Mikhail Lashevich

Mikhail Lashevich

Mikhail Lashevich was born in Odessa in 1884. He became involved in politics while still a student and in 1901 joined the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP). According to the The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979) " Lashevich engaged in party work in Odessa, Nikolaev, Ekaterinburg, and St. Petersburg and was repeatedly subjected to repression."

At the Second Congress of the SDLP in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Lenin and Julius Martov, two of its 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 based his ideas on the socialist parties that existed in other European countries such as the British Labour Party. Lenin argued that the situation was different in Russia as it was illegal to form socialist political parties under the Tsar's autocratic government. At the end of the debate Martov won the vote 28-23. 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.

Lashevich joined the Bolsheviks, as did Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Victor Nogin, Maxim Litvinov, Ivar Smilga, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze and Alexander Bogdanov, whereas George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Leon Trotsky, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Vera Zasulich, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan supported Julius Martov.

Conscripted into the Russian Army during the First World War, he was twice wounded before returning to Petrograd after the abdication of Nicholas II. Lashevich was active in the Petrograd Soviet and was a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee.

On 7th October, 1917, Lenin sent out another message to the Bolshevik Central Committee: "In our Central Committee and at the top of our party there is a tendency in favor of awaiting the Congress of Soviets, against an immediate uprising. We must overcome this tendency or opinion. Otherwise the Bolsheviks would cover themselves with shame forever; they would be reduced to nothing as a party. For to miss such a moment and to await the Congress of Soviets is either idiocy or complete betrayal.... To wait for the Congress of Soviets, etc., under such conditions means betraying internationalism, betraying the cause of the international socialist revolution."

Lenin thought the details of an uprising would be simple. "We can launch a sudden attack from three points, from Petrograd, from Moscow, from the Baltic Fleet... We have thousands of armed workers and soldiers in Petrograd who can seize at once the Winter Palace, the General Staff building, the telephone exchange and all the largest printing establishments... The troops will not advance against the government of peace... Kerensky will be compelled to surrender." When it was clear that the Bolshevik Central Committee did not accept Lenin's point of view he issued a political ultimatum: "I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee, which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the party and at the party congress."

Lashevich argued strongly against taking action at this time: "The strategic plan proposed by Comrade Lenin is limping on all four legs.... Let's not fool ourselves, comrades. Comrade Lenin has not given us any explanation why we need to do this right now, before the Congress of Soviets. I don't understand it. By the time of the Congress of Soviets the sharpness of the situation will be all the clearer. The Congress of Soviets will provide us with an apparatus; if all the delegates who have come together from all over Russia express themselves for the seizure of power, then it is a different matter. But right now it will only be an armed uprising, which the government will try to suppress."

During the Civil War Lashevich was a senior commander in the Red Army and contributed to the defeat of Alexander Kolchak, Anton Denikin, and Nikolai Yudenich. During this period Victor Serge met Lashevich for the first time: "Lashevich was a stocky, thickset man whose face was fleshy and creased with wrinkles." L, who worked very closely with Lashevich against the White Army and valued him very highly.

In 1923 Lashevich was elected to Central Committee of the Communist Party. He was critical of Joseph Stalin was punished by being sent to Harbin to act as chairman of the Chinese Eastern Railway.

Stalin became convinced that Lashevich was involved in a plot to overthrow him. On 14th November 1927, the Central Committee, on the instructions of Stalin, expelled Leon Trotsky and Gregory Zinoviev from the party. This decision was ratified by the Fifteenth Party Congress in December. The Congress also announced the removal of another 75 oppositionists, including Lashevich, Lev Kamenev, Yuri Piatakov, Karl Radek, Ivar Smilga, Ivan Smirnov and Christian Rakovsky.

Mikhail Lashevich committed suicide in August, 1928.

Primary Sources

(1) The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979)

Born 1884 in Odessa; died Aug. 30, 1928, in Harbin. Soviet government and military figure. Member of the Communist Party from 1901.

Lashevich engaged in party work in Odessa, Nikolaev, Ekaterinburg (present-day Sverdlovsk), and St. Petersburg and was repeatedly subjected to repression. In World War I (1914–18) he was drafted into the army and conducted revolutionary propaganda among the soldiers. At the time of the February Revolution of 1917, Lashevich was secretary and then chairman of the Bolshevik faction in the Petrograd soviet and a member of the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). He was a member of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee during the October days of 1917. He directed the capture of the telegraph and post offices, the state bank, and the Pavel Junker College. He was a member of the Presidium of the Petrograd soviet and of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee in all the convocations after the October Revolution. Lashevich was commander of the Third Army and a member of the revolutionary military council of the Eastern and Southern fronts in 1918 and 1919. He was commander of the troops of the Siberian Military District and chairman of the Siberian Revolutionary Committee from 1920 to 1925. In 1925 he was deputy people’s commissar for military and naval affairs, deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR, and a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Economy.

Lashevich was an active member of the “new opposition” and of the Trotskyite-Zinov’evite antiparty bloc in 1925–26. He was expelled from the party by the Fifteenth Congress of the ACP (Bolshevik) in 1927. He recognized his errors after the congress and was reinstated in the ACP(B). From 1926 to 1928 he served as vice-chairman of the board of the Chinese-Eastern Railroad. He was a delegate to the Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth through Fourteenth Party Congresses. He was elected a member of the Central Committee at the Seventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Congresses and a candidate member of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) at the Fourteenth Congress. Lashevich was a delegate to the Third (1921) Congress and a participant in the Fifth (1924) Congress of the Comintern. He was awarded two orders.

(2) Adam B. Ulam, Stalin: The Man and His Era (2007)

And so the opposition marshaled its meager forces. Along with the assault on Stalin's slogan, there was a rehashing of old charges about bureaucratic degeneration in the Party, about the worsening lot of the industrial worker and the growing power of the kulak. In Party cells in factories and Soviet institutions, reckless partisans of Trotsky and Zinoviev brought up those accusations only to be shouted down by the followers of the apparatus (the names of the oppositionists and the more compromising points they made being transmitted to the Control Commissions and the GPU ). Stalin's agents jotted down punctiliously the more scandalous doings of the enemy: Lashevich, a burly Civil War commander who was Zinoviev's man in the War Commissariat, held a conspiratorial meeting in the woods near Moscow! Karl Radek had dared to exercise his wit at the expense of the General Secretary: Stalins Socialism in One Country, he said in a public speech, washing the Party's dirty linen before a non-Party audience (and thus undermining Soviet powerl ) reminded him of a story by Saltykov-Shchedrin. The great humorist fantasized how some landowners deep in the provinces of nineteenth-century Russia, having read about England and her liberal institutions, decided to proclaim "Liberalism in One County."

(3) Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1951)

On the bridge at Khalturin Street (once the Millionaya) mounted militiamen were holding back groups of onlookers. A good-natured disturbance was flaring up round the legs of the gray granite statues that support the Hermitage portico. Several hundred Oppositionists were there engaged in fraternal battle against the militia. The horses' breasts were constantly pushing back the crowd, but the same human wave returned to meet them, led by a tall, beardless, open-faced soldier, Bakayev, the former head of our Cheka. I also saw Lashevich, big and thickset, who had commanded armies, throwing himself, together with several workers, on a militiaman, dragging him from the saddle, knocking him down, and then helping him to his feet while addressing him in his commander's voice: "How is it that you are not ashamed to charge at the workers of Leningrad?" Around him billowed his soldier's cloak, bare of insignia. His rough face, like that of some drinker painted by Franz Hals, was crimson red. The brawl went on for a long time. Around the tumultuous group, of which I was part, a stupefied silence reigned.