Joseph Hansen

Stalin’s New Blood Purge Recalls
Frameup Trials of Ten Years Ago

(20 July 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 29, 20 July 1946, p. 7.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2021 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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The present purge in the Soviet Union and the Balkan areas under Stalinist domination does not seem to have excited much surprise anywhere. Concentration camps, prisons, firing squads and the pickaxe to silence political opposition are now universally recognized as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Kremlin regime.

But a decade ago it had not yet become common knowledge that Stalin’s rule represents a complete break with the Marxist program and tradition of Lenin and Trotsky. Thus the second Moscow Frame-up Trial, like the first one, created a world-wide sensation. Only a few months before, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, Ter-Vaganyan, etc., after making the mistake of supporting Stalin’s faction, had received a bullet in the brain. Now a second group of Lenin’s comrades who had made the same mistake were headed for the GPU slaughter house.

Figures in Frame-Up

The Stalinist prosecutor, Vyshinsky, was a Menshevik during the Civil War days. Facing this former opponent of the Bolshevik regime were figures who had played a heroic role in founding the Soviet Union:

An incident in the life of defendant Drobnis exemplifies the background of these men. He was condemned to death twice by the White Guards during the Civil War. One time he was stood up before a firing squad and shot. The bullet did not prove fatal however. When the Red Army captured the town and examined the heap of corpses, they found Drobnis still alive. Stalin’s firing squad proved more efficient.

These men were accused of conspiring to bring back the capitalism they had helped overthrow, of plotting to kill Stalin and his associates and of betraying the workers’ state to Japanese and Nazi German imperialism. Alongside these world-famous former Bolsheviks were utterly unknown creatures of the GPU who were included as in the first trial, to bolster the frame-up and link the principal figures with Trotsky.

Trotskyists Understood

The general amazement at this new trial was not shared by the Trotskyists. They were not only prepared for another frame-up but one of their leaders, Walter Held, had even predicted its main outlines. Held was a German

Trotskyist whom the Nazis had pursued from country to country until like Trotsky he found exile in Norway. On September 30, 1936, shortly after the first Moscow trial, Held summarized the frame-up of Zinoviev, Kamenev and the rest as follows:

“Considered in the mirror of public opinion, the Moscow trial is a terrible fiasco. Not for nothing was the yesterday still omnipotent head of the GPU, Yagoda, degraded to the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. The task of his successor in the direction of the GPU, Yezhov, consists in staging new ‘attempts at assassination,’ ‘conspiracies,’ etc., in order the better to motivate the accusations against Trotsky. Undoubtedly efforts will be made to shift Trotsky’s ‘terroristic base of operations’ from Copenhagen to Oslo.”

The first frame-up blew up, it will be recalled, when it was proved that the Copenhagen Hotel Bristol, where defendant Holtzman “confessed” meeting Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov, had been torn down years before the alleged meeting.

Walter Held explained that:

“The reference to Copenhagen as the place where Trotsky met the ‘terrorists,’ one of the weakest points in this extraordinarily fantastic edifice, has meaning only as a parallel or a prelude to Oslo, that is, as a means of pressure and menace against the Norwegian government. No hundred percent success has been attained thus far. The task of the new chief of the GPU therefore consists in producing an Oslo-amalgam.”

Held’s prediction was, borne out the very first day of the second trial. On January 23,1937, Pyatakov “confessed” what was politically required by the Stalinist frame-up artists. While on a mission to Berlin for the Soviet government in the “first half of December 1935,” declared Pyatakov; “we got into an airplane and set off. We did not stop anywhere, and at approximately 3 p.m. we landed at the airdrome in Oslo.” From there he was whisked in an automobile “for about 30 minutes” and came to a “small house” and “there I saw Trotsky.”

A “Confession”

Pyatakoff “confessed” they talked “about two hours.” Trotsky “told me,” continued Pyatakov, “that he had conducted rather lengthy negotiations with the Vice-Chairman of the German National-Socialist Party – Hess.” In accordance with this “agreement” with Hess, Germany and Japan were to get economic and territorial concessions in the event of the defeat of the Soviet Union in war. Meanwhile Pyatakov was to return and start wrecking and murdering activities. And so, having been instructed, Pyatakov flew back to Berlin in the airplane.

How fantastic this confession sounded, can be judged from the fact that Pyatakov had been a loyal Stalinist and bitter opponent of Trotsky since 1928!

Trotsky from his Norway exile demanded that the prosecutor should cross-examine Pyatakov on his alleged airplane trip. What name did he use on his passport?

What happened at the customs? What hotel did he stay in after the alleged visit? And so on.

It would not take many answers on such specific points to expose the frame-up. Pyatakov, for instance, had already said it took 30 minutes to reach Trotsky’s house. Yet Trotsky lived about 45 miles from Oslo over difficult snow-bound roads that could not even be climbed without chains.

Naturally, Vyshinsky, who was closely adhering to the script prepared by the GPU for the frame-up, made no response whatever to these specific questions. His job was to cover up the frame-up, not expose it. The press however made an investigation in Oslo and discovered a most startling fact. No foreign airplane at all had landed at Oslo in the whole month of December!

Sensational News

This fact made such a sensation that virtually every newspaper outside the Soviet Union gave the story front-page prominence. On January 29, the Arbeiderbladet, organ of the Government Party in Norway, proved that no foreign airplane had landed at Kjeller airdrome “from September 1935 to May 1936.”

Pyatakov’s “confession” was thus exposed as a lie while the trial was still going on! Konrad Knudsen, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, wired Vyshinsky directly, calling his attention to the exposure which was being headlined throughout the world. Everyone waited to see how the prosecution would respond to the collapse of the frame-up. Would the defendants be freed?

Stalin, however, has his own way of reacting when caught red-handed. Trotsky told the press on January 29:

“I am very much afraid that the GPU will make haste to shoot Pyatakov in order to forestall further disconcerting questions and deprive the future international commission of inquiry of the opportunity to demand further clarification from Pyatakov.”

Trotsky proved correct. The very next day the trial was brought to a hasty close. And on February 1, two days after the wire to Vyshinsky, Pyatakov was precipitately killed. Dead men tell no tales.

But it was already too late. Pyatakov’s “confession” had become an indelible part of the record, unshakeable proof of the frame-up. Stalin liquidated Pyatakov but he could not liquidate the “confession” Pyatakov had made. The second Moscow trial had become another damning indictment of the Stalinist regime.

Explains Silence

In the light of these facts it is easy to see why the Stalinist prosecution at Nuremberg today has never so much as mentioned the slanderous charge about an alleged deal between Trotsky and the Nazis, although this constituted the principal accusation in the Moscow trials. Likewise it is easy to see why the Stalinist prosecution has remained silent about Natalia Trotsky’s demand that her attorney be permitted to cross-examine Rudolph Hess and the other Nazi defendants.

The Stalinists understand very well that such a cross-examination would only serve to call world attention once again to the innocence of Trotsky and the guilt of Stalin.


Last updated on: 18 June 2021