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Albert Gates

Verdict on the Moscow Trials – II

Accused Indicts Accusers Before Dewey Commission

(November 1950)

From New International, Vol. XVI No. 6, November–December 1950, pp. 349–359.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Concluded from last issue)

We come now to the testimony of Vladimor Romm, the journalist, who testified that he received instructions from Trotsky personally in the Bois de Boulogne in the latter half of July 1933, or perhaps at anytime between July 24 and October 31, 1933. Trotsky produced evidence that he was not in Paris at all during this period. He arrived in France on July 24, 1933, disembarked from the ship Bulgaria which brought him from Turkey, and went by motorboat to Cassis, from which he proceeded direct to St. Palais, spending one night en route and remaining at St. Palais without interruption until October 9, 1933. Neither could Romm have seen Sedov in Paris during the second half of July 1933 as he claimed because Sedov was not in that city during this period, having gone on to see his father and mother and he did not return to Paris until the last day of July or the early part of August. Romm’s testimony was false and so was everything else that followed in the trial based on this testimony. In addition, neither Sedov nor Trotsky ever knew Romm!

How did it happen that the GPU slipped up on this one, too? It evidently deduced from the fact that Trotsky’s baggage was addressed to Paris and several members of the entourage had gone on to the nation’s capital – a diversion deliberately decided upon by Trotsky and his party – that Trotsky must have actually gone to Paris. They did not check to see whether this was so. As a result Trotsky was able to present a complete file of letters, depositions, articles, and other material evidence to show that Romm was a liar, rather, that the GPU had invented the whole business of a meeting with Romm.

The testimony of Valentin Olberg that he was sent to Russia by Sedov and Trotsky to organize the underground and terrorist activity, was even more interesting. It appeared credible because he did in fact have contact with Sedov, exchanged letters with Trotsky and was known by other members of Trotsky’s organization in Germany. But everything else in his testimony was false according to letter files of that period.

Olberg pretended to be a Left Oppositionist and as such volunteered, because of his knowledge of Russian, to act as secretary to Trotsky in Turkey. Trotsky inquired of his friends in Berlin about the worthiness of this person. He received a letter from Franz Pfemfert and Alexandra Ramm, close friends, though not Trotskyists, on April 1, 1930, stating:

... Olberg made the most unfavorable impression it is possible to conceive ... I had already taken a seat in my workroom ... when he asked a few such tactlessly formulated questions that I had to answer with a few counter-questions: When did you come to Germany? (Answer: I have been living here for a long time.) What is your occupation? (Answer: I worked until January with the editorial staff of the Imprecor.) I really already had enough. I was painfully impressed by the fact that a man who had just left the service (whole discharges for the purpose of rationalization) and therefore until now had been at least passively ... a Stalinist, was changing so quickly, and trying with all signs of a sensation-hungry journalist to explore confidential matters about T. and the Opposition in general ... O. has no business there (in Turkey) because within twenty-four hours he would prove himself an unbearable burden to you; certainly later too. Because he would work up his visit into “volumes,” if indeed he didn’t work it up into reports to the GPU.

This was enough for Trotsky, who thereafter shunned the suspicious Olberg. Sedov, on his part, would not permit Olberg to know where he lived. The latter had already lied to people about his associations with the Trotskyist movement and was completely untrusted by Trotsky’s Berlin friends. It is therefore not strange that Olberg should show up as a star witness in the trials, for he had all the qualifications for being a GPU spy.

Olberg did in fact make trips to Russia. How did he manage to get past the borders of this closely guarded country? He had a Honduran passport which he used to travel to Russia in order to kill Stalin on Trotsky’s orders! Where did he get the passport? Through a Tukalevski, director of the Slavonic Library of the Prague Foreign Office, and through the aid of his brother Paul Olberg. Valentin asserted that his brother Paul was “an agent of the Fascist secret police.” Why wasn’t Paul called as a witness? He was in Moscow, and from the indictment it was clear that he was in jail, “still being investigated.” It would seem that if the GPU had a real case and not a trumped-up one, Paul Olberg would have been put on the stand to give testimony on how he got this Honduran passport for his brother Valentin, what connections he had with Trotsky, if any, and so on. Even so, it is still left unexplained how the GPU, perhaps the world’s most skillful forger of passports, did not detect that Valentin had a faked passport upon entering Russia not once, but twice. The conclusion is inescapable that Olberg was an agent of the GPU and everything surrounding his testimony a rank swindle.

In the light of the above citations, it is no wonder that the Summary of Findings of the Commission of Inquiry was a stinging rebuke to the Moscow Trials. We trust that our readers will bear with us as we reproduce this Summary which in simple declarative terms asserts Trotsky’s and Sedov’s innocence of at least twenty- one of the basic charges of the Kremlin prosecutors. In finding Trotsky and Sedov innocent, the Commission established the innocence of those defendants who were Lenin’s lifelong friends and political associates. Here then is the summary referring to the main accusers and the charges against Trotsky and Sedov:

Independent of extrinsic evidence, the Commission finds:

Conduct of the Trials

  1. That the conduct of the Moscow Trials was such as to convince any unprejudiced person that no effort was made to ascertain the truth.
  2. While confessions are necessarily entitled to the most serious consideration, the confessions themselves contain such inherent improbabilities as to convince the Commission that they do not represent the truth, irrespective of any means used to obtain them.

The Charges

  1. On the basis of all the evidence, we find that Trotsky never gave Smirnov any terrorist instructions through Sedov or anybody else.
  2. On the basis of all the evidence, we find that Trotsky never gave Dreitzer terrorist instructions through Sedov or anybody else.
  3. On the basis of all the evidence, we find that Holtzman never acted as go-between for Smirnov on the one hand and Sedov on the other for the purpose of any terrorist conspiracy.
  4. We find that Holtzman never met Sedov in Copenhagen; that he never went with Sedov to see Trotsky; that Sedov was not in Copenhagen during Trotsky’s sojourn in that city; that Holtzman never saw Trotsky in Copenhagen.
  5. We find that Olberg never went to Russia with terrorist instructions from Trotsky or Sedov.
  6. We find that Berman Yurin never received terrorist instructions from Trotsky in Copenhagen, and that Berman-Yurin never saw Trotsky in Copenhagen.
  7. We find that David never received terrorist instructions from Trotsky in Copenhagen, and that David never saw Trotsky in Copenhagen.
  8. We find no basis whatever for the attempt to link Moissei Lurye and Nathan Lurye with an alleged Trotskyist conspiracy.
  9. We find that Trotsky never met Vladimir Romm in the Bois de Boulogne; that he transmitted no messages through Romm to Radek. We find that Trotsky and Sedov never had any connection with Vladimir Romm.
  10. We find that Piatakov did not fly to Oslo in December, 1935; he did not as charged, see Trotsky; he did not receive from Trotsky any instructions of any kind. We find that the disproof of Piatakov’s testimony on this crucial point renders his whole confession worthless.
  11. We find that the disproof of the testimony of the defendant Piatakov completely invalidates the testimony of the witness Bukhartsev.
  12. We find that the disproof of Vladimir Romm’s testimony and that of Piatakov completely invalidates the testimony of the defendant Radek.
  13. We find that the disproof of the confessions of Smirnov, Piatakov and Radek completely invalidates the confessions of Shestov and Muralov.
  14. We are convinced that the alleged letters in which Trotsky conveyed alleged conspiratorial instructions to the various defendants in the Moscow Trials never existed; and that the testimony concerning them is sheer fabrication.
  15. We find that Trotsky throughout his whole career has always been a consistent opponent of individual terror. The Commission further finds that Trotsky never instructed any of the defendants or witnesses in the Moscow Trials to assassinate any political opponent.
  16. We find that Trotsky never instructed the defendants or witnesses in the Moscow Trials to engage in sabotage, wrecking and diversion. On the contrary, he has always been a consistent advocate of the building up of socialist industry and agriculture in the Soviet Union and has criticized the present regime on the basis that its activities were harmful to the building up of socialist economy in Russia. He is not in favor of sabotage as a method of opposition to any political regime.
  17. We find that Trotsky never instructed any of the accused or witnesses in the Moscow Trials to enter into agreements with foreign powers against the Soviet Union. On the contrary, he has always uncompromisingly advocated the defense of the U.S.S.R. He has also been a most forthright ideological opponent of the fascism represented by the foreign powers with which he is accused of having conspired.
  18. On the basis of all the evidence we find that Trotsky never recommended, plotted, or attempted the restoration of capitalism in the U.S.S.R. On the contrary, he has always uncompromisingly opposed the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and its existence anywhere else.
  19. We find that the prosecutor fantastically falsified Trotsky’s role before, during and after the October Revolution.


  1. We therefore find the Moscow Trials to be frame-ups.
  2. We therefore find Trotsky and Sedov not guilty.


John Dewey, Chairman
John R. Chamberlain
Alfred Rosmer
E.A. Ross
Otto Ruehle
Benjamin Stolberg
Wendelin Thomas
Carlo Tresca
E. Zamora
Suzanne LaFollette, Secretary
John J. Finerty, Counsel, Concurring

Against these memorable findings of the Commission of Inquiry, the Stalinists except for some vulgar rantings, have never been able to offer the slightest refutation. They are the verdict on the Moscow Trials!


As we have said above, the trials determined the way in which the Mexican hearings would develop. In the very nature of the charges invented by Stalin, the testimony of Trotsky could not but encompass political history and theoretical ideas and disputes surrounding them, his personal biography, relations with the opposition and answers to questions which did not bear directly upon the issues of the trial. In this way, The Case of Leon Trotsky is even more fascinating for the way in which a series of new pictures are taken of him. The questions and answers cover a broad field of politics and history, and often draw out of Trotsky expressions of his personality not otherwise obtainable in the ordinary course of political relations with him. It is this which is so striking as one reads the developing testimony. And we shall present these pictures in the manner of successive slides which emphasize the above remarks.

Could Trotsky have been an agent of a foreign power for the purpose of accepting their aid in assuming leadership of the Russian state? In the bourgeois conceptions of power this would be reasonable. History is full of such examples – the ruling regime of one nation assisting a specific group of the bourgeoisie to power in another country. Is this consistent, however, with a socialist policy? Beals, the Commissioner who resigned during the hearings and under dubious circumstances, tried to insinuate this with a question relating to the Brest-Litovsk treaty. If Lenin’s government was ready to cede territory to Germany in order to retain power “would not your attitude be the same,” asked Beals, “that you would sacrifice Soviet territory if it enhances the return of your group to power to implant the socialism which you believe more correct?” To which Trotsky replied:

I believe that the only way possible to materialize the ideas of socialism is to win the masses and educate the masses, win them to the vanguard and to create a new regime by their will, their conscience, their devotion to their ideals. That is the only possibility. I have no others. The other means, which contradicts this education of the masses, is doomed beforehand. If I enter into relations with fascists and the Mikado, I am not a socialist, not a revolutionary, but a miserable adventurist. And if this accusation is proved to be true and correct, then I lose all. What can I have, except the power of my ideals for socialism? I compromise my aim, my ideal, myself. It is so contrary to all my Marxist education, to all my past – forty years’ work in the masses and through the masses – if I can conceive of the possibility of such an indictment. When I read this book (The Verbatim Report of the Moscow TrialAG) for the hundredth and first time, I have the impression of reading Dostoyevsky.

One of the questions which repeatedly arose in the hearings was that of democracy and bureaucracy. The Commissioners were not Trotskyists, and with the exception of Otto Ruehle, a biographer of Karl Marx, and Alfred Rosmer, were not socialists. They were, however, deeply concerned with what happened to the Russian Revolution, the post-revolutionary regime and the growth of bureaucratism. To this problem Trotsky gave several answers. They are not complete answers, of course. The very subject remains today in a state of investigation, study and analysis. But Trotsky provided some evidence of the direction of his thought in the matter, answers which came spontaneously to his lips. In reply to a question on whether the bureaucratic degeneration had its roots in the early years of the revolution, Trotsky stated:

During Lenin’s time? Yes, I can only repeat what I said. I believe we did what we could to avoid the degeneration. During the Civil War the militarization of the Soviets and the Party was almost inevitable. But even during the Civil War I myself tried in the army – even in the army on the field – to give full possibility to the Communists to discuss all the military measures. I discussed these measures even with the soldiers and, as I explained in my autobiography, even with the deserters. After the Civil War was finished, we hoped that the possibility for democracy would be greater. But two factors, two different but connected factors, hindered the development of Soviet democracy. The first general factor was the backwardness and misery of the country. From that basis emanated the bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy did not wish to be abolished, to be annihilated. The bureaucracy became an independent factor. Then the fight became to a certain degree a struggle of classes. That was the beginning of the Opposition. For a certain time the question was an internal question in the Central Committee. We discussed by what means we should begin the fight on the degeneration and the bureaucratization of the state. Then it became not a question of discussions in the Central Committee, but a question of the fight, the struggle between the Opposition and the bureaucracy. That was the second stage ...

Later on in the hearings, a repetition of this discussion became inevitable. The following exchange took place between Mr. Finerty and Trotsky.

Finerty: In the Socialist State, Mr. Trotsky, the state controls the forms of production, does it not?

Trotsky: Yes.

Finerty: The sources of production and the methods of production?

Trotsky: Yes.

Finerty: And in order to have an effective control, the state itself must employ technicians. Isn’t it then inevitable in a Socialist state that the bureaucracy will grow up automatically?

Trotsky: What do you name a Socialist state? The Socialist state is a transitory form which is necessary to prepare to build up the future Socialist society. The Socialist society will not have any state.

Finerty: I understand that. But in the intermediate form of the Socialist state, you have an inevitable bureaucracy.

Trotsky: It depends on two factors which are in connection with one another. The productive forces and the power of the country. It is the function of the new regime to satisfy the material and moral needs of the population. Secondly, and what is connected with it, the cultural level of the population. The more the population is educated, the easier it is that everyone can realize the simple functions of an intermediary regulation of distribution. The bureaucrat in a cultivated, civilized country has not the possibility of becoming a half-god.

Finerty: Demi-god.

Trotsky: Demi-god, yes.

Finerty: What I mean is this: It is obviously impossible in a Socialist state, as an intermediary organization, to have a democratic control of industry. I mean, a truly democratic control. It must be a bureaucratic control.

Trotsky: I repeat, the relationship between the bureaucracy and the democracy depends – the elements of bureaucracy are inevitable at the beginning, especially because we inherited all the past, the oppression and misery of the people, and so on. We cannot transform it in twenty-four hours, this relationship. Here the quality is transformed into quality. The relationship between them depends upon the material prosperity and the cultural level of the population ... I cannot accept that formula as a Marxist. The first period of the Socialist state is the victory over the bourgeois state. That is the formula of the Marxists – until the time we have reached a state to satisfy freely, as with a table d’hote. The rich people have a table d’hote, wines and jewels. It is not necessary to have a dictatorship when you have a table d’hote. On the contrary, everybody gets the same things, especially the ladies. When the table is poor, everybody forgets whether it is a lady or a man. He will take all he can. Then it is necessary to have a dictatorship. The reason for the existence of gendarmes is the misery of the people. In other words, the economic condition has a basic influence on this question ...

A few moments later, the examination takes on a somewhat different and extended form:

Ruehle: I would like Trotsky to express himself on the basic differences between administration and democracy.

Trotsky: In two words: It is the difference between

Ruehle (through interpreter): Rather, bureaucracy.

Trotsky: servant and collectivity. A cooperative, a workers’ cooperative organization has also administrators, but they are not demi-gods, simply functionaries. The chief of the GPU is not a simple functionary. He is somewhat of a demi-god, or three-quarters god. (laughter) It depends upon the quality of the members and upon their general cultural level.

Finerty: Then, Mr. Trotsky, whether or not it is an inevitable incident of a Socialist state, or a variant of a Socialist state that there be a bureaucracy, there is a tendency, unless it is controlled that the bureaucracy will grow up.

Trotsky: The growth of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union is the reason of the backwardness of the Soviet Union and its isolation.

Goldman: The result.

Trotsky: Result, yes. If the workers of Germany had won power in 1918 during their revolution, the economic combination of Soviet Germany and Soviet Russia would have given formidable results on the economic and cultural basis of these two countries. This terrible bureaucracy could not have a place in the Soviet Union. It is not a Soviet Union of an abstract principle. The material factors and the ideological factors are determinant. I am sure that the proletarian dictatorship in a more cultivated and civilized country would have an absolutely different appearance; and the notion of the dictatorship would have a different sound to our ears, in a more cultivated country.

Dewey: And Russia, the Soviet Union, was a backward and undeveloped country, historically?

Trotsky: Yes.

Dewey: Then, in the Soviet Union, it was necessary that the bureaucracy grow up.

Trotsky: Yes, insofar as the Soviet Union remained isolated. With the help of more advanced peoples it could have – or could shorten the period of bureaucracy and attenuate it.

One can see from the above discussion, that the highly important question of the single party or multiple parties under a workers’ state would arise as well as other general questions of democracy. Trotsky had informed the Commission of the early fight of the Left Opposition against the bureaucracy, its first demand for the secret vote inside the Party, in the Soviets, the trade unions and different enterprises. Mr. Finerty then asked: “You advocated the secret vote beginning with, I believe, 1926–27?”

Trotsky: Then, freedom of speech, discussion and criticism against the bureaucracy. Then, the abolition of the civil paragraph in the penal code, by which the bureaucracy tries to stifle the workers, the more critical workers. That is the gradation of the measures which we proposed in our platform.

What about the question of parties? Dr. Dewey drew attention to The Revolution Betrayed where Trotsky had stated that classes are heterogeneous, are torn by inner antagonisms and arrive at “the solution of common problems not otherwise than through an inner struggle of tendencies, groups and parties.” And Dewey asked: “Now, when you wrote that, then you had become convinced of the necessity of different parties?”

Trotsky: The development of the Russian proletariat consisted in the struggle among three parties, the Menshevik, the Social Revolutionary and the Bolshevik. The Bolsheviks won the overwhelming majority during the Civil War, and in spite of that we permitted the existence of other parties. Only when the Civil War began, when the most decisive elements of the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionary took part in the Civil War on the other side of the barricades, we prohibited them. It was a military measure, not as a permanent step.

After some important digressions to which we shall return, Mr. Finerty took up the above question once more in order to help the Commission understand more fully the views of its witness.

Finerty: Restating what you said earlier this morning, in reply to Dr. Dewey, would you think that the two- party system in Russia or the Soviet Union, would have a tendency to restrain bureaucracy?

Trotsky: The two-party system?

Finerty: Yes; make democratic control more possible?

Trotsky: I believe it is a bit of an abstract question in the sense that we cannot introduce two parties under the dictatorship of the Stalin oligarchy. It is necessary to prepare the arena for two parties – I don’t know, maybe three or four. It is necessary to smash away the dictatorship of Stalin. It can only be done by an upheaval of the people. If this upheaval – if this new political upheaval is successful, the masses, with these experiences, will never permit the dictatorship of one party, of one bureaucracy.

It is tempting, indeed, to continue these exchanges, for they contain important ideas relating to quintessential problems of the present-day socialist movement, especially in view of the development of Titoism and the hasty rush of support which has come to him from the self-styled “orthodox Trotskyists” of the Fourth International. But space requires us to hasten on. The question of the nature of the Russian regime, whether it was a new class or merely a caste as Trotsky maintained, arose almost spontaneously in the hearings. The point is of extreme importance in view of the development of the theory of bureaucratic collectivism by the Workers Party and later the Independent Socialist League, which assigns to the Stalinist regime the attributes of a new class and the alternative theories of state capitalism, characterizing the regime as a capitalist class, and finally, the theory of a degenerated workers’ state, giving the regime the cognomen of caste. It is at least interesting to observe Trotsky’s modified and provisional views. As will be seen from his expressions they did not preclude the theory of bureaucratic collectivism at all. Up to that point and even at the opening of the last war, Trotsky still adhered to the old theory, but did not close the door to a possible third alternative development.

Finerty: Well, the dictatorship, whether for better or worse, is a dictatorship?

Trotsky: Formally, yes. But my opinion is that in Norway, where the Government is Socialist, we have a genuine dictatorship of the shipowners. The state is governed exclusively by the shipowners. The Socialist government is a decorative ornament in this instance.

Finerty: Now, I understand that your belief is that even such a democratic organization of the Communist Party and of the Soviet government as was possible “within the limits of the theory of dictatorship (Dictatorship of the Proletariat – AG) has been set aside by Stalin through the means of the bureaucracy.

Trotsky: Transformed into its contrary; not only changed, but transformed into its contrary.

Finerty: Into its contrary?

Trotsky: Yes.

Finerty: In other words, it has become a purely bureaucratic government?

Trotsky: Defending the privileges of the new caste, not the interests of the masses. Because, for me the most important criterion is the material and moral interests of the masses, and not only constitutional amendments. It is important, but it is subordinated in my conceptions to the real material and moral interests of the masses.

Dewey: Might I ask one question? Just on what you said, did I understand that you hold that these privileges have reached a point where there are class divisions in the Soviet Union.

Trotsky: It is difficult to get a strict social formula for this stage of development, because we have it for the first time in history, such a social structure. We must develop our own terminology, new social terms. But I am inclined to affirm that it is not a genuine class division.

We again ask that our readers note carefully the language used by Trotsky: “difficult to get a strict social formula ... we have it for the first time in history, such a social structure ... we must develop our own terminology ... I am inclined ...” Later on, Commissioner Stolberg asked:

Stolberg: In your book, The Revolution Betrayed, you insist that a new class is developing in Russia. You called it a caste. You do not speak of the class struggle – you speak of social antagonism, and so on. Is that because you accept the Marxian concept of the division into classes only in the sense in which they differ functionally, in reference to the means of production? Or do you believe that under Socialism there can be no valid practical basis for classes in the sense that no group can exploit another group? Because you say a caste might become a class if capitalist measures are really introduced. My question, is, can a caste become a class simply because through every means of political and cultural administration it exploits a great many people?

Trotsky: I answered a simple question in this manner, that the social organism of the Soviet Union is unique. We don’t have other examples. That is why it is very difficult to apply our notions, our sociological notions based on the past, to new formations. But I tried to do it with the necessary correctness. My idea is, that the ruling caste in the Soviet Union is an intermediary body between the small bureaucracy and the new ruling caste. It depends upon the events on a national as well as an international scale, whether this intermediary body will desire also to smash away the present basis and will be transformed into a new ruling class. The tendencies exist.

Stolberg: Yes, but your conceptions of a ruling class

Trotsky: It is the forms of property. When they introduce an inheritance of their privileges, it will be a new ruling class.

Here again you observe Trotsky’s extremely careful approach to the problem precisely because it was a new one and previous historical experience could not provide answers to the question of what this unforeseen phenomenon was. This was the year 1937. Much has happened since that time to enforce the conceptions developed by the ISL on the character of the Russian regime and its approach follows closely the pattern expressed by Trotsky with considerable more certainty than he did. The intention of these remarks is not to declare that Trotsky would have adopted the ISL position of Russian society as a bureaucratic collectivist order, but they do reaffirm that the phenomenon is new and that old criteria could not provide a consistently accurate answer to the question: what is this social order?

Other questions of a more general nature brought interesting answers by Trotsky.

Stolberg: Do you believe Socialism is inevitable?

Trotsky: In so far as human progress in general is inevitable. By a cosmic catastrophe our basis for Socialism can be destroyed. In that general sense of world determinism, it is not inevitable. But in the sense of human progress, it is inevitable.

Stolberg: I would like to ask one more theoretical question – or do you have other questions to ask, Doctor?

Dewey: Go ahead.

Stolberg: The class struggle, in the Marxian sense, is generated by the dialectic. The thesis today is capitalism; that it creates the working class – that is, the antithesis – and finally the Socialist revolution which is the synthesis. That is the Hegelian conception. Now, how will this dialectic work in the classless society in which there will be only the thesis and no antithesis?

Trotsky: I hope, and my every hope is, that this perspective, that the course of thesis and antithesis will arise in our new socialist society, but not on a material ground – on the appetites, the human appetites – but on the ground of our ideological interests, of the arts, the sciences, philosophy, and so on. It will be an interestless —

Finerty: You mean ‘disinterested’?

Trotsky: — permanent fight of human beings on this new, very high level.

There is so much in The Case worthy of quotation that selection becomes difficult and somewhat arbitrary. But at least three additional references are of exceptional interest. On the nature of a revolutionary international organization, it was unavoidable that reference should be made to the bureaucratization of the Comintern.

Ruehle: Were you of the opinion that the specific methods of the Russian Revolution must be schematically and compulsorily carried by the Comintern into the rest of the world, and there become the ruling form of the class struggle?

Trotsky: No. It was not the opinion of Lenin and myself. You can find in Lenin’s speeches in the Congresses of the C.I. many severe and forceful characterizations of the idea that we Russians could impose our methods and our form of organization on other nations. In his last speech, in the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, Lenin devoted a certain part to this question. It was also my opinion that it is absolutely impossible to command the workers’ movement from Moscow by telegraphic orders to sixty nations. This impossibility became more and more evident and the method of command was supplemented by the method of corruption and of bribery. One of the important differences – it was one of the important questions – of the fight since 1924 between Stalin and myself was where we protested against the bribery of the leaders of the workers’ movement in the foreign country.

Finerty asked Trotsky a direct question on the subject of sabotage, whether it would not have been a practical political measure for discrediting and overthrowing the Stalin bureaucracy. Trotsky made the unequivocal reply:

No. From my Marxian point of view every progress is based upon the development of the productive forces of mankind, and of the nation in that case. Now, the overthrow of the bureaucracy by the people is possible only on a higher political cultural level of the people. It is necessary to raise the people, and not push them into the depths. By the disorganization of economy, we could create only the basis for social reaction. How can we hope then to vanquish the bureaucracy?

One final reference. It was certain that the Commission would make reference to the Menshevik trial of 1931 and Trotsky’s attitude toward it. Stolberg asked the question and Trotsky made an honest admission of error. He replied:

I must recognize that I took the trials seriously. It was a great error. I was in Prinkipo – it was in 1931 – absolutely isolated from any political milieu. I had no illusions about the justice of the Soviet Union at that time, but on the other hand I knew that the Right Wing Mensheviks, such as Maisky, the present ambassador in London, such as Vyshinsky, the prosecutor, such as Troyanovsky, the ambassador in the United States – they genuinely took part in the struggle in the Civil War against us. I admitted that it was possible to know about a plot of such a kind as was discovered. I didn’t study the trial at that time. I was very busy with my history of the October Revolution, and I admitted that the trial was more or less correct. It was a great error on my part.


The final session was the high point of the hearings. It was devoted to Trotsky’s closing speech, and lasted for five hours. The speech, 115 pages long in the book, is one of Trotsky’s greatest orations. With a skillful employment of the dialectic and logic, he examines the evolution of the Stalinist terror, the evolution of the system of frame-up trials, the stupid amalgams of the GPU, the brutality of the regime, the contradictions of the evidence, the factual blunders, the coarseness and rudeness of the prosecutors, in the first instance the vulgar Vyshinsky, and finally ends with the charge that Stalin had murdered the old guard of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin’s companions and comrades. A reading of the speech makes a powerful and lasting impression upon the reader. But it was even more exciting to hear this speech at the hearings. This was the dramatic moment.

None of the audience had ever heard Trotsky make a speech. They knew by his reputation that he was one of the greatest orators in the history of the world labor and socialist movement. Now they had the opportunity to hear him and to observe, even if in a modified way, his tremendous power. Trotsky read his speech in English while sitting at his table. One could feel his great nervous tension and sense his desire to rise and walk and gesture, as he developed theme after theme to refute the verdict of the trials. Listening to Trotsky speak, one could hear the rising inflections, sharp emphases, brilliant timing and great irony as he made one telling point after another.

When he finished, the hushed audience suddenly broke out into cheers and applause. They knew they had witnessed a rare event, a moment of historical greatness.

If the Russian trials and those of its satellites are received by the world today with the scorn they deserve, a great deal of the responsibility for this new enlightenment on Stalinism is due to Trotsky and his fight against the Moscow Trials.

Trotsky once said that Stalin could not let him live. The knowledge that Trotsky was writing his biography, the fear of Trotsky’s living during the period of the war and of the Hitler- Stalin pact would impel the latter to seek his life. We find it necessary to add an even more important reason which, in our opinion, supersedes the others. The Moscow Trials, organized for the purpose of wiping out the generation of Lenin, fell short of its aim. The trials had boomeranged! Trotsky was still alive and it was he who created the grave world doubts on their authenticity; it was he who finally established that they were stupid and bungled frame-ups. Trotsky was not handed over to his Kremlin executioners as they had hoped. Trotsky alive was a permanent danger to Stalin. He had to die and for that purpose the entire machinery of the vast Russian state and its GPU was mobilized. Then the devil’s deed was accomplished. If it robbed the international working class of the outstanding figure since the time of Lenin, it established also that Stalin was the mortal enemy of the working class.

What shall we say to the new generation of proletarians and students in this dreadful period of human history when the world and its people are face to face with a new world atomic war, when civilization itself is threatened with chaos and barbarism? We can think of nothing better on this commemorative occasion of Trotsky’s death than to say with him as he did in his New York Hippodrome speech on February 9, 1937, which was read to a large audience:

If our generation happens to be too weak to establish socialism over the earth, we will hand the spotless banner down to our children. The struggle which is in the offing transcends by far the importance of individuals, factions, and parties. It will be severe. It will be lengthy. Whoever seeks physical comfort and spiritual calm, let him step aside. In time of reaction it is more convenient to lean on the bureaucracy than on the truth. But all those for whom socialism is not a hollow sound but the content of their moral life – forward! Neither threats, nor persecutions, nor violations can stop us. Be it even over our bleaching bones, the truth will triumph. We will blaze the trail for it. It will conquer! Under all the severe blows of fate, I shall be happy, as in the best days of my youth, if together with you I can contribute to its victory. Because, my friends, the highest human happiness is not the exploitation of the present but the cooperation of the future.

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Last updated: 15 February 2018