Tomsky, Mikhail Pavlovich

views updated


(18801936), Russian union activist.

Tomsky was a leading Old Bolshevik and trade union activist who committed suicide before he could be tried during Josef Stalin's purges. Tomsky was born Mikhail Efremov into a working-class environment. He began to work in a factory in adolescence and eventually became a printer. He joined the Social Democrats in 1904 and soon turned to union organizing. Between 1906 and 1909 his activities led to a series of arrests that was interspersed with party work whenever he was free. During this period he adopted the pseudonym Tomsky. In 1911 he began a five-year term of hard labor that was followed by exile to Siberia. After the collapse of the monarchy, Tomsky returned to Petrograd and his union work. In 1919 he was elected to the Central Committee and chosen to head the Central Trade Union Council. Three years later he became a member of the Politburo. He was one of the eight pallbearers at Vladimir Lenin's funeral in 1924. The next year he sided against Leon Trotsky and his followers in the party struggles that followed Lenin's death. In 1928 he joined with Nikolai Bukharin and Alexei Rykov to protest the pace and methods of collectivization. After this opposition group was defeated, Tomsky was expelled from the Politburo and removed from his position as trade union leader. In 1931 he was appointed head of the State Publishing House. Tomsky shot himself after learning that he had been implicated in one of Stalin's show trials. At Bukharin's trial two years later fabricated evidence named Tomsky as the link between members of the Right Opposition and an oppositional group in the Red Army.

See also: bukharin, nikolai ivanovich; politburo; rykov, alexei ivanovich


Sorenson, Jay B. (1969). The Life and Death of Soviet Trade Unionism, 19171928. New York: Atherton Press.

Wynn, Charters. (1996). From the Factory to the Kremlin: Mikhail Tomsky and the Russian Worker. Washington, DC: National Council for Soviet and East European Research.

Alison Rowley