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Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

By Nathan C. Leites; Elsa Bernaut | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21 Conspicuous Concealment

It is a Bolshevik tendency to interpret silence as an active comment. In a discussion of the opposition in 1921, Lenin said:

"Now I have only to touch briefly upon several points my silence concerning which may give rise to misunderstanding." ( Once Again on the Trade Unions. . . .)1

Stalin said in 1936:

"It may be said that silence is not criticism. But that is not true. The method of keeping silence, as a special method of ignoring things, is also a form of criticism. . . ." (Speech of November 25, 1936, at the Soviet Congress.)2

Stalin had affirmed in 1930 that "the former leaders of the Right opposition . . . did not carry out and are not carrying out the obligations which they took upon themselves seven months ago" when they capitulated and "promised to fight the Right deviation together with the Party":

"Recently, Comrade Rykov was at the Party Conference in the Urals. He had, consequently, the most favorable occasion for correcting his mistakes, but what did we find? . . . he began there to twist and maneuver. . . .

". . . Or Comrade Tomsky, for example. He was lately in Tiflis, at the Transcaucasian Party Congress. Consequently he had a chance of atoning for his sins. And what happened? In his speech there he dealt with the Soviet farms, the collective farms, co-operation, the cultural revolution, and everything else of that kind, but did not say a word about . . . his opportunist work in the Central Council of Trade Unions. . . . He wanted to outwit the Party. . . ." (Speech of July 2, 1930, at the 16th Party Congress.)3

At his trial Rykov echoed Stalin's point about himself:

". . . from 1930 onwards . . . its [the Rights'] work was based on deceiving the Party. . . .

". . . I have cited [presumably in his preliminary investigation] as an example the report I made to the Urals Regional Conference . . . in 1930 . . . at a time when the chief link of the whole work of the Party . . . was the struggle for collectivization and for the liquidation of the kulaks as a class, I made a report in which this thesis was entirely omitted. Here I employed silence, a silence which in many cases speaks far louder than publicity."4

A defendant might oppose silence to a question from Vishinsky. Piatakov at one point alluded to the propriety of his past motives by affirming that not

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