When a defendant first denied, and then admitted the charges against him, he may have wanted to convey denial only. As the main external and internal pressures were in the direction of admitting, any degree or kind of denial may have been felt by the defendant as cancelling his admissions. He presumably expected that the audience he was interested in shared his differential evaluation of the manifest denials and admissions in his testimony.1*
In his speech for the prosecution in the first trial, Vishinsky said about Smirnov's behavior during the preliminary investigation:
"At first he denied everything. . . . He denied everything. . . . He denied everything. The whole of his examination of May 20 consisted . . . of the words: 'I deny that, again I deny, I deny.'"2
By the time he was brought to trial, Smirnov had of course concluded this phase of total resistance. But during the first trial he made prominent use of the device of veiled language here under discussion:
VISHINSKY: Was the [Trotskyite-Zinovievite] centre organized on the basis of terrorism?
VISHINSKY: Were you a member of that centre?
SMIRNOV: Yes, I was. . . .
Smirnov tries to reduce his own part [in the Trotskyite-Zinovievite centre] to that of merely communicating Trotsky's instructions to the centre; he tries to evade responsibility for the work of the centre.
SMIRNOV: I listened to those instructions and communicated them to the centre. The centre accepted them but I did not take part in its work.
VISHINSKY: So when did you leave the centre?
SMIRNOV: I did not intend to resign; there was nothing to resign from.
VISHINSKY: Did the centre exist?
SMIRNOV: What sort of a centre . . .? [dots in the text].
VISHINSKY: Mrachkovsky, did the centre exist?
VISHINSKY: Zinoviev, did the centre exist?
VISHINSKY: Evdokimov, did the centre exist?
VISHINSKY: Bakayev, did the centre exist?