Leon Trotsky‎ > ‎1938‎ > ‎

Leon Trotsky 19380303 The Secret Alliance with Germany

Leon Trotsky: The Secret Alliance with Germany

March 3, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York 1970, p. 210-213]

When the young diplomat Butenko fled from Rumania into Italy and there issued a statement of a semi-fascist character, the people's commissar of foreign affairs, Mr. Litvinov, hastened to reassure the world (February 17, 1938) that such sentiments could not have come from a Soviet diplomat but only from an impostor belonging to the White Guards. But, Litvinov added, if the declaration had actually come from Butenko's lips, then he, the people's commissar, did not doubt for a minute but that such a statement could not have been extorted save through torture. Let us attempt in all calmness to apply this authoritative dictum as a rule in judging the unfolding events in the present Moscow trial.

The question this time concerns not some completely unknown individual like Butenko but the former head of the government, Rykov; the former head of the Comintern, Bukharin; a host of Soviet ambassadors and ministers, all of whose names have become indissolubly fused with the history of the USSR. These men did not merely escape into fascist Italy at the moment of personal danger; they collectively placed themselves at the disposal of foreign powers for the purpose of dismembering the Soviet Union and reestablishing capitalism.

If Mr. Litvinov thought the fascist-like utterances of a single young diplomat incredible, are we not correct in saying that it is a thousand times harder to believe that the entire older generation of the Bolshevik Party has gone over to the fascist camp?

It is true that the defendants confessed their guilt. But these confessions are capable of convincing us immeasurably less even than the declaration of Butenko convinced Litvinov. We reserve the right, moreover, to repeat the words of the Moscow diplomat with tenfold force: "Such confessions could have been torn from the lips of the accused only by torture."

It might be possible for one man, or for several men, to accomplish a series of horrible crimes, if these crimes would in some way benefit the criminals. An individual might perform an absurd crime. But it is impossible to allow that a large group of men, not merely mentally normal but of superior intelligence, over the course of several years, accomplished a whole series of crimes as monstrous as they are senseless. The feature which distinguishes the present trial is the exaggeration of the old accusations to the point where they relapse into a complete and definitive absurdity.

The formula of accusation in the case of Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others (August 1936) stated that the conspirators out of mere "thirst for power" resorted to terroristic acts and even to an alliance with the Gestapo. In the Radek-Pyatakov trial (January 1937) the charge was that the plotters aimed for power in order to establish fascism in the USSR. Let us accept both these versions at their face value. But in the present trial it is charged that the writer of these lines became an agent of Germany as far back as 1921 when he was a member of the Politburo and chief of the Red Army and when Germany was not yet fascist. At this point we are entering the realm of psychopathology.

In 1921 we had just finished the civil war triumphantly. The international position of the Soviet Union had become stabilized. The introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) gave life to frozen economic forces. We had the right to contemplate the future with real optimism. An expression of this optimism in particular was my report to the Third Congress of the Comintern (June 1921).

On the other hand, Germany at that time was groping in the Versailles blind alley. Its economic strength had been sapped; its military power was practically nonexistent. Thousands of German officers became free lancers, offering their services to many far flung countries. Even if we were to allow – and in the interests of a thorough analysis I am prepared to make any allowance – that I aimed not merely for power but for personal dictatorship – be it at the price of betrayal and secret agreements with capitalist governments – I would not in any case have chosen disarmed and humiliated Germany, which itself needed help and was incapable of offering it to others.

Moscow dispatches link my name, in some sort of tie-up, with that of General Von Seeckt, at that time head of the Reichswehr. This gives an inkling of justification for the hypothesis which, I presume, will be indirectly affirmed later on in the trial. It is obvious that even a delirious dream is made up of some elements of reality. At the same time, a lie can be given the appearance of veracity only if some particles of truth are kneaded into it. From this perspective we will attempt to discover the sort of materials used by the prosecution as a base on which to rear their superstructure.

From the moment of the overthrow of the Hohenzollern, the Soviet government aimed for a defensive alliance with Germany against the Entente and the peace of Versailles. But at that time, the Social Democracy, playing first fiddle in Germany, feared Moscow and placed all its hopes on London and especially on Washington. From its side, the officer caste of the Reichswehr, despite its political enmity against communism, considered a diplomatic and military collaboration with the Soviet Republic necessary. Since the Entente countries were in no hurry to put themselves out to satisfy the Social Democrats' hopes, the "Moscow" orientation of the Reichswehr proved to have an influence upon government circles as well. The highlight of this period was the conclusion of the Rapallo agreement, establishing friendly relations between Soviet Russia and Germany (April 17, 1922).

The military commissariat, which I headed, was planning in 1921 the reorganization and rearmament of the Red Army in line with its passing from a state of war to one of peace. Vitally concerned to improve military technology, we could then expect cooperation only from Germany. At the same time the Reichswehr, deprived by the Versailles treaty of opportunities for development, especially in the fields of heavy artillery, aviation, and chemical warfare, naturally aimed to make use of the Soviet military industry as a test field. The beginnings of German concessions in Soviet Russia took place at a time when I was still immersed in the civil war. The most important of these in its potential – or more accurately, in its expectations – was the concession granted to the Junker aircraft concern. This concession involved a certain number of German officers coming to Soviet Russia. In turn, several representatives of the Red Army visited Germany where they became acquainted with the Reichswehr and with those German military "secrets" which were graciously shown them. All this work, of course, was conducted under the cover of secrecy, since the Damocles sword of the Versailles obligations hung over the head of Germany.

Officially, the Berlin government took no part in these negotiations and acted as if it knew nothing about it: formal responsibility rested with the Reichswehr. The secret naturally could not long continue. Agents of the Entente, particularly of France, established without difficulty that a Junkers aircraft factory and a few other enterprises were operating near Moscow. Paris undoubtedly attributed exaggerated significance to our collaboration with Germany. The collaboration did not achieve a high stage of fruition, inasmuch as neither the Germans nor we had sufficient capital. In addition, mutual distrust was too great. Nevertheless, the semi-friendly ties with the Reichswehr were maintained even after 1923 when the present defendant Krestinsky became ambassador to Germany.

On behalf of Moscow this work was conducted self-evidently not by me as an individual but by the Soviet government as a whole; more correctly, by its leading center, the Politburo. Throughout this period, Stalin was a member of the Politburo, and, as illustrated by his future conduct, up to 1934, when Hitler rejected the proffered hand of Moscow, Stalin was a most dogged partisan of collaboration with the Reichswehr and Germany in general.

The management of the German military concessions was in the hands of the present defendant, Rosengolts, as the representative of the head of the military commissariat. In view of the danger of the infiltration of military spies, Dzerzhinsky, head of the GPU, in collaboration with the same Rosengolts, kept the concessions under constant surveillance.

In the secret archives of the military commissariat and the GPU there should undoubtedly be documents in which collaboration with the Reichswehr is referred to in most guarded and conspiratorial terms. Save for people like Stalin, Molotov, Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky, Rosengolts, Yagoda, and another dozen or so individuals, the contents of these documents may well appear to be "enigmatic," not only to Prosecutor Vyshinsky, who in that period was in the camp of the Whites, but likewise to several members of the present Politburo.

Will not the prosecutor offer these documents as material evidence in order to astound the friendly foreign journalists? It is fully possible that our hypothesis will have been given substantiation before these lines reach the reader.