The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials

(January 1935-August 1936)

The Moscow trial actually was, and in any case had to be, a revision of the first trial of January 15-16, 1935, in which Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakaev and others were sentenced to long years of imprisonment. The verdict of the January 1935 trials said that “the inquiry had not been able to establish the facts which would provide the basis for directly charging the members of the ‘Moscow Center’ with having given their assent to the organization of the terrorist act directed against Comrade Kirov or of having given any instructions on this subject.”

These “facts” were supposedly now established. Hence the new trial. Such is the official version. The “case” of Zinoviev and the others is being reconsidered.

One might have thought that the trial would have to proceed from the evidence of the first trial, from its entire “structure,” enlarging and completing what had “not been established” in the past, openly correcting, without forgetting to explain the reasons, the “error” of the first trial.

Nothing of the sort! The trial does not even attempt to establish the continuity—it would have been wasted effort!—between the first and second trials, proceeding from the evidence of the first trial, etc. It simply casts it aside as useless rubbish, thus exposing the first trial as a machination of the police, which was necessary then, but not now. It is extremely instructive to compare the trials. It unmasks the whole lie of the Stalinist judicial “constructions.”

The “Moscow Center” and the “Unified Center”

At the first trial, the entire indictment hinged on the so-called “Moscow Center” (Zinovievists) whose members were, according to the prosecution: Sharov, Kuklin, Gertik, Fedorov, Gorshenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and Bakaev, that is, exclusively Zinovievists. Not one word was mentioned in the case about “Trotskyists,” not only the real ones, but even those who capitulated, such as Smirnov and Mrachkovsky (pseudo-Trotskyists).

At the present trial the Moscow Center has been almost completely forgotten and the prosecution is constructed exclusively upon the activity of the so-called “Unified Center” (of an altogether different composition). At the first trial, this Unified Center was never mentioned at all, for the simple reason that ... the GPU had not yet succeeded in inventing it.

Neither the court, nor the prosecutor makes any attempt to clarify what were the political and organizational relationships between the so-called Moscow [22] Center and the Unified Center. However this question ought to have been of great interest to the prosecution, all the more so since the first center was joined by a number of people who were not in the second and a few, such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev and Evdokimov, belonged to both centers.

According to the prosecutor’s explanation, Zinoviev, Kamenev and others—19 defendants in all—(to whom the 14 shot in the Nikolaev case must be added) simply hid the existence of the Unified Center in December 1934, and January 1935, while acknowledging everything else that was demanded of them. Inconceivable! Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others had spared neither themselves nor those near them, but for some reason concealed the role of the “Trotskyists,” in particular, for whom they had never harbored any especially tender feelings and the implication of whom at that time might have really eased the fate of Zinoviev and Kamenev, because the main blow of the GPU was obviously aimed at Trotskyism.

The Nineteen and the Four

At the first trial of Zinoviev and others, 19 people were sentenced. Here is the list: 1. Zinoviev, ten years in prison as the “principal organizer and leader of the Moscow Center”; 2. Gertik, A.N.; 3. Kuklin, A.S.; and 4. Sakhov, B.N.—as “the most active participants,” ten years each in prison; 5. Sharov, Y.V.; 6. Evdokimov, G.E.; 7. Bakaev, I.P.; 8. Gorshenin, I.S. and 9. Tsarkov, A.N.—eight years in prison. 10. Fedorov, G.V.; 11. Herzberg, A.V.; 12. Hessen, S.M.; 13. Tarasov, I.I.; 14. Perimov, A.V.; 15. Anishev, A.I. and 16. Faivilovich, L.Y.—six years each. 17. Kamenev, L.B.; 18. Bashkirov, A.S. and 19. Brave, B.L.—(as “less active participants”) to five years each in prison.

In connection with this case, 49 people were condemned to internment in a concentration camp for four to five years, including Zalutsky, Vardin, and others, and 29 people were sentenced to exile for two to five years. In total, 97 people, former leaders of the former Zinoviev Opposition.

Of the 19 convicted in the first trial, one finds in the present trial, chosen with the utmost arbitrariness, only four. Why were the 15 others not called, even if only as witnesses? What has become of these 15 men? Why were only four implicated and why precisely these four? Let us recall once more: the verdict cites, among the most “active,” next to Zinoviev, Gertik, Kuklin, and Sakhov, (10 years in an isolator [23]), whereas Evdokimov and Bakaev had been placed in the category of people who were less active and Kamenev in the category of the least active (“only” five years in an isolator).

It now turns out that Kamenev, along with Zinoviev, Bakaev and Evdokimov, was one of the principal leaders. On the other hand, Gertik, Kuklin and several others, although mentioned several times in the present trial as leading terrorists, are not on the defendants’ bench! Many among the “19” are not even mentioned in the new case. One must suppose that as far as they were concerned, what took place in 1935 was a judicial error. It was necessary either to implicate them or to rehabilitate them, in any case to call them as witnesses.

At first 19 old Bolsheviks are sentenced to long prison terms for taking part, although “it is not established,” in Kirov’s assassination, then four of them, at Stalin’s choice, are implicated in a new trial and shot. The fate of the others remains unknown. And there was, in spite of everything, a juridical scoundrel (the English lawyer Pritt) who had the effrontery to characterize the “procedure” of this trial as an “example for the whole world!”

The four Zinovievists arbitrarily included in the trial Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and Bakaev—were obviously not chosen in the interests of justice, but for political and police reasons. Stalin needed Zinoviev and Kamenev to give this trial its full political significance. Bakaev and Evdokimov were, most likely, those whom it was possible to break and without whom the implication of Zinoviev and Kamenev by themselves would have been difficult. The fact that Kuklin and Gertik, above all, were not included in this trial can only be explained, so it seems, by the fact that it was impossible to break them. For this reason they suited Stalin very poorly, even as witnesses, in this “exemplary” trial. It also cannot be excluded that certain of them constitute a Stalinist reserve in case of new trials.

The Price of the Confessions

At the Moscow trial, no document, no material proof, (Olberg’s Honduras passport cannot be taken seriously) was introduced, no witness who was not directly implicated in the case was called. The last trial, just like the first one in 1935, was constructed exclusively on the confessions (full of lies) of the accused themselves, who were at the same time the (false) witnesses of the prosecution. Four of them, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov and Bakaev had already made depositions at the first trial. Let us compare them:

January 1935 August 1936
Kamenev acknowledged that he “did not fight actively or energetically enough against the demoralization which was the consequence of the struggle against the party and upon which ground a band of brigands (Nikolaev and others) could spring up and carry out their crime.”
“Acknowledged ... that he did not break all ties with Zinoviev.”
(What a fearsome crime!)
Vyshinsky: “You therefore confirm that there existed in your company such a monstrous plan (the taking of power by terror)?”
Kamenev: “Yes, this monstrous plan existed.”
Vyshinsky: “Was the assassination of Kirov your direct work?”
Kamenev: “Yes.”
Bakaev declares that “here among the Zinovievists there was only malevolent and hostile criticism of the most important measures taken by the party.” (Not one word about the attempts terror, the “Unified Center:” etc!) Vyshinsky: “You were ordered to organize the assassination of Comrade Stalin?”
Bakaev: “Yes.”
Vyshinsky: “You took part in Kirov’s assassination?”
Bakaev: “Yes.”
Zinoviev (under the threat of the gun) says that “... the party is absolutely correct when it speaks of the political responsibility of the old ‘Zinovievist’ anti-party group for the assassination which has just been accomplished.” Vyshinsky: “This center was composed of you. Kamenev, et al.?”
Zinoviev (Again under the threat of the gun): “Yes.”
Vyshinsky: “That means all of you organized Kirov’s murder?”
Zinoviev: “Yes.”
Vyshinsky: “That means all of you killed Comrade Kirov?”
Zinoviev: “Yes.”
Evdokimov: “We must bear the responsibility (for Kirov’s murder), because it is the venom with which we poisoned those around us during a 10-year period which made possible the realization of this crime.” Vyshinsky: “Do you acknowledge that it was with your collaboration that Kirov’s assassination was prepared?”
Evdokimov: “Yes. I admit it.”

After having heaped upon themselves the slander that they bore political responsibility for Kirov’s assassination in 1935, Zinoviev and the others began to yield to Stalin’s demands and in 1936 piled on the still more monstrous slander of having assassinated Kirov and prepared other attempts. These men lied both in 1935 and in 1936. But their lie of 1935—the self-acknowledgement of the “political responsibility” for Kirov’s assassination—is nothing in comparison with the frightful lie of 1936, the character of which is so tortured and forced! This “yes, yes” repeated at each question by the prosecutor, doesn’t that alone reveal that all these confessions are a lie? Vyshinsky himself qualifies the testimony of the accused as “deceit, lies, ... concealment,” unworthy of “the slightest confidence.”

We ask: Of what value is the testimony of accused men who “have lied previously as they are lying now!” ... (Prosecutor Vyshinsky)? And of what value is this trial based exclusively on this testimony, that is, on “deceit, lies ... concealment”?

The “Restoration of Capitalism” or the “Thirst for Personal Power”?

In connection with the first trial, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been accused of supporting the return to capitalism, “capitalist restoration.” It is with this refrain that the Soviet newspapers of that period (the beginning of 1935) persecuted Zinoviev and Kamenev.

If one could not—then—establish the nature of the activity of Zinoviev and Kamenev (terror), at least their purpose had been clearly established: the re-establishment of capitalism.

At the second trial, the “restoration of capitalism” was completely forgotten. A new version was given: “... It is irrefutably established that the only motive for the organization of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist block was the attempt to seize power at any cost,” (The Indictment). The prosecutor repeated it dozens of times: “For power, power at any price, the thirst for personal power, that is the entire ideology of this gang.”

The sentence is passed, the accused are condemned and shot for using terror while striving for personal power. And suddenly, several weeks after this trial, Stalin gives the order to return to the first version, evidently considering it more “propitious.” Pravda (September 12) publishes a thunderous article according to which the defendants “... attempted to hide the true purpose of their struggle. They gave the version that they had no program. In tact, their program did exist. It was the program of the destruction of socialism and the reestablishment of capitalism.” And now the entire “critical review” takes this direction. One of the most important questions—the motive of the accused—is revised by a number of newspaper articles, completely ignoring all that was said before the court.

When Stalin needs to prove that the defendants are people without principles, he declares that they have no program and that there is only the “thirst for power.” When he must prove their “counterrevolutionary character,” he announces without embarrassment that they were not seeking power for its own sake, but the reestablishment of capitalism. What unceremonious behavior a decade of uncontrolled power has taught these people!

The End of the Legend of the Consul

By implicating the Zinoviev group in Kirov’s assassination in 1935, Stalin wanted above all to strike a blow at “Trotskyism” through this group. This was his principal aim. At the same time, the attempt was to directly associate the name of Trotsky with the Nikolaev affair.

On-the twentieth day (!) of interrogation (December 20, 1934) Nikolaev finally indicated that an anonymous consul, whom he frequently visited, “had said that he could establish a link with Trotsky if I would deliver a letter from the group to Trotsky.” And that is all.

As we can see, the initiative for this proposition came from the anonymous consul; furthermore, the prosecution and the court at Nikolaev’s trial did not even judge it necessary to make clear if any letter had been written and transmitted to Trotsky, if Trotsky had responded, etc. The GPU preferred not to go into these details, rightly fearing that they would compromise themselves and discredit their amalgam.

On December 29, 1934, Le Temps announced that “foreign circles in Moscow ... are lost in conjectures over the nationality of this diplomat.” On December 30, the telegraph agency announced that “a conference of the consuls was held, at which it was decided ... to demand of the Soviet authorities that they publicly name the suspected consul.”

Stalin was thus forced on January 2, 1935 to name the consul. “The foreign consul mentioned in the indictment in the case concerning Kirov’s assassination is the Latvian consul, M. Bissinieks.” And the next day, January 3, Tass announced that the consul who was mentioned had been “recalled by his government.”

The consul didn’t feel it necessary to deny anything or to give any information. He didn’t even feel it necessary to indicate why he had needed a letter from the terrorist Nikolaev to Trotsky. He no doubt had serious reasons not only for covering up the amalgam of the GPU, but even for participating in it.

In Moscow, people quickly understood that the amalgam with the consul had not been successful and that it was better to be silent about it. Thus it was with all the more insistence that Moscow ordered its French lackeys to raise a storm against Trotsky in order, particularly, to create police difficulties for him in France where he was then living. (What did not succeed in France at that time, has just succeeded in Norway.) With still unsurpassed gall, Duclos [24] wrote in L’Humanité (December 29, 1934): “It is proven (where? when? how?) that between the assassin Nikolaev and his associates, Trotsky and the diplomatic representative of an imperialist power (Latvia!) there existed ties (??) which make it possible to establish Trotsky’s responsibility for Kirov’s assassination.” “The consul,” continues L’Humanité, “served as a link between Trotsky and the group of assassins in Leningrad.”

The consul served—in 1935—as the sole “basis” for accusing Trotsky of participating in Kirov’s assassination. “Trotsky’s hands are red with the blood of a proletarian leader (Kirov)!” howled L’Humanité. The proof? The consul!

At the Moscow trial, however, this consul was purely and simply forgotten. He, who had been the “link,” who had proved that “a connection did exist” between Trotsky and Nikolaev, etc.,—and suddenly not a word, not a single word! The unsuccessful amalgam was casually tossed onto the garbage heap and ... replaced by another.

Can anyone compromise himself more? Whose confidence can these men lay claim to when they expose themselves as slanderers and falsifiers?!


[22] We are sure that the Moscow (Zinovievist) center never existed on the face of the earth. Bound by long years of mutual effort, people met, conversed, criticized ... and that’s all. Vyshinsky announced, for example, that “Kamenev said (in January 1935) that he did not know that there had been a ‘Moscow Center’ ... He (Kamenev) says that in so far (?) as this center existed) and this is proven (???), then he answers for it”! (L.S.)

[23] Isolator: a special political prison or solitary confinement.

[24] Jacques Duclos: Born in 1896. After war service in which he was wounded, he joined the (French) Communist Party after the Tours Congress and rapidly became a leading figure. Elected deputy in 1926, he acquired a reputation as an orator and an accomplished parliamentarian. Too volatile to become party leader, he performed as second string to Thorez and was unfalteringly faithful to the dictates of Stalin. Trotsky regarded him as a GPU agent. During the occupation, he went underground and directed the party’s activities while Thorez was in Moscow. Has produced lengthy memoirs which deform the history of the period and excuse Stalinist policies.

Last updated on: 13.2.2005