The Modern Inquisition. Hugo Dewar 1953
The so-called Rajk, Kostov and Slánský trials in Hungary, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia respectively are of exceptional interest, because they reveal so much about the relationship of the non-Russian Communist parties of the world to their ‘leading party’ in Russia. These trials also help us to understand that the Communist parties are mere instruments in the hands of those who wield real power. Just as the ‘leading party’ in the Soviet Union has long been stripped of any political power and the entire country brought under the control of a police apparatus, so in the satellite countries are the Communist parties, their initial work completed, brutally reminded that they exist to carry out orders, which in the final analysis emanate from the ruling clique in Russia. No plainer demonstration could be given of the complete subservience of the satellites to the Soviet Union than is provided by these trials. The native rulers of these states, boosted to power by the fear inspired by the Red Army, are dependent for survival on the goodwill of their masters in the Kremlin. This is the inescapable conclusion arising from the Rajk, Kostov and Slánský trials, which we shall examine in this and the following chapter.
On 18 January 1947, the leader of the Hungarian Stalinists, Mátyás Rákosi (he remains the leader up to the time of writing) spoke of László Rajk in the following terms:
Let me say a few words of appreciation of the activities of comrade László Rajk, Minister of the Interior, who was the object of so many attacks incurred as a result of the undermining work of the conspirators. It was not by chance that the fury of the reaction, organised underground, concentrated particularly upon his person. They knew that they stood in opposition to a man who had come from the Hungarian working people, the son of a ‘Szekfu-Székely’ family of twelve children, who was a courageous and intrepid fighter in the Hungarian workers’ movement, who fought in the Spanish Revolution and who with death-defying courage suffered in 1944 with Bajcsy-Zsilinszky at Kohida and who was forged like steel in the uncompromising battle against the Horthy reaction. Now we know that the conspirators had launched a systematic calumny campaign against him and against the democratic police and, as the results show, they knew what they were doing. And it was not their fault that their base plans failed. We trust Comrade Rajk and the democratic police to carry out, by thorough and good work, the consolidation and defence of democracy. (A Magyar Demokrácia (fourth edition, 1948), pp 407-08)
The man thus praised so highly as a staunch and well-tested Communist, the man thus commended for his work in uncovering the so-called Nagy Conspiracy when Minister of the Interior, is himself arrested in May 1949 and charged with high treason, accused of having been a police spy from the moment of his entry into the Communist Party. Think of it! László Rajk, the ‘courageous and intrepid fighter in the Hungarian workers’ movement’, who from his youth had suffered repeated arrests and imprisonment; who had at last been forced to flee the country and take refuge in Czechoslovakia; who had from there gone to join the Rákosi Battalion in the Spanish Civil War and immediately been appointed the battalion’s party Secretary; who had returned to Hungary and suffered years of internment; who after the Liberation had become Secretary of the Budapest Party Committee, and who finally came to occupy the key position of Minister of the Interior — this man is overnight transformed into the exact opposite of that which his comrades had always thought him. Every stage of his career as a ‘professional revolutionary’ is precisely the reverse of what it appeared to be; every arrest except the first is a mere blind, a manoeuvre to avert suspicion. His activity in the Communist Youth movement is directed by the police; he becomes a strike leader on the instructions of the police; it is the police who order him, and aid him, to leave the country; he goes to Spain at their orders; he works for the new enemies of the people taking the place of the old after the Liberation and all his actions as Minister of the Interior are dictated by these new enemies, whom he faithfully serves up to the very moment of his arrest. Yet no breath of suspicion had ever disturbed his reputation. No one could possibly suspect, listening to Rákosi’s unstinted praise of Rajk, that this man was a traitor.
An article in the Communist paper Szabad Nép (19 June 1949) says that ‘Trotskyism, Fascism, Zionism and anti-Semitism were the source and ideological swamp from which people like Rajk grew’. It was Rákosi and not Rajk who had directed the liquidation of the Nagy opposition, liquidated it in spite of ‘badly hidden opposition’ on Rajk’s part. But how Rákosi came to interpret ‘badly hidden opposition’ in the above-quoted terms of glowing praise is nowhere discussed; how Rákosi failed to notice before that it was he, and not Rajk, who had unmasked and destroyed the Nagy opposition is nowhere considered.
The Szabad Nép article went on to stress the need to eliminate ‘bourgeois nationalism’ and to train people to love and appreciate the Soviet Union. Relations to the Soviet Union, it said, provided the criterion separating friend from foe.
Here is the key to Rajk’s disgrace, and to that of Communist leaders in Bulgaria, Rumania, Poland, Albania and Czechoslovakia. Bourgeois nationalism — the accusation levelled directly or indirectly against all of them — is simply another way of saying that they harboured, or were suspected of harbouring, or were thought capable of harbouring, dangerous thoughts of independence, even if strictly limited independence, from the yoke of the Kremlin. ‘To love and appreciate the Soviet Union’ — another way of expressing complete servility to Stalin. It all stems back to the Russo-Yugoslav breach signalled by the Cominform resolution of June 1948.
The Yugoslav ‘declaration of independence’ (it may be justly so called, even although the break was compelled in the first place more by Moscow’s intransigence than by Belgrade’s active desire) was, and remains, a major threat to Russia’s entire postwar policy. The steadily mounting Russian-sponsored Cominform offensive launched against Tito is proof enough of the grave alarm this defection occasioned in the Kremlin. The continued existence of a non-Stalinist, yet professedly Communist, state is a standing challenge to Stalin’s authority, and the ideological repercussions of this are no less important than the military consequences. The revelation of Tito’s internal strength, his complete mastery of the Yugoslav state power, and the impossibility of overthrowing him through an inner-party revolt, administered a severe shock to the Russian government. Its immediate reaction was to institute a thorough investigation of the dossiers of all party members, and of the leading ones in particular, in the satellite states. The slightest hint of any ‘ideological deviations’ in the past, the smallest suspicion of ‘disloyalty to the Soviet Union’, had to be scrutinised with minute care. The questions were posed. Is there anyone in the party whose past conduct is open to suspicion? Is there no possible contact with the disease of Titoism? In these circumstances, how could the ‘leading party’ present the other parties with a clean bill of health unless a purge took place beforehand? Considering the prevailing atmosphere it would have been remarkable if no traitors had been ‘unmasked’. If no unhealthy elements had in fact been present in the parties investigated, then it would have been necessary to ‘manufacture’ them.
It is impossible to say with any assurance why this, that or the other leading Communist was chosen for the role of scapegoat. It is conceivable that Rajk may at some time or another have shown some independence, may have displayed a certain lack of reverence for the Kremlin masters. But experience of the purges in Russia teaches that almost all those who led the revolutionary struggle for power sooner or later fall into disfavour when power has been attained. It seems likely, therefore, that the choice of Rajk as the first sacrificial goat was the result of a rivalry for leadership within the Hungarian party, the details of which we do not know. Tito’s defection made the leadership of all non-Russian parties suspect in the eyes of the Kremlin, and every leading Communist was aware of this. Rákosi, switching overnight from lavish eulogy of Rajk to vituperative abuse, was taking this into account. It was the Moscow Trial experience repeated in miniature: those upon whom the shadow of suspicion falls seek to avert the blow by concentrating the anger of their masters upon a selected individual. The violence of their language against their erstwhile colleague is in direct proportion to their fears for their own skins. It is necessary to offer a scapegoat, to make amends for ‘lack of vigilance’ in allowing such a traitor as Tito to deceive them, and by this readiness to offer a blood sacrifice, to demonstrate that there is no limit to their subservience. Let us have convincing proof of your loyalty, demands the Kremlin. And the proof is given.
In accordance, therefore, with the political requirements of the Russian-Yugoslav dispute, a party purge was called for in Hungary. And also in accordance with these requirements, it was Tito, and not Rajk, who occupied the position of chief accused at the trial; and it was Rajk, nominally the chief accused, who played the role of Tito’s chief accuser. Once again we are confronted with this peculiar Moscow Trial technique; this apparently politically inexplicable contradiction between the attitude of the accused in the dock and the picture of him drawn by the indictment.
Rajk had been in the hands of his interrogators for three months. Knowing what we do of the methods of interrogation we are entitled to be sceptical about the truth of his confession even before we examine it in detail. The first question to be considered is: had Rajk really been a police agent? What is the evidence in support of this charge?
Once again the charge is unsupported by any documentary proof. In the circumstances this may be accepted as inevitable. But let us look at the only evidence there is — his confession; let us see if it convinces.
Rajk confessed that when arrested by the Hungarian police in 1931 he signed an agreement to work for them in order to secure his release. He was not, he says, at that time a member of the Communist Party. As a student in France he had come into contact with ‘progressive’ ideas, and on returning to Hungary he ‘tried to get in touch in Hungary with people of Marxist ideas without, however, being a member of the Communist Party or any other Communist Party organisation’ (László Rajk and his Accomplices before the People’s Court (Budapest, 1949), p 33). (Note that he still speaks of ‘progressive’ ideas — thus using a phrase quite out of character for a police agent.) The police thus signed him up before he had even become a member of the party. After this experience he could have reported to the police that he had been unable to join the party. But for some inexplicable reason he does not do this; he deliberately, of his own will, entangles himself in the police web. No one at the trial seeks to elucidate the reason for this strange behaviour. In spite of the unenviable position in which he says he was placed, he joins the party. As a result he is again arrested and receives a sentence of three months’ imprisonment. He is expelled from the university; his career as a teacher is over before it has begun. Yet at no point in the trial is there any suggestion that he received money from the police. The question of how he managed to live is nowhere raised.
Now it is not unknown for the police in some countries to put pressure on revolutionaries to betray their movement. It is, however, unusual for them to seek to make agents of men who have not yet been accepted into the revolutionary movement: they either try to get members of their own forces into the movement, or they try to subvert someone who is already a member. In the latter instance they can never be really sure of the reliability of the person concerned, since there is always the possibility of his revealing the police manoeuvre to the party. Sometimes the revolutionaries themselves turn the manoeuvre against the police by sending them a fake agent; this manoeuvre was practised by revolutionaries in Russia before the revolution. A man undertaking such a task always runs the risk of being regarded as a traitor by those of his comrades who are not ‘in the know’. In Rajk’s case it is even conceivable that he did agree to give information to the police, without ever intending to honour this agreement. There is nothing in a Communist’s book of rules that excludes such a deception. If this was the situation with Rajk, he would have told his immediate party superiors about it. Years later this would be recalled; it would form part of the psychological ammunition with which to rouse in him a feeling of guilt. You deceived the police — how do we know that you did not also deceive us? Of course the idea is absurd. Rajk knows it is absurd. But his interrogators do not think it absurd; or if they do, they take care not to show it. Rajk desperately seeks to convince them of his utter sincerity, his devotion... His record of service? They dismiss it with a shrug. But there is one way in which he can convince them... And Rajk’s psychological makeup may have been such that the only thing he cared about was to convince his party comrades of his devotion to the cause — what the rest of the world thought of him did not matter. Perhaps it came to the point when he no longer cared what even his comrades thought; perhaps all he yearned for was to convince himself...
But who can say by what twisted process of unreasoning logic Rajk’s dazed mind, under the relentless pressure of the interrogation technique, came to accept the inevitable sacrifice? Each individual victim has his own answer to the question: Why did you confess? And if each could speak from the tomb or the prison cell, the political or personal reasons each might give would only confirm the overriding common factor of terror motivating the submission of all. Leaving supposition aside, let us continue the examination of Rajk’s confession, and see if the facts at any rate make sense.
After his expulsion from the university Rajk becomes a leading member of the Communist Young Workers League, ‘where he had the task on the one hand of spying upon the central printing press of the Young Workers League and on the other hand of hindering the preparation, and in particular the dissemination, of propaganda material’ (ibid, p 35). He was, he says, unable to discover anything about the press, but it was a simple matter for him to hinder the dissemination of propaganda material, since he was the one who wrote it. ‘I hindered it partly by not forwarding the material for duplication, thus causing it to lie around for weeks so that it lost its timeliness and there was no longer any point in bringing it out. This was the main possibility for hindering.’ (Ibid, p 36) Now, anyone with the slightest knowledge of the way in which the Communist Party functions knows perfectly well that if Rajk had thus systematically held up propaganda material for weeks an enquiry into such conduct would very quickly have resulted. He might have failed to deliver the goods once, but even then he would have had to offer sound reasons for failure to carry out the task assigned to him. That he could have systematically sabotaged in this way is out of the question; and that he should have put forward such a paltry illustration of his alleged activities on behalf of the police only goes to show how hard pressed he was for incriminating material. Out of the recesses of his mind has been dragged some long-forgotten incident — a squabble over the right propaganda approach to some problem or other, or some technical failure preventing the timely dissemination of agitational material — and this is reflected in the distorting mirror of the confession... As if aware of how unconvincing this ‘proof’ of his police work sounded, Rajk continues: ‘Essentially I carried on no other activity within the Communist Young Workers League, for my work there lasted only a very short time.’ (Ibid, p 36) His first arrest was in 1931 (when he allegedly agreed to work for the police); his second in 1932, when he received a sentence of three months’ imprisonment; his third in 1933, when he was held for a time (we are not told how long), brought to trial and acquitted. After leaving the Young Workers League he joined the National Union of Hungarian Building Workers. This was ‘towards the end of 1934’. So, if he worked for the league for only a very short time he must have been held by the police in 1933 for many months. And if he had not been so held he must have worked for the league for well over a year. He worked there with ‘several Communists of long standing’ (but did not betray them to the police) and it would have been impossible for them not to have noticed sabotage carried out in the manner described by him. Rajk does not give the names of these ‘Communists of long standing'; and for good reason: that would have brought them also under suspicion, because the best way, in fact the only way, of explaining why they did not notice Rajk’s sabotage would be to make them also police agents. This was the way all such difficulties were ‘explained’ away in the Moscow Trials. But the purge in Hungary has not been so ‘total’ as it was in Russia, since the Kremlin still has need of some ‘Communists of long standing’. It is, however, by no means excluded that this phrase may not serve its purpose in some future trial.
As we have noted, nothing is said about Rajk’s financial situation. Is it not obvious that this is because after his expulsion from the university he became a ‘professional revolutionary’, paid by the party? But he says that he joined the building workers’ union on the instructions of the police. His ‘sabotage’ of the Young Workers League having gone completely unremarked by the ever-vigilant party, he now plays a leading role in the Communist fraction in this trade union. He speaks at a mass meeting of the strikers and recommends a street demonstration. This demonstration enabled the police to intervene, with the result that ‘approximately two hundred people were taken into custody’. The strike was broken.
This is manifest nonsense. If the police needed an excuse to intervene, they already had it in the mass meeting before the demonstration; because, according to Rajk’s own testimony, such meetings were at the time illegal. Further, police prohibition of mass demonstrations is quite often regarded by the Communists as a challenge, in the acceptance of which no time must be lost. If Rajk recommended a street demonstration at this mass meeting of strikers, can it be doubted that he did so on the instructions of the party? If he had acted purely as an individual this would have been contrary to the whole organisational set-up of the party. Immediately after the mass meeting he would have been called over the coals for advising a course of action without prior consultation with, and agreement of, the other party leaders of the strike. The view taken of such ‘anarchist individualism’ would have been all the more severe when it was seen that his recommendation had led to two hundred arrests (that is, assuming that such a mass demonstration could have been organised without the other leaders’ cooperation and even against their express desires). Further, Rajk says he ‘was able to establish contact with the leaders of the movement there, who were then underground'; he ‘reported on the movement and on the people’ (ibid, p 36). Yet the police did not act on this information and arrest these leaders.
After Rajk had succeeded in breaking the strike in this incredible manner, he was advised by the police to leave the country. He was ordered to go to Czechoslovakia. This was some time in 1936 (very rarely are any precise dates given in any of these confessions). He crossed the border illegally, with a detective of the political section as an escort to prevent his ‘being stopped or accidentally arrested by the Hungarian authorities on the Hungarian border’ (ibid, p 37). What might have happened is that he was expelled from the country by police administrative measure as a person whose citizenship papers were out of order. Or, much more likely, he left of his own accord and with full party approval, to fight in Spain.
In spite of the many gaps, inconsistencies and contradictions in Rajk’s confession, a well-known, and in some circles influential, political commentator in the West finds that ‘Rajk drove home every point against himself with merciless logic’ (Doreen Warriner, The Revolution in Eastern Europe (Turnstile Press, 1950), p 60). How any disinterested person seriously studying this testimony can find ‘merciless logic’ in it (not to speak of plain logic), is beyond comprehension. ‘It was a strange and enthralling story’, says this author. Strange, certainly; but enthralling only for one who has not read the same story over and over again in volume after volume, written in the same uninspired style, devoid of any human feeling, with the same crude plot, the same coarsely drawn characters speaking the same monotonous language, the same nightmare air of unreality... ‘It is internally consistent’, continues Miss Warriner, ‘it cannot be dismissed as lies.’ Yet even this peculiarly naive person cannot, with the best will in the world, entirely dismiss her doubts. ‘Yet if the earlier part of the story is true, how was it possible that Rajk should have become Minister of the Interior in 1946, and hold the key post in the Hungarian government during the most critical time?’, she asks. And her guess is:
The only possible explanation is that Rajk had played a part in the resistance which exonerated him from his past; but this the evidence does not mention. Ultimately it is the consistency and coherence [sic] of the confession which makes it puzzling, since it obviously omits so much. One explanation is that its motive was expiation, the last service in the cause; but it can equally well be interpreted as revenge. (Ibid, p 6o)
Another explanation is, of course, that his confession was all poppycock — but this does not occur to Miss Warriner. One could hardly wish for a better example of the muddle-headed innocent abroad.
Let us further examine this confession whose consistency and coherence Miss Warriner finds so puzzling, and which she can explain only on the basis of diametrically opposed motives.
Rajk went to Czechoslovakia in order to discover the channel through which illegal literature was being smuggled into Hungary. ‘This investigation was fruitless, but I did not even try very hard to make it fruitful. I did this not because of my convictions, but because that was how my circumstances developed.’ (Trial report, p 37) What these ‘circumstances’ were is left to the imagination. Nevertheless he says that he carried out an investigation, which shows that he must have had contact with the Communist organisation in Czechoslovakia. But nothing whatever is said of what he did during the time he was there: no word of whom he met, where he lived, how he lived, how long he stayed there. Since he presumably arrived there illegally he must have either gone into hiding somewhere or have acquired papers, or have been regularised as a political refugee through the medium of the Communist Refugee Committee then busy checking on all Communist refugees and displaying great energy in denouncing as Fascists all those who had come in any way to disagree with its politics. But the whole of this period of his stay in Czechoslovakia is left a blank. All we learn from his confession is that ‘circumstances’, and not his ‘convictions’, prevented him from trying very hard (just how hard did he try? — what exactly did he do to ‘investigate'?) to carry out his alleged task, and that at last he obtained ‘false documents’ with which he travelled to France, en route to join the International Brigade in Spain — once more on the instructions of the police.
Take this point about his ‘convictions’. Here he goes out of his way to emphasise that his failure was not due to any moral scruples about playing the traitor; he has no convictions that deter him from playing the role. But up to this point his excuse for being a police spy has been that the police had a hold over him by virtue of his having signed a declaration agreeing to work for them. Indeed, in the sentence coming immediately before this statement about the absence of any ‘convictions’ he says: ‘I could not have done anything else.’ And still later he returns again to this explanation of his conduct, by saying: ‘The Hungarian police could have exposed me at any time'; only to contradict this yet again by saying that when the Yugoslav leader Rankovic produced a photostat copy of his agreement with the police, Rajk told him that this threat was ‘entirely unnecessary’ because he ‘agreed with them politically’ (ibid, p 53). Thus at one and the same time he both has and has not ‘convictions’. Rajk’s defence counsel simply ignores all these contradictory excuses or explanations, and argues that Rajk said only that he acted as a police agent under duress. However, the contradictions simply arise from the fact that Rajk has first of all to give a plausible reason for his becoming, and continuing to be, a police agent; and secondly, to support the Stalinist thesis that any political opponent is ipso facto also a police agent and a spy of Western imperialism.
Practically every sentence in Rajk’s confession raises a query in one’s mind. He went to Paris with ‘false documents’. Where did he get them? In Paris he ‘avoided the central organ of the French party which supervised politically those leaving for Spain’ (ibid, p 38). Why? The implication is that he was already suspected by the party. But if this was so, when, and in what circumstances, did suspicion first arise? And why was it that this did not affect his position in the party when he got to Spain — as we shall see it did not. Again, the sending of volunteers to Spain required organisation. But all Rajk had to do was this: ‘I joined a group and I crossed the Spanish border with this group.’ (Ibid, p 38) Nobody turned round and said: ‘Hallo — who are you? — where do you come from?’ Of course Rajk did not do anything of the kind. He went through the organised party channels. But to have admitted this would have involved those responsible in the French party. This was outside the competence of the organisers of the trial.  (Note that in none of the East European trials have leaders of Western Communist parties been accused of treachery.)
In Spain Rajk was immediately made ‘party Secretary of the Rákosi Battalion’. This in itself is proof enough that he still enjoyed the full confidence of the party, and, even more important, of the Russian agents controlling behind the scenes; in spite of the fact that he mysteriously arrived in Spain one fine day, without any credentials from either the Hungarian, the Czechoslovak or the French party — that is, if we believe his unbelievable story.
His police assignment in Spain was ‘to find out the names of those in the Rákosi Battalion — this was the name of the Hungarian unit — and... through political disruption to bring about a reduction of the military efficiency of the Rákosi Battalion’ (ibid, p 38). The first part of his task was ‘not difficult to carry out, for we all knew each other’:
I fulfilled the second by artificially putting the political disciplinary case of one of the officers of the battalion, László Haas, on the agenda in 1938, before the Ebro battle, acting as party Secretary... I should add that besides this activity I also carried on Trotskyist propaganda in the Rákosi Battalion. This resulted in the exposure of my Trotskyist attitude by the Communist members of the battalion when the party leadership discussed the Haas case. So, in effect, the whole thing backfired: I was expelled from the party. (Ibid, p 38)
Now, we do not doubt that Rajk did go to Czechoslovakia, to Paris, and then to Spain, where he was made party Secretary in the Rákosi Battalion. As in all the confessions there is a skeleton framework of fact supporting the whole rickety structure. But the facts themselves are interpreted by the accused in the sense required by the indictment — the indictment that they have helped to draw up. Occasionally, however, we get a glimpse of something solid, some correspondence with real facts confirmed by independent experience. So here, from Rajk’s account of the Spanish episode, we find confirmation of the fact — reported by other participants in the Spanish Civil War — that Stalinists were more concerned with the supremacy of their political views, the imposition of their policy on the general course of events, than with the success of the military struggle. They wanted victory — but it had to be victory for them; they would rather see defeat than a Loyalist victory that did not also mean the dominance of the party over the new Spain. Hence the tendency for the Stalinists to give precedence to the political struggle for hegemony within the Loyalist ranks over the common military struggle against Franco. Thus Rajk — who calls himself the ‘party Secretary’ but who was probably better known as the Commissar — could be depicted as involving the Rákosi Battalion in a fierce political discussion on the eve of battle, a discussion that ‘very much weakened its efficiency’. We are left completely in the dark, of course, about the facts of the Haas case, and we have only Rajk’s word for it that he initiated it, that it actually took place, or that it took place when he said it did — but that does not alter the fact that at his trial none of the Stalinist officials in court thought it peculiar that the Rákosi Battalion could be involved in political warfare ‘just before one of the most decisive battles of the Spanish Republican troops’ (ibid, p 39). 
The strangest part of Rajk’s story is that all this led to his expulsion from the party for Trotskyist propaganda. From that moment on his effectiveness as a ‘police spy’ was ended. As he said, ‘the whole thing backfired’. This is the only case on record of a secret police agent exposing himself by indulging in propaganda hostile to the organisation in which he is working. Yet Rajk is not really to blame for this, for it was the Hungarian police chief, Sombor-Schweinitzer, who had thought up this brilliant idea of ‘bringing about a reduction of military efficiency by political disruption’. This tale is fully in accord with the Stalinist thesis that all political discussion carried on in Spain by opponents of Communist policy within the Republican camp was ‘disruptive, Trotskyist propaganda’. At no point in his confession does Rajk, this alleged police spy, depart from the Stalinist attitude towards this or any other aspect of political affairs. But — here is the strange part of Rajk’s story — his expulsion does not put an end to his activities. In spite of the fact that everyone knew each other in the battalion, in spite of the fact that many of its Hungarian Communist members returned to Hungary — no one ever subsequently raised the question of Rajk’s expulsion for Trotskyist activities. The indictment says that he was first barred from holding office in the party, and then expelled. But this does not prevent him from eventually being entrusted with the key post in the Hungarian Communist government. It is as though this expulsion never really took place. When we recall the number of Trotskyist and POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unity) people who were kidnapped and assassinated by the Stalinists in Spain, we can only wonder at Rajk’s survival, if the circumstances were indeed as he says. For according to his statement he was expelled in June 1938, but remained in Spain until February 1939. Where was he during those eight months? What was he doing? All we are told is that he deserted in February 1939. But here again there is something wrong, because the Ebro action was the last in which the International Brigade took part; in any case, they were officially disbanded in October 1938. On 26 January 1939, Franco’s mercenaries entered Barcelona and by February the war was already over. There was thus no question of Rajk ‘deserting’. Moreover, this is recognised in the indictment, where it says that he ‘escaped’ from Spain, and does not mention desertion at all. (But, naturally, Rajk’s defence counsel makes no effort to oppose his desire to show himself in the worst possible light.) Rajk therefore went to France with the last of the retreating Spanish Republican forces and together with them was interned. In the internment camp were some Yugoslav ex-International Brigaders. ‘Among the more important persons were Kosta-Nadj, Milic, Vukmanovic, who I think at that time was called Tempo, Stefanovic, Queber...’ (ibid, p 39). In response to this statement Svetozar Vukmanovic made the following denial:
Before the war I never left Yugoslavia and consequently I could not have been in Spain or in the internment camps in France; I could even less have made the acquaintance of Rajk, whom I have never seen in my life. During the war I went to Greece, to Albania and Bulgaria, and in 1948 I went to the USSR, via Rumania. Apart from Yugoslavia, those are all the countries in which I have been. (Ce Que Révčle le Procés Rajk (Paris, 1949), p 37 — the official Yugoslav reply to the trial charges against their party and government.)
Vukmanovic then proceeds to give a detailed account of his activities and movement from 1935 to 1941. In addition he also points out that he was not known by the name ‘Tempo’ until the Fifth Conference of the Yugoslav Communist Party, which took place in 1940. He also says that Bebler, Maslaric and Mrazovic were likewise never in any of these internment camps in France. The Yugoslav Communist Karlo Mrazovic also stated:
In the clumsily framed indictment the producers of the Budapest trial treat as spies, agents of the Gestapo and the Americans, 150 Yugoslavs, fighters in Spain who were interned in French camps. The indictment particularly mentions the most important among them. These are the Generals Gosnjak and Kosta Nadj, and Bebler, Maslaric and Mrazovic. All five were gravely wounded, and in the front line at that, where spies have no desire to go. Of these five, as all Spanish combatants who were in French internment camps know, Bebler (Spanish name Kobal), Maslaric (Felix), Mrazovic (Ortega) have never been in French camps. When this was published in the protest of the Yugoslav Association of Spanish Volunteers, the organisers of the trial immediately ordered the chief prosecutor, the accused and the judges to take care, during the hearing and when the French camps were in question, not to mention the names of the above-mentioned three persons. And, in fact, these names were not pronounced during that part of the trial. They were passed over in silence. Everyone respected the directives of the trial organisers. But the latter forgot to give the same directives to the journalists and to the five or six Hungarians who found themselves among the Spanish combatants, so that they should act likewise in the declaration that they published in the name of the Hungarian volunteers in the Spanish war. By this itself, the organisers of the trial, whether they wanted to or not, have admitted their lie, although the journalist and the five or six Hungarian volunteers continue to claim that Bebler, Maslaric and Mrazovic were in the French camps, in contact with spies, that they were fascist agents and imperialists. All the Spanish combatants who were interned in the French camps know that these three comrades were never among them. (Ibid, p 41)
This makes it clear that in mentioning these names in the indictment the trial organisers blundered badly. They made a clumsy effort to cover up at least part of the traces of bad workmanship by stating on the errata page of the trial report that the name ‘Vukmanovic’ should read ‘Vukomanovic’. That was the best they could do about it. It is precisely in order to avoid grave errors of this nature that the confessions are always so imprecise when it comes to a question of hard facts. In this way the producers try to make it impossible for anyone to check up on statements made and expose them as liars by demonstrating that such and such a meeting could not have taken place because the person or persons concerned were elsewhere at the time. But now and again, in an effort to bring the confession from the realm of fantasy down to solid earth, they do the kind of thing illustrated above — and trip up in consequence.
In internment in France, Rajk continued to ‘pursue Trotskyist activity’. Asked by the president what this meant, Rajk replied: ‘... it was a refutation and disruption of everything which is in the interests of the revolutionary working-class movement, on a political basis that completely lacked all principle’ (Trial report, p 39). The reply is that of a well-schooled Stalinist; it is dictated by the political propaganda requirements of the Soviet Union. It is certainly not the way in which a police spy would talk. Rajk is living up to his side of the bargain.
In the internment camps Rajk now worked for the French Deuxičme Bureau. But the French did not have any hold over him that could make him do that. It would have sounded too thin for him to have said that they knew about his past and threatened to expose him, because he had already been expelled (according to his tale) from the party, and in any case he was carrying on Trotskyist work, which, under camp conditions, everyone would be aware of. So he simply said that even the French officer of the Deuxičme Bureau knew he was a Trotskyist, and knew that ‘in general the Trotskyists always, and everywhere, internationally, worked in close contact with the police’ (ibid, p 40). So it was now an open secret that he was a police agent! The knowledge is indeed so widespread that the next thing we learn is that Rajk is enrolled by the Gestapo. The Horthy police, the French Deuxičme Bureau, the Gestapo, and finally, as we shall see, the American ‘Office of Strategic Services’, are all well informed about Rajk. Only the Communist Party, which expelled him for Trotskyism (and everyone knows that the Trotskyists are ‘always and everywhere’ in close contact with the police), were still in the dark!
Now on to the scene steps the mysterious figure of Noel H Field, chief American agent of the OSS in Europe — according to the vivid imaginations of the trial producers. Rajk is interviewed by Field in one of the French internment camps. The date is again vague — ‘at the end of the Civil War’. Field:
... referred to an instruction he had received from Washington, that he should speak with me and help me to get out of the camp and return home to Hungary. He even told me that they would like to send me home because as an agent who had not been exposed I would, working in the party according to the instructions received from the Americans, disorganise and dissolve the party and possibly even get the party leadership into my hands. (Ibid, pp 46-47 — author’s emphasis)
This part of Rajk’s testimony was not given when he spoke at some length of his internment in France, immediately after the story of his expulsion from the party in Spain. It looks very much as though Rajk and the president had forgotten about Field, for it is some time after Rajk has left the subject of the French internment camps and is dealing with the period after his return to Hungary that he suddenly remembers the Field incident in the above-quoted words. A short time before he recalls this, there has been a fifteen-minute recess. How did it happen that Rajk completely forgot to mention such an important incident when he was testifying on his relations with the Deuxičme Bureau and the Gestapo in the camp? Surely if the interview with Field was as he asserted, it would have stood out very sharply in his memory and would have been in the forefront of his thoughts precisely when he was speaking of this period. Yet it is only some time later that he fills in the picture with this piece of information about the mysterious Mr Field, who subsequently loomed so large in the case for the prosecution. Moreover, when he does speak of Field, Rajk has evidently forgotten that he, Rajk, had been exposed in Spain. Field, who apparently knew all about Rajk, who had no trouble in contacting him among the thousands of refugees from Spain interned in France, would also have known about his suspension from holding any office in the party, and eventually his expulsion from it, about his continued Trotskyist activity in the camp — yet in spite of all this he regarded him ‘as an agent who had not been exposed’. Even if the OSS — allegedly so well informed about Rajk that they sent instructions about him from Washington to Field — did not know of his exposure in Spain, would not Rajk himself have informed Field? Would they not have discussed the effect of this expulsion on the possibility of his being able to get back into the party, in order to ‘disorganise and dissolve’ it, even take over the leadership? (Note the ‘merciless logic’ of this — taking over the leadership of a dissolved party.) And if Rajk had not said anything to Field, would not Field have found out all about it through his other contacts?
Who is this Noel H Field? What evidence is there that he was in fact an agent of American Intelligence? The answer to the last question is — none at all, except the assertions of some of the accused at the Rajk trial. But let us assume for the moment that Field was such an agent. Does that mean that everyone with whom he came in contact was likewise an agent, or subsequently became one? No normally intelligent person will hesitate a moment over the answer to that. Yet recent events in Eastern Germany have shown (we shall consider these in the course of this chapter) that almost every political refugee associated with Field is thereby automatically labelled an American agent.
Noel H Field’s association with the Communist Party is not a matter for dispute, although this has only very recently been admitted, and then only with regard to a limited period, by his former associates. In the Alger Hiss perjury trial in the USA (see Ralph de Toledano and Victor Lasky, Seeds of Treason (Secker and Warburg, 1950), pp 66-67, 268-69; Alistair Cooke, A Generation on Trial (Hart Davis, 1950), pp 291-93) a letter from Hiss to Field was produced. It began ‘Dear Noel'; it contained no more than advice on where Field might possibly place articles in the US, and was dated May 1948. Field was at that time in Eastern Europe. Field’s connection with Hiss, tool and dupe of the Stalinists, is thus established. Mrs Hede Massing, formerly the wife of Gerhard Eisler, until recently chief of the Information Service in Eastern Germany, has stated that Noel Field was a member of the Stalinist undercover apparatus in the US in the early 1930s. His home was a meeting place for undercover members of the party, she affirmed at Hiss’s trial. German political refugees in Switzerland knew Field there as head of an American refugee aid organisation, the Unitarian Service Committee; but they also noted his close association with well-known Stalinists. One of these refugees has described how, on first entering Field’s office in Geneva, he saw that his secretary was a certain Mme Tampi, known as an avowed Stalinist ‘activist’ (see article in Confrontations Internationale, November-December 1949). He also on one occasion ran across Field in company with Leon Nicole, leader of the Communist Party of Latin Switzerland (since expelled). Field was likewise known to be in constant touch with Anton Ackermann and other prominent functionaries of the German Communist Party in emigration. (Today Ackermann is a member of the Politbureau of the East German Communist Party, or Socialist Unity Party — as it is now called. He is also, at the time of writing, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.) In addition to this evidence of Field’s association with the Stalinists, there is the statement of Jules Humbert-Droz, a foundation member of the Comintern who became disillusioned and rejoined the Socialist Party. Humbert-Droz states that when he was still a member of the Swiss Communist Party, he knew Noel Field very well:
He was a member of the Swiss Communist Party and an agent of the American churches to aid refugees in the South of France. He intervened, as an American and as a church representative, with the Vichy government to save a great number of German and Italian Communists who were under the threat of being given up to the Gestapo by the Pétain government. He helped hundreds of militants in the camps, distributing food and transmitting messages. He helped a large number to hide or to flee to the United States or elsewhere. He did this work in close connection with the Swiss Communist Party and the German and Italian émigrés. Field had previously rendered great services to the Soviet Union. (article in the Swiss weekly Travail)
All this puts a completely different complexion on the activities of Noel Field. Humbert-Droz’s testimony links up with that of Eisler’s former wife: the ‘great services rendered to the Soviet Union’ require no elucidation. Yes, he visited the internment camp at Vernet in France, but for a purpose exactly the opposite of that charged at the Rajk trial. No wonder that Rajk temporarily forgot the new role assigned to Field in the indictment!
But for some reason or other the Russians became suspicious of Field. Perhaps his usefulness had been destroyed as a result of the Hiss case. If this was so, they would try to ensure that he did not reveal anything of his activities on their behalf. Whatever the real reason for the Russian suspicion of Field, the fact is that he, his wife and his brother, Hermann Field, all vanished somewhere in Czechoslovakia shortly after Rajk’s arrest. And once Field was in the hands of the Russians it occurred to them that they could use him against Rajk and others. There will thus never be any possibility of any of these three giving the lie to the statements made about Noel Field by Rajk.
Subsequent developments in the Communist Party of Eastern Germany (the SED) would seem to indicate that the Russian espionage service really did come to regard Field as a ‘traitor’. Nothing that can be gleaned of Field’s past political activities offers the slightest evidence that he was not a loyal supporter of the Soviet Union — no doubt for the loftiest humanitarian reasons. But a man’s past services carry no weight with the Kremlin. The dominant characteristic of Stalin is his suspicion of everyone, even his closest associates (it is hardly possible to speak of friends). He distrusts everyone because he judges everyone by the yardstick of his own morals. He must really believe, to make the burden of his deeds supportable, that he alone is right, he alone is faithful. Everything he does, no matter how base, he justifies to himself by this belief. However vile the means, for him they justify the end of the national aggrandisement of Russia. This suspicion has permeated the entire apparatus by means of which he maintains his power; it has infected the entire Communist movement; it is itself a means of controlling the machinery of power. The ease with which yesterday’s lauded champions of the cause are today denounced as lifelong traitors is proof enough of this readiness to think the worst of everyone. So it would not have been difficult for the Russians to convince themselves that Field was playing a double game; particularly since he was, after all, an American. And it followed that those who had had contact with him when he worked for the Unitarian Service Committee must also require investigation. This is one aspect of the Prague trial and the purges in the East German Communist Party.
Once again it is not possible to estimate just how large a part personal rivalries, the inner-party struggle for leadership, played in these latest purges. No doubt this is always a factor; but it is of entirely secondary importance. It must be borne in mind that in the satellites the purges and trials are expressions of the process of Russification, whatever subsidiary purposes they may also serve.
On 24 August 1950, the Central Committee of the SED expelled from the East German party Paul Merker, senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture; Leo Bauer, news editor of the Communist radio in Berlin; Bruno Goldhammer, departmental head of the Information Service headed by Gerhard Eisler; Willy Kreikemeyer, general manager of the East German railways; Lex Ende, editor of Neues Deutschland; and Maria Weiterer, a leader of the women’s organisation. At the same time Bruno Fuhrmann, Hans Teubner, Walter Beling and Wolfgang Langhoff were relieved of all party functions. The former group was linked with the American spy Noel H Field; the latter had ‘indirectly aided the class enemy’. In proof of this there was the evidence produced at the Rajk trial. An article in the SED newspaper Neues Deutschland (1 September 1950), on the subject of this purge, makes out that Field first wormed his way into party circles in France and Switzerland, and affects ignorance of any earlier association in the United States. ‘Through Maria Weiterer, Field got into direct relations with the member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany, Paul Merker, and through him with the leadership of the Communist emigrants in Marseille.’ Already in 1939 Field had established contact in Switzerland. His relations with the refugees in France strengthened his position and by the ‘autumn of 1941 Field had pushed himself so far forward that the émigré leadership in Switzerland appointed him courier to the South of France’ (the report in this paper says nothing, however, of his close relations with the leader of the Swiss Communists or with Anton Ackermann, who has up to the time of writing escaped the purge). His political influence eventually grew so great that he dominated the German Communist émigré movement centred in Marseilles. He used this influence to prevent the German refugees from agreeing with the French party’s plan to draft them to Paris and other German-occupied areas for work in the resistance movement. This rejection of the French party’s proposals in the spring of 1942 came from Allan Dulles, ‘Chief of the Office of Strategic Services'; it was conveyed through Field to the émigré leaders. ‘It was all part of American imperialism’s policy not to build a Second Front... A possible overthrow of Hitler through German strength [durch deutsche Kräfte] would have... upset the plans of the USA.’ Without bothering himself about the French party’s ‘resolution’, the leader Paul Merker flew off to Mexico. In the summer of 1945 Field also went to Mexico to ‘re-establish the contact already made in Marseille’, and had a long discussion with Merker — ‘although the Central Committee of the USA party had given him no certificate of Field’s reliability’. ‘In connection with his sojourn in Mexico, Field turned up in Germany in the uniform of a Cralog officer’, accompanied by ‘the employee of the OSS, Erika Glaser, also in uniform, and the Trotskyist, Herta Hierr-Tempi’. (Erika Glaser, daughter of German political refugees, was a translator in the OSS headquarters in Wiesbaden and later became editor of the Communist monthly Wissen und Tat in Frankfurt. After the war she married an American citizen. She had stayed behind in Switzerland with the Fields (Noel and his wife Herta) when her parents went to England. When the Fields vanished in Prague in July 1949 she went to Berlin to seek them. She was passed through the customs at the Tempelhof aerodrome, but then herself vanished. No trace of her has since been discovered.)
All this information revealed by the first party purge in Eastern Germany adds to the evidence proving that Field was deeply involved in the undercover Stalinist organisation. But in explaining these expulsions from the East German SED, the Central Committee says that ‘it is simply unbelievable that these people connected with Field up to 1949 thought him no more than a friend of the workers and a benefactor of mankind’. We can fully agree with this: because they obviously accepted Field as a man enjoying the full confidence of the Russians. The SED Central Committee is compelled indirectly to recognise this, for its explanation continues: ‘But even if this were so, at the very latest in September 1949... the Rajk trial must have removed the scales from their eyes.’ In spite of this some of them did not ‘find their way back to the party’. Investigations showed that they did not want to be ‘helpful’. After the Rajk trial they gave no information to the party about their relations with Field, but had to be pressed for it, and even then it was clear that ‘they only admitted things that could be proved against them... Their silence was proof for the party of their insincerity.’
This shows us that the expelled members of the SED refused to admit that their relations with Field were other than normal relations between party members and an undercover agent of the international leadership. It is possible that those not expelled, but merely relieved of their party functions, were able to bring themselves to see things in a different light — they were more ‘helpful’. In the probable event of a confession trial in East Germany these people will perhaps figure as ‘witnesses’. The last sentence quoted above is an unwitting confirmation of the technique of extorting confessions: ‘silence is proof of insincerity’, that is, refusal to see matters as the inquisitors see them is proof of guilt. A true friend of the Soviet Union would make a clean breast of things; to persist in maintaining one’s innocence only means that one is an enemy of the Soviet Union. Because after all Rajk confessed everything about Field, and therefore they, too, must have known what Field was. Perhaps not all of them knew, but certainly some of them did. In any case they are all under suspicion, and even if only one is guilty they must all be presumed guilty in order to make sure of that one. And if a confession trial is considered advisable they will all be worked on by the methods of which we know, with the result that all but those of extraordinary mental and physical toughness will inevitably confess.
The purge in East Germany is the continuation of the action taken against German Communist refugees in Soviet Russia before the war. Some of these were shot, others were handed over to the Gestapo. In spite of all the efforts to ‘educate’ party members in the spirit of Stalinism — that is, blind obedience to the Leader — the many abrupt unprincipled shifts in Soviet policy inevitably raise doubts in the minds of party members abroad, who have to shoulder the burden of explaining things to the people whose confidence they are trying to win. Even some leading members, affected by these doubts, express themselves incautiously, or do not show sufficient zeal in their support of the change in policy demanded by the Soviet Union. Few, if any, Communist leaders have not at some time or other laid themselves open to suspicion by the Kremlin. Nowadays all those in the satellite states, and in Eastern Germany, who were thrown into contact with the West during the war years are distrusted. It is rumoured that even Gerhard Eisler is under a cloud and his dismissal at the beginning of 1953 from the post of head of the Information Service confirms this. (It will be recalled that Eisler jumped bail in the US, and was smuggled aboard the Polish ship Batory, en route for Europe. He was taken off the ship at Southampton by the British police, but the American request for his extradition was rejected. In thus releasing him and giving him the opportunity to flee to Germany, the British government may have done him a very bad service. Eisler is one of the few Germans who survived the purge of refugees in the Soviet Union, but it does not look as though he will be able to keep his head above water much longer.) Stalin is said to have expressed the opinion that ‘Communism will fit Germany as a saddle fits a cow’. This was during the war, when he was assuring the world that the Kremlin had no interest in ‘exporting revolution’. But the phrase has acquired a new significance today. For many reasons the German Communist Party is the one least likely to submit patiently to the Soviet yoke.
Each fresh mention of Field’s name in connection with Communist Party deviations sharpens the picture of him. The statement of the East German party corresponds with the testimony of ex-Communists in the West who knew him in Switzerland and America. He could only have exercised the political influence alleged in the East German purge statement if he had been accepted by the refugees in Switzerland and France as a top-ranking party member. But whether he exercised any political influence or not, the fact that he acted as a Stalinist courier makes it clear that he was highly trusted. Yet in the Rajk trial only a very oblique reference is made to Field’s party membership. The accused Dr Tibor Szonyi, one-time head of the vital ‘cadres department’ in the Hungarian Communist Party, testified:
I was leader of a Hungarian political émigré group which was formed at the end of 1942 or at the beginning of 1943... This group consisted of students, intellectuals and politically vacillating elements whom I educated in 1944 in a chauvinist and pro-American spirit... In this influence the theory of Browder, then leader of the Communist Party of the USA, played a great part. Printed copies of Browder’s books in French and German were distributed in great number by Lompar and Field both in Switzerland and France, on behalf of the American Secret Service... Lompar and Field were active ... with other political émigré groups, too. (Trial report, p 147)
This means no more than that Szonyi faithfully followed the international ‘party line’ of the period in question. Browder had written a book, Teheran, expounding the policy of Anglo-American-Soviet fraternal cooperation, which would ‘ensure peace for a generation’. The dissemination of his writings was fully in accord with Stalin’s manoeuvres of that period, which even went so far as to require the formal dissolution of the American party. Browder was unfortunate enough to have the job of announcing this manoeuvre and making it appear a genuine change of policy. When the line was changed from ‘cooperation’ to renewed open war, Browder’s views became ‘revisionist’. They were not, of course, Browder’s views, but Stalin’s orders. But since Stalin is infallible, someone has to shoulder the blame for ‘errors’. Had Browder been leader of an Eastern European party he would long ago have confessed to being a spy.
Thus Szonyi’s reference to Browder, implying that he was party to a deep-laid plot of the American Secret Service against the Soviet Union, does not correspond with the known political facts. However, this is typical of the manner in which these frame-ups are engineered. Field, as a man in the inner circles of the Stalinist apparatus and as an American having close contact with American officials through his ostensible profession, was the ideal person for portrayal as the go-between linking American Intelligence with Communist ‘traitors’. Rajk’s confession could then later be used as the starting point for purges and confessions in other parties. But the wider the circle of those involved in purges or trials through association with Field becomes, the clearer it becomes that he was accepted by them as a genuine Communist.
The salient feature of the Rajk trial is its use as a propaganda counter-measure against the Tito heresy. Tito’s rupture with Moscow made it once more necessary to rewrite history. The organ of the Hungarian party, Szabad Nép, had written:
The hand held out by Yugoslavia in the domain of economics will contribute to the political consolidation of our country. Apart from the Soviet Union, no other country has shown us so much friendship as Yugoslavia. More than anyone, Yugoslavia had the right to bear us a grudge. But she did not wish to take revenge upon a democratic Hungary for the crimes committed by the Horthyists. Equally at the Paris Conference Yugoslavia held out a hand to Hungary, breaking down the barrier between victor and vanquished. (4 January 1947)
The Yugoslav bid for independence changed all that. Expressions of gratitude and admiration such as the above — and they were the keynote of Yugoslavia’s relations with the People’s Democracies — had to be obliterated from all memories:
The misfortune of the working-class movement and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia [wrote the Cominform journal, For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy, on 15 September 1950] is that... over a period of thirty years [the Yugoslav party was founded in 1919] they were actually headed by bourgeois agents... Of the dozens of general secretaries which the party had, only one, Juro Djakovic, was not a traitor or an enemy of the working class.
And on 16 September, the opening day of the Rajk trial, Pravda carried an article by special correspondent B Polevoi.
The monster with the ministerial portfolio and his accomplices [he wrote] dreamt of disarming their people... and, having thrown their country at the feet of the new Balkan Duce, of turning the country into a Yugoslav colony... The people of Hungary await a just and stern trial of the traitors...
As usual, Stalin accuses his opponents of the crimes he himself has committed or schemes to commit.
Tito and his accomplices plotted the overthrow of Hungarian democracy — free, independent, nobody’s colony. Tito sent his secret agents into Hungary to sabotage and disorganise the economy of the country and to organise internal revolt. The proof? Confessions. Yet proof that the Stalinists are doing precisely the things of which they accuse Tito and his colleagues is hardly required: for it is openly admitted in the Cominform journal, official mouthpiece of the Kremlin:
The youth of Yugoslavia, guided by communist-internationalists, are rising in the liberation struggle against the Tito clique... Falling off in labour productivity and damage to machinery are becoming ever more widespread. Led by the underground groups of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, now being restored... They sabotage Titoite sowing ‘plans’, purchases of grain, fats, meat, wool and other agricultural produce... They refuse to carry out work organised by the Titoites... Soldiers are damaging arms and equipment. (For a Lasting Peace..., 17 November 1950)
The above is as much an instruction to agents as it is a report of facts.
The accused at the Rajk trial were, as is usual in these shows, a mixed bag. In addition to the three prominent Communists, there were a former police officer and an Army officer under Horthy; a Social-Democratic member of the National Assembly; another Communist, Secretary to the Federation of South Slavs; and a Yugoslav citizen who had disowned Tito (allegedly a calculated deception for espionage purposes). It was a nice selection, aiming at creating the maximum of prejudice against all the accused by the inclusion of former Horthyist Army and police officers, and personifying in the accused all the required propaganda points of the Hungarian government’s policy — that is, relations with the West, attitude to Tito and the Social-Democrats in the so-called Workers Party and so forth. Amalgams of this nature are part of the stage management. It is only necessary to recall Bukharin’s words at the third Moscow Trial, when he pointed out that he had never in his life even seen some of the accused together with him in the dock, to understand the purely arbitrary nature of these amalgams, and consequently the purely imaginary nature of the ‘conspiracy’ between the accused. It is a favourite trick to throw in with the political ‘criminals’ a non-political person of dubious background. One cannot help thinking that Zinoviev, too, was drawing attention to this in the first Moscow Trial, when in his final plea he made use of the following words, evocative of another trial and execution: ‘I felt and understood that my name will be associated with the names of those who stood beside me. On my right hand Olberg, on my left — Nathan Lurye...’ (Trial I, p 171)
So they did not forget at the Rajk trial to throw in a couple of officers who had served the Horthy regime.
Another striking example of the appeal to prejudice is seen in the prosecution’s final series of questions to Rajk, serving to elicit the fact that he was of German origin. This is the only point where Rajk departed from the unemotional, matter-of-fact tone in which he delivered his prepared speeches at the trial. Even the official report notes that he was ‘irritated’ when he was pressed until he gave the information that his grandfather wrote his name as Reich. One is reminded of the Nazis’ disgusting racialism. This appeal to anti-German sentiment, to the most retrograde instincts of a section of the Hungarian people, typifies the Stalinists’ lack of scruples. They shrink from no vulgarity that may serve to bias the less instructed members of a community against those they wish to destroy.
The Rajk trial ended with death sentences for the Stalinists Rajk, Szonyi and Szalai; with life imprisonment for Justus, the Social-Democrat, and Brankov, formerly chargé-d'affaires at the Yugoslav Legation in Hungary; and nine years for Ognjenovich, Secretary to the Federation of South Slavs. The ex-Horthy officers, Pálffy and Korondy, were handed over to a military court, duly sentenced and executed.
Thus, by the sacrifice of Rajk, Szonyi and Szalai from among the Hungarian Communist leaders, the suspicions of the Kremlin were lulled, its anger at Tito’s treachery appeased — for the time being.
1. The ‘treachery’ of the French party leaders, Marty and Tillon, had not then been ‘discovered’, otherwise Rajk would have confessed that Marty had arranged for him to get to Spain.
2. However, the Comintern journal International Press Correspondence (Volume 18, no 24, p 586) says: ‘One frequently finds cases of a Republican commander with a Socialist second in command, each coming from a different country. And yet there have never been political conflicts in the general staffs or in the units themselves.’ However, at that time every care was taken to cover up political conflicts, not to admit that they existed.