Russian Social Democratic Party (“RSDLP”) was founded in 1898. It split into two factions in 1903: Bolsheviks and Mensheviks; following Lenin’s polemical article ‘What Is to be Done’ written in 1902 on the issues of Party membership criteria and “Economism”. Lenin wanted a vanguard Party – with a discipline that required full commitment, which forbade any other affiliation once someone joined it, which Martov and his followers opposed; they favored open membership. Secondly, Mensheviks argued for Trade Union struggles as the main vehicle for revolution. Lenin called it “Economism” which in his opinion only led to strengthening of capitalism. Trotsky remained outside of both factions, hoping to bring them together! Shows Trotsky failed to grasp how these two paths fundamentally diverged.
Following the defeat in the 1905-1907 Revolution in which he participated, Trotsky published his essay ‘Results and Prospects’ evaluating the revolution and concluded that socialism in Russia could not be built without a workers’ State of an West European country such as Germany coming to its aid, and I quote from this article:
“But how far can the socialist policy of the working class be applied in the economic conditions of Russia? We can say one thing with certainty – that it will come up against political obstacles much sooner than it will stumble over the technical backwardness of the country. Without the direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship. Of this there cannot for one moment be any doubt. But on the other hand, there cannot be any doubt that a socialist revolution in the West will enable us directly to convert the temporary domination of the working class into a socialist dictatorship.”
This was a serious error in understanding what Marx & Engels theorized on proletarian dictatorship, for whom the permanent revolution meant overthrow of all bourgeois institutions in society, to make the revolution permanent, not that it could not be done in a peasant majority country. In its developed form this became known as the ‘Permanent Revolution theory’ of Leon Trotsky.
The Mensheviks wanted to liquidate illegal work of the RSDLP following the defeat of the 1905-1907 revolution. Bolsheviks opposed it. So, in this crisis in the party, a block called ‘August Bloc’ was formed. Trotsky led it, again claimed to work to unite the factions. Lenin denounced Trotsky as an opportunist, lacking in firm principles. The factions in RSDLP in 1912 split into two separate Parties: Bolsheviks & Mensheviks. Once again Trotsky remained outside both, formed his own Party with few members.
In 1913, Stalin’s work under Lenin’s leadership on the National & Colonial Question was published. Lenin praised it. After the revolution of October 1917, Stalin was appointed as the Commissar of Nationalities. The constitution of the USSR was based on this work, assuring the former nationalities equality in the USSR, as opposed to dominance by the Russians. It lasted for 70 years until Yeltsin used Russian nationalism to undermine the USSR in late 1980s. The USSR was dissolved in 1991.
It is an article of faith today that the three Moscow Trials of 1936, 1937 & 1938 and the secret 1937 Military Court Trial of Marshal Tukhachevsky and seven other commanders, in total 62 men, were “show Trials” i.e., “Kangaroo Court” affairs; and that the defendants were “framed”; i.e., all were innocent of the charges to which most if not all, they themselves admitted. The widely held view among the intelligentsia is that these men were eliminated to make Stalin the absolute dictator of the USSR, towards which the police built a super Shakespearean plot, and made all of the 62 actors to do their part and die! A fantastic conclusion, but a lot of people believe it!
Trotsky claimed Stalin was heading a bureaucracy, not a dictatorship of the proletariat. Khrushchev in 1956 charged Stalin with violating “Socialist legality”. After denouncing Stalin, Khrushchev was going to build a “just” socialist society! But, he instead gave impetus to privatization of economy and corruption in the Party. But even he could not find Trotsky innocent of the crime of treason, which a large number of the defendants in the Three Moscow Trials, 1936, 1937 & 1938, said he was the main planner and the main driving force. Gorbachev’s commission in 1986, went further than Khrushchev’s commission of 1956, which declared almost all defendants of the Moscow Trials, as innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted. But even his commission, could not declare Trotsky innocent. These Trials were:
- August 19-24, 1936: ‘THE CASE OF TROTSKYITE-ZINOVIEVITE TERRORIST CENTRE’ had Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, Olberg & 12 others were charged and convicted of treason, subsequently executed, after their appeals to the Supreme Soviet were heard, but conviction confirmed.
- January 23-30, 1937: ‘THE CASE OF THE ANTI-SOVIET TROTSKYITE CENTER’ had Pytakov, Radek, Sokolnikov and 14 other defendants. 13 are sentenced to be shot, 4 received 8-10-year prison terms, Radek among them, as not directly connected to terrorist planning or actions. Karl Radek died in prison in 1939.
- March 2-13, 1938 – ‘THE CASE OF THE ANTI-SOVIET BLOC OF RIGHTS & TROTSKYITES’ had as defendants: Nicolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Genrikh Yagoda, Nicolay Krestinsky, and 17 others. Yagoda was the NKVD Chief from 1934-1936. During this trial Nikolai Yezhov was the NKVD chief (Sept. 1936 – Nov. 1939), under whose tenure, the Great Purge & Repression killed several hundred thousand people, many of them innocent.
In addition to these three “show” trials, there was May 26-June 10 1937: Secret Military Court-Marshal of Marshal Mikhail Tuckhachevsky & 7 other senior commanders of Russian military by a panel of judges from among their peers, who were convicted and executed by a firing squad on June 11, 1937. One of the panel of judges was Air Commander Yakov Alsnis. The trail transcripts remain secret to this day. Only one person was allowed access to the archived transcript in 1992, Colonel Victor Alksnis, grandson of the same Air Force Commander Yakov Alksnis, who later was charged with setting up a Latvian fascist organization in November 1937. He was executed in July 1938. So, Colonel Victor Alksnis also believed that the Generals were not guilty before he saw the transcripts of the trial, but changed his opinion after reading these trial transcripts.
In this essay, I hope to show that the Moscow Trials were not “show” trials, i.e., the defendants were not framed. Rather these trials were a culmination of the fight and opposition to build socialism in the USSR which began early in the diversion of two lines in the revolution.
In 1915, Lenin wrote the article titled: ‘On the Two Lines in the Revolution’. I quote a paragraph:
“…To bring clarity into the alignment of classes in the impending revolution is the main task of a revolutionary party…. This is being wrongly tackled in Nashe Slovo by Trotsky, who is repeating his “original” 1905 theory and refuses to give some thought to the reason why, in the course of ten years, life has been bypassing this splendid theory. From the Bolsheviks Trotsky’s original theory has borrowed their call for a decisive proletarian revolutionary struggle and for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, while from the Mensheviks it has borrowed “repudiation” of the peasantry’s role.”
The splendid theory of Trotsky which Lenin referred to above, published as an essay in 1906 or 1907; in finished form was titled ‘Permanent Revolution’, published as a book in 1929.
Trotsky merged his party with the Bolsheviks in Spring of 1917. In October Insurrection, Trotsky, age 38, as head of the St. Petersburg Soviet played his role assigned by the Party very well. Trotsky was in his elements in such situations: fearless, daring, willing to take risks. Molotov, age 27, was his assistant. However, both were carrying out the instructions of the Party headed by Lenin. Zinoviev and Kamenev opposed the insurrection and even went out and announced it, breaking party discipline. Lenin wanted them thrown out, but Stalin persuaded Lenin to keep them in the party, as there was a dearth of men of that training and abilities in the Party.
Lenin in his very first sentence in his first speech in 1917 after Bolshevik took power said: “…we will now proceed to construct socialism”. Bolshevism relied on strategic partnership with the Peasants & oppressed nationalities of the old Russian empire. In contrast, for Trotsky it was only a tactical alliance, lasting for a few years, after which either a European revolution created worker state will help Russian proletariat build socialism, or Russian peasants will overthrow the worker state and return to capitalism.
In the Brest Litovsk Treaty, signed in 1918 ending the war between Germany and Russia, now the fledgling worker state of the USSR, which terms were offered by Germany, and these were not good terms for the USSR, Trotsky voted in opposition, but when Lenin, in minority, threatened to leave the Central Committee to go directly to the workers, he changed his vote to “abstention”, allowing Lenin to get a one vote majority. “Abstention” in such a crucial matter? This kind of opportunism is what Lenin had pointed out earlier about Trotsky. Signing of the Brest Litovsk Treaty ceding territory to Germany also led Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionary Parties to denounce the Bolsheviks. Fanny Kaplan shot Lenin at the factory gate. Felix Dzerzhinsky, was then headed the Cheka. He conducted the Red-Terror that drove Martov & other oppositionists to flee to Germany, France & Britain. But this incident also showed how Trotsky remained divided in his mind. Bukharin was an extreme Leftist in this period. He opposed the Brest Treaty as well and even formed a group to kidnap Lenin & Stalin for signing of the treaty.
In the Civil War, 1918-1919, Trotsky was appointed as War Commissar. Trotsky’s role was generally good and his contribution acknowledged by the Party but he also made some serious mistakes. Stalin was sent to save the defeat of the Red Army in Tsaritsyn. The city was named Stalingrad in 1925 because of that contribution of Stalin.
In the two famous Dec. 1920 & Jan. 1921 Trade Union debates, Trotsky argued that the workers did not need their unions, since they owned the state. Lenin said no, they need it to safeguard their interests at the work place. The State could not do that. Trotsky also wanted to bring the workers under military discipline to increase industrial production. Stalin said comrade Trotsky’s mindset is still influenced from his military role in the Civil War. Trotsky & Bukharin also had a separate Platform, which Lenin led Central Committee defeated. Lenin said that while Bukharin was the most well-read intellectual in the Party, he lacked understanding of dialectics. It will be valuable for readers of this article to read Lenin’s two speeches in these debates.
In 1921, Lenin proposed Stalin’s name for General Secretary position which was unanimously accepted by all in the Central Committee. In the 10th Party Congress, 1921, Lenin moved to end to the debates that Trotsky and Bukharin always continued to push for on ideological & programmatic issues on which the Party had already decided the matters; and now was actively moving to build socialism in the USSR. Factionalism must end, Lenin said and the Party voted to endorse it. But factionalism remained. It was an indication that the two lines for the revolution and building of socialism still remained in the Party.
Lenin was disabled in April, 1923 following a series of strokes. At this time, Trotsky created an opposition platform against the Party, its leadership, and its policy. This platform was called the ‘Declaration of the Forty-Six Oppositionists’. All the opposition groupings — the Trotskyists, Democratic-Centralists, and the remnants of the “Left Communist” and “Workers’ Opposition” (Lenin has said this group was not entitled to this name, as it was the party that really represented the workers, but let them call themselves that anyway.) all united to fight the Party headed by Stalin. In their declaration, they prophesied a grave economic crisis and the fall of the Soviet power, and demanded freedom of factions and groups as the only way out of the situation. The Party defeated this platform.
In spring 1924, Lenin died. Trotsky wrote the essay ‘Lessons of October’- a subtle assertion that he was the heir to Lenin. But Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife and comrade, responded sharply to it in an article to say Trotsky was quite wrong in his “lessons”. She pointed out that Trotsky’s “lessons” did not include: (1) the balance of forces, not just national but international as well, (2) the masses and their relations with the party, (3) the party as a living organism and its connection with the leadership, (4) the peasantry. She pointed out that Lenin & Stalin were in contact with party cells all over the country at all times and knew workers moods and readiness to fight. All these were crucial to Bolshevism. For Trotsky, it was the Party leadership and political slogans. Krupskaya had joined Zinoviev’s faction following Lenin’s death in 1924, but returned to the Party majority in 1926.
Trotsky published his collected works in 1924 after Lenin’s death. An intense debate followed openly in the press through the end of 1925. Everyone claimed he/she was for Marx & Lenin, of course, but Trotsky’s ideas that appeared consistent with Marx and Lenin superficially, nevertheless deviated from both. Stalin energetically defended Lenin against this attempt of Trotsky to coopt Bolshevism within in his own concept of Trotskyism. The Party workers were keenly paying attention to this debate, as were all other conscious workers & intellectuals.
By 1925, 4 years of NEP had restored agricultural production to 7/8th of pre-war level and industrial production to 3/4th. This stabilization restored a sound economic basis of worker – peasant alliance. But by the end of 1925, the USSR economy was still 2/3rd Agricultural, and only 1/3rd industrial – and most of it was light industry. This needed to change. In December, the 14th Congress of the Party decided to move forward to make the USSR an industrially advanced country with Heavy Industry as the backbone.
In Germany Nazism was rising in the period 1919-1925, Rosa Luxemburg was murdered, & in Italy Mussolini came to power by a coup. Fascism was the rising force in Western Europe. The dream of a European socialist revolution was dying and with it, Trotsky’s hope of building socialism in backward USSR.
In the Summer of 1926; Trotsky, Zinoviev & their followers united to form an anti-Party bloc, made it a rallying point for the remnants of all the defeated opposition groups, and laid the foundation of their secret Party faction, thereby grossly violating the Party Rules and the decisions of Party congresses forbidding the formation of faction. Later that year, on the eve of the Fifteenth Party Conference, the opposition bloc made a sortie at Party meetings in the factories of Moscow, Leningrad and other cities, attempting to force a new discussion on the Party. The platform they tried to get the Party members to discuss was a rehash of the usual Trotsky inspired platforms before. The Party members gave the oppositionists a severe rebuff, and in some places simply ejected them from the meetings. The Central Committee again warned the supporters of the bloc, stating that the Party could not tolerate their subversive activities any longer.
The opposition then submitted to the Central Committee a statement signed by Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Sokolnikov; condemning their own factional work and promising to be loyal in the future. Nevertheless, the bloc continued to exist and did not stop the underground work against the Party. They started an illegal printing press, collected membership dues from their supporters and circulated their platform.
The combined, so called “Left” Opposition formed of Trotskyists, ‘Workers’ Opposition’ and ‘Democratic Centralists’ in which Zinoviev took lead with Kamenev on his side and Trotsky now in the background, argued in effect, the Party Program was not doing enough for the workers, but by continuing the NEP, it was helping the Kulaks. They challenged it be submitted to Party workers for a vote in 1927. Stalin led Party majority in the central Committee agreed and printed the plateform of the opposition as well as the Party platform and distributed to Party cells throughout the country for debate and then a vote. The so called “Left Opposition” Platform was decisively defeated by Party members’ vote of over 724,000 to 4,000. Why? The open debates in the press in 1924-1925 had educated the Party workers on the issues.
But the factionists did not give-in to Party discipline and accept their defeat. On the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, i.e., Nov. 7, 1927, Zinoviev and Trotsky & other oppositionists organized a workers’ counter demonstration to protest the direction of the country under the leadership of Stalin. Few workers came to it. But this was an egregious violation of the Party rules. Both were expelled from the Party in Nov. 1927 and Kamenev, Pyatakov, Radek, Preobrazhensky, Rakovsky, Serebryakov, Sarkis, Safarove, I. Smirnov, Lifshitz, Mdivani, Smilga; and the whole ‘Democratic-Centralism’ group was expelled from the Party in Dec. 1927.
The 15th Party Congress held in December, 1927, called for socialist; i.e., cooperative, collectivized, and state farm agriculture based on new technical basis i.e., – farm machinery, which was possible now, enough of them were being manufactured. Also, decided was large-scale industrialization to make the USSR an industrially developed socialist country.
In 1928, Kamenev and most followers of Trotsky renounced their oppositional ideas and were readmitted to the Party. Trotsky refused. He was internally exiled to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan in January 1928. In Feb. 1929 he was exiled from the USSR to Turkey.
The first Five-Year Plan was launched in 1928. Article 107 of the Criminal Code empowered the courts to confiscate grain surpluses from kulaks (capitalist farmers, who employed labor) and profiteers in case they refused to sell them to the state at the fixed prices, and granted the poor peasants a number of privileges, under which 25 per cent of the confiscated kulak grain was placed at their disposal.
Bukharin denounced this anti-Kulak law as “military-feudal exploitation of peasantry”. Bukharin also told Swiss communist ally in the Communist International, Jules Humbert-Droz that he, i.e., Bukharin, and his Rights followers, were plotting to assassinate Stalin. Humbert-Droz was living peacefully, no longer political, in Switzerland when he published the memoirs in 1971.
Trotsky completed and published his ‘Permanent Revolution’ formally, one on which he had clashed repeatedly with Lenin and Stalin, as already described above.
At the end of 1929, with the growth of the collective farms and state farms, the Soviet Government repealed the laws on the renting of land and the hiring of labor, thus, depriving the kulaks both of land and of hired laborers. It lifted the ban on the expropriation of the kulaks. It permitted the peasants to confiscate cattle, machines and other farm property from the kulaks for the benefit of the collective farms. The kulaks were expropriated. Collectivization proceeded but there were many mistakes in that, the Party lost control of the process for a few months.
On April 3rd, in Stalin’s “Reply to Collective Farm Comrades” he said: the root cause of the mistakes in the peasant question and the major mistakes committed in the collective-farm movement, viz., an incorrect approach to the middle peasant, violation of the Leninist principle that the formation of collective farms must be voluntary, violation of the Leninist principle that allowance must be made for the diversity of conditions in the various districts of the U.S.S.R., and the attempts to skip the Artel (Cooperative) form and to pass straight to the Commune.
In less than 3 years of First Five-year plan implementation, Industrial production had reached 180% of pre-World War I level, which had reached to 100% of pre-war level in 1927. By May, when 16th Party Congress met, a momentous change had taken place in the development of agriculture in the U.S.S.R. In less than 18 months, the broad masses of the peasantry had turned towards Socialism. Collectivization in the principal grain-growing regions embraced 40-50 per cent of the peasant households.
In August, 1930, Rights Opposition group circulated a “200-page treatise that reflected the Rights’ anti-Stalin position, which became known in Party circles as the ‘Ryutin Platform’”. Ryutin, a Moscow Party Committee member, was arrested for “Organizing a counter-revolutionary group and for anti-Soviet agitation” in 1931.
In February, 1931 Stalin in a speech:
“It is sometimes asked, whether it is not possible to slow down the (industrialization & collectivization) tempo a bit, to put a check on the movement. No, comrades, it is not possible! The tempo must not be reduced! . . . To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten. No, we refuse to be beaten! …..We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us….”.
By 1931, 2/3rds of crop area was now under collective & state farm sector, i.e., socialist farming. But problems were encountered: peasant mind-set was still narrow, uneducated in modern methods of large scale farming, record keeping, management etc., and the Kulaks had wormed their way into them and the habits in peasants of not giving all to their work still persisted, so wastage and mismanagement remained. Kulaks also sabotaged the farm machinery, diverted grains etc.
In January 1933, the Central Committee of the Party sent 17,000 Party members to the countryside to work in the new political departments attached to the collective farms. In two years (1933 and 1934) the political departments of the machine and tractor stations did a great deal to build up an active body of collective farmers, to eliminate the defects in the work, to consolidate them, and to rid them of kulak enemies and wreckers. By the end of 1934 the collective farms embraced 3/4th of the peasant households and about 90% of crop area.
By the 1933 year-end, poverty was eliminated, food rationing ended, industrial production now was 70%, agriculture 30% of the economy No exploitation, workers & peasants could now develop cultured life.
Fascist Italy attacked and colonized Ethiopia in 1937, Japan seized Manchuria, colonized part of China. Germany seized Austria. World War II had begun. The “democratic” countries were being strangely passive in the face of this aggression. Why? Because Italy, Germany & Japan had also signed an ‘Anti-Commintern Pact’, so it was hoped they will destroy the first socialist country also.
Second Five-Year Plan was completed ahead of time in 1937. Industrial production now was 700% of pre-World War I level (1913), and collectivized farming produced nearly double of what was produced in 1913, when it was Kulak farming. Socialist economy had succeeded. 93% of peasant families belonged to collective farms, 99% of land was collectivized.
December 12, 1937: Elections took place with 91 million of 94 million qualified voters took part. The Party claimed that 90 million adults, by their unanimous vote, confirmed the victory of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. Population of the USSR in 1937 was approximately 170 million.
So, given this background, which shows repeated attempts to split the party and chart a different course than what the Party headed by Stalin was doing in the completing of the revolution begun in 1917 and building of socialism which too a period of 20 years, it seems reasonable to conclude that these men, oppositionists of all shades, were not really committed to building of socialism, but looking to compromise with capitalism and imperialism. They were politically defeated because the workers and poor peasants were with the party line and who went on to build socialism in “one” (first) country, the USSR, despite tremendous difficulties, and mistakes that were bound to happen in any such a radical project.
I now come to the three Moscow Trials, listing a few key pieces of Evidence:
Nicolai Krestinsky testified in the 3rd Moscow trial (1938) that Trotsky started receiving 250,000 German Gold Marks from the German Military annually, in exchange for providing some intelligence to German military. Krestinsky was an ally of Trotsky and USSR Ambassador to Germany in the period 1921-1926. General Hans Von Seeckt was head of German Army and had made this deal with Trotsky, according to Krestinsky’s testimony. Trotsky was the USSR Commissar of War until 1925! Amazing!
Valentine Olberg, a Latvian from Riga, living illegally in Germany, testified in the 1936 Moscow Trial (Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center) to the effect that he was a member of the German Trotskyite organization since 1927-28. His contact with Trotsky and Sedov, Trotsky’s son, began in 1930. This contact was arranged by an active member of the German Trotskyite organization, Anton Grilevich, the publisher of Trotsky’s pamphlets in German. At first, contact was established by correspondence with Sedov, who passed Trotsky’s instructions on to Olberg; and in the spring of 1931, in May, when Sedov arrived in Berlin to study engineering, their personal acquaintance began and they met weekly through the end of 1932. Olberg came to the USSR on a forged Honduran passport. This was produced as evidence in 1936 Trial. His assignment was assassination of Stalin by May 1, 1936. He was arrested before he even tried.
Trotsky declared in 1931 to his supporters that Stalin had to be “removed” from power. Karl Radek in the 1937 Moscow Trial testified that it was understood by all leaders of the conspiracy that it was a call for assassination.
- Arch Getty, historian, revealed in 1980, first time Trotsky Archive at Harvard was opened to researcher that the Archive was purged but 5 mail receipts of Trotsky’s letters to his followers in the USSR remained in the same archive. (Isaac Deutscher, historian and a follower of Trotsky, had a special permission from Trotsky’s widow well before 1980, when he was researching to write Trotsky’s biography)
Pierre Broue’, eminent Trotskyist historian found a letter from Sedov, Trotsky’s son to his father in the Harvard Trotsky archive in 1986 confirming creation of a Bloc: Trotskyites, Zinovievites and others in the Summer of 1932. Broue’ later said the Bloc was dissolved in 1933, but gave no reason as to why he thought the Bloc was dissolved. Perhaps his devotion to Trotsky, like that of Deutscher, also blocked his vision. (see Furr ‘Trotsky’s Amalgams’ Vol. 1)
An American Mining Engineer, John D. Littlepage worked in USSR Gold industry, as a result of not finding work in the US. He provided a confirmation of Pyatakov’s testimony in the 1937 Moscow Trial. He also observed sabotage in the goldfields. It was recorded in an article in ‘Saturday Evening Post’ in January 1938, recorded by Sayers & Kahn in their book ‘The Great Conspiracy’. His report to the USSR government on the sabotage he observed before he left the USSR in 1937 led to arrests of several people. The other American engineer who witnessed sabotage in the industry was Carrol G. Holmes. (See Grover Furr ‘Trotsky’s Amalgams’ Vol. 1).
In an article titled: ‘The Soviet Economy’ published in ‘The Militant’ in October 1932, when the First Five-Year Plan was completed and had changed the Soviet economy, Trotsky wrote the following & I quote:
“Only through the inter-reaction of these three elements: state planning, the market; and Soviet democracy, can the correct direction of the economy of the transitional epoch be attained. Only thus can be assured, not the complete surmounting of contradictions and disproportions within a few years (this is utopian!), but their mitigation, and through that the strengthening of the material bases of the dictatorship of the proletariat until the moment when a new and victorious revolution will widen the arena of socialist planning and will reconstruct the system.”
In other words, if you read between the lines, Trotsky is now proposing a new N.E.P. He is on the same page as Bukharin in 1928. But Trotsky is waiting for a new revolution, because he has determined that Stalin represents not the dictatorship of the proletariat but a bureaucracy.
On January 30, 1933 Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany. Romm, then a Tass correspondent, and a Trotskyist, and friend of Radek met Trotsky in Paris in July 1933 where Trotsky gave him a letter for Radek. Trotsky explained to Romm that a parallel center to bring under it all former followers of Trotsky who were not in the Zinoviev led center. He emphasized wrecking in addition to terrorism, as a way to derail the Five-Year Plan and thus undermine mass confidence in the Party leadership of Stalin. Romm asked Trotsky, “won’t this wrecking undermine the defense capacity of the USSR just in a time when Hitler had risen to power, and a danger of war from Germany was on the rise?” In response Trotsky hinted to him, according to his testimony at the 3rd Moscow trial, that it was the growing acuteness of war danger that may place defeatism on the order of the day. Here it shows that not all of Trotsky’s followers were the ones who were looking for defeat of the USSR, rather it was Trotsky himself.
October 1933 issue of Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 36-37; quoted by Vyshinsky in his closing arguments in the 1937 Moscow Trial,
Trotsky asks: “can the bureaucracy be removed by peaceful means?…..constitutional means are no longer available for the removal of the ruling clique. They can be compelled to hand over power to the proletarian vanguard only by force.”
So, it is a confirmation of the plan to assassinate the top government leaders – i.e., Stalin, Kirov, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov and others who are committed to building of socialism. Trotsky’s “proletarian vanguard” now was his followers in the Party & the state, since Party workers had abandoned him long ago.
Sergei Kirov, who had replaced Zinoviev as the Leningrad Party leader was assassinated at his office by Nikolaev, a worker in Leningrad on December 1, 1934. Trial of Nikolaev and others in his circle established there existed a conspiracy. They were tried and executed.
Trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev was held in 1935: They admitted to inspiring “anti-party moods” in but denied involvement in planning Kirov murder. They were sentenced to a 5-year prison term.
Radek was the feistiest of the defendants in the 1937 Moscow Trial. He clashed repeatedly with the prosecutor Andrei Vyshinsky. He testified that he received two letters from Trotsky in 1935, a short 2-page one in the middle of the year and a long 7-8-pages long detailed letter in December. It was the second letter of Trotsky that made Radek waiver in his commitment to the project of the overthrow of the Stalin led government by wrecking, diversion, sabotage and terror. Radek said while treason was justified in his mind, as a way to salvage the situation in the USSR, but by late 1935 he was aware that much progress had been made in the USSR industrial and agricultural development and that defeat was not a certainty; when for the first time he thought the USSR could win a war with Germany and Japan. He realized that Trotsky was asking him to become an out and out agent of the German fascism. But while he stopped all his work, he did not go to NKVD, but wanted rather to call a conference of all in his group and lay out his case, and persuade them to abandon the project and go to the authorities and disclose it, but the conference never happened. In the mean-time he was arrested by the NKVD.
In his final arguments of 1937 Trial, the prosecutor Vyshinsky in his final arguments, in response to Karl Radek’s testimony that he wanted to call a conference of all the Trotskyists who were involved in the conspiracy to overthrow Stalin led state said, and I quote:
“Incidentally, is this not the reason why Radek failed to convene the conference? What would they have discussed at this conference? The restoration of capitalism? The dismemberment of the USSR? The partitioning of the territory of the USSR? Territorial concessions? Selling of our territory to the Japanese and German annexationists? Espionage and wrecking? They concealed these points of their program, its main points. But we know that hidden things will be brought to light. And this shameful program of of the anti-Soviet bloc was also brought to light.
The existence of this program was admitted here by Pyatakov, Radek and Sokolnikov: they themselves told us about it in this court.
But perhaps it is all invention? Perhaps they said this simply because they wanted to play the comedy of repentant sinners? Since they have repented they must talk about something or other. Perhaps Trotsky never gave them this line (i.e., terrorism – Raj).
But, Comrade Judges, you know, everybody knows, that abroad, Trotsky publishes the so-called Bulletin of the Opposition, and if you take No. 10 of this Bulletin, for April 1930, you will find that it contains, what in essence, is the same thing:
“…All the same retreat is inevitable, it must be carried out as soon as possible…”
“….Put a stop to mass collectivization….”
“….Put a stop to hurdle race of industrialization. Revise the question of tempo in light of the experience….”
“….Abandon the ‘ideals’ of self-contained economy. Draw up a new variant of a plan providing for the widest possible intercourse with the world market….”
“….Carry out the necessary retreat, and then strategical rearmament….”
“….It will be impossible to emerge from the present contradictions without crises and struggle….”
So, in this above quote presented to the court, Trotsky exposed himself to be the same as Bukharin in the economic possibilities of the USSR. From “impossible to build socialism in one country”, what else is possible other than to revert to compromise with capitalism and imperialism.
In 1936, Germany & Italy intervened in Spanish Civil War, siding with Franco against the Spanish Republic. Trotsky helped them by his advice to one section of the workers to break from the Republican alliance, known as the Barcelona Revolt. Radek in his trial in January 23-30, 1937, warned the followers of Trotsky in Spain to break away from Trotsky.
US Ambassador designate Joseph Davies recorded in his diary January 16, 1937 in Berlin on his way to Moscow: “Had an extended conference with the head of the “Russian desk” at the German Foreign Office. To my surprise he stated that my views as to the “stability of internal Russian political conditions and the security of the Stalin regime would bear investigation. My information, he thought, was all wrong. Stalin was not firmly entrenched. He stated that I probably would find that there was much revolutionary activity there which might shortly break out into the open.”
In 1987 Ivan Pfaff published an account of a note found in the Czech archives. It was a note from Czech minister Vojtech Mastny written in Berlin on Feb. 9, 1937 to Czech PM Eduard Benes, that Maximilian Karl Graf zu Trauttmansdorff, his German official contact, informed him that Hitler was no longer interested in a settlement with Czechoslovakia because he expected a military coup in the USSR and subsequent positive turn in Soviet policy towards Germany. (See Furr ‘Trotsky’s Amalgams, quoting Ivan Pfaff, 1987).
NKVD General Genrikh Luishkov defected to Japan. He told his Japanese handlers that he knew there was a military conspiracy that involved general Ian Gamarnik (with Marshall Tukhachevsky). Gamarnik committed suicide on May 31, 1937 when he learned he would soon be arrested. Liushkov told his Japanese handlers that the commanders in the Far Eastern Army had been in secret contact with Alexei Rykov, former Premier of Russia. Rykov and Bukharin were the highest Party and state leaders in the 1938 Moscow Trial. He also revealed that Marshal Bliukher had been conspiring with Rykov and the Rights. (Alvin D. Coox ‘The Lesser of Two Hells, two-part article, published in 1998 – quoted by Grover Furr in ‘Trotsky’s Amalgams’).
In his last plea at the 3rd Moscow Trial (1938), Bukharin said:
“I already said when giving my main testimony during the trial, that it was not the naked logic of the struggle that drove us, the counter-revolutionary conspirators, into this stinking underground life, which has been exposed at this trial in all its starkness. This naked logic of the struggle was accompanied by a degeneration of ideas, a degeneration of psychology, a degeneration of ourselves, a degeneration of people. There are well-known historical examples of such degeneration. One need only mention Briand, Mussolini and others. And we too degenerated, and this brought us into a camp which in its views and features was very much akin to a kulak praetorian fascism. As this process advanced all the time very rapidly under the conditions of a developing class struggle, this struggle, its speed, its existence, acted as the accelerator, as the catalytic agent of the process which was expressed in the acceleration of the process of degeneration.
But this process of degeneration of people, including myself, took place in absolutely different conditions from those in which the process of degeneration of the international labor leaders in Western Europe took place. It took place amidst colossal socialist construction, with its immense scope, tasks, victories, difficulties, heroism. . . .
And on this basis, it seems to me probable that every one of us sitting here in the dock suffered from a peculiar duality of mind, an incomplete faith in his counter-revolutionary cause. I will not say that the consciousness of this was absent, but it was incomplete. Hence a certain semi-paralysis of the will, a retardation of reflexes. It seems to me that we are to a certain extent people with retarded reflexes. And this was due not to the absence of consistent thought, but to the objective grandeur of socialist construction.
The contradiction that arose between the acceleration of our degeneration and these retarded reflexes expressed the position of a counter-revolutionary, or a developing counter-revolutionary, under the conditions of developing socialist construction. A dual psychology arose. Each one of us can discern this in his own soul, although I will not engage in a far-reaching psychological analysis.
Even I was sometimes carried away by the eulogies I wrote of socialist construction, although on the morrow I repudiated this by practical actions of a criminal character. There arose what in Hegel’s philosophy is called a most unhappy mind. This unhappy mind differed from the ordinary unhappy mind only by the fact that it was also a criminal mind.
The might of the proletarian state found its expression not only in the fact that it smashed the counter-revolutionary bands, but also in the fact that it disintegrated its enemies from within, that it disorganized the will of its enemies. Nowhere else is this the case, nor can it be in any capitalist country.”
Nicolai Yezhov, NKVD head and Politburo member until recently, was indicted, tried, found guilty of abuse of power, and other crimes and was executed in 1940. Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico by Ramon Mercador del Rio, a Spanish communist.
CONCLUSION: The evidence showed that those found guilty in the three Moscow trials were indeed guilty of a vast conspiracy to overturn the proletarian power to accommodate it to the capitalist world, particularly to the rising powers: Germany and Japan. The 8 military men, also based on available limited evidence indicates the same.
So; what were the motives of these 62 men to commit treason? In my opinion: (1) Deviation from Lenin’s revolutionary line he laid out in 1915; (2) personal ambitions, Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev & Kamenev in particularity; (3) bitterness at political defeat; (4) conviction that building socialism in backward USSR was impossible and (5) defeatism – meaning that Japan & Germany, two industrially developed countries, which had defeated Russia in 1905 and World War I, were too powerful & so they will beat Russia again. So, these combined 5 reasons turned these men, of the Party & Military against their own initial project of revolution and building of socialism in the USSR. They could not get the support of the working classes of the USSR, were isolated, so they turned to terror and colluded with the enemy, yet, as public figures, who were well known to workers, had to continue pretending publicly that they are still faithful to the cause of socialism.
Rajendra Sahai is associated with a Marxist group called IDG at Berkeley.