Alexander Parvus Born Israel Gelfand and sometimes called Helphand in the literature on the Russian Revolution, was a Marxist theoretician, publicist and controversial activist in the Social Democratic Party of Germany.born to a Lithuanian Jewish family on September 8, 1867, in the shtetl of Berazino, Russian Empire, now part of Belarus. Although little is known of Israel’s early childhood, the Gelfand family was of the lower middle class.In 1886, the 19-year-old Gelfand first traveled from Russia to Basel, Switzerland.It was there that Gelfand was first exposed to the writings of Alexander Herzen as well as the revolutionary literature of the day.He returned to Russia briefly the following year but he became the subject of official scrutiny by the tsarist secret police and was forced to leave the country again for his safety. He would remain abroad for more than a decade. In 1900, he met Vladimir Lenin for the first time, in Munich, each admiring the other’s theoretical works.
Parvus encouraged Lenin to begin publishing his revolutionary paper Iskra. Parvus’ attempts to become a German citizen proved fruitless. He once commented in a letter to his German friend Wilhelm Liebknecht that “I am seeking a government where one can inexpensively acquire a fatherland.”
However, German counter-intelligence had penetrated part of the socialist revolutionary network and upon reading his writing in the socialist press during the Russo-Japanese War, found Parvus had predicted that Russia would lose the war, resulting in unrest and revolution.
When this proved to be the case, Parvus’ prestige among his socialist and other German comrades increased. Thus, German intelligence soon estimated he would be useful in efforts against the Russian Empire. During this time he developed the concept of using a foreign war to provoke an internal revolt within a country. It was at this time that Parvus revived, from Karl Marx, the concept-strategy of “permanent revolution”. He communicated this philosophy to Trotsky who then further expanded and developed it.
There were broad discussions on the questions of “permanent revolution” within the social democratic movement in the period leading up to 1917.The method was eventually adopted by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Lenin’s April Theses in 1917.
In 1905, Parvus arrived in St. Petersburg with false Austro-Hungarian papers. Parvus was regarded among European Marxists of the day as an authority on political and financial questions;consequently when he authored a provocative article In December entitled The Financial Manifesto, which described the Russian economy as being on the verge of collapse it received broad play in the press.In combination with this propaganda, Parvus coordinated an agitation of locals to feign a run on the banks. As the news of the article and the subsequent “rush” was spread, the consequent hysteria managed to upset the economy and enrage prime minister Sergei Witte, but did not cause a financial collapse.In connection with this provocation and Parvus’ involvement in the organization of anti-government actions during the 1905 revolution, Parvus (together with other revolutionaries such as Leon Trotsky) was arrested by the Russian police. While in prison he became close with other revolutionaries, and was visited by Rosa Luxemburg.Sentenced to three years exile in Siberia, Parvus escaped and emigrated to Germany,Soon afterwards Parvus moved to Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire, where he lived for five years.
There he set up an arms trading company which profited handsomely during the Balkan War. He became the financial and political advisor of the Young Turks(The same Young Turks that caused the armenian genocide). In 1912 he was made editor of Turk Yurdu, their daily newspaper. He worked closely with the triumvirs known as the Three Pashas—Enver, Talat and Cemal—and Finance Minister Djavid Bey. His firm dealt with the deliveries of foodstuffs for the Ottoman army and he was a business partner of the Krupp concern, of Vickers Limited, and of the famous arms dealer Basil Zaharov. Arms dealings with Vickers Limited at war time gave basis to the theory that Alexander Parvus was also a British intelligence asset.
Parvus had been warmly greeted by Lenin in Berne in 1915, where they held a private meeting. Its detail remains clouded in mystery, yet proved to be extremely important in the history of the world. Without Parvus and his organisation, through which millions of gold marks were channeled to the Bolsheviks, Lenin could never have achieved supreme power. ‘It was a strangely remote association in the sense that neither had direct contact with the other and both adamantly denied its existence…’
Sources 1.Zeman and W.B. Scharlau, The Merchant of Revolution: The Life of Alexander Israel Helphand (Parvus), 1867-1924. London: Oxford University Press
2.Day, Richard B.; Gaido, Daniel (2011). Witnesses to Permanent Revolution: The Documentary Record
3.Michael Pearson, The Sealed Train, London, 1975