After the death of Sergei Kirov in December, 1934 Zinoviev and many others former Oppositionists were arrested. Tried in January, 1935 with ‘moral complicity’ in Kirov’s death, Zinoviev was sentenced to 10 years. This article was written in the context of that trial and gives the Communist Party position. However, the following year new, grander charges, of forming a terrorist organization that did kill Kirov and planned to kill Stalin were made, with a rise in rhetoric to match.
‘Trial of the Sixteen’ or the ‘Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center’, also known as the Zinoviev-Kamanev Trial. Andrey Vyshinsky, former Menshevik who had once signed an arrest order for Lenin led the prosecution of sixteen Party and Comintern leaders; Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Grigory Yevdokimov, Ivan Bakayev, Sergei Mrachkovsky, Vagarshak Arutyunovich Ter-Vaganyan, Ivan Nikitich Smirnov, Yefim Dreitzer, Isak Reingold, Richard Pickel, Eduard Holtzman, Fritz David, Valentin Olberg, Konon Berman-Yurin, Moissei Lurye, and Nathan Lurye were accused of organizing an international terrorist organization to kill Stalin and conduct mass murder of workers in the USSR. All were found guilty and shot on August 25, 1936 by NKVD lead executioner Vasily Blokhin.
‘The Historic Path of the Zinovievist Group’ by Albert Radier from The Communist. Vol. 14 No. 3. March, 1935.
JUST before the October Revolution, Lenin defined in his first
“Letter from Afar” the brilliant plan of tactics of the proletarian party. The Party rallied around Lenin’s program.
As a consequence, Lenin, at the head of the working class, realized this plan and assured the victory of the Socialist revolution of October—the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Zinoviev and Kamenev took a stand against Lenin’s plan. They asserted falsely that the organization of the masses toward the struggle for the conquest of the dictatorship of the proletariat was adventurism.
In place of that, Zinoviey and Kamenev proposed fraternization with the petty bourgeois parties and the tactic of the united front with the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries on the ground of bourgeois democracy. In brief, in opposition to Lenin and to Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev wanted to stop at the bourgeois-democratic stage of the revolution.
At the conference of the Party, which took place in April, 1917, and which realized the general mobilization of the Party, Kamenev attacked Lenin and defended liberal bourgeois conceptions.
At the meeting of the C.C., in October, 1917, which was decisive for the destiny of the October Revolution, Zinoviev and Kamenev voted against the insurrection. This historic resolution was adopted against their incensed resistance. The C.C., at the same time, made a decision which forbade Zinoviev and Kamenev to interfere publicly with its resolution. Despite this formal prohibition, Zinoviev and Kamenev published in the Novaya Zhizn, a news- paper that always went hand in glove with the bourgeoisie, a declaration against the Leninist C.C. and the whole Party.
Lenin wrote on this subject:
“Kanenev and Zinoviev have betrayed to Rodzyanko and Keren-sky the decision of the Central Committee of their party about the armed uprising and about concealing from the enemy the preparations for the armed uprising and the choosing of a date for the armed uprising. This is a fact. No subterfuges can do away with this fact. By their gossipy lie two members of the Central Committee have betrayed to the capitalists the decision of the workers. There can and must be only one answer to this: an immediate decision of the Central Committee saying that:
“Recognizing in Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s appearance in the non-Party press all the elements of strike-breaking, the Central Committee expels both from the Party.” (Lenin, Toward the Seizure of Power, Vol. II, p. 135.)
The infamous treason of Zinoviev and Kamenev was not without consequences. October 24, the eve of the day fixed for the insurrection, Kerensky delivered a sanguinary speech before the Parliament, in which he threatened the Bolsheviks with extermination by fire and by sword. The following night, the troops of the Provisional Government began to march to occupy the premises of the Bolshevik centers and newspapers. When the working masses of St. Petersburg, under the leadership of the Party and Lenin and Stalin, stormed, in the battle of October, the fortresses of the feudal-bourgeois power and established their own dictatorship. Zinoviev and Kamenev stood aside as deserters and veritable traitors to the armed insurrection.
However, their criminal struggle against the Party, against the victorious revolution, did not stop here; they carried it on as energetically on the morrow of the conquest of power. In place of recognizing immediately their fatal error and correcting it within the ranks of the Party, under the leadership of Lenin, in place of putting all their forces at work to fortify and consolidate this new power, won with the blood of the workers and peasants, Zinoviev and Kamenev, strike-breakers and deserters, proposed to restore this power to the bourgeoisie.
After the revolution, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries tried to reduce to nothing the victory of the revolution by the creation of a so-called “unified Socialist power” in place of the new revolutionary government led by Lenin. They demanded at one time the total disarmament of the Bolsheviks, the dissolution of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the submission of the armed revolutionary forces to the municipal self-government, and, above all, the removal of Lenin from the position of chief of the government. It is superfluous to demonstrate that the sum total of these demands would have meant delivering to the class enemy the positions gained at great cost.
Zinoviev and Kamenev fought against Lenin and against the Party for the creation of such a government.
As the Party repulsed resolutely these demands, Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as their followers of that time, handed in their resignation from the Central Committee. With the full support of Zinoviev, Kamenev, at the meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, opposed to the Leninist resolution of the Bolsheviks his own reformist resolution, which was a jumble of the views of various petty-bourgeois parties. But the Party, led by Lenin and Stalin, did not yield to the ultimatum of this grouplet of strike-breakers.
On the demand of Lenin, Zinoviey and Kamenev were removed from the leadership and from all work of the Party.
In Kamenev’s place, it was Sverdlov who took the post of President of the All-Russian Executive Committee. From the mutual banqueting and the amiable embraces of Kamenev with the merchants of Atchinsk after the February Revolution, from the telegrams of salutation to the heir of the throne of Michael Romanov to the cowardly capitulation and to the direct treason during the October days, to the demand for the surrender of the conquered power, to the infamous compromises of Zinoviev and with the Mensheviks and the Social-Revolutionaries—such was the way and the role of Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1917. It was not for nothing that Lenin said that their errors of 1917 were no accidents.
It was at the Fourteenth Congress, in December, 1925, that this group, for the first time, opposed itself openly to the Party. The majority of the delegates from the Leningrad organization, previously culled with care and directed by Zinoviev—at that time a member of the Political Bureau and of the Central Committee of the Party—demanded a political co-report with the Central Committee. The co-reporter of the Zinoviev group defended the theory of the impossibility of the construction of Socialism in the country of the dictatorship of the proletariat, underestimated the role of the middle peasantry, and evidenced panic before the growth of the kulaks. He regarded the Socialist enterprises as nothing but State capitalism, and demanded liberty for fractions within the Party. In this manner, the Zinoviev group unmasked itself. ‘The Congress condemned unanimously the group’s action as an attempt at revision of the bases of Leninism. From this time on, the Zinoviev group was pledged to the road of factional methods and of struggle against the Party. They violated in this manner the fundamental principles of Bolshevik discipline. The Zinoviev group, void of all support of the masses of the Party, began to seek allies among the other enemy groupings of the Party. After the Fourteenth Congress, the leaders of the Zinoviev group, who had interfered just before against Trotzkyism, passed over openly to the ideological position of Trotzkyism and formed a bloc with it. From this resulted the eclecticism in the tactic and the absence of political principles which were at the base of the bloc of the Trotzkyists with the “new opposition”, gathering together the most diverse tendencies hostile to the Party. In its uninterrupted attacks against the Party, the opposition went so far as to form its own illegally organized fraction, went as far as illegal meetings. From illegal meetings, it passed to open hostile actions against the Party and against the Soviets. The Zinoviev group transformed itself finally and definitely into a Menshevik group, enemy of Leninism, which capitulated before the forces of the international and interior bourgeoisie and of became thus the instrument of the third force against the regime of the proletarian dictatorship. It is not surprising, thus, that the Posledme Novosti, organ of the White-Guardists of Paris, could ardently hail the undermining work of the Zinoviev group and might see in it its ally. This newspaper wrote at the time: the
“The Zinoviev group has become not only ideologically, but also a organically the center of the strata which are hostile to the proletariat, which are tired of the regime of the proletarian dictatorship and which actually aspire to its overthrow.”
Each time that Zinoviev and Kamenev underwent a failure and on came into conflict with the aroused resistance of the Party and of the working class, these strike-breakers put on a mask of humility and devotion, repented promptly their mistakes and continued promptly, all the same, but in secret, their infamous work to the detriment of the revolution and to the great joy of its enemies. the They formed unprincipled blocs with other opposition groups, enemies of the Party, and with counter-revolutionary associations; they made far sheep’s eyes at the Menshevik Trotsky. Daily they strengthened the their secret organization and gained to it the hesitant elements, those who had disintegrated or who had entered by chance into the Party or the Young Communist League. They gave themselves out as instructors of the youth and inoculated the weaker elements the among the youth with a bestial hatred for the leaders of the revolution. Beaten in the open political battle, unmasked before the masses, the miserable remnants, the vile scum of the Zinoviev group began to take recourse as a last means to the White-Guardist bandits and fascists: to individual terror. One of the best sons of the Bolshevik Party, Kirov, fell victim to these cowardly murderers sent by the class enemy.
The assassins of Kirov have appeared as the most despised emissaries of the class enemy, as hired scoundrels, as cowards and traitors. History will nail to the pillory of the degenerates of the human race the assassins of Kirov and the instigators of the murder. Their names will remain cursed forever. It is not by chance that the revolver was held by the hand of Nikolaev. It is not by chance that the mortal blow was struck at Smolny by one of the last adherents of the Zinoviev opposition. Zinoviev, Kamenev, Yevdokimov, Salutsky, Bakaev, Kouklin, Kotolynov, Roumiantzev, Shatzky, Tolmasov—these names awaken in the Party the memory of long years of hypocritical counter-revolutionary labor.
From unfruitful attempts at distorting the doctrine of Marx and of Lenin, from discrediting the Leninist leadership of the Party, from vain attempts at shaking the iron unity of the ranks of the Bolsheviks to direct treason to the cause of the working class, to the accomplishment of the missions of the class enemy, to the mobilization of all fascist forces which are hostile to the U.S.S.R., and to the creation of illegal, anti-Soviet, terrorist groups—such is the logical path of factional struggle.
The tribunal stated that the “Moscow Center” of adherents of Zinoviev had not directly incited the terrorist plans or acts. But, on the other hand, the inquiry demonstrated irrefutably that the leaders of the “Moscow Center” were aware of the terrorist tendencies, of the hatred for the Party leadership, and created in their closed circles such an atmosphere that the pistol shot was inevitably the fatal result. That is why the proletarian tribunal condemned these people.
The millions of toilers, the millions of workers and collective farmers who fought passionately for Socialism, had already judged these people. ‘The millions of workers had demanded an unpitying punishment of the guilty ones. The proletarian tribunal demonstrated itself as generous and has even left life to the principal accused. But it placed them under lock and key in order to protect the country from them, in order to protect the country from people who had fallen to the last degree of moral and political abjectness and who had become dangerous enemies of the land of Soviets.
The Party and the working class will draw from this the lessons which imposed themselves. Never yet has the thesis of Lenin—all opposition which continues its struggle ends inevitably in the camp of counter-revolution and becomes the point of attraction for all the counter-revolutionary forces—been so brilliantly verified. It is not for nothing that we find in the capitalist and reformist camp so many defenders of these gentlemen. It is not for nothing that these defenders have spread throughout the world so many stupidities about the Soviet Union; it is not for nothing that they have puffed up the affair of the Zinovievists into a grandiose conspiracy, which would have even entailed, as it were, great battles in the street. These gentlemen will not succeed in harming the Soviet policies. The Bolshevik Party and the working class of the U.S.S.R. and of the entire world will strengthen their vigilance and will respond by a powerful rallying of their forces around their leadership, around Stalin, whose name has become the symbol of great and glorious victories of socialism.
There were a number of journals with this name in the history of the movement. This ‘The Communist’ was the main theoretical journal of the Communist Party from 1927 until 1944. Its origins lie with the folding of The Liberator, Soviet Russia Pictorial, and Labor Herald together into Workers Monthly as the new unified Communist Party’s official cultural and discussion magazine in November, 1924. Workers Monthly became The Communist in March,1927 and was also published monthly. The Communist contains the most thorough archive of the Communist Party’s positions and thinking during its run. The New Masses became the main cultural vehicle for the CP and the Communist, though it began with with more vibrancy and discussion, became increasingly an organ of Comintern and CP program. Over its run the tagline went from “A Theoretical Magazine for the Discussion of Revolutionary Problems” to “A Magazine of the Theory and Practice of Marxism-Leninism” to “A Marxist Magazine Devoted to Advancement of Democratic Thought and Action.” The aesthetic of the journal also changed dramatically over its years. Editors included Earl Browder, Alex Bittelman, Max Bedacht, and Bertram D. Wolfe.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/communist/v14n03-mar-1935-communist.pdf