Written: 30 December 1934.
Published: The New Militant, Vol. I No. 6, 19 January 1934, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
The following article by Leon Trotsky, dealing with the Kirov assassination and the infamous attempts of the Stalin regime to connect Trotsky with this assassination is of the utmost significance and should be carefully read and studied by all revolutionary workers. It throws the searchlight on the system responsible for the assassination of Kirov and the subsequent) executions. The remark made concerning the French Stalinists and l’Humanité can be applied with equal force to their American counterparts and the Daily Worker. – Ed.
After the inevitable day’s delay, I received a Paris newspaper of December 28, containing extracts from the indictment, with a commentary by one Duclos. As both the extracts and the commentary originate from the G.P.U. there is no need to enter into a discussion with hired lackeys. It will suffice for us to disclose the plans of their masters.
Just as one could have expected, the indictment doesn’t mention the Zinoviev-Kamenev group by so much as a word. In other words: the initial amalgam fell apart into dust.
However, concurrently it has fulfilled its task by psychologically preparing for another amalgam: in the indictment there emerges suddenly – suddenly, for naive people – the name of Trotsky. Nikolaiev, he murderer of Kirov, was – according to his confession – in contact with a consul of a foreign power. During one of Nikolaiev’s visits to the consulate, the consul gave him 5,000 roubles for expenses. Nlkolaiev adds, “He told me that he can establish contact with Trotsky, if I give him a letter to Trotsky from the group.” And that is all. Period!
The indictment does not subsequently return to this episode. It must also be remarked that Nikolaiev made his first avowal concerning the foreign consul and his offer to transmit a letter to Trotsky only on the 20th day after his arrest. Manifestly, the examining magistrate was compelled to assist the terrorist’s memory in the course of twenty days in order to extract from him such precious evidence!
But let us skip that. Let us allow that the evidence is authentic. Let us moreover allow that the consul in question does actually exist in the flesh. Let us allow that he established contact with a terrorist group (there have been such instances in history). But how and why does my name suddenly appear here?
Is it, perhaps, because the terrorist group was seeking contact with Trotsky? No, even the G.P.U. does not dare to assert this. Perhaps Trotsky was seeking contact with the terrorist group? No, the indictment does not dare say this either. The consul himself was the one to assume the initiative and while giving Nikolaiev 5,000 roubles on the eve of the terrorist act which was being prepared, he requested a letter addressed to Trotsky. This is the sole deposition – a truly astounding piece of evidence made by Nikolaiev.
The personality of the “consul” at once stands revealed in glaring light. The “consul” is wide-awake! The “consul” is at his post! The “consul” requires a tiny document, a letter from the terrorists financed by him to – Trotsky. Did the consul obtain this letter? One should imagine that this question would be of paramount importance.
But it is precisely on this score that we cannot gather a single word from the indictment as it is printed in 1’Humanité. Is it conceivable that neither the examining magistrate nor the prosecutor became at all interested in this fact? For not the exploits of a consul unknown to anybody are of interest but the question of the relations between the terrorists and Trotsky.
Were there such relations or no? Was the letter written and transmitted? Was a reply received? To these unavoidable questions we get no answer. Is that surprising? Only to naive people. The G.P.U. could not permit the prosecutor any indiscretion within that sphere over which it has been compelled to draw the curtain of silence.
One need not doubt for a moment that the letter was never written because if the terrorists knew anything at all about Trotsky – and they couldn’t but know – my irreconcilable attitude towards the adventurism of individual terror which runs like a red thread through my 37 years of revolutionary and literary activity could have been no secret to them (see several dozen articles in my Collected Works, published by the State Publishing House).
However, an admission that the terrorists could not see the slightest reason for seeking contact with Trotsky, and for this reason did not respond to the kind offer of the “consul” would be tantamount to the immediate bungling of the entire amalgam. Best keep quiet about it!
Let us, nevertheless, make momentarily an entirely improbable suggestion; the eloquent provocateur did actually succeed in obtaining the letter which so interested him. But what happened to it? Of course the temptation would have been great to transmit such a letter to Trotsky and ... to receive from him some sort of an encouraging answer for the Leningrad “supporters”, even if without any reference to terror.
But his inspirers, if not the consul himself, understood only too well the risk of such an enterprise: the previous attempts at provocation, which it is true, were on a smaller scale ended in inevitable fiasco. The letter – if it had been written, we repeat, contrary to all likelihood – would have to simply remain in the archives of the G.P.U. as a weapon unsuitable for its purposes. But. this cannot be said aloud without confessing by this very fact that the consul is a second cousin to the Wrangel officer (see below).
Is it possible, however, to conceive of a consul in a role of an agent provocateur? We have no means at all of knowing whether a real or a fake consul is here concerned: the resources for fraud in the given instance are illimitable. But even genuine consuls bear very little resemblance to saints. Some of them engage in smuggling, with illicit deals in currency and fall into the hands of the police (not only of the G.P.U., of course).
Such a compromised consul may be offered not only forgiveness for his sins but also some entirely legal coin in addition, should he be so obliging as to perform a few trifling and innocent services. There were, there are, and there will be such cases ... as long as there exist consuls, customs, currencies, intermediaries male and female, and police.
The version we have adduced which unfailingly flows from the indictment itself, if one is able to read it, presupposes consequently that the G.P.U. itself through the medium of an actual or fake consul, was financing Nikolaiev and was attempting to link him up with Trotsky.
This version finds its indirect but very actual confirmation in the fact that all the responsible representatives of the G.P.U. in Leningrad were kicked out immediately after the assassination, and the investigation subsequently kept marking time for a protracted period, faced with the obvious difficulty of what variant to choose in order to explain what had happened.
We do not mean to say that the G.P.U. in the person of its Leningrad agents, premeditated the murder of Kirov, we have no facts for such a supposition. But the agents of the G.P.U. knew about the terrorist act which was in preparation; they kept Nikolaiev under surveillance, they established contacts with him through the medium of trumped-up consuls for the double purpose of capturing as many persons as possible involved in the matter, and at the same time of attempting to compromise the political opponents of Stalin by means of a complex amalgam.
Alas! an amalgam much too complex, as the subsequent course of events proved: before the “consul” had succeeded in preparing the political blast against Trotsky, Nikolaiev pulled the trigger at Kirov. After this, the organizers of the surveillance and the provocation were thrown headlong from their posts. And in writing the indictment, it became necessary to painstakingly steer around the sandbars and the submarine reefs, to leave the “consul” in the shade, to wipe away all traces of the activities of the G.P.U. and at the same time to save as much as possible of the shattered amalgam. The mysterious delay in the investigation thus finds an entirely natural explanation.
But, why was the consul necessary? There was no getting along without the consul. The consul symbolizes the link between the terrorists and Trotsky with world imperialism (although the consul represented, one should imagine, some very petty and backward state: that is the least dangerous way).
The consul is serviceable in another connection: because of “consideration of diplomacy” he cannot be named in the indictment nor consequently called as a witness. Thus the mainspring of the combination remains behind the scenes.
Finally, the consul himself – if he really exists in the flesh – runs no special risk: even if recalled by his government. Out of considerations of diplomatic politeness, he returns home as a distinguished hero who suffered in the service of his passionately loved fatherland; moreover, a certain supplementary sum to his modest salary would be found in his pocket for a rainy day, and there is no harm in that either.
The character of the machination is easiest understood if one is in the least bit acquainted with the preceding history of the behind-the-scenes struggle of Stalin against “Trotskyism”. I shall mention only three instances.
As early as 1926, the hired journalists broadcast through the entire world the report that, the Left Opposition had been implicated in relations with ... White Guards. We were bewildered. It turned out that the G.P.U. had sent one of its official agents to an 18 year old youth unknown to anybody, and sympathetic to the Opposition, with an offer to assist in spreading Opposition literature. Some six to seven years previously the G.P.U. agent it appears served in the army of Wrangel (which, incidentally, was never verified). On this basis, Stalin publicly accused the Opposition of making a bloc with ... not an agent of the G.P.U. but White Guards.
On the eve of my exile to Central Asia (Jan. 1928) a foreign journalist made me an offer through Radek, to transmit secretly, if need be, a letter to my friends abroad. I expressed to Radek my conviction that the journalist was an agent of the G.P.U. However, I wrote the letter because I had nothing to say to my friends abroad that I could not repeat openly. The very next morning my letter was published in the Pravda as proof of my secret connections “with foreign countries”.
On July 20, 1931 the yellow sheet Kurjer Codzicnny, of Cracow, published a gross forgery under the signature of Trotsky. Despite the fact that my literary works are banned on the pain of severest penalty in the U.S.S.R. (Blumkin was shot for attempting to bring in the Bulletin of the Russian Opposition), the article from the Kurjer was reprinted in the Moscow Pravda – in fascimile. The most elementary analyses proves that it was manufactured by the G.P.U., with the assistance of the well-known Yaraslavsky and printed in the Kurjer (one should imagine at the regular advertising rates) only in order to be reproduced in the Pravda.
I am compelled to leave aside a number of other combinations and amalgams which are more clarifying in order not to cause harm, by premature revelations, to other people involved. In any case, the type of this sort of creative effort is clear from what has been said above. The triangle composed of Nikolaiev, the “consul” and Trotsky is not new. It resembles a dozen other similar triangles and differs from them only by being on a much bigger scale.
It is necessary, however, to point out that the Soviet press, as is evident from the cable extracts in the very same l’Humanité makes very circumspect use of the latest amalgam in relation to Trotsky and does not go beyond inferences concerning “the ideological inspirers”. In return, however, l’Humanité speaks about my participation in the murder of Kirov with almost the same assurance with which the Matin recently wrote concerning my participation in the murder of King Alexander and Barthou.
The difference in the conclusions drawn by l’Humanité and the Pravda is to be explained not only by the fact, that the idiocy of the Nikolaiev-“consul”-Trotsky amalgam is much more obvious in Moscow than in Paris – but also because by its very essence this part of the amalgam is destined for foreign consumption, primarily for France. Its direct aim is to exert an influence of the necessary kind on the French workers through the medium of the united front, and to exert pressure upon the French authorities. Hence, the unbelievable tone of l’Humanité!
The Soviet authorities were compelled to openly admit that the participation of Zinoviev, Kamenev and others “was not proved”: The governmental dispatches generally made no mention of me at all. The indictment refers only to the anxiety of the “consul” to obtain a letter to Trotsky – without making any conclusions. The lackeys of l’Humanité write that Trotsky’s participation in the murder of Kirov was “proved”.
This article as I have already said is addressed not to the lackeys but their masters. However, I cannot leave unmentioned here the fact that one of my first sharp conflicts with the “troika’’ (Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev) came as a result of my protest against their busy efforts during the time of Lenin’s illness, to corrupt the more pliant “leaders” of the labor movement in the West, particularly by means of bribes. Stalin and Zinoviev replied in rebuttal, “Doesn’t the bourgeoisie buy the leaders of trade unions, members of parliament, and journalists, – then why shouldn’t we do likewise?”
My answer was that by means of bribes one could disintegrate the workers’ movement, but that one could not create revolutionary leaders. Lenin used to warn against selecting to the Comintern “obedient fools”. There has been added to this the selection of cynics who are ready for anything.
Ready for anything? Up to the first serious danger. People who have neither honor nor conscience cannot be trustworthy revolutionists. In the moment of difficulty they will inevitably betray the proletariat. My only counsel to workers is that they remember well the names of these shameless vilifiers, in order that they may verify this forecast.
December 30, 1934
Last updated on: 14 November 2014