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There Were No Moscow Trials!

(Winter 1959/60)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 8, Winter 1959–60, pp. 58–59.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

History of the CPSU

During 1959 the manual promised by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress was published. The new History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is a fat volume of 740 pages which – like the Stalinist work – begins with the origins of the Marxist movement in Russia. Unlike its predecessor, which ends with the year 1938, it takes in not only the years of the Second World War but those following it, after the death of Stalin, and also treats the question of the elimination of the “anti-Party group” (Molotov, Kaganovich, etc.). This, then, is a very “Khrushchevite” handbook. But does it conform to Marxist scientific objectivity?

A rapid reading enables one to see that though many things bearing the imprint of Stalin himself have been suppressed, many lies and deformations still remain – but it would take more time to refute all these than this book will live in the USSR.

But this book is best characterized by what it leaves out: the Moscow trials!

Stalin’s History was written as a kind of mighty drama. The Party originated in Lenin’s struggles against his political adversaries. The struggle rises to a crescendo. Stalin assumes the mantle. His enemies are more and more unmasked: “The Bukharinites degenerate into two-faced politicians,” “the Trotskyites, from two-faced politicians, degenerate into a band of white guards, assassins and spies.” (French edition, p. 359) The trials reveal that “the Trotskyite and Bukharinite monsters, on the orders of their employers, the bourgeois espionage agencies, have set themselves the goal of destroying the Party and the Soviet state, of undermining the defense of the country, of facilitating foreign military intervention against the USSR, of preparing the defeat of the Red Army, of dismembering the USSR, of yielding to the Japanese the Soviet maritime province in the Far East, of yielding to the Poles Soviet Byelorussia, of yielding to the Germans the Soviet Ukraine, of annihilating the conquests of the workers and collective farmers, of restoring capitalist slavery in the USSR.” (French edition, pp. 384–385)

And now let us read and re-read the new History, Khrushchev’s. All that could be construed as an allusion to, not even a mention of, the infamous trials, comes after the affirmation that Stalin’s thesis according to which the advance of the Soviet state is accompanied by a sharpening of the class struggle was false, on pages 483–484, in the following terms:

In practice, this thesis served as the basis for mass repression of the enemies of the Party, already ideologically defeated. The repression fell on many honest Communists and non-Party elements. In this period there crept into a responsible position in the state the political adventurer Beria who, for criminal ends, did not shrink from misdeeds, exploited Stalin’s personal defects, slandered and destroyed many honest men faithful to the Party and to the people. During this same period, a contemptible role was played by Yezhov, who found himself in the post of People’s Commissar of the Interior.

The young Soviet student of this book – and all young people in the Soviet Union will in the coming years receive their instruction from this manual – will learn that the Berias and the Yezhovs exploited Stalin’s character to commit crimes not specifically designated, but he will not even know about the Moscow trials having taken place!

This alone is judgment enough on the new historical handbook. There are many species of the lie. Pascal in Les Provinciales showed how this was true of the Jesuits. But examples are rarely to be found so extreme as in these two bureaucratic manuals of history: in the one case, of the grossest and most fantastic lies to justify counter-revolutionary crimes; in the other, the application to these same crimes of the lie by omission.

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Last updated: 30 January 2016