Zinoviev, Grigori Yevseyevich


Zinoviev, Grigori Yevseyevich
(1883–1936)
   Zinoviev was an important figure in the early life of the Soviet Union, and was chairman of the Third International (Comintern) from 1919 to 1926. Born Ovsel Gershon Aronov Radomyslsky in the Russian town of Yelisavetgrad (later Kirovgrad), Zinoviev joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1901. He sided with the Bolshevik faction from its inception in 1903, and was involved in the unsuccessful 1905 Russian Revolution. Zinoviev at this juncture became inextricably linked with Vladimir Ilich Lenin, and in 1912 was elected by the party congress to the all-Bolshevik Central Committee. However, Zinoviev did part with Lenin for a period, as he, along with Lev Kamenev, voted against the seizure of power in October 1917. Nonetheless, as a key Bolshevik Zinoviev was made chairman of the Petrograd Soviet following the revolution. He then led the opposition to World War I, helping to form the Zimmerwald Left group that called for what they perceived to be an imperialist conflict to be turned into a civil war. Alongside Lenin he wrote a pamphlet entitled Socialism and the War, and published articles in a collection entitled Against the Current, attacking reformist parties such as the German Social Democratic Party which had backed the conflict.
   In 1921, having been appointed Comintern chairman two years previously, Zinoviev was made a full member of the Politburo. After Lenin died, he sided with Kamenev and Josef Stalin to form the “troika” opposition to Leon Trotsky, but following Trotsky’s expulsion from the party, Stalin turned on his former ally and compelled him to resign from the Politburo and Comintern in 1926. Zinoviev then entered into a “United Opposition” with Trotsky to oppose Stalin, and was duly expelled from the party in 1927. He was readmitted after yielding to Stalin, before a further expulsion and readmission again in 1932, and final eviction from the party in 1934. In 1935, with Stalin’s political purges in full swing, Zinoviev was arrested and charged with being complicit in the killing of Sergei Kirov, and handed a 10-year sentence for treason. Zinoviev was just a year into that sentence when in 1936 he was charged with plotting to kill Stalin, and at the first Moscow “Show Trial,” sentenced to death by execution.
   Zinoviev, even while in league with Trotsky as part of the United Opposition, was always unreceptive to the concept of permanent revolution, and was a strong advocate of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In 1924 he inadvertently assisted in the demise of the Labour government in Great Britain, as the infamous “Zinoviev Letter,” a piece supposedly penned by the Russian calling for British comrades to embroil themselves in revolutionary activity, was printed in the British press creating a moral panic, the backlash of which was defeat for the socialists.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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