Pierre Broué

The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin
in the USSR in 1932

(January 1980)

From Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 4, 2008, pp.161–189 (Appendix, pp. 189–192).
Originally published in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 5, January-March 1980.
Translated by the John Archer.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Pierre Broué’s Bloc of The Oppositions first appeared in the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 5, January–March 1980. It was significant for a number of reasons. First, the article not only reinforced our awareness of the degree of opposition to Stalin in what for him was the troubled year of 1932 but emphasized its aspiration to unity. Second, Broué documented for the first time that links existed between Trotsky and non-Trotskyist opposition groups inside the Soviet Union. Third, he was able to demonstrate that the later terror had its roots in earlier difficulties: the charges in the Trial of the Sixteen in 1936 were not simply pathological inventions but had some rational basis in the events of 1932. Fourth, the research undertaken by Broué and his team from Grenoble at Harvard confirmed the necessity for continuing archival research. Isaac Deutscher had earlier worked in the closed archive but The Prophet Outcast, while referring to Trotsky correspondence at this time, makes no reference to these matters.

The episode is further discussed in J. Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges (Cambridge 1985), pp. 119–123; P. Broué, Party Opposition to Stalin (1930–1932) and the First Moscow Trial in ??, Essays in Revolutionary Culture and Stalinism (1985); P. Broué, Trotsky (Paris 1988), pp. 700–712; P. Broué, Histoire d L’Internationale Communiste, 1991–1943 (Paris 1997), pp. 591–594; V.Z. Rogovin, 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror (1998), pp. 60–66. See also R.W. Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia (New Haven 1996), pp. 25–26 and M. Jansen and N. Petrov, Stalin’s Loyal Executioner: People’s Commissar Nickolai Yezhov, 1895–1940 (Stanford 2002), pp. 44–49. The opening of the Russian archives witnessed increasing interest in Ryutin and publication of his platform and documents: see, for example, B. Starkov, Trotsky and Ryutin: from the history of the anti-Stalin resistance in the 1930s in T. Brotherstone and P. Dukes, eds., The Trotsky Reappraisal (Edinburgh 1992). There is a brief discussion of the Riutin circle in I. Kershaw and M. Lewin, Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison (Cambridge 1997), pp. 40–44, where the Russian language literature is cited. Also worth consulting is R.W. Davies, The Syrtsov-Lominadze Affair, Soviet Studies, 1, 1981.

Broué needs no introduction to many of our readers: he is the doyen of contemporary historians of Trotskyism. Founder of the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, he is President of the Leon Trotsky Institute at Grenoble where he was for many years Professor of Contemporary History at the Institut d’Études Politiques. Much of his work is available in English, most recently and notably, The German Revolution, 1917–1923 (Leiden 2004) but it is with regret that we record that his Trotsky and Histoire de L’ Internationale Communiste still await translation.

This article was translated by the late John Archer. We have made small stylistic changes and updated some of the notes.

* * * * * *

Researchers from the Institut Léon Trotsky [1] made an important discovery, while investigating documents in the Library at Harvard College, which were destined to appear in the volumes of the Oeuvres for 1936 – 37. They confirmed the existence in the USSR in 1932 of a “bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin. It was a substantial discovery though it does not for a moment justify the old Stalinist thesis that there was a “terrorist” bloc. Nothing has appeared to support the statements which were taken seriously some years later in the “Moscow Trials”, but the discovery does call into question all the non-Stalinist and anti-Stalinist interpretations of the history of the USSR. This is because the counter-statements by Trotsky, his son Sedov and their defenders had hitherto been interpreted as denials that any bloc whatsoever was formed between Communist tendencies at the end of 1932.

The two documents which attracted our notice and which are reproduced in the appendix to this article are, first, a letter by Jean van Heijenoort [2], Trotsky’s secretary, dated 3 July 1937 and addressed to his son Leon Sedov [3] in Paris. The second is the copy of an undated letter in German from Trotsky to Sedov, the content of which enables it to be dated towards the end of 1932, in the October or November. This second letter provides evidence that the bloc existed and that Trotsky regarded joining it as “acceptable”, as well as his reasons for this opinion and the immediate objectives which he foresaw for this alliance. Van Heijenoort’s letter was written after a conversation with Trotsky; it confirms that the other document is authentic; it provides the elements of a chronology which enables it to be at least approximately dated, and establishes that a link really existed already at that date between the Trotskyist fraction, in the USSR and abroad, and IN Smirnov. [4] Smirnov was an old Bolshevik and oppositionist, who had repented in 1929 as the leader of a clandestine group which opposed Stalin in the USSR and a member of the “bloc”. The information which Van Heijenoort sent in this way to Sedov enable us to identify even who was the principal link between Smirnov and Leon Sedov, the old Bolshevik Holzmann [5], one of the accused and of the victims in the first Moscow Trial. In Sedov’s secret letters in 1932, he called Holzmann “the informant”.

These were the elements with which the Institut Léon Trotsky began after abandoning for a few days its plan of work on 1936–37 to look for the grounds for the existence of this bloc around 1932 and immediately afterwards, through the letters of Trotsky and his son and through the letters from the Soviet Union which were published in the Bulletin of the Opposition, the organ of the Russian Left Opposition which appeared in Berlin. The results of these researches were greater than they expected. They discovered, in one of the rare letters which Sedov wrote in invisible ink (citric acid) to his father to send information about the bloc, an undated letter to which Trotsky replied on 3 November 1932. They also found other allusions to the “bloc”, a whole discussion about the new conditions which its formation brought about, in the letters between Trotsky and his son, as well as documents, some of which had been published, which shed light on this period in the history of the USSR. Careful study of the minutes of the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition, of which Leon Sedov was a member, contributed some extra insights particularly in the matter of language.

What Groups were Involved?

Sedov’s letter in invisible ink reveals that the following groups existed: the Trotskyist Group in the USSR (“Our Group”), the Zinovievists, the group of I.N. Smirnov, the Sten–Lominadze Group, the “Safar(ov)–Tarkhan(ov) Group, the “right-wingers” and the “liberals”. Of course, not all of these participated in the “bloc”, but all of them knew of its existence and, according to Sedov, had contacts with it.

The authentic Trotskyist fraction had a very long history, but for all that it seems to have been reduced at this time to its lowest point. [6] As far as we know, the only one of those whom the comrades in deportation regarded as a “leader” and was at liberty in Moscow at this time was Andrei Konstantinov [7], who was not arrested until December 1932. But there is absolutely no doubt that a small group did exist and was in clandestine communication with Sedov at this time. The memoirs of an old German Communist, who died recently, bear witness to the contact which he personally made in Moscow at the beginning of 1933, on Sedov’s instructions, with a representative of the Moscow Trotskyists. [8] We should note that Sedov’s letter about the bloc mentions that the “old men” had capitulated, but declared that the links with the workers had been preserved.

The “Zinovievists” do not need to be introduced. Zinoviev and Kamenev had capitulated [9] at the beginning of 1928 and had joined in the uproar against the Trotskyists. But a decision of 6 October 1932 expelled them once again from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The letters reaching Trotsky and Sedov from the Soviet Union had for some time indicated that the two former leaders of the “New Opposition” of 1926 were experiencing a kind of recovery. There was talk of Zinoviev criticising Stalin’s German policy and reasserting what the policy of the “United Front”, laid down in Lenin’s time, had been. He was also said to have declared, semi-privately, that his worst political mistake had been in 1927, when he had decided to capitulate to Stalin and to join in the attacks on Trotsky, so as to work his way back into the party. [10] In any case (as Sedov made clear) Zinoviev and Kamenev were expelled in October 1932 at the very moment when the discussions with the Trotskyists were developing. [11] Officially, they were criticised for having failed to denounce certain oppositional activities, which the so-called Riutin–Slepkov Group had been carrying on over several months, and to which we shall return. [12]

The group led by Ivan N. Smirnov (whom Lenin had called “the conscience of the Party”), a member of the Left Opposition who had capitulated less abjectly than some others, such as Radek [13], was made up of former Left Oppositionists like him. In this connection, Sedov named Preobrazhensky and Ufimtsev. [14] We may suppose that there were other former Oppositionists, whom Trotsky categorised as “capitulators”, who were part of this group or at least knew of its existence; they had been arrested at the same time as those just named. There was Smilga, who had capitulated at the same time as Preobrazhensky and Radek. There was Perevertsev, who, under the pseudonym of “Peter”, had been one of the organisers of the Left Opposition in Western Europe in 1927. There was Boris Livshitz, who had long since been deported to Slavograd. There were the old Bolsheviks, Grünstein, Ter-Vaganian, Mratchkovsky [15] and others. Sedov’s letter in invisible ink gave Trotsky some information about how the GPU exposed the group. One of its members, who had lost his mind, was arrested by chance – and talked. Sedov emphasised that Smirnov knew the cause of his arrest perfectly well and had told him in particular that there had “been no weak point which came from abroad”. We may feel surprised that Trotsky agreed to contacts with “capitulators”, whom he had criticised sharply during the preceding years. He gave the explanation himself, when he wrote, on 3 March 1933, that the arrest of these people enabled one “to draw the balance of the experience of honest, sincere, non-careerist capitulation”. [16]

We have less information about the Sten–Lominadze Group. [17] Even the fact that Sedov writes of a “group” and links the two names is new. The generally accepted version distinguished between two groups, made up of former supporters of Stalin and of determined opponents of Trotsky. This distinction was drawn on the basis of the accusations which appeared in the official press in 1930, about the “Sten–Chatzin” Group [18], which was particularly implanted in the Communist Youth, and about the so-called Syrtsov–Lominadze Group [19], which Roy Medvedev says in his book on the history of Stalinism was “non-existent”. Medvedev claimed that Lominadze, a long-time favourite of Stalin and first secretary of the Party Committee in Transcaucasia, with the support of his deputy, Nikolai P. Chaplin [20], a former leader of the Communist Youth, had secured acceptance of a document which in 1930 had accused the leadership of “neglecting the needs of the workers and peasants” and denounced the party bureaucrats for “behaving like feudalists and nobles”. [21] Syrtsov, for his part, as President of the Council of People’s Commissars for the Russian Soviet Republic had drawn attention to the difficulties in the countryside and protested against the announcement of the victory of socialism. [22] As to the philosopher Jan E. Sten, who at one time had been giving Stalin lessons in “dialectics”, he was said, according to a manuscript quoted by Medvedev, to have forecast in 1928 that Stalin “would do things that would eclipse the Dreyfus and the Beilis affairs”. [23] Since then Sten had been in disgrace. However, a letter addressed to the Bulletin of the Opposition in November 1930 gave a quite different version of events, according to which Lominadze and Sten had been associated with the oppositional resolution of the Party Committee in Transcaucasia. They had been summoned to Moscow to see Stalin, had given ground and recognised their mistake – but immediately afterwards had held a meeting at Syrtsov’s house. The Moscow correspondent who wrote to Trotsky and Sedov did not mince words about those whom he called “two-faced people”, and added that the police had then searched Syrtsov’s place and discovered “minutes of meetings which revealed the existence of the bloc”. [24] Another letter from the same correspondent (who signed himself N.N.) says that the “Group” (Syrtsov and Lominadze as well as Sten) had been denounced by a provocateur named Reznik, and that the secret meeting was held in the house of an important Party member named Nussinov. According to Reznik, Syrtsov had first adopted a provocative attitude in the Politburo, calling Stalin “a stupid man who is leading the country to ruin”, and declaring that there was no longer a Politburo, but only a “Group of Four”, Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovitch and Ordonikidze. [25] The two men were removed from the Central Committee and transferred to subordinate jobs. In 1932 Syrtsov was managing a factory and is never mentioned, while Lominadze was the local Party secretary at Magnitogorsk. All these pieces of information justify the conclusion that Sedov’s version about a Sten–Lominadze Group, which included former leaders of the Communist Youth, such as J.C. Chaplin and Chatzkin, deserves more credit than that of Roy Medvedev.

We know almost nothing about the “Safarov–Tarkhanov” Group. There is no doubt that Safarov is an old Bolshevik who was well known for his work in France during the war and in connection with Far Eastern questions after the revolution. He was a member of the “New Opposition” in Leningrad in 1926, but did not follow Zinoviev and Kamenev when they broke with Trotskyism in 1927–28. Like Tarkhanov, he was deported at the same time. [26] The group seems to have been a product of the historical trajectory of the “Zinovievist” Group which joined the “Trotskyists”. They later capitulated, but despite that did not go back to their original grouping.

The group which Sedov calls “the right-wingers”, on the other hand, presents greater problems. As we know, that term was commonly used to describe those in the Party who followed Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky [27], from the time of the NEP up to that of their leaders’ “self-criticism”. But there is no indication to support the hypothesis that these people carried on any activity in 1932, or even that they maintained a certain oppositional spirit. On the contrary, the minutes of meetings of the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition and some of Sedov’s letters make it appear that at that time he applied the term, “right-wingers”, to what historians call the “Riutin Group”, a new group which appeared precisely in 1932. We have only indirect evidence that it existed and carried on activity. Its documents have never been unearthed. Riutin [28] was an old Menshevik teacher, who joined the Bolshevik Party after October. He had been a pillar of the “Right” and had particularly distinguished himself in the struggle against the Unified Opposition in 1926–27 by organising “strong arm” squads, to terrorise everyone likely to sympathise with it. However, in 1928 he had been one of the first Stalin attacked during his preparations to eliminate the right; he was relieved of his responsibilities in the Moscow Committee of the Party and as editor-in-chief of Krasnaya Zvezda. It was then that he had formed a group, with P.A. Galkin, the conspiratorial character of which no one denies. In this group were to be found elements from various currents, such as disciples of Bukharin, bright jewels of the Institute of Red Professors, such as Alexander Slepkov and Dimitri Faretsky [29], as well as little known former “Left Oppositionists” and especially, senior members of the apparatus, such, for example, as Nikolai A. Uglanov [30], and even prestigious Old Bolsheviks like the metalworker, Kayurov [31], who led the Vyborg district in Leningrad during the revolution. The Group had drafted a voluminous quasi-manifesto of more than 160 pages, about which we have several indirect pieces of evidence. Ante Ciliga says that it declared: “the Right-wing has proved correct in the economic field and Trotsky in his criticism of the system inside the Party”. [32] It sharply criticised Bukharin for his capitulation to Stalin and advocated the immediate re-acceptance into the party of all those who had been excluded, beginning with Trotsky and his comrades. According to the Menshevik historian, Nikolaevsky, Bukharin told him that the text stated that Stalin “was in his way the evil genius of the Soviet revolution: pushed by an appetite for power, he had led the revolution to the brink of ruin”. [33] Victor Serge adds that at the end of a detailed study of the career of Stalin, the manifesto of the Riutin Group recalled the precedent of the agent-provocateur Azev employed by the Okhrana, and his role in the Socialist-Revolutionary Party [34], to declare that one could legitimately ask oneself whether Stalin’s policies “are not the fruits of an immense and quite conscious provocation”. [35] Bukharin and Serge likewise agree in reporting that the manifesto declared for “the elimination of Stalin”, without which (it wrote) “it was impossible to restore its health to the Party or the country”. [36] It was for failing to denounce the existence or the circulation of this manifesto – which did circulate, according to our evidence, in the factories in Moscow and elsewhere – that Zinoviev and Kamenev were officially excluded from the Party again in 1932. The statements of all the witnesses agree in stating that Stalin in the Politburo called for the head of Riutin, whom he accused of working for his assassination, and that the Politburo refused, influenced by Kirov. Riutin kept his head for a certain time but was imprisoned in an isolator where conditions were hard.

There remains the last of the groups which Sedov mentioned in his letter. The role of this particular group was, beyond question, important in the history of the bloc, although the group never was part of the bloc; he called it “the liberals”. The historian is here reduced to conjectures, though the question is clearly a key one for the interpretation of the history of the period. Who were “the liberals”? Several hypotheses are plausible, including that of Sedov, who suggested that “liberals” meant “all oppositionists”. The one hypothesis which it seems possible to sustain – though with reservations, because the data is lacking is that we have here members of the apparatus who were hostile to the policy of terror. Did they include Kirov himself? His positions have frequently been stressed by official historians in the Khrushchev period and there is an unverified report that he made contact with Sedov in Paris in 1934, through a trusted agent. [37] Or, without implicating Kirov himself, did the Group include “this important number of Party leaders ... including essentially the secretaries of regional committees and secretaries of non-Russian Central Committees”, who in 1934 under the leadership of I.M. Vareikis [38] formed an “illegal bloc”, which attempted to replace Stalin by Kirov during the XVIIth Congress of the CPSU? [39] The question marks are necessary here. May I be permitted to add that, if the “liberals” whom Sedov mentioned were not these people, then at any rate they must resemble them like brothers? Moreover, for an “illegal bloc” to have been able to reveal itself during the XVIIth Congress, it must have had earlier origins and solid foundations.

The Short Lived Bloc

Sedov’s letter in invisible ink reveals unambiguously that three groups joined the agreement which enabled the bloc to come into existence, the Group of Smirnov and the ex-Trotskyist “capitulators”, that of the Zinovievists and that which Sten and Lominadze led. According to Sedov, discussions were going on with the Safarov–Tarkhanov Group, and he expected that these discussions would lead it to join the bloc soon. Trotsky questioned Sedov about the attitude of the bloc to what remained of the former “leftist” oppositions, the “Decist” Group [40] and the Workers’ Opposition [41], but we do not have Sedov’s reply on this point. The materials as a whole show that the “bloc” or at least one of its constituent parts was in contact with the Riutin–Slepkov Group, the “rightists”. But they acted independently of each other, as Trotsky’s remark shows: “The opinion of the allies that one should wait until the rightists are more involved does not have my agreement, as far as concerns our fraction.” He added at once: “From the political point of view, that would mean leaving the field open to the rightists.” [42]

The problem of the “liberals” was far from clear. In this connection too, Trotsky wrote to Sedov on 12 October (1932): “As far as the liberals are concerned, it is necessary to be very, very careful. Apart from having to fulfill any promises to them, we have not the slightest interest in rejecting them. Even in a modest way, they have given us more than anyone on a ‘practical’ line, to be sure, and not politically.” [43] What is the meaning of this phrase, which only documents that we have not yet discovered at Harvard, which in all probability were destroyed, can illuminate? Which of the “liberal” bureaucrats gave practical help to the Left Opposition? Who were those, some of whom really turned towards the others who initiated the “bloc” and the Trotskyist fraction? We have to resign ourselves for the present to leaving these questions unanswered.

In any case, it cannot be denied that there were discussions between the Trotskyists and the “liberals”. Trotsky noted in his letter of 30 October 1932: “That the liberals and their nearest neighbours today find us too conciliatory is in the normal order of things ... The liberals say ‘We must wait for the rightists to act’: that means that they are in fact choosing the road of passivity. And, to us, they will say: they are too moderate: they do not turn enough to the masses, etc.” [44]

What was the content of the “bloc”? We must note first that we are dealing with distinct, independent groups. In the letter which caught van Heijenoort’s attention in 1937, and which attracted ours in January 1980, Trotsky wrote: “The proposal for a bloc seems to me to be perfectly acceptable. I stress that we are dealing with a bloc and not a fusion”. And he writes, specifically: “The bloc does not exclude reciprocal criticism. Any propaganda by our allies in favour of capitulations (such as Grünstein, etc.) will be inexorably and pitilessly resisted by us.” [45]

This was the setting within which, as Van Heijenoort wrote to Sedov in 1937, after questioning Trotsky on the subject: “The content of the bloc is strictly laid down ... and amounts to no more than the exchange of information.” In 1932, Trotsky was writing: “How is the bloc going to express itself? For the moment, principally in the field of exchange of information. The allies keep us informed about what concerns the Soviet Union, while we do the same for them as far as the Communist International is concerned. We should reach an agreement about very exact means of corresponding. The allies should send us letters for the Bulletin. The Bulletin undertakes to publish the documents of the allies, but it reserves the right to comment freely on them” [46]. And he sent to his son the political questions to raise: “what does the ally think of the draft programme published in the last issue of the Bulletin? What does the ally think of the problem of the Communist International (we regard this problem as no less important than that of the USSR)?” [47]

From this viewpoint, we have a possibility of testing whether the agreement really worked. The “informer” unquestionably provided Sedov with at least one document from the pen of one of the leaders of the groups forming the bloc. This was the article published in Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 31, (November 1932) entitled: The Economic Situation of the Soviet Union and dated from “Moscow, end of September”. This bears the signature “Ko”. Sedov said at the time of the first Moscow Trial that it served to indicate I.N. Smirnov. This is confirmed in Van Heijenoort’s letter of 1937, which states: “The Kol mentioned must be Kolokolnikov, the pseudonym which Sedov gave to Smirnov”. An attentive examination brings out other points which unquestionably reveal the contributions of the “allies” to the correspondence which appeared in the Bulletin of the Opposition even before the alliance.

To begin with, there is the letter signed “MM”, in Bulletin No. 28, (June 1932). It is probably a disguise or a “working over” of the very similar letter which we found in the Trotsky Archives, in the Safrys folder, signed “Svoi”. [48] The correspondent of the Bulletin is in fact remarkably well informed about what was happening, not only in the apparatus, but at its summits. For example, he says (this would hardly be likely if he were a “Trotskyist”) that he was present on 23 February, when Stalin’s entry at the Bolshoi Theatre was received “in glacial silence”. He reports on discussions in the corridors between delegates to the XVIIth Party Conference (January–February 1934) about Stalin’s persistent silence there. He mentions the impact which Trotsky’s article, Germany: the Key to the International Situation, had in the bureaucracy. He mentions the disagreement of Molotov with a possible restoration of the internal market. He describes the welcome which N.I. Muralov [49] gave to notable capitulators. Still more decisively, he describes “the Grünstein couple”, as well as Veronika S. Kasparova [50], as “irreproachable old-Bolshevik revolutionaries” whereas Trotsky, as we know, regarded Grünstein as a “capitulator” and, in his reply to Sedov’s information, stressed that all propaganda in favour of people like him should be “inexorably and pitilessly” fought. [51]

The phenomenon is still clearer in the letters which appear in the Bulletin of November 1932, No. 31, and those which follow it. The Trotskyists in the USSR would have to enjoy the privilege of being everywhere at once if they could be the informants, or even the recipients, of most of the details which appear in this correspondence. A letter signed N. mentions several bureaucratic jokes about Stalin, conversations at the beginning of the Plenum of the Central Committee (January 1933) and in the corridors at the Executive Committee of the Communist International, and even a courageous intervention by the Pole, Lensky, about the situation in Germany. [52] In issue No. 32, another correspondent reports on the atmosphere in a meeting of the Society of Old Bolsheviks and on the reactions of its members to a speech by Piatnitsky. The same correspondent describes what happened in a meeting of the bureau of the Moscow Committee of the Party, and the debates about constructing a skating rink on Red Square, about which no public statement was made. Bulletin, No. 33, publishes a Letter from Moscow, which gives precise information about how a top trade union leader, Nemchenko, was arrested. It discloses the identity of the provocateur (Nikolsky) who betrayed to the police the clandestine group in the Commissariat of Agriculture, which included Eismont, Tolmachev and the former rightwinger and ex-People’s Commissar, A.P. Smirnov. [53] The same document gives an echo of what happened at the Plenum of the Central Executive Committee, how Voroshilov [54] treated Rykov there, as well as what Kirov said in a “restricted, and closed” meeting of Communists in Leningrad.

None the less, by the time these articles appeared in Berlin in the Bulletin, the “bloc” whether or not it had really been able to express itself in other ways and, for example, to hold formal meetings had already been terminated by the arrest of those principally concerned. The letter from Sedov which lists the components of the Bloc mentions at the same time the arrest of the leaders of the Smirnov Group and of Smirnov himself and the collapse of the “old members” of the Left Opposition. A letter from Moscow, dated 6 December 1932, mentions the arrest on 24 and 25 November of oppositionists from the “Eismont group”: Eismont, Commissar for Supplies in the RSFSR, Tolmachev, head of road transport, and A.P. Smirnov himself. It mentions the fate of other “allies” or “contacts” of the bloc, who had already been arrested earlier: “Kamenev was deported to Minussinsk, Slepkov to Taron, and Riutin was held in the isolator at Chelyabinsk. It had been suggested to Smirnov that he should leave Moscow.” [55] Another letter, signed TT, dated February 1933 [56], which seems to all appearances to have come from an authentic member of the Trotskyist fraction, listed the personalities who had been arrested in the preceding few months, people who had belonged to the groups which made up the bloc or were in contact with it.

The fate of anyone whose name was mentioned from that time as having connections with the “Bloc of the Opposition” was immediately sealed. Among them, Lominadze committed suicide in 1934 at Chelyabinsk, after receiving a summons from the GPU. [57]. Ivan N. Smirnov, Ter-Vaganian and Mratchkovsky, on the one hand, and Zinoviev and Kamenev on the other, as well as their principa1 collaborators, were defendants in the first Moscow Trial, were sentenced to death and were executed. Jan Sten, Chatzkin, Chaplin, Riutin, Uglanov, Kayurov, Preobrazhensky, Smilga, Ufimtsev, Perevertsev, Grünstein, Kasparova and Safarov disappeared, most of them arrested in 1937 at the latest during the Great Purge. Doubtless no one can explain why a single one of them, Boris Lifshits [58], survived until after the war.

We know that all these ex-oppositionists had shared the fate of the group of the “liberal bureaucrats” in this period. The standard-bearer of the latter, Kirov, was assassinated in 1934, and we must not forget that Khrushshev said that the tracks of the assassins of Kirov led up to Stalin himself. Kuibychev [59], who, according to Medvedev, “supported” Kirov in the Politburo, like Orjonikidze, died in suspicious circumstances – assassinated by the Trotskyist–Zinovievist rightists, said Stalin while Ordjonikidze committed suicide. [60] The head of the “illegal bloc” which appeared at the 1934 Congress, Variekis, disappeared in 1937, like most of the apparatchiks, who, like him, had played the game of the “liberals” against the terror. The bloc of the Oppositions was consummated in common graves. But the point is this: it had at first been a real threat and, by the very fact of having been formed, had been a political reality. We cannot believe that it did not have a very great influence on the policy of repression, which Stalin directed against the Old Bolsheviks and the generation of the companions of Lenin who had begun to coalesce in 1932.

Trotsky and the Slogan: “Get Rid of Stalin”

The correspondence between Trotsky and Sedov between October and December 1932 the period of the “bloc” constitutes an extraordinary set of documents. They enable us to follow almost from day to day the efforts of Trotsky to cling as closely as possible to what was really happening in the Soviet Union, and to grasp the full significance of the “bloc”, the cement of which precisely was hostility to Stalin, and the desire to drive him out of the General Secretary’s position.

Trotsky opened the discussion about whether the slogan, “Get Rid of Stalin”, was appropriate on 17 October. “Get Rid of Stalin”, he wrote, “is correct in a well-defined, concrete sense”, but contrary to the “allies” and the “right-wingers”, he did not think it an appropriate one. In fact, he wrote that this slogan would not be dangerous “if we were strong”. But did it not risk being supported by the émigrés, by the Mensheviks and by the “internal Thermidoreans”? He went on: “It is always possible that in a few months Stalin will be obliged to defend himself against the Thermidorean pressure, and that we shall be obliged to support him momentarily”. Indeed, “this stage is not yet past and, consequently, this slogan does not correspond to the needs of the movement”. [61]

He returned to this question in another letter, dated 24 October. In it he stressed the importance of what “S(voi)” had communicated about what is being said in the bureaucracy: “If Trotsky comes back, he will shoot us all one after another.” According to Trotsky, they should avoid any slogan, any formulation, which could be interpreted as an intention to get rid of everybody and everything and to settle old scores, etc.” He explained: “The nearer the denouement approaches, the more we must act in a supple, conciliatory way without for all that making the slightest concession of principle.” [62]

He returned on 30 October to the question of the “liberals” who would regard the Trotskyists as “too moderate”. He repeated: “We must pay the greatest attention to the middle-rank bureaucrats, who say that, if Trotsky comes back, he will start up a cruel repression. That is today the principal weapon of the Stalinists. Our platform is entirely turned towards the masses. Our next tactical step must be to take account of the wall which separates us from them.” [63]

On 7 November, Trotsky discussed the question of knowing “when and how” they would be able to “raise the apparatus against the master”, He insisted: “Raising it consists in giving to the hesitant apparatus the opportunity of saying, in opposition to the master: ‘Those whom he persecutes and hounds are ready to work even with him. These are honest, useful people. The course which the master has taken is, therefore, a bad one’. He developed this idea: “We do not change our criticisms by one iota. We wage a ruthless, courageous campaign against the policy of the master on the international plane, and at the same time we declare: ‘We are ready to work in a common organisation even with the master; this demonstrates, on the one hand, our devotion, to use an elegant word, and on the other hand, our firm confidence in our own strength. To have a more radical position today would create a confusion of slogans with hostile groups.” [64]

Finally, he wrote on 27 December 1932, an article in the form of an interview, which shows that he intended it for publication:

Q. Is the ruling Stalinist fraction not going to give way to yours?

A. The future will show. It is the Party which will declare what it wants. We shall content ourselves with demanding that the Left Opposition be re-admitted into the Party. We are ready today, as we have been in past years, to collaborate fully with the fraction which today is in power, and in every task.

Q. If I understand you rightly, then, you agree to collaborate with Stalin?

A. No doubt whatever of that. As a fraction, we have often made declarations on this matter. In the Bulletin of the Opposition, for October 1929, you can read: “The Opposition places the basis of the question on a higher level than the form, the interests of the revolution above the ambitions of an individual or a group. It is ready to occupy the most modest place in the party. But on condition that it remains itself.” It is not about Stalin, but of something which is of greater significance than the personal destiny of everyone of us. [65]

It is likely that, by this date, he had managed to convince Sedov, who had strongly protested against the distinction which Trotsky had drawn between the slogan “Get Rid of Stalin” and the slogan “Get Rid of the Rule of the Individual”, in his letter dated 12 October 1932. Sedov declared: “Before everything else we have to drive out the present leadership and get rid of Stalin nothing but their liquidation can bring victory”. This was the position, in the last analysis, of Riutin and his associates in the group of “right-wingers”, if not of the “liberals”.

The Turn in 1933

The problem of understanding how the situation – aspects of which were the re-groupment of Stalin’s adversaries, a profound discontent among party cadres and a loss of confidence in the leadership by those who until then had been its supporters – could be transformed in a relatively short space of time remains to be solved. In fact in 1934 it was the Trotskyist Old Guard who capitulated and bowed their heads before Stalin. Rakovsky, Sosnovsky [66] and, soon afterwards, Kasparova after years of desperate resistance in appalling conditions. In December 1934 Stalin rid himself of the embarrassment of Kirov. The preparations began in the prisons of the GPU for the trial of Kirov’s “murderers” – in fact of the members of the “bloc”. These people appeared, broken, and confessed to the cynical accusations of the prosecutor, Vishinsky, to the catcalls of the public. [67] The indictment mentioned the “bloc” of 1932. We know that Stalin dissatisfied with the results of the trial of the “Sixteen” telegraphed to his colleagues in the Politburo, on 25 September 1936, that the GPU had been “four years behind”. The figure “four” was not there by chance. It showed clearly that, in Stalin’s eyes, everything had begun precisely in 1932. [68]

We think that the reversal of the situation cannot possibly be explained simply in terms of the repression, which began in the later months of 1932 and which the Plenum of the Central Committee confirmed, in limited forms, in January 1933. For precisely at this date, it was still a question of limited repression. Blood was not spilled in 1933 because the “liberals” opposed this course. Ivan N. Smirnov was found guilty of “contacts abroad” his personal meeting in Berlin with Sedov in 1931 and his sending Holzmann to Sedov in 1932 but was only sentenced to ten years in prison. Riutin was convicted of writing the document which treated Stalin as a “provocateur”, but he was only sent back into an isolator. Others, especially the members of the groups that were betrayed by an informer the Smirnov Group, for example, were likewise sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Most of the oppositionists, however, were merely deported. Lominadze was not arrested; he was to be arrested only in 1934, as we know. Sten was deported; he was to be arrested only in 1937. Most of the people who were linked in one way or another with the bloc and with the discussion in autumn 1932 were arrested only at the end of 1934 and in the early months of 1935. That is the date after which the militants, who had been expelled from the Party and had been arrested either in deportation or while they were still at liberty, began to be tortured and to be scientifically prepared by the GPU with a view to their “confessions” What had happened in the interval?

Jan Van Heijenoort, who was Trotsky’s secretary from Prinkipo to Coyoacán, recorded in his memoirs the deep physical and (doubtless) moral change in Trotsky in the early months of 1933. [69] He confided in the present writer something which he did not write in his book, namely that Trotsky became aware at this period that he would never return to the Soviet Union. He had already suffered the blow of the death of his daughter, Zinaida, by suicide. The exile was doubtless even more deeply affected by the brutal reversal in the world situation which the unopposed victory of Hitler’s gangs in Germany signified and the destruction in a few weeks of the organised workers’ movement and of the chances of revolution for a generation. The victory of Hitler opened the door to the defeat of the working class throughout all Europe, and marked the beginning of the inexorable approach of World War II.

And the Soviet Union was not outside this world which the defeat marked in this way. The destruction of the German workers’ movement meant the destruction of all the apparatuses of the Communist International in that country, and the disappearance of that network which Leon Sedov had patiently woven within them, and which had enabled him to keep up contacts with the Oppositionists in the Soviet Union. After 1933 Trotsky and Sedov were formally cut off from the Soviet Union. This is a fact of enormous importance, and they had no answer to it. Isolation, the fascist threat and false appeals for “unity” broke Christian Rakovsky more surely, we cannot doubt, than had the hellish cold at Barnaul or the dreadful conditions of his unsuccessful attempt to escape and his recapture. It was despair in the face of such a defeat which delivered the Old Bolsheviks into the hands of Stalin’s executioners; nothing else could have forced them to bend, as long as they retained hope. Many Oppositionists who sincerely desired reforms no longer accepted the risks to which a political crisis would henceforth expose the country, under the threat from Germany. From that time onwards, no one could reasonably hope to “get rid of Stalin”, whose position was consolidated by Hitler’s victory, at precisely the moment when that position was becoming critical.

None the less, Stalin had still to manoeuvre for a long time before he could mount the counter-attack to wipe out those who had thought even for a moment about removing him or striking him down. Concessions to the “liberals”, who were always wrangling with him at the top of the apparatus? Awareness of the need to avoid re-unifying the front of his adversaries in any other way? The Oppositionists who had been expelled and arrested in 1932 had been accused of having formed a secret organisation to restore “capitalism” and the kulak in particular. It is true that Zinoviev and Kamenev, who had been denounced as accomplices, were none the less allowed to come back to Moscow in March 1933 after an acceptable self-criticism. On 8 May, Stalin and Molotov signed a circular denouncing what it called “a saturnalia of arrests”. [70] In the days following the XVIIth Congress (January–February 1934) at which the “illegal bloc” of the “liberals” tried to remove Stalin to replace him with Kirov, if we are to believe what Khrushchev wrote and the memoirs which Roy Medvedev [71] quoted the liberation began of thousands of political prisoners. But the German defeat handed the initiative back again to Stalin; he seized it, and with murderous determination he struck after December 1934 and the assassination of Kirov …

The Bloc and the Moscow Trial

When we re-examine the Moscow Trials in the light of this recently discovered information, we find another problem raised. The indictment dates the conclusion of the bloc in 1932 as the starting point of the “terrorist activity” of the accused. [72] From their side, Trotsky and Sedov denied that the bloc even existed.

Let us look back first to the report of the first trial. Here the terms “bloc” and “unified centre” are used interchangeably, when the term “unified centre” should rather be used to mean the leadership of the bloc. This does not make our enquiry easy. According to the indictment, “the unification of the Trotskyist Group and the Zinovievist Group, who organised a unified centre” had taken place at the end of 1932. [73] The term “Trotskyist Group” here means those who presented themselves as such at the trial, namely I.N. Smirnov, Ter-Vaganian and Mratchkovsky. The verdict corrects the date and places the origin of the bloc in autumn 1932. [74] Several meetings are mentioned in the course of the trial. One of them took place in the country house of Zinoviev and Kamenev at Illinskoye [75], another at Zinoviev’s house [76], and then one in Kamenev’s house [77] and the last in Mratchkovsky’s carriage. [78] When Zinoviev was questioned about whether he had received terrorist “directives” from Smirnov, he replied that he had “had negotiations with him on two or three occasions”. [79] According to the indictment, Smirnov made a full confession at his examination [80], and replied to the question, when had he “left the centre” that “he had no intention of leaving it”; “there had been nowhere else to go”. [81] On the subject of the makeup of the “unified centre”, the indictment and the verdict both state that it was composed of seven persons, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Yevdokimov and Bakayev, for the Zinovievists, and Smirnov, TerVaganian and Mratchkovsky for the Trotskyists. [82] The confessions of the defendant Reingold mention an additional member, Sokolnikov [83], about whom Kamenev specified, under the pressure of the prosecutor, that he was a “secret” member. Kamenev likewise added to the leaders of the “Zinovievists” the name of the Old Bolshevik, Kuklin. [84] Smirnov mentioned the participation of “the Group of Lominadze” in the “bloc”, and Mratchkovsky that of the “Lominadze-Chatzkin Group”, while they were definite that Lominadze had been “a member of the centre”. [85] Bakayev, however, included two other Old Bolsheviks in the “centre”, Kuklin (already mentioned) and Charov. [86] The names of other militants from all the Oppositions and every period, are mentioned several times in connection with the linkages in the “centre” and its “negotiations with a view to joint activity”. [87] Let us notice also the role which the confessions of several of the accused attribute to the Old Bolshevik, Gaven, who is presented as an agent who is in touch with Trotsky but who was not in the dock. [88]

As we know, the indictment, which started from the existence of the “bloc” in 1932, and relied on the confessions extracted by torture and blackmail from broken men, declared that Trotsky had then given “terrorist instructions and directives” to his supporters and, in particular, had organised the assassination of Kirov. Trotsky’s friends, following the line of Sedov and of Trotsky himself, had no difficulty in showing how improbable and stupid was the argument about a “centre” which functioned when practically all its members were in exile or in jail. The first reaction of the French Section, the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste, took this line, in a statement of 17 August 1936, which could not have been drafted without Sedov’s agreement, even if he did not draft it with his own hand; it confined itself to the charges that “a bloc” had been formed, which had then functioned, with people who were under arrest and could not possibly have communicated with each other.

Perhaps it is the very stupidity of this charge which has concealed from the eyes of historians the few grains of truth on which it tried to rely to get people to believe in the terrorist character of the “bloc” and the “criminal” role of the accused. But there can be no doubt that the defence of the accused, as Leon Sedov presented it in The Red Book of the Moscow Trials [89], has very much contributed to convincing researchers that there never was a bloc in 1932, not even a political bloc. When Sedov sifted the various reports of the trial which he possessed, he left not a stone standing of either the indictment or the confessions. He examined the contradiction between the indictment and the verdict as to the date when the bloc was formed. [90] He demonstrated that, of the meetings which the accused “admitted” if they really did ever take place the first three were meetings of the Zinovievist Group and the last was of the Trotskyist Group. [91] He stresses that no element in the indictment and no confession ever mentions any meeting whatever of the “unified centre”, and shows that the answers of Zinoviev and Smirnov are equivalent to a denial even that it had existed. [92] He was ironical about the conflicting accounts of the different defendants about the makeup of the centre, and about the absurdity of the statement that the secret centre could have secret members [93], stressing that men whom some of the accused name as leaders of the “centre” such as Sokolnikov, Kuklin and Charov or as its agents such as Gaven, do not figure among the accused, any more (moreover) than does any member of the Lominadze.Chatzin group, Sten and others. [94]

Sedov mentions the difficulties which the Stalinist regime encountered in the years 1930–32, the rise of popular discontent and the growing anxiety and mistrust in the party apparatus. He writes:

Therefore, in 1932, we can observe a certain re-awakening, though a pretty feeble one, of the groups which previously had capitulated to Stalin: the group of Zinoviev and Kamenev, the group of the former Stalinists of the left of Lominadze–Chatzin–Sten (those whom they called the ‘leftists’), of Smirnov and his friends, and also several right-wingers, Riutin–Slepkov and others. But we must not exaggerate this re-awakening. For the majority, it had no more than the character of discussion in the family circle. They would go no further than “frank” conversations, dreaming that it would be good to have a new policy and a new leadership. It would seem that people from different circles and different groups were seeking some personal contacts and links with each other. The most daring perhaps said that it would be good to form a ‘bloc’. But it is probable that they did not go even so far as to say that. Today – four years later? – Stalin extracts a ‘bloc’ and even a “unified terrorist centre” out of all this.

It is evident that the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists did not join any bloc with one of these groups. All these groups at one moment or another had capitulated to Stalin.

That is why they were irreconcilably opposed to the Bolshevik-Leninists, who regarded and continue to regard their capitulation to Stalin as one of the greatest crimes against Communism and the interests of the working class. On this question, the Left Opposition took a particularly intransigent stand. In the eyes of the Bolshevik-Leninists, the groups and these people did not and could not have any political or moral authority.

The Left Opposition welcomed the re-awakening of these groups – the “Party liberals” as it called them – as having an essentially symptomatic significance. Of course, it could serve as a point of departure for the return of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov and the others to the old banner of the Bolshevik-Leninists. But nothing came of it. [95]

This document, written on the morrow of the first Moscow Trial, is in complete contradiction to the document in invisible ink which Sedov wrote in 1932, bearing witness to the negotiations with the “Trotskyists” in the USSR, as well as to Trotsky’s letter which approves the formation of the “bloc” as an alliance and not a fusion, with the comments by Trotsky which have been quoted above. [96] Sedov’s statement of his case about the “bloc” of 1932 carries conviction only on one point, that of the “centre”, or the collective leadership, of the bloc. He wrote, in fact, in a note to his chapter on “the formation and the activity of the ‘unified centre’”:

The fact remains that the centre was organised and at the same time ceased to be active. It was organised, no doubt, for the special purpose of ceasing to do anything. [97]

We believe that the truth is that the “hardly-organised ‘bloc’” could not provide itself with a real centre – because of the repression, because it is the same letter from Sedov to his father that explains the make-up and the aims of the bloc that reports that the GPU has destroyed Smirnov’s group. The conclusions follows: there was a “political bloc”, though not a “unified centre” – and not at all a “terrorist centre”, which simply does not arise.

Let us come straight to the point. We see nothing in Sedov’s attitude that is not extremely normal – it is an attitude which Trotsky shared – of denying in 1936 that a bloc had been formed in 1932. Some of the reasons for this are self-evident; there are others. What was to be gained in 1936 by acknowledging the existence in 1932 of an ephemeral bloc? Historical truth perhaps would have been served, but that could wait. Would it have helped to explain that this was a purely political bloc, and not a terrorist bloc, as the Moscow prosecutors and judges claimed? It was of no interest, and could only have provided the world-wide propaganda machine of Stalinism with supplementary arguments and head-lines, such as “Trotsky’s Son Confesses: He was in touch with the Terrorists”, etc. Finally, it seems clear to us that Trotsky had no interest whatever in admitting, in the face of the gaze of these people, who claimed that they were guilty of terrorism, that he had believed, four years before, that he could conclude an alliance with them. But there are other arguments which justify the denials by Sedov and Trotsky. The men in the dock in Moscow were the people who confessed, to be sure. But they did not confess everything, and others in the hands of the GPU continued to hold out, because that was their duty as anti-Stalinist fighters. No doubt there were Trotskyists among them, but there were others, such as, for example, members of the Lominadze Group, none of whom appeared in a trial. To acknowledge in 1936 that a political bloc had existed with Zinoviev and Smirnov in 1932 would have been to collaborate with Stalin and to help him to strike at everyone who had taken part in the alliance and could not be broken or had not yet been “unmasked”. On that point our conclusion is clear: Trotsky and Sedov did not tell the truth about the bloc of 1932, but at that moment it was precisely their duty not to tell the truth about it. Today the problem is completely different.

One point remains, and it must have caused Trotsky and Sedov a good deal of embarrassment at the time: first, the contacts between Smirnov and Sedov and, secondly, the contacts between Sedov and Holzmann, who was Smirnov’s emissary. We know that Trotsky totally denied these episodes, in his first reactions. His companion Natalia reminded him that Sedov had met Smirnov in Berlin, and had told him about it, in July 1931, and, of course, about the visit by Holzmann. Trotsky corrected himself. From that moment onwards, Sedov and Trotsky both stuck to what was to be the Trotskyist version of this episode right to the end – that it was initially an accidental street meeting in Berlin in July 1931, several personal discussions by appointment, the promise by Smirnov to provide information, the despatch in autumn 1932 of Holzmann to Berlin, when he handed to Sedov some notes on the economic situation (the article signed Ko.) and a series of verbal statements, from which Sedov manufactured a Correspondence with Moscow, which appeared in Bulletin, No. 31. [98]

When, in 1937, Van Heijenoort discovered Trotsky’s letter of 1932 in a “confidential” file, he recognised its importance, and wrote the letter to Sedov which put us on the track of this affair. Van explained in particular that, for the moment and before a reply from Sedov, he had not informed the Dewey Commission [99], which was meeting in New York, about this document. We have not found either Sedov’s reply or any letter to the Dewey Commission on this subject; moreover, the report of the Commission contains no trace of information about it. The fact remains that the affair was no doubt embarrassing, and that Sedov took it seriously enough to check again that the official record contained nothing which would oblige the “defence” to change its position on this point. [100] According to all appearances, he finally decided to leave matters as they stood. Indeed, it is not certain that making this document public might possibly have called into question the work of the Commission, through which lies of far greater amplitude and significance were being ground to dust. [101]

A Fresh Source of Light

The attitude which Sedov and Trotsky took in 1936, about what had happened in the Soviet Union in 1932 could not lessen the effectiveness of what Trotsky was publishing, without any ambiguity, immediately after the events. For example, he described the political situation in the following terms in his letter of 16 December 1932, addressed to the sections on the state of the Left Opposition:

In the past year very important changes took place in the status of the Russian Opposition. Their general direction can be characterised by the word ‘ascent’.

Many hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of former capitulators, particularly workers, have returned to the path of the Opposition; these are the elements which in the spring of 1928 honestly but prematurely believed in the principled change of the official course. The places of exile and imprisonment are being constantly filled with such ‘backsliders’. It is unnecessary to say how much this fact strengthens the authority of those Oppositionists who never abandoned their banner for a single hour.

Among the older generation of Bolsheviks, including those who only yesterday were ardent Stalinists, can be observed the complete decay of the authority of Stalin and his group and a decided turn towards great attention and estimation of the Left Opposition. It is most significant that precisely the Old Bolsheviks, who took an active part in the life of the Party under Lenin but later let themselves be scared by the spectre of ‘Trotskyism’, now, after their experience with the Stalin regime, begin to discover where the truth lies. That is a very important symptom!

But incomparably more important is the process which is going on among the workers, especially the youth. Just as in its time the Czarist bureaucracy called all dissatisfied workers, protestors and strikers ‘socialists’, sent them to prison or to Siberia, and made it possible for them to meet real socialists there, so the Stalinist bureaucracy now arrests and exiles in ever-increasing numbers dissatisfied and protesting workers, declaring them ‘Trotskyists’ and pushing them on to the road of the Left Opposition.

As far as the illegal organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the USSR is concerned, only the first steps have been taken towards its re-organisation. [102]

These were not empty phrases. The isolation of the Left Opposition was drawing to an end, after years of severe repression. It was evidently a phenomenon of the first importance – and one which, quite understandably, Soviet historians of the Khrushchev period were careful not to reveal – that Old Bolsheviks, who had been authentic Stalinists, had drawn their conclusions and, from that time onwards, were turning towards an alliance with the Trotskyists. Such a phenomenon was inconceivable without a pressure from the mass of the workers; it was precisely about this that the correspondence and the Bulletin were accumulating the information for anyone who knew how to recognise it. One letter, in September 1932, tells of “sit-down strikes” in the Urals. [103] Another, in August, mentions strikes and street demonstrations in Ivanovo-Vosnesensk, where Kaganovich and Molotov saved the situation by sacrificing local scapegoats to the workers’ wrath. [104] During the final months of 1932, the letters from the USSR to the Bulletin gave more and more examples. More than a hundred workers were arrested at the Amo plant after leaflets from the Opposition had been distributed, and several dozen at Charkopodshinsk, at the Calibri factory, and at the Baltic plant in Leningrad. A leaflet (not produced by the Opposition) had been distributed in a factory at Kovrov, and it took up the slogans of the Opposition. [105] During the October commemoration, in a factory which produced brakes, a portrait of Stalin had been posted up, and turned into one of Trotsky. The editorial of the wall-newspaper in the Proletarian Labour factory for 22 January 1933, devoted to the death of Lenin, was made up entirely of extracts from articles by Trotsky. [106]

The correspondents of the Bulletin had only very limited resources, under a regime so dominated by censorship and by the police. What do the archives of the State and of the GPU conceal on this subject? Doubtless, on an infinitely more vast scale, what the Smolensk archives have revealed to us. The portrait of Trotsky that was discovered on a collective farm; the wood-worker who declared for pluralism in the USSR, denounced bureaucratic exploitation and paid tribute to Zinoviev and Kamenev in a debate on the Constitution [107]; the worker who, when called upon by a party agitator to give the name of an Old Bolshevik, replied “Trotsky” [108] – all these in the few months preceding the first Moscow Trial.

This deep movement – whatever its level may have been in 1932 and which only the files of the GPU may some day reveal – imparts a rhythm to the history of the Soviet Union, as to all human societies. This is the major fact, of which our findings at Harvard come at an appropriate time to remind us. The Old Bolsheviks and party cadres, who had so recently been ferocious Stalinists, were seeking an alliance with the Left Opposition which they had so recently denounced, were forming a “bloc” about which they asked Trotsky’s opinion and which they invited the Trotskyists to join, and tried to work out a programme for public safety jointly with them ... were astonished when Trotsky did not go along with their slogan of “Get Rid of Stalin”. The victory of Hitler enabled this movement in the bureaucracy, which had not ceased to exist deep in the working class, to be crushed. The Moscow Trials, like the Great Purge, were the instrument of an unprecedented terror against anyone who expressed or even might have expressed the aspirations of the masses in some way or other. The rhythms of the history of the Soviet Union too are the rhythms of the class-struggle.

This is the significance, it seems to us, of this first discovery which we made, almost by chance, in Trotsky’s archives in exile at Harvard. There will be others.


Document No. 1: Letter from Van Heijenoort to Sedov, 3 July 1937

Document No. 2: Letter from Trotsky to Leon Sedov

Document No. 3: Letter from Sedov to Trotsky


1. This work-group consisted of Alain Calvié, Michel Dreyfus, Jean-Paul Joubert, Isabelle Lombard, Katia Chitzov and Pierre Broué. It worked in the library of Harvard College at Cambridge, Mass., from 2 January to 29 February 1980.

2. Jean Van Heijenoort (1912–1986) was a student of mathematics and a member of the Communist League when he went to Prinkipo at the end of 1932 to be one of Trotsky’s secretaries, a function which he fulfilled for seven years, from Prinkipo to Coyoacán. He was secretary of the Fourth International during the war, and, after his break with that organisation, he was Professor of Philosophy (Logic) at Brandeis University until he retired. He played a key role in the classification and identification of the “exile” papers.

3. Leon Sedov (1906–1938) was the eldest son of Trotsky and Natalia Sedova. He was a member of the Communist Youth and one of the most active members of the Left Opposition in the USSR. In 1927 he chose to remain with his father, whose exile in Alma Ata and, later, in Turkey he shared until 1931. In Berlin from 1931 to 1933, he was in reality responsible for the “Russian Section” of the Opposition, and then for the International Communist League, the brain of its network of correspondence in the USSR. He then migrated to Paris, were he died in highly suspicious circumstances, following an operation for appendicitis on 15 February 1938, taking with him all the details of his clandestine activity, the names of his correspondents in the USSR and all knowledge of where he had hidden parts of his own and of his father’s archives.

4. Ivan Nikitich Smirnov (1881–1936) was a precision engineer, who joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1899. He was a Bolshevik in 1903 and organised the Moscow insurrection in 1905. After years of prison and hard labour, he was one of representatives of the organisations in Russia at the Prague Conference which really founded the Bolshevik Party in August 1912. He played an important role during the civil war in the 5th Army, and then as President of the Revolutionary Committee of Siberia. He entered the Central Committee as a candidate member in 1919 and as a full member in 1920. In 1923 he joined the leading nucleus of the Left Opposition. He was expelled from the Party in 1927 and deported, and, in 1929 he capitulated. He worked as the director of an automobile factory at Nijni Novgorod, where he organised a group in opposition to Stalin, and for this he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment at the beginning of 1933. He was one of the defendants in the first Moscow Trial, where he agreed to “confess” after a long resistance and was one of the few to defy the prosecutor. He is said to have refused to appeal for mercy because he regretted his confession. He was executed in summer 1936.

5. Edward S. Holzmann (1882–1936) was an Old Bolshevik who had been a member of the Left Opposition in 1926–27. He was a senior official in the economic administration: he had been sent on a mission to Berlin and agreed to meet Sedov there in autumn, 1932 at the request of Smirnov. He was a defendant at the first Moscow Trial in and even confessed to having met Trotsky in Copenhagen with Sedov – who had never been to Copenhagen – in the Hotel Bristol … which had been demolished in 1917.

6. Trotsky wrote, in a letter dated 31 October 1930, to Max Shachtman, one of his comrades in USA (Harvard College Library 10282) that “the organisation as such in Russia had been destroyed”, following the repression which Stalin had inflicted on it over several years. It is only in 1932 that we find in his writing the assurance that its reconstruction had begun.

7. Andrei Konstantinov (known as Kostia), a Muscovite, Party member since 1916, is mentioned by Maria M. Joffe in her memoirs (One Long Night, London 1977) as one of the principal clandestine Trotskyist leaders. There is no mention of him, either in the Bulletin of the Opposition or in the “exile correspondence”, apart from one letter, which Victor Serge was to publish later. This does not say he was a Trotskyist leader, and puts his arrest at the end of the year 1932. He died in 1942, according to Maria M. Joffe, who has sketched a particularly attractive portrait of him.

8. In his memoirs, Spartakus, Aufstieg und Niedergang, published under the name “Karl Retzlaw”, Karl Gröhl (1896–1979), who had been (under the name Hans Friedberg) the head of the military apparatus of the German Communist Party and (under the name Karl Erde) one of the leaders of the Left Opposition in that party, says (p. 356) that he had arranged, on Sedov’s behalf, a contact with the Trotskyist Group in Moscow, one of the leaders of which he had met in the Tverskoy Boulevard, in front of the Pushkin monument, and another in the hall of the Trade Union building. He never had any response to report, but he found this in Sedov’s hands when he returned to Berlin. The Bulletin of the Opposition published a letter signed “TT” in its February 1933 issue.

9. Gregori Y. Radomylski, known as Zinoviev, (1883–1936), and Lev B. Rosenfeld, known as Kamenev (1883–1936), were both Old Bolsheviks and close collaborators with Lenin, Kamenev being Trotsky’s brother-in-law. As fellow-members with Stalin of the “troika” they had been the first to attack Trotsky, but after their break with Stalin they led the “new” Leningrad Opposition, which then carried on the struggle – in alliance with Trotsky’s Left Opposition inside the “Unified Opposition”. They had capitulated to Stalin after the defeat of the Opposition, had made a full “self-criticism”, denounced “Trotskyism” and been re-admitted into the Party. In September 1932 they were again excluded, at the time of the “bloc”, and once again re-admitted in May 1933, after a still more thorough self-criticism. In December 1934 they were re-arrested after the assassination of Kirov, and condemned, Zinoviev after one trial and Kamenev after two, to ten years’ imprisonment. They were the principal defendants in the “Trial of the Sixteen” in August 1936, they made the confessions demanded of them, were sentenced to death and were shot.

10. Harvard College Library (4782), an undated letter written in citric acid from Sedov to Trotsky.

11. Ibid.

12. The decision bears the date 6 October 1932.

13. Karl B. Sobelson, known as Karl Radek (1885–1939?), a free-lance in the left of Social-Democracy in Poland and later in Germany before the Great War, had participated in the “Zimmerwald Left” and represented the Bolsheviks in Stockholm in 1917. He had been the delegate of the Russian Communist Party in Germany, and later secretary of the Communist International. From 1923 onwards he was a member of the Left Opposition. He had been deported at the beginning of 1928 and had capitulated in 1929. Rumours accused him of being responsible for the arrest and execution of the Bolshevik, Blumkin, in 1929. The letters from the USSR to the Bulletin of the Opposition, as well as the writings of Trotsky and Sedov, mention him after that time only with expressions of the deepest contempt. He was one of the docile defendants in the second “Moscow Trial”, where he saved his head.

14. Evgeny A. Preobrazhensky (1886–1938), a Bolshevik in 1904 and leader of the Party in the Urals in 1917, was elected to the Central Committee in 1917 and became its secretary in 1920. He belonged to the central nucleus of the Left Opposition and became its spokesman against Bukharin in the “economic debate” of the 1920s. He was expelled in 1927 and deported in 1928, and capitulated with Radek and Smilga in July 1929. A correspondent in the Bulletin of the Opposition at the beginning of 1932 reported that he was content “to drink tea and play the guitar”. He disappeared in the Great Purge, without figuring in any of the trials.
N.I. Ufimtsev was a locksmith and a Bolshevik since 1906. He was expelled in 1928 and re-admitted in 1930.

15. All the people listed above had played a role in the “Unified Opposition”, but had capitulated in the course of the following years. Ivar T. Smilga (1892–1937), a Bolshevik since 1907, of Lettish origin, was the youngest member of the Central Committee in 1917. He had fought against the Left Opposition in 1923, but joined the Unified Opposition in 1926 and refused to follow Zinoviev and to capitulate in 1927. He capitulated in July 1929 at the same time as Radek and Preobrazhensky. At the end of 1932, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and disappeared in the Great Purge.
Nikolai N. Perevertsev, an Old Bolshevik and an early organiser of the Left Opposition in the Ukraine, had been sent to Geneva as a technical expert to join an international commission on railways. Under the pseudonym, “Peter” or “Pierre”, he had been one of the organisers of the Left Opposition in capitalist Europe. He was deported in 1928 and interned in the isolator in Verkhne-Uralsk in 1931. He appears to have capitulated about this time, but was re-arrested at the end of 1932 and disappeared.
Boris S. Livshitz (1896–1949), a Bolshevik in 1917, was a political commissar in the Red Army during the Civil War and then a student in the Institute of Red Professors. He was a member of the Left Opposition, and was deported in 1928. Trotsky regarded him as one of the most promising of his generation, but he capitulated in 1929. He was a senior official in external trade, probably linked to I.N. Smirnov’s group, and was arrested at the end of 1932. He was released at an unknown date and served during World War Two as a war correspondent.
Karl I. Grünstein (1888–1937) was a worker of Lettish origin, who did years of hard labour under the Tsar. He was a divisional commander in the 5th Army and, after the Civil War, was director of the national school of aviation. He was the General Secretary of the society of former political prisoners and a friend of Trotsky. He was one of those who signed the Platform of the Left Opposition and the declaration by Rakovsky in August 1929. He was badly treated and probably capitulated in 1932.
Vagarshak Ter-Vaganian (1893–1936) was an Old Bolshevik, Party leader in Armenia, leader of the revolution in 1917 in his country, editor-in-chief of the review, Under the Banner of Marxism, member of the Left Opposition since 1923, expelled in 1927, deported in 1928, and capitulated with Smirnov in 1929. At the end of 1932 he was sent into exile. At the first Moscow Trial he confessed to having been one of those who negotiated the bloc, particularly with Lominadze in support of the Smirnov Group. He was sentenced to death and executed.
Sergei Mratchkovsky (1883–1936) was born in a Tsarist prison, where his parents were serving sentences for political offences. He was a Bolshevik in 1905, a partisan leader in the Civil War and then commander of a division. He was arrested in 1927 in connection with the affair of the clandestine “printing works”. He was expelled and deported, and capitulated with I.N. Smirnov in 1929. He then worked on the construction of the Amur-Baikal railway in the Far Eastern province. He figured in the Moscow Trial of 1936, in which he was accused of having been the Trotskyists’ go-between with a view to forming a bloc with the Zinovievists. He was sentenced to death and executed.

16. L. Trotsky, Signal Trevogi (The Alarm Signal), Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 33, March 1933, p. 7.

17. Jan E. Sten (1899–1937) was regarded as one of the best philosophers among the younger generation in the Soviet Union during the years 1925–1928 and he had the job of giving Stalin private lessons in “dialectics”. He was a member of the Central Control Commission, from which he was removed in 1928. He was sent into exile in 1932, arrested in 1937 and executed without trial in the notorious Lefortovo prison.
Vissarion (Besso) V. Lominadze (1898–1934) was a Bolshevik in 1917; he held important positions in the Communist Youth, the Young Communist International and, then, in the Communist International. He aligned himself with the most determined supporters of Stalin against Trotsky and the Left Opposition: he was sent to China by the Communist International in 1927 and there helped to organise the disastrous Canton insurrection. As Secretary of the Party Committee in Transcaucasia, he secured in 1930 the adoption of a resolution which criticised Stalinist policy; he was removed from the Central Committee and all his posts. He resumed his studies in engineering and was appointed Party Secretary at Magnitogorsk. He committed suicide in December 1934 following a summons from the GPU at Chelyabinsk. He was later mentioned by some of the defendants in 1936 as one of the members of the bloc.

18. Lazar A. Chatzkin (1902–1938), a Bolshevik in 1917, was the first secretary of the Communist Youth from 1919 to 1922 and was secretary of the Young Communist International. As a member of the Presidium of the Communist International, he fought against the Left Opposition. He was accused in 1931 of belonging to a group of Oppositionists led by Lominadze, and lost all his responsibilities. He was expelled from the Party in 1935: official sources indicate that he committed suicide.

19. Sergei I. Syrtsov (1893–1938), a Bolshevik in 1913, was Party secretary in Odessa in 1920–21, and then made his career in the apparatus. In 1929 he became President of the Council of People’s Commissars for the RSFSR [Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic] and a candidate member of the Politburo. He was then accused of belonging to a conspiratorial group with Lominadze. He was removed from the Central Committee and sent into the provinces to manage a phonograph factory. He was arrested during the Great Purge and died in prison, where he probably was executed.

20. Nikolai P. Chaplin (1902–1938) was one of the leaders of the Communist Youth with Chatzkin, and then was Lominadze’s deputy in the Party Committee in Transcaucasia. He was arrested during the purge and disappeared in prison.

21. A. Ciliga, Au Pays du Grand Mensonge, p. 228. [This passage does not appear in the English translation – see note 31. – RH.].

22. Roy Medvedyev, Let History Judge, p. 142.

23. Ibid., p. 225, according to a samizdat by Frolov.

24. Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 17–18, Nov.–Dec. 1930, p. 39. The letter mentions, not the resolution of the Party Committee in Transcaucasia, but “an appeal in the Caucasus”.

25. Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 19, March 1931, pp. 17–18.

26. Gueorgui V. Safarov (1891–1942) was a Bolshevik in 1908, who emigrated, returned to Russia in 1912 and then emigrated to Saint-Nazaire in France, which he left for Switzerland in January 1916. He returned from Switzerland to Russia with Lenin. In the course of the following years, he was put in charge by the Communist International of organising its work in the Middle and Far East, as a member of the Praesidium. In 1924 he was a member of the Central Committee and chief editor of the Leningrad Pravda. As a member of the New Opposition and then of the Unified Opposition, he was expelled from the Party in 1927 and did not immediately follow Zinoviev in his capitulation in 1928. After being re-admitted to the Party, he was once more expelled in 1934 and deported. He was mentioned several times in the various trials. He spent his last years in Vorkuta, where the sufferings of this broken man are described by Maria Joffe.
About Tarkhanov, we know only that he had been a Party member since 1917, that he came from Leningrad, that he was expelled and then re-admitted at the same time as Safarov.

27. Nikolai I. Bukharin (1888–1938) was a Bolshevik in 1908. He was regarded as a theoretician and, according to Lenin, was “the darling of the Party”. He was the leader of the “Left Communists” against Lenin and then, in alliance with Stalin, developed the themes of the NEP pushed to an extreme, on the enrichment of the kulak, the construction of Socialism at a snail’s pace, and so on. He followed Zinoviev at the head of the Communist International. In November 1929 he was relieved of all his responsibilities and made a complete self-criticism. In 1933 he became the editor-in-chief of Izvestia. He was mentioned in the second Moscow Trial and was arrested in January 1937. He was sentenced to death in March 1938 at the time of the third trial.
Alexei I. Rykov (1881–1937) was a militant in 1900 and joined the Bolsheviks in 1903. He led the fraction of the “komitetchiki” against Lenin, and spent many years in prison and exile. He was a member of the Central Committee, and followed Lenin as President of the Council of People’s Commissars. He was associated with Bukharin, eliminated and capitulated with him and was sentenced to death in the same trial.
Mikhail P. Tomsky (1880-–1936) was a Bolshevik in 1904, a lithographic worker, member of the Central Committee from 1919 onwards and President of the Soviet Trade Unions, was the third of the troika of the right-wing. He was eliminated at the same time as Bukharin and Rykov, and did not wait to be arrested, but committed suicide after hearing that his name had been mentioned in the first Moscow Trial. It appears that the three historic leaders of the Right had absolutely no activity as a group and not a shadow of opposition in 1932, and that the term “right-wingers” applied to a group could not in any case be applied to them.

28. Mikhail N. Riutin (1890–1937) was a former teacher who became an officer during the war. He was first a Social-Revolutionary and then a Menshevik, and joined the Bolsheviks in the Far East during the Civil War. In 1927 in Moscow, where he was leader of a Party branch, he took the initiative in organising violence against the Opposition in party meetings. He was expelled and imprisoned in 1932, and disappeared.

29. Alexander Slepkov (1900–1937) was a historian and one of the most brilliant students in the Institute of Red Professors. He was a disciple of Bukharin. It appears that he broke with Bukharin because he disapproved of the latter’s capitulation. He was exiled to Samara in 1932 and rejected the advances of Stalin, who admired his editorial talents. Soon afterwards sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, he appears to have hanged himself in the isolator at Verkhne-Uralsk. His comrade and friend Dimitri Maretsky (?–?) had a similar fate. The Stalinist press referred to the “Riutin-Slepkov” Group.

30. Nikolai A. Uglanov (1886-–1940) was the son of a peasant, a Bolshevik in 1917 and member in 1917 of the Petrograd Soviet. He was then a political commissar, then regional secretary of the Party at Nijni-Novgorod from 1921–1924, and then in Moscow , a candidate member of the Politburo in 1925. He led the repression and violence against the Opposition in 1927 in Moscow. His self-humiliation in 1932, did not save him from being deported and disappearing during the purges, after having been “named” in the public trials.

31. Vassili N. Kayurov (1876–1936) was regarded by many as the typical Bolshevik worker. He died in prison. Trotsky frequently borrowed from this worker’s memoirs in his History of the Russian Revolution.

32. A. Ciliga, The Russian Enigma, London 1940, p. 279.

33. Boris Nikolaevsky, Les Dirigeants Soviétiques devant le pouvoir, p. 21.

34. Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, Oxford,1967, p259. Evno F. Azev (1869-–1918) is the most famous agent-provocateur in the workers’ movement in the world. Between 1903 and 1908 he was at the head of the combat organisation of the Social-Revolutionaries, organising and directing terrorist operations – such as the one which took the life of the Minister Plehve – and continuing to inform the police and betray militants to them by denouncing some of the preparations in advance.

35. Victor Serge, ibid.

36. Nicolaevsky, op. cit., p. 21–22.

37. In Le Réfractaire for April 1978, the old French militant Marcel Body tells of how an emissary from Kirov, a member of the Central Committee and brother-in-law of Dr. Levine, had recourse to his services in order to meet Sedov in Paris and sound him about the attitude which Trotsky might adopt towards proposals to re-admit those who had been excluded from the Party – which according to him figured in Kirov’s programme.

38. Iossif M. Vareikis (1894–1939) was a Bolshevik in 1913. After the revolution he made his entire career within the Party apparatus.

39. Roy Medvedyev, op. cit., p. 155.

40. The “Decist” Group was so named from the fact that its initials (DC) corresponded to its title, “Democratic Centralist”. Its principal leaders, Vladimir P. Smirnov and Timotei F. Sapronov, were deported.

41. The Workers’ Opposition was an Opposition group which went back to 1920, when it had been led by Shlyapnikov and still counted some dozens of supporters in the camps and the isolators.

42. Harvard College Library, un-dated German text (1932), (10110).

43. Harvard College Library, (4777).

44. Ibid., (10047).

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid., (13095).

47. Ibid.

48. We found a letter signed “Svoi” – very similar to the letter which is signed MM in the Bulletin – in one of the dossiers of Trotsky’s correspondence with the Pole in Czechslovakia, Safrys, known as Zvon. We are dealing, from all the evidence, with an error by a librarian unfamiliar with the Russian alphabet, who has mixed up “Svoi” with “Zvon”. The fact remains that S can mean also S(mirnov) – and that Smirnov could have signed Svoi.

49. Nikolai I. Muralov (1877–1937), the son of a peasant, an agronomist, a Bolshevik in 1903, had played an important role in the 1905 Revolution in Moscow. In 1917 he was the leader of the Moscow Soviet and led the Red Guards who took possession of the palace. He held important commands during the Civil War, especially on Trotsky’s staff. He was a member of the Left Opposition from 1923 onwards and was expelled and deported in 1928. He was one of the rare opponents to Stalin who were not persecuted down the years and who were allowed to work without having “capitulated”. He was arrested in 1936, tried, sentenced to death and executed with the other defendants in the second Moscow Trial.

50. Veronika Kasparova (1875–1937) was an old militant in Russia and emigration held important responsibilities in the Communist International in the category of “women’s work”. She was deported with her son in 1928, and must have capitulated in 1935 or 1936 and disappeared during the purge. Grünstein had capitulated earlier, probably in 1932.

51. Cf. n.43.

52. Bulletin, No. 31, November 1932, p. 23.

53. Nikolai B. Eismont (1891–1935), a lawyer, a party member in 1907 and then a member of the Inter-Borough organisation in St. Petersburg, returned to the Bolshevik Party in the fusion in 1917. He then served in the railway administration and had been People’s Commissar for Commerce in the RSFSR from 1926 to 1930 and for Food Supply from 1930 onwards. He died in unknown circumstances in 1935.
Alexander P. Smirnov (1877–1938), son of peasants, a textile worker and a militant in 1895, was several times delegated to congresses, a member of the Bolshevik Central Committee before the war, was deputy commissar for the Interior and then Commissar for Agriculture and a member of the Central Committee from 1924 onwards. He was expelled in 1933 and died in prison.
Vladimir N. Tolmachev (1886–?), Party member since 1904, disappeared in the same circumstances.

54. Klementi E. Voroshilov (1881–1969), a metal worker, a Bolshevik in 1903, volunteered for the army in 1914 and became a sergeant. He was a partisan leader in the Civil War and associated with Stalin, forming the “Tsaritsyn Group”. He was a member of the Central Committee in 1920, Commissar for War in 1925, member of the Politburo in 1926; he survived Stalin and was President of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from 1953 to 1960.

55. Bulletin, No. 32, December 1932, p. 28.

56. Bulletin, No. 33, March 1933, p. 23–26.

57. Roy Medvedyev, op. cit., p. 167. For information about the end of the life of Lominadze, see Margaret Buber-Neumann, Von Potsdam nach Moskau, pp. 413-415.

58. Trotsky preserved in his archives a photograph of the front page of Pravda for 30 July 1936, in which figured two “old” Oppositionists, Livshitz and the Georgian, Kavtaradze, the only one to return from deportation without making a “declaration”, by the mercy of Stalin, and who died a vice-minister.

59. Valentin V. Kuibychev (1888–1937), the son of an officer, a medical student and, in 1904, a Bolshevik. During the Civil War belonged to the “Tsarytsin Group” and after 1927 was a member of the Politburo. He died in 1935, and Stalin blamed the defendants in the third Moscow Trial for his death.

60. Grigori K. Ordjonikidze (1886–1937), a male nurse and a Bolshevik in 1903, was a friend of Stalin in Georgia. He was elected a member of the Central Committee in 1912. He was Party secretary in Transcaucasia and brutally led the “Russification” of Georgia. He was a candidate member of the Politburo in 1930 and joined it in 1934. He seems to have belonged to the group of the supporters of Kirov; his death in 1937 was a suicide.

61. Harvard College Library, (10248).

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid.

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid., (T 3485).

66. Khristian G. Rakovsky (1873–1941) was born in Bulgaria. He was educated under French influences, a socialist from his youth, a personal friend of Trotsky, jailed during the war, freed by the revolution and joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917. He was President of the Council of People’s Commissars for the Ukraine from 1919 to 1925, and was a member of the Left Opposition from its beginning, which resulted in his being sent as ambassador, first to London and then to Paris. He was the spokesman of the Left Opposition at the XVth. Congress of the CPSU in 1927, and was then deported to Saratov, to Astrakhan and finally to Barnaul in terrible conditions. He escaped and was recaptured. He capitulated in 1934 and was arrested in 1937, to be one of the defendants in the third Moscow Trial. He died in a concentration camp.
Lev S. Sosnovsky (1886–1937) was a Bolshevik in 1903, an underground militant, who was deported and then exiled. He was one of the most popular journalists in the Soviet Union because of his attacks on the bureaucrats. He was a member of the Left Opposition, was expelled in 1927 and deported in 1928. In 1929 he had been imprisoned in an isolator and subjected to a regime which was all the more rigorous because he was seriously ill. He also capitulated at the beginning of 1934 and disappeared in the Great Purge, but without appearing in a trial.

67. Andrei Y. Vyshinsky (1883–1955), a socialist lawyer, a Menshevik in 1903 and until the Civil War, at the end of which he joined the victors. He was Professor of Law in Moscow, Public Prosecutor of the RSFSR in 1931 and in 1935 of the USSR, and presented the prosecution in the Moscow Trials with unequalled cynicism, against those who had always been his political adversaries! He was vice-minister of Foreign Affairs from 1940 to 1949, minister from 1949 to 1953 and once again vice-minister from 1953 to his death.

68. The existence of this notorious telegram was revealed by Nikita Khrushchev in his notorious “secret speech” at the XXth. Congress of the CPSU. No one, as far as we know, has established the relationship between the “four years” of delay to which it refers and the real existence of the bloc of 1932.

69. Jean van Heijenoort, With Trotsky in Exile, Harvard UP, 1978, pp. 41–42.

70. Merle Fainsod, Smolensk under Soviet Rule, p. 263.

71. Roy Medvedyev, op. cit., pp. 155–156.

72. The Trial of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist Terrorist Centre, p. 11.

73. Ibid.

74. Ibid., p. 178.

75. Ibid., pp. 48, 66.

76. Ibid., pp. 19, 55.

77. Ibid., p. 47.

78. Ibid., pp. 47–48.

79. Ibid., p. 54.

80. Ibid., pp. 37–38.

81. Ibid., pp. 81.

82. Ibid., pp. 11, 178.

83. Ibid., pp. 54, 67. Grigori I. Brilliant, known as Sokolnikov (1888–1939), student, a Bolshevik in 1905, in prison and emigration. He was a member of the Central Committee from 1919 to 1927, Commissar for Finance in 1917 and from 1922 to 1926. He belonged to the New Opposition and then, during the several months of the Unified Opposition, was ambassador in London, where he remained until 1933. He then became Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs. His denunciation in the trial led to his being arrested and found guilty. He was condemned to ten years’ imprisonment in the second Moscow Trial in January 1937.

84. Ibid., p. 67. Alexander S. Kuklin (1876–193?) was one of the longest serving Petrograd worker-Bolsheviks to be a member of the Central Committee. He was a Zinovievist, a member of the Unified Opposition; he was excluded in 1927 and capitulated in 1928. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in the first trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev in January 1935.

85. Ibid., p. 17.

86. Ibid., p. 60. Ivan B. Charov (1884–1938) was also one of the veteran workers in the party in Petrograd, a member of the Zinovievist Group, the destiny of whom he shared, when he was sentenced in 1935 to eight years’ imprisonment.

87. Two persons mentioned in the course of the trial were charged and arrested immediately: these were Sokolnikov and Serebriakov, who were to meet again in the dock in the second trial. It was officially announced that an enquiry would be opened into Tomsky (who committed suicide), Radek and Piatakov (who were sentenced in the second trial in January 1937), Rykov and Bukharin, (who were sentenced in the third trial in March 1938). Among the militants mentioned as participants or accomplices, who died during the late nineteen-thirties, without being publicly tried, let us mention I.T. Smilga, N.K. Uglanov, the “leftists” Sten and Chatzkin (without including Lominadze, who committed suicide in 1934), Shlyapnikov and Medvedyev, former leaders of the Workers’ Opposition and several military chiefs who were all shot, Schmidt, Putna, Estermann, Gaievsky and Kusmichev.

88. The Gaven “case” remains a mystery. The man was presented in the trial, by the indictment and by certain confessions, as an emissary sent by Trotsky into Russia. This was not just anybody. Yuri P Gaven (or Gavenis) (1884–1937), known as Dauman or Donner, was of Lettish origin and had been active in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and later in the Lettish Party, of which he had been a member of the Central Committee. He spent long periods in prison under Tsarism; in 1917 he led the revolution in Minussinsk and later presided over the revolutionary committee in the Crimea. He had been a member of the Central Control Committee and one of the directors of Gosplan, His arrest goes back to 1934. Though he was a central point in the indictment and the confessions of the principal defendants, he did not appear in any public trial and all trace of him is lost after the trial of August 1936. There are several possible hypotheses: perhaps he was an agent-provocateur, who made convenient confessions and was spared. This is not likely. Other provocateurs had appeared among the defendants in the dock. A more probable hypothesis is that he had so resisted torture, blackmail and pressures exerted on the accused, that he was not presentable in public. But in that case why would he play so important a role in the scenario of the accusation? The only explanation is that, after having confessed, he retracted his confession too late for the script to be rewritten or for his resistance to be broken. But the question still arises as to why a man, who was an authentic Old Bolshevik and without doubt a man of strong character, was presented as having played such a key role. The most probable hypothesis is that he had effectively played a role, if not in the Trotskyist fraction, at least in the bloc, and that, therefore, there was in the role which the accusation attributed to him one of those “grains of truth” which tend to be overlooked when the lies are so great.

89. When Trotsky was interned by the Norwegian Government, he had no means to reply to the accusations which were launched at him at the time of the first Moscow Trial. Reluctantly, Leon Sedov was, therefore, obliged to take up his pen and to write this remarkable work, which absolutely demolished the Stalinist thesis.

90. L. Sedov, Livre Rouge sur les proces de Moscou, p. 59.

91. Ibid., p. 59.

92. Ibid., p. 61.

93. Ibid., p. 62.

94. Ibid., pp. 58ff.

95. Ibid., pp. 65-–66.

96. See the Appendix, Document n.2.

97. L. Sedov, Livre Rouge, p. 59, note 6.

98. Ibid., p. 98.

99. See the Appendix, 3, above.

100. Manuscript note on the document No. 2 in Appendix.

101. The report of the commission over which presided the famous educationalist and philosopher, the American John Dewey, both concluded that Trotsky was innocent, as also was Sedov, and was published in English in 1938 under the title, Not Guilty, but regrettably it has not been translated into French to this day.

102. Harvard College Library, (T 3481). Published in French in the International Bulletin of the Communist Left Opposition, No. 19, December 1932, and, in English, in Writings of Leon Trotsky: 1932–33, pp. 24ff.

103. Letter signed “Z”, in Biulleten Oppositsii, No. 31, November 1932, p. 24.

104. Extract from a letter of 20 August 1932, in Biulleten Oppositsii, No. 29–30, September 1932, p. 13.

105. Letter from Moscow, of February 1933, signed “TT”, ibid., No. 33, March 1933, pp. 24–6.

106. Ibid.

107. M. Fainsod, op. cit., p. 322.

108. Ibid.

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