Preobrazhensky, Yevgeny Alexeyevich

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(18861937), Russian revolutionary, oppositionist, and Marxist theorist.

Born in Bolkhov, Orel province, Yevgeny Preobrazhensky began his political activism at age fifteen as a Social Democrat and later became a Bolshevik and a regional leader. Together with Nikolai Bukharin, Preobrazhensky led the Left Communist opposition to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Germany (1918). In 1920 he became one of three secretaries of the Bolshevik Party, together with Nikolai Krestinsky and Leonid Serebryakov, all later active in the Trotskyist Opposition. The three were removed from these posts in 1922, when Josef Stalin was made General Secretary of the Party Central Committee.

In 1923 Preobrazhensky authored the "Platform of the Forty-Six," which attacked the growing bureaucratization and authoritarianism of the Party apparatus. Also in 1923 he published On Morality and Class Norms, in which he attacked the apparatus's growing privileges. From this point Preobrazhensky became a close ally of Leon Trotsky and a leader of the various Trotskyist oppositions. Following the suppression of the 1927 Joint Opposition, he was expelled from the Party in 1928, but in 1929 became one of the first Trotskyists to recant his views and return to the Party fold. He was arrested in 1935 and testified against Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev at the first Moscow show trial in 1936. He was scheduled to be a defendant in the second trial in 1937, but refused to confess and was shot in secret in that same year. He was rehabilitated during Gorbachev's perestroika.

Preobrazhensky was a major theorist and one of the Soviet Union's leading economists of the 1920s. He opposed Stalin's and Bukharin's policy of "Socialism in One Country" and the slow pace of industrialization. In his major work, The New Economics, he put forward the theory of primary socialist accumulation, in which he argued that successful industrial development had to extract resources from the peasant economy. However, he resolutely opposed the use of force to achieve this, and by 1927 had concluded that only a revolution in the advanced countries of Western Europe could save the Soviet Union from a political and economic impasse. While he purported to welcome Stalin's solution to this dilemma (forced collectivization and industrialization), in 1932 he published his second theoretical masterpiece, The Decline of Capitalism. This was a serious analysis in its own right of the Great Depression, but it contained a less-than-veiled attack on Stalin's five-year plans and the policy of developing heavy industry at the expense of consumption.

See also: bukharin, nikolai ivanovich; stalin, josef vissarionovich; trotsky, leon davidovich


Day, Richard B. (1981). The "Crisis" and the "Crash": Soviet Studies of the West (19171939). London: NLB.

Erlich, Alexander. (1960). The Soviet Industrialization Debate. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Preobrazhensky, E. A. (1965). The New Economics. Oxford: Clarendon.

Preobrazhensky, E. A. (1973). From NEP to Socialism. London: New Park.

Preobrazhensky, E. A. (1980). The Crisis of Soviet Industrialization, ed. Donald A. Filtzer. London: Macmillan.

Preobrazhensky, E. A. (1985). The Decline of Capitalism, ed. Richard B. Day. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Donald Filtzer