Joseph Redman

The British Stalinists and the Moscow Trials

(March 1958)

From Labour Review, Vol. 3 No. 2, March–April 1958, pp. 44–53.
Joseph Redman was a pseudonym of Brian Pearce.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

[DW stands for Daily Worker, throughout]

‘Foreigners little realize how vital it was for Stalin in 1936, 1937 and 1938 to be able to declare that the British, American, French, German, Polish, Bulgarian and Chinese communists unanimously supported the liquidation of the “Trotskyite, fascist mad dogs and wreckers” ...’
– W.G. Krivitsky, I Was Stalin’s Agent (1939), p. 79.

‘These apologists for Stalin will one day regret their hasty zeal, for truth, breaking a path through every obstacle, will carry away many reputations.’
– L.D. Trotsky, Les Crimes de Staline (1937), p. 62.

TWENTY years ago there took place the trial of Bukharin and twenty others, the third and largest of a series of three historic State trials in the Soviet Union. Like the fraction of the iceberg that shows above the water’s surface, these trials were the publicly-paraded fraction of a vast mass of repressions carried out in 1936–38 by Yagoda and Yezhov under the supreme direction of Stalin. It is not the purpose of this article to examine the trials themselves or to discuss their causes and consequences for the Soviet Union and the international working-class movement. Its purpose is merely to recall how the leaders and spokesmen of the Stalinist organization in Britain reacted to the trials and what some of the effects of their reaction were in the British working-class movement, so that lessons may be learned regarding the political character of the organization and the individuals concerned.

The First Trial

The first of the three great ‘public’ trials took place in August 1936. Immediately upon the publication of the indictment, the DW came out with an editorial (August 17) accepting the guilt of the accused men: ‘The revelations ... will fill all decent citizens with loathing and hatred ... Crowning infamy of all is the evidence showing how they were linked up with the Nazi Secret Police .. .’ This instantaneous and whole-hearted endorsement of whatever Stalin’s policemen chose to allege at any given moment was to prove characteristic of the British Stalinist reaction to each of the successive trials.

The prototype of another statement which was in re-appear regularly throughout this period figured in the DW’s editorial of August 22: ‘The extent and organization of the plot, with its cold-blooded killings of the leaders of the international working class, has shocked the Labour and socialist movement of the world.’ In reality, of course, the effect of trial was to compromise the Soviet Union in the eyes of many workers and to play into the hands of the most Right-wing sections. Accordingly, a third ‘keynote’ had to be sounded right from the beginning, with the headline in the DW of August 24 to the report that the International Federation of Trade Unions had asked the Soviet authorities to allow a foreign lawyer to defend the accused: Citrine Sides with Traitors. On the other hand, any expression of approval for the trial by a bourgeois newspaper or other ‘source’ was to be eagerly seized upon and publicized during these years, and already in this issue we find The Observer quoted, in a special ‘box’, as saying: ‘It is futile to think the trial was staged and the charges trumped up.’ [1]

With the minimum of delay the implications of the trials for current politics began to be drawn, especially with regard to Spain. The DW leader of August 25 affirmed that ‘Trotsky ... whose agents are trying to betray the Spanish Republic by advancing provocative “Left” slogans ... is the very spearpoint of counter-revolution’, and next day J.R. Campbell had an article comparing Zinoviev to Franco. At the same time, a programme of rewriting of the history of the Bolshevik Party and the October Revolution was launched with an article by Ralph Fox in the DW of August 28, entitled Trotsky Was No Great General, followed by another on September 1: He Was Always a Base Double-Crosser. [2] A Communist Party pamphlet The Moscow Trial, by W.G. Shepherd, carried the retrospective smear campaign further, telling readers that in October 1917 ‘the organization leadership was not, as is sometimes supposed, in [Trotsky’s] hands ... He was a bad organizer.’ The main point of this pamphlet, however, was squarely to identify ‘Trotskyists’ with police agents.

Shepherd based himself in his defence of the trial upon the declarations of D.N. Pritt, KC, (‘None can challenge either Mr Pritt’s integrity or his competence to understand the significance of court procedure and the value of evidence’), and indeed the importance of these cannot be exaggerated in assessing how this trial and its successors were ‘sold’ to the Left in Britain.

Mr Pritt made two principal contributions to the propaganda for the August 1936 trial. He wrote the preface to the pamphlet The Moscow Trial, 1936, a report of the proceedings published by the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee (secretary, W.P. Coates). This report omitted from the testimony of Holtzman, one of the accused, his reference to a meeting in a non-existent ‘Hotel Bristol’ in Copenhagen, a slip in the ‘libretto’ which had been widely remarked upon. (Compare p.49 of this pamphlet with p.100 of the English version of the Report of Court Proceedings. Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre, published in Moscow, 1936.) ‘Once again’, wrote Pritt, ‘the more faint-hearted socialists are beset with doubt and anxieties’, but ‘once again we can feel confident that when the smoke has rolled away from the battlefield of controversy it will be realized that the charge was true, the confessions correct, and the prosecution fairly conducted ... But in order that public opinion shall reach this verdict ... it must be properly informed of the facts; and it is here that this little book will be of such value.’ Pritt also wrote a pamphlet of his own, The Zinoviev Trial, in which he dealt with the suspicion some sceptics had expressed that the confessions might not be entirely spontaneous – might, indeed, be influenced by torture or intimidation of some sort. The abjectness of the confessions was ‘sufficiently explained when one bears in mind the very great differences in form and style that naturally exist between one race and another ... In conversations I have held in Soviet prisons with accused persons awaiting trial on substantial charges, I have not infrequently been struck by the readiness with which they have stated to me in the presence of warders that they are guilty and cannot complain if they are punished.’ And anyway, after all, accused persons often plead guilty when they see ‘the evidence against them is overwhelming’. True, no evidence was actually produced at the trial other than the confessions of the accused; but ‘it is no part of the duty of the judicial authorities to publish reports showing exactly how they have conducted preliminary investigations of which the persons who are at once most interested and best informed, viz., the accused, make no complaint.’ Actually, ‘one can well imagine that the Soviet Government, so far as concerns the point of view of properly informing foreign criticism, would much have preferred that all or most of the accused should have pleaded Not Guilty and contested the case. The full strength of the case would then have been seen and appraised ...’

What strikes one most forcibly in re-reading today the literature of the first trial is the complete silence of the British Stalinists about some of the most contradictory and question-begging of its features. Not only the famous Hotel Bristol – the even more famous Café Bristol was not ‘discovered’ until February 1937 – but many other, less ‘technical’, points were passed over. Molotov was conspicuously missing from the list of the ‘leaders of party and State’ whom Zinoviev and Co. were accused of plotting to murder – and from the ceremonial list of these leaders included by Vyshinsky in his closing speech – though he was the nominal head of the Soviet Government at the time. (Alexander Orlov, a former NKVD officer, tells us in his book The Secret History of Stalin’s Crimes (1954), p. 81, that the dictator, who wished to frighten Molotov a little, personally struck out his name from the list of ‘intended victims of the conspiracy’!) [3] Nor did they refer back later on, when Kossior and Postyshev were put away as ‘Ukrainian bourgeois-nationalists’, to their presence among the leaders whose deaths had allegedly been demanded by Rudolf Hess, through Trotsky. Nobody questioned the consistency of accusing Trotsky of being a fascist while stating (Smirnov’s last plea, Report of Court Proceedings, pp. 171–2) that he regarded the Soviet Union as ‘a fascist State’. Nobody suggested that it was somewhat premature of N. Lurye to get himself sent into Russia by the Gestapo in April 1932 (ibid. pp. 102–3); or that Trotsky had shown curious tactlessness in choosing five Jews – Olberg, Berman-Yurin, David and the two Luryes [4] – to collaborate with the Gestapo. That Holtzman testified to meeting Trotsky’s son Sedov in Copenhagen whereas Olberg said Sedov had not managed to get there (ibid. pp. 87, 100) excited no surprise. Above all, the complete unconcern of the Prosecutor about these and other contradictions and oddities in the confessions, which he made no attempt to sort out, was matched by a corresponding unconcern among the British Stalinists. [5] Like Vyshinsky, too, they gave no sign of finding it suspicious that the treasonable intrigues of these Trotskyites’, dating from 1931, had been carried on exclusively with Germany, no role having been played, apparently, by Britain, France, Poland or Italy. (As Trotsky observed, there ‘terrorists’ might make an attempt on Stalin’s life, but never on Litvinov’s diplomacy.)

Jack Cohen, in those days responsible for the political education of communist students, contributed to the party monthly Discussion for September 1936 a piece on Heroes of Fascism and Counter-Revolution in which he asserted that in 1933 Trotsky had issued a call for ‘terroristic acts to “remove” the party leaders’, in an article in the Weltbühne which actually speaks not of terrorism but of a workers’ revolution against the bureaucracy. (Neither Cohen nor any of the other Stalinists ever quoted, of course, from Trotsky’s numerous writings condemning terrorism as useless and harmful, as ‘bureaucratism turned inside-out’, such as The Kirov Assassination [1935].) Pat Sloan, of the Friends of the Soviet Union (now British-Soviet Friendship Society), wrote in the New Statesman of September 5: ‘I do not see what was unconvincing in the Moscow trial.’ [6] Walter Holmes, in his Worker’s Notebook in the DW of September 4, told of a conversation with ‘members of the Labour Party’ who reassured him: ‘What are you worrying about? ... Everybody in our party has got enough sense to know they ought to be shot.’ Reg Bishop, however, admitted in Inprecorr of September 5 that Labour was not quite so solidly convinced on this point: ‘The Labour Daily Herald vies in venom and spite with the Daily Mail ... It is pathetic to see men like Brailsford and Tom Johnston failing to see through the tricks prepared for them by Trotsky to cover up his tracks.’ Douglas Garman, in the New Statesman of September 12, demanded: ‘If ... they were innocent, why should they have confessed at all?’ (The editor replied: ‘We say that confessions without independent corroborative evidence are not convincing.’ [7]) Ivor Montagu, in Left Book News for October, pooh-poohed suggestions that torture, whether physical or moral, or promises of pardon in return for perjury, could have anything to do with the confessions, and gave some historical background in which he quoted Lenin’s criticisms of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, while saying nothing of his criticisms of Stalin. R. Page Arnot, in the Labour Monthly for October, wrote: ‘Trotskyism is now revealed as an ancillary of fascism ... The ILP is in great danger of falling into the hands of Trotskyists and becoming a wing of fascism. Let the members of the ILP look to it.’ Pat Sloan, again, in the October number of Russia Today specially devoted to the trial, had a new explanation for the confessions: ‘These were men who, in their desire for publicity, had never refused an opportunity to speak to a large audience.’ From the same inspired pen came an argument, in Controversy of December, worthy of the confidence men of South Sea Bubble days: ‘The Soviet Government does not intend to broadcast to the whole world all the evidence of activities of Hitler’s agents it could broadcast.’ (Though well-informed about the secret archives of the Soviet intelligence service, Sloan was, at this stage, a bit shaky on the topography of Denmark’s capital: ‘Anyway, are we sure there’s no Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen? The denial, I believe, comes only from Norway.’)

Towards the end of 1936 and beginning of 1937 there were two trials in Germany of real Trotskyites for real subversive activity. In Danzig, Jakubowski and nine others were given severe hard-labour sentences for issuing leaflets declaring that ‘the defence of the Soviet Union remains an unconditional duty for the proletariat’, and in Hamburg a group of fifteen, which included a Vienna Schutzbund member and a worker who had fought in the 1923 uprising, suffered similarly for similar activity. There were no confessions and there was plenty of material evidence. No report of these cases appeared in the DW or other Stalinist publications. It is curious that Nazi propaganda in this period alleged that in spite of appearances the Fourth International was a secret agency of the Third, operating on the basis of a division of labour. Accounts of a conference (at Breda) between representatives of the two Internationals were spread by Goebbels, just as Stalin told the world of Trotsky’s talks with Hess. [8]

The Second Trial

Already during the period of the first trial, as we have seen, King Street’s concern for ‘working-class unity’ was subordinated to the paramount need to attack anybody and everybody in the Labour movement who expressed doubt regarding the justice of the verdict. This became still clearer when the second trial was launched, in January 1937. The DW of January 25 carried the headline: The Herald Defends Spies and Assassins, and a leader Enemies of the Working Class, which declared: ‘It is for the working class of Britain to deal with those who in this country constitute themselves the defenders of the Trotskyites and thereby assist fascism and strike a blow at socialism all over the world.’ On January 29 the paper attacked the New Leader for ‘playing into the hands of the enemy’ because it had called for an independent inquiry into the trial such as Pritt and others had organized in connexion with the Reichstag Fire trial in 1933. Arnot was the DW’s reporter at the second trial: he assured readers that the only pressure which had been brought to bear on the prisoners was ‘the pressure of facts’ (January 27).

The campaign to justify Stalin’s purges and to make the utmost political capital out of them was raised to a higher level and put on a more organized basis than hitherto by John Gollan, in his address to the enlarged meeting of the national council of the Young Communist League held on January 30–31. The historical ‘rewrite’ adumbrated by Ralph Fox was undertaken more thoroughly and at some length by Gollan. The address was published as a. duplicated document under the title The Development of Trotskyism from Menshevism to Alliance with Fascism and Counter-Revolution. Gollan showed how Lenin’s chief assistant in building the Red Army was not Trotsky but Stalin, how Trotsky had advocated that industrialization be carried out ‘at the expense of the peasant masses’ (saved by Stalin) etc. etc. This remarkable assemblage of half-truths and untruths concluded with a list of ‘the real Bolshevik Old Guard’, in which figure the names Rudzutak, Bubnov, Chubar, Kossior and Postyshev, all shot or imprisoned by Stalin shortly afterwards. Harry Pollitt went one better than this in his list of ‘the real Old Guard’ who ‘are still at their posts’, by including the name of ... Yezhov, whom hardly anybody – probably not Pollitt himself – had even heard of until his sudden elevation in September 1936 to be head of the NKVD following Yagoda’s fall! This exploit occurred in a pamphlet called The Truth About Trotskyism, published at the end of January. Another gem from the same source is Pollitt’s comment on the confessions of the accused: ‘The evidence produced in the Moscow trial is not confessions in the ordinary sense but statements signed in the way depositions are signed in any British court ...’ [9] The main point of the pamphlet, made in a contribution by R.P. Dutt, was to show that it was ‘essential to ... destroy the Trotskyist propaganda and influence which is seeking to win a foothold within the Labour movement, since these attempts represent in fact the channel of fascist penetration into the Labour movement’. In addition to the Gollan address and the Pollitt-Dutt pamphlet the DW brought out a special supplement on the trial in its issue of February 1 (‘Keep It Always’), in which, after the ritual statement ‘everywhere in the British Labour movement the scrupulous fairness of the trial, the overwhelming guilt of the accused, and the justness of the sentences is recognized’, readers were urged to send protests to the Daily Herald regarding its sceptical attitude thereto. A statement by the central committee of the Communist Party published in this issue emphasized that ‘the lead given by the Soviet Union ... requires to be energetically followed up throughout the whole Labour movement, and above all in Great Britain ...’

From this time onward one can say without exaggeration that the fight against ‘Trotskyism’ became one of the main preoccupations of the Communist Party, diverting the energies and confusing the minds of its members and disrupting the working-class movement more and more. [10] R.F. Andrews (Andrew Rothstein) now came well to the fore, as might be expected, with a series of articles in the DW. ‘The criminals have received their well-merited sentences ... Millions of people have had their eyes opened to the inner essence of Trotskyism’ (February 5); ‘Trotsky ... a malignant, avowed and still dangerous criminal’ (February 9); ‘Herald – Shameful Blot on Labour’, i.e., for doubting the justice of the verdict (February 15).[11] A mere pamphlet such as Pritt had devoted to the Zinoviev trial was now realized to be inadequate and a whole book, Soviet Justice and the Trial of Radek (1937), was published, the work of a fresh legal talent, Dudley Collard, though not without an introduction by Pritt (‘The impression gained from Mr Collard’s description will, I think, enable many who were puzzled by the first trial not merely to convince themselves on the genuineness of the second, but also to derive from that a conviction of the genuineness of the first’). This pathetic effort contains such propositions as (p. 52): ‘I have read some statement to the effect that no aeroplanes flew from Germany to Norway in December 1935. It seems hard to believe that this is so ...’ Here the reference is to the statement issued by the Oslo airport authorities that no foreign aeroplanes landed there in December 1935, contrary to Pyatakov’s confession that he had landed there on his way to visit Trotsky. (Attempts were later made to explain that perhaps Pyatakov’s memory was at fault and his aeroplane had actually landed on a frozen fiord; but, alas, this version was incompatible with the accused man’s account of his journey by car from the aeroplane to Trotsky’s dwelling.) After a display of quite extraordinary gullibility, Collard came to the conclusion (p. 79) that ‘the court was more merciful than I would have been!’ That was sufficient to ensure his book the maximum boost treatment throughout the Stalinist movement. William Gallacher, reviewing Collard in the DW of March 19, wrote: ‘Here one sees the Soviet legal system as it really is, the most advanced, the most humane in the world ... It is a book which once read must make any normal human being resolve that never again under any circumstances will he have truck with Trotsky, his followers or any of his works.’ Harking back to one of the mysteries of the first trial, the DW gave a sizable bit of its valuable space in the issue of February 26 to a plan of the Grand Hotel, Copenhagen, allegedly showing that one could enter a café said to be called the Café Bristol through this hotel – though how Holtzman could have proposed to ‘put up’ at this café still remained unexplained! [12] The egregious Arnot, in an article on The Trotskyist Trial in the Labour Monthly for March, quoted Lenin on MacDonald to show how workers’ leaders can degenerate (but did not quote Lenin on Stalin!), took a swipe at Emrys Hughes (‘a middle-class Philistine’) for an article in Forward critical of the trials, and opened up with all guns against the Manchester Guardian. Principled political criticism of the Liberals was ‘out’ in this epoch of Popular-Frontery, but here was something more important. The Guardian had stated that, in the course of the waves of repression sweeping over the Soviet Union in the wake of the second trial, ‘the Polish communists ... have suffered heavy casualties under the Stalinist persecution’. As is now admitted, almost the entire leadership of the Polish Communist Party was in fact liquidated by the NKVD in this period, and the party itself dissolved. This was the buffoonery that Arnot wrote at the time: ‘They have not “suffered heavy casualities”; there is no “Stalinist persecution” ... At one time the Trotskyists complained that the condemnation of their errors was a sign of anti-Semitism. Now, apparently, the condemnation of their crimes is to be presented as “the assault on the Polish Virgin” ...’

At this time the Stalinists were putting forth determined efforts to capture the Labour League of Youth, for which they published a paper called Advance. The March issue of this journal carried an article, We Have Our Wreckers, Too! by Ted Willis, later to win fame as author of The Blue Lamp, but then the leading Stalinist youth-worker. ‘The recent trial and sentences on the Terrorists in Moscow were of particular interest to the members of the League of Youth for an obvious reason. That being the fact that, for the last year we have been blessed (is that the right word?) with a tiny group of people in the League who style themselves Trotskyists ... Turn them lock, stock and barrel out of the Labour movement!’ Fittingly, at the same time as Ted Willis was making his debut in this field, John Strachey, then the top Stalinist publicist in this country, was telling readers of Left News that he believed that

The psychological student of the future will look back on the long-drawn-out incredulity of British public opinion over the Moscow trials of 1936 and 1937 as one of the strangest and most interesting psychological phenomena of the present time. For it will be clear to such a student that there were no rational grounds for disbelief. The fact is that there is no answer to the simple question: ‘If these men were innocent, why did they confess?’ ... Before the inexorable, extremely prolonged, though gentle, cross-examination of the Soviet investigators, their last convictions broke down.

Major contributions to the fight against Trotskyism now came thick and fast. Stalin’s speech at the February-March plenum of the central committee of the Soviet Communist Party, setting out his thesis that the further the Soviet Union progressed the more intense became the class struggle and the greater was the need for security work, was published in full in the DW (‘Especially in Britain do we require to pay heed to his words regarding the danger of the rotten theory that because the Trotskyists are few we can afford to pay little attention to them ... This is a report to be carefully read and studied, not once but many times’ – March 31). At the second National Congress for Peace and Friendship with the USSR, Pritt soothed the anxieties of those who had doubts about the course of justice under Stalin. ‘I do happen to know that, when you are arrested in the USSR ... there are very elaborate rules of criminal procedure to see that your case will be proceeded with promptly and to ensure that there shall be no delay in having it put forward’ (Congress Report, p. 51). In Left News for April, Ivor Montagu reviewed, under the heading The Guilty the official report of the second trial, together with Collard’s book. A feature of this article was its misquotation from The Revolution Betrayed, designed to show that Trotsky prophesied the defeat of the Soviet Union in war with Nazi Germany. (Montagu gives: ‘Defeat will be fatal to the leading circles of the USSR and to the social bases of the country.’ Trotsky actually wrote ‘would’, not ‘will’, and made plain in the following paragraph that he considered the defeat of Germany more probable:

Notwithstanding all its contradictions, the Soviet regime in the matter of stability still has immense advantages over the regimes of its probable enemies. The very possibility of a rule by the Nazis over the German people was created by the unbearable tenseness of social antagonisms in Germany. These antagonisms have not been removed and not even weakened, but only suppressed by the lid of fascism. A war will bring them to the surface. Hitler has far less chances than had Wilhelm II of carrying a war to victory. Only a timely revolution, by saving Germany from war, could save her from a new defeat. (The Revolution Betrayed, chapter viii, section 5).

Montagu also referred to Trotsky as ‘perhaps the star contributor to the Hearst Press on Soviet affairs’. In fact, Trotsky always refused even to receive a representative of the Hearst Press, and anything they published over his name was lifted’, often with distortions, from other papers. (Lenin had had occasion in July 1917 to remark regarding a similar slander by the Menshevik Montagus of those days: ‘They have stooped to such a ridiculous thing as blaming the Pravda for the fact that its dispatches to the socialist papers of Sweden and other countries ... have been reprinted by the German papers, often garbled! ... As if the reprinting or the vicious distortions can be blamed on the authors!’)

In Challenge of May 27 Gollan asserted ‘the absolute necessity ... of once and for all ridding the youth movement of all Trotskyist elements as a pre-condition for unity’, thus subordinating the urgent need for workers’ unity to the requirements of the NKVD.

Between the Second and Third Trials

The case of the Generals – a sort of intermezzo between the second and third trials – gave the British Stalinists fresh occasion to display their ‘loyalty’ and quarrel with other sections of the working-class movement on its account. This was a secret trial, without confessions, but no matter: the first announcement of the case was greeted by the DW with a leader stating that ‘thanks to the unrelaxing vigilance of the Soviet intelligence service, a further shattering blow has been given to the criminal war-making elements who seek to undermine and destroy the Socialist Fatherland of the international working class’ (June 12). On June 14 the paper announced: Red Army Traitors Executed. The leading article affirmed, as usual, that ‘the workers of Britain will rejoice’, but nevertheless Pollitt, in a special statement published in the same issue, had to rebuke the Herald for getting ‘so hot and bothered’ about this trial. In a statement congratulating the Soviet Government on the executions, published in the DW of June 16, the central committee welcomed, on behalf of the British workers, ‘the wiping out of the bureaucratic degenerates associated with fascism ...’ Arnot proclaimed (DW, June 18) his conviction of the reliability of the official account of the crimes of Tukhachevsky, Gamarnik, Eidemann and the others: ‘That it is a true story no reasonable man can doubt.’ Montagu added his stone next day (A Blow at Fascism) and called for heightened vigilance against ‘such agents in the working class movement elsewhere and working to the same end’. Pat Sloan’s Russia Today (July) hastened to identify itself with the executioners: ‘No true friend of the Soviet Union ... can feel other than a sense of satisfaction that the activities of spies, diversionists and wreckers in the Soviet Army have been given an abrupt quietus ... All talk about the personal struggle of the “dictator” Stalin is rubbish.’ Dutt pitched into Brailsford for his doubts (On Which Side?, DW, June 21) [13] and Jack Gaster denounced the ‘slanders’ of the Herald at a Hyde Park meeting (DW, June 22).

About the middle of 1937 it began to be known in the West that a truly gigantic, unprecedentedly sweeping wave of arrests was engulfing many who hitherto had been regarded as secure and loyal pillars of the Stalin regime. This put the British Stalinists in a quandary. When Mezhlauk, for instance, was appointed to succeed Ordzhonikidze as Commissar for Heavy Industry, he was headlined in the DW of February 27 as an Old Soldier of the Revolution. When he was arrested a few months later they could thus hardly dispose of him in the traditional way as ‘never an Old Bolshevik’. So they ignored the arrest, and dealt similarly with the many similar cases that now poured out of the tape-machines. A photograph of Marshal Yegorov appeared in the DW of July 14; when he was arrested shortly afterwards, nothing was said. A photograph of Marshal Bluecher was published in the issue of February 25, actually after his arrest! (At the same time, the wretched Daily Herald came in for another pasting in the DW of October 8 for having published a report of the murder by NKVD agents in Switzerland of Ignace Reiss, an NKVD man who had tried to break with Stalin.)

Perhaps the most revealing instance of the methods of the British Stalinists in dealing with the arrests which they knew about but dared not admit to their dupes is provided by the case of the Lost Editor. When the Soviet official History of the Civil War, Vol. I, was first announced as a forthcoming publication, in the DW of March 11, the list of editors, headed by Stalin and Gorky, included the names of Gamarnik and Bubnov. General Gamarnik having allegedly committed suicide as an exposed accomplice of Tukhachevsky (Entangled with Enemies of USSR, Took Own LifeDW, June 2), his name had of course disappeared from the advertisement of the book published in Russia Today of November 1937. But though Bubnov had been arrested as an enemy of the people in time for his name to be removed from the title-page of the book before it reached the shops, it was still to be seen on the fly-leaf! When Rothstein reviewed this work in Russia Today of February 1938 he cannily listed the editors as ‘Joseph Stalin, Maxim Gorky and others’. The arrest of Bubnov was a particularly hard blow for the British Stalinists, since they had made special use of his name as that of an Old Bolshevik still in favour. Perhaps resentment at his inconsiderateness in getting arrested was the reason why the DW did not report his return to Moscow in 1956, as an old, broken man, after nearly twenty years in prison. [14]

Particularly worthy of being rescued from oblivion, among the achievements of ‘working-class journalism’ in this period, is an article in the DW of August 20 by Ben Francis, the paper’s Moscow correspondent, in praise of the wonderful work being done by Zakovsky, in charge of security in Leningrad. Around this time, as Khrushchev described in his famous ‘secret speech’ (Manchester Guardian pamphlet version, The Dethronement of Stalin [1956], p. 15), Zakovsky was having prisoners brought before him after torture in order to offer them their lives in return for their agreement to make a false confession (‘You, yourself’, said Zakovsky, ‘will not need to invent anything. The NKVD will prepare for you a ready outline ... You will have to study it carefully and remember well all questions and answers which the court might ask’).

An example of the contempt into which the trials were bringing both the Soviet authorities and the British Stalinists is provided by the article by ‘Y.Y.’ (Robert Lynd) in the New Statesman of June 26. On the ascription of all shortcoming in Soviet industry to Soviet sabotage, he wrote that, apparently, ‘wherever there is a screw loose in Russia it was Trotsky who loosened it’, and he summed up the King Street theory of the trials thus: ‘Stalin can do no wrong. He will give these men a fair trial, but, as a matter of fact, they would not be put on their trial at all unless it were certain that they were guilty. Therefore, even without knowing the evidence, we know that they are guilty.’ [15] Desperate in their concern to keep the other point of view from their dupes, the Stalinist editors of Left Review refused to publish an advertisement of The Case of Leon Trotsky, being the report of the examination of Trotsky, regarding the statements affecting him made in the trials, carried out by the Commission of Inquiry headed by John Dewey. This was revealed in a letter in the New Statesman of November 6 from the publisher, Mr Frederick Warburg. Replying for Left Review in the next issue of the New Statesman, Randall Swingler explained that ‘there is a line at which criticism ends and destructive attacks begin, and we regret that this line separates us both from Dr Goebbels and from Leon Trotsky’. [16] This spot of publicity compelled the publication of a review of the book in the DW of November 17, in which J.R. Campbell claimed that it gave ‘added confirmation to the Moscow trials, which showed Trotsky as a political degenerate, an ally of fascism, a vile maniacal enemy of socialism and peace’. A letter from Charles van Gelderen pointing out some glaring inaccuracies in Campbell’s article was refused publication in the DW; it appeared, however, in the (London) Militant for December.

The political consequences of all this pernicious nonsense were well summed up in an article by H.J. Laski in the New York Nation for November 20:

There is no doubt but the mass executions in the Soviet Union in the last two years have greatly injured the prestige of Russia with the rank and file of the Labour Party. They do not understand them, and they feel that those who accept them without discussion are not satisfactory allies. I do not comment on this view; I merely record it. In my judgment. the executions undoubtedly cost the supporters of the United Front something like half a million votes in the Bournemouth Conference.

The year 1938, which opened with the final disappearance of the slogan: ‘Workers of all lands, unite!’ from the masthead of the DW, was to see even further feats of genuine sabotage of workers’ unity by the Stalinists under the banner of anti-Trotskyism. Communist speakers refused to appear on the same platform with ILP speakers at ‘Aid Spain’ meetings. All remnants of shame and caution were cast aside in this truly maniacal campaign. Thus, in Discussion of January, Pat Sloan wrote: ‘Masses and leaders are united; the people adore “our Stalin”. Stalin respects the masses as no other political leader of today respects the masses ...’ In Controversy of the same month the same propagandist declared himself unfamiliar with and unready to accept as genuine Stalin’s statement of November 6, 1918, on Trotsky’s role in the October Revolution (Stalin, The October Revolution, published in the Marxist-Leninist Library by Lawrence and Wishart in 1936, p. 30), which had been mentioned by a contributor, and proceeded to withdraw from the battle on the grounds that ‘it is impossible to continue a controversy with someone as unscrupulous ... Trotskyism ... is incompatible with historical truth’. [17] Dutt, in the DW of January 21, quoted some remarks of Lenin’s about Bukharin (also, incidentally, Dzerzhinsky and other ‘Left Communists’ who died in the odour of Stalinist sanctity) as though they referred to Trotsky. R. Osborn (Reuben Osbert, the psychiatrist) brought out a book, The Psychology of Reaction (1938), in which he tried to identify fascism and ‘Trotskyism’ psychologically (‘A knowledge of the psychology of fascist leaders is at the same time a knowledge of the psychology of the Trotskyists’) and this was reviewed enthusiastically by John Strachey in Left News for February. (Strachey offered as his own view that ‘Trotskyists’ were recruited mainly from ‘insufficiently sensitive’, ‘inhuman’ types).

The Third Trial

Now came the third and last of the great ‘public’ trials – the Trial of the Twenty-One, bigger and more fantastic than any of the foregoing, with Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky and Krestinsky in the leading roles. The British Stalinists (who had made extensive use of the writings of Bukharin and Rykov in the anti-Trotskyist campaign of 1925-28, presenting them as great Marxist thinkers and statesmen) did not flinch. [18] The DW leader of March 2 declared: ‘Soviet justice will prove itself once again as the unsleeping sword on behalf of the working class and the peoples of the world against their enemies.’ Eden having been replaced by Halifax, British agents now found their place in the legend alongside the German ones, and R. Page Arnot, in his dispatches from the Moscow court-room, solemnly explained how Rakovsky had been in British pay since 1924 and Trotsky since 1926. As before – Stalin still retaining confidence in the Franco-Soviet Pact – it appeared that none of the accused had had any contact with France, even in the years when French imperialism was heading the anti-Soviet forces in the world. Even so far back, it seemed, the cunning ‘Trotskyists’ had foreseen what the pattern of diplomacy would be at the time of their trial.

Furthermore, Trotsky had been a German spy since 1921; though why he should wish to link up with an impoverished and defeated State such as Germany was then, or why, indeed, being at the height of his authority in Russia at that time, he should have troubled to make such connexions at all, was never explained. The British Stalinists knew their place better than even as much as to comment on these oddities. (Arnot confined his observations to such safe remarks as: ‘Vyshinsky ... is always a credit to his calling’) [19] As before, however, certain ill-conditioned elements in the Labour movement gave trouble. The DW had to devote a leading article on March 7 to – Brailsford Again. (‘They did not confess of their own accord. They held out to the last until they realized the Soviet authorities had complete proof of all their crimes, and then admitted only what could not be denied.’) The central committee of the party published in the DW of March 8 its routine, required declaration kicking the accused (‘Every weak, corrupt or ambitious traitor to Socialism’), denouncing ‘the fascist agent Trotsky’ and expressing ‘full confidence’ in Yezhov, ‘our Bolshevik comrade’. William Wainwright, in Challenge of March 10, really went to town on the trial: ‘This is more than a trial. It is a fight between the forces of war and the forces of peace.’ After the ritual bit of historical untruth (Trotsky ‘was not one of the leaders of the rising. Stalin was’), Wainwright went on to allege that the accused wanted to let the fascists into Russia. ‘Just as Franco did in Spain ... Let us be glad that this trial has taken place, that these men will be sentenced ... Let us in our youth organizations clean out those ... who support those whose crime is against the people.’

The DW leader of March 11, dealing with the ILP’s appeal to Moscow not to execute the convicted men, was entitled: Degenerates Appeal for Degenerates. In Inprecorr of March 12, Reg Bishop welcomed the publication in certain bourgeois papers of articles accepting the genuineness of the tria1 [20], while at the same time deploring that at the most recent meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party a resolution had been moved condemning it. The resolution was defeated, true; ‘but it is a deplorable thing that it should even have been mooted in a responsible Labour gathering’. The New Statesman’s attitude had been unsatisfactory, too; but then, that was ‘mainly read by intellectuals’. Albert Inkpin, secretary of the World Committee of Friends of the Soviet Union, had a letter in the March 12 issue of the offending weekly, telling the editor that ‘all fascists and reactionaries’ would applaud his doubts about the trial. (Replying, the editor declared that it was rather the picture of nearly all the founders of the Soviet State being spies and wreckers that was likely to give pleasure to the enemies of the USSR. Besides, if the New Statesman had ventured to suggest such a thing, not so very long before, the FSU would certainly have jumped on them. ‘What Soviet hero dare we praise today? Who is tomorrow’s carrion?’)

Harry Pollitt himself, in the DW of March 12, told the world that ‘the trials in Moscow represent a new triumph in the history of progress’, the article being illustrated by a photograph of Stalin with Yezhov, that Old Bolshevik shortly to be dismissed and die in obscurity. Forces from the cultural field also joined in the battle on this occasion. Jack Lindsay put a letter into Tribune of March 18 affirming that ‘surely the strangest thing about the Moscow trials is the way that critics find them “psychologically” puzzling ... That is the one thing they are not ... The cleavage between the men who trusted the powers of the masses, and the men who trusted only their own “cleverness” had to come. And naturally persons with “individualistic” minds can’t understand! Naturally they get scared and see themselves in the dock.’ So there! Sean O’Casey contributed a lamentable article in the DW of March 25 (The Sword of the Soviet) containing such statements as: ‘The opposition to and envy of Lenin and Stalin by Trotsky was evident before even the Revolution of 1917 began.’ (O’Casey cannot but have known how little cause Trotsky had to ‘envy’ Stalin before 1917 and would have been hard put to it to show how such envy made itself ‘evident’!).

Rather unkindly, in view of the efforts of Messrs Lindsay and O’Casey, Russia Today for April dismissed the victims as ‘almost all middle-class intellectuals’. The same issue carried an article by Kath Taylor describing the anger of Russian workers at the revelations of sabotage made in the ‘Bukharin’ trial. Now they realized, she wrote, why ‘they waited hours long in the food queues only to find the food almost unfit to eat when they got it home ... Now we knew why our wages had been held up, and the reasons for many other things that had made life so hard at the most difficult moments.’ [21]

Let us conclude our quotations with one from John Strachey, who wrote in the DW, appropriately enough on April 1, that ‘no one who really reads the evidence, either of the former trials or of this one, can doubt that these things happened’, and assessed the conviction of the wretched victims as ‘the greatest anti-fascist victory which we have yet recorded.’


1. This was the issue with the editorial headed: Shoot the Reptiles! Commenting on it, the New Statesman of August 29 remarked prophetically: ‘Those who shoot them today may be themselves shot as reptiles at the next turn of the wheel.’ (This was to be the fate of Yagoda, head of the NKVD at the time of the first trial, shot in 1938.) It was presumably by an oversight that the DW never quoted the verses which graced the August 29 issue of the Paris White Guard paper Vozrozhdenye following the announcement of the executions after the first trial.

’We thank thee, Stalin!
Sixteen scoundrels,
Sixteen butchers of the Fatherland
Have been gathered to their ancestors!


Today the sky looks blue,
Thou hast repaid us for the sorrows of many years!


But why only sixteen?
Give us forty,
Give us hundreds,
Make a bridge across the Moscow river,
A bridge without towers or beams,
A bridge of Soviet carrion
And add thy carcass to the rest!’

2. Fox did not live – he was killed in Spain a few months later – to reflect on the fate of two of the persons whom he named in this article as examples of how there were still plenty of Old Bolsheviks around and loyal to Stalin: ‘Bubnov, Stasova and Krestinsky continue to hold important and honourable places in the leadership of the Soviet State.’

3.As soon as Molotov had made up his quarrel with Stalin, defendants began confessing to plots against him so far back as 1934 (Muralov, Shestov, Arnold, in the trial of January 1937) of which nothing had been said in the confessions of August 1936. Trotsky commented: ‘The conclusions are absolutely clear: the defendants had as little freedom in their choice of “victims” as in all other respects.’

4. It was Moisei Lurye, incidentally, writing under the pseudonym ‘Alexander Emel’, who wrote in Inprecorr (German edition), November 15, 1932, that ‘in Pilsudski’s Poland Trotsky enjoys the particular sympathy of the political police’. Cf. J. Klugmann: ‘The secret police of the Polish dictatorship were specially educated in Trotskyism .. (From Trotsky to Tito [1951], p. 82).

5. Contrast the earnest efforts of Christian apologists to reconcile the contradictions and differences between the various Gospels. Anyone approaching the study of the August 1936 trial for the first time is recommended to notice the following points. Ter-Vaganian stated that the terrorist group was formed in autumn 1931 and Zinoviev that it began in summer 1932, while Mrachkovsky made it date from the end of 1932. In November 1932 Kamenev and Zinoviev had been banished to the East and were not allowed back until the middle of 1933. Smirnov was in prison from the beginning of 1933 onwards, so could hardly have participated effectively in the plot to kill Kirov (December 1934). Berman-Yurin dated the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in September 1934 (it took place in July–August 1935), and explained that a plot to kill Stalin at a Comintern executive meeting failed because David, the assassin-designate, was unable to get a pass to enter the hall, whereas David said the plot failed because Stalin did not attend the meeting. A number of persons whose alleged testimony was quoted in the indictment or in court (Radin, Schmidt, Karev, Matorin etc.) were never produced either as witnesses or as accused at this or any later trial. Trotsky’s appeal (to the central executive committee!) in his Open Letter of March 1932 to ‘put Stalin out of the way’ (Report of Court Proceedings, p. 127) was actually an appeal to them to ‘at last put into effect the final urgent advice by Lenin, to “remove Stalin”,’ i.e., a reference to the document known as Lenin’s Testament, as may be seen from the Bulletin of the Opposition in which this Open Letter quite openly appeared.

6. Contrast the sceptical mood of many Soviet citizens reflected in the story which was current in Moscow during the trial: Alexei Tolstoy, upon being arrested and examined, had confessed that he was the author of Hamlet ...

7. The example of Galileo, who ‘confessed’ and repudiated his own discoveries under the mere threat of torture, seems never to have been discussed in Stalinist writing on the trials; nor that of the numerous ‘witches’ who, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, went to their deaths confessing to having had communication with the Devil; nor even that of the Duke of Northumberland who in 1553 confessed to Catholicism even on the very scaffold, in the delusive hope of a pardon from Queen Mary. Krivitsky (op. cit. p. 212) remarks that ‘the real wonder is that, despite their broken condition and the monstrous forms of pressure exerted by the Ogpu on Stalin’s political opponents, so few did confess. For every one of the 54 prisoners who figured in the three “treason trials”, at least 100 were shot without being broken down.’

8. At the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal the Soviet representatives conspicuously refrained from asking Hess about his alleged anti-Soviet negotiations with Trotsky. In March 1946 a number of prominent British people, including H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Julian Symons and Frank Horrabin, signed an appeal to the Tribunal asking that Trotsky’s widow be allowed to interrogate Hess in order to clear her husband’s name, or that at least the Allied experts examining Gestapo records make a statement showing to what extent they had found confirmation of the story told in the Moscow trials. No action was taken on these requests, and to this day no evidence of Nazi-Trotskyite’ negotiations has been published.

9. Pollitt also wrote in this pamphlet: ‘The bold Trotsky, eh? Wants an international court of inquiry. His tools are left to face it out. Why doesn’t he face it with them? Why doesn’t he go to Moscow?’ Neither here nor anywhere else in Stalinist publications was it ever revealed that Trotsky repeatedly demanded that the Soviet Government bring extradition proceedings against him – which would have necessitated their making a case in a Norwegian or Mexican court.

10. Anti-Trotskyism eventually became for a time the chief activity of J.R. Campbell, as is reflected in Phil Bolsover’s article, in the DW of April 2, 1938, The Man behind the Answers, describing Campbell at work preparing his Answers to Questions feature: ‘And if you see sometimes a grim, but not unhappy, gleam behind those horn-rimmed spectacles that are lifted occasionally to survey the busy room, you’ll know it’s ten to one that Johnnie Campbell is dealing with some Trotskyist or other. One of his sharper joys is to take an artistic delight in dissecting the sophistries, the half-truths, the complete falsehoods of the breed; laying bare the poverty of their creed for all to see. “Give him a Trotskyist and he’ll be happy for hours”, someone once said.’

11. Around this time died Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Commissar for Heavy Industry. Under the headline Stalin bears Coffin of “Bolshevism’s Fiery Knight”, the DW of February 22 reported the funeral: ‘As Stalin stood with his hands sorrowfully crossed, a wave of the people’s love and loyalty swept towards him. Beside him stood Zinaida Ordzhonikidze, Sergo’s wife ...’ An article about the dead man which appeared next day was headed: Health Shattered by Trotskyist Wrecking. On August 12 a leader headed Foul Lies denounced the Herald for carrying a story that Ordzhonikidze had killed himself and that his brothers has been arrested. (‘All Labour men and women [should now] protest against the anti-Soviet line of this most scurrilous rag in the newspaper world.’) Russia Today for September, under the heading Another Daily Herald Slander, declared that ‘we are able to state definitely there is not a word of truth in this assertion’. In his secret speech of February 25, 1956 (The Dethronement of Stalin [1956], p. 27) Khrushchev said: ‘Stalin allowed the liquidation of Ordzhonikidze’s brother and brought Ordzhonikidze himself to such a state that he was forced to shoot himself.’ When Khrushchev and Bulganin came to Britain in the warship Ordzhonikidze, Walter Holmes published in his Worker’s Notebook (DW, April 16, 1956) a note on the man after whom the ship was named: ‘Ordzhonikidze died in 1937, when many of his assistants were being arrested on charges of spying, sabotage etc. There were rumours that he had been driven to suicide ... It has now been established that Sergo Ordzhonikidze was suspicious of Beria’s political position. After the death of Ordzhonikidze, Beria and his fellow-conspirators continued cruelly to revenge themselves on his family ...’

12. The extreme concern shown to shore up Holtzman’s evidence is explained by two facts – his was the only statement giving anything like precise details of time and place, and it furnished the basis for all the rest of the story. Concentration on the place where Holtzman allegedly went also served to divert attention from the fact that the person – Sedov – whom he had allegedly met there had been able to prove conclusively, by means of his student’s attendance card and other documents, that he was taking an examination in another city at the time!

13. Returning to the attack on June 8, Dutt wrote with characteristic scorn of ‘liberal intellectual waverers who are incapable of facing the hard realities of the fight against fascism’.

14. Even nearer the bone than the Bubnov case was that of Rose Cohen, a British Communist Party member since 1921, one-time office-manager of the Labour Research Department and member of the Party’s colonial bureau, wife of Petrovsky-Bennett, the Comintern’s nuncio in Britain. While working in Moscow on the staff of Moscow Daily News she was arrested as a spy and never heard of again. An earlier (and unluckier) Edith Bone, her case was never mentioned in the Stalinist press. For details, see Fight and Militant (London) of June 1938 and subsequently.

15. William Rust was perhaps the most honest of the British Stalinists in the matter of admitting that there was nothing whatever to go on beyond the confessions. In his review, in the DW of March 1, 1937, of the verbatim report of the second trial, he wrote: ‘Of the treason and the actual negotiations with the fascist governments there is, of course, no documentary proof ...’ Desperate for ‘documentary proof’ of some sort, the DW of November 10 published a block showing. side by side, the symbol used by a ‘Trotskyist’ publishing firm in Antwerp – a lightning-flash across a globe – and the Mosleyite ‘flash-in-the-pan’. The caption supplied read: ‘Similarity with a significance.’ (During the second world war the five-pointed star was used as an emblem in various ways by the Soviet, American, Indian and Japanese armies).

16. J.R. Campbell defended in the DW of April 11, 1938, that paper’s refusal of advertisements for ‘Trotskyite’ publications: ‘It would be senseless for the Daily Worker to give a free advertisement to opposition political tendencies.’ With this may be compared Walter Holmes’s Worker’s Notebook of November 27, 1936, in which he reproduced a letter from Mr Warburg telling how the Observer had refused an advertisement for John Langdon-Davies’s book Behind the Spanish Barricades, and commented: ‘We agree with Messrs. Secker and Warburg about the grave character of this censorship of advertisements.’

17. Sloan came back to the pages of Controversy in the March issue to denounce Stalin’s words as ‘an unscrupulous misquotation by Trotsky’, to defend the Communist Party’s refusal to allow republication of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World (‘It is a little naïve. I think, to ask communists to popularize an inaccurate account of the internal affairs in Bolshevik leadership in 1917’), and to declare regarding the victims of the trials: ‘It is a good thing they have been shot. Further, if there were more of them, then more of them should have been shot.’

18. J.R. Campbell, closely associated in his time with the Bukharin-Rykov trend, wrote firmly in the DW of March 17, after the executions: ‘It is enemies of socialism and peace who have perished. We should not mourn.’ Lawrence and Wishart brought out a book about the trial – The Plot Against the Soviet Union and World Peace – by B.N. Ponomarev, in which this Soviet authority made it plain that one of the chief criteria for people’s political reliability was ‘their attitude towards ... the struggle against Trotskyism’ (p. 186). (Ponomarev is a member of the central committee of the Soviet Communist Party, working with Suslov in the department concerned with relations with other Communist Parties, and in this capacity recently received. e.g., a delegation from the Australian Communist Party, according to Pravda of January 5, 1958.)

19. One really might have expected some comment on the statement made through Rakovsky that Trotsky had put the British imperialists up to the Arcos raid in 1927, arranging through ‘a certain Meller or Mueller ... the discovery of specially fabricated provocative documents’ (DW, March 7). After all, the line of the Communist Party had always been that the Arcos raid had produced nothing to justify the charges made against the Soviet agencies in this country. No mention of Rakovsky’s statement at his trial is made in the detailed account of the Arcos Raid in the History of Anglo-Soviet Relations by W.P. and Zelda Coates published by Lawrence and Wishart in 1944. Yet in their book From Tsardom to the Stalin Constitution (1938) Mr and Mrs Coates had declared their belief in the genuineness of the confessions ... In his dispatch printed in the DW of March 9, Arnot quoted without comment an alleged statement by Trotsky in 1918: ‘Stalin – Lenin’s closest assistant – must be destroyed’. It would indeed have been hard for Arnot to comment acceptably, for in 1923 he had written for the Labour Research Department a short history of The Russian Revolution, in which he showed how far Stalin was from being ‘Lenin’s closest assistant’ in 1918, and who in fact occupied that position! Much was made, by Arnot and others, in connexion with all three trials, of the alleged fact that some of the accused had at one time or another been Mensheviks, but no mention appeared of Vyshinsky’s having been a Menshevik down to 1920.

20. All through the period 1936–38 Walter Holmes had kept up a running fire in his Worker’s Notebook in the DW of quotations from bourgeois papers directed against the ‘Trotskyists’. Perhaps his best bag was one from the Times of Malaya which he published on August 7, 1937, reporting the formation of a bloc between Monarchists and Trotskyists’.

21. Compare eyewitness Fitzroy Maclean’s account of the trial in his Eastern Approaches (1949). Zelensky, former chairman of Gosplan, “confessed’ to having put powdered glass and nails into the butter and to having destroyed truckloads of eggs. ‘At this startling revelation a grunt of rage and horror rose from the audience. Now they knew what was the matter with the butter, and why there were never any eggs. Deliberate sabotage was somehow a much more satisfactory solution than carelessness or inefficiency. Besides Zelensky had admitted that he had been in contact with a sinister foreigner, a politician, a member of the British Labour Party, a certain Mr A.V. Alexander, who had encouraged him in his fell designs. No wonder that he had put ground glass in the butter. And nails! What a warning, too, to have nothing to do with foreigners, even though they masqueraded as socialists.’ Doubtless taking his cue from the inclusion of A.V. Alexander in the dramatis personae of the ‘Bukharin’ trial. Arnot went even further in attacking fellow-socialists in his Labour Monthly article of May 1938 than he had ventured to do previously: he now wrote of ‘H.N. Brailsford and ILP leaders, whose position as dupes of Trotsky or agents of Trotsky is still to be examined.’

Last updated on 10.10.2011