Socialist and Peoples' History

The Red Book On the Moscow Trials -- I

This work was written by Leon Sedov, and was the first expose of the fraudulent character of the Moscow Trials and their political purpose. We are reproducing it here from the Marxists Internet Archive. The following information about the publishing history of the book is also reproduced from the MIA.
Published: Published by New Park Publications Ltd, 1980; available at Index Books.
First published in part in Russian in Byulletin Oppositsii, Nos.52-53, October 1936.
Published in French as Le Livre Rouge sur les proces de Moscou, Paris, 1936
Transcribed: For ETOL, September, 2000



This Red Book is only a first contribution to the analysis of the Moscow trial.

Except for the first chapter, which is of a general political character, and the second, which recalls previous facts, both of which are likely to be of less immediate interest to the reader, this work, based on the official record, is dedicated to the analysis of the trial itself. It has already appeared in Russian, as an editorial article in the Bulletin of the Opposition: the author has revised it for the French edition.

The inquiry is in its first few stages. New information and new evidence will not be lone in coming. Certain documents have not been given space in these pages because we do not consider it possible to render them public before they have been rigorously verified, as well as the circumstances connected with them.

The author of these lines keeps himself apart from active politics. He has never addressed himself to public opinion. He is only doing so today because compelling reasons have constrained him.

In Moscow, men have been trampled in the mud, shot for crimes they never committed and assassinated.

Leon Trotsky – the author’s father – has been slandered ignominiously, slandered as very few have been in history. All his revolutionary honor and all his work of forty years have been implicated.

And the slanders have already born fruit; Leon Trotsky is interned and condemned to silence so that, once accused, he may not become the accuser.

The author of these lines is also one of the accused in the Moscow trial. He has the right to defend himself. But it is above all a two-fold duty which is required of him. The duty of the only accused still at liberty to establish the truth; the duty to defend Trotsky’s honor.

The real trial, that of the Moscow executioners, has only just begun. Our only weapon is the truth. We are pursuing our task to the end, without weakening, whatever the difficulties that must be overcome. The truth will emerge.

Not a stone will remain standing of the monstrous Stalinist plot. The dreadful responsibility will come down on the Moscow Thermidorians.

Stalin’s crime will appear as it is, one of the greatest of modern history.

October 28, 1936\



Yes, Stalin must have very pressing reasons to begin the proceedings and carry out these assassinations. Reasons of different types, on different levels, but all closely linked. Stalin and his henchmen undoubtedly considered this trial not only a very cunning and clever move, but also the beginning of a new period marking the even greater reinforcement of the power of the Bonapartist [1] bureaucracy and the end of the Opposition. When Trotsky was still in the USSR, in other words in the hands of the Thermidorian clique, Stalin had considered that a meticulously prepared operation, ending in exile, was the best means of ridding himself of an irreconcilable Bolshevik. He was wrong. One does not need to have exceptional insight in order to understand how he is haunted by this mistake. Today, in the face of this ever renewing and ever growing opposition, he coldly orders the shooting of Bolsheviks, former leaders of the Party and the Comintern, and heroes of the Civil War. But here again he is wrong, as he will soon be forced to realize. This terrifying crime, carried out in cold blood, will fall back on the head of its author!

Domestic Political Reasons

Socialism has been constructed, classes have been abolished—proclaims the official Stalinist doctrine. “Socialism has been constructed,” but never before has the Soviet Union known such inequality as now, nearly twenty years after the October revolution: salaries of 100 rubles and salaries of 810,000 rubles. Some live in miserable barracks and walk about in worn-out shoes; others drive luxurious automobiles and live in magnificent apartments. Some struggle to feed themselves and their families; others have not only cars, but servants, country houses in the suburbs of Moscow, villas in the Caucasus, etc. “Classes have been abolished,” but what does the life of a director of a trust have in common with that of a laborer? The life of a marshal with that of a kolkhoznik? [2] Certainly, even today some inequality would still be inevitable, but the whole question is this, that the inequality becomes sharper every year, taking on more and more monstrous proportions, and this is made to pass ... for socialism.

In the most diverse areas, the heritage of the October revolution is being liquidated. Revolutionary internationalism gives way to the cult of the fatherland in the strictest sense. And the fatherland means, above all, the authorities. Ranks, decorations and titles have been reintroduced. The officer caste headed by the marshals has been reestablished. The old communist workers are pushed into the background; the working class is divided into different layers; the bureaucracy bases itself on the “non-party Bolshevik,” the Stakhanovist, that is, the workers’ aristocracy, on the foreman and, above all, on the specialist and the administrator. The old petit-bourgeois family is being reestablished and idealized in the most middle-class way; despite the general protestations, abortions are prohibited, which, given the difficult material conditions and the primitive state of culture and hygiene, means the enslavement of women, that is, the return to pre-October times. The decree of the October revolution concerning new schools has been annulled. School has been reformed on the model of tsarist Russia: uniforms have been reintroduced for the students, not only to shackle their independence, but also to facilitate their surveillance outside of school. Students are evaluated according to their marks for behavior, and these favor the docile, servile student, not the lively and independent schoolboy. The fundamental virtue of youth today is the “respect for one’s elders,” along with the “respect for the uniform.” A whole institute of inspectors has been created to look after the behavior and morality of the youth.

The Association of Old Bolsheviks and that of the former political prisoners has been dissolved. They were too strong a reminder of the “cursed” revolutionary past.

In the economic domain there is a sharp turn to the right: reestablishment of the market, money accounting [3] and piece work. After the administrative abolition of classes, the Stalinist leadership has turned to placing its bet on the well-to-do; it is according to this policy that the differentiation among the kolkhozes as well as inside the kolkhozes takes place.

“Socialism has been constructed.” But there are many prostitutes in the country and prostitution is growing. Most often the prostitute is a poorly paid worker or servant or a former kolkhoz worker driven from her village by hunger. The problem of abandoned children is far from being eliminated.

“Socialism has been constructed”—that is, the state should disappear and, in any case, force should play a smaller and smaller role. What is happening is just the opposite. Never before has repression been so severe and so universal in character, and the repression, directed in the past against the class enemies of the proletariat, is now directed against the proletariat itself, since it is against it that the new ruling social layer, the bureaucracy, defends its material privileges. By legal and illegal means, the bureaucracy appropriates an enormous portion of the national income. It has something to defend! The Soviet bureaucracy, which is getting fatter and more prosperous, furiously defends its privileges, its “easy and happy” life, against the masses who are deprived of any rights.

But at the same time, the material situation of the masses improves, even if extremely slowly and much less rapidly than the inequality increases. This gives them great confidence in themselves, leading not to a strengthening, but to a weakening of the political positions of the bureaucracy. The worker who a few years ago was entirely preoccupied with earning his daily bread, often working 14 and even 16 hours a day, in two shifts, struggled only to satisfy his hunger and to feed his family. The improvement of the economic situation has given him room to breathe and has increased his needs. First he wants to dress better, to have an overcoat, to go to the cinema. But that is only the beginning. The worker then feels the need to read, to attain culture; he begins to think about, or even strives to participate consciously in the process of production, to defend his interests and soon—what a crime!—he wants to take an active part in politics. This, of course, Stalin cannot permit. This is what he mortally fears.

The discontent of the worker, his strivings towards an active political life, his “oppositionist” protests against social inequality, the whole complex of brutal contradictions which tear apart the Soviet state;—this is what Stalin wishes to overcome by police repression! And to give the repression a still more merciless character, he needs “terrorism.” By confusing the masses, by frightening them, Stalin makes his bloody repression easier. Here is what awaits you, says Stalin, pointing to the corpses of Zinoviev and Kamenev, if you permit yourselves to doubt my infallibility, if you do not agree to become mute slaves of the bureaucracy.

If in the past each dissatisfaction, each protest, was labelled “Trotskyism,” Stalin has, by the Moscow murders, identified “Trotskyism” with “terrorism.” Whoever is discontented or simply shows a critical attitude is a “Trotskyist.” Today this means a “terrorist.” He is not threatened with the concentration camp or prison, but with an immediate firing squad.

Stalin is finally taking the road of the universal physical extermination of all the actively dissatisfied and, above all, the Left Oppositionists. As leaders of the struggle against the bureaucracy and the only proletarian revolutionaries having roots in the masses, the Bolshevik-Leninists are the greatest danger to Stalin. In the concentration camps and in solitary confinement, they will be declared “terrorists,” that is, sentenced to be shot. Throughout the USSR now, there are without a doubt “trials” and executions for which the Moscow trial served as a signal. A terrible and frightening reality ...

With the Moscow murders, Stalin lashes out against even his own apparatus, especially against the thin layer of it which is still made up of Old Bolsheviks, for in this part of the apparatus there exists widespread, though concealed, discontent. Having become the blind executor of the orders from the Stalinist summit, the former revolutionary loses all perspective; his rights are reduced to the right to be in ecstasy before the “father of the people.” He, better than most, knows Borgia-Stalin, the perfidious usurper, the cold-blooded assassin, the gravedigger of the revolution. And to keep a firm grip on his own apparatus, at least that part which is still tied by something to the October revolution, there is no longer anything left for Stalin to do but to terrorize it still more.

By means of the Moscow murders, Stalin also wants to politically annihilate the Left Opposition and Trotsky personally. The trial is directed above all against Trotsky, who is the principal defendant, although he is not seated on the defendants’ bench. It is he whom Stalin tries to cover with filth and blood. The resources of journalistic slander and calumny have been exhausted. With the bodies of those who were shot, Stalin wishes to add new weight to the most poisonous, rotten and vile slanders. If he had not shot Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others, the trial would have been exposed as a pitiful comedy, and not as a terrible tragedy. Only after being backed up by the assassinations did the slanders of the Moscow trials take on a new force that made them able to shake world public opinion.

By his executions, Stalin shows and wants to show, that the Bonapartist bureaucracy will stop at nothing in its struggle to keep the power it has usurped and maintain its privileges. The working class must remember it well.

But these assassinations show also how precarious the situation of the bureaucracy is. It is not due to an excess of strength that one goes to such bloody lengths. To consolidate its position, the bureaucracy—Stalin—must lead the country, already completely terrorized, to new and yet unknown forms of monstrous injustice and fierce repression. But this is a dead end. A way out—insofar as it depends upon the bureaucracy—can only be found along the road to a new, even deeper reaction. By the attempt to annihilate Trotsky politically and by the assassinations of old Bolsheviks. Stalin wants to make the road to reaction much more secure for himself.

The danger of war only intensifies the Bonapartist character of Stalinism. In case of imminent war, Stalin is counting not on the initiative and the courage of the working class in struggle for the communist ideal, but on the privileged caste of officers. on the submission of “inferiors.” stripped of every right and driven by fear, to the all-powerful “superiors.”

The execution of the old Bolsheviks—what a prelude to the “most democratic constitution in the world!” Let those who have illusions know—as Stalin would say—that the democracy of the constitution consists in giving the electors and the congresses the right to vote for him. And whoever does not vote for Stalin, that is, for the bureaucracy and its privileges, is a Trotskyist, therefore a terrorist whom we will have shot in 24 hours. The Stalinist constitution is a deceitful cover for the plebiscitary regime. [4]

Perhaps there was one more reason which pushed Stalin to the murder of the old Bolsheviks. It is the bureaucracy’s fear of terrorism, not organized terrorism, as it was represented at the Moscow trial, — nothing of the sort exists in the USSR—but of the isolated terrorists who come From the desperate youth deprived of perspectives. The terrorist tendencies are hardly strong in the USSR. In any case, during the ten years of bureaucratic rule, one political assassination has been carried out by one of these desperate young communists against the Stalinist bosses, the assassination of Kirov. It is much more likely that the bureaucracy artificially blows up this danger, with the aim of justifying and facilitating its repression against heretics and malcontents.

This is how it is inside the country, but outside?

Reasons of Foreign Policy

Stalin not only bloodily breaks with Bolshevism, with all its traditions and its past, he is also trying to drag Bolshevism and the October revolution through the mud. And he is doing it in the interests of world and domestic reaction. The corpses of Zinoviev and Kamenev must show to the world bourgeoisie that Stalin has broken with the revolution, and must testify to his loyalty and ability to lead a nation-state. The corpses of the old Bolsheviks must prove to the world bourgeoisie that Stalin has in reality radically changed his politics, that the men who entered history as the leaders of revolutionary Bolshevism, the enemies of the bourgeoisie,—are his enemies also. Trotsky, whose name is inseparably linked with that of Lenin as the leader of the October revolution, Trotsky, the founder and leader of the Red Army; Zinoviev and Kamenev, the closest disciples of Lenin, one, president of the Comintern, the other, Lenin’s deputy and member of the Politburo; Smirnov, one of the oldest Bolsheviks, conqueror of Kolchak—today they are being shot and the bourgeoisie of the world must see in this the symbol of a new period. This is the end of the revolution, says Stalin. The world bourgeoisie can and must reckon with Stalin as a serious ally, as the head of a nation-state. [5]

Such is the fundamental goal of the trials in the area of foreign policy. But this is not all, it is far from all. The German fascists who cry that the struggle against communism is their historic mission find themselves most recently in a manifestly difficult position. Stalin has abandoned long ago the course toward world revolution. He carries out a national policy which is “reasonable,” the Thermidorian measures follow one after another. It becomes more and more difficult for the fascists and other enemies of communism to represent Stalin, with his “nationalist” IIIrd International, as the source of revolutionary danger and upheavals. Thus they assert with such great insistence the slander that the IVth International is nothing but a branch of the IIIrd, on the basis of a division of labor. Some assist the Thermidorian policies of Stalin in the USSR, others (the IVth International) stir up the fires of revolution in the West; presenting themselves as the enemies of Stalin, they are in fact only his allies. [6]

This gives Stalin an additional argument for carrying out his assassinations and for actually condemning Trotsky to death. Here is the proof that Stalin has nothing in common either with the revolution or with the revolutionary IVth International.

Instead of the international revolution—the League of Nations, the bloc with the bourgeoisie in the framework of the so-called People’s Front, and in France there is the perspective of the French front, that is, the Holy Alliance. [7] No help whatsoever to the Spanish revolutionaries. Long live the Poland of Pilsudski! [8] Without hesitation Stalin would make a pact even with Hitler at the expense of the German and international working class. It only depends on Hitler! All these international policies of Stalinism move and will move the working class further and further away from the parties which for some reason still call themselves communist. In the European working class and in particular among the communist workers, the distrust and discontentedness toward the Stalinist policies are increasing. That in itself would not trouble Stalin very much if he did not fear that the revolutionary workers would find the way to the IVth International; Stalin understands very well how this orientation would constitute a great danger for his policies in the USSR itself. (In this respect, let us say, parenthetically, he is more astute than the narrow-minded critics who consider us “sectarians” without perspectives.) This is why Stalin tries to discredit the IVth International, to annihilate Trotsky politically by accusing him of terrorism and connections with the Gestapo and rendering these accusations “convincing” by the execution of old Bolsheviks ... with blood and filth, Stalin wants to close off to the advanced workers the road to the ranks of the IVth International. This is yet another one of the aims of the Moscow trials.

“Sweet Revenge”

Apart from the political reasons for this affair, there is a purely personal reason. Stalin’s insatiable thirst for revenge. It enters as a factor in all Stalinist affairs. It played no small part in the creation of the latest amalgam.

In one of the last letters which he wrote before his internment in Norway, L.D. Trotsky tells of the following episode:

In 1924 Stalin, Dzerzhinsky [9] and Kamenev were sitting on a summer night around a bottle of wine (I don’t know if it was the first) and chatting about various trifles when they came, during the conversation, to ask themselves what each of them likes most in life. I don’t remember what Dzerzhinsky or Kamenev (from whom I got this story) said. But Stalin said: What is best in life is to choose one’s victim, prepare the blow well, take revenge without pity, and then go to bed.

In the same letter, Trotsky reports, according to Krupskaya, [10] a declaration of Lenin’s about Stalin which was never published:

In the autumn of 1926 Krupskaya told me in the presence of Zinoviev and Kamenev: “Volodya (this is a nickname for Vladimir, i.e. Lenin) used to say of Stalin: "He lacks the most elementary honesty,’” And she repeated: “Do you understand? The simplest human honesty!” I have never published these words before because I did not want any harm to come to Krupskaya. But now that she helplessly swims with the official current and raises not the slightest voice of protest against the infamous crimes of the ruling clique, I consider myself to have the right to make these words of Lenin public.

(Trotsky did not know at that time of the miserable and odious article, as painful as it is to say, by Krupskaya on the trials.)

Let us recall again some of Lenin’s other declarations about Stalin. In March of 1923 Lenin was preparing the struggle against Stalin at the 12th Party Congress; through his secretary Fotieva, he told Trotsky — Do not enter into deals with Stalin, because “Stalin will make a rotten compromise and betray you.”

It is a “compromise” of this type that Stalin had made before the trial with Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others; in exchange for their confessions—their lives. And he betrayed them! And how horribly he betrayed them!

Even earlier Lenin had said of Stalin: “This cook will only prepare spicy dishes.” Lenin, although correctly exposing Stalin’s tendencies, could not by any stretch of the imagination guess how far this modern-day Cesare Borgia [11] would go.

Rudeness and disloyalty, perfidy and the absence of scruples, these are the most characteristic traits of Stalin. These personal traits of the “leader” have become the traits of the Bonapartist ruling clique. And it is this man whom Pravda declares to be as “pure and clear as a crystal!” There are no limits to human baseness!

Stalin, who, in the circles of the apparatus, has the reputation of being experienced at “measuring out doses,” is beginning to lose his self-control. He thereby accelerates the disintegration of his own absolutism.

The rise of the workers’ movement in the West and from there to the USSR will put an end to the corrupt regime of the Bonapartist clique.


[1] Bonapartist, Thermidorian: To help clarify the nature of the Stalinist reaction in the USSR, Trotsky developed the analogy to the French Revolution. On “Ninth Thermidor” (July 27, 1794), the revolutionary dictatorship of the Jacobins, led by Robespierre, was overthrown and replaced by the Directory, which represented the conservative wing of the bourgeoisie. On “Eighteenth Brumaire” (November 9, 1799), the Directory was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte, who established a military dictatorship, still resting on bourgeois property relations. Napoleon did not restore feudalism in France. Thermidorian is used hem to describe political reaction without a change in the fundamental class base of the regime. Bonapartism designates a one-man dictatorial rule in times of extreme crisis of the ruling class.

[2] Kolkhoznik:—worker on a collective farm.

[3] Money accounting: “In a communist society, the state and money will disappear. Their gradual dying away ought consequently to begin under socialism.” (Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed). In the Soviet Union, a workers state in transition between capitalism and socialism money had by no mans lost its historical role as a measure of value, means of exchange and medium of payment. Attempts to “abolish” money and establish “direct socialist distribution” were exemplified by the introduction of the food-card. By the 1930s, facing a crisis in the monetary system which included dangerously high inflation, Stalin re-introduced monetary accounting, wage scales and even piece-work to try to raise the productivity of labor. The Left Opposition had long since called for a stable unit of currency, even at the price of “a bold cutting down of capital investments” (1932).

[4] Plebiscitary regime: a form of rule where the vote is taken for or against a candidate or proposal without the voters having an alternative choice.

[5] O. Bauer is horrified about the impression the Moscow executions make on sincere, liberal and socialist friends of the USSR. For Stalin, this is a stage already passed through. He now has little use for these friends. In case of war, he seeks much more “solid” friends and allies among the bourgeoisie of France, England, America and other countries. (L.S.)

[6] With this goal, for example, the German fascists recently spread rumors about a pint conference of the IIIrd and IVth Internationals in Brede, about Stalin financing the IVth International, and other nonsense. (L.S.)

[7] This sentence was omitted in the revised French edition.

[8] Pilsudski (1867-1935): Polish politician and general. A one-time socialist and leader of the Polish Socialist party. Fought to free Poland from Tsarist Russia. Imprisoned in Siberia from 1887-1892. Led Polish troops in World War I. Fought against the Bolsheviks. Launched invasion of the Ukraine in May 1920, which was answered by the Red Army’s advance on Warsaw in August 1920. Emerged as a spokesman for the petit-bourgeoisie in opposition to the bourgeois National Democrats. On May 12, 1926, Marshal Pilsudski seized power in Poland. When the Polish Communist Party approved of the coup, Trotsky launched a campaign against what he felt was support for a fascist regime. Pilsudski remained in power at the head of a military dictatorship until his death in l935.

[9] Felix Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926): Polish revolutionist. Freed from tsarist prison by Bolsheviks in February 1917. Central Committee member in August 1917; member of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Organizer and Chairman of the Cheka in December 1917. Commissar for Internal Affairs in 1921. Active on many fronts in the Civil War. Sided with Stalin in February 1921 on the Georgian question. Commissar for Transport 1921, President of the Supreme Economic Council 1923, candidate member of the Politburo 1924. Opposed the Russian Opposition. Died of a heart attack on July 20, 1926.

[10] Nadezhda Konstantinova Krupskaya (l869-l939): Lenin’s wife, a leading Old Bolshevik and expert in education. After Lenin’s death in 1924, became alarmed at the rising bureaucracy headed by Stalin; joined briefly with the Left Opposition in 1926. Fearing a split in the party, withdrew from the Opposition. Became increasingly isolated, and by the purge trials of 1936-1938 was a virtual prisoner of the GPU. Died in February 1939.

[11] Cesare Borgia: infamous and unscrupulous Italian politician of the 15th century.



The naked declaration that the Opposition is a “counter-revolutionary party” is insufficient; no one will take it seriously ... There is only one thing left for Stalin, to try to draw a line of blood between the official party and the Opposition. He must at all costs link the Opposition to attempted assassinations, to the preparation of armed insurrection, etc.

(Trotsky, March 4, 1929, Bulletin of the Opposition., No. 1-2)

The Moscow murders were for many liberal democrats and socialists — Otto Bauer is a striking example of this—a bolt from the blue. Not understanding the meaning of the profound social changes which are occurring in the USSR, the bitter struggle between the bureaucracy, defending its material caste privileges, and the working class, deprived of its rights and beginning to raise a voice of protest, these enemies of the Russian Revolution in its herioc epoch now idealize the Thermidorian bureaucratic regime and Stalinist “socialism” and announce the gradual return of the USSR to democracy, since they see in the Stalinist plebiscite constitution the beginning of a new “democratic” era. On the heads of these naive Manilov [12] dreamers, Stalin has dumped a pail of cold water. With his murders he has introduced not only an amendment to “the most democratic” of constitutions, but also to the conceptions of all these gentlemen.

Without any pretense of passing for prophets, we, the Bolshevik-Leninists can say that we not only never had the slightest illusion about the Bonapartist regime of Stalin, that we not only foresaw such events, but dozens of times warned the proletariat in the West that Stalin would take the road of the bloody repression of Bolshevism, the road of bloody amalgams. He has no other way.

Stalin is not defending progressive ideas, but the caste privileges of a new social layer, the Soviet bureaucracy, which has long been a brake on the socialist development of the USSR. It is impossible to defend these privileges by the methods of proletarian democracy; one can defend them only by means of falsifications, slanders and bloody repression.

Stalin has been headed along this road, without deviating for several years now, since 1924, if not earlier. The Moscow trial is the most grandiose amalgam of Stalin, but it is far from the first (or the last).

At first Stalin proceeded cautiously, with small doses, gradually accustoming the consciousness of the party to more poisonous and vile amalgams like those of the last trial.

Already by 1926, at the height of the struggle inside the party, the GPU [13] had sent their agent to some young, unknown Oppositionist. The “liaison” between the Oppositionist and the GPU agent aided Stalin in accusing the Opposition of “connections with one of Wrangel’s officers” because it appears that in the past the GPU agent had been an officer in Wrangel’s army! That this “officer of Wrangel” was an agent of the GPU, the Stalinist machinery was obliged to recognize officially, forced into a corner as they were by the leaders of the Opposition who at the time were still members of the Central Committee. But in the meantime, Stalin had opened up a furious campaign of slanders against the Opposition for its connections with “Wrangel’s officer.” This campaign was conducted in the press, in party cells, in meetings; it stunned the masses who were not familiar with the hidden aspects of the case.

In 1928, an attempt was made to create an amalgam centering around G.V. Butov, Trotsky’s secretary in the War Commissariat. By using violence, Stalin wanted to fabricate a “plot” around Butov which would link him to the Whites and so on. In prison Butov was cruelly tortured, not only mentally, but also physically. He fought desperately, went on a hunger strike, fasted 40-50 days and as a result of this hunger strike, died in prison in September 1928. Only Butov’s firmness prevented Stalin from fabricating an amalgam at that time.

In January 1929, at the time of Trotsky’s exile, Stalin declared that Trotsky’s activity “in the recent past” was directed “toward the preparation of armed struggle against the Soviet government.” By the words “the recent past” Stalin wished to show that the Left Opposition had taken an abrupt turn, passing from the policy of reform to that of armed insurrection. Stalin needed this slanderous fabrication in order to justify Trotsky’s exile.

In the summer of 1929, Trotsky met in Istanbul with J. Blumkin. In 1918 Blumkin had assassinated the German ambassador, Count Mirbach, and had taken part in the armed insurrection of the Left Social Revolutionaries against the Soviet government. But at that time he had not been executed and for many years he had faithfully served the Soviet regime. He was shot in 1929 for having met with Trotsky in Istanbul. Before shooting Blumkin, the GPU had tried to build an amalgam of some kind around the Blumkin “affair.” But nothing came of it. Shortly after Blumkin’s execution, in the same year of 1929, two Left Oppositionists were shot in Moscow, Silov and Rabinovich. They were shot after an unsuccessful attempt to link them with a case of some type of “conspiracy” or “espionage.”

In 1932 Trotsky was deprived of Soviet citizenship, along with about a dozen Mensheviks whom Stalin had included on the same list only in order to create an amalgam: surround Trotsky with Mensheviks. That should, according to Stalin’s thinking, discredit Trotsky and show his counter-revolutionary character. But these were only the flowers, the fruits were yet to come.

Kirov’s assassination, a terrorist act by several Komsomols, [14] gave Stalin the long awaited and incomparable opportunity to build a “real” amalgam. This is how the case of Zinoviev, Kamenev and other famous Bolsheviks developed in 1935. The attempt to bring Trotsky into this amalgam ended, as we know, in a pitiful fiasco. But it was precisely this failure which impelled Stalin to prepare a new case. “Stalin is faced with the necessity of covering up the unsuccessful amalgams with new ones on a grander scale and ... with more success.” (Trotsky)

In the pamphlet dedicated to the assassination of Kirov in January 1935, Trotsky insistently warned that one must be ready “for new, even more monstrous amalgams.”

“What character the next attack will take,” he wrote, “this question has still not been resolved, perhaps even in the closest circle of the conspirators (Stalin, Yagoda...) Neither malicious desire nor material means are lacking for the conspirators. The preparation of ‘public opinion’ will be undertaken along the lines of the ‘terrorist’ dangers which threaten from the camp of the Trotskyists.”

It seems difficult to express oneself more clearly!

Between the first and last trials of Zinoviev, Stalin built still another amalgam (in mid-1935), no news of which reached the public press. The central figure of this amalgam was Kamenev; probably because Stalin needed to correct the error of the preceding trial, in which Kamenev was given a relatively light sentence (five years in prison). Kamenev was accused of having taken part in an attempt on Stalin’s life. The main witness of the prosecution was Kamenev’s brother, the artist Rosenfeld. There were thirty defendants, a very suspicious gathering. Kamenev categorically denied any participation in this affair and later told his comrades in prison at the Verkhne-Uralsk isolator that most of the defendants were people whom he had seen for the first time in his life at the trial. Kamenev was then sentenced to five more years of imprisonment.

It is to this affair that Kamenev alludes in his final speech at the Moscow trials, when he says: “It is for the third time that I appear before the court.”

But during the trial itself nothing is said of this case. Nothing is said of it because any previous amalgam only constrains Stalin in the preparation of new ones. And Stalin is still far from having said his last word.

In May 1936 Trotsky wrote: “It is now 1936. The methods of Stalin are the same. The political dangers facing him have grown. The techniques of Stalin and Yagoda have been enriched by the experience of several failures. This is why we must have no illusions. The spiciest dishes are yet to come!”

These lines were written at a time when the preparation of the trial was already well underway. The Moscow trial has fully confirmed Trotsky’s prediction. We repeat: the spiciest dishes are yet to come.


[12] Manilov: sycophantic character in Gogol’s Dead Souls.

[13] GPU: the State Political Administration, i.e., the Soviet secret police.

[14] Komsomol: communist youth.



All the latest Stalinist amalgams have been constructed over Kirov’s corpse. To see clearly into the Moscow trials, one must first of all recall the history of this assassination and the circumstances connected with it.

On December 1, 1934 in Leningrad, the terrorist Nikolaev assassinated Kirov.

For more than two weeks, nothing was known of the assassin personally, or of the nature of the assassination.

On the 6th, 12th, and 18th of December the Soviet newspapers printed the news of the execution of terrorist White Guards (104 people in all), the majority of whom had come to the USSR illegally from Poland, Latvia, Finland and Romania. They created the impression that these people were shot in connection with the Nikolaev affair, that is, that Nikolaev had been connected with White Guards.

On December 17, sixteen days after the assassination, in resolutions of party organizations on the assassination of Kirov, came the first mention that Nikolaev had at one time been a member of the “Zinovievist anti-party group.” (Furthermore, the entire Leningrad party organization had joined this group in 1926.)

The mention of Nikolaev as a “Zinovievist” revealed Stalin’s intentions at one stroke: to attempt to implicate the Left Opposition and Trotsky in the assassination of Kirov, by means of the old Zinovievist group which, although it had broken with the Opposition in January 1928, was easier, from the policeman’ s point of view, to draw into the case.

On December 22, Tass [16] announced that in connection with the assassination of Kirov, fourteen old Zinovievists had been arrested (Kotolynov, Shatsky, Mandelstam and others), the majority of whom were supposedly part of a so-called “Leningrad Center.” This center, whose existence was Far from proven, was characterized by the news as “closed”; it said nothing of Zinoviev, Kamenev, or of any other known Zinovievist.

On December 23, new information was published indicating that a week before (on December 16), Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakaev, etc, had already been arrested in connection with the Nikolaev affair; for seven of them, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Evdokimov, “given the absence of sufficient evidence,” judicial prosecution would not be undertaken; they would be handed over to the GPU for administrative punishment.

On December 27 the newspapers published the formal indictment for the case of Nikolaev, Kotolynov and others, in which there was not a word mentioned about the Zinoviev group and its participation in Kirov’s assassination. [17]

On December 28 and 29 the trial of the fourteen (Nikolaev, Kotolynov and others) took place, and, as we know, they were condemned to death and shot.

At the trial of the fourteen, the overwhelming majority of the defendants, in spite of a four-week investigation, did not admit their participation in Kirov’s assassination. Besides Nikolaev, only Zvezdov and Antonov admitted it fully and Yuzkin partially, that is, four out of the fourteen.

If, as it is turns out according to the new version at the Moscow trial, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev and the others were not only connected with the Leningrad Center, which is supposed to have committed the murder of Kirov, but also immediately and practically directed the assassination, how can one explain that an investigation conducted for an entire month established absolutely no evidence in this respect? Why would the defendants who gave full depositions have decided to conceal at all costs precisely the role of Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others? Why would the participation of these men have been concealed as well by the GPU agent [18] who was located in Nikolaev’s entourage?

The only explanation for it is that Zinoviev, Kamenev, and the others had nothing to do with Kirov’s assassination. It is precisely for that reason that, as long as they had not yet been completely broken, they could not be accused of Kirov’s assassination.

On January 16, 1935 the Soviet newspapers published the formal indictment in the case of the so-called Moscow Center, with Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and the others at its head.

Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and the others, whom the press had only a few weeks earlier declared as having no part in Kirov’s assassination, were now being brought to trial in connection with this murder. The case took a new turn. On January 15 and 16 the court pronounced judgment on the fate of Zinoviev, Kamenev, et al., 19 defendants in all. They were accused of striving for the “restoration of capitalism” and of counter-revolutionary activity in general. Not a single concrete fact, no proof, was introduced by the prosecution. During the trial, it was only stated that by their “malevolent criticism,” by “spreading rumors,” Zinoviev, Kamenev, et al, had encouraged terrorist moods, and that consequently they bore the political and moral responsibility for the Kirov murder. At the same time, the court considered it established that none of the accused had anything to do with the assassination itself, although there had been no doubt on this subject in the mind of any man who was the least bit informed and politically experienced. If Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others had had the slightest hand in Kirov’s assassination how could one explain, once again, that the new investigation (from December 16, 1934 to January 15, 1935) had also not uncovered a single thread leading to Kirov’s murder? And in the Zinoviev-Kamenev affair dozens of people were implicated who were already demoralized for the most part and who accused themselves and others of non-existent crimes. Yet none of them, either by word or by allusion, be it ever so “unintentional,” gave into the hands of the GPU the thread leading to the participation of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others in Kirov’s assassination!

Stalin had to content himself in 1935 with the admission by Zinoviev and the others of “political and moral responsibility” for Kirov’s murder, and even this admission was wrenched from them under the threat of the firing squad. But by the insolent and deliberately ambiguous formulation of the verdict,—“the investigation has not established the facts” of the participation of Zinoviev and the others in Kirov’s assassination,—Stalin retained the possibility of “developing” the case in the future, depending on how the situation worked out.

All the accused avoided the firing squad at that time. They were sentenced to long prison terms. Even then it was totally clear that the arrest and conviction of Zinoviev and Kamenev were provoked not by their activity (it was nonexistent), but by Stalin’s plans: striking at this group meant striking at all the oppositionist moods in the country, in particular inside the bureaucracy itself, where Zinoviev and Kamenev still showed certain authority, and above all—striking out at “Trotskyism.”

No sooner had the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev come to its end, than a new case, the third case in connection with Kirov’s assassination, had begun. On January 23, 1935, twelve leaders of the Leningrad GPU appeared before the military Tribunal under the following indictment: “While having information at their disposal on an attempt being prepared against Kirov ... they had demonstrated an attitude which was not only careless, but also criminally negligent ... by not taking the necessary measures.”

We thus learned, with complete surprise, that the GPU had “information at their disposal” about the attempt being prepared against Kirov, and that the heads of the Leningrad GPU “had not taken measures to bring to light and stop the activity of Kirov’s assassin in Leningrad, L. Nikolaev, even though they had all the necessary opportunities to do so.”

In what way could the GPU have known and had “every necessary opportunity?” In only one way: amongst the Leningrad terrorists, the GPU had an agent provocateur (perhaps even more than one), directly associated with Nikolaev.

The trial of the members of the Leningrad GPU and the very formulation of the verdict demonstrate irrefutably that Kirov’s assassination did not happen without the GPU having had a hand in it. The verdict states literally that “they were informed (sic!) of the attempt being prepared against Kirov ... and they acted with criminal negligence.” Trotsky had already explained in his pamphlet devoted to Kirov’s murder that “negligence” had nothing to do with it and that: “When the preparation of the terrorist attack, of which the GPU knew, had already begun, the task of Medved (chief of the GPU in Leningrad) and his collaborators was not at all to arrest the conspirators—that would have been too simple—it was necessary to find the appropriate consul, to put him in touch with Nikolaev ... and establish a link between the Zinoviev-Kamenev group and the Leningrad terrorists. It was not an easy job. It demanded time and Nikolaev refused to wait.

Medved was an instrument in the hands of Stalin-Yagoda, nothing more. Stalin consequently bears not only the political but also the direct responsibility for Kirov’s assassination. Certainly Stalin and the GPU did not want this assassination, they were counting on arresting the terrorists at the last moment, but while preparing the amalgam (between the consul and Trotsky) they “played with Kirov’s head.” This game was interrupted by Nikolaev’s premature pistol shot. Left unfinished, the combination made between the consul and Trotsky collapsed pitifully. Even the trial against Zinoviev and Kamenev had to be built upon accusations “in general” without any possibility of linking them with Kirov’s assassination. Now, about a year and a half later, without the least new fact, a new case the fourth!—has come to fruition in the backstage area of the GPU around Kirov’s body: Zinoviev, Kamenev and others, it turns out, organized and carried out Kirov’s assassination.

The fact that the terrorist activity of Zinoviev and the others could not be established earlier is explained, according to the GPU, by the exclusive secrecy of the conspirators.

Is this true? The Moscow trial gives a completely contradictory picture. In theory, there is an extraordinary conspiracy, which goes so far as to plan the murders of those who carried out the terrorist acts after the seizure of power, in order to erase every trace; in practice, there is incessant chatter about terror, endless meetings, trips, communications.

Let us demonstrate this with the facts. In order to prepare Kirov’s murder, Bakaev goes to Leningrad and joins Kotolynov, Levin, Rumiantsev, Mandelstam, and Miasnikov. [19] (These are all people who were executed in the Nikolaev affair.) Bakaev meets five people! But that is not enough for him.

It turns out that he has not gone to Leningrad alone, but with some “Trotskyist-terrorist” (whose name is not cited and whose identity the court does not even attempt to establish.) As if Bakaev were visibly trying to fail, he asks to “assemble the men.” “A little later, in Levin’s apartment were gathered, in addition to himself and Mandelstam, Sositsky, Vladimir Rumiantsev, Kotolynov and Miasnikov” (at this meeting the only one missing is Medved!). [20] Evidently thinking that everything had not yet been done to make sure that the affair would be discovered, Bakaev also asks that he be introduced to Nikolaev personally. He meets with Nikolaev and discusses Kirov’s assassination with him and not with him alone, but in the presence of the same “anonymous” Trotskyist, as if he were trying hard to have a witness.

Still another interesting detail. At the time of his journey to Leningrad, Levin meets Bakaev at the station. He complains to him: “Well, Grigori Evseievich (Zinoviev) does not trust Gertik or Kuklin or even Evdokimov.” Thus we learn—it was also mentioned in the indictment—that Gertik, Kuklin and Evdokimov were also connected with the Leningrad terrorists. And this is called “secrecy”!

Zinoviev not only personally sends Bakaev, Gertik, Kuklin and Evdokimov (and later, as we will see, Kamenev himself) to Leningrad to make contact with the terrorists, but further considers it necessary to talk about it right and left. Thus, for example, Reingold, who, according to the court evidence, took no direct part in the terrorist act against Kirov, declares: “I learned from Zinoviev himself that Kirov’s assassination in Leningrad was prepared under his own direction ...” It seems that Zinoviev is very worried that his personal role in the assassination of Kirov will remain unnoticed and insufficiently appreciated. The same Reingold indicates that Faivilovich also kept in touch with the Leningrad terrorists.

Bakaev indicates that Kirov’s murder was also entrusted to Karev, while Evdokimov proposed to put Karev in touch with Levin and Anishev. Of course, that seemed insufficient to Zinoviev and he proposed to “put Bakaev, in Leningrad, in touch with Rumiantsev as well.” Thus Karev is linked to Levin, Anishev and Rumiantsev. In addition, Bakaev, during a “conversation,” informs Karev of the existence of Kotolynov’s terrorist group. The affair does not stop there. It turns out that in June 1934, Kamenev went personally to Leningrad; “where he ordered the active Zinovievist, Yakovlev, to prepare, parallel to the Nikolaev-Kotolynov group, an attempt on Kirov”; in addition Kamenev tells Yakovlev that other groups are preparing terrorist acts as well: in Moscow against Stalin; in Leningrad, the Rumiantsev-Kotolynov group against Kirov.

In search of new listeners, Zinoviev relates his terrorist intentions to—everyone! everyone!—Matorin and Pikel, while Pikel puts Bakaev in contact with another “terrorist,” Radin.

After an absence of almost two years, Mrachkovsky returns to Moscow in the summer of 1934. Kamenev tells him immediately that “in Leningrad Bakaev is organizing ... a terrorist act against Kirov.”

Evdokimov finally testifies that “in the summer of 1934, in Kamenev’s apartment in Moscow a meeting took place which was attended by Kamenev, Zinoviev, Evdokimov, Sokolnikov, Ter-Vaganian, Reingold and Bakaev. It was decided at this meeting to speed up the assassination of Kirov.”

Thus it turns out that dozens of terrorists—the number just of those mentioned above adds up to 24—chatted for many months about terror, travelled to terrorist meetings, had terrorist conferences, etc., etc. They talked in every direction about it; all their friends and acquaintances knew they were preparing Kirov’s murder; the only ones not to know ... were the GPU. And when the GPU, finally made some arrests after Kirov’s assassination, it was not able to extract any information from them. After nearly two months of investigation of the Kirov case, with the presence, we repeat, among the terrorists of an agent (or agents) of the GPU and three trials, the GPU, in spite of everything, still has no suspicion of the “terrorist activity” of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others. It seems that the affair is taking place on the moon and not in the USSR, which is completely ensnared in the nets of the omnipotent GPU.

All this uproar and all this improbable “terrorist” turmoil is raised around Kirov. Why then Kirov? Let us admit for an instant that Zinoviev and Kamenev were really terrorists. Why would they have needed to assassinate Kirov? Zinoviev and Kamenev were too intelligent not to understand that the assassination of Kirov, absolutely a third-rate figure, immediately replaced by another Kirov-Zhdanov, could not “bring them close to power.” However, in the words of the verdict, they were hoping for one thing only—to obtain power by terrorist means!

Let us also note the following: Zinoviev, says Vyshinsky, hurried up Kirov’s assassination and the “desire to out-do the terrorist-Trotskyists was not the least of his motives,” and at another point: “Zinoviev declared that for them it was a ’question of honor’ to accomplish their criminal desire (Kirov’s assassination) faster than the Trotskyists.”

Bakaev, for his part, declared before the court: “Zinoviev said that the Trotskyists, following Trotsky’s orders, had undertaken the organization of Stalin’s assassination and that we (that is, the Zinovievists) must take the initiative for Stalin’s assassination into our own hands.”

If Zinoviev had wanted thus to cover up[21] his participation and that of his friends in the terrorist acts, he ought to have been very pleased that the “Trotskyists” were taking upon themselves all the risks and that by doing so, the Zinovievists, all the while keeping out of danger, would be able, afterwards, to reap the fruits of victory.

Here there is something clearly absurd: either Zinoviev wants to cover up his participation in the terrorist acts, or he gives these acts the character of a political demonstration (it is we, the Zinovievists, and not the Trotskyists, who ...). But not both at the same time!

There is no doubt that if one tenth of that which the defendants were accused of were true, they would have been tried and shot at least two years ago.

Kirov’s assassination was the act of a few desperate Komsomols from Leningrad, without any connection whatsoever with any central terrorist organization (none existed). Neither Zinoviev, nor Kamenev, nor any other of the old Bolsheviks had anything to do with Kirov’s assassination.


[16] TASS: the news agency of the Soviet Union.

[17] An attempt was made to drag L.D. Trotsky into the case immediately with the help of the anonymous consul. For details, see page 27. (L.S.)

[18] See page 17.

[19] The testimony of Evdokimov and Bakaev. (L.S.)

[20] Medved: the head of the Leningrad GPU.

[21] Reingold for example, testified, and the court considered the fact established, that Zinoview had told him: "The principal practical task is to organize the terrorist work in a sufficiently conspiratorial way, so that we do not compromise ourselves at any point." (L.S.)


(January 1935-August 1936)

The Moscow trial actually was, and in any case had to be, a revision of the first trial of January 15-16, 1935, in which Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakaev and others were sentenced to long years of imprisonment. The verdict of the January 1935 trials said that “the inquiry had not been able to establish the facts which would provide the basis for directly charging the members of the ‘Moscow Center’ with having given their assent to the organization of the terrorist act directed against Comrade Kirov or of having given any instructions on this subject.”

These “facts” were supposedly now established. Hence the new trial. Such is the official version. The “case” of Zinoviev and the others is being reconsidered.

One might have thought that the trial would have to proceed from the evidence of the first trial, from its entire “structure,” enlarging and completing what had “not been established” in the past, openly correcting, without forgetting to explain the reasons, the “error” of the first trial.

Nothing of the sort! The trial does not even attempt to establish the continuity—it would have been wasted effort!—between the first and second trials, proceeding from the evidence of the first trial, etc. It simply casts it aside as useless rubbish, thus exposing the first trial as a machination of the police, which was necessary then, but not now. It is extremely instructive to compare the trials. It unmasks the whole lie of the Stalinist judicial “constructions.”

The “Moscow Center” and the “Unified Center”

At the first trial, the entire indictment hinged on the so-called “Moscow Center” (Zinovievists) whose members were, according to the prosecution: Sharov, Kuklin, Gertik, Fedorov, Gorshenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and Bakaev, that is, exclusively Zinovievists. Not one word was mentioned in the case about “Trotskyists,” not only the real ones, but even those who capitulated, such as Smirnov and Mrachkovsky (pseudo-Trotskyists).

At the present trial the Moscow Center has been almost completely forgotten and the prosecution is constructed exclusively upon the activity of the so-called “Unified Center” (of an altogether different composition). At the first trial, this Unified Center was never mentioned at all, for the simple reason that ... the GPU had not yet succeeded in inventing it.

Neither the court, nor the prosecutor makes any attempt to clarify what were the political and organizational relationships between the so-called Moscow [22] Center and the Unified Center. However this question ought to have been of great interest to the prosecution, all the more so since the first center was joined by a number of people who were not in the second and a few, such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev and Evdokimov, belonged to both centers.

According to the prosecutor’s explanation, Zinoviev, Kamenev and others—19 defendants in all—(to whom the 14 shot in the Nikolaev case must be added) simply hid the existence of the Unified Center in December 1934, and January 1935, while acknowledging everything else that was demanded of them. Inconceivable! Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others had spared neither themselves nor those near them, but for some reason concealed the role of the “Trotskyists,” in particular, for whom they had never harbored any especially tender feelings and the implication of whom at that time might have really eased the fate of Zinoviev and Kamenev, because the main blow of the GPU was obviously aimed at Trotskyism.

The Nineteen and the Four

At the first trial of Zinoviev and others, 19 people were sentenced. Here is the list: 1. Zinoviev, ten years in prison as the “principal organizer and leader of the Moscow Center”; 2. Gertik, A.N.; 3. Kuklin, A.S.; and 4. Sakhov, B.N.—as “the most active participants,” ten years each in prison; 5. Sharov, Y.V.; 6. Evdokimov, G.E.; 7. Bakaev, I.P.; 8. Gorshenin, I.S. and 9. Tsarkov, A.N.—eight years in prison. 10. Fedorov, G.V.; 11. Herzberg, A.V.; 12. Hessen, S.M.; 13. Tarasov, I.I.; 14. Perimov, A.V.; 15. Anishev, A.I. and 16. Faivilovich, L.Y.—six years each. 17. Kamenev, L.B.; 18. Bashkirov, A.S. and 19. Brave, B.L.—(as “less active participants”) to five years each in prison.

In connection with this case, 49 people were condemned to internment in a concentration camp for four to five years, including Zalutsky, Vardin, and others, and 29 people were sentenced to exile for two to five years. In total, 97 people, former leaders of the former Zinoviev Opposition.

Of the 19 convicted in the first trial, one finds in the present trial, chosen with the utmost arbitrariness, only four. Why were the 15 others not called, even if only as witnesses? What has become of these 15 men? Why were only four implicated and why precisely these four? Let us recall once more: the verdict cites, among the most “active,” next to Zinoviev, Gertik, Kuklin, and Sakhov, (10 years in an isolator [23]), whereas Evdokimov and Bakaev had been placed in the category of people who were less active and Kamenev in the category of the least active (“only” five years in an isolator).

It now turns out that Kamenev, along with Zinoviev, Bakaev and Evdokimov, was one of the principal leaders. On the other hand, Gertik, Kuklin and several others, although mentioned several times in the present trial as leading terrorists, are not on the defendants’ bench! Many among the “19” are not even mentioned in the new case. One must suppose that as far as they were concerned, what took place in 1935 was a judicial error. It was necessary either to implicate them or to rehabilitate them, in any case to call them as witnesses.

At first 19 old Bolsheviks are sentenced to long prison terms for taking part, although “it is not established,” in Kirov’s assassination, then four of them, at Stalin’s choice, are implicated in a new trial and shot. The fate of the others remains unknown. And there was, in spite of everything, a juridical scoundrel (the English lawyer Pritt) who had the effrontery to characterize the “procedure” of this trial as an “example for the whole world!”

The four Zinovievists arbitrarily included in the trial Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and Bakaev—were obviously not chosen in the interests of justice, but for political and police reasons. Stalin needed Zinoviev and Kamenev to give this trial its full political significance. Bakaev and Evdokimov were, most likely, those whom it was possible to break and without whom the implication of Zinoviev and Kamenev by themselves would have been difficult. The fact that Kuklin and Gertik, above all, were not included in this trial can only be explained, so it seems, by the fact that it was impossible to break them. For this reason they suited Stalin very poorly, even as witnesses, in this “exemplary” trial. It also cannot be excluded that certain of them constitute a Stalinist reserve in case of new trials.

The Price of the Confessions

At the Moscow trial, no document, no material proof, (Olberg’s Honduras passport cannot be taken seriously) was introduced, no witness who was not directly implicated in the case was called. The last trial, just like the first one in 1935, was constructed exclusively on the confessions (full of lies) of the accused themselves, who were at the same time the (false) witnesses of the prosecution. Four of them, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and Bakaev had already made depositions at the first trial. Let us compare them:

January 1935 August 1936
Kamenev acknowledged that he “did not fight actively or energetically enough against the demoralization which was the consequence of the struggle against the party and upon which ground a band of brigands (Nikolaev and others) could spring up and carry out their crime.”
“Acknowledged ... that he did not break all ties with Zinoviev.”
(What a fearsome crime!)
Vyshinsky: “You therefore confirm that there existed in your company such a monstrous plan (the taking of power by terror)?”
Kamenev: “Yes, this monstrous plan existed.”
Vyshinsky: “Was the assassination of Kirov your direct work?”
Kamenev: “Yes.”
Bakaev declares that “here among the Zinovievists there was only malevolent and hostile criticism of the most important measures taken by the party.” (Not one word about the attempts terror, the “Unified Center:” etc!) Vyshinsky: “You were ordered to organize the assassination of Comrade Stalin?”
Bakaev: “Yes.”
Vyshinsky: “You took part in Kirov’s assassination?”
Bakaev: “Yes.”
Zinoviev (under the threat of the gun) says that “... the party is absolutely correct when it speaks of the political responsibility of the old ‘Zinovievist’ anti-party group for the assassination which has just been accomplished.” Vyshinsky: “This center was composed of you. Kamenev, et al.?”
Zinoviev (Again under the threat of the gun): “Yes.”
Vyshinsky: “That means all of you organized Kirov’s murder?”
Zinoviev: “Yes.”
Vyshinsky: “That means all of you killed Comrade Kirov?”
Zinoviev: “Yes.”
Evdokimov: “We must bear the responsibility (for Kirov’s murder), because it is the venom with which we poisoned those around us during a 10-year period which made possible the realization of this crime.” Vyshinsky: “Do you acknowledge that it was with your collaboration that Kirov’s assassination was prepared?”
Evdokimov: “Yes. I admit it.”

After having heaped upon themselves the slander that they bore political responsibility for Kirov’s assassination in 1935, Zinoviev and the others began to yield to Stalin’s demands and in 1936 piled on the still more monstrous slander of having assassinated Kirov and prepared other attempts. These men lied both in 1935 and in 1936. But their lie of 1935—the self-acknowledgement of the “political responsibility” for Kirov’s assassination—is nothing in comparison with the frightful lie of 1936, the character of which is so tortured and forced! This “yes, yes” repeated at each question by the prosecutor, doesn’t that alone reveal that all these confessions are a lie? Vyshinsky himself qualifies the testimony of the accused as “deceit, lies, ... concealment,” unworthy of “the slightest confidence.”

We ask: Of what value is the testimony of accused men who “have lied previously as they are lying now!” ... (Prosecutor Vyshinsky)? And of what value is this trial based exclusively on this testimony, that is, on “deceit, lies ... concealment”?

The “Restoration of Capitalism” or the “Thirst for Personal Power”?

In connection with the first trial, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been accused of supporting the return to capitalism, “capitalist restoration.” It is with this refrain that the Soviet newspapers of that period (the beginning of 1935) persecuted Zinoviev and Kamenev.

If one could not—then—establish the nature of the activity of Zinoviev and Kamenev (terror), at least their purpose had been clearly established: the re-establishment of capitalism.

At the second trial, the “restoration of capitalism” was completely forgotten. A new version was given: “... It is irrefutably established that the only motive for the organization of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist block was the attempt to seize power at any cost,” (The Indictment). The prosecutor repeated it dozens of times: “For power, power at any price, the thirst for personal power, that is the entire ideology of this gang.”

The sentence is passed, the accused are condemned and shot for using terror while striving for personal power. And suddenly, several weeks after this trial, Stalin gives the order to return to the first version, evidently considering it more “propitious.” Pravda (September 12) publishes a thunderous article according to which the defendants “... attempted to hide the true purpose of their struggle. They gave the version that they had no program. In tact, their program did exist. It was the program of the destruction of socialism and the reestablishment of capitalism.” And now the entire “critical review” takes this direction. One of the most important questions—the motive of the accused—is revised by a number of newspaper articles, completely ignoring all that was said before the court.

When Stalin needs to prove that the defendants are people without principles, he declares that they have no program and that there is only the “thirst for power.” When he must prove their “counterrevolutionary character,” he announces without embarrassment that they were not seeking power for its own sake, but the reestablishment of capitalism. What unceremonious behavior a decade of uncontrolled power has taught these people!

The End of the Legend of the Consul

By implicating the Zinoviev group in Kirov’s assassination in 1935, Stalin wanted above all to strike a blow at “Trotskyism” through this group. This was his principal aim. At the same time, the attempt was to directly associate the name of Trotsky with the Nikolaev affair.

On-the twentieth day (!) of interrogation (December 20, 1934) Nikolaev finally indicated that an anonymous consul, whom he frequently visited, “had said that he could establish a link with Trotsky if I would deliver a letter from the group to Trotsky.” And that is all.

As we can see, the initiative for this proposition came from the anonymous consul; furthermore, the prosecution and the court at Nikolaev’s trial did not even judge it necessary to make clear if any letter had been written and transmitted to Trotsky, if Trotsky had responded, etc. The GPU preferred not to go into these details, rightly fearing that they would compromise themselves and discredit their amalgam.

On December 29, 1934, Le Temps announced that “foreign circles in Moscow ... are lost in conjectures over the nationality of this diplomat.” On December 30, the telegraph agency announced that “a conference of the consuls was held, at which it was decided ... to demand of the Soviet authorities that they publicly name the suspected consul.”

Stalin was thus forced on January 2, 1935 to name the consul. “The foreign consul mentioned in the indictment in the case concerning Kirov’s assassination is the Latvian consul, M. Bissinieks.” And the next day, January 3, Tass announced that the consul who was mentioned had been “recalled by his government.”

The consul didn’t feel it necessary to deny anything or to give any information. He didn’t even feel it necessary to indicate why he had needed a letter from the terrorist Nikolaev to Trotsky. He no doubt had serious reasons not only for covering up the amalgam of the GPU, but even for participating in it.

In Moscow, people quickly understood that the amalgam with the consul had not been successful and that it was better to be silent about it. Thus it was with all the more insistence that Moscow ordered its French lackeys to raise a storm against Trotsky in order, particularly, to create police difficulties for him in France where he was then living. (What did not succeed in France at that time, has just succeeded in Norway.) With still unsurpassed gall, Duclos [24] wrote in L’Humanité (December 29, 1934): “It is proven (where? when? how?) that between the assassin Nikolaev and his associates, Trotsky and the diplomatic representative of an imperialist power (Latvia!) there existed ties (??) which make it possible to establish Trotsky’s responsibility for Kirov’s assassination.” “The consul,” continues L’Humanité, “served as a link between Trotsky and the group of assassins in Leningrad.”

The consul served—in 1935—as the sole “basis” for accusing Trotsky of participating in Kirov’s assassination. “Trotsky’s hands are red with the blood of a proletarian leader (Kirov)!” howled L’Humanité. The proof? The consul!

At the Moscow trial, however, this consul was purely and simply forgotten. He, who had been the “link,” who had proved that “a connection did exist” between Trotsky and Nikolaev, etc.,—and suddenly not a word, not a single word! The unsuccessful amalgam was casually tossed onto the garbage heap and ... replaced by another.

Can anyone compromise himself more? Whose confidence can these men lay claim to when they expose themselves as slanderers and falsifiers?!


[22] We are sure that the Moscow (Zinovievist) center never existed on the face of the earth. Bound by long years of mutual effort, people met, conversed, criticized ... and that’s all. Vyshinsky announced, for example, that “Kamenev said (in January 1935) that he did not know that there had been a ‘Moscow Center’ ... He (Kamenev) says that in so far (?) as this center existed) and this is proven (???), then he answers for it”! (L.S.)

[23] Isolator: a special political prison or solitary confinement.

[24] Jacques Duclos: Born in 1896. After war service in which he was wounded, he joined the (French) Communist Party after the Tours Congress and rapidly became a leading figure. Elected deputy in 1926, he acquired a reputation as an orator and an accomplished parliamentarian. Too volatile to become party leader, he performed as second string to Thorez and was unfalteringly faithful to the dictates of Stalin. Trotsky regarded him as a GPU agent. During the occupation, he went underground and directed the party’s activities while Thorez was in Moscow. Has produced lengthy memoirs which deform the history of the period and excuse Stalinist policies.


(The Accused and Their Accusers)

The defendants are sharply divided into two groups. The basic nucleus of the first group consists of old Bolsheviks, known world-wide, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and others. The second group are young unknowns, among whom are also some direct agents of the GPU; they were necessary at the trial to demonstrate that Trotsky had taken part in terrorist activity, to establish a link between Zinoviev and Trotsky, and to establish a link with the Gestapo. If after having fulfilled the tasks assigned to them by the GPU they were nonetheless shot, it is because Stalin could not leave any such well-informed witnesses alive.

The artificial combination of these two groups at the trial is a typical amalgam.

The very conduct of the two groups at the trial is as different as their composition. The old men sit there absolutely broken, crushed, answer in a faint voice, even cry. Zinoviev is thin, stooped, grey, his cheeks hollow. Mrachkovsky spits blood, loses consciousness, they carry him away. They all look like people who have been run into the ground and completely exhausted. But the young rogues conduct themselves in an easy and carefree manner, they are fresh-faced, almost cheerful. They feel as though they are at a party. With unconcealed pleasure they tell about their ties with the Gestapo and all their other fables. [25]

The Accused of the First Group

1. Zinoviev, G.E. (born in 1883), a Bolshevik since the formation of the Bolshevik fraction in 1903, for many years Lenin’ s closest collaborator in emigration. Member of the Central Committee and the Politburo, chairman of the Petersburg Soviet after the October Revolution. One of the founders of the Communist International, its permanent chairman for many years. He left the Opposition in January 1928.

2. Kamenev, L.B. (born in 1883), like Zinoviev, a member of the party since 1901, Bolshevik since the formation of the fraction at the Second Congress, Lenin’s long-time collaborator during his years of exile, former member of the Central Committee and the Politburo. Chairman of the Moscow Soviet and Chairman of the Soviet of Labor and Defense, Deputy Chairman of the Soviet of People’s Commissars. Left the Opposition in January 1928.

3. Evdokimov, G.E. (born in 1884), one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks, leader of the Leningrad Soviet and of the Leningrad party organization, former member of the Central Committee and the Organization Bureau of the Central Committee. A Zinovievist, he left the Opposition in January 1928.

4. Bakaev, I.P. (born in 1887), one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks, former member of the Central Control Commission, prominent participant in the Civil War; at one time headed the Leningrad Cheka. [26] A Zinovievist, he left the Opposition in January 1928.

5. Smirnov, I.N. (born in 1880), a member of the party since 1899, one of the oldest Bolsheviks, several times endured prison and exile under tsarism. Took an active part in the October Revolution; leader of the Vth Army which crushed Kolchak. Directed all the activities of the Soviets and the party in Siberia after the victory. Member of the Central Committee and People’s Commissar of the Post and Telegraph. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

6. Mrachkovsky, S.V. (born in 1883), a Urals worker from a revolutionary family (he was born in prison), old Bolshevik, one of the heroes of the Civil War. After the victory, fulfilled responsible military tasks, commanded the Volga military region and others. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

7. Ter-Vaganian, V.A. (born in 1893), an old Bolshevik and Marxist writer, founder of the journal Under the Banner of Marxism. Author of a series of works, in particular on Plekhanov, Lenin and others. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

8. Holtzman, E.S. (born in 1882), an old Bolshevik, economist. He was never an active Oppositionist, but sympathized with the Opposition in 1926-27.

9. Pikel, R.V. (born in 1896), a member of the party since the beginning of the revolution, managed Zinoviev’s affairs; a writer. A Zinovievist, he split from the Opposition in January 1928.

10. Dreitzer, E.A. (born in 1894), a member of the party since 1917, an active participant in the Civil War. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

11. Reingold, I.I. (born in 1897), a member of the party since 1917, a well-known economist, and at one time Deputy People’s Commissar of Finance and member of the College of that Commissary. Never was an active Oppositionist. A Zinovievist, he split from the Opposition in January 1928.

The Second Group

1. Berman-Yurin, K.B. [27] (born in 1901), never belonged to the Left Opposition, and never had any connection with it; worked in the Stalinist apparatus during his stay in Germany as well as after leaving for Russia. The name of Berman-Yurin is completely unknown in the West. Only one piece of information which appeared in the newspaper of the German Stalinists, Die Deutsche Volkszeitung (September 6, 1936), indicating that Berman-Yurin also went by the name of Stauer, made it possible to establish that Berman-Yurin-Stauer really did exist.

2. Fritz David, I.I. [27] (born in 1897), never belonged to the Left Opposition and never had anything in common with it; worked in the Stalinist apparatus, particularly in the trade unions; former theoretician for the German Communist Party on questions of the trade union movement and editor of the central organ of the Red Trade Unions (R.G.O.), in which he several times attacks Trotskyism. Worked with Rote Fahne and the Moscow Izvestia and Pravda until recently.

3. Lurie, M.I. (Emel) [27] (born in 1897), a member of the German Communist Party and functionary of this party. Belonged to the Zinovievist Opposition, but capitulated in the period of the XVth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (in January 1928) and was not expelled from the party. Since then, he had not only broken with the Opposition and become a defender of the “general line,” but he even “specialized” in articles against Trotskyism, mostly in the tradition of the Black Hundreds. [28]

Overcoming our disgust, let us quote from Emel’s (Lurie’s) slander appearing in No.96 of Imprecor in December, 1932: “This social command (of the bourgeoisie to slander the Soviet Union) is now carried out by Leon Trotsky ... In Pilsudski’s Poland Trotsky enjoys the special sympathy of the political police.” Any comment would be superfluous. The central organ of the German Left Opposition, Die Permanente Revolution, (No.32, 34) published at that time two notes on the anti-Trotskyist works of this individual.

In the writings of Fritz David one can also, of course, find as many such pearls as one lilies. And these people figure at the trial as “Trotskyists”! The Central Committee of the German Communist Party has just expelled these three “Trotskyists,” Fritz David, Moishe Lurie, and Berman-Yurin, a month and a half after their execution (Die Deutsche Volkszeitung, 11 October 1936).

4. Lurie, N.L. (born in 1901), known absolutely to no one; no evidence about him or any trace of him has been found at this time.

The four individuals mentioned above were not only personally unknown to Trotsky, Sedov and their closest friends, but Trotsky and Sedov only learned their names through news articles about the Moscow trials.

5. Olberg, V.P. (born in 1907), attempts in 1930 to join the German Left Opposition in Berlin (called at the time the “Minority of the Leninbund”). However, he meets with refusal because he does not inspire confidence. (He remained in the German Communist Party, collaborated on Stalinist publications, etc.). Olberg then turns to the “Wedding Opposition” (the Landau group), where he is accepted. Because of the unification of the two groups, Olberg succeeds in penetrating the German organization of the Left Opposition. During this period he offers his services as Leon Trotsky’s secretary. Some of Trotsky’s friends from Berlin, the Pfemferts (a well-known left-wing publisher in Germany and editor of the journal Die Aktion) made the acquaintance of Olberg at this time. Here is what Pfemfert writes about him in a letter dated April 1, 1930 to Trotsky: “Olberg made a very unfavorable impression on me. He does not inspire confidence.” In this same letter, Pfemfert relates what a disagreeable and suspicious impression was made on him by the exaggerated interest which Olberg showed toward the Russian Opposition, Trotsky, his life, etc. Of course, there was no longer any question of a journey by Olberg to meet Trotsky.

In April-May 1931, at the same time as the Landau group, Olberg is removed from the ranks of the German Left Opposition. In February 1932, he makes a declaration asking for his readmission into the organization.This request is denied. Let us quote one of the statements which we have on Olberg, the author of which is E. Bauer, now a member of the S.A.P., [29] who left the Trotskyist organization, but was at that time the secretary of the German Opposition. Here is what Bauer writes: “Olberg’s declaration (of February 1932) requesting his return to the organization was rejected in a letter written by me personally. Since then, none of us has heard anything about Olberg.”

Sedov, in a personal capacity, met from time to time with Olberg in the second half of 1931 and at the beginning of 1932. The object of these meetings was, above all, the technical services which Olberg rendered: Olberg collected books, clippings from newspapers, etc. The character of these meetings was not political in the true sense of the word, and even less organizational, Olberg not being a member of the organization and Sedov himself standing outside the organizational work of the German Opposition.

Since 1932 we repeat, no one, neither Sedov, nor any German Trotskyist, had any relationship with Olberg. Since 1932 that is for more than four years, they had completely lost sight of Olberg, until the time of the trial. This statement is not unsubstantiated. There are dozens of people who have emigrated who were in the German Left Opposition or who were in close touch with it, including those who were politically hostile to it. Without any doubt they would all support our statement; some have already done so, in particular the German emigration in Prague, where Olberg lived these last years, without getting in contact with any of the German Trotskyists, of whom there is no small number in Prague.

And this man claims to have been Trotsky’s “emissary” in Germany, that Trotsky had “absolute confidence” in him, that money was given to him by the Opposition for procuring a passport, etc.!

A few words must still be said about the absolutely different roles which were played during the investigation by these two groups of defendants: the old Bolsheviks and the young unknowns.

First of all, the testimony of the majority of the old Bolsheviks is limited to a few pages. In fact, the testimonies quoted are those of Evdokimov, from pages 6 to 10, of Zinoviev from pages 16 to 38, of Kamenev from page 10 to 34, of Ter-Vaganian from pages 11 to 32, etc., while the dates of the depositions are from the end of July, the beginning of August, right up to August 14.

It’s a different story with the “young ones.” Olberg, for example, began his testimony not later than January (by February 21 he had already managed to reach pages 77-78). On May 9 the investigation of Olberg was already finished. [30] His testimony forms a volume of 262 pages, while only on this last page does Olberg finally remember the ties between the Trotskyists and the Gestapo, – on the last day of the interrogation, on the last page! [31]

Thus the investigation of the Olberg case was finished nearly three months before the old men, Kamenev, Ter-Vaganian, Evdokimov, Smirnov, and others had made their first “confessions.” By July 21, M. Lurie had already reached pages 243-244; furthermore it is once again in the last pages alone that there is a reference to his link with the Gestapo, and only on page 252 that is, obviously at the very end of the investigation, that he testified that Zinoviev supposedly knew about these connections. On the same day as M. Lurie, July 21, N. Lurie testified about the Gestapo on page 142.

It must be noted that even the testimony of Dreitzer and especially of Reingold, who conducted himself at the trial as an agent of the GPU, accusing everyone of everything, also made up a large volume, On pages 102-103, Dreitzer “remembered” that Trotsky sent him a letter written in his own hand and, on page 195, that he prepared terrorist acts together with Schmidt and others.

Reingold’s testimony is quoted more often that any others. His statements serve as the basic material of the prosecution, in particular, for convicting the other defendants.

Among the defendants at the Moscow trial, there was not one true Bolshevik-Leninist. The Left Opposition had broken with the Zinovievists in January 1928, when they capitulated before the Stalinist bureaucracy. Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian and Dreitzer had split from the Opposition two years later, at the end of 1929.

From January 1928 on, Trotsky had maintained no relations whatsoever with the Zinovievists, neither personally nor through any intermediary; he had never written to them, and had not received a single letter from them. And that is understandable. The path of the Left Opposition, standing for an implacable struggle against Stalinism, and the paths of groups capitulating before Stalinism parted sharply.

In 1922-23 Zinoviev and Kamenev, together with Stalin, formed what was known as the “troika,” in whose hands lay all the actual power at the time of Lenin’s illness and especially after his death. With the aid of the party apparatus, the troika prepared and led the fight against Trotsky and “Trotskyism.” But soon the troika itself broke up. Zinoviev and Kamenev, with their international training, their experience in exile, and partly under the influence of the Leningrad workers, entered into opposition against Stalin and his national policy of building socialism in one country, the turn to the kulaks, etc. In this struggle Zinoviev and Kamenev based themselves on the apparatus of the party organization in Leningrad which, obviously, was not capable of controlling the all-union apparatus which Stalin automatically brought in battle against Zinoviev and Kamenev. Despite their past struggle against “Trotskyism,” Zinoviev and Kamenev soon stood, in 1926, on the platform of the Left Opposition, recognizing it correctness. The passage into the camp of the Left Opposition by the “inventors” of Trotskyism – as an ideological tendency hostile to Leninism – struck an irreparable blow against this legend of Trotskyism. But the Zinovievist Opposition, which had its origin inside the apparatus, leaned heavily toward diplomacy, combinations, tactical maneuvers, compromises with the apparatus, capitulation, etc. By January 1928, at the XVth Congress of the All-Union Communist Party, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends had already capitulated before the Stalinist fraction, capitulated not just from the lack of political courage, but also from the sincere conviction that it was impossible to lead the struggle to a split.

Later, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends capitulated twice more. With each new capitulation, they made still greater concessions to Stalin and, falling lower and lower, they became his prisoners. Stalin squeezed them more and more in a vise. If at first they acknowledged “only” the anti-party character of their activity, they were soon forced to admit their “counterrevolutionary” nature, to praise Stalin to the skies and later (under the threat of the revolver) to take upon themselves the “political and moral responsibility” for Kirov’s assassination. Admitting everything Stalin demanded of them, making the most monstrous accusations against themselves, against their comrades, and against the party, they became playthings in the hands of the Stalinist Bonapartist bosses.

Although not to the same degree, but in a similar fashion, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, and others followed the same road. By capitulating before Stalin, they also showed in 1929 that they were no longer revolutionary fighters, but spent men, who had a great past, but no future. Capitulation had intrinsically broken them for all time.

The conduct of the accused during the trial was only the tragic conclusion, the last stage of their political prostration and fall during the previous years.

Everything which we have just explained is forgotten in the West (not in the USSR; there it is unfortunately too well understood), when they ask how men like Zinoviev, Kamenev and especially Smirnov or Mrachkovsky, old revolutionary fighters, could have fallen so low. They imagine the Zinoviev of the Smirnov of the heroic years of the Russian revolution. But since then nearly twenty years have gone by, more than half of them under the corrupt Thermidorian regime of Stalin. No, on the defendants’ bench sat only the shadows of the Smirnov of the Civil War or the Zinoviev of the first years of the Comintern. On the defendants’ bench sat broken, crushed, finished men. Before killing them physically, Stalin had broken and destroyed them morally.

Capitulation is an inclined plane: no one has yet succeeded in coming to rest on it. Once on it, you can’t help but slide to the very bottom. Rakovsky, who resisted longer than the other old men, – capitulating only in 1934 – today has gone so far as to call for the execution of Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky! Such behavior, precisely on the part of Rakovsky, has been met with particular bewilderment in the West: an honest man, of great moral purity and suddenly ... How can it be explained? As if Rakovsky could escape from under the heavy bureaucratic millstone, which turns former fighters into nothing but human dust! One should sooner ask oneself how Rakovsky, who was at the head of the Opposition until 1934, could have been ignorant of the terrorism, if it had really existed? Having remained in the Opposition until 1934, Rakovsky, as proof of the existence of the “terror” refers to ... Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others with whom the Opposition had broken in 1928, Stalinist absolutism allows no half-way capitulations; all or nothing, there is no middle ground.

The Stalinist “art” of breaking revolutionary characters consists of going cautiously, steadily, pushing these people degree by degree, always lower and lower ... And what incentive could they have had to struggle? They had not only renounced their own ideas, but helped Stalin to drag them in the mud. If the international workers movement had not been in such a state of collapse, these men would have undoubtedly acted differently. Isolated from the revolutionary movement, and even from the world in general, they saw only the rise and strengthening of fascism, and in the USSR, the hopelessness of Stalinism. The miserable behavior of the defendants is first of all an expression of the profound despair of people who had lost all perspective.

And how could the Soviet people of today, even the best ones, not become demoralized? Have revolutionaries ever been forged in empty space? No, for that there must be collective work, mutual relations, links with the masses, a theoretical self-education, etc. Only in such conditions was it possible for the revolutionary and Bolshevik type to be formed. But that is the distant past. In the last ten years in the USSR, and not only there, the reverse process has taken place. The absence of social life, of free thought, and collective activity welded by a discipline which is conscious rather then servile – all this cannot but destroy the old and prevent the education of the young.

This is why to compare the conduct of the defendants in Moscow to that of certain courageous militants in the face of fascist executioners is to commit the sin of superficiality. These militants were not broken by ten years of Stalinist domination; they were not isolated as were the Moscow victims of Stalin – they felt the support of the world proletariat behind them. The distinction was also much sharper: fascism – communism. At the Moscow trial, however, although they stood before a Thermidorian court of Stalinist usurpers, Zinoviev and Kamenev nevertheless stood before a court which with its phraseology appealed – what monstrous gall! – to the October revolution and socialism. It goes without saying, that along with frightful moral tortures, the inquisitors of the GPU also used this phraseology and, in particular, the danger of war; this could not fail to help in breaking these unfortunate defendants.

The comparison with the behavior of the leaders of the great French Revolution is also superficial. These men were in the full flower of their strength, events were taking place with kaleidoscopic speed, no one could count on receiving mercy and, above all, everything was happening in the period of the powerful upsurge of a revolution, the likes of which had never been seen before in history. The great Russian revolution also experienced a similar period (1917-1922), but it is precisely in those years that the Smirnov’s and the Mrachkovsky’s heroically fought and died on the front lines of the Civil War. If one searches for historical comparisons with the conduct of the Jacobins, one should not take them from 1789-1794, but about ten years later, during the period of the Empire, when many of them had become prefects and other dignitaries under Napoleon.

But they say, how can it be explained that all eleven (not counting the five young ones) could have behaved this way before the court? We must not forget that these eleven were not defendants chosen at random, but rather had been chosen during a long and terrible investigation among the 50 or more other prisoner-candidates whom Stalin could not succeed in breaking. It is precisely those who were broken who were placed on trial. What became of the others is not known; the worst may be feared. Some of them, we have no doubt, were shot during the investigation itself; those who would not succumb to Stalin’s blackmailing were shot; they were shot “for the edification” of the rest. Besides the torture of the interrogation, – from morning until night, for weeks on end, the same question is asked of the accused who remains standing – besides the torment over the fate of their families and other tortures taken from the arsenal of the blackest and most terrible Inquisition, the gunning down of a certain number of accused was one of the most decisive “arguments” of the Stalinist investigation. Smirnov or Evdokimov would be told: today so and so was shot (for example, Kuklin or Gertik), tomorrow so and so will be shot, because they did not give the required depositions, and then it will be your turn. (This, of course, is only a hypothesis).

With a revolver at their temple, Zinoviev and Kamenev say to themselves: if we do not sign these infamies which Stalin wishes to extort from us, he will shoot us secretly, without a trial. But if we sign, we have, in spite of everything, some chance of salvation. Perhaps Stalin is not deceiving us when he promises to give us our lives in exchange for our confessions. The preceding series of trials – the majority of which were also built on false confessions – where the accused got off with light or fictitious sentences, strengthened their hopes. The defendants furthermore were thinking not only of saving their lives, but also saw in staying alive the only possibility of later unmasking, in a new situation, the Stalinist amalgam, thereby rehabilitating themselves, if only partially. They committed a tragic error and this error was not accidental; it flowed from all their previous conduct, as we have taken pains to demonstrate.

But even among these defendants, there was to be found a last remnant of strength, a last drop of personal dignity. Broken as they were, none of the old Bolsheviks took upon themselves – they simply were physically unable to take upon themselves – the charge of being “connected with the Gestapo.”

We think – and this map seem paradoxical to one who judges things superficially – that the internal moral strength of Zinoviev and Kamenev far surpassed the average level, even though it proved insufficient under absolutely exceptional conditions. Hundreds and thousands of Communist, socialist and other leaders, who adapt to the Soviet bureaucracy or to capitalism, would have been incapable of bearing even a hundredth part of the continuous and frightful pressure to which Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others were subjected.

One more point. The speeches of the defendants were in no way distinguishable from the speeches of the prosecutor, in no way distinguishable from the thousands of bloodthirsty articles which fill the press. By the speeches in which they accuse themselves, without facts or proofs, by their literal repetition of what the prosecutor dictated to them, by their great eagerness to blacken themselves, the defendants said, as it were, to the whole world: don’t believe us; can’t you see that it is all a lie, a lie from beginning to end?

Yes, the generation of old Bolsheviks, with only a few exceptions, exhausted itself in the end. They had to carry too much on their shoulders, – three revolutions, the underground, prison, civil war. Their strength failed them, their nerves gave out.

But nevertheless, there still are unbreakable revolutionaries in the USSR, several thousand Bolshevik-Leninists. As for them, Stalin will not be able to draw them into his trials, even though he can exterminate them one after another, exterminate them, but not break them. These revolutionary fighters have not taken and will not take the fatal road of capitulation, because they believe in the justness of their cause. They prefer to die in the cellars of the GPU, unknown, without support and without sympathy. They are the ones who assure the revolutionary continuity and save the revolutionary honor of the Soviet workers’ movement!


[25] We have gleaned this information from the reports of English journalists who were at the trial. (L.S.)

[26] Cheka: the Extraordinary Commission for Struggle Against Counterrevolution, Sabotage, and Speculation. The Soviet secret police 1918-1922.

[27] These three German-Russian Stalinists (Berman-Yurin. M. Lurie, Fritz David) belonged, we are told, inside the German Communist Party, to Neumann’s clique, closely tied in the past to the GPU, one of the most repugnant cliques which ever existed in the Comintern. According to the information available abroad, Moscow liquidated the Neumann group with the aid of the GPU. (The use of the GPU as an instrument of internal struggle in the sections of the Comintern has been a common phenomenon for a long time, which has brought the Comintern apparatus to the limits of demoralization.) It is not excluded, consequently, that the calling to trial of Stalin’s former agents – F. David, Berman-Yurin, and M. Lurie – was done as part of the liquidation of the Neumann group. (L.S.)

[28] Black Hundreds: In Tsarist Russia, members of extreme monarchist group who carried out pogroms against workers, revolutionaries, national minorities, etc. They murdered thousands with the cooperation of the Tsarist authorities.

[29] SAP: Socialist Workers Party, A centrist party in Germany organized in October 1931 when a number of its leaders were expelled from the Reichstag. Agreed to work with the Left Opposition in 1933 but became opposed to the Fourth International and broke with Trotskyism.

[30] About the sources of this money – as well as the entire story about Olberg’s Honduras passport – we have extremely interesting information which we feel can be made public only after thorough verification. (L.S.)

[31] With absolute certainty this flows From the fact that on July 31, i.e., more than two and one-half months after his testimony on May 9, Olberg was interrogated for the second time by the prosecutor about the Gestapo. (L.S.)



Besides the sixteen who were shot, mention is made in the case of a large number of people accused of being terrorists or of taking part in terrorist activity. None of them, for reasons unknown and in complete contradiction with the rules of justice, was called to trial either as a defendant or as a witness. (We are not speaking of Safonova or Yakovlev who acted as Vyshinsky’s right-hand men at the trial.) The indictment states that the cases of 1) Gaven, 2) Gertik, 3) Karev, 4) Konstant, 5) Matorin, 6) P. Olberg, 7) Radin, 8) Safonova, 9) Faivilovich, 10) Schmidt, 11) Esterman, 12) Kuzmichev, – “have been set aside.” Why? For purely arbitrary reasons. Gaven, for example, whom we will later discuss more fully, is mentioned several times as a courier of terrorist instructions from Trotsky to Smirnov, – and is absent from the trial. Gertik, Faivilovich, Karev, and Radin “organized” Kirov’s assassination; Schmidt, Esterman, Kuzmichev “organized” Voroshilov’s assassination, etc. But regarding these twelve persons, at least the indictment mentions that their cases have been set aside. There are other people of whom nothing is said. Here is the list: [32]

1. Anishev, sentenced to six years in prison in the first Zinoviev trial;
2. Arkus, old party member, a leading finance worker;
3. Bogdan, old party member, former secretary of Zinoviev (committed suicide);
4. Bukharin, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, former member of the Politburo, former leader of the Comintern, editor of Izvestia;
5. Dreitzer, sister of the one who was shot;
6. Eismont, old party member, already arrested in 1932;
7. Fedotov;
8. Friedland, young Soviet theoretician;
9. Friedman;
10. Furtyshev, old party member;
11. Gaevsky, old communist, hero of the Civil War;
12. Grunstein, old Bolshevik, former political convict, occupied an important position in military affairs;
13. Hertzberg, old party member, sentenced in the first Zinoviev trial;
14. Kuklin, one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks, one of the leaders of the Leningrad party organization, former member of the Central Committee, sentenced to 10 years in prison in the first Zinoviev trial;
15. Kunt;
16. Lipshitz P.;
17. Lominadze, former secretary of the Communist Youth International, one of the leaders of the youth movement, former member of the Central Committee (committed suicide);
18. Medvedev, old Bolshevik, leader of the former Workers Opposition;
19. Mukhin;
20. Okudzhava, one of the oldest Bolsheviks, leader of the Party in the Caucasus;
21. Piatokov, old Bolshevik, member of the Central Committee, Deputy People’s Commissar of Heavy Industry;
22. Putna, great military figure, until most recently military attache in London;
23. Radek, former member of the Central Committee, famous journalist;
24. Riutin, former member of the Central Committee and leader of the Moscow party organization;
25. Rykov, member of the Central Committee, former Chairman of the Soviet of People’s Commissars, only recently removed as People’s Commissar of Post and Telegraph;
26. Serebriakov, one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks, former secretary of the Central Committee;
27. Sharov, old worker-Bolshevik, Zinovievist, sentenced to eight years in prison in the first Zinoviev trial;
28. Shatskin, one of the leaders of the Lominadze group, old member of the party, former leader of the Communist Youth International;
29. Shliapnikov, old Bolshevik, former member of the Central Committee, leader of the former Workers Opposition;
30. Shtykgold, old party member, former secretary of Skliansky, Trotksy’s deputy during the Civil War;
31. Slepkov, young theoretician from the right-wing of the “Bukharin school,” journalist;
32. Smilga, I.I., former member of the Central Committee, one of the leaders of the October insurrection, occupied leading positions in military and economic affairs;
33. Sokolnikov, old Bolshevik, a former military leader, former People’s Commissar of Finance, former member of the Central Committee ;
34. Sten, one of the leaders of Lominadze group (“leftists”), old party member, former member of the Central Control Commission;
35. Tomsky, former leader of the trade unions, former member of the Central Committee and the Politburo (committed suicide);
36. Uglanov, former secretary of the Central Committee and the Moscow Committee; one of the leaders of the Right Opposition;
37. Yakovlev;
38. Yatsek, old party member;
39. Yelin;
40. Yudin;
41. Zaidel.

All these men are accused of either active terrorist activity, – the overwhelming majority, – or of having shown sympathy for terrorism and maintaining connections with the terrorists!

One must add to this list[33] those who were sentenced at the same time as Zinoviev, in January 1935, and who are not on the preceding lists: 1) Sakhov, 2) Gorshenin, 3) Tsarkov, 4) Fedorov, 5) Hessen, 6) Tarasov, 7) Perimov, 8) Bashkirov, 9) Bravo, (the majority of these are old Bolsheviks). One must also count the 78 old Bolshevik-Zinovievists (Zalutsky, Vardin and others) interned in a concentration camp in connection with the first Zinoviev trial. One must also add the principal accused of this trial, Trotsky, and also Sedov. We thus obtain a list of 142 people. Each of them is accused of the blackest of crimes. With but a few exceptions, this list is composed of the most famous representatives of Bolshevism.

If anyone were to compose a list of the 20-25 most prominent representatives of Bolshevism, those who played the greatest role in the history of the party and the revolution, we could easily recommend that he take as a base this list plus the old Bolsheviks executed following the Moscow trial. This list would contain six former members of the Politburo and leaders of the party: Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Tomsky and Trotsky. In Lenin’s Politburo there were five from this list, plus Lenin and Stalin. Of the members of Lenin’s Politburo only Stalin remains today. The others have either been shot or accused of terrorism (Tomsky committed suicide).

In Lenin’s Testament, six men are mentioned: Trotsky, Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, and Piatakov, these last two as “the most outstanding of the youth.” Two of the revolutionaries mentioned by Lenin in his Testament were shot by Stalin; Trotsky is, as it were, sentenced to death in absentia; Piatakov is in prison on the charge of terrorism. Bukharin has been pardoned – but for how long, we don’t know. Once again, Stalin alone remains. Among those shot and those who were mentioned in the trial as having participated in terrorism, there are 19 former members of the Central Committee: Bukharin, Evdokimov, Fedorov, Kamenev, Kuklin, Lominadze, Piatakov, Radek, Riutin, Rykov, Serebriakov, Shliapnikov, Smilga, Smirnov, Sokolnikov, Tomsky, Trotsky, Uglanov, Zinoviev (Bukharin and Rykov are still members of the Central Committee!), and three former members of the Central Control Commission: Bakaev, Gaven, Sten. The whole flower of the Bolshevik Party, all the leaders of the October Revolution, prove to be “mad dogs,” “bandits,” and “agents of the Gestapo.” If we add to the 142 whom we counted above, the 16 shot, then the 102 shot in connection with Kirov’s assassination, the so-called White Guards, the 14 shot in the Nikolaev affair, the 12 GPU men who were sentenced (there are the real guilty ones!), we obtain a total of 286 people of the greatest diversity and who often had nothing in common. With the exception of Nikolaev, some of his friends and several members of the Leningrad GPU, none had the slightest connection with Kirov’s assassination. They are nonetheless accused by Stalin of having had a hand in this assassination and we don’t know how many more times Stalin will drag out Kirov’s corpse, nor how many people he will accuse of being responsible for this assassination or of having participated in it. And how many men have been shot “in secret,” without anyone knowing anything about it? How many tens of thousands have been deported or interned in a concentration camp?

* * *

We have already said that the composition of the accused was arbitrary, not only because we are dealing with an amalgam, but also because Stalin could not break all the intended defendants. The list of the accused has certainly changed more than once and was not in its final form until the very day the prosecutor signed the indictment. The fact that Stalin chose the sixteen defendants from a much more extensive list, flows not only from our general considerations, but can also be demonstrated almost mathematically.

The dossier of each defendant carries a number (these numbers are indicated in parentheses in the quotes from the depositions). If we arrange the defendants in alphabetical order, we obtain the following table[34].

Bakaev 1
Berman-Yurin 4
David, Fritz 8
Dreitzer 10
Zinoviev 12
Kamenev 15
Mrachkovsky 18
Olberg, V. 21
Pikel 25
Reingold 27
Smirnov, I.N. 29

The numbers of the dossiers of these eleven defendants are strictly in alphabetical order (Russian). Since Holtzman’s testimony is not quoted at all during the trial, the number of his dossier remains unknown to us. The other defendants have the following numbers [35]:

Lurie, M. 32
Lurie, N. 33
Evdokimov 36
Ter-Vaganian 38

Using these tables we see that a whole series of numbers is missing, i.e. along with the numbers, the prisoners are missing to whom the given cases correspond. For a total of 19 people (plus dossier No.31, of which we spoke in the note), there are 38 numbers. To whom, therefore, do the other 18 correspond? It seems very likely to us that with a few exceptions, such as Safanova, whom the GPU is perhaps saving for a future trial, these “absent” defendants are those whom Stalin could not succeed in breaking and whom he most likely shot without trial.


[32] We do not include here the persons who, according to the court information, are abroad: Weiz, Slomovitz, etc. (L.S.)

[33] In this list, it would also be possible to include Ruth Fischer and Maslow. (L.S.)

[34] (For this demonstration to retain its value, we have preserved the Russian alphabetical order.) A dossier No.31 also appears in the case, in which Reingold, Pikel, Safonova, and Dreitzer’s depositions were collected. It seems this is a unique case. There is also another group of dossiers carrying numbers: 3–Karev, 14–Matorin, 24–Olberg, P. They are not in alphabetical order, probably because each of them refers especially to one of the defendants: Karev to Bakaev, Matorin to Zinoviev and Kamenev, and Olberg to his brother. This is probably why their numbers follow the numbers of the defendants to whom they are linked. (L.S.)

[35] The fact that Evdotimov and Ter-Vaganian come only at the end seems to be explained by the fact that in the early stages Stalin did not intend to bring them to trial. Le us point out also that Evdokimov’s confessions date only from August 10, that is, a few days before the publication of the indictment and those of Ter-Vaganian only from August 14, that is, the very day the prosecutor signed the indictment. Having obtained these confessions, the prosecutor hurried to draw up the indictment and to sign it. It was also probable that the two Luries were not originally intended to be included in the trial and that they were added only later.



The axis of the trial and at the same time the basis of the indictment, was the so-called “Unified Center.” This center not only made the decision to take the road of terror, but organized and directed the attacks. The question of the “Center” has, consequently, decisive importance for the analysis of the trial. We are forced to examine it in greater detail.

We have already tried to show the arbitrary way in which Stalin included four Zinovievists in the trial, designating them as members of the Center. But no matter what the cost, he had to get at Trotsky, without whom the whole trial would have been worthless. The collapse of the consul affair forced him to look for other ways. Stalin understood that the Zinovievists, who had broken with the Left Opposition in January 1928, by capitulating to the bureaucratic apparatus, had not had any ties with the Left Opposition since then and could hardly be of use to him in attaining his goal. He needed to “unite” them, those who had earlier taken upon themselves the political responsibility for Kirov’s assassination—with the Trotskyists. It was precisely this “unification” that the “Unified Center” was to serve. After the unsuccessful attempts to indict the true Trotskyists,—Stalin’s blackmailing could only have run up against a sharp refusal on their part—Stalin stopped at former Left Oppositionists,—Smirnov, Mrachkovsky and Ter-Vaganian. These men had openly broken with the Left Opposition in 1929, that is, seven years ago! And in the absence of any authentic Trotskyists (among the defendants, let us once again recall, there was not one true Trotskyist), Stalin was forced to content himself with pseudo-Trotskyists, all the more so since one of them, I.N. Smirnov, had by chance met with Trotsky’s son in Berlin. This at least gave him the formal pretext of speaking of a “connection” abroad.

Thus the idea of creating the “Unified Center” was born in Stalin’s police mind. The rest was a case of police technique.

The Composition of the Center

The indictment and the verdict give the Unified Center the following composition: Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakaev,—from the Zinovievists, and Smirnov, Ter-Vaganian, Mrachkovsky—from the Trotskyists.

But even on the question of the composition of the center, the defendants contradict each other. Besides, we are not talking about a large committee, the composition of which would be constantly changing, where it would be difficult to remember everybody, but essentially about a narrow, strictly conspiratorial collegium, involved in terrorist activity. The composition of such a conspiratorial center ought, in any case, to have been exactly defined. This is, in fact, what the indictment tries to do as it enumerates the seven members cited above. The defendant Reingold, one of the principal witnesses of the prosecution, gives a different composition of the center. “I was,” he says, “in an organizational and also personal relationship with a series of members of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center: Zinoviev, Kamenev, Sokolnikov, and others.” And further on Reingold repeats: “the members of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center were Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev, Evdokimov, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian, and Sokolnikov.”

The fact that Sokolnikov was a member of the center is also confirmed by Kamenev, who specifies, in response to a question by the prosecutor, that Sokolnikov was even a “member of the center whose participation was strictly secret,” in order that he might, in case of disaster, continue the terrorist activity. One, therefore, wonders why the prosecutor did not immediately summon Sokolnikov before the court. It is very simple: to summon Sokolnikov at that very moment would have meant to destroy the entirely false, and therefore “fragile” edifice of the trial.

Sokolnikov would first have to be prepared in the torture chambers of the GPU, and that, even if successful, takes time. The fact that Reingold mentioned Sokolnikov, on Stalin’s orders, was necessary in order to make it easier to execute him without even a trial.

While confirming the testimony about Sokolnikov, Kamenev, for his part, gives a new version of the center (of the “plot,” as he calls it) which “was composed of the following people: from the Zinovievists, myself (Kamenev), Zinoviev, Evdokimov, Bakaev, and Kuklin,” Besides Sokolnikov, Kuklin also is apparently a member of the center. As in Sokolnikov’s case, the prosecutor doesn’t consider it necessary to bring Kuklin to trial. Meanwhile, Kuklin, one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks and leading Zinovievists, who was sentenced in January 1935 to 10 years in prison, is mentioned many times over during the trial as one of the leaders of the terrorist activity!

According to Smirnov’s testimony, the Lominadze group had also joined the bloc (Smirnov says nothing about the Center and later, as we will see, he even denies its existence). Let us note that no member of this group was brought to trial. Although he did “confirm Smirnov’s testimony,” Ter-Vaganian does not mention the Lominadze group in his account. Mrachkovsky, on the contrary, not only mentions the Lominadze-Shatskin group as members of the bloc, but says in addition that Lominadze personally was a member of the center. Bakaev names not only Kuklin, but also Sharov, another old Bolshevik-Zinovievist, sentenced during the first trial in 1935. Karev is repeatedly mentioned as a leading participant at a terrorist conference (of the Center?) But he also is not on the defendants’ bench, since his case has, for some reason, been “set aside.”

Better still, Kamenev testifies that, in case of discovery, besides Sokolnikov, Serebriakov and Radek were also designated as substitutes, “who,” according to Kamenev, “could perform the role with success.” Let us recall that Serebriakov split from the Opposition in 1928, and Radek left in 1928, and how he left! Since 1929 Radek has appeared several times in the press as one of the most hateful and vicious adversaries of Trotskyism. But even this didn’t help him!

During the trial, Safonova is also brought from prison to serve as a “witness,” and her interrogation produces a particularly painful and loathesome impression. Hoping to save herself (and in reality Stalin is at best saving her for a new trial, in order to shoot her afterwards, as he shot all the Berman-Yurins), Safonova denounces I.N. Smirnov in a veritable frenzy. And this Safonova, according to the records of the trial, “was herself a member of the Trotskyist center ... and took an active part in the work of the center.” Why then is she summoned only as a witness?

The center also supposedly conducted negotiations about “joint activity” (i.e., about terror) with Shatskin, Sten (“leftists”), Rykov, Bukharin, Tomsky, (“rightists”), Shliapnikov and Medvedev (former “Workers Opposition”). Of course, not one of them is summoned before the court, even as a witness.

Falsification is not such an easy thing. No matter how deeply you submerge them, lies and contradictions stubbornly reappear at the surface. These contradictions in the composition of the center are undoubtedly explained by the fact that during the investigation, the composition was changed more than once.

Some of the “candidates” who had been designated in the early stages couldn’t be broken,—it was necessary therefore to rebuild along the way, including new victims in the “center,” and once again bringing the dates and the testimony into agreement.

In addition, the whole case was prepared with such haste that all the defendants could not learn their roles ...