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Ignace Reiss assassinated by Stalin

Sunday 5 December 2021, by Robert Paris

Leon Trotsky

A Tragic Lesson

(September 1937)

In the death of Ignace Reiss there is an element of great tragedy.

By breaking with the Comintern and the G.P.U. Reiss gave proof of his courage as a revolutionist. He knew better than anybody else the danger that threatened his transfer of allegiance from the camp of the Thermidorian hellhounds to the camp of revolution. Reiss’s conduct could have been dictated only by high ideological considerations, and thereby alone he has earned respect to his memory on the part of every thinking worker. Yet an enigma still remains: why and wherefore did Reiss remain in the service of the G.P.U., during the recent years, when Thermidor had already conquered all along the line, and the bureaucracy had ceased to hesitate at any crime whatever?

Why Reiss Broke

The corruption of Stalinism, the mendacity and perfidiousness of Stalin are matters of common knowledge. Member of the G.P.U. are least likely to cherish any illusions on this score. Ignace Reiss had behind him almost two decades of activity in the ranks of the party. Consequently he was not a novice. At the same time, Reiss’s conduct during the last few months proves that he could not have been guided by considerations of personal comfort. Careerists do not join the ranks of the Fourth International, which represents today the most persecuted movement in world history.

War is approaching. New persecutions await the Internationalists. Reiss could not but have understood this. Through the years of Thermidor he must have succeeded in preserving the living spirit of a revolutionary fighter. But in that case, how could he have remained so long in the same camp with all the Yagodas, Yezhovs, Dimitrovs – and the Cain, Djugashvili?

To be sure, Reiss performed his work abroad, face to face with the capitalist world. This circumstance acted to facilitate psychologically his collaboration with the Thermidorian oligarchy. Nevertheless, that does not touch he nub of the question. Reiss could not but have been informed as to what was taking place in the U.S.S.R. Notwithstanding this, the monstrous Moscow trials were required, and not only the first but also the second to bring Reiss to the actual breaking point. We may assume with certainty that in the ranks of the bureaucracy there are quite a number who feel as Reiss did. They have contempt for their milieu. They hate Stalin. And, at the same time, they endlessly toil on and on.

The Effects of Thermidor

The reason for an adaptation of this kind has its roots in the very character of Thermidor, as a gradual, snail-like and all-enveloping reaction. Slowly and insensibly, a revolutionist becomes drawn into the conspiracy against the revolution. Each passing year strengthens his ties with the apparatus and deepens his break with the working masses.

The bureaucracy, especially the bureaucracy of the G.P.U. lives in an artificial atmosphere, which it creates for itself. Each compromise with the revolutionary conscience prepares a graver compromise on the morrow and thereby renders it more difficult to break away. Moreover, the illusion remains that everything is being done in the service of the “revolution.” Men keep hoping for a miracle which will on the morrow switch the policy of the ruling clique back to the old rails – and in this hope they keep on toiling.

Again, it is impossible to overlook the enormous external difficulties. Even in the case of a complete inner readiness to break with the bureaucracy, there still remains a question, at first glance, insolvable: Where to go? Within the U.S.S.R. any sign of divergences with the ruling clique entails almost certain death. Stalin is besmirched with such horrible crimes that he cannot but see a mortal enemy in any one who refuse to assume responsibility for these crimes.

Underground Work

Go underground? No other tendency in world history has had to conduct underground work under such difficulties as the Marxists in the U.S.S.R. today. Underground work is possible only when an active mass exists. Today, this condition is almost non-extant in the U.S.S.R. True, the workers hate the bureaucracy but they do not yet see the new road. A break with the bureaucracy therefore presents absolutely exceptional difficulties of a political and practical nature. That is the main reason both for the thunderous confessions as well as for the silent deals with one’s own conscience.

For the Soviet functionaries abroad, the difficulties have a different but no less acute form. Agents engaged in secret work live as a rule on false passports, issued by the G.P.U. For them a break with Moscow implies, not only that they will be left hanging in mid-air but that they will instantly fall victims to the foreign police, upon the denunciation of the G.P.U.

A Difficult Problem

What to do? The G.P.U. utilizes precisely this hopeless situation of its representatives to extort ever newer crimes from them. In addition, the G.P.U. has abroad a huge agentry of a secondary and tertiary order consisting nine-tenths of careerists in the Comintern, Russian White Guards, and in general various types of scoundrels ready at a sign to murder anybody pointed out to them, especially those who by their revelations might spoil their comfortable existence. No, it is not so easy to tear oneself free from the clutches of the G.P.U.!

But it would be a mistake to reduce the tragic event of September 4, near Lausanne, to merely external difficulties. The death of Reiss is not only a loss but a lesson. We would be disrespectful to the memory of a revolutionist, if we did not lay bare the political mistakes which made easier the work of the Kremlin butchers. In question are not the mistakes committed by the deceased comrade himself.

After he had torn himself away from the artificial milieu of the G.P.U. it was far too hard for him to orient himself immediately in the new situation. Involved here are our joint mistakes and weaknesses. We failed to establish connections with Reiss in time; we were unable to surmount the minor artificial barriers which were dividing him from us. And so, Reiss could find no one nearby at the critical moment who could have offered him correct advice.

The Error of Reiss

In June of this year comrade Reiss had already resolved firmly to break with the Kremlin. He began by writing a letter to the Central Committee, which he forwarded to Moscow on July 17. Comrade Reiss deemed it necessary to bide his time until his letter reached its destination, before making it public. Gratuitous chivalry! The letter itself, principled in content and firm in tone, contained only the announcement of the break without specifying any facts or making any revelations, and, besides, bore only the signature of “Ludwig”, a name which could not disclose a thing to anybody. In this way the G.P.U. had at its disposal ample time to prepare the murder. Meanwhile, the public opinion of the West remained in complete ignorance. The G.P.U. could not have desired more favorable conditions for itself.

The sole serious defense against the hired murderers of Stalin is complete publicity. There was no need of sending a letter to Moscow. It is impossible to exert any influence by means of principled letters upon Bonapartists, degenerated to the morrow of their bones. On the very day of the break, a political statement should have been issued to the world press. This statement should have dwelt not on one’s passing over from the Third to the Fourth International (this question as yet interests only a tiny minority) but on one’s past work in the G.P.U., the crimes of the G.P.U, the Moscow judicial frame-ups and the break with the G.P.U. Such a statement signed with his own name would have immediately placed Ignace Reiss in the center of wide public attention, and thereby alone would have rendered more difficult the butcher’s work of Stalin.

In addition Reiss could have, and in our opinion, should have in the interests of self-defense surrendered himself to the French or Swiss police, supplying a description of all the circumstances in the case. His previous sojourn on a false passport would have probably led to Reiss’s arrest. But he himself and his friends would have had little difficulty in establishing that involved here were only violations of formal regulations and that Reiss had been guided in his activities solely by political motives.

It is hardly likely that he ran the risk of a severe sentence. In any case his life would have been shielded. His courageous break with the G.P.U. would have created for him the necessary popularity. A political goal would have been attained and personal security would have been assured insofar as it can be at all assured under current conditions.

Unfortunately, the mistakes committed in this case cannot be made good. Ignace Reiss was murdered at the very beginning of a new chapter of his political life. But Reiss is not alone. In Stalin’s apparatus there are not a few who are wavering. The crimes of Kremlin lord and master are prodding and will prod them to take the path of breaking with a doomed regime of falsehood and corruption.

Ignace Reiss has set them a courageous example, At the same time, his tragic end teaches us the need of interposing in the future our serried ranks between the executioners and their intended victims. This can be done. The cup of G.P.U. crimes is filled to overflowing Wide circles of workers in the West shudder with revulsion at the handiwork of Cain Djugashvili. Sympathies towards us are growing. All that is necessary is that we learn how to utilize them. Greater vigilance! Bind more firmly our mutual ties! Greater discipline in action! These are the lessons flowing from the tragic end of Ignace Reiss.

Coyoacan, September 21, 1937

Elsa Reiss

Ignace Reiss: In Memoriam

ONE YEAR HAS PASSED since Ignace Reiss (Ludwig) was murdered in Lausanne on the orders of Yezhov. Such a crime no longer comes as news. What is unusual, however, if not altogether new, is that it occurred on territory other than the Soviet Union or Spain, and what is tragic is the fact that Yezhov had this cowardly crime carried out by the hand of a colleague and friend of Reiss’s of many years standing.

Politically regarded, this crime was and remains a logical continuation of the Moscow Trials. Just as Stalin could not do otherwise than kill Lenin’s coworkers after he had forced them to dishonor themselves, so in the case of the first man who had the courage to break with him, he could not afford to let Reiss live. Reiss was no writer or journalist, who in the last analysis has nothing to fear from his physical annihilation; he had been in Stalin’s secret service for many years and knew what fate to expect. He wrote letters to friends in which the sentence recurs: “They will kill me but my mind is made up.” Not only was he to be murdered, but Yezhov was in a hurry, for he and his associates, who knew Reiss, knew but too well how great a danger for their organization his break entailed. Not that Yezhov feared that the secrets of the organization (GPU) would be exposed. Absolutely sure of the integrity of Reiss, when Yezhov read the letter that Reiss sent to the GPU at the time he wrote to the Central Committee (of the CPSU), he credited the sincerity of every word in the following sentence: “You need not at all be concerned about your secrets, I am not one of your kind.” But those who were not as close to Reiss, who in the past few years had scarcely encountered this type of honorable revolutionary would certainly not place the confidence in Reiss’s assurances that Yezhov implicitly extended. He was one of the few who were convinced of the absolute integrity of Reiss.

The fear of the organizational secrets of the GPU being revealed, is in itself not sufficient ground for resorting to murder, something which always carries with it the risk of discovery. It was always in the power of Yezhov to reconstruct the apparatus and the secrets can be made out of date in a couple of months. The rush of events in the world and in politics facilitates this. But Yezhov’s fears were of a different order and were completely justified, for though he succeeded in murdering Reiss, he could not save the organization and prevent the break of many colleagues, who in their letters to the GPU stated that they were ready to work for the Soviet Union just as long as Reiss was.

Yezhov could not appraise which would involve the greater harm, to kill Reiss or to let him live. There was no lack of warning voices but these were soon silenced, as in the case of Slutzki who had recourse to suicide. No such considerations were possible to Yezhov. His only consideration was the order of Stalin – to “liquidate”, to punish and make an example of whoever broke with Stalin.

It was on this mission that Spiegelglass, Slutzki’s understudy, left for Paris. He was also charged with the carrying out of an additional mission. Anybody else, of course, would have been compelled to do the same but the choice of Spiegelglass was a happy one. Not because he possessed courage but because he hadn’t a single idea in his head, and was not averse to the business of murder. He would thus demonstrate that he was indispensable and absolutely devoted to Stalin. And so he performed his mission to the complete satisfaction of Stalin, for the latter had not expected so speedy a consummation; while at the same time the murder was carried out through the agency of the GPU thus removing every possible doubt that Europe may have had on the score of responsibility. Reiss knew exactly with whom he had to deal. He knew that the fury of Yezhov would tolerate no scruples but he thought that a proletarian organization whose protection he invoked, would at least be able to stay the hand of the Moscow authorities. His letter of resignation to the Central Committee of the ruling party was published in the Dutch Nieuwe Fackel but Stalin no longer fears public opinion. The venal elements he can buy; as to the others he is indifferent.

Spiegelglass’ choice, in turn, fell on Gertrude Schildbach. He was aware of our relations with this woman. Her oppositional sympathies were no secret to him. As Gertrude Schildbach herself confessed to friends in Paris and as I learned after Reiss’ death, he tried to persuade her that Reiss was a traitor and that by this deed she would be completely rehabilitated in the confidence of the party. He moreover attempted to plant in her confused head the idea that she would be performing a heroic deed. After breaking down in the presence of some of our friends, Gertrude Schildbach accepted the commission and played with the idea of warning us. She knew that both Reiss and I were doomed, and if it could not be managed otherwise, even our child was not to be spared. For this purpose she bought a box of candy which I noticed at our rendezvous but which she did not present us with.

At the same time Spiegelglass operated another scheme. He introduced Schildbach to a man who tempted her with offers of love. This youthful good-looking careerist is the type of person Stalin nowadays makes use of to wipe out revolutionists. Sometimes they are the declassed sons of white emigres or as, in this case, there is a sister in Moscow who maintains close connections with the GPU. It was easy for this adventurer to make an impression on Gertrude Schildbach. For the first time in her life this plain and aging woman found somebody making love to her and holding out the prospect of a stable and happy union. It worked. Gertrude Schildbach sold Reiss out, took over the whole affair in her own hands, and saved me and the child. She did not make use of the box of candy but hurried off, when she learned that Reiss was alone that evening in Lausanne. And this panicky haste gave rise to those fatal mistakes which quickly led to the clearing up of the murder in a few days. This in itself is sufficient reason why she will not obtain the coveted award. She would become fully conscious of the meaning of her deed, probably only at the moment when she found herself alone in the Soviet Embassy’s car (her assistants did not make their way to Russia). Her reward must certainly have failed to come through for the idyllic times when such “heroic” deeds were rewarded by being exiled from European Russia to the White Sea where one could spend ones days fishing are over. There is a much shorter and more radical treatment. Gertrude Schildbach will have received her compensation in the cellars of the Lubianka. Decorations are now awarded for obedient killings in Spain. It is those who distinguish themselves by their zeal in rooting out Trotskyists and the POUM who are most honored. In Moscow too one may win a decoration for courageous struggle on behalf of the Spanish proletariat, say somebody who receives the Spanish gold in the harbor of Odessa in return for arms, or the official Resident who negotiates the deal. They will be honored with the same decoration, the Order of the Red Banner, that Reiss won years ago for his services in the Revolution.

No, Gertrude Schildbach will receive no badges of honor. She managed her deed of “heroism” too clumsily. But what is deeply moving in this tragedy is that it was she who should have been the chosen instrument. This is the same woman who after her return from the Soviet Union following the first Moscow Trials (August 1936), wept despairingly and vowed that even if she were forced, she would never return to the Soviet Union, concluding with the sentence I shall never forget, “It is easy for me, I have neither mother nor child to grieve for me. But you ... your child must not grow up in the shadow of the Lie.”

However horrible it may seem that a friend was made use of for such a purpose, it was not novel. An intimate friend played a similar role in the case of Blumkin. There too a woman friend acted the Judas role, won Stalin’s gratitude and became a very cherished agent of the GPU. She earned the admiration of Yagoda and the hate of the comrades. After many years, when she once moved to salute him with the customary embrace, Reiss could not control his feeling of horror and later said to me, “How terrible a thing, to have to work with such as these.”

* * *

Reiss entered the newly formed Communist Party of Poland about 20 years ago. This party is strictly illegal. Even merely belonging is punishable with long terms in prison. The work was difficult, the party was poor, and its members were unemployed. Provocateurs, particularly in the small towns, assured a quick arrest. A whole six months of uninterrupted activity was counted a success. The CP united within its ranks all social layers of the young republic, the most advanced elements of the Polish Socialist party, youthful ex-servicemen, proletarians, intellectuals, peasants, Poles who had imagined their liberated Fatherland differently, disappointed Ukrainians, Jews.

In 1922, shortly after the arrest of a number of leading members of the Polish Central Committee, Reiss was also arrested. Despite the physical torment he suffered in prison, he kept his courage high. And when I was allowed to see him in a few weeks, I found that while his prison experiences had changed his physical appearance, his morale was stronger than ever. With few exceptions this was the case of all his comrades who filled the prisons of Poland. All were borne up by the hope and conviction that revolutionary Russia was transforming mankind’s age-old dream of liberation into reality.

His imprisonment steeled Reiss and all the good and noble elements in his character were confirmed. Penetrated through and through with socialist culture he realized in his own life the doctrine of Marx – unconditional loyalty to the cause; the spirit of true comradeship was deeply anchored in his soul. He remained pure and uncompromising to the end. My testimony about him will one day be confirmed by many who have escaped Stalin’s massacres and others who still work in Stalin’s apparatus in Paris and Prague when they will regain their freedom.

In the summer of 1923 Reiss was released from prison and, with one of his close friends, and, in circumstances of considerable danger, was able with the help of the party to flee to Germany.

Those were stormy days in the fall of 1923 in Germany, full of feverish activity and great hopes. Countless comrades came and passed through our dwelling-place, and in those days I saw very little of Reiss. He threw himself hopefully into the movement, was almost continuously on the road, and in the few days that he stayed in Berlin he found very little time for his private life. The days passed hectically and the nights were full of uncertainty. One morning Reiss told me the reason that he had not come home. He had accompanied Piatakov to Chemnitz. At the Dresden station they found that they had confused the time of the arrival and departure of the train and that the last train for Berlin had left. There was nothing else to do but to stay over night. When they discussed what hotel they could stay in, it came out that they both were traveling around with a passport made out for the same name. So they took a room together. A coincidence: the same passport, the same ultimate fate.

The years that followed marked the ebb of the revolutionary movement in Europe, of the opposition struggles in Russia and the repercussions in the Communist parties in Europe. Reiss along with others now buried his hopes for a revolution in Europe for a long time. The task now was to defend the Soviet Union and the achievements of October from the encircling counter-revolution. Disregarding all dangers, he travelled from one country to another, always illegally and making acquaintance with the many prisons of Europe. And with the same courage and devotion he risked his life. He never expected applause.

The destruction of the opposition in Russia was accompanied by the decay of the Comintern and this of course brought with it a demoralization of all the Soviet apparatuses. Reiss stubbornly fought against the incipient bureaucratization of the apparatus; he carefully selected his colleagues. He who himself hoped one day to return to party activity now buried this wish and reconciled his work in the intelligence service more easily with his conscience. Personally, however, he withdrew more and more within his shell and suffered very keenly over the developments in Russia. Trotsky’s expulsion from the party his him very hard and when Trotsky was deported from the country Reiss said: “Now Stalin has done a service by saving the head of the revolution.”

Reiss’s work abroad was interrupted by a lengthy stay in Moscow from 1930-32. That was the epoch of the five-year plan with all its deprivations, discussions and struggles. Stalin was already pressing so hard on all independent thought that the trip abroad and the resumption of illegality was almost welcome. This was the period in which Reiss entered the service of the GPU.

The work abroad in the meantime became much more difficult. One had to abandon the idea of being supported by the party. The apparatus was to be built up only with the help of remote sympathizers. Reiss made use of his old connections. Through his open and cultivated manner of dealing with people he succeeded in the years of disappointment to win for the Soviet Union intellectuals, professors and journalists.

But the question became ever more pressing – how long was one to go along? From time to time Stalin made a gesture (as in Spain 1936) with which one could go along. In the last years Reiss had rejected younger people for the work in the GPU, and had tried to convince his friends that the youth should be left free to work within the party. He himself was beginning to see with terrifying clarity the extent of his bondage. All the more stubbornly he clung to what remained by way of justifying his activity – the defense of the Soviet Union. That was enough to continue with the work but not to settle with his conscience. So he became more subdued, more taciturn and ever lonelier.

We could now count on the fingers of our hand those to whom we could speak openly. They were not recognizable, these comrades of yesterday. Those who only shortly before agreed despairingly with us now approved of everything and rejoiced over some speech of Litvinoff before the League of Nations or they were elated when Poland’s anti-semitic generals paid homage to Radek’s old mother. They exulted when a government became incited against Trotsky or the wires were cut to prevent him from making an address. They had become conscienceless and brainless. Their thinking was done for them by Stalin.

After the first trial the question of the break became acute. He would wait no longer, he had made up his mind. And now I tried to dissuade him from being over-impulsive, to talk things over with other comrades. I was justifiably afraid for his life. I pleaded with him not to walk out alone, to make the break along with other comrades but he only said: “One can count on nobody. One must act alone and openly. One cannot trick history, there is no point in delay.” He was correct – one is alone.

It was a release for him but also a break with everything that had hitherto counted with him, with his youth, his past, his comrades. Now we were completely alone. In those few weeks Reiss aged very rapidly, his hair became snow-white. He who loved nature and cherished life looked about him with empty eyes. He was surrounded by corpses. His soul was in the cellars of the Lubianka. In his sleep-torn nights he saw an execution or a suicide.

He also spoke of the future, of the hard, long struggle for which one must prepare oneself, and of the goal that this thorny path would reach. He dreamed of the party conference which would show the way and continue the program. The Zimmerwaldians were also a handful, he said, and there was war besides to combat.

What did Stalin achieve by this murder? The life of an uncompromising revolutionary was destroyed, his child orphaned, and plunged into inexpressible grief. The voice of the dead will not be stilled but will cry out against the crimes of Stalin. Reiss served the Revolution modestly and with unquestioned loyalty – with his life. And with his death he continues to serve it.

Ignace Reiss

Murdered Victim of G.P.U. Reveals

Inner Life of Stalin’s Secret Police

The following revealing pen picture of the inner situation of the G.P U., Stalin’s counter-revolutionary secret police, has been supplied by Comrade Ignace Reiss, himself a former G.P.U. agent, who was slain by Stalin’s orders on September 4, 1937, near Lausanne, Switzerland, after he had denounced his murderous employers and declared his adherence to the Fourth International. – Editor

Among the first to be clapped in jail – accused of “Trotskyism’’ – was the head of the spets department, Molchanov. After his arrest came the arrest of a dozen of his collaborators and this constituted the first blow against Yagoda. Then, one arrest followed another.

The blow was first of all aimed at G.P.U. functionaries of foreign birth. Reprisals against them were only part and parcel of general reprisals against foreign communists who had migrated to the U.S.S.R. Especially desperate was the situation of those who had Fascist rule in their native countries: Germans, Poles, Hungarians and so on.

There was no one to intercede in their behalf and so there was no need for any ceremony in dealing with them. They were all, as a rule, accused of espionage. Very quickly followed the arrest of Russians who had married foreigners, i.e., female “spies.”

They Just Disappear

Foreign communists disappeared in batches, new ones daily. Two old Polish Communists happen to meet on the street: “You’re not in jail yet?” “And you?” Or, another meeting: “You’re still in Moscow! I thought you were arrested long ago!”

Among those placed under arrest, in pursuance of the line of liquidating the old cadres, was an old Chekist, B. In search for some pretext, they seized upon a denunciation in his case: In 1927, in reply to some denigrating remark about Trotsky made by an assistant of his, B. had said, “Don’t you ... dare mention Trotsky’s name in my presence!” Nothing was made of it at the time. But now, ten years later, he was reminded of his hot-headed action.

Cases of this sort are not an exception but, rather, the rule. A., a woman conductor in Kharkov, was removed from her job. Reason? It appears that her former husband had signed ten years ago some sort of oppositional statement. None of her friends interceded in her behalf – to do so was to suffer the same fate.

G. was removed from his post in the G.P.U., allegedly for “gossiping”. As a matter of fact G. had been intimate with B. who was arrested shortly before. G.’s superior had told him: “I know you meet B. in the corridors. Cut it out.” At the time, B. was only a prospective candidate for jail. After B.’s arrest, G. was first removed from his post and shortly thereafter himself arrested.

A “Spy” Arrested

Among those arrested was S., an old-timer in the G.P.U., of foreign extraction, who knew several languages and worked in the foreign department. Like the rest, he was accused of “espionage”. When his chief, an intimate friend of his, who knew very well this was a lie, was asked how he had failed to notice that S. was a spy, he replied: A spy does not impart his secrets. An important G.P.U. functionary, Sh., was arrested, and, of course, charged with espionage. His wife was immediately thrown out of their apartment. Sh. was a typical G.P.U.er, in the worst sense of the term. Comrades who knew him intimately were in a quandary: Why had this man been arrested? Was it perhaps because he knew languages? Was this perhaps held suspect by the authorities?

In the G.P.U. there worked a German. His fate had long been decided, but for one reason or another he had not yet been arrested. Apparently they were waiting for some suitable trial. A pure-blooded German of the Aryan type, he was admirably suited for the role of a Nazi in some public trial. It was indispensable to “liquidate” him, if only because he was a German. Either because no suitable trial cropped up, or for some other reason, a different method was applied in his case. He was sent to Spain, and disappeared there. In general, it is by no means a rare practice to send people to Spain for the purpose of liquidating them.

Dog Gives Clue

A member of the G.P.U. fails to show up for work. Was he arrested? Worried comrades begin to wonder. No one, of course, dares to make inquiries. There was still hope that X. had gone abroad, where he had done work. Sometime later a friend of his receives a letter from X.’s servant abroad, with an inquiry as to what she should do with X.’s dog. She had written to the master, but received no reply. Thus, because a dog had been left abroad, news of the arrest of the dog’s owner arrived in Moscow.

Several years ago, one of the G.P.U. functionaries detailed to “work” on the street and to compile reports about the prevailing moods, in making his report to the authorities was rash enough to say that in re potatoes, things were really very bad. Not potatoes, but some sort of mud. Couldn’t something be done about it? He was clapped in jail, and, as is sometimes the case, forgotten. He received no packages, no visits; his relatives were afraid to inquire. A year and a half passed. An investigating magistrate, on finding the case among the old files, proposed in the nucleus that he be set free. (At that time minor cases concerning members could still be brought up in the nuclei.) No decision was reached on the question. The authorities kept dragging the case, but no one doubted that the arrested man would be freed either this day or the next. Presently, some one again reminded himself of the case, and this time the authorities finally decided: To be shot in 24 hours.

To Avoid Fuss

Nowadays they try to make arrests with the least amount of fuss. Men are not seized either at home or in the department – so as not to cause panic. People are not arrested – they simply disappear. For example, a meeting is in session; a man gets up to go to the toilet and does not return. This attracts least attention. No one, of course, asks what happened to him.

After Yagoda’s removal and the smashing of the central apparatus of the G.P.U., they began to recall foreign agents to Moscow. As a rule they are recalled by some sort of ruse. For example, X. is informed that he had been compromised and would have to transfer to another country, and “en route” he might drop in on Moscow. U. is recalled on some other harmless pretext. In Moscow, they “disappear.”

Arthur Stashevsky worked in Spain ostensibly as a trade representative. But in reality as one of the leading functionaries of the G.P.U. After Tukhachevsky’s trial and connection with the arrest of Unschlicht and other Polish communists, it was decided in Moscow to recall Stashevsky as well. But inasmuch as his wife and daughter were working in the Soviet pavilion at the Paris exhibition, Moscow was afraid lest he refuse to return. The resourceful minds in the G.P.U. thought up the following stratagem: Stashevsky’s daughter (without her father’s knowledge) was sent from Paris to Moscow with some exhibits, while Stashevsky himself was called to Paris from Spain. In Paris two surprises awaited him: an urgent request by wire to come to Moscow and the information that his daughter was already there (a hostage!). According to the reports of Stashevsky’s friends, neither he nor his daughter ever reached their Moscow apartment. Apparently they were seized at the border. Stashevsky, incidentally, was considered a 100 per cent Stalinist. He was given an interview by Stalin “himself” and received personal instructions from him prior to his departure for Spain. In 1935, he demonstrated his loyalty by betraying Sirtsov, who had been rash enough to make some critical comments on Stalin’s “activity” around the corpse of Kirov.

Woman Accused

An old Polish communist, a woman, E., was arrested (her husband had been spared from jail only by a premature death). She was accused of having joined the C.P.S.U. on instructions from the sub-Bureau of the Polish General Staff, in whose employ she had allegedly been since 1921. Bruno Yassensky and other Poles are in jail on similar charges. Inasmuch as they are not apprehending real spies, they are arresting and shooting innocent people.

Even in the G.P.U. hardly any one knows what happens in the inner prison to those arrested.

A case better known than the others is that of the aged Friedman, an old Chekist whom Stalin, for some reason, was bent on including in the Zinoviev trial. He was subjected to many long months of torture to extort confessions from him. Nor did they lose hope of breaking him until a few days before the opening of the trial. But Friedman remained adamant. The story is that his last words were: You can shoot old Friedman only once, but no one can make a whore out of him.

During examination, in most cases, the investigating magistrates do not, apparently, talk frankly with the prisoners, i.e., they conduct the investigation in accordance with orders issued from above, without themselves knowing the truth officially. But, of course, they are very well aware of what is involved.

Scoff at Confessions

In Moscow the “confessions” are openly scoffed at. Very popular are anecdotes such as the following: Alexei Tolstoy, upon being arrested and examined, confessed that he was the author of Hamlet, etc.

Because of the number of arrests, and the enormous number of cases, virtually all the functionaries of the G.P.U. have become investigating magistrates. For the same reasons, no packages are permitted in jail. With tens of thousands in prison, the sending of packages is allegedly impossible “in practice”. On the same grounds, many are shot: There is no room in the prisons.

Political prisoners are now usually sent into exile together with ordinary criminals, and, in addition, the criminals are extended the “right”’ of stripping the political prisoners bare. It is hardly surprising if in these conditions many exiles never reach their place of exile, but perish on the way.

After Yagoda’s arrest and the massacre in the G.P.U., the most incredible stories began to circulate among the foreign agents and a real panic ensued. In order to check it somehow, the G.P.U. sent out a circular letter throughout the entire foreign network. Its contents were approximately as follows: The C.C. has removed the gang at the head of our department. We must unfortunately admit that our heads (Yagoda and the rest) turned out to be bandits. The chief task for us and for you is to struggle against the Fascist-Trotskyites: (1) struggle against the Trotskyites; (2) keep a strict check on your subordinates.

Demoralization Reigns

It must be said that in connection with the recent trials, the important functionaries of the G.P.U. abroad had to “agitate” their subordinate foreign agents nights on end, so great was the demoralization these trials produced even in this milieu.

According to the latest reports, Z. Unschlicht (sister of Unschlicht), an oppositionist, who was arrested in 1934 and who had worked in the Comintern, died in the isolator. (At the time of her arrest, she was taken from her sick-bed.)

The well known Ukrainian communist Kotsubinsky has been shot.

The Bulletin (of the Russian Opposition) is widely read in the G.P.U.

Gide’s book, or, more precisely, stories concerning this book, and Gide’s taking a new position, have indubitably produced a great impression in the U.S.S.R. Those arriving from abroad are bombarded from all sides with questions about what Gide had written.

In present conditions, a rather grave “problem” for the Soviet functionary is the question of arranging a party. X. is considering giving a party in his house and inviting a number of friends, among them foreign communists, mostly workers in the G.P.U. A more experienced friend urgently advises against it: Something might come out of it. The best thing is to go to a party given by so and so. Such and such people will be present there, whose position today is quite sound.

Joseph Hansen

How the GPU Murdered Ignace Reiss

The Swiss Police Caught One of the GPU Agents Involved and Solved the Crime

(February 1941)

On September 4, 1937, the Swiss police found the body of a well-dressed man on the Chamblandes road not far from Lausanne. His body was riddled with machine gun slugs. His hand clutched a few strands of gray hair. A Czecho-Slovakian passport in his pocket gave his name as Hans Eberhardt.

This name was already known to the Swiss police. An anonymous denunciation of Eberhardt as a “trafficker in drugs” had been sent previously to police headquarters.

The wife of the victim identified the body. He was Ignace Reiss. He had been a member of the Communist Party of the USSR, a high functionary of the GPU,decorated with the Order of the Red Flag. On June 27 of that year he had broken from the GPU, announced his decision to join the Fourth International, and gone into hiding to escape the GPU killers. The denunciation which had been sent to the Swiss police revealed facts concerning the aliases Reiss had used in line with his GPU duties – facts known only to his superiors in the GPU.

The automobile which had been used in the crime, a Chevrolet, was discovered. It had been rented from a garage by a woman named Renata Steiner. In the automobile, an overcoat was found bearing the label of a Madrid store.

Already at that time the GPU had launched its campaign of murder against anti-fascist militants in the Spanish Loyalist ranks who opposed Stalinism.

Many Loyalist veterans were drawn into the GPU ranks, as was later proved in the spectacular confessions of the Loyalist veterans who participated in the GPU machine gun raid on Trotsky’s bedroom on May 4, 1940.

The Assassins Identified

Police were soon able to positively identify one of the assassins of Reiss: Gertrude Schildbach. In her hotel room the police found papers, photographs, and a box of chocolates which had been treated with strychnine. These chocolates had evidently been intended for the Reiss family. The strands of hair ound clutched in the hand of the dead man were proved hy the police to be from the head of Schildbach. It was she who had lured Reiss into the trap, posing as sympathetic with his break from Stalinism, Schildbach had been brought into the Communist movement by Reiss and had worked with him in the GPU for years.

The police next uncovered the fact that Schildbach had not been alone in the hotel. In the room next to hers – he had arrived at the same time and they had asked for connecting rooms – a man had registered under the name of François Rossi. They later discovered his real name to be Roland Abbiat, a citizen of Monaco, born in London August 15, 1905. In his baggage, which like that of Schildbach had been left behind, the police discovered a map of Mexico City and the suburb where Trotsky was living, The authorities revealed later that the Russian consulate in Lausanne had previously applied three times for a passport in the name of “Rossi” with his destination listed as Mexico.

The “inseparable friend” of Abbiat, according to the police, was a man named Etienne Charles Martignat, born in 1900 at Culhat, France, who had been formerly employed in a gas factory, and who was accustomed to spend far more than he earned, apparently having a secret source of income.

The First Arrest

The first to be captured was Renata Steiner, who had rented the death car. She was 29 at the time of her arrest. Not as hard, yet, as a Jacson, she finally agreed to talk.

Converted to Stalinism after 1931, she had been to Moscow in 1934 and again in 1935. In 1936 she was offered work by the Soviet consulate in Paris, which sent her to the “Union for the Repatriation of Russians in Russia” (12, rue de Buic,Paris VIe). This was a cover name for a nest of GPU agents. Here she became intimate with Pierre Schwarzenberg, who introduced her to Serge Efron, GPU agent who posed as a Russian journalist. Schwarzenberg soon left Paris for Spain and was not heard from again. Steiner received her pay from Serge Efron. One of her first assignments was to trail Leon Sedov and his wife.

At various times she worked under the direction of Serge Efron on GPU assignments with Marcel Rollin (alias Dimitri Smirensky, born October 24, 1897, in Russia) with “Bob” (Pierre-Louis Ducomet, a Frenchman born January 18, 1902) -with Francois Rossi (Abbiat) and with three other GPU agents whom she knew under the names of “Michel,” “Andre,” and “Leo” (or “Adolphe”). Among the assignments this group carried out, besides trailing Leon Sedov, were the trailing of Reiss and of his friend in Holland, H. Sneevliet.

Others involved in the crime were the Grosovsky couple and Beletzky, posing as employees of Representation Commerciale Sovietique in Paris, but in reality important GPU agents in Paris. On July 17, 1937, Reisa had informed these people, with whom he had worked many years, of his break with Stalin.

How the GPU Murdered Reiss

The Swiss police were now able to reconstruct the crime from the beginning.

Reiss had been suspected by the GPU heads of “deviations” during the height of the 1937 purge. Michel Spiegelglass, sub-chief of the Foreign Service of the GPU, was in Paris when Reiss decided to write his letter of rupture. Normally it would have gone directly to Moscow, but Spiegelglass, suspicious, obtained it within an hour after its dispatch. The same night Spiegelglass called a conference of a few high GPU functionaries and they decided that Reiss must be killed.

Reiss, however, received a warning from someone in the GPU service. This warning consisted of ringing his telephone several times during the night. Each time Reiss lifted the receiver, the line went dead. Reiss understood. He left Paris at once.

The GPU set out immediately to track him down. Ducomet, traveling with a false passport bearing the name of Woklav Cadek, left with Smirensky for Holland to keep watch on Sneevliet with whom they expected Reiss would maintain contact.

At the beginning of August, Renata Steiner and Smirensky, leaving Ducomet in Amsterdam, followed a lead to a house near Versailles, where they stayed four or five days waiting for Reiss to appear.

On August 25, “Michel” made an appointment with Renata Steiner in a cafe in the Place d’ltalie at Paris. A Russian 30 or 35 years old met them. He called himself “Leo.” The next day she met Leo again and with him “Rossi,” who told her to go to Berne, Switzerland, and await orders.

On August 28, Leo saw her off on the train, giving her a letter to deliver, a box of chocolates, and a tube of what appeared to be pills.

Rossi met her in Berne on August 29. She gave him the things Leo had sent, and acting under Rossi’s instructions took a room in the City Hotel and then rented a Chevrolet from the Casino garage.

On September 1, Rossi sent Renata Steiner back to Paris to deliver a letter to Leo.

Leo met her in Paris on September 2 at the cafe in the Place d’ltalie, read the letter she brought, and immediately wrote a reply for her to deliver to Rossi.

On September 3, at 8 o’clock, Renata Steiner met Rossi at the railway station in Berne. They left in the Chevrolet together with Gertrude Schildbach, whom Steiner now met for the first time. They traveled as far as Martigny. From this point, Renata Steiner was sent alone to Finhaut to watch for Ignace Reiss.

On Saturday, September 4, at the Finhaut railway station she saw Reins accompanied by his wife and child. She immediateoly telephoned to Rossi’s room in Lausanne.

Gertrude Schildbach answered the telephone. “Uncle has left,” said Renata Steiner.

Rossi came to the telephone and told Steiner to come immediately to Lausanne. When she reached Lausanne, Rossi sent her to Territet to search for the house where Mrs. Reiss was staying.

Unsuccessful at Territet, Steiner tried to telephone Rossi, but was unable to get any response to repeated ringing of his room. On September 5, she saw Mrs. Reiss and trailed her to her home. Again she tried Rossi’s room without response. On September 6 she read of the crime at Chamblandes, but “attached no importance to it.” On the 7th, she began to wonder and wrote to Paris for instructions. On the 8th the police arrested her.

A “Friend” Betrayed Reiss

In response to a letter from Reiss, announcing his split from Stalin, Gertrude Schildhach had written a sympathetic response. She came up from Rome where she was stationed to talk with Reiss. A woman, 43 years of age, she was rather short and masculine in appearance, wore glasses, dressed plainly, had graying hair. Her maiden name was Neugebauer; she was born in Germany. For twenty years she had worked with Reiss. At the time Zinoviev and Kamenev were shot, Schildbach had wept in talking about it with Reiss.

Schildbach arrived in Switzerland on September 3. She told Reiss that she was in absolute agreement with him, that she would break with the GPU, but did not know what to do in the future. Reiss told her that it was necessary to make a sharp break with the past and to join the Fourth International.

She asked Reiss to have dinner with her the following night, Saturday. Reins told her in a joking way, that he was without money. This was no obstacle to Schildbach. She had enough money and invited him to have dinner at her expense. Reiss agreed, although he told his wife that Schildbach, despite their long friendship, had produced in him a very strange and incomprehensible impression.

The police established that Reiss and Schildbach had dinner together and than left the restaurant. As it was quite late, the streets were deserted. They intended to take a taxi, but an automobile drove up. A man sprang out and struck Reiss on the head with a blackjack. Then they shoved him into the car. Reiss fought desperately before they succeeded in killing .him. In his hand were wisps of Schildbach’s hair when police discovered his body.

Besides those already involved, the police established that the GPU had prepared a second line of attack in case the first failed. GPU agents were stationed at Martigny and Mont-Sacconex under the direction of Vadime Kondratiev, an ex-White Guard.

Kondratiev had been stopped by the police at the Lausanne railway station. Marshall Petain was arriving from France to view the maneuvers of the Swiss army and all people in the station were checked. His passport was apparently in order, and they permitted him to continue his pacing back and forth not far from a Chevrolet with the license plates BE-20-662 (the plates of the car in which Schlldbach drove up to the hotel to rent a room, the same car in which the murder was committed later that day). At nine o’clock in the evening of September 4, Kondratiev had received a telegram from the Hotel Suisse in Martigny which read: “You are free; return home.” Police were able to trace his movements until September 9, when he disappeared.

The “Laxity” of the French Police

The Swiss police considered that they had enough evidence to convict Grosovsky, his wife Lydia, and Beletzky, three agents of the GPU stationed at the Representation Commerciale Sovietique in Paris; and they requested the Paris police to arrest them and hold them for extraditions on the charge of complicity in the murder of Reiss.

Grosovsky had already fled to the Soviet Union, however. Beletzky was questioned once by the police without their securing any information. He did not wait to be questioned a second time, but disappeared. Lydia Grosovsky was detained by the police and held for extradition.

But contrary to all precedent, and without permitting it to leak out into the press until much later, the Paris court in charge of the case released Lydia Grosovsky on bail of 50,000 francs. The Swiss authorities protested vigorously. They had already asked the French police to arrest GPU agents Gertrude Schildbach, Schwarzenberg, Spiegelglass, Serge Efron, Knepyguine, Grosovsky, Beletzsky as well as the others traced to the French border. Now the one GPU agent whom the French police had succeeded in arresting was permitted to go free! She was naturally never seen again.

The “laxity” of the French authorities was due to pressure from Moscow and the anxiety of the French government to keep in the good graces of Stalin in view of the growing threat from Hitler – this was at the time of the Franco-Soviet pact. From the viewpoint of the “democrats” at the the helm of the French state, it would have been poor diplomacy to permit the Swiss authorities to question the GPU agents who had been plotting murder on French soil.

The Plot Against Trotsky and His Son

The Swiss police also established that preparation were under way by this same group of GPU agents to murder Leon Trotsky and his son, Leon Sedov. The discovery or the map of Mexico City in the room of Abbiat and the three attempts of the Soviet consulate in Switzerland to obtain a passport for him to Mexico under the name of “Rossi” have already been mentioned. Abbiat, Serge Efron, Renata Steiner, Ducomet, Schwarzenberg, and Smirensky had also been trailing Sedov since 1936. They had succeeded in in striking up an acquaintance with Sedov and his wife and made daily reports to Smirensky on the progress of this budding friendship,

In January 1937 Sedov arranged to meet a lawyer, who was defending Trotsky against the defamation of the Stalinists in the Swiss press, at the small French town of Mulhouse. Ducomet, Smireneky, and Renata Steiner were sent to Mulhouse by Serge Efron to wait for Sedov. They took rooms in separate hotels and waited one week for Sedov to keep the appointment. At the end of eight days, Efron told them to return. Sedov had postponed the trip due to illness, and thus had escaped the GPU trap. But not for long. On February 16, 1938, he was dead – finished off in a private Paris hospital.

In a series of letters to the French authorities, Trotsky established the amazing “laxity” of the French police in their perfunctory investigation of Sedov’s death, showed that the very minor illness for which Sedov was being treated could not explain his sudden death, that Sedov’s entry into the hospital under a pseudonym had been discovered by a Stalinist Doctor, that the hospital had links with, the GPU, etc. etc. All in vain. The French authorities refused to investigate further. It was still the honeymoon of the Franco-Soviet pact,

A few months later, the same thing happened when Rudolph Klement, secretary of the Fourth International, kidnapped on July 13, 1938, was found, dismembered, in the Seine. There were many clues. French “democracy” would not pursue them – precisely because as in the Reiss case, the Swiss investigation had led to the doors of Soviet institutions abroad, like the Representation Commerciale Sovietique in Paris, and to Soviet agents of the GPU.

Forum posts

  • Letter of rupture Ignace Reiss (alias Ludwig) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

    July 17, 1937

    “The letter that I am writing to you today I should have written to you a long time ago, the day when the “Sixteen” [1] were massacred in the Lubyanka caves, on the order of the “Father of the Peoples” .

    I kept quiet then. I did not raise my voice to protest the assassinations that followed either, and this silence places a heavy responsibility on me. My fault is great, but I will do my best to repair it, and to repair it quickly in order to lighten my conscience.

    Until then I have walked with you. I will not go one step further by your side. Our paths diverge! Whoever is silent today becomes an accomplice of Stalin and betrays the cause of the working class and of socialism!

    I have been fighting for socialism since I was twenty. On the threshold of my forties, I don’t want to live off favors from a Yezhov.

    I have sixteen years of underground work behind me. It’s something, but I still have enough strength to start all over again. Because it is a question of "starting all over again", of saving socialism. The struggle began a long time ago. I want to resume my place there.

    The noise organized around the airmen who fly over the Pole aims to stifle the cries and moans of the victims tortured in Lubyanka, Svobodnaia, Minsk, Kiev, Leningrad, Tiflis. These efforts are in vain. The word, the word of truth, is louder than the noise of the mightiest engines.

    The aviation recordmen, it is true, will touch the hearts of American ladies and the youth of the two continents intoxicated by sport, more easily than we will succeed in conquering international opinion and moving the conscience of the world! Make no mistake, however: the truth will make its way, the day of truth is nearer, much closer than the lords of the Kremlin think. The day is approaching when international socialism will judge the crimes committed during the last ten years. Nothing will be forgotten, nothing will be forgiven. The story is severe: "the brilliant leader, the father of peoples, the sun of socialism", will give an account of his actions: the defeat of the Chinese revolution, the red plebiscite [2], the crushing of the German proletariat, the social-fascism and the Popular Front, the confidences to Howard [3], the tender flirtation with Laval: all things more brilliant than the others?

    This trial will be public, with witnesses, a multitude of witnesses, dead or alive; they will all speak once again, but this time to tell the truth, the whole truth. They will all appear, these innocent slaughtered and slandered, and the international workers’ movement will rehabilitate them all, these Kamenevs and these Mrachkovsky, these Smirnov and these Mouralovs, these Drobnis and these Serebriakov, these Mdivani and these Okoudjava, these Rakovsky and these Andres Nin, all these "spies and provocateurs, all these Gestapo agents and saboteurs".

    In order that the Soviet Union and the entire international workers ’movement do not succumb definitively to the blows of open counterrevolution and fascism, the workers’ movement must get rid of its Stalin and its Stalinism. This mixture of the worst opportunism - unprincipled opportunism - of blood and lies threatens to poison the whole world and wipe out the remnants of the labor movement.

    Merciless struggle against Stalinism!

    No to the popular front, yes to the class struggle!

    No to the committees, yes to the intervention of the proletariat to save the Spanish revolution: these are the tasks on the agenda! Down with the lie of "socialism in one country"!

    Return to Lenin’s internationalism! Neither the Second nor the Third International are capable of accomplishing this historic mission: disintegrated and corrupted, they cannot prevent the working class from fighting; they only serve as auxiliaries to the police force of the bourgeoisie. Ironically, the bourgeoisie once drew from its ranks the Cavaignac and Gallifet, the Trepovs and the Wrangels. Today it is under the "glorious" leadership of the two Internationals that the proletarians themselves fulfill the role of executioners of their own comrades. The bourgeoisie can go about its business quietly; everywhere reigns "order and tranquility": there are still Noske and Ejov, Negrins and Diaz. Stalin is their leader and Feuchtwanger their Homer!

    No, I can’t take it anymore. I take back my freedom. I come back to Lenin, his teaching and his action. I intend to devote my modest strength to the cause of Lenin: I want to fight, because only our victory - the victory of the proletarian revolution - will liberate humanity from capitalism and the Soviet Union from Stalinism! Forward to new struggles for socialism and the proletarian revolution! For the construction of the Fourth International!

    Ludwig (Ignace Reiss)

    July 17, 1937

    P.S.: In 1928 I was decorated with the Order of the “Red Flag”, for services rendered to the proletarian revolution. I send you this decoration attached. It would be against my dignity to wear it at the same time as the executioners of the best representatives of the Russian working class. The Izvestia have published in the last two weeks lists of newly decorated whose functions have been modestly ignored: they are those carrying out death sentences.


    [1] Indicted in the first Moscow trial.

    [2] Plebiscite demanded in Saxony by the National Socialists against the Social Democratic government and supported by the Communists.

    [3] Stalin had told American journalist Roy Howard in May 1935 that the idea that the U.S.S.R. could encourage a world socialist revolution was a "tragicomedy".

  • Lettre de rupture Ignace Reiss (alias Ludwig) au Comité Central du Parti Communiste de l’Union Soviétique

    17 juillet 1937

    La lettre que je vous écris aujourd’hui j’aurais dû vous l’écrire depuis longtemps déjà, le jour où les « Seize » [1] furent massacrés dans les caves de la Loubianka, sur l’ordre du « Père des Peuples ».

    Je me suis tu alors. Je n’ai pas élevé la voix non plus pour protester lors des assassinats qui ont suivi, et ce silence fait peser sur moi une lourde responsabilité. Ma faute est grande, mais je m’efforcerai de la réparer, et de la réparer vite afin d’alléger ma conscience.

    Jusqu’alors j’ai marché avec vous. Je ne ferai pas un pas de plus à vos côtés. Nos chemins divergent ! Celui qui se tait aujourd’hui se fait complice de Staline et trahit la cause de la classe ouvrière et du socialisme !

    Je me bats pour le socialisme depuis l’âge de vingt ans. Sur le seuil de la quarantaine, je ne veux pas vivre des faveurs d’un Ejov.

    J’ai derrière moi seize années de travail clandestin. C’est quelque chose, mais il me reste assez de forces pour tout recommencer. Car il s’agit bien de « tout recommencer », de sauver le socialisme. La lutte s´est engagée il y a longtemps déjà. Je veux y reprendre ma place.

    Le tapage organisé autour des aviateurs qui survolent le Pôle vise à étouffer les cris et les gémissements des victimes torturées à la Loubianka, à la Svobodnaia, à Minsk, à Kiev, à Leningrad, à Tiflis. Ces efforts sont vains. La parole, la parole de la vérité, est plus forte que le vacarme des moteurs les plus puissants.

    Les recordmen de l’aviation, il est vrai, toucheront les cœurs des ladies américaines et de la jeunesse des deux continents intoxiqués par le sport, plus facilement que nous arriverons à conquérir l’opinion internationale et à émouvoir la conscience du monde ! Que l’on ne s’y trompe pourtant pas : la vérité se fraiera son chemin, le jour de la vérité est plus proche, bien plus proche que ne le pensent les seigneurs du Kremlin. Le jour est proche où le socialisme international jugera les crimes commis au cours des dix dernières années. Rien ne sera oublié, rien ne sera pardonné. L’histoire est sévère : « le chef génial, le père des peuples, le soleil du socialisme », rendra compte de ses actes : la défaite de la révolution chinoise, le plébiscite rouge [2] , l’écrasement du prolétariat allemand, le social-fascisme et le Front populaire, les confidences à Howard [3] , le flirt attendri avec Laval : toutes choses plus géniales les unes que les autres ?

    Ce procès-là sera public, avec des témoins, une multitude de témoins, morts ou vivants ; ils parleront tous une fois encore, mais cette fois pour dire la vérité, toute la vérité. Ils comparaîtront tous, ces innocents massacrés et calomniés, et le mouvement ouvrier international les réhabilitera tous, ces Kamenev et ces Mratchkovski, ces Smirnov et ces Mouralov, ces Drobnis et ces Serebriakov, ces Mdivani et ces Okoudjava, ces Rakovski et ces Andrès Nin, tous ces « espions et ces provocateurs, tous ces agents de la Gestapo et ces saboteurs ».

    Pour que l’Union soviétique et le mouvement ouvrier international tout entier ne succombent pas définitivement sous les coups de la contre-révolution ouverte et du fascisme, le mouvement ouvrier doit se débarrasser de ses Staline et de son stalinisme. Ce mélange du pire des opportunismes - un opportunisme sans principes - de sang et de mensonges menace d’empoisonner le monde entier et d’anéantir les restes du mouvement ouvrier.

    Lutte sans merci contre le stalinisme !

    Non au front populaire, oui à la lutte des classes ! Non aux comités, oui à l’intervention du prolétariat sauver la révolution espagnole : telles sont les tâches à l’ordre du jour !

    A bas le mensonge du « socialisme dans un seul pays » ! Retour à l’internationalisme de Lénine !

    Ni la IIème ni la IIIème Internationale ne sont capables d’accomplir cette mission historique : désagrégées et corrompues, elles ne peuvent empêcher la classe ouvrière de combattre ; elles ne servent que d’auxiliaires aux forces de police de la bourgeoisie. Ironie de l’Histoire : jadis la bourgeoisie puisait dans ses rangs les Cavaignac et Gallifet, les Trepov et les Wrangel. Aujourd’hui c’est sous la « glorieuse » direction des deux Internationales que les prolétaires remplissent eux-mêmes le rôle de bourreaux de leurs propres camarades. La bourgeoisie peut vaquer tranquillement à ses affaires; partout règnent « l’ordre et la tranquillité » : il y a encore des Noske et des Ejov, des Negrin et des Diaz. Staline est leur chef et Feuchtwanger leur Homère !

    Non, je n’en peux plus. Je reprends ma liberté. Je reviens à Lénine, à son enseignement et à son action.

    J’entends consacrer mes modestes forces à la cause de Lénine : je veux combattre, car seule notre victoire – la victoire de la révolution prolétarienne – libérera l’humanité du capitalisme et l’Union soviétique du stalinisme !

    En avant vers de nouveaux combats pour le socialisme et la révolution prolétarienne ! Pour la construction de la IVème Internationale !

    Ludwig (Ignace Reiss)

    Le 17 juillet 1937

    P.S. : En 1928 j’ai été décoré à l’Ordre du « Drapeau Rouge », pour services rendus à la révolution prolétarienne. Je vous renvoie cette décoration ci jointe. Il serait contraire à ma dignité de la porter en même temps que les bourreaux des meilleurs représentants de la classe ouvrière russe. Les Izvestia ont publiés au cours des deux dernières semaines des listes de nouveaux décorés dont les fonctions sont passées pudiquement sous silence : ce sont les exécutants des peines de mort.


    [1] Inculpés du premier procès de Moscou.

    [2] Plébiscite réclamé en Saxe par les nationaux-socialistes contre le gouvernement social-démocrate et soutenu par les communistes.

    [3] Staline avait déclaré, en mai 1935, au journaliste américain Roy Howard que l’idée que l’U.RS.S. pouvait encourager une révolution socialiste mondiale relevait de la " tragi-comédie ".

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