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Russian newspaper attacks Trotsky.

Copyright: N.A. Joffe and Iskra Research; May 5, 1997

An attack on Trotsky's personal life.

On February 21, 1997 the Russian language New York daily "Novoie russkoie slove" published a scurrilous attack on Leon Trotsky entitled, amazingly enough for a newspaper which caters primarily to an emigre Jewish-Russian community, "The Sex Symbol of Rootless Cosmopolitanism".

We should bear in mind that the accusation of "rootless cosmopolitanism" was Stalin's pretext for planning a large scale Jewish pogrom in the Soviet Union in the late 1940's, and this plan was only interrupted by the tyrant's death. It seems that for this newspaper, as also for much of the American historical establishement, any trick, no matter how immoral, is appropriate when used to attack the ideas of Leon Trotsky.

The article, written by one, Marina Koldobskaia, consisted of gossip and dirty rumors, and was so devoid of historical facts that we shall not bother reproducing it. Needless to say, Koldobskaia did not raise and examine a single historical or political idea of Trotsky, but limited her story to unsubstantiated rumors about Trotsky's sex life. It is our opinion that this outrageous piece was published precisely in order to distract the readers of this newspaper from examining the political and historical heritage of Trotsky.

This scandalous piece of trash came to the attention of some people for whom historical truth is more than a joking matter. In particular, Nadezhda Adolfovna Joffe, one of the very few Left Oppositionists to survive the Gulag, read it, and was moved to defend the personal honor of Trotsky and his wife.

Nadezhda Adolfovna is the daughter of Adolf Abramovich Joffe, a candidate member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party in 1917 and a personal friend of Leon Trotsky. As a young woman, Nadezhda Adolfovna was active in the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union, was arrested in 1929 and spent decades in the Stalinist Gulag for her oppositional activity. Her memoirs, "Backwards In Time", were recently published in English by Labor Publications and represent a unique personal and political document about the drama of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath.

Despite her advanced years (she will soon mark her 91st birthday) Nadezhda Adolfovna is still an active writer. She has just published in Moscow a book of biographical materials about her father, and is assisting the Iskra Research publishing house to prepare a soon to be published Russian language anthology of A. A. Joffe's writings.

Nadezhda Joffe wrote the following letter to the editor of "Novoie russkoie slovo", and it was published on March 18th of this year. Iskra Research brings the attention of the readers to this small facet of Leon Trotsky's life.

On Trotsky's romances, real and imagined.

By Nadezhda Adolfovna Joffe.

A rich imagination is not the best of aides when writing essays about well known historical figures.

Out of all the Russian language press published in America "Novoie russkoie slovo" is our family's favorite paper. We buy it every day, and I read it with attention and interest.

It was all the more unpleasant for me to read in the issue for February 21st the article by Marina Koldobskaia entitled "The Sex Symbol of Rootless Cosmopolitanism". The subject of this story was Leon Trotsky and it was written in the worst traditions of the so called yellow press, in a vulgar manner retailing numerous elementary unsubstantiated rumors.

The fact of the matter is, for me Trotsky is not just a political figure. I am the daughter of Adolf Abramovich Joffe, one of the first leading Soviet diplomats and a personal friend of Trotsky, and I knew Lev Davydovich and his whole family from early childhood. From 1917 till 1928, until Trotsky's exile, I was very close to his eldest son Lev Sedov (he kept his mother's surname), who was my age. I often visited him at home in the Kremlin, met his mother and Trotsky's wife, Natalia Ivanovna, who treated me very warmly.

Was the author not ashamed to write of Natalia Ivanovna in such a casually ironic tone? Natalia Ivanovna was a real intellectual with a broad circle of interests. Her major qualities were her endless kindness, her heartfelt acceptance of people. It sickens me to read that she was supposedly "dejected" by the "bad manners" and "dirty shirts" of Russian socialists. It is also highly unlikely that Lev Davydovich, while living in Paris needed her to try and educate him, take him to the museums and to "slip him some books", all the more so since he was always interested in literature despite the pressure of his work.

As to Trotsky's attitude to women, Isaac Deutscher in his biography said it best: "On those rare occasions when he noticed women, he became interested in them". One must suppose that on those rare occasions when he was interested in them he might have had various occasional liaisons. It is quite likely that among such was an affair with Larisa Reissner. But any sort of romance is, of course, out of the question, Trotsky simply did not have the time for romances.

I knew Larisa Mikhailovna personally. Without a doubt, she was an intelligent woman from a very cultured family. With all of her eccentricity, it would simply not enter her head to stand on the bridge of a ship of war "in a requisitioned ballroom gown". All the more so since in the circle of people, among whom lived the wife of Feodor Raskolnikov, ballroom gowns were not worn at all. As to "bathtubs filled with Champaign", this simply oversteps every bound of common sense, as do so many other passages in this article.

Continuing the theme of Trotsky's romances, since this is the main subject of the article by M. Koldobskaia, it must be said that he actually did have one real love affair. When he arrived in Mexico at 57 years of age, Trotsky met the 29 year old Frida Kahlo, the wife of the famous artist Diego Rivera, who had played an enormous role in Trotsky's coming to Mexico and finding his place there. According to persons who knew both Rivera and his wife, Frida was a very beautiful woman. She dressed well and wore long dresses to hide a slight defect of one leg. I do not know where the author of this article found the source for her assertion that this woman "walked on crutches, the legs, the spinal column and her sex organs were injured in an automobile crash". And with all this, Koldobskaia writes that Frida had many lovers (?!) and gave herself to them while overcoming her pain. What a rich imagination!

The affair with Frida ended quite soon. Natalia Ivanovna discovered it and wrote Lev Davydovich a letter saying that she does not wish to stand in the way of his happiness, and offered him a divorce. It seems that he became frightened and wrote an answer filled with remorse, begged for forgiveness and assured her that he loved and continues to love only Natalia. Natalia Ivanovna forgave him. I think that Lev Davydovich told the truth. Natalia Ivanovna, or Nata, as he called her, was the one real love in his life.

As to Trotsky's first wife, Sokolovskaia, there was nothing romantic in that relationship, at least from his side. There was a great personal friendship and respect, gratitude for everything which she did for him. I knew her as well incidentally, although for only a short time. We were in the same barrack for political prisoners the camp in Kolyma. She was a wonderful woman!

In conclusion I must repeat that it was quite distressing for me to see on the pages of a respected newspaper such a piece of low-grade scribbling.

Nadezhda Joffe