Leon Trotsky

Stalin on His Own Frame-Ups

(October 1937)

Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 13, 6 November 1937, p. 7.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The Real Prosecuting Attorney Finally Presents Another Explanation of the Moscow Trials
with Arguments That Do Not Discredit Those Fighting Against the Despotism of the Bureaucracy,
but Which Are a Merciless Indictment of the Political Regime of the Bureaucracy Itself

(Concluded from last issue)

Stalin’s explanations of sabotage rest on the same level as his entire speech. “Why did our people fail to notice it?” he asks, putting a question which it is impossible to avoid. Here is his answer: “For the” last few years our Party comrades have been entirely swallowed up by economic work and ... forgot about everything else.” This idea, as is Stalin’s custom, is presented in ten different variations, without any proofs. Carried away by economic success, the leaders “simply paid no attention” to sabotage. They did not take note of it. They were not interested. What kind of economic work was “swallowing up” these people, if they contrived to overlook the disruption of economic life? And just who should have “paid attention” to sabotage, when the pretended organizers of it were themselves the organizers of economy? Stalin does not even attempt to tie the threads together. In point of fact the idea he seeks to express is the following: Carried away bv practical work, the economists “forgot” the higher interests of the ruling clique which demands framed-up accusations, even if to the injury of economy.

The Entire Old Guard Is Given the Name of Wreckers by Stalin

Years ago, continues Stalin, those engaged in wrecking were bourgeois technicians. But “in the intervening period we trained tens and hundreds of thousands of technically grounded Bolshevik cadres.” (Hundreds of thousands of “cadres”?) “Nowadays the organizers of sabotage are not non-party technicians but wreckers who have accidentally got possession of a party card.” Everything is stood on its head! In order to explain why highly paid engineers willingly reconcile themselves to “socialism” while Bolsheviks oppose him, Stalin is unable to do anything but proclaim the entire old. guard of the party as “wreckers who have accidentally got possession of a party card”, and who, evidently, got stuck in the party for several decades. But how could “tens and hundreds of thousands of technically grounded Bolshevik cadres” have overlooked sabotage by which industry was being undermined for a number of years? We have already heard the witty explanation that they were far too occupied with economic life to notice it was being destroyed.

However, for sabotage to succeed, a favorable social milieu is required. Whence could it arise in a society of triumphant socialism? Stalin’s reply is: “The greater our progress ... the more embittered will become the remnants of the smashed exploiting classes.” Yet, in the first place, the impotent “embitterment” of some kind of “remnants”, isolated from the people, would hardly suffice to convulse Soviet economy. In the second place, since when have Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Bukharin, Tomsky, Smirnov, Yevdokimov, Piatakov, Radek, Rakovsky, Mrachkovsky, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov, Muralov, Sosnovsky, Beloborodov, Eltsin, Mdivani, Okudjava, Gamarnik, Tukhachevsky, Yakir and hundreds of lesser known men – the entire old leading stratum of the party, the state and the army, become transformed into “remnants of the smashed exploiting classes”? Heaping frame-up on frame-up, Stalin has arrived at such a blind alley as makes it hard to find even a glimmer of sense to his answers. But the goal is clear: everything that stands in the path of the Bonapartist. dictatorship must be slandered and massacred.

“It would be a mistake to think” – continues the orator – “that the arena of the class struggle is confined to the boundaries of the U.S.S.R. If one extremity of the class struggle operates within the framework of the USSR, the other extremity extends into the boundaries of the bourgeois states surrounding us.” [1] So, it turns out that the class struggle does not die out with the intrenchment of socialism in one country but rather becomes more aggravated. And the most important reason for this unnatural phenomenon is the parallel existence of bourgeois states. Stalin, in passing and imperceptibly or himself, arrives at the admission of the impossibility of building a classless society in one country. But scientific generalizations have very little attraction for him. The whole method of reasoning is not of a theoretical but of a police-manufactured character. Stalin is simply in urgent need of extending abroad the “extremity” of his frame-up.

The Secret Platform of the Trotskyists Which It Tells Only to the G.P.U.

For example,” he continues, “let us take the counter-revolutionary Trotskyist Fourth International, consisting two-thirds of spies and diversionists ... Is it not clear that this International of spies will extrude cadres for the spying and wrecking work of the Trotskyists?” The Stalinist syllogism is as a rule a pure and simple tautology: an International of spies will extrude spies. “Is it not clear?” Far from it! On the contrary, it is absolutely unclear. To convince himself of this, the reader need only refer to the already familiar assertion of Stalin’s that Trotskyism has ceased to be a “tendency in the working class” and has become a “narrow group of conspirators.”

The platform of the Trotskyists is such as precludes its being shown to anybody. The Trotskyists whisper it only in the ears of Yagoda and Yezhov. Hear Stalin again: “It is quite comprehensible that the Trotskyists could not but hide such a platform from the people, from the working class ... from the Trotskyist rank and file, and not only from the Trotskyist rank and file but even from the Trotskyist leading tops, composed of a tiny handful of 30 to 40 people. When Radek and Piatakov asked Trotsky for permission (?) to call together a small conference of 30 or 40 Trotskyists to inform them about the nature of this platform, Trotsky forbade (!) them to do so.”

Let us leave aside the wondrous portrayal of the relations existing within the Opposition – the pretended fact that old revolutionists dare not meet in the U.S.S.R. without special “permission” from Trotsky in distant exile!

This totalitarian-police caricature, which if anything reflects the spirit of the Stalin regime, does not interest us now. There is another point of greater importance: How are we to relate the general characterization of Trotskyism to that of the Fourth International? Trotsky “forbade” information regarding espionage and sabotage to be given even to 30-40 tested Trotskyists in the U.S.S.R. On the other hand, the Fourth International, numbering many thousands of young members, consists “two-thirds of spies and diversionists”. Does Stalin mean to say that while hiding his “program” from tens, Trotsky imparts it thousands? Truly, venom and cunning are bereft of reason. Behind the ponderous stupidity of this slander there lurks, however, a fixed and practical plan aimed at the physical extermination of the international revolutionary vanguard.

An Appeal to the General Staffs for “Information” Against the Trotskyists

Even before this plan was put into execution in Spain, it was revealed with utter shamelessness in La Correspondance Internationale, a weekly periodical of the Comintern (and the G.P.U.), almost simultaneously with the publication of Stalin’s speech, March 20, 1937. In an article directed against the Austrian social democrat Otto Bauer, who, however he might gravitate toward Soviet bureaucracy, cannot bring himself to believe in Vyshinsky, we find, among other things, the following statement: “If any individual has at the present time an opportunity to obtain very authentic information about the negotiations between Trotsky and Hess – that man is Bauer. The French and English General Staffs are very well informed on this point. Thanks to the friendly relations which Bauer has with Leon Blum and Citrine (who, in turn, is friendly with both Baldwin and Sir Samuel Hoare), all he need do is turn to them. They would not refuse to provide him with any kind of confidential information for personal use.”

Whose hand directed this pen? Whence does an anonymous journalist of the Comintern derive his knowledge of the secrets of the English and French General Staffs? Either the capitalist staffs opened their dossiers to the communist journalist; or, on the contrary, this “journalist” filled up the dossiers of the two staffs with products of his own creation. The first conjecture is far too improbable. British and French General Staffs have no need to apply to Comintern journalists for assistance in the exposure of “Trotskyism”. Only the second hypothesis remains, namely, that the GPU manufactured some kind of “documents” for foreign staffs.

In the Piatakov-Radek trial mention was made of my “interview” with German Minister Hess only indirectly and in passing. Piatakov, despite his (pretended) intimacy with me, made no attempts during his (pretended) meeting with me to find out any details whatsoever concerning my (pretended) meeting with Hess. Vyshinsky in this case as in all others passed over this glaring contradiction in silence. But later it was decided to elaborate on this theme. French and British General Staffs were apparently the recipients of some kind of “documents”. There is firm knowledge of this fact among the staff of the Comintern. Neither Paris nor London, however, made any use of this precious material. Why ? Perhaps because they mistrusted the source. Perhaps because Leon Blum and Daladier did not relish becoming partners of the Moscow executioners. Finally, perhaps because Messers. Generals are reserving the “documents” for a more auspicious occasion.

The Leaders of Economic Life Did Not Even Know That It Was Being “Wrecked”

The resolution that was adopted after Stalin’s report reads as follows: “The Trotskyists were as a rule exposed by the organs of N.K.V.D. [i.e. the G.P.U] and by individual party members, acting as volunteers. But the organs of industry, and to a certain degree those of transportation, did not themselves manifest any activity nor, what is worse, any initiative therein! Moreover, some organs of industry even put a brake on this matter.” (Pravda, April 21, 1937) In other words, leaders of industry and transportation, despite being prodded from above with white-hot irons, could not discover acts of “sabotage” in their departments. A member of the Political Bureau, Ordjonikdze, was taken in by his assistant Piatakov. Another member of the Political Bureau, Kaganovich, overlooked the wrecking activities of his alternate, Livshitz. Only the agents of Yagoda and the so-called “volunteers”, i.e., provocateurs, measured up to the situation. True, Yagoda himself was presently exposed as an “enemy of the people, a gangster and a traitor”. But this chance discovery did not resurrect those whom he had shot.

As if further to underscore the import of these scandalous self-exposures, the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, Molotov, gave a public account of the failure on the part of the government when it attempted to establish facts relating to sabotage, not through the provocateurs of the G.P.U., but through the civic organs of economic control. We quote from Molotov: “In February of this year (1937) a special plenipotentiary commission was sent out, upon the instruction of the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry, to verify wrecking activities in ‘Uralvagonstroy.’

Here is how the commission formulated its general conclusions regarding ‘Uralvagonstroi’: “On acquainting ourselves with the ‘Uralvagon’ plant, we have arrived at the firm conviction that the wrecking work of Piatikov and Marusyan did not spread very far in the enterprise.”

Molotbv waxed indignant. Said he: “The political myopia of the commission is absolutely self-evident ... Suffice it to way that this commission failed to cite a single instance of wrecking at the enterprise. It would appear that the notorious wrecker, Marusyan, and the other wrecker, Okudjava, had only vilified themselves.” (Pravda, April 21, 1937. Our emphasis) One can hardly believe one’s eyes. These people have lost not only all sense of shame but all caution!

But why was it at all necessary to send out an investigating commission, after the defendants had been shot? The posthumous investigation of “facts relating to wrecking” was obviously made necessary because public opinion placed no credence either in the accusations made by the G.P.U. or in the confessions it extorted. Yet, the commission, under the guidance of Pavlunovsky, himself a former member of the G.P.U. for many years, failed to uncover a single fact relating to sabotage. An obvious case of “political myopia’’! One must know-how to uncover sabotage even under the mask of economic successes. “Even the chemical branch of the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry”, continues Molotov, “with Rataichak at its head, was able to over-fulfill its plan for both 1935 and 1936. Does this mean to say,” merrily quips the head of the Government, “that Rataichak is not Rataichak, that a wrecker is not a wrecker, and a Trotskyist not a Trotskyist?”

Rataichak’s Sabotage

The sabotage of Rataichak, who was shot in the Piatakov-Radek trial, consisted, this means, of over-fulfilling the plans. It is hardly surprising that the harshest commission is compelled to halt in impotence when confronted with facts and figures which refuse to harmonize with the “voluntary confessions” of Rataichak and others. In consequence, to use Molotov’s expression, “it would appear” that the wreckers had “vilified themselves.” Worse yet, it would appear that the Inquisition compelled many honest militants to besmirch themselves with despicable slander so as to facilitate for Stalin his struggle against Trotskyism. This is what “would appear” from the report of Stalin, supplemented by the report of Molotov. And they are two most authoritative figures in the USSR!


1. The speech as a whole is distinguished in style. There are “hundreds of thousands of cadres”. The class struggle possesses “extremities”. An “extremity ... operates”. The deferential editors dare not point out his illiteracy to the “Leader”. The style is not only the man, but also the regime.

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Last updated on: 21 November 2014