Martov, Julius

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MARTOV, JULIUS (Iulii Osipovich Tsederbaum ; 1873–1923), Russian revolutionary, leader of Menshevism. Born in Constantinople, where his father represented the Russian Steamship Co. and trade companies, Martov was the favorite grandson of Alexander *Zederbaum, the Hebrew writer and founder of Ha-Meliẓ, but his father, Osip, was a conscious assimilationist. Active in revolutionary student circles in St. Petersburg, Martov was arrested and exiled to Vilna, where he worked from 1893 to 1895 in the Jewish social democratic organization (which in 1897 became the *Bund). In a programmatic address (later published as A Turning Point in the History of the Jewish Labor Movement), Martov urged the creation of a "separate Jewish workers' organization to lead the Jewish proletariat in the struggle for its economic, civil, and political emancipation"; it would use Yiddish as its language of agitation and champion "equality of rights for Jews."

Returning to St. Petersburg in October 1895, he joined *Lenin as co-founder of the "Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class," was arrested in 1896 and was exiled to Siberia. After his term of exile, Martov, together with Lenin and Alexander Potresov, founded the Marxist journal Iskra and joined its editorial board abroad (1901–05). He participated in Iskra's crusade against revisionism and "economism" and, reversing his earlier stand on the Jewish question, vigorously opposed the national "separatism" of the Bund, urging Jewish socialists to "assist the organization of the vast majority of the [Russian] proletariat" rather than waste their revolutionary talents on their "own little corner" in the *Pale of Settlement.

Martov broke with Lenin at the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party (1903), opposing his bid for personal domination of the party. He led Menshevik opposition to Lenin's scheme of a narrow party of professional revolutionaries, advocating a broad, inclusive workers' party adapted to Russian semi-illegal conditions.

During the 1905 Revolution Martov returned to Russia, worked in the St. Petersburg soviet and edited Social Democratic newspapers. In 1906–12 he lived abroad, mainly in Paris, where he edited the Menshevik Golos sotsialdemokrata. He supported cooperation with the Bolsheviks and sought to combine legal with underground activities.

During World War i Martov was a central figure of the pacifist Zimmerwald movement. He thwarted Lenin's attempt to turn the movement into a Bolshevik-dominated tool for civil war and the destruction of the Second International. Upon his return to Petersburg on May 9, 1917, Martov led the faction of Menshevik-Internationalists, who opposed the "defensist" policies of the Menshevik majority and advocated the establishment of a popular front government.

After the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, Martov, together with Raphael *Abramowitz, urged the creation of a socialist coalition government in a vain attempt to prevent the Bolsheviks from establishing a minority dictatorship. He became the leader of a vociferous, semi-loyal opposition that tried to function in the Soviet system by making the Bolsheviks respect their own Soviet constitution. Martov denounced the Bolshevik terror, whether directed against "bourgeois" newspapers, liberal parties, the Czar's family, church dignitaries, or Socialist Revolutionaries, and thus became the revolution's "true voice of conscience." But he supported the Soviet regime against counterrevolution and foreign intervention. When the Menshevik Party was finally outlawed, Martov was allowed to leave Russia (1920). He settled in Berlin to lead the Mensheviks in exile and assist the underground Menshevik remnant in Russia. He edited the Sotsialistichskii Vestnik and was a leader of the short-lived "Vienna International," which tried to thwart the Comintern's bid to take over the Western independent left-wing parties.

Brave, honest, and gentle, and a beloved figure of Russian and European socialism – even the Bolsheviks mourned him as their "most sincere and honest opponent" – Martov personified the dilemma of revolutionary socialists with humanitarian and democratic commitments when facing the amoral authoritarianism of Lenin and the Soviet regime.

Martov believed that the advent to socialism would also solve the problem of the Jewish people. He was deeply shaken by the pogroms of 1905–06 and by the *Beilis trial, remained personally involved in the struggle against antisemitism, and wrote a little book, Russkii narod i evrei ("The Russian People and the Jews," 1908).

His works, fragmentary and scattered, include Istoriia rossiiskoi sotsial-demokratii ("History of the Russian Social Democracy," 1918; published in German translation as Geschichte der russischen Sozialdemokratie, Berlin, 1926); Obshchestvennye i umstvennye techeniia v Rossii 18701905 ("Social and Intellectual Trends in Russia 1870–1905," 1924); Razvitie krupnoi promyshlennosti i rabochee dvizhenie v Rossii ("The Development of Heavy Industry and the Workers' Movement in Russia," 1923). He was chief editor of the monumental Menshevik study Obshchestvennoe dvizhenie v Rossii v nachale xx veka ("The Social Movement in Russia at the Beginning of the 20th century," 4 vols., 1909–14), which is his major scholarly achievement. His moving autobiographical Zapiski sotsialdemokrata ("Notes of a Social Democrat," 1923) is his literary masterpiece.


I. Getzler, Martov, A Political Biography of a Russian Social Democrat (1967); A.M. Bourguina, Russian Social Democracy: The Menshevik Movement, A Bibliography (1968); Sotsialisticheskii vestnik (April 10, 1923); Martov i ego blizkie, (1959); A.V. Lunacharsky, Revolutionary Profiles (1967); O. Blum, Russische Koepfe (1923); Z. Shazar, Or Ishim (1963).

[Israel Getzler]

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