A. Badayev

The Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma


Chapter XVII
Roman Malinovsky

Malinovsky Leaves the Duma – The Fraction Appeals to the Workers – Malinovsky, agent-provocateur – Malinovsky and the Secret Police – Arrest of Sverdlov and Stalin – Why Malinovsky left the Duma – Malinovsky’s Trial

During the afternoon of the day after the return to the Duma of the suspended deputies, Malinovsky entered Rodzyanko’s office, threw a document on the table and said: “Good-bye.”

Rodzyanko asked what this meant, and Malinovsky answered: “Read that – you will see for yourself,” adding hurriedly that he had resigned and was going abroad.

Muranov, the only member of our fraction present in the Duma at the time, at once communicated with the fraction, but by the time we had met in the fraction’s rooms, Rodzyanko had already read Malinovsky ’s statement of resignation in the Duma.

Malinovsky’s resignation came as a bolt from the blue; until then there had been no hint that he contemplated any such action. The resignation of his seat without the consent of the Party and without making any statement to the Party was such a flagrant and extraordinary breach of Party discipline that we could not imagine the cause.

The fraction instructed Comrade Petrovsky to call on Malinovsky and demand that he come immediately to the fraction and explain his action. Malinovsky refused, stating that he was too excited to be able to give any explanations at the moment. We at once sent Petrovsky back to insist on Malinovsky’s presence. He refused the second time and, in a state of great excitement bordering on insanity, shouted: “Try me, do whatever you please, but I won’t speak,” and at the same time declared that he was leaving the country that evening.

All other attempts to obtain an explanation from Malinovsky proved futile and letters sent to him by the fraction and Comrade Kamenev were only handed to him just before the train left,

Malinovsky’s desertion from the Duma and his sudden flight from St. Petersburg placed our fraction in a difficult position. This action, in itself treacherous to the Party and the workers’ struggle, supplied a weapon to our enemies. Statements were issued, sensational in character, alleging that something serious was wrong in our Party. Slanderous insinuations and lying rumours were circulated about the Party and the fraction.

At that time nothing authentic was known about Malinovsky’s real activities, but all sorts of rumours and gossip were spread by bourgeois parties and Liquidators with the obvious object of damaging the reputation of our entire fraction. It was necessary to clear up the case and the fraction decided to place all its information at the disposal of the workers.

We published in Pravda a full statement setting out in detail all the facts known to the fraction. A precise chronological account was given of all the steps taken by the fraction to elucidate the causes and attendant circumstances of Malinovsky’s behaviour. The fraction had no facts on which to base any accusation against Malinovsky, but it violently and uncompromisingly condemned his undisciplined action. The statement concluded:

At the time of his election, Malinovsky asserted that he consented to stand at the request of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. This statement bound him to work in a disciplined way within the Party. Class-conscious workers understand the necessity of strictly maintaining this principle in the struggle against all bourgeois parties. In contravention of this principle Malinovsky resigned his mandate as a deputy without consulting the leading Party committees or his own immediate organisation, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction. Such action is inadmissible and as an anarchic breach of discipline deserves thorough condemnation; it is no better than the action of a sentry deserting his post. Malinovsky’s statement that he did not consider his responsibility when embarking on this course does not in any way mitigate his offence. He has placed himself outside our ranks. The Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction invites all class-conscious workers to endorse this decision in order to render impossible repetitions of such action among the organised proletariat in the future.

The masses reacted to Malinovsky’s desertion in the way that we expected. Telegrams, greetings and resolutions began to pour into the fraction and Pravda, condemning Malinovsky’s treachery and expressing full confidencc in the work of our fraction, The temporary damage done by Malinovsky’s desertion was made good by the way in which the advanced organised workers rallied to our support. Our fraction, now reduced to five, re-formed its ranks and continued its work in the revolutionary struggle both from the Duma rostrum and outside.

No true explanation for Malinovsky’s action was forthcoming at that time. We explained it by certain traits in his character, nervous tension, hot-headedness and lack of balance, which he had often displayed in his dealings with his associates. It was only after the revolution that the true motives actuating his behaviour were fully revealed, when the archives of the police department showed that Malinovsky had acted as an agent-provocateur. The material then made public and his subsequent trial provide us with the complete history of his treason.

Malinovsky began his career as an agent-provocateur in 1910 when he was enrolled as an agent of the Moscow secret police under the name of Portnoi. He had settled in Moscow after being expelled from St. Petersburg and, although there are some grounds for believing that he had had dealings with the secret police before, it was in Moscow that his real work as an agent-provocateur commenced.

He offered his services to the police after he had been arrested with a group of Party workers, and immediately became a very active and important secret agent. Malinovsky was a very capable and intelligent man and succeeded in penetrating very deeply into Party organisations. He appeared at all meetings, attended workers’ clubs, trade unions, etc., and actively participated in organisational work. For a long time he maintained relations with both Mensheviks and Bolsheviks and betrayed both to the secret police. He was responsible for the arrest of Party workers and for the destruction of entire organisations, and supplied the police with particulars about meetings which had been arranged, the real and assumed names of Party comrades who were living in illegality, the names of the members of leading Party committees, addresses where literature was stored, in fact, all features of Party life.

His activities resulted in the arrest in Moscow of the Russian collegium of the Central Committee and the conciliatory group “Vozrozhdenie” headed by Comrade Milyutin. Information supplied by him resulted in the break-up of the newly formed Bolshevik centre in Tula when some leading comrades were arrested.

In order to safeguard Malinovsky from exposure, the police used to arrest him together with others present at an illegal meeting, but after a few days he would be released while the others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or exile. Sometimes, for the sake of precaution, the secret police would release all those arrested and then rearrest all but Malinovsky in the course of a couple of weeks.

Owing to his cleverness and undoubted talents, Malinovsky soon made his name in Party circles. Even earlier in St. Petersburg, he had shown himself a capable and forceful worker in the trade union movement. From 1906 to 1909, he was secretary of the St. Petersburg Metal-Workers’ Trade Union, one of the biggest and most progressive unions. This alone shows his organising ability and his power to gain the confidence of the workers.

Malinovsky was exceedingly ambitious and exerted himself to ensure his election to the State Duma; his popularity made it easy for him to be nominated as candidate. But he was also guided by other motives. Byeletsky, the Director of the secret police department, in his evidence on the Malinovsky case (Byeletsky was arrested after the revolution and subsequently shot), stated that Malinovsky in trying to enter the Duma reckoned on strengthening his position with the secret police and thereby raising the salary which they paid him. Malinovsky had begun to delight in his treacherous work and was preparing to extend it on a much larger scale.

Malinovsky impressed on the secret police how convenient it would be for them to have their own “informer” in the Duma. Needless to say, the police were soon persuaded and the question was discussed by the highest police officials; the project received the blessing of Alakarov, the then Minister of the Interior. Code messages were sent to Moscow by Byeletsky and his notorious assistant, Vissarionov, instructing the Moscow secret police to facilitate Malinovsky’s election.

The first obstacle to be tackled was the fact that Malinovsky had been arrested several times on criminal charges. According to the law, a person who had been condemned on a criminal charge was disqualified from being elected to the Duma. With the help of the secret police, Malinovsky went to his native district in Poland and by bribery obtained a false certificate declaring that he had never been convicted.

The second difficulty was that it was necessary for the candidate to have worked at his factory for six months prior to the election. Malinovsky was employed in a small factory near Moscow, and a few weeks before the election, when he had not quite completed six months’ service, he quarrelled with the foreman and was under threat of dismissal. Thereupon the police arrested the foreman and kept him in prison until after the elections. Nevertheless Malinovsky was dismissed from the factory and had to bribe a clerk to give him a certificate that he was “on leave.” Thus, with the help of the secret police, the way was clear for his election.

After his election to the Duma, Malinovsky became one of the most important agents of the police, and was tutored in his new duties by Byeletsky himself. The St. Petersburg secret police referred to him as “X” in their documents and paid him a salary of 500 rubles a month, later raised to 700 with additional amounts for special information, A telephone was installed in his apartment at the expense of the police and all his conversations with Byeletsky were conducted in code. He used to meet Byeletsky and his assistant Vissarionov in a private room at some restaurant. There Byeletsky, as he stated during the trial, would ask a list of questions drawn up beforehand and his assistant wrote down Malinovsky’s answers. Arrests, searches and deportations followed, although great care was taken not to compromise Malinovsky. When the police department decided in February 1913 to arrest Comrade Rozmirovich, Malinovsky advised that the arrest should be made in Kiev, and when a month later her arrest aroused suspicions in the foreign centre, she was released at his request. [1]

The information which he supplied was particularly valuable because he was well informed about the underground work of the Party as well as the work of the Duma fraction. He regularly related to the police everything which took place at the editorial offices of Pravda. He gave full particulars about the persons who attended meetings there, the decisions reached and the financial state of the paper. This enabled Byeletsky to arrange for fines, confiscations of issues, etc., at times which were most critical for the paper. He also supplied lists of all persons contributing to funds for the support of Pravda and the names of subscribers. These lists were of great assistance to the police when repressive measures were decided upon.

Malinovsky’s oratorical powers made him one of the frequent speakers of our fraction. But a careful analysis of his speeches reveals the fact that the blunt revolutionary content characteristic of the speeches of our workers’ deputies was absent. Whereas the other workers’ deputies deliberately accentuated their speeches, sticking at nothing, Malinovsky always tried to work round the dangerous passages, to avoid in one way or another the revolutionary presentation of the question and took great pains to make his speeches innocuous so as to deprive them of that revolutionary content which the Party insisted should be present in all speeches of our fraction members. When he addressed open-air meetings, he arranged with the police department that police agents should be present who would cut short his speech when he reached an agreed passage. Such was the case on the important occasion when he addressed the Congress of Clerical Workers in Moscow.

Although while he was in the Duma his main activities were confined to St. Petersburg, he did not entirely break his connections with the Moscow secret police. During his visits to Moscow, each of which entailed new arrests of revolutionary workers, he supplied information to the police and received a special remuneration.

In St. Petersburg, Malinovsky informed Byeletsky of the meetings of the fraction, the ideas and plans of the deputies, the routes of their journeys and their impressions of local conditions. On the basis of information transmitted from the police department, the local police were able to break up meetings arranged by the visiting deputy. On one occasion, Malinovsky even allowed Byeletsky to inspect the fraction’s documents and files and to copy passages which interested him.

Byeletsky also referred in his evidence to an occasion when Malinovsky delivered to the police the larger part of a consignment of illegal literature which only reached St. Petersburg after great difficulty.

Fear of exposing the agent-provocateur caused the secret police to be very cautious in arresting Party comrades who worked in close touch with Malinovsky, but when Sverdlov and Stalin returned to St. Petersburg, the police department demanded that he should help to arrange their arrest.

Sverdlov was arrested in the following circumstances. He had escaped from exile and was hiding in my apartment; the police had begun to watch for him, acting on information supplied by Malinovsky. One day the dvornik (janitor) came to see me and, after describing Sverdlov, asked whether he was not in my apartment. Of course I replied that there were no strangers with me, but we decided that it was no longer safe for Sverdlov to stay there and that he ought to leave at once. As soon as it became dark, Malinovsky and I went out and seeing that there was no one about we lit cigarettes; on this agreed signal, Sverdlov went out into the courtyard at the back. We helped him climb over a wall and then across a timber yard over another wall and out on to the embankment where a droshky was waiting. We then went to Malinovsky ’s room and later Sverdlov went to stay with Petrovsky. But he was arrested there the same night. It turned out that Malinovsky, who had been showing so much concern for Sverdlov’s safety, had phoned the address of his new refuge to the police.

At about the same time, Malinovsky betrayed Stalin in a similar way. Stalin had recently made one of his periodic escapes from exile and was in hiding, not venturing into the streets. The police knew that he had returned and were waiting for him to appear in order to rearrest him. A concert had been arranged in the Kalashnikov hall for the benefit of the funds for Pravda. Such concerts were usually attended by sympathisers among the intellectuals and Party members who seized the opportunity, while among the crowd, of meeting and talking to people whom it was inadvisable to meet openly. Stalin decided to attend the concert and Malinovsky, who was aware of this, informed the police department, with the result that Stalin was rearrested there and then.

These two arrests show the depths to which Malinovsky had descended. He betrayed into the hands of the police the most prominent Party workers who had only recently escaped from exile after great difficulty and suffering.

Relations between Malinovsky and the rest of the fraction were strained from the first. During discussions he often became hysterical or lost his temper over quite unimportant questions. The other members of the fraction objected to such conduct on his part and this led to constant friction and conflicts. One such scene occurred in the fraction a few days before he left the Duma. When the fraction was discussing what action it would take in reply to its exclusion for fifteen sittings, Malinovsky insisted on the necessity of leaving the Duma completely and of appealing to the masses for revolutionary action. There is no doubt that this plan was of a provocative nature and the fraction quite rightly rejected it. But it must be assumed that in advocating such a form of protest, Malinovsky was also preparing the ground for his own withdrawal from the Duma, since, as it became known afterwards, it was at this time that the police department decided to dispense with his services. In the winter of 1913–14, changes took place in the Ministry of the Interior. The notorious General Junkovsky, formerly governor-general of Moscow, was appointed Assistant Minister in charge of the police and gendarmerie. This appointment led to changes in the personnel of the police department; Junkovsky appointed his own men instead of Byeletsky and his assistant, Vissarianov, and decided to get rid of Malinovsky.

In his evidence, Junkovsky stated that he could not tolerate the “nuisance” of an agent of the police acting as a deputy in the State Duma. This explanation is not to be believed; it is much more likely that Malinovsky’s activity as a member of our fraction had become more than the police dared allow. It is also possible that the usual departmental jealousy was responsible for his dismissal. The new officials very often tried to discredit their predecessors and suggest to the public that they were instituting a new and much better policy.

By order of Junkovsky, the chief of the secret police department called on Malinovsky to leave the Duma and proceed abroad immediately. Before leaving he received a final payment of 6,000 rubles from the police. The only person in the Duma who knew the true cause of Malinovsky’s resignation was Rodzyanko. According to his own words, somebody rang him up on the telephone on the morning of the day when the suspended deputies were to return to the Duma, and informed him of the text of their intended declaration. Rodzyanko decided to investigate the matter further and was informed by Junkovsky that Malinovsky was a police spy and that it had been decided to get rid of him. So Rodzyanko, while knowing the truth, kept it secret from the Duma.

Malinovsky then completely disappeared from the sight of the Party and public. At the beginning of the war he was conscripted and soon afterwards taken prisoner by the Germans. He returned to Russia after the revolution and was arrested.

On November 5, 1918, Malinovsky was tried in Moscow by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Numerous witnesses, including the chiefs of the tsarist police (Byeletsky, Vissarianov, Junkovsky, Makarov and others), and volumes of documents from the archives of the secret police, established the history of his treachery. His life was one long string of crimes. His intelligence and abilities were placed at the disposal of the highest bidder to the detriment of the working-class movement.

At the trial, when his activity as agent-provocateur was fully revealed, Malinovsky was, of course, unable to deny his crimes. He chose another method of defence. He alleged that he was forced to become an agent-provocateur because he was already completely in the hands of the police. He represented his career as agent-provocateur as a long martyrdom, accompanied by suffering and remorse, from which he could not escape. But at the same time, in contradiction to that theory, he confessed:

“... I could not agree to the first proposal not because I felt any repugnance – I did not feel the slightest – but simply because I did not want, and did not see any possibility of being able, to play the double role required.”

But when the police threatened him with revelations of his criminal past he at once consented to serve them: “Now the questi<jn was settled, I no longer hesitated and felt no remorse.” Throughout his trial, as throughout his whole career, Malinovsky lied. He tried to prove that he left the Duma of his own free will, because of his personal unhappiness, and that he obtained permission from the police to quit politics.

“... The circumstances of the case are immaterial; what is important is that I obtained Byeletsky’s permission to leave ... I told Junkovsky that I was leaving on account of new conditions which for moral and other reasons made it impossible for me to continue the work.”

But we know now the real reasons of his resignation and we know that when Byeletsky was removed, Malinovsky begged him to help him re-establish his connections with the police department. The lies in Malinovsky ’s evidence were as deliberate as the whole pose he adopted, a pose of sincere repentance while admitting the gravity of his crimes. He said that he expected nothing but the death penalty, although, in saying this, Malinovsky undoubtedly imagined that this attitude would gain him some measure of indulgence. His voluntary return to Russia after the revolution was the last desperate throw of a gambler. The revolutionary court did not forgive him for his crimes against the working class; he was condemned to be shot.

Malinovsky will be remembered as one of the most active agents-provocateurs, who was able to do enormous harm to the revolutionary cause. There is, however, another aspect of his activities which shows that they were harmful to tsarism itself. In his second role as a member of the Bolshevik fraction, Malinovsky was forced to deliver revolutionary speeches from the Duma tribune and to play his part in our agitational campaigns. These activities inevitably produced the results which we desired and the tsarist government was forced to bring grist to the mill of revolution.

V.I. Lenin described the situation in which the police were placed by Malinovsky’s activity in the following way:

It is obvious that by helping to elect an agent-provocateur to the Duma and by removing, for that purpose, all the competitors of the Bolshevik candidate, the secret police were guided by a vulgar conception of Bolshevism, or rather, a distorted caricature of Bolshevism. They imagined that the Bolsheviks would “arrange an armed insurdrection.” In order to keep all the threads of this coming insurrection in their hands, they thought it worth while departing from their own standpoint and having Malinovsky elected both to the Duma and to our Central Committee.

But when the police achieved both these aims they found that Malinovsky was transformed into a link of the long and solid chain connecting in various ways our legal base with the two chief organs by which the party influenced the masses, namely Pravda and the Duma fraction. The agent-provocateur had to protect both these organs in order to justify his vocation.

Both these organs were under our immediate guidance. Zinoviev and myself wrote daily to Pravda and its policy was entirely determined by the resolutions of the Party. Our influence over forty to sixty thousand workers was thus secured. The same applies to the Duma fraction, particularly to Muranov, Petrovsky and Badayev, who worked more and more independently of Malinovsky, strengthened their connections with and extended their influence over the workers.

Malinovsky could and did ruin individuals, hut he could neither hold back nor control the growth of the Party nor in any way affect the increase of its importance to the masses, its influence over hundreds of thousands of workers (through strikes, which increased after April 1912, etc.). I should not be at all surprised if the secret police used the following argument for Malinovsky’s removal from the Duma: that Malinovsky had turned out to be too closely involved with the Duma fraction and with Pravda, which were carrying on their revolutionary work among the masses much too energetically to be tolerated by the police.

This estimate of the objective part played by Malinovsky in no way tones down, but brands still more definitely, the personality of the traitor.


1. The police finally dealt with Comrade Rozmirovich in April 1914, when she was arrested together with Comrades Samoylova and Kudelli at an editorial meeting of Rabotnitsa (The Woman Worker).

Last updated on 14.9.2011