Lazarevitch, Nicholas, 1895-1975

A short biography of Russo-Belgian anarchist, co-writer of The Platform and husband of Ida Mett, Nicholas Lazarevitch.

Submitted by Steven. on September 22, 2004

Born in Belgium 17 August 1895 near Liege, Nicholas Lazarevitch was the son of Russian revolutionary émigrés. After working in a number of factories and mines in French-speaking Belgium he became an anarcho-syndicalist shortly before world war one. He worked in the mines of Germany's Ruhr in 1916, but in 1917 escaped to Holland. There he joined up with interned Russian POW's who had also escaped from Germany, and helped to set up a soviet to press for their repatriation to Russia.

In February 1919 he returned to Russia with these internees, and joined the Red Army. He was sent to South Russia to make propaganda in the French army ranks. He was arrested, and only saved from execution by the Red Army's recapture of Odessa.

At this point Lazarevitch was very close to the Bolsheviks "whom he believed to be only a political tendency very close to the anarchists but better organised". He fled the denikinist capture of Odessa and entered Rumania where he was interned. He then made his way illegally into Yugoslavia and thence to Italy where he was in contact with the anarchists, and took part in street fighting against the fascists. He returned to Russia in March 1921, where he worked as a part-time translator for the Comintern refusing to become a full-time official. He requested factory work and spent 1921-24 in various jobs in Russian factories. He was in touch with Boris Souvarine and Pierre Pascal. "In his view the solution to the conflict with the Party and the tame trade unions lay in the creation of workers' groups, the future nuclei of independent trade union organisations capable of standing up to the Party and any restoration of capitalism".

Driven underground by these activities, Lazarevitch was arrested by the GPU in the autumn of 1924. He refused to recognise the court and was held without trial until 1926, spending his time reading and learning several languages. He was freed after a campaign mounted by Anarcho-syndicalists and La Revolution Proletarienne. He was expelled from the USSR in 1926, after which he settled in Paris and became a building worker. He helped to draft the Platform.

In 1926 he also started to campaign, to publicise working class reality in the USSR to French workers. He organized about fifty meetings in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, often clashing with local communists. The French authorities expelled him in 1928, after which he worked as a miner in Belgium, until he returned illegally to France, to work in construction.

In 1931 Lazarevitch and Ida Mett (his wife) traveled around Spain. He was already a good friend of Ascaso and Durruti, whom he had known as exiles in Belgium. He resumed to Paris, and then Belgium, in 1932, but continued to monitor events in Spain for La Revolution Proletarienne.

Back in Belgium, he was active in a series of anarcho-syndicalist led strikes, as well as an active supporter of anti-militarists. He campaigned on behalf of Victor Serge and Francesco Ghezzi in the USSR and on behalf of foreign anarchists expelled from Belgium. He was jailed for a year in 1935 for anti-militarist and trade union activity. In 1936 he re-entered France illegally to find work with the help of the Proof-readers Union. He was actively involved in gathering the documentation that was to form the basis of Ida Mett's "The Kronstadt Commune" published in 1938.

Arrested in 1940 as an illegal alien he was interned in Vernet camp. He pretended to consent to repatriation to Belgium but escaped en route. He worked for a while as a farm labourer in Les Landes, before rejoining his wife and children in the Var department in 1942. He returned to Paris in 1946 to work as a proof-reader.

In the 1950's Lazarevich published a review based on extract gleaned from official soviet publications. He taught Russian and used his student's contacts to try and gain information about the Russian situation. May 1968 saw him taking part in the open assemblies at the Sorbonne. He died in Paris on the 24th of December 1975.

From the Kate Sharpley Library