In carrying out these trials, Joseph Stalin was launching an assault on the legacy and the leaders of the first successful socialist revolution.
In the course of the 1930s, the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy in the Soviet Union headed by Joseph Stalin murdered virtually the entire leadership of the October Revolution. Show trials of Bolshevik leaders were organized between 1936 and 1938, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and Rakovsky. These gruesome proceedings, in which the defendants were compelled to denounce themselves (having been falsely promised that such confessions would save themselves and their families), ended invariably with the announcement of death sentences that were carried out within hours. In the few cases where prison sentences were imposed—as with Rakovsky and Radek—the defendants were later murdered in secret. The trials were the public image of only one side of an unprecedented campaign of mass murder, most of which was conducted away from public view.
Hundreds of thousands of socialists, the finest representatives of several political generations of Marxist intellectuals and workers, were physically exterminated. Nearly 1 million people were killed in a wave of counter-revolutionary violence from 1936 to 1939. This liquidation—which confirmed, in the most direct sense, Trotsky’s assessment of Stalin as the “gravedigger of the revolution”—dealt a blow to the revolutionary consciousness of the Soviet working class from which the Soviet Union never recovered. The history and record of these unparalleled crimes constitute the unanswerable refutation of the claim of countless bourgeois propagandists that Stalinism based itself on the theoretical and political heritage of Marxism, let alone the claim that Stalinism and Trotskyism were merely variants of one and the same Marxism. The real relationship between Stalinism and Trotskyism was best described by Trotsky: they were separated, he wrote, by “a river of blood.”
The vendetta against Dmitriev is part of the campaign by Russia’s state and ruling oligarchy to suppress all efforts to uncover the truth about the crimes of Stalinism.
Russian pseudo-left provides neo-Stalinist justification for vendetta against historian Yuri Dmitriev
Boris Kagarlitsky’s website Rabkor has published a commentary justifying the frame-up of Dmitriev, who has done valuable work in exposing Stalin’s crimes.
This essay was first published on the sixtieth anniversary of the convening of the Dewey Commission. The commission, whose official name was the Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials, was established in 1937 by supporters of the exiled revolutionary to establish the truth about Joseph Stalin's purge trials. It was headed by the noted American philosopher and educator John Dewey.
This lecture was delivered by Professor Vadim Rogovin at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, on June 3, 1996
Rogovin’s greatest work was accomplished in the aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR. In 1992, he began publishing what would become a seven-volume history of the revolutionary Marxist opposition, led by Leon Trotsky, to the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR.
Covering the years from 1923 to 1940, Rogovin’s Was There an Alternative? is an unsurpassed work of historical scholarship, indispensable for an understanding of the Stalinist regime and the deep-rooted socialist opposition to its betrayal of the principles and program of the October Revolution.
Rogovin documented the immense popularity of Trotsky, even after his exile from the Soviet Union in 1929, and established that the principal purpose of Stalin’s bloody terror in the 1930s was the eradication of Trotsky’s political influence.
The World Socialist Web Site is publishing interviews with three children of Soviet Left Oppositionists—Tatiana Smilga, Zorya Serebryakova and Yuri Primakov—and with Tatiana Isaeva, granddaughter of the outstanding Marxist literary critic, Alexander Voronsky.
Zorya Leonidovna Serebryakova’s father, Leonid Petrovich Serebryakov, was a leading Bolshevik and Left Oppositionist. One of the main defendants in the Second Moscow Trial, he was found guilty and shot on February 1, 1937.
Tatiana Smilga-Poluyan (May 1919-September 2014) came from a remarkable family with longstanding revolutionary traditions. Not only her parents, but also her uncles and aunts were active participants in the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent Civil War.
Tatiana Isaeva is the granddaughter of the Marxist literary critic Aleksandr Konstantinovich Voronsky, a Bolshevik from 1904 and participant in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 who later became an important figure in the Left Opposition.
Vitaly Markovich Primakov was a hero of the October Revolution and the Civil War and later an important member of the Left Opposition.