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Leon Trotsky 19380308 Moscow's Diplomatic Plans and the Trials

Leon Trotsky: Moscow's Diplomatic Plans and the Trials

March 8, 1938

    [Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York 1970, p. 236-240]

If human memory were more tenacious, the Moscow trials would be absolutely impossible. The GPU breaks the spine of the defendants, and one has become accustomed to this. But in the same breath the GPU also attempts to break the spine of historical processes; that is more difficult.

In the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial (August 1936), the defendants faced the accusation of having formed a liaison of a purely police character with the German Gestapo. The principal defendants denied this accusation. Public opinion refused to swallow it. In January 1937, Karl Radek and G.L. Pyatakov faced trial in order to revitalize Attorney General Andrei Vyshinsky's all-too-primitive schemata. By their testimony it became no longer a question of sordid espionage, but of an international bloc of Trotskyists with German and Japanese fascism for the purpose of overthrowing the USSR and the Western democracies.

This manner of presentation coincided in time, not accidentally, with the flowering of the policy of the People's Front. Upon the banner of Soviet diplomacy, and consequently of the Communist International, was emblazoned the slogan of a military bloc of the democracies against the fascist countries. At this juncture, the Trotskyists inevitably had to be ticketed as agents of the fascist bloc. The picture was clear and simple.

But surprisingly, the Trotskyists were not accused of having entered into an alliance with fascist Italy. The reason was that Soviet diplomats did not wish to hinder the attempts of England and France to wean Italy from Germany, and allowed for the eventuality that tomorrow Moscow herself might have to present a smiling face to Rome.

In great measure the same considerations applied with respect to Poland; it was hoped that France would maintain Poland in its sphere of influence. In "baring" their international intrigues, the defendants scrupulously conformed to the calculations of Soviet diplomacy. They might try to kill Stalin, but not to maim the politics of Commissar of Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov.

The preparations for the present trial coincided with a period of the withering of hopes and illusions in the People's Front and the bloc of democratic powers. England's policy on Spain, the visit of Lord Halifax to Berlin, the about-face of London in the direction of Rome, and finally the substitution of Lord Halifax for Anthony Eden – all these were the diplomatic signposts which determined the new contents of the "voluntary" confessions of the defendants. The design of the Radek-Pyatakov trial, according to which the Trotskyists were agents of the fascist bloc (except Italy), was rejected as inopportune.

The defendants appear now as agents of Germany, Japan, Poland, and England. The liaison with Germany sheds its fascist hue because it is now said to have begun in 1921, when Germany was under the banner of Weimar democracy. The collaboration with England is said to have begun in 1926, eleven years before the Radek-Pyatakov trial. But Karl Radek, who according to Vyshinsky's interpretation is candidate for the post of foreign minister for the Trotskyists, knew nothing of Trotsky's alliance with Great Britain.

At the beginning of 1937, England was a "democracy." With the departure of Eden, it is once again the hub of imperialism. Litvinov has made up his mind to show London his bared teeth. And promptly the defendants echo this in their testimony.

Until very recently, the war in the Far East signified the march of Japanese fascism against the Anglo-Saxon democracies. Now Moscow lets it be known that it is ready to efface the distinction between Japan and Great Britain: both of them are plotting with the Trotskyists against the Soviet regime! The testimony of C.G. Rakovsky, according to which he and I are made out to be agents of the British Intelligence Service, is in reality a diplomatic warning to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

The tardiness in including Poland among the countries compromised by an alliance with the Trotskyists has a twofold cause: a greater and a lesser one. The Polish orientation toward Germany became more definite with the recent about-face of British politics. Forgotten are the times (1933) when Stalin invited Marshal Pilsudski to the celebration of the October Revolution. Moscow gives Warsaw to understand that it entertains no illusions concerning Poland's neutrality, and that, in the event of war, Poland will have to stand prepared to become the arena for clashes between the USSR and Germany. By means of the wagging tongues of the defendants, Litvinov threatens Colonel Jozef Beck.

The second reason why Poland could have been mentioned only in the present trial is that the chief "diplomat" of the second trial in January 1937, Radek, could not have included Poland, which was almost his homeland, in the list of "Trotskyist" countries. It was Radek himself who in 1933 made a triumphal journey to Warsaw, was feted by Pilsudski, and spoke glowingly of the future happy relations between the two countries, both products of revolution.

The world press featured the forthcoming military alliance between the USSR and Poland. Inasmuch as Radek made his theatrical visit not as an agent of Trotsky, but as Stalin's envoy, it was especially difficult for Radek to tie Poland in with Trotskyism in his confession. This task was laid upon the head of the present defendant, V.F. Sharangovich.

The names of France and of the United States have not yet been dragged in. These two countries are being retained as remnants of the "bloc of democracies" against the fascist bloc.

It is true that Rakovsky has confessed to criminal alliances with French industrialists and journalists; but these alliances are with opponents of the People's Front. If through the testimony of Rakovsky concerning the intelligence service, Litvinov is trying to compromise Chamberlain's government, then through the testimony of the same Rakovsky concerning the French industrialist Nicole, and the journalist Bure, Litvinov wishes to perform a friendly service for the government of the People's Front.

In any case, the defendants remained true to themselves; even in their most "perfidious" deals with foreign states they carefully safeguarded the diplomatic plans of the Kremlin.

The silence about France is especially eloquent in its absurdity. France almost until the end of 1933 was considered in Moscow to be the chief enemy of the USSR. Second place was occupied by Great Britain. Germany was counted as a friend. In the trials of the "Industrial Party" (1930) and "Menshevik Union Bureau" (1931) France was invariably found to be a hotbed of hostile intrigue. Meanwhile, the Trotskyists, who had begun to make connections with the enemies of the USSR in 1921 (when they, with Lenin, were in power) completely avoided France, as if they had forgotten its existence. No, they had forgotten nothing;

they simply foresaw the future of the Franco-Soviet pact and were wary about creating any difficulties for Litvinov in 1938.

How fortunate for Vyshinsky that people have such short memories! After my exile to Turkey the Soviet press called me nothing less than "Mister Trotsky." Pravda on March 8, 1929, devoted almost a full page to proving "Mister Trotsky" (not Hen-Trotsky!) was actually in alliance with Winston Churchill and Wall Street. The article ended with the following words: "It is now clear why the bourgeoisie pays him tens of thousands of dollars!" Payment was then made in dollars, not marks!

On July 2, 1931, Pravda printed a forged facsimile, which was to have proved that I was an ally of Pilsudski and the defender of the Versailles treaty against the USSR and Germany. This was at a moment of increasing friction with Warsaw, two years before the plans for the Soviet-Polish alliance had arisen!

On March 4, 1933, when Hitler already sat firmly in the saddle, Izvestia, the official organ of the government, announced the USSR to be the only country in the world which does not bear any hostility toward Germany "and this regardless of the form and composition of the government of the Reich." The French semiofficial newspaper Le Temps wrote on April 8: "At the time of Hitler's coming to power, European public opinion concerned itself avidly with this event and there were lively commentaries on it; the Moscow papers kept silent."

Stalin was still hoping for friendship with fascist Germany! This is hardly remarkable, since at that time I was still a supposed agent of the Entente.

On July 24, 1933, with the permission of Daladier's government, I came to France. Immediately the Communist newspaper I'Humanité, the Paris organ of Soviet diplomacy, proclaimed: "From France, this anti-Soviet hotbed, Trotsky will attack the USSR. France is the strategic point and that is why Mister Trotsky has come here." But at that time I could already have celebrated the twelfth year of my service for Germany!

Such are some of the political landmarks on the road to the present trial. The amount of data and quotations could be increased without end. But even from those cited here the conclusion is clear. The "perfidious" actions of the defendants represent only the negative complement to the diplomatic combinations of the government.

The situation changed; the diplomatic calculations of the Kremlin also changed. Likewise the "betrayals" of the Trotskyists changed, or more accurately, the content of their testimony

about their alleged betrayals. In addition, and this is most significant, today's events in Moscow make it possible to completely reconstruct the events of the past twenty years.

In 1937, my old friendship with Winston Churchill, Pilsudski, and Daladier was forgotten. I became an ally of Rudolf Hess and a cousin of the Mikado. In the indictment of 1938, my old calling as an agent of France and the United States was found to be completely irrelevant; on the other hand, my forgotten friendship with British imperialism received exceptional prominence.

It can be predicted that if in the last days of the present trial I am yet to be brought into connection with the United States, then surely it will be not as an agent of President Roosevelt, but as the ally of his enemies, the "economic royalists." Thus, even in my "betrayals," I continue to perform a patriotic function.