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The Militant, 21 March 1949

Stalin’s Crimes Bared at Paris Kravchenko Trial

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 12, 21 March 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The most important and authentic testimony thus far presented in the sensational Paris libel suit of Victor Kravchenko, author of I Chose Freedom against the Stalinist literary periodical, Lettres Françaises, was offered by Margaret Neumann, daughter of the German philosopher, Martin Buber, and widow of Heinz Neumann.

In the years prior to Hitler’s rise to power, Heinz Neumann, along with Thaelmann and Remmele, composed the top triumvirate of the German Communist Party. In the middle Twenties he also served as one of the central figures of the Communist International, being entrusted with carrying out official policy on several occasions, among them in the course of the 1925–27 Chinese events.

After Hitler’s rise to power, Neumann and his wife fled to the USSR, only to be caught up there in the GPU dragnet. Together with hundreds of more or less prominent Communist refugees from the Gestapo, they fell victims of the giant purges during the Moscow frame-up trials of 1936–38. This purge of foreign anti-fascists on Soviet soil on such palpably false charges as “Hitlerite agents and collaborators” was publicized at the time by the world Trotskyist press as another striking proof of the trumped-up nature of all these trials and purges.

Margaret Neumann offered an insight into the real reasons for Neuman’s downfall. It appears that even prior to 1933, Stalin had personally informed him that a Hitlerite Germany would serve the interests of the Soviet Union, Hitler’s friendship being assured, because of Germany’s conflict with its Western imperialist rivals. Neumann apparently disagreed in private with such an orientation. He, like many others, was, therefore, hardly convenient for the projected sealing of the treacherous alliance with Hitler.

Neumann’s fate remains unknown. He was among the many who simply “disappeared” in the Soviet Union. His wife Margaret was meted out a seven-year sentence in one of Stalin’s slave labor-camps. In the heyday of the Stalin-Hitler pact, she was handed over to the Gestapo with more than a score of other German, Austrian and Hungarian Communists (including several Jews).

Stalin’s Camps

This gesture was only one among many other tokens of Nazi-Kremlim amity, which as Molotov then boasted had indeed been “sealed in blood.” Here we have the latest evidence of just who in the USSR was really guilty of serving as Hitler’s agents and intimate collaborators. Not the countless victims of the Kremlin, but Stalin and all his Vishinskys, all his judges and retainers!

Neumann’s widow did not find much to choose between the Gestapo and the GPU hell-holes. Her testimony, based on years of personal experience, was far more objective than the kind of material now being worked up in such volume for the yellow press all over the world. That is what makes it all the more annihilating and unanswerable.

She denied the widespread employment in Stalin’s camps of brute terror, such as the Nazis used. (This is reserved by the GPU for more “important” cases and practiced in strictest secrecy.) The GPU prefers such “psychologic” threats as life imprisonment and the like. Starvation rations and arduous labor drained the prisoners. “There was no conversation among prisoners,” she testified, “and no energy for it. Our Russian guards were decent men and not sadists, but they faithfully fulfilled the requirements of the inhuman system.”

The Stalinist defense attorney at the Kravchenko trial in Paris tried to discredit this testimony on the ground that the credibility of any German was ruled out in advance. This chauvinism is only a mild sample of the vile practices and epithets by means of which the GPU and its cohorts have been trying to answer charges for which they have no answers.

The importance of this trial to the Kremlin is amply demonstrated not only by the extremes of slander and abuse to which they have resorted in their French press and in the court-room, but also by the scope to which they have mobilized all their auxiliary forces. Every “notable” who could be gulled or forced to toe the mark has been brought to the fore. Among those who paraded to their own discredit as witnesses for the defense were: The Dean of Canterbury, Konni Zilliacus, Pierre Cot, Jean Cassous, and such notorious GPU hacks as the American writer Albert Kahn.

Evidence Verified

The Kravchenko trial has been in part transformed into the public trial of the Stalin regime itself. Except for details, however, the gist of the Central evidence is not new. Years ago Trotsky and his co-thinkers from the USSR – like Ignace Reiss and Tarov – exposed the bestial Stalinist regime. Before the Dewey Commission of Investigation into the Moscow. Trials, Trotsky refuted all the charges against himself and his son and corroborated with countless documents and eyewitness testimony his countercharges against Stalinism and its crimes.

Long, before Kravchenko’s “revelations” men like Dr. Ciliga and Victor Serge, and later such ex-Stalinist dignitaries as Krivitsky and Barmine, spoke out to tell much of the truth that is now once again coming to public attention in Paris.

Kravchenko is hardly the proper man to indict the Kremlin. His own hands are far from clean and he himself acts as purveyor of one of the biggest lies of our generation, namely, that Communism and Stalinism are one and the same – a lie, incidentally, which helps rather than harms Stalinism. The use to which the war-mongering American imperialists and their Western allies are seeking to put this trial is likewise self-evident.

Nonetheless, one of the outstanding features of this trial, and in particular of Margaret Neumann’s testimony, is that it throws the spotlight on some of the abominations of Stalinism. It is the truth, and the cause of revolutionary socialism can only benefit by its becoming widely known.

The French press, especially the Stalinist Humanité. have seized upon some remarks of Mrs. Neumann in order to try to connect her and her husband directly with the Trotskyist movement. To these unfounded contentions the International Secretariat of the Fourth International has issued a public disclaimer and requested that its representative be granted time in court to clarify this aspect. This request was not granted on the pretext of “lack of time.”

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