Book Three: Russia’s Fifth Column
CHAPTER XV – The Path to Treason
1. Rebel among Revolutionaries
From the moment Hitler took power in Germany, the international counterrevolution became an integral part of the Nazi plan of world conquest. In every country, Hitler mobilized the counterrevolutionary forces which for the past fifteen years had been organizing throughout the world. These forces were now converted into the Fifth Columns of Nazi Germany, organizations of treason, espionage and terror. These Fifth Columns were the secret vanguards of the German Wehrmacht.
One of the most powerful and important of these Fifth Columns operated in Soviet Russia. It was headed by a man who was perhaps the most remarkable political renegade in all history.
The name of this man was Leon Trotsky.
When the Third Reich came into being, Leon Trotsky was already the leader of an international anti-Soviet conspiracy with powerful forces inside the Soviet Union. Trotsky in exile was plotting the overthrow of the Soviet Government, his own return to Russia and the assumption of that personal power he had once so nearly held.
“There was a time,” Winston Churchill wrote in Great Contemporaries, “when Trotsky stood very close to the vacant throne of the Romanovs.”
In 1919-1920, the world press dubbed Trotsky the “Red Napoleon.” Trotsky was War Commissar. Dressed in a long smart military topcoat, with shining high boots, an automatic pistol on his hip, Trotsky toured the battlefronts delivering fiery orations to the Red Army soldiers. He converted an armored train into his private headquarters and surrounded himself with a specially uniformed, personal armed bodyguard. He had his own faction in the Army Command, in the Bolshevik Party and in the Soviet Government. Trotsky’s train, Trotsky’s guard, Trotsky’s speeches, Trotsky’s features – his shock of black hair, his little black pointed beard and his darting eyes behind his glittering pince-nez – were world-famous. In Europe and in the United States, the victories of the Red Army were credited to “Trotsky’s leadership.”
Here is how War Commissar Trotsky, addressing one of his spectacular mass rallies in Moscow, was described by the famous American foreign correspondent, Isaac F. Marcosson: –
Trotsky made his appearance in what actors call a good entrance . . . after a delay, and at the right psychological moment, he emerged from the wings and walked with quick steps to the little pulpit which is provided for speakers at all Russian gatherings.
Even before he came on the stage there was a tremor of anticipation throughout the great audience. You could get the murmur, “Trotsky comes.” . . .
On the platform his voice was rich, deep and eloquent. He attracted and repelled; dominated and domineered. He was elemental, almost primitive in his fervor – a high-powered human engine. He inundated his hearers with a Niagara of speech, the like of which I have never heard. Vanity and arrogance stood out pre-eminently.
After his dramatic deportation from Soviet Russia in 1929, a myth was woven by anti-Soviet elements throughout the world around the name and personality of Leon Trotsky. According to this myth Trotsky was “the outstanding Bolshevik leader of the Russian Revolution” and “Lenin’s inspirer, closest co-worker and logical successor.”
But in February 1917, one month before the collapse of Czarist, Lenin himself wrote: –
The name Trotsky signifies: Left phraseology and a bloc with the right against the aim of the left.
Lenin called Trotsky the “Judas” of the Russian Revolution.(1)
Traitors are made, not born. Like Benito Mussolini, Pierre Laval, Paul Joseph Goebbels, Jacques Doriot, Wang Ching-wei and other notorious adventurers of modern times, Leon Trotsky began his career as a dissident, extreme leftist element within the revolutionary movement of his native land.
The name Trotsky was a pseudonym. He was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, the son of prosperous middle-class parents, in Yanovka, a little farming village near Kherson in southern Russia, in 1879. His first ambition was to be an author.
“In my eyes,” Trotsky wrote in his autobiography My Life, “authors, journalists and artists always stood for a world that was more attractive than any other, a world open to the elect.”
The youthful Trotsky started work on a play, and appeared in Odessa literary salons in high-heeled boots, wearing a blue artist’s smock, with a round straw hat on his head, and carrying a black cane. While still a student, he joined a group of bohemian radicals. At eighteen, he was arrested by the Czarist police for distributing left-wing literature and exiled, along with hundreds of other students and revolutionists, to Siberia. He escaped from Siberia in the fall of 1902, and went to live abroad, where he was to spend the greater part of his life as an agitator and conspirator among the Russian émigrés and cosmopolitan socialists in the European capitals.
For the first few months of 1903 Trotsky was a member of the staff of Iskra, the Marxist paper which Lenin was editing in exile in London. Following the Menshevik-Bolshevik split which took place in the Russian Marxist movement that summer, Trotsky became affiliated with Lenin’s political opponents, the Mensheviks. Trotsky’s literary talent, flamboyant oratory, dominating personality and flair for self-dramatization soon won him the reputation of being the most brilliant young Menshevik agitator. He toured the Russian radical student colonies of Brussels, Paris, Liege, Switzerland and Germany assailing Lenin and the other Bolsheviks who called for a disciplined, highly organized revolutionary party to lead the struggle against Czarism. In a pamphlet entitled Our Political Tasks, published in 1904, Trotsky accused Lenin of trying to impose a “barracks-room regime” on the Russian radicals. In language startlingly similar to that which he was later to use in his attacks on Stalin, the young Trotsky denounced Lenin as “the leader of the reactionary wing of our party.”
In 1905, following the Czarist defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, the workers and peasants rose in the abortive “first” Russian Revolution. Trotsky hastened back to Russia and became a leading member of the Menshevik-controlled St. Petersburg Soviet. In the hectic atmosphere of intrigue, the intense political conflict and the sense of imminent power, Trotsky found his element. At twenty-six, he emerged from the experience convinced that he was destined to be the leader of the Russian Revolution. Already Trotsky was talking in terms of his “fate” and his “revolutionary intuition.” Years later, in My Life, he wrote: –
I came to Russia in February of 1905; the other émigré leaders did not come until October and November. Among the Russian comrades, there was not one from whom I could learn anything. On the contrary, I had to assume the position of teacher myself. . . . In October, I plunged headlong into the gigantic whirlpool, which, in a personal sense, was the greatest test for my powers. Decisions had to be made under fire. I can’t help noting here that those decisions came to me quite obviously. . . . I organically felt that my years of apprenticeship were over . . . in the years that followed I have been learning as a master learns, and not as a pupil. . . . No great work is possible without intuition. . . . The events of 1905 revealed in me, I believe, this revolutionary intuition, and enabled me to rely on its assured support during my later life. . . . In all conscientiousness, I cannot, in the appreciation of the political situation, as a whole and of its revolutionary perspectives, accuse myself of any serious errors of judgment.
Abroad again, after the defeat of the 1905 revolution, Trotsky set up his own political headquarters in Vienna and, attacking Lenin as “a candidate for the post of dictator,” launched a propaganda campaign to build his own movement and to promote himself as a “revolutionary internationalist.” From Vienna, Trotsky moved restlessly to Rumania, Switzerland, France, Turkey, enlisting followers and forming valuable connections with European Socialists and leftist radicals. Gradually and persistently, among the Russian emigre Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and bohemian intellectuals, Trotsky built up a reputation for himself as Lenin’s chief rival within the Russian revolutionary movement.
“The whole construction of Leninism,” wrote Trotsky in a confidential letter to the Russian Menshevik leader Tscheidze, on February 23, 1913, “is at present built up on lies and contains the poisonous germ of its own disintegration.” Trotsky went on to tell his Menshevik associate that, in his opinion, Lenin was nothing more than “a professional exploiter of every backwardness in the Russian workers’ movement.”
The collapse of the Czar’s regime in March 1917 found Trotsky in New York City, editing a Russian radical newspaper, Novy Mir (New World), in collaboration with his friend and Lenin’s opponent, Nicolai Bukharin, an ultra-leftist Russian emigre politician whom one observer described as “a blond Machiavelli in a leather jacket.”(2) Trotsky hastily booked passage for Russia. His trip was interrupted when the Canadian authorities arrested him at Halifax. After being held in custody for a month, he was released at the request of the Russian Provisional Government and sailed for Petrograd.
The British Government had decided to let Trotsky return to Russia. According to the memoirs of the British agent Bruce Locknart, the British Intelligence Service believed it might be able to make use of the “dissensions between Trotsky and Lenin ” (3) . . .
Trotsky reached Petrograd in May. At first he tried to create a revolutionary party of his own – a bloc composed of former émigrés and extreme leftist elements from different radical parties. But it was soon clear that there was no future for Trotsky’s movement. The Bolshevik Party had the support of the revolutionary masses.
In August 1917, Trotsky made a sensational political somersault. After fourteen years of opposition to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Trotsky applied for membership in the Bolshevik Party.
Lenin had repeatedly warned against Trotsky and his personal ambitions; but now, in the crucial struggle to establish a Soviet Government, Lenin’s policy called for a united front of all revolutionary factions, groups and parties. Trotsky was the spokesman for a sizable group. Outside of Russia his name was better known than that of any other Russian revolutionary except Lenin. Moreover, Trotsky’s unique talents as an orator, agitator and organizer could be used to great advantage by the Bolsheviks. Trotsky’s application for membership in the Bolshevik Party was accepted.
Characteristically, Trotsky made a spectacular entry into the Bolshevik Party. He brought with him into the Party his entire motley following of dissident leftists. As Lenin humorously put it, it was like coming to terms with a “major power.”
Trotsky became Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, in which he had made his first revolutionary appearance in 1905. He held this position during the decisive days that followed. When the first Soviet Government was formed as a coalition of Bolsheviks, left Social Revolutionaries and former Mensheviks, Trotsky, became Foreign Commissar. His intimate knowledge of foreign languages and wide acquaintance with foreign countries fitted him for the post.
2. The Left Opposition
First as Foreign Commissar and then as War Commissar, Trotsky was the chief spokesman of the so-called Left Opposition within the Bolshevik Party.(4) Although few in number, the oppositionists were talented speakers and organizers. They had wide connections abroad, and among the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries in Russia. In the early days after the Revolution they secured important posts in the army, diplomatic corps and executive state institutions.
Trotsky shared the leadership of the Opposition with two other dissident radicals: Nicolai Bukharin, the slim, blond, self-styled “Marxist ideologist,” who headed a group of so-called “Left Communists”; and Grigori Zinoviev, the burly, eloquent leftist agitator, who, together with Trotsky’s brother-in-law, Leo Kamencv, led his own sect, called “Zinovievites.” Trotsky, Bukharin and Zinoviev frequently quarreled among themselves on questions of tactics, and because of personal rivalries and conflicting political ambitions, but at crucial moments they joined forces in repeated attempts to gain control of the Soviet Government.
Trotsky’s own followers included: Yuri Pyatakov, radical son of a rich Ukrainian family, who had fallen under Trotsky’s influence in Europe; Karl Radek, the brilliant Polish “leftist” journalist and agitator who had become associated with Trotsky in opposition to Lenin in Switzerland; Nicolai Krestinsky, a former lawyer and ambitious Bolshevik Duma representative; Grigori Sokolnikov, a youthful cosmopolitan radical who entered the Soviet Foreign Office under Trotsky’s auspices; and Christian Rakovsky, the former wealthy financial backer of the Rumanian Socialists, a Bulgarian by birth, who had lived in most European countries, taken a medical degree in France and become one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Soviet uprising in 1918.
In addition, as War Commissar, Trotsky surrounded himself with a clique of tough, violent army men who formed a special “Trotsky Guard” fanatically devoted to their “leader.” A prominent member of Trotsky’s military faction was Nicolai Muralov, the six-foot, daredevil commander of the Moscow Military Garrison. Trotsky’s personal bodyguard included Ivan Smirnov, Sergei Mrachkovsky and Ephraim Dreitzer. The former Social Revolutionary terrorist, Blumkin, the assassin of Count Mirbach, became chief of Trotsky’s personal bodyguard.(5)
Trotsky also allied himself with a number of former Czarist officers whom he befriended and, despite frequent warnings from the Bolshevik Party, placed in important military posts. One exCzarist officer with whom Trotsky became intimately associated in 1920, during the Polish campaign, was Mikhail Nicolayevich Tukhachevsky, a military leade: with Napoleonic ambitions of his own.
The aim of the combined Left Opposition was to supplant Lenin and take power in Soviet Russia.
The great issue facing the Russian revolutionaries after the defeat of the White Armies and the intervention was: What to do with the Soviet power? Trotsky, Bukharin and Zinoviev held that it was impossible to build socialism in “backward Russia.” The Left Opposition wanted to convert the Russian Revolution into a reservoir of “world revolution,” a world center from which to promote revolutions in other countries. Stripped of its “ultrarevolutionary verbiage,” as both Lenin and Stalin repeatedly pointed out, the Left Opposition really stood for a wild struggle for power, “bohemian anarchism” and, inside Russia, military dictatorship under War Commissar Trotsky and his associates.
The issue came to a head at the Congress of Soviets in December 1920. It was the coldest, hungriest and most crucial year of the Revolution. The Congress assembled in the Hall of Columns in Moscow. The city was snowbound, frozen stiff, starved and sick. In the great hall, unheated because of the fuel crisis, the Soviet delegates were wrapped in sheepskins, blankets and furs, shivering from the intense December cold.
Lenin, still pale and shaken from the aftereffects of Fanya Kaplav’s poisoned bullets which had so nearly ended his life in 1918, rose on the platform to give his reply to the Left Opposition. He described the terrible conditions prevailing in Russia. He called for national unity to meet the “incredible difficulties” of reorganizing economic and social life. He announced the New Economic Policy abolishing the rigid so-called “War Communism” and restoring a measure of private trade and capitalism in Russia and opening the way for the beginning of reconstruction. “We take one step backward,” said Lenin, “in order at a later date to take two steps forward!”
When Lenin announced the “temporary retreat” of the New Economic Policy, Trotsky exclaimed: “The cuckoo has cuckooed the end of the Soviet Government!”
But Lenin believed that the work of the Soviet Government had only begun. He told the Congress: –
Only when the country is electrified, when industry, agriculture and transport are placed on a technical basis of modern large-scale production – only then will our victory be complete.
There was a huge map of Russia on the platform. At a signal from Lenin, a switch was touched and. the map was suddenly illuminated. It showed the Congress how Lenin envisaged the future of his country. Electric lights sparkled on the map at multitudinous points, indicating to the frozen and hungry Soviet delegates the future power stations, hydroelectric dams and other vast projects from which streams of electrical energy would one day pour to transform Old Russia into a modern, industrialized, socialist nation. A murmur of excitement, applause and incredulity swept the cold, packed hall.
Trotsky’s friend, Karl Radek, watched the prophetic spectacle through his thick glasses, shrugged his shoulders, and whispered: “Electro-fiction!” Radek’s witticism became a Trotskyite slogan. Bukharin said Lenin was trying to fool the peasants and workers with his “Utopian chatter about electricity!”
Outside Soviet Russia, Trotsky’s international friends and supporters in Socialist and left Communist circles believed that Lenin’s regime was doomed. Many other observers also believed Trotsky and the Left Opposition were on the verge of power. The American foreign correspondent, Isaac F. Marcosson, reported that Trotsky had “the young Communists, most of the officers, and the rank and file of the Red Army behind him.” But the outside world, like Trotsky himself, overestimated his strength and popularity.
In an effort to rally a mass following, Trotsky toured the country, snaking dramatic appearances at public rallies, delivering impassioned speeches, accusing the “Old Bolsheviks” of having “degenerated,” and calling on the “youth” to support his movement. But the Russian soldiers, workers and peasants, fresh from the victorious struggle against the would-be White Napoleons, were in no mood to tolerate a “Red Napoleon” arising within their own ranks. As Sir Bernard Pares wrote in his History of Russia, concerning Trotsky at this period: –
An acute critic who saw him at close quarters has truly said that Trotsky by his nature and by his methods belonged to pre-revolutionary times. Demagogues were getting out of date. . . .
At the Tenth Bolshevik Party Congress, in March 1921, the Central Committee headed by Lenin passed a resolution outlawing all “factions” in the Party as a menace to the unity of the revolutionary leadership. From now on all party leaders would have to submit to the majority decisions and the majority rule, on penalty of expulsion from the Party. The Central Committee specifically warned “Comrade Trotsky” against his “factional activities,” and stated that “enemies of the State,” taking advantage of the confusion caused by his disruptive activities, were penetrating the Party and calling themselves “Trotskyites.” A number of important Trotskyites and other Left Oppositionists were demoted. Trotsky’s chief military aide, Nicolai Muralov, was removed as commander of the strategic Moscow Military Garrison and replaced by the old Bolshevik, Klementi Voroshilov.
The following year, in March 1922, Josef Stalin was elected General Secretary of the Party and made responsible for the carrying out of Lenin’s plans.
Following the blunt Party warning, and the demotion of his followers, Trotsky’s mass following began to melt away. His prestige was on the wane. Stalin’s election was a crushing blow to Trotsky’s faction in the Party apparatus.
Power was slipping from Trotsky’s hands.
3. The Path to Treason
From the beginning, the Left Opposition had functioned in two ways. Openly, on public platforms, in its own newspapers and lecture halls, the oppositionists brought their propaganda to the people. Behind the scenes, small clandestine factional conferences of Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, Radek, Pyatakov and others mapped out the over-all strategy and planned the tactics of the Opposition.
With this opposition movement as a base, Trotsky built a secret conspiratorial organization in Russia based on the “fives system” which Reilly had developed and which the Social Revolutionaries and other anti-Soviet conspirators had used.
By 1923, Trotsky’s underground apparatus was already a potent and far-reaching organization. Special codes, ciphers and passwords were devised by Trotsky and his adherents for purposes of illegal communication. Secret printing presses were set LIP throughout the country. Trotskyite cells were established in the army, the diplomatic corps, and in the Soviet state and party institutions.
Years later, Trotsky revealed that his own son, Leon Sedov, was involved at this time in the Trotskyite conspiracy which was already ceasing to be a mere political opposition within the Bolshevik Party and was on the point of merging with the secret war against the Soviet regime.
“In 1923,” wrote Trotsky in 1938 in the pamphlet Leon Sedov: Son-Friend-Fighter, “Leon threw himself headlong into the work of the Opposition. . . . Thus, at seventeen, he began the life of a fully conscious revolutionist. He quickly grasped the art of conspiratorial work, illegal meetings, and the secret issuing and distribution of Opposition documents. The Komsomol (Communist Youth organization) rapidly developed its own cadres of Opposition leaders.”
But Trotsky had gone further than conspiratorial work inside Soviet Russia. . . .
In the winter of 1921-1922, the swarthy, furtive-eyed former lawyer and leading Trotskyite, Nicolai Krestinsky, had become the Soviet Ambassador to Germany. In the course of his duties in Berlin, Krestinsky visited General Hans von Seeckt, commander of the Reichswehr. Seeckt knew from his Intelligence reports that Krestinsky was a Trotskyite. The German general gave Krestinsky to understand that the Reichswehr was sympathetic with the aims of the Russian Opposition led by War Commissar Trotsky.
In Moscow, a few months later, Krestinsky reported to Trotsky what General Seeckt had said. Trotsky was desperately in need of funds to finance his growing underground organization. He told Krestinsky that the Opposition in Russia needed foreign allies and must be prepared to form alliances with friendly powers. Germany, Trotsky added, was not an enemy of Russia, and there was no likelihood of an early clash between them; the Germans were looking westward and burning with a desire to revenge themselves on France and England. Opposition politicians in Soviet Russia must be prepared to capitalize on this situation. . . .
When Krestinsky returned to Berlin in 1922, he had Trotsky’s instructions to “take advantage of a meeting with Seeckt during official negotiations to propose to him, to Seeckt, that he grant Trotsky a regular subsidy for the development of illegal Trotskyite activities.”
Here, in Krestinsky’s own words, is what happened: –
I put the question before Seeckt and named the sum of 250,000 gold marks. General Seeckt, after consulting his assistant, the chief of staff (Haase) agreed in principle and put up the counter demand that certain confidential and important information of a military nature should be transmitted to him, even if not regularly, by Trotsky in Moscow or through me. In addition, he was to receive assistance in obtaining visas for some persons whom they would send to the Soviet Union as spies. This counter-demand of General Seeckt was accepted and in 1923 this agreement was put into effect.(6)
On January 21, 1924, the creator and leader of the Bolshevik Party, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, died.
Trotsky was in the Caucasus recuperating from a mild attack of influenza. He did not return to Moscow for Lenin’s funeral, but stayed on at the seaside resort of Sukhum.
“At Sukhum I spent long days lying on the balcony facing the sea,” Trotsky wrote in My Life. “Although it was January the sun was warm and bright. . . . As I breathed the sea air in, I assimilated with my whole being the assurance of my historical rightness. . . .”
4. The Struggle for Power
Immediately after Lenin’s death, Trotsky made his open bid for power. At the Party Congress in May 1924, Trotsky demanded that he, and not Stalin, be recognized as Lenin’s successor. Against the advice of his own allies, he forced the question to a vote. The 748 Bolshevik delegates at the Congress voted unanimously to maintain Stalin as General Secretary, and in condemnation of Trotsky’s struggle for personal power. So obvious was the popular repudiation of Trotsky that even Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev were compelled to side publicly with the majority and vote against him. Trotsky furiously assailed them for “betraying” him. But a few months later Trotsky and Zinoviev again joined forces and formed a “New Opposition.”
The New Opposition went further than any previous faction of its kind. It openly called for “new leadership” in Soviet Russia and rallied every kind of malcontent and subversive element in a nationwide propaganda and political struggle against the Soviet Government. As Trotsky himself later wrote: “In the wake of this vanguard, there dragged the tail end of all sorts of dissatisfied, ill-equipped and chagrined careerists.” Spies, Torgprom saboteurs, White counterrevolutionaries, terrorists, flocked into the secret cells of the New Opposition. The cells began to store arms. An actual secret Trotskyite army was in process of formation on Soviet soil.
“We must aim far ahead,” Trotsky told Zinoviev and Kamenev, as he records in My Life. “We must prepare for a long and serious struggle.”
From outside Russia, Captain Sidney George Reilly of the British Intelligence Service decided it was the moment to strike. The would-be Russian dictator and British puppet, Boris Savinkov, was sent back into Russia that summer to prepare the expected counterrevolutionary uprising.(7) According to Winston Churchill, who himself played a part in this conspiracy, Savinkov was in secret communication with Trotsky. In Great Contemporaries, Churchill wrote: “In June 1924, Kamenev and Trotsky definitely invited him [Savinkov] to return.”
That same year, Trotsky’s lieutenant, Christian Rakovslcy, became Soviet Ambassador to England. Rakovsky, whom in 1937 Trotsky described as “my friend, my genuine old friend,” was visited in his London office shortly after his arrival by two British Intelligence officers, Captain Armstrong and Captain Lockhart. The British Government had at first refused to accept a Soviet representative in London. According to Rakovsky, the British officers informed him: –
Do you know why you received your agreement in Engiand? We have been making enquiries about you from Mr. Eastman and learn that you belong to Mr. Trotsky’s faction, and that you are on intimate terms with him. And only in consideration of this did the Intelligence Service consent to your being accredited Ambassador to this country.(8)
Rakovsky returned to Moscow a few months later. He told Trotsky, what had happened in London. The British Intelligence Service, like the German, wished to establish relations with the Opposition.
“This is something to think about,” said Trotsky.
A few days later, Trotsky told Rakovsky that “relations with the British Intelligence Service should be established.” °
Captain Reilly, preparing his last coup in Russia, was writing to his wife: “There is something entirely new, powerful and worth while going on in Russia.” Reilly’s agent, the British consular official Commander E., had reported to him that contacts had been made with the opposition movement in Soviet Russia. . . .
But that fall, after going into Soviet Russia to meet secretly with the opposition leaders, Reilly was shot by a Soviet border guard.
A few months after Reilly’s death, Trotsky developed what he later referred to in My Life as a “mysterious temperature” which “Moscow physicians” were “at a loss” to explain. Trotsky decided it was necessary for him to go to Germany. He records in his autobiography: –
The matter of my visit abroad was taken up at the Politbureau, which stated that it regarded my trip as extremely dangerous in view of the information it had and the general political situation, but that it left the final decision to me. The statement was accompanied by a note of reference from the G.P.U. indicating the inadmissibility of my trip. . . . It is possible that the Politbureau was also apprehensive of my taking action abroad to consolidate the foreign opposition. Nevertheless, after consulting my friends, I decided to go.
In Germay, according to his own story, Trotsky stayed at a private clinic in Berlin,” where he was visited by Nicolai Krestinsky, Trotsky’s liaison with the German Military Intelligence. While Trotsky and Krestinsky were conferring together at the clinic a German “police inspector,” according to Trotsky, suddenly appeared and announced that the German secret police were taking extraordinary measures to safeguard Trotsky’s life because they had discovered a “plot” to assassinate him.
.As a result of this time-honored Intelligence device, Trotsky and Krestinsky were closeted with the German secret police for several hours. . . .
A new agreement was reached that summer between Trotsky and the German Military Intelligence. Krestinsky later defined the terms of this agreement: –
At that time we had already become accustomed to receiving sums regularly, in sound currency. . . . This money went for the Trotskyite work which was developing abroad in various countries, for publishing literature and so forth. . . . In 1928, when the struggle of the Trotskyites abroad against the Party leadership was at its height, both in Moscow and among the fraternal groups . . . Seeckt . . . advanced the proposal that the espionage information which was being transmitted to him not regularly but from time to time should now assume a more regular character, and, in addition, that the Trotskyite organization should pledge that in case it assumed power during a possible new worid war, this Trotsky-ite government would take into consideration the just demands of the German bourgeoisie, that is to say, mainly for concessions and for the conclusion of treaties of a different kind.
After I consulted Trotsky… I answered General Seeckt in the affirmative and our information began to assume a more systematic character, no longer sporadic, as it had been before. Verbally, promises were made with regard to a future post-war agreement.
…we kept on receiving money. Beginning with 1923 until 1930 we received annually 250,000 German marks in gold… approximately 2,000,000 gold marks.
Back in Moscow after his trip to Germany, Trotsky launched an all-out campaign against the Soviet leadership. “During 1926,” writes Trotsky in My Life, “the party struggle developed with increasing intensity. In the autumn the Opposition even made an open sortie at the meetings of the party locals.” These tactics failed and aroused widespread resentment among the workers who angrily denounced the Trotskyite disruptive activities. “The Opposition,” wrote Trotsky, “was obliged to beat a retreat. . . .”
With the threat of war hanging over Russia in the summer of 1927, Trotsky renewed his attacks on the Soviet Government. In Moscow, Trotsky publicly declared: –
“We must restore the tactics of Clemenceau, who, as is well known, rose against the French Government at a time when the Germans were 80 kilometers from Paris!”
Stalin denounced Trotsky’s statement as treasonable. “Something like a united front from Chamberlain(10) to Trotsky is being formed,” said Stalin.
Once again, a vote was taken on the subject of Trotsky and his Opposition. In a general referendum of all Bolshevik Party members the overwhelming majority, by a vote of 740,000 to 4000, repudiated the Trotskyite Opposition and declared themselves in favor of Stalin’s administration.(11)
In My Life, Trotsky describes the hectic conspiratorial activity which followed his stunning defeat at the general referendum: “Secret meetings were held in various parts of Moscow and Leningrad attended by workers and students of both sexes, who gathered in groups of from twenty to one hundred and two hundred to hear some representative of the Opposition. In one day I would visit two, three and sometimes four of such meetings. . . . The Opposition cleverly prepared a huge meeting in the hall of the High Technical School, which had been occupied from within. . . . The attempts of the administration to stop the meeting proved ineffectual. Kamenev and I spoke for about two hours.”
Trotsky was feverishly preparing for the coming showdown. By the end of October, his plans were made. An uprising was to take place on November 7, 1927, the Tenth Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky’s most resolute followers, former members of the Red Army Guard, were to head the insurrection. Detachments were posted to take over strategic points throughout the country. The signal for the rising was to be a political demonstration against the Soviet Government during the mass workers’ parade in Moscow on the morning of November 7. In MY Life, Trotsky later stated: –
The leading group of the opposition faced this finale with its eyes wide open. We realized only too clearly that we could make our ideas the common property of the new generation not by diplomacy and evasions but only by an open struggle which shirked none of the practical consequences. We went to meet the inevitable debacle, confident, however, that we were paving the way for the triumph of our ideas in a more distant future.
Trotsky’s insurrection collapsed almost as soon as it started. On the morning of November 7, as the workers marched through the Moscow streets, Trotskyite propaganda leaflets were showered down on them from high buildings announcing the advent of the “new leadership.” Small bands of Trotskyites suddenly appeared in the streets, waving banners and placards. They were swept away by the irate workers.
The Soviet authorities acted swiftly. Muralov, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Dreitzer and other former members of the Trotsky military guard were promptly seized. Kamenev and Pyatakov were arrested in Moscow. Government agents raided secret Trotskyite printing presses and arms dumps. Zinoviev and Radek were arrested in Leningrad, where they had gone to organize a simultaneous Putsch. One of Trotsky’s followers, the diplomat Joffe who had been Ambassador to Japan, committed suicide. In some places, Trotskyites were arrested in the company of former White officers, Social Revolutionary terrorists, and foreign agents. . . .
Trotsky was expelled from the Bolshevik Party and sent into exile.
5. Alma Ata
Trotsky was exiled to Alma Ata, capital of the Kazakh Soviet Republic in StLeria, near the border of China. He was given a house for himself, his wife Natalie and his son, Sedov. Trotsky was treated leniently by the Soviet Government, which was as yet unaware of the real scope and significance of his conspiracy. He was permitted to retain some of his personal bodyguards, including the former Red Army officer Ephraim Dreitzer. He was allowed to receive and send personal mail, to have his own library and confidential “archives” and to be visited from time to time by friends and admirers.
But Trotsky’s exile by no means put an end to his conspiratorial activities . . .
On November 27, 1927, the subtlest of all the Trotskyite strategists, the German agent and diplomat, Nicolai Krestinsky, had written a confidential letter to Trotsky which laid down the exact strategy followed by the Trotskyite conspirators during the ensuing years. It was absurd, wrote Krestinsky, for the Trotskyite Opposition to try to continue its open agitation against the Soviet Government. Instead, the Trotskyites must try to get back into the Party, secure key positions in the Soviet Government, and continue the struggle for power from within the governmental apparatus itself. The Trotskyites, said Krestinsky, must seek “slowly, gradually, and by persistent work within the Party, and the Soviet apparatus, to restore, to again earn the confidence of the masses and influence over the masses.”
Krestinsky’s subtle strategy appealed to Trotsky. He soon issued instructions, as Krestinsky later revealed, to his followers who had been arrested and exiled to “get back into the Party by deception,” “continue our activities in secret’,’ and “occupy there more or less independent responsible posts.” Pyatakov, Radek, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other exiled oppositionists began denouncing Trotsky, proclaiming the “tragic error” of their past opposition and pleading for readmission to the Bolshevik Party.
Trotsky’s house in Alma Ata was the center of intense anti-Soviet intrigue. “The ideological life of the opposition seethed like a cauldron at the time,” Trotsky later wrote in the pamphlet Leon Sedov: Son-Friend-Fighter. From Alma Ata, Trotsky directed a clandestine nationwide propaganda and Subversive campaign against the Soviet regime.(12)
Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, was placed in charge of the secret communication system by which Trotsky kept in touch with his own followers and other oppositionists throughout the country. In his early twenties, with great nervous energy, and already trained as an expert conspirator, Sedov combined a fierce attachment to the aims of the Opposition with a continuous, embittered resentment against his father’s egoistic and dictatorial behavior. In Leon Sedov: Soya-Friend-Fighter, Trotsky revealed the important role which Sedov played in supervising the secret communication system from Alma Ata. Trotsky wrote: –
In the winter of 1927 . . . Leon had passed his twenty second year. . . . His work in Alma Ara, during that year, was truly peerless. We called him our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Police and Minister of Communications. And in fulfilling all these functions he had to rely on an illegal apparatus.
Sedov served as liaison with the secret couriers who brought messages to Alma Ata and took back Trotsky’s “directives”: –
Sometimes special couriers also arrived from Moscow. To meet them was no simple matter. . . . Outside connections were handled entirely by Leon. He would leave the house on a rainy night or when the snow fell heavily, or, evading the vigilance of the spies, he would hide himself during the day in the library to meet the courier in a public bath or among the thick weeds in the outskirts of the town, or in the oriental market place where the Kirghiz crowded with their horses, donkeys and wares. Each time he returned happy, with a conquering gleam in his eyes and the precious booty under his clothing.
Almost “100 items a week” of a secret character passed through Sedov’s hands. In addition, great quantities of propaganda and personal mail were sent out by Trotsky from Alma Ata. Many of the letters contained “directives” for his followers, as well as anti-Soviet propaganda. “Between April and October (1928),” Trotsky boasted, “we received approximately 1000 political letters and documents and about 700 telegrams. In the same period, we sent out 500 telegrams and not fewer than 800 political letters. . . .”
In December 1928, a representative of the Soviet Government was sent to visit Trotsky at Alma Ara. He told Trotsky, according to My Life: “The work of your political sympathizers throughout the country has lately assumed a definitely counterrevolutionarv character; the conditions in which you are placed at Alma-Ata give you full opportunity to direct this work. . . .” The Soviet Government wanted a promise from Trotsky to discontinue his seditious activity. Failing this, the Government would be forced to take strong action against him as a traitor. Trotsky refused to heed the warning. His case was taken up in Moscow by the special collegium of the OGPU. An extract from the Minutes of the OGPU, dated January 18, 1929, reads as follows: –
Considered: the case of citizen Trotsky, Lev Davidovich, under article 5810 of the Criminal Code, on a charge of counter-revolutionary activity expressing itself in the organization of an illegal anti-Soviet party, whose activity has lately been directed towards provoking anti-Soviet actions and preparing for an armed struggle against the Soviet power. Resolved: citizen Trotsky, Lev Davidovich, to be deported from the territory of the U.S.S.R.
On the morning of January 22, 1929, Trotsky was formally deported from the Soviet Union.
It was the beginning of the most extraordinary phase of Leon Trotsky’s career.
“Exile usually means eclipse. The reverse has happened in the case of Trotsky,” Isaac F. Marcosson was later to write in Turbulent Years: “A human hornet while he was within Soviet confines, his sting is scarcely less effective thousands of miles away. Exercising remote control he had become Russia’s Public Enemy Number One. Napoleon had one St. Helena which ended his career as a European trouble-maker. Trotsky has had five St. Helenas. Each has been a nest of intrigue. Master of propaganda, he has lived in a fantastic atmosphere of national and international conspiracy like a character in a E. Phillips Oppenheim mystery story.”
(1) Here are some other comments periodically made by Lenin concerning Trotsky and his activities within the Russian revolutionary movement: –
1911. “In 1903, Trotsky was a Menshevik; he left the Mensheviks in 1904; returned to the Mensheviks in 1905, parading around with ultra-revolutionary phrases the while; and again turned his back on the Mensheviks in 1906. . . . Trotsky plagiarizes today from the ideas of one faction, tomorrow those of the other, and thus he regards himself as superior to both factions. . . . I must declare that Trotsky represents his own faction only.”
1911. “Such people as Trotsky with his puffed up phrases . . . are now the disease of the age. . . . Everyone who supports Trotsky’s group supports the policy of lies and deception of the workers . . . it is Trotsky’s special task . . . to throw sand in the eyes of the workers . . . it is not possible to discuss essentials with Trotsky, for he has no views . . . we merely expose him as a diplomatist of the meanest description.”
1912. “This bloc is composed of lack of principle, hypocrisy and empty phrases. . . . Trotsky covers them by the revolutionary phrase, which costs him nothing and binds him to nothing.”
1914. “The old participants in the Marxian movement in Russia know Trotsky’s personality very well, and it is not worth while talking to them about it. But the young generation of workers do not know him and we must speak of him. . . . Such types are characteristic as fragments of the historical formations of yesterday, when the mass Labour Movement of Russia was still dormant. . . .”
1914. “Comrade Trotsky has never yet possessed a definite opinion on any single, earnest Marxian question; he has always crept into the breach made by this or that difference, and has oscillated from one side to another.”
1915. “Trotsky . . . as always, entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists in principle, but agrees with them to everything in practice.”
(2) Trotsky had arrived in the United States only two months before the downfall of the Czar, after being expelled from France in the late fall of 1916. Bukharin had preceded him to the United States from Austria.
(3) In his memoirs British Agent, Bruce Locknart expresses the belief that the British Government at first made a serious mistake in the way it handled Trotsky. Locknart writes: “We had not handled Trotsky wisely. At the time of the first revolution he was in exile in America. He was then neither a Menshevik nor a Bolshevik. He was what Lenin called a Trotskyist – that is to say, an individualist and an opportunist. A revolutionary with the temperament of an artist and undoubted physical courage, he had never been and never could be a good party man. His conduct prior to the first revolution had incurred the severest condemnation by Lenin. . . . In the spring of 1917 Kerensky requested the British Government to facilitate Trotsky’s return to Russia. . . . As usual in our attitude toward Russia, we adopted disastrous half-measures. Trotsky was treated as a criminal. At Halifax . . . he was interned in a prison camp. . . . Then, having roused his bitter bate, we allowed him to return to Russia.”
(4) For Trotsky’s oppositionist activities as Foreign Commissar during the Brest-Litovsk Peace crisis see page 23.
Following his removal from the post of Foreign Commissar, Trotsky publicly admitted the error of his opposition to Lenin at Brest-Litovsk, and again offered unreserved co-operation with Lenin. Trotsky was given a new post which seemed suited to his organizational and oratorical talents. He was made War Commissar. The military strategy and practical leadership of the Red Army was chiefly in the hands of men like Stalin, Frunze, Voroshilov, Kirov, Shots, and Budyenny. Relying on the advice of a number of former Czarist “specialists” who surrounded him, War Commissar Trotsky repeatedly opposed the military decisions of the Bolshevik Central Committee and flagrantly exceeded his authority. In several cases, only the direct intervention of the Central Committee prevented Trotsky from executing leading Bolshevik military representatives at the front who objected to his autocratic conduct.
In the summer of 1919 Trotsky, stating that Kolchak was no longer a menace in the east, proposed shifting the forces of the Red Army into the campaign against Denikin in the south. This, Stalin pointed out, would have given Kolchak a much-needed breathing spell and the opportunity to reorganize and re-equip his army and launch a fresh offensive. “The Urals with their works,” declared Stalin as military representative of the Central Committee, “with their network of railways, should not be left in Kolchak’s hands, because he could there easily collect the big farmers around him and advance to the Volga.” Trotsky’s plan was rejected by the Central Committee, and he took no further part in the campaign in the east, which led to the final defeat of Kolchak’s forces.
In the fall of 1919 Trotsky drew up a plan for a campaign against Denikin. His plan called for a march through the Don steppes, an almost roadless region filled with bands of counterrevolutionary Cossacks. Stalin, who had been sent to the Southern Front by the Central Committee, rejected Trotsky’s plan and proposed instead that the Red Army advance across the Donets Basin with its dense railroad network, coal supplies and sympathetic working-class population. Stalin’s plan was accepted by the Central Committee. Trotsky was removed from the Southern Front, ordered not to interfere with operations in the south, and “advised” not to cross the line of demarcation of the Southern Front. Denikin was defeated according to Stalin’s plan.
Among War Commissar Trotsky’s closest associates was the former Czarist officer, Colonel Vatzetis, who served as commander-in-chief with Trotsky on the Eastern Front against Kolchak. The Soviet authorities uncovered the fact that Vatzetis was involved in intrigues against the Red Army High Command. Vatzetis was removed from his post. In My Life, Trotsky offered this curious apology for his former associate: “. . . Vatzetis in his moments of inspiration would issue orders as if the Soviet of Commissaries and the Central Executive Committee did not exist . . . he was accused of dubious schemes and connections and had to be dismissed, but there was really nothing serious about the accusations. Perhaps before going to sleep, the chap had been reading Napoleon’s biography, and confided his ambitious dreams to two or three young officers.”
(5) In April 1937, Trotsky had this to say about his association with the assassin, Blumkin: “He was a member of my military secretariat during the War, and personally connected with me. . . . His past – he had a very extraordinary past. He was a member of the Left Social Revolutionary Opposition and had participated in the insurrection against the Bolsheviks. He was the man who killed the German Ambassador Mirbach. . . . I employed him in my military secretariat and throughout, when I needed a courageous man, Blumkin was at my disposal.”
(6) Quotations and dialogue throughout Book III, unless otherwise stated in the text, referring to the secret activities of the Trotskyites in Russia, are drawn from the testimony at the trials which took place before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. in Moscow in August 1936, January 1937, and March 1938. Dialogue and incidents directly involving Trotsky and his son, Sedov, unless otherwise so indicated in the text, are taken from the testimony of the defendants at these trials. See Bibliographical Notes.
(7) See page 133.
(8) This statement was made by Rakovsky during his testimony before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. in March 1938. At the period to which Rakovsky was referring, in the 1920’s, the American author and journalist Max Eastman was the official translator of Trotsky’s writings and a lead* disseminator of Trotskyite propaganda in the United States. It was Max Eastman who first made public the so-called “Lenin Testament” or “Lenin Will,” which purported to be an authentic document written by Lenin in 1923 and kept, according to Eastman, “locked in a safe” by Stalin. The alleged Will stated that Trotsky was more fitted to be Ceneral Secretary of the Bolshevik Party than Stalin. In 1928, Eastman translated a propaganda work by Trotsky entitled The Real Situation in Russia. In the supplement to the translated edition of this book Eastman included the text of the so-called Testament and wrote concerning his own role in aiding the Trotskyite Opposition: “. . at the height of a militant effort of the Opposition . . . I published the following translation of the full text of the Testament in the N. Y. Times, using the money received in the further propagation of Bolshevik [i.e. Trotskyite] ides. . . .”
Trotsky himself at first admitted that Lenin had left no Testament or Will. In a letter to the New York Daily Worker on August 8, 1925, Trotsky wrote: –
“As for the `will,’ Lenin never left one, and the very nature of his relations with the Party as well as the nature of the Party itself made such a `will’ absolutely impossible.
“In the guise of a `will’ the emigre and foreign bourgeois and Menshevik press have all along been quoting one of Lenin’s letters (completely mutilated) which contains a number of advises on questions of organization.
“All talk about a secreted or infringed `will’ is so much mischievous invention directed against the real will of Lenin, and of the interests of the Party created by him.”
But to this day the Trotskyite propagandists still refer to Lenin’s Will as an authentic document establishing the fact that Lenin had chosen Trotsky as his successor.
(9) In 1926 Rakovsky was transferred from his London post to Paris. He saw Trotsky in Moscow before he left for France. Trotsky told him that the situation in Russia was coming to a crisis and it was necessary to enlist every possible source of foreign aid. “I have come to the conclusion,” Trotsky told Rakovsky, “that we must give instructions to our confederates abroad, ambassadors and trade representatives, to sound out conservative circles in the capitalist countries to which they have been accredited to what extent the Trotskyites can count on their support.”
On reaching France, Rakovsky began to sound out French reactionary circles on behalf of the Trotskyite Opposition. France was then the center of the Torgprom conspiracy, and the French General Staff led by Foch and Petain was already considering plans of attack on the Soviet Union. Rakovsky subsequently stated regarding the “negotiations which Trotsky instructed me to conduct”: “I met the deputy Nicole in Roye. Nicole is a very big flax spinner in the north, a factory owner, and belongs to the Right Republican circles. I asked him then what opportunities or prospects there were for the opposition – whether support could be sought among French capitalist circles aggressively inclined toward the U.S.S.R. He replied: `Of course, and to a larger extent than you perhaps expect.’ But this, he said, would mainly depend on two circumstances. The first circmnstance was that the opposition should become indeed a real force, and the second circumstance was to what extent the opposition would agree to concessions to French capital. The second conversation I had in Paris took place in 1927, in September, and was with the deputy Louis Dreyfus, a big grain merchant. I must say that both the conversation and the conclusion were analogous to those which I had with Nicole.”
(10)Sir Austen Chamberlain, violently anti-Soviet British Foreign Secretary, then in office.
(11)Four thousand votes was the most that the Opposition forces polled at any one time in the entire course of their agitation. Despite the Party ban on ‘ factions” and the official insistence on “revolutionary unity” as the cornerstone of Soviet domestic politics, an astonishing measure of freedom of debate, criticism and assembly was granted to the Trotskyite oppositionists by the Soviet Government. Especially after Lenin’s death, when the country was going through a period of domestic and foreign crisis, Trotsky was able to take advantage of this situation to attempt to build a mass movement in Soviet Russia behind his own faction. The public propaganda of the Opposition exploited every possible kind of political argument against the Soviet regime. The social and economic policies of the Stalin administration were subjected to continuous criticism under such slogans as “incompetence in administration,” “uncontrolled bureaucracy,” “one-man, oneparty dictatorship,” “degeneration of the old leadership” and so on. No attempt was made to suppress Trotsky’s agitation until it had openly exposed itself as, in fact, anti-Soviet and connected with other anti-Soviet forces. From 1924 until 1927, in the words of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, in Soviet communism – A New Civilisation?, “There ensued what must seem surprising to those who believe that the USSR lies groaning under a peremptory dictatorship, namely, three years of incessant public controversy. This took various forms. There were repeated debates in the principal legislative organs, such as the Central Executive Committee (TSIK) of the AllUnion Congress of Soviets and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. There were hot arguments in many of the local soviets, as well as in the local Party organs. There was a vast [Oppositionist] literature of books and pamphlets, not stopped by the censorship, and published, indeed, by the state publishing houses, extending, as it stated by one who has gone through it, to literally thousands of printed pages.” The Webbs add that the issue “was finally and authoritatively settled by the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party in April 1925; a decision ratified, after more discussion, by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Party Conference of October 1926 and December 1927” and “After these decisions, Trotsky persisted in his agitation, attempting to stir up resistance; and his conduct became plainly factious.”
(12)In Trotsky’s absence, responsibility for directing the remaining forces of the Opposition temporarily fell into the hands of Nicolai Bukharin who, disagreeing with Trotsky’s leadership, had shrewdly refrained from taking any open part in the disastrous attempted Putsch. Bukharin had come to consider himself, and not Trotsky, as the true leader and theoretician of the Opposition. At the special “Marxist school” which he headed in Moscow, Bukharin had surrounded himself with a group of “cadres,” as he called them, recruited from among young students. Bukharin trained a number of these students in the technique of the conspiracy. He was also in close touch with members of the technical intelligentsia who had joined the Industrial Party. Previously, Bukharin had called himself a “Left Communist”; now, after Trotsky’s debacle, he began to formulate the principles of what was soon to be publicly known as the Right Opposition.
Bukharin believed that Trotsky had acted hastily and that his failure was largely due to the fact that he had not acted in unison with all the other anti-Soviet forces at work within the country. Bukharin now set out to remedy this with his Right Opposition. Following the outlawing of the Trotskyites, the first Five-Year Plan was about to go into full-scale operation. The country was facing new hardships, difficulties and extreme tensions. Together with the government official, Alexei Rykov, and the tradeunion official, Al. Tomsky, Bukharin organized the Right Opposition within the Bolshevik Party in secret co-operation with the Toryprom agents and the Alensheviks. The Right Opposition was based on open opposition to the Five-Year Plan. Behind the scenes, Bukharin formulated the real program of the Right Opposition at conspiratorial meetings with Trotsky’s representatives, and with agents of the other underground organizations.
“If my program stand were to be formulated practically,” Bukharin later stated, “it would be, in the economic sphere, State capitalism, the prosperous muzhik individual, the curtailment of the collective farms, foreign concessions, surrender of the monopoly of foreign trade, and, as a result – the restoration of capitalism in the country. . . Inside the country, our actual program [was] the bloc with the Alensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and the like. . . . A lapse . . . in the political sense into ways where there are undoubtedly elements of Cacsarism . . . elements of Fascism.”
Bukharin’s new political line for the Opposition attracted a following among high-ranking careerist officials in Soviet Russia who had no faith in the success of the Five-Year Plan. The leaders of the kulak organizations which were fiercely resisting collectivization in the countryside provided Bukharin’s Right Opposition with elements of the mass base which Trotsky had previously sought in vain. Trotsky at first resented Bukharin’s assumption of leadership of the movement he had initiated; but, after a brief period of rivalry and even feuding, the differences were reconciled. The public and “legal” Phase of the Right Opposition lasted until November 1929 when a plenum of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party declared that the propaganda of the views of the Rights was incompatible with membership in the Party. Buldiarin, Rykov and Tomsky were removed from their high official positions.
CHAPTER XVI – Genesis of a Fifth Column
1. Trotsky at Elba
ON February 13, 1929, Leon Trotsky arrived at Constantinople. He did not arrive like a discredited political exile. Trotsky came like a visiting potentate. Headlines in the world press reported his arrival. Foreign correspondents waited to greet the private motor launch which brought him to the quay. Brushing them aside, Trotsky strode to a waiting automobile chauffeured by one of his personal bodyguards, and was whisked away to personal quarters in the city which had been prepared in advance for his coming.
A political storm broke in Turkey. Pro-Soviet spokesmen demanded Trotsky’s expulsion; anti-Soviet spokesmen welcomed him as the enemy of the Soviet regime. The Turkish Government seemed undecided. There were rumors of diplomatic pressure to keep Trotsky in Turkey, near to the Soviet borders. Finally, a compromise was reached. Trotsky was to stay in Turkey and yet not in Turkey. The exiled “Red Napoleon” was to be given a haven on the Turkish island of Prinkipo. Trotsky, his wife and son, and a number of his bodyguards moved there a few weeks later. . . .
At Prinkipo, the picturesque Black Sea island where Woodrow Wilson dreamed of holding an Allied-Soviet peace conference, the exiled Trotsky established his new political headquarters with his son, Leon Sedov, as his chief aide and second-in-command. “In Prinkipo a new group of young co-workers from different countries had meanwhile been successfully formed in intimate collaboration with my son,” Trotsky later wrote. A strange, hectic atmosphere of mystery and intrigue surrounded the small house in which Trotsky lived. The house was guarded outside by police dogs and armed bodyguards. Inside, the house swarmed with radical adventurers from Russia, Germany, Spain and other countries, who had joined Trotsky at Prinkipo. He called them his “secretaries.” They formed a new Trotsky guard. There was a constant stream of visitors to the house: anti-Soviet propagandists, politicians, journalists, hero worshipers of the exile, and would-be “world revolutionists.” Bodyguards stood outside the door of Trotsky’s library while he held private conferences with renegades from the international Communist or Socialist movements. From time to time, their visits cloaked with secrecy, agents of Intelligence Services and other mysterious persons came for interviews with Trotsky.
At first, the head of Trotsky’s armed bodyguard at Prinkipo was Blumkin, the Social Revolutionary assassin who had followed Trotsky with doglike devotion since the early nineteen twenties. Late in 1930, Trotsky sent him back to Soviet Russia on a special mission. Blumkin was caught by the Soviet police, put on trial, found guilty of smuggling arms and anti-Soviet propaganda into the U.S.S.R., and shot. Later, Trotsky’s bodyguard was headed by a Frenchman, Raymond Molinier, and by an American, Sheldon Harte.
With elaborate care, Trotsky sought to maintain his reputation as a “great revolutionary” in temporary exile. He was in his fiftieth year. His stocky, slightly humped figure was growing plump and flabby. His famous shock of black hair and little, pointed beard were gray. But his movements were still rapid and impatient. His dark eyes behind the inveterate pince-nez which glittered on his sharp nose gave his somber, mobile features an expression of peculiar malevolence. Many observers were repelled by his “Mephistophelian” physiognomy. Others found in Trotsky’s voice and eyes an almost hypnotic fascination.
In maintaining his reputation outside of Soviet Russia, Trotsky left nothing to chance. He was fond of quoting the words of the French Anarchist, Proudhon: “Destiny – I laugh at it; and as for men, they are too ignorant, too enslaved for me to feel annoyed at them.” But before he granted interviews to important visitors, Trotsky carefully rehearsed his role, and even studied appropriate gestures before a mirror in his bedroom. Journalists who visited Prinkipo had to submit their articles to be edited by Trotsky before publication. In conversation, Trotsky poured out an unending flow of dogmatic assertion and anti-Soviet invective, emphasizing every sentence and gesture with the theatrical intensity of a mass orator.
The liberal German writer, Emil Ludwig, interviewed Trotsky soon after he settled at Prinkipo. Trotsky was in an optimistic mood. Crisis was facing Russia, he told Ludwig; the Five-Year Plan was a failure; there would be unemployment, economic and industrial disaster; the collectivization program in agriculture was doomed; Stalin was leading the country to a catastrophe; the Opposition was growing. . . .
“How large is your following inside Russia?” asked Ludwig. Trotsky was suddenly cautious. He waved a plump, white, manicured hand. “It is difficult to estimate.” His following was “scattered,” he told Ludwig, working illegally, “underground.” “When do you expect to come out into the open again?”
To this, after some consideration, Trotsky replied: “When an opportunity is presented from the outside. Perhaps a war or a new European intervention – when the weakness of the government would act as a stimulus!”
Winston Churchill, still passionately interested in every phase of the world anti-Soviet campaign, made a special study of the exile on Prinkipo. “I never liked Trotsky,” Churchill declared in 1944. But Trotsky’s conspiratorial audacity, his oratorical talents and demonic energy appealed to Churchill’s adventurous temperament. Summing up the whole purpose of Trotsky’s international conspiracy from the moment he left Soviet soil, Churchill wrote in Great Contemporaries:-
Trotsky . . . strives to rally the underworld of Europe to the overthrow of the Russian Army.
Also, about this time, the American foreign correspondent John Gunther visited Trotsky’s Prinkipo headquarters. He spoke with Trotsky and a number of Trotsky’s Russian and European associates. To Gunther’s surprise, Trotsky did not behave like a defeated exile. He behaved more like a ruling monarch or dictator. Gunther thought of Napoleon at Elba – just before the dramatic return and the Hundred Days. Gunther reported: –
A Trotsky movement has grown up throughout most of Europe. In each country there is a nucleus of Trotskyite agitators. They take orders from Prinkipo direct. There is a sort of communication between the various groups, through their publications and manifestos but mostly through private letters. The various central committees are linked to an international headquarters in Berlin.
Gunther tried to get Trotsky to talk about his Fourth International, just what it stood for and what it did. Trotsky was reserved on the subject. In one expansive moment, he showed Gunther a number of “hollow books” in which secret documents were concealed and transported. He praised the activities of Andreas Nin in Spain. (1) He also had followers and influential sympathizers in the United States. He spoke of Trotskyite cells being formed in France, Norway and Czechoslovakia. Their activities, he told Gunther, were “semi-secret.”. . .
Gunther wrote that Trotsky had “lost Russia, or at least for a while. No man knows whether he may not regain it in ten or twenty years.” Trotsky’s chief aim was “to hold out, hope for Stalin’s downfall in Russia, and meantime bend every bit of energy to unceasing perfection of his counter-Communist organization abroad.”
Only “one tiling,” Gunther concluded, could put Trotsky “back at once in Russia.”
That one thing was “Stalin’s death.”
From Prinkipo during 1930-1931, Trotsky launched an extraordinary anti-Soviet propaganda campaign which soon penetrated every country. It was an entirely new kind of anti-Soviet propaganda, infinitely more subtle and confusing than anything that had been devised by the anti-Bolshevik crusaders in the past.
Times had changed. Following the great Crisis, the whole world was revolutionary-minded in that it did not want a return to the ways of the past which had brought so much misery and suffering. The early counterrevolution of Fascism in Italy had been effectively promoted by its ex-Socialist founder, Benito Mussolini, as the “Italian Revolution.” In Germany, the Nazis were gaining mass backing, not only by enlisting anti-Bolshevik reaction, but also by posing among the German workers and peasants as “National Socialists.” As far back as 1903, Trotsky had mastered the propaganda device of what Lenin called “ultra-revolutionary slogans which cost him nothing.”
Now, on a world-wide scale, Trotsky proceeded to develop the propaganda technique he had originally employed against Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. In innumerable ultra-leftist and violently radical-sounding articles, books, pamphlets and speeches, Trotsky began to attack the Soviet regime and call for its violent overthrow – not because it was revolutionary; but because it was, as he phrased it, “counterrevolutionary” and “reactionary.”
Overnight, many of the older anti-Bolshevik crusaders abandoned their former pro-Czarist and openly counterrevolutionary propaganda line, and adopted the new, streamlined Trotskyite device of attacking the Russian Revolution “from the Left.” In the following years, it became an accepted thing for a Lord Rothermere or a William Randolph Hearst to accuse Josef Stalin of “betraying the Revolution.”. . .
Trotsky’s first major propaganda work to introduce this new anti-Soviet line to the international counterrevolution was his melodramatic, semi-fictitious autobiography, My Life. First published as a series of anti-Soviet articles by Trotsky in European and American newspapers, its aim as a book was to vilify Stalin and the Soviet Union, increase the prestige of the Trotskyite movement and bolster the myth of Trotsky as the “world revolutionary.” Trotsky depicted himself in My Life as the real inspirer and organizer of the Russian Revolution, who had been somehow tricked out of his rightful place as Russian leader by “crafty,” “mediocre” and “Asiatic” opponents.
Anti-Soviet agents and publicists immediately ballyhooed Trotsky’s book into a sensational world-wide best seller which was said to tell the “inside story” of the Russian Revolution. Adolf Hitler read Trotsky’s autobiography as soon as it was published. Hitler’s biographer, Konrad Heiden, tells in Der Fuehrer how the Nazi leader surprised a circle of his friends in 1930 by bursting into rapturous praises of Trotsky’s book. “Brilliant!” cried Hitler, waving Trotsky’s My Life at his followers. “I have learnt a great deal from it, and so can you!”
Trotsky’s book rapidly became a textbook for the anti-Soviet Intelligence Services. It was accepted as a basic guide for propaganda against the Soviet regime. The Japanese secret police made it compulsory reading for imprisoned Japanese and Chinese Communists, in an effort to break down their morale and to convince them that Soviet Russia had betrayed the Chinese Revolution and the cause for which they were fighting. The Gestapo made similar use of the book . . .
My Life was only the opening gun of Trotsky’s prodigious anti-Soviet propaganda campaign. It was followed by The Revolution Betrayed, Soviet Economy in Danger, The Failure of the Five-Year Plan, Stalin and the Chinese Revolution, The Stalin School of Falsification, and countless other anti-Soviet books, pamphlets and articles, many of which first appeared under flaring headlines in reactionary newspapers in Europe and America. Trotsky’s “Bureau” supplied a continual stream of “revelations,” “exposures” and “inside stories” about Russia for the anti-Soviet world press.
For consumption inside the Soviet Union, Trotsky published his official Bulletin o f the Opposition. Printed abroad, first in Turkey, then in Germany, France, Norway and other countries, and smuggled into Russia by secret Trotskyite couriers, the Bulletin was not intended to reach the Soviet masses. It was aimed at the diplomats, state officials, military men, and intellectuals who had once followed Trotsky or who seemed likely to be influenced by him. The Bulletin also contained directives for the propaganda work of the Trotskyites both within Russia and abroad. Ceaselessly, the Bulletin drew. lurid pictures of coming disaster for the Soviet regime, predicting industrial crises, renewed civil war, and the collapse of the Red Army at the first foreign attack. The Bulletin skillfully played on all the doubts and anxieties which the extreme tensions and hardships of the construction period aroused in the minds of unstable, confused and dissatisfied elements. The Bulletin openly called upon these elements to undermine and carry out acts of violence against the Soviet Government.
Here are some typical examples of the anti-Soviet propaganda and calls for the violent overthrow of the Soviet regime which Trotsky spread throughout the world in the years following his expulsion from the U.S.S.R.: –
The policy of the present-day leadership, the tiny group of Stalin, is leading the country at full speed to dangerous crises and collapses. – Letter to Members o f Communist Party of the Soviet Union, March 1930
The impending crisis of Soviet economy will inevitably, and within the very near future, crumble the sugary legend [that socialism can be built in one country] and, we have no reason to doubt, will scatter many dead. . . . The (Soviet) economy functions without material reserves and without calculation . . . the uncontrolled bureaucracy has tied up its prestige with the subsequent accumulation of errors . . . a crisis is impending [in the Soviet Union] with a retinue of consequences such as the enforced shutting down of enterprises and unemployment. – Soviet Economy in Danger, 1932
The hungry workers [in the Soviet Union] are dissatisfied with the policies of the party. The party is dissatisfied with the leadership. The peasantry is dissatisfied with industrialization, with collectivization, with the city. – Article in the Militant (U.S.A.), February 4, 1933
The first social shock, external or internal, may throw the atomized Soviet Society into civil war. – The Soviet Union and the Fourth International, 1933
It would be childish to think that the Stalin bureaucracy can be removed by means of a Party or Soviet Congress. Normal, constitutional means are no longer available for the removal of the ruling clique. . . . They can be compelled to hand over power to the Proletarian vanguard only by FORCE. -Bulletin o f the Opposition, October 193 3
The political crises converge toward the general crisis which is creeping onward. – The Kirov Assassination, 1935
Inside the Party Stalin has put himself above all criticism and the State. It is impossible to displace him except by assassination. Every oppositionist becomes, ipso facto, a terrorist. – Statement from interview with William Randolph Heart’s New York Evening Journal, January 26, 1937.
Can we expect that the Soviet Union will come out of the coming great war without defeat? To this frankly posed question, we will answer as frankly: If the war should remain only a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union would be inevitable. In a technical, economic and military sense, imperialism is incomparably more strong. If it is not paralyzed by revolution in the West, imperialism will sweep away the present regime. -Article in American Mercury, March 1937
The defeat of the Soviet Union is inevitable in case the new war shall not provoke a new revolution. . . . If we theoretically admit war without revolution, then the defeat of the Soviet Union is inevitable. – Testimony at Hearings in Mexico, April 1937
2. Rendezvous in Berlin
From the moment Trotsky left Soviet soil, agents of foreign Intelligence Services had been eager to contact him and to make use of his international anti-Soviet organization. The Polish Defensiva, the Italian Fascist Ovra; the Finnish Military Intelligence, the White Russian émigrés who directed anti-Soviet secret services in Rumania, Yugoslavia and Hungary, and reactionary elements with the British Intelligence Service and the French Deuxiéme Bureau were all prepared to deal with “Russia’s Public Enemy Number One” for their own purposes. Funds, assistants, a network of espionage and courier services were at Trotsky’s disposal for the maintenance and extension of his international anti-Soviet propaganda activities and for the support and reorganization of his conspiratorial apparatus inside Soviet Russia.
Most important of all was Trotsky’s growing intimacy with the German Military Intelligence (Section 111B) which, under the command of Colonel Walther Nicolai, was already collaborating with Heinrich Himmler’s growing Gestapo. . . .
Up to 1930, Trotsky’s agent, Krestinsky, had received approximately 2,000,000 gold marks from the German Reichswehr for financing Trotskyite activities in Soviet Russia, in exchange for espionage data turned over to the German Military Intelligence by the Trotskyites. Krestinsky later revealed: –
Beginning with 1923 until 1930 we received annually 250,000 German marks in gold, approximately 2,000,000 gold marks. Up to the end of 1927 the stipulations of this agreement were carried out mainly in Moscow. After that, from the end of 1927 almost to the end of 1928, in the course of about 10 months there was an interruption in the money because after Trotskyism had been smashed I was isolated, I did not know of Trotsky’s plans, I received no information or instructions from him. . . . This went on until October 1928 when I received a letter from Trotsky, who at that time was in exile in Alma Ata. . . . This letter contained Trotsky’s instructions that I was to receive from the Germans the money, which he proposed to hand over to Maslow or to Trotsky’s French friends, that is Roemer, Madeline Paz and others. I got in touch with General Seeckt. At that time he had resigned and occupied no post whatever. He volunteered to talk it over with Hammerstein and to obtain the money. He obtained the money. Hammerstein was at that time the Chief of Staff of the Reichswehr, and in 1930 he became Commander in Chief of the Reichswehr.
In 1930 Krestinsky was appointed Assistant Commissar of Foreign Affairs and transferred from Berlin to Moscow. His removal from Germany, together with the inner crisis which was then going on within the Reichswehr as a result of the rising power of Nazism, again temporarily halted the flow of German money to Trotsky. But already Trotsky was about to enter into a new, extended agreement with the German Military Intelligence.
In February 1931, Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, rented an apartment in Berlin. According to his passport, Sedov was in Germany as a “student”; ostensibly, he had come to Berlin to attend a “German scientific institute.” But there were more urgent reasons for Sedov’s Presence in the German capital that year. . . .
A few months before, Trotsky had written a pamphlet entitled Germany: The Key to the International Situation. One hundred and seven Nazi deputies had been elected to the Reichstag. The Nazi Party had received 6,400,000 votes. As Sedov arrived in Berlin, a mood of feverish expectancy and tension hung over the German capital. Brown-shirted storm troopers, singing the “Horst Wessel,” were parading on the Berlin streets, smashing Jewish stores and raiding the homes and clubs of liberals and workers. The Nazis were confident. “Never in My Life have I been so well disposed and inwardly content as in these days,” wrote Adolf Hitler in the pages of the Volkischer Beobachter.
Officially, Germany was still a democracy. Trade between Germany and Soviet Russia was at its peak. The Soviet Government was buying machinery from German firms. German technicians were getting big jobs in Soviet mining and electrification projects. Soviet engineers were visiting Germany. Soviet trade representatives, buyers and commercial agents were continually traveling back and forth between Moscow and Berlin on assignments connected with the Five-Year Plan. Some of these Soviet citizens were followers or former adherents of Trotsky.
Sedov was in Berlin, as his father’s representative, on conspiratorial assignments.
“Leon was always on the lookout,” Trotsky later wrote in his pamphlet Leon Sedov: Son-Friend-Fighter, “avidly searching for connecting threads with Russia, hunting up returning tourists, Soviet students assigned abroad, or sympathetic functionaries in the foreign representations.” Sedov’s chief assignment in Berlin was to contact old members of the Opposition, communicate Trotsky’s instructions to them, or collect important messages from them for his father. “To avoid compromising his informant” and to “evade the GPU spies,” wrote Trotsky, Sedov “chased for hours through the streets of Berlin.”
A number of important Trotskyites had managed to secure posts on the Soviet Foreign Trade Commission. Among them was Ivan N. Smirnov, the one-time Red Army officer and former leading member of Trotsky’s Guard. After a short period in exile, Smirnov had followed the strategy of other Trotskyites, denounced Trotsky, and pleaded for readmission to the Bolshevik Party. An engineer by profession, Smirnov soon obtained a minor post in the transportation industry. Early in 1931 Smirnov was appointed as a consultant engineer to a trade mission that was going to Berlin.
Soon after his arrival in Berlin, Ivan Smirnov was contacted by Leon Sedov. At clandestine get-togethers in Sedov’s apartment and in out-of-the-way suburban beer halls and cafes, Smirnov learned of Trotsky’s plans for the reorganization of the secret Opposition in collaboration with agents of the German Military Intelligence.
From now on, Sedov told Smirnov, the struggle against the Soviet regime was to assume the character of an all-out offensive. The old rivalries and political differences between the Trotskyites, the Bukharinites, the Zinovievites, the Mensheviks, the Social Revolutionaries and all other anti-Soviet groups and factions must be forgotten. A united Opposition must be formed. Secondly, the struggle from now on must assume a militant character. A nation-wide campaign of terrorism and sabotage was to be initiated against the Soviet regime. It would have to be worked out in every detail. By widespread and carefully synchronized blows the Opposition would be able to throw the Soviet Government into hopeless confusion and demoralization. The Opposition would then seize power.
Smirnov’s immediate task was to convey Trotsky’s instructions for the reorganization of the underground work, and the preparations for terrorism and sabotage, to the most trusted members of the Opposition in Moscow. He was also to make arrangements for the sending of regular “informational data” to Berlin to be delivered by Trotskyite couriers to Sedov, who would then relay the data to his father. The password by which the couriers were to identify themselves was: “I have brought greetings from Galya.”
Sedov asked Smirnov to do one more thing while he was still in Berlin. He was to get in touch with the head of a Soviet Trade Mission which had recently arrived in Berlin and to inform this personage that Sedov was in the city and wished to see him on a matter of the utmost importance.
The head of this Soviet Trade Mission which had just arrived in Berlin was Trotsky’s old follower and most devoted admirer, Yuri Leonodovich Pyatakov.
Lean and tall, well-dressed, with a high sloping forehead, pale complexion and a neat, reddish goatee, Pyatakov looked more like a scholarly professor than the veteran conspirator he was. In 1927, following the attempted Putsch, Pyatakov had been the first leading Trotskyite to break with Trotsky and seek readmission to the Bolshevik Party. A man of outstanding ability in business management and organization, Pyatakov secured several good jobs in the rapidly expanding Soviet industries even while still in exile in Siberia. At the end of 1929, he was readmitted to the Bolshevik Party on probation. He held a succession of board chairmanships on transport and chemical industrial planning projects. In 1931, he got a seat on the Supreme Economic Council, the chief Soviet planning institution; and that same year he was sent to Berlin as head of a special trade mission to purchase German industrial equipment for the Soviet Government.
Following Sedov’s instructions, Ivan Smirnov sought out Pyatakov in his Berlin office. Smirnov told Pyatakov that Leon Sedov was in Berlin and had a special message for him from Trotsky. A few days later, Pyatakov met Sedov. Here is Pyatakov’s own account of the meeting: –
There is a cafe known as the “Am Zoo” not far from the Zoological Gardens on the square. I went there and saw Lev Sedov sitting at a small table. We had known each other very well in the past. He told me that he was not speaking to me in his own name, but in the name of his father – Trotsky, and that Trotsky, learning that I was in Berlin, gave him categorical orders to look me up, to meet me personally and have a talk with me. Sedov said that Trotsky had not for a moment abandoned the idea of resuming the fight against Stalin’s leadership, that there had been a temporary lull owing partly to Trotsky’s repeated movements from one country to another, but that this struggle was now being resumed, of which he, Trotsky, was hereby informing me. . . . After this, Sedov asked me pointblank: “Trotsky asks, do you, Pyatakov, intend to take a hand in this fight?” I gave my consent.
Sedov then proceeded to inform Pyatakov of the lines along which Trotsky was proposing to reorganize the Opposition: –
. . . Sedov went on to outline the nature of the new methods of struggle: there could be no question of developing a mass struggle of any form, of organizing a mass movement; if we adopted any kind of mass work we would come to grief immediately; Trotsky was firmly in favor of the forcible overthrow of the Stalin leadership by methods of terrorism and wrecking. Sedov further said that Trotsky drew attention to the fact that a struggle confined to one country would be absurd and the international question could not possibly be evaded. In this struggle we must also have the necessary solution for the international problem, or rather, inter-state problems.
Whoever tries to brush these questions aside, said Sedov, relating what Trotsky said, signs his own testimonium pauperatis.
A second meeting between Sedov and Pyatakov soon followed. This time Sedov said to him: “You realize, Yuri Leonodovich, that inasmuch as the fight has been resumed, money is needed. You can provide the necessary funds for the fight.” Sedov informed Pyatakov how this could be done. In his official capacity as trade representative of the Soviet Government in Germany, Pyatakov was to place as many orders as possible with the two German firms, Borsig and Demag. Pyatakov was not to be “particularly exacting as to prices” in dealing with these concerns. Trotsky had an arrangement with Borsig and Demag. “You will have to pay higher prices,” said Sedov, “but this money will go for our work.”(2)
There were two other secret oppositionists in Berlin in 1931 whom Sedov put to work in the new Trotskyite apparatus. They were Alexei Shestov, an engineer on Pyatakov’s trade mission, and Sergei Bessonov, a member of the Berlin Trade Representation of the U.S.S.R.
Bessonov, a former Social Revolutionary, was a tubby, mild-appearing, dark-complexioned man in his middle forties. The Berlin Trade Representation of which Bessonov was a member was the most central Soviet trade agency in Europe and conducted trade negotiations with ten different countries; Bessonov himself was permanently stationed in Berlin. He was therefore ideally equipped to serve as a “liaison point” between the Russian Trotskyites and their exiled leader. It was arranged that secret Trotskyite communications from Russia would be sent to Bessonov in Berlin who would then relay them to Sedov or Trotsky.
Alexei Shestov was a different personality, and his job was to be suited to his temperament. He was to become one of the chief organizers of the German-Trotskyite espionage and sabotage cells in Siberia where he was a member of the Board of the Eastern and Siberian Coal Trust. Shestov was in his early thirties. In 1923, while still a student in the Moscow Mining Institute, Shestov had joined the Trotskyite Opposition, and in 1927 he headed one of the secret printing presses in Moscow. A slim, pale-eyed young man with an intense, violent disposition, Shestov followed Trotsky with fanatical devotion. “I met Trotsky several times personally,” he liked to boast. To Shestov, Trotsky was “the leader,” and that was how he almost invariably referred to him.
“It’s no use sitting around and whistling for fair weather,” Sedov told Shestov when they met in Berlin. “We must proceed with all forces and means at our disposal to an active policy of discrediting Stalin’s leadership and Stalin’s policy.” Trotsky held that “the only correct way, a difficult way but a sure one, was forcibly to remove Stalin and the leaders of the Government by means of terrorism.”
“We have really gotten into a blind alley,” Shestov readily agreed. “It is necessary to disarm or to map out a new path of struggle!”
Sedov asked Shestov if he knew a German industrialist by the name of “Herr Dehlmann.” Shestov said he knew him by reputation. Dehlmann was a director of the firm Frölich-Klüpfel-Dehlmann. Many of the firm’s engineers were employed in the west Siberian mines where Shestov himself worked.
Sedov then told Shestov that he was to “get in touch with Dehlmann” before he returned to Soviet Russia. The Dehlmann firm, explained Sedov, could be very helpful to the Trotskyite organization in “undermining Soviet economy” in Siberia. Herr Dehlmann was already helping to smuggle Trotskyite propaganda and agents into the Soviet Union. In return, Shestov could supply Herr Dehlmann with certain information about the new Siberian mines and industries, in which the German director was particularly interested. . . .
“Are you advising me to make a deal with the firm?” asked Shestov.
“What’s so terrible about that?” replied Trotsky’s son. “If they are doing us a favor, why shouldn’t we do them a favor and furnish them with certain information?”
“You’re simply proposing that I become a spy!” exclaimed Shestov.
Sedov shrugged his shoulders. “It’s absurd to use words like that,” he said. “In a fight it is unreasonable to be as squeamish as that. If you accept terrorism, if you accept destructive undermining in industry, I absolutely fail to understand why you cannot agree with this.”
A few days later, Shestov saw Smirnov and told him what Trotsky’s son had said to him.
“Sedov ordered me to establish connections with the firm of Frölich-Klüpfel-Dehlmann,” said Shestov. “He bluntly told me to establish connections with a firm engaged in espionage and sabotage in the Kuzbas. In that case I’ll be a spy and a saboteur.”
“Stop slinging about big words like ‘spy’ and ‘saboteur’!” cried Smirnov. “Time is passing and it is necessary to act. . . . What is there that surprises you in that we consider it possible to overthrow the Stalin leadership by mobilizing all the counter-revolutionary forces in the Kuzbas? What do you find so terrible in enlisting German agents for this work? . . . There is no other way. We have to agree to it.”
Shestov was silent. Smirnov said to him, “Well, how is your mood?”
“I have no personal mood,” said Shestov. “I do as our leader Trotsky taught us – stand at attention and wait for orders!” Before he left Berlin, Shestov met Herr Dehlmann, the director of the German firm which was financing Trotsky. Shestov was recruited, under the code name of “Alyosha,” into the German Military Intelligence Service. Shestov subsequently stated: –
I met the director of this firm, Dehlmann, and his assistant Koch. The essence of the conversation with the heads of the firm Frölich-Klüpfel-Dehmann was as follows: first, on supplying secret information through the representatives of this firm working in the Kuznetsk Basin and on the organization of wrecking and diversive work together with the Trotskyites. It was also said that the firm in its turn would help us and that they could send more people upon the demand of our organization. . . . They would in every way help the Trotskyites to come to power. (3)
On his return to Soviet Russia, Shestov brought back a letter which Sedov had given to him for Pyatakov, who had returned to Moscow. Shestov hid the letter in the sole of one of his shoes. He delivered it to Pyatakov at the Commissariat of Heavy Industry. The letter was from Trotsky himself, written from Prinkipo. It outlined the “immediate tasks” confronting the Opposition in Soviet Russia.
The first task was “to use every possible means to overthrow Stalin and his associates.” This meant terrorism.
The second task was “to unite all anti-Stalin forces.” This meant collaboration with the German Military Intelligence and any other anti-Soviet force that would work with the Opposition.
The third task was “to counteract all measures of the Soviet Government and the Party, particularly in the economic field.” This meant sabotage.
Pyatakov was to be Trotsky’s chief lieutenant in charge of the conspiratorial apparatus inside Soviet Russia.
3. The Three Layers
Throughout 1932, Russia’s future Fifth Column began to take concrete shape in the underworld of the Opposition. At small secret meetings and furtive conferences, the members of the conspiracy were made aware of the new line and instructed in their new tasks. A network of terrorist cells, sabotage cells and courier systems was developed in Soviet Russia. In Moscow and Leningrad, in the Caucasus and in Siberia, in the Donbas and in the Urals, Trotskyite organizers addressed motley secret gatherings of die-hard enemies of the Soviet regime – Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, leftists, rightists, nationalists, anarchists and White Russian fascists and monarchists. The message of Trotsky was spread through the seething underworld of oppositionists, spies and secret agents; a new offensive against the Soviet regime was under way.
Trotsky’s emphatic demand for the preparation of acts of terror at first alarmed some of the older Trotskyite intellectuals. The journalist Karl Radek showed signs of panic when Pyatakov acquainted him with the new line. In February 1932, Radek received a personal letter from Trotsky conveyed, as were all Trotskyite communications of a confidential character, by secret courier.
“You must bear in mind,” Trotsky wrote his wavering follower, Radek, “the experience of the preceding period and realize that for you there can be no returning to the past, that the struggle has entered a new phase and that the new feature in this phase is that either we shall be destroyed together with the Soviet Union, or we must raise the question of removing the leadership.”
Trotsky’s letter, together with Pyatakov’s insistence, finally convinced Radek. He agreed to accept the new line – terrorism, sabotage and collaboration with “foreign powers.”
Among the most active organizers of the terrorist cells which were now built throughout the Soviet Union were Ivan Smirnov and his old comrades in the Trotsky Guard: Serge Mrachkovsky and Ephraim Dreitzer.
Under Smirnov’s direction, Mrachkovsky and Dreitzer began forming small groups of professional gunmen and former Trotskyite associates from civil-war days who were ready for violent methods.
“The hopes we’ve placed on the collapse of the Party’s policy,” Mrachkovsky told one of these terrorist groups in Moscow in 1932, “must be considered doomed. The methods of struggle used until now haven’t produced any positive results. There remains only one path of struggle, and that is the removal of the leadership of the Party by violence. Stalin and the other leaders must be removed. That is the principal task!”
Meanwhile, Pyatakov was engaged in seeking out conspirators in key industrial jobs, especially in the war industries and transport, and recruiting them for the all-out sabotage campaign that Trotsky wanted to launch against the Soviet economy.
By the summer of 1932, an agreement to suspend past rivalries and differences, and to work together under Trotsky’s supreme command, was under discussion between Pyatakov, as Trotsky’s lieutenant in Russia, and Bukharin, the leader of the Right Opposition. The smaller group headed by the veteran oppositionists, Zinoviev and Kamenev, agreed to subordinate its activities to Trotsky’s authority. Describing the hectic negotiations which were going on between the conspirators at this time, Bukharin later said: –
I had talks with Pyatakov, Tomsky and Rykov. Rykov had talks with Kamenev, and Zinoviev with Pyatakov. In the summer of 1932 I had a second conversation with Pyatakov in the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry. At that time this was a very simple matter for me, since I was working under Pyatakov. At that time he was my boss. I had to go into his private office on business, and I could do so without arousing suspicion. . . .
In this talk, which took place in the summer of 1932, Pyatakov told me of his meeting with Sedov concerning Trotsky’s policy of terrorism . . . we decided that we would find a common language very soon and that our differences in the struggle against Soviet power would be overcome.
The final negotiations were concluded that fall at a secret meeting which was held in a deserted dacha, summer house, on the outskirts of Moscow. Sentries were posted by the conspirators around the house and along all roads leading to it to guard against surprise and to ensure absolute secrecy. At this meeting something like a High Command of the combined Opposition forces was formed to direct the coming campaigns of terror and sabotage throughout the Soviet Union. This High Command of the Opposition was named the “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.” It was constructed on three different levels or layers. If one of the layers was exposed, the others would carry on.
The first layer, the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center, headed by Zinoviev, was responsible for the organization and direction of terrorism.
The second layer, the Trotskyite Parallel Center, headed by Pyatakov, was responsible for the organization and direction of sabotage.
The third and most important layer, the actual Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, headed by Bukharin and Krestinsky, comprised most of the leaders and highest-ranking members of the combined Opposition forces.
The entire apparatus consisted of not more than a few thousand members and some twenty or thirty leaders who held positions of authority in the army, Foreign Office, secret service, industry, trade-unions, Party and Government offices.
From the start, the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites was penetrated and led by paid agents of foreign Intelligence Services, especially of the German Military Intelligence. These are some of the foreign agents who were leading members of the new conspiratorial bloc: –
Nicolai Krestinsky, Trotskyite and Assistant Commissar of Foreign Affairs, was an agent of the German Military Intelligence since 1923, when he first undertook espionage assignments from General Hans von Seeckt.
Arkady Rosengoltz, Trotskyite and People’s Commissar of Foreign Trade, had been carrying out espionage assignments for the German High Command since 1923. “My espionage activities began as far back as 1923,” Rosengoltz himself later related, “when, on Trotsky’s instructions, I handed various secret information to the Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr, Seeckt, and to the Chief of the German General Staff, Hasse.” In 1926 Rosengoltz began working for the British Intelligence Service, while maintaining his connections with Germany.
Christian Rakovsky, Trotskyite and former Ambassador to Great Britain and France, agent of the British Intelligence Service since 1924. In Rakovskv’s own words: “I established criminal connections with the British Intelligence Service in 1924.” In 1934, Rakovsky also became an agent of the Japanese Intelligence Service.
Stanislav Rataichak, Trotskyite and Chief of the Central Administration of the Chemical Industry; agent of the German Military Intelligence. He had been sent into Soviet Russia by the Germans immediately after the Revolution. He carried on espionage and sabotage activities in the industries being built by the Soviet Government in the Urals.
Ivan Hrasche, Trotskyite, executive in the Soviet chemical industry, came into Soviet Russia as a spy for the Czechoslovakian Intelligence Service in 1919, disguised as a returning Russian prisoner of war. Hrasche became an agent of the German Intelligence Service.
Alexei Shestov , Trotskyite, and member of the Board of Eastern and Siberian Coal Trust, became an agent of the German Intelligence Service in 1931, working for it through the German firm of Frölich-Klüpfel-Dehlmann and carrying out espionage and sabotage assignments in Siberia.
Gavrill Pushin, Trotskyite, and executive at the Gorlovka Chemical Works, became an agent of the German Military Intelligence in 1935. According to his own subsequent admission to the Soviet authorities, he provided the Germans with: “(1) figures of the output of all Soviet chemical enterprises during 1934; (2) the program of work of all Soviet chemical enterprises for 1935; (3) the plan of construction of nitrogen works which comprised construction work up to 1938.”
Yakov Livshitz, Trotskyite and official on the Soviet Far Eastern Railroad Commission, was an agent of the Japanese Military intelligence and regularly transmitted to Japan secret information concerning the Soviet railroads.
Ivan Knyazev, Trotskyite, and executive on the Urals railroad system; agent of the Japanese Intelligence Service. Under its supervision, he carried on sabotage activities in the Urals, and kept the Japanese High Command supplied with information about the Soviet transport system.
Yosif Turok, Trotskyite, and Assistant Manager of the Traffic Department on the Perm and Urals Railway; agent of the Japanese Intelligence Service. In 1935 Turok received 35.000 rubles from the Japanese in payment for the espionage and sabotage assignments he was carrying out in the Urals.
Mikhail Chernov, a member of the Rights, and People’s Commissar of Agriculture of the U.S.S.R.; agent of the German Military Intelligence since 1928. Under the supervision of the Cermans, Chernov carried out extensive sabotage, as well as espionage assignments, in the Ukraine.
Vasily Sharangovich, a member of the Rights, and Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Byelorussia, had been sent into Soviet Russia as a Polish spy in 1921. During the following years he continued to work under the supervision of the Polish Intelligence Service, supplying it with espionage data as well as carrying on sabotage activities in Byelorussia.
Grigori Grinko, a member of the Rights and an official of the People’s Commissariat of Finance; agent of the German and Polish Intelligence Services since 1932. He was a leader of the fascist Ukrainian nationalist movement, helped smuggle arms and ammunition into the Soviet Union and carried on espionage and sabotage work for the Germans and the Poles.
The conspiratorial apparatus of the Trotskyites, Rights and Zinovievites was, in fact, the Axis Fifth Column in Soviet Russia.
(1) For Nin’s later connections with the Fascist Fifth Column in Spain, see footnote on page 283.
(1)(2) (2) The firms Borsig and Demag were “fronts” for the German Military Intelligence. By dealing with these firms, Pyatakov was able to place considerable sums at the disposal of Trotsky. An independent witness, the American engineer, John D. Littlepage personally observed Pyatakov’s dealings with these German firms. Littlepage was employed by the Soviet Government in the capacity of an expert in the gold and copper mining industries In a series of articles concerning his experiences in Soviet Russia, published in the Saturday Evening Post in January 1938, Littlepage wrote:-
“I went to Berlin in the spring of 1931 with a large purchasing commission headed by Pyatakov; my job was to offer technical advice on purchases of mining machinery. . . .
“Among other things, the commission in Berlin was buying several dozen mine hoists, ranging from 100 to 1,000 horse-power. . . . The commission asked for quotations on the basis of pfennigs per kilogram. After some discussion, the German concerns [Borsig and Demag] . . . reduced their prices between 5 and 6 pfennigs per kilogram. When I studied these proposals, I discovered that the firms had substituted cast-iron bases weighing several tons for the light steel provided in the specifications, which would reduce the cost of production per kilogram, but increase the weight, and therefore the cost to purchaser.
“Naturally, I was pleased to make this discovery, and reported to members of the commission with a sense of triumph. . . . The matter was so arranged that Pyatakov could have gone back to Moscow and showed that he had been very successful in reducing prices, but at the same time would have paid out money for a lot of worthless cast iron and enabled the Germans to give him very substantial rebates. . . . He got away with the same trick on some other mines, although I blocked this one.”
Later, Littlepage observed several instances of industrial sabotage in the Urals, where, because of the work of a Trotskyite engineer named Kabakov, production in certain mines was deliberately kept down. In 1937, states Littlepage, Kabakov was “arrested on charges of industrial sabotage. . . . When I heard of his arrest, I was not surprised.” Again, in 1937, Littlepage found further evidence of sabotage in Soviet industry directed personally by Pyatakov. The American engineer had reorganized certain valuable mines in southern Kazakstan and left detailed written instructions for the Soviet workers to follow so as to ensure maximum production. “Well,” writes Littlepage, “one of my last jobs in Russia, in 1937, was a hurry call to return to these same mines. . . . Thousands of tons of rich ore already had been lost beyond recovery, and in a few more weeks, if nothing had been done meanwhile, the whole deposit might have been lost. I discovered that . . . a commission came in from Pyatakov’s headquarters. . . . My instructions had been thrown in the stove, and a system of mining introduced throughout those mines which was certain to cause the loss of a large part of the ore body in a few months.” Littlepage found “flagrant examples of deliberate sabotage.” Just before he left Russia, and after he had submitted a full written report on his findings to the Soviet authorities, many members of the Trotskyite sabotage ring were rounded up. Littlepage found that the saboteurs had used his instructions “as the basis for deliberately wrecking the plant” by doing exactly the opposite of what he had instructed. The saboteurs admitted, Littlepage stated in the Saturday Evening Post, that “they had been drawn into a conspiracy against the Stalin regime by opposition Communists, who convinced them that they were strong enough to overthrow Stalin and his associates and seize power for themselves.”
(3) The Germans were particularly concerned about the new industrial base which Stalin was building in far-off West Siberia and in the Urals. This base was out of range of bombing planes and, in the event of war, might prove a major factor on the Soviet side. The Germans wanted to penetrate this base with spies and saboteurs. Borsig, Demag and Frölich-Klüpfel-Dehlmann, which had contracts with the Soviet Government whereby they were supplying machinery and technical assistance for the Five-Year Plan, were used as “fronts” by the German Military Intelligence. German spies and saboteurs were sent to Russia posing as “engineers’ and “specialists.”
The German Military Intelligence also recruited agents from among Soviet engineers in Germany who were susceptible to blackmail or bribery. One Soviet engineer, Mikhail Stroilov, who was enlisted as a German spy in Berlin in December 1930, and was subsequently recruited into the Trotskyite organization in Siberia, told a Soviet court after his arrest in 1937:
“The thing started gradually with my meeting with [the German spy] von Berg. . . . He spoke Russian excellently because he had lived in Russia, in St. Petersburg, 15 or 20 years before the revolution. This man visited the Technical Bureau several times and had talks with me on business matters, in particular about hard alloys manufactured by the firm of Walram. . . . Berg advised me to read Trotsky’s My Life. . . . In Novosibirsk, German specialists began to come to me with the agreed password. Until the end of 1934 six men came to see me: Sommeregger, Worm, Baumgarten, Maas, Hauer and Flessa [“engineers” employed by the German firm, Frölich-Klüpfel-Dehlmann].. . . . My first report, made on January 1932 through engineer Flessa, and telling of the vast plan of development in the Kuznetsk Basin, was in effect espionage. . . . I received instructions . . . that I should proceed to decisive wrecking and destructive acts . . . the plan of wrecking and destructive work was drawn up … by the West-Siberian Trotskyite organization.”
CHAPTER XVII – Treason and Terror
1. The Diplomacy of Treason
IN the years 1933-1934, a mysterious malaise seemed to seize the nations of Europe. One country after another was suddenly shaken by coups d’état, military Putsches, sabotage, assassinations and startling revelations of cabals and conspiracies. Scarcely a month passed without some new act of treachery and violence. An epidemic of treason and terror raced across Europe.
Nazi Germany was the center of infection. On January 11, 1934, a United Press dispatch reported from London: “With Nazi Germany as the center of the new Fascist movements, agitation and violence by those who believe the old form of government is doomed have spread over the continent.”
The term “Fifth Column” was as yet unknown. But already the secret vanguards of the German High Command had launched their offensive against the nations of Europe. The French Cagoulards and Croix de Feu; the British Union of Fascists; the Belgian Rexists; the Polish POW; the Czechoslovakian Henlein-ists and Hlinka Guards; the Norwegian Quislingites; the Rumanian Iron Guards; the Bulgarian IMRO; the Finnish Lappo; the Lithuanian Iron Wolf; the Latvian Fiery Cross, and many other newly created Nazi secret societies or reorganized counterrevolutionary leagues were already at work paving the way for the German Wehrmacht’s conquest and enslavement of the Continent and preparing for the attack on the Soviet Union.
Here is a partial list of the most important acts of Nazi-fascist terrorism immediately following Hitler’s rise to power: –
Assassination of Alex Mailov, Secretary of the Soviet Embassy, at Lvov, Poland, by agents of the Nazi-financed OUN, terrorist organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Assassination of Premier Ion Duca of Rumania by the Iron Guards, Nazi-Rumanian terrorists
Uprising in Paris, France, of Croix de Feu, Nazi-inspired French fascist organization
Attempted coup d’état in Estonia by Nazifinanced fascist Liberty Fighters
Fascist coup d’état in Bulgaria
Attempted Putsch in Latvia by Nazi controlled Baltic Brotherhood
Assassination of General Bronislav Pieracki, Polish Minister of Interior, by agents of the Nazi-financed OUN, terrorist organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Assassination of Ivan Babiy, head of Organization for Catholic Action in Poland, by OUN agents
Attempted mass uprising in Lithuania by Nazi Iron Wolf organization
Abortive Nazi Putsch in Austria and assassination by Nazi terrorists of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss
Assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and the French Foreign Minister Barthou by agents of the Ustachi, Nazi controlled Croatian fascist organization
Two men were chiefly responsible for the organization and supervision of these Nazi Fifth Column activities which soon extended far beyond Europe, penetrating the United States, Latin America, Africa, and, linking up with the Japanese Intelligence Service, all the area of the Far East. These two men were Alfred Rosenberg and Rudolph Hess. Rosenberg headed the Aussenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP (Foreign Political Office of the Nazi Party) which had the task of directing thousands of Nazi espionage, sabotage and propaganda agencies throughout the world, with special points of concentration in eastern Europe and Soviet Russia. As Hitler’s deputy, Rudolph Hess was in charge of all secret foreign negotiations for the Nazi Government.
It was Alfred Rosenberg, the one-time Czarist émigré from Reval, who first established secret official Nazi relations with Leon Trotsky. It was Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy, who cemented them. . . .
In September 1933, eight months after Adolf Hitler became dictator of Germany, the Trotskyite diplomat and German agent Nicolai Krestinsky stopped off in Berlin for a few days on his way to take his annual “rest cure” at a sanatorium in Kissingen. Krestinsky then held the post of Assistant Commissar in the Soviet Foreign Office.
In Berlin, Krestinsky saw Sergei Bessonov, the Trotskyite liaison agent at the Soviet Embassy. In great excitement, Kristin-sky informed Bessonov that “Alfred Rosenberg, the leader of the Foreign Affairs Department of the National Socialist Party of Germany,” had been “making soundings in our circles on the question of a possible secret alliance between the National Socialists in Germany and the Russian Trotskyites.”
Krestinsky told Bessonov that he must see Trotsky. A meeting must be arranged at all costs. Krestinsky would be in the Kissingen sanatorium until the end of September, then he would go to Merano in the Italian Tyrol. Trotsky could contact him, with due precautions, in either place.
The meeting was arranged. In the second week of October, 1933, Leon Trotsky, accompanied by his son Sedov, crossed the Franco-Italian border on a false passport and met Krestinsky at the Hotel Bavaria in Merano. (1)
The conference which followed covered almost all the major issues concerning the future development of the conspiracy inside Soviet Russia. Trotsky began by stating flatly that “the seizure of power in Russia could be consummated only by force.” But the conspiratorial apparatus alone was not strong enough to carry out a successful coup and to maintain itself in power without outside aid. It was therefore essential to come to a concrete agreement with foreign states interested in aiding the Trotskyites against the Soviet Government for their own ends.
“The embryo of such an agreement,” Trotsky told Krestinsky, was our agreement with the Reichswehr; but this agreement in no way satisfied either the Trotskyites or the German side for two reasons: first, the other party to this agreement was only the Reichswehr and not the German Government as a whole. . . . Second, what was the substance of our agreement with the Reichswehr? We were receiving a small sum of money and they were receiving espionage information which they would need during an armed attack. But the German Government, Hitler particularly, wants colonies, territory, and not only espionage information. And he is prepared to be satisfied with Soviet territory instead of the colonies for which he would have to fight England, America and France. As for us, we do not need the 250,000 gold marks. We need the German armed forces in order to come to power with their assistance. And it is towards this end that the work should be carried on.”
The first thing, said Trotsky, was to reach an agreement with the German Government. “But the Japanese are also a force with which it is necessary to come to terms,” Trotsky added. It would be necessary for the Russian Trotskyites to initiate “soundings” with the Japanese representatives in Moscow. “In this connection,” Trotsky instructed Krestinsky, “use Sokolnikov, who is working in the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, in charge of Eastern Affairs. . . .”
Trotsky went on to give Krestinsky instructions about the inner organization of the Russian conspiratorial apparatus. “Even if the Soviet Union is attacked, let us say, by Germany,” said Trotsky, “that does not as yet make it possible to seize the machinery of power unless certain internal forces have been prepared. . . . It is necessary to have strongholds both in the towns and in the countryside among the petty bourgeoisie and the Kulaks, and there it is the Rights who have the connections. Finally, it is necessary to have a stronghold, an organization in the Red Army among the commanders, in order, with our united effort, to seize the most vital places at the necessary moment and to come to power, to replace the present Government, which must be arrested, by a Government of our own which has been prepared beforehand.”
On his return to Russia, Krestinsky was to get in touch with General Tukhachevsky, Assistant Chief of Staff of the Red Army; “a man,” as Trotsky told Krestinsky, “of a Bonapartist type, an adventurer, and ambitious man, who strives not only for a military but also for a military-political role, and who will unquestionably make common cause with us.”
Trotsky’s followers in Russia were to give every assistance to General Tukhachevsky, while at the same time taking care to place their own men in strategic positions, so that, when the coup d’etat came, the ambitious Tukhachevsky would not be able to control the new government without the aid of Trotsky.
Before the conference broke up, Trotsky gave Krestinsky specific orders for Pyatakov on the carrying out of the terrorist and sabotage campaigns in Soviet Russia. In speaking of this, Trotsky declared that the “diversionist acts and acts of terrorism” must be considered from two points of view. First, “of applying them in time of war for the purpose of disorganizing the defensive capacity of the Red Army, for disorganizing the Government at the moment of the coup d’état.” But secondly, said Trotsky, it must be realized that these acts would make his, Trotsky’s, position “stronger” and would give him “more confidence in his negotiations with foreign governments” because he “would be able to refer to the fact that his followers in the Soviet Union were both sufficiently strong and sufficiently active.”
Back in Moscow, Krestinsky delivered a full report on his meeting with Trotsky before a secret meeting of the Russian Trotskyites. A few of the conspirators, particularly Karl Radek who was supposed to be Trotsky’s “Foreign Minister,” were nettled by the fact that Trotsky had entered into such important negotiations without having first consulted them.
After hearing krestinsky’s report, Radek sent off a special message to Trotsky asking for “further clarification on the question of foreign policy.”
Trotsky’s reply, written from France, was handed to Radek a few weeks later by Vladimir Romm, a young foreign correspondent of the Soviet news agency Tass who was serving as a Trotskyite courier. Romm had received the letter from Trotsky in Paris and had smuggled it into Russia concealed in the cover of the popular Soviet novel, Tsusima. (2) Radek later described the contents of this letter as follows: –
Trotsky put the question in this way: the accession of Fascism to power in Germany had fundamentally changed the whole situation. It implied war in the near future, inevitable war, the more so that the situation was simultaneously becoming acute in the Far East. Trotsky had no doubt that this war would result in the defeat of the Soviet Union. This defeat, he wrote, will create favorable conditions for the accession to power of the bloc. . . . Trotsky stated that he had established contacts with a certain Far Eastern state and a certain Central European state, and that he had openly told semi-official circles of these states that the bloc stood for a bargain with them and was prepared to make considerable concessions both of an economic and a territorial character.
In the same letter, Trotsky informed Radek that the Russian Trotskyites working in diplomatic posts would be approached in the near future by certain foreign representatives and that, when this took place, the Trotskyite diplomats were to confirm their loyalty to Trotsky and to assure the foreign representatives that they stood behind Trotsky in every way. . . .
Grigori Sokolnikov, the Trotskyite Assistant Commissar for Eastern Affairs, hurried into Radek’s office at Izvestia a short time later. “Just imagine,” Sokolnikov burst out nervously as soon as the door was closed. “I am conducting negotiations at the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. The conversation comes to a close. The interpreters have left the room. The Japanese envoy suddenly turns to me and asks: am I informed about the proposals Trotsky has made to his Government?”
Sokolnikov was highly perturbed by the incident. “How does Trotsky visualize this?” he asked Radek. “How can I, as Assistant People’s Commissar, conduct such negotiations? This is an absolutely impossible situation!”
Radek tried to calm his agitated friend. “Don’t get excited,” he said. “Trotsky obviously doesn’t understand the situation here.” Radek went on to assure Sokolnikov that it would not happen again. He had already written to Trotsky telling him that it was impossible for the Russian Trotskyites to carry on negotiations with German and Japanese agents – “under the eyes of the OGPU.” The Russian Trotskyites, said Radek, would have to “put their mandate on Trotsky’s visa” to go ahead with the negotiations on his own, so long as he kept them fully informed of his progress. . . .
Soon after, Radek himself was attending a diplomatic function in Moscow when a German diplomat sat down beside him and quietly said: “Our leaders know that Mr. Trotsky is striving for a rapprochement with Germany. Our leader wants to know, what does this idea of Mr. Trotsky signify? Perhaps it is the idea of an émigré who sleeps badly? What is behind these ideas?”
Describing his reaction to this unexpected Nazi approach, Radek later said: –
Of course, his talk with me lasted only a couple of minutes; the atmosphere of a diplomatic reception is not suited to lengthy perorations. I had to make my decision literally in one second and give him an answer. . . . I told him that realist politicians in the U.S.S.R. understand the significance of a German-Soviet rapprochement and are prepared to make the necessary concessions to achieve this rapprochement..
On the night of June 30, 1934, the Nazi terror struck within its own ranks in Germany when Hitler liquidated dissident elements within his movement. Within twenty-four hours, Captain Ernst Roehm, Chief of Staff of Hitler’s Storm Troops; Edmund Heines, Supreme Group Leader in Eastern Germany; Karl Ernst, Chief Leader of the Berlin Storm Troops; and scores of their friends and associates fell before the bullets of Hitler’s gunmen in Munich and Berlin. Intense anxiety and fear gripped the whole Nazi movement.
From Paris, Trotsky immediately dispatched one of his most trusted “secretaries,” an international spy named Karl Reich, alias Johanson, to contact Sergei Bessonov, the Trotskyite liaison in Berlin. Bessonov was summoned to Paris to make a detailed report to Trotsky on the situation inside Germany.
Bessonov was unable to get to Paris immediately; but at the end of July he managed to leave Berlin. After meeting Trotsky in a Paris hotel and making his report on the German situation, he returned to Berlin that same evening. Trotsky was in a state of great nervous excitement when Bessonov saw him. The events in Germany, the elimination of the “radical Nazis” headed by Roehn, might bring about some hitch in his plans. Bessonov assured Trotsky that Hitler, Himmler, Hess, Rosenberg, Goering and Goebbels still held the state power firmly in their hands.
“They will come to us yet!” cried Trotsky. He went on to tell Bessonov that he would have important assignments for him to carry out in Berlin in the near future. “We must not be squeamish in this matter,” said Trotsky. “In order to obtain real and important help from Hess and Rosenberg, we must not stop short at consenting to big cessions of territory. We shall consent to the cession of the Ukraine. Bear that in mind in your work and in your negotiations with the Germans, and I shall also write about it to Pyatakov and Krestinsky.”
A web of treason was already being spun through the various offices of the Soviet Diplomatic Corps. Ambassadors, secretaries, attaches and minor consular agents were involved in the conspiratorial network, not only in Europe, but also in the Far East….
The Soviet Ambassador to Japan was taking part in the conspiracy. His name was Yurenev. He had been a secret Trotskyite since 1926. On instructions from Trotsky, he established connections with the Japanese Intelligence Service. Assisting Yurenev in his dealings with Japan was Trotsky’s old friend, Christian Rakovsky, the one-time Ambassador to England and France. Rakovsky no longer held any important post in the Soviet Foreign Office. He worked as an official on various public health commissions. But he was still an important personality in the underground conspiracy.
In September 1934, Rakovsky went to Japan with a Soviet delegation to attend the international conference of Red Cross societies which was to take place in Tokyo in October. Before leaving for Japan, Rakovsky received an envelope from the Commissariat of Heavy Industry in Moscow. It was from Pyatakov and it contained a letter which Rakovsky was to deliver to Ambassador Yurenev in Tokyo. Ostensibly, the letter expressed a routine request for official trade information. On the back of the letter, written in invisible ink, there was a message to Yurenev informing him that Rakovsky was to be “utilized” in the negotiations with the Japanese.
The day after Rakovsky arrived in Tokyo he was contacted by a Japanese agent. The encounter took place in a corridor of the Japanese Red Cross building in Tokyo. Rakovsky was told that the aims of the Russian Trotskyite movement “fully coincided” with those of the Japanese Government. The Japanese agent added that he was sure Rakovsky would be able to provide Tokyo with valuable information concerning the “situation” inside Soviet Russia.
That same evening Rakovsky told Yurenev about his conversation with the Japanese agent. “The idea is to enlist me as a spy,” said Rakovsky, “as an informer for the Japanese Government.”
“There is no need to hesitate,” replied the Trotskyite Ambassador. “The die is cast.”
A few days later, Rakovsky dined by appointment with a high officer of the Japanese Intelligence Service. The Japanese officer began the conversation boldly. “We are aware that you are a very close friend and adherent of Mr. Trotsky,” he told Rakovsky. “I must ask you to write to him that our government is dissatisfied with his articles on the Chinese question and also with the behavior of the Chinese Trotskyites. We have a right to expect a different line of conduct on the part of Mr. Trotsky. Mr. Trotsky ought to understand what is necessary. There is no need to go into details, but it is clear that an incident provoked in China would be a desirable pretext for intervening in China.”
The Japanese officer then went on to tell Rakovsky the sort of confidential information the Japanese Government would be interested in receiving from the Russian Trotskyites: data concerning conditions in collective farms, railroads, mines and industries, especially in the Eastern sections of the U.S.S.R. Rakovsky was given various codes and spy names for his use in delivering this information. It was arranged that Dr. Naida, a secretary of the Red Cross delegation, would act as liaison between Rakovsky and the Japanese Intelligence Service. . . .
Before he left Tokyo, Rakovsky had a final chat with Yurenev. The Trotskyite Ambassador was depressed. “We have gotten into such a mess that sometimes one does not know how to behave!” he said gloomily. “One is afraid that by satisfying one of our partners we may offend another. For instance, here at present, antagonism is arising between Great Britain and Japan in connection with the Chinese question, while we have to maintain connections both with the British and the Japanese Intelligence Services. . . . And here I have to find my bearings in all this!”
Rakovsky replied: “We Trotskyites have to play three cards at the present moment: the German, the Japanese, and the British. . . . What we are doing is a policy of putting everything at stake, of everything for everything; but if a risky venture succeeds, the adventurers are called great statesmen!”(3)
2. The Diplomacy of Terror
While the Russian conspirators were cementing their treasonable ties with the representatives of Germany and Japan, another phase of the secret offensive against the Soviet Government was already under way. Treason was being supplemented by terror. . . .
In April 1934, a Soviet engineer named Boyarshinov walked into the office of the construction chief at the vital Kuznetsk coal mines in Siberia to report that something was very wrong in his department. There were far too many accidents, underground fires, mechanical breakdowns. Boyarshinov suspected sabotage.
The construction chief thanked Boyarshinov for the information. “I will inform the right people,” he said. “In the meantime don’t say anything to anybody about this.”
The construction chief was Alexei Shestov, German spy and chief organizer of Trotskyite sabotage in Siberia.
A few days later Boyarshinov was found dead in a ditch. A speeding truck had hit him as he was going home from work along a lonely strip of country road. The driver of the truck was a professional terrorist named Cherepukhin. Shestov had given him the assignment of murdering Bovarshinov and paid him 15,000 rubles for the job.(4)
In September 1934, V. M. Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the U.S.S.R., arrived in Siberia on an inspection tour of the mining and industrial areas. Molotov was returning from a visit to one of the mines at the Kuznetsk coal basin when the car in which he was driving suddenly went off the road, careened down a steep embankment and stopped just at the edge of a steep gully. Severely shaken and bruised, but otherwise unhurt, Molotov and his companions scrambled from the overturned car. They had narrowly escaped death. . . .
The driver of the car was Valentine Arnold, the manager of the local garage. Arnold was a member of the Trotskyite terrorist apparatus. Shestov had instructed him to murder Molotov; and Arnold had deliberately driven the car off the road, intending to kill himself along with Molotov. The attempt failed only because at the last minute Arnold lost his nerve and slowed down as he approached the embankment where the “accident” was scheduled to have taken place. . . .
By the autumn of 1934, Trotskyite and Right terrorist groups were functioning throughout the Soviet Union. These terrorist groups included among their members former Social Revolutionaries, one-time Mensheviks, professional gunmen and ex-agents of the Czarist Ochrana. In the Ukraine and Byelorussia, in Georgia and Armenia, in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Maritime Region of the Far East, anti-Soviet nationalists and fascists were recruited into the terrorist apparatus. In many places, Nazi and Japanese agents directly supervised the operations of these groups.
A list had been compiled of the Soviet leaders who were to be assassinated. At the head of the list was the name of Josef Stalin. Among the other names were Klementi Voroshilov, V. M. Molotov, Sergei Kirov, Lazar Kaganovich, Andrei Zhdanov, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Maxim Gorky and Valerian Kuibyshev.
The terrorists periodically received messages from Leon Trotsky stressing the urgency of eliminating the Soviet leaders. One of these messages reached Ephraim Dreitzer, Trotsky’s former bodyguard, in October 1934. Trotsky had written it in invisible ink on the margins of a German motion picture magazine. It was brought to Dreitzer by his sister, who had been given the magazine by a Trotskyite courier in Warsaw. Trotsky’s message to Dreitzer read: –
Dear friend. Convey that today we have the following main tasks before us:
l) To remove Stalin and Voroshilov.
2) To unfold work for organizing nuclei in the army.
3) In the event of war, to take advantage of every setback and confusion to capture the leadership.
The message was signed Starik (“Old Man”), which was Trotsky’s code signature.
In one case, the conspirators, after prolonged observation, established the route along which Commissar of Defense Voroshilov usually drove in Moscow. Three terrorists, armed with revolvers, were stationed for a number of days on Frunze Street, one of the thoroughfares along which Voroshilov’s car passed. But the car always traveled at a high speed, and the terrorists decided, as one of them reported afterwards, that “It was useless firing at the fast running car.”
Several plots to kill Stalin also miscarried. A Trotskyite terrorist, assigned to shoot Stalin at an important Party conference in Moscow, managed to get into the meeting but was unable to approach close enough to the Soviet leader to use his revolver. Another time, terrorists fired with high-powered rifles at Stalin as he was passing in a motorboat along the shore of the Black Sea, but the shots missed. “A pity,” said Leo Kamenev, when the terrorist Ivan Bakayev reported the failure of one of his blots to kill Stalin. “Let’s hope the next time we’ll be more successful.” (5)
Trotsky became more and more inpatient. The tone of his communications to his followers in Russia underwent a sharp change. He angrily berated them for being “all the time engaged in organizational preparations and conversations” and for not having accomplished “anything concrete.” Trotsky began sending special agents of his own into the Soviet Union to help organize and to expedite terrorist acts. These agents, who were either Russian émigrés or German Trotskyites, traveled on false passports provided for them by the conspirators in the Soviet diplomatic service or by the German Military Intelligence and the Gestapo.
The first of these special agents was a German Trotskyite named Nathan Lurye. He was followed by two more of Trotsky’s men: Konon Berman-Yurin and Fritz David, alias Ilya-David Kruglyansky. In March 1933 Trotsky sent a fourth and fifth agent: Valentine Olberg and Moissei Lurye, alias Alexander Emel (Moissei Lurye was no relative of Nathan Lurye).
Before Nathan Lurye left Berlin, he was instructed that in Moscow he was to operate under the supervision of a German engineer and architect named Franz Weitz, who was then employed in the Soviet Union. Franz Weitz was not one of Leon Trotsky’s followers. Weitz was a member of the National Socialist Party of Germany. He had been sent into the Soviet Union as a secret emissary of Heinrich Himmler, director of the Nazi Gestapo. Himmler had given Weitz the assignment of organizing terrorist and espionage operations in the Soviet Union in collaboration with the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center.
When one of Zinoviev’s followers questioned this direct tie-up with a Nazi agent, Zinoviev replied: “What is there in this disturbing to you? You are an historian. You know the case of Lasalle and Bismarck, when Lasalle wanted to use Bismarck in the interests of the revolution. Why cannot we today utilize Himmler?”
Shortly before they left for Russia, Trotsky’s emissaries, Konon Berman-Yurin and Fritz David, were summoned to special conferences with Trotsky himself. The meetings took place in Copenhagen toward the end of November 1932. Konon Berman-Yurin later stated: –
I had two meetings with him [Trotsky]. First of all he began to sound me on my work in the past. Then Trotsky passed to Soviet affairs. Trotsky said: “The principal question is the question of Stalin. Stalin must be physically destroyed.” He said that other methods of struggle were now ineffective. He said that for this purpose people were needed who would dare anything, who would agree to sacrifice themselves for this, as he expressed it, historic task. . . .
In the evening we continued our conversation. I asked him how individual terrorism could be reconciled with Marxism. To this Trotsky replied: problems cannot be treated in a dogmatic way. He said that a situation had arisen in the Soviet Union which Marx could not have foreseen. Trotsky also said that in addition to Stalin it was necessary to assassinate Kaganovich and Voroshilov. . . .
During the conversation he nervously paced up and down the room and spoke of Stalin with exceptional hatred. . . . He said that the terrorist act should, if possible, be timed to take place at a plenum or at the congress of the Comintern, so that the shot at Stalin would ring out in a large assembly. This would have a tremendous repercussion far beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. . . . This would be an historical political event of world significance.
To Fritz David, his other emissary, Trotsky said: “Terror against Stalin – that is the revolutionary task. Whoever is a revolutionary – his hand will not tremble.” Trotsky spoke of the “growing discontent” in Soviet Russia. David asked him, “Do you think this discontent will disappear in the event of a war between the Soviet Union and the Japanese?” Trotsky replied, “No, on the contrary, under these conditions the forces hostile to the regime will try to unite and take the lead of these discontented masses, to arm them and lead them against the ruling bureaucrats.”
The Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center was to carry out the first major blow of the conspiracy against the Soviet Government. This first blow was the assassination of Sergei Kirov, Secretary of the Leningrad Party, and one of Stalin’s closest co-workers in the Soviet Government. . . .
Early in November 1934, Zinoviev, who was in Moscow, sent his follower, Bakayev, to check up on the organization of terrorist cells in Leningrad.
The Leningrad terrorists, who had made repeated attempts to get close to Kirov, were not too pleased to receive Zinoviev’s emissary. “So Grigori Eveseyevich [Zinoviev] doesn’t trust us,” one of the gunmen said to Bakayev. “He sends people here to check up on our mood and our work. Well, we’re not a proud lot!”
A conference of the Leningrad terrorist cells, attended by seven terrorists, acquainted Bakayev with the latest developments. Bakayev was informed that a regular watch had been established along the route which Kirov took from his home to his office at the Smolny Institute. Bakayev was introduced to the man who had been selected to carry out the actual assassination: Leonid Nikolayev, a pale, slender, thirty-year-old former bookkeeper who had been dismissed from his post for irregularities in his accounts and expelled from the Komsomol [Communist youth organization] for general unreliability.
Nikolayev told Bakayev that he planned to shoot Kirov either near his home or in the Smolny Institute. He added that he had already tried to get an appointment with Kirov but that so far he had failed.
Bakayev repeated the instructions which Zinoviev had given him in Moscow: –
The principal task is to organize the terroristic work so secretly as to preclude our being compromised in any way. . . .
When under examination, the main thing is to persistently deny any connection with the organization. If accused of terroristic activities, you must emphatically deny it and argue that terror is incompatible with the views of Bolsheviks-Marxists. . . .
Zinoviev was satisfied with developments in Leningrad. Both he and Kamenev were confident that the assassination of Kirov would soon take place. They believed that this act would throw the Soviet Government into confusion and be a signal for similar acts against Soviet leaders throughout the country. “Heads are peculiar,” remarked Kamenev, “in that they do not grow again. . . .
On December 1, 1934, at 4:27 P.M., Sergei Kirov left his office in the Smolny Institute. He walked down the long marble-lined corridor leading to a room where he was to deliver a report on the decision of the Central Committee to abolish the bread rationing system. As Kirov passed an intersecting corridor, a man sprang out, thrust a revolver at the back of Kirov’s head and fired.
At 4:30 P.M. Sergei Kirov was dead.
The assassin was Leonid Nikolayev. He tried to get away and then to turn the gun on himself, but he was seized before he could do either.
On December 28, 1934, Leonid Nikolayev was placed on trial before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. “When I shot Kirov,” Nikolayev testified, “I reasoned as follows: Our shot must be a signal for an explosion, a revolt within the country against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and against the Soviet Government.”
The Military Collegiumn sentenced Nikolayev to be shot.(6)
Nikolayev did not divulge the fact that Zinoviev, Kamenev and the other leaders of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center had been directly involved in the plot to murder Kirov.
But it was clear to the Soviet Government that the careful planning and preparation behind the assassination involved a far more elaborate and dangerous organization than Nikolayev’s terrorist group. The Bolshevik Party appointed a special investigator to probe into the Leningrad affair. His name was N. I. Yezhov, a member of the Central Committee of the Party and head of the Control Commission.
Two weeks after the trial of Nikolayev, Grigori Zinoviev, Leo Kamenev and several of their known associates, including Bakayev, faced a Leningrad court, charged with complicity in the assassination of Kirov. Throughout the trial Zinoviev and Kamenev followed a course of conduct carefully planned in advance. Admitting nothing that the Soviet Government had not established by its own investigation, they feigned deep remorse and “confessed” that the political oppositionist activities in which they had been involved had “created an atmosphere” conducive to “anti-Soviet activities.” They said they were leaders of a “Moscow Center” of political opposition, and they accepted “moral responsibility” for Kirov’s murder, since they had headed the seditious political movement from which the crime had sprung. But they fervently denied they themselves had any foreknowledge of the plot to assassinate Kirov.
“I am accustomed to feel that I am a leader,” Zinoviev declared, “and it goes without saying that I should have known everything. . . This outrageous murder has thrown such an ominous light upon the whole previous anti-Party struggle, that I recognize that the Party is absolutely right in speaking of the political responsibility of the former anti-Party Zinoviev group for the murder committed.”
Kamenev played the same role. ” I must say that I am not a coward by nature, but I never counted on fighting with arms,” he said. “I always expected that a situation would arise in which the Central Committee would be compelled to negotiate with us, that it would move up and make room for us. . . .”
The ruse succeeded. The trial failed to establish that Zinoviev and Kamenev had participated directly in the plot to kill Kirov. Instead, they were found guilty only of carrying on anti-Soviet seditious activities. The verdict of the court stated: –
The trial did not bring to light any facts furnishing grounds for qualifying the acts of the members of the Moscow center in connection with the assassination of Comrade S. M. Kirov on December 1, 1934, as being a direct incitement to this heinous crime; nevertheless, the trial has completely confirmed the fact that the members of the counter-revolutionary Moscow center were aware of the terrorist sentiments of the Leningrad group and inflamed these sentiments. . . .
Zinoviev was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, and Kamenev to five, for their conspiratorial activity.
The trial had only scratched the surface of the conspiracy. Among the many facts which the Leningrad trial failed to bring to light, perhaps the strangest were these: –
When Zinoviev and Kamenev were arrested, four agents of the Soviet secret police had brought them to NKVD headquarters.(7) The agents were Molchanov, Chief of the Secret Political Department of the NKVD; Pauker, Chief of the Operations Department; Volovich, Assistant Chief of the Operations Department; and Bulanov, Assistant to the Chairman of the NKVD.
In arresting Zinoviev and Kamenev, the four NKVD agents acted in a most extraordinary fashion. They not only failed to search the apartments of the, suspects for incriminating material; they actually permitted Zinoviev and Kamenev to destroy a number of incriminating documents. . . .
Still more remarkable were the records of these four NKVD agents.
Molchanov and Bulanov were themselves secret members of the Trotskyite-Right conspiratorial apparatus.
Pauker and Volovich were German agents.
These men had been specially picked to make the arrests by Henry G. Yagoda, the Chairman of the NKVD.
(1) Trotsky was then living at St. Palais, a small village at the foot of the Pyrenees in the South of France. In July, he had left Prinkipo. (He soon moved with his retinue of body guards and “secretaries” to a guarded villa near Paris.)
At the time Trotsky came to France, the French reactionaries and fascists were desperately striving to prevent the proposed Franco-Soviet collective security alliance.
The French Government, which gave Trotsky permission to enter France and establish his anti-Soviet headquarters in that country, was headed at the time by Edouard Daladier, whose appeasement policies, fulfilled at Munich, were to play so important a part in betraying France and the other anti-fascist nations of Europe into the hands of the Nazis. The French Radical Deputy Henri Guernot personally sponsored Trotsky’s pleas to be admitted to France. The necessary arrangements were made by the Minister of the Interior, Camille Chautemps the dubious French politician who helped quash the investigation of the fascist Cagoulard conspiracy and later became vice-Premier of the first Pétain Cabinet. “You have had the kindness to call my attention to Mr. Leon Trotsky, exile of Russian origin, who has asked, for reasons of health, authorization to live in the Departments of the South . . , ,” Minister of Interior Chautemps wrote Deputy Guernot. “I have the honor to inform you that . . . the interested party will obtain without difficulty, when he makes the request, a passport visa for France.”
Among Trotsky’s numerous other influential friends and sympathizers in France were: Jacques Doriot, the renegade French Communist and Nazi agent; and Marcel Déat, the one-time Socialist professor, Nazi agent, and, after the downfall of France, leading collaborationist.
Trotsky’s presence in France was also approved by anti-Soviet elements in the French Intelligence Service and secret police. In April 1937, at the Hearings in Mexico, Trotsky declared: “. . . Monsieur Thome and Monsieur Cado, the general secretary of the police and the préfecture of the Department of Charente Inféricure – all the summits of the police were very well acquainted with my situation. It was the secret agent of the police who was informed of every step of mine.”
(2) Vladimir Romm had been Tass correspondent in Tokyo, Geneva and Paris. He met Trotsky in Paris in 1933 by special appointment at a café in the Bois de Boulogne. After telling Romm that only “extreme measures” would enable the conspirators to gain their ends, Trotsky quoted a Latin proverb: “What medicine cannot heal, iron will heal, and what iron cannot heal, fire will heal.” In 1934 Romm was appointed Tass correspondent in the United States. Before he left for America, Romm saw Sedov in Paris. Romm subsequently stated: “Sedov told me that in connection with my going to America, Trotsky had asked to be informed in case there was anything interesting in the sphere of Soviet-American relations. When I asked why this was so interesting, Sedov told me: `This follows from Trotsky’s line on the defeat of the U.S.S.R. Inasmuch as the date of the war of Germany and Japan depends to a certain extent on the state of Soviet American relations, this cannot fail to be of interest to Trotsky.”‘
(3) On February 20, 1937, the Tokyo newspaper Miyako carried a report on a secret session of the “Planning and Budget Commission” of the Japanese Government. At this meeting, Deputy Yoshida asked General Sugiyama, Minister of War, whether he or the army had any information concerning the carrying capacity of the Soviet Siberian Railway. The War Minister answered in the affirmative, saying that the carrying capacity of the strategic Soviet railway was known to the Japanese High Command in full detail. General Sugiyama went on to say: “In Russia there are elements in opposition to the present government and it was precisely from them that we learned it.” The publication of this statement in the newspaper Miyako was the occasion of a severe shake-up in Tokyo press circles. The newspaper was fined heavily by the Government for betraying confidential information and its chief news editor, Yaguchi Gilei, was forced to resign at the request of the War Department.
(4) The money paid by Shestov to Boyarshinov’s murderer was part of a secret fund of 164,000 rubles which Trotskyite gunmen, operating under Shestov’s directions, had stolen from the Anzherka State Bank. The fund had been established to help finance sabotage and terrorist activities in Siberia.
(5) The inner atmosphere of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center, despite its “political” facade, was reminiscent of New York’s Murder, Inc., and similar gangs.
Bakayev, a former political assistant of Zinoviev in the Petrograd Soviet, was responsible for keeping the gunmen of the Terrorist Center in line. He had the job, given him by Zinoviev, of silencing any individuals who might betray the organization. In mid-1934, when an attempt to kill Stalin failed because the appointed assassin, Bogdan, lost his nerve at the decisive moment, Bakayev undertook to silence Bogdan. He visited Bogdan at the Tatter’s apartment and spent the night with him. In the morning, after Bakayev left, Bogdan lay, dead on the floor of his living room with a bullet in his head and a gun beside his body. A letter, which Bakayev had forced him to write, was found in the room. It stated that Bogdan had committed suicide because of the “persecution” of the Trotsky-Zinoviev Opposition by the Soviet Government.
A member of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center, Isak Reingold, later testified that “both Zinoviev and Kamenev” had decided that when they took power they would place Bakayev in a key job in the OGPU. “By use of the OGPU machinery,” testified Reingold, “he was to assist in covering the traces, in doing away with, in killing, not only the employees of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the OGPU, who might be in possession of any threads of the conspiracy, but also the direct perpetrators of terrorist acts against Stalin and his immediate assistants. By the hand of Bakayev, the Trotskyite-“Zinovievite organization was to destroy its own activities, its own gunmen, who were involved in this matter.”
(6) The assassination of Kirov was enthusiastically hailed by the Russian fascists, as well as by the Rights and Trotskyites. “Count” Anastase Vonsiatsky, ex-Czarist officer and Japanese agent in the United States, declared in the March 1935 issue of his paper, the Fascist, which was published in Thompson, Connecticut, U.S.A.: “Kirov is finished! Next shot must be aimed at Stalin – a signal to insurrection. . . . Not loud was the shot of our brother Nikolayev but it resounded throughout the world. . . Hats off, Russian people, before Nikolayev’s grave. . . . Long live the immortal hero, Nikolayev!” For further details concerning Vonsiatsky and White Russian fascism, see page 345 ff.
(7) At the end of 1934, the NKVD (Department of Public Security) replaced the OGPU as the agency responsible for internal security affairs in the U.S.S.R.
CHAPTER XVIII – Murder in the Kremlin
IN May 1934, six months before the assassination of Sergei Kirov, a heart attack caused the death of Vyacheslav R. Menzhinsky, the long-ailing Chairman of the OGPU. His post was filled by the forty-three-year-old OGPU Vice-Chairman, Henry G. Yagoda, a short, quiet, efficient-looking man with a receding chin and a trim little mustache.
Henry Yagoda was a secret member of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites. He had joined the conspiracy in 1929, as a member of the Right Opposition, not because he believed in Bukharin’s or Trotsky’s program, but because he thought the oppositionists were destined to come to power in Russia. Yagoda wanted to be on the winning side. In his own words: –
I followed the course of the struggle with great attention, having made up my mind beforehand that I would join the side which emerged victorious from this struggle…. When measures of repression began to be taken against the Trotskyites, the question as to who would come out the victor – the Trotskyites or the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – was as yet not finally settled. In any event, that was what I thought. Therefore I, as Assistant Chairman of the OGPU, in carrying out the punitive policy, did it in such a way that it would not arouse the anger of the Trotskyites against me. When I was sending Trotskyites into exile, I created for them such conditions in their places of exile as enabled them to carry on their activity.
Yagoda’s role in the conspiracy was at first known only to the three top leaders of the Rights: Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky. In 1932, when the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites was formed, Yagoda’s role became known to Pyatakov and Krestinsky.
As Vice-Chairman of the OGPU, Yagoda was able to protect the conspirators from exposure and arrest. “I took all measures, in the course of a number of years,” he later stated, “to guard the organization, particularly its center, against exposure.” Pagoda appointed members of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites as special agents in the OGPU. In this way, a number of agents of foreign Intelligence Services were ere able to penetrate the Soviet secret police and, under Yagoda’s protection, carry on espionage activities for their respective governments. The German agents, Pauker and Volovich, whom Yagoda sent to effect the arrest of Zinoviev and Kamenev were appointed to their OGPU positions by Pagoda himself. “I considered them,” Pagoda said later, referring to the foreign spies, “as a valuable force. in the realization of the conspiratorial plans, particularly along the lines of maintaining connections with foreign Intelligence Services.”
In 1933, Ivan Smirnov, the leading organizer of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center, was unexpectedly arrested by Soviet Government agents. Yagoda could not prevent the arrest. On pretext of examining the prisoner, Yagoda visited Smirnov in his cell and “coached him” on how to behave under questioning.
In 1934, before the murder of Kirov, the terrorist Leonid Nikolayev was picked up by OGPU agents in Leningrad. In his possession they found a gun. and a chart showing the route which Kirov traveled daily. When Yagoda was notified of Nikolayev’s arrest, he instructed Zaporozhetz, assistant chief of the Leningrad OGPU, to release the terrorist without further examination. Zaporozhetz was one of Yagoda’s men. He did what he was told.
A few weeks later, Nikolayev murdered Kirov.
But the Murder of Kirov was only one of a number of murders carried out by the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites with the direct aid of Henry Yagoda….
Behind his quiet, efficient exterior, Yagoda concealed an inordinate ambition, ferocity and cunning. With the secret operations of the Bloc of the Rights and Trotskyites depending more and more on his protection, the Vice-Chairman of the OGPU began to conceive of himself as the central figure and dominating personality of the entire conspiracy. Yagoda had dreams of becoming Russia’s Hitler. He read Mein Kampf. “It is a worthwhile book,” he confided to his devoted henchman and secretary, Pavel Bulanov. He was particularly impressed, he told Bulanov, by the fact that Hitler had “risen from a top sergeant to be the man he is.” Yagoda himself had started his career as a top sergeant in the Russian Army.
Yagoda had his own ideas about the kind of government whichwould be set up after Stalin was overthrown. It would be modeled on that of Nazi Germany, he told Bulanov. Yagoda himself would be the Leader; Rykov would replace Stalin as secretary of a reorganized Party; Tomsky would be chief of the trade-unions, which would come under strict military control like the Nazi labor battalions; the “philosopher” Bukharin, as Yagoda put it, would be “Dr. Goebbels.”
As for Trotsky, Yagoda was not sure if he would permit Trotsky to return to Russia. It would depend on circumstances. Meanwhile, however, Yagoda was prepared to make use of Trotsky’s negotiations with Germany and Japan. The coup d’état, said Yagoda, must be timed to coincide with the outbreak of war against the Soviet Union.
“All means will be required for the achievement of this coup-, armed action, provocation and even poisons,” Yagoda told Bulanov. “There are times when one must act slowly and extremely cautiously, and there are times when one must act quickly and suddenly.”
The decision of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites to adopt terrorism as a political weapon against the Soviet regime had Yagoda’s endorsement. The decision was communicated to him by Y. S. Yenukidze, a former soldier and official of the Kremlin secretariat, who was the chief organizer of terrorism for the Rights. Yagoda had only one objection. The terrorist methods employed by the conspirators seemed to him too primitive and dangerous. Yagoda set out to devise a more subtle means of political murder than the traditional assassin’s bombs, knives or bullets.
At first, Yagoda experimented with poisons. He set up a secret laboratory and put several chemists to work. His aim was to contrive a method of killing which made exposure impossible. “Murder with a guarantee,” was the way Yagoda put it.
But even poisons were too crude. Before long, Yagoda developed his own special technique of murder. He recommended it as a perfect weapon to the leaders of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites. “It is very simple,” said Yagoda. “A person naturally falls ill, or he has been ill for some time. Those who surround him become accustomed, as is also natural, to the idea that the patient will either die or recuperate. The physician who treats the patient has the will to facilitate the patient’s recovery or his death…. Well? All the rest is a matter of technique.” One had only to find the right physicians.
2. The Murder of Menzhinsky
The first physician Yagoda involved in his unique murder scheme was Dr. Leo Levin, a corpulent, middle-aged, obsequious man, who liked to boast of his disinterest in political affairs. Dr. Levin was Yagoda’s own physician. More important to Yagoda was the fact that Dr. Levin was a prominent member of the Kremlin Medical Staff. Among his regular patients were a number of prominent Soviet leaders, including Yagoda’s superior, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, the Chairman of the OGPU.
Yagoda began showering special favors on Dr. Levin. He sent him imported wines, flowers for his wife and various other gifts. He placed a country home, free of charge, at the doctor’s disposal. When Dr. Levin traveled abroad, Yagoda permitted him to bring back foreign purchases without paying the regular customs duty. The physician was flattered and a bit puzzled at these unusual attentions from his influential patient.
Soon, under Yagoda’s manipulations, the unsuspecting Dr. Levin had accepted what amounted to a number of bribes and had committed some minor infractions of Soviet laws. Then Yagoda came bluntly to the point. He told Dr. Levin that a secret opposition movement, of which he himself was one of the leaders, was about to come to power in the Soviet Union. The conspirators, said Yagoda, could make good use of Dr. Levin’s services. Certain Soviet leaders, among theta some of Dr. Levin’s patients, had to be put out of the way.
“Have in mind,” Yagoda told the terrified doctor, “that you cannot help obeying me, you cannot get away from me. Once I place confidence in you with regard to this thing, you must appreciate this and you must carry this out. You cannot tell anybody about it. Nobody will believe you. They will believe not you, but me.” Yagoda added: “Let us now drop this conversation; you think it over at home, and I shall call you in a few days.”
Dr. Levin subsequently described his reaction to Yagoda’s words. He stated: –
I do not have to convey the psychological reaction, how terrible it was for me to hear this. I think that this is sufficiently understood. And then the ceaseless mental anguish. … He further said: “You are aware who is talking to you, the head of what institution is talking to you!”… He reiterated that my refusal to carry this out would spell ruin for me and my family. I figured that I had no other way out, that I had to submit to him.
Dr. Levin helped Yagoda to enlist the services of another physician who also frequently treated Menzhinsky. This physician was Dr. Ignaty N. Kazakov, whose distinctly unorthodox therapeutic methods were the cause of some heated controversy in Soviet medical circles during the early 1930’s.
Dr. Kazakov claimed to have discovered an almost infallible cure for a wide range of illnesses by means of a special technique which he called “lysatotherapy.” The OGPU Chairman Menzhinsky who suffered from angina pectoris and bronchial asthma had great faith in Kazakov’s treatments and took them regularly.(1)
On Yagoda’s instructions, Dr. Levin went to see Dr. Kazakov. Dr. Levin said to him: “Menzhinsky is a living corpse. You’re really wasting your time.”
Dr. Kazakov looked at his colleague in astonishment.
“I’ll have to have a special talk with you,” said Dr. Levin. “About what?” asked Dr. Kazakov.
“About Menzhinsky’s health.”.. ,
Later, Dr. Levin came to the point. “I thought you were cleverer. You still haven’t understood me,” he told Kazakov. “I’m surprised you’ve undertaken Menzhinsky’s treatment with so much zeal and you have ever improved his health. You should never have allowed him to get back to work.”
Then, to Dr. Kasakov’s mounting amazement and horror, Dr. Levin went on: –
“You must realize that Menzhinsky is actually a corpse, and, by restoring his health, by allowing him to get back to work, You are antagonizing Yagoda. Menzhinsky is in Yagoda’s way and Yagoda is interested in getting him out of the way as soon as possible. Yagoda is a man who doesn’t stop at anything.”
Dr. Levin added: –
“Not a word of this to Menzhinsky! I am warning you that, if you tell Menzhinsky about it, Yagoda will destroy you. You’ll not escape him no matter where you hide yourself. He would get you even if you were underground.”
On the afternoon of November 6, 1933, Dr. Kazakov received an urgent call from Menzhinsky’s home. When Dr. Kazakov arrived at the home of the OGPU Chairman, he was met by a heavy, stifling odor of turpentine and paint. Within a few minutes he found himself gasping for breath. One of Menzhinsky’s secretaries informed him that the house had been freshly painted and that “a special substance” had been added to the paint to “make the paint dry more quickly.” It was this “special substance” which caused the pungent, overwhelming odor.
Dr. Kazakov went upstairs. He found Nlenzhinsky in great agony. His bronchial condition had been terribly aggravated by the fumes. He was sitting in a cramped, awkward position, his face and body swollen, barely able to whisper. Dr. Kazakov listened to his breathing. It was labored and rasping, with greatly prolonged exhalation, characteristic of a serious attack of bronchial asthma. Dr. Kazakov immediately gave Menzhinsky an injection to relieve his condition. He then flung open all the windows in the room and ordered Menzhinskv’s secretary to open all doors and windows throughout the house. Gradually the odor died away. Dr. Kazakov stayed with Menzhinsky until his patient was feeling better. When the attack had passed, Dr. Kazakov went home.
He had scarcely entered his house when the telephone rang. It was a call from OGPU headquarters. Dr. Kazakov was informed that Henry Yagoda wished to see him at once. A car was already on its way to pick up Dr. Kazakov and bring him to Yagoda’s office….
“Well, how do you find Menzhinskv’s health?” was the first thing Yagoda said when he and Dr. Kazakov were alone in his office. The short, neat, dark Vice-Chairman of the OGPU was sitting behind his desk, coldly watching Dr. Kazakov’s expression.
Dr. Kazakov replied that with the sudden renewal of the asthmatic attacks, Menzhinskv’s condition was serious.
Yagoda was silent for a moment.
“Have you spoken to Levin?”
“Yes, I have,” replied Dr. Kazakov.
Yagoda abruptly rose from his seat and began pacing back and forth in front of his desk. Suddenly, he whirled on Dr. Kazakov, furiously exclaiming, “In that case, why are you fiddling about? Why don’t you act? Who asked you to butt into somebody else’s affairs?”
“What do you want of me?” asked Dr. Kazakov.
“Who asked you to give medical aid to Menzhinsky?” said Yagoda. “You’re fussing with him to no purpose. His life is of no use to anybody. He’s in everybody’s way. I order you to work out with Levin a method of treatment whereby it will be possible to bring about a quick end to Menzhinsky’s life!” After a pause, Yagoda added: “I warn you, Kazakov, if you make any attempt to disobey me I’ll find means of getting rid of you! You’ll never escape me….”
For Dr. Kazakov, the days that followed were full of terror, fear and nightmarish events. He went about his work in a daze. Should he or should he not report what he knew to the Soviet authorities? To whom could he speak? How could he be sure that he was not talking to one of Yagoda’s spies?
Dr. Levin, who saw him frequently during this period, told Kazakov of the existence of a vast undercover conspiracy against the Soviet Government. Famous, powerful state officials like Yagoda, Rykov and Pyatakov were in the conspiracy; brilliant writers and philosophers like Karl Radek and Bukharin had joined it; men in the army were secretly behind it. If he, Dr. Kazakov, performed some, valuable service for Yagoda now, Yagoda would remember it when he came to power. There was a secret war going on within the Soviet Union, and doctors, like other people, had to choose sides….
Dr. Kazakov succumbed. He told Levin that he would carry out Yagoda’s orders.
Here, in Dr. Kazakov’s own words, is the technique he and Dr. Levin used for the assassination of the Chairman of the OGPU, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky –
I met Levin and together with him worked out a method which consisted of the following. We took advantage of two main properties of albumen and albumenous products. First: the products of the hydrolytic decomposition of albumen possess the property of stimulating the effect of medicines. Second: lysatcs increase the sensitivity of the organism. These two properties were taken advantage of. Thirdly, advantage was taken of the peculiarities of Menzhinsky’s organism, of the combination of bronchial asthma and angina pectoris. It is a well-known fact that in a case of bronchial asthma the so-called parasympathetic section of the vegetative nervous system is excited. Therefore, in cases of bronchial asthma, substances are prescribed which excite the corresponding section, that is to say, the sympathetic the thyroid gland. Such a preparation is the extract of the suprarenal gland, a preparation of the medulla stratum. In case of angina pectoris it is just the sympathetic section which starts from the sub-jugular plexus of the sympathetic ganglion that is excited. That was the fine point which was taken advantage of….
Gradually, one set of preparations was introduced, while another was put aside…. It was necessary to introduce a number of heart stimulants – digitalis, adonis, atrophanthus – which stimulated the activity of the heart. These medicines were administered in the following order. First, lysates were administered; then there was an interval in the treatment with lystes: then heart stimulants were administered. As a result of this sort of treatment, a thorough weakening was brought about….
On the night of May 10, 1934, Menzhinsky died.
The man who took his place as chief of the OGPU was Henry Yagoda.
“I deny that in causing the death of Menzhinsky I was guided by motives of a personal nature,” Yagoda later stated. “I aspired to the post of head of the OGPU, not out elf personal consideration, but in the interests of our conspiratorial organization.”
3. Murder with a Guarantee
The murder list of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites included the following top Soviet leaders: Stalin, Voroshilov, Kirov, Menzhinsky, Molotov, Kuibyshev, Kaganovich, Gorky and Zhdanov. These men were well guarded. The Soviet Government had long, bitter experience in dealing with terrorists, and few chances were taken. Yagoda knew this very well. When the Right terrorist organizer, Yenukidze, communicated to him the decision of the Trotskyite-Zinovicvitc Terrorist Center to commit a public assassination of Sergei Kirov, Pagoda at first objected. As l Yagoda put it: –
I expressed my apprehension that a direct terrorist act might expose not only myself, but the whole organization as well. I pointed out to Yenukidze that there was a less dangerous method and I reminded him Yenukidze, how Menzhinsky’s death was brought about with the help of physicians. Yenukidze replied that the assassination of Kirov must be carried out the way it was planned, that the Trotskyites and Zinovievites took it upon themselves to commit this murder, and that it was our business not to place any obstacles. As for the safe method of causing death with the help of physicians, Yenukidze said that in the near future the center would discuss the question as to who exactly of the leaders of the Party and Government should be the first to be done to death by this method.
One day, towards the end of August 1934, a young secret member of the Right Opposition was summoned to Yenukidze’s Kremlin office. His name was Venyamin A. Maximov. In 1928, as a student, Maximov had attended the special “Marxist School” which Bukharin then headed in Moscow. Bukharin had recruited him into the conspiracy. A clever, unscrupulous youth, Maximov had been carefully trained by the Right leaders and, after his graduation, placed in various secretarial posts. At the time he was summoned to Yenukidze’s office, Maximov was the personal secretary of Valerian V. Kuibyshev, Chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, and an intimate friend and co-worker of Stalin.
Yenukidze informed Maximov that “whereas formerly the Rights calculated that the Soviet Government could be overthrown by organizing certain of the more anti-Soviet minded strata of the population, and in particular the kulaks, now the situation had changed… and it is necessary to proceed to more active methods of seizing power.” Yenukidze described the new tactics of the conspiracy. In agreement with the Trotskyites, he said, the Rights had adopted a decision to eliminate a number of their political opponents by terrorist means. This was to be done by “ruining the health of the leaders.” This method, said Yenukidze, was “the most convenient because of the fact that on the surface it would appear in the nature of an unfortunate issue to an illness and thereby make it possible for this terrorist activity of the Rights to be camouflaged.”
“Preparations for it have already begun,” Yenukidze added. He told Maxiniov that Yagoda was behind all this, and the conspirators had his protection. Maximov, as Kuibyshev’s secretary, was to be used in connection with the assassination of the Chairman of the National Supreme Economic Council. Kuibyshev suffered from a serious heart condition, and the conspirators planned to take advantage of it.
Maximov, startled at this assignment, showed some signs of hesitation.
A few days later, Maximov was again called to Yenukidze’s office. This time, while the assassination of Kuibyshev was discussed in more detail, a third man sat in a corner of the room. He did not utter a word during the entire conversation; but the implication of his presence was not lost on Maximov. The man was Henry Yagoda….
“what is demanded of you,” Yenukidze told Maximov, “is, first, to give them [Yagoda’s physicians] the opportunity of being unhindered so that they can be in frequent attendance on the patient, so that there should be no hitch in their so-called visits to the patient; and, secondly, in the event of acute illness, attacks of any kind, not to hurry in calling in the doctor, and if it is necessary, to call in only those doctors who are treating him.”
Toward the fall of 1934 Kuibyshev’s health suddenly took a sharp turn for the worse. He suffered intensely, and could do little work.
Dr. Levin later described the technique which, on Yagoda’s instructions, he employed to bring about Kuibyshev’s illness: –
The vulnerable spot in his organism was his heart, and it was this at which we struck. We knew that his heart had been in a poor condition over a considerable period of time. He suffered from an affection of the cardiac vessels, myocarditis, and he had slight attacks of angina pectoris. In such cases, it is necessary to spare the heart, to avoid potent heart stimulants, which would excessively stimulate the activity of the Heart and gradually lead to its further weakening…. In the case of Kuibyshev we administered stimulants for the heart without intervals, over a protracted period, up to the time he made his trip to Central Asia. Beginning with August, until September or October 1934, he was given injections without a break, of special endocrine gland extracts and other heart stimulants. This intensified and brought on more frequent attacks of angina pectoris.
At two o’clock on the afternoon of January 25, 1935, Kuibyshev suffered a severe heart attack in his office at the Council of People’s Commissars in Moscow. Maximov, who was with Kuibyshev at the time, had previously been told by Dr. Levin that in the event of such an attack the correct thing for Kuibyshev to do was to lie down and remain absolutely quiet. Maximov was told that his job was to see that Kuibyshev did exactly the opposite. He persuaded the desperately ill man to walk home.
Ghastly pale and moving with extreme difficulty, Kuibyshev left his office. Maximov promptly called Yenukidze and told him what had happened. The Right leader instructed Maximov to keep calm and not to call any doctors.
Kuibyshev painfully made his way home from the building of the Council of People’s Commissars to the house where lie lived. Slowly and with increasing agony, he climbed the stairs to his apartment on the third floor. His maid met him at the door, took one look at him and immediately telephoned his office that he was in urgent need of medical attention.
By the time the doctors arrived at the house, Valerian Kuibyshev was dead.
4. “Historical Necessity”
The most brutal of all the murders carried out under Yagoda’s supervision were those of Maxim Gorky and his son, Peshkov. Gorky was sixty-eight years old at the time of his murder. He was known and revered throughout the world not only as Russia’s greatest living writer but also as one of the world’s outstanding humanists. He suffered from tuberculosis and a bad heart condition. His son Peshkov had inherited an extreme susceptibility to respiratory infections. Both Gorky and his son were patients of Dr. Levin.
The murders of Gorky and his son, Peshkov, were carried out by Yagoda following a unanimous decision of the upper leaders of the Bloc of the Rights and Trotskyites. In 1934 Yagoda communicated this decision to Dr. Levin and ordered him to carry it out.
“Gorky is a man who is very close to the highest leadership,” Yagoda told Dr. Levin, “a man very much devoted to the policy which is being carried out in the country, very devoted personally to Stalin, a man who will never tread our road. Then again, you know what authority Gorky’s words have both in our country and far beyond its borders. You are aware of the influence he enjoys and how much harm he can cause our movement by his words. You must agree to undertake this and you will reap the fruits of it when the new government comes to power.”
When Dr. Levin showed some perturbation at these instructions, Yagoda went on: “There is no need for you to be so upset, you should understand that this is inevitable, that this is a historical moment, that it is a historical necessity, a stage of the revolution through which we must pass, and you will pass through it with us, you will be a witness of it, and you must help us with the means you have at your disposal.”(2)
Peshkov was murdered before his father.
Dr. Levin later said: – There were three systems in his organism which could very easily be taken advantage of: they were the exceptionally excitable cardiac-vascular system, his respiratory organs, inherited from his father, not in the sense of suffering from tuberculosis, but in the sense of weakness, and finally the vegetative nervous system. Even a small quantity of wine affected his organism, whereas, despite this, he drank wine in large quantities….
Dr. Levin worked methodically on the weaknesses in Peshkov’s “organism.”
In the middle of April 1934, Peshkov caught a serious chill. Croupous pneumonia set in.
When it seemed that Peshkov might recover, Yagoda was furious. “Damn it all,” he exclaimed, “they are able to kill healthy people by their treatment, and here they cannot do the trick on a sick man!”
But finally Dr. Levin’s efforts achieved the desired results. As he himself later reported: –
The patient was very much enfeebled; his heart was in an abominable condition; the nervous system, as we know, plays a tremendous role during infectious diseases. He was altogether overwrought, altogether weakened and the ailment took an exceptionally grave turn.
… The progress of the sickness was aggravated by the fact that the medicines capable of bringing great benefit to the heart were eliminated, while, on the contrary, those that weakened the heart were applied. And finally… on May 11 he died of pneumonia.
Maxim Gorky was murdered by similar methods. During 1935, Gorky’s frequent trips away from Moscow, which took him out of Dr. Levin’s hands, temporarily saved his life. Then, early in 1936, came the opportunity for which Dr. Levin was waiting. Gorky contracted a serious case of grippe in Moscow. Dr. Levin deliberately aggravated Gorky’s condition, and, as in Peshkov’s case, croupous pneumonia set in. Once again, Dr. Levin murdered his patient: –
As regards Alexei Maximovich Gorky, the line was as follows: to use such medicines, which were in general indicated, against which no doubt or suspicion could arise and which could be used to stimulate the activity of the heart. Among such medicines were camphor, caffeine, cardiosol, digalen. We have the right to apply these medicines for a group of cardiac diseases. But in his case they were administered in tremendous doses. Thus, for example, he received as many as forty injections of camphor… in twenty-four hours. This dose was too heavy for him…. Plus two injections of digalen…. Plus four injections of caffeine…. Plus two injections of strychnine.
On June 18, 1936, the great Soviet writer died.
1. On December 23, 1943, Dr. Henry E. Sigerist, Professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University and outstanding American authority on medical history, wrote the authors of this book regarding Dr. Ignaty N. Kazakov: –
“I spent a whole day with Professor Ignaty N. Kazakov at his clinic in 1935. He was a big man with a wild mane who looked more like an artist than a scientist and who reminded you of an opera singer. Talking to him, he gave you the impression that he was either a genius or a crook. He claimed to have discovered a new method of treatment which he called lystotherapy satotherapy but refused to disclose how he was preparing the lystes with which he treated a great variety of patients. He motivated his refusal with the argument that the method might be discredited if it were used carelessly or uncritically by others before it had been fully tested. The Soviet health authorities took a most liberal attitude and gave him all possible clinical and laboratory facilities to test and develop his method.
“Professor Kazakov expected my visit and the day I came he had invited a large number of his former patients in order to demonstrate them to me…. It was a regular circus and made a very bad impression. I had seen miracle cures performed by quacks in other countries… A few years later it was evident that his method was no good and that hewas not only a crook but a criminal.”
2. Despite his age, Gorky was hated and feared by the Trotskyites. Sergei Bessonov, the Trotskyite courier, related that as early as July 1934, Leon Trotsky told him: “Gorky is very intimate with Stalin. He plays an exceptional role in winning sympathy for the USSR among the democratic opinion of the world and especially of Western Europe…. Our former supporters among the intelligentsia are leaving us very largely under the influence of Gorky. From this I draw the conclusion that Gorky must be put out of the way. Convey this instruction to Pyatakov in the most categorical form; corky must be physically exterminated at all costs.”
The fascist Russian emigre’s and terrorists, who were working with the Nazis, had also placed Gorky on the list of those Soviet leaders they planned to assassinate. The November 1, 1934, issue of Za Rossiyu, the organ of the fascist Russian National League of New Regeneration, published in Belgrade, Yugoslovia, declared: “Kirov in Leningrad must be removed. We must also do away with Kossior and Postyshev in the South of Russia. Brothers, fascists, if you can’t get to Stalin, kill Gorky, kill the poet Demiyan Bieni, kill Kaganovich..
Yagoda’s motive in murdering Gorky’s son, Peshkov, was not only political. Previous to the murder, Yagoda told one of the conspirators that Peshkov’s death would be a “heavy blow” to Gorkv and would turn him into a “harmless old man.” But at his trial in 1938, Yagoda asked permission of the court to refrain from publicly revealing his reasons for having Peshkov killed. Yagoda asked that he be allowed to give this testimony at one of the in camera sessions. The court granted his wish. Ambassador Davies, in his book Mission to Moscow, gives this possible explanation for Peshkov’s murder: “Beneath it runs the tale that Yagoda… was infatuated with young Gorky’s beautiful wife.. ,.”
CHAPTER XIX – Days of Decision
1. The War Comes West
BY 1935, plans for the joint German-Japanese attack on the Soviet Union were well advanced: The Japanese armies in Manchuria were staging repeated “probing” raids and sorties across the Soviet eastern border. The German High Command was carrying on secret negotiations with fascist Polish military circles for an anti-Soviet military alliance. The Nazi Fifth Columns were being readied in the Baltic and Balkan countries, in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Reactionary British and French diplomats were eagerly promoting Hitler’s promised Drang nach Osten. . . .
On February 3, following discussions between the French Premier Pierre Laval and the British Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon, the French and British Governments announced their joint agreement to release Nazi Germany from certain of the disarmament provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.
On February 17 the London Observer commented: –
Why is Tokio diplomacy so busy at this moment in Warsaw and in Berlin?… Moscow supplies the answer… The relations between Germany, Poland and Japan become closer every day. In an emergency they would amount to an anti-Soviet alliance.
In the expectation that the arms were to be used against Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany’s rearmament program was aided in every possible way by anti-Soviet statesmen in Great Britain and France…
On March 1, after a plebiscite preceded by an intensive Nazi terror and propaganda campaign among the residents of the district, the Saar with its vital coal mines was handed over from France to Nazi Germany.
On March 16 the Government of the Third Reich formally repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and communicated to the French, British, Polish and Italian Ambassadors in Berlin a Nazi decree proclaiming “universal military service” in Germany.
On April 13 Berlin announced its intention of creating an air fleet of heavy bombers.
On June 18, eleven days after Tory Stanley Baldwin became British Prime Minister, an Anglo-German naval accord was announced. Nazi Germany was given the right to construct a new navy and “to possess a submarine tonnage equal to the total submarine tonnage possessed by the Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.” The agreement was reached following an exchange of letters between Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the new British Foreign Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare.
On November 3 L’Echo de Paris reported a conference which had taken place between the Nazi banker, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Montagu Norman, and the Governor of the Banque de France, M. Tannery. According to the French journal, Dr. Schacht declared at the conference: –
We have no intention to change our Western frontiers. Sooner or later Germany and Poland will share the Ukraine, but for the moment we shall be satisfied with making our strength felt over the Baltic provinces.
On November 11, the New York Herald Tribune observed: –
Premier Laval, who is also Foreign Minister, is a strong partisan of an agreement between the French Third Republic and the Nazi Third Reich, and is reported to be willing to scrap the Franco-Soviet pact, which has been signed but not ratified by the French Parliament for an agreement whereby the Hitler regime would guarantee France’s eastern frontier in exchange for complete freedom of action in the Memel region and in the Ukraine.
In face of the growing war threat, the Soviet Government repeatedly called for united action by all countries menaced by fascist aggression. Again and again, before the League of Nations and in the capitals of Europe, Soviet Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov urged collective security and alliances between the non-aggressor nations. On May 2, 1935, the Soviet Government signed a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the Government of France, and on May 16 a similar treaty with the Government of Czechoslovakia.
“War must appear to all as the threatening danger of tomorrow,” Litvinov told the League of Nations. “The organization of peace, for which thus far very little has been done, must be set against the extremely active organization of war.”
In October 1935, with the diplomatic blessing of Pierre Laval and Sir Samuel Hoare, the Italian Fascist armies of Mussolini invaded Ethiopia…
The Second World War, which had started when Japan attacked Manchuria in 1931, was coming West.(1)
On Soviet soil the secret fascist vanguard had already launched a major offensive against the war potential of the Red Army. In alliance with German and Japanese agents, the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites had begun their carefully planned, systematic campaign against Soviet industry, transport and agriculture. The objective was the undermining of the Soviet defense system in preparation for the coming war.
The campaign of total sabotage was being carried on under the expert supervision of Pyatakov, the Trotskyite Vice-Commissar of Heavy Industry.
“Terror is a drastic method,” Pyatakov told a secret meeting of Rights and Trotskyites in Moscow, “but it is far from enough. It is necessary to undermine the achievements gained by the Soviet power, to undermine the prestige of Stalin’s leadership, and to disorganize economic life… Activities must be developed in the most energetic fashion. We must act with the utmost determination. We must act energetically and persistently, and stop at nothing. All means are useful and fair-such is Trotsky’s directive, which the Trotskyite Center subscribes to!”
By the fall of 1935, the operation of the sabotage units in strategic localities throughout the Soviet Union had been galvanized into an all-out effort. In the new heavy industries in the Urals, in the coal mines of the Donbas and Kuzbas, on the railroads, in the power plants and on construction jobs, the Trotskyite saboteurs under Pyatakov’s direction were striking simultaneous and powerful blows at the most vital branches of Soviet production. Similar wrecking activities, supervised by Bukharin and other leaders of the Rights, were under way on the collective farms, in the co-operatives, and in government trade, finance and commerce agencies. German and Japanese Intelligence agents were directing many phases of the sabotage campaign.
These were some of the sabotage operations carried out by the German and Japanese agents, Rights and Trotskyites, as later described by the saboteurs themselves: –
Ivan Knyazev, Trotskyite and Japanese agent, executive on the Urals railroad system:
With regard to developing diversive and wrecking activities on the railways and the organization of the wrecking of trains I carried out instructions in full, since in this matter the instructions of the Japanese military intelligence service fully coincided with the instructions I had received somewhat earlier from the Trotskyite organization… ,
On October 27… a train wreck took place at Shumikha… a troop train… this was the work of our organization… The train, travelling at high speed, about 40 or 50 kilometers an hour, sped off down the eighth track, on which a freight train of ore was standing. Twenty-nine Red Army men [were killed), and twenty-nine were also injured… From thirteen to fifteen wrecks were organized directly by us…
The Japanese intelligence service strongly stressed the necessity of using bacteriological means in time of war with the object of contaminating troop trains, canteens and army sanitary centres with highly virulent bacilli…
Leonid Serebryakov, Trotskyite, Assistant Chief of the Railroads Administration: –
We set ourselves a very concrete and definite task: to disrupt freight traffic, to reduce daily loadings by increasing the runs of empty cars, by refraining from increasing the very low running norms for cars and engines, and by refraining from making full use of the traction power and capacity of engines, and so forth.
… on Pyatakov’s proposal Livshitz [a Trotskyite and Japanese agent] came to see me at the Central Road Motor Transport Administration. He was the Chief of the Southern Railway… He informed me that on the Southern Railway he had an assistant, Zorin, who could develop this activity… Livshitz and I discussed the matter and came to the conclusion that in addition to the actions of the organizations in the center and in the provinces, the effect of which would be to cause confusion and chaos on the railways, it was also necessary to insure the possibility of blocking the most important railway junctions in the first days of mobilization by creating on them such jams as would lead to the dislocation of the transport system and reduce the capacity of the railway junctions.
Alexei Shestov, Trotskyite and Nazi agent, member of the Board of Eastern and Siberian Coal Trust: –
In the Prokopyevek Mines the chamber-and-pillar system was employed without filling in the worked-out cavity. As a result of this system we had over 50 per cent loss of coal instead of the usual 15-20 per cent. Secondly, as a result of this, we had about sixty underground fires in the Prokopyevek Mines up to the end of 1935.
…deepening of the shafts was begun at the wrong time, in particular in the Molotov Pit; the hundred-metre level of the “Koksovaya” Pit was deliberately left unworked from 1933 onwards, and the deepening of the “Meneikha” Pit was not begun at the right time… in the installation of the equipment and in the installation of the underground power station and of other machinery, disruptive work was performed on a large scale…
Stanislav Rataichak, Trotskyite and Nazi agent, chief of the Central Administration o f the Chemical Industry: –
In accordance with my instructions… three breakdowns were arranged, one diversive act at the Gorlovka Works and two other breakdowns – one at the Nevsky Works and the other at the Voskressensk Combined Chemical Works…
Yakov Drobnis, Trotskyite, Assistant Chief at the Kemerovo Works: –
Since the end of July 1934, I was put in charge of all the wrecking and diversive activities in the whole of the Kuzbas… I lived in Central Asia throughout 1933 and left in May 1934 because the Trotskyite center decided to transfer me to Western Siberia. Since Pyatakov was in a position to transfer me from one job in industry to another, this problem could be solved very easily…
One of the wrecking tasks in the plan was to diffuse funds on measures of secondary importance. Another was to delay construction work in such a way as to prevent the launching of important departments on the dates fixed by the government…
The district power plant was put into such a state that, if it were deemed necessary for wrecking purposes, and when the order was given, the mine could be flooded. In addition, coal was supplied that was technically unsuitable for fuel, and this led to explosions. This was done quite deliberately… a number of workers were seriously injured.
Mikhail Chernov, member of the Rights, agent of German Military Intelligence, Commissar of Agriculture of the U.S.S.R.: –
The German intelligence service made a special point of the organization of wrecking activities in the sphere of horsebreeding in order… , not to provide horses for the Red Army. As regards seed, we included in our program muddling-up seed affairs, mixing up assorted seed and thus lowering the harvest yield in the country…
As regards stock breeding, the aim was to kill off pedigree breed-stock and to strive for high cattle mortality to prevent the development of fodder resources and especially to infect cattle artificially with various kinds of bacteria…
In order to cause heavy cattle mortality, in Eastern. Siberia, I instructed Ginsburg, Chief of the Veterinary Department, who belonged to the organization of the Rights… not to supply anti-anthrax serum to Eastern Siberia… when there was an outbreak there of anthrax in 1936 it turned out that no serum was available, with the result that I cannot say how many exactly, but at any rate over 25,000 horses perished.
Vasily Sharangovich, member of the Rights, Polish secret agent, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Byelorussia: –
I engaged in wrecking activities chiefly in the sphere of agriculture. In 1932 we, and I personally, developed extensive wrecking work in this sphere. Firstly, by slowing down the pace of collectivization…
Furthermore we arranged for the undermining of the grain collection plans… , we took measures to spread plague among pigs, which resulted in a high pig mortality; this was done by inoculating pigs against plague in a wrecking fashion.
… In 1936 we caused a wide outbreak of anemia among horses in Byelorussia. This was done intentionally, because in Byelorussia horses are extremely important for defense purposes. We endeavored to undermine this powerful base in case it should be needed in connection with war.
As far as I can remember, 30,000 horses perished owing to this measure…
2. A Letter from Trotsky
At the end of 1935, with war looming ever closer, a long awaited letter from Trotsky was delivered by special courier to Karl Radek in Moscow. It came from Norway.(2) With great anticipation Radek unfolded and began to read the letter. On eight pages of fine English paper, Trotsky outlined the details of the secret agreement he was at last about to conclude with the Governments of Germany and Japan.
After a preamble stressing the “victory of German fascism” and the imminence of “international war,” the letter reached its main topic: –
There are two possible variants of our coming into power. The first variant is the possibility of our coming into power before a war, and the second variant, during a war…
It must be admitted that the question of power will become a practical issue for the Bloc only as a result of the defeat of the U.S.S.R. in war. For this the Bloc must make energetic preparations…
From now on, wrote Trotsky, “the diversive acts of the Trotskyites in the war industries” would have to be carried out under the direct “supervision of the German and Japanese High Commands.” The Trotskyites must undertake no “practical activity” without first having obtained the consent of their German and Japanese allies.
To secure the full backing of Germany and Japan, without which “it would be absurd to think we can come to power,” the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites must be prepared to make considerable concessions. Trotsky named them: –
Germany needs raw materials, foodstuffs and markets. We shall have to permit her to take part in the exploitation of ore, manganese, gold, oil, apatites, and to undertake to supply her for a definite period with foodstuffs and fats at less than world prices.
We shall have to yield the oil of Sakhalin to Japan and to guarantee to supply her with oil in case of a war with America. We shall also have to permit her to exploit gold-fields.
We shall have to agree to Germany’s demand not to oppose her seizure of the Danube countries and the Balkans, and riot to hinder Japan in her seizure of China… We shall inevitably have to make territorial concessions. We shall have to yield the Maritime Province and Amur region to Japan, and the Ukraine to Germany.
Trotsky’s letter then outlined the kind of Russian regime which would be established after the overthrow of the Soviet Government: –
It must be understood that without to a certain extent bringing the social structure of the U.S.S.R. in line with that of the capitalist states, the government of the bloc will be unable to maintain itself in power…
The admission of German and Japanese capital for the exploitation of the U.S.S.R. will create important capitalist interests on Soviet territory. Those strata in the villages which have not outlived the capitalist psychology and are dissatisfied with the collective farms will gravitate towards them. The Germans and the Japanese will demand that we relieve the atmosphere in the rural districts; we shall therefore have to make concessions and allow the dissolution of the collective farms or withdraw from the collective farms.
Politically, as well as territorially and economically, there would have to be drastic changes in the new Russia: –
There can be no talk of any kind of democracy. The working class has lived through eighteen years of revolution, and it has vast appetites; and this working class will have to be sent back partly to privately owned factories and to state owned factories which will have to compete with foreign capital under most difficult conditions. That means that the living standards of the working class will be drastically lowered. In the countryside the struggle of the poor and middleclass peasants against the kulaks will be renewed. And then, in order to hold power, we shall need a strong government, irrespective of what forms are employed to veil it.
Trotsky’s letter concluded: –
We have to accept everything, but if we remain alive and in power, then owing to the victory of these two countries (Germany and Japan) and as a result of their plunder and profit a conflict will arise between them and others, and this will lead to our new development, our “Revanche.”
Radek read Trotsky’s letter with mixed feelings. “After I read these directives,” he later said, “I thought them over at night… it was clear to me that although the directives contained all the elements which had formerly been present, yet these elements had now so matured that… what Trotsky proposed was without any limits… We ceased to be in any degree master of our own actions.”
The following morning Radek showed Trotsky’s letter to Pyatakov. “It is necessary to meet with Trotsky by one way or another,” said Pyatakov. He himself was about to leave the Soviet Union on official business, and would be in Berlin for a few days. Radek should send off an urgent message informing Trotsky of Pyatakov’s trip and asking Trotsky to contact him in Berlin as soon as possible.
3. A Flight to Oslo
Pyatakov reached Berlin on December 10, 1935. Radek’s message to Trotslcy had preceded him, and a courier was waiting to contact Pyatakov as soon as he arrived in the Nazi capital. The courier was Dmitri Bukhartsev, a Trotskyite who was the Izvestia correspondent in Berlin. Bukhartsev told Pyatakov that a man named Stirner was bringing word from Trotsky. Stirner, the courier explained, was “Trotsky’s man” in Berlin.(3)
Pyatakov went with Bukharstev to one of the lanes in the Tiergarten. A man was waiting for them. It was “Stirner.” He handed Pvatakov a note from Trotsky. It read: “Y. L. [Pyatakov’s initials], the bearer of this note can be fully trusted.”
In a manner as terse as the note he delivered, Stirner stated that Trotsky was very anxious to see Pyatakov and had instructed him to make the necessary arrangements. Was Pyatakov prepared to travel by airplane to Oslo, Norway?
Pyatakov fully understood the risk of exposure involved in such a trip. However, he had made up his mind to see Trotsky at all costs. He said he was willing to make the flight. Stirner told Pyatakov to be at the Tempelhof Airport the following morning.
When Pyatakov asked about a passport, Stirner replied, “Don’t worry. I will arrange the matter. I have connections in Berlin.”
At the appointed hour, next morning, Pyatakov went to the Tempelhof Airport. Stirner was waiting at the entrance. He indicated that Pyatakov was to follow him. As they walked towards the airfield, Stirner showed Pyatakov the passport which had been prepared for him. It was issued by the Government of Nazi Germany.
At the airfield, a plane was waiting, ready to take off…
That afternoon the plane settled down over a landing field near the city of Oslo in Norway. An automobile was waiting for Pyatakov and Stirner. They were driven in the car for half an hour, until they reached a country suburb in the environs of Oslo. The car stopped in front of a small house.
Inside the house, Trotsky was waiting to receive his old friend.
The years of embittered exile had changed the man whom Pyatakov regarded as his leader. Trotsky looked older than his fifty-odd years. His hair and beard were gray. He stooped. Behind his pince-nez his eyes glittered with an almost maniacal intensity.
Few words were wasted on greetings. At Trotsky’s orders, he and Pyatakov were left alone in the house. The conversation which followed lasted two hours.
Pyatakov began by making a report on the state of affairs inside Russia. Trotsky continually interrupted him with sharp, sarcastic comments.
“You can’t break away from Stalin’s navel cord!” he exclaimed. “You take Stalin’s construction for socialist construction!”
Trotsky berated Pyatakov and his other Russian followers for talking too much and accomplishing too little. “Of course,” said Trotsky angrily, “you over there are spending too much time discussing international problems; you would do better to devote yourselves to those affairs of yours which are going so badly! As for international affairs, I know more about these things than you do!”
Trotsky repeated his conviction that the collapse of Stalin’s state was inevitable. Fascism would not tolerate much longer the development of Soviet power.
The Trotskyites in Russia were faced with this choice: either they would “perish in the ruins of the Stalin state,” or they must immediately galvanize all their energies in an all-out effort to overthrow the Stalin regime. There must be no hesitation about accepting the guidance and assistance of the German and Japanese High Commands in this crucial struggle.
A military clash between the Soviet Union and the Fascist Powers was inevitable, Trotsky added, not at some remote time in the future, but soon – very soon. “The date of the outbreak of the war has already been fixed,” said Trotsky. “It will be in 1937.”
It was clear to Pyatakov that Trotsky had not invented this information. Trotsky now revealed to Pyatakov that for some time past he had been “conducting rather lengthy negotiations with the Vice-Chairman of the German National Socialist Party , Hess.”
As a result of these negotiations with Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Trotsky had entered into an agreement, “an absolutely definite agreement,” with the Government of the Third Reich. The Nazis were ready to help the Trotskyites to come to power in the Soviet Union.
“It goes without saying,” Trotsky sky told Pyatakov, “that such a favorable attitude is not due to any, particular love for the Trotskyites. It simply proceeds from the real interests of the fascists and from what we have promised to do for them if we come to power.”
Concretely, the agreement which Trotsky had entered into with the Nazis consisted of five points. In return for Germany’s assistance in bringing the Trotskyites to power in Russia, Trotsky had agreed: –
(1) to guarantee a generally favourable attitude towards the German government and the necessary collaboration with it in the most important questions of international character;
(2) to agree to territorial concessions [the Ukraine];
(3) to permit German industrialists, in the form of concessions (or some other forms), to exploit enterprises in the U.S.S.R. essential as complements to German economy (iron ore, manganese, oil, gold, timber, etc.);
(4) to create in the U.S.S.R. favourable conditions for the activities of German private enterprise;
(5) in time of war to develop extensive diversive activities in enterprises of the war industry and at the front. These diversive activities to be carried on under Trotsky’s instructions, agreed upon with the German General Staff.
Pyatakov, as Trotsky’s chief lieutenant in Russia, was concerned that this out-and-out deal with Nazism might be difficult to explain to the rank-and-file members of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.
“Program questions must not be put before the rank-and-file members of the Bloc in all their scope,” Trotsky impatiently declared. “It would only scare them.”
The organization as a whole was to know nothing about the detailed agreement which had been reached with the Fascist Powers. “It is neither possible nor expedient to make it public,” said Trotsky, “or even to communicate it to any considerable number of Trotskyites. Only a very small, restricted group of people can be informed about it at this time.”
Trotsky kept stressing the urgency of the time factor.
“It is a matter of a comparatively short period,” he insisted. “If we miss this opportunity, the danger will arise, on the one hand, of the complete liquidation of Trotskyism in the country, and, on the other hand, of the existence of that monstrosity, the Stalin state, for decades, supported by certain economic achievements, and particularly by the new, young cadres who have grown up and have been brought up to take this state for granted, to regard it as a socialist, Soviet state – they don’t think of any other state and they cannot conceive of any! Our task is to oppose ourselves to that state.”
“Look,” concluded Trotsky as the time for Pyatakov’s departure drew near, “there was a time when we Socialist Democrats all regarded the development of capitalism as a progressive, as a positive phenomenon… But we had different tasks, namely, to organize the struggle against capitalism, to rear its grave-diggers. And so now we should go into the service of the Stalin state, not however to help build that state, but to become its grave-diggers, therein lies our task!”
At the end of two hours, Pyatakov left Trotsky in the small house on the outskirts of Oslo and returned to Berlin as he had come, by privately chartered plane, and carrying a Nazi passport.
4. Zero Hour
The Second World War, which Trotsky predicted would strike Soviet Russia in 1937, had already reached Europe. Following Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, events had moved swiftly. In June 1936, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland. In July, the Fascists struck in Spain with a Putsch of Spanish officers against the Republican Government. Under the pretext of “combating Bolshevism” and suppressing a “Communist revolution,” German and Italian troops landed in Spain to aid the officers’ revolt. The Spanish Fascist leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, marched on Madrid. “Four columns are marching on Madrid,” boasted the drunken Fascist General Quiepo de Llano. “A Fifth Column is waiting to greet us inside the city!” It was the first time the world heard the fateful phrase – “Fifth Column.”(4)
Adolf Hitler, addressing thousands of troops at the Nuremberg Nazi Party Congress on September 12, publicly proclaimed his intention of invading the Soviet Union.
“We are ready at any hour!” cried Hitler. “I cannot permit ruined states on my doorstep!… If I had the Ural Mountains with their incalculable store of treasures in raw materials, Siberia with its vast forests, and the Ukraine with its tremendous wheat fields, Germany and the National Socialist leadership would swim in plenty!”
On November 25, 1936, the Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and the Japanese Ambassador to Germany, M. Mushakoji, signed the Anti-Comintern Agreement in Berlin, pledging their combined forces to a joint attack against “World Bolshevism.”
Aware of the imminent war danger, the Soviet Government initiated a sudden counteroffensive against the enemy within its own borders. During the spring and summer of 1936, in a series of startling raids throughout the country, the Soviet authorities swooped down on Nazi spies, secret Trotskyite and Right organizers, terrorists and saboteurs. In Siberia a Nazi agent named Emil Stickling was arrested, and found to have been directing sabotage activities in the Kemerovo mines in collaboration with Alexei Shestov and other Trotskyites. In Leningrad, another Nazi agent, Valentine Olberg, was seized. Olberg was not only a Nazi agent, he was one of Trotsky’s special emissaries. He had contact with Fritz David, Nathan Lurye, Konon Berman-Yurin and other terrorists. One after another, the leaders of the first “layer” of the conspiracy were being tracked down.
A coded message which Ivan Smirnov had smuggled out of prison to his co-conspirators was intercepted by the Soviet authorities. The Trotskyite terrorists Ephraim Dreitzer and Sergei Mrachkovsky were arrested.
A mood of feverish anxiety gripped the Russian conspirators. Now everything depended on the attack from without. Yagoda’s efforts to hamstring the official investigation were becoming increasingly reckless. “It looks as if Yezhov is getting at the bottom of the Leningrad affair!” Yagoda furiously told his secretary, Bulanov.
One of Yagoda’s own men a NKVD agent named Borisov, was abruptly summoned to the special investigation headquarters at the Smolny Institute in Leningrad for questioning. Borisov had played a leading part in the prearrangements for the murder of Kirov. Yagoda acted in desperation. While driving to the Smolny Institute, Borisov was killed in an “automobile accident.”…
But the elimination of a single witness was not enough. The official investigation went on. Daily, new arrests were reported. Piece by piece the Soviet authorities were fitting together the intricate jigsaw of conspiracy, treason and murder. By August, almost all the leading members of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center were under arrest. The Soviet Government announced that sensational new evidence had been brought to light as the result of the special investigation into Kirov’s murder. Kamenev and Zinoviev were to stand trial again.
The trial began on August 19, 1936, in the October Hall of the House of Trade-Unions in Moscow, before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. Zinoviev and Kamenev, brought from prison where they were still serving their terms on previous convictions, faced the court along with fourteen of their former associates on charges of treason. The other accused included the one-time leaders of Trotsky’s Guard, Ivan Smirnov, Sergei Mrachkovsky and Ephraim Dreitzer; Zinoviev’s secretary, Grigori Evdokimov, and his aide, Ivan Bakayev; and five of Trotsky’s special terrorist emissaries, Fritz David, Nathan Lurye, Moissei Lurye, Konon Berman-Yurin and Valentine Olberg.
The trial – the first of the so-called “Moscow Trials” – exposed and smashed the Terrorist Center, the first layer of the conspiratorial apparatus. At the same time it established that the plot against the Soviet regime went much further and involved far more important forces than the Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorists on trial.
As the trial proceeded, the public got its first glimpse of the intimate relationship that had developed between Leon Trotsky and the leaders of Nazi Germany. The examination by Soviet Prosecutor A. Y. Vyshinsky of Valentine Olberg, the German Trotskyite who had been sent into the Soviet Union by Trotsky himself, brought some startling facts to light: –
VYSHINSKY: What do you know about Friedmann?
OLBERG: Friedmann was a member of the Berlin Trotskyite organization who was also sent to the Soviet Union.
VYSHINSKY: Are you aware of the fact that Friedmann was connected with the German secret police?
OLBERG: I had heard about that.
VYSHINSKY: Connections between the German Trotskyites and the German police – was that systematic?
OLBERG: Yes, it was systematic and it was done with Trotsky’s consent.
VYSHINSKY: How do you know that it was done with Trotsky’s knowledge and consent?
OLBERG: One of the lines of connection was maintained by myself. My connection was established with the sanction of Trotsky.
VYSHINSKY: Your personal connection with whom? OLBERG. With the fascist secret police.
VYSHINSKY: So it can be said that you yourself admit connections with the Gestapo?
OLBERG: I do not deny this. In 1933 there began organized systematic connection between the German Trotskyites and the German fascist police.
Olberg described to the court how he had obtained the forged South American passport with which he had entered the Soviet Union. He had, he said, obtained it through “Tukalevskky,(5) an agent of the German secret police in Prague.” Olberg added that in getting this passport he had received some assistance from his brother, Paul Olberg.
“Did your brother have any connection with the Gestapo?” asked Vyshinsky.
“He was Tukalevsky’s agent.”
“An agent of the fascist police?”
“Yes,” said Olberg.
Trotsky’s emissary, Nathan Lurye, told the court how he had received instructions before leaving Germany that upon his arrival in the Soviet Union he should work with the German engineer-architect, Franz Weizz.
“Who is Franz Weitz?” asked Vyshinsky.
“Franz Weitz was a member of the National Socialist Party of Germany,” said Lurye. “He arrived in the U.S.S.R. on the instructions of Himmler who at that time was chief of the S.S. and subsequently became chief of the Gestapo.”
“Franz Weitz was his representative?”
“Franz Weitz arrived in the U.S.S.R. on the instructions of Himmler for the purpose of committing terroristic acts.”
But it was not until Kamenev testified, that the leaders of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites realized their situation was desperate. Kamenev betrayed the existence of the other “layers” of the conspiratorial apparatus.
“Knowing that we might be discovered,” Kamenev told the court, “we designated a small group to continue our terroristic activities. For this purpose we designated Sokolnikov. It seemed to us that on the side of the Trotskyites this role could be successfully performed by Serebryakov and Radek… In 1932, 1933 and 1934 I personally maintained relations with Tomsky and Bukharin and sounded their political sentiments. They sympathized with us. When I asked Tomsky about Rykov’s frame of mind, he replied: `Rykov thinks the same as you do.’ In reply to my question as to what Bukharin thought, he said: `Bukharin thinks the same as I do but is pursuing somewhat different tactics: he does not agree with the line of the Party, but is pursuing tactics of persistently enrooting himself in the Party and winning the personal confidence of the leadership.’ ‘
Some of the accused pleaded for mercy. Others seemed resigned to their fate. “The political importance and the past of each of us were not the same,” said Ephraim Dreitzer, a former leader of Trotsky’s bodyguard. “But having become assassins, we have all become equals here. I, at any rate, am one of those who have no right to expect or to ask for mercy.”
In his last words, the terrorist Fritz David cried out: “I curse Trotsky! I curse that man who ruined my life and pushed me into heinous crime!”
On the evening of August 23 the Military Collegium of the Soviet Supreme Court handed down its verdict. Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and the thirteen other members of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite-Terrorist Bloc were sentenced to be shot for their terrorist and treasonous activities.
A week later, Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov and Serebryakov were arrested. On September 27, Henry Yagoda was removed from his post as Chairman of the NKVD. His place was taken by N. I. Yezhov, the head of the special investigatory committee of the Central Control Commission of the Bolshevik Party. The day before he was moved out of the NKVD offices, Yagoda made a last wild attempt to poison his successor, Yezhov. The attempt failed.
It was zero hour for the Russian conspirators. The Right leaders, Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky, were expecting their own arrests daily. They demanded immediate action without waiting for war. The panic-stricken Right trade-union chief, Tomsky, proposed an immediate armed attack on the Kremlin. It was dismissed as too risky. The forces were not ready for such an open venture.
At a final meeting of the chief leaders of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, just before Pyatakov and Radek went to prison, it was decided to prepare for an armed coup d’état. The organization of this coup, and direction of the entire conspiratorial apparatus, were placed in the hands of Nicolai Krestinsky, the Assistant Commissar of Foreign Affairs. Krestinsky had not exposed himself as the others had, was unlikely to be suspected, and had maintained close connections with Trotsky and the Germans. He would be able to carry on even if Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky were arrested.
As his deputy and second-in-command, Krestinsky selected Arkady Rosengoltz, who recently had returned to Moscow from Berlin where for many years he had headed the Soviet Foreign Trade Commission. A tall, fair, athletic-looking man, who had held important posts in the Soviet administration, Rosengoltz had kept his Trotskyite affiliations a careful secret. Only Trotsky and Krestinsky knew Rosengoltz’s role as a Trotskyite and as a paid agent of the German Military Intelligence since 1923…(6)
From this time on, direct control of the Bloc of the Rights and Trotskyites was in the hands of two Trotskyites who were both German agents: Krestinsky and Rosengoltz. After a lengthy discussion, they both decided that the time had come for the Russian Fifth Column to play its last card.
The last card was the military Putsch. The man who had been chosen to lead the armed rising was Marshal Tukhachevsky, Assistant Defense Commissar of the U.S.S.R.
(1) Trotsky instructed his followers inside Russia to make every effort to undermine the attempts of the Soviet Government to achieve collective security. Early in 1935 Christian Rakovsky, the Trotskyite and Japanese agent who had formerly been the Soviet Ambassador to London and Paris, received in Moscow a letter from Trotsky emphasizing the necessity “of internationally isolating the Soviet Union.” In dealing with foreign countries, wrote Trotsky, the Russian conspirators must take into account the various political elements. In the case of the “Left elements abroad,” it was necessary “to play on their pacifist sentiments.” With the “Right elements abroad,” the problem was simpler: “Their sentiments against the Soviet Union are quite clear and definite,” declared Trotsky. “With them we can speak frankly.”
In May 1935, a French delegation visited Moscow to discuss the FrancoSoviet Pact. Accompanying the mission was Emil Bure, the editor of the influential right-wing Paris newspaper L’Ordre, with whom Rakovsky had been friendly when he was Ambassador to France. Rakovsky went to see Bure at the Hotel Metropole in Moscow. He told Bure that the FrancoSoviet Pact was fraught with danger and might easily lead to a “preventive war on the part of Germany.” He added that this was not only his opinion but that of a large number of high-placed diplomats and other officials in the Soviet Union.
To Rakovsky’s chagrin, Bure told him that he was unshakably opposed to any attempt to appease Nazi Germany. “France,” Bure told Rakovsky, “cannot remain isolated in the face of the growing militarization of Germany. The aggressor must be put in a strait-jacket; that is the only means to crush war.”
But the Bures, unfortunately, were not entirely in control of French foreign policy. The head of the French mission in Moscow was Pierre Laval…
2. In June 1935 the Popular Front Government of France expelled Leon Trotsky from French soil. Trotsky went to Norway, where he set up his third headquarters-in-exile in a remote, guarded mansion on the outskirts of Oslo. The Workers’ Party of Norway, a secessionist group from the Comintern, was a powerful political factor in Norway at the time and facilitated Trotsky’s entry. Trotsky’s own followers in Norway were conducting an intensive anti-Soviet propaganda campaign. On the extreme right in Norwegian politics at this time, the anti-Communist Nasjonal Samling (National Unity Party), headed by the ex-War Minister, Major Vidkun Quisling, was carrying on similar, violent anti-Soviet agitation.
Major Vidkun Quisling had once served as the Norwegian Military Attache in Leningrad. In 1922-1923, he was sent on “diplomatic” assignments in the Ukraine and the Crimea. He married a White Russian woman. In 1927, when the British Government broke off relations with Soviet Russia, Major Quisling, then secretary of the Norwegian Legation in Moscow, was placed in charge of British interests in Russia. For his services at that time, Quisling was subsequently made an Honorary Commander of the British Empire.
In 1930 the Soviet Government refused to permit Quisling to re-enter Soviet Russia on the grounds that he had been carrying on subversive activities on Soviet soil.
After an end had been put to his “diplomatic” activities in the Soviet Union, Quisling began organizing a pseudo-radical group in Norway, which soon became openly fascist. Before long, Quisling himself was a secret agent of the German Military Intelligence, and the leader of Norway’s Fifth Column, which included as one of its important elements the Trotskyites.
It, Norway, as in every other country where Trotskyite cells were organized, many of the rank-and-file Trotskyites had no knowledge of the secret links between the Trotskyite leadership and the Axis Intelligence Services. To the end, Trotsky managed to attract numbers of “world-revolutionists” who believed in his integrity. These individuals were very useful to Trotsky both as anti-Soviet propagandists and organizers and as apologists for the Trotskyite cause.
3. “Stirner” was merely another pseudonym for Trotsky’s “secretary,” the international spy Karl Reich, alias Johanson.
4. At the time of the Axis-supported Franco uprising in Spain, 1936-1938, Andreas Nin headed an ultra-leftist, pro-Trotsky Spanish organization called the Partido Obrero de Unifacion Marxista, or P.O.U.M. Officially, the P.O.U.M. was not affiliated with Trotsky’s Fourth International. Its ranks, however, were permeated with Trotskyites; and on major issues, such as its attitude toward the Soviet Union and the Popular Front, the P.O.U.M. strictly adhered to the policies of Leon Trotsky.
At the time of the Franco revolt, Trotsky’s friend Nin was Minister of Justice in Catalonia. While giving lip-service to the anti-fascist cause, Nin’s P.O.U.M. carried on endless propaganda and agitation against the Spanish Republican Government during the hostilities in Spain. At first it was believed that Nin’s oppositionist activities were of a purely “political” character, since P.O.U.M. members advanced “revolutionary” explanations for their opposition to the Spanish Government. But when the P.O.U.M. staged an abortive revolt in Barcelona behind the Loyalist lines in the crucial sunimer of 1937 and called for “resolute action to overthrow the Government,” it was discovered that Nin and the other P.O.U.M. leaders were actually fascist agents working with Franco and that they had been carrying on a systematic campaign of sabotage, espionage and terrorism against the Spanish Government.
On October 23, 1937, the Chief of the Barcelona Police, Lieutenant Colonel Burillo, made public the details of the P.O.U.M. conspiracy which had been uncovered in Catalonia. Secret documents seized by the Barcelona police established that P.O.U.M. members had been carrying on extensive espionage for the fascists; that they had interfered with the transport of supplies to the Spanish Republican Army; and that they had sabotaged military operations at the front. “The attempts against the lives of outstanding figures in the People’s Army were still under consideration,” Lieutenant Colonel Burillo went on to say in his report. “In addition, the organization was being continued for a planned attempt against the life of a Minister of the Republic…”
5. Not to be confused with General Tukhachevsky.
6. Rosengoltz had served as a Red Army commander during the war of intervention. After the war, he had been sent to Berlin as commercial agent at the Soviet Embassy. In 1923, Trotsky put him in touch with the German Military Intelligence. In return for money, which went to finance the illegal Trotskyite work, Rosengoltz supplied the Germans with secret data concerning the Soviet air force to which Trotsky, as War Commissar, then had access. Rosengoltz took no open part in the Trotskyite Opposition. In 1934, Bessonov brought him a message from Trotsky advising him that the time had come to act less cautiously and to begin “active wrecking work in the sphere of foreign trade.” Rosengoltz was Commissar of Foreign Trade at the Soviet Trade Commission in Berlin. For a short period, he was able to steer Soviet trade into channels beneficial to Nazi Germany and, later, to Japan. Early in 1936, Rosengoltz had been recalled to Moscow.
CHAPTER XX – The End of the Trail
AGAIN, the phantom of the Corsican was haunting Russia. The new candidate for the role was the portly, moody Red Army Marshal, Mikhail Nicolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former Czarist officer and son of titled landowners, who had become one of the leaders of the Red Army.
As a young man, graduating from the exclusive Alexandrovsky Military Academy, Tukhachevsky predicted: “I’ll either be a general at thirty or commit suicide!” He fought as an officer in the Czar’s Army in the First World War. In 1915 he was taken prisoner by the Germans. A French officer, Lieutenant. Fervaque, who was a fellow prisoner with Tukhachevsky, later described the Russian officer as reckless and ambitious. His head was stuffed with Nietzschean philosophy. “I hate Vladimir the Saint who introduced Christianity in Russia, thus handing over Russia to Western civilization!” Tukhachevsky exclaimed. “We should have kept our crude paganism, our barbarism. But they will both come back; I am sure of it!” Speaking about revolution in Russia, Tukhachevsky said: “Many desire it. We are a slack people but deeply destructive. Should there be a revolution, only God knows where it will end. I think that a constitutional regime would mean the end of Russia. We need a despot!”
On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution, Tukhachevsky escaped from German captivity and returned to Russia. He joined his fellow officers from the Czar’s Army who were organizing the White armies against the Bolsheviks. Then, abruptly, he changed sides. To one of his friends, the White Captain Dmitri Golum-Bek, Tukhachevsky confided his decision to desert the White cause. “I asked him what he was going to do,” Golum-Bek later recorded. “He said: `Frankly, I am going with the Bolsheviks. The White Army can’t do anything. We haven’t a leader.’ He paced around a few minutes and then he cried: `Don’t follow me if you don’t want to, but I think I am doing right. Russia is going to be different!”‘
In 1918, Tukhachevsky joined the Bolshevik Party. He soon found his place among the military adventurers who surrounded War Commissar Trotsky; but he was careful not to become too involved in Trotsky’s political intrigues. A trained and experienced army man, Tukhachevsky rose rapidly in the inexperienced Red Army ranks. He commanded the First and Fifth Armies on the Wrangel Front, participated in the successful offensive against Deniken and, together with Trotsky, led the unsuccessful counteroffensive against the invading Poles. In 1922, he became head of the Red Army Military Academy. He was one of the leading Russian officers to take part in the military negotiations with the German Weimar Republic which followed the Rapallo Treaty of that year.
In the years that followed, Tukhachevsky headed a small group of professional militarists and ex-Czarist officers in the Red Army General Staff who resented the leadership of the former Bolshevik guerillas, Marshal Budyenny and Marshal Voroshilov. Tukhachevsky’s group included the Red Army generals, Yakir, Kork, Uborevitch and Feldman, who had an almost slavish admiration for German militarism. Tukhachevsky’s closest associates were the Trotskyite officer, V. I. Putna, who was military attaché in Berlin, London and Tokyo, and General Jan B. Gamarnik, a personal friend of the Reichswehr Generals Seeckt and Hammerstein.
Together with Putna and Gamarnik, Tukhachevsky soon formed a small, influential pro-German clique within the Red Army General Staff. Tukhachevsky and his associates knew of Trotsky’s deal with the Reichswehr, but they considered it a “political” arrangement. It was to be balanced by a military alliance between Tukhachevsky’s Military Group and the German High Command. The coming to power of Hitler in no way altered the secret understanding between Tukhachevsky and the German military leaders. Hitler, like Trotsky, was a “politician.” The military men had their own ideas…
Ever since the organization of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, Trotsky had regarded Tukhachevsky as the trump card of the whole conspiracy, to be played only at the ultimate, strategic moment. Trotsky maintained his relations with Tukhachevsky chiefly through Krestinsky and the Trotskyite military attaché, Puma. Later, Bukharin appointed Tomsky as his personal liaison with the Military Group. Both Trotsky and Bukharin were fully aware of Tukhachevsky’s contempt for “politicians” and “ideologists,” and they feared his military ambitions. Discussing with Tomsky the possibility of calling the Military Group into action, Bukharin said: –
“This is to be a military coup. By the very logic of things, the Military Group of the conspirators will have extraordinary influence… hence a peculiar Bonapartist danger may arise. And Bonapartists – I am thinking particularly of Tukhachevsky -will start out by making short shrift of their allies and so- called inspirers in the Napoleonic style. Tukhachevsky is a potential little Napoleon-and you know how Napoleon dealt with the so-called ideologists!”
Bukharin asked Tomsky: –
“How does Tukhachevsky visualize the mechanism of the coup?”
“That’s the business of the military organization,” Tomsky replied. He added that the moment the Nazis attacked Soviet Russia, the Military Group planned to “open the front to the Germans” – that is, to surrender to the German High Command. This plan had been worked out in detail and agreed upon by Tukhachevsky, Putna, Gamarnik and the Germans.
“In that case,” said Bukharin thoughtfully, “we might be able to get rid of the Bonapartist danger that alarms me.”
Tomsky did not understand. Bukharin went on to explain: Tukhachevsky would try to set up a military dictatorship; he might even try to get popular support by making scapegoats of the political leaders of the conspiracy. But, once in power, the politicians could turn the tables on the Military Group. Bukharin told Tomsky: “It might be necessary to try those guilty of the `defeat’ at the front. This will enable us to win over the masses by playing on patriotic slogans…”
Early in 1936, Tukhachevsky went to London as Soviet military representative at the state funeral of King George V of England. Before he left, he received the coveted title of Marshal of the Soviet Union. He was already convinced that the hour was at hand when the Soviet regime would be overthrown, and a new Russia in military alliance with Germany and Japan would strike for the domination of the world.
En route to London, Tukhachevsky stopped over briefly in Warsaw and Berlin, where he held conversations with Polish “colonels” and German generals. His mood was so confident that he scarcely made any attempt in public to conceal his admiration of the German militarists.
In Paris, at a formal dinner at the Soviet Embassy after his return from London, Tukhachevsky astounded European diplomats by openly, attacking the Soviet Government’s attempts to arrive at collective security with the Western democracies. Tukhachevsky, who was sitting at a table with Nicholas Titutlescu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Rumania, told the Rumanian diplomat: –
“Monsieur le Ministre, you are wrong in linking your career and the fate of your country to countries that are old and `finished’ such as Great Britain and France. It is to the new Germany that we should turn. For a certain time, at least, Germany will be the country that will take the lead of the European continent. I am sure that Hitler will help to save us all.”
Tukhachevsky’s remarks were recorded by the Rumanian diplomat and Chief of the Press Service at the Rumanian Embassy in Paris, E. Schachanan Esseze, who also attended the banquet at the Soviet Embassy. Another of the guests, the famous French political journalist, Genevieve Tabouis, subsequently related in her book, They Call Me Cassandra: –
I was to meet Tukhachevsky for the last time on the day after the funeral of King George V. At a dinner at the Soviet Embassy, the Russian general had been very conversational with Politis, Titilescu, Herriot, Boncour… He had just returned from a trip to Germany, and was heaping glowing praise upon the Nazis. Seated at my right, he said over and over again, as he discussed an air pact between the great powers and Hitler’s country: “They are already invincible, Madame Tabouis!”
Why did he speak so trustfully? Was it because his head had been turned by the hearty reception he had found among German diplomats, who found it easy to talk to this man of the old Russian school? At any rate I was not the only one that evening who was alarmed at his display of enthusiasm. One of the guests, an important diplomat grumbled into my ear as we walked away from the Embassy: “Well, I hope all the Russians don’t feel that way.”
The sensational disclosures at the trial of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Bloc in August 1936, and the subsequent arrests of Pyatakov and Radek, gravely alarmed Tukhachevsky. He got in touch with Krestinsky and told him the plans of the conspirators would have to be drastically changed. Originally, the Military Group was not to go into action until the Soviet Union was attacked from outside. But international developments – the Franco-Soviet Pact, the unexpected defense of Madrid – were continually cropping up to postpone outside action. The conspirators inside Russia, said Tukhachevsky, must expedite matters by staging the coup d’état ahead of schedule. The Germans would immediately come to the aid of their Russian allies.
Krestinsky said he would get off a message to Trotsky immediately, informing him of the necessity of speeding up action.
Krestinsky’s message to Trotsky, which he sent off in October, read: –
“We think that, quite a large number of Trotskyites have been arrested, but nevertheless the main forces of the Bloc are not as yet affected. Action can be taken; but for this purpose it is essential for the center that foreign action should be hastened.”
By “foreign action,” Krestinsky meant the Nazi attack on Soviet Russia…
Shortly after the message was sent, Tukhachevsky took Krestinsky aside at the Extraordinary Fight Congress of Soviets in November 1936. The arrests were continuing, “Tukhachevsky said excitedly, and there seemed no reason to believe that they would stop on the lower levels of the conspiratorial apparatus. The Trotskyite military liaison, Putna, had already been arrested. Stalin clearly suspected the existence of an extensive plot and was prepared to take drastic measures. He already had enough evidence to convict Pyatakov and the others. The arrest of Putna and the removal of Yagoda from the Chairmanship of the NKVD meant that the Soviet authorities were getting at the roots of the plot. There was no telling where the trail might lead. The entire undertaking hung in the balance.
Tukhachevsky was for immediate action. The Bloc must reach a decision in this matter without further delay, and prepare all forces to back up the military coup…
Krestinsky discussed the matter with Rosengoltz. The two Trotskyite German agents agreed that Tukhachevsky was right. Another message was dispatched to Trotsky. In it, besides telling Trotsky of Tukhachevsky’s determination to go ahead without waiting for war, Krestinsky raised some important questions of political strategy. He wrote: –
We will have to conceal the true purposes of the coup. We will have to make a statement to the population, to the army, and to foreign states… firstly, it would be the proper thing in our statements to the population not to mention that our coup was designed for the overthrow of the existing Socialist order… we [should] pose in the guise of Soviet rebels; we would overthrow a bad Soviet government and reestablish a good Soviet government… In any case, we should not be too outspoken on this question.
Trotsky’s reply reached Krestinsky toward the end of December. The exiled leader agreed completely with Krestinsky. As a matter of fact, following Pyatakov’s arrest, Trotsky had independently reached the conclusion that the Military Group should be called into action without further delay. While Krestinsky’s letter to him was still en route, he had written Rosengoltz advocating immediate military action…
“After this reply was received,” Krestinsky later stated, “we began to make more direct preparations for the coup. Tukhachevsky was given a free hand, he was given carte blanche to get on with the job directly.”
2. The Trial of the Trotskyite Parallel Center
The Soviet Government was also moving into action. The revelations at the Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial had established beyond doubt that the conspiracy in the country went far beyond mere secret “left” opposition. The real centers of the conspiracy were not in Russia at all; they were in Berlin and Tokyo. As the investigation continued, the true shape and character of the Axis Fifth Column was becoming clearer to the Soviet Government.
On January 23, 1937, Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Shestov, Muralov and twelve of their fellow conspirators, including key agents of the German and Japanese Intelligence Services, went on trial for treason in Moscow before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R.
For months the leading members of the Trotskyite Center had denied the charges brought against them. But the evidence against them was complete and overwhelming. One by one they admitted they had directed sabotage and terrorist activities, and maintained connections, on Trotsky’s instructions, with the German and Japanese Governments. But, at the preliminary interrogation as at the trial, they still did not divulge the whole picture. They said nothing about the existence of the Military Group; they did not mention Krestinsky or Rosengoltz; they remained silent about the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, the final and most powerful “layer” of the conspiracy, which, even as they were being cross-examined, was feverishly preparing to seize power.
In prison, Sokolnikov, the former Assistant Commissar in charge of Eastern Affairs, had revealed the political aspects of the conspiracy; the deal with Hess, the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R., the plan to set up a fascist dictatorship after the overthrow of the Soviet regime. In court, Sokolnikov testified: –
We considered that fascism was the most organized form of capitalism, that it would triumph and seize Europe and stifle us. It was therefore better to come to terms with it..All this was explained by the following argument: better make certain sacrifices, even very severe ones, than lose everything… we reasoned as politicians… we figured we had to take certain chances.
Pyatakov admitted that he was the leader of the Trotskyite Center. Speaking in a quiet, deliberate voice, choosing his words carefully, the former member of the Supreme National Economic Council testified to the established facts of the sabotage and terrorist activities which he had been directing up to the moment of his arrest. Standing in the dock, his long, thin, pallid face absolutely impassive, he looked, according to the American Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, “like a professor delivering a lecture.”
Vyshinsky: tried to get Pyatakov to reveal how the Trotskyites and the German and Japanese agents made themselves known to each other. Pyatakov parried the questions: –
VYSHINSKY: What gave the German agent Rataichak reasons for disclosing himself to you?
PYATAKOV: Two persons had spoken to me
VYSHINSKY: Did he disclose himself to you, or did you disclose yourself to him?
PYATAKOV: Disclosures may he mutual. VYSHINSKY. Did you disclose yourself first?
PYATAKOV: Who first, he or I – the hen or the egg – I don’t know.
As John Gunther later reported in Inside Europe: –
The impression held widely abroad that the defendants all told the same story, that they were abject and grovelling, that they behaved like sheep in the executioner’s pen, isn’t quite correct. They argued stubbornly with the prosecutor; in the main they told only what they were forced to tell…
As the trial proceeded, and the testimony of one defendant after another remorselessly exposed Pyatakov as a cold-blooded and calculating political assassin and traitor, a note of doubt and depression began to creep into his hitherto calm and balanced voice. Some of the facts in the possession of the authorities came as an obvious shock to him. Pyatakov’s attitude changed. He pleaded that, even before his arrest, he had begun to question Trotsky’s leadership. He said he did not approve of the deal with Hess. “We had got into a blind alley,” Pyatakov told the court. “I was seeking a way out…” In his last plea to the court, Pyatakov exclaimed: –
Yes, I was a Trotskyite for many years! I worked hand in hand with the Trotskyites… Do not think, Citizen Judges… that during these years spent in the suffocating underworld of Trotskyism, I did not see what was happening in the country! Do not think that I did not understand what was being done in industry. I tell you frankly: at times, when emerging from the Trotskyite underworld and engaging in my other practical work, I sometimes felt a kind of relief, and of course, humanly speaking, this duality was not only a matter of outward behavior, but there was also a duality within me… In a few hours you will pass your sentence… Do not deprive me of one thing, Citizen Judges. Do not deprive me of the right to feel that in your eyes, too, I have found strength in myself, albeit too late, to break with my criminal past!
But, to the last, not a word of the existence of the remaining “layer” of the conspiracy passed Pyatakov’s lips…
Nicolai Muralov, the one-time Commander of the Moscow Military Garrison and leading member of the old Trotsky Guard, who since 1932 had directed the Trotskyite cells in the Urals along with Shestov and German “technicians,” pleaded for mercy from the court, asking that his “frank testimony” be taken into consideration. A towering man, bearded and gray-haired, Muralov stood as if at attention while testifying. He declared that, after his arrest, and following, a protracted inner struggle, he had decided to “lay everything on the table.” His words, according to Walter Duranty and other observers, had a ring of real honesty as he stated from the dock: –
I refused counsel and I refused to speak in my defense because I am used to defending myself with good weapons and attacking with good weapons. I have no good weapons with which to defend myself… It would be unworthy of me to accuse anyone of having drawn me into the Trotskyite organization… I do not dare blame anyone for this. I myself am to blame. This is my guilt. This is my misfortune… For over a decade I was a faithful soldier of Trotsky…
Karl Radek, peering through his thick glasses at the crowded courtroom, was in turn humble, ingratiating, impertinent and arrogant under the cross-examination of the Prosecutor Vyshinsky. Like Pyatakov, but more fully, he admitted his treasonable activities. Radek also claimed that, before his arrest, and as soon as he received Trotsky’s letter outlining the deal with the Nazi and Japanese Governments, he had made up his mind to repudiate Trotsky and to expose the conspiracy. For weeks, he debated what to do.
VYSHINSKY: What did you decide?
RADEK: The first step to take would be to go to the Central Committee of the Party, to make a statement, to name all the persons. This I did not do. It was not I that went to the G.P.U., but the G.P.U. that came for me.
VYSHINSKY: An eloquent reply!
RADEK: A sad reply.
In his final plea, Radek presented himself as a man torn with doubts, perpetually vacillating between loyalty to the Soviet regime and to the Left Opposition, of which he had been a member since the earliest revolutionary days. He was convinced, he said, that the Soviet regime could never withstand the hostile pressure from without. “I dissented on the main question,” he told the court, “on the question of continuing the fight for the Five Year Plan.” Trotsky “seized on my profound perturbations.” Step by step, according to his own account, Radek was drawn into the inner circles of the conspiracy. Then came the connections with the foreign Intelligence Services and, finally, Trotsky’s negotiations with Alfred Rosenberg and Rudolph Hess. Trotsky, said Radek, “confronted us with the accomplished fact of his agreement…”
Explaining how he had finally come to plead guilty and to admit all the facts he knew about the conspiracy, Radek said: –
When I found myself in the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, the chief examining official… said to me: “You are not a baby. Here you have fifteen people testifying against you. You cannot get out of it, and as a sensible man you cannot think of doing so…”
For two and a half months I tormented the examining official. The question has been raised here whether we were tormented while under investigation. I must say that it was not I who was tormented, but I who tormented the examining officials and compelled them to perform a lot of useless work. For two and a half months I compelled the examining official, by interrogating me and by confronting me with the testimony of the other accused, to open up all the cards to me, so that I could see who had confessed, who had not confessed, and what each had confessed…
And one day the chief examining official came to me and said: “You are now the last. Why are you wasting time and temporizing? Why don’t you say what you have to say?” And I answered: “Yes, tomorrow I shall begin my testimony. “
The verdict was handed down on January 30, 1937. The accused were found guilty of treason – of being “an agency of the German and Japanese fascist forces for espionage, diversive and wrecking activities” and of plotting to assist “foreign aggressors to seize the territory of the U.S.S.R.”
The Military Collegium of the Soviet Supreme Court sentenced Pyatakov, Muralov, Shestov, and ten others to be shot. Radek, Sokolnikov and two minor agents were sentenced to long prison terms.
In his summing-up speech on January 28, 1937, the State Prosecutor Vyshinsky declared: –
By their espionage work, the people who under the direction of Trotsky and Pyatakov established connections with the German and Japanese Intelligence services, strove to achieve results which would have very gravely affected the interests, not only of our state, but also the interests of a number of states which, with us, desire peace, and which, with us, are fighting for peace… We are keenly interested that the government of every country which desires peace, and is fighting for peace, should take the most determined measures, to put a stop to every attempt at criminal, espionage, diversive, terrorist activities organized by the enemies of peace, by the enemies of democracy, by the dark fascist forces which are preparing for war, which are preparing to wreck the cause of peace, and consequently, the cause of the whole of advanced, the whole of progressive humanity.
Vyshinsky’s words received little publicity outside of Soviet Russia; but they were heard and remembered by certain diplomats and journalists.
The American Ambassador in Moscow, Joseph E. Davies, was profoundly impressed by the trial. He attended it daily and, assisted by an interpreter, carefully followed the proceedings. A former corporation lawyer, Ambassador Davies stated that the Soviet Prosecutor Vyshinsky, who was being currently described by anti-Soviet propagandists as a “brutal Inquisitor,” impressed him as being “much like Homer Cummings, calm, dispassionate, intellectual and able and wise. He conducted the treason trial in a manner that won my respect and admiration as a lawyer.”
On February 17, 1937, Ambassador Davies reported in a confidential dispatch to Secretary of State Cordell Hull that almost all the foreign diplomats in Moscow shared his opinion of the justice of the verdict. Ambassador Davies Wrote: –
I talked to many, if not all, of the members of the Diplomatic Corps here and, with possibly one exception, they are all of the opinion that the proceedings established clearly the existence of a political plot and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
But these facts were not made public. Powerful forces conspired to hide the truth about the Fifth Column in Soviet Russia. On March 11, 1937, Ambassador Davies recorded in his Moscow diary: –
Another diplomat, Minister -, made a most illuminating statement to me yesterday. In discussing the trial, he said that the defendants were undoubtedly guilty; that all of us who attended the trial had practically agreed upon that; that the outside world, from the press reports, however, seemed to think that the trial was a put-up job (facade, as he called it); that while he knew it was not, it was probably just as well that the outside world should think so.(1)
3. Action in May
The conspiracy was still far from being smashed. Like Pyatakov, Radek also withheld important information from the Soviet authorities despite the seeming fullness of his testimony. But on the second day of the trial, Radek had made a dangerous slip. His glib tongue betrayed him. Parrying one of Vyshinsky’s searching questions, he mentioned the name of Tukhachevsky. “Vitaly Putna,” said Radek, “came to see me with some request from Tukhachevsky.” He went on rapidly and did not repeat Tukhachevsky’s name.
Next day, Vyshinsky read aloud Radek’s testimony of the previous session: “I want to know in what connection you mention Tukhachevsky’s name?” he asked Radek.
There was a brief pause. Then Radek’s answer came smoothly, without hesitation. Tukhachevsky, he explained, required “some material on government business” which Radek had at the Izvestia offices. The military commander had sent Putna to get it. That was all. “Of course,” Radek added, “Tukhachevsky had no idea of my role… I know Tukhachevsky’s attitude to the Party and the Government to be that of an absolutely devoted man!”
No more was said about Tukhachevsky at the trial. But the remaining conspirators were convinced that any further delay of the final coup would be suicidal.
Krestinsky, Rosengoltz, Tukhachevsky and Gamarnik held a series of hurried secret conferences. Tukhachevsky began assigning officers in the Military Group to special “commands,” each of which would have specific tasks to carry out at the moment of the attack.
By the end of March 1937, the preparations for the military coup were in their final stages. At a meeting with Krestinsky and Rosengoltz, in the latter’s Moscow apartment, Tukhachevsky announced that the Military Group would be ready for action within six weeks. The date for action could be set for the early part of May, at any rate before May 15. There were “a number of variants” for the actual means of seizing power under discussion among the Military Group, he said.
One of these plans, the one on which Tukhachevsky “counted most,” Rosengoltz later stated, was “for a group of military men, his adherents, gathering in his apartment on some pretext or other, making their way into the Kremlin, seizing the Kremlin telephone exchange, and killing the leaders of the Party and the Government.” Simultaneously, according to this plan, Gamarnik and his units would “seize the building of the People’s Commissariat of internal Affairs.”
Other “variants” were discussed; but this plan, Krestinsky and Rosengoltz agreed, seemed the boldest and therefore the most likely to succeed…
The meeting at Rosengoltz’s apartment concluded on an optimistic note. The plan of the coup, as outlined by Tukhachevsky, held high promise of success..In spite of the loss of Pyatakov and others, it seemed that the day for which the conspirators had long waited and prepared was at hand.
April passed swiftly with the hectic last-minute preparations for the coup.
Krestinsky began drawing up lengthy lists “of people in Moscow to be arrested and removed from their posts at the out-break of the coup, and lists of people who could be appointed to these vacancies.” Gunmen under Gamarnik’s command were assigned to kill Molotov and Voroshilov. Rosengoltz, in his capacity of Foreign Trade Commissar, talked of getting an appointment with Stalin on the eve of the coup and murdering the Soviet leader in his Kremlin headquarters…
It was the second week in May 1937.
Then, swiftly and devastatingly, the Soviet Government struck. On the eleventh of May, Marshal Tukhachevsky was demoted from his post as Assistant Commissar of War and assigned to a minor command in the Volga district. General Gamarnik was removed from his post as Assistant War Commissar. Generals Yakir and Uborevitch, associated in the plot with Tukhachevsky and Gamarnik, were also demoted. Two other Generals, Kork and Eideman, were arrested and charged with having secret relations with Nazi Germany.
“I began to get ready for my arrest,” Krestinsky later stated. “I talked matters over with Rosengoltz. Rosengoltz did not expect to come to grief, and undertook to maintain connections with Trotsky… A few days later I was arrested.”
An official communiqué disclosed that Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky, who had been under close surveillance and investigation, were now charged with treason. Bukharin and Rykov had been taken into custody. Tomsky, evading arrest, committed suicide. On May 31, General Gamarnik followed Tomsky’s example and shot himself. It was reported that Tukhachevsky and a number of other high-ranking army officers had been arrested by the NKVD. A short time later, Rosengoltz was arrested. The nationwide roundup of suspected fifth columnists was continuing.
At eleven o’clock on the morning of June 11, 1937, Marshal (?) Tukhachevsky and seven other Red Army generals faced a special Military Tribunal of the Soviet Supreme Court. Because of the confidential military character of the testimony to be heard, the trial was held behind closed doors. It was a military court-martial. The accused were charged with conspiring with enemy powers against the Soviet Union. Standing in the courtroom with Tukhachevsky -facing Marshals Voroshilov, Budyenny, Shoposhnikov and other leaders of the Red Army-were these seven generals: –
General V. I. Putna, former military attaché at London, Tokyo and Berlin
General I. E. Yakir, former Commander of the Leningrad Military Garrison
General I. P. Uborevitch, former Commander of the Red Army in Byelorussia
General R. P. Eideman, former head of the Osoaviakhim (voluntary military defense organization)
General A. I., Kork, former head of the Frunze Military Academy
General B. M. Feldman, former Chief of the Personnel Section of the General Staff
General V. M. Primakov, former Commander of the Kharkov Military Garrison
An official communiqué stated: –
Investigation established the participation of the defendants as well as General Jan Gamarnik, in anti-State connections with leading military circles of one of the foreign countries which is carrying on an unfriendly policy toward the U.S.S.R.
The accused were in the service of the Military Intelligence of this country.
The defendants systematically supplied secret information about the position of the Red Army to military circles of this country.
They carried on wrecking activities for weakening the Red Army to prepare for the defeat of the Red Army in case of attack on the Soviet Union…
On June 12, the Military Tribunal announced its verdict. The accused were found guilty as charged and sentenced to be shot as traitors by a Red Army firing squad. Within twenty-four hours, the sentence was carried out.
Once again, wild anti-Soviet rumors and propaganda swept through the rest of the world. The entire Red Army was said to be seething with revolt against the Soviet Government; Voroshilov was “marching on Moscow” at the head of an anti-Stalin army; “mass shootings” were going on throughout Soviet Russia; from now on, the Red Army, having lost its “best generals,” was “no longer a serious factor in the international situation.”
Many honest observers were profoundly disturbed by the events in Soviet Russia, The character and techniques of the Fifth Column were still generally unknown. On July 4, 1937, Joseph E. Davies, the American Ambassador in Moscow, had an interview with the Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov. He told Litvinov frankly that the reaction in the United States and Europe to the execution of the generals and the Trotskyite trials was bad.
“In my opinion,” the American Ambassador informed the Soviet Foreign Minister, “it has shaken the confidence of France and England in the strength of the U.S.S.R. vis-a-vis Hitler.”
Litvinov was equally frank. He told Ambassador Davies that the Soviet Government had to “make sure” through these trials and executions that there was no treason left which would cooperate with Berlin or Tokyo at the outbreak of the inevitable war.
“Some day,” said Litvinov, “the world will understand what we have done to protect our government from menacing treason… We are doing the whole world a service in protecting ourselves against the menace of Hitler and Nazi world domination, and thereby preserving the Soviet Union strong as a bulwark against the Nazi threat.”
On July 28, 1937, having conducted personal investigations into the actual situation inside Soviet Russia, Ambassador Davies sent “Dispatch Number 457, Strictly Confidential,” to Secretary of State Cordell Hull. The Ambassador reviewed the recent events and dismissed the wild rumors of mass discontent and imminent collapse of the Soviet Government. “There were no indications (as per newspaper stories) of Cossacks camped near the Kremlin or moving about in the Red Square,” he wrote. Ambassador Davies summed up his analysis of the Tukhachevsky case as follows: –
Barring assassination, or a foreign war, the position of this government and the present regime looks impregnable for the present, and probably for some time to come. The danger of the Corsican for the present has been wiped.out.
The last of the three famous Moscow Trials opened on March 2, 1938, in the House of Trade Unions, before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. The proceedings, including morning, afternoon and evening sessions, and in camera sessions at which testimony involving military secrets was heard, lasted seven days.
The accused numbered twenty-one. They included the former OGPU chief, Henry Pagoda, and his secretary, Pavel Bulanov; the Right leaders, Nicolai Bukharin and Alexei Rykov; the Trotskyite leaders and German agents, Nicolai Krestinsky and Arkady Rosengoltz; the Trotskyite and Japanese agent, Christian Rakovsky; the Right leaders and German agents, Mikhail Chernov and Grigori Grinko; the Polish agent, Vasily Sharangovich; and eleven other conspirators, members of the Bloc, saboteurs, terrorists and foreign agents, including the Trotskyite liaison man, Sergei Bessonov, and the physician murderers, Doctors Levin, Pletnev and Kazakov.
The American correspondent, Walter Duranty, who attended the trial, wrote in his book The Kremlin and the People:-
It was indeed the “Trial to end all Trials” because at this time the issues were clear, the Prosecution had marshaled its facts and learned to recognize enemies, at home and abroad. Earlier doubts and hesitations were now dispelled, because one case after another, especially, I believe, the case of the “Generals,” had gradually filled in the picture which was so hazy and incomplete at the time of Kirov’s murder…
The Soviet Government had painstakingly prepared its case. Months of preliminary investigation, collation of evidence and testimony from previous trials, confrontation of witnesses and accused, and thorough cross-examination of the arrested conspirators, had gone into the framing of the Indictment. The Soviet Government charged: –
(1) that in 1932-33, on the instructions of intelligence services of foreign states hostile to the U.S.S.R., a conspiratorial group named the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” was formed by the accused in the present case with the object of espionage on behalf of foreign states, wrecking, diversionist and terrorist activities, undermining the military power of the U.S.S.R., provoking a military attack by these states on the U.S.S.R., working for the defeat of the U.S.S.R., dismembering the U.S.S.R…
(2) that the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” entered into relations with certain foreign states with the purpose of receiving armed assistance from them for the accomplishment of their criminal designs;
(3) that the “block of Rights and Trotskyites” systematically engaged in espionage activities on behalf of these states, supplying foreign intelligence services with highly important state secret information;
(4) that the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” systematically performed wrecking and diversionist acts in various branches of Socialist construction (industry, agriculture, railways, in the sphere of finance, municipal development, etc..);
(5) that the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyites organized a number of terrorist acts against leaders of the C.P.S.U. [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] and the Soviet Government and perpetrated terrorist acts against S. M. Kirov, V. R. Menzhinsky, V. V. Kuibyshev and A. M.Gorky.
The trial of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites made public for the first time in history the detailed workings of an Axis Fifth Column. All the techniques of the Axis method of secret conquest – the propaganda, the espionage, the terror, the treason in high places, the machinations of Quislings, the tactics of a secret army striking from within -the whole story of the Fifth Column strategy by which the Nazis were already undermining Spain, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Belgium, France and other nations of Europe and America, were fully exposed. “The Bukharins and Rykovs, Yagodas and Bulanovs, Krestinskys and Rosengoltzes.. , declared the Soviet Prosecutor, Vyshinsky, in his summing-up address on March 11, 1938, “are the very same as the Fifth Column.”
Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, who attended the proceedings, found the trial “terrific” in legal, human and political drama. He wrote to his daughter on March 8: –
All the fundamental weaknesses and vices of human nature – personal ambitions at their worst – are shown up in the proceedings. They disclose the outlines of a plot which came very near to being successful in bringing about the overthrow of this government.
Some of the accused, pleading for their lives, tried to wriggle out of the full responsibility for their crimes, to shift the blame on others, to pose as sincere, misguided politicians. Others, without apparent emotion or expectation of escaping the death sentence, related the grim details of the “political” murders they had committed, and the espionage and sabotage operations they had carried on under the direction of the German and Japanese Military Intelligence Services.
In his final plea to the court, Bukharin, who had described himself in court as the “ideologist” of the conspiracy, gave a vivid psychological picture of the inner tensions and doubts which, after their arrest, had begun to afflict many of the one-time radicals who had turned traitors and, together with Trotsky, conspired with Nazi Germany and Japan against the Soviet Union. Bukharin said: —
I already said when giving my main testimony during the trial, that it was not the naked logic of the struggle that drove us, the counter-revolutionary conspirators, into this stinking underground life, which has been exposed at this trial in all its starkness. This naked logic of the struggle was accompanied by a degeneration of ideas, a degeneration of psychology, a degeneration of ourselves, a degeneration of people. There are well-known historical examples of such degeneration. One need only mention Briand, Mussolini and others. And we too degenerated…
I shall now speak of myself, of the reasons for my repentance. Of course it must be admitted that incriminating evidence plays a very important part. For three months I refused to say anything. Then I began to testify. Why? Because while in prison I made a revaluation of my entire past. For when you ask yourself: “If you must die, what are you dying for? – an absolutely black vacuity suddenly rises before you with startling vividness. There was nothing to die for, if one wanted to die unrepented… And when you ask yourself: “Very well, suppose you do not die; suppose by some miracle you remain alive, again what for? Isolated from everybody, an enemy of the people, in an inhuman position, completely isolated from everything that constitutes the essence of life…” And at once the same reply arises. And at such moments, Citizen Judges, everything personal, all the personal incrustation, all the rancour, pride, and a number of other things, fall away, disappear…
I am perhaps speaking for the last time in my life…I may infer a priori that Trotsky and my other allies in crime, as well as the Second International… will endeavor to defend us, and particularly myself. I reject this defence… I await the verdict.
The verdict was announced on the morning of March 13, 1938. All of the accused were found guilty. Three of them, Pletnev, Bessonov and Rakovsky, were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. The others were sentenced to be shot.
Three years later, in the summer of 1941, following the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R., Joseph E. Davies, former American Ambassador to the Soviet Union, wrote: –
There was no so-called “internal aggression” in Russia co operating with the German High Command. Hitler’s march into Prague in 1939 was accompanied by the active military support of Henlein’s organizations in Czechoslovakia. The same thing was true of his invasion of Norway. There were no Sudeten Henleins, no Slovakian Tisos, no Belgian De Grelles, no Norwegian Quislings in the Russian picture…
The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I attended and listened to. In re examining the record of these casks and also what I had written at the time… I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia…
All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government.
There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941 – they had shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason.
The Axis Fifth Column in Soviet Russia had been smashed.
(1) Trotsky’s followers and admirers in Europe and America poured out an endless stream of statements, pamphlets, leaflets and articles describing the Moscow trials as “Stalin’s vengeance on Trotsky” and the product of “Stalin’s Oriental vindictiveness.” The Trotskyites and their allies had access to many prominent publications. In the United States, their statements and articles appeared in Foreign Affairs Quarterly, Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, American Mercury, New York Times and other well-known and widely read newspapers and periodicals. Among those friends, followers or admirers of Leon Trotsky whose interpretations of the trials were prominently featured in the American press and radio were: Max Eastman, Trotsky’s former American representative and official translator; Alexander Barmine, a Soviet renegade who at one time had been in the Soviet Foreign Office; Albert Goldman, Trotsky’s lawyer who was convicted by a Federal court in 1941 of taking part in a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. armed forces; “General” Krivitsky, a Russian adventurer and Dies witness who posed as a former key figure in the OGPU and subsequently committed suicide leaving a note explaining his act as atonement for his “great sins”; Isaac Don Levine, a veteran anti-Soviet propagandist and feature writer for the Hearst press; and William Henry Chamberlin, also a Hearst feature writer, whose views about the trials appeared under the title “The Russian Purge of Blood” in the Tokyo propaganda organ Contemporary Japan.
The prominent American Trotskyite James Burnham, subsequently author of the widely promoted The Managerial Revolution, represented the Moscow Trials as an insidious attempt on Stalin’s part to enlist the aid of France, Great Britain and the United States in a “holy war” against the Axis, and to bring about the international persecution of “all those who. stand for the policies of revolutionary defeatism [i.e., the Trotskyites].” On April 15, 1937, in an introduction to a Trotskyite pamphlet on the Pyarakov-Radek trial, Burnham wrote. “Yes: the Trials are an integral and an outstanding part of the preparations of Stalinism for the coming war. Stalinism aims to enlist the masses of France, Great Britain and the United States in the armies of their own imperialist governments, in a holy war against the attack which Stalin expects to be launched against the Soviet Union by Germany and Japan. Through the Trials, operating on a world-wide scale, Stalinism thus attempts to eliminate every possible center of resistance to this social-patriotic betrayal”
CHAPTER XXI – Murder in Mexico
THE chief defendant at all of the three Moscow Trials was a man five thousand miles away.
In December 1936, following the Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial and the arrests of Pyatakov, Radek and other leading members of the Trotskyite Center, Trotsky was forced to leave Norway. He crossed the Atlantic, and reached Mexico on January 13, 1937. Here, after a brief stay at the home of the wealthy Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, Trotsky set up a new headquarters in a villa in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. From Coyoacan, during the following months, Trotsky looked on helplessly while piece by piece the intricate and powerful Fifth Column in Russia fell apart under the hammer blows of the Soviet Government… .
On January 26, 1937, Trotsky gave a signed statement to the Hearst press in the United States on the trial of Pyatakov and Radek. “Inside the Party, Stalin has put himself above all criticism, and above the state,” said Trotsky, commenting on the testimony at the trial. “It is impossible to displace him except by assassination.”
An American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky, engineered by Trotsky’s followers in the United States, but nominally headed by anti-Soviet Socialists, journalists and educators, was established in New York City. The Committee originally included a number of prominent liberals. One of them, Mauritz Hallgren, author and associate editor of the Baltimore Sun, withdrew from the Committee as soon as its real purpose as an anti-Soviet propaganda agency became clear to him. On January 27, 1937, Hallgren made public a statement to the Committee which read in part: –
I am . . . convinced, as I must be under the circumstances, that the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky has, perhaps unwittingly, become an instrument of the Trotskyites for political intervention against the Soviet Union. . . . You will, therefore, withdraw my name as a member of the committee.
The Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky undertook an intensive propaganda campaign picturing Trotsky as the martyred “hero of the Russian Revolution” and the Moscow Trials as “frame-ups by Stalin.” One of the Committee’s first acts was to set up a “Preliminary Commission of Inquiry” to “inquire into the charges made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow trials of August, 1936, and January, 1937. The members of the Commission were the aging philosopher and educator, John Dewey; the author, Carleton Beals; the former Socialist member of the German Reichstag, Otto Ruehle; the former American radical and anti-Soviet journalist, Benjamin Stolberg; and the fervently pro-Trotsky journalist, Suzanne La Follette.
With much fanfare and publicity the Commission of Inquiry began holding hearings in Coyoacan, Mexico, on April 10. The only witnesses were Leon Trotsky and one of ‘ his secretaries, Jan Frankel, who had first become a member of Trotsky’s personal bodyguard in Prinkipo in 1930. Acting as legal counsel for Trotsky was his American attorney, Albert Goldman.(1)
The hearings lasted for seven days. Trotsky’s “testimony,” which was widely publicized in the American and European press, consisted chiefly of violent denunciations of Stalin and the Soviet Government, and of extravagant self-praise of his own role in the Russian Revolution. The detailed evidence presented against Trotsky at the Moscow Trials was, for the most part, completely ignored by the Commission of Inquiry. On April 17 Carleton Beals resigned from the Commission. Beals issued a public statement which read in part: –
… The hushed adoration of the other members of the committee for Mr. Trotsky throughout the hearings has defeated all spirit of honest investigation. . . . The very first day I was told my questions were improper. The final cross-examination was put in a mold that prevented any search for the truth. I was taken to task for quizzing Trotsky about his archives…. The cross-examination consisted of allowing Trotsky to spout propaganda charges with eloquence and wild denunciations, with only rare efforts to make him prove his assertions. . . . The commission may pass its bad check on the public if it desires, but I will not lend my name to the possibility of further childishness similar to that already committed.
Under the auspices of the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky, a campaign was started to bring Trotsky into the United States. Books, articles and statements by Trotsky were widely circulated throughout the United States, while the truth about the Moscow Trials remained locked in the State Department files or in the minds of correspondents in Moscow who believed, as Walter Duranty later wrote, in the “extreme reluctance of American readers to hear anything but ill of Russia.”(2)
In Mexico, as in Turkey, France, Norway and everywhere else he had lived, Trotsky rapidly gathered around himself a coterie of disciples, adventurers and armed guards. Again, he lived in a fantastic atmosphere of intrigue.
The villa at Coyoacan where Trotsky made his Mexican head-quarters was a virtual fortress. A wall twenty feet high surrounded it. In towers at the four corners sentinels armed with tommy guns stood watch day and night. In addition to the Mexican police unit specially detailed to duty outside the villa, Trotsky’s armed bodyguards kept his headquarters under unceasing patrol. All visitors had to identify themselves, going through examinations as formidable as those at frontier posts. Their passes had to be signed and countersigned. After gaining admittance through the gates in the high wall, they were frisked for concealed weapons on entering the villa itself.
Inside, the atmosphere was one of tense activity. A considerable staff was at work taking instructions and carrying out assignments from the leader. Special secretaries were preparing anti-Soviet propaganda, Trotsky’s proclamations, articles, books and secret communications in Russian, German, French, Spanish and English. As at Prinkipo, Paris and Oslo, many of Trotsky’s “secretaries” had guns on their hips, and the same fantastic mood of intrigue and mystery surrounded the anti-Soviet conspirator.
Mail was heavy, pouring into the Mexican headquarters from all parts of the world. Not infrequently the mail required chemical treatment, the actual messages being written in invisible ink between innocuous visible lines. There was continuous telegraphic and cable correspondence with Europe, Asia and the United States. An endless stream of journalists, celebrities, politicians, mysterious incognito visitors, came to interview or confer with the “revolutionary” leader of the anti-Soviet movement. There were frequent delegations of foreign Trotskyites – French Trotskyites, American Trotskyites, Indian Trotskyites, Chinese Trotskyites, agents of the Spanish P.O.U.M.
Trotsky received his visitors with the air of a ruling despot. The American journalist Betty Kirk, who interviewed Trotsky in Mexico and had him photographed for Life magazine, described his histrionic and dictatorial manner: –
Trotsky looked at his watch and autocratically said he would give us exactly eight minutes. As he commanded his Russian secretary to sit for the picture of him dictating, he shrilled at her slowness. He commanded Bernard Wolfe, his North American secretary, to sit also, and while Wolfe was crossing the room, Trotsky stood beating on the edge of the table with his pencil, exclaiming, “Quick, don’t waste time!”
From the fortified Coyoacan villa, Trotsky directed his world-wide anti-Soviet organization, the Fourth International.
Throughout Europe, Asia, and North and South America, intimate ties existed between the Fourth International and the Axis Fifth Column network: –
In Czechoslovakia: Trotskyites were working in collaboration with the Nazi agent Konrad Henlein and his Sudeten Deutsche Partei (German Sudeten Party). Sergei Bessonov, the Trotskyite courier who had been a counselor at the Soviet Embassy in Berlin, testified when he was on trial in 1938 that in the summer of 1935 he had established connections in Prague with Konrad Henlein. Bessonov stated that he personally had acted as an intermediary between Henlein’s group and Leon Trotsky.
In France: Jacques Doriot, Nazi agent and founder of the fascist Popular Party, was a renegade Communist and Trotskyite. Doriot worked closely, as did other Nazi agents and French fascists, with the French section of the Trotskyite Fourth International.
In Spain: Trotskyites permeated the ranks of the P.O.U.M., the Fifth Column organization which was aiding Franco’s Fascist uprising. The head of the P.O.U.M. was Andreas Nin, Trotsky’s old friend and ally.
In China: Trotskyites were operating under the direct supervision of the Japanese Military Intelligence. Their work was highly regarded by leading Japanese Intelligence officers. The chief of the Japanese espionage service in Peiping stated in 1937: “We should support the group of Trotskyites and promote their success, so that their activities in various parts of China may benefit and advantage the empire, for these Chinese are destructive to the unity of the country. They work with remarkable finesse and skill.”
In Japan: Trotskyites were called the “brain trust of the secret service.” They instructed Japanese secret agents at special schools on the techniques of penetrating the Communist Party in Soviet Russia and of combating anti-fascist activities in China and Japan.
In Sweden: Nils Hyg, one of the leading Trotskyites, had received a financial subsidy from the pro-Nazi financier and swindler, Ivar Kreuger. The fact. of Kreuger’s subsidization of the Trotskyite movement were made public after Kreuger’s suicide, when the auditors found among his papers receipts from all sorts of political adventurers, including Adolf Hitler.
Throughout the world, the Trotskyites had become the instruments by which the Axis intelligence services sought to penetrate the liberal, radical and labor movements for their own ends.(3)
The final debacle of the Russian Fifth Column at the Moscow trail of the Bloc of the Rights and Trotskyites was a stunning blow to Trotsky. A note of desperation and hysteria began to dominate his writings. His propaganda against the Soviet Union grew increasingly reckless, contradictory and extravagant. He talked incessantly about his own “historical rightness.” His attacks against Josef Stalin lost all semblance of reason. He wrote articles asserting that the Soviet leader derived sadistic pleasure from “blowing smoke” in the faces of infants. More and more, his consuming personal hatred of Stalin became the dominating force in Trotsky’s life. He set his secretaries to work on a massive, vituperative 1000-page Life o f Stalin.(4)
In 1939, Trotsky was in contact with the Congressional Committee headed by Representative Martin Dies of Texas. The Committee, set up to investigate un-American activities, had become a forum for anti-Soviet propaganda. Trotsky was approached by agents of the Dies Committee and invited to testify as an “expert witness” on the menace of Moscow. Trotsky was quoted in the New York Times of December 8, 1939, as stating he considered it his political duty to testify for the Dies Committee. Plans were discussed for Trotsky’s coming to the United States. The project, however, fell through… .
In September 1939, a European Trotskyite agent, traveling under the name of Frank Jacson, arrived in the United States on the French liner Ile de France(5). Jacson had been recruited into the Trotskyite movement by an American Trotskyite, Sylvia Ageloff, while he was a student at the Sorborne in Paris. In 1939 he was contacted in Paris by a representative of the secret “Bureau of the Fourth International” and told he was to go to Mexico to serve as one of Trotsky’s “secretaries.” He was given a passport which had originally belonged to a Canadian citizen, Tony Babich, a member of the Spanish Republican Army, who had been killed by the Fascists in Spain. The Trotskyites had obtained Babich’s passport, removed his photograph and inserted Jacson’s in its place.
Jacson was met on his arrival in New York City by Sylvia Ageloff and other Trotskyites, and taken to Coyoacan, where he went to work for Trotsky. Subsequently Jacson informed the Mexican police: –
Trotsky was going to send me to Russia with the object of organizing a new state of things in the U.S.S.R. He told me I must go to Shanghai, on the China clipper, where I would meet other agents in some ships, and together we would cross Manchukuo and arrive in Russia. Our mission was to bring demoralization to the Red Army, commit different acts of sabotage in armament plants and other factories.
Jacson never went on his terroristic mission to the Soviet Union. Late in the afternoon of August 20, 1940, in the heavily fortified villa at Coyoacan, Jacson murdered his leader, Leon Trotsky, by smashing his head in with an Alpine pickax.
Arrested by the Mexican police, Jacson said he had wanted to marry Sylvia Ageloff, and that Trotsky had forbidden the marriage. A violent quarrel, involving the girl, broke out between the two men. “For her sake,” said Jacson, “I decided to sacrifice myself entirely.”
In further statements, Jacson declared: –
.. in place of finding myself face to face with a political chief who was directing the struggle for the liberation of the working class, I found myself before a man who desired nothing more than to satisfy his needs and desires of vengeance and of hate and who did not utilize the workers’ struggle for anything more than a means of hiding his own paltriness and despicable calculations.
… in connection with this house, which he said very well had been converted into a fortress, I asked myself very often, from where had come the money for such work. . . . Perhaps the consul of a great foreign nation who often visited him could answer this question for us… .
It was Trotsky who destroyed my nature, my future and all my affections. He converted me into a man without a name, without country, into an instrument of Trotsky. I was in a blind alley. . . . Trotsky crushed me in his hands as if I had been paper.
The death of Leon Trotsky left only one living candidate for the Napoleonic role in Russia: Adolf Hitler.
1. On December 1, 1941, Albert Goldman was convicted in a Federal Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on charges of having conspired to under mine the morale of the United States Army and Navy. (See footnote, page 317.)
2 Trotsky offered various “explanations” for the admissions made at the trials by his former intimate friends, chief lieutenants and allies. At first, he had explained the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev by declaring that the accused had been promised their lives by the Soviet Government on condition they made false accusations against him. “That is the minimum that the G.P.U. could not renounce,” Trotsky had written, “it will give its victims a chance for their lives on condition it obtains this minimum.” After Zinoviev and Kamenev and their accomplices in the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center were shot, Trotsky declared they had been double-crossed. But this explanation became hopelessly inadequate when Pyatakov, Radek and the other accused at the second Moscow Trial also pleaded guilty and made even more damaging admissions. Now Trotsky asserted the testimony of the accused was the product of fiendish torture and mysterious, potent “drugs.” He wrote: “The G.P.U. trials have a thoroughly inquisitorial character: that is the simple secret of the confessions! … Perhaps in this world there are many heroes who are capable of bearing all kinds of tortures, physical or moral, which are inflicted on themselves, their wives, their children. I do not know….”
In one article Trotsky would describe the defendants at the trials as men of “noble character,” ardent and sincere “Old Bolsheviks” who had taken the path of opposition because of Stalin’s “betrayal of the revolution,” and who accordingly had been liquidated by Stalin. In another article, Trotsky would violently denounce Pyatakov, Radek, Bukharin and the others as “despicable characters,” men of “weak will,” and “puppets of Stalin.”
Finally, in answer to the question as to why, if they were not guilty, veteran revolutionaries should make such admissions and why not one of the accused had taken advantage of the open court to proclaim his innocence, Trotsky declared at the Hearings in Mexico in 1937: “In the nature of the case, I am not obliged to answer these questions!”
3. Even after Trotsky’s death, the Fourth International continued to carry on its Fifth Column activities.
In Great Britain, in April 1944, Scotland Yard and police officials raided the Trotskyite headquarters in London, Glasgow, Wallsend and Nottingham, after discovering that Trotskyites were fomenting strikes throughout the country in an attempt to disrupt the British war effort.
In the United States, on December 1, 1941, eighteen leading American Trotskyites were found guilty in a Federal District Court in Minneapolis of conspiring to undermine the loyalty and discipline of American soldiers and sailors.
Convicted along with Trotsky’s lawyer, Albert Goldman, were James P. Cannon, national secretary of the Socialist Workers’ Party (the name under which the Trotsky movement operated in the United States); Felix Morrow, editor of the Trotskyite newspaper, the Militant; Jake Cooper, one of Trotsky’s former bodyguards in Mexico; and fourteen other leading members of the American Trotskyite movement. They received prison sentences ranging from a year and a day to sixteen months.
Grant Dunne, one of the chief Trotskyites in the American labor movement, who had been named in the Federal indictment, committed suicide three weeks before the trial began.
In March 1943, the Trotskyite organ, the Militant, was barred from the U.S. mails on the grounds that the publication was seeking “to embarrass and defeat the government in its effort to prosecute the war to a successful termination.” After an investigation of the Militant, the Department of Justice issued a statement which read in ‘part: “Since December 7, 1941, this publication has openly discouraged participation in the war by the masses of the people. . . . The lines of this publication also include derision of democracy . . and other material . . . appearing to be calculated to engender opposition to the war effort, as well as to interfere with the morale of the armed forces.”
The American foreign correspondent, Paul Ghali of the Chicago Daily News, reported from Switzerland on September 28, 1944, that Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo, was making use of the European Trotskyites as part of the planned Nazi underground for postwar sabotage and intrigue. Ghali reported that fascist youth organizations were being trained in Trotskyite “Marxism,” supplied with false papers and arms and left behind Allied lines with orders to infiltrate the Communist Parties in the liberated areas. In France, Ghali revealed, members of Joseph Darnand’s fascist Militia were being armed by the Nazis for terrorism and postwar Fifth Column activities. “This scum of the French population,” Ghali’s report added, “is being now trained for Bolshevik activity in the tradition of Trotsky’s International under the personal orders of Heinrich Himmler. Their work is to sabotage allied communication lines and assassinate De Gaullist French politicians. They are being instructed to tell their fellow-countrymen that the presentday Soviet represents only a bourgeois deformation of Lenin’s original principles and that it is high time to return to sound Bolshevik ideology. This formation of groups of red terrorists is Himmler’s most recent policy, aimed at creating a fourth international, amply contaminated by Nazi germs. It is aimed against both British and Americans and Russians, particularly the Russians.”
4. Trotsky’s friends in the United States made arrangements to have this book published by a New York publishing house with a reputation for conservatism and integrity. Although the book was set up in print, the New York publishers decided at the last minute not to distribute the book; and the few copies that had been sent out were withdrawn from circulation. Sections of the book had previously been published in article form by Trotsky. The last article to be published before his death appeared on August 1940, in Liberty magazine; the article was entitled, “Did Stalin Poison Lenin?”
5. Frank Jacson’s real name was Jacques Mornard van den Dresche. Among his other aliases were Leon Jacome and Leon Haikys.