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Leon Trotsky 19350126 Everything Gradually Falls into Place

Leon Trotsky: Everything Gradually Falls into Place

January 26, 1935

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 7, 1934-1935, New York 1971, p. 152-156]

I am very grateful to you, dear friends, for the request you sent me in December; it spurred me to give my evaluation of the Kirov affair at its most important stages. Every reader of good faith now has the possibility of comparing our a priori considerations and hypotheses with the official admissions made subsequently, and of drawing the necessary conclusions.

On December 30, 1934, I expressed the firm conviction that the GPU from the outset knew about the terrorist act that was being prepared. The participation of the "consul," who could only be an agent of the GPU, was the irrefutable evidence. Now we have the proof. On January 23, a military tribunal condemned twelve responsible representatives of the GPU in Leningrad, with, at their head, their chief, Medved, to hard labor: two to ten years' imprisonment! The sentence on them was for the charge that — no more, no less — "they were aware of the attempt being prepared against Kirov but showed criminal negligence (!) in not taking the necessary security measures." The admission of the real participation by the GPU in the crime is masked by a miserable phrase about "negligence." Can one admit for a single moment that such pillars of the GPU as Medved could show negligence when dealing with the preparation, known to them beforehand, of the assassination of Kirov? No, "negligence" doesn't come into it here. Excessive zeal, taking a chance with Kirov's life, that is the explanation that fits better the basis of the affair.

When the preparation of the terrorist act that the GPU knew about had begun, the task of Medved and his colleagues was not at all to stop the conspirators — that would have been all too easy; what they had to do was find a suitable consul, put him in touch with Nikolaev, inspire Nikolaev with confidence in the consul and so on; at the same time, they had to establish a connection between the Zinoviev-Kamenev group and the Leningrad terrorists. That was not easy. It needed time. And Nikolaev refused to wait. The difference in rhythms between Medved's work and Nikolaev's finished up in a bloody outcome, precisely!

The verdict of the tribunal states openly that Medved, Zaporozhets and the others "did not take measures to bring to light and to end" the activity of the terrorist group "although they had every possibility of doing so." It is impossible to be more explicit. They could have forestalled the attack, but didn't. Why? From negligence, the tribunal answers. Who will believe it? Medved and the others couldn't take steps to cut short the preparation of the assassination because they hadn't yet wound up a delicate affair entrusted to them; they hadn't yet any little note from Zinoviev that they could use (it is not for nothing that the first government communique complained of the lack of proofs regarding the Zinoviev-Kamenev group); they hadn't yet found the necessary agents linking Leningrad and Moscow; they hadn't yet been able to extort from Nikolaev a letter for Trotsky. In a word, what was most important was not yet ready. And Nikolaev didn't want any further postponement

Medved "knew," the verdict tells us. We don't doubt it. From whom did he know? From his own agents participating in the preparation of the attack and who were keeping an eye, at the same time, on Nikolaev. What happened to these agents? At Medved's trial not a word about them. It's not surprising! This affair was settled with the Nikolaev affair; without a doubt GPU agents were among the fourteen conspirators shot. Some paid for the assassination of Kirov, others for the failure of their mission.

It is altogether clear, however, that Medved could not have taken all this gamble at his own risk and peril. The participation of a foreign consul in the assassination of Kirov could not have remained a secret to Medved alone. For an affair of such extraordinary importance, Medved could not but refer daily by telephone to Yagoda, and Yagoda to Stalin. We are dealing with the heads of people known throughout the world. Moreover, even in the case of the most "fortunate" outcome, the amalgam with the consul threatened diplomatic complications. Without the direct agreement of Stalin — more precisely, without his initiative — neither Yagoda nor Medved would have decided to mount such a risky enterprise.

No one, we hope, will now object to us, "But, look, Medved himself recognized the accusation as just." To be sure! What else was left him? The accused chose the lesser of two evils. They couldn't, in fact, say that they had participated in a criminal provocation with the aim of an amalgam, directly instructed by Yagoda; such a confession would have cost them their heads. They preferred to be accused of "criminal negligence." It was more prudent Besides, in a few months, they could be needed again!

Everything gradually falls into place. The Medved affair throws a gleam of light on the Zinoviev-Kamenev affair — on its place in Stalin's strategy. Let us imagine for a moment that before the people of the USSR and of the whole world there had been only two trials: that of Nikolaev and that of Medved. The unfinished amalgam would have come out into the light in all its nakedness. Nikolaev with his revolver in Kirov's office; the consul begging the day before for a letter from Nikolaev to Trotsky; then Medved, who knew all about it beforehand but hadn't taken the necessary measures. Everything is too clear; the provocation breaks through brazenly. That is precisely why it was impossible to mount the Nikolaev trial and the Medved trial one after the other. It was necessary in the interval to deafen the country with some sensational affair that would push into the shadows Nikolaev and Medved, unknown by everyone. The trials of the real participants in the assassination — Nikolaev and Medved — had to be separated by the trial of the old revolutionaries, the companions of Lenin, the builders of the party, accused of a crime with which — unlike Stalin who criminally played with fire — they had absolutely nothing to do. The Zinoviev affair is a gigantic smoke screen over the Stalin-Yagoda affair.

The first government communique and official articles after the arrest of the Moscow group of Old Bolsheviks said that Zinoviev-Kamenev and their friends had taken as their aim "the restoration of the capitalist system" and they were trying to provoke "armed intervention" from abroad (by the intermediacy of a consul — from Latvia!). No serious person could believe it; that is understood.

Stalin's lackeys, who cover themselves with the name of "leaders” of the Communist International, don't, however, recoil at the assertion that Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others "have themselves admitted their crimes."

Which ones? Preparation of the restoration of capitalism? Preparation of armed intervention? Preparation of the assassination of Kirov and Stalin? No, not that at all. Under the pistol they admitted: (1) they had a very critical attitude towards the methods of collectivization; (2) they had had no sympathy for Stalin-Kaganovich; (3) they had not concealed their thoughts and feelings from their close friends. Nothing more! All that was in 1932. For these grave crimes, especially for their lack of love for Stalin, they were in the past expelled from the party. But subsequently they recanted and were readmitted into the party. So what crime is imputed to them since that recantation? From the mishmash of hollow and insulting lackey phrases, we can draw the only indication that is concrete: in December 1934, Zinoviev said to his friends that the policy of the united front had not been conducted by the Communist International in the correct fashion, that in fact the initiative had passed into the hands of the Social Democrats.

The very fact that this kind of critical appraisal of the latest policy of Stalin-Bela Kun was brought before the tribunal as a criminal act and was officially quoted as proof of counterrevolutionary conspiracy shows to what vileness the party has been brought by the unbridled arbitrariness of the Thermidorean-Bonapartist bureaucracy!

Let us admit that Zinoviev's criticism was false. Let us even grant that the lackeys were right to judge criticism directed against them "criminal." But are we to see in that the "restoration of capitalism" and "armed intervention"? What connection is there between the demand for a more revolutionary policy against the bourgeoisie and a program for "the restoration of a bourgeois regime" ? Where has common sense gone? It is completely buried beneath a monstrous defecation of infamy.

And what happened with the consul? That is a question to which we hear no answer. The consul from Latvia handed over 5,000 rubles for the organization of Kirov's assassination. This fact was officially established by the tribunal. And then? At the time of the verdict, the Latvian diplomat was on leave in Finland — not in the hated USSR, not in his native Latvia, but in "neutral” Finland. A consul with foresight who must have friends warning him! It is clear, in any case, it was not on his own initiative and at his own risk that the consul financed the assassination of Kirov. Such plans are beyond the scope of a petty functionary. If, as Stalin's lackeys would have us believe, the consul was not an agent of the GPU, he could have acted only by mandate of some foreign government, Latvian or German (as the Stalin press has suggested). Then why not bring to light the criminal band? For example, like the Yugoslavs, why not bring the question of diplomatic criminal terrorists before the League of Nations? The game is worth the candle, it would seem. However, Stalin has not shown the slightest interest in the terrorist diplomat and those who inspired him. Apropos the so-called recall of the consul, there hasn't been even a government communique. They simply moved on to the next business.

This enigma has another side: Why is the consul himself silent? He is now outside the USSR and can, it would appear, reveal the whole truth. If he financed the terrorists, that means he is a sworn enemy of the Soviets. Why then doesn't he make revelations about his enemies? Because the drilled consul knows very well the international proverb, "Revelations are silver, silence is golden."

Revolutionary terrorism does not need a mask because it finds its immediate justification in the consciousness of the popular masses. The need for amalgams emerges when a bureaucracy rises above the revolutionary class as a privileged caste, with its special interests, secrets and machinations. Fearing for its power and its privileges, the bureaucracy is compelled to deceive the people. The very need for recourse to amalgams pitilessly unmasks and condemns the bureaucratic regime.

As far as I can judge at a distance, as an isolated observer, the strategy developed around the corpse of Kirov has not brought Stalin any great laurels. But precisely for this reason he can neither stop nor retreat. Stalin is forced to cover up the unsuccessful amalgams with new, broader … and more successful ones. We must meet them well armed. The struggle against the ferocious repressions against the Marxist opposition in the USSR is inseparable from the struggle for the liberation of the world proletarian vanguard from the influence of Stalinist agents and Stalinist methods. Not one honest revolutionary proletarian ought to be silent. Of all political figures, the most despicable is Pontius Pilate.