Here Today and Gone Tomorrow
On the 14th December,1949, Traicho Kostov, the former Vice-Premier of Bulgaria, was sentenced to death for treason by the Bulgarian Supreme Court. Two days later he was executed—so quickly do the wheels of Bulgarian law turn they did not allow even an appeal. Ten other “Communists” were tried with him, of whom five received life sentences, three got 15 years, one 12, and the other 8 years’ imprisonment. All his companions, following the tradition of the Russian trials, pleaded guilty. Kostov, though pleading guilty to “anti-Soviet activities,” was unexpectedly awkward and insisted that he was not guilty of the major charges levied against him, of spying for Britain and plotting on behalf of Yugoslavia.
The trial followed the usual lines. All of Kostov’s companions were abject in their confessions of guilt, admitting unreservedly that the charges made against them were true. At the same time, some of them tried to make things better for themselves by making things worse for Kostov, accusing him of all manner of things, in particular of blackmailing them into doing what they had done.
The prosecution, of course, did even better. Chervenkov, the secretary of the Central Committee and the present “big-boss” of Bulgaria, coined a new word specially for the occasion—”Kostovism.” “Kostovism,” he said, “is Titoism on Bulgarian soil, and like Titoism is grows on treason and espionage.” Further, said Chervenkov, Kostov had managed to assume the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party, thanks to his “devilish duplicity, fantastic hypocrisy, and subtle diabolical methods.” (Times, 2nd December, 1949.)
Whether the charges are true or false, we hold no brief for Kostov. What has happened to him he would no doubt have had happen to others if the circumstances had demanded it. But what strikes us as worthy of record is this further fantastic example of the way in which “Communist heroes” are turned into “imperialist blackguards” almost overnight. Turning back the pages of history only a little way, this is what the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party said about Kostov just over two years ago:
“Great are your achievements, Comrade Traicho Kostov, as the builder of the party, as teacher and instructor of the party members. Under your leadership and your heroic example thousands of party members were educated into absolute loyalty to the party. In the underground, in prisons, tens of thousands of party members studied, and are at present studying at liberty, your lectures and your books; they are learning from the example of your life and career, from your utmost loyalty to the party and the people.
“Today, as Deputy Prime Minister in the Government headed by the wise leader of the party and the people, Comrade George Dimitrov, you are his right hand; you the direct executor of the economic reconstruction in the country, of the economic plan, of the great construction work in our republic.
“Your deep Marxist-Leninist theoretical knowledge, your great culture, your famous industry and steadfastness, your modesty, your iron will, your unquestionable loyalty towards the party and the working class are those Bolshevik characteristics which beautify your whole lighting life, forever united with the struggle of the party.
“A loyal colleague of George Dimitrov, and his first assistant, you are to-day one of the most loved and respected leaders of our party, a great statesman and builder of new Bulgaria.
“Comrade Traicho Kostov! The Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist party is wishing you good health and strength so that you may go on working just as loyally, unceasingly, and whole-heartedly for the party and the people, for the triumph of the economic plan, and the great historical achievements of the working class.” (Manchester Guardian 15/12/49.)
This effusion, incidentally, is signed by Chervenkov, later Kostov’s bitterest accuser.
As with many other Communist twists and turns, this one has its amusing side. Kostov the “traitor” was, it appears, the author of the Bulgarian Communist Constitution passed in 1947 with great acclamation, and presumably still in force. At the fifth party congress held only a year ago it was he who put forward the party’s future political programme, which again was most enthusiastically received. Further, according to the Times correspondent (2nd December, 1949), “All party pamphlets on policy, strategy, and tactics have now to be re-edited as they were almost all written by Kostov.”
Finally, to add insult to injury, a Bulgarian newspaper, says the Times correspondent, has recently protested that the official film of the fifth party congress is still going the rounds of the country. In one shot stands Kostov. On one side is Dimitrov; on the other is Suslov, the Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party!
Communists the world over must be kept pretty busy one way and the other. Half their time they spend working out the implications of the new Party-line, the other half scrubbing out the evidence and the effects of the old one.