The Crimes of Stalin

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written 27 July 1937


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First Published: Militant, Vol. V No. 46, 15 November 1941, p. 6.
Collection(s): The Militant

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Introductory note from Militant[edit source]

Latest Lies About the Moscow Trials Serve Stalin’s New Diplomatic Needs


For the first time since the infamous Moscow frame-up trials of 1937–38, Stalin is receiving the voluntary co-operation of the bourgeoisie in whitewashing and justifying the trials and the purges that followed them. Up to now, he has had to depend only on the hirelings of the G.P.U., and on such people as the Pritts, Durantys and Feuchtwangers. Now he is receiving the support of gentlemen like Joseph E. Davies, former United States ambassador to the USSR, Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt’s personal representative, and Ralph Ingersoll, editor of the newspaper PM. Undoubtedly, they will be joined by others.

The primary objective of the latest apologists for Stalinism is the whitewashing of their new ally, Stalin. They are trying to absolve him before public opinion of his guilt in the most infamous frame-ups in history. Thus they serve the present diplomatic needs of the White House.

But their statements that the Moscow trials were justified and helped to strengthen the Soviet regime are doubly welcome to the Kremlin. Not only do they raise Stalin’s authority in the bourgeois democratic nations, but they also serve in the Soviet Union itself to cover up his criminal responsibility for the defeats suffered by the Red Army in the present war.

It is now no secret that one of the chief reasons the Red Army has suffered such setbacks is the lack of competent staff leadership capable of providing a unified strategic plan for the conduct of the war. Nor is there anyone in the USSR who is unaware that the reasons the Red Army lacks that leadership is because Stalin in the purges following the trials removed, imprisoned and executed the trained and qualified leadership of the armed forces. These sudden “revelations” – by Davies, after four years of silence, and by Hopkins and Ingersoll after a trip of a few days in the Soviet Union – are of great use to the Stalinist bureaucracy in justifying their criminal course.

Stalin is also served by these apologists in discrediting the revolutionary opposition to his disastrous policies at a time when that opposition, the Trotskyists, is the only force that correctly appraises Stalinism and its responsibility for the defeats and presents the only program for Soviet victory.

It is no accident that Davies concludes his “revelation” in the November issue of The American magazine with the words:

“There are no saboteurs, secret agents, or Fifth Columnists to co-operate with the invaders, because the Russians were sufficiently farsighted to eliminate them before it was too late.

“That is a fact which other liberty-loving nations might well ponder.”

Davies figures that if frame-up trials of this kind can be used against pie opponents of the regime in the Kremlin, there is no reason for not trying a bit of the same against the revolutionists in the United States. Evidently he was too busy remembering the things he never said before about the Moscow Trials to notice that Roosevelt has already begun his own frame-up against the Trotskyists in the Minneapolis “seditious conspiracy” trial.

Davies and the others now accept the Stalinist verdict and the Stalinist evidence in the trials as completely just and authentic. They do not mention and least of all do they try to explain the mass of contradictory and ridiculous evidence. They have nothing to say about the fact that the charges against the Trotskyists have changed with each change in the Stalinist diplomatic line, that before the trials Trotsky was accused of being an agent of Britain and France, then at the trials of being an agent of Germany and Japan. After the trials, when the Stalin-Hitler pact was signed, the slander changed again with the needs of Stalinist diplomacy and the Trotskyists were again, accused of being agents of Britain and the U.S. Now when Germany has attacked the Soviet Union, the slanders of the Moscow Trials are again resurrected, and the slanders of the Stalin-Hitler pact period again put on the shelf.

Nor do they try to answer the findings of the authoritative Dewey Commission, which after carefully sifting the evidence, hearing the defense of Trotsky and offering the Stalinists the chance to present their case (an offer which went unaccepted), found the trials to be a frame-up and Trotsky not guilty.

The article by Leon Trotsky on this page, never before published in English, was part of his introduction to his book, The Crimes of Stalin, printed in France, and containing some of the material which was used in his summary speech to the Dewey Commission in 1938. We reprint it here because it explains how Stalin’s slanders shift to correspond with the current diplomacy of the Kremlin. It is a devastating and irrefutable summation of the fantastic charges against the leaders of the Russian Revolution and the builders of the Red Army.

Introduction[edit source]

Up to the end of 1933, the Moscow press, and, in consequence, its shadow, the press of the Communist International, have depicted me a British and American agent, even labelling me “Mr. Trotsky”. On March 8, 1929, Pravda devoted an entire page to prove that I was an ally of British imperialism (at that time Moscow was not yet designating it as “British democracy”); and established, over and above this, my complete solidarity with Winston Churchill. The article concluded with these words: “It is clear why the bourgeoisie is paying him tens of thousands of dollars.” It was then a question of dollars and not marks.

On July 2, 1931 this same Pravda, using crudely forged facsimiles, – which it hastily forgot on the very next day – proclaimed me to be an ally of Pilsudski, and a defender of the robbers’ Treaty of Versailles. In those days Stalin was fighting not for the status quo but for “the national liberation” of Germany. In August 1931, the “theoretical” organ of the French Communist Party, Cahiers du Bolchevism, came out with an exposé of the “touching united front” which had been formed “between Blum, Paul Boncour and the French General Staff, on the one side – and Trotsky, on the other.” And so I remained firmly attached to the countries of the Entente!

Refuted by Their Own Lies in 1933[edit source]

On July 24, 1933, i.e., after Hitler had assumed complete power in Germany, I was on my way to France through Marseilles, thanks to a visa granted me by Daladier’s government. According to the retroactive “revelations” of the recent Moscow Trials, I was already in those days an agent of Germany and was occupied with preparing the world war with a view to destroying the USSR and France. At the Radek-Piatakov Trial, in January 1937, it was “established”, among other things, that I had met in Bois du Boulogne – precisely toward the end of July 1933 – with a TASS correspondent, Vladimir Romm, in order to draw the Russian Trotskyists through this intermediary into an alliance with Hitler and the Mikado.

But l’Humanité suspected nothing of the sort: On the very day of my arrival in France it carried an article exposing my secret alliance with Daladier’s government.

“By covering up the intrigues of White Guard émigrés and by inviting Trotsky” – wrote the organ of Stalin-Cachin-Thorez – “the French bourgeoisie is revealing its real policy toward the Soviet Union; negotiations are conducted because of necessity, forced smiles are put on, but behind the scenes there is aid and support for all saboteurs, interventionists, conspirators, slanderers and renegades of the revolution ... From France, this hearth of anti-Soviet struggle, he (Trotsky) can launch an attack on the USSR ... A strategical point! That is why M. Trotsky is arriving here.”

All of Prosecutor Vishinsky’s subsequent formulas are here: conspiracy, sabotage, preparation of intervention. But with this difference: I was pursuing my criminal activity in an alliance with the French bourgeoisie and not German fascism.

But perhaps the hapless l’Humanité was simply ignorant of the true state of affairs? No, Stalin’s Parisian organ was correctly reflecting the views of its taskmaster. The inert mind of the Moscow bureaucracy was in every way reluctant to leave its old orbit. An alliance with Germany, regardless of her state form, was considered axiomatic for Soviet foreign policy. On December 13, 1931, in an interview with the German writer, Emil Ludwig, Stalin declared:


Stalin’s Relations with Germany[edit source]

“If we are to talk about our sympathies for any nation, then of course we must speak of our sympathies for the Germans ... Our friendly relations with Germany remain what they have always been.”

Stalin was even so incautious as to add:

“There are some politicians who promise and say one thing today, and on the morrow either forget or deny what they themselves had said, without even blushing. We cannot conduct ourselves in this manner.” (These quotations are taken from the official Soviet publication, Lenin and Stalin on the Soviet Constitution, pp. 146–147.)

To be sure, this was said in the time of the Weimar Republic. But the victory of Fascism in no wise altered Moscow’s orientation. Stalin did everything in his power to earn Hitler’s good-will. On March 4, 1933 the official Izvestia wrote that the USSR was the only government which entertained no hostile feelings toward Germany, and “this independently of the form and character of the German government.”

The Parisian le Temps on its part, commented, on April 8, 1933, as follows:

“At a time when Hitler’s assumption of power was occupying the attention of European public opinion and evoking everywhere voluminous comments, the Moscow papers maintained silence.”

Stalin was trying to buy the friendship of the conqueror and had turned his back to the German working class.

The general picture is thus quite clear. During the time when according to the latest and retroactive version I was busy organizing my collaboration with Hitler, the press of Moscow and of the Communist International depicted me as an agent of France and of Anglo-Saxon imperialism. My transfer into the German-Japanese camp came only after Hitler had spurned Stalin’s extended hand and had compelled the latter, contrary to his original plans and calculations, to seek the friendship of “Western Democracies”.

Why the Charges Shifted[edit source]

The charges flung at me were and remain merely a negative supplement of Moscow’s diplomatic twists and turns. Shifts in my political orientation took place each time without the slightest participation on my part. There is, however, a serious difference between these two diametrically opposite and, at the same time, wholly symmetrical versions of slander. The first version whereby I was transformed into an agent of the former Entente was predominantly of a literary character. The slanderers slandered, the newspapers broadcast the poison, but Vishinsky still remained in the shadows. True enough, even in those days the GPU used to shoot individual oppositionists, ascribing to them either acts of sabotage or espionage (in favor of England and France!). But as yet only little known individuals were involved; the violence was perpetrated behind the scenes, by way of modest experimentation. Stalin was merely training his investigating magistrates, his judges and executioners. It took some time to bring the bureaucracy to such a degree of demoralization, and the radical public opinion of Europe and America to such a degree of degradation as would make possible the grandiose juridical frameups against the Trotskyists.

Why the Frame-Ups Are Extended[edit source]

One can now investigate with documents in hand all the stages of this preparatory work. On more than one occasion Stalin met with internal resistance, and had to retreat a few times, but on each occasion only in order to invest his work with a more systematic character. The political goal was – to create an automatic guillotine for every opponent of the ruling clique: whoever is not for Stalin is a hired agent of imperialism.

This rude schema, reinforced by personal vindictiveness, is wholly in the spirit of Stalin. Apparently he did not for a moment doubt that the “voluntary confessions” of his victims would succeed in convincing the whole world of the authenticity of the accusations, and thus solve once and for all the problem of the inviolability of the totalitarian regime. It turned out otherwise. The trials boomeranged on Stalin. The cause for this lies not so much in the crudity of the frameups as in the fact that the clutches of the bureaucracy had become completely intolerable for the country’s development. Under the pressure of growing contradictions Stalin was constrained to extend the radius of his frameups day by day. No end of the bloody purge is in sight. As it devours its own ranks, the bureaucracy keeps shrieking in frenzy about vigilance. The howl of a mortally wounded animal can be detected in these cries.

Let us recall once again that the roll call of traitors is headed by all the members of the Political Bureau of Lenin’s epoch – with the sole exception of Stalin. Among them are: the former head of defense in the epoch of the Civil War (Leon Trotsky); two former leaders of the Communist International (Zinoviev and Bukharin); the former chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (Kamenev); the former chairman of the Council of Labor and Defense (Rykov); and the former head of the Soviet Trade Unions (Tomsky). Next come the members of the Central Committee and of the Government. It turns out that the actual director of industry, Piatakov, stood at the head of sabotage; the deputy People’s Commissar for Transport, Livshitz, turns out to be an agent of Japan and the organizer of train wrecks; the chief guardian of state security, Yagoda – a gangster and traitor; the deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Sokolnikov – a German-Japanese agent, along with the chief publicist of the regime, Radek.

All the Military Leaders as Well[edit source]

And as if that did not suffice, the whole summit of the Red Army is declared to have been in the service of the enemy. Marshal Tukhachevsky, who had only a short while ago been delegated to England and France to acquaint himself with the military technology of these friendly countries, sold the entrusted secrets to Hitler. The political leader of the Red Army, Gamarnik, member of the Central Committee, is avowed to be a traitor. The military representatives of France, Great Britain and Czechoslovakia had only recently paid tribute to the Ukrainian maneuvers held under the direction of General Yakir. It turns out that Yakir was preparing for the seizure of the Ukraine by Hitler. General Uborevich, the guardian of the western frontiers, was preparing to surrender Byelo-Russia to the enemy. Two former directors of the Military Academy, General Eidemann and General Kork, honored army commanders of the Civil War, were preparing their pupils not for victory but for the defeat of the Soviet Union. Scores of other lesser known but extremely important military commanders have been accused of treason. All these destroyers, saboteurs, spies and gangsters had been accomplishing their work not for a day or two but over a number of years.

But if Yagoda, Piatakov, Sokolnikov, Tukhachevsky and others were spies, then what good are Stalin, Voroshilov and other “leaders”? What value have these summons to vigilance which emanate from the Political Bureau that has revealed itself capable only of stupidity and blindness?

Stalinism Discredited by the Trials[edit source]

Out of the latest “purge” the regime has emerged so covered with infamy that the organs of the world press have begun to speculate seriously whether Stalin has not lost his senses. Too simple a solution for this problem! First it was deemed that Stalin had emerged victorious owing to the exceptional qualities of his intellect. But when the reflexes of the bureaucracy become epileptic in character, those who worshipped the “leader” yesterday begin asking themselves whether he had not gone mad. Both appraisals are false. Stalin is no “genius”. In the proper sense of the term, he is not even intelligent, that is, if by intelligence is meant the ability to view events in their connection and development. But neither is Stalin a madman. He was carried to the top by the wave of Thermidor. He came to believe that the source of his power lay in himself. But the caste of parvenus, who had proclaimed him genius, disintegrated and corroded within a short space of time. The land of the October revolution is in urgent need of a different political regime. The position of the ruling clique leaves no more room for any rational politics. “Insanity” is located not in Stalin but in the regime which has completely drained itself. This explanation, however, does not contain even a hint of any moral justification of Stalin. He will depart from the scene as the most tarnished figure in mankind’s history.

COYOACAN, July 5, 1937

Content[edit source]

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Thirst for Power[edit source]

🔍 See also : Thirst for Power.