Leon Trotsky

Trotsky Reviews Elements of New Trial;
Cites Efforts to Gag Him

(February/March 1938)

Written: 28 February & 1 March 1938.
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 11, 12 March 1938, pp. 3 & 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: 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 are the first of the daily statements issued to the press by Leon Trotsky in Coyoacan in connection with the new Moscow trial.

During February of last year at the time of the second Moscow trial (Piatakov-Radek) which was supposed to correct the bad impression of the first trial (Zinoviev-Kamenev), I stated in the press: “Stalin resembles a man who tries to satisfy his thirst with salt water. He will be forced to stage further judicial frame-ups one after the other.”

The third Moscow trial has been prepared during a more protracted period and, one must think, more elaborately than the previous ones. The international preparation has been going on during the past few weeks before the eyes of the whole world. The notorious article of Stalin (Feb. 14) about international revolution, striking many with its suddenness, has as its objective the creation of a more favorable atmosphere within the ranks of the working class for the future trial. Stalin wished to tell the workers that if he is shooting the whole revolutionary generation, it is exclusively in the interests of the international revolution. His article does not have any other purpose.

Sedoff’s Death Second Step

The death of my son, Leon Sedoff, which continues to remain wrapped in mystery should, until proved to the contrary, be considered as the second act of preparation for the trial: it was necessary at no matter what cost to force into silence an informed and courageous accuser.

The third act in the preparation was the attempt of Mr. Lombardo Toledano, Laborde, and other Mexican agents of Stalin to force me into silence on the eve of the third trial just as the Norwegian government forced me into silence after the first trial (August, 1936). Such are the main ingredients of the preparation!

The accusation against the 21 defendants is once again published only four days before the trial in order to take public opinion unawares and to hinder the timely delivery of refutations from abroad.

More Important Than Last One

The present trial far surpasses the trial of Radek-Piatakov in the importance of the accused and approaches the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial. In the list of the accused there are no fewer than seven former members of the Central Committee of the party, including Krestinsky, Bukharin, Rykov, former member of the Political Bureau, i.e., the institution which actually constitutes the highest power of the Soviet government.

After the death of Lenin, Rykov was the official head of the government for more than five years. From 1918 Bukharin was the editor of the central organ of the party, Pravda, and from 1926 the official head of the Communist International. Later, after his fall, into disfavor, he became the editor of Izvestia. Rakovsky was the head of the Ukrainian government and later ambassador to London and Paris. Krestinsky, the predecessor of Stalin as secretary of the Central Committee of the party, was afterward ambassador to Berlin for several years. For almost all of the last ten years Yagoda stood at the head of the G.P.U. as Stalin’s most trusted henchman and cooked up the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial in its entirety. In the list of the accused there are no fewer than six former members of the Central government.

Stalin Alone Unaccused

Of the nine people who were members of the Political Bureau during Lenin’s lifetime, i.e., actual rulers of the fate of the U.S.S.R. there remains only one unaccused, Stalin. All the others have been declared agents of foreign states, and in addition the accusations revert back to 1928 and even to 1918. The Russian White emigrés have more than once accused Lenin, myself, and all the other Bolshevik leaders of having achieved the October Revolution at the orders of the German General Staff. At the present time Stalin is trying fully to confirm this accusation.

According to their political tendencies, those of the accused who are known to me, fall into three groups: (a) Bukharin and Rykov, former leaders of the Right Opposition; the third leader of this group, Tomsky, former president of the Soviet Trade Unions, was last year harassed to suicide. From 1923 the Right Opposition found itself in irreconcilable struggle against the Left Opposition, the so-called Trotskyists. Rykov, Bukharin and Tomsky, shoulder to shoulder with Stalin, carried on the whole campaign of destroying the Left Opposition. (b) The second group is composed of those accused who during a certain time actually belonged to the Left Opposition. Such were Krestinsky, Rosengoltz, who, however, had already gone over to Stalin by 1927, and Rakovsky who returned to the government camp four years ago. (c) The third group insofar as I know it consists either of active Stalinists or non-political specialists.

The Case of Pletnyev

The name of Professor Pletnyev sheds a singular light upon the whole trial. Last year he was arrested on a charge of sexual delinquency. The whole Soviet press wrote about this openly. Now Pletnyev has been thrown into a trial of ... the political opposition. One of the following hypotheses may account for this: either the accusations of sexual delinquency were advanced against him only in order to extort the necessary “confessions” from him; or Pletnyev is actually guilty of sadism but hopes to earn mercy through “confessions” directed against the Opposition. We shall, perhaps, have the opportunity to verify this hypothesis during the trial.

How could Stalin come to this provocation against world public opinion? The answer to this natural question is composed of four elements: (1) Stalin is contemptuous of public opinion. (2) He does not read the foreign press. (3) The agents of the Comintern in all countries report to him only his “victories” over public opinion. (4) Informed people do not dare to reveal the truth to Stalin. Thus he has unconsciously become a victim of his own politics. He is forced to drink salt water in order to quench his thirst.

February 28, 1938

Eight Ministers

Yesterday I stated that there were no fewer than seven former members of the central Soviet government sitting on the defendants’ bench. Today after more precise study of the names I see that among the accused, not counting the author of these lines, there are eight former Soviet ministers including the former head of the government, Rykov. Bukharin, devoid of administrative capacity, never became a staff member of the government, but as a member of the Political Bureau and as the head of the Communist International from the time of Zinoviev’s fall into disfavor (1926), he occupied a position considerably higher than that of a minister. All these people, it seems, strived for nothing except the humiliation and the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R.!

Kirov Once More

Apart from the other crimes, about which we will speak in the future, the new defendants are also accused of the murder, of Kirov. I recall that Kirov, a Leningrad agent of Stalin, was killed on December 1, 1934, by Nikolaev, a young Communist unknown to anyone, apparently on personal grounds, and in any case, as was evident even from the Soviet accounts, with the direct participation of G.P.U. agents. Immediately after the murder of Kirov, 104 “White Guards”, who had supposedly come from abroad in order to commit terrorist acts, were shot without trial.

Although the names of the 104 were not published, it is known that among them were Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Polish Oppositionist members of the Communist International. Later the Leningrad “centre” of the Zinoviev group was accused of the murder of Kirov and 13 men were shot. After this, the “Zinoviev-Trotskyist Centre” was accused of the same crime and sixteen people were shot, not counting those shot during the G.P.U. investigation. In January of last year the “Parallel Trotskyist Centre” (Radek, Piatakoy and others) was accused of the murder of Kirov, and 13 of the accused were shot. Finally, we now learn that the Right Opposition (Rykov, Bukharin) was likewise occupied with plotting the murder of this same Kirov. Thus all the leaders of the Bolshevik Party, people of great political and revolutionary experience, with names known to the whole world, during a number of years constructed “main”, “united” and “parallel” terroristic centres and each of these centres plotted the murder of one and the same secondary Stalinist agent, Kirov, whose name became known only thanks to the trials.

According to the new charges, the terrorist plans of Bukharin and Trotsky began in 1918. In 1921 Trotsky was already secretly plotting with a foreign power (Germany?). The most important of the new defendants were members of the Central Committee of the Party and government and daily met the “victims” marked by them. Moreover, Trotsky held in his hands the unlimited means provided by a military apparatus. And the result? The victim of this infernal conspiratorial activity beginning with 1918 proves to be no more than the same Kirov who was killed in turn by the White Guards, Leningrad Zinovievists, the United Centre, the Trotskyists, and finally the Bukharinists.

Having cut themselves loose from every responsibility, the totalitarian leaders have cut themselves loose from the elementary laws of common sense. The Moscow trials strike one as grandiose nonsense, as the delirium of a lunatic armed with enormous power. It would be no exaggeration to say that this part of the accusation is saturated with the spirit of totalitarian idiocy. We will show in the future that the accusation is no more meritorious in all its other parts.

March 1, 1938

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Last updated on: 11 September 2015