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Leon Trotsky 19380306 Answers to Mrs. Célarié

Leon Trotsky: Answers to Mrs. Célarié

March 6, 1938

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 765-767.]

It is very difficult, Madam, to express in one brief formula the irreconcilable differences that exist between Stalin's politics and mine. Besides, I have already amply dealt with this subject in my book The Revolution Betrayed (Grasset, 1936). If I may use a concise formula, I will say that my politics represents the interests of the laboring masses, those who made the October Revolution. Stalin's politics represents the interests of the bureaucracy, this new caste of parvenus who dominate and oppress the people.

Hatred of the bureaucracy on the part of the popular masses is the sentiment that generally prevails in the USSR. A terrible fear of the people on the part of the bureaucracy is its result. Trembling for its unlimited power and its growing privileges, this bureaucracy tries to crush in the egg all opposition, all criticism, all expression of discontent. But since it is not possible to say to the people that the sin of the Opposition consists of demanding more freedom, more well-being for the workers of city and countryside, they must attribute to the Oppositionists crimes that appear to the people to deserve repression. That is the origin of the sensational Moscow trials. They did not fall from the sky. Their history is already a long one. Since 1923-24, the leading layer began defaming and slandering the Opposition, attributing objectives to it that were different from its actual aims. This systematic falsification was possible thanks to the totalitarian regime, which permits control of the press to be concentrated in the hands of the leading clique. Increasing the slanders and falsifications from year to year, from month to month, Stalin managed to poison public opinion and impute to the Opposition vices and methods that are unimaginably abominable, cruel, and absurd. After this preparation, which took at least six years, the staging of these trials, prepared in the dungeons of the GPU, began.

To these trials, Madam, I devoted another book, Les Crimes de Staline, which was published several months ago in French by Bernard Grasset. It seems to me that this book provides a sufficient explanation, political as well as psychological, of the mockeries of justice, simultaneously theatrical, treacherous, and frightful, which are taking place in Moscow, especially since the end of 1934.

The unanimity with which the accused admit their guilt? The general explanation is quite simple. The witches all admitted their guilt in the hands of the Holy Inquisition. They even indicated with scrupulous precision the time and place of their nocturnal commerce with the devil. Human nerves have not changed much since the Middle Ages. They cannot withstand pressure beyond certain limits.

Is it a question of physical torture? Not in the usual sense of the word. The technique of the Inquisition has been modernized, but it rests on the same foundation. The arrested persons are subjected to complete isolation. They are given only the official press, which rails against them and daily calls for their death. They are subjected to interrogation lasting twenty-four hours and more, almost without interruption, under powerful and hypnotic lights. Their wives, their mothers, their children are arrested, and a confession is demanded as ransom for the hostages. During the preliminary investigation the most recalcitrant prisoners are shot, to teach the others a lesson. Thus it was that during the preparation for the last trial, they shot, without any trial, the former Soviet ambassador, Karakhan, and the former secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, Yenukidze, for refusing to admit their guilt for crimes they had never committed.

In a totalitarian regime, where the judges, the defense attorneys, and the press are controlled by the same person, the processes that come to be used are the ones that prove the most useful for staging the most outrageous mockeries of justice.

Your final question, Madam, concerning the future of the USSR, is as difficult to answer briefly as your first question on the politics of Stalin and the Opposition. Furthermore, these two questions are closely related to each other.

I will permit myself again to refer to the two books I mentioned above, in which I tried to give French public opinion as complete an account as possible of the actual situation in the USSR, of my program, and of the way I view the future. I can say here only that the Stalin regime cannot last. It is in a historic impasse. The Moscow trials are only the convulsions of this dying regime. What will replace them?

There are only two possibilities. Either Stalin will be overthrown by the forces of capitalism (domestic, international, or a combination of the two)—in this case, nationalized property and the planned economy would give way to capitalism; the political regime would be the most brutal fascism, to subdue the masses trained in the school of revolution—or, and this is the second alternative, the masses themselves will overthrow the demoralized bureaucracy and will establish a true democracy based on nationalized property and a planned economy. This development would be toward socialism. It is not necessary to say, Madam, that all my efforts are directed to this end.