Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

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

PROLOGUE

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.

CHAPTER ONE

“TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY”

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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