The following letter was sent to Nikolai Fedorov, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, by David North on behalf of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
May 20, 1992
Mr. Nikolai Fedorov Minister of Justice Government of the Russian Republic
The International Committee of the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938 calls upon the Government of the Russian Federation to open and guarantee unrestricted public access to all archives of the former Soviet Union relating to the persecution, frame-up, imprisonment and murder of millions of socialist leaders, workers and intellectuals by the regime of Joseph Stalin and his successors.
The urgency of this demand is underscored by press reports that irreplaceable archives are being physically destroyed by the KGB to bury the record of its crimes; and that vast quantities of files are being looted and sold off by past and present state officials seeking to make money. Rudolf Pikhoya, the chairman of the State Committee for the Affairs of Archives under the auspices of Russia’s Cabinet of Ministers (Roskomarchiv), has told Moscow News that an immense amount of damage is being done by the “unsanctioned dumping of documents on the world market.” The same issue of Moscow News provided further grounds for concern with its description of a $3 million agreement, signed by Roskomarchiv under “top secret” conditions on April 17, with Stanford University in the United States and a publishing firm in Britain. According to Moscow News, “Neither in its content (the material to be transferred includes copies of documents from the former party archives) nor in its scale (over 20 million pages) does this project fit into universally accepted world standards.”
These and other reports cannot but evoke horror and indignation. Contained in the archives of the Stalinist regime and its secret police is the record of the most terrible political crimes of the twentieth century. It is an indisputable historical fact that the Stalinist bureaucracy consolidated its totalitarian dictatorship on the basis of the merciless extermination of an entire generation of socialists whose lives were bound up with the creation and early years of the Soviet Union. Between 1936 and 1941 virtually all representatives of socialist thought and the culture it inspired within the Soviet Union fell victim to what can only be described as politically directed genocide. Contemporary scholars estimate that the number of those who were either executed or who perished in prisons and labor camps in 1937-38 is approximately 3 million. The total number of victims claimed by the Great Terror is, even by the most conservative estimates, well over 10 million.
All aspects of these crimes must be subjected to the most painstaking research and exposed. All the victims of the Stalinist terror must be identified and the full record of their treatment at the hands of the GPU and NKVD (predecessors of the KGB) must be made public. That is the very least that is owed to their memories. At the same time, it is necessary to make known the names of all those, the living as well as the dead, who prepared and participated in the organization and implementation of the Stalinist Terror.
In issuing this call for the preservation and opening of the Soviet archives, the International Committee of the Fourth International speaks as the contemporary representative of Trotskyism, that is, of the Marxist tendency that was the principal target of the Stalinist regime and its GPU-NKVD-KGB. The monstrous slanders hurled against Leon Trotsky and his son Leon Sedov provided the foundation for the three frame-up trials in Moscow and the nationwide terror that accompanied them. Under the Criminal Code of the Stalinist regime, to be charged with “Counterrevolutionary Trotskyite Activity” (K.R.T.D.) meant certain execution. On this “legal” basis, countless thousands of Trotskyists as well as innumerable individuals suspected of sympathy for their principles were murdered inside the Soviet Union. The mass execution of Trotskyists near the brick factory in Vorkuta is only an indication of the terrible fate of those who upheld the principles of the Fourth International.
Moreover, scores of Trotskyists were murdered beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. Stalinist agents hunted down supporters of the Fourth International all over the world. Among the victims of the Stalinist killers were leading officials of the Fourth International such as Erwin Wolf and Rudolf Klement. Leon Sedov was assassinated in Paris in February 1938; and Leon Trotsky was finally murdered in Mexico in August 1940. According to the account of the GPU defector Petrov, published more than 30 years ago, the offices devoted exclusively to the preparation of the assassination of Trotsky occupied no less than three floors at the NKVD registry at 2 Dzerzhinsky Street.
Before and even after the assassination of Trotsky, the Soviet government disrupted the activities of the Fourth International through the use of agents provocateurs and spies such as Mark Zborowski (“Etienne”). There exists evidence that the KGB continued its espionage and provocations against the Fourth International up to the demise of the Soviet Union. Indeed, some of its anti-Trotskyist operations may still be in progress. Whatever the truth may be, it can only be uncovered through the examination of state archives.
Therefore, the International Committee formally requests that its researchers be accorded unrestricted access to all records that may shed light upon and expose the crimes committed by the Stalinist regime against the Fourth International.
For more than a half century the Stalinist regime sought to bury the record of its crimes and falsify history. As late as November 1987 Gorbachev publicly praised the “contributions” of Stalin to socialism. It was not until the late 1980s that the Soviet Union even acknowledged that the Moscow Trial defendants were the victims of a gigantic frame-up. And to the very end the Soviet government refused to fully exonerate Leon Trotsky of the foul charges that had been laid against him.
There must be no further delay in exposing the lies that provided the political justification for the crimes of the Stalinist regime. The dissolution of the Soviet Union does not absolve the Government of the Russian Federation of its responsibility to guarantee that the archives of the Stalinist regime that exist within its jurisdiction are scrupulously preserved and made available for public scrutiny.
We await your reply.
Editor, Bulletin of the Fourth International
May 10-17, 1992, p. 16.