3. Being the enemy
The "enemy of the people," President Trump said Sunday, is the American media. Amid his numerous slogans, the phrase has made many people recoil because of its centrality in a chilling moment of 20th century history: Josef Stalin's 1930s show trials.
Why it matters: The trials demonstrated how the indictment of one class of people can rapidly spiral and cut across society.
- Before the Great Terror reached its apex with the 1938 trial of Nikolai Bukharin, it swept through most of the senior military corps, unlucky party leaders, industry chiefs, elite writers, two dozen astronomers, and down the line to peasants — an estimated 1.2 million people in all.
- But Bukharin's presence in the final and most momentous show trial of the Soviet purge was something else — a former Lenin comrade, right hand to Stalin, and Politburo member, Bukharin was now an "enemy of the people," accused of murder, spying and an attempted coup.
"Fear hung over the city like a mist, seeping in everywhere. Everyone lived in terror of everyone else," wrote Fitzroy MacLean, a 25-year-old British diplomat then posted in Moscow. "... No one could be trusted. No one was safe."
The description is from "Eastern Approaches," MacLean's first-hand account of the trial. Setting the scene in the book, MacLean described a preceding trial of a half-dozen marshals and generals:
"Up to a few days before these men had been held up as heroes, as examples of every military and civic virtue. Their portraits, larger than life size, were still to be seen publicly exhibited all over Moscow, side by side with those of Stalin and the members of the Politburo."
After their confessions and trial, these men were immediately executed. Now it was Bukharin's turn, along with that of 20 other alleged "traitors," "spies" and "wreckers."
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