Karl Radek

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Karl Bernhardovic (Russian: Карл Бернга́рдович Ра́дек) (31 October 1885 - 19 May 1939) was a socialist active in the Polish and German movements before World War I and an international Communist leader after the Russian Revolution.

He was born in Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (now L'vov in Ukraine), as Karol Sobelsohn, to a Jewish family. He took the name Radek from a favourite character in a book (perhaps Syzyfowe prace by Stefan Żeromski). He joined the Polish Social Democratic movement in 1904 and participated in the 1905 Revolution in Warsaw where he was responsible for the party's newspaper Czerwony Sztandar.[1]

In 1907 he moved to Germany, joined the SPD and worked on various party newspapers until he was expelled in 1913 under unclear circumstances.[2] After the outbreak of World War I he moved to Switzerland where he worked as a liaison between Vladimir Lenin and the Bremen Left, with which he had close links from his time in Germany, introducing him to Paul Levi at this time.[3]

In 1917 after the October Revolution he traveled to Petrograd and became an active Bolshevik functionary. He was one of the passengers on the "sealed train" that carried Lenin and other Russian revolutionaries through Germany after the February Revolution in Russia.[3] He then went on to Stockholm and produced the journals Russische Korrespondez-Pravda and Bote der Russischen Revolution to publish Bolshevik documents and Russian information in German.[3] He was in Germany in 1918-20 organising the German Communist movement.

Radek, together with the Comintern member Dmitry Manuilsky, made an unsuccessful attempt to launch a second German revolution in October 1923, before Lenin died.[4]

In 1920 Radek returned to Russia and became a secretary of the Comintern but his influence decreased and he lost his place on the Central Committee in 1924, being expelled from the Party in 1927. However, he was re-admitted in 1930 and helped to write the 1936 Soviet Constitution, but during the Great Purge of the 1930s, he was accused of treason and confessed at the Trial of the Seventeen (1937, also called the Second Moscow Trial). He was sentenced to 10 years of penal labor.

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