The Kalandra Trial - Socialisme ou Barbarie

Záviš Kalandra

Translation of an article published in the seventh issue of the post-war councilist newspaper Socialisme ou Barbarie, discussing the trial and execution of the surrealist communist Záviš Kalandra. Published August-September 1950.

Translation by Phantasos

Original text in french available here.

Submitted by UseValueNotExc… on May 22, 2023

During the first days of june occurred in Prague the trial of the Thirteen, first great political trial happening in Czechoslovakia.

The sentences pronounced on june 8th have revolted numerous intellectuals in France, Austria, Norway. Telegrams have been addressed to the president of the Czechoslovak republic to make him renounce to carry out the condemnation hitting the main accused: Kalandra.

Why is the death penalty inflicted on Kalandra totally unacceptable ? Why is Kalandra the main accused ? Whoever has read the open letter of Breton to Eluard published on june 14th in “Combat” understands the emotion caused by Kalandra’s condemnation to death. But it is not enough to know that Kalandra was a valuable revolutionary historian, a particularly open intellectual, a remarkably brave deportee, we have to understand the political meaning of this trial. It appears very clearly as soon as we know that “Pravda”, the day before, covered of insults and slanders the “trotskyist Kalandra”.

This blatant intervention of the russian communist party let forecast that the Prague trial would be a Czech republication of the Moscow trials. Indeed, the co-defendants have been carefully chosen to show that a revolutionary opposing the USSR quickly becomes an agent of all reactionary forces. At least six of the accused are former members of the Benes party who recognized being in relation with the exiled national socialist ex-ministers, another would be the spy of an international central located in West Germany and we even find a militant of the populist party, bribed agent of the Vatican. West Germany and its occupiers, the Vatican, emigrant Czechoslovaks, only Yugoslavia lacks; to represent it in a dignified manner, stalinist policemen have found a shareholder of mining companies married to a Yugoslav citizen.

This completes the jumble, and, since bureaucrats have found it well done, they used it to get rid of two social-democrats brave enough to openly oppose their politics.

These twelve co-defendant never had anything in common with Kalandra, but each of them is indispensable to support a criminal charge carefully studied according to the needs of stalinist policy, and since we fear of not doing things good enough in satellite countries, the general prosecutor has concluded with a beautiful clumsiness that criticism of the USSR leads to espionage at the expanse of the motherland.

The insistence to demonstrate this postulate proves that the Czechoslovak working class whispers too loudly against Moscow’s requirements. The least determined opponents must be scared at any cost, and for this we couldn’t find better than Kalandra; founder of the Czech section of the Fourth International, he quickly abandoned the traditional trotskyist position regarding the USSR. Having understood the process of bureaucratization of the soviet state, he characterized it as a state bureaucratism. The relative isolation in which Czechoslovakia lived didn’t allow him to completely precise his positions, but he understood that the USA were engaged, too, on the path of bureaucratization and that only the independent struggle of the working class could bring a solution to worldwide problems.

He appeared therefore, in the theoretical domain, as the most resolute opponent to the USSR. Since he was physically exhausted by six years of concentration camp in Germany, it was relatively easy to make him confess all imaginable crimes. He constituted therefore a beautiful seizure for the stalinist police and it isn’t surprising that the supreme court of Prague sentenced Kalandra to capital punishment.

-Jean Léger