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Yuri Felshtinsky versus Leon Trotsky

A story around one publication about Leon Trotsky

Copyright: Iskra Research; by Felix Kreisel; December 12, 1998

The article below was originally written in Russian and submitted for publication in a Russian language electronic journal "The Swan" (Lebed) run by one, Mr. Lebedev. The story behind its writing is this:

One of my Russian friends, knowing that I am interested in Leon Trotsky, brought to my attention a publication about him in this "liberal" and "democratic" journal. This piece was published by an American-Russian historian, Dr. Felshtinsky, who is known as a publisher of various works of Trotsky in the Russian language. The original publication at was entitled "Who would have thought this of the Lion of Revolution?" and described an episode which took place between Trotsky and his wife Natalia Sedova. The writer of the piece, Dr. Felshtinsky, took the moral attitude which could best be characterized as peeping into someone's bedroom through a keyhole. The editor, Mr. Lebedev, cheered him on.

This publication had no historical or educational value. Frankly, it was of pornographic character and quite similar in its intent to Kenneth Starr's publication of the Monica Lewinsky transcripts. Anyway, two colleagues and I wrote a letter of protest against such treatment of Trotsky. The editor was forced to publish our letter, but not before he solicited a reply from Dr. Felshtinsky. Our letter, Felshtinsky's reply and the editor's cynical comments (Mr. Lebedev saw fit to joke that it was a pity that Stalin wasn't around to take care of the Trotskyite cell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are also available in Russian at Mr. Felshtinsky in his defense made a big point of his work in publishing the writings of Trotsky in the Russian language. The question of these publications — what was published, in what quantities, how well, how was it edited — this is a theme worthy of public attention.

I sat down to write a detailed reply to Mr. Felshtinsky, and in the process examined the subject of how Trotsky's political and historical heritage has been presented to the Russian speaking audiences. Of course, my reply far from exhausts this subject, it's only a start. After writing the essay below I sent it to Mr. Lebedev, the editor of the Russian on-line journal. A week later I received the following reply:

Resent-Date: Wed, 19 Aug 1998 23:37:20 -0400
Resent-From: fjk@PSFC.MIT.EDU
Date: Wed, 19 Aug 1998 23:37:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: Valeriy Lebedev
To: Felix Kreisel
Subject: from Lebedev

DEAR mr. Kreisel!

I resent your article to mr. Felshtinsky.

He didn't find any new arguments and don't wont to answer.

Your article in generally expositions Trotskiy's ideas, but our almanac is not trotskism's edition.

But you published this article on your own homepage and I congratulate you.

Sincerely yours Valeriy Lebedev (by the way — my last name is Lebedev, not Lebed, as you wrote).

Mr. Felshtinsky refused to answer my analysis (I suppose, because the facts are irrefutable), and the editor refused to publish my statement because the historical facts it presents paint a very favorable picture of Trotsky. I leave it to you to draw the correct conclusions from this event.

Well, here is the article submitted to the editor of "Lebed" in August.

Felix Kreisel

By Felix Kreisel, August 10, 1998

Felshtinsky against Trotsky

The reader may remember that two of my colleagues and I wrote the editor of this journal, Mr. Lebedev, a letter of protest against the publication in the journal, with the enthusiastic support of its editor, of a private and intimate letter from Leon Trotsky to his wife. Our protest was motivated by the following reasons.

Firstly, we think it immoral to intrude in the personal life of any married couple. This applies even more to members of the Trotsky family, who were during the 1930's the victims of constant malicious persecution. Stalin's agents hunted them from every side, so did the fascists of various countries and also the police agents of the so-called "democracies". Their children, relatives, close and distant friends were killed by Stalin's secret police both inside the USSR and abroad. Trotsky and his wife were forced to move from one country to another, hide themselves even from their friends in order to escape the gun sights of their enemies. To preserve in these conditions their deep and sophisticated feelings towards one another seems to us deserving of deep respect, and we cannot share in the dirty lasciviousness of Messrs. Felshtinsky and Lebedev underlying their totally unjustified publication.

The statement of Mr. Felshtinsky that Natalia Sedova had supposedly herself made a second copy of a love letter from her husband so as to place it in both the Amsterdam and the Harvard Archives appears to us false. Anyone who would take the trouble to read her essays and her book about Trotsky must feel revulsion for the slander, which this learned gentleman addresses to the intelligent and sensitive woman. If not Mr. Lebedev then at the very least Mr. Felshtinsky must know that this episode of Trotsky's personal life has already been well established in historical literature. Hence these gentlemen have no justification for their publication; they add nothing new to our knowledge of Trotsky. The well known English historian, Isaac Deutscher, had with great tact and feeling written about the complicated relations between Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova, and in particular, about this love letter. This volume of Deutscher's biography of Trotsky has a few years ago been translated into Russian and the readers may to their great benefit read about the life of Leon Trotsky and the development of his ideas.

There may be some who may wish to object that since Deutscher was a follower of Trotsky hence he tried to defend his hero whenever possible. We should remember however that Deutscher was a well-respected historian who criticized and rejected some important historical and political ideas of Trotsky. In particular, Deutscher rejected Trotsky's fundamental political and historical assertion about the role of Stalin and the future development of the USSR. Trotsky insisted that Stalin was the gravedigger of the revolution and that Stalinism would lead to the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. Deutscher, on the other hand, ascribed to Stalin, despite his cruelty and his reactionary politics, a generally positive and progressive role in history. In his biography of Stalin Deutscher wrote that

"Stalin belongs to the breed of the great revolutionary despots, to which Cromwell, Robespierre, and Napoleon belonged" ("Stalin", Vintage Books, pp. 565-566).

Deutscher also insisted that Trotsky's founding of the Fourth International was harmful and that the Trotskyist movement should have dissolved itself and entered the various left wing movements.

Secondly, we suggest that in this, as in all of his publications about Trotsky, Felshtinsky is attempting to divert attention from Trotsky's truly important and fruitful ideas, to diminish and denigrate him. Felshtinsky's explanation that his long career as a publicist of Trotsky's writings and the size of the print runs of these various publications "give him the moral right" to malign and slander Trotsky is without foundation for reasons which we shall enumerate further on.

By the way, this is not the first time that the "democratic" Russian press is slandering Natalia Ivanovna Sedova. In February of 1997 the Russian journal and the New York Newspaper "Novoe Russkoie slovo" both published a scurrilous piece on Trotsky entitled "The Sex-Symbol of Rootless Cosmopolitanism" (rootless cosmopolitanism was the Stalinist code phrase for attacking Jews). This publication was read by Nadezhda Adolfovna Joffe, who went through all the circles of Stalinist hell for her convictions (while a young Komsomol member in the 1920's she was an activist of the Left Opposition and starting in 1929 she spent decades in various prisons and labor camps). Stalinist tortures did not succeed in killing the spirit of this woman and in reply to these dirty slanders she wrote:

"As a matter of fact, for me Trotsky was not simply a political leader. Being the daughter of Adolf Abramovich Joffe, one of the first Soviet diplomats, I knew Lev Davydovich and his whole family from my earliest youth. From 1917 and until 1928, until they were exiled, I was best friends with his son, Lev Sedov (he took his mother's surname). I often visited his apartment in the Kremlin, met his mother, Natalia Ivanovna, Trotsky's wife, who always treated me with great warmth.

"Isn't the author of this article ashamed to write about Natalia Ivanovna in such a casual and ironical tone? Natalia Ivanovna was a highly intelligent woman with a wide spectrum of interests. Among her major character traits was an infinite kindness, a heartfelt acceptance of people ("Novoe Russkoie Slovo", March 18, 1997).

Trotsky's ideas.

In order to evaluate Felshtinsky's contribution towards the task of publishing and publicizing the ideas and works of Trotsky we should first of all summarize some of the most important of his historical and political ideas.

Firstly, the theory of "permanent revolution". Trotsky began to elaborate this theory in 1905, influenced by the well-known German-Russian socialist Parvus. In the course of the 1905 Revolution Trotsky came to the conclusion that the Russian bourgeoisie was too weak and historically sterile to conduct its own bourgeois-democratic national revolution. He concluded that the Russian working class would play the leading role in the Revolution, will assume power and will not stop at the purely democratic and bourgeois measures, but will proceed to socialist measures of running the country. The development and the success of the Russian socialist revolution will depend on the correlation of forces on the European and world arena: either the world socialist revolution, or the eventual defeat of the Russian proletariat. Later on, in particular while analyzing the Chinese example of the late 1920's, Trotsky expanded and generalized this idea to encompass all backward countries. The interested reader may address his attention to Trotsky's brochure "Results and Prospects" published in 1907 and to his book "The Permanent Revolution" published in 1929. Both documents were included in my Russian language book "Permanentnaia revolutsiia".

The theory of permanent revolution is closely tied to Trotsky's struggle against the so-called theory of "socialism in one country" which was advanced by Bukharin in mid 1920's, and which then became the defining ideological postulate of all the various shades of Stalinism. Bukharin and Stalin proclaimed that the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party is sufficient for pushing through a series of gradual socialist reforms inside Russia and for the eventual construction of a socialist society under the command of this Party. Against this nationally limited and reformist idea, Trotsky advanced the idea that the world market, the world division of labor and the international class struggle dominate over any national state, even one as large as the Soviet Union. He declared that only the world socialist revolution could assure the victory of the working class against any exploitative layer or class. The historical experience of the past period has shown which of these mutually exclusive theories was correct.

The second major idea of Trotsky is the problem of Thermidor, that is the problem of the degeneration of the Communist Party and the deformation of the workers' state. In 1923 Trotsky, supported by a number of the best known and respected Party militants, began a campaign for workers' democracy within the Party, for a proletarian economic course, for planned industrialization, rather than the crash slogans like the "Five Year Plan in four years", and against the nationally limiting idea of "socialism in one country". Mr. Felshtinsky had himself collected and published most of the documents of this early struggle in his four volume collection "The Communist Opposition in the USSR" (he excluded from it the documents connected with problems of the Comintern and with international affairs).

Later on, Trotsky had repeatedly returned to the question of the Thermidor and the degeneration of the Soviet Union. The major work of Trotsky, summarizing his ideas about this degeneration and the alternative paths of development of the USSR is the book "What Is the USSR and Where Is It Going?" also known as "The Revolution Betrayed" and published in 1936. This book tracks the various zigzags of Stalin's internal policy, expensive for both the country and the people, and gives a deeply penetrating picture of the social contradictions tearing apart the USSR under Stalin. More than that, Trotsky's analysis outlines two alternatives of development. He wrote:

"Will the bureaucrat devour the workers' state, or will the working class deal with the bureaucrat? Thus stands the question upon whose decision hangs the fate of the Soviet Union".

As we know now, it turned out that the state and the Party bureaucrats "devoured" the workers' state and plunged the former Soviet Union into a state of social catastrophe.

The third of the most important ideas of Trotsky was how to fight fascism. During the late 1920's and early 30's he advocated the idea of a united front of communists and socialists against the threat of fascism in Germany and other European countries. The Comintern at that time conducted a policy of the so-called "third period", labeled social democrats as social-fascists and saw in social democracy its most bitter enemy. The social democracy conducted a no less fatal policy of reliance on the bourgeois constitution of Germany and refused any measures of revolutionary class struggle. To round out our observation of the political forces we must note that the bourgeoisie of both Europe and America saw in the Italian and German fascism a lesser enemy by comparison with a communist revolution, or even as a positive aide for itself.

The fourth important idea of Trotsky was his insistence on the need for a new revolutionary party of the proletariat, which was expressed in his founding the Fourth International in 1938. Trotsky showed how the Second and the Third Internationals had degenerated and betrayed their class and their program. He issued a call for the building of a new, Fourth International as an alternative to another world war and the destruction of human civilization. We may have varying attitudes to the need for a world socialist revolution but we can all see that now, at the end of this century capitalism has still not solved the most basic needs of humanity, that in many respects our civilization is retreating and decaying.

The final political battle of Trotsky concerned the evaluation of the class nature of the USSR during the first year of World War II. Trotsky asserted that in spite of all of Stalin's crimes against the world communist movement, despite the deformation and degeneration of the first workers' state, even despite the alliance between Stalin and Hitler in the redivision and occupation of Europe, despite all these horrible acts the USSR still remained a workers' state which had to be defended from the inevitable attack by the imperialists. Trotsky raised the fight against an impressionistic and pragmatic tendency within the American Socialist Workers Party — this group equated the Soviet Union with the imperialists and wanted to assume a neutral stance in the coming war between Germany and the USSR — to the level of defending the very method of Marxism, the philosophy of dialectical materialism. This political and philosophical fight is described in his work "In Defense of Marxism".

In addition to these ideas, which to Trotsky were paramount, during his political life he had written an enormous number of books and essays on many various subjects: on literature and art, on mass culture and the everyday life, on the Balkan wars of 1912-13, on the Spanish revolution, his autobiography, biographies of Lenin and Stalin (this last one was unfinished before his skull was pierced by an icepick struck by Stalin's hired agent), hundreds of articles analyzing the burning political events of his day, etc.

The Perestroika and Trotsky

These ideas of Trotsky and his whole literary and historical heritage were completely unknown in the Soviet Union. Because they were outlawed and Trotsky was firmly held to be enemy number one of the Stalinist regime his ideas were hugely attractive, although unknown. Early in the Gorbachev period of "Glasnost and Perestroika" they held an enormous amount of public attention. While Trotsky's main works remained banned from publication, huge journal articles, published by the million during the years of Glasnost, talked back and forth about his ideas, misinterpreting them, lying about his conceptions and the context of their development. In the situation prevailing in 1985 or 1988 books like "The History of the Russian Revolution", "The Permanent Revolution" or "The Revolution Betrayed" could have been published and read by the tens of millions and were sure to find an enormous public response. The Soviet politico-cultural establishment had reason to fear the publication of Trotsky's explosive literary heritage. In order to lessen and soften the influence of the real communist ideas of Leon Trotsky they began a complicated politico-historical ideological campaign. Firstly, Gorbachev and his historical advisors started to print huge quantities of Bukharin's writings and advance the legend that it was the right wing communism of the latter which was the real alternative to Stalinism. Next, they began a propaganda campaign to blacken and malign Trotsky (often the very same persons who conducted it under Brezhnev and Gorbachev carried on this work). Finally, when it became impossible to maintain the ban on printing Trotsky's works, in order to distract the readers' attention the establishment took to publishing his less dangerous, more special and secondary writings instead of his most important and fundamental analyses.

The first publications of whole books — unlike individual articles, fragments and pieces — took place at the end of Gorbachev's reign, when the apparatus of power had already begun to crack in all its joints.

The tone for this publishing campaign was set by the anthology "Towards the History of the Russian Revolution" published by the official Party publishing house, Politizdat, in May of 1990 in a print run of 150,000 copies. The infamous Soviet specialist on Trotsky and falsifier of Party history, N.A. Vasetsky, had collected together in one book some essays and fragments of Trotsky's writings, beginning with his anti-Lenin brochure of 1904 (following the Second Party Congress of 1903 Trotsky for about a year joined in with the Mensheviks) and finishing with an excerpt from Trotsky's biography of Stalin. This collection in its method resembles those early anti-historical and anti-Trotsky amalgams which were printed during the mid-twenties by the contemporary specialists-falsifiers Yaroslavsky, Nevsky, Gusev, etc. Those fragments, which were included in the book, are designed to misrepresent Trotsky's politics; those left out of it have just as significant a role in confusing the reader.

In June of 1990 the publishing house "Nauka" printed in 200,000 copies the book "The Stalin School of Falsification". In August the "Novosti" publisher printed 50,000 copies of "Political Profiles" which talked of the outstanding figures of the 2nd International, personages of pre-revolutionary Russia and of some deceased heroes of the Communist International. In the fall of the same year, 1990, the official Politizdat in a joint venture with Terra Press published 150,000 copies of the biography "Stalin", as edited by Mr. Felshtinsky. In early 1991, the last Soviet year, the publisher "Panorama", ably assisted by the Institute of Marxism Leninism of the Central Committee of the CPSU, printed 150,000 copies of Trotsky's autobiography "My Life". Before releasing this explosive material to the public the "Marxists Leninists", of course, provided Trotsky's text with their own poisonous and malicious comments and Preface. At about the same time the official Politizdat printed 100,000 copies of Trotsky's "Literature and Revolution", which was originally published in Moscow in 1923. Let us today open this book and read the introductory comments of the Stalinist editor of this volume: "No matter what, Stalin, Zhdanov and Trotsky are twins in their attitude towards the problems of art … In the sphere of politics and culture Trotsky appears as the true Stalinist and Stalin, as the real Trotskyist". We must explain to a reader unacquainted with Trotsky's works in the area of art and literature that during the 1920's, later on as well, Trotsky argued against Bukharin's conception of "proletarian culture" and for the complete freedom of the artist and writer to create according to his personal perception and thinking. Finally, in March of 1991 the publishing house "Moskovskii rabochii" printed 45,000 copies of "Portraits of the Revolutionaries" edited by Felshtinsky. It is possible that I omitted some publications of Trotsky in the USSR, but I included all those, which found their way into Harvard's libraries, i.e., all the more significant ones. This series of publications summarize the work of the Soviet censors of Glavlit and bring us to the collapse of the dictatorship of the Stalinist CPSU.

It is notable that the Soviet historical establishment could not risk the publication of Trotsky's fundamental "Revolution Betrayed". This book was finally published in early 1991 in the publishing house of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation (please recollect that the Russian Federation was then headed by Yeltsin who fought Gorbachev's Union government for control) in a print run of 50,000 copies, and was funded and promoted by Militant, a British socialist group. This book is until today unknown to the majority of the Russian public. Until today the public is being brainwashed by such Stalinist hacks as Volkogonov and Vasetsky.

During the years that had elapsed since the collapse of the Soviet Union a few more works of Trotsky have appeared in Russia. Mr. Felshtinsky edited some of these, including "Stalin", "The Crimes of Stalin", "Letters From Exile, 1928", the above-mentioned collection of documents of the Left Opposition, "Diary in Exile, 1933, 1935, 1937", and some others. The print runs have fallen off dramatically because of the general economic and social collapse. This year there finally appeared in Moscow the full edition of the "History of the Russian Revolution". It is interesting to note that the editor of this three-volume edition is the well-known Soviet falsifier and Trotsky's enemy, Vasetsky.

Thus, Felshtinsky's assertion that his role in the publication of Trotsky's books testifies to his honor and objectivity is, alas, false. Just like Volkogonov and Vasetsky, Mr. Felshtinsky also tries, as far as his talents will allow, to damage Trotsky's reputation while compiling and editing his works.

To understand his method we must examine in some detail the "scientific laboratory" of this learned gentleman.

Stalin's biography

The fate of this book is quite tragic. Trotsky started to write this political biography after concluding an agreement with the well-known American publisher Harper & Bros in the late 1930's. Until his death he finished seven out of twelve chapters, the other five were left as drafts, notes, fragments, quotes, references, etc. Trotsky's translator and editor Charles Malamuth writes in his explanatory note:

"Some of the manuscript of the unfinished portion was in Trotsky's study, strung out in enormously long strips of many sheets pasted end to end, at the time of the murderous attack upon him, and in the struggle with the assasin portions of the manuscript were not only splattered with blood but utterly destroyed. Moreover, no part of this posthumous manuscript had been put in final form by the author. It was made up of notes to be more fully developed, of excerpts from the works of other writers, of various documents, of dictated material not yet corrected by the author, all tentatively grouped for further use".

Malamuth had to finish composing and editing the Introduction and the last five chapters, and this edition was published in English and other languages.

The work of translating, rewriting and editing was completed and the book was ready for printing by December 1941. Pearl Harbor intervened, the United States entered the Second World War and Stalin from a communist arch-criminal suddenly became a gallant ally whom the "democratic" press turned into the good Uncle Joe. Harper & Bros. stored the completed manuscript in a locked safe and waited out the war. In early 1946 the good Uncle Joe once again became a villain, and the publisher finally let the world see Trotsky's work. If you think I am making this story up, please read the Publisher's Note prefacing the Harper edition.

Malamuth's editing was far from perfect and many Western specialists criticize his work and composition of the final chapters. In his 1985 American edition, which Politizdat reproduced in 1990, Mr. Felshtinsky in many ways departed from the accepted text. He moved sizable pieces from Malamuth's Appendixes to the Introduction and the last five chapters look very different from the English language edition. But, after all, Trotsky did not finish writing his book and one cannot blame Felshtinsky for not following the editorial choices of Malamuth. Still, we feel that he should have stated the origin of the various parts of these five chapters. One also must note that this early (it was produced in 1985) work of a young historian is missing footnotes, explanations, index and other attributes of a scholarly work. In addition, since the unfinished work of Trotsky was composed from rough drafts and fragments it would have been more correct to clearly delineate the components, the way Malamuth does in his edition. But Felshtinsky chose to stitch the various pieces together into the Introduction and the final chapters, and this tends to give the uninformed reader the false impression that the jumps in the story line of Felshtinsky's edition reflect Trotsky's literary style.

The "Diary in Exile"

Mr. Felshtinsky published this book in the United States at the Hermitage publishing house in 1986 and in 1990; it was published in Russia in early 1994. The Introduction was written by the well-known anticommunist Avtorkhanov. The edition immediately strikes its reader by its malicious prejudice against Trotsky. Here are a few examples:

1) Avtorkhanov states that all of Trotsky's life was animated by the struggle for power. Yet this whole book, which contains the personal diaries, letters and notes of Trotsky, doesn't contain a single line confirming this assertion. Just the opposite, all of Trotsky's thoughts, even the very personal reminiscences about his children which were not even intended for publication, all these testify to the integrity of his dedication to revolution and to Marxist ideology. Just compare the thoughts of Trotsky to the way Stalin's mind worked as evidenced in his "Letters to Molotov", for example.

2) The short biographical note is silent about the political campaign which Trotsky opened up in the fall of 1923 and which was supported by a number of the most famous leaders of the Bolshevik Party. This ideological struggle for workers' and party democracy was central to the whole later political life of Trotsky.

3) The Notes are distinguished by their malicious prejudice and anticommunist venom. Thus, Lenin is described as "an unsuccessful lawyer, weak economist, banal philosopher". Trotsky's wife, Natalia Sedova is described with one line (in a personal diary!) while over a page is devoted to K. Radek and Mr. Felshtinsky subjectively appends to that note a letter from a well known French Stalinist Charles Rapoport only because Rapoport refers to Trotsky in a derogatory manner.

4) At the end of the "Diary" Felshtinsky adds an appendix called "From the press of those years". This chapter is tendentiously selected and has no serious or scientific value. For example, the Russian emigre newspapers "Posledniie novosti" and "Vozrozhdeniie" are quoted, but their political character is not described. Apparently, these were extremely right wing, monarchist or fascist newspapers. Many items reprinted from there are false, for example, that Trotsky supposedly tried to arrange a meeting with Litvinov, yet Mr. Felshtinsky seen no reason to explain to his readers that this was a lie.

5) Mr. Felshtinsky falsely ascribes to Trotsky a supposed regret about the killing of the family of Nicholas Romanov, the last tsar. In the "Diary" Trotsky clearly contrasts Stalin's murder of Trotsky's children with the killing of the royal family by the Bolsheviks. Trotsky writes that the killing of the Romanovs "was not only advisable, but necessary", since in the conditions of the Civil War any member of this family could have become, due to the dynastic principle of royal power, a focal point for the monarchists and for the White movement. The killing of Trotsky's family was committed by Stalin for motives of personal vengeance and can be explained (but, of course, not justified) by the inhumanity and cruelty of the bureaucratic regime of the arriviste parvenus who are afraid of the public and who venomously defend their stolen privileges.

We could continue to list the gross distortions and falsifications committed by Felshtinsky in the editing of this book, but let us move on to his other works.

"The Letters from Exile, 1928"

Mr. Felshtinsky's Preface is composed of lies mixed with half-truths and gives a completely wrong impression about the history of the Left Opposition. First of all, the left opposition of 1918 (the opposition to the Brest-Litovsk Peace treaty) is mixed up with the opposition to the bureaucratic deformation of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet state which coalesced and began its fight in the fall of 1923. This second opposition isn't even mentioned and Felshtinsky writes: "during these years (1924—25) Trotsky had no cothinkers".

Mr. Felshtinsky had written a whole book on the Brest-Litovsk treaty, but he has still not understood that the differences within the Bolshevik Party during the winter and spring of 1918 had neither a strategic, nor a methodological, but an episodic and tactical character. All of the Bolsheviks thought that the Russian socialist revolution could be victorious only when it would spread to Europe and become, with the passage of time, a world revolution. The question revolved around the amount of time required to bring the European and world proletariat around to the realization of the need for this world revolution. The idea that socialism could be built inside backward Russia was smuggled into the Bolshevik Party by Stalin and Bukharin in 1924. On the other hand, Mr. Felshtinsky states together with Stalin that "as it turned out, it proved possible after all to build 'socialism in a single country'". The so called "historian" Felshtinsky does not realize just how foolish this assertion sounds today, when history has irrevocably shown the impossibility of socialism "in a single country'.

Let us briefly enumerate some of the other falsehoods of Mr. Felshtinsky.

1) Trotsky "not only refused to help Lenin in a common fight (at the end of 1922 and early in 1923), but he publicly took a neutral position". In fact, Trotsky supported Lenin on the question of the monopoly of foreign trade and in forming a Union of equal republics (as opposed to Stalin's plan of federally joining the other republics to the RSFSR).

2) "Trotsky did not rush from Sukhumi to Lenin's funeral". In actuality, after Lenin's death Stalin had by a complicated maneuver fooled Trotsky about the day of the funeral and the possibility of Trotsky returning to Moscow on time.

3) At the end of 1925 "there didn't exist a real program to form an opposition". Mr. Felshtinsky continues to assert that what took place was an unprincipled struggle for power rather than a struggle of the proponents of world revolution against the privileged layer of Party bureaucrats. Zinoviev and Kamenev expressed the traditions of the Party and the pressures of the worker activists in the industrial centers against the social policy of Stalin-Bukharin, which aided the Nepman and the wealthy peasant. Zinoviev and Kamenev had joined the Opposition of Trotsky, Rakovsky, I. Smirnov and the others because it expressed the profound interests of the Russian and world proletariat.

Mr. Felshtinsky's anticommunist ardor drives him to utter vulgarity. Comparing Lenin's and Stalin's policies towards political opponents he congratulates Stalin for his skillful destruction of the oppositions:

"Stalin solved the problem (of the opposition) much more elegantly than did Lenin ten years before".

Evading the primary task of an editor, Mr. Felshtinsky refuses to explain to his readers the character of the letters and documents collected in this book. These letters were far from being simply a private correspondence between Trotsky and his friends. While exiled to a far away provincial town of Almaty (close to the border with China), by way of these circular letters Trotsky conducted and edited a regular agitational, propaganda and organizational organ of the Russian and international opposition. Carefully dated and numbered letters of Trotsky were sent to a few addressees at once, were copied and recopied by these addressees and finally reached thousands and tens of thousands of supporters of Trotsky both inside the USSR and outside its borders.

During 1928-29 the Left Opposition became better armed with ideas and in spirit. The careerists and the weakened cowards left its ranks; but many conscious revolutionists joined it. In the summer of 1928 in connection with the Sixth Congress of the Communist International Trotsky published his "Critique of the Draft Program of the Comintern". This political document acted as the principled basis for a new international communist tendency. It formed the ideology for organizing groups and circles of Bolshevik-Leninists around the world. Trotsky's letters collected in this book and also his programmatic documents contained in the book "The Communist International after Lenin" laid the ideological and organizational foundation for the communist movement around the whole world.

Mr. Felshtinsky time and again shows his contempt for ideas and his reverence for the naked fist of state power. According to him,

"in 1928 the criticism by these exiled oppositionists of the actions of the Soviet state looked quite helpless".

Let us check some of these criticisms. 1) For a number of years Trotsky had pointed to the slow development of industry by comparison with agriculture and the growth of the role of private capital within the Soviet economy. In 1928 Stalin had belatedly recognized this influence of the Nepman and the kulak and threw the country onto the opposite tack of total collectivization. 2) For a number of years the Left Opposition called for developing Gosplan into a central headquarters of long range planning. Finally, having suppressed the Opposition, Stalin & Co. rushed to militarize the economy and create such a headquarters, but all the while beating down on the rank and file of the Party and on the working masses who, according to Trotsky's idea, were the only ones who could criticize and direct the decisions of central planning. 3) The Left Opposition directed attention to the fatal policies of the Stalinists in Britain and China. The very worst apprehensions of the Opposition were confirmed: during the British General Strike communism had lost influence in Western Europe; the bloodletting at the hands of Chiang Kai-Shek in 1927 condemned the Chinese people to tens of millions of additional victims during the next two decades. But Mr. Felshtinsky proclaims that the ideas of the Opposition "looked quite helpless".

We can only shrug our shoulders and go forward.

"The Crimes of Stalin"

This book had its own dramatic fate. Following the assassination of Kirov in December of 1934, which was actually a giant provocation organized by Stalin (by the way, Trotsky was the first observer who had analyzed this affair and publicly accused Stalin), the Soviet Union was swept by waves of bloody purges, public Moscow Trials and mass arrests and killings of all those who were best from among the new ruling circles and new Soviet society. Professor Rogovin, who had written a six-volume study on the history of the socialist opposition to the Stalin regime, calls the Great Purges of 1936-38 a

"preventive civil war against Soviet and foreign communists who represented an alternative to the totalitarian regime of Stalin".

This picture of open trials, which painted the whole generation of October as a collection of traitors and hired murderers, shocked the whole world. Thoughtful people the world over asked themselves: Are the accusations true? How could these persons, life long revolutionists and communists, have become fascist agents? And if the accusations are false, why do they confess? Why is this state, which grew out of October 1917, destroying almost all of its builders?

Trotsky ended up in the center of world's attention and at the time received endless invitations from the leading newspapers and journals of all countries to explain the events. But the living situation of Trotsky was quite precarious. During the first half of 1935 he lived in France incognito, watched over by the police, hunted by both Stalinists and fascists. Then he was forced to move to the relatively far away Norway. Under pressure from the Stalinist regime the social democratic Norwegian government in September of 1936 had placed Trotsky and his wife under a house arrest and stopped his correspondence. He broke out of this prison only in January 1937 when he received political asylum in Mexico.

Trotsky's responses to the questions from the world press and his work of investigating and analyzing the Moscow Trials were hampered and slowed by these external pressures and travels. The book also suffered from the persecutions to which its author was subjected. But Trotsky still was able to say the whole truth. For well-known reasons the Soviet reader did not have access to it. For this reason a contemporary historian in compiling the first Russian edition of the "Crimes of Stalin" is under a special obligation to be even more scrupulous in collecting all of the material which Trotsky wished to present before his readers in 1937. We are sorry to say that Mr. Felshtinsky acted otherwise and removed from his edition of the book a number of important chapters.

Here are the contents of an authorized edition, which is preserved at the Trotsky Archive at Harvard University:


1) In "socialist Norway"

2) Behind the closed doors

The question of internment

The Moscow Trial

3) Across the ocean

Departure from Norway

An instructive episode

Zinoviev and Kamenev

Why are they confessing to crimes they did not commit?

"The thirst for power"

"Hatred for Stalin"

The sending of "terrorists" from abroad

4) In Mexico

5) Before a new trial

6) Speech at the meeting at the Hippodrome in New York

7) The preliminary investigation in Coyoacan

8) The final word before the John Dewey commission

Why is the investigation necessary?

Is the investigation politically permissible?

Expert testimony of Professor Charles A. Bird

"Purely legal" testimony


My "juridical" status

Three categories of evidence

The mathematical series of forgery

Political basis for accusation: terrorism

The murder of Kirov

Who composed the list of the "victims" of terror? (The case of Molotov)

Political basis for accusation: "sabotage"

Political basis for accusation: union with Hitler and the Mikado



"Witness" Vladimir Romm

Piatakov's flight to Norway

What has been disproved at the last trial?

Attorney General is a liar

The theory of "camouflage"

Why and for what are these trials?

9) Beheading of the Red Army

10) Stalin about his forgeries

11) The beginning of the end.

It was exactly in this form that Trotsky had published his book in 1937 in French, German, Polish, Spanish and other languages. This book has still not been published in this form in English, although all of its component parts can be found in the various collections of Trotsky's works.

Citing the fact that during the 1930's the "Bulletin of the Opposition" (the journal of the Russian section of the Fourth International) had published some of the most important and timely chapters, Mr. Felshtinsky saw fit to leave out of his edition precisely those parts:

5) Before a new trial

7) The preliminary investigation in Coyoacan

9) Beheading of the Red Army

11) The beginning of the end.

In addition, Mr. Felshtinsky brings total confusion into the chapter "6) Speech at the meeting at the Hippodrome in New York". In 1937 the "Bulletin of the Opposition" published this speech in a shortened version. Mr. Felshtinsky published an excerpt, which corresponds neither to the "Bulletin" version, nor to the version published in the authorized French edition of 1937.

There is added, without explaining its origin, a piece "The introductory remarks before the Commission to investigate the Moscow Trials".

There are also added a number of appendixes. All these appendixes are united by the same strange principle, which Mr. Felshtinsky applied in composing this edition: the absence of previous publication in Russian. The real reason why Trotsky did not publish them in his book or in his journal in the 1930's lay in the fact that these documents were all secondary to the main political campaign waged by Trotsky and the Fourth International. Please consider the fact that the Russian "Bulletin of the Opposition" is an extremely rare and expensive source (a reprinted collection costs about four hundred dollars) and is unavailable in even the most prestigious libraries in the former Soviet Union. In view of this fact the exclusion of these chapters from the Russian edition constitutes malicious falsification on the part of Mr. Felshtinsky.

But even this skimpy and falsified edition suffers from the editor's negligence and contempt for the author of the book. Here are a few examples:

Page 22 — the editor leaves out a signature of the Norwegian functionary to which Trotsky addresses the readers' attention.

Page 37 — half a page of text is left out.

Page 38 — two sentences are missing.

Page 43 — Trotsky here made a mistake in the date of the first trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev and wrote January of 1937 in place of 1935. A serious editor would have advised his readers of this inaccuracy.


Perhaps this is enough? Hopefully, we have convinced ourselves of the insincerity of Felshtinsky's statement that he honestly and impartially published the works of Trotsky in the interests of pure science. But there is something more important than the reputation of the esteemed Doctor of Historical Sciences, Mr. Felshtinsky.

Our excursion into the story of the publication of Trotsky's works by the Gorbachev regime shows us that prior to blowing up the workers' state, which his predecessors from Stalin to Chernenko had already undermined, the restorers of capitalism (and here we mean the General Secretary, Gorbachev, and the whole privileged layer of the Soviet bureaucracy) attempted to distract the attention of the Soviet masses from the real ideas of Trotsky. In the social conditions prevailing during the first years of Perestroika the true communist ideas of Trotsky could have conquered the allegiance of huge masses of people. By way of a political revolution against the bureaucracy and through social reforms aimed at restoring socialist equality and Soviet democracy, the historical and political heritage of Trotsky could have preserved the Soviet Union from collapse and saved the real conquests of October.