Joseph Hansen

How the Third Big Frameup Trial
Exposed Stalin’s Gangster Regime

(24 August 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 34, 24 August 1946, p. 7.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2021 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2021. This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

(Thirteenth in a series on the Moscow Trials and their significance)

If it is possible to reach an absurdity in mud-slinging, lies, slander, bloodshed and horror, Stalin achieved it in the frame-up trial of Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky, Krestinsky, Yagoda, and the others on March 2–13, 1938.

In the dock of victims sat no less than eight former Soviet ministers, not counting Trotsky who was exiled in Mexico.

“After the death of Lenin,” Trotsky told the press, “Rykov was the official head of the government for more than five years. From 1918 Bukharin was the editor of the central organ of the Party, Pravda, and from 1926 the official head of the Communist International. Later, after his fall into disfavor, he became the editor of Izvestia. Rakovsky was the head of the Ukrainian government and later ambassador to London and Paris. Krestinsky, the predecessor of Stalin as secretary of the Central Committee of the party, was afterward ambassador to Berlin for several years. For almost all of the last ten years Yagoda stood at the head of the GPU as Stalin’s most trusted henchman and cooked up the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial in its entirety. In the list of the accused there are no fewer than six former members of the Central government. Of the nine people who were members of the Political Bureau during Lenin’s lifetime, i.e., actual rulers of the fate of the USSR, there remains only one unaccused, Stalin.”

World Is Shocked

The entire world drew back from the charges in amazement. “The chief line of the wreckers in the sphere of finances ...” said the former White Guard Vyshinsky, become Stalin’s prosecuting attorney, “was ‘to strike at the Soviet government with the Soviet ruble’ ... Wrecking in the financial sphere spread to various branches of economy. In agriculture, which is of tremendous importance to the USSR, the wrecking work was designed as far as possible to frustrate the task set by the Party and the government of achieving a harvest of seven to eight billion poods.” Fantastic? It’s only the beginning.

“Grinko,” continued Vishinsky, “has mentioned the wrecking work he performed in the sphere of taxation and in the savings banks, where he tried in every way to incense the public.” It is on charges such as this that the defendants were condemned and shot.

Vyshinsky accused the victims in the dock of deliberately setting out “to disrupt horse-breeding.” On top of this “they deliberately infected pigs with erysipelas and the plague,” he said.

You wonder how Stalin could expect people to believe that? Listen to these charges of Vyshinsky:

“Take Zelensky. I shall only refer here to the most abominable practice of mixing glass and nails with foodstuffs, butter in particular, which hit at the most vital interests, the health and lives of our population. Glass and nails in butter! This is so monstrous a crime that, in my opinion, all other crimes of the kind pale before it.”

Vyshinsky continued:

“It is now clear why there are interruptions of supplies here and there, why, with our riches and abundance of products, there is a shortage first of one thing, then of another. It is these traitors who are responsible for it.”

With those words Vyshinsky revealed the real purpose of the frame-up — to divert public wrath over breakdowns and shortages away from the Stalin regime to the scapegoats in the dock.
 To Divert Public Wrath

Operating on the theory that if you throw enough mud some is bound to stick, Vyshinsky accused the victims of having poisoned the great author Maxim Gorky, who died in 1936. Yagoda confessed to this crime.

Coming directly after the long investigation of the Dewey Commission into the first two trials, this new lurid trial served only to underline the Commission’s findings that the defendants were victims of a frame-up. It was not necessary to launch an extensive investigation into this trial. No one took it as genuine. The only ones who tried to defend it were the pen prostitutes on Stalin’s payroll or Wall Street diplomats given the official assignment of pandering to Stalin.

Same Frame-Up Pattern

The trial developed along the same basic pattern as the previous frame-ups. In the dock sat well known Bolsheviks who had capitulated to Stalin. The only difference between them and previous Stalinists in the dock was the fact — that except Rakovsky — they had capitulated earlier, had been with Stalin longer, and had had even less to do with Trotskyism than previous defendants. Bukharin, for instance, had been with Stalin throughout the fight against the Left Opposition.

As in the previous trials, the frame-up juts out at every point in the “confessions” of the victims.

When Bukharin made his final plea, he denied so many specific charges that he blew the frame-up skyhigh. He spoke with wry irony: “I further consider myself responsible both politically and legally for wrecking activities, although I personally do not remember having given directions about wrecking activities.” Bukharin declared he had not plotted as charged, and that he had never even heard of some of the defendants until he read their names in the indictment.

Shot After “Confession”

In explaining “how I came to realize the necessity of capitulating to the investigating authorities and to you, Citizens Judges,” after a year in prison, Bukharin declared: “One must be a Trotsky not to lay down one’s arms.”

After he had laid down his arms and “confessed” the glory of Stalin, Bukharin naturally was led out and shot.

Rakovsky, an old man, who had devoted his entire life to the cause of the working class, said bitterly:

“What would it matter for the substance of the case if I should attempt to establish here before you the fact that I learned of many of the crimes and of the most appalling crimes of the ‘bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’ here in Court, and that it was here that I first met some of the, participants? ... Like a galley-slave fettered to his galley, I am fettered to the ‘bloc of Rights and Trotskyites ...’”

The Stalinist judge sentenced Rakovsky to 20 years in prison. He has disappeared since then, but his words remain in the official court record, forever condemning the Stalin regime:

“The question which arises ... is ... how former members of the Central Committee, former members of the government, former ambassadors have ended up here. What form of insanity brought them to this dock of political infamy ... Yes, it was raving, real raving, the ravings of a madman ...” cried out Rakovsky.

As in the previous trials, agents of the GPU sat among the victims selected to confess crimes. But their importance had increased. The head of the GPU, Yagoda himself, had ended in the dock. Few people had proved more faithful to Stalin. For ten years he had acted as a butcher for Stalin. He had organized the previous frame-ups and executed Lenin’s comrades on order of Stalin.

Now Yagoda confessed that in the GPU arsenal was a poison cabinet and that poisons had been used to end the lives of prominent individuals in the USSR. Stalin hesitates at nothing.

The revelations about this poison cabinet added weight to a conviction long held by Trotsky that Stalin in his drive for power had poisoned Lenin.

Stalin rewarded Yagoda’s faithful services by putting a bullet through his head.

Just as fatal flaws had showed up in the previous trials, so they inevitably turned up in this one too. Bessonov confessed he got a letter “written in December, 1936, by Krestinsky to Trotsky.” This letter, according to Bessonov, “was passed on by me. In a few days I received a reply from Trotsky.” Naturally this letter was not produced in court any more than any of the other “let ters” mentioned in previous trials.

Bessonov’s “confession” was proved a lie in short order. The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet checked up with the Norwegian authorities. From September to December 19, Trotsky had been held incommunicado by the Norwegian police. They had censored every item directed to Trotsky; even holding up the manuscript of his book, The Revolution Betrayed. On December 19, the Norwegian police put him on a tanker and a police officer accompanied the exile and his wife Natalia to Mexico. This officer who was chief of police by the time of the Bukharin trial, declared Trotsky could not possibly have received any communication from Bessonov or replied to it.

That didn’t save Bessonov. He got a sentence of 15 years.

The worst blunder of all in the frame-up was the “confession” of Krestinsky that “Trotsky came to Merano (Italy) about October 10 (1933) together with Sedov” for a conspirative meeting. This error in the GPU frameup was on par with the one about meeting Sedov in the non-existent Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen, or flying to Oslo in an airplane that never landed.

The Dewey Commission had already established that Trotsky was near the border of Spain on October 9 under the surveillance of the French police. Apparently the GPU got mixed up in its geography and thought the Pyrenees were between France and Italy. So the GPU claimed Trotsky was in Italy precisely at the time Trotsky was at least 600 miles away as the crow flies!

Proof of this brazen and stupid lie of course did not save Krestinsky. Stalin had him shot.

And the Daily Worker blindly and stupidly repeated the GPU lie. Harry Gannes spoke learnedly about how Trotsky’s living at that time in the Pyrenees “brought him near to the Franco-Italian border.”

Just as the previous trials had gone back years to re-write history so the GPU went back in this trial. They returned to 1918 and claimed that Trotsky, the head of the Red Army, was in a plot with Bukharin to do away with Lenin!

This charge was levelled by Vyshinsky who was fighting with the White Guards against the Soviet Union at that time.

Vyshinsky even went back to 1909 to try and make out that Bukharin had always been a plotter. Yet Lenin in his last testament in December 1922 had called Bukharin the party’s “best theoretician” and “the favorite of the whole party.”

The Bukharin trial was another indication of how thoroughly Stalin was undermining the defense of the Soviet Union. As the last members of Lenin’s general staff of revolution walked off the stage of the frame-up trial to face Stalin’s executioners, Hitler’s legions poured into Austria. The Nazi war machine was already inching toward the borders of the Soviet Union.


Last updated on: 18 June 2021