Grover Furr- Evidence of Leon Trotsky’s Collaboration with Germany and Japan.
Source: Cultural Logic, 2009.
“If an objective research project on the events of those years were to be done, free of ideological dogmas, then a great deal could change in our attitude towards those years and towards the personalities of that epoch. And so it would be a “bomb” that would cause some problems. . . .”
Col. Viktor Alksnis, 2000.
“. . . it is essential for historians to defend the foundation of their discipline: the supremacy of evidence. If their texts are fictions, as in some sense they are, being literary compositions, the raw material of these fictions is verifiable fact. Whether the Nazi gas ovens existed or not can be established by evidence. Because it has been so established, those who deny their existence are not writing history, whatever their narrative techniques.” – Eric Hobsbawm, 1994, p. 57.
“. . . we can demolish a myth only insofar as it rests on propositions which can be shown to be mistaken.” – ibid., p. 60.
This essay is an inquiry into the evidence that Leon Trotsky may have collaborated with German and/or Japanese officials, whether governmental or military, during the 1930s. Trotsky was charged with and convicted in absentia of such collaboration at the three Moscow “Show,” or public, Trials of 1936, 1937 and 1938.1 Trotsky and his son Leon Sedov2 were absent defendants and central figures in all these trials. Trotsky himself proclaimed the charges false, but they were widely though not universally credited until 1956.
In February of that year Nikita Khrushchev delivered his famous “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Aside from much other matter that will not concern us here Khrushchev hinted, without expressly affirming, that at least some of the defendants in these trials were punished unjustly. In succeeding years most of the defendants, along with thousands of others, were “rehabilitated” and declared to have been innocent. Under Khrushchev’s successors between 1965 and 1985 the wave of “rehabilitations” almost ceased. Subsequently, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s tenure between 1985 and the end of the USSR in 1991, an even larger flood of “rehabilitations” took place. Later in the present essay we will discuss the essentially political, rather than juridical, nature of “rehabilitation.”
By the late 1980s almost all the defendants at all the Moscow Trials, plus the defendants in the “Tukhachevsky Affair” of May-June 1937 and a great many others had been declared to have been innocent of all charges. The chief exceptions were figures like Genrikh Yagoda and Nikolai Ezhov, two heads of the NKVD3 who were certainly responsible for massive repressions, and many of their subordinates. Virtually alone among the non-NKVD oppositionists Trotsky and Sedov have never been “rehabilitated.” But the dismissal of charges against their codefendants and the declarations that all the conspiracies were fabrications means that they too have been declared innocent in fact though not “rehabilitated” legally. Meanwhile there is a scholarly consensus that the Moscow Trials were fabrications, the defendants all innocent victims of frame-ups, and all the conspiracies inventions either of the NKVD or of Stalin himself.
This consensus is a constituent part of the model, or paradigm, of Soviet history that is dominant within Russia itself and beyond its borders. However, no significant evidence that the trials were fabricated and the confessions faked has ever been published, while the vast majority of investigative materials relating to the trials is still top-secret in Russia, unavailable even to trusted scholars.
The Soviet Archives “Speak”
During the existence of the USSR and especially since Khrushchev’s accession to power in 1953 few if any documents concerning the Moscow Trials and repressions of the late 1930s were published in the USSR or made available in the archives to researchers. Khrushchev and authorized historians and writers made a great many assertions about this period of history but never gave anyone access to any evidence about it. Here is one example. At an historians’ conference in December 1962, after many presentations by speakers promoting the official Khrushchev position about questions of Soviet history the convener, Presidium member Piotr Pospelov, spoke the following words: Students are asking whether Bukharin and the rest were spies for foreign governments, and what you advise us to read.
I can declare that it is sufficient to study carefully the documents of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU to say that neither Bukharin, nor Rykov, of course, were spies or terrorists. (Vsesoiuznoe soveshchanie 298). While Pospelov’s words are literally correct, they create a false impression. In the 1938 Trial Bukharin and Rykov were not convicted of carrying out espionage themselves, but of being leaders in the “bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” that did engage in espionage activities.
Likewise both Bukharin and Rykov were convicted of recruiting others to engage in acts of violence against others – the best Russian translation here of the word “terror,” which means something quite different in English – but not of engaging in it themselves. So Pospelov’s words are correct in the sense most readers will understand – that a “spy” is someone who himself spies, and a terrorist someone who himself commits acts of violence. But Pospelov is incorrect insofar as he wishes his audience to understand that their confessions and the verdict against them were wrong. Furtherrmore, the question was about “Bukharin and the rest” – presumably, all the other defendants in the 1938 Trial, whereas Pospelov restricted his answer to Bukharin and Rykov only.
In the passage that immediately follows the quotation above Pospelov clearly told his audience that the only materials historians should read are the official speeches made at the 22nd Congress: “Why is it not possible to create normal conditions for working in the Central Party archive? They do not give out materials concerning the activity of the CPSU.” I have already given you the answer. In effect Pospelov was saying: “We are not going to give you access to any primary sources.” That situation continued until the USSR was dissolved.
Thanks to documents published since the end of the USSR we can now see that some of the speeches at the 22nd Party Congress contained blatant lies about the oppositionists of the 1930s – a fact that fully explains Pospelov’s refusal to let anyone see the evidence. As one example of the degree of falsification at the 22nd Party Congress and under Khrushchev generally we cite Aleksandr Shelepin’s 4 quotation from a letter to Stalin by Komandarm 1st rank (= Full General, the rank just below Marshal) Iona E. Iakir, accused of collaboration with Nazi Germany. In Shelepin’s quotation from Iakir’s letter to Stalin of June 9, 1937, the text read by Shelepin is in boldface. The text in the original letter (published in 1994) but omitted by Shelepin is in italics.
“A series of cynical resolutions by Stalin, Kaganovich, Molotov, Malenkov and Voroshilov on the letters and declarations made by those imprisoned testifies to the cruel treatment of people, of leading comrades, who found themselves under investigation. For example when it was his turn Iakir – the former commander of a military region – appealed to Stalin in a letter in which he swore his own complete innocence.
Here is what he wrote: “Dear, close comrade Stalin. I dare address you in this manner because I have said everything, given everything up, and it seems to me that I am a noble warrior, devoted to the Party, the state and the people, as I was for many years. My whole conscious life has been passed in selfless, honest work in the sight of the Party and of its leaders – then the fall into the nightmare, into the irreparable horror of betrayal. . . . The investigation is completed. I have been formally accused of treason to the state, I have admitted my guilt, I have fully repented. I have unlimited faith in the justice and propriety of the decision of the court and the state. . . . Now I am honest in my every word, I will die with words of love for you, the Party, and the country, with an unlimited faith in the victory of communism.”5
As Shelepin read it the letter is from an honest, loyal man protesting his innocence. In reality Iakir fully admitted his guilt. (There is also the matter of the two ellipses. Some of Iakir’s text has been omitted even in this published version. Since Iakir confessed to treason to the state it is possible that he refers to collaboration with Germany, with Trotsky, or perhaps with other intelligence services. This is suggested in a tantalizing quotation in the case of Uritsky
which we discuss briefly later in this essay. Iakir was one of the military figures involved both with collaboration with Germany and with Trotsky.) The falsification goes far beyond the speeches at the 22nd Congress. Archival evidence now available permits us to see that Khrushchev, then later Gorbachev, and the historians who wrote under their direction, lied consistently about the events of the Stalin years to an extent that is scarcely imaginable.
A large number of documents from formerly secret Soviet archives have been published since the end of the USSR. This is a very small proportion of what we know exists. Especially as regards the oppositions of the 1930s, the Moscow Trials, the military “purges,” and the massive repressions of 1937-38, the vast majority of the documents are still top-secret, hidden way even from privileged, official researchers. Yet no system of censorship is without its failures. Many documents have been published. Even this small number enables us to see that the contours of Soviet history in the 1930s are very different from the “official” version.
The Question of Trotsky And Collaboration With Germany and Japan.
During the past decade a lot of documentary evidence has emerged from the former Soviet archives to contradict the viewpoint, canonical since at least Khrushchev’s time, that the defendants in the Moscow Trials and the “Tukhachevsky Affair” military conspiracy were innocent victims forced to make false confessions.
We have written a number of works either published or in the process of publication pointing out that we now have strong evidence that the confessions were not false and Moscow Trial defendants appear to have been truthful in confessing to conspiracies against the Soviet government. That work has led us to the present study.
Leon Trotsky and his son Leon Sedov were indicted but absent defendants at each of the three Moscow Trials. If the charges against and the confessions of other defendants were basically accurate, as our research has suggested so far, that has implications for the charges voiced at those trials that Trotsky was in league with fascist Germany and militarist Japan. Such considerations led us to form the hypothesis for the present study: that a thorough search of published documents from the former Soviet archives would turn up more evidence of Trotsky’s collaboration with Germany and Japan other than that given at the three Moscow Trials.
We came to adopt this hypothesis in much the same way Stephen Jay Gould describes how his colleague Peter Ward decided to test the “Alvarez hypothesis,” the socalled Cretaceous-Tertiary catastrophic extinction that contradicted the hitherto widely accepted theory of the gradual dying out of so many life-forms about 60 million years ago.6 In the course of reading many documents from the former Soviet archives for other research projects we had identified several that appeared to provide additional evidence that Trotsky had indeed collaborated with Germany. It seemed to us that more such documentary evidence might well be found if we actually set out to look for it. We also realized that, if no one ever set about looking for it, it would probably never be found and we would never know. The fact that we have formed this hypothesis does not at all mean that we have predetermined the result of our research. Some hypothesis or “theory” is a necessary precondition to any inquiry.
Gould reminds us of Darwin’s perceptive statement made to Henry Fawcett in 1861: How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service! 7 The present study is a “test” in Gould’s sense: “a fine example of theory” – Gould means “hypothesis” here – confirmed by data that no one ever thought of collecting before the theory itself demanded such a test. We have also been mindful of Gould’s caution that a test does not prejudice the inquiry itself:
Please note the fundamental difference between demanding a test and guaranteeing the result. The test might just as well have failed, thus dooming the theory. Good theories invite a challenge but do not bias the outcome. It is in principle impossible to prove a negative. If Trotsky did not collaborate with the Germans and/or Japanese there would be no evidence of his having done so. Unlike the situation with natural history, however, with human history there arises the possibility for fabricated or faked evidence. In the present essay we devote a lot of attention to this problem. We set out to see whether we could find more evidence that Trotsky had collaborated with the Germans and Japanese.
At a certain point in our research, when we had gathered a quantity of such evidence, we decided to study it and see what it amounted to. The present article is the result. There exists a good deal of evidence concerning clandestine involvement on Trotsky’s part with oppositional activities within the USSR during the 1930s quite aside from any collaboration with Germany and Japan. In addition to the testimony by defendants at the Moscow Trials, we also have archival evidence in the form of investigative interrogations to confirm such activity.
To review all of it is far beyond the scope of this or any article. The present work concentrates solely on evidence of Trotsky’s collaboration with German or Japanese governmental or military officials. We leave the other charges leveled against Trotsky unexamined. The charges of German and/or Japanese collaboration were the most shocking. They have always been regarded with far more skepticism. For the most part we only cite and analyze direct evidence concerning Trotsky and the Germans or Japanese. This is a very narrow approach that excludes a great deal of other, corroborating evidence which tends to add credence to the direct evidence of Trotsky’s guilt in collaborating with the fascists. For example, Nikolai Bukharin heard details from Karl Radek about Trotsky’s negotiations and agreements with Germany and Japan. Bukharin never directly communicated with Trotsky or Sedov about this. However, there is no reason whatever to doubt that Radek did tell him about Trotsky’s collaboration.
By corroborating Radek’s testimony on this point – Bukharin agrees that Radek did tell him this, as Radek himself had testified, so Bukharin attests to Radek’s truthfulness here – Bukharin also tends to indirectly corroborate what Radek said about Trotsky and what Radek claimed to have gotten at first hand, from Trotsky himself. That is, Bukharin’s testimony confirms that Radek was telling the truth in one instance, and that increases the credibility of Radek’s testimony on other matters, including of his contacts with Trotsky and what Trotsky communicated to him. But here we will examine only Radek’s, not Bukharin’s testimony. We refer the interested reader to our previous study of Bukharin (Furr and Bobrov 2007). In a few places we do cite some corroborating evidence, mainly for the sake of providing context for the direct evidence.
1 These trials are often called the “Show Trials.” Often too they are identified by the names of the one or two most famous defendants. Thus the trial of August 19-24, 1936 is often called the “Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial”; that of January 23-30, 1937, the Piatakov-Radek Trial”; that of March 2-13, 1938 the “BukharinRykov” Trial. The formal names for these trials are as follows: August 1936: “The Case of the TrotskyiteZinovievite Terrorist Centre”; January 1937: “The Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre”; March 1938: “The Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.’”
2 Leon Sedov died on February 16 1938, shortly before the third Moscow Trial. He continued to figure prominently in the confessions of some of the defendants, as did his father.
3 People’s Commissariat (= Ministry) of Internal Affairs, which included national security and political police functions.
4 Head of the KGB (= State Security Committee), the successor to the security and political police functions of the former NKDV.
5 Shelepin’s remarks are from his speech to the 22nd Party Congress of the CPSU, Pravda, October 27, 1961, p. 10, cols. 3-4. XXII S”ezd Kommunisticheskoi Partii Sovetskogo Soiuza. 17-31 oktiabria 1961 goda. Stenograficheskii Otchet (Moscow, 1962). II, 403. The parts Shelepin omitted, here in bold text, are in the fuller version in the “Spravka” of the Shvernik Report of 1963-4 first published in VoennoIstoricheskii Arkhiv 1 (1993), p. 194, now normally cited from the volume Reabilitatsia. Kak Eto Bylo [“Rehabilitation. How It Happened”] vol. 2 (2003), p. 688.
6 Stephen Jay Gould. Dinosaurs in the Haystack. Natural History 101 (March 1992): 2-13. Online at http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_dinosaurshaystack.html and http://www.sjgarchive.org/