EXCLUSIVE NEWS LINE INTERVIEW WITH Georges Vereeken
Why the GPU Must be Exposed
News Line 19 August 1976 page 8
George Vereeken, whose book, The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, is launched tomorrow, (New Park publications, £3), has fought in the communist movement for 56 years.
Now 80, he joined the Belgian Communist Party in 1921, and broke from it in 1928 to found the first Trotskyist group in Belgium.
As secretary of the Belgian movement during the 1930’s, he witnessed the trail of disruption and murder Stalin’s agents left behind them.
Vereeken has undertaken to serve on the Commission of Inquiry into Trotsky’s death called by the International Committee of the Fourth International.
He explained to News Line:
“In December last year New Park Publications approached me with a proposal to translate my book on the infiltration of our movement by Stalinist agents and GPU men.
“It meant the end of the period in which successive leaderships of the Trotskyist movement had kept us in quarantine.
“We learnt that your organisation had begun a campaign to uncover the crimes committed by the GPU agents, in particular the background to the assassination of Comrade Trotsky, and why the Trotskyist movement had never done anything to clarify it.
“Even today, every attempt is made to prevent investigation of these agents, who have done so much damage to the revolutionary movement.”
Congratulating the International Committee on its campaign, he said:
“Now we are no longer alone in fighting for the truth to be made known and for the revolutionary movement to draw the lessons.”
The Trotskyist movement, Vereeken said, had grown up in the period of the most terrible defeats for the workers movement in Europe.
Trotsky laid down the clearest political analysis, but differences inevitably arose within the movement.
“The agents who had infiltrated our ranks were very active in the ensuing discussions”, he said.
He quoted the example of the German section, which was divided by a bitter factional dispute in 1932, while fascism grew stronger and stronger.
The international leadership supported the side led by the Well brothers, and the other faction – Landau’s – was expelled.
“Dramatically, on the eve of Hitler’s seizure of power, the Well brothers were exposed as Stalinist agents.
“Their mission was accomplished, and they now became the most highly prized henchmen of Stalin and Beria.
“Their pseudonyms: Soble and Soblen.”
Vereeken went on to recount how Zborowski, the master agent, infiltrated the European leadership headed by Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov.
He managed to poison relations with the POUM, the leading left-wing force in the Spanish Civil War.
On the eve of the harsh repression of the Spanish revolutionary forces in May 1937, Zborowski published a letter, not intended for publication, in which Trotsky described the POUM as “traitors” because of their political position.
“On 16 February 1938 we learned of the death of Sedov, Trotsky’s son. We suspected murder.
“But it was only after Zborowski was arrested in 1955 that we learnt that he was responsible for the crime.”
Four days after Sedov’s death, Trotsky had received a letter from Zborowski and his ally Lola Dallin.
It began: “We have learnt that Sneevliet (leader of the Dutch Trotskyists) and Vereeken are spreading rumours that Sedov was responsible for the death of Ignace Reiss.”
(Reiss was a high-ranking GPU officer who broke with Stalin and was murdered on his way to join the Fourth International.)
“You can understand how Natalia and Trotsky felt about us”, said Vereeken.
“Ernest Mandel still repeats these false accusations today to keep us away from the revolutionary movement.”
He said that he had hesitated for a long time before writing the book. It was completed in 1972, but it took three years after that to find a French publisher.
“The leaders of the ‘United Secretariat’ did everything they could to stop it seeing the light of day.
“They have failed, and now that your movement is publishing all the documents they can no longer hide behind their sole argument – that even the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party was infiltrated by a police spy.”
“ Zborowski was not the only one. There were hundreds of agents watching the Trotskyists.”
“Six or seven were arrested for the murder of Reiss. One of them turned out to live in the same street as Sedov.
“Another had the plans of Trotsky’s house in Mexico in his suitcase – and this was only 1937.”
It was now clear, he said, that there had always been agents at the top of the organisations around Sedov and Trotsky.
“Now, as then”, he added, “agents are at work within the revolutionary movement.
“It would be an unforgivable mistake to think that the Stalinist secret police has abandoned this activity.
“Look at how the evidence has been suppressed within the Trotskyist movement itself. Every time a commission of enquiry was proposed it met with the same fate.
“When Zborowski was accused of being an Agent by Sneevliet, he rushed off to write to Trotsky about it. Because Trotsky trusted Zborowski, he gave him the job of forming a commission of inquiry to bring Sneevliet to justice.
“Trotsky asked for a second commission after the murder of Sedov. Both commissions were due to be held during the Founding Conference of the Fourth International in 1938.
“But a few days before hand, Klement, the administrative secretary, announced that someone had stolen his briefcase containing all the documents in the metro.”
Klement himself disappeared and his body was later fished out of the Seine.
“Sedov’s companion Jeanne Martin, asked for an enquiry to see if there was any connection between this crime and the death of Sedov, but she was also unsuccessful.”
In 1940, Vereeken said, the Socialist Workers Party should have organised an enquiry into Trotsky’s death. It was never done.
“In 1943 our tendency asked the European Secretariat of the Fourth International to condemn violations of proletarian morality by members of the Belgian section. They never replied.
“In 1955, when Zborowski was arrested, the European journal Fourth International, called for him to be exposed.
“They appealed to American organisations to ‘force Zborowski to reply to every question concerning his work for the GPU in the Trotskyist movement.’
“But the matter was allowed to drop.
“And Zborowski is still walking around San Faransico a free man, and it’s only now that he’s beginning to get worried.
In the latest case, said Vereeken, the United Secretariat had still not replied to the request for a parity commission to look into the accusations against Joseph Hansen and George Novack of the SWP, indicted as accomplices of the GPU.
Vereeken contrasted this position with Trotsky’s attitude to the Moscow trials.
He quoted Trotsky’s defiant statement that he would appear before any impartial tribunal and put himself in the hands of the GPU executioners if there were proof that any of Stalin’s accusations were justified. He concluded by paying tribute to Trotsky.
“Trotsky may have been misled about me by agents of the GPU. But my respect for him increases as the years go by.
“Trotsky’s clear-sightedness about social, political and scientific development was unmatched – witness his theory of permanent revolution, his prediction of atomic energy, his vision of the possibilities before mankind if nuclear war could be prevented.
“Today history is going forward rapidly. If nuclear war can be prevented we can be certain that the Soviet people will shortly rehabilitate Trotsky. It will then be impossible as it was in 1917-23, to speak of Lenin without speaking of Trotsky. Mankind owes them both an enormous debt.
“There must”, said Vereeken, “be an international commission of enquiry into all the circumstances surrounding Trotsky’s death. Nothing should deter us from that.
“Always remember, we said that whatever difficulties we encounter capitalism and imperialism are in still greater difficulties. Their system is at an end. The fight for workers power and socialism is now on the agenda.
“Long live the World Revolution. Let us all go forward to make the revolution in our own countries.”