Gregory Zinoviev (1883 – 1936)

Reference: Spartacus Educational

Gregory Zinoviev September 23 [O.S. September 11] 1883 – August 25, 1936)

Gregory Zinoviev (September 23 [O.S. September 11] 1883 – August 25, 1936)

Gregory Zinoviev was born in Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine, Russia on 23rd September, 1883. The son of a Jewish diary farmers, Zinoviev received no formal schooling and was educated at home. At the age of fourteen he found work as a clerk.

Zinoviev joined the Social Democratic Party in 1901. He became involved in trade union activities and as a result of police persecution he left Russia and went to live in Berlin before moving on to Paris. In 1903 Zinoviev met Vladimir Lenin and George Plekhanov in Switzerland.

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Vladimir Lenin and Jules Martov, two of the party’s main leaders. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with alarge fringe of non-party sympathisers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks.

Leon Trotsky, who got to know him during this period compared him to Lev Kamenev: “Zinoviev and Kamenev are two profoundly different types. Zinoviev is an agitator. Kamenev a propagandist. Zinoviev was guided in the main by a subtle political instinct. Kamenev was given to reasoning and analyzing. Zinoviev was always inclined to fly off at a tangent. Kamenev, on the contrary, erred on the side of excessive caution. Zinoviev was entirely absorbed by politics, cultivating no other interests and appetites. In Kamenev there sat a sybarite and a aesthete. Zinoviev was vindictive. Kamenev was good nature personified.”

Zinoviev joined the Bolsheviks. So also did Lev Kamenev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Mikhail Frunze, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, and Alexander Bogdanov. Whereas George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Leon Trotsky, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan supported Jules Martov.

In the autumn of 1903 Zinoviev returned to Russia where he became involved in the publication of Iskra. The following year he moved to Switzerland where he studied chemistry at Berne University. He also continued to contribute to Bolshevik journals such as Vperyod.

With the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution Zinoviev returned to Russia and helped organize the general strike in St. Petersburg. Taken seriously ill with heart trouble, Zinoviev was forced to abandon the struggle and receive treatment abroad. Zinoviev returned to Russia in March, 1906, and over the next three years agitated amongst metalworkers in St. Petersburg. As one of the key leaders of the Bolsheviks, Zinoviev was involved in the struggle with the Mensheviks for control over the workers and the armed forces in the city.

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