Mikhail Borodin and the Global Impact of 1917

Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:50 AM
Mile High Ballroom 2A (Colorado Convention Center)
Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, West Chester University
The presentation examines the global impacts of the 1917 through a close study of the remarkable path that led Michael Gruzenberg to become Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin. Facing arrest in the wake of the Revolution of 1905, Gruzenberg, a Jewish Bolshevik from the Pale, fled Russia. He eventually landed on the west side of Chicago, where he lived for ten years, raising a family and running a school. The February Revolution upset this settled life and drew Gruzenberg back into revolutionary politics. To tell his story, I draw on the Chicago foreign language press, Comintern archives, FBI files, British military intelligence files, and the memoirs of communists with whom Borodin interacted.

The presentation focuses on Borodin’s first years as a roving agent for the Comintern, before he undertook his most famous assignment as the Comintern’s advisor to the Chinese revolution. He began his career as an international revolutionary in Scandinavia, where ties to Chicago aided his efforts to funnel money, jewels, and propaganda to Western communist parties and to open a back channel to the US State Department. Subsequently he travelled to Mexico, where he organized the Mexican communist party with the aid of M. N. Roy, who became a communist under Borodin’s tutelage. From Mexico, Borodin traveled to Spain where he helped to organize the Spanish communist party.

Examining how a lapsed Bolshevik living a quiet life in Chicago transformed himself into an international revolutionary, the presentation uncovers the local and personal networks that helped to make the Russian revolution globally significant and highlights the transnational dimensions of emerging Soviet subjectivity.

See more of: The Bolshevik Centennial
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