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Vainshtein, Aron Isaakovich

(1877–1938), Bund and Evsektsiia activist, then Soviet government official. Born in Vilna, Vainshtein, who used the pseudonym Rakhmiel, graduated from that city’s Jewish teachers’ institute in 1897. The following year he joined the Bund in Warsaw, and in 1901 (at the Bund’s Fourth Congress) became a member of its Central Committee. Vainshtein published widely in the Bundist Yiddish press (Arbeter shtime; Folks-tsaytung). He was arrested several times for revolutionary activity and was exiled to Siberia in 1914. Subsequently, after the February 1917 Revolution, he returned to Petrograd.

At the Bund’s Tenth Conference, Vainshtein was elected to chair the organization’s Central Committee. With its other members, he moved to Minsk where he and his sister-in-law, Ester Frumkin (Khaye Malke Lifshits), headed all Bund activities. Vainshtein was elected chair of the Minsk City Council and was also a member of the Minsk Soviet Executive Committee. He had held centrist positions during World War I, but after February 1917 sided with the Bund’s right wing and condemned the Bolshevik coup. Not long thereafter, in reaction to the increasing polarization of forces during the civil war and the November 1918 revolution in Germany, Vainshtein adopted the more leftist position that had been formulated at the Bund’s Eleventh Conference in Minsk (March 1919). Fearing the establishment of a dictatorship in Russia, the conference participants adopted a resolution supporting Soviet rule, while at the same time calling for the Bolsheviks to reject terror.

When the Bund split formally at its Twelfth Conference in Moscow (April 1920), Vainshtein and Frumkin headed the Kombund, the Communist-oriented majority. From August to December 1920, Vainshtein represented the Kombund on the Military Revolutionary Committee of Belorussia and in December became acting chair of the Belorussian Council of National Economy. Later, he and his associates supported the Comintern’s decision to disband the Kombund and accept its former members into the Communist Party.

Vainshtein was deputy chair of the Council of People’s Commissars of Kirgiziia and chair of the Kirgiz Labor and Defense Council in 1921 and 1922. Subsequently, from 1923 to 1930 he belonged to the board of the People’s Commissariat of Finance of the USSR, and in 1931 served as an arbitrator in the main arbitrator’s office of the Council of People’s Commissars. He was also a member of the Evsektsiia’s Central Bureau from 1921 to 1924.

Vainshtein continued to play an active role in Jewish projects after 1924, particularly in efforts to promote Jewish agricultural settlement. A member of the board of KOMZET, in 1928 he was appointed its deputy chair and in the 1930s chaired the Moscow branch of the Society for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land (OZET). In November 1937, at OZET’s fifth plenum, Vainshtein protested Frumkin’s ouster from her job. He himself was arrested in February 1938 and accused of leading an underground Bundist organization allegedly operating in the USSR. In jail, 10 days after his arrest, Vainshtein committed suicide.

Suggested Reading

Gregor Aronson, Jacob Sholem Hertz, et al., eds., Di geshikhte fun Bund (New York, 1960–1966); Henry J. Tobias, The Jewish Bund in Russia from Its Origins to 1905 (Stanford, Calif., 1972).



Translated from Russian by Yisrael Cohen