C.L.R. James

The Second Moscow Trial
[Part I]

(February 1937)

Source: Fight, 1, no. 4, February 1937, pp. 4–5.
Transcribed: by Christian Høgsbjerg.
Marked up for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

IN 1934, Kirov was assassinated. White Guards were at first said to be instrumental in it, and the Latvian Consul was implicated. But after a matter of six weeks, Zinoviev and Kamenev were found to be “indirectly” responsible, and Trotsky was brought in through a mysterious letter, though like a number of letters that Trotsky was later supposed to have written, this one was never produced.

Over a hundred communists were shot as a result of that assassination, Zinoviev and Kamenev sent into exile in Siberia, and a great “purge” throughout the country took place, which meant more shooting and imprisonment of unknown men.

The trial in August “established” that Zinoviev and Kamenev were directly responsible for the shooting of Kirov, and that they planned to murder Stalin, Voroshilov and Kaganovich and then to seize power themselves. They had no political programme to put in the place of “Socialism in a Single Country,” they had no mass support, they could see that everybody loved Comrade Stalin’s socialism, but, stupid fellows, they had a “lust for power” which led them to terrorism. The attempt to frame-up Trotsky was sharper. He arranged the assassination of Kirov, and attempted the assassinations (over a period of four years with innumerable “agents” to do the job) of Stalin and Vorolishov. But these two bore charmed lives, they were always too far away or their cars went too fast. Trotsky plotted with the secret Nazi police. All this was “established” at the August trial, only no evidence was brought forward except the bare statements of the accused, which were extraordinary fragmentary, often completely contradictory, and easily proved to be the fabrications of the G.P.U. [For a profound and derailed analysis of the “evidence” and testimony in the August trial, we strongly recommend to our readers Behind the Moscow Trial – The Greatest Frame-up in History, by Max Shachtman]. Zinoviev and Kamenev were shot and n other prisoners with them. Tomsky, implicated in the trial, committed suicide. A further purge took place; more shootings, more imprisonments.

Now we have the present trial in which 13 more old revolutionaries, including Piatakov and Serebryakov have been murdered, and Sokolnikov and Radek and two lesser known revolutionaries imprisoned for ten years. The crimes put down to these men grow more extravagant. Not only terrorism now and working with the Gestapo, but working with Japan too, promising to give away large portions of territory at the end of the war, plotting with these enemies of the Soviet Union. These men with their long history as revolutionaries, what was it to them to help in the plans of a new imperialist slaughter to which the blood bath of 1914 would not compare? Nothing at all! To prove that, they are responsible for train wrecks (the Daily Worker tells you all about maimed girls and children they tried to murder) for industrial catastrophes, for ruined crops. Trotsky, of course, is the greatest monster of all. But we have no reasonable motive except “lust for power.” Yet it is well to note that among the accused in these trials, there is not to be found a single former kulak, manufacturer, banker, Czarist, White Guard, Menshevik, Social Revolutionary, anarchist, or any other one-time opponent of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet regime. All of them, except of course the obvious G.P.U. agents, were tried old Bolsheviks.

The purge going on is more far-reaching than before. Everywhere according to the testimony of the Soviet press itself, in every big town, in every agricultural area, in big factories, in all industries, Trotskyists exist. Trotskyism has been liquidated “finally and irrevocably,” as “finally and irrevocably” as Socialism has been established time without number since Trotsky was expelled in 1927. A classless Society exists, according to the official reports, everyone is “happy and joyous” and singing anthems of praise to Stalin, yet everywhere the purge has to go on; more shootings and more imprisonments. And this is not the end. Further frame-ups are being prepared. Bucharin and General Putna – and literally hundreds of lesser known communists – are now under arrest. Any breath of criticism against the system is Trotskyism, is terrorism. This state of affairs is what these shameless bureaucrats of the Soviet Union and their hirelings in the Comintern have the impudence to call socialism. The trial is an indictment not of the socialist system but of the rottenness of the regime of the Soviet bureaucrats. The wide discontent of the masses has been laid bare before the whole world.

The Daily Worker, brazen as ever, says the trial is a blow for peace, for socialism and democracy. For Peace! By the trial and its attendant terrorism, Stalin attempts to wipe out in the Soviet Union any possible rallying centre for working class international action during the next war. That war for him is a war of national defence. He will keep faith with his imperialist allies, and no revolutionary flag will be borne on the bayonets of the Russian army.

Trotskyism stands for world revolution. It is the chief enemy to-day for the bourgeoisie and for the betraying Third International. “Turn imperialist war into civil war.” The Trotskyists alone raise Lenin’s slogan.

The brazen slanderers of the Comintern call Trotsky Fascist, Trotskyists, agents of Fascism. They bring forward no proof in their mock trials, because there is no proof. They know the true revolutionary character of Trotsky’s writing and teaching. But they have to cover up their own vile treachery to the working class, and the further they go along the counter-revolutionary path, the louder they howl against Trotsky, the dirtier the slanders they hurl against him.

They call Trotsky Fascist. They who in the U.S.A. are ready to ally themselves to “sprouting Fascists,” in France with “all sincere Frenchmen” including the Croix de Feu and the National Volunteers, in Italy with the “Old Guard” as well as young Fascists.

The betrayal of the working class can only be done by the working class leaders. In 1914, the bourgeoisie used the Social Democracy. In the coming war, their chief manipulators will be the Communist Party leaders.

Every article in the Daily Worker on the trial ended with an incitement against Trotsky and Trotskyists. Trotsky’s life is in danger from the official communists. We here are prepared for them to attempt the persecution of our comrades. They have done it elsewhere, they will do it here. In Spain today, with lies and slander and demagogy, they incite the workers to shoot the revolutionary fighters of P.O.U.M.

The trials are a pledge from the Stalinists to the bourgeoisie of their good faith as allies in the coming war.

As soon as we have the official account of the trial we shall publish a detailed analysis. Unless one uses their own documents the Stalinists can always escape exposure by denial.

Last updated on 11 March 2017