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Leon Trotsky 19350116 The Case of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Others

Leon Trotsky: The Case of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Others

January 16-18, 1935

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 7, 1934-1935, New York 1971, p. 144-151]

January 16, 8 P. M.

I have just learned the news over the radio that Zinoviev and Kamenev have been brought before a military tribunal "in connection with the case of the Kirov assassination." With that, the amalgam enters a new phase.

Let us recall the most important stages: Zinoviev, Kamenev and their Moscow friends had been arrested "in connection" with the Kirov assassination. During the preliminary investigation, however, an unexpected snag occurs.

The Central Executive Committee is compelled to extend the time allotted to the preliminary investigation by setting aside the law recently promulgated. Nevertheless, it emerges that sufficient facts are still lacking to have Zinoviev and the others brought to trial. Why were they arrested? The conclusion is clear: they were arrested not for some reason but for some purpose.

They were arrested with a view to an amalgam, that is to say, in order to establish a connection between the terrorist assassination and the Opposition, all opposition, all criticism in general, past, present or future. It was decided to arrest them when everything seemed to have been already settled. The GPU was conversant with the preparations for the Leningrad terrorist act The "consul" had carried out the task assigned to him; he was the link in the amalgam. The real terrorist, Nikolaev, however, it appears, at the last moment — for conspiratorial reasons — detached himself from his own group, including the agents of the GPU who were playing a part in it The fatal shot rang out It wasn't in Stalin's program. But that was the risk in the enterprise. Kirov fell victim. The GPU agents paid for it: the higher officials were dismissed, the lower ones were shot together with the terrorists. The unexpected shot brought confusion into the amalgam.

The "consul" and his masters had no time to prepare anything. It was necessary to leave out from the trial the case of Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends. The indictment in the Nikolaev case said not one word about them; the government communique said they would be subjected by the administration to deportation. For what reason? It is not known! The fourteen Leningrad accused were tried; all were shot It appeared that the case was closed. But it could appear so only to those who had forgotten the main aim of the whole business: the amalgam.

"Hindsight prophecy," an opponent might say.

Fortunately, I am able to cite a whole series of documents, some of which have been published.

Shortly after my arrival in Turkey, on March 4, 1929, in very concrete fashion, I explained in the Russian Biulleten Oppozitsii the aims Stalin pursued in having me expelled. Showing the continuing vitality of the Opposition's ideas in the party, I wrote: "There remains only one thing for Stalin: to try to draw a line of blood between the official party and the Opposition. He absolutely must connect the Opposition with terrorist crimes, preparation of armed insurrection, etc. … (emphasis in the Biulleten).

"But precisely on that road," I continued, "stands the leadership of the Opposition. As has been shown by the shameful incident of 'the Wrangel officer' whom Stalin tried to plant on the Opposition in the autumn of 1927, it was sufficient for one of the Opposition to make a statement for Stalin’s trick to rebound on his own head.

"Hence Stalin's plan [was] … to exile on this pretext the Opposition [still other expulsions were considered at the time — L. T.] and thereby free his own hands for criminal work against young and rank-and-file Oppositionists whose names are still not known to the masses, especially abroad. …

"That is why after the exile of the leaders of the Opposition we must expect with certainty an attempt by the Stalin clique in one way or another to provoke one or another so-called oppositional group to an adventure, in the case of failure, to fabricate or plant on the Opposition 'a terrorist act' or 'a military plot.' …"

These lines written, as has been said, on March 4, 1929, were published in the Russian Biulleten Oppozitsii, Number 1-2, July 1929 (p. 2). And barely a few months later, Stalin had Blumkin shot for having had an interview with me in Constantinople and for having carried a letter from me to comrades in Moscow. This letter, strictly principled in character, was of so little use for an amalgam that it has not even been used in the Soviet press, which, moreover, has likewise said not a word about Blumkin's execution.

On January 4, 1930, I wrote about this:

"Blumkin was shot — by decision of the GPU. This could have happened only because the GPU has become Stalin's personal instrument During the years of the civil war, the Cheka carried out grim work. But this was done under the control of the party. … Now the party is strangled. … In the GPU the chief role is taken by Yagoda, a despicable careerist who has tied his fortune to Stalin's and who is ready to perform anything he is told to do, without thinking and without questions. … Bukharin has already stated that Stalin holds the members of the so-called Political Bureau in his hands by means of documents collected by the GPU. Under these conditions, the shooting of Blumkin was Stalin's personal affair" (Biulleten, No. 9, February-March 1930, p. 8).

The article quoted shows, for the first time, the new, extremely important factor which drives Stalin along the road of bloody amalgams. "By shooting Blumkin, Stalin wishes to signify to the International Opposition of Bolshevik-Leninists that he has inside the country hundreds and thousands of hostages who will pay with their heads for the successes of genuine Bolshevism in the world arena" (Ibid.).

The Moscow correspondent of the Biulleten communicated (on p. 10) that a proposal was made to the imprisoned Blumkin that he could save his head by his participation, as a provocateur, in an amalgam against the Opposition; Blumkin's refusal was his death sentence.

That is how we warned our friends beforehand, six years ago, of the inevitability of "attempts by the Stalin clique to draw one way or another into an adventure some or other so-called oppositionist group and, in the event of failure, to fabricate or attribute to the Opposition 'a terrorist act' …" For six years, despite all the efforts of the GPU, these attempts have brought no results. Meantime, the regimes of the party and the soviets have gradually worsened. Among the new generation, feelings of despair have been compressed to the point of explosion into a terrorist adventure. Under these conditions, could not Stalin have seized on the Kirov assassination to carry out through the amalgam the idea which he has cherished for so long?

January 17

The morning newspaper dispatches have brought some explanations: the declarations of the accused Bakaev, in connection with other matters, have made it possible, according to the official communique, "to establish the participation of Zinoviev, Yevdokimov, Kamenev and Feodorov, members of the Moscow Center, in counterrevolutionary activity." Nineteen people, the four named among them, have been brought to court before a military tribunal. In the communique, as transmitted by the French press, the Kirov case is not even mentioned. It speaks of "counterrevolutionary activity" in general. What that means we know very well; everything that is not in accord with the interests, ideas, zigzags and prejudices of the head of the bureaucracy is taxed with counterrevolution. So, it follows from the communique that when Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends were arrested, there were no facts as to either their participation in Kirov's murder — these facts evidently don't exist now either — or their participation in some kind of oppositional grouping. Only now, on the basis of Bakaev's declarations, about which we know nothing (he must have been threatened for this purpose with seeing himself brought to trial for the Nikolaev affair, that is to say, threatened with being shot), only now have they managed, it appears, to prove the participation of Zinoviev and the others in "counterrevolutionary activity." How that expressed itself we shall certainly not know. What is most probable is that in a closed circle they complained about Stalin, recalled Lenin's "Testament," listened to the rumors circulating in the bureaucracy and dreamed of a "genuine?' party congress that would remove Stalin. Very likely there was nothing more serious. But they in themselves represented this danger — that they could become an axis for the lower and middle bureaucracy, which is discontented with Stalin. Now, in this sphere, the chief does not joke.

But in spite of everything, it is not understandable, at first sight, why a military tribunal was necessary this time. Even for the most corrupt of Stalin's international lackeys, it will not be easy to explain to workers why and wherefore, that is to say, for precisely what "counterrevolutionary activity," there have been brought before a military tribunal nineteen Old Bolsheviks who, for the most part, have been in the party since its inception. Stalin cannot be unaware that he is pulling too hard on the rope. Is it possible that there has been no purpose, that it is a kind of blind vengeance? No, we don't think so.

The Moscow correspondent of Le Temps emphasizes that despite the whole campaign of accusations and incitements, "Zinoviev and Kamenev are not yet excluded from the party." The newspapers were still talking of their deportation. Suddenly, yesterday, the papers announced that they are to be brought before a military tribunal. It would seem that Zinoviev and Kamenev have been made to undergo the torture of the unknown: "We can leave you in the party, but we can also shoot you." It seems Stalin wants to get something from Zinoviev and Kamenev, which is why he is playing on their nerves that are not very strong. What can he want? Probably some "suitable," "necessary," or "useful" declarations. Zinoviev, Kamenev and their friends, held under threat of execution, have to help Stalin repair and perfect the amalgam that a too-hesitant consul has cruelly compromised. I can find no other explanation for the military tribunal.

In 1928, when I was in Central Asia, the GPU arrested my closest collaborator, G. V. Butov, director of Military and Marine Supply Commissariats, and enjoined him to furnish proofs of my "counterrevolutionary" preparations. Butov answered with a hunger strike in the GPU prison; the strike went on for fifty days and ended with his death. With pistol threatening, they demanded from Blumkin that he give himself over to provocation; he refused; they pulled the trigger. From Bakaev and others they demanded testimonies against Zinoviev and Kamenev. If we are to believe the official communique, they got such testimonies.* Why then not admit they demanded, likewise, testimonies from Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others by threatening them with a military trial and, not getting them, they passed the case over to the military tribunal?

January 18

L’Humanité of January 17 has given extracts from the indictment of Zinoviev and the others. If that is an "indictment," it is of the Stalin regime.

Let me present the chief deductions on the basis of the Stalin communiques:

1. The Moscow group of the accused had no connection with the terrorist act in Leningrad. Stalin is charging Zinoviev, former leader of the former Leningrad Opposition, with political responsibility for terrorist tendencies. But these tendencies originated inside the Bolshevik Party. The leadership of the party is responsible for them. In that sense, it is absolutely correct to say: Stalin and his regime are politically responsible for the Kirov assassination.

* Very probably in denying the charges against him, Bakaev declared, "Yes, we met; we criticized the Central Committee, but there was no question of terror." The words, "We met; we criticized the Central Committee'* would thus be made the basis of the accusation. Obviously, this is only a hypothesis on our part.

2. The chief witness for the prosecution, Safarov, whose case — we don't know why — was examined separately (the role of this individual in the affair appears most enigmatic), shows that the "counterrevolutionary" activity of Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others was particularly intense in 1932! Yet it was precisely for this activity that in 1932 they were expelled from the party and deported. This happened at the time when the excessive collectivization, following the overlong friendship with the kulaks [rich peasants], had caused immense sacrifices and had literally gambled with the fate of the Soviet regime. Everything was boiling up in the country, and the entire bureaucracy, perplexed and terrified, was muttering. What did the Central Control Commission charge Zinoviev and Kamenev with in 1932? With having had relations with the Right Oppositionists (Ryutin and others). Here is the literal text of the indictment: "Knowing that counterrevolutionary documents were being disseminated, they preferred to discuss (!) these (?) documents and, instead of unmasking immediately (!) this agency of the kulak, thus show themselves to be direct accomplices of the counterrevolutionary, anti-party group." Consequently, Zinoviev and Kamenev were accused of having "discussed" the platform of the Right before denouncing it For this reason they were expelled.

But thereafter they recanted (and how!) and were readmitted into the party. What does their most recent counterrevolutionary activity consist of? On this subject we learn not a word. The indictment speaks of the hostility of the Zinoviev group to the leaders, of the political directives they gave (which? when? and to whom?) and so on, but it carefully avoids clarification, facts and dates. It emerges clearly that we are dealing with the same year, 1932. And the accused Safarov, who preferred to change over into a witness for the prosecution, confesses that after the debacle of the Ryutin group, Zinoviev's "counterrevolution" assumed a "groveling" character, in other words, it disappeared from the scene.

3. It is true, the "indictment” says, that Kuklin, Guertik, Yevdokimov and Sharov, who maintained relations with the Leningrad counterrevolutionary group, "scorned no means in their struggle against the Soviet power." Unfortunately, not one of these means is mentioned! Similarly, it is not shown when these relations were maintained. From all the evidence, it was in 1932! The indictment does not mention by a single word the connection of the accused with Nikolaev. The only political conclusion that can be drawn from the indictment's cheating is the following: the second capitulation by Zinoviev and Kamenev left the Zinovievist youth without a leadership and without perspectives; life in the party was becoming increasingly stifling. The Communist International was piling up crimes and defeats. To examine them or openly ask for an explanation was equivalent to being immediately arrested. In this atmosphere, the most extreme, most excited (and incited by GPU agents) conceived this senseless idea of assassinating Kirov.

4. The indictment in the Nikolaev case tried, as we recall, to connect the terrorists with the "platform" of the 1926 Opposition. Against that, the indictment openly admits that the Zinoviev group "had no definite program." It couldn’t be otherwise The Zinoviev group had disavowed the platform of 1926; what is more — and this 'is more important — the 1926 platform gives no answer to the questions of our epoch. Thus the last "ideological” thread connecting the Leningrad group with the former Left Opposition is broken.

5. But, someone will say, didn't Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves "confess" their fault? Precisely here is contained the most dishonorable part of the trial. According to the basis of the accusations, Zinoviev and Kamenev had confessed nothing, could not confess to anything at all since there was no material element of a crime. But, under the hatchet of the military tribunal, they agreed to assume "political" responsibility so as to escape execution for a terrorist act Zinoviev testifies to nothing, tells nothing; he only argues placidly on the theme that the "earlier activity" of "the former Opposition" — by the very force of "the objective course of events" — "could not but contribute … to degeneration into crime." Zinoviev agrees to recognize not the juridical amalgam of the Stalin press but the "philosophical" amalgam: if opposition and criticism did not exist, there would be no harmful straying; the young people would be obedient; and terrorist acts would be impossible. That is the meaning of Zinoviev's declarations in reply to the indictment

What is particularly remarkable is Kamenev's recantation: "He confirmed that before 1932 he participated in illegal counterrevolutionary activity and was a member of the 'Moscow Center' and that, right up to the last moment, he had not stopped having relations with Zinoviev!" Nothing more!!! However, what we are dealing with is not the oppositional criticism of 1932, for which Kamenev had been expelled, but the assassination of 1934. Of course, of course; but Kamenev "had not stopped having relations with Zinoviev" (after their joint recantation!) and though Zinoviev had stopped "counterrevolutionary activity" it was from the circle of his adherents that there emerged by "the objective course of events" (that is to say, completely without the will of Zinoviev) the terrorist Nikolaev.

The meaning of this repugnant, deliberately conceived confusion is absolutely clear. Stalin put an ultimatum to Zinoviev and Kamenev: they must themselves supply him with such a formula as would justify repression against themselves; then he would clear them of the organization of the Kirov assassination. Zinoviev's formula must have passed back and forward a dozen times from the prison to Stalin's desk until, after the necessary corrections, it could be found acceptable. Thereafter the military tribunal came on the scene. That is how Stalin, by the threat of still greater repression, extorts confessions that justify lesser repression.

6. Did Stalin try to complete the consul's work by means of the military tribunal in order to extract declarations against Trotsky? I don't doubt it In any case, he didn't succeed. The constant principle of the Bolshevik-Leninist faction is: break irreconcilably with capitulators. We do not allow double bookkeeping — not out of loyalty to the disloyal bureaucracy but out of loyalty to the masses. Since the usurping and thoroughly conservative bureaucracy has stifled any movement of thought in the party, revolutionary Marxists can act in no other way but secretly. That is their right; that is their duty. But they must never renounce their ideas and spit on the flag as do the capitulators. We broke in the past with the Zinovievists as resolutely as last year we broke with Rakovsky. This complete rupture in personal and political relations has made impossible — despite the help of a consul and a military tribunal-future success in developing amalgams from the side of the Bolshevik-Leninists.

7. However, it would be criminal light-mindedness to think that Stalin has given up trying to frame us up in some new "case" cooked up by the GPU and its foreign agents. Stalin has no other method of struggle against us. The Zinoviev case has, besides its own significance, the importance of a warning. The struggle for the cleansing of the atmosphere of the world workers' movement demands a clear understanding of the mechanics of the Stalin amalgams.