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The Path of Naxalbari

The Path of Naxalbari: An Appraisal

Kunal Chattopadhyay

In this essay, the discussion will remain mostly confined to the original Maoist movement in India, between the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, and focused not on narratives[1] but in terms of the relationship between this movement and classical Marxism.

To begin with, we need to understand that the early history of communism in India went through a rupture. The Meerut Conspiracy Case dealt the emerging communist party a sharp blow. By the time the fragmented party had reassembled, the Communist International had come under the complete grip of Stalin and Stalinism, and it had baneful effects on the CPI.[2] This did not mean the CPI achieved nothing. But it meant that the revolutionary-democratic traditions of classical Marxism were distorted in a number of crucial ways, and that later conflicts within the major currents of the Indian communists remained locked within Stalinist parameters. In the case of Bengal/West Bengal, I would argue, an additional component was the influence of the revolutionary nationalist tradition. The very significant number of revolutionary nationalists (the “terrorists”) who became converted to communism in jail accepted certain political ideas (not mere political independence, but social change through revolution), certain philosophical views (materialism, atheism), but they brought their own prejudices. Notably, their rejection of Gandhism had been based on a simple counterposition of violence and non-violence, and therefore the equation of revolution and violence was sometimes carried over. Equally important was the top down approach of the revolutionary groups, and the seamless manner in which this merged with, and provided an indigenous basis for the acceptance of Stalinist vanguardism, which replaced Lenin’s real concept of building a class vanguard that would be in constant dialogue with the mass of workers, by the imagery of transmission belts and commands or instructions from above being implemented by those lower down.

Classical Marxism:

There are many things that one can learn from classical Marxism.[3] For an assessment of any movement claiming to be Marxist, however, we need to begin by looking at the core political components. Repeatedly, Marx and Engels argued that “the emancipation of the working classes is a task of the working classes themselves”. This was the central plank of their politics. In the rules of the International Working men’s Association written by Marx, he argued that the goal of workers’ societies was “the protection, the advancement and complete emancipation of the working classes.”[4] As Marik points out, in the Third Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx “opposed the idea of educators from outside teaching the masses, pointing out that any ‘educator’, that is socialist theorist, must oneself learn the meaning of socialism through revolutionary practice. In other words, socialist theory as the ideological change in human beings could only be continuously developed through revolutionary practice which would also change the material circumstances.”[5]

The concept of working class self-emancipation meant that the revolution was not going to be a process where a small number of wise people would dominate the masses and decide what would be good for them. This was the principal tradition of the socialist/communist currents of the period, however, and Marx and Engels stood out by their break with this tradition. This also made inevitable their next key point. This was the nature and role of the revolutionary party. They did not mean to ignore the need to build a revolutionary party by hiding behind the talk of working-class self-emancipation. But they saw the revolutionary party as comprising the most militant and aware members of the working class. And while they did not deny the role of elements from other classes, they made it clear that the communist party could not be made up chiefly of such elements. Such a generalized picture, of course, does not give us the full complexity of their views. But they did go on to elaborate their positions by, on one hand, developing analyses of concrete situations, and on the other hand, by presenting critiques of other socialisms. Thus, in a number of critiques of the theorists of conspiracy and insurrection, they showed that conspiracy kept out the masses of workers, but not the police. And in a telling comment, they dubbed advocates of such methods the “alchemists of revolution”. For their own part, they laid stress on two key issues – the creation of independent working class political action including working class participation in elections, and the development of socialist theory within independent working class parties. In an 1850 essay, Marx argued that secret organizations led by professional conspirators could not draw in the broad masses of the proletariat in their organizations:

These conspirators do not confine themselves to the general organization of the revolutionary proletariat. It is precisely their business to anticipate the process of revolutionary development, to bring it artificially to crisis point, to launch a revolution on the spur of the moment . . . they are the alchemists of the revolution . . . and have the profoundest contempt for the more theoretical enlightenment of the proletariat about their class interests.[6]

Thus Marx was explicitly counterposing a scientific theory of a communist party, capable of explaining theory and organising the proletariat for struggles, to the pre-scientific (“alchemical”) party which advocated substitutionism and was contemptuous about developing real class-consciousness.[1]

In discussing the strategy of revolution for backward countries (of particular interest for us), Marx and Engels came to argue, by looking at Germany, that the bourgeoisie was utterly incapable of leading a genuine democratic revolution. If it triumphed, it would enter into a deal with the landlords and the semi-absolutist monarchy. So the task was to build a bloc of the working class, the peasants, and the petty bourgeois democrats, and within that, to strive to create working class hegemony.[7] This was summed up in the famous Address of the Central Authority to the Communist League, where they talked about a “revolution in permanence”. An added point of great significance, very often ignored, is that their revolutionary strategy involved a struggle for consistent democracy, and that this meant, not repudiating the gains made by liberal-democracy, but extending it far beyond anything liberalism could achieve.[8]

Communism in India and the Maoist Revolutionaries:

If we look at these founding premises of classical Marxism, communism in India appears utterly unlike it. A distorted reading of Lenin resulted in equating Leninist party building with party-led substitutionism.[9] From the late 1920s, the Comintern doctrine of Socialism in One Country served to turn communist parties into organizations defending Soviet foreign policy. Moscow dictated flip-flops, like an ultraleft line of 1928-1934, followed by class-collaboration dressed as anti-imperialist unity (the Dutt-Bradley thesis). And the campaign against “Trotskyism” meant a general imposition of a two-stage theory of revolution, according to which the first stage would be carried out in alliance with the progressive bourgeoisie.

Though the Comintern was disbanded in 1943, Moscow’s control and influence remained crucial for a long time. Between 1951 and 1964, debates within the CPI, while couched in theoretical rhetoric about national democratic revolution versus peoples’ democratic revolution, really involved a search for bourgeois allies either within the Congress or outside it. The post-1964 evolution of the CPI(M) confirms this.[10] However, in the early 1960s, many militants assumed that the fact that CPI(M) leaders upheld Stalin against Khruschev and talked of Peoples’ Democratic Revolution made them revolutionaries. So they sided with CPI(M). This also meant that radicals tended to see Stalin as a bastion of revolution, instead of being the leader of a bureaucratic political counter-revolution. The CPI(M) was thus formed as a party composed of class-collaborationist Stalinists, along with Maoist radicals also infused with Stalinist ideas. The left reformism was soon unmasked, between 1966 and 1969. Mass radicalism was harnessed for electoral gains. In 1967, the CPI(M) proved as willing to join hands with bourgeois oppositions to form a coalition government in West Bengal as the CPI. It was at this point that the revolutionaries, or those who wanted to be revolutionaries, decided to split with the reformists. There were differences over the pace and tactics (Nagi Reddy versus Charu Mazumdar, for example). But by the time the CPI(ML) was founded, the principle that had won was to present two alternatives as the strategic poles in communism. The draft constitution of the party said: “To overthrow the rule of the above [defined in the previous paragraph – K.C.] enemies of the people, the CPI(ML) places the path of armed struggle before the Indian people.”[11] Parliamentary work was viewed as an entirely strategic option, and rejected en bloc.[12] The strategy of “peoples’ war” was to be based on the path shown by Lin Piao, that is, relying on the peasantry, building base areas, consistently developing armed struggle and using the villages to surround the cities and ultimately capture them. That which, in China, was a compulsion caused by the defeats suffered in the cities, was turned into a voluntarily accepted strategy in the Indian case.[13]

We will return to the fundamental flaw involved here later. But I would like to begin with a positive note. The party documents, the writings of several outstanding leaders of this current, or the party papers, like Deshabrati (Bangla), Liberation, all showed a refreshing return to the concept of class struggle. Ever since the dismissal of the 1957 Kerala government, the underlying content of the inner-party debate in the CPI was whether the “progressive bourgeoisie” were in the Congress or in the bourgeois opposition parties, and who should be the allies in the bid to form governments. This has of course been the recurrent debate in the mainstream Stalinist left all the way to the present. Prakash Karat’s Third Front was an attempt to patch together a bloc of regional forces, in opposition to the line advocated by others, such as Sobhanlal Datta Gupta in Mainstream.[14] Stripping aside the veil of theory and polish, the Maoists of the 1960s revealed that debate for the opportunistic struggle for loaves and fishes by bureaucratic leaders that it really was. And by raising the slogan, “Never forget class struggle”, they made class struggle a reality, in a way it had not been for a considerable period.

In the same way, it was the Maoist current that made internationalism a real, revolutionary force. The Chinese Communist Party, when it inspired splits in many countries, had the aim of building its own support base. But in order to fight Moscow, it had presented a mixed ideological bag. On one hand, it appeared as a fervent champion of Stalin.[15] But on the other hand, it also highlighted the class collaborationist politics pursued under Moscow’s pressure, even though it (falsely) exonerated Stalin from such practices. The combination of all this was to promote a more militant form of internationalism than clapping because the Soviet Union had launched the sputnik before the USA. Recovering the old traditions of the communists, Charu Mazumdar called for active internationalism. Similar to Che Guevara’s call to build “two, three, many Vietnams” was the statement. “Chairman’s China may be attacked – speed up the Indian revolution”. This was not a call for diplomatic manoeuvring to help the chosen fatherland. This was, or could be understood as, proletarian internationalism at its best, and left a lasting imprint. Many radicals who have moved a long distance from Maoism, have this starting point for their understanding of proletarian internationalism. The struggle of the proletariat for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism cannot be secured within one country. Capitalism itself cannot function in one country but must spread its tentacles across the world. A higher system than capitalism cannot be built on a lower economic level. The idea that superior relations of production can be built on a low level of productivity and maintained there is an illusion.  So even if unintentionally, Maoism brought back the idea of world revolution and international socialism.

Another important achievement was to critique the nature of “progress”. This involved certain major oversimplifications. But a basic discourse shift happened around this time, because the Maoists asked, in effect, whether it was the task of communists to be cheerleaders for capitalist development, on the ground that capitalism was “progressive” compared to feudalism?[2] This once more overturned a growing consensus among the mainstream Stalinist parties, that if the capitalists were progressive, or if the capitalist state took a progressive role, then the task of communists was to simply support it.  Of course, few parties wrote texts that expressed their ideas so crudely. But this was precisely the achievement of the Maoists – to blast though the verbiage and expose the linear, undialectical concept of progress and the resulting class-collaborationist political tasks, including supporting the “progressive” foreign policy of the Indian state.

The Contradictions of Maoism:

The key contradiction of Indian Maoism flowed from its inability to break the shackles of Stalinist substitutionism. Who will play the leading role in the revolutionary process? Formally, all “Marxists” begin by answering, “the working class”. But then, for the Social Democracy, the role of the working class is exhausted by voting for the socialist party periodically. For the Stalinists, the party represents the working class. The voice of the party is the voice of the working class for all practical purposes. Whether “revolutionary” or “reformist”, parties of Stalinist orientation agree that the party is the conscious section of the class, not because it continuously replenishes itself by recruiting the best, most militant elements of the working class and ensures a continuity of proletarian leadership, but because by self-proclamation and definition, the party is the vanguard of the class.  By accepting the Chinese CP’s leadership, including its glorification of Stalin, the CPI(ML) was opening itself to the same errors. The programme of the party said that “the working class can and will exercise its leadership over the Peoples’ Democratic Revolution though its political party”, the CPI(ML).[16] This assumed that the working class has only one political party. Moreover, the working class does not have any other organisational forum through which it can express its viewpoint. This suspicion hardens, when we also read that the working class will play its vanguard role by sending its class conscious vanguard elements to organise and lead the armed struggles of the peasants.[17]In other words, the central task of the party was seen as organising an agrarian armed revolution. In a country with its rich working class history, decades of patient communist work among the workers, the development of trade unions, this was an utterly destructive line. About the cities, Charu Mazumdar had only vague hopes, not a political strategy. The Political-Organisational Report adopted by the first Congress of the CPI(ML) asserted that through the process of building the party, the revisionist line had been defeated. One aspect of this revisionist line was the building of mass movements and mass organisations for economic demands.[18] In addition, it was claimed that the armed struggle of the peasants was inspiring the workers and the petit bourgeoisie.[19] In other words, the leading role of the working class was a token genuflection to the canons of Marxism. Majumdar’s speech on that occasion said that building the party means the development of armed class struggle.[20] (missing out the “armed” was tantamount to instant degeneration). About the cities, he just expressed the hope that a revolutionary tide would come among the workers, not only in Calcutta, but everywhere.[21] How it would come, by withdrawing revolutionary cadres from the mass movements and organisations, was left totally unexplained. Revolutionaries who opposed giving up the trade unions had already found themselves being ignored, then pushed out. Parimal Dasgupta in Bengal, Purnendu Majumdar in South Bihar (now Jharkhand) had to go their own ways. Further articles by majumdar showed the real content of his strategy. Thus, the article ‘A Few Words About Guerilla Action’, reveal that ctually it was a petty bourgeois led peasant action, and had nothing to do with the working class.[22] Another article by Majumdar, ‘To the Working Class’, repudiated general strikes as ineffective, repudiated economic struggles in the name of opposing revisionism, and simply exhorted workers to participate in armed peasant struggles.[23]Indeed, he argued that it was not possible for workers to defend themselves with trade unions, so the party should not build or bother about trade unions, but only build secret party organizations among the workers.[24] Bloodshed and barricade fighting were envisaged, but without struggles that would really enhance the consciousness of the working class – unless exhorting them to read Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung and attacking the revisionists count as real struggles.[25]

Why did Marx and Engels stress the historic role of the working class and why did they insist on protracted learning processes through participation in concrete struggles?[26] Two points are made here. The first is again the basic Marxist strategy, that the emancipation of the working classes is a task of the working classes themselves, not handed over to a group of self-proclaimed revolutionaries even if they drape the Collected Works of Marx and Engels over their bodies.

But why the working class? Marx’s reply was that capitalism reproduced itself by exploiting alienated labour. The historical tendency of the struggles of the workers goes far beyond the tendency of peasant struggles. The poorest of peasant, as a peasant, wishes for a little bit of land, a space, however illusory, within the existing system. The worker realizes that the existing system gives to workers only wages. The separation of direct producer from the means of production can only be overcome by the socialization of production, by workers management of publicly owned property. Secondly, as a class who occupy a concentrated position in capitalism, workers can stop the economy functioning, Finally, objectively, as collective producers, the working class has the power to create an exploitation free society. A rejection of this meant that the revolutionary aspirations of the large number of cadres who went to the new party and groups were wasted.

The Greatest “Socialist” Myth of the Twentieth Century:

The contradictions of Maoism also meant that the Maoist forces in India, whether the CPI(ML) or those outside it, had a complicated and mistaken view of “socialism”. For them, the Soviet Union was “social imperialist”, while China was “socialist”. Having accepted that despite the little blemish here and thee, Stalin and the Stalin era had meant the construction of socialism, they ended up accepting the view that abolition of private ownership constituted socialism, without any serious discussion on the essential need for workers’ democracy. On the other hand, since they condemned the Soviet Union as “social imperialist”, the line of the political party at the helm was seen as the crucial factor between socialism and capitalism. Finally, an utterly idealist attitude, following the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, was taken about the nature of class struggle under socialism. Rotten apples in the superstructure were supposedly capable of overturning a basically sound base.

A correct understanding of the fate of the Russian revolution had been among the most important issues in deciding a revolutionary line anywhere, throughout most of the twentieth century. Socialist democracy, the meaning of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the transition from capitalism and the economic issues involved, all have implications for the future of revolutionary movements elsewhere. Here, the Maoist revolutionaries failed, because they were unable to question the basic arguments of Stalinism. One party rule remained unquestioned. Only if the party turned bad, the country changed from socialist to capitalist. The role of soviets, or analogous forms of institutions was ignored. Bourgeois democracy was not to be extended by socialism, rather, bourgeois democracy was to be simply rejected.

This made the difference between the CPI(ML), or the other Maoist organisations, on one hand, and the CPI(M) on the other, a difference based on the will of the cadres, and nothing more. The revolutionary struggle was begun in 1967 (taking the announcement of “Spring Thunder” as the beginning). Yet the working class that had grown up already was ignored. The reality of bourgeois democracy in India was brushed aside. For certain Maoist groups, like the CPI(Maoist) they continue to be basically irrelevant. As a matter of fact, this meant a refusal to engage with the objective reality of India, and to impose an utterly illusory line.  Of course, reality proved stronger than the utopian illusions. The experience of China, or even of Russia, in both of which countries there was little or no real civil society, and where the ruling class ruled almost entirely through force, do not provide all the lessons for revolutionary strategies in countries where there have existed some form of bourgeois hegemony.  At the same time, by removing all revolutionary cadres from a number of areas, the struggle to establish the hegemony of the revolutionary forces was given a go by. It was assumed that the example of rural armed struggle would replace concrete struggles in working class areas.  Moreover, this was based on an extremely deformed reading of a few passages of What Is To Be Done?, according to which the party injects class consciousness from outside and the working class by itself can only develop bourgeois consciousness.

The assumption that only the most exploited were revolutionary, meant the exclusion of the organised workers, those having a little better pay or working conditions. This of course ignored the reality that they had obtained those slight gains because of militant struggles, not because the ruling class was buying them up through bribes.

If ultraleftism of a very old kind was behind these mistakes (after all, Lenin had criticised exactly these errors – boycotting elections, boycotting unions, and so on – in Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder), inability to look sufficiently into the shortcomings of Stalinist communism was at the root of another set of mistakes. Notably, special oppression remained originally ignored. Even later, it was often not theoretically discussed, so measures taken were sometimes ad hoc. Gender, caste, indigeneity, were not taken as important markers. The party programme simply mentioned that the Peoples’ Democratic State would, inter alia, “abolish the caste system, remove all social inequalities... and guarantee equality of status to women.”[27] That class unity in reality could not be forged till these inequalities were addressed in the revolutionary process and within the working class received no recognition. A big part of the Communist movement, including its revolutionary wing, was extremely suspicious of feminism, seeing in it a bourgeois or petit bourgeois current, even though in India, feminism had a strong socialist component right from the beginning in the early 1970s. Neither the party, nor its struggles, were often gendered. At the same time, the Maoist movement did provide an impetus for many young women as well as men.[28] As Kalpana Sen points out, the inspiration provided by the movement was immense. Till the mid-sixties, in most women’s colleges, there were no directly elected unions. Girls nominated by the authorities ran the unions. The militant student-youth movement of the mid to late 1960s changed that picture. Women also took part in the ideological struggles around the Naxalbari peasant struggles. They fought in the jails, put up red flag, and confronted the jailers. Moreover, the path of Naxalbari meant challenging existing values in a way that the mainstream left had not been doing for a long time. Among these was a rebellion against domestic discipline and conservatism. That so many young women came to the new party was because, in Sen’s words, “the opportunity to breathe in free air”.[29] Failure to identify patriarchy as a distinct enemy to be combated may have limited the endeavours of these cadres. But the call to immediately join the revolution was something that enabled them to overcome in practice many of the constraints of patriarchy. So if the CPI(ML) did not provide all the solutions, nor did it stand as a force of traditional conservatism.

In the same way, the formal position of the party talked only about class, in an abstract way. But the struggle to bring in poor peasants, after the end of the first phase, meant entering into new terrains. The focus on the landless peasants led to a recognition of the complex interrelationship between caste and class in India. However, while the far left (both Maoists and Trotskyists) were grappling with the complexities of caste-class relations, for the mainstream Stalinist left caste was simply semi-feudal remnant that would be overcome with the development of capitalism, till the Mandal Commission Report implementation forced them into some kind of awareness (even then limited to electoral purposes).[30]

The major problem that the legacy of the original path of Naxalbari left was however its rejection of the rality of bourgeois democracy and the need to work out a new strategy to fight for revolution in a country where a bourgeois democracy does exist. An idealisation of bourgeois democracy does no good. It is a very restricted democracy. Yet even that, by providing certain apparent alternatives, keeps a grip on masses. Secondly, the legacy of Stalinism, its distorted democratic centralism where the leadership has too little accountability to the party ranks, also has been a major problem. Moreover, the legacy of Stalinism has meant a legacy of the two-stage theory of revolution and popular frontism, or alliances with bourgeois partners, as revealed by the Trinamool-supporting Naxalites of 2009. Finally, if workers who demand democracy, or party members who form tendencies over ideological conflicts, are immediately branded capitalist roaders, or thrown out of the party, then one will forever split into two, two will never unite into one. Not “revolutionary authority”, but workers democracy is the answer here. But in order to carry this task to the end, to turn to revolutionary Marxism, one has to subject the path of Naxalbari to a more thoroughgoing critique, without giving up its revolutionary inspiration.


[1] Das Gupta, B. (1974) The Naxalite Movement. Calcutta: Allied Publishers; Johri, J.C. (1972). Naxalite Politics in India. New York: The Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies; Ram, M. (1971). Maoism in India. Bombay: Vikas Publications; Franda, F.M. (1971), Radical Politics in West Bengal. London: The MIT Press; Jawaid, S.(1979) The Naxalite Movement in India. New Delhi: Associated Publishing House; Basu, P. (2000), Towards Naxalbari (1953-1967) an account of inner-party ideological struggle. Calcutta: Progressive Publishers; Banerjee, S. (1980). In the wake of Naxalbari a history of the Naxalite movement in India. Calcutta: Subarnarekha.

[2] Datta Gupta, S. (2006). Comintern and the Destiny of Communism in India : 1919-1943 : Dialectics of Real and a Possible History. Kolkata: Seribaan.

[3] For a single volume survey of the main tenets of classical Marxism and the Bolshevik tradition, see Marik, S. (2008). Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses of Revolutionary Democracy. New Delhi: Aakar. Marik’s book has the added benefit of a systematic gendering of the account. For a more massive study of Marx and Engels, see Draper, H. (1972-2005). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, (5 volumes). New York: Monthly Review Press. See further LeBlanc, P. (2007). Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience; Studies of Communism and Radicalism in the Age of Globalization. New Delhi: Aakar.

[4] K. Marx, ‘Provisional Rules of the International’, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Collected Works (hereafter MECW), vol 20, Moscow, 19xx, p.15. For a full discussion of the principle of self emancipation in Marx and Engels see S. Marik, Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses..., pp.36-42.

[5] S. Marik, Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses..., p. 38.

[6] K. Marx, ‘Review:Les Conspirateurs, par A. Chenu; ex-capitaine des gardes du citoyen Caussidière. Les societes secretes; la prefecture de police sous Caussidière; les corps-francs. La naissance de la Republique en fevrier 1848, par Lucien de la Hodde’, in MECW:10, p. 318

[7] See on this Lowy, M. (2005). The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx. Chicago: Haymarket. See also Marik, S. Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses..., chapter 4. My brief discussion is to be found in Chattopadhyay, K., ‘Marx and the Origins of Permanent Revolution’, Jadavpur University Journal of History, vol.X, 1989-90.

[8] When I say very often ignored, I mean by on one hand the liberal anti-communists, and on the other the Stalinists. For studies that do stress this, see apart from Draper and Marik, Nimtz, A. Jr. (1999). ‘Marx and Engels -- The Unsung Heroes of the Democratic Breakthrough’, Science and Society, 63(2) 203-231.

[9] See Lih, Lars T. (2006). Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? In context. Brill, Leiden and Boston: Historical Materialism Book series; Paul Le Blanc (Ed), (2008). Revolution, Democracy, Socialism. Selected Writings, V.I. Lenin. London: Pluto Press., and my review of Lih in EPW for the distortions involved.

[10] On this, see Kunal Chattopadhyay and Soma Marik, ‘The Left Front and the United Progressive Alliance’, (accessed 18 July 2009); and Kunal Chattopadhyay and Soma Marik, ‘The Elections and Left Wing Politics in India’, International Socialist Review, Issue 66, July-August 2009, pp.44-54.

[11] ‘Draft of the Constitution of the CPI(ML)’, in Suniti Kumar Ghosh, Ed, The Historic Turning-Point: A Liberation Anthology, vol. II, Calcutta, 1993, p.319.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Maoism, neither in China nor in India, has studied seriously the relationship between the defeats suffered by the Second Chinese Revolution and the historical specificities of the Third Chinese Revolution. For examinations of the Second Chinese Revolution, see Isaacs, H.R. (1938). The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution.The Chinese Revolution: I: The Second Chinese Revolution and the shaping of the Maoist Outlook London: Secker and Warburg. For an assessment by a revolutionary Marxist of the relationship between the Second Chinese Revolution (1925-27) and Maoism that is quite sympathetic to Maoism, see Rousset, P. and II: The Maoist Project Tested in the Struggle for Power. Amsterdam: International Institute of Research and Education.

[14] Datta Gupta, S (2009). ‘The Left’s Exit: Notes for Consideration of All Concerned’, Mainstream: vol. XLVII, No. 23, 33-35.

[15] For an aggressive, but not inaccurate Marxist critique of Maoism’s revival of the Stalin cult, see Kerry, T (1964).  ‘Maoism and the Neo-Stalin Cult’, International Socialist Review, vol. 25, No.2, Spring 1964, 55-59. For a more sympathetic, though critical assessment, see Maitan, L (1976). Party, Army, Masses in China. New Jersey: Humanities Press. For an organisational assessment, see Fourth International (1965). ‘The Sino-Soviet Conflict and the Crisis of the International Communist Movement’. International Socialist Review, vol. 27, No.2, Spring 1966, 76-85.

[16] Programme of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), in S. K. Ghosh (Ed.), The Historic Turning Point, vol II, p. 15.

[17] Ibid.

[18] ‘Political-Organizational Report Adopted at the Party Congress’, in Ibid, p. 19

[19] Ibid.

[20] Charu Majumdar, ‘On the Political-Organizational Report’, in ibid, p. 23.

[21] Ibid, p.25.

[22] Charu Majumdar, ‘A Few Words About Guerilla Actions’, in ibid, pp. 68-73.

[23] Charu Majumdar, ‘To the Working Class’, in ibid, pp. 82-84.

[24] Charu Majumdar, ‘Our Party’s Tasks Among the Workers’, in ibid, 84-88.

[25] Ibid.

[26] See MECW: 10, pp. 626-29 for a speech by Marx. For a later report by a former supporter of Marx on his strategy, see W. Blumenberg, ‘Zur Geschichte des Bundes der Kommunisten Aussagen des Peter Gerhardt Roser’, International Review of Social History, 9, 1964, pp. 81-122.

[27] Programme of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), in S. K. Ghosh (Ed.), The Historic Turning Point, vol II, p. 16.

[28] For West Bengal, some of this complexity is captured in Sen, K (2001). ‘ Paschimbanglay Naxal Andolane Meyera’, in M. Chattopadhyay (Ed.) (2001). Eso Mukta Karo: Narir Adhikar O Adhikar Andolan Bishayak Probondho Sankalon, Kolkata: Peoples’ Book Society: 159-186.

[29] Ibid, 166.

[30] The Inquilabi Communist Sangathan (Indian Section of the fourth International) had taken a stand supporting OBC reservations before V.P. Singh unpacked the Mandal Commission report. The CPI(ML) led by Santosh Rana, Vaskar Nandy and others was analyzing the complexities of caste, and campaigning for dalit rights, for a long time. Other ML groups also tried different strategies, including bringing in more dalit or OBC forces into the party and into the leadership. By contrast, the mainstream left in West Bengal, ruling the province for decades, has an abysmal record of either implementing constitutional provisions, or transforming the outlook of basic class forces on the caste question.

Maoism and the Neo-Stalin Cult

Tom Kerry


Kerry was a veteran leader of the Socialist Workers' Party, the leading US Trotskyist organisation for a long time. This article was an intervention when Maoism was presenting itself as a revolutionary alternative to Khruschevism, and aims to show that ultimately, both variants are tied to Stalinism. The sarticle is taken from the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism Online.

Maoism and the Neo-Stalin Cult

(Spring 1964)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.25 No.2, Spring 1964, pp.55-59.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

WITH THE publication of the recent Chinese indictment entitled: The Leaders of the CPSU are the Greatest Splitters of Our Times, the split between Peking and Moscow becomes definitive. The full text of the statement is published in the Feb. 7 issue of Peking Review. The text goes beyond the title by characterizing the Khrushchev leadership as the greatest splitters of all time, by asserting that “the leaders of the CPSU are the greatest of all revisionists as well as the greatest of all sectarians and splitters known to history.”

The statement purports to be a historical review of splits and splitters from the time of Marx and Engels up to the present day. Its central thesis had been previously projected in a speech by Chou Yang, vice-director of the Propaganda Department of the CPC Central Committee, delivered on Oct. 26, 1963 to a scientific gathering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. To wit: That “revisionism” arose to plague Marx and Engels at the very dawn of the socialist movement. So it was at the beginning and so it will continue to the very end.

Chou Yang argues that inasmuch as every thesis must have its antithesis, the promulgation of the Marxist revolutionary doctrine [thesis] inevitably gave rise to its opposite [antithesis] revisionism. Not only were the founders of scientific socialism fated to combat revisionism but Lenin too, in his day, was compelled to enter the lists against the revisionists. And, according to the dialectic of Chou, such was the fate not only of Marx, Engels and Lenin, but “of Stalin too.”

“This phenomenon may seem strange,” Chou Yang opines. “How can certain people who had previously been supporters of revolutionary scientific socialism degenerate into counter-revolutionary anti-scientific revisionists? Yet it is not at all strange. Everything tends to divide itself in two. Theories are no exception, and they also tend to divide. Wherever there is a revolutionary scientific doctrine, its antithesis, a counter-revolutionary, anti-scientific doctrine, is bound to arise in the course of the development of that doctrine. As modern society is divided into classes and as the difference between progressive and backward groups will continue far into the future, the emergence of antitheses is inevitable.”

With all due apologies to Chou, a nagging question still persists in thrusting its way to the fore: What is the criteria for determining who is and who is not a “Marxist-Leninist?” Chou has a ready answer. The Khrushchev leadership has repudiated Stalin. “To repudiate Stalin completely,” Chou affirms, “is in fact to negate Marxism-Leninism, which Stalin defended and developed.”

According to the Maoist schema of historical development the split was inevitable from the beginning. However, it is still necessary to fix the exact moment in time and the precise issue which signalled the dialectical transformation of Khrushchevite Marxism-Leninism into its opposite, revisionism. The time and issue are pinpointed in comment number two on the Open Letter of the Central Committee of the CPSU, entitled On the Question of Stalin (Sept. 13, 1963). It reads as follows:

“Stalin died in 1953; three years later the leaders of the CPSU violently attacked him at the 20th Congress, and eight years after his death they again did so at the 22nd Congress, removing and burning his remains. In repeating their violent attacks on Stalin, the leaders of the CPSU aimed at erasing the indelible influence of this great proletarian revolutionary among the people of the Soviet Union and throughout the world, and at paving the way for negating Marxism-Leninism, which Stalin had defended and developed, and for the all-out application of a revisionist line. Their revisionist line began exactly with the 20th Congress and became fully systematized at the 22nd Congress. The facts have shown ever more clearly that their revision of the Marxist-Leninist theories on imperialism, war and peace, proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, revolution in the colonies and semi-colonies, the proletarian party, etc., is inseparably connected with their complete negation of Stalin.” (My emphasis)

The aspect of the Sino-Soviet dispute about which this article is especially concerned is the attempt to revive, regenerate and reconstitute the “Stalin cult” on a world scale. The working class of all countries—I repeat, all countries—have paid a heavy price for the virus of Stalinism that has for so long poisoned the wellspring of Marxist thought and revolutionary socialist action. Millions of worker-militants who flocked to the liberating banner of Leninism in the aftermath of the Bolshevik-led Russian October revolution were corrupted, debauched and cruelly betrayed when the Stalin faction seized the power, strangled the workers’ and peasants’ Soviets, emasculated Lenin’s party and extended its malignant sway over the international communist movement.

To begin with, it is a gross exaggeration to assert that the heirs of Stalin now occupying the Kremlin have “completely negated Stalin.” For their own reasons and their own interests they have been constrained to lift but one tiny corner of the veil that has for too long shrouded the countless crimes committed by the genial butcher who defiled the name of Lenin and besmirched the proud banner of Bolshevism. Stalin was no Marxist-Leninist. He was a murderer of Marxist-Leninists—including some thousands of devoted Stalinists. The Chinese do a great disservice to their own cause in the struggle against the Khrushchev brand of “revisionism” and to the regeneration of Bolshevik-Leninism by attempting to lead a movement back to Stalin. For nothing in the revisionist views today advocated by Khrushchev were not at one time or another in the past promoted and advocated by Stalin.

* * *

THERE is today a growing mood of discontent and opposition to the flagrantly opportunist policies and practices of the Khrushchev leadership being manifested in Communist party formations throughout the world. A number of splits have already taken place and more are looming on the horizon. The questions raised by the Sino-Soviet dispute have been an important ingredient in this ferment. In their Feb. 7 document, Peking openly calls for an extension of these splits and encourages, promotes and supports the “schismatics.”

The back-to-Stalin gambit is designed to channelize the opposition to Kremlin “revisionism” within strictly defined limits governed by the needs and interests of the Maoist bureaucracy; to circumvent untrammeled discussion of the many basic issues raised in the dispute by insisting on establishing and maintaining the hierarchical order of progression—Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin-Mao. If successful it can only serve to substitute a Mao cult of infallibility for the now defunct Stalin cult in which all disputed questions of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice will be subject to the ipse dixit of the cult leader.

This tendency is already to be observed in the groups that have split off from the various Communist parties and embraced Maoism. In this country, for example, a small group which split from the American Communist party several years ago, after coyly flirting with Maoism for a period, has finally plumped for Peking as against Moscow. It modestly calls itself the Progressive Labor Movement. In the recently published winter issue of its magazine, Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, there appears a programmatic statement by the National Coordinating Committee of PLM which purports to meet the need of the American working class for a “revolutionary theory.”

We are informed in an editorial note that:

“During the past year the Progressive Labor Movement has been discussing the [Sino-Soviet] debate concerning correct Marxist-Leninist theory for our movement and for the international movement.”

We are availing ourselves of this opportunity to comment on those aspects of the “debate” that concern us here: Stalin and Stalinism. In making their Great Leap from Moscow to Peking the leaders of PLM faithfully parrot the Maoist line on the merits and demerits of Stalin. Along with Peking they flay Khrushchev for downgrading Stalin in his 20th Congress speech bcause:

“It did not place both his enormous contributions and his serious errors in their actual historical context, but offered instead a subjective, crude, total negation of a great Marxist-Leninist and proletarian revolutionist.”

In an almost verbatim paraphrase of the Chinese statement On the Question of Stalin, the PLM article draws a balance sheet of Stalin’s assets and liabilities and concludes that on balance, Stalin’s contributions are “primary” and his errors, “secondary.” What precisely were these errors?

“In the matter of Party and government organization, Stalin did not fully apply proletarian democratic centralism. He was in some instances guilty of abrogating it. There was a great development of centralism without the absolutely essential corresponding growth of proletarian democracy. This appears to have fostered an inordinate growth of bureaucracy which often resulted in reliance on administrative ‘diktat’ rather than the full participation of the party membership and people in making and carrying out policy.” (Emphasis added to underscore the method of introducing qualifying phrases intended to minimize Stalin’s “errors.”)

But let’s continue—the worst is yet to come! The PLM statement then plunges into a learned dissertation on “contradictions,” lifted bodily from Mao, to explain why Stalin fell into the “error” of presiding over the monstrous frame-up trials and purges which converted the Soviet Union into a veritable chamber of horrors.

“Stalin,” we are informed, “erred in confusing two types of contradictions which are different in nature. Thus, he did not differentiate between contradictions involving the Party and the people on the one hand and the enemy on the other, and contradictions within the Party and among the people. Consequently, he did not employ different methods in handling these different types of contradictions. Stalin was right to suppress the counter-revolutionaries. If he had not he would have been derelict in his defense of the Soviet State. Thus, many counter-revolutionaries deserving punishment were duly punished. But, because contradictions within the Party and among the people were not recognized as something totally different, something natural and even essential to the Party’s theoretical growth and development, no Communist method of principled inner-Party struggle, proceeding from unity through struggle to a higher unity, was developed. Many innocent people, or people with differences which could have been worked out in the course of principled ideological struggle, were wrongly killed.” (My emphasis)

Unfortunately, people who were “wrongly killed” are just as dead as those killed “rightly.” When Stalin was alive all were indiscriminately dubbed “counter-revolutionary” and summarily executed. Those who now deplore such “secondary errors” were among the first to applaud Stalin’s frightful atrocities as evidence of his not being “derelict in defense of the Soviet State.”

Who now is to decide which were the innocent and which the guilty? Who is to judge? As an aftermath of Khrushchev’s 20th Congress speech on the Stalin cult a few of the “wrongly killed” were “rehabilitated” and a few of Stalin’s crimes were disclosed. A few more rehabilitations and disclosures at the 22nd Congress. Instead of pressing for a full disclosure of all the facts of Stalin’s crimes and the rehabilitation of all of Stalin’s victims, the Maoists demand that Khrushshev call a halt to the “attack on Stalin.”

* * *

UNDER compulsion to settle accounts with their own Stalinist past, the authors of the PLM statement, present us with a bowdlerized condensation of the history of the American Communist party. We are informed that the CPUSA was cursed with “revisionism” from its very inception. We are further enlightened by the assertion that the one golden era of the American CP was the period following the expulsion of the Lovestoneite leadership in 1929 encompassing the early years of the Great Depression. In the entire history of the CP one doughty warrior against “revisionism” is singled out for special commendation: William Z. Foster.

To buttress this contention a companion piece to the PLM statement appears in the winter issue of Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, a eulogy of Foster on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of his birth, written by one Fred Carlisle. The PLM message to the American working class urging the need for a “revolutionary theory” is thus simplified: On the international arena: Back to Stalin. On the American scene: Back to Foster!

Before proceeding further we must comment on the outrageous jargon that is the hallmark of Stalinism and which has now been spiced by the turbid Maoism of the Chinese. Words which had previously been endowed with a precise definition in the Marxist vocabulary have been transformed into verbal abstractions capable, as the occasion demands, of being invested with the most diverse meanings. The term “revisionism” is a case in point. To Marxists, revisionism has been associated with the name of its most prominent advocate, Eduard Bernstein, author of a book entitled Evolutionary Socialism. Bernstein’s attempt to divest Marxism of its revolutionary content was designed to provide theoretical justification for the adaptation to capitalist parliamentarism of the right-wing bureaucracy, especially the trade-union bureaucrats, who became a power in the Second (Socialist) International during the prolonged period of imperialist expansion and “prosperity” in the latter part of the 19th century up to the outbreak of World War I.

The classic manifestation of revisionism was known as Millerandism, after Alexandre Millerand, a French lawyer and socialist deputy in parliament who in 1898 accepted an appointment as Minister of Commerce in the cabinet of the capitalist government. Millerandism became synonymous with parliamentary coalitionism. Millerand was the first Socialist to accept a ministerial portfolio in a capitalist government. His action engendered heated debate in the socialist movement of that time, which was divided into right, left and center. The left wing rejected coalitionism as a betrayal of socialism. The right wing chided Millerand only because he had not consulted the party. The center (Kautsky) introduced a motion at the International Congress held in Paris, in 1900, typical of centrist straddling, “allowing that socialists might, as an exceptional measure of a temporary kind, enter a bourgeois government, but implicitly condemning Millerand by saying that such action must be approved by the party.”

This compromise paved the way for the later coalition policy of the Social Democracy during and after the outbreak of the First World War. The lessons of the struggle in the Second International against coalitionism constituted an important ingredient influencing Lenin’s views on the nature of the revolutionary socialist party. Later, with the formation of the Third (Communist) International, a conscious and deliberate barrier was erected against the infiltration of reformist socialist and centrist muddleheads by the imposition at the Second Congress in 1920 of the 21 conditions for affiliation.

The People’s Front Variety

In the hey-day of Stalinism, coalitionism was dignified by the name “people’s front” and was consecrated as the official policy of all sections of the Communist International at the Seventh World Congress in 1935.

Lenin considered coalitionism a betrayal of socialism and fought against it the whole of his political life. To him it was the epitome of revisionism and he wrote his polemical work, State and Revolution, as a refutation of the parliamentary cretinism of the coalitionists, and in the process elaborated and refined the revolutionary essence of Marxism. Upon his return to Russia in April 1917, Lenin threatened to split with those Bolsheviks, including Stalin, who favored participation with the Mensheviks in the coalition government established after the February revolution.

One question: Do the Marxist-Leninists of PLM consider people’s frontism, the most odious form of coalitionism, as revisionist? They don’t say! However, they do extol William Z. Foster as the “best” of the fighters against the “revisionism” of the American CP; Foster, who preached and practiced people’s front coalition politics to the day of his death. And what of Mao? Can they find anywhere in his voluminous writings a forthright condemnation of people’s frontism? I don’t think so!

In China, coalitionism was first imposed by Stalin in the revolution of 1926-27. It there took the form of the Stalin-Bukharin formula of “the bloc of four classes,” under which the Chinese Communist party was subordinated to the rule of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang. Under this formula, the Chinese workers and peasants were first disarmed and then butchered by the troops of Stalin’s erstwhile ally, Chiang Kai-shek. As a result of this experience, Chen Tu-hsiu, then leader of the CPC, broke with Stalinism along with a number of other prominent leaders. All of whom were expelled from the Stalintern as “counter-revolutionists.”

It was only after the Seventh World Congress of the CI enthroned the People’s Front as the prevailing “universal truth” of Marxism-Leninism that Mao Tse-tung was elevated to the position of party leader.

The Dialectic of Revisionism

According to the Maoist dialectic in which everything, including theory, divides in two—not three or four but exactly in two — the tendencies in the world socialist movement are neatly separated into two compartments: revisionism and Marxist-Leninism. Revisionism is elevated to the status of an abstract category in which the term assumes a generic character in which is subsumed all that is not accorded the sovereign title of Marxism-Leninism. Reformism, sectarianism, dogmatism, opportunism, ultra-leftism, each or all are included or may be inferred in the general term. What is revisionism today can become Marxist-Leninism tomorrow and vice versa. It has become, par excellence, a cult term. Only the initiates who are privy to the thought of the cult leader can be sure of what it means at any given moment. Instead of a precise word defining a specific tendency it has been transformed into an epithet to smite those bold or foolhardy enough to question or disagree with the latest revelation of the “leader.”

From time to time differences of interpretation may arise between even the most devoted disciples that might lead to serious doctrinal disputations. The system cries out for a final arbiter around whom must be draped the aura of infallibility. Just as the Catholic church requires its pope to interpret holy scripture, so does every bureaucratic formation in the labor movement require its “pope” to resolve disputes that arise as a result of the inevitable conflict of interest between individuals and groups within the bureaucracy. To submit such disputes to the democratic process of discussion and action by the masses would endanger the existence of the bureaucracy as a whole. The bureaucrats fear this course as the devil fears holy water. With the hothouse growth of the Soviet bureaucracy after Lenin’s death, Stalin was elevated to the position of supreme arbiter of the parvenu bureaucratic caste and invested with the divine afflatus of infallibility.

In this sense the Chinese are correct in twitting Khrushchev about his indiscretion in seeking to place sole blame on Stalin for the crimes committed during his reign. There is, however, method to Khrushchev’s madness. His condemnation of the “cult of the personality” is calculated to absolve the bureaucracy of all responsibility for Stalin’s crimes. His task is greatly facilitated by the fact that once the supreme arbiter is firmly esconced upon this lofty perch the illusion is created that the “personality” has achieved complete independence from the bureaucratic machine that created him and that it is the man who manipulates and rules over the machine instead of the other way around. Khrushchev attacks the “cult of the personality” in order to conceal the ugly visage of the “cult” of the bureaucracy which continues to rule as before.

* * *

LET us scrutinize, in the light of this brief historical review, the tendentious analysis of the Marxist-Leninists of PLM of what went wrong with the American CP, when it happened and what to do about it.

“From the earliest days of the communist movement in the United States to the present,” we are informed, “revisionism and its political manifestation, class collaboration, has been the chronic weakness.”

Not so. While the PLM theoreticians are prone to use the term “revisionism” in the generic sense indicated above, in this instance they define its concrete political manifestation as “class collaboration.” In the “earliest days” of the American CP class collaboration was decidedly not its “chronic weakness.” In the period following the Russian revolution of 1917 the dividing line between the various tendencies in the socialist movement on an international scale was their attitude toward the October revolution.

The revisionists who preached and practiced the doctrine of class collaboration were solidly lined up in hostile antagonism to the Bolshevik revolution. The earliest CP’s, both in this country and abroad, were formed almost without exception out of splits over this question in the various parties of the Social Democracy. In this country the several Communist parties were established as a result of a split in the American Socialist party led by the left wing. The left wing split-off from the SP, together with the foreign language federations, comprised the cadres of communism which then split into contending parties each seeking recognition from the Communist International.

Disease of Ultra-Leftism

The basic weakness was not class collaboration but ultra-leftism. The tendency toward ultra-leftism was not at all peculiar to this country but was a malady that afflicted a number of the early communist groups in Europe. In fact, it was precisely against this desease that Lenin polemicized in his now famous pamphlet: Ultra-Leftism: An Infantile Disorder. Class collaborationists were not welcome in the Communist International of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s day.

But let’s proceed with our perusal of the PLM statement for a clue to this bowdlerized version of history.

“After the expulsion [in 1929] of Lovestone,” we are told, “the party developed a militant pragmatic approach which appealed to workers during the depression and produced a mass base for the CP.”

In the article by Carlisle, eulogizing Foster, we are instructed that:

“During the 1929-33 years of deepest crisis,” the American CP “came closer to being a correct Marxist-Leninist program for the US than anything that had been developed during the past 70 years.”

This is incredible! The years singled out for special approbation by PLM encompass what has gone down in history as the “Third Period.” The Sixth World Congress of the CI was held in 1928 under the aegis of the Stalin-Bukharin bloc. Bukharin headed the right-wing tendency in the CPSU which included such prominent leaders as Tomsky and Rykov. For the whole period prior to 1928 the Stalin bureaucracy proceeded on the Bukharin formula of a casual romp to socialism in which “socialism” would be established “at a snail’s pace.” The slogan at the time was: Kulak enrich thyself! The Left Opposition, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, had repeatedly warned that the differentiation among the peasantry in the villages under the Stalin-Bukharin policy was strengthening the grip of the Kulak (rich peasants) on the peasant economy and solidifying their political control over the middle and poor peasantry.

The program of the Left Opposition presented an extensive criticism of the Stalin-Bukharin line and elaborated an alternative program of planned industrialization in the economic sphere and a restoration of workers’ democracy in the Soviets and the party. Needless to say, the program, of the Left Opposition was suppressed and the adherents of the opposition were slandered, expelled, jailed, and, in Trotsky’s case, exiled from the Soviet Union. This did not forestall the development of the crisis predicted by the Left Opposition. It erupted soon after the Sixth Congress when the Kulaks engineered a strike against the Soviet government which threatened to starve the cities into submission and brought the Soviet regime to the very brink of disaster.

Recoiling in panic from the spectre of capitalist restoration spearheaded by the Kulaks, Stalin responded with a sharp turn to the left. In startling contrast to the previous line, Stalin decreed the immediate liquidation of the Kulaks, the “forced march” to collectivization and the first of his series of five-year plans of rapid industrialization. These edicts were carried out in an atmosphere of virtual civil war. The Stalin-Bukharin program adopted at the Sixth Congress was quickly jettisoned.

Stalin broke with Bukharin, who was retired in disgrace, and proceeded to purge the Bukharinists from their positions of leadership in the various sections of the Comintern. In this country Jay Lovestone was tagged as the scapegoat because he was identified with the Bukharin line. Although commanding a majority at the March 1929 convention of the American CP, Lovestone was summoned to Moscow where he was detained while the Stalin machine engineered a switch in leadership. Characteristic of Stalin’s machinations, Foster, who was then the most prominent leader of the CP, was sidetracked, and a political nonentity by the name of Earl Browder was tagged as leader of the CP. Being absolutely dependent on Moscow for his authority, Browder was considered a more pliable instrument of Stalinist manipulation and Foster was shunted aside. Foster never forgave Browder for this humiliation.

To buttress his “left turn” in the Soviet Union, Stalin proclaimed the advent of the “Third Period” which was to herald the end of capitalism on a world scale. In the world outside the Soviet Union the tactics of the Third Period rested on the twin pillars of the theory of “social fascism” and the “united front from below.”

The theory and practice of “social fascism” was a patent absurdity. Lenin had previously characterized the reformist Social Democrats as social chauvinists, or social patriots, etc. His intention thereby was to pillory the reformists as socialist in words, but national chauvinists in deed; or socialist in word, but bourgeois patriots in deed. But what could the epithet “social fascism” mean? That the Social Democrats were socialist in word and fascist in deed? But the Hitlerite fascists aimed at destroying the Social Democrats by smashing the independent unions upon which they were based, and made no bones about it. Germany was the major arena in which the battle was to be fought out. According to the theory of “social fascism,” the Social Democracy, which commanded the support of the majority of the German working class, was the “main enemy.”

The Third Period tactic of the “united front from below” was another of Stalin’s unique contributions which wreaked havoc in the world labor movement. The tactic of the united front was worked out and codified at the Third World Congress of the CI which convened in Moscow from June 22 to July 12, 1921. Contrary to the hopes and expectations of the Bolsheviks, the post-war wave of revolutionary actions subsided after a number of serious defeats. The slogan advanced after the October revolution of the “conquest of power,” was amended because of the change in the objective situation. The Comintern modification was summed up in the slogan “the conquest of the masses.” That is, to win for the Communist parties the allegiance of a decisive section of the working class in preparation for the next revolutionary wave.

The Social Democrats still commanded the support of a considerable section of the European working class. The tactic of the united front was designed to unite the workers in action against capitalist reaction and for the defense of their interests. The tactic was devised to compel the leaders of the Social Democracy to enter united front actions on concrete issues in defense of the interests of the working class as a whole. In the process of such actions it was considered that the non-communist workers would be won over to the Communist parties as they became convinced of the treacherous nature of their reformist leaders. To forestall the expected attempt of the Social Democrats to limit and derail the united front actions, it was insisted that each organization maintain its independence. As Lenin phrased it: We march separately but strike together.

Stalin took this concept and gave it his own twist—which converted it into its opposite. If the Social Democracy and fascism were “twins,” as he insisted, a united front agreement with the leaders became impossible. To get around this dilemma Stalin concocted the “united front from below.” That is, the workers adhering to the parties of the Social Democracy were called upon to break with their leaders and join in actions organized and led by the Communist parties. But if they were prepared to go that far, why bother about applying the circuitous tactic of the united front? It didn’t make sense. The result was that there was no united front at all. On the contrary, in the name of the “united front from below” the Stalinists preceded to split the labor movement down the middle.

American Version of Third Period

In this country, and others, the Third Period lunacy became a hideous caricature. Worker militants, members of the Communist party together with their supporters, were yanked out of the existing trade unions and herded into pure “revolutionary” paper organizations under the leadership of the CP acting through the front of the Trade Union Unity League. The trade-union bureaucrats were tickled pink. At one fell swoop they had gotten rid of their most militant opposition elements. Needless to say, the paper unions of the TUUL were 100 per cent “revolutionary”—and 100 per cent impotent.

In this country the Third Period idiocy made little difference one way or another. It was in Germany, the key to the whole international situation, that it exacted a heavy toll. By splitting the organized German working class, the “theory” of social fascism and the tactic of the “united front from below,” paved the way for Hitler’s march to power. So complete was the demoralization of the German workers that Hitler’s hordes seized the power without a struggle.

The victory of Hitler in Germany marked the end of the so-called Third Period. It led to a sharp rightward swing in which the “united front from below” was transmuted into the “people’s front” at the Seventh World Congress of the CI in 1935. If anything, the “people’s front” line was an even crasser mutilation of Lenin’s united front tactic.

Third Period Stalinism can be aptly characterized as “infantile leftism” gone berserk. And it is this aberration that PLM now advocates as a model for building a “new” Marxist-Leninist revolutionary communist movement in this country. This, they contend, was the “heroic” period of the American CP. This view goes far to explain the pronounced tendency toward irresponsible adventurism which characterizes their activity. You can never give birth to a movement — progressive or otherwise—by propounding and following a course of infantile leftism, but you can spawn a numerous crop of victims, which is just about what the Stalinist Third Period line accomplished.

The PLM statement, cited above, attributes the development by the American CP of its Third Period line to “militant” pragmatism. I must confess that the distinction between “militant” pragmatism and the non-militant variety, as philosophical categories, eludes me. The implication is that under the leadership of Foster, the American CP arrived at their line independent of the Kremlin. Unfortunately for the authors of the statement, Foster says otherwise. In his History of the Communist Party, published in 1952, Foster relates that during a discussion in the CI on the “American question,” following the March 1929 convention, Stalin criticized both the majority [Lovestone] and the minority [Foster] for their “fundamental error in exaggerating the specific features of American imperialism.”

“It would be wrong,” the Kremlin sage observed, “to ignore the specific peculiarities of American capitalism. The Communist Party in its work must take them into account. But,” he quickly added, “it would be still more wrong to base the activities of the Communist Party on these specific features, since the foundation of the activities of every Communist Party, including the American Communist Party, on which it must base itself, must be the general features of capitalism, which are the same for all countries, and not its specific features in any given country.”

Under this formula, Stalin cemented his monolithic control over all sections of the CI. Policy originated in Moscow. And woe betide those who pleaded “specific peculiarities” to warrant an exception being made for their own section. From then on every twist and turn in Kremlin policy was religiously echoed in every section throughout the world, special national “peculiarities” to the contrary notwithstanding. Foster got the message. When it came to twisting in conformity with the latest edict from Stalin he was without a peer. This earned for him in the radical movement the appellation, William “Zig-zag” Foster. This is the peerless fighter against “revisionism” whom the PLM statement commends to: “Young radicals [who] can learn from and emulate the devotion to the working class and socialism of such outstanding communists as William Z. Foster.”

Page From CP History

In his panegyric on Foster the self-avowed Marxist-Leninist, Fred Carlisle, explains that the main authority upon whom he relies for an evaluation of Foster is Foster himself. He neglects to add that whole sections of his eulogy were lifted bodily from Foster’s History of the Communist Party, for which the original author is not credited. “Foster’s historical analyses of these struggles,” Carlisle affirms, “are quite helpful, being more accurate and objective than other available sources.” Irony itself stands disarmed before such monumental naivete. At any rate, among the many examples of Carlisle’s historical scholarship, we select one which raises an important question—Lenin’s concept of democratic centralism as contrasted with that of Stalin-Foster.

“In 1928,” we are enlightened, “James P. Cannon was expelled form the CP for supporting Trotsky’s left-deviationist doctrine. Upon his return from the sixth world congress of the Comintern, which had turned down an appeal from Trotsky in exile, Cannon began clandestinely distributing Trotskyite materials. Though Cannon had been a member of their group, Foster and Bittelman preferred the charges against him of disseminating Trotskyite propaganda, advocating withdrawal from existing trade unions, abandoning the united front and fomenting disruption. Eventually about 100 of Cannon’s followers were also expelled and, under Cannon’s leadership, formed an opposition league which later became the Socialist Workers Party, affiliated to the Fourth International.”

The charge of “clandestinely” circulating “Trotskyite materials,” is supposed to convey the impression that Cannon was engaged in some sneaky, underhanded, criminal activity, warranting the most drastic penalty. Precisely what was the nature of this contraband which the sly Cannon was “clandestinely” distributing to leaders and members of the American CP? The slander that it consisted of “propaganda advocating withdrawal from, the existing trade unions,” and “abandoning the united front,” etc., characteristic of the Stalin-Foster Third Period insanity, is downright ludicrous. The “materials” actually consisted of Trotsky’s article, Criticism of the Draft Program, which had been presented for the consideration of the delegates to the Sixth World Congress and which they were bureaucratically deprived of reading because it was suppressed by the Stalin-Bukharin machine. The article, which came into Cannon’s possession through accident, was later published serially in the first issues of The Militant, then the American organ of the Left Opposition.

Does our learned historian even bother to ask himself the question why Cannon found it necessary to distribute such materials “clandestinely?” Cannon was a member of the top political committee of the CP; he had gone to Moscow as a delegate of the American CP to the sixth congress. Wasn’t he entitled to submit whatever materials he possessed pertinent to the decisions of that congress in a discussion presumably called for that express purpose? But, no! By that time the Stalin pogrom against Trotskyism raged throughout the communist movement. Trotsky’s views were distorted, mutilated, or suppressed by the Stalin bureaucracy. The most effective theoretical weapon in the arsenal of the bureaucracy was the mailed fist—and they wielded it with abandon. And all of this, of course, in the name of “democratic centralism.”

A Deadly Affliction

As he did with so many of Lenin’s contributions, Stalin twisted the Leninist concept of democratic centralism into its opposite, bureaucratic centralism. Under Lenin’s concept of democratic centralism, as practiced in his lifetime, all a minority was obliged to do was to accept the decisions of the majority after democratic discussion and debate, leaving to the unfolding events to determine who was right and who wrong. Stalin gave this concept just one little twist and converted it into bureaucratic law that a minority must agree with the majority.

It is a psychological impossibility to expunge from one’s head views, opinions, and thoughts which might be at variance with the views, opinions, and thoughts of others. The practice of bureaucratic centralism inevitably led to the obscene spectacle of individuals driven to public confession of their “errors” in order to avoid summary expulsion or worse. All of this was embellished and dignified under the heading of “self-criticism” which, as practiced by Stalinism, could be more accurately defined as self-flagellation.

Trotsky once aptly characterized Stalinism as “the syphilis of the labor movement.” To urge upon the American workers a return to Stalin-Foster is to counsel a course which could only induce an aggravated case of locomotor ataxia. And that is one affliction we would not wish on our worst enemies.

The Red Book On the Moscow Trials - II

This is the second part of Sedov's book that we are putting up. As before, it is taken from the Sedov Internet archive, which is part of the MIA.


Here is what the indictment says: “At the end of 1932 the unification of the Trotskyist and Zinovievist groups took place and they organized a unified center ...”

Organized at the end of 1932, this center, according to the indictment, carried on terrorist activity for almost four years: “from 1932 to 1936.” It is the end of 1932 which is considered the moment—and that is repeated dozens of times during the trial—when the Zinovievists on the one hand, and the so-called “Trotskyists” (Smirnov and others), on the other hand, supposedly obeyed Trotsky’s instructions and created the Unified Center, “which gave itself the task of executing a series of terrorist acts.”

What happened next? Here is what a number of the defendants and Bakaev in particular, say: “In the autumn of 1932, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been expelled from the party ... it was decided to temporarily suspend the terrorist activity. In the autumn of 1934 it was taken up again.” Reingold also says: “In our terrorist activity ... between the autumn of 1932 and the summer of 1933 there was a break, beginning with the autumn of 1932.” The inconsistencies concern only the time when this activity was resumed. It thus turns out that the center which was formed at the end of 1932 had already ceased its activity for a while ... before its formation, in the autumn of 1932. [36]

In reality, to demonstrate that the center (if it had ever existed) could not do otherwise than cease its activity in the autumn of 1932, we do not need this testimony. The fact is that in the autumn of 1932 (in October) Zinoviev and Kamenev were exiled from Moscow, and in the winter(on January 1, 1933) Smirnov was arrested. Mrachkovsky was also outside Moscow; he was, according to the information available at that time, deported, as were Ter-Vaganian and a number of other former Oppositionists. We can see that from the autumn of 1932 and until at least the summer of 1933 (the return of Zinoviev and Kamenev from exile), the center could not in fact exist.

This does not stop Dreitzer from stating that in the spring of 1933 he received “instructions from the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center to hasten the terrorist acts against the leadership of the Communist party in the USSR.” According to Dreitzer, consequently, it turns out that, just in the period in which the center “had ceased its activity,” it demanded that he “hasten” the preparation of the terrorist acts.

In this jumble of absurdities, it is difficult to understand anything at all! The center is organized and dissolved all at once, ceases its activity and at the same time “hastens” it.

There is no less confusion tied to the question of exactly when the center finally “resumed” its mysterious activity. Bakaev, who answers this question the most precisely, says: “In the autumn of 1934,” that is, two years later. This date is not chosen accidentally. It must be a preparation for the “confession” of Kirov’s assassination. If we believe Bakaev’s testimony, the only period in which the center existed and involved itself in terrorist activity was the second half, and, in particular, the autumn of 1934, that is, a period of only a few months. If we accept the version of the other defendants (Pikel, Reingold, Zinoviev, Kamenev), the center existed and acted from the summer or autumn of 1933 to the end of 1934, that is, one year and a half at the very most. Meanwhile, the indictment and the verdict say that the center existed from 1932 to 1936. In order to demonstrate that this statement is not unfounded, Vyshinsky asks Zinoviev the following question: “For how long did it (the center) function?” Zinoviev answers: “In fact, until 1936.” [37] This testimony of Zinoviev’s is at least strange, since he himself, like Evdokimov, Bakaev, and Kamenev had been in prison since December 1934. (Since the end of 1934, none of the members of the center had been in Moscow.) Obviously, from the end of 1934 to 1936 they engaged in terrorist activity ... in prison. Another member of the center, Mrachkovsky, during the four years of his “terrorist activity” was in Moscow only twice, in 1932 and in 1934, and even these were only short visits. How he was able, under these conditions, to work actively in the center is incomprehensible.

Besides this, one of the members of the center, I.N. Smirnov, never left prison after January 1, 1933, that is, for more than three and one half years. One wonders what role I.N. Smirnov could have played in the activity of the center since he was arrested in the period when this center had just been organized, and how, in particular, he could have taken an active part in Kirov’s assassination when he was in prison, without interruption, for the two years which preceded the assassination. But the verdict says in black and white — and Smirnov was shot in accordance with this verdict—that he is accused of “having organized and carried out on December 1, 1934 ... the assassination of S.M. Kirov.” Is this not a “model trial”?

Vyshinsky, it is true, also has a reply to that. Regarding the terrorist directives which Dreitzer was supposed to have received (in 1934), that is, when Smirnov had already been in prison for a long time, the prosecutor Vyshinsky says: “I am deeply (!) convinced (!!) that you knew about it (the terrorist directive) even while you were being held in the political isolator.” The material proofs are replaced by false “confessions” and mind-reading.

During the trial, several meetings are mentioned: in Zinoviev and Kamenev’s country house in Ilinskoe, in Zinoviev’s apartment, in Kamenev’s apartment and in Mrachkovsky’s railroad car. The first three were made up exclusively of Zinovievists; the last one, in Mrachkovsky’s railroad car, was, on the contrary, made up of former Trotskyists (which the exception of Evdokimov). Furthermore, the very fact of the last meeting is formally denied by I.N. Smirnov. These meetings, if they really took place, were not and could not have been sessions of the “Unified” Center, since they were only meetings of a single group. The court furthermore does not attempt to present these meetings as assemblies of the Unified Center.

With the object of crushing Smirnov, Vyshinsky asks Zinoviev: “And did you personally hear from Smirnov a series of propositions (concerning terror)?” Zinoviev: “I personally held talks with him on two or three occasions.”

This dialogue, by the way, exposes the fictitious character of the center. It turns out that during the entire terrorist activity, the two most outstanding members of the center “held talks” only “on two or three occasions.” And the common work of the center? The joint participation in its sessions? Of this—not a word!

Thus, during the trial, there is no evidence of any kind which would permit one to say that the “Unified Center” ever met, even once, or even once carried out any decision at all.

And as for I.N. Smirnov, who had started making “confessions” during the preliminary investigation, when it came to the trial he made an attempt to stop; [38] on the question of the Center, the following dialogue took place with the prosecutor:

Vyshinsky: When did you leave the center?

Smirnov: I did not have to leave it, there was nothing that I might have left.

Vyshinsky: Did the center exist?

Smirnov: But what center ...? [39]

The trial record is also forced to say that Smirnov confirmed these words by referring to the fact that “the center did not meet.” With this testimony, Smirnov struck the last blow to the legend of the “Unified Center.”

Is it worthwhile to dwell on the fact that neither the court, nor the prosecutor tries to look into all these contradictions? Rightly fearing that by “deepening” the investigation they would be threatened with even more disagreeable contradictions, they quite reasonably prefer not to dwell on them.

The attentive reader of the trial records who has little experience with Stalinist amalgams cannot help but say to himself: “What a bizarre center! It is impossible to establish its exact composition, the moment of its creation, or the period of its activity; it did not meet a single time. What it did in general is unknown!” Certainly, this center would be very bizarre, if ... if it had ever existed. [40]


[36] In the verdict an attempt was made to correct the situation by saying that the center arose not at the end of 1932, but in the autumn of 1932. That changes nothing in the case. It turns out that the center was organized and at the same time ceased its activity. It was undoubtedly organized with the special object .... ceasing its activity. (L.S.)

[37] Citing in his indictment speech the words of Zinoviev, “until 1936,” Vyshinsky changes 1936 to 1934, fearing, evidently, that otherwise the lie would be too crude to get away with. (L.S.)

[38] This explains why Smirnov’s depositions in court contradict in some measure the depositions at the time of the investigation. Not having the courage to openly break with the “confessions” extorted by the GPU and to tell the whole truth, Smirnov tried nonetheless to put up resistance during the trial. Justice demands that we note that Smirnov conducted himself somewhat better than the other defendants. (L.S.)

[39] This is the official translation from the International Correspondence (special number for the trial). Smirnov’s reply corresponds, rather, in English, to the exclamation, Come on! (L.S.)

[40] Besides the Unified Center there also appears in the trial a certain terrorist Center of Moscow (not to be confused with the Zinovievist Moscow Center of 1934!) The official composition of this center is: Dreitzer, Reingold and Pikel. It would be easy to show that everything we have said on the question of the Unified Center could more or less apply to this “center.” Its composition varies according to different testimony. This “center” was organized by Mrachkovsky before his departure from Moscow in 1932. Returning to Moscow nearly two years later, Mrachliovsky hears a report from the director of this center, Dreitzer, according to whom ... the Moscow center has been organized and so on, all in the same spirit.


After having crushed the Left Opposition in 1927-1928, Stalin, who had until then denied the possibility of industrialization, of collectivization, and of the planned economy in general, made a left turn. The new Stalinist economic policy, extremely contradictory, chaotic and carried out with purely bureaucratic methods, was formed from scraps taken from the platform of the Left Opposition. With all the more bitterness Stalin directed the repression against the bearers of this platform. The Stalinist left turn (plus the strengthening of repression) brought disorder in 1929 into the ranks of the Left Opposition. The recently begun industrialization and collectivization opened up new possibilities and new perspectives. Under these conditions, many Oppositionists were inclined to he lenient toward the regime, which had become increasingly bureaucratic. They were swept away by a wave of capitulations. Among them were Radek, Preobrazhensky, I.N. Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian, Dreitzer, and others.

The following years (1930-1932) were the years of uncontrolled bureaucratic management of the economy by the the Stalinist leaders who rapidly led the country into a very serious economic and political crisis. This crisis took particularly sharp forms in 1932. The administrative abolition of classes in the countryside and the forced “complete” collectivization had radically disrupted agriculture. In the Soviet economy the disproportions had taken on extraordinary dimensions: between industry and agriculture, and within industry; a catastrophic level of quality, an absence of consumer products, inflation, the complete disruption of transportation. The material situation of the masses worsened continuously, malnutrition turned into actual starvation. Millions of new workers lacked housing and vegetated in barracks, often without light, in the cold, in filth. Across the country there spread an epidemic of spotted fever such as had not been seen since the Civil War. A general fatigue and discontent began to come to light. The workers had recourse more and more frequently to strikes, in Ivanovo-Voznesensk there were large upheavals of workers. The kolkhozniks defended their harvest and their goods against the non-collectivized peasants with arms in hand. In the Caucasus and the Kuban a small civil war raged. The demoralization which was growing ever stronger in the party, the discontent and the distrust of the leadership also filtered into the apparatus. One could hear everywhere, among the old Bolsheviks, the workers, the young Komsomols, that Stalin was leading the country to ruin.

This was the situation which surrounded the former leaders of the Left Opposition who had split from it. After having capitulated at a different time, they had all sincerely tried, at least at first, to adapt themselves to the Stalinist apparatus, hoping to take part in the struggle for industrialization, the struggle against the kulak. But the sharp economic and political crisis moved them away from the Stalinist apparatus. Half involuntarily, certain oppositionist feelings were born in them, the need to speak among themselves, to criticize the Stalinist policies. Thus in 1932, one could observe a certain, though rather weak, awakening of the groups which at one time had capitulated before Stalin; the group of Zinoviev and Kamenev. the group of old left Stalinists—Lominadze-Shatskin-Sten (those who were called the “leftists”); of Smirnov and his friends, and also of some rightists, Riutin, Slepkov, and others. But this “awakening” must not be exaggerated. For the majority, it had a purely domestic character, never going further than “heart-to-heart” talks and dreams about how good it would be to have other politics and another leadership. Most likely, the men from the different circles sought out a personal coming together, ties with each other. The most audacious perhaps said that it would be good to form a “bloc.” But probably it was not even taken that far. Hence Stalin now (four years later!) constructs a “bloc” and even a “Unified Center.”

Of course the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists didn’t enter into my kind or a bloc with a single of one these groups. [41] All these groups had at one time or another capitulated to Stalin and for this alone they were utterly opposed to the Bolshevik-Leninists, who considered and continue to consider capitulation as one of the greatest crimes against communism and the interests of the working class. On this question, the Left Opposition took a particularly intransigent attitude. In the eyes of the Bolshevik-Leninists, these groups and men did not and could not have any political or moral authority.

The Left Opposition attached a primarily symptomatic importance to the awakening of these groups of “party liberals.” as they were called amongst themselves. Of course, this could serve as a point of departure for Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov and others to return to the old banner of the Bolshevik- Leninists—it could, but it was nothing of the sort.

Stalin, the GPU and the Central Control Commission did not remain ignorant of this state of mind among the old Oppositionists. This state of mind, be it said in passing, had at that time seized the majority of the party. At the beginning of October 1932, Zinoviev and Kamenev were expelled from the party, in a common list with prominent rightists, Uglanov (former secretary of the Central Committee and the Moscow Committee of the party), Riutin (member of the Central Committee and leader of the Moscow organization), Slepkov, Maretsky (young rightist theoreticians, students of Bukharin), and others. [42] Riutin had in fact written a long document critical of the Stalinist policies and the Stalinist regime, including, it seems, a very rude portrayal of Stalin personally (“evil genius of the party.” etc.). Zinoviev and Kamenev were accused of the following: “Knowing that counterrevolutionary documents were widespread, they had preferred, rather than denounce them, to discuss this document and thus to show themselves to be direct accomplices of an anti-party counterrevolutionary group.” [43] (Pravda, 1932). Just for failing to make this “denunciation,” there was no other accusation — Zinoviev and Kamenev were expelled from the party and exiled from Moscow. The announcement of their expulsions mentioned not a word about any kind of political activity by Zinoviev and Kamenev—there was none.

Such was the first version, in any case a plausible one, of the “activity” of Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1932. The second version (in 1934) already spoke of a “Moscow Center,” of having “excited terrorist tendencies,” etc. The third version (the trial m August 1936) contains the Unified Center, terrorism, and Kirov’s assassination! The further the facts go into the past, the more shamelessly Stalin falsifies them!

Soon the news arrived from Moscow about the arrest of a number of well-known former Oppositionists, old Bolsheviks: I.N. Smirnov, Preobrazhensky, Ufimtsev, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian, and others. [44]

We have written above that the exile of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others might have become the starting point for their return to the Bolshevik-Leninists, but that it was nothing of the sort. Already by the spring of 1933 Zinoviev and Kamenev had capitulated once again, and in a much more humiliating manner than before, by glorifying Stalin, etc. They were returned to Moscow. Here is how Trotsky then evaluated the new capitulation in the press: “Acknowledge Stalin’s genius ... and Zinoviev and Kamenev ‘acknowledged’ it, that is, they have finally reached the bottom ...” “Like Gogol’s hero, Stalin is collecting dead souls ...” (May 23, 1933, Bulletin of the Opposition, No.35.)

How far away these words are from a “bloc” or common “Unified Center”! In the eyes of a politically honest man this one quotation annihilates all the Stalinist slanders concerning the bloc of Trotsky and Zinoviev, which lay at the basis of this trial.

The new capitulation of Zinoviev and Kamenev was closely linked to the improvement of the USSR’s domestic situation. In 1933 the crisis was softening, the Oppositionist feelings were lessening. The capitulationist groups which had almost come to life once again returned to passivity. In 1934 these tendencies became decisively stronger.

At the trial, we are presented with a very different picture. As long as a sharp crisis and a general discontent reigned (1932-1933), the terrorists did not show any particular activity. But precisely at the moment when (in 1934) the country was “coming out of its difficulties, the triumph of the policy of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) provoked a new outburst of animosity and hatred against the leadership of the party ...” (Kamenev’s testimony).

This whole story is a very stupid fabrication. It was necessary to help lay the foundation for the charge of having assassinated Kirov (in 1934.)

After granting amnesty to Zinoviev, Kamenev and others, Stalin did not give them any confidence. They were not entrusted with work of even the slightest importance. They were kept far away from politics. Since that time, that is, since the spring of 1933, Zinoviev, Kamenev and all the others who had capitulated, passed completely into political non-existence. Morally, they were broken. They no longer lived, they vegetated. The revolver fired by Nikolaev upset this situation. Zinoviev, Kamenev and others were brutally “recalled” by Stalin to political life, “not for their own sake, but for the sake of Stalin,” as victims of the Bonapartist bosses. Old Marxists, who had tied their whole lives to the party of the working class and the movement of masses, were accused of having participated in “terrorism.”


[41] If the “bloc” between the Left Opposition and various groups which capitulated to Stalin existed, how can it be explained that nothing about this significant fact appeared in the press, especially in the Stalinist press. The Left Opposition was always an intransigent opponent of behind-the-scenes combinations and agreements. For it, the question of a bloc could only consist of an open political act in full view of the masses, based on its political platform. The history of the 13-year struggle of the Left Opposition is proof of that.

No doubt the politically intransigent attitude toward capitulation did not exclude individual personal meetings or exchanges of information—but nothing more. (L.S.)

[42] The very expulsion of Zinoviev and Kamenev together with the rightists was a typical Stalinist, i.e., Thermidorian amalgam. (L.S.)

[43] This means Riutin and his friends. (L.S.)

[44] Here is how the Moscow correspondent of the Bulletin, a Bolshevik-Leninist, described these events: “The numerous arrests among those who had left the opposition (in Moscow alone around 150 people were arrested and exiled), were explained as a prophylactic measure. Although many of those who had left were passive, they were not trusted. Stalin considers it necessary to get rid of someone before he is able to think.” (Bulletin of the Opposition, No.35, July 1933) (L.S.)



Individual terror sets as its task the murder of isolated individuals in order to provoke a political movement and even a political revolution. In pre-revolutionary Russia, the question of individual terror had importance not only as a general principle, but also had enormous political significance, since there existed in Russia the petit-bourgeois party of the Socialist Revolutionaries (epigones of the heroic Narodnaya Volya), who followed the tactic of individual terror with regard to tsarist ministers and governors. The Russian Marxists, including Trotsky during his earliest years, took part in the fight against the adventuristic tactic of individual terror and its iilusions, which counted not upon the movement of the masses of workers, but on the terrorists’ bomb to open the road to revolution. To individual terror, Marxism counterposes the proletarian revolution.

From his youth, Trotsky adhered resolutely and forever to Marxism. If one were to publish everything which Trotsky wrote, it would make dozens of thick volumes. One would not be able to find in them a single line which betrayed an equivocal attitude toward individual terror. How strange it is to have to even speak of it today!

Here is how Trotsky formulated the position of Marxism toward individual terror in an article appearing in the Austrian newspaper Der Kampf, in 1911:

Whether or not a terrorist attack, even if “successful,” provokes disturbance in the ruling circles depends on the concrete political circumstances. In any case, this disturbance can only be short-lived; the capitalist state does not rest on ministers and cannot be destroyed together with them. The classes which it serves will always find new men; the mechanism remains intact and continues its work.

But the disturbance which the terrorist attack brings to the ranks of the working masses themselves is much more profound. If it suffices to arm oneself with a revolver to arrive at the goal, why then the efforts of the class struggle? If one can intimidate high-ranking people with the thunder of an explosion, why then a party?

The Marxist Trotsky has given his whole conscious life, forty years! – to the workers movement. The last twenty years of Trotsky’s revolutionary activity have been spent before the eyes of the whole world. In this activity his worst enemies could not find an instance of “double-entry bookeeping,” or compromises with Marxism. For forty years, Trotsky has always taken the direct path to the final goal. To now take the path of individual terror, to renounce Marxism, would signify for Trotsky not only renouncing himself, but also reducing to nothing the fruits of forty years of revolutionary activity. That would signify political suicide.

Rejecting individual terror with regard to the bourgeois police state, because only the proletariat itself can overthrow this state, the Bolshevik-Leninist-Marxists still more strongly reject individual terror in the country of Soviets, where the greatest social revolution in history was accomplished. Individual terror in the USSR, completely independently of the intentions of the terrorists themselves, can only serve the cause of Bonapartist counterrevolution and could only facilitate the victory of fascism in the USSR.

In contrast to the bureaucrats and terrorists, the Left Opposition has always thought that the problem does not rest with Stalin personally, but in those social changes which have occurred in the USSR and as a result of which the victory of Stalin was guaranteed. Stalin’s absolutism is not at all accidental, it is result of historical development. It is not Stalin personally who holds unlimited power, but the bureaucracy as a social layer, through Stalin. This limitless power was given to the bureaucracy by the reaction which followed the heroic period of the Russian revolution. The strength of the bureaucracy and, derived from it, the strength of Stalin, “the party’s most eminent mediocrity,” does not at all lie in the “genius” of Stalin, but in that relation of class forces, a very unfavorable relationship for the proletariat, as it developed inside and outside the USSR in the recent period.

The removal of Stalin (from his position as General Secretary) as an individual question, was proposed by Lenin at the beginning of 1923, and this could have made sense at that time, because it could have facilitated the struggle against the bureaucracy which had not yet been able to strengthen itself. Today, and even long ago, the question of Stalin, as an independent question, does not exist. It is impossible to change by assassination the relationship of social forces and to stop the objective path of development. The personal removal of Stalin would today signify nothing but his replacement by one of the Kaganoviches whom the Soviet press would overnight turn into the genius of geniuses.

The Soviet bureaucracy is the greatest danger to the USSR. But it can be removed only by an active uprising of the working class. This uprising is only possible as the result of the rebirth of the workers movement in the West, which, reaching the USSR, would undermine and sweep away the Stalinist absolutism. There can be no other road for revolutionary Marxists. And it is not with the aid of some police machinations that Stalin will discredit Marxism and Marxists! For nearly a hundred years the worldwide police have been working toward this, from Bismarck and Napoleon III, but each time they have only burned their fingers. The police falsifications and machinations of Stalin hardly surpass the other examples of this same work; but he has carried them out – and in what a manner! – by “confessions” torn from the accused by the infinitely refined methods of the Inquisition.

To discredit Marxism, Stalin puts onto the stage the same Reingoid, who declares that “Zinoviev based (sic) the necessity of using terrorism on this, that although (?) terror was incompatible with Marxism, at the present time it is necessary to cast this (!!) aside.” What a beautiful accumulation of words! Zinoviev, don’t you see, based this on the fact, that although this is incompatible with Marxism, this has to be “cast aside.” What complete idiocy!

Toward Marxism, as toward theory in general, Stalin shows fear, and at the same time, a sort of contempt. A limited empiricist, “a practical person,” Stalin has always been a stranger to the theory of Marxism. For him, Marxism, more exactly the arguments “from Marxism,” are first of all a cover, a smokescreen. The “practical” arguments, those of day-today life and, in particular, the arguments of political gangsterism, are obviously closer to him. There, he is in his element.

If we approach the question of individual terror in the USSR, not from a theoretical, but a purely “empirical” point of view, from the point of view of so-called common sense, then it suffices to draw the following conclusion: the assassinated Kirov is immediately replaced by another Kirov-Zhdanov (Stalin has as many as he needs in reserve.) Meanwhile hundreds of people are shot, thousands, and very probably tens of thousands, are deported. The vise is tightened by several turns.

If Kirov’s assassination helped anyone, it is certainly the Stalinist bureaucracy. Under the cover of the struggle against “terrorists,” it has stifled the last manifestations of critical thought in the USSR. It has placed a heavy tombstone on all the living.

In fact, it is Stalin himself who pushed isolated groups of youth who are politically backwards and desperate onto the road of terrorism. By reducing liberty to the right to be a docile subject, by stifling all social life in the USSR, by giving no one the possibility of expressing his opinion in the framework of proletarian democracy, Stalin necessarily pushes isolated and desperate men onto the road of terrorism. The personification of the regime – the party does not exist, the working class does not exist, only Stalin and the local Kaganovich exist – this also cannot fail to feed terrorist tendencies. To the extent that these really exist in the USSR, Stalin – and he alone carries the full political responsibility. It is his regime which gives birth to them and not the Left Opposition.

It is also in this direction that the monstrous and bestial repression acts, in particular the latest Moscow shootings (and across the entire USSR there are undoubtedly shootings of which we know nothing!) At the time of Nikolaev’s revolver shot we, the communist-internationalists, had already condemned individual terror in the most pitiless and most decisive fashion. Today we maintain this point of view more firmly than ever. If Stalin, by his policy, his regime and the extermination of the Opposition, can create a terrorist state of mind, then revolutionary duty imperiously demands that the Bolshevik-Leninists repeat once again with all their energy: the path or individual terror is not our path, it can only be the path to the destruction of the revolution. It can facilitate the victory of the Bonapartist counterrevolution and only that.


(“Remove Stalin”)

During the trial as during the investigation, the official and unofficial accusers (i.e., the accused) used with particular insistence the expression: “Stalin must be removed.” During the investigation this formula was used as amorphous pig-iron, from which one might make a club, but from which one might also make nothing at all. Does it mean to “remove” him legally, on the basis of party statutes and at the party congress, whose business it is to reelect or to replace the General Secretary, – or in some other manner, “illegally”? This question is carefully left in the shadows at the beginning of the inquiry. There it will become apparent. As long as the accused have not been broken for good, all that is torn from them is the confession of having the intention to “remove” Stalin, to remove, i.e., to replace. Then as if by chance, they are ordered to confess that they are for “extreme methods.” The rest is clear: the two declarations are combined and when the accused is definitively broken, the investigating judge lays down his hand. The extreme methods become “terror;” to “remove” becomes synonymous with to kill. And what at first sight was amorphous pig-iron has sharpened to become a deadly weapon. In the court, the formula “to remove Stalin” appears with its new meaning: to remove means “to kill.” [45]

But why have Stalin and his accomplices become so obsessed with this expression? Where did they first come up with it? In his statement, Vyshinsky gives us some explanation of this: “In March 1932, in a fit of counterrevolutionary anger, Trotsky published an open letter with the call to ‘remove Stalin’ (this letter was discovered in the secret lining of a suitcase belonging to Holtzman and added to the dossier as material evidence.)” Olberg also mentions this, testifying that: “Sedov spoke to me for the first time about my trip to the USSR following Trotsky’s appeal which was written after he had been deprived of his Soviet citizenship. Trotsky, in this appeal, put forward the idea that it was necessary to assassinate Stalin. This thought is expressed in the following words: ‘It is necessary to remove Stalin.’ After having shown me the typewritten text of this appeal, Sedov said to me: ‘Well, you see now that it cannot be said more clearly. This is a diplomatic formulation.’”

We thus learn that we are dealing with an open letter which Trotsky wrote in March 1932, on the occasion of the revocation of his Soviet citizenship. Vyshinsky doesn’t find it necessary to quote such an important document, although the letter was “added to the dossier as material evidence.”

Why? We shall soon find out. Trotsky’s “call” for the assassination of Stalin is nothing other than the open letter of Trotsky to the Praesidium of the Central Executive Committee, that is, to Kalinin, Petrovsky, and others, published at one time in the Bulletin of the Opposition [46] and in all the other publications of the Left Opposition. It is to Kalinin and Petrovsky that Trotsky transmits – through the press! – the instruction to assassinate Stalin.

What a sensation! And why is Kalinin not among the defendants? Or hasn’t his turn come yet?

Here is the extract from this “open letter” which interests us:

Stalin has led us to an impasse. There is no way out except the liquidation of Stalinism. One must have confidence in the working class, one must give the proletarian vanguard the possibility by means of free criticism, to reexamine from top to bottom the whole Soviet system, to pitilessly purify it of all the accumulated rubbish. One must, finally, carry out the last urgent advice of Lenin: remove Stalin. (Bulletin of the Opposition, No.29, March 1932)

Now we understand why Vyshinsky does not quote the document [47] which was so important for laying the foundations of “terror”! If Vyshinsky had quoted the whole sentence, the sensation would have been even greater. Not only does Trotsky call for removing – “assassinating” – Stalin, but what’s more he quotes Lenin!

It thus turns out that the one who laid the foundations of terrorism and who was the first terrorist, was Lenin, and not Trotsky.

The “last urgent advice of Lenin,” is his famous Testament. Let us recall what Lenin wrote in it:

Comrade Stalin, having become General Secretary, has concentrated in his hands an immense power and I am not convinced that he always knows how to use it with sufficient caution.

Stalin is too rude and this fault, entirely tolerable in our midst and in relations between us communists becomes intolerable in the position of General Secretary. This is why I propose to the comrades that they reflect on ways of removing Stalin from this post and naming in his place a man who, in all respects, will distinguish himself from Cde. Stalin in only one way, that is, one who would be more patient, more loyal, more polite and more attentive toward his comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may seem an insignificant trifle, but I think that from the point of view of preventing a split, and from the point of view of what I have written above about the mutual relations between Stalin and Trotsky, it is not a trifle, or else it is trifle which can acquire decisive importance. January 4, 1923 [48]

To remove Stalin – or more crudely put: kick him out – from the post of General Secretary, that is what Lenin proposed in his Testament. Here are the sources of “terrorism,” which Vyshinsky so wisely doesn’t mention!

Since its formation, the Left Opposition has demanded the fulfillment of Lenin’s Testament in hundreds of articles, documents, tracts, in its platform, in the articles of the Bulletin of the Opposition and, finally, in Trotsky’s Open Letter to the Central Executive Committee (on the occasion of one of Stalin’s more minor and preparatory amalgams – depriving Trotsky of his Soviet citizenship). And this letter was written four and a half years ago. Why didn’t Stalin dare to attribute terrorist intentions to Trotsky then? Because Stalin needed time to prepare the ground for his poisonous slanders.

Remove (kick out!) Stalin meant, according to Lenin’s thinking, to take away the immense power that he had concentrated in his hands since becoming head of the apparatus. That meant depriving him of the possibility of abusing this power.

When Lenin was writing his Testament, he was far from being able to imagine just how far Stalin’s abuse of power would go. Yes, if Lenin were alive, he would not only be in prison (“Lenin was only saved from prison by his death,” said Krupskaya in 1926), but he would have been declared the first and foremost terrorist!

Such is Stalin’s belated revenge – thirteen years later – for Lenin’s Testament, Stalin’s revenge against Lenin. It took the gravedigger of the revolution, Stalin, thirteen years to crush Bolshevism and to turn the greatest of all revolutions into the corrupt Bonapartist regime which now rules in the USSR.


[45] This emerges especially clearly in Ter-Vaganian’s testimony. (L.S.)

[46] Although the “Letter” was published, Sedov is supposed to have shown Olberg a “typewritten” copy. Olberg needed this story to give the thing a mysterious and conspiratorial character. What pathetic nourishes! (L.S.)

[47] It seems that only Kerensky swallowed this bait: “One document – he says – in any case exists – and of no small significance. Vyshinsky uttered (0!) one sentence which no one (no one, with the exception, it goes without saying, of Kerensky) noticed.” Then follows the above mentioned quotation from Vyshinky’s speech. (L.S.)

[48] The September 1936 issue of The Bolshevik, organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, reports Lenin’s Testament in the following words: “Stalin, whom the dying Lenin put at the head of the party!” (L.S.)



Besides general conversations about terror, the transmission of “instructions”, all sorts of “terrorist” conceptions, etc., a few concrete attacks are nevertheless mentioned. Let us take them one by one.

1.The Berman-Yurin—Fritz David Team
The Attack on Stalin

Having arrived in Moscow in March 1933, [49] Berman-Yurin and Fritz David decided to organize an attempt on Stalin at the XIIIth Plenum of the Comintern in December 1933. According to Berman-Yurin “the plan fell through,” because Fritz David had not been able to get a pass for Berman-Yurin “who was supposed to fire at Stalin.” Fritz David gives another version: “These projects failed because Stalin did not attend the XIIIth Plenum.” This is a bit like the story of the borrowed pot. First, he says, I returned the pot to him intact, second, it was already cracked, third, I didn’t borrow anything from him at all. The third part seems to be missing here, but in fact it is here too. There was no pass, there was no Stalin and ... there was no attempt to organize an attack.

But Fritz David and Berman-Yurin were not depressed by this failure. In fact, “they had already elaborated two concrete (!) plans for attacks on Stalin.” There remained the second plan: to carry out an attack on Stalin at the VIIth Congress of the Comintern.

Without a doubt, this plan was brilliant; furthermore it corresponded to Trotsky’s “directives,” which were not simply to kill Stalin, but to do it without fail to the accompaniment of music and ovations, “before an international forum,” according to the statement made by Berman-Yurin. But from our Point of view, this plan still contained a serious drawback. The last previous Congress of the Comintern (the VIth) was held in 1928. From 1928 to 1933, more than five years had already passed, and there was absolutely no mention of a new congress. Violating the statutes of the Comintern, Stalin pushed it back from year to year, with the intention, if possible, of never convening it again. In the propaganda of the Left Opposition abroad during those years, the question of the failure to convene the Congress of the Comintern played a great role. Here is what Trotsky wrote, for example, in December 1934 (one can find dozens of similar quotations): “The ruling Stalinist group, basically, has long since waved good-bye to the Comintern. One of the most obvious proofs of this is Stalin’s refusal to convene an International Congress.” (Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 41)

Berman-Yurin and Fritz David were sent by Trotsky, by the same Trotsky who thought that the Congress would not be convened, and at the same time, as Berman-Yurin testifies, who proposed to the latter “to organize an attack at the Congress.” And so, instead of acting, our “terrorists” wait ... for the Congress. They wait one year, they wait two years, and finally two and a half years later, their patience is rewarded. After a break of seven years, from 1928 to 1935, the VIIth Congress is at last convened. One may retort: perhaps they waited a long time, but on the other hand they had prepared the attack well and “elaborated a concrete plan.” Let the court record speak: “At the Congress of the Comintern, only Fritz David was able to get in, since they could not obtain a pass for Berman-Yurin. Fritz David, according to his own words, was not able to carry out his terrorist act because it was impossible for him to get close to Stalin ... He, Fritz David, sat in the loge, there were too many people in the loge and shooting was out of the question.”

Obviously Fritz David had thought that he would be seated at the Praesidium and “there would not be many people” ... at the Congress.

Thus the story ends. But how, one asks, did the GPU learn of all that? Or did these “terrorists” go to the GPU on their own and tell them about their failures? And if they had not made that mistake, they would very probably not only be alive and well today, they would have prepared, no less successfully, a new attack on Stalin, scheduled to take place, let us say, at the VIIIth Congress of the Comintern (1940? 1945?).

And this is the only “concrete” attempt at an attack on Stalin! Furthermore it seems that the court itself did not take this GPU story very seriously, since it does not even mention it in its verdict.

2. The Terrorist Olberg Attacks Stalin

Just like Berman-Yurin and Fritz David, Olberg “received instructions” from Trotsky concerning terrorist activity. Trotsky had never laid eyes on Olberg any more than he had Berman-Yurin and Fritz David (although in contrast to the other two, he had heard of him, it is true, only in a negative vein (see page 33).

Olberg made three trips to the USSR. After receiving “terrorist instructions” in 1932, he left at the end of March (!) 1933 for the Soviet Union and stayed there until July 1933; he “hid,” for some reason, for a month and a half in Moscow, then he left for Stalinbad, where he settled down as a history teacher. Stalinbad, which is some distance from Moscow, and therefore also from all the top leaders, some 4000 km. at least, was evidently chosen by Olberg as the most favorable location for his terrorist activity. But soon Olberg had to return to Prague, because “his military papers were not in order.” Olberg went to the USSR for the second time in March 1935, but he only spent several days there, since he had a tourist visa. In July 1935, Olberg went to the USSR for the third time. Olberg had made his last two trips with the famous passport from the Republic of Honduras (the only material proof officially mentioned in the case). “After spending a short time in Minsk, [Olberg] left for Corky, linked up with Yelin and Fedotov, and obtained work at the Gorky Pedagogical Institute where he remained until the day of his arrest.”

In reading this unbelievable story, one might think there was no GPU in the USSR! Vyshinsky shows great curiosity toward Olberg’s Honduras passport: weren’t his parents in Honduras, or perhaps his grandmother? One wonders why the GPU had not shown the same interest at the time of Olberg’s trips! Whoever has any understanding of the conditions under which visas are given for the USSR and the strict manner in which the GPU watches even the “respectable” foreigners who arrive, will see how unbelievable this story is. A man arrives (and not for the first time) with an exotic and unreliable passport from the Republic of Honduras, does not speak a word of the American languages, but speaks ... Russian. It is hard to imagine a more suspicious foreigner. Nevertheless, Olberg not only enters the USSR unhindered, leaves and enters the USSR again, but he even obtains an official teaching position at a State Pedagogical Institute! Let us state as categorically as possible: Olberg was able to receive a visa for the USSR, to go there and obtain work only with the assistance of the Soviet authorities, the GPU included.

But let us return to the “terrorist” activity of Olberg. Three years — from 1932 to 1935—went by without our hearing a word of this activity. But having arrived in Gorky in July 1935, “Olberg learned from Fedotov that terrorist combat groups had been organized before his arrival. Olberg simply had to elaborate the actual plan of the attack.”

Let us note that neither Yelin nor Fedotov (who is none other than the director of the pedagogical Institute where Olberg taught!) was called to trial, neither as accused nor as a witness. Let us also note that if terrorist “combat groups” organized by Fedotov had really existed in Gorky, then it is simply incomprehensible why Fedotov needed Olberg. A young man, with neither kith nor kin, having no notion of terrorist activity or of conspiratorial activity in general, must lead — “elaborate a plan!”—a terrorist organization already started by much more experienced people. But what exactly did this notorious plan consist of? “The terrorist act was to be carried out on May 1, 1936, in Moscow”; this is all that we learn from the court records. By whom? Where? How? Not a word about any of that. “What prevented this plan from being carried out?” asks Vyshinsky. “The arrest,” answers Olberg.

Such is the story of this “attack.” This, furthermore, does not prevent a venal scribbler from Pravda, (L. Rovinsky, August 22) from informing us that “Olberg’s terrorist and spy activity was coming to a head ...” Not only was he “organizing terrorist espionage groups,” but he was even “teaching the terrorists marksmanship and bomb throwing.” In the court transcripts there was never any question of marksmanship or throwing bombs. We doubt very much that the student of political science, V. Olberg, had ever seen a bomb, except for the “bomb” which Stalin prepared for him.

3. The Attack by Lurie No.1 and Lurie No.2 on Voroshilov in particular and on Others “in General”

N. Lurie confirms that he had engaged in Trotskyist activity since 1927, that is, for about nine years. Unfortunately, no one knew anything about it. No Trotskyist from any country, either in 1927, or later, ever met N. Lurie. In all our attempts get information about N. Lurie, we received the same answer from everyone: unknown. Unfortunately, the GPU is not among our correspondents. It could certainly give interesting information and tell us, in particular, when, in 1927 or any other year, N. Lurie’s “activity” began.

N. Lurie describes the beginning of this terrorist activity in the following way: “In the early part of 1932 Moishe Lurie told me that it was time [!] to leave for the USSR and to carry out terrorist work there.”

This free and easy tone is admirable in itself! We have played billiards long enough, “It is time” to eat dinner ..., that is, to take up “terrorism.” In Moscow, Lurie met with a certain Konstant and a certain Lipshitz, whom he calls “German Trotskyists,” but who, once again, are strangers to any true Trotskyist. (Let it be said in passing, that neither Konstant, nor Lipshitz are brought to trial or summoned as witnesses. That is the custom at this “model” trial!)

Lurie told Konstant about the “terrorist directives.” In the same carefree tone, Konstant answers Lurie “that this is nothing new to him.” (He undoubtedly knew about “this” since childhood.)

In August 1932, the N. Lurie group receives from a certain Franz Weiss (a fascist secret agent, according to the court transcript) the assignment to carry out an attack on Voroshilov. At the time of the preliminary investigation, N. Lurie declared that the preparation of this attack (in Moscow) had lasted “from the fall of 1932 to the end of 1933.” But at the interrogation the same Lurie indicated that already in July 1933 he left for Cheliabinsk. If N. Lurie moved in July 1933 to Cheliabinsk, one wonders how he could have been preparing an attack in Moscow until the end of 1933. Probably in order to “liquidate this hitch,” at the trial, N. Lurie gives a new version: “We were occupied with it [with the preparation of the attack against Voroshilov] from September 1932 until the spring of 1933.”

Until the spring or until the end of 1933?! The court naturally passes over this contradiction in silence.

But what did the actual preparation of the attack consist of? The troika—N. Lurie, Konstant, Lipshitz—which, for reasons unknown, is represented at the trial only by Lurie, watched when Voroshilov would leave, but the car “went too fast. It is hopeless to fire at a swiftly moving car,” (the testimony of N. Lurie). Having convinced themselves that the car was travelling too fast, these unfortunate terrorists ceased any further surveillance of Voroshilov’s departures. When the trial chairman asks them what they did next, N. Lurie replies that they directed their attention toward the acquisition of explosives in order to accomplish the terrorist act by means of a bomb. The court makes no attempt to bring to light whether they procured any explosives, where, how, whether a bomb was made, etc. With this, the case is closed. In July 1933, N. Lurie leaves for Cheliabinsk to work as a physician. But even in faraway “Cheliabinsk Lurie didn’t halt his terrorist activity.” He waits, don’t you see, for some leader, Kaganovich or Ordzhonikidze, to come to Cheliabinsk. But neither Kaganovich nor Ordzhonikidze, as if on purpose, comes to Cheliabinsk; in any case, N. Lurie does not meet any of them there and does not commit, of course, any attack.[50]

This does not prevent Moishe Lurie from pointing out “how he organized [!] the attack on Comrade Ordzhonikidze ... To this end, M. Lurie proposed that N. Lurie, who was leaving for the tractor factory in Cheliabinsk, use the eventual arrival of Ordzhonikidze at the factory for the realization of the terrorist act!”

N. Lurie remains two and a half years in Cheliabinsk fruitlessly awaiting Ordzhonikidze or Kaganovich. But as the proverb says, if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. N. Lurie leaves for Leningrad. Passing through Moscow, Moishe Lurie orders him in January 1936 to “shoot Zhdanov during the May 1st demonstration in Leningrad.” (Why it was necessary to assassinate Zhdonov, is impossible to figure out.) During the May 1st demonstration, N. Lurie marches in the column of demonstrators, but does not try to shoot. When the trial chairman asks him why, he answers: “We passed too far away.” And this rubbish is served up at the trial as attacks!

4. One More Attack on Voroshilov

During the trial, there is mentioned the preparation of one more terrorist act against Voroshilov, which supposedly was to be carried out by two important soldiers, both famous heroes of the Civil War: D. Schmidt and Kuzmichev. Obviously, no proof is introduced. Neither Schmidt, nor Kuzmichev, nor any other soldier accused of terrorist activity—Putna, Esterman, Gaevsky—was brought to trial. Three defendants do mention the “terrorist” activity of Schmidt-Kuzmichev. Reingold testifies that “he learned from Mrachkovsky and Dreitzer that in the summer of 1933 there was organized ... a Trotskyist military group consisting of Schmidt, commander of one of the Red Army brigades, Kuzmichev, staff commander of one of the military units, and a number [!] of others.” Mrachkovsky testifies that things took place a year later. “In the middle of 1934, Dreitzer reported to me that he was simultaneously preparing Voroshilov’s assassination, for which Schmidt Dmitrii would have to be prepared ...” Dreitzer himself testified during the prosecutor’s cross-examination that, “I enlisted the services of Esterman and Gaevsky for the terrorist act, and added Schmidt and Kuzmichev in 1935. The latter ones took up the task of killing Voroshilov.”

Thus all three testimonies (and there is no other testimony about this matter) radically contradict one another: 1933, 1931, 1936—they therefore have to be discarded as crude lies.[51]

During the trial, other attempted attacks are also mentioned; but these last have not even a shadow of proof. Thus, for example, Zinoviev testifies that “he knew about two attempts on Stalin’s life in which Reingold, Dreitzer and Pikel took part.” Neither Dreitzer nor Reingold mentions these “attempts.” Pikel testifies “that in the autumn of 1933 Bogdan had made a new [?] attempt at an attack on Stalin’s life.” He also testifies “about the preparation of a terrorist act against Stalin in 1934”; while his participation “was limited to having put Bakaev in touch with Radin” (the latter is also not brought to trial). Bakaev also makes it known that “in October 1934, under the leadership of Kamenev, Evdokimov and himself (Bakaev), an attack against Stalin was prepared in Moscow ... This attack did not succeed.” And that is all.

The court accepts all these declarations indifferently, does not at all try to clarify the circumstances, the character, the time, the place, etc. of these “attacks.” The absence of any facts about these attacks does not permit us to examine them in greater detail.

Let us note in conclusion that the verdict says: “the Trotskyist-Zinovievist Unified Center prepared a series of terrorist groups and a series of terrorist acts against Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Kirov, Ordzhonikidze, Zhdanov Kossior, Postyshev and others.” [52]

We have tried above to assiduously select and systematically examine all the facts about the attacks which are scattered throughout the court transcripts. If one considers N. Lurie’s trip to Cheliabinsk an “attack on Ordzhonikidze and Kaganovich” and his trip to Leningrad an “attack on Zhdanov,” then there still remain nonetheless “Postyshev, Kossior and others ...” In the whole trial not one word is said about attacks against them. This does not prevent the court from placing the following paragraph in the verdict: “The court investigation has also established that the Trotskyist-Zinovievist terrorist center ... prepared terrorist acts against comrades Kossior and Postyshev, through a Ukrainian terrorist group which acted under the leadership of the Trotskyist Mukhin.”

The Ukrainian terrorist group and the very name of its leader Mukhin are mentioned at the trial for the first time in the verdict! The story of Mukhin and his group was obviously improvised at the last moment so that Postyshev and Kossior would not be offended.

Let us draw up the balance sheet on the basis of the trial evidence itself. There was not a single attack, there was not even a single attempt at an attach. The prosecutor Vyshinsky nonetheless considers that “the guilt is so clearly established that he can free himself from the obligation to analyze the materials gathered by the court investigation.” He even adds: “What is essential in this trial, is that they (the accused) transformed their counter-revolutionary thoughts into counter-revolutionary deeds, their counter-revolutionary theory into terrorist practice: not only do they talk of shooting, but they shoot; they shoot and they kill!”

So they shoot?! At the trial it was not, in any case, mentioned that any of the defendants had fired a shot. There were “instructions,” “conversations,” “preparations,” “attempts,” “people were picked out,” now the terrorist activity was “speeded up,” now it was “halted,” — there was all that in words, but not a shot was fired. Not one attack, not one real attempt at an attack was established in court. Sometimes it turned out, as if on purpose, that it was too far to shoot, or that the terrorist marched by too far away, or that the car was moving too fast, or that the terrorist happened to be in Stalinblad or Cheliabinsk, while Stalin, as if by chance, was in Moscow.

Nonetheless, these “terrorists” were placed in exceptionally favorable conditions. The usual difficulties of terrorists—belonging to different social layers ... or lacking information about the targets, or being unable to penetrate into their milieu—here all this was completely absent.

After breaking from the Opposition, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Bakaev and others moved in the circles of the apparatus. They were well received at the Kremlin, in all the institutions, some even in Stalin’s secretariat. Mrachkovsky, for example, was given a personal reception by Stalin; [53] it would not have taken much for him to discharge his revolver into Stalin. The terrorist opportunities of the majority of those shot, famous Bolsheviks, were almost unlimited. In addition, they were helped from abroad by Trotsky, and in the USSR, by dozens, if not hundreds, of people; they got support from an organization as powerful as the Gestapo! And the results? Zero! Zero! If there were no assassinations, it is only because none of the people who were shot or mentioned in the case had prepared any assassinations, none of them had had the idea of searching along the road of terror for a way out from the Stalinist dead end.

Without Kirov’s assassination, Stalin would never have decided to start circulating all these wild lies about “terror.” This is why he artificially combined reality—Kirov’s assassination by Nikolaev, an assassination with which none of the defendants in the trial had any connection—with all the other inventions, This artificial concoction is the content of the central police combination of the Moscow trial. The reality of Kirov’s assassination was to give the appearance of reality to other attacks—which did not take place.


[49] It is highly characteristic that all the terrorists “sent” by Trotsky, i.e., Berman-Yurin, Fritz David, Moishe Lurie and others, all left for the USSR in March, 1933. Is this not explained by the fact that they were in reality “sent” to the USSR, not by Trotsky, but by Hitler, who had just taken power in Germany with the help of Stalin and all his Berman-Yurins? While the German revolutionary workers were dispatched to concentration camps, the Stalinist functionaries, including Berman-Yurin, Fritz David and all the others, left for Moscow. (L.S.)

[50] Nevertheless the verdict says that “N. Lurie tried (?) to carry out an attack on the life of Cdes. Kaganovich and Ordkzonikidze.” The same Nathan Lurie is accused in the verdict of preparing an attack on Stalin as well. In the court transcripts regarding the attack of N. Lurie on Stalin there is not one word! (L.S.)

[51] The presiding judge makes no attempt in the course of the trial to clear up the contradictions, to bring to trial the people mentioned in this case, etc. But he suddenly shows a great interest in the exact type of revolver N. Lurie had: a Browning? what kind! medium caliber? What pathetic play-acting! (L.S.)

[52] We will lay aside one, completely anecdotal incident. “The terrorist” Yakovlev, who, along with Safonova were the sole witnesses at the trial (why witnesses and not defendants is inexplicabe), testified that Kamenev ordered him to organize a terrorist group ... at the Academy of Sciences. (L.S.)

[53] Safonova testified about this reception, saying that “Mrachkovsky told us (Safonova and I.N. Smirnov) about the conversation with Stalin ... and said that the only answer was to kill Stalin.” If all of this is not made up from beginning to end (I.N. Smirnov flatly denied the Safonova story), then probably this is what happened: upon returning from the reception with Stalin, Mrachkovsky was greatly disappointed — there is nothing surprising about that—and sharply attacked Stalin. Hence Safonova, freely moving back the date, “laid the basis” for the terror charges. Of course, this is only a hypothesis. (L.S.)


Copenhagen plays a major role at the trial. It’s there that Trotsky’s “meetings” with the terrorists are supposed to have taken place, from there supposedly came Trotsky’s “instructions” for terror. The Trotskyists would have turned the peaceful capital of Denmark, if one believes the court transcripts, into a sort of foreign “terrorist center.” This question therefore requires a detailed examination.

In the fall of 1932, the Danish Social-Democratic Student Organization invited Comrade Trotsky to give a lecture in Copenhagen on the Russian Revolution. Judging it difficult, it seems, to refuse the students, the Danish government gave L. Trotsky a visa for Denmark, good for eight days. Having left Istanbul on November 14, 1932, L. Trotsky (after a circuitous journey through France) arrived in Denmark on November 23. Trotsky stayed in Copenhagen for eight days; he left this city on the morning of December 2, in order to return to Istanbul, once again by way of France.

The formal charges and the verdict say that Trotsky carried out terrorist activities for about five years (from 1931 to 1936). During these five years Trotsky spent a total of eight days in Copenhagen. But, by some strange coincidence all the “terrorists” who supposedly met with Trotsky (Holtzman, Berman-Yurin, Fritz David) chose — completely independently of each other!—precisely Copenhagen as the location for their meeting with Trotsky, during the very same week, from November 23 to December 2, 1932. No other meeting in any other city was mentioned during the trial.

Only one week of “terrorist” activity during five years! This fact alone has to evoke disbelief. The explanation is simple. Copenhagen was chosen by the GPU investigators for reasons of personal convenience. The city is close to Berlin, it’s easy to go there, and above all, the exact dates and circumstances of Trotsky’s stay in Copenhagen were in all the papers. That gave the GPU investigators the necessary “material.” Meetings in Istanbul or in the secluded villages of France, where Trotsky lived during those years, were an exercise which was really too dangerous for the GPU. The lack of “material” added to the risk of failure.

Having chosen Copenhagen, the GPU sent not only the “terrorists” Holtzman, Berman-Yurin, and Fritz David, but also Sedov. Here is Holtzman’s account of his trip to Copenhagen:

Sedov told me ... that it would be good if you came with me to Copenhagen [to see Trotsky] ... I agreed, but I told him that it would be impossible to travel together out of considerations of secrecy. I arranged with Sedov that I would arrive in Copenhagen in two or three days; that I would stop at the Hotel Bristol and that we would meet there. From the station I went straight to the hotel where I met Sedov in the foyer. [54]

We are greatly won over by this account with all its factual evidence which so rarely appears at this trial. In particular, it even names the Hotel Bristol where Holtzman and Sedov supposedly met in the foyer. The only trouble is that there is no Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen. Such a hotel did exist but it was closed in 1917 and the building itself was destroyed. [55]

Perhaps Holtzman or one of his investigators had gone to Copenhagen before the Revolution and had stayed at the Hotel Bristol. Perhaps the investigators simply decided that there is no major city in Europe without a Hotel Bristol. Everything is possible ... But the incompetent and lazy investigators would have done better to take the trouble to first make the necessary inquiry. Now there’s some “sabotage” for you! And after this. what else remains of the testimony, so rich in detail, given by Holtzman, the most important witness for the prosecution? Doesn’t this fact alone shed a bright light on the whole trial?

Sedov’s Trip to Copenhagen

But that’s not all. As we have seen, they forced Holtzman to say that he didn’t go to Copenhagen alone,—that by agreement with him, Sedov also went to Copenhagen. In describing the conditions of his conversation with Trotsky, Holtzman gives us interesting new details: “very frequently Trotsky’s son Sedov would enter the room and then leave it.” A new act of sabotage! Never in his life was Sedov in Copenhagen. This sounds unbelievable, but nevertheless it’s true. In order for Sedov to be able to travel to Copenhagen from Berlin, his home at that time, he had to obtain a visa from the Berlin Police Headquarters to leave and re-enter Germany (a so-called “Sichtvermerk”). The obtaining of such a visa ordinarily brings with it great difficulties for a Heimatloser (stateless person).

When it became clear that L.D. Trotsky would go to Copenhagen, Sedov immediately began efforts—through his lawyer, the late Oscar Cohn — to obtain permission to leave and return to Germany, hoping after this, to obtain a visa to Denmark without any difficulty. Since it was originally supposed that Trotsky’s visa to Denmark would be extended a few weeks for medical treatment, the delay at the Berlin Police Headquarters at first did not worry Sedov or his parents. It was quite unexpected when, after the eight days had gone by, the Danish government in a very sharp manner ordered Trotsky to leave Danish soil. By now Sedov had no possibility of meeting with his parents in Copenhagen. A last attempt was made to see each other, even though it would only be for the short time which Trotsky had to spend in France on his way from Copenhagen to Istanbul (Dunkirk—Marseilles via Paris). N.I. Trotsky sent a detailed telegram to Edouard Herriot, the French prime minister at that time, asking him to give her son, Sedov, permission to travel in France for a few days in order to meet with him·after being separated for several years. This telegram can undoubtedly be found in the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sedov, on his part, with the help of Oscar Cohn, managed finally to obtain permission from the Berlin Police Headquarters for the return trip to Germany, without which he could not have received a French visa. On December 3 [56] , 1932, Sedov received the necessary permission from the German Police and on the same day the French consulate in Berlin received a telegram with instructions to give Sedov a French visa for five days. On the morning of December 4, Sedov left for Paris and arrived in the evening; at 10 AM on December 6 he met with Trotsky in Paris, at the Gare du Nord, in a railroad car. His father was travelling from Dunkirk to Marseilles without stopping in Paris.

Everything said above on be verified by certain documents: 1) Sedov’s passport with the corresponding visas and stamps for going both ways across the Franco-German border; 2) Natalia Trotsky’s telegram to Herriot, asking him to give a visa to her son, whom she was unable to see in Copenhagen; 3) a certificate from the Danish authorities stating that Sedov never asked for and never received a Danish visa. But, they can say,—perhaps Sedov travelled to Denmark “illegally”? Let us assume so. But why then, we must ask, was Sedov—after meeting with his parents illegally in Copenhagen, travelling a few days later to another meeting with them in France, a trip which was accompanied by such difficulties and trouble (a telegram to Herriot, etc.)?

But we have at our disposal irrefutable proof that while Trotsky was staying in Copenhagen, Sedov remained in Berlin without interruption:

1. Over the course of these eight days Trotsky or his wife talked with Sedov on the phone every day, sometimes twice a day, by calling Sedov’s Berlin apartment from Copenhagen. This can—and will be established by the central telephone office in Copenhagen.

2. Since Trotsky’s journey from Istanbul to Copenhagen brought on the burning hatred of world reaction, a number of Trotsky’s friends and co-thinkers set out hurriedly for Copenhagen. There were more than 20 people. All of them will swear under oath that L. Sedov was never in Copenhagen. Let us allow ourselves to take up one of these statements. Its author is E. Bauer, whom we have already quoted, now in the leadership of the SAP (Socialist Workers Party of Germany), formerly a member of the German Left Opposition. In September 1934, following serious political disagreements, E. Bauer broke with the organization of the Bolshevik-Leninists; this split was accompanied by very sharp polemics. Since then, E. Bauer has had no connection, either political or personal, with the membership of the Trotskyist organization. “This is why” as he writes in his deposition, “there can be no question in my case of any partiality toward the Trotskyists.” Then he writes: “From the first day of Trotsky’ s stay in Copenhagen, I spoke daily with Sedov in Berlin either directly or by telephone, since I was preparing to travel to Copenhagen. On the evening of December 1, 1932, I left for Copenhagen. Sedov accompanied me to the station and ... remained in Berlin. On the morning of December 2, we [Bauer and another person] arrived in Copenhagen ... and two hours later, between 10 and 11 o’clock in the morning, I was leaving Copenhagen by car with Trotsky and his wife; Sedov was not with us, since his trip had been impossible for technical reasons.”

We have at our disposal ten similar depositions and we will have still more. We are ready to submit all this material immediately to a responsible commission or a tribunal which would undertake an investigation of this case.

That’s how things stand with the testimony of the chief witness Holtzman who was, in spite of everything, an old Bolshevik. After this, is it necessary to dwell on the statements of scoundrels and Stalinist agents such as Berman-Yurin and Fritz David? Neither Trotsky nor Sedov — we repeat once more—had ever laid eyes on these people, whether in Copenhagen or elsewhere; they learned of their existence for the first time through the reports from the Moscow trial.

We have already noted above that at the time of Trotsky’s stay in Copenhagen, several dozen friends and comrades were also there. Fearing possible incidents, these comrades organized a very serious guard around Trotsky. It was impossible to enter L. Trotsky’s study without first passing through another room, where there were always four or five comrades. Access to the small villa occupied by Trotsky in Copenhagen was only allowed to a few close friends. [57] Neither Berman-Yurin, nor Fritz David, nor anyone else could have reached Trotsky unless comrades on guard in the front room knew about it.

By the preliminary, yet absolutely precise, investigations carried out by the comrades who were in Copenhagen, it has been possible to establish that Trotsky received only one Russian-speaking person in Copenhagen. This is a certain Abraham Senin (Sobolevich), who was then a Lithuanian citizen and a member of the Berlin organization of the Opposition. He came to see Cde. Trotsky on the last day of his stay in Copenhagen (at the same time as E. Bauer) and spoke no more than one hour with Trotsky, under conditions of extreme haste before the sudden departure. Senin’s trip to Copenhagen was made at the insistence of some of Trotsky’s Berlin friends; they had wanted to make a last effort to save Senin from capitulation to the Stalinists, to whom he was drawing nearer and nearer. The attempt was not crowned with success; a few weeks later, Senin, with three or four friends, went over to the Stalinists. This event was reported in both the Stalinist and Oppositionist press. By the very character of L.D. Trotsky’s meeting with the semi-capitulator Senin, it is quite obvious that Trotsky could not have maintained any confidence in Senin and could no longer look upon him as a cothinker.

In conclusion, we must once more turn our attention toward part of the testimony given by Olberg which deals with Copenhagen. “It was my intention” says Olberg “to go to Copenhagen with Sedov to see Trotsky. Our trip did not succeed and it was Sedov’s wife, Suzanne, who left for Copenhagen. Upon her return, she brought a letter [58] from Trotsky addressed to Sedov, in which Trotsky agreed to my trip to the USSR, etc.” This must be noted above all: in affirming that his trip to Copenhagen with Sedov did not take place. Olberg contradicts Holtzman. Because if one were to admit that Sedov went to Copenhagen without Olberg, why then would Trotsky have given a letter for Sedov to his companion, as Olberg contends?

No one, of course, has to know the name of Sedov’s wife, but Olberg, who claims to be on intimate terms with Sedov (“we [Sedov and I] met almost weekly, and sometimes we met twice a week in a cafe ... or I visited him at his apartment,” testifies Olberg), should have known that Sedov’s wife is not named Suzanne. Furthermore, Olberg, as we have just seen, affirms that this same Suzanne “upon her return [from Copenhagen to Berlin] brought a letter from Trotsky.” Sedov’s wife really was in Copenhagen, [59] but she left there not for Berlin, but directly for Paris, where she remained for a rather long time. This fact can be established with absolute precision on the basis of the passport belonging to Sedov’s wife. It is completely obvious that Trotsky could not give Sedov’s wife, who was leaving for Paris, a letter for Sedov who was in Berlin, But, one might object once again, perhaps Sedov’s wife nevertheless went “illegally” to Berlin. “Illegal trips” are not romanticism, they are a sad necessity for those who do not have papers. But why would a person who has a good legal passport for travelling in every country, the majority of which do not even require her to have a visa, travel illegally? This is simply not serious!

There we have the “foreign terrorist center” of Copenhagen, the only European city mentioned in the trial. The baseness of it aside, what poverty of invention! What a pitiful and hopeless failure!


[54] It must be noted that Holtzman was a Soviet citizen and as such, getting a visa for any country, including Demark, was fraught with nearly insurmountable difficulties, if the request was not backed by the Soviet Embassy, and it goes without saying that in this case there can be no talk of the embassy’s support. Thus Holtzman could only go to Copenhagen illegally. It is strange that the court was not interested in these circumstances and did not explain what papers Holtzman used to go to Denmark, where he got these papers, etc. (L.S.)

[55] For further details, see the Sozial Demokraten of Copenhagen on September 1, 1936; also Baedeker.

The work of falsification went full speed ahead even after the trial. In the English language edition of the court transcripts, which appeared somewhat later than the others, the Hotel Bristol is not even mentioned! (L.S.)

[56] Trotsky left Copenhagen, as we already said, on December 2. (L.S.)

[57] We take this opportunity to correct an imprecision which slipped into the Russian edition of this work. It was said in this passage that some journalists had visited Trotsky in this villa. This was incorrect and was immediately rectified by comrades present in Copenhagen. In reality, no journalist any more than anyone else, outside of the immediate friends who stood guard, was able to enter the villa. (L.S.)

[58] The contents of the “letter” by Trotsky about Olberg, with whom the reader is already sufficiently familiar are very amusing. In order to puff himself up, it seems, Olberg declares that in this letter Trotsky was in “full agreement” with Olberg’s candidacy for the trip to the USSR. Trotsky considered Olberg “an absolutely (!!) appropriate (??) man in whom one could have complete confidence (!!)” The whole letter is nothing but a dithyramb to Olberg! (L.S.)

[59] The GPU could have obtained information about this in its own manner, for example, by way of the above-mentioned Senin, who later was to play a somewhat suspicious role. (L.S.) See also note 73.



The trial considered that it established the following contacts of Trotsky with the defendants:

1. With Smirnov and Holtzman, through Sedov. With Holtzman directly, in Copenhagen;
2. With Dreitzer, through Sedov and through direct written contact;
3. With Berman-Yurin and Fritz David;
4. With Olberg, through Sedov;
5. With M. Lurie, through Ruth Fischer-Maslow.

To help the reader orient himself on this question, we provide a diagram of these contacts, p. 93. The diagram is drawn, of course, on the basis of the facts given at the trial, and not according to reality.

Smirnov and Holtzman

On August 5, 1936, that is, a few days before the beginning of the trial, I.N. Smirnov was broken. Having resisted until then—Vyshinsky tells us that Smirnov’s interrogation consists of “only these words: I deny this, I still deny it, I deny,”—even Smirnov took the path of false confessions. Describing his meeting with Sedov in Berlin, he says: “In the course of our conversation, L. Sedov, while analyzing the situation in the Soviet Union, stated his personal opinion that under present conditions only the violent elimination of the leaders of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Soviet government could bring about a change in the general situation in the country.” But this false testimony was not enough for Stalin. He demanded more “precise” formulations. Another week passes, a week of terrible moral suffering, and on August 13, the day before the prosecutor signed the indictment, Smirnov finally yielded: “I confess that I knew after the conversation with Sedov in 1931 in Berlin, that the directives for terror as the only means capable of changing the situation in the Soviet Union, were his personal directives. [60]

In all this, obviously there is not one word of truth. The only truth is that in July 1931, Sedov met I.N. Smirnov [61] completely by chance, in a large department store in Berlin, the “KDV.” I.N. Smirnov had known Sedov intimately for many years. After a second of confusion, I.N. Smirnov agreed to meet with him and have a talk. The meeting took place. During the conversation, it turned out that I.N. Smirnov had already been in Berlin for a long time, but he had made no attempt to establish any ties with the Opposition and would not have made any attempt, if not for this chance encounter in the department store KDV. This fact is indirectly confirmed even by the court transcripts, according to which I.N. Smirnov arrived in Berlin in May 1931. But the meeting of Sedov and Smirnov didn’t take place until July. (If Smirnov, as the prosecution wishes us to believe, had come to Berlin with the specific aim of contacting Trotsky, one cannot understand why, having arrived in May, he would have waited, that is, lost, two months).

First the two speakers exchanged information. During the conversation, I.N. Smirnov, without speaking directly on the question of his break with the Opposition, insisted that between L. Trotsky and himself, there was the following disagreement: He, Smirnov, did not share Trotsky’s point of view about the necessity of conducting political work in the USSR. With this, Smirnov wanted in some way to explain and justify his break with the Opposition. Smirnov thought that the present conditions in the USSR did not allow any oppositional work to be carried out and that, in any case, it was necessary to wait until these conditions changed. A characteristic trait: in speaking of the Opposition, Smirnov said you, not we, your point of view, your comrades, etc. Without there having been any suggestion by Sedov, Smirnov categorically declared that he did not want and would not enter into any relationship with the Bolshevik-Leninists in the USSR. This is not the place to polemicize with Smirnov’s point of view, but how far all this is from “terrorism” and the “representative” [62] of Trotsky in the USSR! On the political questions, the speakers established that their points of view were rather close, although I.N. Smirnov did not express it categorically, touching in general on the political questions from the point of view of passive contemplation. At the end of the conversation, it was only understood that if the possibility came up, I.N. Smirnov would send information on the economic and political situation in the USSR, with the help of which one could here, abroad, be oriented more correctly on Russian questions. But I.N. Smirnov would not make any promises in this respect either. Is it worth the trouble to deny that there were conversations and “terrorist instructions”? Let us only note in passing the absurdity of the fact that Sedov could have “personally” given “instructions” to I.N. Smirnov, an old Bolshevik, one of the pioneers and leaders of the party, and one who was old enough to have been Sedov’s father. But perhaps Sedov was transmitting “instructions” in Trotsky’s name? Smirnov himself denied it, categorically, in front of the court.

Thus the meeting had an accidental, semi-personal character and in any case stood outside any organizational relations whatsoever. The principal interest of this meeting was that it made possible direct personal contact with a man who had recently left the USSR. In perceiving Soviet reality, such personal encounters were more precious than dozens of the best articles.

For more than a year, there was no news of any kind from I.N. Smirnov. It seemed that this chance meeting would have no results, not even in the sense of receiving some scraps of news from him.

And suddenly, in the fall of 1932, a Soviet employee arriving in Berlin from the USSR looked up Sedov. This was Holtzman. He said that I.N. Smirnov, who was a close friend, had learned of his trip abroad on official matters and had asked him to visit Sedov in Berlin.

Holtzman himself was never an active Oppositionist, although he had sympathy for the Opposition. He was a fairly typical representative of that layer of old Bolsheviks who were called “liberals” in the milieu of the Opposition. Honest men, they half-way sympathized with the Opposition, but were incapable of fighting the Stalinist apparatus; they had gotten used to not expressing their thoughts openly, adapting to the apparatus, grumbling in their narrow circle and were not averse to offering this or that service to an individual Oppositionist, especially one in exile. Holtzman did not come in the name of the organization of the Left Opposition, with which he, like Smirnov, had no connection, nor in the name of any other group, because none such existed (nor, even less, in the name a “center”!) But he came on behalf of Smirnov personally, whom Holtzman cited. Smirnov asked him to tell Sedov what was happening in the Soviet Union and give him a short letter, concerning the economic situation in the USSR. This letter was printed in the form of an article in the Bulletin (No.31, Nov. 1932) under the title The Economic Situation in the Soviet Union. This article contained considerable statistical material and facts and had a purely informational character.

This was the only document brought by Holtzman. As far as the rest is concerned, he limited himself to verbal information on the political situation in the USSR, on the state of people’s spirits, etc. On the basis of this information, the editorial staff of the Bulletin composed some “correspondence” from Moscow, which appeared in the same issue (No.31).

From the entire character of this meeting, it is absolutely clear that Holtzman received neither “instructions” nor a letter, and did not ask for any either. If he did carry some sort of material into the USSR, it could only have been the Bulletin.

His aim was to gain a close knowledge of Trotsky’s point of view, his assessment of the Russian question, in particular, so as to able to inform Smirnov.

Holtzman quickly returned straight to the USSR. He did not go to Copenhagen and did not see Trotsky. (On this point, see the chapter Copenhagen).

But since this meeting between Holtzman and Sedov provided nothing for the purposes of the GPU, they forced Holtzman to testify about his imaginary trip to Copenhagen, in order to give more weight to all the charges of the indictment, by directly linking Holtzman with Trotsky. We’ve already seen how pitifully this attempt failed.

These two facts, i.e., that meetings of Smirnov and Holtzman with Sedov actually took place, are the only drops of truth in the Moscow trial’s sea of lies. The only ones! All the rest are lies, lies from beginning to end.

But what does the fact of the meetings of Smirnov and Holtzman with Sedov prove? It proves that there were meetings and nothing more.

On January 1, 1933, I.N. Smirnov was arrested. It was also then, perhaps a bit before, that Holtzman was arrested. Smirnov was sentenced by the GPU to ten years in an isolator for “ties with the Opposition abroad.” Without a doubt, Stalin and the GPU knew at that time, i.e. at the beginning of 1933, all the circumstances of I.N. Smirnov’s meeting with Sedov because I.N. Smirnov had nothing to hide. Smirnov was arrested alone. None of his close friends (Safonova, Mrachkovsky, et al.) were arrested; some among them were only deported. This alone shows that the GPU—as a result of the investigation of Smirnov’s case—considered it established that his ties “abroad” were of a purely personal nature, that there was no “center” or group organized around Smirnov. Otherwise the arrests would have been much more extensive and it would not have been Smirnov alone who was sentenced to imprisonment in an isolator.

On the other hand, if the “contact” with Smirnov had been of an organizational nature, then after Smirnov’s arrest someone else would have automatically had to renew this contact. But, from the court evidence itself it obviously follows that the “contact” existed only with Smirnov and that after his arrest, it ceased.

This did not stop Stalin, three and a half years after Smirnov’s arrest, from turning this ill-fated meeting, which had already cost Smirnov a sentence of ten years in isolation, into a new case about a terrorist center and terror, and—from shooting Smirnov.

The charges mention Holtzman’s name all of one time and that only in passing. He, they say, had received instructions from Trotsky during a private meeting. Throughout the trial, Holtzman is referred to as the one who received terrorist instructions. During the trial, it is not once said that Holtzman passed these instructions on to Smirnov, the only defendant with whom Holtzman was personally linked. Holtzman himself denied categorically having transmitted “instructions.” The one at the trial who figures as the transmitter of Trotsky’s instructions about terrorism is not Holtzman, but Y. Gaven, who supposedly personally received terrorist instructions from Trotsky, and passed them on to I.N. Smirnov. The charges speak of Gaven as the only person who had passed on terrorist instructions from Trotsky to the “Unified Center,” and it is Gaven alone who is cited in the testimony of Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Safonova, and others. He is also the one that the prosecutor Vyshinsky mentions five or six times in his indictment speech. There is not a single word of testimony at the trial concerning the fact that Holtzman passed on terrorist instructions from Trotsky. Meanwhile the Gaven case is for some reason “set aside,” and he is not summoned before the court, even as a witness. Holtzman, however, was shot for the “instructions” which he supposedly received, but which he passed on to no one. This is the version upheld during the whole trial. But in the verdict, everything comes out just the opposite; the name of Gaven is not even mentioned; Holtzman is cited as having passed on Trotsky’s instructions about terror to the Unified Center. This confusion was inevitable, because it flows from the whole nature of the trial,—a crude and insolent police machination.

Is it necessary to say that Trotsky did not transmit through I. Gaven, any more than through anyone else, any kind of terrorist instructions and did not meet with Gaven abroad, any more than he met with a single man of the defendants?

The Missing Document

(Trotsky’s “Letter” to Dreitzer)

As is well known, the prosecution did not have at its disposal during the trial a single shred of material evidence, a single actual document or letter. In order to fill in this gap, a “letter” from Trotsky to Dreitzer and Mrachkovsky was indeed cited from memory and in quotes. The original, of course, was absent.

This story begins with Dreitzer’s trip to Berlin (in the autumn of 1931) when he “met twice in a cafe on Leipzigerstrasse with Sedov [Trotsky’s son]. Sedov told him that Trotsky’s directives would be sent later.”

This is the purest fabrication. Not only did Sedov never meet Dreitzer in Berlin, but he has never met him and they are not personally acquainted. (For those who know Berlin, we note parenthetically, that a cafe on Leipzigerstrasse is a place very poorly suited for a conspiratorial rendezvous ... )

The three lines quoted above are all that Dreitzer says about his rendezvous in Berlin. There were no “instructions.” Nor were there any conversations about terror. Why then, one should ask, was it necessary for the GPU to “send” Dreitzer to a rendezvous in Berlin? We will now find this out. Jumping ahead three years, Dreitzer testifies further that “in October 1934, Dreitzer’s sister brought him a film magazine from Warsaw, given to her for Dreitzer by an agent [?] of Sedov. Dreitzer easily discovers within this magazine—since he had agreed with Sedov in Berlin on the means of contact (Here’s the solution! Now we understand why the GPU invented the rendezvous in Berlin)—a handwritten letter from Trotsky in chemical ink which contained the order to proceed without delay in the preparation and execution of terrorist acts against Stalin and Voroshilov ... Dreitzer immediately sent this letter to Mrachkovsky, who ... after learning its contents, burned the letter out of conspiratorial considerations.”

It is not without interest to note, first of all, that this highly important testimony of Dreitzer’s was made only after many weeks and perhaps even months of interrogation (in the volume containing his testimony it is recorded on pages 102 and 103). It required 100 pages, of forced confessions, for him to “remember” this very important fact.

The letter had been brought from Warsaw. Neither Trotsky or Sedov had ever been in Warsaw. By what means did the unknown sister of Dreitzer (why wasn’t she summoned as a witness?) receive this highly conspiratorial handwritten letter from Trotsky, through whom, through whom, under what circumstances? Quite reasonably, no one tells us a word about all that. If one admits, ad absurdum, that Trotsky had actually been capable of writing a letter containing the directive to kill Stalin, it is still impossible to imagine that Trotsky had been so careless as to entrust such a letter to Dreitzer’s sister who was a complete stranger to him, and what’s more, to write it in his own handwriting, as if for the express purpose of giving the GPU death-dealing evidence against him. The letter wasn’t written in Code. [63] This form of activity is worthy of a student terrorist, but not of an old revolutionary with experience in conspiratorial matters. If the GPU were unable to obtain the letter, it is only because it was never written.

Dreitzer further testifies that after he received the letter in Moscow, he familiarized himself with its contents. The letter was written in chemical ink, in such a way that it had to be developed in order to be read. After having developed and read the letter, Dreitzer sent it to Mrachkovsky in Kazakhstan, How would it be necessary to act in such a case? You would have to rewrite the letter in chemical ink, not to mention that it would be necessary to write it in code. And what does Dreitzer do?

Mrachkovsky states “that in December 1934, when he was in Kazakhstan, he received from Dreitzer a letter from Trotsky written in chemical ink ... Mrachkovsky stresses that he knows Trotsky’s handwriting very well and that he did not have the slightest doubt that the letter was actually written by Trotsky.” These details are of enormous interest. It turns out that Dreitzer did not recopy Trotsky’s letter, but sent Mrachkovsky—the original, which he had developed.

Dreitzer sends a foreign magazine to Mrachkovsky in Kazakhstan. In its margins, quite openly, as if it were written in ordinary ink, a letter is written in Trotsky’s hand, and what a letter! It calls for the assassination of Stalin and Voroshilov!

We are sure that never, anywhere in the entire history of revolutionary struggle, was there even an instance of sending a developed chemical letter (and what a letter!) absolutely openly for thousands of miles. This case would be without precedent in the history of illegal correspondence. Would be, we say,—because it didn’t happen. But “there was” something even more fantastic. Mrachkovsky, it turns out, received Trotsky’s original letter (“written in chemical ink”) undeveloped. Thus, in transit, a miraculous transformation of the developed letter sent by Dreitzer took place: when Mrachkovsky received it was no longer developed. Nothing like this has ever happened not only in revolutionary practice, but in nature in general.

No, what incompetents, these GPU people! The Stalinist bureaucrat-investigator doesn’t even know how to lie properly!

But we still have to say a few words about the content and style of this crudely constructed falsification.

During the trial, two versions of this letter were given: one according to Dreitzer’s “recollections,” the other according to Mrachkovsky’s. The two versions, apparently similar, differ on one very essential point. Mrachkovsky says that Trotsky gave instructions that “in case of war, one should hold a defeatist position.” With Dreitzer, “it’s necessary in case of war to make good use of all the defeats ...”

The Left Opposition has always irreconcilably taken the position of unconditional defense of the USSR. In Mrachkovsky’s version, Trotsky makes a 180 degree turn on this highly important question, by taking a position which is exactly the opposite of that which the Left Opposition and Trotsky have defended for many years, as well as in their latest works. This point of the letter alone could not have failed to strike those to whom it was written, and it could not have failed to embed itself in their memory forever, because it meant a break with all the past. Meanwhile, in this extremely important question the testimonies of Mrachkovsky and Dreitzer contradict each other.

In the same way, it is impossible not to notice that Trotsky’s “letter”—in which he proposes to assassinate Stalin and Voroshilov, take a defeatist position and organize illegal cells within the army, — takes all of eight or nine lines! You would think that such an extravagant “platform” would have at least required some explanation. And one more thing: if Mrachkovsky or Dreitzer had actually received such a letter, they would have undoubtedly taken it for a crude provocation.

This incompetent and ignorant forgery is significantly inferior as far as “quality” goes, to other “police” productions such as the celebrated “Zinoviev letter,” not to mention “the bordereau in the Dreyfus affair.” [64]

Let's draw up a short balance sheet:

1. Berman-Yurin and Fritz David were not linked to any other defendants. They could be included in the trial only by means of a tenuous thread, tying them to Trotsky and Sedov. We have already shown that this “thread” was a product of the GPU. Let’s break it. Berman-Yurin and Fritz David hang in mid-air. It becomes clear that they were included in the trial as the basis of an amalgam.

2. Olberg, outside of Sedov, is not linked to any of the defendants. We have already shown what kind of a person this Olberg was, what kind of character belonged to this “contact,” which stopped in 1932. Let’s break this thread as well. Olberg also hangs in mid-air. He also was included in the trial for the sake of the amalgam.[65]

3. M. Lurie is included in the trial through Ruth Fischer-Maslow who supposedly transmitted to him terrorist instructions from Trotsky at the beginning of 1933 in Berlin. But Trotsky at this time had no connection [66] with Ruth Fischer and Maslow, because they held different political positions. (This contact was not established until 1934.) Of course, the proposition that Ruth Fischer and Maslow, in their own name, gave “instructions” to Zinoviev is the purest absurdity. The thread which ties the anti-Trotskyist scribbler, M. Lurie, to Trotsky breaks in two places. [67] (They break easily, these rotten threads!)

4. Dreitzer. Everything necessary about this connection has been said in this chapter. Let’s break this thread as well.

5. There remains the triangle of Sedov-Smirnov-Holtzman. We have drawn it, in contrast to the other lines, with a solid line, because the fact of the meetings itself is true. This is the only truth in the whole trial. These meetings took place in 1931 and 1932. Since then there has been no other contact whatsoever; from the beginning of 1933, both Smirnov and Holtzman were in prison. (The thread which directly links Trotsky with Holtzman was “broken” in the preceding chapter.)

As far as these two meetings are concerned, one participant (Smirnov) categorically denied having received terrorist instructions from Trotsky; “it was the personal opinion of Sedov,” he says; the other (Holtzman) did not transmit terrorist instructions and was so hopelessly discredited by the story of his “trip” to Copenhagen. However, they were to prove Trotsky’s participation in terrorist activity, especially in Kirov’s assassination. And the verdict says that “L. Trotsky, from abroad, hastened by every means possible the preparation for Kirov’s assassination.” (Although this wasn’t mentioned once at the trial itself.)

In order to explain why it was necessary to assassinate Kirov, who played no independent role, they tell us that it was the revenge of the Zinovievists for the fact that Kirov had crushed them in Leningrad. But what then does Trotsky have to do with it? When Kirov crushed the Zinovievists in Leningrad, they were just as hostile to the Left Opposition as were the Stalinists.

On the role of Trotsky in Kirov’s assasination, Zinoviev testified in a much more eloquent manner: “In my opinion, Bakaev is right when he says that the true and principal culprits of the odious assassination of Kirov were, in the first place, myself—Zinoviev, Trotsky and Kamenev.”

For four years Zinoviev led terrorist activity of unprecendented scope. And Zinoviev, one of the principal defendants, speaks of the role of the principal defendant, Trotsky, in a very uncertain way (“in my opinion”, with reference to a third person.

No comment.

On the basis of irrefutable facts, we have shown that there was neither terrorism nor a “center”; we have also shown how much these contacts of Trotsky with the defendants are worth. Of the Stalinist “schema,” there remains only a blank space. In order to fill it with a “schema” which corresponds to reality, it would be enough to draw two rectangles: one large Stalin, the other smaller—Yagoda. The Moscow trial is their creation from start to finish.


[60] In this example, the investigative technique is once again revealed: the accused are constantly pushed, one degree at a time, toward false confessions. (L.S.)

[61] In describing Smirnov’s meeting with Sedov, as with a number of other questions where Sedov is mentioned, we are using his testimony. (L.S.)

[62] At the trial, Smirnov was always called Trotsky’s “representative” in the USSR. Such personal “representation”—a “junior leader” represents not the organization, but the “senior leader”—was, of course, completely alien to the Opposition and, on the other hand, is a highly typical invention for the bureaucracy, in the farm and image of their “leader” and his personal representatives—his minions. But, in general, how could Smirnov have “represented” the Opposition? He, who had publicly broken from it in the USSR in the presence of thousands of Bolshevik-Leninists true to the cause? Until 1934, the Left Opposition in the USSR was headed by Rakovsky whose moral authority during that period could not have been compared with I.N. Smirnov’s authority. (L.S.)

[63] Holtzman had already said that a code existed for correspondence with Trotsky. (L.S.)

[64] “Zinoviev letter”: published by the Tory Daily Mail during the 1924 election campaign after the fall of the first Labour Government. It purported to be from Zinoviev, then President of the Communist International, to the British party containing instructions about the military section of the British CP. In fact it was a crude forgery, concocted by White Russian emigres in Paris and conveyed through agents connected with the Conservative Central Office. Its aim was to weaken Labour’s electoral chances, and this it did, not by diminishing the Labour vote, but by scaring pro-liberal middle class voters into supporting the Tories. This allowed Baldwin to become Prime Minister again in 1925. (Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, Vol. 2)

[65] The Dreyfus Affair: Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish captain on the French General Staff who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island in 1895 on a false charge of espionage. The War Office, monarchists and the Church conducted a viciously anti-Semitic campaign which split the nation into warring camp. The Republicans finally triumphed and Dreyfus was exonerated in 1906. The crudity of the frameup has long since served to make the Dreyfus Affair a paradigm of political falsification.

[66] This fact can be established on the basis of documents and the testimony of numerous witnesses. (L.S.)

[67] As far as M. Lurie’s “ties” with Zinoviev are concerned, it is interesting to note that M. Lurie, who brought such important terrorist instructions for Zinoviev to Moscow in March 1933, met with him only in August 1934! (L.S.)


(The Gestapo)

Is it possible to believe for even one minute in the reliability of the information ... that Trotsky, the former Chairman of the Soviet of Workers Deputies in Petersburg in 1905, a revolutionary who has given decades of unselfish service to the revolution – that this man had ties to a plan subsidized by the “German government”? This is indeed an obvious, unheard of, and unscrupulous slander against a revolutionary.

Lenin, Pravda
April 16,1917

There is a type of slander which you do not refute, that you step over so as not to soil your boots. Such is the slander about “ties with the Gestapo.” But even this was not invented by Stalin. Stalin slavishly repeats the old slander of the English, Russian, and other imperialists about the “German spies Lenin and Trotsky,” only modernizing it with the word Gestapo.

When in 1917 the Russian bourgeoisie and its agents Miliukov, Kerensky and others tried to slander and defame the Bolshevik Party, the party toward which all the hopes of the Russian working class and wide layers of the peasantry were directed, they proclaimed that its leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, were “agents of the German general staff.” If Stalin himself was not at this time included among those leaders slandered (Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev), it is only because in that heroic epoch, he was too little known and was only a third-rate figure. The contemptible and pathetic Kerensky at least remains true to himself when he writes today that there is nothing surprising in the fact that Trotsky and Zinoviev had had connections with the Gestapo, because, you see, Lenin, Trotsky and others were already, in 1917, linked to General Ludendorff!

Kerensky ties the thread of his own past slander against Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev to today’s slander hurled by Stalin against Trotsky and Zinoviev. (If Lenin were not dead, he would be, naturally, the first and principal Gestapo agent.) How instructive is this handshake of two slanderers, – Kerensky and Stalin, – across an entire epoch: 1917-1936!

In the quote which we used as an epigraph for this chapter, Lenin says in Pravda of 1917 that “It is an obvious, unheard of, and unscrupulous slander against a revolutionary.” Today these words are more timely than ever. But since then an entire revolution has passed!

When Pravda wrote these lines with indignation, Trotsky was not yet the leader of the October Revolution along with Lenin, when, according to Stalin himself: “all the work of the practical organization of the insurrection was carried out under the direct leadership of Trotsky, Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. One can say with certainty, that for the rapid passage of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the able organization of the work of the Military-Revolutionary Committee, the party is above all indebted to Cde. Trotsky,” (Article by Stalin in Pravda, Nov. 6, 1918). Trotsky had not yet been, along with Lenin and Zinoviev, the founder and leader of the Communist International. Trotsky had not yet become the leader of the Red Army and the organizer of the victories of the Civil War.

And could there be a better proof of Lenin’s confidence in Trotsky, and Trotsky alone, than the well-known “carte blanche” which Lenin gave him? In 1919, at the height of the Civil War, Lenin sent the following document to L. Trotsky:


Knowing the strict character of Cde. Trotsky’s orders, I am so convinced, absolutely convinced, of the correctness, the expediency and the necessity for the good of the cause of the order given by Cde. Trotsky, that I fully support this order.

V. Ulianov-Lenin

Lenin wrote these lines at the bottom of a blank piece of paper which carried the heading of the Chairman of the Soviet of People’s Commissars (in July, 1919) so that Trotsky could write above Lenin’s signature any of his own decisions, which would have beforehand Lenin’s signature beneath it!

* * *

One of the reactionary French newspapers, the clerical Echo de Paris, now announces that even the French Trotskyists are agents of the Reich. L’Humanité seized on this discovery. Oh, once the Echo de Paris says so, there’s no doubt about it. Of course, the French Trotskyists struggle against the French front which is joined by L’Humanité and Echo de Paris. The French Trotskyists do not demand the suspension of the class struggle, they do not fraternize with the French bourgeoisie and are certainly not inclined to forgive them all their “sins” in compensation for the France-Soviet military alliance. They are also not inclined to cooperate with the transformation of the French workers into an instrument of imperialism and militarism. There is no doubt, they are agents of the Gestapo!

The Polish Bolshevik-Leninists are agents of the secret police, proclaims Pravda. Of course! You cannot force them, like Thorez and Duclos to cry: “Long live the Poland of Pilsudski!” They are preparing a new Poland in the underground and in the prisons, which will not be the Poland of Pilsudski. Of course, – they are agents of the secret police!

This “argument” is not new; Lenin and Liebknecht, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg experienced it themselves. Marx also went through it: The French Bonapartist press accused him of being an agent of Bismarck. Well, it’s not such a bad tradition!

Read the German fascist newspapers, see with what furious hatred they speak of Trotsky. These are the ones who advise handing Trotsky over to Stalin! The German fascists can not forgive Trotsky, not only for his revolutionary role in general but for his revolutionary politics in Germany. They know that it’s Trotsky who spread the idea of the United Front in Germany, the only policy which could have defeated fascism, at a time when Stalin only aided fascism by proclaiming that Social Democracy and fascism were “twins” and that Social Democracy was left fascism. Without Stalin, there would have been no Hitler, no Gestapo! It is Stalin who helped Hitler to sit on the back of the German working class. And in this much deeper, historic sense, Stalin is an agent of the Gestapo, and all the pitiful police machinations will not enable him to remove From himself this terrible responsibility. Yes, if today there is fascism and the Gestapo in Germany, they “owe it first and foremost to Stalin.”

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 ...

Constitutional consolidation on Sinhala chauvinism

It’s constitutional consolidation on Sinhala chauvinism

Hitherto, the left in general considered the UNP to be the party of the pro imperialist, conservative bourgeois. Hence the breakaway party led by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranayke was accepted as the party of liberal nationalist capitalism. People were made to accept that the western colonial traditions were protected by the UNP, whilst the SLFP stood for local traditions. Even Sajith Premadasa insists that the UNP is not a party of the Colombo 7 elite, implying that such an opinion exists in society. This widespread belief is used by the present leaders of the SLFP, the Mahinda crowd, to attract the rural Sinhala middle classes and also to cover up the regime’s total subjugation to the neo liberal policies of global capitalism. I have tried to explain in this column, in the past, the changes that have taken place in imperialism. The latter, defined by Lenin and others before the First World War, has developed on to become present day global capitalism. These are qualitative changes and very significant in relation to the struggle of the masses. We cannot talk of American or Yankee imperialism today as we used to do in our undergraduate days. The economic, political hegemony that the US had has been replaced firstly by G8 and then by G20. The multilateral organisations, WB/IMF/ WTO have substantial supervisory powers and their significant role was very evident during the last period. They were instrumental in controlling the competitive trends among the global powers during the worst part of the economic crisis. No longer is the image of US imperialism, with a tall white man in a three piece suit and a top hat, valid for the regime controlled by Obama. He is black enough to be classified with the ex-colonial masses, and in fact he could be a Muslim. As far as the masses in the Indian subcontinent are considered, imperial looking Sonia is easily identifiable as an oppressor!

New face of global capitalism

The system of monopoly capitalism has changed. The economic system of multinational companies has no specific imperial image. The military and political options are secondary. What really matter are the agreements made by the dependent regime with the global financial institutes. The latter has enough managerial powers to press the borrower to take the suggested path by the system. Ethics have changed so much that very often the traditional servile sections in the dependent society are ignored, to tie up with the nouveau rich. Neo liberalism is truly liberal in that context. The search for the westernized elites as the dependable elements in the developing world is virtually over. What the neo liberal capitalist matrix wants, is the man with the power and the eagerness to go along with its path of development. The leader could be conservative, liberal, chauvinist, nationalist, socialist or even Marxist. It does not matter as long as he agrees with the technology transfer and modernization given by the system. So, global capitalism is marching along silently with a benevolent face.
Now, we hear from the IMF mission who came recently that, “Overall economic conditions are improving as expected in the last visit, and the economy is likely to show strong growth this year. External balances are strong, remittance inflows continue at a high rate, tourism prospects continue to improve rapidly and gross reserves remain at comfortable levels. We assess the Central Bank’s recent rate cut as appropriate. With bank lending only slowly beginning to rebound, and economic growth still below potential, we see little sign of emerging demand-driven inflationary pressures, and average inflation for the year as a whole is expected to remain in the single digits... Performance under the programme has been good. End-June performance criteria on domestic budget borrowing, reserve money, and net reserves have been met. With budget revenues increasing and expenditure restraint continuing, fiscal performance so far remains consistent with achieving the government’s full-year deficit target of 8 percent of GDP. Financial sector reforms continue to go forward in line with the programme.” Cheers! Well nothing to worry, Mahinda is doing well. Lankan women even with iron nails in their bodies have remitted money, the workers have not challenged even though their salaries are intolerably law, and the cuts in welfare and increases of taxes are tolerated by the suffering masses. So, Mahinda should continue on this path.
However the mission advised: “First, a fundamental tax reform is needed - and planned - to simplify the existing system, broaden the tax base (including by restricting concessions), spread the tax burden more equitably, and support economic growth, all while boosting the revenue-to-GDP ratio. The resulting fiscal space could allow increased public capital spending on reconstruction and infrastructure as well as social spending to support the vulnerable, but it is clear that the country’s large investment needs cannot be met through the government budget alone. Private sector investment will be needed to play a critical role. To foster this investment, policies will need to be geared toward preserving macroeconomic stability, ensuring external competitiveness, facilitating capital market development, and improving the investment climate, all of which would lay the basis for higher sustainable growth in a post-war environment.” If you are prepared to forget the cliche about the vulnerable, the command is clear: tax the poor more, help the rich and preserve the stability. We were dependent heavily on these organizations since 1977. In addition to the IMF standby agreement, we are today attached to the World Bank Group’s current Country Assistance Strategy for Sri Lanka, covering the period from July 2008 to June 2012. The CAS supports the government’s 10-year Development Framework, with an annual lending envelope of around US$200 million. Then there are other project agreements. According to their evaluation reports we have done well. But in the last three decades we had in addition to the struggles of the workers for better living, two massive insurrections by both Sinhala and Tamil youth. They were fighting for their land, human rights, culture and traditions - in short for their natural existence. Workers lost jobs and the youth lost everything; the suffering of the masses was unbelievable.
But now the global exploitative matrix has selected their new server. He is pushed to strengthen his power by meddling with the constitution. What is going on is the constitutional consolidation of the regime based on Sinhala chauvinism. With the new legitimacy it will be used against the workers, peasants, fishers and all minorities. Mahinda has done the job better than J.R. Jayewardene; that is the ruling of the global capitalism. JR was not able to fool anybody in the left, but MR, with his past credentials of being a friend of the workers and the left, could drag even Vasu to the guillotine!

Ranil is the best friend of Mahinda regime

Statement of the Nava Sama Samaj Party (Sri Lankan Section of the Fourth International)

(13 September 2010)

The 18th amendment to the constitution passed by the approval of two thirds in the Sri Lankan parliament on the 8th of September 2010 received the wrath of many critiques. However, those criticisms are incomplete. It is meaningless to charge this amendment as one ushered in merely to strengthen the power wielded by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family. What does this new amendment really mean?

Amendment 18 is another step towards fulfilling the agenda of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monitory Fund (IMF). The main aim of concentrating power to the presidency through parliament is to create a dictatorship capable of warding off any obstacle in carrying out the economic programme of global masters.

That is what is meant by being able to attract more investment through awarding concessions to Multi National Companies (MNC). That is what is meant by that Sri Lanka will be developed to resemble Singapore or Malaysia. Hence, the argument, that only dictatorships enabled the development of those countries.

USA – SL double act

USA too issued a statement criticising the amendment! This is hoarse. Were the allegations by world powers that the Mahinda regime violated human rights during the war against Tamil tigers bear any fruit? This latest US condemnation too follows the same path.

While praising the government’s economic programme, the World Bank released the fourth tranche of its loan to the Mahinda regime. It is an official recognition by the WB that the government is duly carrying out the programme which includes raising taxes, slashing subsidies, not raising wages and cutting state expenditure.

We should all be well aware, that the Sri Lankan government staging an act demanding the release of Cubans in US prisons for over twelve years, in order to demonstrate its ‘anti-imperialness,’ and the US government script lamenting the harm inflicted on Sri Lanka’s democracy by the 18th amendment are both episodes of a reciprocal farce.

India, with its policeman role under the command of Sonia Gandhi has been able to manipulate Mahinda at its will. This has enabled the new amendment to obtain the blessings of Indian rulers. Therefore, it seems that even China is conducting itself in Sri Lanka under the patronage of India.

The most dangerous element in this new law is wiping out any democratic characteristic that the 17th amendment contained. The president appointing people to high office including the judiciary and independent commissions was

restrained by the 17th amendment. Provisions to appoint members to independent commissions are being annulled by the new law. All powers are now concentrated in the hands of the president. The new Constitutional Committee is relegated to an organ that can only give ‘advice’ as and when the president needs. It has no other authority at all.

Minorities and power devolution

Without stopping in its tracks, the government is accelerating towards re-amending the 13th amendment in order to slash the powers of Provincial Councils. The sole aim is to further consolidate the president’s autocratic power and quenching the thirst of frenzy racists by crushing all minorities under the jackboot of Sinhala domination. This shatters the argument touted by Mahinda’s stooges within the government that dictatorships have been able to establish bourgeoisie democracy. Furthermore, every right enjoyed by ordinary men and women in the land will be totally wiped out.

Parliamentary opposition

In this scenario, the government has found its best friend in the opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe. The first person Mahinda spoke with about the 18th amendment was opposition leader Ranil. Ranil did not even consult his party, the United National Party (UNP).

This led to most of the UNP parliamentarians ending up in Mahinda’s pocket. Some have already joined the government. Others are operating within the UNP according to the agenda of the government. Ranil doesn’t give two hoots about it. Why? Because, Mahinda is carrying ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’ forward better than Ranil.

‘Regaining Sri Lanka’ is Ranil’s programme to unleash the pillage of corporate globalisation in Sri Lanka. Now, the grassroots UNP supporter who is against government measures is faced with a dilemma. They are in search of an alternative to Ranil. While some are seeking ways to convert the UNP in to a party that follows a Social Democratic agenda, other leaders wonder nonplussed.

Unable to severe its umbilical cord with Sinhala racism, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is going against Amendment 18 with no rationale. On one hand, they are unable to hoist an anti US flag, due to the fact that their present leader, former military chief Sarath Fonseka, is a Yankee lackey. On the other hand their erstwhile comrade Wimal Weerawansa has taken care of that. Vasudeva Nanayakkara in addition to former leftists Tissa Vitharana and DEW Gunasekara are doing a strip tease within government ranks.

Demonstrators opposing Amendment 18, who clashed with the police on the streets of the capital on the 8th of September, had made their message clear. It is of the need to have a new leadership that is acceptable to each and every community oppressed in these circumstances. It is the bounden duty of all against this government to march towards achieving that goal.

Paul Robeson

This song has a long internationalist history. Written by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, it was translated from English into Bengali by Subhash Mukhopadhyay, one of Bengal's foremost leftist poets. Several versions soon existed, in the form of variants of a song. Ajit Pandey sang the version closest to Mukhopadhyay's translation. This is a different version.

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