The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials

(The Accused and Their Accusers)

The defendants are sharply divided into two groups. The basic nucleus of the first group consists of old Bolsheviks, known world-wide, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and others. The second group are young unknowns, among whom are also some direct agents of the GPU; they were necessary at the trial to demonstrate that Trotsky had taken part in terrorist activity, to establish a link between Zinoviev and Trotsky, and to establish a link with the Gestapo. If after having fulfilled the tasks assigned to them by the GPU they were nonetheless shot, it is because Stalin could not leave any such well-informed witnesses alive.

The artificial combination of these two groups at the trial is a typical amalgam.

The very conduct of the two groups at the trial is as different as their composition. The old men sit there absolutely broken, crushed, answer in a faint voice, even cry. Zinoviev is thin, stooped, grey, his cheeks hollow. Mrachkovsky spits blood, loses consciousness, they carry him away. They all look like people who have been run into the ground and completely exhausted. But the young rogues conduct themselves in an easy and carefree manner, they are fresh-faced, almost cheerful. They feel as though they are at a party. With unconcealed pleasure they tell about their ties with the Gestapo and all their other fables. [25]

The Accused of the First Group

1. Zinoviev, G.E. (born in 1883), a Bolshevik since the formation of the Bolshevik fraction in 1903, for many years Lenin’ s closest collaborator in emigration. Member of the Central Committee and the Politburo, chairman of the Petersburg Soviet after the October Revolution. One of the founders of the Communist International, its permanent chairman for many years. He left the Opposition in January 1928.

2. Kamenev, L.B. (born in 1883), like Zinoviev, a member of the party since 1901, Bolshevik since the formation of the fraction at the Second Congress, Lenin’s long-time collaborator during his years of exile, former member of the Central Committee and the Politburo. Chairman of the Moscow Soviet and Chairman of the Soviet of Labor and Defense, Deputy Chairman of the Soviet of People’s Commissars. Left the Opposition in January 1928.

3. Evdokimov, G.E. (born in 1884), one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks, leader of the Leningrad Soviet and of the Leningrad party organization, former member of the Central Committee and the Organization Bureau of the Central Committee. A Zinovievist, he left the Opposition in January 1928.

4. Bakaev, I.P. (born in 1887), one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks, former member of the Central Control Commission, prominent participant in the Civil War; at one time headed the Leningrad Cheka. [26] A Zinovievist, he left the Opposition in January 1928.

5. Smirnov, I.N. (born in 1880), a member of the party since 1899, one of the oldest Bolsheviks, several times endured prison and exile under tsarism. Took an active part in the October Revolution; leader of the Vth Army which crushed Kolchak. Directed all the activities of the Soviets and the party in Siberia after the victory. Member of the Central Committee and People’s Commissar of the Post and Telegraph. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

6. Mrachkovsky, S.V. (born in 1883), a Urals worker from a revolutionary family (he was born in prison), old Bolshevik, one of the heroes of the Civil War. After the victory, fulfilled responsible military tasks, commanded the Volga military region and others. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

7. Ter-Vaganian, V.A. (born in 1893), an old Bolshevik and Marxist writer, founder of the journal Under the Banner of Marxism. Author of a series of works, in particular on Plekhanov, Lenin and others. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

8. Holtzman, E.S. (born in 1882), an old Bolshevik, economist. He was never an active Oppositionist, but sympathized with the Opposition in 1926-27.

9. Pikel, R.V. (born in 1896), a member of the party since the beginning of the revolution, managed Zinoviev’s affairs; a writer. A Zinovievist, he split from the Opposition in January 1928.

10. Dreitzer, E.A. (born in 1894), a member of the party since 1917, an active participant in the Civil War. A Left Oppositionist since 1923, he split from the Opposition in 1929.

11. Reingold, I.I. (born in 1897), a member of the party since 1917, a well-known economist, and at one time Deputy People’s Commissar of Finance and member of the College of that Commissary. Never was an active Oppositionist. A Zinovievist, he split from the Opposition in January 1928.

The Second Group

1. Berman-Yurin, K.B. [27] (born in 1901), never belonged to the Left Opposition, and never had any connection with it; worked in the Stalinist apparatus during his stay in Germany as well as after leaving for Russia. The name of Berman-Yurin is completely unknown in the West. Only one piece of information which appeared in the newspaper of the German Stalinists, Die Deutsche Volkszeitung (September 6, 1936), indicating that Berman-Yurin also went by the name of Stauer, made it possible to establish that Berman-Yurin-Stauer really did exist.

2. Fritz David, I.I. [27] (born in 1897), never belonged to the Left Opposition and never had anything in common with it; worked in the Stalinist apparatus, particularly in the trade unions; former theoretician for the German Communist Party on questions of the trade union movement and editor of the central organ of the Red Trade Unions (R.G.O.), in which he several times attacks Trotskyism. Worked with Rote Fahne and the Moscow Izvestia and Pravda until recently.

3. Lurie, M.I. (Emel) [27] (born in 1897), a member of the German Communist Party and functionary of this party. Belonged to the Zinovievist Opposition, but capitulated in the period of the XVth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (in January 1928) and was not expelled from the party. Since then, he had not only broken with the Opposition and become a defender of the “general line,” but he even “specialized” in articles against Trotskyism, mostly in the tradition of the Black Hundreds. [28]

Overcoming our disgust, let us quote from Emel’s (Lurie’s) slander appearing in No.96 of Imprecor in December, 1932: “This social command (of the bourgeoisie to slander the Soviet Union) is now carried out by Leon Trotsky ... In Pilsudski’s Poland Trotsky enjoys the special sympathy of the political police.” Any comment would be superfluous. The central organ of the German Left Opposition, Die Permanente Revolution, (No.32, 34) published at that time two notes on the anti-Trotskyist works of this individual.

In the writings of Fritz David one can also, of course, find as many such pearls as one lilies. And these people figure at the trial as “Trotskyists”! The Central Committee of the German Communist Party has just expelled these three “Trotskyists,” Fritz David, Moishe Lurie, and Berman-Yurin, a month and a half after their execution (Die Deutsche Volkszeitung, 11 October 1936).

4. Lurie, N.L. (born in 1901), known absolutely to no one; no evidence about him or any trace of him has been found at this time.

The four individuals mentioned above were not only personally unknown to Trotsky, Sedov and their closest friends, but Trotsky and Sedov only learned their names through news articles about the Moscow trials.

5. Olberg, V.P. (born in 1907), attempts in 1930 to join the German Left Opposition in Berlin (called at the time the “Minority of the Leninbund”). However, he meets with refusal because he does not inspire confidence. (He remained in the German Communist Party, collaborated on Stalinist publications, etc.). Olberg then turns to the “Wedding Opposition” (the Landau group), where he is accepted. Because of the unification of the two groups, Olberg succeeds in penetrating the German organization of the Left Opposition. During this period he offers his services as Leon Trotsky’s secretary. Some of Trotsky’s friends from Berlin, the Pfemferts (a well-known left-wing publisher in Germany and editor of the journal Die Aktion) made the acquaintance of Olberg at this time. Here is what Pfemfert writes about him in a letter dated April 1, 1930 to Trotsky: “Olberg made a very unfavorable impression on me. He does not inspire confidence.” In this same letter, Pfemfert relates what a disagreeable and suspicious impression was made on him by the exaggerated interest which Olberg showed toward the Russian Opposition, Trotsky, his life, etc. Of course, there was no longer any question of a journey by Olberg to meet Trotsky.

In April-May 1931, at the same time as the Landau group, Olberg is removed from the ranks of the German Left Opposition. In February 1932, he makes a declaration asking for his readmission into the organization.This request is denied. Let us quote one of the statements which we have on Olberg, the author of which is E. Bauer, now a member of the S.A.P., [29] who left the Trotskyist organization, but was at that time the secretary of the German Opposition. Here is what Bauer writes: “Olberg’s declaration (of February 1932) requesting his return to the organization was rejected in a letter written by me personally. Since then, none of us has heard anything about Olberg.”

Sedov, in a personal capacity, met from time to time with Olberg in the second half of 1931 and at the beginning of 1932. The object of these meetings was, above all, the technical services which Olberg rendered: Olberg collected books, clippings from newspapers, etc. The character of these meetings was not political in the true sense of the word, and even less organizational, Olberg not being a member of the organization and Sedov himself standing outside the organizational work of the German Opposition.

Since 1932 we repeat, no one, neither Sedov, nor any German Trotskyist, had any relationship with Olberg. Since 1932 that is for more than four years, they had completely lost sight of Olberg, until the time of the trial. This statement is not unsubstantiated. There are dozens of people who have emigrated who were in the German Left Opposition or who were in close touch with it, including those who were politically hostile to it. Without any doubt they would all support our statement; some have already done so, in particular the German emigration in Prague, where Olberg lived these last years, without getting in contact with any of the German Trotskyists, of whom there is no small number in Prague.

And this man claims to have been Trotsky’s “emissary” in Germany, that Trotsky had “absolute confidence” in him, that money was given to him by the Opposition for procuring a passport, etc.!

A few words must still be said about the absolutely different roles which were played during the investigation by these two groups of defendants: the old Bolsheviks and the young unknowns.

First of all, the testimony of the majority of the old Bolsheviks is limited to a few pages. In fact, the testimonies quoted are those of Evdokimov, from pages 6 to 10, of Zinoviev from pages 16 to 38, of Kamenev from page 10 to 34, of Ter-Vaganian from pages 11 to 32, etc., while the dates of the depositions are from the end of July, the beginning of August, right up to August 14.

It’s a different story with the “young ones.” Olberg, for example, began his testimony not later than January (by February 21 he had already managed to reach pages 77-78). On May 9 the investigation of Olberg was already finished. [30] His testimony forms a volume of 262 pages, while only on this last page does Olberg finally remember the ties between the Trotskyists and the Gestapo, – on the last day of the interrogation, on the last page! [31]

Thus the investigation of the Olberg case was finished nearly three months before the old men, Kamenev, Ter-Vaganian, Evdokimov, Smirnov, and others had made their first “confessions.” By July 21, M. Lurie had already reached pages 243-244; furthermore it is once again in the last pages alone that there is a reference to his link with the Gestapo, and only on page 252 that is, obviously at the very end of the investigation, that he testified that Zinoviev supposedly knew about these connections. On the same day as M. Lurie, July 21, N. Lurie testified about the Gestapo on page 142.

It must be noted that even the testimony of Dreitzer and especially of Reingold, who conducted himself at the trial as an agent of the GPU, accusing everyone of everything, also made up a large volume, On pages 102-103, Dreitzer “remembered” that Trotsky sent him a letter written in his own hand and, on page 195, that he prepared terrorist acts together with Schmidt and others.

Reingold’s testimony is quoted more often that any others. His statements serve as the basic material of the prosecution, in particular, for convicting the other defendants.

Among the defendants at the Moscow trial, there was not one true Bolshevik-Leninist. The Left Opposition had broken with the Zinovievists in January 1928, when they capitulated before the Stalinist bureaucracy. Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian and Dreitzer had split from the Opposition two years later, at the end of 1929.

From January 1928 on, Trotsky had maintained no relations whatsoever with the Zinovievists, neither personally nor through any intermediary; he had never written to them, and had not received a single letter from them. And that is understandable. The path of the Left Opposition, standing for an implacable struggle against Stalinism, and the paths of groups capitulating before Stalinism parted sharply.

In 1922-23 Zinoviev and Kamenev, together with Stalin, formed what was known as the “troika,” in whose hands lay all the actual power at the time of Lenin’s illness and especially after his death. With the aid of the party apparatus, the troika prepared and led the fight against Trotsky and “Trotskyism.” But soon the troika itself broke up. Zinoviev and Kamenev, with their international training, their experience in exile, and partly under the influence of the Leningrad workers, entered into opposition against Stalin and his national policy of building socialism in one country, the turn to the kulaks, etc. In this struggle Zinoviev and Kamenev based themselves on the apparatus of the party organization in Leningrad which, obviously, was not capable of controlling the all-union apparatus which Stalin automatically brought in battle against Zinoviev and Kamenev. Despite their past struggle against “Trotskyism,” Zinoviev and Kamenev soon stood, in 1926, on the platform of the Left Opposition, recognizing it correctness. The passage into the camp of the Left Opposition by the “inventors” of Trotskyism – as an ideological tendency hostile to Leninism – struck an irreparable blow against this legend of Trotskyism. But the Zinovievist Opposition, which had its origin inside the apparatus, leaned heavily toward diplomacy, combinations, tactical maneuvers, compromises with the apparatus, capitulation, etc. By January 1928, at the XVth Congress of the All-Union Communist Party, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends had already capitulated before the Stalinist fraction, capitulated not just from the lack of political courage, but also from the sincere conviction that it was impossible to lead the struggle to a split.

Later, Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends capitulated twice more. With each new capitulation, they made still greater concessions to Stalin and, falling lower and lower, they became his prisoners. Stalin squeezed them more and more in a vise. If at first they acknowledged “only” the anti-party character of their activity, they were soon forced to admit their “counterrevolutionary” nature, to praise Stalin to the skies and later (under the threat of the revolver) to take upon themselves the “political and moral responsibility” for Kirov’s assassination. Admitting everything Stalin demanded of them, making the most monstrous accusations against themselves, against their comrades, and against the party, they became playthings in the hands of the Stalinist Bonapartist bosses.

Although not to the same degree, but in a similar fashion, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, and others followed the same road. By capitulating before Stalin, they also showed in 1929 that they were no longer revolutionary fighters, but spent men, who had a great past, but no future. Capitulation had intrinsically broken them for all time.

The conduct of the accused during the trial was only the tragic conclusion, the last stage of their political prostration and fall during the previous years.

Everything which we have just explained is forgotten in the West (not in the USSR; there it is unfortunately too well understood), when they ask how men like Zinoviev, Kamenev and especially Smirnov or Mrachkovsky, old revolutionary fighters, could have fallen so low. They imagine the Zinoviev of the Smirnov of the heroic years of the Russian revolution. But since then nearly twenty years have gone by, more than half of them under the corrupt Thermidorian regime of Stalin. No, on the defendants’ bench sat only the shadows of the Smirnov of the Civil War or the Zinoviev of the first years of the Comintern. On the defendants’ bench sat broken, crushed, finished men. Before killing them physically, Stalin had broken and destroyed them morally.

Capitulation is an inclined plane: no one has yet succeeded in coming to rest on it. Once on it, you can’t help but slide to the very bottom. Rakovsky, who resisted longer than the other old men, – capitulating only in 1934 – today has gone so far as to call for the execution of Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky! Such behavior, precisely on the part of Rakovsky, has been met with particular bewilderment in the West: an honest man, of great moral purity and suddenly ... How can it be explained? As if Rakovsky could escape from under the heavy bureaucratic millstone, which turns former fighters into nothing but human dust! One should sooner ask oneself how Rakovsky, who was at the head of the Opposition until 1934, could have been ignorant of the terrorism, if it had really existed? Having remained in the Opposition until 1934, Rakovsky, as proof of the existence of the “terror” refers to ... Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others with whom the Opposition had broken in 1928, Stalinist absolutism allows no half-way capitulations; all or nothing, there is no middle ground.

The Stalinist “art” of breaking revolutionary characters consists of going cautiously, steadily, pushing these people degree by degree, always lower and lower ... And what incentive could they have had to struggle? They had not only renounced their own ideas, but helped Stalin to drag them in the mud. If the international workers movement had not been in such a state of collapse, these men would have undoubtedly acted differently. Isolated from the revolutionary movement, and even from the world in general, they saw only the rise and strengthening of fascism, and in the USSR, the hopelessness of Stalinism. The miserable behavior of the defendants is first of all an expression of the profound despair of people who had lost all perspective.

And how could the Soviet people of today, even the best ones, not become demoralized? Have revolutionaries ever been forged in empty space? No, for that there must be collective work, mutual relations, links with the masses, a theoretical self-education, etc. Only in such conditions was it possible for the revolutionary and Bolshevik type to be formed. But that is the distant past. In the last ten years in the USSR, and not only there, the reverse process has taken place. The absence of social life, of free thought, and collective activity welded by a discipline which is conscious rather then servile – all this cannot but destroy the old and prevent the education of the young.

This is why to compare the conduct of the defendants in Moscow to that of certain courageous militants in the face of fascist executioners is to commit the sin of superficiality. These militants were not broken by ten years of Stalinist domination; they were not isolated as were the Moscow victims of Stalin – they felt the support of the world proletariat behind them. The distinction was also much sharper: fascism – communism. At the Moscow trial, however, although they stood before a Thermidorian court of Stalinist usurpers, Zinoviev and Kamenev nevertheless stood before a court which with its phraseology appealed – what monstrous gall! – to the October revolution and socialism. It goes without saying, that along with frightful moral tortures, the inquisitors of the GPU also used this phraseology and, in particular, the danger of war; this could not fail to help in breaking these unfortunate defendants.

The comparison with the behavior of the leaders of the great French Revolution is also superficial. These men were in the full flower of their strength, events were taking place with kaleidoscopic speed, no one could count on receiving mercy and, above all, everything was happening in the period of the powerful upsurge of a revolution, the likes of which had never been seen before in history. The great Russian revolution also experienced a similar period (1917-1922), but it is precisely in those years that the Smirnov’s and the Mrachkovsky’s heroically fought and died on the front lines of the Civil War. If one searches for historical comparisons with the conduct of the Jacobins, one should not take them from 1789-1794, but about ten years later, during the period of the Empire, when many of them had become prefects and other dignitaries under Napoleon.

But they say, how can it be explained that all eleven (not counting the five young ones) could have behaved this way before the court? We must not forget that these eleven were not defendants chosen at random, but rather had been chosen during a long and terrible investigation among the 50 or more other prisoner-candidates whom Stalin could not succeed in breaking. It is precisely those who were broken who were placed on trial. What became of the others is not known; the worst may be feared. Some of them, we have no doubt, were shot during the investigation itself; those who would not succumb to Stalin’s blackmailing were shot; they were shot “for the edification” of the rest. Besides the torture of the interrogation, – from morning until night, for weeks on end, the same question is asked of the accused who remains standing – besides the torment over the fate of their families and other tortures taken from the arsenal of the blackest and most terrible Inquisition, the gunning down of a certain number of accused was one of the most decisive “arguments” of the Stalinist investigation. Smirnov or Evdokimov would be told: today so and so was shot (for example, Kuklin or Gertik), tomorrow so and so will be shot, because they did not give the required depositions, and then it will be your turn. (This, of course, is only a hypothesis).

With a revolver at their temple, Zinoviev and Kamenev say to themselves: if we do not sign these infamies which Stalin wishes to extort from us, he will shoot us secretly, without a trial. But if we sign, we have, in spite of everything, some chance of salvation. Perhaps Stalin is not deceiving us when he promises to give us our lives in exchange for our confessions. The preceding series of trials – the majority of which were also built on false confessions – where the accused got off with light or fictitious sentences, strengthened their hopes. The defendants furthermore were thinking not only of saving their lives, but also saw in staying alive the only possibility of later unmasking, in a new situation, the Stalinist amalgam, thereby rehabilitating themselves, if only partially. They committed a tragic error and this error was not accidental; it flowed from all their previous conduct, as we have taken pains to demonstrate.

But even among these defendants, there was to be found a last remnant of strength, a last drop of personal dignity. Broken as they were, none of the old Bolsheviks took upon themselves – they simply were physically unable to take upon themselves – the charge of being “connected with the Gestapo.”

We think – and this map seem paradoxical to one who judges things superficially – that the internal moral strength of Zinoviev and Kamenev far surpassed the average level, even though it proved insufficient under absolutely exceptional conditions. Hundreds and thousands of Communist, socialist and other leaders, who adapt to the Soviet bureaucracy or to capitalism, would have been incapable of bearing even a hundredth part of the continuous and frightful pressure to which Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others were subjected.

One more point. The speeches of the defendants were in no way distinguishable from the speeches of the prosecutor, in no way distinguishable from the thousands of bloodthirsty articles which fill the press. By the speeches in which they accuse themselves, without facts or proofs, by their literal repetition of what the prosecutor dictated to them, by their great eagerness to blacken themselves, the defendants said, as it were, to the whole world: don’t believe us; can’t you see that it is all a lie, a lie from beginning to end?

Yes, the generation of old Bolsheviks, with only a few exceptions, exhausted itself in the end. They had to carry too much on their shoulders, – three revolutions, the underground, prison, civil war. Their strength failed them, their nerves gave out.

But nevertheless, there still are unbreakable revolutionaries in the USSR, several thousand Bolshevik-Leninists. As for them, Stalin will not be able to draw them into his trials, even though he can exterminate them one after another, exterminate them, but not break them. These revolutionary fighters have not taken and will not take the fatal road of capitulation, because they believe in the justness of their cause. They prefer to die in the cellars of the GPU, unknown, without support and without sympathy. They are the ones who assure the revolutionary continuity and save the revolutionary honor of the Soviet workers’ movement!


[25] We have gleaned this information from the reports of English journalists who were at the trial. (L.S.)

[26] Cheka: the Extraordinary Commission for Struggle Against Counterrevolution, Sabotage, and Speculation. The Soviet secret police 1918-1922.

[27] These three German-Russian Stalinists (Berman-Yurin. M. Lurie, Fritz David) belonged, we are told, inside the German Communist Party, to Neumann’s clique, closely tied in the past to the GPU, one of the most repugnant cliques which ever existed in the Comintern. According to the information available abroad, Moscow liquidated the Neumann group with the aid of the GPU. (The use of the GPU as an instrument of internal struggle in the sections of the Comintern has been a common phenomenon for a long time, which has brought the Comintern apparatus to the limits of demoralization.) It is not excluded, consequently, that the calling to trial of Stalin’s former agents – F. David, Berman-Yurin, and M. Lurie – was done as part of the liquidation of the Neumann group. (L.S.)

[28] Black Hundreds: In Tsarist Russia, members of extreme monarchist group who carried out pogroms against workers, revolutionaries, national minorities, etc. They murdered thousands with the cooperation of the Tsarist authorities.

[29] SAP: Socialist Workers Party, A centrist party in Germany organized in October 1931 when a number of its leaders were expelled from the Reichstag. Agreed to work with the Left Opposition in 1933 but became opposed to the Fourth International and broke with Trotskyism.

[30] About the sources of this money – as well as the entire story about Olberg’s Honduras passport – we have extremely interesting information which we feel can be made public only after thorough verification. (L.S.)

[31] With absolute certainty this flows From the fact that on July 31, i.e., more than two and one-half months after his testimony on May 9, Olberg was interrogated for the second time by the prosecutor about the Gestapo. (L.S.)

Last updated on: 14.2.2005