BY ALBERT E KAHN and MICHAELM SAYERS
CHAPTER XV from The Great Conspiracy: the secret war against soviet Russia
None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors. The material has been drawn from various documentary sources which are indicated in the text or listed in the Bibliographical Notes.
1. Rebel among Revolutionaries
From the moment Hitler took power in Germany, the international counterrevolution became an integral part of the Nazi plan of world conquest. In every country, Hitler mobilized the counterrevolutionary forces which for the past fifteen years had been organizing throughout the world. These forces were now converted into the Fifth Columns of Nazi Germany, organizations of treason, espionage and terror. These Fifth Columns were the secret vanguards of the German Wehrmacht.
One of the most powerful and important of these Fifth Columns operated in Soviet Russia. It was headed by a man who was perhaps the most remarkable political renegade in all history.
The name of this man was Leon Trotsky.
When the Third Reich came into being, Leon Trotsky was already the leader of an international anti-Soviet conspiracy with powerful forces inside the Soviet Union. Trotsky in exile was plotting the overthrow of the Soviet Government, his own return to Russia and the assumption of that personal power he had once so nearly held.
«There was a time,» Winston Churchill wrote in Great Contemporaries, «when Trotsky stood very close to the vacant throne of the Romanovs.»
In 1919-1920, the world press dubbed Trotsky the «Red Napoleon.» Trotsky was War Commissar. Dressed in a long smart military topcoat, with shining high boots, an automatic pistol on his hip, Trotsky toured the battlefronts delivering fiery orations to the Red Army soldiers. He converted an armored train into his private headquarters and surrounded himself with a specially uniformed, personal armed bodyguard. He had his own faction in the Army Command, in the Bolshevik Party and in the Soviet Government. Trotsky’s train, Trotsky’s guard, Trotsky’s speeches, Trotsky’s features – his shock of black hair, his little black pointed beard and his darting eyes behind his glittering pince-nez – were world-famous. In Europe and in the United States, the victories of the Red Army were credited to «Trotsky’s leadership.»
Here is how War Commissar Trotsky, addressing one of his spectacular mass rallies in Moscow, was described by the famous American foreign correspondent, Isaac F. Marcosson: –
Trotsky made his appearance in what actors call a good entrance . . . after a delay, and at the right psychological moment, he emerged from the wings and walked with quick steps to the little pulpit which is provided for speakers at all Russian gatherings.
Even before he came on the stage there was a tremor of anticipation throughout the great audience. You could get the murmur, «Trotsky comes.» . . .
On the platform his voice was rich, deep and eloquent. He attracted and repelled; dominated and domineered. He was elemental, almost primitive in his fervor – a high-powered human engine. He inundated his hearers with a Niagara of speech, the like of which I have never heard. Vanity and arrogance stood out pre-eminently.
After his dramatic deportation from Soviet Russia in 1929, a myth was woven by anti-Soviet elements throughout the world around the name and personality of Leon Trotsky. According to this myth Trotsky was «the outstanding Bolshevik leader of the Russian Revolution» and «Lenin’s inspirer, closest co-worker and logical successor.»
But in February 1917, one month before the collapse of Czarist, Lenin himself wrote: –
The name Trotsky signifies: Left phraseology and a bloc with the right against the aim of the left.
Lenin called Trotsky the «Judas» of the Russian Revolution.(1)
Traitors are made, not born. Like Benito Mussolini, Pierre Laval, Paul Joseph Goebbels, Jacques Doriot, Wang Ching-wei and other notorious adventurers of modern times, Leon Trotsky began his career as a dissident, extreme leftist element within the revolutionary movement of his native land.
The name Trotsky was a pseudonym. He was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, the son of prosperous middle-class parents, in Yanovka, a little farming village near Kherson in southern Russia, in 1879. His first ambition was to be an author.
«In my eyes,» Trotsky wrote in his autobiography My Life, «authors, journalists and artists always stood for a world that was more attractive than any other, a world open to the elect.»
The youthful Trotsky started work on a play, and appeared in Odessa literary salons in high-heeled boots, wearing a blue artist’s smock, with a round straw hat on his head, and carrying a black cane. While still a student, he joined a group of bohemian radicals. At eighteen, he was arrested by the Czarist police for distributing left-wing literature and exiled, along with hundreds of other students and revolutionists, to Siberia. He escaped from Siberia in the fall of 1902, and went to live abroad, where he was to spend the greater part of his life as an agitator and conspirator among the Russian émigrés and cosmopolitan socialists in the European capitals.
For the first few months of 1903 Trotsky was a member of the staff of Iskra, the Marxist paper which Lenin was editing in exile in London. Following the Menshevik-Bolshevik split which took place in the Russian Marxist movement that summer, Trotsky became affiliated with Lenin’s political opponents, the Mensheviks. Trotsky’s literary talent, flamboyant oratory, dominating personality and flair for self-dramatization soon won him the reputation of being the most brilliant young Menshevik agitator. He toured the Russian radical student colonies of Brussels, Paris, Liege, Switzerland and Germany assailing Lenin and the other Bolsheviks who called for a disciplined, highly organized revolutionary party to lead the struggle against Czarism. In a pamphlet entitled Our Political Tasks, published in 1904, Trotsky accused Lenin of trying to impose a «barracks-room regime» on the Russian radicals. In language startlingly similar to that which he was later to use in his attacks on Stalin, the young Trotsky denounced Lenin as «the leader of the reactionary wing of our party.»
In 1905, following the Czarist defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, the workers and peasants rose in the abortive «first» Russian Revolution. Trotsky hastened back to Russia and became a leading member of the Menshevik-controlled St. Petersburg Soviet. In the hectic atmosphere of intrigue, the intense political conflict and the sense of imminent power, Trotsky found his element. At twenty-six, he emerged from the experience convinced that he was destined to be the leader of the Russian Revolution. Already Trotsky was talking in terms of his «fate» and his «revolutionary intuition.» Years later, in My Life, he wrote: –
I came to Russia in February of 1905; the other émigré leaders did not come until October and November. Among the Russian comrades, there was not one from whom I could learn anything. On the contrary, I had to assume the position of teacher myself. . . . In October, I plunged headlong into the gigantic whirlpool, which, in a personal sense, was the greatest test for my powers. Decisions had to be made under fire. I can’t help noting here that those decisions came to me quite obviously. . . . I organically felt that my years of apprenticeship were over . . . in the years that followed I have been learning as a master learns, and not as a pupil. . . . No great work is possible without intuition. . . . The events of 1905 revealed in me, I believe, this revolutionary intuition, and enabled me to rely on its assured support during my later life. . . . In all conscientiousness, I cannot, in the appreciation of the political situation, as a whole and of its revolutionary perspectives, accuse myself of any serious errors of judgment.
Abroad again, after the defeat of the 1905 revolution, Trotsky set up his own political headquarters in Vienna and, attacking Lenin as «a candidate for the post of dictator,» launched a propaganda campaign to build his own movement and to promote himself as a «revolutionary internationalist.» From Vienna, Trotsky moved restlessly to Rumania, Switzerland, France, Turkey, enlisting followers and forming valuable connections with European Socialists and leftist radicals. Gradually and persistently, among the Russian emigre Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and bohemian intellectuals, Trotsky built up a reputation for himself as Lenin’s chief rival within the Russian revolutionary movement.
«The whole construction of Leninism,» wrote Trotsky in a confidential letter to the Russian Menshevik leader Tscheidze, on February 23, 1913, «is at present built up on lies and contains the poisonous germ of its own disintegration.» Trotsky went on to tell his Menshevik associate that, in his opinion, Lenin was nothing more than «a professional exploiter of every backwardness in the Russian workers’ movement.»
The collapse of the Czar’s regime in March 1917 found Trotsky in New York City, editing a Russian radical newspaper, Novy Mir (New World), in collaboration with his friend and Lenin’s opponent, Nicolai Bukharin, an ultra-leftist Russian emigre politician whom one observer described as «a blond Machiavelli in a leather jacket.»(2) Trotsky hastily booked passage for Russia. His trip was interrupted when the Canadian authorities arrested him at Halifax. After being held in custody for a month, he was released at the request of the Russian Provisional Government and sailed for Petrograd.
The British Government had decided to let Trotsky return to Russia. According to the memoirs of the British agent Bruce Locknart, the British Intelligence Service believed it might be able to make use of the «dissensions between Trotsky and Lenin » (3) . . .
Trotsky reached Petrograd in May. At first he tried to create a revolutionary party of his own – a bloc composed of former émigrés and extreme leftist elements from different radical parties. But it was soon clear that there was no future for Trotsky’s movement. The Bolshevik Party had the support of the revolutionary masses.
In August 1917, Trotsky made a sensational political somersault. After fourteen years of opposition to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Trotsky applied for membership in the Bolshevik Party.
Lenin had repeatedly warned against Trotsky and his personal ambitions; but now, in the crucial struggle to establish a Soviet Government, Lenin’s policy called for a united front of all revolutionary factions, groups and parties. Trotsky was the spokesman for a sizable group. Outside of Russia his name was better known than that of any other Russian revolutionary except Lenin. Moreover, Trotsky’s unique talents as an orator, agitator and organizer could be used to great advantage by the Bolsheviks. Trotsky’s application for membership in the Bolshevik Party was accepted.
Characteristically, Trotsky made a spectacular entry into the Bolshevik Party. He brought with him into the Party his entire motley following of dissident leftists. As Lenin humorously put it, it was like coming to terms with a «major power.»
Trotsky became Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, in which he had made his first revolutionary appearance in 1905. He held this position during the decisive days that followed. When the first Soviet Government was formed as a coalition of Bolsheviks, left Social Revolutionaries and former Mensheviks, Trotsky, became Foreign Commissar. His intimate knowledge of foreign languages and wide acquaintance with foreign countries fitted him for the post.
2. The Left Opposition
First as Foreign Commissar and then as War Commissar, Trotsky was the chief spokesman of the so-called Left Opposition within the Bolshevik Party.(4) Although few in number, the oppositionists were talented speakers and organizers. They had wide connections abroad, and among the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries in Russia. In the early days after the Revolution they secured important posts in the army, diplomatic corps and executive state institutions.
Trotsky shared the leadership of the Opposition with two other dissident radicals: Nicolai Bukharin, the slim, blond, self-styled «Marxist ideologist,» who headed a group of so-called «Left Communists»; and Grigori Zinoviev, the burly, eloquent leftist agitator, who, together with Trotsky’s brother-in-law, Leo Kamencv, led his own sect, called «Zinovievites.» Trotsky, Bukharin and Zinoviev frequently quarreled among themselves on questions of tactics, and because of personal rivalries and conflicting political ambitions, but at crucial moments they joined forces in repeated attempts to gain control of the Soviet Government.
Trotsky’s own followers included: Yuri Pyatakov, radical son of a rich Ukrainian family, who had fallen under Trotsky’s influence in Europe; Karl Radek, the brilliant Polish «leftist» journalist and agitator who had become associated with Trotsky in opposition to Lenin in Switzerland; Nicolai Krestinsky, a former lawyer and ambitious Bolshevik Duma representative; Grigori Sokolnikov, a youthful cosmopolitan radical who entered the Soviet Foreign Office under Trotsky’s auspices; and Christian Rakovsky, the former wealthy financial backer of the Rumanian Socialists, a Bulgarian by birth, who had lived in most European countries, taken a medical degree in France and become one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Soviet uprising in 1918.
In addition, as War Commissar, Trotsky surrounded himself with a clique of tough, violent army men who formed a special «Trotsky Guard» fanatically devoted to their «leader.» A prominent member of Trotsky’s military faction was Nicolai Muralov, the six-foot, daredevil commander of the Moscow Military Garrison. Trotsky’s personal bodyguard included Ivan Smirnov, Sergei Mrachkovsky and Ephraim Dreitzer. The former Social Revolutionary terrorist, Blumkin, the assassin of Count Mirbach, became chief of Trotsky’s personal bodyguard.(5)
Trotsky also allied himself with a number of former Czarist officers whom he befriended and, despite frequent warnings from the Bolshevik Party, placed in important military posts. One exCzarist officer with whom Trotsky became intimately associated in 1920, during the Polish campaign, was Mikhail Nicolayevich Tukhachevsky, a military leade: with Napoleonic ambitions of his own.
The aim of the combined Left Opposition was to supplant Lenin and take power in Soviet Russia.
The great issue facing the Russian revolutionaries after the defeat of the White Armies and the intervention was: What to do with the Soviet power? Trotsky, Bukharin and Zinoviev held that it was impossible to build socialism in «backward Russia.» The Left Opposition wanted to convert the Russian Revolution into a reservoir of «world revolution,» a world center from which to promote revolutions in other countries. Stripped of its «ultrarevolutionary verbiage,» as both Lenin and Stalin repeatedly pointed out, the Left Opposition really stood for a wild struggle for power, «bohemian anarchism» and, inside Russia, military dictatorship under War Commissar Trotsky and his associates.
The issue came to a head at the Congress of Soviets in December 1920. It was the coldest, hungriest and most crucial year of the Revolution. The Congress assembled in the Hall of Columns in Moscow. The city was snowbound, frozen stiff, starved and sick. In the great hall, unheated because of the fuel crisis, the Soviet delegates were wrapped in sheepskins, blankets and furs, shivering from the intense December cold.
Lenin, still pale and shaken from the aftereffects of Fanya Kaplav’s poisoned bullets which had so nearly ended his life in 1918, rose on the platform to give his reply to the Left Opposition. He described the terrible conditions prevailing in Russia. He called for national unity to meet the «incredible difficulties» of reorganizing economic and social life. He announced the New Economic Policy abolishing the rigid so-called «War Communism» and restoring a measure of private trade and capitalism in Russia and opening the way for the beginning of reconstruction. «We take one step backward,» said Lenin, «in order at a later date to take two steps forward!»
When Lenin announced the «temporary retreat» of the New Economic Policy, Trotsky exclaimed: «The cuckoo has cuckooed the end of the Soviet Government!»
But Lenin believed that the work of the Soviet Government had only begun. He told the Congress: –
Only when the country is electrified, when industry, agriculture and transport are placed on a technical basis of modern large-scale production – only then will our victory be complete.
There was a huge map of Russia on the platform. At a signal from Lenin, a switch was touched and. the map was suddenly illuminated. It showed the Congress how Lenin envisaged the future of his country. Electric lights sparkled on the map at multitudinous points, indicating to the frozen and hungry Soviet delegates the future power stations, hydroelectric dams and other vast projects from which streams of electrical energy would one day pour to transform Old Russia into a modern, industrialized, socialist nation. A murmur of excitement, applause and incredulity swept the cold, packed hall.
Trotsky’s friend, Karl Radek, watched the prophetic spectacle through his thick glasses, shrugged his shoulders, and whispered: «Electro-fiction!» Radek’s witticism became a Trotskyite slogan. Bukharin said Lenin was trying to fool the peasants and workers with his «Utopian chatter about electricity!»
Outside Soviet Russia, Trotsky’s international friends and supporters in Socialist and left Communist circles believed that Lenin’s regime was doomed. Many other observers also believed Trotsky and the Left Opposition were on the verge of power. The American foreign correspondent, Isaac F. Marcosson, reported that Trotsky had «the young Communists, most of the officers, and the rank and file of the Red Army behind him.» But the outside world, like Trotsky himself, overestimated his strength and popularity.
In an effort to rally a mass following, Trotsky toured the country, snaking dramatic appearances at public rallies, delivering impassioned speeches, accusing the «Old Bolsheviks» of having «degenerated,» and calling on the «youth» to support his movement. But the Russian soldiers, workers and peasants, fresh from the victorious struggle against the would-be White Napoleons, were in no mood to tolerate a «Red Napoleon» arising within their own ranks. As Sir Bernard Pares wrote in his History of Russia, concerning Trotsky at this period: –
An acute critic who saw him at close quarters has truly said that Trotsky by his nature and by his methods belonged to pre-revolutionary times. Demagogues were getting out of date. . . .
At the Tenth Bolshevik Party Congress, in March 1921, the Central Committee headed by Lenin passed a resolution outlawing all «factions» in the Party as a menace to the unity of the revolutionary leadership. From now on all party leaders would have to submit to the majority decisions and the majority rule, on penalty of expulsion from the Party. The Central Committee specifically warned «Comrade Trotsky» against his «factional activities,» and stated that «enemies of the State,» taking advantage of the confusion caused by his disruptive activities, were penetrating the Party and calling themselves «Trotskyites.» A number of important Trotskvites and other Left Oppositionists were demoted. Trotsky’s chief military aide, Nicolai Muralov, was removed as commander of the strategic Moscow Military Garrison and replaced by the old Bolshevik, Klementi Voroshilov.
The following year, in March 1922, Josef Stalin was elected General Secretary of the Party and made responsible for the carrying out of Lenin’s plans.
Following the blunt Party warning, and the demotion of his followers, Trotsky’s mass following began to melt away. His prestige was on the wane. Stalin’s election was a crushing blow to Trotsky’s faction in the Party apparatus.
Power was slipping from Trotsky’s hands.
3. The Path to Treason
From the beginning, the Left Opposition had functioned in two ways. Openly, on public platforms, in its own newspapers and lecture halls, the oppositionists brought their propaganda to the people. Behind the scenes, small clandestine factional conferences of Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, Radek, Pyatakov and others mapped out the over-all strategy and planned the tactics of the Opposition.
With this opposition movement as a base, Trotsky built a secret conspiratorial organization in Russia based on the «fives system» which Reilly had developed and which the Social Revolutionaries and other anti-Soviet conspirators had used.
By 1923, Trotsky’s underground apparatus was already a potent and far-reaching organization. Special codes, ciphers and passwords were devised by Trotsky and his adherents for purposes of illegal communication. Secret printing presses were set LIP throughout the country. Trotskyite cells were established in the army, the diplomatic corps, and in the Soviet state and party institutions.
Years later, Trotsky revealed that his own son, Leon Sedov, was involved at this time in the Trotskyite conspiracy which was already ceasing to be a mere political opposition within the Bolshevik Party and was on the point of merging with the secret war against the Soviet regime.
«In 1923,» wrote Trotsky in 1938 in the pamphlet Leon Sedov: Son-Friend-Fighter, «Leon threw himself headlong into the work of the Opposition. . . . Thus, at seventeen, he began the life of a fully conscious revolutionist. He quickly grasped the art of conspiratorial work, illegal meetings, and the secret issuing and distribution of Opposition documents. The Komsomol (Communist Youth organization) rapidly developed its own cadres of Opposition leaders.»
But Trotsky had gone further than conspiratorial work inside Soviet Russia. . . .
In the winter of 1921-1922, the swarthy, furtive-eyed former lawyer and leading Trotskyite, Nicolai Krestinsky, had become the Soviet Ambassador to Germany. In the course of his duties in Berlin, Krestinsky visited General Hans von Seeckt, commander of the Reichswehr. Seeckt knew from his Intelligence reports that Krestinsky was a Trotskyite. The German general gave Krestinsky to understand that the Reichswehr was sympathetic with the aims of the Russian Opposition led by War Commissar Trotsky.
In Moscow, a few months later, Krestinsky reported to Trotsky what General Seeckt had said. Trotsky was desperately in need of funds to finance his growing underground organization. He told Krestinsky that the Opposition in Russia needed foreign allies and must be prepared to form alliances with friendly powers. Germany, Trotsky added, was not an enemy of Russia, and there was no likelihood of an early clash between them; the Germans were looking westward and burning with a desire to revenge themselves on France and England. Opposition politicians in Soviet Russia must be prepared to capitalize on this situation. . . .
When Krestinsky returned to Berlin in 1922, he had Trotsky’s instructions to «take advantage of a meeting with Seeckt during official negotiations to propose to him, to Seeckt, that he grant Trotsky a regular subsidy for the development of illegal Trotskyite activities.»
Here, in Krestinsky’s own words, is what happened: –
I put the question before Seeckt and named the sum of 250,000 gold marks. General Seeckt, after consulting his assistant, the chief of staff (Haase) agreed in principle and put up the counter demand that certain confidential and important information of a military nature should be transmitted to him, even if not regularly, by Trotsky in Moscow or through me. In addition, he was to receive assistance in obtaining visas for some persons whom they would send to the Soviet Union as spies. This counter-demand of General Seeckt was accepted and in 1923 this agreement was put into effect.(6)
On January 21, 1924, the creator and leader of the Bolshevik Party, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, died.
Trotsky was in the Caucasus recuperating from a mild attack of influenza. He did not return to Moscow for Lenin’s funeral, but stayed on at the seaside resort of Sukhum.
«At Sukhum I spent long days lying on the balcony facing the sea,» Trotsky wrote in My Life. «Although it was January the sun was warm and bright. . . . As I breathed the sea air in, I assimilated with my whole being the assurance of my historical rightness. . . .»
4. The Struggle for Power
Immediately after Lenin’s death, Trotsky made his open bid for power. At the Party Congress in May 1924, Trotsky demanded that he, and not Stalin, be recognized as Lenin’s successor. Against the advice of his own allies, he forced the question to a vote. The 748 Bolshevik delegates at the Congress voted unanimously to maintain Stalin as General Secretary, and in condemnation of Trotsky’s struggle for personal power. So obvious was the popular repudiation of Trotsky that even Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev were compelled to side publicly with the majority and vote against him. Trotsky furiously assailed them for «betraying» him. But a few months later Trotsky and Zinoviev again joined forces and formed a «New Opposition.»
The New Opposition went further than any previous faction of its kind. It openly called for «new leadership» in Soviet Russia and rallied every kind of malcontent and subversive element in a nationwide propaganda and political struggle against the Soviet Government. As Trotsky himself later wrote: «In the wake of this vanguard, there dragged the tail end of all sorts of dissatisfied, ill-equipped and chagrined careerists.» Spies, Torgprom saboteurs, White counterrevolutionaries, terrorists, flocked into the secret cells of the New Opposition. The cells began to store arms. An actual secret Trotskyite army was in process of formation on Soviet soil.
«We must aim far ahead,» Trotsky told Zinoviev and Kamenev, as he records in My Life. «We must prepare for a long and serious struggle.»
From outside Russia, Captain Sidney George Reilly of the British Intelligence Service decided it was the moment to strike. The would-be Russian dictator and British puppet, Boris Savinkov, was sent back into Russia that summer to prepare the expected counterrevolutionary uprising.(7) According to Winston Churchill, who himself played a part in this conspiracy, Savinkov was in secret communication with Trotsky. In Great Contemporaries, Churchill wrote: «In June 1924, Kamenev and Trotsky definitely invited him [Savinkov] to return.»
That same year, Trotsky’s lieutenant, Christian Rakovslcy, became Soviet Ambassador to England. Rakovsky, whom in 1937 Trotsky described as «my friend, my genuine old friend,» was visited in his London office shortly after his arrival by two British Intelligence officers, Captain Armstrong and Captain Lockhart. The British Government had at first refused to accept a Soviet representative in London. According to Rakovsky, the British officers informed him: –
Do you know why you received your agreement in Engiand? We have been making enquiries about you from Mr. Eastman and learn that you belong to Mr. Trotsky’s faction, and that you are on intimate terms with him. And only in consideration of this did the Intelligence Service consent to your being accredited Ambassador to this country.(8)
Rakovsky returned to Moscow a few months later. He told Trotsky, what had happened in London. The British Intelligence Service, like the German, wished to establish relations with the Opposition.
«This is something to think about,» said Trotsky.
A few days later, Trotsky told Rakovsky that «relations with the British Intelligence Service should be established.» °
Captain Reilly, preparing his last coup in Russia, was writing to his wife: «There is something entirely new, powerful and worth while going on in Russia.» Reilly’s agent, the British consular official Commander E., had reported to him that contacts had been made with the opposition movement in Soviet Russia. . . .
But that fall, after going into Soviet Russia to meet secretly with the opposition leaders, Reilly was shot by a Soviet border guard.
A few months after Reilly’s death, Trotsky developed what he later referred to in My Life as a «mysterious temperature» which «Moscow physicians» were «at a loss» to explain. Trotsky decided it was necessary for him to go to Germany. He records in his autobiography: –
The matter of my visit abroad was taken up at the Politbureau, which stated that it regarded my trip as extremely dangerous in view of the information it had and the general political situation, but that it left the final decision to me. The statement was accompanied by a note of reference from the G.P.U. indicating the inadmissibility of my trip. . . . It is possible that the Politbureau was also apprehensive of my taking action abroad to consolidate the foreign opposition. Nevertheless, after consulting my friends, I decided to go.
In Germay, according to his own story, Trotsky stayed at a private clinic in Berlin,» where he was visited by Nicolai Krestinsky, Trotsky’s liaison with the German Military Intelligence. While Trotsky and Krestinsky were conferring together at the clinic a German «police inspector,» according to Trotskv, suddenly appeared and announced that the German secret police were taking extraordinary measures to safeguard Trotsky’s life because they had discovered a «plot» to assassinate him.
.As a result of this time-honored Intelligence device, Trotsky and Krestinsky were closeted with the German secret police for several hours. . . .
A new agreement was reached that summer between Trotsky and the German Military Intelligence. Krestinsky later defined the terms of this agreement: –
At that time we had already become accustomed to receiving sums regularly, in sound currency. . . . This money went for the Trotskyite work which was developing abroad in various countries, for publishing literature and so forth. . . . In 1928, when the struggle of the Trotskyites abroad against the Party leadership was at its height, both in Moscow and among the fraternal groups . . . Seeckt . . . advanced the proposal that the espionage information which was being transmitted to him not regularly but from time to time should now assume a more regular character, and, in addition, that the Trotskyite organization should pledge that in case it assumed power during a possible new worid war, this Trotsky-ite government would take into consideration the just demands of the German bourgeoisie, that is to say, mainly for concessions and for the conclusion of treaties of a different kind.
After I consulted Trotsky… I answered General Seeckt in the affirmative and our information began to assume a more systematic character, no longer sporadic, as it had been before. Verbally, promises were made with regard to a future post-war agreement.
…we kept on receiving money. Beginning with 1923 until 1930 we received annually 250,000 German marks in gold… approximately 2,000,000 gold marks.
Back in Moscow after his trip to Germany, Trotsky launched an all-out campaign against the Soviet leadership. «During 1926,» writes Trotsky in My Life, «the party struggle developed with increasing intensity. In the autumn the Opposition even made an open sortie at the meetings of the party locals.» These tactics failed and aroused widespread resentment among the workers who angrily denounced the Trotskyite disruptive activities. «The Opposition,» wrote Trotsky, «was obliged to beat a retreat. . . .»
With the threat of war hanging over Russia in the summer of 1927, Trotsky renewed his attacks on the Soviet Government. In Moscow, Trotsky publicly declared: –
«We must restore the tactics of Clemenceau, who, as is well known, rose against the French Government at a time when the Germans were 80 kilometers from Paris!»
Stalin denounced Trotsky’s statement as treasonable. «Something like a united front from Chamberlain(10) to Trotsky is being formed,» said Stalin.
Once again, a vote was taken on the subject of Trotsky and his Opposition. In a general referendum of all Bolshevik Party members the overwhelming majority, by a vote of 740,000 to 4000, repudiated the Trotskyite Opposition and declared themselves in favor of Stalin’s administration.(11)
In My Life, Trotsky describes the hectic conspiratorial activity which followed his stunning defeat at the general referendum: «Secret meetings were held in various parts of Moscow and Leningrad attended by workers and students of both sexes, who gathered in groups of from twenty to one hundred and two hundred to hear some representative of the Opposition. In one day I would visit two, three and sometimes four of such meetings. . . . The Opposition cleverly prepared a huge meeting in the hall of the High Technical School, which had been occupied from within. . . . The attempts of the administration to stop the meeting proved ineffectual. Kamenev and I spoke for about two hours.»
Trotsky was feverishly preparing for the coming showdown. By the end of October, his plans were made. An uprising was to take place on November 7, 1927, the Tenth Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky’s most resolute followers, former members of the Red Army Guard, were to head the insurrection. Detachments were posted to take over strategic points throughout the country. The signal for the rising was to be a political demonstration against the Soviet Government during the mass workers’ parade in Moscow on the morning of November 7. In MY Life, Trotsky later stated: –
The leading group of the opposition faced this finale with its eyes wide open. We realized only too clearly that we could make our ideas the common property of the new generation not by diplomacy and evasions but only by an open struggle which shirked none of the practical consequences. We went to meet the inevitable debacle, confident, however, that we were paving the way for the triumph of our ideas in a more distant future.
Trotsky’s insurrection collapsed almost as soon as it started. On the morning of November 7, as the workers marched through the Moscow streets, Trotskyite propaganda leaflets were showered down on them from high buildings announcing the advent of the «new leadership.» Small bands of Trotskyites suddenly appeared in the streets, waving banners and placards. They were swept away by the irate workers.
The Soviet authorities acted swiftly. Muralov, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Dreitzer and other former members of the Trotsky military guard were promptly seized. Kamenev and Pyatakov were arrested in Moscow. Government agents raided secret Trotskyite printing presses and arms dumps. Zinoviev and Radek were arrested in Leningrad, where they had gone to organize a simultaneous Putsch. One of Trotsky’s followers, the diplomat Joffe who had been Ambassador to Japan, committed suicide. In some places, Trotskyites were arrested in the company of former White officers, Social Revolutionary terrorists, and foreign agents. . . .
Trotsky was expelled from the Bolshevik Party and sent into exile.
5. Alma Ata
Trotsky was exiled to Alma Ata, capital of the Kazakh Soviet Republic in StLeria, near the border of China. He was given a house for himself, his wife Natalie and his son, Sedov. Trotsky was treated leniently by the Soviet Government, which was as yet unaware of the real scope and significance of his conspiracy. He was permitted to retain some of his personal bodyguards, including the former Red Army officer Ephraim Dreitzer. He was allowed to receive and send personal mail, to have his own library and confidential «archives» and to be visited from time to time by friends and admirers.
But Trotsky’s exile by no means put an end to his conspiratorial activities . . .
On November 27, 1927, the subtlest of all the Trotskyite strategists, the German agent and diplomat, Nicolai Krestinsky, had written a confidential letter to Trotsky which laid down the exact strategy followed by the Trotskyite conspirators during the ensuing years. It was absurd, wrote Krestinsky, for the Trotskyite Opposition to try to continue its open agitation against the Soviet Government. Instead, the Trotskyites must try to get back into the Party, secure key positions in the Soviet Government, and continue the struggle for power from within the governmental apparatus itself. The Trotskyites, said Krestinsky, must seek «slowly, gradually, and by persistent work within the Party, and the Soviet apparatus, to restore, to again earn the confidence of the masses and influence over the masses.»
Krestinsky’s subtle strategy appealed to Trotsky. He soon issued instructions, as Krestinsky later revealed, to his followers who had been arrested and exiled to «get back into the Party by deception,» «continue our activities in secret’,’ and «occupy there more or less independent responsible posts.» Pyatakov, Radek, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other exiled oppositionists began denouncing Trotsky, proclaiming the «tragic error» of their past opposition and pleading for readmission to the Bolshevik Party.
Trotsky’s house in Alma Ata was the center of intense anti-Soviet intrigue. «The ideological life of the opposition seethed like a cauldron at the time,» Trotsky later wrote in the pamphlet Leon Sedov: Son-Friend-Fighter. From Alma Ata, Trotsky directed a clandestine nationwide propaganda and Subversive campaign against the Soviet regime.(12)
Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, was placed in charge of the secret communication system by which Trotsky kept in touch with his own followers and other oppositionists throughout the country. In his early twenties, with great nervous energy, and already trained as an expert conspirator, Sedov combined a fierce attachment to the aims of the Opposition with a continuous, embittered resentment against his father’s egoistic and dictatorial behavior. In Leon Sedov: Soya-Friend-Fighter, Trotsky revealed the important role which Sedov played in supervising the secret communication system from Alma Ata. Trotsky wrote: –
In the winter of 1927 . . . Leon had passed his twenty second year. . . . His work in Alma Ara, during that year, was truly peerless. We called him our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Police and Minister of Communications. And in fulfilling all these functions he had to rely on an illegal apparatus.
Sedov served as liaison with the secret couriers who brought messages to Alma Ata and took back Trotsky’s «directives»: –
Sometimes special couriers also arrived from Moscow. To meet them was no simple matter. . . . Outside connections were handled entirely by Leon. He would leave the house on a rainy night or when the snow fell heavily, or, evading the vigilance of the spies, he would hide himself during the day in the library to meet the courier in a public bath or among the thick weeds in the outskirts of the town, or in the oriental market place where the Kirghiz crowded with their horses, donkeys and wares. Each time he returned happy, with a conquering gleam in his eyes and the precious booty under his clothing.
Almost «100 items a week» of a secret character passed through Sedov’s hands. In addition, great quantities of propaganda and personal mail were sent out by Trotsky from Alma Ata. Many of the letters contained «directives» for his followers, as well as anti-Soviet propaganda. «Between April and October (1928),» Trotsky boasted, «we received approximately 1000 political letters and documents and about 700 telegrams. In the same period, we sent out 500 telegrams and not fewer than 800 political letters. . . .»
In December 1928, a representative of the Soviet Government was sent to visit Trotsky at Alma Ara. He told Trotsky, according to My Life: «The work of your political sympathizers throughout the country has lately assumed a definitely counterrevolutionarv character; the conditions in which you are placed at Alma-Ata give you full opportunity to direct this work. . . .» The Soviet Government wanted a promise from Trotsky to discontinue his seditious activity. Failing this, the Government would be forced to take strong action against him as a traitor. Trotsky refused to heed the warning. His case was taken up in Moscow by the special collegium of the OGPU. An extract from the Minutes of the OGPU, dated January 18, 1929, reads as follows: –
Considered: the case of citizen Trotsky, Lev Davidovich, under article 5810 of the Criminal Code, on a charge of counter-revolutionary activity expressing itself in the organization of an illegal anti-Soviet party, whose activity has lately been directed towards provoking anti-Soviet actions and preparing for an armed struggle against the Soviet power. Resolved: citizen Trotsky, Lev Davidovich, to be deported from the territory of the U.S.S.R.
On the morning of January 22, 1929, Trotsky was formally deported from the Soviet Union.
It was the beginning of the most extraordinary phase of Leon Trotsky’s career.
«Exile usually means eclipse. The reverse has happened in the case of Trotsky,» Isaac F. Marcosson was later to write in Turbulent Years: «A human hornet while he was within Soviet confines, his sting is scarcely less effective thousands of miles away. Exercising remote control he had become Russia’s Public Enemy Number One. Napoleon had one St. Helena which ended his career as a European trouble-maker. Trotsky has had five St. Helenas. Each has been a nest of intrigue. Master of propaganda, he has lived in a fantastic atmosphere of national and international conspiracy like a character in a E. Phillips Oppenheim mystery story.»
(1) Here are some other comments periodically made by Lenin concerning Trotsky and his activities within the Russian revolutionary movement: –
1911. «In 1903, Trotsky was a Menshevik; he left the Mensheviks in 1904; returned to the Mensheviks in 1905, parading around with ultra-revolutionary phrases the while; and again turned his back on the Mensheviks in 1906. . . . Trotsky plagiarizes today from the ideas of one faction, tomorrow those of the other, and thus he regards himself as superior to both factions. . . . I must declare that Trotsky represents his own faction only.»
1911. «Such people as Trotsky with his puffed up phrases . . . are now the disease of the age. . . . Everyone who supports Trotsky’s group supports the policy of lies and deception of the workers . . . it is Trotsky’s special task . . . to throw sand in the eyes of the workers . . . it is not possible to discuss essentials with Trotsky, for he has no views . . . we merely expose him as a diplomatist of the meanest description.»
1912. «This bloc is composed of lack of principle, hypocrisy and empty phrases. . . . Trotsky covers them by the revolutionary phrase, which costs him nothing and binds him to nothing.»
1914. «The old participants in the Marxian movement in Russia know Trotsky’s personality very well, and it is not worth while talking to them about it. But the young generation of workers do not know him and we must speak of him. . . . Such types are characteristic as fragments of the historical formations of yesterday, when the mass Labour Movement of Russia was still dormant. . . .»
1914. «Comrade Trotsky has never yet possessed a definite opinion on any single, earnest Marxian question; he has always crept into the breach made by this or that difference, and has oscillated from one side to another.»
1915. «Trotsky . . . as always, entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists in principle, but agrees with them to everything in practice.»
(2) Trotsky had arrived in the United States only two months before the downfall of the Czar, after being expelled from France in the late fall of 1916. Bukharin had preceded him to the United States from Austria.
(3) In his memoirs British Agent, Bruce Locknart expresses the belief that the British Government at first made a serious mistake in the way it handled Trotsky. Locknart writes: «We had not handled Trotsky wisely. At the time of the first revolution he was in exile in America. He was then neither a Menshevik nor a Bolshevik. He was what Lenin called a Trotskyist – that is to say, an individualist and an opportunist. A revolutionary with the temperament of an artist and undoubted physical courage, he had never been and never could be a good party man. His conduct prior to the first revolution had incurred the severest condemnation by Lenin. . . . In the spring of 1917 Kerensky requested the British Government to facilitate Trotsky’s return to Russia. . . . As usual in our attitude toward Russia, we adopted disastrous half-measures. Trotsky was treated as a criminal. At Halifax . . . he was interned in a prison camp. . . . Then, having roused his bitter bate, we allowed him to return to Russia.»
(4) For Trotsky’s oppositionist activities as Foreign Commissar during the Brest-Litovsk Peace crisis see page 23.
Following his removal from the post of Foreign Commissar, Trotsky publicly admitted the error of his opposition to Lenin at Brest-Litovsk, and again offered unreserved co-operation with Lenin. Trotsky was given a new post which seemed suited to his organizational and oratorical talents. He was made War Commissar. The military strategy and practical leadership of the Red Army was chiefly in the hands of men like Stalin, Frunze, Voroshilov, Kirov, Shots, and Budyenny. Relying on the advice of a number of former Czarist «specialists» who surrounded him, War Commissar Trotsky repeatedly opposed the military decisions of the Bolshevik Central Committee and flagrantly exceeded his authority. In several cases, only the direct intervention of the Central Committee prevented Trotsky from executing leading Bolshevik military representatives at the front who objected to his autocratic conduct.
In the summer of 1919 Trotsky, stating that Kolchak was no longer a menace in the east, proposed shifting the forces of the Red Army into the campaign against Denikin in the south. This, Stalin pointed out, would have given Kolchak a much-needed breathing spell and the opportunity to reorganize and re-equip his army and launch a fresh offensive. «The Urals with their works,» declared Stalin as military representative of the Central Committee, «with their network of railways, should not be left in Kolchak’s hands, because he could there easily collect the big farmers around him and advance to the Volga.» Trotsky’s plan was rejected by the Central Committee, and he took no further part in the campaign in the east, which led to the final defeat of Kolchak’s forces.
In the fall of 1919 Trotsky drew up a plan for a campaign against Denikin. His plan called for a march through the Don steppes, an almost roadless region filled with bands of counterrevolutionary Cossacks. Stalin, who had been sent to the Southern Front by the Central Committee, rejected Trotsky’s plan and proposed instead that the Red Army advance across the Donets Basin with its dense railroad network, coal supplies and sympathetic working-class population. Stalin’s plan was accepted by the Central Committee. Trotsky was removed from the Southern Front, ordered not to interfere with operations in the south, and «advised» not to cross the line of demarcation of the Southern Front. Denikin was defeated according to Stalin’s plan.
Among War Commissar Trotsky’s closest associates was the former Czarist officer, Colonel Vatzetis, who served as commander-in-chief with Trotsky on the Eastern Front against Kolchak. The Soviet authorities uncovered the fact that Vatzetis was involved in intrigues against the Red Army High Command. Vatzetis was removed from his post. In My Life, Trotsky offered this curious apology for his former associate: «. . . Vatzetis in his moments of inspiration would issue orders as if the Soviet of Commissaries and the Central Executive Committee did not exist . . . he was accused of dubious schemes and connections and had to be dismissed, but there was really nothing serious about the accusations. Perhaps before going to sleep, the chap had been reading Napoleon’s biography, and confided his ambitious dreams to two or three young officers.»
(5) In April 1937, Trotsky had this to say about his association with the assassin, Blumkin: «He was a member of my military secretariat during the War, and personally connected with me. . . . His past – he had a very extraordinary past. He was a member of the Left Social Revolutionary Opposition and had participated in the insurrection against the Bolsheviks. He was the man who killed the German Ambassador Mirbach. . . . I employed him in my military secretariat and throughout, when I needed a courageous man, Blumkin was at my disposal.»
(6) Quotations and dialogue throughout Book III, unless otherwise stated in the text, referring to the secret activities of the Trotskyites in Russia, are drawn from the testimony at the trials which took place before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. in Moscow in August 1936, January 1937, and March 1938. Dialogue and incidents directly involving Trotskv and his son, Sedov, unless otherwise so indicated in the text, are taken from the testimony of the defendants at these trials. See Bibliographical Notes.
(7) See page 133.
(8) This statement was made by Rakovsky during his testimony before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. in March 1938. At the period to which Rakovsky was referring, in the 1920’s, the American author and journalist Max Eastman was the official translator of Trotsky’s writings and a lead* disseminator of Trotskyite propaganda in the United States. It was Max Eastman who first made public the so-called «Lenin Testament» or «Lenin Will,» which purported to be an authentic document written by Lenin in 1923 and kept, according to Eastman, «locked in a safe» by Stalin. The alleged Will stated that Trotsky was more fitted to be Ceneral Secretary of the Bolshevik Party than Stalin. In 1928, Eastman translated a propaganda work by Trotsky entitled The Real Situation in Russia. In the supplement to the translated edition of this book Eastman included the text of the so-called Testament and wrote concerning his own role in aiding the Trotskyite Opposition: «. . at the height of a militant effort of the Opposition . . . I published the following translation of the full text of the Testament in the N. Y. Times, using the money received in the further propagation of Bolshevik [i.e. Trotskyite] ides. . . .»
Trotsky himself at first admitted that Lenin had left no Testament or Will. In a letter to the New York Daily Worker on August 8, 1925, Trotsky wrote: –
«As for the `will,’ Lenin never left one, and the very nature of his relations with the Party as well as the nature of the Party itself made such a `will’ absolutely impossible.
«In the guise of a `will’ the emigre and foreign bourgeois and Menshevik press have all along been quoting one of Lenin’s letters (completely mutilated) which contains a number of advises on questions of organization.
«All talk about a secreted or infringed `will’ is so much mischievous invention directed against the real will of Lenin, and of the interests of the Party created by him.»
But to this day the Trotskyite propagandists still refer to Lenin’s Will as an authentic document establishing the fact that Lenin had chosen Trotsky as his successor.
(9) In 1926 Rakovsky was transferred from his London post to Paris. He saw Trotsky in Moscow before he left for France. Trotsky told him that the situation in Russia was coming to a crisis and it was necessary to enlist every possible source of foreign aid. «I have come to the conclusion,» Trotsky told Rakovsky, «that we must give instructions to our confederates abroad, ambassadors and trade representatives, to sound out conservative circles in the capitalist countries to which they have been accredited to what extent the Trotskvites can count on their support.»
On reaching France, Rakovsky began to sound out French reactionary circles on behalf of the Trotskyite Opposition. France was then the center of the Torgprom conspiracy, and the French General Staff led by Foch and Petain was already considering plans of attack on the Soviet Union. Rakovsky subsequently stated regarding the «negotiations which Trotsky instructed me to conduct»: «I met the deputy Nicole in Roye. Nicole is a very big flax spinner in the north, a factory owner, and belongs to the Right Republican circles. I asked him then what opportunities or prospects there were for the opposition – whether support could be sought among French capitalist circles aggressively inclined toward the U.S.S.R. He replied: `Of course, and to a larger extent than you perhaps expect.’ But this, he said, would mainly depend on two circumstances. The first circmnstance was that the opposition should become indeed a real force, and the second circumstance was to what extent the opposition would agree to concessions to French capital. The second conversation I had in Paris took place in 1927, in September, and was with the deputy Louis Dreyfus, a big grain merchant. I must say that both the conversation and the conclusion were analogous to those which I had with Nicole.»
(10)Sir Austen Chamberlain, violently anti-Soviet British Foreign Secretary, then in office.
(11)Four thousand votes was the most that the Opposition forces polled at any one time in the entire course of their agitation. Despite the Party ban on ‘ factions» and the official insistence on «revolutionary unity» as the cornerstone of Soviet domestic politics, an astonishing measure of freedom of debate, criticism and assembly was granted to the Trotskyite oppositionists by the Soviet Government. Especially after Lenin’s death, when the country was going through a period of domestic and foreign crisis, Trotsky was able to take advantage of this situation to attempt to build a mass movement in Soviet Russia behind his own faction. The public propaganda of the Opposition exploited every possible kind of political argument against the Soviet regime. The social and economic policies of the Stalin administration were subjected to continuous criticism under such slogans as «incompetence in administration,» «uncontrolled bureaucracy,» «one-man, oneparty dictatorship,» «degeneration of the old leadership» and so on. No attempt was made to suppress Trotsky’s agitation until it had openly exposed itself as, in fact, anti-Soviet and connected with other anti-Soviet forces. From 1924 until 1927, in the words of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, in Soviet communism – A New Civilisation?, «There ensued what must seem surprising to those who believe that the USSR lies groaning under a peremptory dictatorship, namely, three years of incessant public controversy. This took various forms. There were repeated debates in the principal legislative organs, such as the Central Executive Committee (TSIK) of the AllUnion Congress of Soviets and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. There were hot arguments in many of the local soviets, as well as in the local Party organs. There was a vast [Oppositionist] literature of books and pamphlets, not stopped by the censorship, and published, indeed, by the state publishing houses, extending, as it stated by one who has gone through it, to literally thousands of printed pages.» The Webbs add that the issue «was finally and authoritatively settled by the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party in April 1925; a decision ratified, after more discussion, by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Party Conference of October 1926 and December 1927» and «After these decisions, Trotsky persisted in his agitation, attempting to stir up resistance; and his conduct became plainly factious.»
(12)In Trotsky’s absence, responsibility for directing the remaining forces of the Opposition temporarily fell into the hands of Nicolai Bukharin who, disagreeing with Trotsky’s leadership, had shrewdly refrained from taking any open part in the disastrous attempted Putsch. Bukharin had come to consider himself, and not Trotsky, as the true leader and theoretician of the Opposition. At the special «Marxist school» which he headed in Moscow, Bukharin had surrounded himself with a group of «cadres,» as he called them, recruited from among young students. Bukharin trained a number of these students in the technique of the conspiracy. He was also in close touch with members of the technical intelligentsia who had joined the Industrial Party. Previously, Bukharin had called himself a «Left Communist»; now, after Trotsky’s debacle, he began to formulate the principles of what was soon to be publicly known as the Right Opposition.
Bukharin believed that Trotsky had acted hastily and that his failure was largely due to the fact that he had not acted in unison with all the other anti-Soviet forces at work within the country. Bukharin now set out to remedy this with his Right Opposition. Following the outlawing of the Trotskyites, the first Five-Year Plan was about to go into full-scale operation. The country was facing new hardships, difficulties and extreme tensions. Together with the government official, Alexei Rykov, and the tradeunion official, Al. Tomsky, Bukharin organized the Right Opposition within the Bolshevik Party in secret co-operation with the Toryprom agents and the Alensheviks. The Right Opposition was based on open opposition to the Five-Year Plan. Behind the scenes, Bukharin formulated the real program of the Right Opposition at conspiratorial meetings with Trotsky’s representatives, and with agents of the other underground organizations.
«If my program stand were to be formulated practically,» Bukharin later stated, «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. . . Inside the country, our actual program [was] the bloc with the Alensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and the like. . . . A lapse . . . in the political sense into ways where there are undoubtedly elements of Cacsarism . . . elements of Fascism.»
Bukharin’s new political line for the Opposition attracted a following among high-ranking careerist officials in Soviet Russia who had no faith in the success of the Five-Year Plan. The leaders of the kulak organizations which were fiercely resisting collectivization in the countryside provided Bukharin’s Right Opposition with elements of the mass base which Trotsky had previously sought in vain. Trotsky at first resented Bukharin’s assumption of leadership of the movement he had initiated; but, after a brief period of rivalry and even feuding, the differences were reconciled. The public and «legal» Phase of the Right Opposition lasted until November 1929 when a plenum of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party declared that the propaganda of the views of the Rights was incompatible with membership in the Party. Buldiarin, Rykov and Tomsky were removed from their high official positions.