman of the union, A.O. Iatsynevich, for factional reasons and of forcing many of the intelligentsia out of leading positions.33 His colleagues, while respecting his organizational abilities, did not choose to form close personal relationships with him. It seemed to some that he was too vain, too ambitious, too quick to lose his temper when decisions went against him.34 There also were complaints that he was too extravagant; indeed, Malinovsky had to borrow 60 rubles from the union in October 1909 to pay personal expenses.35 These personality differences, which had not seemed important during the heady days of expansion, now were magnified as disillusionment and reaction set in.

On 15 November 1909 the police resolved these internal problems and perhaps changed the course of Malinovsky’s career by arresting him and eleven other worker delegates attending a preparatory meeting prior to the Temperance Congress in St. Petersburg. For the next two months he was held in jail and then released but forbidden to live in the capital city. Malinovsky attended his last meeting of the Metalworkers Directorate in late January 1910 at which time he asked to be relieved of all his offices.36 After three formative and important years as union secretary, his departure went unnoted by either the executive or its journal. The workers at a Petersburg raion meeting, however, applauded when he appeared on their stage for the last time.37

The next two years represented the doldrums of Malinovsky’s life when he drifted about trying to decide in which direction to proceed. For good reason he did not return to his native Poland after being exiled from St. Petersburg but went instead to Moscow. “In Moscow,” as one Menshevik correspondent later recalled, “Malinovsky’s activities were of necessity narrowed down.”38 One suspects that he probably tried to pick up where he had left off in the capital — as a metalworker and trade union activist. Jobs, however, were hard to find in 1910, especially for someone who was politically suspect, and in all likelihood Malinovsky joined the growing ranks of Moscow’s unemployed. Nor could he find a salaried position in the trade union apparatus since the few remaining associations were in even worse shape than those in St. Petersburg.39 For a time he was involved in the cooperative movement but here too administrative restrictions and economic depression did not give a man of Malinovsky’s energy and enthusiasm much freedom of action. While he helped to plan the Second Congress of Factory Doctors and chaired the Social Democratic delegation to it, this relative inactivity in Moscow must have been a psychological letdown as well as an economic hardship for Malinovsky after three years of power and prestige and a steady income inside the Metalworkers Union. It seemed that his promising life as a respected “practical” was at an end.

Another direction in which he might have turned was toward active involvement in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. The RSDRP always had had room for a man of Malinovsky’s organizational talents and drive. Local party secretaries, who usually were in short supply, in normal times drew a salary of 25 rubles for full-time party work. Malinovsky, moreover, had become a valuable political commodity. “Everyone knew,” wrote Lenin, “that with his political background and talents Malinovsky could have played an important role in any political group.”40

Malinovsky had in fact been involved with “political groups” for some time prior to 1910 but precisely when, with whom and to what extent is unclear. The Provisional Government claimed in 1917 that he had first been attracted to “progressive workers circles” in 1901-1902, i.e., at the time he was released from prison.4′ Whether these “progressive circles” were made up of Polish revolutionaries, as one emigre biographer has claimed,42 or of Russian Social Democrats as Pravda asserted43 is uncertain and in either case his political involvement as a soldier was probably minimal.44 Lenin has dated Malinovsky’s active association with Social Democracy from 1906 but he fails to mention whether he was then a Menshevik or a Bolshevik.45 Zinoviev, who was in St. Petersburg at this time, and Krylenko, who prosecuted Malinovsky for the Bolsheviks in 1918, both claim that he was initially a Menshevik.46 The Mensheviks, on the other hand, maintain that before 1910 “he was a Bolshevik by conviction.”47 Most of those associated with him in the Metalworkers Union support the Menshevik assertion. Bulkin-Semenov, for instance, remembered that Malinovsky was “attracted to Bolshevism under the direct influence” of his fellow union leader and future President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Kalinin. Together they supposedly kept the union from “going the way of opportunism” and counteracted the Menshevik tendencies of chairman Iatsynevich.48

Malinovsky himself claimed in 1918 that while he was a Social Democrat during his St. Petersburg period, “he did not have sufficient contact with [party] politics and did not enter a factional circle” before 1910.49 This is probably closest to the truth. Many Social Democrats, especially those in trade unions, abhorred emigre factional politics and sought to maintain a non-factional posture and a unified party organization in the face of schismatic attempts from abroad. Malinovsky reflected this when he spoke out in support of trade union unity in 1908 after some emigre Bolsheviks sought to gain special representation within the Directorate of the Metalworkers Union and again in 1909 when they sought to split the workers delegation to the First Congress of Factory Doctors.50

Malinovsky continued to exist with a foot in both factional camps after he arrived in Moscow.51 He impressed many party members with whom he came into contact. Cecilia Bobrovskaya, a Bolshevik activist in Moscow, remembered him as a “very intelligent, very experienced metalworker, with a good command of language, able to debate; a man of strong temperament, perhaps a little too self-confident, but nevertheless a man who could not fail to attract attention; a commanding personality in all respects.”52 Another person Malinovsky impressed was V. P. Nogin, a member of the party’s Central Committee. Nogin, who as a ‘conciliator’ Bolshevik sought to unite the various underground factions, was in Moscow trying to reconstruct the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee along the unitary lines suggested by the January 1910 Plenum.53 He had worked with Malinovsky at the Congress of Cooperative Institutions in 1908 and obviously felt that the latter’s non-factional approach and demonstrated leadership abilities well qualified him for responsible party work. In normal times this might have been with the Moscow Committee but during the years of reaction the Committee and most of its subordinate bodies were virtually non-existent.54 Nogin therefore skipped a stage   in the usual path of party development by proposing in April 1910 that Malinovsky be coopted directly to the Russian Bureau.55 Before this could happen, however, both Nogin and Malinovsky were arrested.

A year and a half later, in November 1911, another influential Moscow Bolshevik, Vera Lobova, went one step further in suggesting that Malinovsky be elected to the new all-Bolshevik Central Committee which Lenin proposed to create at the forthcoming Prague Conference.56 The Bolshevik leader, who had not yet met Malinovsky but knew of “his reputation for being one of the leading activists in the workers movement, the [former] secretary of the Metalworkers Union, about whom even Menshevik circles spoke well,”57 promptly issued instructions that this promising worker be sent posthaste as a delegate to his Conference.58 By then, however, it was too late for Malinovsky to become a true professional revolutionary. He had in the meantime found another, rather different, career.

Some nineteen months earlier, on 13 May 1910, Malinovsky had been arrested while walking down a street in Moscow. Even though his room was searched without finding incriminating evidence, he was taken to police headquarters to be charged with having engaged in revolutionary activity. During the course of his interrogation, which went on well into the next morning, gendarme officer V. G. Ivanov reminded him of his criminal past and suggested in passing that he might well find regular employment through collaboration with the police more attractive than hard labor in a prison camp. Malinovsky was receptive but asked to speak with P. P. Zavarzin, the head of the Moscow Okhrana section, who spelled out the details: his freedom and a salary of 100 rubles a month in return for being a secret agent of the Okhrana.59

The deal was indeed tempting. Malinovsky, who had developed some expensive tastes, had a wife and two children to support; he in all likelihood was unemployed; and he had been unable to find a suitable administrative position in either the debilitated trade union or the equally weak party apparatus in Moscow. Nothing in his past would indicate that he was a man of principle or that he had scruples about the sources of his income. And while he was a member of the party, he had no particular commitment to the schismatic policies of Russian Social Democracy. Moreover, Malinovsky was an opportunist. In the immediate aftermath of 1905, trade unionism seemed to offer a future and he had enjoyed the prerogatives which his secretarial position had offered. Now trade unionism was in decay, reaction had apparently triumphed. Perhaps its defenders could offer a new future. Zavarzin concluded, after Malinovsky had bought his freedom, that “adventurism, financial considerations and vainglory” had all played a part in his decision.60

The mere fact that Malinovsky knew enough about police operations to ask to see Zavarzin raises the question of whether he was a stranger to the Okhrana. Quite possibly he was not, but again the evidence is inconclusive. While the Soviet government in 1918 did not officially charge Malinovsky with acts of provocation before 1910, his prosecutor accused him of volunteering information to the St. Petersburg Okhrana about unrest in the Izmailovsky Regiment some eight years earlier.61 According to press reports of police testimony before the Extraordinary Commission in 1917, this association was renewed in 1907 when the Okhrana began to receive odd tips by telephone or by letter from a worker identified as “Ernest.”62 For this they allegedly paid 25 to 50 rubles depending on its value. Malinovsky’s wife later confirmed that her husband had been approached by the police while in St. Petersburg63 and both his prosecutor in 1918 as well as most Western historians since then have accepted the fact that he was a casual informer before 1910.64 It should be noted, however, that this particular police testimony was not repeated in the extensive stenographic reports of the Investigatory Commission; indeed, it seems to be contradicted.65 Moreover, Malinovsky’s former colleagues in the Metalworkers Union, writing in the 1920’s after the files had been opened and when there was no need to defend his reputation, maintain that his police work began only after he involuntarily left the union.66

Be that as it may, when Malinovsky finally emerged from his Moscow jail on 23 May 1910, he carried with him the police code name of “Portnoi” (“Tailor”). This was a reminder of a past which he could not escape. After having been a tinker and a tailor, a soldier and a steelworker, he at last had found his calling as a spy. “There was one factor which made Malinovsky many times more dangerous than other provocateurs,” concludes one recent Soviet historian, and that is “he was endowed with outstanding ability.”67

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