From Fourth International, Vol.2 No.10 (Whole No.17), December 1941.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
In the December number of The American Magazine an article appeared written by the ex-ambassador of the United States to the Soviet Union, entitled How Russia Blasted Hitler’s Spy Machine, designed to utilize the semi-official prestige of a member of the United States’ diplomatic corps to place a stamp of approval on the Moscow trials of 1936-38, the thousands of executions carried out without trial, and by inference the crimes committed abroad.
When a reader not well acquainted with this old issue stumbles across it again, he asks himself: Why was it necessary for a prominent American diplomat to take upon his shoulders the defense of Stalin who bears responsibility for the shooting of thousands of men ? Observant though a diplomat may be, the government which ordered the trials should have at its disposal much more material and a far greater abundance of proofs and facts to demonstrate its correctness. Instead of the semi-official prestige with which Mr. Davies sallies forth to break paper lances for Stalin, the latter could have himself ventured out through Soviet diplomatic channels. Neither the United States government nor the press which supports it would have the least objection to this since it is a question of learning from the dictator of the Kremlin how to exterminate the “Fifth Column.” Why does not Stalin himself or his government come forward to defend themselves in the American press ? For the very simple reason that no one would believe them. It was necessary to grant them a vote of confidence in the public forum through the intervention of a high functionary of the American government – a vote which would be equivalent to implying that the functionary expressed the tacit approval of the government itself. If Stalin’s defenders have had to offer the public a defense that is sugar-coated with American diplomacy, this only proves conclusively that from his own mouth, Stalin’s words completely lack credibility.
When, at the beginning of the German-Soviet war, Mr. Davies was asked about “fifth columnists” in Russia, he responded like a Merlin sure of his magic: “There aren’t any – they shot them.” Now imagine an ideal country where there
remains not a single Hitler agent, where, according to the official propaganda, nothing less than socialism reigns and which, to again quote the same propaganda, possesses the most powerful army in the world. Enter the brigands of Hitler – a dictator hated even in his own country, representative of a capitalist nation, whose stage of production is very inferior to that of socialism and, in less than four months, he occupies a zone greater than the territory of France, Spain and England together; in addition, this zone includes the most industrialized portion of the country and the area richest in food and natural resources. A priori, without analyzing the trials and assassinations of 1936-38, anyone would conclude: neither have they shot the fifth columnists in Russia nor has socialism been achieved.
By studying the trials and infamous purges more closely, one sees that this conclusion finds a basis in material evidence. Mr. Davies contributes no new data that would aid in understanding the trials, much less can he offer palpable proofs that were not presented at the trials. His sole contribution is – the confessions of the original defendants! But the truly amazing part, incredible for a layman, is precisely that despite so many defendants having confessed, the government that accused them could not present even the most insignificant scrap of material evidence. Not a letter, not a plan, not a document that would prove the connection of the accused with the Nazi or Japanese General Staff; not one authentic Hitler spy who was surprised in connivance with them. In no session was circumstantial or detailed evidence brought forth. The two “facts” that constituted the base of the main accusation, Piatakov’s trip by plane from Berlin to Oslo to receive instructions from Trotsky, and the interview of Holtzman with Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, in Copenhagen were revealed as false upon the first effort to investigate them. The Norwegian government declared that during the entire month mentioned by Piatakov, no foreign airplane arrived at the Kjeller airport, the only one near the city of Oslo; the interview of Holtzman with Leon Sedov in Copenhagen was no less spectacularly false. The accused “confessed” that it had been held in the lobby of the Hotel Bristol ... but this hotel was torn down in 1917. Documentary proof and other testimony exist and have been published in the reports of the John Dewey Commission. No one who pretends to arrive at an honest judgment about the Moscow trials has the right to disregard the work and findings of this commission. Trotsky publicly offered to deliver himself to the GPU if he was found guilty in the judgment of an impartial commission in which the Stalinists could be represented. The latter could not accept this challenge because they did not have an iota of proof in their hands nor was it possible to refute those proofs that have accumulated against them. Nor should Mr. Davies ignore the fact that the Soviet government refused passports to a French Social-Democratic Commission that wanted to go to the USSR in order to judge the validity of the trials. Among them were persons who today are under arrest by the Vichy government in response to Hitler’s pressure. Were these people also Nazi spies?
Like everyone else, Mr. Davies was convinced, until a few weeks ago, of the falseness of the trials. “We knew that Trotsky had a great many followers in Russia, and we regarded the treason trials as Stalin’s method of destroying his internal enemies,” he says in his article. He did not protest publicly, or perhaps he was happy at the shootings and purges, as were Hitler and Mussolini in their press, because the destruction of revolutionists is considered a boon by Mr. Davies’ co-thinkers. How then is he now able to convince himself suddenly of Stalin’s “amazing farsightedness” ? The “confessions” of the accused that speak in Stalin’s favor are the same today as four years ago. At that time, attending the sessions of the trial personally, observing the men that confessed, everything appeared to him to be a stratagem of Stalin’s to destroy his enemies; today, Mr. Davies casts a glance backwards and suddenly sees the contrary of the statement referred to above: “I watched the defendants’ faces, studied their conduct on the stand and I arrived at the conclusion that the state had unquestionably proved its case.” We must observe that the conclusions of a diplomacy with such slow reactions can only be taken with several grains of salt.
But let us grant for a moment that Mr. Davies has been finally convinced by Stalin after four long years. Stalin, then, has always spoken the truth and Trotsky was nothing but a spy and a chief of spies. Very well, Mr. Ambassador; you have forgotten that Trotsky has been accused by Stalin not only of having been sold to the German General Staff. Much more recently, until the eve of the Nazi attack on the USSR, Stalin accused Trotsky of being in the pay of Roosevelt and Churchill. These accusations are to be found by the score in the Daily Worker. The letter by Trotsky’s assassin, Jacson, gave as the reason for his crime the alleged alliance of Trotsky with the government in Washington. Pretending that Trotsky had wanted to send him to the Soviet Union to carry out acts of sabotage and to assassinate Stalin, he said: “... he (Trotsky) expected to count not only on the support of a great nation but also on the support of a certain foreign parliamentary committee.” The Dies Committee is clearly referred to here. Siqueiros, the assailant of the 24th of May, 1940, stated before the Mexican Court that Trotsky was visited by the American Consul in Mexico. This time it is Mr. Davies’ job to present documents that reveal how, when, why, for how much, Trotsky or his followers sold themselves to the United States or to England. Prove it, Mr. Davies, prove it and everyone will believe that he could certainly also have sold himself to the German General Staff! If you do not prove it – and you will not prove it – you will have demonstrated beyond question that you are lying in order to do Stalin a political service.
The service involved is revealed in Davies’ article as designed to calm an extremely conservative public, implacable enemy of the Russian revolution. To those who, in 1928, proposed that Trotsky be prosecuted for treason, Stalin, according to Mr. Davies, replied: “No, we must not do that. When the leaders of the French revolution began to kill each other, it was the beginning of the end. The Soviet revolution must not ‘chew up its own children.’ We will not do it.” And the author added a transparent thought: “From 1927 to 1935 that policy was sustained. But it was changed suddenly when the Russian leaders learned of the activities of the Fifth Column, and there followed the trials, purges, and executions, which were pressed with the greatest vigor and relentlessness.” In writing this paragraph, the author has tried to suggest to his public – the enemies of the socialist revolution, we repeat – that the revolution had already “chewed up” its own sons. Stalin’s mouth still gleams with the blood of the old Bolshevik leaders. The American millionaires have no cause to be uneasy about an alliance with him. Neither can it be doubted for one moment that this is the real reason for Mr. Davies’ consenting to defend him now.
Mr. Davies’ own words demonstrate the fraud of an accusation which attempts to picture Trotsky and the defendants in Moscow as simple adventurers. “As a reward,” the article declares, “the conspirators were to be allowed to take over a smaller but technically independent Soviet state, which would turn over White Russia and the Ukraine to Germany, and the Maritime Provinces and the Sakhalin oil fields to Japan.” And the author continues, trying to bestow graphically some truthfulness on the confessions of Moscow: “It was as if Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau, Secretary of Commerce Jones, Under-Secretary of State Welles, Ambassador Phillips, Ambassador Winant, and Secretary to the President Early confessed to conspiring with Germany to cooperate in an invasion of the United States.” Exactly. But, who would believe that Messrs. Morgenthau, Jones, Welles, etc., would sell themselves to Germany or any other power to receive as payment the posts of Treasurer, Secretary of State, Ambassador, etc., of a small state “technically independent” that would be confined to the limits of the state of Oklahoma? The high position which the defendants occupied, presented by Mr. Davies as an argument in favor of Stalin, is what makes the confessions absolutely improbable. Still more: the inexact and unproved form of the accusations, and the men who intervened as accusers give the Moscow trials no other odor but that of falsification. The main accuser was Vishinsky, a White Guard during the revolution of 1917 who was attacked personally by Lenin; the accused were Bolsheviks, Lenin’s collaborators. Following Mr. Davies’ scholastic procedure, it is necessary to say: “It is as if” General Grant, commander of the armies fighting against slavery during the war of secession in the United States, had been accused years after the peace by General Lee, commander of the Southern Armies, of conspiring with England in order to re-establish slavery. Lee would have been able to make Grant confess, this is only a problem of technique, as police all over the world know; but the United States would continue to believe in Grant and to hate Lee. This is precisely what occurred in the Soviet Union with Stalin and the accused Trotsky occupying the principal roles.
The resistance of the Red Army is also posed as an impressive argument. These people have become so panic stricken and impotent before fascism that any resistance seems to be a success! This argument is more unbalanced than is a drunkard. If a resistance that has lost almost 500,000 square kilometers a month is a success and a proof of excellent morale, those who maintain this must affirm by deduction that the morale of the German Army is the best in the world – something very far from the truth. Yes, the resistance of the Red Army and the Soviet people has been heroic and highly impressive because of the difficult conditions under which they have had to face the Nazi war machine. Their will to fight is firm, is valiant. But how can this prove what Mr. Davies maintains, that Stalin was in the right against the thousands
of men and leaders of the army whom he killed? On the contrary, when with excellent morale, a firm will to fight and armaments quite comparable to the German in quality and quantity, the army forever retreats before an enemy which takes over the most important industrial and agricultural zones, populated with 70,000,000 inhabitants, one can only conclude that this magnificent people has no leadership.
Mr. Davies is between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either he must admit that the Soviet people has no leadership, that it has the worst of leadership; or, if he still insists that the leadership is good and competent, he is forced to say that the failures are due to demoralization of the people and the army. We are convinced in advance that he is capable of accepting the latter, tacitly or explicitly so as to justify Stalin – not out of personal sympathy, we recognize that, but because Stalin represents the interests of capitalism. Mr. Davies does no more than express the hopes of the upper classes in the United States and England, that Stalin will put an end to the “excesses” of the Soviet Union. In more current phrases, the excesses are the remains of the October revolution which, naturally, tends to extend itself to the rest of the world. Not for nothing does Mr. Davies begin by telling his public that Trotsky wanted to extend the revolution over the entire world but that Stalin does not. However, Mr. Davies would do well to remember that in restoring capitalism in the USSR the United States and England are competing with Hitler. Stalin may still negotiate with the latter. If this happens, we will see what his present defenders say.
Here is the nub of the question. Stalin has developed a policy which, unfolding uninterruptedly, paves the way for capitalism. For this reason he shot or assassinated, after defaming them, the revolutionists who could have checked him and who certainly would have checked him. The struggle against Hitler and fascism is essentially a problem of revolutionary capacity to organize the poverty-stricken masses against him. Thus, the Bruening democracy, like that of Reynaud-Daladier and the Popular Front in Spain, worse than being powerless to stop Hitler, were his accomplices. Stalin has done Hitler a favor by killing the Bolsheviks in the USSR and by killing the old revolutionary ideas in the Communist International. In this sense Stalin has been and is Hitler’s fifth column in Russia and in all Europe. Today he has at arms’ reach the possibilities of victory over Hitler; it would be enough to re-establish Soviet democracy, to liberate and give the rights of workers’ democracy to the tens of thousands of revolutionists whom he has imprisoned and to carry out intensive propaganda among the German people for the social revolution. Hitler can resist the English and American bombs for years, but he could not resist the revolutionary barrage proceeding from a revolutionary Russia for more than a few months. To have the defeat of Hitler in one’s hands and not to take the necessary measures to achieve it is to act as his fifth column.
November 15, 1941
Last updated on 29.5.2005