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Jack Weber

Davies Suddenly Remembers
About the Moscow Trial

(22 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 47, 22 November 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The ex-Ambassador of the United States to the Soviet Union, Joseph E. Davies, has been struck with remarkably sudden light. This light made him delve into his own records on the Moscow Trials.

Unfortunately the records were all too clear. His article in the American Magazine admits:

“With this thought in mind I recently went through my diary, and, with the permission of the State Department, reread some of my reports as American Ambassador to Moscow in 1937 and 1938. Suddenly I saw the picture as I undoubtedly should have seen it at the time in Russia. Much of the world construed the famous treason trials and purges from 1935 to 1938 to be outrageous examples of barbarism, ingratitude, and hysteria. But it now appears that they indicated the amazing far-sightedness of Stalin and his close associates. In the light of present facts, and after an examination of the record, there can be no doubt that those defendants were, directly or indirectly, in the employ of the German and Japanese High Commands.”

What are the present facts to which Davies refers? He states that he, more than any other diplomat, attended the trials and watched the proceedings. His conclusion at the time was no different from that of the rest of the world.

“In my reports, I find that I referred to the second charge (treason and relations with those High Commands) quite casually and as of comparatively little importance.”

He says this not only of himself but of others present:

“But all of us there in Moscow at the time, including the diplomats and the able newspaper correspondents, seem to have ‘missed the boat’. I certainly did.”

That is to say, Davies judged the trials to be nothing but frame-ups at the time.

“We knew that Trotsky had a great many followers in Russia. and we regarded the treason trials as Stalin’s methods of destroying his internal enemies. Talk, of cooperation with the German and Japanese High Commands seemed like so much bizarre window-dressing, a facade to cover the liquidating of counter-revolutionaries.”

How Davies Arrives at a Conclusion

Here is a damaging admission indeed. Forgetting it a few sentences later, Davies announces:

“They all pleaded guilty, literally beating their breasts as they heaped guilt upon themselves. But, as a trained lawyer, not without experience in testing the credibility of witnesses in criminal trials, I watched the defendants’ faces, studied their conduct on the stand, and I arrived at the conclusion that the state had unquestionably proved its case.”

What an unfortunate sentence for Davies and his own credibility! Davies can refer only to the faces of the defendants, not to their utterly incredible stories!

But what are the facts that made Davies change his mind? The facts are ABC political facts. Davies never dreamed of reexamining his conclusions drawn right on the spot during the Hitler- Stalin Pact. On the contrary, that Pact redoubled the conviction of the entire world that the trials had been a vast frame-up from start to finish. The facts that changed Davies’ mind have nothing to do with the trials. They have to do with the switch in war alliances when Hitler invaded Russia. The “facts” are that Stalin has become the ally of Great Britain and the United States.

Politics makes strange bedfellows! Davies and Roosevelt have become bedfellows of Stalin’s. The “democracies” will prove their good faith to Stalin. They will give him not only material aid, but political aid as well. The Allies may not establish a “western front” in a hurry at the request of the Kremlin dictator. But a little smokescreen to help rehabilitate a badly-discredited Stalin in the eyes of the “public” – that is really a small expense.

The decisive factor in the mind of the imperialist diplomat is the fact that when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, no Fifth Column was there to come to Hitler’s aid. Stalin had rid Russia of this Fifth Column in advance. But the Daily Worker said this long before Davies. The trouble is that the “interpretation” proves too much. The appearance of any kind of Fifth Column which might have been linked with the victims of Stalin’s purges, would have been far better “proof”. There is no Fifth Column to aid Hitler and there never was one! The only Fifth Column is the gang in the Kremlin that gave Hitler every aid up to the moment he invaded Russia. Silence on that score cannot wipe away that devastating fact.

But there is the other sad fact, that with so “splendid” a united front against the fascist invader, the Red Army has been forced to retreat and yield the major part of European Russia with two-thirds of all the heavy industry built, at such tremendous sacrifices. One great factor that explains that fact is precisely Stalin’s beheading of the Red Army in the frightful purges. His killing of the entire tops as well as of an officer corps numbering as many as thirty-thousand men left the Soviet Army without those who could have stood up to Hitler’s military strategy.

Stalin failed miserably to convince the working class of the world that the entire Bolshevik cadre built by Lenin were traitors to socialism and to the Soviet Union. But the workers may now be at rest. They may now accept the Stalinist version without any more qualms of conscience. An American ambassador, no less, had his doubts, but his further cogitations (at so opportune a time too!) revealed the true light to him, and through him to the rest of the world.

The truth is that in this very farce Stalinism demonstrates anew its bankruptcy. It must depend on these imperialist hacks to whitewash it and to attempt to revive its credit in the eyes of the masses. But how unfortunate that Davies was foolish enough (although he could not have helped himself!) to reveal his opinion at the time of the trials themselves. The political expediency of the Ambassador’s article, to appease Stalin, sticks out from every side.

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