R. Page Arnot & Tim Buck
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain (1938)
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
This pamphlet summarises the discussions carried on by its two authors during the ten days through which they sat together during the trial of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyists. It is not a record of the trial, or an analysis of the proceedings. Readers interested in the details of this historic process and in the painstaking methods by which the guilt of the accused was proved are urged to read the official record, which is published in English. It contains the full testimony of witnesses, records of evidence, indictment, speech of the prosecuting attorney and statements of each of the accused testifying on his own behalf or cross-examining other witnesses, as well as the final statements made by the accused before the verdict of the court was announced.
It aims rather to draw the attention of interested people to the significance of this trial as a part of the conflict between the forces involved in the effort to maintain world peace and possibilities for democratic progress, and those involved in the desperate effort to plunge the world into fascism and war. The trial itself was an important factor in the struggle to maintain peace.
The writers of this pamphlet sat through every session of the trial. Each of them has experience of court processes in which they have acted as one of the principals. They had the services of a skilled interpreter, in addition to which one of them understands something of the Russian language. Watching the proceedings, studying the evidence and, particularly, studying the relationship of this widespread and malignant conspiracy to the world-wide struggle of the fascist aggressors to involve the world in war, one caught a glimpse of an unfolding picture of a tremendous struggle proceeding between two worlds. Behind the criminal conspirators in the dock one felt the sinister power and the ceaseless effort of world reaction, and particularly of the fascist states, to seek out tools and allies within the Socialist Republic of Workers and Peasants as a part of their desperate preparations for the war of aggression.
R. PAGE ARNOT
THE background of the trial was not only the tremendous world struggle between fascism and the forces of progressive, advancing mankind, but also the historic developments of twenty years since the great Socialist Revolution of 1917, and even earlier the struggles of the revolutionary working class in Tsarist Russia and internationally.
In the building up by Lenin and Stalin of the Bolshevik Party, under whose leadership the power of the landlords and capitalists was overthrown throughout a sixth of the globe, a fierce and unending struggle had to be waged, not only against the open enemy but against those who brought enemy policies into the ranks of the working class.
After 1917 that struggle under one form or another still continued: just as before 1917 there had been the twenty years and more of struggle against Social-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, so after the Revolution the fight had to be waged against Trotskyists and Right deviationists as representatives of false and misleading tendencies inside the working class.
But since 1929 there had been a complete transformation of what had previously been political trends within the Labour movement into a gang of unprincipled professional wreckers, spies and assassins.
It was this gang, or rather a section of it, which was brought to trial at Moscow.
It has also to be borne in mind that the course of the Russian Revolution has not been smooth, but has had to encounter and overcome prodigious obstacles. The first ten years were marked by the terrific struggle of the young Soviet Republics against the armed intervention of fourteen capitalist powers, against the whites and other counter-revolutionaries in the Civil War. After the end of Civil War and intervention (the Japanese were only cleared out of Vladivostock in 1922) came the difficult period of restoration of a ruined economy.
Then in the last ten years came the period of reconstruction, of a Socialist offensive against the rich peasants and other remnants of capitalism within the Soviet Union. This reconstruction period is the epoch of the famous first and second Five-Year Plans. Now in 1938 there has opened the third Five-Year Plan. The first Five-Year Plan provided for the industrialisation of the country, the collectivisation of agriculture and the liquidation of the rich peasants as a class. The start of the second Five-Year Plan coincides in its opening month (January) with the coming to power of Hitler in Germany. Its triumphant close in 1937 coincided with the formation of the three-power fascist bloc centred in Berlin, Tokyo and Rome. This framework of events should be borne in mind by the reader when tracing the activities revealed in the trial of the anti-Soviet “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyists.”
The crimes with which the accused were charged startled the average progressive person out of the complacency with which so many view the whole vast world conspiracy against democracy. The indictment charged that “upon instructions of the intelligence services of foreign states hostile toward the U.S.S.R, the accused organised a group of plotters under the name of ‘the bloc of Rights and Trotskyists’ aiming at the overthrow of the Socialist Social and State system existing in the U.S.S.R., the restoration of capitalism in the U.S.S.R., the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R. and the separation from it of the Ukraine, White Russia, the Central Asiatic Republics, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, and the Maritime Province for the benefit of the above-mentioned states.”
The detailed charges included every characteristic crime of counter-revolutionary activity, treason against the state, service to a hostile foreign power, felonies against individuals and the people as a whole, blackmail, theft and murder.
The prisoners were not tried for holding opinions contrary to the social and political system of government in the Soviet Union. They were not tried for disagreeing with the policy of the Soviet Government or the aspirations of the Soviet people. They were charged with and tried for the direct crimes enumerated above, and to the eye-witness whose experience has been mainly limited to the courts of capitalist countries, the care with which the case against them had to be proved, the privileges they enjoyed in the conduct their defence, and the atmosphere of the court in which they were addressed as “citizen” and treated in much the same way as the State Prosecutor himself, were a revelation.
To the writers of this pamphlet, each of whom has experienced the procedure of the courts of our respective countries, the procedure of this trial was noteworthy. The prisoners sat together, separated from the public by a light wooden railing. The table from which the State Prosecutor addressed both prisoners and court was fully twenty-five feet from the front row of the prisoners, and at no time during the whole course of the trial did the State Prosecutor address the prisoners from any position other than standing behind his own table. The threatening mien, the pointing finger, the sudden striding up to point straight to the prisoner’s face and focus all eyes upon him which is such an established technique of American or Canadian prosecutors were conspicuous by their absence.
The State Prosecutor’s attitude towards the prisoners was at all times courteous. Each accused was provided with a copy of the indictment, of all the material at the disposal of the State Prosecutor which had been dealt with in the preliminary enquiry. Each was given further opportunity to retain counsel (three of them were defended by counsel) and each of them was reminded by Presiding Judge Ulrich of his right, guaranteed by Soviet law, to intervene at any time during the hearing of evidence, to call witnesses, question witnesses, or express an opinion.
The sight of one after another of the accused leaping to his feet, interjecting or interrupting, or of an accused in the dock demanding of the President of the Court that he stop the State Prosecutor from pressing for a direct answer to a question, would startle the average judge in English-speaking countries out of his legal equilibrium. Even more surprising to anyone who has not previously witnessed a Soviet trial would be the sang froid with which the accused said “No” when asked if they would give a direct reply to a certain question. It was almost a general experience that in the beginning of his testimony each prisoner would be asked by Vyshinsky to deal in more detail with a certain point. Frequently the prisoner would answer quite calmly to the effect that he had his statement prepared and he was going to make it in his own way and would come to the point in which Vyshinsky was interested in his own good time.
The most outstanding examples of this freedom of action enjoyed by the prisoners, however, were provided by the accused Yagoda and Krestinsky. From time to time while Yagoda was giving his testimony Vyshinsky would ask a pertinent question, only to be met by the confident reply from Yagoda: “Allow me not to answer this question.” And once or twice by the blunt declaration “I won’t answer that.” Upon enquiry we learned that Soviet law guarantees to an accused the privilege of refusing to answer a question at any time if he considers that an answer would be detrimental to his case.
The illustration provided by Krestinsky was perhaps the most revealing of all.
At the opening of the proceedings on the first day of the trial (March 2nd) when the prisoners were formally asked if they pleaded guilty or not guilty, Krestinsky burst out with a statement that made the public, who knew something of his record, start with surprise. He replied:
“I plead not guilty. I am not Trotskyist. I was never a member of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyists, of whose existence I was not aware. Nor have I committed any of the crimes with which I, personally, am charged, in particular I plead not guilty to the charge of having had connections with the German intelligence service”
and declared that what he had admitted during the preliminary investigation was false. Later, during the evidence of Bessonov, Vyshinsky was questioning Krestinsky as to why he had given such earlier testimony if it were false when Krestinsky suddenly complained “I don’t feel well.” Vyshinsky’s answer was “if the accused declares that he doesn’t feel well, I have no right to question him.” Vyshinsky then called the accused Bessonov to take the stand, and Bessonov launched into an explanation of his treasonable activities in Germany while stationed there in a diplomatic post. Within five minutes of his complaint that he did not feel well enough to be questioned, Krestinsky was on his feet interjecting vehemently in connection with Bessonov’s evidence and the court accepted this behaviour—unthinkable in a similar trial in a capitalist court—as quite permissible.
Systematic efforts have been made by the reactionary capitalist press and elements within the Labour movement to create the opinion that the accused are convicted mainly upon testimony of their own confessions and a subtle attempt is made to create prejudice by printing the word “confession” within quotation marks.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all it should be noted that the detailed avowals of guilt are not confessions at all in the ordinary sense of the word, in the sense of “making a clean breast of it.” The prisoners talk about things which are already proved and which they cannot deny. Their statements concern mainly the question of the degree of guilt or their own share, large or small, in specific criminal activities. An interesting illustration of this was provided by the accused Krestinsky in connection with the letter which he claimed to have sent to Trotsky in 1927, severing his connection with the Trotskyist movement. During the first day of the trial, he insisted that the contents of this letter cleared him of all suspicions and demanded to know why it had not been produced. Two days later to his obvious discomfiture the very letter was produced in court by State Prosecutor Vyshinsky. After Rakovsky, who had read the letter in 1927, had identified it, and Krestinsky had agreed that the identification was correct, Vyshinsky read the contents only to disclose the fact that they were entirely different in meaning to that which Krestinsky had endeavoured to give them two days before.
Similarly the police spy Zubarev, confronted with the Tsarist police inspector under whose direction he had worked in Kotelnich during 1908-09 looked for all the world as though he had suddenly seen a ghost from his own past. The confrontation of Bukharin with the “Left” Social-Revolutionaries Karelin and Kamkov with whom he had been in conspiratorial alliance in 1918 to overthrow the Soviet Government, arrest and kill Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov and form a new government of Bukharinites and “Left” Social-Revolutionaries was as conclusive as it was dramatic, and was backed up by the production of three of the people who had been members of Bukharin’s own group of “Left” Communists at that time and who had participated in the plot.
Expert testimony from authoritative medical men in the Soviet Union in connection with the murder of Gorky, Kuibyshev, Menshinsky and Pashkov-Gorky, documentary evidence and the evidence of facts: train wrecks, slaughter of large numbers of livestock, attempts at bandit insurrections, etc., combined to build a cast-iron case for the prosecution out of which, despite all their wriggling, attempts at evasion and efforts to shift responsibility from their own shoulders to others, not one of the accused could escape. But in the case of no individual or crime did Vyshinsky depend solely upon the testimony of the accused.
In this connection it is interesting to note that if the propaganda of the pro-fascist section of the capitalist press, and the confused Liberal and Socialist journals were based upon fact, the whole assortment of counter-revolutionary traitors united in these blocs would have been arrested and disposed of 20 months before, immediately following the much-vaunted “confessions” (as hostile newspapers print it) of the prisoners convicted during the trial of the Trotskyist-Zinoviev group. It is obvious that the prisoners convicted in the Zinoviev, trial, held back what they certainly knew, and only admitted their guilt in those crimes of which the proof was already so overwhelming that denial was futile. By discussing these proofs of crimes with the prosecutor in court, by questioning witnesses, cross-examinations, and energetic defence, each of the prisoners tried to the best of his ability or the ability of the lawyers defending him, to evade some measure of responsibility and to lighten the punishment to be meted out to him. The actions of the prisoners themselves during the trial, their final speeches and their last minute appeals for clemency, all showed very clearly that from beginning to end their fight was carried on to evade full punishment for crimes of which the State Prosecutor already had such overwhelming proof as to secure conviction from any court.
This trial revealed very concretely the objective toward which all the activities of the bloc were directed, the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union through armed assistance from foreign powers. The widespread character of this plot, surely the most malignant in history, against Socialist construction and collectivisation became clearer as the evidence unfolded a story of unprincipled scheming, treachery, wrecking, murder, preparation for “opening the front” to an enemy aggressor and the attempt to build a “fifth column” within the Soviet Union which should play a similar role there to the notorious “Fifth Column” of Franco and the traitorous Spanish generals.
One’s thoughts reverted irresistibly to a paragraph in the letter addressed by Stalin to the Komsomol Ivan Ivanov in reply to his enquiry concerning the finality of the victory of Socialism in the Soviet Union and the danger of capitalist restoration. In his now celebrated reply Comrade Stalin wrote: “We could say that this victory is final if our country were situated on an island and if it were not surrounded by numerous other capitalist countries. But as we are living not on an island, but ‘in a system of states,’ a considerable number of which are hostile to the land of Socialism and create the danger of intervention and restoration, we say openly and honestly that the victory of Socialism in our country is not yet final.”
The basic character of this problem may be best understood if it is considered in connection with the desperate military efforts now being made by the, fascist states, with the support of international reaction to crush all semblance of democracy and subjugate a series of peoples. Hitler’s march into Austria while the trial was still in progress came as a challenge to every sceptic who still pretended disbelief in the now obvious fact that the fascist dictators are preparing to plunge Europe and the world into war for the redivision of territories and establishment of fascist domination. The struggle to crush the democratic Spanish people and the brutal aggression of Japan against the people of China are examples of this paramount objective of the fascist powers which immediately leap to one’s mind.
But conquest of territory and partial subjugation of the people of small countries does not and cannot by itself secure the fascist regimes. Established and maintained as a last desperate resort of imperialist reaction in its effort to stem the rising tide of popular discontent with capitalist insecurity, lack of opportunity, unemployment and poverty amid plenty and the growing demand for progressive democratic development, the fascist regimes are weakened by every democratic advance and every popular victory. The lust for military conquest results not only from the desire to conquer new empires, but, also, from the ever present and gnawing fear that, unless democracy is suppressed and democratic advance stopped, the people within fascist states will be inspired to demand of their rulers some amelioration of their difficult and steadily worsening lot. Thus, the weakening, dismemberment and ultimate destruction of the Soviet Union, is not only an integral part of the fascist scheme of world conquest, but a means to destroy the people’s hope of better conditions within the fascist frontiers.
The trial provided a concrete and exact exposure of this fact in relation to the aim of restoring capitalism in the Soviet Union. The immediate readiness of the plotters to enter the service of the fascist aggressors, to spy, to supply foreign states with confidential information, to prepare a “fifth column” for use in the event of war, coincided with the avowed objectives and interests of fascism. At the same time this flowed logically from their lack of any mass support within the Soviet Union for carrying through their schemes.
By this alone the trial demolished the last shred of the Trotskyist pretence that the Trotskyist agents of fascism are anxious to keep the Soviet Union on the path of the struggle for Socialism. Bukharin, himself, declared:
“If my programme conception were to be formulated practically, it would be in the economic sphere state capitalism, the prosperous ‘moujik’ individual, curtailment of collective farms, foreign concessions, surrender of the monopoly of foreign trade, and as a result—the restoration of capitalism in the country.”
This, of course, has been known to be the programme of the Trotskyists and the Rights for several years, and Bukharin was quite anxious to emphasise the fact that this was the political standpoint of Trotsky as well as himself. They dreamt of achieving this ignoble objective of restoring capitalism in the first Socialist State through war and aid from foreign powers. In payment for armed assistance or other support they proposed to give a whole series of political and economic concessions, including the gift of the magnificent Soviet Ukraine with its prosperous collectives and the enormous industrial development of the past ten years to Hitler, White Russia to Poland, the Maritime Province to Japan and parts of the Soviet territory in Central Asia to Britain. Such was the avowed “political standpoint” of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyists.
This counter-revolutionary fascist scheme was sponsored by Trotsky and the Rights as the only means which offered any possibility for success in their struggle to overthrow Soviet Power. They realised already in 1933 that no support could be gained for such a programme from the people of the Soviet Union and it could only be carried through by making it part of a general plan of fascist aggression with which it coincided. This Trotsky and other leaders of the bloc strove systematically to accomplish with such results that by 1934, as Rakovsky admitted, all questions of theory and theoretical differences were left behind; they had become a school of spies: the advance guard of the aggressors: representatives of fascism. This process is to be seen not only in the Soviet Union but in all other countries as has been so clearly exemplified in Spain where the democratic Spanish people have paid a bitter price in blood for the activity of Trotsky and his allies in the service of fascism.
As the trial showed, however, the fascist aggressors do not simply wait till their armed hordes are ready to march. The struggle waged against the workers’ and peasants’ Socialist State continues ceaselessly in varying forms but with the single aim of weakening its defensive power in the hope of ultimately destroying Soviet Power and Socialism, and as Lenin said “the bourgeoisie does not hesitate to resort to any fraud or crime.”
We shall deal only with those aspects of the wrecking, espionage and terrorist activities of the gang as are required to illustrate the development of their plot and its role as part of the international conspiracy in which the supreme directing forces were foreign governments hostile to the Soviet Union, to Socialism, to democracy and to peace. Amongst these agents of foreign governments, the leading parts were taken by Trotsky operating from his various haunts abroad, and by Bukharin and Rykov within the Soviet Union.
Illegal anti-Soviet activity did not start suddenly as a result of a peculiar circumstance or condition. As Rykov himself admitted, illegal activity was already several years old and there had been talk of terror as early as 1928.
The use of terroristic methods was not by any means new to members of the bloc even in 1928. As early as 1918 Bukharin in the leadership of the “Left” Communists had proposed the seizure and physical elimination of Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov as part of a plan by which his group in alliance with the “Left” Social-Revolutionaries hoped to break the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and seize state power. Bukharin knew in advance that the Social-Revolutionaries were planning the assassination of the German Ambassador, Mirbach, and he was in personal contact with leading members of the Social-Revolutionaries at the time of the attempt on Lenin’s life in 1921.
Contact with foreign intelligence services was also of long standing. Trotsky had connections with the German Reichswehr as early as 1921 and by 1922-23 the Trotskyists were carrying on active espionage work in its interests. In payment for this Trotsky received 60,000 dollars per year, an arrangement which continued without a break for eight years. Rakovsky admitted supplying confidential information to the British intelligence service in 1924, and Sharangovich was in the service of the Polish intelligence service from 1921.
There was no separate period in which one form of counter-revolutionary activity was used to the exclusion of others. There was a change of emphasis upon various forms of activity however, and this followed a line very closely conditioned by two factors, first the growing successes of Socialist construction within the Soviet Union, and second the increasing subordination of all the activities of the counter-revolutionary plotters to the interests of foreign powers as their complete dependence upon armed assistance from foreign states became obvious.
According to Rykov, formal existence of the counter-revolutionary organisation of the Rights dated from 1928, although the business had started somewhat earlier. During the early stages, anti-Soviet activities among the peasantry and efforts to establish some sort of social basis among the kulaks and petty-bourgeoisie elements in the town and countryside constituted an important part of their general activity.
It was the period of the establishment of collective farming. The kulaks and bourgeois elements were, of course, bitterly hostile to collectivisation, and the counter-revolutionary bloc which was now about to embrace Trotskyists, Zinovievites, the Rights, Social-Revolutionary and Menshevik elements, set itself the task of finding support among these elements. As champions of the interests of the kulaks they did everything in their power to impede collectivisation, to minimise the successes achieved and to organise kulak sabotage and, wherever possible, armed kulak resistance.
For this purpose adherents of the bloc were manuvred into strategic positions wherever possible. Their instructions, exemplified by half a dozen cases specifically quoted during the trial (e.g. Slepkov who was sent by the bloc to North Caucasus to organise kulak resistance and revolt), were quite definite. These instructions were to sharpen discontent among the peasantry, encourage and give leadership to kulak opposition and develop all sorts of anti-Soviet movements, armed and otherwise.
The detailed statement of the crimes they committed in their sabotage and wrecking activities causes one to marvel at the tremendous progress made by the people of the Soviet Union through those years of mighty effort. The ex-Commissar of Finances, Grinko, one of the accused in the dock, was a member of the bloc. His special activities were in connection with his work as Commissar of Finances for the U.S.S.R. He made government finances available for the bloc to send to Trotsky. He so disorganised the activities of the People’s Commissariat for Finance as to cause as much dislocation of economy as possible. The savings bank service was disorganised and delays were caused in the payment of wages, etc. Measures were adopted to weaken the Soviet rouble and everything possible was done which could be done without too much danger of exposure, to cause dissatisfaction and discontent with the financial policy of the Soviet Government.
Zelinsky, the ex-Tsarist police spy, who had been connected with Bukharin’s opposition and counter-revolutionary movements since 1918, was head of the Central Co-operative Association. Under his direction the Right-Trotskyists within this organisation utilised every possibility to transform the co-operatives from organisations for service to the people into organisations through which to increase the difficulties of the people. Summer goods were sent to the peasants in the beginning of winter and winter goods supplied to them for summer wear. At one time (July, 1936) fifty carloads of eggs were side-tracked, left standing in the freight yards of Moscow, and allowed to rot, while the people of the city ran short of eggs. The lengths to which sabotage went in the co-operatives under Zelinsky’s direction may be judged by the fact that broken glass was deliberately mixed with butter and customers were turned away with the information that no goods were available, while thousands of tons were accumulating in the central warehouses. Accounting methods were deliberately disorganised in such a manner that honest employees could be convicted of theft.
The accused Sharangovich, a self-confessed Polish spy, was one of the leaders of a national fascist organisation in White Russia of which the main leader was in close contact with the Polish general staff. Sharangovich supplied the Polish intelligence service with information of military value, with the objective of handing the Republic of White Russia over to Poland.
In the campaign against Soviet power, collectivisation and the carrying through of the Five-Year Plan in White Russia, the service bloc of which Sharangovich was an important member, succeeded in accomplishing the following activities. Collectivised farmers were moved off good land on the excuse that it was to be taken over for state farms. They were placed on poor land where it was difficult if not impossible for the collectives to succeed. Industrial goods, seeds, fertilisers, etc., were withheld from the collectives. Plague was spread among hogs, killing thousands of them, and disease was spread among horses as a result of which 30,000 horses, many destined to be remounts for the Red Army cavalry, died. When the Soviet Government decided that each farmer on the collective farms must receive a calf or a steer, the plotters arranged that the young cattle should be shipped without food or water on the slowest trains, and delayed as much as possible. As a result, a majority of the beasts died.
The conspirators then initiated a violent campaign against those farmers who refused to join the collectives. Ignoring the just grievances of the collectives and the reasonable objection put forward by farmers for refusing to join collectives which never received supplies while individual farmers could get them, the conspirators accused those farmers who refused to join of being counter-revolutionary anti-Soviet elements.
In industry there was the same story throughout White Russia. All the important industries were sabotaged. Peat production was held up. Cement plants, brick manufacture and the operation of saw mills were sabotaged by withholding essential supplies and machinery and, as far as possible, the carrying through of the Five-Year Plan was hindered in all branches of industry.
Or, take the example of the methods by which the Right Trotskyists and their national-fascist allies sabotaged and disrupted the carrying through of Socialist construction and collectivisation in Uzbekistan. The All-Union plan called for a large increase in the production of cotton in Uzbekistan. This increase was based, not only upon the fact that the large and almost insatiable market for Uzbekistan cotton exists in the Soviet Union as a result of the tremendous increase in consumption of textiles of all sorts but, also, upon the fact that cotton culture provides the Uzbekistan farmers with the possibilities for a higher return through exchange of their cotton for much larger quantities of other products than they could produce in Uzbekistan. The Right Trotskyists joined with the nationalists in formulating an opposition plan. This plan called for a tremendous increase in production of crops other than cotton. Had this plan been carried through it would have reduced the production of the crop most valuable to Uzbekistan, namely, cotton, while increasing the production of rye and other grains which can be produced much more efficiently in other parts of the Soviet Union.
The contradiction between this “nationalist-fascist” plan and the all-Union plan was noticed and directives sent for a reconsideration of the whole problem. The conspirators, under the leadership of Khodjaev, head of the government, and Ikramov, secretary of the Uzbekistan party organisation, decided to avoid a direct conflict with the State Planning Commission or the All-Union Party. They pretended to accept the corrections proposed from Moscow. Instead of carrying out these directives, however, they now initiated a highly inflated plan of cotton production. In proportion as the All-Union plan called for the production of thirty-six million poods of cotton (a pood is 36 pounds), they planned to raise 48 million poods. To this end they issued directives and secured that in Ferghana and Bochara 96-98 per cent. of all land under cultivation was planted with cotton. The result was that the farmers were not able to raise vegetables, feed for their cattle or other necessary domestic crops and crop rotation was impossible. In reply to the complaints of the farmers as to the evil effects of this plan they replied brusquely: “This is the Moscow plan, we are merely the servants of Moscow, we are carrying out Moscow’s instructions. Don’t you like it? Then complain against Moscow.”
Silk-worm culture is one of the important phases of peasant activity in Uzbekistan and an increase in production of cocoons was called for. The conspirators also increased this figure. They raised the slogan of mechanisation of silk-worm culture and increased the number of silk worms tremendously. At the same time, however, they carefully avoided increasing the number of mulberry trees and even destroyed some of those already in existence with the result that the farmers with a larger number of silk worms were without feed and incurred tremendous losses. To grasp the full significance of these cunning schemes one must bear in mind the fact that cotton and silk-worm culture provided the most important features of Uzbekistan agricultural production and this sabotage involved the great mass of the Uzbek peasants in difficulties which provided fertile soil for the development of discontent, and that the conspirators directed all dissatisfaction and discontent that they could generate against the policy of the Soviet Government.
In Central Asia, also, industry was sabotaged equally with agriculture. Enormous sums of money were provided by the Soviet Government for the industrial development of that region. A hydro-electrical plant was planned, construction materials sent and money provided for its construction. The conspirators having the material, the plans and the money to proceed with construction were at first in a quandary as to how to avoid carrying it through. They solved their problem by wasting a large proportion of the structural steel and cement for the construction of houses in which they proposed to house the workers who would eventually be employed in the construction of the dam and the hydro-electrical plant. Having delayed construction and wasted materials to the fullest possible extent in this manner, they then proceeded with the construction of the plant. After using all the remaining materials they abandoned construction and started a controversy with the central organs of the Government concerning the amount of money required to complete the work—in the meantime spending large sums of money for what they called maintenance of the work in progress.
The foregoing examples are taken almost at random from the wealth of evidence submitted during the trial. Although wrecking activities constituted one of the main methods of the bloc, the conspirators did not stop at wrecking. Wrecking and sabotage alone only hindered the building of Socialism; the plotters wanted to overthrow the Soviet Government. They strove, therefore, to utilise their wrecking activities for the cultivation of dissatisfaction against the government, hoping thus to develop sympathy for kulak revolts which they were also organising. In Middle Asia they established contact with and gave support to the Basmachi (Bandits), while in one province of Siberia an armed uprising was actually attempted on the basis of a plan personally prepared by Bukharin.
Despite all their efforts, however, Socialist construction and collectivisation proceeded apace. Marked economic benefits were becoming obvious to the people. Enthusiasm for Socialist construction grew by leaps and bounds. More and more tens of thousands of young enthusiasts became shock brigaders, staid middle-aged people became youthful in their enthusiasm for the new and splendid developments which were already bringing the people of the Soviet Union concrete improvements such as they had scarcely dared to dream of a few years before. The Right Trotskyist Bloc was rapidly losing all hope of gaining a social basis among the people of the Soviet Union.
On the instigation of Trotsky, preparations were now made for the assassination of members of the Government and leading figures such as Maxim Gorky. The length to which these criminals went in their desperate gamble was illustrated by this cynical crime of murdering one of the great figures of world literature. In raising this question originally, Trotsky had emphasised the need for taking measures to overcome the difficulty created for the conspirators by the fact that Gorky was a staunch adherent of the policy of the Party and the Soviet Government and personally very close to Stalin. Trotsky feared the tremendous influence of Gorky and the role that Gorky could play in winning sympathy and support from all liberal-minded people throughout the world for the Soviet Union. Yagoda, one of the accused, was assistant commissar in the Department for Internal Affairs. On a decision of the bloc he secured the co-operation of Dr. Levin to whose care Gorky’s health was committed. Trapping the doctor in a preliminary crime as partial means of ensuring docile obedience, Yagoda then proceeded systematically with the task of murdering Maxim Gorky, the idol of all the Soviet people and millions of lovers of literature and humanity the world over. How terribly he succeeded in this cold-blooded plan and how this plan was utilised to dispose of his own chief, thus making room for him in the position of Commissar of Internal Affairs, as well as of Kuibyshev and Gorky’s son, provided a sinister feature of the trial. There were moments during the taking of testimony on this aspect of the case when one’s blood almost “ran cold”.
In this connection the trial provided one of the most revealing illustrations of the sinister role of Trotsky. The accused Krestinsky, who was Assistant Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and had played a leading role in the Trotskyist organisation ever since 1922, stated:
“He (Trotsky) said that as since 1929 we had developed into an organisation of a conspiratorial type, it was natural that the seizure of power could be consummated only by force. But our conspiratorial organisation was unable to carry out any coup by itself. It was necessary to come to an explicit agreement on this score with some bourgeois state. He remarked that the embryo of such an agreement was our agreement with the Reichswehr, but this agreement in no way satisfied either the Trotskyists or the German side for two reasons: first, the other party to this agreement was only the Reichswehr, and not the German government as a whole. If under the previous governments, the Reichswehr had played a decisive role and we could reckon with it as with the government as a whole, now, with Hitler’s coming to power and with Hitler’s striving to subordinate the Reichswehr to himself, and with a certain wariness in the attitude of some of the leaders of the Reichswehr towards Hitler’s attempts to penetrate into the Reichswehr, the German government could no longer be identified with the Reichswehr, and it was necessary to see to it that not only the Reichswehr, but the German government as a whole, became the other party to our agreement. This is first.
Second. What was the substance of our agreement with the Reichswehr? We were receiving a small sum of money and they were receiving espionage information which they would need during an armed attack. But the German Government, Hitler particularly, wanted colonies, territory, and not only espionage information. And he was prepared to be satisfied with Soviet territory instead of the colonies for which he would have to fight England, America and France. As for us, we no not need the 250,000 gold marks, we need the German armed forces in order to come to power with their assistance. And it is towards this end that the work should be carried on. This work means a treasonable agreement with a foreign government about using foreign armed forces in order to achieve victory over the Red Army and in order to open the road to power for the Trotskyists. But even if the Soviet Union is attacked, let us say, by Germany, that does not as yet make it possible to seize the machinery of power unless certain internal forces have been prepared along these lines. But the Trotskyists as such are not sufficiently numerous and strong to create such an organisation by themselves. It is necessary to have strongholds both in the towns and in the countryside among the petty-bourgeoisie and the kulaks, and there it is mainly the Rights who have the connections. Finally, it is necessary to have a stronghold, an organisation in the Red Army, among the commanders, in order, with our united effort, to seize the most vital places at the necessary moment and to come to power, to replace the present government, which must be arrested, by a government of our own which has been prepared beforehand.”
Further, Trotsky developed the idea of the necessity of terrorism, wrecking activities and sabotage, from the point of view both of applying them in time of war for the purpose of disorganising the defensive capacity of the Red Army, for disorganising the government by the moment of the coup d’etat, and at the same time, to make his position stronger and give him more confidence in his negotiations with foreign governments, because he would be able to refer to the fact that his followers in the Soviet Union were both sufficiently strong and sufficiently active.
He undertook to carry on the negotiations with the Germans. As for the Japanese, of whom he spoke as a force with which it was also necessary to come to terms he said that, for the time being, it was difficult for him to establish direct connections with them, that it would be necessary to carry on conversations with them in Moscow, that it was necessary in this connection to use Sokolnikov, who was working in the people’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and, as it happened, was in charge of eastern affairs. And inasmuch as this conversation would be held only with an official person, and the preliminary conversation would only be in the nature of soundings, it would be sufficient to confine ourselves at first to general statements to the effect that if a government of a bloc of the opposition groups assumed power in the Soviet Union, it would display a favourable attitude towards the Japanese and take into consideration the wishes of the Japanese during the discussion and settlement of the controversies existing between the Soviet Government and the Japanese Government.
Yet another strand in the conspiracy was the group of Tukhachevsky, a military adventurer with Bonapartist aims, who had readily fallen in with the plans of the Rights and Trotskyists. He and his group of traitor generals who paid the penalty for treason in June 1937 had planned in detail to “open the front” to fascist armies and to use the positions in the Moscow garrison to seize the Kremlin.
But before that could happen the vigilance of the People’s Commissariat of Home Affairs (incorporating the G.P.U.) under the leadership of Yezhov had proved too much for them. These men who thought last summer to have unlocked the gates to a European war were themselves under lock and key. The world was rescued from war, thanks to the C.P.S.U., thanks to Yezhov, thanks to the People’s Commissariat of Home Affairs.
One of the favourite tricks of the pro-fascist press, as of some Right-wing Socialist leaders, is to repeat the Trotskyist pretence that the schemes in which the conspirators were involved were incredible because unreal and unrealisable. As a matter of fact history provides a wealth of example of successful plots which at the time appeared just as recklessly adventurous. The history of the conquest of the South African colonies by British imperialism (the notorious Jameson Raid) is one such example. Another is the old technique developed by Wall Street to use political and military adventurers in Latin America so as to create pretexts for sending marines to restore order.
The plot in which all the anti-Soviet elements within the Soviet Union joined forces in the bloc under the direction of foreign states was not in its kind more reckless than many of the schemes carried through successfully in Africa, Latin America or by Japanese imperialism in China.
There is, however, one basic difference between those examples and the anti-Soviet plot in which these criminals were engaged. Each of the above-mentioned plots were part of the expansionist efforts of one or other imperialist power, while the urgent drive of reactionary finance capital to defeat, and if possible destroy the Soviet Union, unites the reactionaries of the whole capitalist world and unites governments which on other important questions have the most diverse interests and positions. The Soviet Union is the main bulwark of peace in the world to-day. It is an example of the higher type of democracy that can be achieved and of the tremendous economic advantages of the social ownership of the means, of production. It is the living proof that crises, unemployment, insecurity, poverty and want can be abolished, that youth can be provided with abundant opportunity and that the mass of the people can enjoy comfortable security in their old age. Thus, both in its consistent defeat of the war schemes of the fascist aggressors and in its inspiring example for the democratic and progressive people of the world, the Soviet Union is at once the spearhead of the worldwide movement for democracy and progress and the object of vicious hatred on the part of international reaction.
The spearhead of the struggle against the Soviet Union is, of course, the fascist states. During recent years these have provided so many examples of the length to which they will go that it is a reflection on the intelligence of readers for any journal to suggest that the plot in which the 21 conspirators were engaged was in any manner contrary to the well-established technique of fascist aggression.
Could the fascist dictators have marched their forces against the Soviet Union with the assurance that the frontier was to be left unguarded and open to them at certain agreed upon points, that transportation was to be disrupted in every manner possible, that every measure for the defence of the country was to be hindered and disrupted by men, some of them in high places, banded together for this purpose, that several of the higher officers of the Red Army would be co-operating with them and that defeatism would be spread throughout the army and the population, then they would have felt considerably more confident of their chances of success than they do at the present time. Had these plans not been discovered, the idea of seizing the Kremlin at such a moment, arresting the members of the Government, murdering Stalin and other leaders of the Communist Party and declaring a provisional government would have been no more fantastic or unreal than was the idea of the Spanish generals that by military revolts against the whole people of Spain they could destroy the elected government of the people and establish a fascist regime.
No, there was nothing fantastic about the plot, no unreality in the treacherous aims, intentions and methods of the conspirators. All that was tragically real, as Spanish and Austrian mothers know to their cost. The element of unreality lay only in this, that they forgot one factor, and that the most important of all. They forgot that the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union were builders of Socialism who would never submit to an attempt at capitalist restoration, they forgot the strength of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of Soviet democracy, of the C.P.S.U. headed by Stalin.
Because of this, the plots of the fascist conspirators against the Soviet Union could not succeed—and never will succeed.
Exposure of the plot and defeat of the conspirators was part of the struggle to defend peace. It demonstrated the unshakeable strength of the Soviet Union and the enthusiastic unity of the people in defence of their Socialist achievements. It strengthened the defensive capacity of the Soviet Union a hundredfold. Treacherous generals lying in wait for an opportunity to open the gates to the enemy to attempt a coup d’etat have been unmasked and their plot destroyed. The origin of the sabotage, wrecking and diversion which cost the Soviet people so dearly for several years and provided material for vicious international campaigns of anti-Soviet and anti-Socialist propaganda as well as actually hindering Socialist construction and creating difficulties in the rapid development of defensive capacity has been exposed and uprooted. The effort to establish a “fifth column” in the Soviet Union has been defeated and, finally the attempt of the fascist aggressors to penetrate the organs of the Soviet Government, to establish agents of their own intelligence service in positions of confidence throughout the Soviet Union, including important positions in the Red Army itself has been exposed and completely defeated.
Now that it is no longer possible to question the fact or the seriousness of the international plot in which the conspirators were engaged, the enemies of the Soviet Union have adopted a cunning ruse. They now argue that the very weight of evidence of the ramifications of the plot show that things must be bad in the Soviet Union. The dishonesty of their argument is clear, however, because the plot had no support within the Soviet Union. Its class support came entirely from outside, from the fascist powers, from finance capital. Inside the U.S.S.R. it was a secret conspiracy against the people; and had to be kept secret, for fear of the mass of the people.
The correctness of the policies fought for by Stalin and the Party and followed by the people of the Soviet Union was understood by the workers very well. It was precisely this mass appreciation of their correctness and popular enthusiasm in carrying them through which compelled the wreckers to participate in some measure in the positive activities of Socialist construction even while they were striving with all their might to disrupt, sabotage and wreck and prevent the successful carrying through of plans. The living, throbbing pressure of the masses, aroused in the popular determination to carry through the plans and to achieve the objectives which Stalin and other leaders of the Party and government laid before them from time to time, was too powerful to be openly resisted or even ignored. The conspirators, afraid of the people, fearing to let the people know of their opposition to the splendid, audacious inspiring tasks to which Stalin and the Party called them, tried to conceal themselves behind the pretence of agreement and were therefore compelled to contribute to the success of the very plans that they wanted to defeat.
They had to abandon the idea of widespread revolt. Their efforts to create unrest and discontent petered out. In the national republics rapid advances in economy, culture and general wellbeing outshone in their attraction for the masses all the illusions suggested by hypocritical propaganda or artificially cultivated sentiments of petty nationalism or separatism. The conspirators were reduced to concealment of their separatist aim from the very people who they proposed to tear away from the Soviet Union with the splendid possibilities for a better life that they were beginning to enjoy. The only ones with whom they could discuss their schemes for the separation of the Ukraine, White Russia, the Caucasus and the Soviet Republics of Middle Asia from the Soviet Union were their paymasters, the fascist aggressors.
By showing the international character of the conspiracy and its direct relationship to the war plans of the fascist aggressors, no less than by uprooting it within the Soviet Union, a tremendous service was performed in the struggle to defend peace. Its complete demonstration that the conspirators were, in fact, a criminal gang of plotters in the service of fascist states committed to the task of overthrowing Soviet power and restoring capitalism in the Soviet Union through war and fascist bayonets will strengthen the effort to root out what little support for Trotskyism still exists in the working-class organisations and the broad democratic movement of the people in every country.
These things, which in themselves are tremendous contributions to the struggle for world peace, will all strengthen the trend toward the further development and consolidation of the unity of the working class and further extension of the developing people’s front movement against reaction, fascism and war.
At the conclusion of the trial we went out into Pushkin Street and through Theatre Lane to Gorky Street. Spring was already coming to Moscow. It was one of those rare March days with a bright, warm sun in a blue sky and crystal air. All round was life, joyous enthusiasm and construction on a scale and a plan such as the world has never before seen. Gorky Street is being widened to 196 feet. Just below Soviet Square, a huge building was being moved back beyond the new street line almost behind the Art Theatre. Amid the clang of hammers and the noise of engines the huge structure with a frontage of nearly two hundred feet moves steadily backward, with not a store window cracked or disturbed, electric lights burning and occupants living their normal lives. During the past few months a whole string of modern store buildings have gone up on the new street line. The old stores are still doing business, but very soon demolition will start. The old buildings will go, Gorky Street will be 196 feet wide lined with new, modern six-storied stores and another stage of the ten-year plan for the reconstruction of Moscow, which will transform this ancient town into one of the most modern and beautiful cities of Europe, will be completed.
The sunshine, clamour, lively gossip and laughter of the crowd, dispelled the illusion of nightmare that had been created by the continued recitals of appalling crimes. This, through which we were passing is the Soviet Union, the land of triumphant Socialism, mighty and throbbing with the joy of life and consciousness of Socialist achievement. The plots and foul crimes described in the last speeches of the criminals had no part in the thoughts and the “dreams come true” of the mighty Soviet people. As Belyakov (the navigator of Chkalov’s plane) had told us the day before, the aims of these fascist aggressors could not find any support among the Soviet people. The Party under Stalin’s leadership and the government under Molotov’s leadership, command confidence and the ardent love of the people precisely because the Party and the Government are continually pointing the way and leading the people to higher achievements and a better life.
It is no wonder that the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union acclaimed the sentence of the court. It is no wonder that the people of Moscow the same week were thronging into the streets to acclaim the return of the hero Papanin and his three comrades from their half-year’s night in the Arctic. For those who had the courage and determination to conquer the icy fastness of the Polar North are of the same people who had the courage and determination to crush this international fascist conspiracy within the Soviet Union.