Alexander Parvus & Russian Revolution

Alexander Parvus (Aleksandr Izrail Lazarevich Gelfand), Russian revolutionary and a German Social Democrat, as well as a German intelligence agent, who helped enable Lenin to reenter Russia in 1917 from exile in Switzerland, thus helping to ignite the Russian Revolution of October 1917.

In December of 1905 Parvus authored a provocative article on behalf of the St. Petersburg Soviet, The Financial Manifesto, which described the Russian economy as being on the verge of collapse. In turn the article was dispatched to other communist agents in the more mainline newspapers who published it as well. In combination with this propaganda, Parvus coordinated an agitation of locals to feign a run on the banks. As the news of the article and the subsequent “rush” was spread, the consequent hysteria managed to upset the economy and enrage prime minister Sergei Witte, but did not cause a financial collapse. In connection with this provocation and Parvus’ involvement in the organization of anti-government actions during the 1905 revolution, Parvus (together with other revolutionaries such as Leon Trotsky) was arrested by the Russian police. While in prison he became close with other revolutionaries, and was visited by Rosa Luxemburg. Sentenced to three years exile in Siberia, Parvus escaped and ran away to Germany.

While in Turkey, Parvus became close with German ambassador Baron Hans Freiherr von Wangenheim who was known to be partial to establishing revolutionary fifth columns among the allies. Consequently, Parvus offered his plan via Baron von Wangenheim to the German General Staff: the paralyzing of Russia via general strike, financed by the German government. Von Wagenheim sent Parvus to Berlin where the latter arrived on the 6th of March, 1915 and presented a 20 page plan titled A preparation of massive political strikes in Russia to the German government. Parvus’ detailed plan recommended the division of Russia by sponsoring the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Basing himself on his 1905 experiences, Parvus theorised that the division of Russia and its loss in the First World War was the best way to bring about a socialist revolution.

Parvus placed his bets on Lenin, as the latter was not only a radical but willing to accept the sponsorship of the Tsar’s wartime enemy, Germany. The two met in Berne in May 1915 and agreed to collaboration through their organizations, though Lenin remained very careful never to get associated with Parvus in public. There is no certain proof that they ever met face to face again, although there are indications that such a meeting may well have occurred on April 13, 1917 during Lenin’s stop-over in Stockholm.

Parvus met with Lenin in Swiss in May 1915. Lenin had never liked Parvus, but, as he was cynical and he wasn`t man of principle, he accepted Parvus plan and German money.

German intelligence set up Parvus’ financial network via offshore operations in Copenhagen, setting up relays for German money to get to Russia via fake financial transactions between front organizations. A large part of the transactions of these companies were genuine, but those served to bury the transfer of money to the Bolsheviks, a strategy made feasible by the weak and overburdened fiscal and customs offices in Scandinavia, which were inadequate for the booming black market in these countries during the war.

The most notorious was the Institute for the Study of the Social Consequences of War which Parvus set up in Denmark. Initially he had intended for Nikolai Bukharin to lead the operation, but under the pressure of Lenin who mistrusted Bukharin as a probable government agent instead instituted Lenin’s confidants Yakov Ganetsky and Karl Radek. The activities of agent couriers were organized by Moisei Uritsky, later the head of Soviet Petrograd’s Cheka.

Parvus’ reputation with the German ministry of foreign affairs came into question when in the winter of 1916 a Parvus planned financial catastrophe in St. Petersburg (akin to Parvus’ provocation against the Russian banks in 1905) failed to produce a massive uprising. As a result, financing for Parvus’ operations were frozen. Parvus went for support to the German Navy, briefly working as their advisor. He managed to help prevent Russian naval admiral Kolchak from taking on his offensive against the Turko-German Fleet in the Bosphorus and Dardanelles by planning the sabotage of a major Russian warship. This success gave him more credibility, once again, in the eyes of the Germans.

To meet German and Parvus goals, Lenin needed to be in Russia, but he was in Swiss. In March 1917, in a plan strategized together with Parvus, German intelligence sent Vladimir Lenin and a group of 33 of his revolutionary associates from Switzerland through Germany in a special secret train under supervision of Swiss socialist Fritz Platten. In Berlin train was stopped for 24 hours. It`s not proved, but possibly Lenin at that time met with some German statesmen. By the way, Lenin liked German beer.

Ironically, after October revolution when Lenin became first man in Russia he rejected Parvus (he wanted to play active role in Russia`s revolution too) with words “The revolution cannot be done with dirty hands”.


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