The Moscow Trials and the political genocide in the Soviet Union

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.”

Gregory Zinoviev, a leader of the Bolshevik Party, after his arrest and imprisonment by the GPU
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More about the life and work of Vadim Rogovin (1937-1998)

Rogovin’s greatest work was accomplished in the aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 in close collaboration with the International Committee. 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.

More about Vadim Rogovin
Memoirs and interviews

The Great Terror wiped out whole generations of revolutionaries and, in many cases, their entire families. However, some of them did survive. The most courageous and determined of them dedicated much of their remaining lives to fighting to restore the memory and historical truth about the victims and crimes of Stalinism.

Following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and East Germany, the International Committee established contact with some of these survivors. These included Oskar Hippe, a member of the German Left Opposition, as well as the German communist Nathan Steinberger who was repressed during the Great Terror. In 1994, the IC published the memoirs of Nadezhda Joffe, daughter of Adolf Joffe, one of the leaders of the Left Opposition and a close friend of Leon Trotsky. In 2014, the WSWS published a series of interviews with the children of Ivar Smilga, Leonid Serebryakov, and Yuri Primakov, all notable figures in the Opposition, as well as the granddaughter of the leading Soviet literary critic Alexander Voronsky.

Available from Mehring Books
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