Raphael Abramovič was born Adolf Rein in Riga in 1880. He studied at the Polytechnic there. Even when he was a student he was a convinced Marxist. In 1901 he became member of the Jewish worker’s Party, soon to be called the Bund, which was by that time closely affiliated with RS-DRP, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party. But since Lenin denied the right of the Russian Jews to their own national and cultural identity because he believed Jews and gentiles would be united in one party after the Revolution, the Bund broke with RS-DRP in 1903.
Abramovič, however, remained in close contact with the leaders of the Menshevik faction of the RS-DRP, Julius Martov and F.I. Dan. In 1907 the Bund joined the Mensheviks and remained closely linked to that party.
In 1905 Abramovič became a member of the Central Committee of the Bund. He was editor of the journals Evrejskij Rabochij [the Jewish Workers] and Nashe slovo [Our Word].
During the Russian revolution of 1905, Abramovič represented the Bund in the St. Petersburg Soviet, until that was disbanded. He remained active in the Bund and the Menshevik Party, and in 1911 he narrowly escaped arrest and settled in Berlin, and later in Paris. After the revolution of February 1917, he returned to Russia. He again joined the Petrograd Soviet and became a member of the Central Committee. After the second revolution of October 1917, he played a role in the attempt to create a coalition of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and Popular Socialists, which did not succeed. Abramovič became an opponent of the Bolsheviks, and was arrested in 1918. Only the intervention of Friedrich Adler and other foreign socialists saved him in 1920 from execution.
He again fled from Russia and settled in Berlin. He became one of the editors of the Menshevik paper Sotsialisticheskii Vestnik [Socialist Courier]. He helped to organize an international union of all non-communist parties and later became one of the leaders of the Labour and Socialist Internationals. He remained in contact with the Mensheviks in Russia and organized support for them. At the same time he remained in close contact with the members of the Bund in the U.S.A. and was a regular contributor of the Yiddish socialist paper Forverts [Forward]. As he was fluent in Russian, Yiddish, French, German, and English, he wrote in many socialist journals in different countries. He was a gifted speaker and regularly visited the U.S.A. to hold lectures for the members of the Bund in several cities. He was a convinced adversary of Stalin’s politics in Russia and denounced Soviet totalitarianism orally and in writing.
After the rise to power of the National-Socialists in Germany, Abramovič moved to Paris. In addition to his political work, he was deeply involved in the editing the Yiddish Encyclopedia (Algemeyne Entsiklopediye in Yiddish), which appeared in 12 volumes in the 1930s.
Because of his relentless warnings against the dangers of Soviet policy, he was considered by the communists as a dangerous enemy. They also considered Mark Rein, Abramovič’s son, who was a journalist, as such. When Mark was in Spain during the civil war in 1937, he was kidnapped and murdered by the OGPU, the Soviet secret service.
In 1940, when the Germans invaded France, Abramovič fled to the U.S.A., where he settled in New York and continued his political work. In 1949 he was one of the founders of the Union for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia. He died in New York in 1963.
Inventory of Raphael Abramovič Papers.
Liebich, A., From the other shore: Russian Social Democracy after 1921 (Cambridge, Mass.), 1997.