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During his trial,
made several confessions and, during
confrontations with other accused, gave details about certain aspects
of the conspiracy.
U.S. ambassador to Moscow and
well-known lawyer, attended every session of the trial. He was
convinced, as were other competent foreign observers, that
had spoken freely and that his confessions were sincere. On March 17,
send a confidential message to the Secretary of State in
`Notwithstanding a prejudice arising from the confession evidence and a
prejudice against a judicial system which affords practically no
protection for the accused, after daily observation of the witnesses,
their manner of testifying, the unconscious corroboration which
developed, and other facts in the course of the trial, together with
others of which a judicial notice could be taken, it is my opinion so
far as the political defendants are concerned sufficient crimes under
Soviet law, among those charged in the indictment, were established by
the proof and beyond a reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of
guilty by treason and the adjudication of the punishment provided by
Soviet criminal statutes. The opinion of those diplomats who attended
the trial most regularly was general that the case had established the
fact that there was a formidable political opposition and an
exceedingly serious plot.'
Joseph E. Davies,
Mission to Moscow,
(New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 1943), p. 163.
During the trial's dozens of hours,
was perfectly lucid and
alert, discussing, contesting, sometimes humorous, vehemently denying
certain accusations. For those who attended the trial, as for those of
us who can read the trial proceedings, it is clear that the `show trial'
theory, widely diffused by anti-Communists, is unrealistic.
stated that the régime `may have hesitated to torture him, lest he
shout the truth the world in court'.
acid replies to the
trial attorney and its courageous denials, concluding as follows:
displayed supreme courage.'
was defeated. At last he knew that it had been a cardinal
error to bring
into open court.'
, p. 98.
The trial proceedings, eight hundred pages long, are very instructive
reading. They leave an indelible mark on the mind, a mark that cannot
be erased by the standard tirades against those `horrible trials'.
appears as an opportunist who was beaten politically and
criticized ideologically on repeated occasions. Rather than tranforming his
petit-bourgeois world view, he became a bitter man who dared not openly
oppose the Party's line and its impressive achievements. Remaining close to
the head of the Party, he hoped to overthrow the leadership and impose
his viewpoint through intrigues and backroom maneuvers. He colluded
with all sorts of clandestine opponents, some of who were dedicated
anti-Communists. Incapable of leading an open political struggle,
placed his hopes in a coup d'état resulting from a military
plot or that might result from a mass revolt.
Reading the proceedings allows one to clarify the relations between
the political degeneration of
and his friends and actual
criminal activity: assassinations, insurrections, spying, collusion
with foreign powers. As early as 1928--2929,
revisionist positions expressing the interests of the kulaks and other
received support from political factions
representing those classes, both within and without the Party. As the
class struggle became more intense,
allied himself to those
forces. The coming World War increased all tensions and opponents to
the Party leadership began to prepare violent acts and a coup
admitted his ties to these people, although he
vehemently denied having actually organized assassinations and
asked of him:
`you have said nothing about connections with the foreign
intelligence service and fascist circles',
`I have nothing to testify on this subject.'
Court Proceedings ... ``Bloc of Rights and
, p. 429.
had to recognize that within the bloc that he
led, some men had established ties to fascist Germany. Below is an
exchange from the trial on this subject.
explains that some
leaders in the conspiracy thought the confusion resulting from
military defeats in the case of war with Germany would create
ideal conditions for a coup détat.
(I)n 1935 ... Karakhan
left without a preliminary conversation
with the members of the leading centre, with the exception of
`As I remember,
told me that
had arrived at an
agreement with Germany on more advantageous terms than
When did you have a conversation about opening the front to
When I asked
how he conceived the mechanics of the
coup he said this was the business of the military organization, which
was to open the front.
was preparing to open the front?
He did not say that ....
said, ``Open the front''?
I will put it exactly.
What did he say?
said that this was a matter for the military
organization, which was to open the front.
Why was it to open the front?
He did not say.
Why was it to open the front?
From my point of view, it ought not to open the front ....
Were they to open the front from the point of view of
From the point of view of
At any rate, he did not
object to this point of view.
Since he did not object, it means that most likely he
, pp. 432--433.
In his declarations,
recognized that his revisionist line
pushed him to seek illegal ties with other opponents, that he was
hoping that revolts within the country would bring him to power, and
that he changed his tactics to terrorism and a coup d'état.
In his biography of
tries to correct the `widespread
misconception --- that
willingly confessed to hideous,
preposterous crimes in order ... to repent sincerely his
opposition to Stalinism, and thereby to perform a ``last service'' to
, p. 372.
plan ... was to turn his trial
into a counter-trial ... of the Stalinist regime'. `(H)is tactic
would be make sweeping confessions that he was ``politically
responsible'' for everything ... while at the same time flatly
denying ... any actual crime.'
claims that when
using terms such as `counter-revolutionary organization' or
`anti-Soviet bloc', he really meant the `Old Bolshevik Party':
`He would accept the symbolic role of representative Bolshevik:
``I bear responsibility for the bloc,'' that is for Bolshevism.'
, pp. 375--376.
as spokesperson for U.S. interests, can do such
pirouettes, since few readers will actually go and check the trial
But it is highly instructive to study the key passages of
testimony at the trial about his political evolution.
sufficiently lucid to understand the steps in his own political
degeneration and to understand how he got caught up in a
and the bourgeoisie can do their
utmost to whitewash
the `Bolshevik'. To Communists,
confessions provide important lessons about the mechanisms
of slow degeneration and anti-socialist subversion. These confessions
allow one to understand the later appearance of figures such as
Here is the text.
`The Right counter-revolutionaries seemed at first to be a
``deviation'' .... Here we went through a very interesting
process, an over-estimation of individual enterprise, a crawling over
to its idealization, the idealization of the property-owner. Such was
the evolution. Our program was --- the prosperous peasant farm of the
individual, but in fact the kulak became an end into itself ....
collective farms were music of the future. What was necessary
was to develop rich property-owners. This was the tremendous change
that took place in our standpoint and psychology ....
I myself in 1928 invented the formula about the military-feudal
exploitation of the peasantry, that is, I put the blame for the costs
of the class struggle not on the class which was hostile to the
proletariat, but on the leaders of the proletariat itself.'
Court Proceedings ... ``Bloc of Rights and
, pp. 380--381.
`If my program stand were to be formulated practically, it would be,
in the economic sphere, state capitalism, the prosperous muzhik
individual, the curtailment of the collective farms, foreign
concessions, surrender of the monopoly of foreign trade, and, as a
result --- the restoration of capitalism in the country.'
, p. 381.
`Inside the country our actual program ... was a lapse into
bourgeois-democratic freedom, coalition, because from the bloc with
the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the like, it follows
that there would be freedom of parties, freedom of coalition, and
follows quite logically from the combination of forces for struggle,
because if allies are chosen for overthrowing the government, on the
day after the possible victory they would be partners in power.'
, p. 382.
`My rapprochement with
dates approximately to
1928--1929 --- then contacts and sounding out the then members of the
Central Committee, illegal conferences which were illegal in respect
of the Central Committee.'
, p. 386.
`Here began the quest for blocs. Firstly, my meeting with
his apartment. Secondly, a meeting with
in the hospital,
was present. Thirdly, a meeting with
`The next stage in the development of the counter-revolutionary
organization of the Rights began in 1930--1931. At that time there
was a great sharpening of the class struggle, of kulak sabotage, kulak
resistance to the policy of the Party, etc....
trio became an illegal centre and
therefore, whereas before this trio had been at the head of the
opposition circles, now it became the centre of an illegal
counter-revolutionary organization ....
`Close to this illegal center was Yekudnize, who had contact with this
`(A)pproximately towards the end of 1931, the members of the so-called
school were transferred to work outside of Moscow --- to Voronezh,
Samara, Leningrad, Novosibirsk --- and this transfer was utilized for
counter-revolutionary purposes even then.'
, pp. 387--388.
`About the autumn of 1932 the next stage in the development of the
Right organization began, namely the transition to tactics of a
forcible overthrow of Soviet power.'
, p. 388.
`I make note of the time when the so-called Ryutin platform was
formulated .... the Ryutin platform (was) the platform of the Right
, pp. 388--389.
`The Ryutin platform was approved on behalf of the Right center. The
essential points of the Ryutin platform were: a ``palace coup'',
terrorism, steering a course for a direct alliance with the
Around this time the idea of a ``palace coup'' was
maturing in the Right circles, and not only in the upper circles, but
also, as far as I can remember, among a section of those working
outside of Moscow. At first this idea came from
who was in
contact with Yenukidze
.... who had charge of the Kremlin guard at
the time ....
`Consequently ..., the recruiting of people for a ``palace coup''.
This was when the political bloc with
In this period we had meetings also with
, pp. 390--391.
`(I)n the summer of 1932,
told me of his meeting with
policy of terrorism. At that time
and I considered that
these were not our ideas, but we decided that we could find a common
language very soon and that our differences in the struggle against
Soviet power would be overcome.'
, p. 391.
`The formation of the group of conspirators in the Red Army relates to
that period. I heard of it from
who was directly informed of
it by Yenukidze,
with whom he had personal connections ....
`I was informed by
who told me that in the upper
ranks of the Red Army the Rights,
then united their forces; names were mentioned to me --- I don't vouch
that I remember them all exactly --- but those I have remembered are
`Thus the connections with the centre of the Rights followed the line
of: the military group,
and the rest.'
, p. 393.
`In 1933--34 the kulaks were already smashed, an insurrectionary
movement ceased to be a real possibility, and therefore in the centre
of the Right organization a period again set in when the orientation
toward a counter-revolutionary conspiratorial coup became the central
`The forces of the conspiracy were: the forces of
their organizations in the Kremlin and in the People's
Commissariat of Internal Affairs;
also succeeded around that
time in enlisting, as far as I can remember, the former commandant of
who, a propos, was in his time the commandant
`Then there was the military organization of the conspirators:
, p. 419.
`During the period preceding the Seventeenth Party Congress,
broached the idea that the coup d'état with the help of the armed
counter-revolutionary forces should be timed exactly for the opening
of the Seventeenth Party Congress. According to
integral part of this coup was to be a monstrous crime --- the arrest
of the Seventeenth Party Congress.
`This idea of
was subjected to a discussion, though a very
cursory one; but objections to this idea were raised on all
objected to this idea not for considerations of principle,
but for considerations of tactics, because that would have aroused
extreme indignation among the masses .... But the fact alone that
this idea was conceived and that it was subjected to a discussion
speaks sufficiently clearly of the whole monstrosity and criminality
of an organization of this sort.'
, p. 425.
`In the summer of 1934
told me that directions had been received
was conducting negotiations with the
had already promised the Germans a number of
territorial concessions, including the Ukraine ....
`I must say that then, at that time, I remonstrated with
confirms this in his testimony, just as he confirmed at a
confrontation with me that I objected to this, that I considered it
essential that he,
should write and tell
that he was
going too far in these negotiations, that he might compromise not only
himself, but all his allies, us Right conspirators in particular, and
that this meant certain disaster for all of us. It seemed to me that
with the growth of mass patriotism, which is beyond all doubt, this
point of view of
was politically and tactically
, p. 430.
`I advanced the argument that since this was to be a military coup,
then by virtue of the logic of the things the military group of the
conspirators would have extraordinary influence, and, as always
happens in these cases, it would be just that section of the joint
upper group of the counter-revolutionary circles that would command
great material forces, and consequently political forces, and that
hence a peculiar
danger might arise. And Bonapartists ---
I was thinking particularly of
--- would start out by
making short shrift of their allies and so-called inspirers in
style. In my conversations I always called
and you know how
the so-called ideologists.
And you considered yourself an ideologist?
Both an ideologist of a counte-revolutionary coup and a
practical man. You, of course, would prefer to hear that I consider
myself a spy, but I never considered myself a spy, nor do I now.
It would be more correct if you did.
That is your opinion, but my opinion is different.'
, pp. 431--432.
When it was time for his last statement,
already knew that he
was a dead man.
can read in this speech a `fine defence of real
Bolshevism` and a `denunciation of Stalinism'. On the other hand,
a Communist hears a man who struggled for many years against
socialism, who took irrevocable revisionist positions, and who,
facing his grave, realized that in the context of bitter national and
international class struggles, his revisionism had led him to treason.
`This naked logic of the struggle was accompanied by a degeneration of
ideas, a degeneration of psychology ....
`And on this basis, it seems to me probable that every one of us
sitting here in the dock suffered from a peculiar duality of mind, an
incomplete faith in his counter-revolutionary cause .... Hence a
certain semi-paralysis of the will, a retardation of reflexes ....
The contradiction that arose between the acceleration of our
degeneration and these retarded reflexes expressed the position of a
counter-revolutionary, or a developing counter-revolutionary, under
the conditions of developing socialist construction. A dual
psychology arose ....
`Even I was sometimes carried away by the eulogies I wrote of socialist
construction, although on the morrow I repudiated this by practical
actions of a criminal character. There arose what in Hegel's
philosophy is called a most unhappy mind. This unhappy mind differed
from the ordinary unhappy mind only in the fact that it was also a
`The might of the proletarian state found its expression not only in
the fact that it smashed the counter-revolutionary bands, but also in
the fact that it disintegrated its enemies from within, that it
disorganized the will of its enemies. Nowhere else is this the case,
nor can it be in any capitalist country ....
`Repentance is often attributed to diverse and absolutely absurd things
like Thibetan powders and the like. I must say of myself that in
prison, where I was confined for over a year, I worked, studied, and
retained my clarity of mind. This will serve to refute by facts all
fables and absurd counter-revolutionary tales.
`Hypnotism is suggested. But I conducted my own defence in Court from
the legal standpoint too, orientated myself on the spot, argued with
the State Prosecutor; and anybody, even a man who has little
experience in this branch of medicine, must admit that hypnotism of
this kind is altogether impossible ....
`I shall now speak of myself, of the reasons for my repentance. Of
course, it must be admitted that incriminating evidence plays a very
important part. For three months I refused to say anything. Then I
began to testify. Why? Because while in prison I made a revaluation
of my entire past. For when you ask yourself: ``If you must die,
what are you dying for?'' --- an absolutely black vacuity suddenly
rises before you with startling vividness. There was nothing to die
for, if one wanted to die unrepented. And, on the contrary,
everything positive that glistens in the Soviet Union acquires new
dimensions in a man's mind. This in the end disarmed me completely and
led me to bend my knees before the Party and the country ....
`The point, of course, is not this repentance, or my personal
repentance in particular. The Court can pass its verdict without it.
The confession of the accused is not essential. The confession of the
accused is a medieval principle of jurisprudence. But here we also
have the internal demolition of the forces of the counter-revolution.
And one must be a
not to lay down one's arms.
`I feel it my duty to say here that in the parallelogram of forces
which went to make up the counter-revolutionary tactics,
the principal motive force. And the most acute methods --- terrorism,
espionage, the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R. and wrecking ---
proceeded primarily from this source.
`I may infer a priori that
and my other allies in crime, as
well as the Second International, all the more since I discussed this
will endeavour to defend us, especially and
particularly myself. I reject this defence, because I am kneeling
before the country, before the Party, before the whole people.'
, pp. 776--779.
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Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995