One of the more fascinating spectacles of the twentieth century’s totalitarian smoke and mirrors was the show trial, courtesy of Joseph Stalin. With his Leninist view of history and its underlying theme of the triumphal ascendency of the Socialist Man as the thematic driver, the show trial — a fake legal proceeding with built-in theatrics — would become the national stage for an elaborate morality play and “teachable moment” that affirmed the moral perfection of Big Brother.
The Georgian playwright was Josef Vissarionovitsj Dsjugasjvili himself, who later took the nom de guerre of “Stalin,” or “Man of Steel.” The course of a show trial would follow a melodramatic, cosmic, good-versus-evil script that highlighted the treachery of fifth-column villains: insiders and trusted high-ups who turned out to be hirelings of the old, corrupt order or the revolution’s enemies abroad.
In the Stalinist, richly paranoid script, the arch-enemy, the capitalist order, was emitting its dying gasps. Yet, in its final throes it resembled in its behavior a wounded and dangerously powerful animal. To be complacent with regard to the moribund but threatening beast was equivalent to being complicit with the enemy. Everyone was required, and I mean required, to be on full alert. The end of the story — inevitable in Marxist-Leninist eschatology — was soon going to be a very happy one, with Communism achieved and the imperialists vanquished. The villains, however, were unleashing every possible element of duplicity and cunning in a desperate attempt to hold on to their exploitative order, undo the “revolution,” and deny its promise.
The Soviet people were under extreme compulsion to believe and follow this implausible script, to put it mildly, since it was the legitimizing rationale for the entire coercive Bolshevik enterprise. It amounted to no less than their writ for the complete dismantlement of the old order — breaking the eggs to get to the omelet — with all of its messiness and dislocation, and the creation of the new one.
With the treachery-of-the-capitalists as the controlling motif, Stalin elevated his routine modus operandi of mendacity and manipulation to a level of dramaturgical perfection. The show trial was part morality play, part propaganda blitz, and part religious ritual. Nothing like this had been attempted before. It was a phenomenal achievement of political theater that reflected the creative imagination and skills of a unique, pathological genius.
The show trial was launched in the late 1920s as Stalin tightened his vice-grip on power following Lenin’s demise. The most notorious of these spectacles were performed in the mid-1930s in Moscow. Stalin wrote the script and personally stage-managed the infamous railroading of his old Bolshevik comrades-in-arms: Bukharin, Zinoviev, Radek, and others. His hated arch-rival, Leon Trotsky, he had earlier put on the run. The former head of the Red Army was in league with the fascists — as the script had it — plotting Stalin’s overthrow and a Russian version of Thermidor.
These “trials,” with the propaganda organs pitching fits of hysterical outrage, were conducted with no independent defense council and no independent judiciary. The only evidence offered was implausible confessions of treason — obtained from life-long, dedicated Bolsheviks by torture and threats to family members — of conspiracy and industrial sabotage. The proceedings were a continuous unfolding of elaborately choreographed lies. They were swallowed by Western observers like US Ambassador Joseph Davies, a campaign contributor appointed by Franklin Roosevelt who, though a lawyer himself, failed to see through Stalin’s charade in spite of all the inconsistencies and incongruities. These deceptions fooled many observers in the West, including the New York Times’ “ace reporter,” Walter Duranty.
Stalin’s “trial run,” so to speak, show trial claimed as its victims 53 engineers and technicians (“bourgeois specialists” in Stalinist parlance) from Shakhty in the Donbas coal and steel region. Early in 1928, during Stalin’s consolidation of power, they were tried on trumped-up charges of “wrecking,” i.e. “economic counter-revolution.” The Shakhty technicians were supposedly sabotaging the mining industry in collusion with foreign capitalists and financiers who were trying to thwart the advance of Soviet Communism. Most of the defendants were shot after the trial.
This prototype show trial, like most of the subsequent ones up until Stalin’s death, served a triple purpose. First, the predetermined outcome of guilt guaranteed the elimination of individuals who were either no longer of use to Stalin: perceived rivals, or potential obstacles to his plans. The Shakhty technicians were selected victims of Stalin’s frustration with the Soviet dependence on experts from a social-political class whose loyalties to the regime might be questioned, and were thus good targets for scapegoating.
Second, the defendants’ alleged misconduct that was elaborately scripted for public consumption at the trials was Stalin’s opportunity to reinforce the legitimizing eschatological narrative. Stalin himself was an Orthodox ex-seminarian who never relinquished his priestly didacticism and a moralized view of world history. Embedded in his Marxist-moralized, class-conflict view of history, the trial unfolded by uncovering the occult existence of the conspirators from the oppressor class who were now attempting to destroy (“wrecking”) the regime from the inside.
The Shakhty technicians were “unmasked” (a favorite Stalinist participle) as fifth-columnists, “[s]aboteurs in the pay of foreign powers.” Thus, blame for the regime’s persistent and inevitable economic failures could now be shifted to hidden traitors, conspiratorial forces in the pay of the capitalists, keeping the system and the Party that ran it blameless and vigilant.
Third, and perhaps most important, the conclusion of each and every show trial constituted a personal vindication of Stalin himself, a confirmation of his resolution, perspicacity, sound judgment, and courageous leadership in an unpredictable world of endless danger and intrigue. The Shakhty show trial was intended to demonstrate to the Soviet citizenry yet another dimension of Stalin’s genius. He was able to recognize danger and treachery where others around him were naïve, confused, or relaxed. Stalin was thus the man most fit to lead the besieged players into the endgame against the capitalists. The show trials and their predetermined outcome were designed to be dramatic vindications of Stalin’s leadership and authority. This in itself is a huge irony, since these events enabled Stalin to cover up the blame for his own massive failings. “Part of the reasons for the show trials of the 1930s was to cover up his [Stalin’s] appalling mistakes,” Michael Curtis observed.
Stalin’s address to the Central Committee Plenum in January 1933 is an extraordinary feat of messaging that mixes scapegoating, self-congratulation, and “I’m not done yet.” Its message points to successfully vanquished enemies, their insidious persistence and ubiquity, and the Manichean-like structure of good and evil that underlies his struggle:
[T]he last remnants of the moribund classes — private manufactures and their servitors, private traders and their henchmen, former nobles and priests, kulaks and kulak agents, former White Guard officers and police officials, policemen and gendarmes, all sorts of bourgeois intellectuals of a chauvinist type, and all other anti-Soviet — have been tossed out.
Here, then, is an exhaustive enumeration from the old and defeated order of the Bolshevik enemies, the entire range from money-grubbing capitalists to kulaks and priests. And, while we know that the Man of Steel has been as he always is, tough — “tossing out” all of these anti-Soviet types — he now builds to the high point of his message, the theme of the ever-present enemies, and their persistence and insidiousness:
But tossed out and scattered over the whole face of the USSR, these “have-beens” have wormed their way into our plants and factories, into our government offices and trading organizations, into our railway and water transportation enterprises, and, principally, into the collective farms and state farms.
What, then, having been routed by the superior and inevitable forces of advancing socialism, could possibly motivate these scourges of the old order to persist?
What did they carry with them into these places? They carried with them hatred for the Soviet regime, of course, burning enmity toward new forms of economy, life, and culture.
Envy and hatred were the driving motivation of the dying capitalists. They explained what was happening to the Soviet people, and whoever in the outside world may have wondered why these people were doing what they were doing. Attaching “hatred” to scapegoats seals the deal by demonizing the invented enemy. With this we can see the Stalinist inspiration of the current Leftist invention of “hate crimes” and “hate speech” as political weapons.
The infamous Soviet show trials of the mid-1930s gained world attention and proceeded with this same template: a morally and economically superior system was being assailed by the bitter losers from the old order, who were badly wounded but still dangerous. The individuals Stalin selected for elimination were his old Bolshevik comrades whom he had come to perceive as political rivals and as obstacles to his consolidation of power. The most notable was Nikolai Bukharin, cast by Arthur Koestler as the main character, N. S. Rubashov, in his magnificent novel Darkness at Noon. This was a good opportunity for Stalin, always a great nurturer of personal resentments and private grudges, to take revenge and settle old scores.
Once Stalin had reached his summit of power, those of his unfortunate Bolshevik Party colleagues from the early years who had teased, slighted, or mocked him would likely find themselves quickly accused, compelled to confess, and sent off to the Gulag or the Lubyanka prison to wait for a bullet in the back of the neck.
The pragmatics of party mobility was always a consideration for Stalin as well. Shooting and jailing his senior colleagues enabled him to clear out the party’s upper ranks and make organizational room to advance younger and more personally loyal Bolsheviks:
The February-March 1937 plenum of the Central Committee was surely one of the most grotesque meetings in the history of humanity. Two-thirds of the 1,200 delegates would be dead within the next two years, yet in a frenzy they called for terror against more enemies.
One can hardly resist making a comparison here between the suicidal demeanor of the old Bolsheviks in affirming their loyalty to Stalin and American good-whites who proclaim their loathing for their white privilege and support for the ramping up of “anti-racism” measures.
The center stage antagonist in this amazing unfolding of mid-1930s theater, as noted above, was Leon Trotsky. Though thoroughly vanquished, Trotsky was pursued across the globe and hounded by Stalin’s assassins, who also killed members of his family before he was finished off in Mexico City. In keeping with Stalin’s master narrative, the Jewish Trotsky, tried in abstensia, was now a Nazi hireling, colluding and scheming along with the pinnacle of Soviet leadership to bring down the regime. When he was on the loose, he was at his most useful to Stalin as an external threat. His accomplices were Karl Radek, Grigory Piatakov, and Grigory Sokolnikov, lifelong Bolsheviks whose entire lives had been completely antithetical to the charges made against them. The 1930s show trials produced once more Stalin’s desired storyline, one completely consistent with his triumphalist narrative: the forces of dying, but desperate, capitalists working their treachery against the successful workers’ state, with Stalin, steadfast and resolute, pushing the banner of Communism forward while his old comrades crumbled and opted for betrayal.
Trotsky, however, was to play for international Communism two diametrically opposed roles. He was for Stalin, as noted above, the consummate betrayer of Bolshevism. For the predominately Jewish Leftists outside the Soviet Union who came to loathe the Georgian General Secretary as he turned the first successful Communist revolution into his personal satrapy, Trotsky was the counterpoise for the disillusionment of the failed Communism that Stalin had put into place. For decades, Trotsky alive and then dead became the axis of the Left’s counterfactual argument for the defense of the Bolshevik Revolution. If, the argument went, Trotsky had succeeded Stalin rather than Lenin, then the Soviet Union would have avoided Stalin’s personalized tyranny and his “Bonapartist” perversion of the October Revolution.
Trotsky’s Soviet Union presumably would have been “socialism with a human face.” This is a howler given Trotsky’s Lenin-like conviction of his theoretical infallibility and his actual impressive record of brutal repression of dissent. Trotsky, like Lenin, believed that the workers’ paradise could be achieved by giving orders and shooting those who failed to comply. The sailors in the Kronstadt Naval Yard in 1921 revolted against the Bolsheviks’ suppression of free speech and repression of the trade unions. Trotsky planned and carried out their massacre to remind the populace of who was running the show.
The “Trotsky alternative” is one of many variants of second-guessing and rationalizing that followed Bolshevism’s failures throughout its dismal career.
Stalinism survived Stalin, and the show trial would eventually make its way west. In 2021, our Bolshevik ruling class staged its own spectacular show trial, American style. The driving alternative-reality theme, in contrast to the Stalinist “socialist workers’ paradise and its enemies,” was “the goodness of black people and the white people who hate them for it.”
The show trial I am speaking of, of course, is the Minneapolis trial of Derek Chauvin.
First, the reality. A black, violent career criminal and drug addict, George Floyd, commits yet another crime. Resisting arrest while high on a potentially lethal and illegal drug, he dies at the hands of a white policeman, Derek Chauvin, who is trying to subdue him. In a reality-tested world, Floyd’s death would be quickly judged to have been predictable given the “lifestyle” he chose to follow, and Chauvin would have been exonerated of any wrongdoing; simply one more statistic pointing toward a hugely ugly piece of American reality: black criminality. What else, a rational person might ask, should the policeman have done? Floyd was over six feet tall and 220 pounds; Chauvin is 5’ 9” and 160 pounds.
Then, the alternative reality. Pravda-like, the mainstream media propaganda organs like the New York Times waved their wands and dispensed magic dust over the facts of the incident and the copious details of Floyd’s sordid, lowlife existence, and . . . Poof! Thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, Floyd miraculously instantiated into an extraterrestrial being of blackness and goodness, and elevated with wings to the pantheon of civil rights martyrs. The cause of his death was the ubiquitous “racism” in American society, instantiated in the action of an evil being bearing the mark of whiteness and the symbolic badge of law enforcement, an inherently racist enterprise.
Beyond a simple morality play, the trial was a primitive religious ritual in the ongoing exorcism of “racism” in America. It’s underlying eschatology, unlike Stalin’s “last gasp of capitalism,” was the abolition of whiteness and the harmonious equality of multicultural America that will follow.
Chauvin’s governmental lynching was heavily in the mold of the Moscow show trials, replete with an eschatology — this one, anti-racism and the end of “white supremacy.” The outcome was decided in advance, a charade ordered and supported by the ruling class with mobs howling for blood and the mainstream media pouring gasoline on the fire. Stalin’s “wreckers” who “carried with them hatred for the Soviet regime” became the “racists who hated people not like them.” Being a jury member in that trial had to have been the least enviable job in the country. Only one verdict would suffice for any jury member who didn’t want his house burned down, his kids beaten up, and permanent unemployment. The black state’s prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, in his villainizing of the defendant, channeled Andrei Vyshinsky — “the Devil’s Mouthpiece,” as his biographer, Arkadii Vaksberg, referred to Stalin’s show trial prosecutor.
After the eight previous years of President Obama’s race-grievance messaging, Chauvin was destined to be set up as an unlucky placeholder in a script written as a legitimizing rationale for the assault on white America and the dismantlement of its European heritage. The endgame envisioned by the elites, unlike the Stalinist “death of capitalism,” is the “great replacement” . . . of white people.
Unlike Stalin’s personalized staging of the Moscow theatricals, the Minneapolis show trial had to have been scripted by a committee of faceless apparatchiks. Joe Biden is no Joe Stalin. In contrast with the dim-witted, lifelong party hack recently installed in the White House, Stalin had a powerful mind, enormous energy, and a reservoir of serious learning.
[O]nly the best students were sent to the seminary, and Stalin was the best among them. He was noted by his teachers for his phenomenal memory and subtle intellect. His marks were always the highest, with the only exception being Greek, for which he received the second highest mark. To be sure, in the middle years he did not perform as well, for he had begun his involvement with revolutionary groups outside the seminary. But by the last couple of years, his performed brilliantly once again. This means that he was thoroughly versed in theological matters, exceptionally so. He knew the history of the church back to front; he could sing; he read Greek and Latin; and he knew intimately how the church itself worked (which assisted immensely in his famous compact with the church in 1943). Above all, he knew the Bible. Indeed, he had already studied Old and New Testament while at school, before arriving at the seminary. . . . It is not for nothing that Stalin later was known for reading the Bible in his personal library, memorising long stretches of text and quoting from it at will.
Our Joe is just a hebetudinous empty suit who struggles to read the lines assigned to him by the White House camarilla. Twenty-first century Stalinism is Stalinism without Stalin. When the Boss died in 1953, his deputies upgraded (or downgraded?) to version 2.0. It crashed in 1991. Our Stalinism 3.0, programmed by neo-Trotskyists and degenerate Leftists, has many of the same features as the previous version: a corrupt nomenklatura; state-controlled (mainstream media) propaganda; state police (the FBI) to crack down on dissidents; a designated, scapegoated kulak class (white supremacists); and a motley, geriatric crew of pretenders-to-rule, who in a just world would be in prison.
The history taking shape now is perhaps repeating itself — this time, as both tragedy and farce.
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 Hiroaki Kuromiya, Stalin (London: Longman, 2005), 79-80; and The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 143, 169, 172.
 Kuromiya, Stalin, 78-79.
 Black Book of Communism, 143.
 Michael Curtis, Totalitarianism (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1979), 46.
 Kuromiya, Stalin, 110.
 Donald Rayfield, Stalin and His Hangmen (New York: Random House, 2004), 318.
 I would be remiss in this post on show trials if I did not also mention two recent American show trials that will go down as notorious: the James Fields (post-Charlottesville) trial, and the Brunswick, Georgia murder trial conviction of three Georgia white men, Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, for the killing of Ahmad A. Neither case should have even been brought to trial, but their egregious violations of every standard for and fair and impartial trials put the stamp of “Stalinist legality” all over them.
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