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Albert Goldman

Ten Years Since the Dewey Commission

The Vindication of Leon Trotsky

(14 April 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 15, 14 April 1947, pp. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

IT is not in any way detracting from the great work of the Dewey Commission to say that even without that work the Moscow Trials would by this time have been accepted as frame-ups by all except the blind or vicious followers of Stalinism. The accusations made against Trotsky by Stalin, through his prosecutors, could not possibly stick. So great is the variance between them and Trotsky’s record that no intelligent person with any independence and integrity could possibly swallow the Stalinist falsehoods.

Most educated persons probably know enough of Trotsky’s record to reject out of hand Stalin’s preposterous charges. They know that he began his career as a revolutionist in his early youth; that he was twice exiled to Siberia by the Czarist regime and that he escaped both times. Those who know anything about the Revolution of 1905 know that he was chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet. It is well known that he was one of the revolutionary socialists who opposed World War I as an imperialist conflict. Everyone who is not a Stalinist knows that next to Lenin he was the most important leader of the Russian Revolution. The miraculous achievement of organizing and leading the Red army to victory was accomplished by Trotsky. It is also well-known that he was an exceedingly prolific and great writer on revolutionary subjects.

“Theory of Camouflage” Answered by Trotsky

Simply oh the basis of the highlights of Trotsky’s record it would have been impossible for those not in the Stalinist camp to believe that he betrayed the ideals for which he struggled throughout his life.

In a striking section of his great summation before the commission, entitled “The Theory of Camouflage,” Trotsky shows how absurd is the idea of a person devoting all of his life to revolutionary activities, writing innumerable pamphlets and books on behalf of revolutionary ideas, and spending a mere three days for secret plots to destroy the open work of many years. As Trotsky put it:

The public – that is, the ‘hypocritical’ – activity, which served only as ‘camouflage,’ surpassed my secret – that is, the ‘genuine’ – activity almost a thousand times in quantity and, I venture to assert, equally in quality. One gets the impression that I built a skyscraper to ‘camouflage’ a dead rat. No, it is not convincing.” (The Case of Leon Trotsky, page 579)

The efforts made by Stalin to convince the world that a great revolutionist was a traitor to the revolution could only convince the educated and penetrating person that the accuser himself was burdened by the knowledge that he had turned traitor to the socialist revolution.

That Stalin did not succeed in destroying the reputation had influence of the one he feared most is proved conclusively by the more drastic measures he had to take in order to get rid of Trotsky. Four years after the first Moscow Trial one of Stalin’s assassins accomplished the task which Stalin failed to accomplish With his frame-up trials. The Kremlin dictator, by means of the assassin’s pick-axe, stilled the voice of Trotsky and thus dealt the revolutionary movement a terrific blow.


The organization of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the charges made against Trotsky in the Moscow Trials was, by itself, a serious blow to Stalin and his lieutenants.

For the first time Stalin’s charges against an opponent were to be investigated by a group of impartial persons, many with great standing and authority. The Stalinists boycotted the commission. They could have appeared before it and examined witnesses and produced evidence had they wanted to. This was not a privilege furnished to Trotsky’s friends by the Stalinist prosecution in Moscow. But the accusers in Moscow and their friends in this country refused to appear before the commission thus admitting that they were afraid of presenting their case to any kind of an impartial body.

Pressure was exerted by the Stalinists in order to interfere with the work of the commission. One member yielded to that pressure in the midst of the hearings, but so powerful was the authority of the commission and so honest was its procedure that the resignation of Carleton Beals had no adverse effect whatever. The commission went on with its work; it gathered all the evidence, analyzed it and made its conclusions. Due primarily to the great efforts of Suzanne LaFollette, the superb analysis of the evidence together with the conclusions were published in book form under the title Not Guilty.


Before the commission, holding its hearings at Coyoacan, we undertook to prove “that in all of Trotsky’s activities there is not the slightest trace of acts, declarations, or even thoughts which might serve in the slightest degree as a support for the accusations brought against him.”

We took up Vyshinsky’s challenge. The Stalinist prosecutor claimed that two types of evidence confirmed the guilt of the accused – “the historical connection which confirms the theses of the indictment on the basis of the Trotskyites’ past activity” and “the testimony of the accused which in itself represents enormous importance as proof.”

As against the distortions and falsifications of Vyshinsky’s “historical connection” Trotsky presented before the commission the story of his life, his activities, his ideas as they were set down in various books, articles and pamphlets. Trotsky explained that he believed in a political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy but he did not believe in terrorism; Trotsky showed that he defended the Soviet Union in spite of his advocacy of a political revolution. The idea that he could conspire with Hitler to destroy the Soviet Union during all the years that he was advocating the defense of the Soviet Union was too preposterous to merit the slightest consideration.

It was indeed not very difficult from a legalistic approach to destroy the basis of the Moscow Trials. The validity of the trials rested upon the evidence of those defendants and witnesses who .claimed to have talked with Trotsky personally or with his son Sedov. Although not listed as a defendant, the real defendant was Trotsky. It was he who, it was claimed by the prosecution, was the chief conspirator; it was he who allegedly organized the plans and gave the directions. Without him there was no conspiracy.

Evidence Proves Stalin Organized Conspiracy

If the testimony of the defendants and witnesses who claimed to have seen and talked with Trotsky or his son is disproved what is left of any conspiracy? Obviously nothing except the conspiracy of the prosecution against Trotsky.

One of the defendants was E.S. Holtzman who claimed to have met Sedov in Copenhagen at the Hotel Bristol. He and Sedov were supposed to have gone to see Trotsky. We showed that there was no Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen. The GPU must have gotten hold of an old hotel directory of Copenhagen and Vyshinsky, the smart lawyer, did not think of the possibility that a hotel could be closed up. Prior to 1917 there was a Hotel Bristol but It was closed up in that year. We also showed that Sedov was not in Copenhagen when his father was there and that at the time Holtzman allegedly saw Sedov in Copenhagen the latter was actually in Berlin.

The defendant Pyatakov testified that in December 1935 he went by plane from Berlin to Oslo and then traveled for about thirty minutes to get from Oslo to the place where Trotsky was staying. It was proved that not a single foreign plane landed in Oslo in December 1935. When Vyshinsky decided to change the landing place from Oslo to the Kjellere Airdrome near Oslo he was confronted by the same answer from the people in charge of that airport – no foreign planes landed in December 1935.

And all other defendants who were instructed by the prosecution to name places and dates where and when they allegedly saw Trotsky suffered the same fate as Holtzman and Pyatakov.

In truth Vyshinsky was in a dilemma. To have all the defendants confine themselves to vague generalizations without any one of them stating that they saw Trotsky in a certain place at a certain time would be a little too raw. To give the story some plausibility he was compelled to have some of the defendants testify that they saw Trotsky and name the place and date. This was his undoing for he gave us the opportunity to destroy the whole basis of the frame-up.

The hearings at Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City, did not of course receive the publicity which the Stalinist bureaucracy got for its show trial in Moscow. Moscow had millions at its disposal and great favors to grant in order to buy the purchasable consciences of some persons who were in a position to befuddle the public. Coyoacan had extremely limited resources with which to spread truth about the Moscow Trials.

But the voice of one man speaking the truth before commissioners who were willing to listen to the evidence, truthfully to analyze it and draw conclusions from it was too powerful to be suppressed. The truth of Coyoacan has not as yet achieved final victory over the falsehoods of Moscow and that is why we must continue the struggle against everything that Stalinism represents.

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