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Leon Trotsky 19380725 The Forthcoming Trial of the Diplomats

Leon Trotsky: The Forthcoming Trial of the Diplomats

July 25, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York ²1976, p. 396-398]

At one time it might have seemed that Moscow had given up further political trials with their monotonous confessions. During the last period, however, rumors persistently speak of continued preparation for a show trial of diplomats.

The political situation on the international arena as well as inside the USSR is such that these rumors must be considered as entirely probable.

It was the aim of the preceding trials to clear Stalin of responsibility for the mistakes and breakdowns in industry, agriculture, the government apparatus, and the Red Army.

The new trial apparently will have as its task the shifting of responsibility from Stalin to his subordinates for the severe failures which Soviet diplomacy and the Comintern have suffered on the international arena.

The "People's Front" policy in Spain ended in catastrophe. In the Far East Moscow has revealed only too clearly her impotence. She has been almost entirely pushed out of European politics. Nothing remains but to blame the decline in prestige of the Soviets upon new scapegoats in the form of docile diplomats. Doubtless this is the basic idea of the forthcoming trial.

Defendants named are the former Soviet representatives in the Far East (Yurenev, Bogomolov), in Berlin (the same Yurenev), in Spain (Antonov-Ovseenko and Rosenberg). Rakovsky is expected to appear in court as witness and possibly as accused. The roles marked out for these accused are evident in advance in their main outline: the diplomats disclosed state secrets, entered into alliance with enemies, betrayed their fatherland, etc.

However, in this trial the role of Yakubovich, the former ambassador in Norway, remains enigmatic. In distinction to Antonov-Ovseenko, to Rakovsky, and to a certain extent to Yurenev, Yakubovich never belonged to any opposition. In essence he was a political officeholder of the diplomatic corps. Even as an officeholder he remained always in the background. For a number of years he served as secretary to the Soviet Embassy in Berlin, before obtaining an independent assignment in Oslo.

This third-rate diplomatic post suddenly assumed political significance in 1936 in connection with the attempts of the Moscow government to oust me from Norway. Through the deceased Norwegian lawyer Puntervold, who was close to government circles, I was quite well informed at the time about what was going on behind the scenes.

Yakubovich threatened boycott of the merchant marine and of the fishing trade and, according to Puntervold's account, violently banged the table in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The frightened Norwegian government consented to intern me, but did not dare go so far as to deliver me up. This failure, no doubt, was chalked up against Yakubovich, since the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial was so timed as to obtain my immediate deliverance into the hands of the GPU.

Another lapse was ascribed to Yakubovich in connection with the second trial (February 1937), the pivotal point of which was Pyatakov's flight to Oslo in a German airplane for criminal conference with me. As is well known, facts established with absolute exactitude by the Norwegian authorities as well as others entirely refute Pyatakov's testimony: not a single foreign plane landed at the Oslo airport during the entire month of December 1935.

The International Commission in New York established all facts referring to this incident with exhaustive fullness and irreproachable accuracy (see Not Guilty, pp. 173-91). The breakdown of Soviet justice in this central point could not but be imputed as a lapse of Yakubovich's, since no doubt precisely through him the GPU was gathering information about my life in Norway, conditions of that country, the airport in Oslo in particular. Yakubovich for his part did what he could. But the blunders disclosed at the trial were more than enough for the shooting of an unfortunate diplomat.

Of course, in court Yakubovich will not repent the fact that he supplied the GPU with careless or slipshod information. In all probability another task will be imposed upon him, namely, that of giving new information which should even partially smooth out the deadly impression produced by the breakdown in Pyatakov's testimony. What will be the nature of Yakubovich's "confession" now being prepared? It is not difficult to suppose several variants here. We will take one of them hypothetically in order to show by a concrete example the methods of Stalinist justice.

Yakubovich might admit that he actually belonged to a Trotskyist conspiracy, and was the closest friend and ally of Pyatakov. Precisely he, Yakubovich, organized Pyatakov's flight from Berlin to Oslo. The landing did not at all take place at the airport but on one of the fjords and moreover he, Yakubovich, brought Pyatakov in his own car to his apartment and then took him to meet Trotsky. Pyatakov testified falsely in court regarding the time and place of the landing in order to shield his friend Yakubovich The new data on the imaginary flight which Yakubovich will be assigned will most likely be built on more careful research and combinations. Possibly even with some "chance" witnesses arranged in advance.

Of course, for our part we deal with only a hypothesis. The future trial if held will bring verification. It is quite likely that this article will force Vyshinsky to choose some other variant and introduce corresponding changes in his accusation and in Yakubovich's testimony. We shall try to discover the traces of these alternatives in time.

The work of the GPU is sufficiently crude and invariably leaves dirty marks. At any rate only the hypothesis advanced above permits us to understand how a third-rate diplomatic job-holder, devoid of any political interest, occupying a peaceful post in super-peaceful Norway, could – according to information from various sources – be placed almost at the head of a diplomatic conspiracy.

In any case, I should add that I have never met Yakubovich, that I have had no political relations with him either directly or indirectly, and during my stay in Norway considered him my worst enemy, who led a campaign of slander against me without sparing any expense.

Apparently Yakubovich's successors on the bench of the accused will have to answer for his inevitable fresh blunders should Stalin manage for any length of time to keep in motion his conveyor belt of falsifications.