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Fourth International, January 1941


The Editors

The Murder of Krivitsky


From Fourth International, Vol. II No. 2, February 1941, pp. 35–36.
Transcribed & marked up by David Walters for ETOL.


When Walter Krivitsky was found dead, the Washington police took possession of the three “suicide notes” and issued, after a long and inexplicable delay of nearly a day, the text of the letters, including a translation from the Russian of Krivitsky’s “letter” to his wife and son. The police insisted on retaining possession of the originals but, again after some delay, released a photostat copy to Louis Waldman, attorney for Mrs. Krivitsky. For most of the week after Krivitsky’s death, Mr. Waldman remained in Washington, vainly attempting to get Federal authorities to conduct an adequate investigation of the death of Krivitsky. When it became clear that the coroner was going to be permitted to issue a verdict of suicide without a further investigation, Mr. Waldman threw up his hands and returned to New York. He brought the photostat copy to Mrs. Krivitsky. She had seen the text issued by the Washington police and she began to read the photostat copy not so much, primarily, for the content, but to note carefully the handwriting. But out of the photostat copy there stared at her tremendous words which had not appeared in the text issued by the Washington police. Those words were: “SOVIET PEOPLE.”

In the text issued by the police, the relevant sentences had read:

“Good people will help you, but not enemies. I think my sins are big.”

The complete text, as it appears in the photostat copy of the original letter, reads:

“Good people will help you, but not enemies of the Soviet people. I think my sins are big.”

There it was: Stalin’s signature to the murder of Walter Krivitsky.

Let us pass by this “failure” of the police translator to include in the text issued to the press these words: “Soviet people.” It was but one of a score of “failures” in the police investigation of Krivitsky’s death. We need but remind the reader that the Washington police force is not the usual local police body: Washington is run by the federal government. With the Far Eastern crisis exploding and relations with the Kremlin the crucial question in that crisis, it was the perfect week for a GPU crime.

The thing worked out perfectly for Stalin. By the time the “omission” from the Krivitsky “letter” was discovered, the publicity on the case was over. By that time – Krivitsky was killed Monday and Mrs. Krivitsky did not make the discovery until Thursday – the Krivitsky story had been pushed off the front page and out of the papers by the Far Eastern crisis. And now, with Mrs. Krivitsky having issued the correct version of the letter, it could be published in the Soviet press as “proof” that all the other death-bed recantations of “sinners” and whitewashings of Stalin had been true, for here, don’t you see, is another such recantation and whitewashing, authoritatively verified by the Washington police as the last words of a suicide.

In each new crime, Stalin is driven to attempt to justify all his previous crimes. The world is skeptical of the truth and sincerity of the numerous recantations which have been “signed” by oppositionists? Stalin proves the truth and sincerity of these recantations by issuing tenfold more. From 1924 to 1927 such recantations come relatively infrequently. They are “proved” by an increase in their frequency and volume, from 1927 to 1936. Those are not believed? The entire cadre of Lenin’s closest collaborators is paraded from 1936 to 1938 in the Moscow Frameup Trials, in the familiar ritual of recantations of their sins and whitewashings of Stalin.

But these are not Trotskyists? Then Trotskyists likewise must be made to recant. Rudolph Klement, secretary of the Fourth International, “writes” a letter from Paris to Trotsky, “breaking” with him and whitewashing Stalin in July 1938; just about the time this “letter” arrives to Trotsky in Mexico, the dismembered body of poor Klement is found in the Seine and mutely explains the “letter.” Hence the murder of Trotsky must somehow be crammed into the pattern of recantations and whitewashings: the assassin Jacson “confesses” that he, too, “broke” with Trotsky, that “perhaps Stalin was right.” And when Jacson’s story is broken down in court by Trotsky’s attorney, Albert Goldman, and when David Serrano, member of the Political Buro of the Communist Party of Mexico, and the Stalinist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, are held as the organizers of the previous (May 24, 1940) attempt on Trotsky, then Krivitsky must “testify” in the pattern of recantation and whitewashing.

Stalin is irrevocably the prisoner of this fantastic formula. He must repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. Human psychology must be transformed to fit Stalin’s pattern, otherwise the long series of murders becomes known for what it is. If a hundred instances are not conclusive, then Stalin will provide a thousand instances, ten thousand instances ...

Hence Stalin’s signature to the murder of Krivitsky.

The Communist Party organ, takes up where the assassin and forger left off. The reference to the “Soviet people” had not yet been discovered by Mrs. Krivitsky when the Daily Worker (February 12) wrote its editorial explaining why Krivitsky died; without that reference the sentence about “sins” might not have been comprehensible to the ordinary mortal; but the Daily Worker is not edited by ordinary mortals. They wrote:

“Krivitsky tells the last chapter of the story with the words: ‘I think my sins are big.’

“The truth was told in these words by a petty adventurer ... Krivitsky was a petty tool, but his use was big. He began to understand his role and he tried to tell why he ‘had to go.’ ... That he became sick of his role is understandable even when one knows the type of tool he was.”

You do not believe in Stalin’s school of psychology?

Then, for such skeptics, the same issue of the Daily Worker supplies additional evidence. An article by Sender Garlin (lately returned from Moscow) says:

“Krivitsky left three letters, containing intimate personal details, clearly proving his plan to end his own life ...”

The “intimate personal details” are characterized by Krivitsky’s wife, by his friends and attorney, as what the GPU could easily collect in the course of its pursuit of Krivitsky – his strong love for his wife and son, the fact that the child was well-behaved and rather pale – and nothing else. But in any event who is Garlin and the Daily Worker, to assert whether or not these “intimate, personal details” are true or not? Has Garlin read numerous GPU reports on Krivitsky’s life and habits, that Garlin is so certain that the details are well-planted in the “letters”? Garlin’s article is but another one of those instances in which the vainglorious boastings of the GPU show its hand in the murder.

Although we were political opponents of Krivitsky – he left the Stalinist agency of imperialism only to become an adherent of the Social Democratic agency of imperialism we were ready to do anything in our power to save him. We had in common with him at least this: we were ready to join hands with him to rid the labor movement of terrorist methods of struggle against opponents. His death should emphasize again the necessity for all sections of the labor movement to join in common struggle against the GPU. Had all sections of the labor movement joined to arouse labor opinion when Trotsky was murdered, perhaps Krivitsky would not be dead today. Hereafter there must be a clear understanding that the struggle against the GPU is the common task of the entire labor movement.

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