81 comments on “Trotsky in Mexico denouncing the Moscow trials

  1. John: Interesting historical artefact, I thought. No?

    As long as noone misinterprts and thinks we agree with the man. 🙂

    We have worked hard to establish our reputations as scurrilous trot-baiters!

    However, I suppose I am happy with the (possibly apocrophal) judgement from Mick McGahey: “Don’t disrespect the man who founded the Red Army”

    Incidently, I have seen this clip before, and I think it shows that Trotsky didn’t speak English, and is reading from a script.

  2. Andy Newman: from Mick McGahey: “Don’t disrespect the man who founded the Red Army”

    The vicissitudes of life. The very same man a few decades later reduced to making futile appeals to a near non existent support base from the backyard of a house in Mexico.

  3. Trotsky and Lenin on respect.
    Lenin on Trotsky: ‘That’s Trotsky for you!! Always the same, evasive, underhand, posing as a leftist, but helping the right while he still can.’

    Trotsky on Lenin: ‘a professional exploiter of any backwardness in the Russian labour movement…The entire structure of Leninism is at present based on lies and falsification and carries within it the poisonous seeds of its own destruction..’

  4. Nick Wright,

    When do those two quotes come from.

    From the sublime to the ridiculous, I thought Gordon Brown had perfectly calibrated revenge on Tony Blair, by only mentioning him once in passing in his book

  5. ‘That’s Trotsky for you!! Always the same, evasive, underhand, posing as a leftist, but helping the right while he still can.’
    This is from a letter from Lenin to Inessa Armand.
    Unfortunately, all this stuff is packed away in boxes for the moment and I can’t find the reference for the Trotsky quote. Maybe one of our Trotskyite scholars could unearth it.
    An invaluable first resource for the relations between Trotsky and the Bolsheviks is an excellent Progress Publishers book ‘Against Trotskyism’. Hard to come by nowadays but worth searching for.

  6. George Hallam on said:

    Nick Wright: Unfortunately, all this stuff is packed away in boxes for the moment and I can’t find the reference for the Trotsky quote. Maybe one of our Trotskyite scholars could unearth it.

    One doesn’t have to be a Trotskyite scholar to know about the description of Lenin as “a professional exploiter of any backwardness in the Russian labour movement” because Isaac Deutscher quoted it in ‘The Prophet Armed’ (available on the internet as a pdf https://rosswolfe.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/isaac-deutscher-the-prophet-armed-trotsky-1879-1921.pdf).

    The only reference Deutscher gives is that it is from letter to Chkheidze written in 1913.

    The footnote is interesting.

    This letter to Chkhcidze was found in the archives of the Russian police in 192 I. Olminsky, who was in charge of the party archives, wrote to Trotsky asking him whether the letter should be published. Trotsky advised against publication, saying that it was impolitic to revive old controversies, especially as he did not think that he was always wrong in what he had written against the Bolsheviks. See Trotsky’s letter to Olminsky of 6 December 1921 in the Trotsky Archives.

  7. Andy Newman on said:

    Nick Wright: Hard to come by nowadays but worth searching for.

    Gone are the days when English language Progress publications were piled up in hotel lobbies for us to take home for free

  8. jock mctrousers on said:

    Well, sort of on topic, as an example of the horrors of certain threads of Trotskyism, but mostly because I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about it, have a skim of this:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/10/what-spain-in-1936-teaches-us-about-syria-in-2015/

    After the usual guff (you need to know your Hegel of course), and a sneaky swipe at Hugo Chavez, we get to:

    ” I think, regardless of one’s opinion, it is vital to give precedence to writers like Leila Al Shami, who wrote in a blog post on November 7, 2015:

    Its now been five weeks since Russia began its bombing campaign in support of the fascist regime in Syria, transforming a struggle against domestic tyranny into resistance against foreign invasion and occupation. The discourse used to justify Russia’s intervention is just an extension of the ‘War on Terror’. The Americans invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan on the pretext of ‘fighting terrorism’, thus creating more terrorism and extremism, and now the Russians and Iranians are doing the same in Syria. The difference is that many of those who vocally opposed the first war on terror now remain silent or actively support this latest incarnation… And the main targets of Russia’s imperialist adventures have not been the Daesh (ISIS) fascists. Instead Russia’s military might is directed at Syria’s resistance militias and civilians living in liberated zones which have become death camps under the state’s scorched earth tactics and crippling blockades. It’s the working class suburbs and rural districts of Hama and Idlib, those that raged so fiercely against the regime, that are today being pounded by Russian airstrikes. The people attacked in Homs are those who defeated Daesh a year ago… On 2 October the Local Coordination Committees released a statement condemning the Russian aggression and calling upon “all revolutionary forces and factions to unite by any means”… [I]n Douma where one elderly man declares: “Syria is for us, not for the house of Assad, not for Russia, not for Iran, not for Lebanon”. There are plenty of Syrians who believe in self-determination, who still struggle for a life of dignity free from all totalitarianisms. Meanwhile the authoritarian left continues to occupy itself with the chess game of states and the struggle for regional hegemony … and the blood of Syrians flows. ”

    Sounds as usual like the US propaganda line. What’s this doing on Counterpunch? But I’ve read at least 4 pieces taking this line on CP of late. OT but has anyone else noticed a severe loss of quality (like letting Louis Proyect write there) plus increasing delusions of grandeur at CP of late?

  9. #4 – kudos to John, who has acquired the same status as Trotsky without the tiresome distractions of leading the Red Army and acquiring a house in Mexico.

  10. George Hallam on said:

    StevieB: Yes, we are so much wiser than Trotsky. We know the Moscow trials weren’t frame-ups.

    This is contradictory. If the Moscow trials weren’t frame-ups then Trotsky would have been well aware of the fact.
    So we wouldn’t know more than Trotsky.

  11. Nick Wright,

    I’m missing vol. 13. I know it’s all online as well, but it’s just not the same…

    John,

    As for Trotsky’s ‘near non existent support base’ – according to Soviet accounts at the time it was huge: a massive conspiratorial counterrevolutionary network with tentacles extending into every Soviet institution, factory, collective farm, Red Army unit, party cell etc. etc. It must have been hard for the (real) Trotsky to retain any sense of modesty, given the fantastic power and influence ascribed to him almost every day in the Soviet media in 1937 and 1938.

  12. Francis King: according to Soviet accounts at the time it was huge:

    It seems their fears were groundless, but then was this a product of their ruthless efficiency in ensuring that no such support base could gain any traction or grow?

    Btw I’ve just started reading ‘Barbarossa’ by Alan Clark. It’s easily the best history of the conflict I’ve read, and I’ve read a few.

    Some great background to the Tukhachevsky story. According to Clark there were definite grounds for questioning his loyalty.

  13. Napoleonchik on said:

    #21 – Curses! – unmasked before the fury of the masses. Never mind, must rush – half the morning gone and all this ground glass to put in the workers’ butter.

  14. John Grimshaw on said:

    Some people on this blog are walkin’ in a Stalinist wonderland na na nah na na na na naaa! If I knew how to do notes on the computer I would put them in.

  15. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: of the horrors of certain threads of Trotskyism

    Well Jock Trotsky was not really capable of any horrors whilst in Mexico as Francis King has just pointed out above. To my certain knowledge no horrors have been committed by modern Trots as they don’t have the power to do so (unless you mean the somewhat excruciating meetings that the likes of Cliff put people through?). So unless you mean the Russian Revolution and Trotsky’s subsequent leadership of the Red Army where “atrocities” were committed on both sides I’m not sure what you are referring to? Unless of course you are refuting the Revolutiion itself?

  16. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam,

    Other possibilities occur George. Lets assume that the trials in Stalinist Russia were fair and Kamenev etc got what was coming to them. Therefore Trotsky may not have known this and his information was wrong after all he was out of the country after 1928, or maybe he was being fed false info by Virginia farm boys?. Or maybe Stalin was right and Trotsky had it in for him and he was trying to malign the nice Mr. Stalin out of bitterness. Or maybe he had indeed taken the King’s shilling and was a CIA agent!! Or maybe in that febrile atmosphere in Mexico he had decided to become a fiction author. You know all those long nights in the tavern drinking tequila trying to get together ideas for the next novel a la Hemingway.

  17. #22 One too many beats and ‘Stalinist’ doesn’t scan. Needs to be 2 sylabals. Like ‘Stalin’. Or a certain tool used for breaking up chunks of frozen water.

  18. George Hallam: This is contradictory. If the Moscow trials weren’t frame-ups then Trotsky would have been well aware of the fact.
    So we wouldn’t know more than Trotsky.

    Or, as the Moscow trials were frame ups, it was a dig at the condescending attitude adopted by other contributions.

  19. John Grimshaw: To my certain knowledge no horrors have been committed by modern Trots

    You obviously haven’t read the Socialist Worker.

    The horrors committed by modern Trots have only been averted by the fact they’ve been wrong about everything for the past 40 years and more. Consider their ideological support for anti Soviet mujahadeen in Afghanistan, ‘rebels’ in Libya, and their support closer to home for something described as Scottish independence.

    Imagine they ever did have power.

  20. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya:
    #22 One too many beats and ‘Stalinist’ doesn’t scan. Needs to be 2 sylabals. Like ‘Stalin’. Or a certain tool used for breaking up chunks of frozen water.

    Thanks Vanya, I was never very good at reproducing music. Or maybe I’m just avongarde. Can’t spell that either.

  21. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: You obviously haven’t read the Socialist Worker.

    Don’t read it anymore. I prefer other publications.

    John: The horrors committed by modern Trots have only been averted by the fact they’ve been wrong about everything for the past 40 years and more. Consider their ideological support for anti Soviet mujahadeen in Afghanistan, ‘rebels’ in Libya, and their support closer to home for something described as Scottish independence.

    Firstly this doesn’t get round my point. They haven’t and don’t, and at the moment don’t look like, they’ll ever have power. Secondly on the list of things you point to different Trots had different opinions. The SWP supported the Mujahadeen because they thought the USSR was some form of Imperialist Capitalism, not that they could do anything but spout words. Most Trots I know were anti western intervention in Libya. Again all they could do however was spout ignorable words. Which ones are you referring to who were pro-intervention? The main Trot groups did indeed support Scottish independence, but not all did.

  22. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    This I suppose is one reason why they’ll never “be in power”. They can never agree with each other. But then I can’t see the likes of the CPB achieving anything anytime soon either. 🙂

  23. John Grimshaw: Which ones are you referring to who were pro-intervention?

    Support for the rebels in any way, shape or form was de facto support for intervention, given that it was clear from the outset the rebels couldn’t win without it.

    I’m currently writing a book on these events, and the research I’ve done confirms that Salafists comprised a key component of the Libyan revolt from the outset.

  24. John Grimshaw on said:

    John,

    We are back to the “Syria Conundrum” again. When you’ve finished the book John I’d be interested in reading it.

  25. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: To my certain knowledge no horrors have been committed by modern Trots as they don’t have the power to do so (unless you mean the somewhat excruciating meetings that the likes of Cliff put people through?)

    Well, yes, that’s more or less what I meant. As someone said, have you read the Socialist Worker? It used to be not bad really, apart form the cant, but the Morning Star is much better now. But that CP article could have been producked by a Trot-generator (like that pomo-generator you can find online somewhere) – it’s almost a pastiche.

    The reason I said ‘certain threads’ of Trotskysim, is that for instance the WSWS, while seeming to have their own cant-generator which always tails their pieces, they have stuck to the straight and narrow and managed to be on the right side of most of the current turmoils.

    That CP piece on the other hand seems typical of most of the Trot output, basically designed to intimidate the unwary reader with the immensity of the author’s scholarship, and muddy what is a very simple question – What would happen if Assad fell? Answer: Libya. And after all the bullshit, he merely reinforces the propaganda themes of ” Assad killing his own people” and still pretends that there is a powerful ‘moderate’ opposition.

    What’s it doing on Counterpunch? And as I said it’s the fourth such article I’ve noticed there lately. Meanwhile they’ve blocked off half their page with a banner asking for donations for weeks now. I’m not sure CP would be any great loss now.

  26. John Grimshaw on said:

    Nick Wright:
    Trotsky and Lenin on respect.
    Lenin on Trotsky: ‘That’s Trotsky for you!! Always the same, evasive, underhand, posing as a leftist, but helping the right while he still can.’

    Trotsky on Lenin: ‘a professional exploiter of any backwardness in the Russian labour movement…The entire structure of Leninism is at present based on lies and falsification and carries within it the poisonous seeds of its own destruction..’

    I checked. Weren’t both these quotes from sometime in 1912 or 13 when Trotsky was still formerly a member of the Mensheviks? It’s no secret that at various times in this period they didn’t get on, or at least they had sharp disagreements. Doesn’t this mean your quoting of this in this context is somewhat disingenuous?

  27. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers,

    Fair enough Jock. I don’t buy the Morning Star (five times a week £1.00 is too much) but I know at least some Trots who do. Maybe they’re keeping is afloat?

  28. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Other possibilities occur George. Lets assume that the trials in Stalinist Russia were fair and Kamenev etc got what was coming to them. Therefore Trotsky may not have known this and his information was wrong after all he was out of the country after 1928,…

    So much imagination and so little knowledge. How typical of the ‘Left’.

    The published account of Kamenev’s trial is titled ‘The Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center’
    https://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/law/1936/moscow-trials/index.htm
    The Pyatakov-Radek trial of 1937 was called ‘The Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center’

    Trotsky did not make a detailed rebuttal of the charges, instead he rejected them in toto on the grounds that no such ‘center’ had ever existed. More than that, he maintained that no such centre could ever have existed since it would have violated political logic.

    This was because while Zinoviev, Kamenev, Piatakov, Radek etc. had worked with Trotsky as part of a ‘Left’ opposition in the mid-nineteen twenties, they had subsequently capitulated to Stalin. This betrayal had created an unbridgeable gulf. Trotsky had lost faith in them and had broken all contact with them.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/dewey/session04.htm

  29. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw: I don’t buy the Morning Star (five times a week £1.00 is too much)

    you can read most of it online for free, in case you didn’t know.

  30. George Hallam: This was because while Zinoviev, Kamenev, Piatakov, Radek etc. had worked with Trotsky as part of a ‘Left’ opposition in the mid-nineteen twenties, they had subsequently capitulated to Stalin. This betrayal had created an unbridgeable gulf. Trotsky had lost faith in them and had broken all contact with them.

    Except that he hadn’t, as J. Arch Getty showed nearly thirty years ago.

    ‘At the time of the Moscow show trials, Trotsky denied that he had any communications with the defendants since his exile in 1929. Yet it is now clear that in 1932 he sent secret personal letters to former leading oppositionists Karl Radek, G. Sokol’nikov, E. Preobrazhensky, and others.’

    Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International
    J. Arch Getty
    Soviet Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1. (Jan., 1986), pp. 24-35.

  31. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: So much imagination and so little knowledge. How typical of the ‘Left’.

    I know George, I know. I’ll send myself back for re-education. George ever heard of irony?

  32. John Grimshaw on said:

    Ken MacLeod: At the time of the Moscow show trials, Trotsky denied that he had any communications with the defendants since his exile in 1929. Yet it is now clear that in 1932 he sent secret personal letters to former leading oppositionists Karl Radek, G. Sokol’nikov, E. Preobrazhensky, and others.’

    This is interesting Ken I didn’t know. Did they receive them I wonder and what was the content?

  33. John Grimshaw,

    The contents aren’t known. Getty’s footnote reads:

    Unlike virtually all Trotsky’s other letters (including even the most sensitive) no copies of these remain in the Trotsky Papers. It seems likely that they have been removed from the Papers at some time. Only the certified mail receipts remain. At his 1937 trial, Karl Radek testified that he had received a letter from Trotsky containing ‘terrorist instructions’, but we do not know whether this was the letter in question.

  34. John Grimshaw on said:

    Ken MacLeod: At his 1937 trial, Karl Radek testified that he had received a letter from Trotsky containing ‘terrorist instructions’, but we do not know whether this was the letter in question

    I see. The above could mean anything I suppose.

  35. Many of the indictments in Soviet political trials of the 1920s and 1930s have a substantial kernel of truth, because of the way the interrogation process worked. All sorts of meetings and personal contacts which really happened were worked into stories of giant political conspiracies in the bargaining between prisoners and chekists which accompanied the pre-trial interrogations. Protocols of the interrogations which preceded the 1931 ‘Menshevik’ trial have been published, and give a fascinating insight into the way the trial was put together.

  36. Trotsky, incidentally, was initially disposed to take the 1931 trial at face value, because he felt it gave him an opportunity to score points against Stalin.

  37. Francis King: Many of the indictments in Soviet political trials of the 1920s and 1930s have a substantial kernel of truth,

    This reminds me of the account of Joseph Davies, the US ambassador to Moscow between 1936-38, who wrote, “There were no fifth columnists in Russia. Stalin had them all shot.”

  38. A nice quote, but unfortunately Davies was quite wrong. There were plenty of 5th columnists in the USSR, many of whom had been turned that way by their experiences in the 1930s. They weren’t Trotskyists, though…

  39. Francis King: There were plenty of 5th columnists in the USSR

    By the late 1930s any and all opposition to Stalin had been crushed. Proof of this was the way he survived the huge early Soviet reverses of the Nazi invasion in 1941. If ever a leader was ripe for replacement it was him then.

  40. Andy Newman on said:

    John: This reminds me of the account of Joseph Davies, the US ambassador to Moscow between 1936-38, who wrote, “There were no fifth columnists in Russia. Stalin had them all shot.”

    Is he the fella that the Hollywood movie “Mission to Moscow” was about.

    A great and entertaining film that makes up by enthusiasm what it lacks in historical truth.

  41. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Where else?

    This was just a playful reference to a comment Ken MacLeod posted some months ago.

    I have to say that, his appalling SF novels notwithstanding, Ken MacLeod is pretty sharp.

  42. John Grimshaw: Nick, not sure I’m a Trot exactly these days but I think this is what you’re looking for.
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/feb/19ia.htm

    Spot on. I only remember this quote because I used in a speech when a 60s art student. (The SWP, or more probably it was the IS then had just voted with the right to defeat a broad left candidate for president of the NUS).
    Mind you, some of my comrades were most outraged by my referencing the fact that Lenin had a lover. The sixties passed some people by.

  43. George Hallam on said:

    Ken MacLeod: That said, you just might like The Restoration Game.

    Someone who can construct a plot that makes a reference to John Searle relevant to the story is sure to produce something worth the trouble of reading. I’ll look it out.

  44. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: I have to say that, his appalling SF novels notwithstanding, Ken MacLeod is pretty sharp.

    Patronising bastard 🙂 I like Ken’s novels actually. Go on then let’s have a short book club moment. What is your favourite Sci-Fi novel? You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine. We can whisper if you want.

  45. I think it’s a little strange that there has been so little discussion of Trotsky’s criticism of the Moscow Trials or the Stalinist regime in general on this thread. (Full disclosure, I am no Trotskyist, I would put my politics somewhere between Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, and I am enthusiastic about both of them despite particular disagreements.) Is it just assumed that, whatever failings Trotsky and his disciples may have shown, the critique of Stalinism is so obviously correct, that it’s not worth talking about? Or are some people skeptical about the critique itself, but don’t want to get into a donnybrook online about it? (For the record, I would accept Trotsky’s critiques of Stalinism, but don’t feel that the Soviet Union was in any way a workers’ state.)

  46. #62 For me, most of Trotsky’s criticisms of Stalinism are either gross hypocrisy or simply wrong.

    (Other than that he had a very good point about the “third period” and the struggle against fascism in Germany).

    For example, how many of those who demanded to know the fate of Nin (leader of the POUM in Spain) were concerned about the fates of the thousands of Krondstadt sailors who were captured following their abortive misguided uprising against the Soviet government?

  47. Vanya,

    Wouldn’t that imply that we should be MORE concerned about the Kronstadt sailors for example, rather than LESS concerned about the victims of Stalinism?

  48. #64 What it says (not implies) is that those who made the momentous decision to start an insurrection in November 1917 crossed the Rubicon, and that they were all responsible for the good the bad and the ugly that ensued

    And if you now want to call yourself a Communist, as I do proudly, you need to take ownership of all of that, not just the bits that are convenient.

    And that’s why I renounced trotskyism a long time ago.

    The victims of red terror in the days when Trotsky was at the heart of the Soviet governent were no less dead than the victims of ” #alokjb

  49. john Grimshaw on said:

    For me, most of Trotsky’s criticisms of Stalinism are either gross hypocrisy or simply wrong.

    For the record Vanya I was never a very good Trotskyist because I never hero worshipped him in the way some on the left have done/do. One criticism would be his obvious egotism for example. However I still think he was a massive figure of the revolution etc. I would be interested in which things you think he was a hypocrite or simply wrong.

  50. john Grimshaw on said:

    I could argue Vanya that because of your chosen political position you are preternaturally disposed to find fault all the time with Trotsky without giving each issue balanced thought.

  51. Vanya’s position is quite reasonable in that, by identifying his politics with those of the Bolsheviks in 1917, he is prepared to “take ownership” of the consequences of their seizure of power. The difficulty is that when the full human cost of the revolution and what came after is taken into account, very few people are going to be at all attracted to a politics which takes ownership of all that. And this is where the Trotskyist (and, later, reform communist) critiques come in – they allow people to take ownership of the romantic bits (chiefly, the ‘October Revolution’), while disavowing the less attractive bits (famines, massacres, bureaucracy etc. etc.) As for Trotsky, he certainly pointed to a lot of defects in the USSR which orthodox communists preferred to ignore or deny. But his critique was very much tailored to disconnecting October and the civil war (when he was one of those in charge) from later developments in the USSR and downplaying the logical connections between the politics of 1917-22 and what happened afterwards.

  52. George Hallam on said:

    john Grimshaw: I would be interested in which things you think he [Trotsky]was a hypocrite or simply wrong.

    On Kronstadt

    According to Victor Serge

    In a note published in America at the end of July Leon Trotsky has finally spelled out his responsibilities in the Kronstadt episode. The political responsibility, as he has always affirmed, belongs to the Central Committee of the Russian CP, which took the decision to “reduce the rebellion by force of arms if the fortress couldn’t be brought to surrender first by peaceful negotiations, and later by an ultimatum.” Trotsky adds: “I never spoke of that question [Kronstadt 1921], not that I have anything to hide but, on the contrary, precisely because I have nothing to say…Personally I didn’t participate at all in the crushing of the rebellion, nor in the repression that followed.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/serge/1938/10/25.htm

    However there was a proclamation issued in response to the insurrection.

    To the population of Kronstadt and the rebellious forts. I order all those who have raised their hand against the socialist Fatherland to lay down their arms immediately. Recalcitrants must be disarmed and handed over to the Soviet authorities…
    Only those who surrender unconditionally can count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic. I am simultaneously issuing instructions to prepare to crush the insurgency and the insurgents with an iron hand.

    The address was signed by Trotsky, as People’s Commissar, S.S. Kamenev, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, commander of 7th Army Tukhachevsky, and chief-of-staff Lebedev.

    From Trotsky: Eternal Revolutionary By Dmitri Volkogonov

  53. George Hallam on said:

    john Grimshaw,

    On the lack of evidence at conspiracy trials
    .

    Captain First Class Shchastny, commander of the Baltic Fleet, was arrested on 27 May 1918 on Trotsky’s orders and arraigned before the Supreme Tribunal of the Republic on 20 21 June, charged with organizing a counterrevolutionary coup. Trotsky—the sole witness—brought as evidence the text of a speech that Shchastny was to have made to a naval congress..
    The trial was brief. Shchastny was shot on suspicion of conspiracy, but no evidence was brought, other than Trotsky’s, and there were no defence witnesses. This was the first political trial in Soviet Russia at which the death sentence was was imposed…

    Again from Volkogonov’s Trotsky: Eternal Revolutionary

    I don’t have much time for Volkogonov but he was to hand and I wanted to give a quick response to your enquiry.

  54. George Hallam on said:

    Francis King: Many of the indictments in Soviet political trials of the 1920s and 1930s have a substantial kernel of truth, because of the way the interrogation process worked. All sorts of meetings and personal contacts which really happened were worked into stories of giant political conspiracies in the bargaining between prisoners and chekists which accompanied the pre-trial interrogations. Protocols of the interrogations which preceded the 1931 ‘Menshevik’ trial have been published, and give a fascinating insight into the way the trial was put together.

    By ‘protocols’ you mean the notes of what was said during the interrogations.

    This happens in other countries as well and it’s a very effective technique. As any lawyer will tell you there’d be a lot fewer guilty pleas if only more criminals would learn to keep their mouth shut. As it is, they often try answering the police’s pointed questions and end up making a series of damming admissions.

    Simon Pegg gave a demonstration of the power of making a written record in the following clip:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpnndk_writing-a-speeding-ticket-from-hot-fuzz-2007_shortfilms

  55. Vanya,

    Obviously, I don’t identify as a Communist, so I wouldn’t take the positions you do. For me, the necessity of such repression if the Bolshevik regime was to survive legitimates Menshevik critiques of the Bolshevik monopolization of power. But I respect that your position has intellectual integrity and honesty. I didn’t mean my comment in # 64 to be a cheap shot, but just an expression of a disagreement. Apologies if it came out wrong.

  56. #68 By taking ownership I don’t mean necessarily defending or supporting.

    What I mean is accepting responsibility.

    To me it’s a bit like being part of a family as opposed to a group of friends. Not a romantic or stary eyed analogy- we all know who the first suspects are when the Police investigate a murder!

    Trotsky tried to leave his family while remaining a member of it. A bit like imagining the existence of a tin opener.

  57. Ken MacLeod: Posting on SU is displacement activity when I should be finishing yet another of my appalling SF novels.

    I am just reading the Night Sessions for the second time. At the point where my reading has overtaken your writing, I am alarmed to hear that SU may have a role in slowing down your output

  58. Francis King: As for Trotsky, he certainly pointed to a lot of defects in the USSR which orthodox communists preferred to ignore or deny. But his critique was very much tailored to disconnecting October and the civil war (when he was one of those in charge) from later developments in the USSR and downplaying the logical connections between the politics of 1917-22 and what happened afterwards.

    This is still a bit too kind to Trotsky, in that, for example, his supporters advocated policies in the crisis years of 1926 and 1927, with regard to grain requisitions due to allegations of hoarding that the evidence did not support, and which would have led to famine.

    It would be entirely reasonable to suppose that had Trotsky rather than Stalin won the faction fight that the subsequent history of the USSR would have been worse not better.

    With regard to seeking to decouple the revolution from the entailed consequences, I think this was a characteristic of the Left Opposition even before Trotsky’s exile. The consequence of the revolution was that the Communist Party formed the government, and a primary responsibility therefore was for the protection and promotion of the domestic economy and agriculture, and ensuring that the conditions existed for the population to feed, clothe and shelter itself.

    In my view, the actions of the Trotskyist ambassador to France, Christian Rodolsky, in playing toytown revolutionary and therefore causing a breach in relations between France and the USSR, at the time when the Soviet state was desperately in need of the French trade deal was grossly irresponsible, and showed that the Trotskyists culd not be trusted

  59. Andy Newman: the actions of the Trotskyist ambassador to France, Christian Rodolsky, in playing toytown revolutionary and therefore causing a breach in relations between France and the USSR, at the time when the Soviet state was desperately in need of the French trade deal was grossly irresponsible, and showed that the Trotskyists culd not be trusted

    Well said. We saw the refusal to enage with reality, which underpins Trotskyism, from Trotsky himself with his bungling of the Brest Litovsk negotiations with Germany in 1918. In many ways his and its attachment to idealism as an escape from reality echoes the same weakness we have seen displayed time and ago by imperialists when it comes to their propensity for sowing crises and destablisation – i.e. the constant search for and cultivation of a third force that does not exist, and certainly not in any meaningful sense.

  60. Andy Newman,

    You mean, of course, Christian Rakovsky.

    Apropos of the thread topic, Rakovsky’s examination and last plea at the 1938 trial have received rather less critical examination than they deserve. Among other interesting aspects, Rakovsky named or otherwise identified several individuals who were outside the Soviet Union. I would be very interested to know if any of them were ever asked for comment.

  61. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: Trotsky himself with his bungling of the Brest Litovsk negotiations with Germany in 1918.

    I don’t think Trotsky vacillated anymore than the rest of the leadership of the Bolsheviks at that time. There were various positions held by the various factions and it would’ve been difficult to know which way to turn. No-one at the time would’ve known that the German Empire was weeks away from collapse.

  62. George Hallam on said:

    John: Trotsky himself with his bungling of the Brest Litovsk negotiations with Germany in 1918.

    One of the effects of this was that the Germans extended their demands to include the withdrawal of Russian forces from Finland. A few days after the treaty was signed. The Germans landed troops. They easily routed the Finnish red guards and installed a White government.