Hal Draper

Use Rajk Confession Trial to Smear Tito
as Agent of Western Imperialism

(26 September 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 39, 26 September 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The rather crudely staged trial of Laszlo Rajk in Budapest, aping the the performances in Moscow under Vishinsky with the skill of a high school adaptation of a Broadway play, has been held solely for the purpose of “proving” and dramatizing the Cominform’s main propaganda line against Tito. But the main thing it proves is that Moscow’s fear of the spread of Titoism in East Europe is at a new high level.

It was with this consideration in mind that we pointed out, four weeks ago in Labor Action, that the Rajk trial would be used for the purpose of tying Tito up with the capitalist West. Rajk was arrested June 18 and has been kept on ice since then, with no information vouchsafed on the case against him till this past week. The success scored by the Yugoslavs in gaining economic aid from the U.S., however, has had – without doubt – an impact upon sections of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the other satellites ... Moscow’s concern at this development and its recent violent denunciations are aimed not only at the Yugoslavs – indeed, perhaps not so much at the Yugoslavs – as at shaken elements in these other satellites.

And the Cominform-Russian counter-propaganda line, ever since the split, has been: Any break with Russia automatically means submission to Western capitalist imperialism. The Subtlest variation of this line is: Tito will be forced to become an agent of Wall Street. The crudest variation is: Tito has been an agent of Wall Street all along. The Rajk trial is pretty crude, as we have noted.

Bank on Anti-Capitalism

The Cominform press and radio have lost no time in putting the trial to the use for which it was intended. The Bulgarian press has seized the occasion to declare that “the meaning of the wide espionage and provocation which Yugoslav agents have been trying to develop in Albania, Rumania. Poland, Bulgaria and particularly in Hungary has now become quite clear ... behind Rajk and Tito stand American imperialists.”

This is simply another way of saying: “Don’t listen so sympathetically to the blandishing arguments of the Titoist supporters in our own ranks. Maybe you think Titoism is OK,,but remember that Titoism means alliance with Wall Street.”

The whole propaganda force of the Rajk trial depends upon understanding one thing which is systematically glossed over in the West but which independent socialists have stressed. It is that much as anti-Russian workers in the satellites hate and fear Moscow, by and large they have no use for the alternative power bloc in the world led by U.S. capitalism. Indeed, Moscow’s propaganda depends upon convincing them that the only alternative to going back to the old discredited system is submission to Stalinism, and that no third road is possible – neither Tito’s nor that of independent socialist revolutionary struggle.

Therefore the Stalinist press considers that the main way of discrediting Titoism is to tar its name with Churchill, Dulles et al. Rajk and Tito become men “who have long been the paid agents of foreign intelligence services.” Says Pravda of September 17: “The guiding center of the conspiracy is beyond the ocean, in the United States. The conductor of all plans and tasks of this center is the Yugoslav fascist clique of Tito. Ruling American and British circles gave the central role to the bourgeois nationalists of the Tito clique.”

Purges Ahead

The Western press consistently tries to convey the impression that the people behind the Iron Curtain, groaning under the Stalinist dictatorships, look with longing eyes to the West. If this were indeed so, the line of the Rajk trial and of Cominform propaganda could only be considered a piece of gigantic stupidity, playing into the hands of Washington and London. Why should the Cominformers be so eager to proclaim to these people that the West has won over a whole country from “popular democracy,” thus encouraging them in their hopes? But the Rajk trial is a smear trial; any connection with world capitalism is a smear and not a bouquet – even in Eastern Europe, even among disaffected elements.

A period of purges is to be expected in Stalinland, we pointed out four weeks ago. The purge of Rajk dates back to last June but the present eight defendants have recently been increased to 32 as the net widened following the current Belgrade-Moscow flare-up. An interesting remark in Pravda of September 18 may point to Poland as the next arena for a pro-Cominform cleanup. (Pravda said that Poland was next on Tito’s infiltration list after Hungary.)

Or Czechoslovakia, where there have as yet been no prominent figures purged in spite of constant complaints of “opportunism” in the swollen CP, may be in line. The N.Y. Times’ roving European correspondent, Sulzberger, has been hinting broadly (without any details, unfortunately) that Albania’s No. 1, General Hodza, is on the skids. The recent purge of Kostov in Bulgaria may or may not be enough for that country for the nonce.

But purges there will be. These are the symptoms of the constant crises of Stalinism, which presents a facade of apparently monolithic solidity only to those who are easily impressed with the efficacy of the knout and whip.

How Stupid Can GPU Be?

Debunking the Rajk trial as a staged farce is the simplest aspect of the event. Laszlo Rajk, the chief defendant, was formerly deputy chief of the Hungarian CP. As minister of the interior (the government designation in all the satellites for the GPU bloodhound) from 1946 to April 1949, he was behind no one in ruthlessly purging any elements sympathetic to the West or antagonistic to the Russian power. From April to last June he was foreign minister, before he took the nosedive. This is the Stalinist hatchetman who confessed to being a police informer since 1933 and an agent of American and British intelligence.

Rajk’s own account of how he entered the latter’s service is as stupid a concoction as the choicer imbecilities in any of the Moscow Trials. An American lieutenant colonel, Kovach, according to his tale, learned that he was or had been a police informer and threatened to expose him unless he took orders. If he was already a police informer (well-known grade of rat), it is hard to see why he had to be threatened with exposure to bend him to the will of the OSS (which, by the way, was abolished in 1945).

But the richest element is the fact that a colonel in a newly arrived U.S. military mission was able to unmask him, while the Stalinist apparatus trusted him so highly that he was raised to the highest posts of the government. (“The Communists always believed me to be one of the best comrades,” he said.)

At the same time, he not only claimed to have been a police informer in Hungary but also an anti-Stalinist spy in the Spanish Civil War, an agent of the French in a French prison camp and an agent of the Gestapo during the German occupation of Hungary.

Spanish War Vets and Tito

The reference to the Spanish Civil War seems to be a growing motif in East European purges. Up to now a common characteristic shared by many purgees has been the fact that, instead of being imported cold from the Hotel Metropole on the gun carriages of the Russian army of occupation after the war, they were in many cases Stalinists who had fought against the Hitler occupation in their own countries. This was true not only of Tito but also of Kostov in Bulgaria, for example. This is also true of Rajk, significantly enough.

But the indictment drawn up against Rajk also makes a point of smearing not only the Yugoslav Titoist leaders in general but particularly those who participated in the Spanish war. The plot between Rajk and the Yugoslavs was hatched, according to the tale, in the French concentration camps where Spanish war veterans were held, and here it was that Rajk met the Yugoslavs Bebler, Goshnyak and others.

The Yugoslavs deny that their men so named were even in a concentration camp with Rajk, but M.S. Handler (in the Times for September 15) points up an exceedingly interesting aspect of the Yugoslav rebuttal on this matter:

“The [Yugoslav] resolution disclosed facts that had generally been ignored – namely, that the Spanish war veterans constituted the original cadres for the partisan army that was formed by Yugoslavia in the last war and that many of the most eminent positions of power in present-day Yugoslavia are occupied by these men.

“This assumed great significance in view of the fact that the principal victims in recent purges in Eastern European countries also were veterans of the international brigades in Spain and that elimination of these men from power in Eastern Europe has created the impression that the Soviet government wishes to remove anyone who has been exposed to Western society.”

The Titoists, of course, furthermore have denounced the entire Rajk proceedings as a tissue of “lies and forgery.” The twin resemblance between this trial and the Moscow Trial frame-ups naturally has not affected their denunciations. In fact, as former GPU experts themselves (as many of the Titoist leaders are, including Tito himself), it would not be at all surprising if we saw a confession trial in Belgrade before long. They have had two prominent actors ready at hand ever since the split: the two Yugoslav leaders who were purged and jailed before the split, Zujovic and Hebrang.

As far as we know, these two gentlemen are still in the land of the living and are not doing Tito any good in the cooler. This would be a trial of real subversive agents – both were without doubt the Cominform’s aces in the hole within the Tito regime – but it would still be interesting to read their prepared scripts.

Last updated on 28 August 2021