Shvernik was born in 1888 in St. Petersburg in a working-class family of Russian ethnicity. He joined the Bolsheviks in 1905. In 1924 he became a People's Commissar in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and became a full member of the Central Committee of the party in 1925. In 1927 he was demoted and sent to the Urals to head the local party organization. Stalin found him a loyal supporter of his policy of rapid industrialisation and moved him back to Moscow in 1929 making him chairman of the Metallurgist Trade Union. He resumed his rise in the party becoming a member of the Orgburo and the party Secretariat. He also served as first secretary of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions from July 1930 to March 1944. As such, Shvernik presided over the 1931 Menshevik Trial, in which fourteen Russian economists came up for trial on charges of treason.