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New International, January–February 1953


Alois Neurath

An Open Letter to Zapotocky

From a Founder of the Communist Movement

(January 1953)


From New International, Vol. XIII No. 1, January–February 1953, pp. 52–55.
Marked up up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The author is highly qualified from every standpoint to address this open letter to the Czech Stalinist leader, Zapotocky. Alois Neurath is one of the most prominent of the founders and builders of the international communist movement in the days when it was a communist movement. In 1921, after the founding of the Communist Party of the Czechoslovakian Republic (in the German-speaking sector), Comrade Neurath became its General Secretary. After the union of the Communist Party of the German section and the party of the Czechoslovakian section, Neurath became director, together with Dr. Hauser, of the Central Secretariat of the united organization. In the subsequent internal party conflicts, they were replaced by Jilek, first, and then by Zapotocky, as General Secretary. From 1922 to 1926, Neurath was a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International; from November 1922 to June 1923, he was a member of the Moscow Secretariat of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, along with the Bulgarian Kolarov, the Finn Kuusinen and the Russian Pyatnitsky. In 1926, Neurath came out in opposition to the policy of the Comintern and Czech party leadership and after a protracted struggle, left the party in 1929. He became a supporter of the Trotskyist movement, without, actually joining the international organization, although he was in constant touch with Leon Trotsky by mail. He succeeded in escaping the Hitlerite terror and has been residing for years in Sweden. – Ed.


Mr. Antonin Zapotocky
Prague, CZR

Only a few days ago I received the issues of Rude Pravo containing all the materials relating to the trial as well as the testimony and “confessions” of the accused. The materials, especially the “confessions” of the accused, show that it was not so much Slansky but Frejka (Freund) and Geminder who were guilty of the economic bankruptcy of Czechoslovakia. Geminder as well as Frejka confessed that they had been seduced by me, the “Trotskyite” thirty years ago, having been put on the wrong track, so to speak, that far back. In this respect Geminder had even more to say, namely, that Slansky had confided to him that he (Slansky) was in agreement with his political opinions. And Frejka provoked reproaches from the prosecution because of the tremendous losses his economic measures had caused the state; “confessed” that it was I who had given him such a responsible position in the party apparatus. This part of the “confessions” of both accused corresponds to the truth as much as everything else to which the victims of the trials have “confessed.” I had practically nothing to do with Geminder and I helped Frejka in 1923 or ’24 to get a job as city editor with the Reichenberger Vorwaerts.

The fact that your former colleagues and friends have been compelled to mention my name in the course of the trial a few times would not be a reason to address this open letter to you. For Frejka and Geminder testified only to that to which they had been forced to testify. It cannot be a question of polemizing against the testimony of the trial victims, but to expose your responsibility for this shameful trial.

Though neither Slansky, Geminder nor Frejka are my concern, nevertheless it is you, though you are not alone, who is responsible for the arrest, conviction and execution of a number of the “Karliner gang.” It was the party leadership which together with the functionaries of the NKVD drew up the list of those party functionaries who were to stand before the Peoples’ Court as “saboteurs,” “spies,” “murderers” and above all as “Zionists.”

In this connection, therefore, it is in order to illuminate your political past and your specific political acts. It was not so much Slansky, Frejka and Geminder, but Gottwald and a few others of the above group which you denounced at the time as the “Karliner gang” whom I sought to influence during the years 1923–25. One of the important tasks of this “Karliner gang” consisted among other things in trying to forestall those excesses which you, together with Nosek, Smeral, and others organized. (Attacks on the editorial offices of Rude Pravo and individual members of the Central Committee, who did not belong to your group.) Stalin himself at the time termed these excesses “banditry,” and he called you, who had been responsible for them, “bandits.” It is far from certain that Stalin has revised his opinion of you even today.

In 1925, the “troika” (Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin) decided on a thorough cleaning out of the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party. The “troika” categorically demanded not only Smeral’s, Nosek’s and your removal from the CC, but your exclusion from the party altogether. The majority of the CC did not abide by this demand of the “troika.” Some of those belonging to the “Karliner gang” group, whom you have sent to the gallows, at that time opposed the decision of the “troika.” You have them to thank for the fact that you were not thrown out of the party as a “counter-revolutionary” or “bourgeois agent.” (At that time the Central Committees of the Communist Parties were not yet full of “spies,” “murderers,” “police agents,” and “Zionists.” That became the fashion only after Stalin had attained power.)

It would be pointless to enumerate all your political mistakes or those of other Stalinists, since Stalin determines the “general line” not only of the Soviet union, but of the Comintern as well; and therefore, it is the Kremlin that decides in the first instance who is a “spy” or “Zionist,” and who shall be hanged. Furthermore, it is the Kremlin that supplies the background of the various witchcraft trials. Moscow has now decided to begin an international anti-Semitic campaign. Were this not so, it would not be Slansky, Frejka, Geminder, etc., who would be facing the Peoples Court but possibly Gottwald, Zapotocky and Co.

One of the accused admitted, among other things, that he had been sympathetic to the Marshall Plan. What comedy! It was, after all, your “friend” and only opponent in the Central Committee, Gottwald, who was ready to welcome the Marshall Plan in the name of the Prague regime. Not Slansky, but Gottwald, as is well-known, was ordered to come to Moscow to receive a dressing-down because of his attitude on the Marshall Plan.

Today the only task of the Central Committee of the CPC consists of facilitating the activities of the NKVD insofar as the matter concerns dooming this or that group of party functionaries to the gallows. The fact that this time Moscow has initiated an anti-Semitic action has given you the opportunity of getting rid of some of your antagonists for ever, since among them were a few Jews. The question was not one of who might be a “spy” but one of who was a Jew among the leading cadres of the party. And then the “chosen ones” were compelled to confess that they not only had acted as “spies” but in the first place as “Zionists.”

What shame! No party, no human being, and above all no person actively engaged in politics can sink to a lower level than anti-Semitism!

No one knows better than you that none of those convicted in the Prague Witchcraft Trial were spies, that none of them committed the crimes to which they “confessed.” All the accused are victims of a bestial judicial murder. You know, of course, that the Prague Trials were in no way intended to influence public opinion in the CSR favorably. Only a very small part of the Czech population takes the materials of the trial seriously or believes in the “confessions” of the accused. If the trial in Czechoslovakia has any favorable result, it consists in strengthening “Titoism.” But it was not after all the purpose of the trial to create a friendly attitude on the part of the population, the trial represented the beginning of the international anti- Semitic campaign that meets the momentary needs of the Kremlin.

I repeat here the dialogue between the prosecutor and Geminder as it was published in Rude Pravo:

Geminder: I attended German schools in Ostrau. In 1910 I left the country and finished my high school studies in Berlin. After finishing these studies, I began to run around with provincial, petty-bourgeois cosmopolitan and Zionist circles where only German was spoken. That is the reason I don’t talk good Czechoslovakian.

Prosecutor: What language do you speak well?

Geminder: German.

Prosecutor: Do you really speak a good German?

Geminder: It’s been a long time since I spoke German, but I know it.

Prosecutor: Do you know German about as well as you know Czech.

Geminder: Yes.

Prosecutor: Then you really can’t speak any language decently. A typical cosmopolitan.

All the trial proceedings are conducted on this low level. And the level on which the whole trial occurs corresponds completely to the purpose of the trial itself: propaganda for anti-Semitism.

It is not so long ago that Slansky forced you to engage in “self-criticism.” You publicly confessed in 1945 that you were the author of the slanderous name “the Karliner gang,” and that it has turned out that they (in the first place Slansky) had always been right and you wrong.

Moscow’s international general anti- Semitic offensive has completely changed the situation inside the Central Committee of the CPC. Moscow demands Jews as scapegoats. And you have taken advantage of this favorable opportunity to denounce not only Frejka, Geminder and others, but above all Slansky, as “Zionists.”

Apart from the pleasure you derived from handing your strongest opponent over to the NKVD, you really had no other choice. Nor is there any way out’ You cannot escape your own fate. After Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others, those became the victims who had borne witness against them: Bukharin, Radek, etc. And after that came the turn of those who had testified against Bukharin, Radek, etc. Yesterday it was Slansky and company. Tomorrow it will be Gottwald, Zapotocky and company. Such things have their own logic.

Stockholm, January 1953

Alois Neurath

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