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Ernest Erber

Mr. Churchill Throws Bouquet
to Vyshinsky in His Memoirs

(17 May 1948

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 20, 17 May 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

History’s most colossal lie, the Moscow Trials, is afoot again. In Winston Churchill’s million dollar memoirs, he recounts a story told him by Benes which appears to substantiate the Stalinist version of the trials and then adds his own cautious approval of this monstrous blood letting, with these words:

“Thereafter there followed the merciless, but perhaps not needless, military and political purge in Soviet Russia, and the series of trials in January 1937, in which Vyshinsky, the Public Prosecutor, played so masterful a part.”

Such an endorsement from an avowed enemy of Russia is of more value to the Stalinist propaganda machine than a thousand articles by fellow-travellers. We can be sure that it will be cited for years as the testimony of the star witness. For those “anti-Stalinists” who embrace every reactionary opponent of Moscow, from Herbert Hoover to Chang Kai-chek to Tsaldaris, as is the case with the New Leader school of anti-Stalinism, the opinion of Churchill on the Moscow Trials should serve as a crushing object lesson.

Stalin Is a Man He Can Understand

Churchill’s views on this subject are astounding only to those who forget that enmity toward the Kremlin can be compounded out of the most varied factors, not the least among them being ignorance and ancient prejudices. Churchill assumed the role of the most implacable enemy of the Russian Revolution in the years following the first World War. His hatred of the Bolsheviks was limitless and took on a personal character n reference to Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Radek and the other revolutionary leaders who personified the Soviet regime and the Communist International in the eyes of the West. The personality of Trotsky especially seemed to incite almost psychopathic fury in Churchill’s mind. The defeat and destruction of the great leaders of the revolution at the hands of Stalin could not but have given Churchill great satisfaction.

If he did not feel any friendlier to the new rulers of the Kremlin, he at least thought he understood them and spoke a common political tongue with them. In Churchill’s eyes, Stalinism represented the resurgence of Russian nationalism and its victory over Bolshevik internationalism. As the ardent defender of the British empire, he saw in a revived Russian nationalism a rival to be watched and fought, in the same manner as his forefathers had watched and fought the expanding empire of the Tsars. But this was honorable combat; English statesmen were equipped to participate in it by centuries of experience and careful training. In contrast, the Bolshevik movement was a conspiracy against civilization itself, an insidious pestilence which merited no quarter. Churchill’s rancor-ridden mind was prepared to believe anything about the old Bolshevik leadership – and he did. In 1917 he believed Kerensky’s frame-up of Lenin and Trotsky as agents of the Kaiser and in 1937 he believed Stalin’s frame-up of the old Bolsheviks as agents of Hitler.

The role of Stalinism in world politics, however, began to jar Churchill’s version of national resurgence in Russia. Stalinism was most certainly the latter, but it was more. The Comintern emerged as a widespread Russian Fifth Column, intent upon penetrating everywhere and preparing the ground for a Stalinist coup d’etat. In despair, Churchill got off his well known remark to the effect that Russia was “a puzzle wrapped in an enigma.” In the light of his bewilderment about Stalinism, his view that the purges were “perhaps not needless” and that Vyshinsky “played so masterful a part” must betaken as the judgment of a man who has revealed his shrewdness on the familiar ground of Empire politics in war and peace, but has equally revealed an abysmal ignorance of the great historical questions of our day.

Development of Relations Between Russia & Germany

We can assume that Churchill faithfully repeated the story told to him by Benes to the effect that the Czech intelligence discovered that the Soviet embassy in Prague was being used as a contact post between military personages in Germany and Russia. It is also not excluded that Benes’ secret service actually ferreted out such a German-Russian military liaison via Prague. This mere fact, if it were established, does not necessarily give an iota of credence to the Stalinist version of the execution of the Russian general staff.

(Cont’d next week)

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