Lev Kamenev in 1914

Lev Kamenev was born in Moscow, Russia, on 18th July, 1883. His father was an engine-driver on the Moscow-Kursk Railway. Both his parents had been active in the radical student movement in the 1870s and had known the people involved in the assassination of Alexander II..

Kamenev became involved in radical politics while still at the Tiflis Gymnasium and this appeared on his school reports and initially stopped him from entering university. After an appeal to the Minister of Education, Kamenev was allowed to study law at Moscow University.

At university Kamenev had articles published in magazines calling for students to join with workers to fight for democracy. In February 1902 Kamenev took part in student demonstrations against Nicholas II. The following month he was arrested at another demonstration and was imprisoned in Butyrki. He was released a few months later but was not allowed to continue his university studies.

Kamenev worked as a propagandist among railway workers in Russia before moving to Paris in 1902. He met Vladimir Lenin and together they moved to Geneva in Switzerland. Kamenev soon emerged as one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party in exile.

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov, two of the party's main leaders. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers 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.

Kamenev joined the Bolsheviks. So also did Gregory Zinoviev, 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 Julius Martov.

After the meeting in London Kamenev returned to Tiflis where he organised a strike on the Transcaucasian Railway. This resulted in his arrest by the Okhrana and he remained in custody for five months before being deported from Moscow. Although under police supervision in Tiflis he continued to write for Bolshevik newspapers.

Kamenev toured Russia making propaganda speeches in support of the Bolsheviks and during the 1905 Revolution organised railway strikes in St. Petersburg. Over the next couple of years he played a prominent role in the campaign against the limited power of the Duma.

In December, 1908, Kamenev moved to Geneva where he worked with Vladimir Lenin and Gregory Zinoviev in the publication of Proletary. He also wrote a book, The Two Parties, that explained the split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

In 1912 Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev and Vladimir Lenin moved to Krakow in Galicia to be closer to Russia. On the outbreak of the First World War they were forced to move to the neutral Switzerland.

Lev Kamenev

1. Was highly critical of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

2. Wanted Russia to have universal suffrage.

3. Wanted the Russian government to allow freedom of expression and an end to political censorship of newspapers and books.

4. Believed that democracy could only be achieved in Russia by the violent overthrow of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

5. Was strongly opposed to Russia going to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany.

6. Believed that if Russia did go to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany the Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries should try to persuade the Russian soldiers to use their weapons to overthrow Nicholas II.