From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.6, November-December 1952, pp.163-168.
Based upon a speech delivered on Jan. 30, 1953 at Adelphi Hall in New York City.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Mankind, particularly its socialist-minded and progressive section, recoiled in horror at the new outbreak of frame-up trials and purges, punctuated with the ugly overtones of anti-Semitism, in the Soviet orbit. It appeared almost as though the Kremlin and its satellite bureaucracies were deliberately placing weapons in the hands of reaction; or at any rate, that it was cynically callous of the sensibilities and needs of the anti-imperialist movement, and this on the very eve of the impending showdown between capitalism and socialism. It was another demonstration, although new proof was hardly necessary, that the bureaucracy is an alien, cancerous growth on the body politic of the workers’ states and of the workers’ movement in general.
Unquestionably, the imperialist pyromaniacs have been the chief beneficiaries of the new purges. They were quick to see the advantages in deriving moral justification for their Dark Ages Crusade against the “Communist anti-Christ” by an outburst of hypocritical indignation for the fate of the Jewish people “behind the iron curtain.” Only a few days were needed to expose the hypocrisy of an Eisenhower who could shed tears for the sufferings of a persecuted minority one day, and on the next day sign his order to “deneutralize” Formosa and “unleash Chiang Kai-shek” against the people of China. No matter! The Soviet purges will help make the people swallow the conception that anything goes, any allies, any atrocities – that the atom and hydrogen bomb will be used for a “just cause.”
The victims of the purges were not only those who went to the gallows in Prague or to concentration camps in the USSR but right here in the United States among those fighting in defensive combat against the war and the witch-hunt, and particularly among those with illusions on the real nature of Stalinism. The strident cries of the anti-Marxists that socialism and Nazism are fundamentally akin became louder and more arrogant. The judge, sentencing a new group of Communist Party leaders to prison under the Smith Act, could appear to be justifying his violation of the Bill of Rights by offering the defendants the choice of going to Russia. The movement to free the Rosenbergs, an action of the highest courage in these difficult times, seemed to lose its moral justification. Stalin and his gang had struck a harder blow against the fighters for progress in the US than they had ever received from the McCarthys and McCarrans, who could now cover up their horrible works, their racist philosophy, by pretending that the danger to human liberty lies outside America’s borders.
Blows such as these, which come from within the movement for socialism from traitorous men who falsely profess leadership but who place their own interests over those of the movement as a whole – blows such as these are usually the most painful, the most demoralizing. But that can only be the effect upon those who, dominated by unscientific conceptions, substitute the wish for the reality, the illusion for the fact. It can only be the effect upon those who try to conjure away evil by closing their eyes to it.
For Marxists, however, prepared by previous analysis, accustomed to look facts in the face, such blows are cause neither for surprise nor despair. They can truthfully say with Spinoza as Trotsky did again and again during the incredible nightmare of the Moscow Trials: “Neither to laugh, nor to weep but to understand.” Thus in the present instance: If the Kremlin’s new ignominy serves to deepen the understanding of the real nature of Stalinism; if it aids in reinforcing the distinction between this criminal bureaucracy and the progressive social foundation on which it rests; if it helps reaffirm our determination to continue undaunted the struggle against imperialism while working to free the ranks of that movement of the blight of Stalinist leadership – then and only then will an examination of the trials and purges have served a progressive purpose. In this epoch of the final class conflict on the world arena when pressures on men and movements reach their zenith, the watchword must be: See clearly, speak out what is, and above all keep your head.
Let us turn now to the trial itself. It was a frame-up – a pure and simple frame-up, staged by the past masters of that art in the Kremlin. After ample experience with the Moscow Trials of the Old Bolsheviks, the Rajk trial in Hungary, the Kostov trial in Bulgaria, opinion on this score is uniform in the world at large, not excluding the Soviet orbit. Only venal men or those whose intellectual house of cards would collapse if they began to doubt believe differently.
The Prague trial followed the same pattern of its prototypes in Moscow, Budapest and Sofia. There were no witnesses, no evidence or documents to be scrutinized or checked, no independent counsel to cross-examine the allegations of the prosecution or defendants. As before the indictment and the verdict hang solely on the single thread of the confessions. But as we shall demonstrate, these confessions fall apart upon an examination of their intrinsic validity, just as did those of the Moscow Trial defendants under the scrutiny of the Dewey Commission.
1. The defendants were accused and confessed to being agent a of Anglo-American imperialism. Obviously, they couldn’t be agents of Hitler, as the Moscow Trial defendants allegedly were, since Hitler is dead, the Nazi regime crushed and Moscow is now engaged in a Cold War with American imperialism instead of being allied to it as it was in the thirties. It turns out to be a very strange charge indeed in view of universally known facts. The important defendants were part of the leading group in the Czech Communist Party which engineered the Prague Coup of 1948. That coup, judging from the pandemonium it created in the West, was the most potent single incident – if deep causes can be traced to single incidents – in precipitating the Cold War. In that coup, Benes and Masaryk, outstanding capitalist liberal politicians of that country and thoroughly friendly with the capitalist West, were eliminated from power. From that time onward, and principally under the direction of the defendant Slansky, all remaining points of capitalist power in the state and the economy were destroyed root and branch, not to speak of widespread purges and deportations of middle class elements in the big cities. It would be hardly less weird to accuse McCarthy of being an agent of the Kremlin.
The evidence on the point is as blatantly contradictory as the intrinsic merit of the charge. Consider only two instances: the case against Vlado Clementis and Andre Simone:
Clementis opposed the Hitler-Stalin Pact and it is said that during a brief moment during that part of his exile in London he severed his connection with the Communist Party. By all counts that constitutes a crime in the Kremlin’s book. That, of course, would make many men in the world “agents” but their period of “hire” by the Anglo-Aim-rican master turns out to be of extremely brief duration since Moscow also soon found it necessary to switch its alliances in that direction. Despite this well-known “crime,” Clementis was to become Foreign Minister of the Communist regime, and to loyally execute its policy and commands throughout the crucial first years of the Cold War with American imperialism. He even obeyed orders to the point of returning to Prague from the UN when summoned although he could have thrown himself at the mercy of his imperialist “employers” in New York.
Andre Simone, former editor of Rude Pravo, central organ of the Czech CP, was a Stalinist hack writer for years. To the very end he wrote on orders from the Kremlin masters even to the point of this nightmarish demand for his own liquidation:
“I am a writer,” he said in the court, “supposedly an architect of the soul. What sort of architect have I been – I who have poisoned people’s souls? Such an architect of the soul belongs to the gallows. The only service I can still render is to warn all who by origin or character are in danger of following the same path to hell. The sterner the punishment ...”
Among Simone’s “crimes” was the fact that in his capacity as a journalist he had talked to French Minister Mandel in Sept. 1939 about the impending war, and to Noel Coward in April of the same year about the relative strength of the pro- and anti-German forces in France. Both witnesses, as is usual in these trials, were conveniently deceased. But if these “facts” made Simone an “agent of Western imperialism” then the entire Stalinist apparatus from Stalin down, which were following the identical policy, were also “agents” and following the “same path to hell.”
Another grain of truth in the barrel of falsification are charges that relate to the period between the end of the war and the Feb. 1948 coup. In that time, Slansky and others had helped Benes to power, had encouraged trade with the West and had even gone to the point of supporting the Marshall Plan when it was first projected. But here too they were serving Moscow’s futile project, which later had to be abandoned, of maintaining the countries of Eastern Furope as friendly capitalist nations that could serve as bargaining points in negotiations with the West. The real “architects” of this policy, we repeat, were the men in the Kremlin who had signed their names to it in so many words in the Yalta and Teheran agreements with Churchill and Roosevelt.
2. The defendants were accused and confessed to being Titoites and agents of Tito. In a way, this was the most fantastic of all charges. Slansky and his leading co-defendants were the most slavish of servitors in the Cominform apparatus. Moscow had pushed the somewhat suspect Gottwald aside to give full power to Slansky et al. The only concrete evidence presented of relations with the Yugoslavs was a meeting between Slansky and Moshe Pyade when the latter came to Czechoslovakia on an official mission to Prague one month before the Cominform-Yugoslav rupture. The real facts are exactly the contrary. Slansky and his friends took second place to none in the vicious campaign against Tito and the Yugoslavs. They participated in the economic blockade laid down by Moscow to force the capitulation of the Yugoslavs. This was strange behavior indeed for “agents of Tito” – and no doubt explains why Tito sought more “reliable” friends in the camp of Western imperialism.
3. The defendants were accused and confessed to being agents of Zionism and of the State of Israel. Once again everything in the known record of the defendants proves the exact opposite, i.e., that they were fiercely anti-Zionists. True, the Zionists had received arms from Czechoslovakia during the war between the Arab States and Palestine in 1948 – but this was paid for in hard Western currency. This transaction had the approval of Gottwald as well as Slansky; it was also in line with Moscow’s policy at the time of utilizing the Zionist state as one means of driving British imperialism out of its strongholds in the Near East.
The most damaging refutation to the charge is the very link in evidence intended to establish a connection between the defendants and the state of Israel. It takes the form of the witness, Mordecai Oren, who is described by the Prague radio as “a small man, an international apache type.” Now, Oren, arrested in Czechoslovakia in the beginning of 1952, was not just any kind of Zionist. He was a leader of the Mapam party which up to the Prague trials played a very special role in Israeli politics. It was a pro-Soviet, semi-Stalinist party which consistently favored a Soviet bloc orientation of Israeli foreign policy, and consistently opposed all measures tying Israel to Western imperialism. The irony of this episode appears in the fact that while Slansky went to the gallows for possible collaboration with the Mapam, the pro-Soviet leaders of the Mapam were ousted from the party by the right wing after the Prague trial because of their refusal to alter this pro-Soviet orientation or even condemn the trial.
Despite the overwhelming indications of frame-up, there are still the gullible – and the venal – who are still asking the old question: But didn’t they confess? They are not nearly so numerous and loud as they were during the Moscow Trials. The Western world in the intervening years has heard enough, independent testimony about how confessions are extorted to place any stock in confessions as proof of guilt. This incredulity exists in Czechoslovakia itself, obliging Gottwald himself to attempt to answer the question of why and how they confessed before a national Conference of the Czech CP on Dec. 16, 1952. The most revealing indication of the opinion of the Czech people, communists included, on the trial and the confessions is contained in a statement made over Radio Prague by Professor Nejedly, Minister of Education, in an address on rumors about the trial. The neutralist French newspaper, le Monde, quotes him as follows:
People in Czechoslovakia are posing two questions: why were not the conspirators exposed sooner, and why did they confess? The first question betrays a bourgeois mentality unworthy of the communists who pose it. The second indicates that it is believed either that the conspirators attempted to save their lives by confessing, or that coercion or drugs were employed to extort their confessions. None of these explanations are valid.
The securing of the confessions took a long time. Some have said that they were the result of a psychological evolution. This point of view is close enough to the truth, for the defendants were broken by crushing and irrefutable proofs which were gradually accumulated against them.
Yes, the defendants were broken, and by methods of “psychological” torture, and by “crushing and irrefutable proof” not however of their guilt, but of the impossibility of effective resistance!
The victims were no sooner interred in Prague than the blood-curdling announcement came from Moscow of the arrest of nine top-flight Soviet physicians. They were accused of “medical murder” by deliberately prescribing treatment that led to the death of Generals Zhdanov and Scherbakov, of planning (unsuccessfully, as usual) the death of five other Soviet World War II generals and ... of “Jewish bourgeois nationalism.” No trial has yet been announced either because the producers are still awaiting “the results of psychological evolution” on the prisoners, or because the top Kremlin gang dare not reveal the ramifications of intrigue in its own ranks which forms the background of the doctors’ arrest.
Mystery and detective story writers must have turned green with envy at this strange tale. Not in their most daring flights of imagination have they ever concocted anything so weird as The Case of the Nine Soviet Physicians. Moscow really proved in this case, if nowhere else, that Russia leads the world in discoveries and inventions.
Lacking as we are in professional knowledge, we are still extremely incredulous that this revelation of “medical murder” could have been obtained through an autopsy on General Scherbakov eight years after his death from an incurable disease and five years after the death of General Zhdanov from an acute case of angina of the lungs. It was obviously revealed through “confessions.” But again as in the Prague trial, the facts prove that the real guilt lies somewhere else.
The nine accused physicians, prior to their arrest, were to all intents and purposes the “court physicians” of the Kremlin. They had under their care Georg Dmitrov and Kalinin who presumably died of natural causes, and Maurice Thorez, the French CP leader now convalescing in the Soviet Union. One of the accused, Dr. Vinogradov, was Stalin’s personal physician. If they are really enemies of the Soviet Union as charged, and agents of imperialism, then they also must have murdered Dmitrov and Kalinin as well. How then explain that they confined their diabolical operations to generals and secondary figures and permitted Stalin to remain alive?
The mystery deepens when we learn that physicians have been suspected in the Kremlin since the purges of the thirties. At that time Dr. Vinogradov himself testified that the treatment prescribed by a Dr. Levin had hastened the death of the famous writer, Maxim Gorky. Since the Kremlin should have been nervously aware of the “cupidity” of the doctors, because of this grim experience, and since the Politburo had followed the practice of reviewing treatments prescribed to ailing top Soviet leaders, we can only come to one conclusion: If the charge of “medical murder” is true, then the Politburo or one section of it ordered the murder, that the doctors were accomplices (no doubt under duress), not the principals of the murder.
That intrigue and clique struggle are behind this arrest of the doctors was indicated by the charge of “laxness” directed at the “chief Security organs” and presumably at Beria, head of the MVD. A similar turn of events occurred in the thirties when the arrest of Dr. Levin became the signal of doom for Yagoda, the then head of the GPU who had been the chief engineer of the trials and purges. Now as then, the danger of foreign attack and the existence of widespread popular opposition at home form the background of these intrigues and drive the Kremlin gang in fear onto the road of savage persecution and wholesale murder. It is only against this background that the eruption of official anti-Semitism at the Prague trial and in the Soviet Union can be explained.
At first glance the Prague Trial seems to belie this contention since the victims as we have said were by no means oppositionists but the most direct and loyal servants of Moscow itself. They were in reality placed in power to prevent the rise of Titoist manifestations in the most advanced and Western country of the Soviet orbit, with an experienced and educated working class, where such tendencies could most be expected. Why then did they wind up on the gallows?
Slansky and his colleagues conducted a ferocious war against “Titoism” but they could not eliminate the conditions that produce it. Czechoslovakia was caught between the pincers of the Western blockade which cut it off from consumer goods needed to supply the needs of its agricultural population, and the insistent demands of the Kremlin that output and deliveries of machinery and war materiel to the USSR be stepped up. In the absence of sufficient return, the farmers slowed down their production, causing acute suffering in the cities. Discontent created by worsening conditions, by the prodding of the bureaucrats for higher output to fulfill deliveries to the USSR became rife in the factories and mines. The workers reacted by absenteeism, slow-downs and even strikes which caused a slackening of production. In view of these conditions it is not difficult to understand why Slansky and Co. were accused of “sabotaging production.” There were demonstrations in the mine regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia. The biggest of these was in Brno, on November 21, 1951 where 40,000 workers occupied the market place for an entire day in a protest demonstration against the revocation of the Christmas holiday.
In the midst of this situation a clique struggle against Slansky and his group was begun and successfully carried through by Gottwald and Zapotocky, who were somewhat more sensitive to the reactions of the workers. One Tito was enough for the Kremlin, and Moscow now decided to come to terms with Gottwald instead of meeting the situation head-on as it had done in Yugoslavia. Its conditions, as revealed by the trial, were that the liquidation of the Slansky group must deflect the rising anger against the Kremlin. How was this to be done since the Slansky group was so clearly marked in Czechoslovakia as Moscow’s men? The formula arrived at was the anti-Semitic one which pervaded the trial and was made possible by the Jewish origin of most of the defendants.
Playing upon the most backward prejudices, Moscow wanted to make it appear that it could not be held responsible for difficulties that had occurred because “homeless cosmopolitans,” men with “divided loyalties,” or no national loyalties at all had “wormed” their way into control of the state apparatus. Such men could just as easily be agents of the West or of Israel as of Moscow – according to this sinister theory of Judaism borrowed from the Protocols of Zion. Trotskyism and Titoism were then added to the charges as a warning to genuine workers’ oppositions – and to Gottwald himself if he misunderstood Moscow’s opting in his favor as a signal to attempt to gain greater independence.
A similar situation, although somewhat different in form, underlies the present purges in the Soviet Union. Elsewhere in this issue, there is a thorough analysis of the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union which occurred three months ago and forms the background of the developing purges. The reports at the Congress demonstrated tremendous economic progress which has made the USSR the second industrial power in the world.
The Congress also revealed that the bureaucracy had become an increasingly apparent brake upon the economic and cultural progress of the country, that it had become the object of widespread hatred giving rise to general dissatisfaction and the awakening of critical thought among the youth, the intellectuals and even sections of the workers. Malenkov’s report, from beginning to end, was a savage thrust at the depredations of the bureaucracy (naturally, on all levels beneath the Kremlin itself).
The solution proposed by him, of resuscitating the Communist Party as an instrument of control, in order to allay the dissatisfaction and put the system in better working order, was clearly not workable. The victory of bureaucratic reaction in the Soviet Union had been impossible without a destruction of the CP as a living organ of the socialist revolution; contrariwise, its revival could only lead to the destruction of the bureaucracy as a whole. It was obvious that action from below could not be encouraged without the fear that it would be eventually directed against the Kremlin itself. That this was already apparent to Malenkov was clear from his warnings against those who were raising the question of “the withering away of the state” and against “the remnants of old anti-Leninist groups.”
In a few months, and now under pressure of Eisenhower’s accelerated drive to war, the bureaucracy abandoned its tentative project for a slight extension of democracy and turned to its more familiar method, more in keeping with its character and tradition – to the purge. The Soviet press and radio began again to shriek denunciations against all possible types of opposition: against uncontrollable bureaucratic elements on the right – the “carriers of bourgeois views and morals” – against “bourgeois nationalists” among the national minorities, and on the left against “unstable elements of our intelligentsia which are infected with everything foreign” (meaning perhaps those influenced by events in Yugoslavia and China?), and “the degenerates and double-dealers who talk of withering away of the state.” All branches of academic and scientific pursuit began to tremble under a storm of removals, charges, confessions. Once again the terrible hale of stereotyped resolutions demanding death to the doctors and all “enemies of the state.”
One element was lacking for the purge – the enemy with his own distinctive physiognomy. Trotskyists, Zinovievists, Bukharinists had been too thoroughly crushed to play the role of the main devil again, even though it might still be useful to paste some of those old labels on the new devil. To find the culprit, the Bonapartist clique had to dig back into the deep recesses of man’s ignorance and prejudice, to one of man’s greatest inhumanities to man, to the eternal scapegoat, the Jew. Under present circumstances, depicting the Jew as the enemy serves three purposes for the Kremlin.
First, it is a means of releasing popular anger against bureaucracy while keeping it safely directed against those of Jewish origin who have become part of the lower and middle apparatus of the government and the economy. Second, it is a means of labelling critical elements among students and intellectuals, many of whom of Jewish origin have found significant positions in the arts, sciences and professions. Third, it provides a means of intimidation against the Jewish people as a national minority in the USSR.
There are those who, refusing to accept the specious contention of the identity between the Soviet Union and former Nazi Germany, refuse to recognize the existence of official anti-Semitism in the Soviet orbit although the ugly facts stare them in the face. What they fail to understand is that while there is no similarity in the two social systems, there is a deadly parallel in the physiognomy of the Nazi regime and of the Soviet bureaucracy.
Stalinist domination, the backwash of the October Revolution after the tide had ebbed, represented a triumph over the revolutionary section of the party and the working class. It brought to the surface everything that was provincial, narrow-minded, nationalistic, self-seeking, the most backward elements in backward Russia. They envied, distrusted, hated the cultured men with the great internationalist traditions who had led the revolution. They inherited from Russia’s past not only avarice, greed and ignorance – but also intolerance, anti-Semitism.
Trotsky many times pointed to the similarity of the Themidor after the French Revolution with that of the Russian Revolution of the twentieth century. He related how the Stalinist Thermidorians had not hesitated to use anti-Semitism in their appeal to the most backward sections of the party and the population against the leaders of the Left Opposition, many of them like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Radek, etc., of Jewish origin.
. More recently, we have seen the official attacks against “homeless Cosmopolitans” and the listing of original Jewish names in parentheses alongside of present Russian names. Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav leader, relates an incident with more than the appearance of verisimilitude. He says that on one of his visits to Moscow before the break, Stalin taunted him at a gathering about Moshe Pyade and other Jews being in the leadership of the Yugoslav CP. In general, Djilas says, Stalin addressed him as “one gentile to another.”
Confronted with the horror and stupefaction of Western opinion, Stalinist apologists are going to great lengths to distinguish between anti-Semitism, which they deny, and anti-Zionism, which they affirm. Gottwald made the point in his speech to the Czech CP Conference. The Moscow New Times dwelt upon it extensively. The distinction is obvious; socialists have always opposed Zionism politically as a reactionary, anti-Marxist philosophy, a handmaiden of imperialist politics. That Stalinism must deny anti-Semitism indicates its contradictory nature. It can and does practice the methods of the worst capitalist reaction but it can never utilize its ideology directly. In that contradiction Trotsky saw the similarity between Stalinism and National Socialism and also the great differences between them arising from the origins of the states they rule and the social systems on which they rest.
But the distinction, in practice, between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, made by Gottwald and the New Times is spurious, threadbare so far as they are concerned. The campaign against the “homeless Cosmopolitans” in the USSR and the conduct of the Czech trial gives the lie direct. Does one need the sensitive ear of a victim of race prejudice to understand the significance of the following sequence in the Prague courtroom? The defendant on the stand is Benjamin Geminder, former chief of the International Department of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia:
Prosecutor: “You never learned to speak decent Czech?”
Geminder: “That’s right.”
Prosecutor: “Which language do you speak usually?”
Prosecutor: “Can you really speak a decent German?”
Geminder: “I didn’t speak German for a long time but I know the German language.”
Prosecutor: “As well as you know Czech?”
Prosecutor: “That means you speak no language decently. A typical Cosmopolitan!”
Let us grant for a moment that there was imperialist-inspired, Zionist espionage in Czechoslovakia. If is not theoretically excluded, but unlikely on the scale described in the Prague indictments, and moreover not proved in court. If such evidence existed why wasn’t it produced in a way that it could be verified directly? Why weren’t Zionist attorneys permitted to participate in the trial, to examine the evidence, to cross-examine the defendants and witnesses? Knowing the still fresh memories abroad of Hitler’s genocide against the Jews, that was the very least Gottwald might have done if he was concerned about the stigma of anti-Semitism.
That was what Lenin did to appease world Social Democratic opinion – he invited Social Democratic attorneys to Moscow – during the trial of Mensheviks and SRs who actually engaged in a real plot which took its toll of real victims, among them Lenin himself who subsequently succumbed from one of these assassin’s bullets. And to further appease this working class opinion, the Soviet court commuted the sentences of the assassins whose guilt was established beyond doubt. Gottwald, on the contrary, ordered the defendants hung without delay, on the theory, evidently, that dead men tell no tales.
Far from weakening Zionism, the “anti-Zionism” of the Kremlin has strengthened it immeasurably. Battening off Stalinist reaction, the Zionists are once again seducing the Jewish youth with the lure that not Socialism but an imperialist outpost in the Near East is their only hope. In Israel itself the strongest opponent of this policy, i.e., the Mapam party, is being demoralized and cut to pieces.
In the final apology of the Stalinists for their persecutions – that the Jews in the Soviet Union have “divided loyalties” – there is perhaps a grain of truth. The evidence is strong that the Soviet Jews, like all other minority peoples in the USSR, are a disaffected, discontented national grouping. One indication was the large and emotional demonstration which greeted Golda Myerson on her appearance in Moscow in 1948 to open the Israeli legation there.
The responsibility rests with the Stalin regime, not the Jewish people. By its policy of Great Russian chauvinism, it turned the Jews from a people who cherished the greatest hopes in a country that was moving toward socialism and where they saw assimilation as the solution to their problem, into a persecuted national minority. Stalin’s record on the national question leaves no doubt on this score. Lenin on his deathbed broke off all personal relations with Stalin for his brutal treatment of the Georgian people. Subsequently there have been constant purges in the Ukraine; Volga Germans, peoples of the Baltic and the Caucasus have been bodily uprooted from their homes and lands.
Great Russian chauvinism has been carried to such exaggerations as to become the laughing stock of the world at the same time that national minorities and their representatives have been subject to constant attacks for “bourgeois nationalism.” The bureaucracy reacts to any form of autonomy as a mortal threat to itself. It meets all opposition with further and more brutal repressions. That was how it reacted to the demonstration for Golda Myerson. The Yiddish language CP paper Einikeit, the Jewish publishing house, “Emess,” were shut down, the doors of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were padlocked, the dread purges began to the accompaniment of the savage campaign against “cosmopolitanism.” Exactly the opposite of Lenin’s method which took great pains to satisfy all grievances, going to the point in the case of the Finnish people of granting the right to secession.
The consequence of Stalin’s policy will be to drive innumerable Jews in the world into the arms of Zionism and world imperialism, just as his brutal Ukrainian policy drove millions of Ukrainians into the arms of the Nazis at the beginning of World War II. Yet they, or anyone, who in anger against Stalin’s barbarous methods joins the Eisenhower-Chiang Kai-shek-Franco anti-Communist crusade would be making the same fatal error the Ukrainians discovered they had made after joining Hitler. Stalin’s crimes must not become McCarthy’s victory. The task of settling accounts with Stalin cannot be farmed out to Eisenhower or Dulles, it is the duty of the working class itself which will achieve it in the course of remorseless struggle against world capitalism.
We do not here have the space to dwell at length upon the larger questions raised by the recent purges. Waldo Frank’s assertion that this eruption of anti-Semitism is “implicit in communist doctrine” is as much a half-truth as the assertion that leprosy is implicit in the human organism. It is the product of specific objective circumstances not of intrinsic factors, of the unforeseen line of evolution the struggle for socialism has taken. This is affirmed not only by the doctrine itself, but by the liberating manner it was applied not only by the leaders of the great October Revolution, but even in the warped revolution in Czechoslovakia itself. For this we have the testimony of B.G. Kratochvil, former Czech ambassador to Great Britain (1947-49) and to India (1949-51), now a refugee, who says that prior to the trials in Czechoslovakia, there were “hardly any classical racial or economic forms of official anti-semitism (although there were) many proofs of anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist attitudes.”
Unfortunately the beginnings of socialism emerged first in Russia which became a besieged fortress in a backward country surrounded by a hostile capitalist world. Its first extensions continued to encompass other underdeveloped, poverty-stricken areas. Czechoslovakia, and even Eastern Germany, were far more advanced but still too small and weak to set up an effective counter-current. This strengthened all the rot and refuse inherited from the dying capitalist world, but at the same time it confronted the bureaucracy with a life and death struggle for its own existence against the rising progressive and revolutionary forces developing internally.
The tide, however, is now turning, and it is best attested by Dulles’ doleful expression that not the Soviet orbit but capitalism is being “encircled.” The Kremlin is frightened by this historic turn because it now also sees itself faced with an encirclement, an internal “encirclement” that will eventually spell its doom: with the flare-up of revolt that developed in Yugoslavia, with the unmanageable Chinese revolution, with the advanced workers of Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany, with mounting criticism in the USSR itself.
The racial extremities of the new purges indicate that the bureaucracy is now reaching the last extremity in its struggle for survival. True, it is still capable of great damage, great reaction, great ignominy, but it must be remembered that it is now not at the beginning but at the beginning of the end of its career. The epoch of world reaction which brought it into being is now definitively ended. We live in the epoch of the great transformation, of that great clash between the masses of the world and imperialism, in the final showdown which will bring down capitalism and all of the diseased growths which it has spawned, including the monstrosity in the Kremlin.
Last updated on: 26 March 2009