Thursday, 11 September 2008

Review – The Red Book by Leon Sedov

There are few serious books that can make you laugh, and this one did which sort of makes me ashamed given the seriousness of the topic it discusses. But Sedov’s ridiculing of the ineptitude of those preparing the Moscow show trials and the glaring contradictions he reveals in the case the accusers are trying prove had me laughing in disbelief.

But the topic is deadly serious, Sedov writes about the first Moscow show trial which saw Zinoviev and Kamenev, two long-standing Bolsheviks shot for a crime they didn’t commit (the Kirov assassination) and the prosecutors trying to make some sort of case to argue that the assassination had been ordered by Trotsky (who was in exile) and Sedov, his son.

Dates are made up, people and places invented and the ‘terrorist network’ that Trotsky supposedly led appears to be the most incompetent in history, calling off all the assassinations they were supposed to be attempting at the last minute. The book leads one very well through the contradictions in the arguments and is well worth a read even today.

But it also got me thinking about whether show trials are not just limited to this period or whether you could group such trials together where the trial is really just a symbolic denunciation of someone done for mostly political reasons with the verdict fixed in advance. Despite Saddam Hussein being guilty of what he was tried for, I think his trial could fit into this category, due to all the things he could have been, but wasn’t, tried for.

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