The axis of the trial and at the same time the basis of the indictment, was the so-called “Unified Center.” This center not only made the decision to take the road of terror, but organized and directed the attacks. The question of the “Center” has, consequently, decisive importance for the analysis of the trial. We are forced to examine it in greater detail.
We have already tried to show the arbitrary way in which Stalin included four Zinovievists in the trial, designating them as members of the Center. But no matter what the cost, he had to get at Trotsky, without whom the whole trial would have been worthless. The collapse of the consul affair forced him to look for other ways. Stalin understood that the Zinovievists, who had broken with the Left Opposition in January 1928, by capitulating to the bureaucratic apparatus, had not had any ties with the Left Opposition since then and could hardly be of use to him in attaining his goal. He needed to “unite” them, those who had earlier taken upon themselves the political responsibility for Kirov’s assassination—with the Trotskyists. It was precisely this “unification” that the “Unified Center” was to serve. After the unsuccessful attempts to indict the true Trotskyists,—Stalin’s blackmailing could only have run up against a sharp refusal on their part—Stalin stopped at former Left Oppositionists,—Smirnov, Mrachkovsky and Ter-Vaganian. These men had openly broken with the Left Opposition in 1929, that is, seven years ago! And in the absence of any authentic Trotskyists (among the defendants, let us once again recall, there was not one true Trotskyist), Stalin was forced to content himself with pseudo-Trotskyists, all the more so since one of them, I.N. Smirnov, had by chance met with Trotsky’s son in Berlin. This at least gave him the formal pretext of speaking of a “connection” abroad.
Thus the idea of creating the “Unified Center” was born in Stalin’s police mind. The rest was a case of police technique.
The indictment and the verdict give the Unified Center the following composition: Zinoviev, Kamenev, Evdokimov, Bakaev,—from the Zinovievists, and Smirnov, Ter-Vaganian, Mrachkovsky—from the Trotskyists.
But even on the question of the composition of the center, the defendants contradict each other. Besides, we are not talking about a large committee, the composition of which would be constantly changing, where it would be difficult to remember everybody, but essentially about a narrow, strictly conspiratorial collegium, involved in terrorist activity. The composition of such a conspiratorial center ought, in any case, to have been exactly defined. This is, in fact, what the indictment tries to do as it enumerates the seven members cited above. The defendant Reingold, one of the principal witnesses of the prosecution, gives a different composition of the center. “I was,” he says, “in an organizational and also personal relationship with a series of members of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center: Zinoviev, Kamenev, Sokolnikov, and others.” And further on Reingold repeats: “the members of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist center were Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bakaev, Evdokimov, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian, and Sokolnikov.”
The fact that Sokolnikov was a member of the center is also confirmed by Kamenev, who specifies, in response to a question by the prosecutor, that Sokolnikov was even a “member of the center whose participation was strictly secret,” in order that he might, in case of disaster, continue the terrorist activity. One, therefore, wonders why the prosecutor did not immediately summon Sokolnikov before the court. It is very simple: to summon Sokolnikov at that very moment would have meant to destroy the entirely false, and therefore “fragile” edifice of the trial.
Sokolnikov would first have to be prepared in the torture chambers of the GPU, and that, even if successful, takes time. The fact that Reingold mentioned Sokolnikov, on Stalin’s orders, was necessary in order to make it easier to execute him without even a trial.
While confirming the testimony about Sokolnikov, Kamenev, for his part, gives a new version of the center (of the “plot,” as he calls it) which “was composed of the following people: from the Zinovievists, myself (Kamenev), Zinoviev, Evdokimov, Bakaev, and Kuklin,” Besides Sokolnikov, Kuklin also is apparently a member of the center. As in Sokolnikov’s case, the prosecutor doesn’t consider it necessary to bring Kuklin to trial. Meanwhile, Kuklin, one of the oldest worker-Bolsheviks and leading Zinovievists, who was sentenced in January 1935 to 10 years in prison, is mentioned many times over during the trial as one of the leaders of the terrorist activity!
According to Smirnov’s testimony, the Lominadze group had also joined the bloc (Smirnov says nothing about the Center and later, as we will see, he even denies its existence). Let us note that no member of this group was brought to trial. Although he did “confirm Smirnov’s testimony,” Ter-Vaganian does not mention the Lominadze group in his account. Mrachkovsky, on the contrary, not only mentions the Lominadze-Shatskin group as members of the bloc, but says in addition that Lominadze personally was a member of the center. Bakaev names not only Kuklin, but also Sharov, another old Bolshevik-Zinovievist, sentenced during the first trial in 1935. Karev is repeatedly mentioned as a leading participant at a terrorist conference (of the Center?) But he also is not on the defendants’ bench, since his case has, for some reason, been “set aside.”
Better still, Kamenev testifies that, in case of discovery, besides Sokolnikov, Serebriakov and Radek were also designated as substitutes, “who,” according to Kamenev, “could perform the role with success.” Let us recall that Serebriakov split from the Opposition in 1928, and Radek left in 1928, and how he left! Since 1929 Radek has appeared several times in the press as one of the most hateful and vicious adversaries of Trotskyism. But even this didn’t help him!
During the trial, Safonova is also brought from prison to serve as a “witness,” and her interrogation produces a particularly painful and loathesome impression. Hoping to save herself (and in reality Stalin is at best saving her for a new trial, in order to shoot her afterwards, as he shot all the Berman-Yurins), Safonova denounces I.N. Smirnov in a veritable frenzy. And this Safonova, according to the records of the trial, “was herself a member of the Trotskyist center ... and took an active part in the work of the center.” Why then is she summoned only as a witness?
The center also supposedly conducted negotiations about “joint activity” (i.e., about terror) with Shatskin, Sten (“leftists”), Rykov, Bukharin, Tomsky, (“rightists”), Shliapnikov and Medvedev (former “Workers Opposition”). Of course, not one of them is summoned before the court, even as a witness.
Falsification is not such an easy thing. No matter how deeply you submerge them, lies and contradictions stubbornly reappear at the surface. These contradictions in the composition of the center are undoubtedly explained by the fact that during the investigation, the composition was changed more than once.
Some of the “candidates” who had been designated in the early stages couldn’t be broken,—it was necessary therefore to rebuild along the way, including new victims in the “center,” and once again bringing the dates and the testimony into agreement.
In addition, the whole case was prepared with such haste that all the defendants could not learn their roles ...
Last updated on: 13.2.2005