[OPE-L] 70 years after Stalin's Moscow frame-up Trials

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Apr 19 2007 - 15:54:53 EDT

In a recent retro article on the meaning of the Moscow frame-up Trials of
1936-38, Prof. James Woudhuysen http://www.woudhuysen.com/index.php writes:

"Despite the fact that we are currently living through an anniversary
frenzy - where any event from the past judged to have 'meaning' for the
present is pored over - nobody seems to want to talk about the Moscow
Trials. Indeed, there has been silence on these events, especially among the
Western left, for decades. The Trials tend to be revisited by historians
only as a confirmation of Stalin's rotten nature and personality, or as easy
'proof' that any attempt to create a progressive alternative society is
doomed; rarely are they properly interrogated or fully explained."

This is not quite accurate. After Khruschev's secret speech of 1956,
initially a commission led by Molotov cleared Tuchachevsky et. al. of the
charges. The subsequent Shvernik Commission of 1961-63 recommended that all
the accused except a few (e.g. Radek and Yagoda) should be rehabilitated.
However Kruschchev was deposed, and it never happened in the Brezhnev era.
In the Gorbachev era, there were new campaigns for rehabilitating the
accused in the Moscow trials. I remember around 1990 collecting signatures
from notable personalities in the New Zealand labour movement and from
scholars for an international petition in this regard. The petition was
launched in the West by the elderly Ernest Mandel and other European
socialists. I do not know what the effect of the petition was in the end.
Some of the bolshevik leaders like Bukharin were rehabilitated, others
weren't, but what role the international petition played in all this, I do
not know.

Prof. Woudhuysen offers a vacuum theory of Stalinism:

"How can we explain the Stalinist terror? Its origins lay not in Stalin's
evil character, as many claim today, but in the vacuum created by the defeat
of the revolution and the crisis in the system"

Which is an intriguing formulation. He claims that:

"Economic chaos ruled - in fact, from about 1929 to the collapse of the USSR
in 1989-91."

Actually, there were not three main fake trials, as Prof. Woudhuysen
suggests, but four, namely:

- the trial of the 16 leaders accused of being the "Trotskyite-Zinovievite
Terrorist Centre," (August 1936) including Zinoviev and Kamenev.

- the trial of 17 less important leaders like Radek, Piatakov and Sokolnikov
(the "Parallel anti-Soviet Trotskyist Centre") (January 1937).

- the secret trial of a group of Red Army leaders ("The Case of Trotskyist
anti-Soviet Military Organisation"), including Tukhachevsky, Primakov, Yakir
and Uborevich (June 1937).

- the trial of 21 leaders (the "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites")
including Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky and Krestinsky (March 1938).

One historical account of the trials is: Arkadij IosifovicVaksberg, The
prosecutor and the prey : Vyshinsky and the 1930s' Moscow show trials.
London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990. There were also quite a few more
trials in the countryside as well, but these did not make the Western news

A precedent for the Moscow frame-up Trials was the show trial of the
Socialist Revolutionaries. See about this:  Marc Carel Jansen, A show trial
under Lenin: the trial of the socialist revolutionaries, Moscow 1922.  The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1982.

The report of the Dewey Commission is now available online:

Some of the official Stalinist reports of the Moscow trials seem to be
available online, see e.g.

There's also e.g. Rogovin's account

In Russian, there are these titles among others:

A.N.Yakovlev (ed), Rehabilitation: Political Processes of the 1930s to the
1950s, Moscow 1991.
Rehabilitation: As It Happened. Documents of the CPSU CC Presidium and Other
Materials. Vol. 2, February 1956-Early 1980s. Moscow, 2003. Compiled by A.
Artizov, Yu. Sigachev, I. Shevchuk, V. Khlopov under editorship of A. N.

Perhaps Martin Kragh can tell us more about current thinking.


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