Source: Fourth International, Vol.11 No.4, July-August 1950, pp.105-111.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.
Editor’s Note: By murdering Leon Trotsky ten years ago, Stalin thought to put an end to the Marxist opposition to his dictatorship. He falsely accused his victim of being in league with the Nazis, seeking by such means to destroy Trotsky’s ideas along with his brain. But correct ideas, as has been observed before, have a logic of their own. Today the specter of Trotskyism haunts the Kremlin bureaucracy throughout Eastern Europe, as well as in Asia.
Moscow’s answer to the mounting opposition of today has been a new dose of frame-up trials like those used to wipe out opposition in the Thirties. Thus the Stalinist bureaucracy itself has once more called public attention to the frame-ups, purges and murders that led up to the killing of Trotsky 10 years ago.
Trotsky’s analysis of the Moscow Trials has in this way been given unexpected timeliness. As Joseph Hansen points out below, it is impossible to gain a proper understanding of the current trials in Eastern Europe, and along with them Stalinism as a whole, without knowing the truth about the Moscow Trials of more than a decade ago.
One of the main documents in this connection is the text of Leon Trotsky’s speech before the Commission of Inquiry headed by John Dewey which investigated the charges leveled against Trotsky and his son in the Moscow Trials. Long out of print, this important speech has now been reissued by Pioneer Publishers on the tenth anniversary of Trotsky’s death. As a foreword to the pamphlet, Comrade Hansen has prepared an analysis of Stalin’s frame-up system which brings the record up to date. We are glad to be able to present to our readers the following condensation of this foreword.
Since the end of World War II, a series of sensational trials of former prominent figures in the Stalinist bureaucratic hierarchy have been staged in the East European countries under Moscow rule. Like grade “B” movies these trials follow a rigid pattern. The hero is always Stalin. The criminal inevitably confesses to playing a Jekyll-Hyde role – in public an ostensibly loyal top government official, behind the scenes a spy for an enemy power. He repents, beats his chest in contrition for his traitorous conduct, glorifies the god-like dispenser of justice in the Kremlin and is executed.
Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the victims themselves collaborate like trained seals. Lack of concrete evidence does not disturb the court. “Proof” boils down to the bare production of “confessions.”
Minor departures from the formula used in these trials only emphasize their artificial, theatrical character. An instructive instance is the case of Traicho Kostov, condemned December 14, 1949, for “treason.” Kostov had been a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party since 1924, Secretary of the party since 1940, General Secretary since 1944, and was second in importance in the government only to Dimitrov until the latter’s death. He was charged with having become a stool pigeon upon his arrest by the Bulgarian police in 1942 and of then entering the Anglo-American spy service. Now well launched in his dual career of public hero as spokesman for Stalinism and public enemy as traitor in the pay of the enemy, he went further, according to the prosecution, and plotted with Marshal Tito to assassinate Dimitrov, overthrow the Bulgarian government and amalgamate Bulgaria with Yugoslavia.
Instead of confession according to ritual, Kostov denied guilt. He advanced such convincing arguments of innocence as his resistance to the Bulgarian police under torture and the absence of incriminating evidence in the police files published in 1944. The court thereupon read a “confession” allegedly made by Kostov with police assistance in advance of the trial. The attorney for the defense denounced his client as vigorously as any of the prosecution lawyers. Kostov continued to insist on his innocence. The court, of course, sentenced him to die.
The political objectives of those trials are not difficult to discern. Native Stalinist lieutenants like the Hungarian Rajk, the Bulgarian Kostov and the rest can, despite their long-tested loyalty to Moscow, transmit the pressure of the growing mass resistance in the satellite countries against the Kremlin’s totalitarian domination. Their elimination and replacement by figureheads with fewer independent roots is a preventive measure against the possible development of “Titoism” or “Trotskyism” or any form of opposition to the Kremlin bureaucracy.
We must approach the current trials in Eastern Europe not as isolated episodes but as part of a system rooted in the consolidation of the Moscow bureaucracy as a priviliged ruling caste. To informed observers the parallel between the postwar trials in Eastern Europe and the great frame-up trials of 1936-38 in Moscow is obvious. Thus, in reply to the charges against the Tito regime presented at the trial of Laszlo Rajk in Hungary, Moshe Pyade, a high official of the Yugoslav government, said, according to the September 23, 1949, New York Times, “it was reminiscent of the Moscow purge trials of 1936, whose ‘producers, with their experience, could have had a hand in the production of the Budapest trials’.” Pyade observed that “now such trials have become export articles ... a penetration into Europe of the dark methods of the Soviet intelligence service ...”
Without knowing the truth about the Moscow purge trials, it is impossible to properly understand the character of the Stalinist regime. The key to those trials also opens the door to a true evaluation of Stalinism on a world scale.
On August 19, 1936, the curtain rose on a scarcely credible scene in a Moscow court room. Among the prisoners sat Gregory Zinoviev, Leon Kamenev, I.N. Smirnov, S.V. Mrachkovsky, G. Yevdokimov, V. Ter-Vaganyan, Ivan Bakayev and Y. Dreitser. They were outstanding figures in Lenin’s “general staff” which led the November 1P17 revolution in Russia., cofounders of both the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International.
Against them as prosecutor stood Andrei Vyshinsky, a former member of the counter-revolutionary, right-wing Menshevik opposition to Lenin’s regime. This representative of Stalin accused Lenin’s former comrades-in-arms of murdering Kirov, a top dignitary, more than a year and a half before, although some of them were in prison at the time. Vyshinsky accused them of conspiring with Hitler’s Nazi government to prepare “a number of terroristic acts” against Stalin and other high bureaucrats.
Leon Trotsky, the organizer of the Red Army and co-founder with Lenin of the first workers’ state in history, was in exile in Norway; but he and his son Leon Sedov were accused of having initiated the conspiracy. Trotsky was charged with sending “instructions” as “far back as 1931” to “kill Stalin, Voroshilov and Kaganovich.”
The startled world learned that Zinoviev and Kamenev were putting up no defense. Quite contrary to what might have been expected from men born and bred in revolutionary struggle against absolutism, they were freely – even glibly – confessing “guilt” to all the major charges and vying with the prosecutor in painting the blackest possible picture of their alleged crimes.
The trial ran for only five brief days although a total of 16 defendants faced the prosecutor. On the sixth day the victims were sentenced “all to the supreme penalty – to be shot, and all property personally belonging to them to be confiscated.” Within 24 hours the press announced rejection of an appeal for mercy. “The verdict has been carried out,” continued the dispatch by way of obituary.
In this way, Stalin staged in Moscow the first of three trials designed to provide juridical justification for the purges that wiped out the leaders of the November 1917 revolution. To most people at the time, they appeared part of a nightmare world. It was simply not credible that a revolutionary like Zinoviev, for example, who had spent ten years as Lenin’s collaborator before the Russian Revolution and played a leading part in overthrowing Czardom and establishing the basic foundations for socialism in the USSR could have “arrived at fascism,” as he “confessed,” and helped set up a center that, according to Vyshinsky, “organized and established secret communications with the German fascists.”
But how account for the confessions? The drugged circle of the “friends” of the Soviet Union claimed that the confessions were freely given and therefore must be accepted at face value. Many people, ignorant of the ways of Stalin’s secret political police, were shocked into half-believing that there must be a grain of truth in the trials.
As a whole, however, public opinion never accepted the Stalinist version of the trials. Today there is little mystery about the “confessions” after the many revelations from those who have managed to escape from the GPU (now the MVD) and describe the psychological and physical tortures used to bring a prisoner into court with his will to resist utterly crushed. In the inquisitions of the Middle Ages similar means wrung similar avowals from unhappy wretches whose main profit from pacts with his Satanic Majesty usually turned out to be the star role at a public bonfire.
Investigation of the few tangible “facts” alleged in the trial proved fatal to the frame-up. For example, one of the defendants, Holtzman, testified that in November 1932 he had met Sedov in the: “lounge” of the “Hotel Bristol” in Copenhagen and went with him to meet Trotsky and receive terrorist instructions. It was proved conclusively that Holtzman was not among the people who called on Trotsky and his wife, their friends and guards during the short time Trotsky visited Copenhagen to lecture in defense of the Soviet Union. Still more devastating, it was discovered that the Hotel Bristol had been torn down in 1917 and not rebuilt until 1936! From then on the words “Moscow trial” became synonymous with “Stalinist frame-up” for the entire thinking public.
On January 23, 1937 a second trial opened in Moscow. Facing the ex-Menshevik prosecutor Vyshinsky and his collaborators on the judges’ bench were again figures of heroic stature in the early days of the Soviet Union. Pyatakov, an outstanding leader in the Ukraine, was considered by Lenin one of the most competent administrators in the party. Serebriakov was a former secretary of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. Muralov, a famous hero of all three insurrections in Moscow – 1905, February and October 1917, served under Lenin as military governor of the city. Sokolnikov, a member of the Central Committee and editor of Pravda in 1917, became People’s Commissar of Finance, then ambassador to London. Radek was one of the most brilliant journalists the Soviet Union has produced.
These men were accused of conspiring to bring back the capitalism they had helped to overthrow, of plotting to kill Stalin and his favorites and of betraying the workers’ state to Japanese and Nazi German imperialism.
They began “confessing.” Pyatakov said he had taken an airplane from Berlin to Oslo in the “first half of December 1935” to receive terrorist instructions from Trotsky.
From Mexico, Trotsky demanded that the prosecutor cross-examine Pyatakov on this alleged airplane trip in order to establish some concrete details about this mythical flight. Naturally, Vyshinsky, who was closely adhering to the script prepared by the GPU for the frame-up, made no response to Trotsky’s demand. His job was to conduct the frame-up, not expose it. The press, however, uncovered a most startling fact. No foreign airplane at all had landed at Oslo in the whole month of December!
Virtually every newspaper outside the Soviet Union gave this sensation front-page display. On January 29, the Norwegian newspaper Arbeiderbladet proved that no foreign airplane whatsoever had landed at Oslo “from September 1935 to May 1936.” Pyatakov’s “confession” was thus exposed as a lie while the trial was still going on. The world waited for the Moscow court’s response to this hard fact.
Next day the curtain came down. Another 48 hours and Pyatakov was dead. As always, the victims accused of plotting to kill Stalin end up as mute but nonetheless eloquent enough evidence of Stalin’s plot to kill them.
A little more than a year later, March 2-13, 1938, the third great trial took place. Among the victims sat no less than eight former Soviet ministers, not counting Trotsky.
“After the death of Lenin,” Trotsky told the press, “Rykov was the official head of the government for more than five years. From 1918 Bukharin was the editor of the central organ of the party, Pravda, and from 1926 the official head of the Communist International. Later, after his fall into disfavor, he became the editor of Izvestia. Rakovsky was the head of the Ukrainian government and later ambassador to London and Paris. Krestinsky, the predecessor of Stalin as secretary of the Central Committee of the party, was afterward ambassador to Berlin for several years. For almost all of the last ten years Yagoda stood at the head of the GPU as Stalin’s most trusted henchman and cooked up the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial in its entirety. In the list of the accused there are no fewer than six members of the Central government. Of the nine people who were members of the Political Bureau during Lenin’s lifetime, i.e., actual rulers of the fate of the USSR, there remains only one unaccused, Stalin.”
As in the previous trials, the GPU trade-mark was not long in showing up. Bessonov confessed he got a letter “written in December, 1936, by Krestinsky to Trotsky.” This letter, according to Bessonov, “was passed on by me. In a few days I received a reply from Trotsky.” Naturally this “reply” was not produced in court any more than the other “letters” mentioned in the trials.
Bessonov’s “confession” was shown to be a lie in short order. The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet checked with the Norwegian authorities. From September to December 19, Trotsky had been held incommunicado by the Norwegian police in response to Moscow wire-pulling. They had censored every item sent to Trotsky, even holding up the manuscript of his book, The Revolution Betrayed. On December 19, the Norwegian police put him on a tanker and a police officer accompanied the exile and his wife to Mexico. This officer, who was chief of police by the time of the Bukharin trial, declared that Trotsky could not possibly have received any communication from Bessonov or replied to it.
Comparable to the non-existent Hotel Bristol of the first trial and Pyatakov’s ghostly airplane of the second was Krestinsky’s “confession” that “Trotsky came to Merano (Italy) about October 10 (1933) together with Sedov” for a conspirative meeting. It had been publicly established some time before that Trotsky was at Bagneres-de-Bigorre, in the Pyrenees, on October 9. Apparently the GPU got mixed up in its geography and put the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Italy instead of their actual location between France and Spain. So the GPU claimed Trotsky was in Italy precisely when he was more than 600 miles away! Exposure of this GPU boner of course did not save Krestinsky from execution.
These trials provided only the most spectacular public incidents in the periodic blood purges that swept the Soviet Union from 1935 on.
The slave labor armies of the GPU swelled to unknown size. Some estimates of their number go as high as fifteen, twenty million, and even more. Scarcely a family in the Soviet Union remained unscathed by this dread political scourge.
The Red Army was decimated. Principal victims were the veterans of Trotsky’s time who defeated the imperialist armies sent to crush the young workers’ republic after the First World War. In 1937 the entire leading staff from Marshal Tukhachevsky down were shot without the pretense of an open trial.
Managers and officials of factories, the transportation system, the collective farms, the apparatus of the federated republics were collected like sheep and either butchered or sent to the white hell of the frozen Siberian wastelands.
The educational system, the arts and sciences were not exempt. Celebrated educators, scientists, scholars, engineers, doctors, musicians, playwrights, novelists and journalists were condemned, imprisoned without trial, died of mysterious causes or simply disappeared, never to be seen again by their friends and families.
Great masses of workers most capable of militant struggle were crammed into box ears for deportation to the slave labor camps. Husbands were separated from wives, children torn from parents. Whole towns and entire districts were thus uprooted and dispersed.
Even the summits of the bureaucracy were not exempt. Officials throughout the government perished. The Communist Party in the USSR was shaken to its foundations as the nation-wide witch-hunt tracked clown all those whose “loyalty” might be suspect because of an active political role in the days of Lenin and Trotsky, association with revolutionaries of the early days, or simply because of poison-pen denunciations.
The terror was not confined to the Soviet Union. Political opponents of Stalin’s regime were hunted down by his assassins throughout the world. In Switzerland, for example, Ignace Reiss, who broke from the GPU and revealed Stalin’s decision to employ “all methods” against revolutionary opponents abroad, fell on September 4, 1937, before a blast of machine-gun fire. The Swiss police caught some of the gunmen. The court established that these GPU killers murdered Reiss on direct orders from the Kremlin. Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, was killed in a Paris hospital on February 16, 1938. Rudolph Klement, Secretary of the Fourth International, was kidnapped in Paris on July 12, 1938. Later his decapitated body was found floating in the Seine.
Opponents of Stalinism fighting with the workers in Spain against General Franco’s fascist bid for power were systematically murdered by the GPU. An outstanding victim was Andres Nin, leader of the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification). Trotsky’s former Secretary, Erwin Wolfe, was kidnapped in Spain by the GPU and never seen again. A similar fate befell Marc Rhein, son of the well-known Russian Menshevik leader, Raphael Abramovitch, a member of the Executive Committee of the Second International.
In Mexico a band of Communist Party members and sympathizers raided Trotsky’s Coyoacan home in the dead of night on May 24, 1940. Disguised in police uniforms, these GPU .killers machine-gunned the bedroom of the old revolutionary couple. Trotsky and his wife managed to escape by rolling out of the line of fire. The Stalinists then kidnapped an American guard on duty, Robert Sheldon Harte. In a lonely cabin in the mountains they put one bullet through his temple, another through the base of his brain, and buried his body in a shallow grave of lime where it was later discovered by the Mexican police.
The culminating crime was the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico on August 20, 1940. On that day, an agent of Stalin’s secret police brought the Moscow trials to their climax by sinking a pick-axe into the brain of the man who had done more than any other individual to expose the true character of the Moscow bureaucracy.
The long duration of these monstrous purges as well as their depth of penetration in Soviet society proves that something quite different from treasonous conspiracies on the part of the victims was involved in the Moscow trials. The purges began on a major scale at the time of the assassination of Kirov in 1934. They did not pause until well after the armies of German imperialism had invaded a Soviet Union bled white by the unending work of Stalin’s executioners. Since the war’s end, new vast purges have occurred, although the main charge now is no longer “Trotskyism” but “cosmopolitanism” or “concessions to western bourgeois ideology.”
The principal accusation leveled by the prosecution against Trotsky and the defendants on trial was making a pact with Hitler and the Mikado. The hypocrisy of this charge is evident enough from the fact that Stalin topped off the trials by signing on Hitler’s dotted line himself and becoming supply sergeant for the Nazis in the opening period of World War II.
The trials served to cover the debacle of Stalinist foreign policy which paved the way for Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany. At the same time, they prepared the ground for official pacts with both Hitler and the Mikado. This was Stalin’s method of getting ready for the on-coming World War II. But he succeeded only in enormously weakening the Soviet Union and facilitating the invasion by German imperialism.
Another central aim Of the trials was to try to compromise Trotsky’s program for the democratic rehabilitation of the Soviet regime and return to international revolutionary socialism as practiced in Lenin’s day. Stalin hoped to smear Trotsky and his followers with the Nazi brush. Trotsky was singled out for this attention because, as the leading exponent of Lenin’s program, he represented the tradition of genuine Marxism.
The execution of all former companions of Lenin who enjoyed independent standing removed possible contenders for power. Such figures might become centers of mass opposition to. the dictatorial regime even though they were not actually followers of Trotsky at all and had kept high positions, many of them, only in return for slander and vilification of Trotsky. Stalin’s method is simple. He usurped power through step-by-step elimination of leaders in his road; he retains power by eliminating anyone who impresses him as a possible opponent. All questions concerning his tenure in office are decided with a bullet. Where an area of possible independent thought forms, even in so remote a field as music, genetics or astronomy, Stalin moves as ruthlessly against it as against a full-fledged political opposition.
Inasmuch as Stalin claims that socialism has been achieved in the Soviet Union, he can hardly acknowledge such sordid aims. The blame must be placed upon his victims. As a warning to others, they must be converted into criminals, slandered as well as liquidated. That is why frame-ups have become a characteristic method deliberately developed by this Cain into an integral part of his system of rule.
It would, be a serious mistake, however, to hold Stalin alone responsible for these abominations. Stalin, no matter what his personal guilt, is a political figure representing social forces. He could do nothing unless a powerful segment of Soviet society stood behind him. This segment is the bureaucracy that spreads its devouring cells throughout the USSR like a deadly cancer. It is this bureaucracy, estimated by Trotsky to embrace millions of upper-bracket personages, that found it necessary in pursuit of power, prestige and special privilege to liquidate Lenin’s regime of workers’ democracy.
Credit for the definitive exposure of the Moscow frame-ups goes to the “Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made Against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials.” This impartial body was headed by John Dewey, the eminent philosopher and teacher and one of the veterans of American liberalism.
The Dewey Commission took nine months to complete its work. The evidence assembled by the Dewey Commission from a number of countries is cited in its official report, Not Guilty. This volume of 422 pages, published in 1938 by Harper & Brothers, established beyond doubt the complete innocence of Stalin’s victims and proved the trials to be the greatest frame-ups in history.
As part of the inquiry, a sub-commission was sent to Coyoacan, Mexico, to hear Trotsky’s defense, to question him and to study the evidence at his disposal. Invitations to participate in the hearing were sent to the American Communist Party, to Joseph R. Brodsky, leading American Stalinist attorney, to Troyanovsky, Soviet Ambassador to the United States, to the Communist Party of Mexico and the leading Stalinist trade union spokesman in Mexico, Vicent Lombardo Toledano. All of them refused to take advantage of the opportunity to cross-examine Leon Trotsky or to submit any evidence that might help bolster the Kremlin’s charges. The verbatim transcript of the proceedings at Coyoacan was published in a book of 617 pages by Harper & Brothers in 1937 as The Case of Leon Trotsky.
The prestige of Stalinism never recovered from the moral blow dealt it by the findings of the Dewey Commission.
If there were an iota of truth in the Moscow trials, the Stalinist prosecution enjoyed a priceless opportunity for vindication at the Nuremberg trial of German war criminals which opened on November 20, 1945. The main accusation level at Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Bukharin and the rest was making a treasonous deal with the Nazis. One of the prisoners at Nuremberg was Rudolph Hess, named in the Moscow trials as an alleged contact man who had conducted “lengthy negotiations” between Trotsky and Hitler. He could easily be questioned about this charge. The secret Nazi archives were open to the Stalinist attorneys at Nuremberg. Whatever facts they contained could be made public. What better chance to rehabilitate Vyshinsky and Stalin?
However, the Stalinists at Nuremberg, prosecuting the Nazis as war plotters, maintained a studied silence about the Moscow trials and the main charge that the old Bolsheviks in those sensational cases had acted as Fifth Columnists for the Nazis.
In January 1946 the Revolutionary Communist Party, British section of the Fourth International, reminded the Nuremberg court of the slanderous charges in the Moscow trials. Well-known political and literary figures in Britain and the United States requested investigation of the alleged complicity of Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders with the Nazis in the preparation of a war against the Soviet Union. The court did not answer.
Trotsky’s widow held that the findings of the Dewey Commission were conclusive; but for the benefit of those still doubtful was “perfectly willing to have the Nazi defendants, especially Hess, examined and to ask the governments now in control of Germany to search the Nazi archives for any documents dealing with the alleged conspiracy.”
The Stalinists were not so willing. Washington, London and Paris acquiesced in Moscow’s reluctance, finding no difficulty in forming a united front with Stalin’s secret police on this question. The court never broke its silence. I less and the other leading Nazis were sentenced without a whisper from the Stalinist prosecution about the monstrous charges used as an excuse to slaughter tens of thousands and send millions to the slave labor camps.
Afraid of touching the Moscow frame-ups in any court that is not completely a GPU puppet show the Stalinists in their own inimitable manner sought to escape from the public pillory. They could not avoid doing something in view of the widespread expectations of their rank and file that the findings of the Dewey Commission would at long last be answered at Nuremberg. The complete lack of evidence at Nuremberg of conspiracy between Trotsky and the Nazis made it all the more imperative to again slander the Trotskyist movement and attempt to justify Stalin’s assassinations, particularly his murder of Leon Trotsky.
The sop to the rank and file was a bedtime spine-chiller, The Great Conspiracy, by Sayers and Kahn. The blurb on the jacket advertises it as “more strange and startling than the most sensational spy fiction.” It is difficult to find another statement in the book as true as that.
Since the main task was to remedy the failure of Moscow’s representatives to produce any evidence at Nuremberg confirming the charges on which Lenin’s generation of revolutionaries was murdered, The Great Conspiracy includes an impressive bibliography that mentions even works of Trotsky. The aim is to create the impression that this fiction is an objective “history” containing “carefully documented evidence” that “sets the record straight.”
The authors must be credited with a certain amount of sly calculation such as pickpockets often exhibit in plying them, trade. How many readers, particularly indoctrinated Stalinists, will check the assertions of the highly praised authors against their alleged sources in the formidable list of books they cite? The one in ten thousand who does can be chalked up to overhead cost – he would no doubt go over to Trotskyism sooner or later anyway. Still, the two fiction writers refrained from including in their bibliography the book definitively establishing the falsity of the Moscow trials, Not Guilty, the official report of the Dewey Commission. Perhaps there’s something to the old adage about not mentioning the rope in the house of the hanged.
One fact alone exposes the fraudulence of the bibliography: the principal source of documentary “evidence” is the transcript of the Moscow trials; that is, the “confessions” proved by the Dewey Commission to be a tissue of lies!
As for the other sources actually cited, an example from two pages (16 and 17) of the first chapter of The Great Conspiracy will indicate how light-fingered is the touch of these historians in fitting facts to the needs of the GPU. They quote from Raymond Robins’ Own Story, a personal account published in 1920 by the unofficial representative of the Woodrow Wilson administration to the young workers’ republic. Since most of Robins’ dealings with the Soviet government came under Trotsky’s purview as People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Trotsky occupies a proportionately large space of Robins’ memoirs. The then unknown Stalin is not mentioned once.
Sayers and Kahn meet these unpleasant facts by simply crossing out Trotsky’s name in their quotations, substituting the name of Lenin, garbling the quotations (see Raymond Robins’ Own Story, pp. 55-6), and adding by way of insult to Lenin that the founder of the Bolshevik Party “took an immediate liking” to this emissary of American imperialism and avowed enemy of socialism. They weave in Stalin’s name, associating him with Lenin, by quoting a letter which they say Raymond Robins wrote them in 1943, almost a quarter of a century after he first set down his impressions of the Bolshevik regime. Yet the flyleaf of the Look coolly proclaims, “None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors.”
Thanks to Sayers and Kahn, American students of politics thus have an example of the GPU way of handling history that can easily be checked in any public library in the United States possessing both The Great Conspiracy and Raymond Robins’ Own Story. This instructive example indicates how difficult it is for representatives of Stalinism to touch any page in history, no matter how minor, without responding to the compulsion to deface it. The lie has been elevated into a system that now shapes the thinking of the lowest hack on the payroll. On such a foundation rests the deification of Stalin!
With this small forgery of their own as the keynote of their book, the authors go on to the “more strange and startling” episodes in their spy fiction. They repeat the tale about Pyatakov flying from Berlin to Oslo for an alleged meeting with Trotsky. .Nine years after the exposure of this lie, Sayers and Kahn “document” it by referring to the “confession” of Pyatakov, the very “confession” that was exploded while Stalin’s victim was still on the stand!
They repeat the lie that “Leon Trotsky, accompanied by his son, Sedov, crossed the Franco-Italian border on a false passport and met Krestinsky at the Hotel Bavaria in Merano” Italy. As already mentioned, Trotsky was at Bagneres-de-Bigorre on the indicated date, but Sayers and Kahn explain in a footnote that “Trotsky was then living at St. Palais, a small village at the foot of the Pyrenees in the South of France.” Far from being at the foot of the Pyrenees, St. Palais is near Royan, France, not less than 170 miles north of the Pyrenees, while Merano is near the Italian-German border east of Switzerland. The facts of geography disturb these popularizers of GPU frame-ups no more than they did the master minds who originated this strange and startling detail.
The famous Hotel Bristol, however, is left out of The Great Conspiracy. Even the GPU, it seems, has been forced to permit the central pillar of the first big Moscow trial to lay in ‘rubble, after taking Yagoda’s head for the costly slip-up.
Among the other items left out of this book which pretends to be “exhaustive” is the May 24, 1940, machine gun assault on Leon and Natalia Trotsky. Is this because the machine-gun gang, after apprehension by the Mexican police, proved to be members or sympathizers of the Mexican Stalinist Party? Leader of this band who kidnapped and murdered Robert Sheldon Harte was David Alfaro Siqueiros, the well-known Mexican Stalinist painter. The authors of The Great Conspiracy apparently felt that the machine-gun slugs imbedded in the walls of Trotsky’s home, Siqueiros’ admission of the assault, and the conviction of leading Mexican Stalinists so clearly pinned the guilt on Stalin as the real plotter of assassination that not even they were expert enough liars to maintain the original Stalinist version of this attempt on the lives of Leon and Natalia Trotsky as a “self-assault” organized by Trotsky himself.
However, they could scarcely avoid mentioning the slaying of Trotsky. They present the version of the GPU assassin, Jacson. “documenting” their story of the murder with judiciously selected quotations from the murderer. They leave out, of course, the damning facts established by the Mexican court pointing to the real organizer of the crime in the Kremlin. Such court records, not written under the auspices of the GPU, are anathema to “historians” of the Sayers and Kahn type.
How well has The Great Conspiracy served the Kremlin bureaucracy? Outside of Stalinist circles it has met with the derision that was to be expected. The book did not raise the prestige of Moscow’s secret political police. Among Stalinist rank and filers its use as a text is effective only until they encounter people acquainted with the real history of the Russian Revolution and the facts of the Moscow frame-ups. Then the book crumbles in their minds as did the frame-ups themselves at the touch of truth.
In the long run, history and mankind cannot be cheated, not even by the most strenuous efforts of the most totalitarian regime. Crushed into the mud, truth stirs nevertheless, rises again and in the final analysis shows itself more powerful than the enthroned lie. This has happened in the case of the Moscow trials. Stalin stands convicted before informed world public opinion as the real plotter against socialism and the murderer of its outstanding spokesman, Leon Trotsky. That is the verdict of history which no rehash of old falsifications can set aside.
Last updated on: 25.6.2006