Erich Wollenberg’s

The Red Army


The Latest Developments In Russia

Chapter Eight

The last lines of the foregoing work were written in November 1937. Since that time the events of the last four months (and most especially the Bukharin-Rykov “trial”) have thrown considerable new light on the present state of the Red Army and the aims and objects of its executed leaders. I therefore owe a debt of gratitude to my English publisher, for although my book was just about to appear, he has kindly permitted me to include this addendum, which is based on the latest official Russian statements and certain private information. A portion of the latter has been supplied to me by officers belonging to the Tuchachevsky group.

I propose to deal first with the above-mentioned “trial.” The accusations, which evoked the same profuse display of false pathos from the public prosecutor and the defendants, implicated the Tuchachevsky-Gamarnik group in two main directions. With regard to home politics, they were said to have aimed at plotting to overthrow the Soviet régime and restore capitalism, while their foreign policy amounted to acts of high treason committed for the benefit of British, German, Japanese and Polish imperialism. Taking this last charge first, we find that the high treason committed by the leaders of the Red Army dates back to the year 1920, according to “evidence” obtained by the highest Soviet court. It is thus almost as old as the Soviet Republic and the Red Army.

The official protocol of the ‘trial’ contains the following statement by Krestinsky, who was the Soviet ambassador to Berlin for so many years:

“In 1921 Trotsky suggested to me that I should endeavour to obtain from Seeckt a regular financial subsidy to him (Trotsky) for the development of his illegal activities. Trotsky also told me that if Seeckt required him to earn the money by espionage work, I could and must agree. I therefore broached the question to Seeckt and mentioned a sum of 250,000 gold marks (i.e. 60,000 dollars) a year. Thereupon Seeckt discussed the matter with the Chief of the German General Staff and afterwards told me that he agreed in principle. He said that Trotsky’s share of the bargain would be to supply him with reliable confidential information of a military nature, which he could transmit either direct from Moscow or through me in Berlin.”

Trotsky did this. When Vishinsky asked Krestinsky how much money he obtained altogether in this fashion, he received the reply:

“From 1923 to 1930 we received yearly cash payments of 250,000 gold marks.”

“About 2,000,000 gold marks altogether then?” Vishinsky asked, and added the further question: “But was not your Trotskyist organization in touch with Seeckt even before 1921?”

KRESTINSKY: They were in touch with one another, but I would rather not say anything about that in open court.

VISHINSKY: Can you tell me who Kopp was?

KRESTINSKY: Kopp was an old Menshevist who was very intimate with Trotsky.

VISHINKSY: But did not Kopp get in touch with Seeckt as far back as 1920 and discuss with him this very point on which you decline to say anything except in a secret session?

KRESTINSKY: Yes, Seeckt approached Kopp.

VISHINSKY: From which I deduce the fact that these negotiations began before 1921 or 1922. He sought an approach to Seeckt in 1920 and found it via Kopp.

Monstrous and incredible though it may sound, this is one of the episodes in the “trial” which has a certain “approximation” to the truth.

It is perfectly true that Seeckt approached Trotsky in July 1920, through the intermediacy of Kopp, who was then Soviet ambassador in Berlin. It is equally true that Krestinsky continued these negotiations in 1921 and that an agreement was reached in 1922, by which the German Reichswehr transmitted the leaders of the Red Army via Krestinsky yearly payments amounting to the aforesaid 250,000 gold marks. It is furthermore true that Trotsky, alias the Peoples’ Commissariat for War, facilitated visits to Russia for “agents of the German Reichswehr” or—to put it more accurately—active officers of the German Reichswehr and retired officers of the old German army (”Black Reichswehr”). These German officers carried on conspiratorial activities on Soviet territory continually from 1923 to 1930. These are the facts, but their significance is precisely the opposite of that alleged in the “trial.”

What, then, is the whole truth?

When the Red Army advanced on Warsaw in July 1920 under Tuchachevsky’s leadership and “the imperialist system built upon the Treaty of Versailles began to creak in every joint,” as Lenin remarked on October 15, 1920, Seeckt approached the Soviet Government through Kopp and made suggestions for co-operation between the German Reichswehr and the Red Army “against Versailles.” According to Lenin, “that was the time when everyone in Germany, including the blackest reactionaries and monarchists, declared that the Bolshevists would be their salvation.” Lenin also gives the following description of the mood prevailing in Germany during the Russian advance on Warsaw:

“A curious type of reactionary-revolutionary has come into existence in Germany. We find an example of him in the raw lad from East Prussia who said that Wilhelm must be brought back because there was no law and order in Germany, but that the Germans must march with the Bolshevists.” (Lenin’s speech on 22 September, 1920)

It was only the sudden turn of the tide of war and the collapse of the Russian offensive when within sight of Warsaw which prevented the negotiations between Seeckt and the Soviet Government from reaching a definite agreement in 1920. In the following year Krestinsky resumed conversations with Seeckt at the instance of his government, i.e., Lenin and Trotsky, but the preliminary conditions required for a secret military agreement between the Red Army and the Reichswehr did not come into existence until Germany and the Soviet Union concluded the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922.

This secret agreement led to the establishment of a flying-school for German officers at Ljuberzi, a village twenty-one kilometres distant from Moscow. Furthermore, German officers of all ranks underwent courses in tank work, heavy artillery work and in the co-operation of these with other arms, since the Treaty of Versailles forbade the German Army the use of tanks, heavy artillery or military aircraft. The administrative department of the Red Army supplied the instructors and received the yearly sum of 250,000 gold marks from the heads of the Reichswehr, while the supply of aircraft and other materials was regulated by another special agreement.

When Hitler came to power, Tuchachevsky and Gamarnik demanded the immediate suspension of military relations with the German Reichswehr. Stalin did not agree with them, because he was still minded to base his foreign policy on a Berlin-Moscow axis. All the old Soviet diplomats (and more especially Krestinsky, Karachan and Sokolnikov) wanted to break off diplomatic relations with Germany after the Reichstag Fire and the subsequent accusations made by Hitler and Goering against the Soviet Union, but despite their protests the Peoples’ Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, which was then ruled by Litvinov, carried on the former anti-Versailles policy for almost another two years; meanwhile the Versailles system collapsed, although it was not the blows of the Proletarian Revolution and the Red Army which caused its downfall, but the fury of the Fascist offensive.

The secret agreement between the Reichswehr and the Red Army was not cancelled until Hitler abolished it in 1935. By that time it had accomplished its purpose of providing Germany with the specialists she required to train an air force, a tank corps and heavy artillerymen.

The German flying-school at Ljuberzi was likewise not liquidated until 1935. In the summer of 1933 an excited Russian flying officer told me the following characteristic episode.

Shortly after the Reichstag Fire he said to some Reich swehr officers in Ljuberzi: “We Russians are a set of idiots! We have trained Hitler’s officers for him, and he will show his gratitude in the form of bombs dropped over Moscow!”

“No, not over Moscow,” replied the military airmen of the Reich. “Over Paris! Yes, over Paris!”

In the “trial” the charge of persistent high treason was brought against Trotsky and the group led by Tuchachevsky and Gamarnik. As this was based on the history of the Treaty of Rapallo and its secret military agreement, I have found it necessary to deal with this episode in detail. All the other accusations of intrigues with foreign powers which were made against the executed Red Generals (i.e., their negotiations with Trotsky and the Reichswehr between 1934 and 1937) emanate from the brains of Stalin and Yeshov, so that it is not worth while wasting words on them.’

Like the other genuine leaders of the Communist opposition and the sham ones whom Stalin man cuvred into power for his own purposes, the Red Generals were also accused of intrigues and conspiracies at home. Here again we find a similar basis of truth in the charges.

According to the official documents pertaining to the “trial,” it would appear that “the military group led by Tuchachevsky and Gamarnik were inveigled into the conspiracy by Piatakov on Trotsky’s behalf at the end of 1931” Krestinsky was alleged to have made contact with the leaders of the Red Army in 1934, but it was also stated that Tuchachevsky got in touch with Rykov, Bucharin, Tomsky and their followers as far back as 1930, when he also negotiated with Rudsutak, who had held the post of deputy-chairman of the Council of Peoples’ Commissars for a number of years. The homepolitical programme of all these various opposition groups was said to comprise the restoration of capitalism, the reinstatement of the landed proprietors and even the partition of the Soviet Union.

The official documents cite a number of variations in, it is not within the scope of the present work to discuss the complicated system of cross-examination which elicited statements from the accused. This will form the subject of a later work. the plans formulated by these conspirators for the overthrow of the Soviet Government. Their initial activities tended towards the promotion of mass revolts, in which they attained some partial success in the years 1931-4, when rebellions broke out in the Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus and Western Siberia. But these isolated risings led to no decisive victory.

In 1934 they were said to have evolved a plan to arrest all the delegates to the Party Day. The execution of this plan was entrusted to “the groups led by Tuchachevsky and Yagoda,” but, according to Rykov’s evidence, the conspirators were daunted by “the resolute attitude of the Party, the popularity of the Government and the absence of even the slightest signs of discontent in the country.” This statement sounds somewhat strange, because Rykov’s position as one of the leaders of the conspiracy should have enabled him to know that two-thirds of the Government of the U.S.S.R. were in the plot, along with five-sixths of the government of White Russia and the Ukraine, and nine-tenths of the government of Turkestan, since these percentages of the members of the above Governments were arrested, and many of them were subsequently shot.

Be that as it may, the delegates to the Party Day were not arrested, and consequently the conspirators decided to exploit a war situation, i.e., in the event of hostilities they decided to “open the front” to the troops of the German and Japanese Fascists with whom they had allied themselves. But despite all the promises made to them by Trotsky, the German Reichswehr and the Japanese General Staff, the war did not materialize, whereupon they turned their thoughts towards a “palace revolution.” Tuchachevsky was “to assemble a number of conspiring generals in his quarters; then they were to force their way into the Kremlin on some excuse or other, occupy its telephone exchange and murder the members of the Government and Party leaders.” All this is vouched for in the confession made by Rosenholtz; moreover, we learn that “Gamarnik proposed to occupy the building of the People’s Commissariat for Home Affairs (i.e., the G.P.U.) during the military coup d’etat. It was his intention to carry out this plan with the assistance of some body of troops which he would lead in person, for he assumed that his statusas an old Party leader and politician would give him sufficient authority over the men.”

These, then, are the charges contained in the official documents. Let us see how far they correspond to the actual truth.

According to reliable sources of information, there was actually a plan for a “palace revolution” and the overthrow of Stalin’s dictatorship by forcible means. It is also true that the Red Army was allotted a decisive role in the execution of this plan, which was to be carried out under the leadership of Tuchachevsky and Garnarnik. The Moscow Proletarian Rifle Division, led by General Petrovsky, a son of the President of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, was to occupy the Kremlin and break the resistance of the G.P.U. troops, which were commanded by Yagoda until the autumn of 1936, when Yeshov took his place. The conspirators reckoned on the support of the workers and the benevolent neutrality of the peasants; in the event of stiffening resistance from the motorized and excellently armed G.P.U. Army, Ukrainian troops commanded by General Dubovoi were to be rushed into Moscow.

The date of this “palace revolution” was repeatedly postponed on account of the misgivings of the conspirators, who feared that the temporary internal disorder caused by the overthrow of Stalin’s dictatorship might be exploited by imperialism in general and the Germans and Japanese in particular. When Piatakov and his comrades were brought to trial in January, 1937, Radek gave hints of Tuchachevsky’s associations with the Communist Opposition group. Thereupon the date of the rising was finally fixed for the middle of May, but Stalin and Yeshov thus gained time to take countermeasures. Tuchachevsky, Gamarnik and several hundred officers of high rank were arrested in the early weeks of May, and some of them, including Petrovsky and Dubovoi, were promptly shot.

Then if there was really a plan for a rebellion, was not Stalin justified in putting the conspirators on trial for high treason and shooting them? From the standpoint of the maintenance of his dictatorship as well as from the standpoint of the privileged class in whose name he exercised his dictatorship, the answer must be in the affirmative. But a true Socialist cannot appraise political struggles for power from the standpoint of formal legal rights. For him the only question can be: was this rising to be carried out in the interest of the progress of humanity, i.e., in the interest of Socialism, or against it?

His main consideration must therefore be the aims and objects put forward by the opposition group within the Communist Party and their representatives in the Red Army under Tuchachevsky’s leadership; the methods by which they proposed to accomplish those aims and objects can only occupy a secondary place. But one point is clear: when a totalitarian government annihilates with fire and sword any manifestation of opposition in any form, there is no possibility of carrying out a political programme by democratic means.

Even the methods by which the trial was conducted could not prevent the true aims of the Communist Opposition trickling through in occasional drops. When, for instance, Vishinsky enquired what Bukharin imagined to be the future development of the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership, the author of the Communist International’s programme replied: “We prognosticated a trend towards capitalism.” When warned by Vishinsky, he added in the tones of a schoolboy who has learnt his lesson: “We were mistaken, for it was leading to a complete victory for Socialism.”

The axis around which all political problems of the Communist Opposition revolved was the restoration of the Soviet democracy which they deemed the most important basis and only guarantee for a remodelling of society in a socialistic sense. By Soviet democracy they implied the rebuilding of the Party and the Trade Unions as instruments and forms of expression of a working-class democracy. “All power to the Soviets!” was their slogan. Soviet democracy must therefore imply also a return to Lenin’s national policy of political self-government for the various Socialist Soviet Republics comprising the Soviet Union, while the realization of Soviet democracy would inevitably involve the abolition of the political and economic privileges given to the ruling class under Stalin’s régime. As, however, the latter had no intention of relinquishing these privileges voluntarily, there remained no other ways and means to induce them to do so except by those of a forcible nature.

The programme by which the Communist Opposition planned to accomplish the restoration of Soviet democracy was roughly the following.

I. In the Sphere of Industry. To force the development of the ready-made goods industry in order to satisfy the needs of the urban and rural masses and thus stimulate agricultural production by natural means instead of administrative compulsory measures. The heavy industries which have been built up at the cost of excessive sacrifices are now able, on the whole, to meet the demands of national economy, even from the stand point of national defence. Steel is not the only material needed for the prosecution of a war; butter, boots and clothing are also required. The Communist Opposition therefore proposed to put a brake on the investment of capital in new heavy industry undertakings and to put an immediate end to gigantic luxury buildings, such as the Moscow “Palace of the Soviets,” for the erection of which a sum has been earmarked that is twice the amount devoted to the establishment of the Magnetogorsk Combine (mining and heavy industry), which gives employment and housing to 200,000 workers.

To relax the foreign trade monopoly for products of the ready-made goods industry which cannot be manufactured in sufficient quantities within the U.S.S.R. Such a relaxation took place in 1931-4, although it was not the masses who benefited by it but only the privileged owners of gold, foreign currency or special coupons, who were able to purchase foreign foodstuffs, textile goods, motor-cars, etc., in the State’s Torgsin shops (shops for foreign goods). But this time the relaxation was not to benefit the privileged classes but rather serve the needs of the masses.

II. In the Sphere of Agriculture. Application of the principle of genuine liberty for the peasants to belong to collective farms or cultivate their own land as one-man farms. Peasants belonging to collective farms would be then permitted to choose what form of collectivity they preferred to adopt, i.e., any form between the corn paratively mild kind known as the ‘Artel,’ in which only some means of production (such as tractors) are collectivized, and the agricultural community.

III. In the Sphere of Foreign Policy. “Activization of Foreign Policy” was a slogan which enjoyed great popularity in the ranks of the Red Army and among the broad masses of the Soviet youth, as is apparent from the well-known letter addressed to Stalin by “the Propagandist of the Ivanov Communist Youth Association.” But the reader will ask what exactly did the Communist Opposition mean by “Activization of Foreign Policy.”

When Hitler came into power a wave of intense bitterness and shame swept through the ranks of the Red Army, who were indignant at the idea that economic deterioration rendered the Soviet Union impotent to carry out “an active foreign policy” in reply to the impudent Fascist provocation it was receiving. Red officers were “in despair” at the meek spirit in which the Soviet Government swallowed all the provocations of Japanese imperialism and thus sacrificed the Chinese Revolution. The phrase “opening the front” was coined to express the passivity of the Soviet foreign policy towards Japanese aggression, i.e., Stalin was considered to have “opened the front” of the Chinese Revolution to Japanese imperialism. In the “trial” this phrase assumed quite a different significance, for it was interpreted in the sense that Tuchachevsky intended to open the front line of the Red Army to the forces of German and Japanese imperialism in the event of war.

The Spanish Civil War gave a vigorous impulse to the desire for “activization of foreign policy.” At the time of its outbreak a storm of indignation swept through the whole country; although Stalin delayed action for three months, it eventually forced him to “open a valve” and assist the Spanish Government with certain supplies of arms in return for political concessions (war on Trotskyism).

The activization of the Soviet foreign policy in dealing with Japanese imperialism and German and Italian Fascism (Abyssinia and Spain) and promoting the Socialist World Revolution, was and still is the foreign political programme of the Tuchachevsky-Gamarnik group within the Red Army.