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Leon Trotsky 19390130 Stalin, Skoblin, and Company

Leon Trotsky: Stalin, Skoblin, and Company

January 30, 1939

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 179-181]

On October 31, 1931, the German newspaper Rote Fahne [Red Flag], the central organ of the late Communist Party, unexpectedly published a report that the White Guard General Turkul, at that time operating in the Balkans, was preparing a terrorist attempt on Trotsky, Gorky, and Litvinov. By the contents of this report, by its tone, and finally by its anonymity, it was completely evident that the information came from the very depths of the GPU. The Soviet press did not breathe a word about this warning, and this still more underlined the highly official source of the information in the German Comintern newspaper. L. D. Trotsky was at that time in exile in Constantinople; Blumkin had already been shot for connections with Trotsky. The question naturally arose: what goal was the GPU pursuing in making this printed warning? Gorky and Litvinov were under the protection of the GPU and did not need any printed warning. That their names had been added only as a cover was obvious to any thinking person even then.

The French and German Bolshevik-Leninists contacted the USSR embassies in France and Germany with written declarations something like this: "If you are reporting a planned attempt on Trotsky, that means you know who is planning it, and where and how it is being planned. We demand from you a united front against White Guard terrorists. We suggest collaboration to work out means of defense." There was no answer. Nor did our French and German comrades expect one. They only needed confirmation of the fact that in making its warning the GPU only wanted to ensure its alibi in advance, and not at all to prevent a terrorist act. The French and German comrades then took their own measures: the guard at Prinkipo was considerably reinforced.

Not long ago, during the Plevitskaya trial,this whole episode floated to the surface again. Commissioner of judicial police Roche, according to the newspaper accounts, testified as follows: "Turkul was once a brave general. … In documents there are indications that at one time he was planning an attempt on Trotsky… General Turkul was displeased not only with Leon Trotsky. He was also dissatisfied with General Miller."Gorky and Litvinov were not mentioned by Roche. Commissioner of judicial police Pigue testified: "Larionov was entrusted with making an attempt on Trotsky. But General Turkul blabbed. And there wasn't any money. They abandoned the project. (Sounds of amazement.)" Not a word about Gorky and Litvinov. Both the commissioners — freemasons and "friends of the USSR" — are giving testimony in the interests of the GPU. They are trying to draw attention away from the Kremlin. Hence Roche's far-fetched remark that Turkul was dissatisfied with Miller (that is, Turkul could have kidnapped him). Hence also the remark of Pigue, thrown out as it were in passing, that Turkul's conspiracy failed because of his free talking (that is, Skoblin didn't take part), and for lack of money (that is, Moscow was not financing him). It must also be added that the French police, informed in time about the conspiracy, did not warn Trotsky at all; they preferred to preserve a benevolent neutrality toward the GPU and the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of the ''brave general" Turkul.

Now, however, the real nature of these "internal affairs" have inconveniently leaked out into the open. Skoblin was carrying out secret work inside the White Guard military organization. In this work he was connected with Turkul, in his capacity as a White terrorist. Skoblin was carrying out secret work in the service of the GP U. In this work he was connected through Yagoda with the Kremlin. Stalin knew about the attempt being planned because … he prepared it himself, through Skoblin. It was a ticklish business. At that time Stalin did not yet have the fully finished reputation of Cain, which now absolves him from the necessity of taking precautionary measures. He still had traces of revolutionary "prejudices." He understood that the murder of Trotsky would inevitably be ascribed to him. And so, in Rote Fahne it was said straight out that it was Turkul's intention not only to carry out the assassination but also to "lay the blame for the murder on the Soviet government." That is why, at the same time as supporting the "brave general" Turkul through Skoblin, Stalin prepared an alibi for himself. That was the purpose of the warning (which in fact did not warn about anything). The mechanics of the whole business was clear to us even then. In No. 27 of the Biulleten (March 1932) was printed the declaration from all the sections of the International Left Opposition saying, among other things: "Stalin is in an actual united front with General Turkul, the organizer of a terrorist act against Trotsky. No alibi in the form of disclosures printed in a German newspaper, but concealed from the people of the USSR … will refute or weaken our accusation… " Why did Turkul's attempt not take place? Most probably the White Guards did not want to fall under the Mausers of the Bolshevik-Leninists. In any case it was precisely from that time that Stalin came to the conclusion that it was impossible to reconcile "public opinion" to the murder of Trotsky and other Bolshevik-Leninists without the help of an elaborate fraud. He started to prepare the Moscow trials. This specimen, obtuse for all his cunning, seriously imagined that it was possible to deceive the whole world. In fact, he deceived only those to whose advantage it was to be deceived… The Plevitskaya trial raised another corner of the veil over the prehistory of the Moscow trials. The coming years, or possibly even months, will bring the revelations of all the remaining mysteries. Cain-Djugashvili will stand before world public opinion and before history the way nature and the Thermidorean reaction made him. His name will become a byword for the uttermost limits of human baseness.