Leon Trotsky

Stalin’s Trial as a Terrorist
Demanded of League by Trotsky

(March 1938)

Written: 21 March 1938.
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 17, 23 April 1938, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

(The following letter was sent on March 21 by comrade Trotsky to the Juridical Section, Secretariat of the League of Nations):

On October 22, 1936, through my Norwegian attorney, the late Michael Puntervold, I had the honor of appealing to you in a letter receipt of which you were kind enough to acknowledge in your reply No. 3A-15105-15085. I am not informed as to the present status of the question of creating a tribunal against terrorists under the League of Nations. I do not know whether it already exists, or whether it is expected to start working in the near future. In any case, I consider it my duty not only to repeat the considerations which I had the honor of bringing to the attention of your section nearly a year and a half ago, but also to supplement them with a new, fully concrete proposal.

It was the Soviet government which initiated the creation of a tribunal against terrorists under the League of Nations. The People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs for the U.S.S.R., Mr. M. Litvinov, displayed at the League of Nations sessions an especially keen and, as might then have appeared, inexplicable interest in this question. However, to informed people the matter was clear even then. Preparing over a number of years the trial against “Trotskyist terrorists,” the G.P.U. was fully convinced that the monotonous “confessions” of the accused would persuade the whole world, including the future tribunal of the League of Nations, as to the correctness of the accusations and offer the possibility of obtaining the legal deliverance of myself and my son, Leon Sedov, into the hands of the G.P.U. This was the immediate and direct aim of Moscow’s initiative on the question of an international tribunal.

Right to be Heard

In my letter of October 22, 1936, I expressed the thought that a tribunal dedicated to the defense of governments in various countries from terrorists cannot, on the other hand, refuse defense to private individuals if they, because of purely political motives, are falsely accused of terrorism by an ill-intentioned government. I therefore considered then, and still consider, that I have the right to plead for an examination of my case by the future tribunal under the League of Nations, in spite of the fact that the Soviet government has seemingly definitely renounced the thought of seeking help in Geneva against my alleged “conspiracies.”

The impartial International Commission headed by the well known American philosopher and educator, John Dewey, after almost nine months of work came to a final conclusion in regard to the Moscow trials, declaring them deliberate frame-ups. Armed with numerous and irrefutable proofs which are at the disposal of the above-mentioned Commission, I am ready at any time to appear before the tribunal of the League of Nations in order once more and definitively to convert my accusers into accused.

G.P.U. Terrorism

But I make bold to think that by this time it is already impossible to stop merely at the first step. During the last half year, the world has been witness to a series of actual terrorist acts committed in various countries according to a general plan and with undoubted singleness of purpose. I have in mind not the legal and extra-legal murders in the U.S.S.R., where the question, thus or otherwise, concerns the legalized actions of the state apparatus, but acts of downright banditry on the international arena.

The murder of Ignace Eeiss, former agent of the G.P.U., on September 4, 1937, near Lausanne, Switzerland, can in no sense be viewed as a legalized act. The Swiss and French authorities have complete, exhaustive data unmasking the real organizer of this murder: the G.P.U., the secret police in the U.S.S.R.

During the judicial investigation of the murder of Ignace Reiss it was disclosed in passing that this same gang, in conducting systematic espionage upon my son, Leon Sedov, attempted to kill him at Mulhausen in January, 1937. What relationship the G.P.U. had to the sudden death of my son on the 16th of February of this year is still subject to general investigation.

Attempts in Mexico

Among the documents of the chief murderer of Ignace Reiss, a so-called Rossi who succeeded in fleeing in time, proofs were found of his attempts to enter Mexico for purposes not difficult to determine on the basis of the aforementioned circumstances. The actual name of this professional murderer in the service of the G.P.U. is Roland Abbiatte.

Witnesses of unimpeachable authority can relate before the tribunal the preparation by G.P.U. agents of terroristic acts against me during my sojourn in Europe and in Mexico. I can further cite the kidnapping in Spain of my former collaborator, Erwin Wolf, a Czechoslovakian citizen who has disappeared without a trace. The terrorist , acts to Spain against the Catalonian revolutionist, Andres Nin; the Austrian émigré, Kurt Landau; the son of a Russian émigré, Mark Rein, and a number of other individuals have received world-wide publicity. Even that part of the legal and extra-legal investigation which has been accessible to public opinion to date is completely sufficient to warrant the interference of an international tribunal against a centralized Mafia of terrorists working on the territory of several states, other than their own.

Stalin at the Head

With the help of documents, testimony of witnesses and irrefutable political considerations I take it upon myself to prove what public opinion has been in no doubt of for some time; that is, that the head of this criminal band is Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the All-Union Communist Party of the U.S.S.R.

Inasmuch as the People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Litvinov, has very eloquently insisted upon the necessity for governments to mutually obligate themselves to extradite terrorists, he, we can hope, will not refuse to employ his influence to place the above-mentioned Joseph Stalin, as head of the international terrorist band, at the disposal of the tribunal under the League of Nations.

For my part, I am ready to place all my energy, information, documents and personal connections at the disposal of the tribunal in order that the truth may be fully disclosed.

Coyoacan, D.F.
March 21, 1938

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Last updated on: 11 September 2015