Saturday, September 26, 2015

Washington & Moscow in Syria

'Reset' with US allows Moscow
to send arms, troops to Syria

Moscow's rapid military buildup in Syria is a result of the "reset" in relations forged with the Russian and Iranian governments by the Barack Obama administration. The deal — reshaping alliances and conditions from Syria, Iran and the rest of the Middle East to Ukraine and surrounding region — is the cornerstone of U.S. imperialism's efforts to establish a new order in the Mideast, but from a much weaker position than when the now-disintegrating order was imposed after World Wars I and II.

Since early September, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sending fighter jets, helicopters and tanks to Syria and building troop barracks at bases on the country's coast. Acting to keep the brutal regime of its longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad in power — though restricted to a narrow strip in western Syria — Moscow seeks more influence and control of the country and its Mediterranean ports and a stronger political hand in Mideast politics.

For several years Tehran has sent Revolutionary Guard Quds forces to help prop up Assad, and collaborates with Moscow on operations in Syria.

Alongside these moves, Moscow has consolidated its position in Ukraine, where it occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula last year and backed separatist forces that have seized sections of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Since Secretary of State John Kerry's congenial visit with Putin in May, it has become clear that Washington would accept Moscow's influence over its "near abroad" in Ukraine and the Baltics, in exchange for help to nail down the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Moscow has taken firmer political control over the separatist forces in Ukraine and seeks to maintain a frozen conflict there under the framework of the Minsk accord with Kiev. While Russian heavy weapons have not been withdrawn and the border remains under Moscow's control, fighting has mostly stopped in recent weeks. Separatist commanders who opposed this course have been assassinated, and a government shake-up in Donetsk put Denis Pushilin in charge. He's seen as more subservient to Putin's shifts and goals.

Seeking a new, long-term relationship in the region, Washington offered to exchange Tehran's promise to limit production of materials that could be used for nuclear weapons for a pledge the U.S. and its allies would commit to end sanctions against Iran.

While bemoaning the brutality of the Assad regime, Obama's focus in the Mideast has been to fight against the reactionary Islamic State in Syria and Iraq without U.S. "boots on the ground." The effort has centered on targeted bombing.

For years Washington refused to arm or finance resistance to Assad, claiming such support might end up in the hands of "terrorists." With Islamic State stepping into the vacuum created by the slaughter of tens of thousands who took to the streets against Assad in 2011, Washington now says it wants to train local fighters, but its efforts have failed.

Gen. Lloyd Austin III, chief of U.S. Central Command, admitted to Congress Sept. 16 that "only four or five" Syrian opposition fighter trainees have entered combat against Islamic State from a $500 million program launched last December that was supposed to put 5,400 combatants in the field.

These U.S.-trained fighters — if they ever enter combat — are required to agree not to attack Assad's forces, only IS, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The most effective force combating Islamic State has been the Kurdish People's Protection Units in Syria (YPG). The 30 million Kurds living in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria have long demanded a homeland and an end to centuries of national oppression. In making gains against Assad and IS, the YPG now controls about two-thirds of Syria's 560-mile border with Turkey.

While Washington has praised these advances, the U.S. and European rulers along with the governments of Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey are dead set against the Kurds' national aspirations.

In Iraq, promised government offensives have failed. Part of Washington's deal with Tehran is to give it sway over the majority Shia areas on Iraq's border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with U.S. complicity, has used what was billed as an Islamic State-free "safe zone" in Syria by Turkey's border to block Kurdish advances and has focused air attacks on Kurdish fighters.

Washington's strategic shift to Iran and Russia, in search of some stability for its interests and investments, means downgrading its reliance on relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Iran deal, although many of Israel's generals accept it as a realistic step to lower the likelihood of a nuclear assault from Iran. Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow Sept. 21, saying his concern was to "prevent misunderstandings" between Israeli and Russian troops. Tel Aviv has carried out airstrikes in Syrian territory targeting weapons being transported to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pope: a Marxist view

Pope leads shift to expand church
influence in world wracked by crises

(front page)

Pope Francis is leading a fight within the Catholic Church to recast itself with a more inclusive image and breathe new life into its activities around the world. The goal is to head off the decline of an institution that is increasingly out of step with the changing social attitudes and concerns of millions — including adherents of the church — and to be in a better position to co-opt working-class struggles and block any revolutionary movements that arise.

Francis has been pressing to de-emphasize conformity among adherents of the Catholic faith with church doctrine against contraception, women's right to abortion, homosexuality, divorce and other social issues.

"It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," the new Pope, selected in March, said in an interview with the Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica in September. "We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards."

The shift is a response to changing attitudes among working people around the world, reflected in the long-term decline of the hold of religious doctrine and the weakening of divisions among workers based on religious intolerance.

Regardless of Francis' motives, the shift is good for working people because it provides more openness to discuss and act together for their social and political needs.

"The first reform must be attitude," Francis told the Jesuit journal. "If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.

"We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church," while ordaining women as priests was still "a question not open to discussion."

Isaias Miguel Ortiz, a university professor in the Dominican Republic, applauded the pope's statement on not judging gays in a Sept. 22 article by Associated Press interviewing church members around the world. "All people should be accepted the way they are," Ortiz said.

"The church has to catch up with changes in society, even if it still doesn't admit divorce," 22-year-old student Aria das Gracas Lemos in Brasilia told AP.

End 'witch hunt' against contrary views

On Nov. 24, Francis issued his first "Apostolic Exhortation." In it he calls for an end to "the veritable witch hunt" against those with views contrary to the Catholic hierarchy. He sharply criticized clergy in the U.S., who have refused to give Communion to politicians who have taken political positions at odds with official church doctrine. "Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?" he asks.
In leading this shift Francis has initiated a fight against the most ossified elements of the church hierarchy, whose moral authority has been further weakened by the church's attempt to cover up sexual abuse by priests. "The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials," he told the Civilta Cattolica.

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets," he says, "rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

And he has been speaking to the economic and social pressures bearing down on toiling humanity under the impact of the world crisis of capitalism.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion," Francis writes. "Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality."

According to the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook, there are 1.2 billion Catholics, one of every six people in the world. The countries with the largest number are Brazil with nearly 127 million, Mexico with 96.5 million, the Philippines with 75.5 million and the United States with 75.4 million.

The selection of Francis by the church hierarchy is also a shift of focus from Italy and Europe, where the number of Catholics are stagnant or declining, to Africa, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. From 1978 to 2012 the number of Catholics on the African continent grew from 55 million to 175 million.

The Catholic Church is a capitalist institution that lends its moral authority to ruling classes around the world. According to the Economist, the church and church-owned businesses and charities spent some $170 billion in 2010 and employed more than 1 million people.

Opposition to liberation theology

Some conservative writers have expressed concern that Francis' statements criticizing the evils of capitalism are a concession to liberation theology, which arose in the 1950s, '60s and '70s as revolutionary struggles in Latin America found an echo inside the Catholic Church. Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, one of the best-known proponents of liberation theology today, has said that "Authentic liberation will be the work of the oppressed themselves" and has called for "a social revolution that breaks up that dependence, will allow a different society, a socialist society to come to pass."
Francis is a well-known opponent of liberation theology "even when this stand left him isolated among the Jesuits" in Argentina, the U.K. Catholic Herald recently said, and has criticized those who "anachronistically, would like to propose it again."

Francis is not anti-capitalist, even if he criticizes the "tyranny" of "the new idolatry of money." He told La Repubblica in an Oct. 1 interview that "if necessary," he is for "direct intervention from the state to correct the more intolerable inequalities."

Leaving no room for doubt, in the exhortation Francis says that while the church favors "a preferential option for the poor" it is not for "an unruly activism."  
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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Assad’s war creates refugee crisis in Syria, Europe

Assad's war creates refugee crisis in Syria, Europe

As tens of thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere arrive in Europe, capitalist rulers across the continent are imposing document controls, deploying soldiers, building fences and threatening to end passport-free passage within the European Union.

At the same time millions of refugees driven from their homes by the brutal assaults of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remain in Syria and surrounding countries, including the most impoverished workers and farmers.

After some 40,000 refugees arrived in Germany over the Sept. 12-13 weekend, Berlin started imposing document checks. Before rail traffic between Austria and Germany closed, Austrian officials said 500 people arrived every hour at its main crossing with Hungary.

Berlin's decision to impose controls produced a chain reaction. The next day officials in Austria and Slovakia announced they would follow suit. Both governments have sent troops to reinforce their borders. Hungary has built a 108-mile razor-wire fence and sent 4,300 troops to its border with Serbia. On Sept. 14 the government declared a state of emergency in the border regions.

While Berlin said the border controls are temporary to deal with an emergency situation, "This measure is also a signal to Europe," Interior Minister Tomas de Maizière told the media in a thinly veiled threat to other governments that if they don't accept more refugees, the free movement of people within the EU might not be allowed to continue.

The influx of refugees further deepens the divisions built into the EU from its founding between northern and southern member states, most recently expressed around the debt crisis in Greece.

Some workers in Europe sympathize with the refugees. Rallies took place in London, Copenhagen, Denmark, and elsewhere in solidarity over the Sept. 12-13 weekend.

Arab Spring failed
The roots of the Syrian crisis lie in the decades-long brutality of the Assad regime. A broad popular movement in 2011, similar to the "Arab Spring" in Egypt, demanding political rights and an end to government repression, failed to oust Assad. The ensuing conflict is now in its fifth year.
As the regime lost control of large parts of the country, it lashed out against the population. Backed by Moscow and Tehran, Assad has used chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and deadly shrapnel-filled barrel bombs against the population, killing 250,000.

Of Syria's prewar population of 23 million, 7.6 million are internally displaced and 4 million have fled the country, according to the United Nations refugee agency. More than half are under the age of 18. There are roughly 2 million in Turkey, more than 1 million in Lebanon and hundreds of thousands in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

Most of these refugees are unable to work legally and live in extreme poverty. The World Food Program has halved its assistance to the neediest in Lebanon to $13.50 per person per month.

Most leaving for Europe are those with more education and resources, often with friends or family already there. The majority are young men in good health.

Syrians seeking refuge or a place to organize to struggle in the region face increasing obstacles. Lebanon has demanded visas since January. Jordan allows only 40 to 50 people a day to enter. The Turkish border was relatively open until recently, but is now a fortified strip of land guarded by trenches, miles of barbed wire fence and armed troops.

Assad's murderous war
Washington and other imperialist governments have let the Syrian people bleed. President Barack Obama increasingly banks on an agreement — what he calls a "reset"— with Moscow and new relations with the regime in Tehran to stabilize the region, offering protection for the interests of U.S. imperialism.
Because of the vacuum of revolutionary leadership, the brutal and reactionary army of Islamic State, with military leadership from former commanders in the army of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, stepped in and seized hunks of territory, both in Syria and Iraq. Workers and farmers bore the brunt of IS thuggery.

While the focus of the U.S. media coverage on the Mideast has been the grisly beheadings and other violence carried out by Islamic State, the Assad regime is responsible for the vast majority of those killed in Syria.

Assad's regime is based on a narrow layer of capitalist families, mostly from the Alawite Muslim minority, a branch of Shiite Islam comprising some 10 percent of the population.

The Russian government has flown in tanks, equipment and personnel to beef up the regime and keep the western, most populated coastal regions of the country under Assad's control.

Moscow has indicated it seeks a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Obama during the upcoming United Nations sessions to discuss their mutual interests in the area, including working together in the fight against Islamic State. Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said he thought the meeting was likely to occur, the New York Times reported Sept. 15.

The one place the masses have produced a capable fighting force is in the Kurdish-dominated areas, where they have beaten back Assad's army and Islamic State alike.

The advances made by the Kurdish struggle for national rights are threatened after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Washington's backing, recently launched airstrikes and military raids and imposed curfews in the country's Kurdish southeast under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Solidarity with Syrian toilers, refugees key for working class

Solidarity with Syrian toilers,
refugees key for working class

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, fleeing slaughter at the hands of the Bashar al-Assad regime, are facing riot police, razor wire fences and other dehumanizing treatment on the part of the continent's capitalist rulers.

It's a pressing question for the working class today to fight to organize these men and women as part of the class struggle, in whatever country they end up. Organize all workers into the unions! Fight for government-funded programs to provide jobs at union wages for native-born and refugees alike, building infrastructure, schools, hospitals and other things workers need. Fight against the rulers' attempts to criminalize or deny civic rights to refugees and other immigrants! No to discrimination and thuggery, whether at the hands of the border patrol or rightist gangs!

The labor officialdom in the United States and the different capitalist countries in Europe have refused to carry out the fight for working-class unity over decades, instead joining with each of their bosses' governments in advancing a nationalist and protectionist course. Workers everywhere have to chart a new road forward.

It's different than a general call to "open the borders," as an editorial in last week's Militant put forward. That's a utopian demand, and, if adopted under capitalist rule, would lead to increased competition among workers, unemployment, lower wages and social misery.

Workers worldwide also need to extend the hand of solidarity to the embattled people in Syria, the vast majority of whom, including most workers and farmers, remain within the country or have been forced to seek refuge in surrounding nations. Nearly 8 million are displaced inside the war-torn country; another 4 million are in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region.

Demand an end to the brutal assaults of the Assad government and other enemies of the toilers in the region.

The one place in Syria where the masses have produced a capable fighting force and successfully defended themselves is in the Kurdish-dominated areas, where they have beaten back Assad's army and Islamic State alike. Workers around the world need to back the Kurds' struggle for national rights and a homeland and oppose assaults against them by the rulers of Syria and Turkey, backed by Washington.

The crisis in Syria is a product of the defeat of the 2011 uprising against the Assad regime, and its continuing slaughter in the years since; the emergence of the reactionary Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, filling a vacuum of working-class leadership left by decades of betrayals by Stalinist and nationalist misleaderships; and the effects of Washington's wars and occupation of Iraq.

It is exacerbated by the unraveling of the imperialist order forged by the victors of the two World Wars, principally Washington, and the efforts of the imperialist rulers and capitalist governments in the region today to maintain a grip. It is accelerated by the Barack Obama administration's drive to seek a strategic accommodation with Moscow and Tehran in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere with the futile hope of achieving stability for U.S. imperialism in the Mideast and beyond.

It's through fighting for working-class solidarity and organization — in the U.S., the Mideast and across Europe — that working people can begin to break with the capitalist rulers and organize ourselves politically, advancing the interests of all the toilers on the road toward taking power out of the hands of the capitalist exploiters and war makers.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

George Novack in defense of Leninist perspectives in post-World War 2 Europe.

From: Revolutionary Policy in Western Europe:  An Answer to Comrade Morrow

By William F. Warde [George Novack]

Written: 1946
First Published: January 1946
Source: Fourth International magazine.

....We have such differences; they flow from our divergent analyses of the present objective situation and its main lines of development. Morrow denies that the prevailing situation in Western Europe is revolutionary. We maintain that despite the temporary ebb in the tide of struggle, it remains objectively revolutionary.

Morrow contends that the dominant trend is "an evolution toward bourgeois democracy in Europe as the objective resultant of the class struggle and of the struggle between the contending capitalist classes." ( Fourth International, May 1945.) Why must this be the organic and inevitable development? The European bourgeoisie, he tells us, is pushing in this direction. U.S. imperialism favors democratic methods of rule. The workers are dominated by democratic illusions. The CP and SP are pulling the masses into this channel. Finally, the Trotskyist parties are too weak to change this course of events.

In our opinion this appraisal is false and misleading. The main lines of political development in Europe do not converge on the single track of bourgeois democracy, as Morrow's scheme depicts it, but diverge sharply according to the interests and aims of the principal contending classes. The capitalists seek the solution to their problems, not in bourgeois democracy, but through military-monarchist dictatorships. They find a rearguard and reserve in Anglo-American imperialism. But owing to the depth of the social crisis, their discreditment and manifest incapacity, the revolutionary temper of the workers, the discontent of the middle class, the capitalists are not now in a position to carry through their own political plans. They are thus forced to resort to democratic maneuvers and play around with parliamentary forms in order to dupe the workers and obstruct independent working class action. Meanwhile they are building up their own forces in the army, the police, the bureaucracy, and even within the masses (the Mouvement Republicain Populaire in France, l'Uomo Qualunque movement in Italy, etc.). Resisting to the utmost the efforts of the people to democratize political life, they are nevertheless compelled by the relationship of class forces to yield concessions here and there in order to gain time for the organization of their counter campaigns.

It is true that the Stalinists and Socialists seek to solve the crisis by means of social reforms through "democratic" collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its "liberal" parties. But this program is nothing but the reactionary utopia of the petty-bourgeoisie covered with socialist phrases. It is reactionary because this policy runs counter to the basic course of development which imperiously commands the proletariat to take power in order to lead the nation on to the road of socialism. It is utopian because it fails to reckon with the acuteness of the social crisis and the sharpening of the class antagonisms which forbid the restoration of durable bourgeois-democratic regimes based upon class collaboration. It is petty-bourgeois because it rests upon a denial in theory and a blunting in practice of the class struggle.

At the bottom of all our differences with Comrade Morrow is the question of method. As scientific socialists, we proceed in all questions from an analysis of the objective situation which is determined by the class relationships. From the results of this analysis we derive our program, strategy and tactics.
Morrow here as elsewhere proceeds in a different fashion. He takes as his point of departure, not a rounded examination of the existing economic and political conditions, but his impressions of "the present stage of political consciousness of the European proletariat." This is the method of literary impressionism, not Marxism.
When Trotsky first projected in 1938 the program of transitional demands which was later adopted by the Founding Conference of the Fourth International and is today its political guide, certain comrades objected that the program was too advanced for the mentality of the American workers. "We have repeated many times," Trotsky replied, "that the scientific character of our activity consists in the fact that we adapt our program not to political conjunctures or the thought or mood of the masses as this mood is today, but we adapt our program to the objective situation as it is represented by the economic class structure of society. The mentality can be backward; then the political task of the party is to bring the mentality into harmony with the objective facts, to make the workers understand the objective task. But we cannot adapt the program to the backward mentality of the workers. The mentality, the mood is a secondary factor—the prime factor is the objective situation. That is why we have heard these criticisms or these appreciations that some parts of the program do not conform to the situation . . .

....This does not mean that the workers are free of illusions. On the contrary, their movement has been derailed precisely because of their lack of political clarity. Morrow's error on this question comes from his misunderstanding of their principal illusion. What so cruelly deceives the workers is not naive trust in bourgeois democracy, as he declares, but their misplaced confidence in the Communist and Socialist parties.
The Communist Party is today the most powerful party in France, the continental home of bourgeois democracy. It has a million members and received five million votes. The working masses have not swarmed into this party because it appears to them as the champion of bourgeois democracy but because they regard it as the party of communism, as the opponent of capitalism. The urge to satisfy their social needs is so compelling that it serves to override revulsion against the monstrous crimes of Stalinism and its totalitarian regime in the USSR. In the eyes of millions of workers and peasants the Communist parties in Western Europe appear not as the counter-revolutionary agencies of Stalin but as the Bolshevik combat parties of Lenin. They support the CP not because they want to maintain private property and revitalize bourgeois rule under democratic forms but because they desire to take over the means of production and establish workers' democracy. Similar anti-capitalist sentiments, although to a lesser degree, animate the Socialist Party ranks. But instead of leading the workers forward to their own October Revolution, the Stalinists—and Socialists—pull them backward through the People's Front coalitions into collaboration with the capitalists.

Leninist Tactics

Thus the European workers have been led into their present blind alley primarily because of their erroneous belief that the CP and SP could satisfy their demands for a revolutionary change and show them the way to socialism. This is the illusion which must be broken down. This is the great tactical problem now confronting the Trotskyist.
Morrow's recipe is simple. The Trotskyist must take the lead in fighting for democracy, more democracy, and still more democracy. "In the fight for the most complete democracy, the Bolsheviks can demonstrate to the workers that it is the revolutionists and not the reformists who are the most devoted fighters for the needs of the people." This is Leninism a la Morrow.
But Leninism proceeds from the proposition that even the broadest arena of democracy under capitalist rule cannot satisfy the pressing needs of the people. It certainly cannot overcome the profound economic, social and political crisis gripping Western Europe. This is not an anarcho-syndicalist error, as Morrow asserts, but sober socialist truth which must be hammered home to the masses. They must be taught that the fight for democracy acquires significance and can have fruitful results only in connection with their class struggle for power, for the expropriation of the capitalists, and the establishment of worker's control over economic life.

What the working class must do now is fight for power, more power and still more power. In order to accomplish this central task the workers must first free themselves from captivity to the Popular Front alliances which shackle them to the bourgeoisie. They must regain their independence of action. That is why the Trotskyist parties in Western Europe address the following slogans to the workers who adhere to the CP and SP: "Force your parties to break the coalition with the capitalists and expel their representatives from the government. Let the worker's organizations take power on a socialist program of action. Form a Communist-Socialist Government." This is Leninist tactics because it is based upon the dynamics of the class struggle and directed toward the conquest of power.
Our divergent estimates of the political situation and our contrasting conceptions of the tasks confronting the revolutionary vanguard have naturally also engendered disagreements over the application of the program of the Fourth International in Western Europe today. In words it appears that we subscribe to the same formula expressed in the resolution adopted by the 11th Convention of the Socialist Workers Party: "to rally the masses for revolutionary struggle, the revolutionary Marxist party will elaborate a bold program of transitional and democratic demands corresponding to the consciousness of the masses and the tempo of developments. . . ." But the differences in our viewpoints emerge as soon as it comes to the practical application of this formula.

Transitional and Democratic Demands

In general, we consider it necessary for the revolutionary vanguard to place its emphasis upon the transitional demands which can mobilize the masses in struggle under the leadership of the advanced workers for the conquest of power. It is necessary to place before the masses a program of revolutionary action which clearly poses the problem of power. This is the key question in political life today. That is why, as Comrade Simmons insists, the parties of the Fourth International must put forward as their most pressing demand the expropriation of the capitalists and the socialization of the means of production.
Does this mean that we ignore the value or deny the necessity for democratic demands? Not at all. Such sectarianism and ultra-leftism is totally alien to the realistic revolutionary politics of Bolshevism. We fight for democratic demands just as vigorously as for immediate economic demands. It is obvious that the more democracy the workers can wrest from the capitalist rulers, the more their confidence in their independent strength will be enhanced, the easier will be the further struggle for power, the greater prestige will accrue to the party which heads the fight for democratic rights.
Parenthetically we may add that it is odd of Comrade Morrow to attribute such ultra-left infantilism to our party which in the Minneapolis Labor Case under conditions of wartime repression and reaction conducted the most intransigent fight in defense of democracy the American labor movement has ever known. To be sure, Morrow may object that this was done in the United States from 1941 to 1945 while we are here concerned with Europe in 1945. Nevertheless how does he account for the apparent contradiction that the same party which stands in the forefront of the fight for democratic rights in the United States has, if he is to be believed, suddenly denied the necessity for an equally uncompromising struggle for democracy in Europe today?
But even from the standpoint of democracy this is only one side of the question. As Comrade Simmons pointed out, at the present stage of social developments the success of the fight for democratic liberties is itself bound up indissolubly with the success of the struggle for socialism. The bourgeoisie will grant political and economic concessions only bourgeoisie tow loss of all its privileges. Thus the democratic concessions which have already been won and will be won by the masses must be viewed as by-products of their revolutionary struggle. Moreover, they can be secured and guaranteed only by the complete conquest of power.
Democratic slogans, properly employed, can promote the class struggle and have an important place in any realistic program of revolutionary action today. But by themselves such slogans are entirely inadequate to meet the needs by the present revolutionary situation. They have only a subordinate and episodic role to play in comparison with the transitional demands which correspond to the vital economic needs of the workers and clearly indicate the path to power.

For Comrade Morrow, however, they have a quite different significance. He maintains that democratic demands and slogans must be emphasized above all and made predominant in the activities of the vanguard during the present period. He is very explicit on this point. "The way (to win the masses) lies through the struggle for the republic and the Constituent, there is no other way (our italics)," he tells us. "The slogan of the republic ... is today in Italy the lever for the other slogans." The primary and central role he assigns to the democratic demands leads to the inescapable conclusion that the transitional demands must be subordinated to them.
This program which Morrow proposes as the master key to the present stage of the class struggle in Western Europe could only serve to divert the workers from the correct course and hamper the growth of the Fourth International. The future of the Fourth International can be assured only along the road of intransigent struggle for socialism at the present time. While fighting for the widest extension of democracy under bourgeois rule, while defending the immediate interests of the masses, the Trotskyist must come forward first and foremost as the tireless champions and organizers of the revolutionary struggle for state power through independent mass action. This is the method by which they can liberate the masses from the deadly influence of the Stalinists and Socialists; mobilize them against the unfolding bourgeois reaction; win them to the revolutionary ranks; and rearm them for the new offensive.

In this connection it is relevant to recall that in Whither France Trotsky lashed the Stalinist leaders for proposing a program of "immediate demands" when the situation demanded a broad political offensive to capture power based upon a well-elaborated transitional program. "The chief obstacle on the path to the development of the revolutionary struggle right now," he wrote, "is the one-sided, almost maniacal program of 'immediate demands,' which contradicts the whole situation.... A revolutionary offensive, which opposes one class to another, cannot be developed solely under slogans of partial economic demands".—pp. 61-62. In what respect is Morrow's program of "democratic demands" superior to the Stalinist program of that time? It may not be amiss to mention that the theoretical motivation for Morrow's program of "democratic demands" is the same as the Stalinists then gave for their program of "immediate demands".; the situation is not revolutionary.
Morrow attempts to fortify his position by means of a theory of stages. First, the European proletariat must pass through a period of bourgeois democracy and later will launch into a direct struggle for power. Now the revolutionists must go along with the masses in their democratic illusions to help get rid of them. The main theme of his reply to Simmons is that the masses are too immature, too unprepared, too unclear in their consciousness to realize the necessity to fight for power. To date they've advanced only far enough to demonstrate for the democratic republic and the Constituent Assembly. Their understanding that these democratic institutions are insufficient "still lies in the future."

Even if this were so, it would not obligate the revolutionary party to subordinate the transitional demands to the democratic ones. But the most pernicious feature of this theory is its misrepresentation of the mood of the masses. They are not simply demanding greater democracy, as Morrow would have it. In France, Italy and elsewhere they are insistently clamoring for the nationalization of the banks and key industries. This is not a democratic but a socialist demand. So powerful is their pressure that even de Gaulle is obliged to appease them by sham nationalization measures. Here the task of the revolutionists is to expose the fraud of such measures and lead the struggle for genuine socializations under the control and through the class action of the workers.
But "of what body ... do you demand expropriation of the capitalists and socialization of the means of production?" Morrow inquires with an air of triumph. He infers that this demand can only be presented either to "non-existent soviets" or to already established Constituent Assemblies. In reality; the demand for expropriation must be directed at the Communist and Socialist parties, whether they are in the Constituent or in the Soviets. They have the majority; they presumably base themselves on a socialist program. Bolshevik tactics teaches that the most effective way to expose the servility of these parties to capitalism is to demand that they carry out their professed program.
Morrow's attempt to impose upon the unfolding class struggle the idea of two separate stages—the present when democratic demands are paramount and the future when the transitional program will be pushed to the fore—would be disastrous. It would in practice place the Trotskyist vanguard in the shameful position of trailing behind the reformist parties which are forced to pay lip-service to the masses' desires for such thoroughgoing social demands as nationalization. It would facilitate the schemes of the bourgeoisie and their agents to confine the struggle exclusively within the restricted parliamentary framework where they hope to strangle it. At every turn of events today the unpostponable need to reconstruct the shattered national economies on new foundations raises the questions of property and state power. Recognition of this fundamental fact which determines the character of the present stage must be the point of departure for revolutionary tactics.
This brings us to our third main point of difference with Comrade Morrow. He does not share our conception of the tasks of the American party in regard to the European struggle and therefore follows a different procedure than we do. The conditions under which the class struggle unfolds and with which the revolutionary vanguard must reckon in Europe today are extremely complex, unstable and shifting. Sharp and abrupt turns are inherent in the situation. It would be highly doctrinaire to lay down in advance tactical recipes for the conduct of this struggle in any country. It would be no less foolhardy for any person or party removed from the theater of action to do so.

....The Main Danger

Our controversy with Comrade Morrow takes place at a time when other individuals and groups are shouting to the world that the program of the Fourth International has become outmoded, unrealistic, inadequate to cope with the problems of European politics. This is not a new cry and this time too it has produced familiar results. In their quest for a new revelation, the would-be innovators have fallen back upon the tattered formulas of democracy.
Comrade Morrow's "method of democratic demands," sanctified as a panacea for the solution of the manifold problems confronting the European revolutionists, can only help to feed and fortify these revisionist tendencies. But there is a still greater danger. Life for the worker and peasant masses in Europe has become intolerable under the existing capitalist chaos. Having turned to the Stalinist and Socialist parties for a radical way out of their terrible predicament, they are already exhibiting signs of disappointment. The Popular Front coalitions are aggravating the crisis and not alleviating, let alone solving, it. If the Fourth International should follow Morrow's prescriptions and appear as nothing more than the extreme left-wing of the "democratic front," the advanced workers would find no alternative party to lead them in the coming revolutionary struggles. The masses, bereft of firm revolutionary socialist leadership, could then again become the prey of neo-fascist formations which will demagogically promise to satisfy their social needs by direct action. Such tendencies have already sprung up in Italy and elsewhere.

Only by resolutely adhering to the program of the Fourth International and correctly applying it can the Trotskyists frustrate further disillusionment of this kind and become mass revolutionary parties in Western Europe.


Joseph Hansen on Stalin's post-World War 2 frame-up trials

Joseph Hansen's 1950 introduction to the Pioneer Publishers' pamphlet Stalin's Frame-Up System and the Moscow Trials.

SINCE the end of World War II, a series of sensational trials of
former prominent figures in the Stalinist bureaucratic hierarchy
have been staged in the East European countries under Moscow rule.
Like grade "B" movies, these trials follow a rigid pattern. The hero is
always Stalin. The criminal inevitably confesses to playing a JekyllHyde
role-in public an ostensibly loyal top government official, behind
the scenes a spy for an enemy power. He repents, beats his chest
in contrition for his traitorous conduct, glorifies the godlike dispenser
of justice in the Kremlin and is executed.

Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the victims themselves
collaborate like trained seals. Lack of concrete evidence does not disturb
the court. "Proof" boils down to the bare production of

The case of Laszlo Rajk, Secretary of the Hungarian Communist
Party, is ·typical. A communist from youth, he w~s wounded while
fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In March 1946 he
became Minister of Interior and staged the police roundups that paved
the way for ousting the regime of Ferenc Nagy in 1947. He wrote the
new election law in 1947 and after the Stalinists were firmly in tht:
saddle became Foreign Minister. Second in Hungary only to Matyas
Rakosi, he was not boasting when he later said, "The Communists
always believed me to be one of the best comrades."

In September 1949 this model Stalinist leader was placed on trial.
He "confessed'.' that for 18 years he had been leading a secret life
that did not correspond with his public activities. In 1931 he had
turned informer for dictator Horthy's police. After this taste of stoolpigeoning,
he became an agent for the fascists in the Spanish Civil
War. Next he served the French secret police while jailed in a French
concentration camp. Following this apprenticeship in duplicity he
moved right into the ranks of the Nazi Gestapo.

This strange career, combining betrayal, espionage and treason with
the arduous public duties of a Communist Party leader, was finally
capped, according to his "confession," by his becoming a willing tool
in a pl<;>t master-minded by Winston Churchill, the Truman administration
and Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia. The alleged plot aimed at
killing key Hungarian officials, overthrowing the government because
of its loyalty to Stalin and bringing Hungary into Tito's sphere.
The world Stalinist press headlined the trial as an unexpected gold
mine of "proof" in its smear campaign against the Yugoslav government
which had broken with Moscow. The "guiding center" of the
plot was "in the United States," said Pravda,' while the conductor of
the plans and tasks was "the Yugoslav Fascist clique of Tito."
American diplomatic officials named in the trial denied the fantastic
charges. The Yugoslav government published evidence that exploded
key parts of Rajk's "confession" and charged that the trial wa~ aimed
at falsely accusing "Yugoslavia and her Government and party leadership"
of schemes "that are, in fact, being prepared or are already
being carried out" by the satellite countries under the instigation of
the Kremlin "with the aim of forcibly overthrowing the legal government
of Yugoslavia, destroying the' existing Socialist order and bringing
about Yugoslavia's economic and political subjugation."

All this was ignored by the court. Rajk cooperated one hundred per
cent with the prosecution, even refusing to ask for mercy. The defense
joined in underlining Rajk's "guilt" and only pleaded for clemency.
"It is easier to defend someone who has killed his father," declared
one defense attorney. The court completed the processing of this sad
scapegoat by hanging him on October 15, 1949, in accordance with
the script.

Minor departures from the formula used i'n these trials only emphasize
their artificial, theatrical character. An instructive instance is the
case of Traicho Kostov, condemned December 14, 1949, for "treason."
Kostov had been a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party since
1924, Secretary of the party since 1940, General Secretary since 1944,
a'nd was second in importance in the government only to Dimitrov
until the latter's death. He was charged with having become a stool
pigeon upon his arrest by the Bulgarian police in 1942 and of then
entering the Anglo-American spy service. Now well launched in his
dual career of public hero as spokesman for Stalinism and public enemy
as traitor in the pay of the enemy, he went further, according to the
prosecution, and plotted with Marshal Tito to assassinate Dimitrov,
overthrow the Bulgarian government and amalgamate Bulgaria with

Instead of confessing according to ritual, Kostov denied guilt. He
advanced such convincing arguments of innocence as his resistance to
the Bulgarian police under torture, and the absence of incriminating
evidence in the police files published in 1944. The court thereupon
read a "confession" allegedly made by Kostov with police assistance
in advance of the trial. The attorney for the defense denounced his
client as vigorously as any of the prosecution lawyers. Kostov continued
to insist on his innocence. The court, of course, sentenced him to die.
After Kostov was hanged, the Stalinist authorities announced that
just before the rope was placed around his neck, the doomed man disavowed
his "arrogant" court attitude aild "admitted" his "crimes."

Thus Stalinism proved its ability to establish the accused's "guilt"
even if the timing did depart from the formula calling for confessions
before pronunciation of sentence.

The political objectives of these trials are not difficult to discern.
Native Stalinist lieutenants like Rajk, Kostov and the rest can, despite
their long-tested loyalty to Moscow, transmit the pressure of the growing
mass resistance in the satellite countries against the Kremlin's
totalitarian domination. Their elimination and replacement by figureheads
with fewer independent roots is a preventive measure against
the possible development of "Titoism" or "Trotskyism" or any form
of opposition to the Kremlin bureaucracy. In addition, the trials serve
Stalin as a propaganda weapon in the cold war with American

The question arises, what compels the Kremlin to follow such a
revolting course?

We can find a satisfactory solution to the enigma only if we probe
into the historical background of the trials and trace the development
of Stalin's use of the frame-up as one of the means of maintaining
his anti-socialist dictatorship. We must approach the current trials in
Eastern Europe not as isolated episodes but as part of a system rooted
in the consolidation of the Moscow bureaucracy as a privileged ruling

To informed observers the parallel between the postwar trials in
Eastern Europe and the great frame-up trials of 1936-38 in Moscow
is obvious. Thus, in reply to the charges against the Tito regime
presented at the trial of Laszlo Rajk in Hungary, Moshe Pyade, a high
official of the Yugoslav government, said, according to the September
23, 1949, New York Times, "it was reminiscent of the Moscow purge
trials of 1936, whose 'producers, with their experience, could have had
a hand in the production of the Budapest trials.'" Pyade observed
that "now such trials have become export articles ... a penetration
into Europe of the dark methods of the Soviet intelligence service ..."
Without knowing the truth about the Moscow purge trials it is
impossible to properly understand the character of the Stalinist regime.
The key to those trials also opens the door to a true evaluation of
Stalinism on a world scale. Let us turn to these great landmarks in
Stalin's development of the frame-up as an integral part of his system
of rule.


On August 19, 1936, the curtain rose on a scarcely credible scene
in a Moscow court room. Among the prisoners sat Gregory Zinoviev,
Leon Kamenev, I. N. Smirnov, S. V. Mrachkovsky, G. Yevdokimov,
V. Ter-Vaganyan, Ivan Bakayev and Y. Dreitser. They were outstanding
figures in Lenin's "general staff" which led the November 1917
revolution in Russia, cofounders of both the Bolshevik Party and the
Communist International, men who had held the highest Soviet posts.
Against them as prosecutor stood Andrei Vyshinsky, a former member
of the counter-revolutionary, right-wing Menshevik opposition to
Lenin's regime in the early days. This representative of Stalin accused
Lenin's former comrades-in-arms of murdering Kirov, a top dignitary,
more than a year and a half before, although some of them were in
prison at the time. Vyshinsky accused them of conspiring with Hitler's
Nazi government to prepare "a number of terroristic acts" against
Stalin and other high bureaucrats. Vyshinsky described these internationally
famous Communist leaders as "traitors, murderers and bandits,"
as "liars and clowns," "mad dogs of capitalism."

Leon Trotsky, the organizer of the Red Army and cofounder with
Lenin of the first workers' state in history, was in exile in Norway;
but he and his son Leon Sedov were accused of having initiated the
conspiracy. Trotsky was charged with sending "instructions" as "far
back as 1931" to "kill Stalin, Voroshilov and Kaganovich."

Vyshinsky acclaimed Yagoda, chief of Stalin's dread secret political
police, the GPU, for having "proceeded along the true and correct
trail of exposing the real organizers of this crime."

The startled world learned that Zinoviev and Kamenev were putting
up no defense. Quite contrary to what might have been expected from
men born and bred in revolutionary struggle against absolutism, they
were freely-even glibly--confessing "guilt" to all the major charges
and vying with the prosecutor in painting the blackest possible picture
of their alleged crimes.

The trial ran for only five brief days although a total of 16 defendants
faced the prosecutor. On the sixth day the victims were sentenced
"all to the supreme penalty-to be shot, and all property personally
belonging to them to be confiscated." Within 24 hours the press announced
rejection of an appeal for mercy. "The verdict has been
carried out," continued the dispatch by way of obituary.

In this way, Stalin staged in Moscow the first of three trials designed
to provide juridical justification for the purges that wiped out the
leaders of the November 1917 revolution. To most people at the time,
they appeared part of a nightmare world. It was simply not credible
that a revolutionary like Zinoviev, for example, who had spent ten
years as Lenin's collaborator before the Russian Revolution and played
a leading part in overthrowing Czardom and establishing the basic
foundations for socialism in the USSR, could have "arrived at fascism,"
as he "confessed," and helped set up a center that, according to
Vyshinsky, "organized and established secret communications with the
German fascists."

But how account for the confessions? The drugged circle of the
"friends" of the Soviet Union claimed that the confessions were freely
given and therefore must be accepted at face value. Many people,
ignorant of the ways of Stalin's secret political police, were shocked
into half-believing that there must be a grain of truth in the trials,
considering the gravity of the charges and the suicidal nature of the

As a whole, however, public opinion never accepted the Stalinist
version of the trials. Today there is little mystery about the "confessions"
after the many revelations from those who have managed to
escape from the GPU (now the MVD) and describe the psychological
and physical tortures used to bring a prisoner into court with his will
to resist utterly crushed. In the inquisitions of the Middle Ages similar
means' wrung similar avowals from unhappy wretches whose main
profit from pacts with his Satanic Majesty usually turned out to be
the star role at a public bonfire.

Reactionaries were elated at the trial. Mussolini's paper, Il Messagero,
characterized it as "a victory of political reason over revolutionary

People interested in the truth turned to hear Leon Trotsky's answer
to the charges. Trotsky more than any other person could expose the
"confessions" if they were lies.

The Stalinist regime responded to this danger by pressuring the
Norwegian government to silence the exiled revolutionary. Among the
prominent Norwegian officials most deeply involved was Minister of
Justice Trygve Lie, who was later warmly backed as candidate for
Secretary General of the United Nations by Andrei Vyshinsky, now
promoted to the Soviet's UN delegation.

Trotsky and his wife, Natalia, were placed under close police surveillance,
his secretaries deported. All incoming and outgoing mail
was censored. The Norwegian "democrats" prohibited Trotsky from
answering the charges leveled at him in Moscow or from even taking
court action against his defamers.

Nevertheless, investigation of the few tangible "facts" alleged in the
trial proved fatal to the frame-up. For example, one of the defendants,
Holtzman, testified that in November 1932 he had met Sedov in the
"lounge" of the "Hotel Bristol" in Copenhagen and went with him to
meet Trotsky and receive terrorist instructions. It was proved conclusively
that Holtzman was not among the people who called on Trotsky
and his wife, their friends and guards during the short time Trotsky
visited Copenhagen to lecture.* Still more devastating, it was discovered
that the Hotel Bristol had been tom down in 1917 and not
rebuilt until 1936! From then on the words "Moscow trial" became
synonymous with "Stalinist frame-up" for the entire thinking public.
The liberal Cardenas government offered Trotsky and his wife
asylum in Mexico. They arrived at Tampico on January 9, 1937.
Two· weeks later on January 23 a second trial opened in Moscow.
Facing the ex-Menshevik prosecutor Vyshinsky and his collaborators
on the judges' bench were figures of heroic stature in the early days
of the Soviet Union. Pyatakov, an outstanding leader in the Ukraine,
was considered by Lenin one of the most competent administrators in
the party. Serebriakov was a former secretary of the Central Committee
of the Bolshevik Party. Muralov, a famous hero of all three insurrections
in Moscow-1905, February and October 1917, served under
Lenin as military governor of the city. Sokolnikov, a member of the
Central Committee and editor of Pravda in 1917, became People's
Commissar of Finance, then ambassador to London. Radek was one
of the most brilliant journalists the Soviet Union has produced.
An incident in the life of defendant Drobnis exemplifies the background
of these men. He was condemned to death twice by the White
Guards during the civil war. One time he was stood up before a firing
squad and shot. The bullet did not prove fatal. When the Red Army
captured the town and examined the heap of corpses, they found
Drobnis still alive. Stalin's firing squad proved more efficient.
These men were accused of conspiring to bring back the capitalism
they had helped to overthrow, of plotting to kill Stalin and his favorites
and of betraying the workers' state to Japanese and Nazi German

They began "confessing." Pyatak<.>v said he had taken an airplane
from Berlin to Oslo in the "first half of December 1935" to receive
terrorist instructions from Trotsky. 

From Mexico, Trotsky demanded that the prosecutor cross-examine
Pyatakov on this alleged airplane trip in order to establish some concrete
details about this mythical flight. Naturally, Vyshinsky, who was
closely adhering to the script prepared by the GPU for the frame-up,

*This lecture, "The Russian Revolution," is a good summary of Trotsky's positionin defense of the Soviet Union. As spokesman of the wprking class oppositionin the USSR and abroad to the Stalin regime, he draws the'balance sheet of theOctober Revolution and explains its place in world history. It has been publishedas a pamphlet and can be obtained from Pioneer Publishers, 116 UniversityPlace, New York 3, N. Y.

made no response to Trotsky's demand. His job was to conduct the
frame-up, not expose it. The press, however, uncovered a most startling
fact. No foreign airplane at all had landed at Oslo in the whole
month of December!

Virtually every newspaper outside the Soviet Union gave this sensation
front-page display. On January 29, the Norwegian newspaper
Arbeiderbladet proved that no foreign airplane whatsoever had landed
at Oslo "from September 1935 to May 1936." Pyatakov's "confession"
was thus exposed as a lie while the trial was still going on. The world
waited for the Moscow court's response to this hard fact.
Next day the curtain came down. Another 48 hours and Pyatakov
was dead. As always, the victims accused of plotting to kill Stalin end
up as mute but nonetheless eloquent-enough evidence of Stalin's plot
to kill them.

A little more than a year later, March 2-13, 1938, the third great
trial took place. Among the victims sat no less than eight former Soviet
ministers, not counting Trotsky who was in Mexico. "After the death
of Lenin," Trotsky told the press, "Rykov was the official head of the
government for more than five years. From 1918 Bukharin was the
editor of the central organ of the party, Pravda, and from 1926 the
official head of the Communist International. Later, after his fall into
disfavor, he became the editor of Izvestia. Rakovsky was the head of
the Ukrainian government and later ambassador to London and Paris.
Krestinsky, the predecessor of Stalin as secretary of the Central Committee
of the party, was afterward ambassador to Berlin for several
years. For almost all of the last ten years Yagoda stood at the head of
the GPU as Stalin's most trusted henchman and cooked up the Zinoviev-
Kamenev trial in its entirety. In the list of the accused there are
no fewer than six members of the Central government. Of the nine
people who were members of th Political Bureau during Lenin's lifetime,
i.e., actual rulers of the fate of the USSR, there remains only one
unaccused, Stalin."

Among the treasonous acts these former heads of government allegedly
committed in behalf of Hitler were some that sound more
natural to a psychiatric ward than a criminal court: "Grinko has
mentioned the wrecking work he performed in the sphere of taxation
and in the savings banks, where he tried in every way to incense the

Vyshinsky accused the defendants of plotting "to disrupt horse-breeding."
Not content with upsetting the sex life of the Soviet horse, "they
deliberately infected pigs with erysipelas and the plague."
"Take Zelensky," said Vyshinsky in the apoplectic style that has
won him such high posts and emoluments under Stalin, "I shall only
refer here to the most abominable practice of mixing glass and nails
with foodstuffs, butter in particular, which hit at the most vital interests,
the health and lives of our population. Glass and nails in butter!
This is so monstrous a crime that, in my opinion, all other crimes of
the kind pale before it."

While we pale at the glass and nails in this butter, Vyshinsky hints
at one of the political motives back of the trial: "It is now clear why
there are interruptions of supplies here and there, why, with our riches
and abundance of products, there is a shortage first of one thing, then
of another. It is these traitors who are responsible for it."

As for Trotsky, he was accused of plotting with Bukharin as far back
as 1918 to do away with Lenin! That was when Stalin was unknown
and the names of Lenin and Trotsky were inseparably linked as the
two outstanding leaders of the Soviet Union.

Mussolini, not without justification, felt able to remark about this
trial in Popolo d'Italia: "Stalin renders a commendable service to

As in the previous trials, the GPU trade-mark was not long in
showing up. Bessonov confessed he got a letter "written in December,
1936, by Krestinsky to Trotsky." This letter, according to Bessonov,
"was passed on by me. In a few days I received a reply from Trotsky."
Naturally this "reply" was not produced in court any more than the
other "letters" mentioned in the trials.

Bessonov's "confession" was shown to be a lie in short order. The
Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet checked with the Norwegian authorities.
From September to. December 19, Trotsky had been held incommunicado
by the Norwegian police in response to Moscow wire-pulling.
They had censored every item sent to Trotsky, even holding up the
manuscript of his book, The Revolution Betrayed. On December 19,
the Norwegian police put him on a tanker and a police officer accompanied
the exile and his wife to Mexico. This officer, who was chief
of police by the time of the Bukharin trial, declared that Trotsky could
not possibly have received any communication from Bessonov or replied
to it.

Comparable to the non-existent Hotel Bristol of the first trial and
Pyatakov's ghostly airplane of the second was Krestinsky's "confession"
that "Trotsky came to Merano (Italy) about October 10 (1933) together
with Sedov" for a conspirative meeting. It had been publicly
established some time before that Trotsky was at Bagneres-de-Bigorre,
in the Pyrenees, ori October 9. Apparently the GPU got mixed up in
its geography and put the Pyrenees Mountains between France and
Italy instead of their actual location between France and Spain. So
the GPU claimed Trotsky was in Italy precisely when he was more
than 600 miles away! Exposure of this GPU boner of course did not
save Krestinsky from execution.

Had Stalin confined his bloodletting to the men processed for exhibition,
this alone would have entitled him to go down in history as one
of the most sinister figures in the annals of tyranny. However, the trials
provided only the most spectacular public incidents in the periodic
blood purges that swept the Soviet Union from 1935 on.
Victor Kravchenko, a former high Stalinist official who survived the
purges and escaped abroad, reports in his book, 1 Chose Freedom, that
the victims numbered as many as "nine or ten millions, including 60
to 80 percent of the top leaders of the Party, the Comsomols, the
armed forces, the government, industry, farming and national culture."
The slave labor armies of the GPU swelled to unknown size. Some
estimates of their number go as high as fifteen, twenty million, and
even more.

These figures do not include those who died before the firing squad
or in the cattle cars transporting them to Siberia. Nor does it include
the tens of millions persecuted and cowed into silence by the terror.
Scarcely a family in the Soviet Union remained unscathed by this
dread political scourge.

The Red Army was decimated. Principal victims were the veterans
of Trotsky's time who defeated the imperialist armies sent to crush the
young workers' republic after the First World War. In 1937 the entire
leading staff from Marshal Tukhachevsky down were shot without the
pretense of an open trial.

Managers and officials of factories, the transportation system, the
collective farms, the apparatus of the federated republics were collected
like sheep and either butchered or sent to the white hell of the
frozen Siberian wastelands.

The educational system, the arts and sciences were not exempt.
Celebrated educators, scientists, scholars, engineers, doctors, musicians,
playwrights, novelists and journalists were condemned, imprisoned
without trial, died of mysterious causes or simply disappeared, never
to be seen again by their friends and families.

Great masses of workers most capable of militant struggle were
crammed into box cars for deportation to the slave labor camps. Husbands
were separated from wives, children torn from parents. Whole
towns and entire districts were thus uprooted and dispersed.
Even the summits of the bureaucracy were not exempt. Officials
throughout the government perished. The Communist Party in the
USSR was shaken to its foundations as the nation-wide witch-hunt
tracked down all those whose "loyalty" might be suspect because of
an active political role in the days of Lenin and Trotsky, association
with revolutionaries of the early days, or simply because of poison-pen

In these years of Stalin's rule, many of the butchers in the opening
scenes fell victim in the subsequent slaughter. Yagoda, already mentioned
as the head of the GPU who organized the first Moscow trial
that sent Zinoviev and Kamenev to their death, was himself shot in the
third Moscow trial. Yagoda's successor, Yezhov, in turn was liquidated
after the third great public trials.

The terror was not confined to the Soviet Union. Political opponents
of Stalin's regime were hunted down by his assassins throughout the
world. In Switzerland, for example, Ignace Reiss, who broke from the
GPU and revealed Stalin's decision to employ "all methods" ag-ainst
revolutionary opponents abroad, fell on September 4, 1937, before a
blast of machine-gun fire. The Swiss police caught some of the gunmen.
The court established that these GPU killers murdered Reiss on direct
orders from the Kremlin. Trotsky's son, Leon Sedov, was killed in a Paris
hospital on February 16, 1938. Rudolph Klement, Secretary of the
Fourth International, was kidnapped in Paris on July 12, 1938. Later
his decapitated body was found floating in the Seine.

Opponents of Stalinism fighting with the workers in Spain against
General Franco's fascist bid for power w~re systematically murdered by
the GPu. An outstanding victim was Andres Nin, leader of the POUM
(Workers Party of Marxist Unification). Trotsky's former secretary,
Erwin Wolfe, was kidnapped in Spain by the GPU and never seen again.
A similar fate befell Marc Rhein, son of the well-known Russian Menshevik
leader, Raphael Abramovich, a member of the Executive Committee
of the Second International.

In the Western Hemisphere the GPU was also active. The mysterious
death of Walter Krivitsky in a Washington, D. C. hotel was ascribed to
its long arm. Krivitsky, a top figure in the GPU, had broken away and
published some of its secrets. He declared repeatedly that the GPU had
marked him for death.

In Mexico a band of Communist Party members and sympathizers
raided Trotsky's Coyoacan home in the dead of night on May 24, 1940.
Disguised in police uniforms, these GPU killers machine-gunned the
bedroom of the old revolutionary couple. Trotsky and his wife managed
to escape by rolling out of the line of fire. The Stalinists then kidnapped
an American guard on duty, Robert Sheldon Harte. In a lonely cabin
in the mountains they put one bullet through his temple, another through
the base of his brain, and buried his body in a shallow grave of lime
where it was later discovered by the Mexican police.

The culminating crime was the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico
on August 20, 1940. On that day, an agent of Stalin's secret police
brought the Moscow trials to their climax by sinking a pick-axe into the

brain of the man who had done more than any other individual to
expose the true character of the Moscow bureaucracy.


A detailed report of the purges, based only on the carefully censored
information available in the Moscow press, would fill volumes. A
graph, based on such a study, showing the executions, disappearances,
condemnations, etc., would rise steeply in 1935, drop slightly, then
fluctuate dizzily from one peak to the next up to the Bukharin trial in
1938. Then the graph line would descend until it recorded another
sharp rise in 1940-41 after Stalin signed his pact with Hitler.
The long duration of these monstrous purges as well as their depth
of penetration in Sovit:t society proves that something quite different
from treasonous conspiracies on the part of the victims was involved
in the Moscow trials. The purges began on a major scale at the time
of the assassination of Kirov in 1934. They did not pause until well
after the armies of German imperialism had invaded a Soviet Union
bled white by the unending work of Stalin's executioners. Since the
war's end, new vast purges have occurred, although the main charge
now is no longer "Trotskyism" but "cosmopolitanism" or "concessions
to western bourgeois ideology."

The principal accusation leveled by the prosecution against Trotsky
and the defendants on trial was making a pact with Hitler and the
Mikado. The hypocrisy of this charge is evident enough from the fact
that Stalin topped off the trials by signing on Hitler's dotted line himself
and becoming supply sergeant for the Nazis in the opening period
of World War II.

The trials served to cover the debacle of Stalinist foreign policy
which paved the way for Hitler's seizure of power in Germany. At
the same time, they prepared the ground for official pacts with both
Hitler and the Mikado. This was Stalin's method of getting ready for
the oncoming World War II. But he succeeded only in enormously
weakening the Soviet Union and facilitating the invasion by German

Another aim of the trials was to try to compromise Trotsky's program
for the democratic rehabilitation of the Soviet regime and return
to international revolutionary socialism as practiced in Lenin's day.
Stalin hoped to smear Trotsky and his followers with the Nazi brush.
Trotsky was singled out for this attention because he represented the
tradition of genuine Marxism. As the leading exponent of Lenin's
program, and consequently the embodiment of the main political
danger from revolutionary-minded workers, Trotsky drew the fiercest
hatred and venom of the regime in its break with Bolshevism and
swing toward totalitarianism.

The execution of all former companions of Lenin who enjoyed
independent standing removed possible contenders to power. Such
figures might become centers of mass opposition to the dictatorial
regime even though they were not actually followers of Trotsky at all
and had kept high positions, many of them, only in return for slander
and vilification of Trotsky. Stalin's method is simple. He usurped
power through step-by-step elimination of leaders in his road. He
retains power by eliminating anyone who impresses him as a possible
opponent. All questions concerning his tenure in office are decided
with a bullet. Where an area of possible independent thought forms,
even in so remote a field as music, genetics or astronomy, Stalin
moves as ruthlessly against it as against a full-fledged political opposition.
Inasmuch as Stalin claims that socialism has been achieved in the
Soviet Union, he can hardly acknowledge such sordid aims. The blame
must be placed upon his victims. As a warning to others, they must
be converted into criminals, slandered as well as liquidated. That is
why frame-ups have become a characteristic method deliberately developed
by this Cain into an integral part of his system of rule.

Show trials at the same time provide convenient scapegoats on
whom to load all government crimes and failures that continually lead
to serious dislocations in Soviet economy, continually deepen the hatred
of the Soviet people for the regime and spur them in the direction of
revolutionary resistance.

It would be a serious mistake, however, to hold Stalin alone responsible
for these abominations. Stalin, no matter what his personal
guilt, is a political figure representing social forces. He could do nothing
unless a powerful segment of Soviet society stood behind him. This
segment is the bureaucracy that spreads its devouring cells throughout
the USSR like a deadly cancer. It is this bureaucracy, estimated by
Trotsky to embrace millions of upper-bracket personages, that found
it necessary in pursuit of power, prestige and special privilege, to
liquidate Lenin's regime of workers' democracy. In its rise to power,
the Soviet bureaucracy converted some, like Stalin, into creatures of
its own flesh while removing the bulk of Lenin's revolutionary generation
in a torrent of blood during the thirties and standing as prosecutor
and judge over those like Zinoviev and Kamenev whom it could break
morally and politically but never wholly win and therefore never
wholly trust.

The product of the isolation of the first workers' state in a backward
land and the delay of the socialist revolution in more advanced countries,
this bureaucracy is evolving in the direction of capitalist restor~
tion in the USSR. It has already restored privileges and oppressions
comparable to those of capitalist countries but has not yet achieved
the stability or acquired the functions of an exploiting class rooted in
the economy like the capitalists of Western Europe and America, for

Standing between the workers on one hand and the peasantry on
the other, responsive to the pressures from world imperialism, it now
makes concessions, now strikes wild blows in its struggle toward greater
autonomy. The vast purges mark times of sharp danger to its existence
which the bureaucracy sought to overcome by stricter consolidation
around the personal dictatorship of Stalin.


Credit for the definitive exposure of the Moscow frame-ups goes
to the "Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made Against Leon
Trotsky in the Moscow Trials." This impartial body was headed by
John Dewey, the eminent philosopher and teacher and one of the
veterans of American liberalism. Figures like Carlo Tresca, an outstanding
leader of the anarchist movement and one of the men most
hated by Mussolini, participated. Otto Ruehle, who stood side by side
in the Reichstag with Karl Liebknecht in fighting German imperialism
in the First World War, was another member. Ruehle was a refugee in
Mexico from the Nazi regime. The liberal journalist, Suzanne La
Follette, former editor of The Freeman and The New FreemanJ
acted as Secretary for the Commission. In carrying out its exhaustive
investigation, the Commission selected as its legal adviser John Finerty,
of world-wide fame in the defense of Tom Mooney and of Sacco and

This body took nine months to complete its work. The evidence
assembled by the Dewey Commission from a number of countries is
cited in its official report, Not Guilty. This volume of 422 pages, published
in 1938 by Harper & Brothers, established beyond doubt the
complete innocence of Stalin's victims and proved the trials to be the
greatest frame-ups in history.

As part of the inquiry, a sub-commission was sent to Coyoacan,
Mexico, to hear Trotsky's defense, to question him and to study the
evidence at his disposal. Invitations to participate in the hearing were
sent to the American Communist Party, to Joseph R. Brodsky, leading
American Stalinist attorney, to Troyanovsky, Soviet Ambassador t6
the United States, to the Communist Party of Mexico and the leading
Stalinist trade union spokesman in Mexico, Vicente Lombardo Toledano.
All of them refused to take advantage of the opportunity to
cross-examine Leon Trotsky or to submit any evidence that might help
bolster the Kremlin's charges.

The verbatim transcript of the proceedings at Coyoacan was published
in a book of 617 pages by Harper & Brothers in 1937 as The
Case of Leon Trotsky. From this invaluable record, now out of print,
Pioneer Publishers has selected Trotsky's final speech for reprint in the
present pamphlet. This presentation of the case for the defense at
the thirteenth session of the Dewey Commission is one of the great
speeches of our time. Here Leon Trotsky, the outstanding tribune of
the Bolshevik Revolution and probably the most brilliant and eloquent
speaker of his day, presents his proof that the trials were frame-ups.
How well Trotsky succeeded in demonstrating not only his innocence
but Stalin's guilt as organizer of the frame-ups can be judged
by the reader. Trotsky's speech makes it easier to understand why
Stalin refused to accept Trotsky's challenge to try to extradite him.
Trotsky was willing to stake his life for the opportunity to appear in
court to answer the charges of a representative of Moscow, but the
Kremlin knew the strength of Trotsky's case too well to risk that. In
the end, Stalin's answer to Trotsky's analysis of the Moscow trials was
a pick-axe.

The hearings at Coyoacan took place from April 10 to April 17,
1937, after the second Moscow trial but before the third one. That is
why Trotsky does not take up the last big public case in his speech.
But the reader can see for himself how effectively Trotsky brought
down in ruins a frame-up that was still in preparation.
The prestige of Stalinism never recovered from the moral blow dealt
it by the findings of the Dewey Commission. Not that the Kremlin
oligarchy and its allies have not tried to overcome the effects of the
crushing verdict.

During the alliance between the Stalinist bureaucracy and American .
imperialism in World War II, Washington displayed no compunction
at gilding the Moscow trials and certifying them as 18-carat gold.
In the form of after-thoughts, Joseph E. Davies, Ambassador to the
USSR, placed his stamp of approval on the frame-ups in a widelypublicized
book, Mission to Moscow. On official suggestion, Hollywood
followed with a costly film based on Davies' falsification. The Roosevelt
administration thus played a not insignificant part in trying to
foist these Moscow police shows on American public opinion as fair
trials. The reception of the public to these efforts was not marked,
however, by any excess of enthusiasm.

With the outbreak of the cold war, this Hollywood version of Russian
history was dropped out of circulation; Davies' ardent testimonial to
Stalin disappeared from the windows of book shops; and the millionaire
ambassador himself quietly withdrew from public attention. _
Moscow has responded in kind. The victims in today's trials in
Eastern Europe are charged with plotting with American imperialism
and Tito's g'overnment to commit crimes of the same type as those
charged "in the trials before the Hitler pact. Stalin's victims are always
conveniently assigned to the espionage service of whatever powers
happen to be in disfavor at the moment in Moscow.


If there were an iota of truth in the Moscow trials, the Stalinist
prosecution enjoyed a priceless opportunity for vindication at the
Nuremberg trial of Gennan war criminals which opened on November
20, 1945. The main accusation leveled at Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev,
Rykov, Bukharin and the rest was making a treasonous deal with the
Nazis. One of the prisoners at Nuremberg was Rudolph Hess, named
in the Moscow trials as an alleged contact man who had conducted
"lengthy negotiations" between Trotsky and Hitler. He could easily be
questioned about this charge. The secret Nazi archives were open
to the Stalinist attorneys at Nuremberg. Whatever facts they contained
could be made public. What better chance to rehabilitate Vyshinsky
and Stalin?

However, the Stalinists at Nuremberg, prosecuting the Nazis as war
plotters, maintained a studied silence about the Moscow trials and the
main charge that the old Bolsheviks in those sensational cases had
acted as Fifth Columnists for the Nazis.

In January 1946 the Revolutionary Communist Party; British section
of the Fourth International, reminded the Nuremberg court of
the slanderous charges in the Moscow trials. Shortly thereafter a large
group of well-known political and literary figures in Britain headed
by H. G. Wells and members of Parliament requested that a representative
of Natalia Trotsky be permitted to examine Hess, and that
any documents relating to the alleged conspiracy between Trotsky and
the Nazi leaders - if such documents existed - be produced. The
Nuremberg court failed to respond.

Then in the United States a petition signed by more than a hundred
prominent American political figures, trade unionists, clergymen, professors
and writers, requested investigation of the alleged complicity
of Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders with the Nazis in the preparation
of a war against the Soviet Union. The court still did not

Finally in May 1946 Albert Goldman, as attorney for Natalia
Trotsky, demanded the right to "cross-examine any witness who testifies
on this question and to examine any documents that might be
produced by the Russians in support of their frame-up."

Trotsky's widow held that the findings of the Dewey Commission
were conclusive, but for the benefit of those still doubtful was "per-
fectly willing to have the Nazi defendants, especially Hess, examined
and to ask the governments now in control of Germany to search the
Nazi archives for any documents dealing with the alleged conspiracy."
The Stalinists were not so willing. Washington, London and Paris
acquiesced in Moscow's reluctance, finding no difficulty in forming
a united front with Stalin's secret police on this question. The court
never broke its silence. Hess and the oth€r leading Nazis were sentenced
without a whisper from the Stalinist prosecution about the monstrous
charges used as an excuse to slaughter tens of thousands and send
millions to the slave labor camps.


Mraid of touching the Moscow frame-ups in any court that is not
completely a GPU puppet show, the Stalinists in their own inimitable
manner sought to escape from the public pillory. They could not avoid
doing something in view of the widespread expectations of their rank
and file that the findings of the Dewey Commission would at long last
be answered at Nuremberg. The complete lack of evidence at Nuremberg
of conspiracy between Trotsky and the Nazis made it all the
more imperative to again slander the Trotskyist movement and attempt
to justify Stalin's assassinations, particularly his murder of Leon

The sop to the rank and me was a bedtime spine-chiller, The Great
Conspiracy, by Sayers and Kahn. The blurb on the jacket advertises
it as "more strange and startling than the most sensational spy fiction."
It is difficult to find another statement in the book as true as that.
Since the main task was to remedy the failure of Moscow's representatives
to produce any evidence at Nuremberg confirming the
charges on which Lenin's generation of revolutionaries was murdered,
The Great Conspiracy includes an impressive bibliography that mentions
even works of Trotsky. The aim is to create the impression that
this fiction is an objective "history" containing "carefully documented
evidence" that "sets the record straight."

The authors must be credited with a certain amount of sly calculation
such as pickpockets often exhibit in plying their trade. How
many readers, particularly indoctrinated Stalinists, will check the assertions
of the highly praised authors against their alleged sources in
the formidable list of books they cite? The one in ten thousand who
does can be chalked up to overhead cost-he would no doubt go 'over
to Trotskyism sooner or later anyway. Still, the two fiction writers
refrained from including in their bibliography the book definitively
establishing the falsity of the Moscow trials, Not Guilty, the official
report of the Dewey Commission. Perhaps there's something to the
old adage about not mentioning the rope in the house of the hanged.
One fact alone exposes the fraudulence of the bibliography: the
principal source of documentary "evidence" is the transcript of the
Moscow trials; that is, the "confessions" proved by the Dewey Commission
to be a tissue of lies!

As for the other sources actually cited, an example from two pages
(16 and 17) of the first chapter of The Great Conspiracy will indicate
how light-fingered is the touch of these historians in fitting facts to
the needs of the GPU. They quote from Raymond Robins' Own
Story, a personal account published in 1920 by the unofficial representative
of the Woodrow Wilson administration to the young workers'
republic. Since most of Robins' dealings with the Soviet government
came under Trotsky's purview as People's Commissioner of Foreign
Affairs, Trotsky occupies a proportionately large space of Robins'
memoirs. The then unknown Stalin is not mentioned once.

Sayers and Kahn meet these unpleasant facts by simply crossing
out Trotsky's name in their quotations, substituting the name of
Lenin, garbling the quotations (see Raymond Robins' Own Story,
pp. 55-6), and adding by way of insult to Lenin that the founder of
the Bolshevik }larty "took an immediate liking" to this emissary of
American imperialism and avowed enemy of socialism. They weave in
Stalin's name, associating him with Lenin, by quoting a letter which
they say Raymond Robins wrote them in' 1943, almost a quarter of a
century after he first set down his impressions of the Bolshevik regime.
Yet the fly leaf of the book coolly proclaims, "None of the incidents or
dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors."
Thanks to Sayers and Kahn, American students of politics thus have
an example of the GPU way of handling history that can easily be
checked in any public library in the United States possessing both
The Great Conspiracy and Raymond Robins' Own Story. This instructive
example indicates how difficult it is for representatives of
Stalinism to touch any page in history, no matter how minor, without
responding to the compulsion to deface it. The lie has been elevated
into a system that now shapes the thinking of the lowest hack on the
payroll. On such a foundation rests the deification of Stalin!

With this small forgery of their own as the keynote of their book,
the authors go on to the "more strange and startling" episodes in their
spy fiction. They repeat the tale about Pyatakov flying from Berlin to
Oslo for an alleged meeting with Trotsky. Nine years after the exposure
of this lie, Sayers and Kahn "document" it by referring to the
"confession" of Pyatakov, the very "confession" that was exploded
while Stalin's victim was still on the stand!

They repeat the lie that "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" Italy. As already mentioned,
Trotsky was at Bagneres-de-Bigorre on the indicated date, but
Sayers and Kahn explain in a footnote that "Trotsky was then living
at St. Palais, a small village at the foot of the Pyrenees in the South of
France." Far from being at the foot of the Pyrenees, St. Palais is near
Royan, France, not less than 170 miles north of the Pyrenees, while
Merano is near the Italian-German border east of Switzerland. The
facts of geography disturb these popularizers of GPU frame-ups no
more than they did the master minds who originated this strange and
startling detail.

The famous Hotel Bristol, however, is left out of The Great Conspiracy.
Even the GPU, it seems, has been forced to permit the central
pillar of the first big Moscow trial to lay in rubble, after taking
Yagoda's head for the costly slip-up.

Among the other items left out of this book which pretends to be
"exhaustive" is the May 24, 1940, machine gun assault on Leon and
Natalia Trotsky. Is this because the machine-gun gang, after apprehension
by the Mexican police, proved to be members or sympathizers
of the Mexican Stalinist Party? Leader of this band who kidnapped
and murdered Robert Sheldon Harte was David Alfaro Siqueiros, the
well-known Mexican Stalinist painter. The authors of The Great
Conspiracy apparently felt that the machine-gun slugs imbedded in
the walls of Trotsky's home, Siqueiros' admission of the assault, and
the conviction of leading Mexican Stalinists so clearly pinned the guilt
on Stalin as the real plotter of assassination that not even they were
expert enough liars to maintain the original ~talinist version of this
attempt on the lives of Leon and Natalia Trotsky as a "self-assault"
organized by Trotsky himself.

However, they could scarcely avoid mentioning the slaying of
Trotsky. They present the version of the CPU assassin, Jacson, "documenting"
their story of the murder with judiciously selected quotations
from the murderer. They leave out, of course, the damning facts
established by the Mexican court pointing to the real organizer of the
crime in the Kremlin. Such court records, not written under the auspices
of the GPU, are anathema to "historians" of the Sayers and
Kahn type. 

An ironic item is the applause given the U. S. Federal District Court
that railroaded 18 American Trotskyist leaders to prison during World
War II for opposing imperialist war and advocating socialism. The
first conviction under the infamous Smith "Gag" Act, the Minneapolis
case became the precedent used by the Federal Court in New York in
convicting 11 Stalinist leaders nine years later during the cold war
between Washington and Moscow.


How well has The Great Conspiracy served the Kremlin bureaucracy?
Outside of Stalinist circles it has met with the derision that was
to be expected. The book did not raise the prestige of Moscow's secret
political police. Among Stalinist rank and filers its use as a text is
effective only until they encounter people acquainted with the real
history of the Russian Revolution and the facts of the Moscow frameups.
Then the book crumbles in their minds as did the frame-ups
themselves at the touch of truth.

In the long run, history and mankind cannot be cheated, not even
by the most strenuous efforts of the most totalitarian regime. Crushed
into the mud, truth stirs nevertheless, rises again and in the final analysis
shows itself more powerful than the enthroned lie. This has happened
in the case of the Moscow trials. Stalin stands convicted before
informed world public opinion as the real plotter against socialism
and the murderer of its outstanding spokesman, Leon Trotsky. That
is the verdict of history which no rehash of old falsifications can set

Although this verdict has been pronounced, sentence has not yet
been served upon Stalin's regime. The war granted a temporary stay
and even conferred on Moscow a brief rise in prestige among the
working masses abroad. More intimate acquaintance with the brutal
regime of pillage and murder has begun to change this, however. The
looting of Eastern Europe, the crushing of all moves toward independence,
the imposition of police governments have proved a harsh
but effective school. An understanding of the utterly reactionary character
of Stalinism is penetrating the ranks of the workers in Europe
and elsewhere. 

Lacking genuine popular support, the Stalin regime has no long
lease on life in the USSR. It is doomed. It is only a question of time
until the people of the Soviet Union with the aid of their allies among
the workers in other lands again take up the iron broom of revolution,
sweep the Stalinist filth from the face of the earth and resume their
march to the free world of the socialist future.

Trotsky's closing speech to the Dewey Commission in the hearings
at Coyoacan will play its part in bringing about this end.

New York, April 1950