The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials


After having crushed the Left Opposition in 1927-1928, Stalin, who had until then denied the possibility of industrialization, of collectivization, and of the planned economy in general, made a left turn. The new Stalinist economic policy, extremely contradictory, chaotic and carried out with purely bureaucratic methods, was formed from scraps taken from the platform of the Left Opposition. With all the more bitterness Stalin directed the repression against the bearers of this platform. The Stalinist left turn (plus the strengthening of repression) brought disorder in 1929 into the ranks of the Left Opposition. The recently begun industrialization and collectivization opened up new possibilities and new perspectives. Under these conditions, many Oppositionists were inclined to he lenient toward the regime, which had become increasingly bureaucratic. They were swept away by a wave of capitulations. Among them were Radek, Preobrazhensky, I.N. Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian, Dreitzer, and others.

The following years (1930-1932) were the years of uncontrolled bureaucratic management of the economy by the the Stalinist leaders who rapidly led the country into a very serious economic and political crisis. This crisis took particularly sharp forms in 1932. The administrative abolition of classes in the countryside and the forced “complete” collectivization had radically disrupted agriculture. In the Soviet economy the disproportions had taken on extraordinary dimensions: between industry and agriculture, and within industry; a catastrophic level of quality, an absence of consumer products, inflation, the complete disruption of transportation. The material situation of the masses worsened continuously, malnutrition turned into actual starvation. Millions of new workers lacked housing and vegetated in barracks, often without light, in the cold, in filth. Across the country there spread an epidemic of spotted fever such as had not been seen since the Civil War. A general fatigue and discontent began to come to light. The workers had recourse more and more frequently to strikes, in Ivanovo-Voznesensk there were large upheavals of workers. The kolkhozniks defended their harvest and their goods against the non-collectivized peasants with arms in hand. In the Caucasus and the Kuban a small civil war raged. The demoralization which was growing ever stronger in the party, the discontent and the distrust of the leadership also filtered into the apparatus. One could hear everywhere, among the old Bolsheviks, the workers, the young Komsomols, that Stalin was leading the country to ruin.

This was the situation which surrounded the former leaders of the Left Opposition who had split from it. After having capitulated at a different time, they had all sincerely tried, at least at first, to adapt themselves to the Stalinist apparatus, hoping to take part in the struggle for industrialization, the struggle against the kulak. But the sharp economic and political crisis moved them away from the Stalinist apparatus. Half involuntarily, certain oppositionist feelings were born in them, the need to speak among themselves, to criticize the Stalinist policies. Thus in 1932, one could observe a certain, though rather weak, awakening of the groups which at one time had capitulated before Stalin; the group of Zinoviev and Kamenev. the group of old left Stalinists—Lominadze-Shatskin-Sten (those who were called the “leftists”); of Smirnov and his friends, and also of some rightists, Riutin, Slepkov, and others. But this “awakening” must not be exaggerated. For the majority, it had a purely domestic character, never going further than “heart-to-heart” talks and dreams about how good it would be to have other politics and another leadership. Most likely, the men from the different circles sought out a personal coming together, ties with each other. The most audacious perhaps said that it would be good to form a “bloc.” But probably it was not even taken that far. Hence Stalin now (four years later!) constructs a “bloc” and even a “Unified Center.”

Of course the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists didn’t enter into my kind or a bloc with a single of one these groups. [41] All these groups had at one time or another capitulated to Stalin and for this alone they were utterly opposed to the Bolshevik-Leninists, who considered and continue to consider capitulation as one of the greatest crimes against communism and the interests of the working class. On this question, the Left Opposition took a particularly intransigent attitude. In the eyes of the Bolshevik-Leninists, these groups and men did not and could not have any political or moral authority.

The Left Opposition attached a primarily symptomatic importance to the awakening of these groups of “party liberals.” as they were called amongst themselves. Of course, this could serve as a point of departure for Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov and others to return to the old banner of the Bolshevik- Leninists—it could, but it was nothing of the sort.

Stalin, the GPU and the Central Control Commission did not remain ignorant of this state of mind among the old Oppositionists. This state of mind, be it said in passing, had at that time seized the majority of the party. At the beginning of October 1932, Zinoviev and Kamenev were expelled from the party, in a common list with prominent rightists, Uglanov (former secretary of the Central Committee and the Moscow Committee of the party), Riutin (member of the Central Committee and leader of the Moscow organization), Slepkov, Maretsky (young rightist theoreticians, students of Bukharin), and others. [42] Riutin had in fact written a long document critical of the Stalinist policies and the Stalinist regime, including, it seems, a very rude portrayal of Stalin personally (“evil genius of the party.” etc.). Zinoviev and Kamenev were accused of the following: “Knowing that counterrevolutionary documents were widespread, they had preferred, rather than denounce them, to discuss this document and thus to show themselves to be direct accomplices of an anti-party counterrevolutionary group.” [43] (Pravda, 1932). Just for failing to make this “denunciation,” there was no other accusation — Zinoviev and Kamenev were expelled from the party and exiled from Moscow. The announcement of their expulsions mentioned not a word about any kind of political activity by Zinoviev and Kamenev—there was none.

Such was the first version, in any case a plausible one, of the “activity” of Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1932. The second version (in 1934) already spoke of a “Moscow Center,” of having “excited terrorist tendencies,” etc. The third version (the trial m August 1936) contains the Unified Center, terrorism, and Kirov’s assassination! The further the facts go into the past, the more shamelessly Stalin falsifies them!

Soon the news arrived from Moscow about the arrest of a number of well-known former Oppositionists, old Bolsheviks: I.N. Smirnov, Preobrazhensky, Ufimtsev, Mrachkovsky, Ter-Vaganian, and others. [44]

We have written above that the exile of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others might have become the starting point for their return to the Bolshevik-Leninists, but that it was nothing of the sort. Already by the spring of 1933 Zinoviev and Kamenev had capitulated once again, and in a much more humiliating manner than before, by glorifying Stalin, etc. They were returned to Moscow. Here is how Trotsky then evaluated the new capitulation in the press: “Acknowledge Stalin’s genius ... and Zinoviev and Kamenev ‘acknowledged’ it, that is, they have finally reached the bottom ...” “Like Gogol’s hero, Stalin is collecting dead souls ...” (May 23, 1933, Bulletin of the Opposition, No.35.)

How far away these words are from a “bloc” or common “Unified Center”! In the eyes of a politically honest man this one quotation annihilates all the Stalinist slanders concerning the bloc of Trotsky and Zinoviev, which lay at the basis of this trial.

The new capitulation of Zinoviev and Kamenev was closely linked to the improvement of the USSR’s domestic situation. In 1933 the crisis was softening, the Oppositionist feelings were lessening. The capitulationist groups which had almost come to life once again returned to passivity. In 1934 these tendencies became decisively stronger.

At the trial, we are presented with a very different picture. As long as a sharp crisis and a general discontent reigned (1932-1933), the terrorists did not show any particular activity. But precisely at the moment when (in 1934) the country was “coming out of its difficulties, the triumph of the policy of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) provoked a new outburst of animosity and hatred against the leadership of the party ...” (Kamenev’s testimony).

This whole story is a very stupid fabrication. It was necessary to help lay the foundation for the charge of having assassinated Kirov (in 1934.)

After granting amnesty to Zinoviev, Kamenev and others, Stalin did not give them any confidence. They were not entrusted with work of even the slightest importance. They were kept far away from politics. Since that time, that is, since the spring of 1933, Zinoviev, Kamenev and all the others who had capitulated, passed completely into political non-existence. Morally, they were broken. They no longer lived, they vegetated. The revolver fired by Nikolaev upset this situation. Zinoviev, Kamenev and others were brutally “recalled” by Stalin to political life, “not for their own sake, but for the sake of Stalin,” as victims of the Bonapartist bosses. Old Marxists, who had tied their whole lives to the party of the working class and the movement of masses, were accused of having participated in “terrorism.”


[41] If the “bloc” between the Left Opposition and various groups which capitulated to Stalin existed, how can it be explained that nothing about this significant fact appeared in the press, especially in the Stalinist press. The Left Opposition was always an intransigent opponent of behind-the-scenes combinations and agreements. For it, the question of a bloc could only consist of an open political act in full view of the masses, based on its political platform. The history of the 13-year struggle of the Left Opposition is proof of that.

No doubt the politically intransigent attitude toward capitulation did not exclude individual personal meetings or exchanges of information—but nothing more. (L.S.)

[42] The very expulsion of Zinoviev and Kamenev together with the rightists was a typical Stalinist, i.e., Thermidorian amalgam. (L.S.)

[43] This means Riutin and his friends. (L.S.)

[44] Here is how the Moscow correspondent of the Bulletin, a Bolshevik-Leninist, described these events: “The numerous arrests among those who had left the opposition (in Moscow alone around 150 people were arrested and exiled), were explained as a prophylactic measure. Although many of those who had left were passive, they were not trusted. Stalin considers it necessary to get rid of someone before he is able to think.” (Bulletin of the Opposition, No.35, July 1933) (L.S.)

Last updated on: 13.2.2005