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.


1 Comment »

  1. Without Roman Malinovsky there would have been no revolution.

    Comment by Tom Dengler — October 16, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

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