French Communist Party 1937

Eight Thousand Parisians Acclaim Soviet Justice

Source: L'Humanité, February 13, 1937;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2015.

“The friendship between the French people and the peoples of the USSR ensures world peace” proclaims an enormous banner around the walls of the Salle Wagram. They've understood, all the men and women who are here tonight, whose barely contained enthusiasm overflows in repeated chants before the beginning of the meeting.

The gathering was opened amid great enthusiasm under the honorary chairmanship of Walter Stoecker, president of the Friends of the USSR of Germany, held for three years in a concentration camp, and a Spanish comrade, and under the active chairmanship of Fernand Grenier, secretary general of the Friends of the USSR, Ribard, editor in chief of Clarté, of the lawyer Willard, Francis Jourdain, Léo Wanner, Professor Feuilloley, Marguerite Ribard, and Cuisinier.

It was to frenetic acclamation followed by “Vive Cachin!” and “Vive Vaillant!” that our two comrades were greeted on their appearance at the tribune. The “Internationale” rang out.

Fernand Grenier spoke first. He declared that the meeting’s goal was providing clarification to the people of Paris concerning the recent Moscow Trials.

“For several months we have been witnessing a frantic anti-Soviet campaign. First there was the ‘famine’ campaign, and this was redoubled during the first Moscow Trial. While the press remains silent about the declarations of the Socialist minister Henri Sellier and the great scientists, the Jolliot-Curies, a massive campaign was carried out in favor of André Gide’s book, followed by Raymond Dorgelès’ reportage.

“Despite these campaigns,” Grenier declared, “socialist construction victoriously continues on a sixth of the globe. The courageous attitude of the Soviet Union towards the Spanish republicans is also not forgiven them, nor are they forgiven their energetic fight for peace.”

Grenier then denounced the infamy of those who present Trotsky as “Lenin’s faithful companion,” and the secretary of the Friends of the USSR demonstrated that for years and years Trotsky was in opposition to Lenin on the great questions posed by the development of the working class movement.

It was a passionate theoretical exposé that Fernand Grenier presented, one that laid out step by step all the Trotskyist deviations from the beginning of the century up to the most recent period, when Trotskyism opposed the correct policies of the Central Committee for the construction of socialism.

“For a time the Trotskyists mended their ways. Soviet power granted them key posts and yet they continued to betray,” declared Grenier.

And then, denouncing those who present Trotsky as the Bolshevik Old Guard, he said: “The Bolshevik Old Guard is Stalin (applause), Kalinin, Kaganovich, Molotov, Voroshilov (applause), Ordzhonikidze. It’s the whole Soviet people,who loudly proclaims: ‘Our revolution isn’t taking revenge, it’s defending itself.'”

Unanimous applause greeted this peroration.

Marcel Cachin was greeted by a mighty “Internationale.”

His first words were to attack with sharp irony the absurd lies he’s read about the USSR in the bourgeois press since his return to France.

“It’s all nothing but a gross invention. I've just returned from there; it’s an eyewitness who is speaking to you.”

And our comrade told us with a thousand strokes drawn from life about the considerable progress of the USSR in all areas over the past few years. He insisted on the gigantic success of the collectivization of the countryside:

“Things are going well there! I'd like them to go no worse elsewhere!”

Laughter and ovations greeted these words.

“Discontent? The only anger I found was against Trotsky and his gang!”

And Cachin went on to show the criminal activities of the Trotskyists.

“What is at the heart of these trials? Since the beginning of the Soviet revolution two tactics confronted each other relating to the construction of socialism in the USSR. The first is that of Lenin, Stalin, and the Marxists who never wavered. They always asserted that socialism could be constructed in the USSR, even before the other peoples enslaved by capitalism made their revolution. The other, that of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Radek and the Trotskyists, who claim on the contrary that socialism can’t be realized before world revolution has liberated all peoples.

Cachin analyzed with remarkable clarity these two theses and proved the correctness of the former:

“But,” he said, “I want to talk now about the situation at the time of the Fifteenth Congress. The Trotskyists, after being sent away from Moscow for several years, requested and obtained their acceptance back into the party. They were given the highest functions, being taken at their word.

Cachin listed these posts; the hall manifested how amazed it was at the indulgence shown to the Oppositionists.

“And then, one fine day in 1934, it was learned that in Leningrad Stalin’s closest friend, Kirov, head of that city’s government, was killed by an assassin who had insinuated himself into his entourage. The investigation into the crime revealed, to the great amazement of all, that the author of the attack was part of an underground group inspired by Zinoviev, Kamenev, and a few others. These men had the courage, in the aftermath of the attack, to condemn the murderer in attention-grabbing article. They demanded the worst punishments for the killer.

“The investigation as it continued proved their hypocrisy and monstrous duplicity. They ended by admitting that it was on their orders that Kirov had been killed.

“When they appeared before the Supreme Tribunal of the USSR in 1936 they revealed that they were working at the destruction of the Soviet regime and its leaders, in perfect accord with a second group, led by Radek and Piatakov.

“It was the trial of this group that we attended. The seventeen defendants recognized before the Soviet judges that they had resolved, on the instructions of their chief Trotsky, to assassinate Stalin and the leaders of the USSR and to disorganize the Soviet economy through sabotage, going as far as the death of workers and engineers.

“The admitted that along with Trotsky they'd entered into liaison with Hitler and the Japanese fascists; that they'd promised to give the Ukraine to the former, and that they'd received money from the latter to blow up trains packed with Red Army soldiers.”

After having told this tale of the cynical avowals of the defendants in striking terms, Marcel Cachin examined the reactions provoked by the trial in France.

He noted that a certain number of wide-circulation newspapers and well-known politicians were capable of understanding the guilt of the Trotskyists and the correctness of the verdict: “Others don’t understand! They dispute the forms of the trial, the ‘psychology’ of the accused.”

The orator, whose analysis enthralled the listeners, refuted all this. “Yes the accused confessed to everything. Why do people feign surprise? One must know that Soviet investigations are pursued until the complete clarification of the questions prior to the public trial. The accused confessed because it wasn’t possible not to confess. But during the pre-trial investigation certain of them denied everything for months. Muralov, for example, for eight months!

“People are astounded that veteran revolutionaries have fallen so low? In France, don’t we have renegades who've become fascists? (Long applause.)” [1]

Cachin regretted in passing that echoes of the bourgeois campaign against the trials could be heard in the Socialist Party. And the orator cited the opinion of the trial of the great English lawyer Kollard, a socialist, who witnessed it. He then emphasized:

“The defendants said their organization was 100 members strong! A hundred, when the people of the USSR count 180,000,000!”

The hall was struck by this detail.

Cachin showed that the danger of this organization was the possibility of fearsome sabotage at key points in case of war.

“In smashing this center of sabotage it’s war that our comrades beat back!” (Long applause.) And it’s international Trotskyism that was unmasked!”

There then followed a violent denunciation of the international activity of the Trotskyist sects. In Spain they are playing Hitler and Franco’s game. In France, driven from our ranks, the socialists doubtless repent having received them. We see the Trotskyists attack the government, the Popular Front, and above all, communism.

“At this time the leader in France of the Trotskyist sect is a certain Kibalchich, alias Le Rétif, alias Victor Serge, who is pursuing an ignoble campaign against communism, the Soviet Union and the workers’ united front. This Kibalchich was once condemned in France as an accomplice and fence for the Bonnot Gang, which had committed criminal acts, which had killed unfortunate workers, bank employees, and chauffeurs in order to rob them. This Kibalchich dares claim he was condemned on the basis of anti-radical laws. He’s thumbing his nose at the world.

“We, for our part, were imprisoned at La Santé Prison because we defended peace against Poincaré and imperialism. This was not the case for the Trotskyist Kibalchich.

“French workers must have no contact with M. Kibalchich who, with so weighty a past, has the impudence today to give Romain Rolland lessons in morality!

“No! The French working class will not follow an adventurer of this kind, who Trotsky has named the head of his sect here.”

The Parisian workers booed Victor Serge.

And Cachin concluded in a poignant fashion, evoking Piatakov’s final declarations before his expiation. Piatakov condemned Trotsky, who continues his criminal work while those he led were judged.

“Well them” Cachin exclaimed, “Now Trotsky declares that he is ‘seeking a tribunal’ in order to justify himself in the face of the accusations that crush him! Let him present himself before the sole competent tribunal; that of the Soviet people, who he continues to betray along with his accomplices throughout the universe!”

A long ovation was given Marcel Cachin.

Vaillant-Couturier, greeted by warm applause declared that during the week the trial lasted he lived touching moments with Marcel Cachin.

After having described the courtroom, he noted the composition of the tribunal, the judge and the two assessors and the prosecutor; across from them the accused, and this before journalists of all the countries of the world, before the workers of the Soviet Union.

Vaillant then made clear the duplicity of Radek and Piatakov who, in the aftermath of the trial of Zinoviev, attacked those who'd just been condemned and who were their own people!

“Radek said, ‘It’s not a matter of establishing fascism, but a Napoleonic regime.’ (Boos.)

“There are those who say that Stalin represents Thermidorian reaction and who dare compare Trotsky to Robespierre. The assassin Trotsky can’t be compared to the revolutionary Robespierre!” (Long applause!)

The orator then showed that those who were judged did nothing but apply Trotsky’s directives, who declared in 1934: “The governmental clique must be brought down by force.”

Valliant-Couturier listed the crimes of the Trotskyists: theft, sabotage, terrorism, sabotage.

And it was this recitation that caused indignation in the hall, the infamies revealed at the trial. Notably the reminder of the derailing that caused twenty-nine victims among the Red soldiers: sabotage that the Trotskyists caused innocent railroad workers to be blamed for! And the further reminder of the acts of sabotage that cost so many miners – even children – their lives.

And then Vaillant recounted various attacks prepared against leaders of the USSR, Molotov, for example.

He then came to the Trotskyists’ ties with Hitler: Radek admitted at the trial that their acts deserved but one name: treason.

The ties with Japan were established in abundant detail by Vaillant-Couturier, and the anger in the hall could be felt when the orator exposed how the Trotskyists, bound to the foreigners, prepared epidemics through the spread of bacteria.

“Their goal was to unleash war, to have the USSR lose it, and to seize power. In France you can see the Trotskyist provocations being repeated. Be alert! The Trotskyists are capable, when the time comes, of unleashing a putsch that will allow the fascist offensive of La Rocque [2] or Doriot!”

Long applause rose.

“To be sure, we know full well that all those who consider themselves Trotskyists are not despicable wretches. We ask of them that they see the danger they're placing the working class in by following certain wicked shepherds.”

Returning to the subject of the USSR, the orator showed that the Trotskyist effort was not able to hinder the astounding progress of the Soviet economy. The figures he quoted provoked admiring enthusiasm.

“Defeating Trotskyism, eliminating it means defending peace, means defending the security of France!” concluded Vaillant. ‘The revolution has the duty to defend itself!”

‘Trotsky today is the man who had his best friends killed after having had killed so many Red workers and soldiers: that’s what Trotsky is, and his past that people invoke only renders him crime more abject.”

Prolonged applause greeted Vaillant-Couturier’s peroration.

Grenier read a message from Dudley Kollard, an English socialist jurist, who apologized for not being able to attend. Grenier read certain opinions of that lawyer about the trial; “There can be no question of a fake trial,” said one of the texts emanating from the eminent jurist.

1. Reference to Jacques Doriot, a former rising star of French communism who had gone over to fascism, founding the Parti Populaire Français.

2. François de la Rocque, leader of the right-wing veterans group the Croix de Feu.