Ivan Ivanovich Skvortsov-Stepanov (Russian: Ива́н Ива́нович Скворцо́в-Степа́нов, 24 February 1870 – 8 October 1928) was a prominent Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and Soviet politician. Skvortsov-Stepanov was one of the oldest participants in the Russian revolutionary movement as well as a Marxist writer, historian and journalist.
He graduated from the Moscow Teachers’ Institute in 1890, became an elementary school teacher, joined the revolutionary movement as a student in Moscow in 1892, and joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1896. He was arrested, and exiled to Tula district, where he met other exiles, including Alexander Bogdanov and Vladimir Bazarov. Together they joined the Bolsheviks after their release in the winter of 1904. When Bor’ba was published in November 1905, Skvortsov-Stepanov was a member of the editorial board. In 1906 he was a delegate to the Fourth Congress of the RSDLP, where he supported Lenin. During the period 1907–10, he favoured the Mezhraiontsy faction, but later fell again under the influence of Lenin. In 1907–09, he, Bazarov and Bogdanov produced what became the standard Russian translation of Das Kapital, by Karl Marx. In 1911, he launched the Bolshevik newspaper Mysl, but was arrested very soon afterwards. He was repeatedly arrested and exiled for his revolutionary activities.
Following the Revolution of 1917 he became the People’s Commissar for Finance of the RSFSR, until February 1918, when the Bolsheviks briefly formed a coalition government with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. He joined the Left Communists, who opposed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany. He worked on Pravda in 1918–1925. In 1919, he was appointed head of Gosizdat, the State Publishing House. During the war with Poland, in 1920, he was appointed a member of the short-lived Polish provisional government.
In September 1921, Skvortsov-Stepanov became embroiled in a dispute with the young Futurist poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky. Like most leading Bolsheviks, he was unable to see any value in Mayakovsky’s work, although the poet was an active supporter of the Bolsheviks, who had been imprisoned under the old regime. When Skvortsov-Stepanov learned that the script of Mayakovsky’s play, Mystery Bouffe had been published in full in a magazine called Theatre Herald, he banned its editors from paying the author’s commission. Mayakovsky appealed to the Moscow Trade Union Council, who ordered that his fee should be paid, and suspended the union memberships of Skvortsov-Stepanov and two other Gosizdat officials for three months. The decision outraged a senior contributor to Pravda, Lev Sosnovsky, who called for a ban on Mayakovsky’s entire works. This threat was not carried out, and a few months later, Lenin publicly praised Mayakovsky’s poetry for its political insight.