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The Militant, 18 May 1946

The Nuremberg Trials and the Moscow Trials

A Statement by the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 20, 18 May 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Nuremberg Trials, at which the victors in the Second World War are passing judgment on the defeated Nazi leaders, call public attention once more to the notorious Moscow Trials of 1936–37–38 at which the principal leaders of the Russian Revolution were indicted on the charge of collaborating with the German Nazis to prepare a war against the Soviet Union. As is known, the old Bolshevik leaders were “convicted” of this monstrous charge and most of them were executed. Although he was not present in the Moscow courtroom, Leon Trotsky was named as the chief defendant and the sentence of death was executed on him by a hired Stalinist assassin in Mexico City in August 1940.

Dewey Commission

From the inception of the Moscow Trials the fantastic nature of the Stalinist accusations against the incorruptible leaders of the Russian Revolution aroused doubt and distrust throughout the world. As a result of this great public interest and distrust, a Commission of Inquiry into the Moscow Trials, headed by John Dewey, the world famous philosopher and educator, was constituted in New York in the Spring of 1937. Leon Trotsky was given the chance to defend himself, which had been denied in the one-sided Moscow proceedings. At the same time the Dewey Commission invited the appropriate Soviet representatives in the United States and Mexico to present their own evidence against Trotsky and the old Bolsheviks before this impartial tribunal.

Open hearings were held in Mexico City from April 10 to 17, 1937. Following that, the Dewey Commission studied and analyzed all the available evidence and material bearing on the case. Finally, after the most thorough-going investigation, the Dewey Commission presented to the world, under date of Sept. 21, 1937, its unanimous decision which was summarized in the last two sentences of its report: “We therefore find the Moscow Trials to be frame-ups. We therefore find Trotsky and Sedov not guilty.” The full record of the Commission’s work was published in two thick books by Harper & Brothers – The Case of Leon Trotsky and Not Guilty.

Following the report of this most impartial and authoritative body, the doubt and skepticism which had pervaded world public opinion from the start of the Moscow Trials was resolved into a settled conviction that the Moscow Trials were a fraud from start to finish. The Trials were completely discredited throughout the entire civilized world; the very words “Moscow Trials” became a synonym for frame-up and fraud in the language of the day.

The Stalinists in recent years have made redoubled efforts to rehabilitate the discredited Moscow Trials of 1936–37–38. A book published in recent months, called The Great Conspiracy, written by two Stalinist hacks, is devoted primarily to a rehash of the Moscow Trials in a new attempt to smear the memory of their victims. Prior to that, the Stalinist frame-up and murder machine had secured the complicity of the State Department of the United States to bolster the old frame-ups of 1936–37. The book and motion picture Mission to Moscow by the former American Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, issued with the implicit blessing of the State Department, were designed primarily to whitewash the notorious Moscow Trials and deceive public opinion in regard to them.

When, therefore, the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi leaders were announced, those people in the world who are concerned about truth and justice had every reason to be apprehensive that these trials would be utilized to give supplementary support to the old, discredited accusations on the basis of which the old Bolsheviks had been convicted and slaughtered. We shared in this apprehension, especially when it was announced, that Hitler’s deputy, Hess, with whom Trotsky had allegedly collaborated, would be one of the prisoners in the dock at Nuremberg.

The indictment of the January 1937 trial at Moscow stated:

“The investigation has established that L.D. Trotsky entered into negotiations with one of the leaders of the German National Socialist Party with a view to waging a joint struggle against the Soviet Union ...”


“The principles of this agreement, as Trotsky related, were finally elaborated and adopted during Trotsky’s meeting with Hitler’s deputy, Hess.” (Verbatim report of the trial. Moscow 1937)

The question spontaneously arose in the minds of all informed people, especially among those who, like ourselves and our co-thinkers in all countries, are passionate defenders of the irreproachable memory of Trotsky and the old Bolsheviks:

“Will the Nuremberg Trials, among other things, be utilized to ‘prove’ once again that the Moscow Trials were not frame-ups, but fair and just proceedings?”

Stalinists Renew Slanders

The renewal of the campaign against the Trotskyists in the Stalinist press, coupled with sinister references to the impending Trials at Nuremberg, only increased our apprehension and alarm. The direct line leading from the Moscow Trials to the Nuremberg affair was obvious to everybody, including the Stalinists.

Last November, for example, the Stalinists at St. Louis, Missouri distributed a leaflet outside a meeting of the Socialist Workers Party addressed by John G. Wright. In this leaflet it was brazenly stated: “Documents, discovered in Berlin and produced at the Nuremberg trial of Nazi high criminals, reveal to the whole world how Trotsky plotted with Rudolph Hess to organize a fifth column in the Soviet Union in order to open the gates to the Nazi invasion.” The distribution of this Stalinist leaflet was reported in The Militant, December 29, 1945. We had good reason to fear that something was being cooked up at Nuremberg and that the Stalinists were already freely talking about it in their own ranks.

Several months ago, the Revolutionary Communist Party, British Section of the Fourth International, launched a campaign designed to unmask the Stalinist frame-up machine and defend the memory of Trotsky and its other victims. This campaign took the initial form of a request to the War Crimes Commission at Nuremberg and to the British and Soviet prosecutors that a representative of Natalia Trotsky, the widow of Leon Trotsky, be permitted to examine Hess, and that any documents relating to the alleged conspiracy between Trotsky and the Nazi leaders, if such documents exist, be produced at Nuremberg.

Following the initiative of the British Trotskyists in the matter, a group of well-known political and literary figures, headed by H.G. Wells and a number of members of Parliament, publicly addressed these requests to the court at Nuremberg. This created a great sensation and did much to center public attention on the campaign.

Later a number of other Trotskyist parties in Europe, notably the French, Belgian and Dutch Sections of the Fourth International, took up the campaign and secured the signatures of prominent literary and political people to similar letters addressed to the Nuremberg court.

In the United States a short while ago a petition signed by over one hundred American political figures, trade unionists, clergymen, professors and writers, headed by Norman Thomas and Matthew Woll, was dispatched to the Nuremberg court and publicized in the press. The American petition, however, omitted the demand that a representative of Natalia Trotsky be permitted to intervene at the Trial and confined itself to the request that the court pursue the investigation of the alleged complicity of Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders with the Nazi criminals in the preparation of a war against the Soviet Union.

Ignored by Court

All these appeals and petitions have been ignored by the Nuremberg Court.

The Socialist Workers Party, on its part, did not participate in any of this activity. Our hesitation was not prompted in the least by lack of interest in the question or lack of desire to aid in dealing new blows against the Moscow frame-ups of 1936–37–38. Our reasons were of an entirely different order.

In our opinion, the Nuremberg Trials offered not only great propagandistic possibilities to the defenders of the memory of the martyred heroes of the Russian Revolution: they were also fraught with great dangers.

The Nuremberg court of imperialist and Stalinist judges operates outside of all control. These judges are just as capable of perpetrating another frame-up as were the judges in the Moscow Trials if it serves their purposes and they can come to an agreement amongst themselves. They have Hess and the other Nazi leaders in their hands; both the prisoners and the prosecutors are completely unscrupulous and they are capable of making any kind of a deal against the interests of proletarian revolutionists.

Such a deal was made once before. That is precisely what happened when Ambassador Davies wrote his book, Mission to Moscow, and it was made into a motion picture with the sanction of the American State Department. By that action the American government became a party to the most monstrous frame-up in history – the Moscow Trials of 1936–37–38. We did not want to take the responsibility of asking the Nuremberg court, which in the person of its Russian and American representatives, is already implicated in the Moscow frame-up, to again pass judgment on the case.

It has become quite apparent by now, however, that the sharpening conflicts between the imperialists and the Stalinists have thus far prevented them from coming to an agreement to perpetrate a supplementary frame-up against the old Bolsheviks. The prosecution closed its case without introducing a single document or a single bit of evidence of any kind to substantiate the charge that “the principles of this agreement, as Trotsky related, were finally elaborated and adopted during Trotsky’s meeting with Hitler’s deputy, Hess.” (Verbatim report of the trial. Moscow 1937)

The Soviet prosecutors have finished the presentation of their case and have confessed by silence that there are no documents and no evidence of any other kind on the “conspiracy of Trotsky and the Nazis,” for the simple reason that there was no conspiracy. By their failure to question Hess about this alleged “meeting;” by their failure to introduce a single document or piece of material evidence of any kind bearing on the question – the Soviet prosecutors at Nuremberg have shouted a confession to the whole world: THE MOSCOW TRIALS WERE FRAME-UPS!

Moscow Trials Exposed

The Nuremberg Trials, and the campaign around them initiated by the British Trotskyists, have served to expose the Moscow Trials as frame-ups once again. They have also revived public interest in the names and the deeds of the heroic leaders of the Russian Revolution who were foully slandered and murdered by the Stalinist traitors. We have done our part in the past to defend and glorify their names and we shall do our part also in the future. We shall endeavor to the best of our ability to make the names of the martyred Bolsheviks as dear and precious to the new generation of militant workers rising in America as they have always been to us.

Next week The Militant will begin a comprehensive series of articles elucidating and exposing the Moscow Trials of 1936–37 and everything connected with them.

National Committee Socialist Workers Party
May 10, 1946

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