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The de-Stalinization campaign initiated by Nikita Khrushchev, despite backpedalling by the present Presidium, has brought complete rehabilitation for many victims of the trials and purges of the Thirties, but dispensers of official grace have steered clear of one major group of defendants: those condemned in the three great Moscow show trials of 1936-1938, of which Bukharin's was the culmination. The reason, argues Oxford don Katkov (author of the generally well-received Russia 1917: The February Revolution), is that the Soviet government can cut out only so much of the past without endangering its whole scaffolding. While the trials themselves were glaring examples of ""decorative deceit,"" of law as ""a revolutionary weapon of the class struggle,"" the real charge against Bukharin and his co-defendants was not the ludicrous official one--""plotter, counterrevolutionary, traitor, spy, wrecker, and assassin""--but political deviation, much more dangerous to a Stalin determined to make the revolution eat all of its children who could coherently oppose his autocratic rule. Katkov's analysis of Bukharin's trial and of his background with the Bolsheviks, with Lenin, and with Stalin, stresses the very real differences over internal politics, the proper interpretation of the class struggle, and the right road to socialism, the peculiar process by which the accused became the aiders and abettors of their own downfall, and the tragic consequences for Soviet development of rigid ideological conformism and institutionalized mendacity. The historical treatment is quite intensive, but, because centered around Bukharin, not comprehensive (Trotsky and the left-wing deviationists don't get their due). But within the confines of the ""Historic Trials Series"" Katkov has produced a detailed and informative study of the meaning and nature of the Stalinist upheavals.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1969
Publisher: Stein & Day