864.00/9–2649: Airgram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State


A–985. Viewed from Moscow, spectacular trial of Rajk1 and his “accomplices”, which is reminiscent of 1937 purge trials here, represents current focal point in Kremlin’s efforts to cope with growing problem of Titoism, i.e. nationalist deviations on part of satellite and other foreign communist stooges abroad.

Despite wild, exaggerated accusations against Budapest defendants and their “confessions”, it is presumed that they were in reality no more guilty or involved with “western imperialists” than other recent satellite waverers, such as Gomulka,2 Kostov,3 etc. Likewise tremendous staging and publicity given Rajk trial contrasts strongly with Albanian purges of last winter,4 though basic issue—i.e. failure to blindly and unconditionally accept Moscow’s leadership—is presumably the same. It also seems obvious that Rajk trial not just aimed at Tito, i.e. merely part of campaign to liquidate present Yugo leaders, but belongs in wider context.

Thus Rajk trial appears as Kremlin’s most determined and serious public effort since emergence of Titoism to deal with this cancer of the body-politic of the Soviet-communist world, reflecting Moscow’s serious and growing concern over this disruptive force which shows signs of undermining one of most basic principles of “proletarian internationalism”, (i.e. Soviet imperialism)—absolute control of satellites and all communists, both at home and abroad. Just as the 1937 purges were carried out in order to ruthlessly eliminate all Soviet opposition to Stalin, the Rajk purge is now directed at the mortal sin [Page 472] of nationalism, specifically in Hungary but with worldwide implications, which threatens Kremlin’s rule and authority.

Of some interest is fact that charges of Trotskism are now being hurled at Rajk, Tito and their ilk. While Trotsky was originally branded as a “left” deviationist, and “nationalism” has generally been regarded by Bolshevik dogma as a “rightist” sin, Trotskism gradually developed into a general epithet applicable to all former disciples of Leninism–Stalinism who broke with or opposed authority and views of Stalin, thus now adaptable to modern postwar heretics such as Tito.

It will be interesting to observe whether Rajk trial in Hungary is followed by similar spectacular trials in other satellites, and/or purges in other national communist parties abroad (such as the French). Moscow may feel that purpose of trial will have been adequately served by mere declarations of approval and support from communist parties elsewhere, together with unpublicized purges, but nature of Stalinist communism is such that Budapest show may be repeated in other countries, in connection with desire of individual satellite governments to out-do each other in proving devotion to Moscow.

Though communist China will obviously be the great test, Embassy suggests that development of Cominform–Tito split to its present proportions, together with character of current Rajk trial, may be source of considerable satisfaction to western democracies, showing as they do that Stalin’s postwar “Empire” has already so clearly revealed basic weaknesses. While communism undoubtedly remains a force of great attractive power to the masses, Soviets have obviously shown serious defects and shortcomings in their “management of empire” from viewpoint of practical ability to organize and hold together other states not now included in the Soviet Union (compare Embassy’s A–517 dated May 20, 19495). It is hoped that these “internal” seeds of dissension will continue to develop and plague the Moscow planners.

  1. László Rajk, Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs (formerly Minister of Interior, 1946–1948) and member of the Politburo of the Hungarian Workers’ Party was removed from the government, excluded from the party, and placed under arrest in June 1949. He and six alleged accomplices (including the former Counselor of the Yugoslav Legation in Budapest) were tried in Budapest, September 16–22, 1949, on various charges of anti-Communist and anti-state activity culminating in a Yugoslav-inspired plot to overthrow the Hungarian Government. During the trial Rajk and the other accused confessed at length to their purported criminal activity which included conspiratorial contacts with various American representatives in Hungary. All were found guilty, and Rajk and several others were subsequently executed. The Legation in Hungary transmitted detailed materials to the Department of State on the Rajk trial (Department of State files 864.00 and 811.42700(R)) which was held in public and was reported upon in the world press. The official Hungarian Government texts of the indictment and trial transactions were printed in László Rajk and His Accomplices Before the Peoples’ Court (Budapest, 1949).
  2. Wladysiaw Gomulka was removed from his position as Secretary General of the Polish Workers’ Party in August 1948 and from his position as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regained Territories in January 1949.
  3. Regarding the trial and execution of Traicho Kostov, former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Bulgarian Communist Party Politburo member, in December 1949, see pp. 363 ff.
  4. Koci Xoxe, former Albanian Minister of Interior and Albanian Communist Party Politburo member, was secretly tried in May 1949 for alleged pro-Yugoslav conspiratorial activities, and he was executed in June.
  5. Post, p. 890.