Joseph Hansen

How Stalin’s Secret Police Expose
Their Hand in Latest Propaganda

(7 September 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 36, 7 September 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.

Joseph E. Davies, wealthy capitalist assigned by the Roosevelt administration as ambassador to Moscow, lauds The Great Conspiracy as a “very valuable” book. He endorses it as “exhaustive, authentic and fully documented.”

This is the technique used by capitalist advertising agencies in peddling a product: “Chew Barnyard Plug Tobacco. Exhaustive, authentic and fully a mouthload!” Get a public figure to vouch that he knows from personal experience it’s really true. The advertising agency operates on the theory that no matter what junk went into the product you can sell it to a gullible public if you just use the right slogan and get the right endorsement.

Hailed Frame-Ups

The worth of Davies’ endorsement can be judged from the fact that his own book, Mission to Moscow, hailed Stalin’s frame-up trials and applauded the murder of Lenin’s general staff of the socialist revolution. When Mission to Moscow was made into a film, a group of liberals headed by the venerable philosopher and educator, John Dewey, protested its lies. The Stalinists tried to brazen it out by defending these lies on the grounds of the “license” generally permitted artists!

The Great Conspiracy was composed with the same type of “license.” Last week we cited a number of instances where the Kremlin lie machine repeated long-ago exploded lies, the “documentary” source being nothing but the unsupported “confessions” wrung from the victims of the GPU in the Moscow frame-up trials.

The lie machine likewise exposed its hand by conveniently overlooking any exposures of the GPU murder machine. Thus this “exhaustive” work does not tell how the GPU machine-gunned one of its operators, Ignace Reiss, on September 4, 1937. Nor does it tell how he was led into a trap by another GPU agent, Gertrud Schildbach. It does not mention that his “crime” was breaking from the Stalinist regime, debouncing the Moscow frame-up trials, and calling on all genuine defenders of the Soviet Union to “save socialism” from the butcher in the Kremlin.

More Silence

This “exhaustive” work does not describe the mysterious circumstances of Leon Sedov’s death. It is silent about the GPU agents who trailed him, rented apartments next to him, and missed assassinating him on at least one occasion solely by accident.

This “exhaustive” work does not recount the kidnapping of Rudolph Klement, secretary of the Fourth International, in 1938. It does not tell how letters forged with Klement’s signature were sent to Trotsky – letters modelled on the pattern of the “confessions” in the Moscow frame-up trials. Nor does it tell how Klement’s body was found floating in the Seine river, head missing. The GPU does not care for too much publicity on jobs like that.

Likewise strangely missing from this book that pretends to be “exhaustive” is the May 24, 1940, assault on Leon Trotsky and his wife, Natalia. The reason is only too obvious. The machine-gun artists were apprehended by the Mexican police. They proved to be members or sympathizers of the Mexican Communist (Stalinist) Party. The gang of murderers was headed by David Alfaro Siqueiros, who recently applied for admission to the Mexican CP. Siqueiros confessed the assault.

Also missing are the facts about the murder of Robert Sheldon Harte. The Siqueiros gang kidnapped this young American Trotskyist, on guard the night of the 24 assault, took him up into the mountains, shot him in the head and through the temple and buried him in a shallow grave packed with lime.

Quote Jacson

The Great Conspiracy “overlooks” this job of the GPU, where Stalin’s hand was exposed to the light of day, because the authors, Sayers and Kahn, have a “line” on Trotsky’s assassination. To talk about the May 24 assault would contradict this “line.” The version they present of the murder of Trotsky is the version of the GPU assassin, Jacson.

They quote Jacson with sympathy. They present him in a favorable light. They document their story of Trotsky’s assassination with judiciously selected quotations from the murderer.

This is a typical instance of the way Sayers and Kahn set “the record straight.”

The Great Conspiracy is not a unique book. It falls into the foulest type of propaganda known – the propaganda of a counter-revolution that sets out to dirty the names of the great leaders in the preceding revolution. In the counter-revolution that followed the French revolution, for instance, the Jacobins were slandered as “agents” of the enemies of France. The principal task of The Great Conspiracy is to dirty the name of Leon Trotsky and to smear his followers as “fascists.”

In the second chapter of this book, brief mention is made of the campaign carried on by “American newspapers” against Lenin and “his associates.” The “Soviet leaders,” says the book, “were being universally denounced ... as ‘paid agents’ of the Germans. ‘Butchers,’ ‘assassins and madmen,’ ‘blood-intoxicated criminals,’ and ‘human scum.’ ” This campaign was waged against Lenin and Trotsky, a fact not mentioned by Sayers and Kahn.

Old Trick

But this was not the first campaign of this type. In the summer of 1917, the Kerensky government accused Lenin and Trotsky of being “German agents.” Trotsky was even thrown in prison by Kerensky on this lying charge. Kerensky cooked up “documents” to “prove” the charge in order to make the frame-up stick. Only the rise of the revolutionary workers saved the Bolsheviks.

It turned out that Kerensky was a rank amateur in this foul business of slandering the Bolsheviks, however. Stalin utilized the same technique on a far greater scale, slandering Trotsky as an agent of British capitalism, French capitalism, Wall Street, or Hitler, depending on the needs of his foreign policy.

Vyshinsky, the Kremlin prosecutor, slandered Lenin’s comrades in language that makes the 1918 American newspaper campaign sound like a Sunday School Teacher at work. The Great Conspiracy is simply the latest product of this lie machine. Its central theme is the same as that of the American newspapers in 1918, and Kerensky in 1917 – that ‘Trotsky was an agent of German imperialism.

In the attempt to link Trotskyism with “fascism,” the authors go to extraordinary lengths. “Even after Trotsky’s death,” they say, “the Fourth International continued to carry on its Fifth Column activities.” What “Fifth Column” activities?

“In Great Britain, in April 1944,” answer the authors, “Scotland Yard and police officials raided the Trotskyite headquarters in London, Glasgow, Wallsend and Nottingham, after discovering that Trotskyites were fomenting strikes throughout the country in an attempt to disrupt the British war effort.”

Supported Workers

The facts are different. The British Trotskyists were not “fomenting” strikes, as the red-baiters claimed when strikes swept Britain, although they supported all workers’ struggles.

The British Trotskyists opposed the war and advocated socialism. That is why the Churchill regime arrested them and threw them in prison. The British Stalinists meanwhile loyally supported the Churchill regime and opposed strikes.

“In the United States, on December 1, 1941,” continue Sayers and Kahn, “eighteen leading American Trotskyites were found guilty in a Federal District Court in Minneapolis of conspiring to undermine the loyalty and discipline of American Soldiers and sailors.

“Convicted along with Trotsky’s lawyer, Albert Goldman, were James P. Cannon, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party (the name under which the Trotsky movement operated in the United States); Felix Morrow, the editor of the Trotskyite newspaper, the Militant; Jake Cooper, one of Trotsky’s former bodyguards in Mexico, and fourteen other leading members of the American Trotskyite movement. They received prison sentences ranging from a year and a day to sixteen months.”

These declarations are sandwiched into a whole mass of material about fascists, Adolph Hitler, Martin Dies, the Gestapo, postwar Fifth Column, and such items as: “This formation of groups of red terrorists is Himmler’s most recent policy, aimed at creating a fourth international, amply contaminated by Nazi germs.”

Minneapolis Case

The true story is quite different from the impression Sayers and Kahn seek to create. The leaders and members of the Socialist Workers Party were railroaded to prison for opposing imperialist war and for advocating socialism. They were accused among other things of seeking to emulate “the Russian Revolution of 1917.” Included in the evidence were books by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky – and the Communist Manifesto of 1848 which was burned by Hitler’s regime and banned by Mussolini and the Mikado.

The American Civil Liberties Union, The Nation, PM were among the liberal organizations and newspapers that denounced the prosecution. The trade union movement from coast to coast considered it the outstanding labor case of the war. Organizations representing more than 5,000,000 members came to the defense of the Minneapolis prisoners.

The Stalinists under Earl Browder joined reaction in gloating over the imprisonment of the Trotskyists, The Stalinists were busy making the no-strike pledge, breaking strikes where they could, and backing Wall Street. But Earl Browder’s line on the Minneapolis case was not peculiar to him. That line originated in the Kremlin. The fact that Browder’s wartime slander of the Minneapolis defendants is repeated by Sayers and Kahn is proof enough of that.

The Militant likewise gets a heavy forkful of filth thrown in its direction by The Great Conspiracy. During the war, the Roosevelt Administration tried to bar The Militant from the mails for its uncompromising opposition to imperialist war and its advocacy of socialism. Sayers and Kahn present this persecution of The Militant as part of the “documentary” evidence.

The Great Conspiracy repeats one of the dirtiest charges of the Moscow frame-up trials against Trotsky.

“It was Alfred Rosenberg,” says Sayers and Kahn, “the one-time Czarist emigre from Reval, who first established secret official Nazi relations with Leon Trotsky. It was Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy, who cemented them ...”

The Great Conspiracy claims all its charges are based on “carefully documented evidence.” If this is so, why has the Allied prosecution been silent about this “evidence” throughout the ten months of the Nuremberg trial? Hess was in the dock. Rudenko, the Stalinist prosecutor, faced him. Yet not one of the charges levelled in the Moscow frame-up trials and repeated by Sayers and Kahn was brought up at Nuremberg!

Natalia Trotsky, the widow of Leon Trotsky, demanded that her attorney be permitted to question Hess and the other Nazi prisoners about these slanderous charges. No response was made to her demand.

A wide group of liberal and labor figures in England, America and other countries likewise demanded the Moscow trials be brought up at Nuremberg. Among those making this demand were H.G. Wells and Norman Thomas. This demand likewise was ignored.

Does it take much intelligence to conclude that The Great Conspiracy was intended to cover up the Kremlin’s inability to drag the Moscow frame-up charges into the court at Nuremberg?

(This ends the series on the Moscow Trials and their significance)


Last updated on: 18 June 2021