Joseph Hansen

How Stalin Shocked Entire World
with the First Moscow Frameup

(15 June 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. X No. 24, 15 June 1946, p. 7.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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(Fourth in the series of articles on Stalin’s Moscow Frame-up Trials and their significance.)

As the nets of Stalin’s GPU dragged tens of thousands of innocent victims to prisons and concentration camps following the assassination of Kirov In 1934, Leon Trotsky foresaw that Stalin would utilize this death for new and still more horrible crimes against the generation of the October 1917 revolution.

On January 26, 1935, just eight days after Zinoviev had been condemned to 10 years and Kamenev to 5 years imprisonment for “moral” responsibility in Kirov’s death, Trotsky from his exile in France warned:

“The strategy developed around Kirov’s corpse won Stalin no great laurels. But just for this reason he can neither stop nor retreat. Stalin will have to cover up the misbegotten amalgam by new, more extensive and ... more successful amalgams. We must meet them well armed!”

This prediction was confirmed to the hilt. Within 18 months Stalin took the lives of Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 others in a frameup that shocked the entire world working class.

Fourth Trial

By July 1935, another trial, the fourth in the series, was held over the death of Kirov. It was staged in such rigorous secrecy that its circumstances remain a sinister mystery to this day. According to one report, out of 38 defendants, two were sentenced to death and shot: Kamenev’s previous 5 year sentence was stretched to 10 years. But outside of Kamenev the names of the unfortunate victims are still buried in the files of the Kremlin. The charges are unknown. The denials or “confessions” of the defendants are a state secret.

Basing his conclusion on information seeping from the concentration camps in the Soviet Union, Trotsky declared that this “trial was especially organized in order to educate Kamenev for the next trial and to break his backbone ...”

By the summer of 1936 the actors in the tragic drama were thoroughly rehearsed in their roles. On August 15 the press reported that Andrei Vyshinsky, prosecutor for the state, had arraigned 16 defendants, among them Zinoviev, Kamenev, I.N. Smirnov and other former leading Bolsheviks.

World Incredulous

An incredulous world blinked at the charges – conspiring with the Nazi regime to murder seven prominent Soviet officials; and direct participation in the assassination of Kirov!

Every thinking person asked himself in astonishment, how could leading Bolsheviks end up like that? Observers who had been following events in the Soviet Union recalled that already in the Kirov case a number of alleged White Guards had been shot. The confessed assassin had been tried and shot. The GPU officials involved had been tried and sentenced. And the Soviet courts had already declared no evidence implicated either Zinoviev or Kamenev directly in the death of Kirov.

Moreover, how could Smirnov be guilty? For 40 years he had been a Bolshevik. He was the inspirer of the Fifth Red Army that fought Kolchak during the Civil War. The Soviet masses knew him as the “Lenin of Siberia.” But in addition it was physically impossible for him to be guilty of such charges. Smirnov had been held in Stalinist prisons since 1932 – before the Hitler regime seized power! Universal suspicion centered on Stalin. Was a frameup involved? The Labor and Socialist International and the International Federation of Trade Unions cabled a demand that defending counsel be provided “who are absolutely independent of the government” and that “no death sentence shall be promulgated ...”

Stalin’s Answer

Stalin gave a typical answer to this reasonable request. The trial opened August 19. Five days later the verdict was read. Within 24 hours the press announced the defendants had been executed!

The Stalinist machine and its apologists claimed this precipitate haste resulted from the damning character of the evidence. But the truth was that Stalin rushed the frame-up through and murdered the defendants in this summary fashion because they were innocent.

Not a shred of genuine evidence was produced by the prosecutor. The defendants unanimously “confessed” crimes that were utterly incredible. These “confessions” bristled with glaring contradictions. The frame- up could not stand the slightest examination. The GPU had botched the job from beginning to end. That was why Stalin hastened to shoot his victims before a wide protest movement could get under way to save them and clarify their enigmatic “confessions.”

The world waited eagerly to hear how Leon Trotsky would respond to the monstrous charges levelled by the Stalinist prosecutor. Trotsky, more than any other single individual, was capable of exposing all the lies in the “confessions” of the defendants. Moreover, the Stalinist frameup machine had dragged in his name and that of his son, Sedov, as the principal defendants.

Trotsky Hounded

Stalin was panic-stricken by what Trotsky might say. To silence Trotsky’s embarrassing questions and exposures, the Stalinist machine put pressure on the shipowners and their government in Norway where the hounded revolutionary leader had found temporary refuge. The Norwegian capitalist government conceded to Stalin. Trotsky and his wife were placed under tight police surveillance, his secretaries deported. All incoming and outgoing mall was censored. Trotsky was cynically prohibited by the Norwegian “democrats” from answering the charges levelled at him in Moscow or from even taking court action against his detainers!

Stalin’s purpose in framing up Trotsky and at the same time silencing his voice was not difficult to fathom. The Stalinist regime, profoundly hated by the Soviet masses, lived in deadly fear of the program of revolutionary socialism represented by Trotsky. By smearing Trotsky as a “fascist,” a “murderer,” etc., Stalin sought to make his reactionary struggle against Trotsky’s program easier.

Stalin wished at the same time to give the capitalists of the world a demonstration of how thoroughly he had broken with Lenin’s tradition. Rising unrest in Europe had alarmed the capitalists with the specter of the workers taking power in other countries besides the Soviet Union. The French workers faced a revolutionary situation and in Spain the revolution had reached the stage of open civil war. By shooting Lenin’s general staff and slandering Trotsky with the vilest charges possible, Stalin hoped to gain the good will of the Anglo-French-American capitalists. He wanted to prove decisively that he had no intention of leading the socialist revolution in Spain, France, or anywhere else!

A few random phrases from Vyshinsky’s lips will indicate the type of charges levelled against the defendants:

“These mad dogs of capitalism tried to tear limb from limb the best of the best of our Soviet land .... criminal madmen ... traitors, murderers and bandits ... liars and clowns, insignificant pygmies, little dogs snarling at an elephant, this is what this gang represents! ... Not political figures, but a gang of murderers and criminals, thieves who tried to rob the state, this is what this gang represents!”

Lenin’s Comrades

More than one commentator observed that the men suffering this abuse were once Lenin’s comrades, while their defamer was a Menshevik on the other side of the barricades in the early critical days of the workers’ state.

Stalin never published a complete transcript of the trial of the 16. A great deal of the testimony is summarized by the Stalinist editorial hand in a few cryptic phrases. At times it appears that some of the defendants were deliberately trying to give the show away. But what Stalin did publish was sufficient to blow the whole trial sky high. For buried in the mass of wild vituperation, cries for lynch justice, breast beating, cursing of Trotsky and hallelujahs to Stalin, were some bits of “evidence” that became irrefutable proof of the frameup character of the trial.

Next week we will tell how this evidence exposed the frameup.

(To be continued)


Last updated on: 22 December 2018