During the trial, Radek testified: “... in February, 1932, I received a letter from Trotsky ... Trotsky further wrote that since he knew me to be an active person he was convinced that I would return to the struggle.” Three months after this alleged letter, on May 14th, 1932, I wrote to Albert Weisbord in New York: “... The ideological and moral degeneration of Radek testifies to the fact that not only is Radek not made of first-grade stuff, but also that the Stalinist régime must support itself either on depersonalized functionaries or demoralized people.” Such was my real appraisal of this “active person”!
In May, 1932, the German liberal paper, Berliner Tageblatt, in a special issue devoted to economic construction in the USSR, published an article by Radek which for the one-hundred-and-first time condemned me for my disbelief in the possibility of building Socialism in one country. “This thesis is denied not only by the avowed enemies of the Soviet Union,” wrote Radek, “but is also disputed by Leon Trotsky.” I answered him in the Bulletin (No.28, July 1932) by a brief note entitled: A Lightminded Man on a Weighty Question. Let me remind you that it was in the Spring of that year that Radek went to Geneva, where he supposedly received, through Romm, a letter from me proposing the earliest possible extermination of the Soviet leaders. It turns out that I entrusted rather “weighty” missions to “a lightminded man”!
During the years 1933-1936 my ties with Radek, if one believes his testimony, became firmly welded. This did not prevent him from passionately revising the history of the Revolution in the personal interests of Stalin. On November 21st, 1935, three weeks before Pyatakov’s “flight” to Oslo, Radek recounted in Pravda his interview with some foreigner: “I related to him how Lenin’s closest comrade-in-arms, Stalin, directed the organization of the fronts and elaborated the strategic plans, on the basis of which we were victorious.” I was thus completely excluded from the history of the Civil War. Yet the very same Radek once knew how to write in a different vein, I have already mentioned his article, Leon Trotsky – Organizer of Victory (Pravda, March 14th, 1923). I am now compelled to quote from it:
The need of the hour was for a man who would incarnate the call to struggle, a man who, subordinating himself completely to the requirements of the struggle, would become the ringing summons to arms, the will which exacts from all unconditional submission to a great, sacrificial necessity. Only a man with Trotsky’s capacity for work, only a man so unsparing of himself as Trotsky, only a man who knew how to speak to the soldiers as Trotsky did – only such a man could have become the standard bearer of the armed toilers. He was all things rolled into one.
In 1923 I was “all”; in 1935, I became, for Radek, “nothing.” In the lengthy article of 1923 Stalin is not once mentioned. In 1935 he turns out to be “the organizer of victory.”
Radek thus has in his possession two diametrically opposite histories of the Civil War: One for the year 1923, the other for the year 1935. The two versions, regardless of which happens to be true, unmistakably characterize the degree of Radek’s honesty as well as his attitude toward myself and Stalin at various times. While supposedly linking his fate with mine by the bonds of a plot, Radek indefatigably defames and blackens me. On the other hand, having decided to kill Stalin, he ecstatically shines his boots for seven years.
But this is still not all. In January, 1935, Zinoviev, Kamenev and others were sentenced, in connection with the Kirov assassination, to some years of imprisonment. During the trial they confessed a desire “to restore capitalism.” In the Bulletin of the Opposition I stigmatized this self-accusation as a rude and nonsensical frame-up. Who hastened to Vyshinsky’s defense? Radek! “It is not a question of whether capitalism is the ideal of Messrs. Trotsky and Zinoviev,” he wrote in Pravda, “but whether the building of Socialism is possible in our country ...”, etc. I answered in the Bulletin (No.43, April 1935): “Radek blurts out that Zinoviev and Kamenev did not engage in any plots with the aim of reestablishing capitalism – contrary to what the official statement so shamelessly affirms – but merely rejected the theory of Socialism in one country.”
Radek’s article of January 1935 entering as a logical link into the chain of his calumnies against the Opposition, prepared the way for his article of August 1936 captioned: The Zinovievite-Trotskyite Fascist Gang and Its Hetman Trotsky. This, in its turn, was nothing else but a prelude to Radek’s court testimony in January 1937. Each succeeding step developed from the preceding one. This is precisely why absolutely no one would have believed Radek had he figured in the trial only as a witness for the Prosecution. For his testimony against me to carry any weight, it was necessary to transform Radek into a defendant, suspending above him the Damocles sword of the death penalty. The manner in which Radek was transformed into a defendant is a special question which, in essence, belongs in the domain of inquisitorial technique. Here it suffices for us that Radek took his seat on the defendants’ bench, not as my co-thinker, collaborator and friend of yesteryear, but as an old capitulator, the betrayer of Blumkin, demoralized agent of Stalin and the GPU, as the most perfidious of all my enemies.
At this point we may anticipate the question: How, in view of these facts and documents, could the Government represent Radek as the leader of a “Trotskyite” plot?
This question, however, relates not to Radek himself, but rather to the trial as a whole. Radek is transformed into a “Trotskyite” by the same methods which transformed me into an ally of the Mikado – and for the self-same political motives. To the question posed above, a brief answer would be the following: 1. For the system of “confessions” only capitulators, who had passed through the school of recantation, self-abasement and self-vilification, were suitable; 2. the organizers of the trial did not and could not find a better candidate for the rôle assigned to Radek; 3. the whole calculation of the organizers is constructed on the summary effect of public confessions and executions, which were intended to stifle all criticism. Such is the method of Stalin. Such is the present political system in the USSR. The case of Radek is only the most striking example.
The whole tissue of the trial is rotten. We shall see this now in the testimony of Vladimir Romm, a most important witness, who, moreover, was brought to court from jail under guard. If we leave aside Pyatakov’s flight to Oslo in the mythical airplane, then Romm – according to the design of the indictment – serves as the chief connecting link between myself and the “parallel center” (Pyatakov-Radek-Sokolnikov-Serebryakov). Through Romm, letters were supposedly conveyed from me to Radek, and from Radek to me. Romm, allegedly, met personally not only Leon Sedov, my son, but also me. Who is this witness? What did he do and what did he see? What are the motives behind his participation in the conspiracy? Let us listen to him most attentively.
Romm is, of course, a “Trotskyite.” Without Trotskyites by special appointment of the GPU, there would never have been any “Trotskyite conspiracy.” We should like to learn, however, the exact date of Romm’s adherence to the “Trotskyists,” granting that he ever did join them. But even to this first and, it would seem, not unimportant, question we hear a very suspicious answer:
“Vyshinsky: What were your ties with Radek in the past?”
“Romm: At first I was acquainted with him in connection with literary work and later, in 1926-1927, I was connected with him in joint Trotskyite anti-Party work.”
And that exhausts the answer to Vyshinsky’s leading questioni What strikes one’s attention first of all is the manner of expression. The witness makes no reference to his Oppositionist activity; he does not utter a single word to characterize its content; no, he immediately applies to it a criminal qualification: “Trotskyite anti-Party work” – and nothing more. Romm simply proffers the court, in ready-made form, the formula required for the report of the court proceedings. It is in this way that each disciplined accused and witness conducts himself during the trials of Stalin-Vyshinsky – the undisciplined are shot before the trial. In recognition of services rendered, the Prosecutor refrains altogether from embarrassing the witness by questioning him about the circumstances under which he joined the Opposition and the manner in which his “anti-Party” work expressed itself. Vyshinsky’s fundamental rule is: Thou shalt not place witnesses and defendants in an embarrassing position! But even without the assistance of the Prosecutor it is not difficult to gather that in his very first statement Romm is telling an untruth. The years 1926-1927 embrace a period in which Oppositionist activity attained its widest sweep. The extended platform of the Opposition was elaborated and multigraphed; within the Party there was heated discussion; large meetings of the Opposition took place, attended by tens of thousands of workers in Moscow and Leningrad alone; finally, the Opposition participated in the November demonstration with its own banners and slogans. If Romm had really belonged to the Opposition during that period, he must have been connected with numerous individuals. But, no; he cautiously names only Radek. While Troyanovsky was assuring everybody in New York that Romm “really” was a “Trotskyite,” the verbatim report of the trial definitely refuted the false statement of the diplomat. Radek says about Romm: “I knew Romm since 1925. He was not a worker in a general sense, but he was with us on the Chinese question.” This means, in other words, that Romm stood apart from the Opposition on all other questions. So this man who, even according to Radek’s testimony, was only episodically with him on the Chinese question (1927), is dragged into the light of day in the guise of – terrorist!
Just why did it fall to Romm’s lot to masquerade as the contact man? Because in his capacity of foreign correspondent he traveled to Geneva, Paris, the United States, and, in consequence, possessed the technical facilities for the fulfillment of the commission foisted upon him retroactively by the GPU. And inasmuch as after the tenfold purgings to which all the foreign delegations and institutions of the USSR had been subjected since the end of 1927, it was impossible to locate even with a lantern any “Trotskyite” or even capitulator abroad. Yezhov was compelled to appoint Romm as “Trotskyite,” while Vyshinsky had to content himself in silence with Romm’s answer concerning the “anti-Party” connection with Radek in 1926-1927.
But what did Romm do after 1927? Did he break with the Opposition or did he remain loyal to it? Did he recant or had he nothing to recant? Not a word about all this. The prosecutor is interested not in political psychology but in geography.
“Vyshinsky: Were you ever in Geneva?
“Romm: Yes, I was Tass correspondent in Geneva, also in Paris. In Geneva from 1930 to 1934.
Did Romm read the Bulletin of the Opposition during the years of his stay abroad? Did he contribute funds to it? Did he even make, a single attempt to establish connections with me personally? About all this – not a word. Yet it would have been no very great labor to write me a letter from Geneva or Paris. To have done so, one need only have been interested in the Opposition, and in my activity in particular. Romm makes no reference at all to any such interest on his part, and the prosecutor naturally asks him no questions about it. It follows that Romm terminated in 1927 his “anti-Party” work, which was known only to Radek – that is to say, if we admit for a moment that he had ever begun it. It must be borne in mind that it is not customary to send the first chance stranger as a Tass correspondent to Geneva or Paris. The GPU carefully hand-picks individuals, and, at the same time, makes sure of their complete readiness to cooperate. Small wonder, then, that Rommn, while abroad, did not evince the slightest “Oppositionist” interest in me or my activity!
But Vyshinsky is in urgent need of a contact man between Radek and myself. There is no candidate more suitable. That is why it suddenly turns out that in the summer of 1931, while passing through Berlin, Romm met Putna, who offered to “put him in touch with” Sedov. Who is Putna? A prominent officer of the General Staff, participant in the Civil War, and later military attaché in London. For a certain period of time Putna, as I learned even before my exile in Central Asia (1928), really did sympathize with the Opposition, and perhaps even participated in it. I had very little occasion to meet him personally, and then only on military matters. I never had any discussion with him on Opposition topics. I do not know whether he was later obliged to repent officially. At any rate, when I read in Prinkipo about Putna’s appointment to the important post of military attaché in London, I drew the conclusion that he had fully restored himself in the confidence of the authorities. In such circumstances, neither I nor my son could have had any connection with Putna abroad. From the report of the court proceedings, however, I learn, among other extraordinary things, that it was none other than Putna himself who offered to put Romm “in touch with” Sedov. To what end? Romm did not even bother to ask. He simply accepted the offer of Putna, with whom he had had no previous political connections – at any rate he mentions none. Thus, after a lapse of four years Romm, for reasons unknown, consents to renew his “Trotskyite anti-Party work.” Faithful to his system, he does not, in court, refer by so much as a single word to his political motives. Did he aim to seize power? Was he striving to restore capitalism? Was he consumed with hatred toward Stalin? Was he seduced by the connection with fascism? Or was he simply guided by his old friendship for Radek, who had, incidentally, contrived to repent and who had already been cursing the Opposition on all the highways and byways for more than two years? The Prosecutor, of course, does not annoy the witness with disconcerting questions. Romm is not in duty bound to possess a political psychology, His task is to effect a connection between Radek and Trotsky. and incidentally to compromise Putna, who is, meanwhile, being trained in the GPU prison for future “confessions.”
“I met Sedov,” continues Romm, “and in reply to his question as to whether I was prepared, if necessary [!], to serve as liaison man with Radek, I consented ...” When answering, Romm unfailingly gives his consent, without explaining his motives. Yet Romm could not but have known that for having met me in 1929 in Stamboul, and for having attempted to transmit a letter of mine to friends in Russia, Blumkin was shot. This letter, by the way, is at this very moment in the archives of the GPU, but it is so extremely ill-suited to the aims of Vyshinsky and Stalin that they would never even entertain the idea of publishing it. In any case, to have ventured, after the shooting of Blumkin, to take upon himself the mission of contact man, Romm must have been an extraordinarily self-sacrificing and heroic Oppositionist. Why did he keep silent for four years? Why did he wait for a chance meeting with Putna, and why did he wait to be “put in touch” with Sedov? And why, on the other hand, did a single meeting suffice for Romm to take upon himself, then and there, without any objection, this extremely perilous job? There is not a single element of human psychology in this trial The witnesses, like the accused, tell only of those “actions” which are needful to Prosecutor Vyshinsky. The connection between the fictitious “actions” is provided not by the thoughts and feelings of living men, but by the a priori pattern of the indictment.
In the spring of the following year, when Radek arrived in Geneva, Romm “handed him a letter from Trotsky which I [Romm] had received from Sedov not long before that in Paris.” So, in the Spring of 1931, Sedov had hypothetically posed the question of making contact with Radek – “if necessary.” Did Sedov, perhaps, foresee Radek’s coming to Geneva? Obviously not, because in the summer of 1931 Radek himself could not have foreseen his future journey. By hook or crook, three-quarters of a year after a conversation in Berlin, Sedov obtained the opportunity to avail himself of a promise made him by Romm. But what took place in the recesses of Romm’s mind in the interval between the summer of 1931, when he in principle took the path of “conspiracy,” and the spring of 1932, when he took the first practical step? Did he attempt, even then, to establish connections with me? Did he become interested in my books, publications and friends? Did he have political discussions with Sedov? Nothing of the kind. Romm merely took upon himself a minor commission, which might have cost him his head. As for the rest, he was not interested. Does Romm bear any resemblance at all to a confirmed Trotskyist? Hardly; instead, he is as like a GPU agent provocateur as one drop of water is to another, provided – provided he really did commit the acts he describes. As a matter of fact, all these acts were thought up retroactively. We shall have ample opportunity to become convinced of this.
In what circumstances did Sedov, in the spring of 5932, convey to Romm a letter for Radek? The answer to this question is truly remarkable: “A few days before my departure for Geneva,” says Romm, “while in Paris, I received a letter posted in Paris, containing a short note from Sedov asking me to convey a letter enclosed in the envelope to Radek.” And so, some nine to ten months after his one and only meeting with Romm – how many recantations, betrayals, and provocations were there during these very months! – Sedov, without any preliminary check-up, sends Romm a conspirative letter. For the sake of adding a second piece of giddiness to the first, he resorts to the services of the “city post.” Why not from hand to hand? Vyshinsky naturally refrains from raising this ticklish question, But we, on our part, have an explanation to offer. Neither the GPU nor Vyshinsky. nor, in consequence, Romm, knows with certainty Sedov’s precise whereabouts in the spring of 1932 – in Berlin or in Paris. Arrange the meeting in the Tiergarten? Choose Montparnasse as the rendezvous? No; it is safest to circumnavigate the submarine reefs. To be sure, a letter by city post somehow seems to hint that Sedov was in Paris. But “if necessary,” it will always be possible to say that Sedov sent the letter from Berlin to some Parisian agent of his, and that it was really the latter who used the city post to convey the letter to Romm. How careless, how impotent are these “Trotskyist” conspirators! But it may be that Trotsky wrote his letter in code and with invisible ink? Let us listen to the witness on this point:
“Romm: I took this letter with me to Geneva and handed it to Radek when I met him ...
“Vyshinsky: Did Radek read the letter in your presence or after you had gone?
“Romm: He glanced through it quickly in my presence and put it in his pocket.”
What inimitable detail! Radek did not swallow the letter, did not fling it into the gutter, and did not hand it over to the Secretariat of the League of Nations, but without much ado “put it in his pocket.” All the confessions abound in such “concrete” platitudes, of which the most incompetent writer of detective Stories would be ashamed. In any case, we do learn that Radek quickly “glanced through” the letter in Romm’s presence. It is impossible quickly to “glance through,” then and there, in full view of an intermediary, a letter that is in code – all the more so in the case of a letter written with invisible ink. Consequently the letter, which went by city post, must have been written in the same fashion as birthday greetings.
But perhaps this first letter at least did not contain any particular secrets. Let us listen further:
“Vyshinsky: What did Radek tell you about the contents of that letter?
“Romm: That it contained instructions about uniting with the Zinovievites, about adopting terrorist methods of struggle against the leaders of the CPSSU, in the first place against Stalin and Voroshilov.”
We perceive that the communication was not at all innocent in content. It “contained instructions” to kill, as a beginning, Stalin and Voroshilov, and then all the others. It was precisely this little letter that Sedov allegedly sent by city post to Romm, whom he hardly knew, ten months after his first and only meeting with him. Our perplexity, however, does not end here. Vyshinsky, as we have just heard, puts a direct question to the witness: “What did Radek tell you about the contents of that letter?” It is as though Radek was obliged to impart the contents of an ultra-secret letter to an ordinary contact man! The most elementary conspiratorial rule reads that each participant in an illegal organization must be informed only about that which relates to his personal duties. Inasmuch as Romm remained abroad, and was, obviously, not engaged in preparations to assassinate Stalin, Voroshilov, or any of the others (at any rate, he himself tells nothing about such intentions), Radek, if he was in full possession of his senses, did not have the slightest ground for informing Romm about the contents of the letter. There were no grounds – from the standpoint of an Oppositionist, a conspirator, or a terrorist. But the question appears in a totally different light when viewed from the standpoint of the GPU. Had Radek told Romm nothing about the contents of the letter, Romm could not have revealed the terrorist directive of Trotsky, and his entire testimony on this score would have been pointless. We already know that the witnesses, like the accused, testify not to that which flows from the conspiratorial nature of their activities and from their individual psychology, but to that which is needful to Mr. Prosecutor, whom nature has endowed with very sluggish brains. In addition, the accused and the witnesses are under instructions to concern themselves with the verisimilitude of the report of the court proceedings.
What happened, the reader will ask, to the Tass correspondent when he suddenly heard Trotsky’s directive to annihilate with the greatest speed imaginable the “leaders” of the Soviet Union? Was he horror-stricken? Did he swoon? Did he give vent to indignation? Or, on the contrary, did he pass into a state of exaltation? Not a word about all this. No psychology is demanded of the witnesses or the accused. Romm “incidentally” handed the letter to Radek. Radek “incidentally” informed him about the terrorist directive. “Then Radek left for Moscow and I did not see him until the autumn of 1932.” That is all! They simply passed on to their routine tasks.
But on this point Radek. perturbed by the vividness of the dialogue, incautiously corrects Romm: “In Trotsky’s first letter,” said he, “the names of Stalin and Voroshilov were not mentioned, since we never mentioned names in our letters.” For correspondence with me, it appears that at that time Radek did not yet have a code. “Trotsky,” he insists, “could not possibly have mentioned the names of Stalin and Voroshilov.” We ask: How did Romm come upon them? And if he invented such a “trifle” as the names of Stalin and Voroshilov as the first victims of terror, perhaps he invented the whole letter? The Prosecutor does not concern himself with this at all.
In the autumn of 1932, Romm came to Moscow on official business and met Radek, who did not fail to seize the occasion to inform him that “in pursuance of Trotsky’s directives a Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc had been organized, but that he and Pyatakov had not joined that center.” Again we perceive that Radek can hardly wait for the occasion to reveal some most important secret to Romm, not at all out of light-mindedness and altruistic loquacity, so peculiar to him in general, but rather for the sake of the supreme goal: The need to help Prosecutor Vyshinsky patch up the looming gaps in the confessions of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others. In fact, no one has been able to comprehend to this day how and why Radek and Pyatakov. who had already been exposed as “accomplices” by the accused during the preliminary investigation in the case of the sixteen, were not brought to trial at the proper time. No one has been able to comprehend how it happened that Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov and Mrachkovsky knew nothing of the international plans of Radek and Pyatakov (expediting war, dismembering the USSR, etc.). People, not without some perspicacity, have reckoned that these grandiose plans, as well as the very idea of a “parallel center,” originated in the GPU only after the shooting of the sixteen, in order that one falsification might be propped up by a second. It turns out otherwise. Radek, well in advance, as far back as the autumn of 1932, had told Romm that the Trotskyite-Zinovievite center had already been formed but that he (Radek) and Pyatakov had not joined this center, saving themselves for the “parallel center on which the Trotskyites were to predominate” Thus, Radek’s talkativeness is providential. This does not mean, however, that Radek really did speak to Romm about the parallel center in the Autumn of 1932 as if in forecast of the worries which were to beset Vyshinsky in 1937. No; the matter is much more simple. In 1937, Radek and Romm, under the supervision of the GPU, constructed retroactively the schema of events for 1932. And, to tell the truth, they constructed it very poorly.
While telling Romm about the principal and parallel centers, Radek did not let slip the opportunity to add, then and there, that “he wanted to get directives from Trotsky on this matter.” Failing this, Romm’s testimony would not have had any real value. “In pursuance of Trotsky’s directives,” the terrorist center had been formed. Trotsky’s directives are now indispensable for the formation of the parallel center. These people are incapable of taking a single step without Trotsky – or rather, they seek to inform the universe through every channel that all crimes are committed only in pursuance of Trotsky’s directives.
Availing himself of Romm’s journey, Radek, naturally, wrote a letter to Trotsky.
“Vyshinsky: What was written in that letter? Did you know?
“Romm: Yes, because the letter was handed to me, and then [!] concealed in the cover of a German book before my departure back to Geneva ...”
The Prosecutor has no anticipatory doubts about Romm’s familiarity with the contents of the letter. After all, it is precisely for this reason that the ill-starred Tass correspondent has been converted into a witness! Nevertheless, there is more docility than sense in Romm’s reply. The letter was first “handed” to him, and later put in the cover of a German book. What does “handed” mean in such a context? And by whom was it put in the cover of a book?
If Radek had simply concealed the letter in the binding and instructed Romm to deliver the book to its destination – as was always done by revolutionists familiar with the ABC of conspiracy – then Romm would have been unable to tell the court anything except that he had delivered a “German book” to such and such address. This is naturally not enough for Vyshinsky. Therefore, the letter was first “handed” to Romm – so that he could read it? – and then inserted in the cover so that the Prosecutor would have no need to torture his faculties any further. In this way mankind learned without much trouble that Radek wrote to Trotsky not about spectral analysis but about the self-same terrorist center.
Passing through Berlin, Romm sent the book by parcel post to an address which Sedov had given him, “poste restante at one of the Berlin post offices.” These gentlemen have burned their fingers during the trial of the sixteen, and therefore proceed with caution. Romm did not pay a personal visit either to Sedov or any individual designated by Sedov, for in that case it would have been necessary to state the latter’s name and address, and that was far too risky. Nor did Romm send the book to the address of some German connected with Sedov. Such procedure, to be sure, would have been wholly in accord with conspiratorial tradition; but in that case, sad to say, one has to know the German’s name and address. It is, therefore, far more cautious (not from the standpoint of conspiracy, but from the standpoint of falsification) to send the book “pOste restante at one of the Berlin post offices.”
Romm’s next meeting with Sedov took place “in July 1933.” Let us make note of this date. We are approaching the central point in the testimony. And here I, too, am called to appear on the scene.
“Vyshinsky: What was the occasion, where and how did you meet again?
“Romm: In Paris. I had arrived from Geneva and a few days after Sedov telephoned me ...”
It remains unknown how Sedov learned about Romm’s arrival. At first glance, this remark might seem captious. As a matter of fact, it once again reveals to us the system of cowardly reticence. In order to have informed Sedov of his arrival, Romm had to know Sedov’s address or telephone number. Romm knew neither the one nor the other. It is safest to leave the initiative to Sedov. Romm is, in any case, acquainted with his own address. Sedov made an appointment for the meeting in a café on the Boulevard Montparnasse, and said that “he wanted to arrange for me [Romm] to meet Trotsky.” We know that Romm, while devotedly risking his life as a contact man, had not evinced, up to this time, the slightest desire either to meet me or to enter into correspondence with me. But in answer to Sedov’s proposal, he gave immediate consent. In exactly the same way, he went two years previously to meet Sedov on Putna’s proposal. In exactly the same way he consented to convey letters to Radek the moment that Sedov opened his mouth. Romm’s function is: Consent to everything, but display initiative in nothing.
He has obviously agreed with the GPU upon this “minimum” of criminal activity, in the hope of thus saving his life. Whether or not he will save it – that is another question.
A few days after the first telephone call, Sedov met Romm “in the same café” Out of caution, the café is not named. Suppose it suddenly turns out that the é had burned down on the eve of the meeting! The incident with the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen has been well assimilated by these people. “From there [from the nameless café] we went to the Bois de Boulogne, where I met Trotsky.”
“Vyshinsky: When was that?
“Romm: At the end of July 1933.”
Assuredly. Vyshinsky could not have asked a more unseasonable question! Romm, to be sure, had somewhat earlier assigned this episode to July 1933. But he might have been mistaken, or he might have qualified his statement. He might have been shot, and later one of the Pritts might have been entrusted with rectifying this error. But, upon the insistence of the Prosecutor, Romm repeats and states more explicitly that the meeting took place “at the end of July.” Here Vyshinsky throws caution to the wind! Romm specified a truly fatal date, which alone buries not only Romm’s evidence, but the whole trial. I must, however, ask the Commission to be indulgent. We shall deal shortly with the fatal chronological error and its sources. But, before doing so, let us investigate further the court dialogue – or rather, the duet.
Romm’s meeting with me in the Bois de Boulogne – the first time he had ever met me in his life, as follows from his own Story – should have left, it seems, an imprint on his memory. But we hear him tell nothing – either about the first moment of acquaintance, his first impressions, or the course of the conversation. Did we walk along the allée? Did we sit on a bench? Was I smoking a cigarette, a cigar, or a pipe? How did I look? There is not a single living trace, not a single subjective experience, not a single visual impression. Trotsky in an allée of the Bois de Boulogne remains for Romm a phantom, an abstraction, a puppet from the folders of the GPU. Romm remarks only that the conversation lasted “twenty to twenty-five minutes.”
“Vyshinsky: For what purpose did Trotsky meet you?
“Romm: As far as I could understand [!], in order verbally to confirm the instructions contained in the letter I was taking to Moscow.”
Remarkable words these, “as far as I could understand”! The purpose of the meeting was, apparently, so indeterminate that Romm is only able to guess at it, and, indeed, only in retrospect. In fact after I had written Radek a letter filled with the ritualistic instructions about annihilating the leaders, wrecking activities, etc., I could not have had any grounds for conversing with a contact agent unknown to me. There are cases when oral directives are confirmed by letter. There are cases when directives given to a subordinate are confirmed through a more authoritative person. But it remains entirely incomprehensible why I should have had to confirm orally those directives which I had communicated by letter to Radek – through Romm, who was an authority for nobody. But while such behavior is incomprehensible from the standpoint of a conspirator, the situation becomes immediately transformed if we take into account the interests of the Prosecutor. Failing a meeting with me, Romm could only have testified that he had brought Radek a letter concealed in the binding of a book. This letter is, of course, not in the possession of Radek, Romm or the Prosecutor. Romm could not have read a letter concealed in a binding. Could it be that the letter was not at all from me? It may even be that there was no letter at all? In order to extricate Romm from a difficult situation, I, instead of conveying a book for Radek to a contact man through some invulnerable intermediary, say, a Frenchman – as would have been done by any conspirator over the age of fifteen – I, who have passed the age of fifty, took the diametrically opposite course, namely: Not only did I involve my son in this operation – which alone would have been the grossest error – but I appeared in person to consummate the performance, for the sake of drilling into Romm’s head, for twenty to twenty-five minutes, his future testimony at the trial. The methodology of the frame-up is not distinguished by refinement.
In the course of the conversation, I declared, of course, that I “agreed with the idea of the parallel center but only on the imperative condition that the bloc with the Zinovievites was preserved and also on the condition that the parallel center shall not be inactive but shall actively engage in gathering around itself the most stalwart cadres.” What profound and fruitful ideas! I could not, of course, have failed to demand “that the bloc with the Zinovievites [be] preserved,” for otherwise Stalin would not have had the possibility of shooting Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov and the others. But I also approved the formation of the parallel center, so as to provide Stalin with the opportunity to shoot Pyatakov, Serebryakov and Muralov. Passing to the question of the necessity of applying not only terror but also wrecking activities in industry, I recommended disregard for the human victims. In reply, Romm declared himself “somewhat perplexed,” for, after all, this “would undermine the defense capacity of the country ...”! Thus, in the Bois de Boulogne, I supposedly bared my innermost thoughts to an unknown young man who did not even share my “defeatist” position. And all this on the basis of the fact that, in 1927, Romm supposedly agreed with Radek “on the Chinese question”!
The expeditious Romm, of course, delivered to its destination a letter which was never written, and, therewith told Radek about his imaginary conversation with me – so as to enable Vyshinsky to base himself upon at least two testimonies. At the end of September 1933 Radek entrusted Romm with his reply. This time Romm has nothing to say about the contents of the letter. There is, incidentally, hardly any need for that, since all the letters in this trial are as like one another as the exorcisms of Siberian sorcerers. Romm gave the book containing the letter to Sedov “in Paris in November 1933.” Their next meeting took place in April 1934, once again in the Bois de Boulogne. Romm arrived with the news that he was soon to receive an appointment to America. Sedov “expressed regret at this,” but requested him to bring back from Radek “a detailed report on the situation ...”
“Vyshinsky: Did you convey this message?
“Romm: Yes, I did ...”
How could Romm have failed to convey the message? In May, 1934, he delivered to Sedov in Paris an Anglo-Russian technical dictionary (what a wealth of detail!) containing “a detailed report from the active center, as well as from the parallel center ...” Let us bear in mind this precious circumstance! Not one of the sixteen defendants, from Zinoviev down to Reingold, who knew everything and “snitched” on everybody, knew anything at all in August 1936 of the existence of the parallel center. On the other hand, Romm, as far back as the autumn of 1932, was kept fully informed of the idea of the parallel center and its future realization. No less remarkable is the fact that Radek, who did not belong to the principal center, nevertheless did send out “a detailed report from the active center, as well as from the parallel center.” Romm had nothing to say concerning these reports, and Vyshinsky naturally refrains from annoying him. After all, what could Romm say? In May 1934 Kirov had not yet been assassinated by Nikolayev, with the closest participation of the GPU and its agent, the Latvian consul, Bisseneks. Romm would have had to say that the activity of the “active and parallel centers” consisted of requesting and receiving “directives” from me. But we already know this without him. Let us, therefore, leave Radek’s “detailed reports” in the recesses of the technical dictionary!
Further on, Vyshinsky becomes interested in the context of the conversation with Sedov in connection with Romm’s appointment to America. Romm immediately reveals a request from Trotsky, transmitted to him through Sedov, that Trotsky “be informed in case there was anything interesting in the sphere of Soviet-American relations.” The request appears at first glance innocent enough in itself. As politician and writer, I, of course, could not but be interested in Soviet-American relations – all the more so since I had had more than one occasion during the previous years to write articles in the American press and to issue statements in favor of the recognition of the Soviets by the United States. But Romm, who had expressed no surprise when instructions on terror and wrecking were conveyed through him, felt it his duty to become surprised over this point. “When I asked why this was so interesting [!], Sedov told me: ‘This follows from Trotsky’s line on the defeat of the USSR’.” Here is another dot on the letter “i.” In my articles, to be sure, I invariably came out for the defense of the USSR I publicly broke with all those alleged co-thinkers of mine who entertained doubts about the duty of every revolutionist, despite the Stalinist regime, to defend the USSR. Nothing else remains than to concede that my “defeatism,” which is in complete contradiction with my journalistic activity, has been kept a strict secret except from a handful of initiates. Needless to say, such a hypothesis is politically and psychologically absurd. In any case, the accusation rests wholly upon it, and must fall or flourish with it. But Vyshinsky, who is so “cautious” with regard to details (dates, addresses), is totally witless with respect to the fundamental problems of the trial. When Romm asks Sedov why I am “interested” in Soviet-American relations (the question is in itself nonsensical!) Sedov, instead of referring to my literary activity, with a rash haste blurts out: “This follows from Trotsky’s line on the defeat of the USSR” But if that is the case, it turns out that I never made a secret of my “defeatism.” Wherefore, then, my entire intense theoretical and journalistic work? Messrs. Accusers do not bother to think about this fact. They are incapable of thinking about it. Their frame-up unfolds upon a much lower plane. They manage to get along without psychology. They are satisfied with the inquisitorial machine.
To a subsequent question by Vyshinsky, Romm replies: “Yes. I agreed to send Trotsky information which interested him.” But Romm carried out his “last commission” in May 1934. After the murder of Kirov he resolved “to stop active work.” Precisely because of that he did not send me information from the United States. I must confess that it quite escaped my notice. Among my American friends there are men highly qualified in science and politics, ready at any time to supply me with information on all questions within the orbit of my interests. In consequence, I had no grounds for turning to Romm for information – provided one discounts, of course, my urgent need to tell him about my “defeatist” program.
This entire episode was apparently included in Romm’s testimony – and it may be that Romm in person was injected into the trial – only after it had become clear that I was migrating to America. The imagination of the GPU sought to overtake in its flight the oil tanker transporting me from Oslo to Tampico. In this way the United States Government received immediate warning that in Washington itself a “Trotskyist’ agent had been operating – Romm by name, who had “agreed” to send me information. What information? It is clear as noonday; such as threatens the vital interests of the United States. Radek deepened this warning. According to him, it was part of my program “to guarantee to supply Japan with oil in case of war with the United States.” (Session of January 23.) Obviously, it is for this reason that I selected as my means of transportation from Oslo to Tampico the oil tanker, an indispensable vehicle for further operations in oil. At the next trial, Romm will probably recall that I had instructed him to plug up the Panama Canal and divert Niagara to flood New York – all this during his hours off duty as correspondent of Isvestia. ... Can it be that all these people are so stupid? No; of course not. They are not stupid at all, but their minds have been totally demoralized by the règime of totalitarian irresponsibility.
Any careful reading will show that every question put by Vyshinsky discredits beforehand the answer of Romm. Every answer of Romm constitutes evidence against Vyshinsky. The dialogue as a whole blots out the trial. The series of these trials irreparably covers Stalin’s system with ignominy. But we have still not spoken of the most important matter. That Romm’s testimony is false is self-evident, from the testimony itself, to every one who is not blind and deaf. But we have at our disposal proofs that are apt even for the blind and the deaf. I was not in the Bois de Boulogne at the end of July, 1933. I couldn’t have been there. At that time I was a sick man living on the Atlantic coast 500 kilometers away from Paris. I have already issued a brief account of this fact to the New York Times (February 17th, 1937). I wish here to recount this entire episode in somewhat greater detail. It merits it!
On July 24, 1933, the Italian steamer Bulgaria, with myself, my wife and four associates (two Americans, Sarah Weber, Max Shachtman; the Frenchman, Van Heijenoort; and the German émigré, Adolphe) aboard, was about to dock in the harbor of Marseilles. After more than four years’ stay in Turkey, we were migrating to western Europe. Our coming to France was preceded by lengthy negotiations, and by solicitudes chief among which was concern about my health. In issuing the permit of entry, the Daladier Government proceeded, however, with caution. They feared attempts at assassination, demonstrations, and other incidents, especially in the capital. On June 29, 1933, Chautemps, the Minister of the Interior, wrote in a letter to Deputy Henri Guernut that I was “authorized on account of health to sojourn in one of the Southern departments and then establish residence in Corsica.” (I had myself tentatively suggested Corsica in one of my letters.) Thus, from the very outset, it was not the capital that was under consideration, but one of the distant departments. I could not have had the slightest motive for violating this condition, since I was myself sufficiently interested in avoiding during my stay in France any complications whatsoever. One ought, therefore, to reject in advance, as fantastic, the very idea that I could, immediately upon setting foot on French soil, have violated the agreement by disappearing from under the very eyes of the police and departing secretly for Paris – for an unnecessary meeting with Romm! No; what actually took place was altogether different.
Encouraged by Hitler’s victory in Germany, reaction in France was raising its head. Against my entry into the country a rabid campaign was waged by such newspapers as le Matin, le Journal, la Liberté, l’Echo de Paris, etc. In this chorus, the voice of l’Humanité rang most shrilly. The French Stalinists had not yet received orders to recognize Socialists and Radicals as their “brothers.” Oh, no! Daladier was at that time treated by the Comintern as a Radical-Fascist, Léon Blum, who supported Daladier, was branded as a Social-Fascist. As concerns me, I was, by special appointment of Moscow, fulfilling the functions of an agent of American, British and French imperialism. How short is human memory! The assumed name under which we booked our passage was naturally discovered en route. There was reason to fear demonstrations at the Marseilles harbor on the part of fascists, and all the more so on the part of the Stalinists. Our friends in France had every reason to be concerned lest my entry be accompanied by incidents which might complicate my further stay in the country. To evade the vigilance of enemies, our friends – among them my son, who had succeeded in getting to Paris from Hitler’s Germany – worked out a stratagem which was brilliantly successful, as proved by the last Moscow trial. By radio order from France, the Bulgaria was stopped a few kilometers outside the Marseilles harbor, to meet a motor boat in which were my son, the Frenchman Raymond Molinier, the Commissioner of the Sûreté Générale, and two boatmen. If I remember rightly, the sum of one thousand francs was paid for delaying the boat for three minutes. This incident is, of course, recorded in the ship’s log. Moreover, it was at that time remarked upon by the entire world press. My son came aboard and handed to one of my associates, the Frenchman Van Heijenoort, written instructions. Only my wife and I descended to the motor boat. While our four fellow-travellers continued their journey to Marseilles with all our baggage, the motor boat docked at the tidy little village of Cassis, where two automobiles and two French friends, Leprince and Laste, awaited us. Without a moment’s delay, we immediately proceeded westward from Marseilles, bearing in a northerly direction, to the mouth of the Gironde, in the Department of Charente-Inférieure, where a country house in the village of Saint Palais, near Royan, had previously been rented for us in the name of Molinier. On the road we stayed overnight at a hotel. Our registrations at the hotel have been verified and presented by me to the Commission.
I might add that, for the sake of preserving the secret of our identity, all our baggage was checked in Turkey in the name of Max Shachtman. His initials have been preserved to this day on the wooden boxes in which my books and papers arrived in Mexico. But in view of the discovery of our incognito, it could no longer have been a secret to the GPU agents in Marseilles that the baggage was really mine; and inasmuch as my associates, together with the baggage, headed toward Paris, the GPU agents proceeded on the supposition that my wife and I had also gone to the French capital, by automobile or airplane. It should be borne in mind that at that period the relations between the Soviet and the French Governments were still very strained. The Comintern press even asserted that I came to France on a special mission – to assist the then Premier Daladier, now Minister of War, in preparing military intervention in the USSR. How short is human memory! Between the GPU and the French police there could not, consequently, have been close relations. The GPU knew about me only that which was published in the papers. Romm could know only that which was known to the GPU. Meanwhile, the press immediately lost track of us after our landing.
After checking the dispatches of their own correspondent for that period, the editors of the New York Times wrote on February 17th last:
The ship that brought Mr. Trotsky from Turkey to Marseilles in 1933 docked after he had slipped secretly ashore, according to a Marseilles dispatch to the New York Times of July 25th, 1933. He had been taken aboard a tugboat three miles outside the harbor and landed at Cassis, where an automobile was waiting. At that time Mr. Trotsky was variously reported bound for Corsica, the curative waters of Royan, in the center of France near Vichy, or the latter place itself ...
This report, which does credit to the accuracy of the Times correspondent, completely confirms the foregoing account. As early as July 24th the press was lost in speculation as to what had happened to us. The position of the GPU, one must admit, was extremely difficult.
The organizers of the frame-up reasoned approximately as follows: Trotsky could not have failed to spend at least a few days in Paris, in order to arrange things and find himself a domicile in the provinces. The GPU did not know that all these details had been taken care of in advance, and that our country house had been rented prior to our arrival. On the other hand, Stalin, Yezhov, Vyshinsky feared to postpone the meeting with Romm to the month of August or thereafter. It was necessary to forge the iron while it was hot. In this way, these cautious and calculating men selected the end of July for the meeting, at a time when, according to all their suppositions, I could not have failed to be in Paris. But it was precisely in this supposition that they miscalculated. We were not in Paris. Accompanied by our son and three French friends, we arrived, as I have already stated, in Saint Palais, near Royan, on July 25th. As if in order to complicate further the position of the GPU, the day of our arrival was marked by a fire in our country house. An arbor burned down, also a section of the wooden fence, and a number of trees were scorched. The fire was caused by sparks from the smokestack of a locomotive. In the local newspapers for July 26th, accounts of this incident can be found. The landlords niece arrived a few hours later to check up on the consequences of the fire. Many neighbors saw me during the fire. The testimony of both persons who served us on the journey as chauffeurs, Leprince and R. Molinier, as well as the testimony of Laste, who accompanied us, describes the journey in minute detail. A certification issued by the fire department corroborates the date of the fire. The reporter, Albert Bardon, who wrote up the fire in the press, saw me in an automobile and made a deposition to this effect. The above-mentioned niece of the landlord also made a deposition. In the country house, there were waiting for us Vera Lanis, who assumed the functions of housekeeper, and Segal, who was helping us to get settled. They spent the last part of July with us, and were witnesses to the fact that I arrived in Saint Palais suffering from lumbago and high fever, and that I scarcely left my bed.
The Prefect of the Department of Charente-Inférieure was immediately informed of our arrival, by a coded telegram from Paris. We lived near Royan, as in France generally, incognito. Our passports were stamped only by the highest officials of the Sûreté Générale, in Paris. One can doubtless find there traces of our itinerary.
I remained in Saint Palais more than two months in a state of infirmity, under a physician’s care. I wrote in the New York Times that I received as visitors in Saint Palais more than thirty friends. Subsequent recollections and researches among documents indicate that I really had some fifty visitors – more than thirty Frenchmen (mainly Parisians), seven Hollanders, two Belgians, two Germans, two Italians, three Englishmen, one Swiss, etc. Among the visitors were men with well known names; for instance, the French writer, Andrè Malraux; the translator of my books, the writer Parijanine; the Dutch parliamentary Deputy, Sneevliet; the Dutch journalists, Schmidt and de Kadt; the former secretary of the British Independent Labor Party, Paton; the German émeigré, V.; the German writer, G.; etc. (I refrain from giving the names of the émigrés in order not to cause them any difficulties, but all of them, of course, will be able to testify before the Commission.) Had I spent the end of July in Paris, most of the visitors would not have had to undertake a journey to Royan. They all knew that I was not and could not have been in Paris. Of the four associates who accompanied us, three came from Paris to Royan. Only Max Shachtman went from Le Havre to New York, without having an opportunity to bid me farewell. I have presented to the Commission his letter, dated August 8th, 1933, in which he expresses his disappointment at having been separated from us on the way and being unable even to say good-bye. No; there is no lack of proofs.
Towards the beginning of October, my physical condition improved, and my friends brought me by automobile to Bagnéres in the Pyrenees, still further removed from Paris, where my wife and I passed the month of October. It was solely owing to the fact that our stay near Royan, like our stay in the Pyrenees, passed without any complications, that the Government agreed to permit us to settle nearer to the capital, but still recommended that we settle beyond the confines of the Seine Department. At the beginning of November we went to Barbizon, where a country house had been rented for us. From Barbizon, I did actually pay a few visits to the capital, always accompanied by two or three friends. Moreover, in every instance my day’s activities were rigorously arranged beforehand, and those few homes that I visited can be accurately established, together with the list of my visitors. All this, however, pertains to the winter of 1933. Yet the GPU arranged a meeting with me for Romm in July 1933. There was no such meeting. There could have been none. If, in general, there exists in this world such a thing as an alibi, then in the given instance it receives its most complete and consummate expression. The unfortunate Romm lied. The GPU compelled him to lie. Vyshinsky veiled his lie. For the sake of precisely this lie, Romm was arrested and included among the witnesses.
Even on January 24th, the day following the opening of the last trial and Pyatakovs first statements to the court, when it was necessary to rely on the brief news dispatches. I wrote in a statement for the world press:
If Pyatakov traveled [to Oslo] under his own name, the whole Norwegian press would have been informed of it. Consequently, he traveled under a false name. What was it? All Soviet dignitaries, when abroad, are in constant touch by telegraph or telephone with their embassies or trade representations, and not for an hour do they escape the surveillance of the GPU. How was Pyatakov able to accomplish his trip unknown to the Soviet institutions in Germany and Norway? Let him describe the interior appearance of my apartment. Did he see my wife? Did I or did I not have a beard? How was I dressed? The entrance to my work room was through the apartment of the Knudsens, and all our visitors, without exception, were introduced to our host’s family. Did Pyatakov meet them? Did they see Pyatakov? These are some of the questions with the aid of which it would be easy to demonstrate before any honest court that Pyatakov only repeats the inventions of the GPU.
On January 27th, 1937, on the eve of the Prosecutor’s delivery of his summation, through the medium of the telegraph agencies, I addressed thirteen questions to the court at Moscow on the subject of Pyatakov’s pretended interview with me in Norway. I explained the urgency of my questions as follows:
Involved here is the testimony of Pyatakov. He stated that he met me in Norway in December 1935 for conspiratorial talks. Pyatakov was supposed to have come from Berlin to Oslo by airplane. The immense importance of this testimony is self-evident. I have declared more than once, and I declare again, that Pyatakov, like Radek, for the past nine years was not my friend but one of my bitterest and most treacherous enemies, and that there could have been no question of negotiations and meetings between us. If it were proven that Pyatakov actually visited me, my position would be hopelessly compromised. On the contrary, if I prove that the account of the visit is false from beginning to end, it is the system of “voluntary confessions” which will be compromised. Even if one were to admit that the Moscow court is above suspicion, the accused Pyatakov would still remain suspect. His testimony must be verified. That is not difficult. Pyatakov is not yet shot. He should immediately be presented with the following series of precise questions.
I note again that these questions, presented by me to the Commission, are based upon the first news dispatches, and that is why they are not exact in certain secondary details. But in the main, even now, they retain their full strength.
My first questions regarding Pyatakov were already at the disposal of the court on January 25th. No later than January 28th – that is, the day when the Prosecutor delivered his summation – the court had my later questions. Not later than January 26th, the Prosecutor had received telegraphic information that the Norwegian press categorically denied Pyatakov’s testimony about his flight. In the Prosecutor’s address, there is an indirect allusion to this denial. However, not one of the thirteen concrete questions posed by me was presented to the accused, for whom the Prosecutor demanded death. The Prosecutor did not make the attempt, obligatory for him, to verify the main testimony of the principal accused and thereby reinforce the accusation against me and all the others in the eyes of the whole world. If the telegrams from Oslo and my telegraphic questions did not exist, it would still be possible to speak of the remissness, negligence, and intellectual poverty of the Prosecutor and the judges. In the light of the above circumstances, there can be no question of a judicial error. The Prosecutor, like the President of the Court, consciously avoided posing questions which flowed inescapably from the very nature of Pyatakov’s testimony. They opposed the verification, not because it was impossible – on the contrary, it was exceedingly simple – but because, due to the whole rôle they were playing, they could not allow a verification. Instead, they hastened to shoot Pyatakov. However, the verification was made without them. It has completely and irrefutably demonstrated the falseness of the testimony of the principal accused in the principal question, and thus has demolished the entire indictment.
We now have at our disposal the so-called “verbatim” report of the trial of Pyatakov and the others. A careful study of the examination of Pyatakov and of the witness for the prosecution. Bukhartsev, demonstrates by itself that the Prosecutor’s task in this completely artificial, untrue and rehearsed judicial dialogue was to help Pyatakov present, without too obvious absurdities, the fantastic tale which the GPU had forced upon him. That is why we shall follow a double road in our analysis: First, we shall demonstrate on the basis of the official report itself the internal falseness of Pyatakov’s examination by Vyshinsky; then we shall present objective proofs of the material impossibility of Pyatakov’s flight and of his meeting with Inc. In this way we shall uncover not only the falseness of the principal testimony of the principal defendant. but also the participation of Prosecutor Vyshinsky and the judges in the frame-up.
“In the first half of December,” 1935, Pyatakov made his mythical flight to Oslo, via Berlin. Bukhartsev, Berlin correspondent of Isvestia, acted as a sort of intermediary in the arrangement of the trip, just as V. Romm, Isvestia correspondent in Washington, had served as intermediary between Radek and me. The Government paper, strangely enough, appointed “Trotskyite” liaison agents to posts as correspondents in the most important places. Would it not be more accurate to assume that they were agents of the GPU? Pyatakov’s declaration that Bukhartsev “had connections with Trotsky” is pure and simple invention. I never had the slightest knowledge, personally or from his writings, of either Bukhartsev or Romm. I rarely see Isvestia, and I do not as a rule read the foreign correspondence in the Soviet press.
There is no reason to doubt that Pyatakov was really in Berlin on December 10th, 1935, on the official business of his department. The fact is easy to verify through the German and Soviet press, which must have noted Pyatakov’s arrival in the German capital as well as his return to Moscow. The GPU was afterwards forced to adapt Pyatakov’s mythical trip to Oslo to his real trip to Berlin; hence the unfortunate choice of the month of December.
On arriving in Berlin, Pyatakov, according to his own words, immediately (“the same day or the next” – that is, the 11th or 12th) met Bukhartsev. The latter allegedly informed me in advance of Pyatakov’s impending arrival. By letter? By pre-arraNged telegram? How worded? To what address? Nobody embarrasses Bukhartsev with these questions. In this court room dates and addresses are generally avoided like a plague. Having received Bukhartsev’s information, I, in turn, immediately send a trustworthy messenger to Berlin with this note: “Y.L., the bearer of this note can be fully trusted.” The word “fully” was underlined. This not very original detail will, as we shall see, have to compensate us for the absence of other, more substantial information. The messenger sent by me, with a name “either Heinrich or Gustav” (Pyatakov’s testimony), took upon himself the arrangement of the flight to Oslo. The meeting between “Heinrich-Gustav” and Pyatakov took place in the Tiergarten (the 11th or 12th) and lasted altogether “literally for a couple of minutes.” The second precious detail! Pyatakov was prepared to go to Oslo, although, as he twice repeats, “for me it [The Berliner Tageblatt of December 21st, 1935, reports: “Among the current visitors to Berlin there is the first Vice Commissar of Heavy Industry of the Soviet Union, Mr. Pyatakov, and also the head of the import division of the Commissariat of Foreign Trade of the Soviet Union, Mr. Smolerisky.”] meant taking a very great risk of discovery, exposure and anything you like.” In the Russian report these words were omitted, and not inadvertently. The watch maintained over Soviet functionaries abroad is extremely strict. Pyatakov had no possibility of absenting himself from Berlin for forty-eight hours, without indicating to the Soviet institutions where he was going and at what address they could communicate with him; as a member of the Central Committee and of the Government, Pyatakov could at any moment receive an inquiry or be charged with a mission by Moscow. The rules which exist on this subject are well known to the Prosecutor and to the judges. Moreover, on January 24th, I already asked the court by telegraph: “How was Pyatakov able to complete his journey without the knowledge of the Soviet institutions in Germany and Norway?” On January 27th, I repeated: “How was Pyatakov able to conceal himself from the Soviet institutions in Berlin and Oslo? How did he explain his disappearance after his return?” No one, of course, bothered the defendant with such questions.
Pyatakov arranged with “Heinrich-Gustav” to meet “the next morning” (the 12th or 13th) at the Tempelhof Airport. The Prosecutor, who in questions which have no importance and cannot be subjected to verification demands sometimes a demonstrative display of precision, is entirely unconcerned about rendering precise a date of such exceptional importance! However, by means of the records of the Soviet trade representation in Berlin, it should be possible without difficulty to establish a day-to-day calendar of Pyatakov’s activities. But that is precisely what must be avoided.
“Early next morning, I went straight to the entrance of the airdrome.” Early in the morning? We should like to know at what hour. In matters of this nature, the hour is set in advance. But Pyatakov’s inspirers were evidently afraid of erring with regard to the meteorological calendar. At the airport Pyatakov met “Heinrich-Gustav”: “He was waiting at the entrance and led the way. He first showed me a passport which had been prepared for me. The passport was a German one. He saw to all the customs formalities himself, so that all I had to do was to sign my name. We got into an airplane and set off ...” No one so much as interrupted the defendant at this point. The Prosecutor – unbelievable though it may seem – is not even interested in the question of the passport. That the passport was “German” is enough for him. However, a German passport, like any other, is made out in a definite name. Precisely in whose name, in this instance? Momma sunt odiosa.
The Prosecutor is preoccupied with giving Pyatakov the opportunity to slide past this ticklish point as swiftly as possible. “The customs formalities?” “Heinrich-Gustay” took care of them. All Pyatakov had to do was “to sign [his] name.” One would imagine that at this point the Prosecutor could not possibly have failed to ask Pyatakov what name he signed. Presumably the name that was on the German passport. But the Prosecutor considers this none of his business. The President of the Court also keeps his silence. So do the judges. A collective oversight, due to fatigue? But I took timely steps to refresh the memories of these gentlemen. As early as January 24th, I asked the court under what name Pyatakov arrived in Oslo. Three days later I returned to this point. Of the thirteen questions posed by me, the fourth was: “With what passport did Pyatakov depart from Berlin? Did he receive a Norwegian visa?” My questions were reproduced by newspapers throughout the world. If Vyshinsky still did not question Pyatakov about the passport and visa, it was because he knew that it was necessary to keep quiet about them. This silence alone is entirely sufficient to allow us to say: We have before us a frame-up.
Let us, however, continue to trace Pyatakov’s steps: “We got into an airplane and set off. We did not stop anywhere, and at approximately 5 p.m. we landed at the airdrome in Oslo. There an automobile awaited us. We got in and drove off. We drove for about thirty minutes, and came to a country suburb. We got out, entered a small house that was not badly furnished, and there I saw Trotsky, whom I had not seen since 1928.” Doesn’t this narrative completely betray a man who has nothing to disclose? Not a trace of living reality! “We got into an airplane, and set off ... We got in and drove off....” Pyatakov saw nothing, spoke with no one. He is unable to communicate anything whatsoever about “Heinrich-Gustav,” who accompanied him from Berlin to my door.
What occurred when the plane landed at the airdrome? The Norwegian authorities could not have failed to evince interest in a foreign plane. They could not have failed to examine the passports of Pyatakov and his fellow travelers. However, on that subject, too, we hear not one word. The flight was made, so to speak, in the realm of dreams, where people glide noiselessly, untroubled by police or customs officials.
In the “small” and “not badly furnished” house, Pyatakov saw Trotsky, “whom [he] had not seen since 1928.” (In reality, since the end of 1927.) Immediately after these stereotyped commonplaces follows an equally stereotyped description of the interview, seemingly predestined to adorn police records. Does any of this bear any resemblance to life and to living beings? After all, according to the sense of the amalgam, Pyatakov flew to visit me as a cothinker, as a friend, after many years of separation. For several years, approximately from 1923 to 1928, he really was fairly close to me, knew my family, always received a cordial welcome from my wife. He must, evidently, have preserved an entirely exceptional confidence in me if, on the basis of a single letter from me. he became a terrorist, a saboteur and a defeatist and, at the first signal. flew to see me at the risk of his life. It would seem that in such circumstances Pyatakov could not, after a separation of eight years. have failed to manifest some interest in the conditions of my life. But there is not a trace of that. Where did the meeting take place? In my apartment or in another house? Nobody knows. Where was my wife? Nobody knows. To a question by the prosecutor, Pyatakov replies that absolutely nobody was present during the interview; even “Heinrich-Gustav” remained outside. And that’s all! Yet, even by the interior furnishings, the presence or absence of Russian books or newspapers, the appearance of the writing table, Pyatakov could not but have determined at a single glance whether he was in my work room or in someone else’s room. On the other hand, I could not have had the slightest reason for concealing such innocent information from my guest, to whom I confided my most secret designs and plans. Pyatakov could not have failed to inquire about my wife. On January 24th, I asked: “Did he see my wife?” On January 27th, I repeated my question: “Did Pyatakov see my wife? Was she at home that day?” (My wife’s trips to her doctor and dentist in Oslo can easily be verified) But, precisely in order to prevent a verification, Pyatakov’s mentors taught him elastic formulas and noncommittal modes of expression. That is less risky. However, this excess of caution betrays the frame-up from another angle.
The airplane landed at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon of the 12th or 13th. Pyatakov arrived at my house approximately at 3:30 p.m. The interview lasted about two hours. My guest must have been hungry. Did I give him something to eat? That, it would seem, was the elementary duty of a host. But I could not do that without the help of my wife or the mistress of the “not badly furnished” house. Not a word on that matter during the trial. Pyatakov left me at 5:30 in the evening. Where did he go from the country suburb, with the German passport in his pocket? The Prosecutor does not inquire about that. Where did he pass the December night? Hardly in the open air. Still less can one assume that he spent the night in the Soviet Embassy. Hardly in the German Embassy, either. In a hotel, then? In exactly which one? Among the thirteen questions which I put to the court was this one: “Pyatakov could not have avoided passing one night in Norway. Where? In what hotel?” The Prosecutor does not question the defendant about this. The President maintains silence.
If an old friend came to visit me – especially a fellow-conspirator – I, like anybody else similarly situated, would do everything to protect my guest from unpleasant surprises and needless risks. After the two-hour interview I would give him something to eat and arrange a suitable lodging. Such petty matters obviously could not have presented the slightest difficulty, since I had been able to send a “trustworthy person” to Berlin and to send a “special” automobile to the airport when the “special” airplane arrived. To avoid appearing in a hotel or in the streets of Oslo, Pyatakov would naturally have been interested in spending the night with us. Moreover, after a long separation, we would have had much to talk about! But the GPU feared that version, because Pyatakov would then have had to go into details concerning my living conditions. Better to slide over these prosaic details. As a matter of fact, I lived, as is known, not in a country suburb near Oslo, but in a secluded village; not thirty minutes’ travel from the airport, but at least two hours’, especially in winter, when chains must be put on the tires. No; better to suffer a lapse of memory about the food, the December night, the danger of meeting someone connected with the Soviet Embassy. Better to hold one’s tongue. Just as previously, during the trip, so now, in Norway, Pyatakov is like the immaterial shadow of a dream. Let fools take this shadow for reality!
Through the examination of the witness Bukhartsev, correspondent of Isvestia, we learn some not unimportant supplementary details about Pyatakov’s trip. “Heinrich-Gustav,” so he affirms, was Gustav Stirner. This name conveys absolutely nothing to me, although, according to Bukhartsev, Stirner had been my trusted man. In any event, my mysterious emissary deemed it necessary to reveal his exact identity to the Prosecutor’s witness. Shall we meet a Stirner, in flesh and blood, in some future trial? Or is he a pure product of the imagination? I don’t know. The German name, in any case, is food for some reflection.
At times, Pyatakov tried to picture the meeting with me almost as an unavoidable evil; the instinct of self-preservation timidly peeps through the confessions of the accused. On the other hand, according to Bukhartsev, Pyatakov, when apprised of my invitation, said that “he was pleased to hear this, that it fully coincided with his intentions, and that he would willingly agree to this meeting.” What needless expansiveness for a conspirator! But needful indeed to the Prosecutor. The task of the witness is to deepen the guilt of the accused, while the task of the accused is to shift the main burden of guilt on to me. The task of the Prosecutor, finally, is to exploit the lies of both.
From the standpoint of the conspiracy, and even the airplane trip to Oslo, Bukhartsev is an entirely superfluous personage; even Vyshinsky is forced, as we shall see, to recognize that. But Gustav Stirner, if such a person exists, is apparently inaccessible to the prosecution. However, if there is no Stirner, there is also no witness. The story of how Pyatakov got into and alighted from the airplane would in that case be based on Pyatakov alone. That is insufficient. While Bukhartsev, who was called to testify by the Prosecutor, did not take part in the march of events, at least he fulfilled the function of the “messenger” in a classical tragedy, who announces the events which are occurring behind the scenes. Consequently, Pyatakov did not fail to inform the “messenger” on the eve of his departure from Berlin for Moscow (on which date?) that “he had been and seen.” There was no reason to tell Bukhartsev any of this. In needlessly imparting such information to an outsider, Pyatakov was guilty of inexcusable lightmindedness. But he could not act differently without depriving Bukhartsev of the opportunity of serving as a useful witness for the prosecution.
At this point, the Prosecutor suddenly becomes aware of an omission. “Did you give your photograph?” he unexpectedly asks Pyatakov, interrupting the questioning of Bukhartsev. Vyshinsky resembles a school-boy who has skipped a line in a poem. Pyatakov answers laconically, “I did.” Apparently involved here is a passport photograph. A photograph is essential for every passport, even the German variety. While thus showing his alertness, the Prosecutor risks nothing. Naturally, he keeps quiet now, too, about the name and the visa. Whereupon the guardian of the law again goes to work on Bukhartsev. “Do you know where Stirner obtained the passport, where he obtained the airplane? How is it so easy to do this in Germany?” Bukhartsev answers to the effect that Stirner did not go into the details, but requested him, Bukhartsev, not to worry – one of the few answers that sound natural and rational. The Prosecutor, however, is not to be deterred:
Vyshinsky: And were you not curious about this?
Bukhartsev: He did not tell me anything, did not go into details.
Vyshinsky: But were you curious about this?
Bukhartsev: Since he did not reply ...
Vyshinsky: But did you try to ask him?
Bukhartsev: I did, but he did not reply.
And so on, in the same vein. But here we interrupt this instructive dialogue, to subject the Prosecutor himself to an examination.
“You just asked, Mr. Prosecutor, about a passport photograph. But does not the passport itself interest you? Did not the examining magistrate question Pyatakov about this? Have you, too, forgotten to fulfill your duty? Twice, on January 24th and on January 27th, I reminded you about it telegraphically. Did you pay any attention to my question? Were you, too, not interested in my address, my residence, my living conditions? Why have you not asked Pyatakov where he spent the night? Who recommended the hotel to him? How did he register there? Do not all these circumstances merit your attention? Bukhartsev at least could justify himself by saying that Gustav Stirner refused to let him into his secrets. You, Mr. Guardian of Justice, have not this justification, because Pyatakov keeps no secrets from the Prosecutor. Pyatakov maintains silence only as regards that about which he is forbidden to talk. But you, too, Mr. Prosecutor, did not accidentally shirk your plain duty to bring Pyatakov down from the fourth dimension on to this sinful earth with its customs officials, restaurants, hotels, and other troublesome details. You kept quiet about all this because you are one of the chief organizers of the frame-up!”
Vyshinsky is not to be mollified: “And the airplane?”
“Bukhartsev: I asked him [Stirner] how Pyatakov could travel and he told me a special airplane would take Pyatakov to Oslo and back.”
It is to be observed that Stirner is not at all reticent. After all, he could simply have told the obtrusive Bukhartsev: “That’s none of your business; Pyatakov himself knows what he has to do.” But Stirner apparently recalled that before him stood the messenger from a tragedy, and therefore told him that Pyatakov would travel in a “special” plane – in other words, implied that the plane would be provided by the German Government.
Vyshinsky utilizes this prearranged indiscretion of Stirner and Bukhartsev: “But it was not Trotsky who arranged for the flight across the frontier?” Bukhartsev answers with eloquent modesty, “That I do not know.”
“Vyshinsky: You are an experienced journalist; you know that a flight across a frontier from one country to another is not a simple matter?” (Alas, alas, that is something the Prosecutor himself completely forgets when it is a question of landing at an airport, obtaining a passport, a visa, a night’s lodging, a hotel, etc.) Bukhartsev takes another step to meet the Prosecutor: “I understood that Stirner was able to do this through German official persons.” Q.E.D.
But at this point Vyshinsky appears suddenly to regain his senses:
“Could they not dispense with you in this matter? Why did you take part in this operation?”
The risky question is put to give Bukhartsev the chance to tell the court how Radek. “some time before” (exactly when?) had forewarned him, a “Trotskyite,” that he would have to carry out various commissions, and at the same time told him that “Pyatakov was a member of the center.” As we see, Radek foresaw everything and, in any event, had armed the future witness with all the necessary data.
One way or another, thanks to Bukhartsev, we learn that Pyatakov not only flew to Oslo in a “special plane,” but that he also returned to Berlin in the same way. This remarkably important declaration implies that the airplane did not simply land for a few minutes, but that it remained the rest of the day and overnight – that is, at least fifteen hours – at the Oslo airport. Probably it was also refueled there. As we shall soon see, Bukhartsev’s declaration does us a greater service than it does the Prosecutor. We now arrive at the crux of Pyatakov’s testimony, and of the whole trial.
The conservative Norwegian paper Aftenposten, immediately after Pyatakov’s first day’s testimony, made an investigation at the airport and, in its evening edition of January 25th, carried the information that in December 1935 not a single foreign airplane landed in Oslo. This news immediately circulated around the world. Vyshinsky was forced to take into account the unpleasant news from Oslo. He did so in his own manner. At the session of January 27th, the Prosecutor asked Pyatakov whether he really landed at an airport in Norway, and if so, which one. Pyatakov answered: “Near Oslo.” He did not remember the name. Were there no difficulties in landing? Pyatakov, we were told, was so excited that he noticed nothing unusual.
“Vyshinsky: You confirm that you landed in an airdrome near Oslo?
“Pyatakov: Near Oslo, that I remember.”
The only thing lacking was that he should forget such a detail! Thereupon the Prosecutor read into the court record a document which many newspapers mildly characterized as surprising – a communication from the Soviet Embassy in Norway that “the Kjellere Airdrome near Oslo receives all the year round, in accordance with international regulations, airplanes of other countries, and that the arrival and departure of airplanes is possible also in Winter months” That is all! The Prosecutor asks to have this valuable document entered as an exhibit. Thus he considers the question closed!
No; the question is just opened. The Norwegian agencies did not at all assert that air travel is impossible in Norway in the Winter months. Why, then, is it the job of the Moscow court to compile a meteorological handbook for aviators? The question is much more concrete: Did a foreign plane land in Oslo during the month of December 1935, or not?
Konrad Knudsen, member of the Storting. on January 29th, 1937, sent the following telegram to Moscow:
To Prosecutor Vyshinsky, Military Collegium of the Supreme Court, Moscow:
I inform you that today it was officially confirmed that in December 1935 no foreign or private airplane landed at the Oslo airdrome. As Leon Trotsky’s host, I also confirm that in December 1935 no conversation could have taken place in Norway between Trotsky and Pyatakov.
KONRAD KNUDSEN, Member of Storting.
On the same day, January 29th, the Arbeiderbladet, organ of the Government Party, undertook a new investigation of the “special airplane.” It may not be inappropriate to mention that this paper not only approved my internment by the Norwegian Government, but also published extremely hostile articles about me during my imprisonment. I give the report of the Arbeiderbladet textually:
Pyatakov insists on his confession to the effect that he arrived by airplane in Norway and landed at the Kjeller Airdrome in December 1935. The Russian Commissariat for Foreign Affairs has undertaken an investigation intended to confirm this evidence.
The authorities at the Kjeller Airdrome have already categorically denied that any foreign airplane landed there in December 1935 while Konrad Knudsen, Trotsky’s host and a member of the Storting, has issued a declaration that Trotsky received no visitors at all during that period.
A representative of the Arbeiderbladet made another inquiry today at the Kjeller Airdrome, and Director Gulliksen confirmed by telephone that no foreign airplane landed at Kjeller in December. 1935. During this month only one airplane landed there, and that was a Norwegian plane from Linkoping. But this plane carried no passengers.
Director Gulliksen examined the day-by-day customs register prior to issuing this statement to us, and in reply to our question he added that it is absolutely out of question for any plane to have landed without being observed. Throughout the night a military guard patrols the field.
“When was the last time, prior to December 1935 that a foreign plane landed at Kjeller?” our representative asked Director Gulliksen.
“On September 19th. It was an English plane, SACSF, from Copenhagen. It was piloted by the English aviator, Mr. Robertson, with whom I am well acquainted.”
“And after December 1935 when did the first foreign plane land at Kjeller?”
“May 1st, 1936.”
“In other words, according to the records kept at the airdrome, this would establish that no foreign plane landed at Kjeller in the interval between September 19th, 1935 and May 1st, 1936?”
In order to leave no room for any doubt, let me introduce the official confirmation of the newspaper interview. In reply to an inquiry made by my Norwegian attorney, the same Mr. Gulliksen, Director of the only airport at or near Oslo, replied on February 14th as follows:
Kjeller, February 14th, 1937
Owe Slottagt SV.
Sir: In reply to your letter of the 10th instant, I beg to inform you that my statement in the Arbeiderbladet was published accurately ...
Yours very truly,
GULLIKSEN, Director, Kjeller Airport.
In other words, even if we extend to the credit of the GPU not simply thirty-one days (December) but 224 days (September 19th to May 1st) for Pyatakov’s flight, even then Stalin could not save the situation. The question of Pyatakov’s flight to Oslo may consequently, I hope, be considered closed for all time.
On January 29th the sentence had not yet been pronounced. The statements of Knudsen and the Arbrielerbladet were of such extraordinary importance that they called for a supplementary inquiry. But the Moscow Themis is not the sort to permit facts to halt her movements. It is quite probable – almost certain – that in the preliminary negotiations Pyatakov, like Radek, was promised his life. The keeping of this promise to Pyatakov, the “organizer” of the alleged “sabotage,” was not at all easy. But if Stalin had any hesitation left in this respect, the news from Oslo must have terminated it. On January 29th I said to the press in my daily statement: “The first steps of the inquiry in Norway have enabled the Storting Deputy, K. Knudsen, to establish that in December no foreign airplane at all landed in Oslo ... I am very much afraid that the GPU will make haste to shoot Pyatakov in order to forestall further disconcerting questions and deprive the future international commission of inquiry of the opportunity to demand further clarification from Pyatakov.” The next day, January 30th, Pyatakov was condemned to death, and on February 1st, he was shot.
Through the medium of the Norwegian “yellow journal” Tidens Tegn, similar in character to the Hearst publications in America, the friends of the GPU are seeking to establish a new version of Pyatakov’s flight. Perhaps the German airplane did not land on a flying field, but on a frozen fjord? Perhaps Pyatakov did not visit Trotsky in a suburb of Oslo, but in a forest? Not in a house “not badly furnished,” but in a little hut in the forest? Not thirty minutes but three hours from Oslo? Perhaps Pyatakov did not come in an automobile, but on a sleigh or on skis? Perhaps this interview took place, not on December 12th or 13th, but on December 21st or 22nd? This creative effort is neither better nor worse than the attempt to pass off a Copenhagen confectioner’s shop as the Hotel Bristol. The hypotheses of Tidens Tegn suffer from this defect: They leave not a shred of Pyatakov’s confession, and at the same time they themselves crumble in face of the facts. These fantasies have long since been refuted by the Norwegian press, especially by the liberal Dagbladet, on the basis of an examination of the essential facts – i.e., the circumstances of time and place. The Storting Deputy, Konrad Knudsen, has subjected the belated fictions to a no less annihilating criticism in the columns of the same yellow newspaper, which in the meantime has become the oracle of the Comintern. If, for its part, the Commission deems it necessary to subject to an examination not only the data of the official report but also the literary versions brought forward by the friends of the GPU after the shooting of Pyatakov, I will place all the necessary material at its disposal.
I wish here to add that at the beginning of March the Danish author, Andersen Nexo, visited Oslo for a special lecture. By a happy coincidence Nexo (like Pritt, like Duranty, like several others) happened to be in Moscow during the trial and with his own ears heard Pyatakov’s confession. Whether Nexo knows Russian or not is inconsequential; it is enough that this Scandinavian knight of the truth “does not doubt” the credibility of Pyatakov’s confession. If Romain Rolland undertakes degrading assignments which testify to a complete loss of moral and psychological sensitivity, why shall not Mr. Nexo do the same?
The corruption introduced by the GPU among certain circles of radical writers and politicians the world over has reached truly frightful proportions. I shall not here inquire into the means the GPU may use in each individual case. It is sufficiently well known that these means do not always have an “ideological” character – the Irish author O’Flaherty has already revealed this, with his peculiar cynicism. One of the reasons for my break with Stalin and his comrades-in-arms was, incidentally, that they resorted to bribery of functionaries of the European labor movement from l924 on. An indirect but very important result of the work of the Commission will be, I hope, the cleansing of the radical ranks of “Left” sycophants, political parasites, “revolutionary” courtiers, or those gentlemen who remain Friends of the Soviet Union in so far as they are friends of the Soviet State Publishing House or ordinary pensioners of the GPU.
The agents of Moscow have lately resorted to the following argument: “Since his arrival in Mexico, Trotsky has not presented any evidence. There is no reason to believe that he will present any in the future. By that very fact the Commission is doomed beforehand to impotence.” How, I ask, can one refute a frame-up prepared and fabricated for a number of years, without examining the facts and documents? I really do not possess any “voluntary confessions” from Stalin, Yagoda, Yezhov or Vyshinsky – this I confess at the outset. But if I have not up to now presented a magic formula encompassing all the evidence, it is not true that I have not presented any evidence. During the last trial I issued daily statements to the press containing specific refutations. The newspapers published only parts of my statements, often in distorted form. I place at the disposal of the Commission the exact texts of these statements. I am also writing a book which will furnish the key to the most important political and psychological “enigmas” of the Moscow trials. I received the verbatim report of the second trial only two weeks ago. Under these circumstances it is, naturally, impossible to speak of an exhaustive refutation. However, despite the fact that I did not have at my disposal a daily or even a weekly paper in which I could freely express myself, I completely refuted those facts of the last trial which were directed against me personally, and thereby broke down the whole judicial amalgam.
Radek, defending himself in his final plea against the insults of the Prosecutor, who characterized the accused only as crooks and bandits (Prosecutor Vyshinsky, a cynical careerist, former Right-Wing Menshevik – what an incarnation of the régime!), obviously overstepped the previously fixed limits of defense, and said more than was necessary or than he wished to say himself. That is one of Radek’s distinctive traits! This time, however, he said things of exceptional value. I beg every member of the Commission to read with particular care the final plea of this defendant.
The terrorist activity and the connection of the “Trotskyites” with organizations of counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs are, according to Radek, fully demonstrated. “But,” he continues:
The trial is bicentric, and it has another important significance. It has revealed the smithy of war, and has shown that the Trotskyite organization became an agency of the forces which are fomenting a new world war. What proofs are there in support of this fact? In support of this fact there is the evidence of two people – the testimony of myself, who received the directives and the letters from Trotsky (which, unfortunately, I burned), and the testimony of Pyatakov, who spoke to Trotsky. All the testimony of the other accused rests on our testimony. If you are dealing with mere criminals and spies, on what can you base your conviction that what we have said is the truth, the firm truth?
One can hardly believe one’s eyes when one reads these cynically frank lines in the record. Neither the Prosecutor nor the President even tried to refute or correct Radek – it was too risky! Yet his astonishing words batter down the whole trial. Yes; the entire accusation against me rests only on the testimony of Radek and Pyatakov. There is not even a trace of material evidence. The letters which Radek allegedly received from me were “unfortunately” burned by him (nevertheless, the indictment was published in the Russian version of the court proceedings as if quoting my actual letters). The Prosecutor treats Radek and Pyatakov as unprincipled liars, pursuing only one aim – to deceive the authorities. The sum and substance of Radek’s reply is: “If our testimony is false (both Radek and the Prosecutor know well enough that the testimony is false!), then what other proof do you have that Trotsky concluded an alliance with Germany and Japan, with the object of precipitating war and dismembering the USSR? You have nothing left. There are no documents. The testimony of the other accused rests upon our testimony.” Not a word from the Prosecutor. Not a word from the President. Silent, too, are the “friends” abroad. A damning silence! Such is the true face of the trial – a face of shame!
Let us recall the factual side of the testimony of Radek and Pyatakov. Radek was supposed to have maintained communication with me through Vladimir Romm. The latter allegedly saw me the first and only time at the end of July 1933 in the Bois de Boulogne, in Paris. By precise references to dates, facts and witnesses, including the French police, I have proved that I was not and could not have been in the Bois de Boulogne, since, being ill, I went directly from Marseilles to Saint Palais near Royan, several hundred kilometers from Paris.
Pyatakov testified that he flew in a German airplane to see me In Oslo in December, 1935. However, the Norwegian authorities have stated publicly that not a single foreign airplane landed at Oslo between September 19th, 1935, and May 1st, 1935. From this evidence there is no appeal. Pyatakov no more flew to see me in Oslo than Romm met me in the Bois de Boulogne. Yet Radek’s sole alleged contact with me was through Romm. The destruction of Romm’s testimony leaves nothing of Radek’s testimony. Nor does anything remain of Pyatakov’s testimony. However, according to Radek’s confession, confirmed by the court’s silence, the accusation against me rests exclusively on the testimony of Radek and Pyatakov. All the other testimony is of an accessory, auxiliary character, designed to bolster up Radek and Pyatakov, the principal accused – mare exactly, Stalin’s principal witnesses – against me. The function of Radek and Pyatakov was to demonstrate the direct connection between the criminals and myself. “All the testimony of the other accused rests on our testimony,” Radek confesses. In other words, it rests upon nothing. The main charge has been demolished. It has crumbled into dust. It is hardly necessary to demolish a building brick by brick, once the two basic columns on which it rests are thrown down. Messrs. Accusers, crawl on your bellies in the wreckage and gather up the chips of your masonry!
My “terrorist” and “defeatist” activity, as is known, was supposed to be a matter of the utmost secrecy, into which I initiated only those who were most trustworthy. On the other hand, my public activity, hostile to terror and defeatism, was supposedly only “camouflage.” The Prosecutor, however, does not maintain this position throughout, and sometimes succumbs to the temptation to discover terrorist and defeatist propaganda in my public activity as well. We shall demonstrate by certain cardinal examples that the literary frauds of Vyshinsky represent only an auxiliary to the judicial frame-ups.
On February 20th, 1932, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, by a special decree, deprived me and the members of my family who were abroad of Soviet citizenship. Even the text of the decree, I note in passing, represented an amalgam. I was referred to not only by the name of Trotsky, but also by my father’s name, Bronstein, although this name had never before been used in any Soviet document. Moreover, they hunted up Mensheviks named Bronstein and included them in the decree of deprivation of citizenship. Such is the political style of Stalin!
I replied by an Open Letter to the Praesidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, on March 1st, 1932 (Bulletin of the Opposition, No.27). This Open Letter mentioned a series of frauds perpetrated by the Soviet press on command from above. for the purpose of discrediting me in the eyes of the toiling masses of the USSR. Recounting the principal errors of Stalin in the questions of home and foreign policy, the Open Letter branded his “Bonapartist tendencies.” “Under the lash of the Stalinist clique,” the Open Letter went on to say, “the sorry, confused, frightened, demoralized Central Committee of the German Communist Party helps with all its might – and cannot but help – the leaders of the German Social Democracy to hand over the German working dass to Hitler for crucifixion.” Less than a year later this prediction, unfortunately, was entirely confirmed! Furthermore, the Open Letter contained the following proposal: “... Stalin has led you into a blind alley. Without liquidating Stalinism there is no way out. You must trust in the working class, give the proletarian vanguard the possibility of reviewing the whole Soviet system and pitilessly cleansing it of the accumulated rubbish. It is time, finally, to fulfill the last urgent advice of Lenin – to remove Stalin.” The proposal “to remove Stalin” I motivated with the following words: “You know Stalin as well as I do ... The strength of Stalin was never in himself but in the apparatus; or, rather, in himself in so far as he was the most consummate embodiment of bureaucratic automatism. Apart from the apparatus, counterposed to the apparatus, Stalin is nothing, a mere cipher ... It is high time to abandon the Stalin myth.” It is plain that in question here is not the physical extermination of Stalin, but only the liquidation of his apparatus power.
Incredible though it seems, it is precisely this document, the Open Letter to the Central Executive Committee, that was to form part of the basis of the Stalin-Vyshinsky judicial frame-ups.
At the court session of August 20th, 1936, the accused Olberg deposed:
The first time Sedov spoke to me about my journey [to the USSR] was after Trotsky’s message in connection with Trotsky’s being deprived of the citizenship of the USSR In this message Trotsky developed the idea that it was necessary to assassinate Stalin. This idea was expressed in the following words: “Stalin must be removed.” Sedov showed me the typewritten text of this message and said: “Well, now you see, it cannot be expressed in a clearer way. It is a diplomatic wording.” ... it was then that Sedov proposed that I should go to the USSR
The “Open Letter” is called by Olberg, for the sake of prudence, a “message.” Olberg gives only a partial citation. The Prosecutor does not ask for details. The words “remove Stalin” are interpreted to mean that it was necessary to assassinate Stalin.
On August 21st, according to the record, the accused Holtzman testified that “in the course of the conversation Trotsky said that it was “necessary to remove Stalin.” Vyshinsky: “What does ‘Remove Stalin’ mean? Explain it.” Holtzman naturally proceeds to explain it according to the requirements of Vyshinsky.
Seemingly in order to dissipate all doubts concerning the source of his own fraud, Vyshinsky declared on August 22nd, 1936, in his summation: “... in March 1932, in a fit of counter-revolutionary fury, Trotsky burst out in an open letter with an appeal to “put Stalin out of the way” (this letter was found between the double walls of Holtzman’s suitcase and figured as an exhibit in this case).
The Prosecutor speaks flatly of an “open letter” written in March 1932 about withdrawal of my citizenship and containing the call “to remove Stalin.” This document is nothing else but my Open Letter to the Central Executive Committee! According to the Prosecutor, it was “found between the double walls of Holtzman’s suitcase.” It is possible that, returning from abroad, Holtzman concealed in his suitcase a copy of the Bulletin containing my Open Letter; such means of concealment are in accord with traditional practice among Russian revolutionists. In any case, the specific indications given by the Prosecutor: (a) reference to the name (Open Letter) (b) the date (March 1932) (c) the theme (decree depriving me of citizenship); finally, (d) the slogan (“remove Stalin”), point with absolute certainty to my Open Letter to the Central Executive Committee, and to the fact that the testimony of Olberg and Holtzman, as well as the Prosecutor’s summation in the Zinoviev-Kamenev case, revolved precisely around this document.
In his summation in the Pyatakov-Radek case (January 28th, 1937), Vyshinsky again turns to the Open Letter as the basic terrorist directive: “We are in possession of documents proving that Trotsky, at least twice, and, moreover, in a fairly open and undisguised form, gave a line for terrorism, documents which their author has proclaimed urbi et orbi. I refer, firstly, to that letter of 1932, in which Trotsky issued his treacherous and shameful call, “Remove Stalin ...” [In the English edition of the record of the second trial (page 507) it says: “Remove Stalin.” In the English edition of the record of the first trial (page 527) the same phrase is translated: “Put Stalin out of the way” In the French edition of the record of the second trial the phrase reads: “Supprimez Staline,” i.e., “Destroy Stalin” The great frame-up is shot through with hundreds of petty frame-ups, including even fraudulent translations.]
Permit me, at this point, to interrupt the quotation, from which we learn again that the terrorist directive was supposedly given by me openly or, as the Prosecutor puts it, proclaimed urbi et orbi. In a word, it is a question of the same Open Letter, in which, invoking Lenin’s Testament, I recommended the removal of Stalin from his post as General Secretary.
The situation is clear, esteemed Commissioners! In the two principal trials of the “Zinovievites” and “Trotskyites” the point of departure of the indictment on the question of terror is a consciously falsified interpretation of an article of mine published in various languages and accessible to verification by every literate person. Such are the methods of Vyshinsky! Such are the methods of Stalin!
In the same summation (January 28th, 1937), the Prosecutor continues “... and secondly, to a later document, the Trotskyite Bulletin of the Opposition, Nos.36-37, of October 1933 in which we find a number of direct references to terrorism as a method of fighting the Soviet government.” Then follows a quotation from the Bulletin: “It would be childish to think that the Stalin bureaucracy can be removed by means of a Party or Soviet Congress. Normal, constitutional means are no longer available for the removal of the ruling clique ... They can be compelled to hand over power to the proletarian vanguard only by force.
“What else can it be called,” the Prosecutor concludes, “if not a direct call for terrorism? I cannot call it anything else.” In order to prepare this conclusion, Vyshinsky declares in advance: “An opponent of terrorism, and opponent of violence, should have said: “Yes, peaceful means [of reforming the state] are possible on the basis, say, of the constitution.’” Precisely so: “On the basis, say, of the constitution”!
The entire argument rests upon the identification of revolutionary violence with individual terror. Even the Tsarist prosecutors seldom stooped to such methods! I never passed myself off as a pacifist, a Tolstoyan, a follower of Gandhi. Serious revolutionists never play with violence. But neither do they refuse to have recourse to revolutionary violence if history does not permit of other methods. From 1923 to 1933 I defended the idea of “reforming” the Soviet state apparatus. That is precisely why, even in March 1932 I advised the Central Executive Committee to “remove Stalin.” Only gradually and under the pressure of irresistible facts did I arrive at the conclusion that the popular masses cannot overthrow the bureaucracy except by revolutionary violence. In accordance with the fundamental principle of my activity, I immediately expressed this conclusion publicly. Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, I think that the system of Stalinist Bonapartism can be liquidated only by means of a new political revolution. However, revolutions are not made to order. They spring from the development of society. They cannot be evoked artificially. It is even less possible to replace revolution by the adventurism of terrorist acts. When Vyshinsky identifies, instead of counterposing, these two methods – that of individual terror and that of mass insurrection – he blots out the entire history of the Russian Revolution and the entire philosophy of Marxism. What does he put in their place? A frame-up.
Ambassador Troyanovsky, following Vyshinsky, did exactly the same thing: During the last trial he discovered, as is well known. that in one of my statements to the press I had admitted my terrorist views. Troyanovsky’s discovery was printed; it was discussed; it had to be refuted, Is this not degrading to human reason? It appears that, on the one hand, in my books, articles and statements on the latest trials, I categorically denied the charge of terrorism, founding my denials on theoretical, political and factual arguments. On the other hand. I am supposed to have given the Hearst papers a statement in which, contradicting all my other statements, I openly confessed to the Soviet Ambassador my terroristic crimes. Are there any limits to absurdity? If Troyanovsky commits, in full view of the whole civilized world, falsifications so unprecedented in their crudeness and cynicism, it is not difficult to imagine what the GPU does in its cellars.
Nor can Vyshinsky do any better as regards my defeatism. The foreign attorneys of the GPU continue to torture their faculties over the question of how the former leader of the Red Army became a “defeatist.” For Vyshinsky and the other falsifiers of Moscow, this question ceased to exist a long time ago – Trotsky was always a defeatist, they say, even during the period of the Civil War. A whole literature already exists on this subject. Educated on this literature, the Prosecutor says in his summation:
We must remember that ten years ago Trotsky justified his defeatist position in regard to the USSR by referring to the famous Clemenceau thesis. Trotsky then wrote: “We must restore the tactics of Clemenceau, who, as is well known [!!] rose against the French Government at a time when the Germans were 80 kms. from Paris.” [In the English edition these words are placed in quotation marks, which might lead the members of the Commission to mistake them for a quotation. In reality, the sentence is invented out of whole cloth by the Prosecutor. Vyshinsky’s judicial “citations” have the same authenticity as Stalin’s literary “citation”; in this school there is uniformity of style.] ... It was not an accident that Trotsky and his accomplices advanced the Clemenceau thesis. They reverted to this thesis once again, but this time advancing it not as a theoretical proposition, but as practical preparation, real preparation, in alliance with foreign intelligence services, for the defeat of the USSR in war.
It is hard to believe that the text of this speech was printed in foreign languages, including the French. One would imagine that the French were not unastonished to learn that Clemenceau, during the war, “rose against the French Government.” The French never suspected that Clemenceau was a defeatist and an ally of “foreign intelligence services.” On the contrary, they call him “the father of victory.” Exactly what is meant by the gibberish of the Prosecutor? The fact is that the Stalinist bureaucracy, to justify violence against the Soviets and the party, has, since 1926, appealed to the war danger – classic subterfuge of Bonapartism! In opposing this, I always expressed myself in the sense that freedom of criticism is indispensable for us not only in time of peace but also in time of war. I referred to the fact that even in bourgeois countries, France in particular, the ruling class did not dare, despite all its fear of the masses, completely to suppress criticism during the war. In this connection I adduced the example of Clemenceau, who, despite the proximity of the war front to Paris – or rather, precisely because of it – denounced in his paper the worthlessness of the military policy of the French Government. In the end, Clemenceau, as is well known, convinced Parliament, took over the leadership of the Government, and assured victory. Where is the “uprising” here? Where is the “defeatism”? Where is the connection with foreign intelligence services? I repeat: The reference to Clemenceau was made by me at a time when I judged it still possible to accomplish by peaceful means the transformation of the governmental system of the USSR. Today I can no longer invoke Clemenceau, because the Bonapartism of Stalin has barred the road to legal reform. But even today I stand completely for the defense of the USSR – that is to say, for the defense of its social bases, both against foreign imperialism and domestic Bonapartism.
In the question of “defeatism.” the Prosecutor based himself first on Zinoviev, then on Radek, as the principal witnesses against me, I am here going to cite Zinoviev and Radek as witnesses against the Prosecutor. I shall cite their free and unfalsified opinions.
Speaking of the revolting persecution of the Opposition, Zinoviev wrote to the Central Committee on September 6th, 1927: “It is enough to point to the article of the not unknown N. Kuzmin in the Komsomolskaya Pravda in which this ‘teacher’ of our military youth ... interprets Comrade Trotsky’s reference to Clemenceau as a demand for the shooting of peasants at the front in case of war. What is this, if not a downright Thermidorian, not to say Black Hundred agitation?”
At the same period as the letter of Zinoviev (September 1927), Radek wrote in his programmatic thesis:
... On the question of war, it is necessary to repeat in our platform things said in our various public speeches, and to bring them together; that is to say: Our state is a workers’ state, despite strong tendencies working to change its nature. The defense of that state is the defense of the prôletarian dictatorship. ... The question posed by Stalin’s group – by distorting Comrade Trotsky’s reference to Clemenceau – cannot be lightly tossed aside, but must be answered clearly: We will defend the dictatorship of the proletariat, even with the false leadership of the present majority, as we have declared; but the pledge of victory is in the correction of errors of this leadership and in the acceptance by the party of our platform.
These testimonials from Zinoviev and Radek are doubly precious. On the one hand, they establish in an entirely correct manner the attitude of the Opposition toward the defense of the USSR; on the other hand, they show that since 1927 the Stalinist group has distorted in every way imaginable my reference to Clemenceau, with the object of imputing defeatist tendencies to the Opposition. It is worth noting that this same Zinoviev, in one of his latter-day recantations, also docilely included in his arsenal the official falsification relating to Clemenceau. “... The whole party, as one man,” Zinoviev wrote in Pravda of May 8th, 1933, “will fight under the banner of Lenin and Stalin ... Only contemptible renegades will, perhaps, try to recall here the notorious Clemenceau thesis.” Undoubtedly, one could find similar quotations from Radek. Thus, this time also, the Prosecutor has invented nothing new. He has merely given a juridical twist to the traditional Thermidorian hounding of the Opposition. And it is of such shoddy tricks that the whole accusation is made up. Lies and frame-ups! Frame-ups and lies! Sum total – the firing squad.
Some “jurists,” of the sort who swallow camels and strain at gnats, are fond of arguing that my correspondence can have no “juridical” value as evidence, because there always remains room for the possibility that it was conducted with the anticipated aim of camouflaging my real manner of thinking and acting. This argument, which has its roots in commonplace criminal practice, has absolutely no application to a political trial of vast proportions. For the purpose of camouflage, one can compose five, ten, a hundred letters. But one cannot carry on an intensive correspondence on the most diverse questions over a period of years, with the most diverse people, near and distant, with the sole aim of fooling them all. To the letters must be added the articles and books. One can devote to the task of “camouflage” the energy and time which remain over after one’s main work is done. But one can carry on an enormous correspondence only on the condition of a profound concern for its content and results. Precisely for this reason, the innumerable letters, which are permeated through and through with the proselytizing spirit, must inevitably reflect the true face of the author, and in no case a mask assumed temporarily. I hope that the Commission will estimate the letters, articles and books in their reciprocal connections.
When I appeared in Norway on December 11th, 1936, as a witness in the case which arose from the unsuccessful fascist raid on my archives, I tried to explain to the judges and jurors the meaning of my papers as a means of defense against false accusations.
You will perhaps permit me [I said], to give an example from a field in which the jurors are more at home. Let us imagine a religious, God-fearing man who strives to live his whole life in strict conformity with the teachings of the Bible. At some point, his enemies raise – with the aid of false documents and false witnesses – the charge that this man secretly carries on atheistic propaganda. What would the victim of the slander say? “Here is my family, here are my friends, here is my library, here is my correspondence of many years, here is my entire life. Read my letters, addressed to the most diverse people on the most diverse occasions, ask the hundreds of people who over the course of years have been in contact with me, and you will be convinced that I could not have carried on a work in conflict with my whole moral nature.” This argument will convince every intelligent and honest man.
Let us take another example from the field of art: Let us suppose that somebody were to declare that Diego Rivera is a secret agent of the Catholic Church. If I were to participate in an inquiry into such a slander, I would first of all propose to all the participants that they inspect Rivera’s frescoes. One could hardly find expressed anywhere a more impassioned or more intense hatred of the Church. Will some jurist try to object that perhaps Rivera painted these frescoes with the aim of camouflaging his real rôle? Serious people would only laugh contemptuously at such an objection, and proceed with their business.
For the purpose of camouflaging crimes (I speak now of the crimes of the GPU), it is possible, with the help of a venal apparatus, to fabricate an indictment, to exact a series of monotonous confessions, and at state expense to print a “verbatim” report. The inner contradictions and crudenesses of this concoction sufficiently expose. by and of themselves, this bureaucratic “creation” made to order. But one cannot without conviction and intellectual passion paint tremendous frescoes which in the language of art lash the oppression of man by man, or year after year under countless blows of enemies develop the ideas of international revolution. One cannot pour out “heart’s blood and nerve’s sap” (Börne) in scientific, artistic or political work, with the object of “camouflage.” People who know what creative work is, and all intelligent and sensitive people in general, will laugh derisively at bureaucratic and “juridical” casuists, and proceed to serious business.
Let us, finally, bring dispassionate arithmetic to bear on this case. According to the statements in both trials, the content of my criminal work was as follows: Three meetings in Copenhagen, two letters of Mrachkovsky and others, three letters to Radek, a letter to Pyatakov, another to Muralov, a meeting with Romm lasting twenty to twenty-five minutes, a meeting with Pyatakov lasting two hours. That is all! Altogether, the conversations and correspondence with the conspirators, according to their own testimony, did not take more than twelve or thirteen hours of my time. I do not know how much time was taken up by my conversations with Hess and the Japanese diplomats.
Let us add twelve more hours. Altogether, this totals a maximum of three working days. Meanwhile, I calculate that the eight years of my most recent exile comprise 2,920 possible working days, That I did not expend my time uselessly is proven by my books published during these years, by innumerable articles, and by the still more numerous letters which in size and content not infrequently are comparable to articles. In this way we come to a rather paradoxical conclusion: During 2,917 working days I wrote books, articles and letters and held conversations devoted to the defense of Socialism, the proletarian revolution and the struggle against fascist and all other forms of reaction. On the other hand, I devoted three days – three whole daysi – to a conspiracy in the interests of fascism. Not even my adversaries have denied that my books and articles, written in the spirit of the Communist revolution, possess some merit. On the other hand, my letters and verbal directives inspired by interest in fascism, are, to judge by the Moscow reports, distinguished by an extraordinary stupidity. Between the two branches of my activity, the public and the secret, there is observable an extreme disproportion. The public – that is, the “hypocritical” – activity, which served only as “camouflage,” surpassed my secret – that is. the “genuine” – activity almost a thousand times in quantity and, I venture to assert, equally in quality. One gets the impression that I built a skyscraper to “camouflage” a dead rat. No, it is not convincing!
The same thing applies to the testimony of my witnesses, Naturally, I lived in a circle of political friends, and associated chiefly, though not exclusively, with my co-thinkers. It is a simple matter, therefore, to try to discredit the testimony of my witnesses as coming from persons connected with an interested party (ex parte). Such an attempt, however, must from the outset be regarded as untenable. Today there are in some thirty countries smaller or larger organizations which were founded and have developed during the past eight years in close connection with my theoretical works and political articles. Hundreds of members of these organizations carried on personal correspondence with me, entered into discussions with me, and visited me whenever they could. Everyone of them afterwards shared his impressions with scores, if not hundreds, of other persons. Thus there is involved no closed circle, bound together by family pride or mutual material interests, but a broad international movement, nourished exclusively from ideological sources. To this it must be added that in all these thirty organizations, during all these years, there occurred an intensive ideological struggle, which not infrequently led to splits and expulsions. The internal life of each of these organizations was reflected, in its turn, in bulletins, circular letters and polemical articles. In all this work I took an active part. The question arises: Did the international organization of the “Trotskyites” know about my “genuine” plans and intentions (terrorism, war, defeat of the USSR, fascism)? If so, then it is altogether incomprehensible why this secret failed to leak out, either through carelessness or bad faith, especially in view of the numerous conflicts and splits. If not, that means that I succeeded in calling into existence a growing international movement based on ideas which were not mine, but which served me only as camouflage for directly opposite ideas. But such an assumption is really preposterous! I would like to add that I propose to call as witnesses dozens of persons who have broken with the Trotskyist organization or have been expelled from it, and have become my political opponents, sometimes extremely bitter ones. To apply the narrow term “ex parte” to such broad dimensions – the quantity here, too, passes into quality – means to ignore reality and clutch at a shadow.
An American writer complained to me in a conversation: “It is difficult for me to believe,” he said, “that you entered into an alliance with fascism; but it is equally difficult for me to believe that Stalin carried out such horrible frame-ups.” I can only pity the author of this remark. It is, in fact, difficult to find a solution if one approaches the question exclusively from an individual psychological and not political viewpoint. I do not wish to deny by this the importance of the individual element in history. Neither Stalin nor I find ourselves in our present positions by accident. But we did not create these positions. Each of us is drawn into this drama as the representative of definite ideas and principles. In their turn, the ideas and principles do not fall from the sky, but have profound social roots. That is why one must take, not the psychological abstraction of Stalin as a “man,” but his concrete, historical personality as leader of the Soviet bureaucracy. One can understand the acts of Stalin only by starting from the conditions of existence of the new privileged stratum, greedy for power, greedy for material comforts, apprehensive for its positions, fearing the masses, and mortally hating all opposition.
The position of a privileged bureaucracy in a society which that bureaucracy itself calls Socialist is not only contradictory, but also false. The more precipitate the jump from the October overturn – which laid bare all social falsehood – to the present situation, in which a caste of upstarts is forced to cover up its social ulcers, the cruder the Thermidorian lies. It is, consequently, a question not simply of the individual depravity of this or that person, but of the corruption lodged in the position of a whole social group for whom lying has become a vital political necessity. In the struggle for its newly gained positions, this caste has reeducated itself and simultaneously re-educated – or rather, demoralized – its leaders. It raised upon its shoulders the man who best, most resolutely and most ruthlessly expresses its interests. Thus Stalin, who was once a revolutionist, became the leader of the Thermidorian caste.
The formulas of Marxism, expressing the interests of the masses, more and more inconvenienced the bureaucracy, in so far as they were inevitably directed against its interests. From the time that I entered into opposition to the bureaucracy, its courtier-theoreticians began to call the revolutionary essence of Marxism – “Trotskyism.” At the same time, the official conception of Leninism changed from year to year, becoming more and more adapted to the needs of the ruling caste. Books devoted to Party history, to the October Revolution, or to the theory of Leninism, were revised annually. I have adduced an example from the literary activity of Stalin himself. In 1918 he wrote that the victory of the October insurrection was “principally and above all” assured by Trotsky’s leadership. In 1924 Stalin wrote that Trotsky could not have played any special rôle In the October Revolution. To this tune the whole historiography was adjusted. This signifies in practice that hundreds of young scholars and thousands of journalists were systematically trained in the spirit of falsification. Whoever resisted was stifled. This applies in a still greater measure to the propagandists, functionaries, judges, not to speak of the examining magistrates of the GPU. The incessant Party purges were directed above all toward the uprooting of “Trotskyism,” and during these purges not only discontented workers were called “Trotskyites,” but also all writers who honestly presented historical facts or citations which contradicted the latest official standardization. Novelists and artists were subject to the same regime. The spiritual atmosphere of the country became completely impregnated with the poison of conventionalities, lies and direct frame-ups.
All the possibilities along this road were soon exhausted. The theoretical and historical falsifications no longer attained their aims – people grew too accustomed to them. It was necessary to give to bureaucratic repression a more massive foundation. To bolster up the literary falsifications, accusations of a criminal character were brought in.
My exile from the USSR was officially motivated by the allegation that I had prepared an “armed insurrection.” However, the accusation launched against me was not even published in the press. Today it may seem incredible, but already in 1929 we were confronted with accusations against the Trotskyites of “sabotage,” “espionage,” “preparation of railroad wrecks,” etc., in the Soviet press. However, there was not a single trial involving these accusations. The matter was limited to a literary calumny which represented, nevertheless, the first link in the preparation of the future judicial frame-ups. To justify the repressions, it was necessary to have framed accusations. To give weight to the false accusations, it was necessary to reinforce them with more brutal repressions. Thus the logic of the struggle drove Stalin along the road of gigantic judicial amalgams.
They also became necessary to him for international reasons. If the Soviet bureaucracy does not want revolutions and fears them, it cannot, at the same time, openly renounce the revolutionary traditions without definitely undermining its prestige within the USSR. However, the obvious bankruptcy of the Comintern opens the way for a new International. Since 1933 the idea of new revolutionary parties under the banner of the Fourth International has met with great success in the Old and New Worlds. Only with difficulty can an outside observer appreciate the real dimensions of this success. It cannot be measured by membership statistics alone. The general tendency of development is of much greater importance. Deep, internal fissures are spreading throughout all the sections of the Comintern, which at the first historic shock will result in splits and debacles. If Stalin fears the little Bulletin of the Opposition and punishes its introduction into the USSR with death, it is not difficult to understand what fright seizes the bureaucracy at the possibility that news of the self-sacrificing work of the Fourth International in the service of the working class may penetrate into the USSR.
The moral authority of the leaders of the bureaucracy and, above all, of Stalin, rests in large measure upon the Tower of Babel of slanders and falsifications erected over a period of thirteen years. The moral authority of the Comintern rests entirely and exclusively on the moral authority of the Soviet bureaucracy. In its turn, the authority of the Comintern as well as its support, is necessary for Stalin before the Russian workers. This Tower of Babel, which frightens its own builders, is maintained inside the USSR with the aid of more and more terrible repressions, and outside the USSR with the aid of a gigantic apparatus which, through resources drawn from the labor of the Soviet workers and peasants, poisons world public opinion with the virus of lies, falsifications and blackmail. Millions of people throughout the world identify the October Revolution with the Thermidorian bureaucracy, the Soviet Union with Stalin’s clique, the revolutionary workers with the utterly demoralized Comintern apparatus.
The first great breach in this Tower of Babel will necessarily cause it to collapse entirely, and bury beneath its dèbris the authority of the Thermidorian chiefs. That is why it is for Stalin a life-and-death question to kill the Fourth International while it is still in embryo! Now, as we are here examining the Moscow trials, the Executive Committee of the Comintern, according to information in the press, is sitting in Moscow. Its agenda is: The struggle against world Trotskyism. The session of the Executive Committee of the Comintern is not only a link in the long chain of the Moscow frame-ups, but also the projection of the latter on the world arena. Tomorrow we shall hear about new misdeeds of the Trotskyites in Spain, of their direct or indirect support of the fascists. Echoes of this base calumny, indeed, have already been heard in this room. Tomorrow we shall hear how the Trotskyites in the United States are preparing railroad wrecks and the obstruction of the Panama Canal, in the interests of Japan. We shall learn the day after tomorrow how the Trotskyites in Mexico are preparing measures for the restoration of Porfirio Diaz. You say Diaz died a long time ago? The Moscow creators of amalgams do not stop before such trifles. They stop before nothing – nothing at all. Politically and morally, it is a question of life and death for them. Emissaries of the GPU are prowling in all countries of the Old and the New World. They do not lack money. What does it mean to the ruling clique to spend twenty or fifty millions of dollars more or less. to sustain its authority and its power? These gentlemen buy human consciences like sacks of potatoes. We shall see this in many instances.
Fortunately, not everybody can be bought. Otherwise humanity would have rotted away a long time ago. Here, in the person of the Commission, we have a precious cell of unmarketable public conscience. All those who thirst for purification of the social atmosphere will turn instinctively toward the Commission. In spite of intrigues, bribes and calumny, it will be rapidly protected by the armor of the sympathy of broad, popular masses.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission! Already for five years – I repeat, five years! – I have incessantly demanded the creation of an international commission of inquiry. The day I received the telegram about the creation of your sub-commission was a great holiday in my life. Some friends anxiously asked me: Will not the Stalinists penetrate into the Commission, as they at first penetrated into the Committee for the Defense of Trotsky? I answered: Dragged into the light of day, the Stalinists are not fearsome. On the contrary, I will welcome the most venomous questions from the Stalinists; to break them down I have only to tell what actually happened. The world press will give the necessary publicity to my replies. I knew in advance that the GPU would bribe individual journalists and whole newspapers. But I did not doubt for one moment that the conscience of the world cannot be bribed and that it will score. In this case as well, one of its most splendid victories.
Esteemed Commissioners! The experience of my life, in which there has been no lack either of successes or of failures, has not only not destroyed my faith in the clear, bright future of mankind, but, on the contrary, has given it an indestructible temper. This faith in reason, in truth, in human solidarity, which at the age of eighteen I took with me into the workers’ quarters of the provincial Russian town of Nikolaiev – this faith I have preserved fully and completely. It has become more mature, but not less ardent. In the very fact of your Commission’s formation – in the fact that, at its head, is a man of unshakable moral authority, a man who by virtue of his age should have the right to remain outside of the skirmishes in the political arena – in this fact I see a new and truly magnificent reinforcement of the revolutionary optimism which constitutes the fundamental element of my life.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission! Mr. Attorney Finerty! and you, my defender and friend, Goldman! Allow me to express to all of you my warm gratitude, which in this case does not bear a personal character. And allow me, in conclusion, to express my profound respect to the educator, philosopher and personification of genuine American idealism, the scholar who heads the work of your Commission. (Applause)
DEWEY: Anything I can say will be an anticlimax. But I still have to repeat an announcement I made before, that in adjourning today we are only adjourning the sessions of the Preliminary Commission which might be regarded even as opening the investigation of the larger and complete Commission. I wish only to add that several members of the Commission will remain here for a few days – we have been so occupied that we have not had sufficient time to examine the archives and all the letters – and that one member of this Preliminary Commission has been appointed as a sub-commission and will remain to make a thorough examination of the documents, for the purpose of both the examination and the verification of the translations.
TROTSKY: The English, and including the Russian.
DEWEY: The hearings of the Preliminary Commission of Inquiry are now ended.
Last updated on: 3.4.2007