Medvedev, Sergei Pavlovich, 1885-1937

Petrograd Soviet, 1917

Story of the life of Bolshevik metal worker and member of the Workers' Opposition group, Sergei Medvedev, who, like many others who criticised his party's bureaucracy, was executed by the party he spent the majority of his life serving.

Sergei Pavlovich Medvedev was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary, metalworker, and trade union organizer. Born into a peasant estate, he grew up in the countryside near Moscow and in St. Petersburg. After receiving a primary school education, he began factory work at age thirteen. He first worked at the Obukhov factory in St. Petersburg and participated in the 1901 Obukhov strike. He became a socialist at age fifteen and joined the Bolsheviks when the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party split in 1903.

Medvedev was active in the revolutionary underground, organizing illegal party cells. The tsarist government sentenced him numerous times to prison and to terms of exile within Russia. Medvedev was also an organizer in the underground section of the insurance movement in 1912-14. He spent most of World War I in Siberian exile. In 1917, Medvedev organized the Achinsk Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies. In 1918, he returned to Petrograd to work in the All-Russian Soviet of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies and then served as a political commissar for the Red Army during the Civil War; he was stationed in Smolensk.

In early 1920, Medvedev went to Moscow to work in the central committee of the All-Russian Union of Metalworkers. Together with Alexander Shlyapnikov and others, he participated in the Workers' Opposition, which called for worker initiative in managing the economy and for working-class members to prevail in leading organs of the Communist Party. Medvedev was also a signatory of the Letter of the 22 to the Comintern in 1922. In 1921 he was elected a candidate member of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party.

In 1924, Medvedev wrote "Letter to a Baku Oppositionist", for which he and Shliapnikov were investigated by the Party Central Control Commission (CCC) in 1926. The letter criticized Communist Party concessions toward the peasantry, called for development of heavy industry, freedom of criticism within the party, and criticized Comintern policy. Medvedev worked in the Commissariat of Heavy Industry during the late 1920s, but lost his post when Sergo Ordzhonikidze became Commissar of Heavy Industry. In 1930, he and Shliapnikov were investigated for alleged ties with oppositionists in Omsk. In 1932, the CCC investigated Medvedev on the Ryutin Affair, but he was not charged with any violations.

Medvedev was purged from the party in late 1933, but he had not been a member of a party cell or possessed a party card for several years. In January 1934, Medvedev was sent into administrative exile in the far north of Russia. After Leningrad party chief Sergey Kirov was assassinated in December 1934, Stalin ordered the arrests of many former oppositionists. Medvedev was among these; in January 1935, he was returned to Moscow to undergo interrogation. Charged under Article 58 of the Soviet Criminal Code, Medvedev never confessed to the charges against him, nor did he implicate others. Nevertheless, he was found guilty and was executed on September 10, 1937.

In 1978, the Soviet state posthumously rehabilitated him of criminal charges and in 1988, the Communist Party restored his membership.

Posted By

Ed
Sep 6 2007 14:27

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Battlescarred
May 10 2011 14:43

The same Medvedev, who with Shliapnikov, signed a letter in October 1926 wrote to the Politburo and the Party central committee condemning any organised expression of opinions contradicting Party decisions.

LBird
May 10 2011 15:13
Battlescarred wrote:
...organised expression of opinions contradicting...

We'll know if we're building truly democratic Workers' organs (assemblies, councils, federations, parties, etc. - call them what you will) by the "organised expression of opinions contradicting" the majority.

In fact, if the majority themselves aren't contributing to the building of organised groups which contradict the majority's own views, I'd be very worried.

It'll be a very different sort of politics from those that we're all used to.

It certainly won't be 'parliamentary democracy' (sic), where two bunches of dickheads shout at each other.

Workers know they have to think, and embracing opposition is the mark of thinkers.

Does that mean we'd've also shot Medvedev, but ironically for the opposite reason to the Stalinists?

[the last bit was a joke]