Leon Trotsky

An Interview WithLeon Trotsky
On the Recent Moscow Trial

Written: September 1936
First Published: Socialist Appeal [Chicago], Volume 2, No. 9 pages 4-5
Translated: Socialist Appeal
Transcription/HTML Markup: Damon Maxwell and David Walters
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2008. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

WHAT is involved is the life of many persons in the “Soviet Union and my name as a political person. I have my views and I have always defended them. I now hold the same views as before. I am a revolutionist, but no terrorist. When Friedrich Adler shot the Austrian Prime Minister Stuerghk in 1916, I declared that my policy was not that of Adler, but that of Karl Liebknecht. Karl Liebknecht went into the streets of Berlin and distributed leaflets against the war. If I wanted to conceal my views, it would not have been necessary for me to go into emigration for the third time. But I am a revolutionist. If I were now able to travel to Spain, I would do so. I would fight for the revolution against the Fascist rebels—I say this openly and honestly. But I cannot travel to Spain and it is nonsense when it is now said that I have my hands in the affair that is now developing down there.”

In this way the conversation is brought to the burning question of the day, the Moscow trial and the accusations directed at Trotsky, which he brands as the greatest frame-up the world has ever seen.

“Chronology,” he continues, “plays an important role in what I am about to put before you. I therefore beg you to pay attention to the course of development of the affair. The G.P.U. knows many arts, but it has not mastered the art of scientific chronology. I came to Turkey in February 1929, after having been banished from the Soviet Union. And on March 4, 1929, I wrote the following in the Russian magazine, ‘Bulletin of the Opposition ,’ which appeared in Paris in July of the same year:

“‘Only one thing remains for Stalin: to attempt to draw a line of blood between the official party and the Opposition. It is an absolute necessity for him to connect up the Opposition with assassin’s attacks, with the preparation of armed uprisings, etc. But that’s just what the leaders of the Opposition stand in the way of. Thence the Stalin plan to send these leaders abroad (at that time preparations were being made for the banishment of several persons), in order thereby to gain a free hand with regard to the young supporters of the Opposition whose names are unknown to the broad masses, especially abroad. That is why it may be expected that, after the banishment of the leaders, Stalin will endeavor, in one way or another, to trick one or another allegedly oppositional group into an adventure, or in the event of a failure, to manufacture some “assassin's attempt” or a “military conspiracy” and blame the Opposition for it.’

“Everybody, no matter what party he may belong to, will grasp the great significance of this quotation. If you are able to read Russian, you can see from the ‘Bulletin ’—in which all my articles have been published for the last 7 1/2 years—that I have always been an opponent of individual terror, but that I was already then clearly aware of what was coming.

Kirov Assassination Begins Frame-up

“The first ‘attentat’ to happen was the murder of Kirov in December 1934. Kirov was an administration man of only average talent. In my opinion he didn’t have any political importance. After the murder, the government issued two declarations. At first it said that the ‘attentat’ had been committed by White terrorists who had come across the Soviet Russian border from Poland, Rumania and other countries. On December 17, it was suddenly announced that the murderer is the member of the Leningrad Opposition, Nikolaiev. Perhaps Nikolaiev really did belong to the Leningrad Opposition, but then only in 1926 and not in 1934. The last chapter of the Leningrad Opposition had closed in 1928.

“Two weeks after that, Zinoviev was drawn into the trial and, together with his supporters, accused of murder. Zinoviev worked together with me in the ranks of the party in the year 1926 and was regarded as an Oppositionist. When “the bureaucracy strengthened itself in 1928, Zinoviev capitulated. And from 1929 to 1934, Zinoviev and Kamenev were counted as traitors to the Opposition—which can be seen with all desirable clarity from the Opposition’s ‘Bulletin .’

“When I heard that the two of them had been connected with the ‘attentat,’ I immediately said to myself that something exceptionally unusual must have happened. I had heard nothing of their having entered into opposition again. Meanwhile, I didn’t doubt for a moment that they had absolutely nothing to do with the ‘attentat.’ The two of them were brought to trial in January 1935 and up to that time my name had not yet been connected with the affair. That occurred only in the indictment.”

Trotsky got up and crossed the floor. He stopped in front of a bookshelf.

“Just look at these,” he said, “my own books. Some of them are a bit scorched. That’s due to the fire that broke out in our home in Constantinople. These books are the result of a literary activity of forty years and in all these books you will find that I have always been an opponent of individual terror—in the Soviet Union as well as in the rest of the world.

“I wasn’t even accused in 1935, but only named. It was said that Nikolaiev had stated that before the ‘attentat’ he had been in contact with the consul of a foreign state. From this consul he had received 5,000 roubles for the carrying out of the attack, for which Nikolaiev was supposed to do the consul the service of getting a letter to Trotsky for him.

“Gentlemen, that is all that was said about me at that time in the indictment. But the judges neglected to go into any further details on this letter with Nikolaiev!

“When the consul was drawn in, all the other consuls protested and demanded that the name of this unworthy colleague be published. Thereupon, after a long delay, it was announced that his name is Skujeneck and that he is from Latvia. The Soviet government was asked if it would address a diplomatic note to Latvia, but it replied: No! The consul got away scot-free to Finland.

“He was certainly not acting as a consul at that time, but as a private individual. And I often asked myself: Why didn't they make sure to apprehend him? Why wasn’t he brought before the court? Was it because he was, after all, an agent of the G.P.U.?

C. P. U. Responsible for Kirov’s Murder

“It is my opinion that the ‘attentat’ against Kirov was arranged in order to extirpate the Opposition—But there was no intention of killing Kirov; the ‘attentat’ was to be prevented at the last minute. When things turned out differently than had been counted on, the head of the G.P.U. in Leningrad, Medved, was made responsible for them. That was the third trial in connection with the ‘attentat’!

“Medved and a few other officials of the G.P.U. were accused because they knew all about the ‘attentat’ but didn’t do anything to prevent it. Medved confessed everything and received 3 years in prison.

“I know Medved. He was no independent politician—it was Stalin himself who directed this affair in order to hit the Opposition. To this day I do not know if Nikolaiev himself was an agent of the G.P.U. The fact that he succeeded in penetrating into Kirov’s office— Kirov had a high post and it wasn’t just anybody who could get access to him –would indicate that. In any case, Medved found Nikolaiev through his G.P.U. agents. Nikolaiev was a desperate young bureaucrat. What psychological factors drove him to murder, I don’t know.

“But now began the persecutions of the Oppositionists. I wasn’t wrong when I foresaw that that would happen. The trial that has just taken place is not a new trial, it is only a new edition of the trial of January 1935. At that time we had the general rehearsal. Now we have the premiere.

“For a year and half the affair was in preparation. And now I am not only the organizer of the ‘attentat,’ but, gentlemen, I am also in contact with the Gestapo! And this in spite of the fact that my name was only mentioned in passing in the indictment of 1935!

“So, I am supposed to be in contact with the Gestapo? And with so powerful an ally I am supposed to have achieved nothing but the murder of Kirov?

“Now there is an entirely new set of witnesses in the affair. A large part of their names I heard for the first time. I don’t know them. As to the vanished consul, nothing more is heard of him altogether. These witnesses were dug up in the course of the past year and a half. But now I am abroad and I shall be able to produce hundreds of witnesses who will prove that I had nothing to do with the Kirov murder.”

The correspondent asked: “It is asserted that you had a talk with Berman-Jurin in Copenhagen and Oslo with regard to the murder of Stalin and that you settled the matter between you.”

“I left Turkey to visit Copenhagen” answered Trotsky, “for the purpose of lecturing to the Student’s League. During my stay in Copenhagen, about 40 persons visited me. I remember all of them, but there was no Berman among them—unless he has meanwhile changed his name—or any other Russian citizen, for that matter. There was a Russian-speaking Lithuanian among those with whom I spoke.

Olberg an Agent of G. P. U.

“Among my papers, I have found the following facts. In 1930, a certain Olberg tried to come to me as my secretary. The then publisher of ‘Die Aktion ,’ Franz Pfempfert, in a letter dated April 1, 1930, warned me in the most vigorous manner against Olberg as a suspicious creature, who was probably a G.P.U. agent. Since Olberg seems to be the basis of the whole accusation, I would gladly furnish the press with material that characterizes him. It is simply stupid to contend that I would have given any commissions of a terroristic nature to a man whom I myself do not know and against whom a good friend warned me.

“During my stay in Norway, I received not a single visit from the Soviet Union. Nor did I write a single line from here to the Soviet Union, neither directly nor indirectly. Until about two years ago, my wife was in contact with our son. He was at one time a professor in a technical high school. I do not know where he is now, but we learned quite by chance that he is supposed to have been exiled to Siberia. He never participated in politics, but it suffices that he is Trotsky’s son. The letters we received from him until about twenty months ago, consisted exclusively of brief greetings, just as did the letter of my wife to him. She also tried to learn of his whereabouts through an Olso bank, but the Soviet authorities merely reported: Address unknown.

“Our other son, however, did participate in political life. In 1928 he followed us of his own free will to Central Asia and later to Turkey. He has just finished his studies at the Sorbonne University.

“In the telegram that Moscow has sent out about the trial, is reported a letter that I am supposed to have transmitted to Smirnov through my son. According to this letter, I am supposed to want three things, namely: 1) to eliminate Stalin and Voroschilov; 2) to organize cells in the army; and 3) to take advantage of all the mistakes committed in the event of war in order to seize the power.

“The whole letter consists of five lines! Five lines for those three tasks! That's really just a little bit too concentrated!

“The whole thing is a crude frame-up. It’s a lie, an infamous lie that is directed at me. But there is no possibility of raising the voice of criticism in the Soviet Union. Criticism is strangled there and these senseless accusations will remain unassailed there for the time being. But here we do have the possibility of criticizing. And as for me, gentlemen, I criticize.”

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Last updated on: 20.4.2007